0500 came real early this morning — it always does! I just can’t get used to waking up and getting out the door so early in the morning. I miss my 6:30 a.m. wake up, flavored coffee and Wall Street Journal in the morning. I really miss seeing my little peeps and Janie in the morning. Instead, I wake up to bright florescent lights (I call it the mean light) and lots of grumpy old men. Despite the early wake up call, this morning was beautiful outside. The full moon was still shining bright and the crisp cold temperature (7 degrees) actually felt nice. Maybe I’m getting used to this place. Now that’s scary! Anyway, today’s training involved a long convoy of humvees on patrol in a “hot lane.” I can’t discuss the exercise, but let’s just say it was very realistic. Thank goodness this is just training and not the real thing — that’s coming soon enough.
Today was Combat Living Saving 101 for the men of the 178th. Most of the Soldiers in our BN have recently had this training. I on the other have had minimal CLS training since Officer School in the Navy and Flight Survival School at Cherry Point Marine Corp Station. Today’s training included detailed briefings and hands on training with a buddy; such as, how and when to use a tourniquet, properly field dress wounds, transport an injured comrade, treat snake and spider bites and how to identify and heal someone experiencing hypothermia, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. During the last class segment the instructor asked for two volunteers to demonstrate an IV injection. LT Flynn and I volunteered, not knowing that the instructor intended for one of us to actually stick the other. I was on the “giving” end of the needle. As you can tell from the photo, LT Flynn was not thrilled about this scenario. I wasn’t happy either. I have never applied a needle to anyone; but I did it and LT Flynn survived. It’s just a mere flesh wound!
My Land Navigation class from yesterday was informed earlier this evening that we had to report to the Land Nav Range by 1750 today to perform a night time version of the course. I am proud to say that despite a freezing temperature of 10 degrees and complete darkness, my new team (the Master Sergeant was placed with an instructor) probably hiked 2.5 miles in total Battle Rattle (full combat gear) to finish the course in exactly one hour. We beat the Air Force dudes (BTW, they had a hot dinner catered and brought out to them before we started) who were out wondering in the dark with their white mag lights. Go Army!
Today I took a ride on the HEAT (Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer). The HEAT is a realistic simulation of a humvee rollover on land. The trainers put you in the humvee just as if you were going down the road. The lead trainer, operating out front with a joy stick, turns the vehicle over at 20 degrees, 30 degrees, 90 degrees, and 180 degrees three times. While this is happening the entire team must yell Rollover, Rollover, Rollover. On the last turn, while we were still upside down, we had to quickly undue our seat belt while holding our bodies up with one arm on the ceiling. This is important, otherwise you will fall on your neck. Once you get your body right side up in the upside down humvee, you can exit the vehicle through the door. Unfortunately, the trainers locked all the doors but one — the rear right side door which was now on the left. Once everyone got out of the vehicle we had to secure the perimeter as if the bad guys were waiting to ambush us. My team of five performed superbly, but not without a little anxious sweat equity. Let’s just hope I never have to do this in Afghanistan.
I’m too tired to really do this next post justice but I have to write a short piece about my day long adventure at Land/Navigation training. My day started just like most days, up before dawn and out the door in my 50 lbs of protective gear. We made our way over to a training room for a morning session on land/navigation. Basically, we had a review session on how to find grids and points on a map and how to use a military compass. The afternoon session was outdoors in the blistering cold weather on a course that included huge open fields, frozen creeks, and snow-covered forest. My partner, not of my choosing, was a crusty old Master Sergeant who had no interest in participating in the training. She complained about the land terrain and weather conditions (it was 15 degrees today); about her breathing and her back; at one point I swear she said she was going to have a heart attack; she complained about everything. Finally, after two and half hours of this, and while we were probably at our most farthest point from base camp, she said, “Captain, I can’t go any further.” I told her I would blow the whistle and have the staff come and get her so that I could finish the course. After 10 minutes of whistle blowing, no one came. So I grabbed her weapon and told her to follow me back to the main road. Her slow aching pace kept her a good 50 meters behind me. Finally, I was able to flag down a passing military van and instructed the young Sergeant that was driving to pick up the Master Sergeant and get her back to the camp. He obliged and I kept hiking. By the time I made it back to camp I was completely exhausted. And despite the frigid weather, I was soaken wet underneath all my layers of clothes. Let’s just say this wasn’t exactly one of my favorite training exercises.
Leaving my family behind was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The training and preparation for war is nothing compared to being separated from the ones you love. Everyone has dealt with the deployment in different ways — we all have our own personal coping mechanisms. Jordan took the news of my deployment especially hard. She’s old enough to understand how long a year deployment is and how far Afghanistan is from home. She gets it. On the other hand, Tuck doesn’t really understand the time space continuum. He tends to operate in a state of denial. I am proud of the way Jordan has handled the deployment. She has shown great strength and maturity. She has also been a rock for me. Yesterday she sent me a nice letter that really touched me.
I just wanted to share some of the verses that have helped me a lot. We miss you and love you very much.
She then listed five Bible verses that have strengthened her during this difficult time. I have chosen one of them as my verse for the year. It comes from Psalm 3:3: “Lord, you are like a shield that keeps me safe.” I couldn’t think of a better scripture verse for my year in Afghanistan. Jordan, thanks for sharing your faith with me. Lord, thanks for speaking to me through my daughter Jordan!
Apparently Tuck has grown up a lot since I left four weeks ago. Janie sent this picture of him today during his “day off” from school. I’m not sure where he got the cigar but I suspect he’s been rummaging through my special man drawer. General Patton would be proud.