Monday, November 29, 2010

Saying Good-Bye is Never Easy (Korea) Day 0

Today started off like every other day for the past couple of weeks…sleeping in with my wife by my side. The only thing different was that I knew this would be the last time for a while that this would happen. I had a nice breakfast made for me by my beautiful wife, then I just kind of hung out for a while taking it easy. For lunch I had an awesome pizza from Papa Murphy's called the "bacon bacon bacon" pizza. With that kind of name you cannot go wrong!

We did all my laundry and then started getting everything out of my bags so I could re-pack it. I laid it all out and then had to carefully pack everything I could into my duffle bag, my luggage bag and my laptop bag. After a couple of times pulling things out and re-arranging I was able to get about 95% of everything I wanted in them. I made sure I had my orders and all my paperwork that I needed in my carry on bag (the laptop bag).

After some tearful goodbyes to my wife's family I headed over to visit my mom and sister before we headed to the airport. My mom and sister gave me some comfort candy to take with me on the plane :) (they know me too well). We left there about 7:30 to make sure I had plenty of time to get to the airport which is about an hour away. Even though the flight out is at 3:00 AM, I had to arrive and check in six hours in advance. I'm sure there is a reason for this, but it just seems like some more "hurry up and wait" that seems to be the army's motto. At the very end of the check-in terminals is where everyone for the chartered military flight was checking in. For the most part it was very similar to any other check-in only I needed to show my orders and they had to check me off a list. They took my bags and weighed them, then we were off to the gate. My wife was able to get a pass to the gate, then came and hung out with me for about three hours. That was a great surprise. I wasn't sure how far they would let her go because of security and such.

Saying good-bye was tough. I hate that so much. It kills me to see my wife cry and there is nothing I can do to fix it. It's times like these when I wonder again "Why did I join the army?".

Right now I'm still in the terminal at 1:27AM with a guy who is also a 25B heading to Korea. I went to basic with him (a terminator) and he also of course went to AIT with me at Fort Gordon. Nice to see a familiar face. There are people laying about the terminal trying to catch a little sleep before the flight. There are mostly military personnel, but there are also dependents flying as well. The flight is going to be long, hopefully I can get quite a bit of sleep while on the plane.

Journey Into The Unknown (Korea) Day 0

The past couple of weeks have been awesome. Once I was out-processed from Fort Gordon, I spent the Veteran's Day four day weekend in Augusta with my wife which was nice. We then flew back home on different flights. Besides growing a pretty impressive beard, the two weeks after that were spent visiting friends and family. It's strange because it felt like both a long time, but too short. We pretty much had every day planned out on who we were going to see and spend time with. I am so grateful that I was able to spend thanksgiving with my kids and my extended family. We had lunch with my wife's family and then dinner with mine. I ate entirely too much food!

Each day that would pass would bring me one more day closer to leaving. It can get a little depressing thinking about being away from everyone again for so long. Dropping my kids off on the ferry to head back to their mom's house was especially emotional. We were running late to the ferry, so we had to kind of rush our good-byes. While watching them walk up the ramp and on to the ferry I felt like I got punched in the stomach. I almost broke down and cried right then and there. This has to be the absolute worst part about being in the army…the time away from my wife and kids. I really hate that. Tomorrow I will be dropped off to the airport and will have to say good-bye to my wife which will be unbearably tough as well. I'm not looking forward to that at all. We've already had a few emotional moments just thinking about it.

Tomorrow I will begin my journey into the unknown. I'll be leaving to South Korea. A country that is still technically at war with North Korea. North Korea has been in the news lately too, they recently sunk a South Korean naval ship and just in this last week North Korea rained down artillery on a small South Korean island killing and injuring marines. China is now getting involved and hopefully things will calm down. Other than the seemingly unstable communist neighbor to the north I've heard good things about being stationed in South Korea. People that have been there tell me that it's a lot of fun. I've also heard the shopping is great…although I'm not a big shopper.

I will be spending tomorrow getting all my clothes washed and packed. I'll go over my list of required items and make sure they're packed in my carry on. I'll also be copying some movies and other items from my home computer to my portable drive. I'll be trying to bring everything I'll need for a year…right now it's hard to even fathom. I will then head to the airport and get there by 9PM which will be a little over six hours before my flight out. I'll be in civilian clothes and I'll be checking in two bags with everything that I'll need for a year. I'll be in South Korea soon and then I'll be starting the post-training portion of my time in the army. Right now I'm scared…I'm excited…I'm depressed. I am a bag of mixed emotions.

Now that my leave is over I'll also be updating this journal a bit more. I'll be doing the writing, but I'm not sure how long it will take before I have internet again, so it may be a few days before I can get the updates posted.

Wish me luck….

I wish you the best of luck as well as the best of everything else.  I have been tracking your progress since the beginning and have been extremely grateful for all that you've shared.  My 18-year old son started basic at Ft. Benning around the time you were leaving there and your writings have been very insightful to me, and I can't tell you how much I appreciated them.  You assisted me in my quest to become a knowlegeable and good soldier's Mom.  I shall keep you, your wife and children and all your families (yours, your wife's and your Army family) in my daily prayers as you begin this new journey as a well-trained brave American soldier.  "Thank you" are two very small words but filled with an overflow of gratitude for you and all soldiers in all branches of the military.  Do take care.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 05:48 AM

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Graduation Photos (AIT - Fort Gordon)

I’m currently on leave enjoying time with friends and family. I thought I would post some pics from graduation day. I plan on resuming the blog once I am finished with leave and head to Korea.

I was the first one up so they could announce the distinguished honor graduate
and tell all about what it is and how I earned it.

I then had to stay at the center of the stage after receiving my certificate
while more was read about me and the distinguished honor graduate.

Formed up outside getting ready to shake hands with all the brass

Our company commander (the lady) shaking hands with us.

Sergeant Kent (a.k.a. daddy...a.k.a. The Rock) with all of his boys
that lived at RBK at some point.

Me and my lovely wife

Me, the young Hawaiian, and PFC Metal

Last picture with some of the guys from Charlie before I sprinted up and
and changed clothes to get the heck outta here!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

AIT Conclusion (AIT - Fort Gordon)

AIT has been both a rewarding and trying experience for me. 

School ... I studied my butt off for some classes and coasted through others. I am very excited that my hard work paid off and I was able to graduate at the top of my class. Everything is rushed compared to a normal college class. They squeeze quite a bit of information into a short period of time, so make sure you don't fall asleep or miss too many days of class.

I would really suggest a laptop and internet access. It will definitely help for school and some of the other online courses you may need to take while in AIT. If you don't have a laptop you will need to visit the library or education center and use their computers. Not only was a laptop good for school, it also became a main source for entertainment. It's hard to rely on being able to watch what you want to on a day room TV, plus if you're in the day room right in the middle of a show or a movie, a sergeant can walk in at any time and ruin it for you. On my laptop I was able to watch a number of movies and TV shows in the relative privacy of my own room. Everyone seems to have an incredibly large library of movies that they share so it's pretty easy to find something to watch.

I would strongly suggest (especially for the younger kids) enrolling in one of the savings plans that the army has to offer. It's kind of like a 401k for soldiers. Pick a percentage of your money to go in one of these plans and forget about it. Let it grow and you won't even miss the money because it comes out of your check before you even see it. AIT makes it very easy for you to spend your money. I witnessed a lot of guys running out of money before their next paycheck would come. Be careful and make sure to only spend money when you need to. 

Try your hardest to let the stupid things roll off your back. There are going to be a whole mess of NCOs that don't give a damn about you. There some that care about the soldiers that they are in charge of, but they seem to be few and far between. I know it can be frustrating for them dealing with a bunch of kids right out of high school, but it was also very frustrating for me being treated like a kid. Privates in general here get treated like crap. This even goes for the army civilians on post. They treat the privates like crap because they know the privates can't do a thing about it. This can wear on you after 6 months of AIT and it was one of the things I hated the most about this experience.

It also gets tiring dealing with NCOs who need to have their egos stroked. You'll run into sergeants all the time that like to yell at privates just for the heck of it. I guess it makes them feel better. PFC Metal swore they had a quota kind of like cops and speeding tickets. Every NCO needs to get so many good yellings in each day to meet their quota. 

One of the great things about AIT however was the fellow soldiers. You bond with other soldiers that you live with this whole time. You are all going through the same crap every day. You'll make friends and these friendships will help with all the other negative things that seem to pile up during AIT. I have a lot of fond memories of all the funny and crazy things we all did together.


Congrats Distinguished Honor Grad!  I've been reading your blog for sometime now.  It's a great resource for those thinking about becoming a Soldier.  Keep up the good work at your next assignment and throughout your career in the Army -- you've chosen an honorable profession.

2LT Hunter

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 11:25 AM

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Graduation (AIT - Fort Gordon) Day 146

Right after graduation we formed up outside. I'm on the
left with two of the honor graduates to the right.

Today is graduation day…wow it's kind of hard to believe after all this time here, that I will be finished soon. The morning started off with the PT formation as usual. This time however, we were asked if we wanted to donate blood instead of doing PT. It's for a good cause and I wasn't feeling very motivated after the waste of time last night so I thought I would volunteer for it. I found out that because of my smallpox shot and because I've received a tattoo in Georgia within the last year, that I was ineligible to donate. So instead of donating blood I ate breakfast. Because I finished before the PT formation came back I was able to take a nice long hot shower as well…this day is going to be a good day!

I had a final out-processing brief at 9:00 in the morning. It lasted a couple hours, we had to show that we had all the required forms filled out and we also received our travel itinerary. It's starting to finally feel real that I'll be leaving here soon! Those who didn't have all their forms, or need stuff fixed were given until 15:00 to get it all done and then get it back. Mine was good to go, so I was able to get signed out.

We then had graduation practice at noon, so we marched over to our battalion HQ. Practice started off pretty rough. It seemed nobody including myself could get the timing down and the movements right. I ended up being the "distinguished honor graduate" because I was the top of both our classes that were graduating. This had me being first in line and leading everything. We ran through the process over and over again until about 14:30 when we had a break until 14:45. The ceremony began at 15:00 and went pretty well. There were only a few mistakes such as the sergeant mispronouncing a couple of the honor graduates names. He messed up one so bad it took everything I had not to bust out laughing. The ceremony started off with a couple of speeches and then had me going up to the front of the stage after a short video showing what signal soldiers are. Once there, the sergeant read off what the distinguished honor graduate is and then named me off. I then shook hands with the top brass of our company. I received a battalion coin as well. The honor graduates (three in total) were then announced and after that each person came up in alphabetical order and in turn announced their rank, name, and where they were going. We then marched outside and a number of NCOs and other officers came through and shook our hands and congratulated us. After this we were done…finished…graduated!!!!

We were told that S1 closed at 17:00, this is the last stop of our out-processing, so PFC Metal and I hurried up to our barracks and packed everything up. Once it was all packed we were signed out of the barracks after a quick inspection of our lockers so make sure we wiped them down. We then headed to Ops to get signed out there. We had to get a few documents signed and read a safety message out loud to the NCO before he would sign our paperwork. Lastly we headed to S1 where our leave paper was signed. Free…Free…We're finally free (at least temporarily)

We went to our hotel room, I took a shower and then changed into civilian clothes. Once changed we met up with PFC Metal and his wife at PF Changs to celebrate. The food tasted better than ever. Good company, good food, good beer…a great way to end the day.

Some of the guys playing around during a break in graduation practice

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Out-processing (AIT - Fort Gordon) Day 144

Our Class A inspection in the day room. From left to right:
Shamadillo, the young Hawaiian, me, & PVT Amish

This morning I had PT…the first PT in a long time it seems. We went for a run and usually Charlie company runs are a lot easier than the RBK runs I've been used to. This time however I was pretty gassed. The run was pretty tough, there was a whole mess of people who fell out within the first quarter mile. I had to play dodge 'em for a while until they all fell out. At the middle point of the run we ran up and down a hill three times. That was the killer part of the run!

Once we got ready in the morning all the MOS-Q and inacts formed up together. All of us in my class and our sister class had an out-processing brief. Everyone else has to do TAK detail. This is basically landscaping or other "slave labor" to get what the battalion needs done. Because nobody wants to do this there are a lot of people that try to sham out of it. As we were getting ready to leave the formation the TAK sergeant looked each of us in the eye and asked if we were sure we were supposed to go to the out-processing trying to catch any liars. 

The out-processing brief consisted of us getting our actual orders and a packet with a checklist that we needed to get done before we could leave. We have to go to a number of places on base and get signed out. We have today and tomorrow (don't want to get it all done at once…then we would have to do TAK detail tomorrow…lol) Today we went to the medical clinic, vehicle registration, a few other administrative offices, transportation, the library, the dental clinic, and the education center. All of these places have to say we don't have anything outstanding and we're clear to leave. Everything went fine except for a little hiccup at the transportation office. They were going to get me a ticket out of here on Wednesday. I told them I was graduating on Wednesday and besides my wife is flying in for my graduation and she'll be here until Monday. The lady looked at me like I was crazy. She said "how can you graduate on Wednesday if you are out-processing?" I told her I have no idea…that's just what I was told. They are going to modify my ticket and I should get it on Wednesday when I out-process.

We also found out who is going to get HRAP (this is hometown recruiting where the soldier gets to spend an extra two weeks at home helping their recruiters and it doesn't count as leave) during the out-processing brief. It has been cancelled since October 1st because the army is now overstaffed, but I guess the submissions for our class were put in early enough to make it. There was one for each of our classes, but I'm not sure at all how they chose them. I always heard it was the best in the class that received it, but they chose Shamadillo the biggest shammer in our class! The guy who left Capstone because he had anger issues and felt like he would hurt himself or someone else. He was actually on suicide watch for a bit…this is the guy that they gave HRAP to. What a freakin' joke! I will be graduating at the top of my class. I've never had a negative counseling statement and I've never failed a PT test. I figured I would have been a good candidate, but what do I know…I'm just a private.

We had our Class A inspection tonight at 18:00. Everyone who is graduating this Wednesday had to get all dressed up in their Class A uniforms and have the sergeants inspect them. Like in basic training I ended up tying a lot of kids ties for them. I had lots of practice I guess, back in the day our basketball coach made everyone on the team wear ties on game days. The sergeants found stuff wrong on everyone's uniform. Lots of little things like stuff slightly off center or crooked. We all helped each other make the adjustments on the uniforms until we were all good to go. 

My wife flew in today and after a delayed flight she finally arrived tonight. She came by and visited for a while. It was so awesome to see her even though it wasn't for too long. I was able to sit in her rented car and hang out until it was time get in before bed check…I am so happy!!!

Another "action" shot in our day room during the Class A inspection

Monday, November 8, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up (AIT - Fort Gordon) Day 142 & 143

This weekend was a nice relaxing one. I slept in each day and Sunday was daylight savings time, so I gained an hour of even more sleep. I did some shopping for some basic supplies on Saturday. Pvt. Celtic picked up our Class A uniforms from the dry cleaners as well. They'll be all cleaned and pressed now for graduation.

The internet in our room is pretty horrible. I went to the library to try and get the required Korea training done, but had a heck of time even trying to get it to load on my laptop. I did however get all my journals done from the week at Capstone…lol. I then went to the library again on Sunday, but still had major issues using their computers to do the training. Me and the young Hawaiian were both having the same problem trying to get the training to even load. Finally we both just gave up and took the final test. We both failed, but you can take it again and you only have to take the missed questions. So we both took it until we passed and then printed out our certificates showing we completed it. What a waste of time!

Saturday night had a little excitement. We heard quite a bit of hollering and yelling outside the barracks. we looked out and saw a Porto Rican yelling stuff like he hates America and the army. He's so fed up with all the shit. The MPs came and eventually another guy (perhaps his buddy) was able to talk him into getting in his car and they left. I wonder what will happen to him. I guess the sergeant on desk was trying to hold him still and he was able to break free, that's when he started getting loud.

We had recall formation and it took longer than normal. The sergeant on desk said that everyone had to fill out a stupid survey or else we would be woken up at 2:00 AM to fill it out. Oh great…sometimes this place can be so stupid. I guess the formation was getting a little restless, so the PG in front told everyone to do a half right face then he told everyone to get into the front leaning rest position so he could smoke us. Sorry…I'm not going to let a little phase V private smoke me. I just walked out of the formation and grabbed one of the stupid surveys and quickly filled it out. I then turned it into the sergeant and watched him mark off my name so there was no mistake that I had turned it in.

I then headed up to the showers and took a nice long hot shower. A nice way to end the weekend. Now I'm going to be calling my wife and then turning in.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Capstone - The End (AIT - Fort Gordon) Day 141

Me and PFC Metal hanging out on the FOB

Wake up this morning was at 3:45 AM. We had formation at 4:30 AM and then breakfast. We then proceeded to turn in our sleeping bags. Once they were turned in we cleaned up our tents. After the tents were cleaned we took everything out of inventory and had to count all the items. It is so freakin' cold here. The heater was turned on in one of the girl's tents. There was always a number of people in there hanging out trying to stay warm. Even with layers of clothes on, the cold wind cuts through like a knife. A sergeant would come in and grab a number or all of the people to perform a certain cleaning task…shortly after that people would find their way back to the tent. 

We then had a shakedown to make sure nobody had any contraband. We all lined up and emptied our bags. No MRE food was allowed out, so there was a lot of people throwing that stuff away. 

10:30 - 11:45 we ate lunch out in the parking lot. They didn't want to dirty up the FOB DFAC since it had all been cleaned. After that we had some more induction ceremony practice.

13:00 Finally we had the induction ceremony. There was a lot of brass there including the colonel. When they pinned our regimental crest on us, they would ask questions like where we were heading and such and welcomed us to the signal corps. The colonel took his time and shook hands with each of us. Once that was through we were dismissed. We waited for transportation back to Charlie….so glad to be leaving this place!!

When we got back to Charlie company I took a long hot shower…I must have been in there for a half hour. It felt so good. Capstone really sucked, but I'm glad I went through and finished it. So many shammers got out of it somehow or another. I'm glad it's finally done.

We celebrated by ordering some Hungry Howie's cajun crust pizza! So good!!! Later on at night we went to Kegler's and had a few beers to celebrate finishing AIT…all we have left is the actual graduation ceremony!!!!!

PFC Metal holding all our weapons while we use the facilities.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Double Tap (AIT - Fort Gordon) Day 140

A photo of out!!

4:00 AM wake-up this morning with formation at 4:45, then breakfast. Today we left to the range to zero our rifles. It kind of sucks because it has been raining on and off all night with a sprinkle every now and then during the day. We took the bus to the range and at each station there was a big puddle of water for us to lay in. Grrrrr. When it was my turn I fired each of my three shots then went up to the target to see how I did. Unlike when we were in basic, we didn't do any adjustments to the sites. I think the cadre here just wanted to push us through…and maybe get us used to actually shooting the weapon again.

We then bussed to another range where we divided into two groups. One group would perform combat first aid on a dummy, while the other group would actual fire at pop up targets. When firing at the pop up targets we would do it from four different positions and each position we would also change which side we would shoot from, so we would shoot right and left handed. We also had a sergeant next to us screaming shoot 'em shoot 'em shoot 'em!!!! I guess all this made it seem a little more real. I did OK with my right hand, but I need some work shooting left handed. We shot kneeling, standing and sitting. 

After the range we were bussed back to the FOB where we cleaned our rifles under the clamshell. We spent a long time cleaning them too. I can guarantee that mine is much cleaner than when I received it. Anyone who took their rifle to the sergeant to check it was told it needed just a little more cleaning. I never even took mine up there because I knew no matter how clean it was…it would still need a little more cleaning. I just kept cleaning until it was time to eat dinner. 

After dinner we did some rehearsal for our induction ceremony that we will be doing tomorrow. The induction ceremony is done at the end of Capstone to induct the soldiers into the Signal Corps. We basically stand at either attention or parade rest and recite the soldier's creed, sing the signal corps march, and sing the army song. After that we get our signal insignia pinned on us.

We turned in all of our equipment except for our sleeping bags. After that we broke into groups and cleaned up different areas of FOB Dunham.

21:15 Lights Out

22:00 to 23:00 I had guard duty with PFC Metal. This time we were assigned to one of the ECP (Entry Control Points) a gate where cars can access the FOB. It has two little guard huts that we stood in and hung out for an hour until our relief came. This time I was able to go to sleep because I didn't try and go to sleep before the shift.

The young Hawaiian in full battle rattle.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Starbucks Anyone? (AIT - Fort Gordon) Day 139

The Dome - This is where the folks at FOB Dunham setup their radios
and network to talk to FOB Willard.

3:30 AM Wake up…it was early this morning and our formation is at 4:00 AM. Everyone in the brigade has to get the flu shot and even though we are on the FOB we are not an exception. We formed up and then boarded a bus that took us back to the gym next to Charlie company. (I never thought Charlie company would look so good). We had to fill out a short questionnaire then we got in line for the flu shot. Because I had the smallpox shot within 30 days I had to get another shot. The small pox vaccine is a live virus and the flu shot is given in either a mist up your nose (which has a live virus) or a shot in the arm with a needle (which does not have a live virus). Since I already had a live vaccination I had to get the shot. Most people got the spray up the nose.

We bussed back and ate breakfast at our FOB DFAC. OMG it's so freakin' cold here in the morning and at night. Everyone is dancing around because they are freezing. Even with my gloves on, my fingers are getting so cold they are going numb. The cold seems to go right through my boots as well. I guess I should've worn my winter boots, but I didn't think it would be so cold yet. It is really making life on the FOB a miserable experience. 

We did some more battle drills, then we left on our "mission". From FOB Dunham our unit left and marched down a some side roads. Our mission was to go to an "Afghanistan village" and search for a weapons cache. During the march we found an IED and reacted accordingly. Later on we were ambushed by the enemy. The enemy consisted mainly of the MOS-Ts that were part of our class. Our unit came along an IED, but nobody saw it. So the instructor said the first squad was all dead. Then a machine gun started firing. We all posted 360 degree security, but with the first squad dead we ended up having a big hole in our 360 degrees. We all ended up dying. The instructor actually said we had the distinct honor of being the worst class he's ever seen on this ambush. He was pretty pissed off. 

We regrouped and resurrected everyone for the march on to the village. We arrived to the village and it was chaos. We had a plan, but I guess it was a little too complicated for everyone. My group ended up clearing a room and the first guy went in the wrong way, I went in after him and had to go the opposite way. I ended up getting shot pretty quickly. I had to lay down and play dead in the room while listening to everything that was going on in the village. Everything was a little out of control. When it was all over the instructor said there would be some people going to jail because one person shot and killed a pregnant woman who was unarmed. Another person shot a guy in the back who was unarmed. It's a good thing this isn't our MOS or else we would all be screwed.

We were bussed back to the FOB and I jumped off at FOB Dunham while the rest of the group was taken to FOB Willard. I had my makeup appointment today, so I had to call the duty van and hope they would come pick me up this time. I ate an MRE for lunch and then waited for the duty van. 1.5 hours later I was still waiting, it was starting to look like a repeat of last time. I was wondering if the sergeant at operations even called the duty van, they seem to be put off if anyone has to leave the FOB for appointments. I guess this is because so many people try and get out of going to Capstone. As I was just about to give up hope a duty van pulled up and dropped a couple of people off. It was the brigade duty van and not the battalion duty van, but I didn't really care. It would serve my purpose so I jumped in. They gave me a ride to Charlie company where I dropped off my weapon. I then took a taxi to the hospital where I could order my glasses. I waited there for 2.5 hours! This place is so slow, but it is warm and the TV had CNN on so I wasn't complaining one bit. 

I got my glasses ordered, but found out I couldn't order any civilian glasses because I graduate too soon. This is one of those things that piss me off. I wish Ft. Gordon would give every student a list of things they need to do before they can leave. The only way I find out about half the stuff is by word of mouth from other students. I would've ordered my glasses during the software portion of our schooling because the schedule had us start so late in the day. 

No worries though, I got what I needed done and I also had a grande mocha from the Starbucks downstairs at the hospital. I got a taxi back to Charlie company (I could have called the duty van, but who knows how long it would have taken). I took a quick shower and grabbed all the cold weather gear I could find and put it all on. I then called the duty van and waited to be picked up to head back to the FOB. I had a major headache, so while I was waiting I took a crap-load of Excedrin. I was planning on giving my wife a quick call, but my phone was completely dead…bummer. 

Headed back to the FOB in time for dinner and then after some briefs and training we went to sleep. Another long day, but I feel clean and a little refreshed since I was away for about half of it. I also do not have any guard duty tonight so I should get some good sleep as well.

The young Hawaiian (left) and his battle buddy in their tent.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Another Day on the FOB (AIT - Fort Gordon) Day 138

Some of the Hummers at FOB Dunham. You can see one of the
guard towers in the background above the wall.

1:45 AM I was woken up for guard duty. I had it with a 25Q guy that was next to me in the tent. We had it from 2:00 AM to 3:00 AM. We had the roaming guard shift which had us just walk around the FOB in circles for an hour. We talked quite a bit, he seems like a pretty good guy. I slept so much better this time before the shift, but when we finished I had trouble getting back to sleep. I did relax, but never quite made it to sleep before our 4:00 AM wake up.

We ate breakfast as usual after a morning formation, then those of us heading to FOB Willard boarded the bus and headed over there. Once at FOB Willard we continued to setup our network and radio connections to FOB Dunham. I was also selected to attend a class with a real gung-ho instructor. It was a class on radios which wasn't part of my MOS, but the instructor was entertaining and he was basically trying to teach everyone to think outside the box…especially when we are in the field. It turned out to be pretty interesting. We had MREs for lunch and then did some drills such as react to contact. React to contact is basically when your formation is walking down the road and either sees the enemy or is getting attacked. Everyone gets down and performs 360 degree security, then a squad goes and destroys the enemy. Our instructor was very pleased with our performance stating that we were borderline excellent! 

We were bussed back to FOB Dunham and had dinner. We then did glass house drills as well as some more react to contact drills. Glass houses are basically rooms that everyone can gather around and see. We then practice room clearing techniques using 4 people. We bust open the door and each person has an assigned area of the room to clear. You have to make split second decisions on weather to shoot the person depending on if they are a threat or not. It was pretty comical sometimes watching some people doing this…it's a good thing this isn't really what we'll be doing as our job in the army.

The days here are so long. We get up early and go to bed late. There is also a lot of slow or down time where we just stand around, this makes time crawl by. By the end of the day everyone is pretty exhausted. Some people are still trying to get out of being here. There are two girls from the 25B classes that left because they were sick and throwing up, they left legitimately…they also had one tag along with them pretending to be sick as well. They are all gone now and will not be coming back. We also had a guy who has been called "Shamadillo" from the start of AIT because he is such a shammer. (He is the guy that fell off the top bunk when we first moved into Charlie so long ago). He requested to see the chaplain and then proceeded to tell the chaplain that he has anger management issues. He thinks he will hurt himself or others if he stays. They took his rifle away and they also sent him back to the company. It kind of backfired on him a bit because he was also stuck on suicide watch. This may end up following him for the rest of his career now…all just to get out of Capstone.

Overheard Quote: "You guys are about as useful as a turd flavored lollipop" (Our FOB Willard instructor after there was a simulated attack on the FOB)

A photo of our student 1st Sergeant (left) in Charlie Company and
the young Hawaiian (right)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

FOB Willard (AIT - Fort Gordon) Day 137

A photo of "The Clamshell" this is where we had all the formations at FOB Dunham.

4:00 AM Wake-up. It's always fun getting ready in the morning on an FTX. In basic training I actually used shaving cream, but I felt I didn't have the time to do that during Capstone. I ended up just using a baby wipe and pretty much dry shaving. Dry shaving isn't too fun, especially when you have aggressive facial hair like me. Everything else as far as personal hygiene goes is pretty easy, go outside with my canteen and brush my teeth. Back inside the tent I take a "baby wipe shower" and then pretty much sprinkle baby powder over any part of my body I can reach.

4:45 AM Formation. Anytime we leave the tent we have to be in full battle rattle. This includes our body armor, helmet, and weapon. The only exception is when we are doing personal hygiene in the morning or if we get up in the middle of the night to use the porta-potties. During these times we only need clothes on, our weapon and our patrol cap. We grouped up in our new 4 battalion groups and took role. 

6:00 AM  We lined up for breakfast which was similar to dinner last night with the MOS-T soldiers serving us food.

7:00 AM Two of our battalions are assigned to another FOB (FOB Willard) and the other two stay at this FOB (FOB Dunham). I found out that I am part of the FOB Willard group. We formed up and got on a bus that took us to FOB Willard which is about 5 or 10 minutes away…long enough for a quick nap on the bus. FOB Willard is quite a bit smaller than FOB Dunham. We ground all of our gear except our weapons when we get inside and we only put it on when we go outside of the FOB which is nice. The bathrooms are located outside the FOB so that is a bit of a pain, but they are actual bathrooms instead of porta-potties which is great! The FOB has a training tent, an operations building, and a couple of guard towers. 

At FOB Willard our battalion was given the task to setup some laptops and a radio so they can communicate with FOB Dunham. So we started this exercise which for the 25Bs was pretty simple. Setup 6 laptops from scratch with appropriate network settings. Install some drivers and configure Outlook. The router was already pre-configured as was the exchange server. The 25Qs had to setup the radio.

9:30 AM PFC Metal and I had guard duty. At FOB Willard this involves standing at the gate to the FOB (walk up only…no vehicles) and checking IDs of anyone that wants in. We had half hour shifts for this that rotated through the class. When we tried to stop and ask the MOS-T sergeant he brushed us aside and said "get the fuck out of my way" lol…well we tried.

11:00 AM We called the duty van to pick me and PFC Metal up. We both had appointments at 13:00. We then ate MREs for lunch and waited for the duty van.

12:30 Called the duty van again and then had the SFC call. The duty van said they were on their way.

14:00 We decided that we were not going to be picked up by the duty van. They either couldn't find the FOB or they decided they didn't even want to pick us up. Sucks because I need to order glasses and I can't be out processed until I have them. I will try again on Wednesday

We had cultural training for middle eastern folks and some basic rifle marksmanship training via power point in the training tent. Don't go to sleep…don't go to sleep.

We had a formation outside for accountability and then took the bus back to FOB Dunham. We had dinner which was duty food again and then did some battle movement drills. We worked on react to contact, IEDs, and buddy team movements. 

The days are long here. We get up early and go to sleep late. It's 22:00 and I have guard duty tonight from 2-3 AM. I'm sleeping with my earplugs in and my beenie pulled over my eyes. I'm hoping to get some better sleep tonight.

Overheard Quotes: "What is motivation? It's not that hooah bullshit across the road (what is done at the schools)…it's doing the right thing!"

"I fucking hate hippies! Put them all in California and let an earthquake shake them off into the sea"

"I may call you some funny names such as jackwagon, ass-muncher, or dickhole. Don't take it personally" 

(These are all from our instructor at FOB Willard, he's pretty funny to listen to)

A photo of some of the trucks parked at FOB Dunham. You can also see some
of the wall in the background...this surrounded the entire FOB.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Capstone (AIT - Fort Gordon) Day 136

These are the tents that we slept in - Even through I was unable to bring
in a camera...there were others that did and I was able to have them
send me the pics.

Slept in today for as long as possible. Today our class and our sister class leaves to an event called "Capstone". This is an FTX (Field Training Exercise) event that includes a number of Fort Gordon AIT students with different MOSs. (I call it army camping) There are 25B of course, but the majority of AIT students there are 25Q which has to do with radios and communication. There were also a few 25N and 25U series as well. It seems that all the other MOSs deal with radios, satellites and other communications, where as mine deals mainly with computers and networks. We travel to a FOB (Forward Operating Base) and have some missions we have to do. I'm not too excited for it. I kind of like taking my showers each morning and sleeping in a bed each night. Maybe I'm just too old, but I don't really care to "rough it" these days. We'll see how it goes.

13:00 we had weapons draw. Everyone takes an M16 to Capstone. I ended up getting one assigned to me that belonged to a person who wasn't going to Capstone. The original weapons were assigned at the beginning of our M3 class, but as noted earlier I never received one. There end up being a lot of people who get out of going to Capstone all together. It's not a graduation requirement for our AIT as a 25B. People all of a sudden get sick or hurt themselves so they don't have to go. I would love to not have to go, but I'm not going to go to the extreme that some go to. 

13:45 we waited on Centurion field with our packed bags. We were all given a packing list, but our roommate who had already gone to Capstone told us what we didn't need to bring on the list. So I ended up with one of the smallest bags out of everyone. I only brought the essentials.

14:30 the Capstone cadre pulled up in a big truck, came out and performed a shakedown on us all. We had to dump out our packed bags. They were looking for any contraband such as food or electronic devices. I had debated whether or not to sneak my phone in, but decided not to. I didn't know if there would be any time I would actually be able to use it.

15:00 we drove to the FOB. It's actual only about 5 minutes away from Charlie company. We actually ran by it a lot when I lived at RBK. The FOB is located on the way to Victory Hill…one of SFC Kent's favorite runs to do. Now I get to see it on the inside instead of just the big fences and the guard towers.

The base is actual built on a big parking lot. It's entirely fenced and has guard towers at each corner and at the main gate. There are speakers in the center of the FOB that play Islamic prayers throughout the day. I guess this simulates what it's like to be on a FOB in Iraq or Afghanistan.

We had chow which was similar to duty food in basic training. The food was hot and served up to us by all the MOS-T students in our group. After dinner we were divided up into 4 groups. Each group had a mix of students from each MOS. We were issued gear for our time here. An IBA (body armor), an ACH (helmet), elbow pads, knee pads, sleeping bags and eye protection for those who didn't have theirs from basic. 

We were shown our tents we would be sleeping. They are big tents with a small heater/air conditioner in each one. Ours held 20 people in it all in cots that were lined up next to each other. We were told to sleep alternating the direction of our heads and feet to keep any sickness down.

We had some training on how the guards were supposed to check cars and people as they entered the FOB, then it was time to sleep. I slept really bad. The guard shifts were an hour each and although I didn't have duty, every shift change there would be a lot of noise as people would get woke up and then try and get ready. Sergeants would open the door and tell them to hurry up. I think I got about 5 to 10 minutes of sleep every hour through the night. 

Today is also Halloween, but you would never know it being here. Everyone is dressed up as army There are no trick or treaters and it wasn’t even mentioned. Funny how we can all be focused on training in this environment and the world just goes on around us.

One day down

A photo of the cots we slept on. This was taken before everything was setup.
By the time we were finished, cots were lined up right next to each other with
just enough room to put your feet between them.