Thursday, November 11, 2010

Army Ball

I've heard a lot of military balls in the past so I was really excited to go to my very first one last night.  There have been only a few times I get really dressed up and fancy and go out.  A military ball is a huge deal.  I have no idea how often they have these bashes but I'm guessing usually about once a year.  Our ball last night was held in Fayetteville at their one and only coliseum/convention center type of place.  I was a little surprised how nice everything actually was.  The food was good, the tables were beautiful, everyone was dressed their very best.  Girls go all out for this sort of thing and aside from a few dresses not much larger than a band-aid paired with clear heels (hello stripper!  excuse me, exotic dancer) the ladies were all dolled up.  Lots of girls had their hair done and looked like they were going to prom, but it was fun to see so much fanciness all in one place.  The guys, of course all looked exactly the same in their dress uniforms.  Here's a few highlights of our night.

 On our way to the ball.  See my cute gloves?  Yep, I've been watching a lot of Mad Men lately.

 Waiting forever in the foyer area, before we could be seated at our table.

 It was really dark in the ballroom.

 Gunnar and his boys.

 So much love in the Army!

 This is where things start to get a little weird...

 This guy with Gunnar is Doc Carr, he was the medic for their platoon in Afghanistan.  

 A-R-M-Y = L-O-V-E

 This sweet baby-faced boy they call the "War Baby" because he was the youngest in the platoon.  
He doesn't even look old enough to drive! 

 Now that is a hug!

All in all, we had a really great night.  We were home shortly after 9pm to pick up the kids from the sitters, even though the ball was still going on till midnight at least. It was so nice to meet all these guys that I've heard so much about, and finally put faces to the names.   

Friday, November 5, 2010

Salad Bar, Explained

Alrighty here goes, I'm going to attempt to explain all the junk on Gunnar's uniform. I'm warning you now, on a scale of 1-10 my photo editing skills hover in the 2 - 2.5 range so I'm going to add a nice diagram to the following pics.  Hopefully at least some of this will make some sense to you (because it sure doesn't to me).

A - French Fourragere, all soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division wear these
B - Branch Affiliation, these are the cross rifles of the Infantry
C - Combat Infantryman's Badge, awarded to Infantrymen that are actively engaged in combat with an enemy  
D - Army Commendation Medal, (Gunnar's has an oak leaf cluster, which means he's been awarded 2), Gunnar got these for his performances in a firefight in Afghanistan
E - Army Achievement Medal, (Also with the oak leaf cluster), performance based just for doing his job and doing it well...twice, apparently
F - Good Conduct Medal, for never getting in trouble 
G - Reserve Component Achievement Medal, from the good old days when Gunnar was in the National Guard, and not sucking at it
H - National Defense Ribbon, awarded to everyone in the Army during a time of conflict
I - Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon, for soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, the bronze star signifies 1 year over there
J - GWOT or Global War on Terrorism, awarded to everyone currently serving in the military during the War on Terror
K - NCO Professional Development Ribbon, NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) school which is called WLC or Warrior Leadership Course
L - Army Service Ribbon, soldiers get this when they complete Basic Training.  They have lots of non-PC names for this one, since it's a rainbow and all 
M - Overseas Ribbon, stationed overseas
N - Afghanistan ISAF, that's the International Security Assistance Force or NATO's equivalent of a thank you card
O - Airborne wings, this is Gunnar's jump status, meaning he can jump out of a plane any time they want/need him 
P - Air Assault Badge, he got this one back in '93 for repelling out of a helicopter
Q - Expert Marksmanship Badge, specifically with a carbine device.  That means he's a damn good shot with an M4    

Alrighty - on to the right lapel...

A - Unit Crest, It's actually the same as "D" on his uniform.  It's the second of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.  Their crest is a dragon/lion's a close's lots of funny to me.  "Fury From the Sky" is their motto.  They sound very angry.
 Back to the diagram...
B - Blue Cord, awarded to soldiers when they complete their Infantry school training
C - US Insignia, with baby blue disk.  Only Infantry gets a disc (of any color) beneath the US pin
D - See A
E - Presidential Unit Citation, Awarded to the 508th by FDR for invading France
F - Combat Patch, given to 82nd Airborne soldiers serving in combat zone
G - Rank, Gunnar is a Specialist, currently (though he is preparing for a promotion soon)

Other stuff that didn't make it to the diagram:  Valorous Unit Citation, awarded for 508 performance in Afghanistan.

And there you have it.  A tour of a soldier's uniform.  Whew, I'm going to have a glass of wine now.     

Dolla Dolla Bill Y'all

I'm getting better with the regional lingo around here, eh?

While Gunnar was deployed (which was basically the whole time he's been back in the Army, up till now), which brought along with it some nice financial perks.  We received monthly bonuses for combat pay, separation pay, hazardous duty pay, and probably some other things that I can't keep track of.  And when he came back in September, all of those bonuses magically disappeared.  We've been doing pretty well going from a dual income  to a single income household, especially since the military benefits are incredible.   But now adjusting to having another person to feed, a person with the capability of spending money too, and the 30-something % decrease in pay is taking some getting used to.  I was anticipating the change in income but didn't realize how much our outgoing cash was going to change too.

For example, today Gunnar had "Payday Activities".  Silly thing to call it but generally on the first Friday of each month, they have the guys get all dressed up in their Class A's for an inspection and do other funny tricks too.  This morning Gunnar had to be at work at 5am for a Brigade run.  So 3,000 guys were running in formation all over Fort Bragg doing their yelling and cadence-ing and all that jazz.  I heard them from my cozy warm bed about a half a block away from one of the streets they ran down.  A lot of roads are closed on base in the wee hours of the morning to allow for silly stuff like this.

Gunnar got home after the run and got changed for the inspection.  He has been working on his uniform all week.  He had to get 2 haircuts (cha-ching, cha-ching) because the first didn't meet Army standards.  (The second haircut honestly didn't look that different from the first, in my opinion.  But what do I know?)  He also had to get lots of fancy little decorations for his jacket.  He had a long list of things that needed to be added to it, plus new patches that needed to be sewn on.  There's dozens and dozens of alterations, dry cleaners and sewing places just off post so it was easy to get it done.  But of course, all this added up to cost an arm and a leg when it was all said and done.  They Army requires a ton of out of pocket expenses for these soldiers!  To be fair, they also include an annual uniform allowance in their pay.  But it's only around $200 and seriously, that barely scratches the surface of what they are required to purchase.

Anyway, that was a lot of griping and complaining wasn't it?  I think you'll enjoy the final product.  Take a look:

 All dressed up!

He obsessed over getting these damn things shiny enough, and still thought they could use more shine.  These are his "jump boots", only required by paratroopers.  I think.  They (obviously) aren't worn for jumping out of planes anymore, but the Army loves them some traditions.

Affectionately referred to as the "salad bar".  I think this one is impressive, though I only know what about 10% of those things mean.

Some more decorations.

I took these before he put on his goofy beret.  Hopefully I can snap one later and give you the whole picture.