Monthly Archives: August 2011

Crash Bang!

It has been an eventful week… I’m loving this class so far! For those of you not familiar with the class I’m taking, here’s the description from the State Department website:

FACT, Foreign Affairs Counter Threat: This course provides participants with the knowledge and skills to better prepare them for living and working in critical and high threat environments overseas. The course instructs participants in the practical skills necessary to recognize, avoid, and respond to potential terrorist threat situations. Participants will demonstrate the practical application of techniques taught in the course. Participants will learn how to conduct surveillance detection, aspects of Personnel Recovery, provide emergency medical care, demonstrate improvised explosive device (IED) awareness, participate in firearms familiarization, and perform defensive/counterterrorist driving maneuvers.

This class is affectionately known as the Crash Bang course. At the end of day three, we have done most of the things mentioned above, except for the driving, which will take place over the next two days. We’ve learned about personnel recovery and what to do if you are taken hostage. We also did some surveillance detection – working together really helps! Our time learning about emergency medical care was exciting and informative, as we administered basic trauma care on each other – in body armor and helmets, no less!

Today we were schooled on weapons, and as part of the familiarization, we shot a number of them. (This would be the Bang part of the course.) Some people looked very uncomfortable handling them. Some you could tell had a lot of experience with guns in the past. Someone told me I looked natural behind the gun – a combination of my stance, hat, sunglasses and fearlessness. 🙂 After the initial shot, I felt calm and focused, and was ready for more! I think everyone was most excited to shoot the AK-47; alas, not in the fully automatic mode – but fun nonetheless. All in all, a great afternoon, and now back at our hotel to get up at an ungodly hour tomorrow morning to learn and perform defensive/counterterrorist driving maneuvers. I imagine this will be just as exciting as the rest of the course, if not more so. (This of course would be the Crash part of the course.) Some people will be taking Dramamine – I expect I’ll be fine, since I don’t usually get motion sickness. Wish me luck!


Earthquake!!

Earthquake!! Yes, I was here in D.C. when the East Coast Earthquake of 2011 hit, in training for Baghdad. We were on a short break between sessions when we felt a rumble, kind of like a train going by. Then the building started shaking a lot and we realized this was, in fact, an earthquake. I sat back down in my chair and waited for the shaking to stop. Nobody panicked, we just waited. There was no damage in the classroom – nothing fell off walls or ledges. Soon, the evacuation alarm went off and we grabbed our stuff and went out to the quad. As we were walking out, one of my classmates jokingly quipped, “I think we’re all too distraught to go back to class.” I laughed, but didn’t figure that would fly with the class coordinator, as we are all on our way to Iraq – if we can’t handle a little earthquake, we have no business going to a war zone. In this world of instant information, we knew it was a 5.8 magnitude before we even got outside. We were outside for all of maybe 5 minutes when they let us back in. Class went on as usual. As the day went on, I could feel more rumbles in the ground – aftershocks.

So, of course, cheesy earthquake-related pick up lines started flying. Some include “Let’s make like tectonic plates and grind against each other” and “you’re a 9.5 on the Richter Scale of sexiness.” “Wanna come play on my fault line?” “I was thinking of you and the earth started shaking.” These were just a few that we came up with.

This was my first earthquake. Did I panic? No. Was I worried? No, I was only worried that the shuttle I was taking wasn’t running – I heard someone say it wasn’t – because I would have had to figure out how to get back to my hotel otherwise, and I wasn’t wearing walking shoes. Fortunately, it was running on schedule, so there was no reason to fret. And life goes on here as normal. Next week – my crash/bang course, where I get to ram cars and shoot guns! Watch out West Virginia!


What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Home leave is not only a time to get in touch with what’s going on in America, it’s also a time to get back in touch with those friends and family you don’t get to see while living overseas. I’m fortunate to have a lot of both, and home leave can be both exciting and a little tiring, trying to see everyone and do everything. So, as I come to the close of my home leave, I look back to see what I’ve learned about myself during home leave. I’ve learned a lot, so here’s a top ten – in no particular order…

1. I learned just how much I love music – music makes Darlene’s world go round. I could listen to live music every day and not get enough.

2. I make friends very easily. In my three days in New Orleans, I made three new facebook friends. Traveling alone helps to make new friends – I’ve learned the best way to make new friends is to sit at the bar and start chatting.

3. Family traditions can be passed on to people that aren’t technically your family, but have been around so long that we count them as such. Family traditions can include VFWs and karaoke.

4. Living out of a suitcase kinda sucks, but I’m grateful I got to see as much as I did on my home leave.

5. Class reunions can be fun, but nothing beats seeing the people that really care about you. And the people you really want to see at the reunion aren’t usually the ones that show up. Some people look great, some people you can’t recognize, and others just haven’t aged well. You end up chatting with people you never talked to in high school.

6. After getting another tattoo while on home leave, I want to get another one – now comes the process of figuring out what that one will be. Hopefully it won’t take as long to figure out as this one did. They are contagious – I’m sure of it. I think it’ll have something to do with music.

7. I realized how much I care about people that I haven’t seen for a really long time, and how much I miss having them around me. I love moving on to new adventures, I just wish I could take people with me.

8. I need to let go of people that aren’t present, in the moment, WITH me, when they’re with me. I need to not be just an option – I need to feel wanted. Most of my friends are, and I love them for that. A few aren’t, and I’ve realized that’s not good for me. I need to be worth it for them, or there’s no reason for me to make the effort.

9. Everybody loves traveling Pooh. From my new friends in New Orleans, to former classmates, to my friend that has a picture of Pooh in Rome up on his fridge – most are jealous of how many places he’s been.

10. Twenty years ago, I thought everyone was like me. I now realize how unique I really am, but at the same time how similar I am now, as a person, to how I was back then. Apparently I’ve been like this for awhile, I just didn’t know it. Old friends see this – but it took them telling me how they saw me back then to realize it.

Friday I start my new adventure – in-processing and training for a couple weeks. I’ll let you all know how it goes!


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