Sunday, May 31, 2009

Radio Silence

The Leprechaun will be offline for a few days, for obvious reasons! I'll resume blogging once under lockdown in the station. Cheers!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Time to Pull Pitch and Rotate

Finished our "capstone exercise" yesterday. I drove the tail Humvee in the convoy and essentially did nuthin'. Seeing as how everyone except us drivers and turret gunners was leaping and crawling thru the tick-infested woods in the hot sunshine, doing nuthin' was a good deal, though pretty boring. After returning to the barracks, a couple of us got to join 50 of our closest friends and clean the 100+ machine guns used during the training rotation. That fun was followed this morning with a body armor laundry party. Who says the Army isn't a laff riot?
I've finished packing, the first group departs in the morning at 0300, and soon I'll be back with my Babe-A-Roo. Yippee!

Friday, May 29, 2009


It can stand for: "Failure To Appear"; "Fun, Travel and Adventure", or also how I'm feeling right now. That's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Great Idea, Poor Execution

This morning, at band camp, we marched down to the chapel for Arab/Islamic cultural awareness training. I've been looking forward to this block of instruction since we got here, as I don't want to be the "Ugly American" in-country. Well, after we were all seated, our instructor started talking, and it became very apparent that unless there was going to be subtitles, most of what he was saying was going to be completely unintelligible. The accompanying powerpoint slides would have been helpful, except that the instructor rendered them useless by flipping back and forth at warp speed, and returning each time to the one slide written entirely in Arabic. Guess I'll look for "Islam and Arab Culture For Dummies" at Barnes & Noble when I get back home. Shukran, Army!
BTW, after close to 24 hours, my boots from yesterday's "Singing in the Rain" experience are still pretty damp. Any of you loyal readers have suggestions for speeding the drying process that doesn't involve hair dryers or microwave ovens?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

From the Colon of the Beast

Okay, it's a play on the famous book by Jack Abbott, about life in a maximum security penitentiary...but after a briefing tonight, some of remarked that it sounded like we were headed for prison. The good news is that it appears we won't be residing on the replica FOB (Forward Operating Base) at our mobilization station prior to deploying. The word is that we will be living in a new building, with private rooms...let's just hope that the wiring and plumbing wasn't done by Halliburton...but we still will be restricted to staying on post. The briefer did tell us that we'll be allowed "conjugal visits" (beginning to see the prison parallels?), and maybe even get time off for good behavior. Guess I need to rent "The Shawshank Redemption" for tips on how to get through the experience. Gotta go now and make me a shank to protect me in the shower...


We attacked a village and a sheik's residence today, or rather a very realistic mock-up of each, staffed by role players. It was a Charlie Foxtrot from the first minute. We also had the pleasure of a torrential downpour which began last night, and has continued without pause, even as I write this.
We have had the dubious honor of training at times with a Support Brigade, which is very top-heavy with field-grade officers (Majors and above), and for the most part non-combat arms soldiers. In a word, they are prime examples of REMFs, an acronym developed during the
Vietnam War, which stands for Rear, Management Facilitators. So I wasn't paying close enough attention as we were all clustered around waiting for assignments, and got snagged to be a Humvee turret gunner for the initial mission. That by itself wasn't so bad, but the clincher came when I discovered that my Humvee's crew consisted of a senior NCO driver, and three of the aforementioned field grade REMFs. Now the first mission was for the ground troops to search a friendly village for an insurgent leader, with the outer perimeter security provided by the Humvees. We were given our sectors of fire; half the Humvees were to cover the village with their machine guns, and the other half (including my vehicle) were to train our guns on the treeline surrounding the village, in case the bad guys ambushed us. (This apparently happens on a regular basis, according to our combat vets.) Okay, so while the rest of our crew is comfortably seated in the nice dry and heated passenger compartment, yours truly is standing in the deluge, and rapidly becoming soaked despite my gore-tex jacket. We moved out toward the village, and took up our assigned position. I rotated my turret to cover the treeline, and kept a sharp eye out for insurgents. Down below, the REMFs kept calling out "helpful" hints, such as, "Sergeant, don't you think you should be rotating the turret more frequently?" When the ground units entered the village, my helpers directed me to watch the village for bad guys, and cover them with my gun. Mind you, none of them have bothered to exit our Humvee to do the required 5 and 25 meter security check. I patiently explained to these guys that my job was to cover my assigned sector without being distracted...and that they might recall this bit of trivia from our training yesterday. My comment seemed to make no impression on them, so I reverted to the time-honored tactic of sergeants since Alexander the Great: I just ignored them, did my job, and un-assed the Humvee as quickly as possible when we returned to base. Guess it worked, because during the next mission, the REMFs shut up. They didn't get out of the vehicle, but at least they left me alone.
We trudged around in the mud and calf-deep puddles doing other stuff until 1130, then piled on the buses and went back to the barracks. I was so wet, I was able to pour out six ounces of water from each of my gore-tex combat boots. Two more training days, and hopefully there'll be a minimum of REMFitude to contend with.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We Got Ourselves a CONVOY!

Remember that cheesy CB-radio tribute song from the 70's? Somehow that dumb tune kept running through my head as I drove an armored Humvee at the tail end of a convoy exercise today. We encountered role playing mujahadeen with RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades), a couple of simulated IEDs, and "shot up" a pickup truck which wasn't an insurgent suicide car bomber, but rather a fisherman who had made a wrong turn and overtook our vehicles at a high rate of speed. I'm getting used to driving the's a real pig on wheels, but on the other hand, it's cramped and noisy. The rest of our training today was a rehash of classes we've already had, yet even with all of the filler, we finished by 2 p.m. After going en masse to the USAR finance office (we are all due a refund for subsistence allowance debits, which should be a decent sum), it was time to clean weapons, and relax until tomorrow's fun. (We get to attack an urban area mock up, which means lots of SWAT-type room clearing drills.) The following day is scheduled to cover Iraq cultural awareness, which caused everyone to rejoice...not because of the topic, but rather because we don't have to wear all of the heavy body armor and helmet all day.
Final bit of good news...looks like I'll be promoted within a month, thereby relinquishing my title as the "Oldest Buck Sergeant in the US Army Reserve". Somehow, I think that I'll survive the loss.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

This particular Memorial Day has taken on a new significance for me, being surrounded by soldiers who have lost comrades in Iraq and Afghanistan. As soldiers and cops tend to do, the initial solemnity is quickly replaced by funny or ironic stories about the fallen.
I am honoring the memory of my two grandfathers, one a Canadian Army combat veteran of WWI, wounded at the battle of Vimy Ridge, the other a US Army veteran of WWI who served in the fledgling Army Air Services as an aircraft mechanic. I also honor the memory of Major Jacks, USMC, our neighbor in California who was shot down in Vietnam; Major Jacks stayed with his F-4 Phantom to steer it away from a school, instead of safely ejecting. And finally, I honor all of my brothers and sisters who are serving in combat zones, or are getting ready to depart downrange.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Searchers

Okay, sportsfans, what does the classic John Wayne movie, a 1960's rock group, and combat training have in common? The answer is: We are all The Searchers. This afternoon, we conducted hours of building searches, until we no longer resembled the Marx Brothers with automatic weapons. Most of the guys in my unit have done a lot of this stuff, so we picked it up quickly. Not everyone training with us got the concept right away though, which made for some unintentional slapstick. One problem for me was after discussing the concept of "slicing the pie" (it's a method of clearing around corners slowly and maintaining good cover), I had a serious craving for actual pie. Unfortunately, the mess hall only had some foul-tasting "sweet potato pie" at lunchtime, which I had tried last night and only managed one bite before sending it across the food version of the Rainbow Bridge. Serious bummer, though I didn't really need any pie. I've lost about 10 pounds since arriving here 3 weeks ago, and the uninspired cuisine in the chow hall has been a big reason. Several of the guys headed out to play golf just now, but I declined the invitation for two reasons. First, I promised my spousal unit that I wouldn't be playing golf this time. Second, I am just plain too tired to swing a club and actually enjoy it. Behold, the "Mark of the Geezer" is firmly stamped into my forehead. Time for a nap, now. Cheers to you all, and thanks very much for your comments! Leprechaun Out.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Painfully Useful

You know the saying, "Be careful what you wish just might get it." ? Well, after last night's post complaining about lame training, the Gods of War apparently got the message. Today we were schooled by a very savvy instructor who has two combat tours in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division, and definitely knows his stuff. We received a refresher on individual tactical movement, which means crawling, running, and patrolling skills. This guy was skilled at getting his message across with a combination of humor and dead serious examples of what happens when soldiers get lazy. Of course, we attacked, defended, and moved stealthily for hours until we were ready to drop...which we didn't dare do because of copius numbers of fire ants and wood ticks in our AO (Area of Operation). I held up my end adequately as we gamely charged up San Juan Hill, but I'm so very very glad that I'm not going over as an infantry grunt. (The platoon medic would gripe about having to carry an Automatic Defibrillator into combat!)
Tonight, I'm relaxing in the barracks, taking inventory of bruises, and swallowing handfuls of Advil. Tomorrow brings the happy combination of IED recognition and traffic checkpoint procedures, including vans chock full of role player Durka Durka Dudes. Could this life get any better? I don't believe so!

Random Observations

Lots of frustration among our unit with some of the weapons training. Most of us are cops, either current or former, and a number are combat veterans. The source of the frustration is the training cadre, who gear the training toward new privates with no clue. The problem we are having is that the cadre wants us to do dumb stuff that is the direct opposite of good techniques. Case in point: During the "Reflexive Fire" range yesterday (designed to teach rapid "instinct shooting"), we were instructed that when changing magazines (reloading), we needed to bend down, pick up the empty magazine, and place it in an empty pouch. This is very bad tactics, as it diverts a soldier's attention from the threat, and takes your hands off your weapon in the middle of a fight. There are more examples, but we hope that this lame approach to combat training ends when we arrive downrange.

On a more upbeat note, two of our merry band have demonstrated a strong committment toward prolific passing of gas. I dubbed the pair, "Terrance and Phillip", and this nickname immediately caught on. Most quoted TV shows and movies: South Park, Tropic Thunder, Team America (the puppet movie from the creators of South Park), Caddyshack, and of course, STRIPES.
One final news note: I qualified as Expert with my pistol, which means that I have finally demonstrated decent proficiency with a weapon I will actually have access to while deployed.
This afternoon, we are slated to crawl around some more, practicing individual infantry maneuvers. The guys in our outfit who wear the Combat Infantryman's Badge (CIB) are planning to request credit for the course, based on prior "classes". (University of Baghdad, 05-07)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Machine Gun Madness

There was this one time, this summer, at band camp, where we spent 15 hours on a machine gun range and only fired the machine guns for a total of 20 minutes.
Yep, more proof that the Army doesn't pay by the hour, and doesn't pay overtime...We headed out to qualify with either the light or heavy machine gun yesterday, and many goats were roped by the time we piled back on the bus at 10:30 p.m. Crafty buggers that the range cadre are, they allayed our suspicions by starting us out quickly and efficiently. We had finished the zero and paper target qualification by about 10 a.m. (I tied for high score.) All we had remaining was shooting at popup targets which were located between 300-800 meters in front of our positions, and a limited visibility familiarization course using a night vision scope. "Ha!" we thought, we'll be back by 5 p.m. at the latest. T'was not to be. The .50 caliber range took forever, so those of us who were waiting to finish and therefore appeared to be less than gainfully employed were pressed into service lugging heavy crates of ammo and brass casings around, preparing the belts of .50 cal rounds, and have our ears assaulted by the constant thunder of heavy machine gun fire. The sound took me back 32 years to being on the tank ranges in Grafenwoehr, Germany...
Finally, at around 3:30 p.m. we were summoned to carry our light machine guns and tripods over to the popup range, where we stood around for another 45 minutes before finally getting to shoot. Once again, I qualified on the first try...which is so ironic, because so far I have shot the best with a weapon my unit doesn't even have, making my efforts almost totally useless. The last step was to shoot with the night vision scope. The range cadre managed to ditz around for an hour, while the wind howled, and sand/dust coated our guns. When it was time to shoot, my gun was so gummed up it wouldn't function. I couldn't get the night scope to work either, so finally said, "Screw it," to the range guy, and wandered back toward the waiting area. The other folks had similar issues. We cleaned our guns, loaded more ammo for the .50 caliber guns, and continued to vegitate until all the ammo had been fired. (This was important to the range staff so that they wouldn't have to turn in any live rounds, which is much more difficult than just turning in casings and empty ammo boxes. Your tax dollars at work, friends.)
After we all got back, uniforms and faces covered in dust and with grimy black hands, someone proposed a "Run for the Border" at the local off-post Taco Bell. (Yep, just the ticket before hitting the sack, eh?) We piled into the van, and returned with bags full of burritos, tacos, and other gut-busting delights. I downed a burrito, and after a long hot shower rolled into bed, where I slept like a baby...waking up every two hours and crying.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Classroom Training Can Be Good

After a bunch of high-speed hands-on stuff during the last week, it was nice to have a whole day in the classroom. We spent the morning learning how to assemble and disassemble the Mk 19 40mm grenade machine gun (it's like having your own personal mortar platoon)...which we won't get to shoot because a range instructor got injured by it several rotations ago. After lunch we transitioned to the venerable .50 caliber machine gun, which has been in the Army inventory since the end of World War One. Our instructor said that while he wasn't around when the weapon was first introduced, he believed that it remained pretty much unchanged. The guys from my unit all piped up that I had been in the Army back then, and could substantiate the instructor's claim. After class, following a delicious dinner in the mess hall (no kidding, it was chicken cordon bleu, and pretty darn tasty after MRE cuisine), several of us headed out to the track for PT. On the spur of the moment, we decided to take our PT test which we'd scheduled for the 30th. (We have to complete a record PT test as part of our mobilization requirements.) Our unit OIC graded the test, and most of us (including yours truly) passed easily. It sure made a difference doing the 2.5 mile walk versus the 2 mile run. Guess I healed pretty well after the beating I took at the combatives class. By the way, I have to give big thumbs up to my cousin, who teaches combatives for a living, and does this stuff all day...I have even greater respect for her after those 4 brutal hours. (Kudos to you, Sheepdog!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Training and More Training

Had internet challenges the last couple of days, so am playing catch-up here. We had our long-awaited Humvee rollover simulator training two nights ago. It was like being inside of an armor-plated chicken on a rotisserie. Nobody barfed or was injured, so it was a good night. Helmet and knee/elbow pads made it only moderately painful. Yesterday we zeroed and qualified with our rifles, using real ammo. Started at 6 a.m., finished at 11:30 p.m. Having learned my lesson about eyewear, I zeroed while wearing my civilian glasses, and no drama there. Different story when we moved to the qualification range. I was forced to wear my protective eyewear with the bifocal inserts, and could barely see out of my riflescope. I barely qualified on the regular course. Next came disaster. My special gas mask prescription inserts went missing, so I tried duct-taping another set of inserts into the mask. Great idea in theory, but my mask fogged up, and the inserts fell off. Out of 20 targets, I hit 0. I was sincerely hacked off by this, so returned to where my unit had camped out, and tried other jury-rigged solutions. Finally hit upon just sticking my regular glasses inside the mask, and that did the trick. On the requalification attempt, I nailed 18 out of 20 targets. Next up, night fire. Of course, that required darkness, so we sat around eating delicious MRE's (Meal, Ready to Eat...or more popularly called "Meals Rejected by Everyone") and killing time until nightfall. Under cover of darkness, I ditched the useless Army eyewear once again, and hit 18 of 20 targets. Hmmmm...guess who's going to shoot from now on while wearing my regular specs? Today's "Fun Menu" consisted of drivers training on the armored Humvee (you could theoretically play "Chicken" with a rhino and come out on top), followed by the hand-to-hand combat class. I thought that I couldn't be any more sore from 17 hours of wearing 45 lbs of body armor and helmet, but 4 hours of being tossed like a salad and subjected to punches, kicks, and choke holds left bruises on top of my battle scars from yesterday. Wahhhh! Tomorrow is all classroom training, so I should recover in time for the next shooting range and infantry gymnastics.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No Deadeye Dave Am I

Reality, in the form of aging eyes, dealt me a bit of a blow during today's weapons training. Our mission was to "zero" our rifles using high-tech laser transmitters stuck in the barrels of of rifles, in preparation for doing the same thing with real bullets this weekend. Zeroing is the process of verifying that the rifle sights are aligned with the barrel, so that the bullet goes where you are aiming. We were using the metal sights that come with the rifle, rather than the fancy combat optics. I soon discovered that my new army-issue protective eyewear, fitted with bifocal prescription inserts, allows me to see the rear sight clearly, and the target with no problem...but neither part of the lens brought the critical front rifle sight into sharp focus. Since we are taught to focus only on the front sight, seeing about 3 of them messed my shooting up pretty badly! After trying a few different suggestions from the instructors and "helpful onlookers", I ditched the combat glasses, and went back to my civilian progressive lens bifocals...Problem solved. I should have no such difficulty when using the combat optic at the range...otherwise they'll issue me a slingshot and a handful of ball bearings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Responding to Comments

I've tried lately to add comments in response to questions, but no luck, so...
@ Tony: These Humvees are solid and heavy as mini-tanks, so they don't rattle much. Of course, the turbo-diesel engine makes a lot of noise exerting itself while moving the beasts...
@Lisa-Lisa: No problem expected in maintaining a sense of humor, because the Army is an evil genius at providing goofy situations daily, which makes us want to laugh (or cry).
@pthrash: No, we definitely aren't allowed any ammunition, cuz they figure that we'll manage to accidentally hurt ourselves, or maybe it's to protect the less-talented members of the training cadre from lead-based feedback.
Thanks for all of the comments! I really appreciate hearing from everyone!

Davy Crockett, Sergeant York, and the Leprechaun

This morning was Part 2 of our Humvee love-fest. We practiced climbing in and out of the armored turret, inspecting the engine, operating the radios (well, that part was pretending to operate the radios, because they had all been loaned to a National Guard unit training elsewhere on post..."Now, see that empty rack there? That's where the SINGARS radio goes, and there's a bunch of switches that I'd show you how to work if I could...but hey, here are the headphones...), and we ended up by having a relay race with putting on the gunner's harness (resembles a parachute harness). This afternoon, we piled into a dimly-lit classroom with 75 of our closest BFFs (Battle Foxhole Friends) to learn Basic Rifle Marksmanship. The instructor was energetic and well-qualified, having served in the Army's premier shooting unit for 15 years. He optimistically claimed that after his class, we would all qualify as expert riflemen/women. I appreciate his confidence, but am relying on the new combat rifle scope I was issued. It's the latest technology, and promises to turn me into a successor to the legendary riflemen in this post's title...yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my.....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hummer Bummer

Well, I learned the answer to "Do HMMWVs have orthopedic seats?" It's an emphatic "NO". We made the acquaintance of the Armored Hummer today, which weighs twice as much as a regular HMMWV. Our introduction included tips for driving and maintaining this beast, and a preliminary block of instruction on...Rollover Procedures! Yep, there is a well-orchestrated script for crew actions should a rollover occur on land, and a modified script for a water flip. This Friday we get to practice in a Hummer Rollover Simulator, which actually turns turtle, providing uber-realistic training. Our unit is scheduled for this E-ticket ride immediately following dinner, which may give rise to a few "technicolor yawns" if folks eat too much yummy mess hall chow.
The other news flash for me was just how cramped it is inside the Hummer when wearing all of the required stuff...helmet, body armor, pouches, holsters, and whatever else we must hang on ourselves. Now the Army weight standards make perfect sense!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Christmas in May!

The rest of the unit arrived last night, and it turned the ghost-town barracks into a jolly mosh pit! It's good to have the team pretty much assembled...the rest will join us at our Mobilization Station in 21 days...So we got issued most of the clothing and equipment we will take overseas. Must be close to 100 pounds of stuff...combat helmet, various pouches, holster, optical sights for our rifles, rain and cold weather clothing, a "camelback" water bladder (way better than canteens, it holds more, and has a tube allowing me to drink water while on the move.), goggles, ballistic glasses (protects against most bad stuff flying through the air), and 3 big bags to hold it all. We'll each need a large luggage cart just to get through the airport! Plus, we have our rifles and pistols, which we will need to carry with us everywhere we go!
Well, not everywhere...We can't take weapons to sick call, the PX, or the club, so we'll have to leave 'em locked up and under guard.
Here's the tough part for some of the folks, me especially...How does all of this stuff fit together? We have a poster showing where all of the pouches are supposed to go, but that layout only works if we are 5'11" and weigh 160 lbs. For the rest of us, we end up resembling GI Joe Dolls put together by inebriated elves...and no Kung Fu Grip, either!
Sorry to report no photos as yet, due to the evil Vista operating system. Yeah, I know, I shoulda bought a Mac.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Home Sweet Barracks

Soldiers are very talented at turning wherever they are forced to live into a little piece of home. Everyone has a slightly different idea of what these homey touches should be: One of our merry band has set up a jury-rigged home theater, using his MacBook laptop propped up on a footlocker. We huddle around the 12-inch screen to watch films from a huge library (everything from the Marx Brothers to new releases) contained in a portable hard drive...That's when our $10 folding lawn chairs from the PX come in real handy. Another guy decided that he wouldn't be truly happy until he had slung a hammock (yep, a $15 Wal-Mart special) between support posts, so he can pretend he's in Maui instead of Ft McCoy. I have opted for a 20"x 30" bathroom rug next to my bunk, so I can put my feet down on a comfy surface instead of ice-cold linoleum in the morning. I can't wait to see what sorts of remodel projects happen when the rest of our unit arrives tomorrow. By the way, I had intended to include a couple of photos to illustrate this post, but discovered that since my laptop has the Vista version of Windows, it won't support the software needed to download stuff from my digital camera. ("Thanks a lot, Microsoft!") I'll try to come up with a workaround with my Mac-using colleague's help.

Friday, May 8, 2009

APFT For Geezers

I just found out that at my age, I can elect to substitute a 2.5 mile walk for the 2 mile run portion of my Army Physical Fitness Test. Talk about a reprieve from sore knees and feet! Yesterday morning, a fellow old dude and I walked the course for time, and made it with 2 minutes to spare. No pain this morning either. This morning's other pleasant surprise was using my new Starbuck's instant coffee rig in the mess hall...Mmmmm, a nice hot cuppa java, way better tasting than Army coffee, made the chow hall food almost palatable. (Actually, I just had scrambled eggs and an apple, 'cause the SOS and biscuits would seriously undermine my pre-deployment weight loss program.) The guys in the advance party reached consensus to remove our CID patches from our uniform sleeves (it's all velcro'd on now, which is a plus)...folks were getting nervous when we walked in to a room, as they thought they might be under investigation. (Guilty consciences?) Being identifed as CID is kind of like being the vice-principal at a high school...
The toughest mission we had today was to pick up the body armor for the unit's use while we train here. A single set weighs close to 40 lbs...some soldiers train by running while wearing it, but I don't think any of us will lobby for that addition to our training schedule!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Quick Update

Limited internet access here, and have 1 minute left on my session at the post library. Army reveille in the barracks is gas-powered. Ugh.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Day One

Our unit advance party (or in Army-speak, "ADVON") arrived at Fort McCoy this evening after a flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (I felt the overwhelming urge to hop while in this city...not sure why), and we picked up our rental vans outside of the airport. Since we flew in civvies, it still didn't seem like we were on duty. We checked in to the Army Lodging quarters for one last night of relative comfort (internet and TV, plus a private bathroom, which will really seem like a luxury by this time next week!)...tomorrow morning we report in to the Training Center Operations Section to begin setting the stage for the activities to come. We'll get assigned barracks, pick up everyone's body armor, basic office supplies, and fill out lots of forms to document what training our detachment has already completed. This will ensure that we don't have to undergo the same training while here, so we can focus on the remaining mandatory tasks. Lots of lightning this afternoon...glad we haven't started field training!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I've Got My Mouthpiece...

Nah, I'm not talking about a mob lawyer. As a foreshadowing of aches and pains to come, our supply officer issued each of us a protective silicone mouth guard, like we wore when playing football in high school. It's for when we do "Combatives", which is the polite Army euphemism for "Beating the Crapola out of each other."  Fortunately I just watched the perfect instruction film to prepare me for this activity...The Wrestler, which featured an incredible performance by Mickey Rourke. I'm packing the tanning spray, blonde wig, and staple remover, and will be sure to rehearse all of the moves. (How does the "Leprechaun Leap" sound for my signature finale stunt?)  Key acronym for this situation: AED.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's Tough To Decide What Stays, and What Goes...

Though my spousal unit and I have successfully managed to travel for up to 2 weeks with just a carry-on apiece, traveling light doesn't seem to be in the cards for this month-long soiree to the RTC. The Army is going to give us a duffle bag or two full of "stuff" that we are expected to lug back home, and then lug to the sandbox. The packing list includes a helmet, Molle (pronounced "molly") pouches, backpack, rain and cold-weather clothing, optical sights for our rifles, goggles, protective sunglasses, sports bra (for the females, though there are a couple of guys that could probably use one), tactical flashlights...well, it's a long list, and it's not all we get issued, by a long shot. Then there's the personal electronics (120GB iPod Classic, as recommended by my Recovering Texan Battle Buddy), laptop computer, comfort items like my Starbuck's travel mug which also holds six small tubes of their new instant coffee, (kind of like a revolver's cylinder), tempur-pedic travel pillow (rolls up smaller than a loaf of Wonder Bread), and of course all of the uniforms, boots, socks, underwear, and Physical Training uniforms required to maintain one's stylish military appearance. Some friends of mine who are deploying with other units have revealed their plan to take along golf clubs, fishing gear, even bicycles. We'll see what stays behind, and what goes...but if any readers have useful suggestions, I'll welcome them!

Supporting Soldiers vs. Supporting War

When I first joined the Army in the early 70's, it definitely wasn't a popular choice. Appearing in public while wearing a uniform was to be avoided, unless you liked being called a "baby killer" or something equally nasty. Heck, most U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War had been over for a year before I joined up.  So now we are in another unpopular conflict, but there is a major difference this time. The overwhelming majority of folks have learned to separate service members from the war. In fact, since I've put on the uniform again I have been overwhelmed by the gestures of support from friends, family, and members of the public. It's almost apolitical, and that's the best feature of this amazing kindness and recognition of our military. While I don't plan on using this blog as a political forum, I do appreciate that so many of you have put aside your strongly-held convictions in order to regard us as fellow humans, not symbols. I sure don't take that for granted, having seen the other side of the coin 35 + years ago. Thanks, folks.

Now THIS is the Army I Remember!

I deleted what I had written here yesterday, because it just sounded too whiny. The point was that there have always been dumb decisions in every army ever organized, and that kind of stuff seemed to happen a bunch of times yesterday. A senior NCO I met at Ft McCoy last May would always shake his head and say, "What EVER!" There are snowballs and avalanches, and this most recent dumb stuff, as annoying as it is, is still just snowballs.