Thursday, February 10, 2011


Since my last post, we have had probably the busiest 4 weeks of my entire life.  We had our first Block I Gunnery Exam, JCATS (Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation) Defensive OPORD brief, a graded Fire Support shoot, tons and tons of homework, and finally, our Gunnery and Fire Support Block II Exams.  I passed them all (some were better than others), and am ready for this ride to slow a little.  We were told that these past few weeks would be be our hardest, and that if we made it through them, we should be OK for the course.  Oh yeah, we have also had Snowmageddon I and II over that period.  The first storm resulted in 3 days off from class, and the last turned out to be just buildup.  The roads were a little slick, but most of the snow was on the grass.  When it snows in Oklahoma, it is different than anywhere I've ever seen it.  The wind blows so hard here that the snow might only be 6 inches, but the drifts will blow up to 18 inches in spots.  I will definitely be glad when springtime arrives.

We are now going to be starting the Automated portion of Gunnery, so everything we have MANUALLY learned to compute up until now is going to be AUTOMATICALLY computed by AFATDS system.  As easy at that sounds, you still have to build the databases correctly in order to get the right numbers, but in my opinion, it is much easier.  I feel much more comfortable with a computer screen in front of me than I do with a calculator and a piece of paper.  Here's to hoping that the 206th has working systems when I get there!   Not sure what is in our Fire Support future, but I think we are going to start working more with Laser Range finders and other automated systems that will assist with that side of the process.  That is fine with me as well.  Give me a gadget, and I am happy. 

 So, since I passed both exams this week, I get to actually go home to see Helen and the kids, and celebrate Will's 11th (yes, he is 11) birthday!  I was pretty upset about missing Lizzy's, but maybe I can make it up to her this weekend.  She's the only one who has anything to say to me when I call home besides Helen.  John John is too shy to talk, and Will is always gone!  Oh well, I guess they DO grow up faster than you want them to. 

Well, you would think I would have a little more to talk about, but I've been going nonstop for the last 15 hours, so I'm gonna finish watching Bones, pack a bag for the weekend, and go to sleep.  I'll need it for our 10K run in the 15 degrees.

Paulson out....

Friday, January 14, 2011


Well, after more than 3 weeks, I finally have a little bit of time to blog before resuming my studies in the art and science of the King of Battle.  Since we got back from two weeks of Christmas break, we have been nose to the grindstone in class, live fire, homework, and PT.  It has been a very stressful 3 weeks, but it seems that since the holidays are past us, we can all settle into a groove.  It was great to see everyone over the holidays, but even harder to leave again the second time.  I do NOT envy soldiers who deploy and come for 18 days of leave and then have to leave their families again, although I'm sure that will be the case for me in a little over a year. 

As for classes, we have had roughly an equal load of Gunnery and Fire Support over the last few weeks, and I am still undecided as to which I prefer.  Think of Fire Support as the art behind our profession.  This is where the planning and coordination takes place in order to send a fire mission to the Fire Direction Center (FDC).  There are many ways to bring wrath upon an unsuspecting (or suspecting, I'm not choosy) enemy target when looking down upon during the battle.  It is the Fire Support Officer's job to choose how he wants to put the steel on target.  The FDO's (Fire Direction Officer) job is to actually make this steel on target stuff happen. 

The FDC is where the FDO hangs out, and also where the fire mission is received from the FSO.  As soon as that mission is received, each person in the FDC has a job and a piece of that mission that they have to refine and then spit to the gun line.  That's when the boom boom happens.  It must be a well-oiled machine in order to accomplish the mission, and that is why I am here.  I want to make sure that when I get to my unit, I am an asset rather than a hindrance to my men.  I am looking forward to it in a big way, although I have to make it through this course first.

It is no exaggeration when they say that this is one of the most difficult schools in the Army.  They throw more stuff at you in a weeks time than you will receive in 5 years in most jobs.  It is very overwhelming at first, but as I said earlier, you get into a routine. 

By far, the most fun of the last 3 weeks was our Call For Fire Live Shoot last week.  We went to the range, and got to do everything that we have simulated on computers in a real environment.  I actually got to destroy an already burned out vehicle hull on a mountainside with some big ass bullets.  It was really cool to see your rounds impacting 2500 meters in front of you.  Heh...

PT has not lightened up at all since we started.  If anything, it has gotten harder.  Our Senior Gunnery Instructor seems to think that we should all be trained as athletes, so that is how we train.  We run 3 days a week, 4 miles minimum each time.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are strength training (push/pull, etc), but are usually incorporated into some sort of interval running workout, so we actually run more like 4 days per week.  It's hard on an old man, but my jeans are starting to bunch up like a hobo when I tighten my belt, and that was a goal of mine coming in, so cheers!

Before I go, I want to wish Lizzy a very Happy 3rd Birthday today!  Apparently, she is telling everyone that she is 'sree' today.  Awesome!  I miss my family, and I hope to get home within the next 2 or three weeks.  We will see how that goes.  Lots of big projects and tests loom just beyond the horizon.....

Paulson out.....

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Break time!

Tough week of classes, and an even tougher week of PT.  Our Marine Captain told us the second week of PT would be the hardest on our bodies, and he was right.  Lots of running, and then some P90X type workouts on Tuesday and Thursday. 

I can't wait to get to the field to put some of these Fire Suppport and Gunnery theories into practice.  It gets a little old calling for fire on a computer screen for 4 hours a day.  I'm ready to hear some real BANG! 

Not much to say this week except that I am now home for the Holidays until January 2nd.  Can't wait to see everyone!  If I don't get the chance to see you, then I hope you have a very happy Christmas season!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

And so it begins...

The Gunnery and Fire Support phase of BOLC has finally begun.  Tuesday of this week, we met our new instructors.  I was fortunate enough to get some very squared away USMC Captains, and I think that they will work out great in the long run.  Initially, I was worried about having Marine instructors, but only because of the potential of some rough PT on a daily basis, but after reevaluating the situation, I remembered that one of my BOLC goals was to graduate in great shape.  Well, my friends, it looks like that will happen.  These Marines don't mess around when it comes to PT.  On Wednesday morning, Captain Cooley wanted to find out who could hang, and who needed a little work.  I am sorry to say that I could not keep up with the 23-24 year old LTs.....yet.  Hopefully, that will all change in 3 or 4 weeks.  If I don't finish BOLC with a 300 on my APFT, I should be drawn and quartered!

As far as classes are concerned, imagine yourself standing in front of a ladder truck with the fire hose pointed straight at your face....then turn the water on.  If the water were information, you would be in Field Artillery BOLC.  Yes, it comes at you that fast.  The information is not that difficult yet, but the speed at which it comes is what gets you.  You spend the entire lecture hoping that you can go back to your room and understand what has been taught.  We had a test on Thursday over parts of a howitzer and ammunition terms.  It was pretty easy, although there were some tricky questions. 

Thursday afternoon, we learned about Ballistics, and on Friday, we spent the entire day on Call for Fires and the Duties of a Forward Observer.  They are kind of mixing the Fire Support and Gunnery stuff up right now, but I think as we get into it, these topics will be separated a little more. 

As of now, I am feeling about 50/50 on understanding Calls for Fire, which is where you are given a target, and then are required to plot the location and direction of said target, and then call for fire on that target.  You call for the initial shot round, and then walk the round into the target through a process called bracketing.  If the first shot is long, you would drop enough distance on the subsequent shot so that it is short of the target.  The following shots are spent closing in on the target until you are close enough to FIRE FOR EFFECT, and essentially obliterate it. 

The concept of Calling for Fire is not difficult, it is the time frame in which we are required to set up our Observer Fire fans and locate the target on the map, and then to call for the fire in the correct way.  If you say something out of sequence, or use the wrong phonetics while on comms, then points are taken from you.  It is pretty intense.  Luckily, we will spend a lot of Monday practicing our techniques.  In the meantime, I will spend this weekend going over notes and practicing scenarios on my own until I get it straight.  Wish me luck. 

Sorry I've only been updating once a week, but I really don't have much time after classes to think about my blog.  We have quite a bit of homework, and by the time I finish, I am exhausted.  I'm sure you guys can go 6 days at a time without hearing from your trusty scribe.  If not, then let me know, and I will try to accommodate.  I can send you individual emails or something so you can get your Stevie fix.  ;-)

Paulson out.....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

FOB Week!

First of all, I need to get this out of the way.  WAR EAGLE!  I thought I would never hear myself say that, but if the Hogs are going to get into the Sugar Bowl without any ruckus, we need Auburn to beat the Gamecocks today. 

OK (pun intended), I just got home from FOB or Forward Operating Base Mo-Way yesterday afternoon around 1600, and it was a long week.  This week was completely geared around two things.....Weapons Qualification and Master Resiliency Training.  Both are pretty important tools in the Army.  One of them teaches us how to kill the enemy by the utilization of our marksmanship skills, which are only learned with much practice and dedication.  The other teaches us to deal with the stresses of being a soldier in the United States Army.  Granted, the marksmanship is much more fun, but in the overall scheme of things, MRT will serve us better in the majority of our military and personal lives, especially since we won't be shooting at people every day, but will be dealing with our own issues as well as those of our soldiers on a daily basis. 

3rd Platoon was the range platoon was the duty platoon on Monday morning, so we went straight to the Grouping and Zero Range first thing.  The cadre wanted each platoon to have the opportunity to run a range during the week so that we would have that skill when we got to our units.  Running a range involves setting up ammo points, providing safety officers, setting and maintaining targets, and the overall smooth operation of the range for that particular day.  I would have to say that we kicked ass.  For being the first platoon with this responsibility, we pulled it off without a hitch.  We got everyone zeroed (shooting a small enough grouping with a certain number of rounds so that your weapon is accurate at up to 300 meters) and off of the range by mid afternoon, and then cleaned up the range and were back to the FOB by 1630 or so.  3rd platoon helped with setup of ranges every day this week, and although we did not run the range every day, we were counted upon to provide assistance for the duty platoon of the day.  It was a lot of work, but also a pretty valuable skill to have locked away for future use. 

On Tuesday, we went to the Known Distance range, where we fired from distances of up to 300 meters in order to familiarize ourselves with how the M4 rifle shoots, giving us the confidence we needed to  qualify on Thursday.  Wednesday was spend familiarizing ourselves with the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST), which is another video game simulator that allows us to shoot targets without expending ammunition (not to mention it was in a warm building, which we had not had all week).  That afternoon, we conducted Advanced Marksman Training, which allowed us to become comfortable firing in "Full Battle Rattle," or everything we will be wearing in combat, which includes our Advanced Combat Helmet, Individual Body Armor, and FLC vests.  It was pretty cool to have all of that on while firing, though it will take a little getting used to. 

Thursday was qualification day.  We had to hit at least 23 out of 40 targets to qualify with the M4 rifle.  The distances are anywhere from 50 to 300 meters, and there are no optics on the rifles, which means shooting with iron sights.  The first 20 rounds are fired from the prone supported position, with the next 10 coming in the prone unsupported (no sandbags on which to rest the rifle), and the final 10 rounds from the kneeling unsupported position.  The entire class of 110 students qualified by 1500 that afternoon, which has not happened at a range that I have been on since I have been in the army.  That is a pretty amazing feat. 

Master Resiliency Training took place after evening chow from Monday-Thursday, and sometimes during the afternoons as well, if we finished at the ranges early enough.  Each session was approximately an hour and a half.  This kept us from falling asleep during the training, since we were each pretty tired after a full day on the cold, windy Oklahoma prairie.  These sessions taught us how to deal with stress, put things into perspective, and help others deal with typical issues that arise for soldiers in the army.  They actually made me sit back and re-evaluate how I will attempt to deal with my own issues in the future.  I don't know that I will be able to do it on every occasion, but I will definitely try to incorporate these methods into my personal as well as professional life. 

We spent Thursday night and Friday morning cleaning the FOB and cleaning weapons so that we could all go home at a decent hour Friday evening.  Mission accomplished, and I am sad to say that we have completed the Common Core phase of BOLC-B.  We will be moving to the Gunnery Phase on Tuesday of next week, which means a lot of long nights studying, and ratcheting up the stress level quite a bit since we will be dealing with Captains as instructors instead of NCOs.  From what we are hearing, they like to provide quite a bit of corrective action when things don't run as smoothly as they ask.  Should be a fun next 4 months.  

Overall it was a very productive, although very cold week (until Thursday, of course), and we had a lot going on, but  we completed what we set out to accomplish, and I am very proud to be a part of such a good class. 

I know this entry might be a little disjointed, but I am still feeling the effects of my cold medicine from last night, so give me a break. 

Paulson out....

3rd Platoon running Zero Range

Jokesters at the Ammo Point.

Rankin firing his Zero

LT Perry being a leader!

Home Sweet Home.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Can you say Sugar Bowl?

I'm sitting here watching the latest BCS rankings come in on ESPN, and I see my Hogs at number 7 after the ass kicking we doled out to the Kitty Ca...errrr, Tigers on Saturday.  It causes me to reflect on the past 4 days, where I saw family, friends, and all of our animals.  What a great Thanksgiving weekend.  I don't think I could have asked for a more action packed visit to Little Rock.  I got home late Wednesday night, and woke up only to get ready for Thanksgiving festivities.  I got to hang with my cousins and aunts/uncles for the day, and had a nice time watching the Cowboys lose to the Saints (Who Dat?).  Any day that the Cowboys drop a game is a very good day.  After the game, I took my boys with their grandfather to see the new Harry Potter flick, which was excellent! 

Friday started early with a trip to the grocery store to buy gumbo fixins for a wedding shower we were throwing that evening for Tom and Betsy.  Their wedding is on January 1st, and this seemed to be the only weekend between now and then that we could squeeze in a party.  After spending a couple of hours on the roux, we had the gumbo bubbling in the pot, so we turned on the Auburn/Alabama game.  Awesome game, as the Hogs needed for Auburn to win so that we kept our BCS hopes alive with a win over LSU. 

After the Auburn win, we got ready and headed to my mom's for Tom and Betsy's shower.  Great evening, and fun was had by everyone, but alas, we had to cut it fairly short so we could all rest up for the big day on Saturday. 

Up at 5am on Saturday to get ready for the Arkansas/LSU tailgate at War Memorial Golf Course.  I'll have to say that this tailgate was probably the best one we have put together in the last 10 years. 

Thanks guys, for making it a blast.  Great food, great people, and the Hogs playing in Little Rock.  A difficult combination to beat.  I took Will to the game, and we stayed until half so that we could come back and finish watching with everyone at the tailgate.  The Hogs kicked the hell out of the little kitties......virtually assuring us a spot in the Sugar Bowl, so long as Auburn takes care of business against South Carolina next week. 

Got up Sunday and helped put the Christmas Tree up with the family, only to realize that the time had come to head back west to where the wind comes sweeping o'er the plain.  Hello Fort Sill! 

We leave tomorrow morning at 0530 for FOB (Forward Operating Base) week.  We will be conducting weapons grouping, zeroing, and qualification with the M4 rifle.  We are staying in the field all week, so the only way I will be able to update my blog is through my phone.  Expect very short entries, if any at all.  I will catch everyone up next weekend when I return. 

Until then......I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Weekend! 

And Porter, sorry I missed the party Saturday night.  By the time I left from cleaning up the tailgate, I didn't have time to get home to change, and Helen vetoed the idea of me coming in my jeans and hoodie!  Happy Birthday, regardless! 

Paulson out....

Monday, November 22, 2010

Good God we get up early!

So wake-up this beautiful Monday morning was 0200 in order to make the 0250 formation and head back to Rabbit Hill and our Land Navigation Test.  The standard was to find 5 out of 8 points in 5 hours, 2 and a half of which were in the dark, although we did have great illumination from the full moon.  Weather conditions were a perfect 57 degrees....not too hot, and not too cold. 

I set off for my first point, which was fairly easy because it was positioned by a small pond directly north of the main road that runs through the course.  It was about 1800 meters to that point, and after I reached it, I headed for my next, which was about 400m to the northeast.  I had some trouble finding this one because dead reckoning, or relying strictly on your compass azimuth, was a little tough because of the small mountain in my way.  Now the problem with land navigation is that you generally find your pace count, which is a method of keeping track of how far you have walked by walking 100m and counting every time your left (or right) foot hits the ground in that 100m, in the best of conditions.  Finding said pace count in perfect conditions does not allow you to remain accurate over more than around 250m when walking through fields where the grass is up to your hips or higher.  This tends to lengthen your stride, throwing off your accuracy.  There are a couple of ways to counter this.  One is to extend your pace count by a couple of steps, and the other is to make damned sure that your azimuth (direction to target) is accurate so that you will run into the target at or about the correct distance.  If your azimuth is off, and it is dark, you will never find your point.  These points are about chest high, and are red in color, with non reflective lettering indicating the number of the point.  NOT REAL CONDUCIVE TO SEEING IN THE DARK!  You can be within 10 meters of your point and still not be able to see it if it happens to be on the wrong side of a bush or other terrain feature, but I digress.....  I had issues with the second point, a lot of which stemmed from thinking it was in a swamp, and wandering around in said swamp for about 20 minutes looking.

I decided to leave the swamp point for a daylight look, since I was fairly confident I could find my next three points.  I found the next three, and went back to swamp point, only to pass within 10 feet of the point off of the road leading to the swamp.  It kinda pissed me off, but at least I found it. 

My final points were on the complete opposite end of the course, so I double-timed over to them (around 2000m to the first one), and found my final two points in short order.  I made it to the start point with about 20 minutes to spare, and was awarded a GO on the land navigation examination. 

We had hot chow in the field, and when we got back to garrison, the NCOs informed us that, instead of going to our rooms to get cleaned up and reporting back after lunch, they wanted to conduct our short class right away so that we could have the lunch hour to square our Army Service Uniforms (dress blues) away and have a 1:30 inspection.  We finished the inspection at around 3:00 and were released for the day. 

I am sitting in my room putting a PT plan together, as I get to conduct it in the morning.  Two more days until I get to see the family!

Paulson out......