Thursday, November 26, 2009

26 Nov 09 – Thanksgiving Statistics

Wow two postings in one week! I know your thinking it, but don’t count on it in the future. I just wanted to provide some Thanksgiving statistics to help you understand how many soldiers are here on the ground. Did you know that in order to feed the Soldiers on the ground their Thanksgiving meal that it took over…

37,102 lbs of Stuffing

13,544 pieces of Cake

41,515 lbs of Potatoes

9,702 cans of Sweet Potatoes

40,826 lbs of Ham

7,188 cans of Cranberries

And a combination of 77,648 lbs of white turkey meat, and 73,296 lbs of dark turkey meat!

Can you say you’re thankful that you don’t have to do the dishes, I know I can!

Last Statistic for you from Minnesota!

98% of Americans say “Oh Shit” before going into a ditch on a slippery road.

The other 2% are from Minnesota and they say, “Hold my beer watch this”!

Have a great day!


25 Nov 09 – Happy Thanksgiving

First off to those of you still reading my blog I want to thank you for being patient. It is hard sometimes to write of the routine here that is only broken by sleeping in a little on Sunday, going to church, and then to work later on. I’ve said it before and I will say it again I’m living Ground hogs day over, and over, and over again.

Jacki and I participated in a talk show tonight with radio station KNSI AM 1450 out of St Cloud. It was fun, and the talk show host Dan “Ox” Ochsner was the one who interviewed us. He even pronounced our last name right on the first try! What a nice break from doing the same thing every day. Tomorrow we’re suppose to do a couple of TV interviews which could be fun we will see.

Jacki mentioned tonight on the radio show that we have different blogs, hers is fun and light, and mine on the other hand is serious; somewhat sad. Not sure what she meant, I try to be upbeat.

For example Thanksgiving away from your loved ones is tough to explain unless you’re over here. You try to be strong and show your soldiers that it’s going to be OK, we will get through this. You know one of those leadership things where you lead by example? When inside you’re missing your family, glorified rice, and stuffing with just the right seasonings. Instead were working a normal day and eating in a mess hall that would soon close if it were a business in the cities. Sure it’s all you can eat, the bigger question is how much can you handle? Now Jacki on the other hand would have a bright side along the lines of at least we don’t have to do the dishes! She might also wonder how much money she would make off her dear old grandma playing cards.

Today like most days I find myself day dreaming of the things that I miss the most. Sure family, friends, cold beer, adult activities, and indoor plumbing rank right up there. But sometimes the day dreams are about homemade bread fresh out of the oven. Spreading the butter watching it melt as it spreads, topped by some homemade strawberry jam. Sometimes when you close your eyes you can actually visualize it. Instead the smell from outside crashes your day dream and you’re suddenly faced with reality. Sure it’s doom and gloom here sometimes. But Jacki is right, it’s all about choices. If you remember one of my phrases is it’s up to you if your glass is half empty or half full. I do try and live my life like its half full!

Others ask what it is like there. What do you do? My job is logistics which covers everything from food to ammo; trucks to two wheelers; boots to tanks; water wings to airplanes. My section deals with just about everything except dispensing bulk fuel. Trust me if someone somewhere needs it, forgot it, or just ran out of the last one it becomes a problem for logistics. I think my buddy Teddy said it best:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." --

Theodore Roosevelt

Then again maybe Teddy should have said that Logistics is the difference between a click and a bang when you pull the trigger. Our job here as logisticians is not one that is often rewarded; we’re expected to expect the unexpected. Like Teddy said above we are the guys behind the scenes with dirt on our faces that make stuff happen. We’re the ones who are there before, during and after a mission to make sure it goes off without a hitch?

I didn’t mean to say Logistics is a thankless job when it is, but being the part that changes it from a click to bang is the reward. Replacing a Soldier’s worn out boots, getting his HUMMV back up and operational, or providing the heater that warms his room at night is all the thanks that we need. Taking care of soldiers and their needs is what Logistics is all about!

I want to finish this edition of my blog with Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for my family, my friends, and the world I left behind. I’m thankful for indoor plumbing, shower shoes, and the health of my loved ones. I’m also thankful that you’re able to read this in English, not Russian, Arabic, or Chinese. Most of all I’m thankful for those who gave the ultimate gift so that we can partake in the festivities of the upcoming seasons as Americans. Tonight as you lay snuggled in your bed say a prayer for the families left behind. Sleep well knowing that somewhere out there a soldier is on duty protecting the homeland. I’m going to ask that when you say a prayer tomorrow or the next day that you include the soldiers and their families that have given up more than we will ever know.

Let me leave you with a thought that I shared with my sister Susan. My thought is that the mistakes that are made in life should be like a library book. You check it out as a new edition, learn from it, and return it to the shelf. If you sign it out again use it only as a refresher for you to remember the life lesson that you learned.

That is all,


P.S. Jacki might be right in her observations?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

10 Nov 09-Happy Anniversary Dave

I just wanted to send a quick blog out announcing it’s my anniversary today. 30 years ago today I was sworn into the military. Back then I was eager and willing to do what my country asked me to do. Back then, it wasn’t what it is today. Our biggest threat back then was the Soviet Union and fear of nuclear war. I joined in a time that was considered the cold war era. Me and my brother in law Richard were sworn in together and were part of A Btry 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery. (Kind of like a Walmart store number). My physical was done by my hometown doctor, and I took my entrance test in the recruiter’s office. My commander at the time retired two years ago, at the time I joined he was a lowly Lieutenant, at the time of his retirement he was a full Bird Colonel.

I’ve known quite a few young officers that are now very high in the food chain. As far as my career goes when I joined at 17 all I could think about was 6 years and I’m out of here. After my brother in law left the unit to go back into the active Marine Corps I was kind of lost. My first years were miserable to say the least. The AST (Admin Supply Training) guy in the front office was not soldier friendly and took every opportunity to get one over on the soldier. He charged soldiers for equipment they didn’t lose. He Issued out used clothing and kept the new for whatever reason. Let’s just say we didn’t see eye to eye and he was often mad at me for doing right by the soldier. On more than one occasion he caught me helping the soldier without his permission. One month I came to drill and found out that I had been transferred to another unit. His story was that my move was for my benefit and possible promotion. Not likely I joined in 1979 as a private, went to basic training in 1980 as a private, in 1981 I went to my advance individual course to actually earned a military title and job. Yep you guessed it I was still a private. Rumor has it when he quit his job in Cloquet he went to work for the post office in North Carolina. He was arrested for stealing mail and cashing checks. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

My attitude changed after he left and I was brought back to Cloquet. The new guy SSG Delvin Simonson fixed my pay and got me promoted not once, but twice to catch me up where I should have been. The promotion wasn’t as nice as the back pay, even back then. He taught me a lot about smoking mirrors and how to play the shell game. What happened is that when he was going to be inspected he would box up all his problems and mail them off to himself. In other words he would look really good for the inspection and a couple of days later the box would come back in the mail and he was back to work. He brought me in for additional pay to help him stay afloat. I didn’t mind I learned a lot from him and the experience that it gave me.

After my six years were up I opted to stay a little longer in hopes of landing a full time job. I had several interviews without much success. In fact one of the interviews was all the way down in Anoka. I worked the night before so my dad drove me down. I changed into my dress uniform in the Armory men’s room and was walking down the hall to my appointment when this guy stopped me. He told me my branch of service and U.S. Army devices were on the wrong side. He offered to help me and I was thankful for his assistance, in fact he adjusted my ribbon bar as well. Thank god he helped me before I made a fool out of myself. I thought to myself that I must have been tired when I had placed my devices on my freshly dry cleaned dress uniform. When I got into the interview the president of the board after introductions were made said “please tell the board what’s wrong with your uniform”. It turns out the guy that helped me was next in line and he helped me all right! Man I was so embarrassed. The good news is he didn’t get the job either.

Because I was still a part time I went before a promotion board one day, interviewed for a full time job the next. Basically I was told that I passed the promotion board and would be promoted to Staff Sergeant. Shortly after that I was offered a full time job as a specialist two levels lower than Staff Sergeant. It wasn’t a question of what to do I wanted my foot in the door so I was almost promoted and then reduced in a matter of days.

It took a little getting used to stepping down a rank and having to explain to everyone that I didn’t get in trouble I did it to get a job. After a few years thoughts of promotion were again dancing in my head. The bad news is upward mobility back then was tough. Someone had to retire or die in order for soldiers that worked full time to advance. What was harder was watching all the part time soldiers getting promoted ahead of me. It wasn’t fair but it’s one of those life lessons that you deal with. I loved my job and loved helping soldiers.

When I started full-time I worked in Duluth up on top of the hill. I had the opportunity to transfer to Anoka to take over a rather large mess. It was my opportunity to prove myself and show that I was capable of making it right. When my unit in Anoka disbanded several years later I was selected because of my ability for the new unit that was forming in Anoka. It was tough building an organization from the ground up; I sometimes worked three to four weekends in a role. My boss “Pete” always promised that one day we would kick back and take it easy as a reward for all of our hard work. That day never came. 30 days a year vacation, after two years of hard labor I had 60 days of vacation on the books. I sold back 52 days to pay the bills.

I left Anoka where I was with a Forward Observer unit (Guy on the hill top calling in artillery rounds on the enemy) unit for the Aviation world in St Paul. Several years later I was promoted and after a few years I transferred to the Air Defense Artillery in Brooklyn Park. Ironically the guy in Duluth that was my boss became my employee as I advanced. Before he retired he told me he was nervous when I was selected ahead of him for promotion. He confessed that he wasn’t the nicest to me and feared retaliation. Instead he said I showed him that it was all in the past and I taught him things to make his job easier. You know me I’m not one to carry a grudge! My motto is “make love not war”!

I’ve worn three different utility uniforms (OG 107, BDU, ACU), and three different dress uniforms (Khakis, wool, cotton/poly) in my time. Now that the end is near I finally have a pair of boots that you don’t have to shine, a work uniform that you don’t iron, and dress shoes that were manufactured to always shine. The other highlight is a can of brass polish is a thing of the past, the brass now days has lacquer on it for a permanent shine. You might think I’m crazy to leave but I know in my heart it’s time.

I learned a lot from my past and made a vow early on that I would do what I could for my soldiers. I always gave equipment to the soldier first and took care of my own needs only after their needs were filled. I’ve done all the jobs from dish washer to Chef in the Army. What I’m saying is I want to retire while I’m still making a difference to the soldier. I want to leave knowing that I did my best for those below me, as well as those around me. I want to know that after I’m gone from the system that someone, somewhere says to himself “I wonder what Sergeant Major Crotteau would do in this situation”. I want to walk away knowing that the guy replacing me will build on the foundation I laid. I want him to take the organization I currently belong to up to the next level. Someday I want a soldier to stop me in Walmart and say thank you for helping me when I needed it. For now I look forward to going home, to my upcoming retirement, and spending time with my grand children. Just maybe I can be the cool grand pa and make up time with my family for the time I spent away from them serving in the military.

The future scares me but my thoughts are I was looking for a job when I found this one. I have a lot to offer a business and I’m sure someone out there needs someone like me. After years of being responsible for so much, a change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered.

I want to thank my family, my soldiers and our friends for standing by me all these years. Most of all I want to thank my wife for being my rock. No matter where I was she could give me the canned speech that dealt with the situation I was in. For example if I called missing home she would give me canned speech # 1 “Your almost done don’t quit now”, or if I said I can’t take working with him anymore she would give me canned speech # 2 “Do what you think is best for you, your family stands behind your decision”. All these years later I’m still serving and doing what my country asks of me.

My family was and is my motivator, they guided me onto the right path on more than one occasion. It’s easy making a rash decision when you’re on your own. But when you have a family at home depending on you it becomes more than what’s best for you, it’s about providing for your family, it’s about being a role model for your children.

Veterans Day is tomorrow I will give thanks for my life that I have lived and for my service to my country. I will more importantly say a prayer for those that I have served with that have gone before me. The ones that took the final walk and gave their all so that we can live the life we live!

That is all,


4 Nov 09-Another update

First off I just wanted to thank my wife Susan for putting up with me all these years. On 24 Oct 09 we celebrated 22 years of marriage. Who would have ever thought that she could have put up with me for this long! I know most of you are probably thinking she deserves sainthood! All kidding aside she has given so much to me through the years. Knowing that she is there waiting for me when I get home is one of the bright spots in an otherwise gray world.

Our time here seems to be picking up speed and the end of the deployment is on the horizon. It’s hard to believe 9 months down, and three to go. We have to keep up the momentum and continue to look out for each other. My hope is that Jacki and I will be coming home together. What a change in environment it will be for us. Temperatures here will probably be in the 90’s and back home in February who knows. I guess we (Susan and I) will have to stay in bed under the covers until I transition back to a colder climate. I’m willing to make that commitment now if that’s what it’s going to take. Susan, your thoughts please?

There is a sign out posted out in the front entrance of our building that reads 21 more days to get your Christmas presents home in time for the holidays. The holidays are coming so fast although I’m sure Target (Susan notice how I didn’t say Walmart) has had their Christmas decorations up for some time already. For some it will be the first time away from home for the holidays, the first Christmas as a couple, or just maybe the first Christmas of a new born child. Our goal here has to be to take care of each other as Red Green would say “Were all in this together! During the upcoming months our families will be experiencing the same emotions as well I’m sure. My family plans hopefully will be to celebrate Christmas as a family after our return.

I also wanted to announce that the Crotteau family’s 16th or 17th (?) annual New Year’s Eve bon fire will be postponed until two or three weekends after our return. Hopefully our family, friends, and extended family will still grace us with their presence!

I wanted to share one of those “funny when it happens to someone else story” type stories with you The last time I was at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Gary Owen I forgot to share a story with you. It was later at night just before bed and I thought to myself “Self you better go to the bathroom or you’re going to have to get up in the middle of the night”. Had I been younger I might have ignored the voices, but being just a little wiser I knew better.

I was still dressed in my uniform and off I went in search of a porta-potty. Door number one wasn’t right, door number two was bent, and door number three was where I would take my pee! In the dark of the night I started to go when I heard the sound of water hitting the floor. I whipped out my light and what did I see, the toes of my boots were splattered with pee. The pipe that went from the urinal to the toilet was missing. I finished my business in the actual toilet and thought to myself “Self, can life get any better?” I learned another life lesson that night. If memory serves me this should be life lesson 989,463: Always check and see if the drain pipe is hooked to the urinal in all porta-potties.

Last Saturday I was scheduled to fly down to Bucca near the Kuwait border. As I waited for my helicopter flight out, the wind speed increased. I knew that if the helicopters were not already in flight that we would not be leaving anytime soon. I was right the flight was postponed, after several hours of waiting the status changed to “Canceled”. It was time for plan B which involved ground transport to Bucca. Let me tell you just over an hour drive strapped onto a seat similar to a bleacher, ratcheted in place by a five point safety harness is someone’s idea of fun, it sure wasn’t mine! Just to give you an idea the roads here are similar to Minnesota as the frost comes out of the ground. Wait a minute I’m getting a head of myself here.

Backing up just a little we meet up over at the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) staging area for our mandatory convoy safety briefing followed by some refreshing comments about what to do in the event of a roll over. Did I mention that just standing by one of these big rigs is a little intimidating? Once the brief was over we strapped ourselves in, became locked in, listened as the steps retracted and we were off. It didn’t take long for my foot to fall asleep shortly after the rest of me gave up and followed suit. 10 seconds later the first pot hole jarred me awake. No sleep for the wicked I thought. Sitting in one of these trucks is very similar to having two seats in a car facing each other. You and the guy sitting across from you try to play “Twister” without a board trying to share a too small place filled with combat boots.

Looking out the window it didn’t take long to find out garbage cans were in short supply as well as garbage bags. Litter blew across the road like tumble weeds and the ditches were covered with everything from blown tires, wrecked car frames, and enough garbage to keep an Adopt our Highway crew busy for a life time. The homes that were visible appeared to be from the back roads in Tennessee. Not much to look at and nothing to paint. I have to give them credit though they were trying to scratch out an existence and growing some sort of vegetation, not sure what. I can’t imagine living like they do and what makes them want to get up in the morning? This would make a great setting for a reality show.

Not more than a hour and a half later we were at beautiful Bucca. After clearing our weapons we were allowed on the base. Did I mention that I dropped my magazine full of ammo into the only wet spot with in a fifty mile radius? At one time Bucca was the home to around 20,000 prisoners. I would imagine everything from prisoners of war, to time hardened criminals. I can only imagine how many soldiers and contractors were there to manage that many prisoners.

My job was to identify property needed for bases across lower Iraq and to see what I could find to possibly support the upcoming elections. Unfortunately for me the garage sale had a presale and selected items were already out of stock. You know take a rain check in case we find one in the back?

It didn’t matter I assisted the Battalion Supply Sergeant with his ongoing issues and worked on several tasks of my own to help with the responsible drawdown. The unit there was also National Guard from the state of Wisconsin. It was so refreshing to deal with them, like us they wanted to leave the place better for the next guy.

They built a water tower of sorts out of connex container stacked up in order to deliver water outside of the wire to the locals in town. Bucca had a functioning water plant that at one time couldn’t keep up with the demand of the base and now they had too much. It wasn’t pretty by any means and would never be displayed in some architecture digest magazine. But I had to give them credit instead of spending Uncle Sam’s money they used Uncle Sam’s recyclables instead. 95% of the materials used were recycled. I guess it just goes to show that where there is a will there is a way.

Three times while I was there I heard rain on my roof, by the time I flung my door open and jumped outside it was over. The guys there said it had rained hard the week before.

Three days on the ground and we were headed back by helicopter! Once again the weather turned bad and we were destined to be with the MRAPS again. All I can say is thank god I don’t have hemorrhoids as I climbed back in and strapped myself in. Wearing my body armor and sweating as the air conditioner struggled to cool it down we were off headed back. It was darker this time as I watched the fires from the burn off vales of the oil fields in the horizon. The trip seemed longer and I was glad when we approached the gate at Basra. Home sweet home I thought sadly to myself.

Getting up Tuesday to go back to the office wasn’t easy. I kind of like the road and to be honest I like helping the units. It’s amazing the resources available back at the office to help the units with their problems.

Had dinner or maybe it was called supper with my nice Jessica. It was nice seeing her and hearing of her family back home. I guess I am blessed by having not only my daughter here; I have my niece here also. The next morning I was rather surprised when I saw Don Shelby walk into our mess hall. It was so refreshing to see someone from home! Knowing he was here to share our story with those of you back home was even more excitement for us. In front of my friends I clapped my hands together to make my friends laugh. I told those at the table that if I had my picture taken with Don I was guaranteed to get some when I got home. Imagine my surprise when he actually sat down at our table. He was introduced to us by my longtime friend MSG Richard Kemp. After some small talk and finding out that he served his country in his early years the conversation at the table reminded me of home. But I have to share this with you. He made eye contact with me and said

Wait for it

Wait for it

He said in his best news caster voice “Could you please pass me the salt”? You know me I was quick to recover and I handed him one of those little salt packets out of the bowl on the table. I will never forget that moment!

The rest of my day was OK it’s hard to believe something better might be waiting for me. It didn’t take long to discover it was all downhill after breakfast. I spent the early part of my day typing my trip report, and getting caught up on my Emails. After lunch it was off to the dentist. The week before I had my chipped tooth fixed by the Army dentist. While at my appointment I discovered that they have someone on staff that cleans teeth. I had set up my appointment earlier in the week and showed up with minutes to spare. The young specialist and the dentist that repaired my tooth the week prior chatted for a while before she started. After using her instruments to scrape my teeth I happened to ask her how long she has been doing this. Her casual reply was about a month. After she was done she said that I was doing a great job and that my teeth were well maintained. I laughed and said in your experience right?

That reminds me of a joke one of the troops here from Tennessee told me. Do you know how Tennessee can prove they didn’t invent the tooth brush? If they had it would have been called a teeth brush.

That’s all for now in a few days I will be celebrating thirty years of serving my country. It’s hard to believe that thirty years went by so quickly. Looking back I have great memories, made some great friends, learned from some amazing people, and have stories of a lifetime to tell my grand children.

In the months ahead please keep our soldiers serving in your prayers! If you know someone whose spouse is serving call them and tell them your there for them if they need you. To us over here that’s all we ask is don’t forget us and our familes throughout the upcoming holiday season.

That is all,