I have been considering whether to let my kids know about this journal, as a way of keeping up with my activities while mobilized and deployed overseas. I first started thinking about this when in Korea.
Up until now, I have not told them, and have asked my family not to share it with their kids. There were some comments about my kids and about my relationship with their mother, as well as some things about my dating life that I didn't think appropriate to share with them.
Now that my situation has changed, I really feel the need for them to be able to keep up with me. I'd also like for their cousins to be able to see what I'm doing. So my solution to this is to start another blog, specifically for my deployment.
The address is here: http://bradsexcellentadventure.blogspot.com/
I don't know for sure whether I will dual-post to both, or just suspend this one for the time of my deployment. I may try dual posting for awhile, but I suspect that will become too much work and I'll just stop. But we'll see. I'm making it up as I go along.
Anyway, the new blog is active and that's where I'll be.
Well, I'm getting information little by little.
Today I got my travel orders and itinerary for next week. I am traveling on Monday (9/11, kind of cool) and spend Tuesday at Ft. Snelling, MN. That is for an "SRP", which is a kind of records review to see if all my stuff is together. After they pronounce me ready to be mobilized, I can get my actual orders and be off. I come home from there on Tuesday evening.
I talked to my gaining unit today about the process once I'm mobilized, and what I'm likely to be doing. Once I get there (Ft. McPherson, GA - in Atlanta), they process me into their unit (3rd Army), and then take me to Ft. Benning to go through my mobilization processing. That's where I draw all my cool high-speed Army stuff like new uniforms, boots, body armor, Camelbak, $200 sunglasses (Soldier's Lexan Impact Resistant Protective Eyewear, a.k.a. SLIRPE), weapon, mask, etc etc. Then I go back up to Ft. McPherson a few days later. That's where they cut my orders to send me to Kuwait. It's pretty certain that's where I'm going. At least, that's where they need someone with my qualifications, until something changes.
(OK, I confess, I made up the acronym for the glasses...) ;-)
They asked me how much time I needed to get ready to leave. They really want me to come right away, because the unit has already been mobilized since August 9th. But I wanted to stay here long enough to visit everyone before I go, so I told them 9/29. That is the date for which they will cut my travel orders. I'll go down Friday, probably head for Ft. Benning Sunday, and begin the process on Monday 10/2.
The mobilization is for 480 days, so I'll be gone through about next December. (They're not sure whether my clock will start ticking when my orders are cut, or if they'll go by when the unit was first mobilized).
If they send me where they currently think they are going to send me, I will be a facilities engineer on the largest logistics base in Kuwait. Like I told Anna, it sounds boring and safe. I guess we'll see. It's probably not a bad thing that I won't be riding horses around the mountains of Afghanistan, since I have to finish my internet-based Army school by the end of this deployment or else risk not getting promoted to LTC. So most likely I'll sit in an air-conditioned office pushing paperwork trying not to be a REMF, and work my Army education in my free time.
I suppose I'm a bit past the stage of chasing around in the mountains or kicking in doors in Baghdad, anyway...
Today at 9:34 AM I got a phone call from someone in the 88th RRC (Regional Readiness Command). They need an engineer officer and asked if I could go. I said yes. So the wheels started turning.
Monday I travel to Ft. Snelling, Minnesota, to start the SRP (Soldier Readiness Process). This is some kind of a records check, and probably a physical exam, to make sure I am deployable. Apparently they started doing this because too many people were showing up at their mobilization stations not ready to go. After that I come home, and wait for orders. They tell me the orders will probably come quickly.
I don't know where I'm going, how long I'll be there, or what I'll be doing.
Apparently this unit has been mobilized since August 9th, right before I went to Korea. They have come up short an engineer officer, and have this high-priority, short-notice backfill. I was next on the "Hey, You! roster", as they say.
So far nobody I've talked to can tell me exactly what to expect, although I found out that I'll be part of 3rd Army and I'll start out by reporting to Ft. McPherson, Georgia. From there I'll be sent wherever they need me. One person speculated that it would be to Kuwait, where she knows they need a facilities engineer at a major logistics base. But she said there's no way to really know because things change every day.
So I may end up in charge of some buildings in the desert someplace. Not quite what I had in mind, but I guess somebody has to make sure the air conditioners are working and the camel drivers don't walk off with the walls. I told Anna it sounds very boring and safe. :-)
At first when they told me I had to travel Monday and report Tuesday, I thought that was it - that I had to take all my stuff and I wasn't coming back. I didn't find out otherwise until later in the afternoon. But I'm still going to pack all my stuff this weekend, just in case. My guess is that they will cut orders for me to report on very short notice, and I'd rather be packed now than have to come home and jump through hoops to get ready in time.
I told Malinda and the kids, and asked the kids if they wanted to come over and hang out some this weekend. I'll be talking to them some more tomorrow - we're going to get them dependent ID cards so they can use the medical benefits (which are very good). They can also use all the other military facilities, but are unlikely to do so since they are all so far away from us. We're going after school tomorrow.
So Korea turned out to be a shakedown cruise, and a very good one at that. I feel pretty ready to go - just a few things to iron out, and I was already in the process of doing so. I thought I'd have a little more time to prepare, but I guess not. I don't suppose anyone's ever completely ready. The exact moment when I said "yes" was an interesting one - I felt a whole surge of mixed emotions. Mainly it's excitement and pride to get to be a part of it, mixed with regret and apprehension about being away from my children. I hope they are able to understand, but I'm kind of afraid they won't, not really. I don't know that there's any way to avoid that - they'll just have their own perspectives on it, and I'll have to do my best to make sure they understand why it's important for me to do this. Anyway, I'll miss them. I hope we'll succeed in maintaining some kind of regular contact.
Well, there's a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in. Better get to work...
Some of my photos from Korea are now in the scrapbook area ("Pictures" under "User Info"). There's probably an easy way to link it, but I can't remember it, I'm tired, and I promised Anna we'd watch a movie soon.
So maybe I'll learn how to do that later....
Well, Conor got his driver's license today. Is he ever happy! He took the day off from school and we went in early this morning and picked up his license. He came over later to take Anna to lunch, just so he could drive around in his truck.
I've driven with him a few times, and although he does the typical fast starts and waits too long to put on his brakes, I think he's a pretty good driver, and I'm not too worried about him. I'm happy for him and enjoy seeing him exercising his newfound freedom.
I've been home since late Sunday. We got in about 3:15 PM, and by the time we got our luggage, got on the bus, back to the reserve center, and I got him, it was about 5:30. I was just about to take a shower and crash when my dad walked in. He came over to welcome me home. It was a nice gesture, but I was really not up for it. Of course he's been completely out of touch because unlike everyone else he doesn't use email. So he had no idea what I'd been doing and was anxious to see me. We sat around and talked and ate and watched a movie. But I pooped out about 9:30 and went to bed. We had a better time the next morning, as he didn't have to open up until noon and could stay longer than usual.
Yesterday I saw each of the kids for just a little while, and then Anna came over to spend a couple of nights. She's spending most of her last days of summer playing "Worlds of Warcraft", her online game. Right now she's taking a break, and is at a friend's house. I'm going to get her at 8:00 and then we'll wind down our evening. Her first day of school is tomorrow, so she's wringing every last bit she can out of summer!
I've been slowly unpacking and attacking my long list of things to do. Today was pretty productive, although you wouldn't know it to look at the house. There's crap everywhere, but I really am making progress. I decided I wanted to make this entry, and then I'm going to go finish up with the duffel bags and get some laundry going.
The mail came today and I waded through it - BIG pile, about half of it junk that I tossed. The rest I'll sort through and deal with in small batches. One of the boxes I sent ffrom Korea came, so I can give the kids the little presents I bought them. Another is on the way, but it's mostly birthday stuff for Anna so there's no hurry.
So - on to do some laundry - excitement plus!
It's good to be home.
Well, I've spent a few weeks in active service now - a couple weeks in class in June and nearly three weeks here at this exercise. And despite all the silly stuff I've observed and the complaints I've voiced here, I have to say that I like this Army.
It's not the same Army I left 13 years ago. Sure, it is the same in many ways. In fact, my grandfather would probably recognize many aspects of it from his service in the 1920's. But it's really quite different from when I left, and it's just not the technological and doctrinal changes. It's an attitude change. I began to feel it at CAX, but that was a classroom environment so it was just a hint. Here at this field exercise it's become very clear in many ways.
It's a wartime Army.
When I was in before, it was a peacetime Army. We trained for war, and took things very seriously, but nonetheless, there was a definite garrison mentality that permeated everything, even field exercises. It manifested itself in many ways, but would best be summed up as what we used to call "machts nichts BS". That was from the German for "means nothing", as in trivial stuff that shouldn't really matter, but takes on a distorted importance because people have lost track of the priorities imposed by real wartime conditions.
A few examples will serve to illustrate:
When I was in the Army before, we wore spit-shined black leather boots. Spit-shined black boots look great but don't wear very well in field conditions. So most of us had two sets of boots - our spit shined garrison boots and our field boots. Older men used to talk with nostalgia about the "brown shoe Army". That was a reference to the WWII and post-WWII Army, when they wore rough-surfaced brown boots that were meant for field duty. And the term "brown-shoe Army" came to mean the "less BS, combat-oriented wartime Army". Well, this Army wears rough-surfaced brown boots.
In Germany, when I was issued a holster for my .45, that was the only holster I could use, and it had to be set up "just so" on my web gear. When I bought my own standard military holster and put it on a separate (standard) military pistol belt to wear inside the CP when my gear was grounded, it was frowned upon. Beng in uniform was *way* more important to some people than having the pistol at hand when it might be needed.
Now it's like the wild west. People wear all kinds of holsters - every type of military and aftermarket holster you can imagine - shoulder holsters, belt holsters, low-hanging thigh holsters. And nobody cares - what matters is that the weapon is at hand when needed, and then you just get on with your job.
Same thing with personal web gear - there are all kinds of pouches, packs, and add-ons. While at root it's pretty standard, people have their own setups. Whatever works.
Carrying M-16's loaded, even with blanks, was very rare. Even issuing the troops magazines was rare. It was just too much trouble. At this exercise, the troops walk around with loaded M-16's all the time (blanks only). They are required to have full magazines and keep a round chambered at all times when walking around the post. They carry at the "low ready" position and don't salute when under arms, exactly as they would act on combat patrol. When entering a secured building they clear the weapon in the clearing barrel, and they lock and load again when they come out. There's a very good reason for it - we want them to know how to handle their weapons so it's second nature.
These may seem like minor examples, but they illustrate a whole different underlying mentality - we are at war, and we know it. The Army is full of veterans who have seen recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can tell who's been there because they wear their combat patches on their right sleeves. And around here, those who have been there outnumber the ones who haven't. An Army full of combat veterans won't put up with as much BS. Certainly not the kind of BS that gets you killed. They do what works, and get on with the job. That fits right in with the way I look at things (and always have).
It's a wartime, brown-shoe Army. And I like it.
Well, things are cooling down here, both figuratively and literally. The exercise is winding down, and the weather has finally broken and it's both reasonably cool and also not too humid.
I still have to go in for another night shift, but we're clearly approaching ENDEX, and as usual in these kind of exercises, people are beginning to wind down attitudinally. I turned in my pistol this morning (first time I've ever been issued an M9 - more on that later on). We had some good play overnight, and I was pretty busy most of the time doing actual exercise stuff. And I learned some more, which is always good. But I'm ready for the exercise to be done, just like everyone else here (well, there are a few hard chargers who push the envelope right to the end - like I did when I was 25...).
I'm doing laundry while I write this, and afterwards I'm headed for the PX, post office, etc for one last visit. I think it will be better go today than to wait for tomorrow when everyone is off duty.
There are a couple more things I want to get for Anna, since her birthday is coming up in November. I already picked up some things for the kids for when I get back, and I want to get it all mailed off today. Once I get that done I'll just relax and read or something until I fall asleep. It will be a short day's rest, but I'll have all day tomorrow to sleep and I got a lot of sleep last "night".
I miss the kids a lot and am looking forward to seeing them again. We're all pretty ready to get out of here and go home.
At least I can walk around post now without being drenched in sweat. It's really been hot and humid up until today (when it wasn't raining, that is). So this is a welcome change.
Time to go check my laundry...
Well, the Army Reserve does something that the National Guard did not. They have a form for your supervisor to provide "input" to your rater for consideration when it comes time for an OER. (Officer Evaluation Report). Kind of an interim progress report for a specific exercise or assignment.
So today the LTC who is supervising me here gave me mine for this exercise. And it's definitely what they call a "walk on water" evaluation. I guess I must have impressed him. :-)
It's a good thing, since there is essentially nothing recent on which I can be evaluated. This is a stake in the ground that may help me in my quest to get back into an active slot someplace. I will definitely include it anytime someone asks me for my last three OER's, even though it is not an official OER. It will do until I get one!
Even before getting that, I had a better day today. I'm still tired, but we had some more MP play and I got to go to some additional meetings which broke up the monotony of the night shift. It's still really cool to watch the exercise go on, but the newness of being in this headquarters had worn off, and the lack of anything really productive to do was wearing on me.
And sometimes it's a little trivial. Today we wanted to change a spelling error on a Powerpoint slide that someone else had made and which was stored "someplace on the web portal". It took an LTC, three Majors, and a Captain to track it down and wrestle it to the ground. But now the "S" is changed to a "D", and the Generals can rest easy and move on to defeating the communist hordes, secure in the knowledge that their PowerPoint slides are straight.
I did get several books read, though! In fact, my supervisor specifically mentioned all the military books and Army Field Manuals I was reading all the time, and complimented my drive to learn and get back up to speed as factors in his evaluation. So it worked out pretty well!
9:00 AM, and it's time for bed....
Ok, I'm tired of this exercise now.
I think I'm just tired, period. I got a little punchy yesterday, and then today I experienced a motivational slump. The newness has worn off and the fact that we're not really playing the game along with everyone else kind of makes the time go by slowly. I think I'm all better now - I got more work to do and then I wasn't bored anymore.
I've enjoyed walking around and observing all the different responses that soldiers have to the military custom of saluting. Some are quite professional and do it crisply, some do it reluctantly, and some do what they can to avoid it. If you stare at them long enough, sometimes you can elicit a salute. Not that I really care, but it's an interesting psychological phenomenon.
Yesterday I had some fun developing an equation to calculate the force which impels a soldier to salute as a superior officer approaches. It's based on Coulomb's law describing the electric force exerted by one charge upon another. (by the way, there are no subscripts or superscripts here, so I used small letters for subscripts and the caret ^ for superscript. There's also no delta sign, so I just wrote d).
Here it is:
Fs = dG * T * P1*P2/R^2
Fs = Salute Force
dG = difference in pay grade (rank)
T = Time in line of sight
P = Military Professionalism
R = distance between P1 and P2 (two military professionals)
I wanted to describe "Salute Potential" using the formula for electric potential (voltage), but I couldn't really make the variables fit right. I was also speculating whether you could describe it in a way to measure salute capacitance as a depletable quantity, but again, that was pushing the model a bit...
Anyway, that was fun for awhile. :-) (Can you tell I was getting bored and had time on my hands?)
Well, I'm sleepy so it's time to go to bed.
I just read a book called "The New face of War - How War Will Be Fought in the 21st Century", by Bruce Berkowitz (2003). It was very good, and especially interesting to read considering that I am spending my days (well, nights) in a super high-tech Army HQ operations center watching the theater-level C^2 of a simulated war.
(More acronyms - here's another example of how things have changed. When I was in the Army before, it was C^2 or C^3. C^2 is Command and Control. We also talked more or less interchangeably about C^3 (Command, Control, and Communication). Then C^3I: Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence. Add computers, and you've got C^4I, which is the current term).
Anyway, back to the book:
The author's thesis is that information technology has fundamentally changed the way wars will be (in fact, are being) fought. While it has always been true that more and better information and faster decision cycles led to success in battle, he makes a persuasive case that we have passed a major milestone which has fundamentally altered the balance of power and which requires radical modifications in the way we think about, prepare for, and prosecute war.
For its length, the book contains an astonishing amount of information. It has quite a survey of some high points in miitary history, and a fairly detailed account of how the concepts of information warfare have made their way to the highest levels of U.S. military thinking and become a central element in U.S. military strategy. It jumps around a lot chronologically in its use of historical examples, but has an underlying central logic that moves steadily forward.
Without trying to reconstruct the book (probably impossible in my little review anyway, as the information content is so dense), the high points are:
- His conclusions from a survey of both classical and very recent military history:
"...the ability to collect, communicate, process, and protect information is the most important factor defining military power.", and "...to defeat your opponent, you must first win the information war".
- The universal availability of cheap, effective information technology and communications has fundamentally altered the terrain on which we fight.
- The concept of an "OODA loop" - Observe, Orient, Decide, Act - is key to understanding the impact of this technology. Whoever gets to the end of his OODA loop first has the advantage and can take the initiative. This is a fundamental concept which has always been true in sports, business, and war.
- Given the lethality of today's weaponry, which can generally kill whatever it can see, the importance of the above point in today's conflicts cannot be overstated.
- The perennial question when dealing with enemy communications weaknesses is whether to "deny, deceive, destroy, or exploit". Each offers rich possibilities for creating an advantage, depending upon circumstances.
- From an analysis of how the US reacted to lower-tech MIG jets being able to shoot down faster American aircraft came the concept of "transients", or the ability to move between states. "absolute speed is much less important than the ability to move from one state to another". In other words, agility is key.
- In the 1990s, the US military bureacracy finally began to recognize the importance of information warfare. It is now official policy to recognize it as a speciality, fund programs, initiatives, etc. (The probably seems strange given all the high-tech weaponry we've seen, and the fact that there have always been such programs and initiatives. He gives a very interesting overview of the Pentagon bureaucracy which helps to explain why this is an important point).
- The future warrior will fight as part of a "networked army" - small cells, employed flexibly, highly networked with each other for maximum situational awareness and flexibility. He views Al-Queda's attack on 9/11 as a textbook example, and sees Osama bin Laden as a brilliant general who successfully planned and executed an attack which took maximum advantage of our weaknesses. Our reponse in Afghanistan was another example - SOF inserted in small cells "behind the lines" (not that there are any lines per se), using high tech communications and bringing weapons to bear. This technology allows any group - governments, terrorist groups, drug cartels, mafia, etc, to plan, organize, and execute attacks. The military has taken to calling this the "Asymmetric Threat".
- Two techniques peculiar to this form of warfare are "zapping" and "swarming":
"Zapping" is the single, precision strike based on good intelligence and targeting. A predator missile taking out a terrorist leader by guiding amissile to his car on the road is a good example of this.
"Swarming" is the rapid assembly of warriors to critical point from a dispersed state, where they execute their attacks. Examples of this are the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen and the attack on the Rangers in Mogadishu (think "Blackhawk Down") where the enemy used the smoke from burning tires as their signal to converge on the downed helicopter.
There is much more, but the above describes the essence. There are many, many concrete examples as well as predictions and recommendations.
The major conclusion of the book is that this is a critically important development, akin to the development of the tank and the A-bomb. It has changed warfare forever, and while we are ahead now, we will not necessarily keep this advantage unless we continue to recognize its importance and develop our capabilities.
Again, a very good book which I highly recommend - informative and entertaining reading.
As an aside, I have seen this new emphasis on information warfare since my return to the Army. "Information Operations" was a topic in CAX, and there's an entirely new MP manual to cover it. We used to have four battlefield missions - now there are five. The first four have been slightly shuffled and modified with new emphases and new terms, but the biggest change is in the entirely new fifth mission: "Police Intelligence Operations". I have been reading the new manuals to get my arms around the new way of looking at the missions. Most of the manuals are post-2000, and the PIO manual is dated July 2006. I'm reading these manuals during the quiet times on my shifts in the EAOC, and that one is next. I've skimmed through it already, and it looks pretty interesting.
So I'd say we're doing our best to stay on top of it.
As we used to say in the 1980's - "Your Army is awake". :-)