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.