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Stewie Caldwell and the Magic Roach Clip

One of my best friends when I was stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah was Stewart "Stewie" Caldwell.  He was a smart, funny kid from San Francisco with a bright yellow Superbeetle who smoked a lot of weed.  We worked in live fire munitions testing.  I worked connecting the missiles to the testing equipment, Stewie was one of the ammo handlers who brought the missiles to the test-firing range.


Stewie and I would hang out together in the barracks and went to Salt Lake City almost every weekend so he could resupply his stash and we could meet girls who were possibly more interested in Stewie's stash than in us.

On one of these trips, a sudden Rocky Mountain blizzard blew out of the west turning I-15 white with zero visibility.  Then the gas pedal broke.

The pedal!!!

It came apart and we were idling downhill trying to think of what to do and how to get off the road so we would not be crushed by a semi.  I am not sure which one of us came up with the idea, but the throt…

My Unit's Facebook Page Nearing 500 "Likes"

Over the holidays I will be putting captions on family photos.  The pictures were taken at the departure ceremony for Alpha Company and at our unit's Christmas party.

Here's the link if you haven't yet "Like"d the page.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy any other holidays you might like.

Neil

In Sunlight and Shadow by Mark Helprin

On the train to Philadelphia yesterday, I finished Mark Helpin's latest novel, In Sunlight and Shadow.  I came pretty close to crying.  Helprin is a soldier who writes love stories.  In this most recent book, the central love story was vivid, between two people iridescent with love.  The love story is set in New York, from the eastern end of Long Island to the reservoirs north of the city.  And it is a love story about New York City, set in the years just after World War 2.

For those who have read other of Helprin's books, this one is more down to earth.  The exaggerations in A Winter's Tale, in A Soldier of the Great War and A Dove of the East rival Mark Twain in being colossal and very American.  In Sunlight and Shadow, the hero lives for love and honor and finally is caught between the demands of both.  The same choice comes to the hero of many of Helprin's tales, but in the latest novel, the choice is more vivid and final.

If you think modern literary novels have …

Getting Promoted with a Splash!

Specialist Daniel Krott was promoted to Sergeant at formation today, December 8.  He is being led in pushups by his supervisor, SSG Elizabeth Barger.  Giving him the traditional ice-water shower for new Sergeants is SGT Joseph Diebert and SGT Jeff Guckin.



Three other sergeants read the NCO Creed to the company formation before the big splash.  PFC Robert Woodring on the left read the promotion order.  SGTs Jeana Frederick, Rene Kicklighter, and Francis League read the NCO Creed.


SGT Krott was promoted by CPT Aaron Lippy, 1SG Jeff Huttle and SSG Elizabeth Barger.


Alpha Company Flies to Training Base

On Friday afternoon I was standing on the south side of Muir Field on Fort Indiantown Gap PA watching eight Blackhawk helicopters take off together on their flight to their training base.  Alpha will train for deployment to Afghanistan when they arrive in Texas.

On this bright, clear afternoon I was standing with the families and friends of the eight aircrews flying away from home for a year.  Wives and Moms were the most obviously sad.  Fathers tried to remain composed, but a couple of the grandfathers were very emotional.

I took a lot of family pictures before the final ceremony and will post these on line soon.  If things had worked out differently, I might have been going to Texas with Alpha.

 Families  Flying to Texas

 Putting away the flags after the Blackhawks disappear from sight

Inside the Two-Ton Bubble

New Layout for a New Year

In 2013 I turn 60.  It will be my a record of some of the highlights and oddities of my last two years as an American soldier.  I decided to switch formats for the two years ahead to one that better suits my life as it is.

For a few hours I had a format called Mosaic.  Friends and family agreed--NO!!!! I could not change back, but this is close. 





These pictures and a million more are my life.  So I will try the new format to chronicle my civilian/military/executive/enlisted/family/battalion life.

New Video on chemistry and War

The American Chemical Society has a chemistry ambassadors series.  They taped me for it in the summer.


35 Army Years Ago . . .

This is a photo of me taken near Fulda, Germany (then West Germany) in 1977.  I was on top of my M60A1 tank.  It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood of more than 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops we thought were going to roll over us like Patton though a Peace Rally.
They never attacked.  
We all came home.  And all of my 1st Battalion, 70th Armor homies are gathering in Wiesbaden Germany next year for a reunion.  I did not sign up because I thought I would have other plans--an all-expense-paid trip to another middle eastern nation.  But I did not go.  
I won't be going to the reunion because we are saving for a trip to Rwanda.  But maybe I'll catch their next reunion in the US.  All those guys look a lot older now!!!



So What Happened with General Petraeus. . .

Last week the election meant I stopped getting questions about Lance Armstrong's drug use.  For many people in my life, I am the only bicycle racer they know.  So they ask what I knew about Lance's drug use.

Not much.

And if they asked about my race results, they would be SURE I was not on drugs, or that I should switch to better drugs.

And now I am fielding questions on General David Petraeus.  "What is going on with Petraeus?" I heard from several people.

I answer by checking my iPhone to see if BFF Gen. P. has txted me abt wazzup!!!

No text.

Really, Gen. Petraeus does not regularly check in with Army National Guard sergeants.  Or colonels for that matter.  If the Army was the Empire State Building, the top generals are right up where King Kong was hanging on and I am on the second floor without a window.

But if David or Lance hits me up on the down low, fshizzle I will update my status.

Enjoying Veterans Day

My wife Annalisa and I both dressed up for Church on Sunday.  I dressed so my sons could say their Dad is in the Army.  My wife put on Peace signs.  
Many people said "Thanks for your service" to me.  I got a free latte at my local Starbucks on Columbia Ave.  I wore the uniform to work today and two of my colleagues took me out for lunch.  
So much better to be a soldier now than during Viet Nam.  

Sling Loading a Humvee with Trailer

Fueling Helicopters

This weekend I waited with the fuelers of Echo Company for aircraft to fly in for fueling.  There were few flights.  The two hours I was there no aircraft showed up.  So here are pictures from this Spring when a dozen aircraft showed up in a half hour.







Had a TRIing day Yesterday

Yesterday I was able to to do all three events of a very short triathlon before, during and after some business meetings.  I went to the gym early and increased my swim distance from 100 to 200 yards.  Just 4,024 yards to go for an Ironman!

After that I drove to NYC and went to a business meeting that ended on time and gave me the chance to ride 18miles before dinner--from 29th St up to the base of the George Washington Bridge and back.  Just 94 more miles for the Ironman bike.

After dinner the night was beautiful so I ran 4 miles along the Hudson.  Just 22.2 more and I am done with the Ironman run.

So I do have more training to get done.  But it's a start!  Over time, I hope to do a standard distance triathlon in a day, then all at once:  1k, 40k, 10k.

Same with the half Ironman maybe a year from now, or more.  Then the Ironman.


Every Time I Put My Helmet On. . .

. . . Shit Could Happen.

Yesterday, I rode in the morning with Bruce and Lois.  It was a beautiful morning, 45 degrees, clear sunny.  What could go wrong.
We rode the route that EVERYONE in Lancaster calls the 'Stick ride except the guy who has been riding it for 30+ years.  
The seventh mile of that ride drops steeply down from a ridge about a quarter mile to a 14-foot wide steel bridge that is 270 feet long.  From the stop sign at the top, I usually hit 35 mph going into the S-turn that leads onto the bridge.  When the road is dry I zip across the bridge at 50 feet per second then slow as I approach the stop sign at the other end.  When the road is wet, I slow to 10 to 12 mph and pedal gingerly across the bridge.  At full speed I cross the bridge in six seconds.  In the wet, the crossing takes a very long 12 - 15 seconds.

The type of bridge I am talking about is pictured below.  As you can imagine, falling on this kind of bridge can be horrible.  I knew a guy who broke all the …

Ironman August 2015

Two weeks ago my wife announced she was going to do the Ironman in Kentucky in 2015.  She swam on her college team, she ran a half marathon at the beginning of the month so she is good on two of three.  I am not sure of the exact number, but we think she has ridden more than ten but less than 20 miles last year.  So she will have to train a lot to look like the woman in the photo above.
BTW:  An Ironman is a 2.4-mile open water swim, followed by a 112-mile bike, then a marathon.
Naturally, I would like to do the event with her.  But she is way ahead of me.  I ran a bunch of half marathons last year.  I could ride 112 miles tomorrow, but I swim 50 meters in the pool and think I am going to die!
Yesterday, my wife started the day with a 6-mile hilly run.  I rode 32 miles.  In late afternoon we ran 5k together.  
Today, she rode 5 miles with my son Nigel.  She said she could feel it in her legs.  I swam 100 yards and was tired all over.  She is 4% of the way to 112 miles.  I am 2% of the…

Bitching About Computers--and Finding Out How Much I Mistrust Them

This morning I lost the treasured hour in the quiet car where I can read a book without interruption and not listen to 2nd-hand cell phone!  Ahhhhhhhh!!

The reason I lost that hour is partly that I am spending the last 15 minutes of that hour bitching to you.  But I lost the first 45 minutes when I got an email from Southwest Airlines saying the reservation for the flight bringing John Wilson to Philadelphia today was cancelled.

Cancelled!!  How?  By whom?

John emailed me yesterday about our plans for tonight.  He did not email, text, or call me, so it must be a computer glitch--at least that's what I thought.

So I called Southwest--leaving the quiet car and walking to the other end of the next car.  Did I ever say how much I despise people who talk on cell phones in the quiet car and worse, go to the end of the quiet car, still inside it, and talk.  If I am ever ejected from a train, it will be because I told one of those jerks to leave the car and they got mad enough to fight. …

Great Guy Gets Promoted--Chad Hummel to Sgt. 1st Class

Echo Company, 2-104th Aviation dumps water on newly promoted soldiers.  In the case of sergeants, the soaking occurs right as they finish reciting the NCO Creed.  This is Chad Hummel, the Echo Co. training NCO, just as he finished reciting the creed from memory.  The Army gets better every time someone like Chad gets promoted.






Staying in Shape at 59

Last week I missed the 4:45 train from Philadelphia to Lancaster by less than a minute.  The next train is at 5:35.  Fifty minutes.  What to do.  In my pack was running gear and the Red Caps at Philadelphia's 30th St. station will hold bags for the next train.  I changed in the men's room and ran 3 miles on the river trails right outside 30th Street Station along the Schuykill River.

On Tuesday I was in New York City to get some adoption paperwork validated by the Haitian Consulate.  I was done at 430pm.  My car was across the Hudson in cheap parking lot in Seacaucus NJ.  There was no sense starting the drive home before 630 pm, so I stored my bag at a hotel where i have occasionally stayed and changed into running clothes in the hotel.  So I ran 4 miles along the Hudson River trail.

Part of staying in shape at my age or any age is using an unexpected hour to work out whenever possible.  I really do take my bicycle with me whenever I take my car anywhere farther than the local…

In a Video About Kevlar

The video is the life story of Stephanie Kwolek, inventor of Kevlar.  I am in for a minute beginning at 12:30 modeling Kevlar!




Family Groups at MEDEVAC Departure

Since September 28, I have been posting photos of the family groups of soldiers who left for pre-deployment training with the F/1-169th MEDEVAC.  The photos are on the 2-104th Aviation Facebook page.
You can see photos from the departure ceremony there.  Later this week I will be attending another departure ceremony.  This group is bigger, so it will mean more photos on the facebook page.
Here are the three MEDEVAC Blackhawks making a final pass around Muir Field before flying to Texas.

Waiting for Their Soldier to Deploy

Today this group of fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters are watching their soldier pack their aircraft to deploy to Afghanistan. This first phase will be a trip to their training base in Texas. Later they will make the big trip across the ocean.

I will be posting family group pictures on facebook tonight and tomorrow. The pictures I took are one very strong indicator that this occasion is serious. When I take the camera to the unit Christmas party or other occasions, I get many people who don't want their picture taken or explain that they don't take good pictures.
On this occasion, the usual vanity and shyness is out the window. People either want their picture taken or they don't. Several soldiers said "No, don't want the picture." Most gathered their family around and no one in the group objected.

The families who come to this kind of event do their best to be brave. The mix of smiles and tears changes rapidly from family to f…

Improbable Evening in Boston

Tonight was a vivid moment of an entirely different kind.  I am at the annual Ig Nobel Award ceremony in Sanders Theater on the campus of Harvard University in Boston.

One of the awardees talking about his prize.
Sanders Theater outside . . .and inside
1200 people watch the ceremony every year.  I have watched on line before but never live at Harvard.  Lots of fun.
If you want to know more, here's the link.

Vivid Moments Coming Home

This morning I went out before sun up in Philadelphia riding my bike through the city and over the Ben Franklin Bridge to Camden and back.  Part of the riding was down the recently repaved Market Street.  This six-lane east-west boulevard is glass smooth where it used to be cracked and crumbling.  I flew down the middle of the street--no traffic, fast enough to make green light after green light.

As I rode up the BFB toward Camden, the sun sent shafts of light over the eastern horizon into what would soon be an robin's egg blue sky.  Just the occasional cloud bent the orange light.  When I turned back toward Philadelphia, the orange glow lit blue coated 50+ story towers that form the center of the Philadelphia sky line.


Moments like these will be remind me of Iraq for the rest of my life.  Certainly not because Iraq looks anything like this, but the contrast is so vivid.  When I served in Germany in the 1970s, Germany became like a second home.  From the North Sea to the Alps, Ge…

Symposium in NYC on Service and Sacrifice Today, hosted by Pat Tillman Foundation

Today I had the chance to make a trip to NYC on 9-11 to hear a symposium on Service and Sacrifice.  I wanted to go partly because the moderator was Jim Dao, one of my bike-racer buddies and the National Military Correspondent for the New York Times.  I also wanted to hear Marie Tillman, widow of Pat Tillman who is helping veterans in many ways through the Pat Tillman Foundation.  Also on the panel was a New York firefighter Tim Brown who was at the World Trade Center on 9-11 2001 and two pilots, a Marine fixed-wing pilot and an Army Blackhawk pilot.

Marie Tillman talked about being a widow and how she has been helping military widows through the foundation because of the experience she went through.

Glad I got a chance to attend and hear people who are trying to do good speak on the anniversary of 9-11-2001.


Short Drill Weekend--Passed PT Test

Only one full day of drill this weekend.  I was (mostly) on Sunday so I could attend the farewell ceremony for the Medical Detachment later this month.  The first event of the weekend was the PT Test--what could be better than that?  I scored a 316 because I was over the maximum on both pushups and situps.  My official score is 300, but it is great to score "Superscale."  If I use my raw scores and apply them to the 27-31 year age group (the highest standards are for this group, both 17-21 and 22-26 are slightly easier) I would have scored 259.

When I was in my teens and 20s my first time around in the Army, I smoked.  I think my highest score was around 265.  I never got 270 and usually scored just over 200.  Always passed but not by much.

I know eventually getting old will catch up with me and I will walk slowly and yell at Liberals on CNN, but for now I am feeling good!

Not Going to Afghanistan!

This morning I found out I am not going to Afganistan in a very Army way.  I was driving back from a meeting in NYC.  I stopped for coffee and checked my email on my iPhone.  In the list of message were two emails canceling my reservation for two training courses I need to go on the deployment.

I knew it meant I was not going.  But I called a friend who is a full-time training NCO.  He said Yes, in fact he got a call to reassign the training school since I would not be needing it.

Paperwork is reality in the Army.  I read that message three hours ago.  No one has officially told me I am not going, but I am very sure I will be in Lancaster when the last plane is wheels up.


Second Deadline isYesterday

The original deadline for my waiver was yesterday, September 4.  So I expected to know one way or another by COB (Close of Business).  I didn't.

I just keep waiting because people way above my pay grade created the deadline, so they can also amend or renegotiate the deadline.

Waiting for War is Hell.



Another Day Older

It's 630pm and still no answer one way or the other.  My wife believes "Yes" is an answer, but "No" is not.  So I will have to wait till Tuesday for paperwork to resume.


Still Waiting

The deadline is tomorrow and Fort Indiantown Gap is closed today.  It looks like I will be waving good bye in November--to the soldiers who are deploying.

If I Only Have 50 Days. . .

. . .I should use them wisely.  Today I wrote an article that's due Friday and did some other work, then rode to my son Jacari's cross country meet in Hershey.  It was a beautiful day.  Hershey is about 30 miles away so I got in a 60-mile ride and got to watch Jacari improve his 2-mile time by more than a minute in his second meet.

Last week he ran the two-mile course in 14:11, finishing fourth out of 40 runners.  Today his time was 13:07.  He finished 26th out of 193 runners.  He has had essentially no training so he could improve again next week.

Tomorrow I will go to work and write a couple of urgent news releases and work on remarks for an event in two weeks.  I have a couple of important meetings also.  But the real event tomorrow just might be a phone call from the command sergeant major of our unit.  He thinks the decision whether I am deploying will be made by close of business Thursday.

If that's true, I have a one-month school beginning in mid-October and will be…

Waiver Goes Forward

At noon yesterday I was telling a friend who has been to Afghanistan that there was no way I will be going.  All right, a 1% chance.  We made plans to ride together next week.

At 3pm I got a call from our administrative NCO saying that my waiver got endorsed by the Division Commander and is on the way to the Adjutant General's office.

Last night I went for a walk with my wife and told her about it.  All summer I had been thinking there was very little chance I would get the waiver to serve in Afghanistan over age 60.  My thinking was "Why would they sign it?"  Someone who never met me at the Pentagon would look at the paperwork and think--'a 60-year-old sergeant? WTF?'  Denied.

But if the paperwork goes forward with two generals endorsing it, then the next guy up the line is not saying Yes to me but is saying No to the generals.  That is different.

I was so sure I wasn't going.  Now the admin NCO said it's at least 50-50 I am going.  Later last night, my …

There's Always Room for Yellow

When the news broke Friday morning that Lance Armstrong was giving up his fight against doping allegations, I took off my Livestrong bracelet and tossed it in the yellow trash can in our downstairs bathroom.  I wore the yellow band since it first went on sale more than a decade ago--except in Iraq.  In Iraq we could only wear POW/MIA bracelets.  All the rest of the colored wrist bands for causes had to come off until we left Camp Adder.

I wore that bracelet because I used to travel overseas a lot and ride with racers in other countries--particularly in France where I got to ride in the Alps, the Pyrenees, and in the daily training rides at L'Hippodrome in Paris.  Wearing a Livestrong bracelet said I was proud of the accomplishments of America's greatest cyclist.

So when his titles were stripped from him, I tossed the bracelet.  I wore it as long as there was some doubt that he would be caught cheating.  Which also makes me guilty of having a double standard on cheaters.  Afte…