Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kuwait Picture Timeline

I haven't had much time to get online in Kuwait. I will be writing a summary of the events that have taken place over the last week and a half. Until then I hope you will enjoy a short story told using a few photos I have taken.

Packing is not a one person job.
Pretty big plane, eh?

I love free books and cookies!"
Tight sleeping quarters.
Tank convoy passing our tents.
Charlie's Angels? They've got nothing on us!
Live fire range.
Long hot day of training.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Four Day Pass and Rattlesnake Rodeo

I had such a fantastic time over Easter weekend. For those that didn't know, I was given a four day pass to go home from the 11th to the 14th. They were the shortest four days of my life! I did have an extra half day on Friday to travel, but my flights were so messed up that I didn't make it home until Saturday evening.
To summarize, I got into Harrisburg Saturday evening, went to say a quick hello to the family and then back to my place. I took a much needed shower, ate some great Chinese food, and relaxed on my couch watching a movie with Ian. Sunday was full of lots of food, candy, laughing, running, jumping, playing, yelling, barking, more food, and of course wine. Monday was my day to sleep in and have the morning with Ian. We went to lunch to catch up with a few friends, then back to my parents house for more visiting. Monday flew by and Tuesday was soon rearing it's ugly head. I spent the morning having a nice breakfast with Ian then began packing and getting back in uniform. My flight left around 2:30pm. In case you are wondering my return flights were all on time and went very smooth. Of course! :)
To many of you this may not sound very exciting, but I thought it was heaven. It felt like a fantastic dream that I knew I was going to wake from too quickly. To wake up in my own bed, eat real eggs, have no need for phone or e-mail, go into a bathroom made for one, and have the freedom to do or not do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, was amazing. If a weekend can feel that good I can only imagine what it will feel like to be home for two week on R&R.
Yesterday we got a good dose of mandatory fun at the "26th Annual Apache Village Rattlesnake Rodeo!!!" The two video clips below are the best representation of the "rodeo." It was basically a carnival or fair, but with rattlesnakes as the main attraction. I had more fun than I was expecting. I was a little upset that the buses came to get us before I had a chance to go on any of the rides. We ate as much terrible food as we could stomach (funnel cakes, corn dogs, lemonade, cheese fries, root beer, milk shakes, fried oreos, and cotton candy) and got airbrushed tattoos that last for days. Mine is the "Dark Horse." That is my Company's nickname.
WARNING: At the rattlesnake rodeo they teach you all about the rattlesnake! This includes how to kill, gut, skin, and cook it. The second video should not be watched by anyone that has a sensitive gag reflex.

They sell every piece of the snake. Sorry mom, I didn't get to taste any because they do the cooking on a different day. :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Q: How does the Army build up your confidence? A: They beat the shit out of you!

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Last week our Commander took us all out for what we call mandatory fun. We took a trip to the Ft. Sill Confidence Course. I can't complain too much, I did have a good time. My upper body was in pain for two days, but I have recovered. The course had 20+ obstacles that we had to move through in teams or as individuals. Five of the obstacles were over 30 feet high. I did all of those at least once. The Slide For Freedom (which I do not have a photo of) was my favorite.

To begin the Slide you first climb a 15ft rope ladder, walk across a 20ft suspended log, and then climb a large ladder with over sized rungs to a platform. When you reach the top they hook you up to a zip line and you slide on a cable that is about 100ft long. It was my first obstacle of the day. If anyone has ever ridden with me on a roller coaster you know that when I am having a lot of fun I am very vocal about it. I let out a few very loud screams and shrieks that the whole place could hear. I could only see about twenty people while flying through the air, but they all turned my direction. It was a blast.

I also enjoyed Jacob's Ladder. It was very intimidating. It is a huge ladder that goes straight up about 50ft. The rungs of the ladder are made of huge logs. If I had to guess I would say that they are a little bigger than telephone poles. There were about six or seven rungs, and they were all spaced out at different heights. It was a challenge for shorter people to get over the logs that were far apart. At the top of the ladder you had to lay on your stomach and roll over to the opposite side before climbing back down. I thought coming down was much easier than going up.

I hope to collect a few more photos and maybe some video for you to see. I will post it as soon as I get my hands on it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

MCP Training

About two weeks ago we had five days of MCP (Mounted Combat Patrol) Training. My Company was the only one in the Battalion to have five days of MCP. We are a class two Company, and everyone else is class one. In a nut shell, that means we are the only Company authorized to conduct a mission outside the wire. Don't worry, my chances are slim to none. Relax, I'm a cook! But we like to joke about how Echo is the "infantry" of Aviation.
The first day of MCP was a little boring, as you can see from the photo on the left. It is a tiny photo, so maybe you can't see so well. Sorry, I won't have my camera for another week. We spent the morning in classrooms learning about IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and UXOs (Unexploded Ordinances). We also learned how to read the signs and identify them by type. Most of us have had these classes at least once already, but you can never have them too many times. Then we spent about an hour waiting around for the classes to start for the second half of the day. Those classes were outside and included Aid and Litter, Nine Line MedEvac, LACE and SALUTE Reports, Line and Box Formations, constructing a hasty helicopter landing zone (HLZ) and a couple others that I cannot remember right now.
The training progressed in three stages; Crawl, Walk, and Run. On days two through four the pace quickened. We were assigned chalks (the group of people in the convoy), each chalk had five or six vehicles, and each vehicle had people assigned to certain jobs (driver, Truck Commander(TC), gunner, and two passengers). The convoy also had a Convoy Commander (CC) and an Assistant Convoy Commander (ACC). So now you know all about the TCs, CC, and ACC, as well as the HLZ, IED, and UXO, and the rolls they played in MCP. Ha, ha! Sorry, had to do that. Try to follow me as best you can. All questions can be directed to :)
For about a day and a half I was the gunner. It was fun. I had the best view in the truck. The last two days I was the TC. That was also a lot of fun. I controlled the radio and got to call the shots. It's the one time during this deployment where I got to tell my First Sergeant what to do (he was my driver). As we drove around we encountered different scenarios and were tested on how we reacted. The courses we drove were miles long, and had many hidden obstacles. The instructors would come over the radio and say "Truck six has been hit by an IED," or "Truck two was hit, gunner has a severe head wound," and "Truck four is down, no injuries." For each of those we had to conduct different tasks as a team. We towed trucks, set up HLZs, called in MedEvac, suppressed small arms fire, etc. We also had a couple of urban missions where we had to maintain security in a village while our ACC and two other soldiers talked to the locals. We were not allowed to take any photos during that portion of the training. There are Middle Easterners that help conduct the training.
Overall, I think it is some of the best training I have received to prepare for this mission. If this kind of training would have been available at the beginning of the war it would have saved hundreds of lives. The instructors were well informed, organized, and still knew how to have fun. They also helped make the training as realistic as possible. Everyone got a magazine full of blanks to fire, and they were setting off flash-bangs and smoke canisters all around us. One time we got about 15o yards before realizing that we lost another truck, because there was so much smoke and chaos.
I found a video that can give you an idea of what the training was like. It is a little long, and the picture quality isn't very good. If you pay attention you can hear the soldiers yelling "IED," or "Contact Left!" Everyone in the truck repeats it to make sure the whole truck knows what's happening. You can also here them calling for LACE Reports (Liquid, Ammo, Casualties, Equipment) and Nine Line MedEvacs over the radio. Our training wasn't as fast paced as it looks in the video, and I think they are shooting at targets with live rounds. We had blanks and were not allowed to shoot at anyone within 10 meters. Safety first!

Mounted Combat Patrol Training