Saturday, August 30, 2008

Somber Day

For those of you who don't already know this about me, Fall is my favorite season of the year. Many might think that Spring is my favorite because of my passion for baseball. While I always enjoyed the game, it pales in comparison to my love of the many characteristics associated with Autumn. There are many signs that point to the changing of the seasons during this time of year and three of them I hold near and dear to my heart. First, the evenings begin to develop a cool, crisp breeze, where you're forced to put on a layer of sleeves to keep from getting the chills. Second, the changing of the leaves. At times, I don't think God has created a more beautiful sight than seeing the multitude of colors sprinkled throughout the landscape of East Tennessee. This final one is more idiosyncratic to my family, and something that I look forward to every weekend.....COLLEGE FOOTBALL, BABY!!!!
Yes, I admit it, I am a huge College Football fan; however, this is a trait that I believe I developed from my father. My dad was quite the "gunslinger" in his prime. Although his college career was cut short, I take pride in telling people that he was recruited by and signed with Ole Miss in 1971, following the end of the Archie Manning era. Moreover, my brother-in-law Jimmy played linebacker for two years at Marshall, before completing his career at West Virginia State University. About the only accolade I can boast of is being nicknamed Jesse "I won't fair catch the ball" Cragwall during my Senior year of high school.
This weekend marks the beginning of the College season, and even though my beloved UT Vols aren't playing until Monday, this weekend is one I look forward to every year. It is also my father's birthday today, one that will be filled with funny family stories, great food, and the flipping of channels from one game to the next. It's moments like these that I cherish and long for while being over here, but I know I'll get my fill of it next year when we are all back together again.Monday is also my best friend Jeff's bday, so let's hope the Vols win one for the Freightrain! Take care.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Johnny Boy!

Recently my friend Barrett, a former Marine and kindred spirit in all things patriotic, sent me one of the most wonderful gifts...the John Adams miniseries from HBO!!! I absolutely love it! I'm almost halfway through with it and I get chills every time the opening credits come on. Throughout my time studying the foundation of our great nation, I've envisioned what things must have been like back then and how the MEN, not the LEGENDS, interacted with one another. It is such a marvelous production and one I think accurate represents the "chain of events" that led to the creation and establishment of our nation and governmental structure. So much of our formal education regarding this time in history has become somewhat of a fairytale. It's almost as if our founding fathers were these larger than life characters who fought for our independence and magically created what we know today as the Constitution. At times, I've related it to the princess kissing the frog and POOF, he instantly becomes a tall, dark and handsome prince.
In truth, this is far from reality and this miniseries captures the internal and external struggles of all the men that played an intricate role in this grand process. I like to tell people that one of my ideas of heaven is being able to watch the history of the world on a huge big screen tv as if it were a re-run on TV Land; but, I might just be able to skip this part because the miniseries seems to mirror reality.
In short, I highly recommend this miniseries and I am tremendously indebted to my distinguished colleague from the great state of Tennessee! Thanks, brother. You're a good friend and great Patriot!Take care.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Taking the Reigns

Well, yesterday was a successful day. I led my first convoy and had very little, if any, problems taking on these responsibilities. The truth is that there is very little that I need to do, primarily since these soldiers have been doing the EXACT SAME THING everyday for the past 10 months! With the exception of the order we visit the JSS's and the types of supplies we take, the order of events is so systematic and routinized that most of the soldiers could do it themselves, and probably be better at it than me. However, when it comes to manages a crisis (God forbid), that's when the real test comes. While some individuals are naturally equipped with the reactionary measures needed to handle unforeseen circumstances, most of the training that I have been undergoing for the past year focuses on such an instance. Moreover, these events are what usually distinguishes the good soldiers from the bad.

Today Alan, the distribution platoon leader leaves for his R&R leave and this will open up more days that I will be responsible for leading the daily convoys. It's something I'm finding myself enjoying, mainly because it gets me out of the office and interacting with other soldiers. Yet, I still enjoy days like today, when I have some down time and can just relax. I often find myself thinking about how everyone is doing back home, especially with the changing of the seasons. I'm sure if I were back home, I'd smell College Football in the air! GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!Hope your week is going well and take care during this upcoming holiday weekend.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

He's Back!!!

I am happy to report that I saw my friend Karl today back at work, and in pretty good spirits. He's about 25 lbs. lighter, thanks to not eating any solid food four roughly two weeks straight, and sporting a pretty wicked scar from his surgery. This is by no means that "cool" scar that most men long to have and hopefully it will very rarely see the light of day. Karl got back to Liberty two days ago and met back up with his platoon yesterday afternoon. He's already gone out on a couple of missions and is very excited about being back in the swing of things.

A word to the wise, if you're feeling really bad in your "digestive area" and it persists for a number of days, please don't hesitate and seek a doctor, as it could end up saving your life! Karl did everything right and yet still was close to incurring severe damage to his body.Thank you all for your prayers and words of support. I'm sure that they all played a role in his recovery. Let's just hope he's the LAST person that has to leave our Squadron for any immediate reason! Hope all is well on YOUR end and please take care.


Well, yesterday I finally finished my monthly Sensitive Items Inventory and I must say that it's a relief to finally get that off my plate. However, now I'm on to another additional duty, one that has a little more relevance to my job. Despite being an Ordnance (Maintenance) officer, the Army is in the process of "merging" three officer branches into one upon completing the Captain's Career Course. Quartermaster (Supply) and Transportation (self explanatory) officers, along with Ordnance officers, are now becoming the Multifunctional Logistitians; however, the only real change is in the name. Officers in each of these branches are already interchangeable at the 2LT level. As a result, along with being the Squadron Maintenance Officer, I will now lead the Combat Replenishment Operations (CRO) once or twice a week.

What does this entail? Well, I am in charge of the convoy that takes all the daily supplies out to the JSS's; not a very difficult task, but still somewhat time consuming. Moreover, this means going out into our AO, where the bad buys live and seek to attack us. Last week, my driver looked at me while on the road and said, "See that big hole in the bridge right there? That's where an IED hit my truck back in March."

So, throughout this whole adventure, I am taking on a plethora of different responsibilities and virtually none of them I have had any previous training on; but I guess learning and doing go hand in hand at times. Mom was right, you can't learn to swim unless you get in the water! Take care.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Additional Duties

Sorry for the long delay in posting. I know I said the same thing in my last post...from a week ago....but, I've been taking on some new responsibilities and been going through some preparatory training. Being an officer or senior NCO in the military means having to take on certain duties that are not directly related to your job, one of which I have for this month. Sensitive Items are pieces of equipment that vital to our success in combat and if it were to fall into the enemies hands, it could severely hinder out efficacy. These items include personal weapons, night vision devices, electronic warfare and communication equipment, among many others. To ensure that all personnel are keeping track of their equipment, I have been tasked this month with visually inspecting everything to make sure it matches what we have on our property books. Yes, this is just as toilsome in practice as it is in written form. I'm having to track down people I've never met in my company and say to them, "I need to see your sensitive items." Personally, if a total stranger, regardless of rank, said that to me, I would question their motives right on the spot. However, since this is probably the 8th time we've had to do this, I haven't been met with any resistance. It's something that happens on a fairly regular basis; yet, there are still times when we find someone who doesn't have the proper equipment, or is unable to locate it. Let me tell you how serious this is...when I was in a 7 week course last fall, a female soldier lost a SI and all training was shut down for 3 days! We resorted to kicking the gravel in the motor pool, as if someone had buried it to show her a lesson!

So, in short, the past several days have been spent scurrying around trying to find the serial number on every weapon, vehicle, and electric device in our company to make sure everything is where it was last month. Don't be fooled by the high speediness of the military recruiting commercials, half of being in the Army is just paperwork! Take care.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Did the Surge Work?

When I was a little boy, I loved watching the "Incredible Hulk"; however, I hadn't quite mastered the art of pronunciation and instead called it the "Bedda Hulk". Mom said I used to run out of the room during the transformation from Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno yelling, "He's hulkin', momma, he's hulkin'." A few moments later I would creep back into the room, checking to see if the scary part was over.What does this have to do with the surge? Well, over the past few weeks, the effectiveness of last year's surge in troops has been a big issue in the presidential elections and I feel that it's important to look at all the facts. Just like Dr. David Banner used to get angry and transform into a green, lethal killing machine, I too have my fits of rage and become the "Incredible Political Scientist." (Are you scared yet???) If there's anything that I've learned through my time in graduate school, it's that in matters of cause and effect, you cannot determine with 100% certainty that there is only one cause. In this case, one cannot accurately deduce that the surge in troops is the sole cause for decrease in violence in Iraq. Dr. Colin Krahl published an article in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs stating that there are several other potential reasons for the regression of violence here, arguing "that Al Qaeda in Iraq had become more brutal and indiscriminate....declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq....demanded brides for its soldiers, enforced harsh fundamentalist social norms, and cut into tribal smuggling revenues." Such actions were not well received by many in the country and support for AQI's cause began to dissipate. These issues, along with many others, should be considered when determining the efficacy of sending more troops into a combat zone. Up front, I'm not here to persuade anyone to endorse a political candidate, stance, or opinion on the matter, only to encourage readers to look at the broader picture and not just listen to the 30 second soundbite from either campaign. This is important because many are suggesting the same response to the tumultuous conditions in Afghanistan, saying that by increasing the number of troops there, we are likely to see the same kind of success. WRONG! While it is possible for this to occur, one has to look at the other variables at play in the country to determine what measures to take.Did the surge help quell the violence in Iraq? Yes. How much did it help? Not sure. That's something even the greatest statisticians in the world probably couldn't even answer, and for the very reasons stated above. Such rationale is like saying that Ronald Reagan single handedly won the Cold War (which I've actually had someone say me!). You cannot prove such a case because there are too many variables that must be considered. Now that I've turned back into my little "butter bar" lieutenant uniform, I hope you understand the point I'm trying to make, especially when you being determining the veracity of any politician's comments in the news. Take care and sorry for the delay in posting.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Prayer Needed!

Unfortunately, things aren't going so well for Karl. He's developed an issue with his intestines and is back on a stomach pump/IVs all due to the ruptured appendix/fluid buildup in his abdomen. It looks like he'll be in Qatar for a while. If he doesn't improve, there is still a possibility they'll send him to Germany. Karl is in a lot of pain and is really drained from all of this. Please continue to pray for him and his family.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pick Me A Winner!!!

You won't hear about it on the news, and you won't read about it in the papers. You might not ever hear about the gruesome, disgusting enemy that Coalition Forces and even civilian contractors have to battle on a daily basis. They come in many shapes and sizes, and our ability to defeat them looks almost insurmountable. Everywhere I go, I come across these slimy pestilents and I ask myself, "Why God, why???" I'm talking about the war on.......boogers! Yes, boogers are a daily annoyance here in the land of dry air, dust and wind. In this deadly climate, I wake up with them and I go to sleep with them. It's a battle that few are likely to win here. I try my best not to pick my nose in front of other people (which is why I spend so much time in my office!), but the reality is that practically every time I go outside, I breathe in enormous amounts of dust and it creates an enormous amount of blockage in my nasal cavities! I know this isn't what you expected to read on my blog, but I feel the need to inform you of the fact that people here have a tendency to sneak a pick here and there, in hopes of being able to take deep breathes out of their nose. It takes a big man to admit that he still picks his nose, and I am that big man! How does that song go? "I've got boogers in my nose, boogers on my toes. I've got boogers in my hair, BOOGERS EVERYWHERE" Sing it with me....Just kidding. Hope all is well with you and your family. Take care.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Update on Karl

I wanted to give everyone an update on my buddy who I mentioned previously to pray for. Karl's surgery went well, but he developed an infection. They wanted to transport him to Germany for further care but could not get him out due to sandstorms. Now, he is at a recovery center in Qatar for the next few weeks to heal. Thankfully, the unit has been in touch with Carly to fill her in on his care. Unfortunately, they have limited his phone calls and emails due to security reasons while there. Please continue to pray for Karl's recovery and for a peace for his family and friends as they support him through this. Hopefully, Karl will be back to his job and regain his sanity in the next few weeks. God Speed, Karl!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Good Ole' Rocky Top!

Since starting this blog, I have been very hesitant to post any pictures, for fear of publishing anything close to being considered classified; however, I can't containment myself any longer. The reason being that I recently received a care package from my former co-workers at the University's Career Services Department. It was filled with various UT paraphernalia, and I just couldn't wait for everyone to see what my office looks like. Shortly after arriving here, I asked my wife to send me a UT flag to hang in my office. Now, it is accompanied by an array of other accessories, largely provided by my co-workers. I received two football posters, with the upcoming season's schedule; an autographed copy of UT basketball star Dane Bradshaw's book "Vertical Leap"; two large bags of UT dinner mints (buttermint cream); a Lady Vols bumpersticker; numerous UT Career Services note pads and pens, as well as a Career Services mousepad; a nice little Smoky figurine for my desk; a picture of them with Smoky; and several letters of support from them, which had some pictures of their various summer excursions. They also managed to include several issues of Golf Digest, to feed my pseudo-addiction to the sport! Let me tell ya, as soon as I opened the package and saw all of this stuff, I belted the chorus of "Rocky Top". I almost started to tear up with joy; however, I quickly had to suppress it for fear that one of my soldiers might walk in and see me! Gotta keep a strong demeanor in front of them! I would just like to thank all of those who participated in this glorious gift. I thought I heard angels singing as I was putting all this stuff up on the walls! It's so good to get a little piece of home when you're out here and these wonderful people pulled out all of the stops. I am very grateful for all that you have done and cannot wait to show this to my Company First Sergeant, who just so happens to be a HUGE Alabama fan! ROCKY TOP, YOU'LL ALWAYS BE HOME, SWEET HOME TO ME!!!! Take care.