Sunday, March 25, 2007

Girl Scout Cookies

Apparently it is Girl Scout Cookie season because we are being inundated with lots of cookies and not the homemade kind. Everyone is trying to share their cookies they have received, but everyone already has several boxes of them. I am thinking of selling them back to the girl scouts; don't you get some prize for the most cookies sold? And have you noticed how many flavors of cookies there are now? I remember a few years back there were about 3 flavors of cookies, I think they were the sugar cookies, Smores, and of course the thin mints. Now there is every variety you can think of including cafe cookies, Peanut Butter Patties, Peanut Butter Sandwiches (did they really need two Peanut Butter cookies?), Shortbread, Cartwheels, Caramel Delights, Lemonades, and Thanks A Lot. One of my favorite varieties is the "All Abouts", I am all about the "All Abouts". And what about the little brownies? Brownies aren't a cookie they are a brownie, hence the name. Shouldn't there be some investigation on the girl scouts and false advertising or something for selling brownies as cookies? And another thing, I don't think the girl scouts are really making these cookies, I just can't picture them in some tree house cranking out 15 varieties of cookies to go peddle to the entire population. If the girl scouts want to make some money though, they really should set up a stand at Fort Riley selling to all these military folks here in Kansas, they are suckers for boxes of cookies and of course for girls in uniforms.

Rebecca set up Blog site for the family. It is not quite a MySpace thing, although I suppose it could get close to that. For those non-techies out there a blog (short for weblog) is a personal online journal that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. The author of a blog is often referred to as a blogger. Being a blogger doesn't sound like the most attractive name to be called and since Rebecca really set up the site, I am merely a blogger wanna be. If you start calling me a blogger, I may have to hunt you down and hurt you. Actually, I would be proud to be called a blogger if I knew what I was doing. Believe me, I am just figuring this stuff out too. If you are interested in visiting the site it is Right now it has my updates and a few pictures of the family Rebecca posted.

I thought I would share a brief statement from a friend of mine, Andy Bystrom, who is in Afghanistan. I will be relieving him of his position when I arrive. He gives a bit more detail of what the position is. "Now for the Wild Wild East of Supply - I feel very fortunate for my position as the Mentor/OIC/Commander of the Central Supply Depot (CSD) which receives, stores, and issues Class II, IV, VI, VII, IX materials (basically everything except ammo, food, fuel, and medical supplies) to the Afghan National Army (ANA) from Depot-1, Depot-2, TMSI Warehouse, Central Issuing Facility (CIF) and 22 Bunker sites. The depot currently maintains a stock list of over 1100 items of supplies worth 170 million dollars. These national depots support over 180 ANA units to include the Police, Detainee Operations, and Ministry of Interior. CSD has 240 personnel, 2 dogs, and 4 cats. 21 of the personnel are Navy and they are a great bunch of sailors." Thanks Andy for letting me share that.

This week was filled with lots of HUMMWV driving, we are getting quite good at this stuff. It used to take our team about two hours to prepare our vehicles and do briefings and start rolling, we can now do it under an hour. Monday was a pretty interesting, it was Mounted Combat Patrol obstacle course. You drive around a set course looking for danger and react as you would in a real situation. It is all simulated with various Army personnel playing the bad guys using blanks (blank ammunition) and smoke bombs. We encountered 3 IED's, 1 VBIED (that is the vehicle borne IED), small arms fire, an oncoming vehicle attack, towed one of our vehicles after some damage, provided medical help to casualties, called in a Medevac (Medical Evacuation) and set up a TCP (Traffic Control Point) where we stopped a vehicle loaded with weapons. I am very pleased to say our team did quite well on all the scenarios. Although, if I was ever to have a real day like that one you might find me huddled in the corner afraid to come out, it was a bit stressful. The intent of the exercise was to throw too much at you so you would learn from your mistakes. Tuesday was more mounted combat patrol, but on a range. This was another course where we drive from one site to the next and engage the enemy with our Crew Serve Weapons (Machine guns) and report all our activities to higher up. It was more of a communication drill than anything else. The neat thing was we did ride in Up-Armored HUMMWV's which have armor plating to stop bullets. The bad thing was the seating area is very small and we are all wearing our Kevlar helmets, body armor, knee pads and have rifles and pistols. I would like to find the guy who designed these vehicles and squeeze him into a very cramped space for hours and throw things at him. I can only guess that this guy was 5' 5" and 140 pounds and he said to himself, "my these things are roomy." We have some guys here that are 6' 4" and 6' 5" and they have a heck of a time.

Wednesday we had a nice diversion from driving and getting attacked, we were in the classroom for DAGR training. I know that sounds really neat, I thought it sounded good too. I was imagining learning all kinds of special knife throwing and special agent stuff. Turns out it was another acronym for the military's GPS. We used the handheld GPS units and learned how to set up points in them and then we went out and tracked various locations. Mine kept trying to lead me right to my rack (that is a bed, I obviously have been doing this military stuff too long), but I got back on course and found the tree that we were supposed to find. In the afternoon we had a great time. All the teams went to the confidence course on Fort Riley. It is a funny name, Confidence Course, it is really an obstacle course where the entire team needs to accomplish each obstacle together. I imagine if you are successful you get more confidence and if not successful, there must be a "loser course" somewhere. Our team did a great job and had a lot of fun, we had the best time in one obstacle where you needed to climb a rope wall and bring up a casualty and then take it down the other side. After that we crawled in the dirt under barbed wire, carried logs across beams on the ground (a balancing trick) and then we had to figure out how to get across parallel beams set 15 feet apart without touching the ground. There were several other events, but we ended the course going over the high wall, where you run and jump over a 10 foot wall, it was just like the Army films you see. I of course was the "big toe" for my team. (Editor's note: Big Toe Explanation If you have seen the movie “Stripes,” the classic comedy about the Army, you may recall the scene in which Bill Murray volunteers to lead his platoon. “An Army without leaders is like a foot without a big toe,” he said to his fellow Soldiers. “And Sergeant Hulka (their platoon sergeant) isn’t always gonna be there to be that big toe for us.” Someone posted the video clip on You Tube, it's in reference to something with David Letterman but it's the best I can do...

Thursday we were back on our trucks heading out to the small arms range and firing at targets. This exercise was how to move and shoot with your weapon. It was a bit controlled but fun nevertheless. There is always great concern for safety, that is a good thing. When you put loaded weapons in peoples hands and have them walk around, you tend to get a little nervous. On Friday we did what is called Battle Drill 6. This is how to clear a room and I don't mean by letting loose a bean and cheese burrito fart. (Can I say that? I know this is a family show, but farts are always funny, at least my kids think so.) This is when teams enter a room and start shooting at bad guys to make sure they secure the area and then move on to the next room. It is a little like an episode of "Cops"; "Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when we come for you." We learned that clearing rooms is extremely dangerous and chaotic. We were using blanks and firing all over the place and the bad guys were firing back. We had a lot of people get hit. Fortunately we found out that the Navy will not be used for this type of engagement so it was all good learning and fun.

On Saturday we were back to our mounted combat patrol on the range, this time with live ammo. We ran through the range course firing at pop up targets. Sometimes our shooting was good, sometimes, not so much good. I think when we ran through it the second time, we were all thinking about the weekend, so we missed a bunch of targets. Now don't tell the bad guys that or they will figure out, if they attack on Saturday's the Americans are worried about their weekends and they will not fight well. Of course that plan would completely backfire on them as there are no weekends, at least as we know it; we are on all the time.

We graduate from Fort Riley in less than two weeks and then we get some time at home before shipping out. My brother Bill is planning to come visit next weekend. It should be a good time. He is older than me so I don't have to be the oldest dirty old man when we go out in Manhattan.

Take care until next time,


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