Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Infamous 8 Hour Pass

I am still reeling from the emotional roller coaster that was the infamous 8 hour pass.

A blissful moment to break up the monotony of missing my to-be Ranger, a happy re-union between phases, an opportunity for me to shower him with love and nourishment and for him to catch up on some much needed rest...

I woke up at 3 in the morning a FULL WEEK before the pass panicking that I only have one opportunity to re-fuel my other half, to give him enough energy to make it through the next 40 days, to relay all the wisdom I can find on what he should focus on to get a Go through mountains and swamp phase... and not show him just how much I've been missing him.  It was more stressful than finals!  Also, I read up enough not to be shocked that he had so much to get done on his pass that he had could afford very little time to sleep.

So I approached it as a pit-stop.  A very quick opportunity to replace all the tires, tighten the bolts (or whatever they actually do at a pit-stop) and give him the momentum to get through as a first-time go, God-willing.  I knew his priorities would be food, sleep, shower, sleep, food, reassurance, love, in that order, somewhat reminiscent of Maslow's hierarchy of needs!

It was sooo wonderful to meet some of the other wives/fiances/girlfriends the morning we picked them up and relay our crazy stories of preparation, anxiety, and excitement.  There's so much we can learn from each other, so I'll share our experience for whatever it's worth!

His particular class was released just after 9am.  I got there at 8:30 (didn't want food to get cold) but many wives had been there since 8 or before.  Oh, and there=the parking lot that you have to turn at the Ranger sign to get to, where many dropped their guys off at.  (Anyone have better directions?)

1. Food! 
I expected him to be SO HUNGRY. Which he was, but over 3 weeks of semi-starvation he got full very quickly.  A lot of the guys sent food wish-lists in their letters (how nice!) but I got to guess.  As much as I wanted to make all of his favorite foods (enough to feed an army!) I tried to balance out the sweets/delicious foods (red velvet donuts, fried chicken, barbecue chips...) with stuff that would sneakily boost his immune system and "stick to the ribs" (thanks for all the advice Courtney!) like whole wheat banana nutella bread, french spinach, oranges, and Emergen-C drinks.

I was concerned about the foods he craved being a shock to his body after 3 weeks of MRE's, and since some of the guys seemed to get a bit sick by the end of the pass, this is something to keep in mind!  I'm seriously hoping the probiotics and vitamin C I semi-force-fed him will help counteract that...

We went straight to Commando's as soon as I picked him up to make sure we wouldn't run out of time later.  It was so hard to see him fade in and out of focus trying to stay awake and remember what he needed!  I heard he might need to re-stock 550 cord, a fleece watch cap, gum, t-shirts, socks and whatnot. He also needed foot powder, a new headlamp, and an extra bite valve for his camelback.  It would have been so nice to have some idea what things they usually run out of so he wouldn't have to guess!  Anyone have suggestions for the guys going through next month?

3. Laundry
This might seem really obvious, but I've seriously googled it before.  Cleaning infamous red Georgia clay out of ACU's is ridiculous.  Fortunately, stains don't matter in Ranger School like they do in IBOLC.   But his laundry REEKED of a bizarre potent chemical smell he casually explained as decaying muscle.  My best solution so far is two cycles on hot with laundry soap, OxiClean and a few cups of Borax.  Start early.

4. Haircut
Do you have any idea how hard it is to shave a man's head when he's literally nodding off?  It's a funny balancing act of holding his head with one hand and shaving it with the other.  Just don't forget a haircut!

5. TLC
Yay! The happy un-stressful part of our precious time together!  And something I finally did Not need to read up on.

5. Sleeeeep. 
He sweetly insisted from the moment I picked him up that he didn't need sleep, he'd rather spend time with me.  Aww...but in the same breath of saying this at least four times he nodded off and started snoring. Cute.  He was rather upset when I was finally able to wake him up 3 hours later, but let's face it, if I couldn't wake him up 4 times, he needed the sleep!

In fact, on the way back to Ranger School (after naps!) he and B and I were having a conversation in the car... a lively conversation...and suddenly I looked around and they were both passed out sitting up. God bless.  I cannot imagine.

My awesome dad-in-law sent me an article not too long ago (i'll find it again eventually) about the power we have in sending our guys off rather than the natural inclination of "please don't leave me!!"
Instead of leaving them guilty or sad about going it's an opportunity to strengthen them, validate their journey, and, in a way, send them off with all our strength.

As simple as this concept might be, to someone as new to the military as I am, I've had to cling to the idea of using my role as his help-mate and other half to send him off to succeed!

Sorry this post ended up as a short novel!  I've learned SO much in the past few weeks, I just hope this is useful if your guy's pass is coming up, and if you just went through this too please share your experience and tips!

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Day of Phone Calls and Visits

Ladies, I am absolutely green with envy for those of you who were able to see your men today. I wish Texas was much closer to Georgia than it was... but if wishes were kisses, I'd be diabetic. So, for those of you who got to see your strapping lads in uniform, good on you! I hope you got plenty of hugs and smiles.

To say this was an emotional day would be like saying that Hurricane Katrina had a little bit of wind and rain. Work was hectic -- of course the excrement hits the oscillating blades on the day that they get their pass. We're go-live critical, and all the things on my plate are being requested... "needed them yesterday." Well, sorry, chief, that ain't gonna happen when the components I needed for my deliverables were given to me yesterday. *big cheesy smile that disarms men because it's both terrifying and unusual*

Then I get a 1 minute call from B. Oh my gosh I had forgotten how much I missed his voice. And, with my luck, I coughed (didn't want him to know I'm sick), and he instantly hones in on it. "Are you sick? What's wrong? Flu?" Yeah, okay, you just spent 3 weeks in the field getting your ass handed to you, let's talk about my sniffles. Gah. That man.

Then again, I get a call, and managed to scurry out to the hallway to take it, it's from his cell. Meaning he's home! We catch up as quickly as we ever have, and 20 minutes later, I'm getting back to work and he's going to regroup. Looking forward to a potential FaceTime later today before he reports back.

He tells me how miserable it is. This guy never complains about anything -- ANYTHING. And if he does he just laughs and says "Gotta embrace the suck." And he gave me the stats -- somewhere around 400 people started in his company.... like 170 are making it to the next round. That's both drops and recycles. That is a 42% "pass to the next phase" rate. In. Sane. I don't even want to know what the Mountain Phase is going to bring, statistic-wise. I'm just proud of his attitude.

Additionally, he said they had withheld mail the whole time. Figured as much. And a few of my letters had smooch marks on them (ha, sorry sweetie), and he got "teased".... as in the guys saw it and went "oooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhh". Whatever, so long as he didn't get punished with push ups. I had included in the package Extra dessert gum in Root Beer and Apple Pie... and as he was opening it (on the phone) he gets so excited and goes "Oh, man, these are so good, have you tried them?!" Hahaha no, sweetie, those are all yours. I'll try them later...

Such a great day to hear from my to-be Ranger. I could easily be labeled the happiest girl alive right now.... But y'all will probably put that claim to the test, huh?

Stay classy.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ranger School Gets a Facelift

On the IBOLC Dagger Co Facebook page, one of the leaders (cadre) posted this article: Army Revamps Ranger School, Leadership Courses. For those of you who notoriously read the Clif Notes version of the great American novels in school (shame on you!), I'll give some backstory and summarize.

In the past, when men when out on patrol, they'd have a pretty set objective. "Knock out a bunker," and "set up an ambush" and "respond to an ambush" were the ones I heard the most from B's time in ROTC. I heard about them so often I sometimes think I could participate in one and know what I'm doing. I exaggerate, of course.

However, this article explains that if the men get their orders to go, say, raid a bunker, and they get there and they realize the orders have been formulated on bad intelligence, they have to change mid-patrol, and adjust their strategies. This forces them to anticipate the unexpected, to think on their toes, and to respond appropriately. This is excellent news, and bad news at the same time.

Bad news: those men who are used to the standard of operating procedures, or SOP, will probably find it hard to switch things around in the thick of it. This could lead to more recycles, or perhaps even more "drops" from the course. Who knows? It's been implemented since May, so only time will tell.

Excellent news: this is emulates what real battle is like. Men won't simply go into a small village in Afghanistan (or whatever corner of the world we'll be engaging in next...) and just execute a mission, and be back to the FOB for dinner. Plans change, people change, orders change. Having Rangers who are able to think on their toes and respond appropriately could result in fewer casualties due to the inability to respond appropriately. It will also help the men take calculated risks when they cannot necessarily reach their superiors for further instruction.

I'm praying that B maintains the wits I know he possesses, and manages to keep his men together when he is in charge. He's going to do well, I have absolute faith in him, but a little extra guidance from the Lord never is a bad thing.

Stay classy.

Trivial fact of the day: An acronym is when you pronounce the letters together like a word (i.e. NASA, POG, etc). However, if you only say the letters, it's called an initialism (FBI, CIA, NYPD...).

Boom. Your life has just been enriched.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Okay ladies, I messed up big time. I ordered some caffeine gum to stick in letters for B to help stay awake... MAJOR NO-NO. The Ranger packing list specifically says "nothing with caffeine." Awesome. So that last post about the caffeine gum is moot -- do not buy it! I will have to return the stuff I was planning on sending to B.

Just worried about those Arnold Palmer drinks I sent him... Anyone know when they get their care packages? I'm praying hard that it's not when they can get into trouble for having caffeine....

Moral of the story: Read the packing list for unauthorized items!!
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Monday, September 24, 2012

If You Give a Ranger a Cookie...

He's going to ask for a glass of milk! Or he's just going to take it, wolf it down, and run to the next Ranger game.

I got B's letter yesterday after coming home from Ft. Worth/Dallas (had an awesome time, too, but that's another story). Aside from telling me what he was doing, he said it was amazing how tired and hungry he had gotten in a couple of days. And how it was hard to focus on the page when he was writing (I winced at that).

But he also said that in their sleep deprived state, they are taught class after class after class, and that Rangers were literally falling off of bleachers because they were asleep. In order to keep themselves awake, they'd go and stand up so they wouldn't fall asleep as easily. Lovely, right?

So I was wracking my brain thinking on how to possibly help him stay awake during fire watch, patrols, classes... and all of the above. Then I remembered a product I had heard grad students using to study cram for the GRE's.

It was caffeine gum, and while I can't remember the brand, I did find this product which got fairly good reviews. Only problem is that it comes only in the "fresh breath" flavors, not the dessert/fruity flavors that B specifically asked for me to send in all of my letters. You know it's bad if he's making special requests. He's the lowest maintenance guy ever.

Has anyone ever used this? I'm thinking if finicky civilians are giving it a good review, and it's manufactured by Wrigley's, it has to be fairly reputable. Right? I think I will purchase some and send them Brian's way, with a mix of those and the fruity gum.

Stay classy, my friends.
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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Some Ideas

Hello ladies,

I first want to thank you for letting me be apart of this blog. Communication is the biggest element in my life, and this blog will help me while D is away. Now, I want to share with you ladies what I have done for D that he said it was a great way to lift his spirit. I read about Ranger School before hand and saw that RI’s like to make the soldiers feel unloved, unwanted, and isolated for their love ones by holding their letters. I don’t know if that is true, but I did not want that to happen if it is. In D's mini notebook pads I put around 30 posted notes about how much I love him and cute pick-up lines that I got off this website Here. I just picked what I knew would make D laugh. There is so many off that website that I am sure you could find ones that fit you and your man.

Thanks to Katy, I learned that we can send care-packages. I went to Walmart for the items and let me tell you it wasn’t easy walking out of that store without everything in it. I know what D’s favorite foods are, but I don’t think spending a juicy hamburger from Indiana, or any state in that matter, would work to well. The picture below is what I ended up getting for him. I also got my whole family to write words of encouragement. D’s mother is sending a care-package too with his families words of encouragement.

I saw on Pinterest a cute way to count down the days of a pregnancies. I reinvented the idea to work in this situation. Everyday I have been taking a picture of myself with how many days we have left to go. My idea is that I am going to put the picture into a poster with the last picture really big and all of our family holding a sign saying  “ZERO” .  I will post it up after  Ranger School so you can see it.

Side note: I have been spraying my perfume on every letter and kissing it with red lip stick. My internship involves working with children, so I have sent him some of their colorings as well as mine.
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Voting in the Woods

Ready to totally nerd out with me?

Today I suddenly realized that our guys will be gone for the entirety of this year's voting process. (Unless they have a break in Ranger School to vote....HA! dream on.)
As the political science nerds that my husband and I are, whether our votes statistically count worth a darn or not, being part of the process is still pretty important.

As long as I've known him, I don't think he's ever gone a day without checking to "see what's going on in the world," as he puts it, so I've been sending little news summaries with my letters every now and then.  Making the news upbeat and chirpy is a challenge!  But satire and ridiculous quotes from the upcoming election help. :)

That being said, as comical as sending my guy a ballot out in the field seems, the odds are that it might be important to him, so I found out about absentee voting for the military in a pretty easy format here:

Deadlines: (TX)
Voter Registration: Oct. 9
Absentee Ballot Application: Oct. 30

The link above makes the process incredibly simple, I just have a form printed out for M to sign on his leave pass, and I'll send him the ballot at Ranger School.

It makes me wonder, were I to be isolated in the woods for a few months, what part of the real world (besides basic needs and relationships!) would I miss the most?  Do your guys have a niche they can't live without?
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7 Weeks to Go!

That's right! In exactly 7 weeks, we will be heading to Ft. Benning to see our men graduate (knock on wood). And, in 1 week, they will be getting their 8 hour pass!

Really, if you look at this time as 3 separate 3 week chunks, it's much easier to digest than "oh my gosh, 9 weeks?!"

Does anyone have any plans for this weekend to take their mind off of the lonely time? I'm planning on going to Fort Worth/Dallas to hang out with some old college girlfriends, and I am so excited about it! I haven't seen these ladies in nearly 4 months, and that is just simply too long.

49 days until graduation... 7 days until their pass!
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hello! Here is what I know. All of it.

Hey all!

I’m loving the direction this little community is taking.  Thanks for taking the lead, Courtney!
I’m Katy, a newlywed army wife lost here in the piney woods of Fort Benning.  My husband M and I met in college (through Model United Nations, no joke!) and got married right after graduation in December.  In fact, we were crazy enough to graduate, have his commissioning ceremony and have a wedding all in one weekend! It was fun.

I’m a traveler at heart.  My blog, The Rambling Nomad, has held that title long before I even met my army/nomad husband, and I swore I’d go on adventures with him around the world and back in a heartbeat!  But all the adventures I’d been on, and that we’d been on, were ours.  Following the army and learning to be a “dependent” is a straight uphill learning curve, but I’m determined to make the most of it!

He’s currently in Ranger School on day 10, and to make these next 51 days fly by I’m working part time, studying for the LSAT, and balancing all that out with some fun, when possible. :) Even if, without my other half, that involves pinterest projects, eating "soul food,"exploring Georgia, and more tv than I’ve watched in my entire life. (hgtv and cnn in the background 24/7 make the house a lot less empty!) 

So while M was in IBOLC, I supported him where I could, but mostly in the form of TLC.  It wasn’t until he had 2 1/2 days to pack for Ranger School that it really took all the effort both of us could muster to get him ready to go, and that gave me a little leeway on interfering in his job by researching the living daylights out of everything he might need or might come across in the months ahead!  Looking back, I probably tackled Ranger School packing like a full fledged college research paper, just because I finally had a chance to truly help him out. 

Sorry to digress, but I’ll start with the basics, simply because so many of the awesome ladies I’ve met here at Benning are about to experience this magic in another month, and these links might save a lot of time and headaches! 

The Basics: Schedule, Maps and Mail

  • Particularly useful are the “Ranger School Brief” PDF that includes a day-by-day schedule, 
  • “Student Mail” tab at the top - you can send letters without Co. or Platoon info and it will still reach your man until you get a letter from him with the info. Just make sure to include what class they're in (like Class 2-13)
  • “Graduation,” which includes a map not only of graduation, but where to drop them off for Day 0.  
Directions might seem basic, but as M and his buddy piled into our car the morning of and I asked, “Ok, where to?” I was met by silence.  I typed in “Hourglass Road” on my iphone maps and discovered a part of post I never knew was there, but this would be good to know ahead of time:

Preparation & Packing:  

Wisdom from Experience: Ranger School Support Blogs

Thanks a million to these wonderful Ranger School wives and girlfriends for writing a guide to what we’re all wondering from home!  They’re definitely getting me through this time with a lot more comfort and sanity.  In fact, Lindsey’s blog was the inspiration for all this! 

Day By Day Journals:

For all the gorey details of what they're going through right now.  I'm so stinking proud of them!  

Please add on to this!  It’s just a start, but probably a lot more effective than manically googling “ranger school letters”! Just saying. 
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Ranger School Breakdown!

Hey all! Just one more quick post -- I'm hearing that some of y'all are getting letters from your man! That's so great!!! Any correspondence is a lifesaver, isn't it? Makes the whole week better.

However, I did read somewhere that some RI's hold back mail from some Ranger candidates (and of course now that I'm looking for it, I can't find it to link up). I'm not sure if this is true, or false, or exaggerated, but I imagine if it is true, it's to make the guy feel isolated, unloved, discouraged. He may even write "why aren't you writing me?" in his letters. If you were expecting support from him, and it appeared he didn't care, wouldn't you feel the same way?

Don't freak out. Snail mail will get him the freakout five days later, or longer, and there will be a huge cross in communications. Calmly write that you're writing him daily (or however often you're sending out letters), and that you hope they are delivered soon... then go on with your message.

Secondly, something I thought I'd post:

Postcards from Vistaprint! I created these as he was leaving, and received them in the mail a few business days after he left. I then addressed one to me, one to his family, and stamped them. This way, if he has no time whatsoever to sit down and write a letter (and I hope he doesn't because he's choosing sleep over writing), then he can at least check the boxes and write a quick note.

I think after shipping and handling, and buying additional envelopes (something I'd probably leave out next order), the whole thing cost me $17. Plus, I made them sort of generic, so he can use them after Ranger School, maybe for Air Assault or Pathfinder or whatever he tries to do next.

Oh, and the blog I was reading from my first post yesterday can be found here. Be warned though.... It's gripping.

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