Friday, May 21, 2010

In His Words......a Letter from Lou

Today was a pretty near perfect day. Why imperfect? First, I didn't exercise and  then I ate a Checkers meal and that's TWO wrong things. To contradict my 4th grade mathbook which stated that two negatives made a positive, these didn't.
But, it was still wonderful. I drove to Opelika, Alabama in the famous furniture search (we're in the process of finding a queen bed and coffee table set for the livingroom) and fell in love with the place! I never realized how (un)nice Columbus can be sometimes. Apology to all you avid Columbus fans, but its just not home. The people in Alabama were friendly, the thrift stores were run by churches and played soft Christian music and I even got to meet Billy Ray Cyrus #2. Its true, I got lost looking for "Flowers Thrift Store", which incidentally I found out is a bread thrift store, not to be confused with a clothing thrift store in which you can find all manner of exciting things. And so I stopped at a warehouse to ask directions of the man sitting in the beat-down lawn "recliner". He was Alabama's Billy Ray-complete with accent.
I came home to LOU's letter!!!! Yay!!!! He was able to sneak one across the 8 foot barbed wire fence to a waiting ar'mail'dillo. Actually, Charlie the mailman brought it this afternoon while I was out spending money like water. And its 5 pages of gruesome details! Those are 4"x6" pages-on green army notebook paper. Before Lou left we talked about letter-writing and he gave me permission to re-publish sections-so I'm going to try and do that for you now. The green is him and the pink is my commentary. I only omitted the sections where his pen was neither sharp, stub nor rusty. And since a blog is nothing without illustrations, I've found some good pictures to assist the telling of the tale.
Day 0-
After I left you in the parking lot we spent most of the day standing in the sun inprocessing. I was nervous and pretty tired, believe it or not. We did medical and all sorts of other stuff. Filled out IS forms over and over again.We had an MRE and went to bed at 11p. Needless to say, I didn't sleep too well. I thought I would but was worried about pushups. (He had been doing pushups all along a certain way and passing above the grade, but during the last Ranger physical test the grader only counted 60 out of 82 and told him the others were too sloppy. The we met Burns in the Post Exchange right after pre-Ranger school and he said they were very particular about pushups) Woke up at 1:15am for the RPFT (Ranger Physical Fitness Test)
Got to eat breakfast at 1:30 in the morning and if you didn't eat it, you threw it out. Then we had a brief at 2:00am and a RPFT spiel at 2:30am. The RPFT started at 3:00am. What a mess. 
Day 1-RPFT
The RI (Ranger Instructor) grading me didn't believe in counting out loud or the pushups themselves. I was hitting my chest to the ground as he glared at me and yelled to go down further. I did about 60 good ones which must have equaled 49 (the amount needed to pass)  cause he just looked at me and said,"Get up, Ranger". I thought he was playing a trick on me so I didn't but after he raised the decibel level to deafening I acquiesced. Sit ups went about the same but I got up when he said to. The run was 5 miles and I ran like the wind and my watch died half way through and I ran ever faster because I was freaking out. Came in at 37 min, very pleased. 6 Purrrfect pullups and I was over! 
RPFT Aftermath
They were pretty nice on Day 0 cause we had the RPFT in the morning. Then we had it and the fun ended...or began. It started with the lay out. Dump all your stuff out (that would be the 3 man-size duffles containing $800..count them....worth of required equipment, purchased by the soldiers) Hold it up all at the same time. Oh, one out of whole group didn't. The pushup. The flutter kick....the longest and most miserable layout ever. RIs running around yelling. Then we did some briefings and got yelled at-sit down-get up-get out-get back in...Then we got a huge long Penicillin shot-hurt so bad I'm still sore. Then we walked over to the water confidence survival course. 40 foot drop and log walk. 75 foot tower. Scared! It was fun though.
 40 Foot Walk and Drop
It was crazy. I got really worried when I saw it. So high and the log so narrow. Then we had to sit and watch 200 dudes climb up and fall. Literally I was the closest to quitting! All the other stuff, little food and no sleep to speak of was fine but for some reason I was in a bad state. Then it was my turn, death or glory. I practically ran across the log so I wouldn't freeze up. It worked, then when I climbed out on the rope I just never looked down. 
I let go with no problems and fell to my doom. 

The 75 foot tower had zipline and it was nothing but fun. (Wonder if he had visions of me riding those roller coasters during this time?)  
 Day 2-Malvesti obstacle course. 
We did a 3 mile buddy run at 9:00pm. ACU's, weapons and camelback with boots. Had to have a random buddy and both of you had to complete the run in less than 30 minutes. We did it in 27. Back to Malvesti, we scaled 4 walls, did pullups, jog and get smoked between. Huge mud puddles-roll left....roll right...dunk your head-flip/combat roll all in the mud getting yelled at-very nice. (I had prayed for rain because it was so ridiculously hot here and I was worried about them overheating in the buddy run. The rain came down and the puddles filled up.)  
All that went on till about 11:00pm-crazy smoker anyway, what you gonna do? Cpt McCleod used to say it was simply a shock to your system! I must say I agree! Teehee-teehee.
Day 3-(morning)
We got up at 1:30am for a cold MRE at 1:45am (which can look like this if you have a white linen tablecloth and  a microwave handy)

(But probably looked like this MRE Cheese Omelet with Vegetables- minus the fancy china plate. Gag me with a spoon-which coincidentally is what you're given to eat it with! Wonder why?)

  and a land nav retest brief at 2:00am. That was after the Malvesti smoke fest and 3 mile buddy run. I'm kind of going backwards any way, we went to bed after being smoked at 11:30pm, so tired! Passed through with flying colors. I failed the first time so I was stressing out. (This was particularly stressful because Lou is particularly strong in land navigation and felt confident about it going into the course) We have the 16 miler tonight so we'll see how that goes. I'm sitting here watching about 70 guys fail out due to land navigation. The course is HUGE and crazy. I never ever came close to failing a land nav course but this was crazy. So much brush and swamp!
Day 3-(afternoon) Hey, we are sitting in front of CIF across from the obstacle course. I'm feeling better about doing the 16 miler with 1.5 hours of sleep. We have sat around most of the day doing more layouts and CIF issue. We lost a lot of guys already, almost 40% and its day 3. (Here he mentions several friends of his who have been sent/almost sent home) Don't have details-we can't talk to guys in other companies.
We pack 2 days of stuff into 1 and there's lots I'd like to tell. You'll have to pick my brain after. I'm doing well.......

Signing off but so glad to have this letter! Hope you all enjoy reading the gory details!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The 5 Day Puppy_______________________ P.S. Ranger School Day 1

We had a puppy for 5 days. She was the cutest thing ever. We acquired her the Saturday we  took our 10 mile ruckmarch down the River Walk. She popped out from behind a woman walking down the track and started following us about 3 miles into our hike. She kept it up for 2 more miles, running in between our legs and really trying to foul us up on the whole cadence-while-marching thing we had going, more or less. :) To my surprise, Lou wasn't the least bit annoyed with her! In fact, when we got to our 5 mile turnaround point, he gave me some water to feed her and then when we decided it would be inhumane to make her walk the 5 miles back, he calmly took off his 50lb. rucksack and made her a little bed in the top of it, waterproofed, of course. :) She rode back there the whole way home and it was the cutest thing ever.
We decided since she was wandering around, but had a little pink collar we would take her home and put an ad in Craigslist in case the owner was looking for her. 4 days passed with no calls and I started getting very attached to the little stinker. She learned to go outside for all business, eat and not climb on our "coffee table" (that would be Rubbermaid container) and was the perfect puppy even for a Black Lab Despiser like me. Then, the fatal day came. I was sitting in David's Bridal trying on a dress for my friend's summer wedding and my phone beeped *text*. The message read,"Do you have that dog?" When I replied in the affirmative the mysteriously mute owner texted back "She's mine." I have to admit, it was an emotional moment....I kinda sniffled. Then, I called her, got the whole story of her trip to Disneyland and return home to the renegade dog-sitters who claimed that the angel dog had run away. Her verbal threats of violence against said sitters if only she could get away with it followed. So, I went home, took a nap with Little Girl and then when Lou got home told him the whole sad story. I took her home that night and felt like a really bad puppy-foster mom who had abandoned a helpless puppy to the clutches of a scary woman with neon green eyeshadow and 4 day unwashed hair, along with two tubby unwashed pre-teens who appeared to dislike taking dogs for runs as much as they loved Fritos. It was a bad evening for me. It didn't make it better that when I gave Little Girl to her, she set her on the ground and Little Girl took off running for me and car, tail wagging. I did cry. That's the truth. Lou was really good to me though, he even hopped right off the computer and left Call of Duty to comfort me when I arrived home sobbing at the injustice of the whole situation. But, now life is just fine....but I do still miss her.

Other news of the week. My herbs are growing and looking well for now! Of course I have to admit that I bought them as partially grown plants at Walmart, after killing two different batches of herbs from seeds. Ugh.
I also planted a tiny garden in the backyard, right off the pallet which houses our new grill. We love that grill! Its so wonderful to make food and not heat up the kitchen. One tiny hint: always remember to turn the grill OFF after grilling. Only difficult to remember the first time. But in my defense, I was raised on charcoal grills and you know, they just GO OUT. No turning the knob to righty-tighty for them.

The pallet is also full of life, many spiders reside under it (Lou is certain there's a nest of black widows) a chipmunk and an enormous toad. Just wear shoes when you go out back, you never know what animal might be lurking around that pallet!

I have two baskets of hanging pansies that I'm trying to freshen up the front porch with. One of the baskets was looking a little puny, so I took extra care to water it. I was horrified when I pulled the basket down to investigate the reason for its demise and found this.................

Only they were drenched at the time and looked like the victims of a water-boarding experiment. Fortunately I remembered that in the wild birds and baby birds get soaked all the time by torrential rains and most of them don't die as a result.

As a matter of fact, it seemed to be helping them to built up immunity to the trials of a bird's life and they flew the nest a week later. Now I have a recovering pansy basket, I've managed to water it almost back to a healthy state.
 I managed to make my first wholly free-style drop poached egg, using Julia Child's cookbook as a guide!
 And found these at the annual Fort Benning wide yardsale, along with some very classy German kitchen knives. (information I only know because of Sarah's education in kitchen knives, which is much more extensive than mine) :) The chairs are going to rest in southern New Jersey, at Lou's parents' home. They are so very early American, in my humble opinion.

 About Ranger School: This is Day 1, as yesterday was Day 0. Its like being a kid and counting down days to vacation time again. Remember how you would say (we would),"Today doesn't count, because its today. Oh yeah, the day we leave doesn't count either, because then we're ON VACATION!" And somehow in the bargaining with days phase we would manage to shave off at least 2 or 3 of those pesky "days til vacation". Well, at Ranger School they do it the same, only not. They don't count the first day as the first. Nope. Its "Day 0". Its like adding days to your life, while the instructors take years off. Today was a long day of waiting. Wondering if Lou was going to call and say,"Come pick me up, Honey." And then we'd wait another month for Ranger School Class June 2010 to start and begin the process all over again. He hasn't called yet so I think that's good news. The big physical fitness test was this morning, followed by the CWSA....stumped yet???

That would be the Combat Water Survival Assessment (CWSA). According to the website, candidates must be able to complete a 15-meter swim in ACU's, boots and equipment. I think they drop from a 40 foot distance after working their way out across the water, but I can't remember all the specifics. Thinking too much about it makes me nervous.
My good friend had her husband come home today. She told me that they are pushing hard to get as many guys out as possible in the this first week, and that 70 soldiers have already been dropped from school for an anomaly in their medical paperwork, unable to complete a requirement on the pt test to the RI's(that would be Ranger Instructor) standard, or missing items from their rucks. It sounds like a bad place to be, like they're just looking for you to miss something so they have an excuse to send you home. Makes sense though, as the class is much too large at the moment for the RIs to handle.
Enough of Ranger School for the moment, as you guys probably aren't wanting to hear all the additional worries and rumors.....
Thank you for the notes of encouragement and prayers sent up on our behalf. They mean a lot.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ranger School...Day Zero

This morning I took Lou to the Ranger Training Brigade HQ. He had packed everything needed on the 5-page packing list over the last couple of weeks, took it out of the duffles, repacked and this morning had it in readiness. That was when we realized we were out of stamps. Me being the Miss Emily Post example of thank you notes for the past month, I managed somehow to deplete our entire stock. Lou, knowing that I ALWAYS have stamps didn't think to even ask that question (the "Do we have stamps?" one). So, in the end we managed to peel a 41 cent-er off one of our wedding RSVP envelopes, and coupled with 3 Tiffany lamp 1 cent-ers, he was able to take on stamped envelope to Ranger School. See, it pays to save all your unused wedding stationery. Especially the stuff you accidentally stamped thinking there were 200 invites, not 160.
This whole Ranger School seemed to come so suddenly. Up until this point, there were supposedly only 30 slots for Lou's group, and over 100 soldiers. Lou fell around slot 45 based on the scoring system. That put him starting Ranger School in June, unless they considerably enlarged this class. Then, all of sudden Thursday the colonel announced that all the guys who had passed the RPFT (Ranger Physical Fitness Test) were given slots and unless they failed miserably and got sent home as failures in life, they could run with the best in the May 16th Ranger School. This 61 day course is guaranteed to give you and those you love chronic ulcers. Its the Army way of using Rolaids and Tums sales to boost the economic recovery. It may be more productive than any recovery/stimulus plan yet to date.
Today is check in. The guys go thru Medical Records and Inprocessing to insure that they are ok to roll out Monday morning. My cryptic info sheet from the Ranger Training Brigade website states.
  • in-process
  • med screen (medical screening)
  • pov storage (personally owned vehicle storage)
  • co inprocess (?)
  • ln class/test (that would be land navigation class/test)
  • bn layout (?)
All items with (?) are equally as confusing to me as they are to you. I'm going to have to start Google-ing again.
I'm feeling pretty sick at the moment. I think things just haven't really settled yet, that he's gone. For a very long time. I keep praying that we'll have rain this week. Not a steady pour but drizzle. With the terrible heat in Georgia, many soldiers drop out because of heatstroke on the buddy team/individual run. They are going to be some tired puppies by Friday.

Each soldier is paired with a buddy during the first weeks in Ranger School. Please pray that Lou and his buddy will be well matched and a help to each other to get through the obstacles.
Last night we shaved his hair off and gave him that "I'm a 12 year old boy" look again. Cute. I planned to go to church this morning after dropping him off, but only made it halfway out of the fort before I got re-called. We had totally forgot about removing his wedding band.
Oh well, it was great to have another excuse to see him again. They will be taking away the guys' cellphones today during in-processing, but until then I'm feeling on edge, wondering if he'll be calling with a need for me to bring paperwork,equipment, or something else that's required but wasn't mentioned on the packing list. 
By the way, I now know and can recite the Ranger Creed. Missing you folks back home and my best boy too. I'll update as I get more news.
P.S. I had to post some pictures of our sweet Little Girl, she was our 5-Day-Puppy. Story coming later.....