• Category Archives National Guard
  • Back From Montana

    And a good time was had by all.

    We actually got back a couple of weeks ago but life  has been too busy to post here.

    So, apparently there’s a push coming down from on high that units in the Utah NG and elsewhere provide ‘proof of training’ beyond the word of their officers and NCOs. As a result the command had a photographer/videographer along on our AT in Montana. Thousands of pictures and videos are promised to the men of the unit but so far all we’ve gotten is this teaser video.

    Note that the guy twisting in the wind at 1:30 is our company commander. He may not know how to exit an aircraft but he sure knows how to put on good training.


  • PATV

    I once referred to Penny Arcade as the ‘one true comic.’ I still feel this way.

    Lately, I’ve become addicted to PATV. I’m pretty sure ‘addicted’ is the wrong word, actually. I don’t binge. I’ll watch, sometimes, two episodes at a time.

    My restraint is not a symptom of apathy toward the product. It is only possible through iron self-control. For PATV is an extremely limited commodity. There are only so many episodes glistening in their neat rows, waiting to be harvested at my leisure. Once I watch the last there will be no more, until the gods dole them singly out at a shameful pace. So I limit myself.

    My fascination with the victories and secret shames of the .jpg business has been a puzzle to me. I’ve finally decided, though, that the show is a glimpse of the promised land. I’m like the fisher boy peering past the City of Enoch as it passes through the fiery portal far above my head.

    I’ve worked in cubicle farms. I work in one now. To work and get paid in an environment such as is portrayed in each episode of PATV… Joy.

    Of course, I have no relevant skills. I sketch. I can run five miles in forty minutes. I do monkey work in InDesign and Photoshop. I know how to find and kill bad men up close and from afar. None of these skills or their corollaries would be useful…there. They would likely be handicaps.

    Yet I can’t stop watching.

     

     


  • Back From Africa

    I’ve been out of the country for a while and busy for longer than that.
    I deployed to Senegal Africa with the National Guard and had a grand old time.
    Senegal was interesting. Among other things it was almost entirely populated with black people. Who knew? Coming from Utah, this was quite a difference. It wasn’t long though, before it became apparent that most things were still very much the same. The Senegalese seem to be primarily concerned with putting food on the table and generally making their way in the world.
    Among other things, Senegal is very proud that their country has never had a military coup. Also, they have the largest Baobab forest in the world. This forest was, apparently, about 10 kilometers south of where we were in Thies. I wouldn’t know as we were too busy to make it there. I did get to go into downtown Thies on several occasions as well as see a bit of Dakar but raw tourism was pretty much off the table.
    There were some trinket vendors just outside the section of the Senegalese military base we were on, well, not really trinkets, most of it was nicer than trinkets but you get the idea.
    I determined that I wasn’t going to buy statues of any exotic animals unless I saw those animals during my stay. As it ended up, I could have bought a statue of a goat, a pig, a horse, or maybe a cow. The elephants, lions, giraffes and monkeys were not in evidence. Very exciting. So next I asked if I could get a wooden piece made from baobab wood. I was sternly informed by a women manning one of the tables that baobab wood was no good for carving. It’s really not even good for making fires. You can make rope or clothes out of it if you’re really desperate. Instead I wanted some nice teak pieces. Yes?
    I don’t know if baobab wood got such a bad rep because the woman didn’t have any to sell me or if it’s really no good for carving.
    Gris Gris were no good either. Gris Gris are charms, good luck charms in particular. I asked if they had a gris gris specifically for luck in battle. Nope, just luck in life in general. I went back and asked for a battle specific gris gris a couple of times until finally it became apparent that they would probably hand me one the next time I came back and tell me it was for battle just so I’d shut up.
    I did see a nifty mask though. It’s an ugly little thing, totally unlike the other masks on the table. Upon questioning the woman told me that it was a bird mask of the Seti people in the old style. It was so ugly it kind of grew on me in only a few minutes so I bought it.


  • Babykiller

    That’s a new one on me, but not my father.

    Although the actual word ‘babykiller’ was not used it was a sobering experience the other night when a ‘friend’ equated the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the murder of innocents. It was done offhandedly, as though it were a given. Having served in both theaters, I can assure you (as I tried to assure him, to no effect) that the comparison is ridiculous. Yet there are people out there who actually think that. Apparently, I know such a person. Not something I was expecting to discover among my circle of friends.

    On a more palatable note, Brad Torgerson has a very nice blog post up today about some of the other kinds of experiences we who serve in the military have at home. Pleasanter ones.


  • Staff Sgt. Giunta MoH


    Staff Sgt. Giunta
    Staff Sgt. Giunta

    Well done sergeant Giunta. I’m sorry for your loss.

    This story was very interesting to me. Read it for yourself though. Here I talk about my own take on things.

    An ‘L’ ambush. Well designed and executed by the Taliban in the Korengal valley, Afghanistan. An ambush is THE most devastating attack in any infantry unit’s repertoire, and an ‘L’ ambush is the best of the ambushes. This is because of the shape.

    An L ambush is just what it sounds like. You pick a bend in the road and set up your main ambushing element along one side of the road before the bend and then another element AT the bend where they can shoot ALONG the section of road your first element will be shooting into. Usually you put your machine gun at the bend and open the ambush with that since it’s the ‘most casualty producing’ weapon.

    L-Ambush
    L-Ambush

    Getting caught in this kind of ambush was absolutely crappy for Sgt. Giunta’s unit. And it’s almost impossible to avoid.  Ambushes are hard to detect, and even harder to survive. The only response to being ambushed that has any hope of success is to immediately turn and rush your attackers, hoping to get in among them and start killing them back before you’re all dead. An ‘L’ makes this response tactic even less effective than it already is (I mean seriously, rushing into to the teeth of the enemy’s guns is the best you can come up with? Yes it is.) because no matter which of the two elements you choose to rush, there are still guys in the other shooting into your flank. Wicked awful. Entire patrols get wiped out like this.

    Except, apparently, when it’s the Taliban ambushing Americans. The CBS account of the ambush is harrowing to read. Miserable. It leaves the impression that the Taliban kicked American butt. But you have to realize that if it had been Americans doing the ambushing, everybody would have been dead. EVERYBODY… except those the Americans wanted to take prisoner.

    The truth is that the Taliban ambush was surprisingly ineffective.   But you have to know something about the subject to realize it.

    I mourn for those killed and wounded in this ambush, as with every action where my brothers are hurt or killed. Sgt. Giunta’s actions were heroic. That he believes every one of his comrades on that patrol would have done the same for him only speaks to the caliber of the American fighting man; it doesn’t lessen his actions.

    Bonus link.


  • Veteran’s Day 2010

    FlagsOne thing the Democrats, or at least the Obama’s PR machine, do well is organize people over the web. While I was reading an article lamenting the fact that Obama is in Indonesia, remembering Indonesian veterans, on Nov 11th I received an email claiming to be from his wife.

    This email led me to a well put together and, seemingly, fairly effective site designed to help people so inclined to volunteer and help military families. Military families need the help. They are unsung heroes in our wars.

    My father tells a story. One day while my father was serving in the jungles of VietNam his own father, my grandfather Marcus, was going about his business as on any given day. A messenger arrived with a telegram. My grandfather received it, stared at it for a while without opening it and then found a place to take a seat. He faced, grimly, the fact that his life was now over. His son was dead.

    He opened the telegram and read it. “Happy birthday, Marcus! Love, Vance.” My grandfather thought about it for a moment and realized that it was, in fact, his birthday that day. The telegram was from his brother, Vance, a prankster of questionable taste.

    The soldier very rarely has to live with the imminent possibility of his own death. He knows when he is and is not in danger. His family and loved ones live with it every moment of every day that he is away.

    Bonus link.


  • Elder Eyring, President Uchtdorf, and Soldiering

    The Soldier MoroniAs I grew up I was always sure that I wanted to be in the military. For a while I thought I wanted to be a full-time infantry officer. I enrolled in ROTC in college.  I joined the 19th Special Forces Group (National Guard) as an enlisted counter-intelligence agent. I spent the 9 months of Initial Entry Training watching the active duty military lifestyle at work and play. It made me realize I wanted to stay a full time civilian. I also stayed enlisted, thank heavens.

    From back then until now, 30 years in the LDS church, 4 years at Brigham Young University, 13 years in the national guard, 2 combat deployments; I always had the impression that service in the military was seen as an unwise choice for LDS men. Plenty of us served, but we were looked down upon just a little by the LDS culture.

    It’s not objecively or doctrinally true. Like I said, it was simply the impression I had and it was due to several factors. Some people at BYU (it is an academic institution after all, grubbing after government grants with the best of them) actively look down on the military services, in lockstep with the extreme left. And taking a degree in English exposed me to many such. Also, I’ve lost count of the talks I’ve heard and the testimonies born by single-term servicemen about how the military turned them into sinners when in reality all it did was force them to step away from the apron strings. I also had a long string of sunday school teachers and fellow members who were less than encouraging to my martial leanings. 

    All this has combined to leave me feeling a little at sea, left to find my own soldier specific spiritual guidance in the scriptures. Fortunately, there’s plenty there. It’s looked at as odd and incomprehensible by much of the church’s membership who consider most of Alma to be … off, but it gives me joy to find it.

    Imagine my glee when Elder Eyring gave me a huge blast of it over the modern pulpit at General Conference in April of 2009. In his talk entitled “Man Down!” he tells the story of the two delta operators who lost their lives saving a single helicopter pilot from being ripped apart by the howling ravening enemy mob in Mogadishu Somalia. To my memory that was the first time I ever heard soldiers performing a soldier’s mission held up as good examples by a general authority in my church. Thank you Elder Eyring. Someday I’d like to shake your hand for that.

    Don’t get me wrong, soldiers have been held up as good examples many times, but always for things other than being a soldier. It’s always been for resisting temptation or being brave in difficult cirumstances, and so on, nothing really specific to soldiering. Elder Eyring’s address changed all that for me.

    I got another blast of it last Sunday, October 31, 2010. President Uchtdorf gave a fireside specifically to members of the military and their spouses. I hope somebody recorded it because I’d like to hear and/or read it again. You might think that soldier specific teaching would be guaranteed at such a single purpose fireside. You’d be wrong though. President Uchtdord could easily, and profitably for us, given us an hour and a half of teaching starring soldiers but not specific to soldiers, like so many have before. He didn’t though. He went all out, designating the United States military, by name, as a force for good in the world. We were spiritually well fed, as soldiers, throughout.

    One thing in particular stood out for me though.

    It’s a small thing. Something I should have noticed before, but which I never put together and which he specifically emphasized. President Uchtdorf pointed out, with some satisfaction, that the individual chosen by God to stand atop our temples and announce the Savior when he returns is a soldier.


  • Not going to war

    InsideACanofWhoopAssNot going to war, for most people, is a good thing. Not all.

    What could I possibly mean by that, you may ask with a suspicious and horrified look?  Who is this ‘all’ you speak of in the negative?

    Surely, war is bad. Yes it is. There are still worse things.

    Surely, no one sane would WANT their country to go to war. Absolutely true. No one sane wants their country to go to war. In the same way no one wants to have to shoot a burglar in their house.

    Surely, no one sane wants, personally, to go to war. Meh, yes and no. I’m sure there are people who would very cogently and succinctly make the point that I am not sane. For I want to go to war.

    Surely I have done my part, having already been to war. Surely I could now stay home, honor satisfied, and enjoy my family. Yes, I have, and yes I could. But the war is not over. In some ways it is just beginning. There are still parts to be played, and if not by me, then by who?

    I’m thinking about this because of a good friend of mine, who also wants to go to war. The difference for him is that he has not yet been.

    My unit is a good one. We have deployed companies to the war on terror three times and once an entire battalion. Collectively we have killed a whole grundle of bad men who desperately needed killing, and helped a whole bunch of other people who needed help. We have done well, collecting honors and accolades. We have yet to lose a man to the war.

    The last deployment, though, was a few years ago and the next has been pushed back so far that many of the men in my unit despaired of ever going back and left, seeking other units who ARE deploying soon, or contracting jobs with the famed “military industrial complex.” (My unit doesn’t typically attract the sort who only join the military for the college benefits though most of us have used them to good effect)

    My friend is considering attaching himself to a unit in another state that is deploying but finds itself critically short of men with our expertise. I’m considering going with him. It’s a hard sell for a man in my position, but can I let my friend go alone?

    We would all prefer that there were no wars, no oppression, no murder, no crime. MacArthur was right when he said:

    The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

    Yet, if our country is at war, we want to go. It’s what drove us to join the military in the first place.

    Bonus link


  • Jump tomorrow

    And it’s on a brand new dropzone. The third in as many months.

    Ramp Jump. This guy's screwing up his exit.

    No one in our unit has ever jumped it. I sure hope I can figure out where we are before leading the way out of the plane.

    Edit: Well, we lived and it was one of the nicest jumps I’ve done.

    Soft opening. Sherpas or C-23s usually are since they’re so slow.

    Soft landing. Farmer’s field with dirt like talcum powder combined with very low winds.

    Pretty. The landscape in Western Eagle Mountain Valley actually looks more like the pic on the right than I expected. Put more mountains on the horizon and you’ve pretty much got it. Considering the pic on the right is actually over Germany that’s saying something.