Friday, July 2, 2010

Alright, I Get It, the Germans Hate Us

Well, if I didn't know, now I know. For the most part, Germans (or at least the German military) have a great deal of disregard for Americans. It's actually pretty ridiculous. There are so many rules here that are not at all tailored to the US military, but because this is a German post, we are forced to abide by them. Here's a short list:

First, we are not allowed to go anywhere in our work out clothes. I'm not sure why they have this rule, but we must remain in our full uniform all day long. We can only wear PTs from our rooms to the gym and back. On top of that, the laundry facility is about 100 ft. from the gym, but can we pick up our laundry in work out attire? Of course not. Even though it is on the way to the gym, we have to return back to our rooms and get back in the duty uniform before picking up laundry. Conveniently, the Germans are allowed to wear civilian clothes here, in which they CAN to pick up their laundry (civilian clothes include shorts and T-shirts).

Vehicles have the right away here, which the inbrief warns you about at length. I guess people must have been hit before because we have been warned half a dozen times to stay out of the road. A truck blared its horn at me the other day when I was walking on the side of the road because apparently I was not on the shoulder enough.

We are only allowed our contractual 4500 gallons of water a day, which we have run out of everyday. If you are the unlucky fellow or lady, to be in the shower or not taken a shower when the water runs out, then the jokes on you. Meanwhile, the Germans (and other European entities) spray water on their volleyball courts to keep the sand from getting too hot.

There are other inequities as well that the American military does little to correct. We are forced to play by German rules to a fault so as not to step on the Germans' toes. While the Germans are allowed to walk around without head gear (that is their rule), we aren't allowed to do that because that is not our standard. They roll their sleeves, ride bikes without helmets, and have individual, hard-stand rooms (think dorms), each with an individual A/C; we have to blouse our boots, leave our sleeves down, ride bikes with helmets, glasses and a running belt, and live in overcrowded tents, basically sleeping on top of one another, with limited A/C. It's nuts. Oh, and we were told that the Germans "don't like the way we talk in their DFAC", so we have to keep our noise to a minimum. I feel like a naughty kid at my great grandmother's house. Luckily, they are building an American area, which, get this, is outside the wire (don't worry they are building a new force protection wall).

See, the Germans did not want us to come to this base at all, but they reluctantly allowed it and granted us access for a small portion of our unit; however, we ended up greatly exceeding the capacity - a decision about which they are none to pleased. The Germans have to tolerate us, but I suppose their command didn't tell them they had to like it.

I guess the most frustrating part is that in Iraq, there were coalition forces just like there are in Afghanistan, and being that most bases in Iraq are American built, we would be the de facto country in charge. That being the case, we were always told to be understanding of the differences in military culture. For example, a lot of countries allow their female Soldiers to wear their hair down or partially down, but we would tolerate that. Or another example, I hate the way Germans keep both their hands on top of the table - it's barbaric and bad table manners - but you don't see us telling German forces, "hey, we think that's rude, so tell your Soldiers not to do it."

This is a war zone. We (NATO forces) are trying to get a job done. Our country has volunteered to send even more Soldiers over in harm's way to help these people out, and what do we get? To be treated like red-headed stepchildren? We understand the base is crowded (and it is a very nice base I have to admit). We understand that we don't want us messing up the afternoon coffee in the tranquility of the atrium (another hard-stand building with cafes, a bar, internet cafe and lounge or their beer at the end of their work day. But I have to ask, can't we all just get along?

And I have to agree with these guys on some points. For the most part, Americans have a bad habit of putting our personnel stamp, if you will, on a place. We throw our cigarette butts on the ground wherever we stand. We throw trash on the ground and spit on the sidewalks. We leave skid marks in the toilets (believe me, this is a hot button issue for them) and generally take things for granted. We are so used to others taking responsibility for our messes that we literally don't know how to take care of ourselves. For the first time, I have to admit, I'm a little embarrassed to be from America. I don't want to seem like neanderthals to the rest of the world who just come and destroy whatever they come in contact with. I'm honestly a little self conscious.

And there's really no reason we can't keep this place nice. It's like when you look at a Soldier who has thrown trash on the ground and ask them to pick it up, they have this look of incredulity that you would ask them to do such a thing. The bottom line is that we are ungrateful. We just got new bathrooms the other day - hard-stand trailers - and they're already a complete pig sty. We just take things for granted, and when we destroy them, we expect someone else to pick up the mess.

I'm hoping this is just laziness and not our modus operandi. I would hate to think that's the direction our culture has taken, but, as I look across the board at all aspects, it is starting to seem like it might be the case. Can't find a job - welfare. Bought a house you can't afford - where's the government intervention? I'm not saying European politics are much different, but it doesn't seem to have rubbed off on them as much. Everything seems like a "give me" without any sense of responsibility. No wonder the their is increasing disdain for the American collective. It's not too late to change that sort of mentality, and I am going to start with myself first.

Alright, that's as political as I will ever get on this blog (I promise).

1 comment:

  1. Hi Em,

    I think that you have tried to get in touch with us over the weekend but I'm not for sure. I keep getting this phone call from another area code and then nobody's there. I hope to talk to you soon. Mom