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Red Rover, Red Rover, Just Roll Me Right Over.

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Do you remember the game Red Rover in elementary school?  The one where you had to break through the held hands of the line of children across from you?  Now imagine doing that upside-down and instead of held hands of other seven-year olds, it was a five point harness . . .  and you are in armor.  Much like the Boy Scouts, except different, under the category of "Be Prepared," the Navy wants to make sure that if we are in a convoy, and one of the vehicles is struck by an IED (or just has a driver that takes a turn too fast) and it rolls, we know how to "egress" the vehicle.  I suppose the trainers could say "exit" just as easily, but "egress" gives it that cool military feeling.  And that's about where the cool feeling on this ends (I thought to myself as my head was wedged between the dashboard and window glass).
So Camp McCrady has two rollover simulators  - one MRAP, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, vehicle and one of the new Humvee r…

Ode to the Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) and Camp McCrady Dining

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Too often in our great country, we see things that divide us, that cause strife and anger.  Some say it is because the equalizing "American experience" has been diluted and too few of us have shared common pain and adversity.  Our leaders ask, seemingly in vain, "what can we do to solve this and create a more mutual understanding and cooperation among all races and religions and classes?"  
Forget about the old ad campaign encouraging the world to "share a Coke."  Every Capitol Hill negotiation (or even homeowners association or PTA meeting, because those can get hairy real fast) should start with MREs.  Like service members, lawmakers, PTA officers and homeowner association gadflies can break bread together, share in the joy of getting an MRE with a bag of  tropical flavor Skittles in it, or the agony of one with the chocolate-flavored cardboard-infused protein bar.  They can trade their mango-pineapple puree pack in the Asian style Chicken noodles MRE …

Your Targets Are Up, Knock Them Down!

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"Shooters, Sailors, Killers" from Bravo Company out on the range for another day of catered meals* and complimentary ammo.


Between Camp McCrady and adjoining Fort Jackson, there are 28 small and medium arms ranges, some with more than four dozen lanes of fire as deep as 300 meters. It's a lot of real estate, and more range space at just one army base than the Navy has at all of its bases combined. There's a reason for that . . . . small arms marksmanship is not a particularly high-demand skill set in the Navy. We train on a lot of equipment and weapons systems, but they are far more likely to be the kind that fire missiles than the kind that fire a small caliber projectile.

Some sailors arrive having never fired a weapon (of any kind) in their life. But in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond, everyone needs to be comfortable carrying and using small arms. So with a mix of humor and a lot of expertise from the instructors, and hours upon hours of classro…

On the Range Again

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From Norfolk, we boarded our buses for the eight hour trip to Camp McCrady, just east of Columbia, SC, home of the other USC.  Camp McCrady was used almost exclusively by the South Carolina National Guard until 2005 when the Navy came to town.  As the Navy was filling more and more Army jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan, leadership realized that sailors did not necessarily have some of the same basic skill sets, like extensive small arms proficiency or convoy operations experience.

So over the course of 17 days, we qualify/requalify with the M9 pistol, the M4 rifle in various scenarios.  And spend time on combat first aid courses, vehicle roll-over simulators, communications and a host of other skills that, in a worst case situation, hopefully helps the good guys beat the bad guys.

But, first, before anything else, we need more gear!  Armor, helmets, goggles, ballistic glasses, gloves, knee and elbow pads, ammunition magazines and, of course, weapons.  But because it's the military, e…

Back to Active Duty

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Ahoy There Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center From the airport, I arrived at Naval Station Norfolk, home of the Navy's Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center, where the only real "combat" takes place from behind a desk and a computer screen as a host of staff members manage the myriad requirements of administratively transferring a reservist to active duty status.  The motto, in Latin, translates to "Sailor First."  This is primarily due to there being no Latin word for "paperwork," so after a study group, they went with "Sailor."


Getting Paid and More . . . When you are a Navy Reservist and you transition from reserve status to active status for a mobilization, it's kind of complicated.  Actually, it's really complicated, because even after 17+ years of continuous Navy Reserve mobilizations, the reserve side still has its own pay system, and the active side has it's own pay system, and like vindictive siblings who never got ov…

The Exit

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Had you asked me yesterday, I would have told you that this blog entry would be a photo of my morning bowl of cereal, a large duffel bag and an Uber drop-off for a quiet exit from LAX. But the Bob Hope USO team, KTLA's Gayle Anderson and Delta Air Lines had a different plan . . . . and that plan included 
A huge welcome from staff, volunteers, board members and friends, wih the KTLA cameras rolling . . .
A life-size Bob . . .

With life size Bob's favorite donuts from Randy's . . .

A live shot with Gayle Anderson on the KTLA morning news . . .
A guest appearance by CBS SEAL Team cast members Justin Melnick and Dita . . . 

A farewell at the gate . . .

And a gift basket from Delta Air Lines & Gate Gourmet delivered to me once I took my seat on the plane . . .

Delivered by these fantastic Delta folks . . .


And finally, a welcome in Norfolk, VA, my first stop on my way to Afghanistan, by the awesome USO Hampton Roads/Central Virginia team at Norfolk International Airport!

You are here . . . .

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Not too long ago, I received a certified return receipt piece of mail from the U.S. Navy, post-marked from Washington, DC.  The contents?  The cryptic one-page map above. But "what could it all mean?" I thought to myself.

Actually, that's not how it worked at all.  The last time I was deployed was 2009, chasing pirates in the Somali Basin and Gulf of Aden aboard the Combined Task Force 151 flagship, USS Anzio (CG68).  And right before that, in Baghdad supporting "the surge."  So lets stop for a 2008 flashback photo:
Flashback photo done, back to the present.  So it was almost ten years ago when I was last "downrange" (a geographic area defined by anyplace that is not "up-range," and up-range being defined as a geographic area anywhere with a Walmart inside a 100 mile radius, with at least a small part of the population that is emotionally invested in the outcome of the reality TV show The Bachelor).  I was but a young and occasionally crass Na…