Just an update before we get into Christmas.
As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving letter, there was an awful lot of food, *and* you could go eat TWO Thanksgiving meals. I didn't eat that much at lunch, but I still could only eat one meal. I just had a light snack my room in the evening. It was interesting to see which soldiers were stuffing themselves because the following week we had the PT test.
The PT test was scheduled for 0500 each morning, Monday thru Thursday,
with one day having an extra test at 1000 for those whose schedule wouldn't
allow 0500 (and those who were big babies and thought it was "too cold" at
0500). My PT test was on Monday, and I was happy with that because we also had
to get flu shots that week, and I wanted to take my PT test first. Monday was a
good day, and the temperature was about 48 deg F. Although I didn't do really
stellar on my pushups or sit-ups, I did OK. I haven't been training for either
of those events, so I wasn't really surprised by me performance. I got 77 points
(for 51 repetitions) in pushups, and 91 points (for 67 repetitions) in sit-ups.
Adequate but not stellar. I did score 100 points (for 13:00) on the run though,
but I have been doing focused training for the run. When we first got here, I
was probably running my 2 miles in about 14:30. Again, adequate but not stellar.
However, I have taken 1:30 off my 2-mi
le time with the training we have been doing. I was pretty happy with my run. I scored 268 overall (out of 300).
Later that day, the battalion commander sent out a note to all the
officers to make sure they were all going to take their PT test sometime during
the week. I replied to all, told them my adequate score and threw down the
gauntlet to see who could do better. I also told them that I knew what areas I
needed to improve, and that by March, I would do 2 things a) improve my score by
at least 50 points (which I have to max every event in order to use the extended
scale for points over 300), and b) I would beat any of them on any age table
they want to compete on? *grin* So I opened my mouth pretty wide, but it gives
me some focus and some goals. The toughest age table to compete on is the 27-31
table. So in order to max on that table, I had planned to do 77 pushups, 82
sit-ups, and I want to improve my run to 12:30. That would let me max the
toughest age table, and on my age table, it gives me a score of 321, which is
more than 50 points above this recent score. Ho
wever, some of the NCOs in the unit are studs, and I received a few more challenges, so my new goal is 86 pushups, 92 sit-ups, and a run in 12:30. That lets me score well above the maximum, so that will be cool If you are interested in points and scores, and the max for each age group and gender, you can calculate points at http://www.armystudyguide.com/content/army_board_study_guide_topics/physical_training/apft-calculator-online.shtml (I will be 42 in March)
The next interesting thing that happened is the fund raising for the battalion Christmas party. Some NCOs made arrangements and then got most of the battalion together for a "Pie in the Face" contest. They mixed up some whipped cream, sugar, and Crisco goop and put it into pie trays. Anyone could then "nominate" someone else that they wanted to give a pie in the face to, and bid an amount of money they would pay to do that. The nominee could up the bid. The bidding continued until one side quit, and then the loser got the pie in the face.
The battalion commander had a plan to put a pie in the face of all three primary staff officers and asked me for assistance. He didn't have enough money to bid for them all individually, so he wanted to bid for a single and then put the names in a hat and draw one name out. However, he also wanted a "wild card" that had ALL their names. He wanted me to put the names in my hat. However he also wanted me to put in an extra "wild card", tucked in a flap inside the hat, so he could pull the wild card and put pies in the face of all three. It worked like a charm. They bid up to $120 and then he won and pulled the "wild card". They all sat down, and he rubbed the pie all over each one's face. It was quite the hoot.
Everything was good until the battalion commander gave the secret away by his loose lips. He was teasing me because the staff all thought that *I* had cheated and handed him the wild card, so they were mad at me and not him. However, when they overheard him saying ?Your secret is safe with me?? they figured they were tricked. So, the staff got together with several others from the crowd and started bidding against the two of us. They were certain they had us because "you two have wives who control all your money", or so they thought. We made them pay a fairly good price, but I am a cheapskate and also didn't want the Bn Cdr to have to pay even more than he was already paying. We made them pay $120 as well, but I should have stayed the course and made them pay $200. We sat down and gracefully took our pies in the face.
Here is a link to some pictures from the pie-in-the-face activities. www.greydragon.org/trips/Iraq/index2.html
The coolest thing I have done this month was go to a Carrie Underwood concert last Saturday. However, let me set the scene and explain everything that led up to it?
A couple of months ago, the first flyer came out advertising Carrie
Underwood in a holiday concert put on by the USO. "Cool!" I thought. "I would
really like to go see her in concert. She sings some great songs and I would
really enjoy that, so let me make sure I arrange my schedule to ensure I can
go." As the day got closer, it changed from a concert in the stadium (which
seats several thousand) to a concert in the theater (which seats about 700).
There are several reasons for the change, but they focus around force protection
issues. "OK. I have to make sure I can go several hours early so I can get in
and then sit and wait." Well, last Tuesday someone finally figured out that
there are over 25,000 folks on LSA Anaconda, and even if only 10% want to go see
Carrie Underwood, they still won't all fit in the theater. Gee! ? What a
blinding flash of brilliance. So, it was decided that they would issue tickets
and every unit would get a few. Well, it suddenly turned
into a significant emotional event for many people because our unit of 600 or so was issued about 23 tickets. Some units had enough to give folks a 1 in 5 chance of getting a ticket. We had a 1 in 25 chance of getting a ticket. Needless to say, I didn't get a ticket. Only one soldier in my division got a ticket, but since about 25 of my soldiers wanted to go, I guess that was about right.
A couple days before the concert I discovered that we have all the technology to transmit a video feed over the network and folks can watch video stuff on their computers. So I rang up and suggested that we broadcast the Carrie Underwood concert over the network and then everyone who can't get a ticket can still watch the show in their office. Not too hard to do, but for various whiney reasons it was decided that "it was too difficult and there are contractual limitations which prevent us from doing it". I am sure they only asked some bureaucrat instead of pushing the issue and getting the question to Miss Underwood, since she was coming for the benefit of the soldiers.
OK, so on the day of the concert I was grumpy. Our battalion Christmas party (for which we had raised the money with the pie-in-the-face stuff) was also on Saturday evening. I was being a grump and didn't really feel like going, but the battalion commander came by and told me that I didn't have a choice because my place of duty was at the party. OK. I put on my best face and walked down to the party with him. As we walked and talked (about the concert and the options), he said "You probably want to go to this concert worse than anyone else on Anaconda!" ? "Yes I do!"
The party didn't start out very well. The MC was a lady with the most nasal, whining voice using a mis-configured sound system. The microphone gain was turned up too much so there was lots of feedback and the treble was turned up all the way with no bass at all. It was terrible. I was wishing I had earplugs. Then the karaoke started, and some guy (from another unit) with a guitar strummed some chords while reciting various "poetry" he had copied from the inside of the porta-johns. It gave the word "awful" a new definition. He must have been a very brave guy, because we were all armed and it was all I could do not to put a 9mm round right between his eyes. I am certain I would have been a hero for "protecting soldiers" from brutal and inhumane torture.
Anyway, I decided to walk over to the Carrie Underwood concert and take my chances. I gave my raffle ticket to the battalion commander and told him where I was going. When I got over to the concert, I was stopped because I didn't have a ticket. I spoke with the folks and told them I was happy to wait and see if there were any seats that were unfilled. The officer in charge said I may have to wait 30 minutes or so before a decision would be made about unfilled seats. About 5 minutes into the concert, the military police brought someone out and told him to leave. He was being thrown out because he was trying to videotape the concert with his digital camera. As he was walking away, I ran over to him and asked him for his ticket. After digging in his pocket, he handed it to me? Score! I was able to get in the concert.
I sat up in the balcony. It was very nice. I saw 45 minutes of her 50 minute performance, and then was able to get a picture with her. I have to get the photo from the soldier who took it, but I will make that available shortly.
That is all for now. I am sure there will be more updates after the holidays. I am supposed to spend New Year's Eve in a guard tower, so my soldiers don't have to. I haven't really decided if I want to see any action, but part of me would like to "bust some caps".
Peter / Terafan