Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am grateful and thankful to everyone for your encouragement and support. Since my injury, I have tried to make it a tradition to reach out to people who have come into my life or helped me in some way and say thank you. I am so blessed by everyone in my life that I’d spend all year making calls. So, I found this today and thought of everyone who follows this blog, all my friends, my colleagues, and my family – you are very special to me, thanks.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” 
~Melody Beattie

Found in the book “Attitude is Everything”

 

I’m published!

I took long enough to announce but I finally have been published, twice no less, this year. My article for Fire Chief magazine was published in their August edition which comes out in late September. It was exciting to see my name in a national publication and can be found at: http://www.firechief.com/manmade-disasters/how-civil-support-teams-aid-fire-departments-during-disaster-response

The other news, the Anthology that I wrote about in August has been published and is available now on amazon.com. Yep, that same Amazon! The writers group that I belong to published a series of short stories and poetry. Our group is called the Avondale Inkslingers – hence the title. Yours truly, along with other already published authors such as Michael Bradley, Eveline Horelle-Dailey, Vincent Alascia, Greg Lundberg, Mike McCarthy, Gail Leach and several more contributed to this book which can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/Avondale-Inkslingers-Eveline-Horelle-Dailey/dp/1479389072/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353285920&sr=8-1&keywords=9781479389070

I posted this once before, but here is what our editor said about my story which, by the way, can be found on page 207. ” I liked the taut pace of Revelation.  From the first few sentences you managed to drop the reader into the middle of the action without making me feel lost — a hard thing to accomplish.  You provided the right number of details to allow the reader to know what was going on but also didn’t elaborate too much, which helped the pacing immensely.  Too many details would have just dragged the story down, and I’m glad you didn’t give in to them.”

If you hang around long enough

The members of our team have spent more time together in these past three weeks than many of us would care to admit. After five exercises together, everyone is feeling pretty relaxed around each other. In the beginning, the chat was all work and little laughter. We were all mission focused; doing our part for improving the nation’s homeland defense forces. The Commanding General that year made a great closing speech about how important our work was and that the nation appreciated our efforts. It was a great feeling to say the least.

As the exercises continued year after year, relationships developed and grew. Everyone started to feel comfortable around each other; understanding each others relationship to one another. This year, we had a well oiled machine that ran seamlessly and enjoyed each others company. Collectively, our role has been to provide the training audience with realistic scenarios and role players to replicate the circumstances that they would encounter in the execution of their missions.  Last night, after a particularly challenging day of last minute changes, one team member said “This doesn’t have to make sense, we just have to be able to say it with a straight face.” It described what has been going on so well these past three weeks.

I have previously talked about acronyms and sayings but left one off. Yesterday, it became apparent that we reached a critical point in the training – loss of inertia. We had been using  this next phrase to describe an event or two but it finally became the description of the current event; it was a SLICC – Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone. Our local definition was “we are doing all of this to train ourselves.” Simply, we were enjoying our own work. If you look up SLICC in the urban dictionary, you’ll find this definition: “An organization or entity whose sole purpose is promoting its own existence and splendor.” I immediately contacted my daughter, the talented graphic designer that she is, to create a photo for us. This is what she came up:

This design was incorporated into our mid-day briefing and was sent to a number of people in our Emergency Operations Center for future use. We all had a few laughs and pushed through the rest of the day. NIce job Erin! Everyone says thanks.

Too good not to share…

A fellow writer by the name of Michael Bradley maintains a blog as well. His stuff is really good and posts some interesting things to think about. His post today, is just that – really good. This will be the first of two posts by me today, which I know can sometimes be annoying but this was, Too good not to share.

http://mbtimetraveler.com/2012/08/02/dalai-lama-quote-the-story-of-my-life/

A General Alert

Okay, all drama aside; here’s a little insight into Vibrant Response. We are running a live mission and simulation exercise that is training and in some cases, evaluating the military forces. The land component command staff is the Joint Task Force Civil Support, which is directed by a Lt. General (2 star). This group, known as JTF-CS has four subordinate task forces that control aviation, medical, operations and logistics. Under those groups are brigades, battalions, companies, platoons and squads, all of which total 4632 people. The simulated forces total over 17,000. They move those simulated troops as well by issuing orders and tracking their movement. The JTF-CS is comprised of Navy, Marines, Air Force and Army personnel. The Command is rotated by each branch, this year it’s from the Army, the past two years it was from the Air Force.

They have reported rescuing 12,000 victims so far of which 2500 have been real rescues by real people. My role in the Area Command post is to direct the operations of those forces to achieve our desired missions. I am one of 50 contractors working on just the coordination and execution of live missions. There are another 450 people working on the exercise control and role playing of the various state officers and victims. We are running this segment of the exercise through Friday and then we’ll reset to do it again starting Sunday with a different command element.

Wednesday 8/1, we will have the NorthCom Commander (4 stars) and a Deputy Secretary of Defense visit the exercise. NorthCom (Northern Command) is responsible for all forces in North America and is a member of the joint chiefs. In addition, The Adjutant General, also known as the TAG (3 stars) from Indiana and a Rear Admiral will visit. The TAG is the Indiana National Guard’s Commander. We have had several Generals from various commands visit over the past two days which is keeping the Public Affairs Office (PAO) and the Joint Visitors Bureau (JVB) very busy. I’m thinking a lesson in acronyms is needed soon.

Below is a photo of the sky following the massive thunderstorm that came through on Tuesday night. The weather is always part of the story.

 

Help is on the way

The now confirmed nuclear detonation is starting to take its toll. The evacuation of half a million people has been ordered by the governor and shelters are starting to open. Four military hospitals are in bound and an “emergency room” type facility has already set up. To date, more than 4000 people have been rescued and over 2000 victims have been decontaminated. We started overnight operations last night and will run 24 hours for the next 14 days. Twenty helicopters are moving victims and supplies throughout the area.

We are actually working in Indiana on two bases that are about 60 miles apart. As of last night, 3659 people are assigned in some role to this exercise. We have two daily briefings 7am and 7pm, below is a photo of the start of the 7pm (1900hrs) briefing.

The briefings are for the Commanding General of the 5th Army (3 stars) and his staff. We have been working through the challenges of managing air, land and human resources. The progress is slow for this training event. The other photo is a close up of the title and logo for the event.

On another note, I’m excited to report that  I’ve heard from the editor of the Anthology book that my first short story will be published in. Here’s what she had to say: “I liked the taut pace of Revelation.  From the first few sentences you managed to drop the reader into the middle of the action without making me feel lost — a hard thing to accomplish.  You provided the right number of details to allow the reader to know what was going on but also didn’t elaborate too much, which helped the pacing immensely.  Too many details would have just dragged the story down, and I’m glad you didn’t give in to them.”

Needless to say, I’m very happy and proud to hear these comments. We expect the book to be published by the end of October and will be available in electronic or paperback versions.

So, you’re a writer?

I might be on to something here. So far I have been published in two text books and I am under contract for two more. Technical writing is fairly easy because it is, well, technical. I enjoy the process of creative writing and look forward to spending more time doing that. I just heard that I’ll have an article that I wrote printed in Fire Chief magazine this August. I wrote about the military’s ability to respond to natural and man made disasters. It will be cool to see my name in print for a magazine with tens of thousands of readers.

I also submitted my first short story for consideration in a collection of short stories in an Anthology. The West Valley Writers accepted my work and we will be publishing it this summer. It’s a little story that I started here about the hired killer John and his “girl friend” who is not what he thought she was. It will be available on Amazon and Nook but look for more on that.

My book is moving slowly but I do have some interest by the publisher of Guideposts. I hope to be ready for editing later this year.

My Wife is so lucky…

Sounds like a great follow up to Father’s Day about what an awesome husband and father I am. While I might think that, here’s the real story:

Last year we took a cruise with Royal Caribbean on the Freedom of the Seas to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We took the kids, as we always do, on this Eastern Caribbean adventure. My wife likes to play bingo and not only won one cash prize but she also won a cruise for two playing bingo. Since we took the kids on OUR anniversary cruise, we decided to go on this “free” cruise without them. We left Florida to head for Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica , Grand Cayman Island and Cozumel Mexico. We climbed Duns River Falls in Jamaica and took a Catamaran snorkeling trip in Grand Cayman. We had a great time relaxing, tasting wine, spending time together and seeing new places. Not only had I not been keeping up with the blog but I was away from home too. Day two of our adventure, my little bingo player won another cash prize. Four days later, she struck again and yes, she won “Win A Cruise Bingo” again ! So,  we’re going back on the same ship with the kids next May. To say I’m a luck man, is an understatement.

This catches you up on where I’ve been the past few months. Fortunately, I’ve kept my weekly devotionals coming.

What have you been up to?

I started this blog experience as a way of not only promoting/polishing my writing but as a tool to keep up with people about some of the interesting things that I get involved in. That was 6 months ago, where did the time go? To say I’ve been busier than a one armed paper hanger would be be an understatement. Since my trip to Washington I’ve been to McAlester, Oklahoma and the Western Carribean. I’ve written a number of articles for the International Fire Chiefs and worked on a safety audit of a local fire district. I’ve also taught several classes for newly promoted or aspiring Battalion Chiefs. The City council is always busy at this time of year as we worked on completing a budget for the up coming year, totaling $311 million.

Let’s talk about Oklahoma. About 19 of us from Army North and ATEC Consultants spent six days in McAlester OK training the men and women of the 370th and 329th Chemical Battalions from Florida and Texas respectively. The exercise was requested by the Battalion Commander to give his soldiers an opportunity to learn more about chemical detection and mass casualty decontamination. Our job was to give them a realistic experience and offer training suggestions. There are two components to a Chemical Battalion – Decontamination (Decon)  and Reconnaissance (Recon). The Decon group simulated that a chemical plant was damaged by a tornado with several hundred people becoming contaminated. The Recon group worked in the simulated effected plant and needed to find the cause for what was making several people sick. We really challenged the companies and gave them something to think about for the future. After we completed the exercise we had time to visit the OKC Bombing Memorial the afternoon before we left. The buildings are still damaged to remind us what happened that day.

 

 

 

 

Bookended by two black granite walls, the reflecting pool makes for a nice memorial. One wall represents the time before the blast and the other is after the blast. The chairs are for those killed and the floors that they were on. It was very moving to say the least.

Enough for today, I’ll follow up with a short story about our trip to the Western Carribean.