Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sleep-Deprivation...Now Without Coughing!

For at least six months after I returned from Iraq, I slept very little due to a chronic cough, induced by exposure to toxic smoke from the burn pit on my Forward Operating Base. Thanks to some good medical intervention, my cough is pretty much under control...but a new source of sleep-deprivation has arisen to take the cough's place.
Yep, this innocent looking little animal, aka Frodo the French Bulldog puppy, has been keeping me and my spousal unit in a state of sleeplessness for the past three weeks. Frodo is a sweet little dude, but like most puppies he's gotta pee more frequently than my old partner at FOB Kalsu...and that's saying something! It has been eight years since we last had a new pup, and I was still a cop back then, and used to frequent call outs at 0-Dark-Thirty. Eventually Frodo will become capable of utilizing the dog door, and the sweet slumber I've been craving will be mine once more. Until then, I may need to invest in a pair of those eyeglasses with eyeballs painted on the lenses, in order to nap in my cubicle at work without getting busted.

The Domino Theory Redux

One of the benefits of being older is having some historical perspective when observing current events.  This definitely is the case for me while I watch the political and social upheaval in the Middle East and Africa. Seeing the long-term autocratic regimes of Egypt and Libya toppling in favor of grass-roots coalitions, supported by the armed forces, I can't help but wonder whether the same thing might have occurred in Iraq, if we hadn't invaded back in '03.  Food for thought, anyway...
I'm also fascinated by the diplomatic strategy my country is employing with the various governments and their respective opposition groups. When I was in elementary school, and read about the Hungarian Revolution in the 1950s, I wondered why President Eisenhower hadn't helped the Hungarians overthrow their Soviet occupiers. Of course I later understood that such a response would very likely have triggered a nuclear war with the USSR, and world history would have been substantially different! (Thanks, Ike!) Now it appears that our government is successfully influencing these regime changes without overt action, though I have absolutely no clue what is going on behind the scenes...assuming that WikiLeaks doesn't broadcast the details in a few months.
The final revelation here has to do with the theory that social networking media such as FaceBook and Twitter largely facilitated the synergy which knocked over the governments in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, and perhaps others to follow. I called an old friend this afternoon, who is an adept historian, and we ended up talking about FaceBook. My friend mentioned that he will never join FB, as he sees it to be petty and divisive, especially in his academic work environment. We didn't get a chance to fully-explore the topic, but I wonder if my friend would be so resistant to "embracing the FaceBook" if he thought about using it to  further his own activist leanings...(My friend is a union leader and fights for good, instead of evil, just in case you thought I was buddies with the UnaBomber or some other schmuck like that!)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Welcome Home, Warrior-Citizen!" "Huh, Who, Me?"

A full 8 months after returning home from our Iraq deployment, our unit was notified to attend the Army Reserve's Welcome Home Warrior-Citizen Ceremony last Friday. It's a nice concept, designed to acknowledge the unique sacrifices we reservists/national guard folks make when going off to war...but it's also supposed to be conducted immediately upon the unit's return home, so as to have meaning. Stuff like timing has never deterred the USAR, naturally, so we found ourselves standing in formation (after 90 minutes of rehearsal!) in the Reserve Center's drill hall/gym, surrounded by soldiers sweating on the exercise machines while looking at us with undisguised amusement. (It's always fun to watch other poor schmucks having to stand in formation!)
Eventually, the Bird Colonel commanding the local Joint Mobilization Brigade showed up with his Command Sergeant Major (CSM) in tow. These were the same two who had chewed us out during our pre-deployment "incarceration" at Fort Lewis for wearing civilian clothing on the weekends after the training day was over. Needless to say this duo wasn't on our list of favorite folks, but at least on this occasion they were convivial enough. After our Ops Officer read a standardized script full of bland verbiage, we filed over to receive a folded flag encased in a triangular wood and glass box...which looked exactly like the cases for displaying casket eerie resemblance we all remarked on.  We got a silver-colored metal plaque, engraved with our name and rank, and some flowery language about our wartime service, to attach to the front of the flag case. I've still got no idea where I'm gonna put this thing...For now, it remains in the trunk of my car, keeping my golf clubs company.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Read This Book!

And by "This Book", I'm referring to KABOOM: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War, by Matthew Gallagher. Not only is the author a gifted writer, he has accurately captured the essence of soldiering in a way so many military authors aspire to, but so few accomplish.  Matt Gallagher served as a front-line combat leader in Iraq during the Surge. His deployment blog of the same title served as his journal, and ultimately the framework of this book.
Although I was not a front-line combat soldier during my own Iraq deployment, I definitely identified with many of Matt's experiences, especially his encounters with dumbass field-grade officers, and really stupid policies/regulations...or the effed up interpretations of regs by the aforementioned field grades.
The author W.E.B. Griffin almost always inserts the following philosophy into his novels: "The measure of a man's intelligence is determined by how much he agrees with you." Using that scale of measurement, I believe Matt Gallagher is on a plane with Albert Einstein.
Seriously...Read this book. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brutal Honesty Can Be Fun(ny)

I was tasked to review participant evaluation forms from a recent emergency planning workshop, which we will be hosting in a couple of months. There's usually at least one no-holds barred comment contained in this kind of feedback, and this bundle provided an instant classic.

In response to the question, "How well did the presenter convey the material to the audience?", one responder wrote in bold print, "Presenter read every dang Power Point slide verbatim...WTF? He MUST BE STOPPED NOW! His unabated dispensing of boredom almost caused a training death..."

"This is an Exercise..."

This morning's mission at work is to serve in the Sim Cell (Simulation Cell) supporting the State of Arizona Emergency Management Division while they conduct a mutual aid exercise. I've got about 30 minutes before my next "inject" (I get to role play various deployed first responders), so an impromptu blog post is in order to stave off boredom.
So yesterday morning in my cubicle, as I was chatting with a colleague, I noticed a field mouse poking his little head out from underneath one of my rolling file cabinets. He spotted me, and zipped back out of sight. I raised the alarm, which spurred a cornucopia of varied reactions from my cubicle neighbors. AJ's response was "So?", while Sandy began hyperventilating. The rest of us military vets immediately began plotting our tactics for implimenting RCOIN (Rodent Counter-Infestation) operations, ranging from conventional mousetrap/peanut butter emplacements to mini-IEDs. Posting the SITREP on Facebook yielded even more suggested solutions: Glue traps ("They stick to your ribs"), cats (Frankly, I'd rather have mice.), and from a combat infantryman I served with in Iraq, "Trap 'em in a box, then stomp on the box!"  That last one was a bit extreme for our Washington Hug-A-Tree Daily environment, but I filed it away just in case the lesser options failed. Our planning session was interrupted by a scream from Sandy's cubicle...She had just discovered the ninja rodents had gained entry to her junk food drawer, leaving half-eaten chocolate caramel Easter Eggs, cracker crumbs, and mouse turds littering everything else.
It appears that our entire building is infested with the little furry vectors, leading to many female employees propping up their feet on boxes while at their desks...Honest, folks, I'm not being sexist, this is based upon personal observation...and this being a state agency, it should be about 30 days before we get the necessary RCOIN equipment package issued to us.
Semper Mickey!