Monday, December 24, 2007

Class A Inspection

Saturday morning, January 5, our company will have its annual Class A (dress uniform) Inspection at morning formation. At the end of last drill my squadleader said not to worry about the inspection for the very good reason that my Class A uniform pants are on backorder. We made all the obligatory jokes about me getting inspected without pants. But I found you can buy ANYTHING for an Army uniform (of many armies for that matter) on line. So I bought Class A pants from a North Carolina on line store.

I got the pants and jacket tailored at the men's shop where I get all my suits for work. I had a nice conversation with a guy who works there about why I joined. And it turned out he was in Germany as a student when I was there in the Army in the 70s.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lisa and Nigel Help Clean Up

In the morning before the holiday party, a half-dozen of us set up additional tables and chairs and put nuts and mints on the all of the 59 tables set up for the Christmas lunch. After lunch, the 23 tables and 184 chairs we added to the usual set up had to be put away again. Lisa and Nigel helped pick up trash and stack chairs for an hour after the party ended. Because we were cleaning up Lisa took leftover fruit and salad home with us. She brought "Army salad" for lunch. I can say confidently she is the only kid in her high school having Army food for lunch today. Nigel's best moment was when a young enlisted man decided to push a cart with 10 eight-foot tables stacked on it. He was having a lot of trouble getting it moving, so Nigel ran over and started pushing. Nigel helped the soldier push the 200-pound load the length of the mess hall and was very pleased to have helped an "Army man" push the tables.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Brigade Christmas Party

On Sunday beginning at noon, members of our brigade on drill this weekend had a Christmas party, complete with Santa and an Army Christmas dinner. This is the first time my family went to any official Army event. Nigel loved the food. At dinner he asked if we could put gravy on the shopping list--lunch included turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, all with gravy. Lisa, now in her sixth month as a Vegan, at the salad, fresh fruit and dinner rolls that were part of lunch. Although this was Annalisa's first step into Army culture, she did meet an old friend. Our battalion chaplain was for six years in the 1990s assistant chaplain at Franklin and Marshall College. He is Greek Orthodox and when he was at F&M had a full beard, so even though I had seen him a couple of times in the past few months, I did not recognize him without the beard. He went to Afghanistan in 2004 and seems excited to deploy again.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Warning Order for Deployment

This morning at a battalion formation our commander told us we now have a warning order for deployment. If all proceeds according to current plans, we will move to Fort Sill OK on January 20, 2009, and be deployed two months later.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sept. Sunday News Link is Down--Here's the Story

He's (back) in the Army now at 54!
Executive joins Guard, hopes to use his knowledge of chemicals

By JON RUTTER, Staff writer
Sunday News Published: Sep 02, 2007 12:17 AM EST LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - Fifty-four-year-old Neil Gussman is in the Army now.
Actually, he's in it for the second time.
He originally joined back in 1972, when the draft and the Vietnam War were still on.
Gussman had just graduated from high school in Boston. He enlisted to get money for college. He was, by his own admission, clueless.
"I had no political opinion. ... I don't think I had a view on the war, positive or negative."
Thirty-five years later, Gussman lives in Lancaster with his wife and four children. He travels the world as a corporate executive. He's a self-described "token Democrat" at his church, Wheatland Presbyterian.
He isn't out to spill blood. "I'm 54 years old," he reiterated. "I didn't join the Army now to kick down doors in Tikrit or anything."
So, then, why?
Why forfeit a weekend a month and two weeks each summer to serve in Echo Company, 104th Aviation Battalion, in the Pennsylvania National Guard?
Somebody has to do it, Gussman reasons, and he's eager to give back.
He expects his helicopter-maintenance-unit job at Fort Indiantown Gap to lead to a slot as a chemical-weapons specialist.
Chemical weaponry is cumbersome and unpredictable, Gussman acknowledged. Strategically, it's dead. But it's tailor made for terrorists, and thus remains a critical threat to the modern world.
"My intention is to get training [in detection] and then later join the unit that goes out and looks for this kind of thing."
Red scare
Gussman knows chemicals.
He's a communication manager for The Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia.
"I've been writing a lot about chemical weapons" for work, noted Gussman, who also focused on that subject as a sergeant in an Army tank unit in 1976.
"Once a month, I would teach people how to survive" chemical weapons and nuclear attacks. "We were stationed in Germany and waiting for World War III to start."
The Communist onslaught failed to materialize, and Gussman eventually returned to the States. He married Annalisa Crannell, a mathematics professor at his alma mater, Franklin & Marshall College.
Crannell's altruistic spirit has led her to volunteer for Hospice of Lancaster County and other causes, Gussman said. Five years ago, she donated a kidney to an ailing co-worker.
He, too, yearned to make a difference, he said, but his type-A personality has never quite fit the charity mold. "I believe the same things she does, but I don't really do anything."
Of course, Gussman has been doing something.
He's an avid bicycle racer who competed in 50 events to celebrate his 50th year, among other feats.
While descending Turkey Hill at 50 mph during a training ride in May, he recalled, his front wheel kissed the derailleur of another bike; the crash flipped Gussman onto the pavement, knocking him out and breaking 10 bones.
The accident has not dampened his enthusiasm for riding. But it deepened his conviction to risk his neck for a worthier cause than simply "flying around in Spandex."
He said he first thought of re-enlisting last fall after researching an article on weapons of mass destruction.
About a month before the cycling accident, he'd rung up Kevin Askew, a Pennsylvania National Guard recruiter at Fort Indiantown Gap.
It turned out that chemical-weaponry specialists were in demand. Askew said the Gap's chemical-disaster team especially welcomes knowledgeable people such as Gussman.
"Neil's experience is going to put him on a track to be able to work with those guys," Askew said.
There was one other hurdle besides the bike wreck: Gussman exceeded the maximum enlistment age by a dozen years.
Congress raised the cutoff for all branches from 35 to 42 in 2006. But there is a caveat.
The military subtracts one year from a person's chronological age for each year he or she has served previously.
"It's Army math," said Askew, who entered the service when he was 18, in 1989. "It's not supposed to make sense."
With 11 years under his belt, Gussman was close enough to get in on a waiver. He drove to the Gap a week ago to pick up his green-and-brown-patterned uniform and lunch with his new "homies."
A handful of Gussman's "older than dirt" peers clustered at one end of the table. The guys at the other end had not yet been born when he left the service the first time, in 1984.
"I get the idea there's not a whole lot of people doing this at my age," Gussman cracked.
Fort Indiantown Gap had no available age-specific data on recruits. However, according to Sgt. 1st Class Gino Burns, the Gap recruited 701 individuals with prior military experience and 1,419 with no service experience through July this year.
Shocking episode
Graybeard or no, there are bright spots.
Gussman said he enjoys the camaraderie of military life. He's looking forward to flying around in helicopters.
Plus, he said, "I can still keep my job" and stay close to wife and son, Nigel, 7; stepdaughter, Iolanthe, 17; and daughters, Lisa, 16, and Lauren, 18.
They're conditioned to a crazy, bike-racing dad, he added, so they're OK with this latest venture. "So far, my kids think it's really cool."
His biking roadies are perplexed.
Scott Haverstick said he supports Gussman in this latest "shocking episode" of his life.
"Honestly, to his credit, this is all about service. I've got a lot of respect for him." On the other hand, pondered the self-proclaimed "old '60s lefty" from Washington Boro, "What in the hell is he doing?"
Gussman's peleton assumed his age would disqualify him, Haverstick said. Then came the horrific crash, which Haverstick witnessed, and which he initially thought had killed his friend.
Gussman, bleeding profusely and spitting teeth, was medevaced from the scene. He came back with fused vertebrae.
The military accepted him anyway, said Haverstick, who remains incredulous that injury and age seem to pose no barrier. "I'm 60. I'm going to start slinking around for fear they'll get their hooks in me."
Gussman, meanwhile, has been running to prepare for his physical fitness test, coming up in October.
He said he started running when he was still in a cervical collar.
"I think I won't be the slowest guy in the fitness test," predicted Gussman, who must complete a two-mile run in 19 minutes and 30 seconds, among other challenges.
An Army training course will update him on detection equipment, which has gone digital since the days when experts sniffed out chemical contaminants with litmus paper.
Gussman will not likely be going to Baghdad. But nobody can predict what dangers lie ahead.
Dispatched to the Utah desert during the Vietnam War, Gussman recalled being temporarily blinded by munitions test shrapnel.
His buddies who were deployed to the war zone returned without incident. "I was the only one who came home in bandages."
Such sacrifices remain necessary, according to Gussman, who said he is frustrated by what he calls "the complete failure of conservatives" in Iraq.
"The war is a fact now. Whether you support the war or not, somebody's got to go."
 Jon Rutter is a staff writer for the Sunday News. His e-mail address is .

Friday, November 30, 2007

School Catch 22

Last month, I decided to sign up for the on-line version of 63J (chemical weapons dectection equipment maintenance) training so I could get started now rather than waiting till next year for a resident school slot to open up. The 63J non-resident program is several hundred hours ofd on-line training followed by two weeks at Aberdeen. I am scheduled for the two weeks at Aberdeen, but I am on a WAIT list. Because I am on a wait list, I have not received the the authorization code to start taking the 63J course. Until I get off the wait list, I can't start the on line course. In the meantime, I am taking a chemical weapons on-line course that I can sign up for as additional training. It turns out that I can't take the mandatory job rtraining course without formal authorization, but I can take a course that has the same content but is not job training on the same subject. Computers have not changed the Army when it comes to approving paperwork.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Catching up with my old Boss

Tonight I spent nearly an hour on the phone with Col. Rich Goldsmith, retired. In 1977-78 Rich commanded 1st Battalion, 70th Armor, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Wiesbaden, West Germany. I was a tank commander in B company during that time. It was a lot of fun to catch up on what he is doing and fill him in what's been going on with me and my family. He sounds the same. I hope we can meet in person when his travels take him to the North, or I get to Alabama--which will be my first trip.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Training Day

What does an Army National Guard soldier do all day on a training weekend? Here's a log:
0600--Get up, make coffee, get dressed, check my e-mail, make sure I have everything I need in case we have night training and I spend the night.
0645--Drive 39 miles north, all on back roads, from my home on the west side of Lancaster, Pa., to Fort Indiantown Gap.
0740--I am inside the mess hall at our headquarters building and waiting for formation. The cooks sell egg and sausage sandwiches for $1.50, the coffee is free. (Only the noon meal is provided for Guard drills, unless we have night training.)
0800--Morning formation. Usually the First Sergeant begins the day with routine annoucements for the whole company and formation takes about five minutes. this morning, the first sergeant expressed his displeasure with the results of the preceding month's APFT (Annual Physical Fitness Test). He reminded everyone that their enlistment contract included staying in shape and meeting the Army's height and weight standards. And then he said "Those of you who failed the PT test should know that Old Man Gussman passed with flying colors last month. Any of you who are younger than him--that's every damn one of you--should be ashamed of yourselves." He then said those who flunked will retake the test after everyone else is dismissed this evening and do it every month till they pass.
0815--We are told at formation we will get a gas mask test fit at 0830. Several of us go to the test area, but the test will be delayed, so we go to the motor pool.
0830--The motor pool building is one mile away on the range road, but there is a barrier across the range road and no vehicles are allowed. So everyone drives 5 miles around the airstrip to the motorpool. I walk. I listen to my iPod for 20 minutes and arrive 5 minutes after the people who drive.
0850--My assignment for the morning is to set up the side curtains and start the heater on my $200,000 tool box. See the FRS (Forward Recovery System) post from last month for details. Next I inventory a box of filed lighting equipment. It's a 100+-pound green plywood box about 2x2x3 feet. Inside are wires, bulbs, connectors and power cords. I count everything, verify the lengths of the cables, and issue tools from the FMS.
1100--The motor sergeant sends several of us back to the headquarters building for gas mask fit. When I get there, he is shutting down for lunch.
1130--In the monthly newsletter sent to everyone a few days before drill, my name is listed as needing to sign some paperwork and turn in other paperwork--college transcripts, direct deposit authorization, etc. So I go to our company HQ and take care of the paperwork.
Noon--Lunch. Beef in gravy over noodles, mixed vegetables, fresh fruit--pears and oranges--rolls, cole slaw, and orangeade. I eat everything. Lots of jokes at lunch about how the lunch is going to look coming back up during the PT test.
1300--I get my gas mask from the supply room and join the line for mask fit. The new method connects a pressure sensor to the drink toube and makes sure the mask fits correctly by sensing pressure while we breath normally, breath hard, turn our heads side to side, up and down, and finally pretend we are chewing gum.
1330--I walk back to the motor pool. I am always alone for this 20 minutes. As far as I know, no one ever walked to the motor pool except me. Certainly no one has in the last three months. So I talked to a friend who teaches English at Lancaster Bible College about a class he is teaching on faith in the arts. We talked about the music he was using to tracing Dylan's career in one class session.
1400--With the light box inventory complete, I began to inventory the refrigeration mechanics tool kit. It turned out to be a total of four tool boxes. I also stowed the tools takes from the FRS.
1610--Back to HQ for afternoon formation. I walk fast. "Walk This Way" by RunDMC keeps me on cadence.
1630--Afternoon formation. Everyone is dismissed until 0800 Sunday. I decide to stay around because my squad leader is one of the guys who has to re-take the AFPT.
1700--I tell my squad leader i will run with him then go and change into exercise uniform while he and the others do the push-up and sit-up part of the AFPT.
1730--Everyone drives to the track.
1740--We arrive at the track. Another company is testing. I talk to them and they are fine with us sharing the track as long as our timing is on the opposite side.
1745--The two-mile run begins. I run beside my squad leader. He gets slower in the middle but recovers enough to pass. He was sure he was going to see his lunch again. 1805--At the end of the run, seven of the nine guys who needed to pass made it. Two left for next month.
1815--Everyone goes home. My left knee was swollen before the run. It feels better now so I do three more laps because I know I will have to lay off running for at least a week anyway.
1845--Drive back to Lancaster. On the way home, I talk to my best friend from the last time I was in the army. He is a recently retired firefighter in San Diego. We laugh a lot about how little the Army has changed. At other times we have talked about how much more combat ready the Army National Guard is now than the active duty unit we were in during the post-Vietnam malaise.
1945--Stop at Starbucks then go home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Soldiers as Guinea Pigs

As long as there have been state doctors, soldiers have given those doctors a perfect test group for new drugs, new surgical procedures, new life-saving techniques. Sometimes big things, sometimes small. On May 11, I broke three of the seven vertebra in my neck. The surgeon who replaced my C-7 vertebra with a bone from a cadaver recently returned from Baghdad. I am not dead or paraplegic because he has had a lot of recent practice in the kind of surgery I needed.
At drill this coming weekend I get a flu shot. Actually I am one of four men in my unit to get a flu shot. The rest get their flu vaccine by inhalation. This new technique promises to offer better protection, but needs testing. Soldiers are a great test group—young, in good shape, and well fed. And they do what they are told, so they all take the new vaccine and give researchers a great set of data points. So why do four of us get shots? We are in shape and well fed, but we are also over 50. In the Army more than 80% of the troops are under 25. The over-50 guys are so rare, leaving us out gives them a much better sample than having to deal with the 99th percentile (by age) soldiers.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Training Squeeze

I'll be very busy between now and March 9, now being defined as whenever the paperwork is approved and processed for me to take chemical weapons training on line. The second phase of my training--two weeks at Aberdeen--is already scheduled for March 9. I have to complete the first phase on line before March 9, but that will occur when the paperwork is approved and that might take weeks. So maybe I will be spending the Christmas holidays learning about Chemical Weapons.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Lauren's Team Makes the Championship

In the final game of the regular season, my oldest daughter Lauren's soccer team made qualified for the playoffs. With an 8-4-4 record they just made it to the championship. This is Lauren's freshman year at Juniata College. The current starting goalkeeper is a senior and Lauren should be playing a lot more next year when she and another freshman goalkeeper will step up as Russo graduates. Lauren had high hopes for the first-round championship game against Scranton. Unfortunately, the Juniata title bid ended in the first game with a 3-2 loss. I am looking forward to seeing Lauren in the goal next season. It was strange this year going to her games and seeing her on the bench for the first time since the sixth grade. She has started every game in middle school and high school on defense and, the last tow years of high school, in the goal.

Re-enlistment: When the paperwork is done

The latest word on re-enlistment is the paperwork is filed, but it might be several weeks until it is completed. So no word yet, but maybe by Christmas.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

State Cross Country Championships

OK This is not about the Army, but I am also a dad and my youngest Daughter ran in the Pennsylvania AAA High School Cross Country Championships today. This is her first season in Cross Country and she is doing great. she was first finisher on her team in every regular season meet this year. She finished first once, second four times and fifth once--although there is a different scoring system that followers of the sport know and would be too long to explain here. In the post season, she finished ninth among more than 200 girls in the Lancaster-Lebanon AAA League meet; 39th in the district championship which allowed her to make the state meet; then 82nd today in the PA State Championship among the 300 best runners in the state. Her time today was 20:22. Her best time of the season for the 5k distance was 19:22.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Chemical Weapons Training Scheduled for March

I just received confirmation that I will attend 63J--chemical weapons systems maintenance--training phase 2 from March 9 through March 22 of 2008. I should be receiving a link soon to on-line phase one training in 63J. So I will have from receipt of that link until March 9 to complete phase 1. I'll be spending a lot of time on line between now and then.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Linking Viet Nam and Iraq

Today's Philadelphia Daily News has a 20-page section on Viet Nam. I am quoted in the lead of the first article in the section--partly about the Starbucks story below. Here's the link: PDNews

Saturday, October 27, 2007

New Training Schedule

I just received a revised training schedule for FY 2008. We will have two weekend drills in February and summer camp will be a couple of days longer. It looks like the additional training for deployment won't begin until later in the year.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chemical Weapons Training

Not confirmed yet, but it looks possible that I will be able to complete much of my training on line. Instead of attending an 11-week school at Aberdeen, I will be able to complete an on-line course then complete the final phase in two weeks of resident school. That will get me qualified for the work at the technician level. Then another two-week course will make me eligible for the supervisor level--and the sergeant's list. If all goes well, I will start the on-line training in November.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dog Tags

This weekend I got dog tags. My youngest daughter saw them on my bureau and said she would like a set. I found them on line in about a minute and ordered a set for each of my kids. And by ordering them this way, I could replace my actual Social Security Number with "SSN." I went through identity theft in the spring and I have no desire to repeat it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

FRS Forward Repair System

Saturday morning our motor sergeant put me in charge of the most incredible toolbox this side of a NASCAR garage. The FRS is a self-contained, 18-foot long repair center moved around the battlefield by a five-axle all-terrain tractor-trailer. Dropped off the trailer and leveled on the ground next to any vehicle including an M-1 tank, the FRS has every conceivable tool necessary to fix anything on tracks or wheels. At one end is a 200-amp diesel generator and a 190 psi compressor system. At the other end is a 10,000-pound capacity crane with a 20-foot reach. In the middle are MIG, Arc and gas welders and cutting systems along with five 7-drawer tool cabinets. Inside are 1/2-inch and 3/4 drive air wrenches and sockets and hundreds of hand tools. It also has a full set of curtains, workbenches on a heating system. It comes with a 40-hour training course!

The irony is, I am the only guy assigned to the Echo company motor pool who is not a mechanic. Almost everyone else would like to have the FRS in their garage (although it is bigger than most garages). But while I wait to go to a chemical weapons course, I will definitely have something useful to do.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Not Like Viet Nam

During the Viet Nam War soldiers were pariahs in many parts of the country. Tonight, I stopped at Starbucks on Columbia Avenue in Lancaster on the way back from drill. The man in front of me in line was in his 40s. After he ordered two coffees he asked if I was having coffee, then bought mine also. He thanked me for fighting the war on terror. Nothing like that happened to me during Viet Nam.

Safety Meeting, Then Deployment Announcement

After morning formation we had a mandatory one-hour safety briefing for everybody. After the briefing, the battalion commander got up to say that, while he has no paperwork, the most likely timetable for our unit to be deployed is that we will move to deployment training in January of 2009, then "boots on the ground" in March 2009. He also said we may have as many as three two-to-three-week training sessions during 2008.

Morning Formation: Push-ups in Place

At this morning's formation, three soldiers were late including a staff sergeant. After calling us to attention and receiving the morning report, the first sergeant told the three tardy soldiers to "Drop and start knocking 'em out." (push-ups) He let them do about 15 push-ups before saying "Recover" and letting them return to their places in the formation.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Re-enlisting October 20

I will be re-enlisting on Saturday, October 20. To go to school, I have to be committed to more than one year. To get a security clearance to apply to school, I have to be committed to more than one year, so it's time to re-up. As things stand now, I should be going to school in April of 2008.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hugo, Bill and me

Long-time friend Joe Chang is the editor of ICIS Chemical Business, a global chemical news magazine. He put me in this week's "Movers and Shakers" column with Hugo Chavez and Bill Clinton. Practical jokes go to a whole new level when you edit a magazine. (Click on the image if you want to see it more clearly.)

Catch 22 on School

It turns out I cannot go to school unless I get a security clearance and I can't get a security clearance without re-enlisting. I enlisted for one year on a new program called "Try One." But the current regs don't allow processing of a security clearance for a "Try One." So I plan to re-enlist as soon as the regs allow. Maybe in two weeks, maybe sooner.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

PT Test Plus 2 Days

I am still sore!! Yesterday I did the daily ride and had trouble hanging on. I gave up in Washington Boro at 20 miles. I ached all over and did a very slow roll for the ten miles home. This morning it still hurts to go down stairs. Recovering at 54 is clearly different than recovery at 24.

Rumors--Today's Army vs. 30 Years Ago

I wondered how different the rumor mill would be in the Army of 2007 vs. 1977. What effect would e-mail, the internet, and cell phones have on the spread of rumors? On Sunday we had a brigade mandatory class in dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (always referred to by PTSD). When the class was announced at formation, the rumors of our deployment increased, both in number and in absolute certainty. Of course, not all of the absolutely certain information agreed, but every bit of information was absolutely right. Nothing has changed.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I Passed the PT Test!!

On Sunday after morning formation, I took the annual Physical Training test with six other members of my unit. We will serve as graders at next month's drill for the rest of the company. The order of the events is push-ups, sit-ups, then the 2-mile run. The minimum for me to pass (at age 54)is 20 push-ups, 28 sit-ups (each in two minutes) and then 19:30 for the 2-mile run, which would earn 60 points for each event. The maximum possible score on the test is 300.
I did 31 push-ups in a minute, then quit. I could only have done a few more and thought I was pushing my luck given my recent injuries. I did 55 sit-ups and finished the last one at the last second. I could not have done one more. I was last (by 10 seconds) of the seven graders on the run with a time of 15:38. The scores were 72, 88, and 92 points respectively for a total score of 252 out of a possible 300.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

New Brigade Commander, My First Parade Since the 70s

On Saturday morning I was one of a half-dozen members of Echo Company to participate in a Brigade change of command ceremony. the last time I was in a large ceremonial formation was in the 1970s in Germany. I wondered if I would do something dumb, but I managed to follow all the orders. The formation looked very good. From what I remember from the 70s, they looked better than some active duty units.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Installing Motor Pool Computers

This weekend's drill began at 7 pm with a formation under a beautiful clear sky on a starlit night with a nearly full moon. After the formation I filled out the paperwork to get dogtags then walked to the motor pool. The motor pool is a little more than a mile away walking on the range roads that are closed to cars. It is a 3-mile drive around through the security check point. I am the only one who walks. and what a night to walk. 60 degrees. Moon bright as a searchlight. I listened to Letters 8, 9 and 10 of the Screwtape letters. Letter 8 is on undulation as the normal state of human life. Works for me. iPods are great.

When I got to the motor pool my squad leader asked me if I knew anything about computers. I said I did and spent the next 90 minutes setting up four rather old desktop Windows machine. No network. They are just used for shop manuals--much easier to update than the paper manuals. At 930 pm I walked back. We were dismissed for the night at 10 pm. I decided to drive home rather than stay in the barracks. I figured I would sleep better at home. And I spent most fo the ride talking to my friend Abel Lopez. We served together in Germany in the 1970s--tank commanders in the same platoon. Most of the phone call was about the many similarities and few differences between the Army in 1977 and in 2007.

Nothing Until November

the modern Army is high tech, but the flow of virtual paper is along the same lines as the days of quadruplicate e-mails. After filling out that 37-page application for a security clearance, I was told this evening my application was rejected. The reason: one-year enlistees are not eligible for Security clearances. Actually, it turns out that "being on a one-year" (to use the training NCO's syntax) also means I cannot apply for school. I am eligible to re-enlist November 17. For those who might wonder, I re-enlisted for one year at the advice fo my recruiter. If I enlisted for three years, I could not get a bonus. By re-enlisting for three years after serving 90 days, I can get a $10,000 bonus. It seemed like a good idea, but it does mean I may have to wait until April for the school.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Just After Midnight

Just after midnight last night I finished the application for a Secret Security Clearance. The result is a 37-page PDF summarizing my jobs, my friends, my addresses and my overseas travel in the last 7 years. The seven-year cutoff was great for me. If I had to reconstruct 8 and 9 years ago when I was overseas every month I would have been up till 3 am.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Changing the Schedule; Fitness Test Standards

On Monday I started letting people at work know that I would not be going to the school in Sacramento until next year. Since I got the cervical collar off on August 2 I have been training to pass the fitness test. It's not too difficult for men between 52 and 56 years old: 20 pushups in 2 minutes, 28 situps in 2 minutes, run two miles in 19:30. I was concerned about the pushups because of the injuries to my right shoulder in May. But I can do the 20 in just under a minute, so I should be fine. The situps and the run should be no problem. But there is no way I am going to max it. For a 100% score in each event I would have to do 56 pushups, 66 situps and complete the run in 14:42. If you want to see the standards for your age:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Work toward January school slot

Today I got the application form for a security clearance. So now I can work toward getting into the chemical weapons detection instrumentation school in January or April.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No School

Today I got a message from saying I would not be attending chemical weapons school. Reason: I need a Secret Secutiry Clearance. Now I can plan the next three months.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Enlistment Day, August 16, 2007

Today at 0930 I enlisted. My wife and children watched the two-minute ceremony in the headquarters of my new unit: Echo Company 2-104th Aviation Battalion, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

First call to my recruiter

After thinking about joining for way too long, I called SFC Kevin Askew on Maundy Thursday, April 5, 2007, and asked him about joining the Army National Guard. We talked for more than a half hour. He told me that the Army National Guard has a unit that both looks for WMDs and provides Hazmat response support in the region. He said to send in my DD214s, pay statements and any other paperwork I had that would establish my prior service and he would determine if I could actually join. I collected the papers over Easter weekend and started faxing them on Monday morning.

Field Guide to Flying Death: Cruise Missiles

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