Tuesday, August 31, 2010
doesn't mean you should say it out loud.
It's a rare military class that doesn't involve PowerPoint. Now, there are a few good reasons to use it. The information is easy to store and share compared to handwritten lecture notes. The static images are capable of far better information content than a drawing on a dry erase board (chalk boards having disappeared years ago), although this is a mixed blessing, given the STD treatment class we just went through. Video content can be highly informative; watching an ambush from the Taliban's point of view a few day days ago made an impression on me that just talking about couldn't have competed with. And no more reams of copied papers thrown in the trash the moment the instructional block is over.
That said, there's some common traits I've run across here that make Death By PowerPoint a truism.
Slides that are simply images of the technical manual page we have in front of us.
The instructor or selected student reading said slide verbatim.
Slides that contain obscure information not relevant to the students. Is it really that important that I know who manufactures the axle of this particular MRAP?
Slides that haven't been updated in over five years. If you can't be bothered to stay current, why would I believe that you've taken the time to check the validity of your content?
Entire presentations that are swiped from someone else. If you can't be bothered to erase the original presenter's name, and you can't pronounce several of the diseases that are the reason for the presentation, I seriously doubt you know what you're talking about.
Slides that are electronic versions of a one-page paper.
Ask someone who's been in the military, and I'll bet they could come up with a lot more. But one thing will never change. Publicly crapping on your command results in bad outcomes. Hope he already has his twenty years in, because his career just came to a complete halt.
H/T Ace of Spades.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
The barracks are far different from normal life. Even the Regular Army has long moved away from barracks living except for initial training. Some of the things that one experiences when living the barracks lifestyle:
The alarms start a 0400, and keep going until at least 0600. These will range from simple electronic tones to someone's current rap favorite.
There are two clothing fashions: The regular uniform, and the PT uniform. Both will often be worn for at least three days before being washed.
Bunkbeds with all the support of a cheap hammock.
Endless methane emissions.
Bedspreads that consist of a poncho liner with a sleeping bag on top. For those who are truly intent on a personal space, extra poncho liners are purchased and hung from the frame of the top bunk to create an enclosure, AKA the "jack-shack".
Terrariums made from empty plastic bottles for a soldier's pet slug.
Lectures on how locust carcasses are not acceptable food for a slug.
The delicate aroma of two pairs of boots per soldier drying or mouldering, depending on the weather.
A personal space that is defined by the dimensions of your mattress.
The daily accretion of clay and sand that passes for soil locally on the floor.
Walking 70 yards every time nature calls.
Last, but certainly not least, the ongoing gurgles, gasps,and pseudo-death rattles emitted every night by several individuals who should be put on a CPAP unit.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
It’s been a busy week, as the medics of our unit have been focusing on the current Army standards for battlefield care aka TC3 (Tactical Casualty Combat Care). For those of us who’ve had a decade or more in, the changes are radical. Previous care focused on ABC, or Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. Neck stabilization, spineboards, and multi-step bandaging protocols were the standard. Nearly a decade of combat experience later, we’ve gone to HABC, in which the most important item is H for Hemorrhage. Meaning in a combat environment, the tourniquet is now applied immediately to bleeds, or hemostatic agents in areas where a tourniquet isn’t achievable. When I got in, the tourniquet was considered the method of last resort, and it was assumed the limb was beyond salvage. Now every soldier is issued an individual tourniquet in the IFAK, along with a hemostatic combat gauze, NPA, and a few other useful items. I’ve carried the CAT in my bike’s saddlebags ever since driving past a point where shortly before a fellow rally attendee bled out from a near amputation of his leg received in a collision. Based on what I’ve seen lately, I’ll be adding a few more when I get back, along with some packets of combat gauze and a few other items. I’ve found from recent experience that one can put everything needed to stop an arterial bleed effectively within the space occupied by a 20 oz bottle of soda. I’m willing to sacrifice a little bag space for that kind of effectiveness in an accident.
We’ve spent this entire week familiarizing with application, equipment limitations, and assessment protocols during a heat index of 105 degrees, in body armor. For our final skill assessment today, it was trauma lane lasting over an hour in a heat index of 116 degrees. While every medic passed this assessment, we lost one immediately after as a heat casualty. Due to policy, he won’t be going to Afghanistan with his unit now; it’s back to home station for him, until the next round of call-ups. There’s little doubt that by the time this battalion’s medics reach Afghanistan, they’ll be ready to meet the challenges of combat medicine.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
The Army, for all it's concern about troop fitness, makes sure that troops have more than enough to eat.
In the mornings, troops have a DFAC (dining facility, or mess/chow hall to those of us a little older) serving various hot offerings, in addition to cereals, breads, fruits, and dairy products. For lunches, troops in training are usually given an MRE or its reduced-calorie cousin, the TOTM, due to the need to keep soldiers on task during the day.
Evening meals are back in the mess hall, where the local contractor staff at Camp Shelby does a pretty good job of mixing things up to keep interest up. Over the years I've noticed most bases tend to have a regional influence in their menus. Here at Camp Shelby, it seems to be that there's a gravy offering for everything that has either meat or vegetables in it. This is apparently a long-standing tradition, as one of the local staff briefing us asked if we were getting our three servings of gravy a day.
One thing about this post that I've never quite seen before: the local food vendors will deliver anywhere, almost anytime. I've literally been stopped in a motorpool by a young lady handing out promotions for the local chicken wing shack. Given the state of my waistline, I'm avoiding this like the plague, although I've notice some sizeable stacks of take-out boxes in nearby garbage cans.
But there is one service that seems constant across the years:
The well-known mobile kitchen, aka gut truck or roach coach, is alive and well. When you've had the bad luck to get the omelette MRE, the chili dog with cheese looks pretty good in comparison.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
One of the least physically intensive, yet loathed activities in the activation process is administrative lanes. This may be due to the fact that it often occurs at the unit level and state level during pre-deployment. Both of these usually take the better part of the day during a drill weekend. Once at the deployment post, there may be even more soldiers doing this at the same time, guaranteeing at least a day spent in the process.
During this, legal papers and information, medical histories, family information, pay/benefits information, and various other tasks are taken care of. Usually this involves a large room filled with rows of chairs packed together tightly, in which soldiers sit for a minute, get up, and sit in the next chair over for hours as soldiers filter through stations in semi-orderly manner depending on what tasks they must attend to.
Some of the processes for today were anthrax, smallpox, and flu shots; blood draws for HIV testing, cholesterol levels, and other lab testing; pregnancy tests; and for some of us older soldiers various panels checking for issues 20 year olds don't need to worry about.
For all that, most of the time is spent waiting in line. Most soldiers anticipate this and bring something to help pass the time. Games on phones, Kindles, and other electronic devices are something the young troops take for granted, unlike my early days, when the paperback book was seen in most cargo pockets. But then and now, there's still the soldier's classic pastime: the deck of cards.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
After a well-intended, but lengthy send off by the various civil and military dignitaries, our unit has reached Camp Shelby, MS. And all it took was 17 hours on the bus. Which we found that, when the airconditioning malfunctions, takes about five minutes to turn into an oven given ambient temperature in the high 90s and over fifty bodies inside of it.
Thankfully, the Army has seen fit to have functioning air conditioning in the barracks. The heat index here often runs above 100 degrees lately, and the humidity is impressive. It's amazing to think that people dealt with these conditions without A/C until relatively recently.
Of course, being an Army post, there's a few other things to watch out for: fire ants, black widows, brown recluses, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes. All of which we are told the post has an abundance of. Oh, and skunks that will actually chase you if they feel you are between them and their preferred dumpster.
This makes me actually miss Camp Dodge.