Wednesday, March 28, 2007

New Pictures

I posted some pictures from the M240B range we had today, and have attempted to embed a video into this post. Overall, the range was much better than the last one we had, and I do love the 240. If you don't know what that weapon is, check out the link I posted to it in the "Stay/Wasting Time" blog from last week. This week is flying by, which is great because next weekend I get to go home and see my family!! I will recap this week in more depth on Sunday, and I think I am going to add a quote of the day section soon, because people say some hilarious stuff during training. Thanks again for all your support!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Another week down

Last week actually went pretty fast. It started off as usual - too soon and too early! I managed to get in a little trouble (again), and I lost more blood than I would have liked. However, we had some pretty good training. The first day of the week we did convoy training and then went to a convoy simulator. This was really fun to me since it was at the Battle Simulation Center and was actually just like a big, interactive computer game. As you might guess, it's also where I got in some trouble. The purpose of the "game" is to give us practice on communicating among vehicles and reacting to different scenarios that are currently faced in Iraq. We are split into vehicles and sent to different rooms where we each have our own computer and headset. The first 30 minutes we get to practice on the controls and are just supposed to get into the Humvees, practice driving them, getting in and out, and shooting our rifles. After 5 minutes I had the basics down when I spotted a tank I could get into. 25 minutes later every vehicle and building in the simulated base was destroyed and on fire. As expected, the programmers weren’t too happy that they had to re-create everything. One of my buddies told me later in the week that they got a lecture when they went through a few days later to use only the Humvees and under no circumstances are they allowed to get into tanks! Besides that though, the exercise went well and it was good practice for our team. We learned that communication while under fire is harder than expected and having established procedures will benefit us greatly.

The next two days were spent practicing moving dismounted (aka walking) throughout cities. We had to practice moving with our teams and reacting to friendly and insurgent forces, clearing buildings and rooms, and detaining possible hostile threats. I got in trouble for kicking a door in too hard but the evaluator had a good point about maintaining my balance.

The last 3 days we spent doing combat lifesaver training. This is basically how to treat casualties on the battlefield. The first day was alot of slides and classroom stuff so I was bored beyond control. The next two days were all practical exercises though, so I was much more involved. The second day of training, the practical portion, involved actually initiating an IV into your partner. This is where I lost some blood. The point of actually doing the IV is to give us practice so that when our buddy gets shot for real we aren’t putting a needle into a vein for the first time. That's great theory and all, but I lost alot of blood just from the IV! My partner was pretty nervous and missed my vein the first stick. This surprised me because I bled alot for no vein to have been hit, and if you've ever seen my arms my veins are very noticeable. The second stick got me though, but it also caused my blood to go everywhere since it was a big vein. The funny thing is that I was laughing as my blood spurted out and tried to calm down my partner since she kept twisting the needle inside my vein! My stick was a 1st time go, and although I did put the needle all the way through her vein, I just had to pull it back a little. Paybacks are a bitch huh?

The weekend was great because my uncle Eddie drove over 7 hours from Denver to visit me. It was great to see him and a familiar face! That he took that time to come see me really lifted my spirits and I am very grateful for it. Its just what I needed to get through the next two weeks until I can see my family and Rachael again!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stay/Wasting Time

For those who don’t know me real well, you'll soon come to realize that I love music (and therefore tend to reference songs alot). So the title of this blog, and the theme of last week, comes from my favorite artist, the Dave Matthews Band. So why was I wasting time? I need to describe the week in a little better detail than I've been doing for you to understand.

The week started with us doing a full day of pre-marksmanship instruction (PMI) on the .50 caliber and M240B machine guns. (For more info on these weapons go here: ;; and
PMI is definitely necessary, especially since we had the .50 cal range coming up the next day. What happens in a PMI is that we learn how to disassemble, assemble, clean, and fire the weapons in question. I was familiar with both these weapons since we used them when I was in the 10th Mountain Division, so these classes were just refreshers for me.

The next day we had the .50 cal range, and this is when the week really became an exercise in patience and tested my ability to entertain myself. Here’s how it went: At 5am we woke up, got ready for our day, ate breakfast and formed up for accountability. We typically take school buses, which are “escorted” by armored Humvees’s to our training location. The purpose of the escort is to give each team a chance to practice convoy procedures and rehearse possible actions upon contact. We loaded the buses at 7am and moved out to our range, which was approximately 25 minutes away. 90 minutes and 4 wrong turns later, we arrived at the .50 cal range. That was my first indication that this was going to be a long day.

Once there, we filed into the bleacher and received a safety and familiarization briefing. During this briefing I noticed that the person next to me didn’t secure his 9mm in his holster, so I very deftly took it from his holster and hid it. It took him about 20 minutes to realize he didn’t have it and then he started freaking out (loosing a weapon is obviously a big deal). I couldn’t contain my laughter for long and so I gave it back to him when he noticed the tears flowing from my eyes as I tried to contain myself. Since he was our SGT in charge, that little prank earned me the right to ammo detail for the morning. This consisted of breaking down crates of .50 cal ammo in full body armor and moving it to the ammo collection point – pretty back breaking work! It was ok though because I was busy and not sitting around. After ammo detail I got a class on foreign weapons; we learned to take apart and use AK47s, RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), and other pseudo-Russian made weapons that are popular with Iraqi insurgents. These weapons are simple and highly effective, firing 7.62mm bullets (compared to our 5.56mm bullets). After that class we sat in the bleachers for about 5 hours and did nothing, since the people on the weapons systems were having trouble qualifying. I finally got to fire the .50 cal around 5pm, and it was fun!! That weapon really packs a lot of punch! After that we ate our MRE (meal ready-to-eat) and got ready for the night fire portion. At around 10pm, we still hadn’t put a single bullet downrange. Finally, the range maintenance was complete and firing began around 10:45; soon after, all power failed and the firing was halted. At approximately 12am, the range was considered closed and cleanup began. SO in summary, I was at this .50 cal familiarization for around 17 hours, and I fired only about 200 rounds. It was probably a textbook definition of inefficient, especially since there were some people who didn’t fire at all!

The next day we did language training and simulated getting attacked by mortars. Interesting exercise – I had my hand “blown off” and had to be treated by some medics. The whole exercise went well, but started off as a cluster. One of the underlying themes of annoyance to me here is that I have been through real life occurrences of many things we are “simulating” or practicing, so when I see people who haven’t been through it do the wrong thing and then claim that’s how it would really work, I get pissed off. In any event, I usually don’t have any problem biting my tongue so I quickly let everyone know what they should be doing (despite my “injury”).

The last two days of the week were super boring. We had classroom instruction on the Army’s “Blue Force Tracker” (, which is like an interactive navigation system for the Humvees, tanks and aircraft. Since I had used it in Afghanistan and had recently received refresher training on it at Ft. Lee just one month prior, I was very bored! When I get bored I have trouble paying attention, so after these two days were over some people on my team were calling me CPT ADD, which is pretty funny since I have that problem most of my life. The instructor didn’t find me funny though, and after I decided that attacking the class with a nuclear bomb and several F-16s would be entertaining, he let me know that I was officially “unplugged” from the system. Oh well . . ..that just gave me the chance to follow the NCAA tourney!
I posted more pictures and I tentatively plan on updating this page at least once before next Sunday. However, our days are usually long and Sunday is the only day we have off, so as of now it’s the best time for me to purge my thoughts. Thank you to everyone reading this and thanks you for your support. I am overwhelmed by how many people have expressed their support and it has given me a newfound sense of motivation.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Are we there yet?

The training here at Ft. Riley is still very good and is definitely necessary. However, I feel like I am on a long car ride, similar to one I took as a child where 8 of us crammed into a minivan and drove to Disneyworld. In the beginning, your grandma peeing into a cup every 20 minutes is funny; by the middle of the trip you start to get sick and beg to be let out of the car so you can walk the rest of the way. That’s pretty much how I feel now.

This past week we had qualification ranges on our rifle's and our 9mm's, and at the end of the week we had a 3-day briefing on cultural awareness. The ranges were fun (albeit long since we had to night fire as well) and it was cool using the scopes on my rifle for the first time. I basically feel like I cant miss with that little red dot!

Cultural awareness was interesting but being in a conference room for 8-9 hours a day wasn’t. The concept is great though. Since our mission in Iraq is training their Soldiers, it would be fairly ignorant of us to try and train them without being aware of the culture. We learned alot and the sessions were interactive, and most of us agreed that it will be very helpful to know. I wont go into alot of it now (plus some of the material was classified), but once I get in country I plan on writing about the differences and similarities I observe between our cultures.