Saturday, August 28, 2010

Journey's End, Part 2

Four months of pain, struggle, and hugging came to a glorious end when the class of VPD 050-10 graduated from the Defense Information School on August 24, 2010.

Before graduation, the instructors made sure everyone looked not just presentable, but precisely perfect.  No one was really sure how the Sailors were supposed to look, so I just took shots of the Soldiers taking the brunt of the inspection.

The Army's dress uniform has a lot of stuff on it.  Everything has specific measurements.  The ribbons have to be a certain distance from the medal below it, and so on.

That means more to measure.  And more for Sergeant Mitchell's sharp eye to find unsat.


Smith works on correcting her jacket while Youmans thinks about how happy he is to pass inspection.


Graduation was great, and the room was filled with lots of "HUAs".  Staff Sergeant Hernandez
was the guest speaker.  His advice to the class was very poignant.  He said "enjoy what you do".

I've had a lot of instructors in my year here, and the ones that enjoy their work are the most effective teachers and role models.  And the branches that place value in this role see the investment pay off with motivated, well-educated men and women.

My Uncle Gilbert is a U.S. Navy veteran, and had many good words of advice for me.

He served as a cook, and advised:  "Get to know the cooks!"

It's always good to have family around, and they were out in force once again.  From left: Uncle Gilbert, Aunt Ruth, Lois Slaughter (ma), Aunt Martha Hinkley, Danny Hinkley, Glenn Slaughter (dad), Kathy Slaughter, Grandma Jean.

On a side note, Corporal Elorza has been unhappy with me lately for not including him in the blog more.  He's informing me of this in the above photo.

Here's the last bit of fame I can offer you...bask in it my friend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Navy Officer - Pool Shark

As I leaned around the doorway to sneak a shot of LT, I realized my ninja skills were no match.  She was already watching me.

WARNING:  This blog may soon fall short of the "new post every other day" target.  (it already has)  I'm studying for E-4.  I graduate on Tuesday and go on leave until I fly out to San Diego shortly after.  I play on the beach on leave, and try to take a break from computers.

My new duty station is the USS Nimitz.  I may try to catch up on the huge backlog of posts, from Fort Meade amenities, to HART, to ... /sigh

And now:

A belated sendoff to Lieutenant Renee Soltes!

I've been here long enough to see an almost complete change in the DINFOS Navy detachment's chain of command.  LT was the last to leave, after CS2 Preston and Chief Carter. 

We hold meetings (quarters) in the mornings and afternoons, and she was always right there to give words of wisdom.  Every Friday, she gave a weekend speech that covered topics that were sometimes pretty sensitive.  (ex: unprotected sex) 

Lt. Soltes was the final say, the stern force against which every action ultimately would be judged.  A former chief, she cared about our success as Sailors, and took her job very seriously.  After all, it's not every day you're trusted to care for 100 newbies, many of whom are away from home for the first time.

Thank you for everything.  Best of luck to you at your next duty station ma'am!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Final Documentary - A New Frontier

For the past three days we've been shooting our final documentary videos at the Howard County Fair.  It's the final stretch, and the VPD students realized they were standing within sight of the end of school.

Many also realized they were standing in pig manure. 

We split up into several teams to cover whatever aspect of the fair we chose.  This group is covering a pig race.  They set up four cameras to get every angle and interviewed the owners and audience members.

Scaringi's group decided to tell the story of this master wood sculptor.  They spent their days covered in wood chips.

My group shot the amusement rides section.  Getting to know the ride operators lead to some good interviews.

Getting the camera down to kid level is important in an interview.  These two girls were pretty nervous but their mom couldn't stop smiling.

The man on the golf cart ran the front entrance and drove us all over the place.  When we needed a long shot of the fair, he taxied us to the perfect spot.

The upside to shooting at a fair is the food!  D'Ambrogi gives some funnel cake to a giddy Scaringi.

Guibert and Ropp introduced me to honey sticks.  I'm not a big fan of honey, but these were very alright.

Demon the miniature horse likes people.  He was like a big dog.  I have no idea why his name is Demon.

Soldiers and Marines play happily together on the swings.  Awwwww!

Pops dragged me onto the Zipper.  The hands on the right belong to a very unhappy Sailor.

On the ride home, Percell shows his newly-won prize to an unappreciative Gibson.

All the kids went to sleep with Uncle Slaughter watching over them.  Seriously, this photo isn't even posed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

VPD Field Training Exercise

I am a bad guy.

I kneel behind a log for cover and wait for the enemy.  My squad knows what direction they're coming from.  And we know they're searching for our weapons cache.  Through the thick forest, I catch glimpses of Army and Marine uniforms moving towards me.  I am confident that my weapon will fire.  I'm doubtful of the accuracy of its ammunition.

They come in a hail of paint and war cries.  Twenty feet to to my left, I hear my buddy go down.  The left flank is exposed.  We're too spread out!  I call for the man behind me to fill in the gap.  Too late, the hole fills with a Marine bent on destroying me.  Suddenly, fire comes from ahead and to the left.  I hit the dirt and attempt to hold back the green flood.

I realize I am going to die, just before a searing pain fills my head.

I have been shot in one of the worst places to get hit by a paintball, the top of the head.  Corporal Elorza quickly strips me of my ammo and moves on with another Marine.

Welcome to Video Production & Documentation's FTX.

FTX, or Field Training Exercise, is two days of working under simulated combat situations.  It's designed to get students out of the classroom, and their comfort zones.

In the morning, the class marched roughly three miles to the FTX site.  We all carried rifles.  I didn't do this for my 'A' school FTX.  Let me tell you, after the first 30 minutes, carrying an M-16 gets uncomfortable.  It has to be held in an unnatural position so it can be brought quickly up to firing position.

Here a student assigned to tape the march stands on a hill for a better view of the formation.  I had to run to catch up, as the troops marched fast.  It's the price you pay for being a blogger.

 Johnson helps Cpl. Elorza get ready to shoot me in the head.

Many of us ran out of ammo during the various scenarios throughout the day.  We either took it off dead bodies or found a buddy to share with.  Here Johnson shares with Cpl. Elorza, so he can keep shooting people in the head.

After each scenario, the assigned shooter found someone to interview.  The interviewee talked about what just happened and the purpose of the exercise.

 Pops displays a war wound.  If it'd been a bullet, he'd be dead.

Specialist Youmans is a gung-ho Combat Cameraman.  He's on this log to get an overhead angle on our group.  Let me clarify, this was after the scenario had ended.  He's not that gung-ho.


Back at the tents, shooters edited their raw footage into 30-45 second videos.  We then transmitted the finished product to a server.  As a Mass Communication Specialist, footage I obtain in the field could be seen by the world within hours.

The Soldiers were not impressed by the MREs.  Unlike Sailors, they eat them all the time.  Here Shaver helps me open mine.  I am excited.

I will literally eat and enjoy ANYTHING for any amount of time.  That southwest beans and rice was super delicious.

At night, we learned about night vision.   In-line systems attach to the camera lens, and allow us to see in pitch black conditions.

Dettling holds a glow stick that was later used to demonstrate the night vision equipment's capabilities.

We got in our too-short cots at 10 pm, and were asleep at 10:02 pm.  Mass Communication Specialist First Class DeLeon snores really loud.

 Hooyah VPD 050-10!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Navy leaders (studying for E-4)

 Section Leaders must "walk the talk" knowing they are role models.

So I'm sitting here studying for the E-4 advancement exam, which I'm eligible to take next month.  There's ALOT of stuff to study.  I have to get back to it, but I wanted to post an example of what I'm reading.  Here's a couple of excerpts that represent a recurring theme:

"Recognize your position as a leader and a role model. “Walk the talk,” knowingyour actions influence others."

"Be concerned with, and responsible for, the well-being of those in your charge. Be universally fair to all, regardless of the situation."

I've worked for a lot of organizations, and this kind of stuff was almost always absent in the training manuals.  For over three years, I was a quality control manager in a video editing firm that invested ZERO formal leadership training in its people.  

I know the world is not black and white, but those excerpts are the real deal.  It's what works in leadership roles.  I tell new Section Leaders the most important thing they can do is "care."  If you care about your people, everything else usually falls into place.

/sigh Blogging is so much more fun than studying...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Health & Comfort

Health & Comfort is Navy code for:

"You better not have anything illegal because everything's getting searched."

That's what happened yesterday.  After school everyone mustered in the day room and was told to go stand outside their rooms.  While me and the other 'C' schoolers patrolled the p-way, an army of instructors, including our new OIC (Officer In Charge), searched every room for alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc.

A student prepares to open his door for a 2nd class petty officer to search.  Most were fine.  Some ended up wishing they'd followed the rules.  Hopefully this was a wake up call for Sailors here.  This is the military, and it doesn't pay to roll the dice.

Afterwards, Chief Currie and our OIC, Lieutenant Commander Cummings, talked to the students about the importance of keeping your sh*t straight.  Cleanliness was the big focus, as a few of the rooms were kind of nasty.  Mama ain't here to tell you to clean your room!