Friday, March 27, 2009

Fun times at Ft. McCoy

Hello all from beautiful sunny Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin. Though I can't find the font "sarcasm" in the blog options, just pretend that last sentence utilized that font. We have been here for a week and a half now and have yet to go outside w/o wearing our cold weather gear. Leave it to the Army to have us train for the scorching desert environment mere miles from Canada. I mean, I guess when you take into account the lack of options in climate zones because we live in such a small country it only makes sense (sarcasm font here too). But really, for those who know how much I love cold, you can imagine how happy I am.

Anyhow - all is not horrible. At least we are spending our outdoors time shooting plastic bad guys with some pretty kick *ss weaponry. So far we've fired the 4 primary light machine guns the Army uses (240B, 249 SAW, MK-19 and M2). Personally - most of us seriously favor the M2 - more affectionately known as the "Ma - Deuce".

The M2 is a .50 caliber fully automatic machine gun originally built in the 50s and still quite popular today. While quite the heavy weapon at over 100lbs. it will throw chunks of lead half an inch in diameter and about 3 inches long over 2 miles at between 60-100 rounds a minute. The slightly slower rate of fire also gives it a very distinct sound.

While I'm busy showing photos, let me also introduce you to members of my 5 person team. Below is the brand spanking new Lieutenant that I have. She's been out of college and in the Army for all of about 16 months. The role she's filling is supposed to be for a Major with about 15 or so years in the military. This situation could go either way at this point and I'm still forming my opinion. But at least for starters she seems motivated and intelligent. And it appears that someone has explained to her somewhere along the line that even if a Sergeant First Class has to salute you - it doesn't mean that he doesn't know more than you does.

Next on the list is my trusty brand new "buck" Sergeant (three stripes up, none down). He's a really good guy who decided when they raised the enlistment age to 41 that he should go ahead and sign up since they probably wouldn't raise it again. He's definitely older than most soldiers his rank...but most soldiers his rank don't have three degrees, including an engineering degree from Illinois Institute of Technology. He's extremely motivated and highly mature and squared away. I took on two very "new to the Army" soldiers so even though he doesn't have deployment experience, I'm still quite happy to have him on my team.

Oh - two notes: In photo 1 it's fake blood from a medical training event, but I needed something like a decent face shot. In photo two he's assistant gunner (loading bullets) for the private on my team who is firing the 240B Machine gun. Which leads me Private First Class:

She's also a fairly new soldier in the Army but again intelligent and motivated...just extremely young so there's definitely a maturity curve to work with. Imagine taking a high school freshman to war with you. She graduated High School a semester early and joined the Army Reserves at 17 years old and got her supply specialty. When this came up she volunteered for the deployment and went to CA school on short notice so that she could make the team.

Having said all makes me think of the argument for a lowered drinking age in the military. I'm taking an 18 year old soldier to a combat zone and expecting her to watch my back just as much as she expects me to lead them in and out of dangerous locations and to have done enough planning to mitigate that threat as much as possible. She's qualified to carry the M-16/M-4 rifle, 9mm pistol, M2 and 240B machine gun, and will likely be our primary driver which would require her to drive under conditions that few who have never been in a combat zone can possibly imagine. However when we go out for a beer at the club on post - all she can have is soda and water. There are plenty of folks over 21 who still can't drink responsibly...but I'm sure that she could.

The last member of our team is still on his way back from Kosovo and will meet up with us later on down the road, most likely next month. The team is a bit short on experience, but then again that's why I have them. Some would refer to it as "performance punishment" for being good at my job...I consider it a privilege and a heavy responsibility at the same time. No one here gets a "dream team" to go over with and each team has it's own individual strengths and weaknesses...just like any other team in the world. But I will say this - inexperience is rapidly compensated for on a deployment because you're immersed in it. Incompetence is not easily remedied and is what usually costs lives - and that's why I feel pretty darn good about my team just the way it is.

Well - sorry for the long post but just wanted to give you an idea of how things are going and introduce you to my team. Now the laundry is done and time to fold and go have a beer. I'll catch up with all of you later.

No comments: