I bless the rains down in Africa

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.

It ain’t all rainbows: the problem of spectrum scarcity

Disclaimer: This post contains language that may be unsuitable for cool people that have lives. It is rated “T” for tough to slog through.

Allergens: Excerpts from a Princeton term paper, nuts.

In the past year, increasingly extreme language has emerged from Washington, though not from the usual sources. In a briefing for the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Business Board warned of an “impending crisis.”[1] The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently forecasted the “coming spectrum crunch.”[2] Unfortunately, these are not exaggerations. Uncertain, even frightening, best describes the future of the wireless broadband environment in the United States.

Don't need to surf to know those are some serious waves

To be clear—the “mobile broadband” that this paper speaks of refers to the low end of the radio wave spectrum, the “sweet-spot” range of frequencies under 3 or 4 GHz. These waves can penetrate buildings and other solid objects and can cover the kinds of distances that make them extremely valuable for exploitation by a wide variety of technologies.[3] Radar, broadcasting systems and garage door openers are just a few examples of technologies that operate in this range.

Want to know more? Of course you do.


The knowledge of torch

I have to say, it’s fabulous to be back.

Returning to the Battalion as an MS 2, I’ve discovered how great it feels to know stuff.

To know, for example, that the female bathroom on the second floor of the armory is so rarely used that brown gunk sometimes comes out of the soap dispenser. (Well, I’m assuming it’s rarely used, but a bathroom’s a bathroom, especially when another bathroom is busy).

To know that new equipment looks cooler, but my equipment actually works…because it has since Vietnam.

To know that when my favorite janitor doesn’t say “hi” the way he normally does, its not because he’s having a bad day, but because he thinks I’m someone else when I’m in uniform and is confused as to how I know his name.

To know not to expect my book stipend to be in my mailbox, but to check anyway, just in case.

Some things I don’t know?  The names of all the new cadets. I try to learn them, I really do, but too often my eyes start desperately roving around for backup–a birthmark in the shape of a similar-sounding animal? nope. A non-regulation, very boring but also very useful tattoo? nope. And on their chest only a naked strip of velcro. Its times like these when I say a prayer for that prisoner somewhere whose job it is to machine-embroider on a nametape the tricky, probably hyphenated word of obscure origin that I cannot recall. Be swift and speedy, my friend, for all our sakes.

It’s alright, though; the newbies will forgive me. I certainly wasn’t fussed about being re-christened “hey” for a few weeks last year. I was too busy trying to learn all the things that now I consider second nature. Like what exactly to say to make each/one of my classmates want to murder me:

Other MS 2: “So at Air Assault, ___________[insert anecdote demonstrating difficulty and/or frustration and using at least one frighteningly large number of reps]____________.

Me: “Hey, so did you get paid over the summer?”

Other MS 2: “What!?! You got paid? I spent my summer crawling around in the heat doing overhead arm claps…(fades into incomprehensible grumbling)”

Me: “Oh yeah, what was that thing you did? What was it, again? I’m sorry, I forgot.”

Coming soon: Ranger Challenge! Push-ups! Room-clearing! Mud! Grenades! Blog posts that don’t make me sound like a complete jerk!