Thursday, May 31, 2012

Change of Responsibility - (Germany) Day 157

This morning we did not have PT, instead we had a formation at 0615 and then all loaded up in TMPs and left to our company headquarters in Landstuhl. The drive is about an hour or so away and almost everyone in each of the vans fell asleep at some point…LOL. Once we arrived we had to stand in a line and show our ID card, our dog tags, and our gas mask which we had to bring.

We then had to stand in one big company formation and go through a simple change of responsibility ceremony. A new first sergeant has arrived and is replacing our acting first sergeant (who is also the sergeant major). The ceremony only lasted a few minutes, which totally surprised me. Normally army folks jabber on and on, but I think the longest speech was less than 2 minutes! Just the way I like it! I have to admit that it did seem like a waste of time and resources. 3 of the 4 platoons are located more than an hour away and had to come up for this little ceremony. No worries though, we headed back and it kept me out of the office for the better part of the morning.

Once back we only had about a half hour before lunch. I left for lunch and made sure to take the entire hour and a half before heading back. I really just hate going to the office. I did however make it back and once again went through my customer's folders looking for errors. I suffered through the rest of the day until we were released at 1715 for the day.

Anniversary - (Germany) Day 156

Tried a Kartoffelbier (Potato Beer) during our anniversary dinner...not bad!

I had put in paperwork to get the day off today as soon as I found out that we can get a day off on our wedding anniversary. The problem is that I only found out last week. The paperwork never made it all the way through, so I ended up going to PT in the morning. My boss ended up telling me I could go home after discussing it with our NCOIC. I just had to keep my phone handy since I wasn't officially on pass. I may complain about various aspects of the army and my job, but I have nothing but good things to say about my boss. He really cares for and takes care of his soldiers. A lot of stuff is out of his control since he's only an E-5, but what he can do for us…he does.

I took my wife to work and then came back home, then relaxed a bit. I took some lunch to my wife and met her for a picnic lunch. After she got off, I picked her up and we headed out to a little restaurant located in a town called Hirschhorn located about a half hour up the Neckar river. It was our first time out that direction and it turned out to be a nice romantic drive. There are small little towns along the river and when we ended up in Hirschhorn, we had to get out and walk in the "old town" to get to the restaurant called "Kartoffelhaus" (Potato House), which we heard served great steaks. The service was great and the food was amazing! A great anniversary for the both of us…and actually the first anniversary we've been able to spend together because I've always been away in the army.

Spondylosis - (Germany) Day 155

This morning's PT was very intense. Not only did I not have a lot of sleep, but we did muscle failure and like I was pretty intense! We did a lot of core body workouts and it was a great workout. I'm going to be sore from this one for a while!

I had my follow up appointment first thing in the morning for the CT scan and the X-Rays that were taken of my neck area. My doctor said the results of the CT scan were normal, but from the X-Rays they diagnosed me with cervical spondylosis. She said for a lot of people this is just normal degradation of the cartilage between the vertebrae and can cause issues with headaches and such. For now she gave me a 90 day profile at my request. She had to warn me that if I'm on profile, I'll not be able to get promoted and if I stay on for a year then I will have to go to a med-board to see if I'm able to stay in the army. I said that is fine, my health is a little more important to me than the few years I have left in the army. She also referred me to a physical therapist and gave me some sort of pain medication. In a perfect world the physical therapy will help and I am taking glucosamine on my own, then I will be able to get off the profile after the 90 days. Until then I will not have to wear body armor or a ruck sack. I will also not have to run or do sit-ups. These are all the things that I have found cause me to have the severe headaches. I guess time will tell how it all goes.

I headed over to the pharmacy to pick up my meds and then to the physical therapy office to schedule my first appointment for next week. I headed back to work for about a half hour before taking my lunch.

Back at work I went through my customers folders and made a follow up appointment with one of my accounts. I then went with my boss to another account's follow up appointment. These follow up appointments are to check to make sure they have resolved any issues that were discovered during our last audit of their site. It can be pretty simple or take a long time depending on how bad the audit went.

Back at the office we were told to go through our folders once again. Our NCOIC is stressing out about the upcoming audit on our office and has us doing the same thing over and over and over again to make sure everything is perfect. One big problem is that I am still so new at this, I'm not sure about everything I'm looking at. I ask questions when I have them, but I'm sure there is stuff I should be asking questions about, but don't know what those are!

We cleaned up around 1630 and waited around as usual looking at each other and waiting…and looking and waiting until we were finally released at 1710 for the day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day) - (Germany) Day 151 - 154

My wife and I hanging out on the beach in Lloret De Mar

Friday: The day started out still on the bus continued from last night. We actually left around 2000 because the bus arrived a little late because of traffic. The travel company schedules the trip so we can sleep on the bus, then arrive to start our day in Spain. Sleeping came and went in small doses throughout the trip. Sleeping on a bus is not a comfortable endeavor, but I tried to make the most of it. I'm not complaining too much, a trip like this is the whole reason I wanted to be stationed in Germany. Right in the middle of Europe with so many places to go see and visit. This tour is just the first of many I'm hoping. We planned it to go along with our anniversary. This will actually be the first anniversary we have been able to share together, so I wanted it to be special.

We arrived first in downtown Lloret De Mar and dropped off some of the passengers. We had two options when choosing hotels. One was right downtown (more for the younger single folks) and the other was a few minutes away (aimed at the family and older folks). We chose the family friendly one because I really didn't want wild party animals around our room all night. So after these folks at the first hotel were dropped off, we were then taken to our hotel. The place was rated 4 stars, but I have to say 4 stars by European standards is quite a bit lower than American standards. My only real complaint was there were actually two small beds instead of one big one. An easy fix though, I just pulled the two together to make one large one.

We settled in, and then made the walk to the main beach we saw when we dropped off the folks at the first hotel. The walk was about 10 minutes or so. It was a nice day and it was interesting looking at all the shops on the way there. The downtown area caters towards tourists. There are a number of souvenir shops, clubs, and fast food joints. It's OK to check out once, but it's really not the cultural experience I came here for. The main beach is called "Platja de Lloret" and was not quite what I expected. It did have a number of people there, but I would say about 10% or so of the women were topless. There were old boobies, young boobies, big boobies and small ones. Also the beach looked like sand from far away, but it was actually a bunch of very small rocks. We walked up and down the beach and then made our way back to our hotel for dinner.

Breakfast and dinner at the hotel were included as part of the package. When they opened the doors for dinner it was like a mad rush of cattle herding in. My wife got a little claustrophobic and decided to get a table and wait for me. The quality of the food was a little disappointing, but I guess you can't expect much from a buffet. The worst part was if you wanted anything to drink, including water, you had to purchase it!

We then hung out on our balcony for a while before calling it a night. We thought for a bit about heading back out and checking out the nightlife in downtown Lloret, but decided against it because we had to get up early tomorrow…and we're old….LOL.

Saturday: We woke up at 0630 and got ready. We ate breakfast at the hotel, which again was a little disappointing…but free. We then headed to our rally point to catch the bus to Barcelona. The bus left at 0900 and it was a bit disorganized. There were a ton of people on this trip. Buses shipped folks from all the U.S. bases around Germany. We had assigned seats on the trip here, but this day trip was first come first serve. A bus would fill up and take off and there were big crowds around the door of each bus each time one would pull up.

We finally got on the bus, but had to sit apart because we were the last two on the bus and there were no seats next to each other. The trip was about an hour and we were dropped off downtown and told to meet back up at 1830. We had no idea where exactly to head off to first, but we had a couple attractions we wanted to make sure to see. We started by just taking a walk along the waterfront. The city is huge and there is a lot to see. We ended up taking Pretty Ricky with us, so the three of us walked around looking for a place to eat lunch. We heard what sounded like a marching band and headed toward it. It turns out there were a number of mini-parade like groups playing music and dancing down the sidewalk. I think there was a soccer game and these folks were heading toward it, but I'm not exactly sure.

We ate at a little Spanish restaurant, then headed into the old town of Barcelona. There are narrow streets and lots of little shops to check out. We ran across the Picasso Museum and since he is one of my wife's favorite artists, we had to check it out. After that we kept walking around making sure to grab some ice cream from one of the many ice cream shops around. One thing I've noticed about Europe is the number of pizzerias and ice cream shops. Two of my favorite things ever! We then headed to the La Sagrada Familia cathedral. This thing is huge and has several towers spiraling towards the heavens. The outside of it is covered in various sculptures and the inside is just amazing. Definitely a place to see while visiting Barcelona. I was amazed at the beauty of the place and left in awe front he experience.

We then wandered around for a while, and decided to take a taxi to see the aquarium. Pretty Ricky mentioned he wanted to check it out. Since we drug him through the Picasso museum, we thought it was only fair. To be honest, I think once you've seen one aquarium, you've seen them all. I live next to Seattle which is on the water and have been to the aquarium plenty of times there. The one in Barcelona was interesting, but nothing really amazing or jaw dropping to mention. I did like the portion where you stand on a conveyor belt which takes you around the large tank full of various fish and sharks.

After that we wondered around the city for a while until it was time to head back to the bus. This was the point we decided to part ways with Pretty Ricky. Being a younger dude, he opted out of the medieval dinner & flamenco show and decided to just stay in Barcelona and see what the night life was like. We headed to the bus and eventually got on one when the bus parked in just the right spot. We were a little closer to it than the big herd of people and made it on…much to the dismay of some of the people in the back of the herd. It didn't really matter though, we were all heading to the same place and everyone waited about a half hour in line before the doors even opened.

The show was almost identical to the Medieval Times shows in Las Vegas if you've ever been. Your section cheers for you knight as he competes against others for the glory to battle an evil knight. There are no utensils and each person was served an entire chicken! After the show we all headed to another part of the building which has a showroom. They had a band playing Spanish music until everyone was seated. Then started the flamenco show. This consisted of couples in various costumes performing several dances to Spanish music. It was all pretty fun to watch and experience.

The show ended at midnight, then we all herded on to the buses and headed back to our hotels…another night in Spain finished.

Sunday: Sunday was a free day for everyone. We slept in and decided to have breakfast at one of the small cafes within walking distance. That in itself was a pleasant experience. Just walking around the streets of Spain with my wife, then having a cup of coffee and some pastries outside at a table was a nice way to start the day. We then decided to visit the smaller beach of "Platja de Fenals" which was a short 5 minute walk from our hotel. We laid out on the beach with our towels. I was able to dip in the Mediterranean Sea for a bit and we also had some type of slurpie iced drink. It was a pretty awesome laid back day for us both.

We had dinner in the hotel and it was actually pretty good!

Monday: We got ready, then ate breakfast at the hotel before heading out to catch our bus. We departed at 0900 and like the trip here, we had an assigned bus and assigned seats which was nice. What wasn't nice was the actual trip back…in an attempt to miss some backed up traffic on the freeway our driver got lost somewhere in France. We drove around little villages, sometimes stopping and backing up for what seamed like forever. It turned out to be a crappy ride back taking way too long. We ended up getting back in Heidelberg at about 0130…and I have PT and work in the morning. That doesn't leave too much time for sleep. I guess that's why God invented coffee.

Even with the bus getting lost and the long bus ride in general, I would still consider the trip a great success. My wife and I both had a blast and we were able to see another country. We're both looking forward to checking out more of Europe and going on more of these tours.

You can check out the slideshow below with some of the pics from the trip:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Day - (Germany) Day 150

SPC Whirlwind getting a kimono put on during the Asian/Pacific Islander event.

This morning PT was IBA PT. Everyone was told to bring their IBA (Body Armor) to PT and wear their ACUs instead of normal PT uniform. Luckily today was the last day of my temporary profile stating that I cannot wear body armor or a ruck sack. If I had to do it, I would have had a horrendous headache the rest of the day. So everyone without a profile ended up running around a couple laps (almost a half mile), then doing 25 push-ups. They did this again and did 25 sit-ups. I instead did a fast walk and did the push-ups, but did not do the sit-ups. I know sit-ups are causing me headaches too and I don't want to do anything to further hurt myself until I figure out what is wrong with me.

After PT I headed back home and got ready as usual. Today is Thursday, so we have our sergeant's time training. Everyone was supposed to come back with their full battle rattle for this training. For me, SPC Whirlwind and a couple others…we just came back in regular uniform because we were tasked out for a special event. We did attend the first half hour of training and I'm glad we didn't have to stay. The first part was about convoys and was being taught by someone who hadn't even deployed yet. I also really don't understand why we don't do more job specific training. Why have a strategic unit that does not deploy spend any time on stuff like this when we can be learning more about the job we actually do. Help us be better at our current job instead of stupid crap like this. One of the reasons the army drives me nuts sometimes.

Another reason is what we had to do next for our special tasking. It seems like I get tasked out to do everything under the sun except our job. Anyways…we headed over to the theatre to help setup for the EO (Equal Opportunity) Asian/Pacific Islander Event. After setup which included unloading and setting up tables and also folding brochures, I stood at the front door and greeted the people that decided to attend. The event consisted of some speakers, then some song and dance, and finally food. We all had some of the food and for a bit it seemed like I was back in Korea. I was doing my old job (standing and holding a door open) and I was eating some tasty Korean food!

Once the event was over, we cleaned up and then actually followed the MWR van over to PHV and helped them unload the tables and other equipment. Once finished we headed back to the office where I went through my customer's folders to double and triple check…making sure their files were all in order. By about 1630 everything was done and everyone was sitting around looking at each other…waiting…..looking…waiting…looking…waiting. It wasn't until SPC DubYa got up and asked our NCOIC if we could leave at 1715 that she finally came out and gave us our lame safety briefing, then released us. Why…especially on a four day weekend…she always has to wait and wait before releasing us, I have no idea. A power trip? Who knows? All I know is that I have a trip to Spain that I needed to get to and every second we were in the office just sitting and waiting was time that was taken from me eating dinner and leaving.

Once out of the office, I picked up my wife and some fast food then headed home. We had everything packed, so we loaded up the car and headed to the park and ride outside the gate. We had booked a trip to Spain through a travel company as did SPC DubYa from our office. This particular travel company (United European Airlines) offers various trip packages and has flyers posted in our office and many others throughout the post. They put together some great packages to places all over Europe on each of our 4-day holidays. The particular one is going to Llorett De Mar with a day trip to Barcelona. We also opted for a dinner show and a flamenco show. I'm looking forward to it…but not the bus ride there.

We loaded the bus at 1730 and headed off to Spain. Ironically Pretty Ricky from my last FTX was sitting right behind us. The bus had picked up folks from Wiesbaden before coming to Heidelberg. Once on the road I tried to sleep as much as possible…I'll tell you the rest of the story with the weekend-wrap up in my next post…along with some photos as well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Recovery - (Germany) Day 149

When I woke up today it was 1500. A waste of a day after staff duty. I didn't do a whole lot, so there's not much to write about. I found out the schedule for tomorrow, and after work we'll be heading off to Spain for the 4 day weekend. So there will not be any posts for a bit while we are playing tourists.

I just hope I can actually get to sleep tonight when I try to go to bed!

Typical Army - (Germany) Day 148

This morning's PT ended up being no PT for me. We formed up and after accountability I was pulled out of formation and told to go home, change and be back to help out a sergeant in 1st platoon at 0745. WTF? This was a little annoying (which would end up being the theme of the day), I could do this just fine…but my wife and I only have one car and she has a job as well. If they give me some advanced notice I can make plans ahead of time and avoid stupid stress like this. So I left and headed home, then proceeded to tell my wife she has to get ready as soon as possible and then take me back to work to drop me off before she heads in.

My wife was very cool about it and we both were able to get ready and I was able to make it back to the 1st platoon barracks by 0745. My job involved being a chauffeur for the 1st platoon sergeant. I'm rolling my eyes just thinking about it as I'm typing this. So I drive their TMP and drop off a couple of his soldiers, then we head to Patton Barracks where we dropped off 2 microwaves and a shredder. We then headed back to Campbell Barracks where I work, and that was the extent of the help needed. We were done by 0830, so I headed over to the shoppette and picked up some coffee and a snack. I decided to head back into work and surf the internet because there was nothing else to do…at least until work actually started at 0900.

Once work started I did pretty much the same thing…surfed the internet along with checking email and answering a phone call here and there. Then more stupidity hit…we were all told at 1120 that we were having company pictures taken at 1300, so we had to go get our dress uniforms and get back to the 1st platoon barracks by then. There was no mention of this earlier in the week…or even earlier in the day. Way to plan ahead guys! I didn't have a car and a few others didn't have cars as well, so we ended up having to take a TMP. I did have my specialist patch sewn on my uniform, but I did not have the specialist pins yet for my shirt underneath…oh well.

We ended up getting back about 1245 and headed to the barracks…we all headed upstairs to the top floor in the day room and waited…and waited…and waited. At about 1315 we were told that it was going to be in the basement, so we all headed down there and waited some more while the camera guy got setup. I don't think we took pictures until 1400. We had the opportunity to order some prints, but I politely declined. I mean if we are going to get pictures taken that we can order…give us a heads up. I would have had my uniform squared away, I would have had a hair cut, and I would have brought a razor to have a nice clean shave right before the photo. (I have aggressive facial hair and usually have a 5 O'Clock shadow within a few hours of shaving) So I sat down let him take my photo, then left.

I headed back to the office and we did the usual office work, but for some reason our NCOIC didn't think we were busy enough…so she told us to go through each customer's folder to make sure there were no errors. This would be fine and dandy, but we do this almost every day. SPC JayZ wanted to take on all the folders and make a spreadsheet of what needs to be done…fine. Then all of a sudden me and the new SPC in the office are told to go to first platoon and raid their supply closet. "Take two boxes and get anything you think we can use" (1st platoon is actually in the process of moving…and all their supplies will be turned back in). This really just seemed like busy work…something to have us do for the sake of doing it. We went…we raided…we came back.

A little while later we were all told to clean the office like crazy…we vacuumed, wiped everything down, swept, mopped…you name it. Again it seemed like we were just being told to do something just for the sake of making us do something. No problem…it passed the time.

We then get released, but I am not really released…I have staff duty tonight. So I head over to the staff duty desk and start my night there. That is when I find out that when you work staff duty on the week nights, not only are you working all freakin' night, but you are the janitorial staff for the S-3 office and the command group. WTF? I'm thinking to myself (after just cleaning our office - and we pretty much clean our office every night before leaving) these guys are lazy bastards. They don't take out their trash or anything, they just leave it all for the staff duty people to take care of. I really couldn't believe it. The sergeant I had duty with told me I could go home for dinner at 1800 and be back at 2100. That was pretty cool, so I called my wife and she picked me up…we ate dinner together at home and watched a couple of shows together.

I came back to the staff duty office and I really couldn't believe my eyes. The sergeant I was with started to mop the hallway. (we have to mop and wax the hallway tonight). She had put way too much soap in the bucket and proceeded to mop the entire hallway…without stopping. The hallway looked like someone was taking a bubble bath. When I came in, she said "I think I put a little too much soap in". I was thinking OMG…what a moron. Not only did she put too much soap in, but she just kept going…didn't stop until the entire hallway was full of freakin' bubbles! She then said she had to go pick up her son and left me the mop to fix it. We have to have all the bubbles gone…the floor clean and dry before we can start waxing.

I had to rinse out that mop what seemed like a million times before most of the soap was out. I then had to re-mop the hall way many times trying to get all the bubbles gone…cleaning the mop each time. What a pain in the butt. I'm working with a full on retard. I finished it and then took a break to let the hallway dry.

I watched a movie "Ready to Rumble" about some crazy professional wrestling fans who help their favorite wrestler come back from the dumps. It was a little cheesy, had a couple funny parts, and it passed the time. I also read some and surfed the internet. Once the sergeant I was working with came back she wanted to wax the floor, so I moved the mop bucket along with her and helped squeeze it when needed. I don't think it was done as it should be, but I didn't really care at that point. Once finished I spent the rest of the night switching between surfing the net, chatting on Facebook, and reading my book. Even though I was very tired and felt like a zombie, I couldn't sleep at all in my chair. It was hot, I smelled like crap, I was sticky, and I could only sleep for a minute at a time.

In the morning about 0800 the sergeant major came in and asked if we could vacuum, which I did with a very crappy vacuum cleaner I might add. I also took out the garbage and then finally called it a day at about 0840 when the sergeant I was working with let me go. I waited outside for my wife to come and pick me up. Once home I took a shower and passed out. What a long night!

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Formation? - (Germany) Day 147

This morning's PT was a run to "the stairs" where we then proceeded to head up and down all 500 stairs once, then ran back to post. It was a good workout, but I realized today that running may be one of perhaps many things that are causing me pain. Not only is my knee pretty sore, but my head was killing me all day today. I hadn't thought about it too much until I found out there was something up with my spine (I'll find out exactly what when I have my follow up appointment next week). I just figured I was having headaches everyday and some days were worse than others. I think running with all the bouncing of each step does something to trigger a massive headache all day long. Unfortunately I only have a temporary profile to keep me from wearing body armor and a ruck sack, so I have to run until at least my next appointment.

Work started as usual at 0900. I checked my email and then surfed the internet for a while, then I had to move off the computer to let another use it. I then sat there wondering how and why I got stuck at this job. Coming to work on a Monday is just depressing, I don't think I've ever had a job where I just have no desire to ever go into work. The job is not what I signed up for, and the army in general is not what I had envisioned when I signed up. I thought I would be working on computers and learning all kinds of new technology. I figured my skills would be put to use on a daily basis and I would be proud of everything I have done during my service. Instead, the only time I have actually really done I.T. work is when I went on the FTX and even that was pretty limited. I feel my mind will be as sharp as a butter knife by the time I leave the army. The other thing I don't care for too much about the army is that we always get assigned to do all kinds of various stupid tasks. Guard duty…moving detail…area beautification…staff duty…setup for the ball…you name it…we can do it. I just want to do my actual job! I guess I'm just a little depressed today…I'll get over it…I think I'm just in a bad mood because my head is pounding and it seems like no amount of Excedrin seems to fix it.

As for my actual job today I walked around with SPC JayZ and did some physical inventory of some encryption cards in a couple different offices. I then checked on my TDY pay that I'm supposed to get for the FTX I was on…still in the "reviewing" stage. I turned in paperwork to get my anniversary off because I found out there was a memo put out by the commander saying we can do this…I'm not holding my breath on hearing anything though. Hell I put in my paperwork for the pass this weekend and haven't heard anything yet. I put it in a while ago and haven't heard a word, but that's not going to stop me from going. I've paid for the tickets already. My wife and I will be heading to Spain for a tour on this 4-day weekend. I can't wait! This is one of the main reasons I wanted to get stationed in Germany. It's right in the middle of Europe and I plan on seeing as much as possible while I'm here.

We were told last week that starting immediately we would start having a formation at 1630 everyday and then be released unless there is mission critical stuff to be done in the office. 1630 came and went….everyone just kind of sat in their chairs and looked at each other for a half hour because we had already cleaned up the office like we were told at 1545. Finally at 1700 the NCOIC released us…so much for leaving at 1630 every day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Wrap Up - (Germany) Days 145 & 146

Me and my wife in front of the Worms Cathedral

Saturday: Ahhh…so nice to sleep in! After waking up and getting ready at a leisurely pace, my wife and I headed off to the Rhein-Neckar Harley Davidson store. I needed to purchase a battery for my motorcycle because mine was totally dead. My bike has been in storage since basic training and found out the battery would not even take a charge. The store is about 20 to 25 minutes away in a town called Ludwigshafen. Once there I asked if the lady at the parts department spoke English and she said only a little. I was able to tell her what I needed in German and it all worked out. Luckily we also had an extra VAT form. This is a form US folks can use when buying something on the German economy and they take off the tax which is 19%…so with any big purchases it's really worth it. We ended up getting a couple t-shirts and headed off with a new battery. Now once I take the motorcycle safety course, I'll be able to ride my bike here in Germany.

By this time we were getting a little hungry and wanted to grab a bite to eat while we were out. We punched in what we thought was a place to eat in our GPS, but ended up in a town called Worms. It wasn't where we were expecting to be going, but we made the most of it. We parked the car downtown and headed to the city center. We ate at a bakery and then had some ice cream at one of the vendors. The town had a huge cathedral which we decided to explore. The cathedral was pretty cool. We walked around inside checking out the various sculptures and then around outside admiring the architecture of this ancient building. It's awesome to be able to just stumble upon something so grand.

We headed home and spent the night watching TV shows and relaxing.

Sunday: This morning we went to church for the first time here in Germany. One of my co-workers was having his son baptized. His wife is a local national, so the church was of course a German church. It was an interesting experience attending church in an entirely different language. I would catch about every 4th or 5th word, but that was about it. We watched the baptism and then we headed back to Patrick Henry Village for a barbecue that my co-worker was throwing. Most of our office showed up, as well as my co-worker's wife and her family. Good food…good people…good times.

After feeding our faces and visiting for a while we headed back home and video chatted with family for a bit before relaxing and watching some TV shows…..a good weekend.

You can check out more photos from our accidental trip to the city of Worms:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hurry Up….and Wait - (Germany) Day 144

This morning our PT was once again in the gym. The wind was blowing pretty hard and it was raining, so we were sent to the gym and told to do cardio. I rode a stationary bike for the entire time. It's easier on my knees and I still get my cardio…plus I can watch the sports channel on the TV…and yes if you're wondering the NCOIC disappeared after telling us to work out in the gym.

The work day started of normal, I checked my email and surfed the net a bit. There wasn't a lot scheduled, so I also studied for my Apple re-certification. All of a sudden at 1115, 4 of us were told to take lunch right away and be back by 1145! This is a pretty crappy thing to do since we usually get an hour and a half lunch break…and it's a Friday! So I headed to my car and quickly ate lunch before heading back to the office.

We had to take two TMPs over to 1st platoon's office and move some stuff. When we arrived we were told to clean two microwaves and a huge industrial strength shredder. When finished we were told to take them up and put them in the TMPs. This kind of stuff mildly pisses me off, because not only are we cleaning other people's stuff, they only had two people there helping us. We cleaned and then loaded everything up and waited…and waited…and waited. Finally the sergeant from that office told us to take them to turn in at another post. When SPC Whirlwind asked if he had the paperwork for it we were told to stand fast (wait). So we waited and waited some more. With all this waiting we sure as heck didn't need to cut our lunch break short. The sergeant finally came back up and said to haul it all back down and put it back in the office. So everything we did was for nothing…that is the army for you.

We moved everything back and then helped consolidate everything in the offices. The folks in these offices are actually moving, so I'm sure we'll be back at some point to help once they figure everything out. We headed back to our office and went back to work. Our company commander came in and later the first sergeant. I guess at some point before I came here SPC JayZ talked someone into working his staff duty shift and paid them 300 Euro! That is a bit crazy! I guess word finally got up to the commander and now he had to chew everyone out and let people know that will not be allowed anymore.

We finished up the work day a little early and we were released at 1630! I guess that makes up for the stupidity this afternoon. I headed over and picked my wife up, then we headed home to change. My wife was craving Chinese food, so we headed to the only Chinese restaurant I know of about 15 minutes away in Schwetzingen…used to be called Yang Yang, but has since changed. It was pretty good and it was also nice to get out and about. We spent the rest of the night watching an old movie "The Lost Boys" and some TV shows. I sure remember The Lost Boys being a lot scarier and cooler than it was this time around. It was a little cheesy watching now that I'm older…it definitely shows it's age…LOL.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Torture via VTC - (Germany) Day 143

This morning we didn't have PT, instead we had to attend some special training event. The event was done via VTC (Video Tele-Conference) and was a mess from the start. I did enjoy sleeping in, but it was not worth the torture we had to endure with this training. We started at 0900 in a building that I've never been in before, but is not too far from my office. We were in their conference room with a large screen at the front showing the video of a group of people somewhere else…I think I heard Wiesbaden, as well as smaller views of all the other units that had joined in from around Europe. The first issue was that the audio was horrible. For the first hour and a half I don't think anyone on our end could understand anything that was said. We ended up moving to another conference room and the audio was a little better, but not much. I was able to understand most of what was said, but even with that…it was pretty boring stuff.

There were a number of CSMs (Command Sergeant Majors) there and each of them were giving us a block on instructions. These blocks ranged from bars to reenlistment to promotions. The content may have been interesting, but with the issues trying to understand them and the delays between the different units…it was just a mess. All I wanted to do is be somewhere else doing anything. We broke for lunch and had to come back for some more torture. At some points the audio would go out completely, then people in our office would watch the screen and pretend to guess at what they were saying. We finally finished at 1530…what a waste of a day…a waste of a day that I'll never get back. I was hoping that we would only go to lunch so I could see if there were any appointments available today…but that didn't happen.

I headed back to the office and checked my email. I then helped file some paperwork and schedule a couple of appointments. I checked the safes and then we were allowed to leave. Once home my wife and I hung out and watched some more TV shows…still trying to catch up on everything from my month long absence.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Head Exam - (Germany) Day 142

This morning's PT ended up being in the gym. It was raining when I arrived and then I found out we were moving to the gym. Our NCOIC took accountability and then told us to do cardio in the gym…then as usual she left. I ended up playing a game of two on two basketball and was able to get a good sweat going…plus have a good time doing it. That is the best way to work out for sure.

I then had a CAT scan appointment at 0900, so I headed there instead of work. The scan only took about 5 minutes and then I was turned loose. One part of me doesn't want them to find anything in my brain, but another part wants them to find something…I'd like them to be able to solve this riddle that is causing all my headaches.

I headed back to work and actually did some ComSec work. I helped out with some of JayZ's accounts that came in to get their inventory checked. I'm starting to get the hang of more and more of the paperwork, but it's going to take a while because there are so many different rules when it comes to ComSec. There is also a ton of stuff that just seems unnecessary. For instance today we had to inventory a large number of items that were sent to us. These items are sent to us, but they are ancient forms of encryption that are no longer used. We have to inventory all this stuff and at the end of each month we also destroy a bunch of stuff that we never check out to anyone…ever. It just seems like a total waste of time. We also have to do an entire inventory check of all this ancient material every time one of the safes are opened for any reason…a real pain in the butt.

I got a call from the radiology department in the afternoon. They let me know that my CAT scan came back normal which is good, but they did find some sort of "degenerative" thing going on in my neck and upper spine with the previous x-ray I did earlier. I now have a follow up appointment scheduled with my doctor. They said this is probably what is causing all my headaches. I guess we'll see what they can do to help me, but I have to wait until the 29th because we cannot make appointments on Thursdays (sergeant's time training). I also have staff duty next week on the only other day they had open before the 29th, which is why I have to wait so long. It's a relief to know they may have found the cause, now we can work on a solution.

I ended up doing a lot of actual ComSec stuff today and I know the more days I have like this, the faster I'll learn my job.

The Setup - (Germany) Day 141

This morning's PT was not actually PT at all. We had to report for our formation at the Pavilion in our PT uniform to help setup for the signal ball at 0745. I didn't really mind because we got to sleep in! The whole process turned out to resemble a Chinese fire drill. It reminded me of how stupid our leaders can be sometimes. We had a couple first sergeants there as well as a sergeant major all trying to tell us what to do. We setup a number of round tables and rectangle tables with chairs. The setup was so close together I don't know how anyone was going to be able to attend this event. We would be told to move something to a particular area…then a few minutes later move it somewhere else. It got old really quick…I think the civilian who is in charge of MWR got a little tired of it as well. He took over and had us move everything into place within a few minutes. We could have had all this done so long ago if he would have taken over earlier…instead we were there until lunch time! After the setup was done I am glad I will not be attending. I'm not going to pay $110 to feel like a second class citizen, which is how all the lower enlisted will be there all squeezed into their long cafeteria like tables.

I took lunch at my house, then headed into work. Work was pretty boring as usual, I surfed the internet and checked email…and that was about it. Nothing else to report there. I can say that I'm happy that I made it to Germany, but I'm not so happy that I ended up working in ComSec. I'll do my best to learn and do the job…but my heart will never be in it.

At home I did the usual…hung out with my wife and we caught up some more on our TV shows.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Surfin - (Germany) Day 140

This morning's PT was a pretty good workout. We would run a half mile do 25 push-ups, then run another half mile and do sit-ups. We continued doing this for a total of 3 miles. It was a pretty darn good workout. I was slow as heck still trying to shake off the rust from no exercise the last month at the FTX…I'll be sore tomorrow!

Work was a little strange…there was not a lot to do, so we just did a lot of surfing the internet. I did have one of my customer's come in and give me a sheet to update our records, but that was the most exciting part of the day. I ate lunch in my car while listening to music and then headed back into work doing the same thing as I did in the morning. I did sign up for the motorcycle safety class so I can get my license…it starts in June. Not a whole lot to report…except it's "regimental week". This is the week leading up to the signal ball. It doesn't mean that much to me since I'm not going. I guess there are supposed to be a bunch of activities all week leading up to it, but I'm not sure if our office will be taking part or not. I guess we'll see.

Back at home it was time to relax and take it easy. My wife and I caught up on some shows since we're pretty far behind from the FTX.

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 138 & 139

A street performer in downtown Heidelberg floating...but I'm not sure how

Saturday: This weekend was my wife's birthday weekend, so I let her choose whatever she wanted to do. She chose to go to Ramstein Air Force base because of their big PX and do a little shopping. Before we headed out, we stopped by Patton Barracks to get the oil changed in our car. It's the only place around that is on a US post that does oil changes and such.

We headed to Ramstein shopped in their huge PX, bought tickets to see "The Avengers" ate lunch, then did some more shopping. My wife made out with some clothes and a ring…and I'm a bit poorer now. We headed up to watch the movie about 15 minutes before showtime and we couldn't find a seat. The place was packed and obviously people either snuck in or bought tickets to something else and decided to watch this instead. We took our tickets back and got our money refunded. Lesson learned…go early on opening weekend of a good movie!

On the way back we stopped in Mannheim to visit the Harley dealership, but found out it closes at 1400 on Saturdays…guess we'll head back next weekend. Spent the rest of the night hanging out together, and since it was my wife's birthday weekend I let her pick a movie to rent on AppleTV…so we watched "The Vow" a chick flick.

Sunday: We ate breakfast together and then headed out to old town Heidelberg. We ate lunch at an OK Mexican restaurant. It was decent, but will not get a return visit from us. We then headed over to what is called Philosophenweg (Philosophers' Way) which is a path across the Neckar river that Heidelberg's university professors and philosophers found they would walk, talk, and chat while pondering. It has some great views of the city of Heidelberg. It's a pretty good workout if you decide to head to the top which we did. At the top is a Nazi amphitheater that was built in 1934 and used for propaganda presentations for the Nazi regime. The place was pretty cool and well worth the hike up to it.

We then headed back down and ate some ice cream for desert once back in town. In order to try and get out more we decided we want to try a different place to eat at least a few times a month. There are a ton of restaurants downtown and it will be a lot of fun trying out the various offerings. It will also get us out of the house if we don't have any plans for the weekend.

You can check out the slide show below for some more pictures of Philosopher's Way:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Check-Up - (Germany) Day 137

This morning's PT was a run off post in civilian clothes. I have to say I almost died! Too much time off of doing no exercise during the FTX for a month really got me out of shape. I ran…slowly I might add…for the first 2/3 of it, then walked most of the way back. Hopefully I'm able to get back in somewhat shape before my PT test at the start of next month.

I started work at 0900 and wasn't there long enough to do much. I had an appointment at 1020 at the hospital and left work at 0945 to make sure I was there 15 minutes early. The appointment was to try and figure out why I get so many headaches. I have almost constant headaches daily. Most are minor inconveniences, but some are major ones that force me to take up to 15 Excedrin. My doctor was a little shocked by that. I know it's not healthy, but I'm not sure what else to do when these come on. We discussed various issues and I came out with a prescription of some Ibuprofen and muscle relaxers. I also have a short term profile against wearing body armor or ruck sacks, because these are just a couple of the triggers that bring on my major headaches. If I get a permanent profile, then I'll have to go to a med-board and will most likely get discharged. We'll see if any of these less drastic solutions work before we go with that route. I went over and had an X-Ray taken of my neck and should area. I made an appointment to come back for a CAT scan next week.

I took the Ibuprofen, but as expected it did nothing to relieve my headache. I took my lunch break in the parking lot, in the car listening to music. I then went back to work at 1300 and we went over what still needs to be done before the major audit coming up. The 1st sergeant then came in and talked to everyone about ARIs. The army over-uses acronyms. It seems as if they don't make an acronym, then someone is not doing their job. An ARI is an Alcohol Related Incident. I guess they have been on the rise in our company and he wanted to tell everyone to stop it.

We cleaned up around the office and outside before being released at 1700, but not before each of us had to say what we did today to make a positive difference for the army. When I said I picked up trash outside our office, I was told it wasn't good enough. Instead, adding my new customers to my outlook contacts was good enough to allow me to leave.

Once home I changed, then my wife and I headed to Ikea to pick up some stuff and also eat dinner at their little restaurant. When we got back home we relaxed, I took my muscle relaxer and we watched some TV shows before going to bed. Let's hope that the muscle relaxers do something to help with the headaches…. I'm getting a little sick and tired of them.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shock & Awe - (Germany) Day 136

This morning's PT was similar to yesterday's. Our NCOIC showed up again for a minute, made some announcements and then left. Another sergeant took over and we did a lot of warm up stretching before our actual workout. The workout consisted of us getting in groups of four and doing a group push-up. We lay on the ground as if in the downward push-up position and lay with our feet on the back of another with the four people making a square. Each group did ten push-ups and then we started our cool down stretching. We had to make PT short this morning because of some special training we all had to attend.

The special training was in the movie theatre on PHV, so I was able to walk there after getting ready. The training was the annual spring safety training. They showed us slides and video clips of people hurting themselves, dead people, accidents and so on. Everything that can go wrong when driving, swimming, playing, or whatever else you decide to do in the summer. Kind of like the videos in drivers ed training that try and scare you into being a good driver. They went over all the statistics of how many people have died in our area and went over some specific accidents.

After the training we went back to the office and had to do some more training. This set was on natural disasters and bomb threats and what we need to do in each event. This actually had to do with our job and the ComSec that we deal with, so the training was actually relevant. By the time it was over it was time for lunch…time to go to the food court with my sack lunch.

When I got back at work, I watched as one of the guys updated a spreadsheet and then headed over to my S-3 shop to make sure my TDY money was all set. I had to digitally sign the paperwork and then one of the guys in S-3 signed it, now it has to go through the approval process once again and finally I should be able to get paid.

Back at the office the mini-audit was finished. This was to prepare for the major audit that is coming in June. Our NCOIC went over everything that needed to happen before the major audit. With the work day over, I headed home and enjoyed time with my wife.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Back To Work - (Germany) Day 135

So with only one day off during my FTX for the last 23 days, I had to go back to my normal job today without even a day off for recovery. I mentioned that in yesterday's blog, but I was still pretty pissed off about it today. You see people working the system all the time and I hear the saying that you just have to "play the game" and the longer I'm in the army, the more I start feeling like I need to not only just "play the game", but be a freakin' all star.

This morning's PT was a little interesting. Since I've been gone there have been a few changes in the office as well as with PT. I guess 4th platoon had too many people fail their PT test or "bust tape" (when you are over the weight limit, you get taped to measure your body fat. If you fail that…you "bust tape"). So 4th platoon which works out of Mannheim has to do PT with us (1st and 2nd platoon) in Heidelberg. This makes our PT formation a third bigger and now it just seems so huge. Our NCOIC came, made some announcements and then left. She usually doesn't do PT with us…the benefits of rank (and not leading by example). We started our stretching exercises and it started raining. Usually we would just go in the gym, but for some reason (maybe because of our increased size) we were told just to go home. I wasn't complaining…I was cold and wet.

The day was a little busier than normal because I had been gone so long. I started out the morning waiting for a computer to use, then reminded my boss that I needed to put in a weekend pass. I hadn't put in for one yet and needed to know what to do. I had been asking about this for a couple months, but kept getting told to wait because it was too early. Now I just hope I'm not too late because I've already bought tickets for my wife and I for Spain at the end of the month, for the 4-day weekend. I got all the required documents (of which there were plenty) and submitted them all to my boss. He will in turn send them to the platoon sergeant and he will send them to someone else and so on until the final approving authority gets it.

I spent time going through my email and cleaning it up. Found out that I have staff duty on the 22nd and also scheduled a doctor's appointment for Friday. (I get headaches all the time, so I'm going to see if they can do anything to fix it) I was also assigned 3 accounts that I will now be responsible for. This is a good thing because unless I actually start doing the work, I will not be able to learn it. I had to go through each account's folders and make sure everything was in order. It's going to take me a while, but I'm sure after time I'll get better at it and be able to spot things that need to be fixed. (A signature here, a memo there, etc)

Lunch was my sack lunch in the food court…I have to get out of the office when I can. I then went back to work, but the afternoon did not have much for us to do. We are actually going through a mini-audit in our vault to prepare for the main audit coming in June. I was put in charge by our NCOIC to take donations for her PCS gift…which I thought was a little odd, but no problem…I got an envelope and started making the rounds, I'll have to hit most of the people this coming payday.

We were let go a little after 1700 and I picked up my wife and headed home to a relaxing night with my wife. It's so nice to eat a normal meal and relax on the couch with my wife. I never take her for granted, but there is nothing like being away for a month to make me realize how much I love her :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Exercise Is Over (FTX Day 23) - (Germany) Day 134

This morning I woke up and got ready like every other day. We had to be at work at 0700. When I arrived there was nothing to do as usual. The air force guys were a little pissed because they were told to come in even earlier at 0600. We waited around for a about a half hour, then we were told we could leave and out-process. Why we even came in at all, I'm not sure. I headed to the Mayor Cell and out-processed which consisted of finding my name on a list and signing, then chucking my badge in a box. All done…FTX is over. No award…not even a coin. Now you see why the army has made me so pessimistic. At the beginning we were all told we'd be getting an award and a number of coins. "There's going to be a different VIP coming in each day and you'll all be getting a bunch of coins". LOL…so much for that.

We hung out in the barracks for a while, until the other guys got picked up. I had told my unit to come at noon because that's what the NCOIC told me. I wish I would have told them to come earlier, because I just sat on my bed spending time reading or playing games on my iPhone for hours.

Two guys from my office finally arrived and picked me up. SPC Whirlwind was the driver and he made excellent time getting back…which was the good news. The bad news is that I was informed that I have to go to work tomorrow even though I've only had one day off since I started this damned exercise…now that is a lot of BS! I will not be in a good mood tomorrow and I definitely will have 0% motivation.

When I did get home I was dropped off and given the rest of the day off. I spent it unpacking and relaxing until my wife came home from work. We then had a nice dinner and a wonderful night together. We both missed each other and just enjoyed every minute we had together again.

Last Full Day (FTX Day 22) - (Germany) Day 133

Some people come very prepared...this was the guy next to me with his TV, PlayStation and laptop. The TV was left on playing a movie that the NCOIC had to finally come and turn off.

Rude and inconsiderate…that is how my morning started off. Those of us who are on my shift were able to sleep in because we don't have to report to work until 1300. Others that started waking up before 0600 were noisy…yelling across the barracks and just being generally loud. It just pisses me off that these guys don't care about anyone except themselves. I can't wait until I'm back in my house with my wife…back to normal. Once everyone finally left a little after 0700 I was able to get a little more sleep and finally got up around 0830. The morning spent reading and playing games on my iPhone.

We headed to work at around 1230 giving us time to swing by the food vendors. I ordered a bratwurst for lunch and grabbed a drink from the shoppette. We then headed to the help desk and did exactly what we've been doing the last couple of days…nothing. We heard that the exercise was officially over. We also heard that even though we were all put in for awards, they were sent back. Last we heard, the head civilian guy was trying to push them though, but at this point I don't really care. After the whole thing with my PCS award not going through, the army awards system has left a bad taste in my mouth. To tell you the truth I don't really care if I ever get one. Since I have no plans to become an NCO, I don't have to worry about the promotion points that come with an award, so it means nothing to me. I'm tired of being told I'm getting an award, then never seeing it get done. Who cares? Also besides the first few days, we haven't done much except have to stay in crappy barracks and eat crappy DFAC food…does that deserve an award? Maybe the iron stomach award…LOL.

We were able to leave at 1700 instead of 1900 because of the end of the exercise. We found out that we do indeed have to go in tomorrow in order to in-process people for the next exercise, which is starting right away. The permanent party folks will take over and then we'll be free to go home. I can't even in-process people because I don't have domain administrator rights, so I'll be doing nothing…along with the others that don't have domain administrator rights. The truth is that we only have 3 computers to in-process people and we'll have about 20 workers there in the help desk area…so there will be a lot of people standing or sitting around doing nothing.

We got a TMP and headed to the bowling alley to pick up dinner from their restaurant. Once back at the barracks, I read for a bit and then watched "In Time". This was an interesting movie set in the future where everyone has been genetically altered to stop aging at 25, after that they get one year to live. They can however purchase more time, so in essence "time" becomes the new currency. Go to work and get paid in time…your time remaining shows up on your arm and when it runs out…you die. Want a latte? That will be 3 minutes…then you watch the time get taken off the clock on your arm. The rich can live forever while the poor literally work day to day to stay alive. The story turns out to be a futuristic Bonnie and Clyde with a Robin Hood twist.

The day started off with rude and inconsiderate people and that is how the night ended as well. The guy next to me who brought a TV, a playstation, and a laptop started watching a movie. Everyone else in the barracks uses headphones when watching a movie, but this guy has his blaring over speakers and then just falls asleep. Finally the NCOIC cam over and turned it off at around 1030. I'm so glad this is my last night here.

More Good News (FTX Day 21) - (Germany) Day 132

This morning we started work at 0700, so I did the normal morning routine of getting ready and grabbing some cereal for breakfast at the DFAC. The cereal is normal, but I have to say that the milk makes me wonder a little when I use it. It comes in the little portable boxes (similar to a juice box) and they do not keep it cold. Somehow it doesn't go bad…it does taste different through. My co-workers say that there is something wrong with milk that doesn't go bad. I think I'll still take the unnatural milk over the regular DFAC food though…just a little while longer.

At work all we did was watch YouTube videos (most popular were pranks and the most brutal knockouts with both boxing and MMA). There were no tickets to do and we had nothing else to do. The PFC went to church and a guy the security guard calls "Earthquake" left and did his laundry without the NCOIC even noticing. It was a pretty boring day. We did receive some good news though, the NCOIC confirmed that we are indeed leaving on Tuesday the 8th. I asked him for a time to have my unit come pick me up…he paused, looked up…and said noon. I'm hoping he doesn't forget this like he's forgotten other things he's told us, because I've relayed the information to my boss. Whether it's over or not, I'll be leaving at noon because after driving three hours to get me, they aren't just going to wait around after getting here.

The weather here in Grafenwoer is a little strange. When I arrived it was pretty cold, even though it's spring, it felt as though it was still winter. A week later it was so warm that I was sweating in my uniform when outside. Today it started raining like crazy and the temperature dropped what seemed like 20 degrees. Instead of walking around in shorts and a t-shirt, it was back to full on sweats bottom and top. It seems like when it rains it really pours here too. I hope I don't have to come back here…at least not in the near future…and never in the winter…I've heard it gets unbearably cold here!

After work we headed to the USO and I used the time there to upload to my blog of course, then video chatted with my wife for a while. We then headed back to the barracks where I finished watching a movie I started yesterday "W". I didn't know too much about the movie before watching it. It was about the life of George W Bush, his rise to the presidency up to the start of the gulf war. It was an interesting take, and I should say a very liberal take on his life. The movie paints him as a drunk growing up and always under the pressure of trying to live up to his father even throughout his presidency. I've been a conservative all my life, but lately I would say I've become a moderate. The movie is based on some truths I'm sure, but you can tell it was made from an anti-bush agenda as well as an anti-war (at least Iraq war) perspective. If there was any truth to the movie about how we ended up going to war with Iraq, I'd be pretty ashamed. The truth is I personally lost all faith in ALL politicians a while back, all they do is say whatever they think you want to hear. I really hate the way our government has become so extreme, so polarized on the left and on the right that they can't even function. It makes me sick that these goofs are supposed to be representing the people, but instead only focus on their own agenda. Ack! Enough about politics and politicians, I think they all suck…republicans and democrats alike.

I had also watched another movie I got from one of the air force guys today. He had a hard drive full of movies and I copied a couple to watch. I watched one called "Battle Royale" and it turned out to be a foreign film (Japanese) with subtitles. It was age restricted and turned out to be pretty violent. The theme was similar to that of "The Hunger Games". An entire class of students is chosen to get dropped on a deserted island and forced to kill each other until there is only one survivor left. They are each given a back pack with some basic supplies and a random weapon. It was pretty crazy watching all these kids kill each other. There were friends that turned on each other as well as lovers and so on. It was an interesting…and different show to watch. Interesting because it was a foreign film and I like to see a variety of films from everywhere. Different because I have never seen so much violence by kids…it even shocked me a couple times!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Day Of Nothing (FTX Day 20) - (Germany) Day 131

(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 was a little different because our shift didn't start until 1300, so I slept in until about 0830. I then took it easy and read for a bit before even getting out of bed. I then got up and headed to the laundry mat with one of my co-workers "Chris Brown". We washed our clothes and I grabbed a small snack from the shoppette for breakfast. I then read some more before getting ready for the work day. We headed over to the food vendors right before our shift started so I could eat a large meal that would serve as my lunch/dinner.

The shift was very boring, we had no help desk tickets and just took turns using the computer or reading a magazine. As I walked around the area looking in the rooms I thought this exercise is quite a bit different from others I've been to in Korea. Like Korea this exercise is a group of people playing war games. Everything is classified, but if you know what's going on in the world and where the trouble spots are you can make a pretty good guess at what it's all about. The strange thing is that even though I do see air force, navy and marines every now and then, the majority of the people are old white civilian men. Kind of the exact picture you have in your mind when in a movie soldiers on the ground talk about old guys in a room directing a war that they are thousands of miles away from.

We left at 1900 and I headed back to the barracks to read a little and then talked with my wife.

Back To Work (FTX Day 19) - (Germany) Day 130

(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 there was a little confusion on what time we were supposed to go to work, half the people in the barracks said 0700 and the other half said 1300. We split the day shift into two groups of 6 hours each…the army folks doing one of the 6 hour shifts and the air force group doing the other 6 hour shift. This made sense because there is really not enough tickets to keep everyone busy when all of us are there at the same time, and it's also nice not to waste an entire day with a 12 hour shift…our NCOIC finally took some advice and made a good decision for once! Finally the NCOIC came in the barracks from his shower and told us that the army folks will be going in at 0700…I had believed the guys that were saying 1300, so I had to move quick to get ready by 0700.

At work there still was not a lot to do. We watched some funny videos on YouTube and then hung around waiting for something that needed to be done. I helped a couple people with some minor issues and then had to configure a printer that was brought in to replace another that was blurry. As we were all standing around one of the head civilians came out and randomly picked three of us to follow him. It turns out an army colonel (promotable) was there and wanted to give out a few coins. I was a little pissed when I found out, because they were given just to some people…we have all done the same job here and if they're giving out coins we should all get them. I was then told that there will be more and they are planning to rotate us through so we all get a coin. I hope that does happen, coins aren't' worth anything…but they are nice to get and I haven't received one yet since I've been in Germany. I received plenty while in Korea, sometimes it all depends on being in the right place at the right time.

My last trouble ticket of the day was a tough one. We had a guy that couldn't print and when I went in to look at it, the guy tried to show me, but it printed just fine. I wrote on the help desk ticket for the action taken: "Went in and gave the computer a hard stern look…then it started printing just fine".

We were off at 1300 relieved by the air force and I headed out to the Greek vendor outside to grab my lunch/dinner…a tasty gyro. I then headed back to the barracks with a co-worker everyone calls "Chris Brown" because of the similarities. We watched a foreign film called "IP Man". It's a martial arts movie with lots of kung fu…all about a humble Chinese kung fu master who's life gets turned upside down after the Japanese invade. He kicks a lot of butt in the movie and near the end is shot, but not killed. He later ends up opening up a school and is the teacher to thousands including Bruce Lee.

After that I read a little, then took a nap. I'm going to miss my naps when I go back to a normal schedule…LOL.

The PFC (FTX Day 18) - (Germany) Day 129

An "action" shot of what I did the entire day today....sit in a chair and read....pretty crazy.

(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 got up and got ready just like every other morning, we started work at 0700 and as I was sitting in the help desk area the NCOIC called me and the lone girl in our group over to him. He told us at 0900 to 1700 we would be doing guard duty at a building. I was thinking to myself this is pretty stupid, but I've long since given up trying to figure out the ways of the army.

The girl I was with was pretty pissed off, she actually is in the same unit as the NCOIC and is not too happy to have to be here with him for the entire exercise. She took sleeping pills for the trip here so she wouldn't have to listen to him on the drive to the exercise…LOL. So we head out in search of the building we are supposed to guard because there will be German nationals working in there…it's basically a babysitting gig. We started looking for building 1026 and saw the direction we were walking was in the 1400's and getting higher, so we turned around and headed towards the 1000's. After looking all around the buildings in the 1000 range, we couldn't find this particular one…1026. We went inside one of the buildings and asked, the guy inside said "oh this happens all the time…I have a map, let me show you". It turns out that building 1026 is actually out of order and at the end of the 1400's…totally out of place. We ended up walking all over the place, but finally made it to our destination a half hour late.

Once there we found just an empty building with some construction workers in it. We found a small office and settled in there. We talked quite a bit during our walk and our time in the office while we were babysitting the Germans. This girl (I should actually be calling her a woman…she's almost as old as I am) is a PFC, but she's been in the army a while and has actually been deployed. She has a purple heart that she received on her deployment because she was shot in the leg. She was a police officer in New York for 12 years before the army. I then heard an interesting story on why she is currently a PFC. She actually punched a female officer a few times because of some disparaging remarks the officer said. She lost her rank from an E-4 to an E-3, but after challenging it she will now be receiving her rank and back pay because they ruled that the officer's actions caused the incident. It was a pretty crazy story!

We did absolutely nothing all day long. I sat in a chair and read from my iPad and also a copy of the army times that I bought during a run to the shoppette. The PFC wanted to sham as much as possible because this was such a stupid job. What doesn't make sense is that we were sent there to babysit the workers, but they already had access to the building and had been doing this work already before we arrived and before today. They were surprised we were even there. We also were only scheduled to work until 1700 and the construction workers were not leaving until 1900. I have no idea why we were even there. We took an extra long lunch and I drove the TMP to the food court where I had some Pizza Hut. We spent a little time in the PX before heading back.

Once back I read more and sat in a chair again doing absolutely nothing. We ended up leaving knowing we accomplished absolutely nothing today…what a waste of time. I headed back to the barracks and was able to copy a number of movies from her terabyte hard drive. She had a boatload of movies, I'm set for a while. Tonight's movie…"Real Steel" This is a movie my son watched and wanted me to see. So the whole time I was watching it I was thinking of him…it didn't help that it was a movie not only about fighting robots, but also about a father and son. Made me miss my son like crazy. I can't wait to see my kids this summer. I mentioned yesterday that I definitely will not be reenlisting for various reasons, but living closer to my kids is one of the main reasons. Having a normal job and being able to see my kids on a normal basis is going to be so nice. I hate being away from them for these long periods of time…it just breaks my heart.

Good News (FTX Day 17) - (Germany) Day 128

There are only 4 power outlets in the what you see here is 
a power strip, plugged into a power strip, plugged into a power strip, 
plugged into a power strip, plugged into the wall. There are also several long 
extension cords people bought and other power strips coming out of the other outlets! 
One of these nights we'll probably catch the place on fire.

(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 was another normal morning getting up, getting ready, eating a bowl of cereal at the DFAC and getting to work at 0700. The day was pretty uneventful unlike yesterday. I worked on a couple of tickets…fix a printing problem and installing some software. I then ran a cable to connect a VTC machine. The problem was there were no more ports in the room or the adjacent room next to it, so I had to run a cable two rooms down…not a bit deal, but that was the highlight of my day.

We found out after arriving that only the night shift is going to start the 12 hour shift, we would work 0700 to 1300 and the NCOs would stay until 1900 when the night shift started it's 12 hour shift that we will relieve at 0700 tomorrow morning. This was good news, I was already mentally prepared to work the 12 hour shift, but luckily that will wait until tomorrow. It was so slow I can't imagine staying there until 1900 tonight. One of the air force guys was so bored he was looking for things to do to others, like sticking duct tape on them without them noticing.

After work I headed back to the barracks and took a short nap before talking to my wife for a bit. I read some more of my book (book 1 of George Martin's "A Game of Thrones" … I have all four books loaded on my iPad). As I was chatting with my wife we were talking about the civilians working here at the exercise. They are the tier 2 level support and have a lot more privileges than the rest of us working the help desk. I then realized that there are no military folks at all in the tier level 2 support. My wife said "you need to get those privileges" when I was telling her about how often we can't complete a ticket because we don't have enough privileges. The funny thing is that I can get certified in everything under the sun and have all the degrees in the world, but I will not be able to work in there because I'm an E-4 and in the military. Gaining rank will not even help because when you get a higher rank, you do less technical work and more supervisory work. Another reason I will not be staying in the army after this first enlistment. I will get as much as I can out of the army while I'm in, but there is no way I'll be staying in.

The rest of the night was uneventful and pretty much the same routine watch a movie, read a little, then take a shower and get ready for bed. I watched "Transporter 3" tonight…a movie I've seen before, but I always enjoy watching a good action packed movie. Starting with the help desk shift tonight, the help desk will be manned 24 hours a day…with our 12 hour shift coming up tomorrow. We'll see how it goes.

Slammed (FTX Day 16) - (Germany) Day 127

(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 was a little irritating. Some guys got up early and went for a run this morning, but instead of being courteous to those those of us still sleeping, they all talked back and forth in loud voices not caring about anyone else except themselves. That wasn't even the worst part, the guy in the bunk next to me was one of them and after he left, his alarm went off and kept going off because he was gone. I had to get up and turn the damned thing off, and I wasn't planning on getting up for another 45 minutes. The joys of living in the barracks. I laid around for a bit pissed off, then finally got up and got ready for the day.

The work day today was a little different than previous days. The official exercise hasn't started yet, but there are a number of people already here working and preparing for it, so they have been getting their accounts setup and they have also been turning in trouble tickets because of various issues that have popped up. A lot of them are because the images that we used on these machines are old and do not have everything setup properly for their needs. One of the biggest issues we ran into are a whole mess of computers on the domain that were put in quarantine because the image was so old, they did not meet the minimum security requirements. Once in quarantine there wasn't much we could do, only two of the civilian workers had enough privileges to log into them. They would log in and then we would start the update process and try and get them up to date, so they could get moved out of quarantine. (Once a computer is in quarantine the user cannot log in and the machine is pretty much useless…this is to protect the network as a whole).

So the day turned out to be pretty busy, in fact I only sat down once to check my email and Facebook, but after about a minute I had to get up and take care of another issue. Busy is good, the time passed quickly and I felt like an actual I.T. technician once again. I just wish I had more administrative privileges, so I could fix more problems instead of waiting and relying on others.

We left and I headed back to the barracks and took a nap. I don't know why, but I've been tired lately after each shift. Tomorrow we start the 12 hour shifts, so instead of working 0700 to 1300, we will work 0700 until 1900. This is a pretty crappy schedule, we'll be there the entire day and by the time we get out it will probably be starting to get dark. I guess we'll see how it goes, we should get a lunch and a dinner break. I think I would rather have this shift though than the other shift which is the opposite - 1900 until 0700. That would really mess up my sleep pattern.

I watched "Knowing" starring Nicolas Cage tonight and it was a pretty decent movie. I didn't know what it was about, so I was surprised that it turned out to be about the end of the world! It was entertaining and passed the time. I took a break and was able to talk to my wife for a bit before finishing up the movie and then getting ready for bed. I'll read some more of my book and then called it a night.