24 March 2007



MOUT is the acronym for Military Operations in Urban Terrain. Broken down into civilianeese, it means combat in the city. Most troops today who go through basic training have extensive schooling on this form of “street fighting” do the the current "popular" war location and they do a lot of practice in the types of procedures they need to take when the battlefield is all around you. As predominantly staff soldiers, we don’t receive that much training on how to do things like clear a building or moving (on foot) through an urban environment since our jobs mainly keep us in fortified bases in which we only move from base to base in the protection of armored vehicles. However, the battlefield is constantly changing, and now everyone needs to know how to fight in the city, even the potential staffers.

We’re lucky enough to have a great wealth of knowledge on our team in the form of law enforcement personnel who do urban combat on a day to day basis. Combining their skills with the teachings of seasoned veterans who have performed sweeps and patrols in the cities of Iraq and Afghanistan and you have yourself not only a very useful day of training, but one that is very physically demanding, not to mention having a slight fun factor to it.

I’d go into all the details of what we did and how we did it, but I think something would get lost in the translation. From the pictures of our practice runs, you can see that there is definitely a SWAT influence to the stacking technique and there are reasons for every deliberate movement we make. The instructors were impressed with us since this wasn’t our first time moving in this manner. Our prior training from the Task Force Commander helped us to quickly bypass the standard “crawl” phase of training and jump right into the “walk” and “run” phases.

We were taught that movement in a city is like a 3 dimensional chess game, and you have to be both physically and mentally fit to stay alive. Also, knowing your job in the team and knowing the jobs of everyone else helps to make you an effective “4 headed monster spitting bullets,” to quote the instructor.

I don’t think they will send me over to theater to do this as my primary job, but the information we learned will help us in case we are ever in a situation where we don’t have the protective blanket of the base security or the layers of steel armor of the tracked or wheeled vehicles to keep us safe.

Alas, another “good Army day” to put in the archives.

A four headed monster spitting bullets, or blanks in this case

23 March 2007

Friday Night Fun

Friday Night Fun

Friday night for most people is a time to wind down from a long week of work and go out for a meal, a movie, or a drink. Maybe you have a ritual date night with a significant other. Maybe you want to just hit the local happy hour to talk about the weekend with your coworkers. Friday night for folks deploying is spent trying to shoot things with big guns.

The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been in service with the US Army for a LONG time. We’re talking since the WWI time era with little to no changes to the design or function of the weapon. It’s reliable, accurate, and freak’n loud, which is bad for the gunner’s ears, but even worse for the guy down range catching the half inch slugs of lead and copper. We spent our 3rd day of doing PMI for these weapons and then went to the range that evening.

I would love to say that I was a steely eyed killer and knocked down everything I could with the belt of 130 rounds they issued me, but the best I could do was to knock down the far barn door sized 1000 meter targets and only a few of the “troops in the open” targets. Pretty sad considering that this is a machine gun. I’m sure with a little more practice I could be a little more accurate, but I’m not sure how much more practice they’ll give us on this weapon system since I won’t be a designated turret gunner in theater. Let’s just hope that I only have to face insurgent barns at over 1000 meters, because if I do, they’re toast!

CPT Kevin during PMI

This is what 145 rounds of pure hurt looks like

My trusty AG (assistant gunner)

Sure, he hit a few more than me, but that's because I softened the targets up for him

CPT B and MSG T on the truck on the next lane

22 March 2007



The past few days have been spent in a large building trying to inflict harm on each other. Well actually, we were supposed to be learning Combat Lifesaver Skills (CLS), which is the direct opposite of inflicting harm on one another but that’s beside the point. The CLS class was conducted by Army medics and they gave us three full days of class work, practical exercises and tests. The training is very useful and it’s always good to have a few CLS folks around when you happen to be in a war zone, especially when we don’t get issued our very own medic and they haven’t developed enough body armor to prevent every injury that could happen when people try to blow you up. The CLS’s job is to just stabilize the injured until real help is sent, or the patient is picked up by a helicopter or ambulance. The closest civilian comparison is EMT training, although EMTs are taught to deal with a much larger variety of situations than a CLS.

Stop bleeding:

The body has about 6 quarts of blood in it which is roughly a gallon and a half. You need this stuff to bring oxygen to the brain and organs. Ask anyone who has given a pint of blood at the local donation center (note: go give blood!) and they’ll tell you that you can get a little weak in the knees afterwards. Wounds greater than a paper cut can make the body lose a lot of blood, so we need to know how to stop it by using things like tourniquets and pressure dressings.

MSG Tim getting his noggin bandaged up

Fix a Tension Pneumorthorax:

Fix a what? Yeah, that’s what I said. Without getting too technical, it means sticking a needle in the patient’s chest to relieve tension brought on by the chest cavity being compromised and the lungs getting squashed under the pressure. (hint: go rent “Three Kings” with George Clooney and Marky Mark to get a better visual of this).

One of the dummies we use to practice technique on

Clear the airway:

Basically, this is sticking a tube up a person’s nose to open the airway. That’s right. We’re soldiers here and there will be no French kissing CPR moves on the battlefield. Instead, we’re going to lube up a tube and ram up your nose until it reaches your throat. Makes you think twice for volunteering for a demonstration in a CLS class like this unfortunate soul did.

You picked a bad day to volunteer to be a demonstrator

Evacuate a casualty:

People are heavy. People with 50 to 60 lbs of gear on are even heavier. I remember trying to drag my passed out brother from my truck to the house and it was a lot of dead weight to manage, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to move a person of that size under fire. We learned how to use some makeshift stretchers and such to transport the wounded, and we didn’t even drop anyone.

CPT Brendan laying down on the job

Sled rides for everyone!

Insert and IV:

The IV part involved the most pain as we didn’t practice on a mannequin or a dummy (some might argue the latter), but instead we stuck one another. Not a lot of fun, but since you partnered up with the person who sticks you, you have the chance to repay the favor when you stick them. Thanks to the folks at Carter Blood Care, I'm pretty comfortable around needles (thanks Ginny!) but the IV day made me appreciate the staff at the blood place much MUCH more.

CPT Kevin feeling woozy

CPT Brendan fishing for a vein

Here is the victim I successfully stuck (notice he's still alive and smiling)

Here is a pic of my arm (what you won't notice is that I'm NOT smiling)

Take a Test:

We took a 40 question exam to test if we were awake for our classes. Not real hard, but you couldn’t have fallen asleep in classes and do well.

Practical Exercise:

We had two scenarios where we had to treat and evacuate casualties from a building which was hit by simulated mortar and conduct a patrol in order to practice evacuating our own casualties. I didn’t get a lot of pictures of these as we were on the move a lot and I didn’t get the chance to bring out the camera.

Overall, I’m pretty confident in my ability to do CLS on the battlefield. Its another skill I’ve learned these past two months that I hope I’ll never have to actually perform. It’s all part of that “hope for the best, prepare for the worse” that I’ve been harping about for all this time. So, be sure to pack some hope in that next care package you put together... or pack pizza, because pizza fixes everything.

19 March 2007



I’ve been called a lot of things in my life; sneaky Asian, zipperhead, G, G-money, G-smooth, and gookman to name a few. For the life of me, I can never recall being called a phlogger. I don’t believe this is a real word, but one that was made up by an acquaintance of mine in responding to my blog just having pictures in it instead of any real verbal substance in it. I have to admit that as of late, I’ve been a little busy to draft up something witty or insightful into the preparations that I and my team have been making for our trip overseas. No deep thoughts or comical banter to relate, but despite these shortcomings, I do have a plethora of pictures at my disposal which are easy to resize and post with a one sentence caption here or a very short story there. Have I turned into a full blown phlogger? Maybe there is still hope.

17 March 2007


We've been in the computer lab these past few days, trying to stay awake while we learn the Army's new fang-dango computer system used to track stuff on the battlefield. It's a very high speed system that was introduced back when I was stationed at Hood with the whole Force XXI thing, so I guess it's not really "new". It's used to track lots of stuff and give commanders a better virtual view of the playing field, but it also reminds me of the old Intellivision game of Sub Hunt in the level of graphics and skill needed to operate it. Again, it's a great system, but class work is a little dry, as you can see by CPT Brendan slowly losing consciousness

By the way, some of you who are regular readers might have noticed a change in the comments section. I went ahead and erased the requirement for you to create an account or log in with your old account in order to post comments. I did this because most of the people I know keep forgetting their pass words or don't like to register. So, if you want to leave a comment, go ahead and post it. It might take a day or two for it to show up but trust me, it will show up after it is screened for any spam or inappropriate self photos. Just be sure to leave your name so I know who to request more pictures from. :)

Oh, by the way, Happy Saint Patrick's Day to the Irish folk out there. Being a little Irish myself, I made sure to wear green today, just like I do every day.

16 March 2007

City Streets!

Every Friday we do hand to hand combat training. It's something that we do in place of the normal PT and it's a good way to get your frustrations out. It's also a good way to throw your boss on the ground and choke him and have him think that you are just doing it for the training value.

Yes, that is my boss I'm beating up.
SGT Slaughter in ACUs!

14 March 2007



This picture of our poor Captain Brendan is what it feels like to be in the Army today... like it’s about to dump on us.

Taking 3 hours to do a 30 minute task is not fun. That’s what happened for our M2 PMI class. Do you know what else isn’t fun? Cleaning weapons for 4 hours. We cleaned weapons that quite possibly never saw the benefit of a cleaning rod nor a solvent laden tooth brush since they were brought into service some 3 or 4 years ago. Needless to say, we weren’t happy campers. However, a theory of mine was validated again today while we were sitting in the motor pool up to our ears in caked on carbon and blue-green copper residue. Ask any soldier to do a crappy task and he will do it. He might not be very happy about it, but he will do it nonetheless. Now, give that same soldier the promise of pizza, and he will still do that same task, but this time he won’t be so glum. I didn’t say he would be happy, but the sounds of complaints will be drowned out by the shoving of food into his pie hole. Pizza fixes a lot of things, followed closely by promise of money, time off, and alcohol.

CPT Brendan does not like cleaning this particular weapon

Cleaning this weapon makes the Rat Fink mad!

It even makes me give the Angry Asian face.

Pizza fixes everything

13 March 2007

Machine Guns

More weapons training today. In fact, it was a much longer day that we had originally expected. I'm tired. Instead of typing something witty, I'll just post a few pics.

Is that Captain Kevin, or the next sexy centerfold for Guns and Ammo?

He's like a turtle...an old, can't hit the broadside of barn, helpless turtle.

MSG Tim trying to knock down a few "Ivans"

Me a few hours ago

12 March 2007

10 Things that are good about Kansas

10 Things that are good about Kansas:

1. The sunrise – Much like Texas, Kansas is the land of big sky, which is a polite way of saying that it’s as flat as Popeye’s girlfriend.

2. Buffalo – Where else can you see the set of “Dances With Wolves” and the mighty “tah-taunka” right across the street from the local airport? Did I mention that there is a sign that reads "buffalo for sale"? For pets, grass control, meat, or entertainment at your next bar mitzvah.

3. The Locals that laugh like hyenas – I don’t interact with the locals much since we spend most of our time on the base, but the one time I did go to the local dive (or the red neck bar) I met the local barfly, complete with obnoxious laugh, hankering for the same Johnny Cash song on the jukebox and only 3 yellow teeth to his name.

4. The Little Apple – The nearest town is Manhattan, which calls itself the “little apple”. It’s not that great of a place as far as college towns go, but I like the fact that they have the gumption to give themselves a moniker that ensures they won’t be confused with New York City.

5. The fact that I don’t live here – Yes, that is a semi-negative thing, but I’m very glad that I don’t live in this state. I’m sure it would be great if I lived near a major city like Topeka or KC, but out where I am, I’m afraid that I wouldn’t survive the standardized wardrobe of painted on Wranglers, flannel shirts and the mandatory mullet hairdo.

6. Tornado shelters – They didn’t depict the twister of the Wizard of Oz in this state just by chance. Here are examples of the concrete tornado shelters positioned by the modular buildings that we have class in, because you know that God hates modular buildings and trailers. That’s why they always get slammed with tornados!

7. Summer temps in March – It got up to 73 degrees today, which is stark contrast to the below zero temps we had last week. I’m sure there will be a blizzard by the end of the week.

8. College towns – Kansas State University is in the town next to the base, so we usually head to the local row of restaurants and sports bars when we have a night free. It’s nice to get away, but damn it makes me feel old to see a bunch of 20 somethings run around without a care in the world, except how many more beers they can have before they pass out.

9. Proximity to Texas – Did you know that the Texas border is only 6 hours away from here? I mention that in case anyone from that way wants to come up and kidnap me.

10. The sunset – Just like #1. Although this isn’t a great representation of the sunset here, it was pretty cool right before we did our night fire qualification tonight.

10 March 2007



In my rock swimming class at school, we had this move called the “bob and travel”. It’s where you dunk yourself underwater and go straight to the bottom of the pool and then push yourself off at a 45 degree angle to pop out of the water at a different location. Later on, we adapted this phrase to the bobbing motion that one’s head makes when they are fighting to stay awake in a dry lecture. Despite the large amounts of coffee I guzzled down, and I don’t drink coffee, I think I almost broke my neck trying to appear attentive.

I think the classes were good and of the little bit I stayed conscious for, I think I will be able to use most of the information when I deploy. A majority of it was just common sense, but there were some things that I think the soldiers who have deployed before us might not have known and their actions could have rubbed the natives the wrong way. Learning things like how to negotiate with a culture that seals deals with a handshake rather than a signature on a contract, or how work meetings will be divvied 90/10 between socializing and business, arms us with a great deal of knowledge that will come in handy.

No night fire tonight, so the CPT Mafia might go out for some dinner. I’m going to miss my truck. :(

09 March 2007



Yesterday, during what I will call the MRE incident, my commander swore off eating another pre-packaged meal for lunch after a violent reaction to the soy meat patty he was foolishly led to believe was edible. Because of this, he dug deep into his Colonel pockets and splurged for pizza for the team. At the break of our class for lunch, the Dominos guy brought in 4 square boxes of the most delicious pizza I’ve had in 6 weeks, which isn’t saying much since the last pizza I had was from the “Papa” at Fort Leonard Wood back in the beginning of February.

It’s amazing how I’ve only been activated for just shy of 2 months and I’m starting to miss things that I took for granted before. What’s sad is that I’m still stateside! It was the TV at first, but I’ve been busy enough to where I don’t really miss watching the boob tube much. If I really wanted to watch TV, they have a 25” TV in the dayroom that usually is spewing out some sit com or prime time drama. I’ve got my books to read, course material to study, gear to prep for the next day of training, and this here blog to take up my TV time. As for the pizza, in my normal civilian life, might only eat a pie once a month (if that), so it surprised me how much I missed pizza until someone mentioned that the boss ordered it. For the last hour of class, I couldn’t even focus on the lecturer as I couldn’t get visions of flowing, stringy cheese and dancing pepperoni out of my head. I guess I should stock up now on those little luxuries while I can because I don’t think that Iraqi’s are known for their mad pizza making skills.

Pizza...the food of the gods!

I know I’ve complained about the cadre here, and for the most part, I’ve come to understand that they are just challenged. Here is an example of their handicaps...

This is a picture of the cadre who locked themselves in the motor pool. How does one do this you ask? I’m not sure myself, but I do know that it took them almost an hour to fix this situation so we could get our vehicles in and, more importantly, so they could get their vehicles out.

Help! We've locked ourselves in!

08 March 2007



The slowest days here are the ones spent sitting in class desperately trying to survive the onslaught of PowerPoint slides being thrown at you. What can be worse than that you ask? Well, how about a day sitting in a large room for a 9 hour lecture? Does that sound fun? If you think so, you need to go down to your local recruiter and sign up for the reserves. Go now, as seats are limited!

And what can make a fun filled day like this even more enjoyable? How about getting up extra early to hike to the motor pool to dispatch HMMWVs (jeeps) and drive them to the lecture when everyone else gets to sleep in and take the bus because the cadre didn’t have enough busses for you to take. And before you think that you can’t handle any more, let’s throw in an MRE lunch!

Okay, I’m complaining, but overall the lectures today were not that bad. They brought in a slew of professionals from all over to educate us on things like the Middle Eastern culture, the history of the conflicts overseas and the ins and outs of Islam. The last class was taught by a catholic priest who served in the Canadian army. He was by far the funniest speaker we’ve had to date and he made the class memorable by throwing in a lot of jokes, albeit clean jokes. I tell ya, those Canuks are a humorous bunch, but what would you expect from the nation that brought us the likes of Bob and Doug McKenzie and the Great White North, eh?

No, I'm not a vegetarian, but rather got this by the "un-luck" of the draw

My boss choking down a simulated BBQ beef pattie

07 March 2007

PMI round 2

PMI round 2

I spoke before what PMI was as we did it for our pistols last week. Today was a PMI for our rifles. Normally this means a day of disassembling and reassembling weapons, doing action drills and “dime and washer” exercises where you get down in a shooting position and someone puts a dime or a washer on your barrel. You then proceed to pull the trigger and try to make sure the dime or washer doesn’t fall off. It teaches you good trigger pull technique, although it’s pretty monotonous when they give you an hour to perform this task.

The Army surprised me today with a new tool they use to help soldiers get ready to go to the range and qualify on their assigned weapon. They call it the EST 2000 (electric shooting trainer) and it’s like a full size video game for soldiers, complete with actual rifles equipped with fancy laser beams. It lets you work out bugs in your technique before you head to the range, like the placement of your cheek on the rifle, your sight picture, and your breathing. The thing I learned the most from this trainer was that I’ve never shot a rifle before with 45 lbs of armor on. The IBA (individual ballistic armor) is a bit cumbersome and it takes a lot of adjusting to make sure that you are in a comfortable shooting position. Plus, the new helmet also has more adjustment points that one has to play with before you can set yourself up to take a good shot. Overall, I did well (even out shot my commander), but we’ll see how well I do on the range on Monday. All I know is that if I don’t do well, there will be a lot of fellow shooters at home who will be very disappointed in me and they would most likely pawn my weapons off before I come home.

Picture of the Army's advanced version of Duck Hunt

06 March 2007



I’m not a stranger around guns. Most folks who know me know that I’ve been a gun nut for most of my life (just look at my GI Joe collection in my uncle’s basement). I had a very brief stint on the Army pistol team and shot a lot of guns when I wore the uniform back in the day. I never really acted on my impulse to purchase and own a weapon until about a year ago when a friend of mine introduced me to a local gun show where I caught the “disease” (my bank account curses you Gordo!). Today, I’m the proud owner of way too many guns which are safely locked away someplace until I return. The Army issuing me two more weapons to carry everywhere I go for the next year and a half doesn’t help much in the way of helping my addiction, but at least I can’t purchase any more... for now at least.

Yesterday we did pistol qualification on the Army issued M9. After all of our PMI and such, we headed to the range around noon and didn’t roll off the range until way past dark. In traditional Army fashion, the waiting portion far exceeded the doing portion as I only got about 10 minutes of actually firing my weapon for the entire day.

To qualify, one has to knock down 18 of 30 pop up targets in various situations and ranges using 40 rounds of ammo. Not a hard task to do as most of these targets were close enough to kick over. We had to cycle almost 150 people through the range and most qualified easily. We did have some folks who needed help as they had never fired a pistol before, and that took some time to get them comfortable enough to have faith in their training.

Despite the fact that there are fixed sites on the weapon and I didn’t have time to familiarize the POA/POI (point of aim/point of impact), I qualified easily. I wanted to get a perfect score, but I missed it by a few which I’m not beating myself up about since I’ll get plenty of chances to shoot my weapon before I go. I did get some help on the night fire qualification by using a grip laser with projected a red dot on the silhouetted targets. The laser didn’t help much in the daytime, but it had a “Star Wars” feeling in the dark as I blew down simulated Stormtroopers with my trusty blaster. Ironically, when I got back late that night I received two more magazines in the mail (thanks Bach!) which are much better quality than the ones I’ve been issued. I could have used them on the range but the mail system has the speed of a snail with a ten pound shell... and I’m not even in a foreign country yet!

CPT Brendan, SFC Jay and MSG Tim at the range
MSG Tim helping a soldier on the range to qualify

03 March 2007



Ask any person in charge of an organization what is one of the most important parts of making a group perform well and they will most likely reply with “teamwork”. Ask that same manager what one of their biggest challenges are and they will probably tell you teambuilding. Classes have been given about it, countless books have been written about it, and some people even make a living off of speaking about it. If you want to know how important it is, ask anyone who is in a non-cohesive team how the feel about their team members and you’ll usually get a pretty negative response.

One thing the military has going for it is that you are forced to work together in a team. Now let me clarify something first... just because two or more people work well together at their job or sport does not mean that they have to like each other. Outside of the team environment, they can be indifferent of each other, or even harbor some resentment towards each other’s little annoying quirks, but they can still work well when they are placed in a situation where they have a job that others depend on them for and they, in turn, depend on the others to do their part. I will tell you that it has been my experience that teams who get along both inside and outside the team environment tend to be more cohesive and perform better than those who don’t, which is why in my civilian job I tried to get my group to do as much as they could together on their own time (usually their lunch times). In the Army, we have what is called “mandatory fun”. Usually it is an outing or event that forces you to take time out of your day off to spend with the unit, who are the same people you see on a day to day basis at work. Normally, folks do whatever they can to get out of these events, be it an organizational day or a dining out, but some of the most memorable times I had were from these events (not all of these memories were good, but they were memorable). After all the grumbling and moaning, the time spent developing these out of work relationships wasn’t as bad as we thought they would be. An added plus is if it helps to bring the team closer together, especially when you have a co-dependant relationship developed out necessity to keep each other alive on a battlefield, then its importance can never be properly conveyed by words.

Today was a teambuilding day for us. We started out with a little thing the military calls the obstacle course. Normally an event done individually and for time, the cadre threw in a few problem solving skills to challenge us to think and operate as a group. We have a pretty good team with a fair spectrum of rank and age between us and we didn’t let the freezing winds get the best of us. Some folks really stepped up and took charge of situations that had way too many chiefs trying to run, and others showed that they don’t work well under pressure. We learned a lot about each other, which is a good thing. Just because someone doesn’t do well on an obstacle or spazzes on a challenge doesn’t make them a bad person/leader/soldier. Just like raising the blinds on a dark room, it brings to light the things that need to be worked on that were not noticeable in the shade. More importantly, it shows the individual of the kinks in their own armor that they need to improve. On a side note, I heard someone repeat this cliché, but they changed the word “kink” with “chinks”. I guess it would be pretty disheartening to know that you had a bunch of Asians in your armor. No wonder our bullet proof vests are so heavy.

My commander dressing up a stuffed bobcat at "team building"

02 March 2007



The meals I ate during my college days were far from exciting, except for the pizza pockets, pudding pops, and corn chowder which were days to look forward to with much anticipation. The other meals were by no means bad, but despite their best efforts to mix up the menu, you were eventually eating the same thing again and again. The meals in the DFAC (dining facility) here at Fort Riley are similar. I’ve only been eating here for going on 3 weeks now, but you can’t help but notice the meal rotation, or the creative ways they turn today’s left over noodles into tomorrow’s beef stroganoff. So, in order to not get into a rut, one of the captains from my team decided that today was the day for us to order in Chinese food. The hot and spicy shrimp I ordered wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it helped to break up the monotony of the mess hall food.

Here is the fortune cookie I received today with my Styrofoam container of rice and shrimp. In a tradition that I can trace back to my college days when we would make the cheesy fortunes more fun by adding “...in bed” to the end of the saying, I did the same today. The suffix really didn’t make much sense when applied this fortune, but I kind of hope that this fortune comes true without the “in bed” part when the mail clerks make their delivers tonight.



PMI stands for Pre Marksmanship Instruction. It’s what the military’s equivalent of class work for an upcoming weapon’s qualification. Soldiers go over the basics, like breaking down their weapon, how to load it (and load it safely), draw it, shoot it, and clear it. Today we focused on our pistols. Our team is fortunate enough to have a senior police officer and two US Marshals in its ranks who all add valuable input to the instruction that we receive from the regular cadre. Today, after our round-robin events, we did some transition drills with our pistols and rifles which is similar training that the SWAT folks get. Again, very good training for the type of environment we’ll be going to, even if most of us will be staff weenies in theater.

The green plastic army man in the middle of this picture is what we commonly call “Ivan” in the military circles. It’s a throw back to the cold war days when the targets we shot at resembled our then Russian enemy. Today it was a training aid to help us focus on our sight pictures. The guy on the right is Brendan, a fellow Captain on my team with about the same amount of reserve experience as me (none) and the guy on the left acting like an OG (original gangster) is me, just in case the sunglasses fooled you by hiding my slanted eyes.