Vote Republican. Cling to your God and Guns.

23 September 2006

She Won't Stop Crying!!

My wonderful daughter was born almost 13 years ago, and, like most parents, it has not been gravy. But there is one event that stands out to me as one of the biggest crises I had to deal with as a parent.

It was precisely 6 days after I became a parent.

She was born at a military hospital in Texas, and as a soldier, I was given a week off to take care of both baby and mom. All seemed to be going well, until my wife got sick. She was unable to sleep, and we both decided that she needed to goto the hospital and get looked at.

So, she left me with my newborn daughter and went to the doctor's to see what she could get, as she looked and felt horrible.

All seemed to be going well, until my daughter woke up, hungry.

She had been nursing, and so when I tried to feed her it would have been the first time using a bottle. Normally, from what I understand, it is easier feeding from a bottle than nursing naturally, but of course I am not that lucky. She would not take from the bottle, and there was nothing that I could do to persuade her from feeding from that bottle.

And still she cried.

And cried.

And wailed.

And I was getting more and more frustrated that I could not calm this 6 day old girl.

So, I did what any guy would do, as least what I thought any guy would do.

I called my mommy.

And she was not home.

Or at work.

So, I called my mother-in-law.

And she was not available, either.

So, after anguishing and trying everything in my power as a father of this child to get her to calm down and feed her, anything to get her to stop crying, I did what any good soldier would do.

I called my Platoon Leader's wife.

She answered the phone and I immediately felt relief. I told her my predicament, and she calmed me down and told me that everythingwas going to be OK, that this was sort of a common occurence. Not to worry, that she would evenually ho back to sleep, and that Tamm

It helped, but only sort of. She was still crying, and I was worried not only for my sanity, but my wife. I had not heard from her in a while, and was concerned that something was wrong.

As it turned out, she has some sort of infection, and they wanted to keep her at the hospital for a couple of days. She informed them that she had a newborn at home and that her husband needed her, and she had a baby to take care of. So, reluctantly, they let her go and gave her some antibiotics. With the antibiotics she would no longer beable to nurse, but at this point she did not care; she was really sick and wanted to sleep.

Back at home, my daughter is still crying, and I am still frantic. Finally, after what seemed like forever, my wife returned home, anttbiotics in hand. She looked at me and could tell that I was flustered. She took the baby, and almost immediately stoppped crying, and withni a few minutes had taken the bottle ans was eating.

I felt both stupid and relieved. I guess a mother's touch is all thst it needed.

One of these days, all these almost 13 years later, it will be payback time....

17 September 2006

Paragon Trail

We awoke at our normal time, 0330. It was a half hour before the rest of the company. Why? Because we were the Third Herd. 3rd Platoon, Bravo Three-Five. Baddest of them all. We made our bunks and got our gear ready for the march that we would be taking.

It was our final test, for the most part. We would have about a 23 mile march, in full gear, followed by Paragon Trail, the final assualt objective in Basic Training. We were pretty stoked for it.

After breakfast we got our gear, rifles, gas masks and got ready to go. All the Drill Sergeants were ready, and even the Company Commander had a ruck (military slang for backpack) that seemed full (I am sure it was full of newspapers - it looked too perfect) of gear.

We had all of our gear: rucksack with extra clothes, Chemical gear, shelter half, mess kit, and other crap, plus our load bearing equipment (LBE) which held our immediate combat gear (ammo, canteens, first aid kit, flashlight), and of course our uniforms and boots.

We started marching at about 0600, and soon after the sun came up, it began to get hot (it was still late September, in New Jersey). But after a few miles, we stopped and took a break. We all had to take our boots off and check for blisters. If we had some, we had to have the Drill Sergeants take a look at them and treat them. Otherwise we had to put powder on our feet and change our socks if they were too sweaty.

After the break, we trudged on, in classic company formation (all platoons in formation, marching in line). We were not allowed to talk; we just put one foot in front of the other. At first the Drill Sergeants were with their platoons, but after a while the were all over the company, as if surrounding it at the corners. I noticed this, and looked at my Battle Buddy, Bond (he and I enlisted together out of High School). I told him, quietly, of course, to take a look around. He agreed; it was a prime opportunity for them to "gas" us.

What I mean by gassing is that they would throw CS gas, which is a very, very effective riot agent. It is basically Mace on steroids. We had all been through the gas chamber, where we went in not to get to know what CS is like, but to give us confidence in our chemical protective equipment. Trust me, no one likes CS....

So, I noticed that the Drill Sergeants had moved to the outer perimeter of the company, and I knew that it was just a matter of time that they would be throwing CS grenades at us. So I put my hand on the cover of my protective (gas) mask, and waited.

And waited.

And we marched. Up and down hills, on tank trails, with talcolm powder for sand.

Eventually I gave up about the possibility of being gassed and continued marching, not thinking about anything but putting one foot in front of the other.

All of a sudden, it must have been about 4 miles after I thought about it, I heard in a loud voice, "GAS GAS GAS!!!!" I look and immediately see the white smoke that indicated that grenades had gone off. I immediately closed my eyes and held my breath, grabbing the flap of my protective mask, pulling it open. I grabbed my mask and put it over my face, grabbing the straps over my head and tightened them, then cleared it by forcefully blowing the air that I had held, then sucked in while holding the filter hole, and making sure that the mask was properly sealed and no outside air was coming in or there was a leak in my mask. There wasn't. The time a soldier has to perform this task is 8 seconds, and we had been drilled on in for about three weeks now, off and on. I was good at this, because I do not like throwing up and seeing my own snot in a continuous stream from my nose to the ground (trust me; it is NOT a pretty sight).

I finished with the hood of my mask and made sure I was good to go (the final step is to yell out, "GAS GAS GAS" and make the motion for a chemical attack. I did this, and off to my left I heard a hissing sound, getting louder.

I looked behind me and I saw Drill Sergeant Simpson running wearing what looked like a welder's glove (heavy, for holding hot steel). In his gloved hand was a CS grenade, smoking like there was no tomorrow. I looked over and Bond seemed to be having trouble getting his mask on. Drill Sergeant Simpson noticed this and stopped right in front of Bond, and shoved that grenade right in his face, the CS going right inside his mask.

Not a good thing.

Bond, still having trouble with his mask, but now breathing CS gas, panicked, and ran as fast as he could off the trail and into the area off the road. As he could not see anything, I am impressed that he didn't run into a tree or something. But Drill Sergeant Simpson was still running with the grenade, and finally he threw it into the middle of the company, letting the CS disperse within the area. He then went running after Bond to make sure that he didn't hurt himself.

I moved up out of the area that was getting gassed, and started laughing my ass off. Watching all the poor souls breathing in that CS. I swore to myself that I would not let that happen to me.

After a few minutes, I saw Bond come back over to the campany. I asked him if he was OK, and he said that he was, but I could tell that he was affected by the CS. He was still coughing, but I knew that he would be OK. The Drill Sergeants eventually restored order and the company began moving again, but this time we stayed in our masks. This made the marching harder, as breathing while wearing the masks is definitely more laborious.

After only a few minutes we were starting to slow, and the Drill Sergeants made sure we did not slow down too much by making us march faster. It was definitely starting to suck.

The heat and himidity was rising as the day continued, and finally we were given the All Clear signal, which allowed us to take our masks off. We took a break to take the masks off, and we were also ordered to take off our BattleDress Uniform tops. We would wear our t-shirts and have our rucks on. I and every other guy in the company was soaked with sweat. We drank water, checked our feet, and rested for a precious few minutes. After all too short a time, we were ordered to gear up and get ready to go.

Eventually, after about 23 miles, we stopped at what would be our bivouac site. We stopped and set up our shelter halves with our Battle Buddies, and set up the area. We were given our MRE's and we ate hungrily, most of us filling our canteens up more than once. We did some more training, then finally in the late afternoon we were given our evening meal: Chili Mac. Basically Chili Mac is macaroni noodles with spaghetti sauce and meat. It is not great (would be a hell of a lot better with Tobasco Sauce, but oh well), but it was a hot meal. We also knew what was coming...

After our meal, we were again gathered in a company formation and given a lecture about what was going to be happening on the Trail. It would be a simulated combat exercise, at night, and we would be conducting a patrol along various trails and reacting to the situations that we encountered.

Again, as I was listening to the Sergeant in charge of the Pragon Trail exercise, talking, I noticed that the Drill Sergeants had moved to the corner of the formation, and I knew another gas attack was coming. I put my hand on my mask carrier and slightly opened it, waiting for the grenades to start popping.

As usual, I was right. The sergeant in charge was talking, then all of a sudden threw a grenade right in the middle of the formation.

The thing about Chili Mac that no one says: it comes back up very effectively when one is exposed to CS gas... In other words, you throw it up.

All of it.

You do not stop throwing it up.

I had my mask halfway on before the grenades hit the ground. It was sealed and my hood was pulled over within 4 seconds.

Soon I heard the results of those who were less fast than me. Coughing, retching, and other nasty sounds filled the air. Again I thanked God for taking care of me that day. I looked over at Bond, and I could tell he was smiling like me. Apparently he was not going to let it happen to him twice...

After another few minutes the guys got cleaned up and we began the patrol. It was getting dark, and we were given tips about what to do in various situations (flares at night, immediate action drills, and other infantry type stuff). It took about two hours, and then entire company finally ended up in a trench, lined up shoulder to shoulder.

There was a bench along the bottom of the trench, and we were told to sit down. we sat, and I put my head back and rested as much as I could. After a few minutes a voice came over a loudspeaker and told us what was next. We would go over the trench line when instructed and low crawl the entire area. We could expect to her machine gun fire, and simulated artillery explosions. We would navigate the entire course and react everything that happened. When the voice finished, machine guns opened up, and it seemed that every single round was a trace, because the entire sky light up with tracer fire. It looked like it was going right over my nose, but in reality the towers were about 50 feet high.

After a few more minutes, we were told to go over the wall. Immediately we went over and began crawling through the course. Explosions shook the earth, and mud and water was flying everywhere. I hurried through, and made sure I kept my butt as low as possible. After several minutes, I looked around, and saw guys just getting up and running towards the end of the course. I continued crawling for a few more feet, then said to myself, "Screw this!" and got up and hauled ass towards the finish area.

After finishing we were seated under a huge awning area out of the rain and mist while the rest of the guys finished up. After everyone was done, the Senior Drill Instructor, Drill Sergeant Calhoun, said that he was proud of us, and that it was a privilege to be a drill sergeant to such a great group of recruits. I am sure that he says the same thing to every cycle of soldiers, but it looked like he meant it, and he looked like he truly enjoyed scaring the shit out of us on a daily basis. He was damn good at it.

We marched back to our bivouac area and got into our tents (2-man). I got out of my wet clothes and got into my sleeping bag, and got my clean clothes out for the next day. I went to sleep rather fast, even though it was raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock outside.

We awoke the next morning, and packed up and began marching back to the company area. I seem to remember that not long after we started marching, we were picked up by busses for the remainder of the trip.

It was over. The formalities aside, we had been tested in the eyes of our mentors, and passed.

We had become United States Soldiers.

I was so happy I slept on the ride back.

"Wake Up, This Is An Alert!!!"

During the Cold War, the mission of the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment was to patrol 671 kilometers of the border between West Germany and East Germany and Czechoslovakia (the 11th ACR patrolled north of us, only their sector covered only East Germany, along the Fulda Gap). There was always a presence of at least a Cavalry troop at one of the Border Camps situated along the border, in case something bad happened.

As such, the Regiment had a very high operational tempo, and we were always doing training or patrol missions, 7 days a week. Additionally, we also had exercises to keep us ready. These exercises, called "Alerts", tested us to make sure that we were ready to deploy and defend against Communism *spit* at all times.

If the war ever happened, my unit was supposed to be completely out of our base within 90 minutes, every last person and piece of equipment. That is not a long time. As such, all of our equipment was always loaded as if we were going to war.

This story is about such an exercise.

I am asleep in my bed, and all is well.

All of a sudden, I hear a banging on my door, and someone is screaming at the top of his lungs, "ALERT! ALERT! EVERYBODY GET UP! THIS IS AN ALERT!"

I looked at my watch. It was precisely 0302 hours.

My roommate, Johnny D, immediately got up and turned on the lights and put his uniform on.

Perplexed, I asked him what was going on. He explained to me that this was a go to war exercise, and we had to get our gear together and go to our platoon area.

I said to Johnny D, "Ummm, Johnny, I got here YESTERDAY!!! I have no gear!!!"

"Relax, we'll just get you to see Top (the First Sergeant), and see what happens. If you're lucky, we won't be going out to the field."

"Great," says I.

So I get my uniform on and go with Johnny D to the platoon area. I meet my Platoon Sergeant, Staff Sergeant Sargent (I am not making this up). He looks and me and Lance, who is more confused than I am at his point, and he takes us to go see the First Sergeant, who is outside somewhere making sure that all our vehicles are lined up and ready to leave the base, if so ordered.

I look around the airfield. It is a mass of controlled chaos, if that is a proper phrase. All the troops were moving and lining their trucks up, helicopters are running and warming up and soldiers are moving everything around in a rushed but organized manner. Everyone I see is armed with their weapons and in full "Battle Rattle".

And I am standing around with my thumb up my ass, with nothing to do.

After meeting the First Sergeant, he tells us to hang around with him for a few minutes until he can figure out what to do with both Lance and me. All of a sudden, I look over and see the Squadron Sergeant Major walking up.

Now, I had been in the Army for almost 2 years, and all of it up to this point was in a training environment. So when one saw the Sergeant Major, it was like talking to God (I was always more afraid of the Sergeant Major - or any senior enlisted soldier- more than the Officers). He walks up to my Fisrt Sergeant, looks at me, and says, "Where is your helmet and gear, Specialist (I was a Specialist E-4 at the time) Clark?"

I almost felt my bladder empty. My throat tighted, and I immediately wanted my mommy.

Before I could answer, the First Sergeant said, "He got here yesterday, Sergeant Major. We'll get him inprocessed and his gear this week. In the meantime I am just keeping him out of the way."

The Sergeant Major was not very happy with that answer (they tend to like to see soldiers moving around and working, instead of standing around doing nothing), but he accepted it and moved on, anxious to find other soldiers lollygagging.

Eventually, the exercise ended, and all the vehicles and equipment was put back in is place, ready to go to war another day...

Such was my introduction to the 4th Squadron (Redcatchers) of the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment.

And I loved almost every minute there.

16 September 2006

Wilkommen Bei Deutschland!

July, 1988

I had been married for 8 days, and already I was leaving my wife.

I had just finished both my advanced individual training at Goodfellow AFB, in San Angelo, Texas, and also finished another course at the Army's Intelligence Center and School at Fort Huachuca, in southeast Arizona. I was given 14 days' leave (vacation to you civilians), and drove home in my Volkswagen Fox, with no air conditioning, from Arizona to California.

In July.

Bad move.

I went to Sacramento, go married, and then after a brief honeymoon in LA for about4 days, I went to the LA International Airport and got on my flight to Germany. I would be assigned to the 4th Squadron (Air Cavalry) of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (Toujours Pret!!) (ACR) .My filght would take me to New York, then to Frankfurt, then my final stop to Nuremburg. As I was rather upset that I was leaving my new bride, I was not in a great mood.

When my flight was called, I tearfully (on her part) left my wife, and boarded the plane. Lance, my roommate at Language School and good friend (we had taken our oath together in Oakland 2 years before, and were really good friends - we were even going to be in the same unit together) got on the plane and flew to New York without any problems.

But in New York it starts to get interesting.

Before landing, the flight attendant told us which gates to go to for connecting flights. My roomie and I were told to go to a certain gate for our connecting flight to Frankfurt. We go, wait a couple of hours for the flight, and board. Once seated, I begin to get comfortable when someone says to me, "Excuse me, I think you are in my seat."

"Umm, I do not think so, sir," I reply, and grab my boarding pass.

At this point a flight attendant asks if there is a problem. It turns out that Lance and I were given the wrong flight information, and we had boarded the wrong plane.

Embarrassed and now a little miffed that we had missed our flight, this meant that I could very well be AWOL (Absent WithOut Leave), a punishable offense. This did not improve my mood. So, we got off the plane, and got back on the Jetway to go back into the terminal.

On the Jetway, an employee of the airline (I think it was American, but it is a moot point) rudely asked me what I was doing on the wrong flight. I said to him, "Look, sir, do not yell at me; I was given the wrong information; what are YOU going to do about it?" He calmed down a little and said that I was right, and that we should go to another gate and see what they could do for us. I thanked him, and walked off to the other gate.

At the gate, Lance and I waited in line until it was our turn. When the lady at the gate asked me for my passport, I gave her my Military ID card, as I was traveling on orders (I did not have a passport yet, anyway). She looked at me and said, "In the Military, Sir?" "Umm, yes, Ma'am; Army," I said.

She nodded, and began to work on our flight assignment. As she was working, she said to her co-worker, "We try to take care of our Mililtary customers." I looked at Lance and shrugged my shoulders.

About a minute later, she handed us our tickets and our ID cards back and said, "OK, sir, just go through that door there. It will take you to Business Class; your seats are on the upper deck of the plane (it was a 747). Enjoy your flight."

Shocked, we took our tickets and went through the gate, boarded the plane, and went upstairs. We were greeted by the flight attendants and treated very well. Once seated, the attendant asked us if we would like some champagne. As it had been a very long day, and I was in a pretty foul mood, I accepted.

Many drinks later, the Captain of the plane said that there would be along delay, and that he was sorry. As I was already half in the bag, I could have cared less. The airline had taken care of all of our flights to get us to Nuremburg without us being late, so all was well. Lance was sloshed; he could not have cared less.

After landing in Frankfurt, we hauled ass to our flight to Nuremburg, and got on with a few minuted to spare. I remember sitting next to a British gentleman who was listening to the Beach Boys. I laughed to myself, and he asked me what was funny. I told him that I also loved the Beach Boys, and mentioned that I was from California and that it was ironic that I was sitting next to a European man listening to California Surf music. He too thought that was funny, and we talked for a little longer before I let him go back to his music and I enjoyed looking out the window and getting my first glimpses of Europe.

Landing in Nuremburg, we looked around for anything like a millitary liaison. It was Sunday, early afternoon, and I could not see anything. Lance and I eventually found a sign that was of no help whatsoever. I eventually found a soldier, and showed him my a copy of my orders, and asked him if he knew where the 4/2 ACR was. He did not know anything about the 4th Squadron, but he knew that HQ of the 2nd ACR was at Merrill Barracks. He did not know how I could get there, and that he was sorry.

But, as I am a pretty smart guy, I had a plan.

Before leaving for Germany, I had exchanged some of my money for some German Deutschmarks, "just in case." So, I hailed a cab, and had him take us to Merrill Barracks.

About a half an hour later, he drops Lance and me off at the main gate at Merrill Barracks. I get out of the cab, pay him (and ask for the receipt so I could claim it on my Travel Voucher), and walk up to the gate. I show the gate guard my order as well as my ID card (Lance is with me, doing the same thing), and ask him about 4th Squadron. He says to us, "Sorry, dude, 4th Squadon is out at Feucht (pronounced foickht). You will need to take a cab out there."

I say to him, "Wrong, DUDE, but you are going to get me either the Sergeant of the Guard or the Officer of the Day, right now. We are tired, hungrry, and not in the mood."

Taken aback, he says, "OK, wait right here."

"No problem, take your time, but get them. Preferably the officer of the day."

He goes into the guard shack, and makes a phone call. In the meantime, the other guard comes out and starts talking to us. I am looking around the area, enjoying the scenery, and we begin to talk about small talk. How the unit is (2 ACR does a lot of field time, and tells us about the border camps and life in the Regiment in general).

After a few minutes, a van comes up, and an officer and a sergeant get out. As we are not in uniform, Lance and I do not salute, but we do recognize him as a officer and call him Sir. We show him our orders, and he tells us that he will take us to 4th Squadron. "Welcome to the 2nd Armored Cav, guys."

"Thank you, Sir," I say.

We get in the van, and we drive for what seemed like 20 minutes, from the heart of beautiful Nremburg out to the airfield. It is located in the suburb of Feucht, which is German for "damp".

We go through the gate, and he drops us off at the door for the Charge of Quarters. We go in, show him our orders, and he takes us up to the Officer of the Day for 4th Squadron. There, we sign in and he gets us our room keys and makes sure we have sheets, pillows, and blankets for our bunks. The Officer of the Day then asks us if we have eaten. As soon as he said that, I suddenly became starving. We had not eaten since the fight from New York, several hours earlier. It was now late afternoon of the second day. We said no, and he told us that the chow hall was closed, but if we wanted, he could have the CQ take us somewhere. We accepted, and got in the van, where we had our first taste of Eurpoean cusine.

We went to McDonald's.

I ordered my usual, 3 Cheeseburgers, a 6 piece McNugget, large Fries (Pommes Frites), and a large Coke. As we ate, we talked to the Sergeant about the Squadron. He said that it was a good unit, and that if we were on flight status we would definitely get our fair share of flight time (he was grossly underestimating that one).

After eating, we went back to the unit and went to our rooms. I unpacked some of my gear and got my uniform ready for the next workday.

After shining my boots, I passed out on my bunk... but not before calling my new wife and telling her all about my flight.

11 September 2006

Never Forget

It is five years since it happened.

I am still pissed off.

You should be also.

Never Forget.