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ADE goes on ...

[20 Sep 2011|06:58pm]
[ mood | awake ]

I'm on my Annual Deployment Exercise (ADE) at the moment, but it's proving remarkably easy compared to previous years. I've been pulled into Regimental Headquarters (RHQ) to write the enemy intelligence/plans, given my recent experiences.

Last week was quite busy, but it was all classroom work (planning and lectures), barring the daily PT at 0600. It was quite gratifying to be one of the four fittest people (of all four regiments) attending this exercise. The PT was gradually split up by fitness over several days; by the last day of PT, there were four of us getting special attention from a particularly mad PTI (PT instructor).

This week is out in the field, on Salisbury Plain. I'm sitting in a tent almost all day, writing up plans and developing the enemy intelligence picture. Facilities here are pretty basic; there is a shower, which consists of a shower bag over a wooden pallet, and surrounded by a flimsy hessian sheet. The wind on the plain in September is pretty cold and cutting, so showering is a hasty affair.

We wrap it all up on Thursday; right now I'm writing up the increase in enemy radio chatter and activity as they build up for a big attack ....

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Every day an adventure

[09 Sep 2011|01:37pm]
[ mood | a little tired ]

I was sure this title was a slogan from something, but apparently not. I should nab it for my combined skydiving school/crocodile farm.

I digress. The title indicates that my life is eventful in a good way, and that I am enjoying every moment of it.

I studied for seven frantic days for my Military Knowledge level 1 exam, around my day job. The MoD has got something right for once, and not only is it an online exam, but the entire course is modular and accessible via a VLE* and pdf downloads. I studied almost exclusively from the pdf files, and module 6 was missing some key extracts from the Army Field Manual, but otherwise it was quite adequate. I even put them all on my Kindle for reading on the train.

I took all the tests last night (3 hours 10 minutes) and I scored between 90 and 100% for each module, which was quite satisfying. This exam is a prerequisite for my JOTAC, so I'm now ready to go.

Work has settled down a little. Last month everyone in my four-person team was on leave at different times, and for one week I was the only one here. Of course many systems went wrong, usually corresponding to the person who set up or runs the system involved.

Tomorrow I'm off on my two-week Annual Deployment Exercise. This is normally a regimental thing, which has around 150 people (a quarter of our book strength). This year we're working with three other regiments (152, 158, 160 regiments) for a large-scale exercise. The first few days we're staying at Grantham, the heart of the RLC, and attending lectures or day-long exercises. We finish with a 9-day drill of convoy tactics.

The best is saved for last - V is now crawling (as of today) instead of wriggling along like a little caterpillar. Her front two teeth are quite developed now, and rather sharp! She's vocalising quite a lot and Y and I are competing to see whether her first word is in Korean or English, and what word it is.

* VLE - Virtual Learning Environment. A system to present coursework and even tests online. A good portion of my time at UCL is spent maintaining/developing Moodle, the VLE we use.

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Lazy blogger alert! Also, poll!

[02 Sep 2011|05:52pm]
[ mood | hyper ]

Too much to do! So here is a frantic, truncated post.

I have a two-week exercise (Grantham and Salisbury Plain) starting next weekend, and finishing on the 24th.

However, I also have to write my online Military Knowledge level 1 exam by the 23rd to be eligible for the Junior Officers' Tactical Awareness Course (JOTAC) in October. For which I have already signed up. So, I have one week to finish studying all the material (46 hours of studying, according to the study plan) and write the exam.

At work many servers are exploding into fiery clouds of bits and ruined work plans (not literally). All my projects have been on hold for three weeks while I firefight broken servers.

V is sitting up and starting to crawl about, so we've acquired a playpen* to hold her. I'm hoping to have time to fling up a couple of pictures this weekend. Including a picture of her first two teeth!!

As compensation for the telegram-like post, here are two excellent links:
Science PhDs in interpretive dance

US college student goes to fight with rebels in Libya. No, he's not Libyan, he's Korean-American.

Poll #1775216 Orwell or Hicks?

So Chris Jeon went to Libya to fight with the rebels. He went alone, unarmed and with no ability to speak Arabic or fire a gun. Is this

an adventure and a good cause
foolish because he's risking himself and others
foolish because he's just a poser
wrong because Col Gaddafi is the leader of Libya (btw, GTFO my blog)
something you'd like to do

* Y calls it a "baby jail".
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Um ... yay, Bundeswehr?

[15 Aug 2011|03:39pm]
[ mood | famous ]

If you take a look at this German Army recruiting video, and jump to 1:10, you might see a familiar face ...

5 comments|post comment

Catching up

[09 Aug 2011|12:09pm]
[ mood | hyper ]

The remainder of the YROW program was so full I didn't even have time to blog in the evenings. It's a bit sad that I have to truncate my descriptions, but a full account of the rest of the week would bore my readers senseless. It would definitely be TL;DR.

So! Wednesday was the main symposium, with panels on Afghanistan (input by NATO and India*) and Somali piracy. There were also lectures on cyber-war and NATO's future. The cyber-war lecture was particularly interesting, but it was a native French speaker from CSNR speaking in French, and the translator was not particularly skilled in technical or military language, so I suspect a lot was lost in translation. On Wednesday night we went to a Czech restaurant for dinner with the head of the UK delegation and some of the defence staff from the UK embassy in Warsaw.

The working sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday were on the mechanisms of NATO and the NATO Council, leadership, and a little bit of personality analysis and working with different personalities. This included a roleplay session of the NATO Council, trying to get a motion passed to the UN. International diplomacy requires a lot of patience. As the esteemed representative from Moldova, I didn't get many people listening to me. On Saturday afternoon we ditched the closing and awards ceremony to visit the Uprising Museum. It was very humbling and heart-rending to see the artefacts and photos from the uprising.

On Thursday night we headed off in another of those crazy police-escorted convoys, only this time we drove for about an hour to a country estate for "Polish night" - barbecues, Polish dancing, arts and crafts, and stuff like that. This was a really interesting and enjoyable night, enlivened by an MC who had a very basic grasp of English but didn't let that stop him ("You want toilets? We have toilets for eeeveryone! Just for you!").

Friday night was an actual free night, so the junior officers gathered to celebrate one attendees birthday (any excuse, right?).

Saturday night was the culmination, and what an epic night it was. Fully kitted out in mess dress, medal and spurs, I joined the handsome UK delegation for a four-course dinner at the Warsaw polytechnic**. Afterwards we moved on to a local bar, still in mess dress, before going on to a club. You get a great deal of second looks/lingering looks/attention when wearing military dress uniform.

We crawled into bed in the early hours of Sunday before heading to the airport at different times. I was back at work yesterday; some of the Canadian delegation were still travelling last night.

To sum up: the whole experience was fantastic, and I made some really good friends in just one week from all over NATO.

Victoria was very happy to see me home; her little hands seem to have got much bigger in one week, and she is really trying to talk at times. As we talk to her, she opens and closes her mouth and makes little "hoo" sounds.

* My personal opinion is that the Pakistani military (who run the country) is a double-dealing bunch of arseholes who are now being bitten by their own separatist/fundamentalist militants. The Indian take was much the same.
** Polytechnics in Warsaw are a lot more impressive than in the UK.

UK delegation, Young Reserve Officers Workshop, Warsaw 2011
UK delegation, Young Reserve Officers Workshop, Warsaw 2011

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[02 Aug 2011|10:22pm]
[ mood | cheerful ]

We had quite an interesting trip this afternoon - after a parade at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, we travelled in a police-escorted bus convoy to the Ministry of Defence for a dinner with all sorts of parliamentarians and diplomats. The four-bus convoy zoomed the ten kilometres to the Ministry through many red lights, drawing many stares from passers-by. I suppose you'd get the same reaction in London, although any convoy there would get hopelessly snarled in traffic almost immediately. The wide boulevards of Warsaw, helpfully landscaped by the Nazi's scorched-earth policy in 1944, make for speedy travel.

Speaking of drawing stares from passers-by - CIOR is being held in the conference rooms of a swanky hotel, and the senior officers (NATO OF5 equivalent and above) are staying there too. Us junior officer are staying in a cheaper hotel further away from the city centre, and have to take the tram in to the city each morning. We get a lot of stares as a group of about fifty soldiers in a wide variety of uniforms travels across the city.

Today each country delegation gave a brief on their respective nations and military. It was really a remarkable range of capabilities. Did you know, for example, that Denmark and Sweden each have only 20 000 soldiers? Or that Switzerland only has 4000 full-time soldiers, and the rest are conscripts? Or that Finland (pop 4 million) has 350 000 reservists, ie nearly twice as many military personnel as the UK (pop 60 million)?

I had two very attractive Danish female officers throwing money at me tonight ... I paid for their drinks last night after the bar refused to take their Danish bank card. I just thought I'd mention that.

We are sticking with our combats, even though they look distinctly scruffy compared to the service dress of the other nations. At least our drill (marching) was light-years ahead of the other nations on the parade today. I can't wait to break out the mess dress this Saturday, and really show these other guys how to dress.

One final note, on dress. So far I've seen five people wearing kilts, and not one of them is Scottish. There are three Canadians from Canadian Highland units, and two South Africans, one from the Cape Town Highlanders and one from the Transvaal Highlanders. Traces of empire everywhere!

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[01 Aug 2011|11:05pm]
[ mood | awake ]

Warsaw is exceptionally hot and humid ... fortunately we're wearing desert combats (I'm still not sure why - emphasising our operational role is the official reason, but it's still a bit odd).

Today was a bit of a whirlwind of meeting people and briefings. CIOR is the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (the abbreviation comes from the French) and has become a NATO-plus-others organisation. In addition to the NATO countries, we have officers from the neutral countries of Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and South Africa (yeah, that was a surprise to me too). I've chatted to the South African Army officers; we disagreed over whether Rhodes or UCT is the better university.

Two awkward incidents from the day: the German committee member giving a brief on this year's host country, Poland, including the Nazi occupation and Warsaw Uprising (which took place 57 years ago today; there was a minutes silence at 17h00). Also, listening to Polish and Finnish officers congratulate each other on their nations' historic Russian-killing skills.

Work starts for real tomorrow; I've flung together some of the British contingents slides for a presentation, which we will polish tomorrow morning.

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One and a half out of three

[17 Jun 2011|11:28pm]
[ mood | exhausted ]

I was aiming for a hat-trick this week; last Friday get my driver's license, Thursday get my Afghan medal and today get British passports for Y and I. You have all read how the driver's licence thing went - the less said the better. That's one down already.

Today Y and I went to Barnet Registry Office to apply for the passports. Previously we applied separately at different times for our permanent residence. When Y applied, months after me, we were told "Duh! You should have applied together. You could have saved hundreds on the fees." We pointed out that Y was not yet eligible, and were told this didn't matter. I'm sure you can see where this is going ... this morning we applied together, and were told that while I'm eligible, Y still has to wait several more months. *sigh*

Many thanks to rumint , who agreed to be a character referee for both of us with about 30 minutes notice. The other referee was the admin officer at my squadron; being in the Army means I have a large pool of official-type people to act as witnesses, certify documents etc. It's great!

So, that's the half - I will get my passport in the usual 3-6 months, and Y can apply in about 8 months. She has a Korean passport, which seems to grant more visa-free travel than any other, so it's not really a priority for her.

So, on to the success - my medal! This was quite an epic 36-hour effort to get everyone in place for the medal parade at Merville Barracks in Colchester. It started on Wednesday night, as Y, V and I drove up to my parents' place in Cambridgeshire. We stayed there that night, then I left at 0600 to get to Colchester for 0800, while everyone else left at 0800 to arrive around 1000. I arrived at the time I was told - 0800 - to find that everyone else had been forming up since 0700, and the rehearsal started at 0800. I managed to slot in on the correct block without too much difficulty, though, and as we rehearsed the medal parade twice everything seemed to be going smoothly. I caught up with everyone and was pleasantly surprised by the warm sunshine on the parade square - I remember thinking "I hope the sun shifts enough that it's not in my eyes during the parade!". I got my wish, but not in the way I wanted.

At 1000, just as everyone was arriving, the first drops of rain fell. We were all formed up in our squares and ready to march on to the square, so there was no hope of donning the rainproof, windproof smocks that everyone had cheerfully hung up earlier in the day. I had even being persuaded* into doffing my t-shirt, so I, along with everyone else, was wearing just a thin tropical camo shirt when the cold, steady rain began to fall.

The thousand or so guests had gathered around the parade square as we marched on. Taking part in a regimental parade with several hundred soldiers is quite awe-inspiring. We marched on reasonably well, although the halt was messed up for our block of the parade. No matter! When the parade moves into open order to allow the inspection/presentation of medals, there's plenty of scope to adjust position.

I happened to be in the third row of the parade**. The first row had medals presented by the Prince of Wales, the second row by the Duchess of Cornwall ... and the third row by a major-general. Not to diss the rank of major-general, but it doesn't compete against the heir to the throne. The presentation of medals - each one presented individually along with a quick chat - took about an hour, so everyone on parade was a bit chilly and damp by the time the parade ended. I received a medal (not my medal, though) and we marched off in good order and with no-one collapsing, though, so no worries!

After the parade we were gathered on a field nearby for a regimental photo. Stands had been constructed to allow all of 2 and 3 Para to form one giant block for the group photo. We had to wait around for a little while, and it took some time to position several hundred people shoulder-to-shoulder on the stands, so we had warmed up and dried off by the time we were all in position, and waiting for the royals to arrive ... and then the heavens opened.

There were several warning peals of thunder before the rain slammed down with a vengeance. It was raining so hard that within five minutes my clothes were sodden to the point that my boots started filling with water. I'd like to reiterate the thin, tropical uniforms we were wearing. We were not going to move for two reasons - firstly, it would take to long to position everyone again, and secondly, both 2 and 3 Para were determined not to be the battalion that wimped out in the face of the rain and scurried for shelter. After about thirty minutes,2 Para caved in and shambled off, to be met with a roar of derision and triumph from our stands. Morale and humour can warm you up! We didn't give in at all, and eventually the rain slacked off and the royal party arrived for the photo. I'm in the regimental photo and the regimental officers photo, with the Prince and Duchess. Definitely ones for the wall, even though I'm blue and grimacing from the cold.

After such a miserable three hours, everyone dispersed to meet family and friends. My dear family (thanks for being there!) were all cold and wet, and little V, who was a little soldier for the whole morning, was starting to fret from the cold. There were various teas and meetings throughout the remainder of the day, but I ditched them to get the C family somewhere warm and dry. I went and exchanged the medal I had for my actual medal*** and we left! We had a family tea at a little restaurant outside Colchester before splitting up and heading home.

Epic day, epic weather, and my first medal. Hopefully the weather will be better for the next medal parade!

* Strong-armed
** Of five rows
*** It has my rank, name, number and corps engraved on it.

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[13 Jun 2011|04:15pm]
[ mood | meh ]

I am still without driver's license. On the way to the test centre, there was an absolute downpour which flooded the roadworks between Golders Green and Barnet; traffic backed up completely and I spent 50 minutes inching forward through chaotic traffic and puddles. I arrived fifteen minutes late for my test, and the examiner said "Sorry, you're too late" before jumping in to his car and driving off, finished for the day. I was left flabbergasted and fuming.

This cast rather a pall on the day, but I had the chance to take out some of my frustration by machine-gunning various targets over the weekend. I was once more completing my MATTS test, which confirm that I'm a fully-trained soldier this year. Last year I did these at Chilwell as part of my mobilisation process; this time it was a small group of soldiers from my squadron alone, and I was the only officer present. In addition to the straightforward zeroing of rifle, and a fixed shoot, there was two tactical shoots - one moving target shoot and a base defence shoot. The moving target was quite interesting - firing at fast/slow targets at 150m and 50m, from prone, sitting, kneeling and crouching, as well as advancing and firing snap shots on the move. The base defence was less exciting - it was just sprinting into position and then shooting at targets as they popped up.

Halfway through the moving shoot you get the order "Fix bayonets!", and I managed to cut my hand on my own bayonet, which was quite funny. The SA80 bayonet has several holes in the handle to allow gas from the rifle to escape; as I attached it, in a hurry, I was gripping it very firmly and a fold of skin on the inside of my finger caught on the end of the rifle and was neatly lopped off. I still went on to get an excellent score; maybe the pain focused my mind.

The remainder of the training was quick and straightforward; first aid, navigation, values and standards and CBRN (previously NBC). The CBRN* training involves testing your skill and kit by you performing various tests in a room filled with tear gas while wearing all your CBRN kit. I didn't get any dose of tear gas while masking up, sealing my suit or changing gasmask filters; all good!

This Thursday is the 3 Para Medal Parade, where I will be awarded my Afghan campaign medal. There may be photos. It will be the last time I wear my maroon beret (barring the unlikely events of me completing my parachute course, or being attached to 16 Brigade for another op). I'll be back to my normal blue from now on. I'm quite looking forward to introducing Y and V to everyone. We've already picked out V's dress for the day!

* Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear

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[09 Jun 2011|03:24pm]
[ mood | restless ]

I moved offices recently. The entire IT department packed up* and moved to a new office, where we have 60% less desk space and a lot more people around. But, it's not that bad. We're on the 4th floor of our new building so there's a lot more light; the kitchen is much larger and better than before, and has a dishwasher!

I was reading a news article about "deadly martial arts" and, in particular, silat, which was a new one to me. It's a Malaysian style which looks quite interesting. I idly wondered if there was a school in London**, and I googled it. Turns out there is a school in London - I can see it from my new office window.

V news! She is 6.2kg now, at just under three months, which means she is a big healthy baby. She's sleeping well (sometimes for 6 hours at night!) and is almost holding the bottle for herself now. I just cannot get enough of her smile.

Tomorrow I have my driving test! Yes, sixteen years after passing my driving test in SA I have given up trying to exchange my license and am simply taking the test here.

* We engaged a company which comes in to the office, unplugs and dismantles your computers, and puts them together on the far side. Now this is one thing an IT department should be able to do for itself, but I'm not being paid £100k a year to decide these things.
** Of course there is. This is an exceptionally global city.

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[01 Jun 2011|12:37am]
[ mood | very tired ]

After the office move, we've got all of the various IT groups at UCL in one building - two floors of one building, in fact. The 16 of us in the geeky section share an office with 10 or so guys from the DB admin team. It turns out that one of these guys is an Afghan. I introduced myself today ("Oh, you're the soldier!" he said) and we had a good chat. We may not agree on everything, but he seems friendly enough.

Also tonight I gave my presentation again about what I did on my holidays, this time to the students of the ULOTC*. This may be a surprise to some of you, dear readers, but I am not a good public speaker, despite being an Army officer. When I have command of the subject, I am reasonable, like tonight - having given this speech before, I was in full flow throughout and even managed to insert a couple of jokes which drew some laughs. I was still trembling beforehand, although not after.

Funnily enough, being a DM is what really made me capable of public speaking at all. The first time I DMed for CLAWS people I was terrified. Maybe some of you remember my trembling voice back in 1996? Anyways, I managed to speak to six friends, then six strangers, then (much later, in officer training), eight soldiers, then thirty soldiers. Tonight I spoke to about fifty. Little steps. So Dungeons and Dragons was good for me!

I also encountered a really weird situation. The ULOTC is a grade C military unit, which means it's not ready to fight immediately and members are not liable for compulsory military service (unlike me, for example). It's still a part of the Army, though, so when I met someone who is a serving officer in the French Army and also a cadet in the British Army I was a bit surprised. The French have a rather knightly system where a single officer sponsors a cadet and actually dubs him an officer with a sword after St Cyr**; an officer can also take time out for, eg, studying overseas, where he can join the OTC and simultaneously be in two armies.

V is growing by leaps and bounds. She's already grasping at things, and managing to roll around a little. She also gives an adorable toothless smile of delight when I sing or talk to her. She's talking back too, although it's still mostly "hurrr" and "hoooo". Her sleeping position is still on her back with little arms flung up in a supergirl pose; this pose is also occasionally adopted by Y. Yes, I have pics. Of both of them together.

* University of London Officer Training Corps. For training university students to be Army officers.
** The French military academy, equivalent (almost) to Sandhurst.

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[22 May 2011|11:00pm]
[ mood | VICTORY! ]

Hey, remember the GOC trophy? We won it again on Saturday - my team squeaked in just one point ahead of the Royal Yeomanry team. Yay! As team leader, I once again had to march up to collect the trophy. Fortunately, this time I managed to march correctly and didn't embarrass myself or the regiment. I did make my mark once again, though - the brigadier, on handing me the trophy, said "Be careful, it's in two parts." Quite innocently, I replied, "I know, I've dropped it before!" This amused him enough that he repeated it to the entire parade, and in hindsight it sounds more than a little cocky. I really do have a rep in London now ...

I haven't been exercising much over the last couple of months, so the military skills competition was actually quite a stretch for me. Not only am I still tired from the 7 mile* march run with 20kg of kit, but I'm a bit battered from the obstacle course at the start, particularly the six-foot brick wall.

Today Y, V and I went up to Huntingdon for my dad's 81st birthday. Technically his birthday is tomorrow, but we had the cake today. V is growing so quickly - she's only 9 weeks old, but already fits her 3-6 months clothes and in some cases has outgrown those! She's tipping the scales at 5.62kg as of May 16th, which is well above the curve. She's also holding her head up, vocalising a lot and smiling in response to us talking to her. She is amazing! I will post photos and videos on Tuesday, which is actually a free day for me! Y has another exam, so I'm taking paternity leave that day to look after V and relax a little. I may even wash the car ...

* This should have been 6.5 miles, but a map-reading error combined with a shortcut actually took us on an 800m loop, which did not** endear me to my team.
** Left those words out of the first draft of this post!

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Goddamn door

[20 May 2011|10:44am]
[ mood | cheerful ]

Demobbed! I'm back to being a civilian. It took a total of about an hour to complete the transition from soldier to civilian on Monday morning, but it took till noon as I had to wait for some meetings/debriefs/check-ups.

As previously mentioned (did I previously mention it?) I've been chosen* as a team leader for my regiment in one of the events at the GOC/London Brigade competition tomorrow. This was awkward because I have to compete in old temperate uniform, not the desert or multi-terrain stuff that I have from Afghan. All of this was locked in my office at Barnet, so I leapt out of bed an hour earlier** today and zoomed up to Barnet to grab the kit I needed.

My office door lock had rusted shut.

At least, I think that was the problem. The key absolutely would not turn, despite the application of copious amounts of oil. I thought maybe I was using the wrong key***, but no other key worked either. So, I applied a crowbar and a size 11 hiking boot to smash open the door. I got the kit I needed, but it took 90 minutes rather than 10, and I was a little late for work.

You may remember the two giant trophies I was cradling last year. Hopefully we'll pick those up again this year!

* I didn't get much say in the matter
** Leapt quietly, so as not to disturb V and Y.
*** It's been six months!

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Fortune telling by Lego

[23 Mar 2011|12:40am]
[ mood | calm ]

On my way home tonight I stopped to buy some milk. There were these cheap little packets with a random Lego figure, and I love Lego so I bought one.



That's just disturbing. Ok, I can't lie - I changed my hoodie after I saw the Lego figure. Still.

Y and V are doing well. V is responding very well to the modified feeding program - this is her sleeping on my shoulder after a feed.

Also, some random links which I've perused in my spare time over the last week or so. First a pretty inspiring video:

United We Rise

Then some stuff on horrific animals. I love weird creatures.
The 8 Most Terrifying Diets in the Animal Kingdom

6 Animals Humanity Accidentally Made Way Scarier

13 Real Animals Lifted Directly Out of Your Nightmares

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[22 Aug 2010|10:12am]
[ mood | rushed ]

Ok, at the end of my first week as a mobilised soldier. I made tracks like a startled cat to catch the first possible train to London. Some of the people mobilising with me are literally going from the mobilisation course to an airbase to catch the first plane to Afghan (and then spendingfour days sitting around at some staging point, thanks to the efficiency of the RAF).

Week one was mostly admin, as mentioned in previous posts. The first three days are spent on making sure there's no employment, paperwork or medical reason not to deploy. Day four and five were weapon-handling tests and navigation - all pretty straightforward for an experienced soldier, which I *almost* qualify as.

Next week is more revision and tests. This weekend is devoted to packing the rest of my stuff, ready for the move *next* weekend. It's actually a little convenient to be moving now - I can pack all my belongings, secure in the knowledge that I won't need them again for six months.

I'm still not entirely sure what my schedule looks like after the next week of mobilisation training. The battalion I'm attaching to is all on leave until the end of August, so I could end up dropped off at their doorstep next Friday with a rifle and vast pile of kit, and no-one to let me in. My main effort for the next week is to make sure that doesn't happen.

I'm also in a strange transition from plugged-in-to-internet at all times to internet-a-little-bit. I've been lucky enough to have a helpful person in the same room as me with a prepaid internet dongle, which I've pretty much plundered in the name of reading webcomics. I've become accustomed to plonking my laptop down in strange places and then eagerly scanning the list of wireless access points in the hope of finding a free or unguarded wireless network. Wicked me.

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[13 Aug 2010|04:19pm]
[ mood | rushed ]

So, last couple of hours at work. Got a card and cake.

After a trip to the dentist this morning, it turns out that I have a couple of cavities. A dental check is part of the mobilisation process, so I'm going to try and get it sorted out this weekend.

I'm heading off Sunday to the mobilisation centre. The next couple of weeks will be fairly straightforward and maybe a little dull, but it's still unknown territory and I'm feeling a bit nervous.

Also, Y is pregnant. The timing is ... interesting. I'll be arriving back in the UK about the same time as the baby.

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Turkeys and whales

[05 Aug 2010|05:49pm]
[ mood | calm ]

Well, Turkey and Wales.

Y and I went to Turkey for a week. Given my imminent departure to distant shores, we decided to take a holiday. We picked an airport at random (Dalaman? Yeah, ok) and then a town at random (Fethiye looks nice) and then a hotel at random (Hotel Truva - because they had a room). Either we were really lucky, or the majority of Turkey is filled with amazing scenery and friendly people.

The first couple of days I learned to drive a scooter - that is, we hired a scooter and tootled around Fethiye, Kayakoy and Olu Deniz. Scooters are actually quite easy to drive, though you should have seen the face of the scooter hire guy when I was trying to drive off the first time. Olu Deniz is a beach resort and extreme sports hub, so there's only so much to see. Kayakoy (previously Karmylassos) is a desperately sad ruined town - previously a Greek town until the end of the Greco-Turkish War in 1923 when the population were sent off to Greece, and the town was left to crumble into ruins.

The next couple of days we relaxed, wandering on foot around Fethiye, before heading off to Tloss and Saklikent. Saklikent is a really long gorge cut by an icy river. You can only see the gorge by wading and scrambling up the river, which gets progressively harder. Tloss is another ancient Lycian/Greek/Roman town high up in the mountains. Seeing ruins two and a half millenia old puts the Tower of London into perspective. It also makes Stonehenge look a little primitive ...

Back in the UK, and this last weekend I went to Wales. The regiment arranges adventure training once a year, and this was a repeat of last years, but with a lot of refinement. Day one was rock-climbing and mountain-biking - the biking in particular this year was a lot more exciting and scary, on red routes near Capel Curig. I cycled far too fast and recklessly, and came off several times, including one dramatic flight down a hillside into gorse bushes. On day two we went climbing on high ropes and canyoning (climbing up a river in a gorge) - like Saklikent but actually requiring wetsuits and a guide to manage the river.

After all that excitement I have a cold and am sitting at my desk feeling pretty bleh. However! I am super-excited by my birthday present from Y, of a shiny new Samsung Wave. Seriously, it's a phone that cost the same amount as my current desktop computer.

Finally, for the Unix types, what happens when you tell vi to delete lines 720000-4800000 of a 300M text file? This is what happens:

top - 17:45:37 up 213 days,  6:18, 15 users,  load average: 1.07, 0.82, 0.45
Tasks: 221 total,   3 running, 218 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
Cpu(s): 52.7% us,  0.2% sy,  0.0% ni, 47.2% id,  0.0% wa,  0.0% hi,  0.0% si
Mem:   2074880k total,  2019784k used,    55096k free,      728k buffers
Swap:  2097144k total,   306632k used,  1790512k free,   394488k cached

  698 userid    20   0  760m 748m 1492 R  100 36.9   7:05.53 vi

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Things that make me motion-sick

[19 Jul 2010|09:49am]
[ mood | better now ]

Update! I have now extended my list of things that make me motion-sick:

1. Catamarans (sorry, Tsuki-chan)
2. Kayaks
3. Seoul-land amusement park
4. Helicopters

I had the rare privilege of joining a big brigade-level exercise on Thursday last week. To get there, they even laid on a helicopter. Well, sort of - I was given a Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) at a base near Salisbury Plain where I could pick up a Chinook flight. I piled on with a platoon of soldiers heading out to another location. Little did I know that my destination was two hours and four further pickups/dropoffs away.

My low-grade nausea was easily controllable, and once I asked one of the crewman how long the flight was, I even dozed off a little. Unfortunately, the last-but-one mission was a refuelling run with just me and the crew. The pilot threw the helicopter all over the sky at high speed, and I quickly grew nauseous to the point of throwing up. The crew saw this early, fortunately, and handed me a couple of Army-issue airsick bags from a big sack in the cabin. The final flight took me to the large FOB (Forward Operating Base) which was my destination.

On a regimental exercise with my TA regiment (the largest we normally do) we can sometimes muster nearly 150 soldiers and 75 or 80 vehicles - a mix of trucks and landrovers. On this exercise, there were 600 UK soldiers and another 150 soldiers from other nations, with a fascinating and impressive array of vehicles. It was quite informative to talk to the various parts of the host unit and see how something this scale operates.

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[13 Jul 2010|02:37pm]
[ mood | cheerful ]

I've just added a rather important friend-locked post. If you're a regular reader but not a LJ friend, drop me an email and I'll let you know.

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More coincidence

[25 Jun 2010|02:23pm]
[ mood | amused ]

At Korean class a few weeks ago, a Korean graduate student was taking a survey of people learning Korean. I mentioned that I lived in Golders Green, and she said "So do I!". Maybe we'll meet sometime, then.

On Monday I was walking to the underground station and did, indeed, meet her, waiting at the traffic lights. We started talking, and she asked where I lived.

Me - "Oh, I live at on X Road."
Her - "Really? I used to live there. On the corner of Y."
Me - "Uh, me too. Number N."
Her - "Oh. I lived at N+2."
Both of us - "..."
Me - "So when did you move?"
Her - "Just a couple of months ago. When we came home to be confronted by a psychotic burglar. He came over the fence from your place."
Me - " D: "

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