31 July 2009

They plant them here...

From the Soldier side: Well, this week is almost over. We got out of our "meeting" a little early on the last day, so I took a few minutes to check out some things on the Fort.
I was so happy to find the Museum...they actually had a display for Mess Kits. I'm so proud of my MOS, Mess Kit Repair (MKR) that I just stared at this display for awhile. Wow...so few people even know what we do. Then of course there's the Tank Plants outside. Well, that's what I told some kids there..."yep, they have special seeds to make them tanks grow."

30 July 2009

Talking about how to lead!

From the Soldier side: Well, I'm still here at this Mess Kit Repair meeting at Ft XXXX. We've been discussing in detail how they should be training the new Soldiers on Mess Kit Repair. I forgot how much detail, how many different Field Manuals (FMs) Army Regulations (ARs) and other documents there are that we are supposed to know.
There is actually a person in the meetings who is writing one of the new ARs on the MOS. The way it was explained, the people putting the ARs together are not talking to the people who write the FMs. The best way I can explain it is: Lets say you are writing the manual on the actual Mess Kit. But, since you have a college degree, you feel that the title of "Mess Kit" is out of date. So you and a committee spend years trying to come up with a new title....like "Field Dining Kit".
But the people who write the manuals on the tools to fix the "Field Dining Kit" still refer to them as Mess Kits, because that's what they've been since Jesus was a corporal. And the tool people write in their manual that you should use a ball peen hammer to fix a damage Mess Kit.
Now, the people writing the manual for the Field Dinning Kit, think you should use a claw hammer to fix a damaged kit.
Now, give both manuals to an 18 year old in training and let them figure it out....keeping in mind that they don't know anything.
And....we had to discuss all this for 10 hours a day and some people would never shut up....and they were in leadership jobs...most of the time they were just trying to show everyone how friggen smart they thought they were....but, in most cases, I could see they could never fix a Mess Kit...
Now, thinking back to Baghdad in 2005. We had Teams that went out and did Tactical Mess Kit Repair. So, to get to the "customers" they had to roll out in M1114 Up Armored Humvees.....and drive all the way across Baghdad...then back. On one of these teams was a Master Sergeant (E-8). He could have easily sat in an office and "managed" from a desk. But...not only did he go out with his team 5-7 days a week... he was in the lead vehicle (Victor) standing on the M-249 SAW machine gun.
I talked to him about this a few times....I told him I thought he was too valuable to be going out, much less on the gun in the #1 Victor. He told me: "I won't have my people do something that I won't do...and this shows them I can do it. Besides, they're all kids....would you trust them on the gun?"
Good point. Good leader. Good man. I was lucky, I worked with a lot of heroes.
I got to see one of those heroes at Ft XXXX this week. He has a few stories...maybe I'll tell them when I get home.

24 July 2009

CH 46 down...the end...

From the Soldier side: OK, I can’t keep anyone in suspense any longer….I’ll just have to pack later. Besides, I might forget the story in a week and that might piss everyone off.
So, back to “Slim’s” story of going home on leave. Remember Slim was out at Ramadi, Iraq working around the Marines. So, the nice Marines flew him back to Baghdad so he could fly home on leave.
Well, around some of the camps in Baghdad, the US Army had these blimp things that kind of flew around the camps all day. They didn’t have a pilot or anybody on board, they were tethered to a cable to keep them sort of in one spot. The tethering cables ran down to a little trailer that had some Army dudes in them.
We were told that the blimps had cameras in them so they could see around the camps and stuff….kind of like the border patrol uses on the Mexican border….
So, now do you have this picture in your mind of the friggen Goodyear blimp floating up in the air all the time…day and night.
Now. Add to this a USMC CH46 flying POS (Pile of Shit) coming along in the dark.... you know "two broken washing machines fighting with gravity". Can you see where this is going?
Yep…you figured right. The CH 46 flying Slim and several others back to Baghdad in the dark…hits the cable holding the Goodyear blimp. The CH 46 does a “controlled crash” when it looses it’s battle with gravity. The Blimp and all the electronic gear on board flies off to who knows where.
The CH 46, crew and passengers survive the crash…actually nobody got hurt. No shit. Good flying by the Marine guys. But they crash land outside the camp....
Slim and the armed passengers and crew get off and set up perimeter around the craft and call for help.
The QRF (Quick Reaction Force) didn’t know what the “Q” in their title stood for and waited until the sun came up to go out and help the crash folks…and brought in the passengers. Slim said he was a little concerned about the local insurgents coming along to the crash…he only had one belt for his SAW with him…heck he was just going home on 2 weeks leave…nothing should happen.
The End.

23 July 2009

CH 46 Down...cont (they'll never make a movie out of this)

From the Soldier side: OK, I realized that before I can tell this story, I have to help you understand what it was like flying in a CH 46. First of all, they ARE NOT a CH 47. The CH47 is a newer and bigger craft. The CH 46 was built in the 60's. The Marines, being very Conservative, don't waste a thing...they keep rebuilding them over and over and keep flying them.
The ones I flew on in Iraq were set up for hauling troops and some cargo. They had a .50 cal machine sticking out the window---kind of reminded me of the B-17s in "12 O'clock High".
To duplicate the effect of riding in one of these things, try this at home:
Take two old style washing machine--not the new quiet front loaders, but one of the old Maytag top loaders. Load it with bricks, and nuts and bolts...make sure it's out of balance. You need to have two of these machines, because the CH 46 has a rotor in the front and back.
Make sure both washing machines are out of balance, to help this, remove one of the legs. Now, strap an old lawn chair on top, with a seat belt.
Set both washing machines on "SPIN" cycle, but at different times, so they are not spinning at the same speed.
Now, have a friend of family member start dropping old engine parts from the garage on the ground. At some point, this contraption should start lifting off the ground. OH. You say it shouldn't fly. No shit...helicopters are not supposed to fly. But, some how this POS gets off the ground...and shaking like Elvis with a hangover.
The entire time you're in the air, the machines will be rattling, and thrashing, trying to tear themselves apart.
When you eventually land, the crew chief will get out, look around and wonder how the POS keeps flying. He'll shine his flash light at some things, then get back in and tell the guys flying the POS that it looks OK.
Now, add to this...they stop and pick up some TCN's (Third Country Nationals) who've never flown on a chopper before. As the POS lifts off, one of the TCNs sitting next to you lets go with his bladder and pees all over the seat and floor. You will say: "Wow, I didn't know a human could hold that much pee!"
Then you get up and move to another seat and let the TCN sit in his pee. The expression of: "It scared the piss out of him" is true.
Now, add to this excitement....the Marines like to fly at night! Are you scared of the dark? Then don't fly with the Marines. That's how they rolled.
Now that you sort of got the feeling, I'll get on with the story....later.

22 July 2009

CH 46 down.... (sung to the tune of "Black Hawk Down")

From the Solider side: When I was in Iraq (by the way, that's how most war stories should start) we had little things that we'd look forward to. I found, that if you broke it into at least one thing each hour that you could look forward to...some kind of little joy...it made each day go by faster. Some days, there was little to help accomplish this concept. Other days it might be "I wonder if they'll have steak and lobster in the mess hall for dinner?"
During a year deployment, I would submit that there were TWO (sometimes THREE) major things that most of us looked forward to. These happy times were when you got a pass to go away for about 5 days (I missed out on that) and they sent you to a place where you could even drink alcoholic beverages. The pass was a freebee that didn't count against your 30 days of leave per year.
The Second big joy was when you got to go home for 2 weeks of leave. Vacation back in the world.
The last big joy was when you rotated out and went home at the end of your tour.
I'm not going to talk about the "Free Pass" that we were supposed to get for 5 days, because I wasn't a REMF and I never got one. But this story is about going home on 2 weeks leave.
My travels home for this festive occasion occurred pretty much without incident, so I'm going to tell the story of one of our buddies.
Our buddy, I'll call him "slim" for this story, was a pretty good guy and a very good soldier. He was one of those who went to get retrained in our MOS (Mess Kit Repair) but failed the silly school, so they sent him on to war anyway to be a "filler". When I went through Mess Kit Repair school, I thought it was pretty good training. The course I took was set up for reserves, so it was spread out over 2 years. We started with 27 soldiers. At the end of 2 years, 3 of us graduated together. Now, not all of them failed...some just gave up.
So, back to Slim's story. About half way through our tour, Slim's turn came up to go home on 2 weeks leave. The difficulty was, Slim was assigned as a security team member for a Mess Kit Repair team out in Ramadi. That was a shithole. He was a saw gunner on the M1114 Humvee and if anybody needed a little break, it was Slim.
Now, if you have time, go look at a map of Iraq. He was way out west and had to return to our main camp in Baghdad. So, since he was where the Marines were, they were happy to fly him back to Baghdad so he could go on his well deserved leave for 2 weeks with lots of kissing for mama, gallons of beer, and all the Burger King hamburgers you could eat and nobody trying to kill you....back to the USofA.
To be cont....

20 July 2009

More "Free Medical Care....

From the Soldier side: I want to thank everybody who gave a little input on what they had for medical coverage. I guess I am spoiled.
When I was growing up, my dad was in the Air Force...so we had totally free medical care. Then I went into the Army when I was 18...and again...free medical care.
But then I got out and went to college. ( I figured I needed some smarten' up...not sure a degree did much good.)
Then I got into police work...and, depending on which police department I was working for...the department provided medical coverage. For most of the last 20 plus years, I was on the contract bargaining team. My point of view was that we should always maintain medical coverage for employees with a family... that was my standard. How much did I think the employee should pay? Not a dime. Remember my up bringing...Free Medical Care.
Some departments in our area pay a little more on the salary side, but the employees with families have to pay a lot out of pocket for the medical.
When I first heard that the newest President was going to provide medical coverage for everyone...I thought it was a pretty good idea. But as I heard more and more confusing versions of how it would be done. I got totally confused. I "googled" the heck out of the topic and I'm still confused. The problem is: Any time politicians get involved in a good idea, they change it around until it's a mess.
I say keep it simple. If you are a citizen of this country, you should be allowed to have some kind of medical coverage. If you work, go to school full time, are (really) disabled, you'd get some kind of plan that is cheap enough to afford. If you are a bum, drug addict POS, you came here illegally to commit crimes etc, you get nothing. If you are retired, you'd get a plan that you could afford. If you served in the military in a war zone, you'd get free medical coverage while going to school /or until you found a new job. The Federal Government waste more money in a week than this would cost for a year.
My employer pays up to about $1,200 a month for employees with a family. I can get "Tri Care" through the National Guard for about $200 a month--- and the coverage is about the same. Why is that?
The politicians are just screwing a simple thing.
My next War Story " Shithook 46 down"

19 July 2009

Free Medical Care.... (where?)

From the Citizen and Soldier side: I made a little promise to myself that my blog would not get involved in things I have no direct experience or knowledge of....like politics. My opinion of politics are: Anybody who runs for any office is out for something....and no matter what they do, there will always be somebody who hates them for it. Those are sometimes the same people who bitch about everything.... you know the ones who if the won the lottery, they'd bitch about having to pay taxes.
There are a few things that I do love about this country...the freedom to say what you want. Nobody is going to throw you in prison for complaining about the government, or bitching about the stuff congress does that you don't like. Complain all you want...because along with the fact you have that freedom...the fact is nobody really gives a shit.
I've been to a few countries whilst serving in the US Army. In some of those countries I witnesses first hand what free medical care did for the citizens. In the truly free and modern countries, if a citizen was injured, an ambulance would come and take them to the hospital without question. In the countries recovering from the communist days, or some screwed up ruler, the free medical care required a bribe to the doctor and hospital staff to actually get treatment.
As most Americans know, while serving in the military, a service member is provided free medical care. Sometimes that may be a full hospital, and in a war zone it may be whatever the medic happens to have in his aid bag. But it's free... so you can't bitch, right? Those in the Reserves/ National Guard don't get free medical care except when they're on active duty.....however, they can now pay to have medical coverage! And it's pretty cheap.
The question I have now: How many of you reading this blog have free medical care? I mean it is provided by some sort of government employer or a private business you work for?
How many of you reading this pay for your medical care out of your paycheck each month?

16 July 2009

Wiilllddd night, part II

From the Soldier side: OK, I'll continue my little story in a second....one topic that seems to come up from time to time in normal civilian conversations...
What a lot of "normal" folks my not be aware of, but the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines I worked with in Iraq were some of the absolute brightest people I've ever met! Each person may have joined for a different reason and had different backgrounds, but they were not just "looking for a job." So many of them joined up after Sep 11, 2001....knowing that they would go to war. Bright and brave....the best America has to offer. Many of them scored very high on the entrance test and could have gone into any MOS the services had...but many chose "combat arms" because they wanted to. It was a pleasure and an honor for me to have been able to work with and lead some of them.
So...back to the Wild Night.
As we rolled out of Camp Gannon, we knew that the local assholeinsurgents knew that we were on the move. There were not that many routes to leave the camp and drive into the city and a Marine Am Trak is pretty damn loud when it's fired up and rolling. The fact that I had not worked with these Marines before and the Army and Marines do things a little different as far as fighting and tactics.... (a fact that looking back on, I would now insist that we at least talk over what we're going to do.)
But, these Marines had done it so many times that they just said: "watch what we do..."
The Marine Grunts were good. They had all their body armor, weapons, ammo, brain buckets, etc and still moved about like they were born that way. I suspect that some of them, like "America's First Sergeant" were born with a bayonet in their hands.
After we rolled out of the camp, we traveled along for a few blocks, made some turns etc and ended up where we needed to go. The back ramp dropped and we got out.
My "terp" seemed very lost and confused. As he started to wonder off in the wrong direction, I grabbed his arm and told him to walk behind me. He did this for awhile, then wanted to walk beside me so we could talk. I had to tell him a few times to talk quieter...but I could tell he was about ready to shit his pants because his voice got higher and he talked faster---kind of like a little girl. I was thinking maybe we shouldn't have brought him along...but we would need somebody to help us talk to the locals.
We began walking down some narrow city streets. There was not a single person or car on the streets. Even in the smallest town back in the US you would have seen somebody....but there was nobody. It was very strange....but then again, at that time people were getting killed all the time for no reason.
As we walked along, my "terp" kept walking out into the middle of the street where the few working street lights were working. I kept telling him to get into the shadows...but I was starting to think he was a retard or something. Did we really need him? Yep, I guess we did. If he got killed, I'd have to fill out a lot of paper work.
Did I mention it was really quiet outside at that time? It was...until a random AK round going off would break the silence. I never could figure out why there was always some asshole firing an AK off for no reason.
We eventually got to a house where we wanted to have a "chat" with the owner. The houses in that area were like so many other areas in Iraq, they were made of brick...desert tan brick...often with a brick wall and a metal gate to protect a little compound.
The Marines sent Private Snuffy (every unit has a Private Snuffy) over the wall to unlock the gate from the inside. I thought that kid was pretty brave. Out of all the hundreds of homes and business buildings I've searched for bad guys as a cop, I was not as "worried" as I was there. In California, most of the time most of the people were not trying to kill me as a cop...in Iraq I suspect they were.
The gate was unlocked and about 5 of us walked up to the front door of the house. The guy we wanted to "chat" with was not a bad guy, but still you had to be alert.
Again I had to pull my "terp" out of the lights and into the shadows.
All the lights in the house were off as we got up on the porch and were about to knock on the door. I scanned around and could see two prone figures on ground next to the house. Private Snuffy had missed the two guys sleeping on the ground. I pointed them out to the security team leader....who got pissed that one of his guys had not seen them, saying: "The Army dude found something you missed!"
The two guys sleeping outside were sons of the home owner....and they were just as surprised as we were. I am so damn happy that they were not bad guys.
So, we talked to the dude and did some "mess kit repair" and got back on the Am Traks. All and all, it was a good mission. Now aren't you disappointed that you read all of this and nothing really bad happened?

13 July 2009

The Wiiilllddd Night in Husabia, Iraq....

From the Soldier side: One of my fondest memories from Iraq took place one dark and hot night in July 05. The Marine dudes we were staying with invited my "terp" and I to go out with them on a night "job."
They told us that morning, so we rested the day...well as much as we could rest in 116 F heat with few places to cool off. At that time I'd given 50 bucks for an ice cold bottle of water. To this day, my friends and family still don't understand why I really want my cold drinks as cold as I can get them--- frosty is good. If water freezes at 0 Centigrade, then give me a glass that's at 1 Centigrade and I'll be happy.
Anyway, back to the mission. We were to go out after it got good and dark. For this job, we'd ride out in the Marine Am Traks. They were a giant beast, but they gave me a lot of comfort from small arms fire and things that blow up. I really don't like getting shot at or blown up.
We'd have a platoon of Marines for cover, whilst we made contact with some local citizens (in regards to "mess kit repairs"). I asked if my team could go along for the experience, but the Marine Staff Sergeant I was working with thought my team was too young....I explained they'd never get old and crusty until they did some crazy shit. He still didn't want them to come...for some reason he felt I would be OK.
Our only "drag factor" was my "terp". He was 55 years old and not the brightest guy in the world. He spoke Arabic and English very well, and this contractor job paid a hell of a lot more than the donut shop he'd worked at for the last 20 years. But, he was slow to move and not very observant when he really needed to be. He thought he'd only be working in an "office" for his job...little did he know he might actually have to go out side a camp or FOB and earn his pay.
In my "rest and prep" time, I made sure my weapons were ready to go...which they always were...but I checked them over again anyway...just because.
At about 2200 hours, (10 PM for some of you) we loaded the Am Traks. Our "cover" mission was that we were delivering water to some of the locals. The water pipe feeding most of the town had been broken for weeks...so dropping off cases of water was a good gesture. (hell, we didn't even have running water on our shitty little camp).
To be cont.....
Note: Update: It appears that some readers are not able to figure out what "Mess Kit Repair" is. It is a special MOS in the US Army. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

10 July 2009

Why did they protest here?

From the Citizen side: I'm going off my normal track today. I don't normally talk about politics, current events and stuff like that. My number one rule in regards to politics is: "I hate it."

They who dabble in that stuff and run for office are so often out for themselves and their "cause." I'll leave them to their stupidity.

However, somebody asked me why a few weeks ago, why Iranian/ American citizens did a protest walk on the Golden Gate Bridge (in San Francisco, CA). I answered: "Because they could without getting shot."

If they protest in most other crappy third world countries, they get beaten and shot. I have a "source" who told me that in Iran when the family went to pick up their dead from the protest in that country...the police charged them for the ammo they expended. The cost? About $5,000 coverted to US Dollars.

Now, a lot of you may think that everyone in some of these "crappy countries" is not worth worrying about...but keep in mind that in most of these places, they have a lot of good citizens who'd just love to come to America! I was lucky in my deployments...I got to "visit" with a lot of nice citizens in those countries. Some I actually liked a lot...and some who would make a great politician in this country...out for themselves.
Anyway, I'm glad they buried Mr Jackson...can we stop hearing about him now. During this "crisis" we lost lots of good troops in our 2 wars going on....where were they mentioned in the news?

03 July 2009

The Great Baghdad Bank Robbery.....or not.

From the soldier side: (this is a story that was told to me by one of my former bosses. He was one of the first to roll into Afghanistan right after 9-11, then he went to Iraq. He left Iraq not too long after we got there since he was assigned to a different unit....which will take too long to explain.)
I'll call him Sergeant First Class (SFC) "Happy", because he always seems happy. He told me this story in the summer of 2007 while we were at our Annual National Guard training at some Army Fort.
SFC Happy was the team leader (for mess kit repair) who went out into Baghdad several days a week. One day he thought they should go visit their friends at the local Iraqi Police (IP) station. SFC Happy and his team got to the station without incident. When he got to the big metal gate the secured the station from street traffic, he opened it as he had done many time before.
However, this time he was surprised. He wasn't surprised by a bomb, or a random RPG...no...nothing like that. But what greeted him as he walked through the metal gate was a big horse.
Being an inquisitive type, SFC Happy decided to inquire with the local police as to why they had a big horse in the front of their station. This was pretty odd for that part of Baghdad. SFC Happy grabbed his "terp" and walked into the station. The police captain greeted them and offered afternoon tea. Ahh, a good cup of tea and then you can talk about anything...but tea first.
This was the story that SFC Happy finally got from the IP Captain.
It seems some local Iraqi Idiot (II) thought he could become rich by pulling off a bank robbery. To make it totally Hajji, the II must have seen too many American Western movies. He found a horse to use as his get away vehicle. To make it even more retarded, the II found an ancient British Welby .45 cal revolver to use as his weapon.
I'm not sure if you can tell where this is going, but the II was not very good at this. Many of the banks in Iraq at that time rarely every actually had any cash in them. It seems as soon as they got cash, they had to pay local salaries and stuff....so the cash ran out quick. Nobody ever put money in a bank there for savings...because the bankers would just take it.
So, the Iraqi Idiot takes his horse, ties it up outside the bank, takes his ancient revolver and walked into the bank demanding all the money. At that time, most Iraqi males over 18 years of age were allowed to have one rifle. Most of those working in the bank had an AK 47 or something just as good.
The II ran out of the bank with no money. The Iraqi Police soon took up pursuit...but fearing that they might hit the horse, they held their fire. Finally one copper had a good shot and took it....wounding the II, but not hurting the horse. (It's funny how a human life is nothing, but to avoid injuring an animal will change how some people do things.)
The big problem? The Iraqi Police couldn't figure out what to do with the horse. They asked SFC Happy. He shrugged his shoulders and exited the building.
How come we were "Freeing the Iraqis?"

01 July 2009

7/4/05, Kind of like Family Day...without the kids

From the Soldier side: It's getting kind of funny. The more time that passes by since I have been home from Iraq, the more it seems like it wasn't really real. I took a lot of "digital images" when I was there because I knew I'd want to do something with them later. The funny thing is, some of the best photos I could have taken I couldn't because my hands were filled with some kind of weapon (M-4 Carbine or M-249 SAW.) A "Gun Cam" would have been really cool. Heck the cheap digital camera I had didn't even take video.
July 4th 2005, my second team and I were in Al Qaim Iraq....with a Marine unit. We were fixin' to roll up to the Syrian border, but we had to wait for "new orders" because the higherup's ( a polite way of saying assholes) couldn't make up their minds where my team should go.
We were an "Army" team assigned to help the Marines (who I preferred working with).
The Marines wanted us in one place and the dumbass Army leaders thought we should go somewhere else.
The "somewhere else" won out and we had to wait for a "convoy" to go there. It seems that nobody really wanted to go to the "somewhere else" because it was so dangerous to get there.
So, for July 4th, 05 we got to celebrate with the Marines at Al Qaim ( you can look it up at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qa'im_(town

They had quiet a celebration. They had BBQ (fake hamburgers) hot dogs, chips, cold soda, ice cream, and no beer. (General Order #1--which states that no military persons in Iraq will ever have fun.) That was going to be the last cold soda and ice cream we'd have for awhile.

The Marines got out their tanks, guns, and equipment and had it all on display just like an open house or family day back in the states. Only thing missing-- the family and kids. But I got to climb on a M1 tank and get inside. (I had only been behind them when the turbine exhaust blasted my M113 several years before.) It was a nice tank, but they wouldn't let me take it for a drive. I was pretty sure I could drive it...but I didn't want to piss off the nice tanker dudes. ...what I really wanted to do was fire the 120 MM cannon at some insurgentasshole.
A few days later we rolled up the Camp Gannon. What a --it hole that was. But good people. No running water, no fresh food (canned rations) no AC (it got blown up with suicide bombers) For more on Camp Gannon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Gannon
We were so close to the Syrian border that I threw rocks over the wall just so I could tell people someday that's how close we were.
Ahh...good times.

When you go out on the 4th and sip a few cold ones, remember the men and woman in the sand box who don't have that luxury...and take a sip for them. Be safe: Mike, Joe, Don, Will, Bobby and the rest of you guys in harms way.