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Monday, March 1

Let me try to catch you all up on what's happened since my blog entry on the first day.

We had a meeting the first afternoon with all the major staff directorates at Fort Riley to provide all sorts of nit-noid data about our unit. Our welcome brief was in a nice conference room. There was a seat at the main table for me, the Oklahoma detachment commander, and my First Sergeant. The rest of the unit sat in seats along the side of the room. After the introductions, we immediately broke out into smaller rooms where our personnel people met with Riley's to go over numbers of people, qualifications, personnel files, etc. Our medical person went over our medical records with their medical people to spot anyone that may need physicals or shots. Our supply people met with theirs to go over the required equipment, versus what we brought, and what we're short. Our training people met with their training people to discuss what training requirements we already met prior to reporting to Riley and built a training schedule to knock out the other requirements while at Riley. I spent my time hopping between the rooms ensuring things went smoothly-- generally the did go smoothly.

While the breakout sessions were going on, some of the soldiers and NCOs went to sign for some vehicles and our billets. We have a large van, mini van, and sedan to use while we're here. We got fairly nice billets-- compared to our expectations. We have 1 - 4 people per room depending on the size of the room and rank of the individuals. I have my own two person room. The room with four people is actually built for eight-- so still plenty of room. None of the rooms lock, so we have to put everything of value into wall lockers when we leave the rooms. There is a 'day room' with pool table and large screen TV... not much time for that yet. Bathrooms are 'community' style, two for males and one for females in the unit. There's another large room we use for unit meetings. About 40 yards away is our dining facility-- nothing fancy, but good sustenance :-) Also about 40 yards away is an Army Distance Learning Center that has computers we can use to access the internet and contact our loved ones.

We spent all evening unpacking, preparing for the next day, and picking up needed supplies and uniform accessories at the post exchange (PX).

The second day was our SRP (soldier readiness processing). They converted a gymnasium for the purpose of SRPing both active duty and reserve units deploying or returning from Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The do this every day of the week for about 120 soldiers a day. It's phenomenal the amount of troops going and coming from overseas. At the SRP we got active duty ID cards, had a personnel records checked, got us into the active payroll system, had dental exams, medical reviews, AIDS tests, pregnancy tests, hearing tests, wills and powers of attorneys done, and yes... shots. I had the flu, TB, and the dreaded Anthrax shot. Later I'll get the Smallpox shot and two more Anthrax booster shots. The SRP took a lot longer than expected since there was a whole engineering company returning from Iraq that got in in front of us.

Later in the afternoon we did the mask confidence course, aka the gas chamber. The idea is to go into a small building filled with tear gas wearing your protective mask and do a lot of physical tasks design to test the seal of your mask-- and give you confidence that your mask will stay sealed and protect you. We did jumping jacks, neck stretches, push ups, etc. And just so we'd know it was really tear gas in the room, they had us remove our masks just prior to leaving. We could've skipped that part-- I believed them from the start!

The third day we received training on the Army's newest chemical protective overgarment-- a significant improvement over the previous one. The rest of the day was filled with individual's medical, dental, supply, and admin appointments.

The fourth day, we received additional individual clothing and equipment. That included the coveted desert camouflaged uniform DCU. The soldiers have been eager to get the DCU's. We still need to get all the patches sewn on, then they spray them with a semi-permanent bug repellent to keep sand fleas off you. We also got polar tech style jackets and overalls for the cold weather, extra canteens, sleeping matts, etc. This stuff really just supplemented all the stuff we had gotten from the National Guard earlier, i.e. helmets, rucksacks, sleeping bags. In the afternoon we went to the rifle range to zero our M-16s and qualify. The sights on an M-16 are adjustable, so on the zero range we're 'zeroing' the sites to be most accurate. The qualification range has pop-up targets at various distances from 50 to 350 meters away that we have to shoot before they pop-down again. We shoot from two positions: fox holes, and the prone position. We have to hit 23 out of 40 targets to qualify. Then we have to shoot the 50 meter target with our chemical protective masks on and hit it 11 out of 20 shots. It's really tough to aim with a mask on! The last part of qualifying is night fire. After dark we have to hit the 50 meter target 7 of 20 times. We shoot tracer bullets so it looks really cool in the dark-- almost like lasers. I'm the only person in the unit that doesn't have an M-16. I only carry a pistol that I qualified on about a month ago.

The next day we spent several hours cleaning our weapons, setting up an office in one of the rooms, and reinventoring the equipment in our 20 foot shipping container. We had from mid-afternoon Saturday to late Sunday off. Guys from the area, like me, went home. Some family members came here from areas further away i.e. Oklahoma and Kansas City. It was a wonderful break and a well needed rest. We now go into 12 days of regimented training without a break. This 'Force Protection' training is specific to prepare us for the threats of Iraq and Afghanistan. Today was the first day and we covered how to react if we're in a convoy that gets ambushed or hit by an IED. We spent the morning in a classroom learning about it and the afternoon in our full 'battle-rattle' actually doing it against some instructors pretending to be terrorists. Tomorrow we go over Convoy Operations. How to plan and conduct a good, safe convoy of vehicles

Well, it's pretty late now. Good 'talking' to you all :-)

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