Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Platoon mailing address

I've had a few people email me asking for my mailing address over here, so here it is:

2LT Brian Maurer
Blue PLT, Apache Troop, TF Destroyer
FOB Pasab, Afghanistan
APO   AE  09370

I personally do not need anything in particular, but I will happily pass along everything to my platoon. My guys are set as far as hygiene items are concerned, but everyone could always use snacks/sweets or caffeinated items. Thanks in advance to anyone that helps out!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

and I am finally a platoon leader in combat

After a very short wait that seemed to drag on forever, I was given the honor of leading a platoon. I had a very short notice to pack up all my bags and get on a convoy heading out to my new home: Masum Ghar.
If you do happen to google it, please ignore the photos that show up of celebrities visiting the base. Those days are long gone here since we are in the process of shutting down FOBs/COPs everywhere. I'd say the living conditions that we now have here are lower than what I had at COP Tangi in 2010, but they're still certainly not bad at all. And my goodness does it feel good to be away from FOB Pasab.
Anyways, my life is currently consumed with signing for the platoon's property and trying to figure out as much as I can before the guy I'm replacing leaves. Eventually I'll get some photos up on here.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

PowerPoint and energy drinks

Sometimes half the battle can simply be won by looking good, and today the Afghans looked good while briefing their election security plan for their entire Brigade AO. 4 years ago I would have laughed myself to death at the mental image of the Afghan Army briefing a Brigade plan off a 40 foot by 40 foot terrain model while simultaneously utilizing Microsoft PowerPoint on a projection screen. And to top it off, one of the lower enlisted Afghans brought everyone an 8 ounce Rip It(one of the only energy drinks available on FOBs over here).

Impressive, but what will they do when we return to America with all of the tech support guys and our seemingly endless supply of Rip Its? We'll find out soon if the ANSF can win the other half of the battle.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Duty calls again

I consider myself a patriot. I love my country and what our flag stands for. Tonight I will be leaving everyone and everything I love and begin another journey to Afghanistan. It's much more difficult to leave this time now that I have a family and have been out of the fight for a few years, but my situation is no different than the vast majority of the other soldiers who are deployed.

Despite the fact that the news rarely brings it up, we are still actively at war in Afghanistan. Men and women are still taking the fight to the enemy every single day. Once I get my platoon, I will be responsible for kids who were as young as 6 or 7 when 9/11 happened. This is not their war, but yet they still chose the honorable route of joining the Army. I will also have soldiers who are on their 4th or 5th deployment. They've embraced the suck time and time again and been through more misery than any civilian could ever imagine or truly appreciate, yet they'll be there willingly fighting side by side with me one more time.

My point is this: The one thing I do not want to hear about my service(and I hate even calling it that) is sympathy. Sympathy is exactly what I received from the cashier at Best Buy last week when I bought my new camera for deployment and she asked what it was for. When I told her, she made a sad face and said "oh I'm so sorry".

 Instead, do what you can to support your military. You don't have to send care packages or spend lots of money. It can be as easy as doing what your local(and national) news does not do, and simply remind others that America is still at war. Find ways to donate towards groups like the Wounded Warrior Project. Find a spouse whose husband/wife is deployed and take them a meal one night a week. Most of all, pray for those who are deployed overseas and living a life constantly under the threat of mortar attacks, VBIEDs, and suicide bombers. Just think how different your life would be if everyday there was a legitimate chance your home/business/work place could literally be blown up without warning.

All I am asking from anyone who reads this is their prayers. My soldiers and I will need them every day. I'll do what I can to keep this updated while I'm overseas, and if my guys are needing anything important I'll be sure to post it on here.

Thanks in advance to those who still read this despite these past couple years of boredom. Hopefully things will pick up soon.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Round 2 is coming up quick

I'll be heading off to Afghanistan sometime in the next 2 weeks. Round 2 will be much more different than my first experience.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The end of an era

A major chapter in our lives is about to end: we will be leaving Fort Benning this Saturday after spending the first three years of our marriage here. Our next home will be in Colorado Springs as I join 3-61 Cav, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division and quickly deploy to Afghanistan. 

Our time here at Benning was quite memorable. Here's the "highlights":

 Destin, Florida quickly became our favorite spot to vacation. We stayed at the Motel6 for a whopping $55 a night and spent all day at the beach drinking homemade vodka-lemonades from the 2 gallon jug we carried with us everywhere. Those were some rough times.

We discovered that Savannah HATES para-sailing over the ocean.

I bonded with my sister-in-law at a family friend's wedding.

I dislocated and broke my ankle at the pre-ranger course. It hurt.

We did some volunteering in Biloxi, Mississippi and helped paint a house for someone displaced by hurricane Katrina.

We got to meet Sebastian Junger at the PX on base. You could still see the pain in his eyes from losing his friend Tim Hetherington months after it happened.

Went to our first Packers game together in Atlanta. All of those empty seats belonged to Falcons fans who couldn't stand seeing their team get demolished by Green Bay.

We picked up this little guy for $400. He has turned out to be worth every penny.

I quickly learned how important it was to be able to suture his chew-toy lions back together. We eventually ended up with 5 toy lions that Duke would destroy on a rotational basis.

 Duke learned how ridiculously boring it is to drive home to Wisconsin every Christmas.

 Everyone learned the hard way that Duke still takes inappropriate photos even though we had him "fixed".

We got roofied from an open bottle of tequila that I brought home from a Best Ranger competition event. There is no photo with this because Savannah and I remember absolutely nothing after we made our first margarita with that tequila at our apartment. Just goes to show that sometimes you can't even trust a bunch of 30 and 40 year old rich people at a donor event involving Rangers. Needless to say, we did not finish the rest of the bottle and decided it was best to throw it in the garbage.

 Duke miraculously won a prize at obedience school. I really wish we had also played the lottery that day.

We had an awesome concert with Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum. I even scored a bonus that night when the girl next to us lost her shirt for a little bit.

I tried to teach Duke how to wrestle, but he always ended up losing. I always ended up covered in drool and fur.

Savannah made her first ever hole-in-one on a mini-golf course in Panama City.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time hand-sewing a ghillie suit for sniper school. I was really surprised it turned out so well considering I always sewed with one hand while holding my whiskey/7-up in the other hand.

 But the hard work all paid off in the end. I had never imagined I would be a sniper-qualified soldier in the Army.

 My dad and I reached a new personal best in elevation out in Colorado. That day was also the first time I heard my dad utter the phrase "I am so sick of this s**t" while we side-sloped for a solid half mile on loose rocks. Good times. Our next battle will be conquering Long's Peak.  

 I embraced my inner math geek and passed Pathfinder school. I couldn't have done it without my wife willingly agreeing to only talk to me at dinner and at bedtime. Every other minute of the afternoon/night was spent studying.

I commissioned as an Armor 2LT and kissed my days as an enlisted soldier goodbye. Picking a branch was an extremely difficult decision. There were a few days when I had contemplated picking an "easy" branch like Quartermaster or Transportation(I mean nothing negative by that), but even my wife pointed out to me that I would never have the same pride in my job as I would if I stayed in a combat arms job. So I broadened my horizons a bit and chose Armor. I'm glad I picked it and I'm gonna be the best Armor officer in my year group, but every day I still miss the Infantry and the mentality that went with it. 

 Bryce Michael Maurer joined our family in May 2013!

 Bryce made quick work of growing as many chins as his daddy and grandpa have.

He also quickly learned how to wear a tie much better than his daddy.

Duke got spooked by the 4th of July fireworks and ran himself to the point of passing out. We eventually found him passed out in the road and had to cover him with ice-sheets to get his body temperature back down to safe levels.

 Duke also grew into quite the handsome labrador. This photo makes him look like a champion, but in reality he is still afraid of cats and spends most of his days hunting for loose socks in the house(which we inevitably will find in a nice pile of puke/poop out in the yard).

Savannah won two 5k races and finished 2nd for her age in the 2013 Soldier's Marathon. Oh, she won the 5k races while PUSHING A STROLLER.

 I "worked" the oxygen machines on the sideline at a Packers game at Lambeau Field. I'll never forget that game.

Bryce grew into a handsome little guy who can make the ladies' hearts flutter. I don't know who he got that from...

 I finally graduated Ranger school and earned my tab. And now at least twice a week I have nightmares that I have to go back through that school despite already graduating.

I have to say that our time here at Fort Benning ended up much better than anything I had imagined when we first moved down here. Yes, there were plenty of times when I hated being in TRADOC and could not wait to leave, but everything worked out very well in the end. Not too shabby results from a 3-year re-enlistment I did back in 2010 in Afghanistan.

Goodbye old house. I won't miss your creaky floors, lack of space, and lead-painted walls.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My little battle buddy sure is a cutie...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Done with Armor BOLC

Finally graduated ABOLC, and I ended up finishing in a personally disappointing 2nd place(out of 49) in the class standings. My streak of 2nd place finishes in Army schools continues(sniper, pathfinder, ABOLC).

And now I am left with 3 weeks until I begin Ranger School. Thankfully my schedule is fairly empty between now and then, so I will be devoting the majority of my time to preparing for that school.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

12 more days...

...until I am done with Armor BOLC. October 4th is going to be a great day. I might even have to celebrate with a Lime-a-rita or two.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fort Carson it is

4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

I am really looking forward to leading and mentoring a platoon. I am going to have some high standards and hopes for my future soldiers.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

short update

I'm six and a half weeks into Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course(ABOLC) and currently ranked as the #1 student out of 61 in my class. I destroyed my fellow lieutenants in our first major culmination event that consisted of a pt test, land navigation, ruck march, and marksmanship.

My son Bryce is growing much faster than I would like, and I really wish I could be home more often so that he would be more comfortable around me.

Despite the constant complaints to my wife, I actually enjoy being the only prior service member of my ABOLC platoon. I like being a mentor to my platoon mates, and I take pride in the fact that I can help shape them as future leaders. The best part of school so far has been when my peers come to me for advice and I can assist them.

And I will end this post with the best patriotic photo I could muster for this past July 4th. I had much grander dreams for this, but I endured some unforeseen patriotic equipment shortages. At least I put in a few hours of solid manual labor constructing Bryce's ghillie suit.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The big day finally came!

My wonderful wife gave birth to a ridiculously handsome baby boy!

Bryce is going to be the coolest kid in the neighborhood once he learns everything I have to teach him about baseball and the Army!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tomorrow begins a new phase of my Army career. I officially sign into Armor school and have one week to kill time before Armor Basic Officer Leader Course begins. I also only have 3 weeks remaining until I find out my first duty station as a Lieutenant. I'm still pulling hard for Fort Carson in Colorado, and hopefully the emails I've sent to certain individuals will bear some fruit.

In other news, future little baby Maurer still has not made an appearance.

Monday, April 8, 2013

This is "interesting" to say the least

This article sure does make Afghanistan seem like a lost cause.
 Afghan Army in the Tangi Valley
The video is also very interesting. It's slightly uncomfortable to see places that I've been at. I also recognized the old Afghani man at 4:32 in the video and actually have a photo of him from deployment.

Another school knocked out!

 Today was a great day for me. After 29 sometimes mind-numbing and sometimes absolutely exhausting days I graduated the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course held here at Fort Benning. To save myself some typing, here's the link to the school website that describes it a bit:

There was of course the initial tests designed to weed out those people who don't belong in the school. We started with 37 students, and 8 days later we were down to 24. The land navigation written exam and actual out in the woods test took out 9 guys, 2 guys for some unknown lame reason failed the physical fitness test, and the radio communications exams took out another 2.

I knew very little about communications going into this course, but now I have a very solid understanding of 3 different radio systems, radio wave propagation and antenna construction.

It is amazing what you can do with a spool of old claymore wire and your imagination. It's ridiculous to think that I can use basic materials to construct an antenna that allows me to communicate with someone in Hawaii. Prior to this course I had no idea how radio coms worked, and now I understand how to bounce radio waves off of different layers in the atmosphere....pretty crazy.

We also did some pretty high-speed training events during the course. We conducted 2 UH-60 airborne operations(one with full combat loads, which included a stupidly heavy ruck sack) with steerable parachutes, which are very nice. I have discovered that I love doing Blackhawk jumps. They are extremely enjoyable once you get over the initial fear of the wind pulling on your legs and sucking you out of the helicopter.

 My first jump without any equipment went perfect. My second jump was an entirely different story. I was unable to get any push out of the helicopter due to my rucksack and weapon, so myself and everyone else basically ended up just falling head-first out of the door towards the ground. The weak exit also usually results in a whole bunch of twists in the parachute risers, and it took me almost my entire descent to untwist myself just in time to lower my rucksack and weapon and crash into the ground. Fun times.

We also conducted some FRIES/SPIES operations. I've never fast-roped before, and I enjoyed it despite the fact that there is nothing very fancy about it.

We then moved into our graded patrols out in the woods. To say that the field time was difficult would be an understatement. I averaged 30 minutes of sleep a night and at one point went 30 hours without any food. The rucksacks(sometimes weighing right around 100 pounds) and walking through some very crappy terrain made for long slow movement and exhaustion.

A normal patrol involved the initial planning, a usual start time of 1500 for movement towards your objective area, and by midnight we usually began digging/constructing our subsurface surveillance site. We usually finished digging/constructing by 0600, and then the awful boring task of surveillance on the objective began. Guys would always be droning during site construction too from being so tired. For those who don't know what droning is, it means you are basically in a state of sleep walking. One extreme example that we had occurred on our first night out in the woods when a Corporal from Ranger regiment on our team suddenly just disappeared from our digging site. Luckily we noticed his absence quick and found him walking straight towards the enemy position 300 meters away. When we caught up to him and grabbed him he had absolutely no idea where he was or what was going on. My own experience occurred on the 3rd night/morning. I woke up from a short nap in the morning and discovered 2 claymore(anti-personnel mines) triggers next to me. I asked the guy next to me where the heck they came from, and he told me I had set them up last night after we had built up our site. I literally had not one memory of putting out the claymores the previous night.

We ended our field training with an evasion and escape exercise after being compromised by the enemy. We had a fairly long evasion movement through the woods towards our rescue/pick-up site, and of course we ended it with a one mile long 100 pound ruck sack "run" to the rescue location.

Our final event was a SPIES extraction. We set up on our pickup site and waited for the Blackhawk to arrive, and then we hitched a ride home by being attached to a long rope connected to the helicopter.
Once I got over the fear of either the rope or my harness snapping, the ride was actually really cool. We flew 500 feet above the ground at approximately 80 mph for 13 kilometers, so the ride wasn't very long. And I might as well clarify this and say that there is not one thing remotely comfortable about wearing that harness, especially with a rucksack.

And that's about it! Overall, I'm really glad I went to the school and especially happy I passed. RSLC physically punished me much more than anything else has since my deployment, and it felt great to be challenged again. My inner infantryman really enjoyed it a lot, and I take pride in the fact that I functioned much better on no sleep than most of my peers in the school. In fact, one of the peer evaluations about me said "he is always awake and still functioning effectively". That comment really made the misery worth it.

So that's it for recent news. I am really hoping my experience and military schools gets me a good and challenging/demanding job at my first unit. Hopefully somewhere out there is a Battalion commander who wants a sniper/airborne/pathfinder/rslc/prior service infantryman to run his sniper or scout platoon.

On a completely unrelated note, I am very much looking forward to the arrival of our newest family member sometime in May. He or she is going to be the coolest kid in school once I start teaching him/her all of the high-speed things I've learned so far in the Army!