Monday, February 23, 2009

Ranger Birthday

Well first lets get the big news out of the way! This past Friday I officially received the news that I have got my official Ranger School date:March 23. After nearly 15 years of perceiving Ranger school as a fictional land where the impossible happen, the world has flipped upside down and now I am finally getting my shot. All told I have a mixture of excitement and understanding heading into the trial. I have listened to so many people talk about Ranger that in the end I finally just want to go and be done with it all! It is really hard living your life with a cloud like that over your head.

The other big news is that tomorrow morning we head out to the field for our culminating event: Leader Forge. A 9 day straight FTX (field training exercise) that will see us operating out of FOB Leader conducting full spectrum operations (fancy army term for constantly doing stuff!) Once that is complete we begin out processing and graduate March 12th. If you want to come down and check out the ceremony you are more than welcome.

And to sum up is a picture/commentary that sums up the past three weeks.

This is FOB leader. A simple 500 meter square clearing with 8 tents that are lined with white insulation foam to keep in the heat. 20 men per tent, you do the math= Home sweet home. This is our platoon preparing to depart for the ruck march.
We spent a full week training for Urban operations. This is a fire-team practicing entering and clearing a room in our "shoot house".

This is the shoot house from the top. Note the concrete blocks that can be exchanged to make different rooms, kind of like a large rat maze. We practiced shooting at close range in tight rooms. Very intense but very important in the current fight.
This is our platoon doing what it does best "sit around and BS while we wait for hours on end". Inge is the guy on the right. A combat vet, he is a big source of common sense, experience, and overall humour.
This is Tim Mussack looking out of the window of the training house that we occupied for five days.My roommate Brian Varns. Part of the IBOLC course requirement is completing a series of footmarches ranging from 4 to 12 miles (with a 60 pound pack and weapon). Varns decided to wear the wrong pair of boots on the 10 mile march and ended up creating massive blisters on the front pads on his feet. He had to be taken out for several days after the medics decided to cut the entire blister off. Not fun.
While most of our time is spent sitting around, we occasionally get to do something really cool. This is yours truly preparing to detonate a claymore mine. What a Job!
The good time with explosives continued as we learned how to prepare C4 (plastic explosive) line charges. Instead of laying ours out, my platoon decided to lump all the explosives together.
The result was a meter deep crater that we were all really proud of!
We also created breaching charges to blow away doors. This is a silhouette charge that uses DET cord to cut a man size hole into a door.
LT Hanft. This is the result of a 12 mile road march complete with full kit. That is all salt residue on his face.
This past weekend was a real treat (no pun intended) as I got to surprise my mom for her birthday by flying out to Texas! It was amazing just to relax, eat good food, and run with the dogs. I only hope the rest of the world could have such an amazing family!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

High Explosives

Once again I have let my blog get back logged as we have been out in the field for the past 4 to 5 weeks. Each week has been focused on different areas of tactics, procedures, and skills.

Last week was focused on operating in an urban environment. 90% of our time was focused on simply waiting for something to happen. However, that 10% of action was some of the best training I have had to date. The attached video shows the product of our demolition classes.

The first door shows a line charge. The charge is about 6 feet long and consists of 6 - five foot long pieces of det cord that is taped together. It is used to blow the hinges off doors. The second door represents a shaped water charge. Two bags of saline solution are taped between a coil of det cord. This creates a blast the focuses the water into a steel (or in our case concrete) door that effectively concaves the door and allows an entry team to easily pass through. The third door is by far the coolest. Two silhouettes (a silhouette is a human shaped target for target practice) that are lined with det cord that is designed to cut instantly a human sized hole into a wooden door. Very cool techniques for getting through doors.

Unfortunatly I can't fit the other video because it is to large. However, we also learned to utilize C4 (a form of plastice explosive) by creating line charges that effectively made our own mini-bombs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

4 Stars and A long Week

I went against my better judgement this past week and decided to leave my camera in the field. We spent the past five days completely in the elements. The intent was to prepare for platoon live fires accompanied with mortars. However, as usual, my platoon was selected out of 16 others in the company to be reviewed by the current commander of U.S. Army Training Command. 4 Star General (and entourage) Dempsey decided to review our daylight platoon attack. Unfortunately our Cadre was also responsible for the entire range, so instead of having time to actually train, we spent hour upon hour rehearsing one battle drill and then essentially sat in a field for the rest of the week.

The week wasn't a complete loss however, as in the last day of training, I was able to volunteer to call in a fire mission of eight 81mm mortars on a hilltop/tank position. This was the first time I have ever completed an actual call for fire mission using live ammunition. By far the coolest experience of the week.

Last week was much more relaxed. We focused on using our machine guns and even on Friday we had a family/friends Machine gun range. For an hour or so, we were told we could bring anyone out to the range to see what we do, to fire the machine gun, and most importantly bring food to replace the usual MRE for lunch.

Several of the guys in my platoon have large families. This is LT Shandy and his daughter who kept her hands on her ears the entire time the machine guns were firing.

Drew Sorge (Upper Left) is a good friend that I met working in Ft. Lewis, Washington. His girlfriend Kali is experiencing her first time firing the M240B machine gun.

This is my platoon, cold, tired, and yes...bored.
The best part of MG day, rack out time while the cadre deal with the wives, girlfriends, and the kids.
Last week wasn't all rosey however. As part of our certification to complete the Army Combatives Level 1 program, our company had to complete the "Clench" drill. The drill is designed to teach individuals to protect themselves from a punching enemy while closing the distance between fighters and "wrapping up" with the opponent so that the aggressor can no longer punch the defender. During my last bought, I had a pretty tough boxer type land a stiff uppercut to my jaw that actually made me see stars. It has taken nearly a week to be able to close my jaw.
This upcoming week is going to be tough. We have a 10 mile road march, squad tactical evaluation lanes, and 9 total days in the field. Fortunately, I get to look forward to heading back to Raleigh for my Birthday in two weeks!