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!