One of the realities about camp life is that there is no silence. There is always noise. If you are in a tent, either the heater/air is running or the constant hum of the generator assures you that life is happening. Outside the tent, there are vehicles, machinery, the machinations of a war camp, and, lets not forget, the heart-stopping sound of the alarm letting you know trouble is coming fast.
Then, there are the people. Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors, Civilians, Local Nationals – people everywhere you go! There is no sanctuary where there are not people. Even in the portajon, a solitude against the ever maddening crowd, you can hear clearly the people in the stall next to you.
Tents are full of people. There are the day sleepers who work at night and the night sleepers who work in the day. Everyone is trying to be quiet and everyone is making noise. Sometimes the harder one tries to stay quiet, the more grating the noise. Especially when trying to sleep.
All the noise is for me reassuring. I grew up in a large family, one of 12 children, and noise really does not phase me. I’ve never really liked being fully alone. This is not to say that I like talking. The introvert in me loves silence and space but I also like knowing others are close by. At home, my family is ever present. In the field, my Soldiers are ever present. It’s actually one of the things I love about his work.
Two nights ago, I was reassigned to a new tent. I went into the tent and in it was the unit that we replaced, they were waiting for their flight home. Last night, after leaving Bible study at the chapel, I returned to an empty tent. It was surreal. I don’t think I have ever, in 11 years of Army service, spent a night alone in a tent. It was so odd. Even a little unnerving.
I woke up with a start about 02 and heard nothing. The generator outside the tent had shut off and I could literally hear nothing. It was so weird. There was no shuffling about in cots, no rolling over, no hum of laptops playing movies, no hushed conversations, no clumping of boots from Soldiers returning from missions. Just silence. Then, the generator kicked back on and it sounded right again. It was still a little odd as I was the only one in the tent (there is another crew coming in tonight so it’s a one night experience) and could hear only my thoughts.
I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Such surprising silence.