Gophers Inner Circle: Coach Robinson Overseas #3

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 Day #3

We heads out at 0615 for a quick breakfast, pick up a meal to go then headed to the cars for a ride to the northern camp Bearing. I was about a 100 miles north of our current Camp/location and we made it in just under a 2 hour ride. We had our PSD (personal security detail) with us the entire way. The PSD consisted of another SUV with a driver and another person and they positioned their vehicle behind ours in case of any problems. The speed limit here is about 75 MPH but the PSD's usually travel a bit faster and the fines are waved our driver said should you get a ticket. Took videos of the country side but nothing really to photograph just a but a bunch of sand.

If you have ever traveled though the Nevada desert you would observe much the same features, sand, sand and more sand. I better retrace that statement better yet, travel though California near Death Valley it is flatter like here and with less vegetation. In fact no vegetation here.

When were we go to a different camp or base it is always started off with a meeting with the Camp Commander. The biggest message every commanders would like you to comment on is camp morale and finishing the job off right. Camp Bearing is located about 30 miles from the Iraq border so it is the go to place to run convoys into and out of Iraq.

We spoke to a couple of different groups that had different missions and as a result different issues. One unit from Oklahoma was supposing to Afghanistan with the sister units but were sliced off and sent here to help with convoying the equipment out of Iraq. The problem/issue is their sister units have received casualties in Afghanistan and are frustrated because all they can do is sit here. All they can do is listen to what is happening to people in the units they have rained with in Oklahoma and know personally. It is quite difficult to deal with when they can't do anything to help them.

They also have some survivor's guilt as they sit down here and cannot get in to the fight they have trained for. With the war ending many of the men that have been trained to project force in their MOS (military occupational specitily) are now doing job that they were not trained to do and they do not want to necessary do. This is part of the problem at  the end of any war is cleaning up all the parts that are left over. Their sister units from Oklahoma have lost 12 men and they are holding a memorial service for them tomorrow.

The other group's mission is running the protection for the convoys. There is a lot of Red Bull's in the unit and they drive M wraps. These are much armored vehicles that can take a direct hit by an IED and everyone can walk away from it. Their Sgt Major hit an IED just 2 days ago and everyone in this vehicle survived. They gave me a ride in one and put me in the gun turret that has a 50 cal machine gun. It cost $500,000 is top heavy (which means it can roll over easy) so they have devised a system to hold the gunner in place should the vehicle roll over. Not the most comfortable ride when you think the missions on the roads they are traveling  are anywhere from 8-18 hours

The CO of the Squadron was from Waterloo Iowa and we knew a lot of the same people. Stuart Carter who won a National title for Iowa State is his cousin and  he is really loved to talk wrestling and lived around  the corner from Dan Gable.

As in most places we put on a demonstration of Combatives and actually got some soldiers that have never tried it to try it. In the end it worked out well and I had 5 Combatives Instructor to help me.  I wrote a program for Combatives for the 2nd Ranger Battalion back in 1996 as a favor for Steve Banach (Eddie and Louie's Banat brother) and then a Sgt Larsen who worked for Steve Banch took the 28 page paper and implemented the changes in the Ranger Battalion. That program that has since morphed into the Army wide Combatives program making me so they say I am one of the founders. Everyone assume  I know all kind of stuff about MMA and hand to hand combat, and I know nothing. I try and help them with the basics of the program and I have to remind everyone that's I know very little. We work on thing like their stance, footwork, how to push and react and to maneuver into the best possible position.

Tomorrow we head out a 0515 to a Seabee Camp (Navy) then in the afternoon we swing over to another Army camp. It is going to be a long one so have to get some sleep. Hope all is going with everyone

 

Salty dog 6      out

 

Head Coach J Robinson is currently overseas in Kuwait spending time with US Troops. Please read J's entry and check back for more updates!

Salty Dog here
 
Well they were not kidding when they said they would keep me busy, Just got back at 10 and Chaplin Winn said we talked to over 300 people today. We started out at 0630 with breakfast. Boy do they eat a lot here, they never miss an opportunity to eat.
 
First up on the list was a Combatives seminar with about 15 Combatives instructor with a question and answer session then we did a little Combatives sparing on the feet helping the instructors be more aware of how important the pressure of moving forward and the placement of your feet. The Army is really trying to make Combatives a main stay  with their units but as in all program in the Army it takes the involvement of the commander to validate the program. If the Commander get on board and endorses a program it well go forward so it is important to get the support structure behind any thing you hope to accomplished here.
 
Meet with the Commanding Officer of the base right after breakfast and we had a great visit about Ranger School and the impact that it had on both of us. Many stories were thrown back and forth and we both validated the influence that it continues to have in our lives. The CO gave me a briefing of all the camps that we well be visiting and their location in Kuwait. It helped orientate me to our current location, realizing that Kuwait is about the size of New Jersey.
 
The MWR (moral welfare recreation) officer Ed  has been here so he shares info about the Kuwait's as a nation. About 3 1/2 million people live here but ruffly one and a half million are Kuwait citizen. The other 2 million are brought in as worker in all areas of the economy. The citizens of Kuwait do not work. They are given a stipend by the government and they hire out all their work, maids, servants, construction workers etc. I belief he said they get around 70,000 a year. They pay the maids about 210 a month so that gives you an idea how far their stipend will do. The locals  rioted during the Arab summer to the Emmer/King who gave them all a couple of thousand more on their stipend so Ed said everything now is OK.
 
Kuwait City is built up around the port but once you get a ways inland there is nothing but sand. It is about 115 today and its like being in a large sauna so I think it is great. When the Red Bulls got here in July some of them said it was 128. I noticed the heat when I stepped off the plane. Not the muggy sticky heat with moisture like Vietnam but more of like a blast furnace. It some ways it is crazy as you are in air conditioned building parts of the day then you step into the furnace.
 
We had lunch with the CO (commanding officer) of the Brigade that is here from Minnesota and the Sergeant Major. The SM was a wrestling coach in Grand Rapids and coached Jeremy Gaddens a wrestler that came to the University and later transfer to N Illinois with Dave Grant and became a 2 x all American. After lunch we spoke to the support Battalion that takes care of all the logistics on the base. A very necessary but thankless job and I told them that without  what they do this would not be a very nice place. The Sgt Major of the unit came up afterward and said the talk really helped one of his young soldiers who had just re uped to stay in Kuwait for another year. They are setting him for individual support so he can work on some college credits while he is here'
 
We are doing an all day work shop (8 hours) on Sat that deals with developing your own philosophy and goal setting. It seems from talking to some of the senior leadership the soldiers need some direction on what they need to be thinking about what to do once they get back to the states so they have a plan. Service men and women have on unemployment rate of around 23 % so the command is trying to integrate them to think about developing  their plan before they get back to the states
 
1800 (6 PM) dinner again I'm going to be 200 when I get back. We began the evening session talking  to a transportation company that runs convoys into Iraq to bring equipment out. A dangerous job as they go way inside Iraq, sometimes 12-1500 miles load up the equipment then head home. They can't go over 45 mph so its a long trip and always the danger of IED's (improvised explosive devices) so their bodies are on alert the entire way dumping adrenalin in the body. It takes time to come back to normal upon their return. They have about 21 days left before they pack up and head home. A stressful job as your (wired) up when out on the road then you come back into Kuwait and your almost back to normal, This cycle has continued the entire time they have been  here alternating between stress and stand down, stress (on the road) they stand down it takes a toll on the individuals.
 
We finished up speaking to a group of soldiers that were work on their financial skills trying to get their financial situation under control by learning some money skills. They were fun to interact with as they had already made the decision they want to development some financial skill to help them change their  life. The chaplains do a great job working with the many parts of the command that are here. It is inspiring to witness the impact and interaction they have with the soldiers.
 
Soldiers buddy up with each to watch out for each others welfare.... they call the person they are interacting with their battle buddy
 
It is amazing to see the chaplain's here and all the good they do with the troops on an individual as will as a unit basis. One of the Chaplain's bought a waffle machine and makes home made waffles for 800 troops every Sat morning. We are going there then and the troops tell him that the reason they make it here is the family feeling of those waffles. One said I just make it  from Sat to Sat looking forward to those waffles. Some on the troops e mail him with their order and time. 0800 regular waffles with blueberries. The most challenging thing is to find the eggs for the batter. The mess hall wont give him the eggs because they are contracted so he digs them up any way he can.......go figure.
 
I'm in the officer quarter but asked to be moved to where the troops are tomorrow. We are going off base so it is up and on the go at 0600. I know that the last day we are going to the naval base to ride on some boats so looking forward to that.
 
Have meet a lot of great young soldiers that make you proud of what they are doing for us. I tell then a line from Jack Nickleson and I change it a bit to get the point across for what they are doing for us.  " We sleep under the blanket of the security you provide and it allows all of us in the US to live a great life, from those in the US thank you
 
Salty Dog 6  out
 

Gophers Inner Circle: Coach J Robinson Reports from Kuwait

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Head Coach J Robinson is currently overseas in Kuwait spending time with US Troops. Please read J's entry and check back for more updates!


SD6 # 1    Thoughts from Kuwait
Don't know what to call this communication an update, newsletter , blog (not a big fan) or situation report (sit rep)
Well take a vote....... so send me your choice for one of the above  4 suggestions

But were ever we go with it  .......

Salty Dog is on the ground in Kuwait. I accepted an invitation from Gen Nash (he Commands the 34th Infantry Division in MN) and Chaplin Morris to go to the Middle East theater again and spent some time with our MN troops. As they say in the service, my boots are now on the ground in Kuwait and I well be here for the next 7 days going from unit to unit. 

The last time I was in theater I started writing a few thoughts back every day on what I saw and some of the thoughts that goes though one head before, during and after their experience. I will attempt to do the same this time around. I take no stand on any position as it is not the same as I am not being deployed as the men and women are here for months at a time but the thought process that one goes through when coming to a place like this is interesting. I like the word interesting but Sue has said I need another word so if you have suggestions for another word for me to use please send them. I hope to give you some limited insight; a little humor, some facts and some thoughts on what is going on in a totally different environment than the majority of us live. I'm not a journalist so make sure you cut me some slack

Chaplin Morris who brought me to Iraq last time is not here but has put me in the capable hands of Chaplin Buddy Winn who is high energy with the specific instruction from Chaplin Morris to fill up my day. Chaplin Winn well be what they call here, my handler so he is tasked to take care of me and get me around and keep me out of trouble. It is easy to relate to this relationship of having a handler as my wonderful wife Sue has the same handler responsibilities back in the states so I am use to taking orders.

 They sent me an itinerary and it has me going from 0700 (that's 7 o clock in the morning for us civilians) to about 2200 (10 PM) everyday. Things on the schedule will include some combatives training, individual sessions with the non commission's officers (Sergeants etc), a workshop on goal setting for the troops, prayer breakfasts, leadership development and just some hanging out and talking with the troops. Chaplin Winn told me when I got off the plane that I am scheduled to speak at church on Sunday. If there is a big explosion in the Middle East on Sunday you will know it has nothing to do with the war.

One of the things that is difficult for the soldiers here is that they are drawing down in Iraq meaning they are bring all their equipment back to Kuwait. What this means is there is a lot of convoy duty into Iraq which is dangerous once they cross the border into Iraq. It is relatively safe once back in Kuwait so they have to have their game face on once they cross the border. The other problem they deal with here is the one faced by every army in history which is the boredom of day after day of doing the same thing. Most the days are the same so it is import for the commanders to come up with things for the soldiers to do to keep the moral up. Most of soldiers are trained to project force not sit around, so sitting around in a garrison can lead to moral problems if they are not kept busy. So it becomes a necessity to keep them busy and occupied with constructive things to do training and recreation wise.

When first asked to go overseas again it was yep, sounds like as good idea. Nine months ago it was just a thought and I did not think much about it because it did not actually require me to do anything. The interesting part is how your thought process changes the closer you get to leaving or deploying. You laughingly ask yourself "What the hell am I doing" comes to mind plus a hundred other different things that go through your mind. You don't dwell on the different scenarios that come up in your mind they just seem to pop in and out. Where will I be, how will I get around, what is the threat level both in Kuwait and each base, what do they want me to do, why me, just to name a few. I am sure these are many of the questions soldiers and those that cover wars have had for thousands of years, It is a different experience to actually experience those thoughts and  to be able to feel your reaction to them. Not good or bad just different.

I flew to Washington DC then caught a United flight to Kuwait city. I have to stop using that word "interesting". In watching the passengers get on the plane you can't help as to label them as to their appearance only to find out they are something completely different from your preconceived notion. The gentlemen next to me was older (can't believe I said that.... he's not my age, I asked him and he is 70 so he qualifies as old) quiet and kept to himself as he sat down a seat away. When selecting my seat I had asked the computer for and found a row that had empty seats.  I ask this fellow if he would turn the air knobs down and we began a dialog that flourished. Instead of the contractor I thought him to be, he was he was a doctor (general surgeon) who is going to Baghdad for a year. Come to find out he is also a Vietnam vet and a graduate of the University of Minnesota. I asked him why he at his age he would want to go to Iraq and he said rather humbly because "I can make a difference".  I slept better on the flight knowing if something happen I was the first one going to get immediate medical care.

The flight was 12 hours long enough time to read, sleep and actually get a little work done. When I arrived in Kuwait City I was meet at the plane and helped through customs and we drove to the base. There is a security detail that will go with us every time we leave the base as we are going to visit a different location every day. 

Chaplin Winn had a session scheduled with some troops from a Signal Battalion that provides all the communication in this AO (area of operation) 2 hours after I got here. Chaplin Morris who  brought me here last year gave Chaplin Winn specific instructions to keep me busy and from the sound of things it is going to happen.. We are going to have some fun with my limited use of my old Army terminology as in sit rep, AO, COB (figure that one out) etc. We talked with the signal soldiers for about an hour and you can really see the appreciation on their faces when you tell them you came all this way to just say thank you plus there are a lot of people back home that believe in what they are doing. I think they hear it a lot better when some one from the world (USA) is actually telling them. It seems to hit home with more force and penetrates deeper.

So I am heading for the rack, bed what ever you want to call it. A full day tomorrow. A Sit rep will follow (don't you just love all this army talk)

 

Salty Dog 6

 

out

M Club Hall of Fame: John Whitaker

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The legacy of University of Minnesota athletics will be celebrated next Thursday, Sept. 22 at Ted Mann Concert Hall, when eight former Golden Gopher student-athletes are inducted into the "M" Club Hall of Fame.

Each day until then, we will preview one of the eight inductees with a special video. Next up is former Golden Gopher wrestling legend Garth Lappin. For more on all the inductees, click here.

A dominant figure in the early days of Minnesota Wrestling, John Whitaker's accomplishments set the bar for Gopher Wrestling. Whitaker will always be remembered as the program's first ever NCAA Champion. He earned the honor on March 20, 1937 on the campus of the then named Indiana State Teachers College, presently known as Indiana State University; where as a senior he defeated John Ginay of Illinois in the 175 pound championship match at the tenth NCAA Wrestling Tournament to become the Gophers' National Champion.

The official induction of the 2011 class will take place during a ceremony to be held at the Ted Mann Concert Hall (2128 Fourth Street South, Minneapolis, MN 55455) on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011.Tickets are available for purchase online through the University of Minnesota ticket office at www.tickets.umn.edu or by calling the Northrop ticket office at 612-624-2345.

M Club Hall of Fame: Garth Lappin

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The legacy of University of Minnesota athletics will be celebrated next Thursday, Sept. 22 at Ted Mann Concert Hall, when eight former Golden Gopher student-athletes are inducted into the "M" Club Hall of Fame.

Each day until then, we will preview one of the eight inductees with a special video. First up is former Golden Gopher wrestling legend Garth Lappin. For a list of all inductees, click here.

The Minnesota wrestling program has been a symbol of excellence for decades. One of the men responsible for this incredible legacy is Garth Lappin, a team leader for the Gophers in the late 1940s. Lapin lettered at Minnesota from 1947-49 and was crowned Big Ten Champion in 1948. He was a two-time All American at 120 pounds in 1947 and 1949. 

After his days wearing the maroon and gold Lappin went on to become the president of the State High School Wrestling Association and Meet Chairman for the U.S. Wrestling Federation. He coached Anoka High School to two state titles and mentored seventeen individual state champions.

Lappin is a member of the Minnesota High School Coaches Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for lifetime service.

The official induction of the 2011 class will take place during a ceremony to be held at the Ted Mann Concert Hall (2128 Fourth Street South, Minneapolis, MN 55455) on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011.Tickets are available for purchase online through the University of Minnesota ticket office at www.tickets.umn.edu or by calling the Northrop ticket office at 612-624-2345.

2011 Schedule Announced

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Whats up Gopher Wrestling fans?

Today the schedule has been posted on Gophersports.com
 It looks like it will be another exciting season of Gopher Wrestling. Right off the bat the Gophers travel out east to take on Cornell and 2011 National Champion Penn State, in State College, PA. 

Other key dates are Dec. 12 at Central Michigan and Dec. 14 at Oklahoma State.

Minnesota will host Iowa State on Friday Dec. 9 at Williams Arena. So make sure you mark that date on your calenders!

Check it out and leave a comment on what you think about the schedule!

11/12/11Bison OpenFargo, N.D.All Day
11/18/11at CornellIthaca, NY7:00 p.m. CT
11/20/11at Penn State *State College, PATBA
11/27/11vs. North Dakota StateSports Pavilion2:00 p.m. CT
12/02/11at Central MichiganMount Pleasant, MI7:30 p.m. CT
12/04/11at Oklahoma StateStillwater, OK1:00 p.m. CT
12/09/11vs. Iowa StateWilliams Arena7:00 p.m. CT
Southern Scuffle
01/01/12Southern ScuffleChattanooga, TNAll Day
01/02/12Southern ScuffleChattanooga, TNAll Day
01/08/12vs. Ohio State *Sports Pavilion2:00 p.m. CT
01/13/12at Illinois *Champaign, IL7:00 p.m. CT
01/15/12at Purdue *West Lafayette, IN2:00 p.m. CT
01/22/12vs. Wisconsin *Sports Pavilion2:00 p.m. CT
01/27/12vs. Michigan *Sports Pavilion7:00 p.m. CT
01/29/12at Iowa *Iowa City, IA2:00 p.m. CT
02/05/12vs. Nebraska *Sports PavilionTBA
National Duals
02/11/12NWCA National DualsPiscataway, NJAll Day
National Duals Final Four
02/18/12NWCA National Duals Final FourTBAAll Day
Big Ten Championships
03/03/12Big Ten ChampionshipsWest Lafayette, INAll Day
03/04/12Big Ten ChampionshipsWest Lafayette, INAll Day
NCAA Championships
03/15/12NCAA ChampionshipsSt. Louis, MOAll Day
03/16/12NCAA ChampionshipsSt. Louis, MOAll Day
03/17/12NCAA ChampionshipsSt. Louis, MOAll Day

Welcome to the Minnesota Wrestling Blog!

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Gopher Fans!

Good day and I would like to welcome you to the Minnesota Golden Gopher Wrestling Blog! My name is Michael Levy and I am the wrestling communications contact for the 2011-12 season. I am very excited about working with this years squad and I hope you all are getting excited for Gopher wrestling!

This blog that is something new this year will be a place to catch up on updates from the team during the year, as well as gophersports.com. For the 2011-12 season there will be a weekly feature with a team member (20 questions, catching up with alumni, individual article etc.) that will let you learn more about the team. My goal with this blog is to be able to bring you a little more in depth analysis about the wrestling team from Day 1 until the final day in St. Louis! 

I hope everyone is getting pumped up for yet another exciting Golden Gopher Wrestling season! Continue to check back here for updates as well as Facebook and Twitter. 

Looking forward to a great year! 

One Last thing... If anyone has an idea for a cool title for this blog please let me know! Coach J Robinson would like the blog to have something that stands out, so all ideas are welcomed! Contact me via blog or by email mdlevy@umn.edu.

Go Gophers!