Tag Archives: combat skills

Training: Day…whatever this is.


I no longer remember how long I’ve been here, but I know I leave in three days.

Today was land navigation. My team included an Eagle Scout and two other folks. Add that to my innate sense of direction, scouting experience, intuition, and growing up in the woods. We finished the course 30 minutes faster than the Army standard, which was fast enough for the instructors to think we were using a GPS.

Pff. Waypoints. I’m a gamer. I’ve done land navigation with way points nearly everyday for 12 years.

The fun part was the intuition. Just sort of knowing where the markers are really helps too. “The compass says this way.” Right, but if we cut over this way, we can walk through the clearing and it’s on the edge over there. “Can you see it?” Not yet.

Tomorrow is the final exercise and a test. We graduate the next day. Then the next day I’ll be heading home for a little bit.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m flippin’ tired.

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Training: Day…Bang!


Red spurting blood! Left arm!

Today was combat medicine. Yet another class that hammers home exactly what the other part of my job is and where I’m going.

Getting over the “that’s not my job” attitude is difficult, but that’s what this entire training has been about. Today was no different.

I can now close up a sucking chest wound, treat for shock, apply field dressings and tie off a tourniquet. I’ve had the training before, but today was so hands on it made the previous first aid training seem like a joke.

I can’t say I’m just a writer or photographer anymore. It’s a good feeling. I feel more comfortable with what is expected of me. I’m no less scared, but I know what to do when things get bad.

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Training: Day Seven


Balls. Today was not my best day. You can’t have a bad day when you are getting shot at.

Today’s class was urban combat. We spent the morning on tactics and the afternoon on execution. I thought I had a good grasp of the concept. When it came to showing what we learned, I had a problem that got me pulled from the exercise.

Now, I’m pretty honest. If I fail, I’ll say so. I failed.

Before we started, we put on safety gear in addition to our body armor. There was a groin protector, a neck strap that surrounded our neck firmly, and a face mask that locked onto the helmet and wrapped around our head. The smart folks might see where this is going. Compressed chest, neck held, wrapped head…

We swept up the street, kicked in a door and cleared the front room. I cleared the back room and noticed I was a little out of breath.

Huh, that’s odd. I’ll just catch my breath. This air isn’t really flowing through the face mask… It’s just my imagination. You’re smarter than this; you know what’s happening. I do, I can’t breath. No, you can breath, just relax. I’m suffocating and this body armor is constricting my lungs.

My fingers went up to pull off the mask, but I stopped myself. I doubled over. Just breathe, just relax. You are panicing now for no good reason. My hands reached up to rip at the Velcro holding my body armor. I stopped myself again because that’s just asking to die.

The captain looked over and asked if I was okay. I tried to shake my head no, but remembered the mask was holding my head firmly in place. I couldn’t talk because I couldn’t get air. I motioned for him to come over. He asked what was wrong. Somehow I made the international hand sign for I’m not breathing properly, which is a hand in front of your face that moves rapidly to your chest and back again three times quickly.

He yelled that I was hyperventilating (the hand signal worked) for an instructor and he and another guy got my mask off. Within the 10 seconds it took the instructor to halt the exercise and come in, I was already better.

I got pulled out and a stern talking to by an Army Ranger who thought I didn’t have my head in the game and that I need to pull my shit together because I’m going to a war zone. I wanted to explain that it was the mask and not the fighting, but sometimes it’s best just to take the butt chewing.

He asked if I thought I could go through again. Definently, I said. He said I need to get over my shit and find a happy place if I have to. I nodded instead of saying what was on my mind. He said he’d let me go though again, which clearly looked like it was against his best judgement.

I lined up, got strapped into the mask and instantly started to freak again. I hooked a thumb under the mask and got a little fresh air and felt better.

We repeated the scenario. We got to the same room and I had a panic attack again. A few years of psychology told me it was not only in my head, but being set off be being in the same place in the same situation. I tried to find a happy place and endedup doubled over again. I hooked a thumb under the mask and got some cool air on my face. I was good to go. I broke the cycle.

We exited the building and swept up the street again. I applied the speed shooting trick I learned the day before and shot one guy up the street, one across the street and one behind us as fast as it took you to read that. Three rounds each.

We stormed the next building with a couple teams. We went upstairs and cleared the room. I sniped another guy who was hiding in the trees from my window.

They called a halt. I checked myself for paint and didn’t have a scratch.

So, what did I learn? I don’t know. I guess no matter how smart I think I am, the body is going to do what the body is going to do. No matter how in control I feel, random chemicals in my blood stream sometimes have a different agenda. I learned my adrenaline jacks up my reflexes without causing tunnel vision, but screws with me if my head is wrapped up, neck is held and chest is restricted.

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Training: Day Six


Today was a down day so I picked up a few magazines on psychology and photography, rented Lost Boys 3, and finished Dead Before Dawn. Oh, and there was football on or something.

Tomorrow I get shot at. No risk of death, but good chance of bruising. I took a tally of the bruises I have so far just so I know how many times I get shot tomorrow.

That might sound pessimistic, but I shoot pictures and write stories. Tomorrow my squad will clear buildings and go up against the Marine sniper and other instructors who are all prior service Army infantry at least. I’m just not thinking we stand a chance. We’ll see, I guess.

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Training: Day Five


Alternate title: “Hell yeah, Dude! Get some!”

Today was marksmanship and I thought it was going to be cake, but while this new eyeglass prescription is fine, the inserts for my ballistic goggles caused me a lot of problems. It seems I can only see 200 yards with them on and that’s only in focus if I hold my head still, down and look an exact spot in the lens.

Normally, I shoot very close to marksman, but when I tried zeroing the M16A2, I only got one shot on the paper out of three. I was seeing double of the small target I had to hit. The disturbing thing was there was a huge backboard to the target and I didn’t hit that at all. The second and third attempt I got two out of three on the paper. The instructor fixed my sight and said I should be okay. I was ready to quit.

I know I have a problem. When I think I have a skill, if I perform it at anything less than perfect by my standards, then I would rather give up. It pisses me off, sets off my mood and there’s usually no recovering from that.

I know everyone wants to do well. My standard happens to only accept 98% or better. Thankfully I don’t feel like that about everything or I’d get nothing done.

Needless to say going from being able to bullseye at 300 yards to not hitting the paper at 25 set me off. I waited two turns to shoot, told myself this is just for fun and I’ll get this eye insert fixed when I get back.

I got up on the mound when it was my turn and looked down range and saw the orange target at 300 yards. I brought my weapon up, sighted it on the target and saw that I could no longer see it. I felt a little defeated. I could barely make out the target at 200 yards.

I went through a couple clips and the instructor came over. Turns out he’s a Marine sniper. He told me to take a shot at the 300. I told him I can only see the 200. He had me take a few shots saying lower and left until I hit it. I shot at the 100 and had the same problem. Low and left he said again.

My sight was so off, I had to aim at the target, then aim down and left about a centimeter everytime.

Once I got that worked out, he was pretty happy with my shooting. He even got a little excited a few times.

Then we went for speed. He explained the mechanics of double tapping; striking the target twice before it falls. I excelled at it and was able to hit the target out to 100 yards with both bullets. I got through 24 shots in under a minute only missing twice. The instructor came back over and asked if I was done already. I said I thought so. He said I had two more clips and this time he watched me do it, at one point shouting “Hell yeah, dude! Get some!”

Today, this writer/photographer impressed a Marine sniper. I’m going to chalk that up in the win category.

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Training: Day…Incoming!


Today was fun, but tiring. I’m interested in what causes the fog of war because I wasn’t feeling it. I think I’m used to working under stress. I got a little caught off guard by a couple of civilians trying to enter the vehicle, but I managed to channel my inner German side and got them to back away.

Again, vehicle operations was enlightening and probably the most useful so far. The best was spotting someone in a hockey mask because we’re close to Halloween. Nice touch.

People might complain about all the equipment we wear, but I’m thankful for my helmet after bumping my head everytime I came out of the humvee. I’m thankful for the elbow and knee pads by looking at the gouges taken out of them by rocks. I’m still finding new ways to bruise myself, but it could be a hell of a lot worse.

Tomorrow is marksmanship. I’m a little excited about that. I’m also a little excited we have Sunday off. I’ll be bored out of my mind, but it’ll be nice to recoup a bit before pressing forward for five more days.

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