March and April


Yours truly.

Practicing evacuating casualties from HUMVEE's.

The body armor adds about 30 lbs, figure in fully loaded magazines, water and other gear, and a guy like me is pushing 250 lbs -- its not easy to pull me out.

The best time for evacuating four casualties including weapons and mission sensitive items was 26 seconds.

Some of us had to see the medics for real after being tossed around.

A gunner and his spotter site in on the M-249 SAW range. Squad Automatic Weapon.

It's about 3,000 meters to that furthest target, however the weapon is really only accurate up to about 800 meters, or eight football fields stacked end-to-end.

The weapons fires rounds the same size as an M4 or M16 and while you can insert a standard magazine, the preferred ammunition is belt fed.

Still smoking.

Soldiers prepare to embark on a land navigation course using a map, compass and protractor. They will look for orange and white markers like the one behind them. Most of the points are about a mile or 1/2 mile apart, a relatively easy course.

Orange markers are the only things found on a land navigation course. Do you think Geico knows he's out here?

Jake the snake also protested our arrival. His picket sign however, was shall we say, slightly more venomous.


Let me introduce you to my little friend.

Just look at these guys. An Air Force guy and our brigade's only 2nd Lieutenant are wiped after the land nav course. All fat and happy with now empty MRE wrappers littered about.

Vehicles are loaded up for the convoy live fire exercise.

Stuart Stovall pretends to do something important so that I could take a picture. Notice the yellow adapter on the end for firing blank rounds -- a required practice run before shooting live ammo.


Range safeties stand up in the back with the cargo hatch open.

My bunk buddy prepares to load out for the advance party to Iraq. I can't wait to get the bottom bunk.

The mess in the picture above (above-right), turned into this. Like Houdini.

Pistol range -- 9 mm Berretta will be standard issue for us in addition to the M4 rifle.

Target range between 15 and 25 meters and pop up for about 3 seconds -- ample time to acquire a good sight picture and engage the target.

The good thing about the ranges is that there's never any down time. Hurry up. Wait. Hurry up. Wait.

My team sergeant. Staff Sergeant Loren Gray. Don't let his goofy grin fool you -- this Oregonian can put a magazines worth of rounds through a hole the size of a quarter at 300 meters.


Specialist Chance Avery; a steely-eyed soldier from Georgia. Barely in his 20s, Avery rumbled across Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division as it sprinted toward Baghdad during the initial invasion back in the Spring of 2003. He volunteered to go back.

Doc Hall, the company medic fresh back from Afghanistan, tries to stay strong. Although he is not an 18D, he has deployed with A-teams and has been through much of the same live tissue training.