Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas To All GIs Everywhere

(Bumped: Originally posted Christmas Eve 2007 & time hasn't changed a thing)

Just after Thanksgiving every year I start thinking about how Christmas in the military can be a little different than the average American’s. Maybe it is because when you join up, you gain another family to think about: and you think about them every year, whether we’re at war or at peace.
I get particularly sappy about it I guess, because I worked my first 10 Christmas Eves and Days.
My first Christmas Eve with my new family was when I was still in Basic Training. We were far enough along in the program that on “non-training” days we had some liberty in the immediate area of our WWII-era barracks (only the wusses were in the 1000-man dorms at that time ~wink). We actually built a Christmas tree of sorts, out of 7-Up and Coke cans on a picnic-type table while waiting our turn to call home from an adjacent bank of payphones. I spent my first Military Christmas Eve sitting around the aluminum can tree exchanging family Christmas traditions and stories.
My second Christmas was when I learned about “SP Augmentees”. I spent 12 hours guarding a stateside bomb dump with a brick (radio) and an empty M-16. The single guys pulled ‘the duty’ on Christmas Eve and Day so the married guys could be with their families and the married guys who “didn’t party” pulled the duty on New Year’s Eve and Day. It was a ‘win-win’ for everyone. For the next eight years it was usually the same thing. In Alaska and Iceland, the Godless Soviets liked to exercise the Air Defense Intercept Zones on holidays -- So we’d spend Christmas building, fixing, and hauling weapons to the flight line or, if we were lucky, we’d just spend all night plowing and re-plowing the road between the munitions storage and alert facilities IN CASE the Bears came to town. Now in the end we weren’t getting shot at, and we were always pretty thankful for that. But we knew it could have been different any time some world leader cleared his throat or tripped over his own feet.
The public tends to forget how close we came to Armageddon several times over the length of the Cold War, if they ever noticed at all, and the American Military is what lets them get away with such poor situational awareness and a peculiar forgetfulness. As our brothers and sisters now serving can attest, a lot of the Public doesn’t really like to think too much about how dangerous the rest of world is, and some of the less gifted in the populace actually think it isn’t that dangerous of a world at all.
Thank you to all of those now serving EVERYWHERE for joining and becoming part of the continuum: forever protecting the appreciative and the oblivious alike and without reservation. May you have a most merry and memorable Christmas with many, many, more to come.
(original photo was ABC News)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Success! Thanks Again For Everything Brother B!

I'd like to thank the fine folks at B&L Outfitters at the Clairette Bar and Grill once again for hosting me on my hunts this season, and for setting the standards so high while providing brotherly encouragement.
A couple of old adages about hunting have certainly applied this year.

First: If you're going to hunt, Hunt! The deer don't have a schedule and nothing beats persistence and consistency. Yesterday I did the AM and PM hunts and was still exhausted at 4AM today when the alarm went off. I almost slept in based upon what happened yesterday, but today, the ebbing moon rose an hour later this morning (new moon on Christmas BTW) and there was a little more cloud cover which gave me the edge moving to the blind. Yesterday, all the deer were jumpy due to high winds. In the morning I had some of the 'local girls' show up, then a forked-horn I've come to think of as Decoy Boy would show up to chase them. The doe would run away and then come back, then Decoy Boy would come back. All through the morning hunt. They were even looping behind me and coming in from different directions. The old doe did not like my blind, and stomped and huffed a couple of times, but she was more concerned with Decoy Boy, and then it was as if she forgot about me. Afternoon session was much the same, only Decoy Boy came in first. Normally what has happened in the PM is his running-buddy, a marginally-legal, "barely-8" point (Eastern Count) would soon follow. Not last night. Last night Decoy Boy moved off quickly and was hanging in the bushes until the doe showed up, and then it was the AM session all over again, until it got too dark to shoot. I had to sit it out to keep from being busted until the Decoy Boy finally moved off. This AM was also projected to be colder and calmer, so I dragged myself out of bed, knowing full well adage number two still applied, but also knowing that the deer weren't going to parade past at midday either.

Second: They call it "hunting" and not "shooting" for a reason. It's a good thing I like the 'hunt' as much as, if not more than, the 'kill'. Because there is a whole lot of the former and little of the latter even if you are lucky AND you're doing it right. In my younger days, I tended to focus on the finish and would feel disappointed when it didn't 'happen'. This year (and the last season about three years ago), I could have and did get 'skunked' (i.e. struck out) and still felt the season was worthwhile, and worth remembering.  I saw deer almost every session, knowing there was the right one (or three-four) cruising my Brother's ranch and surrounding area. This AM, before it was really light enough to count points on an antler, a big buck came in and didn't like my blind (my setup worked better for afternoon light. I think what he REALLY didn't like was the steam of my breath rising in the still air. I could see his breath coming out of him easier than I could see him. He was traveling with two other bucks, and he feinted into the clearing a couple of times, raised a false alarm flag but didn't spook. Those three bucks slinked through the brush on the other side of the clearing and  I got one look at the big guy's head when he paused to check my way once. Perhaps longer, higher tines on his rack, but they were also lighter in color and weight.
I thought that the AM session was going to end early on that note, when 2 then 3 then 4 doe moved in front of me, coming from the same direction as the earlier bucks. They were only on the scene a short while with the old doe casting evil looks my way and being the most cautious about moving into the clearing, when out stepped.....

The Chocolate 8 Point.
He's shown up on the trail cameras quite a bit, and considering it is a drought year, he was remarkably heavy-bodied. And I've always been impressed with his rack color, weight, and shape, but the real kicker was the mass and length of his brow tines.
 Gnarly Baby! 

With all the doe and this buck present I had to be painfully careful getting into firing position. I elected to only project my barrel out of the blind and scope the buck through the blind screen (still blew a small hole in the screen though ).

I dropped him in his tracks, but still don't understand how I could have missed my aimpoint as much as I did. I sighted in the new scope on this rifle with only 9 rounds, and the last 3 holes in my target you could cover with a nickel. Some of the error could be from having a live target and my excitement, but not all of it. I think it could be due to the fact I was using a shooting stick for the very first time (but not the last!) and I didn't secure my foregrip well enough. It would bother me a lot more if my poor aim had resulted in a prolonged death of the animal, but as the shot dropped him in place, I'm extremely pleased with the result.

BTW: I also learned that field dressing a deer is not the same as learning to ride a bike. If it has been more than 2 decades, you should probably have someone on your shoulder to knock the rust off.

Update 12/25/11: After reviewing game camera films, and a snapshot my Brother's neighbor took on Dec 7th, I've determined that this buck was the same one as in the first encounter that morning, and that he had just double-backed into the field of fire once his does came up and he thought the coast was clear. I'm always amazed at how different the deer appear in different light and backgrounds. I'm also convinced now that this is the same buck I watched for 20 minutes behind some brush back on the evening of the 8th and never gave me an opportunity to take a high percentage shot.
Later Note: made some typo and grammar corrections on 28Dec11.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

F-35: STILL Just a Typical "High-Tech" Program

But the point seems to gets lost on the casual observers, the Druids and the 'droids. I wonder if pictures would help them understand?

I've been considering for some time doing a graphic or series of graphics that would show the comparable development milestones and the fielding of technical capabilities of the F-35 and the planes it is slated to replace or other 'successful' legacy programs . I think this would help get the point across to the illiterate, innumerate, and just plain lazy. Of course it won't do a thing for the 'Haters', but they're more manageable without their chorus of enablers.

This is actually more time consuming than just iterating the facts in words, but points can be more compelling when graphically shown.  For example, when someone trots out the F-16XL as a 'simple' replacement for the F-16, do they know exactly how different the two designs are?

F-16 Block52 vs. F-16XL

The recent Admiral Venlet Vent-let has stirred much of the "hater" noise making the last few days and   graphics, a timeline perhaps,  might prove handy to point to in the future when beating down hysteria over the next gasping F-35 factoid-of-doom that comes up. 

Constructive and serious suggestions as to the design(s) to get the point across are welcome.