Tuesday, September 30, 2008

REAL Live Fire!!!!

I was OK until the opening briefing for the Live Fire Shoot House began. Well actually I wasn't. As the 20 students filled the seats I started noticing half the class was wearing "Governor's Twenty" tabs on their shoulders. As I learned the day before, this patch is for the top marksmen in each state.

We are the first class to go through the new Live Fire Shoot House in Pennsylvania. I thought I was one of 20 guinea pigs.

Then the briefing started. A consultant/instructor named Phil flew in to teach the class. Phil gave us his resume. He is my age: 55. He enlisted at age 15 in the British Army. At 17-1/2 he became a paratrooper. At 24 he joined the SAS, the UK Special Forces. This affable veteran of liberating hostages and fighting terrorists in Northern Ireland and around the world then said, "You (meaning us in the chairs) are the best of the best. You will be the trainers who will run the Live Fire Shoot House."

Oh Shit.

I volunteered for this training because it the last time I fired an M-16 on a range was basic training in 1972. During most of my military career I was in tanks. I fired a 45 cal. pistol and submachine gun and the the machine guns and cannon on a tank each year, but not an M-16. So I thought this course would reacquaint me with the rifle.

After a 30-minute briefing, including the range safety briefing (the fastest range safety briefing I ever sat through because half the class is range control) we went straight to an outdoor qualification range. The instructor set up targets while we signed for M-4 Carbines and filled two 30-round magazines.

Ten minutes later we were firing full automatic in three-round bursts emptying both magazines. This was NOT going to be the usual all-day boredom of live fire qualification ranges.

Minutes later we were firing on the move, firing moving around obstacles, firing stepping over obstacles. We emptied almost a dozen 30-round magazines before lunch.

One of things Phil taught us was how to fire an M-4 on automatic with one hand. This is a very neat trick. I did it. But last Friday I was at the doctor for a shoulder injury. I am scheduled for an MRI next Monday. My shoulder was killing me while I did this.

And then we moved forward for another live fire exercise. I was paired up with a "Governor's 20" guy. After we completed the exercise, I was supposed to clear the weapon. I could not latch the bolt. After three tries I did it. So the guy I was paired with was understandably nervous and I am feeling more out of place than a Nun at a Frat party.

I talked to two other sergeant's from my unit. I told them I thought between my shoulder and my bad recall of weapon's procedure, I should quit the class. They said I should hang in.

After lunch we went to the shoot house. Again "You are all professionals" almost no preamble and we were clearing rooms in pairs. By the end of the day I was worn out. It was a very long drive home, 40 miles seemed more like 100. I started this post last night, but couldn't finish it.

As of now I completed the second day of training. I needed a lot of help, but ended the day on a high note, having cleared the building as part of a 10-man team--just like a camouflage SWAT unit. I'll write more about that as soon as I can.

Monday, September 29, 2008

First Day of Training

We go to a range tomorrow to zero our weapons. As it turns out, the first day of our five-day training session is officially a travel day. Since the three sergeants attending the course from our unit are local, we arrived at 8 am to sign in. There was no training today, but there were barracks to turn in and ammo and spent brass to return to the Ammo Supply Point (ASP).

So the first day of the exciting live-fire exercise began with picking up trash around a couple of barracks used by another training group. Which lead to the joke "How many sergeants does it take to pick up a cigarette butt?" Three--because that's how many of us showed up.

Then we removed many cases of 5.56mm, 7.62mm and 9mm ammo, plus several hundred pounds of brass from the range and brought it to the ASP.

Tomorrow we will actually be out on a range. I should have more to write then. I have been running, riding or both for 20 years, but I haven't fired a weapon since the last time I was in--February or March of 1984. So things should get exciting in 24 hours.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Packing Up for the Live Fire Shoot House


I got together my field gear and extra equipment for the Live Fire Shoot House training that starts tomorrow. I've got my new helmet and Kevlar Vest and several different options for gloves and eye protection. It turns out we are the first class through this new training facility. I report at 0800. They are issuing us ceramic insert plates for our body armor. It should be exciting.

And I will be bringing an electronic camera to this and future training. So Iwill have pictures from the event--not the internet stuff I usually use.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chicken Hawks

When I first enlisted there was a draft, and there were draft dodgers. Many people avoided the draft including a large segment who became conscientious objectors or pacifists during the draft and then flipped to become pro-military conservatives during the Reagan presidency and beyond. In the late 80s these past-service-age patriots came to be known as Chicken Hawks. Among their number are some current icons of patriotism like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. I know a lot of people who listen to these guys. It seems to me that a draft dodger's opinion on patriotism should carry the same weight as Gene Simmons views on abstinence.

So I reread my favorite writer CS Lewis. In particular, his essay "Why I am not a Pacifist." Lewis wrote the essay during World War 2. He was a twice wounded veteran of World War 1. He served in the trenches as an infantry lieutenant. Here's the end of his essay (He is speaking to a pacifist):

"Let us make no mistake. All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity, severally, is collected together in the life of a soldier on active service. Like sickness, it threatens pain and death. Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst, and hunger. Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule. Like exile, it separates you form all you love. Like [jail], it imprisons you at close quarters with uncongenial companions. It threatens every temporal evil--every evil except dishonor and final perdition, and those who bear it like it no better than you would like it.

On the other side, though it may not be your fault, it is certainly a fact that Pacifism threatens you with almost nothing. Some public opprobrium, yes, from people whose opinion you discount and whose society you do not frequent, soon recompensed by the warm mutual approval which exists, inevitably, in any minority group. For the rest it offers you a continuance of the life you know and love, among the people and in the surroundings you know and love. It offers you time to lay the foundations of a career; for whether you will or no, you can hardly getting the jobs for which the discharged soldiers will one day look in vain. You do not even have to fear, as pacifists may have had to fear [during World War 1], that public opinion will punish you when the peace comes."

And in today's America, you can have your own talk show and declare yourself a patriot.

I liked John McCain's speech at the Republican National Convention, but I could not help wondering as the camera swept the crowd how this courageous survivor of five years in communist captivity felt looking out an the audience in front of him. The cameras lingered on veterans and famous people and young people, but that crowd is and has been for a couple of decades, the largest gathering of Chicken Hawks on the planet. So many men in that audience--rich, white, conservative men--between my age (55) and McCain's age (72) thought Viet Nam was the "wrong war." And they avoided it. Because of the draft, that meant a poor man--black, white, or hispanic--served in their place.

My Uncle Jack served from 1958 to 1982 in the Air Force. From the time I was five until the war ended he was flying over Viet Nam in a refueling plane or in an F-4 fighter jet. And when he wasn't in Viet Nam, it seemed like he was either home for a short visit or stuck in another garden spot like Thule, Greenland.

I have nothing against the consistent pacifists I know. They were against Viet Nam and are against the current war on principle. I disagree, but I respect their views.

But I cannot understand why the blustering buffoons of talk radio should be identified as patriots and even admired by conservatives.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

One More. . .

My youngest daughter Lisa, captain of the Girls Cross Country Team at McCaskey High School (Her school, Lancaster country Day, does not have a cross country team), finished first overall in her most recent cross country meet. She has finished first twice and fourth twice in her four meets so far this season. For those who know cross country, there is a complex scoring system I won't even try to deal with, but she is having a great season.

And More Family in the News

My oldest daughter has played 227 minutes as goalkeeper on the Juniata College women's soccer team this season without letting in a single goal. Her game last Saturday was a 2-0 shutout against a team in a higher ranked conference. She was named player of the week here and Landmark Conference Defensive Player of the Week (Story below) And this is the game story.

Auster-Gussman and Albert named Landmark Players of the Week

(Posted on September 15, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College sophomore keeper Lauren Auster-Gussman (Lancaster, Pa./Lancaster Country Day) has been named Landmark Conference Women's Soccer Defensive Player of the Week, and senior middle hitter Erin Albert (Philipsburg, Pa./Philipsburg-Osceola) earned Landmark Conference Women's Volleyball Player of the Week, when weekly conference honors were announced on Monday.

Albert helped the Eagles earn a pair of wins over nationally ranked foes while improving to 7-0 with three victories at this weekend's Teri Clemens Invitational, hosted by Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Albert amassed 33 kills over 11 sets with a .286 hitting percentage, with a high of 13 kills in a three-set win over Bethel University (Minn.). She also recorded 11 kills in the four-set victory against Wisconsin-Whitewater. For the week, Albert also tallied 10 blocks, eight digs, and four aces.

The Eagle women's volleyball team opens Landmark Conference play this Saturday, Sept. 20, with a conference round-robin weekend at Susquehanna University.
Auster-Gussman stretched her shutout streak to 225 minutes this season while leading the Eagles to a 2-0 win over Gettysburg College. Auster-Gussman recorded seven saves to lead the Eagles to the win over Gettysburg; she has not allowed a goal since the 88th minute of a 5-0 loss at home to Dickinson College on Oct. 4, 2007, a span of 279:59 minutes.

The win over the Bullets, who entered the contest ranked 10th in the adidas/NSCAA Middle Atlantic Region poll, improved Juniata's record to 4-0-0 for the season while giving the Eagles their first win over a regionally ranked opponent.

This week, Juniata will host Lycoming College on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 4:30 p.m. at Winton Hill Field, followed by a road contest at Penn State-Altoona on Saturday, Sept. 20.

My Wife in the NY Times Magazine


Today's New York Times magazine is the Campus Issue. Beginning on page 88 is a section on professors with style. My wife, Annalisa Crannell, is on page 90. They dressed her in $5000 worth of designer clothes including $2500 Gucci boots which did not show in the shot they used. The irony of this is that my wife has not bought any new clothes in this millennium. She only gets clothes from her friends and yard sales. She even considers Goodwill stores overpriced. The clothes she was wearing may have have cost more than all the clothes she has bought in her life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No Pushups for Two Weeks

I went to the doctor last night. I have tendonitis in my right shoulder and right wrist and the doctor said rest would fix it--maybe. So I will skip the pushups and pullups for the rest of this week and go to physical therapy next week. PT helps the injury heal faster. I also am taking it easy because I don't want to go to the Live Fire Shoot House having any trouble holding a weapon.

So now I am adding my right arm to the balancing act I go though with running--I try to run far enough and fast enough to do well on the APFT but have to back off when my knees and ankles start to hurt. 20-year-olds can beat the crap out of themselves, get a good night's sleep and completely recover. Those of us who are chronologically enhanced have to be a lot more careful.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Got my Helmet!!!

Today I woke up and drove back to Fort Indiantown Gap to go to the supply office with our supply clerk to get a helmet. I got a brand-new extra-large kevlar helmet. As it turns out it feels big, but our supply sergeant says the XL fits right and the large sits too high on my head--I wear a size 7 1/2 hat. The supply clerk put i some extra pads, so it should be fine. It certainly fits better than the old-style helmet I was borrowing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Recovery Training Today


This afternoon I had my first session of Recovery Team training. The recovery teams will use M984E1 HEMMT vehicles to go and rescue broken down and wrecked vehicles. The training was tough and realistic. The instructor handed me the operator's manual and said he would be back in a half hour and I should be ready to set up the M984E1 and go recovery a Humvee. My training partner and I set up the boom and tow chains. Lucky for me, the guy who was tested with me is a fan of "Wrecked" on SpeedTV. He knew how to set up for the recovery.

After the set up, we drove a couple of miles to a dirt road in the trees where the Humvee was off the side of the road. I drove. He guided me in. We had to reposition the M984 once, but got the Humvee chained on the first try and pulled it back to the motor pool. I don't know if I will be on the actual recovery team when we are deployed, but I learned a lot about rescuing vehicles today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who's Reading Blogs?

When I first created this blog, it was a simply to give friends and family updates on the weird stuff that happens to a 55-year-old guy who re-enlists in the Army. All of my family and many of my friends live in the eastern half of the US. Add in Belgium, France, Germany, Singapore and the UK and you have got most all of my friends locations.

A couple of months ago I added Site Meter to my blog just to see was looking at the blog. Since I don't get a lot comments I started to wonder if Meredith Gould, my sister, and Burt Friggin' Hoovis were my main reader base. I checked site meter when I woke this morning the first four locations that came up were
Adelaide, Australia
Jakarta Indonesia
Wurzburg, Germany
Taipei, Taiwan
The next 20 on the list were from the US, but mostly form the West Coast. On top of that, a couple of days ago 80 people visited my blog.
It got me wondering 'Who are these people?' But I guess America is nothing if it is not a nation of odd characters. I don't suppose there are any 50-year-old bloggers in the Russian or Iranian armies. Actually, I doubt there are any bloggers at all.

Helmet Tomorrow--Maybe


I have been back in the Army just short of 13 months. Most things are going well, but I still don't have a helmet. I have a lot of other field gear, including every authorized piece of long underwear, but no helmet. One of the squad leaders in my unit loaned me a helmet for annual training, but it doesn't quite fit.

So tomorrow I am leaving New York at 7 am after a late dinner meeting, going to Philadelphia for a couple of hours, taking a train to Lancaster, then driving another 40 miles to Fort Indiantown Gap because our supply sergeant said if I show up in person, he can take me to the folks that issue field gear and I can finally get an Extra Large Kevlar Helmet after 13 months on back order.

I am not sure how much use I will get out of my high tech long underwear in Iraq, but I am betting that helmet will be handy to have.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Speaking of Crashes


One of my favorite bloggers, Meredith Gould, send me a link to the home page of the Wounded Warrior Project. I support their work. It's a great cause. There was nothing like this during Viet Nam.

Another Crash, I missed it by 3 Laps

Yesterday I was at Lancaster General Hospital one floor down from my old room visiting Bruce Olney. He crashed on the sixth lap of the weekly training race last Wednesday. He broke and displaced six ribs, punctured a lung, broke his collarbone and had a mild concussion. Similar crash to mine--touched wheels and slammed into the road. Lucky for him it was at 27mph instead of 51mph.

I was at the training race on the tandem with my youngest daughter Lisa. We rode nine miles to the race and after three 3.25-mile laps I was tired and I thought the riders at the back were getting squirrelly, so Lisa and I turned off and went home. Bruce crashed on Lap 6.

Bruce's painkillers were working well, he showed no signs of bad pain. And his family was lots of fun. When I arrived, his wife, two children and in-laws were in the room. Bruce is about my age. His in-laws are Mennonite and wearing the plain clothes of their generation. We were joking around about bicycle riding and recovering until Bruce's parents left.

After the in-laws left, Bruce's kids, age 17 and 19 started talking about joining the FBI and using Army ROTC to get on the fast track in. Lois, Bruce's wife said is a nurse. She said she was thinking about joining the Army. I told them they are the first Combat Mennonite family I ever met. I have known Bruce a long time, but we talked more in his hospital room than the last ten years put together. When you only see people in helmets and out of breath you don't know how interesting they are.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Another Post About My Day Job

In the Spring Books and Culture published a review I wrote with the historian Mary Ellen Bowden of the book Atoms and Alchemy by Bill Newman. I wrote the parts about the misconceptions about alchemy and Mary Ellen wrote about how Newman corrects the historical record.
John Wilson, the editor of Books & Culture, said I should have one more review published in his magazine before I head for the Sandbox. This review will be of a book titled Nylons and Bombs. It is a history of engineering at DuPont that was first published in French and was quite a different book in English. John let Brigitte Van Tiggelen and I tell just how different the books are and why.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Science Cheerleader Published My View on Science and the Election

One of the sites I follow (listed in the blog roll to the right of this post--scroll down) is the Science Cheerleader, a former Philadelphia 76ers Cheerleader who now works for Discover magazine and blogs about science.

The Science Cheerleader and I talked last week about the Sarah Palin nomination and what it meant to science. I sent her what I thought was just notes, but she published the whole message. If you are curious, it's here.

Life, The Universe and The Fiscal Year


On September 29, the 2nd to the last day of Army Fiscal Year 2008 I will be going to a one-week course in a Live Fire Shoot House. My course will be the same as every other course, but the paperwork will not. The first two days of the course are in budget year 2008, the last three in budget year 2009. So yesterday I received orders for the first two days of the course. I will receive travel from my home to the training area plus two days pay on those orders. Sometime after October 1, maybe three or four weeks later, I will receive orders to be at the final three days of the same course. And by those orders I will be paid for three more days of active duty and the drive home. The Army may not stop for holidays, but the biggest day on the calendar is October 1: New Years Day of the Fiscal Year.