From Inside Ft. Hood

Ryskind of the eponymous Sketchbook has been called up (see what he says about that) and finds himself at Ft. Hood, which is the Army's staging area for people headed in theatre. He doesn't know when his unit will be deployed --the Army knows, but is rightly cagey about announcing troop movements, so he's kind of waiting around.

When he first arrived, he sent my phone a shot of two nondescript cubicles, with, I don't know, maybe 100 soldiers queued up to enter them. A few towards the front of the line were standing, but everyone else was sitting in orderly rows of chairs. Basically, it's a picture of the backs of heads of manly men in fatigues.

"What am I looking at?" I texted him.

"I am behind all these people," came the response.

This is station 13, where after a series of medical exams --medical, dental, are your shots current?-- the Army finally clears you for action. You get into one of those little rooms and they look at your papers and either clear you or tell you what additional hoop you must jump to get cleared. (As an aside, I asked whether people weren't trying to fail since he's with a Reserve unit and presumably his fellow soldiers have regular jobs and families; he reports that most of them are eager to go --attracted by combat pay and the cessation of expenses for awhile.)

It's a lengthy and boring process. Grown men and a sprinkling of women just sitting in a waiting room, filling out forms, chit-chatting quietly, maybe texting their friends to fill the time.

And that's where the traitor Hasan came shooting --presumably catching people in the back, sitting down and unawares. The number of victims is so high because the room was so packed.

The seargent who cleared Ryskind for duty is among the fallen.