delicious beverages out of the trophy cup
Sunday, November 30, 2008
delicious beverages out of the trophy cup
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The successful reintegration of returning service members is an issue that will have a long-lasting impact on American society, and may become the single defining struggle facing this new generation of veterans. Survivor Corps and its partners are determined to avoid the mistakes made when veterans returned from Vietnam, which resulted in tens of thousands of post-war suicides and over 200,000 men and women living on the streets.
To head off this tragic outcome, Survivor Corps will build peer support programs at the community level that will bring service members and veterans together for mutual support and encourage both individual responsibility and collective action to help others in need.
Survivor Corps is offering an alternative “treatment” that can be made readily available in all communities, regardless of proximity to traditional military or govern¬ment centers of support. Our approach is nimble enough to address the needs of individual survivors, while still broad enough to build a coalition of survivors and service providers working to effect long-term positive change.
This new program will help the recovery and reintegration of hundreds of thousands of returning U.S. service members at a critical time for them and their country.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Some of you may be familiar with the cult workout community named "CrossFit". The theory behind crossfit is 'general physical preparedness', which is achieved through a workout of the day posted to the website nightly. Basically, the workouts are a giant haze-fest, and tax your body through every channel possible- endurance, strength, power, strength-endurance, balance, etc., using conventional weights, kettlebells, pullup bars, good old roads, medicine balls, etc. One day you could be asked to do 400 meter sprints followed by 50 body weight squats for a total of 6 rounds as fast as you can, the next day you might be asked to do as many rounds as possible in 30 minutes of 225 pound deadlifts and 20 pullups.
The cool thing about it is that the crossfit community is packed with military members, many of them from the special operations community, firefighters, police officers and the like. While most of the standard workouts are named female names (like hurricanes...which represents the disaster that you feel like afterwards), many of them have been named in honor of fallen service members from Iraq and Afghanistan. That's why I'm talking about this today.
Yesterday was Veteran's Day, so in honor of all that have fallen, my workout partners and I substituted what's called a Hero Workout instead of the prescribed "Fight Gone Bad" workout.
The workout is called the 'Murphy', and it's named in honor of Lt. Michael Murphy, who was a Navy SEAL team commander in Afghanistan, and killed while leading a 4 man sniper team on a mission. The story surrounding the event has been captured in an excellent book "The Lone Survivor", written by, as you may have guessed, the only member of the 4 man team to survive, Marcus Lutrell.
The team inserted near their objective at night and humped over and through a mountain range to arrive at an overwatch spot overlooking a village in which a high value target was suspected of staying. During the following morning, a shepherd boy came across their position. The team took him alive, and facing a dilemma regarding what to do with him, decided to release him alive, knowing that everyone in the area sympathized with the Taliban and that the boy would notify the Taliban of their presence. Within an hour of releasing the boy, the team came under a fierce attack by a number of fighters estimated at over 150. A horrendous firefight ensued, with the SEAL team losing radio communications with their headquarters. Fighting to reach an extraction point for pickup, every member of the team was wounded by both grenade shrapnel and gunfire. At one point, roughly 60 minutes after initially coming under attack, Lt. Murphey took the team's satellite phone and, realizing that it was their only chance to communicate with headquarters, climbed on top of a mound of rocks, in plain view of the Taliban fighters, and placed a call to his superiors. While talking he was shot through the arm that was holding the phone, he picked up the phone with his other hand and continued to relay his message. He was then shot in the back, but he continued to communicate his team's situation until he finally succumbed to his wounds.
For his actions that day, Lt. Michael Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor, the other three members of his team including Danny Dietz and Matt Axelson, both of whom died, received the nation's second highest award, the Navy Cross.
So in honor of all those who have fallen, we threw ourselves into a "Murph"-
Complete the following in consecutive order for time-
Sprint 1 mile
Sprint 1 mile
Even when you're about to vomit on yourself after that, you find it hard to complain, it's obvious that things can always be worse.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Today, as many of you know, is Veteran's Day. My email box has already been flooded with thank yous and God bless yous, and I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate it. Being a veteran is certainly something that I am proud of, my whole life I looked at veterans with sincere admiration. Every time they were asked to stand to be honored at sports games, or when they marched down Main Street for every parade, I looked at them and thought about the things they had done, the things they had seen. I was too young to truly understand what it meant to fight for your country, I thought it was all parades and uniforms and funny hats with ribbons on them. I thought it would be neat to watch a movie some day and be able to say, "I was there, they're making a movie about what I did."
I guess part of that hasn't changed. I still look at veterans of Korea and Vietnam, even the occasional WWII vet, with admiration and awe. Wow, they were in a REAL war. I still feel like a kid when I see an old man with a "Frozen Chosin" hat, complete with embroidered campaign ribbons, or when I pass the motorcycle rider on the interstate wearing the Vietnam Veterans Riding Club leather jacket. It's weird for me to think that some people out there put me in that category. I guess technically I belong in it. By definition I'm a veteran, (in fact, we in 2/7 can now jokingly say that we're combat veterans x2 because of Afghanistan). I have my campaign medals and combat action ribbons, but for some reason they seem so insignificant.
But I guess it's like what every veteran ever says.
"It's no big deal, just doing my job."
"I only did it because all my friends were, I'm nothing special."
Whether it makes sense or not, whether we admit it or not, we only do it because the previous generations are our heroes. I can sit here with all honesty and tell you that what I have done pales in comparison to those that went before me.
So, with that, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all the thank yous. But today, don't waste them on me, I hear people's appreciation every day. My generation's warriors are the current flavor of the month. Make today a reason to call your Vietnam vet uncle and thank him, or your grandfather that spent weeks freezing in a fox hole in Korea. When you're walking down the street tomorrow, don't cross over to the other side to avoid the man holding the cardboard sign that reads "Veteran needs your help". Walk by, smile, and say hello and thank you.
So to all those who have gone before me, Thank You, and I hope that our efforts make you proud.
On pillar'd brass shall tell their praise;
Shall tell - when cold neglect is dead -
"These for their country fought and bled."
Monday, November 10, 2008
Everything centered around the river. Bottles of water so hot you can't drink them? Take them to the river and float em for a while. Need to do laundry? Go to the river. Smell like patrol? Go bathe in the river. Need to work on that tan? River. Used to swim in high school? Jump in and try to swim against the current. Everything centered around it.
That everything included Man-Love Thursday. This one is kind of strange to explain and even stranger for people who've never been there to understand. Here it goes. The Afghan culture is extremely different from ours (gross understatement). I won't get into specifics, but lets just say it is not uncommon for men to openly lust after one another. There were many awkward moments where the Afghan soldiers would sit there and blatantly watch Marines bathe in the river, and many times they would have the interpreters let certain Marines know that they had admirers. It was weird. Real weird. And for whatever reason, it got worse every Thursday. Never quite firgured that one out.
Tim doing laundry down at the river
This is the bridge you had to grab onto to pull yourself out of the river. If you missed this guy you'd float right out of the base.
Floating down the world's most dangerous water park.
This is the structure that we'd dive off of into the river, it was about 6ft deep at this point. The laundry and bathing was done in the background of the photo. If you look close enough, you'll see a little shack hovering over the river. That's where the Afghan soldiers would go to the bathroom, yep, just down stream from where we were bathing. Oh, and they'd watch each other use it. Weird.
Just hanging out.
This is a video of an ANA soldier that walked up to Tim while he was showering at a one of the smaller bases we worked at. The ANA took the hose and wanted to bathe Tim for him. Totally normal.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
An intense game of chess. We spent the deployment becoming chess, spades, and rubik's cube masters.
Doing some good ol' home cooking. Taking down that damned corn one cob at a time.
Notice our tent area to the left.
Hanging out in my little corner of the tent after a night mission. Notice the cot...I hated that thing. If you sent me any unique care package items, you might see them in there (ie. SOCK MONKEY, CBS sports banner, Camp Randall post card, red chick sunglasses, etc.)
Well, I guess next up would be our actual living area. There's REALLY not a whole lot to write about here... Let's see- no water, no AC, no toilets, occasional power, lots of bugs/mice/cats, and nonstop explosions right outside our front door. Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
We shared a fairly large patrol base with a British unit and some ANP/ANA (Afghan National Police, Army). Those units had been established there for some time, so they were occupying the buildings located there. We, on the other hand, were just thrown in there, so we had to erect squad sized tents with sand bag walls. These aren't the type of tents that were fun to pitch and sleep in in your back yard when you were young. These are miserable, sauna-like, not enough space for a squad and all it's gear substitutions. We had 12 snipers in ours, and if you have ever seen a modern day sniper, you know they have more gear than a NASA mission. Space was a premium.
We made the most of our space, building a 'movie theater' out of wooden pallets and ponchos, complete with benches, a laptop PC stand, and retractable roof for blocking light. At night we could bring the roof down and watch 'The Notebook' underneath a beautiful starry sky. Trust me, that last one actually happened...awkward.
We covered the gravel floor with plywood sheets, which, at first, seemed like a great idea. That is, until we figured out that that lingering smell in our tent was being caused by the decaying mice that we had crushed underneath the wood. Sweet.
We had some combat engineers come out at one point and bring a generator. It was great. We had power for all of 36 hours before it was fried. It takes a lot of juice to power up 120 iPods. We didn't get power for a few weeks after that, but eventually they brought in a bigger generator, that made life awesome. Movie night was back in business, and it started with a 6 night Star Wars I-VI marathon. How nerdy, right?
They gave us standard GI cots to sleep on. Awesome, cots. They'd be sweet if they weren't engineered around a Marine that stands 6'1". Did I mention I'm 6'6". I spend most of my deployment with bruised shins from resting on the metal bar underneath them. Why not just sleep on the floor, you ask? Did I mention the rats, bugs and stray cats? Screw that.
Let's see, what else... Oh yeah, the constant booms. We lived in what often sounded like Stalingrad. It was not uncommon to be woken up by an explosion only 400 yards away that you could feel in your chest. Or to be playing cards in the middle of the day and here a firefight start raging close enough that tracers were snapping over the wall out into nothing. You can ask my sister Sarah about that one, as we were on the phone one night when a British call sign got ambushed only 300 yards outside the front gate, that phone call got awkward real fast.
Me: "yada, yada, yada, so Brett Favre is a traitor" (gun fire erupts)
Sarah: "Jake, is that gunfire"
Me: "ummm, yeah, hold on" ( I look over the HESCO wall, see what looks like a laser light show)
"Don't worry Sarah, you have to believe me, I'm behind a wall and in NO danger"
Sarah: "Jake that sounds really bad"
Me: "It's the Brits, don't worry, most of the shooting is them, this happens all the time, they aren't attacking the base"
Sarah: "ooookay" (fire picks up to insane rate)
Me: "Sis, I better go see what's going on, I'll call you later"
That pretty much sums up our humble abode.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
This gives a good idea of what Sangin looks like east of the green zone. Notice the compound walls, some of them walling in nothing, some of them walling in small family farms that could be watered from wells dug deep into the ground. A lot of these compounds were empty, and even those that had homes in them were often abandoned due to the violence in the area. Those walls were usually 10-15 feet tall, and at least 1.5-2 ft thick. You would think that being made of mud they wouldn't be too sturdy, but I saw them stand up to many a heavy barrage.
This is us operating in the green zone in conjunction with a British unit. Notice the canal and the compound wall adjacent to it.
This kind of shows how Sangin becomes instantly arid the moment you step out of the green zone. You can see the mountains in the background that walled Sangin in on both sides, east and west.
Here's a look into the green zone. You can see all the tree lines, which line the canals that criss-cross the whole area, and form natural borders for tribal farms, which as you can see in this photo were busy growing the world's tallest corn. Compounds in the green zone usually housed entire extended families or tribes...aka taliban militias.
This is a Google Earth image of Sangin, Afghanistan, which was the city in the Helmand Valley province where my unit operated for 7 months while deployed. The imagery on Google Earth is amazing, so as I recount stories I will not discuss particulars about locations and landmarks as they pertained to missions or significant events, however, if you are interested in knowing what my little slice of heaven looked like for 2008, check it out.
The river you see in the northwest part of the image is the Helmand River, which runs north to south through the province and provides water for the entire area, in addition to powering the Kajaki hydroelectric dam to the north. To the east of the river is the green zone. The green zone consisted of family/ tribal operated farming communities. The primary crops for the area are opium in the spring, along with watermelon, wheat and other food staples, and corn in the summer and fall. The corn there was insane, growing to over 13 ft tall. The entire green zone is criss-crossed with man made irrigation ditches that have no rhyme or reason, creating a nightmare for foot patrols. Bordering the green zone is the 'urban' area of Sangin, with the market butting directly up to it, and family compounds spreading eastward into the desert and wadi areas. The compounds consisted of 13-15ft mud walls, enclosing the family land. Inside these enclosed ares you would commonly find nothing. Nada. Sometimes there was a mud dwelling, but more often than not you found that the family had simply decided to parcel off their land with a medieval fortress wall.
There were no paved roads, barely any electricity, all water was pulled from wells dug into the water table, raw sewage was common in the streets, the bazaar was always bustling with commerce, but the compounds were mostly abandoned. This is Sangin, and it is not a Travel Channel vacation destination.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Enough on that. The purpose of this post is for me to explain to you how important tomorrow is.
Tomorrow is important because it's an opportunity to demonstrate once again that the greatest experiment in the history of politics is proving a better way to govern. We all have our reasons for voting for whomever we cast for tomorrow, but our differences and vision for the direction of this country will be decided in a voting booth and not on a battlefield, and after having served and fought on battlefields and in countries where historically differences are settled with blood, it is refreshing to return at this crucial time in our country's history. I can't imagine too many people who read this blog are indifferent to the outcome of the election, but don't just hold yourself to a high standard of civic duty, hold your friends, neighbors and relatives to that same standard. Don't take no for an answer, and certainly don't let them tell you that their vote won't make a difference. Because in Afghanistan, not being able to make a difference means not having any ammo, and they would kill (no pun intended) to have the chance to change things with only a vote.
Go Rock the Vote.
Halloween of course did not disappoint. My costume left something to be desired. It's kind of hard to throw something together last minute. I went as a Dream Team basketball player, using an old retro Jordan jersey, circa 1992. The biggest advantage it had was that it wasn't a sweatbox, unlike Mike's costume, a Chewbacca outfit.
On to Saturday. Let's see, normally I would analyze the Badgers' game, but I'm not even gonna go there. Pathetic. Enough said. Around noon I swapped my Wisco attire for my classic USC Law shirt, once again assuming the identity of a 3rd year law student worrying about the BAR (kidding). The crew headed up to the Coliseum and did some Homecoming tailgating. I then attended the game, and went on to witness an absolute dismantling. I left at half, the score was 42-0. I wonder what it would feel like to see the Badgers do that someday.
Sunday brought the promise of the Packers knocking off the last undefeated team in the league. It looked like it was going to happen there for a while, and as things were heading into overtime, Joe's neighbor knocked on the door and threatened to call the cops on us. Whoops, thin walls.
Now I'm just back in 29 Palms, wasting my days away waiting for the next weekend. It can't come soon enough.