Saturday, May 16, 2009

Update

Hi Everyone,

I realize that my blog is severely behind, however, I've been trying to get it up to date...in chunks.  So, please be patient if you are reading along.  If you are coming in periodically, feel free to look back a few dates, as I have probably placed new posts.

I finally figured out how to put movies on this blog site so if you like, go back to May 2, 2009 (in the Blog Archive section) and scroll to the bottom.  There will be a movie of the HEAT (Hum-V, Egress, Assistance, Trainer) where we get turned upside down in the Hum-V and had to get out.  

I hope you are all still enjoying the site.  Take care and I hope to you are all doing well.

Deej  

Day 37 (Tuesday May 5, 2009)

Guns, guns, guns...and Hum-Vs...

Today was fraught with big equipment gathering for our team.  We started the day by receiving our Hum-Vs and Crew Serve Weapons (50 Cal, 240 Bravo, and the 249 SAW (squad automatic weapon)).  These weapons are named as such because it takes a crew to service and use them.  
  
(Jerry looking tough...he is our driver)


(Andrew as the Truck Commander in the front seat and Travis as a Dismount in the rear)


(Me, just chillin' as the vehicle medic and dismount)


(Mike, manning the turret...he was in a different vehicle)

These next few pictures are of our team waiting to turn our Crew Serve Weapons into the armory.

(Lt to Rt: Weber, Wolf and Cantorna...Charlie's Angels)


(This is our Hum-V's crew: Andrew, Travis, Jerry and myself...yes, I'm the only one wearing a helmet...So.)

In the afternoon, we had a class called PMI (Preventive Maintenance Inspection).  Here, the Army showed us how to disassemble, assemble, and perform function checks on the 240 Bravo, 249 SAW, 50 Cal and weapons we will encounter in Afghanistan such as the AK 47, RPK and the Dragunov Sniper Rifle.  

(Lt to Rt: Tim flashing the peace sign, Dan turned away and Les with the 240 Bravo)


(Me trying to figure out how to make the black thingy work)


(Part of the 50 Cal...the barrel (about 4 feet long) is missing)


(Here are the weapons we may find our counterparts and insurgents using.  You may also notice the two square black objects on both sides of the gun closest to the camera.  These are night vision optics, mounted on the weapons.)

Day 36 (Monday May 4, 2009)

I am the water specialist...

As I mentioned in the previous blog, we didn't have an obligation until 1200.  And, as luck would have it, our only tasks of the day were to watch or participate in two leadership engagements.  If you don't recall what a leadership engagement is, well, I'll tell you know.  It is a mock meeting in which a few members of our team role play different scenarios with either our Afghan counterparts (Afghan National Army-ANA) or Coalition Forces.  Because we are going as advisors, the Army is prepping us for what we can expect out of these meetings.  

Today, Mike was given the responsibility of leading a meeting and picked me as his "water specialist".  Why, you ask.  In the previous meeting, as we were told, the village well had run dry and there was no more water for the people or their crops.  Our team was tasked with meeting with the police chief, village elder and provincial governor to discuss how we could help in their situation.  Because we are advisors, we advise the ANA officials who in turn offer assistance to the Afghan people.  Wow, did anyone follow that?  I'm not even sure if I did.
  
(Here, Mike and I are speaking with the Afghan Nat'l Army Colonel about what we will address with the village.  Maybe it's me, but I look like I'm either confused or disinterested in this picture...honest though, I was paying attention.)

So, during the meeting, Mike and I took turns speaking.  Initially, we greeted the Afghans with bits of Dari that we learned in our language class.  Then, we were asked, and in turn asked, how every one's families were doing.  We were also offered tea (chi tea), which is apparently the custom in Afghanistan.  Mind you, all of this is done through interpreters.  Next, we got down to brass tax...so to speak.  We outlined what our plans were for the short and long terms in helping the village.  The Afghans followed up with questions.  Finally, we agreed on what needed to be done and ended the meeting.  "It was a good meeting overall"...at least that's what they tell us in every meeting.    

(This picture has a lot going on, but I'll try to explain.  The two individuals on the left are from the village.  The man in the light brown robe is the governor and the other man represents the Afghan Police.  On the right, the first man in fatigues is the ANA Colonel, the second man in civilian clothes is the interpreter and Mike is at the end of the couch. And lastly, I am sitting across from the camera.  On the table you can see cups and a tea pot.  The other soldiers you see in the picture are our team members watching the meeting.  One more thing, these couches are not very comfortable...just saying.)


Days 33-35 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday May 1-3 2009)

Home Sweet Home...

I certainly consider myself very fortunate to be back home and seeing Isabella so soon.  I know some of my team members have not had my same opportunities to visit friends (the Paynes) and their families.  

While at home, aside from assuming my rightful place on the couch in front of the TV for some much needed ESPN-time, Isabella and I saw the movie, X-Men Origins, ate Mexican at Old Town, watched DVR episodes of American Idol and The Amazing Race, had an Acai "The Works" and a coffee at Java Jones, and indulged in Phil's BBQ...I love that place.
  

Just good to be home with my wife.  

On Sunday, as we were heading to the airport and grabbing a bite to eat, I found out the airline was delayed.  So, I was able to spend a few more hours with Izzy; I'll take what I can get.  Because of the delay, Mike and I didn't get into KC until 2300.  Notably absent was Andrew, but he flew his own plane back to Fort Riley.  Josh was there waiting for us, as he was coming from San Francisco.  By the time we pulled into the parking lot at Camp Funston, it was 0100.  On a good note though, our first obligation of Monday wasn't until 1200 noon, so I got to sleep in...I like sleep.  

Days 31, 32 (Wednesday & Thursday April 29, 30, 2009))

"Roger Roger, what's your vector Victor?", Over.
(Airplane, the movie)

I'm combining these two days because they were pretty much the same.  This was our introduction to "Comms" or communications via several different radios.  I don't know that I've said this in a while, or if at all, but I am getting to do things that I never thought I would.  I suppose, this is my true introduction to the military...I'm getting to play soldier now.  


However, please do not let my words slight the importance of all the Army is teaching us.  I appreciate all the teaching and while I hope I don't have to utilize much of it, I will be as ready as I can with the time they've given me.

Anyway, back to "Comms".  Essentially, they taught us how to use 4 or 5 different radios to communicate with one another (for example: from Hum-V to Hum-V or Hum-V to Base or Hum-V to Aircraft)  While this was fairly interesting, most of the information was presented in such a fast manner that it was difficult to initially get a grasp.  But, by the end of the first day, the proverbial picture was much clearer.

Good tools to possess, but as the three day weekend approached by 1500, Andrew, Mike, Josh and I were on the road, heading for Kansas City International Airport for a trip back to San Diego.  We got into San Diego by 2300 and Isabella was waiting in the airport for me...how great to see her.  We gave Mike a ride to his house in Coronado and completely surprised his family; you see, he didn't tell them he was coming home.  This was Mike's first trip back to see his family since coming to Kansas.   Good times...good times.

(One of the many radios they taught us to use)
(Lt to Rt: Travis, Mike, & Jerry...Mike has no idea what's going on.)

Day 30 (Tuesday April 28, 2009...Bye Bye Izzy

After a raucous good time at yesterday's class, we slowed things back down again with another day of lectures.  Not much to say about these except, the I had a nice break in the day as Isabella was able to come have lunch with me before heading back to San Diego.  It was fantastic having her out here and fortunately, with a three day weekend coming up, I will get to see her again as I am traveling back to San Diego for a few days.  Here are a few pictures Isabella took of the Fort Riley Campus.

(Here I am waving goodbye to Isabella and headed to class)
(Self explanatory)

(This is what Main Fort Riley Campus looks like)

(On base housing at Main Campus)

(Izzy's room at Will Hall when she came to visit)

(Statue on Fort Riley)

(Monument on Camp Funston)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day 29...Part II (PM)

The second part of the day was a bit more interesting.  For this exercise, our group of 30 people was split into teams of 10.  Our objective was to secure our area, evacuate our casualties, perform the necessary medical interventions to stablize them, and medivac them out of the area via the incoming helicopters.  Easy, right?...no problem.  This exercise was performed outside in a makeshift "battle zone" compound.  This would have been great, except for the fact that is had rained rather hard the night before and was drizzling today, making the ground sloppy and muddy.  In order to simulate gunfire, we were given paintball guns to fire on the opposing forces (our instructors who were playing the bad guys and firing paintballs at us).  There were also explosions, sirens, purple smoke and additional instructors yelling at us the whole time.  Again, this was designed to provide distraction and chaos, similar to battle field conditions.  As our team moved into the staging area, we were told there was a Hum-V hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and there were 3 wounded soldiers, all taking enemy fire.  


Next came a kick in the butt as we moved out the door and a "go gettem", for morale.  Moving our way to the Hum-V, we returned fire on the enemy and strategically maneuvered to the crash site.  After we arrived, the enemy (instructors) quit firing on us and we appreciated this...  Now came what was easily the most difficult part, extracting the soldiers out of the vehicle.  These were not real soldiers, but manikins weighing 180 lbs each.  WOW!!!  Combine the weight, smooth plastic manikins and sloppy wet mud, and you have a recipe for disaster.  It was incredibly difficult removing these "soldiers" and once they were extracted, carrying them to a safe location was almost just as hard.  


While two groups of 4 teammates each went with a soldier, myself and another teammate ended up caring for the third.  The two larger groups had litters (stretchers) to carry out the soldiers while my little group had only ourselves.  It's been a long time since I've worked so hard trying to hang on to a 180 lb object and carry it 150 feet...in full battle rattle...Oh wait, I've never done that!  It was hard...I know, nag nag nag.  


None the less, we successfully moved the patients through a tunnel and over a barrier and began the life-sustaining procedures (similar to what I described in the morning exam) in the dark rooms.  The evolution ended after we moved all three soldiers another 200 feet to a make believe helicopter and gave the medics our reports.  I was "on my knees" and "panting" exhausted.  And to think, I was convinced I was in decent shape...not quite.  But, a valuable experience and even a little fun.  I got pretty dirty too.

After returning to the barracks and showering (oh, and I needed it), Isabella picked me up and we grabbed a quite bite.  Completely baked, there was only one thing to do...go the Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner!!!  Yeah!  Isabella and I asked one of my friends to come along.  (See pix below)  What a day.

(check out the video below...should give you an idea of our day.)


video

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day 29 (Monday April 27, 2009)...Play day part I (AM)

Back to work after the all-to-short weekend...

Today's instruction was a bit more exciting than the epic lecture day we endured on Saturday.  Today was all play.  In the morning, we took the knowledge we learned in the classroom and applied it during live, simulated scenarios.  
(This is our manikin to work on)

There were four stations set up, with a dummy patient in each one.  We donned our full battle rattle and had our medic bags with us as they turned out the lights, pumped smoke into the rooms and turned on siren and gun blast noises to distract us.  The idea was to simulate an actual combat zone.  Once the instructors were ready, we were asked to go to our individual stations and assess our patients.  

This is a bit different than BLS (Basic Life Support) or ACLS (Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support) for those whole have done this.  While we consider the ABC's (Airway, Breathing, Circulation) of emergencies, what they teach in the military is to first secure the area.  Securing the area means returning gunfire as necessary and or protecting yourself prior to helping the soldier.  Secondly, arterial bleeding (typically from amputations) has shown to be the number one killer to those injured and therefore, we are to apply tourniquets where necessary prior to moving the patient or even treating the airway.  Next, we move the patient to a secure location.  Now comes the airway.  Finally, more familiar territory.  I even had a chance to teach a little during this lecture on the Saturday course.  During this assessment, we check breathing and do one of three basic maneuvers: place a "nasal pharyngeal airway" (NPA) into the nose of a unconscious or semi-unconscious patient to relieve any obstruction; place a "combi-tube" (easily placed tube into the trachea or esophagus used to breath for someone) into the airway, if the NPA isn't working; or do an emergency cricothyrotomy.  For those who don't know what that last long word is; a cricothyrotomy is a procedure for placing a breathing tube into the trachea ("windpipe") at the level of the "Adam's Apple".  The reason being, we can't gain access to the throat via the mouth due to an obstruction of some kind.  This is somewhat gruesome for the faint of heart, as we use a scalpel to cut into the throat and shove the tube in...eeewwww.  Just kidding...I mean about the "eeewwww" part.  
(This is our instructor)

Well, once the airway is secured our next step is to check out the body for other wounds.  The third leading cause of death in the field of battle is a wound to the chest.  This can cause a pneumothorax or tension pneumothorax (air filling one side of the chest cavity between the lung and the chest wall).  This will collapse the lung making it difficult to breath and possibly inhibit blood flow to and through the heart if the pressure builds too high.  Bad stuff.  We address this by putting a plastic cover over the wound to keep air from getting into the chest causing the pressure to rise.  Unfortunately, the air in the chest cavity can build up and we need to relieve that pressure with a needle placed through the chest to let out the air...placed about 3 inches below your collar bone and above your nipple..."Is it a bit nipply in here..." Clark W. Griswold, Christmas Vacation.   Finally, we place an IV and keep the patients warm until help arrives to transport them to a medical facility.  For testing purposes, this whole process had to be accomplished in less than 15 minutes...no problem.  

(This room was at least this smoky and almost pitch black.)