Sunday, April 22, 2007

No Time .. .

Quick! Who sings that song? Growing up, my mother loved to play the "radio game" with me; the game was simply scrolling the radio dial and identifying the artist singing the current song. I used to hate when The Guess Who came on, because I would ask about 30 times who it was and my mom just kept saying "Guess Who”? I was thinking about these times last week when Jake and I were playing it as we drove to Richmond for training. After I soundly thumped him 50-20 I rehashed the source of my internal musical library.

This last week I went back to Ft. Lee in Richmond, VA for extra logistical training. I will be in charge training the Iraqi Army in logistic operations so this 5 day course was beneficial. There were some funny stories that came out of training, since we were in Richmond and had a good deal of free time.

In the middle of the week we (SFC Bernier, Jake and I) stopped by a Harley Davidson shop, just to look around and fantasize about loud bikes. As we were leaving, the check out lady told us to stop by Hooters the next day so we could meet the Harley models, who happened to be in the shop at the time. The one of us had the bright idea to meet them now and get IN their photo shoot. The magazine editor thought this was a great idea, so we ended up posing with some of the models and could wind up in the magazine when its published. I hope they publish it, even though my face was 10 different shades of red the entire time!

They invited us to come back on Friday for more photo ops and a chance to be a part of the NWA wrestling event they were hosting. This was really cool since we treated like VIPs the entire time - our ticket was free and we were hanging out with the performers prior to the show! The wrestling show was good; I've never seen a live wrestling event and I was impressed at the athleticism of those guys. The final event was a 4-way tag team event, which the Dudley Boys eventually won. After they won and help up their title belt, they called the crowd's attention to us and said 'There are the real hero's'! Then, they called us up on stage, shook our hands and gave us a piece of the table they used to win the match (there were 5 of us total, the 3 I mentioned and two E-7s from Ft Lee). There is going to be a DVD of the event and the GM has promised to send a copy, so when I get it I will rip that portion onto youtube and post it here.

I am glad for the opportunity to have a good time in Richmond, since we leave in the next week or so. I will post once again after I get computer access in Kuwait, and the again once I get to Iraq. Check out the pics for some shots of me with the Harley models!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Patch Change

I changed the picture to the right to represent the patch of the unit I will actually go with to Iraq. The one on the left is the 104th Division, and is the unit I am a part of now. The patch on the right is the 10th Mountain Division, who I went with to Afghanistan in 2003-2004. I like the 104th patch. It reminds me of Chester when he gets really excited and howls. I think I will refer to it as the Chester patch.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Goodbye, again

Rachael and I looked forward to Easter weekend as a beacon to get us through the first few months of me being away. So when the weekend finally came we were ecstatic; at the same time, a sort of melancholy hung over us because we knew that this would be the fastest 3 days of our lives.

I arrived into Philly at Friday morning and was greeted at the airport by my Mom, Rachael, and Chester. Of course, I was in the US air terminal that is actually on the departure side of the airport, so it took us a few minutes to link up. Chester was funny but he is scared in the car; once we got home it was like he really recognized me and he got pretty excited. It was great to be home! That night we just went to dinner (Legal Seafood in K of P - great!!), and then just went across the street to hang out with Laura and JC. It was great to feel like everything was normal again.

The next day was busy; we had Laura and J's open house and then Cailey and Patrick's 21st B-day party in West Chester. We took it easy during the day (although the Sangria was phenomenal), but once we got to West Chester the pace picked up a little. So many of my family members were there, I think we took up half of Ryan's Pub! Aside from the fact that a few people from our group almost got into a fight with a semi-famous local guy (I still don’t know what about), everyone had a great time, Rachael and I included.

Easter Sunday was very relaxed. We went to mass at 11:30 and then to my parents for a great dinner of veal and polenta. We didn’t stay too long after dinner though, as I was dreading saying goodbye to everyone and just wanted to get it over with. The next day, my dad took me to the airport after a brutally hard goodbye with Rachael. I was fine until I got into the car with my Dad and saw Rachael standing at the door crying. As expected, the 3 days together went ridiculously quick.

Now I am back in beautiful Kansas, which is still stubbornly holding onto winter. I should be leaving for the "sandbox" in the next few weeks though, so time should start to go a little quicker. Then I can finally start my countdown to being home for good!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The longest short week ever

I mistakenly wrote last week that spring has arrived in Kansas. I should have realized that writing that all but guaranteed a week of miserable, cold weather. As luck would have, the week was cold and wet, but it would take alot more than that to make me miserable since I was going home on Friday!

The week started out with another day-long brief about Iraq. There wasn’t too much new information in this PowerPoint torture show, so needless to say I was bored and restless. At the end of the day, however, I got good news - our team would be doing mounted combat patrols (MCP) for the rest of the week and wouldn’t have to sit through another 3 days of PowerPoint hell. Mounted combat patrol is basically an armed military convoy that reacts and responds to different insurgent threats. Our mission was to become familiar with a certain route and react to the situations that presented themselves. We were going to have 3 armored Humvees, two of which had either an M240B or .50 cal weapon mounted on the top. I received the mission brief the same day as the Iraq PowerPoint sleep-a-thon. That night I gave our team a synopsis of what our mission would be and we rehearsed the actions we would take during different scenarios the following day.

The next day we arrived at the site for our convoy and it was frigid. There are alot of different things to be considered before leaving on a mission, such as ensuring equipment and weapon functionality, and checking that all Soldiers have the equipment they need. I mention this because a convoy commander has alot to consider - the mission itself, the equipment, the Soldiers, and all the threats he/she might face. Our mission that day went well, even though my arm got "blown off" during on of the attacks. We got to practice giving our combat lifesaver medical aid (from the class where we learned to give IVs) and also using different communication equipment.

The next day I wasn’t in charge and was really happy since I got to be the truck gunner - the guy on top of the truck firing the big gun. This mission went very similar to the first one except in one of the scenarios the "villagers" were throwing tennis balls at us. This was supposed to simulate Iraqis throwing rocks and test our discipline on not firing at them since they weren’t official combatants. This was easy until the bastards starting pegging me in the face when I was looking for a real insurgent. It seriously hurt, and several times I got hit square in my big ass nose! I held my trigger finger though and just yelled at them to back off.

The last day was the capstone event in which we did similar training, except this time with live rounds (the previous two days we used blanks). Again, the training went well, no one got hurt and we were finally on our way home to see our families!

I will write more tomorrow about my 4 wonderful days at home. I also posted some more pictures.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

White Space

No, white space is not the area between my head that is attributed to my most (un)brilliant moments. White Space is actually an Army term that represents a block of time with unscheduled training that needs to get filled. This past week was dripping with White Space. It’s also finally springtime here in Kansas, and unfortunately everything looks about the same as it did during winter. Not totally the same, but I am used to spring in PA where dozens of different trees come back to green life. It's very anti-climatic here; the grass gets a little greener and dandelions appear in a matter of minutes, and that's it. In any event, with spring comes Easter, and Easter means I get to go home and see my family!

As I posted before, we had an M240B range which went really well; much better than the .50cal range. If you haven’t already, check out the video's embedded into my last post. The rest of the week was mostly MS Office training. That's right - the US Army feels a vital, combat necessary skill is the ability to create professional looking memo's and PowerPoint presentations. I could dissect this a thousand different ways, but overall I have to say it was actually beneficial. Granted, there were about 72 times I wanted to jam my pen through my eyes in sheer boredom caused by my overactive ADD, but in all the training was useful and I actually learned something. Lookout Iraqi militias, or its death by PowerPoint for you too!

On Saturday, I had my team rehearse convoy "battle drills". Battle drills are just actions that we take during a certain type of encounter. This was time well spent since next week is going to be a full week of Mounted Combat Patrols. I am glad this last week was sort of slow because next week is going to have some long days. However, this week has a really bright light at the end since I am going home!

Speaking of going home, if I seem excited about it, I’m not doing a good job of conveying my emotions. Thrilled, ecstatic, elated . . . . . I don’t know if any of those words can put meaning into my emotions. It’s been about 8 weeks since I last saw Rachael and Chester, or my mom and dad and brother and sisters; I miss them more than anything written here can describe. I would definitely say I have the easier end of it, though. I have a day packed with training, in a different place, with different people and a different mindset. Rachael, on the other-hand, has to be much, much stronger than me. She comes home everyday to our house and watches Chester run upstairs to find me. She does the everyday routines that we used to do together alone now, and has to be constantly reminded of my absence. I thank God everyday that she’s as tough as she is and that I am blessed to have her in my life.

One more comment I’d like to make is to the MN Lax team. I want to thank all you guys for your support and your comments. It seems like 100 years ago that PJ, Brett, Kevin and I were on the end line doing sprints with Tommie telling us to “C’mon guys!” As much as it sucked at the time, I’d give anything to be back on that end line with one more shot at a state title. Good Luck this season and kick some Ridley ass!!

Finally, Happy 21st Birthday Cailey and Patrick! I remember my 21st birthday . . . actually, no I don't. Anyway, have a great birthday and I'll see you on Saturday!