Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Time Warp

A long time ago, I used to study playing cards with images like this on one side. Saddam Hussein was in Kuwait, and we would be there soon; with the "third largest army in the world", it was sure to be a long, bloody conflict. Some thirteen years later, I was studying them again, for virtually the same reasons, although this time the conflict would supposedly be brief. So much for predictions. Twenty years after first sorting out the differences between NATO and Warsaw Pact aircraft, I now literally step out my door and watch this on a daily basis:

It's both amusing and disturbing at the same time. I'm surrounded by Soviet-era designs and former Warsaw Pact military personnel, something I never would have expected when I was growing up. For me, it's still novel to interact with all this, having grown up under Ronald Reagan. Yet it's distubing, in reminding me how much the world has changed in such a short time. Many of the young soldiers I work with now were born when the old political order was ending. A helicopter is a helicopter. Bulgarian, Georgian, Turkish, Mongolian and Afghan soldiers everywhere you are? Just another day on deployment.

Then again, their time will also come, when all seems unaccountably changed.

In the meantime, I'm hoping to see again what I caught a brief glimpse of (what a day to not have my camera with me) passing overhead last week:

A Hind heading out towards the mountains around Kabul. And if I have the good fortune to catch one landing at the field less than a quarter-mile away, some aircrew is going to be pestered by a middle-aged American with a camera until they give in.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010


It's the Christmas Bunny of the Apocalypse!
Followed by Santa, visiting the Troop Medical Clinic;

Along with his massive bodyguard elf;

And now I know where I can find patch material for my OCP uniforms.

Merry Christmas all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Holiday Spirit

A disassembled M4, the scent of CLP in the air, Freak On A Leash playing on the iPod, and lots of sneaky bastards on the other side of the concrete wall who'd love to kill me. It warms me shriveled little heart, it does.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Day At The Range

Recently went to another post in the area to check zeros on the rifles. Of all the ranges I've been on, this one probably has the most impressive berm:

Somewher around 1600 feet of vertical rise from the range, I was told. But then it was time to get to business, which meant getting down in the talcum-like dirt that coated everything in short order.
After verifying zeros, we headed back out towards the gate. On the way, we passed by an armor graveyard from the Soviet-Afghan war:

Including this interesting piece, which is a T-34/85 if I remember my Soviet armor correctly.
Oh, to have the chance to haul that back home....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cross-Cultural Learning

Common Sense, Ain't

How is it that three people with acute diarrhea (I've gone to the latrine four times since midnight! OMG! Do something!) can come into the Troop Medical Clinic convinced that they absolutely must see a doctor immediately, while another individual will put up three days of unilateral testicular pain that radiates into his abdomen before finally coming it to get it checked?

Why are physicians unable to comprehend that when one individual is doing the blood draw, documentation, urinalysis, Toradol injection, and IV access, that it will not all be complete in less than five minutes. Or that morphine isn't kept in the unlocked cabinents with the ibuprofen, and the medics don't have free access to opioids at all times? And why is it they're extremely irritated when I ask them the proper route and rate for drugs that they administer freqently, but that medics have rarely, if ever, been given the opportunity to handle? It must be a real bitch to not have nurses to do all the legwork for you like in your civilian practice, and now you get to see what happens when you don't let medics do anything but vitals and patient registration for years.

But there was one moment of happiness in all this: while agreeing with one of the diarrhea patients who just couldn't understand how he could get sick,that washing one's hands is indeed an excellent personal habit, the detailed education on how hand to mouth fecal transmission happens in densely populated work and living areas seemed to really horrify him.

I take my little bits of schadenfreude where I can.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ugly Gun Sunday

This Needs To Happen More Frequently

Yelling Allah Akbar didn't help much here it seems. Shame this doesn't happen more often.

H/t to Sipsey Street Irregulars

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Us medics are full of it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Some Cheap Medical Advice

Based upon a recent encounter in the Troop Medical Clinic, a few thoughts.

Empty your bladder before going to bed, even if the latrine is 50 yards away and it's cold. If you're not willing to do that, find a plastic bottle larger than twelve ounces to urinate in. If you're not willing to do that, work on stopping your flow using the muscles in your pelvis, because even though your junk is made of tissue capable of flexibity and expansion, it isn't suited to containing the force generated by suddenly clamping off the urethra while you switch bottles. And if you're suddenly peeing bloody urine immediately after doing so, then no, you don't have an acute onset UTI or renal cancer. You've only torn your urethra.

Enjoy urinating for the next several days.

Pass the O2 Bottle

New lesson learned today: Running as fast as possible while wearing full battle gear in a high-altitude and poor air quality environment will leave you on your knees wondering if the 150 lb Sergeant next to you can haul 300+ lbs of passed-out Sergeant, armor and weapons to the TMC.

(That's an early-mornin view locally. The haziness is all smog, and that's the good part of the day. In a few hours the mountains are completely obscured.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Man Is A Social Creature

The great majority of troops coming into a post must first live in a transitory housing area, as there's some overlap between the soldiers who are leaving and their arriving replacements. Transitory housing is rarely comfortable at the best of times, as it's intended to be brief. Unfortunately, "brief" is a relative term. In the tent we share with elements of another unit, who happen to be on their third transitory housing location, I've calculated that every two men (we have bunkbeds) share a total footage of 35 square feet. Five feet of width, and seven feet of length. In this space are two people, their beds, body armor, rucksacks, two duffle bags, and miscellaneous small bags or personal items (such as the large flat-screen TV the videogame-game addicted Specialist next to me has hauled with him from post to post). I never thought I'd find quarters that would make me miss living in looted Iraqi buildings.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ugly Gun Sunday

In Country

After 40 hours travel, I've finally made it to the base I'll be working at. Open source information about the post is here, although as rotations come and go, the infromation is a bit behind in some aspects. As you can see above, the local urban structure is pretty basic. More on some of the effects of that later. But for now, an Army informational guide posted on the inside of our armored bus. Remember, the last sentence is probably there because someone couldn't figure it out on their own sometime in the past.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sounds About Right

"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson

Once your away from your family, home, and community, you're at best a statistic, if not someone else's prey.

Courtesy of SurvivalBlog.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Uniforms

A little article, straight from the Army, on the new uniforms we've been issued for our time in Afghanistan. Most Soldiers I've spoken with think their a considerable improvement over the grayish ACU pattern, which seemed to be geared towards blending with broken cinder blocks or gravel pits. The new OCP (Operation enduring freedom Camouflage Patter) actually makes one harder to see in most environments, as well as bringing back buttons rather then "hook and pile" for the leg cargo pockets- a change long wished for by those of us who actually use them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I'm Off

By the time this post comes out, my flight to Afghanistan should be days past, thereby complying with Army security standards. As I write this, I’m waiting to get on the aircraft I can see a few hundred yards away. To get to this point, it’s taken stuffing 200 lbs of gear into 150 lbs worth of space; a bus ride from hell in tiny seats, where both myself and the guy next to me exceed the provided shoulder width of the seats by a three inches apiece on both sides; and sitting in a concrete bay floor at the airport for several hours so far, with the possibility of sleeping on it for the night if the lightning doesn’t desist soon. And we’ve still the roughly twenty hours of flight to look forward to. Based on personal experience, I would rather sit through an hour of incoming mortar rounds. But it sounds like we’ll get to experience that too, so I’ll get to see if my memories of which are less irritating are accurate. Makes me wonder if the old troop ship concept was a better way to go; at least you could walk around if the weather wasn’t too bad.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Southern Hospitality

I've been the recipient of more literal pats on the back, thank-yous, and kids wanting to say hi than I've ever experienced the past few months. The civilian post office I was at yesterday has a Marine Medal of Honor recipient's dress uniform jacket with awards permanently displayed behind glass in the lobby. And damn near everyone who's spoken to me here has a family member going to, coming back from, or on deployment. There's a lot of good people in Mississippi.

However, I will note that Wal-Mart, no matter the state, seems to attract the same odd individuals.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We Do More Before Eight AM

So, you've seen some of the exciting aspects of the Army Medic Lifestyle in a field environment lately. But what happens when all the fun is over? Why, more training of course! Get hands-on experience in these fast paced areas:

Vehicle washing!

Inventorying hundreds of small items by hand!
Trash collection/scorpion avoidance/lizard chasing!
Bundling hundreds of cots into identical piles so they can be broken back down for issue in another week!
Sure, it's an intellectually demanding life. But few jobs outside of being a traveling carny offer greater satisfaction when the day is done.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

You Know You're Too Close To The Flag Pole....

when First Sergeants randomly pop through tent walls. Perhaps he's just making sure everyone is staying on task:
You mights as well enjoy that quiet time, because sooner or later one of these will be coming in:
Dropping off those lucky few the NTC trainers have designated as wounded:

Good training there; I'm hoping to rarely need it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11th

Being that it's Veteran's Day, a couple of thoughts:

Being in the military is truly a privilege now. This wasn't always the case; through much of our nation's history, it was viewed as a last refuge for those who couldn't make it in polite society. While this may have had some substance to varying degrees, there have always been those individuals to whom military service was a calling, rather than a compromise. We are fortunate to have had them.

In regards to being thanked for military service. I'm old enough to remember being called a weekend warrior by those that never had to work a weekend at all since high school, let alone using that weekend to prepare for chemical warfare casualty treatment. I'm grateful for the thanks, but best of all is simple respect. To have so many outside the military freely support those inside is a wonderful situation I'm thankful for, and that I hope I have earned.

Of all our prior service people still with us, I hold a special regard for the Korea and Viet Nam veterans. Military service of any type demands sacrifice from the individual, families, and co-workers. Deployment into a hostile theater increases this demand. But hardest of all is the duty borne by those who serve when a cause is unpopular, and the service member rendered invisible or worse through weariness of war. If anyone has earned an extra measure of respect, it must be them.

Finally, on personal service. It has been a privilege, in the truest sense of the word, to have worked along side so many outstanding men and women over the years. I've had the pleasure of knowing far more people who are exceptional in their loyalty, friendship, and duty to one another when it's most needed. Through bitter cold, sand storms, floods, and hostile fire I've experienced bonds of friendship that are rarely found in kinder circumstances. Their worth is beyond measure, and I count myself fortunate to have them.

It has been pleasure serving with many of you; I hope this day has brought back as many wonderful memories as it has for me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just Hangin' With The Neighbors

The berm around our FOB (an outsized designation for an area with five small tents in one corner of a gravel field) at the NTC was riddled with holes. About half of them were occupied by these guys. We would watch them or the ants for long periods of time, because they were more interesting than anything else there.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thank You. Thank You So Much.

You know, when I went to medic school way back in the dark ages, WE LEARNED SHARPS AND BIOHAZARDS GO IN SPECIAL CONTAINERS.

Not in the trash trailer with week old discarded chow for other medics to sort through after you've left. What the hell are they teaching these days?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Meals out in the field at NTC. It's like a TV dinner for thirty heated with chemical packs. The same meal every breakfast, and a different meal, but again every day, for supper. For over two weeks. I now completely understand why my grandfather refused to ever eat veal again after his enlistment.