DIY: Ranger Beads

A.k.a. Pace Counters.
Since moving to Washington, I’ve realized that most people up here consider 50 degrees outside to be practically summer. I never understood this until recently though when the clouds split, the sun came out and the air was crisp, yet warm. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the perfect temperature to go hiking.

While I ended up staying inside doing some much needed laundry, I decided that next time the sun came out and the weather was nice that I would be prepared. So that next weekend, Blair and I made some pace counters for us to use when we do decide to go out on a hike.

To Army guys, pace counters are also known as Ranger Beads. When going out on their 4+ kilometer ruck marches, Ranger Beads help them keep track of how far they have gone and how much farther they may have to go. At a Army surplus store, these little guys can cost up to $13, where as this DIY comes out to be about $1 a piece. Talk about a bargain, right?!

kilometer2

The quick explanation on how to use a pace counter goes like this: There are 1000 meters to every kilometer – so every 100 meters you walk you would slide a meter bead down to the bottom. When you get to the point that you would slide the “10th bead” down, you have gone a kilometer! So go ahead and slide 1 kilometer bead down, and reset your meter beads back to the top.

*While dependent on the length of your stride, my husband and his buddies average about 65 steps per 100 meters (1 meter bead).

**There IS NOT a 10th meter bead! But when it is time to pull that “10th bead” down, you are going to pull a kilometer bead down. So, 10th bead = 1 kilometer bead!

To make these, you’ll need:

  • 550 Chord (a.k.a. Parachute Chord) divided into 25 in. sections (remove the white inner strings to make it less bulky)
  • 13 Black Pony Beads
  • Tweezer
  • Scissor
  • Lighter
  • Ruler

test

After folding a 25 inch piece of 550 chord in fold in half, make a knot about an inch down. *This will make the loop for you to be able to hang it on belt loops or ruck sacks.

  • Step 1.Then take the ends and cut them at a narrow angle. You’ll want to carefully reconnect the loose strings of each end by warming it with a lighter and pressing it firmly together with your fingers. *TIP: Make sure to not cut too much away from the ends – you’ll need all of the chord!
  • Step 2. Add the 4 kilometer beads and knot the section off. Leave enough space to slide the beads up and down and to be able to tell which ones you have slid down already! *TIP: Use the tweezers to pull the chord ends through the bead.
  • Step 3. Add the 9 meter beads. Again, leave space to be able to slide them up and down. Then finalize the whole thing off with the last knot.

*TIP: Sway the lighter under each knot as you go to tighten the knot. Since the 550 chord shrinks under heat, this will prevent the knots from ever moving!

This is one of those DIY’s that the second one is always better, so don’t worry if the first one isn’t perfect. With the cost of all the supplies being so cheap, practicing on the first one won’t make you bankrupt! I’m excited to make some for myself that aren’t so Army-ish – maybe a pink one or something like that. But in the end all I can say is that I’m really looking forward to the sun coming out one of these weekends so I can try this little guy out with Blair on one of the many Washington hiking trails nearby!

Lauren

*This post was influenced by Army Ranger Beads on instructables.com.

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Travel Tips: Fort Benning

Fort Benning.

At Blair's OSUT graduation (2nd trip to Fort Benning)

At Blair’s OSUT graduation (2nd trip to Fort Benning)

There are five key things to know before making a trip to Fort Benning, GA – especially if you are under the age of 25! Before Blair’s Family Weekend Pass from his BCT graduation I struggled with planning the trip from Nevada to Georgia. To me, buying a plane ticket, booking a hotel room and picking Blair up was simple. But after taking away the option of me renting a rental car, I might as well have run into a concrete barrier.

Apparently, rental car companies restrict people under the age of 25 from renting a car… And I was 19 at the time so I was in some serious trip planning trouble. While there might have been a few that would rent out to someone younger than that, the extra charges on top of the base rental fee was not worth it. So, I simply just had to do a little bit more planning.

Being three months into being an Army wife at this point, I was wishing that there was some magical site that would tell me all the answers to solving my dilemma.  There wasn’t. And everyday after getting off of work, I searched for the best bargains, military friendly deals and tips to making this trip easy going and stress free. Below are the five key things to keep in mind while planning this trip. The extra planning is well worth it in the end – trust me! Just make sure to follow these steps and truly enjoy your time with your loved one and the Family Weekend Pass will be a success!

1. Getting There

If a rental car from the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport isn’t an option, call Groome Transport.

Truth be told, it is a shuttle, you are on it for a good hour and a half/two hours and it isn’t the most comfortable or best smelling when it comes to traveling with others in the hot and humid Georgian heat.

However, it’s only $39 one way or $72 for the round-trip. Pretty stinkin’ affordable by my standards…

There is a military discount if you take the shuttle to the base, but in my case, since we stayed at a hotel in Columbus, GA (the city surrounding Fort Benning), I was not able to receive it.

*Something to keep in mind is that Army “girlfriends” do not have access to military discounts! You have to be a spouse/family member and have a military identification card to receive most military discounts.

A little unrelated, but Costello stayed with some family members while I was gone! He certainly lived up to his name while I was away...

A little unrelated, but Costello stayed with some family members while I was gone! He certainly lived up to his trouble maker name while I was away…

2. Taxi

No car = Taxi Cab.

I took American Taxi Cab Co. back and forth from our hotel to Benning and I loved them. Their rates were fair and super friendly. Plus, if you call the same driver for your pick-ups, they tend to give you a discount for your “loyalty”!

Please note that not all taxi companies have the ability to go onto base! Each one has to pass a security process to be able to drive on base, so if you decide to use another taxi cab company, just make sure they have access. You are going to need it!

3. Victory Drive

All I really need to say with this tip is stay off and away from Victory Drive. With this road being less than a mile away from Fort Benning’s main gate, it’s easy to pick a hotel right there.

However, most Drill Sergeants tell the boys to stay away from that area due to it not being the best of places (crime, shootings, etc.).

If you do end up picking a hotel there, keep your soldier in the hotel with you and order food in. The Drill Sergeants aren’t joking when they tell you to stay away from that area and they do patrol. Again, trust me! I learned this on my second trip to Fort Benning… 😉

4. Hotel

For me, exit 10 off of Interstate 185 in Columbus is the best spot to stay. We stayed at the Wyndham Garden Columbus, which ended up being about twenty miles away from Harmony Church where Blair was at Basic Training. While it does seem a little costly to be 20 miles away from the base (taxi rides were about $40 to the base), it was well worth it because you end up being close to good food stops (IHOP, Hooters for those certain boys, etc.) and a huge movie theater.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most of the boys will want to be as far away from Benning as possible. They’ve been there for the past three months or so and want to enjoy their break – not wake up to look out the window and see the place they likely dread the most! 

*A good rule of thumb is to stay within 30 miles of the base. Driving and visiting Atlanta is super against the rules. Do it at your own risk!

Sad to say goodbye

Sad to say goodbye…

5. Leave Time

In the Army, “on time” is late, yet too early is obnoxious. Just plan on leaving reasonably early for wherever you go.

I planned on arriving to Georgia the day before the BCT graduation ceremony. This was the perfect amount of time for me to relax, calm my nerves (I was literally uncontrollably excited and nervous – it was a huge moment in my personal and married life!) and iron my outfits for the next few days.

When it came to the actual graduation, I ended up being four hours too early… All I can say is that I was a tad bit confused on when the ceremony was. Luckily, Blair’s battle buddy’s wife had done the same! So we walked and talked and tried to calm each other down from our excitement the best we could.

When it is time for them to report back, half an hour prior was a good amount of time to say your goodbyes and once again leave them. This was the hardest part about this trip, but what I’ve come to realize is that it is a huge part of being an Army wife. Just stay strong, say your prayers and start writing him letters again as soon as he starts walking back to his troop.

Now this last bit isn’t quite a tip, but rather just common sense. Make sure as a spouse or a family member, that your soldier stays in his uniform if out in public, stays in his pt clothes if walking around the hotel and that he always says sir or ma’am. And if they do run into a Drill Sergeant, they should always stand at parade rest. Nothing too hard for any of them considering they have done all of these things every day for the past three months.

Remember that Drill Sergeants give out rules for a reason. If your soldier decides not to follow them, it is their choice. But as a loved one, push them to do the right thing! Because they really won’t want to mess up the last three months of training they have already had and start again from Day 0 if caught – and yes, that does happen!

I hope that this is helpful to someone out there – I know I sure would have loved to have this for direction!

Lauren

Howdy, Washington.

We meet again. 

Making the drive to Washington.

Life was a little different two years ago. I was at the University of Nevada, Reno, pursuing a degree in Journalism. And my now husband was across the country trying to get a job with a fire department. Being high school sweethearts, this time apart was really the first time we weren’t within a driving hour of seeing each other. It was a hard time for both of us. I took up blogging to fill the time and that’s how The Real Sweetheart started.

Then life got even busier. Blair came home and school ended and started up again for me before I could even realize where the time had gone. In January of 2012, Blair proposed at Disneyland (our favorite spot) and life was really just starting for the both of us.

Now, we are married and God has put us on a path neither of us expected to be on when we met six years ago. He’s in the Army and I’m an Army wife. We now call Fort Lewis our new home and first duty station. And we have a one-year-old puppy named Costello who keeps us on our feet along with the new adventures married life and the Army has thrown our way.

We try to constantly laugh, experience new things and thank God for all that He has done for both of us individually and as a young married couple.

I hope that you enjoy this new beginning for the blog. I’m honestly beyond excited, yet kind of nervous. Please enjoy, comment if you feel inspired to do so and send any ideas or questions my way!

Lauren

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

-Pslams 23: 1-2