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Boarding the C17 for Coast Guard/Navy dayPhotos from our first day at JCOC. This is me getting reading to board the C17 at MacDill Air Force Base.

Sim Jump Full Length Strapped into a parachute harness with an electronic simulator doing a freefall.

Grilled cheese special for lunch Lunch at Special Ops Command.  The chef made a grilled cheese especialy for me.  Sean and Jon, are they as good in Afghanistan as they are in Tampa?

WIth Admiral Olson With Admiral Eric Olson, the head of US Special Ops Command.  A Navy Seal, fabulous gravelly voice, supremely confident yet also amazingly humble.  Answered questions very thoughtfully.  Our country is in very, very good hands with him at the helm.

In front of the C17 taking us off MacDill In front of the C17.  Photo by Tony Horton.  (Yes, Mr. P90X himself.)

sunset-from-32k-feet Sunset at 32 thousand feet.

Simulated freefall jump Adjusting the headset on the parachute simulator.

marie-tries-on-a-rig Trying on a parachute rig.  It weighs approximately 55 pounds.  And that doesn’t count the rucksack strapped on separately, which can weigh more than 100 lbs.

Apr 26

Pop Quiz

Today’s pop quiz: What are the four major religious in the Centcom AOR? First correct comment will get a special souvenir from Special Operations. Answer to follow tomorrow morning.

I’ve been told that Powerpoint has been banned from this conference. And since today is mostly an “indoor day”, I am not quite sure exactly what to expect inasmuch as presentations go.

Minor technical difficulties…BBerry is not pulling through Ogilvy email, but I shouldn’t need that to use Twitter. So please follow along. That is, if my BBerry, computer and telephone aren’t confiscated for security reasons.

Amazing thunderstorms in Florida last night, so loud that I actually woke up at one point. And then immediately fell back to sleep. We should get to the hotel at 9P tonight, just in time for the 5:30A wake-up call.

@Marie_Manning - will tweet throughout day.

In a cruel trick, one of the first things the DoD did to us tonight was move our wake-up call from 6A to 5:30A. We have to be in the lobby for breakfast at 6A, which means I really have to get up at 5A. I should have asked if I agreed to skip breakfast and simply have a Payday bar if I could have slept in. Our bus doesn’t leave until 7:15A, so I could have slept in until at LEAST 6:15A. Truthfully, I’m just griping to gripe. I’m actually having the time of my life!

Tonight at dinner they introduced all five team captains. Christine, our team leader, was introduced last and our entire table stood up and cheered. I think we may have shocked the room because all of the other captains got mildly polite applause. But hey, we’re Team Army. Nothing but the best for our captain!

We heard from Doug Wilson, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. And Sumit Agarwal, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Outreach and Social Media. But the best was Major General Eric Fiel, Chief of Staff for U.S. Special Operations Command. He was so nice and personable and gave a great (read: not boring) speech. Among his notable quotes:

“The boss said to put the wow factor into your trip.”

“Don’t come home [in reference to this JCOC crew] unless you’re crawling.”

In regards to the military: “They’re all pretty special men and women. They’re all leaders. I think you’ll be really proud of the men and women who defend your country.” MM note: Based on those who we met tonight, and to those few that I know personally, I already am.

Tomorrow looks like a bunch of presentations with a flight out that evening. I might get to sit in the cockpit for takeoff. Fingers crossed!

Will update tomorrow sometime between my 5A alarm, the 5:30A wake-up call and the 6A breakfast.

Short post tonight. We checked in and they had…MARY KAY PRODUCTS waiting for us! So awesome. Last year someone from Mary Kay attended and sent these out this year. I am trying to commandeer as many as possible for myself. Lotion, especially stuff that smells good, has many valuable uses!

So excited…we’re going to get to go on a helicopter runs, shoot guns, fly in the cockpit during takeoff and/or landing, see a Black Daggar demonstration (a US Army Special Ops jump team), sniper demonstration, a rappel demonstration (Marines)and so on and so forth.

Our group only gets four slots for takeoff and/or landing. I really want to go up in the cockpit for takeoff. Think I can convince the guys to let me?

Less than 24 hours until JCOC! Today I was up at 4A to get to my position as volunteer captain for Checkpoint #30 at the American Odessey Relay. 25 of 120 teams were military and I dare say many more had military connections, such as the friends who got me involved in the running community in the first place. (A shout-out to Jon and Kyrah and Team “Run for Wine.” You did great!) Of all the teams, the military teams were the most courteous of the volunteers and respectful of our rules. (Not that these rules were very difficult: 1. Keep the chute open for the transitioning runners and 2. Don’t get hit by a car on my watch.) A big congrats to all who finished, especially the Bucknell Fossils for what I believe was their second win in a row. On a 200+ mile road race, that’s impressive.

And before I go away, another special shout-out to those who have been keeping me from stressing out over work and the race - Cindy, Bobbie, Stephanie, Sean, Dr. J. You guys rock. Kerry, I know I owe you a call.

This is quite possible the most random blog post but it’s 8P, I’ve been up since 4A, and I’m at work trying to get stuff ready before I go. I still think I’ll be working harder next week than I am now.

And to my Army teammates, loved the email correspondence today. Remember, P90X is our competitor! And if we get on an obstacle course and you need someone small to throw over a wall, I think that will be me. Just please, be careful with my shoes.

I was hoping to find a good quote from Great Expectations to use in this post, but a Google search reminded me of just how tedious Charles Dickens can be. (Apologies to all the Dickens fans out there and Mr. Reidy, my high school English teacher.)

At lunch the other day, it was suggested that I outline my expectations prior to heading out and then see how they match up on the back end. The challenge, though, is that I’m not quite sure what to expect. I suspect that I’ll work harder next week than I have throughout most of my career - and that’s really saying something. I know that it will be many early wake-up calls and lots of late nights. I’m hopeful that I’ll get to eat at least one bacon, egg and cheese sandwich in the chow hall - and maybe even an entire pizza. (I suspect we’ll be moving so fast that the extra calories won’t be a problem.)

Chris Graves @cgraves, Ogilvy PR’s global CEO and a wildly smart individual, suggested that I look for parallels in industry sectors or thought categories. How does the military handle supply/demand? Operations? Communications? Leadership? What are military best practices that can be applied to the private sector? This seems a good place to start. (And this is why Chris is our global CEO…always thinking and leading the way, yet never too busy to give personal advice and connect one-on-one with his folks on the ground.)

I’m looking forward to seeing what it REALLY means to “Be All That You Can Be.”

Hooah from DC.  Tampa and Special Ops, here comes Marie Manning!

Last night, I ran into witty wordsmith Steve Daley, who suggested I call my blog “I Joined The Wrong Army.” Alas, I don’t think Ogilvy will go for a total rebranding, so instead I’ll pay homage to Private Benjamin and Daley with this blog entry.

The conversation took this turn when I mentioned my most recent correspondence with MSG Thompson. She advised that there was no guarantee of a hair dryer at every “lodging facility” on the JCOC trip (we’ll get back to that in a sec) and that while the usual amenities would be offered (soap, shampoo, etc.), she also threw in the words “quality” and “ideal” and now I’m thinking that it might be good to bring my own. So into the suitcase went the Bulgari amentities procured from my last vacation at the Ritz-Carlton San Juan. I’ll be the best-smelling guest soldier in the history of Special Ops. Quite possibly the JCOC, too.

Now, let’s get back to the words “lodging facility,” which were used in the following context: “I cannot guarantee a hair dryer at every hotel or lodging facility…” Something tells me that not only will there be a dearth of hair dryers, but there won’t be 24-hour room service or fluffly white bathrobes either. Lodging facilities, huh? I’ll be sure to let you know what that means once I get there.

To steal a quote from Goldie Hawn, “You see, I joined the Army with the condos and the private rooms.”  Here’s hoping “lodging facility” does not mean a tent on the beach.

Of course, that counts as ocean view accommodations, doesn’t it?

I am beginning to feel a bit like my grandmother, whose bags would be packed and ready to go two days prior to any trip.  I say this because last night I packed and zippered my suitcase for JCOC. Yes, Dave and RoseAnn (our JCOC coordinators), I fit everything into one bag.  It’s truly shocking. MSG Thompson (our fabulous Army Team captain), are you sure I can’t get a private to assist me with my luggage?!

I also received an email from my friends vacationing in Mexico that my Harley Davidson boots have arrived and I can pick them up Friday. I think I’ll wear them when volunteering at the American Odessey Relay on Saturday; standing outside for eight hours tracking runners (and supervising the set-up of the Port-A-Potties) should be an excellent test of their comfort.

Courtesy Patriot Harley Davidson, Fairfax, VA

Now that the clothes have been purchased, we’re moving on to other necessary essentials for JCOC 79. Dramamine for potential motion sickness (I’ve only ever gotten sick on an anchored sailboat, but this former Girl Scout always comes prepared). Advil for headaches. Sunblock (lots of it). Bug and tick spray/wipes (Really don’t want to be scratching while meeting the higher-ups.). Liquid Band-Aid for cuts. Tylenol PM for allergies and sleeping (don’t think the latter is going to be a problem, though).

And last but not least, what every great fashionista masquerading as a soldier needs in her first aid kit:

Camo Band-Aids for Fashionista Soldiers

Camouflage Band-Aids for Fashionista Soldiers

The person who invented these is pure genius.

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide