Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Other USUHS Blog

One of the other platoons has started a blog at

Train-up Week Day Three

In the morning we did some classroom review of the laws of war regarding captured enemies, combatives and how to clear a building.  In the afternoon we did land navigation.  All photos are available on their own Picasa album since the other album would have been too large for the capacity of Picasa albums once I added today's photos

While in the classroom one of my squad members applied sunscreen to his hands in face.  He then put the tube in his cargo pockets, which I thought might not be a good idea.  However, when the lesson ended, I forgot to suggest to him that cargo pockets are bad places for tubes of sunscreen when one is about to learn and practice how to take down an individual.  Needless to say, when he got up following someone else and I taking him to the ground, his cargo pocket had sunscreen oozing out (See right).  We had some enlisted Marines, the real experts since they're so much more badass than the Army, showing us how it's done as well.  We then did both squad action and platoon action take down of buildings.  The cadre played opfor while we took turns in different roles such as prisoner detail and casualty collection point.  It was a good primer for some of the more detail exercises planned for tomorrow. 

After lunch we did land nav, first in the classroom and then in the woods.  The classroom portion reminded me of the week spent manually geoplotting in sub school.  Not only can a computer do such calculations more quickly and accurately, but dong fifth grade math problems annoys me.  I still remember in first and second grade when our math skills were so limited that 7+6 had to appear more than once in order to fill up the page.  I knew that 7+6=13 the first time, so why am I being asked again?  We didn't do how to fix one's position because for the Army that is considered advanced even though in the Navy we do it as often as every three minutes on the ship to ensure we don't run in to the rocks.  Although it must be pointed out that all too often ships have difficulty with it.  Once outside it was more enjoyable since my partner and I were getting to tromp through the woods looking for orange stakes with lucky charms printed on them.  ENS J spotted each marker better than an eagle would have.  He also had his own compass, which, although simpler than the Army compasses, proved more more user friendly.  I bet it was cheaper too. 

Once we were done we had to wait for all groups to finish.  Our platoon commander, 2LT B, was a bit late, which seemed strange.  He finally appeared and explained that he was late because he had perfect opportunity to steal Third Platoon's guidon that was left unattended adjacent to the wood line while they pranced in the fields.  We proudly added it to ours as you can see here. 

We then did some more platoon tactical movement followed by 2LT B showing us some good chokes from the Modern Army Combatives Program

I had to delete some rugby photos from the fall since, even though I
upgraded storage to 40GB at $75 a year, google takes up to 24hrs to
process the storage.  I also figured out the problem I get with my camera sometimes.  Since it's so old the shutter gets stuck.  I have to switch the lens and body to manual, click a photo and then it's fine.  As you can tell from my photos, I'm not the best photographer.  Some of the photos from the building came out really dark since I only have the puny flash built into the camera. 

I'd really like to commend the USUHS leaders who are promoting us to blog about our experiences.  It's, of course, a potential double edged sword, but as Victor Davis Hanson, Karl Popper (whom I haven't read) and George Soros would argue, it's the openness that makes us stronger.  As Abu Muqawama covered yesterday, the media, which now encompasses far more than just a few reporters, cannot be controlled.  However, it can be embraced and shaped.

The trouble leaders can sometimes have with openness, in the end, only serves to harm them by preventing them from seeing their true position.  By violently preventing protests in Iran, the Supreme Leader, only fails himself in that he does not know the true lack of strength on which he retains his position.  From Xenophon to today the Persians seem to have the same issues.  Let's hope, as Emmanuel Todd would suggest, that their next revolution will see them finally adopt the tenets of western civilization that served the Ten Thousand so well. 

It's interested that Abu Muqawama then today covered the product of the opposite public relations mentality to maximum openness, propaganda.  It is so laughable because it is so far from what the people actually think and feel.

The views expressed here are those of mine only, and are not to be
construed as those of the Department of the Navy or Department of

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Train-up Week Day Two

Today we did a morning session of repelling off of building A and an afternoon session of reviewing TCCC, which, fortunately, was more than just a review in that we applied TCCC to simulated combat while also moving up to tactical movement of the entire platoon.  I brought my D100 today, so I took a lot more photos available on my Picasa page.  Picasa doesn't have the ability to create sub albums so you'll just have to see where rappelling photos start. 

For harnesses we just used short pieces of rope tied into Swiss seats.  The rope was very basic though compared to my commercial climbing rope which has a separate sheath and core.  We had three harnesses that had to be chucked because of some minor breakage of strands.  There was not safety issue though because our fantastic instructor, SFC W, caught the frays.  I suggest that the Army should purchase commercial climbing rope vice the Army rope that we used. 

SFC W going over the rappel rig on the roof of USUHS building A.  The hospital can be seen in the background.

We also learned that our medical school has a rappelling rig purpose built on top of the tallest building on campus.  We probably the only medical school in the country that can say that.  Dean Standford had it placed there, and supposedly would randomly rappel down for recreation.  Every person in the platoon made at least one descent even though some were not keen to be doing it.  We also had a french Army doctor have a go as well.  He was visiting from their military medical school at Val de Grace.  The director of the entire operation, Major (Dr.) B, said he has plans to visit professionally all six of the world's military medical schools next year. 

The initial part of the afternoon session was a bit annoying causing most of the instructors were concentrating on one lane of squad tactical movement with casualties to practice our TCCC.  The other two squads did review of carries/procedures and scenario based discussions.  I think that it might be the third or fourth time we've reviewed carries.  It seems like whenever there is a gap in the schedule that needs to be filled the default for military medical students is review patient carries.  The tactical movement into TCCC operation proved beneficial.  I got to be a civilian casualty, so I decided I was a local national photo journalist since I was clicking away with my camera anyway.  We then did our first platoon level tactical movement with casualties that forced us to use our TCCC and forced people to move up in authority when seniors were killed.  Overall a very beneficial experience.  We didn't have quite enough "weapons," so I carried my camera.  I use quotes because, although they looked and felt like M-16s, they were in fact rubber with metal barrels completely non-functional.
Medical students on patrol in Bethesda.

During both morning and afternoon sessions we came across high-school students from the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine.  Our lead staff instructor spoke to them some while we were in between lanes in the afternoon.  I had left my "weapon" up against a tree and while HM1 L was speaking, I could see the students eyeing the "weapon."  I brought the weapon over and handed it to them.  They seemed pretty excited; it wasn't something they were expected on the trip.  Many took photos, one of which I was asked to be in so the parents would know why the student had a weapon.  Independent of the "weapons" I think it was great that these students saw more than just the buildings of USUHS.  They say medical students who get to do more than just sit in the library all day and study.  Hopefully they will remember their excitement in a few years when they confront the nightmare that is AMCAS.

After we were done I went around looking for other platoons to take photos of.  I got some of the second platoon Alpha Company doing CBNRE.  It was the hot afternoon, and you can see the sweat collecting on Lieutenant R's cheeks while she waits to commence her self-decon.  About this time my camera starting acting sketchy.  I'm its third owner and it's a bit old, so it's not surprising.  Hopefully I can get it working for tomorrow and it behaves.  

Completely separately from my day at USUSH, I must mention a discussion my wife and I have had recently.  She has questioned whether or not Whole Foods really has better produce than our local Safeway.  I now
admit that I've been a victim of Whole Foods' great marketing.  This
week I had cheese go moldy before its due date.  Tonight, I had what
was the best package of blueberries ever from Safeway.  It wasn't the
best because of the flavor, although the flavor was fine, but because
only two berries in the entire container were mushy and trash-worthy.  It must have been the highest percentage good berries I've ever seen.  Further evidence of Whole Foods' being crap is that I have yet to go in there and see a displayed price for each and every product in the produce section.  I've even spoken to the manager about it, yet nothing changes.  It's as if they're trying to hide the prices, so the customer forgets that the nickname if Whole Paycheck.

The views expressed here are those of mine only, and are not to be
construed as those of the Department of the Navy or Department of

Monday, June 22, 2009

Train-up Week Day One

So today while waiting to start the first day of Train-up Week of Operation Kerkeshner, our platoon leader asked if there are any geeks in our platoon.  I almost raised my hand, but didn't.  He then proceeded to tell us that President Rice wants any tech/new media (my words) students to blog and tweet during the Op.  With that thought, here I go.  As I've mentioned before I have refrained from blogging about USUHS due to not wanted to air criticisms in public.  I will attempt to maintain professionalism and keep any criticisms to a minimum, but the nature of a blog is that there is no attempt and impartiality and opinions and reported are intertwined.  I'm really curious about the university's interest in new media, but haven't spoken to anybody about this initiative yet.  Rather than wait though, I'll live by the attitude that it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission, I post this and wait to see what happens. 

For reference's sake I'm the first squad leader of the first platoon in Bravo Company.  Our class is split up into two companies of three platoons each.  About half the leadership positions are filled by priors and half by non-priors.  I think this keeps the clustering to a minimum while not prevented the non-priors from learning by doing.  My platoon leaders is 2LT B (I'll use initials for all classmates unless I'm told, by either the university or the individual, to name them) a former tanker who did one tour in Iraq and our platoon sergeant is 2LT S, a non-prior with no ROTC/Academy either.  All pictures can be seen on my Picasa page here.  This photo stream will continue to be updated this week and during Kerkeshner.  Future photos should be better since I finally got a good case for my Nikon D100 DSLR.

In the morning we had CBRNE with Tsgt E, who also gave us a lecture several months ago as part of one of military medicine course.  Tsgt E taught us very well, and I would have to say she's one of the most squared away Tsgts I've come across, really knowledgable about her stuff.  Still though, I couldn't help but smirk when she referred to some piece of material she covered in her past lecture since few of us paid any serious attention to it if we went.  I did go, but retaining the information wasn't high on my priorities at the time.  Having the military medicine course as part of the normal academic years detracts from the AAMC necessary parts of medical school while not creating a situation where we, the students, can focus on learning the unique aspects of military medicine.  In the environment of Train-up Week and Kerkeshner, we are truly able to focus on learning as opposed passing exams.  The only aspect of military medicine that should be part of the academic year is a weekly or fortnightly leadership lab that requires little or no preparation so as not to interfere with the AAMC parts of medical school.  Everything else should be part of an extended Train-up Week.  It might even make sense that we have OBC/COT/ODS for all services here as a sort of plebe summer during which we could cover much of this material in a hands-on way.

Most of us considered ourselves lucky to get to wear our MOPP gear on a relatively cool morning and have it done for the week.  We were shown the NNMC decontamination station in the event of an emergency here.  Interesting to note is that stateside all MTFs have the civilian equivalent (seen to the right) of MOPP gear vice the military stuff.  This is only so that we're compatible with the civilians around us.  We then walked through setting up a field decon station and actually conducted buddy decon in order to remove our MOPP gear and conclude the training. 

Although no doubt future military physicians at the nation's premiere institution of military medicine should be trained in CBNRE, I question the entire infrastructure we've maintained since WWI when chemical weapons were last used on a large scale.  The Army still has a Chemical Corps yet militaries have only used chemical weapons twice since 1918, one of which, Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War, was supplied precursor ingredients by US companies.  (See Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell for more on that.)  How much has been spent on maintaining a unused capability?  It would make more sense that there be a core group of military personnel, certainly to include USUHS trained doctors, that have some knowledge of it and can reconstitute the capability in the event it's needed.  In WWI the Chemical Warfare Service went from nothing to 20,000 soldiers in less than a year.  Certainly we could do that again with more knowledge today and the need to have some capability stateside since crazies are more likely to use CBNRE weapons than other armies. 

After lunch we proceeded to have a short lecture by the second squad leader, 2LT S, a former armor officer who also did year in Iraq, on tactical movement.  He gave a good interactive lecture that gave us a a solid basis to go try some movement in the field.  After several simple scenarios on the remnants of the former golf course that USUHS now sites on, we conducted two more involved training lanes in the woods with hidden OPFOR provided by some of the cadre.  I, as the squad leader, had to coordinate my squad's movement, which, although for me I did a fine job, frustrated my former quarterback Alpha Team leader to whom such endeavors come naturally.  I can imagine that squad leader during tactical movement and being a quarterback are mentally similar, which means they are tough for me.  Anyway though, my entire squad and the half of second squad with us put in a great job and we managed well.  According to the the cadre we did much better than the morning's group. 

After the two tactical movement lanes we proceeded to rest for a bit before being released for the day.  See below.

The views expressed here are those of mine only, and are not to be
construed as those of the Department of the Navy or Department of

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Baltic Homing Pigeon Corps

I finally read Blink last week by Malcolm Gladwell.  I really enjoyed his discussion of Genral Paul Van Riper's decision making in Millennium Challenge 2002.  His use of motorcycle messengers gave me the interesting idea of a Baltic Homing Pigeon Corps.  This could easily be acheived through the relavent governments subsidizing breeding og pigeons or something else in the supply chain.  The would create a non-modern in-place communicatin system. 

Of course, the Russians could respond with training a cadre of falconers.  Does anyone really think Russia has the patience or cultural capital to have a Army full of falconers?  Although I've never trained either animal, I'd bet that training pigeons requires a bit less effort and fewer resources than training falcons.

A peer-to-peer wireless need also be developed.  I'm not sure how one would ensure security in the face of certain Russian countermeasures.  However, it should be assumed that once Russian goes from cyber attack to convential attack, the broadband internet/cell phone network as it stands will not be reliable. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An End to Monopoly

Ever since the Supreme court erred in Federal Baseball Club vs. National League the people of the United States have been forced to suffer while cartels are allowed to control professional sports.  Globalization is beginning to change this.  First Jennings and Tyler realized that they should not reward others, coaches and the like, with the fruits of their labor.  They work hard at basketball and deserve to be compensated for it.  Now a woman too is refusing to accept the WNBA's age discrimination that only exists so that the colleges and universities will continue to fund their player development costs.  As a cartel they have been very successful at externalizing their development costs via such mechanisms of student sports fees. 

As a detractor of Rutgers semi-professional sports franchises, I say good luck to Ms. Prince.  Hopefully you have commenced the beginning of the end for spectator sports as something associated with higher education.

Within ten years no self-respecting young basketball play will even consider attending college.  They will see the system for what it is as something ready to use them.  If only the rest of the world liked American football enough to destroy that cartel as well. 

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Green Sprouts?

It's been discussed lately whether or not the economy is now starting to pick up a bit.  The last jobs report showed that the second derivative of jobs, that is the rate at which they are being lost, has declined somewhat.

Today I went with my wife for her to purchase some shoes at shop called Amano in the People's Republic of Takoma Park.  We also went to The Surrey, a tack shop, in Potomac.  Both shops showed evidence that the economy was in fact picking up.  The owner of Amano stated that this month was the first in the year in which the hemorrhaging had finally ceased.  The owner of the building in which The Surrey is had raised the rent so much that The Surrey had decided to close up shop rather than pay more.  They expect to find a new more affordable location, but I was surprised that the building's owners thought that the market could bear an increase in rent.  Fortunately for us we got several hundred dollars worth of merchandise at thirty percent off. 

Perhaps both these signs are that the economy is picking up to be shortly followed by extreme inflation? 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Helpful NKO Warning

One sees here the nice little warning, but if one closely examines the bottom, one can see that there is more.  However, I am unable to screen capture it because it is so long that, when it scrolls onto the screen, it extends well past the bottom of my screen.

What is the point of this warning?  Not only do users not bother to read such warnings, but even if they wanted to, they can't because it's too long for the screen. 

What aspect of the acquisition system (I'm pretty confident that no actual service member would be allowed to program NKO since as a whole the DOD has relinquished actual responsibility for its online endeavors.) is broken to permit such garbage? 

The views expressed here are those of mine only, and are not to be
construed as those of the Department of the Navy or Department of

Run Away Inflation

Yesterday Chairman Bernake spoke about his fears of inflation due to the large federal deficits.  My fellow econo-focused medical student, Matt, and I have discussed at length how these deficits will likely lead to runaway inflation.  This will further help the United States in that our debt will be inflated away like post-war France. 

We had a theory that says right now everybody, China, the holders of petrodollars and the United States have a vested interest in not accepting the reality that dollars are not worth what we all want them to worth.  If either China or the holders of petrodollars jump off the dollar, their dollars will become even more worthless.  How then will the dollar recalibrate to its intrinsic worth?  Whichever of the above players first jumps off the dollar will be hurt the least.  By letting inflation climb significantly, the United States is, in effect, beginning to jump off the dollar and will suffer the least. 

The rising interest rates are climbing faster than the media is currently reporting.  When I applied for my mortgage a month or so ago I was quoted a 4.75% interest rate on one point and yesterday, when I locked in my rate, I only got a rate of 5.25%.  Obviously the rates will not continue to climb at 0.5% per month continuously, but I still think that my little data point supports the hypothesis that we will see 1970s style inflation in the near future.  Buy gold.