Sunday, December 11, 2011

Red Moon

One of the few advantages of being out here in the boonies of Afghanistan is that it is near ideal for looking at the sky. My base operates in a blackout mode in the evenings, so there is minimal light pollution. When the Moon is not there the majesty of the night sky are impressive ("My God, the sky, it's full of stars!"). As a night shift worker I am pretty in touch with the moon (I often walk around 3 weeks of 4 without any light, operating by the light of the moon, at least when it is there) so last night when I walked outside I immediately wondered where the heck my night light was.  Then I remember we were schedules for a Lunar Eclipse and found the moon.

It actually turned red!!!
So cool.
Gotta find the cool moments in even the less than ideal conditions...

Fair disclosure, I picked these pictures off my unit's PAO drive.  The pics are often aggregated there.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


It is amazing how in the real world that time seems to fly by.  I know that normally I find myself turning around and being amazed that yet again it was a drill weekend (a good way to mark the month since that used to my definition of a busy week... doing my normal job, heading off to packed drill weekends and then heading into work on Monday.  That was all before I encountered the 12 hours, 7 days a week schedule). 

We are scheduled to return from our deployment early.  We kind of lucked out, in that the Army decided to replace us early (now I know what a placeholder feels like).  We are already deep into planning for the RIP (Relief In Place), pretty much we have almost been doing that preparation since we conducted out TOA (Transfer Of Authority) and took this place over.  I know that lots of us already have the visions of our reunions dancing around in heads, it serves as a wonderful motivator. 

We all have a countdown somewhere in proximity to us (most of us use a computer program, some clever people even have a drawing with a number of Lobsters (we have it every Fiday), one each for the remaining weeks).  I am already planning my downtime after deployment (I envision taking 2-3 weeks off).  Or as a I have described it, #OccupyMyCouch. 

Again I will not go into specifics, as it is possible for the bad guys to utilize that information to time their attacks to take advantage of of the inevitable turbulance that occurs when one group replaces another.

I can already visualize finally seeing my fiance, family and friends again (and maybe drinking that celebratory beer).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Even over here, in the poor embattled dump that is this corner of Asia, I am am still a thankful man.  I am thankful that thus far no one in my unit has been killed or injured.  That I will be heading home soon. That my fiance, family and friends are so supportive of me while I am here.

I definitely am thankful for technology.  I know that life would be far more stressful for me if it wasn't for email, VOIP (thanks Google for the free phone calls!!) and Skype (thanks to you for the free video calls!!).  Being this far away from everything (and pretty much everyone) would have been far more depressing.

I am definitely thankful for Sandy, the local feral cat who has made my lonely night shift far more tolerable.  She often wanders in, nudges my leg and falls asleep near me.

I have been lucky enough to be born in the best country in the world, have awesome parents, siblings and a beautiful Fiance.  I really like my job (yep, even the Army one on occasion) and get paid well to do it.  I truly am a lucky and thankful guy. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

I think this will be the first Veteran's Day where I finally deserve the label.  I joined 6.5 years ago and only now that I am on this deployment do I feel right applying that label to myself. And even then I know that my service is different.  My battlefield is sitting at my desk, making sure that the Soldiers get the best possible support that they can get.  There isn't the sleep deprivation, crappy conditions that other, more front-line military personnel encounter.  I have same day laundry service, a warm 2 person bedroom, Internet access and (surprisingly) good food.

Though unlike y'all back in the States, Veteran's is just another day for those of us over here. We are doing a 11.11 mile team relay (which I am not doing, couldn't get a team together and I am not running another 10+ miles around this base) but that is about all.  The pace of operations doesn't slack and unless it is a scheduled downtime there is no time off to mark the holiday.  No special meal deals for Veterans over here, just the same old chow.  I know next year it will maybe mean a bit more than just another day off, but this time around it is just another day to endure before we head home.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Deployment is a Blur...

Working 12 hours a day (all through the night) 7 days a week makes everything a blur. The weeks are represented by the significant events (either personal, work or significant events).

Like the time that insurgents ran a VBIED against one of the nearby FOBs, big enough that even though the site is more than 2 miles away it sounded like it was hitting my own FOB (no one was killed in that attack).

Or the fact that my Brothers Wife finally delivered my new niece (I have 4 brothers, we are not quite sure how to deal with a little girl).

But the most notable memories are the ones where I head outside the wire.So far I have been have outside the wire twice with our ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces, that includes their Army, Border Patrol, and Police). They are advised mostly by the Romanians (which makes sense since their technology level and tactics are better suited to Russian styles and technology) via the OMLT system.  I visited the main Army base for the province, seeing how their maintainence works and in general meeting their personnel.

The second trip was more important for me, as we headed to Alexander's Castle (according to local lore the Castle was built by Alexander the Great.  While that claim is uncertain and unvalidated, it is a key point for the city of Qalat and has been for centuries (for the British, the Russians and now to a latter degree American, though we have no personnel stationed here). We got to meet the Communication Company that is located at the Castle and is the center hub for ANA communications in the region.  I was struck by how professional and dedicated to serving their country, they really were proud to serve the Afghan people and of their accomplishments to date. We had tea (so makes one very Afghan experience) and then also took in the sights at the Castle (the views were awesome, the commanding views makes it very clear why this is such a key terrain point. While taking in the view I also got another very Afghan experience, as we saw an IED go off in the distance.

Outside of that trip my time passes by in dribs and drabs.  Working out, sleeping, the weekly Lobster and Steak meal..  I have watched more TV than I have ever watched during my time here, as I work I often have a show running in the background.

In some ways technology is great as it allows you to be aware of everything that is happening back home, but it also can leave you frustrated since you can so easily see everything and yet know that it is so far away....

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Army Ten Miler Shadow Run in Afghanistan

Above is the field of runners at FOB Lagman, Afghanistan who decide to join our fellows back in the Arlington & DC who ran the Army Ten Miler on Sunday, Oct 9. We of course started 8.5 hours earlier than our peers. One cool thing to note in the second picture is that the First Sergeant of our unit is carrying the guidon of the HHC. He actually ran the entire 10 miles with it, finishing just a little bit behind me.

The ATM here was probably one of the toughest races that I have run. The altitude was still a factor because even though I have been here for 2 months there are still moments for all of us that we find ourselves catching our breathe. We are a little over 1 mile above sea level here. And running past the burn pit plus all the dust doesn't help (there was a lot of dust in the air today). The terrain was the biggest factor, there were tons of hill on our run, most of the path was on unleveled ground (think 15-20% grade) and those parts that weren't gravel (and by gravel I mean the fist sized ones, not the nice marble sized ones. I call them ankle breakers) were either packed dirt or moondust (really fine sand that drifts). I finished in just a bit over 2 hours, definitely not one of my better runs (but good for the conditions).

It was definitely a nice bit of solidarity and a little reminder of home (and I will appreciate the fact that most races will seem like cake after this.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 from Afghanistan

10 years ago I was just waking up when I turned on the TV.

Today I wake up, wearing the uniform of the United States Army, working my shift while keeping the communication systems up the Coalition Units for a province in Southern Afghanistan.

What a difference 10 years can make... From standing by idly watching the news break to serving in the country that harbored those very attackers (I was going to say originated but we all know that country is our "ally" Saudi Arabia), helping to keep a fragile bit of stability together even for a little bit.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


I speak of the awesome cat, not the disease that I must take a pill every day to prevent.

This is Malaria, he is a working cat. He hangs around my area, the S6/Communications section, on the FOB I am on in Afghanistan. He has had a hard life. When I first met him a couple of weeks ago he was limping from a wound on his paw, caused by the concentina wire that we deploy to protect our facilities (apparently he was found in it and some of the medics took care of him for a couple of days). He was also found completely covered in oil (which I hope was an accident and not some malicious action).

As a Soldier in a combat zone I fall under General Orders. The most un-American one of them is a subsection of General Order Number 1, part B which prevents us from housing, feeding or providing water to animals. Since I am still under that order I will state that elsewhere in theater this part of the order is probably broken in theater on a regular basis (see this article). It is very much against our nature, in particular our American nature, to not look and see animals that can vastly benefit from our assistance and then not do something (even something as basic as putting out a bowl of clean water, particularly when the temperatures can often exceed 100 degrees). Does it backfire sometimes, like for Soldiers who get bitten by Rabies infected animals? Yes. But when so many Soldiers (and airmen, Marines and sailors) can take such comfort in just seeing something, anything, get better because of their actions and get affection? It just seems cruel to deny them this simple pleasure.

In particular when you talk about cats (I have 2 so my bias is clear). They have a low chance of catching rabies and are pretty serious predators. Which means they munch down on insects and rodents which in turn can attract snakes, which can be poisonous in this area (and, Malaria has been observed twice chowing down on a Camel Spider, a creature I have no desire to ever encounter).

Malaria is wasted in Afghanistan. He is such a sweet cat, always looking to greet people when they come onto his porch. He will come up to you, give you a verbal greeting and rub around you in order to get the all valuable scratch or pat on the head. If you sit down he will quickly decide that your lap looks lonely and will settle down for a nap. Since it if you read the specifications of GO#1B, there really is no rule against petting him, so I will often give him a scritch and remind him that he is wasted on this awful country.

One of the Soldiers from our supporting unit is trying to raise the funds to bring Malaria backs to her house back in the States (trying to bring Malaria home... funny if you don't know it is cat). Apparently there is a group that will make it happen for $4000. But that is a crazy amount of money to spend on a cat, even such a useful cat that has done service for our Country.

I would very much like to indulge Malaria while I am here. Some clean water, a few tasty noms and some good attention. Better to have given him some good times to remember rather than never having had any real good times. But as a good Soldier I would never violate the rules (or post a blog that could be traced back to me)....

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Home on the FOB

Every day during a deployment is a Monday...
It is like Groundhog Day....
The FOB I am at is pretty nice. Laundry service with a day turnaround (you do not have a choice, there are no personal washers). Internet to your CHU (Cargo Housing Unit, think small shipping container tricked out with lights, electricity, AC, and windows/doors). A decent DFAC (chow hall), small MWR facility (a bunch of telephones that allow you to call home for 4 cents a minute and internet machines at no cost), decent gym (great free weights and machines area, the cardio could be bigger but not much you can do), PX (Post Exchange, small but stocked with all the necessities, even 12 packs of Diet Doctor Pepper (a must for the night shift! Too bad there is no Diet Mountain Dew)), and a Barber Shop (also does massages and mani/pedicures). About 1600 people live on this compact FOB, along with all our requisite gear and vehicles. We even have an aerostat (small tethered blimp) that acts as a surveillance system in the sky and provides security for us (I love looking up and seeing it there, gives me a warm and fuzzy) as well as our own little air force (Shadow UAV's as well as Apache Gunships).

As expected I did get placed on the night shift. From 2030 to 0830 I am the ranking Signal Officer on duty, working on research projects for my boss and periodically checking in on the other sections, NETOPS (network operations) and the Help Desk. As part of my research I got to go on a short trip to a neighboring FOB to talk with some of the people who interact with the ANA (Our stalwart Romanian allies. Good guys. Though I bet they will never want American food again after 6 months on an American FOB). I even got to meet some of the ANA people, but unfortunately the people who I would have liked to visit were at a different FOB.

Even though I can see the FOBs that I am visiting from the roof of my building just to visit them involves armoring (body armor, helmet and a full load of ammo (this trip marked the first time I ever put a loaded magazine in my weapon outside a range. And I thought that it was just weird carrying the magazine in the pocket, this is another level of reality) up and riding over in a MRAP (Mine Resistant Armored Personnel) Since I was a passenger it gave me my first real chance to see Afghanistan outside of the protected American FOBs. We drove through the town of Qalat and it was quite an interesting experience. The poverty is pretty noticeable and it is like looking back in time. Way, way back in time.

I will say that I was kind of impressed with the facilities that the Afghan Army had. Their offices and workshops would not look out of place on any Active Duty or National Guard facility in the US. Though I do have my doubts on the ability for this country to sustain the facilities and force whenever in the future that we leave.

My first week has crawled by. This may be the most number of hours that I have worked in... well... ever. 12 hour days, in particular at night, can seriously crawl. I have had experience working long hours before and the loss of productivity from both the exhaustion as well as the sheer grind on the soul (people really need down time. I know for me I need 7-8 hours sleep, 1-1.5 hours workout time, eating a meal and just the little things that need doing (dropping off/picking up laundry, etc) makes my time away from work feel hectic, like that countdown clock from 24 is ticking away tracking the time until I have to return to work. Doing this 7 days a week for at least the next 18 weeks will be wearying.). It has given me a chance to either catch up (a lot of the guys in my section came from my the Company that I was the XO of) or meeting the people that are new to me.

PS, I apologize for the lack of pictures but I am somewhat paranoid about OPSEC. Until I am safely home and removed from Afghanistan I don't feel comfortable sharing (outside immediate family and close friends) something that could endanger lives, even remotely. Heck, that is why these posts are time delayed.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I am a lucky dude. One of the 4 people from my unit who is handling things here in Kandahar happens to be a CW4 that I have worked closely with for the past few years so he hooked me up. Instead of spending the time here in the transient barracks (no real security and just a big open bay, right next to the infamous Kandahar "Shit Pool" (the sewage treatment is all done on base, inside the security perimeter. Which leads to some vile odors to put it mildly....)) he offered me the spare bed in his room.

Right after getting in we secured my bags and got breakfast, then it was time for a nap (aka making up for the past night non-rest). When I finally came out of my coma Chief gave me the tour of the base, got some dinner and then checked out the Boardwalk (a bunch of businesses all located around a big square). A brief stop in the USO to make some calls home and get a brief taste of the Internet and then back to bed.

And then the alarm went off, "Rocket Attack.". After proceeding to the bunker it eventually came out that the rocket landed somewhere nearby but since we heard no explosion it appeared to be a dud. Finally after about 45 minutes we got the all clear and went back to bed.

Tuesday was more Counter IED Training. Slightly different than the one I got at Camp Shelby, with a little more focus on Afghanistan threats. And as a bonus practical demonstration, the Taliban decided to shoot 2 rockets at the base, causing us to have an unexpected 50 minute break. We then checked out the Asian DFAC (some are US themed, some European and at least course Asian) for dinner. Afterward I worked with Chief in getting the IT stuff moved in preparation for their coming move next week.

Wednesday was more of helping out Chief on the move. And a little exploring (plus a little bit of getting lost). Thursday and Friday were spent taking an IMO (information management officer) course and were fairly uneventful (aka no rocket attacks). On Friday night I got scheduled for a CH-47 (Chinook, twin rotor helicopter) the next morning out to my FOB.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


What a long day. I really hope that my unit isn't expecting me to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after this trip.

The day began at 0300. After the normal daily rituals combined with a quick cleaning of the barracks (we, and by that I mean the enlisted Soldiers, thus is Army life) we turned in the barracks, linens and were cleared to go.
Everyone contributed to loading the bus, and we quickly took off with the promise of McDonald's for breakfast. And then we barely get past the gates when we realized we had left the boxes with the weapons locked in them sitting in the admin office (we had loaded from supply and the early morning beat us), so we quickly turned around to load them up. The bus driver ended up treating us to breakfast (even though I was trying to find a graceful way to pay for myself, I really feel odd taking charity/gifts like that since it's a noticeable dent for people lower in the economic food chain).

Eventually we arrived at the Atlanta (around 1200 eastern time) airport for more of the Army speciality, waiting around and sitting in lines. After taking advantage of the USO's hospitality (best organizations ever for military people, they are among the few "must donate to" organizations). Finally my awe inspiring 3 completely full duffle bags and one stuffed rucksack, which combined weighed around 250 pounds (my own body weight of gear!!). Only on military flights does your luggage get weighed and then they ask your own weight.

We got put on one of the R&R (Rest and Recreation flights, which enables Soldiers (and other services, but we are 90% of the flight) to take their 2 weeks home leave) and off we went at around 2100. After 7 hours we laid over in Leipzig for 3 hours then back on the plane. That was the first time I have been in Germany in 10 years, I even made a point to have a good sausage with sauerkraut (no beer since we are under orders). Then back on the plane for a 5 hour flight to Kuwait.

There our small Warrior Platoon finally parted ways, as we spread to the winds to our respective war zones and units. After they bussed us from the airport to a local army base I was pooped. By the time I had my name on the list for the next flight out, my bags stored and a billet was obtained I jumped in the shower and passed out.

The Kuwait Army base, al-assad, is not too bad. A very nice DFAC(chow hall), MWR facilities and even a couple of fast food places(McDonald's, Subway, KFC, and a Pizza Hut). I ended up staying there until Sunday night. The main inconvenience was that since I was flying Space-A I had to have every bag packed and with me at every show time for a flight, which can be annoying since as noted I have a lot of stuff.

The flight to Kandahar was annoying and inconvenient. We rode on a C-17 (a first for me, I have been been on C-5's and C-141's) with people along the sides (not me sadly, I was in the more uncomfortable center) and the center. The seats are really tight and we had to wear our body armor during the trip, it made me miss being stuck in the middle during a packed commercial flight. Just for extra fun they tossed in a mid-air refueling (cheaper to fuel from another plane from a gulf state vs importing it to Afghanistan). Final at 0600 local time I arrived at Khandahar.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rolling Out

Am I scared? Not really. Anxious? Hell yeah. I have probably lost more than a few hours sleep in the past couple of months(and even more in the past 4 weeks) either in the beginning, the end or even the middle.

And now the bags a packed and I am heading off. The amount of gear that we travel with is kind of insane.. When I got it all packed up it comprised 3 duffles and a Rucksack, each of which had some 50+ pounds in them. Add in my carry on of a very full assault pack (same size as a standard backpack) as well as my computer bag and I am heading off with my own bodyweight in gear(and I am no lightweight).

6+ years of training and now Uncle Sam will finally get some of the value back that it spent on me.

We started off with a bus ride from Camp Shelby at a very Army start time of 0400. We are heading to Atlanta to fill in some spots on an R&R flight that will take us to Kuwait. At that time we will finally part ways, heading to our final destinations.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

AT&T Sucks

AKA Penny-wise pound-foolish.
Until June AT&T would suspend or terminate your account for no fees if you were heading on a military deployment. And then they decided to squeeze a little more blood from the stone from America's defenders by changing that policy. So now the options are terminate for no fee and lose your number forever (maybe some people don't care but I have had the same number for more than 10 years) or pay your respective early termination fee to get your number back on your return. And for grins and giggles their site makes no mention of this change, instead stating the old policy.

Good job at losing a customer for your piddly termination fee, forgoing thousands of dollars of future revenue for a trivial amount (and causing me to bad-mouth you for most of my life (I have a long memory)) and saying that the people serving in Afghanistan and Iraq now are performing service that is less valuable. Bravo!

Thanks so much for making an already stressful day (getting on a plane to head to a war zone for the first time) and making it worse.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Mobilization Training Week 3

Winding down. Not just us but the wars. The manager at the gym here said that this was the quietest day that he had seen in 6 years, and this is now only one of 3 National Guard mobilization sites.

Boredom is a big issue here. There seems to be major isssues getting Soldiers out after they have been trained (some people have been here for more than a month)

  • Monday - rollover trainer - you get placed in a MRAP and a HMMV simulator and it flips you over, a lot. Very disorienting, to be wearing body armor and all the gear and then suddenly find yourself upside down. In the Dark. With strobes and smoke. But it is a good confidence builder and builds familiarity.
  • Tuesday - Counter-IED training. Actually some good training. A bunch of powerpoints on the curret threats and then a neat vehicle that allows you to see examples. Then you get to do some computer play, where you simulate operating a HMMV in a threat environment and then to flip the coin you get to play the bad guy.
  • Wednesday - Battle Drills - mostly reminders of what you have already done. Then a practical where you mount up on HMMV's and execute a mission (go to a village and get attacked by disjointed attackers and get hit by a simulated IED). I got to be in charge and it was a good refresher of stuff I haven't had to do in years. Then we get back and turn our weapons over to the Armorer until we fly out.
  • Thursday - Nothing.
  • Friday - SRC(Soldier Rediness Check) - final check that you have all the training done, all medical holds are clear and that you are good to go. I am, so I am just waiting on a plane to fly me to Afghanistan. I did have to go zero my assigned rifle (I had been using a loaner) in the evening.
  • Saturday and Sunday I was on pass spending time with family and my fiancee.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mobilization Training Week 2

Boredom thy name is Camp Shelby. I am by god looking forward to getting into theater so my brain can finally get a workout again. 

  • Monday - Legal Briefs - long day of mandatory legal briefs. At least it was in AC. 
  • Tuesday - Base Operations - how normal operations work at bases. Entry Control Points, tower operations and QRF(quick reaction force). 
  • Wednesday - Range day - qualification with your weapon. Zero and qual (23 of 40, I got 31),fire with NBC mask (only 25m target. Very hot). And night fire (25m target again). Also covered was  PMI and squad/platoon weapon familiarization (plus you shoot the M2 and M240b in the simulator (got Hightower kills of the 3 shooters in my set)
  • Thursday - Theater required briefings - cultural and standard briefs. 
  • Friday - Army Warrior Tasks - individual movement techniques (IMT, basic things like grenade throw, crawling and rushing, breaching walls and obstacles, there was a practical in this one). First aid. CBRN(chemical biological radiological nuclear). Radio tasks.  
  • Saturday - Land Navigation - good instructors, kept this topical and gave us some enjoyable videos to watch during the breaks. A short (1 hour) class on classic land nav (pen, paper, protractor and compass). Then another hour to the DAGR (military GPS). Followed by a practical group test with 2-3 man teams. In full battle rattle, it probably only was 2500-3000m of walking but damn was it hot. I must have been beet red by the end. 
  • Sunday - off - MWR tip to see Captain America. 
3 more days of training, an off day, then the release point, SRC. Where they validate that your med issues have been resolved and that they have the paperwork to validate you have completed your training. Then depending on flights they may give us a 4 day pass. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mobilization Training Week 1

So the day finally came. The orders, plane tickets and eventual instructions came, directing me to Camp Shelby MS. There I joined up with the "Replacement Company."

I am playing catchup with my unit that is already enroute to Afghanistan In support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In this Company there are sets, platoons, who are grouped together as they arrive and prepped with the required training, medical reviews and equipment for their destination. Soldiers deploying to Afghanistan like me are being issued new uniforms in the OCP (OEF Camoflage Pattern, recursive acronyms....), aka Multicam. Soldiers here are going to both Iraq and Afghanistan, which means that the formations look quite odd (reminding me of the transition period where we were switching from ACU's to BDU's).

In true Army form it was hurry up and wait, as I flew out on Friday at 0600, finally got to Camp Shelby at 1400 and attended their final formation at 1600. And was told that I had nothing to do until Monday at 0730. So it was time to be bored for the weekend.

As noted the Warrior Platoons are ad-hoc, filled with mostly junior Soldiers (mine has 12 total, 6 right out of Basic/AIT another a year out of that, 3 SSg's a Captain and myself).

The first week was not very busy:
  • Monday - nothing
  • Tuesday - briefings. Approximately 5 hours of DVD's that were made from canned presentations.
  • Wednesday - SRP (Soldier Readiness Process). Also known as "damn my arm hurts" day. Medical review coupled with review of things like legal, pay, etc. Including the dreaded shots... Anthrax (which made my arm hurt for 4 days afterward) and Smallpox (which requires a lot of attention to make sure the area stays clean and dry)
  • Thursday - RFI (Rapid Fielding Inititive), CIF (central issuance facility) and JLIST (NBC gear issue, suit, gloves and boots). I ended up taking over another locker to fit all the stuff I got. 4 sets of Multicam, 4 Army Combat Shirts (sleeves look like normal uniform, core is under armor type stuff, meant to be worn under the body armor), 2 boots, a whole mess of cold weather gear, new helmet, pads, body armor, tons of pouches (Rifleman kit), sleeping bag and tons of other stuff. 2.5 duffle bags full all told, probably close to 10,000$ worth of stuff. I am going to keep using the ACU's until Saturday then switch to my new gear, sending the rest home.
  • Friday - weapon issue, followup for medical, and mask fitting (another piece of gear I won't use, joy....)
  • Saturday - Army Combatives. Way more useful than the last time I learned it. It finally added a section on fighting standing up. And now I learn that this training is being phased out....
  • Sunday is an off day.

This has been a very lax training schedule. On no day did we work past 1300...

The base itself is ok. They have a shuttle that comes by every 15 minutes and covers the whole base), key since the px is 1.25 miles away and it is hot! The gym is acceptable (has at least one of most machines) and there is a .45 mile ack for sprint work (why in gods name it is that distance i have no clue) as well as closing a road for morning pt runs. Their PX is pretty nice and well stocked, as is the military clothing sales. Because they do not provide lunch other than MRE's (hot meals for breakfast and dinner) there're some options to eat. There is an AAFES Grill, pizza delivery, and even food trailers (a burger stand, southern cuisine (lots of gravy), fried seafood (yum, catfish!), burritos). And the cadre are allowing us MWR runs to town, to the mall, walmart and the movie theater (1 during the week(4hr), one on the weekend(6hr)) so that makes things more tolerable. Only bummer is very limited Internet. Just a handful of computers and only one place far away that has wifi( only place to hook up your own computer).

I sleep a lot... And talk to my fellow Soldiers, some of these guys have done 3-4 tours and are close to retirement.

And anyone discovering this before heading to this place really needs to figure out and complete all the online training that this place requires. My unit had me do it when I was first mobbing up and it is kind of a relief to not be stressing systems being down or completing the classes while here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Getting Real

So deployment became real again just before this past weekend. The email came in with the deployment orders and flight plans (of course they schedule a flight at 0600 that morning down to Gulfport MS (Camp Shelby) and my fiance gets back from a work trip at 0845...). Not where I expected to go (since I am pretty sure that most everyone is gone on the way to AFG by then) but I go where they order me to.

So now I am starting to get the "this is the last time I do this for the next 10 month"-itis. I kind of thought I got this out of my system when I thought I was heading out 2 months ago, but I guess not.Even simply shopping or making dinner with my fiance give me that feeling that it is going to be a while before I can do this again. No matter how much I talk with friends who have deployed or read about it, it is the big unknown for me and at my deepest level I am not a big fan of the unknown....

Well I guess that unknown event horizon will start collapsing in just a little over a week.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Preparing to live the Vampire Lifestyle

So I have been MIA from the blog for a while now. Mainly I have been living life, getting in good food, alcohol and experiences that, other than a 2 week reprieve at some point, I will not have for the next 10-11 months. Fun things like going to Kings Dominion, celebrating my brothers birthday and eating at good restaurants.

But now the time starts to wind down, as I am rapidly approaching the tunnel that eventually I will see the light at the end of...

I do intend to blog as much as I can about my deployment (OPSEC is something that needs to be internalized) so depending on the situation I aim to keep a steady stream of updates, delayed as the situation warrants (probably all will get a solid month delay, just because that is easy to do in blogger and that really cuts down on the potential for any violation).

As to the title? That's from the fact that I have been informed that I will be working the night shift at the Brigade-led TOC that serves as a control element for the Combined Team Somewhere (normally the name of the province, protected in this case) - CTS. I get to be the Plans and Future Ops Officer in Charge (OIC) for the S-6 (Communications) shop. So other than being the only Signal Officer (SIGO) awake during that shift I also will be working very closely with the S-3 (Operations, the planning element for the unit), making sure that I read all the OPORDs (Operational Orders) with an eye toward Signal issues and also write the sections that the S-6 is responsible for. Or at least that is the plan until I get in-country.

At least I have some time to plan some additional items to bring along that may make this whole sleep during the day, have breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast lifestyle somewhat more tolerable. Only plus side is that it keeps me closer to DC time so communications may be easier.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Touchdown for the boys wearing the Red, White and Blue. The Navy Seal version of Delta Force, after being ferried by Army Special Ops helo's, got to put two in the head of something who has been allowed to exist on this planet for far too long. And then the crowd goes crazy!

Late I know, but I have been busy with getting ready for this whole deployment thing.

It has given me time to see some people's reaction to death of Osama Bin Laden. I think it is funny the angst some people have about their even momentary happy reaction to this great news. I guess for me there is none, I am unabashed in my happiness that this rabid dog (and for bonus points one of his spawn) has been put down. OBL turned in his membership card to be part of the human race long ago. At this point he became something that for people like me would feel no remorse in destroying (since you kill humans and even gentle animals, you destroy diseased creatures). Perhaps that is part of my psychology, that I am able to revoke the status of human in my mind and erase any perceived guilt on my part if I ever have to pull the trigger.

Those of us who carry guns have to be able to do that. To fall back on our primal "protect my family and tribe" instinct to allow us to pull the trigger and not be destroyed psychologically. Some cases like this and most firefights that Soldiers get into is fairly easy, but when you get to more of the self-defense and Law Enforcement trigger pulling it gets more complicated.

I know there are reasons that they treated the body like they did, but in my hind brain I would have been just as happy to mount his head to the White House gates and fed the rest of the body to the hogs (because in some ways that would show we mean business and are not to be f-ed with, which the Muslim world may respect more than our constant pandering and bowing to their wishes).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I have a week left to get most of my act here in the DC area together. I recently got engaged (see our wedding blog over at (yes, I smile a bit at the name, a rare burst of creativity on my part)), had LASIK (which created its own Army issues) and have been spending a god-awful amount of money on the above and a bunch of things (new laptop, bunch of hard drives (why yes, I am in fact bringing 4 1TB drives with me), an iPad, a bunch of little things (new boots, sheets, xbox, and a mess of other things)). I need to have it all lined up prior to that first formation on Wednesday morning next (ACK!!!!) week. I think most of my Army stuff is good to go.

I will be blogging this as I can, protecting a lot due to OPSEC and probably time delaying any of the Army stuff by 4-6 months (I want to write about it, but I really do believe that we should make as little as possible available to our enemies, in particular on a public resource like this blog). I have good set of people that I am heading over with and I have a neat job (I am taking a FA53A slot, which is systems automation, basically a Signal Corp Officer who is seriously geeked out and able to do technical stuff. I basically work directly for the Signal Officer (S-6) for the Brigade and serve as a technical expert for her.). I am somewhat concerned that I there is a lot of fluidity to this mission, there is far less planning and prep that I as an Army Officer have come to expect.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Also titled, "Oh My God, I can see!"
I have by far the worst vision in my family (I was -8.5 to give people who wear contacts some perspective. I needed a special waiver to join the Army because of my visions). But, I will be the first to admit that the concept of LASIK terrifies me. I don't like the concept of touching my eyes (though in the 8 years since I have worn contacts that phobia has decreased) so the very idea that a blade or laser is going to cut open my eyes and then burn off pieces of my cornea? shudder to the max. I have thrown a live grenade and I think that I would rather do that again before this whole concept.

But the idea of wearing glasses (not contacts since I would be too paranoid about sanitation issues) for the next year while deployed to Afghanistan? Terrifying. To think that there could be some moment where I would need to see and potentially not have my glasses scared me enough to finally overcome that fear.

I had been researching LASIK for years, never coming up with sufficient pro's to outweigh the potential con's for me to take the leap. With the deployment the balance finally shifted and I moved quickly. 4 days after final notification I visited the Lasik PLUS location in Alexandria, spent the following weekend mulling it over and on Sunday I took my contacts off for the last time. I was also influenced by the fact that my Doctor had performed some 65,000 of these operations, so I figured he was up to the challenge of dealing with my horrendous vision.

The following 3 days reinforced my decision, as I spent them wearing glasses per the directions of the doctor. By Thursday I was seriously ready to not wear glasses anymore (and the thought of a year of them was very unpleasant). So I was a torn person as I had my brother drive me out and drop me off at Lasik PLUS location in Tysons. After they performed all the tests again (all for them double, triple or how-ever many times checking things out to get it right) in 2 hours I was brought into the operating room, spent less than 10 minutes in there total (weirdest part was having my vision grey out as they applied the suction to the eyes prior to the cut) and then I was done, several thousand dollars lighter but already able to see far better than I could ever recall without glasses/contacts. Another of my brothers picked me up, drove me home and, per the doctors directions, put on a sleep visor, popped some Advil and took a long nap (2+ hours). Gotta love being forced to take a nap, twist my arm why don't you?

After the nap I could see an immediate difference. I continued to follow the post-op directions, putting in eye drops at the specified time (god I hate eye drops) and being fastidious about wearing sun glasses (for the first day even indoors). The follow-up the next day had them finding that my vision was 20/20 in one eye and 20/30 in the other (which surprised even them, since they had to go so far to get to that point than for the average person). I still have halo-ing to some degree as of 6 days past the event, but that can be accounted for by the significant swelling that this surgery produces (and there is mild chance I will always have some, but my night vision sucked anyway, with glasses or contacts I had halo-ing there as well).

God, we live in the future where a short time under a laser can make the (near) blind see!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Off to War

After a month of a having a strong inkling that I was on the potential list, the final word came this past Saturday. In the form of a text message I was informed that I "was in" and would be joining a unit that will soon be on it's way to Afghanistan (a mere 30 days notice to get things lined up, and then off for 2 weeks of training in VA then off to a Mob Station for further training). I just had the next year of my life blocked out via text (I did have a further conversation with my new boss later in the week, but apparently I may be an oddity in my notification (normally it comes down the chain of command but I know my new boss (former Company Commander) and I will take early notice to delayed proper channels any day).

Wow. I someone who joined post 9/11 I knew the odds were good that I would be off to somewhere, sometime. And given that I commissioned almost 3.5 year ago and have been fully qualified for 2.5, I knew this was coming. I wish I had more time but it just means that in the past week and the coming month I will be busy with tones of little tasks to make my time more tolerable.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting is the worst

AKA, waiting sucks.....

I am an Army National Guard Officer. In the past 2 years I have been appraised of 3 pending deployments. The first simply evaporated. The second, just this year, basically came down to a coin flip between me and another 1LT (who I consider a pretty good friend and have worked with for the past 3+ years). Ironically that buddy will probably be going to someplace safer and for less time than me. Now I sit back (and sleep somewhat fitfully), waiting with baited breath to hear if I have been selected (I am not volunteering but if I have to go? I go. I joined after 9/11, I knew the risks (hell, the near certainty) of being deployed while in the Guard) to head with to an for an unknown duration (less than a year, they haven't said otherwise) (can I be more vague?). The notification times seem to get shorter each time. The first one was more than a year, the next was almost 6 months... the latest clocks in at a little less than 60 days notice.

My mind whirls with contingency planning, devising how I am going to handle all the things I would need to do in that timeframe. No actions are taken until things are solidified but it can be daunting to think about. From the mundane (what about my stuff? my car? my good little buddy, Link? Can I get my eyes fixed in the time before I deploy? What impact is this going to have on my career?) to the deeply personal (obviously CG and I will be having a long conversation on what to do (and no H, I don't want to talk about it until/if it happens), the painful consideration of being away from my family so long (my brothers and their spouses/SO's, my parents, my nephew, and niece/nephew that is on the way)). Until the probability matrix collapses (sometime in the next couple of days)? I am going to my impression of an ostrich, ignore it until it becomes real.

I got on this potential deployment list because I have a good reputation. Because I have the combination of a deep understanding of the technology and the people that I have to work with. Ironically those that are less competent get a pass on this, while my hard work (and I feel that I can give my Country, my Soldiers, nothing less than my best. In my core I cannot imagine slacking when I have important jobs to do) has me in line for this dubious reward. The blessing below is one of my favorite (in particular in situations like this):

Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love the Run You're With 5K 2011

Okay, so first off, the race shirt just makes you sad. If you don't have a heart maybe you will find it amusing but overall I feel for the poor monkey in the picture. A monkey, pitched over in sadness, dreaming of his happy times with his GF, clutching a "Dear John" letter in one hand and glass of scotch in the other? Awe....

I totally was happy with my performance in this race. A chip time of 28:53 (9:14 pace) and a dead even gun time of 30 made for a lovely morning run along a route I have never tried. Starting out with someone managing to rip my iPhone from its pouch in the flurry of the initial start (causing me terrify people by heading backwards in the crowd to retrieve it) and a steep initial hill slowed me down a bit. I had thought I was going to walk a bit, but the only time that happened was at the water point.

Then I grabbed a drink (coconut water, bleh...) and headed back out the course to team up with Hannah. She surprised me by being far closer than I (or she) expected. All due to the return on her nemesis, a very big girl that she ofter encountered back in the pack and makes all due effort to avoid losing to. We finished her part right next to each other.

Interestingly, we owe the picture below to another blogger (or at least her BF), Liebchen of Learning to Fly. Small world... I though the girl and her BF looked familiar.....

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


I feel like I am slowly heading into the future. The Wii was an incremental device (same with PlayStation's Move) where I still had to have some form of device in my hands. Now all I have to do is wave (or speak aloud).

Now that I have had 2 weeks to play with Wii-killer device? I can definitely say that the odds of me using the Wii for anything except the odd Nintendo specific game (like Mario Cart) are exceedingly low. I actually booted up the Wii last night just to get a comparison and there really is no comparison.

I have tried 4 different Kinect games and am blown away. And so is my GF, one of my long term friends, my ex-roommate and (this is important) my parents. It really is intuitive system, easy to figure out how to use and interact with it. Though most of the games are more focused on children (Kinect Adventures, Kinect Play) games like Dance Central are basically killer apps. Watching my parents dance to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"? Pretty much made the system pay for itself (particularly when my Dad beat my Mom by almost double).

And really, anything that get people up off the couch and moving? It is a good thing for America. I have yet to use Kinect and not break a sweat.

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Kitty!

Everyone say hello to Link!
After 3 visits to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington this cute fellow finally got to me. I knew I needed to take him home when after meeting him at the second visit, on returning I was getting annoyed that people were playing with my cat. At that point it was all a matter for the paperwork.
Link is 10 months old and seriously friendly. Being both a computer geek and a gamer I eventually settled on Link (as an homage to Link of Legend of Zelda fame and of course to that eternal internet feature, a "link" (technically a hyper-link but we love short names)). He has settled in quite well and seems very happy to be at his new home.