Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 34-35

This is a picture from the top of Mount
Blanc. It was one of the hills that we
had to cross over on the land
navigation course.
Day Thursday started out bright and early with combatives. I didn't mention this earlier but we actually started combatives on Monday morning. This was a lot of fun and a good workout at the same time. It is definitely something that I would enjoy continuing to learn and get better at it. Anyways after combatives we headed out to the field for our land navigation practice time prior to our test which would be Friday morning. Our land navigation practice basically consisted of us getting about 4-5 points plotting them on our map and then getting the magnetic azimuth and distance and going out to walk the base and see how we did. That took about the whole morning me and my partner were pretty much right on for all of our points and felt fairly confident going into our test. In the afternoon we headed back to the FOB for lunch and then we had training for our Role 2 and Role 3 training of next week. Friday morning had us waking up for land navigation at 0200 They were blaring Eye of the Tiger over the FOB speaker system as we got dressed and loaded our duffel bags in prep for heading back home after land navigation. Land navigation

This was on the way back to the our
last point on our way to the FOB. You
can see the little ledge of rocks that we
had to climb down.
This was our last point with
our score sheet next to it. You
had to write the number down
and punch the paper at each
point and then they checked
it to a master list when we got
  consisted of us being given 8 points and 5 hours to plot and then find 5 of the 8 points. We were told to that if you felt confident with your land navigation to team up with someone in your squad that was not as strong so that everyone could have a chance of passing. So once my partner got and I got our points and the time started we plotted the points on our map and decided on the route that we wanted to take. Our plan was to go in a full circle and to start out with short distances between points (since it was going to be dark) and to start on the part of the course that we had been on the day earlier because we knew the land a little better. We started out and we had a little bit of difficulty finding the first point because we had not gone quite far enough and it was hidden behind some bigger bushes. After that first point though we seemed to hit our stride and ended up finding 7 of the 8 points before the sun even came up. We planned it so that our last point was heading back to the base and it was a long hike (just over 1500 meters) but it was daylight and actually right on the panic azimuth to get us back to the FOB so it worked out really well. We actually make it back to the FOB with just over 2 hours to spare so we had plenty of time to sit around and wait for everyone else to make it back in. After we made it back we waited around and once the time was up and everyone was back we took a class picture and then packed everything up and headed back to Fort Sam Houston. This next week should be interesting with the government budget cuts and possible shut down I don't know how it will affect our training but the plan is to be actually going through battle drills and convoy operations as well as practicing in our Role 1-2-3 jobs. We will be given a lot of blank ammo and will be going through reacting to contact drills and other evacuation scenarios. Hopefully everything will go well and I will post more pictures as I can.
This was a old black hawk that they
had out in the field which was one of the
start points for the land navigation test.

Day 31-33

Well our week started out bright and early in front of our hotel waiting on the buses to show up to get us out to Camp Bullis. The Monday before it had rained on us this Monday it was chilly. We could see our breathes in the morning and the temperature was in the low 50's! I understand this is not that cold in the grand scheme of things but it was a change from the high 90's to low 100's that we had been having the week before. When we got out to the FOB we collected up our weapons and had a MRE for breakfast before we split up into platoons and started going through training on our Role's of care. In the Army they have 4 roles of medical care. Role 1 is front line care given by Medics along with physician's and physician's assistants (PA's) at a Brigade Aid Station which is essentially tailgate medicine where they pull up a HUMVEE put out a few tables and try to stabilize casualties to get them back to the FOB. Role 2 is a FOB where they can do more treatment but it is still very limited trying to stabilize patients for evacuation back to more care. You are only able to hold patients here for up to 72 hours and then they must be evacuated or returned to duty. This is the level that Physical Therapists are first found at to help try to return to soldiers back to full duty instead of evacuating them back and losing them for longer periods of time. Role 3 is a CSH (Combat Support Hospital) this is a hospital where they can perform more advanced surgeries and hold patients for longer periods to stabilize them to wait to evacuation to a role 4 or to RTD (return to duty.) Role 4 is the larger medical centers found in Germany and the U.S. where the most advanced care is given. So on Monday we went over how to set up and secure a Role 1 treatment location. We covered picking a location, providing security, layout of treatment area, triage and evacuation set up. On Tuesday we covered CBRN training (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) we basically went through out to set up a decontamination station and how we would decontaminate injured soldiers so that we could move them back for full treatment or evacuation to further advanced care. After we did our walk and crawl phase of training, they called a CBRN attack and we had to get our gas masks out of the bag and on and cleared in less than 9 seconds. Our final step was running a patient through the whole decontamination process with our masks on and rubber aprons on. Wednesday we headed out to the range to do our mock qualification. I say that because we are not officially qualified till we are with our units and pass. Anyways we got out to the range and we were given 2, 20 round magazines and 4, 10 round magazines because we were going to get to shoot through the test 2 times. My first time through I seemed to be doing okay but most of the targets were not going down right away. I was not sure where I was missing though because I could not see the bullet splashing in the dirt. After finishing the kneeling stage of my first qualification test. (You shoot 20 rounds in prone supported, 10 rounds prone unsupported and 10 rounds kneeling.) I asked my spotter where I was missing and he was not sure but stated that it looked good. My second time through the test I was having a lot of the same issues. The targets were very hard to see (green on green background) and they did not seem to be going down when you hit them even though you could not see where the round was hitting, so I was guessing that I was hitting behind the target. Well when I got out to the  tower after my second round we met up with one of the range officers and he informed us he did not have a score for any of us because the computer was not registering hits, taking down targets or working at all during our 2 rounds, but he said if we wanted to go again we might be able to go at the end. While we waited for everyone to finish we marched down the road and get oriented to the Blackhawk that we would be using during our final week of FTX. After we finished that we headed back to the range and they asked if anyone wanted to go again so I volunteered and headed back. This time we were only given 40 rounds which was enough to go through the test once. This time when I lined up to shoot the targets seemed to be going down much quicker when I shot and seemed to be more responsive overall. When I finished I headed back to the tower to see my score and I found out that I hit 30 out of 40 which was not bad but I had felt like I did much better. The range officer said that was one of the best scores he has seen all day though and that they had been having glitches in the system. He also said that if you could shoot that on this course you would probably to much better once you could get your own weapon, so that made me feel a little better. Overall it was a good first few days of the week, I will cover Thursday and Friday later.

This is a picture of our truck that takes
us around each day parked at the range.
This is another picture of range where
we did our shooting.
This is a picture of the specialist who
was giving us a tour of the Blackhawk.

This is another picture of us gathered
around the UH-60 (Blackhawk)
This is a picture of the inside of the
Blackhawk where the litters are

This is the litter holders in the Blackhawk
it can hold 4 litters. Once the 4 litters are
loaded you rotate them 90 degrees so they
run perpendicular in the aircraft and you
are able to get to all 4 patients.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 26-30

Well Monday started out with us getting up early to be in formation for accountability and afterwards we were given sometime off to get any other little things that we needed to do squared away. After lunch we met got into formation this time to head off to the armory to pick up our M16's. Since we have been here at BOLC I do not think it has rained at all (at least not when we are doing anything.) Anyways we get in formation and start marching towards the armory and the skies just completely open up and completely soak us during our march. By the time we get there our ACU's are completely soaked and you could literally wring water out of our uniforms. Well we get to the building and we are standing outside in formation while the rain is coming down and they inform us that there was lightening in the area and so they are not going to be handing out any more weapons till the lightening is out of the weather, meanwhile we are still standing outside ourselves in the pouring rain! Finally, the rain lets up and then they take us into a big air conditioned room (where we are freezing because of our wet clothes) and let us wait till the lightening is cleared. Because of the delay by the time we got back to our hotel we did not even have time to change we only had time to run get our MOLLE vests and assault packs and make it back to get on the buses, so for the rest of the day we were completely wet. Once we got to Camp Bullis and into our FOB we only had time to get 2 MRE's (one for dinner and one for lunch) and then head to our tents for the evening. Tuesday morning started off bright and early at 0400 with a 2.2 mile march on some very muddy (the rain from the day before) and steep trails as we marched to the gas chamber. Once we got there we had a quick class on how to don our gas masks and then clear and seal them followed by a brief explanation of what was going to happen when we got into the gas chamber. I was in one of the first groups to go and as we were waiting to go in we could see people coming out and they all had a wide range of how their bodies handled it. Some came out doubled over and some did not even seem like they were fazed by it. When it was our turn to get into the chamber we formed into two lines and headed in, breaking off to each side to form a circle once we got into the building. Once we got in they started checking to see how well our masks were on and if anybody had trouble sealing theirs. After that they had us to some head turns and neck rolls followed by jumping jacks to see how well the masks were sealed. Thankfully mine was very tight and I did not have any issues. Standing in the room with the gas masks on was not to bad but I could feel burning on any exposed skin and could tell it was working into my cloths. After the exercises we formed up into 2 lines again and they told us we were going to take our masks off 2 at a time and then say our name, rank, social security number and our home town. I was second in line to go and did not think that it would be to bad. Well when it came my turn I took my mask off and started to say my information and the gas hit me like a ton of bricks. It really burned and seemed like it was hard to speak at all because your lungs were burning(though the guy behind me told me later that I got all my information out) after what seemed like a long time the guy finally opened the door and let us out of the chamber were we could hack up a lung and start letting ourselves air out. Overall the chamber was not to bad and it actually complete cleared up my sinuses which had been a little stuffy! Following the gas chamber we had a class on donning the rest of the uniform we would wear in a chemical situation and then we marched the 2.2 miles back to the FOB. The rest of the day was spent going over breaking down and performing function tests on our M16's and M9's along with how to call in a 9 line medevac. On Wednesday we were up at 0300 because our platoon had duty that day (meaning we had to serve chow and do the other tasks around the FOB.) My squad (I was squad leader this week) was in charge of serving the food. After breakfast we headed off to the range to zero in our M16's. However we ended up sitting around most of the day because the ceiling of clouds was not high enough. Apparently it was explained to us later that this is the only Army base in the world that they need to have a ceiling of visibility to shoot because a main corridor for airplanes into and out of the San Antonio airport go right over the base. Well thankfully we ended getting to shoot and it was a more of an ordeal that it should have been but maybe I will write about that another time. That night our platoon also had guard duty so I was up again at 0100 to walk around the base with my battle buddy and make sure nothing was catching on fire. Thursday we were suppose to go out to the M16 range and M9 range to shoot again. Today we were going to qualify, but once again because of the clouds we were unable to shoot at all. What we ended up doing was learning how to load litters on and off of different vehicles like strykers and AMRAP's which was pretty cool to get into and look around. In the afternoon we headed back to the FOB early and were tested on breaking down, assembling and function testing the M16 and M9 and then we had to call in a 9 line medevac. I passed all my competencies pretty easily on the first time without any issues! Finally on Friday we got into formation to head out again to the range to qualify and then it started to pour with rain so we just turned around and went back to the FOB to clean it and get back to the base of the weekend. Overall, it wasn't a bad first week in the field, even though the weather held us up a lot. This next week we are out in the field again and we will get to do land navigation, convey operations, combatives and finally (hopefully) get to qualify with our weapons, so it should be a much better week. On another note I went a whole week without showering which was a first for me but was not that bad. I just made sure to wipe down nightly with baby wipes and nobody else had showers so we all smelled about the same. I don't have most of the pictures from the week so I will try and post them another time but I have a picture of the sky Monday and my cot in the tent. Anyway, sorry about the long post but it will probably be another week before I am able to post again and I am sure I am missing plenty but I will come back and cover some things that I missed. Till next time!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 26

Well today we are heading out to Camp Bullis for our first week in the field. I am excited mainly for the fact that we will not be sitting in the classroom all day. I am embracing the saying that "A bad day in the field is better than a good day in the classroom." Anyways it should be fun because we will be doing some land navigation, weapons training, I believe the gas chamber and also we should be starting combatives. I won't have wireless or my laptop for the week so this will probably be the only one I get in until Saturday. Hopefully though I will have enough pictures, etc. to have posts on Saturday and Sunday though.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Day 21-25 Week 5

Well I am sorry I have not been able to get any posts in earlier this week. I can't believe the week has gone by so fast but it has been very busy. Monday day 21 started out with physical training bright and early. It was our first time as a company and our new platoons getting out there together so we started out with running through getting into our exercise formation and going through some exercises. I was lucky enough to get selected by the cadre to lead the platoon through the exercises one time. Overall, it was pretty easy, you just had to keep the proper cadence through the different exercises. The rest of the day was spent with death by PowerPoint. Tuesday day 22 was another day that started with us bright and early at the pt. field, in which we just did a lot of alternating sprint/jogs. This was followed by classroom work in the morning and then we went out in the field to go over platoon movement and road crossing and personnel accountability while you are moving through the woods. This was pretty fun and gave us a good opportunity to get out of the classroom for a little bit. Did I mention we were getting homework each day that a that was becoming all due on Wednesday and Friday of that week. Did I mention as well we had ASU (Army Service Uniform) and our midterm test on Friday that we were getting prepared for. On Wednesday day 23 we didn't have any pt. because we were going up to the medical offices to have all of our initial testing. We had vitals taken, vision and hearing tested, for myself 7 vials of blood drawn and 3 shots to catch me up on what I had been missing. We also had a short visit with a physician before being done with the medical office for the day. The rest of the day was class work and I had my presentation that day. I did it on Bryant Womack, who is the soldier who the Fort Bragg medical center is named after. I will have to do a post about him one day. After my presentation and about half of the rest of the class we had a few more lectures and then got into some good lectures of shooting and marksmanship. Thursday day 24 started out again with pt in the morning after which we went into the classroom for another lecture. This one was covering land navigation again (like we did in pre-BOLC) so it was interesting and pretty enjoyable. Afterwards we went the EST to go over M16 training like we did in pre-BOLC as well. I picked up some different tips during our marksmanship lecture that I put into use during the zeroing and testing exercises and improved over my pre-BOLC scores. I worked on saying squeeze in my head when squeezing the trigger which was suppose to help you not yank the trigger hard, I also worked on my trigger squeeze follow through, where you hold the trigger back for a second instead of letting go of it as soon as it fires. My scores when from sharpshooter in pre-BOLC to expert this time! Now hopefully I can carry that over to the qualification range when we are out in the field next week. Friday day 25 began with us having our ASU inspection. Everything went well and I didn't get dinged for anything. Afterwards we had our mid term test. Thankfully I passed it!!! I do not know what my score was because we were just given a pass or no pass score, but I am not going to complain. After the test we just had some briefings and other little things to take care of then we were released for the weekend. Next week we will be leaving for the field on Monday and then not get back till Friday, so I am not sure if I will be posting much next week but I am looking forward to getting out and doing something other than presentations. We will be doing land navigation, weapons range, gas chamber and practicing convoy operations as well as starting combatives. I am really excited about all the stuff we will get to be doing and learning when we are out in the field for the next 3 weeks. I should also mention that I will be one of the squad leaders for our platoon this week so that should be a challenging but fun task to get to do. Anyway I am going to try and post at least one more time over the weekend before we get out to the field, but I will post as I can.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Week 4 Recap

Well today finished my first month here in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston. It is amazing that I have only been here a month because it feels like much longer. Overall it was a good week this week, I passed my APFT and felt like I started to really get a grasp on all the information we have been covering this past week. Today me and a few guys when to a local state park and did some rucking and navigating to keep our skills sharp before we are out in the field and have our land navigation test. The park was pretty cool it had some very nice views and some moderately steep terrain which was both fun and challenging. This upcoming week should be pretty busy. We have a lot of homework, a presentation, an ASU inspection and mid-term test on Friday. We also will be getting even bigger as a group because we have some reservists coming in this week and they will stay through our field training exercise. Here are some pictures from the park that we visited this weekend.
This is the map of the park. I believe that we did
just about the whole park.
This is some of the natural stairs that were
on site.

This is the view from one of the ridge lines during our hike.

This is part of the trail it was right along
the ledge, but it was pretty cool.

Another picture of the path along the ridge.
More natural stair climbing.

Another view from the top of another hill.
A snapshot of another part of the trail we
were on.

One last view of another trail. This one
was step going down but the loose little
pebbles were the biggest issue for one of
the guys in our group.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day 20

Well today complete our fourth week here! We had another full class schedule today. We started talking about Role III and IV medical centers (CSH's ,read cash, are role III and big medical hospitals which is role IV.) We talked about the medical staffing and supply routes for these and then covered our Role I and II centers again. I won't go into all the information because it is pretty overwhelming and contains a lot of acronyms. For example when setting up a role I you will get your pt's from a CCP and can split your role I or BAS into a FAS and MAS (pronounced fast and mass) teams, from their you can call a nine line for a dust off and evacuate to a CSH (pronounces cash) or take your pt's in an ambulance to a AXP to get your pt's onto another ambulance to get the to a Charlie med. Our next class was on maps and diagraming. We learned the basics of the symbols for friendlies, enemies, neutral and unknown personnel, how you would note what company or group they might be attached to. We also learned about how you would draw your plans out to show how you were going to attack from a certain direction and where your troops might be stationed. Overall, this part was very confusing because there are so many symbols and information to take in. Below I placed a little map of what we talked about with our map and symbols. You can see that it doesn't make a lot of sense unless you have a good understanding of the process and once again the symbols which is what we are trying to learn.

After lunch we talked about writing 5 paragraph op-orders and the breakdown about what is required in each paragraph. For homework we were given a scenario and we have to write up an op-order and then give it in class, which should not be to bad. Overall, it was a good day. Once gain it was a lot of information but that is how it has been since day 1. We have one more week in the classroom before we head out to the field for 3 weeks of our FTX (field training exercise), which everyone is really looking forward to.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day 19

Well today did not start out to early for us because platoons 3-6 had their APFT this morning. All of our morning classes dealt with Army writing and presentation. We covered the format for exactly how the Army wants us to write our orders, presentation and correspondence. Everything has become short, to the point, with active language and with the main idea first. The gentleman also covered how much information is lost between face to face and written communication and reported that their research shows that only 5% of the order given will make it down to the lowest person and be retained after 1 day, so hopefully that is the 5% they need to know to get the job done. We also covered communication and the way we communicated outside of verbal and how important it is to pay attention to the signs we are showing as officers and leaders. There was a lot more information we covered in this section about writing, proof reading and body language, but I won't get into all that here because he covered 6 hours of lecture in 4 hours and it was a lot. After lunch we were split up into our individual platoons. There we started to cover roles of care (1-4) and what goes on in each role how patients are moved throughout and how roles are filled, supplies are stocked and restocked. This section was very interesting, as well as very overwhelming because of the amount of information that we were give, because we started talking about our individuals AOC's (Area's of Concentration) and where we might find ourselves along the way. We also talked about setting up medical cache at the front line and moving back to the role I and II areas, because these are the roles that are most dynamic (read moveable.) We covered setting up a role II medical area and the layout for how you would want everything set up, including the triage of soldiers. One interesting part and something that I think a lot of people had trouble with was that we treat our EPOW's (Enemy Prisoners of War) and must triage them in as well. Meaning if you had a EPOW that was triaged as more important than one of your soldiers (or he had just killed some of your soldiers) you would have to treat them before you treated your own. This was a tough thing to think about, but it is something we are required to do no matter how we feel about it. Well I need to get going because it is late and we have another long day tomorrow. Thankfully it should continue to be good material. I only wished we had more time to digest it all because everything we are learning seems very good to know and very important to remember.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 18

Today started off bright and early at 0330 so that we could be out at the pt field by 0400 for our APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test.) This is the first record test that we have had here at BOLC and the first record one I had ever taken so I was confident in my ability but nervous about the newness of it. Our instructors have been none stop stressing how important it is that we pass this APFT because if we don't pass this one or the one at the end we will not graduate and get a failure to achieve course standards. The other big consequence of not passing was that we would not be able to participate in the combative course because they would not want you to get injured and not be able to take it at the end. I am very happy to report that I passed the test easily! Overall it was not to bad and I was almost able to max the test score. After our test we rushed to shower, change and eat, because we then had to get back up to school to break down into our platoons for the days  lessons. Our first lecture of the day was on field sanitation and hygiene, along with the rules of how you deal with human waste. Apparently, a lot of times the medical personnel are called onto inspection conditions and make sure things are done properly. I won't go into all the required dimensions of a cat-hole, straddle trenches or the ratio of gas/diesel that you would use for a burn out latrine because I don't think most people are interested in that. We also covered signs of heat and cold injuries along with the treatment and prevention of them and also how to sanitize water (boiling or using chemicals) to make it safe to drink. The final thing we covered today was Army Leadership and what it takes to be a leader. Our leadership section of the day started out watching this video on how to become a leader and what it takes to be a leader. Overall, I think it is worth the few minutes it takes to watch it. Thankfully, it makes some good points and can give you a few laughs.
First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy
After the video we got into discussing leadership qualities, strategies and philosophies. We also covered decision making processes and played a good Army video where we were faced with all kinds of scenarios, we then had to make a decision and see how our decisions all came together in the end. Overall, it was a good day, we went a little later than our schedule said but no worse than we normally are and we got a bunch of homework assigned due Friday and Monday. I can't complain though because I do believe we are here for a reason. Classes should be good tomorrow, for one because we get to sleep in some because platoons 4-6 have their APFT tomorrow morning and then we are talking about Army writing skills and communication. I even think we might be covering IED's and contact reaction drills at the end of the day tomorrow, so that is something to look forward to.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Day 17

Well today was a tough day of death by powerpoint. It started out with a presentation on Physical Disabilities and the process of how we could be get a profile if we had an injury. Most importantly for us as health care professionals how do we take care of our patients and get them profiles and ratings that they need so they can still be a part of the military if they choose to. Our second lecture was on Patient Movement and the process and timeline of how we move patients from Role I>II>III and so on. We also learned about moving patients between intra-theater care and when we would need to move them inter-theater or out of the combat zone. Our last lecture of the day which took just over 5 hours (with fortunately a hour break for lunch) was our JAG (Judge Advocate General) lecture. We learned about Standards of Conduct, which is how we are suppose to act ethically as professionals and officers in the Army. We also learned about what time of gifts we can and cannot accept, it basically came down to it is better not to accept gifts from strangers. Next we covered Military Justice, this was all about how not to get court martialed, reprimands or article 15's. In this section we also covered how to handle our subordinates that might be facing these charges.  Law of Armed Conflict/The Law of War is what we covered next. We covered ROE's (Rules of Engagement) how we are to treat POW's (prisoners of war) civilians, their property and the Geneva Convention which basically covers all of those points anyways. I think the toughest thing about this section and what really sets America apart from other countries is that no matter how our enemies might act and not follow the rules of the Geneva Convention we are still expected to be better than them and fight the right way. This point, which was stressed is what has got some of our soldiers into trouble in the past. This section also covered what our responsibilities would be if we were ever POW's. I really thought that it was interesting that outside of the 4 things we are required to give (rank, name, service and social) we are not suppose to give any other information and we are to actively resist and try to escape and help others escape. Finally, we covered Medical Negligence in the Military Setting. This was especially interesting because this causes a lot of issues in the civilian world with worrying about lawsuits and other repercussions from issues with our patients. The militaries requirement for finding negligence is the same for the civilian world, you have to have show 5 things: Duty, a breach of that duty, causation, injury and damages, if you are going to be successfully with a case. The other interesting thing from this section was that family members can seek damages but Active Duty personnel are unable to sue the U.S. government despite any wrong doing. Overall, that was our day, tomorrow we have to be up bright and early and then we will be in class all day. Thankfully tomorrow we will be in our platoons so it will be more individualized and maybe not be such a long day. Thanks again to all of my new followers and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Day 16

Happy Labor day everyone! I am not sure whether I should count this as one of my days but I will. I hope everyone enjoyed their day off. I will admit that when you are away from your family, in training, I would prefer just to push right through. This morning started off bright and early at 0500 with me and a few other guys heading out to do some fishing. We went to Calaveras (which means skull) lake here in San Antonio. Talking with some local guys they explained that the lake got its name because there use to be a cemetery there and they excavated the bodies to put in the lake which is controlled by a dam. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of fish because we were unsuccessful in our quest to catch anything. The rest of the day was spent getting homework done and setting up our gear for the upcoming week. I also started reading the book American Sniper written by the late Chris Kyle, which has been a really good book so far. I also would like to welcome and thank all my new followers who joined me today, hopefully you enjoy my account of this exciting journey that I am on.