"Not the victory but the action. Not the goal but the game.
In the deed the glory."

Monday, July 31, 2006

Rebecca Santana and Stetsons

We have a distinguished visitor with us this week, AP reporter Rebecca Santana. You can read her first post here: CSM Hall loves Gatorade. Pretty funny stuff. I'm going to sleep on the article tonight before I get into my comments, as I don't want to get into any trouble. There is a ton of what Bill Simmons, my new favorite author, calls Unintentional Comedy here. CSM (Command Sergeant Major) Hall is the highest enlisted soldier for the Cav. He is ultimately in charge of all of the NCOs and enlisted soldiers under the 1-167 at LSA Anaconda. CSM Hall is a computer programmer back home, so he has this program that he wrote himself (ManTab) that keeps track of all of our soldiers duty status and personal information. It is a great help to our section as we go about our daily tasks. It is Excel based, but he programs in Visual Basic so it is way beyond my level of expertise and is quite impressive. The Squadron Commander, LTC Apprich has a running joke that anytime he needs something done, he just says, "let's go to ManTab." Ha ha. Probably not funny for you at home but I'm laughing right now. CSM Hall is perhaps best know for his Stetson. For those of you that don't know, one of the Cav traditions is the wearing of the Stetson (cowboy hat to put it simply) during off duty hours (see the Wikipedia entry for the Order of the Spur for some of the history). CSM Hall is a big believer in the more rank, the bigger the hat. I may mess this up, but the average Cavalry Stetson is a 4x. CSM Hall's is a 10x, some 2.5x as big. We like to call it the Sombrero. With the right angle, it can block out the sun, even in Iraq.

Here is SFC Kerchal modeling the "normal" Stetson.

And here is CSM Hall sporting the Sombrero.

So, the question of the day is whether I should make the leap and get myself a Stetson. Anyone that is in a Cav Squadron is authorized to wear one. Now, I asked my wife and she said No Deal, I would look a little goofy in a Cowboy hat. That may be true, but as most of you know I haven't ever really been concerned with looking goofy. I am proposing a vote of my friends and family to settle the issue. Stetson or No Stetson? Of course the missus would have ultimate veto authority but I'm sure she would appreciate your opinion as well.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Deal or No Deal Redux

Sorry Rik, but it is time for another Deal or No Deal post (Beans is on leave so not much I can say about him at this point). So, there I was, in the gym getting ready to work out, and imagine my surprise when my new favorite show was on. (On a side note, one thing I've learned on this deployment is that every good story starts with either "So, there I was" or "This is no s%!t", if you use both together is must really be a good one). I actually changed the order of my workout so I could do the treadmill first and the weights second and watch some lucky contestant match wits with the voice of Gizmo. They were going right to commercial so I missed where in the show we were at, stretched, got my MP3 player ready, etc and then got started running. We come back from commercial and it is none other than my friends Sue and Jim! At first I was disappointed, because I had just seen this episode not less than 2 weeks earlier. But, my disappointment soon went away as I realized exactly how lucky I was to get another shot at this Instant Classic. I have to be honest with you, it was even better the second time around. Knowing the disaster that was coming only sweetened the experience. My favorite part was when Sue said no deal to the 299k, and the crowd absolutely freaked out with excitement. It was like she had just thrown the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, when in reality it was only going to get worse. The only person not clapping and screaming was our poor friend Jim, who the camera showed almost in the fetal position, cradling his head in his hands. 3 miles has never gone by so fast. Priceless.
Now, you may find this hard to believe, but I'm actually watching Deal or No Deal right now in the office. This is what I do on Friday night now, hang out in the office, surf the net, and watch Howie in all of his glory. This lady actually had the gumption to say that she was psychic and could pick the 1,000,00 out right away. Unfortunately her skills were not that great because she picked the 750k and 500k with her 2nd and 3rd pick. The million is gone but she still has the 400k in play. She is actually not doing too bad, she is currently at an offer of 98k with 5k, 75k, 100k, and 400k, but she looks like she is going to pass out. I think she is going to take the money. Is it bad that I'm rooting against her? Okay, she took the deal, and it turned out to be a good one, she would have knocked out the 400k on her next pick and she only had 75 in front of her. Bummer.

Monday, July 24, 2006

British Open Final

Well, the British Open is complete and it ended as expected. Tiger didn't give anyone else a chance and played really well all day. My boy had some chances but couldn't make a big run when we needed to. A couple of observations:
  • How scary is that Tiger wins the British Open by 2 strokes and only hits Driver one time? The old tiger won by bombing drives and hitting short irons into every green, the older more mature tiger dominated without the long ball. I think this would really bother me if I was Sergio, Els, Mickelson, etc.
  • The emotional ending for Tiger was pretty cool. You would think that after winning 10 other majors he wouldn't get that excited anymore. I know a lot had to do with his dad, but it was still neat to see that he still cares so much about winning.
  • Now, this may sound insensitive, but who else thinks that the media made a little bit much of the fact that Dimarco and to a lesser extent Tiger are out there playing again so soon after losing a parent? Tiger took 9 weeks off and Dimarco took 3. Who else in this soceity gets a 2 month vacation when they lose a parent? Jim the mechanic and Dave the cop get their 3 days off for the funeral and then are told to get back to work. Nobody writes a story about how courageous they are for getting somebody's car fixed. If a soldier loses a parent they get 10 days convalescent leave and then are told to get back on a plane for Iraq.
  • SSG Johnson and I thought it was comical that after Sergio got off to a terrible start, they didn't show any coverage for him like 10 holes. After we noticed it and started payting attention it was pretty darn funny. One hole he was putting and rather than show him they showed Tiger watching him. On another he was teeing off and the shot was of Tiger talking to his caddy who was picking a club. Sergio who??? It was like Tiger was playing by himself.

Well, back to the daily grind. Today is our 4th month anniversary, so we are 1/3 done with our time in country. Our section celebrates this milestone by going "out to eat" at BK or Pizza Hut. I think I'll have a whopper tonight.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

British Open Final Round Underway

Final round is underway. Here is how I see it playing out today. Sergio is going to choke. We've seen this before, when he is paired with Tiger he doesn't bring his A game. Tiger is going to play good but not great. Ernie is going to stay steady all day. Tiger is going to break out the driver on 16 to try to get an eagle to open up some space, but instead will crush the ball out of bounds, giving the big easy an inside lane to victory!

I have been behind on posting some pictures, so I thought I would share one of Ben.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Deal or No Deal and British Open Round 3

I am surprised they even played day 3 at the British Open today. From reading the stories online, they could have just given the Claret Jug to Tiger after yesterday's round. I was excited to see the final pairing today of Els and Tiger and looked forward to watching them play together. They have been saying all week that the people playing earlier in the day had an advantage scoring, and it looks to be that way so far. Woods and Ernie are walking off 17 as we speak, and they have both struggled today. Tiger is -2 and Ernie is -1. It looks like they are going to have some competition tomorrow, as Sergrio shot a 65 to put him to -12, even though he was wearing an outfit that looked like it came out of Saturday Night Fever. I'm colorblind so I'm not always the best judge of style and high fashion, but if you saw the highlights you know what I'm talking about. ****Update - Tiger bogeys 17 to drop to 12 under, Dimarco and Sergio are in at 12 under. We need a birdie on 18 Ernie!****

So, I was flipping through our 10 channels of cable last night before going to bed. Actually it is more like 8 because even though we only have 10 channels we have a TV guide channel (huh?, like you can't just flip through the other 9 channels in 30 seconds and see what is on) and an Army news channel. Who out there has the seen the show Deal or No Deal? For those of you that haven't, the premise is that you start with like 20 suitcases, and each contains between a .01 and a cool million dollars. You have one suitcase in front of you, which contains the amount you will win at the end of the game. You get to pick a suitcase each round to eliminate. Once eliminated, the pit boss in the back makes you an offer to cash out. So, what you want to have happen is that you eliminate all of the low dollar suitcases so the odds on you having a high dollar suitcase go up, causing your offer to go up. Inexplicably, the show is hosted by Howie Mandel (huh?), sporting a Dr. Evil looks with shaved head and what I believe the young hipsters call a "soul patch." On a side note, is there a rule book somewhere that says once your Hollywood comic career is all but over you must do a game show? There isn't anybody else out there besides Howie that is looking for work? I'm getting way off track here but I looked up Howie on IMDB and he has a filmography back to 1981. Did you know that he was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins? I sure didn't. And who remembers that both he and Ben Stiller had talk shows in the 90s? I wonder if there is a website out there with the worst talk shows of all time, if so I can bet you that one of the two made it. Sounds like a project for me to start if it doesn't exist already. ***Update, Ernie almost chipped if for eagle on 18, ended up with a birdie, as did Tiger. Tiger is your leader heading into Day 4 at -13. I think they do the pairings alphabetically so it will be Woods/Dimarco and Els/Garcia. Should be a great day of golf.****

Okay, so back to the show. When I turn it on, gal has 5 suitcases left, 1, 50k, 300k, 500k, and a million. Nice! Her current offer is 299k. Nice again! So, she can walk away with the 299 or, say no deal and eliminate one more suitcase. Now, here is what was interesting, her support group (mom/dad/friend or maybe sister) is egging her on, NO Deal, lets keep rolling. You have 3 big numbers out there, don't quit now. But, her husband/finance/boyfriend, we'll call him Bob, who for some reason is holding a little puppy (huh?) is saying take the money, please. You can almost see the greed in gals eyes, we'll call her Sue, as she says NO DEAL!, the crowd goes wild, fists are pumped, etc, etc. Now, she had her suitcases pre-picked, and her list is taking care of her up to this point. So, she quickly rattles off #12. She is hoping that is the one with a single dollar in it. This is not to be. The model opens it up and wham, the 1,000,000 is shown. Ouch, worst possible outcome she could hope for. The greatest moment of the whole show was seeing the look on Bob's face when the suitcase was opened. It seriously looked like somebody punched him right in the stomach, he was in actual physical pain. Howie looks shocked, Sue looks sick, and the peanut gallery has their look on their face that says maybe we should have told you to take the money and run.

Oh, but we are not done yet, not even close. So, the new offer comes up, 144k. Not bad but not great. Apparently earlier in the show Bob has said if they walked out of there with 150 he would be thrilled. Howie makes it a point to walk over and ask him whether 144 was enough or if she needed to come up with the 6 grand. He basically tells Howie to screw himself he just wants the money. So, we run through the exact same scenario again. Her support group says No Deal, 2 big numbers out there (300k and 500k), don't stop now. The crowd is saying no deal, they know what is coming. Bob looks ready to hang himself with his shoelaces, pleading for her to take the money. Sue plays to the crowd, and goes NO Deal again. She even goes so far as to ask Howie if she can open the next suitcase, like that can change her luck at this point. WHAM! 500k. Howie looks shocked, Sue looks sick, and the peanut gallery has the same dumb look on their face, I can't believe that wasn't the suitcase with the dollar. Bob is almost catatonic at this point, he looks ready to go into a coma to ease his pain.

Time for round 3, the new offer is 70k, the 1, 50k, and 300k are still in play. At this point you know what is going to happen. It is like when you are at the blackjack table, you've built up a few chips, and your luck runs cold. Usually this happens right after they switch dealers on you and bring in the cooler or the closer, whichever term you prefer. Instead of walking away with your chips, you double up your bet, lose a few more hands, and then in a desperate plea to the gambling gods to even your luck, push your whole stack in for one hand of glory. You know what I'm talking about, and it always ends the same, a 16 for you and a face card for the dealer. You don't even really have to flip the cards over, you already know it is time to hit the buffet. Sue looks to her family, who actually tell her to keep the ball rolling. You have the 300k in front of you (yeah right), don't take the deal. She is pretty much committed at this point. I wish I could better explain to you the look on Bob's face, it was absolutely priceless. I am starting to worry for their relationship, if they aren't yet married I think at this point the engagement could be in trouble. If they are married they will have to hope the puppy keeps them together. Sue actually makes a comment that she is the kind of contestant that she hates when she watches at home. You think? So of course, she makes a dramatic gesture of NO Deal, you already know that the 300k was in the next suitcase, Howie looks shocked, Sue looks sick, and mom and dad are seriously rethinking why they agreed to come on the show.

Round 4. 1.00 and 50k left, the offer is 25k. Bob has shoved a pencil into his eye so he won't have to watch anymore and the puppy peed on Howie's shoe. Sue is running down her options. There are really only 2, if she takes the deal, it is an absolute certainty that she has the 50k in front of her, if she doesn't take the deal, she has the 1 in front of her. We all know that she isn't coming out of this with the 50k, no way. The peanut gallery finally changes their tune, she needs to take home something, so might as well be 25k. Bob has given up caring at this point, his new Silverado has disappeared in the matter of 5 minutes and he has lost all respect for his money grubbing wife. Sue reluctantly agrees to the Deal, although I was screaming at the tv for her to say no deal and come out with a buck. She takes the 25k ,and predictably she would have had the 50k had she said no deal. I haven't seen anyone more dejected since Milton in office space didn't get a piece of cake at the last birthday party. Good tv. Staying on the golf theme, it reminded me a little bit of that collapse by that French guy Van de Velde in the '99 British Open (who else can't believe that was 7 years ago). He only needs a double bogey on 18 to win, and somehow manages to drive it into the rough, shank a 2 iron, hit a grandstand, etc. And who can forget him taking off a shoe and sock and thinking about hitting the ball out of the water hazard. That is why sports are on tv my friends.

Friday, July 21, 2006

British Open Round 2

Time for another British Open update. I had duty today running the MWR computer lab. It isn't a bad gig but it took me out of the office for the whole day. Imagine my surprise when I finally caught the leaderboard and Tiger was already in with a 65 for the day to take him to 12 under for the tourney. Unbelievable. He holed out from 209 years on 14 for an eagle, pretty amazing. One place you do not want to be is behind Tiger at a major after the second round. He is 6-0 when leading after 36 hours and looks to be on fire. All is not lost however. Ernie Els is refusing to be intimidated by the greatest player in the game today, and is currently 4 under for the round to take him to 8 under for the tourney. He is playing 12 as we speak so he still has some scoring opportunities ahead of him and could pretty easily finish the day at -10. 2 strokes is more than Tiger needs but a man can hope. Somebody needs to make a run or it is going to be all Tiger all weekend.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Some People are Dumb

Some days can be slow around here. I often fill my down time by trying to better myself with hours of surfing the web. I came across this story and was so blown away by it that I had to share it. So, some dude (23 yrds old and 6'1") attempts to rob a grocery store, with a gun nonetheless. He is thwarted during the robbery attempt. You are probably asking yourself what is so unusual about that? Was he subdued by a pistol packing off duty police officer? By a local member of the hockey team? By a street hooligan with a heart of gold? By a kick boxer in training? Not so fast my friend, his robbery attempt is foiled by a 5'4" 66 year old man. The weapon of choice? A can of applesauce. Not only does he stop the robbery, but he pounds this guy into unconsciousness. In addition to getting pummelled by Mr. Magoo he also shoots himself in the head. I read this story about 10 times and just can't get over it. How does this happen? How does any self respecting criminal let a man half his size and 3 times his age get the drop on him? Can you even imagine what this guys buddies are going to say to him next time they see him? That I think would be the worst penalty, the total loss of your manhood among your felon buddies. Yeah, the pending charges of attempted murder and attempted robbery would be bad enough, but admitting that you got your butt kicked by somebody's pint sized Grandpa would really ruin your day. Somewhere there has to be a video of this, and I think I would pay money to see it.

I have another good website that can be used to whittle the time away. Bill Simmons is a sports writer for ESPN, and upon the advice of the Hammer I started checking his column out. It is downright hilarious. You can find it here: I think my favorite thing about his writing is that he blends in pop culture, and he is just a few years older than me so there are a lot of great references.

One benefit to being in Iraq surfaced this week. We are on the "other side of the pond" so we can watch the British Open live and not on tape delay. Ernie Els aka the Big Easy is off to a good start at -3. ***UPDATE: while I'm writing he just birdied 16 to go to -4*** However ol' Lefty is leading right now. I'll definitely be rooting against him like always. John Daly looks to have sobered up and left the casino long enough to be sitting at -1 under right now. I don't know what it is about that guy, but he loves the British Open and always brings his A game. ***UPDATE: Els just duck hooked his drive into the rough but looks to have recovered nicely and may be on the green in two.***

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Iraq - Good and Bad

Got This Article emailed to me this week by Chief Regan. It is some of the good news in Iraq. It seems like the only thing that ever makes the newspaper or the internet headlines is when something bad happens like Haditha or the recent rape and murder allegations. Don't get me wrong, these 2 instances are terrible and are a black spot on our service here. Every soldier over here feels the pain of what a handful of bad soldiers are reported to have done. It is sad because there have been over 500,000 U.S. Soldiers / Airmen / Sailors / Marines to serve in Iraq, and a handful have very effectively cast doubt upon our integrity, morals, and professionalism.

Unfortunately, terrible things happen during war, and I imagine that these events permantely scar the soldiers that are involved in them. Their decision making is then altered, and ideas and thoughts that seem incredibly foreign to someone that hasn't experienced war fester and gain hold. Now, I don't want to make excuses for this reprehensible behavior and am confident that the overwhelimg majority of soldiers when placed in a simliar situation would make the right decision. However, it is difficult to judge someone or even understand why they do what they do when you can't understand their day to day existence. Even being in Iraq I don't pretend to know what it is like to be out on a convoy every night or performing combat raids in a hostile city, knowing that today could be the day that an IED hits your Humvee. And of course, even in the Military, you are considered innocent until proven guilty, and it seems to me like the media has already pronounced guilt upon those involved. The military justice system works, and the soldiers that are alleged to commited these atrocities will be given a fair trial and then punished if found guilty. I would think the worst punishment would be the internal grief of knowing what they did was terrible and wrong.

Winning Hearts and Minds

Here is a picture showing some of the good news that doesn't get reported very often. This is 2 of the paralegals that are in my brigade, SPC Dauer and PFC Blackstad, on a claims mission, paying the locals for any damage that may have done by our forces to their property.

Here is a picture from the last trip SFC Kerchal and SPC Benes took. It is a M1 Abrams tank taken through a set of NVGs. Pretty cool stuff. The M1s provide overwatch for the convoys moving throughout theater. I would think that the sight of one of these machines would be enough to deter me from planting an IED.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

RSTA Review

SFC Douglas Schultz is our Squadron PAO (Public Affairs Officer). One of his many duties is creating and publishing our unit newsletter. The RSTA Review comes out twice a month, the 1st and the 15th. It is a much anticipated event each month. Our unit website, available here, has them linked for your viewing pleasure. They are on the home page towards the bottom left. The website is pretty new so there isn't much else on here, but keep an eye out later for new content. The 1 July 06 issue has a story that I put together that talks about my employer and also some pictures of my promotion. The other issues have lots of good pictures about what our unit is doing here. This is a picture of our section that was taken for the newsletter:

Front kneeling (l-r): SGT Hanseling and SPC Gaskins. Standing: SSG Johnson, me, and Chief Regan. Seated on truck: SFC Kerchal and SPC Fleck. Standing on truck: SPC Burnham and SPC Benes.

1 JULY 2006.pdf

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

4th of July in Iraq

I thought I would give everyone an update on 4th of July here at LSA Anaconda. Unfortunately, there aren't any holidays here in Iraq like there are back home. We can't simply close up shop at the ECPs (Entry Control Points) and JDOC (Joint Defense Operations Center) and go shoot off bottle rockets. So, it is generally a day like any other. We had a formation in the AM which is somewhat unusual. SSG Brehm got promoted to SFC (Sergeant First Class / E7) which is well deserved. He is a great guy so it is nice to see him get recognized. After that it was business as usual. It did seem a little quieter through out the day as most people were doing their best to stay under the radar. The locals made it a little bit interesting by firing at few mortars at us, but again nothing out of the ordinary there. I actually had quite a bit of work to do so the day went by quickly and I wrapped up quite a few things. The DFAC always tries to make the holidays unique with a different menu. Basically they just combine all of the good stuff throughout the month onto one day. We had ribs, bbq chicken, tbone steaks, baked beans, corn on the cob etc for lunch. Perhaps the best part was the dessert, they had apple cobbler which I haven't seen since I've been here and it was quite good. All of the staff was dressed up in patriot outfits which was funny, I felt bad for them as they looked very uncomfortable. SFC Kerchal was kind enough to let me go about an hour early so that was nice as well.

Of course, we didn't want to let the day pass without some excitement, so SSG Johnson and I had plans of our own. The base theater had a special movie playing, Superman Returns. Whenever there is a new movie in town, the lines are always crazy to get in. We decided on a little movie time 4th of July adventure, and went to the early showing of Scary Movie 4 (not too bad, about what you would have expected) at 1700 (5:00 PM for you non-military types keeping score at home). We actually were there at 1600, which proved to be an hour too early as we could have rolled in at 1700 and been fine, but we didn't want to leave anything to chance. After watching that, we hung out at the theater for 90 minutes saving our seats. Our master plan was almost destroyed when they kicked us out to clean the theater and made us get back into line, but it wasn't too bad yet and we got our same seats back. I had brought a sandwich with me from lunch and then got some popcorn and just ate dinner there. The theater was packed by 1900, and since we were saving seats for The Hammer and Birdman (who ended up not making it), we had to fend off those that were unlucky enough to not get there early. I should say didn't plan well enough actually, there was no luck involved in knowing that on the 4th of July for a summer blockbuster you couldn't just waltz in 10 minutes early and get a seat. I actually had to use my rifle to fend off some particularly zealous people that really wanted a seat. The movie was great, Kevin Spacey is awesome as Lex Luthor and the special effects were phenomenal from the opening scene to the end. The only disappointment was that the ending wasn't as exciting as I would have liked. All in all, it was a great movie and not a bad way to spend the 4th. Better than out on a convoy or guarding a gate! We ended up being in the theater for almost 7 hours, and then I was able to call Erika and check out the festivities at home. Buddy of course freaks out and won't leave the house, but everything else sounded like it was going okay. SSG Johnson took a picture of the theater which you can find here. July looks to be a good movie month, coming up we have Silent Hill, United 93, Pirates of the Caribbean, American Dreams, Click, and MI III. We can't be picky since it is free and most others don't have this benefit so we try to go to a movie or two every week.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Another Kane Joins the Guard

Good news from the homefront. My younger brother Jeff has been working on getting into the Guard for a while now. About a week ago he jumped over his final hurdle and signed his enlistment contract. So, there will now be 2 Kane's in the Guard. Currently he is slotted to join the Cav as well, so we'll be in the same unit. Hopefully nobody will hold him being my brother against him. He doesn't ship for Boot Camp for a couple of months, so he is going to continue to work out and get ready to go. He said he has already been crushing the workouts and is ready to get after it. Hopefully it will work out so that he is graduating from boot camp after I get home so I can attend, and make him do pushups. This is a picture from my going away ceremony down at Camp Shelby. Wish Jeff luck if you see him around.