Saturday, May 17, 2008

FOB Living at BOLC II

A more pictorial view post than normal for me. As I have mentioned I attended BOLC II this Spring from April to May 2008. My Company spent 1 week (4 days and 3 nights) at the FOB, while others spent more (the other Company spent 3 weeks out here, heading home on the weekends).
Rows and rows of tents in the admin area. Yes, apparently they actually sprayed something on those first 2 tents (they serve as the TOC, Tactical Operations Centers for the 2 Companies when they are there). There are about 8 tents in a row from this point. As well as a row of "changing tents" (not allowed to change in the sleep tents.... silly rule and not really paid attention to) and shower tents (4 of them, pictures of the insides to follow).
The outside of the Sleeping tents. They are about 50 meters long on the inside and as you can see from the people in the foreground pretty tall as well. There are 3 of them here, 2 for the males of each company and 1 for the females (that is forbidden to men due to some indiscressions in earlier cycles of this course).There are 120 bunk beds in each tent. As you can see its not too bad. It is air conditioned and this is by far the best trip I have ever made to the "field". Everyone is pretty much allowed to set up as they see fit so long as no food is consumed in the area. This too was ignored by a lot of people.
My messy bunk. As you can see I was a smartie and took along a pillow.
This is the MWR/Mess tent. As you can see there are plenty of places to sit as well as a couple of TV's that are hooked up to satellite. AC'd as well.
In addition in the MWR tent we had a bunch of computers along one side.

The shower tent. Plenty of showers (gotta love that during the week). I am a big fan of taking showers in the field. They help me more than sleeping at times. PS those aren't real mirrors, they are polished stainless steel plates.

Not a bad shower. But anything would have been good. This was still better than what I had during OCS (pretty much any phase).

The FOB's parking lot. You can barely make out the guard tower (on of 8 on the FOB) on top of the red CONEX.

Some of the many vehicles that we used during out time at the FOB

Friday, May 16, 2008

BOLC II - Week 6 - Culmination Operations


A tough PT. For some reason done in ACU's and tennis shoes, not sure why. More Crossfit, I was definitely feeling it later. Then it was prep for movement to the FOB (Forward Operating Base) Victory. We packed our "A" Bags (everything that doesn't go in your rucksack) and loaded them on a LMTV along with the MRE's (34 boxes, 12 per box) and other associated equipment, it made for an impressive pile when we unloaded at the FOB. We also drew our weapons (including the heavier squad and platoon level machine guns). I headed ahead with the equipment (needed to have a supercargo to make sure that it was protected) and then waited, and waited (over 2 hours total) for my platoon to join us at the FOB. After being given a few minutes to settle in to the ginormious "tent" (it had a soft roof and and aluminum siding for the sides) which houses 240 soldiers we were provided our first mission, to man 4 of the towers ringing the base and also staff the ECP (Entry Control Point, the funnel where all vehicles entering and exiting the FOB are inspected while being covered by a tower with a medium MG and several supporting soldiers). Basically had a 2 on, 2 off cycle for the next 12 hours, then at the end everyone had to wake up to conduct an AAR that seemed to go on FOREVER... (Ending around 0115) Pretty much everyone (except for the poor bastards that got the mission for tomorrow morning) just fell into bed.


0415, the nightmare of early awareness continues..... Mission briefing at 0440, then prep for the mission with a departure by 0530. We wandered around to 2 points and combated the evil CIF (Columbus Insurgent Forces... these are some bad ass dudes, armed with the latest in American weaponry and the almost sadistic desire to use it against American forces.. they are members of our own platoon that get volunteered to take us out). Another AAR, then it was my turn to play as a leader, serving as a squad leader. Our mission was a joint mission, us and another one of our Company's platoons. We received the mission of pulling security on the area while other platoon cleared a building. We departed by 1300, after taking care of the usual tasks of preparation. Mission was a complete success and we returned by 1430. After conducting yet another AAR (we really love them) then the people who had held leadership positions were counseled (so that we could get our "GO"s in the graduation requirement. Another short nap and then it was time for dinner at 1700. It was our single hot meal of the day (the other two being either MRE's, whatever pogie-bait (ie, field food... small, high calorie snacks) we have or maybe the "gut truck" during lunch). A quick OPORD (Operational Order) brief about what we would be doing tonight and then I slept until my shift at 0200. Shift ran from 0200-0400, then we were held over until 0530 (just napping in our briefing tent... hard plywood floors). Worst thing is that I broke the mount for my night vision walking to my bed. (just means more paperwork in the end)


Slept until 0945. OPORD brief at 1000. Today I get to be a SAW (M249 Machine Gun) gunner since the person who it is normally assigned to is in a leadership position. We do some rehearsals and prep and then roll out at 1300. This was a convoy operation, with me hanging off the back and poking my weapon out to kill any enemies that dare oppose us, which for some reason they do. We have chow at 1500 and then start planning for the next mission. This time I chose wisely and volunteer to be OPFOR, while the team runs their mission.

Basically they had to inspect a suspect mass grave right around dusk. They did and us OPFOR gave them a good run. Then they reset us, sending us to a new location (full of trenches and barbed wire), and gave the team the new direction. And then I waited, and waited, and waited.... turns out they got lost and wandered around quite a bit. We didn't get back until 1145, and our AAR didn't end until 0120.


0515 wakeup. Joy, I get to be a Squad Leader again. On the same basic mission that I had run earlier. Went well except for some comm issues (none of my soldiers decided to bring their radios to formation). Then we collected brass on the site (and boy was there a lot of it). Back to the FOB for more police calls, packing up, doing all the little tasks to reset the site and get ready to depart. We then left early on our 10 Mile Ruckmarch due to concerns about the weather (lots of severe storms were not too far away). Long march at a fairly brisk pace (17 minute miles) with 10 minute breaks every 2.5 miles. Even with no sun and all it was hot.... and muddy (since it was raining). Finally completed it in 3:30. So tired. Then after making sure that everything was settled (weapons in a safe place, etc) we were released around 1900. I had a beer and some taco's and fell asleep by 9..


Recovery. Late formation at 0800. Then we began weapon cleaning. Everyone is pretty eager to get things done and ready to go. Lots of cleaning, of equipment (everything we have been issued needs to be return). Everyone is in the PT uniform, since we are all pretty beat up. Finally got released for the day at 1730. God my hands are dirty.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A rest weekend

After all the excitement of the past week and in anticipation of our packed week coming up I did nothing this weekend.
Of course some of that was due to Friday night. We decided to have a cook-out to celebrate the birthday of one of Platoon at one of the Infantry guy's places here on base (they had to secure their own housing in anticipation of not having anything available during their OBC (Officer Basic Course) as well as their mandatory Ranger and Airborne schools). Much beer was consumed and we also had plans to make sure that we could safely go downtown (thanks to generous DD's). There was much discussion of the Land Nav test earlier as well as some gossip that I cannot mention out of deference to those involved (there are people reading this who know my last name and that's where discretion and decency comes into play).
All I will say abut the evening is that shots are not my friend.
So after the mandatory rest period I woke up and all of a sudden the power goes off in the barracks. This doesn't bother me too much given how I feel so I go back to sleep. Later, still no power. Even later you can see the workers desperately trying to fix it (basically a wire burned out.... one of the big feeder ones). So I went bowling with a buddy (one lousy game and then a great 160 game... consistency is not my thing in bowling). Then off to the movies.
  • What Happens in Vegas - Pretty fun actually. Naturally pretty predictable (its a RomCom after all) but it had its moments. Cameron Diaz still looks good. 3/5
  • Vantage Point - I actually liked this movie. It unfolded like an onion, each presentation showing parts of the previous story and incorporating them and also showing hidden meaning to those events that were shown previously. I got the feeling the audience, not so much... they seemed frustrated, since each retelling ended very dramatically. Great cast and over all very entertaining. 4.5/5

After that I puttered around the completely dark barracks, then chatted with my girl for a while late at night. Just as I was getting into so good sleep of course the power returns.... at 043o in the morning.... that would have been fine, except it tripped the fire alarm. Sigh... I can't wait to get out of this hellacious too early in the morning place....

Another late start, a very light lunch then off to the gym. Lifted then did some laps. Its been a long time since I did laps and I was very rusty (and I forgot how good of a workout it is). Obviously I called my Mom (who I also had remembered to send a card too... gotta stay in the good graces). Went out for a fantastic dinner of BBQ at Country's. Then I went for a 4 mile ruck march to break in some new boots (and also learned that a certain pair of socks should not be used for rucking) as well as prep for the 10 mile ruck march on Thursday. Now I am packing and getting ready for a way too exciting day tomorrow.

BOLC II - Week 5 - Day 3-5

Yep, fell behind. That's the thing that happens when you get busy.
A five mile platoon sized run. At a little less than 9 minute mile pace. Not too bad and definitely had its effect on me. Classes for another couple of hours as we went over what we would be doing at the FOB (Forward Operating Base) next week during our culmination exercise (things like inspecting vehicle, manning the towers, etc).
Then it was off for convoy operations. We distributed 30 members of the platoon between 4 HMMV's and 2 HMET (big trucks, replacements for the 2 1/2 ton and 5 ton trucks) while peeling off the remainder to act as OPFOR (Opposing Force). Then, while civilian drivers went down the road we performed a convoy, dismounting at certain points to handle incidents. It took a while and was hot, and of course I was a simulated kill the first iteration (the second was too horrific to talk about). Pretty good training.
More Crossfit. This time it was moving tires (basically squats), medicine ball sit-ups, stretcher lunges and this weird move with a sandbag that appears to be derived from kettle balls. Then we headed out for Land Navigation training. We were paired up, given a map and 6 points and given 4 hours to complete the task. Wow it was hot out there. We found our points after a bit of wandering around and eventually got back in time for lunch.
Now for the kicker. Woke up at 0250 (yes, a time that normally I consider a late bedtime, not a time to wake up). Apparently they really like waking us up early on Fridays. Formation and then off to the land nav course for the test. The standard is that you are provided 8 points, spread over a 2x4 km grid, and must find 5 of those points (I always shoot for 6, to make sure that I am covered if I pick the wrong one) in 5 hours and then return to the designated end point. All you have is a compass, water, a map, protractor and whatever light you need, since this event starts at 0500 in the morning. I mishot my first one, but luckily I found it in short order. Then I realized I misplotted another one (luckily I didn't waster time looking for it, I was reviewing it as I was walking and of course started cursing.... I never did find that point). But luckily 4 of my points were right off roads or at intersections. In the end I found my 6 points that wanted and was trying to find my 7th when my clock finally showed 1 hour left, so like a smart guy (6 in hand and I was not wasting my chance to finish this event I immediately shot straight north or west (any angle in between was acceptable since it brought me closer to the end). I ran into some of the worst terrain in that final run, like a huge muck filled area that ran for 200 meters, then running in to a stream that was surrounded by really intense underbrush (and then I still had to get over the stream). I must have left a swath of destruction that even I could track as I had pretty much reached the point where I was using my knife to slash at offending vines and was breaking or destroying anything in between me and getting out of the forest (can you figure that I was in a foul mood from being woken up so early and then forced to wander the forrest).

Did I mention that it rained the night before? At first I was wet from from all the wet underbrush and then it was my own sweat. I was dripping, sopping wet by the time I got the F out of the GD Forrest. But I was back with 40 minutes to go. I got there, went over to the bleachers and laid out my gear in the sun (including my top), sat down, removed my completely soaked boots and socks (which only completely dried out by sunday) and watched the other people come in. 7 of our platoon didn't make it in time and will have to retest on Monday.Some of them came so achingly close too, missing the time by just minutes. Scarily, someone managed to do 8 points in 2:30. So tired.Then it was back to the barracks for the standard things, cleaning and whatnot until we were released at 1400.