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September 30th

Sorry for the lull in my updates, but here's the latest.

Gunnery is over.  It was AWESOME while it lasted, but now we're on to bigger and more important things.  Anyone can shoot a main gun and hit what they're aiming at, after a bit of training, but learning and executing tactics is something entirely different.  My buddy Chris Johnson put it best when he said, "This is how we separate ourselves from the enlisted folks.  They execute what they're told to do, and we're the ones that tell them.  Tactics is what being an officer is all about!  You come up with the idea, plan it all out, and give your orders.  It's up to the enlisted men to execute."  Rock n roll.

So far in the last few days we've learned all about the fundamentals of the offense, fundamentals of the defense, the types of reports and radio transmissions we send to our commander, how to build an engagement area, and we've got 3 more weeks of more of the same stuff coming up.  Bring it.

I'm all healed up from my foot injury (I, like a total retard, jumped off the back deck of the tank while practicing crew evac drills and bruised my heel bone) and now that gunnery is over we're back to doing Ranger PT.  It's not much fun while it's going on, but there are only 11 Ranger School slots for our class.  That means I have to be ranked above about 15 of my peers to get a slot and while it helps that I'm going to a Light Airborne Infantry unit, nothing is guaranteed until the orders are cut. 

RANGER CREED

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.

RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!

 

My Mother and my buddy Braden Hestermann sent me some pics from what's going on in their lives right now.  Mom is doing well over in Kuwait and Braden just graduated Jumpmaster school at Ft. Benning.  Now he gets to be the one standing in the door of the C-130 directing the Joes when to jump out of the aircraft.  Soon enough I'll be one too.

 

That's official government issue transportation.  Yep.  Nah, in a secure area like she's assigned to they can afford small "luxuries" like bicycles and it's a helluva lot easier than walking everywhere so... she got the only one left at the PX and it just happened to be pink!

 

Kuwait, as seen by CW4 Candy Martin.

 

Braden performing his duties as a Safety alongside another Jumpmaster during an Airborne drop at Ft. Bragg.  That's him in the foreground of the picture.

 

Erika is done with Med Service OBC at Ft. Sam Houston, TX and will start Flight School at Ft. Rucker, Alabama very soon.  She's in the process of moving her stuff down right now and soon enough she'll be flying all over creation in a UH-60 Medevac Blackhawk.

 

That's all for now.  Here's a bit of Calvin n Hobbes.

-Tom

 

 

 


 

September 25th

I was just downstairs doing my laundry when I passed a guy I know in the hallway.  I half expected the kid to give me a dirty look and keep walking, but he didnít.  He said the following to me instead.  ďThanks for what you said to me last Friday.  I really needed that, Iíve turned myself completely around 180 degrees, and I wanted to thank you for what you did.Ē  I was more than a bit taken aback because this is the kid that I literally almost made cry in front of 22 of our peers.

 Heís the kid that I gathered the other 21 USMA grads in our OBC class together to confront and heís the kid that stood there and listened to me tell him, in the most point-blank but non-personal and absolutely professional way I could, that he was the biggest dirtbag 2LT I had ever seen in my 7+ years in the Army.  I gave multiple specific examples and reasons I felt this way and every one of the other 21 USMA grad 2LTs in that tent agreed.  We were standing in a circle with me and this kid right next to each other and as I spoke I saw a grown man almost cry from embarrassment and shame.  This kid looked absolutely helpless as I continued to list off reasons why he had to fix himself and after I was done I made sure to let him know he was not ostracized, but that we were there to help.

 I was nervous as hell when all of this went down because I didnít exactly know how to approach the subject, but my classmates were on my side so I figured that would count for something.  This whole situation had come to a head because one cadre member at our OBC said something to me about this kid and how he was not only making himself look bad through his continual mistakes and poor judgment, but that all the other WP grads were suffering.  He had shown up that day in the completely wrong uniform and because he graduated with us from USMA the cadre cut him no slack about it.  Thatís when I decided to get everyone together and confront the guy as a group instead of one on one. 

 Some of the other guys thought it would be better to speak to him privately and not to confront him en masse, but I had already said something to this kid a few weeks back about his conduct and he hadnít changed.  I knew that approach hadnít worked, but who the hell was I to be the voice of 22 other people?  What gave me the right to do that?  To point out another personís shortcomings?  In such a public forum where it was all too well known that Iím no saint either? 

 Iíve been trying to figure all this out this afternoon and I still donít know what to think.  What I do know is that the guy honestly has made a 180 degree turnaround this week and that he thanked me as sincerely as he knew how for what happened a week ago.  For gathering a group of more than 20 other men together to point out how he was the weakest link.  For bringing him to the verge of tears in front his classmates.  For calling attention to his innumerable mistakes and shortcomings.

 Given that this situation was a relative success, how am I supposed to know in the future if I should say something or just let the person figure it out on their own?  How can I justify even having these types of thoughts in the first place?  When did I become so judgmental of others?  This has absolutely blown my mind.

 -Tom

 


 

September 24th

We made it back from gunnery.  We all hit what we were aiming at (eventually) and had a load of fun killing the hell out of moving tank targets at 2000 meters. 

 

Tim and Josh at the MK19 grenade launcher range.  Those are 8 round belts of grenades in their hands.

 

The M831A1 SABOT round.

 

My buddy Paul Rickmeyer on duty as The Beachmaster.  He had to help coordinate crews getting to and from the tanks on the firing line and make sure he had people on hand to help load ammo and such.  Good dude.

 

 

Loading up at the Ammo pad.

 

The simulated turret-down Battle Position (BP) we shot our defensive engagements from. 

 

These videos are of main gun engagements. 

I tried to cut out the first part of this, but couldn't get it.  The tank fires at around the 17 second mark in the video.  It was so loud that the shock wave from the gun shook me and the camera even though we were over 200 meters away.  BOOM.  Very cool.

VIDEO

 

This one is of Joe McConnell during his offensive TC's engagement against a moving target.  That means that we were moving, the target was moving at a range of 1800 meters, and he had to simulate having no gunner so he had to shoot it himself using the TC's power control handle.  The fire command is a bit different because the gunner is not involved, but he killed the hell out of that tank.  In the video he's looking through the TC's extension of the gunner's sight and he's holding the joystick-looking power control handle in his right hand.  ON THE WAY!!!

VIDEO

 

I'll probably never shoot another main gun round again, but it sure was fun while it lasted.  Next week we start learning tactics and I've heard through the grapevine it's not going to be easy, but I'm sure it's nothing I can't handle. 

Hope everyone's doing well wherever you are.

-Tom

 


 

September 20th

Ever have one of those weekends where you can't really remember anything you did, but you just know it was one of the best you've had in a long time?  Aye sir, that's how it went.

I flew down Friday night to see Erika and we spent a much needed weekend together.  I wasn't kidding earlier, we really didn't do much worth mentioning other than staying in for her to make me breakfast in bed and watching the Army football game together before going out to dinner with my Dad and two of my sisters, Laura and Becky. 

We did go out later Saturday night to a brilliant place called Howl at the Moon.  It's a piano bar and if you get the chance you should check it out. 

Great and much needed weekend with Erika.

 

In other news, my mother (The Desert Chief) is doing well in the Middle East.  She sent us some pictures yesterday and she seems like she's having some fun over there in the desert.  Send her an email or something, fokkers.  She'd love to hear from you over there in the 140 degree desert known as Kuwait.

That flag in the background shows where the actual border is.  Also, that 9mm Beretta pistol under her left arm shows how my mom can kick your mom's ass.

 

CW4 Mom and an old friend from TX who had already spent a year in theatre. 

 

We leave tomorrow morning at 0530 for the range again, but this time we're shooting live main gun rounds.  I'll be gone until late Thursday night so expect some pictures and video up on here then.

-Tom

 

 


 

September 16th

ON THE WAY!!!

I got my camera working so here are some pictures and a video from the last few days out at the range.  We haven't shot any main gun rounds quite yet, but that's coming up next Tuesday.  Instead, we had engagements with the Tank Commander's .50 caliber machine gun and the tank's coax 7.62 mm machine gun.  We only simulated main gun engagements, but very soon it's go time for the real thing.

 

 

The range.

 

We had to wait for the fog to clear before we could start shooting so Joe Palumbo took full advantage.

 

My buddy and fellow crewman Joe McConnell in the gunner's seat.  He's 6'4" so it's a bit of a tight fit.  Joe's a good dude from Princeton and we get along really well.

 

This is a picture of the TIS (thermal imaging system) targeting reticle in the gunner's main gun sight.  My camera makes it look blurry and impossible to see anything, but when you look through it with just your eye you can see and rather accurately engage targets out to 4,000+ meters.  It's pretty damn cool...

 

Yours truly in the Tank Commander's hatch in the middle of our engagement. 

 

Clank clank I'm a tank.

 

Check out THIS VIDEO I shot on the way back from my final engagement.  It might give you an idea of what it's like to command the 70 ton, 1500 horsepower, and most lethal armored vehicle in the world.  After OBC I won't see one again for awhile because I'll be a light scout, but I'm sure as hell enjoying it now.

 

I finally got a picture of my new Toyota 4Runner and what better way to show it off than after I had taken it out (for the first and ONLY time) on the tank trails to get it a little dirty after a solid rainstorm?  Gotta love it.

 

I'm on my way to San Antonio this weekend to see Erika and it's the last time I'll see her there before she heads off to flight school in Alabama.  That's right, my girl's gonna be a Medevac pilot.  Now I won't have to pay for skydives, I'll just catch a lift with her. 

-Tom

 

 

 


 

September 12th

Pretty decent weekend.

Played some golf, made Korean yakimandu and bulgolgi, met up with some of my MOBC classmates at a sports bar in Louisville, and last night I made crabcakes with shrimp scampi over pasta alfredo.  Yes, all from scratch.  Get some.

 

This morning I learned more in the COFT (Conduct of Fire, Tank) simulator than I had in all the previous sessions combined.  We had a civilian instructor, a former platoon sergeant in a tank company, and he really knew his stuff.  Joe McConnell and I were in there rockin' and rollin' and we finally got everything together the way it's supposed to be.

We simulate like we're firing a Tank Table VIII qualification so you hear something like this over the radio:

"Blue 2, this is Charlie 92.  Battle carry SABOT and report when ready."

As the TC (tank commander) I repeat the command to the crew and they respond back with their respective status.

"Driver ready.  SABOT loaded, loader up.  SABOT indexed, gunner ready."

I make sure the main gun and .50 cal are armed, that the tank is safely hidden in a "turret-down position" behind the defensive berm, and I send up my ready report.

"Chalie 92, Blue 2.  REDCON 1."

"Blue 2, Charlie 92.  Scouts report enemy armor with troop support in sector.  Engage and report, out."

So now my gunner and I are scanning for enemy targets.  He's looking through his thermal sights and I'm monitoring his scan as well as using my .50 cal sight which has a wider field of view.  I can also use the vision blocks (periscopes) in my hatch, but I can't see a whole lot with those so it's better to use the main gun sights.  If the gunner sees a target before me he would yell out TANK, PC (personnel carrier), or TROOPS to alert me and the rest of the crew.  He can't do anything until I give the fire command so I'd yell out:

"Gunner, SABOT, Tank!!!  Driver move out!!!"

The driver moves the tank forward so that the tank's weapons clear the berm and are able to shoot without hitting the dirt, the loader makes sure the breech is closed and the main gun is armed, and the gunner gets ready to engage. 

"Identified!!!" 

That lets me know he's got the target in his sights and knows what he's looking at. 

"Up!!!"

Now I know the loader has the round loaded, the main gun armed, and that he's up and out of the way of the main gun because when it fires the breech slams back 13 inches and you don't want to be in it's way.

I check my sight extension which shows me exactly what the gunner is looking at to ensure he's on the right target and after I make sure he's given me an "Identified" and the loader has given me an "Up" I give the best command in the Army:

"FIRE!!!"

The gunner yells  "ON THE WAY!!!" and...

 

Another Commie, Haji, North Korean, or whatever tank bites the dust.

 

I say "Target, cease fire!!!  Driver move back." and that lets everyone know we hit what we were aiming at and for the driver to move back to the turret-down position behind the berm.

"Charlie 92, Blue 2.  Engaged and destroyed one enemy tank.  Continuing mission, over."

"Blue 2, Charlie 92.  Roger, out."

 

And there you have it.  Of course, I won't be doing that a whole lot once I graduate MOBC because I'll be in a light unit with nothing but Humvees, but I'll be jumping out of C-130s and wearing a red beret in the Airborne Spartan Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division so it's all good.  Scouts Out!

-Tom

 

 


 

September 10th

I must be getting old or something. 

Last night, instead of going out, Les and I stayed in to make Guinness and Molasses bread and watch "Tommy Lee Goes To College" on VH1 all night.

 

Here are some pictures from last weekend in San Antonio.

 

The family at Cha Cha's mexican restaurant.  Mom would have been there, but she's in Kuwait.

 

Big fish.

 

That's special SeaWorld ice cream.

 

Durty Nelly's Irish Pub on the RiverWalk. 

 

Today I've got some errands to run and then we'll see about a Kentucky vs. Idaho State football game in Lexington.  I don't even care about either team, but the tickets were free. 

-Tom

 


 

September 7th

I got my computer issues mostly resolved and will be able to update from my own room from now on if the internet will let me log on.  The service here at Knox is, according to the technical support folks, rather archaic, to say the least, and it's not easy to keep a connection very long.

 

All that aside, I'm back.

 

Les and I spent the weekend in San Antonio visiting my family and Erika and it was a pretty good time.  We went to the Riverwalk, Sea World, saw our almost-finished new house, and I'm glad I was able to go.

 

We have finished up the Pre-Gunnery portion of OBC and very soon we'll be shooting live main gun rounds as well as .50 cal at the range.  Les, who is 3 weeks ahead of me in the course, just finished gunnery and he's told me it's a great great time. 

 

I'm still working on finding pictures to put up here from OBC and such.  A new camera is next up on the list of "things I think I can't live without" and after that, we'll see.

 

Hope everyone's doing well.

-Tom

 

 


 

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