Saturday, April 19, 2008

Life in a Barracks.

Its a real switch, being 31 years old and suddenly being in an environment where you have to share a room with a stranger, eat a dining facility (though only if you want to), and be in a place where people want to know if you are leaving (at least if you go more than 150 miles). At least I don't have to make my bed if I don't want to, and so long as I don't live like a pig the room is me and my roommates. Then you add in things like sharing a bathroom, common laundry facilities and its just so different. I keep slipping up and calling the barracks "dorms", since that is what it really feels like.

Excuse the mess a bit, since these were taken on the first day and I was still getting settled. Its also an abrupt change from being used to be able to spread your stuff all over a full 1000sqft condo and then being reduced to this small area. A lot of tricks that were common when you had them back in those first years of college have slipped your mind and lead to some last minute purchases (like the hanging drawers in the wall locker photo). Then you have to add in a whole bunch of other equipment, rucksacks, body armor, and several duffel bags of gear. Its an art sorting and storing it away. My roommate is a bit more put together but this is also due to the fact that he just spent 13 weeks living like this in the Federal OCS program.

Being on an Army base really for the first time with freedom (I was at Ft. Knox during basic, total lockdown, Ft. Pickett, Camp Dawson and Fort McLellan for OCS where you also were on lockdown while you were there) is very different. I do have some familiarity with military bases, being that I am a Navy brat, but actually living on a large base like this is an experience. They have a post office, several bowling alley's, a couple of straight up bars (there is one literally a minute walk from my barracks. Things like this are great in cutting down on drunk driving since soldiers don't even have to leave the base and they even operate a shuttle around the main areas), a fairly modern movie theater (run by a commercial company but only usable by military and their dependents), several gas stations, a couple of chapels, several convenience stores, a number of fast food places (BK, Subway and others), a large PX (post exchange) and of course a commissary. That and some pretty nice gyms and trails. There are some days that I don't even leave the base.

Its a different community here on post compared to what I am used to. Very much like those images of the 50's where the kids can go anywhere safely, there are lots of things to do and everyone, even the drivers, are fairly polite. Even the base housing is kind of neat and nice looking.

Just a very different world from what I am used to... And something that I don't really sample as a National Guardsman, where all this stuff is the exception rather than the norm as it is for the Regular Army folks.

BOLC II - Week 2 - Day 5

0400.... The line from "Good Morning Vietnam" is never more appropriate.... what does the 0 stand for? "Oh MY GOD it's EARLY!" Even going to bed at ten-ish doesn't make it any better. I was basically yawning all day. I think I have seen more 0400 bedtimes than wakeups in my life, its just NOT natural for me as a person who wakes up at 7ish every day.
Ruck was quick and painless once we got started. We did 5 miles in 1:20, which when you factor in a short break at the 2.5 mile point was basically a 15 minute mile (faster than a certain segment in this country can "run", let alone walk with a 30lb rucksack, rifle (another 8 lbs or so), water (another 5-10lbs, maybe more if you had everything (camelback, 2 1qt canteens and a 2qt canteen)). After everyone got cleaned up and had breakfast we then went off to classes. Classes today of course focused on the M4, the M68 CCO, PEQ-15/2 laser and on NOD's. Mainly how to use equipment to calibrate this equipment for use on the range. I actually have a PEQ-15, some people have a PEQ-2, which is kind of cool since it actually emits a visible laser in the daylight (the PEQ-2 just does an IR laser at night). Kind of neat to have a laser on my rifle.

Our Gear. The PEQ-15 is the laser on the front of the M4, the CCO Sight is of course in the center and the NOD is mounted on the helmet.

Boresighting the weapons. Basicially its a very involved process that involves sticking a laser down the barel of the rifle and the making sure that the aiming points line up correctly. Sounds easier than it is.

After boresighting the weapons we then went on to the eternal Army task, paperwork where we inspected our gear and noted deficiencies and then marked them up on the infamous DD 2204. We then returned to the company are (around 1600) and waited around for our guest speaker. Colonel (Retired) Tex Turner who is a Vietnam veteran and gave a pretty good speech on the on the his experiences and what we should be doing when we take leadership. Pretty good. Following that we had a weapons turn in and then we done except for a few admin tasks (we change our student leadership every Friday so we had to wait until that was done.)

NOTE - There are certain specific details that I am omitting on purpose as I feel they present an OPSEC (Operational Security) issue if discussed on the web. As a security professional in the civilian world and as someone tasked with that responsibility in the military as well I strive to be as careful as I can be about anything sensative (almost everything here isn't but certain items, such as how weapons and equipment are stored are carefully ommitted).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

BOLC II - Week 2 - Day 4

Temperatures seem to be returning to normal. Today decidely did not have the distinct coldness that has defined the past few days. PT again was at 0600. Mainly an ab and upper body workout.
Then off to combatives. Today we warmed up, had a few sparring/grudge matches inside our platoon and then had a quick "battle royal" (basically we all line up on out knees, team up and then advance at the other team. if you win your person then you can assist your buddies.... this leads to the most tenacious people getting brought down by packs of people at the end). I finally held my own only to be sideswiped just as I was about to put my opponent in a hold.

Then our champions (2 from each weight category) were sent from our platoon to participate in a tournament. There was only one injury (someone had their shoulder dislocated) and it was lots of fun to watch, since you knew these people and had just received training in the same techniques that they were using. Our plattoon won one of the categories (didn't pay attention to who won the others).

After a very abrievated lunch (which we were told to hurry through) we then waited around for a while to get issued our weapons and controlled items (everyone gets an M4, some get a M203 grenade launcher as well that is mounted under the barrel of the M4. They all have CCO (Close combat optics) that can be mounted, basically you have a red dot and just put it on the target and shoot. We also got issued a NOD (Night optic device), basically a monicle that is mounted on your helmet so that you can see at night. The final item is a IR laser. This combined with the NOD allows you to have the hollywood effect where you can place the laser on the target and then just pull the trigger. Can't wait to give that a try!!! (yes, I am National Guard and all we have back at my unit is M16A2... we have the CCO but havent mounted any on our weapons... good luck in ever seeing some of this stuff again). Lots of waiting around and looking it over.

Then some BRM (Basic Rifle Marksmanship) classes, followed by some more of the student led classes. After that we returned to the company area and verified that everyone had things set up for the ruck march tomorrow (that their equipment was in compliance with the SOP) and had a quick class on how to use the radios that the Army uses (I will be getting plenty of practice in this at my next school starting in June).

Off to bed early for the 0400 (yikes) wakeup, 0430 formation for the 5 Mile Ruck March tomorrow.

In Bruges

I went and saw this on Monday when we had some downtime in the evening. I went and saw it at the Carmike Peachtree. Apparently they have one theater that is aimed at a higher set, more expensive than the others, better configured (little tables by your side so the seating level is lower).
Loved this movie (but I like character, indie/foriegn films so I am a little predisposed. I like the fact that I can appreciate this and also a popcorn film like National Treasure). A little dark but it had such a pretty background (Bruges is an amazing looking town, so have to visit it). Overall the story was a little surreal and unrealistic but the characters were engaging and realistic, and the originating situation definitely was a good setup for getting the character in motion. 4 stars.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BOLC II - Week 2 - Day 3

It was COLD this morning(high 30's, low 40's). Luckily PT this morning was a run (1.5 miles to field, ab workout, then 1.5 mile Indian/Last Man run back to barracks). Then it was time for a quick shower, don the Combative Uniform, hit the chow hall and then off to combatives.
After a bunch of review we learned a couple of additional items that completed our level 1 combatives training, mainly holds and bars. Then after lunch we were back at the field where we spent the next 2 hours sparring with each other (below is a picture of the mad rush that we did to get us into the spirit... charging on our knees, the correctly worn shirts vs the inside out shirts)

Then they split us up into our weight classes and then had us spar in competition until there is only 2 people left from each weight group. Those people will represent the platoon at the company level competition tomorrow.

After we were done for the day at combatives we returned back to the company area for a bunch of classes. Basically everyone has to present a class during BOLC II so that they can prove to the cadre that they can prepare and present a subject that is selected for them in a comfortable and professional manner. We definitely stayed later than the other platoons as we also then had the 2 lieutenants who were in charge of the ruck march present their OPORD (Operational Order for that event). Then it was off to catch dinner before it closed and then back up to the barracks to work on what needs to be done (for me and many people it involved making sure that our equipment was in compliance with the SOP (standard operating procedures) for the rucksack and MOLLE gear (basically the vest that we wear around us to hold all our stuff, canteens, ammo pouches, etc)).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BOLC II - Week 2 - Day 2

Standard PT 0600. Focus on Pushups and Situps. Its REALLY COLD for Ft Benning in the middle of April. Everyone was in their IPFU (Improved Physical Fitness Uniform), hats and gloves.

After that, we had breakfast, changed (I went old school with my BDU's... It will probably be the last time I wear them as they cease to be an authorized Army uniform as of the end of the month) and then it was off to Combatives. Another interesting bit is that we had to wear tennis shoes for this event, very odd combo, a uniform and tennis shoes. We really focused on the basics, as a number of people, myself included, had never done this stuff before.

After 3 good hours of training I learned a lot, then we broke for lunch (below you can see us flocking off to chow)

After lunch we had another 2.5 hours of training. Most other people's knees were getting pretty raw at this point (as well as my own) and I know that all of us were glad for the break

Above you can see my platoon conducting our required AAR (After Action Review) that we conduct after every training event. A quick trip back to the barracks, shower and then grab and early dinner so that we can make the required social event this evening.

Social thing was a standard Army thing. There were a number of Captains through Colonels and on Brigadier General from a couple of different branches thought the bulk were from the Infantry (of course, given that this is the home of the Infantry). 400 Lieutenants in one place in the officer club. I am sure that is more than a few NCO's worst nightmare....

Monday, April 14, 2008

BOLC II - Week 2 - Day 1

Back to the standard time for formations (0545, we do reville at 0600 then off to PT). This morning was good, ran to the 1 mile track, ran the first mile individually, sprinting 1/4 mile and then jogging in intervals. Then we did did 2 miles of "Last Man" (also called "Indian Runs", but we live in PC times) where you string out into a single column and then have the last man sprint to the front. Then we headed off to 0900 classes. Classes were on practical parts of our craft, unit tactics, handling prisoners (the demo was excellent) and other current information that was either presented or shared by the students. Following lunch we worked in platoons and squads on our movement techniques. Reacting to contact (how a squad handles encountering hostile forces and assualting if the situation is favorable), breaking contact (extricating a squad when it has run into hostiles that it cannot win against) and reacting to indirect fire (artillery or mortors). We of course used the Army standard in first doing each step slowly and explaining what needed to be done, then started to execute at a faster pace. Following that we had a couple of classes taught by the students on how to do certain tasks (setting up equipment, OPSEC, etc). We then passed out weapon cards and were done for the day(~1630).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend of Movies

Ah, a glorious free weekend. Other than getting up early on Saturday for my CQ shift (and having to shave, something that I generally avoid on the weekends (to give the poor face a break)) it was a nice weekend. I hit the gym on Saturday and Sunday (we have a really nice gym, brand new)

Yep, that's a climbing wall in the background. Off to the left there is 2 full sized basketball courts down the hall.

There is also a pool at the gym. Note the hottub. I will so be using that in the coming weeks.

So basically I used this time to recharge (read that as, being away from everyone I had to be with during the week. I like them a lot but I do need my "me" time to recharge.). I did do dinner and a movie with some classmates but mostly it was focused on getting things lined up for next week and getting mentally prepared.

There actually is a movie theater here on post. Carmike Cinema's seems to have this area locked up and while the theaters aren't the biggest (and for the discount one somewhat rundown) they do use some pretty good technology (primarily DTS, allowing them to digitally distribute the film and also makes sure that nothing happens to the quality of the presentation since there is no degradation of the picture due to repeated use).

I saw the following movies (in order of attendance)

  • The Ruins - weak movie. Further confirms why I hate plants. definitely was cheering for the people who worked to confine that evil plant.

  • The Superhero Movie - moderately amusing. Very juvenile humor but fun overall. About what I was expecting.

  • Drillbit Taylor - Saw this with a few other BOLC II Students. eh. Standard teen film schlock. definitely not on par with some of the recent shows like Superbad or whatnot.

  • National Treasure: Book of Secrets - This movie was plain old fun. I loved the first one and really enjoyed this sequal.

I figure that I will be seeing a lot of movies over the next 20 weeks. There are a couple that I am really excited about, in particular Iron Man and the new Indiana Jones movie

Overall I am ready to face the coming week. We have a couple of events coming up, primarily Combatives (basically a hybred martial arts class) on Tuesday-Thursday, a 5 mile Ruck March on Friday (that means no PT. I will ruck any day over doing PT (in particular running)), start BRM (Basic Rifle Marksmanship) training this week and also have to attend a mandatory reception on Tuesday evening (could be interesting, probably not.).