Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving

I got a chance to run over to Texas for Thanksgiving which was a great way to relax before beginning Infantry Officer school! I got a chance to relax, run with the puppies and eat some delicious home made food!Mom was especially glad I was back. We basically used the whole bag of treats to get Emme and Winston (The two puppies) to finally stay still.
How can you say no to that?
My sister Megan and I enjoying the amazing Crystal...that I was forced to use.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Finished with Sill

The last 3 weeks of BOLC II went by surprsingly fast. We spent all three weeks in the FOB and slowly escalated our tempo from the "crawl" of simple training missions to full spectrum 24 hour operations (fancy army term for doing stuff non-stop)

The following pictures show the basic elements of assaulting structures in an urban environment. Entering a hostile room is by far one of the most dangerous thing a soldier can do in combat. We were just learning the basics, but even in practice you quickly learned that what we were learning was incredibly difficult.

This team has just breached a door and is assaulting through the "fatal funnel", the section of the door where most team members are likely to be hit coming through.















This is a portion of my squad working on "pie" drills. Moving down hallways and enclosed spaces while covering each team member in a 360 degree arc.














Climbing stairs adds another difficult dimension to urban assault operations. This is a team trying to move up stairs while covering 360 both vertically and horizontally.



















video

My buddy Micah Pawlata preparing to dismount the truck and assault Liberty City, the simulated town in Fort Sills range.

My squad just dismounted and is pulling security before the initial assault. My roommate Jeracka is our squad leader and gets the pleasure of humping the radio on his back.

This is FOB Kelly. Our home for 3 weeks. The little white buildings are "safety sheds". Small steel reinforced concrete structures that are designed to withstand tornados. If you look in the right hand corner in the distance is the clam-shell gym that was off limits because a tornado picked up a connex and launched it into the gym. Home sweet home.


Life wasn't all bad. We at least got a great view during sunset.


To finish the cycle our cadre auctioned of "pie your cadre in the face" tickets to raise money for local charities. This is our 4th platoon cadre SSG Cleason, who is freshly pied.

Overall BOLC II was just another "check the block" assignment for me. I didn't learn a whole lot, but I certainly appreciate the friendship that I have made and that I will keep throughout the Army. As of now I am back in Fort Benning, GA and I am preparing to start Infantry Officer Basic, which I hope will bring the challenge that I am looking for!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

They give you real bullets here

This past week has a busy combination of boredom and quasi-excitement as we spent 5 days in the "Field". Technically, we lived out of a fortified compound (FOB). Right now we have been preparing to reach combat status so our focus have been shooting live ammunition and learning about US weapon systems.












Shooting the M-2 .50 machine gun. We only fired 15 rounds but you could definitely feel the power and recoil on the weapon.













This is the ARM (advanced rifle marksmanship) All of these LTs have live ammunition loaded. In a line standing shoulder to shoulder we were expected to conduct a series of facing movements (full range of motion) with a fully loaded weapon. It was certainly a lesson on trust because at any given movement your buddy was walking and turning right next to you.














This is my buddy LT Williams. He is prior service with at least 10 years experience. Since he was a platoon Sergeant in the 82nd, he has been a great source of experience and knowledge. He is holding "Turtle" a brand new hound puppy that belongs to one of the cadre. We are right about to set out on a convoy and he handed the little guy around.













Me and Turtle.












This is on a cliff face overlooking the land navigation course. I volunteered for an advanced trail land navigation course that our Company Commander was testing out to see if it would work effectively within BOLC II. The rest of the company conducted a normal land nav test that requires them to find 8 points, within 5 hours, in a 10 square kilometer area starting at 5 am. The 10 LTs (including me) who volunteered encountered a completely different experience. We started the course at 1 am with a 40 pound rucksack (backpack), a rifle, and Night Vision. We weren't told where we were dropped off or where any of the points where. We had 9 hours to search and locate as many points as we could within the land nav course. Once we located a point we were required to use terrain association and other techniques to accurate plot the point. This was by far the most I have ever been challenged on any land navigation course. I managed to accurately plot 18 points after nearly rolling my ankle and falling on my face about a dozen times.












We also conducted a live night fire range. This is a blurry image of what you see through PVS-14 night vision monocular.











My roommate Jeracka always throwing up the peace signs. You can see he is wearing the larger PVS-7 night vision goggles.












Boys are boys and the first night we were at the FOB my buddy Hackett and I were left to Guard some of the platoons weapons. We have everything: M-249 SAWs, M-240 MGs, M-19 grenade launchers. This pretty much sums up the heavy fire power of a light infantry unit.













This is my buddy Hackett going through berm drills. The objective is to fire accurate controlled fires while moving from behind different obstacles including berms, windows, and doors.

video

This is a video of me going through the berm drills. CPT Davis (our plat ton mentor) is the safety officer leading me through the drills.














These are my guys from 4th PLT, 2nd Squad. From the left Hackett, Ferge, and Jeracka. They are in full "kit" including Individual Body Armor (IBA), combat vest, and helmet.


This next week is going to be intense. I finally have a leadership position as Platoon Leader. My job is to make sure our platoon is on-time and in the right place for the next four days. We will be conducting Convoy live fire (shooting from vehicles) and MOUT training (how to shoot inside buildings and clear rooms). The most important thing is that I actually have a short 4 day work week. Friday the 7th is Veterans day and the start of our 4 day weekend. I am really excited because I am headed to NC to visit friends and take a break.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

We go from here

After much deliberation and prodding, I have finally come to the world of blogging. In an effort to keep in touch with family and friends (all while maintaining a little history as well) I have started this blog. I certainly hope and wish it keeps me closer to all the people I love across the country and the world.
Where to start?
Well if you have no idea about where I am or what I am doing here is the skinny. I just recently commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. I graduated from North Carolina State University in May 2008 with a bachelors degree in History. For the past 4 months I have been through the initial stages as a junior officer. For 2 months I worked at Ft. Lewis, WA as a roleplayer simulating a hostile country for ROTC cadets that are preparing to commission as officers themselves. After Ft. Lewis, I moved to Ft. Benning, GA which is my permanent duty station until I complete training.

I am in Infantry LT (Lieutenant) which means I have to complete BOLC II (7 week generic course for all officers that teaches the basics of leadership), IOBC (Infantry Officer Basic Course; 14 weeks that teaches the basics of leading a 42 man infantry platoon in combat) and then Ranger School. Currently I have been at BOLC II in Fort Sill, Oklahoma since October 5th. Once I complete training I am slated to head to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenzia, Italy.

The past three weeks have essentially been in-processing phases. Week one we filled out our basic Army paperwork (Finance, Medical...where they gave me 6 extra shots for no reason, etc) and generally sat around all day. The second week was made up of basic morning classes on how to use our equipment and weapons followed by afternoon classes of Army combatives. Army combatives are a mixture of Jiu-Jitsu and Muai Thai that focuses on defeating your opponent with grappling and ground control. This past week (week 3) was spent at the range where we qualified with our personal weapons.


This is my buddy Funderberk on the qualification range. If you look close enough you can see the small green silhouettes that pop up at ranges from 50 meters to 300 meters.



My roommate Tillman is on the left and a fellow Infantry Officer Micah Pawlata is on the right. We just got done shooting at a reflexive fire range. The range is able to show you exactly where your rounds are striking in respect to the target. The range also took under 2 hours so it was amazing (that's fast for a range)



Ft. Sill for certain hasn't been all work. The first weekend we were here the post had their very own Oktoberfest! This is Stephanie Thompson, an MI 2LT who I worked with at Ft. Lewis during the summer. The Army is all about family and this event was opportunity for families all over post to get together and have good food (the Brats were amazing), good beer and great entertainment. We are actually in a giant tent with a full band. Even the commanding general of the post was there.


We had a 3 day weekend and I got an opportunity to go to Oklahoma City. I visited the OKC Museum of Art and they not only had a Roman Art expose from the Louvre closing out that day, they also had a full installation of one of my favorite artist, Dale Chihuly. He is a master glass-blower that has creates world renowned installations all over the world.

These are just a small sample of the amazing genre of art that he has created.
















So far I continue to struggle with the problems that occur with an organization that is simply so large. Communication can and will break down. Individuals will throw in their own personal issues that often don't pertain to the whole group. Despite all the problems, however, I have been blessed with a really good platoon of people to work with for the next four weeks. My roommates Jason Jeracka and Tillman Johnson are both great guys and have made the past three weeks here go by with ease. Despite the fact that both of them are in the National Guard (which is a great source for jokes between us) we have definitely made our barracks here at Ft. Sill a 2nd home. Whatever the Army throws at you, you can be sure it will be the people around you that will either make or break you.

This is my roommate Jason Jeracka while we are riding in the back of a truck on the way to the range. Jason is a Military Intelligence Officer and is headed to Wauchuca, AZ to start MI school once we are done from Ft. Sill. He is a Connecticut Yankee with a quick wit and an absolute addiction to "Cawfee". Jason is also a fully licensed EMT and is currently working on getting onto a full time fire department back in Conn.






This is my other roommate Tillman "Tilly" Johnson. One of the most humble people you will ever meet and also one of the old guys in our platoon. He actually owns his own Barber shop and is currently on his 3rd year of Chiropractor school. Lets just say the alignment sessions we have had are phenomenal (especially because they are free!)




Right now we are currently preparing to head to the Forward Operating Base (FOB) where we will spend the next 5 days conducting FOB operations. FOBs are what the Army is currently working out of in Iraq and Afghanistan. They essentially are large fortified compounds where troops can refit, fix their equipment, and rest in between missions. A lot of us are pretty excited to get out of the boredom of garrison ops and ready to pick up the pace with land navigation and working in and out of the FOB.
Hope that gave everyone out there a little bit of a heads up on what is going on. If you have any questions or concerns don't hesitate to send something my way.