Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Eve '11

Ben,

It could very well still be the 30th for you... it's 2 am in NYC which means its.. ah yes, just past midnight on the commemorative day of your birth. Merry anniversary of your passing through the birth canal. I made a meme to mark the occasion. You'll find it on your Facebook wall.


I have so much to say that every time I've sat down to write ANYONE I am overwhelmed with the amount of emotion, information, and exhortation I wish to convey. So I usually end up trolling memebase with my scant 30 mins of internet time. lolzors

It's the 31st, my favorite day of the year. I'm sure you know, but New Years (Year's? Years'?) is my favorite holiday. There's nothing to be politically correct about, no tiptoeing around greetings - if you live in America (and much of the rest of the world) you celebrate this opportunity to start over. This is a formal opportunity to forget the past (as much as possible) and see things anew. It's rather invigorating, to me.

Also, I think I've read too many Joseph Decruex in the past couple internet sessions, because I feel like I'm typing in a very formal voice. Alas, high quality English is a pleasure in itself.

As formal as it might sound, I'm not really trying to say anything in particular to you; I just haven't had a moment in the past week to sit and reflect on the fact that a new year is nigh upon us. Usually this is a time of great reflection for me. In the past, I have made resolutions that lasted throughout the entire year - but only after weeks of careful consideration planning. Since I haven't had that luxury in my current circumstances, I feel like any resolution I make now will be half-assed and out of habit, rather than a real commitment of improvement.

But I don't fret - I see my return to the US as the most freshest of beginnings, completely overshadowing the symbolic and semi-literal turning of a new corner that is new years (yearses?). I've been thinking a lot about what I want to improve upon my return, and so I'm saving the meat of my resolutions for the March/April timeframe of my return to civilization.

However, every year I make resolutions there are always three categories that I am sure to commit to improvement, namely body, mind, and spirit. Even just one resolution in each category that I am fully committed to - and have a plan for - has made worlds of difference in each new year. To that end I've been exploring which resolutions are most important to me in each category for when I return.

I have been thinking, though, of life after the Army. Odd, considering I just barely commissioned and started my time on Active Duty; but I find that it is in my nature to plan ahead - even years ahead. If I don't, the present has no meaning for me.

Take case#1: High school. I was planning to attend the Air Force Academy for the majority of my high school career. To that end, I strove towards a standard of academic excellence that I would not have otherwise achieved. I also participated in as many sports and extra curricular activities that I could. Take Cross Country and Track for example - I didn't even like them! Attending practices was a chore, not something I enjoyed. But I did it for the goal. The goal gave me purpose. And even though I eventually chose NOT to attend the Academy, I had an Academy-worthy high school career because of the goal (ah the glory days).

Take case#2: ROTC. In ROTC you are awarded points based off of GPA, physical fitness, and extra curricular activities. All the Cadets in the nation are ranked according to how many points they have by the end of their third year. Those with the highest points at the end of their third year get to choose their career in the Army, while those with lower points are assigned a career. Since GPA is the single-greatest source of points, there is a lot of emphasis on keeping your GPA high above all other considerations. To that end I worked to maintain a high GPA... to the end of my third year. Once the rankings came out, I realized that my fourth year was largely "going through the motions" of graduating. As far as ROTC and the Army were concerned, as long as I didn't fail my final year I was getting the career of my choice. As a result, I relaxed a lot during that senior year. I had no goal to give meaning to my hard work and achievement.

Take case#3: IBOLC and the present. I really had no motivation for excelling in IBOLC. Besides the fact that I hated everything about the institution, I started with a predisposition towards mediocrity - simply because I had no goal. I wasn't working toward anything - no goal, no higher station, no higher cause. Granted, I was preparing to deploy, but I had been doing so for near a third of my life, and this is hardly a concrete goal. And even now that I'm here in Afghanistan, the focus of my unit is making it home over anything else. This company - and specifically this platoon - has suffered enough causalities. The prevailing wisdom is that finding one IED or one cache, or killing one Taliban is not worth the life of another soldier this close to coming home and this late in the conflict. And so I find myself just doing what needs to be done.

I realized the other night that what I'm missing is a goal - something to work towards, something that to attain requires me to push beyond my limits and go outside of my comfort zone, like I did in school. And so I've begun looking to my post-Army life (or maybe just late-Army life?) in order to find some direction for the way I should preform now.

I will say that I'm mildly ashamed that I don't have the drive to just excel for the sake of excellence... but let's be real. I'm human. Maybe that's something I can work on for the next year - excellence for the sake of excellence. But until I can truly say that that is my new paradigm for achievement, I'll need a goal to help inform and direct my weak human will.

Hm. I didn't mean to go where I did with this letter, but that's what happens when you start talking to someone who you know will listen to your soul searching. I was going to write a completely separate blog post for New Yearz (yeah that works), but now I think I'll just post this letter instead. Happy Birthday and New Year. Make it count.

Sky

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Day '11

The cooks really outdid themselves today. I wish I had gotten a picture of it. Lobster, ham, turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, shrimp, salad, corn, greenbeans... ICE CREAM, pies... SPARKLING GRAPE JUICE aka MORMON WINE. Excellent meal. Just excellent.

I'll be picking up a platoon next week, I just found out. So until then I'm just learning what I can about the area and the situation, which means an occasional touch football game on the landing zone full of rocks. We played for probably three hours today.

Hey, it's tradition, right?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

First Rocket Attack

Last night was my first rocket attack.

It was about 0400, so everyone was asleep. I had just woken up and was trying to decide whether or not to put on all my clothes and hit the latrine, or tough it out till wake-up. I heard the explosion while I was internally deliberating. It was pretty far away, but I knew what it was. The alarm sounded, and people kind of looked around like, "Wha?" Some people got up, but most just stayed in bed.

I decided to hit the latrine.

Rollover Training

Rollover training was probably the most eye-opening and terrifying training I've done. They have this little pod that you sit in, and it rolls over and over to simulate a vehicle rollover. The inside is of course made to look like the inside of a vehicle. What you don't realize until you get in is that there is ABSOLUTELY NO ROOM in there. After all your body armor, pouches, helmet, and weapons - and the computers, steering wheel, armor, and gunner adjustments - you have enough room to sit in your seat and turn your head. That's about it. Now get flipped over a couple times, land upside down, and get out. While smoke is blowing in your face.

I found out that hanging upside down is not a pleasant sensation. In fact, I hated it. The blood rushed to my head extremely fast, and my head felt like it would pop every time I was suspended upside down.

I used to think the worst thing that could happen would be getting hit by an IED, but I think for me it's changed to being flipped in a vehicle during an attack. The thought of being helpless for those precious minutes, struggling to get free while a firefight rages on around me makes me wince.

Once again, though, I realize that I am in the right type of job. When things get crazy like that I tend to go into a zen-like trance of super calm. I think more logically. I start thinking along the lines of: what is the very next thing I need to do to get out of this situation. Then I just do it. I'm sure I'm not unique in this, but every time something crazy happens, like a burglar running straight at me with someone else's belongings, or a three car accident happening right before my eyes, or being trapped in a (simulated) smoking vehicle with four other people while upside down - I realize that I can handle the stress. The panic is there - but then quickly melts away and is replaced with a clarity I rarely have otherwise. If nothing else, I take solace in that.

Welcome to Kandahar

This place is crazy.

I got off the plane with an iconic Afghan sun setting behind me, just like I always pictured it. Me in my vest, rucksack on, helmet in hand, walking off the plane with the sun setting behind me. Wish I had had a camera.

Then I stepped into the actual city. This place is a literal maze of concrete barriers and barbed wire. There are tunnels that go everywhere, and a wrong turn can take you to a dead end in no time. It's dirty, dusty, trashy, smelly, and cramped - and incredibly crowded.

This place thrives on a kind of ordered chaos that is difficult to describe. It's like if modern day New York were thrown back into the wild wild west. There are humans EVERYWHAR, cars and buses brushing past all the pedestrians, and everyone is wearing a side arm or carrying a rifle. On top of that, everyone is from everywhere and there is really no dominant race or ethnicity. It is hands down the most multicultural place I have ever been.

There are rules... but they are more like guidelines. As far as I can tell, even things like uniform wear is incredibly lax. Don't have the right headgear? Just throw on a German patrol cap - it looks pretty much the same. Don't have one? Meh, just throw on your beanie for PT. It'll be fine.

There are connexes EVERYWHERE. "Connex" is slang of some kind for the giant storage containers that the Army uses. They are as long as houses and can fit a ton of stuff inside. Well, when they first came over here with a boatload of connexes, they just threw the empty shells in the city and used them to create this giant maze. Add that to all the concrete, barbed wire, loose rock, dirt, and broke down buildings, and it feels like... well, like a war zone.

Then you run in to a TGIF restaurant. wtf, right? I watched the Broncos play the Jets and had a pizza later that day. Like... what? Salsa night? WHAR AM I? Then I remember we've been here for ten years so of course there's going to be a lot of American type comforts. It's still surprising, though, to see a guy playing Xbox or watch Sportscenter out here.

Today's training was long, but worth it. More on that tomorrow. Gotta sleep. Peace.

72+

HOURS OF TRAVEL. AND COUNTING.

...kind of.

Upon reflection, I realized that even though it's MUCH faster to get to Afghanistan going WEST from Alaska, we still had to go EAST. Why? I'm guessing that the lack of airspace provided to the US from Russia/China has something to do with it. Maybe not, I dunno. What I dunno is that I've flown around something like three-fourths of the world to get here, stopping in a few countries I didn't know existed. But I'm still not at my final destination. Now I've got to get a flight/convoy to my unit.

Wherever they are.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"See the world!" they said....

I left Ft. Benning Sep. 23, found out I was going to Afghanistan on Sep. 28, was told I would leave in two weeks, then in another week, then in another two weeks and didn't actually leave until Nov. 15. Granted, I still haven't left, but the point is that I'm finally set to depart this coming week. 

Getting pushed back so many times doesn't bother me too much; it's the Army and that's how things are done. But I am finally glad to either be going or not. The "maybe" and the weird place in-between has not been fun. Neither has been living in a hotel room for a month and a half. 

In any case, I got my bags packed and ready to go. Next few days I'm just trying to make it out of here. If I do, I'll see you in four to five months. I might get to update you in country, I might not. I'm going in blind, not really sure of anything that's going on over there. In any case, this is me to me and you - see you on the other side. 


Saturday, October 15, 2011

B E H O L D





Fruit Bowl Productions has been born. May all mark this day as the beginning of an epic partnership forged in button-mashing and Red Lobster. Apple Man is taking shape under the masterful hand of Benjammus Gripptus, and will soon claim its rightful place on XBOX LIVE. You know what the say: An Apple a day, keeps the DOCTOR AWAY!

Future projects include the full realization of Project XIII and a simple Simon game for XBOX LIVE.

The Triumverate
Producer: Skylar Petitto
Lead Programmer: Kven McCloud
Lead Artist: Benjammus Gripptus

Known Associates:
Music/Sounds: Lukester (You can like his FB page here.)
Music: Kirstonian Sanduskenomics

Doodles and such to follow as they come.

Movie Log 12: Double Feature



22) Ides of March was such a great movie. Maybe it's the poly sci nerd in me, but it just seemed... pertinent. Maybe it's because it's the first real look I've had at politics behind the scenes. I found it to be tense, witty, and poignant. Ryan Gosling's optimistism is challenged by the brutal realities of human politics, and he is forced to become the bad guy he never wanted to be. George Clooney plays an excellent perfect-candidate-on-stage-but-duplicit-behind-the-scenes politican. ...It might not have had a bunch of action, and the plot was very small for a blockbuster film, but the intensity and realism really got me. I liked it.

The movie projector fizzled out like four tmies during the movie, too, so the theater gave us all extra tickets. I decided, since a cab ride to and from the movies is about 20 bucks, that I'd just watch the next movie. It happened to be Real Steel in the IMAX.

The IMAX is an amazing thing. It is now my favorite way to watch a movie. The sound, the picture quality... so good.



23) Real Steel was surprisingly entertaining. How could Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots be a good movie? With Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lily, and that kid - that's how. The writing is witty, and there are a surprising number of laughs. It's like when you watched Iron Man for the first time. No one was expecting it to be entertaining, but the laughs disarmed you and the actors did their jobs right. That's how this movie went. It's a fun one.



Oh Evangeline...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ruminations

Being told that you would be deployed in a couple weeks and then watching a movie about a 20-something-year-old get cancer gets you to thinking. Not to be melodramatic, but truly confronting the prospect of death changes the way you see things.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."


Steve Jobs, 2005 Commencement Speech, Stanford

Black Belt Linguistic Ju-Jitsu

Automagically
[aw-tuh-maj-i-kuh'lee]
adverb

1. when something is done instantly and wonderously, like when Tuneup changes all of your unidentified tracks into neat, organized media with names, pictures, and lyrics. Y'know, like in this commercial here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Movie Log 11: In Transit

The fact of deployment has overshadowed the fact that I'm now in Ft. Wainwright, AK. While travelling here, and now in the first weekend here, I saw:

20) Killer Elite: The best parts were in the previews, like when Jason Statham beats up a dude while tied to a chair. In the movie, he beats up TWO guys. To be fair, one was a desk jockey nerd and the other had his hands cuffed, but big deal. He owned them.

21) 50/50: Not as funny as the previews make it look, but still a good flick. More ruminations to follow.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Linguistic Ju-Jitsu: Sunsplosion


Sunsplosion
[suhn-sploh-zhuhn]
noun
1: supernova
2: When one is hit with massive amounts of sunlight, particularly after a time of darkness, or like when a cloud suddenly moves away from in front of the sun and one is taken unawares by its rays.

Suddenly, Afghanistan

And then I got a call telling me that before the month of October is over I will be in Afghanistan.

Let me tell you that it is completely different when you know you're actually going over there. Talking about it is different. Everything everyone says about it suddenly seems more important. Little things you never think of become big things. Deep philosophical questions become much more personal. You start to measure yourself up, wondering if you're up to challenge. Everything you do that isn't related to Afghanistan or combat seems like a terrible waste of time. You suddenly recognize all the time you have wasted in one way or another for one thing or another. You take stock of who your real friends are. You realize how dear your family is to you.

Don't get me wrong, this is what I wanted. Not to take a life or fight in a war, but to do my turn. I realized a long time ago that people were sleeping on rocks for a year, dodging land mines during the day while I went to school and slept on my bed. It just didn't seem fair.

It's just that now, it's real.

And it's in less than a month.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Happiness Project (excerpt)

I could not say it any better myself:

I'd started out in law, and I'd had a great experience. But when my clerkship with Justice O'Connor drew to a close, I couldn't figure out what job I wanted next. 

During this time, I visited the apartment of a friend who was in graduate school studying education, and I noticed several thick textbooks lying around her living room. 

"Is this what they make you read for your program?" I asked, idly flipping through the dense, dull pages. 

"Yes," she said, "but that's what I read in my spare time, anyhow."

For some reason, that casual answer shocked me to attention. What did I do in my spare time? I asked myself. As much as I liked clerking, I never spent one second more on legal subjects than I had to. For fun, I was writing a book, and it occurred to me that perhaps I could write books for a living. Over the next several months, I became convinced that that was what I wanted to do. 

I’m a very ambitious, competitive person, and it was wrenching to walk away from my legal credentials and start my career over from the beginning. Being editor in chief of The Yale Law Journal, winning a legal writing prize—inside the world of law, these credentials mattered a lot. Outside the world of law, they didn’t matter at all. My ambition, however, was also a factor in leaving the law. I’d become convinced that passion was a critical factor in professional success. People who love their work bring an intensity and enthusiasm that’s impossible to match through sheer diligence. I could see that in my co-clerks on the Supreme Court: they read law journals for fun, they talked about cases during their lunch hours, they felt energized by their efforts. I didn’t.

Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice. Therefore, career experts argue, you’re better off pursuing a profession that comes easily and that you love, because that’s where you’ll be more eager to practice and thereby earn a competitive advantage.

I love writing, reading, research, note taking, analysis, and criticism. (Well, I don’t actually love writing, but then practically no writer actually loves the writing part.) My past, when I thought back, was littered with clues that I wanted to be a writer. I’d written two novels, now locked in a drawer. I’ve always spent most of my free time reading. I take voluminous notes for apparent reason. I majored in English. And the biggest clue: I was writing a book in my free time.


I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am. Sometimes I pretend even to myself to enjoy activities that I don’ really enjoy, such as shopping, or to be interested in subjects that don’t much interest me, such as foreign policy. And worse, I ignore my true desires and interests.

“Fake it till you feel it” was an effective way to change my mood in the moment, … but it isn’t a good governing principle for major life decisions. By “faking it,” I could become engaged in subjects and activities that didn’t particularly interest me, but that enthusiasm paled in comparison to the passion I felt for the subjects in which I naturally found myself interested.

Self-knowledge is one of the qualities that I admire most in my sister. Elizabeth never questions her own nature. In school, I played field hockey (even though I was a terrible athlete), took physics (which I hated), and wished that I were more into music (I wasn’t). Not Elizabeth. She has always been unswervingly true to herself. Unlike many smart people, for example, she never apologized for her love of commercial fiction or television—an attitude vindicated by the fact that she started her career writing commercial young-adult novels and then became a TV writer.  …

“I worry about feeling legitimate,” I confessed. “Working in something like law or finance or politics would make me feel legitimate.”

I expected her to say something like “Writing is legitimate” or “You can switch to something else if you don’t like it,” but she was far more astute.

“You know,” she said, “you’ve always had this desire for legitimacy, and you’ll have it forever. It’s probably why you went to law school. But should you let it determine your next job?”

“Well…”

“You’ve already done highly legitimate things, like clerking on the Supreme Court, but do you feel legitimate?”

“Not really.”

“So you probably never will. Okay. Just don’t let that drive your decisions.”


Leaving law to become a writer was the most important step I ever took to “Be Gretchen.” I’d decided to do what I wanted to do, and I ignored options that, no matter how enticing they might be for other people, weren’t right for me.

-The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Movie Log 10: Driver

19) Driver


So, this movie was STRANGELY entertaining. The opening scene was so cool. I mean, it was cool in every sense of the word. The main character was ice cold and smooth operator as the getaway driver in some robbery. I remember thinking: this is going to be a great movie.

Well it was, but not like I thought it would. A lot of people might not like this movie. The main character is... awkward. He rarely talks, and he just looks at people. It's weird. There are way more awkward moments than action, and then when there is action (apart from the opening scene) it's VIOLENT. I mean, bashing someone's head to nothing but pulp violent.

Yet it was strangely entertaining. I think it was because the main character was so likeable.  Like I said, he was so awkward, and yet so good at what he did. There's a well-written review here that explains it perfectly.

In any case, my last movie here in Benning was worth it. At least I can say that much about this place.

SUDDENLY!!!

I only had 10 days left in Benning.

Due to a strange, twisted series of events, I was informed quite suddenly that I wouldn't be going to Ranger School, wouldn't be going to Airborne, and wouldn't be going to Stryker Leader's Course. Instead I would be PCSing to Alaska in TEN DAYS.

This coming, of course, in response and just after being the first person EVAR to voluntary withdraw from Ranger School before actually going. Or so they would have me think, anyway. Instead of intentionally failing my way out of training I didn't want to do, I just requested not to. Needless to say, it ruffled some feathers. To keep a long story short, and because I've told it about a billion times already, I had to be counselled by like ten people, and write a memorandum stating why  I didn't want to go AND THEN WHY I DID. Ha. In the end they told me it was mandatory and I was going. I said YES SIR! and did what I was told before receiving my new orders.

Oh well. HERE COMES MY DESTINY.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Movie Log 09

15) Conan - Worst movie ever.
16) Colombiana  - I take back what I said about Conan. THIS is the worst movie ever.
17) Contagion - Meh. It looks intelligent but it's really not. A realistic portrayal of some aspects of what would happen in a deadly epidemic, but realistic is boring.
18) Warrior - Now THIS is a movie I can get behind. Although most of the movie is character building, when the fighting tournament actually starts it's well worth it for the emotion that's built up by this point. What a fantastic ending, too. You will leave this one excited.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

IBOLC Week 16: CLEANING WEAPONS (and graduation)

What you have to realize, is that I spent more time cleaning weapons in IBOLC than I did doing any number of things, including being in a leadership position (for which I was there to be graded and trained on) and writing and/or giving OPORDs (the meat and potatoes of my job as an Infantry Officer).

We got back from the field that Tuesday afternoon, about noonish. We were instructed to immediately go into weapons maintenance. No food, no sleep, no breaks - just clean. Never mind that we had just done a twenty mile ruck march and company attack - it's time to clean. UNTIL 2300 HRS.

So for 11 hours that day, we cleaned weapons. We woke up the next morning, waited around for trans (only three hours late this time! progress!) while we cleaned weapons, and then cleaned weapons some more when we got back to garrison until 2000. So that day we spent about 12 hours cleaning.

The next day, Thursday, we did some PT in the morning and then literally just changed our PT shirts and went right back to weapons cleaning. We cleaned all day until about 1700 with no lunch, putting out about 10 hours. In total, we spent over 30 hours cleaning our weapons.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!!!

Tuesday, after the four-day weekend, we all came back bright-eyed and busy-tailed, ready for the final week of IBOLC. We were finally here, Week 16 of Infantry Officer Basic Course. It promised to be a relaxed week of out processing and preparing for those of us headed to Ranger School in less than five days.

What actually happened, is that we got called in to clean weapons again. So for about five hours that day, we cleaned weapons again. But don't worry, we put in some the next day. That's right, on Wednesday, the day before graduation, we went through the graduation ceremony a couple times before going into the day's real work: cleaning weapons again. So for another five to six hours, we cleaned weapons. Bringing the grand total to approximately... (drum roll please):

................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

FORTY THREE HOURS OF WEAPONS CLEANING!!!!!

Oh and then we graduated. The ceremony was about 25 minutes long.

The end.

Friday, September 9, 2011

IBOLC Week 13-15: LEADER FORGE

Ok so I know it's been a minute, but I think I am now able to put down on (paper) how those weeks went without going on a fifty page rant. Week 13 was all OPORD so nothing new there.

Week 14-15 was all Leaders Forge, a 10-day transformative process that will make a "real" leader out of Lieutenants. Here's the breakdown:

Day 1 (Monday): Trans to live fire range. We didn't do anything all day. To make up for doing nothing, the cadre came up with a hip-pocket STX lane. Hip-pocket is the professional term for "made up on the spot." We ran a lane and then sacked out for the night.

Day 2(Tuesday): Prepare for the Live Fire Exercise (LFX). This meant that we sat around all day, and then for about three hours near dusk we did some dry-runs of of the LFX. I was one of the 240 gunners so I lugged that 30lbs weapon around all that day. Lugged it around for four days straight, actually.

Day 3(Wednesday): LFX. I can't remember when we did the blank fire run. It might have been Day 2. In any case, Day 3 was doing the LFX and then trans to FOB Voyager, where we spent the night preparing for the next four days in the field, the time that most people consider the real Leader Forge.

Day 4-8(Thursday-Sunday): We were basically on the clock for 24 hours a day. We would do a mission, and then set up a Patrol Base (basically a "homebase" while we prepared for the next mission). Patrol Bases never go below 33% security, even during rest time, which means that for every three people, one is pulling security. The night time was spent trompsing through the woods with our night vision goggles on. Let me tell you: it's not as cool as it looks. You can't see the ground in front of you, your depth perception is all askew, your eye protection glasses fog up so you can't see anything, your night-vision goggles fog up, too... a 1 kilometer movement in the day takes about 25 minutes, maybe 30. At night it takes more like an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how thick the vegetation and the route you're taking. And of course we have our rucksacks and heavy weapons, ammo, and tripods as well.

We didn't sleep, we barely ate, and we ran missions constantly. On the fourth day, we headed back to FOB Voyager around 5pm-ish.We got showers and had an MRE and turned in for the night.

Day 9(Monday): We woke up at 6am and prepared until about 4 or 5 pm for the next day's mission. At that time we went to bed.

This day actually felt... real. Everyone was preparing for the next day's mission: a Company Soft Knock. Basically, our company would roll up on a village, get security around the village, and then do a cordial search of the village for weapons and enemy. If we could find the leader, we would meet with him as well and work on relations.  If there was any resistance, it would turn into a hard-knock: a forceful search and clear of the village.

The whole day was spent cleaning weapons, prepping gear, doing rehearsals, getting ammo, loading rucksacks, and just generally getting ready. It felt very real, and very cool. I think the thing about this mission was the level of planning that obviously went into it. It wasn't some hip-pocket mission for all 170 of us to do at once. Besides that, everyone knew that they had to preform perfectly or screw the other platoons. If 1st Platoon didn't get the security set, and enemy rode into the village, then 2nd Platoon would suffer for it. Everyone took the preparation seriously and for a moment I felt like I was in the real Army. And I liked it.

Night 9-Day 10(Monday night to Sunday day): We woke up Monday night at 10pm and got ready to move. We had to walk to the village, which was 16 miles away from us. So we finished packing our rucks, rubbed the sleep out of our eyes, and began the arduous march to McKenna. Turns out the ruckmarch was about 20 miles after some wrong turns and bad planning. But we made it to McKenna with no fall-outs: an amazing feat considering some of the guys in our platoon. Some people really surprised us during that march. And make no mistake: every step after about mile 4 sucked. Hard.

Day 10(Sunday): We executed the company mission perfectly. The cadre were very impressed (and surprised) at how well we preformed. I thought everything about the mission was professionally done, from the cadre's planning, to the students' planning and execution.

And thusly we were FORGED.

There's more to the story, but that will be for my next post. It's all about WEAPONS CLEANING OMG /WRISTS.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

LEADERS FORGE

Be back in two weeks. I'll have to update on this past OPORD week as well as the epicly fail Conan review.

Until then,

/salute world

Friday, August 19, 2011

Movie Log 08: The Change-Up

14) The Change-Up


Basically a married guy and a single guy trade lives for a while and realize that what they had in the first place is great for them. Not too bad for a comedy week.

The movie was actually pretty funny, though sometimes it relied more on shock humor than wit. Overall though, I laughed and had a good time at the movies with this one.

I didn't really get anything out of it though, like I did with, say, PLANET OF THE AWESOME APES... but maybe I purposefully went to the movies this week to escape the dread of my day to day life, not thinking about lessons and morals and such. In retrospect, the moral makes me cringe because it is so relevant: the grass is always greener on the other side, and you'll never be happy then if you can't find a way to be happy now. I could go into it, but it would just make me re-evalute my entire attitude on life, and I'm just not quite ready to be done being miserable. Next week: CONAN ARARAGARAGARGJHAREHGAH!!!!



Yes, that is baby poop.

IBOLC Week 12: MOUT

When I first thought about joining the Army, we were still fighting house to house in Iraq. I thought for sure that that type of fighting was what I would be doing when I finally got into the fight (though now it looks more and more like that might not be the case). MOUT is by far the most fun part of Infantry training, in my opinion, so I was stoked to be doing a full week of it.

Except for of course, that I would be doing it IBOLC style.

To be fair, the training was worthwhile. After going through the usual bs classes on clearing a room and searching a detainee, and then after getting every single NCO's version of the "right way" to do everything you just learned, and then after doing it "wrong" fifty times according to every instructor and being made to do it one more time on account of "your" failures, and after NCO's bickering about who's way is better - we finally got to do some real training.

One of the best parts of the training was the padded suit fighters. We would have to clear a house with OPFOR inside wearing padded suits. We didn't know who was good and who was bad, so we had to react accordingly. The bad OPFOR would rush us and try to take our weapon while the good OPFOR would get down on the ground immediately. We then would have to subdue the guy in the padded suit. We were supposed to go 70% strength and speed, but lets face it, we're all infantrymen. It was 100% or get called out for being weak.

Another excellent training point was clearing a building with "simunitions." Simunitions are basically little paintball bullets that fire out of a real rifle and leave a much more accurate "paint" line on you when hit. The little buggers can hurt, too. I had one hit my hand and break the skin. Clearing a building is completely different with simunitions. Of course, as the most valuable part of our training, it was allocated the least amount of resources and time. We all 15 rounds and one turn through the building and called it done.

The last significant training point for me was the continuous operations aspect. We did a full 24 hours of operations into the morning, fighting our way into the city to take a building, hold the building till morning, and then exfil. I'll be honest: there were moments that I could actually imagine this being Iraq in combat.

All this would have been much more fun if I hadn't already been poisoned by the preceding weeks of fail. Oh well. Barely one month to go....

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Movie Log 05-07: Apes and Leadership

So I've been lazy/unmotivated to write, but now I've got something to write about. Here's my blurb about the movies I've seen in the past three weekends:

11) Captain America: hitting people with shields is cool.
12) Cowboys and Aliens: I've already forgotten that I've seen it.
13) Planet of the Apes: SO GOOD. Officially the best movie I've seen since I started the run this summer.


Apes was so good. The entire time, I couldn't help but analyze the leadership qualities of Cesar, the main monkey.The way he brought the Apes together and then kept them together was epic. Let me point out some leadership qualities that I found worthwhile:

1) After Cesar got put into the chimp house, he got beat up by the dominant chimp (we'll call him Grey) during free play. That night when all the chimps were in their cages, Cesar escaped from his cage, released the caged Gorilla, and won the Gorilla's allegiance for freeing him. Then he opened up Grey's cage, brought him out where all the other chimps could see, and made him submit while the Gorilla looked on threateningly. From this point on, Cesar walked and acted like he ran that show, hands down. It wasn't in an obnoxious way, though. It was a forceful way. A forceful, firm constant reminding that he ran the show. Leaders need this attribute.

2) He shared his knowledge with the other monkeys. He was smarter, and so he started teaching the monkeys stuff to make them more powerful. Eventually, he steals the smart-drug and gives it to them all to bring them up to his level. Instead of keeping them low, he brought them up to his level.

3) He shared the spoils, and the responsibility. He made Grey his platoon sergeant, so to speak, and he stole some cookies and made Grey pass them out to the other monkeys. While Grey passed them out, Cesar stood in the middle of them as if to say, "I'm giving you this because I can, not because I have to."

4) He led the attack. He was always out front leading the run through the city. And he fought just as much as everyone else did. When something was about to stop them, he took care of it personally, like that machine gun in the helicopter.

5) He restrained the other monkeys from ripping every human they found apart. He was the moral check on his wild, rampaging horde. He directed their wrath and awesome power while keeping focused on the mission. I had this feeling that being an Infantry platoon leader would be similar to that.


In any case, it was some good movie, the best of the summer so far. Captain Thompson from BYU ROTC always use to make us do leadership analyses on random movies (like the Little Mermaid and such) - I think anyone studying leadership could get some quality lessons from this one.

IBOLC Week 10&11: Platoon STX and More OPORD

Playing some catch up here, but I'll keep it condensed.

Week 10 was in the field doing platoon-level exercises. Up to this point in my military career, I've only done squad-level operations, so this week was a learning experience - although I didn't actually run a mission as a platoon leader. The notable event of this week was the suck. I couldn't believe how much it sucked. Y'know, in ROTC, I always had a blast running operations. The kicker is the two-click movement through wet underbrush to get to the objective, the 48-hour straight operations, the patrol bases that you can't sleep in because you're on security all night... you never get THAT part in ROTC.

During PLT STX week I actually slept right on the ground in the dirt. I was so tired, and only had 45 minutes to sleep, and my sleeping mat was a full 30 meters away... and I just said, forget it. I put my face in the dirt, curled up in  a little ball, and went to sleep barefoot, since I had had wet boots on for about 36 hours at that point. When I woke up, we had a long movement (always with rucksacks) to the next objective. It was wet the entire time, and everyone's feet were soaked. Since the platoon leader was behind schedule, the instructors starting throwing artillery simulators at us - little firecrackers that make the sound of incoming artillery followed by an explosion. Whenever an arty sim hits, you're supposed to run away from it at full speed. We did this four about two hours. When the operation was finally over, we sat around from 1000 to 1600 because trans went to the wrong destination. I was so full of rage I thought I might explode. One of my platoon mates said, "These are the best Americans in the country right here. Who else works this hard?" I was so angry that I replied, "Who works this DUMB?" but he's right. No one works harder and through more suck than the Infantry.

The next week was another OPORD. It went much smoother this week, since we knew what we were doing. We planned and operation for an urban fight where we had to seize a building in order to allow follow-on platoons to seize the next buildings. As we were reading the initial operation order, I was getting pumped. Planning the mission was actually engaging, and I realized once again the unique role of officers.

Next week we'll be in the field conducting Urban Operations. Everyone in the platoon decided that they wanted to leave our sleeping pads behind, so for some reason we're going to leave the whole 10 ounces of weight behind and sleep on concrete and dirt for the next week. Awesome.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

IBOLC Week 9: OPORD II

More. Lame. Boring.

But at least we were released this week everyday by 1400. So nice.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Movie Log 04: WIZARDS > MUGGLES

Let me start by saying that I have never been a fan of the HP movie series. Some franchises just don't translate well into film - like G.I. Joe. Who's idea was it to make that into a live action movie? HP has so much fanciful paraphernalia that when it all comes together on screen it seems a bit... weird. Hokey. And I LOVE the books.



There is too much depth, too much emotion in the books that is missing from the movies. Not to mention certain characters and plotlines: Dumbledore has never been portrayed right, and WHY did they keep that redheaded girl as Ginny Weasley even when it was clear that she was terrible for the part? Ginny is supposed to be cute, funny, smart, and brave. The one in the movie was just... there. THIS girl on the left is closer to the book's portrayal of Ginny, as opposed to the chick on the right. I found this on some harry potter website. As you can see, the bio is pretty exhaustive.



http://www.hellontoast.org/chaoswiki/index.php?title=Ginny_Weasley

But besides the fact that my favorite heroine of the HP series was done serious injustice throughout all the movies, HP7:2 just didn't do it for me. It missed a lot of emotional goldmines, brushed over the actual Battle of Hogwarts and its impact, and added scenes that didn't really add any pazazz. It was pretty much action porn (all action, no substance) which is regrettable since the conclusion of the book is so epic.

Anyhow, if you haven't read the book, go do so. The books > the movies.

Oh and Wizards > Muggles. period. Lumos!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

IBOLC Week 8: OPORD I

Lame. Dumb. Stupid. Waste. Long. Boring. Dumb.

Eight more weeks to go. Can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Movie Log 03: I'll Be My Own Boss, Thanks

So firstly, the Movie Journal is now known as the Movie Log (thanks, Banks. oui oui).

Secondly, Horrible Bosses was fun. But then again, after a week of IBOLC, anything is fun. Honestly. I think that going to movies has become so much of an escape for me that I am able to enjoy almost any movie, regardless of how bad it might be. Not that this movie is particularly bad, but it's not particularly good either. And it's true what they say: the movies are better with a C O K E and some popcorn (though I prefer BUNCHA CRUNCH). And also with Jennifer Aniston.



Thirdly, the lesson. Or moral, if you will. Rather, the philosophizations of an avid movie goer and observer of society. It's mainly about picking a job you actually like.

I have always done things I felt was I needed to do, i.e., what I felt was my duty, or what I owed the group, my God, my country, my family, etc. Even when playing team sports or team video games, I would play the role that no one else would in order to ensure that the team had that position filled with someone possessing at least half a brain.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se, but it's not enough. It's left me feeling oddly unsure about what I even like or dislike about a great many things.

In relation to work, I've realized that you have to want to go work, at least to some degree. You can't dread it. You can't spend every moment wishing you were anywhere else. If what I'm describing is normal, but I think it's sad. That's why after the Army I'm going to do whatever I actually want to do. Not what's safe, not what's dutiful - something I want to actually do. I'll have done my duty to both God and Country - then it will be time for some duty to self. That will probably involve doing something crazy. Can't wait.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

IBOLC Week 7: Collosal Waste. I mean, Live Fire Squad Excersize

What a colossal waste of my life. I'm not sure what it was about this past four-day weekend for the 4th of July, but I came back to training with new eyes. I suddenly began to truly see how ridiculous this organization is. I am starting to keep a checklist of stupid things the Army does and will post them. But for now: a brief synopsis of the THREE FULL HOURS OF WORK I did this week. 

Monday we had off, so we began the work week on Tuesday with EIGHT HUNDRED STEP UPS. A step up is when you step up a stair and then step down. 400 on each leg, 800 in all - with our 45 lbs. ruck sack on. No big.

Then we took a quiz on stuff we hadn't learned. Who does that? Kind of like, "Here you go, here's a quiz that's worth points towards graduation." Dumb. After that we went OUTSIDE to learn how to do something we've all been taught one billion times before - Battle Drill 1A: Squad Attack.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't go over battle drills. We need to. It's our job. But we learned hand and arm signals, react to contact, and squad attack - with NO PRACTICAL EXERCISES- and it took us two and a half hours. I've taught privates all that and more with practical exercises in less time.

Wednesday we went out to the field to sit around all week in the hot sun and ant infested poison-ivy grass of Georgia. I'm not exaggerating. I read 600 pages of Game of Thrones on my Nook while we were out there. Wednesday we went out to the range and sat around all day except for running a demonstration lane and a practice lane with no ammunition of what we were going to do the next day. The total time was about an hour. The rest of the day I slept. And read.

I'm not exaggerating. Here was Thursday:

0600 - Wake up
0700 - Walk over to the range. got there at 0710.
1200 - Blank Fire run. Meaning, we ran the battle drill Squad Attack with blank rounds. Took about thirty minutes.
1600 - Live Fire run. Did the same things as before, but with live ammunition. Took about thirty minutes
2200 - Lights out

You see those monstrously large gaps in the timeline? You know what I did from 0700-1200? I slept and read Game of Thrones. Know what I did from 1230 to 1600? Slept and read Game of Thrones. Know what I did from 1630 to 2200? Read Game of Thrones. I couldn't sleep anymore.



And Friday:

0600 - Wake up
0700 - Move to Range
1500 - Squad STX Lane. A STX Lane is like running a mission. Go find the enemy and kill him. Usually with blanks. It took about an hour to finish. Then there was an hour of clean up and prep to move.
1700 - Move to another range and do a walk through of how to clear a bunker
1800 - Got back to HQ
2100 - Released for the weekend

Same thing. Huge gaps, huge naps. And Game of Thrones. Stupid.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Movie Journal/Log 02: CYBERNETIC BEINGS > HUMANS

Which sounds better: Movie Journal or Movie Log? Consider this a transitional title post.

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon was up straight action jackson. Never mind the way the Armed Forces and civilian agencies worked or didn't work together in absurd ways. Never mind that Megatron is still alive somehow. Never mind that Shia Lebouf is with yet another supermodel. If you can willfully suspend your disbelief for a time, you will enjoy this ride.

The whole time I was thinking of how vastly superior cybernetic beings would be to humans. Let me count the ways:

1) SIGHT and TARGETING. Cybernetic beings would be able to immediately scan a location, target things, get technical readouts of said things, see in infra-red, thermal, and night vision, and also take pictures and video immediately  They could also filter out their screen for colors to isolate one color. Or detect only motion. Anything you could do with a computer screen you could put into their eyesight. It could calculate speeds and force as fast as the being's processor would allow. This would mean that it could deflect, repel, counter, and attack extremely accurately - never mind how accurately it could fire. And who said a cybernetic being can only have two eyes in the front of its head? Put one in the back and now times all that by three.

2) HEARING. The same goes for hearing. It could isolate frequencies, hear frequencies that humans can't, immediately record sounds and compare/contrast them to internal databases. It could calculate the location of a sound by its frequency and intensity immediately, meaning that it could, in effect, see behind itself with its hearing.

3) IMMORTALITY. Cybernetic beings, in theory, wouldn't die. As long as their memory banks/whatever computer component passes for its mind isnt' damaged, you could "jump" the robot to come back to life. If it runs out of power or connections are severed, all you have to do is put those connections back together and give the robot a boost and VOILA! it's back a la Optimus Prime in Transformers 2.

4) SURVIVAL. Apart from immortality, cybernetic beings could survive in space, underwater, and without oxygen while trapped underground. It would be able to live in places unassisted humans can't.

5) TELEPATHY. More like, wireless connectivity with everyone else around you, provided that they too are cybernetic beings. Think about it. They could send messages to each other to anywhere in the world. They could take a picture with their eyes and send it to a friend. Or record a conversation and post it immediately to Facebook. They have de facto telepathy. How much they have open or closed to other cybernetic beings would be up to their programming/choice.

That's why I plan to be at least 60% cyborg by the time I'm 50, with goal of having my consciousnesses transplanted into a fully functioning cybernetic form. How cool would that be?

Monday, July 4, 2011

IBOLC Week 6: Machine Guns and Artillery

i LUV four day work weeks.

This week wasn't very exciting so here it is, for posterity:

Machine gun theory - where to place the guns, the different types, their capabilities
Artillery - different types, capabilities, and most importantly, calling for fire. We played a huge video game to learn, which of course just validates the years of gaming I've put under my belt. The game had some terrain in front of us with targets, and we would have to call up the correct information to hit them. Probably the best training we've had so far, I'd say.


Besides that, I am loathe to report that I am one of three 240 gunners for my platoon.



You see how big that thing is? Thirty pounds of death. That ammunition is another ten pounds as well. I can't wait to ruck march ten miles with a  45 pound pack and my 30 pound machine gun. Go Infantry.

Monday, June 27, 2011

SAPPERNAUTS

I'm in a CAPSLOCK mood today for some reason.

In any case, I thought it high time I explain to the masses how space combat will soon enough become a reality.

That's right, space combat. Dejame explicar.

Satellites run our world. Communications, GPS, information sending; Can you imagine a world without satellites? You'd have to give up a lot more than you realize. And when it comes to the military, it's almost more than we are prepared to handle. Some wargame scenarios have China (as only China, US, and Russia currently have weapons capable of) blowing our satellites out of the sky in one fell swoop; after all, there is nothing to protect them.

Which brings us to the next step: missile defense for our satellites. It could take various forms, but whatever form it is - space-based lasers, counter batteries of missiles (i.e., the STAR WARS program you might have heard about), space stations - the natural counter to such a missile defense system would be manned fighters.

Space Fighters.



AND SAPPERNAUTS!! Sapper astronauts who fly around in space and plant bombs on missile defense systems. So epic. Would make a great movie.


But seriously. It'll happen. And I'll rue the day I was born int he 21st Century beacuse I always wanted to be the best star pilot in the galaxy...

EPILOGUE
As an addendum, the other reason for space combat would have to center around some resource available only in space, whether its some space mineral or even real estate. Who knows, maybe one day moon dust will be used to make superultracomputers and robots.

OMG WTF LOLWUT THE EARTH ISN'T ROUND!!??

It looks more like this:


And GUESS WUT!!

Mount Everest is the tallest mountain, but not the tallest point on Earth as measured from the center of the Earth. Check this snippet from an article on the intranet. When asking what is the tallest mountain on Earth, it reads:

It is Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador. Yes, Ecuador.
Mount Chimborazo, in the Andes, is a 20,000-plus-foot peak sitting on top of a bulge on the Earth. Mount Everest is a 29,000-plus-foot peak sitting lower down on that same bulge. Because Chimborazo is a bump on a bigger part of the bulge, it is higher.
According to Senne, Chimborazo is 1.5 miles higher than Everest! Or, if you will, 1.5 miles closer to outer space.
If you define "highest" as highest from sea level, Mount Everest is still champion.
But if you want to stand on the place on Earth that is closest to the moon, that would be Mount Chimborazo!

My whole worldview HAS CHANGED DRAMATICALLY!! GET IT? WORLDview?!

source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9428163

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Movie Journal 01: Good Bad Teacher

So I have been to the theaters for the past seven weeks in a row. Don't be alarmed; that's just what happens when a movie lover lives across the street from the base movie theater. I'm not exaggerating either, look:



You can see the street sign, Gillespie, and the movie theater sign ins that white square just left of the stop sign, while the actual theater is that big brick building on the left. So far I've seen:

1) Kung Fu Panda - awesome
2) Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides - fun flick, gotta love Capn Sparrow
3) The Hangover Part II - hahaha
4) X-men First Class - Magneto is Epic
5) Super 8 - the Goonies of our time
6) Green Lantern - so bad its awesome
7) Bad Teacher - lolzors and also inspiration. Dejame explicar.

I decided last night that I would chronicle not only every movie that I saw in some kind of movie journal, but also the lessons I learned from them. I often leave a movie thinking about something or another, and then go home and dream something crazy that seems to only make me think harder. Sometimes its nothing big, and other times its life changing. This time, there were two things I walked away with.

1) The Teacher's Role. You know, the original teachers, such as Socrates and Plato, actually taught rhetoric and ethics. They taught moral codes and debated over what the "good" was, and how best to live one's life in harmony with mankind. It was no secret that you were going there to learn how to read, write, persuade, speak, and live. Only later did teachers begin to specialize and teach nothing but their own subject, dropping topics such as ethics and the model citizen.

2) Wants and Desires. In the movie, the main character thinks she wants a sugar daddy to provide her with a posh standard of living, and eventually realizes how shallow it is and goes for the gym teacher. (Don't worry, you see it coming a mile away; I didn't spoil anything.) Which made me wonder... where your wants and desires even come from. I don't have time to get into it just now, but I sense it becoming a recurring theme in 2011: where do your likes, dislikes, desires, and wants come from?  Experienece? Knowledge? Something else?

We'll see how the Movie Journal develops.

IBOLC Week 5: Land Nav

In case you didn't know, "IBOLC" stands for "Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course." Or something like that, anyway. And "Land Nav" is short for "land navigation," which is basically using a compass, map, and protractor to find points on a map. We spent a miserable week out in the field looking for point after point. It was non-stop drudgery through the mud, woods, and rain to find them. Granted, it is a critical skill, but this was a bit excessive.

We actually started the week with the Combat Lifesaver Course, which is basically just a first responder class. It tackles the subject of battlefield First Aid. Over the course of two days, including one day of classroom instruction and one day of practical exercises, we focused on:

1) Stopping the bleeding via tourniquet (did you know you can where a properly applied tourniquet for SIX HOURS before you are in danger of losing that limb?)
2) Making sure the airway is clear with a nasopharyngeal tube


(wouldn't love to have this shoved up your nose?) and
3) Treating tension pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung via sticking you in the chest with a needle to allow built up air to escape the chest cavity.

We packed up and moved to the Land Nav site to begin the real suck. To make a long story short, it rained every day, we tromped through the mud and woods all night and day, and ended the week feeling and looking like zombies. I'm pretty sure about half of us had the early stages of trenchfoot. We probably walked about 10 miles per day on average with our gear on, wet and muddy. My feet hated me and my legs wouldn't shut up. At one point I had to run uphill 4k in the mud in order to make it to all my points in time. The only thing keeping me going was the knowledge that if I failed, I would have to be out there an extra day with those who didn't pass the test. No thanks.

I can't tell you how glorious it was to lay on my own bed again. A lot of people have significant others waiting for them with dinner and what not, but me - I have a this divine sleeping system waiting for me, clean and comfy, that I just sink into... in fact...


zzzzzzzzz

Saturday, June 18, 2011

2012, Destiny, and the Aurora Borealis



Destiny, I'm on my way.

IBOLC Week 4: Advanced Rifle Marksmanship

This week was all about moving and shooting. Instead of sitting still and shooting at stationary targets, we practiced moving and shooting at both stationary and moving targets. It's an interesting feeling, running through obstacles with live ammunition,  your teammates running with you as you shoot, move, cover each other, and advance towards the objective.

Wednesday was a night to remember. With absolutely clear skies, cadre suddenly started barking at us to set up our hooches - there was a storm coming. We laughed it off but did it anyway. About thirty minutes after we hit the sack, it started trickling. Then it started raining. Then, it started POURING. I was inside my bivy cover, which is the waterproof bag that you put your sleeping bag in to keep it dry - only I didn't have my sleeping bag and I didn't stay dry. None of us brought our sleeping bags on account of the ungodly heat, and few of us stayed dry. I had a nice little puddle inside my bivy cover by the time the night was over.

It was funny though, in the middle of the night when the storm was at its worst, everyone was up laughing about it. People were yelling phrases like, "THIS IS STUPID!" and "I QUIT!" much to the amusement of everyone else. I've decided to carry around a voice recorder to get all the ridiculous conversation that goes on in my platoon. I think it would make a great podcast: "Conversations of Infantryman." Ha. A lot of it would have to be edited for content...

We made it through the night though, lessons learned: staying dry is a PRI-ORITY. Friday was shooting the biggest guns the army has: The M203 grenade launcher, the MK-19  automatic grenade launcher, and the .50 calibur machine gun. The .50 cal makes your insides vibrate when you shoot it. I cried out in sheer delight when i pulled down the trigger for that first burst. It was like skydiving, in that I couldn't help but scream from the pure sensory overload of it. And to think, I got paid for it.

Also! Wainwright, Alaska will be my next duty station. I looked it up, read a bit, and am completely stoked to be going there. More to come on that.

Friday, June 10, 2011

IBOLC Week 3: Basic Rifle Marksmanship

Week 1 & 2 were boring and you would have fallen asleep reading any posts about them. I couldn't even find any good Linguistic Ju-Jitsu to share. I did read "The Art of the Deal" by Donald Trump. Great read. Then I read the original Treasure Island (another great read; it's the genesis of every single pirate stereotype there is), and started reading Trump's "Think Big and Kick Ass." Yeah it's ok, not quite as good as Art of the Deal.

Anyhow, this week was the first week in the field. My initial reaction to the Infantry is this: This job is harder than you realize, and it's just the first week of field training. I mean, we all know it's tough, but it is seriously hard work, in ways that you normally wouldn't even think about. Waking up at 0400 is not even close to the hardest part. In fact, you get acclimated to it rather quickly, and "early to bed, early to rise" is vastly superior to staying up till 2 AM and waking up at noon. You feel better, get more done, and your day seems longer - which is good because that means there's more life for you to live. 

We marched a mere FOUR miles to a shooting range with EIGHTY pounds on our backs to start the week off. ((I'll be honest - it nearly broke me in half. By the time we finish this course we'll do a 16 miler.)) Then we spent the week on the range shooting rifles, playing with night vision, and getting used to the field. So yes, I just got paid to shoot rifles for a week. 

We lived on the range - literally. We put out our bedrolls, slept, ate, exercised, worked - all on the range in 100+ Georgia heat and humidity. We were not dry for a minute of it. Covered in sweat, grime, sand, dirt, and grass, we spent the week out there. After a while you don't really notice it. 

It does wear you down though, in ways you don't think about unless you go through it. For example, think about how often you stand in a day. As in: run a stopwatch for time spent standing, and I guarantee you that we stood about four times the average while in the field. It doesn't seem like much, but even just standing in the heat and humidity of the deep south's summer with a uniform, boots, the body armor, and helmet is tiring. You have to get conditioned. Thus this four to five months of training, which from here on out is all conducted in the field. 

Another thing you don't really realize is how soft your hands are. When you work like this, you wake up in the morning and your fingers and hands are just raw. Tying your boots hurts. Manipulating anything small hurts - like the snaps on your rucksack or buttoning buttons. It's kind of like when you've been outside in the cold for a long time and then come inside, except instead of feeling weird and being numb, your hands just feel raw. Your body has to be weathered in order to toughen up. 

And this was just five days in the field! As opposed to one year in theater! There was no combat, no life-threatening situations, very little manual labor aside from the march. Just shooting. It's still tough. Tougher than I thought it would be, to be honest. 

We marched about a mile and a half back from the range to our HQ with all that gear. As soon as we dropped our gear, we did some PT - three rounds of pull ups, up downs, and squats. Immediately after that we did an hour of combatives, which involves throwing each other to the ground and wrestling around getting even more filthy, if it's possible after a week of field hygiene. RIGHT AFTER rolling around for an hour we went into movements: running tactically across an open field over and over to practice our shooting and moving techniques. By this time the sun was up and joined us for training. 

We cleaned weapons and turned them all in only to find that some of the scopes were missing. When this happens, the whole group gets put on lockdown till they are found. So we spent the entire day sitting in the sun, unable to go anywhere, until Cadre could find every single scope. They told us it was their fault they were missing, that some paperwork had been done improperly, but we still all had to wait around till it was taken care of. Finally, at 8PM we were released for the weekend. 

Now I have two days to prep before going right back at it. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 23 Road Trip '11: Ft Benning, GA


Ten hours after leaving Jacksonville, I arrived here in Ft. Benning, GA, the endpoint of this epic journey across the country and through my own persona. It has been a truly life-changing experience, one that will define me for some time to come. It has been an intensely personal journey filled with epic adventures. I'm not sure that I will ever forget this trip as long as I live and beyond.

To recap:

The entire trip spanned 5,017 miles over 23 days, with about 72 hours worth of driving. I drove from Provo to Vegas, LA, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Oklahoma City, Jefferson City, St. Louis, Lewisburg, NYC, DC, VA Beach, Jacksonville, and then to Ft. Benning. Just writing the name of each stop conjures up a slue of memories and lessons learned. There was something I found out about myself at each stop, and each city taught me something new about life in general. Many of those lessons you can find in my earlier posts, and some are just for me. It's been fun chronicling these adventures, and if you've been following along, I hope you've gotten a sense of how great life is and can be. You don't need to drive across the country though. You just have to live, wherever you are.

But now I begin the Infantry Basic Officer Course, something I expect to be no less defining and life-changing. I've already completed the first week of in-processing, and I have 15 more weeks to go until graduation. Three days after graduation comes Ranger School - a grueling two months of nonstop tests of endurance and willpower. Granted that I don't fail or get hurt, I will graduate Ranger School on 11-11-11. Sounds ominous. After that comes Airborne School, a three week training course for jumping out of perfectly good airplanes (been there, done that). Depending on which unit I am assigned to in Alaska (one is an airborne unit, the other a Stryker unit), I will have a couple other schools - some of my choosing, such as Air Assault. After 7-12 months from getting here to Ft. Benning, I will be off to my first duty station somewhere in Alaska. Shortly thereafter I expect to be deployed, as one unit is currently in Afghanistan and the other set to deploy within the year.

I have no doubt that this is supposed to be the next phase of my life. The next three years (at least) are supposed to be in this uniform doing this job. I'll do my turn, give back to my country, and then see what life has in store next for me.

Until then, I return you to your regularly scheduled programming of Linguistic Ju-Jitsu, random thoughts of randomness, and sudden bouts of inspiration. I plan to write more than I did pre-trip, and I plan to follow the upcoming election as closely as time permits. Maybe I can actually put a Political Science degree to good use.

We'll see about that.

And with that, friends, I bid you adieu.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 16-22 Road Trip '11: Jacksonville, NC


North Carolina was planned from the start as well. I knew that I would be seeing my brother Ben Gripp and his family this summer before I knew I was taking this trip. Although I usually don't write about people I know in a public forum like this, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't mind. I've been wrong before though.

When I first met Ben, I couldn't stand him. He was a jerk to everyone, and he was smart enough to get away with it. By smart I mean exactly that: he was and is very intelligent. From my perspective, he treated people like they were beneath him because they weren't as intelligent. Which they weren't. As intelligent, that is.

If memory serves, we met in a physics class with Mrs. K during my senior year. The hand of fate sat us next to each other, and we quickly found that we were both in the same intellectual league. I think that (partially) because of this, he didn't treat me the same way that I observed him treating others. Naturally, this was agreeable to me, and I seemed to forget about whatever biases I had previously held against him. And so, we quickly became a pair of philosophizing hooligans.

Whereas Ben crushed and rejected those of a lesser intellect, I more pitied and accepted them. Whereas he saw them as a drain and a waste, I saw them as unfulfilled potential. However different our approach, we both held this disdain for mediocrity and stupidity. Think Dumbledore and Grindewald. Or Magneto and Xavier, even. I can still see us, in my mind's eye, sitting apart from the rest of the class: as far to the edge of the body of the class and close to the door as possible, as if we would be infected by the class' aura if we were to surround ourselves by it.

And to be fair, we might have been, had we. Surrounded ourselves by them, that is. Public schools are the great equalizers, in more than one way, not all of them good.

But we didn't. No, in our obvious superiority, we began envisioning a world run right for a change. In this world, people would be given Rocket Points for acts of stupidity, lack of commons sense, gross offenses against humanity, and anything else we didn't like. Only a handful of people could give out Rocket Points, for once a person had accrued a certain number of points, they would be given the opportunity of a lifetime: to fly on a rocket to the sun! They would be so excited to take a trip on the Rocket, too, because that's the kind of people they were.

There was also the Grippettigan scale. Our dynamic duo became a Triumverate with the addition of Dave Nelligan, the other intellectual of our time in 618. I could write a whole other post about Dave and his interactions with us, but suffice to say that the three of us put our heads together and birthed the scale of scales, one that would definitively quantify a person's value to the new regime and to humanity in general. There were three categories: Gripps, Nelligans, and Petitts.

The Petitt scale was the simplest and easiest to measure: it was a simple ten-point scale that measured or described one's attractiveness. And to answer the first question that comes to your mind: yes, you can score higher than a ten on the Petitt scale - either an 11 or a 20. No one ever bothers with 12 to 19 anyway. Usually, an 11 was given to someone that you actually knew or had seen with your own eyes, while a 20 was basically celebrity/supermodel type beauty. Like Natalie Portman *drool.* And to be fair to the ladies - and also to show no bias - your Twilight hearthrobs. Quasi over there is a 1.




Nelligans described one's intelligence and common sense. The score was computed by adding one's IQ score to their common sense score. The average IQ is 100, and there is no highest score. Theoretically someone could have an IQ of 1000. To weight common sense (because we felt that it was more important than being "bright" or booksmart) we made it worth double your IQ. The average common sense score was therefore around 200. . So the average person should have 300 Nelligans. What we considered really worthwhile people would be around 400 Nelligans. For perspective, Einstein had 800+ Nelligans if I remember right.




Finally, Gripps described your overall level of awesomeness; that "it" factor; the XFactor; coolness in general. It was on a 1-100 scale, with 100 being theoretically possible but practically unattainable. If someone had 100 Gripps, it was like they were so cool that you would melt from pure awesomeness Kung Fu Panda style. It's easier for fictional characters to rate higher, considering that they are not restrained by the shortcomings of real people. James Dean is one of the top scorers of real people with around 80 Gripps. Master Chief has around 92. Han Solo would be up there as well.






The math gets a bit tricky from here, but basically you run your three scores through this formula to come up with how many Grippetigans you have. Grippetigan scores could influence the number of rocket points you received for an infraction, if you received them at all, or if you could even give them. Although, the only person I remember authorized to give me, Dave, or Ben rocket points was of course Mrs. Evans, our high school math teacher.

Yes, with our handy scale and means for meting out justice, we planned to eliminate a significant portion of the gene pool responsible for the degradation of the human race. We had such high hopes...

And then Ben and I both graduated and went our separatepastime among those with higher vision - we were able to interact on a daily basis for some periods. You would be amazed at how well you can keep up a relationship by playing online games with them. I read an article once that said that to keep a relationship healthy you must talk or otherwise interact with each other for at least 30 solid mins a day. How many people can you say you do that with?

Well, to make a long story short, Ben joined the Marines, was baptized, and got married all in the same summer. Talk about a life changing summer. My epic trip across the country was life-changing, but his summer beats mine in that category, I think. Not long after, he was a father. I had yet to meet his son Eli until this visit.

And to turn one week into one paragraph: it was like we had never been apart. We laughed at how every time we see each other after a long period of physical separation that it's just like high school again. As if it's like, "Oh yeah I just saw you yesterday, what's up?" More than that, we act and talk like we've been regularly hanging out, which I guess we have been, online. Again, you would be surprised at how effective the online gaming world is at keeping relationships alive.

The week was full of epic events, such as tweaks to our plans for world domination and conversations that extended into the middle of the next morning. And for all the benefits of online interaction, there is no substitute for physical proximity.

We ended the week with a three-day long gaming spree full of mountains of dew and plain(s) of pizza with some pepperonis. A fitting last hurrah before the rigors of Infantry school.

*Disclaimer: I feel obliged to mention that Kevin King is now the third member of the Triumverate, and the scale has been modified to the Grippettiking scale. Measurements and descriptors still apply. Also, a telling of the tale of our friendship is forthcoming in its entirety and glory, inthewhich, Kevin, you shall receive your due diligence. In addition, a musical theater rendition of the Triumverate is in the works, as well. All in due time. Tartar sauce.