Monday, March 29, 2010
Thursday I spent a day in class learning about an Army system called blue for tracker. Which is basically a cross between GPS car navigation system, and an Qualcomm communication system that trucking companies have been using for years. Seems like it is a good system in which to keep track of where other good guys are at. I've used in my Aviation past, so it wasn't anything too challenging to pick up.
Friday I sat through some briefings put on by the local intelligence section. One of the cool sessions was on the biometrics tools we might be using in theatre. They have tools available which can take a picture of a person, upload their fingerprints, check their name and other information and then almost instantly bounce it against a list of possible wanted bad guys in theatre.
Almost every evening this past week, we also had to sit through more Dari language lessons. Some of the folks, myself included, were kind of frustrated a time or two with trying to learn such a foreign language. Amazingly though, bit by bit words and phases are starting to enter into our mind and stay there. One of the few words that I've actually been able to memorize and retain is Tashakur which equals Thank You.
This upcoming week I will be spent on the range. I'm looking forward to putting some rounds down range, and firing my grenade launcher. At the end of the week we have a two day pass and will be going to New Orleans for a couple nights. Something that every seems to be looking forward to.
Monday, March 22, 2010
The link above is from my time in Iraq. On one of my flights we carried an embedded journalist. If you watch the video, I am in the first few minutes of it describing some experiences flying over Iraq. Thought you might enjoy it.
The first half of the week was spent learning about several of the different communication radios in the Army inventory. Any idiot can figure out how to push a button, and talk into a microphone, the challenge was learning how to program the radios to be able to actually talk to some else. In order to provide secure communications Army radios have the capability to jump between several different frequencies each second, which is actually quite amazing. From my aviation background I have worked with variations of some of the radios, plus I have had more hands on time than some of the other guys. So most of the training was not that difficult for me.
The second half of the week was spent going through Combat Life-saver Training, basically first aid training. Once again, not that tough as far as Army training goes. The Army's basic philosophy is that if your buddy is wounded in combat and the bad guy is still shooting at you, then shoot back first. Once you can get your buddy to a safe area, before buddy first aid, get them stabilized and call in help to get them to a field medical hospital. In order to control severe bleeding the use of a Tourniquet was really pushed. It was surprising to learn that a TQ can be left on the arm or leg for between four to six hours without causing major damage. The patient most likely will require some surgery, but they probably should retain use of the appendage. I can recall from my Boy Scout days first aid training that putting a TQ on that limb was as good as gone, and should only be used as a last resort. It is amazing how medical technology has advanced.
In the evenings this week, we continued with our training on 'Dari', the predominate language spoken in our region of Afghanistan. Saturday morning, I got to attempt to try and put some of my language training to use. I was involved with what our trainers call a 'Leader's Engagement' in which I had to work with an interpretor and speak with a fictional Afghan leader. It was a great learning experience, however I dinged by the evaluator that he felt I should have used some more Dari conversational greetings that we have learned thus far. Learning Dari is so foreign, it is tough to pick up. I've learned a few conversational phrases in German, Spanish, and French and felt those came relatively easy simply because those words are often heard throughout our culture. Other than the clip of a 'crazed terrorist' in a movie, I can not ever remember hearing Dari words or phrases in my normal life.
One thing that is starting to concern me is my frustration with meals provided at the local Dining Facility. I can not ever remember ever really having any major complaints about Army food, that it is gross, disgusting, or makes me sick. None of those are the issue here, just I am already finding that the menu selections provided are not that exciting. Too often I am walking straight for the short order line, skipping the main line supposedly healthier selections, and ordering a hamburger or a slice of pizza. One of my goals is to try and eat healthier, and hopefully shed a few pounds during this deployment. I just can't bring myself to eat chicken (which is offered in some variety in almost every meal) or some version of a casserole everyday.
This week I get to look forward to going through up armored driver's training. Basically the up armored vehicles are heavier than a regular vehicle, which means they take longer to accelerate and longer to stop. Some how the Army will figure out a way in which to make it a three day class, for something that could be familiarized in a half a day. Alas though that is part of the fun of being in the Army.
I look forward to reading comments from any who might actually be reading my writings. I'm hoping to improve on my writing, and writing style over the next year. Any thoughts, questions, or feedback is appreciated.
Till next time, have a great week.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
This past week our training was all spent in the classroom. Our mornings we focused on learning 'Dari', one of the main languages spoken in Afghanistan. Like any language, it is a real challenge to try and learn. Basically all we focused on was were words and phrases that might be used during an introduction, or a possible emergency. I might get to the point where I have learned to speak and understand 100 to 200 words or so. Being able to actually read and write their language would be something entirely different. Their written language looks like a combination of the letters L, I, V, O, and W and some dots or squiggles tossed in. What was really funny for me and my classmates while attempting to learn this language was how my brain wanted to toss in words from other languages. I haven't studied Spanish since I was in High School, yet my mind slip in Spanish words when I couldn't think of the correct Dari word.
After lunch we focused on cultural aspects of Afghanistan on the muslim world. Our first three days we had a speaker who worked grew up in Afghanistan, and worked as a translator. Much of Monday he spent explain the Islamic faith. I had heard before that Muslims worship the same God of Abraham that I worship, and that is supposed to be a religion of peace. However try as I might I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that so many of the "terrorists" of the world follow the Islamic Faith. Part of the instructors claim is that many of the suicide bombers or terrorists are unable to read or write and have received bad teaching from corrupt Imams. I will concede that is a possibility for some of the terrorists out there, however all the 19 hijackers that hit the world trade center were well educated men. Something had to have perverted their minds. I know that there are crazies from the Christian faith, however it will take some work to remove or change my paradigm about the Muslim faith. I look forward to getting to Afghanistan, working with the Afghanis and hopefully having my opinion(s) changed.
This past week I finished reading the book Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. A book that I would highly recommend. It details Navy Seal Luttrell and his three other Seal teammates fight in Afghanistan, and Petty Officer Luttrell was the only one to survive a horrific battle. From that battle Navy LT. Michael Murphy was post-humously awarded the Medal of Honor. I have started reading the book Unmerited Favor by Joseph Prince, given to me by a friend from Church. I am a few chapters in thus far, and am thankful for the God's gift of the book through my friend. The book reminds of God's Grace, that I know I sometimes overlook or forget.
Yesterday I celebrated the 35th anniversary of my coming kicking and screaming into this world. A month ago I thought it would be a miserable day stuck on Fort Polk to try and celebrate my birthday. Much to my surprise it turned out to be a pretty good day. Had to put the uniform on and attend a class on avoiding becoming a POW. In the evening though our team went out to a local restaurant called Catfish Junction for some dinner, drinks, and fellowship. For my meal I got 5 pounds of boiled craw-fish, with the help of the guys sitting next me I was able to make it through all 5 lbs. Many of the guys that I am working with I can sense that I going to become lifelong friends, as I really had a good time sharing some drinks with them last night.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Change the building address and street to the following:
BlDG 7525A, K Ave.
Everything else will remain the same.
CPT Marc Rassler
Class 94 URF 01010
162 Inf Bde (FSF-TT)
Bld 7525A, K Ave
N Ft Polk, LA 71459
Below are some links that I found on the internet about our departure ceremony last week, and other information.
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It was really awesome to have Govenor Pawlenty come and speak at our departure ceremony, I can understand why a lot of folks think he will be a strong contender in the next presidential race. In the short time that he spoke, he just stood up and seemed to say all of the right things.
Tuesday morning we returned to the Armory, loaded up our gear and began our journey to Ft Polk. While inventoring our gear I was surprised to find out that I will be one of the M203 gunners. I am kind of excited to head out to the range and launch some grenades down range from my rifle, unfortunately with that comes several extra pounds of ammo that I will have to strap to my vest (yet another reason for me to spend a lot of time at the gym over the next year). Had a pretty uneventful flight and ride to Ft Polk. The only probably is that I was put in a six man room with four other officers, and I ended up getting one of the top bunks.
Wednesday through Friday was spent in-processing here at Ft Sill. A few of the folks were kind of frustrated because we were given classes on things that we had already completed back at home. Wednesday afternoon I got an anthrax booster shot, and a couple others which I don't remember, all I know is that Friday afternoon my arms were still a little sore. Fortunately I did not have to get a small pox shot again. I am a little concerned though as we were told that we will have to take malaria pills when we get in country. I will have to do a little bit more research on them. Thursday we got a new issue of uniforms. Some of things I can envision that I will have to box up and mail home, because I will never need them. There were a couple things which I didn't get, which I was expecting I would receive, which I might have to purchase when I get in country. I only have a couple PT uniforms here at Ft Polk, and really don't want to purchase any more, because I have several back in storage.
Friday evening after a briefing from our new training company we were told we would have the weekend free. This morning we went to PX and Clothing and Sales to pick up what ever items we might still need. Several of the guys bought some new boots, I held off on any major purchases. This evening we are planning to go into town to try and get a descent meal. The food here at our local dining facility isn't that bad, however restaraunt food is always better for some reason. I'm hoping we will find a restaraunt that serves boiled craw-fish! Tomorrow (Sunday) off to church, and then Monday I believe we will start drivers training.
Thus far in my short time here at Fort Polk, I am pleased with my experience here. When I mentioned to other Army folks that I was coming here, everyone rolled their eyes from all the bad memories that they have of this place. I hoping that it won't be that bad while I am here; sure it will suck but most nights I will be able to sleep in a descent rack.
Monday, March 01, 2010
As many of you may have heard or knew already, and for those who haven't, Monday I will be beginning my third deployment in less than six years. This time I will be going to Afghanistan on a NATO mission as part of an OMLT team, called OMLT III with 14 other soldiers from Minnesota. We will be combining with a similar sized group of soldiers from Croatia, together with we will work to train the Afghan National Army (ANA). Basically we will be working to teach the ANA soldiers how to Shoot, Move, and Communicate. We will be based out of and living at Camp Mike Spann near Mazar-I-Sharif.
My team will start out spending an month and half or so training at Fort Polk, which is in western Louisiana. While I haven't seen our training schedule while we are at Ft Polk I have heard that we can expect to receive convoy live fire training, a few days of intensive language and cultural classes, as well as well as several "death by power point" classes. Afterwards we will move on to Camp Hohenfels, which is southeast of Nuremburg and northwest of Regensburg Germany. At Camp Hohenfels we will join up with our Croatian counterparts and work to become one combined team before heading into theatre.
I was the last person to join OMLT III, all happening within the past month. In January I was working on earning on my civilian fixed wing certified flight instructor (CFI) rating, when I got a call from the commander of my National Guard unit stating that there was a unit in Minnesota deploying to Afghanistan soon in need of an officer and was wondering if I would be interested in helping out. One of the soldiers on the team had a medical issue which he could not get a waiver approved, and they were looking to fill his role immediately. I would be going as the unit S1 officer, which is essentially the human resources officer in regular office. For those who are fan's of the television show The Office, I will be the Toby Flenderson of our team; hopefully I will not be hated by my boss! While I unfortunately would not be able to fly for a year I felt joining the team would be a good career move, I would also be helping out in a very vital role helping to train Afghani soldiers which will only help to make America safer in the long run and more importantly hopefully help to bring other American and NATO soldiers sooner.
Five weeks was the total amount of time from the time I was asked to join the team till our deployment began. In between though I lost two weeks though, in mid February I was sent to Little Rock AR to attend a National Guard course to learn some of the basics about becoming a S1 officer. Before leaving for Little Rock I was able to finish up my CFI course, and pass my CFI check ride. I also still had several check rides in the Blackhawk as part of my yearly requirements for the Army. Fortunately for all those flights I was able to find a couple days of clear weather to squeeze everything in. Similar to my last deployment to Iraq; in the past week, with the help of my parents, I moved out of my house in Minneapolis and placed all of my belonging in storage. Now I am hoping that the property management firm that I have hired can find a paying renter for my house before some squatters or vandals discover my place. If you know of anyone looking to rent a house in Minneapolis
Over the next year while I am gone, one of my goals is become a better writer and observer of many of the events that will be occurring around me during my training and while I am in Afghanistan. I know that people do not want to receive mass emails, so I have set up a blog which I plan to use to help document some of my thoughts, observations and adventures while I am away. If you care to follow my blog while I am away you can find me at http://mrassler.blogspot.com/ . It is my intent to be able to find something new or interesting to write about every couple weeks. I also can be found at http://www.facebook.com/mrassler. All of this of course is dependant on what kind of internet access I have or possible website restrictions I have while over there. Assuming I have regular internet access my civilian email address email@example.com is my preferred email address, however I will also begin regularly checking my army email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. So if you send an email to either address, eventually I will get back to you .
My mailing address when I get to Afghanistan, which I expect will sometime after the beginning of May will be as follows.
CPT Marc Rassler
4th KDK MNCS OMLT
Camp Mike Spann
APO AE 09354
I hope that over the next year while I am away that you will keep me updated on major events in your life. Please, make sure an email me if you move and change your address.
Feel free to forward this email to any friends or family which I might have missed, as I do not have everyone's email address.
I will have my cell phone about another month or so. I will turn it off before I head overseas, however do not through away my phone number as I will have the number when I return next year.
In conclusion I can not think of things that I will need over the next year while I am gone. I will however say that I am big believer of having prayer on your side. I am not scared or nervous about the area(s) that I will soon be going to, but having positive prayer on your side never hurts.
Thanks for your support.
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