Per Incendia

Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Long time no see...

Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter... so many places to post stuff, but I just can't seem to figure out what goes where! Ok so here's how I see it: short, quick updates, or interesting things about not-super-personal issues go on Twitter. Longer, more personal things go on Facebook. Smarty pants kinda things go on Google Plus. I'm still trying to figure out where blogs fit into all of this, so I guess they just get the longer TLDR stuff. I suppose the TLDR COULD go into FB Notes or G+, but not everyone really wants to skim through that to get to the newest whatever.

So for now, my longer random thoughts and stuff will just go here and sit quietly where they may or may not be read from time to time. At least its quiet here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Week in Review (May 19-23)

After 2nd Platoon finished their Team Certifications, 1st Platoon was busy packing forJRTC. Not wanting to be behind, 2nd Platoon quickly caught up and packed quickly.

Packing was made even more complicated by the last minute notification that most of our equipment may not even come back to Fort Lewis after being worked out in Louisiana. But, we figured out a solution and even managed to push the Soldiers out a little earlier than usual on Friday.

During the week, we also picked up some new Soldiers and managed to get most of our
stray Soldiers qualified on their primary weapons.

On Friday evening, we jumped into the "Build Your Own Burrito" FRG meeting with our
guest speaker from CYS who handed out packets for registration and explained the
benefits for families that come with deployment. During the FRG meeting we also went over the calendar of events for the next few months and answered any and all questions the families had.

Next week, the Soldiers may have a couple of long days from Monday to Wednesday as
we get everything moved over and loaded onto trucks for the long-haul to Fort Polk,
Louisiana. As we finish up the preparation for JRTC, we will be diving straight into required training and begin working on weaknesses we found during the Team Cert

Again, my many thanks to the Families for supporting their Soldiers in these long weeks and late nights. I hope the FRG will grow and become an invaluable resource for family members both near and far. Spread the word and we can make it better for everyone.
It’s been a long month and your Swampdogs have been training and working hard on all
of the skills necessary for their Team Certifications. I am very grateful for the support and understanding our Families have shown our Soldiers. Over the past few weeks, our Soldiers have competed in and completed their required Team Certification exercises and are now fully prepared for the upcoming rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

The Team Certs began bright and early one Monday with the teams executing a Combat
PT course where they ran; carried a 150+ pound litter for about ¼ mile through uneven
terrain and mud; carried ten full sandbags up a steep, long hill; ran some more; and
pushed a HUMVEE for another ¼ mile. After the Combat PT course, the teams changed
socks and boots and jumped straight into their AWT (Army Warrior Task) lanes.

During the AWT evaluations, each team was tested and evaluated on their common
Soldier skills. They were given a map and some grid points and had to plot their
waypoints and then navigate to each point. Along the route, they were faced with
various scenarios which tested their Soldier skills. As they walked down a heavily
wooded trail, they were attacked by OPFOR (Opposing Forces) with small arms fire,
artillery simulations, IEDs, and other dangers. During the attacks, sometimes team
members were deemed to be injured by the OCs (Observer Controllers) and the team
demonstrated their ability to perform casualty evaluation and execute first aid skills. Then they had to call in a 9-Line MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) Report in order to get their casualty transported away so they could continue their mission. They had to spot IEDs or UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) hidden near the trail and call in the appropriate report to their higher headquarters. For over two hours, in full “battle-rattle” (body armor, helmet, weapon, and ruck-sack), the teams executed numerous skills that are vital to survival in a combat zone.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the teams came together at Wilson Gym and
participated in a Combatives PT event where they went head-to-head with fellow Soldiers in hand-to-hand combat and grappling. They pushed, pulled, wrestled, and choked each other into submission for five grueling minutes that seemed much, much longer. During the second half of the day, the platoons went out to the firing range and executed reflexive fire drills. They practiced close-range shooting drills against targets at various ranges while standing, walking, kneeling, running, and turning. Anything less than 100% hits on the target silhouettes was unacceptable.

As the week wore on, the teams participated in Entry Control Point (ECP) exercises where they demonstrated their ability to safely stop a vehicle entering into a controlled zone (like a Forward Operating Base [FOB]), search the vehicle for contraband and explosives, and control and search the occupants. During this exercise, the teams were sometimes faced with harmless civilians, suicide-vest wearing fanatics, AK-47 wielding insurgents, and vehicle-borne IEDs. Their communication skills and their ability to maintain control of volatile situations were tested.

From the ECP, the teams moved over to the “Warrior Lane” IED lane training and
executed a Combat Logistic Patrol through a mock foreign street with countless threats. IEDs, both hidden and obvious, blocked the safe passage of the convoys and the teams had to negotiate each obstacle using experience, knowledge, training, and aggression. Vehicles were disabled and Soldiers were given simulated injuries. The teams had to provide security, shield their vehicle recovery assets, treat their wounded, and transport everything out of the danger areas. Once clear, the Soldiers again put their MEDEVAC skills to use and moved their wounded Soldiers to safety.

Finally, the Soldiers came to be tested on their bread and butter – Signal Skills. With only a few short weeks of training and practice with new equipment and sometimes only days of practice with their new teams, the JNN (Joint Network Node), CPN (Command Post Node), and HCLOS (High-Capacity Line of Sight) teams went out to be tested on how quickly and accurately they could install and operate their Signal Communication Systems. Although some teams first put up less-than-stellar times, by the time certifications were complete, each team installed their systems in impressive times. The results will be coming soon!

All in all, the teams performed commendably and we all learned a little more about our strengths and weaknesses as Soldiers, Teams, and Leaders. Now, we are packing and
preparing our vehicles and equipment for movement to the Joint Readiness Training
Center in order to complete the necessary training that will ensure that we are fully
prepared for the rigors of our deployment.

Week in Review (May 02-08)

It was another week of training in a long series of weeks of training!

1st Platoon took their final days before Team Certifications and Evaluations and wrung every bit of training they could out of them. They went to the field on Tuesday, set up their systems and put into practice all of the training they've been working on over the past few weeks. They worked around the clock to maintain and troubleshoot their systems while simultaneously manning an Entry Control Point against simulated attacks, threats, and ordinary visitors.

2nd Platoon executed their individual training week and took things at a fast pace. They trained on all manner of Warrior Tasks and honed their skills. During the week, they also participated in IED (Improvised Explosive Device) training and came face to face with many of the types of explosives and devices they could encounter overseas. The realistic IED walkthrough also included simulated explosives and houses with hidden rooms. 2nd Platoon learned a great deal about the ins and outs of IEDs and what to look for and are now better prepared.

Next week begins 1st Platoon's evaluation week and it is sure to be a smoker. Bright and early Monday morning they will embark on a Combat PT course they are sure to remember. From there, they are out of the frying pan and into the fire for the rest of the week. 2nd Platoon will also begin their evaluations later in the week, so they have also been training hard.

Great work this week, Swampdogs.

Week in Review (April 26-30)

It was a good, hard, long week for the Swampdogs.

1st Platoon worked through their Individual Training in preparation for Team
Certifications. They trained on convoy skills; voice communications; entry control point (ECP) practice; searching vehicle and individuals for weapons, explosives, and contraband items; first aid; mounted and dismounted land navigation - and they didn't lose anyone (for long)! Next week will be another long, challenging week of Team Training where they will build and grow their teams to be the best. IED training and a mini-FTX (overnight) to train on 24-hour ops will test their endurance, survival skills, and ability to spot IEDs and their reaction to them.

2nd Platoon worked late into the nights to get through their SWITCHEX tasks and
completed everything ahead of schedule. This was one of the first opportunities the
Soldiers had to get their hands on their signal equipment since they came back for Iraq - and they made the most of it. They overcame some obstacles and learned some new troubleshooting techniques along with learning some lessons about logistics. Next week, they will be looking forward to Individual Training with land navigation and Army Warrior Tasks (AWT).

HQ held down the fort and kept everyone's administrative needs met. Often the HQ
section is forgotten in the hard work of the line platoons, but they work hard to keep Soldier pay issues down, to get Soldiers promoted, and to get awards complete. The motorpool has kept all of our vehicles and generators running smoothly.

The Company performed admirably during the Maintenance Terrain Walk in which the
Battalion hosted Brigadier General Brown on a tour of the facilities. Because the
Swampdogs are the only company deploying soon, they were the focus of BG Brown's
tour. SGT Sweeney explained in detail the operations and functions of the Phoenix
satellite vehicle and SPC Sadler received a coin from BG Brown for his hard work and
outstanding performance.

It was a great week to be a Swampdog!

Week in Review (April 18-24)

The week started off at a quick pace. First platoon dove right in SWITCHEX, setting up, testing, and learning their new signal equipment. Late nights made for realistic and developmental training for first platoon. They knocked out every task assigned to them at a faster pace than expected and set a high standard for second platoon next week.

Second platoon prepared their equipment and Soldiers for their SWITCHEX next week and
also managed to squeeze in some realistic VBS2 (Virtual Battle Space 2) convoy simulations. Next week will be another long week for the Soldiers of both platoons as first platoon goes out to the field for some individual training and second platoon begins their SWITCHEX.

All of this training will culminate with Team Certification week and will be put to the test during our JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Center) rotation at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Weeks in Review.

On April 05, 2010, I took Command of Bravo Company, 51st Signal Battalion. Using the FRG, I try to keep the Soldiers and families updated as to what is going on using various methods - including Facebook and a secure site. One of things I do is write a weekly update as to the activities the company has been involved in and what, in general, is going on. I figure some of the information and activities might also be of interest to people here, so how much extra work is it to cut and paste what's already written. I'll first post the back log of weeks, and then when I add an update, I'll be sure to share here also. This is just a head up. Most of the pictures are posted on the Facebook page which can be found by searching for, "Bravo Company, 51st Signal Battalion". If you have trouble, let me know.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Our Tsunami!

I keep getting behind on my updates!  It's not that I'm super-busy, it's just that by the time I get home, I'm ready to relax and take a break.
Last weekend, 26-28 February, was a great weekend!  We went over to the coast (Pacific Beach) on Friday.  We geocached along the way and had a lot of fun just getting there!  Once we were there, we were supposed to stay in a military resort hotel place that was perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, but they were booked solid so we found a little place down the street a few miles.  This place was called the Sandpiper Inn and it was fantastic.  Our room was a ground level room that face the ocean.  At high tide, the water was less than a football field away.  Our room itself was spartan - with a drop down bed, fireplace, and bathroom and not much else (including cell service!).  But it was nice to get away for a bit.
We met up with some friends and searched for a place to eat.  Contrary to what we'd been told, Pacific Beach closes down by 6pm and getting a decent bite to eat after that takes a 20 minute drive down to Ocean Shores (where the party lasts all night!  Or until about 9pm - whichever is earlier).  We had a great meal at the Homeport Restaurant - so much food that we needed two big take-home containers for it all.  It was fantastic.  We closed down the restaurant (at 9:30) and headed back up the coast.  On the way out, I had some food stuck in my tooth, so I used a toothpick to dig it out - and also managed to pop the top off of a filling.  I babied it until we got back to the hotel.  We dropped off our friends at their hotel and went back to our room for a nightcap of Mike's Hard Lemonade.  My tooth hole felt like the Grand Canyon, but it was really just a little bit indented.  I'll have to get it fixed sometime.  In our hotel room, we poured up drinks, started a fire in the fireplace, and layed down to enjoy the evening.  We promptly fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the ocean waves coming in for high-tide and the soft, steady sound of the logs cracking in the fire.
The next day we awoke and had some coffee on the front porch, overlooking the ocean.  It was there that our phones actually picked up a little reception and started pinging with all of the information we missed in the night.  I managed to find one spot in the room, up high on a window-sill, where our phones each had one bar of reception.  We layed back down to let the phones get caught up with everything.  After about 40 pings on Sarahann's phone, we gathered that something might be up.
Imagine our surprise when we found out that there had been a massive earthquake off the coast of Chili and that a tsunami was headed our way!  We quickly scoured all of the information we could find in order to determine the level of our peril.  After a lot of checking, we determined it was safe to stay and attend the chocolate festival up in Pacific Beach.  The tsunami wasn't due to arrive until the afternoon.
We went back up to Pacific Beach and found the place to be packed with cars and people milling around and a line running outside the local highschool (where the chocolate festival had to be moved because of the tsunami and weather).  We drove around town, looking for our friends to meet up with, but couldn't find them.  We guessed they went to the chocolate festival and so we found a nearby parking spot and got in line.  After a few minutes, our friends popped out of the festival!  They told us all about it, and we made plans to meet up a bit later. 
The chocolate festival was a big collection of booths and tables, with chocolatiers displaying their goodies and even letting us sample some.  Oddly enough, the only thing I found that I really needed from the chocolate festival was a violin.  Who sells violins at a chocolate festival?  Some guy from Oregon.  But they are refurbished violins and so they are cheap!  I don't know how to play the violin, but I think I just might have to learn.  I know how much good musical instruments cost, and the violin was a good one and the price was great.  Sarahann did manage to find some chocolate for us at the festival.  I got a violin.
After the festival, we met up with our friends, and walked the beaches, waiting for the tsunami!  As it turns out, the tsunami for our area was a whopping few inches - but we get to say we were there, none the less!
Our friends had a formal dinner to go to, so they got all dressed up and we decided to head down to Ocean Shores.  Along the way, we hit geocache after geocache!  It's always fun to see where they take you.  For one, I had to climb up in to the roots of a tree on a hillside, for another we had to sift through colored rocks, and for a couple others, we drove down the beach and searched through the dunes.  We failed to find two caches after extensive looking - and that is always frustrating.  Towards the end of our geocaching day, we happened upon a cache on a bridge.  It was supposed to be relatively easy - I mean, it was on a bridge, in the middle of a small pond near a high school, how hard could it be?  When we first walked up, we thought we knew right where it had to be - there were two large pipes coming out of the water anchoring the bridge in place.  We checked the pipes and found a pen!  We thought we had to be close.  One of the pipes had an aluminum can in it - facedown.  We've seen some tricky caches before, and we thought this might be one of them.  We started filling the pipe up in order to float the can to the top of the pipe.  When our hands couldn't get the job done, I took off my hat and dipped it into the water.  Somehow I managed to get it backwards and didn't make any progress on the task.  SA took the hat, filled it up and used the bill to pour water into the pipe.  It worked perfectly!  The can floated to the top and we pulled it out triumphantly!  And then we made our discovery - it was just a can, in a pipe.  Damn.  We kept searching.  It was starting to rain.
I pulled up the cache history on my phone, checking the back logs for some clue or hint, but everyone only mentioned how tricky the cache was.  Damn.  We checked under the bridge, used flashlights to reflect light underneath, and still came up empty.  Then we noticed that some of the support beans for the low rail were missing pins.  We started kicking them to see if they were loose.  Nothing budged.  Finally, we noticed that one of the blocks didn't fit the pattern of support for the bridge and investigated further.  After a bit of nudging, the block moved outward and revealed its secret!  It was a piece of wood that had been hollowed out and how held a plastic cache container.  Yay!  We found it!  Those kind are always the most satisfying finds.
As it got dark, we entered back into Ocean Shores for a Subway dinner and decided that it was time to get home.  On the way, we found some more caches, including one behind a Department of Transportation sign.  The strange thing is that there was also a shovel, full size, digging type, bolted to the back of the sign.  Weird.  I still don't know why it is there.  We made it home, safe and sound and ready for a relaxing Sunday.
Here's the short version of work last week:
I walked around the motorpool and company area with a big book of numbers going blind trying to figure out how many cables of what size go with which piece of equipment and making sure they are all still there.  Ta-da!
Now, if I just do this weekend's update soon, I won't be so far behind!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Last Week...

So I didn't anything yesterday or for a few days now.  I was tired.  Sheesh!
Last Tuesday:
For PT we had Staff PT, which means that the Battalion Staff gets together and does PT apart from the rest of the company for comraderie purposes.  We went upstairs, out of the slight chill and did some "Playing Card" PT.  Essentially, each suit of the deck is assigned an exercise - in our case it was Push-Ups, Diamond Push-ups, Flutter kicks, and Frog Kicks for Hearts, Diamonds, Spades, and Clubs respectively.  You do the number of repetions for each exercise based on the value of the card - Aces = 25, Face cards = 10, Jokers = 50.  The deck was poorly shuffled so all the hard cards (big numbers, face cards, etc) were at the top.  Everyone was good and smoked pretty quick.  For future use, I'd probably make one of the exercises into a stair run to add some cardio variety, but it wasn't my choice.
After PT, its coffee, shower, and drive in to work.  One of the things on the radio was about how everything is going "3-D."  I know things have advance a lot since the 80's when 3-D first tried to come out, but until you don't need glasses, I just don't see how it will ever make it into serious mainstream entertainment - especially for TVs.  I have enough trouble finding the damned remote (tangent - anyone know of a Universal remote that works the sound on the Yamaha Sound Bar?) much less trying to find my 3-D glasses to watch TV.  Good thought, I just don't see it happening anytime soon.
When I made it to work, I was immediately sucked into a mandatary CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) class.  We went over the different types of agents, what they do and the preventive measures for them.  We watched an old 1940s film about how nerve agents affect birds and goats.  First you twitch, then you twitch more, then you die.  Total time is less than 2 minutes.  The good news is that if you put your mask on, you can live!  Yay!  And maybe you can help your buddy who is a little slower on the draw.
On a side note, my Windows 7 Beta is about to expire - I suppose I better do something about that.
On Wednesday after the kids were off to school, I had some wonderful pancakes for breakfast and fresh coffee.  I took my lunch in a Scooby Doo soft box (its in my pictures).
The whole Washington State legislature bypassing the initiative that makes it harder to raise taxes irked me a lot.  They should all be fired (recalled).  I udnerstand they think they need to raise taxes and all, but setting aside laws that the people drew up and voted in is a complete smack in the face to the public.
I went to the 1SG's Course Graduation.  It was about what you'd expect from a typical Army school graduation ceremony.  Pomp and circumstance and a speaker.  Yay!
I spent the rest of Wednesday working on Training Slides with a headache.  It sucked. 
Thursday was actually better.  We had OPT in the morning and played a game like lacrosse without the sticks with nets on them.  Sarahann and I rushed through the morning putting together signal flags for the SGM who uses them as going-away presents. 
When I got to work, I had a PBO brief with the CW2 in charge of property so I would be prepared for the inventories that were coming up.  Then, I was going over the training slides and realized that someone had copied a bunch of useless crap over my good slides!  I thought I was going to have to recreate them, but it turned out they hadn't copied over the good slides, they had just added their crappy slides to my good ones.  I deleted them.
There is a horrendous low-pitch humm and rumble coming from the nearby construction site that quickly makes me naseous.
The training meeting went good, and I still hadn't developed the usual Thursday headache.  That was good.  Late in the day, I received a notice that we had to read a book for an upcoming OPD - "This Kind of War."  I downloaded it onto my Kindle and I suppose I'll start reading at some point.
At the training meeting I learned that the battalion has a higher than average rate of STDs.   
Coming up... a fantastic weekend!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Monday

Today I went in to work, ready for some PT!  I arrived early, ready and raring to go!  What did we do?  We all got into a nice little single file line and took a breathalyzer test, one at a time.  Because I was near the end of the line, it was towards the end of PT that I got to go.  No PT for me.  However, on the bright side, I wasn't drunk!  In fact, my BAC came back at .000!  I was looking around for some Scope to chug, but no one had a bottle nearby.

I came home, had some coffee with my lovely wife (who also made a fantastic sandwich for lunch), got dressed for work (which is never much of a challenge because I wear the same thing every day - not a lot of "style" choices in my line of work - "Which boots go with these ACUs?  Oh, that's right, the tan ones."), and headed back to keep all of you safe and secure (or at least the 180 I prefer today) for yet another day.  I hope you appreciated it.  Be good, or maybe you won't make the list tomorrow!

Monday is always the day we PMCS (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services) our military vehicles.  Basically, it consists of finding your humvee and going through the checklist to make sure everything is still working good and not leaking.  No one ever has enough of the actual checklists, so most people just do it from memory - and their memory sucks.  I downloaded the manual to both my Kindle and my Droid so I could still do a good PMCS.  I prefer to use the Kindle because its a bit bigger, but in a pinch, the Droid will get the job done.  Anyhow, as I reached for my Kindle once I got to work, I realized I had left it at home.  Damn.  My Kindle is like my security blanket - it keeps me company and I know that I can always count on it.  It's my notebook, my entertainment, and my last resort for communication - it is my safety net.  And I left it at home.

I managed to get through the PMCS without it - checking the tires, the oil, the air filter, and everything else on the Humvee.  I always get a bit leery when checking the parking brake because the test is to put the Humvee in drive and make sure it doesn't move.  Soldiers always stand in front of the Humvee and if the brake fails, they could get injured.  I suppose it would be good to warn them, but they probably wouldn't believe someone was actually going by the book anyway, so what's the point.  The parking brake works fine in my humvee.  My drive belt is frayed and my batteries need some distilled water - but because the mechanics don't have any of those things around, they never get fixed.

Once the humvee was done, we still had to hang out - why?  I don't know, but we do.  I think it's to make sure people stay and do a good job.  Around 11:00, I headed back to the office.  Mondays aren't usually too stressful, and this morning was no exception.  I checked my emails, answered one, and then tried to figure out where exactly to start training my replacement.  

After awhile, I decided to go over to main post to see if I could get my tires replaced.  I have Bridgestone Dueler REVOs with a 50k warranty.  I have 32k or so on them, so I went to the Firestone dealer to see what they could do.  They can give me the remaining mileage as a percentage off - which brought the price down to about $750.  I know I can get comparable tires for less - at Discount Tire - so I passed.  Now I found out that Discount Tires also sells the REVOs, so I may try and get a better deal from them.  If that doesn't work, I'll just go with the Hankook RF10s and call it good.  Tires are so damned expensive!  Although, I guess the fact that these REVOs lasted over three years and numerous trips across country, in all sorts of weather, and not always on the road (check the Flickr account for some of the fun times the tires have been through).  They've been good tires.

When I got back to work, I warmed up my awesome sandwich and got back to work.  We had to do a meeting at 1:30pm for a Counter IED brief and then a SwitchEx, MRX, CTE discussion.  Basically, we're planning the upcoming team certifications and exercises for the companies - which is to say we're planning our own certifications and exercises because two of the three people doing the majority of the planning are taking Command of the companies they are planning for.

After work, I rushed over to Amber's second soccer game and watched as they lost 1-0.  Their problem is obvious - all of their players play on the defensive side of the field.  Their forwards don't stay forward and let the defenders and mid-fielders do their damned jobs.  The girls bunch up like Kindergartners, but don't run as fast.  The poor forwards are running the length of the field over and over again and so have no energy to do anything with the ball once they do manage to get somewhere near the other goal.

Finally, I made it home just in time to take Cody back to WalMart and get his glasses.  As we were pulling out of the driveway, we saw the UPS truck coming down the road.  I told Cody that the UPS truck had Amber's phone - and I laughed.  About halfway to the store, I got a call from Sarahann.  In the background I hear a moaning/wailing noise.  She tells me I need to talk to Amber.  Amber gets on the phone and is making some sort of strange noise kind of like a Jewish mother at the wailing wall in Jerusalem.  She says something about getting her phone, which I tell her is definitely a traumatic event.  She was upset because although she had her phone, she couldn't do anything with it until I activated it.  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  She bawled and wailed.  I even sent very special tweets (via twitter) to make her think I was going to be out even longer!  Mwhahahaha.  When I got home, she was composed again and I activated her phone.

Today I also learned that has great customer service.  I don't buy much from them, maybe one thing every couple of months, so when I ordered some headphones, I forgot to make sure my address had been updated from Montana to Washington.  When the headphones didn't arrive, I checked the tracking number and found that they had been delivered - to Montana.  I emailed and explained the situation and told them that I may have given them the wrong address.  What did they do?  Tell me I was SOL?  Nope.  They said, ok, no problem, we'll send another set out right away - to your new address.  What great people.

You know what I heard about today?  "Safety Dogs."  Apparently, regular hot dogs are just the perfect size to choke kids.  Now some politician is going around saying that whoever comes up with a "safety dog" will be able to make a hefty sum of money on it.  Safety dogs.  Really?  

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lazy Sunday

I love lazy Sundays!  This morning we woke up to a quiet house - all the kids were asleep.  I made some coffee and relaxed on the front porch, with the morning sun on my back while I browse'sd the news.  

I see that General Petreaus is saying that the Marjah fight in Afghanistan is just the beginning of a larger campaign.  I hope they get moving - It'd be nice to have all of that unpleasantness straightened out before my vacation to the area.

Finally, I got to work and inputted all of my Jeep maintenance information into my online database.  Then I got to thinking about my tires - I need new tires, but I think I might be able to get some new tires cheaper because my current tires are still within their 50k warranty.  Tomorrow, I'll go to the Bridgestone store on post and see what they can do for me.

I played some baseball with Carmen this morning while still in my jammies.

We're also considering buying our house and trying to figure out the best way to get the process started.  The owner wants to sell, but we need to find a good lender first.  We're not really sure how to best implement our VA benefits, so we'll need to get some help in that area.

Later we took the kids to the mall and dropped them off.  We took Carmen and did some shopping at Costco and found some geocaches around town.  We grabbed some lunch at Arby's and met the kids at Border's Book Store.  Carmen picked out a book by Miley Cyrus - I figure that she's 7 - that's probably about Miley's writing level.  Just kidding, I don't know how well Miley can write - they words looked easy enough for Carmen to read.

Before we went to the mall, we caught some cachers at our geocache!  They had a small boy with them who wasn't quite enthralled with the idea of having to "trade" any of his treasures for the treasures in the cache.  Sarahann came to the rescue and hooked him up with a St. Patrick's Day pencil to quell the tears.  It's always nice to introduce new cachers to the sport!

Now, we're back home, watching some Olympic Hockey and getting ready for a wonderful smelling pot roast dinner!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A day, and a Bloated, Festering Head

The day started off like my favorite weekends do - with sleeping in.  After that, we only had to get ready for the kids Girl Scout meeting.  It was a nice relaxing morning.  Cody played in the living room (Xbox I think), Amber hoarded the computer, and Emily and Carmen played with friends.  All very good.  Because the Girl Scout meeting was down in Du Pont, it was also very near to a geocache that we'd been told was one we had to find - the Bloated Festering Head.

This is the tale of that adventure:

I had heard about this for too long to not go after it.  We had planned on dropping the kids off at Girl Scouts and heading out to conquer this cache.  Girl Scouts was cancelled, but we decided to go after it anyway.  Two of the kids were brave enough to give it a shot, but the oldest just wanted to hang out in the Jeep.  First we found a Cache with a Porpoise and continued up the road to find the way into the marsh for BFH.  Luckily, we ran into another cacher who told us that the entrance to BFH was back behind us and if we continued on, it would be much harder.

Our first try down a trail was hard, wet and muddy.  After about 350 feet into the marsh, we decided it was probably not the right path and we headed back to our start point.  The kids were tired, wet and cold, but we hadn't come that far to give up!  I started down the next trail - which seemed clearer, but wetter.  In comparison to the first trail we tried, it was a clear path!  I plowed through the "trail," sometimes even getting up to a jogging pace - I wanted to be in and out before the sun went down.  Water was usually up to my calf and my knees were in no danger of staying dry, but it was still about 10x easier than the first trail.

I found the Head without trouble and happily started back towards the trail-head, full of joy and proud of how easily I had found the cache.  I clipped my GPS back on my hip and started back down the trail.  I tromped through the water and the brush for a few minutes before the nagging feeling that I might have taken a wrong turn made me unclip the GPS and take a look.

No amount of $#!#&%$( could fairly express the stream of obscenities that escaped my lips as I saw that I had gone the wrong way at some point.  I decided to try and cut across the brush back to the main trail - all the while, the words of the friendly cachers we met on the trail earlier echoed in my mind, "... make sure you take the same way back out as you did in... "  After a few more minutes of bush-whacking towards what I thought was the right path, I checked my GPS again.  SOAB!  I discovered I had gotten turned around and was going the wrong way! %$&#$*&

I had come so far in the wrong direction, it was actually closer to head straight for the trail head than it was to go back to the Head - and it looked like the path we had originally taken (the 10x harder one), was only a hundred feet or so ahead of me.  And the trail head itself, where everyone was waiting for me, was only 450 feet away.  In a moment of desperation, I decided to suck it up and push through the heavy brush.  That was probably a mistake.  At some points, I was pushing brush down in front of me with my walking stick, and at other times I was nearly climbing trees and hacking down brush with the stick.

(even now as I type this, I'm literally pulling twigs out of my hair, my shirt, and my pants)

The lowest point of my adventure came when I saw what looked like a break in the brush and I headed for it.  When I got to it, I was crushed to discover that it looked like a stream approximately 15 feet across and deep enough that my stick wouldn't reach the bottom.  %$*($#@%.

I called (yelled) back to my wife, whom I knew was waiting patiently for me under the trees I could see not more than 400 feet away.  So close, yet so far.  When I called, she answered, her voice lifting my spirits and chasing away the despair of being lost - even in such a small marsh.  Knowing I couldn't cross the stream without a swim (which my phone wouldn't survive), I backtracked a bit and tried again to cut across to the trail.  It was rough going, but now that I was using the GPS, each foot closer to my objective was a breath of fresh air.  I climbed trees, crushed brush, flailed and wrenched my body through branches and fought for each foot of my escape.  Finally, with one last push through heavy brush, I dropped down into the familiar trail that we had first come down.  Although I knew it wasn't an easy exit, I knew which way to go.  After a few more minutes of "hiking," I found my family again.  Whew.  I was out of breath, but happy.

For me, the adventure wasn't in finding the cache, but getting back out!  Next time, I'll bring the family along to the Head, so they can make sure I go back the way I came!


Now, we're back home, safe and found, and yes, I'm still pulling twigs out of my clothes.
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