Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Meneltarma and Númenor

I suppose it is about time I made some connections for those who are unfamiliar with the themes embedded in this blog. I do this out of fear for my credibility, not considering myself a Tolkien scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I recommend you take a little peek at the Tolkien links I have posted under (of all things) "Tolkien etc." You might find yourself inundated by unfamiliar terms such as Andúnië, Elendil, Valar, Westernesse and much more. The point, though is to tie together some of these names and places, and perhaps give a greater sense of what the themes are all about--what they represent to my small understanding of them.

This is important to me. I like to have meaning in such things; there are no more inspiring themes for me than what you see on these pages. In my way of thinking, they offer a sort of picturesque rendition of the Church in both its glory and failures. Númenor is a special place given to a people who are set aside. They have a covenant, of sorts, with their Creator, Eru Ilúvatar. They worship in a place called Meneltarma, a mountain in the center of Númenor. They fall in later years and rebel--the island is destroyed and a faithful remnant escapes to Middle Earth. It's a fantastic picture in my mind. Yes, and I am one who is very cynical of allegory. I have great respect for this one, though, because the author was also admittedly cynical of allegory! He had a better sense of what I look for in a good one than the fluff modern evangelicals desperately try to read into something like The Matrix. I am even cynical of efforts to try to find a "Christ figure" in The Lord of the Rings. In my opinion, it's simply not there. It was not intended to be there! If it is there in your mind that's fine with me because I am conscious of Tolkien's Christian (albeit Catholic) worldview. For example:

He recognizes the fallen nature of man. This is a very vivid theme in much of his writings. How he carries it through, on the other hand, into some kind of victory is something that is a little less clear in my mind. Since, though, there is a recognition of a monotheistic, sovereign Creator, it can logically follow that it is He who upholds the faithful--even while they are prone to failure. If you want an example of this in the Lord of the Rings, consider Frodo's failure in Mount Doom. He did finally fail and claim the Ring. "Providence," as it were, saved him from himself and destroyed the Ring despite his failure. Victory cannot be ultimately attributed to Frodo because it was not him who really won anything.

To get back to my point--ever since I have read about Númenor, I have, in a sense, fallen in love with it. I mean this in a lighter sense, only as a reflection of my love for Christ and the Church. God's holiness and faithfulness even in the darkest circumstances is so brilliantly portrayed.

One more thing: Before you accuse me of being too focused on the "things" involved, such as Númenor and the Meneltarma, remember that it was these thing which are literally destroyed in the story. You cannot truly love this story without accepting this fact: that the faithful remained even as the visible glory of their society disintegrated around them. God is faithful even as the institutions we built on Christian foundations crumble about our ears. We long to again see the day when the Church is revered and loved in our country and culture. We wish man was not so rebellious. Let us appreciate, then, that which never fails. Let us strive for the up-building and edification of the Church, the Body of Christ and His Kingdom: You and me.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Coffee in the tank, et al

I don't usually do this; and I think I am getting myself in trouble by mentioning it.

Now that I have your attention, picture this in your mind:

Your late night is now an early morning. There's a cup of coffee sitting in the microwave oven that you left there yesterday afternoon. You rewarm it and eat a very small breakfast as dawn is slowly pushing back the silver glow of a moonlit night, turning it instead to a grey foggy soup which could very well be an allegory for your current mental state.

The coffee is down, but so still are you. You are only up at this hour because you supposedly prefer to add a morning freshness to one of your study blocks. (hmmmm...) Now you are driving to a halfway location between home and classes--it just happens to be Starbucks. Now you are there, but you are still feeling less then "morning fresh," so another coffee is in order. You then stumble through some text before heading to campus.

You finish your first class...

You now feel a little more "alive." Reaction time has doubled for normal physical movement. There is a spring in your step. It has become a simply charming morning! You contemplate your classes; what a nice combination they make! They seem to be very complimentary. Life is good! Who ever said fog was dreary really needs some coffee in the tank!

You start more reading...

You notice a little difficulty in keeping yourself still! That doubled reaction time is a bit more pronounced--or at least evolved into a bit of a nuisance. You begin to wonder if relaxation and coffee are antonyms; perhaps a little extra food to go with it might have been a good idea. Morning fresh is now starting to feel a bit like nervous twitch. Well, you think, what could be wrong? You're hungry of course. Perhaps your block of time for reading is about up. It's almost 11 a.m. and what a good time for lunch!

You are eating now...

The room is crowded. You attempt to play a careless part in the room's mixed bag of sociable, studious or just hungry students. Why is it so hard to do this? The line of travel taken by the chip in your hand to your mouth seems a bit more like a butterfly's. Half of the brown, non-sticky rice on your fork jumps off as if it was popping in a frypan. It will soon be over, you say. Until then, you had better act as unconcerned as possible--your knees will stop knocking soon enough.

You are headed for another class now...

It will be just a short walk; but the legs are working anyway. The stomach is a little less aggravated and the heart rate has slowed--at least you tell yourself that it has. There's Walt Whitman to discuss in class. Last time you discussed Walt Whitman, it was in a class notorious in your mind for the amount of sleep it provided you.

This class will be different; or at least today will.


Friday, September 24, 2004

Cardboard pirates? Shiver me corrugations!!

Construct a boat out of cardboard in two hours or less, race it in heats across the set course and then test it to see how much weight it can hold...

What, you've never heard of such a thing? Now you have!

This was the best of the organized activities we enjoyed at the conference in Ontario. A grand experience to be sure! There were about five teams of people with several days to plan and sketch. When the bell began, though, so did the judging! They scored us on everything from creativity, to consistency with our submitted designs...even safety was a factor. If someone happened to get a cut while building, the team got docked points for it.

All the teams were pre-named by the judges. We had the very dubious honor of being the "Pink Flamingos." Our team was also blessed with a complete lack of any real creative engineering skills. There were a couple handy-men who could think about constructing a bit, and I could draw a rough design, which I did. I also had the "boat captain" status which might have had something to do with the disastrous results.

I could never make you fully appreciate what a cardboard boat looks like because it could look like anything. We settled (mostly at my urging) on a semi V-shaped hull. There were about 6-8 inches of flat on the bottom (blunting the V) which we decided to add late in the game--it was a good addition I think. We never did come up with a really GOOD final design--we ended up using one of my preliminary sketches. The building process was mostly by the seat of our pants. No real idea of what to do, but it finally came together and we all started to get excited about it. It looked a little like a dugout canoe and we planned on doing well in the speed contest. Most considered us the favorites for looks at least! The others had mostly flat-bottom designs with varying structural support. Each team was allowed a couple scraps of wood--slats of wood might be more like it. Ours were used in the bottom for the most part, the excess providing our first-mate with a pirate sword.

From the beginning, we were much more pirate-like than the other teams. We had our paper pirate hats and went about our business muttering "arrrh, arrrh!" Our only problem was the pink flag which we had by default. That didn't get us down, though, and we made the best of it!

When the time came to lower out boats into the water for the time heat, we were all pretty excited and confident in our buccaneer water skills! We came to the dock for our turn at the course, lowered the boat into the water and prepared to board. Nick, my co-seaman on this voyage stepped into the back and then I into the front. No sooner did I squat down when I was confronted by a geyser of water coming from the bottom of the boat--A LEAK! The duct tape had failed us!

The first (and last) desperate thought in our minds was to start paddling for all we were worth. I had just dipped my paddle, however, when the boat swamped and I pitched forward into the water. That was the end of the tape-challenged, pink flamingo pirates!

Before anyone says "Well, how could a cardboard boat float anyway?" let me just note that everyone else successfully completed the time trials except us. Our boat was a complete wreck. There's nothing you can do when the water gets into the cardboard via exposed edges. It was a real mess but we kept our dignity none the less and dutifully carried our soggy craft back out for the weight contest. Our purpose was unclear to the other teams until we suddenly dropped the thing into the water and leaped on-top with our flag waving valiantly in the breeze! Three of us we were, and I, captain of the ship, shirked neither duty nor honor in being the last to leave our "distressed vessel" and help pull the remaining mess out after us.

The day was over for us but our reward was a rich one: the "Titanic Award" for the fastest [sinking] craft and a few good belly-laughs on top!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Filling in the cracks

I finally secured a Junior level Journalism class today. No writing really--mostly design/layout editing work. Next quarter will have to be the time I start more of the writing. For now, I get to update and extend my knowledge of the latest design programs--and learn some new aspects hopefully! Exciting stuff I suppose.

Whether I'll have time to run with some other possibilities remains to be seen. The ultimate Journalism experience would be to start an independent student publication. I've read some pretty thrilling accounts of what that can hold for a conservative journalist. However, I don't expect these dreams to materialize for fear of being disappointed. I really don't know if I would have the help or the personal spine and fortitude to work on such a project. A dream to be sure and I have two years to complete such a thing if at all. It will become much clearer as the cracks continue to fill and the over-all shape of the next two years becomes more apparent.

And now it's back to earth and home:

A tire needs patching on my car, some other written projects need completion, and, of course, there's some homework to do (very little at this point).

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Blogging Iraq

I don't even remember how I came across them. I just know that whenever I go read some of them, I feel like shouting or crying or laughing...or somewhere in-between. They are powerful, they are deep, and they seem to always have something stunning to say. Here's one good example!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The end (of a career): CFIX part 5

It had been a long day and a wild one too. We were back from the staff "dining-in," though, and it was mostly low-key now. It was a an honest-to-goodness lull in the action--a calm before the storm, so to speak. We all had something to think about. The Public Affairs office was working double-time to get the annual year book produced and printed the next day. The Squadron Commanders and First Sergeants had the White Glove inspection the next morning. The Flight Commanders and Flight Sergeants had the up-coming Drill Competition intruding on their peace of mind. What about the Command Staff--myself, Taylor and the Deputy Commander?

Taylor had everything to think about as usual. I won't even get into what the Deputy had on her mind (it was a lot). For myself, I had several individual projects to ramrod into finalization on the following day. Most of it had to do with the banquet in the evening. You see, it is the Executive Officer's lot to emcee the encampment banquets. I had thought about it as a kind of perk before encampment started--I knew it would be a challenge of the nerves--but there's nothing wrong with a little challenge now and again. I had one small problem, though: I still hadn't done any preparation for it.

It was a sorry state of mind in which I found myself on that peaceful evening. The rain had ceased almost as soon as the obstacle course was completed. The sun had recently set and it was relatively dry except for the ever-present puddles. It hit me right then and there--perhaps not hard enough: this was my last evening. It was the last, not only for this encampment, but it was my last as a cadet at any encampment. I was leaving the following day straight from the banquet. I would be starting at Western this fall. Then, in February I would turn 21, and so pass from cadet to senior member. This was it!

The three of us walked out on the quad as the barracks were preparing for lights-out. In a minute we found ourselves sitting out in the middle of that gravel yard--just talking things over and letting the stress seep out from our tired limbs. What was left of our voices would have been nothing but a murmur on the edge of the quad--just three dark forms we were, sitting in the middle of a white gravel background. It was dusk and almost time for taps...

The next day was a flurry of nonstop activity. For myself it was a desperate dash to get things prepared for the banquet while trying to navigate through all the other necessary items on the schedule. To put in a nutshell, it was nuts! In between failed attempts to print this or delegate that, there was the White Glove inspection, the official Encampment photo, my script for the banquet and the somehow, before this was all said and done, I needed to pack. A little hair-raising to say the least. However except for a few missed steps, there really wasn't much to regret by the time the banquet rolled around. With a fully packed car and one person to go with me, I drove to the banquet location, more than a little flustered and nervous. I was praying that I had a little bit more sanity left in reserve to get me through this evening.

It all came off well enough--from what I can remember, that is. I think I started out a little on the weak side--literally! The microphone was less then loud enough and it was all I could do to keep a bearable tone in my voice and also make myself heard in the cavernous room. Someone finally found the volume and cranked it up to full steam. After dinner, there was the usual pile of awards to be presented. Thankfully, one of the servers made it around to the head-table with a pot of coffee before that was to begin. It was then that I realized just how tired and muddled my mind had been--you can always tell by how un-muddled you get after two cups of coffee! The rest was a breeze.

When it was all over and the closing comments were just being said, it came to me that many of the people here--so many good friends--might not know this was it for me, that in a few minutes, I would be walking out the door, never to return as a cadet. Would they know just how grateful I was to them and to the program itself? So I took up the microphone one more time before the end and told them--and then I said goodbye.

I will never forget the acknowledgement I received. It was brief, but they stood up and applauded as I finished and then it was over. I had a plane to catch in the morning, so I walked out the door a little bit later and began the next leg of my long trip.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Seven hundred whacks!

It happened just a few minutes ago. As usual I didn't get to see it but I'm following the game online and that will have to suffice. In case you were wondering, I'm referring to Barry Bonds hitting his 700th career home run. He is now the third man in history to accomplish that feat! Rejoice, one and all, on this joyous day for baseball! You are arguably looking at the greatest player to walk the face of the earth. Let us appreciate it while we can!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Operation mud: CFIX part 4

The following narrative describes highly original activities, the appeal of which some readers might find dubious at best.

The week progressed and there were breaks in the rain--moments when the sun would spy through a crack in the clouds, causing everything to glow and shimmer on the quad. Later on it would beat down with enough brief force to dry portions of ground before the rain would return.

It was Thursday and one of those breaks was beckoning us all to challenge the Army confidence and obstacle courses. It was sure to be a little soggy still but no one was thinking about passing it up. Upon getting to the field and beginning the confidence course, it promptly started raining again. It wasn't very cold and beside putting a few of the more dangerous courses off limits, there was no pause in the morning's activities. The command staff (myself, Taylor and another) commenced milling around and watching the action. It was exciting enough to bring back memories of the first time we ran the very same course 4 years ago. It's amazing how you can remember just how and where you got this scrape and that bruise. Nothing serious, mind you, just small wounds. It's a shame none of us were smart enough to apply for the purple heart like some Democrats I know of.

So the rain started and stopped and lunch came and went. By this time the command staff were bored enough to brave one of the muddiest of the confidence courses just for the fun of it--by lunch we finally looked the part. That was only prep for the obstacle course, though!

As the basics began, it started to sprinkle again. I started to think to myself about what lay ahead. You see, after all the basics go through, its tradition for the staff to make a run at it. I had never done this course in the rain and the very thought of doing it now was almost too good to be true! What is usually a dust bowl would now be a mud trap! What a happy thought!

The basics finished and sure enough, it was coming down as it should. We all stood there, the rain just intensifying--as was our adrenaline level. The basics would be watching and that was on my mind as Taylor and I started whooping it up! We moved into a tight circle and started a slow chant-like "whhoo...whhoo...whhoo..." and gradually we rose in volume and speed till we finally reached our crescendo, one long thunderous roll of voices--and that was our cue.

We fairly flew through the obstacles like an unstoppable storm surge before a sweeping wind. It was wet, muddy, loud, fast, and felt ever so good! The end of the course loomed and beyond that a sea of cadets cheering and pumping fists for us. It was an explosion of energy like no other and we were making the most of it. Anything to set an example of motivation they would never forget. After crossing the line we again merged into a tight mass of hot, steaming, sweating, mud-drenched humanity for one last yell into each other's faces. It was a no-holds-barred roar which destroyed our voices for the rest of the day.

The show finally ended, though, and it was time to head back to the quad. We had little more than 90 minutes to prepare for the staff "dining-in;" That's a rather fancy little party and, needless to say, quite a contrast from what we looked on the obstacle course! On our return to the quad, there were a few over-enthused staff members who defied the "no swimming" sign and jumped into one of the larger puddles. A hundred showers later and the staff were all decked in their best regalia, looking far from the type of kids prone to yelling and screaming, rolling in the mud and jumping into puddles for no apparent reason. It was a return to normalcy almost as striking as our departure that morning.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Attributes of God

I think I mentioned the fact that I had a great time at the conference in Ontario last week. I'm taking a break from the encampment posting to cover the conference before I lose all my best recollections to the ravages of memory loss. I think the best place to start would be the seminars themselves. They were a welcome switch after spending so many days the previous week in a harsh military setting.

The Attributes of God was the topic of the week. Right off, I was thankful because they were just doing one topic. Last year they did a mix of three and I found that a little shallow. A speaker can only go so deep on an issue or passage with such a limited time-frame. Next I was gratified with the speakers themselves (Mike Cuneo, a student at Greenville Seminary, and Reverend Overgaauw from one of our sister churches in Canada). You could tell that this was a topic near and dear to their hearts as they lovingly opened up the scriptures and dove in with an enthusiasm most rich.

They started in a good place. They went to the Westminster Confession of Faith and its answer to the question "What is God?"

God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
-Shorter Catechism

It's a good definition--the best I have ever run up against. I've had the chance to study the Shorter Catechism in the past so happily I was familiar with it already. They went on to break down the attributes in the "incommunicable" (infinite, eternal, unchangeable) and "communicable" (et al) attributes. I think the most striking to me was the sessions we did on God's wisdom and His love. Both presented some of the most insightful and inspiring thoughts I had ever heard.

During the seminar on His love, for example, pastor Overgaauw at one point attacked the "God is love, love is God" fallacy as equal to Pantheism. In that way of thinking, people hear "God is love..." and think "God is weak." God cannot be brought down to such a level without losing His omnipotence.

Another thing which hit me--I've never heard someone say it quite like this: "What God loves in us is all the He sees of Himself in us..." I found that more than a little fascinating. I'm sure it would rub many people the wrong way. I was more than a little surprised by this simple explanation and I think I will give it a little more time and thought. It brings up several issues of context:

1) We are created in God's image.

If He loves to see us as proper reflections of his image then it also follows (and Rev. Overgaauw mentioned this) that He hates the defacing of His image.

2) God continued to love even after we failed to reflect Himself.

That is where we pause in awe. We are miserable failures in our duty to reflect His image and glory. Yet He still " loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." God's grace is the ultimate display of His love. Grace, as Rev. Overgaauw quoted from Louis Berkhof, is "the free bestowal of kindness on one that has no claim."

That is about as much as I have time for at the moment so I'll sign off...

Friday, September 10, 2004

Profile of a commander: CFIX part 3

I met Taylor early in my second year of CAP. He was a little younger than me and was also quieter than me--when we met, that is. He's changed since then.

When we first met we had something in common so we hit it right off--we were both home schooled. A small thing I know. As our CAP career's progressed, we kept in touch via email and we also went to the same basic encampment. It was great. We were pretty much doing the same things in CAP. Same grade, same basic year and we both earned the Honor Cadet Award of our respective flights.

It was a long time before I actually saw him again. We kept up to date like I said but after a while I started to realize that we were going vastly different directions. At first, it was just that I couldn't make it to the next two encampments and therefore was not getting the same experience. It was more than that, though. The first year after our basic year, he went to two national activities--I should say two of the most difficult national activities. He had the time, I didn't. When our paths finally crossed again, it was the spring of 2003. He was the Deputy Cadet Commander at that year's encampment. Finally this year rolled around and he was the Cadet Commander of encampment.

He's grown into a real extravert (to put it in it's mildest phraseology). If I were going to summarize Taylor in one sentence, I'd say he loves life a little too much!

Now for the breakdown: He's one of the most intelligent individuals I've ever met. He's taken his CAP experience and run with it to the highest he could go--and he still has another year as a cadet (last thing I heard is that he's looking at trying to change the program structure to allow for a cadet brigadier general--he would be the first naturally). He's had the time to put into the program and he has far from wasted it. He has one of the best ears for music that I have ever seen even though he's over half deaf.

He's a Catholic. It's in this basic fact that we differ--indirectly of course. I remember one time during the encampment when someone mentioned Mass; he told me he forgot to go to confession before he came and that he wished he had. I didn't really know what to say. It was all very different I guess. The biggest question rolling around in my head was this: just what, of the things he does or says, would he confess as sin? I won't hide the fact that he is freer with his mouth than I or that he has "experienced life" to a much greater degree; I just don't know whether he regrets it. We worked together as professionals and it would have been hard to get into it deep enough to find the answer to these questions. I do know that he is more serious about his faith than many Catholics. He's in love with the grandeur and traditions of the Catholic Church but also appreciates everything around him for what it is.

In leadership skill, for his age, he is second to none! I am willing to say this because of several reasons. He has a brutal honesty and crystal transparency about him. When he tells you you did a good job with something, you know he really thinks so. When he says something is wrong and needs to be fixed, you know he has evaluated it from an objective standpoint and is totally convinced of his position. He is a beautiful contrast to other leaders who I have worked or served under. Often I will see someone do a fantastic job but fail miserably to connect with his subordinates. Such people are subtly feared and honored only because no one wants to get in their way--they appear self-serving and even their "efforts" to be congenial and friendly to their fellow cadets seem forced and demeaning.

Being approachable is often overlooked in many leader's efforts to be respected. For my part I most respect those who are approachable but maintain an invisible wall of respect all around them. It requires tact, a perfect understanding of your place and position, and above all, empathy! Taylor has each one of those qualities. He is a superb communicator, knows how to take criticism from superiors and is always looking out for his staff.

Lastly, he is the only person I know who was able to earn so much respect and also laugh more than anyone else.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A wet XO: CFIX part 2

No one was worried. What's a little rain? We are native Washingtonians for the most part, so why would we care if it's a little wet? It was still the same Saturday when the basics were to arrive and arrive they did. As soon as they were settled into their barracks, the weather declared itself. This was going to be a wet week--that was the report anyway, and when they predict rain it's a good idea to believe it. What are the chances of getting out of a reported rain shower in Western Washington? 'Nuf said.

So it rained. I went about my daily tasks as unfazed as was possible. My daily tasks? You don't know what that means I suppose. I was the Executive Officer (XO). It's a command position that ranks around number 2 in the cadet chain of command. I had charge of the "support staff" I mentioned in my last post. To summarize my tasks, I'll just say that if things were going well, then I had almost nothing to do. It follows then that I would have had a lot to do if things were not going well. I won't say that things were perfect but then I wasn't totally swamped either! In fact, I think the cadet commander and I got more naps than anyone else--a sure sign of a successful encampment!

About that rain, though...

Much of what was planned didn't happen because it was too wet. Not everything was canceled though and a lot of us liked the wet! The gravel "quad" in the center of the barracks area was pretty close to a lake by the next morning! We loved to march sturdily right through the deepest puddles--like we were somehow more hardcore because of it! It was all good fun really. The medical staff put an end to all legal "puddle marching" on the grounds that wet feet make cold cadets--don't know what gave them that idea.

Later in the week, as some puddles morphed into reservoirs, we made sure to post warning signs: "Danger, NO Swimming." Yes, we'll try to avoid that.

Cascade Falcon IX (CFIX) part 1

Day is approaching. It's 0445 (4:45 a.m.) and most people prefer not to stir at such an hour. But stir these cadets do! Their minds are fairly spinning with excitement, whether they would admit it or not. Encampment at North Fort Lewis in Washington State is no small trial. Indeed, these cadet staff can expect to expend much more energy than the basic cadets in their charge. This particular morning also happens to mark the end of pre-encampment and the beginning of basic encampment--the day the basics arrive and the staff we are talking about start doing what they came to do.

A Flight Sergeant will now be stressing about what drill movements he must teach first and wondering whether his command voice is as effective as it sounds to his own ears. His Flight Commander will be going over his welcome speech and the policies he will emphasize in the barracks. The Squadron Commander in charge of him will continue to think long and hard about setting the tone in the squadron and making sure his staff members are working effectively toward the long-term goals of the unit. They have stiff competition from four other squadrons and heaven only knows who will come out on top or who will get saddled with an over-abundance of problem cadets.

Problem cadets are just that--a problem--but a problem to be dealt with and if it is not dealt with, then no one should be surprised when a flight loses its cohesion and motivation. It's a sad old story: one cadet won't buckle down and do his part--he loses all motivation and doesn't follow orders. The staff is baffled and doesn't know what to do. The problem lingers and the whole team starts to break down. No one feels like they are going anywhere or accomplishing anything important...

The above pitfall is just one thing one these cadet's minds. The past half-week of classes and bonding have been good them. They've learned what they should be and what they should do. Some are here to teach and literally rule the lives of the basics coming into their charge. Others are here to perform special tasks.

The Public Affairs staff are standing ready with the latest in media technology. They will spend the next week taking pictures, writing newsletters and creating a virtual history of the entire activity through the pictures and words they compose.

Logistics will be here to make this well oiled machine purr. They have the equipment the staff will need to pull this off. If they don't have it, they will get it. They will be the go-to group when something needs moving or an errand needs running.

There's other jobs too. Mess staff will feed everyone and Medical will patch them up. DDR, Flight Operations, Communications... They are all a part of support staff and they perform their tasks as selflessly as ever. These people have to be just as ready as the line staff (the instructors, sergeants, and commanders)--and so they are.

Yes, each cadet here is thinking and brooding over the upcoming events. Today they must make it work or they will have failed the basic cadets who are depending on them.

0500 hits, and the brooding is over. Some cadets fairly explode into action and each barracks becomes a noisy cavern of creaking racks (beds) and thumping feet. The First Sergeants have this one last morning to practice leading physical training (PT) and then they will lead the newly arrived basics in their morning dose of cobweb-clearing action. PT, then Formation, then Breakfast, then prep for the much anticipated hour of arrival. Cascade Falcon IX is underway and only time will tell what is in store for this dedicated crew of young people. They are towing the line now and there is no turning back.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

...has landed

It's a good day...

The lawn is greener than when I left (and the sun is actually out as well). Jet-lag is not bothering me. I'm almost done sorting one of my overloaded email accounts (the worst one has yet to be touched). I went to my eye doctor today and I have healthy eyes. On the way to the eye doctor, I got some coffee (no need for explanation). I am connected again to the outside world. I can start looking up all the news that I missed (wouldn't you believe it: I had to sit and fume at home during the Dems "convention" and when the GOP's rolls around, I'm out of circulation and miss it in its entirety!). I get to start looking at classes at Western soon (as soon as I prove I have had the measles).

Last and never least, I have a faithful God who brought me through one of the biggest trips of my life with next to no long-term damage!

Got in last night with my sister Beka. I say "with my sister Beka" because there were some people in my church missing who were going to fly with us. They missed the flight unfortunately and had to get a later one but we all are home and happy as far as I know--we are again thankful for a successful trip and a great conference! I could go on for another several thousand words about the conference but I think that can wait and come in bits and pieces. In fact, I plan on spacing out just about all of the experiences from this trip (the ones worth writing about, that is). There's just too much for it to come in one lump sum. So look for installments soon on anything from encampment and military style life to goofy conversations and experiences at a church conference!

In short, I just want you all to know that I have landed. I'm here! I'm alive and glad to be home.