Saturday, February 24, 2007

11 Charlie qualified!

I have completed Eleven-Charlie school and am now certified as having dual MOS qualifications (triple quals, in fact, since I was trained at Ft. Benning as an Infantry (11B) soldier, then given 2 weeks of 11M training). This means a few more promotion points, but I have to get my PT scores up in order to really compete for promotions. Which will be hard to do, because...

I think I blew out my knees and ankles in that 3 mile foot march. Since then, my knees and ankles hurt everywhere I go, and feel very weak. I don't know if it's a muscle thing or something worse, but I keep hoping it'll go away so I can get back to being Infantry. Pray about that.

I had another chance to witness last night, to a soldier whose last name was Williams. He's lost, thinks he's a Christian, but isn't indwelt, or has fallen so far away from the Lord that he doesn't feel His guidance. I hope you'll pray for him.

Also, the roster for our company has been changed and a couple of the younger soldiers from 11C school have been transferred to us, rather than the two or three soldiers that we thought we would get. This means more opportunities to witness! I actually caught one of these soldiers mitigating his use of the F-word because I was around, so hopefully I'm living a decent example. Pray that I manage to keep that up as well.

Tomorrow we go back out into the field for most of the week, so I probably won't update this for another week or so. I still have numerous issues to deal with before I can be mobilized, including straightening out my records, having a tooth pulled, and some other stuff. So the next six weeks or so will be busy, but (God willing my ankles heal) filled with good training!

There's been lots of other amusing things happening, like Battalion HQ trying to transfer my section leader to a different company because he was a "filler, " and then swapping around our troop list about three times before settling back down. Sgt. Arflin was about apopleptic earlier today, which I found very amusing. Still, he's a good NCO, with combat experience and a really good attitude about what we're doing, so I feel that I'm in good hands.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Gunners Exam, Foot March, Atkins Award

We had the Gunners Exam today. My section sergeant passed with flying colors, got himself rated an Expert Gunner. A couple of the guys in the section passed with First Class Gunner scores. I squeaked in with a Second Class Gunner's rating because I was more interested in trying to get one guy better on some of the tasks than I was interested in getting a good score. But the Lord really blessed me today.

You know, maybe, that I had been wearing my body armor for the last week or so, everywhere we went. It was killing my ankles, but my shoulders were really getting used to the weight. Yesterday (Friday) I decided to drop the IBA for a couple days and wear my LBV instead.

Today, after the gunners exam, we picked up all the pieces of our mortars (remember, they're 81mm mortars, check the link from yesterday), and we carried them 3.5 miles back to our barracks.

The only thing that was tough was that my ankles were killing me. Once they get healed back up, I'll be in fine shape. But carrying the bipod over my shoulder was no problem at all, because I was used to the weight from the IBA! How cool is that?

The Sergeant who marched us in from the training field told us that there is an award given to the members of each class of 11-C school: The Atkins Award. It goes to the soldier who, by the end of the class, has spread his pollen to the most overweight woman. The guys from SC aren't going to be able to win THAT one, since we all know we're not supposed to leave post!

Tomorrow is another day of class, but like I said yesterday, hopefully we start learning technical and conceptual stuff shortly. I'm looking forward to it. I'm also planning my morning so that I don't have to walk fast. That involves doubling the amount of time I allot myself for travel everywhere, which is kind of a pain, but I really want my ankles to get better.

Tomorrow's another day of training! God Blesses us greatly!

Friday, February 16, 2007

We ride the short bus - Mor-Tards!

That was my suggestion for our platoon name and motto. We DO ride a short bus; there's 32 of us in the class.

11-C school is easily the most challenging military school I've been in so far. Not because the subject matter is hard to understand; heck, we haven't been TAUGHT anything conceptual yet! But rather because of the complexity of the fine motor skills that we have to develop in ONE WEEK, in order to pass our Gunner's Exam.

We have the exam tomorrow, and it's going to be tough for some of us. Possibly including me, although I've been working hard to get as much time playing with the dials and knobs as I can. It's just that, like any other fine motor skill, repetitions are what grant skill, and you can only do repetitions for so long before you end up burned out for the day and need time to recover.

Other than that, things have been good. I haven't had the opportunities yet in this school to witness that I had in my other assignment, the dismount squad. But I've tried hard to have a good attitude and avoid losing my temper or spouting profanity when I'm having trouble with the tasks. That might just make me look like I don't care, this being the military.

I've also gotten terribly sunburned and windburned. We've been out in a field for the last three days. The first day was bright and warm (high 60's). The second day was cold (low 40's) and partly cloudy, with a consistent 5+ knot breeze. Today was similarly cold (40 or less) and sunny, and with a similar breeze. My right ear might fall off from sunburn (kidding!). But seriously, the right side of my neck is scorched, and when I'm in a warm room, my whole face feels like it's in 130 degree water.

Mortars are really neat, and the more I work with them, the more interested I am in finding out the details of what happens when we do certain tasks, and how the mortars get used and suchlike, but I know that now is not the time to ask those questions, since we need to pass the exam on Saturday. Failing the exam on Saturday means you're out of the class, and none of that other stuff matters anyway, then. So I've kept my questions to myself (VERY hard for me to do), and just put in my time working on the knobs and dials. is a website that includes an image of the mortar we've been training with. Thank God we have not had to pack it anywhere - we load it in a box and truck it out to the field everyday, while we ride our short bus.

There's lot of other exciting stuff about what we'll be doing, but it might risk opsec, so I'll keep it close to the vest until I've had time to think about it more clearly.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Another day of training done

Today, we trained on the M9 pistol. In the civilian world, it's the Beretta 92F. The instructors don't particularly like it, but hey, it's standard issue, so they teach us the best they can.

We had PT in the morning, and that was tough. Thank God for it, because I know I'm not in very good shape, and every workout like this gets me closer to being where I need to be.

We also fired the M203 grenade launcher, which was lots of fun. I was able to hit targets out past max effective range with it, and the closer stuff was easy. It's a fun weapon to shoot, and the body armor makes it much less painful!

Tomorrow we start learning specific things about the mortars, and presumably get our hands on them to actually practice with stuff. Should be a good time.

I'm still having unit issues, like no army socks, only one pair of boots, no nametapes, rank insignia, or pin-on rank yet. But that will all get sorted out eventually, I'm sure (?). I hope that being multiple-MOS-qualified turns out to be a useful thing later on, even though I'm only qualified in multiple infantry MOS'es.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Has it only been a week?

Semper Gumby!

That means "Always Flexible" in Latin. hehe

And it's our motto for this deployment. We're finding that the things you were told 2 hours ago are no longer "operational" and that you need to be ready to drop what you're doing and forget what you've done and move on to the next thing.

But that's not where the story left off, is it?

Okay, 2 Feb, we arrived at Camp Shelby. We had a little while to move stuff from one container to another (that was when I last updated), and then we moved to the "Forward Operations Base" - henceforth, the FOB. My duffel bag was missing, sadly. It did eventually turn up, a day later. No big deal.

Anyway, we were put into 16-man tents. Ours had 19 men in it, lol. There was hot chow at the FOB, and there were porta-johns, as well as a shower tent and a shaving tent. There's heat for the tents, and bunker simulators, as well as guard towers and stuff. All very good.

The first day was mostly briefings. Dull, boring briefings. Sexual Harassment. Sexual Assault, that kind of thing. Ridiculous stuff. Frankly, if you can't handle a bunch of guys making offensive jokes about sex, do NOT join the infantry. Or any other combat MOS, like Armor, Artillery, etc. In the Infantry, you better have a thick skin. So the briefings were dull, and a waste. Although there were some good ones that I can't talk about (I could, but I shouldn't, so I won't).

Eventually, I was assigned a squad automatic weapon. I started training on it, cleaning it, and etc. By Thursday or so I was qualified with it, and looking forward to training with the M9 pistol, and thinking about what my role would be in the squad.

Then I was reassigned to the HQ platoon, to the mortars section. Now, I dunno what that's all about (I was told they wanted someone bright who wouldn't fail out of the school, but I'm not sure how much I believe that!), but I'm here to do my job and do it without complaining, so I said "Yes, Sergeant" and turned in my SAW, and moved over to HQ.

Since then, it's been a mix of good and bad. Mortars have longer hours sometimes, but more privileges other times, so it's kind of a wash, I guess. Right now, I'm attending a school for mortar teams on-post, that is supposed to last two weeks or so. I'm enthused about getting all three Infantry MOS's locked down tight, since I was originally trained as an 11M, and spent a while as an 11B, and since the 11H has been done away with.

I should write more, but this alone will be pretty long, and so much else is just details about what happened. Very little of it would mean anything to the casual reader. There's been a lot of early morning formations, standing in the cold, standing in the cold and the rain, shooting in the cold, shooting in the cold and the rain, marching for miles with body armor and weapons and gear, and using the latrine at all hours of the day and night in the freezing cold. But like I say, that's just details.

Semper Gumby!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Ready, Set, Reset!

Wednesday afternoon, 31 January, we reported to the armory at 1400. From the time we had formation we were in "lockdown." No one leaves the armory premises.

I bedded down approximately 2300 on the concrete floor of the armory, after digging my rucksack out of a pile of rucksacks by feel (I had a concrete box in the ruck that has my weapons cleaning kit and a rag in it). After digging out my ruck, I had to take out my new "Sleeping System, Modular" and figure out what it was and how it worked. (It turns out it's a sleeping bag with a liner inside, and a folded outer weatherproof shell.) Wishing I had a flashlight.

At 0430 we got up. I rolled up my sack (called a fart sack in the military, and now I remember why), put it away, shaved and brushed my teeth. Chow was served at 0500, and it was passable. The eggs were very runny, but at least they weren't grey. After chow, I looked outside. Snow was falling heavily, and sticking to the pavement.

We loaded the A bags on a 2 1/2 ton truck approximately 0600. The unit is very aggressive, very motivated. Things got done without the NCO's having to tell anyone to do anything. I jumped up in the truck and positioned the duffel bags, and my back was really suffering for it later. Oh, my achin' back. And I forgot to bring any painkiller.

We drove to the airport in the snow after 0645. Police escort. The drive from the armory to GSP took at least an hour and a half, when normally it would take approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Snow was really sticking on the highway. We sat at the airport (on the busses) for about an hour, then we offloaded into the airport facility, checked our ID's and dogtags, and prepared to mount the airplanes.

Then we waited for another hour. Then our pilots were sent to a hotel. So we remounted the busses, went to the nearest armory (not our homestation) and offloaded our personnel onto their drill hall floor. 45 minutes later, we remounted the 2nd and 3rd busses (the first bus had headed back to it's home station for something) and sent those two busses back to our armory. The flight had been cancelled. Another 15 minutes, we loaded up the first bus (after cleaning up the guest armory) and went back to home station.

We arrived back at our home armory about 1400, and remained in lockdown.


Today, 2 February, 2007, we woke up at 0430. I slept on a military cot last night, and it was WORSE than sleeping on the cement drill hall floor, oddly enough. Just like yesterday, I rolled up my sack (I know better how to work with the sleep system, modular, now) brushed my teeth, shaved. Chow at 0500, 0615 formation and we loaded up the busses. 0645 we departed for the airport.

By 0915 we were in the air, despite heavy fog, and headed for Gulfport, Louisiana.

"Be Flexible" the 1st Sgt. told us on the very first day. He's a really good 1st Sgt. He does not permit BS on our side, but he protects us from a lot of BS coming down. When he says do it, he's cut out all the extra slack, and we need to do it. And the NCO's know it.

This company is Hooah. I'm glad I'm back.