Saturday, April 10, 2010

M.I.A. - Part II: JASOC

For the past 8 weeks I have been attending the Air Force Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course (JASOC) in Maxwell, AL. Again, I apologize that it has taken me so long to write this down. I will attempt to adequately summarize the past 8 weeks and preview the upcoming week (our last week of JASOC).


Unlike COT (see below), JASOC has been more like school and less like Boot Camp. At JASOC we spend most of the day in class learning about our new job as a JAG. We learn about Military Justice, Civil Law, and Operational Law, all of which have numerous subcategories. I usually arrive at school between 7:00 and 7:30 and leave to return home between 5:00-6:00. We have homework, tests, quizzes, and moot courts. It has been very interesting learning about what I will be doing as a JAG officer.

Like COT, we are divided into flights, this time with about 15 people per flight. However, we have far less time in our flight room and more time is spend in an auditorium setting with the entire group.

Although the classes have been very interesting, the highlights of the course for me have been the two trips we made. First, we took a bus down to Florida to visit Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) and Hurlburt Field. While we were there we we able to visit the AF Bomb/Drug Dog training facility, a GIANT hanger where they can recreate any type of weather condition on the planet to test military equipment against the elements, a flight simulator where we all got to "fly" a V-22 Osprey, an old AC-130U we could climb around in, and we also were able to see some really cool bombs and other weapon-related stuff.

Although I wasn't able to bring my camera into some of the places we visited, here are a few pictures I took during the Florida trip. Most of the pictures were taken in and around the AC-130H we got to get in. For those who want to see an actual AC-130U, here it is:

Here I am in the cockpit ready to go off into the wild blue yonder.

Here I am with Lts Dilworth and Mumford in front of the "little" gun on the AC-130U. This is a 25mm 5-barrel Equalizer Gatling Gun. This little fella can shoot about 3,600-4,200 rounds per minute.

But the AC-130U has some bigger stuff if the 25mm doesn't get the bad guys' attention. Maybe dropping some 40 mm rounds at 80-100 rounds per minute might work.

If the bad guys need a little more persuasion, this 105mm round comin' at them from the M102 Howitzer on the AC-130U should do the trick. Although this gun can fire at a rate of about 10 rounds per minute, I would imagine that after one of these bad boys knocking on your door, you wouldn't need much more persuading.

The valiant crew of the AC-130 U standing on the tailgate.

We were also able to take a tour of a park that had a number of historic Air Force Special Operations air craft. Here are some of my favorites:

This is the only jet ever used by Air Force Special Ops. The reason: Special Ops needs slower planes to be able to drop people and things down to the ground and the jets go too fast.

Our second trip during JASOC was to Washington D.C. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera in Alabama and wasn't able to take any pictures. However, I am hoping to get a few pictures from the trip and will post those as soon as I get them.


I am now about to begin my last week of JASOC. We have our final exam on Wednesday, a Dining Out (A fancy AF dinner like the one I described during COT below), and finally, our graduation ceremony on Friday. After that, we hop on a plane on Saturday to fly to Germany. We are really excited to get over there and look forward to the new adventures that await.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

M.I.A. - Part 1: COT

Well, it has been a while since my last post. COT is over and I am now entering my eighth week of Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course (JASOC). My excuse for not posting anything during COT was that I had no access to a computer that would let me view Blogs. My excuse for not posting during the past seven weeks of JASOC boils down to wanting to spend all my free time with my family who came out to be with me. That being said, Holly and the kids are out of town and I thought I'd take advantage of this time to catch up on the events of the past two months. Below you will find a summary of my experience at COT. My next post will cover my time at JASOC. Enjoy!!!


Welcome to Maxwell AFB
I arrived at Maxwell AFB on Monday, January 11, 2010 to begin Commissioned Officer Training (COT). I didn't have much of an idea of what to expect. What little I did know came from various Blogs I had read and from a friend of mine who had attended COT in October of last year. Nothing I read or heard could have prepared me for what I was about to experience.

Fortunately, I was not alone. One of my law school friends was with me. We had both been assigned to the same COT class and since he flew in to Montgomery after I arrived, I volunteered to pick him up at the airport. We were both filled with a nervous anxiety as we drove up to the gate and handed the security guard our orders and driver licenses. After we were allowed on base, and after a few wrong turns, we arrived at the COT student dorms where we would spend the next five weeks.

With our bags in hand we walked cautiously towards the dorm building, unsure of what lie ahead. What we found was a patio full of suitcases to which, as instructed to do by some fellow students, we added our own. As we following signs leading us around the building and toward the main entrance we met up with a very serious Air Force Training Instructor ("TI") who served us our first helping of Air Force "indoctrination" (a term used frequently to ensure us that the treatment we were receiving had a purpose).

The TI's instructions, which he yelled with the conviction of one trying to convey a message of life-or-death importance, went something like this:
"Line up in two columns, front to back. Stand up straight, head forward, eyes straight, hands at your sides. When you go inside you will answer all questions beginning with the word Sir or Ma'am and you will not speak unless spoken to. Have a pen and your orders out and available."

To fully understand my experience at COT, you must focus primarily on the position at which we were told to stand by the TI. That is basically how I spend the entire five weeks: Back straight, heals together and toes apart at a 45 degree angle, head and eyes forward, hands at my side in a tight-cupped position. This is called standing at attention. There were some derivations of this position as will be explained below, but that about sums up my posture during my duration at COT.

It is amazing how easy it is to completely forget such simple instructions when people all around are getting yelled at. My biggest mistake during in-processing was to answer questions "Sir, yes, sir" instead of just "Sir, yes," as I had been instructed.

After the surprisingly difficult gauntlet of turning in paperwork and signing my name on various documents, I was finally told to go to my room.
Our beds. Mine is the one on the right.
Our desks. Mine is the one on the left.

The next five weeks were spent being indoctrinated into the Air Force. Specifically, we were taught what it means to be an officer and how to act as such. Even though I have only been in the Air Force for about three months, as a First Lieutenant, I already out rank a little over 80% of the entire Air Force. That means that I am expected to act in such a way as to be an example to those who I outrank. One of the main focuses at COT is leadership. We were taught various leadership techniques and were put through leadership exercises to apply what we had learned.

The schedule at COT was fairly demanding. The typical day's schedule was as follows:
0430 - Wake up
0515-0615 - Physical Training
0615-0700 - Shower and Change
0700-0800 - Breakfast
0800-1200 - Class
1200-1300 - Lunch
1300-1800 - Class
1800-1900 - Dinner
1900-2330 - Study and Personal Time
2330 - Lights out

Some of these categories need to be explained in a little more detail.

Meals weren't really an hour long as our schedule would suggest. After going through a cafeteria-style line (standing at attention without talking and side-stepping through the line) and getting our food, we were given exactly 20 minutes from the time we sat down at our table until we were supposed to leave the Chow Hall. For the first four weeks we at "tight meals." This meant that we could only sit on the front two-thirds of the chair, back straight, heals together, feet at a 45 degree angle. If you had to bend forward to eat, you were to bend only at the waist and then return to an upright position as soon as possible. Additionally, you were not allowed to speak at all during the meal.

Our class time was actually fairly interesting. We learned a lot about what it means to be an officer and various leadership styles to use to motivate those we are over. Additionally, we had some classes on Air Force history. Besides the sometimes never-ending days in the lecture hall, I enjoyed the classes.

Our classes were one of two types: Lecture or Flight Room. Lecture classes were when the entire COT class (about 120 students) met together in one big auditorium. Flight Room classes were when each Flight (12-13 students) met in a smaller room to have more interactive instruction from our Flight Commander. Each Flight stayed together throughout COT and would compete against other Flight in various activities and competitions.

Physical Training (PT)
For PT we would usually march out to an old air strip, put a stinky old mat on the ground and then proceed to do every variation of push-up and sit-up known to man. Additionally, PT often involved some running. This was all focused on helping us to pass our PT Test which every member of the Air Force has to take twice a year. The PT test measures how many push-ups and sit-ups you can do in one minute, how fast you can run a mile and a half, and finally, your waist circumference. I was pretty amazed at how much I was able to improve during the 5-week course. In the end, I passed the test.

Although challenging, the most difficult part of PT had to have been the freezing temperatures in which we did it. Lucky for me, I happened to come to Alabama for one of the coldest winters on record.

Here are some pictures showing some of the other things we did during COT:
This is our Flight classroom where we spent a lot of time together.

We had Picture day and had individual and Flight pictures in our Service Dress.

Here we are doing a low crawl while dragging a stretcher as part of the Air Expeditionary Force training.

Finally after about four weeks we were able to get off base and go out to dinner. Here is part of my flight enjoying some delicious Teppanyaki.

This is part of a obstacle course we did. I am crawling on the left side in the back. I was spitting dirt out of my mouth for a couple days after this.

Here is our last day of PT during COT. We went on a run around the base and did different physical challenges upon arriving at some of the historic sites on Maxwell. In this picture we are standing below a replica of the Wright Bros' first plane. We had to do four 120 foot sprints in memory of the first flight which went 120 feet. I know it's hard to see, but I'm right in the middle standing under the plane. Pretty cool reflective belt eh?

On the Wednesday before graduation there was a "Dining Out" (The term used for a fancy military dinner). Holly, the kids, and Holly's mom arrived shortly before the dinner so the kids stayed at the hotel with Nana and I got to spend the evening with my beautiful wife.

I was very fortunate to have quite a few family members make it down for graduation. Here I am with my dad and my son following the graduation. It just so happened that we got a freak snow storm that day and the outside activities were all canceled.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Montgomery, Alabama

Well, I just pulled in to Montgomery, AL this evening. It's Saturday night and I am supposed to report to Maxwell AFB on Monday. On a side note, I realize that I never wrote the follow up to my last post. It took a while for my uniform to be altered and the day after I picked it up I had to leave to start driving east. Anyway, I'll try to post pictures as soon as I can.

I am both excited and nervous about starting training on Monday. I am excited for the opportunities I will have and for the things I will learn. Honestly, the only thing I am nervous about is the Physical Training (PT). The PT aspect of training is based around a 4-part, 100-point test: Push-ups (10 points); sit-ups (10 points); 1.5 mile run (50 points); and a waist circumference measurement (30 points). Each part is scaled based on how many push-ups or sit-ups you do, how fast you run, and how wide you are. You have to score at least a 75 (I think) to pass. I'm not sure what happens if you don't pass, but let's hope I don't have to cross that bridge.

Originally, I had a plan that I would take the months between taking the Bar in July and starting COT to train and get my self in shape for training. Unfortunately, I am not in the kind of shape I was hoping to be in two days before I check in. I mention by way of explanation and not of excuse that the past three months have been the most emotionally difficult of my life and my training goals suffered. I just hope to pass and once we get settled down in Germany I can start getting my self in better shape for my next test that should occur in about six months.

I'm not sure how often I will be able to update this during training, but I'll do my best to post something if and when I can.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Uniform Part 1

I was told by a friend who just finished COT that I should try to get my uniform prior to arriving in Alabama to free up a little time my first day there. I have been really excited to get my uniform since I was accepted into the JAG Corps over a year ago so I decided to heed my friend's advice and go get my uniform.

In the COT packet I received there was a list of all the things I needed to get: an Airman Battle Uniform (ABU), a Service (Blue) Uniform, a Mess Dress Uniform (the Air Force's version of a tuxedo), some Physical Training (PT) gear, and some miscellaneous supplies. With my list in hand, I contacted the local Air Force Base (AFB) to determine what I had to do to get my stuff. I set up an appointment with the AAFES and headed up to the Base. Fortunately I went during a time that they weren't very busy so I could get one-on-one attention will my things.

I had to be fitted for my ABU, my Blues, and my Mess Dress and had to leave all but the ABU pants for alterations and for my various patches to be sewn on. The whole process took a lot longer that I was expecting (2 hours) but the people were very helpful. Unfortunately, they didn't have everything that I needed but I have been told that I can pick those things up in Alabama.

Besides my uniform, my wife and I have been focused a lot on organizing all our stuff. We had been preparing for a state-side assignment and had started packing accordingly, but now we have to decrease the amount of stuff we're taking and remove most of our electronics and appliances. One specific issue is our bed. We have been told that the bedrooms tend to be rather small and usually can't fit a king-sized bed. Since that's what we've got, we have started looking around for a queen bed to take over.

We have also been trying to figure out what to do about a vehicle while in Germany. The military will ship one car over with our stuff but we don't think that we want to take either of our cars over with us. One is an SUV with terrible gas millage (I've been told that gas in Germany can be between $6.50-8.00/gallon) and our other car is a Honda Accord (better gas millage, but a little small for our growing family).

We have been looking at some Diesel wagons in the states and also and some European cars. We still haven't decided if we want to buy something here and ship it over or wait until we get there and pick something up. There are definitely a lot more "family" cars with good gas millage in Europe, but we aren't sure we want to risk getting over there and not having something right away.

Anyway, life is busy and we are looking forward to the day we are settled in Germany and can start enjoying the European experience.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our assignment

Well, over one year after I was accepted into the Air Force JAG Corps, we finally found out where we will be stationed. Last night around 7:00 I received a phone call from the Major in charge of assignments and was informed of our two base location choices. Whiteman AFB in Missouri, and Ramstein Air Base in Germany. We were so excited to hear Germany since we have been hoping for a European assignment and my Dad and step-mom are currently living in Germany as well.

The Major gave me 48 hours to decide and call him back. I tried to accept Germany right then but he told me to sleep on it and wait at least until the next morning to call him back. So we slept on it and are still completely sold on going to Germany.The Ramstein Air Base (Ramstein AB) is located in southwestern Germany near the border with France. According to Wikipedia Ramstein AB "serves as headquarters for the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and is also a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) installation.
We are incredibly excited to be going to Germany and will post more details about Ramstein AB as we learn them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

No assignment yet

Well, my assignment didn't come last week like I had hoped. Instead, I received a phone call informing me that the folks who make the assignments were either sick or in meetings all last week and weren't able to get around to it. I was also told that I should expect a call sometime this week. However, I've decided not to hold my breath. It will come when it comes.

I am as anxious as ever to find out where we're going and will post it as soon as we know.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Into the wild blue yonder

Since many people have expressed interest in my decision to join the Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, I thought it would be beneficial to start a blog to journal my experience. Let's start at the very beginning of law school.

When I started school, I had in the back of my mind that joining the JAG Corps could very interesting. However, following my first year of school I was offered a summer clerkship with a Phoenix firm and quickly dismissed the idea of working for the government when told that I would likely make a six-figure salary in my first year of firm life. As the second summer of law school approached, I found myself splitting my summer between two firms, either of which I thought would make an excellent place to start my career.

Despite the monetary appeal of working for a large law firm, I could not shake the desire I had to serve my country by joining the JAG Corps. Even while I was working at the firms, I would talk with partners who had served in the JAG Corps about their experiences and would try to justify in my mind turning down an offer from the firm and to go work for the military instead. Even after numerous conversations with my incredibly supportive wife, who said she'd support me no matter what I decided to do, I felt like I should brush aside what I wanted to do (join the JAG) and instead do what I felt a good law student should do (join a firm).

At the end of my second summer of law school, as I anxiously awaited offers from both firms, the United States economy begin to nose dive into the worst economic situation this country has seen since the Great Depression. Needless to say, my hopes of receiving job offers began to fade with every downward tick in the stock market. Sure enough, I received phone calls from both firms informing me that due to the economic state of the firm, they could not offer me a permanent position.

With the prospect of working for one of these two firms out of the picture, I began exploring other avenues of employment. Once again, the idea of joining the JAG Corps started dancing around my mind. I began to think that if I ever wanted to serve my country I would never find myself in a better opportunity to do so. Resolved to at least apply, I began to look into each of the Branches' JAG Corps. Ultimately, I applied to only the Air Force and Navy.

In October of 2008, I found out that I had been accepted by the Air Force. I was thrilled! Although I subsequently was rejected by the Navy, the Air Force was my first choice and, therefore, I began taking the next steps toward beginning my employment. The first thing I had to do was undergo a physical. This involved vision and hearing exams, blood and breath tests, and some coordination and flexibility exercises. Once I passed the physical in November, I had nothing left to do but wait until I took and passed the bar the next July.

I initially was told that I would receive my first base assignment the week after I received my bar results the beginning of October. Unfortunately, I would find out that due to a large entering class size, I wouldn't receive my assignment until the first week of November.

Now here I sit on Halloween of 2009, just over one year from when I first was accepted into the Air Force JAG Corps and I am anxiously awaiting my assignment which will come next week. As you can imagine, my family and I are extremely excited to find out where we will spend the next 2-3 years.

Once we find out where we are going, I will then begin preparing for Commissioned Officer Training (COT) and Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course (JASOC) in Montgomery, Alabama starting in January.

It is my hope that during my time in the Air Force, I will be able to use this blog to give you a sense of my work life and what it is like to serve the United States as a JAG officer.