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April 14th 9:00 PM

When I was stationed at Camp Stanley, Korea 6 years ago I spent a substantial amount of time in the field.  Korea is notorious for it's mud and when we came back from field exercises a large portion of our time was usually spent cleaning the equipment and vehicles.  After one particular field exercise my buddy, Tristran Pleasant, and I were tasked with cleaning the cots, but we decided to do them last because we had a lot of other more important things to take care of first.

By the end of the day we were done with cleaning the mud from everything and were ready to put it all away when we remembered those cots and how they still had mud on them.  We were really tired and didn't feel like taking care of them so we figured we could get away with burying them in the bottom of the trailer.  By the time we went to the field again they'd just get muddy anyway, right?  We did just that and repacked everything with the cots behind and on the bottom of the rest of the field desks, map boards, tent, etc.

Our section chief, SSG Mike Sproessig, came by at the end of the day to check on us and see what all was left to do.  He was pleasantly surprised when he saw the trailer all clean, packed up, and ready to go.

"Hell of a good job, fellas.  Did you clean and repack everything?"

"Roger, chief.  It's all done."

"The field desks?  The tent?  The Yukon Stove?  The cots?"

"Roger.  Everything, chief."

"Well let's just check things out to make sure."

He opened up the trailer and started unloading it to spot-check the equipment.  But wait a minute.  He was supposed to trust us and take our word for it that everything was done!  What was he doing?  He didn't believe us?  What was going on here?

A few minutes later SSG Sproessig found the cots and saw they hadn't been touched.  We were caught red-handed lying to his face and he did not take lightly to the offense. 

In the next few minutes, as Tristran and I listened from the front leaning rest position, he unloaded on us about how worthless we had just become to him because he had no way to trust us.  He had thought of us as two of the best enlisted men he had ever worked with and now we had resorted to something like this.  We had lied about an incredibly trivial muddy cot so what was to keep us from lying about something far more important in the future?  Something potentially life-threatening?  He made us feel horrible for what we had done because we had lied.  To his face.  About something so ridiculous it shouldn't have mattered.

Was it worth it for something so small?  To lie to a man both Tristran and I trusted with our lives and looked up to as one of the best NCOs we had ever known?  To destroy the trust we had built with him and he with us over a stupid cot? 

He could have literally had us court-martialed for that stunt, but he didn't.  We were given a second chance, but the trust between us was nowhere near as strong as it once was until many many months later.  Eventually things smoothed over, but it took a significant amount of time.

In the future we eventually showed him we had learned our lesson, but it was on us to do so.  We knew he would slam us with some sort of punitive action if it happened again, but we also had another reason to keep on the straight and narrow.  We knew that we would forever lose his respect if we did something like that again.

 

I just had to get that story out.  Take from it what you will.

-Tom

 

The highest compact we can make with our fellow is -- "Let there be truth between us two forevermore."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 


 

April 14th

I think I gave the lady at the Tax Center here on post a heart attack this morning. 

See, because of all the common stock trading I did earlier in the school year I have a rather large amount of transactions I have to report to the IRS even though the net result was an $8K loss.  For each trade execution, whether buying or selling, I received a piece of paper to keep my records straight and to help when it came time to do taxes. 

That stack of paper was about 2 inches thick. 

Her reaction upon seeing that was, "Oh... my... God...  Why did you wait until the 14th?!?"

The nice lady, an unpaid volunteer, wasn't too pleased with the amount of work I had just unloaded on her, but it had to be done.  After over an hour of making phone calls back and forth to USAA and faxing forms and documents and figuring out what needed to be claimed she finally told me my part was done so I walked the mile back to the cadet area and that was that. 

 

Sir, there are 43 and a butt days until Graduation and Graduation Leave for the Class of 2005.

Yesterday was 10th Lesson Day.  10 lessons and some term end exams are all that separate us from graduation.

We have fewer lessons remaining until graduation than the cows have months. 

We've got fewer months than the yuks have years.

We've got fewer weeks than the plebes have semesters. 

 

Thanks to Kate in New Jersey, Emma in Beijing, Adam at The Citadel, and all the others for the emails.  It's pretty sweet to get legit fan mail.

-Tom

 

 


 

April 12th

You'd think more people would realize how serious of a job it is to be an Army officer.  I've seen an inordinately scary number of cadets (and new Lieutenants) who don't seem to get it and I feel like speaking my mind about this.

You're paid to be the adult in the platoon.  You don't whine, you don't complain, you don't act like a little kid, and you damn sure don't put your discomfort as a higher priority than the welfare of your Joes.

I realize it has to come from inside of us, but some people need to start doing some soul-searching and realize what they're getting themselves into. 

Here's a news flash for you: 

IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE YOU WILL GET SHOT AT BY A THIRD WORLD RETARD AND HAVE TO MAKE DECISIONS TO SAVE YOUR JOE'S LIVES. 

You can't do that if you're a whiny little kid who is concerned about how rough you think you have it. 

Get out of the Army and join the Peace Corps.

Call me a jerk, but I wanted to get this off my chest.  Call me whatever you like, it's still MY journal and I write what I want.

-Tom

 


 

April 11th

Humvee + snow + mud + uneven terrain + unseen obstacle = problems

Yesterday afternoon our Sandhurst team got all suited up in our BDUs, combat gear, and dummy rifles and headed up to the Ranger Wall to practice.  To get there you have to drive behind the PX and up to the ski slope.  There's still quite a bit of snow left over from ski season, but we thought we could make it because we knew there were huge areas where it had all melted. 

As we approached the road that cuts across the ski slope we saw another Humvee stuck in the snow on the far side so we tried to drive across to pull them out.  We never made it.

We were trying to drive around the snow by going up and around, but it didn't work and when we got stuck we tried to push it backwards.  When we did that it slid sideways and backwards down the hill and right onto an "object" we didn't know was there.

What in the world is a giant plastic tube doing in the middle of the road on the ski slope?!?

 

Not good.  But wait, what's inside that yellow plastic tube???

 

Of course!!!  A fire hydrant!!!  What else could possibly be in the middle of the dirt road going across the ski slope but a friggin fire hydrant?!?!  Unbelievable. 

 

Because of the way we slid down the hill the hydrant was wedged up in the wheel well and we could go neither forward nor backwards.  Ok, what in the hell do we do now?

We pushed the other Humvee out and they drove around and backed up to where we were stuck.  We all had our sling ropes on us as part of our Sandhurst gear so I doubled them up and tied bowline knots with carabiners to attach to the other vehicle. 

We had a bit of a heated discussion amongst the team regarding whether the ropes and biners would break and hurt someone, but I knew what I was talking about. 

Those ropes have a tensile strength of 4500 pounds and the carabiners are rated for 11,000+ pounds.  We had 8 of each. 

Do not doubt Tom.  Tom is good.  Tom is wise.

Jon Batt made a video of the attempts to pull it out.  He's also the one that took all these pictures.

STUCK TRUCK 1

Ok, so we've got enough pulling power, but now we have to figure out a way to get over the fire hydrant, but we're in the snow so we're gonna have huge problems with that.  We took rocks and the chock blocks from both Humvees and built a little ramp for it to roll up and over the hydrant with. 

 

It didn't work.  When we did the ole "1, 2, 3, GO!!!" the other Humvee slipped out of drive and into neutral somehow and because the tires on our Humvee were spinning it grabbed all those rocks and chock blocks and pinned them under the tire, but didn't lift it up high enough to get over the hydrant.  No dice.

Here's a video Jon made of the second attempt.

STUCK TRUCK 2

We couldn't get it out with what we had so we got a ride down to CGR, told Major Wooten what happened, he called the motor pool, they said to lock it up and leave it and they'd get it out the next day, and that was that. 

I can only imagine what it took to get this thing off the fire hydrant, out of the snow, and back on the road.  I'm glad we didn't have to do it, but it was fun to try.

-Tom

 


 

April 9th

I'm violating late lights to write this so don't tell anyone.

Lately I've had a lot on my mind.  I am, I mean I was, the section leader of a sophomore named Tracey Rivers.  I was called to testify for the defense at his general court-martial yesterday and I learned quite a bit from it.  The obvious "don't break the law or you'll pay the price" lesson applies here, but something else I learned is that you really don't ever know a person's true character.  Before the trial began I thought I knew the kid pretty well, but after all was said and done it was horrifically clear I was about as wrong as you can get. 

That fact hit me like a ton of bricks on Thursday.  I used to pride myself in being able to judge character, but now I'm not so sure.  I spoke to a few people I trust about this and after I got their opinions I decided that I'll keep doing things the way I always have.  That is, to look for the good in people and stick by them until the end, if that ever comes.  Sometimes you're wrong and it tears you apart because you can't believe you were so blind to the truth, but I believe in the old adage that it's better to trust and be deceived than to live your life in torment because you never trusted at all.

Tracey Rivers is on his way to federal prison to serve a sentence of 4 years for indecent assault.  I'm graduating in 48 days after having gone through 4 years of USMA and in some crazy way I think I learned more yesterday about knowing your subordinates in order to be a good platoon leader than in the rest of my time here. 

 

Ok, enough serious talk. 

Naked Man paid us a visit in Central Area last night.  He's gained a bit of weight and still refuses to show his face, but he's alive and well.

I shaved and shaped my beret and it looks better than all of yours, guaranteed.  The only thing it's missing is a little golden 2LT bar on the flash.  48 days...

We've got another Sandhurst practice run-through tomorrow, but this time the boat site will be open because the ice has finally thawed.  We were out there today practicing getting the Zodiac assault boat in the 32.01 degree water, getting in the boat, paddling in a straight line as a team, and getting out of the 32.01 degree water in the shortest amount of time possible.  Most of us fell in at least once, but it's all good.  Tomorrow is sure to be a hoot.

After all that Jason and I are going to put the new bearings and exhaust gasket on the Trooper and then go see about some skydiving.

 

That's all for now. 

-Tom

 


 

April 6th

I just got out of MS498 class (Colloquium in Military Affairs) where we had a group discussion led by a man named Colonel Swain.  We talked about Command and how it differed slightly from Battle Command and we talked about character and leadership and all the other buzz words you hear 900 times a day around here.  One other thing we talked about was responsibility.  In the course of that particular discussion my classmate Eric Roles told a story about something that happened last night at his Combat Weapons Team live fire at Range 5.  The driver of his Humvee was acting like an idiot by potentially endangering the lives of the other people riding in back when they went downrange to check out the object they were shooting at.  He was racing down the trail for his own entertainment and because a Non-Commissioned Officer told him it was ok.  When they finally stopped Eric told the kid what he thought of his driving and made sure he understood that just because an NCO might think something is a good idea does not mean it necessarily is.  His story reminded me of a similar incident a few weeks ago that happened to our Sandhurst team.

Our team had just finished firing at the rifle range and we all loaded up in the Humvee for the ride back to the cadet area.  As we left the parking area on our way to HWY 293 we noticed a Humvee with another Sandhurst team in it right behind us.  Ross, our squad leader and the driver of our vehicle that day, stopped at the stop sign and pulled out onto the highway.  The vehicle following us ran the stop sign and began tailgating just a few feet off our rear bumper.  He then pulled onto the shoulder of the road and started to come along side our vehicle like he was racing us.  He had 9 people riding in the back of his vehicle and the same number were in the back of ours.  Stupid?  Yes.  The scary part is that Ross had no idea this kid had run the stop sign and pulled alongside us until our team started screaming to slow down and let the other vehicle pass us.  He passed on the shoulder and we drove back the rest of the way without incident.

When we got back I was a bit angry.  No, I was livid.  Who was that kid to pull a stunt like that and endanger all our lives because he thought it would be funny to drag race in a fully loaded military vehicle?!?  I asked around about who the driver was and then started looking for him to tell the kid what I thought.  A few hours later I still hadn't found him, but I saw someone else in the hallway I could talk to.  I'm pretty good friends with our Regimental Sandhurst rep, also a cadet, and I told him what had happened.  I wanted something done about this because the kid clearly had a problem with using common sense.

Just a side note to this:  Yes, I've done some incredibly STUPID things in my life, but I never put anyone's life in danger and when I got caught (which was most of the time) I took what was coming and learned from my mistake.  I'm not trying to tell this story from a "you're wrong, I'm right" perspective, but I know that's how it sounds.

Anyway, the guy I talked to said something to his Tac NCO who then told the Tac Officer who then told the Regimental Tac Officer and now the kid is in a lot of trouble.  At first I was glad he was going to get slammed because, in my opinion, too many jackass cadets pull stunts around here that make the officers not trust us, and he had acted in a potentially lethal capacity when he passed our Humvee like that. 

Having spent just short of 7 years in the Army thus far (May 21st is my anniversary), I've seen more than a few vehicle accidents and every single one was because of an incompetent driver or gross negligence on the part of one of the passengers.  It's not something I take lightly when it comes to military vehicles. 

Having said that, I soon came to a different conclusion after I spoke to this kid's two roommates who are good friends of mine.  They were upset because I had gotten the guy in a lot of trouble so close to graduation and they thought I had overreacted to what happened.  They told me that to his credit he didn't see the problem with his actions because he had supposedly done much worse this past summer out at Camp Buckner under the supervision of an NCO (the same NCO from Eric Roles' story earlier).  I thought about what they said the rest of the night and well into this morning until I went to MS498.

After class this morning I came to the realization that just because someone tells you it's a good idea or that it's ok, even if that person is an NCO in the Army, you still need to possess enough common sense to decide on your own whether your actions are reasonable.  Until class this morning I was starting to feel kind of bad for this kid, but I've had my fair share of hard learned lessons.  I didn't mean for him to get in trouble with the Regimental Tac Officer, but the dude did almost kill me. 

-Tom

 


 

April 4th

I forgot to mention that Monro Tire & Muffler tried to rip me off BIG TIME this weekend.  I took my car in to get the alignment and exhaust system checked because my beloved Trooper sounds like a Sherman tank right now.  They wanted to charge me $728 to do the work so I said thanks no thanks and took a trip to Advanced Auto Parts where I picked up the EXACT SAME parts for $134.  True, labor costs a lot, but come on.  Anyway, all this maintenance on the Trooper reminded me of something from my past.

Story time...

Once upon a time in a country far across the Pacific Ocean there was a young man named PFC Martin.  He had been in Korea for about 10 months and one day he was tasked out by his Battery Commander to be the Battalion XO's driver for the day because his normal driver was sick and PFC Martin was a truly excellent dude much respected by his Battery Commander.

Major Britt, also known as "Rocket 5", was a portly fellow who needed a ride from Camp Stanley to Camp Casey for some sort of big-wig conference for all the XO's in the Division.  He told me to sign out the keys to the Humvee from the duty desk and go check out the vehicle to make sure it was safe to drive. 

As I was doing my checks I noticed one minor problem.  The diesel engine wouldn't start.  I informed good ole Rocket 5 and he replied that the glow plugs in the engine were a little messed up but that it would eventually start if I just held the start lever down long enough.  Uh... ok, sir.  Whatever you say.  Every single NCO I'd ever talked to said to never hold down that lever longer than 6 seconds, but you're a Major and know exactly what you're talking about.  Roger.

It eventually started despite the chilly weather and we took off for Camp Casey.  When we got there Major Britt told me to wait with the Humvee and start it every 20 minutes to keep the engine block warm.  For an hour and a half I sat out in the parking lot reading and starting the engine every 20 minutes until...

On about the 6th iteration of starting and stopping the motor I heard a rather scary noise.  Instead of the motor turning over I heard a hiss-pop and then a strange shhhhhhh sound.  Smoke started to come out from under the hood so I turned the start lever to off, grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran to the front.  I dropped the brush guard, popped the hood releases and when I opened the hood I saw a ton of crazy weird colored flames coming from the starter.  I started hosing it down with the extinguisher and just as I thought I had it out, the fire would flare up again.  After 30 seconds or so of this it finally went out for good just as the extinguisher ran out. 

Ok, now what?  I'm standing in the parking lot looking at my Battalion XO's smoldering Humvee engine with white powder all over it.  I'm at Camp Casey and don't know anyone.

I found a phone and called back to Cp Stanley, told them what had happened, that we needed the HEMTT wrecker and a new ride for Rocket 5 pronto.  It's about a 40 minute drive from Cp Stanley, but Major Britt had told me he'd be back soon.  Eh...

He came out of the meeting and of course, like the sensible, calm, cool and collected officer he was, blew up at me when he saw the Humvee. 

WTF, MARTIN!?!?!  WHAT IN THE HELL DID YOU DO TO THE F@#*$& HUMVEE?!?! 

Sir, I did exactly as you told me.  The wrecker and a new Humvee are on the way; they should be here any minute and you'll be on your way back to Cp Stanley. 

WHAT?!?  Oh.  But, um... well, ok.  Uh... right.  Good work.

The mechanics showed up, we jumped in the other Humvee, got back to Camp Stanley, and then the fun really began for me.

None of you have probably ever changed the starter on a Humvee.  It's not something you want to do every day, especially when the entire engine is coated in fire extinguisher powder and every time you bump a wrench against anything that powder gets knocked loose and falls down into your eyes.  We got it out and got the new one in, but that's something I never want to do again.  Laying on my back, holding an 80 pound chunk of metal up while the mechanic tries to tighten the mounting bolts as white chemical powder is falling into my eyes... no good.  At least we got free pizza out of the deal from Major Britt.

The end.

 

Here's a new video from the kids who made the Christmas and Valentine's Day videos.  The Double Tree-O. 

Late Lights Violators

 

That's all for now. 

-Tom

 


 

April 3rd

SANDHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday morning we had our first full "dress rehearsal" run through of the Sandhurst Competition coming up in a few weeks.  It's a good thing it was 40 degrees and raining like crazy the whole time.  Mud?  Wow.  You have no idea.

For those of you not in the know, this competition is no joke.  Sure, there are some cynical jerks amongst us who think it's a little too "hooah" for them and they're too good to participate.  I dare you to try it, punk. 

Here's a link to the official homepage of the competition:  Sandhurst Homepage

The Brigade team had to run this course TWICE on Saturday. 

For those who can't read a topographical 1:50,000 map, just trust me when I say it's a bit of a gut check. 

We did pretty well and finished with an overall time of 2 hours and 3 minutes.  We passed 4 teams along the way and as long as no one gets hurt between now and the time we cross the finish line in a few weeks I think we'll do rather well. 

 

Saturday night Erika and I braved the torrential rains and went out for dinner and a movie at the Palisades mall.  This morning we had a champagne brunch at the Thayer Hotel with her friend Kasey, some other friends, and Kasey's parents.  They were great people and a lot of fun to talk to. 

Tonight I had a little OPD (officer professional development) with Major Wooten and the other Armor guys in the company.  We went to Friday's and he talked to us about OBC and life as a new Lieutenant.  Good stuff. 

 

I've gotta get to work on a project for class tomorrow, but I hope everyone survived the ridiculous amounts of rain we got this weekend and you're all doing great.  Once again, to all the nameless and faceless people who check out this site, drop me a line so I know who you are.  The people in Australia, Germany, California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, USAFA, and all the others.  I see you, fokkers.  Give me a holler if you're going to be reading the story of my life. 

-Tom

 


 

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