Sunday, April 29, 2012

Slow Saturday (FTX Day 13) - (Germany) Day 124

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning we had to be at work by 0600. Since I had showered last night I slept in a little, then got ready and left after brushing my teeth and shaving. As expected there was nothing to do when we got there. The day shift has 4 air force folks and 6 army folks in it. There are three help desk computers to be manned in order to in-process new people that come for the exercise and get them access to the network. Three airmen were chosen to take the computers the first shift and stare at a large empty room. The rest of us were just waiting around and then finally the NCOIC said he wanted us to go around to all the rooms and check each computer to make sure it could print. We knew this was just "busy" work because we had already done this multiple times in each room. On top of that once we started we were told not to actually print test pages because it would be a waste of paper. So we are supposed to make sure each computer prints without actually printing…brilliant!

Everyone scattered out and basically just surfed the web for an hour or so until we were released for breakfast. We took our time eating at the DFAC, then headed back and continued to "check" the printing on each computer…everyone just surfed the web. Maybe I lack some imagination, but there is only so much surfing a person can do. Check Facebook, check email, read the news and so on. About 1100 we all started to gather in the help desk area waiting for noon when our shift was over and the other team would take over. During that time our first actual customers came and the guys at the computers in-processed about 4 people. Each one takes only a few minutes, so all of us came in for about 10 minutes of work. My guess is the night shift will be even slower.

I then went to the barracks and headed straight to do my laundry. Everything I had was dirty and I needed to get it all washed. The machines we have to use are all coin operated which kind of sucks. Unlike all the other washing machines I've used on army installations in the past, these are all awesome industrial strength machines. They take large loads and work fast! I ate a "ranger bar" out of my MRE for lunch and that was it. The ranger bars are the equivalent to an energy bar you can get at a store. I also ate some trail mix and called it lunch.

Once back at the barracks with my laundry folded I took a nap…after that I read. One thing I do a lot of on an FTX is read. This time I loaded my iPad with a number of books, so I would not run out like last time. I just finished an interesting book called "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle…the autobiography of the most lethal sniper in the U.S. military history. The book was about a guy who decided to join the navy with the hopes of becoming a navy seal. He tells about his tale of becoming a seal and then in turn becoming a sniper. He was deployed to Iraq 4 times and describes everything he went through over there. It's a complete biography as well with the tale of his life growing up and what he's done since leaving the navy. The strain that it put on his marriage and the strain it put on him losing friends. All told it's a pretty interesting story and he doesn't sugar coat anything. He does say that a lot of having the most official kills as a sniper has a lot to do with luck, being in the right place at the right time. It lets you see the Iraq war from his view instead of just what we've all seen in the news.

The other thing I do a lot during an FTX is watch a lot of movies, it passes the time and I can also watch some of the corny movies I know my wife doesn't want to watch. I have an external hard drive that I've copied movies to, mainly from people while I was in Korea. I mentioned that I watched Missing in Action with Chuck Norris the other day. I watched part 2 and 3 the last two days and they are both just as funny as the first. After watching them I don't understand how we lost the Vietnam war when Chuck Norris was in it. He could stand in an open field or road with a machine gun at his hip and kill everyone around him, while no shots ever hit him…LOL.

This FTX we are allowed to go off post and go to town if we want. Some of the guys have been going out each night to the bars, clubs, and karaoke joints. I guess I'm just too old to do that stuff now on a work night. There is no way I want to drink and stay up late when we have to start work at 0600. So far I've heard the most popular bar is a special one, but just on Tuesdays…that is a special day called "Titty Tuesday" and the waitresses go topless for the night. Oh to be young and wild again…I have to go to bed now.

Truly Pissed (FTX Day 12) - (Germany) Day 123

If do not enter is crossed out...does that mean enter?

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning everything went as usual…some cereal at the DFAC and a banana, then off to work at 0900. There was not a lot to do…in fact most of the day we all just sat around the help desk area waiting for a task to do. I've vented a little about our NCOIC before and today will be no exception. He is the kind of guy who must feel a little insecure about himself. He always conveys that he's a smart guy, but then proves otherwise. He is the guy who will put you down in order to make himself feel better. Since he is an E-7 I wonder how he even got there, the guy is a moron and he doesn't try and train or help those below him. Unfortunately he'll probably get an award and a bunch of "atta boys" for doing such a great job with this FTX. The FTX will get done and we will take care of all the issues, but not because of anything he has or has not done.

Shortly before lunch I was tasked again with a VTC issue. They had added another VTC and I needed to get an address to it and update the spreadsheet I had made with all the room numbers and addresses on this. I had been using this same spreadsheet the entire time and emailing it back and forth to a civilian I was working with. Once finished the civilian asked me to email him the final version and also print out one that we can keep in the help desk area. No problem…I printed it off and didn't think much of it. I was about to grab it from the printer when the NCOIC took it and said "What the hell is this? It looks like something a two year old can do. Do it again and make it pretty". I was in a little shock for a minute, then angry, then pissed off. What the fuck is up with this guy? It's a simple spreadsheet that shows each room number and the address of the machine in it. I wasn't told anything except print off the spreadsheet I had. The NCOIC then came over to my machine and I just moved out of the way. He looked around for about 5 minutes trying to figure out how to do a special copy and paste from Excel to PowerPoint. Once he had that done he made the spreadsheet info a little bigger and told me to put a header on it and print it out. I did, then left for a walk to the shoppette just to get away from him for a bit. As I was leaving I heard him ask another guy why it was taking him two hours to add a printer to that machine, but he said it in a way to make the guy feel like an idiot (in truth of course it had only been a few minutes and he had to download the special drivers from the internet for this particular printer)…the NCOIC is just an ass.

By the time I came back one of the civilians had bought pizza for all the help desk workers, so I dug in and had a few pieces. We then waited around the help desk as we had earlier in the day. I was then told that he wanted another computer at the help desk for us to use and told me to go get it from "warehouse". I had to ask the permanent party folks how exactly to get to these "warehouse" folks, but when they asked why I was told they will not give me any computers because they're not on the room build. I relayed this to our NCOIC and he told me to go anyway. The warehouse folks are located down the street in the last building on the right. It was a nice day out so I took a nice…very slow…walk outside and away from everyone. I arrived and asked the warehouse folks for a computer, they said no and that this kind of request has to go through operations. No problem I said, then slowly walked back to work. The NCOIC was busy in some other conversation, so I figured I'd tell him later on and sat down with everyone else around the help desk.

At one point later on in the day the NCOIC and another sergeant asked me to follow them. The NCOIC then asked if what he said to me earlier offended me. I said yes, indeed it did you asshole…well not in those terms, I just said yes. He then made an official apology in front of another witness. It was all a little strange, my guess is that someone a little higher than him either overheard him or someone else told someone higher up and he was forced to apologize. He can apologize all he wants, but if he doesn't change his behavior it doesn't really matter. He's an ass, everyone hates working for him. The permanent party folks joke about how bad he is, the air force folks can't believe they are stuck with him, and of course all the rest of us army guys hate him.

We ended up sitting around for a few hours doing absolutely nothing. 1700 came and went and we still just sat there waiting to get released. Finally at 1730 we were able to leave. We found out our schedules for tomorrow and the next week. We will not get any weekend off unfortunately. They made two groups…the permanent party group and the TDY group. My group, the TDY group with everyone that came here from somewhere else, has the day shift. We will be working 0600 to 1200 Saturday through Tuesday, then on Wednesday on we will be working 0600 to 1800.

I headed back to the barracks and just relaxed for a while reading. I talked to my wife a bit and ate dinner which consisted of some wafers and some almonds, a light meal since I had pizza at lunch time. After yesterday I decided to keep showering at night instead of in the mornings. There are a lot less people in there at night. I put two big bandages on my feet in the morning and was able to keep them on in the shower. I want my feet to be at least partially healed before they come off. I watched Missing in Action with Chuck Norris…LOL. I forgot just how corny and cheesy this movie really was. The acting is laughable and so is the fighting scenes…pretty funny to watch, but definitely not something I'm going to keep in my movie collection.

Bad Feet (FTX Day 11) - (Germany) Day 122

An example of how some people brought extra blankets to add a little more privacy to their bunk

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning I did my usual at breakfast, cereal and fruit. We then headed to the warehouse and started work at 0900. Me and a co-worker were tasked with getting the VTC machines ready to go. They wisely decided to use static IP addresses for these machines (This means the address is a permanent address vs one that may change over time). We had to put in the address and then make a test call to verify everything works. We took our time because we knew there was not a whole lot to do today…we finished almost everything yesterday.

We did find a couple problems and had to troubleshoot the issues. Finally we were down to two machines that didn't have speakers, so we had to request them from the warehouse. After this we settled in and started surfing the net. There was absolutely nothing to do, but for some reason the NCOIC wanted people doing something…so he would have people go and recheck rooms we've already checked at least twice already. Our NCOIC came in the room my co-worker and I were in and said "What are you guys doing? Come follow me I got something for you to do" We proceeded to follow him and he had us move two folding chairs about 3 feet. I kid you not, that is what he had us do. At one point in the day while I was working on the VTCs and he saw me walking across to another room, he called for me to come over to his desk. He then told me to put some paper that was on top of a cabinet in a box. It started to become a game where nobody wanted to be anywhere the NCOIC could see them. I ended up hanging out with the air force guys because they have their own NCO and he doesn't play the stupid games.

The air force guys also have two TMPs and offered to take the junior soldiers to the food court and PX for lunch. Anything to get away from the NCOIC is fine with me. After lunch we spent the rest of the day doing nothing…everything is setup and we are just waiting until next week when the exercise starts.

After work we headed to the gym to play some basketball. We were supposed to play against the air force, but they ended up not showing up for about an hour later. I tightened my running shoes and decided to play with everyone. Two of my co-workers were there and also a captain that is pretty cool and staying with us in the barracks. I probably shouldn't have played because I didn't have my basketball shoes, but my competitive nature got the best of me…that and my co-worker really wanted me to play. I ended up tearing up my feet just like I did in Korea when I played in running shoes. The skin on my feet just tore off and now I have big flabs of skin just hanging off my feet and I can barely walk. I also played like total crap. I couldn't hit a shot to save my life. Normally I consider myself one of the best shooters out there no matter who I'm playing with, but for some reason I couldn't hit anything today. The only good thing is that I got a bit of a workout, but it came at a big price.

I took a shower back at the barracks and listened to the bombs and artillery going off consistently. It's strange being so close to and actually feeling the artillery at times even in our barracks. I heard today that the battalion that is in the set of barracks right up the road from us just lost two soldiers in an accident on the way here while traveling on the autobahn. Pretty crazy how one minute you can be on your way to do some training and out of the blue you get hit by a semi and it's over. I really changed my mindset after divorcing my first wife, and now I try to live and experience every day to its fullest. It's reminders like this that help you remember just how short life can be and you really don't want to waste it. It's one of the reasons I wanted to do this whole army thing…I wanted to do it before I got too old and I wanted something different, I wanted to see the world, and I wanted a little adventure.

Appreciated (FTX Day 10) - (Germany) Day 121

Our dinner at the BräuWirt restaurant...good food, good beer!

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning I headed to the DFAC and didn't even bother with the meal line, I headed straight to the cereal and fruit, then grabbed some OJ and coffee and called it good. When I got back to the barracks and was getting ready, I kept hearing everyone say just how bad the food was…it was worse than yesterdays.

The day was pretty easy since we had most of the work done yesterday. We finished up one of the rooms that we had trouble in yesterday. A bunch of the hard drives were bad, so we had to get new ones. Once that was done we just stayed in the room and surfed the internet. We went to lunch and I grabbed an MRE like yesterday, but only ate a small piece of a muffin out of it. I snacked on some almonds and crackers that I had already as well.

Back at work we did some cleaning up and then double checked everything once again. We then did some more surfing as we waited to be released. A little after 1700 we all met up expecting to get released, but instead the place went on lock down. The laptop used to push out the images was missing and nobody was allowed to leave until it was found. I don't think anyone would want to steal it, it's an old piece of crap Windows machine…it serves it's purpose, but I doubt anyone would want to take it. We waited and waited and then around 1830 we were allowed to leave only because there was an appreciation dinner offered at a local German restaurant for anyone who wanted to attend. I can never turn down free food, so of course I went. A lot of people have grown to really despise our NCOIC so nobody wanted to go. It turned out that two others decided to come along, but the entire air force group and the others in our group didn't want to have anything to do with it because our NCOIC was going to be there.

Our NCOIC is a horrible project manager, but at first I thought he was a nice guy. I've since changed my mind…he's really obnoxious and thinks he's the smartest guy around, when in reality it seems he's a moron. He has all these crazy theories and goes on and on about stupid stuff. The meal turned out to be great though because it involved a number of people besides just the help desk. All in all there were a good 25 to 30 people there for the appreciation dinner. The restaurant was great, the food was great, the beer was great too. They were also a small brewery and served their own beer which I had both a light and a dark. All told it was well worth the minor inconvenience of having to travel there with our NCOIC. The place is called BräuWirt and I would recommend it for anyone in the Grafenwoerf area.

Shooting Around (FTX Day 9) - (Germany) Day 120

Just a general photo to show the barracks we live in. 
The building on the end is the bathroom and showers

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning we started at our usual time of 0900, the nice thing was I didn't have to worry about how or what I was going to eat for breakfast. The bad thing was that the DFAC food just really sucked. I tried some sort of omelet in a pita bread concoction. I only took a couple of bites before I had to stop. I thought about eating the bacon, but it was very limp and was just dripping with grease. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge bacon fan...but I just couldn't bring myself to try this stuff. Luckily the DFAC also offers other items such as cereal and fruit, which I decided to have instead…I think I'll be sticking with that from now on.

The work day was somewhat productive, I started off getting all the VTC (Video TeleConferencing) machines tested and ready to go. These are basically a large screen with a camera on top used to make video calls over the Internet…similar to Skype, but this is their sole purpose and they have better quality from what I have seen. I then helped get more SIPR computers up and ready on the network. We have a lot more SIPR machines and it seemed like we had a lot more problems with them as well. We had to have "the warehouse" exchange more than a few machines because of hardware issues that we kept coming across. Each time this happened it would take extra time. The process of getting a machine working good takes a few reboots and some configuration settings, but the machines aren't the fastest. So if all goes well we get a machine up and on the network in about 10 minutes. It always seems there is something that needs to be fixed though, the network cable is bad, the video card is bad, the image is bad, the bios is locked…etc. Each of these items takes time to troubleshoot and then resolve, so it was slow going…but we did make a lot of progress. I think we should be able to finish up tomorrow, or at least get really close to being finished.

We were given MREs for lunch, which we grabbed from the DFAC and brought back to the barracks to eat. Because we are in a training area we can hear and feel the explosions of either tanks or artillery around us. It's pretty crazy because sometimes it seems as though there is a tank right outside the barracks firing. It's loud and you can feel the rumble as the windows shake.

Back at work we continued our progress and worked until about 1745. Once we were let go, my co-worker wanted me to come play basketball with him at the gym. We decided to skip the DFAC and go play, planning on eating afterwards. I didn't actually play any games, I just shot around. For one thing I'm old and out of shape and I also didn't have my basketball shoes. To be honest though I really don't care for playing with people I don't know and I don't mean to be racist here, but I especially don't care for playing with black folks when I don't know them. Their style of play is a lot different, and being the only white guy playing I don't think I would even get the ball passed to me at all. So I just shot around and my co-worker played in a few games. I'm really glad I didn't play, because I can feel my legs are sore from just shooting around…that is pitiful, I'm so out of shape!

It turns out we left the gym too late and all the places to eat on post were closed. We decided to go off post and grab a bite because we were starving at this point. We went to a little restaurant that we had a brochure for about 10 minutes away from post. The place was nice and quaint. I wish we would have stayed there to eat, I would have tried one of their family beers and watched the soccer game on the TV. I'm not a huge soccer fan, but there were about 6 locals in there all excited and watching the game.

We got back at almost 1000 and I quickly ate and then prepared for bed. Hopefully I'll get some good sleep tonight and be ready for the another day tomorrow.

Overheard Quote: "Man….I'd rather get my prostate examined than eat that shit!" (A guy in our barracks after coming back from eating at the DFAC)

SIPR Setup (FTX Day 8) - (Germany) Day 119

Ummmmm.....I can see the exit right there!

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

As expected the new barracks was quite a bit different than our old barracks. Last night I realized another advantage of bringing a couple blankets to drape on either side of your bunk. The couple that did had their privacy as I mentioned, but they also had a nice dark area to sleep in. It didn't matter how late the lights stayed on, or how early the sun came up…they stayed relatively dark. I'll definitely have to consider that next time if possible. The problem is that you have to secure a bottom bunk in order to make it work. I used my PT cap as usual and put in my ear plugs. The PT cap pulled down over my eyes does a decent job of keeping the light out. At 0500 in the morning people's alarms started going off. Not all at once, but about every 15 minutes or so I would hear one even with my ear plugs in. This was kind of a bummer because I wasn't planning on getting up until 0700 (a half hour earlier than usual because we had to be in a half hour early at 0900).

I finally just got up about 0645 and started getting ready for the day. Today was the day the SIPR (secret) network was turned on. This in turn causes a lot more security to be enforced such as no personal electronic devices are allowed inside the warehouse and there are guards posted at the entrance to check for ID badges and inform folks to leave said electronic devices behind. Me and a co-worker found out when we arrived that we would actually be pulling this guard duty today…or at least this morning. The people that are coming to do this for the exercise were arriving today, but they were not sure when…because of this we were voluntold.

We were given the security brief and then started our new job. It was actually a really easy job and turned out to be just sitting in a room waiting for the occasional person to come show us their badge so we could buzz them in through the door. As each person would go by, we would remind them not to bring in any personal electronic devices. Most of the time we just sat there and surfed the internet on the computer in the room. We ended up doing this until the real guys pulling guard duty arrived. They came in perfect time for lunch, so we ended up leaving in a TMP to the bowling alley for lunch. We heard their restaurant was pretty good and wanted something different.

Once back at work we joined the rest of our crew getting the SIPR computers up and running. The process was very similar to the unclassified network (NIPR), but this time the NCOIC picked 4 rooms and had everyone concentrate on these four rooms until each step was finished. This seemed to work out a little better than the crazy "chicken with their head cut off" method used last week. We stayed until about 1730 getting everything finished and then had an end of the day meeting to update the status of everything.

Tonight the exercise DFAC finally opened. There are a couple of advantages of this…I don't have to buy food anymore, it's located literally 40 meters away from our barracks. There of course are some drawbacks as well…I will not be getting paid the full per diem rate and…well…it's DFAC food. We had dinner there and I had some sort of chicken stir fry concoction over rice which was edible, but my buddy tried the pork dish and couldn't eat it. He had me try and I couldn't blame him. I told him to go up and get a serving of what I had and he did. The really nice thing is that the DFAC will be open for breakfast, so there will not be anymore scrambling in the morning trying to figure out how to eat. (This morning I just had to wait until the shoppette opened at 1000 and make a quick run over there to buy a NutriGrain bar for breakfast).

A Day of Rest (FTX Day 7) - (Germany) Day 118

One of the unique landmark buildings I snapped a picture of 
while we were driving around the main post of Grafenwoehr

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning I slept in until 0745. I could have slept longer, but nature decided to call early and when that happens the bathroom is not just in the other room here. Once the trip is made 50 meters to the bathroom and back (outside), you're pretty much up. I listened to music on my iPhone for a while waiting until the shoppette opened up at 1000. I planned on doing laundry today, but I had to get out cash, then buy a little snack for breakfast to make some change (the ATM only spits out $20 bills). Once that was done I headed to the laundry mat to wash my clothes in the coin operated machines.

Back in the barracks we found out that the room we were all in was reserved for E-8's and above. These folks would start arriving today or tomorrow and we had to get out. Nice…I wish we would have been told this earlier and had us just move into the other building. Now there are already people in there and the good spots next to the few power outlets are all taken. We all packed up our stuff and moved the 30 meters or so to the new building. The one benefit is that it's a lot closer to the bathrooms. The main drawback is that there are a number of people in there along with some NCOs. It's always a gamble with NCOs, they can be cool or real assholes. So there is the potential that the next couple of weeks could really suck. Our NCOIC is not much of a project manager, but he seems like a nice guy otherwise and he never bothered us in the barracks.

I ended up getting a bunk next to a guy who had his playstation plugged into a transformer along with a couple power-strips, so I am able to reach my power cable to it which is perfect. The other guys ended up buying some long extension cords to reach their bunks from the other guy's power-strips. I do learn something new every time I do go on an FTX though. Last time I realized that I needed to bring a pillow, a blanket to cover the mattress, and a power-strip. I see now that bringing a couple extra blankets will come in hand to drape on either side of the bed for some privacy. There are a couple guys in this bay that are doing it and it looks like a good idea.

Me and my co-workers took a TMP to the food court where I had Pizza Hut of course. We all brought our laptops and headed to the USO to make use of their free Internet. There is nothing else really to do except hang out in the bay, so this worked out well. We spent a few hours there and I kind of video chatted with my wife. I say kind of because the microphone on my headphones is broken, so I could hear my wife, but she couldn't hear me. I had to type everything while she talked to me…kind of a one way conversation, but it was nice to see her and hear her voice. I may have to look into purchasing a new pair of headphones with a microphone before next weekend.

We left and the others ate dinner, but I was still full from the pizza and cheesy bread. I just ended up eating some trail mix later on back in the barracks. Once back everyone started coming back in the barracks and it filled up a bit. What a difference from our previous bay which was relatively quiet. There are conversations everywhere and someone is bouncing a basketball. Hopefully it will quiet down at night, but I'm sure the morning will be noisy with people getting up to go to the gym.

I settled down in my bed and watched "What Happens in Vegas". A chick flick about a couple that meet in Vegas and after a night of drinking, get married…oh and they win 3 million dollars on a slot machine. Instead of giving them an annulment, the judge orders them to work on their marriage for six months with required weekly marriage counseling. It's a typical romantic comedy and runs through the same routine that all romantic comedies go through and yes in the end they live happily ever after. It's a decent watch and had me chuckling a few times…always nice to veg out and let your mind escape this boring place.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Late Lunch (FTX Day 6) - (Germany) Day 117

The Men's bathroom in "The Warehouse" (Bad Urinal Design)

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning started off similar to yesterday, get up…get ready…take TMP for breakfast…go to work. It's a Saturday and at our morning meeting we were told that we would only have to work until lunch. I am not going to hold my breath on that promise. The entire day was retarded. There was no direction, our NCOIC was getting pissed off and all the soldiers were getting pissed off. The problem is that the leaders need to send a clear message to soldiers, tell them exactly what they want done and let them finish the task. This wasn't done today and it turned out to be very frustrating for everyone involved. We were told to go re-check every room to make sure everything was done. So even though there was a sheet on each screen with someone's initials by each task that needed to be completed, we had to check again.

It turned out that everyone just kind of spread out and ended up doing much of nothing. The guys stationed here permanently have an interesting way to find each other. We are working in a warehouse and all the rooms are just walls without a ceiling, you can hear one of the guys yell "Marco"…then a few seconds later another will yell "Polo". This is how they find each other throughout the day, so we are constantly hearing "Marco…..Polo" all day long…LOL.

Once I finished a room I just sat on a computer and checked my email and Facebook. I started to read the news as well. Nobody was doing anything, and I'm not too sure why we were even there. The few problems that remained were cleared up. These problems shouldn't have even been problems at all. It turns out that a number of the ports were not active when we set everything up, so when a computer was plugged in…there would be no connectivity. This is something that we could not fix, the "warehouse" had to fix it. The "warehouse" is a number of civilian workers that maintain the computers and networks that are used in the warehouse. Why all the ports don't work before an exercise is a little strange to me. Alas…all the needed ports and final issues were fixed…and we waited…and waited.

The help desk printer did not have drivers for the computers to use, so we had to wait some more until that was resolved. We waited and waited. 1130 came and went…people started grumbling a little. We were told to go check all the rooms again because (and I'll simplify the process a bit) the NCOIC did not see what he thought should be running at the end state, but it turns out that once the computer is restarted, this does not need to be running. He had freaked out and was yelling at the junior NCOs about this. I then had to prove that once the process starts it's good and will not show up after a restart. We waited some more…and longer.

By this time everyone was just pissed off. We had one guy in our group that just stopped talking all together. Another wouldn't stop talking about how pissed he was. Everyone was hungry and it was 1400…well past lunch time. We were finally let go at 1530 for the day. I guess we were able to leave after lunch, it's just that lunch didn't happen until 1530! I was a little pissed too, not for the fact that we had to work, but I think we should have been let go and then come back.

We immediately left before any change could be announced. We grabbed a TMP and headed off to the food court. I had an entire foot long sandwich at Subway because I knew it was going to be my lunch and dinner. We then headed to the USO so one of our guys could make a phone call. I was pleased to find that they had free WiFi and made use of it with my iPhone. I then hung out with the other guys with the laptops that were setup for users, when all of a sudden they all start laughing and tell me to look behind me. As I turn around I have to take a moment to realize what I'm seeing. Here is a young 9 year old Asian girl with the laptop turned so nobody can see it except our table because we are the only ones behind her. On her screen is cartoon pornography. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Here is a very young Asian girl who I would just assume is looking up spelling bee words, or perhaps something for her next science project, but no I see naked cartoon characters. The only one I made out was the little mermaid and Scooby Doo, but I'm sure if I were into cartoons I could've named them all. So we all got up and left unable to control our laughing. I'm not sure what the world is coming to after seeing this.

I spent the rest of the night talking to my wife for a bit and then watching Apocalypse Now. I'd heard the name before, but never really knew what the movie was about. I copied it from our maintenance sergeant during our last staff duty, but never had a chance to watch it yet. It turns out it's a pretty interesting Vietnam war movie about a guy with some demons of his own. He has to go on a mission and "terminate" a colonel who has gone rogue. The film is an interesting look at some of the right and wrong things we do as humans and how a lot of what is right gets thrown out the window during war. I thought it was a good movie, but perhaps not good enough to keep in my movie collection. It's definitely a movie worth watching, but I probably wouldn't watch it again.

Have No Fear…The Air Force Is Here (FTX Day 5) - (Germany) Day 116

A typical room that we setup inside the warehouse with both unsecured and secured computers.

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning after yesterday's ordeal with breakfast we all just got ready and then got the keys to the TMP and took ourselves to breakfast at Burger King. It worked perfectly and everyone was happy. (We should have been doing this all week).

The day started off with a meeting as usual. We were told that there would be a group of air force personnel coming to be part of the exercise and helping us with the I.T. portion. We were also told they will not be staying in the barracks like us, they instead will be staying at a hotel off post the entire time. This is the difference between the army and the air force. The air force treats their people so much better. You can go onto any air force base and the quality of living is so much better than the closest army base. I've seen this first hand on multiple occasions.

We were each given tasks for the day and sent off. My task was to check each room and image any stray computers that had not been imaged yet for various reasons. Whatever the reason was, it was supposed to be fixed and they should be ready to image. I was skeptical at first, but as I started making my way from room to room the image worked on each computer. To put the image on takes about 15 minutes, so while I was waiting I would get on a working computer and check my personal email and Facebook. It's strange when I go for a few days without having internet, I feel so isolated.

At lunch we headed to the food court in a TMP  and I decided to have Pizza Hut once again. I've had it 3 days this week! I could eat pizza everyday (I did when I was a young lad working at a pizza joint), but I know it can't be that good for me.

When we arrived back at the warehouse I continued working on imaging a computer here and there. By the time I finished I had also caught up on my email and Facebook for the most part. We were then gathered together for a meeting where our NCOIC complained about how everything is going. It's really due to his bad leadership, but everyone let him bitch and moan for a while. We then were told to pair up and get assigned to a room. We were not allowed to leave "even if it takes until midnight" until the room was good to go. One of the NCOs who is stationed here permanently then printed out a sheet to go with each computer that we would check off the status of everything that has to be done (Imaged, Joined to Domain, Named, Printer…etc). This should have been done a long time ago and would have resolved a number of problems earlier on. My room had an issue with the printer not working, but I found out it was because the pause button was stuck on, this caused it not to work at all…or even show that it can network connectivity lights. I resolved that and then we got all the computers connected to the printer and made sure they were all good to go. Once I told our NCOIC we were good, he told us we could go. I left immediately which ended up about 1645. I then headed to the barracks and read for a while.

Getting off work was short lived as the NCOIC wanted to have an end of the day meeting and forgot he said me and another guy could go. So I had to get dressed up in my uniform again and head back over to the warehouse. I wasn't surprised, it just seemed typical. We were informed we would have to work tomorrow (Saturday) to finish things up for the NIPR network. The funny thing is that the air force guys have tomorrow off and will come in on Sunday if needed. I say if needed because there is not a whole lot to be done. I think there are a few computers and loose ends to tie up. We were told we would only work until lunch…I laughed a little on the inside.

We then were released for the day. I headed back to the barracks and finished watching the movie "War Horse". I would say it's not my typical movie. It had the word "war" in it so I thought I would give it a try. The movie revolves around the life of a horse who happens to end up in the middle of world war 1 and gets passed through a number of people's hands. Each time someone comes across the horse, it makes an impact on their lives. It's basically a chick flick that I was tricked into watching because it had "war" in the title. There was some trench warfare scenes which were interesting, but not enough to make me like the movie. It did pass the time, but I would not recommend it to anyone but girls that like horses (isn't that all girls?)

Running In Circles (FTX Day 4) - (Germany) Day 115

The NCOIC tried to block the sound from one of the guys snoring 
by staking up mattresses around his didn't really work, 
but it was funny when the dude woke up and wondered 
why he was surrounded...LOL

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning started off bad and the rest of the day went downhill from there. I woke up with a raging headache, which just sucks. The mattresses on these beds just suck and I must have slept wrong. The mattresses have about the same feel as a wrestling mat…they are just not that comfortable. I popped 3 Excedrin and then went to get ready for the day. As I was almost finished getting ready our NCOIC asked if everyone wanted Whoppers for breakfast as he was heading out. We all waited for him to return, but he never did! We all headed to the warehouse and waited for our morning meeting to start at 0900. Our NCOIC walks in and doesn't have any breakfast for us. Now I don't expect him to purchase breakfast every morning for us, but if you say something like that and walk out the door…everyone is expecting food. If you're not going to buy it for us, then let us give money or go with so we can get something.

In the morning meeting we were told we would probably only work until lunch today, then each of us were given tasks to accomplish and were sent off. I started working on my task (finding out which network ports were still not up and running), then at 1000 when the shoppette opened, I headed over there and bought a couple snacks (NutriGrain bars) for breakfast. Once back I continued my work, then suddenly the NCOIC comes in and tells me and my co-worker that we need to stop doing that and do this other task. This went on the same way throughout the day which was driving everyone completely nuts. Our NCOIC is the project manager for this setup and he is the absolute worst project manager that I've ever worked with. I've done a number of big projects working in the IT field and this is the absolute worst leadership ever! We all felt like we just kept starting on something, then moved to something else, then moved again and again before finishing any task. We also felt like we kept doing the same thing over and over. The fear that we would have to re-image all the machines to Windows 7 came true…all the time that we took imaging computers before to Vista was all for nothing. I think the worst thing about this NCOIC is that he thinks he knows everything. He is always bragging about how smart he is, though he proves the opposite every chance he gets.

We got a TMP for lunch and went to the commissary once again. This was a pretty funny event in a stressful day. The guy driving hadn't used a stick shift in five years he said and he kept killing and stalling the engine, unable to work the clutch very well. He killed the TMP after showing the ID to the guard and it took us a few minutes to get moving out of there, I was laughing pretty hard.

Back at work it was the same ol' same ol', running around like a bunch of chickens with our heads cut off. Instead of getting off at lunch time, we got off at 1930. I headed back to the barracks and quickly changed into my comfy clothes, then ate the other half of my sandwich I saved from lunch, by this time everyone was getting pretty hungry. I then talked to my wife for a bit before reading my book and then starting a movie for the night.

Beautification (FTX Day 3) - (Germany) Day 114

A photo of our barracks's pretty bare now with only 5 of us in there.

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning I woke up on my own once again. I had my alarm set for 0730, but woke up at 0700. One thing I can say is good about this FTX, is that we don't have to get up at the butt crack of dawn to start the day which I very much appreciate. Our NCOIC took me to Burger King and bought everyone breakfast, which I helped him bring back. For some crazy reason they sell Whoppers for breakfast now, and that is what everyone got except for me. When I have breakfast I want breakfast food (Pizza is the only acceptable alternative…and it can even be cold when eating it for breakfast).

We started the day again in the warehouse and the whole first half of the day was spent doing "beautification" in each of the rooms. This was basically taping all the network cables under the long tables so they would be out of sight and not presenting a tripping hazard. We went to lunch at the commissary, which I have to say was awesome. They make a nice fresh sandwich and the total with a very large drink and chips was under $5.

Once back at the warehouse we started adding computers to the domain. Once added we did a couple steps to finish up and then the machine was ready to go. This all seems like an easy process, but somehow the leaders ended up changing some things up and getting everyone confused. We ended up working until 1800 and then finally were able to leave. This I don't think would normally be a big issue, but yesterday our NCOIC had told us we would probably be out of there at 1430 or 1500. So by 1800 everyone was grumbling and upset. Before I left I heard one of the leaders say we need to upgrade all the systems to Windows 7. If that is the case, I think they should have used a Windows 7 image when we pushed it out to all the machines. I guess we'll see what happens tomorrow, but I have a bad feeling that we are going to do a bunch more redundant work.

We headed back to the barracks and everyone left to the bowling alley to eat and hang out. I just wanted to relax, so I stayed back. If the place had free Internet I would probably go, but I don't think it does. This place really sucks for free WiFi. There is a couple places where you can purchase a temporary internet connection similar to ones found at AIT, but that is just a rip-off.

I read my book and then watched the last movie in the Blade series "Blade Trinity". I wasn't expecting much of anything from the movie, but it was surprisingly pretty good. It had a more modern feel and even a little "Matrix" flare to it. Toss in a little bit of cheese and kung-fu and it was a fun movie to watch. It even had Dracula in it of all vampires!

Cable Dogs (FTX Day 2) - (Germany) Day 113

My bed using the mattress off the top bunk to try and help with the comfort (it doesn't do much)

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

This morning I woke up about 0715. I woke up a few times before that and had my alarm set for 0730, but decided to get up since it was so close. I grabbed my shower/bathroom gear and headed to get ready for the day. The bathroom and showers are located about 50 meters away in a separate building. Once I was ready to go I read my book for a while until everyone was ready. There was no plan yet for breakfast and I was a little upset that there was no plans made already to take care of the soldiers here. At the last minute the NCOIC found out that we could take a TMP and we headed to the main post and ate breakfast at Burger King. We are supposed to get reimbursed for our meals and such because this is TDY, but I don't have much confidence in the whole army finance system. We shall see.

We arrived for our morning briefing and were introduced to the staff that works here full time. I was surprised to see a guy that graduated in the class before me at AIT. He was friends with my roommate in RBK. He said he went for a year in Kuwait and then came here. He did a bunch of 25B work while in Kuwait and since he's been here, he sets up for exercises and then breaks everything down. Pretty much what we are here to help out with…he does full time. He also said he's only got three weekends off this whole year which really sucks! Funny how different your job can be depending on your unit and your duty station.

We started the day off connecting a number of computers to network jacks in the wall. There were three different types of systems and we had to make sure to use the correct cable color for each system and jacks on the wall. For example the NIPR network computers (unclassified) all use green cables and connect to green jacks on the wall. Not really rocket science and I'm not complaining because this is probably the closest thing I've done with Information Technology since I've arrived in Germany. We connected all the computers in various rooms. The exercise that is taking place is actually happening around the world, but for our part here it is taking place in a big warehouse type of building. This huge building has been separated into many smaller rooms that are jammed with computers and desks. We systematically went to each room and connected everything.

For lunch we were given a ride to the food court back on the main post. Pizza Hut had no line, so I ate there for the second day in a row. Not sure I can keep doing this without gaining about 30 pounds while I'm here!

Back at the warehouse the next step was to image all the NIPR machines. This was done with an image on a laptop acting as a ghost server, then connecting that laptop to a switch that we brought into each room. We would then connect temporary cables from each of the NIPR machines in the room to the switch and restart them to connect to the ghost server. After that the image was pushed out and would update everything in about 20-25 minutes. Once this was done there was a brand new "fresh" install of the operating system along with all the required settings on each of the computers. We had two setups for this that we would alternate with each room, this way we could have two rooms getting imaged at the same time. We were able to finish pretty much everything we needed to today.

We left for the day at 1700 and went back to our barracks. The other guys headed to the gym and then got something to eat. I stayed back not feeling the urge to head to the gym when I was nursing a headache. I'm going to take some medication and try to get back to normal.

I was hanging out alone in the barracks and my NCOIC came back with Chinese food which he gave to me. I wasn't planned on eating much of a dinner and this turned out to be perfect! I then talked to my wife for about an hour before settling in and watching "Blade 2". I had never seen the sequel before and was surprised that it didn't actually suck, I thought it was a decent movie. I had to take a break in the middle of the movie, our NCOIC wanted to have a group huddle before the end of the night. He basically said we all did a good job and to keep it up. He said he's going to put us all in for an award (AAM: Army Achievement Medal) for the exercise, but cautioned everyone to make sure they keep busy. He then went around asking everyone what they had learned. I had to say that I didn't actually learn anything (because I've done all this before in civilian life), but it's better than ComSec work.

First Day (FTX Day 1) - (Germany) Day 112

A typical rest area along the autobahn....some have bathrooms 
and some let you use the old fashioned bathroom....the woods!

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

My sergeant had called me yesterday and let me know that I didn't need to come to formation. He would be picking up the TMP and coming back to pick me up with SPC Whirlwind. We were all wearing civilian clothes because we were traveling a long distance off post. So this was a nice surprise, I got to sleep in a bit and I was able to wear regular clothes.

They picked me up around 0700 and we took off in the TMP. I spent the ride drifting in and out of sleep. We stopped at a German rest stop along the side of the autobahn. The rest areas are a little different than I'm used to in the states. Some are normal with a small bathroom and some park tables and benches, but others like the one we stopped at didn't have much of anything. If you want to go to the bathroom you "utilize the woodline" which is what all of us did.

We made it to Grafenwoehr and onto the main post in about 3 and a half hours. We went and checked out the PX which was a lot bigger and nicer than ours in Heidelberg. We ate lunch in the food court and as we were leaving we asked some MPs how to get to the actual camp we were looking for. Turns out it was pretty close to where SPC Whirlwind attended Warrior Leader Course (WLC). Once we arrived shortly before noon as stated on the message sent to me, we were told nothing is ready yet and to come back at 1300. So we drove back to the main post, filled up the tank, and then waited around a while before heading back where I was dropped off.

I waited around for about 15 minutes before some others and the main guy came in. The took down our names (there is only 5 of us) and also asked who had admin privileges, only two people raised their hands. I guess everyone that was supposed to come, was supposed to have admin privileges already. We were given a small brief and then told to check in at another place in order to get our beds and temporary badges.

We headed over to another building, but they were not ready for us yet either. We had to just write our names down on paper, then we ran into the NCOIC that is in charge of the help desk and he told us to come into his barracks and get settled in. There are a number of beds, but only 5 of us here, so it seems a little empty. Surprisingly there are only a couple power outlets, so we are gathered around them and I quickly put my power-strip to use so me and the guy next to me can both use this one outlet.

We were then shown where the shoppette, laundry (coin operated) and bathrooms are located. After that I hung out on my bed for a while, just reading my book. A few of the others headed out with the NCOIC to the main post. Besides checking in today, we don't have anything planned. I napped for a bit, read a book (Steve Jobs)  on my iPad and watched a movie. Tonight's special was "Blade" starring Wesley Snipes. I hadn't seen it in forever and with all the current vampire craze that's going on, I wanted to watch an old school vampire movie (on my laptop).

Weekend Wrap-Up (Germany) Days 110 & 111

(Due to the FTX my posts may be a little sporadic, I found out the USO offers free Internet and will be toting along my laptop and uploading posts as I get a chance)

Saturday: I didn't have much planned for the weekend other than getting some rest and relaxation before my FTX that I was voluntold to do. My wife and I hung out around the house for a bit just cleaning up and watching TV shows before heading to the PX to gather some items I wanted to make sure I had for the FTX such as laundry detergent and a German style power-strip along with some US adapters. I found out during my last FTX that all the barracks use the German plugs and I figured this one would be no different.

We then met up with SPC Whirlwind and his wife for dinner at their place. His wife is German and made us a traditional German dinner recipe that consisted of cabbage, some type of noodle with sauce, and beef wrapped up with some veggies inside. I didn't catch the names of everything, but it was all pretty good. We plan on having them over to enjoy some Asian food before they leave. We then went to cosmic bowling and bowled until 0100 with a few others from our company. One of the sergeants just found out he was going through a divorce, so he was "bowling angry". This also included partaking in a lot of drinking for everyone. I had a couple of beers, but decided to leave it at that. The other guys drank beer, then started ordering doubles and triples of jack and coke. It went pretty downhill from there, but it was pretty funny to watch them all try and bowl afterward.

Sunday: Again my wife and I didn't do a whole lot. We wanted to spend the day together because I would be gone for a month. We did make a trip to the commissary, but that was about it for the day. It was all spent eating some of my favorite meals that my wife made for me. Pancakes, bacon and eggs for breakfast and then tacos for dinner. Who knows what the food will be like during the FTX. I then packed everything I needed into a ruck sack and a duffel bag. Luckily I didn't need any combat gear for this FTX. I also do not know what the situation will be for internet access, so I will just write and then update when I get a chance.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Getting Pinned - (Germany) Day 109

My wife "pinning" on my new specialist rank 
during the small promotion ceremony.

This morning's PT was a run off post in civilian clothes. We ran about 4 miles into downtown Heidelberg across the new bridge and then back to post. Even though I have never cared for running in my life, I do prefer running off post with some different scenery than just running around in a circle on post.

We then came to work in civilian sports attire at 0900. Today was a sports activity day for our company and about 1100 we headed to Patton Barracks where we had a barbecue, then ended up playing basketball. I have to say that after running, a ruck march, and another run today that my legs were shot. I played in a couple of games with our Heidelberg unit vs Mannheim and then against Landstuhl. Surprisingly…or maybe not so, we lost both games..even though they were close. My legs were pretty much numb after that, so I opted out of the football afterwards.

The whole event was nice and laid back which was perfect. Everyone enjoyed themselves and had a good time. I then had to change into my uniform at 1500. They picked today to do my actual pin-on ceremony. So my wife was able to leave work early and head over. Everyone got in formation and SPC Matrix read my orders. My wife then took off my PFC rank and put on my SPC rank. Then she took off my hat with the PFC rank and placed my other hat with the SPC rank on my head. I then had to give a short speech that I wasn't prepared for, so I spattered off something about thanking everyone for being there (like they had a choice), and especially thanking my co-workers and my boss for their support.

After that there were a number of people that came up and punched me in the chest. I wasn't prepared for the first one, but after that I was ready for it. After taking all the punches everyone was free to go for the weekend.

My wife and I headed out to Mannheim to celebrate. She wanted to stop by a store and do a little window shopping then we headed to a restaurant. We used TripAdvisor to search for and find a place to eat. We decided to eat at a German restaurant and chose one called Andechser Mannheim. It had pretty good reviews at average prices…remember I'm still a junior enlisted. I love technology! We were able to find a place, read reviews, then plug the address in our GPS and head out. The food was good and I had a couple of German beers to celebrate my promotion, then let my wife drive back home just to play it safe…after we both had some ice cream for dessert.

A good day and a perfect evening with my wife. I am now officially Specialist McGuire.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Little Info - (Germany) Day 108

Came across this car on our ruck march this morning...LOL

This morning's PT was a ruck march off post. We headed out to switchback mountain, went up and then back down. We then headed over to "the stairs" and headed up and down all 500+ stairs. Once finished we grouped up and headed back to post. I don't care for ruck marches too much, in fact I think they're pretty stupid. I was thankful though that it didn't rain and also unlike last time, we were warned that it would go longer than normal PT. This let me plan accordingly and have my wife drop me off with plans for me to just stay at work to shower and eat breakfast.

I showered at the gym and then headed over to the food court to pick up some pastries for breakfast along with some coffee. Since it's Thursday we had our usual training…I have to say that this training was a bit unusual in the fact that it was actually 25B training! We were given a class on security+ that was given by my sponsor from when I first arrived here. Even though I'm already certified, I was happy that we finally got some training that actually pertains to the 25B job. The training was good and went from 0900 until a little after noon.

I had lunch at Subway in the food court, then headed back to the office with some reading material ready to go. I spent time reading Army Times, then just kind of hung out for a while until I had a chance to jump on a computer for a minute. We all had to turn in our weekend checklist today. I don't know what I actually have planned this weekend yet, so I just put "spending time with my lovely wife in the greater Heidelberg area". SPC Whirlwind liked that so much he asked me to print out another one with his name on it as well.

We then did some cleaning up of the office before heading out for the day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Almost No News - (Germany) Day 107

This morning's PT was spin class. After we formed up for accountability, those of us participating in PT headed to the gym and attended the spin class. I say those of us that are participating because it seems like everyday half the people fall out after formation for some reason or another. I'm just stating this because I'm jealous I guess, maybe I need to start making some early morning appointments. The spin class was a good workout. The instructor played all the music I like (Metallica, Motley Crue, Nickleback, Green Day, and even Twisted Sister…LOL).

The day was very uneventful. It was one of those days where I didn't have a computer, so I just sat around at a desk and read a magazine. Once lunch came I headed over to the food court and ate, then headed back to the office. In the office I was asked if I knew anything about this upcoming FTX I have to attend. I was expecting my superiors to tell me something, but they didn't know anything. They had me go over to S3 and see what I could find out.

I headed over to S3 and after waiting around a bit, a sergeant tried to give me a hand. The problem is that this exercise is a brigade exercise and there has been absolutely no information passed down yet. So they told me I would have to have my wife drive me there and to pack whatever I think I needed. When I asked for an address to put in my GPS, they said look up Grafenwoehr in your GPS…then when you get there look for signs…wonderful.

When I got back to the office my boss of course found this unacceptable and after speaking to his boss they decided they would take our TMP and drive me up there this Sunday. After sitting around and trying to occupy my time, I had a chance to jump on a computer and check my email. I did finally receive some more info about the exercise and it had some good news…no combat gear and I don't have to report until this Monday by noon. That makes me feel a little better, but I'm still not happy about leaving for a month and sleeping in a big barracks room again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Undercover Specialist - (Germany) Day 106

This morning's PT was muscle failure, which we did inside and included a large number of push-ups, sit-ups and other various abdomen workouts. It was a pretty good workout overall. Work started as usual, except I had the car today to run some errands. After doing some paperwork in the office, I headed out to the education center to try and get some information. Unfortunately the girl working at the counter was pretty useless. I left there thinking it was a total waste of time and should have just emailed GoArmyEd instead…which is what I now have to do. The next stop was the alteration shop, where I dropped off both my helmet cover and my Class A top to get my specialist patch sewn on. Technically and officially I have been a specialist (E-4) for 5 days now. It shows up on my records and I am getting paid as a specialist. The problem is that my unit will not let me wear my new rank until I get "pinned" through a ceremony. That is just BS. I still had to get everything ready, so when I do have the little ceremony, I can be good to go. Until then I'm an undercover specialist, I just look like a PFC on the outside.

I then met up with my wife at work and we had lunch together. Unfortunately she only gets a half hour lunch, so I spent the rest of my lunch taking a nap in the car. After that I headed to the hospital to get my blood drawn for an HIV test. This is mandatory every 2 years for everyone in the army. Everyone's medical status is shown on their webpage and if anything needs to be done it shows up in red. A pretty simple process with no appointment needed, I just went in and they drew the blood.

Back at the office I checked my email and studied for my Apple re-certification test. I still have not heard anything about this FTX I'm supposed to be going on. All I know is that I'm supposed to leave on Sunday and get back May 10th. I have not heard anything else. I don't know what I'm supposed to pack, I don't know how I'm supposed to get there, I don't know where I'll be staying. All I've been told are dates and now that it's less than a week away I'm getting a little frustrated with the lack of information. I'm not looking forward to this "special task" at all.

We were let go about a half hour early and I picked up my wife and headed home. We relaxed and watched some Netflix before turning in for the night.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Days 102 - 105

My wife posing in front of the Liederbacher Hof. A small hotel (bed & breakfast)
in the small town of Liederbach near Frankfurt

Friday: Today was pretty uneventful. It was nice not getting up early, I just woke up with my wife and gave her a ride to work. I had the day off, but unfortunately she doesn't get a four day weekend this weekend. I spent the day putting together our guest bed and doing housework such as laundry and dishes. Not very exciting stuff. I was still a little sore and my head was still somewhat fragile. It's crazy that my miracle drug (Excedrin) has been off the shelves for a while now because of a voluntary recall. There is no sign of it coming back and I've blown through my supply. My mom had a big bottle and shipped me more, but that supply is about gone as well. I can't believe the company hasn't been able to get their act together and replenish the supply. Excedrin seems to be one of the only pain relievers that can get rid of my headaches.

Saturday: We left to a small town near Frankfurt called Liederbach. I stayed in this town for the summer about 21 years ago. I had a friend I met through an exchange program a couple years earlier that I stayed with. My friend Ingo came and stayed with me and my parents a year before. Now after 21 years I planned to visit him once again. Ingo had a very unique laugh, one that would make me start laughing every time I heard it. He also was a drunk even by German standards…back when he was a teenager. So I figured we would be doing some drinking while we where visiting.

Ingo now is the owner/operator of the Liederbacher Hof, a small hotel located near his home. He took over the business from his parents and gave us a deal to stay there one night. I would say it's more like a bed and breakfast than a hotel. Ingo does everything from running the front desk to cooking breakfast. If you're interested in staying in a unique small quiet hotel with a nice host within minutes of Frankfurt I would recommend his place.

The biggest shock was that Ingo doesn't drink fact he hasn't drank in over 10 years! I guess he lost his license twice and after the second time, he decided to give up beer. It was a huge surprise, but I'm glad he has made the choice to better his life. We visited for a while, then my wife and I headed over to the Main Taunes Zentrum, which is a shopping mall nearby. We passed the time until my friend was able to go out for dinner. We had a great dinner at a small Italian restaurant about a block away. The food was great and catching up with my old friend was a lot of fun. It's still amazing to me that it's been over 21 years! The city looked familiar, but to be honest I couldn't remember hardly anything there. Either the decades that have past, or the fact that I drank a lot when I was there before, may have contributed to my fuzzy memory…or I'm just getting old.

Sunday: We had breakfast at the hotel cooked by my friend, then we headed back home. Once home we watched our TV shows and took it easy for the rest of the day. There isn't too mention about the rest of the day. I spent some time studying for my Apple re-certification, but other than that it was just TV shows and hanging out with my wife.

Monday: Woke up with my wife this morning and saw her off to work. The day consisted of laundry and studying for my Apple re-certification. Not too exciting, but it was a nice relaxing day before I have to return to work tomorrow.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Playing Army Man Again - (Germany) Day 101

Two groups getting ready to kick down the door and 
clear a house during our training in Mannheim

This morning we did not have PT. Instead we had to form up early (0630) at the armory to get our weapons issued to us. We have training scheduled for our Thursday sergeant's time training and today is a special one. We are heading out to Mannheim and meeting up with some other platoons from our company that are located in Mannheim, and there are even some from Landstuhl making the trip down.

Our platoons here in Heidelberg took 3 TMP vans to Mannheim which is about a half hour to 45 minutes away. Once we arrived we headed to the DFAC right away and everyone had breakfast before heading out. The DFAC food was typical DFAC food, we got enough to fill us..but the quality left something to be desired.

We then went to the field and broke up into three even groups to start our training. I have to say this is the kind of stuff I really don't like about the army. The motto is that "Everyone is a soldier first", but I sometimes think they use this as a blanket excuse to just do infantry training. We have to have some sort of training every Thursday and because there is already so much infantry training all laid out and ready to go, they just go with it. It's useless training for me and I really hate it. I really wish they would do some geeky computer training! You may think that it's funny that I'm in the army and don't like to run around in the bushes playing army man. I think of myself more like a guy with talent and experience in a professional field. I left my profession to serve my country for one tour of duty. In doing this I made sure to get my particular field selected for my job and planned on contributing during my service. My specialty is computers…Information Technology. I'm experienced, I'm certified, I graduated at the top of my AIT class, yet I still have yet to do my job in a full time capacity…instead I get a glimpse of my profession every now and then, but that is it. Think of a talented surgeon that wants to give back to his country and joins the army as an army surgeon, but instead of working in a hospital they have him kicking in doors and running around the woods. They have him doing this not as a combat medic, but just as a soldier learning infantry. This is how I feel every time I go to the field…in fact every time I attend any army training each Thursday. Also we just found out today that there are no appointments allowed on Thursdays anymore…just in case someone wanted to use one to get out of this "awesome" training we have. This was put out by our battalion commander.

The training is given by our NCOs and I'm not upset at them…at all. They are most times not even told what they will be teaching until the last second…sometimes the day before. Another crappy thing the army does which hurts not only the teacher, but also the students. In our training sessions today we had the NCOs reading line by line from sheets of paper printed from the internet telling us how to run around the woods and play army man…well enough ranting here is how the day went:

Our first group we had to form up in a platoon wedge formation and start walking through the woods. We were told the entire days training should end at 1100…so we got started right away. This basically involves 2 teams each with a point man and the rest of the team at a roughly 45 degree angle walking…kind of a similar formation you would see a flock of birds flying…except spread out a little farther apart. Our training was on how to react to fire. So if we happened to be patrolling the woods and were fired upon, what should we do? We walked through the correct procedure a few times. They made me squad leader at one point, which is another thing I really hate. I have no desire to ever lead a group of troops through the woods or any other kind of infantry movements. It's not "good training" for me, because it's something that will NEVER happen.

After that we went to the next station which was how to hold your weapon in close quarters and also when the enemy is within 25 to 50 meters. This class was pretty simple and not very time consuming. After a few demonstrations we all practiced and then would practice turning left or right with the weapon ready.

Next was the mount training. This tactic involves lining up outside a door and then kicking in the door and clearing a room. We then did more advance scenarios such as the entire house with two teams.

Once finished we found out we then had to each do a larger scenario that took everything we learned and put it all together. My group volunteered to go first while another group would watch and the last group would be the enemy (with their ACU tops on inside-out so we could tell). Someone had the great idea to make me and another PFC the squad leaders of the group. WTF? We have a number of NCOs in our group who sit around in an office environment and only get to lead in a supervisory role. These should be the guys jumping at the chance to now lead in a tactical exercise, this should be their chance to shine as leaders and practice something they do not get to use. Nope me and another PFC got the job. Needless to say we all died many times before even getting to the village to clear the houses. Luckily we were able to get resurrected each time, so we could clear the houses. We cleared the first house fine, but everyone died in the second house.

Now I was about to rest a bit as the next group went, but they needed two extra people and wouldn't you know it…I was one of the ones chosen. FML! We went through the scenario again and I was finally able to rest after we finished while the last group went. The training took way longer than anyone thought it would have…we left at almost 1500. Without lunch there were plenty of people getting cranky. My neck, shoulders and lower back were extremely sore from wearing my body armor all day long. I can handle it for short periods of time, but it really messed me up today.

We headed back to the armory to turn in our weapons. We then had to turn back in one of the TMP vans. I drove the van there and SPC Mac brought me back to the office. By this time it was almost 1700. Everyone gathered in the office and we received our safety brief from our NCOIC. After that we were released for the 4 day weekend! I went home took a hot shower and had my wife rub icy/hot on my shoulders, then proceeded to take pain medication…I only wish I had some prescription strength medication.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's All in the Details - (Germany) Day 100

This morning for PT we did a run off post in civilian clothes. It was about 3.2 miles and by the end of it I was dripping with sweat. It was a good run and I'm sure I'll be feeling it for the next few days.

Once at work we were told that we were going to have a meeting with everyone, so everyone kind of waited around for a half hour or so until our NCOIC came out and started the meeting. Our NCOIC went over all the issues that were uncovered in the last couple of mini audits that have been going on. We are good right now and we have to stay that way until the major audit comes this June. The audit is done by the highest level back in the states. They will be coming out and going through everything with a fine tooth comb. We have to keep up on our customer's records and anyone that has anything due anytime between now and the audit, has to make sure it's taken care of. A lot of the work is just making sure every detail is taken care of. Once this audit is done, our NCOIC will be on cruise control and will PCS soon after that, so this is her last big thing before she leaves and she doesn't want any issues.

This translates to: we may be very busy until after the audit is finished. The meeting lasted until lunch time. I took my sack lunch to the food court as usual and spent my break there. Once finished I headed back to the office. Now that everyone is back from leave and we also have a new sergeant in the office, space is limited, as are the available computers. I was able to get on first thing in the morning to check my email and do my weekend checklist, but that was about it. We also had to do a weekend counseling statement and sign an "Oak Tree" counseling statement as well as have our vehicles inspected. All the counseling statements were stating that we agreed not to get into trouble over the four day. On my weekend checklist I stated after the portion "If Drinking How Will You Get Back Home" with…"My hotel is within stumbling distance".

The afternoon was spent sitting in a chair watching SPC JayZ work. At one point I left with SPC Matrix and we picked up a TMP van for tomorrow. Once back at the office I continued to sit in a chair staring at the wall until we were released for the day.

At home my wife and I hung out for a while, ate dinner and watched some TV shows. I studied for my Apple Recertification and then turned in for the night.