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.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Now see, this is the kinda stuff that until recently I would spend all my time thinking about. Simpler times. Sigh...
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
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"
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
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!
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
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
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?
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
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
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.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
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!
Monday, August 13, 2007
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...
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.