31 December 2008

That's over my head!

From the Citizen Soldier side: OK, Thank God for Google. Since I couldn't remember which year I was sent to the Russian River flood, I had to look it up in Google. It was the end of Dec 1996 through early Jan 1997. Wow, I was only a few years off....so going back to that cold ass time about 12 years ago.
I was driving one of the old 5 ton dump trucks. We were sleeping in the Guerneville Fire Station on New Years Eve 1996. We woke up to the sound of rain...lots of rain. We looked outside and things looked "normal" for that time of year. Then a fire fighter told us to look behind the station. The water was deep... 45-47 feet over flood stage!!! That was way over my head and I'm not a good swimmer.
The Fire Chief asked if I could pull their portable building up to higher ground. I had a truck with a winch on the front. I asked if they knew how much the portable building weighed...they had no idea. Oh well, I'd give it a try. The worst thing that could happen is I'd break my winch. I did break my winch. The winch had a shear pin that was supposed to break before the winch did...but some dumbass stuck a hardened bolt in where the shear pin was supposed to go...so the winch, which ran of the Power Take Off (PTO) had about 9 million horse power from a big ass diesel engine...
So, I had about a mile of steel cable all wrapped around my front bumper. Oh well, it's a government truck. I decided that we'd stop our efforts at pulling up the Mobil building, since I didn't want to break anything else.

Our next mission was to go to the Red Cross station in Guerneville and take some refugees to Santa Rosa, CA. I drove around to the building, but the parking lot was full of cars. There was no way I could drive my 28,000 pound Beast into the parking lot and drive out again. I could see this, but the crazy lady working for the Red Cross was freaking out. As I parked on the street in front, she was screaming for me to drive up to the front door so people wouldn't get wet getting into my truck. ( I think they were thinking I was driving a bus, they were going to be in for a surprise.)

I tried telling the crazy, screaming, mad, lunatic Red Cross lady that there was no way I could get my truck through the full parking lot and up to the front door. She just kept screaming-- which lead me to question her authority. She got really mad, and I told her to take a pill or go smoke something and relax. She got even madder and screamed more. She was just a volunteer, I was a paid professional--right?

The parking lot was surrounded by a cement planter box that was about 18 inches high. No problem for the Beast to drive over in all wheel drive...smashing the cement to crumbs. I got right up to the front door and shut her down. "There lady, are you fucking happy now?"
Then, they started bringing out some folks that made me question why we were there at all. Now, before I describe these folks, think about this: If you saw the news, read the paper, listened to the radio, every "normal" person along the Russian River knew that it was going to flood...bad. So, what types of people were not aware that it was going to flood? Guess.
Drunks. Drug addicts. Bums. Homeless. Drunk, drug addicted, bum, homeless people... and the likes of which most people reading something on the Internet have never seen. I was afraid they were going to get my dump truck dirty.
We had the dump bed configured to haul humans... the bench seats were down, the canvas top was on...there was no heat in the back, but we also had no heat in the front. It was a cold, wet, bitch of a day.
But we did our job and loaded the people into the back. And all but one of them were complaining. A few asked if it was OK if they smoked a joint or drank in the back. I told them the truck was leaking fuel, so they shouldn't smoke. They did anyway.

We started back to Santa Rosa. The side roads were now full of local ass hole's cars...they moved them out of the flood zone and totally blocked the only route we knew of to get out. I had a big truck and I considered just smashing through all the parked cars.... but I didn't. We turned around and dropped the "people" back off at the Red Cross shelter.
I guess they didn't like us there, so a few hours later, we were sent further west to Monte Rio or some such place. Now the food was getting worse...but we had cots to sleep on. For a cook we had a guy I called "Biker Bob." He was a burn out, but he wanted to help. He cooked 3 meals a day for us. The first morning he was smoking his Marlboro and making some kind of egg thing. He said: "Wow, I lost my smoke...oh well."
One of the guys was eating his "egg thing" and found Biker Bobs smoke. And that's how it was...
At mid night some drunk woke up and called the fire station. He said:" Hey, there's water all around my house. Can you send a helicopter and come rescue me?" I was able to talk to the guy on the phone. I told him: "Can you swim? Try swimming out and let me know how that works out. You dumb ass."

We almost lost my truck trying to rescue a fire truck...it'll make your butt pucker when you're driving on a road, flooded with fast moving water, and your 28,000 pound truck starts moving sideways!!! That was fun. Some folks from FEMA showed up. They didn't do much but ask really stupid questions. I told them I had an idea. About that time the US Navy was getting rid of a bunch of subs, so I suggested that they give them to the folks along the Russian River to live in. When the water comes up, close the hatches. They didn't seem to have a sense of humor.
We hung around until the flood waters went down. We didn't loose any troops on that flood. I went home after about a week...then got called for another one up north. But that's another story.

Happy New Year!!!

29 December 2008

The Old M-51, 5 Ton Dump Truck....the BEAST

From the Citizen Soldier side: OK, so I got some folks who are a little mad at me for dragging out my stories. Just think if it as a "soap opera" or something.
I can't really go on about the Russian River flood without talking about one of the best "weapons" we had in the Combat Engineers. It was the M-51 5 ton dump truck. It was the "Beast". Just to check the oil was a challenge sometimes. You had to be good and climbing on things and be able to balance and lift the hood at the same time.
When my current Guard unit was at Ft ---- training for Iraq, they knew I could drive anything, so they asked me if I could drive one of the newer 5 tons. Hell, it had an automatic transmission. I climbed in the cab, looked things over and in about 10 minutes I was driving it on my own. The new army trucks have automatic transmissions....kind of takes away all the skill and talent it used to take.
Anyway, the old "Beast" was a bitch to operate. You didn't just "drive" one, you had to "operate" it. They would go anywhere if you knew what you were doing...but there were a few times I got in over my head into shit I never did again after.
Russian River Flood of 199---whatever year it was. We drover our little convoy of "Beast" from our armory to our HQ where we met up with all the other companies of the battalion. At that time I had a few years of experience driving the "Beast" to summer camps, on convoys and weekend drills. Was I and expert? Hell no, but I was a little above average I guess.
We divided up drivers and co-drivers and drove a convoy going west, along the Russian River. We spent the night at some fire station in Forrestville. The next morning, they had some semi professional folks bring in a nice breakfast....then lunch, then dinner. The food was well prepared.
The next day, my co-driver and I along with some of the other trucks headed to the town of Gurneville. There we set up camp in the fire station. We were taken out and did a "recon" of the routes we might have to use to evacuate folks when the main roads flooded-- and flood they would. We learned where the side streets were that were higher in elevation.
We went back to the G.F.D. and had chow...it was not as good as the first fire station. We learned that the further west we went, the worse the food was going to be.
For our Combat Engineers to function all we needed was fuel for our vehicles, and good chow. We were pretty simple. We could sleep in the trucks if we had to- even though they had no heaters, we had sleeping bags. We just wanted to help the citizens, so we didn't care much about our comfort.....just feed us please.
to be cont.

28 December 2008

Russian River Flood of 199???

From the Citizen Soldier side: At the police dept I work for, some officers really make a big deal about getting some holidays off. Some, who have little kids like Christmas off. Some who like to "party" like New Years eve off.
For me, I think back on some of the missions I had on some holidays. Many holidays I worked as a cop...a few I was over seas in the Army...and one or two I was called up in my old National Guard unit.
Did I mention that I used to be in a Combat Engineer unit? We were like a construction company with machine guns. We had big dump trucks, bull dozers, loaders, chain saws and we could blow shit up if we had to.
Now, a problem I'm having as I get older and closer to retirement is: All the years seem to run together. For something that I might say: "a few years ago..." might have actually been 10 years or so. I didn't write the shit down at the time, so I have to go by memory. But, let me tell you of the Russian River Flood I went to in....uhhhh....I think it was 1998 or maybe 99...or somewhere around that time.
The Russian River run through parts of Sonoma County, CA. It's a great place in the summer, not so great in the winter. There were and are several areas along the R. River where it floods.
Back in the 1980's they had a really big flood and the National Guard was famous for rescuing people with helicopters. For the flood I went to, were were told: "there will be no helicopters, just you guys in your dump trucks to rescue."
Let me tell you about the dump trucks. I first drove one of these beast in the 1989 earthquake. They were old 1968 ish vintage...made for Viet Nam. They had no heaters or A/C. They had 5 speed manual transmissions with high/ low all wheel drive etc. You had to know how to shift these things. The dump beds were operated by a couple of other levers and sometimes someone who didn't know what they were doing would grab one of those levers by mistake and start dumping a load of troops out of the back.
If you road in the back, there were wooden bench seats that were removed for dumping/ hauling jobs. It was like riding on a brick...very hard.
The trucks could go through about 3 feet of water if you did it right.
For this mission, we were given a "Warno" a few days before New Years Eve that our services would be needed. The County and the State was sure that the Russian River was going to flood-- without doubt!
We packed our duffel bags and loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies and headed from our local companies to our Head Quarters... 579th Combat Engineers.
to be cont.

23 December 2008

A "Safe" Snowman in Kosovo...

From the Soldier side: Kosovo, AKA KFOR. One of the lads from my home national guard unit e-mailed me this photo from Kosovo. His face and that of the soldier with him were blocked out for OPSEC reasons.
If you look close at the guy on the left, you'll see that he far exceeds the Army's standards for weight control. He is also very cool. Just to be safe, when not wearing the standard ACU uniform, soldiers in most hostile zones now may wear their PT uniforms. The PT uniform must include the reflective belt that you see around the guy on the left. For some strange reason, Sergeant Majors in Bosnia, Iraq and Kosovo seem to think that this reflective belt will act as a force field and protect soldiers from getting hit by vehicles. How come we don't wear one of the reflective belts when we're wearing our normal work uniform?
Let me know if you have an answer, as far as I could ever figure out, Sergeant Majors were useless and just came up with useless stupid crap to make the soldier's life more difficult.
(And don't forget our dumbass Sergeant Major in Iraq who had 2 or 3 negligent discharges with the M2 .50 caliber machine gun...and he got a CAB!)

22 December 2008

Bosnia Christmas, Dec 2004

( Due to a request, I'm replaying one of my stories from last Christmas...about my Christmas in Bosnia. I've added a little to the story to make it a little more clear. )

From the Soldier side: OK, I've been going on about Iraq too much... Well, I mean My Bosnia deployment was really much better...even though we all got arrested and all.
What? Say it ain't so...the CI-Roller Dude is a cop in civilian life, how could he get "arrested" in Bosnia and just before Christmas?
Well, our jobs required us to go outside the camps.... usually everyday. I'm not sure if some people stuck on the camp resented that or what...but rumors from things the last rotations did spread and got mixed with things some of our teams might have actually done...I don't know for sure. I know I did my job and stayed out of trouble.
So, just before Christmas, all the outer teams were called back to the main camp. We had to turn in our weapons, ammo and badges...and we were told we were restricted to the camp.
CID (Criminal Investigation Division) interviewed us all...those of us whom the command felt were good soldiers were interviewed first...then cleared and told to go back to work.
I felt sorry for the CID agent who had to "interrogate" me. I sat in front of his desk, read everything he had sitting out-- I can read upside down, a skill I learned from being called into the Chief's office many times. So I read all his notes and what he planned to question me about. I also saw he had a picture of a motor Cycle on his desk. OK, I had my plan formed. Counter attack before he could get anything on me. (I really did nothing wrong, but with CID, they try to twist things around and he was a dumb fu-- anyway.)
So, I questioned him about his motor cycle...how long have you been riding. Have you had any training...pretty soon, he forgot what he was supposed to question me about... we spent 20 minutes talking about riding motor cycles.
I felt bad for him, so when he was done, I asked if there was anything I could help him with...he said: "no, I'm sure you did nothing wrong, so I'm clearing you to go back to work."

However, we sat at the main camp through Christmas...and all our mail and packages from home were sitting at the outer camps we were assigned to...so we didn't get to open our Christmas packages until well after Christmas. Screwed again by the Army and the lack of decent leadership.
Who was finally charged after all the investigations? Most of the officers and some senior NCOs. A former team leader of mine was later investigated for something else, relieved of his command and it was given to me... of course without a promotion.

(Updated: My buddies in Kosovo right now say they are having some of the exact same leadership problems now....same problems, just a different face or two. )

So, I hope you didn't mind the updated re-run.

Have a great Christmas...I don't say "happy holidays" because this time of year it's all about Christmas...and if you're some anti Christmas person, guess what I got to say about that...
CI Roller Dude..

17 December 2008

What helped prepare me for War...

From the Cop side: Yeah, I know I don't write many cop stories...because there's nothing quite like war to come up with some good things to talk about. However, after some thinking (which I do for a few minutes everyday) I concluded that one thing that really helped me on my deployment to both Bosnia and Iraq was working as a cop for now almost 30 years.
Most people have seen shows on TV like Cops, and others where they follow real cops around with a video camera...they have to cut out the bad words and stuff...but what they don't really show is some of the "average" daily dumb stuff we deal with....everyday.

It's this "average" stuff the helped equip me for my deployments...there's so many things that are the same in police work and the military. You have good leaders...you have bad leaders, you have heroes... you have cowards, you have victims and you have bad guys. And every once in awhile you have some really "special" people who you just have to laugh at....in both places that's what makes it all worth while. I say sometimes you have to "make your own fun!"
About a few months ago (I lost track, maybe 3 or 4?)
Where I work now we have lots of small law enforcement agencies who work close to each other. The streets close to one of our "beats" is covered by the Sheriffs Department for crime and the Highway Patrol for traffic...but if it's a crash close, any of us will respond to help the injured.
So, there I was, driving around minding my own business, when I hear the Deputy getting dispatched to a crash just a block or two away. I see him take off and I follow-- automatic mutual aid.
The deputy drives upon a very nice SUV that has been reduce to smashed metal...he gets out out of his car and has several people tell him that the rest of the crash is 3 or 4 blocks east of his location. The deputy stops me as I pull up and he ask me to go check east of his location. I drive on down the road and come upon the other half.
What had happened is: Driver #1 (the most at fault) is driving HUA (Head Up Ass) going west bound too fast. He plows into Driver #2 from behind, knocks her out and Vehicle #2 drives on 3 more blocks with the driver knocked out until she crashes into the center island. So the back of Veh #2 is destroyed and now the front is also wiped out...there went a $40,000 SUV.

AS I park my car to block/protect vehicle #1 because I have to get the elderly driver out, I call in my exact location...because I' heard on the radio scanner that they are sending medical units to a city that was 5 miles away!!! (Why? because a "witless witness" gave them the totally wrong location.)
I got out of my car, and go up to the old guy sitting in the driver's seat---I'm thinking he's hurt really bad because he hasn't gotten out of his car--- but nope, he's talking on his damn cell phone.
There was about 7 or 8 citizens standing on the side walks in the area yelling at me asking: "what's this location?"
I asked them why and they said: "I'm on the phone with 911 and I they're asking where we are."

OK, now does everyone understand that when you call 911, one or three types of humans are going to come. Those three types are: 1) the cops, 2) the fire dept and 3) the meat wagon.
I was in a blue uniform, driving a black and white car with a big ass star on the side and big lettering that said "POLICE" along with a blue and red light bar on top. I was friggen 911.

So, I go back to trying to check the driver, while I'm standing out in the middle of traffic---and I say: "Sir, can you hang up your phone and listen to me NOW! Can you get out of your car? I'm about to get run over trying to help you, can you hang up NOW!"

It took me a little while to explain to the dispatcher that I was at the true location and to cancel units going to all the other locations.

Today's hot tip: IF you are going to call in an emergency on your cell phone, please stop and make sure you have the correct location. If you're the HUA driver who caused the crash, listen to the cops who's trying to help you so he/ she doesn't get run over.

12 December 2008

Why I'm going to hell...part II

From the Soldier side: OK, I'll continue with my story of why "I'm going to hell."
I was telling you about the "turd" sergeant we had. For years before we went to Iraq, he reminded me of a little snake. He went to Bosnia with us and got caught doing something he wasn't' supposed to be doing...so when he came to me to see if I could help him...he started to cry like a little baby.
He had no balls...and no brains. He was always trying to put himself in the best place or job so he would always come out on top...regardless of what everyone else needed. He didn't put his soldiers first, he put himself first. So, he didn't go out on mission while in Iraq...he sent out his junior folks.
Now, I'll tell you the place they were in was bad...but at that time, most of the other places we had teams in were bad. It was a friggen war...you were supposed to get shot at and shit like that.
So, Turdsergeant's typical day (as told to me by his #2) was: He'd get up around 10 or 11 am, walk over and shower...come back and get dressed and go to lunch. Then he'd go to his hooch/ office and goof off watching DVDs and reading books. That was why he was too busy to go out.
Then one day... while he was walking to the shower... a totally random mortar round landed near where he was walking. A junk of metal tore into his stomach... he fell to the ground and was hurting. The medivac'ed him out and he lived.
Why am I going to hell?
The next day the Capt Chaplain came to my office. He had never every come over to our office since it was hot and too far for him to walk ( he was regular army and part of the reg army unit we were attached to).
So, the Sky Pilot dude comes into my office and says: "Is everything OK?"
I look at him and said:" Yes sir, would you like some Starbucks coffee?"
He takes a cup, then looks at me again and repeats his question: "Is everything OK?"
I look at him and said: "Yes sir, outside of it being 120 degrees outside, it's pretty good...how are you doing sir?"
Then he looks at me and the other sergeant (who's in Kosovo now) and said: "Wasn't sergeant Turd a friend of yours...from your unit back home and all?"

I look at the Sky Pilot and said:"Sir, is that what this visit is about? Thanks, sir, but the truth is nobody likes him."
The Sky Pilot almost dropped his coffee as his mouth dropped to the floor. He stood up straight and said something like: "you guys are cold."
I said: "Yes sir, I'm know I'm going to hell for that....but I'm going there anyway."

The chaplain walked out without his coffee and never talked to any of us again after that.
Oh well, what can I say?
(the photo above is from my 3rd visit to Fallujah... it was scary, but I went out when I needed to and I never sent my junior people out on something I would not do myself.)

08 December 2008

Why I'm going to h.....

From the Soldier side: The photo on the left is a special group of folks...this is most, but not all of the group I went to Bosnia with, then we deployed to Iraq less than 6 months after we were home. This photo is missing a few who were wounded, and one or two others. This photo was taken on our very last day in Iraq....a great day in Nov 2005.
There's one guy missing who was wounded who, well...how can I explain...but he's a type of person that if you knew him, you'd soon learn to not trust him...and even to hate him. It would take hours to tell of all the self serving things he did in both Bosnia and Iraq. He was an NCO...but he didn't take care of his troops. He took care of himself. Since I don't want to take hours, I'll just tell a few stories of things he did to earn our dis-respect.
He would put himself first for any equipment or items that were issued...he'd even try to get in front of the entire company by saying he had something to do and was in a hurry. But, the worst of all... when his team was sent out "west" and was supposed to go outside the camp...he went out on 2 missions.
It was scary outside the wire...soldiers and Marines were getting shot everyday....it was bad. So the third trip he was supposed to go on...he made it to the gate. Then he pulled over and opened the hood on his Humvee...pretending that something was wrong with the engine. The rest went on without him and his team---as soon as the convoy was out of sight, he closed the hood, started his vehicle and drove back to his hooch.
Well, the Army really needed his team to go out on missions....so what did he do? He sent his junior NCO and E-4's out on their own without him. He said he had a lot of "admin stuff" to do and couldn't be bothered by actually going out on missions.
He had a good team who knew what had to be done and did it without him, while he'd sleep in late everyday and not do a damn thing....
To be cont.....

03 December 2008

Some die of natural causes...

From the Soldier side: A friend sent me a link for a blog http://yllescasfamily.blogspot.com/ CPT Rob Yllescas

Warning...before you go to this site, it may cause a tear to come out. I never will understand how a soldier can make it through battles, wars and stuff, then come home and die at an early age due to some medical problem that the doc's can't do a bloody thing about.

When we were in Bosnia, we had a young soldier who deployed with us...I'll call him "Chris" to make him more real. He was tall and thin...good natured...always willing to help with whatever we needed done. He was good with computers, so we sucked his brain when we had to set up "net works" with our computers. When we were getting ready to leave Bosnia, he volunteered to extend.

Chris didn't drink, I never heard him use a bad word, and he treated everyone with respect. You couldn't help liking the "kid" as we called him.
He was given a few weeks leave before going back to Bosnia. His one fault? He liked to drive his Mustang very fast.
One night, he was driving home...too fast... he left the road and 90, and there's nothing more to say. We miss Chris...he would have done well with us in Iraq...I'm sure of it, but he never had that chance.

Troops...there are enough "natural" things that will kill you. When you get home from a deployment, be safe...live to be an old man (or woman) and be able to sit around when you're 90 and tell stories.

I have a few ideas for my next story...should it be 1.) "Why I'm going to go to hell" or 2.) "More really stupid people I've met as a cop"

01 December 2008

Don't expect nothin' & you'll be happy with what you get!

From the Soldier side: For those of you who watch 60 Minutes on Sunday nights...last night you saw the story about the Female Army Private who was awarded the Silver Star. I was not so much surprised as some where that a female got such an award...she did a good job...what I was surprised with is someone of such low rank got that award.
See, when I was in Iraq, if you were below E-7, the odds of you getting anything like a Bronze Star or higher (unless you were wounded) were about zero. Our "Camp Mayor" (the E-7 in charge of the rooms and buildings) never once left the camp, but was given a Bronze Star... several Fobbits were given Bronze Stars. We had Sergeant Majors who'd go on convoys hoping they'd be close, but not too close to something so they could get their C.A.B. (Combat Action Badge)
We actually had a few heroes with us...who I think should have gotten a Silver Star. How about the time one of our teams was out in Baghdad one day...just minding there own business...when they heard gun fire up ahead. An IP (Iraqi Police) patrol was getting shot up pretty bad.
The Staff Sergeant in charge of the SecFor (Security Force) saw one IP had been shot in the neck. The Staff Sergeant jumped out with aid bag, ran to the IP, patched him up, picked him up, and carried him back to the Humvee.
The IP was treated at the camp, by US Army Medics...saving his life. (we have really good medics)
Oh, did I mention that the Staff Sergeant was a female (and very hot I might add). Do you know what award she got?
Nothing. If she'd been an E-7 or an Officer, she'd gotten something good. She's a friggen Hero in my book.
That's just the way it was (or is?)