Friday, August 31, 2012

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.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

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 leaving for pre-deployment training just after Thanksgiving.  And I will have a lot of work to finish before I go.

Tick Tock.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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 wife was asking whether I could cut off cable TV and keep the cable internet.  She thinks I am going, but she always did.  A month ago she said she thought I would be going despite all the evidence on the negative side.

Life remains exciting!

Monday, August 27, 2012

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.  After 20 years of watching every stage of the Tour de France, I quit watching after Stage 17 in 2006.  That was the stage in which Floyd Landis cheated so flagrantly that the commentators were talking about it during the stage.  I have tried to watch the Tour de France since, but I knew I was just watching dueling drugs.

After I left for work, my wife took my Livestrong bracelet out of the trash.  She had two reasons:
 1.  I like yellow.  shallow reason.
 2. It seems hypocritical to ditch him for the act of getting caught cheating, when we stood by him while he was getting away with cheating.  

Good points, but when Lance was riding, I still thought there was a chance he was simply training harder than everyone else.  I was wrong.  And my wife is right that I have known he was cheating for several years and kept it on.  Be that as it may, I will not put it on again.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Integrated Life, or Not

A few days ago I was talking to Anna.  She is a museum director and a mother of two sons, ages 16 and 20.  We talk occasionally about kids and being parents.  We were talking about Chalid and  how sad the whole situation is.  Anna read my wife's blog posts on Chalid and how my wife strives for integrity, including integrating all the parts of her complicated life.  I made an an off-hand remark about admiring that quality in her and not being close to emulating it.

Anna said, "Well, of course.  You are a man, she is a woman.  She will try to tie her life together.  You won't."

OK then.

She is right.  I sometimes imagine that when I retire from full-time work and am out of the Army that I will be able to integrate the pieces of my life.

But then again maybe not.

The workaholics were in Heaven in Iraq.  They worked for weeks without a day off.  No family, no household chores, no birthdays, no anniversaries.  Life was work--life was happy.

I am reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who stood up against Hitler and was killed by the Nazis.  His life shows one way a man can have a fully integrated life.  He spoke against Hitler almost from the day Der Fuhrer took power and devoted his life from then on to protecting the Church in Germany against the Nazis.  Bonhoeffer integrated all of his life by having a single focus and bringing everything else he did in line with that goal.

Bonhoeffer certainly is a model for how a guy can live an integrated life.

By the way:

  • I am writing this post on the train to work where I read or catch up on my blog.  This is the solitude part of my life.
  • When I get to work I have many tasks that will promote the museum where I work.
  • When I get home tonight, I will be a spouse:  my wife is hosting 25 freshmen for dinner, classes start next week.
  • Toward then end of dinner I will switch from spouse to Dad and take the boys away from dinner and do something with them for a while.
  • After dinner, I will send the boys upstairs with the iPods they get only in the evening while Annalisa and I watch "Mad Men."
  • Tomorrow morning I will go on a 40-mile ride and from the time I leave the house, pretty much focus on riding.
I'll still be a disintegrated mess when I retire, but at least it will be closer to home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Update on Chalid

My wife's blog post today on Miser Mom well describes all the drama we have been going through since our foster son left our home in handcuffs in a police car.

If you want an update, read her post.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Are You Going, Neil?

I changed the title of my blog.  I am definitely staying in the Army as long as I can, but the odds of my deployment are dwindling.  At last drill the commander revised the deadline for the waiver to September 1.

As to what other people think:  The admin NCO in our battalion cannot see any reason they would approve the waiver.  Nobody knows me in the Pentagon and, more importantly, it's not like I have any unique skills.  I would be going as a fueler or a ground mechanic.  Either way, I am replaceable by 20-year-olds who need no waivers.  But she does think I am likely to go.  Because she has worked for Command Sergeant Major Christine for a long time and believes he gets whatever he really wants.

My wife thinks I lead a charmed life and if I want to go, I will go.  I was laughing out loud when she said it, because most people would not consider going to Afghanistan the indication of a charmed life.  I have been hearing lately from people who think the same.  The editor of the magazine where I work said she thinks I will find some way to go.  Two other friends at work think the same--and want me to back out.  They think Afghanistan is going bad fast.  I work at a place with real historians on staff.  One of them even studies Middle Eastern early science.  They all think we are about to get the same treatment as the Russians, the British and everyone else who tried to fix Afghanistan.

One editor friend visiting from Washington was very direct, both about the Afghanistan trip and the recent trouble we had with the teenage boy we were going to adopt.  "You and your wife have done enough," she said.  "Take care of the kids you have.  You don't have to take in any more."  Later on the subject of deploying she said, "We'll I'm glad you're not going.  You should stay here."

I did not tell here our adoption of Xavier from Haiti just passed one of many paperwork hurdles.

Life remains interesting!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mountain Crawl Run

On Sunday morning almost 100 soldiers in the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) boarded buses and vans to do the first annual 28th CAB Mountain Crawl.  It's a 2.5 mile run from the fish hatchery on Fort Indiantown Gap up the mountain to the Hawk Sanctuary on post.  It climbs almost 700 feet most of the climb is the second mile which averages 13% and mostly dirt road.  The rest is rolling.

Group shot--first wave of runners.

I started running five minutes ahead of the group so I could take pictures of everyone finishing at the top.  The first six runners passed me on the way up including first finisher 1LT Brian Marquardt, 3rd LTC Joel Allmandinger and 4th SSG Matthew Kauffman.  I got pictures of them and the other fast folks at the top before they ran back down.

After taking about 40 photos at the top, I walked back down and snapped pictures of the rest of the runners in the second wave.

The last person to start up the hill was SFC Dale Shade on a mountain bike.  I saw him as he rode up then again as he flashed past on the way down.  We served together in Iraq.  When I got back to the start I asked him if I could ride his bike to the top.  He said "Sure."

It was soooooo much easier to ride up than to run.  And faster.  Especially coming back down.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

On the SAW Range

Firing on the M249 Range (My best side!!!)

Part of this weekend's training--the best part--was a stop at the M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) range.  I was there to take pictures, but when we arrived, the last group of firers were finished and the next ones had not arrived.

So I got to fire 200 rounds at the large panel targets that serve as both zero and qualification targets.  The training plan called for firing at one of the ranges with pop-up targets, but a last-minute change meant the firing would all be done on what is usually the zero range.

At Fort Sill in 2009, the day I spent on the full-scale SAW range was one of the best days I spent in pre-deployment training.  At Sill we had pop-up targets out to 400 meters.  Today we just had the 10-meter panel.  But the thrill of putting accurate automatic fire on target is the same.

SAW with 200-round ammo box

On the paper panel are lines of silhouettes just few centimeters are set in lines.  To qualify the gunner fires a three-round burst at each target in the lines, going across or down depending on the target.  One firm pull on the trigger puts three rounds down range.  The iron sights on the weapon make it easy to engage a series of targets.  I moved across from target 7 to 8 and down from 5 to 6 on two sections of the panel and hit every silhouette in the line.  It was a lot of fun.

As soon as I got in a comfortable firing position, I remembered how important it is to have elbow pads when firing this weapon in the prone position.  My right elbow ached from minute two until I was done firing.

Later in the day we went to the last range on the west end of Fort Indiantown Gap to watch M2 .50 caliber machine gun qualification firing.  The pop-up targets on that range go out to 1500 meters, just short of a mile.  I know from firing an M85 .50 cal on an M60A1 tank that these heavy machine guns can put accurate fire on a target at a mile distance.

I did not get a chance to shoot the M2, but I was watching the crews get ready for firing and thinking this weapon is exactly right for an old guy.  I can see the man-sized silhouette at a mile distance.  And if the weapon has a problem, all of the parts of an M2 are so big, I could work on the weapon without reading glasses if I needed to.  With the SAW and the M16/M4 the parts are so small I needed reading glasses to do anything more than clear a simple jammed cartridge.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Planning for Wildly Different Futures

In my mind, the time has passed to prepare for Afghanistan.  If I get the waiver I will go, but somewhere in the events of the last week, I now am planning for a future with no deployment.  It is  definite in my mind that I am not deploying.

Time to move on.  The first thing I did was sign up for the qualifying races for the National Senior Games in 2013 in Cleveland, July 20 - August 1.

Tomorrow Nigel and I will leave Lancaster by 9am and drive to Pittsburgh for the qualifying races.  There will be two races tomorrow and two Sunday.  I have to finish 1st - 4th place in just one of the races to qualify for Cleveland.  It would be easiest if I qualify tomorrow, but if not we can stay over and I can try again Sunday.

At work, I stopped making plans to transfer what I do to my co-workers.  I am now planning on being at work in 2013--and racing in Cleveland in July.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

AOL Video--Intro by Marlo Thomas

And if you do not know who Marlo Thomas is, you are too young for this blog !!
Watch it here.

Packing Bags for Another Person

Last night I took three of the kids out for dinner.  While we were gone, we got a message asking us to get some of our son's clothes packed up.  We decided to pack everything.  Three black trash bags, a backpack and a lot of clothes on hangers wait by the door for someone to come and pick them up.

While we packed I did three loads of laundry to be sure everything was out of the laundry room.  As we cleaned out the drawers, one of my daughters found cell phone chargers and other things she was missing during the past few months.  We thought stealing was a bigger problem before the violence.  Now it seems very small by comparison.

It is always sad to pack for someone else.  In Germany in the 70s I helped to pack up the gear and personal effects of a soldier who went home in a hospital plane.  We were starting an M60A1 tank with slave cables (REALLY heavy duty jumper cables).  To slave start a tank, you either pull the tanks close side by side or nose to nose.  The slave cables drop into the drivers hatch in the hull and plug into a connector just below the hatch.

The second tank approached the first straight on from a slight.  The young soldier--I'll call him Ed--was up on the hull of the dead tank next to the driver's hatch.  As the second tank approached he dropped the cable--and decided to pick it.  He jumped off the side of the tank out of the way, but then went between the tanks to retrieve the cable rather than just pulling it up.  He did not know why.  No one else did.  In a confusing moment he stood up and got caught between the tanks.

His pelvis was broken.  He screamed.

A week later, several of us packed his things.

I thought of Ed when I was packing last night.

My wife and I insist our kids pack their own bags for trips--especially the trip home.  I just thought it was a good skill for them to have.  It was pretty clear last night I do not have good memories of packing for someone else.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

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...