Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Have a great Christmas. Remember those less fortunate, remember our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen serving far away from their loved ones.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Weapons Qual

As she pulls into the parking lot of the shooting range she notices that everyone else on her team has already arrived. The knot in her stomach tightens a little more. She whispers to herself "calm down" as she wipes the sweat off her palms using her ACU pants.

Once inside the range she jokes and cuts-up with everyone as she is casually eyeing the FATS set-up. Four stations are set up with weapons and sand bags. There is a screen at the far end of room with what looks like a projected rifle range. She takes a deep breath and exhales. SFC Ranger, her 1SGT says "Don't worry Ranger F, you'll be fine. We're gonna assign you a coach..."

She waits patiently while four others begin their qualification on the range. "Ready on the left, ready on the right..." She hears chuckles and whispers as the old warriors evaluate those on the range. They call out to each shooter "Hinde, you're too high! Windom, you’re shooting high left!" They finish the course and get up off the floor.

SFC Ranger says "SGT F, you need to pick a coach. Now everyone, listen up. She's gonna pick ONE coach, that person will help her and la-di-da-dee every-damn-body will leave her alone except for that person. Understood?" Several Hooahs echo throughout the room. SFC CIB (Combat Infantry Badge or bad ass warrior) steps forward and says "I can help you if you want.... I have *some* experience training for combat" he adds with heavy sarcasm. SFC CIB was part of an eight man team that trained the Iraqi's as Infantry while he was in Iraq the second time. She nervously says "Ok, if you don't mind."

SFC CIB runs through the four essentials of holding the weapon, breathing, sight alignment, and trigger pull. She listens intently as he goes through all the things her personal trainer said would be said. Joe Ranger had only met with her twice the previous week, and he warned her that she would get all sorts of misguided advice but he wanted her to remember only what he would teach her. She listened but inside was getting more nervous.

Weapons qualification is important for several reasons. First and foremost the Army and National Guard have a policy of "Every Soldier an Infantryman" or every soldier should be prepared to fight, period. There is no such thing as a support person who is not capable of picking up a weapon and fighting. It is a good and valuable policy. You NEVER know when you will be confronted with a situation that calls for defending yourself or a buddy.

Weapons qual is important for advancement. A passing qual of Marksman is worth 25 points, a Sharpshooter is worth 50 points and Expert is worth 75 points. It can mean the difference between making rank or not.

Finally, weapons qual can be important for status in a unit. If you are a poor shot or don't know your way around a weapon you can take a lot of ribbing and in some cases lose the respect of your peers. In her case, she had taken a lot of ribbing. Everyone pretty much dismissed her as "Gavy" and although the jokes tended to be good natured she could sense an undercurrent of disrespect. She knew this was her chance to shine and she wanted to do just that.

Finally her name is called and she approaches the range. Butterflies begin in her stomach as she lays down, picks up the weapon and aims. SFC CIB positions himself to observe and coach if necessary. She pulls the weapon close and holds it the way she was instructed by Joe Ranger. She hears someone whisper "Holy Shit! She's settin'up like a damn sniper!" Her coach says "Is that comfortable for you??" She nods as she glances at him with eyes as big as saucers. The call is shouted to lie prone, load the magazine, set weapon to semi-auto (safety off) and zero our weapons. She sights and squeezes the trigger three times in a row. She hears several swear under their breaths saying "Da-yum", "Look at that", "Shit!". The call goes out to zero again. She squeezes off three more shots and is feeling more comfortable. SFC Ranger shouts "JESUS H CHRIST!" Someone else says "SHIT, she ought to be a gottdam sniper!" The screen flashes the shots taken to zero the weapons of those currently on the range. Hers shows a tight circle of shots one on top of each other right dead center of the target. She glances at SFC CIB and whispers "Is that good?" He keeps a straight face as he says "uh, yeah, you want to have a tight cluster. That’s real good." She smiles sweetly to herself.

The call goes out to ready for the course. The first part is with the weapon supported. She makes sure she has the weapon held the way she was taught, heels down and toes pointed out, elbows wide for a good platform, left hand pulling the weapon into her right shoulder, finger lightly on the trigger, face pressed into the stock with her nose touching the charging handle. With both eyes open she watches for the first target. One by one she aims and shoots, the closer bigger targets are harder because they are only on screen for a moment. She hits every single 300 meter target as she hears the swearing in the background. She misses a 50 meter target on the right and cusses. 20 shots later and they stop. The scores rise and she sees she got 18 out of 20. Low whistles and murmuring in the background. She glances at SFC CIB, who is still staring at the screen with his mouth open. She says "I missed one I didn't realize. Which one was it?" He says "Um, it was the 50 meter on the lower left. I don't think you even saw it."

Now she has to shoot the M-16 without sandbags or "unsupported". She panics slightly since she has not practiced unsupported very much. SFC CIB tells her to pull the weapon and her elbows in even closer. She has about 2 seconds to move her elbows in and aim. The call goes out to load the magazine, set the weapon to semi and prepare to shoot.

The weapon is heavy and seems wobbly. She aims and shoots high. She cusses to herself again. She makes sure her sight alignment is the same as before she squeezes off at the targets rising in front of her on the screen. They disappear one by one. She misses another close target. DAMN! She calms herself remembering that panic won't help. She concentrates on her breathing. Slow down girl and concentrate. A pair of targets pops up and she aims for the smaller one first and misses the larger one. Calm down, calm down, she says to herself. She takes her last shot.

SFC Ranger jumps up and shouts "THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! FUCKIN’ SHARPSHOOTER!!! FIRST TIME AT THE FUCKIN’ RANGE!! AWESOME, RANGER F!!, FUCKIN' AWESOME!" SFC CIB slowly rises with a grin on his face and says "Good Job, you're one shot from making expert". She slowly raises, looks around the room at the faces that are staring at her. Nods are directed her way and several put out a fist for her to tap. She has been accepted into the "boys club" and can hold her head high. She beat out all but three of the shooters.

She leaves the building floating on cloud nine planning to come back with the 108th to re-qualify and pick up Expert. :-)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Oh my aching body!!!

Well we *only* shot for 2 and a half hours.... but last night I sat in my Homedics Shiatzu Massage chair for 45 minutes while it worked my low back.

Joe Ranger covered shooting without a sandbag (HARD) and shooting with a sandbag (Easier but felt like the M-16 was propped too high). He ran me through a "course" by putting up all the different size targets and calling them out at random. I did ok. I'll pass.

My right shoulder aches. I have a bruise on my jaw where I wasn't gripping the rifle correctly and when I shot it jerked and hit me. My low back hurts from balancing my weight and holding the rifle up. My knees and elbows are raw. But I am hooked. I loved it.

He stepped on my ankle to get me to drop my feet down and get off my toes. I shot 120 rounds in all.

By the end of my lesson I was beat and ready to go home. I smelled. I smelled of dirt (yes dirt has a smell) and gun powder. I was FILTHY!! But I loved it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

My elbows hurt.

So, I arrive at the range with my paper targets. I forgot to buy ammo but no worries, he has plenty. I'll repay him with replacement ammo tomorrow. Joe Ranger looks like an average Joe. He wears a ballcap, a white t-shirt with a plaid shirt (not buttoned) over it and blue jeans. He chews, spits and smiles as we talk. He seems like a really nice guy.

We get down to brass tacks pretty soon. He asks me questions, I make calls to get some answers. I need to learn how to shoot lying prone with no sandbags to prop the weapon on.

I learned about how to load it, hold it, sight it and fire it. I did pretty good. Then I had to get in the dirt. I did better. I continued to practice and I did better. He showed me what it means if I fire right or down or up or left. My breathing is off, I am pulling too hard on the trigger, I am not using my elbows correctly to platform. I finally am able to cluster my shots but they are still too low. That means I have to work on my breathing.

After an hour and a half we quit. My elbows are raw, my shoulder hurts, my arms are stiff!! I am having concerns about being able to do this!! He laughed and said I would be fine. He said with more work he could really help me do much better. So I will be back tomorrow at 0800 and we will practice for about 3 hours.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I Hit Gold.

I get a call late last night from a guy that lives near here. He went to school with my husband's brother. He says "I'm Joe. I heard you need someone to teach you how to shoot an M-16 or AR (whatever)..." Um, yeah. "Well" he said in a voice very similar to Robert Duvall, "I joined the Army right out of high school. I was Infantry and then became a Ranger. I was also a Sniper and taught Sniper School for the Army. But,...I had a bum knee and didn't want to spend the rest of my career stuck behind a desk so I got out. I own a range out here and heard you needed to learn how to shoot."

Well!! Almost slobbering all over myself I blurt out "YES! I am prior service Navy! I shot a pistol in Boot but it misfired (towards my foot) and they took it away from me. I shot a 22 once about 15 years I am desparate! I need to qualify at the range to make E-6! We go to the range in ONE WEEK. Can you help me?"

He chuckled and said "Sure." He began to ask me a lot of questions and I wrote them down. I made phone calls to find out what he needed to know. I called him back and he began to question me about the range (electronic and he is familiar with it) what weapon (M-16) and did I just want to make marksman or passing. I hesitated and then I said "Well, Joe, the fellas like to joke with me about being "Gavy" and they know I can't shoot. I would love to go in there, act stupid and then blow them all away..." He howled with laughter and then said "ok, we can do that." He outlined the plan of action. We will meet three times this next week. He said that should do it. He has an M-16 and said he would tighten the tension on the trigger. It is set to 3 pounds of pressure now. I am assuming that makes it a "hair trigger" or doesn't take any pressure to pull it.

So to set the "trap" I called the top two Sergeants in my team, SFC Ranger and SFC CIB and said in a very worried tone... "You know I can't shoot...I don't know a thing about weapons... what if I don't qualify??? Should I wear my glasses?" Hee Hee!!

I meet with Joe Ranger on Monday at 0900. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Calling All Shooters

OK, here is the situation: I have NEVER qualified on a weapon. I have never handled a firearm except for a pistol in Navy Boot Camp in 1983.

I am now expected to qualify on a AR-15 (I think) December 22. ONE WEEK AWAY.

There is a crazy loonie (ex-Ranger) that lives about 5 miles from us. He has a rifle range and (I hear) all kinds of weapons. I have been calling around tonight to see if anyone has his number (he is unlisted). I hunted down a friend who is an ex-Marine sniper. He started asking me all sorts of questions I had no clue about.

My husband is a hunter and can show me how to shoot a deer and that's about it. YIKES!! What else do I need to know??

I called my partner F2 and he said we may be qualifying on an electronic range. Huh?? He said I could check a weapon out from the armory to practice with. OK, so what do I check out? What do I do?

Yes I am d*mn well going to play the helpless female!!! Cause that's how I feel right about now. Help!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It's That Time of Year Again

This is probably my favorite site Christmas Eve. NORAD tracks Santa each year. We love to watch the Radar and see how close Santa is before we need to go to sleep. There are games, history and even a countdown clock till Christmas. You can have music play in the background performed by the Air Force Academy band and the Canadian Naval band. Cool!

Snow or Lack Thereof

I live in Northwest Georgia. It used to snow here. It doesn't anymore. The reason why is a completely different topic that I am not willing to fathom!

I grew up all over the place. I was born in Virginia (it snowed) and lived in New York state as a teenager (boy did it snow!) and Germany ( more snow). I also lived in Southern California, El Paso, Texas and Miami, Florida. We had snow in the mountains of Southern Cal and snow in El Paso. It even snowed once in Miami! The longest I ever lived in one place was Georgia. We got a light dusting every year. Occassionally a big snow but you always got a least one snow to let you know it was winter time. So I grew up used to seeing snow at least once a year.

My first duty station in the Navy as a student was in Chicago. I have never experienced cold and snow like I did in Chicago. No offense to Northerners (Yankees) but I now know why y'all don't have that Southern Hospitality. After one winter there I was mean as a snake.

While I was stationed in Hawaii I really missed cold winters. Going to the beach on Christmas morning is about as depressing as things get. San Fransisco lived up to the Mark Twain saying "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Fransisco.". The winters were mild and rainy, the summers were cool.

I came back to Georgia around 15 years ago. About 10 years ago I began to notice that our snows were getting lighter. About 7 years ago they disappeared altogether. Each year I hear the old-timers say "Maybe it will snow this year.... We ought to have a really cold winter this year..... We are due a cold winter..." But each year we get some blistering cold but no snow. And even when it gets really cold (like today; 16 degrees) it doesn't stay cold enough to kill off bugs.

I MISS SNOW!! Snow in the South is vastly different than snow up North. When there is a forcast of a CHANCE of snow everyone goes nuts. People run out to the grocery store and buy out the milk and bread. There are traffic jams from all the stay-at-homes out on the road and the worker bees trying to get home early. The grocery stores are PACKED and the milk and bread are gone from the shelves in record time. Why bread and milk and not beer and chips?? I don't know.

The next thing that happens is we all watch the news. We look for the school closings which begin the afternoon before the forcasted snow. It starts from the top of Georgia first. Usually Blue Ridge and Elijay are first with Cherokee county next. Then businesses start announcing their closings followed by banks, colleges and government offices! No lie! It is like we roll up the streets.

Once it does snow we send the kids outside and snap pictures of snow angels, small snowmen and snow covered trees and winter wonderland. We make hot chocolate, ice milk and snow cones. No sight of sandwiches so the bread goes unused! :-) We build a fire in the woodburning stove, huddle around with fleece blankets, bundle up to go outside with giddy childlike excitement. It is like a Holiday!

I miss that. Yes, I can drive to the snow and experience the cold, the beauty and grandure. But it isn't the same.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Showing Off the Island

I get a call yesterday that MEPS screwed up and didn't get finger prints to do a FBI background check on one of my enlistments. "When can you take PVT S down to MEPS?" Tomorrow.

I tell PVT S to meet me at the armory at 9. Traffic in Atlanta should be sufficiently cleared up to make a quick (one hour) trip to MEPS. "We'll also get your ID card while we are down there." I sweeten the pot for my young recruit.

After the MEPS debacle (I won't go into it. Suffice it to say I believe that you have to check your brain at the door when you arrive for work at MEPS) we leave and head for Fort MacPherson.

Many many moons ago when I was in the best damn Navy in the World I was stationed at Pearl Harbor Hawaii. Hawaii is a series of increasingly beautiful islands in the Pacific Ocean. The weather is PERFECT year round. The people are wonderful and I made many good friends there.

However Island Fever set in about a year after I arrived there. The islanders had a popular bumper sticker that read "Just Another Shitty Day in Paradise." The idea being that when you live in paradise you get accustomed to it and pretty soon each day is just the same as the other. Your senses become deadened to the beauty and grandure. Until that is you get to show off the island.

Inevitably I would have someone come visit me (yeah right) and I would get to show off Hawaii to a new pair of eyes. I would take them to the little known places off the beaten track. I would take them to see the veiw from the top of the island overlooking the North Shore. Breathtaking. Or the little surfboard shop by Kaneohe. The great food at a REAL Luau. I would fall in love with the Island all over again. I would see Hawaii through their eyes.

Well today I got to "show off the island". I drove PVT S around Fort Mac. I showed him the parade grounds and the officer housing. After we got his ID card we went to the uniform shop or the "Military Clothing Sales". I bought a book about General Patton, some National Guard stickers for my son and PVT S purchased an ACU patterned wallet. I then gave him the Grand Pooba tour of the base. Fort MacPherson was built in 1885 and some of the buildings look it! LOL. FORSCOM is there so it is an important base.

PVT S was full of questions. He will be part of a LRS (rhymes with purse) unit out of Fort Gillem nearby. He is so excited. He is also nervous about Basic Training, AIT and his Airborne school. He will be fine.

It was nice to get a fresh vision. He ships out in February. I told him he better write me at least one postcard. He chuckled and said sure. If he is like most of my recruits, I will get a phone call from Basic saying "Sgt F, its' just like you said it would be...".

It felt good showing off the Army. I fell in love with it all over again.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thank you....

I drove to Alabama today to do an interveiw. The kid that wants to join is 19, graduated High School last May, working a factory job and wanting "somp'en differnt." So we met at the local Huddle House. The food was awful. I wasn't cooked nearly enough. I sat and sipped my coffee as he took the practice ASVAB on my laptop.

I noticed an older pair of women walking up to the restaurant. They weren't wearing the latest fashions, in fact the were dressed very dowdy. They didn't sport savvy coifed hair. In fact one needed to comb her hair! LOL. They were clearly poor. They walked in, looked around and took a seat in a booth at the far side of the restaurant. My kid asked a question and took my attention off of the old women for a moment.

The friendly waitress warmed my coffee and I continued to sip and contemplate. I looked at the kid in front of me. Poor, barely educated and wanting more. Instinctively he knows the Military can open those doors for him. What promise awaits him! Training, education, experience and intangibles that you can't put a finger on like self confidence, discipline, team work, and challenge. In a short 6 months he will be transformed from a kid into a soldier.

Suddenly I spot one of the poor women approaching me. She stops short of the table not wanting to interrupt. I look at her with a questioning expression that asks "Can I help you?". She blurts out. "Kin I jest say 'Thank you'?" I jump to my feet and grasp her extended hand. I gratefully thank her for the thought. I sit back down but she stands for a second before leaning down and giving me a very firm embrace. She backs away slightly and with tears in her eyes she continued "I jest want you to know thet someone appreciates all you do. All of you. So...Thank you." She turned and hurried away to her booth before I could say much more.

My kid, who had stopped taking the test, sat with a stunned expression on his face. His eyes followed her back to her seat and then back to me. I smiled, he smiled and went back to his test with renewed vigor.

I sat sipping my coffee warmed by more than the hot beverage.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Draft part 2

The idea of a draft has become a hot topic in my locale. Many people feel it would be "fair". It seems the general public feels the Army is full of malcontents forcibly sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Hmmm.

Not withstanding the few soldiers that lament(whine)"I didn't sign up for this! I signed up for college money!" most soldiers raised their right hand and enlisted with their eyes wide open to the fact that we are at WAR.

I am a recruiter. I make my applicants well aware of what exactly is expected of them. Before they are ever sitting in front of me they have weighed the risks and know what they are signing up for. We R da Military. A majority of them are interested in benefits but bottom line?? They want a chance to learn discipline and serve their country. Hooah.

I would be for a draft under only one circumstance. If we had a draft similar to Israel's draft. EVERY ONE serves. Period the end. Every person from age 18 to 20 is in the service. Everyone. Each young adult would be given the opportunity to serve in one form or another. If you are severely handicapped you could do public service. THAT is "fair".

That won't be the draft we get. We'll get a draft with loopholes for those who are creative (or rich) enough to take advantage of them. Frankly an all volunteer Army is doing a great job. Why mess with a good thing?? If it ain't broke don't fix it.