Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Sgt "Wild Bill" Seewer Moment (RIP)

My detachment sergeant back when I was a deputy sheriff used to say when there was a hot dispatch coming in, "C'mon, Boys, there'll be medals in it for all of us!" Well, at today's battalion recall formation, much to my surprise there was a medal in it for yours truly. It was a very nice gesture on the part of my detachment commander, coincidentally also a "Wild Bill". Thanks, sir.

Now, it's back to mopping floors and emptying garbage bags...Sic Transit Gloria.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello, I must be going...

Thanks to Lisa at the Ocean Crest Resort, my spousal unit, pups and I had a wonderful couple of nights at the beach, including a great evening of Irish grub and music at Galway Bay Pub...Where else would a leprechaun spend quality time, eh? Weather was sunny but windy and cool, which I didn't mind, knowing that having to wear a sweatshirt will soon be only a pleasant memory.

 I had to downsize my carry-on, so the final pack-out will leave a fair amount o'stuff for my spouse to ship. I've been given fair warning that any other flotsam and jetsam left cluttering up the house will be piled on the front lawn and torched, so I'll make sure to stuff it all in bags and fill the closet in the spare room!

Next post will likely come from a slightly different zip code, unless something utterly amazing happens while en route. Slainte'!

Friday, June 26, 2009

When is the Leprechaun...

...like Terrell Owens? Why, whenever we get a pass, we are very happy! We just had our farewell ceremony...it was very nice to have some of my favorite civilian job co-workers in attendance...but the best part of the deal is that I get a 3-day pass to spend with my spousal unit. Got some final things to accomplish today, like putting all of my accumulated crapola in two duffle bags (including the new body armor they finally issued me yesterday), and finding a nice place to stay at the beach. (Preferably someplace without any Army people within 50 miles!)

By the way, for all of you who are having difficulties leaving comments, I am kind of at a loss for providing instructions. I've heard it helps if you pick a new user name and password that you only use for this blog, but it may be too much of a pain in the ass to mess with. You can also add "anonymous" comments without logging in, and just add your pen name within the comment so I know who is making fun of me!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's On Like Donkey Kong...

Well, my situation was resolved, and so I'm still going downrange. No specifics, but you'll figure it out when there aren't any new posts for a week or so.

Today we had the combat crime scene exercise. Think "CSI Meets Generation Kill" and you'll get the gist of our activities. Yet another MRE met its demise at my hands...and the battalion brought out a hot breakfast to our staging area, but since everyone got a late start due to our weapons being issued 30 minutes past the appointed time, we just got to grab a sausage or strip of bacon from the containers as we headed toward the ammo point. That wasn't the smartest idea, because a few minutes later we were all racing up a hill under "enemy fire" carrying either a dead body or our 60 lb crime scene backpack. Mmmm, burped nitrates! All in all, it was a chance to see how our team of four agents functioned together, as we will be staffing our FOB CID office for the next year or so.

We did okay, though I had a personal challenge: photographing the crime scene while cradling an M-4 rifle. (My issued rifle is in the shop for repair, and so I had a "loaner" without a sling)...try it sometime. This was our last event, so we are busy packing duffle bags and hoping for a pass to stay at home before departure.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Stand By For News!

My situation has taken an unexpected new direction, which may flip the whole enchilada upside down...or right side up, depending on your perspective. All I can say is that folks at the big HQ in Virginia are puzzling over this, and should have an answer for me today or tomorrow.

Semper F-ing Mobilis.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Army!

Today is the United States Army's official birthday...(I was going to send a birthday card to the Pentagon, something like, "The U.S. Army...Creating Special Memories for 234 Years!")...and to commemorate the occasion I'd like to honor some Army alumni: My late grandfathers, who both served during WWI, and in the California State Guard during WWII; My Uncle Bub, who despite being a very humble guy performed very heroically during the Battle of the Bulge and the drive into Germany; My Uncle Bill, who I just learned went ashore on D-Day as a combat medic, which took an amazing amount of guts; My Dad, who served as a turret gunner in B-24s and B-29s in the Army Air Corps, and later served as an infantry officer in the California National Guard, and my cousin David, who survived a tour in South Korea when the Cold War was heating up. Despite my attempts at humorous jabs at the Big Green Machine, I also feel proud to serve again, and am equally humbled by the service of my relatives. Guess I'll eat some MRE cake to celebrate...

Getting Close to Sayonara Time?

We are finishing up the mandatory combat training this weekend. (If you haven't had the dubious honor of operating an Entry Checkpoint, or Traffic Control Point, it's a privilege you'll definitely want to pass up!) We transition to CID training on Monday, and at the same time we are busy packing and re-packing our footlockers and duffle bags to match the latest version of packing lists from battalion HQ. I'm shipping my Cuisinart coffee maker, though it's not likely to reach me for a few months. Also, my issue desert boots gave up the ghost today after 2 months of field training use...they weren't the most comfortable anyway, so I bought a pair of Danner hot weather boots at the on-post tactical store. What a difference...at least one pound lighter, with better support and padding, so I can run faster and jump higher...like Army PF Flyers! (Only fellow geezers will get that reference...) Still nothing definite about our departure date, but of course I won't be able to disclose that info here anyway...OPSEC (Operations Security) rules for personal blogs like this one are very stringent, and I do not want to get into trouble if I can avoid it. (As you can imagine, the Army in general lacks a sense of humor or forgiveness!)

Wishin' I Was Fishin'

While conducting combat convoy training yesterday, we passed a small pond that looked just right for a morning of fly fishing. I'm not planning to smuggle my fly rod and float tube into our FOB, though I'm told that there is a carp fishing pond somewhere within the perimeter, but the sight of that pond made me think of a great gift from my friend A. W. He is the guy who taught me to fly fish, and we've spent a number (though not nearly enough) of excellent days on backwoods beaver ponds hauling in nice fat rainbow trout. I know a lot of (mostly) guys who mention wistfully how they'd like to learn how to fly fish, but haven't had the opportunity or the teacher. So, here's a big "Thanks, Bro!" to my friend for passing on the knowledge and passion...I'll look forward to our first strike when I return home!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Got Armor?

After a long day of re-enacting a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in terms of how to react to IEDs, we headed out this evening to a warehouse to be issued the latest model of body armor, plus other special clothing designed for desert environments. This being an Army event, no fewer than 30% were told, "Sorry, we don't have your size, but we'll order it for you, and it'll be herein a month or so." As we expect to already be in theater long before that time, I guess we won't get that stuff anytime soon.

My aircard stopped working a couple of days ago, so blog entries may become less frequent until I arrive at my final destination. I know where that is, but I can't tell ya. I do know that I should have a private room, with internet and AFN (Armed Forces Network) television. The team that I expect to be working with is a great bunch of folks, which will make the year go by more quickly.

The computer lab is closing for the evening, so will sign off for now. Peace Out. (I have no idea what that means, but I've always wanted to say it. I promise you it won't happen again.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Travels On My Stomach

The Emperor Napoleon supposedly said, "An Army travels on its stomach." While I wasn't around back then, (stop snickering, people!) I have always enjoyed reading about what soldiers have have been fed throughout the centuries. I've tried hardtack and bully beef at Civil War re-enactments, WWII-era mess hall standards like SOS, and the C-rations I ate while on active duty were very similar to those served during WWII, Korean and Vietnam Wars. Heck, when I first came in, the C-rations still had mini-packs of cigarettes in them, which as a non-smoker made for great trading material. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of eating a C-ration (its official name was Meal, Combat, Individual), it came packaged in a 8" X 10" cardboard carton. Everything except the plastic spoon was packed in olive drab metal cans. Since this was the BPT era (Before Pull Tabs), we all carried an ingenious tiny folding can opener known as the P-38 on our dogtag chain. (According to popular legend, the can opener was designated as "P-38" because it took 38 strokes to open a C-ration can.) The P-38 became sharper the more cans you opened, so we hung on to 'em...in fact, it's one of the few things I still have from the 70's, aside from my polyester double-knit cranberry color leisure suit with matching white belt and loafers.

The C-ration menu varied only slightly from its WWII relative: Ham and Lima Beans, Scrambled Eggs and Ham, Ham Slices, Beef and Potatoes, Beans and Meatballs, and Spaghetti with "meat" sauce (we always suspected that horses rejected for the glue factory became an ingredient in that one). There were combo tins containing crackers and either jam, cheese, or peanut butter, and my all-time favorite, "John Wayne Bars". These were foil-wrapped 2" diameter chocolate disks, sprinkled with toffee bits. They were tasty, and could also be thrown at the enemy like ninja stars if you ran out of ammo.

In the early 1980's just before I left active duty, my division was selected to test the replacement for C-rations, called MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat). These first-generation efforts were just plain yucky, and were subject to spoiling. (The chicken ala king entree once leveled me for three days due to tainted meat.) Of course, this might have been a clever military plot to advance their new soldier weight-loss program...

Today's generation of MREs are a huge improvement in terms of taste and variety. The entrees include meatloaf with mashed potatoes, chicken fajitas with tortillas, cheese omelets, beef enchiladas and refried beans, and a BBQ pork rib sandwich. In keeping with current food trends, these rations have junk food items like Skittles, M&Ms, Cheezits, muffins, scones, and Tootsie Rolls. Now for the bad news...each MRE contains a gigunda amount of calories, fat, sugar, and carbs, so unless a soldier has the metabolism of a hamster and runs 15 miles daily, there's no way to burn one of these meals off in 24 hours. I usually stretch one of those bags into three meals, and still have food left over. So while combat rations have evolved, we older veterans still ocasionally wax nostalgic about those old C-rats, which always left us wanting more...Pepto Bismol.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Age vs. Attitude Equation

First off, thanks to friends and family for your positive comments. While I do always return to the "upbeat" mode, the speed of yo-yo changes has me unsettled more than usual. One positive effect is that the older I get, the faster I seem to recover from disappointment. (Having lower expectations helps too!) The latest example was when my detachment was told to expect that we'd have Sunday off. While the spousal unit and I made tentative plans to get together for breakfast and a dog walk, we didn't get our hopes up. Sure enough, this afternoon Change 3 was broadcast, and we have convoy training tomorrow all day and into the evening.

Today's training was fun and challenging. This was Day 2 of "Short-Range Marksmanship", which was taught by infantry combat veterans who really know what they are doing. We did a lot of shooting on the move, engaging multiple targets, and shooting "bad guy" targets placed next to "good guy" silhouettes. My proficiency and confidence with the M-4 rifle has greatly increased as a result of this training.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Don't Worry, Be F-ing Happy

I just deleted a gripe-filled post, in keeping with my efforts to comply with blog Rules Of Engagement. It's sure getting tough to keep my normal upbeat, positive attitude. I need one of the Bullmoose Brothers to send me that old "Common Sense Stick" from 3/68 S-3 days...it would get a lot of use right now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Did Somebody Turn On the Range Fans?

Thirty-plus years ago, on a foggy gunnery range in Germany, a crusty old tank platoon sergeant sent his new butter bar to "Turn on the Range Fans" so they will blow away the mist. Fortunately I knew better, but every time I shoot on an Army range, the safety briefing mentions range fans (the left and right limits) and I get a little nostalgic.

So, speaking of ranges, we qualified yesterday with our pistols (I shot "Expert", including from farther than 21 feet, Lima Golf!), and then it was off to the rifle range. I zeroed my rifle, which required only 9 rounds. (Zeroing is the process of verifying that the sights are properly aligned with the bullet's trajectory) Normally I use 20 or more rounds of ammo to zero, because it requires putting 6-9 consecutive bullets into a 2-inch circle from 15 meters away, which is usually tough for me to accomplish quickly. Feeling very optimistic about my chances of shooting "Expert" with my rifle (which almost never happens, because for some reason my rifle marksmanship skills are about the same as my math skills), I headed over to the qualification range. No more than 5 seconds after sitting down on the bleachers, I was "invited" to walk all the way back to the Zero Range and join the "Ammo Party". Yeah, some party... Anyway, 4 hours later, I trudged the half-mile to the qualification range, thoroughly tired out and drenched with sweat. When it was my turn to shoot, I got down into the prone position, and considered just sleeping instead of shooting...after all, what had those targets ever done to me? Nothing. But in my best Pavlovian response, when the god-like voice from the range tower commanded me to open fire, I did. I quickly discovered that I couldn't see the 200 meter, 250 meter, and 300 meter targets, due to a combination of the sun's angle, the overgrowth of scotchbroom, and my bleary eyes. I bolo'd...did not qualify. Tried again an hour later, same result. I did qualify during the gas mask and night ranges, but had to return the following day. This time I qual'd with no problem. Lesson? Hide from the SGT MAJOR when he's looking for flunkies.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And Now We Know Why I'm NOT A Medic

Field medics, whether civilian or military, are a special breed of people. They tend to be "no B.S." persons who become very focused when saving lives on the front lines. Contrast these amazing people with the average Combat Lifesaver student and the students usually fall way short. Our class did a generally okay job at today's practical final exam, but boy howdy, if I was the wounded dude on the ground, and I showed up to treat myself, there'd be a definite "crisis of confidence" afoot. But after a long, hot, pollen-filled morning where we carried rather hefty role players long distances on stretchers, treated every wound from amputation to impaled salad forks (guess the insurgents don't follow the Genva Convention prohibition against using silverware as weapons), we graduated and got our certificates. I'm just glad that we'll have real medics in the war zone! Now, I need a nap before going out to the rifle range tonight.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Combat Lifesaver, Part Two

An American general once said, "The more you sweat in training, the less you'll bleed on the battlefield." Well, one exception to this axiom is the CLS course, where today we learned how to administer intravenous fluids. Sounds innoucuous enough, except after watching a demonstration, then trying out the technique on a rubber arm, we each got to do it for real on each other. True to my expectations noted in the previous post, my training partner tried without success to find and puncture a vein on either of my arms. Lots of punctures...painful punctures...but no IV. Finally the evaluator medic and the Army nurse called a cease fire, and the nurse volunteered to serve as the combat casualty for my partner's test. He had no problem accessing her vein, but there was lots of blood flowing. (Thank you, SFC "M" for taking one for the team...I owe you!) then it was my turn. My training partner had a great vein, and I got in on the first try. Not as much blood, but that was luck, not technique. I'm glad that's over. Tomorrow we put everything we learned to the test in a practical exercise, complete with explosions, gunfire, and contractors playing the role of battlefield wounded. Then it's on to rifle qualification and other fun re-runs of RTC training.
By the way, my civilian job "battle buddy" surprised me this evening, met me at the "shopette" and gave me a log section cap. It's way cool, and I'm taking it with me to the sandbox. Yep, I'm being purposely vague about all this, but my loyal readers know what I'm referring to. Thanks, BB! It was great to see you. (I also got to see my spouse, and that is always excellent!)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Combat Lifesaver = Pain

So yesterday morning at an early hour, those of us who had been to RTC last month were rewarded by being taken out to this post's replica FOB. The purpose? We started the first of 4 days of the Combat Lifesaver Course (CLS). It's kind of like a compressed EMT school. Of course, we hadn't been warned that the course was being held out at the FOB, where there is no mess hall, so we had a very short window to make our way back to main post for lunch. But that was small potatoes compared to discovering the requirement to insert a nasal airway tube, and on day 3, to start an IV...and be stuck in the vein(s) by our fellow students. It has been difficult for experienced medics/nurses to draw blood from me, since my veins are very hard to find. Now this painful process will be made even worse... The nasal tube experience was also excruciating. The only high point of the day was a visit to our class from actress and author Mariel Hemingway, who was on post for a book signing. She was very gracious, signed photos for us, and even was the first to have the nasal tube inserted. I've enjoyed her films for 30 years, and she's a class act, to boot. Last night we were out until 10:30 p.m. doing the Humvee rollover simulator...again...More bruises. Leprechaun Out.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Better Than Expected

Checked into the barracks at O' Dark-Thirty this morning. Spousal unit was supportive as always, and drove me there with my 5 large bags of gear. The accomodations are much nicer than the open bay WWII barracks we left last week. They are brand new, in fact we are the very first occupants. Lots of electrical outlets, and a full size refrigerator and oven/cooktop. I have my Cuisinart coffeemaker and a pound of Kona-blend coffee, which should make mornings tolerable.
Training starts early in the morning, and runs until late night, since we have to cram in a lot of stuff. No days off projected, either. We were issued "Tuff Boxes" today, which are wheeled footlockers the size of Volkswagens. One of our guys fits in there with room to spare, so he might end up being shipped overseas in that manner. I've got no idea what I'm going to ship in mine.
It's off to check out the chow hall...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lots of Stuff to Digest

I must confess that between the month away preparing for mobilization training, and the too-brief time at home, I feel like I'm adrift emotionally. I move into the barracks tomorrow and will remain there until we depart. Got back home late after a very long day of SRP (deployment processing), including a couple of painful inoculations, and following a brief dinner I now must pack up all of my gear that I'll use during training and the overseas tour. I'm opting for "Less is Better", but still want to be comfortable.  It's hard looking around me and realizing I won't be back in this house for a year. 
Okay, enough maudlin philosophizing: I gotta get packed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Today's Trivia Quiz:
Q: TARFU is:
a) An island in the South Pacific
b) A cleaning solvent used to remove asphalt
c) What you get from smoking unfiltered cigarettes
d) A concise summary of how things are going this week