Monday, September 26, 2011

Army Terms to Know part II

OD: Olive Drab
OEF: Operation Enduring Freedom.  The Afghanistan campaign.
OIF: Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Numbered for different movements/phases from the invasion (OIF 1 in 2003) until September, 2010.
OND: Operation New Dawn. September 2010 to present.
BDU: Battle Dress Uniform
DCU: Desert Combat Uniform. Chocolate chip or tri-color desert versions of the BDU.  Used until 2005.
ACH: Army Combat Helmet also known as a Kevlar.
ACU: Army Combat Uniform.  The current daily uniform; lots of velcro.  A fire-resistant version is issued for deployments
ACS: Army Combat Shirt.  Moisture-wicking and worn without an undershirt.  Generally limited to missions and guard duty.  Rank and name moved to right shoulder to not interfere with body armor.
UCP: Universal Camouflage Pattern.  Same digital fractal as the Marines, but with different colors (tan, foliage green, gray) adopted by the Army for all-terrain use in 2005.  Not perfect, but cheaper to produce and works ok in many situations.  In Afghanistan (and rumored for the whole Army after we leave Iraq), it has been replaced by
OCP: OEF Camouflage Pattern also known as Multicam for non-military sales.  It's a non-digital, 7-color blended pattern with greens and browns that looks a bit like bird droppings.  It always performed better than UCP, but was cost-prohibitive to produce when first designed.
MRE: Meal Ready-to-Eat
IBA: Individual Ballistic Armor
IOTV: Improved Outer Tactical Vest.  Better protection than the IBA on the neck and sides with a quick-release for emergencies.  Also, more comfortable in my opinion.
Smoking: A noun for Corrective PT.  Exercise as punctuation or memory enhancer to discourage under-performance, negligence, or disobedience.
Moondust: The fine, powdery dust that's made from tracked vehicles and trucks on gravel/dirt roads.  It collects in drifts (sometimes ankle-high) in intersections and turns.  Kicks up in clouds when walking or driving through.  Worst place to be smoked.
Toy wearing tri-color DCU, me wearing UCP ACU.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dexter and the Equinox

Image from
I am at season 3, episode 6 of Dexter.  Which, until the 6th season starts sometime this fall on Showtime, is precisely halfway through the series.  I don't have much to say that Sarah hasn't said already, but I like it.  It's well written and well cast/acted.  I've never really followed series on the 'specialty' channels before, but thanks to netflix and loose application of copyright laws here in Iraq, I've been able to get into this one.  I'm trying to pace myself and only watch one a day, but confess I binged and watched half of the second season all in one night.  Suspense!  I can't imagine waiting a whole week between installments.

Internet access has lasted much longer than previously anticipated, but there will periods coming up in which I'll be incommunicado.  I haven't got physical mail in a while, but emails are still a prompt and reliable alternative.  Send something to my gmail account and I'll get it eventually.

Happy Equinox and a pleasant fall to everyone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Army Terms to Know

PT: Physical Training
MP: Military Police
CP: Control/Command Point
SAW: Squad Automatic weapon.
FOB: Forward Operating Base
CHU: Container Housing Unit
MWR: Morale, Welfare, and Recreation
R&R: Rest & Recuperation. 2 weeks mid-tour vacation.
DFac: Dining Facility aka Chow Hall
IRAM: Incendiary Rocket Assisted Mortar
CONEX: CONtainer EXpress; the steel shipping containers.  Can be moved by air, train, truck, or sea . They’re used as mobile storage for everything from explosives to linens and can be converted into offices or living spaces.
Woobie: Poncho Liner
Joes: E-1 through E-4; basically everyone below a sergeant/team leader.
Ugandans: Defense contractors who serve as security around base and the dining facilities. I believe the company they work for is actually American, but the guards are all African (cheaper to hire/outfit). I can’t be sure they’re actually Ugandan, though; that’s what I was told.  They're friendly, but their English isn’t always the most clear.  They carry AK-47s instead of M4s and M16s like US forces do.
Mounted: To be in an armored vehicle
Dismount: A person on foot.
Outside the Wire: Beyond the concertina wire and other defenses surrounding a base.  Basically outside a controlled/safe area.

Monday, September 12, 2011

ADVrider Scramblers

Photos from MeridianKnight at is a website and forum for people who like to ride their bikes on long trips, sometimes in locations where roads are fewer and less maintained.  The forum is a place where riders can get together and plan trips or discuss modifications and pre-, mid-, and post-ride maintenance on their bikes.  Suspension improvement and tough baggage are most common.  They have an epically long-running thread on the Triumph Scrambler with lots of pictures, advice, and ride reports.

Photos from ChrisLX200 at

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

I was in 8th grade, posing for a life-drawing in 1st period art class when the first plane hit.  We learned about it the next period in social studies.

It is strange to think of all that has happened since then, both on world scale and in my own life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kindle & Last Journey

When walking, just walk.
When sitting, just sit.
Above all, don’t wobble.

A Zen haiku, quoted from the first book I’d read on my Kindle.  In some ways the little poem seems to embody the Kindle’s approach as well.  In order to conserve battery life, the Kindle designers made several deliberate interface choices in pursuit of that mantra.  One example is how the Kindle does not allow more than one application to ever run at once.  Even the web browser is limited to one page at a time.  This is strange and limiting to users who, like me, are used to multi-tab browsing and running chat and music applications in the background all the while.  It makes each page into the whole of the reader’s focus, instead of just another data blurb to ingest.

The volume of books I have on the Kindle and library of options I have access to in the Kindle Store (so long as I have internet access) is staggering.  I just finished Last Journey: A Father and Son in Wartime and in it, the son had become a voracious reader of philosophy, religion, and history.  I can't imagine using military transport (as mounted infantry!) with bulk of books he'd brought with him on his two tours in Iraq.
Image from Tower Books
The book itself was good to read.  I mean that while it wasn't especially well-written, the context and information about their circumstances and leadership are specifically valuable to me on my middle-eastern excursion.  The middle of the book was unflinchingly bloody; the authors wanted to tell the whole story instead of the sanitized-for-evening-news version and he was an infantryman in the thick of it in 2005 and 2006.  I am glad that I have yet to see that side of the war and hope the rest of my tour passes peaceably.  But I have a greater understanding and appreciation for my senior NCOs and officers who've been through tours like that.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A satisfied T100 owner

Photo from
If I won a contest to have any production bike waiting for me when I return from deployment, it would have to be a Green/New England White Bonneville T100 with fuel injection.  I may flirt with the Scrambler and off-road or adventure style accessories, but for my anticipated use and stylistic inclinations the T100 is hard to beat. is an impressive photoblog from a guy who uses his Bonneville as a daily driver around the island.  You can read the post on how he went from riding a Vespa to a Bonneville Here.  The blog itself makes me jealous since it's exactly the sort of riding I'd like to do on the bike I'd like to do it on.  Well, very nearly; he has a '06 or '07 all-green, carbureted T100 and I'd rather ride in the mountains with a passenger than touristy tropics.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Starship Troopers

Image from

I had been warned that Heinlein tends to ramble and lecture in his stories.  This warning was intended to dissuade me from reading or at least let me know what I'd have to "put up with" to get to the SciFi story.  However, I found those lectures/meditations far more interesting than the dated science fiction.  I could see how this work influenced later writers in the genre, but the creative details about the alien bugs and interstellar war were old hat to me.

The meditations and dialogues on military and social topics were much more engaging and probably each deserve a measured response.  I did not always agree with Heinlein; his concept that people still under contract with the services are not yet allowed to vote comes to mind.  Others were spot-on; I remember having a similar revelation about my Drill Sergeants and the process of soldier-making as Rico does about his instructor Zim.

On a mission shortly after I had started reading, a major we were escorting noticed the book.  He was a big fan and seemed impressed that a junior enlisted soldier would seek such a novel.  I was only in the first chapter or so, but he ended up talking to our Lieutenant about it for a while, specifically the concepts of citizenship and leadership.  Most people probably think of the Movie first, but it seems clear to me that the book is still widely read in the military, especially within the officer's ranks.

How can I talk about the book without some commentary on the movie?  I didn't see it until a few years after it premiered in 1997, but I thought it was cool at the time.  Much more focus on action and CGI of fighting the Bugs which fits the medium and popcorn-movie angle.  It takes the same frame of the story in a different direction with commentary on their imperialist society and concepts of propaganda with more military influence from the Vietnam war than the original space- and technology-driven fighting from '59