Monday, February 22, 2010


So, after doing this workout a while, I've realized I haven't allocated much recovery time into it at all. Given the weight and intensity of the exercise, I reckon I should probably rethink it for a while. It did however boost my metabolism a good bit, but I'm afraid if I continue the result will be injury. Last night I clean and pressed 180 pounds ten times during my eight exercise workout. Thats more than ten pounds over my current body-weight (the Iraqi diet I've been on has helped a good bit with that... I left Warrior at 175) and a good bit of weight to throw over your head. I'm definitely feeling it today, after wearing all my gear for 10 hours straight. It might do me some good to stick to the traditional methods. Maybe cut the weight training to 2 30 minute sessions 3 days a week or something. I'll figure it out. Anyway, I'm back at Warrior, back to work. Good to be back with my platoon and back out on the road again.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Since I've been out here for a couple days with not much to do, I've taken some time to think about a few things. For one, I think I might have stumbled on a new program for weight training that fits well into a very busy schedule. I've tried it for the past week and I think it will work. The program is based on four 15-20 minute blocks throughout your day five days a week, rather that an hour and a half all at one shot. In that fifteen minutes, you do high intensity weight training consisting of eight exercises of varying numbers of reps. For three of your days, you substitute one session of weight training for explosive plyometrics. For your sixth training day, all four blocks are a cardio/plyometric mix. The seventh day is always rest. Keep in mind this has to be paired with a good nutrition program in order to truly produce the results everyone wants. Theoretically, the metabolic effect of intense exercise at different times during the day will result in the body's ability to burn fat for a longer period of time throughout the day, as well as increase flow of endorphins and energy. You'll burn fat and stay energized longer, while producing the same or better results than your 2 hour gym rat buddies. I've set my program up for my blocks to hit the time I wake up, right before lunch, right before dinner, and around bedtime. So pretty much, 0530-1130-1700-2100 daily. This is all of course mission dictated, and must be flexible in order to facilitate for a busy lifestyle. Not everyone has a whole hour to an hour and a half every day to go to the gym. Some are lucky to have an hour three days a week. Pretty much everyone has fifteen minute blocks of free time, and its high time somebody took advantage of that time. In theory, since you are only doing one set of each exercise, you should be able to lift more weight than if you're saving it for 3 sets. Multiply the increase of weight by the number of blocks per day and you will be doing more WORK than your average workout, in turn producing better results. Also, since you are only doing one set, you can put a good amount of time and effort into your technique. No one gets results with crappy technique, unless you call injuries and decreased ranges of motion "results". Focus on your form, do the work, and you'll see results you won't believe. This is different from anything you've tried before, but the exercises are basic. No inverted triple sow-cow handstand leg lift twirly-press squats here. Just basics. Here are the exercises: 1 Overhead Squat, 2 Clean and Press, 3 Bench Press, 4 Bent-Over Row, 5 Pullup, 6 Dip, 7 Weighted Situp, 8 Deadlift. Simple. For most exercises, find what you can handle for 12 reps, and do 10. If you get a little froggy add weight for your next block later that day. For situps do at least 15 reps as heavy as you can without swinging. Maintain control over your body movements. And don't be the one with 45s on your chest doing situps. Be a warrior and put the weight behind your head where it should be. The resistance from a ten pound weight behind your head is approximately the same as a 45 on your chest. For overhead squats, do all 12reps. The overhead squat is the great separator for most. It is by far the most difficult squat, but it also is a test on the flexibility of your body and will help you find your weak spots that you can work on. The Clean and Press is probably my favorite exercise. Its full body movement, POWER exercise that if used in proper form will yield increases in power unimaginable. Bench press is well, bench press. Its a great staple, and undoubtedly the number one exercise for chest. Its an exercise anyone can do, anyone can do with good form, and anyone can do well. The bent-over row is pretty much a backwards bench press. It engages your back, but having the bent-over stance rather than the seated row helps you to develop stabilizers and engages additional muscle groups in execution. Pull ups... as much as most people hate them are one of the best exercises you can do. The only way to get better at them is to do them. Dips are another great deep chest and tricep exercise. Couples with pullups, you'll find your biggest gains here. Do them slow, and pull as deep as you can. The results are worth it. Weighted situps are a monster. The added resistance from the additional weight rather than gravity will amaze you. Think of it as adding weight to a fulcrum. Gravity only does so much. To build the strength you have to add the resistance. Don't slack on the deadlifts. Concentrate on your form and do the work, no matter how tired you'll be. Doing them will be tough, but worth it. On your plyometric blocks the possibilities are endless. They're body weight controlled, and as long as the exercise is explosive, its effective. If your heart isn't pounding after a block of plyo, you're not working hard enough. Push yourself. This program is made to be applicable to anyone. Try to fit in at least six plyometric exercises, if not eight. It will be tough, but the results will be worth it. Try it once, and if you like it, post a comment and I'll try to write more ideas. Seriously though, try it. You'll hate me tomorrow, want to kill me two days from now, but give it six weeks and you'll love me forever. All for now.


So, while I was sitting here yesterday waiting on a flight back to Warrior, I noticed a group of Iraqis gathering on a field, so I figured I'd walk out and see what was up. Turns out they were setting up for a game of Cricket. They invited us to play, and since really there wasn't much else to do, we agreed, provided they show us how to play. Well, I had a blast. We didn't have enough people for a real game, as there are 11 on each side and we had about 8 guys total, but we still made it fun. The bat is heavy, somewhere between a baseball bat, a hockey stick, and the "board of education". Its flat on one side. The swing, best I can figure is somewhere between a baseball swing and a chip shot in golf. It is a lot like baseball, but not exactly. It reminded me of days in-between games back in little league, playing wall-ball next to the concession stand. The guys don't really have a "field" or "rules" or anything like that, its just for fun. They do enjoy the competition though. Our "field" was the corner of a makeshift muddy soccer field with goals made from steel bars and camo netting. We had no lights but an old yellow street light. Old parking barriers as wickets and bumpers. No helmets, no gloves, no pads, like a bunch of kids on a sandlot. Just a few soldiers from different walks of life, from different sides of the world, getting through a deployment the same way.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pacha, Eastern Toilets, and Other Ramblings

Still here in Taji waiting for a flight back to Warrior. Really looking forward to seeing my platoon again, but I'm counting down the days to R&R as well. It will be good to get home for a while before I come back and take the MiTT team. This course has been very interesting, and the experiences have been quite unique. I've tried things I didn't ever think about trying before. I've had about 8 different Iraqi dishes now. I've gotten myself hooked on this chewing gum that tastes like the Pine Tea I used to make in the field. Its an unusual but interesting flavor I can't get enough of. I'm trying to get my interpreters to get me some more for me when I get back to Warrior. I only have 7 pieces left. Cuzi, which is stuffed lamb with rice and a tomato and bread soup, is my favorite so far. The kebabs are also very good. Baklawa is about as good as it gets, although I prefer it from the Kirkuk area over the Baghdad area. The ingredients are richer and more flavorful. As you all know, I love cheese. Baladi cheese, Geimar, and Labaneh are all wonderful, with Baladi being my favorite. Pasha is a delicacy here in Iraq. It is made from the head and innards of a sheep or goat. Yeah, never thought I'd try it. Turns out its not so bad. Eastern toilets... pretty much a hole in the ground. They flush here, so it could be worse. Pretty much you pray you don't fall into your own, takes a little balance. Not great for slick floors. Can't wait to get back to the Western flush toilets of Warrior. Chai Tea here on the Iraqi post has been the closest thing to back home that I've had since I've deployed. Reminds me of the tea we have back at home right before it gets put in the fridge. So much sugar that it barely dissolves it all. Consequently, when added to their chain smoking habits, Iraqi's have a high rate of diabetes and heart disease. Learning the language has been hard, but I'm slowly progressing. It is going to take a lot of practice for me to be able to speak it well. I am getting pretty good at reading it though, and writing it has proved easy for me, although proper spelling is a bit harder. Still learning when to place the dashes and squiggles and dots that make words sound different. After talking with the COL, I found out there is a logistics course later on this spring that I should try to come back for. I'll have to talk to the commander about it upon my return. In other news, I'm turning into a gearhead. The more I read and learn the more I want to work on cars, even if just as a hobby. I'm trying to start a project truck when I get back to the states, I've already got lots of plans. It'll give me plenty to do in El Paso on those days when I don't really feel like wandering around aimlessly at Walmart or driving in heavy traffic. I'm not a huge fan of big city traffic, or big cities for that matter, but El Paso could certainly be worse. I'm planning on taking advantage of the things outside of El Paso as well... there's mountains and cooler weather just 2 and a half hours away, and plenty of weekends to make the best of Fort Bliss. However, having a hobby and a project like the truck will keep me busy and active back in the States where the op tempo will be drastically slower than it is right now for me. As long as I've got something dependable to get me from work and back (and of course walmart and back) the project has no limits. Its really whatever I want it to be. I realize its delayed gratification... it'll probably take me 5-7 years to finish it, but in the end it'll be worth it to me.'s the outlook for leave, best as I have it. I'm coming home, sometime... probably spending a couple days in GA followed by a train ride home to NC, spending some time with family with maybe a vacation somewhere in the middle. All in all its about 2 weeks. Not sure exactly when though. I'll get there when I get there. Wish I could tell you more, but "I got nothin'." Well, guess its about time for me to go sit around and wait a little longer, maybe read a little more. Will write again when I can.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Camp Taji, Iraq

Getting to Taji from Speicher was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. To get to Taji, I got a ride on a Chinook that went to 6 other FOBs en route. Normally that wouldn't be so bad, just a couple of hours in the air. However, this particular Chinook didn't have a working heater. Given that we had snow and freezing rain earlier that day, you can imagine how cold it gets when altitude and speeds climb. There was frost on my glasses, which are plastic, if that gives you any idea how cold it was. The pilots said it was somewhere around zero when they were at altitude. AND there's me, of course, jacket packet away neatly in my rucksack, inaccessible for the whole flight. Other than that, not so bad. So far I've been through one day of training here at COINSOC. Camp Taji splits in half, one side Iraqi, one side American. I'm actually staying on the Iraqi side. There are Iraqi guards at the gates and Iraqi tower guards. The chow hall serves Iraqi food. Call to prayer sounds on the FOB just like in the towns everywhere else in Iraq. We train with them side by side. I have Iraqi instructors for Language, Culture and History. In a couple hours, I'll sit in the Chow hall with my Iraqi food and my American beer, and watch the Super Bowl. We've got a training holiday for the Super Bowl, which is pretty nice. After the game I'll hop a ride to the American side to go to the PX. The basic amenities are all here. There's a PX you can go to (about the size of a small college dormitory room), an Internet cafe for MWR, a laundry facility that has a faster turnaround than the one at Warrior, and a phone center. I'll have access to skype, but only the chat feature. The computers in the lab have skype on them, but no headphones or mics. Did I mention the chow hall is great? I actually enjoy the Iraqi food, its pretty good. We are supposed to go to an authentic Iraqi Restaurant in sector sometime this week. Everything I've heard about it says its some of the best Iraqi food you'll find. I'm looking forward to it. Right now we're still learning the alphabet and how to write words in Arabic. It isn't an easy thing to learn in 3 days, but so far I'm doing OK. The instructor is impressed with my ability to write in Arabic, says it is very accurate, but doesn't like that I write left handed. As far as being able to read what I write and translate... that's a different story. I'm getting there though, slowly but surely. Missing the first day didn't help much. I'm catching up fast though. That's all for now, I'll try to write again later.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Spent pretty much the whole day yesterday trying to fly out to Taji. Had a weigh-in this morning followed by OPT with the Squadron Commander. Nothing like some "Ultimate Football" to get the blood flowing. Its one of the only times we're able to get all of the officers together in one place. It was cold, and it snowed for about half the game, but lots of fun. The snow kinda slowed down travel in Iraq a bit this morning. I couldn't believe it! I was pretty sure it was cold but I certainly didn't expect snow. I guess I can't complain about not seeing snow this year, even if it was mixed with rain and not enough to cover the ground. Heard they got more snow back at home, saw a few pictures online. I got one of the flights I needed, but the second flight was full by the time I got to Speicher. I'm sitting in the terminal here at Speicher right now, waiting to go to a "Cultural Immersion" course at Taji. I'm pretty sure I'll be the only LT going. Everyone I've seen thats going to the same place is Captain or above. There is a Major here that I flew with out of one of the Armor BN in our BDE. He's in charge of an STT in their sector. Speicher is OK, I got here just in time for dinner last night and spent the night in a tent. Dinner was less impressive than Warrior, but I wasn't expecting much. They had a small kitchen that gets supplied by the DFAC for transient guests. The bigger chow hall is a few miles away from here. Yesterday was the first time I had been in a Chinook, they're not so bad. To be honest, they look like they shouldn't be able to fly, but they get from A to B alright. I got a couple pictures flying over Kirkuk. I know its been a while since I've posted anything, I'm averaging once or twice a month. I'm trying to do this a little better. A lot has happened since my last post, a lot that I can't talk about. I'm doing just fine though, skype has been a lifesaver. I just wish my schedule allowed me to call any time other than 1130 at night and 7 in the morning. Lots of things are changing over here, the situation changes from day to day. Some things get easier, some more difficult. All in all its just work. Its only been a day since I've been separated from my platoon, I miss them already. It felt weird not walking out to the trucks this morning with them to go to work. Its only two weeks though, I'll be back soon enough. I just hope nothing happens to them while I'm gone.