Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Countdown

It is hard to believe that I have been on this journey for 59 days, only 481 to go, but who's counting. Well I am and I think Rebecca and the kids are too. It's not that I am making little tick marks on the wall like in prison, these are modern times... I am using a white board. Seriously though, it is amazing to think that just 2 months ago, I was home in San Diego not knowing for sure what I would be doing and now I am turning into an Army infantryman. I recall back then, thinking: why is a 41 year old man in the Navy going to a landlocked country across the world to perform a mission I do not understand? Now I look at what I am doing, and all the training I am receiving, and I know what I am and will do is worthwhile. I have had to make sacrifices and so has my family, but when my duty is complete, I am confident this will be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Here is another count for you. Did you know this e-mail goes to 236 people. I guess that is what I get for letting Rebecca log onto my Gmail account and add recipients. If not for her, I am sure I would only have 50 or so on the list. I have heard from many of you that you are forwarding it on to others to read ... so there could be thousands reading these updates. I am glad most everyone is enjoying the updates, it certainly does put some pressure on me to be creative though, and I will continue to do my best. Occasionally, we do have times when the Internet availability here goes down, which happened last week. This can create some delays in my note getting out. Rest assured, I am on the job and I will get updates out, despite the technical difficulties.

This was a really fun and exhausting week. We sent a lot of rounds down range. That is Army speak for we shot a lot of bullets at targets at the firing range. We shot the M2 50 caliber machine gun during the day and night. This is a weapon you really want around when hundreds of insurgents are storming your position... or for you hunters out there, I am sure it would hit a few deer, turkeys, rodents or anything else you might want to stop in their tracks. We also shot the M240 and M249 (saw) machine guns. Very cool weapons, these might be something you see Rambo using as he is running through the woods. I am sure these would come in handy for when I am taking orders for supplies and people don't fill out their paperwork correctly. "I told you I need that form in triplicate!" That would straighten them out. Another cool weapon is the MK19, pretty much a grenade type launcher that blows up a small area, good for blowing people out of bunkers. Some of the best training we had was on foreign weapons. We shot an AK47, that is the Russian made rifle. We shot a Russian machine gun and sniper rifle. You might ask, why are we shooting Russian weapons? Well, the Afghan military uses these weapons and I suppose if we are going to be with them, we should be familiar with their weapons. I am sure the Russians left a few of these laying around after they went running home. For you WD-40 people, it was interesting to see that the guys using the foreign weapons had several cans of the WD-40 Smart Straw that they were using to lubricate the weapons. I took a picture of me with the can and the weapons together. It was on a disposable camera so I will have to mail the picture in to the office. I am sure we could use it for our future ad campaigns in Russia and Afghanistan. The US Army does not allow us to use WD-40 on weapons, they use CLP, a poor substitute.

So that was the fun part, shooting all the weapons. The exhausting part was staying out at the range until almost 2 am and then getting up the next day to do it all over again. Each day we went to the range we conducted convoy operations to get there. We would travel around in our HUMMWV's in a convoy and conduct training along the way. Most days we would travel in small teams, but one day we decided to go as one big group with 12 vehicles following each other. I was elected as convoy commander for the group. I am happy to say the evolution went off without a hitch. Our call sign for the convoy was "Sand Dog" and as we neared our destination, I came on over the radio and made the following announcement, "This is your Convoy Commander speaking, our destination is just ahead on the left. I hope you have enjoyed your trip and I thank you for choosing Sand Dog for your convoy travels. We know you have a choice in convoys and I hope you will think of Sand Dog for your future convoys." It was a little funny, other than that I was extremely professional. And guess what happens after you shoot all these weapons, that's right, you have to clean them. We had a big gun cleaning party on Friday afternoon and made those weapons shine. The Lava came in handy afterwards since our hands were all covered in carbon and oil. You see I still am a company man, two plugs for WD-40 products and here is a third, I am using X-14 to clean my bathroom and have shared some with others.

We ended our week with Combatives, if you recall that is the Army wrestling I mentioned in a previous update. As happens with guys, the testosterone starts flowing and some people get a little carried away. We had two people going all out in a match and it ended with an accidental head butt to a nose which resulted in a little blood and a possible broken nose. Boys will be boys. I, of course, was smart and operated at quarter speed to avoid any injuries.

I found out this week what I will be doing in Afghanistan. I am going to relieve a buddy of mine, Andy Bystrom, as the Central Issue Facility Commander. This is the Afghan military distribution network and is right in line with my background, so I am pleased with this news. Andy was deployed last year and I am sure he is eagerly awaiting my arrival so he can go home.
It was St. Patrick's Day this week, I hope you all enjoyed yourself. I of course had to live up to my name and have a few beers for the occasion.

Take care and peace to you all,


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