Friday, November 28, 2008

Back on the Bike

At physical therapy today I asked about riding the bike. The therapist said the reason I can't ride the bike is because I will put weight on the shoulder. Actually, I put more weight on the shoulder when I am riding an exercise bike because there is no wind on my chest. And since they allowed me to ride an exercise bike, I assumed it would be OK to ride a bike. So I rode 22 miles, including a few miles with the Friday 1 pm ride. It has been so long, 30 days, since I rode, that when Jan Felice said to meet at his house at 1 pm, I completely forgot that Scott Haverstick and other Friday riders would be there. I was riding the 1-speed bike in sneakers so I only stayed on to the far side of Millersville. I also ran 5k with my wife and did 100 sit ups. Life is getting better.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back to Running and Sit Ups

Today my therapy went from passive to active which meant my exercise could start to do the same. Since the day of the surgery on October 30 all I have done for exercise is walk. I walked a lot, 180 miles, but I missed running. Today I ran two miles and did 80 crunches, so I really feel like I am starting to recover.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In the Sunday News Again--And on Video

This morning's Lancaster Sunday News has another article on my enlistment, this time with video. If you click on the video tab at the top of the article it takes you to this video:

I'll be "Hollywood" again at December drill.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Meat Gazer

This morning at formation Top said the big task for today and tomorrow would be cleaning weapons. When the weapons, vehicles and barracks were cleaned and turned in on Friday, we would be done.
And, Oh yes, the following individuals fall out to the right of formation as I call your name, it is time for a random drug test--the piss in a bottle test. After the formation Top said, "Since you can't clean weapons with one arm, you can escort the men taking the test." So I went to the desk and signed the long form with tiny type that said I promise to monitor each person taking the piss test.
For the next three hour I walked back and forth from the men's locker room with the men filling small plastic bottles 3/4ths full. A female sergeant had to escort the women being tested.
As I walked down the 100-foot hallway from the drill floor with one of my charges, we passed a female sergeant from another company--a former marine. She saw me walking down the hall with a guy holding the plastic bottle. I said hello to her. She smiled and said, "So you are the Meat Gazer today." I don't remember what they called the Meat Gazer 30 years ago, but for the rest of the morning I was Sergeant Meat Gazer. I checked on line and there are twelve slang definitions for the two-word description of my job this morning.
In the afternoon printed maintenance forms in the motor pool and was very happy my other task was complete.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And Now the Real Orders

The Stop-Loss orders were electronic. Today at noon I was the first one in our unit to get a copy of our actual orders for deployment. I now have the official three pages that makes me part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I also called Jon Rutter, the Sunday News reporter, back this morning to let him know about the Stop-Loss orders and to tell him that the generic Army term for someone like me who issues tools from a central supply point is "The Tool Bitch." Since my recent promotion, I am actually sergeant tool bitch. Jon said he will check with the editor of the Sunday News to see if he can actually use that term in a story. I guess we'll see on Sunday.

Today's work was a continuation of the last two days. I added several more worksheets to my FRS inventory, but I have hundreds more tools to go before I have the complete, searchable inventory I want to have for Iraq. If I get really slick I'll have a spreadsheet of everyone in the unit and I will be able to sign out the tools electronically.

Tomorrow and Friday we are likely to stay late to clean guns and barracks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hanging Files

Today while most of the company was out on the range, I made hanging file folders for personnel and annual maintenance records. I also had a two-hour break to talk with Jon Rutter of the Lancaster Sunday News. He came to Fort Indiantown Gap to do another article about how things are going with my pre-deployment training. He came with a photographer and a videographer, so I did most of the interview in front of a video camera. Since we could not go to the range, I brought the news crew to the motor pool to see the coolest tool box in the Army, the FRS, and the truck it rides on, the PLS. They seemed to be having fun, especially the videographer who took a ride in the PLS.

Stop Loss Orders

Because of the surgery and missing the first two weeks of training, I forgot about Stop-Loss orders. Soldiers who are about to deploy, usually 90 days from the deployment date, receive Stop-Loss orders. These orders mean soldiers cannot transfer, retire or otherwise leave the unit until after the deployment has ended.
I (and everyone else in my unit) got Stop-Loss orders on October 26. Lately I have been so busy the deployment has seemed unreal. Stop-Loss orders make the deployment much more real than it was yesterday.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Paperwork

I spent most of today updating a spreadsheet and labeling file folders for annual maintenance forms. It's the kind of thing I can do with one arm. At Physical Therapy, the therapist (His name is Joe, I guess I could say Joe the Therapist.) said the purpose of the sling is to REST my arm, not so I could figure out how many things I can do with a sling on. I had some stiffness in my shoulder that Joe associates with over-active patients. Go figure.

While I was working on some forms I overheard two sergeants discussing who was going out to check the status of a particular HumVee. SGT Inert--a grumpy truck driver in his 40s who flunked all three events in the PT test--yelled across the maintenance bay for SGT Speed--a mod-20s woman who just Maxed the PT test and finished 2nd overall in the run--to go out and check on the HumVee. She is senior in date of rank and told him to "Get his lazy ass out in the cold and do it himself." As soon as SGT Inert was out the door, the soldiers he usually yells at (from the seated position) were pumping their fists and saying, "Yes!"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First Good night's Sleep!!

Maybe the worst part of the surgery is the trouble I have had sleeping. I usually sleep on my right side so for the past two weeks I have been waking up several times a night--usually when I try to roll onto my right side and wake up from the pain rush. Last night I managed to sleep three hours uninterrupted, then two more until the alarm woke me at 4:45am. Maybe it was the long day at the motor pool that made me tired enough to sleep at night.

Today was another day updating maintenance forms at the motor pool. Dinner was really interesting though. I ate with another old sergeant--our chief cook--who has a daughter in college. He said there is a scholarship available for the children of Army national Guard soldiers who are getting deployed. I will be going to the education office at lunch tomorrow to pick up three of those forms. The chef in camouflage also told me that when he was deployed last he took college courses on major bases like the one we are going to. He said they look for people with graduate degrees among the soldiers deploying to teach classes in Iraq. I am also going to look into the possibility of teaching writing and literature in Iraq. That would be an interesting line on my resume.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

First Day Back--PT Test

When I showed up this morning for my first day back to pre-deployment training everyone was in PT gear. The PT test started immediately after morning formation. They already had enough graders so I read the Task, Conditions and Standards--the 200 or 300 words that begin each event and say what each soldier has to do and how it has to be done to pass the test. Standing and watching in a sling, I really wished I could have been taking the test. Especially the run. The two fastest runners came in at 14:17 and 14:18. If I had been able to run I could have stayed with them, they ran together from lap 2 till then end at a good pace. Oh well.
I spent the rest of the day in the motor pool revising vehicle inspection forms for a file we are setting up for deployment. It's something I can do with one arm.
I also issued some tools and went back to being the tool bitch--as much as I can with one hand. When I showed up in the morning a lot of people welcomed me back and asked how I was doing. It really is good to be back. But in the motor pool a few soldiers seemed very happy I was back signing out tools. One said the guy who replaced me for two weeks didn't like the job. "He really put the Bitch in Tool Bitch Sgt G."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Training in a Sling

Tomorrow morning at 0700 I will be in formation and getting ready for the final week of the three-week pre-deployment training. I missed the first two for surgery recovery but should be able to at least watch the training on the last week. Jon Rutter of the Lancaster Sunday News will be coming to our training site on Tuesday to see how things are progressing toward deployment. I was supposed to be in my second week of Warrior Leadership Course this week, but the surgery ended that. On the bright side of that, our training NCO said I may be able to go to WLC while we are in Iraq. The course would not be in the Middle East but in Germany. So I would get an extra two weeks in a place with trees and grass.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Like Fasting at a Buffet

When I scheduled the surgery, my one regret was missing the first week of training. We were supposed to do individual weapons qualification--rifles and pistols--the first three days of training then the next three days were to be the light (M249 SAW) and heavy (M2 HB .50 cal.)machine guns and the M19 belt-fed grenade launcher.

I just found out we are firing those weapons next week--the week I return to limited duty in a sling. So next week I will be watching everyone else in my unit fire the M2, M19, and M249 while I watch--as much fun as watching other people eat while you are fasting. Firing a machine gun is not a one-arm activity.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Limited to one-arm activity. . ."

Just before the surgery I asked my doctor for a letter to send to my unit because I was (am) scheduled for three weeks of training beginning two days after the surgery. The unit wanted me to observe training if I could, even if I could not participate. So the doctor wrote a letter stating that my full recovery should be the primary goal and I would be wearing a sling for six weeks, but he thought after two weeks I "should be able to ride to the field in a truck." But he made clear: "He will be limited to one arm activity for the first six weeks." I faxed the letter to the unit operations sergeant pointing. He read the letter while I was on the phone and burst out laughing at that restriction. When I do go back to duty I am sure somebody is going to making loud suggestions as to what activities I can do with one arm--and how they will prepare me for next year.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Not Sleeping

Last night I ate dinner late, had coffee with dinner, very much enjoyed myself and was on a 2-mile walk from 1:15 am to 2 am. I got to sleep at 3 am. When I get injured, the LAST thing that recovers is my sleep it seems. I haven't slept well since the surgery. All the more frustrating because the rest of the recovery really is going well. Physical Therapy is tiring. Maybe I will sleep better next week.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Physical Therapy Starts Tuesday

The stitches came out yesterday and the doctor says I can start doing gravity exercises--letting my army hang and moving it in circles. He showed me pictures of all the various repairs he made. The rotator cuff was badly torn and he could fix that completely. He fixed tears in two other ligaments and did something to encourage cartilage to grow back in my shoulder joint.

Physical Therapy starts Tuesday. It's easy stuff next week. Then from Saturday to Friday of the week after (15-21) I can go to my unit's final week of training. Then Thanksgiving week I get the kind of therapy that really hurts. I am hoping to be out of the sling by the first week in December and back on the bike.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

McCain's Concession Speech Tonight

Senator John McCain's concession speech tonight was a picture of grace and good will. In this speech he quieted the boos from his supporters and said, "America First" in the most sincere and stirring way possible. McCain talked about supporting the new President and coming together keep America the greatest nation on earth.

When tomorrow dawns, the whole political world will be second guessing and blaming John McCain, especially the conservative talk radio hosts who live by tearing down others. I grew up in 50s when racial epithets were part of normal conversation. The right wing will be predicting the doom of America in the coming months and years, but I am proud and amazed the country I grew up in could have changed enough to elect Barack Obama President.

My Practical Daughter

I have two daughters who are sophomores in college. My youngest daughter is a high school senior visiting colleges and until this week was pretty sure about where she was going to college next year. That changed with a visit to Williams College in Massachusetts this weekend. They have a winning cross country team and she thought the team was bright and fun to be with. she liked the dorms, the campus, the dining halls--pretty much everything about the visit. She returned late last night. I first heard about the visit this morning. She is applying early decision by the end of this week. I first heard about Williams when she called me this morning.

Lisa said with two sisters in college, the only problem she has is she'll need financial aid in her senior year. She said, "It looks like if you go back to Iraq in 2011, I'll be able to do the whole four years on the money you and mom already saved." Only Lisa would say that among all the kids. Later she said, "I was kidding. Mom will figure a way to get the senior year money." I make different jokes with each of my kids. Lisa is the best at deadpan humor.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Feeling Better

I spent much of today in bed. I had a lousy night, but managed to get some sleep today. But I did not feel I had to get up and walk around every hour. I walked less today. I walked Nigel to school, walked to Starbucks in the afternoon and walked with Annalisa this evening. In between I could read and just lie still--a big improvement. So while the country lines up to vote tomorrow, I will try to get some stuff done for work and do some reading. Thursday I get the stitches out and get a reading on how soon I can start physical therapy.

Next History Article

This week's issue of Books & Culture has an article by Brigitte Van Tiggelen and I about the history of Chemical Engineering in DuPont and the US. If you click on it, it gets bigger.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Walking Back to Health

My surgery got me four repairs for the price of two. I was supposed to get a rotator cuff repair, plus another ligament. Dr. Perezous found a third torn ligament and also repaired the joint itself. What a deal! My daughter Lisa walked with me to the surgery (2.25 miles) at 5:15 on Thursday morning. I was done by 11 and home at Noon. I felt good in the afternoon and walked around the neighborhood (1.75 miles). My wife Annalisa and I walked three miles near dinner time. Lisa and I walked to Starbucks and back in the evening (3 miles) bringing me to 10 miles for the day.

I don't sleep very well because I usually sleep on my right side. So I have spent most of the last four days wither walking or sleeping.

Annalisa and I walk at least two miles each day I am in town anyway, so I have been able to walk between 7.5 and 12 miles the last three days. It helps to get me off the pain killers. I got a lot of prayers and good wishes and my recovery is going very well. Thanks much. The tough part is still to come--the Physical Therapy.

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