Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Failure is an Option

I am waiting for a waiver to serve in a combat zone over 60.  This waiver, unlike the one to extend my enlistment, must be approved in Washington.  It could fail.

But as of last night my wife is more at peace about the deployment--whichever way the waiver  decision goes.  

Last night her biggest worry for the deployment left our house in handcuffs.  The 15-year-old boy we took in our house in April became more and more angry over the last two weeks and finally became so enraged over being caught in a lie that he had a fit that included breaking things with a hammer and threatening himself and the rest of our family.

He had a troubled past, but we were assured by his social worker in Lehigh Valley that he simply had bad breaks.  My wife and I thought we would try to give him the "forever home" he said he wanted.  

But a forever home has rules and it is tough to give up what we know for something else--even if it is better.  C.S. Lewis says that after a religious conversion the convert will often find his former desires fill his mind.  And even if the convert manages to keep the desires from taking over, the voice of desire inside "will be up on an elbow. . .whining."  

Failure is an option in taking a child into a family--whether by adoption or birth.  C.S. Lewis writes in another place (in the 1940s before TV) about how difficult it is to convince a child in poverty in the city to give up playing in a puddle in the slums to travel to the sea shore.  We were not able to convince our new son that living as part of a family was actually better than the life he left in foster care--20 different foster homes.

Failure is an option in the military.  Not all military missions succeed.  

Failure is an option in bicycle racing.  Over the last decade I have lost 20 bicycle races for each victory.  

Failure is an option in running races.  I won just one running race in my life and in that I won my age group.  

Today we will receive a stack of paperwork that must be resubmitted to the Haitian embassy for another child we are hoping to adopt.  We are very sure he will do well in America, but we have much less confidence in our ability to navigate the paperwork through the Haitian system.  Failure is an option here also.

Tonight my wife and I are going out to dinner to celebrate our 15th anniversary.  We have three grown daughters who are doing very well and three more kids at home who seem on track to do well also.  We both know that risk can mean reward and that risk can mean failure.   

We will be taking more risks together and separately--and moving forward with our very complicated and interesting lives.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

AOL in MY House

Today a video crew from AOL on line is filming me and my family at my home in Lancaster.  Later today we will go to Fort Indiantown Gap so I can join in some training.  The training shots will be set up by SSG Matt Jones at the Public Affairs Office.  He and I served together in Iraq.  He was the PAO for 28th Aviation, but he got promoted and moved to an Infantry Brigade earlier this year.

When the video goes on line, I will link to it on the blog.  In the meantime I will try to post some more pictures.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Waiting for the Next Waiver

At drill weekend this month I found I need yet another waiver if I am going to deploy.  As I had heard months ago, I not only needed a waiver from The Adjutant General of Pennsylvania to stay in for two more years, but I need a waiver from National Guard HQ in the Pentagon to serve in Afghanistan past my 60th birthday.

In case you are wondering, sending me over and then sending me home for my 60th birthday next May is not among my options.  

I would say there is a good reason why they won't let soldiers who are qualified serve past age 60, but the reason may not be good.  I have heard it is because some National Guard and Reserve soldiers served in Iraq and Afghanistan past age 60 and came home on a medical.  If that's true it would make sense to stop old soldiers from serving.  Why bother if they are going to go home early on some kind of medical.

If that's true, I don't have much of a chance.  In my own state the general officers approving the waiver  could ask my commander and their sergeant major about me.  

But at Army headquarters, I am just another packet of papers.  It means risk if they say yes, no risk if they say No.

So the most likely outcome is that I will serve my last two and a half years in the Army in Pennsylvania.  

I'll be happy either way.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Out the Window

We are flying back from Reading to Fort Indiantown Gap. Here's the view out my window. The picture is me just before take off.

Days like this I can't quite believe I get paid for this.

Reading Airport--Where my Dad Served In World War 2

After dropping off infantry soldiers at the Reading Armory, we flew to Reading Airport. This small municipal airport has very little passenger traffic. During World War 2, the place was bustling. The airport served as a transhipment point for P-47 and P-51 fighter aircraft and B-24 bombers going into combat.

According to the poster in the display case, the northeast corner of Reading Airport also served as a Prisoner of War camp. The last commandant of that camp during the war was 1st Lieutenant George Gussman. The POW camp housed 600 mostly Afrika Corps German prisoners captured in 1942 and 43.

Dad was the third commandant. In one of his many war stories about the camp, Dad said those prisoners had driven the last two commanders nuts with Geneva Convention complaints.

The previous commandants were young officers wounded and in charge of the camp while they recovered their health. Their heart was not in it and they got out of there as soon as they could. Dad came to command of the POW camp after commanding a black maintenance company. He was very old (almost 40!!!) so he was not goign to be sent overseas. He was Jewish, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants who escaped the pogroms of late 19th century Russia.

He was a middleweight boxer before he joined the Army and not inclined to take crap from German prisoners.

At an early meeting with the prisoners, one of them made a remark about Dad being a Jew. Dad knew Yiddish and enough German to know understand the remark.

Dad laid him out and let them know this was his camp and would run by his rules. Elsewhere on this blog I have written about The Engagement Present--600 chocolate bars Dad confiscated from the prisoners and gave to his future bride--and my Mom.

I haven't been here for almost 30 years. There is not much evidence that the camp ever existed. But it was a big part of my Dad's life, and the subject of many stories I heard as a kid.

Picked up Troops

This is what carry-on bagge looks like in a Blackhawk.

Three Blackhawks Bringing Troops Home

We are just about to take off on a three-ship Blackhawk mission to pick up troops in a wooded training area. The doors are shut, so I can't take good pictures till we land and open the doors. I want to get video of the infantry boarding the aircraft. They will enter on the right side with 80 pounds of gear each--and no storage for carry-ons!!! I will have a couple of minutes to get pictures before I get squeezed against the door by the passengers.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Waiting to take off

On board on CH-47 Chinook on Muir Filed at Fort Indiantown Gap. Waiting to take off. We are flying to a training site. If all goes well, there will be an aircraft refueling site and aerial gunnery training.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Still Sore--and Can't Run for a While

Yesterday I went to the Lancaster Orthopedic Group, one of the places that has been repairing me from running and riding injuries for the last couple of decades.  The first team I raced for in the 90s had LOG as its main sponsor.  We made jokes about being great customers.  But actually, we were.

This visit was about my right knee.  It gets very painful when I sit with my leg bent.  And since I may be flying a very long way in a very cramped airplane, I thought I should get it checked out.  The doctor said my knee wasn't as bad as he expected and if I stop running and do physical therapy it should be fine.  I do not need an operation any time soon.

That was a pleasant surprise.

And I love Physical Therapy, especially at LOG.  Joe and Gretchen are the therapists I have been going to for the last several years.  They rehabilitated my shoulder after surgery five years ago and have helped me with minor hand and knee trouble before.

Every time I have PT I learn something about how my body works and how it recovers.  If the injury means I can get PT, I am happy.

Speaking of injury, my neck still hurts from the recent army training.  If it still hurts Tuesday, I will ask Joe for help with neck recovery also.

On days like these, I am very sure I am NOT a 20-year-old.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Judgmental Bastard--the Transition Back to Civilian Life

Three weeks in Army culture changes me.  The longer I am in the National Guard, the faster and more thoroughly I can change from seeing the world through civilian eyes, to seeing through olive-drab-colored glasses.

On the last day of training we were cleaning the barracks.  After the inside of the barracks was shined and polished I told three enlisted men to join me in Police Call--picking up trash--mostly cigarette butts--around the barracks.  One of the soldiers protested that he was willing to pick up trash but not cigarette butts.  I was ten feet away.  After a moment's hesitation in which I tilted my head and looked to see if he was joking, I yelled, "I am not taking an opinion poll.  Pick up everything."

In Army training we show up on time, line up for chow and wait for leaders to make up or change their minds.  And when we judge each other, it is on competence.  Everyone knows who can shoot, wrench, run, communicate or spit best, because we spend so much time together watching and judging each other.

And then I come home.

Home is fine.  My wife insists on being on time, and is strict with our kids.

But then I leave home.

On Sunday a couple that I ride with invited to go with them on a 50-mile group ride.  I met them at 1250 and rode with them to the place where we were meeting the rest of the riders.  We rolled up at 1258 for a 1pm start.

One of the three riders was ready to go.  Another was changing and his bike was still in his van.  The third just discovered he had a flat.  Really?  Is air in your tires is optional?

It was already 93 degrees and getting warmer.

We waited 7 minutes for the guy who was still getting ready, while the guy who was ready told us what an awesome climber he is.  The guy with the flat drove a few miles up the road to change the tire.  We rode to meet him.  We waited ten more minutes for him to finish changing the tire (a five minute job for someone who knows what to do).

Five miles into the ride, Bruce said, "I thought you told me you were tired.  You rode hard up the last two hills." I explained that I was riding on adrenaline.  I got angry waiting for the guy who was folding his shorts, the guy who was changing his tire, and then I need to beat the guy uphill who introduced himself as an amazing climber.

Sixteen miles into the ride, the two guys we waited for turned back.  Too hot.

Eight miles later we got to Nissley Vineyards--the turnaround point.  There was some water.  I got half a bottle.  Our leader--Mr. Climber--said we were going to Elizabethtown.  OK.  I can ride six miles on spit.

Except he made a wrong turn.  I followed and suddenly we were headed for Mount Joy.  Two of us had no water.

I rode to a Turkey Hill store.  Got hydrated.  Then we rode back on my route--not the route suggested by Mr. Climber.

I told Bruce that the Army really enhances my already strong tendency to be a Judgmental Bastard.  That got me through a 55 mile ride on a 95-degree day at a respectable speed, but it is not a good way to live.

Hopefully I can chill out before I have to go back to the Army again.

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