At Fort Bliss (it was better in Iraq)

We just finished our time at Fort Bliss. But I wanted to put up a post discussing only Fort Bliss, so that you the reader will have a basic understanding of what de-mobilizing is like.

Every reserve unit has a “Mob Station” from which it mobilizes and de-mobilizes.  The 304th Sustainment Brigade’s was Fort Bliss, which is in El Paso, Texas. 

As discussed in the last post, we had a very long trip from Kuwait to Texas ona chartered airplane.  When our airplane arrived at about 6AM, we were all very tired and beat.  The first thing they did was they made us all line up in a hanger-like building on Biggs Field, the Fort Bliss runway.  We then turned in our weapons.  Here is a photo of me a few minutes after our arrival, parting with my old friend for the last time:

SGM Long photo at Ft Bliss arrival

After that, they gave us a TB test shot, and let everyone eat a little breakfast.  The eggs were runny, the potatoes rubbery, and the french toast was burnt to a crisp.   We were then taken to our barracks, where we were to spend the next few days.  The barracks were freezing cold, and dead cockroaches littered the floors.  There was nothing to do, and we were stranded in the middle of this inhospitable military base.  This was the first time I remarked that dining and living conditions were better in Iraq.

We were all quite exhausted, and so the first day there was nothing on the agenda.  I ended up sleeping from 10AM to 5PM, and then going back to sleep at 10PM again.   I wasn’t that badly jet-lagged, and woke up around 4AM the next morning.  They say that it is easier to travel from East to West, and this is true, judging by how severely jet-lagged I was the last time I flew from the US to Iraq. On that occassion I had a terrible time with sleepless nights for about 10 days.

Anyway, the days after our initial rest-day were spent at the SRP site (Soldier Readiness Processing).  We were doing our out-processing and de-mobilizing.  Basically this entails sitting through 4 hours of briefings, and then making sure our finances are correct, calculating final pay and our military separation date (as well as issuing DD 214’s), being medically and dentally checked, and turning in body armor.  Here is a view of the SRP site, which is in a big circus-style tent on Fort Bliss:

Bliss SRP site

Note the lovely mountains in the background.  I think El Paso is a nice place.

Soldiers spent lots of time sitting in lines, waiting for their out-processing:

De Mob Processing

Occasionally someone would come out and shout at us for some various infraction.  By the end of this, I was becoming increasingly disgusted at the way the permanant party staff talked down to everyone, and treated us like cattle. But the process was over after a couple of days.  Nobody got into trouble, even though alcohol was available at shops all over the base. 

We had a farewell ceremony at the El Paso VFW Post 812, which is located in a very scenic spot on top of the mountain overlooking El Paso.  About half the unit left the next day on flights to their individual homes.  These were the cross-levels, people who were assigned to the unit only for the duration of the deployment.  The permanent 304th SB folks stayed on.

Very early on Sunday morning, we went back to the welcome site next to the airfield.  It’s a huge structure and it looks like this:

Bliss Receiving site

This is the same facility that we flew out of at the start  of our tour last year.  We had a chartered flight by Southwest Airlines, and I have to say, this was a real pleasure.   The Southwest crew was very friendly, and the flight went perfectly well. 

SW charter home

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6 Responses

  1. Found your blog looking for info on Balad. My husband arrived there the first week of Sept from Ft. Hood TX – 90th Sustainment BRG. Ft. Hood was not a good experience. He was in Iraq in 06 at Camp Corregidor – which no longer exists – very small but fond memories. He’s still adjusting to this place.

  2. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/29/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  3. I was very surprise by your comments about Ft. Bliss and that is because I have wanted to go there for my next duty station; no I’m really gonna think about the decision. I hope that you are at home enjoying your family.

    • Spc. Orozco,
      I was mobilized there and yes, I do agree as a mobilized or deployed reservist the housing is not the same as the AD, regardless what the gentleman after this message stated. Having basics is one thing, dirty and nasty facilities are quite another. I can attest that when you are mobilized for a year, no one came in after us and actually cleaned the place and when you have to put Lysol everywhere and fumigate, and pigeon feathers come through the radiator, sorry but that is bad! Of course I saw beautiful and new apartments being built for enlisted and NCO’s. Officer housing looks nice. There are a few old neighborhoods that would not be my favorite, but overall for the full-timers- nice. I loved the base because of how family friendly it really is with the new strip mall, PX, and even a little Starbucks. They had a kids water park on Biggs. I actually paid out of the pocket for an apartment for the year so my son could live with me and I stayed on the West side. More quiet. I enjoyed my traveling and time at FT Bliss and many of us reservists would have stayed on if we could. I would look at everything and not just demobilizations. I know they built a beautiful clinic and started to break ground on a brand new hospital. Yes, there will always be lines and gruff people, but that is part of the military and actually life. Some people like FT Bliss and some don’t . Good luck.

  4. What you describe of the horrors of fort bliss is what active duty army life is like my friend single soldiers all live in barracks with roaches and thats every base the food sucks in garrison and sitting around waiting for what to do and getting bitched at while waiting is just part of the job and the fact that you blogged about this is why the permeant party looked down at you active duty soldiers sacrafice all the time not just on deployment

    • Thomas,
      Not all is horrible on AD. And there are bases that are much better in shape then what was described. I actually had a very different experience and the AD component looked at us as equals and not down. Of course I am a professional and we look at skill and expertise and not just if you can take crap. I know you could care about my response, but ask those who have been both either guard and reservist and AD and ask them which is really an easier life. You may be surprised at the answer. Both come with difficulties. And as you get older, getting bitched at and sitting around isn’t an accomplishment but actually a mentality that is actually changing. I feel that SM had as much right to complain as anyone else. He served his country and now he is going home to pick up the pieces. Your job is there when you go home, but I saw grown men cry after losing their homes, businesses, and children. Nothing to be ashamed of. It is people like you that totally create a distance between teamwork and success. Again just an opinion of an old fart that has been in both shoes.

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