Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wastin' Time

Even people that have not been in the military have heard the term "Hurry up and wait." I was driving home from a work trip tonight with my boss, who is a retired Marine, and we started swapping stories of all the times we had to sit around wasting time while we were in the military. Wasting time is a common thing that all service members remember. It is inevitable when you have to move or deal with a large amount of people and complex logistical or operational issues. Intellectually I know why it happened but it still didn't make it any less painful. I bet some of the scenarios below bring back some memories for a few folks.

Scene: Barracks/Platoon Office 82nd Airborne Division early 1980's

After being in the field for 2 weeks on some local training our Infantry Company had returned to the barracks and Company area and we were to pull maintenance and clean all Platoon equipment before we were to be released for the weekend.

Platoon Sergeant: Is that weapon clean Private?

Me: Yes Sergeant!!!

Platoon Sergeant opens his desk drawer and pulls out a paper clip. He straightens it out and inserts the straightened end through a small barely noticeable hole located in the front sight assembly. A little cone of dirt/carbon falls out.

Platoon Sergeant: WTF Dickweed!!! Get out of my office and come back when this weapon is clean!!! Next time bring your squad leader and if it is dirty you will both be in the front lean and rest position!!!!

Me to myself: Holy Hell I didn't even know that hole was there, This sucks

Repeat 200 times for every man in the Company and add 7 more hours.

Wastin' Time

Scene: Barracks 10th Mountain Division Late 1980's

As a Cadre member and squad leader in newly formed COHORT unit I had to prepare my squad for the dreaded IG inspection.

Me: Hey dipshit you need to canoe that sleeping bag properly and get all those black marks off your canteen cup.

Private: What is canoeing a sleeping bag?

Me: Good Lord, didn't they teach you anything in basic training? Roll up the sides of your sleeping bag like a canoe and lay all your gear in the middle per SOP.

Private: I tried to get those black marks off the canteen cup but they won't come off.

Me: Well genius that is what Clothing Sales stores are for, go buy a new one for inspections and leave that one for actual field use.

Private: We can do that?

Me: Yes, now hurry the fuck up before SFC T chews my ass for you guys being a soup sandwich!!

Wastin' Time

Scene: Army Airfield 10th Special Forces Group early 1990's

During one of our quarterly Military Freefall refreshers the wind picked up and we were stuck on the airfield for quite some time waiting for it to die down. We had one scheduled jump left to re qualify as Level 1 Military Free Fall parachutists prior to our deployment to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Ft Chaffee AR.

Me: Hey Mark I have to piss

Team Sergeant: If you unrig I will have to JMPI you again

Me: Crap, that means I have to take off my rucksack,weapon and Oxygen bottle just to take a piss

Team Sergeant: Just undo your leg strap and move your kit bag out of the way, then I can JMPI just that part

Me: Ok but when is the Bird going to be here?

Team Sergeant: When the winds get below 18 knots

Me: Can't we just cancel this stupid jump and go drink beer?

Team Sergeant: For the 100th time no

Wastin' Time

Scene: Local Training Area 10th Special Forces Group Germany late 1990's

Doing some local hide site construction and surveillance training, during this team training event our Team Sergeant and Team Leader had a little conversation

Team Sergeant: No, we need to go this way and construct the hide sites along this area over here.

Team Leader: I think they would be much better over here, better observation and fields of fire. More cover and concealment.

Team Sergeant: I disagree, you guys go over here and start constructing your hides. I will be by later to take a look at them and critique them.

Team Leader: Why are they going over there? I just said they would be better over here.

Team Sergeant: Because I have been doing this for 20 years and you have been on a team for all of two years, so your fuck'in opinion doesn't matter!

Team Leader: Oh

Wastin' Time

Scene: 10th Special Forces Group Romanian Hotel Room Early 2000's

Our Company was staging in Romania prior to the invasion of Iraq. The entire Battalion was basically on lock down inside this large hotel on the Romanian Coast. It would have been nice if it wasn't like being in prison.

Sergeant Major: You Team Sergeants need to keep these guys busy and do team training.

Me: SGM we have packed and repacked our gear, we have cross trained and practiced SOP's about as much as we can in a frickin hotel hallway.

Sergeant Major: Well the Major doesn't want to see guys laying on their beds watching "The Nanny" reruns dubbed in German. So do something, get creative.

Me: This is BS, any idea when we are getting the fuck out of here?

Sergeant Major: Nope

Me: Ok more mortar crew drills in the basement it is. My guys are going to love me

Wastin' Time

I spent 22 years in the military. I probably spent 2 years of that waiting for something to happen. Looking back on it now, it is somewhat humorous, at the time it was retarded.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

War Dogs

Dogs are man’s best friend so the saying goes. Here in ‘Merica dogs are for a lot of folks part of the family. I have three dogs myself and consider myself a dog person. I am not the only one that feels that way and throughout my military career the different units I was in had an assortment of adopted and befriended canines. We seemed to pick up one of theses furry guys everytime we stopped long enough to make a semi permanent base of operations.
The first dog I can remember adopting as the unit mascot was when I was stationed in the Sinai Peninsula way back in the stone age of the early 1980’s. This mutt was the typical Middle Eastern yellow skinny dog. The same dog I saw all over the Middle East many many times and in many countries. This particular dog was a permanent fixture at the outpost on the top of the mountain on an island in the middle of the straits of Tiran in the Sinai Peninsula. We used to feed this dog our left over C-Rations and it lived high on the hog. When my Special Forces team was running operations out of a house in the Kosovo town of Kamenica we had another dog. Typical yellow mutt and we feed it left over dog food that we grabbed from the Military Police. They had expired dog food that they wouldn’t feed to the military working dogs but it was fine for our mascot.
When my SF team deployed to Iraq in 2003 we set up a patrol base in the village of Klawkut. We were running reconnaissance missions and calling in airstrikes on the Iraqi military that had formed a defensive perimeter around the city of Kirkuk and its strategic oilfields. On one of our area reconnaissance missions we came upon a complex of abandoned Iraqi trenches and fighting positions. We dismounted from the Land Rover Defenders we were using as transportation and methodically cleared each trench and fighting position. As we got towards the ends of the fortified area one of my medics gave a holler and we looked to see what he wanted. We hadn’t found any Iraqis but he had found three black and white puppies that were all huddled up in the bottom of one of the fighting positions.

It was our best guess that these little guys had been abandoned by their mother or she was killed during the bombing that had happened in the area a few days prior. Being the good SF troopers we were we immediately adopted these furballs as our team mascots and loaded them into the back of one of the vehicles. Our interpreter was also sitting in the back of this vehicle and started to complain about the dogs. Muslims believe dogs are unclean animals and do not keep them as pets as a general rule. Being the culturally sensitive guys we were my Senior Weapons Sergeant told him to shut his pie hole or he, not the dogs, would be walking back to the patrol base.
As we made our way back across country to Klawkut we saw a lone vehicle headed in our general direction. As it moved closer and we could not identify it as friend or foe we pulled our vehicles into a defensive posture. The approaching vehicle stopped and two individuals dismounted in traditional Kurdish garb. They were about 200 meters from our vehicles and made signs for us to come forward and talk. We made the decision to put our crew served weapon on the high ground to our left in an overwatch while our Team Leader and the interpreter moved forward to talk to theses individuals. The rest of the team would also provide supporting fire from the cover of the vehicles.
As our Team Leader moved forward I had my sights trained dead center on the chest of the first mystery Kurd waiting for him to make a suspicious move. As I waited for the little drama to unfold I could hear our new found companions whining and scuffling in the back seat of the vehicle. As it turns out these individuals were just some Peshmerga who were trying to rejoin their unit and they gave us a friendly wave as they got in their vehicle and continued heading east.

We continued on west to KlawKut and our patrol base. When we arrived we broke open some Meals Ready to Eat and some bottled water and fed our puppies. We made them a comfortable little home out of a MRE box so they could sleep in the shade. As the days went by the started imprinting themselves on us and usually would follow the first team member that left the building we were sleeping in. Our interpreter continued to complain about the fact that they were hanging around but we ignored him as the rest of the Kurds didn’t seem to mind. He was a city boy any way from down south and the Peshmerga we were working with didn’t have a lot of respect for him.

Eventually we had to pick up and move on as the mission changed. When we had to haul ass to occupy Kirkuk, our little friends got left in Klawkut and we never saw them again. That is the way of the mascot though, they are interchangeable to a certain degree, although I still think about them and wondered if they made it through the war ok.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Freezefest 5K 2012

The Freezefest is a run I have done annually for at least the last 3 years. I have made it my traditional first race of the year. I knew this year's race had potential to be a good one as we have had a very very mild winter..very "un Freezelike." I had also been running very strong the last few months as I continue to train for some ultramarathons I am doing in the spring. Last week I ran a sub 48 minute 10K for the first time in my post military life (I retired from the military in 2004). I was excited and a little nervous about the chance to run the fastest 5K I have run since I turned 40.

The day of the race was very mild with a predicted temperature in the 40's. To keep with my training schedule I had to complete a 90 minute run on race day so I arrived about 0900 for the 1100 start. I also broke with tradition and did not eat my normal pre race breakfast of honey bun and Gatorade. I picked up my race packet and then returned to the car. I dropped my stuff off and went for a very easy 60 minute run. The race is held in the Squaw Creek park so I explored the trails around the park and finished about 5 miles prior to the race commencing.

After I finished my warmup I visited the portopotty and milled around for about 15 minutes with the other runners until everyone started moving towards the start line. Uncharacteristically and in anticipation of trying to run as fast as I could I self seeded in the front third of the group of racers. As most of you know I usually start at the back but not on this day. Shortly after we lined up the command to go was given, I hit the timer on my watch and off I went.

I started off quickly and thanks to my warmup my knee wasn't stiff as it usually is during my initial start. The course headed east on a paved service road for what I guess was about 3/4 of a mile. I was feeling good and picking people off little by little. After 3/4 of a mile we made a turnaround and as I approached it I was happy to see that I was still in the top third of racers. I glance at my watch and it was about at 6 minutes. The course had no mile markers so I wasn't quite sure of the distance, I just guessed based on previous experience.

We headed back west on the same road , passing back by the long line of runners that had not made the turn yet. I knew we would have to run back past the start and then continue on for about another mile before turning again and heading back to the finish. It was during this long section that I concentrated on maintaining my pace. I kept telling myself to run tall and keep turning over my feet. It was also during this section where people started settling into their pace. I would pass and be passed several times by the same two people for the rest of the race as we pushed each other. At one point during this section I actually felt like I was running downhill on the flat course.

Eventually we curved back east on the road and passed the "cowbell guy" who every year at CVRA events cheers on the runners with his boombox and cowbell. We continued on east to the turnaround when we headed back towards the finish. I was starting to smell the barn as I could actually see the finish line off to my right as the road curved back around the park. I looked at my watch and it read 20 minutes. Based on the distance left I was pleased to discover I was going to beat my goal time of 24 minutes by a pretty sizable margin. I just didn't know by how much. The course turned right into the parking lot for the last .1 mile to the finish. I could see that the official timer was reading 21 something so I really pushed it hard up the small incline to the finish in hopes of running the race under 22 minutes. Unfortunately it was not to be as I finished in 22:03.

I was very happy with my time and thought it was a post military PR, however after I arrived home I discovered I had run the CC Rider 5K in 20:37 back in 2004. Oh well it is definitely the fastest 5K I have run in the last 7 years. Looking forward to a definite PR at the Hawkeye 50K coming up next month