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.

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