Land Nav, Urban Close Quarters Combat, and Army Combatives

Yesterday we did day and night land navigation for official validation. We were issued a map, compass, grid protractor (used to plot points on a military map), and a PLGR (Precision Lightweight Global Positioning Receiver). I was told that there are newer PLGR's in theater because I complained how inferior they are to my Garmin E-Trex in every respect (speed in acquiring a signal, user friendliness). Needless to say, we did program the PLGR with all the points we had to find but we also used our Garmins. Garmins are much easier to use.

Today we did Urban Close Quarters Combat (CQC). We learned how to clear rooms, enter buildings, move between buildings, and go up stairs. I weighed myself today with all my gear (helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, body armor, pistol, rifle, pouches, empty magazines, and a three liter camelback with one liter of water) and I am humping about 50 pounds of gear give or take five pounds. I was literally running and jumping through doors, up and down stairs, and between buildings with more weight then I humped during my basic training! The scary thing is that I was not carrying any live ammo, which is extremely heavy.

Tomorrow we are going to finish our CQC training. It will be more challenging because they are adding OPFOR (bad guys) and COB's (Civilians on the Battlefield) to the mix. Oh yeah, and blank ammo. We would have used the special paint ammo but they ran out of money.

I failed to mention in the previous post that we recieved our first block of instruction in Army Combatives. On Saturday we get our second block. According to the instructors, the Army wanted a fighting system that can be taught easily to large amounts of people effectively and is easy to learn. Gross motor skills, nothing too fancy, and that can be utilized by anyone no matter what size and strength.

They looked at Muy Thai, Judo, Ju Jit Su, Kali Silat, and Kempo. The Army sent people to study under the Gracie brothers in Brazil. The Army has always had some form of hand to hand combat instruction. Now, for the first time in the Army's history, the Army has a fighting system with written doctrine to go with it.

From the training I received so far, I am very impressed. The stuff I learned this past week I was already familiar with due to my past training at the American Martial Arts Academy in Jefferson City. We all received a pretty good work out and the Army instructors were on target.

The Army's Chief of Staff wants every soldier in the Army to be trained in Army Combatives. It is about time the Army got serious about hand to hand. Wars are not won by pushing buttons; the soldier on the ground closing with and destroying the enemy wins them. The confidence a soldier gains through Army Combatives gives the soldier more options on how to handle any given situation. Army Combatives, plus the training we received today and will receive tomorrow in Close Quarters Combat gives us all the edge we need to instantly switch from being a desk jockey to a line Infrantry Soldier.

Warfare is too fluid to have a front line. A Marine General said that today we have the two block war. In two blocks, you can have a squad taking control of a building, another squad in a vicious firefight in a street, another squad rendering humanitarian assistance, and yet another squad diffusing a confrontation between two warring militias.

I feel the Army is doing a pretty good job of getting us ready to go down range. I am gratified in seeing that in close to twenty years of service, the Army is finally getting it right in what we all need as soldiers. Too bad it took 9-11 to get that process in gear.

CPT NightHawk


What a Week

I finally have some free time. I am doing my laundry now and taking this opportunity to compose this post.

We accomplished quite a bit since my last post. We qualified with our weapons (9mm Beretta pistol and M16A2 Assault Rifle), received additional training on using our rifles in close quarters combat, received familiarization with three different machine gun systems (5.56mm M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, 7.62mm M240B Machine Gun, and the .50 cal M2 Machine Gun). We conducted firing exercises during the day and night with our rifles and the machine guns. We also tested our protective masks by wearing them into gas chamber full of CS (tear gas).

Interspersed with all the shooting we received additional gear (tactical vests with all the pouches, nomex/kevlar gloves, boots, polartec fleece, a new helmet, two hydration systems, and silk long underwear). We received this equipment after we officially qualified with our primary weapons. It would have been really nice that we had this equipment when we qualified so we can train as we fight but that would make too much sense for the Army.

For the record, I qualified Expert with my pistol and rifle. However, I would have had a much easier time if I had my new equipment. The old Kevlar helmet doesn't work well with the body armor we are wearing. Everytime I squeezed off a shot with my rifle I was banging the front of my helmet on the rear sight housing to get the helmet above my eyes. You can imagine how challenging this can get when you have to engage two targets at once!

About the body armor. The vest is heavy. It gets much heavier when you insert the ceramic plates. Add on the pouches that hold all the ammo and it gets even more heavy. Now, imagine crawling in and out of foxholes and moving around in general. I felt like an old man that could barely move! One adjustment I had to make on my shooting technique is that you have to square your body to your target. Typically I stand practically sideways when I am shooting a rifle. There are no ceramic plates on the sides, only the front and back. So, in close quarters shooting, you snap up the rifle and shoot while you square your body. If you should get shot, the ceramic plate will take the hit. I hope it all works.

Once we were done with all the shooting, we went into classes. We received a short introduction to Dari (one of the languages of Afghanistan), classes on what is Islam, the culture of Afghanistan, using translators, how the media works, and a boat load of first aid. I gave a class on risk managment. We finally got our desert uniforms back from the alterations shop (all our patches had to be sewn on) and started wearing them.

Monday was a day off (I finally got to eat at a restaurant in Colorado Springs). Today we had classes on land navigation, using the radio, and using the Army's GPS device. Tomorrow we actually will go to a land nav course which we will do during the day and at night. It is supposed to get much cooler tomorrow which I am looking forward to. I am pretty much tired of the heat.

CPT NightHawk


Getting Busy

Today we started training on the ranges. For the next week I will not be getting back to the billets until after 2130 Hrs (9:30 PM). Needless to say, comms will be spotty for the next week.

I will post when I can , but don't expect anything for the next week.

CPT NightHawk


Charlie Foxtrot, More Briefings, and Land Navigation

Yesterday was a perfect example of why sometimes it is a bad idea to place more and more work in federal civilian employment as opposed to having soldiers or contractors do it.

Yesterday I had to do three things. I had to go see the ear doctor, draw equipment, and complete some paperwork. The ear doctor and the paperwork went without a hitch, mainly because I was dealing with military personnel. The fiasco started once I had to turn in my medical records and when I had to draw equipment.

First the medical records. No one mentioned that once I turned in my records I needed check sheet. One station said I needed a profile and another said I was good to go. Without the profile, I was dead in the water. The one station actually changed my deployment status in order for me to get through the other station. I went from "deployable with limitations, must take Rx" to "deployable without limitations". The upshot is that I did have a profile but the one station couldn't see it but the other station had no way of getting it on the checksheet!!!

Next was drawing my equipment. The rest of the unit had pretty much completed their equipement draw by the time me and two others were done with medical. First, we were told that we were in the wrong place and we had to go one door down. We did that and were told by a fork lift operator that everyone was gone to lunch and to be back in 30 minutes. We left and were told that there are people back there and we needed to go back.

We didn't have to draw much equipment. It amazes me that we were drawing equipment that ranged in quality from brand new to piss poor. The duffle bags had paint all over them from the last soldier that used them. I did get brand new boots, body armor, and desert uniforms and gore tex parka and pants. Everything else was used but in servicable condition.

About my desert camo uniforms (DCU's), to my utter amazement I was issued winter weight tops and summer weight bottoms. For those not familiar with Army Regulations, it against reg's to mix winter and summer weight uniforms. I asked about this and was told that that was all they had and the commanding general waived the reg. One of my colleagues asked which CG, the one for Ft. Carson or the one we will be working for in Afghanistan?

That is not all of it. The rest of the unit had their horror stories as well. Many of the soldiers were forced to take boots that didn't fit and were forced to take uniforms one size larger. The civilians were haranguing our soldiers to take them because those were all they had. This was utter bullshit.

These civilians failed to recognize that we are their customers and we are the reason they have a fucking job! Try pulling that crap at Walmart, Target, or any retailer and you will be shit canned in a heart beat. Needless to say the soldiers in our outfit are pretty pissed.

Today, our supply officer had a "discussion" with the director of the equipment issue people. We sent our soldiers that had size issues back and what a difference a "discussion" makes. Needless to say, everyone was really polite and an extra effort was made to find stuff that fit. Some of our soldiers that got the wrong sized boots got boots that not only fit, but were top of the line (Gore Tex lined, Vibram lug sole). The running joke is that those boots were snatched from the stock reserved for the Special Forces types! The upshot is that the boots that were issued us range in price from $88 to $200!

This morning we attended briefings that we already had back in Jefferson City. Why go through this again? Because Ft. Carson has its checklist of briefings we have to have and we will not deploy without attending those briefings. It didn't matter that we busted our tails laying on those briefings back in Jefferson City. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), Tricare, Army Emergency Relief, Red Cross, Continuing Education. Total waste of time.

This afternoon we conducted land navigation training. Best part of the day. We were given three grid coordinates. We plotted them on the map and then entered them manually in our Garmin GPS devices. We then took a waypoint with our Garmins then plotted it on the map. We figured what the azimuth was to our first point on the map, shot an azimuth with the compass, then took off. We only used our Garmins to verify we found the right point.

We found the first point no problem. We then about two hundred and fifty meters to a road and a fence. We guessed where we were on the map without using our Garmins to verify our position and shot an azimuth. We were off quite a bit. After walking six hundred meters and not finding our second point, we whipped out our Garmins to get us back on track.

I have always been weak on land navigation. Today I realized it was because I wasn't good at getting a good fix on my position. The first point we found no problem because we shot our azimuth from a point that was verified using the Garmin GPS. The second point we botched because we tried to do it without verifying our starting point with the Garmin.

Lesson for today? I am pretty good at land navigation, as long as I use my Garmin to give me a good fix on my start point. My confidence in my land navigation abilities is much greater today than it was yesterday.

Tomorrow we are going to get our first orientation on range operations. Sunday is a day off. Next week we start shooting. Can't wait! I would be in the Army for free if I could just be on the ranges all week!

CPT NightHawk


Thanks Nancy!

Today started out pretty rough. We did a diagnostic APFT. We are about 5500 feet higher here than we are back home and I really felt it this morning. I will have to do extra PT on the side to get my endurance built up or I will really suck wind in country.

After we ate breakfast and cleaned up we conducted training on our personally owned GPS devices. After lunch in the afternoon we conducted training on how to call in a Medevac and pistol familiarization (take downs, clearing, maintenance).

I want to talk about GPS devices. We have been told that these, coupled with a traditional lensatic compass and a map could save our lives. For example, we can use the GPS device to fix where we are, then use the compass to figure out where the enemy is, estimate distance to the enemy, then call it in for a fire mission (artillery or mortars) or CAS (close air support). Many soldiers we have talked to that served in Afghanistan will tell you that their GPS device literally saved their ass.

I have been using mine on the family ranch so I was already pretty familiar with it. I have a Garmin E-trex Venture. Many of my fellow soldiers just recently bought theirs and did not know how to set a waypoints, create routes, or set their devices up for easy navigation. I kinda became the ad hoc Garmin instructor because the instructor for the class owned a Magellan.

Needless to say, everyone in our outfit is much more comfortable with their GPS devices. The next level of training is we will give them the grid coordinates. They will ID them on a map and plug them into their GPS devices. They will then create a route and then walk the route.

Nancy, my mother in law, gave me an REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) gift card for Christmas one year and I used it to buy a water filter and my Garmin E-Trex Venture.



Paperwork and Shots

Today we conducted an SRP (Soldier Readiness Processing). Basically, the mob site personnel look at your records and square them away.

Stuff like your insurance, next of kin notification, legal (wills and powers of attorney), and pay are checked. You also go through medical screenings like optometry, audiology, bloodwork, immunizations, and dental.

I got my first Anthrax shot today (the first of many) and Smallpox. Thankfully, all the shots I recieved on my last deployment (seven!!) were in a database and I had my little yellow shot record to back that up.

The smallpox vaccination is interesting. We have to change a bandage every day and be very careful about the seepage from the shot site becaue the seepage is very contagious. We are not supposed to touch, scratch, rub, get wet, or molest in any way the smallpox injection site. They showed us pictures of people who did not follow those rules (nasty!). I wonder how we were able to vaccinate a bunch of kids in the past without causing a major outbreak!!

I was concerned about my ear (I suffer from Meniere's Syndrome and I have to wear a hearing aid). They classified me as a GO on deployment but still set me up with an appointment with the ENT specialist to update my records.

Tomorrow morning at 0600 we will be taking a diagnostic Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). I feel like crap now because of the shots. According to the medics, my arm the got the anthrax shot will be hurting. I foresee excruciating pain and agony when I am doing my push-ups!

CPT NightHawk


What's Ft. Carson Like?

Ft. Carson sits in the shadow of Cheyenne Mountain. The running joke is that if we get to go on a tour of NORAD (located in Cheyenne Mountain), we just might be able to see the Stargate:) (for those of you who don't know what I am talking about, there is a show on the SciFi channel called Stargate SG-1).

We went on a road march today to help us get acclimated to the high altitude and low humidity. We only went three miles and we weren't wearing full battle rattle (no body armor or helmet but we did wear our load bearing vest (LBV) and pistol holsters).

It is definitely dry here. After 10 minutes of walking my mouth was totally parched. After 15 minutes, I was starting to feel the altitude. No problem, just suck down the water and drive on.

One of the interesting features of Ft. Carson is the huge number of prairie dog warrens by the roads. It is quite comical watching them pop up and down. They have no fear at all. Yesterday I saw two of them copulating in the middle of the oncoming lane of traffic!

CPT NightHawk


Why I Fight

The following post is a reprint of an article that appeard in the dioceson newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese for Missouri headquartered in St. Louis . The article appeared in the spring of 2003 before the invasion of Iraq. The article was edited by the newspaper because of the mixed audience that reads it. It is shown here in its original form.

Article follows:

Why I Fight

All I have been hearing of late is how many of my fellow Episcopalians in the diocese are against any action against Iraq. I wanted to write this letter so people back home know what kind of work I have been doing during my mobilization to illustrate the point that we in the military are not warmongering pro-consuls of Pax America. I also want to let people back home hear my opinions on why Saddam Hussein must be directly confronted.

Right now I am in Kosovo serving with USKFOR (US Kosovo Force) as part of Operation Joint Guardian. We are here to provide a safe and secure environment for all the people who live here. We are keeping the peace here after NATO pummeled Belgrade, the Yugoslav Army, and Slobodan Milosevic for seventy-eight days from the air. NATO did this because the international community did not want a repeat of the disaster that occurred in Bosnia where thousands of Bosnjacs were killed not far from UN troops.

The United States could have told Europe that you are all on your own. There weren’t any Serbians, Bosnjacs, Croats, or Albanians hijacking American planes. There wasn’t a clear national self-defense interest. The United States took charge because we as a nation could not allow the bloodshed to continue in the Balkans. Women were violated wholesale, children were butchered, and men and boys were rounded up and annihilated. All because one man, Slobodan Milosevic, made a power grab and actively encouraged the brutality.

The United States took the lead in the Balkans through NATO because the Europeans themselves proved unwilling or unable due to historical baggage. The United States brokered the Dayton Accords that stopped the killing in Bosnia. The United States, through NATO, prosecuted a war without UN approval against Slobodan Milosevic to stop him from wreaking havoc in Kosovo. NATO took the lead because this conflict was also threatening to spill beyond the borders of Kosovo and draw Greece, Turkey, and Russia into conflict, which could have been disastrous for the European continent.

We went in to Afghanistan because the Taliban government was aiding and abetting Al-Queda. We sought a resolution from the United Nations and got one. The United States did not go into Afghanistan as conquerors intent on creating a protectorate; we went in to destroy Al-Queda and its supporters. Once the Taliban government fell, we actively worked with the international community to set up an Afghan government. You may have honest criticism about how we are conducting operations there now. To be frank, there are things I think we should be doing differently in Afghanistan now that the Afghan government is struggling to get on its feet. However, you can’t accuse my fellow soldiers that are over there now that they are conquerors. They see themselves as liberators and peacekeepers.

Right now we are poised on the brink of war against the country of Iraq. It is more accurate to say that we are going to war against Saddam Hussein. Milosevic and Hussein share some common traits. They are both megalomaniacs. Both are responsible for the rape of countless women (Hussein personally raped many women himself). Both have wiped out entire families. Both have countenanced systematic brutality. Serbian partisans have shot babies in the head because the families weren’t moving out of their villages fast enough. Hussein’s minions have raped and tortured daughters and wives in front of their fathers and husbands to coerce them.

Based on the standards we applied to the Balkans, we as a nation can rightly go in and take care of Saddam Hussein. If we decided as a nation to take down Slobodan Milosevic without so much as a by your leave from the United Nations, why not take down Saddam Hussein and free his people of his tyranny? Out of all the dictators and tin pot rulers on this planet, why bother with him?

There is an obvious element that the Balkans does not share with Iraq. Saddam Hussein has shown a propensity for gathering weapons of mass destruction. He actively works with terrorist organizations that want to wipe the United States off of the planet. He has failed to keep up his end of the cease-fire that was brokered after the first Gulf War, a war he started by invading and sacking Kuwait. The United Nations told him that he could live as long as he disarms. So far he has not done so. The revenue from the oil that he has been allowed to sell was used for weapons instead of medicine for the people of Iraq. Saddam Hussein is a scourge that the planet could do well without.

I am sure that many of you have heard these arguments before. They bear repeating, especially when placed in contrast with what we have done in the Balkans. I am confused as to why the work I am doing in Kosovo is considered peacekeeping yet the work my fellow soldiers are doing in Afghanistan and may be called to do in Iraq is called warmongering. This is the third time I have served overseas. The first time I went to Panama and built culverts and roads. The second time I went to Panama again and I was building an addition to a schoolhouse. The third time I am keeping the peace in Kosovo. All I have basically done for the Army overseas is humanitarian assistance work and peacekeeping. I would argue that my fellow soldiers posted in South Korea and Afghanistan are also peacekeepers. As were all the soldiers that were posted to Europe during the height of the Cold War. The soldiers who defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were liberators as well as peacekeepers.

I have been trained to fight and win the wars of the United States. These wars are not for imperial conquest. If the US Army were to be used as an agent of conquest, I will resign my commission in a heart beat. I serve because I firmly believe that the United States Army as an institution is a guardian of the free peoples of the world. When we go abroad, we bring our values with us.

When you ask a child here in Kosovo what he or she wants to be when they grow up, they want to grow up and be a USKFOR soldier. Not a soldier from the other countries that are assigned to our sector, they want to be an American Soldier! They see us in such a favorable light because we mean what we say, we deliver what we say we deliver, we treat everyone fairly, and they see people of diverse ethnic backgrounds working together.

Soldering is a tough business. The reward is seeing that a war fought to protect the homeland can have the effect of liberating an oppressed people from tyranny. Our country is unique in that we are a free people that when we make a stand, we stand shoulder to shoulder and go forth as liberators, not conquerors.

Like most Episcopalians, I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve. Yet I believe that being an American Soldier is something that I have been called to do. I take my duties as a husband and father very seriously and I really should be home with my expectant wife and young son. However, part of those duties is to protect hearth, home, and country. As a soldier, if I can bring peace, stability, and freedom to oppressed peoples of the world, my family and my friends will be much safer. When my boys grow up and they ask about what I did as a soldier, I can look them straight in the eye and say I was doing the work of the Lord. I was protecting our family from harm, I was liberating people from oppression, I was keeping the peace.

Article ends.

I reprinted this to show that I am pretty much doing what I have done in the past and feel the same way. I am a liberator and a peacekeeper. If killing a few haji's keeps the peace, then I am all for it.

Another reason is to show the original arguments that I made. In the article printed last spring, my graphic arguments were watered down which were not as compelling as a result.

Again, soldering is tough business. I am good at it and proud of it.

CPT NightHawk


The Adventure Begins

Well, I am very new at this. I am establishing this blog so friends and family can keep track of what I am doing on this deployment.

Today we are traveling to our mobilization station to get validated for Afghanistan. I am part of a 65 man element from the Missouri National Guard.

This is not my first deployment. I was deployed to the 1st IO Command in Ft. Belvoir, VA for one year back in 2003 and I served in Kosovo.

I wil try to keep this up to date. One caveat. Due to the sensitive nature of my work, I may not be able to post everything that I do until well after the fact.

I hope that the people that read this blog enjoy it.

CPT Nighthawk