Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's Eve

























My goal for the night? To be asleep by 1030! Such is the life of an intrepid Whateverthehellmyjobis like me. I still have a little work that I need to get done before sleep, and I haven't really talked to Lauren much in the last couple of days, so I'm keeping this short tonight.

Assuming everyone else is denying themselves New Year's fun in a show of solidarity with me, you should take a break from Army 2.0 for a night and read up on headier events currently transpiring here in Central Asia. I recommend e-Ariana as a solid, daily news source for all things Afghanistan...so enjoy~!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Television, Sports, and Marketing...or Lack Thereof



One thing that shocked me upon getting to BAF was seeing how prevalent cable TV is. I'd heard that there would be TV's in the gyms and dining halls...but seriously, I can get cable hooked up in my room. With HBO and ESPN and CNN--for $15 at that.

So don't weep for me and all the Duke basketball games I'll miss this year. As long as I'm willing to negotiate the 9.5 hour time shift, I can watch all the games I want out here. Case in point, the Redskins/Cowboys game tomorrow. It starts at ~0145 local. I haven't decided whether I'm going to try to get up for it, but it's nice to know that if I wanted to, I could.

That said, similar to how the nice people at the Army/Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) facilitate war profiteering w/o charging service people any pesky sales taxes, the Armed Forces Network (AFN) doesn't waste our time with commercial ads.

But don't think we get off ad free--nope, instead we get to watch a series of commercials cum public service announcement about everything from baby shaking, to how to properly marry a foreign national. Useful stuff, without a doubt--though I still think that there isn't a better way to handle an angry baby that a good shake or three.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Deployment Statistics

While I'm here, I plan to track certain things. I haven't decided exactly what those things will be yet, but whatever they are, I plan to track the hell out of 'em. Because the way I figure, if you take some otherwise boring task (like, say, living on BAF every day for ~10 months), and you add statistics to it, then you've turned your boring task into a sport.

That said, I've been brainstorming what kinds of things Bagram Airfield Living (BAFL, pronounced Baffle?) should track. So far I've come up with:

Books I complete

Percentage of said books that unbeknownst to me are part of Oprah's Book Club

Miles I run

Workouts I work out at

Times I get yelled at when I might have done something to bring it upon myself

Times I get yelled at for reasons indiscernible to me

Money spent at the Post Exchange

Number of fast food meals purchased and consumed

And that's about it. (For the record, I currently stand at 1 / 100% / 3 / 1 / 1 / 1 / $55 / 3).

I had some hygiene related stats in mind, but I think that the world can live w/o knowing how many days I go between showers.

Also, I'd add something about number of hearts and minds I've personally won, and how many I've indirectly captured through my positive influence on others...but the numbers would be so astronomical that they'd look puny next to the, say, 3 whole miles I've run since I've been here. Wouldn't be fair to the rest of the stats, you know?

I will work on this and get back to everyone. I think stats should be rolled into the weekly roundups.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Week 1 Roundup and General Awesomeness


It has been quite the eventful week here at Army 2.0. To summarize:

I left Fort Bragg last Saturday to head to Afghanistan. Terrorists, it would seem, very much needed fighting, and a little thing like Christmas wasn't going to stand in my way of taking out the trash.

After brief stops in Maine, Ireland and Kuwait, I finally arrived here in country. I spent Christmas at Bagram Airfield, the largest installation that the Army has in Afghanistan.


Along the way, I reflected back on my pre-military appearace, and I said goodbye to a good friend.

An interesting first week at war, I reckon--with many more yet to go.

A late Merry Christmas to everyone, and a happy new year to all. Happy Holidays, and for my non-daily readers--I'll see you next week!

Saying Goodbye to a Friend


Today was a difficult day. Today, I bid farewell to Jeff, who has been sent on a (possibily) temporary mission to FOB Salerno. It's a good job that Jeff's going to, and we've heard very good things about the command there. I know that Jeff is going to do great, and I wish him safety and good tidings as the new year quickly approaches.

Jeff and I go way back. We met at the M16 range at Fort Jackson during my second week there, Jeff's first. Along with Chris and LTC Smalls, we formed a close knit group that weathered storms great and small at Fort Jackson and Fort Bragg.

Chris, Jeff and I had similar stories to tell--we got mobilization orders during our second year of MBA programs at Indiana, Ohio State, and California, and we subsequently were granted delayed report dates in order to complete our degrees.

The emotional roller coaster that is the IRR accepted us as passengers back in the Fall of 2006 when we each received our initial orders. By the time we all met in June of this year, I for one, was enormously relieved to find two guys who were trapped on the same ride that I was. We quickly bonded in the way folks so often do in the military, over a shared hardship. That we had similar histories and goals only strengthened the bond.

Inevitably, though, the three of us (along with LTC Smalls) would not all be sent to the same place in the war--or so we thought. As the battle rosters ebbed and flowed (Djibouti, anyone?) I all of a sudden found myself, this past October, in the same unit as Jeff. This was exciting stuff--regardless of what happened in the unit, or what jobs we might hold, at least I'd have a good friend at my side.

At the end of October, Jeff and I met up with our current crew. We were told that we would have similar jobs, on the same staff, and speaking for Jeff--we were pretty excited to be able to stick together.

There is a long, (possibly) interesting story to tell regarding what has happened in the months since we joined the unit. One day I'll share that with anyone who would like to hear it.

Which brings us back to the present. The latest twist in our tale happened a few days ago. Jeff was told that the unit needed to fill a position at Salerno, that he had been chosen to fill it. These things happen in the Army all the time, of course. It would be naive to assume that just because Jeff and I had been slated to work together for the next 10 months, that such would definitely be the case. Still, the announcement came like a blow to the gut.

Jeff and I had been one another's band-aids, I think--keeping each other grounded as the IRR process continued its inexorable march to the sea in FOB Patriot, en route to Central Asia, and finally here in Afghanistan. All of a sudden, it came time to rip the band-aid off. To engage in our duties here in Afghanistan independent of someone who remembers what the Impact Zone at Fort Jackson was like. Or the sickly feeling in your gut when you walked up the steps of the building with the red awning.

We will both be fine, of course. There are good folks here at BAF--good friends and colleagues. I'm sure Jeff will find the same thing at Salerno. And I think Jeff and I will do well at our respective jobs. And who knows, perhaps this really will be a temporary gig, and Jeff will return to BAF triumphantly in a couple of months to assume an interesting, useful, clearly defined role on one of the infinite number of staffs that live here.

All the same--today was a difficult day.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2:05 AM 25 Dec 07--My Hooch at Bagram Airfield


Blogger's Note: The following post was written the night I arrived in Afghanistan. It is one of a series of time-stamped posts that I'll be after-the-fact publishing to Army 2.0 over the next few days. I hope that the out of order dates are not too confusing.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I'm laying on the bed I'll sleep on for the next 10 months, inside the shelter I'll live in for the next 10 months, about 10-15 meters from the bunkers I'll take cover in for the next 10 months--but only if and when the nice people of Afghanistan decide that attacking Bagram Airfield is in their political or personal best interests.

Before I go on, I should mention that Bagram is pretty darn safe place. We're a smidge north of Kabul, far away from the hot spots in Afghanistan to the south and east. That said, there have been attacks here. I do carry a loaded weapon here. It is still a warzone, for whatever that's worth.

Back to the hooch--I have my own little compartment here inside a larger structure that sleeps 4 of us, all told. My portion is about 7' x 7'. Not bad at all, especially after I spruce it up a bit.

I've been told that we're nestled inside some beautiful mountains, but as we arrived in the middle of the night (11:07 PM, to be exact) I haven't had the chance to see them yet.

The flight from Kuwait was 4 hours long and uneventful. I strained my eyes to keep reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, and I did my daily brain exercises on my Nintendo DS.

I'm basically free to get settled from now until about 3 or 4 pm tomorrow. I don't know what's going down then, but it promises to be an orientation of one kind or another.

For now, I need to get to sleep. This might not get posted until some days after Christmas, but all the same--merry Christmas, and a happy new year to all.

Sad to be away from my family and wife, but in good spirits all the same,

Andrew

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

1:58 PM 25 Dec 07--Bagram Air Field

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

I'm safe and sound here in Afghanistan, 6 months to the day after I reported for duty at Fort Jackson. Feels like that was a lifetime ago.

I stayed up last night typing a post on my personal computer about Bagram and the last leg of my trip, so I'll hold off on all that information for now. I should have an internet connection in my hooch sometime in the next week or so, so I'll be able to post more extensively about my travels then.

For now, love to all, and I'll talk to you soon. Again, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

10:31 AM 24 Dec 07--Relaxing in Kuwait

Not much to report, but I'm safely here in Kuwait. Which means that I'm safely free of having to pay taxes for the month of Decemeber--take that, IRS.

We're not here for very long, so the next you'll hear from me should be when I make it to Afghnistan.

Kuwait has been fun, though--great dining facility, a chance to sleep on a bed, and shake off the cob webs after a 17 hour, 3 continent journey.

One last note--Rod Stewart was at the pub at the airport we were at in Ireland. I didn't so much see the man, but several people swear that such was the case. And why would several people lie to me?

So here's to you, Rod Stewart--maybe next time you'll hang around long enough for me to get a picture.

6:14 AM 23 December 07--Shannon, Ireland


After a 5+ hour flight from Maine, I find myself in Ireland for the first time in my life (roughly where the green arrow is pointing in the picture to the left). Though I have to say, my usual standard for having visited somewhere includes leaving the airport. So flying from DC to Seattle w/ a layover in Chicago doesn't count as having been in Illinois, for example.

It pains me to say so, but I feel like I should apply the same standard here. As such, I'm in Ireland right now, but I've still never been to Ireland.

We have one more pre-Afghanistan stop. Not sure how long I'll be there before I head to my final destination.

I'll continue to shoot out little updates as I can, and look for the full story to go live in the days and weeks after I'm pleasantly settled in the war zone.

Peace and Love to all, and if you haven't already, please check out the holiday message that Lauren sent out on my behalf when I took off yesterday.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

7:35 PM 22 Dec 07--Bangor, Maine


I'm sitting in a crowded snack bar at the Bangor International Airport (not sure if that's what it's called, but that's what I'm calling it.)

We weren't planning on stopping here, but here we are--a nice 2 to 3 hour layover after a 2 hour flight from North Carolina.

Upon disembarking the plane, I was greeted with the rather bleak landscape pictured above...

And around the corner, I was greeted with quite another landscape .

I've never actually seen anything like the greeting line I ran through here in Maine. Apparently they have a welcoming committee here, and apparently most people had heard about it before (or experienced it for themselves). But the whole thing was a surprise to me, and I have to say--I can be a cynic sometimes, but these friendly, grateful Maine residents (Maineians? Maineiacs?) really touched me. When one older woman told me that she was so sorry that I wouldn't be able to spend Christmas with my family, I about lost it. I was choking back tears, thinking about my wife (who isn't too far away in Connecticut right now), and it makes me a little weepy remembering it right now.

3:50pm 22 Dec 07 -- Fort Bragg Mystery Hanger

Hi everyone,

Its Lauren, posting for Andrew. He wanted me to let everyone know his long journey has begun and he is flying to mystery location number one. It will be a long trip and we are both already missing the constant contact we have come to depend upon during our relationship. Andrew asks me to say Merry Christmas to all, and that he loves and is thinking of all of his friends and families.


As a side note, I have his address in Afghanistan, so please feel free to email me if you would like to send him a note or something.


Keep Andrew in your thoughts - its a long 11 months ahead of him.


Love, Lauren Exnicios

12:13 PM 22 Dec 07--Final Meals


We were served our final meal here on American Terra Firma. It was catered by the same nice people who fed us out at FOB Patriot for these last couple of months. Next up: airline food.

11:04 AM 22 Dec 07--Holiday Musings on Hairstyles of Yesteryear


This picture has been previously posted, but I thought it might be nice to remind myself of where I was 7 months ago. I took this photo a week or two before graduation from business school, and I imagine this is how most of my friends and colleagues from Cal remember me.

Back then, I figured that by Christmas of 2007 I'd probably have been in Iraq for 4 or 5 months by now. The thought that I might end up in Afghanistan didn't really cross my mind. And I would have called you crazy if you told me I would spend the days before Christmas still at Fort Bragg, after 6 months of training and schooling and blogging and weekending w/ my wife.

Now, if only they'd let me ride out the hair cut this whole time, then we'd be talking.

P.S. I posted another pic over at my parallel blog, so check that out at your leisure...

10:41 AM 22 Dec 07--Get Eur-Ass Back to Eurasia


Jeff and I are sitting in a massive hangar awaiting the word to board the plane that will transport our unit overseas to a location in the greater Eurasian Metropolitan area (that I still can't mention by name).

The hangar we're in is typically used for Airborne troopers getting ready to load up on a plane with all of their combat gear.

As you can see in the pic, though, Jeff and I are not thusly encumbered. We've got carry on bags, and yes, our rifles--but we'll be loading onto a chartered commercial flight, not a C-130 military air craft. We'll have flight attendants, airplane food, the whole nine yards. So we probably won't get to jump out of our plane to rain death and destruction on some unsuspecting terrorists (a minus). But I will have plenty of time to play my Nintendo DS (a plus). All told, it should be fun. Check back for more as the morning/afternoon drags on...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Almost There

I can't give specifics, but I'm getting very close to my travel date/time. I'll be moving through several different countries on my way to Afghanistan, and once I've moved through, I'll tell the tale here.

The problem, then, is that I don't know when and where I'll next have an internet connection.

How will I overcome that, you wonder? With pluck, grit, and a healthy dose of hardworksmanship, that's how.

By which I mean I'll be writing posts to myself on the laptop as I go, saving them on a flash drive. When I get access to a computer, I will upload the posts. Tale told, end of story, right?

Now, for those of you wondering if lack of access can explain my poor blogging record over the last month...sadly, this is not the case. For the sake of making excuses, though, let's say that I've spent the last month driving around the US in a van solving mysteries.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Still Alive


Still at FOB Patriot.

Still in great spirits.

Why?

Because I'll be DONE w/ FOB Patriot in a week.

Awesome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just About the Cutest Thing Ever



I was trying to look up pictures of Ballistic Combat Glasses for a different post, when I came across this picture of a combat puppy wearing his ballistic eye wear. I think it might be about the most adorable puppy ever. I really do.

That is all.

An Ode To Sean Taylor

For those of you who haven't heard, or don't follow sports closely, Redskins All-Pro free safety Sean Taylor died this morning. Sean was shot yesterday while defending his family from burglars.

This morning, when I was feeling a bit blue about it, Lauren wrote a little story about what REALLY happened to Taylor. So, by way of tribute, I present that story to you in it's original, barely edited form. Enjoy--and RIP Sean Taylor.

I don't think Sean Taylor is really dead. I know, it seems far fetched. But bear with me for a second.

I think the knife incident two weeks ago was a wake up call for Mr. Taylor.

I think that, good father and boyfriend that he is, he faked his death to get him, his baby and his baby's momma out of danger. I think they are going to go live a life on a tropical island, and even now are flying to Tahiti or somewhere to start their life of anonymity and drinks out of coconuts.

Problem is, a man like Sean--he wasn't born to sip drinks and lay by the beach. He was born to play football. It's what god put him on the earth to do--he can't just hang around on an island forever.

Fast forward 2 or 3 years, and he'll want to play again. But he can't come back to the NFL, everyone will know its him. So he'll have to go play in the Canadian leagues. Where clearly his skill will outmatch everyone's, it being Canadia and all.

So the bad guys, the ones who left the knife on his bed a few weeks ago, will catch wind of it, and start blackmailing him. Lucky for Sean, though, there happens to be a washed up police detective living in Canada who loves the Redskins, but had to move to Canada after he blew a case b/c he started drinking when his wife left him. He too will recognize Taylor's skill, and Taylor and the washed up detective will develop an unlikely friendship. There may be a dog involved, or a plucky kid living next door.

Anyway, the bad guys try to take out Taylor - for reals this time - at the championship of the Canadian football league. Which Taylor has led his ragamuffin team of has-beens and cast-offs to. And the police detective tells him has to leave--the Grey Cup isn't worth the life of Sean or his family.

But Sean can't leave his friends--he's part of a team, after all. So the police detective and sean taylor hatch a crazy plan to catch the badguys and win the Cup. The Grey Cup. Then, with the bad guys finally caught after all these years, Sean can return to the Redskins.

And having been returned to grace, the police detective returns to the DC area, but decides to forgo an offer to rejoin the force in order to become the head of Sean's private security detail and live with Sean and his family.

And finally, Sean will realize that he never did marry his baby's momma--so they will get hitched at the 50 yard line of Fed Ex field in front of 90,000 screaming Redskins fans, with Chris Cooley's floppy hair presiding over the ceremony.

OXFAM Isn't Impressed

As it turns out, not everyone is as impressed with the job US Army Civil Affairs does in Afghanistan as we in the US Army Civil Affairs are.

OXFAM, a left leaning think tank dedicated to bringing about social justice, released a report suggesting that the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Astan engage in projects that are "unsuitable, unused or targeted by militants". Ouch.

Another criticism is that the civil projects spearheaded by the PRT's squeeze out local initiatives. This is a particularly interesting criticism, as one of the major tenets of civil-military operations is the legitimization of the host nation government. That is, the very thing OXFAM criticizes the PRT's for is something that the PRT's are explicitly trying do the opposite of. Not sure where the disconnect is.

One of the dudes at the Small Wars Journal (see comment 18) points out that we in NATO are still trying to get our head wrapped around COIN. So regardless of the merits of OXFAM's report, I think we will continue to improve our ability to rebuild in Astan.

That said, I'm sure things will start to improve exponentially once I bring my deadly rifle skills to the fight.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Different Sort of Thanksgiving


Things tend to get dramatic here at the forward edge of freedom, and Thanksgiving 2007 proved to be no exception.

First things first, the most important part of the holiday is that I was able to spend it with my beautiful wife Lauren. This was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. Thanks to Uncle Sam and his relentless pursuit of Neo-Global Islamo-Fasciasts, our first Thanksgiving as a married couple nearly didn't happen.

You see, the good people who run FOB Patriot do so with a simple, powerful premise behind everything that they do--Theater Immersion. They reckon that the best way to prepare for life in Iraq or Afghanistan is to simulate that lifestyle as closely as possible for 6 weeks immediately before sending units overseas.

Is this a good way to train, in my opinion? I think that, as with everything, there are tradeoffs--but generally, Theater Immersion, if done well, seems like it might have a small incremental affect on our survivability overseas. If a spot of hassle and discomfort are the price we pay for one or two or 10 dudes not getting hurt or killed, then it was a small price indeed.

That said, Theater Immersion sometimes stretches the bounds of common sense. Such was almost the case this Thanksgiving.

To wit, we were originally supposed to spend the entire Thanksgiving holiday here at FOB Patriot, locked down as always, despite the fact that we had NO training scheduled for the day. More reasonable minds eventually prevailed, and we owe that almost entirely to our battalion chain of command. Our Battalion Commander has fought relentlessly for the well being of the soldiers in my unit since the day we arrived at FOB Patriot.

Unfortunately, though, because of the late notice that we'd be able to leave the FOB over Tgiving, most of the battalion was unable to arrange for their families to visit. I was fortunate that Lauren lives relatively close to here, but we literally made the final call on Tuesday or Wednesday for her to come down to Fort Bragg.

Once here, Lauren and I spent the holiday with my old friend Matt Holmes and his beautiful family. Matt has opened up his home to me and Lauren time after time since I've been at Fort Bragg, and once again I find myself at a loss for words in thanking him for his generosity. Lauren and I had a wonderful day surrounded by babies and pets and a loving family.

And more than anything else, Lauren and I had each other. So while things didn't play out exactly as Lauren and I had planned, our first Thanksgiving as a married couple will forever be a holiday to remember.

p.s. I wrote many moons ago about the amount of turkey that I had consumed at Army dining facilities. Since then, I've been served surprisingly little turkey, much to my chagrin and/or relief. That said, Lauren and I definitely ate the hell outta some turkey on Tgiving. And then on Friday, when I had a few more hours free, we got lunch at Boston Market, split an 8 oz turkey plate with stuffing and mashed potatoes, and pretended that we were eating leftovers.

Range Week at FOB Patriot


Hello again, folks.

For the last week or so I have been engaged in an epic battle with freedom hating, terror loving man-sized silhouettes. After seven days and hundreds of bullets, the results are in--if man sized silhouettes pop up at me for 3-7 seconds at a time at a range of 50-300 meters--remaining perfectly still and not firing back--I will totally shoot them approximately 75% of the time. Put that in your water pipe and smoke it, Taliban.

That's right, everyone, I successfully qualified not once, not twice, but three times on my M16--once on a computer simulation (35/40), once using my iron sites (26/40) and once using my laser optic (25/40). For those of you scoring at home, the minimum to pass is 23/40, so yes, my never ending hunger for terrorist killing remains tragically hamstrung by a persistent streak of mediocrity in my marksmanship.

I also got to qualify on a 9mm pistol for the first time in my military career, which was enjoyable. As Lauren says, the targets are sometimes so close that you think they're jumping out at you (they start at 7m away) but shooting a pistol w/ accuracy is no mean feet. And I actually got the designation "1st class" with the pistol, which at the very least makes me sound cool. I'm not exactly sure how to work "Pistoleer First Class" onto my resume when it comes time to seek post-Army 2.0 employment, but I'll let y'all know when I do.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Better Half is Getting Older

And last but not least for tonight, happy birthday to my beautiful wife Lauren. Twenty eight years ago today she came into this world, and we're all that much better for having her in it.

Here's to you, babe, on your special day.

Search Engine Optimization Update

Hey everyone.

I haven't checked in for a while regarding how Army 2.0 shows up on search engines--but it turns out that we're sitting at number 3 when you Google "FOB Patriot". I've already had a couple of folks contact me with questions about the FOB. As always, I'm glad to help those Soldiers who come after me know a little more about what they're about to get themselves into.

Glove Update



For all of you out there who were worried, I found my Nomex Flight Gloves. I say again, my Nomex Flight Gloves have been found.

Why do I require Flight Gloves anyways, you ask? I'm not entirely positive, but I think it has something to do with Fire Retardation.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Potato Chips are Delicious


I know that you aren't supposed to eat when you're down. But after venting a bit in that last post, I talked to Lauren and chomped down a bag of Cape Cod Salt 'n Vinegar Potato Chips.

For the record, Cape Cod Salt 'n Vinegar Potato Chips are delicious, and the good people of Cape Cod should be commended for living somewhere worthy of having so tasty a snack named after their home town.

After saying goodbye to Lauren, I jogged the quarter mile to the shower trailer, and I enjoyed a nice hot, 5 minute shower. Nevermind that I forgot my shower shoes and very well might have picked up some foot funk, it was a damn fine bathing experience.

So I guess my point is, and continues to be, that all things considered, we've got it pretty good here on the FOB. As glorified prison camps go, we're living in the Hilton for sure**.

**To any and all FOB personnel, administrators, and well-wishers--I don't in any way shape or form consider FOB Patriot to be a prison camp. You don't get paid salaries to go to prison camps. And they don't let you have your own guns. I get paid good money to be here, and I walk around armed to the hilt. I rule. And I really do dig it here. But, as you might imagine, I miss my wife a lot...

Did I say "easy as Wednesday morning"?

Well, it turns out that my morning me-time might very well be going the way of the Do Do. All of our morning start times are getting pushed up, in part because we want to jam as much training in during these next many days so that our instructor/trainers can take time off over the Thanksgiving holiday. As best as I can tell, my unit will get the day off for the holiday, but we'll have training all through the rest of the weekend.

The instructors don't live here at the FOB with us--they rotate in to teach whatever classes they're assigned. There is a separate chain of command that administers the FOB itself, and a third that makes the training calendars that governs us, the FOB administrators and the trainers. Having this many cooks leads to some (a lot of) confusion and crossed signals, but that's an entirely different post...

Bottom line, my free time at the FOB is about to get a little more restricted. And I lost my Nomex gloves. And my slightly torn/strained rotator cuff doesn't like the armor I wear every day. And even though we've been here 14 days now, we have 28 more days of FOB Patriot.

But for now, I know that I've got next Thursday off. All I'm focussed on is drudging through 5 more days, getting in some more good training, and (hopefully) seeing Lauren for Thanksgiving. From there, we'll see where things go.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Easy as Wednesday Morning

I wanted to check in, and briefly give a shout out to my second favorite time of day (my favorite being any time that I get to talk to my wife). Our schedule around here is pretty insane, and I keep not getting around to a day in the life post--but for now I'll just say that most mornings I have about an hour to sit in my camp chair by my bunk, relaxing, reflecting, and preparing for the day.

I check in my favorite Afghanistan news sources (http://www.e-ariana.com/ and http://www.bakhtarnews.com.af/default.asp?Lang=E), check box scores, catch up on email, and listen to music.

The hour always flys by, and I need to rush off now to eat some breakfast and get ready for the training day. But still, mornings here aren't bad at all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cat's Barber Shop and the Yadkin 500


There's this strip right outside of Fort Bragg that back in the day was called the Yadkin 500. Not sure if it still goes by that name, but the 2 mile stretch of Yadkin Road immediately outside of Bragg is one of the quintisential Army post strips in the entire world. It has everything--tattoo parlors, military gear stores, strip bars (though not nearly as many as on Bragg Blvd), pawn shops...and barber shops.

My buddies and I counted once, and I kid you not--there are 31 distinct establishments in a 2 mile stretch of the Yadkin 500 where one can get one's haircut for a reasonable price. Tonight, I had the distinct pleasure of patronizing one such establishment for the first time.

Up until now I've taken my haircuts on Fort Bragg, with decidedly mixed results. I never made the move to the Y500. Why? Because as anyone who is familiar with this type of strip can tell you, they can be a little on the sketchy side-and the Y500 sets the gold standard for sketch, at least for the live-ball (post 80's malaise) era. Haircuts haven't been a big deal anyways, and I've stretched the bounds of the Army's uniform and appearance standards by going 4 and 5 weeks between cuts. But that won't fly now that I'm with an actual unit, and need to set an example for the soldiers who I outrank.**

As such, I took some time during my free afternoon today to trim the old lettuce.
But when I got a bit behind schedule, there was no time to make it back to post for a mediocre cut with my local Army barber. The only thing I had time for was, you guessed it, the Y500.

Now, I didn't have a particular location on the Y500 in mind. I figured I'd just drive down the street, and choose the first barber shop I found that seemed to be open, well lighted, and in a high traffic area where the likelihood for Pulp Fiction-i-cation was as small as possible.

I found just such a location in the form of Cat's Barber Shop.

The nice fellows at Cat's were the type of older, southern gentlemen that you feel comfortable cutting your hair--Fox News on the TV, Army crap all over the walls, look like they're 60 but they're probably only 45--you all know the type. I got a good hair cut at a decent price, to include the straight razor treatment on my neck to wrap things up.

And the kicker was, this guy didn't even ask me how I wanted my hair cut. Literally, I walked into Cat's and sat down immediately. I made an apology for my hat head (we like our hats in the Army), and he said not to worry about it--he could fix me right up. And without any further ado, he did just that. He cut and trimmed and razored my lettuce, and he did a good job of it all. I briefly considered interrupting his cutting to let him know exactly what he was looking for...but considering that all Army haircuts are a little silly regardless, I might as well let the man do his thing and see what would happen.

What happened was a great haircut. And I owe it all to the Yadkin 500.

**I know that some of you will rightly point out that as a Captain in a Civil Affairs unit, I don't technically out rank that many people. As best as any of us can tell, the chain of command in CA goes roughly Private, Specialist, Captain, Sergeant, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Major. But there are still like 3 or 4 Specialists in my unit, so I have to be strong for them so that the rest of guys don't rag me too hard.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Matt Sarazen and the Decemberists?


I download episodes of Friday Night Lights on my painfully slow Verizon internet card (blame the FOB, not the hardware). I use Amazon Unbox, because I like the Amazon..com...and because NBC ripped all their content off of iTunes.

On last week's episode, Julie Taylor just asked Matt Sarazen to a Decemberists show. Never figured rural Texas high school quarterbacks for fans of indie rock songs about whales and pirates (and assorted other sea-faring type things), but what do I know.

WSJ Article and Portapotties


For the time being, here at FOB Patriot at the forward edge of Freedom, life is a study in competition.

On the one hand, I am focussed outward on places and events and goings on that have very little to do with the day to day mundanity of FOB living. Here is an interesting op-ed from the WSJ that touches on some of the big picture things going on in Astan.

On the other hand, my short term health and happiness is entirely a function of the day to day mundanity here at FOB Patriot. And yesterday, the powers that be installed 5 new Portapotties 50 meters from my tent. That means that I can take care of basic human functions without walking 10 minutes to the other side of the FOB. And it makes me enormously pleased with life.

So, on that note, have a great holiday weekend everybody.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Afghanistan Blogs

Hey everyone. I have a favor to ask.

I'm trying to track down all of the interesting and informative blogs out there that focus on Afghanistan. I'm interested in blogs by soldiers, aid workers, locals, journalists, pundits...any and every source that in some small way contributes a viewpoint that reflects the situation in country.

Part of my job for the time being is to help my Civil Affairs unit develop situational awareness of what's going on at the micro and macro level in Afghanistan. Big Media reports are easy to come by, and I'm curious to see how useful blog sources can be to complement/contradict the news media at large.

Feel free to post to comments, or to email me directly, and thanks in advance for all your help--I can honestly say that doing this will help me and my unit of doing a better job fighting the Taliban and AQ. Crazy sounding, I know...but true.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Heard this one before?

I'm sure you all remember a couple of the IRR/HRC stories that I shared a few months back. It would appear that the incident linked to above is not an isolated one.

Not too long ago, a group of non-IRR service members were brought to Fort Bragg in support of the the Global War on Terror. Some were volunteers, reservists who were sitting on the sidelines and decided that they wanted to do their part. Others in this group were ripped from their active duty military jobs to fill spots.

All were assigned to the Civil Affairs mission that I've been a part of now since early July.

As it turns out, there were more folks called in than was necessary. Who, then, got sent home? The active duty folks, of course. So while the volunteers are sent home, the volun-tolds get to keep doing a mission that they didn't sign up for.

This is interesting to the IRR crowd that I'm a part of. To wit, if there is a supply of volunteers out there that is being sent home, why do folks who would prefer to sit on the sidelines have to come on in while the volunteers are told they can't play ball?

There are a number of reasons, I'm sure. These personnel decisions are made at echelons well above me or anyone I know. I'm sure there are good reasons for all of it.

FOB Patriot

I have officially occupied FOB Patriot, here at Fort Bragg.

Life is pretty good, and the FOB is pretty amazing. Great facilities, considering it's a big tent/trailer city in the middle of the Fayetteville, NC wilderness.

They are finding ways to keep us exhausted here. But things are good. Gotta get those warrior skills back somehow or another. Never thought I'd have to type a sentence like that, but hey, that's how things go these days.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hello, Goodbye

Lauren and I spent our last pre-FOB weekend together yesterday and today, and I just sent her on her way to Charlottesville, VA where she has training for the next week.

The two of us have had our share of goodbyes already, but this one felt pretty final. That's because sometime later this week I'll head off to train for several weeks straight, after which I'll have a few days off before my unit deploys to Afghanistan.

So, while this goodbye wasn't our last before deployment, it does bring our unprecedented run of weekends together to an end. Namely, since this whole process started Lauren and I were together every weekend since July, with a single exception in late September. We were a Rockies-esque 16 for 17 on weekends, despite all the Army stuff going on and Lauren's cross country move from Colorado to Virginia.

And because this improbable summer that the Army has improbably gifted us is finally come to an end, things are a bit sad.

But at the same time, I'm finally about to start the Army Training I need to get my skills back to the level they should be prior to deployment. I'm excited to meet my new unit, to start building my new role on a new team. And more than anything, I'm excited to get overseas so I can do some good for some folks, then get on home once and for all.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Your dragon style is no match for my Microsoft Paint Technique


While the image on the aforementioned blog is cool and all, this is how the real playas play, Jennifer Aaker in a Yao Ming Jersey style.

And for the record, yes--I did receive business school credit for making this image. Professor Aaker is probably the coolest b-school professor ever.

Another interesting IRR blog


This one from a recent HBS grad who apparently wasted 5 years in the Army that he could have spent making bank with his crazy Photoshop/Microsoft Paint skills.

Kidding aside, this makes an interesting read...he's obviously shared many of the same emotions that all of us IRR types have. The twist is that his delay/exemption process has dragged on and on, to the point where he still hasn't reported--and still might not have to.

It raises an interesting scenario, though--on the one hand, you're glad to not have to go back to the Army just yet, but on the other hand, you were kind of counting on that paycheck from Uncle Sam to kick in. Business school kinda makes you broke, and I know that I, for one, wouldn't be financially solvent right now if the Army hadn't been paying me since June.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Checking In and Saying Hey

Hello everyone!

Obviously, I've been away for a while. After 68 posts in less than 2 months of Army 2.0, this is my first blog since August 20th. To celebrate my return I thought I'd start tonight with an update on my timeline.

I won't share exact dates (even if I had them, which I don't), as troop movements are sensitive information that I can't post in this forum.

It turns out that I am going to Afghanistan. I'm currently slated to be a Public Safety Officer for the 451st CA Battalion. I don't know what this means exactly, and I might get moved into a job before all is said and done, but I meet my new unit tomorrow so I'm excited to learn more. As best as I can tell a PSO works with the police and emergency response, that sort of thing. An interesting, important mission, though not one I know much about.

When I link up with my unit tomorrow, we start a 4-6 week block of pre-deployment training. From there we'll deploy overseas sometime in December.

Fun stuff. More to follow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rhapsody and MTV

Now see, this is the kinda stuff that until recently I would spend all my time thinking about. Simpler times. Sigh...

But hey, I've gotta keep up while I'm away. It will be interesting to see what the terms of this deal are when details are released later today.

We're on the Official Radar!

Welcome and thanks to mbatm27, who had this to say in response to my post about CA doctrine (emphasis added):

“Actually, the doctrine is not being written during your class. It's been finalized.

It's always a little difficult to get your head around concepts if they are brand new and you have no anchor points of personal experience with which to relate them, don't worry, once you get down range, they'll maybe make a bit more sense.

And no, doctrine is not written by dummies, but by folks who have been exactly where you are today. The problem is that they sometimes have been so far removed from ground reality, that they sometimes miss the point.

It's good to have dynamic doctrine, that changes based on TTP and experiences of those who implement it. Otherwise, it get stale and useless.


Good luck with the class, we'll see you during the FTX.”

I think mbatm27 raises several valid points about what I posted, and I’d like to thank him again for adding an official voice to the conversation. What I was getting at in my post was the fact that our instructors are literally pulled straight off the front lines—which is, as you’d imagine, one of the great strengths of the CAQC. I get the impression that the same is true for the folks writing doctrine—that they redeploy straight from the field to the school house, and commit what they’ve done to paper.

As mbatm27 tells us, doctrine is set—but it’s also dynamic, lest it become “stale and useless.” And that seems about right, in this case. Many of the manuals we’re learning from are dated within the last calendar year. One of our two main manuals is still technically in draft status. So while it’s an exaggeration to state that we’re making this stuff up as we go along, doctrine is (as best as I can tell) hot off the presses. As a result, it feels a little clunky at times…which seems to be the tradeoff for keeping up with the latest and greatest overseas.

All told, I will take mbatm27’s advice and see if it all makes more sense once I get the chance to put what I’ve learned into practice at the CAQC culminating field exercise (which I’m very excited about) and ultimately in Iraq.

Thanks again, mbatm27, and I’ll see you out in the field. Please continue to chip in as you see fit—the extra perspective is really helpful!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fun with Search Engines


As I reported last week, this blog is the number one result on Google when you search for "Army 2.0"

Well, after analyzing the traffic on my site, I've turned up a couple of other interesting results.

First, this site is the number 2 result when you search for "Civil Affairs Qualification Course". Nice. Unfortunately, searching for the acronym CAQC doesn't work as well thanks to the jerks over at the Campus Alberta Quality Council. Thanks a lot, Alberta...but still, this is good news. People who want to learn about the Civil Affairs Course will be able to on this site.

On the other hand, this is troubling news. Should an upstart blog be the best source of information on the web about an official Army course?

Second, Army 2.0 is the 10th best result for folks searching for the "Army Physical Fitness Test". This one isn't quite as happy. I feel bad for anyone who stumbles upon this site looking for meaningful info about the APFT, as my post basically just tells the world that I passed one. Hopefully such visitors will come for the APFT, and stay to learn about Heidi from the Hills and/or what I did with my wife this weekend.

Any other interesting search terms that lead to the Army 2.0? Let me know if you find them! And keep the FAQ suggestions coming...I've got a lot of great ones so far, and I look forward to launching that feature soon.

**The beautiful image featured in this post is the top Google Images result for "Civil Affairs Qualification Course"

Civil Affairs Doctrine for Dummies

Or is it BY dummies?

I don't think it is, of course. But at the same time...

Civil Affairs doctrine is being developed in real time, as Civil Affairs Operators return from Iraq/Afghanistan and furiously attempt to recreate a logical framework to describe what it was they did overseas.

Things sometimes end up jumbled in a pretty confusing fashion. For example, three of the five CA Core tasks are:

1) Support of Civil Administrations (SCA)
2) Foreign Humanitarian Assistance (FHA)
3) Nation Assistance/Management of Civil Authority (NA)

Each Core task has multiple sub-tasks. Many of the sub-tasks are identical from Core task to Core task. For example, a sub-task for Nation Assistance might be to "Perform QC of NA operations and associated costs". Well, simply take that sub-task and replace "NA" w/ "FHA", and wham-o, you have a subtask for FHA. Makes it a lot easier to memorize doctrine for exams and the like.

Except not all tasks are worded the same way, creating all sorts of (questionably necessary) confusion. For example, check out these three supporting tasks.

1) SCA: Coordinate and synchronize collaborative interagency/multiagency SCA operations
2) FHA: Participate in interagency planning and synchronization of FHA operations
3) NA: Synchronize NA projects with other programs, both military and civilian

All of these sub-tasks say more or less the same thing about their respective Core tasks. Does it make sense to re-write the damn thing each time, confusing already confused CA Operators who are trying to wrap their brains around the word casserole that is our ever changing doctrine? Hopefully this is something that they/we will be able to streamline as this process goes forward...but who knows.

Just goes to show...when you're writing the text book as the class goes along, you're bound to have some fun along the way.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Happiness to End the Week

Lauren has completed work on our wedding album, and it looks fantastic...such a wonderful way to remember such a wonderful day.

We can't wait for the big, all-hands wedding party when I'm back from playing soldier.

Lauren is on her way down to Fort Bragg this weekend, so as usual, I'll probably we off the net for a couple of days. A great weekend to everyone, and we'll see you next week!

Dogs, Hills, Iraq


Maybe I'm just pulling for the underdog here, but like Mr. Easterbrook, I feel kinda sorry for Michael Vick and his trouble with the law.

My friend Megan, who is a writer/blogger for Us Weekly, gives us all the chance to weigh in on the new Heidi/Spencer track that's about to burn up the charts. Spencer's flow...you know you want it.

A new report suggests that an increasing percentage of Iraqis identify themselves as "Iraqi above all", rather than Sunni, Shia, etc. Interesting, hopefull stuff. But in a country of 25 million, if 25% are violently opposed to such nationalism, that's plenty enough folks to engage in some violence.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One Small Step for Army 2.0...


Hey there, everyone. As part of my much talked about (and little acted upon) expansion of the blog, I'm putting together a Frequently Asked Questions page. This is my first stab at it, and I would really appreciate it if you could comment with other questions that you think would be nice to have answered here.

A blog can be a tricky way for those of you who (much to my chagrin) don't check in 5 times a day to read and absorb every important nugget that I bury in a sea of posts about religiously themed video games and hateful license plates.

As such, the FAQ section will be a nice starting point for folks looking for a summary of where I'm at and what I'm doing, without having to dig through the rest of my (fantastically entertaining and life-enriching) content.

Sooo....lemme know what you think, and these FAQ's will migrate on over to the side navbar. Thanks in advance for your question suggestions!


1. Where are you? What is your timeline for deployment?

I’m at beautiful Fort Bragg, NC through at least mid-November 2007. From here, I’ll likely deploy to Iraq with a reserve Civil Affairs unit. Afghanistan is a possibility, but right now the powers that be are offering those slots to guys who agree to a longer commitment. I don’t think that I would commit to a longer tour just to secure a slot in the ‘Stan.

2. When will you be done with the Army?

Best case—Holidays 2008

Worst case—May 2009

3. Can you explain those dates in more detail?

Surely.

My orders called me up for 545 days. I reported for Army Training on June 24th, 2007, so 545 days takes me to December, 19th 2008.

If the army sticks to 545 days, they need to release me from active duty on the specified date. They also have to allow me to use whatever leave I’ve accrued by then, and they have to allow me 2-4 weeks for outprocessing and de-Iraqification. Connecting all those dots we have a timeline that looks something like the following (all dates are in 2008).

31 October Return to Fort Bragg, NC
14 November Complete outprocessing, sign out on terminal leave
19 December Released from active duty
26 December Boxing Day

Of course, the “if” up there is a big one. You might have heard of something called a “stop-loss”. This is when the military prevents soldiers from leaving active duty when their release date falls in the middle of their unit’s deployment.

The Army might stop-loss us so that we complete the entire 12 or 15 month deployment with the rest of our unit (whatever unit that ends up being). The Army would have to extend us past the 545 day mark to do so, which is entirely within their rights. They have done this to some folks, and not to others. I probably won’t know until late summer 2008 whether I’m coming back in mid-fall, or not until spring 2009.

4. What is the IRR? How did you get on the IRR in the first place?

Every time someone signs a contract to join the US military, they sign on for an 8 year commitment. Depending on the terms of your contract, the number of those 8 years that you have to serve on active duty will vary. For example, a service academy (e.g. West Point) graduate owes 5 years of active duty. An officer commissioned through ROTC owes 4 years active duty.

From there, the balance of the 8 years can be served with additional active duty, national guard/reserves, or on the Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR.

I chose to continue my service on the IRR. While on the IRR, imagine a roster filled with about 100,000 names behind a little piece of glass that says “Break In Case of Emergency.” After the terrorist strikes on 11 September, 2001, the President authorized the activation of IRR soldiers, and that’s how I ended up back on active duty.

As for the more metaphysical aspects of the IRR and my reactions to it, I go into additional detail here, here and here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Computer Games are Fun


First we had the first person shoot-em-up Army Video Game--a recruiting tool that, until recently, was the top result on Google if you searched for "Army 2.0" (take that, Army!)

Now, we've got a action-adventure shoot-em-up Left Behind video game that's being marketed directly to soldiers. Solid. Whatever your view on such a game, you gotta admit that it's a little wacky when the lines between marketing and religion begin to blur like this. Especially when government agencies are involved. And especially when Evander Holyfield and (we can hope) all 9 of his illegitimate kids are on board.

Hat tip to Andy Kiang for the link!

P.S. I couldn't write this post without linking to Megan's story about another of this games endorsers, Bio-Domer Stephen Baldwin. A little tale that I like to call THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD!!!!1!

Memories of a simpler time...


This sign (found on the street where I'm house sitting for the week) reminds me of high school.

Pure and Rare like a Gleaming Diamond

At long last, the generals set the record straight on "Don't ask don't tell."

Monday, August 13, 2007

CAQC Week 2 in Review

Another week is in the books for the intrepid soldiers and sailors of Civil Affairs Qualification Course (Mobilized) Class 05-07.

As promised, last week's training consisted entirely of computer fun. My fellow classmates and I learned all about a system called FBCB2, which is used in the Army for battle tracking and Command&Control. As per usual in such training, the young bucks helped the old timers wade through all of the menu's and clicks, and a good time was had by all.

The best part about the week was that on Thursday, our last day of training because of the long weekend, we were free to go as soon as we completed the final exam. For those of us who were fairly computer savvy, this meant that we could finish quickly and get on the road earlier in the day. As such, I was able to make it up to Alexandria in time to catch dinner with Lauren as part of the DC area's restaurant week.

For the life of me, I can't think of anything else amusing to say about last week. Sad, I know, but true. Sigh...

An Anecdote

When I left the Army the first time around, I said my farewell to my army colleagues at a traditional Army get together appropriately named a "Hail and Farewell". Most units have one of these parties every 2 or 3 months to welcome newcomers and send old friends on their way.

At such events departing officers typically get the chance to make a little speech to the crowd. As those of you who know me well can attest, I enjoy giving little speeches.

For example: When I was promoted to first lieutenant--another speech worthy event in the Army's eyes--I asked my fellow lieutenants up in Alaska to give me a list of 5 words that I would have to incorporate into the speech. The catch? I wouldn't look at the list until I was in front of the battalion and it was my turn to speak. True to my word, I improvised the promotion speech on the spot, and I used all 5 of those words in the process. To tell you the truth, I can't remember a single one of those words now--but I do still remember the stifled laughs of my peers, and the befuddled look of my battalion commander.

Back to the speech I gave when I left the Army the first time. It was nothing so flashy or outrageous as the promotion speech. I don't remember much of what I said in this speech either, other than thanking everyone I'd worked with, and Lauren, who was in attendance that afternoon. But as I concluded the speech, I ended on a little line that I had prepared.

"Peace in the middle east, no blood for oil, I'm out!"

This line drew hoots and applause. Soldiers who knew me, and my sense of humor, appreciated the irony of these statements. I shook hands on my way out, and I listened politely to the speeches of the other departing officers.

I found out about 6 months later that at least one wife in the crowd was deeply offended by my remarks. In her mind, I was making light of the danger that her husband had faced in Iraq. And of course, she was right. I was making a joke about the situation, which is and was as big part of my leadership style.

Aunt Terry, I think, is reacting to my general tone in much the same way as that Army wife. I haven't said anything that is specifically negative about Iraq--about the situation there, about military and political progress, etc. I think opinions on those matters are for each of us to figure out on our own. What I do, however, is make snide remarks using made-up phrases like "neo-global islamo-fascism". Does this humor betray my underlying views on the efficacy of our nation's current strategy? Or of the underlying premise/justification of a Long War to end/mitigate global terrorism's impact? I imagine that it might. But more than that, such language pokes fun at the propaganda and sloganeering that so often serves to replace popular dialogue about the situation in the middle east.

Because really, what's more absurd--that we're waging a war to end "neo-global islamo-fascism" or that what we're doing in Iraq is somehow related to trading blood for oil? Each phrase represents a gross simplification and (in my opinion) misrepresentation of the actual situation in the middle east.

Three Buckets of IRR Draftees

Bucket 1: The guys who don't show up when they're called
Bucket 2: The guys who show up, and are gung ho about it
Bucket 3: The guys who might not want to show up, but do

In light of my Aunt Terry's recent post--which was extraordinarily thoughtful, thank you for the feedback--I think that it's worth taking a step back to reexamine what the "IRR" is all about.

IRR stands for Individual Ready Reserve. Soldiers (and marines and sailors and airmen) can join the IRR when their active service obligation is complete, but they still have time left on their overall commitment to the military.

While on IRR status, soldiers are eligible to be called back into active service. Otherwise, the soldiers are left alone to lead their civilian lives.

In the last 3 years the Army has called about 10,000 IRR soldiers to active duty. The Army has not released any statistics (that I'm aware of, at least) regarding how many soldiers who were called actually reported for duty. Most folks estimate the number at about 40-50%. Anecdotally, in my class of draftees down at Fort Jackson there were 25 of us. More than 50 were supposed to report that day. The folks who trained us down at Jackson suggested that this was typical, and most of those folks have been at Jackson for the entire 3 years of the call ups. Take all that for what it's worth.

So, the first thing every one needs to know about me and my friends here at Forts Jackson and Bragg is that we all showed up. It also bears mentioning that of the 25 of us, all but two of us (me and one other person) had previously deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan.

What happens to the 50-60% who are no shows? Well, not that much, really. Currently, the best anecdotal information out there suggests that the Army is either forgetting about folks, or processing them for Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges. An OTH is what it sounds like--worse than an honorable, but better than a dishonorable. The rub is that many civilian jobs, and all federal/state jobs, require you to disclose any discharges from the military for other than honorable reasons. For some people, an OTH will really limit them. For some people it won't.

There are, as you'd imagine, a handful of dudes who get called up and are really happy about it. There are some folks who volunteered to return to service, and some who volunteered to leave their cushy Navy job (for example) to deploy with the Army.

But in my experience, most of the IRR folks who did bother to show up are somewhere in Bucket 3. We all question why we came. We all have days when we're feeling pretty down about our situation. But we also have days when we think things aren't so bad. Is this really so different than anyone else at any other job?

And ultimately, for better or for worse, our defining and linking characteristic is that we showed up. We didn't have to report--not really at least. But each of us, for our own reasons, decided to heed the call. Again, take that for what it's worth...which might not be much at all. But hey, it's all we've got.

It's very difficult to describe, actually...the experience of being drafted from the IRR list back into service is a very different one than any of us have gone through to date in our respective military careers. Very different from signing up initially (at 17, in my case--mom and dad had to sign a waiver!) Very different than anything encountered while on active duty.

At Army 2.0 I try to capture this experience for a couple of different reasons.

First, the blog helps my fellow IRR callups and I deal with our situation. My comrades at Jackson/Bragg have really embraced this outlet, and encouraged me to continue committing our experiences to the blog.

Second, I'm telling a story that I would have loved to have heard myself a few months ago. I hope that this blog will help future IRR callups know what they're getting themselves into.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Things I've Learned While Upacking

Hey everyone.

I'm up in VA again, and have spent the better part of the last couple of days unpacking at our new apartment. I've learned a number of interesting things about my beautiful wife in the process.

1. Becoming a lawyer requires a lot of law books. Our apartment is drowning in a sea of impressive looking leather-bound tomes with words like "Torts" and "Contracts" on their spines. I know that lawyers work hard to get where they're at, but I'd say that at least 5-10% of the battle is in buying and lugging around books.

2. Becoming a lawyer requires a lot of Nora Roberts books. This is the only explanation that I can come up with for owning and lugging around 30 of them.

3. This entire time we've been dating long-distance, Lauren has had a book that fancies itself as a hand book for couples in such a predicament. I feel like this has placed her at an unfair advantage for the duration of our time together, and that reparations are certainly in order.

I think that's it for now, but I'll come back with more if I can think of anything else, book related or otherwise.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Long Live the Yellow Elephants

This isn't new territory, but check out the latest on Mitt Romney.

And lest we forget, it's worth reading this piece that ran in the times last week about Chelsea Clinton, who was so moved by 9-11 that she set out on a career of public service got rich with gigs as a consultant and a hedge fund manager.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the children of the modern day American aristocracy.

Now, you might question my cynicism seeing as I myself sought to leave military service for a career in business not that dissimilar from Chelsea's or Tagg's. For that matter, most of my friends are engaged in such endeavors, and have never served a day in uniform in their lives. Many of them, just like Tagg and Chelsea, engage in philanthropic and volunteer efforts big and small.

What's the difference, then, between me/my friends and Tagg/Chelsea? No one in my circle is being held up as shining examples of their generation, while Tagg and Chelsea are. While Prince Charles's sons put on military uniforms and beg to go to Iraq (in Harry's case, at least), few if any famous sons in America go off to war. It seems harsh to judge the Chelseas and Taggs of the world based on the actions of their peers, rather than on their own merits...but for whatever reason, the almost utter lack of a famous name in service makes it worse.

Ah well...thank God for Rob Riggle!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What are they gonna do, send us to Iraq?

My old buddy Chris Davis asks a great question in the comments section of yesterday's post:

"What happens to those that don't pass the weigh-in or apft?"

And the answer is...basically nothing. We're all already going to Iraq, so if we fail to meet the course standards (including APFT type stuff) the "worst" they can do to us is send us over in a non-CA capacity. But since CA officers have one of the highest KIA rates of all Army officers, getting sent to Iraq in a non-CA capacity isn't necessarily a bad thing...

That said, an interesting rumor was floating around the water cooler earlier today. Without giving away too much, we're hearing that the IRR Captains in the class 7 weeks in front of me are getting assigned to staff jobs, rather than Team Leader roles. Staff guys are as "in the rear with the gear" as is possible in this age of non-contiguous battle spaces. The Team Leaders, on the other hand, are the bubbas out on the front lines of freedom, bravely risking their necks to ensure that no Iraqi child goes to bed without a beanie baby.

Bottom line--staff is safer, but Team Leader positions are more interesting and rife with professional/personal development opportunities. Food for thought.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Civil Affairs Qualification Course: Week 1 in Review

CAQC is a 9 week course, and I'm now through week 1.

I'm publishing this in the hopes that future CAQC students might find it, and know a little about what they're getting themselves into. This is information

It should be noted that the composition of each successive class seems to vary wildly--from IRR officers, to mobilized reservists, to our Navy friends that I've mentioned a time or two. The course also breaks down into Mobilized classes and Active Duty classes, but as a Mobilized soldier (IRR or otherwise) you could potentially end up in either. All of these variables might affect how your course is organized, so take the following summary with a grain of salt.

That said, here's a basic summary of how things went down for Class 05-07 Mobilized.

Monday:
0530 Reported for Weigh-In. Told whether or not we are overweight.

Lectured at off and on all day. Not much new information is put out there. We are handed a schedule for the next 9 weeks, but asked to remain "flexible" as it was unclear how closely the schedule would follow reality.

As was previously reported, the class learns that we will have long weekends, and won't have organized physical training. Nice.

Off by 1500.

Tuesday
0730 Reported for accountability--off rest of day. Navy folks invoke logic, asking why we needed to report just to have the rest of the day off. Army folks, having long since learned to ignore logic's siren song, are simply grateful for the time off.

Wednesday
0515 Reported for Army Physical Fitness Test. 47% of us pass the test, 53% of us do not. Cadre begin to rethink the soundness of their "No organized physical training" outlook on life.

Remainder of day filled with more admin, and a class on the history of the Civil Affairs since their debut on the battlefield in 1775.

Off by 1530.

Thursday
0800 Take actual, honest to goodness CA class from 8 to 9. Learn about various Special Operations units in Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps. Each unit is different, with unique talents and capabilities. Each unit is the same, in their betterness than the CA Corps.

Fill up rest of the day with psychological review, and law classes. I learn that I'm a cold blooded optimist with an "Undistinguished" personality. Hard to argue with that.

I do argue with our legal instructor, a self described "pull the trigger" JAG. I take this to mean that he advocates shooting first, and coming up with hostile intent later. Still, I chuckle at his claim that "there aren't enough cigars and bourbon in Fayetteville to go over every in and out of Law of War." I think hey, this JAG is kinda funny. I think that less and less on the 2nd, 4th and 7th times he uses his joke. What're you gonna do.

Out by 1545.

Friday
0715 Report for "digital training". These are the Army computer classes where an instructor sits at the front of the classroom, explaining some Army computer system or other, in excruciating detail. OK, now click on File. Now open. Now select. And select the such and such...and on and on. Boring, but not overly painful. And the computer system is worth knowing.

Out by 1500.

And that, my friends, was week 1. Nothing too bad, and a smattering of useful/interesting info to boot.

Week 2 will be more digital training, and starting week 3 we get to the actual meat of the course--who a CA operator is, and what he does.

Another Weekend Well Spent.


Hello again, everyone, and thanks for bearing with me this weekend. As I said I would, I left the blogging to others, so that I might enjoy another weekend with my lovely bride Lauren.

As you might recall, when we last saw Lauren she was frantically driving south through hordes of fellow cars in a nearly doomed attempt to drive through DC/Richmond rush hour. But for the grace of God, she was able to slog through--and even made it in time to enjoy a late night meal with me at the friendly Fayetteville Chillis.

From there, we caught a movie, relaxed, and spent Saturday evening with Matt and Laurie Holmes--and their 4 kids + dog. Matt is an old friend from Alaska who not so long ago saved my buddies and me from drowning in CAPOC's apathy, and Lauren and I had a great time catching up with the Holmes's.

A brief shout out is also in order to the hard working folks over at the Fairfield Inn of Fayetteville. Lauren and I stayed there in lieu of sharing my twin bed over at the barracks, and our room was clean and comfortable, and the service was excellent. There were a few "interesting" guests along for the ride, but honestly--just because you stand on the balcony of the Fairfield Inn in nothing but your swim trunks and beer gut--miller light in one hand and KFC in the other--doesn't mean that you're any less of a man than the rest of us.

Alas, as these weekends tend to do, this one went by altogether far too fast...but the good news is, I have a three day weekend, so I'll be up in VA on Thursday evening. Fun will follow. Zany adventures will no doubt be close behind. And through it all, there will be much rejoicing in all the land.

**Note--the gentleman on the balcony with the Miller Lite in no way resembled a cat, but if he had, his beer gut might have looked like this one.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Lauren is on her way!


Hey all, and happy Friday.

Lauren is on her way down to visit me this weekend at beautiful and scenic Fort Bragg, NC. We don't have much planned, but we will be spending Saturday afternoon evening with my old friends the Holmes's. I'll say hi to them on behalf of the whole Alaska crew.

Still, as I type this post at 5PM on Friday, Lauren isn't out of the woods yet--she has both Washington AND Richmond rush hour traffic to slog through before making it here.

So, let's all wish her great luck making it through, and look for me to show up again with fresh content this Sunday.

Love and sloppy kisses to all.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Some Iraq Video

Here is an interesting video essay on one little corner of Iraq, for those interested in such things. Warning--this one isn't for the feint hearted.

Megan, Wade, and Skip


Congratulations are in order to my old friends Megan and Wade, who last week welcomed a new member to their family--Skip!

And while I'm very excited for the three of them, part of me can't help but think they should have gone for the dog being levitated by a pink ghost.

Ah well...congrats, guys!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Army Physical Fitness Test


We took one today. It might not have been my finest effort on the ole APFT, but I passed all the same, with room to spare in all three events. For better or for worse, I got the highest score of my little crew, so dinner is on me tonight--we punish over-achieverism in the IRR class 05-07, as well we should.

Time for a hot shower, then it's off to chow.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Another HRC Nightmare Scenario

Check out this blog post from Jason, a fellow IRR draftee who is about 6 months ahead of me.

Money Quote:"When notified to deploy, the 104th scoured their list of qualified candidates and cross leveled and determined that they didn't have enough Captains to fill mission requirements. They put a request into Human resource Command (HRC), who proceeded to fill the unit needs by recalling the requested officers from the Inactive Ready Reserve. The rest is obviously history - I got my telegram and reported as ordered and here I am. Here's the catch, though. After receiving the requested fill from HRC, the 104th realized that they did in fact have enough officers to fill the mission. So, they contacted HRC and told them that the IRR recalls were no longer necessary because they had enough people. The response from HRC: Sorry, too late. You asked for them, so you got them. So what did the 104th do? They sent home their own people."

Doesn't this just fit perfectly with everything else we've been learning about HRC? As I've said many times, I'm happy with Civil Affairs--I think it's the best job out there for someone of my abilities and interests. But to hear these stories about how HRC assigns folks to units...mind boggling.

At Long Last...Class Has Begun


"You're all about to go down range for a year or more...there's no need to practice being miserable"

Yesterday I officially started Civil Affairs Qualification Course (Mobilized) Class 05-07. Things will be pretty light this week, as some students are still rolling in throughout the next couple of days. But towards Thursday and Friday, we'll kick things off in earnest, and from there we'll have 6-7 weeks of classroom instruction. Ten or so days in the field will follow, and after that there won't be much left to do besides cleaning off all our gear and weapons, and graduating.

As we haven't really started learning anything yet, I don't have much to report on that front. Some information has trickled in, though, which is nice considering we've been left in the dark for the last 3 weeks.

Weekends are off, and we will have 2 long weekends during the course (labor day, and one other). There is minimal organized physical training, which means that we won't have to wake up at insane hours of the morning to run, do push-ups, etc. Class will start at 8 or 9 most mornings, and finish at 4 or 5 most evenings. The material looks interesting and useful (for the most part, at least) and I'm generally excited to get things going.

The quote at the top of the post was something that one of our instructors told us yesterday. His basic point was that the cadre have no intention of making things difficult/painful in the CAQC just for the sake of it, as is so often the case in Army culture. This came as a great relief to me and my friends, and is a big part of why I'm in good spirits as we begin the course.

One last note--the class is roughly half Navy officers. Some of them are reservists, but I get the impression that most are active duty--aviators, surface warfare folks, sub guys...it would seem that the Army is taking all comers. Add these guys to the Navy folks that I encountered down at Fort Jackson, and it becomes apparent just how many Navy dudes of all shapes and sizes are being loaned out to the Army in our ceaseless struggle to surge-out neoglobal islamo-fascist jihadists.

I suppose they've been telling us for years that joint operations are the future, so why not embrace it, right? Go Narmy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

How I Got Here (a work in progress)

Hey everyone.

I'm going to start putting together a little running photo essay to keep up with where I've been, and where I'm going, as I progress through the journey I set out on several weeks ago.

For now, here's a little taste.


This continuous, multi-part series will be part of a general expansion of the blog. Expect regular features, guest columnists, and a greater organization to the type of content you've been enjoying so far.

As far as how to implement this, any and all suggestions are appreciated--I know that like me, a lot of you enjoy putting this sort of project together.

Truth in Advertising: PT 1


I think this picture speaks for itself...

Truth in Advertising: PT 2

This one too...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Need Cash--Have Guns

I had duty again last night. Like last time, nothing horrible happened, which is a good thing.

As I sit here getting ready to take off for the morning, a Lieutenant Colonel walked in with an official looking flyer in in hand. Along with Captain Cannon, who is here to relieve me of my duty, I stood up when the LTC entered the room, granting him that simple courtesy which is part of the privledge of the LTC's rank.

Chris and I thought that this LTC must be some sort of high level staff officer, probably here to give us an important memo to post up on the Brigade bulletin board--something about Safety, Sexual Harrassment or the like.

We promised the LTC to post his "memo", wished him a good morning, and he was off.

And then we looked at the paper. (I deleted the image because it contained the name/number of the LTC in question--it was a gun advertisement for a civilian rifle the LTC was trying to sell.)

I'll leave the legality of such a bulletin board flier to the lawyers in the family, but I will say this--both Chris and I are already fully stocked on M14 Springfields and late Lake City 7.62mm rounds. My Bipod is a little rusty, sure, but I've still got more Hard sided airline carrying cases than I can shake a stick at.

So if any of you want to take the LTC up on his offer...just let me know.