Saturday, July 26, 2008

Doug Does "Survivor" -- Air Force Style!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

We just returned from our AEF (Air Expiditionary Force) exercise. It is a mock deployment situation. We were bused out to a site where they have a compound of canvas tents set up. Upon arrival they had us line up and dump out our duffle bags and show them that we packed each of the items on “the list.” (There had been no list provided). I had most everything needed. I did get my snack mix confiscated due to an inadequate seal. (I later removed it from the garbage can and along with other squadron members disposed of it orally while awaiting one of the ninety nine briefings we received in the course of 3 days out there. It made me feel better to know they were not wasted. =)

The first evening was cut short by threatening storms so we just got our cots set up and then were confined to the HOT tent. The tents were large canvas tents on cement slabs. The temperature was reported at 102 degrees the first day and the next two days were the same. We had all our stuff set up and were preparing for bed when the rain started coming down hard with “real world lightening within 5 nautical miles.” This is announced over the compounds PA system confining us to our quarters. As the rain continues we begin to see the canvas become saturated and begin leaking on all the seams. I had to position my cot just right so I was between two of the leaking support studs. I was able to stay dry but not everyone was so lucky (We had 10 guys in our tent). I awoke with one boot in a puddle though. The next morning found us temporarily mildly cooled off for the first few hours. I had the joy of trying my first MRE for breakfast. It was “Chicken With Salsa.” It wasn’t too bad, but my rice didn’t heat up too well and my spiced cider had to be drunk luke cold as we were rushed, just like every other meal at COT. I did get some peanut butter M&M’s which I swapped for peanut M&M’s!

We rotated through three different exercises over the next two days as squadrons (About 100+ people in each). We started on the repel tower and ropes course. The tower, about 4 stories high, had one side with a climbing wall. I made it to the top with a bit of a challenge then we came back down and climbed up the stairs to the top and clipped into the safety cable and waited our turn to walk out on a 20ish foot telephone pole sticking out horizontally from the platform. I had seen it from below and thought it would be fun, then upon arrival at the top I saw that it was rather frightening. Two of the guys in my flight didn’t even try it and they are two of the “macho” ones! I did it with a slight tremble in my legs. It was pretty cool to go out on. (There was a safety cable we were clipped into at all times in all of these and the future explanations.) Then we repelled down the tower.

After the tower, I transitioned to the ropes course. This started out climbing a 20 foot cargo net, the doing a ranger crawl on top of a thick rope, then across two ropes a foot apart from each other. Then along a couple other cables walking up higher. The hardest one was a suspension bridge with only a few planks to step on. This was tough to balance on as I stepped about 3 feet between each plank suspended about 40 feet up. At the end of the course was a fun zip line.

We again got confined to a shelter during more “real world lightening” for about an hour and another MRE, this time a nice beef stew which was actually pretty good.

The next exercise was EMEDS. This was a simulated exercise in their field hospital set up in more canvas tents. This is how it is set up at deployed locations, i.e. the sand box, i.e. Iraq. I volunteered to be a patient. So I got painted up as a foreign prisoner with a huge laceration on my head along with bruised face and jaw. I showed up outside the hospital speaking only German and was placed on a field litter (gurney) and wheeled through all the different departments of the hospital as they couldn’t find out what was wrong with me. I eventually got fixed up and discharged. They then repainted me with bloody abrasions and had twenty or so of us all at once as a mass casualty. The medics came out to find us all on the ground screaming and crying after a mortar attack. It was a fun exercise and was to show us a little of how things are set up in deployment for WHEN we get deployed. (Luckily I don’t have too much of a chance of that happening as a pediatric dentist, but I’m not entirely exempt.)

We were once again sent to the tents for the night with, yes, “real world lightening within 5” and lots of rain and a leaky canvas tent. The next day we did a litter obstacle course learning how to carry someone on a litter the proper way and directions while going over walls and such. (You should always carry them feet first unless going downhill or uphill.) (You should also not hit their head on top of the wall as you move them over it, sorry Lt Johnson.)

So to sum up: It was fun, boring, hot and HOT.

*The first night Major Larson showed up at chow time and handed me a stack of envelopes. I took them and then looked at him with amazement upon my face and he said yes. They were the passports!!!! I was so happy. It was the final stressor! I can’t believe we got them back already!! I always believed Heavenly Father would provide for us but I’m still so grateful that He has answered our prayers once more! It is so nice to have the final peace in place! (Well, the second to last piece; we still need a home once we get there, but we will be together again!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Em is wicked Hard Core

I finally made it to a computer that isn't .mil, which means I can access some restricted websites, yes like Gmail and blogger...

I want to give a quick shout out to my wonderful wife. She really helped me through my first week here in Hellabama. Each night I talked to here she sounded so positive and upbeat. I know she must have been having a hard time with all the boys, but was a big strength to me. It was wicked sweet to see her. It was like winning a challenge on survivor, btw we do obstacle courses which are like survivor challenges too. That part is fun.

Thanks Em! You rock!

Captain Dub

Friday, July 11, 2008

Letter from the Trenches

This is Emily. I've been begging Doug to keep a journal of his COT experience so he won't forget anything. For the first week, he didn't have a moment to spare. Finally, he e-mailed this for me to post for him. (He has access to a COT e-mail account, but nothing else.)

Commissioned Officer Training (COT) - Montgomery, Alabama

Per Emily I am finally going to write down a bit of what has happened in the last 8 days, which has felt like 8 years! From the moment, yes the very moment we stepped off the bus which transported us from the airport to the COT complex there were people yelling at us. Things moved slow as they in-processed us, but that was because we were the largest group of the year, 311 or so compared to the normal group of 100 or so. The first two days were spent trying to learn how to stand at attention and yell TENCH-HUT! And learning how to march, HARCH! (Commands are made with an H to allow for better projection). The first morning we were awoken with a very loud MTI (Military Training Instructor, the typical drill Sergeant with the round brimmed hat), pounding on our door yelling that we had two minutes to shave, brush teeth and be ready to leave. Oh and it was 4:30 am! (Yes, my first thought was, I need at least two minutes just to brush my teeth!)

Well, basically it continued with waking up early, sitting in classes, running early in the AM, getting a lot of assignments which there is not time enough to complete, feeling stressed, disorganized, tired and discouraged. I tried to keep a lower profile, not sure if I wanted to volunteer for any positions. We are organized into Flights of 15 or so trainees. So we have a flight commander who instructs us and he appointed a Flight Officer In Charge (FOIC). Then in our first class he asked all the captains when we were commissioned. It came out that I had two years on the current FOIC so he made me become the FOIC. Not a pleasant surprise. Good experience most likely, but not wanted at the time (still). So my hard times became harder and more disorganized as my responsibilities tripled. (It’s similar to being a district or zone leader in a mission).

Anyway, after being physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, we were blessed with a three day weekend. I was able to catch up on sleep and get things organized. I have also successfully delegated a lot of things to my Flight. They have been great. We get along very well and functioned great as a flight. We’ve practiced our drill (i.e. marching etc.) and yesterday impressed our Major. (Our Flight Commander).

So things are going well now. Still waking at 4-4:30 for running. Today we went out to “Blue Thunder” which is a big obstacle course. That was wicked fun. It was better than Survivor. Speaking of Survivor, I feel like I won the challenge on Survivor where they get to see their family. I was able to see Em and the boys today and yesterday.

We have been struggling to get our special passports for them so they will be allowed to fly with me to Japan. It has been impossible to get done, no one ever gives us the correct info and I have NO time to deal with it. We found out I have to be present to do it. It got so frustrating today that it came within a straw’s width of breaking both Em and me. Luckily my Commander stepped up and helped me correlate things with the passport lady, Em, and me. So that is done and we have to wait 4-6 weeks for them (Yes, I leave for Japan in 3.5 weeks.), but they are in and being sent to the State Department tomorrow.

Gotta go to bed now. I have to run at 4:40 tomorrow. I have already done a 1.5 mile timed run for out fitness test and two 5Ks and have another 5K on Friday which is also timed!

To sum things up. Last week was HORRIBLE, this week has been better. I am getting used to saying "Sir Ma'am" a lot and how to march is becoming more natural. Now that the passport situation is taken care of, I think things will be manageable as I focus on COT now and not that other stuff. So I’m doing well now and I think things will only get easier. I am seeing the logic in how things are done. So either it makes sense or they are brain washing me.

The food is pretty good, except we can’t talk while we eat and have to sit at attention while eating. And yes they do yell at you if your feet aren’t 45 degrees with heals touching while you eat! And we have to march through the chow hall in a very specific manner.

Want to share in my fun? Try this exercise: Begin every statement and question with your spouse/friend/etc with "Sir..." or "Ma'am..." i.e. "Ma'am, may I change the channel to Sport's Center?". See how hard it is. (The only time you say Sir or Ma'am last is when it's following "yes" or "no".) Then pretend the person to whom you are speaking will correct you, rudely, if you screw up. It sure makes you talk and question less!

Emily here again. Doug mentioned that he got to see me. Yes, I spent two days in Alabama and they were some of the most uncomfortable days of my life. I thought I had experienced heat and humidity in Rhode Island, but R.I. has NOTHIN' on this place. I was soaked with sweat the minute I stepped out of my car. It was pretty horrible. One day there was a brief rain shower. It was pouring rain, but the temperature didn't dip at all. So it didn't cool anything off, but made you MORE wet and uncomfortable. I feel pretty bad imagining Doug having to run and do drills in that heat! It was physically painful for me to watch these large groups of men and women marching around in heavy camouflage uniforms, outside, when I was sweating inside the car with the A/C blasting. As I've said many many times before, I sure am glad I don't have to do all the hard stuff Doug has to do. I don't love changing poopy diapers, but I'd take that over boot camp any day of the week!

A few more things to note:

Doug was able to go off-base for church on Sunday. Before that, he didn't even have the privilege of leaving his building. I think they've just recently earned off-base privileges. (But believe me when I tell you...there's nothing great going on off-base in Montgomery, Alabama. At least not for a good Mormon boy!)


Nothing was done on the base to celebrate the 4th of July. (Which was a little disappointing.)

That's it! I'll try to keep updating this blog as he updates me!!!
Thanks for thinking of Doug and keeping him in your prayers. We both appreciate it!!!

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Emily here...
I just talked to Doug. He wasn't able to call me until 10:45 p.m. and then was only able to talk to me for a few minutes before he had to get back to work.

He asked me to drop a line or two on his blog for him since he doesn't have any time to spare. Here is what he's told me so far. (Forgive me if this isn't totally accurate...I have a faulty short-term memory!)

  • FIRST AND FOREMOST: There really is a lot of yelling. Everything that is said to them is yelled. (And I thought they'd be nicer to the officers!)
  • Even when you're "at ease" you're not at ease. You do everything "at attention" including side-stepping through the lunch line.
  • The first morning they were given a box breakfast that included the following items: Cocoa Krispies, Fruit Juice, an Apple, and a breakfast bar. Can you say SUGAR COMA??? Not what I would call the breakfast of champions.
  • The proper way to speak is as follows:
    "Sir, may I ask a question?" or "Ma'am, may I use the restroom?" Only "yes" and "no" are followed by sir and ma'am.
  • Since he is doing COT after finishing Dental School and his residency, he out-ranks many of those around him. Evidently, most people do COT before entering school to study their chosen profession.
  • There are about 10 guys and 5 girls in his group.
  • He is staying in something similar to a a dorm room. There are two guys to each room. His roommate is a nurse practitioner.
  • They were all given lap-tops to use, but he hasn't had time to use his yet.
  • He doesn't have any time to keep a journal. (One reason I'm doing this post.)
  • He's extremely tired, has a lot of work to finish tonight, and has a physical fitness test in the morning. He has to be lined-up, in formation at 4:25a.m. He then gets to run a mile and a half timed.
  • He doesn't think he'll be able to see me and the kids on the weekends like we originally planned.
  • Because of his rank, he was made Flight Officer in Charge. Sorta like a district leader only with more stress and responsibility.
  • He says when he's finished with COT, he'll be glad he did it. But he does NOT feel the slightest bit glad at the moment

That's all I've got. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers. I'm sure he'd appreciate it!

This is where you say "YES MA'AM"

And I say "DISMISSED!"