If there’s anything most people know about the Reserves and National Guard, it’s the phrase “one weekend a month and two weeks during the year”. That’s the usual, minimum amount of training that a Reservist or Guard member has to give each year.
The “two weeks” is sometimes jokingly referred to as “summer camp”, like the good old days of youth summer camps, but the actual name is “Annual Training”, or “AT”. And unfortunately, a lot of AT’s have long periods of busy work to keep troops active.
Sometimes it seemed like our higher-ups never quite broke out of the “AT” way of thinking– the overall mood was that we were on some kind of bizarre, year-long Annual Training, with minor duties, work details, fill-the-time training and other things. In a real AT it would push off some of the boredom, but in Iraq it just felt surreal, like a denial of reality. At times, it was as if the war didn’t exist, even though we all knew better, and the attempts to make things seem “normal” just drove home the weirdness of it all.