Sunday, December 25, 2011

Who knew there was so much coloring in the Infantry?

He who exerts effort into IBOLC... gets what he deserves.
The next platoon OPORD I "brief" will just be the company order, imprinted in Silly Putty.
P.S. In another navel-gazing PT postcript, I more than maxed everything on our RPFT. It's not easy finding time to work out during BOLC, between time in the field, time sleeping, and the burdens of being lazy, so after those surprising results I was most contentedly staring at my navel.

We later did a free-for-all 8-mile ruck march with some 60-70 pounds (decided not to weigh in for psychological edge. Ignorance is bliss!). I came in, wheezing and dripping, at a cool 1:31 - I was in the top quartile or so (don't get to use that word a lot), but the hard-chargers who beat me were pushing pretty humbling paces below 10-minute miles! Still, I'm a far cry from these days.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rendezvous with Destiny!

I did it again (it took all of my self-restraint not to begin that sentence with "oops"). Switched from 1ID to 82 to ... 101. I'd been looking to get out of the 82nd once I realized how my deployment would line up - if I went through Ranger School on my first try, and hopped straight into Airborne (this is based on a hypothetical alternate universe where Headquarters Company becomes efficient and helpful while I'm at Ranger), there would still only be a maximum of four months left in the deployment, making it less likely that I'd get a platoon there (deployed with no platoon means staff work ... just in another country).

And if I
did recycle Ranger School, I'd have to kiss Afghanistan goodbye. And then I would have been studying all this Dari and Pashto for nothing. Damn the military-linguistic complex.

So I looked to the next unit on my wish list, the 101st Airborne (Air Assault (it's not actually Airborne any more (but they can't change the name because the WWII vets get mad (the
Band of Brothers guys)))). Every brigade deploying, and a fine unit to boot. The branch manager said he couldn't get me in without a by-name request. So I emailed a very nice letter to an S1 with the usual bits (Pathfinder, PT score, favorable comments from ex-girlfriends). And got my orders changed the next day.

I'm now set to deploy in the Fall, which means I have ample time to recycle Ranger School (which is not my intention, but spend a week at Benning and you'll hear enough horror stories that you begin to doubt that anyone has ever graduated Ranger School, ever) and get into other training schools.

I won't be a paratrooper, but I will get to go to Afghanistan, be in the only existing Air Assault unit, and live a short drive from Nashville (I've started listening to country music to prepare myself).

Mostly, I think I'm just excited to know that I will be one of a very select group of Americans who know how to spell both "lieutenant" and "rendezvous."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

IBOLC isn't really so bad

I realized that my first post on IBOLC painted a rather dismal picture of my training. Everything I wrote is still true, but we do also have lots of fun, and the focus of the course has slowly transitioned into officer training (instead of whatever we were spending our time on the first few weeks). My trainers seem more in their element in the field than in front of a slideshow.

We've done basic and "advanced" marksmanship (moving targets = major fun), started OPORDs (not fun, but I like them because I'm good at them), land nav nearly continuously for two days (falling in holes in the dark never gets old), and machine guns (lots of fun, lots of cleaning). One could possibly almost say I'm beginning to learn some of the skills required of an Infantry Officer. Possibly almost.

I could easily have enjoyed Field Artillery, or being a Combat Engineer, but I chose Infantry because I thought it was the most elite and would attract the best people - a notion my classmates have vindicated completely. The other LTs have to be the best quality men the Army commissioned last May. Loathe as I am to admit it, it might have to do with half of them being West Pointers. There can't be more than five or six ROTC grads in my platoon! (likely because ROTC boys get stiffed with the later BOLC dates). At any rate, it's as educated, intelligent, and well-traveled a bunch as I've seen in any of my training so far.

For the sake of my ego, I'd like to mention I was one of two LTs in the platoon who maxed our initial APFT a few weeks back. The BN SGM came to PT formation one day to award coins to everyone who maxed... too bad the cadre hadn't calculated the scores yet, and I can safely say the matter has been forgotten (but it works both ways - a dozen of us were supposed to go to the CO's office for failing a layout, buy that too somehow slipped through the cracks of the tightly calibrated machine that is IBOLC).
Also, the rest of my platoon is in excellent shape, better than I am, but the APFT was in freezing rain. Anyone who has been here is familiar with the 1-mile track that's made out of some special mixture of tightly packed sandy gravel, and turns into an even more special mixture of gravel and mud if you add water. And we were in summer PTs (shorts and a t-shirt), so unless you could really run, you didn't max it (I ran about 45 seconds slower than normal). And, of course, there were those who were unfairly persecuted by their grader/forgot how to do a proper pushup.

P.P.S. It wouldn't be War Is Schlep if I didn't sign off promising to disclose big news on a later date. So I incidentally have some big news, which I'll disclose on a later date when I have some time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

School of the Americas Protest

Thousands of protesters descend on Ft. Benning for a weekend every November to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the School of the Americas. My BOLC class was warned we'd be ticketed my MPs if we tried to drive on Ft. Benning Road - though if you did that, you'd have more serious charges to worry about, since you would also have had to drive over fences and a number of protestors. My friend in the Armor School was advised that military personnel discovered at the protest would be arrested by MPs - which would have raised some interesting legal issues, since the protest was held outside of the installation, and also the Bill of Rights.

There were no MPs there.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Most Butch Safety Brief Ever

This happened.

Other officers told me that IBOLC would fly by, and it truly has - probably because we spend most of the time doing nothing. At school, five weeks felt like five weeks, full of papers, labs and OPORDs, evaluations, parties, etc., and even then I tried to keep pretty lazy! As long as I can look at myself on graduation day and say, "hey, I've actually been trained!" (Don't care if it's true or not, as long as I can fool everyone else - that's leadership!)

I'm not going to chronicle the entire IBOLC process here, that's been done, and thoroughly so, by a number of other LTs and also the Ft. Benning website - but memorable moments will still get posted. The course is speeding up a bit (or we're at least learning things that seem useful, like OPORDs), and despite my last post I really am enjoying it (feels like a frathouse with guns most of the time). I'll have to draw something about the parts of IBOLC I do like. Have you noticed how many of my posts end with me pledging to expand on my subject in a future post? I'll have to draw something about that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Infantry Basic Officer's Basic Leader Course B

Haven't posted in a while, IBOLC's kept me pretty busy (I kid) - actually it just made me lazier. More posts coming, faster. If I got kicked out of IBOLC tomorrow, I'd still have enough material for years. And that's a distinct possibility, given the quality of the homework (overlays!) I'm bringing in tomorrow (I drew this instead of some extra avenues of approach). It can't be helped, nothing encourages artistic effort more than the possibility of having to exert regular effort.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oyb Got vil, shiss a bezem

Oyb Got vil, shiss a beyzem - "If God wills, a broom can shoot." My Dad taught me that expression when I joined the Army, and now that I think about it, I'm not quite sure how to take it. I never did have a knack for shooting when we went to the range in ROTC, so I was excited to get a little extra instruction and practice in the AMU's Squad Designated Marksman Course, which I was basically awarded a spot in because of my repeated failures to get into Airborne School.

The course focused on hitting targets between 300-600 meters (well, the range was actually the one range in the Army marked in yards, but close enough). We learned about how to adjust our weapons for distance and wind so that we could promptly ignore those lessons when we got to the range (it's fabulous to know I need to aim 10 inches to the left if there's a 7 mph wind ... if I owned an anemometer). I was rather proud of being able to hit a moving target at 600 yds - though I'll give you my honest assessment that if I take a shot at you from that distance, you've got about a 50% chance of escaping, or simply surviving while standing in the exact same place. A 300 m target now seems like nothing, though, and I'm excited to qualify at IBOLC and see how well this beyzem can shiss.

P.S. One memorable feature of the course was that the students who were not shooting were manually moving the targets from behind a berm, with rounds flying, snapping, and zinging (if a round hit something other than a target) overhead. Does that count as being downrange?

Monday, September 26, 2011


Below is the most concise and not boring description of my Airborne saga that I could compose. Tell me if you notice any recurring themes or characters.

D-40: I embark upon my ambitious and irregular campaign to find someone to give me an Airborne physical.

D-28: After a dozen trips to an unspecified side of post, I get the physical. It's Friday morning, and the Holding Company platoon sergeant texts me (the man refuses to communicate otherwise, for financial reasons or perhaps a fondness for the telegraph) that the IBOLC liaison could still be at the Airborne School and I should try and catch him. Instead of staying for a friend's Ranger graduation*, I race across post to discover that the liaison isn't there anymore. The PSG promises to put me as a priority for the next class two weeks later.

D-25: I get to PT and the PSG announces that the IBOLC class beginning that day has several extra spots for 2LTs who'd like to move into an earlier class. He tells me and a few others to go. I race home to grab all of my paperwork, then get to IBOLC inprocessing. The IBOLC cadre say there are no extra spots for us.

D-14: After PT, the PSG informs me that there actually will not be any room for me at Airborne School today. I decide to roll in anyway, and while there is indeed no room for me, I learn from Airborne cadre that the next week's class should have tons of openings and I should try again then.

D-10: The PSG texts me asking if I want the class Friday of next week, which should be a sure thing. The good-natured, honest idiot that I should try harder to suppress* texted him back asking (asking!) if I could try and get in Friday of this week, just in case, seeing as how an Airborne instructor told me they'd have a lot of openings. The PSG adamantly refused, because the company was already trying to send 30 guys.

D-7: Thinking I can't really disobey a direct "order," (or whatever it's called when a sergeant tells an officer what to do) I don't go to the Airborne School that Friday.

D DAY: After PT, I join the sizable IBOLC group heading to the Airborne School. The liaison mentions that there will only be 10 spots total, to be filled (with good reason) by Ranger grads. "Where were you last week?" he asked, "we got everybody in."

At this point, if the ghost of
Osama bin Laden had materialized and asked me to kick a puppy, I would have have happily complied. Rage having reduced my thought process to that of a vengeful adolescent girl, I was considering skipping out on the Maneuver Center ceremony we were required to attend that afternoon. A friend even let me know that there was nobody there recording our attendance. I attempted to clear my head, and decided that this was exactly the kind of test of duty and resilience that an officer should endeavor to pass, and made my way to the Center. Fortunately, I was still so furious that I was barely fazed when a Sergeant Major backed into my car in the parking lot.

D+3: See a 2LT with an 11th ACR patch, remember that I have it pretty good.

*I recalled the Spring Break at Hebrew University when I passed up an amazing trip to Egypt with my friends because I'd agreed to spend Passover with my elderly great aunt twice-removed, and reflected that not all memories last forever, and that some good deeds are totally not worth it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Modern Army Combatives Program

After the requisite 40 hours of intensive instruction and training, I am now officially Army Combatives Level 1 certified. Actually, it was closer to 16 hours (seriously), but with all those two-hour lunch breaks and pressing afternoon engagements (and possible head traumas), who's counting? I was surprised to discover that I'm not a completely ineffective wrestler, as long as the other guy has absolutely no experience either. It also helps if he turns out to be 20 pounds lighter than me, but hey, I didn't know that when I chose him to grapple with, right?

In other news, my six-week campaign (perhaps better described as an insurgency) to get to Airborne school comes to a head this Friday. Among numerous other indignities, I gave up my spot in Combatives Level 2 (and with it, the opportunity to get punched in the face by other lieutenants instead of just by NCOs like in Level 1) in the hope that I get to inprocess Friday. I'll let you this weekend if I spent Friday night in a loud club, knocking back Vodka Red Bulls in an effort forget the emotional and bureaucratic trauma I've endured, or in a loud club, knocking back Vodka Red Bulls in an effort to forget the emotional and bureaucratic trauma I've endured (with an Airborne slot).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What's a lifetime of intellectual curiosity worth?

3600 dollars. That's the bonus (paid over the course of a year) that I just earned by taking the Arabic Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT):

The test is scored on a scale of 0 to 3, so my 2+/2+ is like a A-. Or a B+. Or maybe a check plus with a smiley face. Whatever my score means, I do know that it was hard won during the longest test I've ever taken in my life (unless you count LDAC. Which I refuse to do on an ideological basis).

According to the first screen of the test, I will go to military prison forever if I tell anybody, including my mother, anything about the test. I
can tell you it was by far the hardest test I've taken (perhaps that exists?) in the Army, with the exception of the sling-load inspection at Pathfinder.

Think the LSAT, but in Arabic, and half of it only read out loud.

You're allotted three hours each for a listening and reading portion (you can only take a
speaking test under very special arrangement, because that requires an interviewer instead of a computer, and under what circumstances would a soldier ever actually need to speak a second language anyway?). The whole thing took me close to five hours - I needed almost all of the time on the reading test. Did I mention it was hard? Rapid-fire radio reports and sprawling essays on subjects way outside of my comfortable vocabulary. I read Al Jazeera articles on politics/conflict/war/etc., not technology, medicine, and the arts! And, as I'd read online, the multiple-choice answers could be deviously subtle or ambiguous: "What did the speaker imply about the problem? A) The government's slow reaction was to blame. B) The government has the ability to speed up its response in the future."

My brain is totally fried and my thoughts are haunted by snatches of BBC Arabic news broadcasts filled with mysterious vocabulary about medical equipment, but I'm proud, especially for doing well on the listening section, which I did not think would be my strong suit. It didn't hurt when a West Pointer in formation complained "I took four years of Arabic and studied abroad in Morocco and I only got a 1/1!" Now, I may have only taken two-and-a-half, but kids, let me tell you - when it comes to the Arabic language, only serious applicants need apply.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Hiring Process

Disclaimer: I also know some absolutely wonderful DA (Department of the Army) Civilians, including the Office Manager and Human Resources Rep from my Battalion.

My first week in IBOLC holding company, I learned that everything dear to me was being held hostage by government employees (I almost wrote "workers," but that would be misleading):

1) We can't access our travel pay, three thousand dollars in per diem from LDAC, or 1k-a-month housing allowance because: The finance office was so upset that some LTs came to their briefing without the proper paperwork that they were literally refusing to meet or speak (LTs were kicked out of their office) with any of us until our BOLC began - two or three months away for many of us, and unusually late to try and cash in travel-related pay.

2) The Armor School S-1 (personnel office) helped all the Armor BOLC LTs get their travel pay. When I asked our own S-1 workers to do the same, it... inspired this comic. It didn't help that they also immediately lost my orders.

3) Most importantly to me, we can't go to Airborne School in the 2-3 months waiting for BOLC because: A bunch of Armor students went to the Infantry clinic to get Airborne physical examss instead of their own clinic like they were supposed to. This disrupted whatever abacus-and-sundial system the Infantry clinic was working off of, which upset them so much that they were refusing to give anyone (including Infantry LTs!) an Airborne physical.

Every infantry officer is guaranteed a spot in Airborne after Ranger School, but that realistically means staying at Ft. Benning at least another five weeks (they wouldn't schedule ABN two days after Ranger, and then there's outprocessing from Benning). That's five more weeks away from my unit, away from PL time, and potentially out of the fight in what will already be a shortened deployment (good for the Army, but not what brand new IN LTs who haven't been broken by five consecutive deployments were expecting).

The conspiracy (I assume) of DA Civilians who refuse to do their job didn't count on one thing, though - a Second Lieutenant with way too much time on his hands. I am actively and passionately seeking solutions to everything. Time, and brainpower are on my side. And I'd say I currently have a pretty good record against the bureaucracy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It Started at Fort Benning ... (Welcome to Holding Company Pt. II)

I finished up my last week at LDAC with a four-day paid vacation to Vancouver (took another pass, actually spend more money than I did in Vegas), took leave to see my family, and, most importantly, purchase a car, and moved on to the infamous Ft. Benning.

I thought I was progressive, but it really is fun to be in the Army without any women around, with infantry (don't think I'm quite qualified to say I'm "in the infantry" yet). Cadre address us as "men," and curse at their leisure. The SFC in supervising the holding company lieutenants has so far only referred to the Armor School, which just moved to Benning and has caused some logistical issues, as "those Armor fags." Not a fan of the slur (though I think there's something to its South Park appropriation), but undeniably amused by his candor.

When we had to be addressed because a 2LT had been reprimanded for taking a poop in the woods next to the running track, the instructor cautioned us that when in mixed company we had to make an effort not to offend females or the "soft-skin MOSs," which made me smile.

I'm in holding company (again) until I begin IBOLC in October. There's a chance of picking up some schools (I asked for Airborne, advanced marksmanship (God knows I need it), and combatives), and some work details, but as far as I can tell, I'm just getting paid to go to 0545 PT, shower and change in time to get dismissed at 0900 formation. I did the math, and I'm getting paid $140 per PT session. That's what a professional prostitute would charge for that much physical activity. I don't understand how this is in the Army's interest. There are guys here who don't class up until November, and even some who don't go until January! Don't tell the taxpayers.

It's cool seeing 2LTs who got here earlier and are further along in their training - especially those sporting their Ranger tabs, which makes it seems like a much more achievable goal. Until coming here, I'd only seen tabs on captains and up, and senior NCOs - it's encouraging to see them on people more my equal. Of course, I have also met a few LTs who are outprocessing from Benning without that crucial decoration on their left shoulder. I won't ask what happened, out of deference to them, and because I'm happier not knowing what can go wrong. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Welcome to Holding Company

"Okay, guys, nobody wants to see you having sex in the barracks. Don't do it. Get a room, seriously, I don't care - just not in the barracks. Drinking: No alcohol in the barracks - LT, go grab those bottles - it's not allowed. That's what we set up the drinking tent for, which you are more than welcome to play beer pong in, or whatever - thank you," the admin lieutenant handed the captain two half-finished handles of vodka.
"I found these in the female barracks, and beers in the male barracks just recently. Don't do it," he emphasized with some frustration, as cadets walked by our formation and stared at the slight captain gesturing with one hand in his pocket and the other around the necks of the bottles of vodka.
"Fraternization: Gentlemen, there are a lot of attractive enlisted women out there," I let out an audible snort before I realized that the captain wasn't making a joke, "so ask for some I.D. Don't take her home and find out she's a specialist, that's bad news. Ladies, you might meet some NCO who's all tabbed out with badges and everything, but it's still against the rules."
By the time he closed with a second reminder not to have sex in the barracks, I was absolutely mortified. A number of cadets, who in theory were supposed to look up to us as officers and authority figures, had had passed by and caught parts of the briefing, any of which would have been juicy. It was like when your mom drops you off at summer camp and calls after you to remember to change your underwear - but instead of reminding you about clean underwear, she yells a reminder not to accidentally stick your genitals in an electrical outlet.

I arrived mercifully late to holding company. The lieutenants who had generated the material for my welcome brief, the ones who had been dismissed by their committees earlier, had been sitting around for weeks going to multiple arbitrary daily formations, where they were frequently called up for manual labor details with little notice. By the time I arrived, most real work had already been done. If I can help it, I'll wait out my time at LDAC in a hedonistic blur of passes (allowing me to travel away from Ft. Lewis and thus excusing me from all details), naps, trips to the gym and to the club.

The job I actually came here for, that occupied me before I left my hotel and TTB for holding company, is too entertaining not to draw. Unfortunately, I may not have the privacy needed to draw anything for a while, so suffice it to say that it was a job perfectly suited to my talents and that I touched the lives of a thousand ROTC cadets.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Too stupid to not be true (EDIT: Mystery now solved)

As related to me by another LT on shift at the TTB: "Last night at 2:30 am, Major Greg Kinnear came in and woke us all up. He said he needed two lieutenants, so me and Menelaus went up to the TOC, but we didn't know what for. Apparently they had seen someone stealing from the dumpster - so we had to guard the dumpsters. I stood in front of the dumpster from 3 am until 7 am."

To the probing mind, a few irrepressible questions present themselves:

-Why would anyone want to explore a TTB dumpster, whose most valuable contents are moldy cardboard boxes and expended MRE heaters?

-Who, for God's sake, could be the figures sighted looting the dumpster? A cadet who decided to sacrifice his sleep during training and wake up in the middle of the night to sift through garbage? A homeless guy (we've got a great selection in the Seattle/Tacoma area) who trekked miles into the middle of nowhere, to a training site most people don't know exist, because he heard we have good trash?

The mind boggles. For now, I can only vow to get to the bottom of this, and promise that whatever the consequences may be, my team will not pull dumpster guard.

EDIT: Upon further reflection, I'd say the most likely explanation is that our culprits, if they even exist, were two cadets looking to score a little personal time somewhere inconspicuous. If they only knew what madness they had unleashed...

EDIT 9JUL: The truth is even stupider than I thought. I was driving somewhere with MAJ Greg Kinnear, and asked him to elaborate. He had just finished cranking the second of the TTB's two dumpsters closed, but he could still hear a cranking noise. He thought he was going crazy, until he looked around and realized that somebody was cranking the other dumpster open. He ran across the TTB (300-400m) to second dumpster, and discovered cadets putting trash in the overloaded dumpster. The Major yelled at them and they scattered. As he was cranking the dumpster's lid closed again, he heard cranking coming from the first dumpster again. In his absence, more cadets had snuck in to try to secretly dispose of their trash. The regiment had to dispose of all of its trash before they left the TTB the next morning, but the dumpsters were so full that they had been closed to prevent being overloaded.

Tragically, my first (joke) hypothesis was correct: Cadets were sneaking out in the middle of the night to secretly dispose of garbage. I love Cadet Command.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Well, I'll never be able to say that the United States Army didn't take the time to give me personalized attention to ensure that I got exactly what I wanted.

I'm going to Ft. Bragg! As in the storied 82nd Airborne! As in not Kansas!
As you may recall, I was less than pleased with my initial assignment.

How did I do it? A few days after I commissioned, I contacted my branch manager (fellow displeased LTs, you can find yours via the Army Human Resources Command site - though by now you're probably too late to get anything good), and told him how awesome I was (see post linked above, this entire site) and that I should be in the 82nd or 101st. Amazingly, it worked. After about a month of emails, waiting, and a little nagging on my part, my projected assignment was changed to 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne. I'm going to be a paratrooper.

What should I ask for next?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Priorities of Work

I learned a while ago that I was assigned to the LDAC "Tactics Committee" - what that means for me is that I'll be among the OPFOR that fiddles with cadets for the five days they spend posted at the TTB. Disgruntled villagers, local soldiers beating prisoners, drive-by shootings, all the other classics. Of course, I've secured a special role for myself ... more on that later. Now I'm just looking forward to when our schedule "stabilizes" (working 1700 - 0600) after the cadets arrive next week.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Welcome to LDAC II

This doesn't look exactly like my other comics because I drew it with my tablet instead of a pen - didn't bring a scanner to Ft. Lewis.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Banner

Don't worry, you'll get used to it. The old banner was beginning to get out of date, given than I'm no longer a cadet, it's already been 2011 for a while, and I'm about to begin the series of tasks described above. Hard to believe I put that that one up over two years ago.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Some guys just can't handle Vegas

And I'm one of them. I spent a week on the West Coast, visiting a high school friend in LA, then jetting to Las Vegas for a reunion of sorts with my friends from Beirut. The first night in Vegas didn't end until 7 am, or longer if you count the additional hours spent unsuccessfully trying to sleep on the floor. As it was, that was too much for this body to handle, so I was disfunctionally sick for the next 24 hours (in Vegas dammit).
This trashy bacchanalia capped off several decadent weeks devoid of exercise, beginning with finals (focus on studying, worry about fitness later), through that sweet week between finals and commencement (focus on partying, wrapping up loose ends with the coeds, go to DC, worry about fitness later), through a day at home and then a week out West (drink, don't be the wierdo doing pushups in the middle of your friend's frat house, worry about fitness later).

As the days went by, I had an increasing number of "you fat sack of shit!" moments, until I decided I'd have to do something drastic when I got back.

In order to get myself back on the wagon, at a friend's recommendation I have begun (I can't believe it) P90X. If you can get past the cheesiness and creepy, autistically talkative instructor, it's actually a pretty good smoker that reminds me of some PTs I've led/followed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Capitol Fun

Shortly before graduation/commissioning, I took a trip to DC to see friends at GW, AU, and Georgetown, fulfill my dream of running down Embassy Row, and go to night spots filled with WASPs and overpriced (or so I thought before I went to Vegas) drinks.

Oh yeah - I got to meet personal hero Andrew Exum. Basically, he was an infantry officer (like me, eventually) and a PL in the Rangers (probably won't do that), and after he got out he decided to study at AUB (like me) and be an all-around speak-Arabic-know-about-the-Middle East kind of guy (like I pretend to be). He works for a sweet defense think tank with John Nagl (helped write the Army counterinsurgency field manual) and a host of other scholar/soldier badasses. I found out about him through his blog, Abu Muqawama, which is exactly like mine, except no drawings and an informed and thoughtful commentary on events abroad, US policy, and CT/COIN instead of a warped personal narrative.

Should he discover this post, I hope he'll appreciate the stylistic tribute to his blog, where pretty much every other sentence is a hyperlink.

I got in touch with him through a colleague of his who spoke in my Terrorism & Insurgency class (yes, I took that) and a professor. I showed him my blog (which he linked to on Twitter, resulting in more views than ... ever), one thing led to another, and he took me up to his office to chat and have breakfast. I ordered poorly (see illustration).

He seemed rather busy, but we talked about Army stuff for a while, and he said something that (as I best remember it) particularly resonated with me:

You will not use your intellect as a platoon leader.

Not to mean that you don't need to think and use your head, but that it's really about dealing with people and looking like a stud - which is apparently more about fitness and marksmanship than propensity for witty quips and poignant analogies.

It meant a lot to hear that from him - though I'm still not sure how well I'll be able to keep the Moshe Dayan separate from the Larry David when I'm out there.

My God, they made me an officer

I am now a Second Lieutenant in the US Army (yay!) reserves (gross!), bearing the proud MOS classification of 11Z. I'll get to be an 11A once I enter active duty and get some infantry training, though I've been told by saltier soldiers that I can't call myself an infantry officer until I graduate Ranger School. Of course, by then, someone will have told me that I can't call myself an infantryman until I've deployed, by which point I'll hear that you can't really say you've been deployed unless you've actually been deployed three times to both theaters and strangled someone with your blue cord.

Despite my pygmy-like status in the Army, it's still pretty great to have a rank in front of my name. And it's really exciting not to be a cadet anymore. To think I went through that whole schlep for this bar of gold ...

PS I will have to renovate the blog a little now that I am no longer a cadet ...
PPS Also I graduated college but who gives a shit. Becoming an officer was definitely the cool part of the weekend. 2LT > PBK, magna cum laude degree.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Last ROTC PT, Ever

CPT Krunch arrived when I did and will leave when I will - he was my MSII and MSIII instructor, and then continued to work with us as the training officer when we became MSIVs. A former boxer, he has described himself a "abrasive," which just about covers it. I'd call him the strong silent type, except not at all silent - his favorite (and perhaps only) perk as ROTC cadre is mercilessly making fun of the cadets.

Nonetheless, we all idolize him and we (read: I) wanted to get him something as a going away gift, so on the last day of PT I presented him with the only gift I could think of - inspired by something that was hanging up in his office from his old tank platoon - a framed guidon, signed by everyone in the company, with the battalion coin (which I designed two years ago), the ROTC shoulder patch, a small plaque with some kind words.

It was unbelievably expensive and I'm not really expecting the other MSIVs to pay me back, but it was worth it.

The last ROTC PT session (and the end of ROTC) is one of a dozen little milestones leading up to my graduation and commissioning in a little over a week - which, of course, is only the beginning of the story.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Big Red Whoops

For being ranked in the 92nd percentile of all ROTC cadets, serving as Battalion Commander, consistently scoring dozens of points above maxing on my APFT, being one of a handful of cadets to graduate Pathfinder school this year, and mastering a critical language, Cadet Command saw fit to reward me with my 8th choice of duty station: Ft. Riley, Kansas. I don't know where to begin.

There are too many punchlines to list, but my favorite may be that Riley's nearest town is - wait for it - Manhattan, Kansas. Jews, Manhattan, Kansas - take it from there.

I should point out that it's not all bad: According to unreliable sources, the unit's light BCT is scheduled to deploy about the time I should graduate Ranger School, which I love - I've been making this increasingly bad series of decisions because I want to lead soldiers in combat, not because my higher calling is bailing them out of jail and administering their PT tests back on post. And whoever's more badass stateside, every infantryman is doing the same thing in Afghanistan.
Also, Manhattan also hosts the nightlife of Kansas State University. If you'll allow me to quote
Superbad, "I'll be over at State, where the girls are half as smart and thus twice as likely to fellace me."

I should also point out that it's actually pretty bad - Riley is an infamously dull post. CPT Krunch, not an optimist, but certainly not one to complain, spared no expense telling me how much he hated "The Little Crapple."

There are options. Most likely is a duty swap - at LDAC or IBOLC I find a 2LT dumb enough to switch posts with me - say, a kid who graduated from Kansas University and is allergic to parachute lines and Italian food. For the right unit, I'd also be willing to pay a fair bit to sweeten the deal.

I can also call my branch manager, a human resources civilian responsible for placing me, and also hundreds of other infantry lieutenants - but I've heard of success stories from LTs who called up, plead their cases - in my case, a more earnest expression of the self-entitlement in my first paragraph (my favorite story is a guy who called with a fictitious story about how his father and grandfather had both served honorably in the 101st - and got in). The same ends are also possible if you just call up the personnel officer at the unit you want and ask them if they want you as a PL.

It's in my best interest not to call anyone up until I'm actually an officer - nobody wants to talk to a cadet and they may not even have the authority to change one's orders - so until then, if anyone asks, I'm still gearing up to be the only Jew in Manhattan.

P.S. If you forgot, this post details which units I actually wanted
P.P.S. 50th post!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Yes, I got CPT Krunch, who spent more years in Iraq than I did in elementary school and has probably killed more men than I've ever kissed on the cheek (I spent some time in Argentina) to read a patrolling OPORD based on the Kappa Rap.

Every artist has his signature and every second semester senior who is writing operations orders at 2 am is going to do this.

PS I realize that 14 is an entirely wrong number combination, and I ended up changing it, but that was Kappa Rap too.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Training Dates with Destiny

BOLC dates are out - and I'm pleased to report I have no reason to complain. Summer working at LDAC (the irony is almost unbearable), then IBOLC in October - could be better, but could be much, much worse (A random guy who found me on MilSpace sent me an email asking me to trade for his February slot - he got a politely worded "hell no" from yours truly).

I'm still not thrilled about the prospect of being unskilled, commissioned labor at Ft. Benning for two months between LDAC and IBOLC, so I'm dusting off my old nagging suit to go bother whoever it takes to move my date up.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cultural Awareness

You can guess who I am here.

(This comic inspired by the always poignant and often sober musings of our great Gold Bar 2LT Sucker Punch)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back from Beirut!

Okay, I was back two weeks ago.

Here's a drunk photo I took of a drunk drawing I scrawled on the wall of a Beirut bar of two drunk people who I was one of:

My companion was prettier than my artwork gives her credit for (I think ... I hope) and actually got upset with me for my poor rendition of her. I told her I thought it was pretty impressive that I could draw anything at that point.

Beirut was not quite as magical as I remembered, a sentiment reaffirmed by the surprising number of old American AUB classmates who had found their way back to Lebanon for one reason or another. My lovely Arabic teacher even said that 2010's summer class wasn't as lively as mine.

Before I sound too spoiled, let me say I still had a great time exploring the country, seeing my معلمة
quite a bit as well as other friends I thought I'd never see again. I went to the bars, the clubs, and the Hezbollah sites of interest, just like old times. I even got the usual intestinal complications from eating street food, though at this point it was nothing compared to what I went through in Morocco.

I did do my best to fit what craziness I could into the two weeks I was there. There may be one or two stories that merit further exposition.

Scenes from Morocco

This was first family vacation in years I can say I actually enjoyed - there was that long phase called adolescence during which hanging out with your parents isn't fun, but I guess I'm over it now.

Morocco was surprisingly more ...
Arab than I expected. I never had a clear image of the country in my head, but because they speak a dialect that has about as much in common with classical Arabic as Italian does with English, I imagined Morocco would be some sort of strange Berber-French melange that was as detached from Arabic culture as it was the Arabic language.

I was mostly wrong - though we drove through green, misty regions in the north that looked more like Ireland than anywhere somebody who knew who Ibn Khaldun was would live - the cities I saw, especially the old cities and souqs, could have been taken right out of Jerusalem or Damascus or Sidon.

The prevalence of French was fairly annoying for a non-Francophone - I can't tell you how many times I explained to puzzled Moroccans, in Arabic, that I did not speak French - the only thing more confusing was when I told them
je ne parle pas francais...

P.S. If you were curious from my last post, Royal Air Maroc had no movies or TV, some of the seats were falling apart, and most of the reading lights didn't work - more precisely, they were impossible to control. They were off for most of the flight, but every once in a while a small cluster of them would spontaneously turn on for half an hour or so. The food was quite good, though.