Thursday, June 30, 2011

Camo in the Metro

The Combat Aviation Battalion I drill with, like most line battalions is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel and has fewer than two dozen commissioned officers (lieutenants, captains and majors).  Because we are an aviation unit, there are also a few dozen warrant officers.  From Sunday night until last night I was in Washington DC at the Biotechnology Industry Conference--a trade show for the the biotech industry.  I had several occasions to ride the Metro, the DC subway system.  Lots of officers ride the Metro from every branch of the US military.  I am sure I never saw an enlisted man of any branch.  I guess in the area of DC and northern Virginia, there are more officers than enlisted men.
I've been to DC many times.  I guess I did not pay attention to the rank of the uniformed subway riders before.

Next time I ride the Metro, I'll see if I can find at least one enlisted soldier.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bike Update: Mike Zban Wins Brownstown

My friend and former coworker at Godfrey Advertising, Mike Zban, won the Brownstown Road Race yesterday.  Mike and I have been friends and riding buddies since he was hired at Godfrey not long after he graduated from college in the early nineties.  He is a strong member of the Lancaster Masters Racing Club Thru-It-All Body Shop.  Having a friend win a race is almost as good as winning itself.  Also in the race from Thru-It-All was Jan Felice another long-time friend.  Jan got knocked out of the race after for of the six 5-mile laps when another rider crashed in the turn and turned Jan rubber side up.  I was behind Jan when he crashed.  I did not crash but was off the road and could not catch back up to the main field.  I finished, but was was well back of the leaders at the end of the race.

Brownstown is a great traditional road race course and a big favorite for me.  Brownstown was the only USCF race I did in 2009--it was the race I rode in when I was home on leave.

On Sunday, I raced at the Emrick Blvd Criterium in Bethlehem PA.  The course was a smooth, fast, one-mile D-shaped loop.  Not quite flat, but a gentle uphill toward the finish and a slight downhill on the front side.  Nigel and Jacari came to the race and cheered for me on each of the 23 laps.  The race took just under an hour so they were yelling about every two minutes and fifteen seconds.  The also cheered for my five teammates in the race and for a owmen's masters race that ran simultaneously.  The boys stood on the side of the road with the family of one of the women in the race and cheered for her also.

Nigel and Jacari got to eat at Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds, so they liked the trip even with the 80-mile drive to the race.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Love Cell Phones, Even When I am in the Hospital

AARP Bulletin has a story about why people are moving from voice to texting.  I tell why I still prefer the phone.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Commander in Bicycling Magazine

The editor of Bicycling magazine wrote an article about a guy named Joel who put him in pain on a training ride.  The rider is LTC Joel Allmandinger, commander of 2-104th GASB.

I have been in the editor's position many times, just hanging on to a guy stronger than me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Visit to Boeing Chinook Factory in Ridley Park

On Friday a large group from Fort Indiantown Gap toured the Boeing Chinook factory in Ridley Park near philadelphia.

Boeing Photographer Alan Chalfin took my picture while I was taking pictures of our tour group.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Army Ends Saturday, Race on Sunday

I got home just before 5pm on Saturday from two weeks of Annual Training.  At 8am Sunday, I started my first race in more than a month, a criterium held on the west side of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster--which meant the back side of the course was one block from my house.

The Father's Day race used to be held at Greenfield Industrial Park on the east side of Lancaster, but after 20 years, the Park owners decided it was time for the racers to get  new venue.

Criteriums are my favorite kind of race--not that I am good at them, but they are a lot of fun for an ex motorcycle rider who loves fast corners.  The 0.8-mile course was a one-block-wide, three-block-long rectangle that is downhill on the backstretch and uphill on the front.  The start-finish line is near the top of the hill.  In just 20 miles we made 100 right turns.  From the uphill start-finish line, the first turn is slow, the second is faster, the third is fastest of all and the fourth starts uphill and is a slower.

Eleven laps into the race I was dropping off the back of the pack.  I would have quit if three of my kids were not cheering their lungs out.  Lisa, Nigel and Jacari were yelling "Go Dad!"  over and over each time I went past.  As I passed them at lap 11 I made a big effort to catch the pack.  The pack slowed down into the first turn.  By the second turn I was back on and for the rest of the race, I stayed in by resting on the downhill.  I got extra rest by staying 10 meters behind the field as they entered turn three either side of 30 mph.  They slowed entering the turn and stayed on the right side of the road.  I did not slow down and went to the left side of the road.  I would pass four or five riders every time.  A couple of times I passed ten.  As a result, I was mid pack up the hill.  I could lose ten places and still be in the pack down the other side.

On lap three the pack slowed so I went out front.  I had no other reason except to let my kids see Dad in front.  Jacari hadn't seen many races so he thought I would get some kind of prize for leading lap three.  Nigel and Lisa knew that leading early means you are less likely to win.

It was a great Father's Day finishing with the pack and several of my teammates.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review of The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens

Here's a link to my review of the book in Books and Culture:
http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/webexclusives/2011/june/gussaman060811.html?paging=off

Or text here:


The Heart and the Fist

Humanitarian + Navy SEAL: no contradiction.
A week after Navy SEAL Team 6 killed Osama Bin Laden in a walled compound in Afghanistan, three books on Navy SEALs were listed among the Top 20 sellers on Amazon.com. Among them was The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL, by Eric Greitens (rhymes with "brightens").
Greitens' book is a memoir, currently a suspect genre. But military memoir is among the most reliable forms of the life-remembered story. Soldiers can tell horrendous tall tales, but the military keeps good records, and—as the 2004 presidential campaign showed—military exaggerations outside the barracks can provoke a rapid response.
The Greitens story begins with an ordinary boy obsessed with going to college. We are shown a few bumps on the road to Duke University, but college suits his natural curiosity. Then the story veers out of the experience of nearly every reader I could imagine. A Duke University sophomore from middle America drives to an urban boxing gym in Durham and starts doing pushups and sit-ups until he figures out what to do next. Within two weeks he has a trainer and spends the next three years working toward a Golden Glove tournament.
Wow!!!
Did I mention he earned a Rhodes Scholarship during the period he was hanging out in an inner city gym? If you were thinking Greitens took summers to rest with friends or family, at age 20 he spent the summer caring for refugees in Bosnia during the period of some of the worst ethnic cleansing. The next summer he was in Rwanda and Zaire caring for refugees of the genocide that claimed at least a half-million people. Although he would not become a SEAL for years after his experience in Rwanda, in the chapter on Rwanda Greitens tells the reader why he went from aid worker to combatant:
The international community had watched the genocide in Rwanda without lifting a finger. Ultimately, it had taken a military victory …[—]a Tutsi army that swept down from Uganda—to bring an end to the killing. We should have sent military assistance, maybe even U.S. Marines. Instead, too late, we sent money and food.
[W]e live in a world marked by violence, and if we want to protect others, we sometimes have to be willing to fight. We all understand at the most basic level that caring requires strength as well as compassion.
While earning a PhD at Oxford, Greitens worked with genocide victims in Bosnia and met Mother Teresa. Along the way he decided that humanitarian work needs protection, so at 26 he turned down a lucrative consulting career, joined the US Navy, and became a SEAL.
The next year he was fighting in Fallujah. Greitens describes a suicide vehicle bomb attack that included chlorine gas. He survived the attack, got to a rooftop to defend his unit's position, then helped to rescue the wounded—in particular, a comrade who kept trying to put on his boots while he bled from a wound in the back of his head. I've been in that comrade's shoes, figuratively speaking. I once walked away from a missile test explosion peppered with shrapnel that would lead to six eye operations and reattaching two fingers. I knew my crew chief needed help and I knew nothing else. So I started walking the five miles across the desert to the base hospital and get help.
Although Greitens was gassed, he ran every day after the attack until the effects of the chlorine gas wore off many weeks later. Ran. After being gassed.
Did I say wow?
As I read about this amazing man, I thought about the amazing soldiers I served with during the Viet Nam War, in the Cold War, and in Iraq in 2009-10. And I thought about the not-so-amazing men and women I served with. I knew a few Rangers and Special Forces troops who could have been SEALs. But most of the soldiers I served with, even some of the best, would probably have rung the bell three times, signaling that they'd reached their limit, and gone for the coffee and doughnuts that temptingly await those who wash out of SEAL training. I know I would have.
Coincidentally, when I received this book for review, I had just finished a book on envy and was beginning to re-read Vergil's Aeneid. Reading Greitens' book, I could have repented of envy after every chapter. His story reminded me of Aeneas, Achilles, Odysseus, Hector, and the Seven Against Thebes. They were the élite warriors of their era. The Old Testament lovingly records David's Three and Thirty—the SEALs and Rangers of ancient Israel.
Then I thought about the thousands of soldiers each of those ancient heroes slew: the rest of the army. Reading The AeneidThe Iliad, and the Book of Kings, it becomes clear that the role of most soldiers is to die at the hand of a champion or live to populate a new nation. Fall in battle or populate a village—all you have to do is stay clear of the champions and live through the war.
And that is my only quibble with this very well-told story: Greitens sweeps aside the heroism of all the lesser heroes of war. He writes, "I know—generally—whowon't make it through Hell Week (the toughest part of SEAL training). The weightlifting meatheads who think that the size of their biceps is an indication of their strength; they usually fail. The kids covered in tattoos announcing to the world how tough they are; they usually fail." The list continues with preening leaders, me-first former athletes, blowhards, men who make excuses, talkers, and more—failures. Some of the best soldiers I ever served with were on this list.
Greitens says any 16 athletes can be trained to be killers, but that SEAL training, along with Army Ranger, Special Forces, and other élite training, gives these men the ability to use force with proportion. But with a few exceptions, American soldiers are the definition of proportional use of force when compared to any other army around the world and through most of recorded history.
I admire everything that Greitens is and all that he has accomplished. His book is a well-written memoir that shows just how good the best American soldiers really are, both with their hearts and their fists. But the rest of the military of the American military is, on the whole, a great fighting force.
Let me give one more example from my own experience. In 2009, I was stationed at Camp Adder in Iraq. The base commander was Colonel Peter Newell. In November 2004, Newell commanded the first battalion into the fight in Fallujah. He was among five soldiers who earned a Silver Star in that bloody day-and-night battle. The Army National Guard aviation unit at Camp Adder, the unit I served with, included an Illinois Blackhawk company that had flown for Newell in that 2004 battle. Newell's ground troops were regular Army, not élite units.
The Guardsmen were railroad engineers, aircraft mechanics, security guards, construction workers, and pilots in civilian life. They were up before the sun loading weapons getting ready to fly Newell's troops to the Iran-Iraq border. Sometimes they returned to the base wearing night vision goggles, then did post-flight maintenance under security lights before crawling into their bunks. In 2004, many of the same guys were flying into deadly fire in support of Newell's troops. As one Blackhawk pilot told me, "We flew 150 knots [airspeed], 50 feet off the deck [the ground], expending ammo on the 240s [door guns] laying down fire. That was flyin'." Between Fallujah in 2004 and deployment with us in 2009, he was one of the pilots for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
The men who wash out of SEAL training or never qualify for it in the first place are the warriors who perform dull and dangerous missions every day. King David of Israel kept the Three and the Thirty in the palace, but he called up the rest of the army when it was time to go to war.
Despite this one caveat, I am going to read The Heart and the Fist to my sons this year. They are 11 and 12. They should know how a great life is lived in the modern world, and I can think of no one I would rather have them emulate than Eric Greitens.
Neil Gussman is communications manager at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He blogs atarmynow.blogspot.com.

Land Navigation Training

Below are photos of a Cadet and a Specialist reporting to their company commander after successfully completing a land navigation course in the dense woods on the north end of Fort Indiantown Gap.  They were the first to finish, completing the course in 2 hours.  

While we were waiting for them to finish, I found out that the Warrior Leadership Course no longer includes land navigation and no longer makes the PT Test part of the grade for the course.

The change is recent.  I think it is stupid.  This course is supposed to train enlisted men and junior NCOs to be leaders.  Land Nav combines fitness with calculation and concentration.  The fitness test is an Army standard.  Even if Land Nav is no longer a skill in common use, it surely shows a lot abut the abilities of those who master it.  And the fitness test, leaders should be at the front, not be lagging.

OK  Done bitching like and old guy.





Monday, June 13, 2011

Combat Life Saver Training -- "Victims"

Combat Life Saver training puts a squad of soldiers in a realistic setting with victims both unconscious and screaming for help.  The soldiers have to treat the victims and get them out of harm's way.  Here are some of the "victims" at a CLS training site. 









Soldiers on their first flight

Pictures from my flight two days ago.






New Facebook Page, More Photos

I started a facebook page for my unit.  I am going to be putting photos up and info for soldiers.  Please go here and "Like" the page.  Thanks

http://www.facebook.com/pages/2-104th-GSAB-Army-Aviation/222631574431291

Flying with the New Guys

On Saturday I took a routine flight 30 miles northeast of Fort Indiantown Gap to a remote fuel site set up at the Joe Zerbey Airport near Pottsville PA.  They airport had an open house to let local residents see the army fuel trucks and the Blackhawk helicopter we rode up in.  The flight up was better than I expected.  The pilots took an indirect route through valleys at 100 feet of altitude rather than the normal 500+ feet of level flight.  The doors were open and I was sitting in the seat next to the open door so I had a great view. There were five young soldiers on the aircraft who were getting their first flight on a helicopter.  They had a ball.

None of us knew the flight back would be even better.

After an hour at the airport, we took off fast.  First we flew level gaining speed then went up hard.  When we got to 1000 feet we circled.  I had asked to take aerial photos of the fueling set up.  The pilots gave me a level circle to take the pictures, then they turned the Blackhawk almost completely on its side on the next pass over the field, then flipped it to the other side so the soldiers on both sides could have the experience of looking straight down from the open doors.

We were all laughing like we were on a roller coaster--which we were in a way.

On the 30 mile trip back we climbed, dove down hard and pulled back up turning almost sideways 50 feet above the trees.  At one point we landed briefly then climbed almost straight up to 2000 feet.

Below are the other soldiers on the flight and the two who sat opposite me:


Friday, June 10, 2011

Air Assault Training in VA

Here's photos of air assault training in VA.  Briefing American and German infantrymen before flights.




Flying to Virginia in the Door Gunner's Seat of a Blackhawk

Today I flew to VA on a Blackhawk in the door gunner's seat.  I never had a chance to do that in Iraq because the real door gunner's had to be on the guns.  It was lot's of fun.  I put my feet on the window ledge to stretch.  One of the flight medics in Iraq put his feet out the window on take-off.  I flew over a big quarry and three-mile island.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Getting Ready for the Range

This morning we had a class to get us ready for the range next week.  SFC Lori Burns took this picture because "You are always taking pictures of other people.  I am taking a picture of you." SGT Marc Hall gave a great class on weapon procedures.  CPL Mike Arms helped me to get into kneeling position for firing next week.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Field Kitchen in the Parking Lot

Today Echo Company started field kitchen operation in the parking lot behind the armory.  Went smoothly.  Lines passed through the filed kitchen quickly for the hot food.  Salad and cold food were off to the side.


Monday, June 6, 2011

End of the World in McDonalds Parking Lot

I missed supper tonight so I went to McDonalds at 830 pm.  They have the best internet anywhere near Fort Indiantown Gap so I come here to upload photos and do other tasks that are a pain in the butt with Army internet.

On the way, I tuned my car radio to WKDN Camden NJ, the local station broadcasting Family Radio, the network of Harold Camping, the guy who said the world was going to end May 21 with a worldwide earthquake.  I have checked WKDN every few days since May 21 to see if the station would shut down or what would happen.  Each time I go there they are playing Church music.  But tonight I checked WKDN and Harold was taking calls again, answering your Bible questions.

I did not want to miss this.  The second caller asked Camping what was going on with his prediction.  His answer was priceless!!!!

He said the word Earthquake could be interpreted FIGURATIVELY.  Really???
Camping said his prediction caused a figurative earthquake and caused people around the world to think about the Bible--shaking them up.  So it WAS and earthquake.

Camping would be simply funny, but for most of his 89 years he has said the only way to interpret the Bible is literally.  He said any other interpretation was wrong.  But now when his own credibility is in question, the figurative interpretation is correct.

It was, of course, a coincidence that Congressman Anthony Weiner confessed his sins in public just as Camping pulled a fig leaf over his.  But these very different men are brothers in colossal hubris.

Anyone who doubts we are a free nation should try to name another nation where these two guys would have uninterrupted access to the public airwaves.

Search Amazon.com for harold camping books

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Annual Training Begins Today

Yesterday we had a preliminary day--meetings about the coming two weeks of annual training.

I was on a Machine Gun range today.  I went to take pictures and got to fire 300 rounds with an M240B 7.62mm that is the standard weapon for door guns in Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters.  The range has pop-up targets from 300 to 800 meters.  I shot 100 rounds in one rotation and 200 in the 2nd rotation.  Each time I had a chance to hit the 800-meter targets and did not knock them down, just kicked up some dust.  I knocked down the targets at every other distance.  It's a loto of fun to shoot on a range with pop-up targets.

Next week we will have aerial gunnery.  Don't know if I will have a chance to shoot a door gun from a helicopter, but should get good pictures.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Soldiers on Motorcycles

A dozen soldiers in my unit had a special session of the weekend-long Motorcycle Safety course at the Pennsylvania State Police high-speed driving school near Fort Indiantown Gap.  Of the twelve, 10 were on bikes that could be categorized as Cruisers--long wheelbase Harleys and similar Hog-like bikes.

Watching those bikes on a cone course was like watching dancing elephants in a circus.  They are amazing to look at.  Graceful for their size.  The instructors rode a small 250 Honda for demonstrations and looked very fast by comparison.