Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guest Blog Post - Linda Osmundson


Hi All

It is now the 5th day of JCOC. I have not been able to get to a computer before this. This is a German computer with a few letters in different places so bear with me.

Monday we were still on the Island of Crete. We spent the day with the Coast Guard on board of the Dallas. I was especially interested in this one because I live just below a Coast Guard station and because they do a lot of search and rescue work as on the US coastline as well as search and rescue in places where there is war. We spent some time watching a demonstration of law enforcement tactics and learning how to handcuff someone. The most fun part was riding on an Over the Horizon boat, a small boat that goes really fast. We sat on seats mounted like horses and really flew around the harbor. We also learned how to put out fires which are common on board. They have had 5 in less than a year. I got to handle a fire hose that took more effort to hold on to than I expected. We also visited the engine room where it gets to be 130 degrees! We had lunch with young Coast Guard enlisted folks and it was enlightening to ask why they joined...mostly to see the world and to go to school and to do something different than everyone else in the small towns where grew up. Again, the amount of responsibility vested in very young people was remarkable and they seemed very proud of that.

Dinner was at a nice restaurant with a beautiful view. Went out dancing again...took us 3 bars to find music on a Monday. The younger military folks still seemed surprised I liked to dance so much. Wake up call was a very early 5 AM. This time we flew in a C17 sitting facing each other on the sides of the plane. I got to spend some time in the cockpit and it is amazing. The plane is quite old from the 1970s and being phased out. We had to fly in the smaller plane because we were landing on a very short airstrip. We did an assault landing which was sort of straight down and BUMP. We watched a Special Tactics Squad demonstrate a parachute jump and a simulated air refuel (amazing) and a guided air strike. They can strike within a few feet of a target. We had lunch with airmen in their mess hall. Pretty decent food.

Then we had a busy afternoon learning about weapons and we got to get into the cockpit of F 15 fighter planes and talked to the pilots. One of my favorite parts was a demonstration of working attack dogs. Such discipline. They attacked a padded bad guy with incredible energy and took him down and then immediately released him upon command. We also got to see huge engines and they told us about how they worked and how often they were broken down for repair. We also got to use fighter plane simulators. Incredible technology. I got killed pretty fast in the simulator and crashed into the ground and then got up and flew again!

Breakfast was supposed to be at the hotel but apparently the cooks did not show so plan B was to go to the base and eat. It was a great breakfast with individually made eggs.

We flew again to Cambridge and had dinner in the Great Hall at St. Johns College, a very handsome, historic building. I spent some time with a female colonel who was sort like the City manager of the base and loved her job as well. Afterwards we went to a historic pub from WW II.

Another very early wake up and we flew to Grafenwoehr, the Joint Multinational Training Command where they train not only American military but other forces that fight with the US. Today we got MREs to eat for lunch. Even here there is amazing technology. You pour a little water into a special bag and it gets hot and you drop in another little bag and in a minute or two you have hot food. Mine tasted like Chef Boy-R-Dee with a small bottle of tabasco to spice it up. Had a brownie that tasted like chocolate sáw dust and a tasty cracker with jalapeno cheese whiz. Not bad considering everything.

We visited the medical simulation unit where they have programmable dummies and soldiers practice deciding triage on the battle field with battle noises and guys yelling all at the same time. Again amazing technology and they say with this training they are saving lots more lives.

In the afternoon I shot all sorts of big guns. (M4s, M2s, M249s, and M240Bs) I was frankly pretty scared but I made myself shoot. We wore helmets and ´body armor that was pretty uncomfortable. My helmet kept getting pushed over my eyes so it was hard to see into the sights and shoot somewhere near the target. One gun ended up sort of kicking me in the face into my teeth and nose. For the rest of the day people kept asking me if I was ok. When I finally looked into a mirror I found out I had a big red bruise on my nose and chin. Battle scars.

Tonight we had a German dinner at the General's house in sort of a barn and I sat with the General. He and his wife were very interesting. Their oldest son was wounded and had his foot amputated and was finishing a PhD and was going to teach to military as a civilian. Their next son was 17 and had Downs Syndrome and was functioning very well and their youngest was in high school and doing well. She is German and spoke English with only a slight accent. She dressed in a traditional German country outfit that made her look sort of like a sexy Heidi. When dinner was finished we boarded C 130s to fly to Stuttgart.

Tomorrow we get to sleep until 6:30 which seems like a luxury. I am sitting in the business center typing this while some of my compatriots hang at the hotel bar next door. What a whirlwind this trip has been.

Linda O

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