Saturday, November 26, 2011

Family Pictures from Thanksgiving

(reposted from my other blog

With three daughters in Virginia, holidays are the only time to take family pictures.  At noon on Thanksgiving we were able to take a family photo before Lauren and Lisa sped off to Thanksgiving in New Hope.

The entire family:

From left:  Iolanthe, Kiersten, Annalisa, Jacari, me, Lisa, Nigel, Peter and Lauren.
Iolanthe is my step daughter, Kiersten lives at our house and tutors the boys.  Her Mom was one of Annalisa's hospice patients a dozen years ago.  Kiersten has gone on some of our family vacations since and is now a student at a local college.  Peter is Lauren's boyfriend.

The kids:

The boys:

Timmy is our neighbor and is also adopted.  He and our boys play together a lot.

Friday, November 25, 2011

State of (Inter)dependence

For those who follow my wife's blog Miser-Mom, you have already seen today's post on the State of (Inter)dependence.

The military lives by interdependence.  Independence gets people hurt.  


Monday, November 21, 2011

Speaking At the Lititz VFW

On Sunday, Nov. 6, I spoke to more than 80 members and guests of the VFW Post in Lititz PA.  The Lititz Record newspaper put the story on its front page--slow news week in Lititz!

Most members of the post were clearly Viet Nam Veterans, plus a few from the Gulf War.  It was a lot of fun talking to this group.  The talk title was "Who Fights This War?"  And many of the stories are in this blog during the time I was in Iraq.  The audience laughed when I told them I flew on a Blackhawk piloted by a guy whose day job was flying Gov. Rod Blagoyevich.  They laughed again when I said the pilot was not allowed to repeat what he heard on his headset over those eight years.  

There were many nods of recognition when I told them about the door gunner on that crew.  He rode convoy security on highway one in 2004 long before Humvees were armored and was on his 2nd tour as a door gunner.  He had just turned 24.  

I talked longer than my allotted 20 minutes and then took maybe 30 questions.  The humbling thing for me about the Q&A is that most of the audience was actually asking questions.  I know from many public events that a really interesting talk gets short, rapid-fire questions.  When an audience is less engaged in the subject they tend to ask question in the form of a five-minute sermonette on what they think about the subject.  

Some of the questions were about 100 miles above my pay grade--on war policy and political matters.  But many were about Iraq and the young men I had the opportunity to serve with.  It was a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Whiplash from Work--Saved by Spandex

Last month I wrote about meeting a guy on the train who grew up near me and had his first marriage end because of a "Honey-Do" list.  He was a king on the road and a chump at home.  He finally decided he liked the road life better and left home.

The Army works in reverse, at least as far as opulence.  My most popular post ever was "Home Sweet Trailer Home" with more than 2000 page views followed by "Flying to Camp Garry Owen" with more than 500 hits.  Living in a small metal trailer in the relatively luxurious CHUs of Camp Adder was way better than the tents at Garry Owen, but both were far worse than home.  So there was no doubt I was ready to return to my home and family in Lancaster and leave Iraq.

But last week, I had the biggest hit of travel opulence I have had in quite a while.  In one three-day trip to New York City I went to:

Lunch and a seminare at the Gotham Club (Once J.P. Morgan's private club)

Then a black tie banquet at Gotham Hall:
Lunch the next day at the Yale Club:
And in the evening, the Union League of NYC:

So what kept me from being swept away by my surroundings?  The best part of my trip to NYC was not inside these buildings but the three rides I took from my hotel at 39th and 9th Avenue to and across the George Washington Bridge and back.
Every morning I was up early and wearing spandex bike clothes to make this 22-mile ride by different routes:  on the west side bike path, through Central park and up broadway, along the river drive (not the highway!) and mixes of these.  So at each event I was pretty sure to be the only guy in the room wearing spandex from collar to heel.

The last event, at the Union League, was called Socrates in the City.  The organizer, Eric Metaxas, said that all who attend these meetings are part of a UFO cult that wears spandex unitards.  

Little did he know, I own two spandex unitards--for time trial races.  

I bet he doesn't even own one.

And so it is very hard for me to be completely serious about the occasional luxury my jobs affords me.  I used to live in CHU and wear spandex pretty much every day.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

So Many 1 Percenters

In the news today I was reminded I am part of the 1% in America. 

Not the 1% looking for toilets in lower Manhattan.  This morning a commentator on the news said America's military is 1% of our population.  That is literally true only if you round up.  The two million men and women on active duty and in Guard and Reserve unit are less the 2/3 of 1% and decreasing as budget cuts slice through every branch of the military.  

I am one of the few soldiers who knows as many people with PhDs as with Aviators Wings.  PhDs are another less-than-one-percent group of Americans.

Of course, working at a non-profit and serving as a sergeant, I am not part of the 1% idolized by Fox News and reviled by the Occupy Wall Street protestors.  But compared with 7 billion people in the world right now, I am pretty close to the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world.  

But the real problem right now is not the 1% who are currently serving.  As the military shrinks, more and more veterans will join the ranks of the unemployed.  Veterans are already have higher unemployment than the population in general.  It will soon get worse.

I heard Mitch McConnell this morning say that he is against any sort of Veteran's preference in hiring.  Really?  Veterans are always behind their peers in education and opportunity.  Is there a loss to society when it gives veterans, especially young veterans preference in hiring?


Mission to Canada

Last month several of the new F Model Chinooks flew to central Canada near Edmonton for a joint training exercise.  At the speed Chinooks fly the trip was 15 hours in the air each way.

A photographer with the Canadian Combat Camera unit took pictures and sent them back with our crews.

Here are two of them:

Monday, November 7, 2011

"You Better Puke Down Your Shirt"

This morning I flew on the firat of three flights set up for recent graduates of Basic Training. The young men and women and their recruiters get a thrill ride in a Blackhawk, and a pitch from us about why they would want to choose Aviation as an Army career path.

Before the flight, the crew chief does a safety briefing.

None of the 26 new soldiers had ever flown on a helicopter at all, let alone a Blackhawk.  The crew chief told the trainees how to enter and exit the helicopter, how to buckle the four-point harness in their seats, and what to do in an emergency.

Then he told them what to do if they feel sick.  "If you get sick do not puke in my aircraft.  You Better Puke Down Your Shirt, because if you get sick in my aircraft you are going to clean my aircraft."

I rode with the first group.  Everything was fine with the second.  But in the third group was a young man who probably ate way too much Army food for breakfast before a helicopter ride.  

On these rides we would climb and quickly dive.  On two of the flights, the crew chief did the pen in the air trick.  He lays the pen on his palm and in the moment of zero gravity pulls his hand away.  The pen floats in the air for the two seconds of zero gravity then falls in the crew chief's hand.  

Right after that roller coaster moment, the soldier looked ill then, as instructed, puked down his shirt.  The temperature was slightly below freezing at dawn and was no higher than 40 when the last flight touched down--so the soldier had to be more than a little uncomfortable until he could leave a field on the west end of the base and get a shower.  

But he can follow instructions!

2nd Group of Trainees Boards Blackhawk

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Back to Arguing Politics

After formation this morning one of pilots who is also a big TEA Party supporter came at me smiling with winner's glee talking about the Occupy movement.  

"The TEA Party cleaned up after themselves and supported local businesses, your guys in the Occupy Oakland movement looted local business," he said.

And it went on from there.  I mentioned that this week I gave the Conservative Commentariat its monthly listen.  I chose Rush Limbaugh.  On Thursday as I was driving back from New York, I heard Rush say that Herman Cain's current troubles are "a Democrat program at the highest level (the White House) to discredit Republican candidates."  Michael Savage says George Soros funded the attack.

Another ardent Republican here who is pissed off about the attacks on Herman Cain did concede that running for President is the ultimate colonoscopy and if Cain was not prepared for every fact and opinion to come out, he was crazy.  

It is fun to have these discussions with people of vastly different opinions who are not shy about expressing them.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

On Video Blog in NYC

Taped in NYC on Wednesday:

Or on You Tube:

Who Fights Our Wars? CSM Donald C. Cubbison, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

In the fall of 1977, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division got a new Command Sergeant's Major.  Donald C. Cubbison, veteran of the Vietna...