My arrival in New Jersey....75 years too late.

After an Individual Augmentee (IA) finishes at NMPS, many of them go on to additional training.  Depending upon what their job will be, and where they are going, this additional training could last anywhere from a few days to 40 weeks. As I previously mentioned, I’ll be headed to a 30-day training course at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Before we get to the training, we need to get a little perspective on where I’ll be for the next month.

I’ll be training at Fort Dix, in south/central New Jersey. Fort Dix was originally built as an Army base, being constructed in 1917 and named for John Adams Dix, a veteran of both the War of 1812 and the Civil War.  He later became famous as the creator of the “neck beard” (see photo below).
John Adams Dix
24 July 1798 – 21 April 1879
Fort Dix was adjacent to McGuire Air Force Base, which in turn was adjacent to an additional military site, the Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station. In 2009, all three were combined to form the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, or “JB MDL”, as the locals call it.
As previous readers of this blog will remember, I’m quite fond of history and firmly believe that we all have a connection to things of the past.  So it will come as no surprise to hear that I’ll be spending a month at a place where several significant historical events have occurred. Let me just highlight one:
 On 6 May 1937 (75 years to the day before I showed up at Fort Dix), the Luftschiff Zeppelin #129, commonly called the “Hindenburg”, exploded into flames and crashed to the ground, killing 35 of the 97 people onboard.
The Hindenburg, seconds after it exploded into flames.
6 May 1937
The Hindenburg was a large German commercial passenger-carrying airship, also referred to as a “zepplin”—the forerunner of our modern “blimps”. To be precise, blimps are non-rigid (meaning they have no internal framework or support), while the Hindenburg was a rigid airship (built with an internal rigid structure and frame.)
The Hindenburg was a German airship, built in 1936, and could make a trans-Atlantic trip in less than half the time of the standard four- to five-day ocean liner trip. It catered to high-end passengers, and provided a luxurious travel experience. Hindenburg passengers ate gourmet meals off fine china, drank French and German wines and enjoyed live orchestra music during the flight. It was considered the height of luxury, but after the fire, it would become known as the “Titanic of the sky.”

In 1937, the 804-foot-long Hindenburg represented cutting-edge technology, with its fabric-covered, metal frame held aloft by more than 7 million cubic feet of lighter-than-air hydrogen. Flammable hydrogen had to be used because of a U.S. embargo on
nonflammable helium. Many aviation experts considered airships to be the future of air travel.
To keep things in perspective, consider the following size comparison.
Blue Whale: ~100 feet long
Boeing 747: 200 feet long
The Hindenburg: 804 feet long
The Titanic: 882 feet long
The Empire State Building: 1,742 feet long

The Hindenburg flies over NYC in April 1937.

(Like many other things in German society at the time, it was also used as a propaganda tool.  The large “swastika” is clearly evident on many of the historical photographs.)

Before that fateful day in New Jersey, the Hindenburg had carried more than 1,000 passengers on 10 successful round trips between Germany and the US, in addition to trips to Brazil and South America.
The Hindenburg, early evening on 6 May.  Gusty winds and thunderstorms caused the giant airship to circle the field for hours, trying to negotiate a tricky landing.  Note the stormy clouds in the background.
There has never been a definitive answer as to why the Hindenburg exploded into flames.  There are lots of theories, as usual, but most experts believe that the stormy weather that May afternoon somehow ignited a gas leak.  When it burst into flames, the entire ship was destroyed in less than 1 minutes One thing is certain: the explosion brought what is known as the "Golden Age" of airships to a screeching halt.
The smoking remains of the Hindenburg on 7 May 1937.
There's a small memorial on the Lakehurst site where the Hindenburg came to rest.
Sunrise at the Hindenburg Memorial.

The chains and plaque outline the location that the Hindenburg came to rest.

If you have a moment (actually 1:44), check out the historical video below, which includes some incredible video and a firsthand audio account of a reporter on the scene. 

The Crash of the Hindenburg (will open in a new window)

There’s a couple of other important historical things going on around here so stay tuned—I might one day make it to what I’m actually doing here.

Stop One: NMPS

I know these first several posts aren't the most riveting, but since many of you blog readers aren't very familiar with the military, I feel like I need to lay a bit of a foundation before I jump into the heart of what I am doing. So be will get better.
As I mentioned last time, the first stop for an Individual Augmentee (IA) is one of the Navy Mobilization Processing Sites (NMPS).  There are several located around the country, and I spent a week at the NMPS in San Diego.

A lot happens during the week, but it's all centered around the idea of insuring that an IA is fit for duty, especially in the medical/dental/physical realm.  The last thing the Navy wants is to spend a lot of time and money to send a Sailor around the world, but have that Sailor not be productive because of some health issue.  But if you come to NMPS in good health (as I am), with all your current immunizations (as I did), then it's a lot of down time (which I had).

In addition, you get your first big gear issue.  The military is constantly changing and upgrading the quality of gear it issues, so if you are going somewhere you have never been, or maybe with a Branch of the military you've never worked with before, you'll wind up getting A.LOT.OF.STUFF.

Since I'll be working primarily with the Army, I traded in my Navy uniforms for the new Army Combat Uniform (ACU). Of course, I'll still proudly wear a "U.S. Navy" label across the front.

My first gear issue of this Mobilization.  More gear to follow....

Luckily, I have some good friends in the San Diego area, in addition to Derek Jacobsen, so I had plenty to occupy my time.  I even scored some tickets to a San Diego Padres home game and managed to sit in the "Mayor's Suite".

After a trip to NMPS, the Individual Augmentee usually travels to an additional training site before heading to their ultimate Duty Station. Most Navy servicemembers go to Ft. Jackson (SC) for a 3-week "introductory" training to the Army, but I'm headed to Ft. Dix (NJ) for a 30-day Combat Skills Training course before heading to Afghanistan. The pace is sure to pick up from here on out, and now that we have these introductory blogs out of the way, stay tuned for more excitement.

First things first....

For you late arrivals, here's a brief bit of background to start to answer the question of what I'm doing in Afghanistan. I'll try to provide enough info to paint the picture, but not all the minute details.

As an Active Duty member of the military, a servicemember trains and deploys as part of a larger unit, exactly as I did when I was on Active Duty and deployed with VP-16 in 2006.  Starting 10 or 11 years ago, with the US prosecuting wars in two countries, the military often found themselves with a shortage of people to fill key positions with deployed units.  The result was what is known as an "Individual Augmentee", commonly referred to as an "IA". Quoting from the Navy website, "Individual Augmentees can be used to fill shortages or can be used when an individual with specialized knowledge or skill sets is required. As a result, Individual Augmentees can include members from an entirely different branch of service." Which is, of course, what I'm currently doing.

Servicemembers can come from both the Active Duty and Reserve ranks. In my case, as a Reservist, I was recalled and "mobilized" back on Active Duty for a year.

The first stop for IAs and mobilized Reservists is a Navy Mobilization Processing Site (NMPS), which is where I currently am.  Details on what happens here next time......