Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No IT for You - (Germany) Day 36

The light dusting of snow we received this morning

This morning I got ready for PT and when I looked out the window I was surprised to see a dusting of snow everywhere. This didn't stop our PT formation, but we did have PT inside (in the racquet ball court) and they also cancelled the scheduled PT test that some in our company were scheduled to take. Our PT this morning was PRT (Physical Readiness Training) which is the newer method of conducting PT and the same method I did in basic and AIT. A lot of units are still working it into their PT schedule and there is a lot of resistance because a lot of soldiers do not think it does much for them, and a lot of others just think it's pretty gay. I was just glad we were inside because it was freakin' cold outside.

Once finished with PT, I was dropped off at my place and had to make a somewhat quick turn-around to get ready and leave. We had to be at the office before 0900 and then head to some training session in our battalion conference room. We arrived in plenty of time and then made our way to the conference room only to see it filled with another meeting. After waiting a bit we were told to come back at 0930, so we all head back to the office and hang out for a bit before heading back. We wait…and wait…and wait, then at almost 1000 we're told that it has been cancelled and to go back to the office. A great waste of time.

In the office we have three machines that are inoperable because they are being migrated to Windows 7. One is a sergeant's machine who is on leave and two others are in our main office, which leaves only one computer for 6 or 7 people. It's great that the army is finally rolling out Windows 7, but however the way they are going about it is pretty bad because the computers were down all last night and all day today.

My big job today was to find a big unused binder and take a huge stack of papers (the entire manual for PRT), then use the 3-hole punch on them before placing them all in the binder. The entire time I was doing this I kept thinking to myself what the heck am I doing? Here I am taking a few sheets of paper at a time, punching holes in them, then placing them in a binder. This has become the extent of my job. I'm a highly qualified I.T. technician with management experience who wanted to serve his country thinking my talents could be put to good use…hold on for a second I have to punch some more holes…I have a number of technical certifications, I have years of experience working with computers…hold on I have some more holes to punch…OK you see where I'm going. I can't believe I'm doing this job, this is such a joke and waste of my time…definitely not anything I had envisioned when I joined the army. In fact I think my previous job in Korea was better. Yes most of it was setting up meetings and serving coffee and water, but at least I was the IMO and I fixed a computer problem here and there. I had the "demigod" card with all the admin rights to all of our computers. People came to me with computer questions all the time. Here…I punch holes in paper and stick them in a binder. Oh yes I also have a lot of paperwork to look forward to doing once I learn the "real" job here…that is all it is…paperwork. I really can't believe I'm in this situation right now. I have no motivation or desire to stay in the army past my contract date, I have no desire to move up past the rank of Specialist. I don't want more crap duties and responsibilities placed on me while still not doing the job I signed up for…..Wow, enough of that…enough complaining…I just had to get that out.

Lunch today was a quick one at the food court and then I joined the guys in a room adjacent to our office that houses a ping pong table. The guys here play a lot of ping pong during their lunch break. I joined in and quickly realized that I was outgunned. Mind you before this moment I thought I was a decent player. I had just come from Korea and I beat two Asians while I was there! In my mind I was even more than decent…I was the great white hope! I stepped up to the table and across from me was a ginger from next door (43rd Signal HHD). We started playing and as I was running all over the place hitting balls everywhere, the ginger calmly stood in the middle of the table returning everything I sent at him. The guy was like Forest Gump! He used all kinds of spin and speed and at the end of the game I counted myself lucky to have even scored 2 points!

The afternoon went by pretty quick, I watched SPC Whirlwind give another security brief to some customers. I will be doing this soon. The first sergeant came in and went over some counseling statements that the NCOs where giving. I am supposed to have an initial counseling soon, but I think my boss has just been too busy. AT 1600 we all started getting into our dress uniforms. We are a mixture of the Class A's (the old green uniform) and the ASU (Army Service Uniform - the newer dress blues). For some reason mine felt a little tight…I'm not sure why :) I still had to finish getting mine ready, then when it was time for me I was docked on my shoes being a little dirty and finger prints on some of the buttons I had just put on. It feels nice to have a couple more ribbons on it though. Last time I wore it I only had the three given to everyone in AIT (Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism, & National Defense Service Medal). I added the Korea Defense Service Medal and the Overseas Service Ribbon. Not much, but it looks a little better.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Class A Pickup - (Germany) Day 35

PT this morning was a pretty good workout. We formed up at our normal PT location at Campbell Barracks. After warming up we ran the PT test circle which is basically a half mile loop around the parking lot and a field. We ran it four times stopping after each lap to alternate 20 push-ups and then 20 sit-ups. Half the people didn't even participate though because they were either on profile or they were going to take the actual PT test tomorrow morning.

My boss picked me up for work as usual, but a little earlier because we had to stop by the barracks for an inspection on the only soldier that is currently living in the barracks. He married a German national and she basically lives in his room with him. Unlike my barracks room in Korea where I had to share the actual room with another person, these barracks are private rooms that have a bathroom that is shared between two people. Everyone in our office knows the guy has his wife living there, but nobody up higher does. I think she helps him keep it pretty clean…my boss didn't have to do much inspecting, plus he's a pretty easy going guy. I am still glad I don't have to deal with stupid room inspections anymore.

Work was a little more eventful today, I was actually able to log into a computer although I only stayed on for a minute…it was just a test to see if it worked. I followed SPC Whirlwind around pretty much the whole day just helping him out while learning various parts of all the paperwork that I will have to do. I'm slowly "getting" little pieces of the job, but it's going to take a while to get down all the paperwork down. There are so many rules and procedures that need to be followed exactly because of the high security level that we deal with.

For lunch my boss took me to the alterations shop where I picked up my uniform. They sewed on my unit patch. I then headed up to the military clothing store and had to purchase everything that I needed for my dress uniform. I believe the maid in our temporary housing threw my bag of name tags and ribbons away. Luckily they had everything I needed and I was able to pick up my name tag that I ordered on Friday. We ate lunch at the food court and then headed back to the office.

I spent the rest of the day following around SPC Whirlwind again and then we headed out after cleaning up. We have a dress uniform inspection tomorrow, so my boss invited me and my wife over for dinner. Before dinner we worked on getting our uniforms squared away…placing all the ribbons and medals on them as well as the insignia and such. Trying to get everything perfect is a trying matter and neither of us finished before dinner was ready. We ate dinner and then decided to finish it up tomorrow before the inspection which is at 1600. We will not be wearing the Class A uniform to work, but we will have to put it on at 1600. This is in preparation for the "Days of Excellence" which is this Friday. This Friday the whole battalion wears their Class A's all day and there will be a more formal inspection done.

FYI: A great site that can be used for building your rack of ribbons and medals is:

EZ Rack Builder

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Days 33 & 34

Saturday: We slept in which is always nice. We slowly got ready for the day, eating breakfast and hanging out for a while together. SPC Whirlwind came with his wife and picked up my wife and I. We headed out to Ikea to do some recon for some furniture. The Ikea store was pretty much the same as the one located back home, except this one had multiple floors. We also went to a store called Poco and finally checked out the Manheim PX before heading back. We need a bed for our spare bedroom and also a desk. Trying to figure out the sleeping arrangements for my 3 kids when they come this summer is turning out to be challenging. We wanted to get a loft bed, but there were none to be found. It was nice getting out and about and not being stuck on the post all day. SPC Whirlwind's wife is a native German, so I was able to practice some micro-conversations in German with her throughout the day.

We came back home and then hung out for a bit before heading to the bowling alley on post to try out the "Cosmic Bowling". SPC Whirlwind and his wife came and joined us. $10 each for as much bowling as you want. We all had fun, but I think I may not be able to move my arm tomorrow!

Sunday: We slept in once again and then took our time getting ready. We headed to the gym and had a pretty poor workout. I'm not sure why, but I had no energy and no motivation. It may have been the pizza and beer I had last night while bowling, or it may be the lack of PT all together for the last week. At least we made it to the gym and got out for a bit, we then headed to the commissary to pick up some groceries before staying in for the rest of the night. Once we get our car, I'm sure our weekends will be a little more entertaining.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Landstuhl - (Germany) Day 32

Part of the drugs and alcohol training. This exercise had a person wear "drunk glasses" and then try to bounce a ball into a cup. It was pretty funny how far off people were.

This morning we showed up for PT at 0630 and after the first formation, I was released along with 3 others from our platoon because we were heading to Landstuhl for training. Landstuhl is the location of the rest of our company. Our company headquarters and of course our company commander is located out there. I caught a ride back to my place from SPC Whirlwind. I then had plenty of time to get ready before he came back to pick me up at 0815. We met up with everyone else that was heading out with us from 1st platoon at the TMP van…7 of us total. The ride out to Landstuhl is an hour and a half or so and I slept most of the way there. Upon arrival I was impressed with all the huge satellite dishes all over the place. These things were huge and they were everywhere.

Once inside I had to do a little in-processing paperwork with the company. I was told to bring all my paperwork, so I grabbed my "I Love Me" book that has every important paper I've received in the army. I made copies of everything they wanted (PT card, Weapons card, Orders) and filled out some paperwork. The sergeant in the office asked if I was a 25B. When I told him yes he got a little excited and asked if I'd be working there with them. Unfortunately the answer is no…instead they have me not touching any computers, my talents will better serve the army by doing "the other side of 25B" which is only paperwork. We then all had to attend some more mandatory training. The same training we receive over and over again. The first block was given by the chaplain and was on suicide prevention. We then moved onto the next block given by a civilian lady on sexual assault and prevention. We took a lunch break and drove our TMP to Burger King for lunch.

After lunch we had our last block of training given by a pair of civilians on drug and alcohol abuse. Their block was by far the longest, they did their best to try and keep it interesting, but having just eaten a double bacon cheeseburger I was ready to fall asleep. Finally the training was over and I had to meet up with our company commander. He quickly asked me a few questions…married? children? do I drink? He was in a hurry and rushed through a speech I'm sure he gives all the new soldiers and then we took off.

On the way home I spoke quite a bit with a PV2 from 1st platoon. He got into trouble and had his rank reduced, so now he'll soon be promoted again to PFC…but he would be specialist if he didn't get into trouble. What a bummer! Everyone in the entire company just calls this guy McLovin. I guess it's because he looks just like Jonah Hill who plays in the movie Superbad where McLovin is referenced. It's pretty funny because everyone from privates to senior NCOs call him by that name.

When we arrived back at the office SPC Whirlwind had me give a practice security brief from the PowerPoint slides. This security brief is something we have to give our customers every time they come to renew their security keys. So soon I'll be giving my own mini death by PowerPoint presentations.

We then cleaned up and took off. My boss took me to the cleaners…to pick up my class A uniform. I then had to purchase a company patch to have sewn on, then dropped it off at the alteration shop. I also had to order a new name tag. Unfortunately when we stayed in temporary housing the maid threw away my bag of all my tags and ribbons. Now I have to purchase everything again. We have a Class A inspection next week, and I'm not sure I'll have everything in time. I guess we'll see what kind of drama that causes.

My boss then took me home where I ate dinner and hung out with my wife for the rest of the night.

Overheard Quote: "Do you wanna try the Viagra Gay Porn Challenge" SPC Whirlwind asking this to a guy in 1st platoon…I don't even want to know what he was talking about!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mandatory MLK - (Germany) Day 31

It's Thursday and that means our PT is a ruck march again. The ruck march is not too bad now that I'm prepared for it. It's nice that we perform the ruck march around PHV where we live instead of Campbell Barracks which is the post where we work. It only takes a few minutes to get back home once we're finished verses about 15 minutes when we do PT at Campbell Barracks. I noticed something today that I never really paid much attention to before, but when it comes to PT none of the women in our company seem to participate. Our NCOIC comes sometimes and may say a few announcements, but then she leaves and doesn't participate. Another female sergeant is on profile, so for the ruck march she just walks with us, but doesn't carry anything. There are a couple more in 1st platoon, but I don't see them either.

Now that the exercise is over I had some time to come home after PT and have some breakfast and coffee with my wife before heading to the office. Thursday mornings are sergeant's time training, so we headed to one of the barracks day rooms and had a class on LandNav or land navigation. It basically was a refresher on how to read maps and a compass. I guess we have an upcoming training event where we will be doing actual LandNav in the field, so this is getting us prepared.

We then headed to the office and I assumed my reading position. I did try to log on once while everyone was out smoking, but my account has yet to be created. Speaking of smoking, now that I'm at my second duty station I can say that from what I've seen, it seems like individuals in the army seem to smoke quite a bit. I have no idea what the ratio is from civilians to army smokers, but my guess is that the army has a very high rate of smokers versus the general population. I imagine it probably goes for all military as well, but I don't have any experience there. In my office now I think everyone smokes except for me and maybe our NCOIC.

I had Subway once again for lunch in the food court and then had to head to the gym for a mandatory event. The gym at Campbell Barracks is a much bigger and nicer facility than the one at PHV. I was able to register myself there, so if I get the chance I can get a workout. Maybe when we get our car, we'll get some workouts in over there instead of the tiny gym here at PHV. We'll see…but I'm getting a little off track here. The event was a celebration of Martin Luther King Junior's birthday. It was considered an EO training event which is why everyone had to go. The army takes it's mandatory training seriously and each soldier is required to complete specific training throughout the year. This event was pretty short and consisted of a slideshow showing events of the civil rights movement and then one of the black sergeants in 1st platoon dressed in a suit pretended he was Martin Luther King Jr and delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech. Afterwards we ate some snacks and took off.

The rest of the day consisted of a lot of reading with one interruption. We had to place a number of key cards in numerical order. This was a pretty easy and dull job, but it gave me something to do other than just sit and read. I finished my box of cards and then watched a co-worker have issue after issue with his box. I started to think this guy may be a little retarded, I mean it's not too hard to put things in order…but he had to start over multiple times and it took him waaaay too long.

I found out I was not originally on the staff duty roster for February, but at some point someone's name was scratched off and mine was put on near the end of the month. I guess I'll be doing it a little earlier than I thought. I also found out I'll be heading off to another post to meet up with the company commander and the rest of our company tomorrow. In addition to meeting the commander I will have to attend more training. I've been through all this mandatory training before in Korea, but since I wasn't here (and our platoon has to send a certain number of people) I was chosen to attend along with a few others.

After work my boss drove over to the dry cleaners so we could drop off our dress uniforms to be cleaned and pressed. We have a class A inspection coming up next week. My first one since graduation for AIT.

After that he dropped me off at home where I had dinner with my wife and we hung out the rest of the night. She had her interview today and all went well…let's hope she's able to get the job!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fire Drill - (Germany) Day 30

The 43rd Signal Battalion Logo...complete with unicorns

This morning we continued the exercise, so that meant wearing our regular ACU's to the PT formation. I of course wore my "poly pros" which are the army issued equivalent of long johns. They come in thin and thick to help keep you a little warmer or even more warm. I wore the thick version under my uniform and stood in the cold with the rest of the company. With the poly pros and my polar fleece it was still pretty cold at 0630 in the morning standing outside in formation. We were told the exercise is still on and the first shift will get their weapons at 0800, until then we were to head to the office.

We went to the office and then I headed over to the food court where there is only a bakery open this early. Unfortunately their coffee leaves a lot to be desired, but it's the only option this early. I grabbed a chocolate pastry with some coffee and watched the small TV in there for an hour before heading over to the shoppette after it finally opened. From there I grabbed my usual…some reading material along with some decent coffee.

I did a lot of reading as usual today, but I also helped out with some paperwork that needed to be done in the office. Filing papers and folders as well as double checking a lot of serial numbers on various lists…at least it was something to do.

Lunch was just some small items picked up from another trip to the shoppette. As we were working on some more numbers and inventory the fire alarm went off. After a few seconds a guy came in our office and said there is a fire and that everyone except two people had to stay. These two people had to "conduct emergency destruction procedures". This was of course a drill, but it made me realize how crappy it has to be if you're one of those two people that has to stay back and destroy all the top secret material while the place is on fire around you. During this drill (part of the exercise) we stood outside in the cold hanging out in the parking lot for a little over a half hour doing nothing. Everyone wasn't too happy, not only because it was pretty darn cold, but because it seemed like a total waste of time for us. I can see doing a fire drill, but just standing around for that long seemed a little ridiculous.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the state of the army and how budget reductions are going to affect everyone. They are going to reduce the size of the army as a whole and this will in turn affect the number stationed in Germany. I think I came at just the right time. Our base here in Heidelberg will be closing in the next couple of years and everyone will be moving to Wiesbaden. They are going to reduce the number of soldiers stationed in Europe all together and they are also talking about using some rotating units as well. The rotating units will not stay as long and they will also be unaccompanied tours because of this. Nothing is set yet, but that is what I've been reading so far. They are also doing an army wide weight test in a month or so, which I'm guessing is to start weeding people out.

I'm looking forward to seeing as much of Europe as possible while I'm here. I want to take advantage of this great opportunity! I just wish our household goods and car would get here soon. It would make everything a little easier. My wife had to reschedule her interview until tomorrow…so keep your fingers crossed. With her added income we will be able to enjoy our time here a lot more as far as traveling and such.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Training Exercise - (Germany) Day 29

This morning I was picked up by my boss, but instead of heading to PT formation in our winter PTs, we all had our ACUs on. I also had to bring my body armor and helmet as well. This week they are roll playing a scenario and we have to play along, so no PT this morning. We found out that a big portion of our office would be getting their weapons and heading off to help guard a gate. They work along side the normal gate security contractors but will be checking multiple cars all day for bombs or terrorists. I wasn't one of the ones picked because I haven't had the special training to check for bombs yet.

I headed to the office where it was just me and SPC Whirlwind. He's called this because he has a hyper personality and seems to be all over the place. We also had our platoon sergeant and our NCOIC there as well. This did give us some time for SPC Whirlwind to show me some things that they do in the office. I also ended up heading to the shoppette and purchasing a Stars and Stripes newspaper as well as the latest Army Times. That gave me some good reading material to pass the time when SPC Whirlwind didn't have anything to show me. It's kind of tough to learn anything so far because it seems like I'm getting little bits and pieces of the picture at any given time.

I had Subway in the food court and then headed back to the office where I did a lot more reading. I read every single article in the papers and I take my time slowly reading everything trying not to run out of reading material before the day ends. I may need to purchase an actual book since I can't bring my iPad in the office.

I was almost able to log into the computer today, instead of getting nothing…I'm able to log in with my CAC card, but I have only a very limited DoD visitor's access. This gives me basic guess access to the computer, I have Internet (only via IE) and once logged off it does not save anything. That was fine though because I was able to log on and renew my expired AKO password as well as surf the web a bit. With almost everyone gone I was able to spend a little time on the computer.

The guys that had to go play army man, came back to the office around 1500 and all were worn out and very hungry. It sucks that they had to take part in that. I know every soldier is a "soldier first", but it seems a little ridiculous that they have people in our office participating in this training exercise. I can see soldiers with a tactical MOS doing these exercises all the time, but not mine… I'm a 25B (Information Technology Specialist) and I've been trained to fix computers and networks in the army. You would think they would try and put those skills to work, but I've given up on any common sense in the army.

My boss took me home at about 1745 where I spent some quality time with my wife. She has an interview tomorrow for a job which will definitely help out with the budget. Cross your fingers!!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Final In-Processing - (Germany) Day 28

Last night was one of my worst nights of sleep ever. I'm not sure why, I didn't have a lot on my mind or anything…I just kept tossing and turning the entire night. I may have had an hour of uninterrupted sleep the entire night. This made getting out of bed when my alarm clock went off an extremely unenjoyable experience. My boss picked me up for PT at 0545 and we headed to the formation which was at 0630. Since there was a light rain we ended up heading into the gym and doing the spinning class. I got a pretty decent cardio session in. My boss then took me back home where I had about 45 minutes to get ready for work.

Work call this morning was the usual 0900 and I sat and planned to stare at the wall once again, but one of the sergeants pulled one of our customer's folder and had me look through it to get a feel for how everything is laid out. I took my time and checked it out. One thing with this job I'm seeing is that there is a ton of paperwork and everything has to be in perfect order because of the sensitivity of the products we deal with. There is going to be a lot to learn to get it all straight. Right now I have a general idea of what the office does, but I am totally clueless with how they do anything. In other news I heard my network access should be setup soon, all the required signatures and such have made their way back to the IMO. Now they can officially create my account in the system and give me access to log into a computer. Not sure how often I'll be able to though because like I mentioned earlier there are 3 computers with 6 (sometimes 7) people that want to use them…and I'm the lowest ranking person.

My boss took me over to central processing at 1100, we grabbed lunch and then I headed to my final briefing for in-processing. The sergeant major of the installation did his brief, as well as education, chaplain, the credit union, and the MPs. It wrapped up at 1530 and I was able to turn in my completed sheet into central processing finally. I then headed to he PX and ordered our bed and mattress that we picked out last weekend at Ramstein.

My boss picked me up and we headed back to the office. We were informed we will be doing some sort of practice exercise this week. Not sure what it will involve, but I have to bring in my body armor and such tomorrow. I guess we'll see how that goes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Days 26 & 27

Saturday: We woke up early this morning to get ready and head out. My boss picked up my wife and I at 0845 and we headed off to Ramstein Air Base. The drive was about an hour and we were able to view the German countryside while speeding along on the autobahn. I was surprised by how many wind turbines I saw along the way. The Germans are serious about going green, between the clean energy and all the recycling they seem to be far "greener" than the U.S. We heard about the PX at Ramstein and how huge it is, when we arrived we were not disappointed. The PX itself was huge and there is also a small mall of shops as well as a food court connected to it. Our goal was to purchase a bed for our room and the spare room. We didn't ship ours because we didn't know how big these houses were going to be and we weren't sure if our big beds would even fit.

After strolling around the shops we headed into the PX and picked up a few things before checking out the beds. Once we decided what we wanted, we found out that they no longer ship to Heidelberg. We have to go to our Heidelberg PX and make the order there. So we wrote down the item numbers of what we want and headed on our way. Even though we didn't leave knowing our beds were going to be delivered soon, we still enjoyed the trip and seeing this big PX. We had lunch at Chilli's and then headed back to Heidelberg. I'm looking forward to when my car arrives and we can decide to go places without relying on others.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out and watching TV shows as usual. We did start a couple new shows...The Firm and Homeland. Still too early to tell if we will keep watching them though.

Sunday: We slept in which was nice, then my wife made me breakfast :) We didn't do a whole lot today, in fact the highlight of the day was walking to The Strong Hold gym and working out. The rest of the day and night consisted of poking around on the Internet and watching TV shows while hanging out with my wife.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Better Prepared - (Germany) Day 25

Kind of hard to tell, but that is a the view of the fire truck from our window. 
The fire department had to come and shut off the alarm for our stairwell.

Last night just after falling asleep…well it was more like the point where I was in-between being awake and asleep…I hear this strange noise like an alarm and my first thought was that my cell phone had a strange ring or something. I then came to and realized there was a fire alarm going off in the stairwell of our unit. Our units have a stairway leading up with a total of 6 apartments (3 on each side). We are on the third floor, I looked out the window and saw a couple of people outside already. My wife and I threw on some sweats and headed out as well. Our neighbors said this unfortunately is a common occurrence, the fire alarm seems to go off without reason at various times. Great! We waited for the fire department to come and turn it off before heading back up. So much for a good night's sleep.

This morning's PT ended up being a spinning class. My boss picked me up and we drove to Campbell Barracks…this after a quick turn around to get my ID card I forgot. Once there since it was raining we ended up going inside the gym, and after a few minutes of everyone in the racquetball getting ready to do some sort of group exercise the platoon sergeant just told everyone to join the spinning class. It was my first time in such a class, and if my legs weren't still so sore from PT the last two days I would have been able to get a lot more out of it. We finished up and SPC Matrix gave me a ride home, then picked me up for work call which was at 0900.

I prepared myself a little better for today. Soon after arriving to work I had to fill out a sheet detailing what I will be doing this weekend. This is a requirement which I have heard about from the guys in the office. They all hate it with a passion. It seems pretty stupid to have to explain everything you'll be doing, we're all adults. I guess there has been trouble in the past with people getting drunk or getting in fights, now if they have this paper and you get in trouble somewhere, I guess you can get in more trouble if it's not on your paper. Pretty stupid, but such is life in the army. After filling that out I headed over to the shoppette and purchased a Stars and Stripes newspaper as well as a Mac Life magazine. Some reading material to keep me occupied instead of just sitting and staring at the wall. I wish I could take my iPad in to read, but there are no electronic devices allowed in our office unfortunately. I spent the morning reading every single article in the newspaper making sure to take my time even scanning the classifieds for the heck of it to pass the time.

Lunch was the usual…Subway in the food court. I then headed back to the office and started on my magazine. Surprisingly we were told we could leave early. We had to clean up before leaving (sweep, mop, wipe down the desks and take out the trash), but that was done pretty quick and we headed out and my boss gave me a ride home.

It was nice spending some time with my wife. We didn't do much even though it was a Friday night. Watched some TV shows, I read some of my book and then we headed to bed. We are planning to get up early tomorrow and ride with my boss and his family to Ramstein Air Force Base to check out their PX.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ruckin' It - (Germany) Day 24

Going on the Ruck and ready for the cold morning

This morning's PT was a ruck march. My boss picked me up at 0550 and we headed to the bowling alley on PHV. I hear ruck marches are the only thing we do on PHV as far as PT goes, everything else is done on Campbell Barracks where the office is. I was never told what to stick in my ruck, so I filled it up with the lightest stuff I could find. I personally think ruck marches are stupid and my time would be better spent in the gym, but that is beside the point. I stuck my sleeping bag, my sleeping mat and a blanket in there. It was full but still pretty light. I was also able to better prepare for this ruck vs. the rucks I had to do in basic. I was able to wear my converse boots which were 100 times better than the issued boots I had in basic. I also wore two pairs of socks.

We formed up in the bowling alley parking lot and grounded our rucks while we did warm up exercises and stretches. We then put on the rucks and marched around the entire post, pretty much the exact same walk my wife and I do together. Once finished we grounded our gear and did our cool down exercises and stretches. This was a much better ruck experience than I've previously had!

I went home and got ready, then I was picked up by SPC Matrix for work. We had Sergeant's time training today. In the normal army this is a regular occurrence on Thursdays…I just haven't been in the normal army yet. We started at 0900 and the sergeant leading the class went over different reports that had to be done after various situations such as getting attacked when on patrol. Stuff that I should never ever have to do being a 25B, but they have to train us on something during this time. We finished up about 1030 and headed to the office.

This is where I did my usual thing…sat in a chair and stared at the wall. For lunch I headed to the small food court and had Subway…my usual. I then made an appointment for 1420 at the soldier's wellness clinic. I figured since I am not doing anything in the office, I should have a rash that has been bugging me on my chest looked at. Not only may they fix it, but my wife will quit telling me I need to have it checked out. I sat in the chair and stared at the wall until it was time to leave for the appointment. My boss drove me over to the clinic and I was quickly checked out and given a topical ointment to apply daily. If it doesn't get better in a week I have to go back and get steroids. First time I've used the army medical for anything other than a checkup. It's nice that everything was free!

Back at the office I sat in the chair and was able to read The Army Times instead of stare at the wall which was nice. We then cleaned up and were released about 1630. My boss gave me a ride home and I spent the evening with my wife hanging out and watching our shows.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Company PT - (Germany) Day 23

Got my Nike Combat Boots in the mail today. They are amazingly light and I've only heard great things about them. Looking forward to wearing them tomorrow!!

This morning I had company PT at 0630, unfortunately I had a horrible nights sleep. I don't know why, I guess because I was a little nervous about my first day of company PT. I tossed and turned all night long watching my remaining window of sleep time get smaller and smaller.

A co-worker that lives in the building next to me picked me up and took me to the formation which was actually on Campbell Barracks, where I work as well. The co-worker (SPC Matrix) picked me up about 0600 in front of my barracks in civilian PT clothes because we were going to run off post. With everything that can happen while in a foreign country it's best not to draw attention to yourself off post…like being in uniform.

It was in the mid 20's, I was so cold standing in the formation, I was starting to shake. I had on sweats and and long sleeved shirt with a pullover on top. We finally started the stretching and warm up exercises before being turned loose on our run. We paired up with another person and took off, my boss paired up with me. I made the 4 mile run without stopping, but I can tell you that my legs felt like they had lead in them. I'm still very much out of shape and it's going to be a painful process getting back.

After the run SPC Matrix dropped me off at my place around 0730 and said he'd pick me up again at 0830 for work. My wife had already woke up and had the coffee ready along with breakfast…I love her!

The work day was very similar to yesterday…I sat in a chair and looked at the wall while occasionally looking at the clock. Every once in a while I would engage in small talk with my co-workers. I would also go out for smoke breaks occasionally even though I don't smoke, it just gave me an excuse to get up and walk outside to chat with the guys. Until I get a security memo signed, I cannot get the code to get inside the office or go into "The Vault". This basically means I can't do much except sit there, so that's what I do…and I try and do a good job. I tried out three different chairs throughout the day in various spots. What an exciting day!

The highlight of my day came at noon when we had to go to a required EO Sensing session. My group was for E-4s and below. It was basically a place where people could raise general concerns about the work environment. Are people treated fairly? Do you like to come to work? How are your superiors? Questions like these came up and there were a number of people complaining that the higher ranking NCOs don't get punished the same as junior enlisted. Take a DUI for instance, if a junior enlisted gets one they get the maximum punishment, where as higher NCOs get a slap on the wrist. Bad leadership was also thrown around. I had nothing to say as I haven't been here long enough. I have other issues about the army in general, but nothing that really pertained to that meeting. Not sure what, if anything will come from it though. I guess we'll see.

My boss gave me a ride home and I spent the evening preparing for tomorrow's PT…a ruck march, which I freakin' hate with a passion! I then spent time with my wife watching our shows and hanging out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another Day Another Job - (Germany) Day 22

Woke up today at 0700 and got ready for the day. A sergeant from my office picked me up and we headed into work. Once in the office everyone started doing their own thing and I sat next to another new guy that I had been in-processing with. I showed him a couple things like how to check your correspondence course hours on his ERB as well as how to check his current promotion points on the promotion point worksheet. After a few minutes they had one of the sergeants in the office start showing me the help desk software and how it works. Then all of a sudden the first sergeant comes out and tells him to stop…I've been moved to another unit. WTF? I was a little surprised, but I have no choice in the matter. I had to follow the first sergeant to my "new" unit. I guess they had been asking for more people and since I was the last one in my office and hadn't really started yet, they got me.

Once I walked into my new office my heart kind of sank a bit. Instead of working in NetOps (Network Operations) all I can tell is that there will be no real IT work done here. My suspicions were confirmed after getting introduced to everyone and then being told my new job. Without going into detail I'm going to be a supply clerk that issues as well as destroys cryptographic keys. It's still in the signal battalion, but not really the kind of work I signed up for. In fact since I've joined the army I haven't done hardly any IT related work. I feel myself losing any high tech edge I used to have…it's slowly slipping away day by day. People will say to study and read to keep up, but there is nothing like real world "hands on" experience in your day to day job to keep your skills up. Dealing with the various problems that arise and finding the solutions help you learn new skills, and that only happens when you're in the middle of it.

Even though I was pretty disappointed I decided to look at this situation positively. The people seem pretty nice as far as first impressions go. My boss who is an E-5 sergeant bought my lunch and seemed like a genuine nice guy. As far as my first day on the job go…90% of it was just sitting in a chair looking at the wall. There are a total of 3 computers that we can use and there are I believe 6 people that use them. With me being the lowest ranking person, I don't think I'll even be able to check my email very often. I gave all my personal information for their data sheet and also received a new alert roster with everyone's names and phone numbers.

For some reason our company XO had to do an inventory of sensitive items and came in close to 1700, so we didn't leave until almost 1800. My new boss drove me home and came up to meet my wife before taking off. I start company PT tomorrow…we'll see how that goes.

I guess I'll be trying to accomplish my other goals I set for myself when I joined the army while I'm here…finish my bachelors degree and see the world.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day) - (Germany) Days 18 - 21

The Old Bridge with Heidelberg Castle in the background

Friday: We slept in until about 0800 and then ate breakfast. We wanted to make sure that we got out a little this weekend because we haven't left this post since New Years Eve together. Unfortunately the day started off with rain, so we quickly made our way to the joint Burger King/Anthony's Pizza establishment next to the gate. We had some pizza which I don't think we'll be doing again. Eight dollars and change is a little too much for a meal deal that doesn't really even fill you up. Luckily by the time we finished lunch the rain had stopped. I promptly called a taxi and we headed outside the post.

Taxis are not allowed on post, so when one is called we have to walk outside the gate and make our way about a quarter mile down the road to where they will pick us up. We headed down to Bismarckplatz, which is a central hub in downtown Heidelberg. It's connected to Hauptstrasse which is a main street filled with a number of stores along the way. It's pretty much an outdoor shopping mall on old cobblestone streets. We made our way down looking at stores, looking at people, and sipping on a Starbucks coffee.

The architecture is what you see in all the German postcards and such. We made our way to the old bridge over the Neckar River. The stone bridge in this location was first constructed in 1786, but like many bridges in Germany it was destroyed during World War II. It has since been reconstructed and retains the old look and feel. Looking up from the old bridge you can see Heidelberg Castle.

After taking some pictures we made our way to the castle. Unsure of how to get there we just headed towards it until we saw signs. There was a walkway that we took instead of the cable car. The castle is very impressive and was fun to check out. The courtyard and everything around the castle is free, but you have to pay 5 Euros for admission to get inside. Once inside we were impressed, but also a little disappointed at how little we were able to see. There is a Keg room containing "Das Grosse Fass" The Big Keg, which is amazingly huge. There is also some great views of the city below. They do offer guided tours which allow you to see even more of the castle, which I think we will definitely do next time we visit. This time we just wanted to do the basics and check everything out.

We headed back and then caught a taxi back to PHV. Once back at our place we both realized how tired we were. We did a lot of walking around and both felt exhausted. Until we get our car this isn't a trip we'll be able to do too often. Round trip the taxi cost a little over 30 Euro which is close to $40. We have to keep that in mind anytime we want to venture out.

I think I mentioned earlier, but I'll mention it once again. I'll be posting pictures on this blog every once in a while, but I'll also be placing the majority of my Germany Experience on the Flickr site I made. (Edit: since Flickr is now limiting the number of photos that can be uploaded without a paid membership, I've begun moving them to Google Photos and deleting them from my Flickr account)

Saturday: Today was truly a lazy day. We both didn't do much of anything except play around on the Internet or watch TV shows on my computer. Honestly I can't even write anything more because not much else happened!

Sunday: We didn't do a whole lot today either, except jog to The Strong Hold to get a work out and then jog back. I took it easy on the workout because I'm so out of shape and I know I'll be going back to normal PT pretty soon. I don't want to die when I start doing company PT, but I don't want to be too sore either. I'm trying to balance and ease my way back into shape.

The only other exciting thing we did was make a trip to the commissary. We make frequent trips because we don't have a car and we only grab what we can hand carry back to our place. It has been such a blessing having a kitchen and having my wife. Even though we don't have much as far as kitchen supplies go, she does an amazing job of making us meals. For a year in Korea, if I wasn't eating out, I was eating in my room from microwavable food. That can get pretty boring after a while, and I cherish every bite I get now.

Monday: Monday was an almost exact carbon copy of Sunday. We have the day off for Martin Luther King. We worked out and then watched TV shows. I watched UFC 142, which had some awesome knockouts. I also ate some more great home cooked meals!

I contacted my sponsor and found out he had staff duty tonight, so he will not be picking me up tomorrow. Instead I'll have one of the sergeants from the office picking me up, but the good news is that it will be a little after 0900, so I'll keep the same schedule I've been on since I've been here. No PT in the morning…yet. Not exactly sure what I'll be doing tomorrow…I guess we'll see.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Workin' from Home - (Germany) Day 17

Woke up this morning at 0700 and readied myself as usual. I was in uniform and ready to go, but I had no idea what was in store for me today. I didn't have any actual appointments, so I just started going through the mandatory online training that was part of my in-processing packet from the company. I already had a completion certificate for the GAT (Global Assessment Tool) Survey, so I just emailed that to my AKO address to print off later. I went through Anti-Terrorism Level 1, SHARP (Sexual Harassment) training, and Accident Avoidance training. Most of these require you to either read or watch videos and then answer a quiz in order to get your certificate of completion. There were two others, but one required a CAC card login and the other I was unable to find.

I then ate lunch with my wife and decided I should call a sergeant in my office to check in. The sergeant gave me a quick safety brief for the 4 day weekend and told me to get out and enjoy it. Woohoo…my entire day of work consisted of a little time in front of my home computer getting through some online training. The funny thing was that I was in uniform the whole time, but never left home.

My wife and I headed to the gym and I went pretty easy on myself. I can't believe how out of shape I'm in. I think I have the rest of the 4 day to try and get back on track a little before I have to start doing PT with the company. We'll see how that goes.

My wife cooked an awesome dinner and we had a little wine with it. We watched a show called The Departed. I was expecting quite a bit more from the movie. Our experience is limited because we're watching it on my little 13" laptop screen (oh how I can't wait until our household goods arrive and I can finally watch things on a big screen TV complete with surround sound). Physical limitations aside, the movie was packed with stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and many more but it jumped around quite a bit in the beginning and I never really got into the movie. The story line looked like it had potential too…good guys that have an informant in with the bad guys and bad guys who have a crooked cop with the good guys. I can say it may be worth a Netflix rental, but nothing I would keep in my permanent collection.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I can now have some Fahrvergnügen - (Germany) Day 16

Woke up at 0700 again this morning and readied myself for the day. Lately I have no idea when I'll be picked up, so I just try and be ready by 0800 and see what happens. This morning was not much different. I was ready and then my wife and I watched another episode of Sons of Anarchy…a great way to start the day. Then I skimmed through the study guide for the drivers test. I received a call about 0900 and was told a girl from my office would be picking me up. This is one of the girls we met on New Years Eve, so at least I have met her before.

We headed to CIF and picked up all my issues gear. It was a pretty simple process since I already have a number of items that were shipped with my stuff from Korea, they only issued me some basic items such as a ruck sack, some wet weather gear, a sleeping mat and of course my body armor. We put all the stuff in the van and brought it back to my house. The girl from my office ran some errands before coming back and picking up my wife and I to take us back to Central Processing. Central Processing is also the same place that has the PX and other shops, since my wife was getting cabin fever the girl in our office invited her to come along. I had to take my test to drive a POV (Privately Owned Vehicle) in Germany.

We all ate lunch together and then I headed to take my test and my wife checked out the various shopping venues. I thought I was going to just take a test, but it turned out to be a little instruction via a movie, then some PowerPoint slides before the test. I am not complaining because I kept hearing about people that failed the test multiple times before passing, so I wanted all the extra instruction as possible. Some German driving laws are a bit different than in the US:

You can get fined if you leave your car parked and unsecured. So for instance you leave your car unlocked and have some valuables in it and they get stolen…not only are you losing the valuables, but if you report it, you can get a fine for not securing your car.

All drivers must carry a reflective triangle and a first aid kit under the passenger seat or in the glove compartment. If you get caught without these you can get fined.

Do not run out of gas on the autobahn…if you get caught…you will get fined.

The German police can use physical force to test you for drugs or alcohol if needed.

There are a lot more, but I don't have all night to write them all out…LOL. Basically a lot of the laws and general rules are similar. You have to focus on the various road signs and the "right of way" because it's a little different. That makes up the majority of the test, which I passed with flying colors…only missing 3. The entire process took about 3 hours

The surprise came when I went to get my license in the next room over…I had to wear my glasses in order to read the chart. My eyesight is going downhill.

I met up with my wife and the girl from my office and she brought us back home. We ended up walking to the commissary and then eating dinner before watching a few shows. Not sure what tomorrow has in store for me as I've now finished everything except for the rescheduled briefings in central processing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Strong Hold - (Germany) Day 15

Government efficiency at it's best....I waited pretty much the entire day to get served

Woke up today at 0700 and got ready for the day. I still wasn't sure exactly when I was going to be picked up, but after the sergeant dropped me off yesterday I had a better feeling that I wouldn't be forgotten again today. At a little after 0900 the sergeant came and picked me up and we headed to Central Processing. I had one place to go…the ID card section. I grabbed a ticket a little after 1000 and saw my number was 31…after about 15 minutes I heard them call number 10. That's when I knew this was going to be a pretty long day. The sergeant that picked me up texted me about a half hour later and I went out to talk to him. We headed to the hospital where I was able to in-process at two places. He then dropped me back off at Central Processing.

I waited for a while and by that time they were somewhere in the teens, the lone person working said she was going to take an hour and a half lunch, then told everyone to come back at 1300. I headed over to the food court and had some Taco Bell, then went to the USO and hung out there using their wireless internet on my iPhone until 1300. I sat back down in the waiting area and watched as more and more people kept coming in. I knew there was no hope for them to be seen today. It really amazed me how ineffective this government office is. Time went by and I passed it by chatting with my wife and playing Words With Friends on my iPhone. The people waiting were starting to grumble and complain. The manager then came out and said that the lone worker is a contract worker, so she has to leave at 1600…no exceptions. So he said anyone over 31 should just leave and come back tomorrow.

This pissed some folks off and the ones that didn't leave right away stood in line to talk to the manager…finally they all left in defeat except for a few who just needed PIN resets. As I saw my hope diminishing as 1600 drew near, my number was called with 10 minutes to spare. I headed in and after checking my ID card, she found there was a certificate that was invalid…so I had to get a new one issued. I'm kind of glad because my last one was from basic and I was in the PT uniform…I also smiled on this one.

Finally done with this in-processing, I met up with the sergeant from my office and we headed back to the company to join the end of the day formation. I was introduced to everyone and had to stand up front. We then took off and I was brought back home.

Yesterday my wife and I ran across a website that showed all the fitness rooms at all the posts in Heidelberg. For PHV they showed "The Strong Hold" and said it was in the Village Pavilion. I had my wife make it her mission to search out this place, because the little gym I spoke about earlier that our sponsor showed us was not at the Village Pavilion. My wife did find it and we both headed there after I got off work to get a workout finally. It's no wonder we never saw this place before. It's actually underneath the Village Pavilion and is not very easy to find. It's not too big and not crowded (probably because it's hard to find). It has cardio and nautilus equipment. I wish we would have known about this place earlier as I would have tried to start getting back into shape a lot sooner. At least now we know there is a place to work out now on PHV!

I spent the rest of the night studying for the drivers test I have to take tomorrow and also slipped in a couple Sons of Anarchy as well.

Don't Forget Me - (Germany) Day 14

Woke up at 0700 today just to get ready and start the day. After eating and hanging out with my wife for a bit, I started to wonder when I was going to be picked up. I had talked with my sponsor last night via e-mail and he said someone would be by to pick me up. Unfortunately he is teaching a security+ class all week, so he will not be able to help me out at all. I have an appointment at noon in Central Processing for more briefings. I also don't have any contact numbers except for my sponsor, so I just kind of hung out and waited.

As noon approached and there was nobody in sight I gave up hope of making my appointment. It wasn't until almost 1300 when I received a call from a sergeant in my office telling me that he's on his way. When we arrived at Central Processing he came in and they had to reschedule my appointment to 23rd. He left me there so I could try and finish up my walk-in processing.

I only had to go to housing and DEERs. Housing was pretty simple, I went in and they signed my sheet. I also turned in the discrepancy list while I was there. The discrepancy list is basically a list of damages we found while walking around our home. We have to document them so when we move out, we are not charged for them. Everything was in pretty good shape, just some minor scratches on the floor and such.

I then went to DEERs and sat…and waited…and waited. I started to wonder if anyone was even working in the back because there had been no movement. I had my number (45) and was patiently watching the TV in the waiting room with a number of other folks. About 20 minutes later they called the next number….24. I got up and walked out. I was able to pay my Internet bill, pick up some stuff from the exchange and waste some more time before heading back. I sat back down in the waiting room of DEERs and after about 15 minutes I hear them call number 29. This is crazy! A little bit later a guy came out and said they only had one person working so it was highly unlikely that all of us would be serviced before the end of the day. Looks like I'll try again tomorrow.

I called the sergeant that gave me a ride and he picked me up, then took me back to the office for a bit. I ended up catching a ride with a different sergeant to my place. The wife and I then enjoyed dinner together and watched some more Sons of Anarchy…what a great show!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Days 12 & 13

The trash and recycling stations for each of the stairwell units

Saturday: Today we had thought about venturing out and exploring the city of Heidelberg, but the weather changed our minds. It was raining and pretty much a miserable dreary day outside. This naturally kept us inside our new place with my little laptop as our entertainment system. It's strange living with just the bare essentials. We have whatever we could pack in our two suitcases and the few things we picked up at the recycle center as far as dishes and cookware go. We also have the loaner furniture which I'm grateful for. There is a place called The Lending Closet which has quite a bit of stuff we can take out on loan, but the problem is that it's located at another part of the post (the shopping center). My wife was making chili for lunch and went to open a can of beans only to realize that we don't have a can opener…d'oh! I had to walk to the commissary and purchase one. It will be nice once all our stuff arrives.

Since we were staying inside we decided on watching Sons of Anarchy. I have all the seasons on my computer and we sat down and completed the first season, then made a dent in the second. It's a great series about the daily lives of folks in a motorcycle club.

The only other major event happened when there was a knock on our door. Strange…we don't know anyone yet that lives here. I opened it to find who I'm going to call the recycling Nazi. He announced himself as the supreme stairwell floor commander...or something to that affect. He said he found a number of recyclable items in the trash. We learned at in-processing that Germany takes recycling to the extreme. We had been separating the usual suspects such as plastic bottles. We also had a large bag from our recent trip to the PX and it had a few things in it that are supposed to be separated, such as Styrofoam. Each stairwell of the housing have six units in them. Each of these stairwells also have a designated trash/recycling area. In order to throw anything away or recycle, you have to take your house key and use it to gain access. Needless to say we are going to have to do a better job of separating our recyclable items.

Sunday: Today the weather was a little better, but we decided not to travel outside of the post because there is not much open on Sundays in Germany. Instead we did the usual…watched some TV shows. We decided to get out for a bit and take a walk around PHV. The post is not that big as we found out during our walk. When we first arrived, I was a little disoriented and had no clue how to get anywhere. It was nice to get out for a bit and walk around, it's the only exercise I've been able to get since arriving here. We were not quite sure exactly what was available on PHV until recently. PHV as I noted earlier has a commissary, a movie theatre, a library, schools (elementary & middle), a restaurant, a shoppette, a bowling alley and a youth center. There isn't too much else besides housing. I originally thought there was a PX here as well, but unfortunately I was mistaken. For everything else we have to travel to the various other posts that are scattered around town.

Wondering how I was going to get to the central processing tomorrow, I emailed my sponsor. He has to teach a security+ class all week next week, so I knew he would not be able to pick me up. I received a call later from a sergeant in our battalion. He asked if I'd been to a PT formation yet…no. Do I have all my winter PT clothes…yes. Then he asks if my sponsor was the only way I got to and from in-processing last week…yes. A long pause…then he states that he thinks he'll just give me some time with my wife in the morning and call sometime tomorrow to let me know who is going to pick me up. So I guess I'll wait and see.

The rest of the night we video chatted with family and watched some more shows…a pretty laid back weekend.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Coffee Rations - (Germany) Day 11

This morning I was planning on being picked up by my sponsor at 0920 for a 1000 CIF (Central Issuing Facility) appointment where I would be issued all the gear I need while stationed in Germany. Instead there was a knock on our door at 0840. I answered the door in my undershirt and my pants with no shoes or socks. The specialist that dropped me off yesterday then asks if I'm ready to go…I laugh and said no and tell him my sponsor was going to pick me up at 0930. So he calls my sponsor and they talk for quite a while. Turns out my sponsor is off on pass today…he seems like a great guy, but also a little spacey too. So they decided this specialist that was here will take me to CIF and then bring me back with all my gear. So I hurry up and get ready, then we take off.

There were two others from our battalion in the van and we had to head to the office first. On the way there, the guys were talking about a barracks inspection this morning and what a pain in the butt it was. I hated that back in Korea. I'm so glad I'm in family housing now and I don't have to worry about that crap any more.

Once we arrived at the office we found out that the van we were in had to be used by someone else. There was a bit of confusion and we stood around for a while before a sergeant in the office told us to use his personal car. Once we arrived the others started their walk-in appointments and I headed to CIF and was given a sheet showing what I should still have and then told to check it over and sign it. I had no idea if I had all the stuff listed on there, so they let me take the sheet so I could compare it to my list I was given after leaving Korea. Most of the stuff is being shipped at the moment, but the final list I had in Korea shows what I had left. It's important to make sure there isn't anything on the list that shouldn't be because if there is, you will end up paying for it in the end. We left and I rescheduled for another appointment next week.

The specialist drove me back to my place and that was the extent of my work day today. My wife and I walked to the commissary and did some shopping. As we were checking out we tried to buy coffee, but forgot that it is a rationed item here in Germany. We forgot our ration cards and were unable to buy it. In Korea they tracked everything electronically via your ID card, but here in Germany they do it the old fashioned way…they put a little check mark on a little piece of paper that is your ration card. Alcohol, tobacco, and coffee are all rationed here in Germany. Being a couple from Seattle we are used to having our coffee…we'll see how this rationing goes.

We ate lunch back at our place and then headed back to the commissary once again with ration card in hand to pick up our beloved coffee. We then headed to the library just to check it out. On the way back we stopped by the "gym" here at PHV. The gym is a pretty poor excuse for a gym. It is basically a room that they have aerobic and yoga classes in. There are no weights or cardio machines…just a room. I've never been on any military base that didn't have a real gym…or multiple gyms for that matter. I'm a little bummed because I wanted to start getting back into the work out routine.

Back at home we ate dinner and watched "The Green Lantern". I've heard so many bad things about it I had very low expectations for it. The movie was average, but not as bad as I was expecting. We watched it on a Netflix DVD, which I'm glad to be able to start using again. I have a queue of 448 movies ready for us to start watching and now that I have a mailing address once again, we can proceed.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Health and Wellness - (Germany) Day 10

Goofing around at the PowerZone during an extended break while in-processing

This morning I was picked up by my sponsor at 0820. We headed to the main processing facility once again. The briefings started at 0845 and today's topic was health and wellness. We were briefed on diet and exercise, but unlike the other days which were just "Death By PowerPoint", today we actually all had to get up and be involved. After the brief we had to line up for two stations. The first station measured our body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI). The next station took our blood pressure. We were then briefed about the results…all of mine fell within the normal category, so I guess I'm doing OK.

The next briefing was given by the self proclaimed "Condom Queen". This lady came in with a bag that had various condoms all over it. She was pretty funny and went through her "shock and awe" presentation showing us all the gross stuff that STDs can do to you with some very graphic photos that I could have done without. I don't care to see penis, vaginas and butts all messed up with diseases. During the brief anyone that answered a question from her was given a condom from her condom bag. She had various colors, flavors, and even glow in the dark ones.

We waited a bit for the next brief, but they never showed up so we were let go early around 1100. I headed to work on getting the rest of my in-processing done. We have a sheet that has a number of things we need to get checked off before we can finish in-processing. These briefs are part of them and they have specific times, but there are numerous others that require no appointments and we can just go in and get the in-processing done. I was able to turn in my medical and dental records. I finished Tri-Care, Transportation, Army Community Services, and also the drivers licensing office which set a date for me to take my test to get a license so I can drive here in Germany.

I ate lunch with a guy from my battalion and a young girl that sat next to me. We headed to Popeye's and then wasted some time at the PowerZone and the book store. This young girl is only 18 and is here on her first duty assignment. It blows my mind when I think that I have a daughter who is only 3 years younger. I still think of her as this young child, but in three years she is going to be out and about in the world…pretty crazy!

A specialist I hadn't met yet from our battalion came and picked us up and dropped me off at my place. I was home about 1530. I guess I'm lucky because the other guy always has to go to the PT formation each morning just to check in and the evening formation as well. He also has to go to his office each day, but doesn't have a computer account yet so he can't do much.

Once home I walked to the commissary to pick up some items and then had dinner with my wife. I then started to read my study guide for the drivers test that I'll have to take next week. There is a lot of stuff I have to learn. I hear a lot of people fail it the first time…I'm hoping I'm not one of those!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Moving In - (Germany) Day 9

This morning we had planned to walk from our temporary room to our new place with our remaining bags. Once we started getting ready we could hear the wind howling outside and after taking a look my wife asked if I could call our sponsor and have him come pick us up and drive us over to the new unit. I didn't argue with her because not only was it very windy, it was also raining. Not that the rain bothers me much being from Seattle, but having to bring all our crap with us in the rain wasn't too exciting for me. After talking to my sponsor he said no problem.

We arrived at the new unit right after 0745 and the inspector was already at the door waiting. Luckily he hadn't left yet. Once in we went over everything with the inspector and found that the dishwasher does not work. He also marked the minor scratches on the floor and checked everything else out in the place. When trying to show us the storage in the attic and the basement he found that we had a key to another unit's basement storage and we had no place in the attic. I guess we have to go to housing and get that squared away now.

My sponsor arrived again to take me to more in-processing, so I had to leave and let my wife sign any papers. She also had to wait for our loaner furniture to be delivered. I headed off to in-processing and prepared myself for another day of "Death by PowerPoints". We had a number of briefs including Drug & Alcohol, Fire Prevention, Safety, EO, EEO, IG,  OPSEC, Crime Prevention, & CID. Lots of acronyms I know…the day mainly consisted of people telling us to be careful, don't drink and drive, don't sexually harass others, and don't do drugs. There was a girl next to me that kept nodding off which was actually a little entertaining to watch…LOL.

The briefings ended at 1500 and my sponsor picked me up and drove to our new place to pick up my wife as well. We then headed to the PX and then the PowerZone to pick up needed supplies for our new place. Without any of our household goods, we had to buy stuff like curtains, shower curtains, coffee maker, microwave, bed sheets and blanket + pillows. After blocking the checkout lane long enough to start pissing people off (why they only had one lane open I don't know) we headed back to our new place…our new home.

I went about getting the cable modem hooked up and the Internet connection up and running. I have my priorities! I then put up all the curtains so we could have a little privacy and then sorted out all the rest of the stuff we purchased. We settled down for a bit and had dinner while watching Sons of Anarchy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Like a Boss - (Germany) Day 8

A photo of the unit we chose. This picture is from the living room looking
into the dining area and the kitchen off to the right.

This morning my sponsor called about 0645. I was already up, but just not out of bed yet. Since we didn't meet up yesterday as planned, we never made any time for him to pick me up today. He said he'd be here to pick me up at 0820. I got up and prepared myself for the day.

Once my sponsor picked me up, we headed to the main in-processing place for the post. I've said before that USAG Baden-Württemberg is broken up into several pieces. I live on PHV, work at Campbell Barracks, and the shopping area also has the in-processing center for the post. My sponsor dropped me off and planned to meet back up with me at noon when my briefings were over.

I headed to a classroom type setting and ended up sitting in the front row. Then came the "Death By PowerPoint" in-processing briefings. Today we had the commissary, customs, tax relief, USO, AAFES, Environmental, Community Bank, TKS, BOSS, and TARP. A couple such as Red Cross and Claims didn't show up. The most interesting one was TARP which had to do with spies and such. Similar to the ones we had in Korea, this briefing gave us a few examples of what has happened not only around the world but close to this area as well. We went over what to look out for and how to report it. It turns out that most of the traitors and people working on the inside give a number of signs that should be reported.

Another brief that I enjoyed was the BOSS brief. The briefer was a pretty entertaining guy who was unlike most briefers who just stand up at the front and read what's on the slide in front of you. This sergeant was genuinely excited about being with BOSS. For those of you who don't know BOSS stands for "Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers" When I was in Korea, they threw in unaccompanied soldiers as well. The briefer here said that he wants everyone including families to get involved. BOSS has a number of volunteer activities, stuff and activities to enhance the lives of soldiers and boost morale, and they do tours and trips as well. The tours part interested me the most. I want to make the most of my time while stationed in Germany. I doubt I'll have another opportunity in my life where I'm getting paid to live in Europe. I want to visit as many places as possible and soak in every experience I can while I'm here.

After the briefings I met up with my sponsor and we headed to the food court for lunch. We then went to TKS which is the local Internet, TV and phone provider here on post. I signed up for an Internet and phone package. I haven't had a normal land line in years, but this one comes with their cheapest package and it turns out that all calls to the US are free. What's funny is that even though calls to the US are free, calls around Germany cost extra per minute. We get the basic AFN channels for free, so I didn't bother getting anything extra.

My sponsor and I then went to "The Power Zone" which is basically the electronics store on post and I bought a pre-paid cell phone. We'll use this and once our household goods arrive I'll jailbreak my iPhone and use the pre-paid SIM card in my iPhone. I want to wait until I get my desktop computer though, so I can transfer all my crap to it from my phone. We'll do the same with my wife's as well. The contract phone's here are pretty expensive and I've heard that it's hard to get out of the contracts and there can be surprises if you're not careful.

We headed back to our room and picked up some of our luggage along with my wife and took it over to our new unit. We then headed to the recycling station on post where they also have a place that lends out items. We picked up some of the very basics such as pots and pans with a few dishes to get us by until our household goods arrive. We are scheduled for the pre-inspection tomorrow and our loaner furniture is scheduled to arrive shortly after. We have to check out of our temporary room by 1100 tomorrow.

My sponsor dropped us back off at our room and we watched a couple "Sons of Anarchy" while eating dinner and hanging out. I received an email that said my shipment of my stuff from Korea arrived today. I gave them a call to schedule delivery. They said it would be this coming Monday between 0800 and 1600. Really? That is worse than the cable repair guy!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (New Years) - (Germany) Days 4-7

Me and my new co-workers

Friday: It's a 4-day weekend because of New Years Day. This morning we slept in until about 0900. I am still not acclimated to the new time zone yet. I woke up at 0400 and tossed and turned until about 0600 before getting back to sleep. We had a pretty low key day and just hung out in our room for the first half of the day. We tried to figure out our budget, but it's a little hard when I'm not sure exactly what I'll be making with all the changes in my pay. What we do know is that it's going to be very tight until my wife can get a job. That is going to be priority number one once we get moved into the new unit. We walked around Patrick Henry Village and stopped by our new unit so we could walk around it and make a list of items we need to buy for it. I was surprised to see with the outlets that it had an equal number of American outlets and the European outlets for power. When I was reading about moving here I read that some of the places don't have many at all, so I was pretty happy to see that we will have plenty. I was not looking forward to buying little transformers so I could hook up my TV and such.

We then went to the commissary to pick up some minor things to last until we move into our new unit. We can't really do much because we don't have a car and we have no idea how to even get to town. We watched UFC 140 on my laptop which I had been waiting to watch for a while. It was a great fight card from start to finish!

Saturday: (New Years Eve)…We had an extremely mellow day for the most part. My wife and I slept in and then just hung out in our PJs eating breakfast and watching some shows. The weather outside kept switching from overcast to drizzle, so we never even ventured outside all day. It wasn't until about 1900 that we ended up leaving our room.

We were originally going to meet up with my sponsor in a cab right outside of the main gate to head out, but it turned out that a sergeant he is friends with came and picked us up and then picked up my sponsor to head out. The first place we stopped at was actually an army bar called "Slapshots". The plan was to have a couple drinks at reasonable prices before heading out on the German economy where everything is a bit more expensive because of the exchange rate. The place was OK and after a bit we met some more folks from my office. Before long we headed out via a cab to downtown Heidelberg. I was excited to finally get out and see the city!

It was hard to see much because it was already dark, but what I did see made me excited to come back during the day sometime. The history of this old university town is going to be wonderful to explore. We all headed to a place called "Shooters" where a number of interesting shots kept being passed around and consumed. At this point was the moment my new co-workers decided to initiate me into the 43 Signal Battalion. I had to first give my consent to the bartender for the next drink "The Monica Lewinsky"…this in and of itself gave me some concern. I've never had to give consent before having a drink before. The next thing I know the bartender tells me to close my eyes, tilt my head back and open my mouth. The bartender then says get ready to swallow and do not stop! I'm thinking to myself "oh crap…what am I getting myself into?" and proceed to follow his instructions. I felt something rubber in my mouth and then liquid started pouring down my throat. I hear the bartender tell me to keep swallowing and don't stop. My eyes are closed and I'm doing the best I can to just keep going and going. Finally I finish up and open my eyes to see some rubber phallic contraption connected to a bottle of beer. I just chugged an entire bottle in a few seconds.

We hung out at Shooters for a while longer before heading out to another bar they called "The Metro". We basically just "people watched" there for a while until it was close to midnight. We then headed through crowds of people to what they call "The Old Bridge" which itself was packed full of people. Even though we still had about 10 minutes before the new year people were already shooting off fireworks. They were coming from all directions. From the middle of the old bridge we were able to look up and see Heidelberg Castle illuminated in lights which was a pretty impressive site.

So here we were, my wife, me, my sponsor, and a co-worker all on the bridge with fireworks going off literally all around us. It was pretty crazy and unlike anything I've ever experienced. People would ignite a sparkler and just throw it in the middle of the crowd. I saw a roman candle going off sideways shooting people in the feet. The stroke of midnight hit and the only thing that changed was the intensity of the fireworks. There were also more professional fireworks going off as well. Lights…explosions…cheers…campaign being sprayed, it was a little disorienting. I gave my wife a new years kiss and we tried to soak it all in. We are in Germany celebrating the new year…and we are together finally!

After a while we made our way from the old bridge to another bar called coyotes. I'm not sure when the partying was going to settle down outside, but it seemed as if it still had many hours left in it. After one last drink we ended up catching a cab and heading back to post. We live in Patrick Henry Village as I've said earlier, but we now know that everyone including the German taxi cab drivers just call it "PHV". No taxis are allowed on post, so after being dropped at the gate we walked to our place and called it a night. It was about 0230 and we were both exhausted…but what a night!

Sunday: (New Years Day) Today was a little strange as my wife and I both just kind of hung out in our room. We have no car and didn't feel like going anywhere on post, so we just stayed in our room the entire day and either poked around on the internet or watched TV. Not much else to say other than it was nice to be with my wife even though we didn't do anything.

Monday: Another pretty lazy day. My sponsor said he would be calling and we were all going to head down to Heidelberg and check out all the shops. We never settled on an exact time, so my wife and I just kind of hung out after getting ready, then decided to start a "Sons of Anarchy" marathon. Both of us had heard it was pretty good. My wife had even started watching the most current season.

After lunch we figured my sponsor was not going to call. I found out that Mission Impossible III was playing tonight on post, so we decided to have a little date night with dinner and a movie. There isn't much in the way of restaurants on PHV. There is The Village Grill and Burger King. After walking to The Village Grill we found out that it's closed on Mondays. Plan B…we grabbed a gyro from a vendor that is outside the shoppette and headed back to our room before heading to the movie. Mission Impossible III turned out to be a pretty decent movie, but even though it was an action movie it did have a couple slow spots.