Oh, mama
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Surprise! The second record Army Physical Fitness Test of the year is rapidly approaching, as is the slightly worrying prospect of MS IIs leading morning PT sessions.

For the past few months, I’ve been training with Fortis Academy founder and all-around awesome Princeton student Josh Levine to build strength, resist injury and nudge that APFT score higher. (All worthy goals, though Josh and I would also love to see a certain cadet’s high score conquered).

However, a gruesome finals period and a badly sprained wrist have me worried that I’ve cramped my progress. Call me insecure, but I think if we faced each other today, my mother would kick my ass.

Of course, my mother is no ordinary woman.

"This Christmas card photo is taking a long time. Let's go over there and do some lunges."

Some women have walk-in closets. My mother has a pull-up bar. Free-standing and made of steel, the thing looks like a doorway, a magical portal from her room to the land of beautifully-defined back muscles.

The picture of health, my mother. Every time I go back home, she has six new nutrition texts at her desk. A doctor should take photos of our kitchen shelves, honestly. And of course, she looks great. Since my sophomore year of high school, she gives me clothing that…wait for it…is too big for her. One time we were going through security at the airport, and the TSA agent thought she and my brother were twins.

My mother has always inspired me in many ways. She’s thoughtful, pragmatic and dedicated.  A graduate of the second class of women at West Point, my mother went on to fly helicopters for the army, study history and teach. I count on her support but I also think there is something about her example that is especially motivating for the trials of cadet life.

Because when I’m complaining, she’s already done twenty reps.

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I bless the rains down in Africa
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How cool is it that I get to go to Tanzania for a month this summer? I’ll tell you. Very Cool. (Side note: Google tells me that “cool” in Swahili is “cool,” which is awesome and also probably wrong, considering the kind of cool I meant. “Awesome” is “kutisha.”)

I’ll explain. In the past couple of years, Cadet Command has seriously expanded a program called the Culture and Language Deployment (CULP). Basically, you say what area of the world you want to go and whether you’d prefer working with a non-profit or checking out another country’s military. And then you get sent there. For free.

Well, you know, it’s almost free. If something is on the army’s dime, it’s going to come with a lot of paperwork, and maybe a little bit of miscommunication thrown in for funsies.

Take for example the fact that I was originally put down for a trip to El Salvador (pretty Kutisha as well) but I would have had to jet off in the middle of my 2nd semester finals. One can dream, of course, but the dean don’t like those kinds of dreams. He’s got a machine that sucks those dreams away. Like a dream dyson.

Anyhow, the cadre thankfully got that sorted out, and so I’m going to be volunteering in Moshi, Tanzania, along with a bunch of other khaki-and-polo-clad cadets from throughout the country.

I’m sure I’m going to write about this later, so for now I’ll just share a few details from some of the pre-deployment tasks we’ve had to do (a bunch of other Princeton kids are doing CULPs as well).

From the convenience of my laptop, I learned about Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE). Some of the information was not surprising. For example, when you hole up to get your evading on, use dirt to cover that oily, ugly face of yours, and use tree branches to break up the distinctly human outline of your person. Of course. Makes sense. If you need to build rapport with your captor, chat with him about football and his family. Sure. Yeah. Absolutely.

Some of the other information was completely new to me. Did you know that you can eat worms raw if you let them soak in potable water for 15 minutes? They purify themselves. MMM, DELICIOUS. Actually I shouldn’t joke. Princeton has a bug-eating club. And you thought we were just nerdy-weird!

It's called protein, and you need it

We also had to take a basic level anti-terrorism course, which I found extremely interesting. Pro tip: if you have to book a hotel room, pick one that does not have a shared bathroom and don’t get one too close to an exit (makes it easy for them to get away!).

Thanks also to this course, I stumbled upon what can only be the DoD’s euphemistic definition of “seduction.” Here goes:

“Operatives may use members of the opposite sex to gain access to facilities and collect information”

So steamy. I can’t take it.

Hooah haiku
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The haiku format might just be the most under-utilized organizational tool in the US Army. Don’t worry, I’m here to rectify this. Do you enjoy learning about the big Tiger Battalion events of the semester? Of course! Do you start to get anxious when reading more than 17 syllables at a time? It’s true, I’ve got goosebumps already!

Look no further than

“Cadence” and keep checking back–

I will keep adding!

Vol. 1: Ranger Challenge

Ranger Challenge 2010

The 2010 Princeton ROTC Ranger Challenge team (minus my own injured self) finishes the last event, the 10k ruck march, on Sunday, October 24. We placed third in our division and ninth overall. It's kind of a big deal.

Ten cadets trained hard

For new events and old ones;

Weekend at Camp Smith.

With the one-rope-bridge,

We burned our time preparing–

Damn you, Switzerland!*

Computer gaming:

Simulated insurgents,

Real domination.**

MOUT: rock back, rock forth,

Zoom inside, bang-bang, (all up!),

“Ivan” has seen better.***

It wouldn’t really be poetry if you knew what was going on. Here are some helpful notes:

*In this event, the objective is to set up a taut line between two trees and get everyone across as quickly as possible. We lost a lot of time untangling the rope and tying our own harnesses in the beginning, unaware that this was included in the timed section. The rest was very fast, just as practiced.

**EST uses real weapons that have been modified with lasers and a video projection to simulate a combat scenario. We were graded on leadership and organization as well as our marksmanship; it ended up being one of our best events.

***Room-clearing. An “Ivan” is a cardboard cut-out and a sworn enemy.

Vol. 2: Fall Field Training Exercises

The rope-climb, an infamous task at the Ft. Dix obstacle course, which was completed by each of the six squads that participated in the Batallion FTX. The weekend, besides offering a more practical and intensive learning experience than weekly labs, also allowed cadets from Rowan University to become more incorporated with their new host program.

No tents? Cots, you say?

No FOB-ops? Impossible.

More sleep than at school!

Don’t forget to add

(Or subtract) that pesky GM,

or else the thorns will eat you.

It was just like an early Thanksgiving. Except this time, the turkeys ate our leftovers.

Black Hawk flight to start,

Good way to get excited,

Make the turkeys jealous.

We yell “incoming,”

Hearing the shrill, tell-tale whine,

Whoops, its not our lane.

Up in the air
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So I haven’t posted for a long time and so much stuff happened.  It’s funny how that works.  Here is my excuse–work blah blah blah end of the year etc etc.

Anyway, I have decided to make up for my negligent behavior and simultaneously take a break from my less-entertaining-to-write term papers by providing a highlights reel of the past few weeks.  Prepare yourself.

The last two labs of the year. Also known as the MS 1 and 2 FTX, which means that these labs were planned and executed by this year’s MS 3s, and everyone got to prepare for more leadership/responsibility coming next year.  There was a big ol’ lane each day, but also something sort of special afterwards–pugil sticks and then combatives.

Hooah moment:  We took over Whitman hill, created a ring of rucksacks, and ta-da, there was  spectacle!  The curious, meandering prefrosh who were touring the campus that weekend were probably wondering what was going on with what our BC later called “giant Q-tips.”

The dining-out/awards ceremony. Parents were invited this year, and my mom came up for it.  She utterly failed to come up with suitably embarrassing childhood anecdotes about me when prompted, besides hinting that I may have not acquired a voice befitting a proper military bearing until very late.  There were really quite a lot of awards–my date, fatigued, eventually succumbed to a hand-to-knee method of applause.

Hooah moment:  I talked for a solid ten minutes about “Avatar” (a film I haven’t actually seen) with Janet Dickerson, the Vice President of Princeton University (!!!), and her husband, who both came out to support us.  The short answer?  They liked Avatar.  And they were both quite hilarious.

The final APFT.  Oooof.

UH-60 Flight

UH-60 (Black Hawk) Flight. It sucks that I don’t have a better picture to offer than this extremely…grounded shot.  All of our cell phones kind of seemed to die at the same time.  Some pictures might surface later, though now that I think about it, pictures might not be a great thing for my ego.  You see, I jumped at the chance to sit in the “hurricane seat,” meaning that because the doors were open, I got hit with the majority of the wind–and probably looked like this the whole time.

Hooah moment: Um, duh, the whole thing.  We flew over NEW YORK CITY.  In a HELICOPTER.  You know, no big deal.  Thank you, NJ National Guard.

The senior roast. I’m not going to say much about this tradition because that would spoil it.  But I will note that it was a good time, and quite fun to see the MS 4s–soon to be LTs–taken down a few notches.

Now, free for the summer!  Oh wait–what’s that?  25 more pages?  Back to work, I guess.

additional photos by Myers