Thursday, August 28, 2008


Today we completed day 4 of our Radio Communications course. The Army uses some pretty fancy radios for communications among the troops. The handheld radio in the picture to the left can talk to satellites, humvees, F16's, Motorola Talkabouts, and ham radios if you know how to program it correctly.

And there is the rub. The Army's newest Harris radio is incredibly flexible and long-range, but so difficult to program that 90% of them never get used.

Soldiers tend to be early adopters of civilian wireless technology, since they spend so much time on the road.

I'm happy to report the appearance of several Sierra Wireless Broadband Modems among the soldiers of the 315th PSYOP Company. These blogs come to you thanks to my Sierra Wireless AC881U modem, that keeps me connected anywhere at DSL speeds. Sweet!

Freeze, Motha Beaches!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Current Trends

Much in the way a company's stock price instantly reflects a hundred different contributing factors (profit margin, executive competence, market outlook, etc), the violence levels in Iraq are an instant indicator of much larger, sweeping trends in the conflict.

The graphic above comes from the Department of Defense's quarterly report to Congress on Iraq. As you can see, we missed the big surge in violence of 2007. We will be entering a country where the federal government is struggling to assert itself over all manner of tribes, militias, and political parties, all while maintaining a semblance of democratic even-handedness. This hasn't worked so far anywhere in the Arab world, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't try. Pray for Iraq.

My Guy

My current job in the Army is PSYOP Team Chief (MOS 37F30). This means I run a 3-man tactical team of PSYOP soldiers who will be attached to an infantry battalion in Iraq. My team is called TPT-1234: Tactical PSYOP Team 4, Detachment 1230. "Detachment" = "Platoon" in the PSYOP world. Higher command assigned me my first team member this week: Private First Class James McGarry, 19 years old, Missouri native.

The young Private McGarry comes with a shocking list of life-experience for someone so tender in age. Home-schooled and the son of Mission to the World workers, he has backpacked through Bulgaria, Bolivia, and Puerto Rico on various medical outreach missions. A tradition of military service runs through his family, and he dreams of one day joining Army Special Forces (aka the Green Berets). Most importantly for me, though, Private McGarry consistently shows intelligence and good judgement, coupled with a good-humored, guileless nature. I hope he stays on my team for the duration.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

IED's and EFP's

An intel specialist from the National Ground Intelligence Center delivered a marvelous class on roadside bombs, known in the Army as IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices). A host of colorful charts and visual aids held the younger soldiers in rapt attention. IED's are the number one cause of American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. I witnessed several IED incidents in 2005/2006, none of which impacted my vehicle directly.

Even scarier for all soldiers, old and new, are the new high-velocity shaped-charge IED's currently in use against the coalition forces. Known as EFP's (Explosively Formed Projectiles), these cylindrical bombs require a precisely stamped & formed copper plate. The copper plate gets transformed into an incredibly high-speed slug after detonation (up to 8500 ft/sec, compare that to an M16 bullet (3200 ft/sec) or a .45 bullet (850 ft/sec)) that will punch through any type of armored vehicle in existence, tearing up anything in its path.

This was a Classified briefing, so we're not supposed to say who is providing these high-tech copper plates to the Shi'a insurgents (-cough-...IRAN...-cough-). But I can say this: there are no apple fritters in Iraq.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Family Day

The day after I got stuck with the needle, I got hoisted on a backboard in the name of search-and-rescue. I'm grinning in the picture because I get to stop by Yum-Yum Donuts on the way to the unit.

An Apple Fritter and small milk for $2.55 put a smile on my face every morning.

Joan and Madeline visited me for Family Day Saturday - the fine City of Upland sponsored the event with a Fire Department BBQ, Slip 'n' Dip, and nifty unit T-Shirts. More pictures here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tree of Islam Part II

The Tree of Islam grows in Man's garden, along with the Tree of Israel, the Tree of Christ, the Tree of Buddha, etc. You get the metaphor. The problem is, the Tree of Islam's gardeners aren't doing a very good job. (WARNING: mixed-metaphor ahead) The Tree of Islam needs a wholesale REFORMATION (there, I said it) to help it once again produce sweet fruit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


The first 11 days of my second deployment to Iraq are dedicated to remedial Army classes at our Reserve Unit, including the "Combat Lifesaver Course". I learned to administer an IV, as well as punch a 14-gage catheter tube through the second intercostal space of a victim's ribcage in order to relieve tension pneumothorax resulting from a sucking chest wound. I was the guinea pig for my buddy Eric's IV insertion.


The Tree of Islam has a disease, a fungus. It makes the fruit rotten and threatening. It is time for the gardeners to hack back the tree, and spray for sickness. It is time to provide water, fertilizer, and sunlight.