Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dallin's Skydive, Widowmaker, and BOLC (Mark's very long 'Guest Post')


Three years ago I convinced one of my brothers, Scott, to jump out of an airplane with me. At the time his oldest son, my nephew Dallin, was only 15. Apparently he had been anxiously awaiting his 18th birthday so he could experience the same thrill. So as part of his High School graduation present his parents bought his first ever skydive. I was especially happy because it gave me the excuse to "get back in the saddle" (as skydivers say) since I had been absent from the sport for 2 years due to higher priorities (aka bills).

Just the before, during, and after photos of the event. Unlike his father, Dallin did not have to be physically pried from the plane door upon exiting. He had the time of his life (like everyone does) and would probably jump again if he wasn't saving for his first year of college and his mission etc.


A few weeks later came our next adventure together. The annual Widowmaker Hillclimb held in Croyden, UT (which is basically just a cement plant off I-84 halfway between Morgan and Hennifer). I have been a spectator a number of times, but thanks to National Guard duties I had never been able to compete, so I was quite pumped to finally attempt to conquer the hill.

I should note that we aren't members of the Professional Hillclimbing Association so we don't get to climb the same hill as the pro's do. They have a side hill for us "amateurs." But it's still a formidable climb. They divide riders into different classes depending on age and size of motorcycle. My bike is a Honda CR250 so I was in the 161cc - 250cc class. There were 18 other riders that I competed against. But really all I cared about was conquering the hill. Which we all did (Scott had before but it was mine and Dallin's first time making it all the way up).

Scott's and Dallin's classes went before mine. Scottie made it look easy and took 2nd place in his class of "40 and over." For this accomplishment he now has a sweet trophy on his mantle. The middle picture with Scott and Dallin shows the professional hillclimb and the bottom picture shows Scott at the bottom of the amateur hill.

This is me at the bottom of my fist run. If you look real closely at the bottom left hand picture you can see me reaching the top.

Here are two views of my second attempt at the hill, which was my first attempt at the "Advanced" amateur hill (very long story). One is taken by Scottie at the start and the other is taken from a Helmet Cam on my head. If you're asking yourself why I don't have video of my victorious climb it's because we took the still photos of the first climb. You'll see that I make it past the technical part and then just at the top of the third step my front tire tweeks the wrong way and when I landed I lost all my momentum. I was so pissed. But at least I didn't crash. This climb was my "official" climb. I made it 219 feet up the 500 foot hill which was good enough for 8th place. The winner of my class conquered the hill in 12.650 seconds. He was from Billings, Montana which is where most of the pro's come out of. He made the rest of us look like fools! (He was riding a Honda CR 250 as well though which gives me hope for next year :-)

(Basic Officer Leadership Course)

At the end of April I attended a mandatory Army class known as Basic Officer Leadership Course. Lucky for me, being in the Army Medical Department, this class was only 5 weeks long. As opposed to say my brother who flies helicopters for the Army who was gone for two and a half years, or my brother-in-law who shoots tanks for the Army and was gone for 6 months.

Anywho, my training was in San Antonio, Texas at Fort Sam Houston. I was semi excited to go because it is the same Fort where I trained as a Combat Medic back in 2005 so I was looking forward to revisiting a place of such personal pain and anguish (as a new enlisted soldier) and not being confined as I was then. I decided to drive myself to Texas because some of my fellow Weber State Army ROTC Nurses who had gone to the class before me informed me that if I didn't have my own vehicle I would be stuck in my quarters the whole time.

The drive down was 23 hrs and took me through most of New Mexico and West Texas (not the most scenic view). Above are pictures of an Indian Casino (which I somehow didn't know existed in that part of the country) and "Montgomery Street" in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I drove all through the night hours so the picture of the sunrise was my first view of west Texas in the light.

Sleep deprivation did finally get the best of me 16 hrs into the drive so I pulled over at a rest stop in Texas and slept for a couple of hours. I was actually making much better time than I expected so I decided to take a slight detour and pass through Austin to visit an old friend from my childhood days Chris Call. Chris is a big Rock Crawler enthusiast so I was happy to finally see his modified Jeep Grand Cherokee and have some fun in it. He took me to a local hole in the wall for some authentic Tex-Mex and then showed me around downtown Austin.

BOLC itself was kinda miserable. Only because I wasn't brand new to the Army like 90% of my classmates. The class was for all Army Medical personnel so I was with Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, Radiologists, Medical Admin, etc. Like the course says it's "Basic" so nothing we did was terribly difficult. It just sucked cause it was hot, we were sleeping in Army tents, eating Army food, and I was doing things that I had already had to pass off not only in Basic Training 6 years ago but all through ROTC in college. The pictures above are of my enlisted barracks, and our day at the M-16 range where I was quite proud of my grouping and zeroing. The thing that made BOLC not suck was that I was fortunate enough to be placed into the same squad as Ben Stone who I've known all through ROTC and Nursing School (pictured in the upper right). Very fortunate indeed because our class had 460 students divided into 6 platoons with each platoon having 4 squads. So the odds of us training together were slim. Having Ben around to joke with and relate to the misery was good times.

Very MUCH to my dismay we were forced to participate in the Gas Chamber. Making this the 4th time I've had to do it. Each time I've had to do it I've thought for sure they wouldn't make us do it again, but obviously I was wrong. The gas chamber is a "Confidence Course." Which means they make us place our gas masks on, walk into a chamber of CS Gas and do exercises etc for 5-10 min thus giving us "Confidence" that our gas masks really do work. Then they line you up in front of the door and have you remove your gas mask. They tell you to say your name, rank, SSN, hometown, military occupational specialty, etc but no body gets past two words because the moment you take off the gas mask your skin starts to burn and every mucous membrane you have plugs up and and you can't breath and you start to dry heave at which point they finally let go of you and you run out the door in pure misery for 10 min waiting for the effects to wear off.

After getting the "Basic Soldiering Skills" out of the way we actually got to do some fun training. Apparently since the war started in 2002 quite a few deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have been due to vehicle rollovers. So we got to spend a few hours in a high tech simulator, which is basically a rollercoaster ride that is the body of an UpArmored Humvee (HMMWV which stand for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) that spins around and around simulating a rollerover and then we have to try and get out in whatever position it "lands" in. After that we played a giant video game to simulate convoy operations. I talked my squad into letting me man the 50 cal so it was good times. Then being Army Medical personnel we got to practice loading and unloading patients from a MedEvac helicopter. Finally we had a "test" to pass off all the basic skills we had learned the previous two weeks.

I actually can't complain much about our final week in the field because it was completely geared around the Army Medical Department. We got to see, train, and practice our actual Army Jobs in all levels of care offered. Starting with the front line, then the forward aide station, then the Battalion aide station, then the combat support hospital. Each of us had plenty of turns being "patients" for the many different scenarios and training exercises so there was plenty of breaks between the hard labor in the Texas sun. It was nice to finally see what I will be doing when I am deployed (if I get lucky enough to be deployed as a Nurse that is).

1 comment:

MelanieBrenchley said...

Nice Blogging Rufio! You have always been quite a good story teller. Your widowmaker videos are entertaining, since, sadly we couldn't be there. (And it's like 5 minutes from my house now!) We will definitely be there next year. Thanks for the entertainment.