Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's out there. I just got off the phone with my Dad. Aren't Dad's great?!

I talked with Janae and the boys last night. We actually celebrated Father's Day Memorial Day Weekend. As usual though, Janae is always prepared. In my stuff, she put in several cards with the dates they can be opened. Of course, I had one for Father's Day in it. I've got one to open on the 21st. It's our 20th Wedding Anniversary. I can't believe how fast the time has gone. I'm sure I'll have more to say/write when the day comes.

I failed to mention, the previous post is the second article I wrote for the military paper back home. I'm still not sure where it's going to be published but it's fun to think that I may be a published author.

Tomorrow is weapon's qual on our M4. It's a smaller version of the M16 machine gun. Of course, we have to wear our IBA's so I anticipate melting under its weight and with all the heat and humidity. I just realized, I haven't posted my third article yet so you haven't had the "treat" of reading about our weapons qual on the 9mm.

So, without further ado, here's my third article telling you about that experience...

“Weapons Qual”
LTC Robert Church
HHB, 1st Corps Artillery

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Close your eyes. OK, don’t really close them, but recall in your mind’s eye the first time you saw the Wizard of Oz. Remember when the Wicked Witch of the West ran into the wall of water, OK, it was really thrown at her, but work with me here. Remember when she was hit with the wall of water and she began melting? She turned all liquidy and gooey. She slowly melted to the floor and became this steaming pile of goo. Remember?

Ever think it would ever happen to you?

Well, it happened to us.

Have I piqued your interest?

We were issued our Individual Body Armor (IBA) this week. It’s a wrap around type vest with Kevlar inside. It will stop small caliber bullets but in order to stop the larger caliber weapons, you have to insert heavy plates in the front and back. Ever suddenly strap on 45+ pounds and have to carry it around? In order to relieve the weight off your shoulders, you have to tighten up the side straps. I have to imagine it is much like wearing a corset. There’s also a neckpiece that goes with it. Oh, and a cod piece. It’s a triangular piece that hangs down in front to protect…I think you get the picture.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this protection. I can’t tell you how hot you get by wearing it. The IBA is so tight, and with the neckpiece on, it literally traps all your body heat and seems to intensify it a hundred-fold. We’re required to wear it whenever we train in the field.

We were also issued our weapons this week. We got our 9 mm first. We went to the field to qualify. We wore our IBA. First we went to the simulator to practice. It was great. I shot 39/40. I was confident and excited to go and shoot the real thing.

Well as the sun continued to rise, so did the humidity level. Wearing that IBA in the heat and humidity was like walking into a wall of water. I could hear echoes of “I’m melting, I’m melting” in the back of my mind. (Did you read that in a high, squeaky, wicked witch voice? If not, go back and read it again to get the full effect.)

As the entire command needed to qualify, we spent the entire day at the range. We tried to find what little shade was available. Most succeeded.

The range controllers were great to work with. They got us through quickly and efficiently. I wish I could say we all qualified on the first go-round. But such was not the case. Remember that 39/40 I shot in the simulator? Well let’s just say that I failed to reach that level of success on the range. So as not to embarrass myself, let me just say that I did pass. Eventually. We all passed.

As part of our qualification process, we had to put on our protective masks and shoot with those on. That was interesting. Trying not to feel claustrophobic, while having to focus through the eye pieces of the mask and then shoot at the targets was quite the experience. It took quite a bit of concentration. Another of those firsts.

As the sun went down, we prepared for our night-fire qualifications. That’s where you have to shoot in the dark. You don’t have to hit as many targets but you still have to qualify. This time around, I achieved success the first time around. But then, I was in the first group and even though it was “technically” night, it wasn’t as dark as it was when the last group shot. My admiration and respect to those who truly shot in the dark.

Well we all qualified. Now we have the qualifications on the M4 to look forward to. We were issued those this week as well. We spent the morning becoming acquainted with the weapon. After some excellent instruction, we went and had a laser attached to the end of the weapon and began “zeroing” in our weapons. Zeroing-in is the process where we can adjust the weapon so that we hit the target in relatively the same location every time, provided we shoot the same way every time.

After we “zeroed-in” we got to practice the course of fire that we would be shooting on the range. We have to shoot in the prone position – lying down. Remember, we’re wearing our IBA while we do this. We shoot 40 rounds of fire at pop-up targets. We then hear the words, “gas, gas, gas.” That’s the signal to put on your mask and then shoot another round. Shooting with the mask on at the 9mm range was different. There, we were standing, looking straight down range. Now, lying prone, you couldn’t do that. You have to turn your body at an angle, and then jam your eye-piece right up to the site, in order to get a good view. It was pretty cool. Monday is the day we qualify on the M4. I wonder if we’ll hear a chorus of (get your wicked witch voices ready) “I’m melting, I’m melting” in the background.

I’m sure we will.

OK, I'm sure you gathered from my article that I didn't pass the first time. I was shamed beyond belief. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration, but it was the first time, ever, that I haven't qualified the first time. I shot 14/30. Pretty lame. Well the second time around, I was so hot, and the sweat was dripping in my eyes, I was at the farthest lane and couldn't hear the range instructor very well, that on one of the lanes, I grabbed the wrong magazine - I grabbed a 5 round magazine instead of the 7 round magazine. As you can guess, I ran out of bullets and missed a couple of targets. Well on that round, let's just say that I didn't even make the double digit mark. The shame of it all was quite distressing. So I practiced and practiced so that when I went back the third time, I was ready. I shot 25/30. About dang time.

Oh, and on the night shoot, I got a perfect score.

I hope I don't repeat my performance tomorrow on the M4. Wish me luck.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you'll get this or not but this is Kay-at-the-Court; that's sort of my official name. I enjoyed your blog, laughed at the spiders, smiled at the cookie and milk episode (I'd send you some but they'd just melt) and got teary-eyed at the church meeting story. I suspect you'll wish you had the rain back when you get to the hellish heat ahead. It's good to know we have good troops over there as what makes the news is always the negative. Take care and talk to you later. Glad your family is doing well, Bob.