In an unusual happenstance, at the same time that our daughter Jennifer is struggling to adjust to life in Asia, our son Ethan is dealing with re-acclimating to life in the US after spending the past year in Asia…Korea to be specific.
For 12 months, Ethan was stationed at Yongsan Army base in Seoul. He was very fortunate to be assigned to headquarters where he worked with (as he described them), a very unique mix of personalities and experience that made it a great place to be. He totally respected his superior officers and over time, felt gratified that his talents were recognized by them. On weekends, he and his friends could grab a cab and venture out into one of the world’s biggest cities – Seoul was literally feet from the gate of the army base – and do whatever soldiers do on a night on the town. As his mother, I appreciate that he was vague on the details.
Last week, he flew to his new duty station – Fort Riley in Kansas – and based on his phone call to us yesterday, he’s suffering from some culture shock.
Fort Riley is the third largest army base in the nation and as is typical for these huge bases, it is located on 100,000 acres in the middle of nowhere. No matter which direction you head, it’s two hours to either Wichita or Kansas City. The army base itself is so spread out, that to be able to get to any kind of entertainment, as he said, he needed to buy a car yesterday. Thankfully, he ran into soldier he was friendly with in Korea who is willing to share.
He misses the sense of place and purpose he had at Yongsan. When he was in Korea, his rank didn’t change but he became an individual to the people he worked with. He’s been in the army for three years and at 27, he is older and liked being able to show more maturity to his commanding officers. He wasn’t just another “SPC 4” who had completed his AIT (Advanced Individual Training). But at Fort Riley, for at least the next two weeks during “In Processing,” he is back to being one of the sea of enlisted soldiers – many of who are 19 and have been in the army for only a few months.
He knows he just has to make it through the next two weeks of “death by PowerPoint” and he’ll be able to join his unit, settle in, and start work. Sure, he’ll have to start over in the sense of building new friendships and developing new routines both for life on base and off, but that can all be very positive. It all contributes to the person he will ultimately become.