Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NOV/ DEC 2007 Update:


I didn't keep to my once-a-month update- but I guess I have to get my priorities have to be straight or the Taliban wins.. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see more people when I was home but family had quite a bit planned and I couldn't get enough of Elizabeth, Amelia and Susan around the homestead.
~100 days have passed. 1/4 of the way through..

Completing training @ Fort Riley~ NOV-DEC07:

Since the last time I wrote in mid- NOV, we have continued our required training at Fort Riley. PT (Physical Training) 3-5 mi runs + extras.. hill runs, sprints (more for smokers and doughnut eaters), rope climbs, and plenty of upper body work done on the ground. Most groups are not as intense but I was lucky to have a motivated SGM (Seargent Major)- our fitness guy. The weather cooled off and KS became windy and damp- lending some cold days on weapons ranges. PT at 5:45AM in 18 degrees was a bit of a challenge.. BUT, you know- that was the fun of it- getting through it really works to build teams and offers a real sense of accomplishment.

We have had several training events to complete- a few highlights: The first one was 3 days of CLS- Combat Life Saver which is essentially treating for trauma and stabilization; tourniquets, bandaging, lung injuries, IV, and clearing of areas if their is an traumatic event or explosion. The IV part is what I really didn't enjoy- I don’t like needles or blood. I had to stick a partner with a needle and catheter, put on a valve, and start an IV- and then have it done to me.. Everyone new it was a huge challenge for me and I had quite the audience. The military has emphasized this training because it figured out that 80% of deaths could be avoided by immediate treatment of bleeding, etc by having more CLS certified people in the field.

Other mandatory training for ‘Mentors’ was police and security related; establishing and running traffic control points, clearing of rooms, cordon and search, searching vehicles and personnel and raids.. Convoy Operations was a focus because forces are constantly on the move either in patrols, logistical support, or moving to a place of work as in my case from the U.S. base. Convoy Ops is a big deal because it’s a highly synchronized effort where everyone in the Humvee has a job of either Driver, TC (Truck Commander- radios, computer, navigation), Gunner- there is a turret in the top center with a mounted rifle, or passenger who would dismount in case of an ambush. We practiced in multi-million $ in hi-tech computer rooms- role playing convoy ops- and on the road in live-fire ranges reacting to simulated IED's and friendly and enemy pop-up targets. At first much of this technical stuff was overwhelming- It's interesting how when roles are layed out and practiced everything works out as planned.

During this time we trained with some ANA soldiers and started working with interpreters, We also received some 'intel' updates on our AO ‘Area of Operations’ from senior officers home from theatre and secure web briefs.

I was able to go home for a few days for Thanksgiving which was wonderful- my sister Risa made a huge dinner and great event for family at her place in Wauwatosa. In a way it was like walking the last green mile (~movie). After being gone and living in open barracks when I stepped into my house my first thought was ‘Wow; all this is mine? I have my own kitchen, and bathroom..?!! And a loving family- I consider myself so fortunate- the girls were so cute- they had so much to tell and share..

I really enjoyed a Chaplain on the base named Major Fisher- he has such a sense of humor.. One day he started by saying ‘ya, I did a little hunting this weekend, over on I-70 doing about 70mph’.. Just that kind of stuff- he could really get the room involved and engaged. Each weekend we would get up, put a hand on the next guys shoulder and pray for the folks that were departing overseas.. The Sunday before Thanksgiving his talk still resonates in my head- now you may not really get it- but bear with me- I started out in the Army in infantry which is a lot of ground work.. Anyway- the message was how thankful infantryman are- they are thankful first when it’s not raining, then if they have a shelter halve, then if they can get some food and sleep.. You know- the basics- appreciating what you have..

Lastly, I also was able to go home for a bit more than a week in December.. Everything worked out just great- flights, seeing family and friends; good quality time with Susan; we hit our favorite coffee shops, visited the art museum with Risa and Dad. Had a great early Christmas at my parents house and later saw ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Pabst which was amazing.. Went to Baccus restaurant via close friends the Lewanders.. Plenty of quality time with the girls- taking them to school- I normally take the to school one day a week- let me tell you that was tough for me; the national anthem, and realizing that I won’t get to do this for a year- I’m a softy and I had to hide the tears.

Departing Milwaukee wasn’t as tough as other times- I had been through leaving a few times now and was ready to get this adventure rolling.. Overall the mission still remains the same- Advising the Afghan Security forces.. Exactly what this involves and will be like I don’t know but will soon find out.


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