Road Marching (is) For Dummies

Filed under: — lana @ 1:35 pm

For the past three years I have taken it upon myself to organize joint events between my Company (and assorted others, since for some reason I can never get enough people from our limited personnel resources together at one time) and the German Bundeswehr. Usually it is fun days of guns, glory, and sometimes simulated assaults on Vietnam-looking forests.

Today, however, it was a road march.

There is what is called a German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge, or GAFPB. I have no urge, nor a need, for one, but officers can wear it and ammunition for shooting expeditions is expensive. I therefore decided to take the time to try and help organize one for some of my company. The primary event in the GAFPB is a road march. Participants strap on a 25 pound or so rucksack and head out for various distances along German roads. The maximum is 30 kilometers for a men’s gold award.

I am not competing, as I prefer my German marksmanship award, so I said I would ruck with the people in the rear and provide a ground safety element. That meant start out with the slowest, who usually only ruck 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) and then catch up with and finish with the fastest, who usually ruck 30 kilometers (about 18 miles).

I decided at the last minute to wear trusty boots that have never given me blisters before. The furthest I have gone in them, which did not occur to me at the time, is 10 kilometers. They were not so trusty today. Thank goodness for safety pins and alcohol pads and not being too squeamish to spill my own fluids. But enough about that, particularly since not all are as un-squeamish (not really a word) as I.

The boots were the least of my problems. Oh, I went out with the people that do shorter marches and prodded one particularly demoralized Soldier who had been cajoled into the whole affair by his Special-Forces-Candidate-and-Supervising-Coporal to complete the minimum distance. But I traded bags with him at one point and discovered that he had a series of weights in the pack, one of which had slipped and jabbed you in the base of the spine every seven steps. I counted: seven every time. I did fix it for him by the time he reached his turn-around point at 10 kilometers, but have a bruise the size of Madagascar (and roughly the same shape, if sideways) on my lower back by now.

They slowed me down a bit, so I had to catch up to the other Soldiers who were now several kilometers ahead. I met the trail end of the party about 4 kilometers later and turned to walk back with them.

I was at kilometer 18 when I realized that my foot was not in its socket, probably from the three times I had rolled it over the course of the march. The boots I wore, as I then recalled from the last time I had marched in them, are not as strong in the ankle as my new ones.

This is when common sense set in and when a Bundeswehr truck rolled by I hopped in for a lift forwards a bit. He schlepped me about 6 kilometers until we came upon my warrant officer, who is not quite used to physical training these days and was trying to figure out how to avoid throwing up, or at least how to avoid getting caught throwing up and put on a truck for dehydration. I hopped back out and opted to ruck the last 4 kilometers with him, common sense left behind once again as is my way.

I rolled my ankle again, which had the benefit of popping my foot back where it belonged, though my surprised and happy comment about such was met with my warrant officer asking me not to talk anymore as I was hurting his brain and that he now had confirmed I was, in fact, an idiot. He then almost threw up, so I wandered ahead to wait for him at the top of that hill. I made it, pestering him and humming Journey tunes, until about half a kilometer from the finish line when another Bundeswehr truck passed, which he stopped and asked them to take me again. They did.

My feet are now elevated, I took medication for my head and shoulders and legs and toes, and iced my bruised back. Everything is back in order.

That return to order includes my final dumb move of the day, which was to agree to do this all again in about three weeks.

I figure next time, I will wear my other boots and be just fine. My warrant figures that maybe next time I will realize the error of my ways.

How little he knows me…


The Problem With Germans

Filed under: — lana @ 12:26 pm

I think I figured out the problem with Germans today:

It is impossible for them to play a reasonable game of Scrabble. This has clearly driven them insane.

There is a word posted at our front gate, and most gates to various national and international bases in the country, that I maintain should not be posted at the location because people will get into car accidents trying to read it. I counted it at 23 letters. Impossible to fit on a Scrabble board. Most of their long words are combinations of shorter words, so it is possible to spell in seven or eight letter incremental add-ons, but the board is just plain not big enough, nor are there enough letters. Particularly the “V”. Germans like those, as well as “S”, “Y”, and “F”. “Q” will still have to sit this one out and have to wait for the Arabic version.

Today I was editing a report which involved an open meeting which was quite possibly over 30 letters long. One would have to tape together multiple Scrabble boards in order to even attempt to build the thing. Put it on a triple word score and it may as well be game over, especially given the “V”s and “Z”s.

My local national regularly amuses himself on our long car rides to various locations by talking to me about inane topics, and frequently translates portions of our conversation into German. I am unsure yet if this is for his general amusement or my general torture, though I am beginning to suspect the latter. His favorite part is to say something in English regarding an agency or some military event or some such and then say, “In German, the so-called…” and then insert random syllables of umlauts and grunts. He then, no matter how often this happens, mistakes my pained look for questioning confusion and repeats himself slowly, as though encouraging me to learn whatever word it is that I would have no reason to ever use in a sentence again. I usually interrupt him about halfway through the word (about 6 syllables or so) to tell him I really don’t care and to just continue on before I forget what we were talking about in the first place.

He finds this insanely funny, and will then tell other Germans that we meet about it. I have told him that this is how wars start, but he never listens. Yesterday, luckily, the person he was trying to tell was more interested in telling me all about a previous deployment he had with my local national years ago, when my local national (a marathon runner) decided to ask to run up the side of a mountain outside of the safe areas as “A birthday present.” The scariest part was that his command let him. He still defends it to this day, though I pointed out it would be like me telling my team leader that I wanted to head to Fallujah from Baghdad and saying, “Nah, don’t mind me, I’ll just walk.”

Clearly, he is a man in need of a Scrabble set for his birthday this year.


Back in Action

Filed under: — lana @ 12:51 pm

Okay, right. So turns out when you are getting something for free, a recession really might put a cramp in your style when the free-ness makes no money and goes bankrupt. And when that free-ness is, say, a blog taking up server space, sometimes there is unexpected down time when bankrupt happens.

But my loving and compassionate friends who know WAY more about computers than I do (and actually make use of their very expensive educations instead of running off to join the military like i did) got it all fixed, so back in action now. As soon as I am less lazy (and have not the 14 hour day that I had today) I will update with the notes I took over the past month or so, backdating accordingly.

For now, though, the cat is trying to eat my dinner, so updates are for later while I save my meal. She’s like the privates: give her a taste of something good once, she wants it all the time and whines until she gets it. This is why I never feed the Soldiers corned beef…


Borderline Tolerance

Filed under: — lana @ 10:42 am

A few weeks back my Soldiers and I were doing some physical training. This 0600 adventure consisted of a short run and upon return they did various arm and abdominal exercises. Granted, the arm and abdominal exercises were not exactly conventional nor were they particularly easy, but I have a nasty tendency to take out my boredom on those unfortunate enough to become my Soldiers.

One of my Soldiers likes to think of himself as old. I admit, he looks old. In his late 30’s, he tends to be the epitome of the age-old question “Why the hell did you join the military?” because he looks to be about 50, hates doing anything tactical, is extremely anti-social, and is apparently way closer to death than any of us expected.

I found out that morning as I led them through what is almost a standard physical training session. Run out to one of the further aircraft hangars and back, do push-up drills which are complicated to explain and harder to accomplish, alternate with some abdominal exercises until you finish the drills, then finish with 100 sit-ups. It was actually a pretty easy day, because I was tired.

The Old Guy, as he is known around the base, apparently nearly had a heart attack. He sat down to do his sit-ups (several minutes behind the rest of us) and just sat there. He attempted to do one and got very pale. More out of concern for the clean-up it would necessitate should he get sick, I gave him a sick call slip and sent him off to the health clinic where he could get his breath back standing in line with the (on average) 47 other Soldiers who couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t-want-to do training that morning.

That day, he came back with an appointment with a pulminary specialist and a note from the doctor that said he was to do physical training at own tolerance. I asked for some clarification, because this is one I have never seen before. My Soldier then explained that the doctor was concerned that enough blood wasn’t getting to my Soldier’s brain during physical training. I became concerned, because I had previously been under the assumption that my Soldier either didn’t have or didn’t use his brain at all, so this meant I would have to revamp my Standard Operating Procedures and that takes a lot of time that I didn’t have at the moment.

I pointed out to him that I would hate for me to be the cause of death for the final group of steadfast braincells that were keeping him walking and breathing, despite the others having long since abandoned ship, so I sent him off to his appointments. He came back and said his next appointment was in a month. I asked for his new profile, anything in writing, that told me what he could do until then. As usual, he had forgotten to ask for one, so back he went. This time, he came back with every option for any type of military physical activity checked “No” and a further reminder that I should only have him do any and all activities within his tolerance. He then wandered off to have a Snickers bar for lunch and gave a condescending look when I reminded him that he is on the overweight program already and would have to watch his nutrition until his heart problem was sorted. His mind almost boggled when I asked him to find a different cardiologist so he could get a full heart exam done within a month, the apparent trauma resulting in his taking another three hours to write a two-page report that read like a fifth grade German was writing an essay in English on what he did for his summer vacation.

I am considering going to this doctor to ask if I can get a profile for myself of a similar nature. While I can still do physical training, as always within my limitations, I actually want one for my sanity:

Exposure to Soldier Stupidity at patient’s own tolerance.



Filed under: — lana @ 11:13 am

A somewhat rare non-military related special news flash:

Steve Jobs, despite his need for a new liver and all that unfortunate business, is nevertheless a Commie. McCarthy, where are you when we need you?

For the non-timeless nature of this and the fact that not everyone is a nerd who knows who Steve Jobs is, a quick reminder: he is the current innovation of Apple Computers and all of it’s smaller, lucrative, very expensive, techno-geeky offshoots.

While most of what Apple does seems like standard capitalism and a general pro-democratic nature, I point out:

1) People wait in line forever to get his products, as though hoping for that last hunk of bread.
2) When the bread… er… iPhones or whatever gadget runs out, there have been riots.
3) The smaller gizmos are priced for “everyone,” much like the little car the ol’ Union (Soviet type) was going to give to each family. Small and compact and may not fit every need, but everyone can have one!
4) When that small gizmo breaks down, you are all on your own. While surely there are people working at the sweatshop/helpdesk which is probably outsourced to gulags/India, for some reason they just can’t help you now and you haven’t the know-how to fix it on your own because the technology is closely guarded by paramilitary forces/company nerds.

There are other things, but the point is that Jobs and his CACP (translates from Cyrillic to UASR, Union of Apple Socialist Republics) are a bunch of Commies.

I have a tendency to hang onto things forever. For instance, much to the repeated and very vocal dismay of a fashionista friend from Miami, I still own and wear clothes I probably bought in college. I am not really a packrat; I get rid of things for which I have no use. I just always tend to find a use for everything for a very long time.

This comes in handy when you are a Soldier. When people lose things, I usually have an extra one laying around to lend for a field exercise or a course. Given that the Army changes its mind about standard uniforms and equipment every few years, I am almost at the point where I might be able to stand up a small army of my own.

For expensive knick-knacks, however, such as music players and the like, this becomes all the more heartbreaking when something breaks down. When an old tee-shirt finally hits the dust rag pile, I get another. When it’s the tiny music player I wear in order to maintain my sanity when dealing with Soldiers at 0600 in the morning, it’s a whole new ballgame. I have done it for so long that I now have no idea how to cope with having to listen to them for an hour babbling about “this hurts” and “but I don’t like running four miles” and “are you mad at me today because this isn’t fun.” It has now become a crisis, and as it turns out, a crisis of expensive proportions.

This is where Steve Jobs comes in. I own, naturally, one of the older generations of this particular player. A new one from Apple (via the Post Exchange) would cost about 50 dollars. To send mine in for repair, with shipping, would cost 80 dollars. “I am no dummy,” I say to myself prematurely, and find one on an online auction site for 25 dollars. I feel empowered. To celebrate, I order sweet new headphones that hook the player to the back of your head, eliminating wires and fitting nicely under an authorized physical training hat to avoid flagrant uniform violations.

I had the player and the headphones for less than two weeks when my other player magically decided to work again. This is when I realized that since I had skirted the system by purchasing the player from a third party, Steve Jobs was upset and used his Communist and God-Like powers to start up the old one. He knew, in his omniscient way, that I could not return this new player which still smelled of packaging (and a little bit like sweat, since I had used it about twice), and would now be forced to suffer as only those purchasing from a third party auction site can suffer.

Actually, it was because I had not thought that it was the charger causing all of the problems with the old one. It was. But still, I blame it on Dear Leader (may as well bring North Korea in, too) Jobs because there was no free help function that would have given me an inkling… three flashing orange lights, got it, but four? Reset doesn’t work? Sorry, send in for repair, along with your 80 dollars, or buy a new one, since your year warranty is up and you can’t even get phone support anymore (cue evil laughter).

I maintain that they are saving a spot for him in Moscow next to Lenin in Red Square so all the Japanese tourists can line up for three hours only to be told at the door that they can’t take photos and have to go turn in their cameras at the Kremlin coat room, though sorry even though it’s a random Thursday the Kremlin is inexplicably closed so someone will have to stand outside with your cameras because we must preserve both Lenin and Jobs the way they were in life.

But I sold the new one to my warrant for 20 bucks and a sandwich and still don’t have to listen to my Soldiers whine, so we are back to Cold War status as I wait for my main MP3 player to die next… the spin wheel is on its last legs. Time to go put on my college sweatshirt and sit at my computer hoping it makes it long enough to backup all of the music.


Out Of Funds

Filed under: — lana @ 12:18 pm

Getting up on almost three months ago I had an MRI adventure. It involved multiple needles, medication, and attempting not to dislocate my shoulder while being crammed into an MRI machine with my arm awkwardly shoved halfway around my own neck.

About the only thing that would have made that day less convenient would have been getting up at 0300 to navigate the construction zones on the Autobahn to make it to Landstuhl in time to be shot up with needles, take my medication, and attempt not to dislocate my shoulder. Presumably in order to keep my anger management problems in check, my First Sergeant and doctor both agreed that sending me along the night before would be a good idea. I found a hotel room on a nearby base for 35 dollars, and the Army would supplement some food, convenience, and possible gas charges. Overall, I think my First Sergeant submitted the total bill for roughly 150 dollars.

It has been kicked back three times before today because the doctor wrote a memorandum justifying my need to go the night before instead of sending an appointment slip. This was not a familiar concept to those in our movement section, so it took several attempts at explanation before they agreed that the memo actually provided them with more information anyway. They agreed roughly a month ago to authorize payment.

Today I got a message from those great guys at movement again. It said, direct [mostly] quote:

Your Authorization was stamped RETURNED by [Name of same guy who didn't understand a memo for six weeks]. Travel authorization number CANNOT be completed because: [your ever charming unit] is out of FY 09 funding.

I have long since paid the 35 dollars on my government card, and had packed a sandwich from home that day anyway because my unit is notorious for delayed payments. The money did not bother me, though it terrified me because I am once again confirmed for a class date in August and there is already confusion and denials about who is going to fund the trip. If they cannot scrounge up 150 dollars for me to dislocate my shoulder and check on Xenu, how on Earth are they going to afford the one thing that might keep me in the military?

These are the great mysteries that I sleep soundly through at night. It’s nice not to really care anymore…

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