Friday, October 31, 2008

News and notes

*The Red Falcons are still in the field and it is still very cold at Ft. Bragg, lows in the 30s. It should start to warm up over the weekend. Lots of funny stories from up there but that's for Mark to share;

*Sen. Obama will be in town Monday although details are unknown. Both he and Sen. McCain will have been here twice for public events. North Florida is a Republican stronghold and a high Republican turnout here is essential for Florida Republicans as a whole;

*Final toll from the wedding: One formal shirt. We believe it is swimming with the fishes;

*The Florida-Georgia game is in town this weekend. It is billed as the world's largest outdoor cocktail party, and rightly so. This town completely shuts down during the game and you don't want to be driving after the game;

*Gayle and I saw the Mayor at an event yesterday. He made sure to ask her about Mark and how he was doing. He is a very gracious man;

*Everyone returned safely from the wedding, even the Saudi travelers. We've had a few Skype conversations since;

*The wedding photographer promises us a website of all his wedding pictures. This could be our one and only consumer event of the holiday season.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Election Day

I am hoping the soldiers in 2nd Brigade had a chance to vote early or filed absentee ballots. They will be in the field Election Day with no opportunities to vote.

Miscellaneous notes

I watched a little of the delayed Phillies - Rays game last night. Now, I know the Rays are from Florida and play in an air conditioned/heated stadium. But a number of them were wearing blue hoodies and baseball caps with flaps. Some looked like they were members of the Blue Man Group. I know it was cold but it seemed a tad silly (they lost by the way).

Then I thought of 2nd Brigade, which is out in the field for an extended period. They slept (well maybe not slept) through a hail storm Tuesday with just ponchos. And of course the troops in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan are now heading into the winter season in the most spartan of conditions.

Baseball caps with flaps. Hmmmmm!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weather forecast

The guys are in the field for the next few days or so. It was below freezing last night at Bragg and will stay cold for the remainder of the week. Winds are out of the northwest at 15 to 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. And they are sleeping under impromptu lean-tos made out of ponchos. If there were any residual hangovers, this ought to clear them up. Hmmmmmm!

It's a delightful 49 in FLORIDA this a.m.

Wedding notes

Gayle was out yesterday hunting for the tuxedos worn for the wedding. She found one tuxedo bag at the hotel. Inside the bag, she found a wet t-shirt, wet underwear, one sock, two pair of shoes and a lot of sand. No tux. The search goes on.

The perils of living in a beach community :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wedding pictures - first blast

The rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner (noreaster kept us inside), wedding and reception went off without a hitch. We are heading back to the hotel to hang out with the Saudi Arabia bound Middlebrooks and, I am hopeful, finding SGT Mark.

Tara and Mike during the rehearsal

Mike's friend Evan with Airborne Dad.

The groom with his grandmother.

Bob and Debbie Ryan, Mike and Tara Middlebrook

Friday, October 24, 2008

A little humor


(Snake Model)
Upon encountering a snake in the Area of Operation (AO)

Snake model not best for the snake

Kills the snake

Runs over snake, giggles and looks for more snakes.

Ugh! Me See Snake. Me Like Snake. Ouch! Me No Like Snake.

Army Aviation:

Has GPS grid to snake. Couldn't find snake. Back to base for crew rest and a manicure.

Plays with the snake, then eats it.
Ranger (alt):
Assaults the snake’s home and secures it for use by friendly snakes.

Expends all ammunition., several grenades and calls for naval gunfire in a failed attempt to kill the snake. The snake bites the SEAL then retreats to safety.

Corps Artillery:

Kills snake, but in the process kills several hundred civilians with a massive TOT with three Field Artillery battalions in support. Mission is considered a success and all participants are awarded Silver Stars. (Cooks, Mechanics, Legal Clerks etc)

Marine Recon:

Follows the snake and gets lost.

Para rescue:

Wounds the snake in first encounter, and then feverishly works to save the snakes life.

U.S. Special Forces:

Makes contact with the snake, builds rapport, wins its heart and mind, then trains it to kill other snakes.

And the computer says....

Thursday, October 23, 2008


We are planning an outdoor wedding rehearsal dinner tomorrow night, but it looks like Mother Nature has other plans. Yikes. Last time we had a weather forecast like this - yep, you guessed it - TS Fay.

Windy. Showers and chance of thunderstorms. Locally heavy rainfall possible. Highs in the mid 70s. Southeast winds 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Chance of rain near 100 percent.

There is a 100 percent chance of something else happening this weekend though: Mike and Tara's wedding.

As expected, still no word from SGT Mark because he is in the field. But his tux is hanging in the closet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

War reporting

With the election in its final days, some of the mainstream media have gone back to do some war reporting. But this time they are in Afghanistan, particularly in the Korengal Valley, a Taliban and Al Qaida stronghold. It's a treacherous place where international troops are woefully undermanned. Vanity Fair has written two amazing stories about the Valley and now NBC's Richard Engel was in. You can see it here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hurry up and wait

The brigade is deploying to the field today for 10 days. After some teeth gnashing and butt chewing, the Sergeant Major relented and let Mark off for the wedding. He will be in Friday and out on Sunday. But at least we will have a Best Man.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Five days to go

The clock is ticking. The remnants of TS Fay are being hauled away. There has been a spike in mulch sales at the local Home Depot. It can mean only one thing: the wedding is almost here. Being our first wedding, we are obsessed with details.

Kudos to young Jon. He stepped up yesterday after a Saturday tussle between myself and a 15x20 nasty old carpet left me hobbling around the house like an 80 year old. Jon mulched most of the yard but not without an economic incentive. Seems like TS Hannah left him without the right sized surf board and Mom, the chief financial officer, relented in return for some chores around the yard.

Seems like teenagers are recession proof.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

News and notes

With six days to go to the big day, there is lots of mulching, sweeping and more mulching going on. Trying to do a year's worth of yard work in one weekend has been a bit of a chore. But we will get through it. We will host the rehearsal dinner at our house Friday, hence the sense of panic.

Still no word on whether SGT Mark can participate as best man. I hopeful we will know tomorrow.

In other news, Jacksonville lost another soldier in Iraq two weeks ago. His name was PFC Tavares Setzler and the funeral was a week ago. A photo album of the funeral can be found here. As always, Jacksonville turned out in great numbers to commemorate his service.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ahhh, the Army life

It's one week to go before my oldest son Mike marries the love of his life Tara. SGT Mark is supposed to be the best man. Does he know whether he will make it yet? Nope. Seems the Brigade is holding a 10-day field exercise beginning Tuesday that starts with an all battalions jump. Mark has stress fractures in both legs so he will miss that part. But now that he is at battalion HQ, he has a lot more responsibilities than he did when he was on the line. Will he get a pass? Who knows. He assures us that things will work out. In the mean time, there is a $130 tuxedo waiting for him.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Soldier shot in barracks

The following is from the Fayetteville Observer. There are lots of Joe rumors about this and I won't repeat them here until the Army releases the report. Subsequent inspections of the barracks has found an astounding number of handguns:

Army investigates death of soldier in barracks

By Henry Cuningham
Military editor

The Army is investigating the death of a Fort Bragg soldier early Sunday from a gunshot wound in a barracks room, 82nd Airborne Division officials said Monday.

Pfc. Matthew R. Grandy, 24, of Wake Forest, died in a barracks next to Butner Road. He was assigned to the division’s 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The unit and the Army Criminal Investigation Command will investigate the incident, said Master Sgt. Tom Clementson, a division spokesman.

“They are going to look at all the contributing factors,” Clementson said.

The Army is restrictive of information on incidents under investigation, and even less information was available because of the federal Columbus Day holiday on Monday.

However, the incident raises questions about the presence of a weapon in the room of a barracks, where military and personal firearms are supposed to be stored in the arms room.

“Any weapon owned by a soldier who resides in the barracks has to be registered with the installation and stored in the arms room,” Clementson said. “The registration is in addition to North Carolina law.”

The Fort Bragg Provost Marshal’s Office said privately owned firearms must be registered within five working days of reporting to Fort Bragg or within five working days of acquiring the weapon.

From time to time, unit leaders go through the barracks to check for contraband or anything that might interfere with a safe, healthy environment.

Grandy is at least the second 82nd Airborne Division soldier to die on Fort Bragg from unnatural causes in less than three months.

The Army continues to investigate the death of Pfc. Luke Brown, whose body was found July 20 on Fort Bragg in a car in a parking lot near a building off Bastogne Drive. It was reported about 3:50 a.m. Army officials described the death as a homicide.

Brown, who was 27 and from Fredericksburg, Va., was an intelligence analyst with the division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

Grandy arrived at the unit in September 2007 and had not deployed.

He joined the Army in August 2006 and completed basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in October 2006. He then attended specialized training at Fort Gordon, Ga., and the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Ga., in 2007.

Grandy is survived by his mother and father, Theresa and Alfred Grandy of Wake Forest, and a sister, Alisha Grandy of Wake Forest.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Full moon effects

Let's see - a full moon Tuesday.

Mike got sick;
SGT Mark dented the front end of his new truck;
Jon received a speeding ticket;
Some guy lost his Sea Doo (no injuries);
and the Red Sox got pasted by the Rays. Darn it.

Don't think I'll be leaving the house anytime soon :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Ft. Bragg history

This time Rev. War. I haven't had a lot of time to research this but I do know that North Carolina was a hot bed of activity.

Photos by Mark M.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Welcome home

Congrats to LCPL Tom George and his family. Tom returned home last week after 7 months in Anbar Province. Welcome home Tom! I can remember when he was knee high and had a blue tick hound named "boo dog."

While we celebrate one arrival we still pray for eight more from our small group of non-military families who are still deployed:

John Christian Miller
Julia Porter
John Heald
Matthew Tavares
Matthew Visnovsky
Nicholas Hyder
Daniel Hernandez
Richard Paul Murray

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ft. Bragg's Civil War history - who knew?

Mark was doing a road recon measuring a march for the Colonel when he stumbled across this Civil War site on post. He went back Saturday and took some photos for the blog.

The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads was one of the largest cavalry-on-cavalry battles of the Civil War. You can read about it here. There were an estimated 269 casualties. Mark says it appears most were buried where they fell. The battle has been relegated to a footnote in history because the surrender at Appomattax occurred a short time later.

I look forward to visiting there next time I'm at Bragg.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No news here

The Washington Post says today that Western journalists are pulling out of Iraq. Those that remain are having a hard time getting their stories on the air or in print. Unless, of course, it involves a car bombing in which scores are killed.

You can read about it here. I find this truly disturbing. How can you have 155,000 men and women at war and the media decides it's a non-event?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mayport to downtown

From the deck of the USS Stephen W. Groves, a guided missile frigate based in Mayport.

Photos by Mike M.
More photos can be seen at La Florida

On the road

I've been on the road the last couple of days and will be back on line later this afternoon.

Mike is currently riding a Navy destroyer from Mayport to downtown, so I am hopeful for some good photographs.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pig in a poke

My oldest son Mike was out making the rounds in some of the city's parks yesterday when he came across this bad boy. Looking at the tusks, needless to say, he stayed in his truck.

Feral pigs are a big problem in Florida. They were brought here by the Spanish 500 years ago. They are very prolific, very destructive and a bit testy when surprised by two-legged creatures. I can remember hot-footing it out of a conservation area years ago with the kids when we accidentally jumped a big boar.

The city doesn't have an active program yet to trap and eradicate them but it will some day.

Fayetteville news: A four-day weekend is in the works, but Mark can't afford to come home and we can't afford to go up. It's the $129 a night hotel rates that's the problem as well as the gas.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Doggie downer

Well, the sun did come up (I know. I was riding to Mousedom at 0 dark 30). The Red Sox did win. And now, the sun is lowering on the horizon and there is a gentle breeze out of the east. All in all, a pleasant day in Florida.

But then I came home from Mousedom, aka Orlando, and found a tropically depressed pooch. If you know anything about border collies, they are full of crazy energy. But this afternoon, she's lethargic, but no sign of fever. I then checked the market to see the Dow down another 508. I think she has been secretly herding credit default swaps at night. Maybe that's the problem.

The news from Ft. Bragg is good. Mark's new job at battalion keeps him extremely busy, which he prefers. Makes the 336 days he has left go by quickly.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Black and blue Monday

Or maybe I should say black and teal. All dressed up and nothing to show for it. (Mike is on the left)

Red Sox lost. Jaguars lost. Nascar was a wreckfest. The Dow is tumbling. WaMu is now JPMorgan Chase, according to its website. Yikes. Time out.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

New toy: Skype

I use to think of myself as an early adopter but I am late in discovering Internet telephone. My brother has moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and we were worried that we would miss the once a week phone calls we enjoyed when he was in Boston. He has been bugging me for years to download Skype, a free (or nearly free) Internet phone service.

When he moved last month, I finally did it's wonderful. I highly recommend it. I trotted over to Office Depot and picked up a Logitech web camera and microphone for $29.95. And now we chat a couple of times a week with sound and live video streaming. It's not always perfect but it is so 21st century.

I haven't talked Mark into signing up yet. But hope to soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


SGT Mark was ferrying the battalion commander on a range recon the other day when the Colonel directed him on a side trip to Overhills, once the playground of the Rockefellers.

Overhills, a 10,500 acre estate, was purchased by the U.S. Army in 1997. It has an 18-hole golf course designed by famed architect Donald Ross. It's completely over grown now but the Army, despite its long term goal of using the property for training, has committed to preserving the 55 historic resources it has identified there.

A history and a power point of Overhills can be found here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

22 days of panic

My oldest son Mike is marrying his beloved Tara Oct. 25 here in Jacksonville. While he has been panicking for about a week, a full-blown panic will arrive here shortly at the house, where we are hosting a rehearsal dinner. The yard, post TS Fay, is a disaster and the tiki bar, which various sons promised Mom for Christmas two years ago, remains incomplete.

SGT Mark is the best man and we haven't confirmed whether the Army will let him have a three-day pass. I hope they do since I left a 50 percent non-refundable deposit on his tux yesterday.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

From the Fayetteville Observer

Pops tipped me off to this. No mention of 2nd Brigade where his son and mine are currently assigned.

Two 82nd teams headed to Iraq

By Laura Arenschield
Staff writer

The 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st and 4th Brigade Combat Teams will deploy to Iraq in the next year, the Department of Defense announced Tuesday.

The Fort Bragg brigades are two of six Army combat brigades scheduled to deploy to Iraq any time starting this winter through next summer.

Lt. Col. Clarence Counts, spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, said he was not sure what months the brigades would deploy.

The announcement marks the start of a new cycle of Iraq deployments for Fort Bragg soldiers. The entire 82nd Airborne Division has been home at Fort Bragg since July, when the 1st Brigade Combat Team returned from a 13-month deployment in Iraq. The division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in November.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team, the other brigade on the list released Tuesday, returned in April from a 15-month deployment to Iraq. Typically, the Department of Defense allows soldiers a year at home between deployments.

The brigades will replace other Army units already in Iraq, the Department of Defense said. The department said that total, about 26,000 people, would be sent to Iraq as replacement forces to maintain the current troop level there.

The list of those units that will deploy between this winter and next summer includes a corps headquarters from Fort Lewis, Wash., a division headquarters from Fort Hood, Texas, and a Marine expeditionary force headquarters from Camp Lejeune.

Also scheduled to deploy:

The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.

The 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

The 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.

The 115th Fires Brigade, Cheyenne, Wyo.