Tuesday, August 31, 2004


New York in now gripped with all this election stuff. The GOP convention is taking over my city. Manhattan was much less dense with people yesterday, as many were scared to go in to work in fear of the crowds. Sunday saw lots of protesters in the streets.

It dawned on me that it has been about three and a half decades since the immature, illiterate, ignorant, untutored, and unwashed masses took an interest in politics. It is about time that they started again.

In the Army I had a lot of discussions about politics. I mentioned in my last post that the Army is encouraging voting. Being the older and wiser one in my company, people often thought I had insight in to the electins. Many people simply came up to me and asked "who should I vote for?". I naturally did not answer the question straight out. I generally asked them about their social and economic beliefs and tried to fit a candidate in to that. Something I kept hearing was "Now that I am in the military, I have to look at things differently. NOW, which candidate is best for me?" I had to honestly tell many people that I did not know. There are so many factors to consider, that I am not sure who is working in the best interest of your average enlisted person in the Army.

There was a lot of genuine curiosity. Many of the people were 18 years old, and this rather polarized campaign is their introduction to politics. I feel bad for them. But, to be honest, the military is not known for being the most intellectual segment of the population, and nonetheless, the questions I heard were genuine and sometimes downright thoughtful. It was inspiring. Perhaps there is hope for the future.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

It's hard to play footsie when you're wearing combat boots

First of all, I have returned to the civilian world. I finished my Army training for this summer. Miraculously, the Army let me out about a week early. How it happened is weird, and it was a last minute thing that would not have happened if I had been informed a few hours later, but it happened. I wanted to leave a few hours early, but apparently the army does not do small favors, only big ones.

Second, I wanted to write a few things about the Army that I thought were worth mentioning. We were given a class on EO (equal opportunity) as the Army defines. I have to say I was impressed. Having spent my last ten years in universities, I have seen countless EO-type conferences, speeches, lectures, warnings, and admonitions. They were all stupid and boring, and made me want to physically harm the person who gave the talk. However, the Army has an interesting CD-Rom that was used, and I thought really made the point well. A drill instructor (hands-down the least popular one) led the discussion, and people came away with the point. It was also non-boring.

I remember last summer when I was in basic training, there was a film on the law of land warfare, and it had to be the cheesiest dumbest presentation I ever saw. It looks like it was made by soldiers-cum-actors in the early 70's when it was their duty to present it, regardless if anyone was supposed to take it seriously. Hopefully they are working on a better version of that. A few weeks ago, we had a pretty dumb class on how to deal with civilians in a combat zone. There was a powerpoint slide-show. That sucked. However, we did some actual practicing, where some of us were soldiers and others were angry Iraqis, and that part was OK.

The Army is getting a bit more practical in training soldiers. We did a few exercises that are brand new, but are designed to reflect the realities on today's battlefield. We learned about Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) which are killing people all over Iraq (what every Israeli knows as a chefetz chashud). We also learned how to deal with convoys that are being attacked - especially when we are in them.

Third, the Army had all these rules about "fraternizing" between male and female trainees. There are all sorts of rules, most of which are useless because people do it all the time anyway. But I observed that given the way things were structured it is pretty hard "play footsie in combat boots". People tend to have these short intense flings on weekends. It is an interesting kind of relationship.

Fourth, The Army has been very in to voting. In theory the Drill Sergeants are supposd to encourage you to vote, though not influence them. I do remember though at one point a Drill Sergeant almost telling us to vote for Bush, and another a few days later almsot saying to vote against Bush. So that is that.

I also read three books this summer whihc I do not have time to comment on. 1) A More Elite Soldier: Pursuing a Life of Purpose by Chuck Holton, 2)A Time of Our Choosing: America's War in Iraq by Todd S. Purdum, and 3) Philosophy of Religion by William J. Wainwright.

That is all for now. I will get back to my civilian mode, and remind myself what the real world out here is like.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Tattoo place

So I wimped out of getting a tattoo yesterday. I went with 4 female soldiers yesterday to the Blue Horseshoe Tattoo place where three of them got tattoos. It was a fun military experience. Many soldiers get tatoos during training even though it is fairly discouraged, and they can likely get in to trouble for it. The tattoo artist for one of them was this guy with some interesting tattoos of his own. It was interesting watching it. It was the first time for one of them. The other two were vets.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Good training

My company spent most of this past week on an FTX (Field Training Exercize). It was pretty good if you don't mind not showering for a week or being eaten alive by eight different types of mosquitos, and six species of chiggers, etc. We had all sorts of classes that showed a little bit of how the Army is trying to adapt and give even us combat support troops a bit of practical training. We dealt with a lot of things that are typical of life in Iraq today. It was good. It has been a pretty good week overall. We got to play with even more heavy equiptment, and also shoot a lot of things. My squad really did well, and everyone was pleased.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

A fairly good week in training

This week was a really good week of Army training. Nothing particularly annoying happened, and it culminated with me and many others going out on pass today.

The week was rather interesting. We spent the whole week doing some good hands-on training. There were also some other classes in the time usually reserved for getting chewed out.

We had a class dealing with how to treat civilians both hostile and non-hostile on the battlefield. I am not sure what anyone took out of the class, but the information was certainly put out there. We also spent some time on convoy procedures. This is another practical skill - what to do when convoys get ambushed. We have a long field exercize for most of next week. Not fun, but good training.