Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The FOB and a dedication to Becca and Eli

This week I am at the FOB

What is a FOB? It's basically like a prison, surrounded by guard towers and concertina wire, only you're trying to keep people OUT instead of keeping people IN.

Wiki definition

Of course, my FOB isn't a "real" FOB - it just simulates the suckiness of one. Here's a mental picture - 160 guys sleeping in a giant tent on bunk beds.

Anyways, I'll stop complaining since I don't have it bad seeing as how I can still strap on my M4 and wander down to the dining facility to get on the internet.

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Dedication to Becca

I ended up spending this past weekend at the barracks because I got screwed into pulling 6 hours of CQ duty - long story. Anyways, I finally saw The Dark Knight and I caught up on my sleep.

While eating lunch at the PX food court, I heard this cool song by Alicia Keys - I have been listening to it a lot (since I'm an obsessive compulsive freak) and I want to dedicate it to my one and only Becca - love you baby!



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Edited to add a dedication to Eli

Eli and I are developing quite the long distance phone call relationship. We tell each other stories before bedtime as well as jokes. I'm glad that he's mine!

Here's our song that we've sung to each other ever since he was about 3. It's so cute when he sings this one with you!

http://youtube.com/watch?v=QCe2GwscXgo

Monday, July 28, 2008

Was it worth it? (all videos are up)

Many of you might wonder why a person would be motivated to sell their soul to Uncle Sam. Some want to pay for college, some have ideals about serving their country... others (like me) know that they would NEVER be able to afford the opportunity to fire machine guns, grenade launcher, and GRENADE MACHINE GUNS without Uncle Sugar footing the bill.

Luckily, a buddy of mine in the platoon happened to have his camera with him. I'm extremely enthusiastic because I LOVE this stuff!

The best part is that my platoon was in charge of disposing of all the leftover ammo. That entailed firing a box of thirty-six 40 mm grenades as quickly as possible (my buddy 2LT Genin loaded while I fired), firing of 100 rounds of .50 browning machine gun rounds in two 25 round bursts, and linking together about 200 rounds of ammo for the SAW.

I'd fired most of these weapons before (except for the M2 and the Mk 19), but I love firing them so much that I forgot that it was about 100 degrees outside and that I was wearing 20 lbs of body armor over my ACU's plus a kevlar helmet. I couldn't stop smiling the whole time!

I have video of ME this time, so check it out...

Here is my "intro" to U.S. weapons
video

The M2 .50 cal machine gun


The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon
(I don't appear until halfway through the video)


The m240B General Purpose Machine Gun through the TC hatch of a Humvee


The M203 grenade launcher


The Mk 19 Grenade Machine Gun

Friday, July 25, 2008

And the plot thickens...

...today while competing in a combatives bout, one 2LT Nolan had his nose broken by another LT who is his friend.

The IRONY here is that 2LT Nolan just barely had surgery to correct a deviated septum just before coming to BOLC II and didn't want to participate in the combatives portion of the course because of that reason. Secondary to that, he was afraid that a broken nose would result in his being "recycled" - doomed to be held back and start BOLC II again with the next class of LT's.

Luckily, Nolan will not be recycled and looks as handsome as ever!

I on the other hand, did NOT get my nose broken... However, while attempting to put the cross collar choke hold on 2LT Bracher from the dominant "guard" position, I had an NCO trainer tell me "not to execute a choke from a non dominant position". Confused, I released my opponent who then slipped out of my guard and took a dominant position on me. I spent the next 45 seconds keeping him from putting a bent arm bar on me.

I got up, shook hands with my buddy Bracher, and we walked off the field brushing the dirt off our faces, smiling at the fact that we were finally done choking and beating each other for the rest of the cycle.

If you want an idea of what Army combatives at BOLC II looks like, check this out:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And another thing...

For the past 3 days, the air conditioning in the barracks has made a sound reminiscent of a freight train at all hours of the day and night. This is NOT conducive to sleeping - is BOLC II a reality show and there are hidden cameras to measure our reactions to sleep loss?

While running the SMR range today (short range marksmanship), we had a storm move in. Apparently the Army can't conduct training outside once lightning strikes are visible - so we called it a day, packed it all in, and then sat in a bus for half an hour before the range could be "cleared". Apparently, in Georgia on a school bus, when you leave the AC running the condensation builds up rapidly and has nowhere to go. That is, until it overflows and spills onto 2LT Brough, who just happens to be sitting right under it. Also, apparently when the prior conditions are in place, when the charismatic NCO bus drive hops on the bus and punches the gas, the rest of the built up water will come pouring out onto where I was previously sitting (I had enough sense to move) and ironically it will come out of the other AC unit onto the only Lieutenant to make light of my predicament (Karma might actually exist).

Too make it all better, a few of us went to the Olive Garden in Columbus, where we enjoyed a delicious meal and acted like we were in junior high - commenting on the "20 pieces of flair" that the server was wearing on her collar.

Hope the rest of you are also enjoying your summer!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This week in the news...

Cody Shepard turned 30 this past weekend - I attended his surprise birthday party at the Tarbet residence at Fort Rucker. This party took a few interesting turns - I went from being somewhat bored listening to a gaggle of pilot students and an instructor talk about the nitty gritty details of rotary wing aviation, and then within an hour we were on the post golf course to test out Cody's new golf clubs.

It was so late that the course wasn't open - but the lights for the driving range were on. The ball machine was empty, so we had to collect balls off the range on foot. If you're thinking "this isn't very adventurous and/or interesting", you might be right - that is until the skunk ran out into our little formation of people gathering golf balls. The next logical step (for some of us anyways) at that point was to begin lobbing golf balls at the skunk. Cody was able to hit it and get it to raise its tail. No one got sprayed, so it turned out well in my opinion.

Earlier in the day, Josh and I went to a place to go swimming (that is definitely within 150 driving miles of Fort Benning, GA - seeing as how I didn't have a weekend pass) with some of his friends. Josh and I applied liberal amounts of sunscreen everywhere - except the parts of our backs that we couldn't reach on our own. We were both a little reluctant to ask each other "Hey, would you mind rubbing a little sunscreen on my back?" thus we both got "homophobic" sunburns.

I went to sick call this morning for mine, being that it is very painful and our class started combatives training this morning (like wrestling, only you get your opponent to submit by getting them in a position where you can cause extreme pain, break a bone, or choke them into unconsciousness - fun huh?), and it seemed like a sunburn might be EXTREMELY painful for such an activity.

Well - for my efforts to go to sick call, I got the following:
  • a bottle of tylenol for my sunburn
  • an ass-chewing from the captain who is in charge of my platoon (for being dumb and getting a sunburn).
I STILL haven't seen batman, but I hear it's good...

By the way, I'm trying to convince Becca to fly out to Atlanta so we hang out in the middle of my training - so if you talk to her, tell her what an awesome idea it is to fly out and visit your husband while he's missing his family at Fort Benning.

Thanks for reading
Stew

Friday, July 18, 2008

Night Fire

Maybe I'm easily impressed, but night fire is the most fun I've had so far here! It was just like a video game! I could see the green laser beam through my night vision and the bloom on the target... wow!

The best thing is that it's the first time I've been to an Army rifle range and it wasn't blasted hot.

That's all - just thought you'd like to know :-)

Here's a cool little video on youtube that shows what night fire looks like through a nigh vision monocular - you can skip ahead to 3 minutes 55 seconds to see the night fire portion of the video.

For reference, this is from A company of BOLC II, they were an earlier iteration this year - I'm in C company...

BOLC II, week 2 so far...

Okay, here's the highlights:

  • We finally stopped filling out forms, getting EO briefings, etc...
  • We were issued a bunch of gear - some of it pretty cool (night vision, laser sights, etc)
  • We range qualified with M4 rifles
  • Tonight we are doing night fire with the M4 using the aforementioned "cool" gear


I was issued an M4 with an M203 grenade launcher attached to it. If you're like me, then you are thinking, "Cool! Grenade launchers are AWESOME!" and you'd be right - they ARE awesome. The problem is that EVERYONE in my squad will be shooting grenades out of the M203 I'll be carrying - but I'll be the one carrying an extra 3 lbs on the end of my rifle and cleaning after trips to the range.

I shot a 29 out of 40 at the rifle range - which is the best I've ever done at an official qualifying range. The requirements were that we shoot at 20 pop up targets (from 50 to 300 meters away) from the prone position while resting the rifle on sand bags, then shoot at 10 targets from the prone without the sand bags, then 10 from a kneeling position. All of this is done wearing a kevlar helmet, Interceptor Body Armor (20 lbs), a load bearing vest with canteens and extra magazines, and the hot Georgia sun beating down on you since you started marching to the range.

I won't toot my horn too much though - it took me 4 attempts to qualify (23 or better), which is a first for me. Ironically, I shot a higher percentage of targets from the kneeling position than the prone positions - I think I felt more comfortable shooting from the knee because of all my bunny slaying excursions :-)

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Enough Army stuff...

I don't want to sound all sentimental and non-hooah, but I'm kind of sad that I'm missing out on shooting the tube this summer, playing rock band at Danny and Emi's, shooting stuff with my bros in law, and hanging out with all my family.

Most of all, I have REALLY missed Becca and Eli! Every time I talked to Eli, he asks me how I'm doing, if I miss him, when I'm coming home... every word he says is a tiny knife twisting in my heart. I LOVE THAT KID! He's toughing it out pretty well though, and I expect that he'll LOVE seeing all the tanks at Fort Knox, when he and Becca come out to stay with me during Armor OBC/BOLC III in Kentucky. Hopefully he'll be pretty excited to see me as well.

I keep thinking about Becca too - I always say that she's my best friend, but this training has proven it to be so true! I spend a lot of my free time on the phone with her - I need someone that I can talk to. It would be nice if she were around so I could hold her... but oh well - there's a time and place for everything.

It's my mom's birthday this weekend - This Saturday she's turning 35 again - if you're reading this mom, Happy Birthday!

I'm looking forward to spending another weekend at Fort Rucker. Shanell Dawson has gone to Utah for the rest of the month, so Josh's house is a haven for wifeless/childless husbands.

Friday, July 11, 2008

And so ends the first week of BOLC II...

Not with a bang or a whimper, but rather a smile and a sigh of relief.

I have just been released for my first weekend here at Fort Benning. I was PLANNING on heading down to Fort Rucker, but some freak schedule change has me pulling *CQ duty tomorrow morning from 4 AM to 6 AM. I still plan on heading down anyway, just a day later.

This week has been full of mostly administrative tasks, including filling out paperwork, getting shots, getting equipment issued, and learning about how hot it actually gets in Georgia. Training is going by a LOT quicker than at my other trainings as a cadet (where "weekend" was a meaningless term since Saturday and Sunday were no different than any other day of the week, and the term "being released" meant that we had finished several weeks of training and were going home, not "hey guys - it's 5:00, you're released for the day" and you can hang out it your room, go to a movie, go shopping, etc...

I still miss having my "babies" with me - Becca can attest to the fact that I've probably spent an excess of 6 hours on the phone with her and Eli this week. It will be nice to have them with me again when I head up to Fort Knox.

Well, if any of you wanted to send me an email or call, I'm usually off every day by 3:00 pm Utah time, and have every weekend off. (Can you tell I miss my family and friends already?)

*CQ : Charge of Quarters. A company-level position of responsibility for units who house troops in their areas. Given to a mid-level or junior NCO who is responsible for the company's barracks and area during off:duty hours when the company commander and First Sergeant are not present. Lasts from COB (usually 1700 hours) to First Formation (usually 0600 hours) the next day during the work week. On weekends, the duty hours are adjusted accordingly.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee...

I am at the end of my 3rd day at Fort Benning (incidentally, the Chattahoochee River of Alan Jackson fame really does run through the base).

BOLC II is a LOT better than any other course I've done with the Army, with the possible exception of CTLT at Fort Hood:
  • I'm getting my first training in the "real Army", not cadet land.
  • I get off every day at 5:00 PM
  • I am getting paid as a 2nd Lieutenant, instead of the cadet rate of $25 per day
  • I have people calling ME Sir for a change
  • ACUs are much more comfortable than BDUs
  • I have my xbox 360 and a TV in my room
  • I have my laptop and an internet connection (so I can blog among other things)
  • I have a car and the freedom to drive off post if I desire
There still are a few negatives:
  • I miss my cute wife and son
  • Georgia is amazingly hot and humid in the summer
  • I had another "Army birthday" - the day after we checked in (thanks to the people who emailed/texted/replied to Becca's blog post with happy birthday wishes to me - it meant a lot to me!)
Lucky for me the positives far outweigh the negatives and it's only 46 days until I head up to Fort Knox and I'll get to have "my babies" with me again.

I don't really have any pictures to upload because I didn't bring a camera with me... I'm hoping to borrow one soon so I can post some cool pictures to give you an idea of what it's like here.

So far we haven't really done too much - we've signed a lot of forms, sat through a bunch of briefings, and took a PT test this morning (got my run back down under 14 minutes thankfully).

Anyhoo - I'll keep you all updated as we start to do the "cool stuff" - next week we'll start combatives (beating each other up).

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Day 3 driving to BOLC II

Last night, I arrived in Ozark, Alabama, at 6:30 PM - meeting the Dawsons at the local Sonic Drive In.

The drive from Monroe to Fort Rucker was the shortest, but probably the most "painful". I found out the hard way that Alabama public toilets (including those found at Wendy's in Selma) aren't ever supposed to be cleaned.

Approaching Uniontown, Alabama on State road 80, I waited for 1/2 hour at the worst semi truck wreck I've EVER seen. I was lucky, some people had waited over 3 hours for the wreckage to be cleared.

Also, as you enter Montgomery, exit 168 off of I-65 is closed - so in order to get back on the Troy Highway, I had to take a 20 minute detour past 2 more closed exits and then take the "scenic" route through residential Montgomery.

I also had the pleasure of having 3 Indian (think Apu from the Simpsons, not Geronimo) gas station cashiers refuse accept payment with a credit card for a few bottles of water, unless I purchased at least $5 worth of merchandise.

I was glad to finally meet up with Josh and Chanelle Dawson, and later with the Tarbets and Shepards. It's funny to be around all these guys now that they have kids toddling around. We enjoyed some fireworks on post and talked as we walked back home (last night it was the Dawsons' home as they were kind enough to put me up for the night).

I'm still looking around for the Andreasons...

Anyways, I am quickly remembering what it's like to be in the South - there are bugs everywhere, and the humidity is palpable. Last night's 4th of July festivities were marked by a color guard dressed in Civil War period Confederate uniforms.

Also, most of the drive had the same scenery - vast expanses of tall trees, with a narrow swath through them for the roads. It doesn't feel like "home", but it doesn't feel as foreign as the first time either.

Hope you had a great 4th of July!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Day 2 of driving to BOLC II

I'm no expert, but I DID sleep at a Holiday Inn last night... (that's two posts in which I've used that joke, and it's still not funny).

Now I'm typing from the comfort of my hotel room in Monroe, Louisiana. I drove all day long... boy I'm starting to get tired of driving. Here's the highlights:

  • Started the day in Tucumcari, New Mexico, traveled through most of the northern half of Texas, and ended up in Louisiana.
  • Ate lunch at the most disgusting Dairy Queen ever at Childress, Texas - I seriously flicked 3 dead flies from my chair/table before I sat down. Oh yeah, and it looks like they're in the process of re-tiling... for the last 5 years.
  • Hit a freak thunderstorm in Texas - while I was admiring the huge raindrops (apparently some things really ARE bigger in Texas), I failed to notice the large volume of water accumulating on the freeway. This is a bad thing when you have your cruise control set at 78 MPH. I hydroplaned for about 10 "fun filled" seconds, until I was able to slow down and regain control. Ironically, I was more concerned that I not scratch/dent/wreck our new car, than I was that I not die in a violent auto accident.
  • Passed through Dallas, but failed to sight the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders or determine who shot J.R.
  • Called 911 as I left Shreveport, LA to report a brush fire in the median of the freeway (fireworks/discarded cigarette?).
  • Continued to get Kick A$$ gas mileage with the Yaris; 40-43 MPG!
I am slightly bummed - I had hoped to arrive at Fort Rucker tomorrow in time to enjoy most of the 4th of July festivities - but now it's looking like I still have 8 hours on the road ahead of me. If I leave at 9:00 AM, I'll arrive at 6 PM (allowing for entering a new time zone).

Hopefully I'll still get some pig hunting in on the 5th with the boys at Rucker and get a chance to relax/rest before I report at Fort Benning on the 6th.

Today's drive

Tomorrow's drive

PS - Becca just told me that she didn't get the Holiday Inn joke, so if anyone else doesn't know what I'm talking about... here you go

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Day 1 of driving to BOLC II...

I am currently typing from the comfort of a Holiday Inn Express, in Tucumcari, New Mexico. (I may not be an expert, but tomorrow I can say "I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last night...").

For future reference, if any of you happen to be passing through Tucumcari at 11:15 PM and think that the Travel Lodge might be a good place to spend the night, think again... After witnessing a man with a Pontiac Grand Prix filled with about 15 computers packed into the back seat argue with another man driving a GMC Envoy about who got to park closest to the rattiest apartments I've ever seen, and then having to contact the night manager 3 times because the key card wouldn't open the door, and then trying to determine the origin of the funny smell pervading the room, I was ready to cough up an extra $45 dollars to spend the night somewhere where I wouldn't have lay out my sleeping bag on top of the bed and wouldn't be starring in a "snuff film" a la "Vacancy"

Anyways... I drove almost 800 miles today - the Yaris did well. I bought 10 gallons of gas in Monticello, Utah at $4.48 / gallon (what a kick in the crotch). I later paid $3.88 / gallon in some little town in New Mexico, and did the math... the Yaris got 43 miles to the gallon!?!? Wow!

My good buddy Cody Shepard called me and kept me awake/alert for a little bit - thanks Cody. I tried to talk to a few other people, but for the most part spotty cell phone coverage made it difficult if not impossible to talk for too long.

I'm almost done listening to The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley, and tomorrow plan to start The Blue Sword by the same author.

Good night! Or morning...

PS - tomorrow morning I'll be passing through 'Amarillo by mornin'

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Here we go again. Same old stuff again...

As of about 10 AM this morning, I'll be on the road until about 9 PM. I'm armed with a snazzy GPS, an MP3 player full of audio books, most of my music on CD's, and I might stop for some concentrated caffeine on the way... I'll repeat this debacle tomorrow, and then drive about half that time on Friday, hopefully arriving in the vicinity of Fort Rucker in time to celebrate the 4th with some friends, then go feral pig hunting on the 5th.

The fun and games end on Sunday when I will drive up to Fort Benning to report for BOLC II.

Please feel free to give me a call while I'm driving - REALLY, it will keep me awake!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Goodbye civilian job! (for a while anyways...)

As of 1:00 PM, on Friday, June 27th, I am on a "leave of absence" from work, and I won't be going back until after the 17th of December.

A few of my coworkers pitched in and got me this lovely cake:

Don't worry, it wasn't a moldy week old cake, it was an Army cake with camouflage frosting! Thanks Paul, Eric and Jeff - you guys rock!

We spent the whole weekend moving - Becca did a pretty good job of describing the exodus on her blog post. Seriously, we got rid of SO MUCH CRAP! We still filled up a 10" x 15" storage unit.

We finished packing yesterday (yes, we had to move stuff on Sunday - it had to be done as we needed to be out by Sunday night), missing a family reunion that we'd had on the calendar for 1/2 a year. Today, we spent our day at the Utah National Guard headquarters in Draper, and the 96th Readiness command at Fort Douglas, getting necessary paperwork for me and the family before I take off for Georgia. I also got the last of my uniforms purchased and everything is packed up so I can stow it in the car and drive over 2000 miles east... what a concept. Tomorrow we'll find some time in the midst of the paperwork/errands to go see a movie together.

On a side note, I'm really pissed that my boss cut my leave of absence short by 3 days because we were "understaffed", and then she took time off for vacation on Friday. That's three days that I didn't get to move my stuff, prepare for my training, or spend with my family before I leave them, so that I could train to defend our country. I hope she doesn't have a Caribbean cruise lined up when I'm getting ready to deploy - some people...