Friday, July 28, 2006

I finally paid Walt a visit today.

I had to run into Tacoma to pick up some cables and connectors the Army system couldn't seem to get for me. The electronics store was on 29th Ave. and the thought occurred that I was only a short 23 blocks from the Corina Bakery.

It didn't take long to recognize the cozy store front from Michael Yon's photos. Since I had missed lunch it was pretty difficult to decide what needed sampling; I chose his Carmel Pecan Cheesecake and two Chocolate Chip Cookies off the still hot sheets. The Cheesecake was perfectly delicious and not too rich like most cheesecakes are. The cookies could have been made by my wife. As soon as one of you tells me the best way to ship a cheesecake I'll be sending one to my mother who loves caramel even more than I do.

The bakery is definitely a family business with Walt, his wife Jessica, and daughter present in the store today. One older gentleman came in and seemed quite at home in the place. He talked with Walt's daughter (I'm assuming her name is Corina) as if he were her grandfather. Walt later told me the man purchased something every day. It seems apparent that Walt and family have made an impact in there neighborhood far beyond their neighbors waistlines.

I'll add my endorsement to the many others that have been given; the Corina Bakery is a must stop during any visit to Tacoma.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

What is really happening in the Middle East?

My reply to an article, published in the International Herald Tribune on July 19, 2006.

I find this article extremely short-sighted. The writer does include some facts but his bias completely misses the point.
The toppling of Saddam Hussein was intended to send shock waves across the Arab world, intimidating the region's brittle tyrannies while encouraging the spontaneous civic movements that have brought democracy to much of post-Communist Europe. In Iraq itself, democrats were to replace a brutal autocrat, providing a model for the region.

Precisely the opposite has happened. The war has not only engulfed Iraq in violence and made the country a magnet for jihadists, but it has also awakened sectarian tensions that are spreading beyond Iraq's borders. From Saudi Arabia to Lebanon, Shiites and Sunnis are cautiously eyeing each other, heading for a mounting rivalry that has already helped plunge Lebanon into chaos.

Any look at history will show that freedom has always required time and blood. Iran and Syria are trying to make a mess of the region because they feel threatened by democracy. These types of things were common throughout the Soviet empire. "Autocrats" (I call them tyrants) are always fearful of their subjugated population and any threat to their power and control. They also always create enemies of the state in order to unite their people against a common foe and to portray themselves as their saviors.

What we need to do is to place agents within Iran and Syria to encourage dissent and fully support them when they do dissent. The common diplomatic assumption that a standing despot is better than an unknown replacement is cowardly pessimism; it's like saying, "I won't get out of bed today because I might have a bad day."

We cannot let some tyrants’ acts of desperation discourage us from our goals. Let them throw their fits and let's show the world exactly what they are then, when their bankrupt, we can continue to encourage democracy throughout the region. This is the only way we will ever see peace in the region.


Back online

Finally! We got wired for the internet just before going to Yakama Training Center for a week on the ranges so, now that I'm back from Yakama, I can consider our spartan living conditions at least tolerable. Had fun in Yakama, 0600 to 2400 was an average work day but did manage some Yakama night life on Thursday. Here's an excerpt from one of those days.

I Faced Death Twice Today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 started a little too early for me with the cell phone alarm belonging to the team mate in the bunk above me. I knew I had 60 minutes before breakfast and 30 minutes work to do, so I rolled over and closed my eyes for a few more minutes of sleep. I was succeeding in my intended task when I heard a crash nearby. Still reluctant to start they day, I casually opened an eye and was surprised to see the heavy wood and steel bed frame from the bunk above with a 200 lb. soldier on it about one inch from my face.

The bunk beds relied on a small wooden dowel in each of the four corners to keep the top bunk on the bottom bunk; mine only had one. With the equivalent of four vertical 2x4s resting on two horizontal 2x4s and only anchored in one of the corners, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. I thought, “There’s not much I can do about what has already happened.” and wanted to continue sleeping but couldn’t ignore the two team mates hovering over me trying to put the upper bunk back together.

In the middle of the afternoon, and after several hours on the convoy live fire range, an unexpected tracer started a fire. We worked hard and extinguished the fire after it burned a couple of acres of dry brush and were ready to start shooting again when we noticed some smoke again. We pull up about 50 feet upwind of the fire to prepare to tackle it again while I contacted Range Control.

My radio was tied into a pouch attached to the heavy body armor I was wearing so I left it on when the others in the vehicle removed theirs. I also kept on my helmet and Peltor radio headset/active hearing protection so I could continue to talk to Range Control and stayed in the turret to give my antenna the extra height. I had just told Range Control that we did not need any assistance when things changed.

The winds changed and gusted back toward us and I saw 30 feet of dry brush consumed by fire in less than a second. The flames leaped 20 feet high and were rapidly approaching our parked GMV (armored HMMWV or Hummer for the civilians). I knew that it took a long time to crawl into and out of the turret position with all that kit on and could imagine what that hot fire could do to all the diesel fuel in the vehicle. I also knew that, even if I could get out, I could not out run the flames spreading so quickly weighted down like I was.

I yelled for the driver and told him to get us out of there. The others ran back to the vehicle and tried to start it up. It probably started just as quickly these diesel engines usually do but it seemed like forever while I was watching the flames lick the front bumper; I though it would never start.

Since you are reading this in the first person, the outcome should be clear. We managed to get out of there after just warming the front of the vehicle in the flames with only a few bumps and bruises from getting bounced around the turret hole. We contacted Range Control and told them we would like their assistance after all and let them fight the fire while we shed our gear and left to eat dinner.

After all this, I smile, think of the cool stories I can tell then say “what an exciting day” and “I’m glad I said my prayers last night.”


Sunday, July 09, 2006

The shootout is a bust.

This past week I received news that I will not be in the Tacoma area this next weekend and will not be able to plan, prepare or participate in a range day. As you may have notices by my very infrequent postings, I have not had much time to post lately and I do not forsee any changes for the next few months. You guys continue to have fun and I'll try to drop in when I can.

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