Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Army Commentary (No Kittens, I promise)

Not to get all corny or anything, but I just wanted to wish everyone good luck with accessions. Last I heard, the information was being released some time this week, so I hope you all get the branches you want (thanks so much for your comments). Also, a new cycle of BOLC II ("Beware the Bowlock" - people at Sill might get that one; at least I hope the Bowlock monster has maintained his notoriety) started up this week; hopefully it goes well for everyone.

The Colonel's Moment of the Day, Monday:
He walked in carrying a huge sword. Apparently he saw our skit, and actually has a sense of humor. Of course, it would have been a lot cooler if he had walked in with the sword, and left again. Instead he hung around for a while, started playing shadow puppets in front of the projector and generally pissing our instructor off. After he left, our instructor told us how unprofessional and childish the man's behavior was. Additionally, he does not like the fact that the colonel likes to test his instructors by asking the same question three or four times in slightly different ways. When he came in later that day, he was carrying some type of wooden object, and then walked down the aisles, stopping to ask random people if they were learning anything. He didn't ask me but I had my answer prepared: "Actually, sir, you're kind of distracting me." Maybe he would have taken it as a joke . . .

Speaking of humor, when I walked into the school building Monday morning, the 1SG said to me, "I didn't know you had a sense of humor. I didn't know you even talked until Friday night." I guess my performance in the skit made an impression. Where's my Oscar?

The Colonel's Moment of the Day, Halloween edition:
He walked in during our afternoon history class dressed up as a giant pumpkin and threw candy at us. If all distractions and disruptions came with candy, I'd be much happier here.

For the past few days, we've been learning about movement planning. Our fun, sarcastic instructor from somewhere that isn't the South (he forcefully told us where he wasn't from, and that he says you's guys instead of y'all - does that mean Chicago or New York?) also gave us more random, entertaining, ironic tidbits:
  • Back in the olden days when Eisenhower was a 2LT and hadn't created the interstate system yet, he participated in the first transcontinental convoy. The average march rate was 6 mph. I think they made better time on the Oregon Trail.
  • At some point in the '90s, we were giving aid to someone in a program called "Provide Comfort" or something equally lamely named. Unfortunately, when you throw pallettes of MREs out of an airplane, they can inflict quite a bit of damage when they LAND on the recipients of this comfort. Now, the MREs boxes break apart as they fall but there are still some kinks in the system: humanitarian MREs come in the same yellow packaging as a certain kind of explosive - you do the math.

This afternoon, we had a very long history lesson. Turns out those four years of high school really payed off because I seem to have retained the basic knowledge of American wars and thus was dazzling the rest of the class with my participation. Also, since I had to give a brief about TC earlier this summer, I even knew what year we were established. Transpo wasn't actually its own branch until World War II, and had been part of the Quartermaster Corps up until then. At the moment, the Army is actually working on combining Quartermaster, Ordinance and TC into a logisticians branch so we're reversing history. Our instructor is not all too happy with the idea since the past has shown that transpo needs to be separate (hence the creation of the transportation corps). I guess we'll see what happens. They are already working on combining the captain's course but I should probably be out before the changes really start occuring. By the way, why is the Army making all these changes while we are at war? Let's add BOLC, shorten OBC and completely change the branches. Isn't a complete overhaul something we might want to save for peace time? I mean, I know a lot of these changes have been inspired by the war but these are things it might be better to develop after the war. We've all seen that BOLC wasn't exactly ready for actual LTs just yet.

Also, my classmates are now describing me as a "hardcore feminist" to other people in class. I guess that means my work is done.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Lesson in Procrastination

Back in college, when I had a paper due the following day, I would procrastinate by dialing up just about everyone I knew, going to bed and then getting up at 2 am (I'd also watch clips of The Daily Show online since I had no cable, and surf the web - this was back before I got into the blogging thing so now I have even more distractions). Unfortunately, I already get up at 4 am, so with that approach I'd have to get up around 11 pm to write my stupid training schedule. Also, the people I usually call have taken to hanging up on me ("I'm busy" - then don't pick up!) or not answering their phone, so really, it just won't work. Anyway, consider yourself warned about this entry. (Kudos to anyone who gets the song reference in the title.)


Since I haven't actually posted any pictures in quite a while (the last time I tried, Blogger was having issues - although I'm going to blame it on the hotel connection because as we know from my last post, my hotel is evil), so I'm going to out myself as the crazy cat woman in the making that I am, and put up pictures of my two Persians.

I have two cats, Caesar and Samantha. They live with my parents, and will continue to live with my parents even once I have an apartment, because while they might be my cats in name, when it comes down to it, they are my parents' cats. We got Caesar and Sam last June despite my mother's protests. Our cat Cleo had recently died, and my dad and I wanted a replacement - my mom wasn't as excited because as in most families when the child and husband want a pet, guess who gets stuck caring for it? The mom, of course.

In the past year, Sam and Caesar's personalities have changed quite a bit. Caesar used to crave attention while Samantha would start squirming at the thought of being held but now she is the "needy one." He was also a very bold kitten, and figured out how to climb over the toddler gate after two days. Now, he hides when we have company while Samantha comes downstairs to view the visitors with the proper amount of disdain. But enough talk, here are some more pictures.

Kitten Caesar

Sam in the Harley-themed bathroom

There's a reason we refer to him as Chubby

Oh the Drama

A few of us were already unhappy with our hotel based purely on its location, but Thursday morning, six people discovered that their cars had been broken into - despite the fact that there is a security guard here. Apparently the thieves took their time, too. One woman said that they had looked through her CD's and thrown them all into the back because they didn't like gospel. Since they actually had enough time to closely examine CD collections, you have to wonder about the level of security. The thieves really hit the jackpot when they broke into the PSG's car: 25 cent folders from Walmart. They actually stole the guy's folders (I guess if he fails any tests because he is disorganized, we'll know who to blame). I was parked in the back, fortunately, so they didn't break into my car (I had an IPod, a GPS and my CD's in there, too - needless to say, all of those things are in my hotel room now). We aren't really sure how this issue is going to be resolved but I know they've been told to speak to the JAG office so hopefully the hotel or the Army (they chose the hotel after all) will reimburse the victims.

The colonel still keeps dropping by class, but we have now noticed that he has a tendency to bring random items with him. For example, the last two times, he came into class carrying a huge knife (after he left, the instructor quipped that the colonel was going to cut himself). I wonder if he is trying to over-compensate for something? As part of our dining skit, we had someone randomly walking around on stage with a folding chair to represent the colonel.
We also made fun of the Transportation Song in our skit since it is probably one of the lamest military songs ever: "we load the trains so other lads can load the guns." It just makes TC sound like a bunch of losers. For our skit, I went up to sing it but instead broke into the first lines of "Born to Be Wild" and "Ridin' Dirty." Personally, I think it's time for a rewrite of the transpo song.

Dining in was a lot more fun than we expected but that may have had something to do with all the alcohol we were consuming during the intermissions. I know I had four drinks within my first hour of being there. Our skit went well - at least we kept each other amused but there may have been a few too many inside jokes for the rest of the classes to get it. Originally we had also planned on having someone walk around in an orange wig and blue sun-glasses to represent our TAC (who has recently been nicknamed "The High Lighter" and "The Great Pumpkin") but she talked to the person who was going to portray her. It wasn't worth any problems it may have caused, although after 22 years in the Army, you'd think she would have developed a thick enough skin to handle a few jokes. She actually didn't even bother to show up for the dining-in, which seems unprofessional to me but maybe she had a good excuse.

After dining-in, a lot of us went to a bar in the mall, and stayed there until about 2 am. It was a every entertaining night all together, but I mixed just a few too many types of alcohol - I had my first hangover in almost three years on Saturday. So much for me being able to handle my liquor. Obviously, I made great progress on my training schedule as a result. It's only 25 points, though. Every single test we've had is worth more than that.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Things I Learn

Last night we had a final rehearsal for dining-in. It was absolutely excruciating. We already had a read through Tuesday night, and last night was the on-location walk through. Despite the fact that it is on Friday, the leadership was still arguing about important parts of the evening, such as how to set up the grog. Unfortunately, we had to have a combined dining in, so our representative has had a really hard time working with the other classes because even though they've been here longer, they have no clue what they are doing. Additionally, we are going to have assigned seating - basically, I had to pay $50 to sit with people I don't even know. Last night, we were sitting at one table as a class (only those of us actually involved in the ceremony or skit were there) and making fun of absolutely everything. The rehearsal was enough to drive us to drink: we all plan on being extremely intoxicated Friday night just to survive the evening. Our skit should be alright, even though they made us cut things out because we might offend someone. It's funny, the cadre keep telling us, "it's your dining in, so have fun with it, but remember we're watching you." Student status - it's the Army's very own panopticon. They sent invitations to quite a few big wigs, but I don't know how much brass is actually going to be there Friday.

Yesterday we learned about movement planning and management. We keep getting different classes on the same topics: last week we did hazmat and airlifts as part of Unit Movement, now we're getting the movement planning perspective. I don't know why they don't break it down differently, such as learn everything about hazmat or airlifts at once instead of getting several overviews. At least the instructor was entertaining: he shared his own experiences and stories, but also viewed things with an appropriate amount of sarcasm. For example, he told us that the Army was unable to deploy a division in 90 days so naturally, they've changed the goal to 5 brigades in 75 days because that makes so much more sense.

He also told us about two other things that just make me question our leadership (since I was so supportive to begin with): Wolfowitz had been trying to sell the concept of the axis of evil to Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton with no success. I muttered, "he found a buyer" to all those around me while another LT loudly announced to the class that "Texas will buy anything."

The other item was Rumsfeld's genius new approach to war: 10-30-10. It hasn't been implemented yet, but the plan is that we will go to war for ten days, rest for thirty and then go back for ten more. Now I don't see how it is even feasible to send soldiers for only ten days (wouldn't there be some minor issues with equpiment? Just maybe?) but obviously greater minds than mine have thought this out. I just want to know if we are going to be going to war in the same country every thirty days or if we plan on switching enemies every month. Maybe Rumsfeld has been reading up on his military history and discovered the blitzkrieg. Obviously he hasn't gotten to the part where Germany loses just yet. Or maybe they are counting on the invention of a transporter so we can just get beamed over Star Trek style. I know I shouldn't be quite so disrespectful to the country's leadership, being in the Army and all, but it's just so easy to make fun of this stuff.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Old men

We had our unit movement test yesterday - like most things here, it was talked up to be extremely difficult, and was a piece of cake. Not only was it open note, but the multiple choice questions were organized by section so I didn't even have to flip through my 300+ pages of slides but could just turn to the appropriate heading in the book. This is the only test that we have to pass though because in addition to being a transportation officer at the end of this course, I will be qualified as a Unit Movement Officer due to this test. I've noticed that this place doesn't really seem to be geared towards learning as much as passing the test. It depends on the instructor as well, but for the most part, the emphasis is on the upcoming examination so it tends to take away from the actual instruction.

The full-bird keeps dropping by our classroom - I'm not sure if it's because we have a reputation as a class (today, a new instructor told us, "I heard this class was screwed up, but I think you did a great job"), or because he has absolutely nothing to do. I'm honestly not that impressed with him but as a few of the other prior service LTs have pointed out, that's why he's at a school rather than an operational unit. I guess I get it - we're at war, let's have the good personnel leading the troops but wouldn't you also want good soldiers/officers etc. training the leadership of tomorrow? In fact, that is one of the reasons this place is so inefficient. When the 1SG came to talk to us way back, he told us that 18 months ago he lost his TAC officers so the NCOs had to take their place; all the able-bodied transpo personnel are needed down range so he finally asked for anyone that could read and write to fill the slots. Today, one LT accurately described T-School as the recovery place for all the hurt and wounded NCOs.

Today, we had a hands-on application of some of the class room training we had last week: we had to load up rail cars, and practice tying vehicles down with chains. The rail class instructor was one of the more long-winded guys we've had so far so I wasn't excited about spending the day with him, but I survived. There was another instructor that helped him out, and served as the safety officer. He retired in 1982, so I guess that explains his behavior but I don't exactly think that it excuses it: one of the LTs gave a safety brief at the beginning, and afterwards, whenever he referred to her brief, he said, "remember what that little girl said?" He also used the term "little lady" at one point. It's bad enough to refer to grown women as girls, but it's common within society, so I would have let him slide on that. Add in the word little, and it's just patronizing and sexist. Other than that, he didn't seem like a bad guy - an ass but also a bit amusing. The "little girl" was actually flattered because she's 29 and she's always excited when people think she's younger than she is. As a result, I kept my mouth closed but if he calls me little girl when we have him again, I'm definitely saying something. Other people were saying he's from a different generation but still, it's not like he hasn't been around for the past twenty, thirty years. And he even knew that he was doing it, because he was about to correct himself once, and then just said, "screw it, the little girl." I need to figure out the best way to be diplomatic but honest here so I don't feel like I'm always biting my tongue.

In unrelated news, we actually did PT yesterday! We went for a three mile run as a platoon so it was a nice, relaxed pace - plus, people were still complaining about being sore from Lucky Dip. Of course, being TBOLC, we couldn't do PT two days in a row, so the 1SG called zonk this morning at formation (although, that might have also been due to the unexpected cold today) so we all disappeared from sight and drove back to the hotel.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Dip

Friday was the infamous Lucky Dip. At least, it's infamous by transpo standards. I wasn't quite sure what to expect since the cadre kept talking it up as a smoker that would separate the weak from the strong (physically and mentally) and provide us with a gut check. Given what I've seen of this place so far, I thought a lot of this would probably turn out to be talk. As it turns out, it was harder than I expected but not nearly as bad as it could have been (and as I feared before becoming disillusioned with this place).

The class before us said they were done by 1 or 2, so we are all looking forward to a short, but possibly tough day - we didn't get released until 4:30 which is pretty much business as usual. We started off the competition with a short smoke session which involved two NCOs yelling at us, and forcing us to do exercises such as the flutter kick and leg spreaders. After that, we had to distribute eight sand bags throughout the squad to carry with us for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, it had started raining as soon as we got to formation that morning so the sand bags weighed even more than they usually would. We then walked around from one location to another, picked up more equipment and did different missions. For two of the missions we had to drag vehicles from one location to another, but luckily we had a few big people on our team so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We even had the best time for the 5-ton. The final event was an obstacle course - the monkey bars were spaced very widely, but other than that, this was definitely one of the "nicer" obstacle courses I've been on: only one or two of the obstacles really messed with my fear of heights unlike the course at Ft. Lewis. It also included a walk through a muddy river but I liked that part.

During the awards ceremony, we got a little speech from one of the colonels who told us about his time as platoon leader, when he only did PT twice a year. I should have joined the Army in the '80s - he didn't have to start physically challenging himself until he was a captain. It was definitely a different Army back then, but that's why it's always so weird having these people tell us about their time as PL - their experiences don't really seem to relate that much to what we are going to be doing. He also asked if any of us "hated this shit:" I was in the process of raising my hand when he said of course no one of us are going to admit to it because we are being watched. I wonder what he would have said if I'd been just a little bit quicker: that I have an extra-ordinary amount of personal courage (it's an Army value!) or am so honest that it approaches stupidity?

Next up, we had a major who of course wasn't about to be outdone. He told us that Lucky Dip was designed to be physically challenging, and he doesn't know what kind of physical conditioning we were getting at BOLC II but now we know what we need to work on. While I'm the first to say that BOLC has some definite problems, I am very amused by the fact that everyone feels the need to rip on it in comparison to TBOLC. In fact, except for the fact that we didn't do PT in the FOB (and an odd obsession with jumping jacks on the part of some LTs), we actually had a pretty good PT program at BOLC. It helped that we actually did PT there (PT for Thursdays has been reinstated by the way - apparently there weren't enough of us showing up to drink - of course, it's kind of hard when we all live eight miles away and are told not to drink and drive . . .).

Yesterday, I went to see The Prestige and Marie Antoinette. The Prestige was great but I found Marie Antoinette rather boring. Some of my favorite movies are slow-paced; I also like period pieces occasionally because of all the visuals (clothing included) but MA relied way too much on the pretty clothes and buildings. Also, I wasn't sympathizing with Kirsten Dunst's portrayal of the poor little rich girl who is oh so misunderstood in her new country. It wasn't Dunst's fault; the movie was just too slow and had too little dialogue to really get into it.

Tomorrow I have a test (which I haven't studied for - it's open note), and next week my training schedule is due. I was going to work on it this weekend, so naturally, I haven't even started it. The problem is just that none of this homework even interests me. In college, I never ran off to start papers early, but I'd be thinking about them, and I'd be interested and care. All our homework here just sounds tedious and boring. Also, they keep telling us not to reinvent the wheel, but they want original work which is amusing. In the real Army environment, if I ever have to write a training schedule, I'm going to find someone else's and change it to fit my circumstances because that's the way things are done in the Army. One of my friends had to come up with an SOP for his unit - he found one, and changed it around a bit but basically, 60% of it was someone else's work because "there is no such thing as plagiarism in the Army." Only 43 months left to go. I need to start looking into online classes or night school before my brain completely deteriorates.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Blog strong: random commentary about the past week

The past week has just been more of the same. Long power point presentations with much more information than I know what to do with (I don't actually like feel I'm learning anything useful; instead I just feel overwhelmed because it seems like I'm going to get to my unit and have all these responsibilities, and very little idea as to what to do) interspersed with the occasional BS. Last Thursday, for example, we all brought in our LBE and kevlar to make sure we had everything, and that it was fitting properly. At least that was the impression we had. When we got to formation, we got yelled at because our equipment wasn't ready to go - meaning we hadn't taped down the straps or blackened the equipment where the paint was coming off (not that black sharpie stays on longer than two seconds anyway). I had been planning on readjusting my LBE after seeing how others had theirs because while it fit, it looked weird (this LBE was a different style from the ones at both school and BOLC)- I don't think my torso is quite long enough. Anyway, let's just say, we were all in a terrible mood last Thursday. It did have one good result, though: the 1SG came by to talk to us and hear about any concerns or problems we'd been having - of course, he's leaving in three weeks so he isn't going to make big changes now but at least we got to tell someone about our TAC issues. When we had tried talking to the XO earlier, she had just kept making a similar response to all our comments without letting us end our statements or explain all of our side. Of course, the XO doesn't make the best impression - she once walked in with her hair in a pony tail (I know all you civilians must be thinking, "How horrible! A pony tail!" but the hair standard is above the collar, and since she outranks us all, she should be setting the standard - usually, she just looks like she either got done taking a nap or working out, because her hair is always a mess.)

Random items from the last week:

A C-130 can carry the weight of 71 African elephants. Why do I know that? Well, we learned all about unit movement this week which includes truck, rail, air and sea (actually, we haven't done sea, so I guess we didn't learn all about it). For some reason, the little video clip included that tidbit of information about the C-130. I wonder if this is supposed to come in handy during my Army career - Operation Dumbo Drop anyone? Or is elephant a common military weight unit?

Transportation officers don't do PT. Actually that isn't accurate. Everyone keeps telling us how important PT is once we get to our units, but here at OBC, we have better things to do, such as watch foot ball games, and drink. Yes, that's right - PT got cancelled on Wednesday because they wanted us to go to an intramural game Tuesday night, and we don't have it Thursdays because they want us to "get our drink on" every Wednesday night. Apparently, it's supposed to help us make connections with higher ranking personnel but the highest ranking person I've talked to while there was a 2LT.

The Army has a new slogan/campaign. "Army strong." While I realize that it's intended to be used as an adjective, as in "he's not just strong, he's Army strong," it also makes me think that the Army is made up of a bunch of illiterate cavemen: "Me Tarzan, you Jane, Army strong." I guess maybe I'm just looking for ways to make fun of this place. We saw one of the new videos for it last week in class, and while it wasn't half-bad, they went completely overboard with the music. "You must feel this emotion now because the music is swelling . . ." Oh, the joys of propaganda.

I hate the military's use of language. I really, really do. We got a speech about dining-in this week, and the guy who briefed us included words such as honor and ladies etc. Granted, he's a Vietnam era dinosaur, but it still doesn't quite excuse the way he kept talking about bringing honor to the family name, "being a man," and behaving like a gentleman in the presence of ladies. Excuse me, but we are all in the Army, so why do the guys have to pull out my chair? I hate words like chivalry, honor and patriotism. To me, they are empty words that have lost all meaning because everyone in the world describes themselves as honorable/patriotic/etc. I'm sure the fact that I hated Song of Roland plays into this, too - what person is stupid enough to choose honor and glory over life (of course, Roland had a messed up sense of honor, but I can't help but think that the Army has a similar concept).

Speaking of the Army and language, I have to write Army style papers. No more than 15 words a sentence. One of them has to be a letter of sympathy to the parents of a medal of honor winner - I wonder if I can avoid the words honor, heroic, patriot and great American.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Does anyone actually know what we're doing? Anyone?

This place is starting to piss me off. The cadre don't seem to communicate, or they keep changing the plans on us with very little warning - I haven't really determined which it is.

This morning we had our PT formation, and our class leader told us that we needed to have our names sown onto our cat eyes (elastic band that goes on the kevlar). Thanks for the warning? I'm not blaming the class leader because he's just relaying information down from the cadre but I guess they told him that we had lucky dip (some stupid, torturous tactical team building event) on Saturday and therefore needed to get this done. Last we were told, Lucky Dip isn't until 21 Oct (it sucks enough by the way that I have to give up my weekend, but it's even worse that I'm losing my Saturday for tactical crap). Now, maybe they moved it, but more likely, the cadre just aren't on the same page, and need to get their act together before they start yelling at us about not showing up etc. I was expecting TBOLC III/TOBC to be much better organized than BOLC since it's been around for YEARS, not a few months. Yes, they've had to readjust a bit due to BOLC but seriously, they still should have a system in place, and communicate amongst each other better.

It also doesn't help my mood that I got up at 4 am for a 5:30 formation. Now why in the world would I do that? Well, we have to show up 10 minutes early for every formation, so everyone actually starts forming up at 5:20. Since we have to be there at 5:20, our leadership told us to be there at 5:10. And then, of course, my carpool didn't want to be late, so we left at 4:40. Okay, so I probably should have set my alarm for 4:10, but the point is still that I'm getting up way too early for a 5:30 formation. Actually, while I was at LDAC, one of the cadets made everyone show up for formation 16 minutes early (we don't know why he picked such an arbitrary number). The TACNCO I was working with got very annoyed about it: As he put it, since everyone wants their ten minutes, if there is a brigade formation at 0800, by the time you get down to the private, he's showing up at 5 o'clock because everyone in the chain of command keeps pushing the time back.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My Feelings About Being a Platoon Leader

I've been trying to figure out a good way to word this post for a few days now. I am not really sure why I am having so many problems with it since it boils down to the very simple fact that I don't want to be a platoon leader.

After completing OBC, most 2LTs go to their units, and are assigned as platoon leaders. Occasionally, they might join the staff or have some other job, and if they are in the National Guard, they might quickly find themselves thrust into the position of XO or even Company Commander due to shortages. Basically, platoon leader, or PL, is not the only job for 2LTs but it is the one that is most emphasized. In school, whenever we talked about these kinds of things in class, we basically worked off the assumption that we would start off our careers as platoon leaders, and most of the rest of the cadre I've met since thinks that way as well. These same captains, majors, colonels, and sometimes even generals all tend to tell the same story: it's the greatest and most challenging experience ever; fight to stay with a platoon as long as possible because that's the only time you get to work with men; work hand in hand with your platoon sergeant etc. Last week, one colonel asked us who amongst us wanted to be a PL, and every single person in that class raised their hand, so eventually I did as well. That's the problem I'm having right now: There are other positions available for lieutenants, not everyone can be a PL and some people love and want to do it longer (normally, it's anywhere from 12 to 18 months, but one of our captains was a platoon leader for 27 months) but I can't really come out and say that. I'm supposed to want to be a platoon leader so if I get to my unit and tell them I'd like to be staff, if possible, I'm afraid I'm going to give them a horrible first impression. (I was talking to J about this, and he felt a similar pressure to raise his hand in response to the colonel's question; however, as National Guard, he might have a bit more control about what position he can get.)

There are two reasons that I don't want to be platoon leader, and it's only in combination that they really bother me. Unfortunately, both reasons apply to my situation and there's nothing I can do about it.

1) We're at war.
2) I'm a Transportation Officer.

One of my main weaknesses that keeps coming up over and over again is my lack of command presence. I'm a quiet person, and while that might work as a leadership style in many instances, I'm afraid I'd lose control of the situation if I were ever under fire. Unfortunately, as transportation, I have a slightly larger chance of taking fire or hitting an IED than other branches - after all, transpo leaves the FOB (forward operating base) on a daily basis for convoys while other branches are more stationary (such as AG or Medical Service, which I wanted and still regret not getting). Basically, if I were one of those other branches, I'd feel a lot better about the idea of being a platoon leader, or if I were guaranteed that my unit would not deploy while I was platoon leader, I would be less worried about being a transportation PL. When it comes to Iraq, though, I just feel like I'd be better put to use in a different position, and the troops would be better off with someone else leading them. I'm sure being a platoon leader and working with the soldiers (in some cases as a social worker as one captain has said) would be a rewarding experience, but I don't like the current circumstances.

I don't really have any say where I'm going to go or what I'm going to be, but I hate the fact that I don't even feel comfortable telling higher-ranking officers that I'd prefer being staff to being a platoon leader.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

First Meme

I found this on Patrick's Weekender, and since I wanted to write a non-Army related post for once, I thought I might as well do it, especially since the first question just applies so well to my current life style.

1. You move to a new city: what is the first thing you're most likely to check out in your immediate surroundings: restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls, movie theaters or historic sites?
So I actually managed to check out almost all of those my first weekend in Virginia. In general, my priorities tend to be in this order: movie theaters, restaurants, malls, historic sites, grocery stores. Of course, most the other places I've been didn't exactly have historic sites, so that could be why it's so far down the list.

2. Consider the local television stations in your area: do you generally stay more with one station for entertainment and local news, or do you tend to rely on one station for local news and others for entertainment?
News? What's that? I watch several stations for entertainment - usually, I only watch about three hours of television a week, though (Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Veronica Mars and 24 when it starts up again) - I hadn't had a television in my room for more than a year until I moved into the hotel.

3. Is there a set time of day or night that you blog, or do you just post whenever the spirit moves you?
Whenever the spirit moves me. Or I might force myself to make an entry when I haven't updated in a while.

4. How often do you write a blog entry, then save it as a "draft" rather than publishing it immediately to think it over before actually posting it?
I actually have one saved right now. I will start drafts and finish them up later, but in general, once it's completely written, it's getting posted.

5. Which makes a better dessert after a good meal: ice cream, pie, or cake? See, that depends on the meal, and how long after the meal I'm having dessert. Pizza and ice cream go together well, other times cake is better, and nothing beats Dairy Queen.

6. What is your favorite flavor of the item you selected in question #5? Ice cream: Ben&Jerry's Karmel Sutra; cake: chocolate, or sometimes German chocolate; Dairy Queen: M&M blizzard.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Wrath of a Preacher Man

My class appears to be making quite the name for itself so far. On Tuesday, our TAC told us that we were being too loud and starting to draw attention (what the hell did they expect us to do when we had to sit and wait half an hour to do five minutes worth of work? Sit quietly? Of course we are going to talk). Today, we got in trouble for not showing up to class. One of our instructors actually joked about it, and said he'd been on the way to the beach when he got the call that we'd actually shown up.

So how did a class of 46 all manage to miss class? Well, that would be due to one of the many miscommunications that have become the staple of this week. We finally got a schedule yesterday, even though it was only tentative. In fact, we hadn't received one earlier in the week because our TAC didn't want us to freak out and ask a lot of questions when things didn't go according to the master plan. While I noticed the 7 am class on the schedule, when we were told that formation was at 7:35, I simply shrugged it off as yet another change. Well, turns out, it wasn't. I guess one of the problems is that there are two different chain of commands in charge of us: there are the cadre and TACs who are in charge of such things as formations and the more administrative aspect of our stay here, and the instructors who teach class. The company has formations at 0745 which is what our TAC was going by, but she didn't know or ignored the fact that the class was on the schedule.

Now, if I were a teacher, and my entire class didn't show up, then I'd be pissed but I'd also be willing to listen to them before making a judgment. I mean it's one thing if half the class is there and the rest oversleep or something, but if the whole class isn't there, it seems like there might be a good explanation. Our current PSG (despite the fact that we are going to be officers, platoon sergeant is still one of the positions they use to evaluate us so I'm referring to another LT) showed up at 7:05 since he's in leadership, and found a note on the board left to us by our instructor: "Is there any intelligent life in this class? Did you pass 1st grade and reading comprehension?" Yes, perhaps we screwed up (or somebody else screwed us over, it's debatable) but that still doesn't make it necessary to be quite so rude and disrespectful, especially to people he's never even met. Oh, and did I mention that this is our CHAPLAIN? Meaning, a "man of God," in general a person that soldiers should be able to bring their problems to and yet he's the one calling us morons. No wonder I don't do religion. He also gave us a writing assignment - 500 pages on time management and personal responsibility; after all, we should know how to read a schedule. Unfortunately, the only thing I've learned from this course so far is to go with the flow; in other words, to keep my mouth shut and not ask questions because I'm on student status. Our TAC managed to talk him out of the assignment but he finally came in that afternoon to introduce himself and tells us how we had all failed each other. Thank you, sir.

In addition to actual classes, we also were welcomed to the course by two more people. I really liked the 1SG (First Sergeant) despite the fact that he cut into our lunch. He said that he'd learned the best way to react to mistakes is to find a solution and not to yell or call people stupid (something he had done earlier in his career since he is very physically imposing). I wonder if he's told the chaplain his command philosophy yet. Later in the afternoon, a full-bird talked to us, and I learned yet again not to ask questions. He opened up the floor for questions, so I asked him to go about becoming an instructor at TBOLC upon completing my time as PL (I actually like the non-chaplain cadre from the instructors' side of the house - so far). First, he wanted to know what the acronym PL meant because he too wants to be young and hip. I guess I seemed a bit nervous in response because I thought he was joking and somehow implying that it isn't okay to use abbreviations when addressing a colonel because he said he wasn't being facetious. I (and all the other LTs) have always heard the term PL used to refer to platoon leader so I don't know how he could never have heard it but I guess it isn't quite as common as we all thought. As to the answer to my actual question, he said to do my three years at my first duty station as PL and staff, then do the captain's career course, take company command, and finally apply for it after six years in. And yet, our current instructor went straight from PL to TOBC (granted, he was PL for 27 months rather than the usual 12-18) and is currently getting ready to leave for company command. Go figure. I guess it helps to be stationed on Ft. Eustis. (Actually, it would be rather convenient for other reasons as well: since all the OBC instructors are right on base, there is one extra resource that all the rest of us won't have when we get to our units.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First Impressions

The internet in my room is finally up and working - let's see how long before my computer decides to go on strike again.

Last Saturday, I went to the Lee Hall Mansion. It was a plantation/mansion built in 1859, and played a minor role in the Civil War. This area has played a role in all the major parts of American history that tend to be emphasized and glorified in high school: the colonies (Williamsburg and Jamestown), the Revolution (Yorktown and Ft. Eustis share an exit) and the Civil War (I'm about sixty miles from Richmond; also, speaking of the Civil War, our two field training exercises are called Bull Run and Manassas - and here I thought they were the same thing; I guess they wanted to give both the North and the South their due). Anyway, the mansion was nice though it wasn't that big (this was one of the poorer counties in its day so that it didn't take as much to be the richest man in the community), and the tour guide and the receptionist were both very helpful and informative about the local area. There is another plantation in the area that has been around since the Revolution that I want to check out this weekend if I get a chance. I actually prefer touring through old houses to museums since they seem so much more authentic. Depending on the museum, it might show pictures of how things used to be and random objects, but in a house it is all recreated as much as possible with some period pieces.

I switched hotels Sunday and finally unpacked completely for the first time since June. I found space for everything, even if I had to use the room safe for clothes. It's definitely nicer than the barracks, but I liked the other inn better: there was a lot more closet and storage space, it wasn't eight miles away from post and even had bathroom storage. At least I have a microwave and fridge (no freezer though). Not that it really matters since I've been going out to eat for dinner every night. I ran into J from BOLC on Saturday so I've been car-pooling with him and his friend, and we've also been trying some of the local restaurants. My favorite so far is Cheeseburger in Paradise (yes, I realize it is a small chain but there isn't one in Champaign, and the guys had never heard of it so I'm counting it as local). Since the chain is owned by Jimmy Buffett there is an extensive drink menu, and they even had a frozen drink sampler. Every time I've been to a microbrewery with a beer sampler, I've thought they needed something similar for me, and finally, somebody agreed with me. By the way, they had the best pina colada I've ever had if anyone ever gets a chance to go there.

So far TOBC, or TBOLC III as they are now calling it, has been a bit disappointing. This is our TACs first time in charge of a class so the past few days have been disorganized. The actual classroom instruction is done by other people, and so far that seems promising - today was our first day of classes; Monday and Tuesday was devoted to briefings by different sergeant majors and colonels. The class used to be 18 weeks but has been shortened to 12 weeks due to BOLC II. Unfortunately, BOLC II isn't covering everything it's supposed to so TOBC basically still has to squeeze the same amount of classroom knowledge into less time. One of the instructors today was telling us how he wishes he could still teach us basic leadership classes but BOLC was supposed to take care of that (the only thing I got at BOLC about actually being a leader and PL was a one hour class about taking over a platoon - however, the platoon leader thing is actually a topic I want to blog about later more in depth). Looks like BOLC is negatively affecting everything it comes into contact with (as one person said, by just renaming TOBC to TBOLC they have lowered the standards and efficiency). We were supposed to have a PT test this morning, but after we stretched out, the cadre told us that the graders weren't coming so we went back to our hotels. I love getting up at 4:30 just to show up for formation and drive back. It wouldn't be so bad if we were staying a bit closer to post (or on it).

Basically, my first impression of this place is not that good yet, and some of it seems to be due to changes caused by the addition of BOLC, and the fact that we have a new cadre member in charge. I realize at some point every teacher has to teach for the first time, but I have all the bad luck when it comes to cadre. J. agrees since he's had the exact same cadre as I have.