Monday, March 31, 2014

Aviation Ball--Sorry, No Pictures

I went to the Aviation Ball, the annual full-dress dining out for the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade.  Last night's event was bigger than last year with more than 300 soldiers and guests representing Pennsylvania Army Aviation.

Since I knew I was leaving for a meeting in New Orleans early the next morning, I gave Capt. Miller the memory card from my camera before I left.  So I have no pictures.  Eventually I will get the chip back.

It was a lot of fun.  The Hershey Lodge is big enough to hold an event for a group this size but without all the parking and traffic hassles of a city location.

In June all of my Army last-year countdowns start.  June 6-22 will be my last Army summer camp.  Every month thereafter I will do something else for the last time in our annual round of training.  Then in May 2015, I will go back to being a civilian.

More on that later.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tough Mudder vs. Ironman Triathlon

Three weeks ago, I climbed out of the Lancaster YMCA pool and sat in the hot tub:  In 2 hours and 8 minutes I swam 4,250 yards.  In ten minutes in the hot tub, I just sat.  The I grabbed some food, changed and rode 30 miles.

Since that Saturday, I have ridden almost 400 miles, run 30 miles and swam eight more miles training for an Ironman this August.

Training is the biggest difference between the Tough Mudder and the Ironman Triathlon.

My training for the Tough Mudder was running and keeping in shape for half marathons and the gyms workouts I was already doing for the Army Fitness Test.  If you can pass the Army Fitness test and run a slow half marathon, you have the fitness necessary to do the Tough Mudder.

The real challenge of the Tough Mudder are its signature obstacles.  You do not have to be in terrific shape to run and crawl through 10,000-volt wires, nor do you need endurance to swim 30 feet including passing under a wall in an ice-filled dumpster.

The Tough Mudder, true to its name, requires more toughness than fitness.  I got shocked badly enough last summer that I will not do the Tough Mudder again.

On the other hand, the Ironman is all training and little danger, relative to the Tough Mudder.

But the training swallows all the free time in the triathletes life.  Someone asked my kids what they do in the evenings.  "Go to the gym," was my sons' answer in unison.  In the gym I run and swim while they play basketball.

Now that the weather is better I will be on the bike training for my best event, the 112-mile bike.  The bike alone will take longer than a Tough Mudder and I will have a 2.4-mile swim behind me and a marathon ahead.

Which is tougher?  If ice, shocks and high platforms are your cup of tea, the Ironman is much, much tougher and requires much more training.  But if facing real pain and danger are not part of your plan, the Tough Mudder obstacles may be worse than the training required for an Ironman.

If I successfully complete the Kentucky Ironman this year, it will be my first and last Ironman.  In fact if I make the swim and the bike but drop out or pass out on the run, I will be happy.  I want to go back to bicycle racing in my old age.

Tough Mudder vs. Ironman, Part 3

Tough Mudder vs. Ironman, Part 2

Tough Mudder vs. Ironman is Here

Second Tough Mudder Report

First Tough Mudder Finish

First Tough Mudder Photos

First Tough Mudder Entry

Ironman Plans

Ironman Training

Ironman Bucket List

Ironman Idea

Ironman Danger

Ironman Friendship

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gas Chamber Training This Weekend

On Saturday morning, I went to the supply room to get a gas mask.  My company was scheduled for annual gas mask training.

We look lovely:

Last drill we got our masks properly fitted.  This weekend the training NCO filled a concrete blockhouse with something like tear gas.  We filed into the room, lifted our masks for a leak check and reseal drill, then pulled of the masks and ran out.

Ran out crying, coughing and choking.

And people ask me, "What are you doing in the Army at your age?"  I would have to travel to Kiev to have this much fun!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Soldier on a Train: Talking about the Cold War with a Suspense Writer

Last week in one of the over-scheduled trips I make as part of my day job, I flew from Chicago to Philadelphia on the morning of Tuesday, March 4.  I was in uniform because there is no better way to fly than in uniform.  In 15 months when I get out, this is the benefit I may miss the most.

At about 3 pm I was on Rt. 95 driving to a Public Science meeting in DC.  Because of traffic at that time of day, I did not drive all the way to DC, but stopped at the BWI Airport rail station and took a train into Union Station then a Metro to Busboys and Poets Cafe where the meeting was being held.

The meeting was a science writers travelogue of two visits to North Korea.  He was very funny about his North Korean handlers, even while painting a very bleak picture of North Korea.

At 9pm I was back in Union Station and just made the 9:05 train to BWI.  I sat in cafe car and a young woman sat opposite me.  As she sat down she took three thick paperback novels from a bag and said, "I'm checking out the competition."  The woman I sat with for the next 20 minutes was Leslie Silbert, author of "The Intelligencer:" a spy novel set in 16th Century London and in New York today.  Her main character in the late 1500s is the playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was a spy for Queen Elizabeth.

We talked a little bit about her book and that she is writing another suspense novel.  But with Ukraine and Crimea in the news, the conversation turned to the Cold War.  She asked me a lot of questions about being a tank commander on the East-West border and what we thought about war with Russia.  That question was easy:  We thought there would be a war and that we would die in the first ten minutes.

I bought the book and really like it so far, especially the parts about Marlowe and spying in 16th Century London.  As you would expect, she has a web site:

On the opposite side of the aisle was a guy who knew a lot about the Russia-Ukraine conflict.  It was an interesting conversation with two very bright people (and me).  It was fun to remember again how different the world looked during the Cold War when we had any enemy with planes, ships, tanks and uniforms.  I was thinking, at least if we go to war with Russia, we won't be trying to "win hearts and minds."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Do You Want to Re-Enlist?

Today I got a call from the retention sergeant in my unit.  We have not met and he did not look very carefully at my file, because he left me a message saying I have 15 months before my discharge date and he wanted to know my re-enlistment plans.

So I returned the call when I left the meeting was in and reached another sergeant in the unit who knows me.  I told her about the call.  I asked her to pass on the message that I think it very unlikely I could get an extension beyond the one I am on already, but if he has some magic in that regard, I would definitely extend or re-enlist for as long as could write the contract for.

I am assuming he will not be returning the call.

It would be fun to stay in longer.  Also, if I could stay another two years I might be able to retire.  Another sergeant in my unit, the only enlisted man older than me in the PA National Guard, is 61 years old and applying for another two-year extension for himself.  Coincidentally, his name is Guzman.  The admin sergeant in our unit says if Guzman gets an extension, maybe Gussman has a chance also.

With all the news about military cutbacks, it seems most likely Gussman and Guzman are both going to be civilians in the next year or so.  But it's worth trying.

Good Luck Guzman!!!!

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