Sunday, October 31, 2004

Don't Just Do Something, Sit There

That's what evil in this world hopes we do. It worked in Germany with Hitler, and if we don't do something now it will work in America.

What was it like in school when you were a kid. I'm 31 years old to put things in perspective. When my parents were children the bad things going on in school were things like talking in class or chewing gum in the hallways. When I was in school the bad things were smoking and drinking. Sex was an issue but it wasn't the norm. Now that my children are starting to go to school the bad things are drugs, sex, prostitution, murder. These are things going on in the schools.

This is the last Sunday before the elections and I'm sure many of the sermons have to do with that issue in some way. Some might be about the moral decline of America. Some might be about apathy and inaction. Ours was about inaction. I'd like to share some of the points the Army Chaplin shared in my service and mix them with my own. Hold on while I climb up on my soapbox.

Why are we fighting this war? Because the only thing evil needs to win is for good people to do nothing. If we don't fight it now in Iraq we'll have to fight it later in America. Duty is my responsibility, results are God's responsibility, all I have to do is make the stand and fight. Growing up in my short life time I've seen the morals of our country decline and sometimes felt like there's nothing I can do about it. There really isn't anything I can do about it alone. But if we stood as a nation and said "We won't stand for this any longer" things would change. Since the inception of our nation our foundation of Christian principles has wavered. It wasn't that the world came in and pushed us off course. It's because when the world showed up we stepped aside and let them take over because we didn't want to ruffle any feathers. In the book of Matthew in the Bible God calls us the Salt of the earth. Our Christian faith and morals that our country was founded on were supposed to be the guiding rudder to the ship of America. We were never supposed to be passenger in the journey of our nation, we are supposed to be the navigators. Hope is out there, peace is out there, we just need to stand together and help shape the future towards it.

Well, Now that most people have clicked to a different website I'll tell you what's going on in my world. You may have seen in the news lately that the Department of Defense stopped the Anthrax vaccination program. How does this affect me? Apparently it takes three injections to gain immunity. I've only had the first two. The DoD says they need to pause the program so the FDA can iron out some legal issues. So what does that do to me? I don't know. Can I only touch two dead cows and the third one will give me anthrax? If I get anthrax will it only affect one third of my body? Nobody knows. But as it stands there are no more vaccinations until further notice. I'm not really worried because I know God goes before me.

Now that we have a definite date we're leaving the country it feels much more final. There are lots of emotions in the guys here. Probably in the girls here too, I'm just not around any to see it. Some guys all of the sudden have some terrible medical problems they feel need immediate attention. Fact or convenience? Not for me to say, just seems a little curious.

Anyway, I'm in an introspective mood today and don't mean to bring anyone down. So, if you're an optimist then in the famous words of the oracle from the Matrix, As soon as I walk out of here I'll be right as rain. If you're a pessimist then heed the words of the lead character in the movie All Mine To Give. "Sometimes life's just a puke sandwich."

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Done With Training

In order to leave the country your training has to be "validated". All this time everything I've done has been recorded and we turned it all in Friday. Some people look over it and check to make sure you has the right skills set to go to Iraq. This, like everything else in the army, changes pretty regularly. So for the last three days we've done the same class three times in a row. First they told us if we did it as a unit it would count. So we did. Then they said," no, your going to have to go out in the field again and have someone else give you the class." Alright, whatever. Then they said, "no, maybe what you did was good but we got rid of the roster", so instead of making a new roster and having everyone sign it we had to do the class again. Finally, they weren't sure again if it would pass so to be absolutely positively sure we better do the class one more time.

If you got lost in that last paragraph don't worry, I lived it and I still don't understand it. However, we're finally done and should be validated by about the middle of the week. Once we're validated they're going to let us take leave for a week or more. We have a definite date we need to be back, but the date we can actually go on leave depends on when they consider us validated. Either way I should get at least a week, probably more. Then I'll come back and fly to Kuwait the very next day. It looks like we'll spend a few weeks in Kuwait before going into Iraq. Then the adventure will start a whole new chapter.

For now, all I have to do is wake up, go to formation and then do nothing. Not too bad. So far we haven't done any P.T. but they say since we're done training we should start. So, starting Tuesday we have to get up earlier and go running. I know it'll pay off in the long run, but who wants to get up earlier and run?

One thing I forgot about the army was that everyone smokes. Non smokers are the overwhelming minority. The crappy part is that every so often all the people whether you smoke or not have to do a "police call" in the smoking area. Even though there are four giant trash cans and two smaller smoking trash cans for some reason the smokers still throw most of the butts in the rocks around our barracks. So for a few hours last night we had to pick up all the cigarette butts all around the barracks. I hate that job. I didn't put them there, in fact I don't even spend any time around there because the smoke is too thick. And since every task in the Army has at least two smoke breaks involved half the time we were picking up the butts the smokers were taking a smoke break. So who does that leave picking up the stupid cigarettes? The non smokers. I guess it's good we don't walk around with live ammo all the time.

Anyway, A few people have asked about the chow hall and I've never given a good description. So here goes. You usually have three meat choices. They're usually BLAH, barbecue BLAH, or BLAH with gravy. Then there are usually two potatoes choices and mixed vegetables. The food isn't terrible but you could close your eyes, point randomly at what you wanted and it would taste exactly the same every time no matter what you were eating. I'm interested to see how they handle the food situation in Iraq. I guess I'll see soon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Cool Couple of Days

The last few days have been pretty cool. The Sergeant Major told us in formation yesterday that we were pretty much done with our training. Just a few more classes. Our ship date has been pushed back a little and he said once we were done they'd try to get us some leave before we ship out. That would be pretty cool. It's been a few months since I've seen my kids. It'll be hard to leave them again but worth it.

Yesterday we went through the gas chamber. It's a little different from basic training. In basic you had to go in with your gas mask on and stand under a number on the wall. The guy in charge would tell you to do some stuff like jumping jacks or something. Then you'd take a deep breath and close your eyes while you lifted your mask away from your chin. This let the gas into your mask. Then you put your hand over the input part of your filter and blow out to clear your mask. At this point your face is on fire and your eyes are tearing up. If you're lucky you clear most of it out but there's always a little left. Instinctively you take a breath and your lungs start burning and your nose starts running. After a few minutes they tell you to take your mask all the way off and do it again. OK, no problem so far. After that's done they tell you that you have to take your mask off and when everybody has theirs off you can leave the room. So, you take a big breath, close your eyes , take your mask off and wait, and wait, and wait. Just about the time I couldn't hold my breath anymore the drill sergeant says as soon as number ten takes his mask off we can leave. At this point I can't hold my breath anymore so I turn and look at the guy in the number ten spot. This knucklehead has his hands over his mask and isn't moving. By now you've already taken a few small breaths of CS gas and your eyes are on fire. All the guys in the room rush the number ten guy and try to pull his mask off. He's holding on for dear life and doesn't care what happens. As if we were telepathically connected we all decide the best way to get him to part with his mask is to beat the snot out of him. So we all start pounding him and eventually he lets go. Finally we got his mask off and threw it across the room. He bolts for the door but the drill sergeant won't let him out. By now we've all taken a few deep breathes of it and are hacking up lungs while this guy tries to get out. We're all collected at the door, stomping up and down doing a rendition of what they call the kickin' chicken. You're taking breaths but you don't fell like your getting any air. Now the Drill Sergeant says we can't leave until number ten gets his mask back. Well, he decided he's not leaving from the door for anything, no matter how hard we pound him, so we have to go get his mask and bring it to him. Finally we're out the door, snot running all the way to the ground, some guys are tossing their breakfast and we're all running around waving our arms trying to get the gas out of our clothes. Nobody can see a thing because our eyes are burning and one guy runs smack into a tree and knocks himself almost unconscious.

Man, Good Times.

Well, this time around you just had to break the seal and clear your mask. No problem. After that, the guy in charge asked if anyone wanted to take their mask off. He said it was completely optional. That's kind of like saying, "Hey, you won the lottery. Would you like to pay taxes on that? It's completely optional." If something I don't want to do in the first place is optional I'm not doing it. Well, of course there are a few "high speed" guys that have something to prove and they take theirs off. That's fine. If we ever get chemically attacked I hope I'm standing next to them. It'd be nice to know if it's safe to take my mask off or not. Besides, I'd like to see if those atrapine injectors they give us really work. What better way to try it than on someone else. This gas chamber wasn't too bad though. A little burning on the skin but it only lasted ten minutes or so.

Today went well. We got a few classes out of the way and I got promoted. For pay purposes it was effective on the 13th of October. In the Army the stupid stuff rolls down hill just like anywhere else. Now I'm just one step further from the accumulation at the bottom of the hill. Now, instead of wallowing in it I'm merely wading.

I know I've complained about the weapons and the body armor a few times and some of my family has voiced serious concerns. I would like to put those concerns to rest. I fully expect to get body armor in Kuwait. It's just fun to complain about it some times. And they have confirmed that this is the weapon I'm taking over seas. They say I may trade it over there for a new one, but not for sure. That's alright though, the problem is with the front sight post and can be fixed. If it is the weapon I end up with it shouldn't be too much of a hassle to fix it and re zero.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I'm Back

Well after five fun filled days in the field here's what I have to say. It rained, there was mud up to my ankles, it was hot and humid, since I don't have body armor I had to wear the monumentally heavy Vietnam era flack vest and we ate MRE's for most of the time. And you know what, I loved every minute of it. I love going to the field. It's like backpacking with a weapon. It's like playing Army but with real toys. What could be better. There's simulated mortar round exploding everywhere, civilians walking around dressed like Arabs trying to smuggle weapons in and out of check points, and Army food. The training was pretty good. Actually it was the most comfortable time I've ever had in the field. They called the training "The FOB" That stands for Forward Operating Base. They had a camp set up similar to what it's supposed to be like in Iraq only much smaller. There were about seven or eight circus type tents set up in various locations. These were command centers, 2 DFACS (dining facilities) and sleeping tents. The cool thing was they were all air conditioned. Can you believe it, what's the Army coming to. I never had air conditioning in the field before. In fact, not that I'm complaining, I was freezing every night. I figured we were sleeping out side like we had every other time I'd been to the field so I only took the outside cover part of my sleeping bag. The temperature in those tents had to be high 50's or low 60's. When you walk out of the back of one of these tents there was a flat bed trailer from a semi that barely held two air conditioning units, one per side of the tent. They had these huge tubes like those collapsible tunnels you'd play in when you were a kid. These were hung from the ceiling of the tents and ran the entire length. They had little holes that the cold air blew out of. We also slept on cots. If this is how they are in Iraq I'll be more than comfortable. I didn't count but I bet the tents held about 150 - 200 cots. Not much privacy but sure beats the heck out of sleeping in the mud. They had these trailers that had showers and sinks in them with hot water and everything. Best time I've ever had in the field. A lot of guys complained but I had a blast. I woke up every morning with a smile on my face and came in every night covered in sweat mud and dirt and still had a smile on my face. The only down side is that my orders for my promotion hadn't come in before we left so I only had one uniform with the correct rank on it. Five days of sweat and mud later that uniform could stand on it's own.

The training was pretty good. It was all focused on basic soldier skills needed for Iraq. The unit in charge of training us is just finishing up their time here and the unit that's taking over was there to observe. The cool thing is the unit taking over is made up of people that have just come back from Iraq. So we would go through a class and then they would say " here's how it really is" and give us the real scoop. A word about Army training. Nothing in the world can take place unless there's an Army regulation or Field Manual saying it can happen. I mean anything. There's even a field sanitation field manual. Loosely translated how to poop in the woods. Whether the information is still useful or applicable there's a regulation that tells you how to do just about everything. Unfortunately most of these focus on fighting the Russian doctrine, not the guerrilla warfare we're seeing in Iraq. However, it seems like the information is flowing to the training pretty quickly, especially with the guys just getting back and starting to do the training.

The most important thing I got out of the training was convoy safety. It seems like convoys are a particularly dangerous adventure in Iraq. Right in the middle of the training, as we're standing in ankle deep mud, having the fear of God driven into us about the dangers of convoy operations, the Major in charge comes up and stops the training to introduce our "very important guests". The San Francisco 49ers cheerleaders. Low and behold out of a black SUV jump four or five girls in warm up suits right in the middle of the muddy woods at Ft. Hood. They said they were happy to be there and what heros we were for our sacrifice. Then they wanted to give us a treat by signing autographs of a swim suit calendar they had put together. They were more than happy to sign as many autographs as we wanted on all the calendars we were willing to buy. WHAT? Willing to buy? For one thing, I didn't really care about the cheerleaders, I was more interested in not getting blown up on a convoy. For another thing, If we're such big heros and they're sooooo proud of us give the calendars away, don't make us pay for them. I chose that time to eat my beef and mushroom MRE. It seemed the Sergeant giving the class wasn't very amused either. He let the little party go on for fifteen minutes or so and then about 10 feet from the cheerleaders he set off a hand grenade simulator. These have all the bang without the bite. At 30 feet or so it'll make your ears ring and you can feel the concussion in your chest. Those cheerleaders screamed and jumped back into their SUV and decided that was enough of the Army and we went back to training.

All in all I had a good time in the field and I think I got some really useful training. When we got back they told us we had a van reserved if we wanted to go off post and go out to eat. After 5 days of MRE's going out to eat sounded pretty good. We cleaned our weapons and took showers and two minutes before the chow hall closed (which is a five minute walk) they decided we weren't allowed to go off post anymore. No reason, just not allowed to. If we didn't like it we were more than welcome to take it up with the Commander on Monday. Lots of good that did us for dinner that night. So now it's too late to eat at the chow hall and we can't go anywhere to eat. That's how stupid some things in the Army can be. Fortunately there's a Papa John's that delivers to our barracks. Some times you have to look at the Army and just shake your head.

Some people have asked what body armor is. If you go on Google and search for Interceptor Body Armor you can see what it is. It's a vest with removable plates in the front and back. With the various options it comes with it can protect your torso from throat to groin. Most all of your vital organs are protected. Or you can wear the old flack vest that, for the most part, will dissipate the blow of a punch in the stomach by an underdeveloped middle school kid with asthma and a retainer. No offense meant if you fall in that category.

Well, I'm back and I'm happy. The next step in training is the Gas Chamber. That should be fun.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Gonna Be Gone for a Few Days

I've got some training coming up that'll keep me away from a computer for a few days. I should be back this weekend or so. Just thought I'd let you know so you didn't worry. I'd also like to thank Tess for being my first guest celebrity and being a good sport about it. I don't think I'll be around for mail call this weekend so I'll answer a few questions now.......O.K. one question

How's the chow.

It's here and I get it three times a day. And that's all I have to say about that.

Today has been one of those "do stupid things you've already done a million times because we don't have anything better for you to do" days. There are four or five of us a few days ahead of the others in training. The last few days they've let us do constructive things like read or go to the library or do laundry. Today they decided we should just redo some of the classes we already did just so we would be doing something. They put a guy in charge of us who meant well but didn't really have any sort of plan. This turned into a full day, I repeat a FULL, MIND NUMBING, JAB YOUR EYES OUT SO IT'LL STOP day of listening to some guys recall stories of the stupid things they did that caused a judge to give them the choice between the military or jail. They were pretty proud of the wrong they'd done. I'm not that much older than them but it seemed different when I grew up. It didn't seem like the kids were so blatantly disrespectful. Maybe I'm just seeing a small concentrated sample.

Anyway, that has nothing to do with anything so I'll get on with this.

Have you read about or heard of the Soldiers in Iraq refusing to go on a mission because their equipment was bad? Well how about this. Everyone in my unit that has gotten their gear got body armor. I went through last Wednesday and didn't get any. They said they weren't giving it out here anymore and I'd have to get it later. They couldn't tell me where or when later would be. Well, the group that went trough on Friday got brand new body armor still in the package. I don't know about the other three guys that went through with me but I don't plan on doing to much fighting without body armor. I'm sure it'll get fixed eventually but when it comes to my weapon or body armor I'm not going to take "I don't know" as an answer. I'll let you know what happens.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Tess is Great

I would like to address the comment left by Tess. If you haven't read it you can look at the first comment to the post titled Mail Call on Oct 15th. First, I appreciate her (I'm assuming it's a her) concern and thank her for looking out for me. Also I think it's cool that she came across the site accidentally. Thanks for posting your comment. Opsec (Operational Security) is a big concern in the military. Some people might remember the phrase from the first and second world war era "loose lips sink ships". Opsec was a concern of mine when I started this blog in the first place. When I got my orders and started to do some research on the internet I came across these things I'd never seen before called bolgs. Some of them were like the one I've made where they keep their family and friends updated, some were political in nature. One blog in particular gave me the most information of any one source out there. His blog was shut down by his chain of command because they felt he was giving out too much information. I thought about the whole blog thing for a while before I actually started mine. In order to make sure I didn't violate any security concerns I decided to use the litmus test of open source news. I wouldn't post anything you couldn't find in a newspaper or on the evening news. I've never said what unit I'm in or where we're going or what our mission is. Any information I've given could be found by doing a search on Google and looking in nothing more than newspaper articles. If I told you what unit I'm in you would even be able to find our deployment schedule along with numbers of troops in each unit. This is all from open sources. I understand your concern and thank you for it. I'll make sure to be extra careful in the future. I also encourage anyone with concerns comments or questions like Tess's to feel free to comment. It also gives me material to write about that I don't have to come up with. In fact I'd like to sing a song to Tess. Please follow along with the melody from Bill Cosby's chocolate cake song. If you don't know it make up your own. Ha Hem.... "Tess is great, She gives me stuff to write about" You sort of have to scrunch the words "write about" together to get them to fit in but it works. Thank you Tess and thank you Bill Cosby.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Mail Call

First question is about a book I read and if I would recommend it or not. The book is called "A Table in the Presence" by a navy Chaplin named Carey H. Cash. It tells about the first few days of the war when we crossed into Iraq. It talks about some of the spiritual needs the soldiers were facing and some pretty miraculous things that transpired. I would highly recommend this book.

A few people have asked if I'll be able to keep the blog up when I get to Iraq. I should be able to. It seems there are tents set up with internet access and many people have bought satellites and put them on top of buildings for satellite internet access. As one unit rotates out they sell them to the next unit. Believe it or not I've heard of many people having internet access in their rooms. Different kind of war huh? It seems most people are now living in what they call containerized housing units. These are small little two man rooms that are pre constructed and shipped to Iraq. They're supposed to have air conditioning and electricity in them. Your living conditions really depend on where you go in the country. Once I get there I'll try to post some pictures. In order to post pictures on the blog I had to install some software on my computer, since I can't use my computer in the computer lab I can't post any pictures right now.

In regards to voting. I haven't voted yet but will probably next week. Soldiers can send in a national absentee ballot. Apparently it's a little different from the state absentee ballot you would have mailed to you from your state.

I think I have a definite ship out date now. For the last few days they've been telling us we'll be flying out on November 8th. They've said the same date enough times in a row that I believe it to be true. Looks like the adventure will take another step forward shortly.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Take a Deep Breathe, This is a Long One

Man, it's been a while. We've been pretty busy the last couple of days. I'll try to catch you up on the last few days.


Tuesday morning we got to formation and they told us to get ready to go draw our desert uniforms. This is always a good sign because it means you're one step closer to going over, which means you're one step closer to coming back. I also recently found out that I'm promoteable and all I lack is a record P.T. test. That's physical fitness test. Well, the last one I took was probably five or six years ago. When I got out of the Army the first time I had three short term goals. Don't wake up early, don't run, and don't shave. I'm proud to say I accomplished those goals almost immediately. In fact, the "don't run" one was still in effect until Tuesday afternoon. An army P.T. test consists of two minutes worth of all the push-ups you can do followed by two minutes of all the sit-ups you can do followed by a timed two mile run. There's a chart that tells you according to your age and sex how well you have to perform in each of these three events. Those performances are translated into a number. Each event has a maximum score of 100 for a total 300 possible points. You need 180 to pass but you have to have at least 60 points in each category. When I was in the Army the first time I would score 290 or better. This time I scored 186. Let's just say it's two days later and I'm still hurting from the run. However, I passed and got my commander to sign a memo to fax to the proper people to get my promotion. More on that later. I spent the next few hours showering and not moving at all. Next thing I know it's morning.


Wednesday morning we were told to draw our weapons to go to the range and qualify. All of the IRR guys just qualified last month. In fact I shot 38 out of 40. That's important later for comparison purposes. We had the certificate to prove we had just qualified but they said too bad you have to shoot again. That's not really all that bad because, as we discussed in an earlier post, who doesn't like shooting little paper men. However, we asked if this was the weapon we were taking to Iraq and nobody really knows. I figure if it's not the weapon we're taking why waste a day when there's other stuff we could be doing. Then again the Army doesn't generally ask my opinion so I went. First you go to a range to Zero your weapon. You shoot a series of rounds and make adjustments to the weapon. Then you go to a different range and qualify on little plastic target that pop up and different distances aptly named pop up targets. I couldn't get mine to Zero though. I've never had any trouble Zeroing. This was sort of a shot to the pride because I always zero easily and shoot very well at the range. In fact it's never taken me more than one try to qualify, even the first time around in Basic Training. Remember last month I shot expert. Well, they said it was good enough so I needed to move on to the qualification range. OK, they know what's best right. Well the first time around I shot 19 out of 40. A remarkably embarrassing score That's like shooting ten over on every hole on the golf range. I know this from personal golfing experience. Second time 18 out of 40. Third time 22 out of 40. You need a bare minimum of 23 to qualify. Everyone else qualified first time around except me and another few guys, by the second time there were only two of us and his weapon was broken so he had a valid excuse. Third time around I found the problem. The front sight post on my weapons wasn't fixed in place, it could move up and down. Now, I told myself, it wasn't my fault. Well the lieutenant with us had another opinion and since there is no possible way I could know anything about anything his was the only opinion that mattered. Well, I'd swallowed my pride already but I was still hurting from the P.T. test, so every time I had to go out and fire I had to lay on my stomach and support an M-16 with my elbows propped up. By the fourth time my back was killing me. I feel sorry for the people that have to fight next to me in Iraq. I'm going to have to call a time out every now and then. So, the fourth time I shot 23. We started this whole fiasco around 7:30 a.m. and now it was about 5:45 p.m. I had just enough time to eat for the first time that day and get back by 6:30 to night qualify.

To qualify at night they hang a chem light on a target 50 meters away and you shoot at it 30 times. It's not really an aiming challenge as much as it is to familiarize yourself with shooting in the dark. Well, The first round nobody told the guys running the range we needed to qualify, so they didn't turn the computer on to track our hits. So wee all shoot and go back to the van to go home. The L.T. comes running over and says we have to fire again because of the mix up. What are you going to do. So we get back in line and wait for our turn to fire again. When you're firing at night you load tracer rounds in your magazine after every so many rounds. These make a red streak from your weapon and you can see where the rounds are going. These are pretty cool because it looks like lasers from Star Wars or something. The bad thing is there burning pretty hot by the time it hits it's mark. The grass way down range caught on fire. Not a big fire, but it still needed to be taken care of. Nothing in the Army happens right away. A bunch of guys have to get together and see who's more important so they can use his idea of how to rectify the situation. Apparently fires are the same way. It took 30 or 40 minutes for them to decide 6 guys should walk up to the small fire and kick dirt on it. After the 30 or 40 minutes they needed about a fifteen minute safety brief followed by 5 minutes or so to get ready. Finally the fire was stamped out in about 5 seconds. The range was clear. By this time most of the chem lights had gone out. So the second time around you didn't know where the target was. Can you guess what the Army answer to this one was. Just point your weapon down range and fire all of your rounds so we don't have to turn them back in. How will we qualify you ask? Good question. The L.T. runs out of the tower to tell us how bad we did. I hit the target 6 out of 30. I thought that was pretty good, what are the odds I'd accidentally hit the target six times on blind luck? He didn't see it that way. Two of the lanes had the 18 hour chem lights on them so they broke the ten of us up and ran us in shifts through those two lanes. You only had to hit it 7 times so after I hit it 10 times they told me to rapid fire down range to get rid of the ammo as fast as I could. As long as I qualified I didn't care so look out here goes nothin''. I pretended I was one of the guys on the A-team and we were trapped in an impossible situation with only a bulldozer, some conveniently placed armored plating and a welder. I laid down some rapid cover fire while BA welded us a tank so we could drive out of town. Those dirt mounds didn't stand a chance. Sixteen hours and one meal after the day started I took a shower and went to sleep around 11:30


Not much going on today so I faxed the memo for my promotion and followed it up with a call. The guy on the other end told me he had gotten the paper work and I should see my promotion orders this time next week. About that time I got all of my desert uniforms back from alterations with the now incorrect rank on them. You get four sets of uniforms so I took three of them back and got the new rank put on. I figure if I need one before next week I'll have it. We're still wearing the green uniforms right now anyway. I'm pleased with the promotion. It'll be a few hundred dollars a month extra but, more importantly, it takes me one step further from crappy jobs. Now instead of them saying "Specialist, take this bucket of crap and go burn it", they say,"Sergeant, tell a specialist to take this bucket of crap and go watch him burn it." Also, as if by the miraculous hand of God waving over in a majestic tribute to knowledge, I am actually allowed to make decisions now. I'm sure glad that happened, I don't know what I've been doing for the past 31 years of my life.

That's it in a nut shell. Tomorrow should be a regular day so I'll be able to get back here to the computer lab to do mail call. By the way, today's my 31st birthday. Happy Birthday To Me, La La La La La La.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Thanks For The Comments

Like the title says, thanks for the comments. It's cool that people I don't even know are reading the blog. All the comments that are posted are also forwarded to my e-mail account. The first thing I do whenever I get onto the internet is check my e-mail with giddy anticipation. It's always cool to see comments. One of the commentors, not to be confused with co-mentors, even left the address to his blog. While we have differing political views it is exactly that right to have your own opinion that we're fighting for in Iraq, and we fought for here on our own soil a few hundred years ago.

I'm still on my extended weekend vacation with my wife here in the thriving downtown metropolis of Copperas Cove, Texas. If your in town drop me an e-mail, maybe we could have lunch. So far we've just bounced around the area, did some shopping for the kids and saw a movie. We're really just relaxing and talking and taking it easy.

I just wanted to post a quick thank you for the comments. Comments are kind of like when you we're in college, or camp, or somewhere away from your family and you got mail. You remember going to the mailbox everyday with that small glimmer of hope that there might be a letter or note only to have your frail hopes dashed against the razor sharp rocks of lonely disappointment. Well it wasn't really that bad but you get the picture. So thanks for saving my frail psyche from a watery grave.

Once the Army starts up again I should have more interesting things to post.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Mail Call

Today is the first installment of Mail Call. As I get the electronic letter opener out and put on my pretend reading glasses I peer into the curiously empty mailbag. I can count on one finger the number of posts that request an answer. This shouldn't take very long. First though, I would like to make a request. I see the counter on the right of the screen going up so people must be reading this page but, I'm not feeling the love. My request is if you read this post please leave a comment. You don't have to say anything but hi. Just click on the comments thing at the bottom and post the word hi. That'll give me an idea of how many people are actually reading this. I'm starting to think it's just my Mom and Dad getting on about a hundred times a day. It would just sort of let me feel connected to you guys a little better.

The question asked was whether or not I saw the first presidential debates and what I thought. I'll answer this from the point of view of how this effects me as a soldier.

Please read my disclaimer to the right. This post is only my opinion. I'm not extremely well versed in politics and would probably lose most political arguments. However, I've done some research and here are my feelings. Feel free to agree or disagree. Just make sure you vote to validate any opinions you might have.

I did see the debates and was a little surprised. I thought Bush was going to come out as the clear cut unquestioned winner. John Kerry surprised me though. He was clear and concise and seemed to leave president Bush stammering a few times. John Kerry said a number of times that he had a four part plan to win the peace in Iraq and then start to withdraw the troops. He referred to his plan a number of times but didn't line out the details. I went to and read his plan. He plans to expand the number of troops we have, Increase the number of special forces, modernize the military equipment, and strengthen the National Guard to increase homeland security. The things he doesn't say are how he's going to do these things. How is he going to get 40,000 more troops to volunteer to join the Army? I could come up with that as one of my points in a presidential campaign but I couldn't back it up. I don't think Kerry can either. He also talks of modernizing the military to be able to fight this new kind of enemy. He faults the president for not having us trained now to fight them. My argument is that no matter who the president was when we fought Iraq it would have been the same. We have always been successful fighting the way we fight so why would we have changed. John Kerry just has the advantage of hind sight and not being the president responsible for Iraq to fall on. I don't really see how John Kerry will do the idealistic things he is offering.

This war was started by President Bush and should be finished by President Bush, or at least his plan. I think the conflict in Iraq will last longer than President Bush. Having been in the Army under Bill Clinton and now again under President Bush I have seen a transformation. The Army is much more fluid and capable of change now than it was the first time I was in. I think the Army will totally change it's fighting methods in the next few years no matter who is the Commander and Chief. Kerry claiming he wants to transform the military is a self fulfilling prophesy. It's going to happen anyway out of necessity. The fear I have is that we withdraw troops too early from Iraq and nullify the sacrifices made by American men and women so far. We can't afford to lose in Iraq or everyone with an AK-47 will think they can be the United States. Not only that but the war in Iraq is a lightning rod for terrorists. As long as we're fighting them there where it's convenient for them to fight, they're not coming over here to America. President Bush started pitching this game and he needs to finish it.

I also fear what John Kerry said about putting the American defenses up against a more global test. The rest of the world doesn't elect the president and shouldn't have the final say in how we defend ourselves as a sovereign country. The president and the American people have the final say in how we defend our nation. President Bush has the courage to do that and he will get my vote.

Mrs. GWM

Since I am here (Mrs. GWM), I thought I would take the time to check out my husband's laptop and post a blog at the same time. I personally like how the keys click on the keyboard and the screen is really nice. Two thumbs up for this magical portal into the world of the internet. I hope you all are enjoying my husband's view of his experience, and of course his sense of humor. I strongly encourage you to post a comment when you have a chance. This blog allows us to feel connected with GWM and his IRR life right now. I think it would help him to feel connected with you through your comments. Well, I must pass the computer over for mail call. Take care.

Gonna See My Wife

I found out Yesterday that we're going to get a four day weekend this weekend. I found this out about lunch time. At the same time I found out we weren't going to get a chance to see our families before we deploy like eveybody else did since we're coming through on the tail end of our Brigades deployment. What they call the "Main Body" left for Kuwait this week and we'll follow behind and catch them there or in Iraq. So the plan here is to push through as fast as possible. The bad part about that is we're getting the junky left over gear. So far we haven't gotten the cool gear like the camelback water systems, the new lighter stronger Kevlar helmets, or the Wiley-X sunglasses that everyone else got. Why? Because the supply Seargent has already left. That's good planning. Hopefully we'll get that stuff in country. If not, as long as I get a weapon and body armor everything should be O.K. If I don't get those things I think I'll tell them they can fight without me until they come in. What are they going to do kick me out of the Army? Or worse, send me to Iraq?

Anyway, when I found out about the four day weekend I called my wife who got on the next plane to Dallas. Right now I'm writing from a hotel room outside of post while she's taking a nap. She had to fly through the night and hasn't slept yet. This is the first chance I've had to use the built in wireless card on my laptop. It's pretty cool and the service here is really fast. Obviously it was good to see her pull around the corner in the rental car we have for the weekend. Don't really have any plans but, don't really need any. The kids think Mommy is going to see a "friend" for the weekend. I think it would have been too hard on all of us for them to come, and I don't think I could say goodbye to them again and explain all over why I wasn't coming home for a long time. I would have loved to see them but I think this is best all around. So, if you know my kids don't talk about mommy seeing daddy this weekend. By the way, if you rent a car from Avis it's about $90.00 a day. If you rent a car from Hertz it's $15.00 a day. Where's the invisible hand of competition? I guess it's slapping the snot out of Avis right now.

In an interesting turn of events I have small pox. Not really small pox but the vaccination for it. So I've got a contagious oozing knot of puss on my shoulder under a large bandage. mmm tapioca anyone? I also got the Anthrax vaccine and a typhoid shot. The Anthrax is a seires of shots lasting more than a year. You get a booster every so often to keep your immunity up. Appearantly you also lose any desire for cheesy eighties heavy metal. Too bad they don't give you the bullet vaccine, or the hand grenade vaccine. I felt sick for about a day but, in the immortal words of Monty Python, "I got better".

I'm reading a book by Dan Brown called Angels & Demons. It's the prequel to The Da Vinci Code. It's pretty good. it seems the main character follows over into the next book, which I guess is why they call it a prequel.

Since today is Friday I'll start the weekly run of mail call this afternoon or this evening. If you have any questions now's your last chance for this week.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Will We Ever See Kentucky Again

Well part of the cost of the hotel I paid for at Goodfellow has been recouped. The advance I put in for on the 15th of September that was supposed to take 48 hours went into my account on October 4th. They gave me roughly 80% and I should get the rest when I reconcile the entire bill with the Army.

We started the week of here at Ft. Hood with death by powerpoint. The information is useful though. Mostly we've focused on IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) that the enemy likes to put along roadsides to disrupt our movements. Me and three other guys are going through this training together. The plan was that since my unit has already left for Iraq I would fall in with another unit for training. This doesn't seem to be the case any longer. They're just moving us from station to station as individuals in what seems to be a random pattern. Actually the pattern is if there's a place open we go to it. This isn't entirely bad because the teacher to student ratio should be pretty favorable. For those of you with military background you'll be interested to know the field expedient way to disarm an IED is the same way you check to see if all of the gas is out of the air. "Hey lieutenant, come look at this."

Kentucky got his orders today taking him to Ft. Bliss. It seems our paths will likely separate here. There was a list we got ahold of that had me, Kentucky, and a friend of ours from Texas all going to the same place. Well, none of us did. Texas is going to a unit in Mississippi.

There's a rumor going around that we'll get to fire all kinds of weapons while we're here. Contrary to the movies most soldiers only ever fire the M-16. When I was in the first time I had a grenade launcher attached to my M-16. That was pretty cool except since you were carrying all those High Explosive rounds on you nobody wanted to walk near you. Well, one of my personal favorites as far as weapons goes is the Mark 19. This is a fully automatic grenade launcher. The only thing cooler than a grenade launcher is a fully automatic grenade launcher. This thing fires Campbell soup can sized explosives at a rate of something like 200 per minute. Praise the Lord and pass the ammo.

Anyhow. It's rained quite a bit here. Hope it stops before we go out in the field. But, like they say in the Army: If it ain't rainin', we ain't trainin'.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Back at Fort Hood

I spent most of my time in the Army the first time at Ft. Hood. Here I am again. I arrived early this morning after leaving San Angelo around 5:30 p.m. We were stuck in Dallas for many hours because of lighting. When I got here to Ft. Hood the power was out in the barracks I was assigned to and I spent the next couple of hours getting sheets and blankets and getting to my room. Whoever had this room before me wasn't very neat. There was (and still is) trash everywhere. There were even trash bags full of old food and garbage in the dresser drawers. The shower was moldy and the whole bathroom smelled of a certain bodily fluid.

So here's the picture. It's about 1:00 in the morning, pitch black, pouring down rain. I'm wearing a headlamp and kicking the garbage on the floor out of my way so I can try to make my bed. I walk into the bathroom and decide I can't sleep until I clean it. So, by headlamp in the middle of the night, I find a scrub brush and some bathroom cleaner in a cupboard and go to town. The whole shower is tile so I just sprayed everything and scrubbed it down. Then I sprayed some cleaner into the toilet and used a not so clean toilet brush to scrub a little. That's when I find the odorific offender. Curled up by the toilet is an old towel I assume was originally white. They must have used it as a floor mat near the toilet. This is what was giving off the all to distinguishable urine odor. I reasoned back and forth with myself about what to do with it. I didn't have any trash bags or gloves or anything, so I couldn't throw it away. I thought about kicking it out the door onto the balcony but figured I'd get in trouble if someone walked by. I thought maybe it would fetch a fair price on e-bay as war memorabilia or something but then remembered you can't ship hazardous waste through the mail. So, as of right now it's still there. I figured as long as the shower was clean I'd be O.K. for the morning and could deal with the rest later.

I reported at 7:00 a.m. to turn in some of my paperwork and then ate chow. Since my mini cleaning spree in the dark took a few hours I only slept last night for a couple of hours so I went back to my room and went to sleep until lunch. After lunch I found a little shopette and bought some trash bags and paper towels and found this computer lab in what they call the Army Learning Center. Just thought I'd catch you up before I really cleaned my room. It's possible you may never hear from me again.

The plan is that I'll be here for three or four weeks and do some training before going to Kuwait to link up with my unit. They may already be in Iraq by that time so maybe I'll push on from there and meet them in Iraq. It seems like this is where the adventure really starts.

On the plane from Dallas to Killeen I sat next to one of the guys that put on the training for the unit I'm attached to. It seems that they went trough 2 or 3 months of training as a unit on a bunch of useful skills. How to clear a room, how to move in a convoys, how to fire and maintain a bunch of different weapons. It seems I'll go through an abbreviated individualized version of these types of skills and then head out. I was glad to have talked with this guy because it eased my concerns about not getting enough training. Most of this training is done with live ammunition which was always a concern of mine. We don't really train very much with live rounds so when you actually get them you're a little scared of them. Since you carry live rounds all the time in Iraq I'm glad to have the chance to do some training with them in squad and platoon sized drills. It just makes you a little more comfortable carrying around a "hot weapon" when you get to spend some time with one. More importantly I want the guys around me to be comfortable with live weapons.

Well, post some questions if you have them and I'll try to answer them in Mail Call next Friday. So far the Mail Call concept hasn't really caught on. I'll see how it goes the next couple of weeks. Some of you have voiced some concerns because one of the comments was deleted. I was the one that deleted it because it contained a little too much personal information. Well, that does it for me. I'm off to do some cleaning.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Have Gun Will Travel

Well, I don't actually have a gun yet but today isn't going so bad. I had hot water and I got orders taking me to Ft. Hood. This is exactly the same path I took the first time I was in the Army. The unit I am attaching to is an Intell unit which makes me feel good. That at least gives me a glimmer of hope that I'll be doing my real job and not just a warm body to put on guard duty. When I called the unit to make arrangements they said they had requested a person with my job because they had an opening that wasn't filled. Apparently the Army did have a plan after all. One thing I did find out is that the unit just left for Iraq. The story so far is I'll train with a different unit and go over and hook up with my unit.

I wanted to post this because I don't know when the next time I'll have internet access is. I have to check out of the hotel, which I'm still paying for out of my own pocket, in less than an hour and I still have to pack my one pair of shorts and 2 T-shirts.