Hi Rich, thanks for your service!
It sounds to me like one of two problems: the psmouse driver loaded twice (assuming it's on that interface) or a flaky pad. When the machine is running, try (from console) to remove the mouse driver (rmmod psmouse) and then, once you're sure it's gone, put it back on (modprobe psmouse).
If the problem still persists, you may need to try the Synaptics-specific driver out there (I can't remember the URL, but lots of places have it).
Just bear in mind you may just have bad hardware there: it is a pad, and you're out there in the harsh desert--it's an ordinary laptop not, say, a Panasonic Toughbook or something.