Friday, November 6, 2009

Week 7 (May 18-May 25): COIN training

Week 7 (May 18-May 25): COIN training

This is the week we learned about the theory behind Counter Insurgence. Basically, the idea is in order to win a counter insurgency war we need to win the hearts and minds of the people. In this war there are 10% of the people who are hard core insurgents, 10% who are pro-government and the last 80% who are undecided. It is this 80% that we need to work on winning over, so they do not actively or passively help the insurgents.

The rest of the time, I spent taking people flying in the afternoons and evenings. I’ve always enjoyed taking people flying in the hope of sparking interest and creating new pilots. One of the nicer trips I took was to Abilene, Kansas, birthplace of Dwight D. Eisenhower. We landed at this tiny little airport and borrowed a beat-up rental car which we took into town to grab some burgers. Dennis Glover, JC Christenson, and his daughter Kate had a great time.

This is a team picture of our Ft. Riley crew. From left to right. Top: LTJG Holly Johnson, LCDR Mike Feightner. Middle: SSGT Jourusik, HM1 Travis Gann, CDR Beth Harbison, CDR Neil Heimer, LCDR Steve Shadley, LT Josh Meador, LCDR Andrew Lin, SFC Pleniak, HM1 Jerry Cantorna, CDR Dennis Glover, LCDR DJ Becker, and CDR Tim Foster.

With the four-day weekend, I started flying back to San Diego on Thursday afternoon. This is a picture of Camp Funston on the Ft. Riley Post. Boy, was I glad to be heading back home to see Thuy again. We actually had been very good about keeping in touch nightly by phone or Skype.

As I was flying back there was a significant amount of weather over Arizona, which required me to deviate and stop a couple of times in Arizona. As you can see here, my Doritos did not like the altitude at 6,900 feet.

My adorable niece at a model home in Scripps Ranch. These homes are in a development called Santuary. Thuy and I have been looking at these homes for a couple of years now. Maybe one day…

Attie in the model home bedroom.

Attie as the queen.

Attie as the drummer.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Week 6 (May 11-17): Personal Weapons Qualification, MK-19, BFS, ROE, Detainee OPS, and airplane rides.

This week was a good mix of range time and classroom time. We spend Monday qualifying on our personal weapons the M4 and M9. Tuesday we spent at the range becoming familiar with the MK-19, automatic grenade launcher. Wednesday through Friday we spent in the classroom learning about BFS (Basic Fire Support), ROE (Rules of Engagement), Media Awareness, and Detainee Operations.

This is picture of me driving the HMMWV to the range on Monday. Excited to start the new week. Can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.


Our Basic Fire Support (BFS) class was a lecture followed by a computer simulator where we practiced the 9-line commands. We practiced fire support on the following targets on the left side of the screen. They taught us how to bracket the target and estimate ranges and directions. I felt this was a useful course which I hope to never need to use.

On Thursday and Friday we had multiple lectures on Rules of Engagement, General Orders, Fraternization, Ethics, Code of Conduct, Graduated Response, and Media Awareness. Detainee Operations on Friday taught us how to handle captured enemies. We had a half day practical where we practiced securing a building and used our skills to search out the homes and document the captured prisoners.

The rest of the classes were enjoyed by all... As you can see LT Josh Meador (right), a family physician from Naval Hospital Lemoore, was smiling in the back of the classroom during our ROE class. CDR Lach Noyes, the general surgeon from NH Pensacola, appears to be enjoying some shut-eye. Lach was actually my surgery staff when I was an intern in NH Pensacola. The Navy is a small place were a past teacher can become a peer in only a couple of years. I’m looking forward to work with Lach in improving the ANA hospital in Kabul.

Here’s a great picture of myself and CDR Tim Foster an HCA from NH Pensacola. This is just before we flew to Hermann, MO. I went to visit an old friend Mike Rothermich and Tim Foster met up with his wife and five children in St. Louis. Tim flew the entire way and I got to catch up on my sleep.

Mike and his son Aaron flying the airplane.

Over seven years, since we last saw each other. Mike was an intern with me in NH Pensacola. He eventually became Chief of Residents, went to NH Guam, and was promoted two years below zone. We played rugby together at Pensacola and you can see I wore the warm-ups from the Pensacola rugby team.

I spent a great weekend in Hermann, MO. Got a personal tour of Mike’s family practice office, the hospital where he’s the medical director at and took in some of the local sights and beers.

Prior to us departing, Tim brought his family out to the airplane and I had the opportunity to give them all rides.

Sarah, the eldest daughter, I heard was now planning on taking glider lessons.

On our way back, Tim and I stopped to refuel at Gardner Municipal Airport, the “Best Little Airport in Kansas”. It is located just west of Kansas City. We took off from their grass strip. I hadn’t had the opportunity to fly off a grass strip in over five years. I noticed while I was out here that Kansas and Missouri were quite found of their grass strips.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Week 5 (May 4-May 11): Weapons

Weapons, weapons, weapons… This was the theme of the week. After the three-day weekend, this was a great way to get back into training. On Tuesday, we loaded into our HMMWVs drove to the armory and picked up our crew-served weapons to include our 50-caliber machine gun, M240 machine gun, and M249 machine gun. Later during the day we received primary military instruction on the weapons. This was in a clamshell tent located a couple blocks away from where we were staying. The instruction also included familiarization with foreign weapons.

This is picture is of me sitting in the HMMWV truck commander position. The person in this position is responsible for the radios and communicating with the overall convoy commander. They are responsible for the truck.

HM1 Gann is sitting in the right rear dismount position. Both rear positions are the dismounted positions. They are responsible for exiting the vehicle when required. Travis Gann is a pharmacy technologist going to Mazar-i-Sharif. He is carrying the M249 machine gun.

HM1 Cantorna is our driver. He is a MRI technologist from National Naval Medical Center (NNMC). Jerry is also carrying a M249 machine gun, which fires the 7.62mm round.

LCDR Becker is a anesthesiologist from Naval Medical Center San Diego. He is sitting in the left rear dismount position. He also doubled as our medic for our entire convoy.

The mandatory ‘Soldier of Fortune’ photo op. From left to right, HM1 Webber, HM1 Wolfe, and HM1 Cantorna. These were some of the sharpest HM1s I’ve had an opportunity to work with. All three of them are up for HMC this year and I would not be surprised to see them all get picked up. HM1 Webb was actually the sailor of the year at Jacksonville Naval Hospital this year.

The team picture of our HMMWV. Left to right: myself, HM1 Travis Gann, HM1 Jerry Cantorna, and LT DJ Becker. We actually didn’t have an uparmored HMMWV to drive. The uparmored M1151s were limited and each team only have one available to them.

This is a picture of the M249 machine gun. It shoots the 7.62mm NATO round. It’s larger than the 5.56mm US M4/M16 round. We had to learn how to disassemble, assemble, and perform a function check on this weapon.

The were multiple AK47s that we became familiar with during our familiarization to foreign weapons course.

These are examples of 7.62mm sniper rifles.

This is the 50 caliber machine gun used by NATO forces. Large machine gun. Had to learn how to assemble, disassemble, time and space, and perform function checks on this weapon.

The next day we received PMI (primary military instruction) on our personal weapons: the M9 handgun and the M4 rifle. This was the electronic range were we used laser to practice basic marksmanship skills.

This is me attempting to demonstrating basic marksman ship skills.

Later that afternoon, we went to the electronic simulator range to practice shooting the 50 caliber machine gun and the M240 machine gun.

I put in the above screen shot from my iPhone to show where the range was located. You can see the wedge shape that the range carves out in the Kansas countryside.

DJ and me looking tough as we carry our ammo from the depot to the 50 caliber machine guns. We ended up loading this ammo into a metal case where it is fed into the machine gun.


Because there were over 100 people trying to qualify on the M240, M249, and 50-cal for both day and night. We were shooting from 0800 through 0400 the next morning. Over 20 hours of shooting in one day. However, a lot of it was spent waiting for our turn on the range. ‘Hurry up and wait’ is the army term for this. See the above photo and you’ll understand.

After spending all day on Thursday shooting the machine guns, we spend all day on Friday cleaning the weapons. It was a tedious process, which included using everything from brushes, cloths, and dental appliances to remove every last speck of carbon on the weapons. Above CDR Beth Harbison demonstrates how how to clean the 50 cal. Beth is actually an ED doctor from Jacksonville, Florida.

One of the benefits of flying my Cessna 182 out to Ft. Riley was the ability to visit my cousin Schenley in St. Louis, Missouri. I was also able to spend some time with my cute nephew Nathan and Schenley’s beautiful wife Susan. We played hockey and baseball. Nathan by the end of my stay became quite good at swinging the bat. I see a future in him…

Schenley and me in historic downtown St Charles.

Our carriage ride in St. Charles. Schenley’s parents came down to celebrate Mother’s Day with Susan.

Schenly, Susan, Nathan and me right before I took off to go back to Ft. Riley. Unfortunately, the weekend had to end.

This is LCDR Tim Thompson who is our pharmacist from Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. Tim is heading to Afghanistan with us as the pharmacy mentor. His grandmother and girlfriend both live in St. Louis, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to get some flying in. Tim was a quick learner and a natural at the stick.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Week 4 (Apr 27-May 3): Blue Force Tracker, Biometrics, and Easter Long Weekend

This was a short week with our team on Monday and Tuesday being split into two groups. Half of us took a biometrics and blue force tracker course. And the other half of us took an advance medical course. Being that all of us were docs, nurses, and corpsman. They originally set us up to all take the course. Some of us felt this would not be safe since we will be leading our own convoys and would need to learn how the blue force tracker worked. I volunteered to help take the biometrics and blue force tracker course.

The camera above is what we use to ID potential suspects. Basically, it’s a fancy camera that is capable of facial recognition and finger printing. One model has a satellite link to the FBI database and the other one has a data card with over 10,000 profiles downloaded into it.

In the communications class we learned how to setup the radio frequencies and download all the encryptions that we’ll need to use.

The blue force tracker (BFT) is a device that is great for situational awareness (SA) on the battlefield. Every unit that has the BFT will be displayed in real time on the screen, to include vehicles, aircraft, artillery, and tanks. It’s been documented to have significantly decreased the number of fratricide events. See the above poster for a couple of case reports. Enemy units are displayed by manually entering them on the screen. These manual updates will also display on all the other BFTs in the local area. This device can be used to e-mail each other with urgent messages and also be used to call a medevac with one click of the mouse. It’s a great piece of equipment that significantly increases SA.

The 1st Division command during the Easter three day weekend had no DUIs and authorized the command another three day weekend on the 1st of May. Most of us, flew back home on that three day weekend. Mike, DJ and I, (the three from San Diego) chose to fly out late on Thursday and return Sunday night for three days and three nights back at home. Not to bad. However, because the two hour drive from Ft. Riley to Kansas City it took almost 9 hours each way to get home.

On Thursday night, Thuy and I stayed downtown at our Wyndham timeshare in San Diego. And the rest of the weekend, the focuse was on food. Especially, anything that I couldn’t get in Ft. Riley, Kansas. Friday, my parents, Anselm, Joy were able to come down and bring down some of my favorite foods from a restaurant near Irvine called Taiwan Little Restaurant. My favorites from this restaurant include the steamed dumplings and fatty pork. Saturday night we had to make a stop at Onami, all you can eat seafood restaurant in Mission Valley. On Sunday, because Thuy had to spend most of the day at work, I decided to fly back a little bit early in my Cessna 182 Skylane. Although a bit reluctant at first, Thuy convinced me by saying, “This will be your last opportunity to fly in the next seven months and this will also allow you an opportunity to fly out to St. Louis to visit Schenly and Mike.” I ended up flying over 40 hours in the next three weeks.

The picture above is the Grand Canyon, you can see the battleship in the center of the picture. Beautiful even at 11,500 feet! I actually made it back over eights hours earlier than Mike and DJ, because their flights ended up being delayed out of San Diego. But most importantly, I had my airplane.