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.