Archive for July, 2008


Nothing’s easy

I’m really feeling worn out. I want to go home. I want to feel like a regular person again.
This whole process has been quite tough on me, even though the people that I’m in training with seem to think it’s easy for me.

Living with 50 other people in a bay for the last 3 months, people that are younger and of diiferent backgrounds, the control of virtually every aspect of my life, from what I can wear, to how I must stand while I’m speaking is difficult for me. It’s not an easy transition when you’ve spent 36 years of your life doing things a certain way. I’m certain that if I were to ask my instructors and platoon sergeants about my performance, they would say that I’m doing well. But my fight is on the inside, like it’s alsways been I suppose.

There are times I want to walk away. Go back to wearing jeans, and serving coffee or doing something simple. At heart, I’m a philosopher. I know that once all of this is over, the training that is, I can go back to my life, do what I want after work etc. But for now, I miss my daughter and my friends and laughing. Things that used to interest me, don’t do so anymore. It’s day to day right now.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, always expecting to be the best, which creates internal tension. It serves me well in most instances, but I find that I wear down in situations that require mental endurance. I need to learn how to pace myself. This is quite a long process; 4 months of 8 hrs a day classes–intense physically and mentally– not to mention Basic and possible deployment. The idea of deployment doesn’t bother me. I’ll be doing my job and be treated like an adult, unlike here.

I was reading an article in Men’s Health on how Navy SEALS are trained to handle stress. One of the things that they teach is to place the team first, which removes a SEALS attention from his own problems, and gives a psychological boost when he knows he’s helped someone else. I’ve used this technique several times, and it works, no doubt.

Today, I read a quote from Ernst Junger, famed WWI veteran and a man who was bestowed virtually every literary prize there is by his German homeland. He said: “What ever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and whatever kills me makes me incredibly strong.” His book, “Storm of Steel” chronicles Junger’s experience in WWI and how he was able to channel his rage and energy, to actually feed off the war and make himself stronger by it. Some left-leaning people hated him for his view that the war made him better, but no one challenged his literary abilities.

The only thing that can keep me going is to think the way Junger did.


The Army needs to refine its physical training methods

As it stands now, the Army’s physical fitness test uses pushups, situps, and a 2 mile run as its measure. The morning physical training used to get soldiers up to speed in these areas, primarily focuses on these areas, which is fine if one’s premise is that pushups, situps and a two mile run are a good measure of a soldier’s battlefield readiness.

I propose that they are very poor measure of readiness. I also propose that there are training protocols which take less time, are more effective, and more beneficial to the health of the soldier.

The Army places a high value on cardiovascular fitness, thus the emphasis on long runs. However, when one looks at recent, and some not so recent science, we find that interval sprints are probably more effective in quickly building cardio/endurance than distance running is, particularly when we are looking at fairly “short-long” runs like two miles. Take a look at the Tabata study, which proved to Japanese scientists that intense interval sprints were the most effective way to build endurance.

Additionally, by using sprints instead of long runs in a training protocol, we can increase our anaerobic capacity, something aerobic training does not do. This means we can go at high intensity for longer. It also allows us to maintain muscle mass as well as strength. It can be very difficult to maintain strength when using long runs in training.  

Interval sprints are not for the meek. They hurt. But to me, I much prefer their results and the short term pain to long, laborious runs.

There is hope here for the Army. Recently, the Army instituted “60/30s”, or 60 meter sprints intervalled with 30 meters of walking. Also, our First Sergeant uses interval sprints in the training here at C Company, Fort Huachuca, and many people have had personal best times in their two mile runs, despite the high altitude.

Were I to design a training regimen for the Army, I would include more Battlefield PT, like Fireman’s carries for long distances, as well as exercises that build strength more than the pushup does. Pullups are the supreme upper body movement, in my opinion. Also, partner assisted pushups, with the partner pushing down on the exerciser’s back. The basic movements, with more tension on the muscle and with the PT leader using minor variations of the movements would make for a more battle-ready soldier. One-legged squats would be good for the lower body. The sit-up is still a good movement for the abs, as studies show that muscular endurance in the midsection in more important than absolute strength in reducing frequency of injuries.


My Quest for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge

Today I signed up to participate in an event which could earn me the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge. It is the only foreign badge awarded by the US Army and is highly sought after.

There are several events which I must pass through. I will be judged according to my moral and physical standards. The Sergeants here will evaluate my general performance here as a soldier, and then I will take part in a pentathlon-like series of athletic events. 2 mile run, 100m sprint, shot put, pistol shooting, first aid test, long jump, 16 mile ruck-march wearing 22 lbs, and high jump. The events will be spread out over several days. All of them are judged on a bronze, silver, gold scale with age adjustments.

Hopefully I have time to study up on the first aid portion. The Combat Life Saver 1 and First Aid test are part of it, which means I could be asked to do a saline lock ( IV). I was trained and had to do one in Basic, but I could use A LOT more practice.

Everyone say a prayer for me. I’m gonna do my best….


McCain’s rejected op-ed; Obama’s ignorance of matters military

I wonder what would have happened if McCain’s recent write-up, sent to the op-ed grave yard by New York Times editors, along with hundreds of high school student’s essay submissions about world peace, would have been about the horrors of Gitmo, or unstable and murderous soldiers returning from Iraq. Pretty sure it would have made the cut.

Check out his article, submitted to CNN by McCain’s campaign:

He’s dead on in his analysis. And nothing that Barak Obama sees in Baghdad will change his mind about America’s near-future role there. The left will go on for decades about what the current administration has done wrong, and to them, any answer that involves the military is wrong. Mr. Obama and his wife have been nicely insulated from every form of reality. This is not really a slam so much as a fact. Big, liberal colleges are the perfect place to find refuge from reality. Theory, theory, theory. Theory is so much fun. Reality hurts, and it hurts more when you’re not accustomed to it.

Obama spouts the same Democrat line. How is he different? He’s Jimmy Carter in boxer shorts.

The Democratic candidate does have a skill, though it’s a cheap skill, easily honed, or at least too easily appreciated. He has the ability to make people believe that there are easy answers, and that things can get done without any pain at all. And people so want to hear that. Anyone can fall victim to the “take a pill and make it go away” syndrome. Certainly no one wants to hear that sometimes you may have to bludgeon entire cultures into pulp and rubble in order to make them stop attacking your own culture. But sometimes you do.

Fortunately, most of the NCOs in the military are closely associated with reality. Maybe a little too so–I wish they’d relax a little. But better that, than an entire country dance away to Byzantium, only to watch thousands of innocents perish in a flash.

Sorry, but Obama’s way is the lazy and easy way. The way to get cheap votes from those people who are outraged by the terrorist’s only friend: The TV camera.

There’s no cheap way out of this. We should learn from our war in 1993 with Iraq: Pay now and up front, or pay later and in spades.


The media’s unceasing war on America

If only the media displayed the same strength of will in fighting murderous jihadists as it does in fighting America, our battle would be all but over. The columnists with bachelor’s degree and fuel-efficient cars have a point to make, and darn it, if it means that Americans don’t have to know the WHOLE truth, well it’s all good because in the modern day journalist’s mind–America must pay for her sins.

Afghanistan is now back in the news. Not surprisingly, it’s because 9 soldiers, bravely serving in the WORLD-WIDE fight against extreme Islam, died when their firebase was attacked along the Afghan border.

See the story here:

The administration had better have learned from the dreadful decisions it made in Iraq, all because it was afraid of media backlash. In the Battle of Fallujah, US troops were sent to pacify the city which in 2004 was a terrorist stronghold. The troops battled, door to door, alley to alley, slowly pushing the insurgents out, and killing those who refused to surrender or make an escape.

But then, our saviors, those self-righteous key-board warriors, began noticing how brutal things were in Fallujah. ‘Look at Imperial America, slaughtering these poor Terrorists….” So Bush did what he’s been prone to do thoughout his administration: Listen to people who will hate him no matter what he does. He pulled US troops out of Fallujah, ordering that they stop their advance through the city–all to make people who have no true understanding of military matters, happy.

And Americans died because of it.

The second battle of Fallujah, a microcosm of the second invasion of Iraq, manifested the effort to clean up the mess we’d left, because we were afraid that our cleaning job would not be clean at all. But war is not clean. It’s the dirtiest business there is.

The second time, US Marines upped their tempo, smashing the insurgents before the media could shed a tear for the poor homicidal theocrats.

And that’s what we must do in Afganistan. As we remove troops from Iraq, which will begin happening sooner then people think, we must increase our troop levels in Afghanistan. I say this as a person who will very likely be deployed within 6 months of leaving Ft. Huachuca in November.

If we are to win, we must be untiring, unceasing–a juggernaut whose wheels are slick with the blood of terrorists. There is no place for them to hide. No place they can plot forever–that is what they must know and that is what America must guarantee.


I’m tired

I know this blog hasn’t had much to do with political realism lately, but I don’t watch TV here, and I don’t have much time to follow politics right now. They’re running the crap out of me in morning PT (6 miles yesterday),and making me do pushups and situps til my eyes bleed. to top things off, last night I had to do CQ duty between 2300 and 0100 hrs. 4 hours of sleep. That’s it. And tomorrow, I have my Airborne qualify run–5 miles in 40 minutes. After that, I have to present my briefing on Mullah Mohammed Omar. AND, in the afternoon, I’m having four wisdom-teeth pulled. Beer and Percocet anyone?


Running at 5200 Ft. above sea level is bad…

Today I ran with the Airborne training cadre. The Airborne training is significantly more difficult than the regular PT, which is done every week-day morning.

The runs that I’d done up to this point have been at a moderate pace, and many of them have included sprints, which I excel at. Today though, while running with Airborne for the first time, something happened to me that has never happened to me before: I stopped running and walked for a short distance to catch my breath. I was pissed off at myself. The thin air really got to me because of the pace that was being set by the captain leading the run. The people at the very front of the pack have been here for at least a month, some more.

I finished the run in the first half of the group, but still felt disappointed. Last week though, we had our first PT test at AIT. I was the only soldier in the platoon to score a perfect 300, and my run was a personal best 12:09 two mile. I managed 79 pushups and 78 situps in two minutes, so no change there from my test at Basic.

I do wonder how long I can keep up my numbers, with age rolling on like a freight train.

At the end of our run today, we stood in formation, happy to be done with the tortuous run. Soldiers were high on endorphins, smiling and joking. A silence washed across us all when the captain, standing in front of us, a dull smirk on his mouth and slowly scanning our ranks, announced: “I don’t play favorites–I hate all of you equally. Tomorrow will be hell, and everyone here had better be here tomorrow.”

The laughing stopped.


My AIT reading list

I’m keeping a log of books that I finish while here at Ft. Huachuca.

First week: Robert Heinlein’s classic and controversial book, Starship Troopers. Heinlein was a Navy Officer so he understood the ins-and-outs of military life. This book may have more action, wise philosophy and political insight than any book ever published. So anyone who says Sci-Fi is shallow, must not have read this. The kicker is that it was written in 1959, for adolescents, and it holds its own against the best military Sci-Fi today.

Second week: I’ve got two going now. Ralph Peter’s, Wars of Faith and Blood, a collection of his articles written from early 2006 through 2007. Also, Blackhawk Down by Mark Bowden, chronicling the true story of two Blackhawk helicopters shot down in Somalia in 1993 during UN attempts to relieve the suffering caused by civil war. The book set the pace for Bowden’s future as an award-winning writer.


Considerations on relationships

Yesterday I was at the mall and stopped into the bookstore. One of the new releases is a book by Oliver North documenting the Iraq War and his visits there. It’s a hard-cover book with many high-quality photos.

As I flipped through the pages, one photo struck me, reminding me of others like it that I’ve seen. It showed a soldier sitting on his couch with his beautiful wife. The soldier had suffered severe burns from an explosion while on deployment. His mouth appeared stretched to a permanent smile and his skin was pink and mottled. His arms too had suffered severe damage; scaly and reddened.

At first I felt sad for the soldier. I thought of the numerous times that he must have heard how dangerous his tour would be, all of the stories he’d heard about other soldiers being killed or maimed. What did he think of his chances when he was deployed? When the heat and force of that explosion rocked his convoy or foot patrol, what went though his mind as the dust settled and the screams of his comrades slowly gathered into coherant voices.

But that sadness was replaced by a greater one. As I stared at the photo, the juxtaposition of the burned soldier and the very pretty wife hit me. She was smiling an unforced smile and she sat very close to her husband, holding his arm and looking very comfortable.

She loved her husband despite his viscious injuries and freightening appearance.

It saddened me, because it now seems second nature for me to assume people won’t stay together. People will split apart because of the slightest problems, or because they think they can do better–their own vanities grabbing them and carrying them down terrible roads.

But here was a couple who had stayed together, through an ordeal which would shake anyone. Yes, they may split in the future, but as I said, the woman’s body language showed nothing but love for her husband.



I’ve arrived at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. It’s the headquarters for the US Army’s Intelligence school. I really like what I’ve seen so far, and my esprit de corp has improved 100%. We’re being treated well, the food is good (and free), and the high mountainous terrain is a welcome change from the humid condition of June in SC.

The running is a little tougher here, with the fort being situated approx. 5200 ft. above sea level. This seems to be a real problem for some, but for me it seems to be offset by the low humidity, which allows my body to rid itself of heat more efficiently.

I’m feeling really motivated now, and am happy to report that the Army helps its soldiers when they need it. Anything that’s wrong, and they’ve got someone you can speak to about your issues, be they medical, financial or legal.

Yesterday, there was a brigade (!) run of about 4 miles, and the Colonel gave the whole brigade a speech afterwards, reminding us of the rules on the long 4th of July weekend. He also told us how important we were to the Army and our country, which can ill afford to lose its soldiers to drunken dumb-assery.

Officially, classes don’t start until July 7th, so I’ve got the weekend to recover from the past two months.

Hope everyone has a great 4th. Be safe and smart…

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