Monday, July 11, 2011

BEST AT EVER.

(The following three paragraphs will probably sound like a WALL of GIBBERISH for people who aren't in the reserves)
 

 After asking my AOIC every drill weekend for the past six months to help me put in orders, she finally got the okay to put in our requests 20 days before Operation Golden Coyote started.  DTS instruction recommends at least 60.  With 15 days left until the AT (Annual Training, aka the 'two weeks a year'), we were cleared to enter our orders into NROWS.  Eta 9 days and someone at NOSC <NAME WITHHELD> calls me and tells me I have to either put in a request or cut some days off my AT (which im pretty sure the Golden Coyote organizers wouldn't be too happy about).  I know I'm allowed 29 AT days and I already used 2.  After my AOIC was kind enough to sort out the mess for me, I quickly signed my DTS travel stuff with seven days until the operation (all the while my AOIC continues to insist that there is plenty of time, despite official DTS/NROWS instruction saying you need to do all this shit 60 days in advance).

Then I get a call from the NOSC again!  I email him explaining I don't know WTF, and he tells me to talk to a junior-enlisted-something-or-other.  I do that and it's an E2 who is just as clueless as me, and he tells me he'll get right on it and that I should check DTS later that night.  I check it the next morning and see nothing has happened, so I call DTS and the DTS people tell me NOSC guys aren't doing anything and are refusing to approve my orders, so DTS resends my airline ticket requests and tell me that I should sort it out with them.

And so this process repeats itself for the next few days until the very last day before AT and im calling DTS, NOSC, SATO and random numbers and emailing any other random people who appear remotely relevent and at 2000 its all finally approved.  The chief calls me up, he sounds pissed, and asks me why I waited till the last day to submit my DTS stuff AND proceeds to tell me I never signed my DTS stuff, but I know that is a crock of shit.  The fact that DTS requed my request multiple times throughout the week actually updated the "request send date" making it appear as though I sent everything at the last minute (I'm assuming that's what happened, anyways)!  I can log onto DTS and I can see for a fact that I did indeed sign my shit a week prior and that there are multiple iterations of the same things.  Unless he was talking about why I waited until the last week to do my DTS stuff, then my secondary excuse is that my unit said it was okay!


Oh yeah, on the last day, my dad insisted that he help, and so started making phone calls to NOSC people. Chief wasn't happy about that either.  But I never would have gotten anywhere with this AT without his help, and that was kind of embarrassing.

When I arrived at Rapid City, South Dakota, it was pouring rain and 50 degrees.  I was picked up by my PoC, driven to some sort of briefing building where I watched some ridiculously edited briefing videos that looked like someone had too much fun making in Windows Movie Maker.  I got to my barracks at Camp Rapid and I did nothing for the rest of the day.  Also, T-Mobile has ZERO coverage in Rapid City.  I was lucky that I got SOME cellphone reception, but there is zero data coverage for T-Mobile users within 150 miles, probably in the whole state.

The next day we took a class to learn to drive humvee-ambulances and get temporary licenses to drive these things.  I don't know why they made us go to this operation a day early just so we can get this training - we ended up not using them at all and the army has their own ambulance drivers on 24-hour watches.  I guess if anything, those of us who went a day early got to leave a day early also, so that's a plus.  I ate some authentic army food at the army cafeteria.  The bastards charged us non-army guys $4.25 a meal.  It was only $1.50 when I came here two years ago.

Devil's Tower as seen from the highway.

Base of Devil's Tower
The third day, our section had the day off.  We headed to Devil's Tower, which is just a big, tall rock in the middle of nowhere.  There's some neat scenery and stuff.  I took pictures.  LOOK AT THEM.  It's not really that big, but you can see the tower for miles.  The top is said to be about size of a football field.  There's a trail that goes around it and is about one mile around.  Then we headed to Deadwood, which is some old western-y town with bars and casinos (with a few of them claiming to be the original bar where Buffalo Bill was killed).  I heard there's supposed to be some awful HBO sitcom about this place.  I wanted to get a top hat like the coward Robert Ford's, but the gift shops all sold the same chinese straw hats or the same felt fedora-looking things!  We saw an old western-style street duel, a re-enactment of the assassination of Buffalo Bill, then we walked around, realized this place was a waste of my valuable time, ate crabs and headed back to base.



There's nothing to do in Deadwood.
One of the smaller shows in a bar in Deadwood.


Crazy Horse.
The next day we headed to Mount Rushmore.  Do I really need to explain it?  There's probably a million pictures of this thing.  It was neat to see at first, but I felt like we spent way too much time there.  There's a "trail" that takes you close the monument (actually it's a series of boardwalks and stair steps, so you don't have to walk/climb on rocks at all), a small museum with exhibits depicting the building of the monument, a pathway leading up to the monument, some facilities, a large outdoor arena/stage at the base of the monument, dining shops, and a gift shop.  The awesomeness of seeing the monument wore off for me after ten minutes and I wasn't really that impressed with the monument or the history behind it.  We headed to some old mining town for buffalo burgers and went to a place called 'Crazy Horse Memorial.'  It's the Native American's own memorial carved into a mountain that's close to Rushmore. It's currently unfinished as of right now.  In the past fifty years, they got most of the basics shaped out and blasted away, and the face has been finished.  The project is privately funded and the face alone is claimed to be four times larger than the faces at Rushmore.  We wasted more of my precious, valuable time AND money looking at giant fucking heads.  Also my camera has a dark spot on it, and I didn't notice till we arrived at Crazy Horse.
Everyone wanted to see buffalo. They're not that interesting.

The view was awesome.
We then headed to Custer Park.  The road leading up to the mountains is pretty narrow and scary-looking.  We drove for about twenty minutes up this mountain, climbed some rocks, took pictures and drove back down.  There really wasn't much to do up there except park the car, take pictures, and climb rocks.  There was probably a trail, which would have been fun to hike on, but it was starting to rain so we headed back.  We drove twenty minutes back down the mountain and came to some kind of highway (I guess it was part of Custer State Park).  The highway is an hour drive through some beautiful countryside that loops around the park.  We drove about thirty minutes through it seeing buffalos, hills, grassy pasteures, and mountains.  For whatever reason, one of our passengers had the uncontrollable urge to stop the car and prance through the grassy hills like Mary Poppins or some shit.  So we did that.  We spent about ten minutes looking for her iPhone which fell out of her pocket, but luckily it ended up landing in buffalo crap.
The hills are alive!!
...with the sound of MUSIIIIIC!

For the next two days our section ran the clinic doing sick call. There was only one major incident, but it was otherwise pretty quiet.  After our section finished our work in the clinic, the next two days we did some training excercises, including firearms familiarization, MOUT training (Military Operations in Urban Environments).  Too bad it rained on the last day of training, because we didn't get to do the Leadership Reaction Course.  I remember this LRC actually being fun at this place since there were ziplines, hills, and climbing stuff.

The MOUT excercise was fun, but I was a little disappointed with the instructors.  When I came here two years ago, there were some billy badasses who were actually in the shit and seemed to know what they were talking about.  They were motivated and really drove some points home on proper techniques on room clearing and communication and we were excited to fight some Canadians soldiers in a paintball match in a mock village, where if you got hit with a paintball, YOU DIED IN REAL LIFE and were kicked out of the match.  It's too bad it rained that day two years ago, because I never even got to fire a shot.  This year, there were no Canadians, the instructors seemed like they were bored and didn't give a fuck, and they didn't really teach us anything useful except "Here's how to hold the gun," gave us a paintball marker, and told us we could keep playing after getting hit.  We played two rounds.  There were 9-10 terrists spread through the mock village.  The first round we had too many of our Navy guys on our team and we just swarmed through the village like the Red Chinese Army in short order.  I got separated and got hit several times in the chest with orange paint.  I never saw the inside of a building and our team leader never called in a smoke screen for cover (not that we needed it since we Zerg-rushed them).

The second round was actually pretty fun and more organized.  We had a team of nine people who actually WANTED to play, then we organized into three squads.  We crept into the village, one squad at a time, with the other squads providing cover fire.  The town center consisted of four or five buildings facing each other.  The center was wide open and there were narrow alley ways behind the buildings, which was where Squad #1 and Flipmode Squad (the one I was in) were to split up, creep around the buildings, and clear the inside of the buildings while a third squad provided suppressing fire through the town center.  In order for our squad to get past the town square, we had to sprint behind the buildings, which was open to a sniper.  Of course, we had no idea there was a guy in the window until I got hit in the chest.

It was a madhouse!
I'm pretty much a pro at CounterStrike*, so it was kind of unexpected how people peek behind corners and use cover and stuff.  I thought enemies just stand there in the open, shooting at you like in videogames!  I don't know if I actually shot anyone, but I did fire off a string of shots which kept those pesky badguys from peaking around corners and returning fire.    I can only assume that those badguys I was supressing were finally killed by Squad #2 or #1.  I'm not sure what squad #2 was doing, but they threw a smoke grenade long after we passed the town square.  It was pretty much over when Squad #1 and Flipmode converged on the L-shaped building.  I was first to enter for some reason, so as I entered the building, the room on my left looked clear to me.  I guess one of my squadmates entered the room as I went by and ended up getting painted and returned fire and it was officially over then.

*Not true at all.

Definitely setup by Navy Reservists.
The next two days were spent running the medical tents at the FOB (Forward Operating Bases).  There were two FOBs, which were in the mountains approxamately 30 miles west of Camp Rapid, and 6000 feet above sea level.  Our camp was set on a hillside higher up in the mountains.  Our tent was on a noticable incline.  I woke up a bunch of times in the middle of the night because I was sliding feet first off my cot and I was freezing.  I ended up sleeping in my full uniform and gortex jacket and I was still freezing.  It got about 30 degrees at night and 75 degrees at noon.  We didn't see any major incidents, mostly sprained ankles, minor cuts, and blisters.  The food was warm, but was cooked offsite.

Part of the FOB.

Otherside of our Slanty Shanty.

After we got back from the FOBs, we spent the next two days doing more training excercises, Land Navigation and Convoy training.  Land nav was pretty fun, we got to find landmarks and get their ID numbers and go on a fun hike through the hills.  I don't really know if we were doing it right.  Everytime we got to where we thought we should have been, our landmark ended up being about 20-60 yards away in the general vicinity, so we had to look around to find it.  Out of six groups, we were fourth to successfully find all landmarks and return to the starting point.  As for the convoy training, I didn't like it.  It was pretty ghetto, in fact.  It was inside of a small, air-conditioned trailor and used 3d VR headsets and the vehicles had accomadations for a driver, a navigator, and a gunner only.  In contrast, the convoy simulators at Camp Bullis and Fort Hood have giant rooms for each humvee, with 360 degree projector screens surrounding each humvee and could seat five armed soldiers.

The last four days were spent doing absolutely nothing except going to bars, getting drunk (not me, anyways.  I don't drink!), spending ridiculous amounts of money on meals, and anticipating going home.  I've actually never really been to a bar before, so it was kind of shocking (and fun!) to see some real-life drunks.  That was about it for this AT.  I had fun and it sure beats going to Bethesda.  Not sure if I wanna go again since I know I'll be doing the exact same stuff again.

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