Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chocolate Chips in Ranger School

So Ranger School was where I became introduced to the amazing Dessert-flavored chewing gum, mainly the Lemonsquare and Mint Chocolate Chip flavors. I initially reported to Ranger School with nothing but Bubblelicious gum, since that brand had the most calories per piece and would take up more space in my stomach after I swallowed it. Rookie mistake on my part, as I quickly learned that the whole point of chewing gum in Ranger school was not to stay awake. Its sole purpose was to provide a brief and momentary glimpse of happiness into what was otherwise a truly miserable existence. Unfortunately I did not get to experience this so-called “happiness” until Mountain phase, when a Ranger buddy who felt bad for me loaned me one stick of his Dessert gum. I was instantly hooked.

Thankfully I was in the Christmas exodus class, because I returned from holiday leave for Florida phase with my 70 allotted pieces of nothing but Lemonsquare and Mint Chocolate Chip chewing gum. I even took a 5-day vow of chewing-gum abstinence at the start of the phase so that I would have all 70 pieces available for the 10-day field exercise. That’s some serious dedication.

Anyways, eventually I caved from the wet, sandy, swampy, cold, sleepless misery of the field(so basically on the first day) and enjoyed that gum like it was my only remaining connection with the outside world. And now we are at the whole reason for me writing this…

Prior to the swamps of Florida, I had never had the Mint Chocolate Chip chewing gum. The first piece I had was amazing, and even better was the fact that it had little crunchy parts to it…so every time I had some of it I was always thinking “I can’t believe they found a way to put miniature chocolate chips in this gum!”. I was so impressed with it that I saved that flavor only for during the 3 long walks we did(long walk = 6 to 12 mile forced ruck march from your objective to your patrol base, and this is after you’ve already been walking all day for your mission. Usually half the guys were sleep-walking and droning hardcore). No matter how much my legs and back were killing me during those walks, I could enjoy that fantastic gum with real chocolate chips. I am pretty sure I survived only because of that.

Flash forward to present-day in Afghanistan….

My wife and parents were kind enough to mail me about 10 packages of the Mint Chocolate Chip gum. It was only after chewing my first piece of it here that I made a dreadful discovery….there are no mini chocolate chips in it. In fact, there is nothing remotely crunchy in it. It was only then that I remembered that on the 3rd day of Florida phase(before going to the field), my rucksack had been completely submerged in a swamp and then dragged through the sand. All of my gum had been in the ruck and apparently not as waterproofed as I thought I had made it. My beloved mini chocolate chips in my gum had actually just been sand. Filthy swamp sand that tens of thousands of other Ranger students had previously walked through.

The moral of this long-winded story? Chewing sandy gum is what got me through the last phase of Ranger School. That doesn’t sound very manly at all, but it works for me.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Some photos

 A nice field of poppys

The artillery guys getting after it. 

Our platoon t-shirts turned out awesome and my guys wear them every day out here.

 Doing some long range marksmanship training for my guys

Friday, July 18, 2014


So the days of sending mail are about done for a while. My platoon is going to make two big moves over the course of the next few weeks, and we won't have a new permanent mailing address until later in August.

Friday, June 20, 2014

All is quiet here

A whole lot of nothing going on for me and my platoon here lately. We are still the primary quick-reaction force for the SF guys when they are out on mission, but so far we have not had the luck of being called out. Generally the missions here go like this: SF rolls outside the wire to their objective area, kills a few taliban, then returns to the COP. I've had the pleasure of watching the live feed of quite a few guys getting blown to pieces by both drones and artillery, so that has at least been fun.

Mail has finally been coming in on a regular basis as well, and my platoon is anxiously awaiting the arrival of our customized platoon t-shirts. I'll also be posting some photos from a stress shoot competition that we had a couple days ago...one of my guys placed 1st out of 56 other people on the COP.

Other than that, nothing new to report here. I guess no news is always good news for the families back home.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Camp Darby Nightmare

"Sleep is a crutch"
It all started with the Ranger class prior to mine: a group of students who recycled Benning phase made a decision that would end up influencing my life in ways I could never have imagined. During their 3 weeks of recycle status waiting to join my Ranger class, about 5 or 6 students stole a couple cases of MREs and buried them in the woods out near Camp Darby(where the patrolling portion of Benning Phase happens). Their plan was to “borrow” some NODs to sneak out in the middle of the night and chow down on extra food while the rest of us starving rangers were passed out from exhaustion. It worked, but not for very long.

We had made it safely through the first FTX at Darby and now were just about finished with the 2nd FTX. We returned to Camp Darby during the night after our patrol, and I noticed that Alpha Company was getting the crap smoked out of them. All I could think at that point was “well, that sucks for them”. But Alpha Company’s pain was soon headed in my direction, and the word quickly spread that 2 pairs of night vision devices from A Co. were missing. Before we knew what hit us, our Ranger instructors came bursting out their office door and immediately began what would end up being 72 nonstop hours of pain and punishment. For us poor ranger students on the verge of heading to Mountains phase, there would be no sleep, no rest, and worst of all: no 8-hour pass that EVERY previous ranger class had received at the end of Benning phase to see their families, sleep, and most important of all: eat as much food as possible.

Apparently, the plan of the RI’s was to punish us to the point of exhaustion and then give us a 5 minute break to write on a notecard what we knew in regards to the missing NODs. We would turn in the notecards and then immediately go back to “exercises” while the instructors read each note card. Some very idiotic ranger students thought it would be funny to write some degrading comments about the RI’s on their notecards. This only made things worse. What we also quickly learned was that there was an endless rotation of Ranger instructors available to punish us as well, since everyone(students and instructors) had been locked down on Camp Darby.  It stunk. We did countless lunges, pushups, jumping jacks, burpees, bear crawls, flutter kicks, squats, low crawls, left/right rolls, rifle PT, rucksack PT, jumping squats, jumping lunges….you get the picture.

I don’t know how it happened, but eventually the guilty students were identified. Two of them had stolen the NODs from Alpha company and used them to find their cache of MREs in the woods. Rather than returning the NODs after using them, they decided to toss them randomly into the woods. One student was arrested and the rest of the guilty ones were removed from the course and I’m sure had a wonderful letter written to their chain of command.

Unfortunately, the rest of us continued to be treated like absolute dirt. I remember very little from the entire ordeal. What I do recall quite vividly is the absurd number of times the instructors called us certain slurs/derogatory names that were so hateful and inappropriate that I would probably be forced to resign my commission as an officer if the Army caught me typing them on here. I also remember the last few hours at Camp Darby…we had spent all day in pain(while lots of family members sat at Camp Rogers waiting for us to show up for the non-existent 8 hour pass) and finally it appeared as if we were going to get a little bit of sleep prior to leaving for Mountains phase the next morning. It was about 3 am when we were told to go to sleep for 2 hours. Before any of us could move, it began to rain. The dirt pit in which we had just been rolling around quickly became sloppy mud. And so my friends and I spent our last few hours at Camp Darby covered in filth and sleeping in the mud. It was a fitting end, and I’m glad I can’t remember any more than that.

I don’t even remember getting on the bus to Mountains phase…all I know is I woke up in the back of the bus as we entered Camp Merrill, and another 3 weeks of hell were waiting for me outside.

"Not for the weak or faint of heart"

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Update from the COP

Life at COP Little Blue hasn’t been too bad. The guys have stayed very busy working on our living area and filling an absurd number of sand bags. We currently have no air conditioning either, so that has probably been the worst part with temperatures getting into the triple digits with clear sunny skies.
But on the bright side, mail is slowly starting to arrive! I’d like to thank Vicky from Texas for the box of candy…the blow pops lasted about 10 minutes and everything else will be great to have when the guys are enjoying their down time and watching movies.
My new camera should be arriving soon, so after that happens you can expect some photos on here finally.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


This is the new finalized address for my next location. The previous address will work, just a lot slower than this one:

2LT Maurer, Brian
SOTF-S   DSP   SWK  7224
APO   AE   09355

Friday, May 9, 2014

So life as a platoon leader has been busy. Sleep has generally only taken up a couple hours of my schedule each day, and it's only about to get busier. I have no complaints though, because being a PL during deployment is something that 90% of my fellow armor lieutenant peers will never get to experience.

Had a cool mission involving a very unsafe slingload site. I'm up there trying to connect the load to the bird. The helicopter blew my camera off the side of the mountain after I had set it up to film the event. Hence the poor quality of the next photo below.

Missions here have gone well so far. My platoon is about to be doing some serious moving across RC-South over the next two months. Besides this base, we have another FOB to help close down and then we're off to a very isolated COP up north for a while. Hopefully I will get the mailing address for that place in the next two weeks, because life up there is supposed to be pretty rough.

We've done limited dismounted missions due to the obscenely high threat of pressure plate IEDs in our district. The ANA and AUP are stepping on them daily over here, and the nearest FOB has a steady stream of Afghan casualties coming through the gate.

Sadly that is all I have for news. Tomorrow we lose our chow hall and everyone will be forced to live off of MREs. I can't wait to hear the crying and moaning.

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.