Friday, April 27, 2007

Preparing to fly out

Well, we've had our second mortar live-fire, after two or three days of dithering and scrounging up ammunition for the mortars. Our mortar section, of course, proved to be highly skilled and capable. Our night fire exercise was very impressive, leaving the OC's with, get this, NOTHING to suggest we need to "improve!" That's as rare as anything in the Army.

We've been back through SRC (Soldier Readiness Checkup) and have been issued a few extra items to take over with us. We're starting to pack stuff into our duffel bags and wonder what we're going to do with stuff we can't cram in. We have had several extra training courses that have been very beneficial, and that we're going to wish we could have had twice, or even three times.

I ran into Williams again today, and he told me that what I said to him back at the end of mortar school really encouraged him and that he really appreciated it. I hope that's a sign that I'm really doing the Lords will here.

Oh, and the supply sgt. flew out today, along with someone else in the unit. So when we get there, we should be able to draw some of the things we're still lacking. I'm still short on books, although I have plenty of Sudoku and Crosswords to keep me going. The 1st Sgt. let me read a book by Ted Dekker, a Christian novelist, and it was a lot like a Dean Koontz novel, although I didn't get a very Christian vibe from it. Nothing explicit, anyway, and given the "Christian rock bands" of my youth, I'm pretty leery of anything that's not explicitly Christian.

Gotta run, the Internet cafe' is crowded. time will be up shortly. God Bless!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Back from Block leave

So, we're back in Camp Shelby. There are things to do here and there to get ready for shipping off to Afghanistan. One very important thing we had to do was have a big parade. And we had to practice for it too, because what good is a parade without rehearsal?

That rehearsal literally took 5 hours on Friday. We also did some silly-sounding "human patch formation" thing that I'll reserve judgement on until I see the picture. After all, if it looks cool, it might have been worth it. The parade itself lasted from 1000 to about 1145 Saturday, but of course we had to be there an hour and 30 minutes early. After all, this is the ARMY. Oh, and we had to wear our body armor, helmets, and carry our weapons, although we weren't wearing the actual protective plates in the body armor (so it was essentially worthless).

I'm hearing that we will have more mortar firing exercises before going overseas, which is good. Not that we don't have our skill level where it should be, but we're to the point where you have to work at maintaining your skills. Supposedly we will also be having a PT test at some point. I hope not, since I seem to have pulled a tendon in my ankle, and it probably would hurt a good bit after a PT test.

With the laptop here, I'm able to put together slide shows for my email update list, but haven't focussed yet on preparing notes for the blog. Hopefully I'll get to that soon, but honestly, not much has happened yet.

I'll post more later.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Block leave, and the silliness leading up to it

Well, here I am at home for a week and a half, on block leave. It's good to be home and see the family. I'm also picking up the laptop that was purchased for me, getting some more music that was here at home, but not readily available to email, and getting some other essentials before we head to the big A.

The last few days before block leave, after the Mortep, were kinda silly/crazy. We had a couple of days of rest and refit combined with weapon turn-in, footmarches, and briefings. There was a good Easter service on Easter Sunday that Chaplain Darden gave. I had a chance to watch "The Ringer" and "Accepted" during this time frame, mostly because the mortar section is pretty on-top of things, and we clean our weapons and our area fairly frequently (most of us, anyway). The Ringer is pretty funny, and the source of the "When did we get Ice Cream?" quote that the others in the mortar section have been tossing off. Accepted is the source of the "Ask me about my weiner!" line, and that was pretty funny too.

The Monday before we got on the buses (a technicality, really. We got on the buses at about 11:50pm on that Monday, but weren't supposed to leave until 12:01 on Tuesday), we had a six-mile footmarch at 0500. I'm pretty sure that the purpose behind it was to get everyone sweaty so they would need to change uniforms. We were constantly told to wear "fresh ACU's and a fresh haircut" for the trip home. We were also told "no alcohol on the bus ride home" and I know some people violated that rule too.

Our six-mile footmarch was only notable for one thing: the CO somehow became motivated at the end of the footmarch and we sprinted about 400-500 meters at the end. That wasn't too bad (I've come a long way since the first footmarch back in February. Primarily I know now how to adjust the IBA so it isn't excrutiatingly painful on my shoulders), and I only ended up with one blister, on my outside left ankle. About an hour later we turned in our weapons and other sensitive items at the company CP.

Now that I have the laptop, I should be able to update the weblog pretty regularly, either at Camp Shelby, or in Afghanistan, as long as I have access to some kind of internet. I'll also be able to think more about what I'm gonna write, so things shouldn't be as disjointed in the future. Up until now, I've sat down with a time limit, and just written what came to mind as I went through. With the laptop, I'll be able to format my thoughts and get things down before I actually post. Let me know if you don't think the quality of the posts goes up, because in that case I can use the spare time for other stuff.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Back from MORTEP

MORTEP went well. Our unit is well trained, we function well as a team, and we have high morale. Our NCO's are adept at their jobs, and they are willing to spend the extra time it takes to train us in doing tasks that are a pay grade above what we currently are assigned. Because, as Aunt Abigail knows, everyone is "One Bullet Away" from taking that next level job.

Unlike with 11-C school, we got to actually fire the rounds that went through our guns this time (at MORTEP) and so we got a much better feel for how skilled we are at our tasks. And it turns out, we're pretty good at what we do. My confidence level in our unit has increased again. In addition, I've heard that our line platoons are exceeding expectations while on the ARTEP, as well.

While in the field, we slept ON THE RANGE. Not in a FOB, not in a tent city, but on the back of our Humvees. This wasn't actually too bad, if you prepared properly for being in the field (which I did). We had rain the first and second days, and cold weather the third day. In all, it was ugly, but I was pretty well prepared with cold-weather and wet-weather gear, so it worked out pretty well for me. Everyone was able to find a relatively comfortable place to sleep, and although a couple of people ended the exercise with a lower-GI problem, we were mostly okay.

Now we only have a few days left before we get some pre-deployment leave, towards which we are all looking eagerly.