...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

December 16, 2004

Chicks Dig Tanks: The Sarah Interview

i'm in the middle of my first week of exams. i'll let you know how that's going later on. But in the meantime, Sarah of Trying to Grok was nice enough to let me interview her earlier this month, so i could post it during my finals. She's a pretty amazing blogger with a wide array of interests, as you will see. Sarah's blog has been a daily must-read for me ever since she came over to Munuviana. Trying to Grok isn't your typical mil-blog either - Sarah is a teacher and a military wife. i love her honest writing style and she's always got really good links to fun and informative stuff. Enjoy the interview, and i'll try to check in again this weekend.

annikagyrl: hi Sarah
Sarah: hi
annikagyrl: okay my first question has to do with the “Dukakis” picture you used to have on your blog. What was the story behind that? You know the picture with you riding in the Bradley?
Sarah: Actually it was an M1A1
annikagyrl: cool, even better
Sarah: Last year for my birthday, my husband took me to the motor pool to "meet" his tank.
annikagyrl: for those who don't know, your husband is, i believe, an officer in the 1st Infantry Division
Sarah: Yes, he's a 1LT serving with 1ID in Iraq. He's Armor (branch detailed from Finance -- heh), so he's currently a platoon leader and a tank commander
annikagyrl: and also for those who haven’t noticed yet, i have an interest in tanks and military aircraft, which i'm told is unusual for women
Sarah: oh boy do I love tanks
annikagyrl: what's it like inside an Abrams?
Sarah: cramped. My husband and I were in there together, and we kept bumping into each other and banging our arms and legs on stuff. I have no idea how they fit four people in there. It was the thrill of my life though
annikagyrl: i was re-reading some of your old posts and i came across a link to The Strategy Page, which i got lost in
Sarah: Yeah, that's a good site, isn't it?
annikagyrl: i read another link regarding the use or alleged misuse of the M1A1 in Iraq
Sarah: hmmm, I don't think I've seen that one
annikagyrl: the gist of it was that we’re misusing our tanks in urban warfare, which seems silly. i mean, i'm no expert, but if a layperson like myself can imagine how not to use a tank in urban environments, the army has already figured those things out
Sarah: Ha, hopefully! I know my husband feels safer inside his tank, especially since he's been hit by RPGs and lived to tell the story. You know, back in August, one of our good friends from Fort Knox was injured in Mosul. He's with the new Stryker Brigade out of Fort Lewis and even though he nearly got ripped in two, he still swears by the Stryker
annikagyrl: from what i read on the strategy page, the M1A1/2 is a very surviveable piece of machinery. Do you ever worry about your husband in Iraq?
Sarah: My deployment philosophy is that people die every day, and there's nothing we can do about it. I know I have to lose my husband someday, so if I had the choice between losing him to democracy and losing him to being hit by a bus, I'd rather lose him in Iraq. It's just my own way of dealing with the danger.
annikagyrl: as a lietenenant, does that mean he's in charge of a platoon?
Sarah: Heh, spelling lieutenant is a bitch, huh?
annikagyrl: yah
Sarah: Yes, he "is in charge of" roughly 20 men, a fairly formidable task for a 24 year old. He and his Platoon Sergeant work together to manage the platoon.
annikagyrl: i love the way you describe your relationship, it's very inspiring to me as a single girl
Sarah: Ha, thanks. That means a lot to me. He's my best friend.
annikagyrl: it sounds like the type of marriage i would like to have someday
Sarah: I have more in common with him than with anyone on the planet; I got lucky that he was a guy instead of a girl! More than anything I just miss hanging out with him, watching Futurama and talking about politics. Each day we get to chat online for like 30 minutes.
annikagyrl: first war where that's been possible, i guess. Thank you Yahoo!, lol
Sarah: We're sorta an odd couple, I'm sure. For example, yesterday we spent our entire time talking about why the dollar is so weak against the Euro. Probably most couples don't talk about that stuff!
annikagyrl: that's cool.
Sarah: Yes, we have it so good that I can't even complain. When I start to feel down -- because there are times when we'll go 12-16 days without talking -- I think about the men who went years in WWII without talking to their families. I have nothing to complain about.
annikagyrl: You come from a military family don't you?
Sarah: No, actually my family isn't that military. Neither is my husband’s. His father served in the Army for a few years, and two of my uncles were in the Army and AF, but that's about it.
annikagyrl: didn't i read that your grandpa was a pilot?
Sarah: My grandfather was in WWII, flying bombers. He and his brother enlisted in the AF to avoid being drafted into the Army... ha, even back then guys knew which side was sweeter!
annikagyrl: lol
Sarah: He served during the war and then met my grandma and had thirteen babies. He's an interesting guy.
annikagyrl: What bomber did your Grandpa fly, if you know?
Sarah: Oh goodness. You know, before I met my husband, I neither knew nor cared about the military. I'm sure my grandfather told me once, but when those things don't mean anything to you, they're in one ear and out the other. Now that the military has become such a big part of my life, I have so much more in common with my grandpa. I send him Veteran's Day cards and Memorial Day cards and all sorts of stuff. But he's sorta past the age where he can really talk about specifics.
annikagyrl: i've had the pleasure of meeting three or four men who flew in bombers during WWII and they were all lovely old men, very fascinating personalities. And they all wore hearing aids, too. It was loud in those things, i can imagine.
Sarah: I mentioned a few days ago that my grandfather flew with Chuck Yeager. They were in the same squadron, and they have remained friends. Pretty cool, huh?
annikagyrl: Yah. We lost over 50,000 aircrew over Europe in bombers alone. i am amazed at the bravery of those guys.
Sarah: I've gotten into watching military movies since my husband left, and I can't watch a WWII movie without feeling an overwhelming mixture of pride, sadness, gratitude, and horror.
annikagyrl: You live in Germany now, and i'm curious about your opinion of the German people.
Sarah: Dang, my thoughts on the Germans could take hours. In a nutshell... I was a French major and lived in France for a year during college. I later studied Swedish and lived in Sweden for a summer. I was about all Europed out when we learned we were being sent to Germany, and I really wasn't interested in coming. However, I have found that the Germans in our area are generally very accomodating and helpful. They like having us here -- especially when we spend money at their restaurants! -- and they've been good to us. I went north to visit my Swedish friend in Hamburg last weekend, and I was a little nervous. Up north, they're not used to us Americans like they are in the little belt of bases down at the south of Germany. I was honestly afraid that my car might be keyed or something, but luckily everything was cool. My Swedish friend's boyfriend is a rabidly anti-war German, and I was nervous about him too!
annikagyrl: How did that go?
Sarah: He asked a million questions, but it felt like he really wanted to listen and learn, so I went away with a good feeling. I'm sure I didn't change his mind, but maybe I gave him some things to think about. My favorite moment from talking to him... He was asking where we lived and if we lived "in an apartment or in a room where you like share a bathroom at the end of a hall." He nearly choked when I said that we have a three bedroom house.
annikagyrl: lol
Sarah: I don't think he could related to the size and might of the US Army, that they have enough money to give everyone a house! The Army takes care of us, that's for sure. I don't think he could relate, since in his mind military service is mandatory and the German soldiers live in barracks.
annikagyrl: i think the Europeans have the luxury of being anti-war because, unlike Americans and Israelis, they are not in the crosshairs... yet.
Sarah: Oh of course.
annikagyrl: At least not since the end of the Cold War.
Sarah: But with the Muslim population growing by the day, they might have to face reality sometime soon...
annikagyrl: i think they already are being forced to deal with that issue. The van Gogh killing was a big wake up call.
Sarah: Sometimes I feel like patting Europe on the head and sending them back to the "kids table" while the grown-ups discuss the real issues.
annikagyrl: moving on... Who in your opinion is the most influential rapper?
annikagyrl: lol
Sarah: certainly not what I expected you to ask. I think I'll never admire anyone like I admire Dr. Dre
annikagyrl: reeeaaaaally? What about Snoop?
Sarah: Ha. Well, of course he was in on the ground floor too
annikagyrl: Eminem?
Sarah: Eminem is one of my favorites, simply for the mess that he stirs up.
annikagyrl: very true.
Sarah: In case your readers don't know, I'm a college English professor who enjoys rap for the use of language
annikagyrl: i don't follow hip hop that much, but i do think that Snoop Dog is a genius. On a related subject, do you still have The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock memorized?
Sarah: When I started memorizing it, I would learn it piece by piece. I started with the beginning "Let us go then you and I..." and then the next day I started from the beginning and went further, and then further, and then further. Thus I remember the beginning quite well, but I'm starting to get hazy on the ending
annikagyrl: Can you imagine someone doing a hip hop version of Prufrock?
Sarah: I love that poem
annikagyrl: If we had more time, i'd ask you to explain what the fuck The Wasteland is all about, i never had patience for that poem. But Prufrock is beautiful. “Oh do not ask “what is it”/ Let us go and make our visit” was my favorite line
Sarah: My favorite was always "is it perfume from a dress that makes me so digress?" Man, I can think of ten stanzas I love about that poem. I admire someone who can use words well... it doesn't matter if it's a rapper or T. S. Eliot, if the words feel like silk, I love it. And don't even get me started on how amazing I think freestyle is.
annikagyrl: How long has it been since you've been in the United States?
Sarah: About a year now... we went home last Christmas before my husband deployed. On Valentine's Day, mind you. Ha
annikagyrl: Do you feel like an expatriate travelling so much?
Sarah: I feel like my heart will burst if I don't go home soon.
annikagyrl: And travelling has not turned you into a liberal, like it does to some people
Sarah: I love my country more than anyone can fathom, and if anything, travel has made me appreciate my own country and shown me that there's nowhere else I'd rather be.
annikagyrl: Thank you Dorothy, lol
Sarah: Which is hard to deal with when you're forced to live elsewhere...
Sarah: Ha, yeah I'm sorta like Dorothy
annikagyrl: You live on the base, right?
Sarah: Yep, but actually I live on a post. One of the things you learn when you become an Army wife is to stop calling them bases. Base is the generic form, which covers AF and Marines. But Army lives on "posts", not bases. I can't tell you how many times my husband corrected me on that. It's burned in my brain.
annikagyrl: yes and i learned from reading your blog that it’s a "weapon" not a gun
Sarah: ha, yeah, he corrects me on that one too
annikagyrl: Were you blogging on 9/11?
Sarah: No, I wasn't even reading on 9/11. I was totally insulated and stupid and ignorant
annikagyrl: What is your 9/11 story? Where were you, etc..
Sarah: It's almost too embarrassing to repeat I woke up and was getting ready for class, and my roommate told me what was going on on the TV. I barely paid attention because I was in a hurry for school. I'm ashamed of how uninformed I was on 9/11, but I'm proud of how far I've come since
annikagyrl: somehow i doubt that you were ever as uninformed as you say. Your writing is so very thoughtful and articulate.
Sarah: Oh but I was. My philosophy was one of humming-with-fingers-in-ears whenever my husband (then boyfriend) would try to get me interested in history/the middle east. I was one of those typical grad students who only cared about what was needed for class
annikagyrl: Speaking of your blog, and it's title, are you a big Heinlein fan?
Sarah: Um, I'm definitely a big Stranger in a Strange Land fan
annikagyrl: What was the deal with that novel? Was the martian dude supposed to be like Jesus?
annikagyrl: i didn't get it
Sarah: I guess what I took from the book was that people get so caught up in what they think is right or what they're doing at the moment that they forget there are other ways of doing things. Mike came along and taught them to understand things and not just accept what they'd been told was true
annikagyrl: You know, i’m afraid to admit that i tried and tried to get into Heinlein in college but i couldn't do it.
Sarah: Hey, that's OK. I don't like Shakespeare, and I'm sure people think that's treasonous.
annikagyrl: Oh that segues into another question: i'm sick and tired of having liberals say that conservatives don't think for themselves, and just regurgitate whatever Limbaugh and Hannity tell them. What do you think? i think its totally the other way around.
Sarah: Hmm. I think that very few people really know how to think. I know I struggle with it every day.
annikagyrl: You know, i was against the Iraq war at one time... for about two days.
Sarah: Ha
annikagyrl: Then i thought about it and came to my own conclusion
Sarah: Den Beste was my inspiration to really learn to think. I believe I'm getting better at it, but I honestly don't think most people have much practice at thinking on their own.
annikagyrl: Was Steven Den Beste’s blog the inspiration for Trying to Grok?
Sarah: Den Beste was the first blog I ever read, when my husband sat me down right when we got married and said, "You read this while I go to work." And I was hooked.
annikagyrl: Wow. The first blog i ever read was probably TranceJen, quite a difference there
Sarah: My husband had been reading for a while, so he knew all of these things that I didn't know. Now I'm the one who's throwing around references that he doesn't understand
annikagyrl: haha, cool
Sarah: like MSM... he had no idea what that was when I typed it once on IM. He doesn't get to read blogs much from Iraq. I try to keep him updated on the current stuff
annikagyrl: Did you get to follow Rather gate from Germany much?
Sarah: Sure, via blogs, which was where all the action was anyway.
annikagyrl: Very true
Sarah: I just don't get the stuff that's not blogged about. My mom mentioned the controversy surrounding Pat Tillman's death last night, and it was the first I'd heard.
annikagyrl: i heard the friendly fire story months ago, i don't know why it’s just now being reported widely
Sarah: See, I never had. And that's a hard one for me, I guess.
annikagyrl: yes
Sarah: I thought a lot last night about how I would feel if a coalition soldier killed my husband. I had just watched The Big Red One (where the Americans were fighting the French in Africa!) and with Pat Tillman, it got me thinking. It's a rough call... would I rather live with the truth, which sucks, or not. I wouldn't be angry, but I would be sad.
annikagyrl: Tillman's death was a milestone in the war for me, too. Like the Private Lynch story. Both turned out much differently than they were first reported. You know there are so many other heroic stories out there that are not being told
Sarah: I know. Instead we get Abu Ghraib
annikagyrl: and i think that's where we don't give the mainstream print media enough credit. Broadcast media has never been good at telling us about the heroes
Sarah: But hometown newspapers do it well
annikagyrl: and the recent Time magazine and even New York Times articles have given me hope that the big time press is coming around too, albeit slowly.
annikagyrl: i have a theory that blogs are a way for conservatives to be activists, since we all have jobs and are too embarrassed to march around with signs chanting. How do you think Trying to Grok has had an impact?
Sarah: Hmm, has it? I don't know...
annikagyrl: Oh i know it has. You definitely have a following
Sarah: Yeah, but think of the number of my friends and family who hate me now. I can't say if I've had an impact on anyone, but I know blogging has had an impact on me
annikagyrl: how is that?
Sarah: I felt so alone before I started, and now I don't feel that way anymore. Word has gotten out around here that I blog, and my friends now want to talk politics with me. When I worry about my husband, I turn to Bunker for advice. When I need laughter, I look to Farm Accident Digest. When I wonder about language, I turn to Amritas. I have a world of experts at my fingertips too. And I feel connected, and like there's always someone out there who will understand me.
annikagyrl: The blogosphere is amazing. i think we tend to pat ourselves on the back a bit much, but then other times i think we deserve all the praise we give ourselves
Sarah: For years I had this whole part of myself that I had hidden away, and now I don't have to do that anymore. And with my best friend thousands of miles away, I have people who can "fill his shoes", so to speak.
annikagyrl: Well thank you Sarah for letting me pick your brain like this
Sarah: It was fun. Thanks

Posted by annika, Dec. 16, 2004 |
Rubric: annieconversations


I don't buy that chicks dig tanks, generally. What I buy is that chicks who do dig tanks are cool!

Posted by: Matt on Dec. 16, 2004

There are very few experiences that compare to traveling almost 40 mph in a 68 ton tank!

How timely an interview - saw below advertisement.

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Each episode also showcases the histories behind each machine, the battles they fought, their destructive capabilities and the skills needed to operate them.

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(there's a show on aircraft too)

I started with the M60 and M113 so getting the M1 and M2 was fantastic. Having been on the ground floor when the Stryker concept was started, it's great to see the Stryker Brigade performing so well. The next generation of ground combat system of systems is on the horizon as well.


Posted by: Col Steve on Dec. 16, 2004

Thanks Annika - great interview! I've been reading Sarah since she was on blogspot. Lately I have been so swamped with work and trying to keep up my own blog, I haven't had time to get over there. So, this is fabulous. *grin*

I see in usual Sarah fashion, she's being modest about her impact through her blog. But she is one of the best, most thoughtful writers out there.

Posted by: Teresa on Dec. 16, 2004

FUCK! I was all ready to hate it, and you had to throw out Prufrock. WTF could two chicklets know about Prufrock? It's a middleaged man's poem. "Shall I wear my trousers rolled? Do I dare to eat a peach?" You've never seen the moment of your "greatness flicker". What could two good looking, brilliant, talented little biatches know about second-guessing life?

Matt, chicks and tanks = penis envy.

Finally, how come you didn't ask her about "doing it" in the tank?

FUCK, 2 for 2!

Posted by: Casca on Dec. 16, 2004

Well, color me a Prufrock fan too -- but I still need help understanding Four Quartets... great interview, Annie!

Posted by: Hugo on Dec. 16, 2004

Casca, of course tanks are penis envy. Why do you think I love the batting cages too? I will *always* wish that I were born a guy, and my husband will always thank his stars I wasn't.

Posted by: Sarah on Dec. 17, 2004


I loved your interview with Sarah. I just wish more people could have the everday interaction with her that I am fortunate enough to have. She is one of the most brilliant (and humble) people I have ever met.


Posted by: Erin on Dec. 17, 2004

Actually, she needs little advice from me. She has her head screwed on pretty straight. In military vernacular, she has her shit all in one sock!

Posted by: Bunker on Dec. 17, 2004

just wanted to say nice site!

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Posted by: free government grants on Jan. 25, 2005