Monday, February 28, 2011

Operation Key Resolve - (Korea) Day 90

Some Korean police near the gate at CP Tango. They were there because of a
protest earlier. I never saw the protesters, but heard there were about 30 of them.
I guess they left these two cops just in case they came back.

This morning the alarm came way too early. I had to set it at 0315 to give me enough time to get ready and to the office by 0400. I got ready and grabbed a couple pop tarts to take with me for breakfast. The augmentees started to arrive and PMCSing their vans. We all have to wear full battle rattle for the exercise, since we have to come to the office each day me and SPC Roy just leave our gear in the office and throw it all on when we get there. When inside CP Tango we only have to keep the gas masks on unless we go outside of the bunker (the mountain). So the smokers have to put on all the gear just to go outside and have a smoke.

The admin sergeant grabbed me and told me I'd be working with her for the most part during this exercise. On paper I'm the IMO for the day shift on this exercise. When we arrived I setup all the laptops and was also able to answer a couple computer questions throughout the shift. The first time I actually did anything remotely close to 25B work…lol. I also had to help SPC Roy setup for a couple of meetings in the conference room. This place is crazy…just like you would picture in a James Bond spy movie. It's all top secret and all underground under a mountain…well it's really just a big hill. Even though it's top secret I was surprised how much info you can find on it just by looking up CP Tango in Wikipedia.

The rest of the day consisted of hanging out in the little IMO office with the admin sergeant. She had a lot of words of wisdom to give me. She's a master sergeant who is about to retire, and chose not to become a sergeant major because of family reasons. A very interesting lady, but with a thick accent. I have to really pay attention to her when she's talking to me or else I have no idea what she's saying.

We had one of the vans drive us to K-16 for lunch and by the time we got back the night shift was arriving to relieve us. We cleaned up the office and then headed out. Both SPC Roy and I fell asleep on the trip back to the office. We were both tired…and SPC Roy was even a little cranky all day. Let's hope tomorrow goes better for him, I think he may be a little jealous that I'm hanging in the IMO office with a laptop. It gets really boring there and all you can do is sit around and read a lot of the time. Only the officers have laptops, so I was lucky to have access to one.

I got back fairly early, but I was so tired I didn't want to do much. I did my required schoolwork, and had a short video chat with my wife. I then just laid back and watched TV shows. I plan on working out the rest of the week after getting off my shift. We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Korea) Days 88 & 89

KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) with some spicy ramen and a little rice on the side -
a meal out with the young hawaiian before he had go on the exercise.

Saturday: So nice to sleep in after a long week of waking up early and working long days. After waking up I did my normal Saturday thing (laundry and clean the room). I did some schoolwork and studied a little for my Apple re-certification exam coming up. I then watched some TV shows and took it easy. I really didn't feel like doing much except have a lazy day. I video chatted with my wife and then SPC Roy called me. He said we needed to do a little work (load the van for tomorrow's run to CP Tango). Since we were going to do official work I had to get in uniform, but I chose my PT uniform since it is quite a bit more comfortable. SPC Roy asked if I wanted to get a haircut and since I was already planning on getting one this weekend I said sure. We went to his favorite barber shop on post…and now I know why. I got my haircut and they throw in a little shoulder massage with it. Very cool! SPC Roy's cut took about 5 times longer than mine though…maybe 10 times longer. Not only did he get the haircut and massage, but he got his nails cut and I think every other service they offer there. It actually took so long we ended up not even going to the office to load the van…lol. We'll do that tomorrow, just a little earlier than planned.

I then got a call from the young hawaiian who was wondering if I wanted to go out and eat. He had to start the exercise early on Sunday and would not be able to have a nice meal for two weeks. We went to a Korean Fried Chicken place that was awesome! A nice way for him to end his weekend.

Sunday: I woke up around 0930 and ate my breakfast with coffee while video chatting with my wife and kiddos. I then did some homework before getting in my uniform, but before heading to work I went to another barracks to watch the UFC fight. I just had to leave right afterward unfortunately. SPC Roy picked me up in one of the TMP vans and we loaded it with all the supplies for CP Tango. Our sergeant then showed up and we went to the armory and loaded the weapons rack in the van as well. Since we take a weapons rack full of our weapons out to CP Tango, we don't have to carry one around constantly which is nice. We actually took two vans and I drove one behind SPC Roy. This time there were no incidents or close calls, just a smooth ride amongst all the crazy Korean drivers.

When we arrived at CP Tango we had to wait outside the tunnel for about a half hour because they decided to conduct a fire drill right as we arrived. All I want to do is unload all this crap and get back to my room so I can sleep a little before work that is going to come very early tomorrow morning. We finally were able to unload everything as well as a couple of passengers to work the night shift and guard the weapons rack. One guy was from the ROK side of the office and the other was an augmentee NCO. When he was told all he has to do is sit in the office and guard the weapons rack he was in a little bit of disbelief. "That's all I have to do?"

I got back to my room a little after 2130 and headed straight to bed. I have to get up at 0300 tomorrow for the beginning of the exercise.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Finally Friday - (Korea) Day 87

An odd sign on the way to CP Tango...I guess they don't like electric cars here in Korea

Work call this morning was at 0700. We didn't setup for a meeting like we have been the last few days. This morning we just made sure all the augmentees were ready and then headed out a little earlier than normal. We left in two groups again, but were told we can't use the bus lane. When we arrived to the freeway and saw how bad traffic was we immediately got a call on our walkie-talkie stating that we would indeed be using the bus lane. The traffic in Korea is just crazy. It's so busy all the time and if we didn't use the bus lane, then it would have taken us hours to get to CP Tango. Our convoy made it to the bus lane which is the only lane that really moves. We had four vans in our group and this trip went without any issues.

When we arrived at CP Tango the augmentees practiced driving down the tunnels into the mountain and simulated a pickup or drop off. Once our sergeant was satisfied we headed off to K-16 for lunch. After lunch we headed back to the office. SPC Roy and I took our office car to the TMP to have it "checked-out" to us again for the week. This time he had me do everything to make sure I could do it all. It's basically just gassing it up, washing it, then having an inspector sign off on it. After that we get a new weeks worth of paperwork and we're good to go. SPC Roy was in a hurry and was hounding me the entire time while I was driving. He's Korean and has driven too long in Korea I think. He wanted me to speed on post, run red lights, honk my horn. He was going nuts!

When we got back to the office the MPs were all over the parking lot towing cars and putting boots on cars that were all illegally parked. Some folks are going to be in for a surprise because people have been parking all over the place. I then headed over to the company with my financial paperwork because I'm still getting charged for food. When I got there I found out that my separate rations was being denied. This is paperwork that has been going back and forth since I got here and now I guess they are not allowing hardly any to go through. This really sucks because if they would have done it right in the first place I would have almost an extra $300 a month, now I'm just screwed. Because of the hours of my job I hardly have time to make it to the DFAC to eat. In fact I've only eaten there once since I arrived here and that was back when I was in reception.

I headed back to the office to clean up and pack up supplies for the exercise. I got back to the barracks after 1800, so no video chatting with my wife…grrrr. Then later on I get a call telling me I may have to work on Sunday WTF? I'm beginning not to care for this exercise too much. At least I get to sleep in now...well after I do some school work.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where is Red Team? - (Korea) Day 86

A photo I snapped on the drive to Tango. This is a fake person with a robotic arm
that waves his caution stick up and down to warn people of construction ahead

Work call this morning was a bit early again because of another early meeting. It was actually part II of the meeting that went on yesterday, so we didn't have to setup all the name tags again…we just had to swap a few to keep the generals happy. (The officer's in our office who create the seating chart have a never ending job of trying to keep everyone happy with these stupid seating assignments) After we setup I started learning a new task with the air force master sergeant in our office. It's another task I'll do once a week and unfortunately it hasn't been done since the beginning of the year, so I'll have a little catching up to do. It's not terribly hard, just a bit time consuming. I don't know how much time I'll have these next few weeks to do it though because of the exercise. I'll try and do a little when I can.

I had to leave the office around 0900 to join the rest of the crew and the augments who finished PMCSing their vans. We split up into two groups (red & blue) each with four vans each. We also split up our staff as much as possible, so we would have a person riding in key vans for the trip. Walkie-talkies were issued to all the vans and we were ready to head out. I was riding in the very last van which was in blue group. Our group did very well staying together and the driver and TC in my van were pretty good at driving and communicating with the rest of the group. After a few miles out we saw two red group vans pulled over and a cop car next to them with it's lights on. Oh crap, did one of them get a ticket? Once our group all pulled over and checked out the situation we found out that two of the red team vans didn't take the exit and started driving off down the wrong hwy. D'oh! It just seems like our caravan is doomed every time we go out something happens. The two were contacted by phone and guided back. It took almost an hour for them to get back to us, we all just sat on the side of the road with our hazard lights flashing. Finally they made it back and we all took off again.

Once on the road everything went according to plan until we arrived to the tango exit. All the blue team made the exit, but the same two red team vans that got lost earlier just kept driving. OMG! We headed up to Tango and waited while they were guided back. It turns out the girl got confused and started following a van that was the same color make and model as our caravan vans. Unfortunately this is the first time our sergeant has been in charge of the caravan. There should have been an SOP or something, but instead we've had to learn on the fly and fix things as we go. We now travel in two distinct groups, we have walkie-talkies, and now we have numbers in the back windows of each of the vans with either a red or blue background.

We then headed back to post in our two groups with blue group leaving first, 5 minutes later red group was to leave. Special K was in the front van and for some reason thought we were going to K-16 and told the driver the wrong directions, so we missed the hwy back to Yongsan. Oh great! We did a couple of U-turns and started driving down streets that were parallel to the hwy. The lead driver really sucked, he would go through stop lights when they were turning yellow. The rest of the caravan had to stay together (that was stressed earlier) and all three would end up running a red light. Our van was last so we got a lot of horns honking at us. It must've seemed a little crazy to bystanders seeing these 4 vans in a tight formation driving down these side streets not caring about the small things like stop lights. We finally made it to an on-ramp to the hwy and were back on track. I got a call from SPC Roy asking where we were because the red team was already at the office and parked. D'oh!

We all ate lunch and then met back up to head to Tango once again. SPC Roy and I rode in the same van this time with the red group. Each trip has been incrementally better. Now each group is using a different channel on the walkie-talkies to help ease any confusion. We arrived this time without losing anyone! While at Tango all the drivers and their TCs practiced driving down the tunnel into the mountain base, and turning around simulating either dropping off or picking up folks. Some were good, but others like the chick that got lost twice needed a lot of practice. After this was all done we took off back to the office and called it a day. I cleaned up the office and took off for the first time this week at 1700. I finally got a chance to video chat with my wife. It seems like it's been so long since I've seen her. After that I started doing homework with a small break to tell the hall guard that playing loud music is a no go. I said he's going to have to turn it down or wear headphones. I was then able to finish all my homework and then relax and watch some shows. A much better night than the previous couple.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Day I Almost Died - (Korea) Day 85

A random photo I took near my barracks of Seoul Tower to show its proximity to us

Work call this morning was at 0645. Not extremely early, but still almost 2 hours before normal. We had to setup for a huge meeting in the secret conference room. Every seat was assigned, so others that wanted to attend had to view from an overflow room. I couldn't believe how many generals were in there. It looked like they grabbed every general from across the country and had them come to this meeting. I had to show colonels and other brass where the overflow room was because there just wasn't enough room for them. I was the designated "door holder" for this meeting, so after it was all setup I had to stand at the door (which normally requires a code) and hold it open. This is so the brass can get to the meeting in a more efficient manor.

Our next mission was to show the augmentees how to wash their vans. They were each paired up and assigned to a van. We then made a caravan of all ten vans and drove to the TMP where there is a mini car wash. Pretty simple, but coordinating this and getting everyone there and through the car wash took forever. It was lunch time by the time we finished and we headed back to the office. Once there the decision was made to eat out at K-16 (near Tango) because we had copiers being delivered for the exercise that we had to meet up with.

I knew I needed some experience getting to Tango so I volunteered to drive a van. I figured if I'm driving there, I'll remember how to get there. For this mission we only took 6 vans. SPC Roy was driving the lead van with 2 augmentee driven vans following him. I was driving the next van with 2 more augmentee vans following me. Everything started off so smooth I thought it was going to be easy sailing. LOL!!!

Special K was my TC giving me directions since he's had plenty of experience with this. We headed out into the real traffic of Korea which sucks anyway, but as I drove I had to make sure both vans were behind me. We did fine until almost the very end. As we were in the bus lane Special K told me to start making my way over to the right lane which I did. I would move over one lane and wait until the two vans behind me were able to follow. Then I would repeat the process. When I was in the second lane from the right Special K said "There it is, there it is, take it, take it!!!" (The exit is unmarked and looks like a driveway which you have to take from the why) I checked my mirror and didn't see anything…little did I know there was an entire bus in my blind spot. I swerved over and was able to make the exit. I heard a bus honking it's horn wildly and heard later that we came very close to being hit. The second van behind me was unable to make the exit (because there was a huge bus in their way). The third van did make it. When we got off I pulled over in disbelief of what just happened. Oh Crap! I just lost a van in my caravan! We didn't even have communications with them. All of them are augmentees that have never even driven in Korea and don't even know where Tango is. To add to it, this highway didn't have many exits off of it.

We had to call SPC Roy and see if anyone had the cell phone numbers of the folks in van #2. (Part of mission prep should have been to get all this information before hand). We met up with everyone at K-16 and let everybody get something to eat while we tried to figure out where van #2 was. SPC Roy was able to call them and told them to stop somewhere and "grab a Korean and give them the phone". They did this and SPC Roy was able to ask the guy where he was, so we could go find them. I left with him in a van and we found them about 1/2 hour later. We then had them follow us back to K-16. Once everyone was back together we headed out to Tango so the augmentees could see the place and see where and how to drive and park the vans. The sergeant pulled me aside and had a little talk with me, then I had to stand next to him pretty much for the rest of the day. I think this was to mention me anytime he talked about driving and safety. (I think there is a reason I chose my MOS as 25B and not a driver).

So I almost had a heart attack today, almost got me and my passengers killed, and wasted half a day with a search and rescue mission. The good news is nobody got hurt and it all turned out OK. I don't even know if I'll get in more trouble or not. I guess we'll see. I'm just glad this wasn't Afghanistan or someplace like that, a van that loses it's caravan could have deadly consequences. I felt like crap pretty much the rest of the day, which turned out to be another long one. I didn't get back to my room until 1900 again, which means no video chatting…just time for schoolwork and checking email/Facebook.

Even if I wanted to drink I can't. During the exercise there is no drinking allowed by any of the soldiers on post. I hear there are MPs out in Itaewon just looking for soldiers to bust. No worries…I don't plan on drinking, just sleeping when I get the chance.

Overheard Quote: "Hell, when I was 28 I was doing things I can't repeat!" (An air force sergeant in our van on the way to the TMP when he found out how old SPC Roy is and that he's already married with a kid).

the wife

The fact that you volunteer to drive - makes me proud of you. Especially knowing how driving can cause you 'drivers anxiety' in unfamiliar places.
Keeping my fingers cross that we'll talk / see each other tonight.


Thursday, February 24, 2011 - 01:29 AM


Im with the wife on this one, very proud you stepped up and drove. What happened could have happened to anyone, blind spots are the pitts. All turned out well and it sounds like you did pretty good.

Friday, February 25, 2011 - 07:10 AM

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arrival of the Augments - (Korea) Day 84

A new word...Autorized!

Work call this morning was at 0730. We had to setup for a meeting and then start dealing with all the "augmentees" that were due to arrive. With the training exercise coming up next week our office has been assigned around 20 soldiers from around Korea. They come here and live in a "tent city" in Yongsan for the entire exercise. There are a ton of them that come and do all kinds of things for the exercise, the ones that come and help us are drivers.

The first thing we had to do was pick up all the vans from the TMP. We drove over there (me, our sergeant, SPC Roy, & Special K). We were given 9 vans which each of us had to PCMS, which is basically checking the vehicle out to make sure it's working correctly. After we finished a van full of augmentees arrived to help drive them back to our office. We then had to take the augmentees over to S2 in order to get their security badges. Speaking of S2, I was wondering why the different offices on post and any army installation are called S1 etc. Wikipedia has a great description of all the staff system we use and can be found here. (I've added this in my misc notes for general knowledge as well)

Back to the rest of the day....There was a lot of confusion all day about where all the new soldiers were and getting them everything they needed which was the briefing, their security cards, cell phones, their quarters, and some other miscellaneous stuff. The first group arrived like I stated earlier with a group of 9. The rest seemed to trickle in, which made getting them everything done pretty difficult. We even drove down to tent city at one point asking soldiers who were standing around if they were supposed to be with our office. We ended up picking up two that way. I guess the in-processing down in tent city was really unorganized and a slow painful process for all these new soldiers here for the exercise. SPC Roy and I ended up taking them back and forth to everywhere they needed to go while Special K and our KATUSA held down the fort.

The augmentees ranged from a PV2 to some sergeants. I may have even seen a staff sergeant arrive late. They are basically going to be in charge of the vans we have. Which means they will also have to keep them clean. Each van has a bucket and all the cleaning supplies needed to keep it clean. While dropping a female sergeant off all she kept saying was that she's not going to be washing any cars, she doesn't want other soldiers driving her either because she doesn't trust them (as SPC Roy is driving her around). I feel sorry for the sucker who gets stuck with her because she'll use her rank to make them do all the dirty work while she probably sits around and does her nails. Speaking of sergeants, I have to remember to keep my military bearing when I'm around others that I don't work with. As we were waiting outside for everyone to get done in S2 there was one sergeant that was taking a look at the "superman" phone booth. As he was walking in I said "just don't come out in spandex sergeant". That made him stop and then try and give me a stare down. I blew him off, but it did remind me that I need to remember who I can joke around with and who I shouldn't.

It was a long day and I didn't get back to my room until a little after 19:00. SPC Roy drove right out the gates to pick up some pizza from Pizza School. I was telling him about the pizza I had there last night with the young hawaiian. He picked me up one too and then dropped me off at my barracks. Their pizza is pretty good and it ranges from $5 - $10 a pizza. I shared a bit with my roommate and then did some schoolwork. I hate when I get home so late, I can't video chat with my wife and it just feels like my whole night is shot. I think I have another long day ahead tomorrow, things will be a little crazy until this exercise is over.

the wife

Autorized! That sign means it! LOL

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - 08:52 AM

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day) - (Korea) Days 80-83

A photo from the observation floor of The Seoul Tower

Today turned out to be a day of recovery. I had way too much soju last night with SPC Roy. I woke up and knew right away that it was going to be a rough day. My stomach wasn't feeling good and I had a major headache. When I stood up I was even a little dizzy. I had to call and cancel with the master sergeant in our office. We had planned to go to Osan for some shopping, but there was no way I was going to be able to do that today. All I did was get a lot more sleep and then do some school work before doing my taxes finally. I then was able to video chat with my wife for a while before finishing up the night watching some TV shows. I didn't even go outside all day.

Saturday: I started off the day with my laundry and then went to the gym for a good workout. PV2 Pickle wanted to go out and do something this weekend so we headed up to Seoul Tower. It's an observation tower that overlooks the city of Seoul. The tower is 777 feet tall which is a bit taller than the Space Needle of Seattle which is where I'm from (605 ft). I have to say the The Space Needle offers a better experience because you can go outside. The Seoul Tower only lets you view from behind glass, but it's still an awesome view. It also has the best urinals I've ever had the chance to use. While you are relieving yourself you can still take in the view of the city! Check out The Seoul Tower website here.

We were planning on heading back to watch a movie on the base, but PV2 Pickle wanted to have a drink or two. So we headed to Itaewon via taxi. We were waiting for a bus to come, but after waiting for about 10 minutes in the cold a taxi came up and as the people got out, we jumped in. PV2 was craving McDonalds for some reason, so we made that our first stop. The McDonalds here offers some items on the menu that the states don't have. I tried a bacon tomato sandwich which is basically a Big Mac with a tomato and bacon added. They also have some very tasty spicy chicken and spicy beef wraps. We then took off to what I think is my favorite bar so far. It's called The Rock and Roll bar. I've been there before and just enjoy the music. The play music videos of 80's and 90's rock. It's a pretty small place and usually isn't very full. Plus they have free pool.

Not too long after we sat down two "juicy girls" sat down with us. I may have explained what a juicy girl is, but this was our first interaction with them. In reception we were warned about them and PV2 Pickle knew these two were juicy girls (more about that in a minute). First let me tell you in a little more detail what a juicy girl is. They work for the bar, they get friendly with the customers and get them to buy them drinks. Their "drinks" are supposed to be rum & coke or gin & tonic, but they are basically just soda with very little to no alcohol in them. So you will never be able to drink them under the table. They come and sit with you and make conversation and each time they finish their drinks and you finish yours, they will ask if they can have another. They serve the drinks and it continues…a vicious cycle. PV2 was smitten with the juicy girl that was talking to him. We all played pool and drank. The young hawaiian showed up with his roommate eventually and we all played some more pool. PV2 was able to get a kiss here and there along with some roaming hands with his juicy girl. At this point he was buying drinks for her non stop. I didn't realize how much until he got his bill. $600!!!!! OMG!!!! OMFG!!!!! He paid it with a credit card and it took me a while to talk him into leaving. He didn't want to let his juicy girl go, but I wasn't going to let him spend any more money there. So listen to me right now…if you are going to Korea, do not buy juicy girls drinks…it's a waste of money!!!!

PV2 wanted McDonalds again, so we headed there on the way back to post. We were all sitting down eating and then a bunch of American soldiers came in. It's a little after 2 AM and these guys are drunk and loud. They are the kind of guys that embarrass America. Here we are in a foreign country and these guys are being so loud, obnoxious and rude. We finished up and left. We went across the street to try and hail a cab, PV2 Pickle didn't feel like he could walk all the way to the post. During this time the unruly soldiers came out and kicked a taxi cab, then started yelling at the driver. We just walked off towards post, I didn't want any part of that. (looking back I should have recorded it, just to show how stupid these guys were and how they make us all look bad) A few minutes later we heard the MPs coming. The young hawaiian and his roommate went back to watch, but I had to help PV2 get back to his room so we kept going. I heard later that there was a fight in a different part of Itaewon where a guy broke his jaw and there was even a sergeant involved. It involved soldiers from the young hawaiian's barracks. When we got back to my room I just let PV2 sleep on my roommates bed, I didn't think he could make it back to his room which is another quarter mile away.

The urinals inside The Seoul Tower...
the greatest view I've ever had while going pee!

The Seoul Tower at dusk with it's lights on

Sunday: We both woke up around 11AM and PV2 Pickle had a pretty bad hangover. I didn't realize he drank so much, I'm a bad battle buddy. I had about 5 beers, but over a long amount of time. I felt fine, but he was feeling like I was on Friday…LOL. He headed home and I headed over to the other barracks because I thought the UFC fight was on. I found out when I got there that it's next weekend and not this one….Do'h!

So I came back to my room and did some schoolwork as well as studied a bit for my Apple re-certification exam. I then worked out at the gym and watched some TV shows and chatted with my wife. The whole day was pretty laid back, I did a little shopping at the PX for some basic supplies and then for dinner went with the young hawaiian off post to the Pizza School restaurant. Pretty good pizza and it's cheap. We tried a Mexican pizza which was not only good, it only cost $11 for it and two drinks.

Back in my room I think a girl down the hall broke up with her boyfriend. He was outside her door going nuts. He started screaming and then crying and then screaming again. I had my headphones in and could still hear it. He finally left, that is more drama than we've ever had since I've been in these barracks. I think I'm gonna watch some TV shows now.

We have juicy girls in Cocoa Beach FL. But they are strippers. So....thanks for the heads up.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 06:05 AM


Yeah...the juicy girls here don't strip or anything like that, but will still get their prey to spend a whole lot of money on them. They are more like mega flirts. Some will let you get to first or second base, but that is it. I would advise everyone to stay away from them and save your money.

(Looks like after an upgrade to iWeb and I'm guessing some upgrades or modifications on the mobileme backend comments are now working again!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 09:38 PM

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Small Intestines of a Cow - (Korea) Day 79

A photo of SPC Roy and our small intestines of a cow
cooking on the table in front of us.

Work call this morning was at 0800. We were planning to pick up a number of vehicles for the training exercise coming up. There were no meetings at all scheduled for the day, so it was going to be a pretty laid back day for our office. SPC Roy took me out to our GOV (government owned vehicle) that is assigned to our office. It snowed last night so we had to brush off all the snow and then go through the PMCS checklist. This is where we make sure everything is working correctly on the car (headlights etc). He also showed me how to fill out the log. Every time we take a GOV anywhere we have to fill out a log with the starting mileage, the place we are starting from and the time. Every mile that is driven with a GOV is documented. We took it to the TMP and filled it up with gas, then turned in all the paperwork to get it checked out to us for another week. We have to do this on a weekly occurrence which seems like a little waste of time, but we have to do what we have to do.

We also found out that we had to wait to pick up the vans for the exercise, so we ended up doing SkillPorts in the office. I was able to do a bit of my schoolwork as well which is nice. Always great to get that done as soon as possible. Later on in the day we found out that we wouldn't be able to pick up the vans at all today and would have to do it next Tuesday because of the holiday. Unfortunately we didn't find this out until almost 1630, so we really didn't get to leave the office early.

SPC Roy picked me up after work at my barracks once I changed. We planned to go out since we have a four day weekend and his wife gave him permission. He took me to his new place and then we headed out to Sinchon once again. He wanted me to try some "exotic" food. He talked a little about live octopus, but decided on the small intestines of a cow. He told me it tastes really good, and not to worry because they wash them first. WTF? I have been really working on being open minded and always willing to try anything once, but this was pushing the limits. We went into a restaurant and like many Korean restaurants around they bring the food out and it cooks right there on the table in front of us.

I had a difficult time trying to chew them. They felt like I was chewing on a piece of rubber and the texture was a little troubling. I can say that I tried it, but I won't be trying it anymore. We also had soju which is a very popular Korean alcoholic drink. We ended up leaving the small hole in the wall restaurant and going to a bar where we continued to have way too much soju all night long. The bar was totally dead, but we had a fun time. I got home really late knowing that tomorrow was going to be hell. Ugghhh I am really getting too old to be doing this sort of stuff!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another Early Start - (Korea) Day 78

A photo I took yesterday of SPC Roy getting an anthrax shot in our
conference room. MedPros took the conference room over for the day
and SPC Roy flashed them his ID...big mistake, they looked him up and 
told him he needed a

Work call this morning was at 0500 which was a bit early for my taste. There was a meeting that just popped up on our schedule and we had to prepare for it. After that we took it easy for a bit and our sergeant rolled in about 0730 or so with breakfast for all of us. We each got a combo meal from Burger King…at least the orange juice was healthy. We then setup for the normal Wednesday meeting, but I'm not sure why since it seems half the people were gone. I am the designated slide flipper for this meeting, so I had to stay in the back and flip the slides while not trying to fall asleep. I grabbed a cup of the coffee we serve all the high ranking staff in the meeting...and it really sucks. After the meeting I did a little SkillPort, I think I may have fallen asleep a few times at the desk while trying to get it done. I just didn't get a good night's rest last night or something. I received an email from the folks in charge of the training class I wanted to attend stating that even though I'll be an IMO, I still do not meet the prerequisites for the class. I'm not too worried since I already have a lot on my plate with my Apple re-certification and my business systems class with University of Phoenix.

At lunch I brewed some of my chocolate macadamia nut Kona Coffee which tastes so much better than the crap they serve at work. That gave me enough "pick me up" to last the rest of the day. We had another meeting in our conference room where I was the slide flipper while watching some college basketball. Not too bad of a job…I just have to make sure to pay attention to hear them say "next slide".

The rest of the day consisted of me helping SPC Roy do his taxes and also purchase some penny stocks. We cleaned up the office and took off. I hear tomorrow I'll be putting my new drivers license to work, I'm not looking forward to leaving post and driving with those crazy Korean drivers. At least I'll be driving either a van or a sedan, the young hawaiian told me he'll be driving an LMTV (Light Medium Tactical Vehicle) around. It's basically a mini semi truck! He's not too excited either.

I got back to my room and helped out my roommate with some of his English. He's getting ready to take an English test this weekend so he can attend college in the U.S.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It’s All About the Privileges - (Korea) Day 77

After lunch we stopped by a coffee shop with this sign in it.
Men stand and women squat when using their toilets please.

Work call this morning was at 0730 to setup for a good sized meeting in the morning, followed by another meeting right afterwards. After the second meeting though we were clear for the day. The rest of the day consisted of SkillPorts and other office paperwork. I received a reply back about the training I'm trying to go to. They said I can't go because I have to finish a certain set of SkillPorts as well as have elevated privileges for the computers and network. I knew about the SkillPorts and actually started that section, but the privileges I had to check on. I know they put in the paperwork to make me the assistant IMO, so I can help out with computer work when I have time. I found out that will give me the elevated privileges that are needed. So I think I have all the prerequisites down to take the course. I replied back to them, so I guess I'll find out soon.

For lunch we went to a great Vietnamese/Thai place to eat which was very good. Special K paid for everyone and then SPC Roy met up with his realtor and gave her a huge wad of cash to pay for his first month rent & security deposit..etc for his new place. I was really surprised that it was all done in cash. I don't think you would ever see anything like that in the states unless you were doing some shady business deals.

I started a new class today online and it looks like a lot of reading and a lot more paper writing. I have to finish this new set of SkillPorts, and I was just sent an email that it's time to renew my Macintosh Certified Technician certificate. I'm going to be a busy guy this month!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day - (Korea) Day 76

A photo in our office of SPC Roy getting his birthday ice cream
while holding his birthday candle...a tradition instead of cake in our office

Work call this morning was at 0830 which was nice. It's nice to be back on a normal schedule. The general is back in Washington DC this week, so the meetings are going to be less and everything will be a bit mellower. With that said, not a lot went on today. Me and SPC Roy worked on a number of SkillPorts together. We setup for the one scheduled meeting today and left for lunch. Lunch consisted of SPC Roy taking me with him to get a haircut. We swung by Burger King and picked up lunch to go. We then went to his special barber shop which had two cute girls working there. Now I know why he always comes to this out of the way shop. He also brought them lunch as well. I sat down and ate mine while watching some college basketball on TV. After what seemed like an absurd amount of time SPC Roy was finished. He said if that major didn’t come in, it would’ve been longer. They not only cut his hair, they trimmed his nails and gave him a massage. He says he’s been coming here ever since he’s been here, they have him

After lunch we cleaned up the office and I updated the event schedule. It looks like the meetings at Tango will be pretty basic as well. I received an email (I guess since I'm on the IMO list now) stating that there will be a week long training session for CISSP (Certified Information System Security Professional). I hadn't heard of this certification before, but I'd like to check it out. Getting another certification will only help my career both in the army and in the civilian world. I checked with my sergeant and he looked at the dates and said I could go to it. I sent off the paperwork, so we'll see how it goes. Knowing the army I'll get it sent back and find that I have to fill out the form differently or something stupid…we'll see.

Near the end of the day we celebrated SPC Roy's birthday. As always in our office they get a little candle to blow out and some ice cream to eat. He also got a few cards and some sort of Korean alcoholic drink from the ROK army. After that me and the air force master sergeant left work and purchased tickets to see The Eagles in concert. They are coming to Seoul of all places, and there will be a free bus ride to the stadium. That will be a lot of fun.

The night consisted of me video chatting with my wife and then finishing the last day of schoolwork for my current class "Fundamentals of Programming". I'm so glad this class is over. I don't even care what grade I got as long as I passed. I've been in the I.T. field for years, but programming is something I've never been able to do. I understand the concepts, I just can't actually do it. Tomorrow I'll start the new class… "Business Systems". We'll see how that goes, it has to be better than programming.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Korea) Days 74 & 75

A photo from the back seat of the taxi I was riding in. Most cars have a big
screen GPS unit that can also be switched to watch TV here in Korea, but this
guy had two units. One on the right had the GPS and the one on the left had
a TV show playing the entire time. Not sure if that is very safe!

Saturday: I have been looking forward to this day all week, why…cause I got to sleep in and it felt so right! I did my normal Saturday ritual of laundry and cleaning up the room a bit. I then proceeded to download and watch a bunch of TV Shows. I then watched a documentary my wife told me about. It's called Restrepo. A very sobering documentary that shows what life is really like at OP Restrepo, an outpost in Afghanistan. I really feel for those guys that are out there doing what their doing. I joined as a 25B to serve and support the troops, so I shouldn't be anywhere near that kind of situation. Watching the entire film I just felt sad for all the guys there. Personally I don't care for even doing an FTX. I'm not all Hooah Hooah and I don't care to gear up and play soldier. I would rather do the job I'm trained for and fix computers for the army. Maybe if I was a bit younger I may think differently, but I have no desire to be out there in the field. It just sucks big time all around. During the time of the filming the folks out there were deployed for a 15 month tour. I can't imagine being away from my family for longer than I already am. At least now I get to video chat, these guys in the film are very limited in how they can contact their loved ones. They suffer losses and you can see the raw emotion that comes out. It just really sucks. The documentary was awesome, a lot of it was just raw footage of everything going on over there. Just seeing real life of these soldiers doing their jobs. I couldn't stop watching it and I would recommend anyone who is curious what life is like for soldiers serving on the front lines of Afghanistan.

SPC Roy called and asked if I wanted to do a little recon. It's his birthday today and after spending the day with his family, he wanted to check out the casino. He'd never been to one here in Korea and wanted to check them out for a future time when we can go out and gamble. The first one was not our style. Many tables had a 50,000 Won minimum bet (around $50) which is just too much for me. There were also basically only blackjack, roulette, & baccarat. We ended up heading south for a bit to another casino which turned out to be a lot better. It had more tables and some with much lower limits. These casinos are for foreigners only which I thought was a little strange, but no worries…I'm a foreigner!

On the way to the casino we ran into a DUI checkpoint. I've heard about these in the past, but never actually seen them in progress. They just setup a cop car on the street and start checking cars at random. They didn't stop us most likely because we were riding in a taxi. After the casino we headed to Itaewon so I could buy SPC Roy a drink for his birthday before heading back for the night.

My roommate took me out for some Korean BBQ.
This is him cooking our food and getting it ready for us to eat at our table.

Sunday: The morning was pretty slow, just slept in and then cleaned the room a bit more. I did some school work, then headed over to the other barracks to watch the Strikeforce fights. It was a pretty good card and surprisingly Fedor "The Last Emperor" got the crap beat out of him. After that it was video chatting with my wife and then some more shows and school.

My roommate came back and offered to take me out to a Korean barbecue restaurant. It was right outside of the post and was absolutely delicious. They serve some side dishes and then some raw meat which you cook yourself in the middle of the table. There were small dishes with seasoning that you could dip it into and then eat it. One other thing I've noticed about Koreans and eating out is that they eat "family style". I've gone out a few times with SPC Roy and such and he said it's normal here, but it freaks out some Americans at times. When I say family style I mean a lot of times there are dishes that are in the middle of the table and multiple people will use their spoon or chopsticks to grab the food. They will then eat with those chopsticks or spoon and repeat the process. (kind of like double dipping your chip in the dipping sauce). It doesn't bother me, but I can imagine some folks getting grossed out with that.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The General’s Driver - (Korea) Day 73

The long days this week are catching up with everyone. While waiting for a
meeting to end, SPC Roy crashed and was able to take a quick nap.

Work call this morning was at 0345, so early yet again. These early mornings and long days are really getting to me and everyone else. One of the first things we did this morning was get our weapons from the armory. I got to see what the weapons card is for, you turn it in and they give you your weapon. We then got the vans ready and headed off to Tango with two vans and about 7 people from our office. Even though I passed my Korean drivers test, I don’t actually have my license yet because of the computer issues yesterday. I don’t even know how to get anywhere yet, so I just rode shotgun. This position is called TC and is “in charge” of the vehicle. The TC also has to make sure the driver doesn’t get lost. Very ironic that I’m the TC, because I’m lost as soon as I leave post, but I needed to be up front so I could see the landmarks so I can drive it soon. I wonder if now is a good time to let my office know that I sometimes have driver’s anxiety issues. I would love a GPS on the window, but since we’re in Korea I think it would still be hard to understand. “Turn left on Wang Chung Avenue” would be heard when I can’t read any Korean signs. Luckily all the major road signs have English translations as well, they are just a bit smaller and harder to read.

When we got there we had to setup for a meeting. There was a little miscommunication though. We were supposed to pick up the general in our vans from the helicopter pad, but when we headed out of the bunker to get him we could hear the helicopter already taking off. Oh Crap!!!! Oh NO!!!! This is bad…really bad!!!! We drove down there and didn't see anyone, so we waited. SPC Roy got a call from a major in our office asking where we were and we told him we were staged to pick up the general. The major said he's already in the bunker. We found out later that his own drivers were staged there early and picked him up. WTF the communication here sucks!

We then headed back and finished setting up for the meeting. Our major who was in charge of the seating chart kept making changes on the fly to try and please everyone there. There are a number of generals, colonels, and such that he's all trying to make happy. Someone wants to sit next to someone else. It was a mess! We were moving stuff all over the place and when it was all said and done the actual seats looked nothing like the seating chart. People were all confused about where they were sitting…what a mess!

The whole Tango command bunker is very surreal. I feel like I’m walking on a movie set for a spy film or something. At some points the hallways have just the stone on the sides and then it has the look and feel of a Disney ride or something like that where you are in a fake tunnel. It’s hard to explain I guess. It’s just strange to be underground in this bunker with security forces at every corner.

After the meeting started we headed out to K-16 which is another post fairly close to Tango. We picked up a weapons rack so we could place our weapons in it while inside the Tango bunker. We also had a quick breakfast and I had a grande mocha. I needed the "pick-me-up" and it tasted so good.

Now when we got back we were told we would be taking the general from Tango to the helicopter pad. We backed the vans down and got all ready to go, then were told it would be another half hour before he was coming out. The life of a general as far as transportation goes must seem so simple. He walks out there are cars waiting for him, gets on a helicopter and skips all the traffic. I wonder if he has any idea how much planning and stuff goes on to make everything perfect for him? There was a lot of confusion about where he was going to sit in the van. Which side he was going to enter, where I was going to stand and salute. So many people would tell me different things, it was nuts. The funny thing is that in the end I was told by our major to go on the other side of the van and close the door for the general's assistant. There ended up being nobody there to salute him, I wonder if he's going to be upset about that? We did finally pick him up and take him down to the helicopter pad, that was pretty cool seeing the helicopters take off though. After that we headed back and cleaned up everything from the meeting and cleaned up our office. We were back at Yongsan by 11:30 or so.

After lunch we setup for another meeting and waited for it to finish to clean up and head out for the day. We left at 1630 which even though not very early, it was much earlier than most of the other days this week. This entire week has been exhausting. I headed back to my room and video chatted with my wife. I then tried to do some school work, but had to take a nap for a couple hours because I just couldn't focus. After that I finished my school work and watched a couple of shows before going to sleep again. Looking forward to sleeping in late!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Licensed to Drive - (Korea) Day 72

Work call this morning was at 0345 for an early meeting that we had to setup for. After we had it all setup and had everything prepared for the next meeting we went back to the barracks where I was able to lay back down for about an hour before going back to work. We spent the rest of the morning preparing for the rest of the days meetings. I left and went to battalion for a Korean drivers ed pre-test at 0800. We spent a little time reviewing and then took the test, which I scored a 100% on…it's pretty easy stuff. We were then told to study and come back to the testing building at 1300 to take the real test (which is the exact same test as our pre-test). I went back to work and helped out. This week has been extremely busy because of the upcoming training exercise, there are more meetings than ever and everyone is getting worn out.

We had to get in our full battle rattle and form up outside for an inspection. Our sergeant checked to make sure we had everything including our weapons card, ID, and dog tags. Our KATUSA forgot his dog tags and was rewarded with some push-ups by our sergeant. He also did not have cat eyes for his helmet, but that was not his fault because KATUSA were not issued them. After the inspection our KATUSA, SPC Roy and I took our TMP van that our office signed out and went to get it cleaned up. There is a place on post that we can wash the cars and vacuum them out without being charged. The normal place we went had all the hoses frozen, so we had to go where the buses are washed and use those hoses. We cleaned it inside and out until it sparkled all because we'll be picking up the general tomorrow at the helicopter pad and transporting him into the bunker. Everything has to be perfect.

I then ate a quick lunch and went to take my real Korean drivers test. I passed without even having to think, but surprisingly 3 people failed! How can you fail a test that you have taken already and have all the answers to for a week before the test? I don't understand. I thought we would be through after that, but we also had to take a number of other tests as well. We had to take a color blindness test, an eye test and a reaction time test. The reaction time test had us use a little machine in the room that had a gas peddle and a brake peddle. The instructor would show a green light and when the red light came on we had to press on the brake as fast as possible to simulate an emergency stop. You basically can't fail this because if you don't score high enough the instructor has you keep trying until you pass.

On the way back I called my wife to let her know it's going to be another long day and there would be no video chat tonight. Yesterday I didn't get to video chat and today I will not be able to either which really sucks. I have had no time to do much of anything besides work. When I got back we had to take another van out and get it cleaned just like the first one. We will be heading out tomorrow to Tango for some meetings and we'll be taking both vans.

When we got back me and SPC Roy headed to the PX. I went to the clothing store to pick up some rank patches (I bought some yesterday, but when I opened them I found they were the sew on kind and not the velcro kind….grrrrr). I also bought our KATUSA the cat eyes he was missing and had them sew on his name and blood type. I did my good deed for the day.

There has been network issues on post all day. Nobody has been able to use email or get to hardly any websites. Strangely people can get to Google, but not much else, so there has been a lot of frustration throughout the staff. I'm sure the 25B people who are actually doing computer work are busy now too!

We wrapped up the day at work by cleaning up from the last meeting of the day and I left around 1930 close to the same time as yesterday, but because we came in earlier it was an even longer day. You can tell the lack of sleep and the long days are already wearing on the staff. I bought me and SPC Roy a big monster energy drink earlier in the day and for a while we were both feeling like we were on speed, then when it wore off we both were dragging. We get to do it all over again tomorrow as work call is again a very early 0345! At least it's Friday, I'm going to sleep in late on Saturday morning.

The night consisted of doing the minimum amount for my schoolwork, checking Facebook, and writing this. Now I'm going to crash and take a nap before I start all over again tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tango in the Day - (Korea) Day 71

The long day was just too much for our KATUSA, he passed out
for a bit in our control room while waiting for the final meeting to end

Work call this morning was at 0600 for an early morning meeting. We setup for the meeting and were busy non stop until about 0800 when SPC Roy looked at the clock and stated that it seems like we'd been there for so long, but it's not even our normal work call time yet. That kind of foreshadowed how the rest of the day was going to go.

SPC Roy and I then had to get in full battle rattle for a trip to "Tango". Full battle rattle included our helmets, body armor, camelback, and gas mask. I had spent a while last night trying to get everything ready since it was all still in bags. I had so many pouches and crap I didn't know what was what, so I ended up bringing a lot more than I needed to (no need to wear the groin protector portion of the body armor to Tango). Once we were set we took off with our sergeant, a couple other sergeants from our admin office, and our major in our office. SPC Roy drove a van with us all in it along with some supplies.

Tango is an underground bunker located to the south of our post. If North Korea were to attack and somehow the general and our office survived the initial attack from their long range artillery, everyone would move to this bunker and the war would be run from there. There are a couple of training exercises each year that simulates this. My job stays pretty much the same though…setup meetings, just in a different conference room under a mountain. We went there today to make sure the office was supplied and to check it out. The place is pretty amazing since it's all under a mountain. Lots and lots of concrete! I wonder how long it took them to make that place! Whenever we go to Tango we have to be in full battle rattle. We don't have to wear it when we are inside (except for the gas mask, it has to be on us at all times), but if we ever go outside we have to put everything back on.

We returned to Yongsan and I had to make a run to the military clothing store. I had to purchase "cat eyes" for my helmet. This is a small band that wraps around the helmet and has two small glow in the dark squares on the back. This is so your fellow soldiers can see you in the dark. Not only could I not find mine, I also had to get my name & blood type stitched on it. I also had to get my rank sewn onto my helmet cover. Since I was there I bought some extra name tags along with US ARMY tags for my uniform. These tags are much bolder & sturdier than the issued ones. They do not wrinkle up like the issued ones, they are stiff and stay straight which looks a lot nicer.

When we got back we setup for another meeting and then during the down time I helped SPC Roy do some SkillPorts. We only have two computers that we can use, and Special K was on the other one. I could have got a lot done with my SkillPorts and my school. We had to wait for a late meeting to finish before we could leave. The meeting was scheduled to end at 1830, but didn't end until more like 1845. So by the time we cleaned up that and setup for a meeting tomorrow morning I didn't get back to my room until 1930. It doesn't get any better either, work call tomorrow is 0345 with another late meeting.

So I now will be doing my homework and going to bed to take a quick nap before starting work tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Weapons Card - (Korea) Day 70

Just a random photo of the vending machine in our barracks.
I thought the tall skinny cans were funny looking.

Work call this morning was an early one at 0630. I got up and got ready quietly trying not to wake my roommate as always. We had to setup for an early meeting and I ended up being the "slide flipper". I had to sit in the control room and go to the next slide anytime they said "next slide". It's pretty easy, but you can't let yourself daydream or have your mind wander off because you have generals in the other room who would not be pleased if you don't flip their slides. I was on top of my game though…I flipped those slides like a seasoned veteran.

After the meeting we cleaned up and went to the other conference room to setup for another meeting, then I went to lunch. After lunch I had to get my "weapons card". I guess they made me one when I in-processed, but I never picked it up. So I now have it and I have to keep it on me at all times. Another one of those little inspectable items that are now part of your uniform. I should carry a special wallet (I wonder if they sell digital ACU man purses) just to put all that crap in. Not sure exactly what a weapons card is for, but I know I need it before our training exercise which is coming up.

After that it was time for some schoolwork, SkillPorts and hanging in the control room watching the news until the last meeting was over. It lasted until 17:30, so it turned out to be a long day. We were told we have to wear our full battle rattle tomorrow as part of a "weapons check" to make sure we are all ready for the training exercise. I haven't even looked at mine since it was all assigned to me at CIF. I took it all out and I'm not really sure what exactly we need to bring, so I'm going to bring a bunch of extra crap that I don't need I'm sure. I also have to figure out how to get everything hooked together. Some of the stuff I remember from basic, but there are additions to our body armor like a neck protector and….LOL…a groin protector. You don't want to get shot there!

The rest of the night consisted of video chatting with my wife, who is just a wonderful woman. (got my valentines day box in the mail today). I know it was so late for her 1AM - 2AM, but it was awesome to be able to see her and talk to her before I wound my day down and watched some shows.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day) - (Korea) Days 66-69

Some of the Houston Texans Cheerleaders for the Super Bowl show

Friday: Friday is a holiday (Lunar New Year) for everyone except those of us unlucky enough to have to work during it. I pulled CQ shift and had to get up, shower, shave, and be in full ACU uniform for my 0900 shift. CQ (Charge of Quarters) duty isn't too hard though so I can't complain too much. The only raw deal is that anyone who does it during the weekday gets the next day off for recovery, I get nothing except the loss of a holiday. My shift is actually in my barracks which is nice (it's either in my barracks or the barracks across the street). I can quickly slip into my room to grab a snack or to relieve myself if needed. I also have my laptop and my roommate's mobile hot spot, so I have internet as well. I sit here at a little desk next to the vending machines in the hall and answer the phone if it rings, which it rang once when I first started (staff duty calling to check and make sure I was on shift). I also walk around the building once an hour to make sure it's not on fire or anything. While doing this I also check the fire exit door on the outside to make sure it's are secure (some folks like to go out it and not shut it behind them).

The shift consisted of a lot of sitting, watching TV shows, checking Facebook, email and watching the movie Punisher: War Zone. I was able to borrow this from the previous guy on CQ duty. It was pretty good, your typical guy flick with lots of fighting, guns, and blood. I had seen the first one a while ago and didn't even know there was a number 2 out. It has the same theme as the first one, the punisher is still out killing bad guys and blowing them up.

A photo of the hallway in our barracks and where we do CQ,
I spent most of my 24 hours at this little desk

A photo of the desk in our barracks where we do CQ,
this is where I spent most of my 24 hours at.

Saturday: The CQ shift finished at 0900, well a little after 0900 since my replacement was a little late. By that point I couldn't see straight. I just turned everything over to him and went straight to my room to pass out. I stuck in my ear plugs and pulled my beanie over my eyes, then fell asleep. I slept until 1700 which kind of sucked because most of my Saturday was gone. I got up and took a nice long hot shower. It was so hot in fact that when I came out the steam set off my smoke alarm. I had to rip off my towel and wave it back and forth to get it to turn off. I'm just glad I was in the room by myself…here I am naked waving a towel back and forth. It seems that every 4 day weekend when the Koreans leave post, our barracks lose all heat. We can turn it on, but only cold air blows out. (the reason I was taking a hot shower…just trying to raise my body temperature a bit)

After that I took off to the food court to get some dinner and download some shows. Until I see where I am on my bandwidth limit, I don't want to do that in my room anymore. The young hawaiian called and asked if I wanted to go to the gym and I said sure, sounds fun. I met up with him and we played a little one on one (the old man beat him every time). We then lifted some weights. I just followed him and did everything he did. I got a great workout and then went back to my room to watch some shows.

Sunday: Slept in and woke up with pain in my left shoulder. I think I over did it a bit with the weights. At the time it seemed fine, but now I can't even lift my left arm up without pain shooting through my shoulder. Oh it hurts…it hurts. I tried calling the young hawaiian, but there was no answer. I gave up after a while and just video chatted with my wife for a bit before heading over to a guy's barracks that I met in Korean Drivers Ed. They have a nice day room with an awesome 60" Sharp Aquios TV. The nice thing about having AFN is that all the pay per view fights on the UFC are free! We watched UFC 126 which had an amazing knock out in the main event. I know where I'll be from now on for these events.

We had planned on going up to Seoul Tower in the afternoon, but it was foggy and PV2 Pickle said he was totally broke. I guess we'll try again another day. I finally heard back from the young hawaiian, he went out last night and didn't return until 0830 this morning with his KATUSA roommate. The bars and clubs never close here, so I guess it's easy to do. I'm just a little too old for that…well a lot too old for that. Which reminds me of the guy in my Korean drivers ed class. He is married too and here without his wife. He asked why they just cant send unmarried soldiers here. "It's like a paradise for unmarried soldiers. The bars never close and there are hot chicks everywhere". That is probably exactly why they don't want all unmarried soldiers over here…lol

Monday: (Superbowl Holiday) Yes it's true, we get the day off for the Superbowl here in Korea. Since we are a day ahead it actually falls on a Monday. I woke up at 0540 and headed to The Main Post Club for their Superbowl party. They had free breakfast where I filled my plate as full as possible. I'm used to only having a pop-tart or oatmeal, so this was a treat. They had a small band consisting of soldiers as our pre-show entertainment. After that we watched the game on a big projection screen. There were a number of Houston Texans cheerleaders wandering around and signing little posters they gave out. There were also door prizes that were given out at half time. The guy sitting right next to me won a 46" flat screen TV…so close, but I didn't win anything. I did have fun though, never thought I would have to get up so early to watch the Superbowl! They had the bar open and plenty of people were already drinking by 0730…way too early for me!

After the game I went back to my room and took a nap. I then video chatted with my wife and did some school work. This class is almost over, it can't end soon enough!! The rest of the night consisted of more TV Shows and just relaxing. Back to the grind tomorrow.

Overheard Quote: "You may hear growling and hissing" (The CQ guard before me was briefing me on the nights activities and apparently there are some cats on base that like to mate behind the barracks)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Whiplash - (Korea) Day 65

A random photo of a guard tower right outside my barracks.
It's not used and all fenced off, but ever since I arrived here
at Yongsan, I've had the desire to climb it and take pictures....
I wonder how much trouble I would get in....

Work call this morning was at 0800 for Korean Drivers Ed once again. The plan was to take another pre-test and then take the official test. However, because of the "Lunar New Year" holiday all the Koreans on post were off…including the building where we were going to take our test. So instead of testing we were going to go out driving again. I asked if I had to stay and was told yes, because today we were driving a stick shift van and they wanted to make sure everyone could drive a stick. No problem, my last truck was a stick. I would soon find out that there were plenty of others that had never driven a stick before and it turned out to be pretty funny.

*Side Note* Lunar New Year is a big deal here in Korea. The ROK and KATUSA end up getting a number of days off. This week the KATUSA were only here on Monday and then got the rest of the week off. We even get Friday off as well for it. Most of the post is shut down because of this on at least Thursday & Friday

All 14 of us piled into this van and the instructor drove us to the Dragon Hill Lodge where we took our first break. We went inside and a number of people went down to Subway and got some breakfast sandwiches. I used the facilities and then waited around with everyone else in the lobby. There were a number of Houston Texans cheerleaders walking around which caught everyone's eyes. They are here for the Superbowl and will perform during the show for the troops and their families. A similar event took place last month with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, but I didn't make it to that show. I guess cheerleaders in Texas like Korea???

We started off with one of the girls in our class trying to back out of the parking spot. It was a mess! She would move about an inch and then kill it. It was pretty funny as we all started giving her 10 points every time the van would die. She had 70 points when the instructor finally took over. He drove out of the parking lot an onto a roadway where she could start over again. She ended up with 85 points. Surprisingly this was not the winner. The winner was a female sergeant who is a chaplain's assistant. I guess she needed to pray a little more because she ended up with 130 points! Everyone had a fun time, there was lots of laughter and whiplash for everyone. One girl was taking a drink out of her plastic bottle and the whole thing went into her mouth as the van lurched back and forth. I drove fine and got 0 points as well as two others in our van, everyone else got at least 30 points or so. The instructor at one point had to tell a driver to "keep your hands on the wheel at all times". The person would let go and put their hands in the air every time the van would die as if saying "it's not my fault".

After lunch I headed into the office and then went to the company to try and get my finances straightened out. After spending a good hour or two there and printing off multiple copies of everything, I think it's all good to go. The specialist helping me out was very nice and thorough, so I'm hoping it all goes through this time. I need to check back with her next week to make sure it's all good.

When I got back we setup for the last meeting of the day and then cleaned the office. We were out by 1600 and I left back to my barracks to video chat with my wife for a bit.

I borrowed a DVD from the guy on CQ shift which I had never heard of. It's called "The Great Raid" and is described as "The most daring rescue mission of our time is a story that has never been told". I had to check this thing out since I like war movies and it sounded pretty good. The movie was inspired by true events and at the end during the credits it showed a lot of real footage from what really happened which was pretty cool. It's a World War II movie that takes place in the Philippines. As US troops were advancing the Japanese would kill all the POWs they had instead of turning them over. Knowing this a group of rangers went out ahead of the force in the Philippines, planned and executed a rescue operation of over 511 POWs from the Japanese. It was a pretty cool flick, I'm really surprised that I never even heard of it before. It wasn't Oscar worthy or anything, but still worth seeing.

Overhear Quote: "When I start drinking I like to hit on black chicks" (one of the guys in the van talking about going drinking for the four day weekend coming up)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lost in the Shuffle - (Korea) Day 64

A random photo outside of my barracks. 
The smoking area (the smoke pit) has a Korean theme to it.

I got up for PT this morning. Nobody could tell me where we were forming up at once again, so I had to guess. I got up at 0500 and got ready giving me plenty of time to shave and get dressed, then figure out where formation was going to be. When I looked outside the barracks I saw a car idling, this made me think that the formation would be outside the barracks. There are usually about 4 or 5 cars that arrive to the formation (I think they are sergeants who drive from off post or something). I waited inside the barracks for a while until I had to go out in the cold and form up. We formed up and because of the Korean holiday for lunar new year all the KATUSAs (and ROK army) have most of the week off. They make up about 95% of our formation. After we formed up, the sergeant in charge dismissed us and said we could do our own PT. I went to my room and took a nice long hot shower. I could have slept in, there wasn't even anyone from my office there.

Work call this morning was at 0800. I had to flip slides and such for the meeting. After it was over we cleaned up and that was all that was on the schedule for the day. I was able to finish a SkillPort and some schoolwork. I also spent a long time with my sergeant at our company. Paperwork had been turned in back in December to get me on separate rations so meal deductions wouldn't be taken out of my paycheck. Because of our schedules we can't make it to the DFAC a lot of times. What a mess! It took the HR worker at the front desk (who was actually very helpful) a lot of research and phone calls to finance to see what was going on. Turns out everything was approved and sent to finance, but they sent it back to the wrong company…and there it sat, and would have sat forever I guess. The whole while I still get meals deducted from my paycheck for the DFAC that I don't use. It's almost $300, so I wanted to get this taken care of. I'll find out more tomorrow on the status of it, I can't believe what a mess this place is with paperwork. One the plus side I have copies now of all my paperwork, so the process should get put through soon. I've learned when you find something wrong with your financials or your paperwork, it's up to you to follow through and keep after it until it gets resolved. (I did check on this last month when I saw it taken out of my paycheck, but was told it should be fixed by the next paycheck…things don't fix themselves I guess)

Had to go to a CQ briefing at the company. I have CQ this Friday. I’m not too excited about that. I have a 24 hour shift starting at 0900 on Friday morning until 0900 the following Saturday. We were basically told to make sure we are at the CQ desk and to keep the place clean. Shouldn’t be too hard since all the KATUSAs are gone for the holiday.

After work I came back to the barracks and video chatted with my wife for a bit, then watched some shows. I was so tired I kept falling asleep in my chair. I hope it doesn't ruin my sleep tonight.