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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Flight Details

Today we got our flight details. We are flying from Columbia S.C to Bangor Maine, for a 3.5 hour refueling stop. After Bangor, we will fly to Frankfurt for another 3.5 hour stop. After Germany, we fly to Kuwait. As of now, we are scheduled to land in the evening of the 4th—which translates to 24 hours in the airplane. It could be worse. Apparently, some folks will also fly commercial. It would be nice to be one of those guys.
Once in Kuwait, we will get “climatetized”  for a couple of days and then start 3 days of more Army training. From what we hear, the training there is very painful with nothing but MREs to eat sleeping on the floor of our classroom tent when class is over.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Heavy Weapons Day

Today was heavy weapons day—they day we are show how to operate the Army's “heavy” weapons. Today I got to shoot a .50 cal machine gun, a 40 mm grenade launcher and several other types of machine guns. All and all it was pretty fun. Of course, dropping bombs on tanks would be a lot more fun. After the heavy weapons fire, we spent the rest of the day learning about first aid. Pretty routine stuff, but the Army’s take on battle field medicine is pretty interesting.
Tomorrow, we find out about our flight arrangements. Rumor has it we will fly on a charter 767 from South Carolina to Goose Bay, to Frankfurt to Kuwait. A pretty painful flight, but it could be worse. I just want to get going—for two reasons—one as soon as I get there, my count down clock starts towards the day I get home. Two, on a less selfish and more important reason, I can start doing my job and hopefully help some kids come home with all their arms and legs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More Army Training

Today, we went to “Combat town” which is a simulated Iraqi village. Because the Army offers a “one size fits all” training model, we spent the majority of the day learning about things we will never do. Things like how to search vehicles at check points and how to search detainees. One thing we did that was fun was kicking down doors to search buildings. Again, it has nothing to do with my job, but given a machine gun and nothing better to do, I figured that I would have some fun. I lead a squad of 4 guys into a building. Once inside, I saw cardboard poster of a little boy, an insurgent with a rifle, and peaking in the window taking pictures was a Navy Lieutenant. So, accessing the threat, I shot the Lieutenant 6 times.
This is a picture of me in all of my “battle rattle” which consists of a Kevlar helmet, body armor, knee and elbow pads, a camelback and a bunch of accessories attached to the vest. I also have an M-16 and a 9mm Beretta pistol. It is a fairly heavy load. I defiantly have a lot of respect for kids that wear all that gear in 120 degree heat, day in and day out.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Today was a training day and we spent it in the classroom. We learned about convoy operations, the Army’s radio systems and a few other classes. All and all, a pretty easy day. Tomorrow, we are going to “combat town” where we learn to kick in doors and shoot all the bad guys inside. It has nothing to do with my job in Iraq (unless I lose the key to my room), but it should be fun. As it stands, we are scheduled to fly out next Saturday to Kuwait. In Kuwait, I will go through a few days of training and then I’ll be off to Bagdad.
Braye and the girls are back from a long weekend at her parent’s house. While they were there, Mary Elizabeth got to experience her first campfire. Apparently it was a big hit since she convinced Papa to have another one last night. I just hope that I can be the one that introduces her to smores.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another Day of Narmy training

Today we did what the Army calls “reflexive fire”. Basically it simulates close quarter shooting where a target suddenly appears and you raise your rifle and take some quick shots. As far as Army training goes, it was a little fun. The rest of the day was spent cleaning guns. We actually have liberty tonight, but I am going to stay on base and just relax. I’ve gotten hooked on a Vince Flynn novels and I’m going to enjoy the quiet time. Tomorrow, Sunday, is another training day.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rifle and Pistol Qualification

Today was the day we went to the range to qualify with our weapons. I qualified as “expert” with my 9mm pistol and also qualified with the M-16. No medals for me though, since I qualified as an expert with the Navy years ago The M-16 range was a lot of fun where targets pop up at ranges from 50 meters to 300 meters. The targets only stay up for a few seconds before they go down again, so you have to be pretty quick. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I qualified first thing and those of us that qualified had to wait around all day for the rest of the group to finish. I have spent countless hours sitting in bleachers this week. Luckily, the weather was beautiful today

Friday, November 24, 2006


Today is Thanksgiving. We have been through some very difficult times lately and it is easy to lose sight of the good things when faced with so many challenges. Today, I tried to reflect on the good things in my life. Although I am miles from home and going further, I have so much to be thankful for. I am thankful to have Braye and the girls in my life. They are the stars in the constellation that I steer my life by. With them in my life, the goods will always outweigh the bads. I am also so thankful for all the love and support we have received from family and fiends. During these trying times, it means so much to us.
So I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving. Just thinking about all the people in my life that I love and care about has made this a very happy day for me.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

This is the Army? (again)

After much thought, I figured out the motive behind the Army’s training plan—It is to get the Navy guys here so mad, the will be happy to go to Iraq. After spending all day in the cold yesterday with no cold weather gear, we went to the rifle range today. The first process in qualifying with an M-16 is to “zero in” the sights. Since every person is different, you have to adjust the sights to that particular user. In other words, I can hit the bulls eye every time with my rifle, but if I pick up someone else’s rifle, and put the sights on the target, I’d miss every time. The way you zero in a rifle is to shoot 3 rounds, walk up to the target see where they hit, walk back, adjust you sights and do it again. You keep doing this until you are “zeroed in” which typically takes 12 to 18 shots. Well, today it took 4 hours for us to shoot 18 rounds each. After that, we were supposed to go to another range to actually qualify by shooting at pop up targets. We waited another 4 hours in the pouring ran only to discover that: “opps, we forgot to schedule the ranges. Sorry about that”. Unbelievable!!
To make matters worse, I just found out that we have Thanksgiving off—the night prior. Had I know this earlier, I could have made plans to see some family in Charlotte or had Braye and the girls come up to Columbia. Family is very important to me and I would have loved to spend Thanksgiving with them. As it turns out, I volunteered to stand weapons watch tomorrow during the “special” dinner planned at the DFAC (Army lingo for the dining facility), so some of our junior guys can enjoy T-day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Today was a full training day. For some reason, the Army loves to do everything outside—including lectures and briefings. As it turns out, today was very cold, so clod that it actually snowed for a while. After spending all day outside, I was chilled to the bone. We were issued a ton of cold weather gear (Gortex, fleece, etc), but we had no idea that we were going to be outdoors all day. Tomorrow we are going to spend the entire day on the rifle range and I. I plan to double up on long johns and the other cold weather equipment. What we did wear was the full “battle rattle”—full battle gear. It consisted of the Kevlar helmet, body armor, the ceramic plates for the armor, canteens, camel baks, my rifle and pistol, and a bunch of other stuff. It was quite a load, but not as bad as what I’ve heard other people say. I’m sure it will be quite a bit heavier in 120 degree heat.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This is the Army???

Wow, I’ll try not to say anything negative about the Army and the process we went through today. Today was gear issue and it took all day. Much of that time was spent waiting. To get our boots, we had to wait almost 2 hours for the civilians to finish their lunch break. Sounds like a nice time for a leisurely lunch—nope! We got to eat cold MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) I had the chicken fajitas. It sounded good but once I opened the package, I had a flash back to the science shows we watched in elementary school—the ones where the momma birds regurgitate to their babies. Not the best meal I had ever had. In the Navy, to look after the troops, we tried to give them a decent place to sleep, decent food and something to do on the off time. We so far the Army ahs fallen short on the food, barracks and as far as free time—well, I haven’t had much of that.
On a happier note, Braye and the girls are doing well. As of a few hours ago, I am officially one day closer to coming home.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ft. Jackson--Day 1

Well, I’m in Ft. Jackson S.C. (actually, I’m at the McCready training center which is an annex to Ft. Jackson) I hate to say it, but the process here so far has been very similar to what we went trough so far to date—a lot of hurry up and wait. A group of us arrived and had to wait several hours at the airport for a shuttle bus to take us to the base. Once we got here, we went through several hours of briefings before we found out that no one seemed to have any idea where we had to go. After waiting around for an hour in the cold, we finally found out which barracks we are supposed to stay in. All Lieutenant Commanders are below are staying in 40 man open bay barracks—something like Full Metal Jacket, but definitely run down.

This morning was another teary farewell for us. We told MEG last night that I was leaving and she cried a good bit. This morning, we arrived at Pensacola airport an hour and a half prior to takeoff. Once we got there, we had to wait in the check in line, then the bag screening line and then finally the security line. So, we had very little time to sit around and be sad. Since I’m in the military, the airline allowed Braye and the girls to come through security with me. That was nice sine I got to stay with them until the last boarding call.

I miss Braye and the girls more than anything, but I did feel a sense of relief on the fight today—this thing has been hanging over our heads since September, and it is nice now to finally get the countdown clock started.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Location, Location, Location…

Between my relatives in the real estate business and all of my friends in the Navy, I have learned the importance of location. Norfolk or Jax? Meridian or Pensacola? After all of these years, I think I found the best location of all…In our living room with Braye sitting next to me, watching the girls showing us how they can do somersaults.

I made it home last night after being away for almost a month. The trip home was nice. I was in a huge hurry and a few of us didn’t get a chance to change, so we ended up flying in our uniforms. American Airlines was great! The had an open First Class seat and they up graded one of our guys. I was almost as lucky—they gave me a free cookie.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Getting ready to head home

Well, as days go, today was a pretty bad one. But it is almost over. Tomorrow, I get to go home and spend 9 days with Braye and the girls. I am so looking forward to seeing them again. Of course, the thought having to say goodbye again will be with all of us.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election day

Well, we may (depending on how many lawyers get involved) learn tonight which party controls congress. Of course I have my personal preferences, but I surly hope that, whatever the outcome, the results of the elections do not embolden terrorists. It worked in Spain and Italy. If international terrorists see these elections as a victory for them, then America loses.
On a lighter note, I gave my brief and submitted my research paper. Now all I have to do is a day long exercise tomorrow. I would love to head home as soon as that is done, but we have a no kidding “graduation” scheduled on Thursday. Because of the timing of the “graduation” the only flight that I can catch arrives in P-cola around 10:00pm. Oh well, such is the life of a number.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Almost done in Ft. Huachuca...

I took my final exam today. I did fairly well on it, tomorrow I have to give a brief and submit my paper. I feel so much like I am in high school that a bunch of us are going to hang out in the Wal-mart parking lot later.

A guy from my command in Iraq came buy today to give us a brief. Once I get to Iraq, I will then find out where I’m ultimately going. As it stands right now, once I’m in country I will:
Be assigned to an Army of Marine Corps unit
Stay on the my command’s staff in Bagdad
Go to Qatar
As of right now, we have no clue as to where we will be going or exactly what we will be doing. I received an email from a friend of mine from Japan. He is doing the same thing that I will be doing over there. It would be great to turn over with him. He is a good guy and I know that the program he will leave me will be top notch.

As far as going to Iraq goes, I don’t want anyone to worry. Iraq sounds scary, but in reality, it isn’t so bad. Thanks to the liberal media, only the doom and gloom is presented. When I was flying F-18s, I relied on the “big sky, little airplane” theory to help me avoid mid-air collisions. It worked. In Iraq, I’m counting on the “big country, only a few bad guys” theory.
In all seriousness, my job is a safe job, in a safe area. I honestly feel that driving through Pensacola in the mornings is more dangerous that Iraq—a bunch of rednecks, late for work and they hyped up from watching the latest NASCAR race—now that’s scary.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Today was a pretty slow day, with nothing worth mentioning in a blog…but I figure I better keep at it. Most of the day was spent studying for my final exam. Since a large portion of the test will be on classified material, it made studying difficult. I also made it to church on base today.

Great news about Saddam today. Say what you want about the war, but anything that causes the Iraqi people to dance in the streets is a good thing—especially, since without America, Hussein wouldn’t be headed to the punishment he deserves. I think many people lose sight of the fact that this man is a mass murder in the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bear Hunting

Today I went bear hunting. Braye called today and during the conversation, she told me about an article she read about the Build a Bear Workshop. It is a store where you go and custom build your own teddy bear. We thought that would be a perfect gift for the girls (actually all the credit goes to Braye). As it turns out, there is a build a bear workshop in Tucson, so I headed up there. Wow, what a great concept! The lines were huge and the kids were having a blast (mental note, see if Build a Bear Workshop is publicly traded). In about an hour I made bears for both girls. Every night, while I’m putting the girls to bed, I would say a certain good-night phrase to each of them. If you squeeze the paw, there is a recording of my good-night saying. I sure hope they like them. I had a lot of fun making them

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Time to kick some ass?

A busy day

Today was a busy day. We had a video teleconference with the folks we will be relieving in Iraq. Because of the time zone change, we had to meet at 0545. I wanted to go for a run and today was my day to hit the weight room. So, because of a packed schedule, I got up at 0330, went for a run, showered, and then went to the conference. After the conference ended, we had a couple of hours off so I hit the weight room. After that, I had class all day. As far as class is concerned, it seems to me that the motto for the folks here at Ft Huachuca is “it is the process that counts, results are secondary”. I have an important jog to do in Iraq, give me the tools to do it. I want to have information dripping out of my ears when I leave here. As it is, we have to engage our selective listening skills to filter out the important information from the trivia. From my perspective, the ratio of trivia to important information is about 80-20%. Oh well. I remember way back when, when I was in Bahrain. I ran into a British Sergeant Major of the Royal Marines (sitting on a curb outside the Warbler). He was on the 5th deployment to the gulf. He said to me: “I take the queen’s shilling and eat the Queen’s biscuit. I go where she sends me”. Good advice.

I have important job to do and I just have to deal with the process until I get over there.

As much as I hate leaving Braye and the girls, the job I will be doing over there will have a profound effect on some guy’s lives. That is what important. I’m at the point: just let me go let me do my job.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Today was an interesting day in class. We had cultural briefs on Iraq and Afghanistan. We covered the usual information such as the economy, culture, customs and traditions. We also had a very interesting brief on Islam.

This is what I learned: Mohamed was the father of Islam. After he died, he was replaced by a Caliph (basically the leader of the faith). At the time, there were 2 schools of thought in the early days of Islam The Sunns basically endorsed another Imam to take over the faith. The Shia believed that Ali, the nephew of Mohamed should take over the faith. In the end, the Sunnis won. Three Caliphs later, Ali was elected as Caliph. Shortly after his election his was assassinated by a Suni in what is today modern day Iraq. The two factions have been split ever since. From what I learned, the Sunis consider themselves to be more orthodox than the Shias. It is interesting to note that that Shias are the minority in the Muslim world, with the exception of Iran and Iraq. Very interesting stuff.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

This picture says it all

Today was a long day and as far as out class is concerned, a total waste of time. I sure hope the Navy isn’t paying for this class. It was a productive day for me though. I spoke with a Master Sergeant (one of the uneducated masses stuck in Iraq). He has been there 3 times before and had a lot of great information. Because of security reason, I can’t disclose what he told me, but needless to say, I learned a lot. Of course, I’ll be in the rear with the gear, but it is still good stuff to know.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I guess I didn't study hard and make an effort...

Another day today. Class was somewhat interesting, but according to a certain public official, I must not have been very good at school since I’m going to Iraq. Without mentioning any public official by name:
I am amazed that so many public officials forget the fact that words mean things. What may be intended to be used as a sound bite on CNN or to motivate a political base can have a detrimental effect on the morale of troops. Some of the most outstanding individuals I have ever met are in the military and I am honored to serve with them. Now that I am going to Iraq, I find all of the anti-war, anti-military truly disheartening. If you are against the war, vote you conscious, speak out, but tell the truth. Inflammatory rhetoric about how we are at war for all the wrong reasons, that we are criminals fighting a losing cause only encourages our enemies and hurts the troops. If these individuals truly support the truth, then I hope they think before they speak.