08 July 2015

'Summer Camp' vs. 'Summer Camping,' Revisited

The writer of the Red Bull Rising blog is currently on family vacation maneuvers at an undisclosed training area, somewhere in the Middle West. (Ironically, commo was the first thing that was lost on the trip.) This re-post from June 2012 may or not be applicable:


National Guard soldiers often say "Summer Camp" when they mean "Annual Training."

When I recently posted pictures of my kids' first backyard camping experience, a number of Facebook friends and Red Bull Rising blog-readers compared the new Sherpa-family "King-Dome" to a U.S. Army brigade's Tactical Operations Center ("TOC").

Can't tell the difference between camping for pleasure, and Summer Camp for Uncle Sam? Here are some rules of thumb to help you find your way:
  • If you're carrying a weapon with no bullets, but wearing a bullet-proof vest, you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're locked, loaded, and practically bear-proof, you're camping.
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  • If you're wearing a reflective safety belt over camouflage clothing, you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're wearing a mix of bright colors and camouflage clothing, you're hunting.
  • If you're wearing bright colors and mismatched clothing, you're camping.
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  • If you're "humping a pack," you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're "backpacking," you're camping.
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  • If you're walking with others in a single file, you're camping.
  • If you're walking with others in "Ranger File," you're at Annual Training.
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  • If a guy wearing a reflective safety belt is talking to you about safety, you're at Annual Training.
  • If a guy in a Smokey-the-Bear hat is yelling at you and calling you names, you're at Basic Training.
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  • If you're sleeping in a building but working in a tent, you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're showering in a building but sleeping in a tent, you're camping.
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  • If your tent is air-conditioned but your vehicle is not, you're at Annual Training.
  • If your vehicle is air-conditioned but your tent is not, you're camping.
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  • If your camp stove burns "mogas," you're at Annual Training.
  • If your camp stove burns white gas, kerosene, diesel, automotive gas, aviation gas, Stoddard solvent and/or Naphtha, you're camping.
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  • If the camp store is "back on cantonment," you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're allowed to purchase beer at the camp store, you're camping.
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  • If you're chewing coffee grounds to stay awake, you're at Annual Training.
  • If you're all clustered together around a coffee pot, in an air-conditioned tent, and watching pretty pictures on a big flat-screen, you're at a brigade staff meeting.

01 July 2015

Sherpa's Four (or More) Freedoms

In his famous "Four Freedoms" speech, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described in January 1941 the four principles at stake in World War II. The freedoms he described, later visualized in a series of popular paintings by Norman Rockwell, were these:
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom from want
  • Freedom from fear
In accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, Duke Ellington noted that his artistic collaborator Billy Strayhorn lived by four freedoms:
  • Freedom from hate
  • Freedom from self pity
  • Freedom from fear of doing something that would benefit someone else more than it would himself
  • Freedom from the pride that could make him feel that he was better than others
I've always loved Rockwell's "Freedom of Speech" painting. Back in my small town newspaper days, the ideals it depicted kept me going through many tedious public input, school board, and city council meetings: Everybody gets a voice, everybody gets a vote.

I love Strayhorn's ideals even more: Cool and warm, all at the same time.

This U.S. Independence Day, I invite you to consider for a moment the four freedoms you most enjoy. Maybe write them down. Maybe share them with others. I'll post mine below.

In the meantime, have a great weekend!

Be safe! Be responsible! And be excellent to each other!

Sherpa's Four Freedoms
  • Freedom from chemical latrines
  • Freedom from humorlessness
  • Freedom from presidential "contenders"
  • Freedom from the tyranny of too much social media

24 June 2015

War Poetry Potpourri and a Corn Belt Cornucopia

"You've been writing a lot about poetry lately," says Archer.

I know.

I guess you could say I'm writing what I know. Or what doing what I know. Which, this summer, is poetry. Also, comic books. And constructing foam-armor costumes with the Sherpa kids. It's summertime, after all, and we have a couple of weeks of "Camp Dad" on the calendar.

So, I've slowed down the blog a bit, shifted the frequency of posts to once a week.

Behind the blog-scene, I'm shopping to publishers and contests a manuscript of my own military-themed poetry, while also wrestling with the harder parts of that never-ending "Red Bull in Afghanistan" non-fiction project. I'm also ramping up to help out some of my veterans-lit buddies at Military Experience & the Arts with a larger, on-going editorial project. More on that in a future post.

Summer is here! That's Annual Training season!

Through press releases and social media, I've been watching members of the Minnesota National Guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (1-34th BCT) engage in a large-scale training event at Camp Ripley, Minn. They're getting ready for a 2016 rotation "in the box" at the National Training Center (N.T.C.), Fort Irwin, Calif. Meanwhile, members of the Iowa National Guard's 2-34th BCT are prepping for a rotation later this summer at Joint Readiness Training Center (J.R.T.C.), Fort Polk, La. "All this has happened before, and all this will happen again."

Good times, good times ...

That reminds me: I should write a humorous essay titled "Ways that Camp Dad is like Annual Training." Something akin to that time I compared/contrasted working in a Tactical Operations Center and working in a daycare. It seems to me that I haven't been bringing the funny much lately. 

Unless you're talking poetry, of course. Which I am. No big surprise here, but the stuff I write usually tends toward the humorous. Even with all the summer household chaos and logistics, I've had some recent good fortune in getting my work out there and published.

One recent arrival is The Corn Belt Almanac, a cornucopia full of essays, fiction, poetry, recipes, fun facts, and other good stuff about agriculture—about how and what we eat.

The almanac is the third such project from The Head & The Hand Press, a small press located in Philadelphia, Penn. Previous years brought about 2013's The Rust Belt Almanac (on themes of urban renewal) and 2014's The Asteroid Belt Alamanac (on themes regarding science and space). Writers, take note: There's also soon to be an open call for The Bible Belt Almanac, to be published in 2016. Editors will be looking for work regarding religion and philosophy.

You can buy The Corn Belt Almanac here. The 116-page journal not only includes "10 haiku about a state fair," written by the writer of the Red Bull Rising blog, but also a recipe for "Kick-@$$ Corn" from Household-6! It's also chock-full of literary goodness!

But what's the connection to military writing, Sherpa?

Well, an early draft of "10 haiku …" did include one about military recruiters working at a state fair. That, however, grew into its own, non-haiku work. It hasn't yet been published.

There's also probably something grand and theoretical to be said about the natural evolution of artist- and writer-veterans. At some point, we each have to be open to considering topics other than war. At some point, we each might drop the hyphenated "-veteran." (Heck, some might even call that "reintegration" into civilian life.)

More directly, however, I first came across The Head & The Hand Press when reviewing Adrian Bonenberger's 2014 memoir "Afghan Post." They're a hardworking and creative "craft publisher"—check out their "community-supported" business model, for example—and bring a lot to our collective literary table.

Friendly reminder: You can buy Bonenberger's book through Amazon, your local bookseller, or direct from the publisher.

In other war poetry news, fellow Military Writers Guild member Mikhail Grinberg recently wrote a two-part review and interview with self-published war poet Stanton S. Coerr's 2013 collection "Rubicon". Coerr is a former Marine attack-helicopter driver, and he has some good things to say in person and in print.

I commend both the review and the interview to you, although I think that modern military-themed poetry has a larger footprint than either writer suggests. Does it enjoy the same reach and financial success as the latest summer blockbuster? Probably not. But it's doing important stuff, and there's a market for it. Grinberg's review personally influenced me, for example, to seek out and purchase Coerr's work.

I've also taken the liberty of adding Coerr's work to my "Mother of All 21st Century War Poetry Lists," which was first posted last April, and now appears as a static page on the Red Bull Rising blog.

"Attack! Attack! Attack!"