Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lightning Warrior Field Training Exercise Day 6 - (Germany) Day 65

A photo of our barracks that we stayed in during the FTX. 
One big square building full of bunk beds

Wake up call was at 0530 as usual. I shaved and brushed my morning routine. We had to be ready for the "Legal Stand Down" as they called it.

0730: We had our ASAP (Alcohol Substance Abuse Program) class. I guess the brigade has seen a spike in the amount of drug and alcohol incidents lately and thought that giving everyone another required class would help the problem. Since we've had one it seems every month, I don't think a mandated class is the answer to the problem. It was interesting to hear every single person around me state that they plan on smoking a lot of weed as soon as they are out of the military though...LOL

0830: JAG class. This class told us all about the repercussions of doing bad things in the military. There have also been a lot of sexual assaults lately in our brigade and they thought this class would help with that problem. Oh please someone help me…I hate all these mandated classes. Between these and all the commercials we see on AFN I'm going to go nuts!

0930: Free time. We were released back to our barracks to do anything we wanted, which for me meant laying on my bed listening to music and playing games on my iPhone. Occasionally walking around and socializing a bit. Turned out to be a pretty boring day…really an unneeded day for this exercise. Unfortunately there is no WiFi in the barracks…or anywhere in the training area. Lots of people passed the time sleeping, playing spades, smoking, reading or playing solitaire. Right now I'm thinking this whole exercise has pretty much sucked. The weather, while not actually raining on us, has been cold and miserable. My body has been out of it's routine and I've had bad headaches almost daily. I've been taking an unhealthy dose of Excedrin multiple times a day to combat the headaches. It has also reinforced how stupid the army can be at times. It seems like the exercise wasn't planned well and we just sat around most of the time doing nothing. Why not start it later and end it earlier instead of having us lay in our beds for hours at a time?

1600: We were all told to get outside for an awards ceremony. Once outside and formed up anyone with a vortex (heavy rain coat) or fleece on is told to take it off "If you are warm, then you are wrong" I get them wanting everyone to be uniform during the awards ceremony, but tell us ahead of time before we get out there. Now we stand a half hour in formation waiting for it to start.

The whole thing was a bit of a joke…speeches about all the great training and a lot of patting themselves on the back. They gave all the instructors either coins or awards (army achievement medals). They also gave some to the soldiers participating, but somehow there were none for our squad or even for anyone in our company. They also took this opportunity to pin on a couple of promotions, one to sergeant and one to warrant officer 3. Once that was done we were released back to the barracks.

I really hate the negative attitude I've developed lately. It just seems to keep getting worse and worse. I feel like all I write about and feel is negative. I feel it and I'm aware it's there, but I just can't seem to get out of this funk.

1700: Eat dinner at the DFAC, steak and shrimp…not that bad. It's then back to the barracks to try to find some way to pass the time until lights out at 2200. Biggie vs Tupac is the conversation all around me. Which one is the greatest rapper of all time? The argument is getting louder and louder and everyone has their two cents to throw in. I have to ask…what about Vanilla Ice? I didn't do much of anything today, so I decide not to shower.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lightning Warrior Field Training Exercise Day 5 - (Germany) Day 64

Me after decontaminating myself after the fake gas during operation "Eagle Eye"

Wake up was at 0530 as usual. I headed up to the wash room, brushed my teeth and then ate breakfast at the DFAC. We had to form up at 0700 for a police call around the FOB. For those who don't know a "police call" is another way to say we walked around and picked up trash.

0800: Team meeting. Our squad went over our mission and how we would accomplish it. Not really too involved other than we would be pulling rear security until something happened and then we would be called up to help with first aid.

0900: Squad practice. We formed up outside and walked through how our formation would look and what we would do in case of each event (i.e. IED, direct fire, etc).

1000: Rest…we hung out in the barracks and ate snacks

1100: We formed up outside the barracks in full battle rattle with gas masks and wet weather gear. It was cold so I also had on my thick poly pro on underneath to try and keep me warm. We marched about half way to the town and then did a walk through once again. We had two officers with us, who were the evaluators and also the ones who would tell us who is injured, dead, or if there is an IED...etc.

The walk throughs were a bit of mad chaos. The first two people who were told that they were dead was a 6'8" big black dude as well as McLovin, who is one of the thickest guys in our squad. We couldn't actually move either of them, so we had to "simulate" carrying them back. We didn't have an actual litter to put them on and we couldn't carry them, so they just stood up and walked back. During the walk throughs we simulated IEDs, Gas, and indirect fire. Everyone was running everywhere, I couldn't hear crap because I had my earplugs in and I was also running all over trying to help injured people because I was part of the aid and litter team. For being a "walk through" it kind of sucked. We had a quick review over everything and the officers told us what we needed to work on before the real operation started.

1300: The mission starts and we all have to do a test fire of our weapons. The officers don't want anyone not firing their blanks because they don't want to clean their weapon later on…it's like they read my mind. We start marching and do a lot of stopping and making a 360 degree perimeter while suspected IEDs are checked out. We finally make it to the fake town and there are a number of people dressed up as Arabs walking around. One of the people in front spot an IED and we break off into two groups and end up assaulting the town. There was a lot of confusion and a lot of people either dead or injured. They did actually have real litters to use there, so I ended up having to carry a number of people to the medivac landing area on the other side of town. This turned out to be a good workout! I then pulled security around the medivac zone while the rest of the people started getting out of the town.

We ended up getting blasted by the officers afterward because we assaulted a "friendly" town. We knew we were going to be attacked and even though we saw the IED, the officers were having non of it. So we all got yelled at a bit before we could continue on.

Next up we keep marching down the road with more possible IEDs and 360 degree security. We spot all the IEDs before getting to them, so the officers have to just call out IED and take out some pyrotechnics and have blasts in the middle of the road. We then have to get the injured again and move them like before. This happens a few times until they pop a smoke grenade and tell us it's gas. Everyone has to put on their gas mask quickly and then get out of the contaminated area. It sucks to run with a gas mask on because your lungs can't quite get the deep breaths they need fast enough. So you get the feeling of slight suffocation. To make matters worse a number of people "died" because they did not get their masks on in time, so we had to physically carry them out. One of the people was the radio guy who was carrying the radio on his back. Somehow I got stuck with lugging that heavy ass thing around on my back and helping carry people out of the contaminated area.

I thought I was about to die at some points. I had to literally take of my mask so I could take in some deep breaths or else I may have passed out. Once done we had to decontaminate ourselves. This involves taking a charcoal pad out of some packaging and wiping down our hands and then our face. In order to do our face we had to take a deep breath and only open our mask enough to reach a hand in and start wiping. We had to keep doing this until we were able to wipe our entire face.

Once finished we were then told there was an IED behind us and had to run up an incline 300 meters. That did it for me! I made it most of the way, but with that heavy ass radio on my back I couldn't make it the entire way. Once everyone was at the top we had once guy who sprained his ankle or something and they had to call in and have a van come and get him.

We then marched back to the FOB and turned in any blank rounds we had left along with the radios. I then got voluntold to help with 9 others for a police call around the areas we just went on patrol. So in full battle rattle we all had to walk around looking for trash around the entire course. It sucked and nobody was happy about that one.

Once back in the barracks I don't ask, I just leave and shower. I was soaked with sweat through my shirt, my poly pros, my uniform and all over the inside of my wet weather gear. It was pretty gross. I then decided to hit up the "gut truck" and purchased two brats with 1.5 liters of water. The gut truck is there everyday, but I didn't want to spend money when there is free decent food available. Today was an exception though…we finished the operation and it was time to celebrate. I was very dehydrated and ended up drinking the entire 1.5 liters of water rather quickly.

While we were doing the police call, everyone else was doing the AAR (After Action Review) of the operation. I heard it went pretty bad and no matter what any of the soldiers said, the officers had an explanation and were not even listening.

I hung out on my bed…finished my second book and then just played games on my iPhone (Monopoly, Plants Vs. Zombies, & Solitaire)…just things to pass the time. When I got up to charge my phone I could feel my entire body ache. I think I'm getting too old for this crap. Speaking of charging my iPhone, I brought a charger, but they do not have the standard American plug in these barracks…only the German plug-ins. Luckily a guy a few bunks down let me borrow his for an hour or so each night so I could keep my iPhone charged.

I brushed my teeth and then hung out with McLovin and SPC Mac for a while. I can feel my body is sore everywhere. I should sleep well tonight!

Lights out at 2200.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lightning Warrior Field Training Exercise Day 4 - (Germany) Day 63

A photo I snapped during the LandNav course...if you navigate correctly you will run into a sign like the one we found here. Write down the number, then plot your course to the next point.

Wake up call was at 0530 as usual. I had another night of good sleep thanks to the ear plugs and the PT Cap over my eyes. I did have a headache though. Luckily I packed Excedrin which seems to be one of the few over the counter medications that will get rid of my headaches. I know I haven't been drinking enough water out here. It's kind of hard to hydrate properly because when I'm out in the field training, I don't want to be stopping everyone to take a piss all the time. I'm also out of my normal routine where I have water with me at my desk and I try to make sure to finish it each day.

I headed to the DFAC for breakfast and they had coffee this morning…Good News! The DFAC has the hot meals served outside as I mentioned in the mobile cooking area, but inside they have a number of drinks as well as individual cereal containers and other small things like pastries and doughnuts.

After breakfast we formed up outside the barracks and headed to a classroom for LandNav. This class consisted of how to read maps, a compass, and how to use a protractor. We were assigned to 3 man teams and each given 3 different coordinates to find on a map. Once this done we also had to figure out the exact direction and distance to these points. These would be the points that we had to find during the next half of the day. We then headed outside to measure our steps so we can count off 100 meters. For example my count is 72, every time my left foot hits the ground counts as a step. When I hit 72 steps we've gone roughly 100 meters. This varies of course with the terrain and such, but it does give you a rough estimate.

We broke for lunch and then formed up in full battle rattle once again. We marched about 25-30 minutes to the LandNav (Land Navigation) course. We broke up into our 3 man teams and each headed to our starting points from the "Known Point" which is the end location. We started at point A which was about 300 meters from the Known Point. Once we arrived we used our compass to figure out the direction to travel. We decided to have one person use the compass, one person measure the distance (me) and the last person to be the scribe and also help keep a look out for the locations.

The goal is to find a sign at your location. If you've gone in the correct direction and the correct distance, there should be a sign in the near vicinity with a number on it. You make note of the number at each location and when you report back to the known point, you are told if you did it correctly. We found ours right away, but also looked around to make sure there weren't any other signs nearby that we might want to take note of. There weren't and we were able to find both points easily. We then headed back and ended up being the 3rd ones back. I'm sure we could have contended for 1st place if we tried running, but we wanted to take it slow and smooth to make sure we didn't have to go back.

We then waited…and waited…and waited. There were a number of groups that took an hour longer than us. The last group took so long they sent out the Humvee looking for them. The Humvee would drive up and down the dirt roads honking it's horn. It was pretty funny. Finally they returned and we started the long trek back. Getting to this point was mostly a downhill affair, so going back was an uphill battle all the way. In full battle rattle it kind of sucked.

When we finally got back and turned everything in, we found out that one team lost their compass. These are $50 a piece so it turned out to be a big deal. Nobody could leave and everyone had to double check themselves. Finally the team that lost it ended up having to go back out to the course and try to find it. Sucks to be them!

We headed back to the barracks and were hanging out when all of a sudden the 1st SGT and the commander come in and start telling everyone to get out and get to the DFAC. This was pretty freakin' stupid! Everyone had a routine up until this point, we all knew the DFAC is open from 1700 until about 1830 or so and people would randomly head up there when they felt like it. This worked out perfect, but when you get the entire barracks heading up at once along with folks from other barracks trying to access this small DFAC it turns into long lines and nowhere to sit.

We then weren't allowed to shower or change afterward until we finished with a required meeting at 2000. The meeting was the "OpOrd" (Operations Order) which our platoon leader gave. We were told that we were going to do "Operation Eagle Eye" tomorrow. We would be patrolling the roads and a village looking for IEDs and watching out for enemy combatants. I found out I would be part of the aid and litter team (a litter is another word for stretcher). This meant I would be in the back, but would have to run up and take care of any injured soldiers.

Once the meeting was over I headed to take a shower and then relaxed as usual on my bed. I finished my book and started reading another book by Tucker Max called "Sloppy Seconds". This ebook is actually free and contains 2 parts. The first part is 3 of the stories selected from each of his first 3 books. The last is all material that wasn't enough to make an entire book from, but is still pretty funny. I would really suggest checking it out..especially if your a guy and you like a good laugh. The first story in it is what made me buy the first book and start reading all his stuff in the first place.

We found out that even though we're doing the actual mission tomorrow (Tuesday), that the "Good Idea Fairy" came and decided we would be having some extra classes on Wednesday and would not be leaving until Thursday. There had been rumors all week that we would be leaving on Wednesday, so this was kind of a bummer.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lightning Warrior Field Training Exercise Day 3 - (Germany) Day 62

SPC Mac and McLovin with their gas masks on

Wake up is at 0530 and I found that I've slept well due to the fact that I had my earplugs and PT cap over my eyes. I'm sure I was also pretty tired from the lack of sleep previously and running around in full battle rattle yesterday. As we're getting ready I hear McLovin still in his sleeping bag ask a sergeant next to me "Hey sergeant my zipper's stuck. Will you reach down my sleeping bag and just start yanking".

I head up to the washroom, brush my teeth and shave. I then head over to the DFAC for breakfast. While in line the generator dies. Luckily the food is still warm by the time I get there, but I feel sorry for the people that come too much later. When I get inside the DFAC though I don't feel so lucky…they are out of coffee!!! WTH?? How am I supposed to operate without coffee in the morning? :)

We gather after breakfast outside our barracks in full battle rattle with gas mask. We march to our next training area which is a mile or so away. This morning's training is all about our NBC gear and the gas chamber. We do a class on how to do a preventative maintenance check on our gas mask and our other gear as well. We gather around and each try to find some pants and a jacket that will fit us. They have boots as well, but they don't have anything in my size and they are not as important for this exercise so we don't need them. After checking everything with all the gear, we put it all on. First we just put on the mask, which has to be done in 9 seconds. After doing this a couple of times we put on the rest of the gear. This has to be done in 8 minutes, which is pretty easy if you take your time and do it right. We take it off, then put it all back on once again. I'm actually happy to put it on because the weather is pretty cold and with all that gear on it keeps you warm!

The next step is actually going through the gas chamber. For this step we break up into 3 groups and head in, one group at a time. I'm in the second group and as we head in I hear people coughing and choking already. My mask is fine, the seal is good and I can breathe just fine. McLovin is having none of it, and heads straight out the door. We then listen to the instructor tell us about the gas and then he has us move our head around and pretend to chew gum. This is showing everyone that the gas mask keeps it's seal even while you move your head and mouth around. He then has us break the seal for a bit, then reseal it by blowing out to clear the mask and then plugging the vent with our hands while sucking in to create that seal again. A lot of people had various issues and were coughing, I forgot to close my eyes while doing this so they started to tear up a bit.

The final step was taking off our mask completely and saying our name, rank and social security number before leaving. This was easy if you take a deep breath before hand, which I did and then left without too many issues. What's funny is that once I got outside is when I started coughing a bit. We all then walked around letting everything air out including our lungs.

We took off all the gear and then headed to our next class which was not too far away. We first ate lunch inside. Most had brought MREs, I had some of my snacks such as trail mix and beef jerky. After our lunch break we had a communications class. So far the instructors have been very knowledgeable and have done a good job. This class had a good instructor and also one that was not so good. This is one thing I really hate about the army. I found out that the "not so good instructor" was actually a tank mechanic…not even a 25 (signal) series person. It's not his fault that he wasn't a good instructor, it's the army's fault. The army does this all the time with people. They just tell a person "hey we need you to teach a class on ….. whatever". This doesn't do anyone justice. The person teaching the class usually has a short period of time to do a search on Google to try and find some slides to quickly throw together, and then present them to a class. The people in the class do not get the quality training they should because of this. The army needs to do a better job of having the right people train the right subjects. A person with the job that deals with the training should at least be doing the instructing.

Anyways we watched all the slides and then took a couple of radios and practiced sending up various reports such as a 9-Line Medivac request, a SALUTE report, and a SPOT report. Once class was over we headed back to our barracks where we had the rest of the day off. I ate dinner at the DFAC and then headed to the showers. This time there was nobody in there and I took my time. In fact I tried to make the most of it by using two showers and pointing both heads at me so I had two streams hitting me with nice refreshing hot water. I try to enjoy the simple things when I can.

I then relaxed and hung out on my bed until lights out at 2200.

Me showing of my gas mask

The location for our Gas Chamber training...the actual gas chamber was located in the last bunker

A video taken by one of the soldiers in another squad of the entire experience

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lightning Warrior Field Training Exercise Day 2 - (Germany) Day 61

Our practice dummy for the first response aid training.

Wake up was at 0530, but I don't know if I even slept at all. I had the worst night's sleep ever. People were coming and going out the two doors of the barracks all night long and each time they would squeak and slam, there was mass snoring and coughing throughout the night and to top it off I had a headache on the entire right side of my head that was throbbing like a son of a gun.

I got up and made the trek up to the bathroom (we only have porta-potties near the barracks) to shave and brush my teeth. I wasn't going to try and shower in the morning with the mass of people trying to get in and out of there. I then ate breakfast, which was actually pretty good for DFAC food.

We then formed up as a squad and headed to a class. Our first class was "First Response Training". This included the steps to take if someone is injured on the battlefield. How to stop arterial bleeding, then get the person moved out of harms way. After that how to check and perform a more thorough search for other injuries and how to treat them until help arrives. We then broke off into small groups and practiced what we were taught after given various scenarios by an NCO that was watching us. Two of us would be standing there and all of a sudden the NCO would say "bang…your buddy just had his leg blown off". The person would have to fall down and the other would get cover fire, then have to apply a tourniquet and then move him to safety.

We broke for lunch and were told we only had a half hour. Lunches all week were MREs, so I brought a lot of snacks to chow on instead. I quickly ate some snacks and then returned outside the barracks to form up for our next class. For this class we had to be in full battle rattle (helmet, body armor, weapon, and eye protection). We then marched outside of the FOB (forward operating base) to an area with a big field and a fake town. This class was "React to Fire and IED". We were given a safety brief first which would be the format for all the outside safety briefs in the future. SPC JayZ from our office ended up slipping on ice and getting a concussion last week while out in the field. So every instructor would let everyone know of the icy conditions and to be careful when running around.

We all put on our wet weather gear because we found out that we would be "getting dirty" during this training. Basically as a unit someone would call out that we were being fired upon and everyone would get down in the prone position. After that each team would bound forward 5 to 10 meters then get back down on their bellies in the prone position. We would do this until we were told to stop. The field we did it in was wet and muddy, so I'm thankful we all donned our wet weather gear first…although some ended up laying in puddles that were just too big and the wet weather gear didn't help too much.

We then did our IED training, which was basically us marching down a road until we spotted the IED. We then would run away from it and pull 360 degree security while someone pretended to call it in to command. After this we all practiced some urban combat by breaching a glass house and securing the room.

We ended getting back to the barracks at around 1600. I took that opportunity to take a quick nap and rest until 1745 when we headed to the DFAC for dinner. When we were getting served the person in front of me asked the server "what kind of meat is that?". The DFAC worker looked at it for a bit, then answered "I'm not really sure". That is just great…not even the DFAC workers know what they are serving us.

After dinner I headed up and took a much needed shower. Even at night there are still a number of people in there, so I make it a quick one. No need to spend any extra time in a close area with a bunch of naked men around me. I spent the rest of the night hanging out with SPC Mac and McLovin, then reading for a bit before lights out at 2200. Tonight I placed my PT cap over my eyes and I also put in my earplugs…hoping for a better night's sleep this time around.

I took a quick snap shot of two other people showing their first response aid while the two NCOs tell him what is going...i.e. his leg just got blown off!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lightning Warrior Field Training Exercise Day 1 - (Germany) Day 60

My view of the barracks while laying in my bunk bed...pretty tight quarters

I woke up at 0250 after a crappy nap. I can't even say a crappy night's sleep because I had to get up so early. I got ready and left the house at 0325. My wife had to drive and drop me off, so she could have the car for the week I'll be gone. I headed to the armory and picked up my weapon and then had to wait at our office until 0515 when the bus finally arrived. I have a ruck sack full of stuff, as well as my duffel bag and my body armor that I have to carry out and load onto the bus. The bus just came from Landstuhl and Mannheim, so the storage underneath is already completely full. It is hauling a trailer though that we can throw all our stuff in.

The bus leaves at 0600 and somehow I end up with a seat to myself. I'm very grateful because these seats are pretty small and I'm not a small dude, so I'm able to stretch out a little using both seats during the 3 hour or so ride to the Schweinfurt training area.

Once we arrive around 0900, everything is unloaded and I find my bags and body armor, then head to our barracks room. The room is just one big square building with as many bunk beds as they could possibly fit in there. There were a number of people that took off with just one bag or something so they could claim their bed. The bottom bunk was a coveted item and they went fast. By the time I made it down to the building there were only top bunks left, I picked one by placing my duffel bag on top and hanging my body armor from the side.

At 1015 we all have to head to the DFAC which is an amazingly small place. The commander has his opening speech and then the chaplain does a suicide prevention training. Dear god, didn't I just finish one of these? I'm thinking to myself that forcing everyone to go through these mandatory trainings may actually cause someone to commit suicide! We are then broken up into squads, and my squad consists of my platoon leader from our office, a specialist from the maintenance side of our office (I'll call him SPC Mac), and McLovin. These are the only ones I actually know, but there are about 16 or so folks from various offices from around the brigade in our squad. We are then told to head back to the barracks until further notice.

Once back on my bed I start to read my new book "Hilarity Ensues" by Tucker Max. It's his 3rd book and it's funny as hell. Surprisingly we do nothing for the entire day. When I say nothing, I mean we did absolutely nothing. I sat in my bed and read, played games on my iPhone and chatted with others…oh and took a nap because I was so tired from getting up so early. Others did pretty much the same with the exception of a couple card games going on here and there. Why we had to get up so early in order to hang out in the barracks is unknown…and actually pissed me off a little.

At 1730 we had dinner at the DFAC. They cook the meals in a mobile field trailer and then we take it into the DFAC to eat. The food was actually not that bad. We were told by the previous week's attendees that it was horrible and they always ran out. It wasn't great, it was typical DFAC food.

After dinner we hung out some more in the barracks and did the same ol' thing until about 2030. We had a meeting where they announced some minor squad changes and told us the schedule for tomorrow. We then continued hanging out until lights out at 2200. I can't believe what a stupid day this was…we had to get up way to freakin' early and did absolutely nothing the entire day…except some suicide prevention training. What a joke!

A general view of the barracks during our FTX

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prepping for the Field - (Germany) Day 59

A snapshot of the stats from my morning PT jog from RunKeeper

This morning's PT was on PHV (the post I live on), so it was easy to get to and really fast too. We were told we could wear civilian clothes, so I brought my iPhone along with me and used RunKeeper to track our run. We ended up having a release run, which is basically everyone running at their own pace. We ran around PHV which is also the same route we take for our ruck marches. I had to struggle through the run, I just wasn't feeling it and never got my second wind.

We had to bring in all our equipment for the field to get inspected first thing in the office. We then had our sergeant's time training. The training consisted of watching a video showing all the various PT exercises in PRT. Since PRT is relatively new, the people that have been in the army for a while are still trying to get a handle on the various exercises.

I then was chosen to go on a detail. I headed over to the gym to help clean up something, but when I arrived they said it had been moved to tomorrow. So I headed back and then had my lunch in my car listening to the radio. Once finished I headed to the medical clinic for an appointment. I still have the rash on my chest and it hasn't improved since my last visit. The doctor this time looked me over and decided it was something else. She prescribed me various cream medications to apply, but these are only to relieve the symptoms. One is actually a steroid which the previous doctor was thinking about prescribing. I have to make a follow up appointment with a dermatologist to see what they can do. She said I may get prescribed tanning sessions…LOL. The ultraviolet light is said to help with this particular rash. That would be pretty funny if I had to leave the office for a tanning appointment!

One nice thing about the military health care...I was able to make my appointment, go to the appointment, and then get my prescriptions all in one day...and didn't have to pay a dime. Gotta appreciate that.

When I got back to the office, I had a couple of hours checking my email, surfing the web, and chatting with co-workers before we were told we could leave at 1600. We were able to leave early because we have to be in so early tomorrow for the field exercise. I headed over and picked up my wife, then we headed home. I had to unpack all my crap so I could re-pack it all better. I also added some various cold weather items and all the snacks I bought for this exercise. After a couple shows we then called it a night and turned in.

This will be my last blog for a week or so. I'll be keeping a journal of the field exercise on paper, then upload it once I get back. This process may take a day or two…or three. So no entries for a week and a half or so.

Wish me luck….

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day of Nothing - (Germany) Day 58

For this morning's PT we headed to the gym after accountability and worked out as a group. We did the PRT which nobody really cares for and the only thing it did was get our blood circulating a little…not a real good workout.

My wife dropped me off at work and then headed to her new job. I did absolutely nothing all day long, the highlight of my day wasn't even inventorying the only highlights were when I got up out of my chair to go pee! Unfortunately the German Headstart training was down once again. The timing of it being down just sucks, I could have gotten a lot done this week. Instead I just read the news and made a list of all the places I want to be able to go while stationed here. I surfed the web looking for the top tourist areas as well as anything else I could find. I made a list and plan on adding more to it as I hear about different places. I may not care for my job too much, but I do plan on having fun while I'm here! I also spent a little time on my Flickr account cleaning it up a bit. I put each evet in a set so the pictures will be in groups of each event that I do. I'll continue to do so as we go see more and more places.

I've also stopped over-indulging with food. I've gotten a little carried away lately and we have a 100% battalion weigh in coming up next month. I'm currently at the very top of my weight limit for my height and age which is 205. I figure if I eat normal and stay away from the sweets and ice cream until the weigh in I'll be fine. This is the beginning of the push to get rid of soldiers from the army. I will also have a PT test next month and I don't think I'll do too well on it. Since leaving Korea, I haven't been able to get in a good workout routine. I plan on passing, but it will not be anything spectacular. I have the field exercise next week and we will not be doing PT, so that will not help.

My wife picked me up from work and we headed home. After eating dinner and watching a show, I had to setup my IBA (Body Armor) up to the standard that was given to us for the exercise. The IBA has little straps on it that you can attach various items. We have to attach some ammo pouches, grenade pouches, and the first aid pouch in a particular order. Once that was done I threw everything in my duffel bag to take into work tomorrow…we have yet another inspection of our equipment before the field. I will then bring it home and unpack taking out any unnecessary items and repack so everything is nice and orderly.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Epiphany - (Germany) Day 57

We formed up for PT this morning and after accountability we were told to go to the gym and get on a cardio machine. I loved this because I grabbed a stationary bike in front of the TV showing an NBA basketball game and just peddled away for the entire session. I got a good low-impact workout and it went by pretty quick with the game on.

I headed home and then got ready for work with my wife. We are commuting together today because she starts her first day of work. She's working at a nearby post, so she'll be dropping me off and then picking me up. I think she'll like doing something each day now, and we will also benefit from the extra income.

We have half of the office in the field for the exercise, so I had a computer for the entire day of which I'm very grateful for. It helped me pass the time. I brought in all my paperwork (orders, leave form, and LES) and turned into our platoon sergeant. I was charged for my COT leave between Korea and Germany. These 30 days of leave are supposed to be free because I'm doing a consecutive overseas tour. Unfortunately (and I wasn't surprised) they charged my leave which left me in the negative. Hopefully my platoon sergeant will be able to get this fixed, but I will not hold my breath. The army has turned me from an optimist to a pessimist.

I spent the rest of the morning reading the news and then trying to do my German Headstart class, but the site was down all day. The office was quite and there wasn't much to do. By lunch time I had read all the main headlines and even my old local news. I ate lunch in the office and then continued just surfing the web. I read a number of articles about the future downsizing of the army. I hear everyone in the office constantly talking about it and it is always the topic of conversation it seems anywhere I go on post.

I had an epiphany today. I had previously pretty much made up my mind about not staying in the army after I serve out my contract. I still tossed around the idea of reenlisting if we were able to guarantee Hawaii for our next duty assignment. That would be the only way I would reenlist and then get out and live out the rest of my life in the paradise of Hawaii. After getting some news about the health of my mom and realizing that I need to see my grandmother more (along with the rest of my family who isn't going anywhere) I definitely made up my mind that I will be getting out after my contract is up. That and the fact that the army is going to go through so many changes in the future just added to my decision. My kids would be able to come visit me wherever I am, but I can't expect everyone else to. Family is too important to stay away from for too long. I'm hoping after this assignment in Germany I will be able to get Ft. Lewis, which is about a half hour away from my hometown of Bremerton. I will then be able to finish out my last year in the army and be able to visit friends and family. I will also get to see my kids much more often. It kills me inside all the time that I'm away from them for so long. I video chat with them, but it's still not the same.

Now back to my office…my big actual work events today were inventorying a safe at the end of the day and punching some holes in some paper for our NCOIC. Yay Me!

My wife picked me up at the end of the day and we headed home to eat and hang out together.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day) - (Germany) Days 53-56

A picture of some of the many tombstones at the American Cemetery and Monument in Luxembourg

Friday: We woke up and had an easy going morning, drinking some coffee and having breakfast together. Then we all got in my car and we headed off to the Frankfurt airport. My wife's cousin brought their GPS which made everything very easy. Ours is in the mail being sent from back in the states. This is something I would recommend to anyone traveling Europe, it makes everything so much easier and gives you a sense of security knowing that you will not be getting lost in a foreign land!

This was my second time driving on the autobahn since arriving here. The first time was following my boss back from when we picked up my car. Now I was driving solo…not following anyone. Many people don't realize that the autobahn does have many places that have speed limits. Some are reasonable like freeway speeds in the US around 60-70 mph…others are 130 kph which is about 85 mph or so. There are portions…large portions that don't have any speed limits. I kept it around 85 to 90 mph because I had a car full of people and I wanted to keep it pretty safe. I was still amazed at how many cars passed me like I was standing still. One thing the drivers here are good about is staying to the right unless you are passing others. Unlike the states where you have "parade makers" that stay in the left lane no matter what…causing a long line of cars behind them. I found a couple of times I'd be passing someone and way back in the distance I would see lights flash a couple of times at me…by the time I passed the car in front of me and moved over, a car would already be caught up and zooming by me. It would be really fun to drive a high performance sports car here and just let loose!

We arrived at the airport and picked up my wife's niece (her cousin's daughter) who happened to be on a field trip with others, but instead of flying back home to England she just came with us since we were there. We went to the altstadt (old town) of Frankfurt and did a lot of walking around checking out the amazing architecture and scenery. It's amazing seeing such old buildings with modern skyscrapers in the background. Among some of the interesting places we saw were some ancient Roman ruins as well as a very old church called Kaiserdom St. Bartholomäus. The building was amazing as was the art and sculptures inside it. It's awesome to think about all the history here.

I then had some Spaghetti Eis (Spaghetti Ice Cream) one of my favorites from the last time I was here 20 years ago. It's vanilla ice cream with raspberry topping made to look like spaghetti. :) We then drove back home and hung out for a while. We were introduced to a new game (for us) on the iPad…Family Feud…and we ended up all playing it together for a while before turning in for the night.

Saturday: We woke up a bit early today in order to start the day. Once everyone was ready we drove to Luxembourg, which I'm ashamed to say I didn't even realize is another country. It's one of the smallest countries in Europe, so I guess it's easy to miss. It's located to the west of Germany and was a strategic location for the Germans in WWII. They invaded and took over Luxembourg so they would be able to invade France. There were some great battles fought by the Americans during WWII and there is a US cemetery and memorial that we visited. The place beautiful, everything was well maintained and beautiful. Walking around looking at all the names and ranks on the tombstones was pretty sad. It's hard to think of all the young PVTs and PFCs that died there. It's strange to see an American memorial in another country, but Luxembourg is very grateful for the soldiers that died liberating their country.

In contrast we went to a Nazi cemetery about a mile away. The mood there is totally different and the fog just added to the very gothic…almost haunted feel to the area. Instead of one name on each tombstone, the Nazi tombstones have 4 (two on each side). It was a very interesting experience indeed. (You can check out more photos from this trip on my flikr site here)

We then drove back to Germany to a town called Trier. We headed straight to the altstadt portion of this town and entered through the "Porta Nigra" a very old gate that was used back in the day. There was a lot of shopping and such, but the highlight of the stop here was an ancient church called the Cathedral of Saint Peter. Like the church in Frankfurt, this one was full of amazing art and sculptures.

We had dinner at a place called Big Emmas which is close to Rammstein Air Base on the way home. This place was just plain crazy. Every "normal" dish served looked like something you would see on the show "Man vs Food". I laughed out loud when I walked in and saw a guy's hamburger in front of him. The dude was looking at this thing that was literally much bigger than his head trying to figure out how he was going to eat it. My wife and I ordered 1/4 sized meals and were unable to finish them. I then ordered ice cream for dessert not realizing that the desserts were the same gigantic portions. I choked when I saw them bring out this huge bowl filled with multiple scoops of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, and vanilla wafers. I was able to finish it with a little help from the others at our table. (You can check out more photos from this trip on my flikr site here)

Sunday: This morning we said goodbye to our guests as they left in their car for the drive back to England in their funny backwards car. After they left my wife and I just took the day off and hung out in the house the entire day. We watched a movie called 50/50 which was pretty funny. It's about a guy who gets cancer and how it changes his life. Not a funny subject, but some of the situations that come up are funny.

Monday: We finally got to sleep in for once this four day weekend! We spent the morning drinking coffee and having a pretty laid back time. We watched some college basketball and then my wife went for a drive for the first time here in Germany. She is starting her job tomorrow and will have to drop me off and pick me up from work. So we drove the route she'll be taking a couple times so she would feel comfortable. By the time we finished she felt good, we gassed up the car and headed home. Gas is rationed here for us in Germany, but unlike many posts that have a gas station on post…we have to gas up at Esso stations located all around Germany. Our posts do not have gas stations here, so we're given a gas card which also acts as our ration card. It works just like a prepaid debit card. We put money on it and then we can use it at the Esso station. It is so nice because gas is very expensive here, but we only pay the average US gas price. So I filled up for 69 Euros today which would be $91…but I only paid around $45. Gotta love that!!

You can check out my main flickr site and see the albums with descriptions, or just browse through the slideshows below: (Edit: I've moved much of my flickr content to Google Photos since flickr is no longer unlimited free photos)

Altstadt Frankfurt:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Military Cemeteries in Luxembourg:

Created with flickr slideshow.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

NBC Issue - (Germany) Day 52

The supply sergeant checking the gas mask on one of the soldiers from 1st platoon

This morning I showed up to the PT formation in my ACUs. I was there just for accountability and then I headed off with two NCOs and some soldiers from 1st platoon to Landstuhl. We all needed our NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) gear issued to us. We loaded up in the TMP van and I promptly fell asleep a few minutes into the drive which lasts a little over an hour or so.

Once we arrived at the base, we waited in the company conference room for about 15 to 20 minutes before the supply sergeant came and got us. We then headed to a warehouse that has all the NBC gear. Unlike in Korea where they just handed me all the stuff and the process took about 5 minutes, this place was much more involved. Not only did we each try everything on, the mask was put on and tested. It was also hooked up to a machine that tested the mask while on our heads. During the testing we had to move our head around and take deep breaths. This was all to ensure our masks were in good order and the seal was never broken.

The entire process including the drive back to the office took until 1130 which was just in time to go to lunch. I just went to my car and listened to music while eating my sack lunch. I then headed to the office after my lunch.

My boss was back after being on leave for the last week and a half. He finally gave me my initial counseling statement, which is basically describing what is expected of me and what I should expect working there. I was also told that I will initially be assigned one customer. Right now each person has about 4 customers each that they are responsible for. Giving me one will ease me into the whole process of making sure their paperwork is all squared away without getting overwhelmed. It should also help me keep a little busier than I have been because I can actually focus on something.

There was not a lot of anything else the rest of the day. We had a 4-day safety brief which was a little longer than normal and then I left and headed home. After changing and getting ready my wife and our guests (her cousin and her cousin's husband) headed over to SPC Whirlwind's house for dinner. We had some home cooked German food which was great. We stayed there until 2200 just visiting and chatting the whole time. A nice night out with friends and family.

This shows one of the soldiers with the machine testing their mask while wearing the NBC gear (except for the boots)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

DPW vs The Dishwasher - (Germany) Day 51

This morning's PT was all about the abs. We did muscle failure on the abs in the gym and I can tell my stomach is going to be sore tomorrow.

I had an appointment for DPW to come in between 0800 - 1200 today to fix our dishwasher. It was nice because I was able to hang out with my wife and her cousins for the better part of the morning. DPW didn't come until 1130, so I ended up just staying home for my lunch as well. A pretty laid back morning.

I headed to the office after lunch and it was a typical day for me. I just read the Army Times that I purchased. Near the end of the day the NCOIC gave me an SOP book that basically goes over everything we do in the shop. I started reading that and even though I will not be able to remember it all, I'm glad we do have a resource to go to if there are questions.

I filled out my required weekend checklist that lets everyone know what I'll be doing and who I'll be with. I gave a detailed account letting them know I'll be doing some sight seeing and immersing myself in the German culture. I'm starting to think I'll have a little fun with this list each week instead of being pissed off at it like everyone else. I will throw in just a little sarcasm or humor, but not enough to raise any eyebrows.

I left for the day and headed home to visit with my wife and our guests some more. We ate dinner, then the women made lumpia. I learned how to wrap them and we all joined in and wrapped all of them up. Looking forward to eating them at a later date!

On a side note…I'm really finding it difficult to write about my daily routine since I've moved here to Germany. My job is nothing like I thought it would be and after my initial in-processing my days are finished, my daily routine is pretty boring. Also having our guests here leaves me a lot less time to write each night. I guess we'll see where this goes. Maybe I'll change to a weekly update…maybe I'll write more about the people I work with and come across…or maybe I'll just focus on the places I go and see (which will be more now that we have a car). I guess we'll see if anything changes anytime soon. I have to go to the field in a week and a half, so I'll probably write that down and then post it all when I come back after the week long exercise. We'll see if anything changes after that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines Day - (Germany) Day 50

PT this morning was nice, we formed up and did accountability then we we turned loose to work out on our on in the gym. It was nice driving myself there and back, it's just so much more convenient.

Work was pretty much the same as usual. I was able to use a computer for a while because so many people were gone. I logged on and did some more online training (Headstart German). I shoveled some snow off of the sidewalk outside. For lunch I hung out in my car and listened to the radio, ate my sack lunch and took a nap. After lunch, I watched SPC Whirlwind give a brief to one of our customers. This is something that I will have to be doing soon. I took in all my gear because it was supposed to be inspected before we go on the exercise, but nobody got around to it. I'll just keep it in my car until they get around to it.

I headed home after work and got ready to go out for our valentines dinner. My wife's cousin and her husband searched the internet and found a promising place to eat. We headed out in their car which was a pretty interesting experience because everything is backwards. When I say backwards I mean the steering wheel is on the right side (they drove down from England). So riding as a passenger on the left side was very odd. The restaurant we tried in downtown Heidelberg was nice and very filling.

On the way back into PHV we were chosen for a car inspection. The guard asked me for 3 forms of ID and then started the inspection. Half way through the inspection he realized I was not the driver because the steering wheel was on the wrong side…LOL. The rest of the night was just hanging out at home.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gettin' The Car - (Germany) Day 49

This morning PT was inside the gym. We ended up doing a ton of jumping jacks (or as the army calls them...Side Straddle Hops) with some sprints and other various runs to half court and back. It was enough to get a little sweat going.

I didn't end up going into work after PT, my boss picked me up and we headed to Mannheim to pick up my car which finally arrived. I've been looking forward to getting our car for a while. We arrived at the Spinelli Barracks post which does all the shipping of POVs for our area. The whole process was pretty silly. Everything is located in very close proximity to each other.

The first stop was to get temporary plates for the vehicle. So I go in and fill out all the required paperwork and pay a fee of $30. I also have to say that being in the military, it was nice to have USAA as our insurance. I didn't have to show any proof of insurance or anything, it was all done automatically and in their system. I would actually recommend USAA banking and insurance to anyone in the military…coming from me this is a big deal because I don't use banks, I only use non-profit credit unions. Anyways…back to my story…I get two temporary license plates in return. We then take the plates and head over to pick up our car.

At the second stop I had to give my temporary plates to them and fill out even more paperwork. I then inspected my car to make sure no damage occurred during transit. Once finished my plates were put on and I was good to go.

We then drove over to the third stop inspection point to have the car inspected. I had previously purchased two required items needed as part of the inspection, a reflective triangle and a first aid kit.. The inspectors checked it out and gave it a thumbs up.

The fourth stop was back at the original first stop once again. I then had to take off the temporary plates that they gave to me and turn them in so I could get permanent plates. After some more paperwork and paying another $30, I was given the permanent plates to put on the car. I was also then good to go…at least for two years until I have to renew it. (I think getting the whole temporary plates and putting them on to drive 200 yards and back was kind of stupid)

We then left Mannheim and headed back to Heidelberg to the shopping center. I went to my fifth and final stop which was the PX customer service. From there I was able to get a fuel ration card. With this card I get 400 liters a month at US gas prices at Esso gas stations here in Germany. I was given a prepaid debit type card that I have to refill with money at any shoppette. I put $100 on it and then headed to the office. I arrived at 1330, so the whole process took a little over half a day.

The afternoon at work was uneventful. I found some training on JKO for German Headstart that I enrolled in and started. I'm not sure if I get credit or what, but I figured it will give me something to do when I do have the chance to get on a computer. SPC Whirlwind needed a ride home, so I was able to leave early and give him a ride. We stopped and I filled up the car…I'm so glad I don't have to pay the Euro price! It would have cost over 75 Euro (which is around $100) and instead I paid $50.

Once home we had my wife's cousin and her husband as guests. They drove down from England to visit for the week, so we will have some company for a while. We had a nice dinner with them and also watched the Grammy awards. Looking forward to visiting with them and getting to know them.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Days 47 & 48

We started collecting these Starbucks mugs from the various places we visit. 
We're putting our local one to use! 

The entire weekend was focused on unpacking and arranging our home. Not a whole lot to write about other than that. The housing units here have both storage in an attic area as well as a basement area. Since we are on the top floor the attic is only one floor above us. We were able to store a lot of our unneeded stuff up there and really make our place feel like home after getting everything completely unpacked.

We met up with SPC Whirlwind and his wife as well as a couple others at the bowling alley on Saturday night for another night of Cosmic Bowling. Then all day Sunday we finished up with getting our house in order. I have to look into how to file a claim on my broken monitor and broken external drive. It looks like it's going to be a process. So we are going to have to spend money on replacing those items and then wait to get reimbursed.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Organization - (Germany) Day 46

The movers had a fun time getting rid of all our boxes by throwing them out our window

This morning I had to wake up at 0620 so I could check in with our platoon sergeant. My NCOIC gave me the day off so I could take care of all my household goods, which I plan to do…but I'm not going to start at 0630…so I promptly went back to sleep. At around 0830 we got up and started the process of organizing all our stuff. We unpacked the last few boxes and then continued to put stuff away for the rest of the day. The movers came about 1500 and picked up all the boxes and paper from the move. This was nice because there was a lot of them and they were taking up quite a bit of room. Once the boxes were gone I made a quick trip to a motorcycle shop with SPC Whirlwind's wife so I could pick up a cover for my motorcycle. Unfortunately our box with the cover didn't make the move…it is in storage back in Washington. We found out that even though boxes were marked as one thing, sometimes there were completely different things in them.

Once back, I put together all the Ikea stuff my wife bought yesterday and proceeded to get the entertainment system up and running. It's nice to have a TV and stereo now. I watched some college basketball while organizing everything…first game I've been able to watch since last season back in Korea. At least everything is up and running before March Madness!

When I got to hooking up our desktop I found out that our monitor and our 2 Terabyte external backup drive both broke during transport. This really sucks because I was looking forward to actually using the big computer finally instead of my laptop. Now I have to go through the process of putting in a claim. Not sure how that goes, but I'm not looking forward to it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Freezing Range - (Germany) Day 45

A photo I snapped on the way back to our office from the armory. 
This is a picture looking at the front of the post and is also the field 
where we form up for PT each morning.

This morning I had to be ready by 0645 to be picked up by our platoon sergeant. Our battalion had the range today with me, our platoon sergeant, and a co-worker I'm going to call SPC JayZ from our office heading out. We went to SPC JayZ's barracks and picked up our weapons from the armory. We joined up with some others from our battalion and hopped in the TMP Van to head out to the range. The drive was about a half hour or so.

I tried to prepare myself for the worst because I knew it was going to be extremely cold. We were required to wear our body armor and our helmet as well as a water source. Additionally I wore my poly pro (army long johns), my normal uniform, my polar fleece, and my cold weather jacket. I also wore my gator neck and my PT cap under my helmet along with my normal gloves. My core did OK throughout the day, but it was my toes and my fingers that went numb from being so cold. I probably could have worn two pairs of socks and even two pairs of gloves to help with this…I'll keep that in mind next time.

My experience at the range is a long boring day with very little of me actually doing any shooting. There is usually a ton of people trying to qualify and only a limited number of lanes available. When we arrived to this range I noticed that the place was quite a bit smaller than all my previous ranges. I also noticed that we will be using paper targets instead of the pop-up targets I've used every other time. With a paper target there are bigger and smaller images representing the targets at closer and further distances. They are all one one sheet of paper and you can only hit each one of them a certain number of times. For example the biggest target you can only use 5 of your 40 shots on.

There were only 8 lanes available, but we had far less total people than I've previously been with at ranges. I would say there was about 40 people all together. The process went pretty smooth, with the first step of zeroing our rifles. Since I hadn't used this rifle before it took me 4 tries before I made all the adjustments and had it zeroed. Each round consists of firing 3 shots to your practice target and then going up and seeing where you hit when aiming at the dead center. You then make adjustments to your sites left, right, up or down depending on those shots. You then start the process over until you finally hit a group of shots in the center area.

I headed to go pee…this is one of the few times in my life I really wanted to stay longer in the bathroom. These were heated bathrooms and after being outside in the freezing weather, the bathroom was a welcome paradise of warmth.

I then waited in line to do the actual qualifying. We shoot 20 rounds in the supported prone position. This is the best position for firing, as you lay down you can support the rifle on the sandbags and get a very steady shot. I used this position to shoot into the smallest targets on the paper and then moved to the slightly larger targets as well. Each of the 4 small targets could take 3 shots and then the 2 slightly larger ones could take 4 each. I could have easily hit all the medium to large targets in this position, but since this is the best position I decided to go for the hardest targets.

We then shot 10 rounds in the unsupported prone position. This position is still laying down, but there is no use of sandbags. You have to use your elbows to support yourself. This position is not as stable, so I chose to shoot 5 shots into each of the medium size targets. The last position is the kneeling unsupported position. This position has one knee down and the other is used to rest your elbow on to support your rifle. This is the toughest position because it's the hardest to keep everything still. I used this position to shoot 5 shots into the last medium and then the large target. We then walked up and grabbed our targets. We had to write our rank, name and unit on them, and then turn them in. I ended up shooting a 33 out of 40. One less than I previously qualified with, but considering how miserable and cold I was I'll take it.

Once everyone was finished we loaded up the TMP van and headed back to the office. We were about half way there when our NCO driver got a call from the first sergeant. He found out the SPC JayZ shot a 24. 23 is the minimum qualifying standard, but the first sergeant wanted everyone to shoot a 30 or above (sharpshooter). We had to turn around and head back to the range. Nobody was very happy…especially SPC JayZ. He was upset that even though he met the army standards, he still had to go back out in the cold and shoot again. After all was said and done he went out and shot twice scoring a 25 each time. We ended up leaving and he was told he'll have to come back tomorrow and try some more. He was not a happy camper.

When we arrived back I spent a couple hours cleaning my rifle before turning it back into the armory. I don't think the NCO there ever takes a rifle the first time someone brings it back to him. It reminded me a little of basic training when we would sit for hours at a time cleaning our rifles. I was able to make it back to the office at about 1600. My NCOIC asked how the unpacking was going and I told her we're doing our best to try and get settled in. She told me to take the day off tomorrow and work on our house. That is pretty awesome!

We then were briefed from our retention NCO about changes in reenlistment. Now the local commanders will have final say in a soldier's reenlistment. They are making it a little harder to reenlist with a number of rules that will flat out bar you from being able to reenlist. The thing that bothered me a little was the fact that now the local commanders can flat out deny a soldier from reenlisting if they want. This means that if for some reason a soldier and a commander didn't get along or if there were bad rumors going around about a certain person, the commander can deny a person the ability to reenlist. It just seems to me that it gives the local commander a little too much power of the entire future of a person's life. Just some more interesting changes that are coming out because of the reduction in force and the reduction in budgets. I'm sure there will be more to come.

I headed home unloaded a van full of furniture that my wife bought from Ikea. She rented a van with SPC Whirlwind's wife and was able to get some needed furniture for our place. I'm going to be a busy guy tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Household Goods Arrival - (Germany) Day 44

The conveyor belt hooked up to our 3rd story window for fast easy delivery of all our stuff

This morning I had to wake up at 0615 to call my platoon sergeant and check in. I didn't have to go to PT, but I did have to wake up to make the call. I have the entire day off because my household goods are scheduled to arrive. I ended up just staying up and brewing some coffee, then started passing the time wondering when the movers where going to arrive. They told us they would be here between 0800 and 1700…nice. We also scheduled the pickup of our loaner furniture as well today and they said they would be here between 0800 and 1200.

At about 0830 both our household goods arrived and the guys came to pick up our loaner furniture. It couldn't have worked out better because while the household goods movers were setting up, the other guys came up and removed our loaner furniture. The household goods movers had a type of conveyor belt they were able to connect to our 3rd story window. They were then able to load everything on the lift and send it straight to the window…no stair climbing involved. In fact they had it all hooked up in time for the guys taking out our loaner furniture to send the last item (our couch) down.

The movers then started in earnest sending up three or four boxes at a time. As they would arrive a guy at the top would unload them through the window and then ask where which room we wanted everything in. My wife and I helped just because it felt strange just standing there giving orders on where to go. Once everything was up, they unloaded my motorcycle and then took off. We spent the rest of the day unpacking. It's crazy how much stuff we have! Once we get everything out of the boxes, we have to give them a call and they will come pick up all the boxes and shipping paper.

The day was long and I'm pretty worn out. I would say we were able to unpack about 85% of everything. I have to go to the range tomorrow, so I have to prepare a little getting all my gear ready. I'm sure after I get back home from work tomorrow, it will be more unpacking and trying to organize. It's so nice to have our own stuff finally. This place is going to seem more like home now.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dramatic Loss - (Germany) Day 43

We formed up for PT in the freezing weather and then headed into the gym after accountability. We stretched as a group and then were turned loose to work out on our own. That was a nice change of pace. I get such a better work out when we do that, unless of course it's a run.

When we arrived for work this morning a maintenance guy rang our door buzzer and after I let him in he informed everyone that because of the extremely cold weather we've been having that the sprinkler system pipes have frozen. "So if there is a fire, please run out of the building". Good to know…as if I would hang out under the sprinklers if a fire did happen to start.

Today we had an SAV (Site Assisted Visit) which is basically a security audit. A civilian who is in charge came and spent the day in "The Vault". He may be here more this week as well. There was little going on other than that. We had SPC Matrix out sick and my boss is on vacation. I spent most of the day next to another co-worker sharing his small space heater. Others in the office tried to use cardboard and duct tape to close up the vents that are constantly pumping in cold air to our offices. By the afternoon a light snowfall started to come down outside. It's so cold it's not even funny!

The only thing I did today work related was inventory a safe with a co-worker before locking it up for the day. I did find out some disturbing news as well about the promotion point system. They made a change to the Military Education portion of the point system. I had used SkillPorts to max mine out at 260 points, and haven't looked at my promotion points since leaving Korea. Now the army has changed the max that can be received by SkillPorts to 78 points. So I lost 182 points just like that! The army has broken the Military Education section into 3 categories.

Category 1: A person must go to WLC (Warrior Leader Course) to get 80 points with extra points available if they graduate as a member of the Commandant's List, which will give them 92 total points. The soldier who gets Distinguished Honor Graduate can get 104 points.

Category 2: Resident Military Training. The definition I've seen is: This includes all resident military training courses listed in ATTRS; DA Form 87 limited to Soldier Training Courses in AR 350-1; and all tab-producing courses. Maximum points in this category is 78. (I haven't checked into this too much yet).

Category 3: Computer Based Training. This is the category mentioned above where the SkillPorts come in and the maximum is now 78.

I'm not too worried about it, just a little disappointed. I put in a lot of hours while in Korea working to finish all those SkillPorts just to have them change the rules. That is the name of the game in the army though. Especially these days and in the future where the army will be shrinking in size and in budget. It's going to be harder to get promoted and I wouldn't be surprised if they change the promotion point system again.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Half Day - (Germany) Day 42

This morning was a good one for a work day. I was able to sleep in because of the late work call due to the Superbowl. I hung out with my wife and we enjoyed eating breakfast together. We watched all the Superbowl commercials on Hulu and then SPC Whirlwind came and picked me up for work.

We arrived at 1130, but work call was at noon and the office was locked so we couldn't get in. It was freezing out so we spent the extra time at the shoppette to stay warm. When the office was finally opened I was prepared with the new copy of Army Times and some trail mix to keep me occupied. The office is never warm. From what I hear it used to be an old server room and the air conditioning is constantly blowing on full blast. Everyone wears their polar fleece and most wear their poly pros as well to try and keep warm. Normally I'm OK, but today I just couldn't get warm at all. I made the mistake of not wearing my poly pros (army long johns) and I will not let that happen again…I hated it!

There wasn't a whole lot going on at all. I just sat and read for a while, then all of a sudden I heard the strangest sound behind me. It sounded like someone was gargling water, when I turned around I saw SPC Matrix throwing up in his trash can. He went to the emergency room last Friday and I guess he's still not feeling 100%. When he finally finished throwing up our NCOIC told him to go to the hospital again. Poor guy.

I was able to check and find out that my email is finally setup and working. I think I'm almost complete now. The last piece of being setup is to get on the security memo so I can have the code to get into our office. For now I have to ring the doorbell whenever I need to come in.

I then helped take inventory of a safe in our vault. Anytime a safe is opened we have to take complete inventory before locking it up for the day. Needless to say we try not to open a safe unless it's absolutely necessary because taking inventory is a bit of a pain. There is a sheet of the inventoried items and a person has to go through each item reading off the serial numbers while another checks against the inventory sheet. There are a lot of items and you have to make sure a thorough job is done because both people checking have to sign off on it. If something ever goes missing you don't want your name to be the one on there that missed it.

We then cleaned up and left for the day at 1700. At home I prepared for the upcoming exercise by taking the packing list and getting almost everything ready. We have to bring everything in on the 13th for inspection. I then just hung out with my wife for the rest of the night…back to the normal schedule tomorrow.