Sunday, February 25, 2007

Greetings from Mudville

Another week of long training days. One of the things about Fort Riley when the weather warms up a bit after having snowed is that the snow melts and it gets extremely muddy here. If you can imagine hundreds of people walking around through mud with their boots (most with two boots) and leaving a trail of mud where ever they go that is what it is like. If you ever yelled at your kids for tracking mud through the house, you would have a heart attack seeing all the dirt and mud tracked through all of the buildings. It was interesting to note that Lent started this week (for you Muslims out there, you can ignore this part). Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and unfortunately I was unable to get to church and get my ashes. I figured I had rolled around in enough mud and dirt and did some praying while doing it that I was OK to have missed it. As is traditional during lent, you are supposed to give up something during this season to represent the sacrifices of Jesus. So this year I have decided to give up my family, my job, my house and my way of life. I figure I should be good to go to with the Big Guy. OK so I was forced into those, I did give up coffee and soda for lent, pretty tough since I used to consume mass quantities of both.

Monday, we found ourselves back on the firing range. Some people had to get qualified on their M4 rifles and some had to complete their M9 pistol quals (some both). We also had to do night qualifications, where you fire in the dark with Night Vision Goggles (NVG's), that was pretty cool; the things actually do work. For those who have never used NVG's it is similar to using your night shot on your digital camcorder only people don't look so "Blair Witch Project". It was a long night and we did not get finished until after midnight after a 8 am start. We had a scary incident that evening. It was around 10:30 at night and pitch black out. I was standing around near the firing line waiting for some of my teammates to finish up their night quals when I noticed someone waiting to go to the line to shoot, shaking and making noises. I walked over to find a female officer holding her weapon and 3 clips of ammunition about ready to collapse. This woman is around 52 years old and was obviously worn out from the long day. I asked her if she was OK and she began screaming she just couldn't do it anymore and she was tired and wanted to go on the bus back to the barracks. Well that was all I needed, a completely distressed woman with live ammunition shooting rounds in the dark. Images of the movie Full Metal Jacket started going through my mind where "Private Pyle" is found preparing his weapon in the latrine. I chose not to do what that actor did and ask her what her major malfunction was and did her Mommy not love her enough. See movies are pretty good for training. I immediately took her clips (that is magazines with rounds) and her weapon and said you are done for the night. We took her back to a staging area and gave her some fluids and she waited around until the range was closed around midnight.

On to more fun stuff, we got to drive around in our HUMMWV's and go off-roading through the mud and through an obstacle course. We did some night driving with NVG's and that is an experience. All lights are out and you are driving in the dark looking through your goggles and just trying to stay on the road. I would not recommend this for a cross country trip. We also went in a trainer where they put you in a simulator of a HUMMWV and flip you upside down to simulate a rollover and then you have to get out of the vehicle while wearing all your gear. I wish someone had told me these trucks were prone to flip over, I might drive a little more safely. Needless to say, the wearing of seat belts is a good thing. The trainer was pretty good and we were all able to extricate ourselves from the vehicles with only minor scrapes. We also spent some time mounting our 50 cal and M240 machine guns on our trucks. These are big guns. The pictures I attached are not of these machine guns, I am holding my M4 rifle in full battle gear. I do look like I am ready for battle. Let's hope I am stuck behind a desk and don't have to use all this training, but I will be ready just in case.

Later in the week we did some communications training with our radios and had another round of practice negotiations. This is where you sit in a room with Afghans and play out a negotiation scenario. There is a tremendous amount of cultural learning that goes on in these sessions. We are also continuing our language classes. Not sure that any of us is getting much out of it as it is hard to understand the instructors English so his Dari is even tougher. I can count to ten though so here is another quick Dari lesson, counting from one to ten.
Yak, doo, se, chawr, panj, shash, haft, hasht, no, da. That was as easy as ABC, I mean 1,2,3.

We ended our week with Combat Life Saver, which is a first aid course with a kick. We saw lots of pictures of different wounds apparently to scare us in to taking this seriously. We all practiced our techniques to stop bleeding and other things. They used some sort of Kool Aid mixture to simulate blood. Then we topped off the week with giving each other IV's. Yes we all stuck each other with needles and attached saline drip solution IV bags to each other. I kept mine in for a while to hydrate as it was Saturday and I planned to dehydrate myself with a few beers later than night. At least you can rest assured that if I am out with any of you and you get a sucking chest wound, I will know what to do. More likely if you fall down and get a scratch I can put a band aid on you.

We have now completed 3 of the 8 weeks of actual training. It has been over a month since I left home and I am looking forward to getting a break. We did get word that we are closed for Easter so we get a 4 day weekend in April to see family. This training is kind of like having kids, the days are long, but the weeks are flying by. Well not really, but with kids that is how it goes. I am learning a great deal and overall enjoying the experience.

Take care,


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