29 June 2010

Git swol

I hadn't worked out with weights since freshman year of high school. I usually just ran or swam or biked for my workouts. Until last week.

Why did I start lifting again? There are a number of reasons.

First, the gym's close, and free. That's one nice thing about being on base: a warm-up jog takes me to the front door of a well-equipped and clean gym.

Second, it feels good. Of course, so does running, but that doesn't do much for my arms.

Third, I need to build upper body strength to get ready to train Basic Cadets. I can't just take them on a five-mile run every afternoon.

Fourth, I'm jealous of my little bro. Kid put on like forty pounds since I left home, and he can take me - sometimes - in a wrestling match.

Fifth, it looks good. I've never been a fan of "show muscle". You know those guys with really big, useless muscles? I don't want that. I guess I got that from my dad, and from Barry. Muscles are useless if you can't buck a thousand bales of hay with them. But, they can look good and be useful. That's what I'm going for.

So, sixth, they're useful. For training basics and bucking hay and swinging hammers.

And beating little bro in wrestling matches.

I wanna fly helos

As a little kid at the Dalton Fly-In, I was always mesmerized by the helicopters. Coast Guard would come in with a rescue chopper; I think Air Force or Army came in with a Blackhawk as well. Little kids dream of being firefighters; I dreamed of being a Coast Guard rescue chopper pilot.

Now that dream - or something very close to it - is very possible. I could fly Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) choppers for the Air Force. I've been talking to guys who've maintained and flown those birds and similar birds. MH-60 pilots are currently on a four-month-on, four-month-off deployment schedule to the AOR (Area Of Responsibility; Iraq and Afghanistan). Many of them are getting burned out.

But there's talk of unifying the stateside helo mission with the deployed helo mission: guys could do a couple rescue tours in the AOR, then come back to the States, flying the same birds for missile defense and VIP transport. Seems like a good solution: no burnouts, and one single helicopter to fly and maintain.

Talked with an '05 grad today who flies Hueys here at Minot. Here, they "rescue" snow-stranded missileers in the winter and fly security for missile convoys. Seems like a pretty cool mission, if boring. But last weekend, they got to fly to Fairchild to do some mountain flying and training. Sounds like they had a good time.

'05 grad also talked about pilot training - he did it at Pensacola, with the Navy. He said it's a lot more laid back than AF UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training), but it can take a lot longer to complete. Of course, I wouldn't mind spending some extra time in Pensacola.

There are a lot of Huey bases stateside; not really an overseas mission for them. MH-60s base out of England and Japan as well as some pretty neat bases in the States. Not many bases for CV-22s yet, and no seems to know what will happen with them.

In any case, it looks like a good path. I'm looking forward to wherever God takes me.

28 June 2010

You can trust me.

Trust is a weird thing, isn't it?

I remember talking to my dad about trust. He told me there are three guys he would answer if they asked him to show up in the middle of the night with a shovel and a shotgun.

"What's the shovel for?" I asked.

"Doesn't matter. I trust them, and they told me to bring a shovel."

There are few people I trust. Dad's one of them, and so is one of the men he trusts. There are maybe three others. It takes a while to earn my trust, and not too long to lose it. I guess I'm introverted in that sense.

At the same time, I feel I'm a person who can be trusted. But I've realized that telling someone, "You can trust me" doesn't demonstrate trustworthiness at all. It's mostly just words. A phrase won't create trust. Trust takes time.

I'll earn your trust making memories of us. - Keith Urban

I suppose that's true, whether or not it's a romantic relationship. I trust my dad because he dove into a muddy pond to pull me out. Because he pulled countless pieces of gravel out of my leg. Because he always got me home safe, whether we were walking or riding or driving. I trust the other man because he showed up to the hospital when I needed someone. Those are memories, memories of me with them, when I needed them most - and lots of memories when I was in no danger, but it was nice to have them around.

Of course, one of the reasons I trust both of these men is their faith: I've seen them proclaim it, and I've seen it in action. I trust these men because they trust God.

Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. - Psalm 20:7

24 June 2010

Double Tap

I slap the mag home, pull the charging handle, and flip the safety to 'fire', bringing the rifle level, looking through the red dot scope.

A man's silhouette pops up in the grass. Tap, tap. Instinctively, I double-tap him, center mass. He goes down. Another pops up. Tap, tap. Another. Tap, tap. Tap, tap. I keep shooting until my mag is empty, knocking down every man that pops up.

A buzzer goes off, I flip the weapon to safe, pull the mag and show the TSgt next to me that the chamber's empty. We walk back to the trailer. Somebody asks me, "So ya wanna be a cop?" I guess I shot pretty well.

In the shoothouse, we stack up outside the door. There's a hostage inside. I'm the number two man. The one man rolls in, yells out about a door on the left, and rolls right into it. I follow. We clear it as the hostage screams that he's about to get shot. "Room clear! Two coming out!" "Come out!"

We roll out and stack up in the hall. Jeff and I roll into another room. There's a man with a gun. We have him go hands up with his back to us, and tell him to drop the gun. He releases the mag. There's still a round in the chamber. He starts to turn. Jeff shoots. He's down.

We move into the main room. There's a man on the couch, I assume he was the hostage. He jumps on Jeff's back. I wrestle him off and go down with him. He's got Jeff in a choke hold. I peel off one of his arms and nearly pull his shoulder out. He's done.

We clear the rest of the house, grab the hostage, and get out. I got sprayed across the legs, but no chest or head shots. Two shots gave me some nice welts. They were 9mm simunition rounds - basically paintballs, fired out of an M4. Pretty sweet.

Things I learned:
-Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
-The first thing you look for on a human is the hands. They can't shoot you with their feet.
-Stick close to your buddies. Like, 'no homo' close.
-In combat, people can't feel small touch signals. You gotta slap them, and not on their armor.
-Double taps are effective. Also, they impress cops.
-Red dot scopes are fast.
-Sniper school sucks.
-I want an AR-15.

20 June 2010

War, want and concentration camps

"War, want and concentration camps, exile from home and homeland, these have made me hate strife among men, but they have not made me lose faith in the future of mankind. ... If man has been able to create the arts, the sciences and the material civilization we know in America, why should he be judged powerless to create justice, fraternity and peace?"


-Nicholas Kristof's dad, from his father's day column.

17 June 2010

El Monumento

I lay on my back and look up. A few stars shine above the monument, clouds form in the night sky. How did I wind up here? I can't believe how great this is.

We sit and talk about relationships we've had and relationships we have, about kissing and about faith. About how God made this city and these mountains and these stars and these people. But He's here, next to us, listening, speaking. Can you hear Him?

We talk about Spanish and Dominican Spanish and travelling and leaving. Beer cups rattle across the cobblestones in the breeze, engines roar in the city below, the merengue band moves to the other side of the hill.

Two of Jesson's friends show up. I listen to them speak about their music, sobre las diferencias entre merengue tradicional y merengue de la calle: tradicional trata de amor y cosas románticos; la calle habla de violencia y todo eso. Que lástima.

Back with Julio and José, we talk about hammocks and extreme hammocking and how there's a Spanish verb for rocking in a hammock: jamaquear. Awesome.

Jesson's friends tell me of a beautiful place up in the Northern mountains. José: "Allá, cerca de las luces, al otro lado de las montañas." Julio: "No, má'; pa' 'llá, má' pa'; 'llá." They tell me of great eagles that dive from 2,000 feet to grab gallinas and puercos and carry them into the air, of waterfalls higher than the monument, with huge rocks that fell to the river.

I tell them I'm from Michigan and they know about the lakes. I tell them of the time I saw an eagle dive to the water, grab a fish, and fly to a tree to eat it. They tell me more about their country: bonito, bonito, bonito, bonito, bonito. I wish we had more time to explore.

The city is quiet now. I wish you were here, letting the cool breeze blow through your hair. We could talk about God and la naturaleza and relationships. I could pay the trio to play some merengue and we could dance on the cobblestones under the monument and under the stars. We could make plans to go see the eagles and swim in the rivers and jump off the waterfalls.

Would you go with me?

13 June 2010

Thank You

Thank You for panaderías and the sea and ships and stars and lighthouses and waves and rocks and loud horns and lovers and hammocks and palm trees and techos and mangoes and heat and huaraches and sunrises and clouds and rain and rivers and rapids and waterfalls and Español and cubano sandwiches and spanglish and chinola and tans and running and sweat and bandanas and music and relationship and love and worship and You.

12 June 2010

Santo Domingo

"$2.50 for a short tour. $7 for a tour on the Dominican Titanic and the chance to see all the lakes."

The Dominican tour guide had that much down in English - bad English. I know, you said that, but where are we?

A place called Los Tres Ojos, apparently. The Three Eyes. The "eyes" are "lakes" - ponds, really, underground. They were created by an underground river which filled some caves. Then the roof caved in 5,000 years ago. Now, there's this tropical forest growing out of fallen choral rocks - once upon a time, the cave's roof was under the sea.

The Dominican Titanic turned out to be a barrel raft we rode across one of the lakes, under a cave. Stalactites hung from the ceiling and bats flew around them. I shined my flashlight on a group of them, hanging upside down, sleeping on the roof.

The fourth lake - apparently, they discovered another one after they named it - seemed like it was out of a movie. It was open to the sky, with vines crawling down the sides. Fish swam near the shore, and larger black fish defended their nests against small gray fish. The water was apparently 300 feet deep.

Our next stop was the colonial zone. Pretty cool, walking on 500 year old streets.

We went to the oldest cathedral in the New World. Beautiful. I went to the back and looked to the altar, under the the vaulting stone arches, over the heads of some people praying in the pews.

I watched someone bow, cross himself, and kneel to pray, crossing himself again. Why do people try so hard to get to God? Why build a huge cathedral and go through a ritual just to talk to Him? Yeah, He's God Almighty, but He's right next to you. And He loves you.

The hands that hold the world are holding your hand.

Crazy, huh?

A sign outside about the church was commissioned in the "Fifth century of the discovery and evangelization of the Americas".

I wouldn't say the Americas were discovered 500 years ago, and I think God was working on their salvation long before whites got here.

A Good Death

The sun was lighting up the western sky, setting the clouds on fire. I began running, exploring the barrio to the south, ultimately finding myself at a familiar intersection.

July's house is that way. But I could see the sun setting to through a suspension bridge to the west. I put the sun in my face and ran along the river a la puente.

La gente me miraba como si era loco. Supongo que no suelen a ver un hombre blanco y grande corriendo por sus calles, con sudor en su frente y moccasins en sus pies.

I reached the bridge and ran across it as the muddy river rushed by underneath and the glowing sun dipped under the western clouds. "Permiso, hermanos," I said as I came up on a group of young guys. They parted, surprised and slightly amused.

After coming back across the bridge, I found Calle Restauración and headed for the city's center. After turning at El Encanto (the Dominican Version of Walmart), I got a little mixed up and had to ask a man on the corner for directions to the monument. Surprisingly, he answered in English, even though I asked in Spanish. "Follow the road until it ends and turn left. There big" - here he raised his arms wide - "monument."

Following his directions, I found myself at the base of the hill the monument sits on. I did three sprints up the front steps. Seems like a popular workout spot; there were some locals there doing stairs and calisthenics. I suppose I should explain what this place is: it's a big tower over a building with statues of and quotes from the Heroes of the Restoration - Los Heroes de la Restauración. Basically the Dominican Washington Monument.

From the top of the hill, the sunset was incredible: although the sun had fallen behind the mountains, the western sky looked like fire. As I turned for home, the colors began to fade into night.

Genson, my seven-year-old house brother, asked where I went.

"Corrí a la puente y al monumento."

"¿Por qué fuiste al monumento a pie?"

"Porque me gusta correr."

"Morirás corriendo. Algún día, te vas a morir corriendo."

"Entonce', será una muerte buena."

I went inside for a shower, but the water didn't work. I was soaked in sweat. No AC, no shower. The joys of running.

Monica made me a greasy sandwich - great recovery food. Now Genson wants to play patilla - baseball with water jug caps and a broomstick. Entonce', he terminado de escribir.

If you want a translation, let me know.

Snakebite

We're running Falcon Trail, charging down the switchbacks. We're racing. I take the lead, then lose the trail. We're crawling through the underbrush. We come across a man sitting there. He crawls with us.

I hear hissing in the leaves. It's a small cobra. I take out my knife and think about chopping it's head off. I don't. We see the cobra has three buddies. We sit calmly.

The fourth cobra strikes, but not hard. Its upper fang is in my knee, between my skin and my kneecap. I strike at it with my knife.

I wake up. The sun is shining through the curtain. My heart is beating fast and my knee hurts.