Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Primates kick ass!

Saw this on Fail Blog, looked up the safari site, and there's the picture...


Crazies and Super-Crazies

Now that I'm back in the hell-hole, I don't really have much opportunity to listen to the crazies very much. Rush is occasionally on the radio when I go to dinner, but that's about it for my exposure to him. And on the other side of the fence there are people like Max Fortes, who is a crazy on the left. (And by crazy, I mean it, he has a comment about not believing Al Qaeda was behind 9/11).

These are just regular run of the mill crazies, though. The super crazies are not very often on the radio, or hosted on their own websites. They're the ones who post comments, or, certain other things I'll discuss in a moment. I once had a discussion with a friend of mine over whether or not the crazies on the radio actually believed what they were saying, or if they were just saying it to make money. Generally, we felt that they were just saying it to make money. The listeners, however, we had no doubt actually believed every crazy word coming out of the crazy mouths. Case in point, a wonderful and thoughtful comment on a right-wing blog from Brenda:

"Uh. NO. The reason we don't "like" BO is because he is a lying, alien COMMUNIST MUSLIM. His ideas are to CHANGE AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, One Nation Under GOD, into The United Socialist States of America. He wants to kill the heart and soul of the country--Free Market Capitalism--by installing govt. controlled businesses, Cap and Trade and "GREEN" programs, reduce the population and Social Security payments thru INFANTICIDE and EUTHANASIA of the aging population via govt. 'healthcare', encourage women to work outside the home and abandon motherhood to daycares which will 'indoctrinate' the babies into socialism in order to increase the tax-payer base, abandon all Judao-Christian MORAL VALUES, sell out America to China and the Middle East, overload the Social Services System with illegal aliens, dead beats, Sloths, and Liars, nationalize the media in order to stifle opposition to him and his disgusting programs, and place the most completely INSANE BURDEN OF ECONOMIC DEBT on our children and theirs, resulting in WORKERS receiving 20% of their paycheck, with the rest going to the deadbeats. Everyone who CAN will LEAVE America. This is THE WAR OF ALL WARS: Spiritual Warfare between the powers of darkness and GOD. The prize of America will go to the winner!"

Yeah, spooky. However, I'd like to draw your attention to the "alien" statement in the first sentence. Now, considering how crazy this person is (super-crazy), she might actually believe that Obama is an alien from outer space. However, I suspect rather that she is one of the group of people now known in common parlance as "birthers." (What is it about the right wing that they just can't nail down good names?)

EDIT: I never expected to find a website talking about Obama's extra-terrestrial ties. I will never underestimate the internet ever again. Now if I could only find that nun thing...

One of the more famous, in my circles, anyway, is a man by the name of Stefan Frederick Cook. I will not honor him with a rank, whatever the Army might allow him to claim. Mr. Cook made news by refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because he didn't believe Obama was a legitimate President. Then dentist, real estate agent, and attorney, Orly Taitz took up his case. I was always a bit confused over this fiasco. I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist (I swear, it's fun to imagine them, but I rarely actually believe them). However, after discovering that Mr. Cook volunteered in May for his deployment, only later requesting it be revoked, everything kind of fell into place.


A) he volunteered to deploy, and then, like Wesley Snipes, got some bad advice from his lawyer


B) he volunteered to deploy so that he could then, in a blaze of media suck-up, publicly announce he could not because Obama is a secret Muslim Communist terrorist born in Kenya

Either way - he did not have to make any public show of it at all. As he was a volunteer, all he needed to do was simply ask the Army not to deploy him. Simple as cake. Instead, he makes a big deal, gets the story in the press, and allows the crazies to prattle on once again about how Obama is a secret Muslim terrorist communist, out to destroy the country with his socialist programs, born in Kenya, rather than Hawaii where there is legal documentation, plus two birth announcements in local papers (it was all a plot you see, they knew he was going to be the first black President when he was born, so they had to put those announcements there to establish his credentials. Or even better, they hacked into the archives of the papers and placed them there later, cause that's so easy to do...)

So, the long and the short of this post is that maybe I was more sane when I only had the crazies to deal with, and not the super-crazies.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Iraqi Food

So, anyone who knows me since 2004 knows how much I love Iraqi food. Today one of our interpreters brought in food for a "welcome here" dinner. Kabob, lamb, bread, hummus all the fixings. The funny thing is our interpreter was like "Iraqis complain about not having food, but look at this! I said enough for five people, and they give us all this." Now, it was good, very good, but it was a lot of food.

Here is what was left after we all ate as much as we could:

And a closeup of Iraqi Kebob, because it's my favorite food in the whole world:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Crazies on TV

So, I came across this clip on another blog:

Now, Army of Dude does a great job of nailing down what a despicable thing it is to say that the Taliban should just kill him, and how much of a poser Ralph Peters is, so I'm not going to go into that.

I simply want to mention the glaring mistake that I heard this man make. His bullshit about "you always know where the other members of your platoon are" is just that, bullshit. In '04, when I was in Iraq, at night, on a patrol, there was some miscommunication. I'm not gonna blame anybody, I misheard, they misheard, and before I knew it, I was standing in a market square in Baghdad with only a half dozen or so ICDC as my escort. The two soldiers (a lieutenant and a platoon sergeant) I had been with before that had gone off somewhere to do something cool and high-speed. Luckily, nothing happened, and thirty minutes later I was back with my escorting platoon and moving on back to the base. But I'll tell you, this kind of shit does happen, mistakes do occur, and accountability is not always 100%, whatever Butt-Munch Peters might think.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Traveling to Baghdad

So, last time I was here, and flying back and forth too much for comfort, I was in the airport in Kuwait and a guy walked up to me and asked me for a light. Let me describe this young man: 23, white, tall, athletic, ACU backpack. He sits down, and the first thing he says is "I don't know why they ask us to travel in civilian clothes. We stand out like sore thumbs." He was absolutely right.

So, I'm flying out this time, sitting in the smoking room fishtank, and I start to count up the number of people sitting in the smoking room with me who are most likely going to Baghdad on my plane. At least three, up to maybe six of the people. Like soldiers, contractors have a particular look. Brown combat boots, typically high-speed, cargo pants, polo shirt. And, often, an ACU or brown backpack... So much for incognito.

Some other interesting things I saw at the airport:

A full on female bodybuilder. Tanned, breast implants and all.

Five people from my CRC class.

One woman with (fe?)male pattern baldness who actually ended up getting on my flight to Kuwait.

Fort Benning CRC Survival Guide – Step by Step instructions from my experiences

CRC stands for Conus Replacement Center. It's kind of an odd name, when you think about it, since you're replacing someone OCONUS. Anyways, CRC is particularly shocking for those who haven't dealt with the military before. It's also confusing, and there is very little information that I've found on what you need before you get there, and what to expect when you do get there. So, here's my own little day by day guide to the CRC experience.

Only use Internet Explorer to use any of the sites listed below, Firefox will have display problems.

Day One – Saturday

This is just a processing day. However, don’t think that makes it okay to get there late. If you get there Friday night, great, get up early for that first formation. If you plan to arrive before Friday, don’t bother. You can get a room in the barracks, but that’s it. It is entirely possible to get there Thursday night, sit there for 36 hours and then not get a spot.

“How can this be?” you might wonder. Well, it’s because the first formation they set up tables, and then they say “A through L in this line, M through Z in the line.” Then all the contractors make a mad rush to get in line. If you’ve ever seen Europeans get on a bus, it’s like that, but with 300 people. This is one of the few times when you want to get involved in the mad rush. Get to the front of that line and get a low-numbered badge. There are enough things that happen based on badge number that you want to be in the first fifty if possible, but definitely in the first hundred. If you end up in the back of the line, and get badge 268 or something, and they only accept 267 people, it doesn’t matter when you got there, you’re going home and have to reschedule.

(Some might notice that this is a good way to draw out your stateside time with your company. I suppose it might be, but most people want to get through CRC and out so they can start earning their money)

After that process is done (all told it takes a few hours), you head up the hill to sit down, get your stupid briefings (“I’m the chaplain, come talk to me if you get stressed”) and then you’re done for the day.

Day Two – Sunday

Another boring day. Head up to the hill, get more briefings. This is usually the day that they hand out your packet, and tell you how to fill out each form, etc.

Today is also the day that you have to do computer training. Make a note, though, computer training is on the honor system at CRC, so make of that what you will.

Required courses are:

AT Level 1: https://atlevel1.dtic.mil/at/

SAEDA https://atiam.train.army.mil/soldierPortal/atia/adlsc/view/public/7827-1/CM/553G-NG0001-A/553G-NG0001-A.HTM

EO/Sexual Harassment (you will not be able to complete this online, there is a problem with the flash player): https://atiam.train.army.mil/soldierPortal/atia/adlsc/view/restricted/12447-1/CM/VMP/553G-NG0035-A.HTM

Hot Weather Injury (some people reported problems with this one): https://atiam.train.army.mil/soldierPortal/atia/adlsc/view/restricted/10680-1/CM/VMP/553G-NG0012-A.HTM

The following can be found at the ATSC Homepage

Cultural Awareness – (country)
Combat Stress/Suicide Prevention
HQDA Fraternization
Army Values
Collect and Report Intelligence
General Orders

SERE TRAINING – no, not the SERE school, there is a mandatory online SERE 100 course which you can take online. This will save you about six hours of classroom time, you cannot do this in the computer lab, so get it done on your own time before you leave.

Here’s the address: https://jkolms.jfcom.mil/html/desktop/student/jkddc/BrowseCourses3.jsp?indx=0

The course is J3TA-US022, you have to browse by course number…

If you have already been through CRC before, they will inventory your stuff to make certain you have your OCIE issue.

Days Three and Four – Monday & Tuesday

The specific days that specific things happen might change from cycle to cycle, so I am going to break it down by station, rather than day.

1) Admin SRP

The most important things for this location are your CAC card and your PRO-File paperwork. Before you get to CRC, you should make certain you have:

A Letter of Authorization (LOA)
An Army Knowledge Online (AKO) account

With you AKO account you can do your computer training before you leave, and you can also get your PRO-File filled out. If you don’t have your PRO-File filled out before you get to CRC, you will wait about three hours in line.

PRO-File is here: https://medinah.sed.monmouth.army.mil/PRO%2DFile/

And only use Internet Explorer.

Fill out the form, and this is most important, print out the certificate that you have it completed. You can then hand that to the ISOPREP people and be on your merry way.

In addition to this, get your CAC card before you leave. Any base with a DEERS office should be able to do it for you. Most you don’t even need an appointment, although it will take about an hour and a half to get seen. In order to have a CAC card issued, you need to be in the Contractor Verification System (CVS). Make ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that your information is correct in CVS before you go to get your CAC card. There were people who got kicked back because a letter was out of place in their name. Match everything up between the CVS entry and your LOA.

Once you get your CAC and PRO-File, there are a couple stations left, like legal, which you just have to walk by and have them stamp your sheet.

Then, you’re done with SRP.

2) Medical

Okay, here’s the worst of it. From what I saw, this is the list of what you need:

Basic Physical with CBC and UA (they'll know what it means)

HIV Test
TB Test


Hep A
Hep B

Yellow Fever (if Africa is anywhere on your orders – they go off the orders, not where you’ve been told you are going)

Also, if you are going to Afghanistan, you will need Malaria pills. They will issue them if you don’t have them, but that will hold you an extra day.

Bring two pairs of eyeglasses if you wear them. If you do not have optics for your mask already in hand, they will make some for you, but that means you are guaranteed not to leave until Thursday afternoon, so plan accordingly.

You will receive smallpox and anthrax at CRC if you qualify for them.

3) CIF

This is the easiest station. The people here are government civilians, and thus not the most enthusiastic, but generally helpful. If you already have all your gear, you still need to go through CIF just to sign an updated form. If you don’t it will take you maybe an hour to go through and get all your stuff. As a regular contractor, basically all you get is body armor, helmet, and a couple duffel bags.

The biggest problem here is if you have ever deployed or received gear from the Army, and you still have those items on your record, they will not issue you any more gear. There was a guy who had $1400 worth of gear on his record, from 2003, because he had handed it to his former employers before he left Kuwait to go home, and they were like "Yeah, we'll get it turned in for you." He didn't have the hand receipt for it, and then he proceeded to sulk because he "wasn't going to pay for something that's not my fault." Yeah, well, learn this when you deal with the Army - if you signed for it, it belongs to you. Dead Stop. They don't care who you gave it to, where it went, or frankly, if it got blown up when your tent got hit by incoming. (True story - a friend of mine spent six months before they finished the investigation into how much of his gear got burned up when his tent got hit). Keep track of your stuff, and never believe anyone when they say "I'll take care of it for you."

Day 5 – TSIRT Training

This is the worst day of CRC. If you have been through CRC in the last twelve months, bring your training sheet from the last time you went through, it will get you out of the TSIRT training. Otherwise, bring a book or a gameboy, and just go through it. You won’t be done until at least 6:00 PM, be prepared.

Day 6 – Make-Ups

If you are lucky enough to be a contractor who is flying out commercial, you can be done Thursday morning, assuming you have no deficiencies. The most common ones are:

TB Test (since you have to wait 48 hours for it to be read)
Optics for your mask (delivered Thursday afternoon)
CAC card (if you were a no-go at Admin, they will likely make you wait until today to get it done)
CIF (if you were at the end of the medical line, chances are you didn’t make it to CIF that day)
Malaria Pills (delivered Thursday afternoon)
Other medication (checked Thursday afternoon)

If you have any of these deficiencies, you will not be able to get out of CRC until Thursday night. This is why they say not to book a flight until after 8:00 Thursday night if you are going home.

If you are flying out with the military flight, I feel for you. You will basically be bored all day Thursday, then go through a bunch of Army mickey mouse on Friday until you get on your flight. Then Ali As Saleem in Kuwait, which I don’t think is as bad as everyone else says it is. I would much rather have been stuck there for a week than be stuck at Camp Striker at BIAP for a week, that place is a real pit.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Benning Sucks

not much else to report, more when I actually get out of this hellhole.

However, this story caught my eye. Apparently Melissa Trujillo is angling for Andy Rooney's position with insightful and relevant journalistic work...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

You Mean Beside the Red Lobster?

So, I'm back here in wonderful Columbus, GA. I mean, really, if you have the means, I highly recommend it. Really, and there is no sarcasm here. It's just Heaven on Earth down here.

Aside from the heat. And humidity.

Now, here's a funny thing about Columbus, GA. They have two Applebees. Maybe some people are fans of this place, possibly because of their great salad bar. But as white trash restaurants go, Applebees is right there on the top of the list. Some might say Waffle House, but since I think Waffle House is simply awesome, I can't label it as such.

Moving on. The title of this post is an inside joke for everyone who has ever heard me talk about Basic Training. Something happened while I was there which became a source of amusement for me, all of my teammates, and pretty much anyone else I talked to about it. So, if you've heard it, skip ahead.

It was the last week of Basic, everyone had relaxed a bit, and I was on an early morning ice run with my drill sergeant. (No battle buddy, that's what happens at the end of Basic). I know my family is coming down, and all the restaurants the senior drill had recommended for family day were, well, bad. (Golden Corral, Red Lobster, Applebees) My father likes good food. Not necessarily white linen $100 a plate food, but good food. So I ask my drill sergeant if there are any nice restaurants in Columbus I can go with my family. His response, and I SWEAR TO GOD THIS IS TRUE, was "You mean besides the Red Lobster?" I love this story because it sums up the general attitude and background of almost every drill sergeant at Basic Training. Call me elitist, I don't care, but when Red Lobster is your idea of fine dining, there's something not quite right.

So, this evening, I need to run out to Kinkos to print some stuff up, and I figure as long as I am out, I will get some real food to eat, and I look up local restaurants to find something decent. I'm not looking for anything really nice, by the way (not Red Lobster nice, at least), so I end up going to TGI Fridays. Which happens to be, you guessed it, right next to the Red Lobster. And a Chili's. And a Barnes and Noble. Frankly, this TGI Fridays is in The Biggest Strip Mall Known To Man. This strip mall was so big, they had a Sears. It literally trailed off into the distance so badly I couldn't see what was on the other side of the Sears. It was like one of those big Mills Outlet Malls, but outside instead of in (I guess Georgians like the heat so much they hate the idea of walking around inside an air conditioned building while shopping). There was a Carabba's, an Olive Garden, a couple other decent places. And one of TWO, yes TWO! Wal-Marts in Columbus (I think that might be for a different blog, though).

So, maybe I misheard my drill sergeant. Maybe he didn't say "Besides the Red Lobster." Maybe he said "Beside the Red Lobster."

Building Gnomes

I don't believe it, actually. I think that in the last seven years the building gnomes have been hard at work. I doubt that any of that strip mall actually existed except maybe the Hobby Lobby.

I hate that store, it's almost as badly named as Stoner's Pot Palace.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sketchiest Physical Ever

So, I'm heading back to the wonderful fun in the sun place we all like to refer to as the sandbox.

In order to do this, I need to have a physical and a dental exam. Now - there are three classes of dental readiness, 1, 2, and 3. Class 1 is perfect teeth. Class 3 is teeth so bad you can't deploy because you might have an abscess that leads to an aneurysm and you die. Class 2 is EVERYTHING in between. And I mean everything. We had a guy in my Reserve Unit whose teeth were literally falling out of his jaw, they were so bad. I think at point he mentioned he had not brushed his teeth since he was 13. This man was identified as Class 2.

That little story is to put the next one in perspective.

So I go to get my physical, at a little walk in doctor's office. I mistakenly bring the DA form I got in an email and give it to the doctor. So now she wants to do all sort of stuff, run $300 worth of tests (over and above the tests required by the Army), she's worried about my cholesterol, what have you. And of course, she doesn't speak good english. And I am trying to explain to this woman that all the Army wants to know is that "this person will not keep over and die of a sudden and unexpected heart attack in the next twelve months." That's it. Your teeth can be rotting out of your skull, and they'll take you. They don't care about HDL or LDL or any of that other crap. They just want to know you're not going to die on their watch.

Okay, so that fight's over, we compromise on an additional $30 test so she can sign off on the pulmonary part of the exam. Then I have to get blood drawn. This nurse is the worse phlebotomist ever. Granted, she found the vein on the first try, so I'll give her props for that (but I have good veins for that sort of thing). Then she starts drawing the blood, holding on to the test tube with one hand as well as the little butterfly thing (which as I recall is there so you can just tape down the needle, and reaching across herself with her other hand to grab the next test tube, putting pressure on my arm, and then apparently wondering why the test tube isn't filling up as fast as it should (maybe because you left the rubber band on my arm for two minutes, and now you're pinching off any circulation that might have been getting through...

Okay, so that's done. Let's add up:

attempt to upsell the blood tests
poor bedside manner
horrible phlebotomist
- oh, and terrible customer service.

All this makes it sketchy. But, I have to admit, does not qualify this experience for the sketchiest physical ever.

That accomplishment was reached when I gave my urine sample in a plastic dixie cup and was told to just leave it on the counter.