Friday, April 24, 2015

One More Year! In the Army Till I'm 63!

Today at 2pm I got a voice mail from SSG Steinmetz in the Admin section of 28th CAB to call her.  When I called she read me a line from a message from National Guard Bureau in the Pentagon saying that "SGT Gussman's request for extension for one year has been approved."  

With that I am staying one more year.  The journey that began January 31, 1972, with the guy in the picture below getting drunk in a bar in Kenmore Square, Boston. . . 

Saw the same guy straighten up, make sergeant and become an Army tank commander.  In the photo below I am on a field training exercise in Germany in 1977.

The guy in the photo above left the Army and went to college in 1980, then re-enlisted in 2007 and in 2009 deployed to Iraq--with a bicycle.

 And ended that tour with the guys below and "The best job I ever had."

One more year.  Thirteen more weekend drills.  I am hoping to do Annual Training twice this summer. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jackie Chan Saved Mother's Day for Me

Is Jackie Chan one of your heroes?  He's one of mine.  And I have never seen one of his movies.  But he rescued me in real life--at least in the sense of getting me home on time for Mother's Day instead of three days late.

How did he do that?

When I was flying to Asia regularly I flew Cathay Pacific whenever I could.  This Hong Kong based airline had the best service of the many airlines I flew during the three years I went overseas every month on business.

I was in Singapore in May of 2000 and was flying home through Hong Kong to Los Angeles.  The flights from Singapore to Hong Kong and then to America were Cathay Pacific.  When we boarded in Hong Kong there was a big commotion because Jackie Chan was in first class flying to the premiere of one of his movies in L.A.

The flight was uneventful until two hours past Japan when the plane turned around.

It was heading back to Japan.  It turns out an old woman who was going to LA to see her family died on the plane.  The 747 was headed back to Japan for the standard quarantine.  That meant 417 passengers would be looking for flights.  It could mean a three-day delay and I would miss Mother's Day the year we adopted our son Nigel.

But when we landed, Jackie Chan went out to talk to the Tokyo Airport officials.  Jackie Chan is as big in Japan as everywhere else in Asia.  He started signing personalized photos for all the officials.  When the deceased woman was taken off the plane, they refueled us and let us go!!!

No way that would happen without a real life Superhero.  I never got a chance to thank Jackie Chan for getting me home for Mother's Day.

He will always be a Superhero for me!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Who Fights Our Wars? Pamela Allen Bleuel

On the left in this photo is the subject of a blog post I wrote in 2009 in Iraq.  She is Pamela Allen Bleuel, a tough, funny woman who ran convoy training at Camp Adder.  She is shown here in Afghanistan in 2012.  Follow this link to the 2009 post.  I changed her name at the time, so you will see Sgt. Beaufort.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

No Answer--What Goes Up Must Come Down the Same Way

No answer yet on whether I can re-enlist or not.  I thought that meant no answer at all.  The administrative NCO in my unit thinks the decision is made but it is held up at the state headquarters in Harrisburg.  She reminded me that things which go up the chain of command also come down that same chain of command.

So I will keep waiting.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Soldier When I'm 64? I am Supposed to Get the Answer Today

Wednesday I talked to the Admin. Sergeant who submitted the paperwork for me to stay in the Army two more years.  She said we are supposed to get an answer today about whether I will will be allowed to extend my enlistment again, or not.

Last week I got an email from our training NCO asking for volunteers with my job skill to go to the Baltic Republics in the next few months.  Whether I can go or not of course depends on whether I can stay in.  I was supposed to go to one of the Baltic republics last fall, but we had a problem to solve with the boy we tried to adopt in Haiti and I had to un-volunteer myself.

For now, I will go back to work doing my homework for Russian class.  If I do get answer, I will post right away!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fu#king Ballistic Isn't: Science Words Become Opposites in Pop Culture

Today on the bicycle ride, one of the faster riders I know was describing an even faster rider and how he won a race.  "He was f#cking ballistic," my friend said.

Actually he was not ballistic.  He was the opposite.  The picture below is a missile under power.  The rocket fuel is burning.

The next picture (below) is of a missile in its ballistic trajectory:  after the main rocket motor has fully burned.  Guidance motors still operate, but the missile is not under power, it is slowing down although it is traveling very fast.  From the time the main motor fully burns, the speed of the rocket is slowing and is determined by momentum, gravity, and wind resistance.
Ballistic means unpowered.  A bullet is ballistic AFTER it leaves the gun.

A missile is ballistic when it's flying toward its target after all the propellant has burned.  It is coasting.

My friend was describing quite the opposite.  The fast rider was under power and had more power than any other rider in the race.  If he were actually "ballistic" he would be coasting.

So a science/technology word enters popular culture meaning the opposite of its actual meaning, which is
     1of or relating to projectiles or their flight    2. moving under the force of gravity only.

Of course, the most well-known opposite word is Theory.  In science, a theory is the BEST possible summary description of a body of research.  So the Theory of Universal Gravitation describes the motion of all objects including missiles, both under power and in ballistic flight.  

But in Pop Culture, "My Theory" describes nothing more than an opinion with no necessary connection to fact or reality.  My Theory could cover things like believing fluoride is a communist plot or that Stanley Kubrik fakes the moon landing.  

Without "Going Ballistic" "My Theory" is that most people don't care much about the words they use.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Eight Years Ago Today I Started the Re-Enlistment Process

Eight years ago today, on Maundy Thursday in 2007, I started the process of re-enlisting in the Army.  The last time I was in I looked like the guy in the picture above.
Her is the brief post I made on calling the recruiter. 

Several months later I became the much older, lower ranking guy in the picture above.
But this adventure began with a phone call.
Yesterday I got an email from Command Sergeant Major Dell Christine, the guy who has been my top sergeant for all of the last eight years, either at battalion or brigade.  He said we will know by April 18 whether or not the National Guard Bureau will approve me staying in the Army for two more years.
Otherwise, I am a civilian at the end of May this year.
It is very odd to think about that.  With so many other things in my life possibly changing in the near future--we may be moving to Virginia for a year because of my wife's job--not being a soldier will be a big change for me.
I will definitely keep you all posted.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Keeping Up With Conspiracies in Space

I just read the book Omon Ra by Victor Pelevin.  This tragic and very funny book says Russia also faked a moon landing.  Before reading this book I did not know there is a documentary that accuses Stanley Kubrik of faking the moon landings for the use government.

The documentary says Kubrik felt guilty about deceiving the world and confessed in the movie "The Shining."

Both times I was in Army, the 1970s and now, I have heard earnest young soldiers tell me how President Obama is going to take away their guns, the FBI introduced AIDS and crack into inner city America, 9-11 was an inside job, fluoride is a Commie plot, and many others.

So how did I miss this one?  I knew from several sources that the moon landings were faked, but the confession, Wow!!


Bitching About Fitness-Optional Soldiers

Recently I was on the phone for about a half hour with a reporter from Deseret News.  The topic was soldiers and fitness.  She is writing about how soldiers and sailors pork up after they leave active duty.  Here's the article.

Well that is their right and privilege as Americans.

We were talking because I sent her an email about how going on active duty for training causes me to work out LESS, not more.  She said I was the only soldier she spoke to with that experience.

If there is one vast difference between the military in the Viet Nam Era and now, it is the fat, out-of-shape soldiers.  There was the occasional fat supply sergeant or cook in the 1970s Army, but when our Brigade did 4-mile runs in Germany, the vast majority of the soldiers, including us smokers, stayed in formation.

The information the reporter had said that half of the men in women in Guard and Reserve units could not pass the fitness test for their branch of the military.  And every active duty unit has soldiers hanging on by a thread trying to pass the fitness test or just giving up because they are too short (of time left on their enlistment) to worry about their lack of fitness.

Currently the Army is forcing out soldiers who are out of shape.  At least they are forcing out younger soldiers who are out of shape.  The Guard still has master sergeants and warrant officers who are 50 pounds past meeting the height and weight standards, but are untouchable because they know their jobs so well and know how to get around the fitness standards.

And, of course, the vast majority of soldiers who are out of shape have as their first excuse, "I am good at my job."  Great.  Work for Boeing or Ford then.  Soldiers should be able to Move, Shoot and Communicate.  A soldier who is out-of-breath after running a mile in shorts and sneakers will never shoot straight after running three miles with full battle gear.

And because we are in the Guard, the high-ranking fat guys make of the PT Test.  I have gone to official functions with fat guys performing a skit making fun of the PT Test.  During the same month I saw the fat guys yuck it up about the PT Test, I talked to a sergeant I knew.  He was getting out because he could not pass the PT Test the next month.  He was a good armorer and supply sergeant, had 15 years in and will not be able to retire.  He did not want to stay in the Army enough to lose the weight and he was not blaming anyone.

But the porcine performers making fun of the PT Test will retire with huge pensions and a Meritorious Service Medal.

And that is sad.

Here is the Duffel blog view.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Screwtape in Iraq

This post is a repost from Iraq.  I haven't seen this post in years.  It was fun to write and mimic Screwtape.  But if you want to hear Screwtape at his best, the Audiobook is read by John Cleese!!!  No one could be a better mid-level bureaucrat in Hell than John Cleese.  The book is no longer available with Cleese as the narrator, but the letters are collected at the link above.

CLICK here for Screwtape in Iraq.

CLICK here for the book.