March 26, 2004

Welcome to my org....

Obviously, the latest thing is the new blog. Much thanks to Eric for managing that for me. Many readers have asked for functionality that just wasn't possible through blogspot. Still, many thanks to the people at Blogger for what they provide. Hopefully, transferring to moveable type will make this blog a little more interesting. I haven't worked out all of the ins and outs yet, but it should be interesting.

As to activation, the 1 April date was put on hold, although things continue to move forward in anticipation of a June activation. This is so army!! Looks like we'll be going in about the same time the 3rd Infantry heads back. Hate it for those guys.

By the way, I can still be contacted at blogmedic@yahoo.com. This is really a trial run to see how easy MT is to use. I can now build an email notification list, so if you would like to know when the blog has been updated let me know.

April 12, 2004

Does anybody know what's going on?

When I last posted, I told you that the 1 April date was on hold. I had originally planned to take the last two shifts off at work to have a little time to work on my house and maybe do a little early spring fishing. I called the unit on the 1st to tell them that I would be late arriving on the morning of the 2nd which was my next regular drill weekend, as I was at work and would not get off until 7:00 the next morning. Lo and behold, there was an email instructing the units to bring their leadership on active duty starting on the 5th.

So when were they planning to tell all of us?

So on the 2nd I showed up for my regular drill weekend, and they handed me orders putting me on active duty on the 2nd!!

I get the impression that either no one really knows what's going on, or someone just doesn't think it's a priority to pass information down the line. There really is no excuse for either one.

So here I am on active duty with the army again after 14 years. The big wait now is for the official mobilization order to come out which will dictate exactly who is going and in what capacity.

You will of course notice that some things have changed around on the blog, and all credit is due to my BIL. Thanks Eric. I really want to build this email notification list, so email the yahoo account.

April 26, 2004

"Vegas dealin' "

The logistic requirements of moving an ACR are staggering. I knew it was going to be bad, but I had no idea. Actually, my personal part is not altogether unbearable. The biggest problem has been a personnel issue well above my pay grade. At the center of the storm is what is known as the ODD (Overseas Deployment Draft)(or document-nobody is really sure).

Basically, we were instructed to form what is known as a Direct Support Field Artillery Battalion. Our tasking will be to coordinate indirect fire support and other logistical needs for the other maneuver elements, as well as maintain two mechanized companies. There are quite a few field artillery qualified soldiers in the Regiment, but it seems like very few are actually in 1st Squadron. This means that there has to be a tremendous amount of "cross-leveling;" that is, moving men and equipment to new homes so that we meet the configuration demands. It really is a big swap meet.

Or if you think of it in Vegas terms....

Imagine a cool handed, sharp eye dealer, with a wreath of smoke circling over his head....long, manicured fingers skillfully manipulate a deck of cards, shuffling, cutting, reassembling. High rollers with thousand dollar suits gather to watch the master while hushed whispers fill the room with a palpable tension. All the while he stares down his opponent with steel in his eyes and ice in his veins, knowing that every card will move to the position that he has ordered.

.....now forget all that and picture a two year old in a dirty diaper, who just broke into the closet and is busy throwing your Monopoly money around, eating your Backgammon pieces and has no less than seven old decks of Bicycle brand crammed in every conceivable crack of the floor, covered with Cheerios and smashed banana with a Mad Magazine look on his face that screams, "What? Me Worry?" 'Cause that is really much more what it's like.

And to top it all off, I can't seem to find anyone other than me, that thinks it's a big concern that I haven't received any of the medical supplies that I ordered.

What? Me Worry?

May 22, 2004

The Valley of the Shadow

"Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." (Ps. 23:4)

The days are quickly passing by.
We will deploy in just over a month. But our climate has changed. We will not be going in theater with the same country that invaded Iraq. Since the fall of Saddam, this has become a much less popular war.

I am still convinced that we were right.

We know that he had WMD.
We know that he did not comply with UN directives to account for what he had.
We know he was willing to use them.
We know he had billions of dollars, and at least a passing relationship with various terrorist organizations.

To say that we should have allowed the UN to continue to try and negotiate compliance is the pinnacle of naivety in light of their failure to force compliance with 19 separate resolutions.

Given the events of September 11, 2001, we had no choice but to view Saddam as a threat. I contend that if the United States government had said prior to 9/11 that we were going into Afghanistan to take down the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, there would have been public outrage at the unprovoked, pre-emptive nature of the action.

The fact is we failed to act on what we did know, and 3,000 of our citizens went to their graves.

So don't tell me that Saddam wasn't a threat.

The political pundits who trumpet the righteousness of the UN are blinded by their own intelligence. The UN has proven itself to be an ineffective, straw man existing for the sole purpose of giving mental comfort to people of weak constitution with the idea that "something will be done".

There is a feeling of discontent with the events in Iraq.

The weapons have not been found, allowing those who hate the current administration to rail against the president unchecked.

Meanwhile, soldiers have continued to fight and die in a country where a growing number of their countrymen don't think we should be in in the first place.

And as if this weren't enough, the spectacle of the Abu Ghraib prison has come to light. This has to be the single most disheartening blow to morale since this whole thing started.

My emotions are mixed. I personally am willing to tolerate a lot more in terms of gathering intelligence if:

A) they are known terrorists
B) there is good reason to believe they have knowledge of impending attacks on Americans.

I will not say how far I would be willing to go, but I will say this- I will not weep for the guilty.

The problem is that there were innocent Iraqis that were swept up into prison and that is to be expected. To keep them confined, to strip search them, to remove them from the luxuries of life, to keep them isolated- that is all justifiable. Remember, Iraq is a war zone, not your home town.

The things that were done beyond that are absolutely despicable and the soldiers involved deserve what's coming to them. And I mean all the soldiers.

1) The junior enlisted knew that what they were doing was wrong.
2) If they were given orders, they knew they had not just a right, but a responsibility to refuse those orders.
3) If there was confusion as to who was in charge, then they are guilty of negligence in determining the chain of command.
4) Their NCOs are guilty for their own participation.
5) The NCOs are guilty of not providing leadership, support, and moral guidance.
6) The platoon leaders and company commanders (officers) are guilty of dereliction of duty for not being in control of their soldiers.
7) The officers and NCOs are guilty of failing to enforce standards when the soldiers were in Reserve Component status, thereby fostering the climate that allowed soldiers to live without discipline.
8) The Commanding General is guilty of failing as an officer at so many levels that I can't bear to speak of it.

....and so on and so forth.

It is true that the chain of command is liable for the actions of its soldiers. What is less clear is how far up the chain you go.

Regardless, for those unfamiliar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, let me assure you that is is fair, it is harsh, it is applied swiftly, and I am quite confident that several soldiers will go to prison for their actions. I am also confident that it will not be limited to the junior enlisted.

On top of this, I still hear people use the phrase "..during the war". What does that mean? No, there is no huge movement of troops and machines going into Baghdad. But the war is still going on. In fact, the fight has in a sense become harder, as the enemy has us where he wants us. Our soldiers are surrounded, and they are being forced to fight his kind of war. If you must refer to the specific period of time during the push to Baghdad, please the use the phrase "..during the invasion". To say "during the war" only lessens what the servicemembers with boots on the ground are doing.

So what does this all mean to me?

I am leaving my family, my home, my job to go fight in a war that is supported less and less everyday. My commander-in-chief is attacked every day by the media, the congress, Hollywood, most of whom have never given anything in the service of their country. I have been ashamed of the behavior of fellow soldiers, and there is evidence that the actions of the chain-of-command are little better. My enemy is using tactics that are nearly impossible to predict.

I feel that I have already entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death, for there is a cloud hanging over this nation. The only good thing about a valley is that in order for one to exist, there must be hills and mountains.

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills- from where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. ( Ps. 121: 1-2)"

This has been my state of mind over the last weeks, so I was looking forward to the EMS awards banquet this past Wednesday night. It was a chance to put the business of the Army behind me for awhile and see my coworkers again. It was quite the enjoyable evening with good food, good friends, good fellowship, and free babysitting. I chose to wear my Class A (suit and tie equivalent) uniform. I wanted to do that as a show of respect for those soldiers who weren't enjoying a night on the town. After the banquet my wife and I were not ready for the evening to be over, so we went to a local pub to enjoy a beer and some time alone. As we sat there, me with the uniform and symbols of 14 years of service to my country, I couldn't help noticing the crowd and wondering what impact the war, the lives lost, and the sacrifice made by our men and women in uniform had had on them. Did they care? Did they realize what millions of men and women had given up? What would they be willing to sacrifice? As I sat there I started to sink lower and lower, convinced that these people would continue their lives, blissfully unaware, and unconcerned. The Shadow that had been pushed back, if only for brief time, had returned on me full force. Our waitress came to check on us.

"Can I get you anything else?"
"No thank you. We'll just take the check please."
"Actually," she replied, " Your tab has been picked up by someone, and I'm not allowed to tell you who."

Have you ever noticed how a tiny candle can push back the darkness?

June 05, 2004

Windows to the World

I'm sorry about the notification list. According to my BIL that particular function of MT requires a bit of software that can't be installed on his server, so I will build an email list based on the Yahoo address.

We are still scheduled to deploy on the 25th of this month.

The odd thing is that working for the Army full time has not been as humorous as working EMS. In fact, it is quite dull. I blame this fact for the lack of blogging.

Two rather funny things that did occur:
I was making the point to one of my medics that we needed signs that could be posted around the aid station designating where triaged patients could be located(ie: critical, delayed, etc)

He said he knew where he could get hold of some road signs that we could take with us. I replied that that would be fine, but we would have to add to them in order to make them functional as in:

(here for the aid station)

(to the seriously injured)

(to leave the area)

you get the idea.

Then Friday we finally received a briefing giving a specific location in Iraq. As we waited for the computer to power up, the discussion centered on the harshness of life in a combat zone, the threat in the area, recent combat action and the like. As the computer and projector booted up the Windows XP desktop known as "Bliss" came into view. For those not familiar, it is a very pastoral scene of a sunlit, rolling green meadow.

Someone interjected
"Well, that doesn't look so bad!"

Would that it were so.

July 06, 2004

Hello Mother, Hello Father. Greetings from Camp Shelby

In 1992 I came off of active service with the army and began my association with the National Guard. We did our first Annual Training(AT) at Camp Shelby. Now I realize that they probably have not had the same money that is currently being infused by the active component, but what have they done with their annual budget since 1992? They certainly haven't invested in the facilities.

We left out on the morning of the 25th and it was appropriately rainy and dreary. It was heartwarming to see the number of people that came out to say good bye and stand in what was often a down pour.

My family and friends were gathered around the Brown's Ferry Road exit. I didn't get a real good last look at them though. Even at 45 mph convoy speed, it's next to impossible to focus on all those faces. Still, I know they were there and that means the world.

As we came through Trenton, my driver and I noticed a man driving his pickup slowly along the shoulder, with his arm out the window waving his UT cap at us. We didn't think much of it; we just attributed it to the natural desire of Tennessee fans to relate whatever is going on to the world of football. All things are blessed in Tennessee if we can incorporate Phil Fulmer and the colors of orange and white.

We passed this guy and not too much later he was pulling along beside us and hollering "Take my hat with you!" I was relucatant since I knew it would clash with all of the outfits I had brought with me.

After a "Dukes of Hazard" transfer of the hat, I took a closer look. It is autographed by one of the Tennessee players and has the owner's name and information on it. So now my plan is to carry it all the way to Iraq and try to photo journal its travels. I will of course return the hat.

Camp Shelby is a dismal place and it has rained everyday to some extent since we got here. I have not blogged sooner as it took me this much time to get regular access.

There have been efforts to brighten our little world, most notable of which has been Apache Battery's landscaping attempts. I commented on it to their commander this morning as a group of us were shaving. Someone else asked him to what I was referring. He commenced to describe in detail the work that had been done with the "black marble gravel" red mulch and various plantings.
To which I added "Yeah, it's a regular Queer Eye for the Cav Guy over at A Battery."
Too good an opportunity to miss.

Training is beginning, despite a rough and confusing start. Things will move along and get better. I found myself in a unique position the other day.
We are now running the Battalion Aid Station and one of the soldiers that came in had to be taken up to the Troop Medical Clinic for something that we could not completely evaluate. They asked me if I could take him up there in my Hummer.

As I walked out the door with the soldier it dawned on me:

I'm back running ambulance calls.

July 18, 2004

Then again....not that much has changed....

Despite my new surroundings, I still find myself at work.
Our mission as a medical platoon has changed every day since our arrival. To begin with, we were not supposed to be providing any internal medical support. Sickcall was to be handled by the Troop Medical Clinic (TMC) all of the ranges and training events were to be supported by Shelby people, and I had asked all of these questions well in advance of our arrival.

It began with the CO wanting our PAs to see people casually to help get them back to duty quicker and has now grown to us operating a Battalion Aid Station for twelve hour days. We have been seeing and treating between 30 and 40 soldiers a day.

The funny thing is that we see the same things that are often seen in the civilian world. You would think that being a soldier, one would tend to avoid the appearance of being trivial about their health. On the other hand, avoiding duty by using sick call is a time honored soldier tradition. Besides which, most of these soldiers have never had the ready access to a health care provider that the army provides. It does mean now that I am functioning much more like I am supposed to.

The biggest event lately was Thursday on the firing range. The S3 had asked for one of the PAs to go to the ranges so that the next level of care was readily available. We were anticipating a lot of the soldiers having to struggle with the heat. Given that we are in a time sensitive training schedule, the hope was that we could get soldiers back to the firing lines so that they could qualify, rather than having to send them all back to the rear.

The day started off typically. I have covered a lot of ranges over the years and this was no different. Early formation, sorry breakfast when you get there, range is not set up and working correctly; which all resulted in tired, hungry soldiers that didn't get to start firing until mid-morning. The heat index was steadily on the rise and would hit 108 before the day was through. I had brought my personal aid bag and some extra stuff, but didn't really think it would be too dramatic.

At about noon, things started to happen. Soldiers started dropping like flies. Not enough water, rest, or adequate food caught up with them. In addition we were all in full body armor and Kevlar helmet, which makes you feel similar to a potato wrapped in tinfoil and shoved in an oven.

As they started going down in more than one place, I made the mistake of trying to get myself and the medics from one point to the next. Finally I woke up and decided to have other soldiers bring the patients to me and the PA and the rest of the medics. I commandeered a tent that had been set up for shade and essentially established a Casualty Collection Point. Once that happend things began to move easier and we were able to control and treat a lot better. From noon until 6 that evening, we evaluated and treated upwards of thirty soldiers for varying degrees heat injury. I personally started about 12 IVs and all of my guys each got several more. Good training for us, not much fun for them. Mainly I was able to focus on directing the movement of people and supplies and getting tasks done.

Ultimately I hope that I was able to solidify my position as the man to go to when things like this need to be done. It is difficult for a 2nd Lieutenant to establish a position of authority against senior officers no matter what the experience level. Hopefully this little mass casualty event built a little confidence in them that I do know something about handling these situations.

Meanwhile, I am tired and need a day off.

Sorry, not much humor here today.