Monday, January 30, 2012

Waiver Moving Forward

Today the first stage of getting a waiver should be completed.  Right now, like any Mac user, I am struggling with opening the Army forms.  My old COMPAQ laptop I use for Army stuff decided to quit in the middle of downloading the file.  Oh well.

In my last post I wrote about the survey of what Americans value.  My wife and I were talking about the list.  She said I have to make clear that the list is talking about what people value in their own lives.  So when competence ranks #23 of 30 she says it is not something the respondents hold as a personal value even if they value it in others.  Most people very much want competence in people around them--doctors, lawyers, police, teachers--but that does not mean they value it in themselves.

Very true.  The worst sort of sports fan is exactly that.  A 300-pound guy who can't run or throw across a street yet knows exactly how Tom Brady should lead the Patriots in the Superbowl.  Competence is not something he values in himself.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why Go Back in the Army?

Two days ago, I had a two-hour psych evaluation.  My wife and I have to get the evaluation to be sure we are not crazy before we adopt our next child.

The psychologist was very interested in why I would go back in the Army after almost 25 years.

I talked to her about some of the reasons I had, but one reason became more clear to me in Chapter 2 of a book titled The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hyrum W. Smith.  If you are the type of person who cares about time management, you may recognize Smith as one of the founders of Franklin-Covey and the Franklin Planner System.

My wife carries a Franklin planner and is a strong advocate of the system.  I am a disorganized mess and working through the book in hopes of becoming organized.

So, did I join the Army to be more organized?  No.

But in the book on Pages 63-4 is a list based on a national survey in which people were asked to list the things that had the highest priority in their lives.

Here it is:

In a survey carried out in the United States in 1992, the following
values were most commonly mentioned:
  1. Spouse
  2. Financial security
  3. Personal health & fitness
  4. Children and family
  5. Spirituality/ Religion
  6. Sense of accomplishment
  7. Integrity and honesty
  8. Occupational satisfaction
  9. Love for others/Service
10. Education and learning
11. Self-respect
12. Taking responsibility
13. Exercising leadership
14. Inner harmony
15. Independence
16. Intelligence and wisdom
17. Understanding

18. Quality of life
19. Happiness/Positive attitude
20. Pleasure
21. Self-control
22. Ambition
23. Being capable
24. Imagination and creativity
25. Forgiveness
26. Generosity
27. Equality
28. Friendship

29. Beauty
30. Courage

When I thought about going back in the military, I knew without being able to completely say why that the military had a better grasp of reality that the civilian world.  For many reasons, soldiers call civilian life "The Real World."  But I don't think so.  The list shows why.

Look at the bottom of the list:
23. Being capable

28. Friendship

30. Courage

A "real world" in which competence, friendship, and courage are bottom-of-the-list, optional extras is not the kind of life I want to live.  

The psychologist was very professional and said affirming things about all my life choices, but I am going to guess she likes the Franklin survey list the way it is.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

France Suspends Combat Operations in Afghanistan

On Thursday four French soldiers were killed and sixteen were wounded when an Afghan soldier they were training blew himself up.  Following the incident, the French President suspended combat operations and all training of Afghan soldiers by the 2000+ French troops serving in Afghanistan.

Earlier in the week I had a moment of sympathy for Mitt Romney when he was criticized by his Republican rivals for speaking French.  The same people who criticized Jon Huntsman for speaking Mandarin.  The same people who are too self-satisfied and stupid to learn another language themselves--not they have a particular talent for English.

There will certainly be criticism by the chubby commentariat on the Right of the French decision.  But since none of the loud-mouths on right-wing radio ever served in the military, they will be talking out of their XXL asses.

France was our first ally and without them we would have lost the Revolutionary War.  France remained our ally after their own revolution and it pisses me off every time I hear criticism of France by the Chicken Hawks who are in favor of war as long as they are fought by someone else.

I don't know if or when French troops will return to risking their lives training Afghan soldiers, but in this ten-year-long war, French troops have been on the ground and in the fight since the beginning.  French critics in the US have been on their fat asses just as long.

Col. Scott Perry Announces Run for US Congress

My battalion commander in Iraq, Col. Scott Perry said he will run for a US Congressional seat in Central PA.  Perry is currently the representative of the 92nd PA state congressional district.

I was hoping he would run sooner rather than later and with the current congressman stepping down, he should have a good shot at getting elected.  Perry is a Republican in a very Republican area of the state.

If I lived in the 4th district, I would vote for him.  He commanded a big task force with soldiers from a dozen states, aircraft flying around the clock and the worst flying conditions Iraq had to offer.  He worked hard all the time.  Pennsylvania and our nation will be a better place with Perry in the US Congress.

Col. Perry is a Blackhawk pilot and is currently commanding the 166th training brigade at Fort Indiantown Gap PA.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Training a Blackhawk Crew Chief in Afghanistan

Great Article about Training a Blackhawk Crew Chief in Afghanistan.
It really gets at the huge responsibility and complex job every crew chief takes on.

Next Adventure--Rwanda

During the January drill weekend I got a lot of help from getting together the paperwork I need to extend my enlistment for another year or maybe two.  At the end of the weekend the sergeant in charge of admin for our battalion had most of the papers so in February we should be able to get them signed on on the way up the chain of command to the Adjutant General of the state.

If it goes through I serve until May of 2014 or maybe 2015.  If not, I am out in May of 2013.  Either way my long term plan includes most of a year in Rwanda.  That would be the academic year 2015-16.  That year my wife would be eligible for a sabbatical.  She is a math professor so her research is very portable.  The plan is to take the whole family to Rwanda for a year.

Our three (maybe four) sons will have the opportunity to live in a black-majority culture.  Of course, Xavier has spent his entire life in a black-majority culture, but he will experience it partly through the eyes of his brothers.

So why Rwanda?  Bicycle racing.  There are dozens of terribly poor countries to choose from in the world, but not many where I have something valuable to contribute.  In Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, the country is recovering from the 1994 genocide.  Part of that recovery is a shared love of bicycle racing.  An American, Jonathan Boyer, who raced in the Tour de France in the 80s went to Rwanda after the genocide and organized a national team and a national race--The Tour of Rwanda.  The story was in the New Yorker this summer.

In Rwanda I can teach English to French-speaking kids who need to be literate to be bike racers.  I can teach English with a full bike vocabulary--and then go riding with my students.  My sons can help with the English also.  They will be 16 and 17 and able to teach very current English.

Once the boys are in college, I want to spend more of my time in Haiti, Rwanda, and other poor countries.  A lot of people my age and older talk about traveling.  Some actually do it.  The Army reminded me that travel without a purpose can be dreary.  I loved going to Haiti.  I can't wait to go to Rwanda.  I know I would love going to Paris and Perth again, but I want to go places where it matters that I went.  Even if I can't much directly to help while I am there, I can write back home to tell other people what it's like to live in Rwanda.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Numbers Update

This week Site Meter says my blog passed 100,000 visits and 130,000 page views since June of 2008.  Blogger also tracks page views and says I have had 90,000 since June of 2009.  The webmaster at my day job says every method of tracking traffic gets a different result.  But the fact that the two are close makes me think they are pretty accurate.

Blogger also tells me which posts are the most popular.  By far the top of the list is "Home Sweet Trailer Home" with more than 2,100 page views followed by "Flying to Camp Garry Owen" with just over 500.

I know that my all time visits equal about one Lady Gaga minute, but a soldier stopped me in the hallway to say he reads my blog.  So I will keep posting till I get out.  Today's post is # 1,037.  Writing over 1,000 posts is like gaining weight--it doesn't happen all at once, but if you eat a little too much every day for a few years, suddenly you can't see your feet standing up!

And on a different note, the paperwork is coming together for my request to stay in another year or two.  So I may get to 1,500 posts if I stay in long enough!

Looks like a Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hearing Test--Army Style

Today we had the annual cattle call for medical evaluations.  Medical teams come in and set up in the armory to check our teeth.  Others set up in the parking lot to check our hearing.  Today at Noon I got in line for the hearing check.  The line moves at the rate of two people every ten minutes.  I joined the line with eight people in front of me.

And for the next 40 minutes I listened to the diesel generator that ran all the equipment in the hearing test truck.


Exactly.  Everyone in the line listened to a diesel at high idle for for the best part of an hour before the hearing test.

We all passed anyway, but sometimes the Army is too funny!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Another Old Soldier

Another good friend who I served with in Germany in the 70s was Sgt. Abel Lopez.  He and I were assigned to Bravo Company 1-70th Armor in Fort Carson Colorado in late 1975.  In September of the following year, Abe and I and 4,000 other soldiers flew to Germany becoming Brigade 76.  We were supposed to reinforce the East-West German border.  Our alert area was Fulda, right where Tom Clancy said World War III would begin.

At one point Abe and I were tank commanders of tanks parked next to each other in our motor pool in Wiesbaden.

The picture above was taken in that motor pool during the two hours each week we had to work in our gas masks.  Abel is in the middle flanked by Gene Pierce and Don Spears.  

After the Army, Abe went back to San Diego and became a fire fighter--retiring a few years ago as a Captain.  For most of the years since he left Germany in 1979 we have talked a half-dozen times each year.  Most of those conversations are about our faith mixed with the Army, family work and bad jokes.  

Once in 2008 I called Abe and said I read that Gen. Petraeus went to West Point about ten months before I enlisted which meant we were the same age.  Abe said, "The only difference between you is he is a big success and you aren't."  

Which is just the kind of jokes we have been making since Gen. Petraeus was a Lieutenant.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Old Soldiers Don't Fade Away

To begin the new year, let me introduce you to a soldier--actually an airman--who was my roommate at Lindsey Air Station in Wiesbaden, West Germany, in in 1978.  Airman 1st Class Cliff Almes shared a room with me during the year I worked for the base newspaper at the Wiesbaden Military Community Headquarters.  

You'll notice in the pictures below that Cliff is still in uniform and is serving on temporary assignment in the Middle East.  

He is no longeer in the US military.

When his enlistment was up, Cliff went home to Arizona for a couple of months then came back to join a Lutheran Monastery in Darmstadt Germany with a name so long I will direct you to the web site if you want it in German.  Land of Kanaan is the short version.

We became friends during the time we roomed together.  And after Cliff began his time as a novice I was able to visit him in Darmstadt.  

Cliff became Brother (Bruder) Timotheus.  

Here he is on a recent trip to Israel.  He is the second from the left with three other Brothers and a local pastor.

In this photo Cliff is back in Germany with some of the young men who have come to Kanaan for short-term ministries and sometimes to see if they have a vocation for a life of service.  

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...