John K. Jonak

John K. Jonak
Eager to Start the Day

2nd Platoon

2nd Platoon
Final Picture in Afghanistan

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2010 NCLB Conference - Chicago - Betances

Joe Stanislao and I attended the Conference this year to help us better understand the mystical universe of Title 1 and NCLB. We had the opportunity to hear Samuel Betances speak. I was impressed. Below are some quotes I jotted down:
"Don't fail students for not knowing what they haven't been taught."
"If [a person] can't be good at being good, [he or she will] be good at being bad, because you've got to be good at something."
"Words are noises that are pregnant with meaning."
"Parents can't give what they don't have...there is no one that can help at need coaches and mentors because parents cannot give them what they don't have."
"Imagine that for every student you received in your class, that was not at grade level at the beginning of the year, you'd receive $15,000, if you got them there by the end of the year."

Monday, February 1, 2010

A visit in Feb 2009

VIDEO: National Guardsman returns home to hero’s welcome - Westmont, IL - Westmont Progress

VIDEO: National Guardsman returns home to hero’s welcome - Westmont, IL - Westmont Progress

Posted using ShareThis

My Welcome Home

What a welcome I received when I came home from Afghanistan! I appreciate all of the support from the Mannheim District #83 Community and the hard work of my wife, Warrior's Watch, my family, and friends! I had more than my 15 minutes of fame...I know what it's like to be treated like a Rock Star now, a feeling I wish more of my fellow military brethren had the opportunity to experience. One of the most profound moments was after all of the hoopla when I was standing in front of Mannheim Middle School, saying goodbye to my Family. A man drove up and must have seen me in my uniform. He pulled to the side, got out of his car, and stood near me (totally silent). He was a tall, lean man, that had a Jerry Garcia beard going, wearing nothing that stood out. He reached out his hand, and took mine and held onto it tightly. There was overwhelming emotion in his eyes as they swelled with tears. I said, "thank you" to "Jerry". Without saying a word, he walked away and drove off. Americans do a fantastic job welcoming home her troops now. There are programs in place to help Veterans with so much. Unfortunately, we needed to learn this lesson the hard way, and "Jerry" must have paid that price.
Hopefully more will follow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Where Have I Been?!

With the Internet access down here in Afghanistan, I have not been able to blog. Unfortunately, I will not have much access to this site for some time. I appreciate all of your comments and will try to figure out another way to let you know what is going on out here.
Take good care...JJ

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Rhino

Not too shabby! This beast of a vehicle is what my platoon rolled in on from Kabul International Airport to Camp Phoenix (the Head Quarters for my mission). Is it just me, or does this look like the RV from Robin Williams' movie from a few years ago?
The convoy commander did a nice job in staying vigilant and transporting us safely.

Map of Mazar-E-Sharif

My Mom wanted a map. I'll have to show her how to use this brand-new tool, called "The Internet," to search for pictures and such. I will be near Mazar-E-Sharif, in the Northern ARSIC/Region.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Manas, Kyrgyzstan to Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan

We left Kyrgyzstan this morning after being there for 48 hours. We should be at Bagram for a bit before going on to our next destination for inprocessing. Then it's off to our ARSIC Headquarters to learn of the FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) where we will be conducting our missions. Afghanistan, geographically, reminds me of Colorado so far. Very dry, windy, and mountainous. We are limited in where we can go and what we can see. I have already met a few Afghan Nationals. The communication was poor between us, but a smile goes a long way.
We will start our OJT (On the Job Training) soon. This transtitional time period is probably the most difficult. We all just want to get to where we will be for awhile. I leave you with my favorite pic of Kate from when we went to Kiddie Land together. I wish you all well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where in the world is Manas, Kyrgyzstan?

West of China and North of Tajikistan (which is north of Afghanistan). We are staying in transient barracks at an Air Force Base in Manas for a few hours. Fortunately, there is Internet available. It's a nice base with some ammenities.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Think Green

Halfway through with our journey, we are laid over at Shannon Airport in Ireland. We have been travelling for over 18 hours now. We stopped in Kansas to pick up some medical Navy personel. Met a few Sailors that are pretty interesting (for Navy, that is). They will be mentoring the Afghan Native Medical Teams in current medicine. From what I understand that will be very challenging since the Afghans are stuck in medicine practices from the 1940s/50s. Gettting them modern equipment and training them is challenging enough, but keeping people from stealing and selling off that equipment will be difficult as well. Considering Afghanistan is 10 1/2 hours ahead of Ft Bragg, and 11 1/2 hours ahead of Chicago time, we are in for a treat when we get in country. I look forward to starting this (very challenging) adventure. Time to get on the plane. My best to all. My good friend Al would be happy to know that I did not let him down while I was in Ireland.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back at Bragg-Still No Address for Afghanistan

Soldiers getting ready for training.
16 Men slept in this tent on the FOB. Each of us had 5-6 duffel bags full of gear. That's right! Bunk beds are not just for kids!

SSG Z and SPC J posing at a ECP (Entry Control Point).

Today I am back at Fort Bragg. We are in a holding pattern between now and when we actually leave for Afghanistan (the actual date and time we take off is classified). I think this period of time is even more difficult than the training we did while at the FOB. I had an amazing time with Tonia and Kate during my 4 day Pass, but it was over too quickly. Kate has grown so much. I just kept on taking pictures and video of her doing everday things. Knowing that I would be leaving them within days was always looming over me (and Tonia). We did have a great time though. Kate's been excited about trains lately, so we brought her to "All Aboard," a restaurant south of us, that is all about trains (you get your food delivered from an electrical train too). Kate had a great time at Kiddie Land as well. Since we showed up a bit early for Kiddie Land, I was able to jet over to Mannheim Middle School for a quick "howdy". Due to a misunderstanding about flights, I had a super-quick "goodbye" with Tonia and Kate. It was hard to hear that Kate was walking around the house searching/asking for me. However, it was good to see everyone before I left (bittersweet). I am unsure of where I am going in Afghanistan and what we will be doing. Depending on what ammenities are available, this could be my last blog for awhile. We'll see. I wish you all well!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pictures of Training in Fort Bragg, NC.

Some fun with shadows. My entire unit turned in their M-16s and received M-4s. They still shoot a 5.56 millimeter round, but they have a shorter barrel and a collapsable butt, making them more manageable in urban environments. They have a rail system also, so we can place a bunch of accessories on them, like the CCO sight, surefire flashlight, and PAS-2A laser.
Not sure what I was doing here in allmy gear when my men were out of it...not very smart. This was during some IED training (Improvised Explosive Device). Very important stufff considering the insurgents are hitting us with plenty of a variation of these over in Theater.

All of the attachments (MOLLEE gear) that go on our vests. Thrown in there are ammo pouches, canteen pouches, a hydration system, Gerber tool kit, E-tool (like a shovel), first aide pouch (complete with a tourniquet), and much more.

A soldier resting for a moment on the top of our ambulance. The temperatures during training ranged from 94-107 degrees. If you look to the right of my blog, you will see the gear we have to wear (all 75 lbs. of it, including full combat load...and that's without our assault packs). All this gear was difficult to get used to without the heat. We had heat casualties that needed some extra attention throughout training. Most soldiers lost a good 10 lbs or more. I lost about 12 lbs. myself.

One of my troops getting ready for a night operations. He is wearing his night vision lense on the top of his helmet/kevlar/ACH.

A very tired, but joyous, Jonak. Training and leadership responsibilities take a toll. But we finished all field training on this day. For that, I can smile.

Our Company's HQ (headquarters) while on the FOB. The leadership would meet about once a day to go over past training and training for 3 days out. Meetings could last anywhere from 1-2 hours.

This is a distant view of the FOB Patriot (Forward Operating Base). The Army has given FOBs a new name now...not sure of it at the moment. FOB Patriot can fit over 2000 troops. For most of the time while I we were there, my Company was the only trainees (approximately 125 troops). In late August, they will be filled to capacity. Two hours after we left the FOB, on August 7th, a micro-burst (small tornado) hit it and wiped out half of the tents. No one was hurt, but there is much to clean up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Some pictures (not in any specific order).

This says it all.
Standing in line to receive vaccinations (including the smallpox vaccine...not fun). I had to clean and re-dress the spot of the smallpox vaccine for over 30 days. It had to be kept dry and clean. Normally, this would not be problem, but given our training environment, it was quite a feat.

On the way to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Some challenging days lay ahead of me from this point forward.
A (mocked) up-armored HUMVEE 1151. Known to most as a Hummer.
Waiting to go in to the main post in Fort Bragg after being at the FOB for a month plus. Check out the exotic background! With me are two of my Squad Leaders (all the way left and right), my Platoon Leader (in the center with his head gear tilted up), and my medic (sitting beside me). I had the distinct pleasure to understand what our forefathers had to do when they needed to use the facilities.

It has been a long time. We finally finished our training at Ft. Bragg. My next blog will explain more of the experiences we had. Fortunately, I am home on a four-day pass. With that said, I will leave you with a few pictures so I can enjoy my family. Still no word yet on what my address will be when we get to Afghanistan. We should be "in country" by late August. For now, here is a picture with some of the COBs (Civilians on the Battlefield). Three of them were "terps," or interepreters, while the other was a roleplayer that caused us plenty of problems during our scenerios. Guess which one caused the problems.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I am exhausted and hardly ever get to get on the Web. We leave for the field, or FOB soon (Forward Operating Base)'s a military base like the ones they have in Afghanistan. It is hot and humid here. Drinking lots of water is a must. My computer went kaput on me, so this is short, since I am using someone else's. Hope you are well. Look at my new pic.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Annual Training Was A Challenge

We trained quite a bit over the 3 week Annual Training which took place in Marseilles, Il and Fort McCoy Wisconsin. Learning 6 different weapon systems (including our M 4 Carbine Rifles), driving the new Up Armored Vehicle, and concentrating on MOUT, Patrols, Combat Life Saving, Land Navigation, and so much more, kept us amazingly busy. The TSB (Instructors) kept us on our toes, preparing us for our next step in training. Fort Bragg will be interesting and from what I hear, more difficult than anything I have ever faced ( I have worked with Middle School students for 9 years). I missed my colleagues, friends and family. My daughter, Kate, grew so much in 3 weeks. Tonia (my beautiful wife), has been so strong for my family. More and more is being discovered about what lies ahead. I look forward to the challenges that face my platoon because I have the utmost faith in my Squad Leaders and Soldiers. They impressed me greatly. We have adopted a Squad from Effingham, Illinois. SSG Stout is the SL and there are 3 Combat Veterans in the Squad. We have learned much from them already. I am excited to see the Mannheim Middle School Class of 2008 graduate on the 3rd of June. More to come.