Saturday, September 13, 2008

At the FOB With Mr. Bob

We just returned from a little over three weeks in the field and I can tell we are fully involved in the Army lifestyle. The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation that I had with another soldier:

The usual 0400 wakeup tomorrow?

Yeah, 0500 chow, 0600 draw, and 0700 SP. We have mounted live fire for 240 bravo and 249 but not for the ma deuce.

I didn’t think you were a 240?

I’m not. I’m an 1151.

Oh yeah. Like we’ll actually get those huh?

Yeah. Probably more 998’s with plywood.

Well, at least we aren’t doing more 9-line UXO and Medevacs.

Yeah. Or CLS sticks.

True but I think the AAR for this is around 2030 so we probably won’t be able to go to the MWR for PT tonight.

Well, it made perfect sense to us anyway. I just thought back on the conversation and realized how many acronyms and nomenclature we have to keep track of.

The picture above is my little living quarters out in the field. We had beds with mattresses which was a nice change from cots. The tents were the regular green Army tents on the outside but they had built permanent wood frames instead of using the metal ones. There were only two outlets in each tent and a string of lights a fan that needed to be plugged in. Needless to say we had a fire-waiting-to-happen, tangle of power strips, cords, and chargers. The vent you see in the upper right corner is for heat which we never used even though it did get down to about 45 some nights. Most days it was in the mid-90’s and very humid. We tried to put in a work order to let them know our air conditioning was not working but they were uninterested. Apparently, it has to be installed in order for it to work.

We went to many different training areas while we were out at the FOB. The picture above is some of our ammo magazines loaded up and ready for the next day. A small portion of the training we did was dismounted training where everything is on foot. Obviously we are truck drivers so we aren’t supposed to be fighting while we are walking. We practiced low-crawling, high-crawling, 3-5 second rushes, and going over a wall while staying as low as possible. We also practiced how to interact with civilians and react to fire (or contact as we call it) while we are on a foot patrol. The training we all liked the most is called Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT). We just refer to this as kicking in doors and it is the type of stuff you see on the commercials. We moved as a squad through a town made of shipping containers and interacted with civilians who are there as good guys and bad guys. I don’t have any pictures of the dismounted training so it’s not real exciting on the blog here but it’s really exciting when you are clearing a building made from 10 shipping containers connected together.

Most of the training we did was mounted convoy training. As truck drivers we will be doing mostly convoys while we are in Iraq so this training was the most applicable for us. The picture above is Dougherty (who we call Dirty cause it’s easier) showing the terrorists why they shouldn’t mess with us. The basic premise of the training we did was to drive down a road and react to contact. That contact might come in the form of small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), improvised-explosive devices (IED), or even civilians firing weapons into the air but not at us.

Most of the time we would run as a small convoy of gun trucks to simulate a mounted patrol. Above you can see Heenan checking out the .50 caliber machine gun on top of one of the gun trucks. We call the .50 cal the “ma deuce” from its designation as the M2 machine gun and you don’t want to make mama mad. We also did convoy security training where we would be driving our fuel tankers and also the gun trucks to protect them.

I got to spend a lot of time in the up-armored Humvee gun trucks that we had the training on while we were back on base. They are nice vehicles for the protection they offer but it comes at the expense of space on the inside. We have four guys in the seats of the Humvee and one gunner sitting on the sling seat you see in the middle of the picture above. It’s very tight quarters in there with all of our body armor on but there is a plus side. They have intercom systems made by Bose so you can easily talk to each other and hear the radio. It’s even possible to put music through them and hear the three distinct things clearly. Life’s not too bad when you can ride around in the air conditioning, shooting guns, and rocking out to AC/DC.

The picture above is after we pulled the gunner with simulated injuries out of the truck. We are performing first aid and preparing him to be loaded on the helicopter. In the movie below our truck was disabled and another truck came up to pull us out of the “kill zone.” You can hear Heenan up on the roof making the .50 cal sing.

This is my favorite scene below. We are finally headed back to our tents for some rest after a long day of training.

We did have a visit from Tropical Storm Hanna. It was nice of her to stop by and pause the training for a little bit. There was a lot of flooding around the FOB and our company was actually the only one that stayed at the FOB through the storm. There was a small river running by the outside of our tent but Brand was unsuccessful at catching any fish in it. I’m not much of a fisherman but I don’t know what kind of fish he was trying to catch with a pop can for bait.

Dirty was awarded/ordered-to-carry the prestigious donkey stick. Any resemblance to a pink horse children’s toy is strictly coincidental. The stick is a helpful reminder of actions that should not be repeated. He was able to have the honor of carrying this for about three or four days. Most people have received it for not keeping track of their weapon but Dirty came up with a new way of earning it. When we test-fired our weapons before we left on a convoy he fired toward the FOB instead of away from it. Thankfully we were working with blanks that day.

On a side note: Milk Duds are not a good snack to take out to the field and forget in your bag. After a few weeks those Milk Duds turn into a singular Milk Dud and no one is happy.

We came out of the field on September 11 after washing all of our gear and cleaning the tents. It was nice to get back to the barracks and not have to walk outside for the bathrooms and showers. A few people mentioned that air conditioning was also a nice benefit of the barracks. The country band, Lonestar, was on base for a special tribute concert that evening that we were able to go to. It was a nice way to relax for a while after being in the field. The picture below is a huge American flag that was hung from fire trucks from Ft. Dix and McGuire Air Force Base.

We are close now to heading overseas and I’m currently enjoying a four-day pass with Kristen. I had to wait to post this update up until we got to the hotel with a solid internet connection. The adventures of the four-day pass will have to wait until the next update.

Wondering who Mr. Bob is? Click here.

Enjoy the indoor bathrooms,


"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is. "

- Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

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