Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Great Story About How the Cold War Did Not Become a Hot War

The sub in the picture is a current Russian nuke boat.

In a story by Robert Krulwich on Nat Geo, we get the story of Russian nuclear submarines and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The story is here.

For those of us who served during the Cold War, the vivid thing in this story is the layers of restraint in the Soviet system.  During the Cold War, America faced a civilized enemy.  Our civilizations differed, but each side wanted to be the superior civilization.

Our current enemy, Islamic Terrorists, have no civilization and are the enemies of all civilization.

I very much miss having a uniformed enemy with a 1000-year-old culture.

Friday, March 25, 2016

At Home Dad: With Five Baby Mommas!!

On the Thursday before Easter in 2007, I called Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Askew, the recruiter for the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, and started the process of re-enlisting in the Army.  That chapter of my life will end in just over a month.

Earlier this week, one of my Conservative friends asked me what I was going to do now that I was no longer working and was leaving the Army.  I told him I was going to be a stay-at-home Dad receiving a government check:  Social Security.

He quickly said I earned my government check from working and it's not like I had kids with five different women.

As soon as he said it I burst out, "Yes I do!!  My six kids have five Baby Mommas!"  In addition to my two biological daughters, I have a step daughter, an adopted daughter and two adopted sons. They are all legally my kids, but they all have different mothers.  My six kids really do have five Baby Mommas.

And that is my post-Army career.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Facebook After Terror Attacks, A Big Thumbs Up

In 2001, when Islamic terrorists attacked America, I was frantic for two days trying to get in touch with friends who worked in the area of the World Trade Center.  Some worked on Rector Street, less than two blocks from WTC.  Others worked near Wall Street less than a mile away.

None of my friends were hurt in the attacks, but for two days I had no way of knowing that.

Currently, I have friends in Brussels.  When I heard of the attacks on Brussels, I did not even try to make the futile phone calls I made on September 11, 2001, I got on Facebook.  Within an hour, the first of my friends updated her page to say that she and her entire family were fine and that she was going to her son's house to see her granddaughter.

In November, I did the same with the Paris attacks.  Although phone service was swamped with traffic, several friends updated their pages.  One of my friends was SCUBA diving in Turkey.  I remembered thinking when Cedric when to Turkey that the trip could be dangerous.  When I say his SCUBA update on November 15, I was thinking 'I'm glad he decided to leave Paris in November.'

Thanks Mark Zuckerberg.  I love your invention.

Monday, March 21, 2016

My Final Flight on an Army Helicopter

Returning to Flight Operations after the trip to Johnstown:  Sgt. Jay Rocourt, crew chief, 
and pilots Chief Warrant Officers Rich Wienches and Greg Gallerizzo.

In February I flew to Johnstown and back on a Blackhawk helicopter.  I thought at the time it would be my final flight, but I was not sure till this month.

It was a smooth, uneventful flight across Pennsylvania on a beautiful Winter day.

I had a great view of the entire mid state during the flights to Johnstown and back.

These photos show the crew performing post-flight maintenance, and refueling.

And this is the Crew Chief Jay Rocourt in Johnstown telling the Base Commander with complete sincerity that the pilots were performing post-flight maintenance when they were actually at the local Subway getting lunch.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"I Solemnly Swear My Sleep Bag is Green"

This afternoon I finished turning in my Army field gear, all the stuff we use to carry ammo, equipment and food, as well as the our tent and sleeping bag.  More properly our sleeping bag system.

Of the more than 100 pieces of field gear the Army gave me since 2007, I turned it all in except two ammo pouches.  I had to pay for them.  Today I got a Turkey Hill money order for $41.26 to reimburse the Army for my missing ammo pouches.

My other discrepancy was my sleeping bag system consisting of five pieces: two sleeping bags, two carry bags and a cover.  I had all of the pieces, but they were green.  They have been green since 2007 when I received them.  They will continue to be green until they wear out.  But my clothing record says my sleeping bag system should be black.

Sooooooooooo.  That's a problem.

In fact, I had to write a statement swearing before two witnesses in the presence of an officer that my sleeping bag is green.

Which I did, "I Solemnly Swear My Sleep Bag is Green".

This form I filled in is a Department of the Army form 2823.  It is a sworn statement about anything.  Usually loss.  The supply clerk told me he helped to fill out a sworn statement for a soldier who lost the 'scope sight on his rifle.  That was serious.

During the 44 years I have been in and out of the Army, I have never filled out a sworn statement before.  I never lost a truck, or a tank, or a machine gun.

At this second-to-last drill weekend, I finally filled in a sworn statement to attest to the color of my sleeping bag.  It is green. I swear!

A proper end to a long career!


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tasks, Conditions and Standards--How to Do Everything!

Tasks, Conditions and Standards is how we learn to do everything in the Army.  If you are assigned to be the machine gunner in a rifle squad, the first thing you will do is get to know your machine gun:  the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW).

Before you fire the SAW in combat, you will go through many different Tasks, Conditions and Standards blocks of instruction to learn the weapon, maintain the weapon, fire the weapon and fix the weapon.

Are you an Army cook and you need to fry eggs?  There are Tasks, Conditions and Standards for that. A scientist friend pointed that in the computer world this is algorithm thinking.  Break down every task into steps, clearly define the steps, evaluate.

A complex operation pulls together dozens and dozens of different Tasks, Conditions and Standards and turns that into one smooth operation.  The posts I did recently on Tank Gunnery represented hundreds of individual bits of training from how to zero each of the three weapons on the tank, how to drive with the hatches open and closed, how to determine range, how to maintain the tracks on the vehicle, etc.

When we pass the tests at the end of Tasks, Conditions and Standards, the Army says, "We got Skillz!"

Sunday, March 13, 2016

After Army--Back to Bicycle Racing

I never stopped riding when I joined the Army.  In fact, I rode 5,100 miles on Camp adder in Iraq and organized a bicycle race.

But I pretty much stopped being a bicycle racer.  From 2002 to 2007, when I re-enlisted, I rode 10,000 miles a year training to be just pretty good as a racer.  After my re-enlistment, not to mention breaking my neck in May of 2007,  I rode less.  And I did not ride with enough intensity to actually compete in races.  I still raced once in a while, but the peak of the racing season is May and June when I miss five weekends out of eight for Drill and Annual Training.

As I right this, I feel like a racer again.  Friday evening I renewed my racing license.  Yesterday, I rode south 50 miles with more than 5,500feet of climbing, then rode with my son for a few miles, then rode to my bike shop, Bikeline of Lancaster, to talk about a new bike.  My current race bikes date back to 2002 and 2003.  By May, I should be riding a new bike.

Today, it was supposed to rain beginning at 11 am.  So I had to ride in the morning.  I rode 35 miles giving me 100 miles for the weekend after 100km yesterday.

And this morning I signed up for the last Battenkill road race: 68 miles including several miles of dirt.  May 21.  I need more training.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Official Word Today: I Am Done May 3, 2016

It's official.  My Army career ends on May 3 of this year.  I first enlisted January 31, 1972, and have finally hit my Army expiration date.

I have drill this month, next month and my last official event will be the Aviation Ball, April 30.

I will miss being a soldier, but it is time to move on to something else.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

In Our Army, The Generals are Fat, The Sergeants are Thin

In the Spring of 1977, a group of Soviet General officers made an inspection tour of our base in Wiesbaden, West Germany.  In October 1976, the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division relocated from Fort Carson, Colorado, to what was formerly an air base in Wiesbaden.

Our 4,000 mechanized troops were meant to be a show of force to the Soviet Union by America.  We were reinforcing NATO.  Within 48 hours after we landed, we were on the border in our fully loaded tanks at Fulda, where World War Three was supposed to begin.

The following spring, a group of Soviet Generals toured our base.  My unit, 1st Battalion, 70th Armor, stood in formation in front of our tanks for the inspection.  One Soviet General spoke to us after the inspection.  He said, in English, that "In our Army, the generals are fat and the sergeants are thin.  In your Army, the generals are thin and the sergeants are fat.  I wonder why that is?"

I don't remember much else about that day, except that the sun was out--not the norm in Wiesbaden.  But that one line said so much about our respective armies.

The Soviet General command draftees from his own country and other Warsaw Pact countries.  They were underpaid, badly treated, hungry and hoping just to survive their enlistment.  The American Army was in the fourth year of being a Volunteer Army, which means professional army.  The men who made a career of the Army were divided between those who loved the military and those who just wanted the early retirement--LIFERS, we used to call them.

Even in the 70s, that General saw enough overweight soldiers to make his comment.  I was reminded of this because I have seen several of the Generals in the Pennsylvania National Guard at events recently and they are thin, tough and walk fast.  I also saw a Master Sergeant who hasn't passed a physical fitness test in this century.  He looks like the General in command of the New Jersey National Guard.

Another reason I thought of that Soviet General was a news report on Sputnik (Russian State News) announcing that the 1st Guards Tank Army has been reformed to defend Mother Russia.

We still have thin generals and too many fat sergeants.  And the Russian Army is recruiting more of those skinny draftees for a huge new Mechanized Army.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

No Promotions For Me! DISENROLLED!

Last week, I received the following email from the Army's Learning Management System:

Subject: You have been auto disenrolled from STRUCTURED SELF-DEVELOPMENT - LEVEL 1  (1-250-C49-1 (DL)_)_01/01/2013_crscl000000000018597

You have been automatically dis-enrolled from ALMS Course  for Course Iteration (STRUCTURED SELF-DEVELOPMENT - LEVEL 1  (1-250-C49-1 (DL)_)_01/01/2013_crscl000000000018597)
because the allowable time set by the Course Manager for completion has expired.
If you need to complete this training, you must register for it again. If this is an ATRRS/CHRTAS managed course you must register in that system. All others can be registered for in the ALMS. Credit for course training completed prior to this action will be awarded in accordance with the policies of the respective Course manager. All required training will be reflected in your In-Progress Learning upon successful registration.

With two months to go in my current enlistment and a very small chance I may get a one-year extension, I will not get promoted!

Actually, since making sergeant, I have not wanted to be promoted.  If I made Staff Sergeant, I would be filling a career slot.  Some guy one-third my age could be taking the next step on a career with that Staff Sergeant position.  I would just get another $20 per weekend.

So I accept being disenrolled.

Soldiers are government workers.  We get government-language emails.

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