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.)
*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!!!!!!!!!!!!)