Friday, December 24, 2010

A Holiday Hiatus

It's been a few days since my last update. Time for a few comments, then off for the holidays.

I finished up the DDQC last Friday with a mass casualty drill. Time to practice all those medical skills we learned in the prior days. Pretty grim and grisly, even though we all knew it was fake blood spurting at us.

Monday I had my physical exam. I was so proud of myself, the med tech sucked four vials of blood out of me and I didn't even come close to losing consciousness.

Talking with the doctor was another matter, tho. Seems my bionic back is not a deployment issues. Neither is my BMI ... old pudgy guys can go into a combat zone with everyone else. The potential show-stopper? My sleep apnea. Seems CENTCOM considers untreated sleep apnea as a total disqualifier. I had to produce a copy of the results from my last polysomnogram (sleep study), and the doc hit me with his bottom line. I have to get a new CPAP machine (with a rechargeable battery pack) and demonstrate that I'm using it before the doc will clear me for deployment. Yet another hurdle in the quest to serve my country ...

So now I'm in northern New Jersey, with my wife's family, and we broke the news last night. Nobody seems overly concerned, which is a good thing. Right now, the biggest thing on my radar is ensuring that the prime rib roast gets cooked to perfection tomorrow. Afghanistan can wait until I get home. A secondary consideration is whether or not I'll be able to fire up a Christmas stogie. We shall see.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Training Days

Well, I just finished day Three of the DIA Deployment Qualification Course – DDQC. It’s a pretty comprehensive, in-depth course designed to prep us for going downrange.

Monday was pretty lightweight, largely sitting and listening to an instructor, covering all the administrivia of a deployment.

On Tuesday, things got interesting. After sessions on IEDs and convoy ops, among other things, we went through emergency vehicle egress training using stationary Humvees. We went through this drill three times, wearing body armor and helmets. Did I mention that it was really freakin’ cold? Probably mid-20s, before thinking about the wind chill factor from winds gusting up into the 30 MPH range. Anyhow, the first time around, I was “helped” out of the vehicle. Unlike a good paratrooper, my first point of contact was my face. Thank God for the helmet and protective goggles! I only ended up with what appears to be a sprained knee, with lots of pain, swelling and limited range of motion. Oh joy. The next two practice runs were much less damaging.

In the afternoon, we wrapped up the day with a nearly three-hour-long session on psychological factors, focusing on PTSD. You get immune hearing about it in an abstract sense on the TV news, but when a warrior and PTSD victim stands in front of you and pours his soul out, it gets personal. We all left the classroom that day very much sobered, with lots to think about.

Today we got ito the nasty stuff. We started with the basics of Chemical-Biological-Radiological-Nuclear warfare, then on to the proper care and use of the gas mask. I can get it on pretty fast now. The rest of the day (and, indeed, the rest of the week-long course) was dedicated to medical issues. First aid, medical care, you name it. Dealing with injuries and trauma of every imaginable sort. Candy-ass that I am, what with my blood and needle phobias, I need to be really careful while I’m deployed. As I sit here writing this, looking back on the afternoon, I’m surprised I made it through all the pressure bandages, tourniquet practice and trauma slides and video without depositing my lunch on the floor.

It’s times like this that I ask myself what I’ve gotten myself into …

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Little Background

So where did “Wirehead Jack” originate, you ask?

It’s a blend of several influences. First, many years ago, a colleague who was at the time a young Army MI Special forces officer was having computer problems. I offered to help, and did what IT geeks do in 90% of their initial troubleshooting efforts – reboot. It fixed his problem, got him up and running, and he ever afterward called me “The Wirehead.”

Two people have consistently called me “Jack” over my life. One, a friend in high school, who went so far as to sign his picture in my senior yearbook with the inscription, “Remember me as the first person to call you by your true name, Jack.” And my primary care physician, Dr. Robert Enelow of Burke VA, has called me “Jack” since Day One. And that was a quarter century ago.

And finally, putting them together. I’ve lately gotten addicted to the “Repairman Jack” supernatural thriller series by F. Paul Wilson, a fellow Xavier high School alumnus (although he graduated eight years ahead of me). FPW is a tremendous author, and Repairman Jack a wonderfully-developed, three-dimensional “flawed hero” type. So, in homage to Dr. Wilson, I put it all together and, as my deployment approaches, I’ve decided to reinvent my persona as Wirehead Jack.

Any questions?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Countdown Has Begun

Well, I talked with CINCHOUSE yesterday about the details of my upcoming deployment. It hit her hard ... before Friday, it was off in the realm of speculative, "maybe it'll happen." Friday's two-hour pre-deployment brief brought it into focus, the reality is setting in. I've got two weeks of training ... one a generic pre-deployment course, the other titled "Individual Protective Measures Training," which includes qualifying on Beretta and Sig Sauer 9mm handguns. M4 qualification is done separately.

Then I have to clear the physical and psych screenings. Shouldn't be a big problem there, as long as my dentist can fix a couple teeth that need crowns before my deployment date. The worst part? Getting immunizations and having blood drawn. Living in a crappy environment, possibly in a tent, and eating bad food prepared by the Brits who run the mess halls is one thing. Coming face to face to a hypodermic needle is quite another.

More to follow as I work my way down the road to Afghanistan.