Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mount up and move out

Sunday's bike route
 This Sunday was the first group ride for Team Zombie. A cold 30 degree morning made us layer up with different layers. For all of us, it would be the first ride of the year. Team member Same Evans just picked up his bike from the shop after a tune up the day prior. He made sure his bike was ready for what this year would bring. Ready for the ride, four of us loaded up into Eddie Garces Honda Ridgeline and proceeded to Washington Heights.

Surprisingly, there was no traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway. Everything was looking up and we quickly found parking 2 blocks away from the bike entrance ramp of the bridge. Tires were inflated, extra layers were added on, minor adjustments were made, and off we went.
Sam Evans (middle) Frank Garces (top) Joseph Zoleta (left)

As for me, the beginning was a challenge. Getting used to using clipped pedals was difficult. Learning to use them back then was hard enough so clipping on to the pedals was hard to start especially uphill. Eventually, it would be "a lot like riding a bike". You never really forget how to do it.

Minor tweeks while on the bridge
Traffic on the GWB
We would meet with Team member Bud Pusposuharto half way on the bridge. Bud lives in New Jersey. He parked on the other side and would be our guide on this ride. He was more familiar with the route than all of us put together.

Eddie Garces (Left) Joseph Zoleta (right)

The bridge was windy and freezing. Snots were flying as we were riding across. The rendezvous with Bud went off without a hitch. We would ride up Route 9W headed north. Our turn around point would be a Japanese restaurant on the west side of the road called Kiku Alpine Restaurant.  We broke off the rust of our bikes and on our bike riding skills. Four of us had road bikes. Bikes that were built for rides like this. Lightweight, high speed, and low drag bikes that make pedaling the open asphalt road feel like riding on butter. Unfortunately for team member Jane Zoleta, she was riding her sister's hybrid style bike. She would have a hard time on hills but kept up well with our sad looking "peloton".

The ride back was easier with an average speed of 12mph according to one of our GPS devices. Before we knew it, we were back at the bridge. I would say it was a successful first ride. Today we rode for approximately 20 miles. Hopefully, more of our team members would join us soon for the next training event.
L to R; Jane Zoleta, Joseph Zoleta, Bud Pusposuharto, Sam Evans, Eddie Garces

The next, training event will take place this coming Sunday, April 3rd at Alley Pond Park. Here we will do our first brick workout. A brick workout is one trains in two skills in the same training session. For example, run then bike quickly after or vice versa. We will be covering half the distance of our biathlon. Time to get used to the feeling of doing three events. The muscles have to be trained. "The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle".

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Disposable Heroes" By Sam Pennock

The following is an excerpt from one of my Sergeant's books he is working on. It is about our experiences in Iraq. The book will be called "Disposable Hero's". Please get yourself a copy when it comes out because I know it will be a great read.

By Sam Pennock
(Picture on right inside Combat Outpost Armory)

"Eventually the Muj decided that we weren’t going to come any farther down the street and they blew the IED’s all at once. I think they hoped it would be a big enough explosion that it would get us. They were right. A fireball like I’d never seen expanded from the right side of the road to the left in the blink of an eye and then everything seemed to slow down. I could feel my heart, it seemed to take so long between beats I thought I might have had a heart attack. I could see shrapnel flying through the air glowing and humming its evil melody. Everything seemed to happen one long slow frame at a time. A huge piece of what had been the pole of a street sign was coming right at me. At least 4 feet long it was twisted, bent and burnt. I could see the holes in it and the blackened charred paint chipping off. It curved through a lazy arc and came right towards me spinning end over end kind of like a giant ugly boomerang. It seemed to be moving so slowly but I was moving even slower. I could see it coming and I knew it was going to take my head right off my body. I didn’t even think to pray as it closed in, I was frozen with fear. And then impact. It hit the end of my .50, spun around into my bullet shield and deflected up over my head barely clipping the edge of my helmet. I was frozen for half a second, relief, joy and fear all mixed together rushed through me. My legs were weak. Someone was grabbing my leg asking if I was ok. I gave ‘em a thumbs up. My .50 was fucked. There was a giant gash in the end of the barrel and it wouldn’t fire. I started an immediate action drill without even thinking about it. I was on complete autopilot. All thinking had shut off and I was reduced to a completely animalistic state.

Suddenly I was engulfed in total blackness and heat enveloped my body like the burning of the sun. My head felt like it was being smashed apart from the inside. My eyes were open but I couldn’t see. Everything was completely silent not even the steady ringing in my ears I’d grown so used too. And then as if from far away I heard the primal screaming of a wounded animal. As I surrendered to the blackness I realized some of the screams were mine."

He's looking for some feedback. So let me know what you think and I'll be sure to pass it along to him. It is a work in progress. I can't wait to buy myself a copy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Now that's moto.

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. What goes with pizza? The couch does. This duo can also be transformed into a super trio with the addition of some awesome TV programming. You get me started on one of these elements and there I am vegetating into the living room couch. I can easily fall into this trap now that I’m a civilian. In the Marine Corps these elements were known as “motivation killers”.

How can I define what a motivation killer is? It’s pretty much anything that will cause you to be lazy. It is something that will entrap and keep you from working to the greater good of the team or for the pursuit of personal goals. For me another example is playing video games. When Halo came out I was all over it. Knowing this I had to sell my X-box in order to focus on more important things.

As our team pursues this goal for greater fitness and to express to the world about our armed service members, one thing we must keep is “moto”. It’s a slang term used in the Marines. It’s short for motivated. For example, “You just ran up that hill with all that gear on? Dude, you’re moto!” Or a Marine that exercises during time off, folds his or her clothes into his rucksack neatly ensures he or she has a regulation haircut every week, or always irons his or her uniform. That Marine would be considered “moto”. A Marine with a tattoo that is Marine Corps related would be called a “moto tattoo”. It is what a squared away Marine is.

Why is being moto important to us? Moto gets us out of bed early in the morning. You don’t have to but you do. You’re ready to charge at what the day holds for you. Moto makes us get our children prepared for school every morning. Moto made us clean our weapons every day in the Marines. Moto ensured we had the right gear packed for every mission. Moto made us plan our patrol routes and moto made us plan numerous alternate routes. Moto made us carry our brothers on our back if he was wounded.

Being moto would be nothing though if you did not care. Caring is the root of being motivated. If we cared about our goals, our children, our brothers and sisters fighting next to us, we then have the attitude to go above and beyond. That is the essence of being moto.

As we train for our events, moto makes us plan accordingly. Team Zombie is moto because they care about the cause. They do not stand back and lean against the walls just watching and waiting. Be moto and stay moto, take every ground you can take, and keep every inch of it. That is where you will have an advantage in all you do.

These are the lessons I have learned by being a service member. These lessons will go to waste if they are not shared. So if you’re feeling lazy, stagnant, insignificant or down and out. Get moto, there is more in you than you give yourself credit for.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reveille!!! Reveille!!!

If I asked you about what Charlie Sheen did recently, you probably would give me a well informed answer. The Kardashians, you probably have kept up with them. Maybe more than your own family.

What if I asked you, who was the Navy Seal who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Afghanistan. You would probably have no clue. Some of you probably think a Navy Seal is marine mammal and say "What the hell is it doing in Afghanistan?".

It just annoys me about the what makes news and what doesn't. There are so many untold stories out there that have not been told. Stories of honor, courage, and love of country. We may never hear them. That's the part that saddens me. These stories will do more for us spiritually than Charlie Sheen's drug crazed escapades. Who gives a damn he lost his job? You would lose your job if you did what he did.

My name is Joseph Zoleta. Formerly Corporal Zoleta from the United States Marine Corps. I was an infantry rifleman with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines (Oorah!). I served two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and served my active duty time from 2002-2006. Since my return to the 1st Civ Div (Civilian World), I have had many feelings of coming back to "normalcy". As quickly and as much as I wanted my active duty time to end, I found it very difficult and still continue to do so. I imagine the difficulty service members have when they have been pulled from a battlefield on a stretcher only to wake elsewhere and find out you almost didn't make it. I imagine the feeling cannot be put in words. The emotion can not be expressed.

There is an organization out there though that is helping. The organization is called "The Wounded Warrior Project". It is a non-profit organization. Its purpose stated
  • To raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members.
  • To help injured service members aid and assist each other.
  • To provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.
My mission is to help this organization succeed. This is my first time organizing something like this. But, when you're behind something with all your heart, there's no stopping you.

How? How am I going to help? What can little ol' me do that can make a difference? Doing something is better than doing nothing. I have taken the model of other great organizations, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the American Heart Association, and wanted to be sponsored to participate in a sporting event. Not just any event, a triathlon. Not alone either, Marines work better as a team. Awareness and strength comes in numbers. So I have been recruiting and still am looking for any members to participate.

Why the name "Team Zombie"? A friend thought of it. Because we keep on coming. A zombie can fit into many analogies in life. Many will be reflected further on in this blog. It just fits! The name just fits!

I will be honest with you in that the idea of doing a triathlon snowballed into doing numerous triathlons. Numerous battles win a war, not just one. We are looking into participating in adventure races.

The first event we are participating in will be the Queens Biathlon on May 15th. It is a 3 mile run, 18 mile bike, and another 3 mile run to put a cherry on top. Let me tell you, I'm a paramedic. We are not the healthiest people out there. In other words this is not going to be a breeze for me. It is the path that draws me. Better myself, help my brothers and sisters is the personal game plan.

Stay tuned! There will be updates on how our training is going, personal stories from the battlefield. I will make sure you know these heroes names. You will learn their story and hopefully use it to learn about yourself.

Semper Fi and Retreat Hell