A Day in the Life of David M. Foster
A day in the life of David M. Foster begins early. The alarm clocks begin sounding at 0445 Monday morning, even though I don’t get up until almost 0530.
I am a deep sleeper and have a hard time waking up. My wife, Sarah, is not a heavy sleeper and is constantly awoken by my myriad of alarm sounds while I attempt to wake up enough to get out of bed. At 0530, I get up, turning off all the alarms so as not to aggravate my wife further. In a face-saving gesture, Sarah says nothing and acts as though she were asleep the entire time.
Face-saving behaviors are “techniques used to salvage a performance (interaction) that is going sour” (Henslin, 2011, p. 114). Sarah has acted this way so that I don’t feel badly about waking her, even though we both know that my inability to get up quickly irks her each and every morning. I have to catch the bus, so I rapidly get dressed and grab my bag. When I get to the bus stop, there are several people there, but because the temperature is so low (about 20 degrees), no one says much. We generally keep to ourselves that early in the morning anyway.
I do nod to those who are senior to me in rank and position in the military, as is customary for the services. One is expected to give the “greeting of the day”, basically a “good morning” to those who are senior in rank to you. Because I am of a junior rank, even as a seasoned NCO, I play that role. I have been playing that role for more than 15 years at this point and have come to acknowledge that it is part of my self-concept (Henslin, 2011, p114). At 0550, the bus arrives, late as usual. Just as soon as I sit down on the bus, I shoot off a text message to my supervisor, SFC Cooper, letting her know that I’m on the bus.
The reason for this is two-fold. One, accountability formation is at 0630 (the bus ride is 20 minutes, minimum) and two, to let her know that I’m on the bus and didn’t just oversleep. The US Military ingrains certain standards of action into you as resocialization. Resocialization is “the process of learning new norms, values, attitudes, and behaviors” (Henslin, 2011, p86). These standards become norms. Norms are “expectations or rules of behavior that reflect and enforce behavior” (Henslin, 2011, p46).
One of hese norms is that you must arrive 10 minutes prior to any formation. This is not a more, but a folkway. Not arriving at the appointed time violates a more. A folkway is a “norm that is not strictly enforced” (Henslin, 2011, p49), while a more is a “norm that is strictly enforced because it is thought essential to core values or to the well-being of the group” (Henslin, 2011, p49). At 0615, we arrived at the gate to Patch Barracks, the military Kaserne, or installation. The civilian guard is a Local National, so I greet him with a “Guten Morgen” (German for Good Morning).
If he had been one of the few American guards, I would have just spoken in English. At 0635, after our accountability formation, I change into my uniform for the day, the Army Combat Uniform. The Uniform helps to indentify the subculture that we all belong to. Each service has its’ own uniform and its’ own subculture. A subculture results from “the values and related behaviors of a group that distinguish its members from the larger culture” (Henslin, 2011, p49). The US Military is a subculture of the United States of America and the US Army is a subculture of the US Military.
Fast forward to after breakfast, its 0800 and I arrive (ten minutes early) for the Equal Opportunity Leader (EOL) Course that I am attending this week. Here I meet SFC Trussell, the instructor for the course and also the Equal Opportunity Advisor (EOA) for the Stuttgart, Germany area. SFC Trussell is my senior, so I defer to him and address him as “Sergeant”, which is in line with our folkways and mores. During the first part of the training today the students are all required to create a “badge”. This is done using a graphic and 5 words to describe your characteristics, list your demographic information, and group affiliations.
The point of this exercise is as an “Ice-breaker” but also to help others understand how you relate to the world around you. The rest of the day is dry and boring. Having 15 years of experience, most of the course material in the EOL course is not new to me. Sarah has driven down to Patch Barracks and dropped off the car, so I don’t have to catch the bus home tonight. At 1715, I swing by the office and check in with SFC Cooper and answer a few emails to my counterpart at our higher headquarters. Nothing new, mostly routine stuff. At 1740, it’s into the car and off for the 40 minute drive home.
Traffic is much worse in the evening than in the morning. I get home at 1820, walk through the front door, and immediately drop everything because here comes Molly. Molly is 4 years old and runs for me as soon as I open the door, yelling “Daddy’s home”! I grab her off the floor and give her hugs and kisses, transitioning from my role as “Soldier” to my roles of “Father” and “Husband”. This goes on with Molly for about 5 minutes before she begins to lose interest (as 4 year olds generally do) and I put her down, giving Sarah a kiss and asking how her day was.
Our interaction is not very detailed as we both need time to decompress from our recent role changes. Sarah has gone from mother mode to wife mode as I have just entered the father role and can assist in taking care of the children. About 30 minutes later, dinner is ready and out pops Ellie. Ellie is 13 and regardless of the questions asked, her responses are seldom more than a word or two, “typical” behavior for a teenager. At 1920, dinner is over and it’s washing up time. At this point, everyone drifts off to do whatever we normally do, sticking with our own routines.
I log into my online game, Eve Online, and chat with my friends there. Molly goes back to her “before bed” cartoons, Ellie disappears back into her room to do whatever teenagers do in their rooms, and Sarah logs onto her computer to chat with friends on Facebook and read the English newspapers online. I play Eve Online until 2200, the appointed time for my group to play, chatting about work, news, and such while engaging in space combat. At this point it’s time for me to pack my bag again for the next day, preparing to start all over. At 2245, it’s into bed and lights out. Day done!
As I typed my Journal, I realized that the majority of my day is consumed by playing the role of Soldier. The structure of the US Military is such that almost every facet of your daily life, from the time you wake up, to the clothes you where, to the way you address people, is determined prior to the situation. Out of a 17 hour day, more than 12 hours of it is consumed by the “Soldier” role. Because I have been in the US Military for 15 years, I am fully indoctrinated and invested in this system, whether I realize it or not. I also realized that there is a specific moment when I transition from the Soldier role.
Specifically, this is the moment I walk through the door and am “attacked” by my youngest daughter. If not for her, I might get “stuck” in the Soldier role, unable to do anything else. The importance of keeping this “Soldier” role at the forefront every day is simple: it provides the livelihood for me and my family. Without the US Military, and my participation in it, I would be forced to find alternate means to care for my family. I posses skills to do so now, but only because the US Military taught them to me. I was socialized in adulthood in the US Military. A day in my life is likely similar to most.
The discerning factor is probably the US Military ties, though many of my classmates are also members of a military subculture. The subculture of the US Military dominates my daily life by design. The US Military requires individuals to be prepared to do extraordinary things and so requires a higher level of commitment (and indoctrination) than a job at McDonald’s might. The role of Soldier is a vast part of “who I am”, but I am also “Father” and “Husband”, as well as “friend”, “coworker”, “peer”, and “superior” to many, many people. I wouldn’t change a thing…. well, maybe the 0445 alarm clock. Journal All times in 24 hour clock. 8 February 2013 0445Alarm Sounds 0530Get out of Bed without waking wife any more than alarm has already. 0530-0545Dress in US Army Improved Physical Fitness Uniform (IPFU) 0545Grab bag, packed night before, and head to bus-stop.
Temperature well below freezing with snow on the ground. Nod to others at bus-stop, no one really speaks, too cold. Several of the people at the bus-stop are higher ranking (which is normal). 0550Bus arrives, late as usual. Sent text message to SFC Cooper (Supervisor and Platoon Sergeant) saying “On the Bus”. 0550-0620Bus ride to Patch Barracks. Pulled hat down and slept (which is also normal). 615Showed ID Card to Gate Guard, said “Good Morning” in German since the guard is a German national. 0620Depart bus at second stop and walk to gym for first formation. 0625Drop bag in locker room, head to formation. Make sure supervisor/Platoon Sergeant see that I am present. Get brief for day from Detachment Sergeant (Upcoming events, etc. ). Fall out of formation because I am not doing Physical Training, reminded Platoon Sergeant/Detachment Sergeant that I had EO Course this week. 0635Back into Locker room to change into Army Combat Uniform (ACU’s).
0635-0715Shower, Shave, change, etc. 0715Depart Gym to Kantine for breakfast. 735Arrive Kantine, order eggs, sausage, Brotchen, coffee in German because the cook is a German national that has been working there for a significant period of time. 0740Pay for Breakfast in Euro instead of US Dollars 0750Drop tray and head to Equal Opportunity Leader (EOL) Course across the parking lot. 0800Met SFC Trussell, the instructor and also the Stuttgart Garrison Equal Opportunity Advisor (EOA). 0830During first block of training must complete the “Badge” exercise. Required to use 5 words and a picture to describe characteristics, demographic data, and group affiliation (annotated below).
Stood up in front of class of 24 other Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO’s) and explained my “Badge”. I know several of them, some from my Unit and some from other units in the area. Schedule for the class is tight, trying to finish 6 days of training in 5. Keep most of my comments to myself so as not to drag out the class with empty discussion. 0900-1130Some interaction with classmates, though not much. It’s day one of the course and we are just getting to know one another, as well as keep up with the fast pace of the rather dry subject matter.
Couple of “smoke breaks” thrown in, but not on any schedule (I’m a pack a day habit). 1048Sent “I Love You” text to wife. Got same in response. 1130Break for lunch. Walk to food-court. Lunch at Burger King. Remark to clerk about high prices and how they are similar to US Prices. Had a chicken sandwich, fries, and sweet tea. 1245Head back to class. 1300-1700Instruction resumes, not much deviation from the morning block. 1630Got a text from the wife, car has been left at work for me to take home so I don’t have to ride the bus. Reply with “Thanks Babe” 1700Class ends, pack up and leave classroom.
Speak with SFC Williams (from my unit) briefly about the class and whether or not to go back to office before heading home. 1715Enter office to check email and find SFC Cooper still there (Workday ends at 1700). She asks me about class and I explain that it’s fast paced but dry. I have been in the Army 15 years, I know all of the course material from previous training. Checked email and responded to several requests for information from my counterpart (SFC Stewart) at the level above me (BDE). 1740Log-off computer and go to car. 1745-1820Traffic and drive home.
825Enter home, Molly (4) runs to me yelling “Daddy, Daddy! ”. Pick her up and give her a big hug and kiss. She immediately begins telling me about her day, though most of her responses are “I don’t remember” to questions I ask. 1830Put Molly down and kiss wife, ask her how her day was. Response is “not bad”. She asks how my day was and I respond with “long and boring. Class is dry. ” 1830-1845Change into regular clothes. 1845Check personal email, nothing important, mostly spam. 1850Sit down to dinner, eating English Shepard’s Pie. Molly complains and Ellie (13) comes out of her room long enough to eat.
Try to start conversation and basically get one word answers. Typical Teenager responses. 1920Dinner finished, clear table and rinse dishes. Back onto computer to play. 1930Log in to Eve Online (MMORPG) and greet my “friends”. 4 people who live in the same town are my “corps mates”. 1930-2200Rambling conversation about work and Eve, all during co-op play using very expensive (in-game) items to earn massive amounts of in-game currency. 2200“eve time” ends, log off. 2215-2240Pack bag for tomorrow, say good night to wife (who stays up later than me). 2245Lights out and to sleep.