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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Please Give Me Money

Well, not me exactly. I was out on the Fisher House website the other day getting the link for my post on the Doonesbury Book. I noticed that they have a Marine Corps Marathon support team, where soldiers/sailors/airmen/marines that are running the MCM can raise money to support the Fisher House. I thought to myself, wow, what a great idea, too bad the Chicago Marathon (catch up on my training here) and MCM are on the same day. Not so fast my friend. They have another program where basically you can support any race you feel like running. So, a few short minutes later and I had everything set up for Team Sack.

This program is particularly good, because unlike other race sponsorships, where if you collect a certain amount they will pay your race entrance fee, travel/hotel, etc, the Fisher House team will get every dime of any money that you pledge. Also, they have very little overhead, according to their website 97 cents on the dollar go directly to help the families of wounded soldiers. These guys have a great reputation in the military community and are truly supporting a needed service.

I would like to raise a $1,000 over the next 18 weeks. Please consider a gift to this worthwhile organization. Since I'm running 26.2 miles (I hope!) you could consider a dollar a mile and donate 25 bucks and I'll do the last 1.2 miles for free. This would only require 40 people to contribute.

The easiest way to donate is to go to my pledge website and use your credit card. They will send you your receipt immediately and your donation is tax deductible. What is better then that? I haven't used the pledge website yet so if anyone does and has any problems please shoot me an email, you can find it in my profile, or leave me a comment. You can also fill out a pledge form personally for those of you that I'll be seeing in a few short weeks. Thanks in advance for your support!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hard to Believe, but I'm Getting Published

You may remember that I did a few stories for the Sandbox, a blog set up by the folks that bring you Doonesbury. The first one I submitted, Not My Grandfather's War, is going to be included in a new book that they are putting out (my other story is here). I'm incredibly excited and thrilled to be included, this book will make a nice reminder of my time over here. There are so many great writers out there blogging about this war and I feel honored to be included among them.

Here is the preliminary cover:

And the preliminary back:

All proceeds from the book will be donated to the Fisher House. From their website:

Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for specialized medical care, Fisher House™ Foundation donates "comfort homes," built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times - during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease, or injury.

You can pre-order the book at It is only 14.95, so go out and get one. It should be out sometime this summer. I'll even autograph it for you. That is of course if you live in the Omaha/Lincoln area and make a trip over to my house. Or invite me over to your place for dinner, whatever works for you. I suppose I could even meet you somewhere, but we can work all of that out later. I've read almost all of the posts that will be in the book and they are all fantastic, you won't be disappointed.

Good News, More Souvenirs

We got some good news about 2 weeks ago and it is finally official so we can share it. We found out we'll be leaving "early" from Iraq, so instead of getting out of here in mid to late July, we'll be leaving in early to mid June. We have a date but can't give it out for security reasons. Most likely we'll be home in time for the 4th of July. Obviously we are very excited and morale is high. There is much to do as we got short notice and have about 2 months of work to do in 2 weeks. That is fine though, it will make the time go back quickly. Unfortunately, the 167 is the only unit getting replaced early, the rest of the Red Bulls will be leaving as scheduled.

Chief Regan got all of his soldiers in the S1 an authentic Cavalry Saber as a thank you for all of our hard work. It is pictured below, along with the Squadron Commander, LTC Apprich (colonels aren't allowed to smile by the way). Thanks Chief! I am going to need to move into a bigger house to hold all of my deployment souvenirs.

CPT Varjecka and CPT Wangler went out and got Gold Spurs for the rest of Team America. I missed the day when they put them on as I was in Qatar, so we had a make up ceremony. I got the short end of the stick as we were in increased force protection so we had to have our IBA and ACH (body armor and helmet) on outside. They had me get in the front leaning rest (aka pushup) position while they put them on. With the body armor it was quite a challenge.

Then Beans rode me like a horse. Yee haa!!

As you can see by this time I was pretty exhausted and had to sag a little bit, but nobody ever said the Army was easy!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pre-Marathon Update Weeks 6-13

Definitely slacking off on getting my updates done on my training for the Chicago Marathon. Sorry. No good reason. I was planning on doing this once a month but lo and behold this is 2 months worth. I have a 10k coming up on Memorial Day. The BolderBoulder is putting on a satellite race here. The folks that run this are awesome, I had a problem with my registration and I emailed them and they took care of it right away. We actually registered on their main site so we'll get an official time and everything. Hopefully the folks here will do a better job organizing this then the Army 10 Miler. At a minimum I'm voting that everyone actually runs a 10k. I need to break 50 minutes (8 min/mile) so I can get a seeded runner's pass for the Omaha Corporate Cup. I usually run this every year as part of Team ConAgra, in fact the OCC is what got me into running longer distances. Usually about 10,000 people run it, and if you can prove you can run it in less then 50 minutes (for males) you get to start from the front. They don't have chip timing so when you don't start in the front it adds a good 2-5 minutes to your time, making it all but impossible to get under 50 minutes for me. I'm pretty confident that I can break the 50 minute mark finally, and my stretch goal is to run 7:45 minute miles for a time of 48:00. The 48 minute time will give me some confidence that my 4:00 goal for Chicago is doable.

I'll say one thing after 6 months or so of thinking about doing the marathon, this training is no joke. I knew that it wouldn't be easy, but what I wasn't expecting was the pressure each week to get my runs in. The schedule is so focused that if you miss even one day it messes you up and it is hard to make it up. For instance if I miss a Sunday long run there is no chance to catch up so to speak and that day is gone. So, it has been quite a challenge. The extra months to train for Chicago instead of Lincoln have definitely helped me get ready. Right now I'm trying to decide which plan I'm going to use. The original Higdon plan I was going to do peaks at 43 mpw, which doesn't feel like much of a challenge now. I'm either going to do the Higdon Intermediate II plan which gets up to 50 mpw or the Pfitzinger 55 mpw plan. The Pfitz plan has some speedwork built in, so it will be more of a challenge but also will better prepare me. I am thinking right now that I will start with that and if turns out to be too much I'll go back to Hal's easier plan.
Well, without further ado, here is what I've been up to:

Week 6 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 4 / 0
Wednesday - 6 / 5 @ 8.44
Thursday - 4 / 6 @ 8:16
Friday - off / 4 @ 8:41
Saturday - 6 / 6.25 @ 8:48
Sunday - 9 / 9.5 @ 9:04
Total - 29 / 30.5. Tuesday I was busy playing Gran Turismo 4 (which SSG Johnson got me for my birthday, thanks Brad!) so I moved everything back a day. Other then that was a good week.

Week 7 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 5 / 5 @ 9:03
Wednesday - 7 / 7 @ 8.30
Thursday - 5 / 5 @ 8:48
Friday - off
Saturday - 7 / 7 @ 8:19
Sunday - 10 / 10 @ 9:36
Total - 34 / 34. Right on schedule for Week 7, nothing exciting to report.

Week 8 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 5 / 5 @ 8:57
Wednesday - 7 / 7 @ 8.36
Thursday - 5 / 5 @ 8:49
Friday - off
Saturday - 7 / 7 @ 8:36
Sunday - 12 / 12 @ 9:36
Total - 36 / 36. This was the beginning of the week I was in Qatar. I brought my running shoes, and actually ran both Saturday and Sunday. They had a great trail that ran along the perimeter of the base (no snipers in Qatar!) that was really nice, so it was an enjoyable place to run and see some new scenery. It was really just a different view of the desert but what can you do.

Week 9 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 4 /
Wednesday - 7 / 6.25 @ 8.47
Thursday - 4 /
Friday - off / 3 @ 8:17
Saturday - 7 / 5.33 @ 9:02
Sunday - 9 / 0
Total - 31 / 14.58. Not a good week here. Tuesday I was still in Qatar and didn't get a chance to run. Wednesday I did, but Thursday I was traveling and that kind of put the rest of the schedule off. I still would have had a decent week but on Sunday they had the force protection ratcheted up and we couldn't be outside unless we had our Kevlar and IBA on, and there was no way I was running in that. I contemplated doing the dreadmill but just couldn't go through with it. So, this was somewhat of a rest week for me.

Week 10 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 5 / 5 @ 8:01
Wednesday - 7 / 7 @ 8.45
Thursday - 5 / 5 @ 8:41
Friday - off
Saturday - 7 / 7 @ 9:35
Sunday - 12 / 0
Total - 36 / 24. Missed the long run again. Hammer talked me and Princess into starting to lift legs again. I had quit lifting my legs a while back because of all the running I was doing. We did squats on Friday, and Saturday my legs were incredibly sore. I thought it would help if I ran Saturday to loosen things up so I suffered through the 7 miles. Sunday I could barely walk, and there was no way I was running 1.2 miles, let alone 12. We like to say in the Army that there is Hooah (going above and beyond and being a tough guy) and Hooah Stupid (going above and beyond and hurting yourself). Running Saturday was Hooah Stupid as it put me out of commission for about 4 days.

Week 11 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 5 / 3.25 @ 9:04
Wednesday - 7 / 3.25 @ 8.49
Thursday - 5 / 5 @ 8:48
Friday - off
Saturday - 7 / 5.5 @ 8:34
Sunday - 10 / 8 @ 9:42
Total - 34 / 25. Early in the week I was still struggling with the soreness in my legs. I suffered through a few shorter runs. At the same time, it started getting up close to a 100 in the afternoons this week. Sunday I was planning on doing the full 10 miles but I felt like I had just eaten a whole bag of cotton balls so I cut it off early (see Hooah vs Hooah Stupid above).

Week 12 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 5 / 5 @ 7:48
Wednesday - 7 / 7 @ 9:09
Thursday - 5 / 5 @ 8:58
Friday - off
Saturday - 7 / 7 @ 9:09
Sunday - 10 / 6 @ 9:18
Total - 34 / 30. Back to normal for the most part. I suffered through the afternoon heat for all of the runs but Sunday. Sunday I waited until later in the night when it cooled down as it was like 103 that day. I didn't end up going until 1030 at night so it was a little bit late to do the whole 10 miles. Plus I have a phobia about getting abducted by a group of insurgents. It is really dark here at night (no street lights to mitigate the mortars) so it is a little bit weird out. My fear isn't that I'll be tortured and killed, but that they will videotape the kidnapping and everyone will snicker when I don't fight them off. Of course they won't know that I just got done running 10 miles and was worn out. So there is that.

Week 13 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 5 /
Wednesday - 7 / 2 @ 6:56
Thursday - 5 / 7 @ 8:28
Friday - off / 7 @ 8:58
Saturday - 7 / 7 @ 9:10
Sunday - 10 / 10 @ 9:35
Total - 34 / 33. Wednesday we had a PT test so I took Tuesday off so my legs would be fresh. I would have liked to gone a bit faster on the 2 miler but was pretty happy with my time. In case you were curious, I had the high score out of the entire S1. Not bad for a 31 year old desk jockey. Of course I haven't brought this up at all since!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Aks on the Smith Range

From time to time our guys end up with some contraband as evidence. One of the things that is in long supply over here are AK-47s. Every Iraqi is allowed one for self defense, but if they get caught doing something bad then they get taken. Our guys arranged for a familiarization fire out on the Smith range (named after SFC Paul Smith, the first Medal of Honor winner in Iraq).

Me and one of the better condition AKs. If you are curious, yes that is a moustache. And yes I have already shaved it. I started growing it in Qatar. I thought it was pretty sweet but it was hot and itchy so I got rid of it after a few weeks.

SFC Kerchal getting ready to fire.
We each got one magazine to fire off. Unfortunately I don't have any action shots of myself. You can rest assured that I didn't hit much though. Even at 25 meters the Ak is terribly inaccurate, especially on full auto.

SFC Kerchal double fisting.

Pretty good time. I also got to fire my trusty M16 on burst, normally on the range we fire in semi auto mode so it was fun to blast away. The M16 is much more controlled with the 3 round burst then the Ak is on full auto. Nothing better then a little gunpowder to get your day started right.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I'm Still Here

Sorry for the communication blackout. Blogs are once again blocked, hence the sparse posting for the last 2 weeks.

Ran across this article today, which explains some of the problem: Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death. Basically the new policy is that you must get approval from your Commander before posting anything on your blog. Most of us are guessing that rather then waste the Commander's time, most units will just ban blogs all together.

It is really frustrating for us because I think most of you at home would agree that soldier blogs provide a window into this war that has never before been utilized. Not that it is always positive, but for most part they are real life. In a time when the military is struggling for public support, you would think our stories would be encouraged and not the other way around. I honestly don't understand where they are coming from. My guess is that the brass is just being risk averse and rather then have to deal with the few troublemakers that violate op-sec or something like that, they are going into widespread lockdown mode.

I'm not giving up the fight yet, as this blog has really meant a lot to me over the last 13 months. I honestly feel that my morale has been better because of it, and I think that my friends and family have benefited from hearing about what I'm up to. But, I'm sure it won't be long before the new rules get pushed down to my level and the plug gets pulled. We've already seen a pretty advanced decline in what we are allowed to read and say, so I don't see it getting better. It is a shame because I'm sure soldiers that are just getting into theater and have a story to tell will most likely not want to deal with all of the BS and resort to keeping in touch solely by email or phone. It looks like the Army will win this battle, but lose the war for public support.