16 August 2007

BOLC II vs. LDAC: Part 2 -Leadership positions and cadre relationship.

The second edition of this series (I can call it that now there are two of them) will regard leadership positions and evaluations and the relationship to cadre.

Evaluations have a lot in common to evaluations in ROTC. The sheet is almost exactly like a blue card. In this case you don't write a yellow card, you just get counseled. There are two types of leadership evaluations. The first kind is a platoon leadership position. The second is by event.

Platoon leadership evaluations are a week in length and include the student first sergeant, platoon leader, platoon sergeant, and squad leaders. Unlike LDAC there is no student CO. The biggest difference between these positions and their counterparts at LDAC other than length is the fact that you can be fired. If you screw up you are removed from command and get an unsatisfactory rating. It has happened once in my platoon. One of the SLs reported that one of her squad members was not present at first formation. He was in fact on CQ duty (something she should have known). Apparently if this happens you will get additional chances to fix yourself later.

The second type of position is a by event position. For instance next week my platoon is the duty platoon for the qualification range. This means that we provide the OIC and a LT to fill the position of NCOIC. These people are responsible for planning the entire range.

I don't know how counciling works out. My first scheduled duty position at the moment is PSG in week 5. More later.

In regards to our relationship as students with the cadre. It is much less formal (at least in my platoon) then in LDAC. At LDAC the cadre are evaluators. They are there to teach but mostly to evaluate and this means that their relationship to you is fialry standoffish to ensure that there is no appearance of favoritism. Here the cadre are considered mentors, they want to get to know you and to help you become better officers. Ideally each platoon gets a CPT or MAJ who is the platoon mentor. Then you have an E7 who is essentially the PSG but is also there to teach and coach. Each platoon is also supposed to have 3 to 4 E6s who will mentor individual squads. My platoon only has one squad mentor, but it's cool because he kicks ass.

The atmosphere that this creates is really great. The NCOs treat you with all the respect due to your rank but it is explicitly clear that you are there to be trained by them. Any one who gets it in their head that they are in charge is quickly corrected. It hasn't happened hear but it was made quite clear not to even let the thought into your head.

That is all for now.

11 August 2007

Bad movies

For the record. Both "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "Rush Hour 3" are terrible movies. I've seen two movies in two night on the big screen and been horribly disappointed by both. Neither movie had anything new to offer. The same jokes stunts and tricks.

Bourne is super human everything. Smarter, faster and tricker then everyone else. The technology tricks were unconvincing. Everyone knows that they can be tracked through their phones but leave them on all the time. The CIA knows everything about you but can't figure out the fact that Jason Bourne knows all of the ways that they will attempt to trick him. It was a saga of blunt instruments hitting blunt instruments. That is the one thing that Casino Royal did better in the Spy genera, Bond is a thinking man.

Additionally there is some pretty terrible character development, not helped by bad actors, among the CIA staff. Matt Damon has come a long way in talent since the first movie. But the actors with him couldn't carry their weight. (I think the one exception was Albert Finney who had a short yet terrific performance.)

The last straw and the thing that really killed it was the ending. I don't want to be a spoiler but they did a terrible job of not deciding if they were going to make a fourth movie. There were some pretty transparent and weak tie backs to the first movie that let it go either way. I just really bothered me. I would talk about it more but I really don't want to spoil the disappointment for anyone else.

Rush hour offers very tired cross racial jokes. The scene in the first 20 minutes of the movie where they use a nun as an interpreter was probably the best comedy in the whole movie. Otherwise the jokes were weak tea compared to the previous movies. They did a really bad bit with a French cab driver who wouldn't drive the American but then wants to be a real American because we have a good time was just tacky. Really I don't have much else to say about this one other than it just wasn't very good.

10 August 2007

More heat

This is a short post. The heat index for Ft. Benning GA is 120 today. Last night the AC went out in the building. So we got a sticky night of sleep.

Also UA this morning. Got to love someone watching you pee in a cup.

08 August 2007

Heat and CIF

We had our first serious heat injury of the cycle today. After our platoon run this morning one LT had a core temp of 107 degrees. For anyone who doesn't know that's fry your brains warm. They ice sheeted* him, put an IV in him and toted him off to the hospital for treatment. This was at 0650 this morning. I can't even think what it is going to feel like when we do real work out doors. He came back to us by the end of the day but it was pretty scary.

Lesson learned, drink water, the heat really will kill you.

I can't remember ever being this hot. It was 103 when we got in my car at 5 o'clock.

In other news we got our CIF issue today and they gave us complete cold weather gear including Gortex tops and bottoms, complete sleeps systems, mittens, over boots, polypro underwear, neck gators, the works. I never got that much cold gear when I lived in Rochester. The Army is a very silly place some times.

*Ice sheeting is a way of cooling a person down. You keep sheets (like for your bed) in an ice chest. Then when you need to bring someone's temp down you put one laid out below them, one in there crotch, one under each of their armpits and wrap one around their head. You then take the sheet below them and fold it over the top. It will cool you down in a hurry if your not to far gone.

06 August 2007

BOLC II vs. LDAC: Part 1 - Living conditions and time management

So for the benefit of anyone coming to BOLC II at Benning in the near future I'm going to try and set out some of the things that I see as significantly different between this course and last summer's LDAC (summer 06) experience. Tonight I'm going to focus on two subjects. First is housing. The second is time management.

Housing here is more comfortable. My platoon is mostly on the third floor with the exception of the females that are on the first. Each person gets a room with one room mate with the exception of a few people who have three rooms. Some people who are infantry have their own places off post but that is the exception not the rule. Each room has two wall lockers, beds, desks and desk lamps. Eye balling it the room is probably 12x18.

Generally it appears that no one cares what your room looks like. Keep it as clean as you like or be a pig, the option is up to you. You are issued linens. However you can user your own linens if you choose. I'm keeping my guitar under my bed. It really is quite spacious.

I think there are two bathrooms on the floor. I haven't walked all the way down to the other end of the hall to check. But I never see anyone from the other platoon in our bathroom. Showers are a step up from last year. The stalls actually have separators on them.

As for time management. It has been really laid back. All be it it was only the first day. But for the most part the philosophy of the cadre seems to be that once you know the hard time it is on you to get there. No babysitting here. All the movement is also up to you, so no piling on to cattle cars and school buses to get from place to place. No inane counts of people getting on and off the bus. Its good to be a lieutenant.

I think that free time is best summed up by the phrase the cadre OIC for the platoon used. "If you don't have anything to do, don't do it here." What this means is that when there is nothing to do you get time to yourself.

I like the cadre. They seem to have an interest in training smarter not harder so that we can all finish doing training and go drink beer. And that is an army you have to love.

The first week is mostly in briefs and processing. If something doesn't apply to you, you don't have to go. This means people who have been to LDAC or CTLT don't need to go to finance meetings etc.

Also of note my mailing address for anyone who wants it is:

2LT Andrew Nortrup
D/1/11 IN
BOLC II 6th Platoon
BLDG 2749
Fort Benning, GA 31905

05 August 2007

Travel and Benning

So it begins. I've made my journey to Ft. Benning for BOLC II (Basic Officer Leaders Course Phase 2), reported in, gotten my room and am ready to go.

The journey itself was long but enjoyable. My father traveled with me. We did two ten hour days traveling from Maine to Atlanta. Our first day got us 600 miles south and into Virginia. The second days drive brought us to Atlanta. This morning we parted ways, my father taking a plane home and I traveling south to my current location. Total distance was about 1300 miles.

With one exception the travel was uneventful (the best kind of travel if you ask me). The one exception concerns ants. Somehow, I collected an infestation of ants in my suitcase. We noticed them on the first day. From time to time we would find an ant wandering through the car. We promptly crushed all such creatures. Mostly we just thought they were stray ants that had been on the car when we started travel. So on the second day of travel we were pleased to find that fewer of them traveling around the car.

Then the big excitement came. Upon arrival at the hotel in Atlanta we opened the trunk of my car to find a swarming colony, complete with larva, of ants on top of one of my suitcases. Man were they pissed off. The luggage and was thrown to the ground and there was much stomping of ants. To their credit several of them managed to get bites off before they died. Eventually we shook out all of the clothes and got rid of most of the ants (I think). Ultimately the suitcase was sacrificed to the ants and deposited in the nearest garbage can. I'm pretty sure that the bell hops at the hotel think that we are crazy after watching the antics that this process produced.


Other than that life looks like it is going to be exciting. I have a complete calender of the major training events for the next 2 months. If you send me an email I will send you a copy of it. I won't post it here for operational security concerns. Some of it looks pretty bland and some of it looks like more fun.

I've been issued a very small quantity of my equipment, but it includes some older model interceptor body armor, complete with 2 ballistic plates, knee and elbow pads, and a molly vest.
On a side note, it is really, really, really, really, really (x10000) hot at Ft. Benning.

More to follow as I have it.