Monday, January 24, 2011

Week Two Begins...

Today marks the beginning of class 011811BMED's second week of pre-deployment training here on lovely Fort Dix, New Jersey! That means one week of deployment is gone and we're all a week closer to returning home to our families and friends! I know, I know, you're probably asking, "Isn't it a little early to be counting down?" To which I reply, "You have to embrace every victory when your morning trip to the latrine leads to this discovery...

In case you're wondering, that is, in fact, frozen solid porta-potti chemical. Now, I have no idea what the freezing point of that particular substance is, but I'm betting it's lower than that of water! It is single digits here and my thin San Diego blood is taking it's sweet time to acclimate and I'm quietly thanking Yvon Chouinard for Patagonia on a regular basis. It is actually so cold and dry that over the last few days, despite the temperature never rising above freezing, almost all of the snow and ice on the ground has disappeared. (Question for Cam: How is that possible? I'll be expecting an email with your response by Friday!)

So aside from freezing, you are probably wondering what else we're doing out here. Well, where do I begin? Training at Joint Base McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst (Known in some circles as McDickHurst) is aimed at preparing a bunch of sailors, airmen or coasties to fill an Army billet. To that end, we are all under an Army command and learning Army technology, Army acronyms (boy do they love their acronyms... they actually have acronyms WITHIN acronyms!), and, perhaps most importantly, Army terminology. We've discovered that we always need to be "tracking" our instructors and that almost everything here is "too easy". I am convinced that two soldiers can have an entire conversation using only the ever-present "hoo-ah"(not to be confused with the Marine Corps HOO-RAH or the Navy Diver's HOO-YAH). Hoo-ah actually ends up sounding a lot like the beginning of an episode of emesis when pronounced in the typical way, however it can be a question, an answer, an exclamation of surprise, or even a profanity! The most common way to use it, however, is to acknowledge that you're "tracking" all the stuff that's "too easy".

Most of our first week was spent in gear issue and getting all that gear put together in some way. The equipment is actually very good and has been battle tested for the past 10 years in the war on terror. Almost everything our class has been issued is "tags-still-on" brand new so we have had little to no issue with equipment problems thus far.

Here is HM1 Afuso putting together his individual body armor, or IBA

And here I am in the IBA. You definitely feel the extra 45 pounds this adds after walking or standing around for any period and the decreased agility is somewhat irritating but it'll stop a 7.62mm round. Good enough reason for me to wear it!

Late last week we went to Brindle Lake for MRAP training. MRAP stands for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. You can read more about them in general on Wikipedia here. Brindle Lake is frozen but the surrounding area is actually really beautiful so we took the opportunity for a small group photo. Back row is LTJG Gabe Rocha, our PA, CDR Ken Ortiz, plastic surgeon, LT Gerald Gambala, CRNA, LCDR Mike Finckbone, OR Nurse, LT Melissa Wickersham, nurse practitioner. Front row is AG1 Staten (actually headed to Iraq but training with us) and yours truly.

After a classroom session, we all got to drive the MaxxPro version (on the left) around a little track. The MaxxPro is built on an International dump truck chassis. I gotta admit, it's the coolest dump truck I've ever seen and the only one I've ever driven. That afternoon took us to HMMWV (HumVee) rollover training. After some basic instruction, the had us strap into rollover simulators which are basically up-armored HMMWV bodies on a giant rotisserie. There is a driver, a truck commander, two back seat passengers, fondly known as "window lickers" and a gunner who sits in a swing with his head in the turret. When the simulator rolls to 25 degrees, the window lickers pull a quick release to drop the gunner into the vehicle, grab him around the legs and torso, and then act as his seatbelt for the rest of the revolutions. Maybe one, maybe three! Once the vehicle stops spinning (either upside down or on it's side) you unclip get out. Easy, right? All I can say is, I'm glad that the first time I exited an upside down Hummer was in a simulator in New Jersey rather than under fire in Afghanistan. Overall a pretty cool day!

Finally, today was our driver's test for these bad boys! Super fun to drive and has an amazing heater!

Life during "white space" or down time is pretty chill (pardon the reference to the freezing weather). We have plenty of time for chow, reading, PT, and movies. Other times we climb into the horizontal time accelerator (pictured below) and wake up in the future!

Things are going well overall and we have an excellent team. Thanks for following along and stay tuned for the next installment!!!


  1. I love that you are blogging Dr. Harris!!! I am your go-to gal for all Army acronym translations. My 9 year active duty stint was a lot of fun. And, yes how right you are about our beloved "Hooah!" Pronounced HOOOWAAA! This brings a smile to my face getting to see all the cool stuff you are getting to do! I so look forward to reading now that I know you are blogging away!! God Bless, we are praying for you! Huge Hugs!!

  2. I loved reading the blog Eric! I'm not sure I love seeing you in the garb...a little too real for me, but I do like the glimpse into your life! All I can say is Brrrrrrrr......

  3. Glad to hear what is going on with you. The vehicles look like Ryan's toys...lookin forward to the next installment of The Adventures Of The Surfing Surgeon. Much love, dude.

  4. Following along too. Pretty cool stuff. When do you officially leave the states? Love you bro-Chad

  5. Hope your rear wasn't too cold if you sat down! :) It's awesome to have this blog to follow. Love ya!

  6. Horizontal time accelerator, eh? I like it! I might steal it.
    Glad to hear you have your sense of humor. ;)
    After being forced to watch a 'Jersey Shore' episode, you might consider your surroundings thus far quite pleasing in comparison...