Civil War Ball in Gettysburg

Buck and Candy before the Ball
Buck and Candy before the Ball

This past weekend, we attended the Gettysburg Civil War ball in the Gettysburg Hotel.  The event began for us Saturday morning with a two-hour lesson on period dancing.  It was very fun.  After lunch and just a few minutes to peek into one or two of the stores very close to the center of town, it was time to begin to suit up and prepare for the group photo.  After photos we headed to the ball.  While people were being seated, a guy who looked like Andrew Jackson played and sang period songs on the piano.  The dinner was better than the average “event dinner.”

Buck, Candy, Buck's Mom, Buck's Dad, Buck's Sister (Sheila), and her husband (Rob)
Buck, Candy, Buck's Mom, Buck's Dad, Buck's Sister (Sheila), and her husband (Rob)

After we finished eating we left the dining room so that the hotel staff could clear the tables and make room for dancing.  The dancing began with the grand entrance march.  The entrance march reminded me of films of the RCMP horse troop at the Calgary Stampede.  By following the person in front of you and taking commands from the platoon of professional dancers we travelled around the room in various formations.  The purpose for this, I gather is so that everyone sees everyone else in a Victorian-appropriate manner.  Many of the women put some incredible effort into their dresses, so it was a good opportunity to see them.  The dancing lasted for about three hours.  Music was provided by a three-piece bad, called “Smashing Windows,” consisting of a piano, violin, and recorder/flute.  I wasn’t sure how much fun this would be, but we’ve made our reservations at the Gettysburg hotel for next year.

Candy wore a borrowed dress, but she’ll probably have one made for next year.  For next year, we’re talking about getting her a wig, since her hair was too short for Victorian styles and she couldn’t find a good hair piece that matched in color.  I told her this is her chance to be a blonde with long “boing boing” curls.  I pieced together a uniform from my dad’s closet, as did my brother-in-law Rob.  For next year I may have a uniform made that will fit a little better.  (The uniform was a little large, and we couldn’t get the belt to fit properly.)  Just to be different, I’m thinking about a naval commodore’s uniform.  Everything was re-enactor quality, except I wore my real shoulder boards.  Since they are bullion, it worked, even through the eagle on Colonel’s rank has changed shape just a bit.

My 25-Year Class Reunion at West Point

Some of the Hogs assembled after the review and class picture
Some of the Hogs assembled after the review and class picture

Last weekend, I attended my 25-year class reunion from West Point.  It was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, enjoy fall in the Hudson Highlands, renew relationships, and beat VMI soundly in football.  My company, the H-4 Hogs, tends to have high participation at these events, and this year was no different.  My guess is that we had the highest percentage participation of any company in my class.  In the above picture are some of the folks from my company:  (bottom row) Bob Welch, Scott MacPherson, Vinny O’Neil (celebrated author of mystery books), me, John Todd (middle row) Terrence Peterson, Jeff Girard, Virginia (Condit) Todd, (top row) Bob Brouwer, Mike McGurk, Dave Stader, and Noel (Finch) Guarino.

Cadets marching past "old grads" of Class of 1985
Cadets marching past “old grads” of Class of 1985

It is traditional at these alumni events for the “old grads” to be on the Plain as part of the reviewing party.  At every previous reunion that I attended, the alumni review was rained out.  I’ve marched in many of these parades at West Point, and execpt for my graduation parade, this is the only one I didn’t want to be cancelled!  Anyway, this year, the weather was beautiful, and we were able to view the pass in review from the Plain.

View of West Point in the Fall
View of West Point in the Fall

You can’t beat the Hudson Highlands in the Fall.  Look at this picture!  The temperture was cool, but not cold.

When were Plebes, VMI spanked us in football.  I was one of the guards designated to keep people off the field after the game and became embroiled in the brawl preciptated by the VMI “rats” celebrating their victory.  This year we hammered them 29-7.  I typically only watch one football game a year:  Army Navy.  It’s been a disappointing decade.  It was fun to watch Army play good ball, like when we were Firsties (seniors).  It was even better to get revenge on our Plebe-year humiliation. 
Hogs assembled at Foley Athletic Center
Hogs assembled at Foley Athletic Center

Our post game tailgate was in the new Foley athletic center.  Because there are folks in this picture who were not in the previous one, I’ll name them:  (front row) Mike McGurk in his festooned cadet bath robe, Jeff Girard, Bob Brouwer, Dave Stader, (middle row) Willie Campos, Terrence Peterson, Bob Welch, me, VA Todd, John Todd, (back row) Randy Lane, Pete Edmonds, Tony Emmi, and Calvin Johnson.

My only complaint with these reunions is the frentic pace.  After I meet some friends from other companies and regiments and from classes we had together, I really want time to hang out with the Hogs.  In fact at the tailgate, most of us gravitated to a large table to bore our spouses with tales of the old days.  I am going to propose to the Hogs than in a year or two we all go on a cruise together.  While I have been avoiding a cruise, I think that is the ideal venue.  We could all meet in the evenings for dinner,  but engage in day-time and off-shore activities in smaller groups or on our own. 
In any event, I’m glad we went to the reuion.  I had a really good time, and I look forward to the next one.

I’m Home!

I arrived safely at BWI after a VERY long “day” at 2300 on Sunday, 18 July.  The day began for most of us at 0400 Saturday morning Kuwait time (2100 Friday night East Coast time).  Lots of bus rides, long hours on planes, and waiting to get in line to wait some more.  The whole process went quite smoothly.

We arrived in Atlanta about 0800 Sunday morning.  In 30 minutes we were in a bus heading toward Ft. Benning.  There was a short welcome-home ceremony in Freedom Hall at Lawson Army airfield, a quick lunch, and then off to CIF to turn in weapons an gear.  Many of you will remember the old days of CIF in which they played games with you about whether the canteen cup you never used and was still wrapped in plastic was clean enough to turn in.  Those days seem to be gone.  Clearing CIF was just making sure you had the equipment and it was serviceable.

By 1515 many of us were ready to leave.  I shared a shuttle to Atlanta airport with several other guys.  I was going to cut it close for my 1900 flight.  Fortunately, there is a state law in Georgia that no flights in or out of Atlanta area allowed to be on time.  It had rained somewhere in the Western Hemisphere that afternoon so my flight out of Atlanta was delayed almost two hours.  That gave me time to change out of my reeky uniform, scrape a piece of metal across my face, and get a salad for dinner.

My bags arrived (hooah!) and came off the belt quickly, so we were on our way within 30 minutes of landing.  Candy had a cold Vernor’s ginger ale for me in the car.  It is a short ride to APG from BWI, but I still had trouble staying awake.  The bed felt great!

The Journey Has Begun

I’m currently in Ali Al Salem in Kuwait awaiting the “Freedom Flight” back to the Ft. Benning to turn in my weapon and head home.  It’s difficult to get the Air Force to do anything in a hurry.  They are also famous for “crew rest” that stops aircraft from flying right when you need them most.  Strangely enough, just about every flight I’ve been on during my tour seems to get to Ali Al Salem at 0230!

Tent City at Ali Al Salem, Kuwait

This trip was no exception.  We had to form up at 1900 for a 0245 flight.  Yes, that’s not a typo.  We had to be there 7 hours early!  By the time we pulled our bags off the pallets and I was assigned a space in the “VIP tent” (yes, you read that right a VIP tent), it was almost 0500.  Fun.

Anyway, I’m safely in Ali, and will get two days to read and decompress before heading home.  Looking forward to a real pizza.  The food was great in Iraq, but real pizza was rare.

I’m Heading Home

I have been in Iraq for a little over six months.  Later this evening, I’ll head to Sather Airbase here on Camp Victory for the flight to Ali Al Salem in Kuwait.  There I’ll wait for a couple days and then fly to Ft. Benning to out-process the CONUS Replacement Center (CRC) and fly home.

RDML Morneau presents my service award, 12 JUL 10
RDML Morneau presents my service award, 12 JUL 10

My tour here has been a tremendous experience.  I was able to really make a difference and get a lot done.  Despite popular belief and the dearth of coverage in the media, there’s still a war going on here.  US soldiers are still getting killed.  As the Science and Technology Acquisition Corps Advisor (STACA) I was able to help ensure the right technologies were brought into Iraq to ensure the safety of US soldiers.

Rear Admiral (Lower Half) (RDML) Morneau said a very nice thing to me as he was pinning on my award.  He said, “Many receive this award, but you earned it.”  That made me feel that my tour was worthwhile.

I’ll be changing jobs when I return home.  I’ll become the Military Deputy Director of the Communications Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) on Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), MD.