Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July in Boston!

I'm home! Sort of a long story, but the short of it is I have been released from BOLC II early because of an injury....1st time in my life that I've been congratulated for being injured (other JAGs at Ft. Sill are jealous that I got out of it, but happy that I did at the same time). I have a stress fracture in the tibia on my right leg, just below the knee. I did it somewhere on a 4 mile ruck march and obstacle course. I think it happened after I jumped off a 10' wall on the obstacle course and landed hard, but am not sure. I didn't really notice it until later that night when we were back at the barracks. The next morning my knee was swollen and the doc later confirmed that it was a stress fracture. The only "cure" for a stress fracture is rest (6 weeks or so). Since I cannot get any rest in the course, I got released early. And that is just fine with me! No more 0530 wakeups...100 degree sunny days in 45lbs of body armor/helmet/canteens/rifle...MREs...taking orders from sergeants, etc. There are just 3 weeks left in the course, but the only "substantive" things I'll miss are the land navigation (already did that in May) and the 10 mile ruck march. So not missing much.

I got home in the middle of the night and surprised the kids when they woke up. They have been literally attached to me....I can't go to the bathroom without one of them with me! But it is great.
I'll take the next week off and then see about going back to Charities a couple weeks early. But I need a week to decompress and spend time with Karina and the girls. I'll write more about the whole experience as I wind down. But for right now, I am just glad to be home.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Last week

Been awhile since I've written...last week was a long one. It was very hot here...around 100 degrees every day. Monday was another range day. Tuesday was convoy operations...basically riding around in humvees and trucks in full gear and sweating profusely while we passed simulated IEDs. I drink so much water...more in a day than I would normally in a week or more in Boston. Wednesday was a medic course....was great since we got to be inside in a/c for it! Basically was identifying injuries, use of tourniquets, treatment of burns, etc. Thursday and Friday were combatives....basically a combination of judo and wrestling (but really more like all day PT!). That was also inside in an air conditioned gym so it was good...generally anything inside is good here.

Tomorrow we go to the FOB (forward operating base) for the week. The FOB is designed to give us the feel of what the living conditions on a deployment are like. It has walls and guard towers...the sleeping quarters are basically one big room with a bunch of bunk beds. The food is apparently not so good and we've heard that only a couple of the showers actually have hot water. From the FOB we will be doing urban operations....learning how to clear rooms in buildings (not that as a lawyer I will ever be doing that!) etc. There is no internet connection or tv so I will be cut off from the world a bit (we are allowed to have our cell phones, but can only use them at night when we are done with the training day). Have gotten mixed reports of what we can expect in a/c out there....keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

So now entering week #4 (of 7 total). Am very ready to get out of here!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

end of week #2

I qualified on the M4 on Thursday. Check the box. It was a long, hot day on the range. In order to qualify we need to hit 23 targets with 40 rounds. The 40 rounds are divided into 3 separate shooting positions...the 1st 20 are fired from the "prone, supported" position. "Prone, supported" means laying on your belly with the weapon on a sandbag. The next 10 rounds are fired from the "prone, unsupported" position which means laying on your belly, with the weapon resting on the ground (basically balancing on the magazine). The final 10 are fired from the kneeling position. 40 targets pop-up for a few seconds at a time at different distances...50meters, 100, 150, 200, 250 and 300. I hit 24 :) . Not great, but passing! It was really difficult as we were wearing the full "battle-rattle" as it is known...helmet, eye pro (like big clear sunglasses), body armor, molle vest (holds magazines and 2 canteens). All of the gear weighs about 45lbs...the body armor itself is 25lbs. So trying to lay on your stomach in all that is hard. Plus, it was so hot that the sweat just streams all over.

Thursday evening, after qualifying, we came back to the barracks for dinner, then went back to the range around 8:30pm for a night fire exercise. It doesn't get truly dark here until 9:30 so we waited around in our gear for an hour. The night fire exercise is a chance for us to get used to firing a weapon while wearing night-vision. It was pretty difficult to see the targets, even with the night vision on. The targets are either black or dark the sunlight they are fairly easy to see, but at night they are almost invisible. It was easy to see each other as we moved around, but looking downrange in an empty field, the targets were really hard to see. But that was just a familiarization course, so we didn't have to qualify or anything. Got back to the barracks a 11:30pm, but I had desk duty in the dayroom from 1-2am so I didn't go to bed until a little after 2 Friday morning. Got up at 5:30am Friday so a whopping 3 hours of sleep.

Last night, went out to eat at a Japanese steakhouse. Was really good...stuffed myself like a pig, came home, chatted with Karina for a bit and then slept about 12 hours straight! Much needed. I think we are going to a movie tonight, but other than that keeping it pretty relaxed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rifle Marksmanship...again

This week we are going to the range to fire at targets and qualify with the M4 (standard rifle now...smaller version of the M16). We went today to "zero" the weapons...meaning getting our target sights aligned with the barrel. So we were on the open range in the sun, with our body armor and helmets. It was 95 degrees and humid. My t-shirt was soaked before we got off the truck! I had a book with me, but never had time to sit and read. Usually, we have a lot of waiting at these events, but not today. Tomorrow, we go again to the range to zero the weapons to a more distant target. So I expect more of the same...uncontrollable sweating and discomfort!

The reason I said "...again" in the title is because I just did this about 4 weeks ago in the direct commission course (DCC). So it is like the "Groundhog Day" movie....same exact thing, different day...but seems like repeating the same day over and over again.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend in Oklahoma City

Friday night, I went with 2 JAGs to Oklahoma City to get away from the barracks. It is about 1 and 1/2 hours away and a lot more to do than Lawton/Ft. Sill. We stayed at the Sheraton in to a part of the city called "Bricktown". Bricktown is just a couple blocks of restaurants and bars. We shared a room to keep costs down and pretty much just slept, went out to eat and slept some more. Was nice taking a shower without having to wear shower shoes! Got back to base about 2pm this afternoon. Was a great break.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Here I am...

6 weeks from Friday and I am done. I am ready to be done. Much of what I am going to do over the next weeks is the same that I just did for the past 4. There will be a few variations and skills yet to learn, but for the most part, it is the same ol', same ol'.
Yesterday was my 5th PT test since February. I did exactly the same as I did 4 weeks ago...except I cut 9 seconds off my run time. I won't have another PT test for a year or so. Check the box...1 less thing to do. "Check the box" is a common refrain here....refers to accomplishing required tasks to complete the training. A few more boxes to go.

My roommates, while very young (both are 23) are fine. I shouldn't have any problems with them. However, I look at them as mere roommates now. I have been so accustomed to being with other JAGs all the time, that it has been difficult for me to adjust to my new platoon. The platoon is young...I am the oldest (the next closest is 38...there may be 1 or 2 30+ yr olds). I am also the least experienced as all are either prior service or ROTC. Physically, I am fine in this platoon. We have some real athletes here, but I am keeping myself solidly in the middle. The leadership tasks will be the real challenge for me...mostly the required role as platoon sergeant (week 6), that will involve me marching the platoon around to get from Point A to Point B. That will be my most difficult challenge here. And I am anxious about it. I am getting to know some of the more experienced members so that they can mentor me in that role...but it will still be a difficult position for me.

Karina and the girls are on their way to Indiana right now. I am on a little break for the moment as the rest of the platoon is picking up their helmets and ruck sacks (I already have mine from the prior course). So a chance for me to relax a bit. Great picture of the girls that Karina sent...makes me miss them even more...

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I've moved into my new barracks and have 2 new roommates. They are young...23 or so. The barracks is a little bit older than the one I came from. The room is smaller. We have 1 set of bunkbeds and 1 single I was the first here, I took the single. However, we only have 2 desks. I expect to be able to use my laptop while in bed so it shouldn't be a long as my coffeemaker has a rightful place on the desk! The guys seem OK...but really young! I'm almost old enough to be their father!

The hardest thing has been the separation from the other JAGs. There are only 2 of us (in a platoon of 40) in my platoon. The other JAG is female, so she is on a different floor. I had dinner with some of the JAGs tonight. We are all feeling the separation. This will be an adjustment. We are still going to eat together (dinners mostly) as much as our schedules allow. Oh yeah, I am squad leader for this week...the platoon has 4 squads. So I basically have to account for everyone, pass info to them, etc.

So tomorrow we begin anew...inprocessing, then a lot of "hurry up and wait" as we get gear and more paperwork. But this is it. Karina and the girls go to my parents on they will have a nice distraction for awhile. Karina needs the break. But the countdown is on!

Friday, June 5, 2009

DCC graduation in about an hour

We are all packed up and waiting for the Cadre to form us up and give us our DCC graduation certificates. Once that is over, we are released until Sunday 0730 for inprocessing at BOLC II. The class is now broken down into 2 groups...1 going to Charlie Company, the other to Delta. We will be in separate buildings...but share a common area. I am assigned to Charlie. Supposedly, Charlie is more intense than Delta...different Cadre have different "styles".

I am trying to decide whether I want to stay in the barracks tonight or get a hotel room. A hotel room would sort of be a "treat" own bathroom...a tv. I'm thinking of a long soak in a hot bath to relax these old bones! As I write this, I think I've made my decision!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Again, the Boy Scouts prepared me for this! Well, at least part of it anyways...

We rolled out to the site around 0930...we had PT at 5am per usual, then time for breakfast and showers. Once on site, we put up the tent and put our rucks/equipment in the tent. The tent was a large one, but with all of our gear in it, was not big enough for all of us to sleep in (43 people). So after the site was set up, we did troop movement procedures. Basically, that means moving in squads (about 10 people in a squad) in a tactical formation (spread out, covering each other, moving through terrain, etc). Did that for about an hour in the sun (in the 90s and humid, no less).

Then a MRE lunch...don't remember what I had. Then more squad movements for about 3 hours. Then was a hot meal brought out to us. Did the assembly line you see in the movies, where you have a plate and the servers (us...we also served food to each other), basically slopped it on your plate.

After dinner, we went to a "night infiltration" course....basically a course as long as a football field. After waiting for it to be completely dark, we crawled on our bellies (with helmets, body armor, and weapon) through low obstacles while machine guns fired live rounds over our heads. There were also explosions on the sides to give us a "simulated" battlefield experience. The course was not dirt/mud as I had was gravel. Luckily, the body armor protected us from that...we also wore knee and elbow pads so as not to suffer too much from the gravel...but it ended up all over every pocket!

Got back to the site about 11pm. Luckily, my squad was not tasked for night watch/security, so I put my poncho on the ground and laid on it in the duffel bag as my pillow. It was a little after midnight by the time I got to sleep. Because the tent was cramped, I couldn't extend my legs without hitting someone, but I was so tired at that point, it didn't matter. Closed my eyes, sprayed my face with bug spray and fell asleep. Exactly 4 hours later (0400 on the dot)....WHISTLING FIREWORK....BOOM! We had to get up and run to our security positions. The Cadre were out in the woods, trying to walk through our perimeter...we would "shoot" at them (we had blank rounds) and they would tell us what we did wrong. That went on for a hour or 2. MRE breakfast (which I skipped....I had granola bar instead). Took a baby wipe "shower"...there was no running water out there....but we did have 5 port-a-johns (which are quite lovely when it is 90+ degrees and humid and being used by 43 people). Thus began the longest of days....

We went on "patrol" as a platoon. Basically, taking the squad movement procedures from the prior day, we were given different grid coordinates to find and perform a task on (recover an injured person, locate a lost piece of equipment, secure a landing zone for a medevac helicopter). So we walked and walked and walked through woods, ravines, prairie grass, etc for about 3 hours. Had a MRE lunch. Then did more squad movements....taking defended positions...flanking movements, etc until 5pm or so. Then had "hot" meal.

After dinner, we had to clean ourselves up as much as possible (which included shaving again....not pleasant to put bug spray on your face immediately after shaving it!). Then packed up our gear....I had very little to pack as I really never had time to do much unpacking! Next was take down the tent...we would be sleeping outside that evening...we were supposed to be rucking 6 miles back to barracks at 5am. Also, my squad was on security that night. My shift was 2-3am. So around 10pm, I laid against my ruck (had room to stretch my legs, at least!), more bug spray on my face and tried to sleep. It was difficult to sleep, however. It was really humid, people moving around, mosquitos in my ears. Even though I had the bug spray on my ears, they would still come close enough to be heard before the spray would discourage them. Very annoying when trying to sleep! Throughout the entire trip, I only suffered a single mosquito bite (on the back of my hand). Ahhh, just when you think you know what is coming next....

Around 11:30, I awoke to the sight and sound of a distant thunderstorm. A big one. Lots of lightning. We waited. And watched it approach. And then it started to drizzle. Got under my poncho. It started to come down harder and harder. About 12:30, the Cadre, who had been told a big storm was coming, had us pack up and get into the trucks. As we were loading all of our gear into the trucks, it really hit. Buckets of rain, high winds....easy to see in the dark b/c of all of the lightning. As we drove back to the barracks, it looked like a hurricane. Get back to the barracks, unload all of the equipment and finally to my room, soaking wet about 2am. Took a shower....unfortunately a very short one as we had a line of guys waiting to do the same. In bed about to sleep in until 7am. Hot shower and bed felt awesome!

So essentially, that was my experience Monday to Wednesday morning. After breakfast yesterday, we basically cleaned weapons/gear until mid-afternoon. Should have gotten a nap in some point before dinner yesterday, but didn't. Got about 7 hours last night (9:30-4:30), but need more. Breakfast is now here so I've got to go!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

last week of DCC!!

My direct commission course ends this coming Friday! As soon as we are released on Friday, we have to move to another barracks...a couple hundred yards away. So we'll have to clean our rooms, pack up all of our gear and move to new rooms. Right now, there are 43 JAGs in DCC, here at Ft. Sill. We have been together since Feb. 8th. We will be divided into 2 groups (we're going to 2 different companies) next week...this will be a big change for us. We will no longer be 1 group of lawyers. Next week, we will be in the minority. The vast majority of our classmates will be newly commissioned West Point and ROTC kids. I say "kids" because they are fresh from college...22 year olds. We will outrank them as they are all 2nd lieutenants and we are 1st lieutenants...but most of them will know more and have more experience in the service than most of us. And where I am accustomed to being in bed at 10pm to get my 6-7 hours of sleep before a 5am wake-up, they will likely need less than that. I am hoping that I get to room with another JAG.

We will likely be doing more of the same that we have been doing here. A little more intense, I expect. I know that the last week is living on a "FOB" (forward operating base)...where we will be kept awake for most of a week....sleeping in 2-3 hour blocks all week. But once we do that, it will be done and I'll be going home.

We are going to get a taste of the FOB life tomorrow. We are going out tomorrow morning with our rucks and won't be back to the barracks until Wednesday (we get to ride in trucks tomorrow morning, but ruck 6 miles back on Wed)...our "camping" trip. We'll be sleeping outside tomorrow night and Tuesday night. MREs the entire time, except for "hot" dinners. I bought a lot of snacks to take with me (plus extra bug spray!). But once we get done with the camping trip, the rest of the week looks mostly administrative.

So week by week I am getting closer to home. But time here seems to be at 1/2 speed. Seems like I've been here for months and Charlottesville seems so long ago. Boston seems like eons ago. "Drive On" (a customary Army saying)...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

land navigation (aka "orienteering")

It has been some 25+ years since I did land nav in the Boy Scouts, but those skills still managed to remain in somewhere deep in my brain. And they really helped me for the past 2 days. Yesterday morning, we had classroom instruction on plotting grids on a map and use of a compass. In the afternoon, they took us out in the middle of nowhere to a land nav course and gave us each a map and protractor (we already have compasses) and gave us 3 hours to find 5 points (each marked with a relatively small sign). Everyone had different points to find so I was alone for most of the time. The terrain encompasses just about everything you could imagine...forest, grass prairie, streams, rocky hills (400+ meters high). I found 3 of the 5. I would have found all 5, but my plot on #1 was wrong which threw my nav to #2 off. I realized my mistake when I got to #2...but it was the wrong #2. I corrected my course and got the last 3. That was the intro.

This morning at 3 am, we went out again. We had 5 hours to get 8 points. In order to pass the land nav we need 5 of 8 my program now, this is not a requirement to move on to the next course (I am in commission course. On June 7, I start BOLC...basic officer leadership course). In BOLC, we need to get 5 of 8 to pass the course. DCC is a familarization course to prepare us for BOLC. So back to the 3am adventure...they let us plot our grids on the ground in front of the trucks' headlights for 20 minutes...then it was lights' out and we could only use our flashlights with a red lense (we have red inserts for our light doesn't travel as far, it preserves your ability to "see" in the dark w/o a long readjustment, and the details of the map are generally still clear). The problem with the night nav is that you almost have to be right on the nav sign to see I learned with my 1st target. My 1st target took me about an hour or so to locate...I was about 50 meters from it, but didn't see it and walked in the opposite direction. After walking away from it (searching the opposite direction), I double-backed and found it. By the time I made it into the general area of the 2nd point, it was starting to get light outside so the rest of them came easier. When I got my 5th, I was on the side of one of the 400 meter high hills around 7:15am. Rather than go for the 6th (which was on the same hill, just on the other side of it), I decided to take a I had some water, ate a breakfast bar and took a couple pics of the view (will have to wait for those pics...they are on a disposable camera). Then I headed back in and was about 40-45 minutes early which gave me time to eat an MRE breakfast (not very tasty).

We came back to the barracks, had a class on pitching the big army tents, cleaned our weapons and were released about 11:30am. I went to lunch, took a shower and then slept for about 4 hours....getting up just in time for dinner! So that was my day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

relaxing on Memorial Day

As I sit here trying to think about what updates to give, I find it difficult to organize my thoughts. I have been feeling a bit more emotional this past week or so...I suspect that it is a combination of the physical challenges of recent weeks and the separation from Karina and the girls....and the future that I expect to experience in the Army. It is clear to me now that JAGs are in high demand amongst deploying units as the nature of the conflicts we are now engaged in bring a multitude of legal issues into play. Deploying brigades have begun to drop officers (non-JAG) in order to make space for an additional lawyer. It is no longer a question of "if" I get deployed, but rather "when" and "where". It doesn't necessarily mean Iraq or could just as easily be Germany, Africa, or to Walter Reed hospital in D.C. My primary concern then is being away from Enya and Grace (Karina, too...but she at least will understand the "why" part). In some places, the girls could come with me (Germany, D.C.).

My role upon return to Boston is that of a legal assistance attorney...providing legal "aid" to soldiers on a variety of issues...landlord/tenant, wills, family issues, re-employment rights, consumer immigration/naturalization. Legal assistance is perfect for me, obviously. I believe that I become eligible for promotion to Captain in December 2009 (I do not know how long the process takes from "eligible" to "promoted", but would expect it to be 3-6 months or so). Once I am a CPT, the chances for deployment become more likely. I understand that my unit requests volunteers first and hasn't had to do any involuntary deployments...but I would expect that there is some pressure to carry your own weight. As for what I'd do if deployed, I am really interested in civil affairs...being the legal officer of a unit that works with the local communities in responding to their immediate it building schools or medical clinics or establishing/rebuilding a local judicial system. In civil affairs, I'd have significant contact with the local communities and I believe that I'd be good at that.

I long to return to many ways, things seem so much simpler there. Even though there is always a complicated case to deal with or just the mass of people that need assistance, at least I go home at night.

It may seem that I am questioning what I have done by joining the JAG. And I admit it that there are times when I wonder to myself "what am I doing here!"...usually at the end of the day when bedtime looms, I've spoken with Karina, and know that I have 6 hours to get sleep before getting up and doing it all over again. This is definitely the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. The challenge is so much more than fact, whereas I once feared the physical aspect of it more than anything, I have overcome that part. I have proven capable of handling the physical difficulties. It is the separation from my family that is now forefront in my mind...and the question of fairness to them that I struggle with. Even though many of my reasons for being here are for their future benefit, it is sometimes very difficult to see them on the webcam and not be able to touch them.

At the same time, I do feel like I am serving our country and our world. My primary role in the service is to uphold the rule of law. As it was put to us at the law school...we are the keepers of the laws and regulations. While they oftentimes are not followed, it is our task to ensure that they are. If not me, then who?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

week #2

Monday's ruck march went much better. Even though it was 4 miles v. 2 miles last Friday, I finally got my ruck adjusted and the weight more evenly distibuted. My brother-in-law suggested moving weight to my hips...but as I am pretty much a straight-board body type, I didn't think I'd have anything to support weight on there. While I really don't have hips, I did have my pants' I put the ruck belt above my waist belt and let it rest on that. I also tightened the middle straps which, between the 3 spots, spread out the weight much more evenly. Thanks, Ryan!

Yesterday, we practiced with our rifles. Not shooting, but loading, charging, aiming, unloading, etc. Today, we went to the range for some target practice. Went pretty well. Got a bit of a sunburn on the backs of my hands and neck from laying on the firing range for a couple hours. Tomorrow, we go back to qualify. Should be interesting tomorrow...we have to wear the full gear to qualify....body armor, helmet, ammo/canteen vest. Today, the instructors were just checking our form, but wanted to be able to see us up close (which will be more difficult with all the gear on). Oh yeah, I hit the target! But got off to a bumpy start...I ejected my first round because I pulled the trigger shot. I hadn't charged the when I went through the process to chamber another round, I ejected the one that was in there waiting for me to charge it the 1st time. And, knucklehead move #2, I got a finger pinched (just a little bit) when I charged it. But after that it was pretty smooth sailing.

2 more days until a 3 day weekend. I need it. Body is sore. Bruises just about everywhere (mostly remnants of last weeks fun and exciting events!).

Last weekend, I did get some sleep...not as much as I had hoped for, but enough to get me this far! Saw Star Trek with some of the guys on Saturday...was really good. Looking forward to staying off my feet this weekend. Think we are going to see the new "Terminator" movie...the theater in town (beautiful Lawton, OK) is just $5 for military so a pretty good deal.

Got to "see" the girls on Sunday via webcam. Was really good to see them. Earlier on Sunday I had a tough conversation with Enya...she was asking if I was coming home that day. When I said that I couldn't b/c I had "school", she said that she'd take a taxi, get a map, and take a plane to see me. Really choked me up. Karina says that the girls have been really good. I really miss them all.

Friday, May 15, 2009


WOW, what a week it has been. Monday was all paperwork and equipment issue. Tuesday morning at 5am was the PT test. I did pretty well. Just slightly off my last test in C'ville (50 pushups, 66 situps, 16:08 2 mile run). Not bad since our last 2 weeks at C'ville were pretty light on PT. I think we had some classes Tuesday afternoon, but honestly don't remember exactly what they were.

Wednesday...classes in the morning. Lunch. Another class. Then we got smoked. About 3pm, 95 degrees and sunny. Pushups, pushups, scissor kicks (laying on your back, straight legs, with your feet about 6-12 inches off the ground, moving like a pair of scissors in the air). Then we did about 20-30 minutes of marching in formation around the yard. Then we ran in formation. Somewhere between 2-3 miles, I'm not sure. It was hot, very hot. Everytime someone couldn't go on and dropped out of formation we would keep going until the Cadre decided to turn us around and run back to the person and have them fall in to the formation. We did that about 10 times. I never fell out, but certainly felt like it and don't know how much more I could have taken.

Thursday...obstacle course. Overcast, but really, really humid. We raced through a dozen or so obstacles. Some were relatively easy (like crawling on our bellys under bars about 18" above the ground or crawling over telephone poles laid horizontally), but a couple were extremely difficult. "The Weaver"...on an "A" frame structure were horizontally-laid, circular wooden poles (maybe 1' diameter) that were about 3' apart. We had to "weave" ourselves through the poles...difficult to describe...over one pole and under the next without falling. So what you would do is while hanging underneath a pole with arms and legs wrapped around it (our backs to the ground...which had a thick safety mat), we'd swing a leg on to the top of the next pole, then an arm, then pull the other leg over and then the other arm. Very, very hard to do. Probably 6 poles on each side... 6 up, 6 down. I have some bruises/scraps from that one. Another one was hanging upside down from an inclined rope (legs and arms wrapped around it....our backs to the ground) and pulling ourselves about 50' a little rope burn from that.

Today...2 mile ruck march at 6am. In C'ville, we were doing 4 mile marches (but with a light load on our backs). The ruck (aka a hike with a big backpack) is done in boots with our rifles...about 60 lbs of added weight (I weigh 154 lbs) a 15-18 minute mile pace. My feet and legs did fine, but my back is really sore. I learned afterwards that I needed to position the ruck straps higher on my shoulders to take some of the weight of my lower back....lessons learned. This Monday 0520, we go 4 miles (to eventually work up to 10!!!!!!!!). That gives me 2 days to recover.

I have the weekend off. I am doing laundry right now (cleaning all the sand out of my uniforms). I plan to sleep, sleep and sleep with some eating in between! A good week, but wow, really physically demanding. The good news is that I am not only keeping up with guys 15 years younger, but am solidly in the middle of the pack. A good place for me to be!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My new living arrangements

I am living in the barracks...reminds me of my freshman year at Xavier. I have 2 roommates. I have a twin sized bed, a closet and a desk. However, the "tech" aspect is a bit spartan. No tv, internet only through one of my roommates currently as my laptop is having some sort of wireless problem, no phone. Communal bathroom. Up at 5:15 this morning, 5 am tomorrow. Today was mostly paperwork and getting gear. We were issued our helmets, body armor, ruck sack, sleeping bag, etc this afternoon.

Has been really rainy here. We ran in the rain this morning and supposedly it will rain all week. I am going to bed soon as we are getting up early tomorrow. Sounds like it will be a lot of long days during my stay here. The good thing is that at night I don't miss the tech stuff so much as I just want to go to sleep!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I'm now in Oklahoma

I arrived today. I drove with a classmate from Charlottesville. We left C'ville on Thursday and have to report in tomorrow morning. I don't really know what tomorrow entails. It may just be "signing in" and getting instructions for Monday morning or it may be a day of fun and interesting activities! We'll see...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

They're gone.........

Girls flew out about 2 hours ago and I am sad.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

more pics

Enya was more concerned about her friend, Hanna, leaving than getting the "family" picture taken!
Enya and her friend, Hanna. They played a lot together.


I am now certified as a judge advocate! Of course, I still have almost 3 months to complete the real "Army" stuff in lovely Ft. Sill, Oklahoma! We had a nice graduation ceremony. It is sort of a weird ending...I just spent 3 months with 111 people. We graduate and everyone is immediately out of here. I will see about 1/2 of them in Ft. Sill. The other 1/2 go to Ft. Benning and it is unlikely that I will see many of them again...I should be used to this kind of thing by and colleagues come and go...

The girls leave very early tomorrow A.M. I then leave around noon or so. I am riding with a classmate and should be there sometime on Saturday. I have to report in on Sunday morning. I'm looking forward to the drive...a little time to decompress before the next challenge!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Classes are over!

Yesterday, we completed our last course of instruction at the legal center. Now we have a couple days of paperwork to complete prior to our graduation on Wednesday.

It was an interesting week. We had our "gauntlet"....running us through a variety of rules of war/rules of engagement exercises. It was very interesting to see how all of the classroom instruction on the Geneva Conventions get applied in different scenarios.

Thursday evening we had our "dining in". It is an old tradition of having dinner and basically making fun of ourselves...skits were the highlight of the evening. Classmates impersonated other classmates, faculty and the Cadre. It was very, very funny. We have quite a few talented comedians in our class...I was laughing throughout as most of it was just hilarious.

Karina and the girls are going back to Boston rather than Mexico City as originally planned. Obviously, the flu is enough of a reason not to take any unnecessary risks. Karina's Mom is still coming to Boston in July for a few weeks. The girls may go to Indiana and stay with my folks for a while in June.

The next 3 months are going to be the "real" challenge!

Friday, April 24, 2009


Just want to give a shout to the gang at Charities. I think of you daily and am grateful to be your colleague. It seems like I have been away for a lot more than 3 months (not even 3 yet!). I am about 1/2 way through. I miss you all.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

in case you haven't seen the news...

Passed Final PT test!

Yesterday was our "record" physical fitness test...I was a little worried about it, but outperformed my previous test:

Pushups: need 32, did 53
Situps: need 38, did 73
2 mile run: need to do it in 18:18, did it in 15:47

We're now into the international/operational law section....covering the Geneva Convention, rules of war, etc. Really interesting. And relevant to the news of the day...all of the issues of torture authorized under the Bush administration. The military lawyers were warning the administration that the interrogation techniques were illegal (as torture is illegal), but were largely ignored. So interesting to be learning the rules while we see what happens when they are not followed...

Graduation is 2 weeks from today!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

less than 3 weeks left in C'ville

Time is beginning to speed up. It has seemed to be in slow motion for the past 2 months or so. But now that graduation is coming in less than 3 weeks, it seems that time is going at a faster clip. Graduation is Wednesday, May 6. Karina and the girls leave on Friday, May 8. I will then leave for Oklahoma on Saturday, the 9th....I have to report in on Sunday.

I am healed up for the most part. After my ankle injury, I strained some muscle in my chest (don't know how or exactly when it happened) that is still a bit sore. Carrying Enya around hasn't helped heal that one! Our final and official APFT (army physical fitness test) is this Tuesday. I'm not so worried about passing it as I am in really good shape, but I am nervous about outperforming my previous test.

We are completing our training on legal assistance...think legal aid for soldiers. This is the area that I will be doing for the forseeable future....wills, landlord/tenant, consumer issues, immigration!, etc. Next up is international law and all of the rules...this should be really interesting.

Seems like it has been forever since I was in Boston. Can't believe that I am only about 1/2 way through right now...

Monday, April 13, 2009


Just a short entry tonight....girls were slow to go to sleep.

This afternoon I went to the eye doc to get my prescription for glasses and gas mask inserts. The glasses are known as "BCG"s....or in layman's terms...."birth control glasses". They are affectionally called that because they are so ugly that no one will come near you while wearing them. They are really, really ugly. Thick, brown plastic frames. I'm supposed to have them for the officer training.

I'm not sure whether I'll share a pic with the BCGs...although since I've mentioned it, I probably have to now. But I'll be in Oklahoma by the time I get them.

Today is also our 7th wedding anniversary. Tried to explain it to Enya tonight, but her grasp of time still doesn't go beyond a day or two and afterwards she was asking when we were getting married again. We spent Easter with my brother and his family and Mom and Dad. Was really nice and really short. But good to see them. Karina and I have to find some time to celebrate our anniversary.

Will try to update this more often.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

recovered from my 1st injury

About 10 days ago, I sprained my ankle. During PT, we were racing up and down a hill...bear crawl up and crab crawl down...squad versus squad. A crab crawl is where your butt is just off the ground and you support yourself on all 4s. It was still dark (a little after 6am), the grass a bit wet, and going as fast as I could down the hill. My left ankle turned inside (my toes ended up facing my right leg...if you can picture it) and folded underneath me. Ouch. I finished PT and limped back to the room, took some Tylenol and hoped it would be OK. It swelled up and went black and blue. So I had to see a sports injury doc....grade 2 sprain. No running for 2 weeks. It is nearly healed now so I expect to run on Monday. We have about 10% of the class on some form of injury profile at any given time...I am lucky to be coming off mine early. Our official/record PT exam is in 3 weeks so I don't want to lose any of the momentum that I have up to this point.

We completed the criminal law section of instruction this week. It accounts for about 40% of our instruction. The last week of it was doing mock court martials. It was interesting. My knowledge of the rules of evidence are definitely weak. Probably the hardest thing for rarely ever object in immigration yelling out "Objection, Your Honor" was tough since I'd then need to cite the actual rule that I was basing it on...that is what they don't show on tv...after you say "objection!", you have to say why..."it violates Rule 404, character evidence is not admissible to prove conduct, Your Honor." And then the other side has to respond with why that objection is incorrect or doesn't apply. Not easy for me. But I got through it all right.

We are now in fiscal law (a bit like contracts). A big snooze fest. Think tax law. Not the most exciting of topics. The instructors know it, order to make us pay attention, they give us pop quizzes every afternoon (since it has happened every day, they really aren't "pop" anymore!). I've actually done pretty well on the quizzes, but it is really tough to pay attention in class. Basically, it covers what the JAGs must do in their legal review of any if the unit buys a pallet of bottled water for a field exercise, the JAG must make sure it is done with the appropriate funds drawn from the appropriate fiscal year, etc. Supposedly, this is a busy area for the JAGs as the Army buys lots and lots of stuff.

Many of you know that Uncle Skip passed away last week. I can't believe it. He was fine a few weeks ago. Got sick all of a sudden and left us. After my father, one of the smartest guys I've ever met. He was the tech guy before anyone even knew what tech was. Unbelievable loss to our family. Just can't comprehend the fact that I won't see him again. He has always been such a fixture in the family...

My orders came this week telling me that I'll be going to Ft. Sill, OK for my officer training. So I'll probably leave here on May 9 and be in Oklahoma until July 24.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

gettin' "smoked"

I am really, really sore this morning. We had a long week...court martial trial memo was due, the criminal law instruction course wound down and PT seemed extra hard (at least for me). Thursday, my platoon did a ton of pushups and situps (just over 200 each!). So when I woke up at 5am for our 4 mile run yesterday, I was looking forward to getting it over with and getting into the weekend for some sleep! This is where the getting "smoked" part comes in...getting "smoked" basically means being exercised until exhaustion as a form of "corrective action" (aka punishment...but more to teach a lesson). So yesterday, 1 person (out of 112) was late to the first formation before PT. So, to make a point about how important it is to be on time, the entire company was "smoked" after class. (Company = entire class; Platoon = about 50% of class; so we have 2 platoons that make up 1 company). So we did lots of pushups, some situps and then more pushups. It is what it is. It could have been a lot worse. But I ache all over today. And, of course, the girls want to go outside and play as the weather is getting better!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Blues Reception

Last night was our first formal reception. It is called the "Blues Reception" (the new Army dress uniform is blue...except Guard and Reserve can wear the Class A "Green" until 2014). The reception is a formal meeting of the commander and his spouse. So we went through a receiving line to begin the evening. Mostly drinks and light dining while the students mingle with each other and the faculty.
Enya and Grace were downstairs in one of the mock courtrooms with the babysitters. They did really well considering they were with "strangers" for nearly 4 hours. It was a rare opportunity for Karina and I to socialize for so long without them with us. We really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


We had our 2nd physical training ("PT") test on Monday. I actually did considerably better than my 1st test (and much more than I had expected). I've also gained 3 lbs in 4 weeks. I'd been told earlier that heavy guys lose weight and skinny guys I am now the heaviest I've ever been in my life (155 lbs).

The "PT" results:

Push-ups: need 34, did 44
Sit-ups: need 38, did 65
2 mile run: need to do in 18:18 minutes, did it in 16:28

So the Army is certainly getting me in shape!

I have also learned that I may not be going to Ft. Benning, GA for the officer training. Most of the Reserve Officers are likely going to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. I likely won't know until the end of the month.

We are currently being taught military criminal law....court martials, rules of evidence, etc. It is one area of the law that I am not really interested in practicing (and likely won't as a Reservist). I am really more interested in legal assistance for Soldiers (which comes in April) and international/operational law (comes in April, too). The classes have more of a feel of CLE seminars (continuing legal education for you non-lawyers out there!) which means a lot of info compressed into a small amount of time. So my brain is a bit fried right now!

Girls have adjusted and are doing really well. We've enrolled Enya in a "ballet" class on Saturdays...she was running around in her pink tights today and is really excited about it. Weather has been great since the end of last week, so we've been able to get them outside to play.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Girls enjoying the park

We've finally had some warm weather. Karina got the girls outside to burn some energy off. You can see my school in the background above the trees.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

the crazy life at the Residence Inn

I've been here almost 2 weeks now. Enya and Grace are getting used to the new confinement here at the Residence Inn....they are used to having more running room. We haven't had any complaints from the neighbors (yet!), but wow, when the two of them get to chasing each other around the suite it can get pretty loud! It has been really cold here so Karina has been a bit trapped here. It is supposed to be in the 70s this weekend though so hopefully they'll be able to get outside more. I, of course, am getting plenty of outdoor time every morning before the sun rises! I am definitely getting into really good shape....even if it is painful at times.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

my typical day

We're settled into C'ville (short for Charlottesville). I am getting more time with the girls than I had thought. The girls are adjusting to my schedule. Enya was pretty excited to see my "school" last night.
My typical day:
I wake up around 5am (tomorrow it will be 4am), have PT for an hour, shower, eat and start class around 8am.
We get about an hour and a half for lunch that allows me to come back to the hotel (we are at a Residence Inn) and have lunch with the girls.
Afternoon class is about 2 hours give or take. Homework is pretty light (all 3 days so far!), but there frequently seems to be some admin task that fills part of the rest of the afternoon.
But so far, I have actually spent more time through the day with the girls than I ever have in my day job...of course, I am completely wiped out and all Enya wants to do is have me run around outside with her!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'm in Charlottesville

Charlottesville is least what I've seen so far. I got here yesterday afternoon. The accommodations are great. I am staying at the Residence Inn, just a couple hundred yards from the law school. It looks like there are a lot of shops/stores right across the street, so we should be able to get everything/anything we need without difficulty. It should be easy for Karina and the girls to navigate the area.

Since my last update...I survived the gas chamber! The Cadre took it easy on us though. Basically, we donned gas masks and then marched into a little room, ran around in circles and then (in order to leave the room) took our masks off, recited our name, social security number and place of birth...the Chief let me go out as I was halfway through my social...he could have held me the entire time. It mostly just burned around my eyes. I coughed a little bit for a few minutes outside, but otherwise didn't have any other issues (ie. no snot running down my face!). The rest of the week was mostly paperwork processing.

School starts Monday. 0500 PT (5am physical training) and then class at 0800. Got my first set of books yesterday. The law school is beautiful, too. I woke up early this morning (6am) so I decided to get a little running in since we are running 3.5 miles on Monday. After the run, had some coffee and orange juice in the dining area of the Residence....they have a full complimentary breakfast every day so that should be great for the girls.

I'm really enjoying this. Still an alien world for me, but I'm getting used to it. The saluting thing is still going to take some time to get used to. Karina and the girls arrive tomorrow. Can't wait to see them...seems like I've been away for a month.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My first pic

Spent the day in the field, again. Did 2 mile road march with about 35lbs on my back at 7am, then spent the day outside in the cold (high of about 40 today), did 7 hours of field classes (land navigation, first aid, camouflage, etc), ate more MREs, crawled through the dirt while the First Sergeant yelled at us to "Hurry up!" and then 2 miles back. It was cold, really cold. And we stood all day long. So my legs are really sore tonight. Luckily, no blisters for me. But quite a few have them. I'm just sore and tired so I am going to bed after I post this.

This picture is off of my cell phone, so it is not so clear. But that is face paint, not dirt!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Today was our first day in the "field" (aka the great outdoors!). It was pretty cold...I think the high was around 45, but when we first got there (at 7am), it had to have been in the low to mid 30s with a fairly strong wind. So we did a lot of moving around and boot stomping! But the events of the day kept it off our minds. We were at the pistol range. So I got to shoot a 9mm. Was fun. We also had some basic instruction on operating a radio and, of course, while we waited, we marched around the field in formation.

Today was also the first time I've eaten a MRE (Meal Ready to Eat). I had chili with beans. It comes in a place the chili packet into another plastic bag that has a heat packet in it and add water. In about 2 minutes, it is hot and ready to eat. Was actually pretty tasty. The MRE also came with crackers and peanut butter & jelly, corn, a milkshake packet that I didn't have enough time to make and a candy. The whole thing contains around 2000 calories. When in the field you get 3 a day and are expected to eat them...something about the need to take in huge amounts of calories to help with the lack of sleep and all of the activity. I have 2 of them to eat tomorrow...chicken and a cheese/veggie omelet (not so sure about the omelet!).

Tomorrow, we have our first ruck march. Boots, helmets, backpack, the whole thing. Only about 2 miles as we are marching to the field where we will be spending the day. 2 miles shouldn't be too bad since we are already running that far, but it will be different with all of the gear on our backs. It is also supposed to be the coldest day so far, so I'm going to double up on the long johns!

I am really enjoying it. It helps that my classmates are nice. Can't believe that it has only been a week. Seems like a month. Karina tells me that Grace is sick and so is Grandma now (and Karina is feeling it a bit, too). So they are definitely working overtime up there. Will see them a week from today!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday!! well, I still have to work tomorrow...

PT (physical training) at 5am tomorrow morning...which means getting up around 4am. So much for sleeping in on Saturday.

Today we did a lot of drill and ceremony...marching in formation: right face, left face, forward march, etc. Was fun...well it was more fun as we did it better and the First Sergeant was happier. Looks really cool when 100 people are doing it.

There is just so much information to remember. A whole new language. Had a Chaplain visit the class today to discuss his office and role. More leadership training as well....sort of like what you would expect from an "effective" leadership training for a corporation.

So I am doing well. Enjoying it. I miss Karina and the girls terribly though...seems like I've been away forever. Got to talk to Enya a little last night and heard Grace laughing which is the best thing ever...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Soldier First, Lawyer Always"

This is the JAG motto. We are getting a ton of history, values, officer duties, the JAG role of upholding the law and ethics, etc, plus more drill and ceremony (formation, marching, etc). Got my shots yesterday and gas mask today. Gas mask is for next week when we march into a gas chamber filled with tear gas and then have to take our masks off...should be fun!

Days are still long with very early mornings....mostly 4am ish all this week and done around 6pm or so. But I am enjoying it. Classmates are great. Everyone working together....pretty cool to see more than 100 lawyers doing that....very unusual :) .

Drill instructors are really good. Really tough, but smart. The guy who stands next to me in formation was born and raised in West Lafayette, IN. Now works for the State Department in his civilian job and will probably be posted at an Embassy (not in a military capacity) after he finishes his JAG training. He is a reservist as well. I've made some friends as well...we're all in the "older" category (35 and 42), reservists and married w/ kids. So we have some things in common. But even without them, I can join anyone in the class without a problem...and occasionally do when we are all split up. So I have successfully made social contacts!

Time to go. Get to sleep in tomorrow (6am!!) .

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

what day is it??

Feels like I've been here a week! Was up at 3:45am this morning. Went to bed at 9:30pm. We had our 1st diagnostic (practice) physical fitness test at 5am.

For my age group:

Pushups need 34..........did 32
Situps: need 38.............did 51
2 mile run: need 18:18 minutes.....did 17:32

So the latest that I've slept since Sunday morning is 4am. We have a group run (in formation) tomorrow at 5am....somewhere around 3.5 miles. Should be fun! They are cramming a ton of information into us...all day long. Some interesting, some not. Class is 112 lawyers. Largest class in the JAG history.

I just need to shower and go to bed (and take some Tylenol!). It is going to be hard to update the blog for this and next week....just not enough time. But I'll update when I can.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I'm here!

I made it. Very little sleep last flight was at 7am and I got up at 4:30am (I should say 0430 and 0700!). Enya woke up a couple of times so that, combined with a little anxiety, meant that I didn't get a whole lot of sleep. I'm hoping to get a little nap this afternoon since I don't have to report back until 6pm (1800 :) )

I got to the base a little early and have completed the initial in-processing (weigh in, some paperwork). Had a sergeant give me a hard time about not completely filling out one of the numerous forms...sort of funny actually...he found a problem with everyone. And he complimented me on my bright orange running shoes ("you've got some real ugly shoes there, sir"). Welcome to the army!

So I am OK. A little nervous as I am out of my comfort zone...this is a completely different world. Am feeling a lot of guilt about Enya...more than I thought I would. But I made it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meeting my new unit

This weekend was my first "drill" weekend. I met the commanding officer and the other JAGs. I really had no idea what it would be like or the reception that I'd receive. It was incredible, actually. The guys were great. Very welcoming...much more than I could have imagined. The unit has around 20 lawyers and 6-7 paralegals.

I am the only immigration lawyer in the bunch and it was obvious that they were excited to have someone with experience in the subject...mostly so that they can stop having to answer (and research) immigration questions!

The weekend mostly consisted of powerpoint presentations on different subjects...wills, military criminal code of justice and first aid for burns/injuries. Apparently, each unit has to cover these (and other subjects) annually as part of their readiness training.

I am going to be the 1st in the unit that has to complete the new required training. The 6 week Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC II) at Ft. Benning (1st 4 weeks at Benning are Direct Commission Course (DCC) which is actually prep for the BOLC II) is a new requirement for JAGs. So none of them have ever done it. Got lots of questions about in that respect, I'll have some experience that they do not have.

So a great entry into this strange world of "yes, sir/thank you, sir" world!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Enya y Grace

Thought I'd practice putting pics here and share the center of my universe....

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Training and afterwards...

The training is essentially 3 phases...

Phase I is a 2 week orientation at Ft. Lee, VA. "Yes, Sir; No, Sir" kind of stuff.

Phase II is a 10.5 week course at the military law school on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Karina and the girls will be with me for this part.

Phase III is a 10 week officer basic training at Ft. Benning, GA. This is the real grueling "army" type stuff. Karina and the girls are going to Mexico for this part as they cannot stay with me.

Once done, I return to my job at Catholic Charities. Then it is 1 weekend a month (not overnight) with the Boston unit (about 30 lawyers) and 2 weeks of training in the summer. Deployment is always a possibility, but as I am brand new and know nothing, it is unlikely to happen for awhile.