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May 4th 2008

One Down in the Borderland

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was commissioned on Cinco De Mayo. Which means that, as of now, I’ve spent a year of my life in uniform. More training than actual soldiering, sure, but I’ve been down on the line for about five months now, and it’s great.

I’ve spent that time doing my fair shake of paperwork, running various rifle ranges and attending more meetings than I’d like to admit. I’ve gotten to know just about everybody, and we’re gearing up for some real hard and real fun training exercises this summer.

It’s scary, but the EPT is starting to feel more and more like home. It’s getting stupid-hot down here, but there’s worse things. And the really good, really hard to find Mom and Pop food places are starting to turn up.

We’ve found a kickass Thai place, the best barbeque in Texas, and a burrito joint that A) puts the other North Juarez burrito-cafes to shame and B) is mild enough for my Anglo tongue. And there’s a place on the West Side that serves very-nearly-and-almost the best Italian ever (my Iowan chum’s madre takes that prize).

Me and the K-star have been keeping busy on the weekends, pulling hikes up and down that Land of Enchantment, the American Territory of New Mexico. She got a job at NBC Channel 9, editing tapes with a capitol “e,” working the 3am to noon shift. That’s a trip, because my earliest days don’t start until 4 in the morn.

We also pulled a four-day roadtrip mondo-weekend up to Denver to meet up with my Pa and see my Grandfolks, which is always more fun than I think it’s going to be. Colorado is a totally underrated state.

Anyway, here’s some files I created with my Electronic Imager. If you click them, they get bigger.


See that? That’s the standard.


You gotta admit, T or C is the best name for a city since “Portland.”


You gotta admit, it’s easy to see why a city named “Kelly” is now ghosts-ville.


This is me, looking like a goddamn badass Army Cowboy in a polished-steel drop top.


I command 2nd platoon. My boss commands Alpha Troop (but only because we’re Cavalry – the rest of the Army calls it a “Company”). His boss commands a Squadron (“Battalion”). And his boss is Colonel Twitty, who commands the Brigade and every damn set of boots on Biggs Army Airfield.

I ran into Colonel Twitty again at the Squadron Ball, and he was quick to recognize me from an earlier meeting. And if he ever makes the Joint Chiefs, which is a real possibility, I’m framing this picture.


Different hike, same shirt. No questions.


Who goes hiking in a cardigan?


Remember that bit in Contact where Jodie Foster works at that observatory with the endless fields of radio telescopes? It’s out in nowhere-town, NM and a total disappointment.


My grandmother, at an art exhibit outside of Denver.


That same grandmother’s been cooking Sourdough with the same starter for 40 years, and she claims it dates back to the Gold Rush days. So we sealed a sample of it up in a jar, put the jar in the a cooler, and trucked it back to El Paso.

This is Kelly, demonstrating the wrong way to flip sourdough flapjacks.


This is me, demonstrating the right way to flip sourdough flapjacks.

March 9th 2008

the Ides of March

So I was digging through some history here in the City of the Endless Summer, and it turns out I’m sharing living space with quite a few notables. Those that have gone before me include Calamity Jane, the outlaw Pancho Villa, Justice Day-O’Conner and – perhaps the most notable of notables- Firefly’s Wash.

Of course, Kelly Wikstrom is notAble in her own ways, too. For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, she recently gave up a life of alpine skiing, quality slurpees, and moderate temperatures to move down to the Republic of Texas. She’s poking around for employment and adjusting to the Promised Land appropriately. We’ve no future plans for anything beyond the loosest of possible unions. For now it’s about living in sin and seeing what happens. Barring any major global crises, I’ve got around a year before I deploy to anywhere besides New Mexico. Which gives us time to see what works, and what doesn’t.

Oh, and one more change: I used to be the 2nd Platoon Leader in the Alpha Troop of the 9th of the 1st of the 4th of the 1st Cavalry Division. But we reflagged and now I’m the Leader of the 2nd Platoon of the Alpha Troop of the 13th of the 2nd of the 4th of the 1st Armored Division. The patch changed, as did some of the High Leadership. My job remains essentially unchanged.


This is a pretty good picture of my Drawing Room. Sadly, it’s a pretty poor picture of my view. My apartment complex is backed up against the Franklin Mountains; through the sliding glass door lies a small balcony, and from it you overlook the whole Eastern half of the city, a big section of Post, and a fair bit of open desert.


(click the pictures to big-size them)


At the Front Gate



I got stationed on the bitter edge of the Great American Desert. Some mornings you can really, really tell.



At Alpha Troop, where I go to get some work done. It’s not much different from the other buildings.



Those are the Franklin Mountains, of which I live on the near side.



el Fin

December 17th 2007

Tierra del Burrito

So I’m done with Army training, done with the schoolhouse, and no where near finished learning anything, except maybe this one particular thing about notebooks.


Either way, the fact that I requested assignment in Germany or Japan or anywhere outside the continental United States is a matter of public record. Yet, oddly enough, I write this in a pleasant little section of Juarez called “America.” It’s a cozy little spot, with FT Bliss to the east, the Franklin Mountains to the Northwest, and the dry Rio Grande riverbed running along the southern border.


El Paso’s not a bad town, though – it’s older than Texas, which I like. My apartment is less than seven miles from the border, which I also like. And I wasn’t the only lucky soldier to be stationed in the Sun City. The Army is transferring a few brigades down here, and is building new infrastructure accordingly.


I’ll be working with the 9th of the 4th of the 1st Cavalry Division. It’s a scout unit, whose primary mission (in a traditional force-on-force war) is to HUMVEE up on the enemy without being seen, watch them for a while, then radio up someone real quietly and make arrangements for someone else to kill, destroy, and obliterate them.


Luckily, Armor school taught me the fundamentals of such operations, as well as the slightly more fun ones (that involve actual tanks and getting calls on the walkie-talkies and killing, destroying, and obliterating things).


The reality of modern war, however, and the vehicles and weapons systems used and not used to conduct it (read: they don’t fight in tanks much these days, and more’s the pity), is a thorny issue best discussed by those far above my pay grade.


So there you have it: if you’re ever in the Texas Republic, call me up. But before you do, grab a map and echolocate El Paso, because I’m closer to Utah than I am some parts of the Biggest State In The Union Except Alaska.


Clark and Fenton



eating Mexican with the Citadel boys

learning Bradley gunnery


halfway through the COE FTX

me bueno hombres


the Kertis kids, posing with the Fenton prodigies



my sister, in between Tennessee and Georgia



Springfield “it’s funner than it looks” Illinois



September 23rd 2007

long time coming

This is my first non-emailed post, and I expect at least a few problems. So if you’re on the notify-list and don’t want to be, email me. If there’s any other hiccups, email me.


March to September is a pretty big gap, I know. But I’ve been keeping busy and been kept away from the Internet. Graduating college, commissioning into the US Army Officer Crops, finishing up Officer Basic, and struggling through the Army’s very frustrating Tank School (which is where I currently sit).


To sum it up, Armored Warfare’s full of unpleasant difficulties. Precisely maneuvering a fleet of 72-ton tanks across hundreds of kilometers of undulating terrain is enough of a headache. Factor in the responsibilities of maintaining the well-being of each vehicle’s crew, weapon systems, and a host of other issues, and it adds up to one hell of a pickle.

They’ve got us working long days, and plenty of them. Weekends off are less than few and farer between, but we’re all surviving, and – with a bit of luck – we’ll make it to that glorious graduation day of 9 November.

I wish had the time to relate all the fun I had driving from Oklahoma (Officer school) and Kentucky (Tank school), but “swamped” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’ve included a few pictures, which probably say more than I ever could. Click ’em to make ’em bigger:


Cruising around in the LMTVs during LT school.


twixt here and there.


Route 66 was decommissioned the same year I was born, and I don’t consider that coincidental. Eitherway, though, this is me. Enjoying a Cozy Dog in the best little dinner along what used to be the romeo-six-six.


Me, with an Abrams. Within a week of hitting Tank School.


I’d like to say ‘We work hard and we play hard,’ but mostly we just work hard. This during one of the few nights I’ve had a chance to enjoy a fine burrito in a non-Chow Hall environment.


I swear by all that’s right in this world, there’s few things sweeter than a tracked vehicle.



March 13th 2007

Salt Lake’s got 9-ish resorts, and I’m proud to say I’ve rocked them all

First things first: I’ll be commissioning as a second Lieutenant on May 5th (the same day I graduate from Truman, but – honestly – I’m not half as excited about that). And the High Brass has decided that I’ll have about a month of limbo before my Army-clock starts ticking. After that limbo-month, I’ll spend two months in at FT Sill (Oklahoma) in basic Officer training, after which I’ll transfer to FT Knox (gloriously named after our first Secretary of War, and located in Kentucky) for tank-specific training. After that I’ll be headed to FT Bliss (which is ironically located just outside El Paso, Texas) for the next four or so years (that includes a very likely stopover in Iraq).

Would I have rather been stationed somewhere in Germany? I can answer very definitely: yes. But this life seems to be what you make of it, and Texas is the way things are. There are things you can control, and there are things you can’t control. And El Paso isn’t that far from quite a few interesting places. The beer, I’m afraid, will be worse than it would in Germany, but you could say that about anywhere.

Now then – I’m writing this, Renegade Journalist style, in a bathroom on a train speeding (somewhat speeding) between Salt Lake and Missouri, using the razor-outlet to power my trusty Thinkpad. I couldn’t ask for a better laptop, but she’s starting to show her age.

So: like a stray cat, I just keep finding myself back in Utah. There’s a few good reason’s it’s called The Ski Bum’s Paradise, and with ten-or-so resorts less than an hour’s drive away, compared with a relatively low cost of living, topped off with the peoples (and sister) I know there, and… well, it makes for a very attractive spring break.

I rounded up four friends: Chad, Cheri, Greg, and Paul, and we all saddled up for a train ride out there. But the only thing Amtrak seems to do on time is bill your credit card, and both our trips wound up being more along the lines of 35 hours. The lesson here, I think, is: fly.

But we got there, and we ripped it up. Wolf Mount, Brighton, Solitude, Snowbasin (where my parents met), and a full day of touristy stuff (the Temple, the Lake, etc).

I’m proud to report that my sister (who goes to school just north of SLC and has a weekly ski schedule), has developed into the best skier in the Fenton family. I don’t mean to brag, but that’s saying something. Her form is impeccable, and her default speed is just-ever-so-slightly higher than mine (in that thunderous range where most people would find themselves saying all the Holy Hossanas they could remember).

And, of course, no trip to SL would be complete without saying hello to Ross and the Rossettes. My father’s cousin, and his family, has always made a point to see me whenever I hit the beehive state, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

I took a whole lot of good pictures. Upwards of 1,700. To be fair, though, many of those are rapid-fire sequences, and I deemed only 120-ish worthy of throwing up on the ol’ interwebs.

And, to close on a bit of housekeeping, I’m still working on re-vamping my website. It’s been almost done three times now, but things keep sliding back to square 1. Having said that, I wish you all the very best of March 16ths.

proudly sitting here, sporting a ski-goggle tan and signing off,

Josh “quick turns” Fenton

let's lose charley