28 February 2007

Army Day

Army Day

Me inside the turret of an armored Hummer

Today was another “Good Army Day”. I’d claim that saying as my own, but it’s not, as a person far better than me and who has more good “Army Days” than I came up with it while they were deployed. What it means is a day where you're not all distraught with the military and you could actually enjoyed being a soldier. Today was one of those days. What started off as a slow morning of vehicle equipment training and more basic training skills turned into a day of driving armored vehicles and excitement on the range at night. This afternoon, we did a combat HMMWV (Hummers to you civilian types) course. Granted, it really wasn’t much of a combat course as we didn’t do any shooting and moving, nor did we do any Bo and Luke Duke jumps over the local creek. It was more of a familiarization of the new HMMWVs the military has in service. From the outside, it looks pretty similar to the vehicles I use to drive when I was in a while back, but looks are deceiving. They cram a lot into this new truck and it’s decked out with a lot of survivability bells and whistles that make me feel pretty confident in it’s ability to keep me relatively safe in a war zone (plus it has air conditioning, which works sometimes to drop the temp inside from 140 to 120!). Now, nothing is every 100% and this truck is definitely not an armored tank, but it is an Up-Armored HMMWV and it is designed to help keep more Joes coming home in one piece, which is always a good thing. It’s much heavier than the old HMMWVs and we had to learn how it handled on and off the road. Plus, just for giggles, they threw in some complex obstacles that we had to maneuver to simulate driving in Iraq. Not only was it very cool, it was also very surprising how this heavier truck handled. One would expect it to be slow, but if you mash the gas, it’s a lot more nimble than I expected. I was punching it through sloppy melt water puddles and slaloming through burnt out vehicle obstacles like it was a Jeep Wrangler, only my jeep had armor and guns on it.

View from the turret

My commander pretending that he has something to shoot

Training continued after lunch with a ride in the HEAT (Hummer Egress Action Trainer). It’s basically a Hummer shell that is put on an actuator that rotates the vehicle to simulate a roll over. They do this so you can learn how to get yourself out of a situation where you could be upside down or on your side due to your vehicle rolling over from an IED or an accident. After three trips of being rolled around in this thing, our team got the hang of it, even with all of our gear on and boxes of MRE’s and such in the cabin smashing into us to emphasis the importance of strapping your gear down. I hope I never have egress a burning or damaged vehicle, but at least I know now the actions to take in case I do (which is the purpose of training).


After dinner at the chow hall, we waited for it to get dark and commenced on our night driving course. This is where we drive on the roads and trails with no lights on and use our night vision equipment to navigate. If you want to get the feel of how to do this, try driving your car at night while looking through a 4 inch pipe. It’s a little difficult because the goggles tend to distort things a little, plus you only get a small view of the world through the lenses. We had a thunderstorm/tornado/blizzard warning tonight which made the sky dance with an eerie green lightning in the distance through the goggles. A little excitement was had when one of trucks in front of us on the course burst into flames because the operator forgot to disengage the parking brake and caught the back of the brakes on fire. My track ended up running up and helping them out and the flames were eventually put out. A little crazy, but even crazier when it’s pitch black and you don’t have the luxury of lights. Of course we ended up pulling out the flashlights and turning on the white headlights to make sure everything and everyone were okay, but soon we were on our way to do some more combat night driving. It was fun and I have to say that I did pretty well. In fact, I felt like I had to do well to disprove the myth that all Asians are bad drivers.

So, after an exhausting day of Army training, I’m off to get some sleep. Tomorrow is suppose to be full of fun stuff like snow, wind, and obstacle courses. The combination of them should make for an interesting day.

My pile 'o gear

26 February 2007

Driving Ms. Hummer

Driving Ms. Hummer

The other day we got our official driver’s license to drive tactical vehicles. Today we kicked it up a notch and did a combat convoy. Actually, they aren’t called “convoys” anymore because the powers that be didn’t like the sounds of it. So they call them something else now, and for the life of me, I don’t know what. For some reason my thought process is being interrupted by C.W. Mcall’s song... “…Pig Pen this here’s the Rubber Duck and I’m ‘bout to put the hammer down, 10-4!” Anyway, we drove around and trained on scenarios of what it would be like to drive in Iraq. For what we’ve learned, driving in Iraq is much like driving in New York, but instead of beggers running up to your car at a red light with Windex and paper towels to wash your windows, people in Iraq run up to your Hummer with machine guns and rocket launchers, especially after an IED goes off. This was the reason we put our resident driving expert at the wheel of my track (it’s a hummer, a truck with wheels, so why we call it a track is beyond me). His name is Pete and he’s from Baaaaahhhston. Yes, his accent is that bad, but he’s a good guy and we like having him around to keep us straight, not to mention the fact that he knows how to drive aggressively. We did a lot of training prior to the convoy run with 2 other vehicles filled with members of my team and headed out to “lanes” to see how much of the training we learned. I won’t go into the details of it, but let’s just say that it was a good day of training. The OCs taught us things that were very applicable to our future situation and they helped us learn a thing or two from guys who have been there and know what it’s like. Today was a breath of fresh air compared to the last few weeks and it reassured me that all this training wasn’t a bunch of malarkey. We actually got our uniforms dirty and used our weapons for something other than a hat holder when we go through the line at the chow hall! I’m sure I’ll be sore tonight after trying to pick up a few reserve lieutenant colonels whose weight would suggest that they haven’t skipped too many desserts in their lifetime, but it will be worth it if I can learn a skill or two that will save my hide later on.

Driving a HMMWV is difficult, but as you can see, it can tackle the

Here's the mighty gang road marching back from training. This begs the question, why are we walking if we have a bunch of high speed trucks?

25 February 2007

Hi Ho Silver

Hi Ho Silver!

Last night after training (and pulling fire guard) we decided to try and scout out the local town of Manhattan to see what was there. For those who remember last week’s fiasco, that recon adventure ended with me cleaning frozen chicken off the side of the truck. Not this time though. I took the “captain mafia” out just for some dinner at a local steak place called Whiskey Creek. The atmosphere was similar to a Logans or Texas Road House, complete with the peanuts that you throw the shells on the floor. The meal was nothing to write home about (yet I’m writing about it in a blog now) and the service was horrible. What started out as a night to get a decent meal turned into a just a night to drink and complain about where we are and what we’re doing. Nothing that would warrant sympathy from anyone, but just a bunch of guys lamenting about our current place in life and crying in our beers, well, not literally, because Army Captains don’t cry, but you get the picture.

Oh, and there was horse riding that needed to be done by a member of the gang.

Pete after a few beers

For some reason I find myself taking pictures of people on mechanical horses.

Gary a few months back in Dallas

24 February 2007



When I found out that I was coming to Kansas for a few months, I tried to mentally prepare myself for the change in geography. I expected lots of open plains, maybe some rolling hills, some cold wind and possibly even a tornado or two. If I was a bet’n man, I’d say that say that the chance of witnessing a flood while I was here was slim to none. Today, I would have had to pay big dividends on that bet, for I not only saw that flood, I was almost swept away in the raging waters. Was it because I was training in a dry creekbed that was suddenly filled with melt water from the receding snow? Nope. Was it due to a torrential downpour from a freak storm? Not that either. Was it because a senior NCO hung his clothes on the sprinkler system on the second floor of my building which set off the fire alarm and a shower of water the flooded most of the second floor and part of the first? Bingo!

Of course this is a freak thing, but I thought it was common sense not to do stuff like that. Sprinkler heads are for putting out fires, not hanging your jacket on. Everyone received a briefing when we first got these barracks to leave the sprinkler heads alone, plus I thought it was just common knowledge not to be stupid. I must be mistaken. All I know is that I came back from doing PT in the morning and my personal hygiene time was interrupted by alarms, sirens and a muddy river flowing down the hall. Next thing I knew I was scurrying out the door to a muster point with most of my uniform on and weapons in tow to stand out in the cold waiting for the fire truck to show. Luckily, I didn’t get much damage. Most of my stuff is put away and for the most part, the water stayed on the south end of the building and I’m on the north end. We’re not sure what is going to happen to that individual who flooded our building due to negligence, but I can tell you that there are a lot of people, especially those with rooms under him and those who have to pull fire guard detail while they fix the system, that would like to have a private word or two with him behind the wood shed.

Of course I didn’t get a picture of it happening because we weren’t allowed in the building for a long time, and I also didn’t get a picture of the giant dehumidifiers that were placed in the rooms of the people who had 4 inches of water on their floor. That must be fun to have in the room. Kind of like sleeping in a sauna, inside a jumbo jet engine.

Ate up

Ate up

“Ate Up” is a term I first heard when I was in college. It was a common phrase that was used to describe someone who was not performing well. It is not a very pleasant description of someone, and it usually had a few expletives added to it to emphasize its meaning (ate the f*** up!). Even the creative types used the phrase, but said it in a way that made you have to think about it for a while until you realized that they were insulting you (you’re 10 up and 2 down!). I heard this phrase many times during my career in the Army and even used it a few times myself on some choice individuals. It was also a regular part of my friends’ vocabulary, at least those in the military. They all had stories of their “joes” doing stupid things and being “ate up like a soup sandwich” was a very colorful way to describe how really messed up they were. Then a funny thing happened... I got out of the military. It took some time, but eventually I started cursing less, dressing myself for work, and quit using the lively phrases of my Army days. I became a civilian, and I got soft (not that cursing and wearing the same thing every day made you any harder). The longer I stayed out, I realized that I never heard the expression “ate up” used very much in the real world, and in the rare times that I tried to use it, most civilians just kind of looked at me the way a pig might look at a Timex. They didn’t appreciate the saying, so I in turn just stopped using it.

Jump to today...

I have rediscovered my old military phrases. I say this because some of the instructors I have are ate up, some of the instruction we have received has been really ate up, and sometimes I wonder if anyone not in our unit knows what it means NOT to be ate up. I’m trying hard here to keep a positive attitude. For this first full week of training I have been trying to give the cadre, being the trainers, the benefit of the doubt since I know that it must be tough to take a large group of people and get them through the aggressive training schedule of skills needed before they deploy. I want to believe that they will fix their broken system and each night before I lay my head on my pillow, I pray that the next day will be better and free from the frustrations of the previous day. Time and time again, they have failed me, and my team, and I can feel the frustration growing in the folks around me. Some have already thrown in the towel and have succumbed to just being bounced around like a pinball. Their reasoning is that they are getting paid to sit and wait for busses that never show and for instructors who don’t know what they are teaching. Others of us have taken on to training ourselves by hijacking the instruction material from the OCs (Observer Controller – aka the teachers here) and teaching ourselves. There are days that I don't think I belong here and hope for some admin person at headquarters to suddenly realize that they made a mistake and send me someplace else. Enough about that though because I don’t want to rant too much. I have to check myself now and then so I can not slip off the cliff of cynicism that is so easy to do when one works for Uncle Sam.

Each day for accountability, we have to give an “up”. Here is a better explanation of what that means:

“Team 19, are you up?” – Are all of Team 19's members present?
“Bravo company, give me an up on your weapons.” - Let me know if all your weapons are there.
“Dude, that class was ate up.” - Man, that class was not satisfactory.
“Johnson, you up?” – Has Johnson got his lazy butt out of the rack?

We give “ups” a lot within the unit and especially within our team. To make it easier to keep accountability of our people and our gear, we have all been assigned numbers. When the team leader wants to know if he has everyone, he just screams out “Team 19, give me an up” in which we respond by sequentially shouting out our assigned number followed by “up”; “One’s up”, “Two’s up” etc. It’s a very good system, especially when things can get chaotic for movement from one location to the next and we are battling for transportation assets. You don’t want to lose your buddy and you definitely don’t want to lose any of your weapons.

By the way, my assigned number is 8, so most days, I’m “eight up”.

Maybe I do belong here.

23 February 2007

Army Training

Army Training

Long day of training, or more specifically, tactical vehicle drivers training, so not much to write. Just a picture of me in part of my "battle rattle". I'm missing a few things, like my gloves, elbow and knee pads, and my helmet is a little crooked, but behind those glasses is the cold stare of a slanty eyed killer!

... or maybe just a tuckered out Korean.

22 February 2007

I saw a funny thing at church today...

Saw a funny thing at church...

Life is slowly getting into a routine, which has it’s pluses and negatives. We get up, do PT, go to breakfast, train all day, have dinner, have a nightly meeting, get ready for the next day, and go to bed only to start it all again. It’s only the first week of real training, yet it feels like I’ve been here for months. It reminds me of being in college, when life was so full of stuff and your mind was on autopilot until you could preoccupy it with something that broke the norm. And although it is difficult now to get out of this rut, I can’t ignore the fact that in few months I will be deploying. Part of me wants to absorb as much information and training that I can so that I can go fully prepared to do what I have to do and do it well. The impatient side of me wants to just get over there and get it all over with so I can get back sooner. I’m torn, but dwelling on it doesn’t do much good.

I saw this in the church that I had a briefing in today. Since there really wasn’t much that happened in the last few days, seeing this at least got a chuckle out of me. I’m sure that there is a real reason for these things and it probably has to do with safety and such, but ya think they could have come up with a better name.

20 February 2007



The chain of command has issued us ammo today. Granted, it’s only about 3 magazines of blanks, but it is suppose to help us get use to walking around with live rounds in our weapons. In some respects, it is more trouble than its worth as we have to worry about inexperienced soldiers doing stupid things with ammunition, plus we have to keep accountability of the rounds. On the other hand it helps us to “train to fight”. That means that we need to practice here stateside exactly what we are going to do overseas in theater, and blanks are kind of “baby steps” to going to war with live ammo. Chambering rounds for movement between areas and clearing our weapons at every checkpoint is suppose to get us in the habit of being safe with our rifles and pistols, and while we might think it is a pain, I think it’s a good idea. Plus, if someone was to “accidentally” shoot their weapon at me, I’d much rather it be a blank than the real thing.

I found out today that my position for the task force has changed (again). I’m tempted not to even post what it is because there is part of me that is sure it will jinx me and it will change again. I’m still sticking to my original plan of “preparing for the worse, hoping for the best” but hope can be a fading thing at times, especially when I’m not really sure what kind of job I’m preparing for.

I saw something tonight that disturbed me on someone else’s blog. This individual is apparently deployed to Iraq right now doing a similar job to what the Task Force is training to do. They were blogging about the life over there and what they are doing day to day, much like you’d find in any blog. The disturbing part was that this individual started talking about the security of his FOB (forward operations base) and how they don’t pull security on one area because they don’t think that the will be hit from that area. What in the heck is he thinking? I group this guy in with the likes of Geraldo who stood in front of a camera on national TV and told the world what unit he was with and where they were at right before a major battle. People, don’t put things on the internet that could get you or your buddies killed. That just doesn’t make sense!

On a good note to end today’s short blog, I did receive a box of goodies and became instantly popular with my team and with the folks on my floor. Most of them probably could go without the cookies or candy, but I’m glad that they could share in my little box of sunshine, because there’s no way in the world I’d be able to eat that much food! If I keep getting boxes like this, I’m liable to have to get a bigger ACU size to grow into before I deploy!

19 February 2007



I already have a great deal of respect for our soldiers, but today they earned even more respect from a lowly non-infantry Captain like myself. Today, President’s Day, a day where most government employees get the day off, was our first official day of training. To simulate conditions in theater, we wore our “battle rattle”, which is something that our men and women in the military wear all the time when they are in a war zone, and in much greater temperatures than those found in Kansas in the middle of February. “Battle rattle” in Army speak means all of our issued gear, to include armor, helmet, weapons, and all the other whiz-bang gear that we get issued. Let’s just say that it’s a lot heavier than the polo shirt and khaki pants that I’m use to wearing to the office every day. The only thing we didn’t get issued today was ammo, which will add another, say, 5 to 6 lbs for a full combat load to the already 45 to 55 lbs of gear that we are carrying. Ugh! Even for those who are in shape, it takes some getting use to, but for the vast majority of the folks here, standing still with everything on was a challenge. We even had one person go to the hospital for heat exhaustion after walking only 1 mile in the stuff (mind you it only got up to 49 F today). We’ll get use to it though, as we start acclimating to it by wearing all of our gear from place to place. One thing is for sure, I will definitely have a stronger back after this experience. Either that or I will be two inches shorter.

I’d post pictures of me in my turtle outfit, but I didn’t bring my camera to training today and I wasn’t about to put it all back on since I know there will be plenty of photo ops in the future to see me in all of my gear.

18 February 2007

Drunkards and Chicken

Drunkards and Chicken

Sometimes I wish I was a drunkard; to be able to release my inhibitions through liquid courage and give up my worries and troubles. It’s not like I don’t drink. I’ll have the occasional beer now and then, and even if coaxed into it, I might even do a shot (or two), but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I had more than a beer at a social gathering. I’m not sure why I don’t drink and sometime I feel like I’m missing out on something when I see the vast majority of people around me getting plastered and I’m sipping a Coke wondering what I’m suppose to be missing. I guess I just don’t need a beer in my hand in order to relax or have a good time. I don’t frown on folks who drink because they sure do appear like they are having a good time. In fact, ask any drunk if he’s having fun and I’ll bet that 95% of the time, they will say “yes”. The other 5% of the time they are upset because the bartender hasn’t brought them their next drink. Of course ask that same drunk later that night when they are dry heaving the contents of their stomach or the next day when they don’t want to talk to anyone if they are having fun, and I’m sure you’ll get a much different response. I get a chuckle out of the same comments every temporary recovering drunk says, and they always say the same things;

“Why did I drink so much?”
“Why did you let me drink so much?”
“I’m never going to drink again.”
“I’m sorry about your truck.”

One of the reasons that I wish I could drink myself into oblivion is that I would be relieved of my duties of taking care of those who do drink themselves into a staggering mess. Now, I don’t mind being the only sober person at a group gathering, especially if I’m responsible for getting my friends back safely to their respective beds. In fact, it’s pretty funny to watch my normally sober friends act the fool and have a good time, but its troubling at times to have to play the “parent” and try to convince them that no, they do not look good with their coat on backwards and that it wouldn’t be a good idea to poop on the bar because the bar made didn’t smile at you. Trying to reason with a drunk is like trying to walk a cat on a leash. By far the worse part is cleaning up the mess afterwards, especially if their drinks (and dinner) make a sudden appearance in the front seat of your vehicle, which was happened last night. The powers that be here at the unit decided to give us a pass to go into the local town outside the gate and relax. What started off as an innocent shopping trip with dinner at BW3s turned into a semi-bar crawl and me cleaning chicken and Yeager off the passenger side of my truck last night at 2am. Normally, I would have left it for the offending person to clean up this morning, but since the temps are falling below freezing, I figured I’d best take care of it right away or else I’d have frozen chicken chunks stuck to everything inside and outside the truck. Again, I have pictures (as I always do) so please refrain from reading further if you don’t want to see. Regardless of cleaning up barf and carrying the barffer back to his room for his driver’s training on the toilet bus, it was a good time to be out of the barracks and off of post.

Today is probably the last free day we’re going to get in a while. Our training schedule is pretty aggressive but we usually have most of our Sundays off. I plan on doing some laundry today (most of my stuff stinks like smoke from the bar last night), I’m due for a haircut and I’m going try and see if I can’t get to a computer terminal and check on my ever growing email inbox. Usually I would be able to check my email from my fancy internet accessible phone, but cell phone reception here is the worse and I can’t get through most phone conversations let alone uplink to a data connection and check my mail. I’m still trying to get internet piped into my room, however I will have to wait until next week to try and make that happen. I say “try” because I might not have time to wait for the internet guy to show up and hook the system up due to training. So, if you are reading this and emailing me, please don’t get frustrated if I don’t respond right away. The 5 minutes that I can get on the internet at the company area are rushed because the line for an open machine can sometimes take up to an hour. I’m again surprised that they wouldn’t provide us more access seeing as the world (and the Army) loves to use the internet to disseminate information (and go shopping). Uncle Sam is fairly technical savvy and takes advantage of the web in a lot of ways. Unfortunately for us Army folk, Uncle Sam is also very cheap.

16 February 2007



I had to part ways with Chris, Ryan and the rest of the CRC gang this morning and join my official “team” for deployment. This involved another room change, which is a lot easier to do now that I’m growing more accustomed to the gypsy lifestyle of the IRR, and a whole new schedule to try and juggle. I’m sure I’ll see the gang around as most of us are deploying to the same location with the same unit, but I’ll miss hanging out with them and reminiscing of the good old days when we were civilians at Benning CRC.

The new team I’m on is small, with only 8 officers and a handful of NCOs. I am probably the youngest person on the team, although I’m fairing better than some of the other IRR captains who have a span of 15 years between them and next oldest person on their team. We are top heavy, having mostly field grades and E8s and E9s. Did I mention that the Task Force commander is also a member of my team? That could be a really good thing, or a really bad thing and I’m sure time will tell one from the other. We had a sit down with him yesterday and he briefed us IRR folk on what we will be doing and what his vision is for the deployment. I won’t go into the whole spiel, but the gist of it is that we are jumping the big pond to help the Iraqi military and police force by training their mid-level leaders and help bolster the logistics system for those forces. My job is geared more towards the infrastructure of those organizations, particularly with the police force and working with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. My engineering and management background is what made my “resume” stand out, so they tell me. Personally, I think I’m just a warm body with the right MOS that they are sticking into a staff job that no one really wanted. There is plenty of time for them to prove me wrong, and in this case, I hope they do. I really can’t complain too much because I don’t really know what I’ll be doing from day to day. They can’t even tell me if the job I’m slotted for will be the actual job I do in country. It goes back to “being flexible” which is something you have to do unless you want your frustration to get the best of you, which isn’t good seeing as how we are all going to be carrying weapons from now until we get home from deployment.

Speaking of weapons, after 3 attempts, I finally received my weapons. Yes, weapons, plural, as in a pistol and a rifle. I think they would give us more if we had more hands to fire them with, but for now, two will suffice. I knew that I would be getting them both so it wasn’t a big surprise. What did surprise me is that they are issuing two weapons to EVERYONE in the task force. Some are even equipped with grenade launchers, which in my opinion is a little overkill for a high end staff. Regardless, they gave us some pretty high speed stuff, although some of it is wasted on this kind of staff. I would be distraught at the fact that they are giving us IR aiming lasers for our weapons if I knew that the regular army units deployed right now didn’t have them (they in fact do have them). We are an important task force however, and we will be supporting ourselves in most every way, especially when it comes to security. Now I’m sure you’ve heard talk about the “green zone” in Baghdad (where I will be a majority of the time) and how safe it is, and while it is mostly true, there is no completely safe area in a war zone (sorry Mom). Some are frequented less than others by insurgents and IED wielding crazies, but there is no completely safe area, only areas that are less dangerous than others. Since we will be doing our own convoys, guard shifts and patrols (not so many patrols), we need to be ready for that, hence the large amount of fire power that they are giving to the average soldier. Let’s just hope for everyone’s sake that we don’t have to unleash any of that firepower unnecessarily.

Oh, I took some pics of the new room. Not much to show though, but to give the folks at home of the living arrangements of your average IRR soldiers stuck in a deploying reserve unit...

14 February 2007



I have a living virus in me, and it was purposely put their by a much too eager Specialist at the Med-Shed today. Happy Valentines Day to me! Part of being deployed to a foreign theater is a slew of immunizations to protect you from the various bugs that live in that particular region. I originally had a bunch of shots at Benning, but I was told today that what I received wasn’t enough. Typhoid, Hepatitis B series and PPD, topped off with 3 punches of a needle dipped in small pox. Now I know that small pox almost wiped out an entire third world country in the past so it gives me the heebie jeebies to know that they are putting this bug into me in order to build my immune system against it. And to make you feel good about getting the needle jabs, they put a bunch of very graphic pictures on the wall of the exam room of what it will do to you if you ever got it (even more graphic than the picture of Ryan’s severed finger). I have to take especially good care of it for the next few days (don’t touch it, don’t wash or dry it with anything that you’re not going to throw away immediately afterwards, don’t go around pregnant people or people with skin disorders, don’t touch the spot and touch your eyes or open sores, don’t forget to change the bandage daily for 30 days, don’t look at it funny or call it names like Sally or Francis). I’ve seen a few small pox scars in my day and they don’t look all that pretty, so I’m going to be especially anal about taking care of this pre-battle wound to try and avoid being marked for life.



I think I’ve stated before and have even posted pictures of the Army’s choice in new battlefield uniforms. Called ACUs, or Advanced Combat Uniform, it has a pixilated pattern on it to disrupt a person’s perception of the outline of the soldier from a distance. It’s a pretty “high speed” outfit (military speak for ‘pretty cool’) and I acquired 4 more sets of the uniform today at the issue point (the place that Ryan, Chris and I were originally going to go before Ryan chopped his finger off yesterday). Despite the freezing temps in the warehouse, we stripped down to PT shorts and T-shirts to try on the uniforms that they had laid out for display. Mind you, we already have uniforms and we know our sizes, but this ritual is something that all the folks who are deploying had to go through at one point or another. I had Mr. “9.5 fingers” take a picture to show how ridiculous we looked since he didn’t have to don the required attire to try his on due to his injury so I apologize about the blurriness. What do you expect from a non-Asian who is missing parts of his digits?

It took me back to R-Day at school when we had to walk around in crazy uniforms at issue points and had to have our socks pulled up to our knees (I pushed mine down on purpose for the picture). The reflections on our shorts are from the reflective “Army” logos on our PT shorts. It helps so that we can be seen by cars when we run at zero early thirty in the morning for PT, but it hampers us when we try to sneak up on the enemy in the dark wearing only our exercise outfits.

12 February 2007



The profession of arms has certain risks that go along with the job. Needless to say, it is inherently dangerous to purposely put oneself in harms way. One has to accept that injuries, to oneself or to those in your unit, are more prevalent as a soldier when compared to a profession in say, tax preparation or pet grooming. Today we had our first casualty, and we are not even in a combat zone. Ryan, a medical captain from Indiana who went through CRC with me at Benning, had the tip of his right middle finger cut off from a steel door at the issue facility. The wind had caught this heavy metal door as he was running in to see if they were open and he wasn’t able to move his right hand away fast enough. At first he though he just smashed it, but when I had to chase him inside to get some medical help, I found the other piece of his finger on the floor. After sticking into a plastic bag with a handful of snow, we rushed off with an MP escort to the hospital which is about 10-15 minutes from the area we were in. Unfortunately, they were unable to save the tip of his finger and had to reconstruct the stump with what they had. I would get into details about it, and I even have photos of the injury, but I will refrain as it is a bit graphic, especially if I start to give details about how they had to cut his bone down in order to close the wound. Sorry. It really was graphic for the entire 5 hours that we sat in the emergency room while trying to keep his mind occupied on other things instead of his finger. I kept thinking of all the other people I know that have lost partial parts of their fingers for one reason or another (BV & GD) and how they reacted when they realized that they digits weren’t going to be their full length anymore. Ryan did a pretty good job and is in just a state of disbelief that this happened to him. We have decided that he is cursed and all of us have vowed not to ride in a HUMMV with him in country. All in all, he is all bandaged up and doing well, but is just missing everything from just above the last knuckle forward. They don’t know how this will affect his deployment, but I’m sure they’ll fill him in tomorrow when we go through medical screening. One good thing is that he’s a lefty and I think we’re going to put him in for a purple heart. :)

What started out as just a cold tromp to the truck through a foot of snow and ice turned out to be a pretty hectic day. I thought that Kansas was known more for it’s tornados than it’s snow storms! I think I’m starting to love Kansas as much as I love Missouri!



There are two places that a soldier must go to draw his gear. One place is CIF (central issue facility) and RFI (rapid fielding initiative). Both places give you oodles of supplies that the every day combat warrior needs to do his or her job. All said and done, I came out with 3 Army duffle bags of equipment. As the pictures will show you, I’ve got a LOT of stuff! The thing that surprised me was the number of boots they gave me; total count was 5 pair. Does Uncle Sam think that he is outfitting an army of octopi? I was issued 3 sets of hot weather boots, one pair of Gore-Tex waterproof boots and even a set of artic winter boots, complete with insulated booties. Counting the pair I already have, that makes it a total of 6 sets of footwear that I’m going to war with. Sounds pretty excessive, doesn’t it?

As for the rest of the stuff, I think I hit the highlights of it yesterday. Most all of it, with the exception of the canteens and large rucksack, is brand new stuff that I’ve never seen or wore in my time in the Army. I think the piece of gear with the most “cool” points is the new helmet. The ACH (advanced combat helmet) replaced the old K-pot (Kevlar) and is very comfortable. The clunky and heavy shell with the nasty sweatband on the inside was replaced with lighter (and stronger) material, a sensible harness system and molded inserts that are almost like a football helmet. If you have to wear something on your head for a long period of time to protect you from rocks, debris, and the occasional bomb fragment, then this helmet should be pretty bearable.

The overall best piece of clothing that came in my duffle bag of fun was the fleece, cold weather, black, 1 each. This is the best thing the Army ever allowed it’s soldiers to wear! I was jealous of everyone who had already bought one prior to coming here because they look very warm. And, after wearing mine today, I will attest that they are all that and a bowl of grits!

Still have lots to do to in-process with the unit. More poking and prodding at medical and admin SRP (soldier readiness packets), I have to draw more uniforms from the issue points (4 more sets), and then there is the whole weapons issue. I should be able to take care of most of it tomorrow if the weather holds out. It’s sleeting now and rumor has it that there will be snow. It’s hard to know what to expect since we are void of TV, internet and radio here. The little bits I can catch on the radio in the truck on our short drives to various issue points have to suffice as the only real intel I get from the outside world. I hope to get internet soon, but we’ll see.

11 February 2007

In the Heartland

In the heartland

It’s the end of the weekend here at Fort Riley, Kansas and all of us are anxiously waiting to see what the next week will bring. Okay, maybe not “all” of us because there are a number of folks who have been here for the past 7 days and they already know what to expect; more in-processing, more medical, more legal, more training, and most of all, more waiting around. One thing that will be different is that they will be giving us a bunch of gear. I got a quick preview of the stuff we will be drawing this week and I’m here to tell ya that there are some pretty nifty things that Uncle Sam is providing what I like to call the “soldiers of the surge”. Most of the gear is brand spanking new. This would be unheard of in most cases since activated reservists tend to get the left overs. Since the new digital camo is all “official”, most of the gear is brand spanking new, or no more than a year or two old. I’d list all the fancy things I am getting as I know that there are a few gear heads out there that would be interested, but for the most part, people wouldn’t know the difference between an ACOG and an Aimpoint or the subtleties of why Oakley glasses are better than Wiley-Xs. Let’s just say that for 75% of the stuff I will be drawing is the “good stuff”, designed with lots of insight as to what will help the soldier on the battlefield, and very much an improvement over the old issued items. Technology is great, but it can be a double edged sword in this case. For example, we have the latest and greatest personal armor on the market, but it weighs a heck of a lot more than the old armor. I say that as long as it helps in keeping my butt from being shot off, then I’ll take it!

The living conditions here at Riley are spartan, but they are much better than they were at Benning, but slightly worse than at Wood. I’m sharing a dorm style room with LT Chris and it’s not all that bad. We have separate rooms with big closets and no frills furniture (however, I ended up with 3 lamps and no chair). We share a bath and kitchenette that are very small, but for our purposes, very suitable for the time we’ll spend here. No phone, no bedding, no shower curtain, not a single luxury, to include the absence of TV and the internet. The cell phone reception is almost nonexistent, the mattresses are only slightly better than the asbestos tiled floor and the shower looks like either the breeding ground for some new strain of black mold, or the Army decided to buy some new black caulk and grout that just happens to be fuzzy. We spent most of yesterday night and this morning trying to make it more livable and thanks to the miracles of modern chemicals and a little elbow grease, (plus the personal purchase of a butt-load of cleaning supplies) it feels a little more comfortable. Rumor has it that we can get internet and cable in our rooms if we want to pay for it. Since there is a general day room for us to use for TV, I think we’ll pass on the cable TV (as long as they are watching LOST on Wednesday!). If I’m going to be here for as long as they tell me I’m going to be, my roommate and I might have to split the bill on the internet package just so we can be connected to the outside world.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, I’m not that guy who carries his laptop everywhere, searching for that lucrative free WiFi connection, or will you find me sitting by myself in some internet cafĂ© hunched over the blue/gray glow of my LCD monitor checking my email or the latest stock prices. I don’t need the internet, but it sure is nice to have. It allows me to access my financial information (which is important when the bill collectors are sending mail to an address I am not currently at), I can keep in touch with a lot of people (who doesn’t have an email account now a days?) and update this here blog. Sure I could use the phone to do most of these things, but it puts a burden on folks to track all of my stuff (which I don’t like to do) and if you don’t know by now, I’m a terrible letter writer. So, internet, while not a deployment necessity, it sure is handy to have. I think I’ll dish out the $20 a month to stay connected. Besides, I need to see what people are posting on my MySpace account.

10 February 2007

I took this picture on our way out from FLW to Riley. There was a young soldier, a Specialist, who was waiting for a ride to the airport so he could go to his next assignment, just like us. In prep for Valentines, he went to the PX and bought this bear for his girlfriend in hopes that he could meet up with her in between bases. I’m not sure where he was going and I’ve even forgotten his name, but I thought that it was a good picture to see a soldier’s personal gear that he will be taking to war with him contrasted by something as, dare I say cute, as a teddy bear. The only thing missing from the picture was a weapon, which I’m sure he had on his persons when he went into the orderly room to check the status of his ride, just like a good soldier would.

Heading West

Heading West

Today I leave lovely Fort Lost in the Woods for browner and colder pastures in Kansas. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been on active duty for 4 weeks. At a snail’s pace, I’m getting back into the groove of wearing the uniform. I find myself looking for my hat all the time (or beret in this case) and saluting is no longer as awkward as it was the first few days.

I got up early this morning to go to a “Reclamation Sale” on post. It’s a place where you can buy lightly used gear that can’t be recycled back into the Army. Most of the gear is from soldiers who were given their original issue of uniforms, but for some reason, got out of the Army due to medical reasons or failing a whiz quiz. When the soldiers leave, they have to turn in all of their nifty gear that Uncle Sam gave them, to include their PT uniforms, ACU uniforms, and even their issued boots. Even though the Army issues them skivvies, they let the departing soldiers keep them as sort of a consolation prize. “Thanks for coming, keep the underwear.” Most of the stuff at this sale is in fairly good condition and some of it still has the tags on from when it was originally issued. These sales are originally opened up to the lower ranks before the higher ups. They get first dibs on the good stuff a week prior to the post opening the sale to anyone with a military ID, as they should since they make a lot less than most of us. And when you can get a full set of ACU uniforms for $11 instead of the $70 it cost new at Military Clothing, it’s a bargain that you can’t pass up, unless you are hung over from partying the night prior and don’t wake up in time on a Saturday to go stand in a long line in the cold to save a few bucks. While the LT and I were in line waiting to get in the building, we were amazed to see the turn out of almost 300 people who braved the freezing Missouri mornings to get some second hand clothes. Since they only let 50 people at a time into the shed, we had to wait a good hour or so while we contemplated if saving a few bucks was worth the frostbite on our ears. We determined it was and ended up with a duffle bag each of gear that we may or may not use since we didn’t have time to carefully inspect the uniforms to see if they were serviceable. Since officers have to buy their own uniforms, this was a good deal for us IRR folks who won’t be wearing this stuff for very long after our stint is up, unless you’re the kind of person who likes to cut the grass in his combat boots and fatigue bottoms. Chris had the concern that the uniforms are probably cursed with the PT and drug test failures of the soldiers who donned them prior and he insisted that we get wash them before we depart for Riley. That’s probably a good idea as most of the stuff reeks of stress, and probably has scabies.

09 February 2007


It’s good to have friends who are still in uniform. I am lucky enough to know a few folks here at FLW either from my old Army days or through my parents. While I haven’t been the best getting in touch with either of them since I arrived here almost a two weeks ago, I did get to see Jen and her family, mainly because she was the commander of the officer advance course company Chris and I are getting classes from. Now Jen is a hoot, and she was a blast when she was a young LT in my prior unit. I hear of her exploits through Kristine most now and it appears that she has done pretty well with the Army. Her husband is in the military too and a commander in another company. They have a beautiful son and they are the typical proud parents who were put through some non-typical medical complications with their boy. It’s all good now because he is doing fine and is busy being a typical 1+ year old. The military has done a good job of taking care of the medical bills and flexible schedule needed for a child with special needs. Gripe all you want about the Army, but you have to give them props for keeping this military family out of the poor house due to outlandish medical bills. Jen and her husband are what we commonly refer to is “lifers” since they are almost at their halfway mark towards retirement. They are going to stay in, get some advanced civil schooling, and go teach at West Point over the next 5 years. I know that they can treat us IRR folks a little substandard at times, but it’s good to hear a positive story every once in a while about the military taking care of it’s own. Besides, Jen is one of the “good guys” and she deserves a break from the years of BS that most officers have to go through to get to where she is at today.

I did call my parent’s friends who are also stationed here. He is an Engineer as well and has spent multiple months away from his family due to multiple tours overseas. I know him as Ron and I hope to link up with him before I depart. On the phone with him, he called me “sir”. I had to laugh at that one. :)

06 February 2007

Liquid state

Do you see that? That is snow returning back to a more acceptable state...the liquid kind. It's actually hot here today, or at least it's relatively hot. The thermometer in the truck says that it's almost 60 degrees! It was a wind chill of 8 yesterday. EIGHT FREAK'N DEGREES!

I know I harp on the weather here a lot and I promise not to keep complaining about it in the future. I wish I had more cool Army stuff to write about, but I'm still waiting for an epiphany from the school house to inspire me.



I know I’ve complained a lot about the way lack of direction I’ve experienced in the last few weeks, but today the Army redeemed itself a little by giving us an instructor that actually took us through some “good to know” things. He gave us some useful tools to do our job in theater and also imparted some wisdom to us that isn’t in written down in a book or boring slide show presentation. If I had a dollar for every “death by powerpoint” presentation that I’ve sat through during this train up, I could afford to hire an unsuspecting Asian stand in to attend all of this training for me while I whoop it up back home. Granted, it took the FLW almost a week and a half to finally get us access to this CW3, but it’s better late than never.

02 February 2007



Just to give you an idea of how things are going here, let me replay a conversation I had with on of the instructors here:

Me: “So, what am I here to learn today?”
Instructor: “What do you want to learn?”
Me: “Well, this is your class, isn’t it? What do you teach?”
Instructor: “I teach a lot of things. What do you want to know?”
Me: “I’m not sure. The unit I’m going to said that I had to come here for engineer refresher training.”
Instructor: “What do you want to be refreshed on?”
Me: “Hmm. Not sure on that one. Since I’m an engineer captain, I guess engineering stuff. Can you give me any updates of changes in the military engineering system since I got out a few years back? You know, new computer programs or techniques that they are using now that they didn’t use 6 years ago?”
Instructor: “What kind of changes are you referring to?”
Me: “I don’t know. I was hoping you could tell me of anything that I need to know in order to do my job.”
Instructor: “What will you be doing?”
Me: “I don’t know that one either. They haven’t told me yet.”
Instructor: “Well, I’m not sure what to teach you. What do you want to be taught?”
Me: “Maybe anything that I need to know in theater that will help me do my job better.”
Instructor: “What will you be doing?”
Me: “I told you already, I don’t know.”
Instructor: “Then why are you here?”
Me: “Because they told me to come here.”
Instructor: “Why?”
Me: “I don’t know. Something about supporting the war effort and stuff like that. Look, they called me back into active duty and I’m just following orders. I just need to know what I’m doing here.”
Instructor: “I’m not sure. Who sent you here?”
Me: “The Army did.”
Instructor: “Who is this ‘Army’ that you speak of?”
Me: “I’m going back to my room. Please call me if you can find something to teach me.”

Okay, maybe I embellished the last bit a little, but for the most part, it’s a reflection of how things have been here for the past week. I think today we made some headway towards some specialized training which was a big boost in morale. See, I’m not completely cynical! I found the positive in this situation, although it DID take some digging.