Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in Afghanistan

Well, we had a Christmas party Monday night out at Sperwhen Gar with all of the misfits. Mahaney made an excellent (if profane) Santa Claus, and we all sang "Happy Birthday Baby Jesus." We decorated the Mess Tent with candy canes, miniature Christmas presents, and glitter-coated pine cones. There was Hickory Farms cheese and sausage, and hot chocolate and crackers and all kinds of good stuff. It was a lot of fun.

Tuesday we drove back in to KAF from Sperwhen Gar, without incident. Not that drives through downtown Kandahar are ever actually calm or peaceful, but it wasn't bad. Now is probably the best time to relate that on the drive OUT to Sperwhen Gar I almost ran over a bicycle that had a 3 year old, a 7 year old, and their dad on it. I had to really STOMP on the brakes to avoid plowing them under, which would NOT have been pleasant for any of us, I feel sure.

AVS DVD player is not working on the House disks any better than Windows Media Player did, so I suspect that my DVD drive is faulty or failing. Which isn't really a huge surprise, the conditions here are dusty and hot, practically the worst possible for maintaining electronics. I watched Batman Begins again and enjoyed that, but I haven't watched Airplane II yet.

Today, I got up relatively early (before 10am, which is early considering that several of the younger soldiers were out partying last night until 7am) and got on the computer at the MWR facility where I chatted with my wife and wished her a Merry Christmas. Eventually we decided to make our way over to FOB Lindsey and eat Christmas lunch here (I'm writing this from my old living quarters). Lunch was FANTASTIC. KBR has it ALL over Supreme in terms of mess hall food, decorations, and general festiveness.

For lunch I had glazed ham (yum!), Prime Rib (yum!), yams, greens, stuffing, and Sparkling Red Grape Juice! It was great. Then we went up on the Gazebee and used most of the golf balls I got in packages. Many thanks are due to Tom Winn, and Fred and Rosemarie Zediak, for their contributions to the cause.

Anyway, now I'm getting ready to go eat Christmas Dinner in the mess hall, and I expect it to be just as good. I hope I can figure out how to put up a picture of the Mess hall decorations, it is amazing.

Hope to update more soon. We should be in the area for a while.

Friday, December 21, 2007

USO show, meeting Adm. Mullens

Today, we were up at 0500, left KAF at 0700, and drove straight to Patrol Base Wilson (PBW), where we were supposed to meet and talk to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullens.

My first impression of the morning was that the locals were suddenly obeying all of our gunners hand-and-arm signals and getting off the road 100 or even 200 meters ahead of our vehicles, which is a HUGE change from the normal. Frequently they won't even slow down until they are 50 meters or so in front of the lead vehicle, at which point they will try to pass the vehicle in front of them (between their vehicle and our lead vehicle) before pulling over on the side of the road.

Now, you may be thinking "I sure wouldn't appreciate it if people were driving around in my country waving guns at me and forcing me off the road." And you would be right. But then, in YOUR country people don't exhibit any known tendency to pack their cars full of high explosives and ram said vehicle into military vehicles and then detonate the explosives. So, we tend to try to get oncoming traffic to come to a complete stop before we reach them, so that they can't use their momentum to throw the vehicle into our formation, or across the road so that we hit their vehicle, and then blow up a truck bomb killing all the crew in that humvee. It's a self-defense thing, and we try not to be too obnoxious about it.

ANYway, the point is that the locals were suddenly doing exactly what we want them to, instead of pushing the envelope. Typically, anything out of the ordinary is a Bad Sign, so we were very very nervous driving through Kandahar City today. Nothing happened however, and we got to (and later back from) PBW without incident.

Meeting Adm Mullens was kind of anticlimactic, although we did have to do a stupid formation thing (in a combat zone! in our body armor and kit!) and stand around for him to take pictures with us. Well, okay, we were getting pictures taken with him. But still, it was a dog and pony show, and a stupid one at that. Not saying that the Admiral is stupid, just that what we did today was in no way an effective use of our military capability. But hey, that's what the military is like, so I'm not bitter (really).

However, the upshot of this whole misadventure (the admiral was 90 minutes late showing up at PBW) was that we were late for the USO show and missed all but the last 10 minutes, which were Kid Rock singing and somebody else. I, of course, have zero interest in Kid Rock, so no big loss for me. But Robin Williams was there, and I would just like to say that the man is a class act, even though his humor is filled with profanity and vulgar language. Here we have a stand-up comic and comedic actor who is liberal and very much against the war, but he loves to come to USO shows and act up for the soldiers. I literally saw him going all over the place to shake hands and have his picture taken with various soldiers and contractors. He really, really supports the troops, even if he doesn't support the war.

Lance Armstrong was also there, and he was similarly impressive, going up to soldiers and signing autographs even though his USO "handlers" were trying to get him to line up for a photo shoot and stuff. There was also Miss America (no idea what her name is), and another comedian, I want to say Louis Black. I took some pictures of a couple of the soldiers with Kid Rock and another soldier in a group photo with Robin Williams. In addition, the USO was giving away DVDs and stuff that Hollywood in general provided, so I nabbed a copy of Airplane II, and a copy of Batman Begins.

All in all, the USO still rocks, and does a great job, it's just Admirals that are pains in the butt. In fairness to Admiral Mullens, I imagine he got some useful information about Afghanistan from being here in person, and probably got some good intel from the local ARSIC commander. I'm sure he wasn't just here for the USO show... right?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Argh! layout issues

As you may have noticed, Blogspot has changed some of the code for the blog sites, so now things look a bit messed up. I'm still trying to get the text in the header back centered properly. It took quite a bit of experimentation to get the entire CIB badge to show again.

Yes, I'm back at KAF for the moment. Many things have transpired, and by getting closer to the action, I've learned even more about what our chances are for successfully engineering long-lasting changes in Afghanistan. I'll talk more about that later, probably.

Friday there's a USO show at KAF. Hopefully I'll be able to go to that. I have a new battery for my digital camera, so I can also take pictures. I'll be sure to take pictures of the mess hall here at Lindsey as well. Oh, and of the dog, Lindsey, too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Back at Lindsey

I'm back at FOB Lindsey for a few days. We're hanging out here for a few days while the PMT team is on KAF. Things in the Panjawai district kinda went really bad, and we're not sure where we are going to end up. Maybe at Moshem Gar, maybe in downtown Kandahar City, maybe we'll be coming back to Lindsey (although at least 2 of the younger soldiers emphatically DO NOT want to be back at Lindsey, despite the lack of facilities at Sperwhen Gar).

Anyway, today is my first day with internet access since we left for Sperwhen Gar back whenever it was. Sperwhen Gar is a Canadian FOB, manned primarily by French-Canadians, so we don't understand them, and they don't understand us, basically. The TV in the mess hall is tuned to Quebec news television, and all I can ever understand is the Football scores (how about those Baltimore Ravens? They must feel pretty miserable).

Food over at Sperwhen Gar is not terrible, but one day a week hot meals are not served at all, and the rest of the time, you only get 2 hot meals a day. There are plenty of MRE's, both American and Canadian, and there's also usually bread and cold cuts for lunch, so it's not terrible. There's croissants for breakfast almost every day, and they have plenty of hot water so I can make hot tea, which is great.

I've been watching a lot of movies and TV-on-DVD, as well. White has bought 3 seasons of House, MD on DVD, and I've watched some of that, although I've had a lot of trouble the last few days with the images freezing or running in slow-motion. I've downloaded a new DVD player to see if that helps out/works better, but we'll see. I've also checked my email (over 70 emails, only about 5 were personal), and updated the OS on my laptop. Speaking of which, I think I'm going to email the company that made my laptop case and tell them they did a really good job, because my case has been all over the place in the back of my humvee and still is in really good shape.

Hopefully I'll be back around Lindsey for a day or two, so maybe you'll see another update tomorrow.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Sgt. Simpson came into the barracks hollering that Capt. Sevilla needed to see us (myself, and Sgt. Knight). Hoping that this was for something important, we hopped up and headed over to the TMC (Troop Medical Clinic).

Turns out, she just wanted to give us vaccinations. Oh, joy! I got FOUR. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Anthrax, and a flu vaccine. I am quite sure that I will be sick as a dog in the next few days. Just as well, under the circumstances, that we might not leave for Sperwhen Gar until the weekend, or even early next week.

At any rate, I plan on eating as much as I can over the next few days, and staying in bed, since I'm sure I'll feel lousy. I still have some packing up to do, and I finally got the wireless router working, but I'm basically ready to go.

The weather in Afghanistan

Here lately it has gotten cold. During the three weeks I was gone for leave, it cooled off considerably. Before, it would be chilly in the early mornings, right before and right after sunrise. Now it can be chilly all day long, and with the wind, it can even be cold. Nights are sometimes quite cold, below freezing even, I think.

We still have fairly clear skies, and on the warmer days, it's beautiful. Almost like a beautiful autumn day at home. It almost makes me look forward to being at Sperwhen Gar, where you're much closer to the "wilderness" of Afghanistan. As I said in my last post, I should have some really breathtaking pictures after this stage of the deployment.

On a subject closer to home, lots of pogues (People Other than Grunts) have taken over our mess hall. I don't know where the heck they come from, or why they all feel the need to be in OUR mess hall, but it's disgusting. I went in OUR mess hall today, and it was FULL. Every table was being used. There were probably 60 people in there. And out of all those people, I recognized TWO of them. I didn't even see any of the Pogues that had been here when we got here, everyone in there was a newbie from KAF.

The worst part about Pogues is that they act like they're better than infantry. They have all their uniforms all neat and pressed and spiffy-looking, and they look at you like you're scum because your uniform is a little dirty. They'll ask you "where is your soft cap?" or "where is your weapon?" or something dumb like that. Because it makes them feel like studs to be on a FOB that's out away from the main post, toting their weapons, and knowing that "outside the wire" is literally just 30 yards away. And most Pogues are E-7's or higher. There's so much brass in that mess tent now, that I expect it to get struck by lightning every time a storm comes up.

In conclusion, pogues make me sick. I wish they would all go back to KAF and stay there.

On the bright side, things are looking up for the internet and networking here on Lindsey. A new chief has shown up with the Navy, and is doing an excellent job of designing a new network for the B-huts. Too bad I won't be here to enjoy it...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Moving to Sperwhen Gar

The move to Sperwhen Gar is either tomorrow, or shortly thereafter. Allegedly I will be able to come back to Lindsey or at least to KAF every now and then and hopefully use the internet, so I should be able to post once in a while.

Meanwhile I've been playing EverQuest and browsing the internet. Oh, and eating ice cream. From what we understand, at Sperwhen Gar and Moshem Gar, breakfast and dinner are hot meals, and lunch is MRE's. I expect I'll lose a lot of weight, and hopefully get in good shape.

Moshem Gar is actually a really cool-looking place, being as it has two mountains inside the compound. So I should end up with some pretty spiffy pictures.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

So, how was YOUR Thanksgiving...?

Mine wasn't too bad. The day before, I reported to the airport nearest my home of record and flew to Atlanta. I boarded a flight to Kuwait, via Leipzig Germany, at 1800. We flew about 8.5 hours to Germany, where we had a 1 hour layover, then continued to Kuwait City. That leg of the flight was about 5 or 6 hours in length.

In Kuwait, I stayed up until sunrise, then slept all day and all night Friday (except for required formations and whatnot). We left Kuwait finally at 7pm or so (local time, so 8 hours ahead of East Coast time now) on Saturday evening, and now I'm in Bagram, where I will be delayed for probably at least another day.

Bagram is cold. Kuwait was chilly, overcast, windy, and, believe it or not, rainy. Although not rainy like I know rainy. It kind of sprinkled now and then. The food was good, though. I had ice cream as often as I could stand it. Since I'm recovering from a mild flu, I wasn't able to eat as much as I did the first time I went through Kuwait to Afghanistan.

Anyway, now I'm trying to log into EQ. Wish me luck. Oh, and God Bless the USO!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On leave

I am currently on leave, at home with my family.

I have also heard from Anderson that when I return to Afghanistan, I will be moved to Sperwhen Ghar as an embedded training team member, or ETT. At Sperwhen Ghar there is no internet access, no telephone access, and it's a Canadian facility, so mail will probably be erratic at best. Expect no further updates, and if you want to get in touch with me, try sending snail mail to:

Hendrik Booraem
APO AE 09355

But don't expect miracles. Or a fast response.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Back from Tarin Kowt

We are back from Tarin Kowt. It was supposedly a suicide mission, with over 3000 taliban forces in the mountains between here and there. We were escorting over 100 ANA light-skinned vehicles, and it took 14 hours for us to travel ~170km. We made ZERO contact although we lost one soldier.

We stayed a couple of days because it was "too dangerous" for us to drive back through the pass. We actually ended up flying back on a Canadian C-130.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Books and redecorating

Well, I have read several more books, and watched several more movies. I've watched "1408" which is an adaptation of a Stephen King short story. It was an okay movie. I've read several other books from the CP, none were really outstanding in any way.

I have also redecorated some. Instead of using a plastic footlocker for a seat, I'm now using an ammo crate. I have two other ammo crates that are being used as shelves on and under my desk. It has freed up a little bit of room. There's still some question as to whether we will move into B-huts, and if so, when. Many of us would, by now, prefer to remain where we are, since the B-Huts would probably not be wired for the MWR network, and would only be wired for Hajji-net after we moved in.

Myself, I'm still only focussed on my leave, which is coming up soon. I haven't started counting hours yet, but it won't be long.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Truck fixed

The truck has been fixed. New brakes, and we put a new rear bumper on it, so we can strap fuel cans to the bumper, and put more mortar ammo in the trunk. There might come a day soon when we need it...

However, in the meantime, we are all staying trained up. We had a Combat Life Saver refresher course today (CLS). We had to give an IV to another soldier (I gave an IV to White, and did a decent job this time), and we had to be given an IV as well (White gave me an IV and we discovered that I have veins of steel. The catheter actually BENT as he was trying to insert it into my vein. But the second time went much better). In addition, we discussed NPAs and OPAs, pressure dressings, tourniquets, and suchlike. It was very informative.

I also discovered that Captain Sevilla will be flying home at the same time as me. Probably on the same flight, even, since there are not many flights leaving around the same time as mine. She was the Physicians Assistant who palpated my potential hernia earlier in this deployment. She has a good sense of humor and doesn't take her rank too seriously (can I say that? We'll find out, I guess).

Also I tried to complete another of my goals for weight training a few days ago and I am JUST short of the mark. I am sure I can do it next time, though.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Truck is in the shop

Our truck is in the shop and has been for 3 days. We evidently drove it until the brake pads were ground down to metal. And then drove it some more. In the meanwhile, we've used a borrowed truck to go on missions. That's always a super huge pain in the tuckus, as it involves taking the other crews equipment out, storing it in our area, putting our gear in and setting it up the way we want it, then when we're done with the missions, doing the opposite (ours back out, theirs back in). It just adds a lot of work to the prep stage of a mission.

Our last mission was another trip to Sperwhen Gar. We gave 1 to 5 odds against us making contact and actually made $6. I hope I can make some more money this way before I go on leave. hehe.

I have 3 more exercise days to test my last achievable goal before going on leave, so I have to really push myself on that. I feel pretty confident on it though. And my body weight has not been an issue. The heaviest I've found myself weighing so far is right at 180lbs.

Sadly, I'm out of books again. I have one Terry Pratchett book left that I'm saving for the trip home, I've read all the others. Now I'm going through the library in the company CP, but sadly, most of those are violent detective/murder mystery type novels, which just don't help me maintain my witness very well.

Anyway, now I have guard duty for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Leave is not CANCELLED, just delayed

In case any of you are worried, my leave has not been cancelled, just pushed back a little bit.

The men we sent to Camp Phoenix have come back, and brought with them Capt. Pinson, who will be staying on our FOB for a week or so. In addition to being a former member of the unit (both enlisted and officer), he is also 1) my insurance agent, and 2) the son of a deacon at my church, and 3) graduated from the same college as me.

Lately I've been playing a lot of EverQuest. The new internet provides fairly decent ping, so I have two options for connectivity, which is good.

Not much else new is happening. Well, I did see a cat the other day and fed it some tuna. And Lindsey, the dog, is gaining a lot of weight. She looks healthy for the first time in a while. Actually, for the first time since I've ever seen her.

Monday, October 8, 2007

My leave is delayed

The 1st Sgt told me today that he has the flight schedule for November, and I am not flying out on the first. This makes me sad. I'm sure when Sgt. Knight gets back, he will be unhappy about this as well.

However, this does mean that I have more time to make sure that the new HajjiNet is working up to speed before I go home on leave. That's important to everyone here, since most of the guys use Skype to talk to their families. Or Yahoo Instant Messenger.

Now that I know I'll be leaving later, I need to reassess my PT goals (3 out of 5 so far!) and think more carefully about what to pack for the trip.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

My role as network administrator for Hajji Net

So. We have commercial internet access. Some/Most of the time, anyway. I refer to it as "Hajji Net," because we call the local nationals "Hajji's." I'm given to understand that this is a title given to a muslim who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca, but I haven't looked that up, it's just hearsay.

Anyway, the commercial internet is being provided by locals, hence HajjiNet. Due to my background in computers and networking, I've been "asked" to make sure that the locals know what they're doing when they set up the network. So I've been getting lots of questions about "Why doesn't my internet work?" and "What's wrong with my computer?" and that sort of thing.

I've had to re-crimp cables, troubleshoot bad cables, bad ports, and in general bad networking practices. I've helped to run the cable and offered advice on how to configure the network. I also spend a good bit of time testing the networks response, to make sure it's running at the speed we were promised.

In order to do all this, I've been pulled off of mission duty, and not been assigned any guard duty. I spend all my time working on fixing computers, testing the network, or troubleshooting new problems. It's been a lot of fun, frankly, and I'm really glad that I have some skills that can prove useful to everyone in the company, and to their families.

I do still want a wireles router, though. /grin

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The time for handwarmers is now...

The weather has finally changed. It's getting cold here. If I were to wear my shorts and t-shirt outside even in the early afternoon, it would be chilly. My feet get cold just sitting in my area typing away on my computer, even though I'm wearing socks and boots!

Now is the time, if you are of a mind, to send handwarmers! And knee-high socks. I have determined that I get cold easily because my entire shin has a mere 1/4th inch of skin over it. No fat, no muscle, just skin and underlying tissue. So, when the weather is cold, my BONES get cold. It's hard to stay warm that way.

Only 4 more weeks until my leave starts. 27 days, really, and that's 648 hours, or less!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The new internet

So. The commercial internet has come to FOB Lindsey. But it has it's problems. So much so, in fact, that I was removed from a 4-day mission and left behind so I could work on fixing the new internet.

After 5 hours of troubleshooting and work, I was able to make it work. However, it still needs considerable tweaking, so I'm off mission rotation until it's up and working at the speed we expect.

Feels good to be able to really contribute something to the company.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Monday, October 1st

My leave is supposed to be in 30 days.

Horne's leave was supposed to start today. His flight was cancelled, so they brought him back here and told him "we'll call you when there's a flight available." So, leave doesn't necessarily start when they tell you it will. Which is understandable, and I expect there to be some flexibility in the dates.

Also, yesterday, I fixed the internet. It had been down for a day and a half, and the brigade staff personnel had looked at it "for two days" according to the 1st Sgt., and it would require the attention of someone who was at Camp Phoenix. Well, I looked at it for 30 minutes and thought about it, and I got it fixed. Not hard. There was a shorted out port on the core switch, and plugging a cable into that port meant that the switch would overflow with bad packets, and the switch above it would block the port due to flow control/bad packets.

So, I felt pretty good that the old network administrator skills are still sharp.

Finally, we had a mission today, out past FOB Wilson. Another one of those "you're almost guaranteed to make contact! They've been ambushing convoys here constantly! They'll be waiting for us!" type of missions.

Naturally, nothing happened. I'm going to start a betting pool, maybe.

Friday, September 28, 2007

And then there were three...

Horne goes on leave Monday. At which point there will be 3 mortar section members in-country, which is just enough to man a truck. We'll be pretty busy from that point on, since by the time Anderson returns, White should be leaving, and we'll stay at 3 personnel.

My leave is only 33 days away now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Don't we all love visits by General officers?

Yesterday, we had a Brigadier General, and a Major General, come to our little outpost. They were here to participate in the CIB pinning ceremony for the soldiers involved in the contact back in late May. As with every military, no matter where you are, there is a lot of busy work involved in having a general officer around. Everything has to be cleaned, all the cigarette butts have to be picked up, barracks have to be swept even if the next dust storm will put them right back the way they were. Even if it's the MIDDLE of a dust storm (which it wasn't).

Anyway, we sent a huge detachment of trucks over to pick up the generals, who, of course, were late. Not just 15 minutes, but an entire hour and 20 minutes late. Then, we drove them back, had our little ceremony, had lunch with them, and drove them to FOB Scorpion, where they looked around for another hour or so. Then we took them back to KAF, and were rid of them.

The food wasn't bad, so I guess it was worth having them around. And allegedly we will get a day off tomorrow to make up for all the busywork over the last two weeks getting ready, so at least SOME benefit may come of having them around. Oh, plus the state newspaper was here and took some pictures, so some of the guys will be famous, at least locally.

34 more days until my leave. Not going to count out the hours, not yet. But soon...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Another Busy Week

Since Sgt. Arflin left, we have been short-handed. In order to man a gun truck, we need 3 personnel - a driver, a gunner, and a truck commander. Without Sgt. Arflin, we only have 5 people.

This has led to Sgt. Knight pulling extra duty, or double-duty, as SOG and then going on missions, within hours of each other. Horne has been promoted to Section Leader and is taking over the task of being Truck Commander (TC), but we're still short a gunner.

And now, Anderson leaves tomorrow to go home on leave for 15 days. To be honest, he'll probably be gone for 4 weeks. Goloyugo just got back, and he left late in August. So, with Anderson leaving, we're down to 4 people, one of whom has to pull SOG duty. Horne leaves in another week, and then I'm not sure WHAT we'll do. Possibly guard duty AND mission rotation? Maybe just missions? We'll see...

I can't even remember now if I was on missions last week. I remember we had a mission Monday to Qalat, and I think on Saturday we went to FOB Wilson and then to an ANA checkpoint near Sperwhen Ghar, but I just don't remember anymore. The days all run together now. Today we had a run to FOB Scorpion, then to An Kopf, and back, which took a few hours.

Oh, yes! Yesterday I achieved three out of five weightlifting goals! My body weight, abs exercises, and bicep goals were all achieved last night. My bench press is the one remaining achievable goal that I haven't yet accomplished!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Busy week

It's been a busy week. Two missions, one a two-day run, and a bunch of work on the vehicle has made for not much time on the internet.

That, plus the fact that the internet has been slow as a 1 legged dog lately, has meant that I'm behind on emails, behind in EverQuest, and behind on my Blog. But I do have a MySpace page now, if you care. www.myspace.com/mrdadx6

Might have another mission still this week. And my bunkmate, Anderson, is supposed to go on leave early next week, so I'll probably be spending more time on missions and less time on guard duty. Which has its ups and downs, of course.

Anyway, the weather is DEFINITELY cooling off, and the sun goes down MUCH earlier now. I keep looking at my yahoo client and seeing that the temperature back home is in the low 70's/high 60's, and cloudy. And here it is sunny and cool in the 80's. It's going to be such an adjustment being back home.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mission to Sperwhen Ghar

We went on a mission to an ANA checkpoint near Sperwhen Ghar yesterday. We left in the afternoon, escorting numerous ANA vehicles. They are not very good drivers, and it was stop and go, and constant slinky formation all the way there. We would speed up to 45mph, and then abruptly slow down to 15mph.

We were at the location for about 2 hours. This was the place surrounded by marijuana fields. The odor was quite distinctive, and it lingered in the vehicle for several hours even after we got back.

The Op-order had indicated that contact was EXPECTED, not merely likely, but, as usual, nothing happened. The way back was uneventful, although I had to pay a LOT more attention to my driving in order to maintain proper intervals in the dark.

Today, I learned from the 1st Sgt that we will be getting commercial internet as soon as 50 people sign up for the service. From what I can tell it will be a good service, worth having. It might even give me better ping inside EverQuest.

Back in late June, I set 5 goals for myself for my weightlifting by November. I'm getting close now to achieving 3 out of 5 of those goals. One of them was simply to remain below a certain weight, so it's been quite easy, and the last one was completely unreasonable (although I didn't realize it at the time), so I definitely will NOT be able to achieve it. 4 out of 5 is pretty good, especially when the 5th is practically impossible to achieve.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Leave is coming soon...

My 2 week leave is coming up in less than 50 days.

In addition, Anderson busted up his pinky finger, and has been on guard duty with me all this week (so far). Ramadan has started and as a result, ECP duty is not as hectic as it used to be.

Everquest has been working rather well, ping times often under 1000, so it's imminently playable. As a result, I've spent almost all my time asleep, on duty or missions, or playing Everquest. Yay Everquest!

I missed an opportunity to be in on a meeting with the contractor who is going to provide us with internet access. I have a feeling it's not going to be that good, and still going to be expensive.

I recently read Hell's Faire, by John Ringo, which was part of a series he wrote back in the late 90's. It was enjoyable, definitely written for military personnel. I've also read the story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in WWII, and a book about changing missionary work in the world, called Revolution in World Missions.

My black gloves have worn a hole in the fingertips of two fingers, so I am in need of more gloves. I hope I can get some tan cotton work gloves, kind of like gardening gloves, and also get a pair of leather work gloves like I used to have. One for the summer, when it's hot (like now) and one for in the winter.

We haven't been rocketed in a while, and from what I can tell there hasn't been much other activity. Looks like things are settling down.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Another Rocket attack on KAF

KAF got rocketed last night.

Which is only noteworthy because I was in the shower. I ended up spending 10 minutes standing in a bunker, waiting for the all clear, wearing only a towel and some shower shoes.

We also had a day at the range yesterday. I was able to hit man-sized targets at 50, 75, 100, and 150m with my 9mm pistol. Not as well as with the M4, but still, I'm just as dangerous now with a pistol as I ever was, which is good for me to know.

The 1st Sgt. says that the commercial internet thing is now up in the air, so we might go back to the satellite solution. I just hope we get something that is faster and more consistent. That's ALL I ask.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Another Trip to Qalat

We had a mission to FOB Apache today. We passed 10 burned out trucks that had been part of an ANA convoy from up north. They had been attacked yesterday evening by the Taliban and had been blown up. They evidently had been hit by multiple RPGs, because there were still some fires burning.

Also, we just had our internet reconnected. Funny story about that, but I won't relate it here. /grin Hopefully shortly we'll have commercial internet access at higher speeds than what we have available.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Then all of a sudden, two weeks pass...

Okay, not really. We've been sort of busy. Two weeks means a week of mission rotation and a week of guard duty.

The week of guard duty during which I didn't post, I was on ECP duty from 1500 (3pm) to 2300 (11pm). White and I spent the first 4 hours opening and closing the gate and searching people, and then the last four hours we would spend just chewing the fat about home and family and plans. It turns out he has a wonderful girlfriend who seems to be a very godly young woman, and who has been a tremendous blessing in his life. I encouraged him to marry her.

The week of missions, we prepared, repeatedly, for a lengthy mission which kept getting postponed due to the danger of imminent attack by the Taliban. We did go on a mission up to Qalat, and escorted a LTC around for a while. On the way back, a vehicle had the transmission go out, and I ended up driving the lead vehicle and intimidating oncoming vehicles off the road. That was kind of fun. I also smashed the passengers side mirror by accident.

Now I'm back on guard duty, in Tower 3. I spend a lot of my time off playing EverQuest now. It turns out that our internet connection is stable enough for decent EQ playing at least 6 or so hours a day, so I'm getting in as much time as I can.

Also, yet another laptop owned by a soldier in the company has gone to pot. And again, it was a Hewlett Packard. I'm starting to think that there's something wrong with those laptops.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fred Jr. comes to sleep with Anderson

Sgt. Arflin, if you read this, you left just in time. Fred apparently had a son, and he came to visit his fathers revenge on Anderson. This morning, we found a slightly smaller version of Fred running up a towel Anderson had hanging on his bed.

We gave chase, obviously wanting to eliminate the situation. But he was agile and got away, and we had to go out to the zero range. Eventually, Anderson caught up to Mr. Fred Jr. Mr. Fred Jr. had taken up residence in the bedclothes on Anderson's bed.

Mr. Fred Jr. got his comeuppance, and started rueing the day almost immediately. Still, I don't think you've have been happy about the situation.

We have a new pet. The ECP apparently adopted a dog, whom Spec. Parrot has named Lindsey. She is a very good guard dog, and apparently a christian, because she barks like heck when the ANA soldiers have their prayers broadcast over the PA system.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Vomit Sickness comes to FOB Lindsey

The vomit sickness has made its way to FOB Lindsey. At least two or three people have come down with it, possibly more. Including my bunkmate, who offered me $30 to take his guard shift today. I declined, and made him stand the first half of his guard shift, before going out to relieve him before the real heat of the day made its presence known. Hopefully, the vomit sickness will not affect me. I have been feeling a little off lately, but nothing major.

I have also been looking at ICANHASCHEEZBURGER lately for amusement. Some of the images are stupid, and some are in poor taste, but mostly they're very amusing. Over 100 pages of "lolcats" provided just for your entertainment make for a pretty jolly time.

In addition, today I saw Farhad the interpreter! This is a relief, because I had not seen him since about the first week I was here, and I worried that something bad might have happened to him. It does happen that the Taliban catch our interpreters. When they do, the Taliban behave in their normal, uncivilized, barbaric manner, which always ends up badly for the interpreter. Not having seen Farhad, I was quite concerned about his safety.

Also, I've discovered the best times for the internet are from about 11pm until about 8am, and from about 1pm to about 5pm daily. During this time frame I am often even able to play EverQuest, which is a real diversion from the normal discomfort of life in Kandahar.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Has the weather turned?

I was on guard at the Entry Control Point the other day, and spoke to a local national who was a KBR interpreter. He said (at least, I think it's what he meant) that the hottest part of the year was over and it was about to start cooling off.

I asked him how cool it gets in Kandahar and he didn't have the command of english numbers to really say. I've heard from other people that it rarely gets below freezing here, though. I hope that's true, because I hate to be cold, as most of you know.

We've been on several missions. One Village Medical Outreach we went on the other day had us coming back on back roads instead of the highway. We got to ford the river and drive over all sorts of rough terrain. I have some pretty neat pictures of the area, including of local children swimming in the canal that ran past all the farmland.

The other day, we were in Kandahar City and passed the fairgrounds / Stadium. There is a permanently emplaced Ferris Wheel there, as well as one of those pirate ship rides that rock up one side and then back down and up the other side. There was also a small concrete race track for racing go-karts. And just about half a mile away was a small village that we visited where half of the children didn't even have shoes.

It was at this village that I gave away my $1 Wal-Mart pocketknife. I gave it to a grumpy-looking 10 year old boy, who wasn't begging us for anything, but was taking care of his younger brother. He seemed a lot more cheerful after I gave him the knife. The upshot of the situation, though, is that I need a replacement pocketknife! So if you can run by Wal-Mart and pick up a $1 knife from their camping supplies section, and mail it to me, I'd appreciate it! Oh, and while you're at Wal-Mart, could you grab 2 bandanas in male-appropriate colors, and send them as well? Mine keep... disappearing, somehow. I probably wash them and lose them in the dryer or something, but there you go.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Shir Zai chow hall

The new mess hall right here on Shir Zai is due to open today. I'm very much looking forward to that. Having it right there will make guard duty less onerous, make it easier to do my workouts after eating, and give us a place to sit and relax in the evenings.

I've read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was pretty good if you just take it as another Harry Potter book. It was kind of disappointing if you consider it was the culmination of something like 5000 pages of storylines. Still, it wasn't as terrible as I expected it to be, so kudos to JK Rowling for that one.

I read another Terry Pratchett book (thank you, Lynn, for sending me Thief of Time. I never would have read TP otherwise), and found that, yes, ALL of his books are funny and most of them are easy to read. This one was called "Wee Free Men" and I really enjoyed it.

In addition, having been on several missions this week, I have some new pictures of Canadian bases in the Kandahar area. They're called Moshwen Ghar and Sperwen Ghar, and they're both pretty much on top of rough mountains. Which, of course, makes for some excellent scenery. From Moshwen Ghar, I could see a LOT of greenery, which is pretty surprising. The route to Sperwen Ghar actually travelled over a deep, fast-flowing creek, which was even more astounding. Oh, and there was a LOT of marjiuana. There were fields on both sides, and the plants were six to eight feet tall. (I wouldn't have known it was marjiuana but for the people in the vehicle with me. I know nothing about pot.)

Today is pretty much a day off, which we really needed, since we were on missions every day for the first four days of our mission rotation. We didn't expect that and were starting to get concerned that we would have been better off staying on guard duty for rest. You know how the Army is, they like to keep you guessing!

I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but back when we went to Alizah Kalay, Sgt. Hall (our supply Sgt) bought two chickens from the locals. They live on top of the boxes of bottled water next to the laundry room. He's hoping that they will lay eggs for him, but they haven't yet.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Anderson and his CIB

Specialist Anderson was in a firefight at some point during his 9-day-long mission, and will be getting his CIB for it. Congratulations to him.

Also, our temporary dining facility is almost complete, and it's RIGHT OUTSIDE MY DOOR! This is big, very big. I will literally have to only put on my uniform, and take about 50 steps to be INSIDE the dining tent, once it is up and running. It's supposed to be cooking by the end of the month! I'm so excited.

I've started keeping a journal of missions, books I've read, Correspondence courses I've completed, magazines I've read, movies I've watched, and of my workouts. It helps pass the time. The internet (or the Timmy) gets old after a while.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dust storms

Saturday, 21 July, there was a dust storm. Actually, from what I understand, it started Friday night around 11pm. It has lasted through today, although it's not as severe today. Yesterday, the visibility from the towers was MAYBE 600m. Really, you couldn't see much past 300 meters.

Today, it's much better. I could probably see out to about 1500 meters. Large targets, anyway. For point targets, I probably couldn't have spotted anything beyond 800m. It was a lot like a foggy day, only the fog was dry and yellowish, instead of damp and gray. Still, the meagre shadows and the smell of burning wood somehow reminded me of being at The Citadel in the late winter.

Today should have been my last day on guard duty, although if circumstances require it, I will be pulling guard duty again next week. We'll see how that goes.

I saw Specialist Nelson today. He and I have talked several times about the predestination issue (he's a studious man of God), and he advised me today to read carefully Romans 6 and 8. I think I will finish Romans and then go back to the start and read it over again, and see what I think then.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Construction begins!

KBR has begun construction of our temporary dining facility, and of our permanent facility. Hopefully, the temp one will be up and running by the middle of next month. Then no more 1.5 hour-round-trips to KAF to get lunch or dinner!

I've been on guard duty this week, 0600 to 1300. Nothing much has happened. I've spent some time studying Romans, and I can see where the doctrine of predestination originates, but I think that it stems from a misunderstanding of what Paul is saying. I've spent a lot of time talking to a soldier named Nodine about spiritual things, and psychology.

From what I understand the troops are due back tonight. Godspeed to them.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What a difference 15 days makes...

Well, in the 15 days since I last posted, I've been rather busy.

I was on guard duty for another 5 days after my last post. Then another day or so of 1 6-hour shift per day, and then I was rotated to missions. I spent the last week going on missions every other day, and have been on 3 missions this week.

We went to FOB Apache, outside of Qalat, and back, twice. Once we were given info that there was a potential IED site along the way, but we made no contact. We've been on the lookout for specific threats that have been mentioned in convoy briefings, but have not seen any of these specific targets.

On Friday we went south a bit to a village named Aliza Kalay, where a Village Medical Outreach was taking place. There were over 20 vehicles, and over 100 personnel participating. We provided security for the mission personnel, and even deployed our mortar in case of dedicated attack by the Taliban. We have heard, from people who allegedly are in the know, that the Taliban are making a big push in the area this summer, and that they would like nothing more than to be able to claim that they have control of Kandahar City.

I've been doing a lot of work on the vehicle, becoming more familiar with the various systems that we have now. I've also pressure-washed the radiator, which has reduced the engine heat a little bit, and made the vehicle run a little smoother, I think.

I've only been gunner on one mission, and that got me into a bit of hot water with the company CO. He disapproved of the TC's method of conveying to bus and jingle truck drivers that we want them to come to a complete halt when our convoy is passing them. Hopefully I'll get to gun again, because your rear end doesn't go to sleep as easily when you are gunning.

We had a big barbeque for the 4th of July. Anderson and I were able to attend and get lots of food. I even managed to acquire half a case of orange soda for my personal use. And, even better, the Supreme meals are actually pretty good (well, except for breakfast). Although, the KBR mess halls are still operational. At least, two of them are. Frequently we go to those chow halls, since take-out is much more readily available from them.

Finally, I have just today finished watching all of Season 3 of Stargate: Atlantis. I was pleased that they focussed so much on Rodney McKay, because that character is by far the most consistent and entertaining in the program. I do hope that the Dr. Weir character is replaced in Season 4, and I miss the Dr. Beckett character already. That character was frequently a really good foil for various other characters in the show, and I think the lack of that variety will be a bad thing for the future.

Not much else to say. Will try to update again more frequently in the future.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Dining Facility - Under New Management

The dining facilities on KAF are now under new management, being run by Supreme, instead of KBR. My first impression is that this is a change that I will NOT appreciate. This mornings breakfast (brought to us on guard duty by the 1st Sgt, God love him) looked like 2 used tampons, a dog turd, and a pile of play-doh-yellow cat vomit, over a serving of baked beans. The bread wasn't terrible, but I only got one slice. The yogurt was also runny, although not terrible.

It was hot and humid overnight, and the skies are still thoroughly overcast. It might well rain again today. It certainly will be another sweat-factory day at the ECP for myself and Anderson. Today will be the second day of 6 on/6 off for us. Or the third, I'm not sure. It's hard to get enough rest in the six hours you get off. However, it's going to work out that we get a week of being on missions, and get to rest when we're not on missions. So that should work out well.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

It rained today

It rained A LOT. Anderson and I were on guard duty, and we're both completely soaked. Our uniforms went straight into the dryer when we got off of duty. The river next to the compound is swollen to the size of a flash flood like you see on TLC or Discovery. There was a huge mud puddle 6 inches deep just outside the gate. I know, because I had to stand in it to be able to read ID badges of incoming personnel, because of the water on my glasses.

However, about 1910, there was a rainbow in the southern sky, and the mountains to the east were glowing a brilliant red. I have several pictures of this moment of beauty.

I ask again that, if you read this, you would pray for me. Thank you, and God bless.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sandstorms and a rough week

So far, we've had sandstorms both today and yesterday. They're really not as bad as in, say "The Scorpion King," but they are very annoying and you don't want to be out in them. Visibility is reduced, and remember that Afghanistan is pretty much a garbage dump everywhere, so every blowing piece of dust probably has some fecal matter particles on it somewhere...

The dust gets in your mouth and everything tastes crunchier. All you can smell is dust, and horse manure. Even the rain (which followed yesterday's dust storm) smelled like horse manure. There was also a thunderstorm last night, which was pretty cool, although we couldn't hear the thunder. We could see lightning in the distance, and that was pretty neat.

This week is kind of rough for me, because my family is on vacation, and I can't communicate with them as much as I have been lately. I know they're having a great time, and I'm glad of that, but I really miss talking to them, and sharing things with them.

I've been getting the Crosswalk daily "clean humor" email, as well as a weekly "things that you might find handy" email. Today's "things you might find handy" included something on Singles and the Christian lifestyle, which I've forwarded on to Anderson. I think it's a good idea for people to start thinking early on in life about whether they are the type of person who can be a strong Christian and be single. If you can't (and I definitely wasn't the type for it), considering marriage is a really smart move. Better to be married than to burn with desire, after all.

Horne's wife sent more care packages full of donated stuff, which was great. I got more baby wipes and some "cracker bites" which are actually pretty good. I also picked up some "espresso candy" from Sgt. Knight, which is helping me stay awake on guard duty, so it's a good thing.

Keep praying for my witness, please. It's the most important thing. Some very challenging circumstances are coming up in the near future, and I really need to be able to respond as a Christian first, and as a soldier second.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blacked out again!

Yes, we've spent a little more than the last 24 hours blacked out, but the internet is back. Evidently there was an American KIA in the 209th corps area yesterday. I spoke with a soldier with whom I serve a lot of guard duty and he asked me to call his grandparents if anything happened to him, rather than them having to hear it from someone impersonal in the National Guard.

It's funny. Some people accept that a blackout is going to happen, as long as it only lasts for 24 hours. But with apologies to Alan Keyes, it's not how much of your internet they control, it's that you have to justify your access to them at all. The worst part is that, some day soon, we'll move into actual barracks, and have to pay for internet access there, but will still be subject to blackouts. If we had our own satellite internet, it wouldn't be as fast as DSL, but we would have more control over it, ostensibly.

Ah, well. Such are the trials of being a soldier. It could be a LOT worse, obviously, so while I'm griping a little, don't take this as being a life-and-death or even gravely serious situation. It's more of an inconvenience now.

Also, we went to the bazaar yesterday. I'm pretty confident that I'll buy my wife a nice jewelry box next time I go. I didn't want to buy anything yesterday because I wanted to be sure what I was looking for and get a feel for how much I should pay. I'm also looking at possibly buying a large piece of Lapis, especially if I can figure out how (and to whom) to sell it when I get it back in the states. I saw a fairly good quality piece yesterday that weighed about 10lbs (3.7 Kg), and the vendor wanted $220 for it. I think maybe if I got it for about $50, I could make some money off of it, but I'm not entirely sure.

Anderson and I have been talking more about our faith. He is constantly telling me about his girlfriend and how great she is, and I spend hours telling him how fantastic, wonderful, and gorgeous my wife is. It helps pass the time.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy Birthday to us!

This evening I ate dinner with the interpreters in their dining facility. The food was eggplant casserole (I think), and some kind of stew beef au jus. We also had their homemade bread and watermelon for dessert. It was all very good food. You would have to have known me through college to know just how astonishing it is that I ate foreign cuisine. Trust me. This is major.

So, then, once I got back to the barracks, I found that someone had sent us 6 ice cream cakes and some ice cream, for everyone who had a birthday in the first 6 months of 2007. So I had a slice of ice cream cake and took a video of 3rd platoons Plt Sgt leading the company in a round of "Happy Birthday."

All good morale building stuff. So far the 6 hour shifts are working out okay, although we've gone to 1 six-hour shift per day, instead of two. Which I think I can handle quite easily, although 0700 to 1300 is a very hot shift...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

4 hours on, 8 hours off? Or 6 on, 6 off?

So. Guard duty is changing. Up until now, we had been through several different arrangements. For a while, we served 4 hour shifts 1x a day. That was pretty nice. But some soldiers complained that they didn't get "days off." And besides that, we weren't running many missions during that time frame.

Then, we went to 4 hours on, 8 hours off. So essentially you worked 8 hours a day, broken up into 2 4-hour shifts. That wasn't TERRIBLE, although it does make it hard to get a good night's sleep sometimes. And some soldiers complained that they weren't getting "days off." And when the number of missions increased, there was a set group of soldiers who were always going on missions, meaning that the soldiers who got left behind and pulled guard duty were always the same ones. They didn't like that. And, add to that the fact that someone pointed out, when we start sending soldiers home for their leave, we're going to be even more short-handed, and we'll have some soldiers pulling 3 4-hour shifts per day to make up for the missing soldiers.

So it was suggested that we go to 6-hour shifts. After all, that reduces our headcount requirement by 50%. And if the missions are organized based on which soldiers are NOT on guard duty, then the soldiers going on missions will be more varied. And if we schedule a rest plan, so that the soldiers who just finished 2 days of guard duty (24 hours on, 24 hours off) only have to work 4 hours per day or less, we should be able to meet everyones needs!

Today we make the shift to 6-hour shifts. I hope it works as well as it's proponents claim it will, although I have grave doubts. The biggest worry I have is that the soldiers who SHOULD be on "rest plan," will be asked to go on multi-day missions, leaving the soldiers who are on guard duty to STAY on guard duty indefinitely. While the 6-hour shift may require 50% less personnel, it will also cause at least 50% more strain on the soldiers who work it.

Stay tuned for the results!

Daily update

To be honest, not much is going on lately. I haven't gone out on a mission since mid-may, so there's been a lot of guard duty. We hear that a chow hall is going to be built on-site, and were all excited about that for a while, until we found out that the earliest it would be completed would be 1 October. We were also excited about the idea of moving out of the barracks we are currently in, into the buildings DESIGNED to be barracks (instead of office buildings), because the real barracks are supposedly going to have faster speed internet access. That'll only cost us $140 per line. (I think we'll try to split that 4 or more ways and install a switch in the building)

I was thinking of things that we (the company) or I (as an individual) could use.

  • I could use some tuna fish. I'm down to two cans. I eat it with Saltines when I work out during lunch break (which I do to avoid other people in the gym), and miss getting a ride to the chow hall at KAF.
  • I could use some Aleve, or other long-lasting painkiller. My body armor weighs about 50lbs, and 4 hours of guard duty causes it to chafe. My shoulders, back, and feet end up hurting quite a bit.
  • All the soldiers could always use AA and AAA batteries. We all have electronics that use these batteries.
  • We really need some shower curtains that have magnets in the sides. Shower curtains for stalls, not for a bathtub/shower combo. We have six shower stalls with tiny scraps of shower curtain for each one. Some of the scraps are ragged, or curling on the edges.
  • Would you believe we could use laundry soap? We have one building that houses 4 washers and 4 dryers, and a communal laundry soap would save a lot of the soldiers time.
As I recall from a briefing, I'm not allowed to make a blanket request for anything, so please don't consider this a request. I'm just saying these are some things that I could use, and some things I know the company area / the other soldiers could use, nothing more.

Monday, June 18, 2007


So far there have been three large explosions today. I don't know what they are or how close they were, just that the first one was much closer than the second two, and the third one was at least 20 minutes later than the first two. Don't yet know what they were, although I suspect mortar gunnery at the range, or possibly aircraft bombing practice. They could certainly be IEDs on the road just outside post though.

After all, the Taliban, from all reports on the internet, are making a big surge in Afghanistan this year.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Latest goings-on

Well, lets see...

Since I last posted, we've had quite a few missions go out. They're not always convoy escort, sometimes they're "drive to here, get out and greet the locals" type missions. One soldier who went on a mission of that type the other day says that we need to get inexpensive sandals to give out to the kids (get them in various sizes, he suggests) when we go on missions like that. "Afghan Care Packages," as they are called by my section Sgt.

However, Sgt. Knight does not approve of us giving stuff like this out on all missions. Only certain missions are appropriate for humanitarian aid items. Since I haven't been on ANY missions since mid-May, I haven't had an opportunity to give stuff away to the local children yet. There are a good many small children staying nearby, and we frequently see them from one day to the next, but I have long since decided that the children who live near KAF are probably the most well-off of all the children I'll see here, and so I save my care packages for the children in the remote villages.

The last couple of days, I discovered something new. The military has a policy of cutting off all internet and telephone access for up to 24 hours if a soldier gets killed. While I think I understand the rationale behind this policy, my personal feeling is that it has a more detrimental than helpful effect. Besides which, if the military doesn't trust us to keep secret a soldiers death, why trust us to keep secret any other important details of our operations here? Maybe I shouldn't ask that question too loudly, though, huh?

We've had another company barbeque here on post. Those are fun, although the meat tends to be overdone. I guess the dry heat of Afghanistan means you have to leave the food on the grill for a bit less time than back home. But, still, the pork loin was fantastic, it's just that the steak was dry and we don't have a real barbeque sauce for the ribs.

After a month in-country, eating 2 and sometimes 3 ice cream bars a day, I discovered that I was adding fat to my belly. "This," I thought "is not acceptable." So, I have started an exercise routine, and cut out the ice cream. I figure cutting out the sugar and fat from the ice cream, and increasing even by a little bit the amount of exercise I do, should allow me to slim back down to my old size in a few months. Maybe I'll even put on some muscle and look intimidating, if that's even possible for a string bean like me. But, regardless, I've started exercising every other day and I'm trimming the old waistline quite nicely.

Friday, June 8, 2007

More updates

Well, I mentioned the other day that there was only one chapel on the post. As far as I know, that's the truth, but I was on tower duty the other day and spotted a building with a steeple on it, in a different area of the post than the chapel I know of. So, maybe there is another chapel? Or maybe it's a decommissioned chapel? I don't know yet.

The brigade commander came and visited us today. Three of our section were assigned to escort him around in our vehicle, which has just been fixed up nicely. Hopefully they are okay. If they did run into any enemy, I trust that they were able to leave the enemy sufficiently impressed with the ability and discipline of the American Soldier.

The upshot of these guys being on a mission, however, is that the rest of us have to do more of the various duties on post. Guard duties, I mean. This is not terrible, nor am I complaining. Merely pointing out that while they are gone, we work harder than while we have a full complement of troops here on post.

Anderson and I have been talking a lot about what marriage is all about. He is interested in several young ladies and doesn't really understand how to know which one is God's chosen mate for him. He also has (or had, perhaps I've enlightened him) several mixed-up notions about marriage.

Primarily, I shared with him that the best marriages are not about happiness, or love, or children. The best marriages are about commitment. Each partner is committed to the other, and that makes for much more success than simply focusing on any of the other three things I mentioned. Or anything else (except God) for that matter.

I've been playing Ultima Online a lot lately. Mostly because its free, but also because it looks the same as it did back in 1998 when I used to play it. The fact that it's free makes the PKing much easier to deal with. I just shrug and laugh it off now, whereas back then I would have been pretty tense, and even upset. I can't play EverQuest very well because of the high ping time. About all I can do is solo or go on Monster Missions, and that doesn't really lend itself to improving (or even maintaining) my skills with my class.

I've also spent some time playing Half-Life 2, which is quite challenging, and I have no idea where it's going. Far Cry is kind of on hold for the moment, just because I guess I overdid it in Camp Shelby. Halo is really tough for me to get used to, so I'm kind of backing off that for the moment. I haven't played Dawn of War any lately, either, but that's okay. I also have a book to finish and a couple of National Review magazines to read. I try to save them for when we are on missions, though, since I can't take my laptop along.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Care Packages galore!

The wife of one of the soldiers in our mortar section has been a busy lass. Despite having several children and a job, she also has arranged to have a considerable amount of stuff donated for sending to us here in Afghanistan. Two more packages arrived today, and her husband was giving stuff away to everyone on the compound yesterday evening.

Sgt. Knight even received a care package today, although it appears to have only been a desk lamp. And, of course, I'm really looking forward to the care package that I'm expecting to get from my family. Oh, and now is a good time to mention that I've received two pairs of excellent binoculars, that have already been used for Tower Guard duties and will probably be used at the Live fire exercise that is upcoming. As well, I sent a care package home on Sunday to my family. So there's been mail and packages going everywhere.

Sunday. That reminds me... There are about eight different services on sunday, because the post has only one chapel for all the different countries to have religious services. To date, I have not been able to attend any normal, scheduled services due to the exigencies of military service (ie, guard duty, missions, recovery from guard duty or missions, or details have prevented me), although the chaplain has come out to our facility and given a brief service in our "gym."

Sadly, there's not much else that I can discuss at the moment based on operational security. I try to only tell you about things some time after they've happened, and to never tell you anything specific about operations or plans that are coming up. So, be patient, and check back often!

Friday, June 1, 2007


Well, a while back, our unit made contact with the enemy. Several vehicles, while on a mission in a sector that will remain unnamed, were attacked by what we suspect was an element of the Taliban.

More than one vehicle was disabled, although multiple RPG strikes did not penetrate the vehicles armor. Windows were fractured, and the hull and turret armor of the vehicles repelled multiple small arms rounds. My understanding (I was not there) is that seven or more enemy were killed by accurate return fire from our turret gunners.

I was not present, so I will not get a CIB from this action. However, the troops who were present will be getting theirs. My congratulations and commendations go out to them. Praise God that no one was hurt, and pray that all our encounters with the enemy are as one-sided in our favor!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My "other plans"

Hehe, I was just reading back and realized I didn't tell you what my "other plans" were.

Well, the night before we left Camp Shelby, we had a 2130 formation to make sure everyone was there. The forecast was for heavy rainstorms during the night. After formation, I took a can of white spraypaint, and a can of blue spraypaint, and walked 3 or so miles from our barracks, to the MOUT site near the East Gate of Camp Shelby's cantonment area.

At the MOUT site, I spray-painted a 218th patch on one of the Con-ex containers that had been converted into a "building." I also spraypainted the Bravo company Rhino (the head, at least), and


underneath the rhino head. I wasn't back in the barracks until just after midnight, but it was great fun, and I took some great pictures. Since it's been almost three weeks and no one seems to have even commented, I figure it's safe to let you know. Wish I could post the pictures, though!

Convoy duties

Well, I've been on two major (multi-day) convoys so far. One went back up to Kabul, to Camp Phoenix, and we stayed overnight, then came back. That was a good learning experience. I was a back-seater on the trip up and got to watch the lead vehicle operations from some folks who seemed to really know their business. Then, on the way back, I was gunner for a 5-ton truck, which was also fun.

One of the drivers of the 5-ton was female, and I gave her a lot of good-natured ribbing. She was really cranky at first, because she was supposed to have been cleared from convoy duty and was leaving in a few days to go home. I gave her the standard "hit" lines, like "so, what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" and "Do you come here often?" or "We've GOT to stop meeting like this!" I don't think she once cracked a smile, but by the time we got back, she had relaxed enough to actually TALK about stuff, and ask questions and stuff.

Anyway, she was a very clear-headed, take-no-nonsense soldier. I would consider her very reliable, and I hope she makes E-5, because she'll be an EXCELLENT NCO. I would be glad to have her as a driver on any convoy anywhere.

Then, of course, the other mission was to a place called Dai-ray-woo. At least, that's how everyone pronounced it that knew how to say the name. Mostly we called it DRW. It was a Special Forces compound in the middle of nowhere, and behind it was a beautiful lush green area. I didn't manage to get any pictures of the greenery, and didn't want to take any pictures of the compound, because of security. The food at DRW was okay, I'm not sure where it was cooked, because it wasn't local food, but the place wasn't large enough to have an American dining hall.

The trip to DRW took two days. The first day we drove to a place that shows on a map I have as being called Tarin Kowt. There, we stayed at a primarily Dutch, multinational compound. The mess hall there reminded me of a mess hall scene in the game Halo. It was made of pre-fab steel sections, and had doors everywhere. Most of these doors didn't go anywhere, but they gave the impression that there were emergency escape pods or something all over the place.

The food at TK was... different. A German company provided the service and the food showed it. The bread was different, taller than American sliced bread, and the crust was much chewier, almost stale. There were biscuits that were like really light cookies, and they had chocolate spread, like Nutella. They had Roggebrood or something, that was supposedly rye bread, but tasted like mashed-together, mushy Raisin Bran. The Kool-Aid was amazing too, they had three colors: Red, white, and orange.

The red Kool-Aid tasted like fruit punch but with an aftertaste like womens perfume - very fruity, and almost harsh. The white Kool-Aid tasted like maybe lemonade, but with the aftertaste of, get this, urinal cake odor. The Orange Kool-Aid tasted like the smell of Daffodils. Yes, Daffodils. It reminded me of Easters hiding eggs at Wildwood, and springtime in the country.

By the way, from TK to DRW, there was no road. We were on trails the whole way, and it was very dusty. At TK I slept on the floor, because there were no beds. There was artillery fire from TK the second day, and we think we saw a firefight happening when we returned from DRW. We also saw an Apache helicopter shooting at something.

There's been so much else happening, I could go on and on for a long time. Some days it's hard to stay positive, especially when it seems like you're being treated unfairly, but I had a moments prayer this morning with another soldier (we were on duty together), and that seemed to change everything. Knowing that I'm doing God's work here, whatever it is, and seeking Him in prayer when things are tough, makes it easier for me to be cheerful in everything. Well, most everything.

Oh, also, I read "THUD!" by Terry Pratchett, and it was very good. Another of the Discworld series that I never would have found had it not been for my friend in our Sunday School Class. However, I'm out of books again, and need more. If you have any science fiction or fantasy novels that you're willing to give up, feel free to send them on.

Have I mentioned that we're looking into satellite internet access for the soldiers here at Shir Zai? I've spent a lot of energy trying to figure out what our specific needs are and how to meet them with a good secure network. I've had a lot of help from friends at various companies, some of which are even going to donate equipment to help us get set up!

Anyway, I hope that all of you reading this are doing well, and may God's blessings be upon each and all of you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Duty, duty, always, the duty

So, by now, having been in-country for 10 days or so, and at my duty station (Kandahar AirField - KAF) for 5 days, I have pulled all manner of SECFOR duty.

I have spent time on Entry Control Point (ECP) duty, and on Tower guard, and have been on convoy escort duty. I have seen Shir Zai, KAF, Camp Phoenix, Qalat and Camp Apache, and more.

Afghanistan is amazing. Right now is the end of the rainy season, and there are areas that are very green. Most of the country is still desert, or dusty rock, and they tell me that in the months to come, even the green areas will die and turn brown. There are mountains everywhere, and sometimes the dust storms block out the sun.

I've seen native afghans who look like hispanics, ones who look like American indians, and others who look like well-tanned white guys from back home. I've even seen native afghans with red hair, evidently courtesy of the British outpost that was here in the 1800's. I've seen street parties, and small towns that remind me of the old, worn-out parts of town in small towns in South Carolina (except dustier and less green). I've seen open fields used as trash dumps, and flames reaching 30 feet high from incinerators burning generic trash. (although to be fair, with there not being much moisture in the soil, I'm not sure a landfill would work as well here as it does in the states)

The children here, the ones between 4 and 8 years old, wave at us everytime we go by. The older children seem surly (much like American children!). The young adults either ignore us or work for us, from what I've seen so far, and those who work for us are cheerful and friendly (which could, of course, be a front).

A lot of the troops whom we are replacing have very negative things to say about Afghanistan. I wonder if I will end up with the same attitude at the end of this deployment...

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'm in Kandahar!

So, here I am in Kandahar, at a small place called Shir Zai. Right this minute I'm watching "Anger management" on my laptop, and it sucks. Not only does it suck, it's one of those movies that just makes me feel like crap. So, I'm going to watch the rest of it, then tell my wife, and all of you, just how lousy of a movie it is. (maybe it's just that I dislike Jack Nicholson so much, though).

Anyway, Shir Zai is small. The barracks are just as cramped as they were at Phoenix, but with more amenities and less rank to watch us. Lets see, what else, there's a lot of work to go around, and a nice gym for us to exercise in when we're off duty. The mess halls here are pretty nice, and I like the food. I don't understand why so many people complain about the chow so much.

We flew here from Kabul in a C-130. That was a cramped and uncomfortable flight. I got my picture taken with an Aussie Steyr AUG, though. I still need to get my pic taken with a UK FAMAS, but that's gonna take a while, I think.

Kandahar is a much more spread out base than Camp Phoenix. Phoenix was about the size of a large city block. Kandahar is about the size of DFW. We have several Humvees and LTVs assigned to the company now.

Hmm, I can't think of what else to say. I like Afghanistan so far, though, although I do miss my family. I think I've had some opportunities to witness, but the Lord is making them harder to identify. I think I'm supposed to work harder to identify them and push myself to take advantage of them. I hope everyone out there is still praying for my witness.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

At Camp Phoenix

After a few days of travel, through more nations than I had been through in my entire life up to now, I have arrived at Camp Phoenix, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Kabul is a harsh environment, but I can see a lot of beauty here. The mountains around the city are amazing. There was a thunderstorm the first night we arrived, and it was beautiful. I hear we're about to enter the 120 days of wind, and things will get ugly, dry, and dusty, though.

We've had a full day of briefings, and are preparing for our next movement. I'm photographing just about everything, so I can give everyone a sense of the environment, however limited that sense might be.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Kuwait City

Now, we're in Kuwait City, at Ali Al Saleem, a transit camp, apparently. A lot of soldiers go through here on their way to and from theatre, either Afghanistan or Iraq. We arrived after dark, and were told no pictures, so I don't have any cool pictures of Kuwait yet, and might not be able to get any.

The facility is pretty nice for the circumstances, and the people seem nice also. Unfortunately, the wireless internet access is neither wireless nor free. :(

I'll write more soon, I hope. I also hope I'll be able to figure out how to post pictures, cause I've got some good ones from our last days at Camp Shelby!

We are ON THE WAY!

A portion of our unit has been dispatched for Kuwait City, Kuwait. We are currently in Shannon, Ireland for a layover. We should be in Afghanistan within a week.

Time to go

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Alpha, Charlie, Delta Boneheads...

Well. We've been in a holding pattern for a week or so now, waiting to send everyone overseas. I got Smallpox, Anthrax and Typhoid vaccinations, which are still making me feel pretty lousy. We've had a company-level record APFT (which I passed, surprisingly enough!), and we've gone off-post some, mostly to Wal-Mart and the mall in Hattiesburg.

But all the good stuff is over now, thanks to Alpha, Charlie, and Delta companies. THEY had to have soldiers who went and bought alcohol (from the PX! In uniform! with their weapon!), or who got busted putting on civilian clothes and getting drunk in Hattiesburg. So, it comes down from Battalion - no more going out. No more going to the PX unescorted. As the 1st Sergeant put it, if it's fun, you need to be escorted by an NCO.

Still, there are other ways to have fun. I've watched a lot of videos on my laptop, and played a lot more of FarCry. I have other plans too, but I'll update you on those later.

There's not much else to talk about at the moment that would be operationally secure, so you'll have to wait another week or two and check back.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Preparing to fly out

Well, we've had our second mortar live-fire, after two or three days of dithering and scrounging up ammunition for the mortars. Our mortar section, of course, proved to be highly skilled and capable. Our night fire exercise was very impressive, leaving the OC's with, get this, NOTHING to suggest we need to "improve!" That's as rare as anything in the Army.

We've been back through SRC (Soldier Readiness Checkup) and have been issued a few extra items to take over with us. We're starting to pack stuff into our duffel bags and wonder what we're going to do with stuff we can't cram in. We have had several extra training courses that have been very beneficial, and that we're going to wish we could have had twice, or even three times.

I ran into Williams again today, and he told me that what I said to him back at the end of mortar school really encouraged him and that he really appreciated it. I hope that's a sign that I'm really doing the Lords will here.

Oh, and the supply sgt. flew out today, along with someone else in the unit. So when we get there, we should be able to draw some of the things we're still lacking. I'm still short on books, although I have plenty of Sudoku and Crosswords to keep me going. The 1st Sgt. let me read a book by Ted Dekker, a Christian novelist, and it was a lot like a Dean Koontz novel, although I didn't get a very Christian vibe from it. Nothing explicit, anyway, and given the "Christian rock bands" of my youth, I'm pretty leery of anything that's not explicitly Christian.

Gotta run, the Internet cafe' is crowded. time will be up shortly. God Bless!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Back from Block leave

So, we're back in Camp Shelby. There are things to do here and there to get ready for shipping off to Afghanistan. One very important thing we had to do was have a big parade. And we had to practice for it too, because what good is a parade without rehearsal?

That rehearsal literally took 5 hours on Friday. We also did some silly-sounding "human patch formation" thing that I'll reserve judgement on until I see the picture. After all, if it looks cool, it might have been worth it. The parade itself lasted from 1000 to about 1145 Saturday, but of course we had to be there an hour and 30 minutes early. After all, this is the ARMY. Oh, and we had to wear our body armor, helmets, and carry our weapons, although we weren't wearing the actual protective plates in the body armor (so it was essentially worthless).

I'm hearing that we will have more mortar firing exercises before going overseas, which is good. Not that we don't have our skill level where it should be, but we're to the point where you have to work at maintaining your skills. Supposedly we will also be having a PT test at some point. I hope not, since I seem to have pulled a tendon in my ankle, and it probably would hurt a good bit after a PT test.

With the laptop here, I'm able to put together slide shows for my email update list, but haven't focussed yet on preparing notes for the blog. Hopefully I'll get to that soon, but honestly, not much has happened yet.

I'll post more later.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Block leave, and the silliness leading up to it

Well, here I am at home for a week and a half, on block leave. It's good to be home and see the family. I'm also picking up the laptop that was purchased for me, getting some more music that was here at home, but not readily available to email, and getting some other essentials before we head to the big A.

The last few days before block leave, after the Mortep, were kinda silly/crazy. We had a couple of days of rest and refit combined with weapon turn-in, footmarches, and briefings. There was a good Easter service on Easter Sunday that Chaplain Darden gave. I had a chance to watch "The Ringer" and "Accepted" during this time frame, mostly because the mortar section is pretty on-top of things, and we clean our weapons and our area fairly frequently (most of us, anyway). The Ringer is pretty funny, and the source of the "When did we get Ice Cream?" quote that the others in the mortar section have been tossing off. Accepted is the source of the "Ask me about my weiner!" line, and that was pretty funny too.

The Monday before we got on the buses (a technicality, really. We got on the buses at about 11:50pm on that Monday, but weren't supposed to leave until 12:01 on Tuesday), we had a six-mile footmarch at 0500. I'm pretty sure that the purpose behind it was to get everyone sweaty so they would need to change uniforms. We were constantly told to wear "fresh ACU's and a fresh haircut" for the trip home. We were also told "no alcohol on the bus ride home" and I know some people violated that rule too.

Our six-mile footmarch was only notable for one thing: the CO somehow became motivated at the end of the footmarch and we sprinted about 400-500 meters at the end. That wasn't too bad (I've come a long way since the first footmarch back in February. Primarily I know now how to adjust the IBA so it isn't excrutiatingly painful on my shoulders), and I only ended up with one blister, on my outside left ankle. About an hour later we turned in our weapons and other sensitive items at the company CP.

Now that I have the laptop, I should be able to update the weblog pretty regularly, either at Camp Shelby, or in Afghanistan, as long as I have access to some kind of internet. I'll also be able to think more about what I'm gonna write, so things shouldn't be as disjointed in the future. Up until now, I've sat down with a time limit, and just written what came to mind as I went through. With the laptop, I'll be able to format my thoughts and get things down before I actually post. Let me know if you don't think the quality of the posts goes up, because in that case I can use the spare time for other stuff.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Back from MORTEP

MORTEP went well. Our unit is well trained, we function well as a team, and we have high morale. Our NCO's are adept at their jobs, and they are willing to spend the extra time it takes to train us in doing tasks that are a pay grade above what we currently are assigned. Because, as Aunt Abigail knows, everyone is "One Bullet Away" from taking that next level job.

Unlike with 11-C school, we got to actually fire the rounds that went through our guns this time (at MORTEP) and so we got a much better feel for how skilled we are at our tasks. And it turns out, we're pretty good at what we do. My confidence level in our unit has increased again. In addition, I've heard that our line platoons are exceeding expectations while on the ARTEP, as well.

While in the field, we slept ON THE RANGE. Not in a FOB, not in a tent city, but on the back of our Humvees. This wasn't actually too bad, if you prepared properly for being in the field (which I did). We had rain the first and second days, and cold weather the third day. In all, it was ugly, but I was pretty well prepared with cold-weather and wet-weather gear, so it worked out pretty well for me. Everyone was able to find a relatively comfortable place to sleep, and although a couple of people ended the exercise with a lower-GI problem, we were mostly okay.

Now we only have a few days left before we get some pre-deployment leave, towards which we are all looking eagerly.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Battalion-Level training

Most of the company is out on battalion level training, called ARTEP. The mortar section is staying in the barracks for another couple of days to do mortar-specific training called a MORTEP. Then we will go fire live rounds on a range somewhere. A lot of this training is repeating stuff that we learned in 11-Charlie school, but there are some people in the mortar sections who went through 11-C school back in November or earlier, and have had a chance to forget it all.

Of course, now that we're preparing to go out to the field, and the company is out living in tents, it has started to rain. The Lord works in mysterious ways indeed! But Mississippi definitely needs the rain, so I do not begrudge them the weather. And my wife says the rain is needed at home as well, to clear the pollen from the air.

It is always surprising to me that I can allow myself to forget the most basic facts of military life. For example, I routinely manage to disremember that the Army plays to the lowest common denominator. In other words, leadership tends to treat everyone as if they were all as stupid as the least intelligent soldier. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down, and all that. I also manage to forget that some people can't tell the difference between genuine curiousity, simple lack of intelligence, and willful laziness. So if you have a question about something you genuinely didn't understand, some military leaders will assume that you're either being lazy for not doing it immediately, or that you're so stupid you don't understand anything about what you're doing. Either way, it really tends to get in the way of learning. LOL

Also it has been remarked upon a lot by people in this unit, and Rick Atkinson mentions that General David Petraeus (now in charge of US troops in Baghdad) also noted the high value of the combat patch. IE, the patch worn on the right shoulder, to indicate that you have served with that unit in combat. In the National Guard, that patch seems to accrue you a remarkable amount of respect and leeway. In some ways, this is entirely understandable, since someone with a combat patch has, to use the Civil War parlance, "seen the elephant."

Earlier this evening I ran into a 1st Lieutenant I had known back in 1997. He was an E-6 when I joined the Guard, and is now an ADC for the Division commander. In addition, he has 21 years in the guard and is already elegible for retirement. Funny old thing, life.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Coming Up: more mortar training!

From what I've been told, we have a week-long block of good mortar training coming up that will be challenging physically and mentally.

Last night I was on QRF detail, got to drive a Hum-vee around inside the "FOB" and did some of what I call "creative driving." I really like driving the Hum-Vee.

Also, apparently there has been a bit of an epidemic of the lower GI issue. Several other soldiers have suffered from it. I offer them my sincerest condolences. I weighed myself today and discovered that I've lost 7 pounds in probably less than a week due to not eating without reducing my training schedule.

Maybe I could patent the 11-C Shelbystan diet?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Good training!

Well, I've just finished a week or so of good training!

We did about 6 days of Mounted Convoy Patrol training, and that was pretty good stuff. Our STX had a few glitches, but was a good learning experience. The Virtual Convoy Combat Trainer (essentially a large First-Person Shooter game that simulates being in a vehicle) was also a very useful tool for training.

For MCP, the mortar section was remanded back to 3rd platoon, and trained with them. In the VCCT, we were the rear vehicle. We got two missions, one that was "familiarization," and had a LOT of opfor to shoot at, and another that was a "real" mission simulation wherein the environment was much less target-rich. On the familiarization mission, we had a situation where a large Greyhound-style bus came driving up behind us quickly (remember that this is in a computer game, not real life or even simulated training). Because the bus got so close so quickly and because we had been engaged so many times already by opfor in pickups with .50 machineguns, I was a little jumpy and shot the bus up. I probably hit it with about 15 rounds or so.

Then it blew up. The section has been ragging me ever since for killing a schoolbus full of muslim children on a field trip to the local museum.

That's why I say the VCCT was such a good training tool. It put us much into a much better simulation of a crowded, lifelike environment than we have been able to simulate thus far. The VCCT was far more challenging than the lane exercises, although the gunners helmet and kit tends to make you queasy due to the misalignment between the gun POV and the helmet POV. Still, it's a valuable tool and I'm glad that the military has invested in it for our training.

Yesterday we had Land Navigation, which is the one thing that the infantry does that I consider myself to be GOOD at. So I had a great time with that. Our group missed the class record for the final exam by 12 minutes, and I know we could have made that up if I had not made a particular error on one of our objectives. It's always good to be reminded that you should double-check your work. TWELVE minutes. /sigh

Today, we had a 4 mile foot march and then stress fire. Basically, we were driven to a range, then four miles on down the road. Dropped off, divided up into firing orders, or "chalks" and sent to walk back up the road to the range. When we arrived at the range, we were safely gotten onto the range, then an "IED" exploded nearby and we ran to our firing points and loaded our magazines. As soon as everyone was ready, the targets started coming up and we shot until we were out of ammo. I and my cohort (two people per firing point, instead of just one) managed 57 hits, which wasn't bad at all. Oh, and yes, I'm back to using my M-4 instead of the SAW now. Thank God for that, because I don't think I would have enjoyed marching 4 miles with a 16lb SAW slung over my shoulder!

Still, between 6 days on the dusty road, land nav. yesterday, and a 4 mile foot march today, I'm feeling a bit worn out. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had a slight lower GI issue for the last few days. Basically, from Sunday until Tuesday evening, I had a bit of a stomach flu and didn't eat anything. Drank lots of water, yes, but ate nothing. Today, I'm feeling quite a bit better, thank you for asking.

It won't be much longer and we'll go home for our leave prior to deploying overseas. I know everyone is looking forward to that. God bless you all and if you have any specific questions, post them in the comments and I'll try to answer them insofar as they don't risk Operational Security.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Soon to train on convoy ops!

Well, we've had a good week in the barracks now, and it's been moderately pleasant. I've had combatives training, and discovered that I'm not much good at hand-to-hand fighting, and should probably take a sword with me to Afghanistan. Maybe I can buy one of Hamby's machete's or something...

I've had to register my weblog with the battalion S-2 for OPSEC reasons, which makes great sense. Registering only involves letting them know you HAVE a weblog and sending them a link to it. Then, I would imagine, they monitor you for OPSEC violations to see if they need to hit you with a hammer. I don't think that'll be an issue for me.

I talked to Hoffhaus this morning and he mentioned that he reads this weblog, so here's a "shout out" to him (or whatever the appropriate expression is these days). I think back in my day we just said "what up?" or something equally dumb...

Tomorrow we move out to the field again for a week of mounted convoy exercises. Now, get this: Irony, thy avatar is the U.S. Army. Back in early February I was transferred from my platoon, after qualifying with the SAW, and went to Mortar school. Then, eventually, I had to qualify with my M-4 carbine. I'm 11-M, 11-B, and 11-C qualified, 2nd class mortar gunner, and M-4 qualified Sharpshooter. But because I'm the only enlisted man in the entire section who's qualified with a "crew-served weapon" (my SAW), I'm back to using a SAW, so that we have a heavier weapon than an M-4 for our vehicle.

Short version- I went from 11-B SAW gunner to 11-C M-4 wielder. Had to take extra time to qualify with the M-4. Now I'm back to SAW gunner (still 11-C), because I'm the only one with the weapon qualfication. Semper Gumby, right?

And, btw, we all really hope that the OC's for this round of training are less difficult than the OC's who taught the IED course at the FOB last time. They did a lot more C'ing than they did O'ing. IMO, OC's should be asking the unit leadership what they were TRYING to do, and then evaluate the unit performance vs. what they were trying to do. Then, if the ideal wouldn't have accomplished what they were shooting for, discuss needed changes with unit leadership.

During all this time in the barracks, by the way, we still had to do PT. One day, we played soccer. 3 on 4 soccer, and by the way, I'm not very good at soccer. But it was good PT. I got a good cardio workout. Then, a couple days later, we played basketball. If possible, I'm even worse at basketball than I am at soccer. In fact, I'm so bad at basketball that the team that has to play me should get another extra player just to make up for having me. It's only fair if the teams are 6(including me) vs 4!

Had more to post, but the Inet cafe is full. gotta run!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Good Training!

Well, we've had several days now of training at FOB Herat. I've gotten to drive a Hum-Vee for the first time since 1997, I've had the opportunity to be gunner in a Hum-Vee, and learned all kinds of neat stuff about searching detainees, spotting IEDs, negotiating with Afghans, and analyzing artillery craters to determine where the round came from.

I've also zeroed my M-4 carbine, Iron Sights and Optic sight, qualified on day fire and NBC fire, and have washed my laundry.

I've completed reading C.S. Lewis's "The ScrewTape Letters" which is a good, simple book that takes the perspective of a demon advising another demon who is tempting a human. Lewis had many good insights into why we sin, and how Satan and his minions muddle our thoughts and keep us away from God.

I've almost finished reading John Eldridge (I think) "Wild at Heart," which has as it's thesis the idea that a man should be willing to be confrontational, or he is not living in God's Image. I'm almost done with "Thief of Time" by Terry Pratchett, which is quite entertaining. I think I'll be exploring his other books about Discworld. And, I'm almost done with Lewis's semi-autobiographical "Surprised by Joy" which posits that Joy is best described as "the one thing that, once you've had it, you will ALWAYS want to have it again." Some readers may not understand, but I certainly do. He describes joy as a curiously satisfying longing, not for a Thing, but for an experience. I guess the best way I can put it, is that it's almost like Homesickness, only it's much more enjoyable.

Sleeping in the HQ tent while out at the FOB, by the way, is obviously different than sleeping in a platoon tent. The officers are more polite, oddly enough (maybe because they're often younger?) than the line soldiers. However, the platoon sergeants can be much more profane, one in particular (*laugh* you know who I mean). It's an interesting dichotomy that I would probably think about a lot more if I weren't busy with all sorts of questions of theology. But, the officers in Bravo are not only competent (unlike several I've served under back in the day when Bravo was Delta company), they surprise me with their insight, and their hard work. The more I train with Bravo company, the happier I am to be back with this unit.

I still have to do drivers training with the new up-armored Hum-Vee, Land Nav (both on foot and mounted, both of which should be knock-me-down easy), and Combatives, at least. So there's a lot of hard training still out there in my future. God willing, it'll be good for me and I'll learn something from it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Missing a tooth, now. Down to 30

I had a tooth extracted on Monday. It was done under general anaesthesia, so I felt nothing immediately. It is slow in healing however, and I still cannot chew mess hall food very well. I'm off quarters as of today, and might be headed back out into the field this evening. I don't feel quite back to myself, but hopefully that'll work itself out as time goes on.

Friday and Saturday of last week we did reflexive fire, and that was pretty good stuff. Sunday five of us were tortured with the Warrior Training Program (WTP), formerly known as Common Task Testing (CTT). Not much that we were tested on is applicable to our deployment to Afghanistan, and it took us from 0630 through 1800 Sunday. No time off for laundry or cleaning, or PX time, or even religious services.

I've been reading through the book of Matthew on my own time, however. Using my Holman translation. I've found a couple of interesting passages, including Matthew 3:9-10, where John the Baptist tells the Pharisees that God can raise up new children for Abraham from the very stones., and Matthew 18, where Jesus is talking about children. Clearly, the concepts of guardian angels and an "age of maturity" stem from this chapter. I'll have to talk with my pastor about a couple of questions I have with regard to some of what is written there.

My right ankle is getting better. It should be, I've basically been lying in bed for the last day and a half. Hopefully it will be fully recovered by the time I'm back out in the field doing full-speed training. Although, I do still have quite a few things that I need to take care of administratively before we deploy. I'll have to work all that out with Sgt. Knight. Mortar school really threw a huge monkey wrench into our plans.

God bless, and stay safe!

Saturday, March 3, 2007


One soldier I've written about prefers not to be named in the blog in the future. I'll be careful to honor his request. Another soldier prefers to be mentioned anonymously, if at all. Sgt. Knight, on the other hand, has no problem with being mentioned.

In case you were wondering, my knees and ankles are mostly better now. My right ankle is still stiff and painful after a day on the range. I can't tell if it's arthritis or tendonitis, or just old age. But the serious pains I was suffering earlier seem largely to have been due to my being out of shape. The more I work the knees and ankles, the less they hurt (except for that right ankle).

The Mortar section has been moved back to the HQ platoon. Now, having been in 3 out of 4 platoons, I once again feel familiar with the unit. Which is very good. Camaraderie is a large part of what makes this deployment endurable.

My cell phone charger is not lost, by the way. A Specialist who was staying in the same tent as me, and who had provided the power strip everything was plugged into, gathered up everything and brought it all back to the barracks at one fell swoop. Including, thank God, my phone charger. So, now I have two extra's on the way.

Oh, and having been in 3 out of 4 platoons, I can say with full confidence - this company has many, many good NCO's. This is definitely where I want to be if I have to go to war. Even the officers aren't half-bad!

By the way, there was a Major who gave us a briefing about terrorists back in early February. He pointedly mentioned that anyone could be a terrorist, almost anybody with access to the FOB. Later that day, I caught a soldier named Chapman wandering around looking suspicious, so I asked him if he was a terrorist. Chapman became very defensive, so I'm keeping an eye on him. I saw him the other day carrying a suspicious bag around the barracks area, and tonight I spotted him talking on a cell phone! I think he's noticed that I'm observing him, so I'll have to be more discreet in the future.

Also, if you happen to know why so many army posts have terrain that looks the same, I'd love to know. Forts Jackson, Stewart, Gordon, Benning, and Camp Shelby all have piney woods and scrub brush, with sandy soil. Is it just because that's where the infantry goes? Or are most army posts like that? Or what? Maybe the land was just really cheap or something, I dunno.

Finally, Specialist White invented a new word today. It's very descriptive and I guess Humpty-Dumpty (from "Alice in Wonderland") would have called it a portmanteau.


As in, "The DNA evidence from the gum will be incintegrated by the explosion!"

I believe we go back out to the FOB soon, so I probably will not be able to update this again for a week or more. I'm sure there will be lots of things to relate by then, so keep checking back.