Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Long Day - (Germany) Day 218

This morning's PT was on PHV, but everyone from our office just showed up in ACUs for accountability. After formation I road in to work with my boss where I ate breakfast at the food court. I then surfed the web waiting for the shoppette to open up at 0800 so I could get coffee. Everyone headed in early because of an upcoming CIP inspection next week. They just had me come in early with them because they didn't want me to do PT by myself.

I then spent the time checking emails and then all our customer's account folders. SPC JayZ is on leave, we have two guys out-processing, and another clerk just left on TDY to Italy. I would have gone to Italy, but chose not to because my kids are here…a great opportunity though! Anyways that leaves basically just me to handle all the accounts. I was supposed to go through all the folders and see if there was anything that needs fixing  (i.e. missing signatures, missing memos, correct dates, etc.)

The entire morning SGT Mex kept heading to the bathroom about every 5 to 10 minutes. The first time out he exclaimed that he just "crapped out 1.5 liters of liquid shit". SGT Mex is currently on the overweight program and is about to get weighed tomorrow. He's gone down a few pounds each month, but really wanted to pass this time. So first thing in the morning he took some sort of colon cleanser or something and was not eating anything all day. He went so often that everyone just started avoiding the bathroom all together. It was pretty funny because some of the times he had to get up and start running towards the toilet!

I headed to the food court for lunch and spent my time reading my book and eating lunch. I waited until the last second to go back into the office. I have mentioned how much I disliked going into the office, but today I realized how much I just really hate going in. When I had to head back a wave of depression washed over me. I'm not sure why even. The job is not difficult and most of the people I work with are good people, but I just hate it. Maybe it's just all the stupid stuff I have to deal with. I hate that I'm doing a job I didn't sign up for. I hate the lack of common sense in almost every aspect of the army. Despite all that…I slowly made my way back to the office.

I sent out a couple more emails and surfed the web. I've ended up using Twitter quite a bit more. Not because I tweet at all, but because I can subscribe to a number of news outlets back home and nationwide. It gives me a lot of stories to read all in one place, and helps pass the time.

I then helped SGT Mex with some paperwork. It was basically just typing up some memos, but at least it was doing something. We got off at 1700 and headed home to eat and quickly get ready for a movie. My girls have been waiting and waiting for Chernobyl Diaries to come out and when it finally had a date here on PHV it turns out they were sent the wrong two reels, so the show was cancelled! So to make it up to the kiddos we bought them ice cream and headed home to watch a movie…."From Dusk 'til Dawn" an interesting classic from Quentin Tarantino. The movie is so out there, it's funny. Everyone was thinking…what the heck is going on here???

Side Note: With the late nights and the kids I've found myself a couple days behind...I'll be catching back up soon!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to Work - (Germany) Day 217

The view of Heidelberg from Königstuhl

This morning's PT was on PHV. Everyone came in civilian clothes and went on a run off post. The profiles headed to the gym and we worked out on what we were allowed to. I had a great workout…reminded me of the end of my time in Korea when I headed to the gym and just did my own workout almost every day after work. I hope that I could start doing something like this everyday.

I headed straight to physical therapy instead of work and had a good session. I wasn't in a lot of pain to start with and the shock therapy with the neck message and chiropractic manipulation, I felt pretty good leaving the place...as always.

By the time I got back to work there was about a half hour before lunch time. I checked email and surfed the web a little before heading to my car for the lunch break. As usual I have come to enjoy my lunch break in my car. It's an escape from the office and I get to listen to music, relax, read my book and usually take a little nap.

Back at work I surfed the net for a bit, then spent most of the afternoon placing pages into a binder. These were all pages from past ComSec newsletters…really exciting content that I guess they want to save and store. So now we have newsletters dating back a couple years.

We got off at 1700 and after going home and changing, we all headed off to McDonalds for dinner…LOL. This was our first time actually eating at the local McDonalds here and I have to say the food was pretty good. I had the "Texas Nacho Chicken" burger which was just plain awesome! I'm not sure if they have that back in the states, but if they do…give it a try. I don't eat at McDonalds too much, but I have to say I was very impressed with this sandwich.

The whole reason we went to McDonalds was to get a quick meal and then head up to a place called "Königstuhl" which is about 15 minutes away. It is up at the top of the nearby mountain (hill) and I read that you can get some great views of Heidelberg from the top. Once there and got out, we walked around and explored some nature trails (on accident) while looking for the view point. We found the view point and checked out the nice scenery for a bit…then headed home. The place is great for a little get-a-way, and next time we'll plan a little better and wear some actual shoes instead of flip flops.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (Paris) - (Germany) Day 215 & 216

Me and my honey in front of the Eiffel Tower

The view from the Eiffel Tower showing "The Palais De Chaillot" 

Saturday: We left early in the morning at 0100 on the USO bus. There is a park and ride lot right outside one of the gates at PHV where we met up, and unlike our last bus tour, this one came right on time. We were able to load up and we were all able to sit next to each other. The ride was long and uncomfortable, but I was able to sleep for a lot of it. We made one pit-stop to use the bathroom and get breakfast. The only problem was that the rest area they were planning on stopping at was closed, so they chose the next available one and it was only a convenience store. So breakfast consisted of some store bought goods and not a normal meal…we dealt with it.

We arrived in Paris at around 0700 and had a local tour guide join us on the bus. We then drove around Paris in the bus with the tour guide giving us information along the way about everything we could see. We made a few stops for everyone to get out and take photos, then we finished up in the "Place de la Concorde" which is a major public square in Paris. From this point we were within easy walking distance to some of the city's most popular attractions.

Of course the first thing my kids wanted to see was the Eiffel Tower, so we started walking towards it checking out the architecture and the scenery along the way. Once we arrived, we got in line and ate the lunch we packed from my backpack. The line wasn't too bad for the stairs…we waited for about a half hour then purchased our tickets to start climbing the over 700 stairs up to the 2nd level. The views were awesome and worth the climb. From the 2nd level you can also purchase a ticket to take an elevator to the very top, but my wife and my oldest daughter were a bit scared…and the line was pretty long. So we enjoyed our time in the tower and then made our decent. The climb down was much easier :)

We then walked around in the general direction of where we were dropped off taking our time checking out the streets and everything else. Once we made it back to the Place de la Concorde, we took a bit of a break. Everyone was a little tired from all the walking. My wife, son, and I had a bicycle cab take us to the "Arc de Triomphe", which is where I wish we would have headed first. There are several major streets heading out like spokes from a wheel. We came up the "Champs-Elysees" street and it had a number of shops and restaurants as well as a couple street performers.

By the time we got back, it was almost time to board the bus and head back. I found out that you really need more than just one day to discover Paris and all it's major sites. We loved our time here and the kids had a blast, but my wife and I will make sure to come back and visit the museums with "The Louvre" on top of that list. We also got to see the outside of the "Cathedral of Notre Dame", but I'd like to go inside and check it out as well. I think my wife and I could spend a weekend there and be satisfied.

The bus ride back was uneventful. I slept for a lot of it until we stopped for dinner. The restaurant at the rest area was a little unique in the fact that it straddled the highway, so as you ate your meal you could watch the cars go by in both directions. We were told to "make sure to exit on the right side". We ended getting back to Heidelberg at around 0100.

The USO put on this "Paris Express" tour. These express tours are a great inexpensive way to get out and see another place. The drive may suck and you may end up sleep deprived, but it's worth checking into if you are stationed in Europe.

Sunday: Sunday turned out to be a day of rest…literally. Everyone was so wiped out from the day trip to Paris we all slept in…well some of us more than others. I couldn't get my kids moving until well past noon. We headed to the shopping center and grabbed lunch along with a pair of shoes on clearance for my son. We headed back and watched some TV for the rest of the night.

On a side note…I've found that having my kids here has really limited my writing time. I try and jump on the computer at the end of the night before bed and type out something real quick. In my head I'd like to write up each day with some quality writing, but I usually end up just typing out everything as fast as I can and then uploading it. I've also taken a ton of photos that I will eventually get up on my flickr account. Until then please bear with me until I have a little more time on my hands…which probably will not be until my kids go back home in a couple weeks.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Technology Fair and Reenlistment - (Germany) Day 214

The reenlistment ceremony for the sergeant in maintenance

This morning's pt was a little strange. We formed up in civilian clothes at PHV and after accountability and some announcements we were released to go back home. We were told we can work out if we want…everyone just split and headed home…LOL.

At work I checked my email and such, then learned how to change the combinations on our safes. It's actually a pretty simple process and has to be done every time someone leaves or if we believe the combination has been compromised…or at least once a year. We have two people getting ready to PCS soon so we went ahead and made the change.

We then checked out the technology fair. There was a lot of hype about this event and it was held in the gym nearby. Our office headed over and looked it over. There were a number of vendors offering some pretty cool stuff, but as junior enlisted we really didn't have the power to make any purchase decisions. It was interesting though to see what these vendors are trying to sell to the government. There was everything from physical port security to IA software scanners that will find every vulnerability in your network.

Checking out some of the vendors at the technology fair

After that I headed to lunch. I took my lunch to the food court along with my iPad to read my book. I couldn't sit in my car because the weather has been getting pretty hot! Shortly after lunch we all gathered near the flag poles at the front of the base for a little reenlistment ceremony for a sergeant in our maintenance office. He just re-classed and will be guaranteed staff sergeant after graduating AIT. He signed up for another 5 years! After the ceremony I surfed the internet for a while, then inventoried a safe before cleaning up. We received our safety briefing (don't be stupid) for the weekend and then we were released.

We had a family dinner, then I went to the bowling alley for a little farewell get together for SPC Matrix. I had planned on just buying him a drink and having one myself before leaving, but it turned out to be a 3 hour affair. We ended up playing mini-golf and everyone had a great time…including my kids.

We signed up for a USO day trip to Paris for the weekend. We'll be leaving at midnight and heading to the park and ride near post to catch the bus. Should be a fun filled day tomorrow along with a day of rest on Sunday…more to come….

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Survive - (Germany) Day 213

This morning we formed up at the office at 0630. We did not have PT, instead we had to head up to our company headquarters in Landstuhl for sergeant's time training. Everyone had to bring their full battle rattle, my boss told me to bring mine as well just in case. With my updated profile I knew I would not be able to wear that crap for a second, so I decided to leave it all at home. It would have been just a waste of time hauling all that crap everywhere knowing that I will not be wearing it. I figured I would deal with the consequences if anything came up, but there was no way in hell I was going to put on all that gear. My head has been pounding for 3 days now and that would only make it much worse than it already has been.

We headed off in two TMP vans and made the hour trek to Landstuhl. Once there we grabbed some snacks at the shoppette, then waited outside our company for over a half hour wondering what to do. We finally found out we were supposed to march out into the woods for training. This week's training was indeed in the woods and consisted of four stations. We were broke up into four groups and spent about 45 minutes at each station before rotating.

I never really care for sergeant's time training especially because it almost always pertains to stuff I'll never use. Today was a little different…don't get me wrong, I still didn't want to be out there, but we covered some stuff that may be handy if something bad were to ever happen. The first station was preventing shock, the second station about 50 feet away was how to treat a wound, the third was what to do with injured in an active combat situation, and the fourth was on CPR.

We've done all this training at some point before, but it's good to have a refresher on it. It is also stuff that we may come across in our normal life and knowing how to treat for shock or perform CPR could save someone's life. What I don't think is necessary is the full battle rattle for everyone. It just seemed totally retarded that they even required everyone to wear it. As soon as we got to each station everyone would take it off, then we would start the class. It was pointless to make everyone wear it at all. The second thing is forcing everyone to drive out to Landstuhl. We spent over two hours of the day just driving, so we could attend classes that could easily be done in a conference room or even our office.

After we finished the training we drove over to Ramstein air base and had lunch. The base is only about 10 minutes away and has the big food court. By the time we got back to the office it was about 1500. When I went pee it was a dark orange…not a good color. I didn't drink a whole lot during training because we were outside without any bathrooms. Since there were females around we couldn't just "utilize the wood line". So I only ended up taking a few drinks. I could feel myself overheating…outside it was very hot. I headed over to the shoppette and purchased a liter of water and then headed back to the office and took off my top while drinking the water to hydrate myself and cool myself down.

We were let go at 1600 which was a nice surprise…except for 3 random people that had to stay for a piss test. I headed home and was planning to take my kids out for a little trip, but it was just too hot. We all ended up just staying in and watching some TV shows.

A long hot day…but tomorrow's Friday!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Recovery & PHA - (Germany) Day 212

A view at the hospital of the flag still at half mast 
because of the Colorado theatre incident

This morning I headed to bed after my staff duty and was able to sleep until 1300. I got up and proceeded to get ready for the day. I didn't have to head into work, but I did have my PHA (Periodic Health Assessment) appointment at 1420 I needed to get to. This is basically a physical that we have to make an appointment for each year. It shows up on our MedPros and turns red if we end up going over a year. The company does everything they can to keep everyone in the green, so if you fail to do so…then you'll get "a talkin' to".

The physical went fine. I went over the pain in my upper back, neck and head and also how progress has been with physical therapy. I also told the doctor about my knee. I've been having issues with it as well (I know…I'm falling apart). It's been throbbing non stop now for a couple weeks, but I have been unable to make an appointment…so I just waited for my PHA to take care of it. The doctor felt it, moved my leg around and felt the grinding, popping and crunching going on down there. He then told me to get X-Rays and then follow up with him. He also gave me some medication that is supposed to reduce inflammation and pain…we'll see. I also had my profile updated and extended. The doctor changed the "running at own pace and distance" to "can walk from place to place but not for aerobic activity. He is unable to walk far enough or fast enough to work up a sweat and the attempt may cause further injury to knee". Now I feel like I can't do much of anything for PT! I headed over and had the X-Rays taken, then picked up my prescription before leaving.

By the time I went home I had enough time to play a couple video games with my son before heading to pick my wife up from work. We ended up ordering a pizza from the bowling alley (good stuff)…and then the whole family bowled a game before relaxing for the night in the house and watching an episode of "American Horror Story".

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Lot Going On - (Germany) Day 211

This morning's PT was on PHV once again which is always nice. After we formed up, we basically just did our own thing with each section sergeant. Our section just headed to the small gym on post. I worked out on a couple machines and then headed out with SPC Whirlwind for a fast walk around the post.

When I arrived to work it was just me and my boss there. Everyone else had appointments of some sort. I ended up doing some actual "ComSec" work. We had a couple customers come in and pick up their encryption keys. For my part as a ComSec clerk I had to update their paperwork, print it out and make sure they signed in the right places. This is the meat and potatoes of my job. I really can't imagine doing this for 3 years, but there is a chance when this base closes that I will move and do the job that I signed up for.

After it slowed a bit, I was able to actually finish my clearance paperwork and get it submitted. Now it is all in the hands of big brother. My friends, family and co-workers may get interviewed, then I will get interviewed...and then I'll find out if I get the clearance or not.

I took lunch as usual in my car listening to music and reading my book. I had another physical therapy appointment right after lunch, so I headed there and proceeded to do the therapy. I always enjoy the ending of my physical therapy. The "shock therapy" (IFC) always feels a little strange. In fact it can feel a little different each time I have it done depending on where they place the devices on my back. Today they were a little higher on my neck and as it caused my muscles to contract it would slightly cause my head to turn back and forth. A strange sensation having your muscles do things without your control. I then get a neck massage from the therapist which feels awesome. By the time I leave that place I'm feeling awesome...at least temporarily I'm feeling no pain which is great, because it seems I'm always in some sort of pain most of the time.

I headed back to work and sat around for a bit because there were no computers available. I inventoried a safe with SPC Whirlwind and then ended up leaving work a bit early to head to staff duty at our battalion office. I came prepared with my laptop, my hard drive full of movies, and my iPad to read from. I'm working with our old platoon sergeant who is a pretty cool guy.

The shift was pretty laid back. I went home for dinner at 2000 until 2300. We ate dinner and watched "Man on a Ledge". I then played a couple of video games with my son before heading back. It kind of sucks that I only get to see my family for a few hours tonight, but that's better than nothing I guess.

Besides the little annoying fact that staff duty has to play janitor for the S-1 & S-3 shops, the shift was pretty uneventful. I watched UFC 147 which was in Brazil and actually had the finals for The Ultimate Fighter Brazil on it. Rich Franklin and Vanderlei Silva fought in the main event which was a pretty good fight. I've enjoyed watching Vanderlei since his days as the Pride Fighting Champion.

I took cat naps when I could though out the night and finally when 0900 came I was able to leave. I felt somewhat like a zombie as I made my way home and into bed.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Dose of Monday - (Germany) Day 210

This morning's PT was a run off post in civilian clothes. Those of us that are on profile walked about half the distance and then came back. As we were in formation they moved all the flags down to half mast because of the shooting at the Batman movie back in the states…what a tragedy.

Work started off a bit slow today. All our new computers never received any updates…something was configured wrong because they were all in quarantine, which forced everyone to just sit around and chat with each other for most of the morning. The IMO finally made it over and started performing the required updates, then he was able to start getting them out of quarantine. That made for a pretty boring morning.

I spent a little time before lunch filling out an online form with all kinds of personal information to get the investigation started for my clearance. I got about a half hour done before heading off to lunch. After lunch I got another half hour done before I had to go to physical therapy. There was a backup at the physical therapy office, so it ended up taking me about two hours instead of the normal which is about one hour. I was glad I went though, because starting from last night I was in some serious pain, my head was pounding and my back was sore. At the end of the physical therapy they apply heat and also give me "shock therapy" before doing some manipulation and finally a little upper neck massage. By the time I left I was feeling a lot better.

Back at work I worked on the online form some more until it was time to go. I headed home and had dinner with the family. By the time I got home my back and head were starting to hurt again…lucky me. We watched "Red Tails" which came via Netflix. I was actually expecting a bit more from the film, but it just seemed a little flat. I can't quite place my finger on it, but it turned out to be just an "OK" movie.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 208 & 209

A view down the street of the Speyer Cathedral

Saturday: Today we decided to check out the city of Speyer. SPC Mac recommended it to me and after a little research we were ready to go. Speyer is about 40 minutes from our house via car. We headed out and once there found a parking lot downtown. We walked down the main pedestrian area of Maximilianstrasse. There were a number of vendors and of course some great architecture to look at. The street ends at the Speyer Cathedral, which we checked out. We then walked down to the other end of the street to find the Altportal (old gate) which is actually one of the tallest and most important town gates in Germany (according to the literature). What we liked was the ability to climb the stair to the top to get a great view of the city.

We then headed to the Technik Museum which is housed in a former aircraft hanger. It is full of everything from cars, trains, motorcycles, and of course planes. Outside of the hanger you can go inside the planes, helicopters, boats, and even a submarine. It's a great hands on museum, which the entire family enjoyed.

Inside the Technik Museum

Outside the Technik Museum

Sunday: Today we headed to the Ramstein air base to let the girls do a little shopping at their large PX. We then were finally able to watch "The Avengers". Even after being out for a while the theatre was packed. I'm glad we purchased tickets early and arrived early as well to make sure we got 5 seats together. Everyone enjoyed the flick and then we headed to a place called Big Emma's not too far from the base. It serves outlandishly large portioned dishes. My kids had hamburgers bigger than their heads. It was pretty funny to see the looks on their faces when they brought them out.

My daughter with a piece of her hamburger at Big Emma's

Friday, July 20, 2012

In a Funk - (Germany) Day 207

This morning's PT was in PHV once again. I'm really hoping we keep doing it here because it's so close to everyone's houses. It really gives me a lot more time in the morning to get ready since I have to leave early and take my wife to work. The actual PT was a run off post in civilian clothes. Those of us on profile and the fat boy club went to the gym (Stronghold) on PHV and worked out. I rode the stationary bicycle to get some cardio…with no impact.

I don't know why, but for some reason I was in a bad mood even heading to work. I'm usually a little depressed and have no desire to go to the office, but today it was a lot worse…I was in a funk that I couldn't shake. I hate always feeling this way because I'm normally a very happy go lucky guy. When I arrived at work all the computers were taken, so I sat in a chair and looked at the wall for about a half hour.

Later on in the day I was able to check my email and surf the web a bit. I also went over the brief we have to give each of our customers yearly. So far I have yet to give one to any customer, so I had to go over the PowerPoint slides and give a sample brief to SPC Whirlwind so he could see how well I do.

I took lunch in my car listening to music and reading my book, but shortly after I finished my lunch I took a nap. For some reason I was tired all day as well…so the nap helped. Once done with lunch I gave my brief to SPC Ketcher. I can honestly say that I don't care to give briefs. I didn't sign up to give some death by PowerPoint presentation to people.

The rest of the day was spent surfing the web and checking email. I did receive a curious email this afternoon. I was informed that I will no longer be a sponsor to a new guy that was headed to our unit. My boss got the same email for his guy. I guess they both got reassigned to another unit.

The NCO on the maintenance side told his guys that we would probably be leaving early, so they all cleaned up the place by 1400…we were all released by 1645…early, but not quite what everyone had in mind. After the place was clean the only thing everybody did was either surf the net or just chat with each other.

The night was uneventful. We ordered pizzas from the bowling alley and watched the original "Superman" movie. My oldest daughter had asked me what kryptonite was…so I told her she has to watch the movie. I sure don't remember it being so long and drawn out, but it was pretty funny to watch such an old movie. We sure have come a long way in the special effects department…and acting.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Long Day of Training - (Germany) Day 206

This morning's PT was what I think we should do a lot more of. Even though I couldn't participate, I think it's the best way to get a good workout and have fun as well. I did participate in the warm up and some of the push-up and other exercises to get everyone ready. Then everyone played touch football. Every time there was a score or turn-over, the other team had to do 30 seconds of intense exercises. It was fun and it gave everyone a good workout.

Once at the office we did sergeant's time training. Again it was (almost) all on what I consider useless stuff. How to call in a medivac when in battle, how to use hand signals, and general radio etiquette. The only class that was useful was one on viruses and firewalls…stuff that everyone can put to everyday use. Right after training I was told I have 20 minutes to eat my lunch because I'm heading to the company in Landstuhl. WTF? I hate last minute crap like that.

I ate my lunch and then headed off in the TMP with another soldier people call "The Haitian Sensation" and our platoon sergeant. Landstuhl is about an hour away and is where our company headquarters is located. We drove up there for a "training meeting". This is attended by all the platoon sergeants, the first sergeant, and the company XO. Me and The Haitian Sensation were told to go so we could "experience" the meeting. We were the only soldiers there for this "experience". I get why they wanted us to go, but I was still a little pissed with the whole situation.

I did learn some things during the meeting. They have this meeting weekly and go over everything that is going on with the company. The calendar of events, everyone's status with PT tests, the over weight program, weapons qualifications, passes, leaves, awards…they go over it all. It was interesting to see how the process is done and how these people see things from their point of view, then how their decision making process affects everyone. It's all a numbers game and all the E-4s and below are just numbers that either make a good or bad percentage…or fill needed slots. The entire process just reaffirmed my decision that there is no way in hell I want to be an NCO…or even reenlist to stay in the army.

We finally left a bit after 1600, which had me back to the office at about 1730. I was able to call SPC Whirlwind and have him pick up my wife from work, so she wouldn't have to just sit and wait for me there. No news for the night…we had family dinner and I finished up watching UFC 148 while the kiddos video chatted with their friends back home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Car Wash - (Germany) Day 205

This morning's PT was a run off post in civilian clothes. Instead of heading off with the other profiles to do spin class, our NCOIC wanted those of us with "run at your own pace and distance" to go on the run as far as we could. So I went, but I walked the entire time. I know he wanted us to run, but any impact causes my extreme headaches…so it was walking only for me. I would have had a better workout at spin class, but the walk off post was also nice.

The start of work was normal…checking email and surfing the web. After a bit I headed out with SPC Mac to wash our TMP. We always have a good chat about the army and the situation we have found ourselves in being older guys in this army. It's not one little thing that drives us nuts, but the culmination of all the little things that makes us both not give a crap anymore. We had to drive it to the car wash and vacuum it out. By the time we finished, it was about lunch time…so we headed off to lunch. I had lunch in my car listening to music…always nice to be out of the office.

I did actually do a little work after lunch, I tried to contact a few of our customers to let them know when they are scheduled to come get their keys. I also helped create a spreadsheet for our boss to show when all the SAV (Site Assisted Visits) are due. Each of our customers get a visit from our office to make sure they are doing everything correctly as far as ComSec stuff goes. (i.e. making sure they are taking the appropriate steps making everything secure and staying secure).

Besides that the reset of the day was surfing the internet.

Once home we took the kiddos to Schwetzingen Castle. It's only a few minutes away and isn't technically a castle, but it does have some impressive gardens with statues all over the place. The kids had a good time and it was nice to get out of the house to break up the week a little bit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Motorcycle Test - (Germany) Day 204

Have you ever had that feeling after the weekend when you just don't want to go to work the next day? I have that feeling every day…but it was especially difficult to get motivated and get out of bed today after a four day weekend. This morning's PT was muscle failure. The profile's went our separate way into the gym and did a workout that we were able to do customized to each of our profiles. I really like doing this instead because I feel like I'm still getting a good workout each day. I did a lot of abdomen and upper body work.

This morning I headed to the driver's licensing office to attend the motorcycle safety training class and then take the written test. I passed the test, so my next step is to bring in my certificate the day before my two day required hands-on class…which unfortunately isn't until August. I will then be issued a temporary license that will last 8 days so I can actually take the hands-on class. Once I pass that class I take the certificate back to the licensing office and I will be issued my permanent license. Then I have to start the process of getting my motorcycle inspected and licensed. I feel like it's going to take an entire year before I'm able to actually ride my bike. I finished a little after 1100, so I headed home to have lunch with the kiddos.

Back at work I forwarded all the required command sponsorship paperwork for my daughter to my NCOIC. She then in turn forwarded it to our company…now it's a waiting process to see if they want anything else before granting it. I then headed over to our S2 office and had my fingerprints taken and the official initiation of my clearance. That took about 45 minutes or so, I spent the rest of the day surfing the internet.

One of the reasons I really hate my job and life in the army in general is all the stupid crap that you have to put up with. This morning for instance it was put out that everyone in the barracks has to have their rooms inspected 3 times a week. WTF? I would be so pissed off, that I don't know if I could control it. I'm just glad I'm not one of those poor guys that has to put up with that crap.

Then there is SPC Mac on our maintenance side. The guy is planning on getting out of the army in May. He was just told that he will probably be moved to another post here in Germany. Doing this will really screw his life up. It took 8 months for him to get his kid in day care, his wife has a good job and said she will not move with him, and if she did they probably wouldn't be able to pay all their bills. Out of the blue he's told this and he was stressing out today. He's going to see the chaplain to see if anything can be done, he also is wearing a protective boot because of his broken ankle. He won't be able to move until that is all healed up. It just doesn't make any sense…why move a guy when he is going to be out so soon?

I don't know how I'm going to deal with all the crap, and I don't know if I'll ever want to work for the government again. I know being a civilian worker has to be much better than a soldier, but there is still a lot of stupid crap to deal with.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day) - (Germany) Day 200 - 203

Me and the kiddos posing in front of our Hotel Castillo Alcazar at Europa Park

Friday: We woke up pretty early, we were planning on leaving the house at 0630, but it ended up closer to 0700. We headed off following SPC Whirlwind and his family to Europa Park, which is about an hour an a half away. The ride was uneventful except during a stop at a rest area, SPC Whirlwind and I helped push a German guy's van so he could compression start it.

We arrived at close to 0830 and checked into our hotel, well technically we went in and were able to get our tickets to the park but we have to wait until 1500 before we can get the keys to our room. We headed into the park and my kiddos headed to one of the major attractions of the park "Silver Star" a large roller coaster that turned out to be pretty cool. Europa Park is very similar to the DisneyWorld theme parks. It doesn't have Mickey Mouse, but it does have "Euro Maus". Everything from the monorail that travels from the hotels into the parks, to a large Epcot Center like ball called "EuroSat". More than that there are a ton of similar rides. The place is made up of several "countries" of Europe and each country has it's theme and particular rides. All in all it's a pretty awesome theme park and will entertain the very young all the way to the old.

I'm really glad SPC Whirlwind came because after the first few rides I had a pretty bad headache. I think the roller coasters shook me up a bit too much, my back and neck already give me problems…and this didn't help. Then I went on the "Blue Fire" which also messed with my guts, and I forgot my motion sickness pills at home. So SPC Whirlwind was his usual hyper self and went on all kinds of rides with the kiddos. I spent the rest of the day going on old man rides…rides that were easy going and gentle. Not really what I had planned, but the most important thing is that the kiddos had a great time!

We spent the night in our hotel Castillo Alcazar which had rooms to sleep 5. Everyone passed out within minutes of laying down.

A photo of the place we stayed...Hotel Castillo Alcazar

A view of Europa Park from our hotel room

Saturday: We woke up and ate at the included breakfast buffet at the hotel. After that we headed out for another day in the park, only this time it was just our family as SPC Whirlwind and his family only stayed for the day yesterday. I felt better and took some Motrin before we even started the day to help keep the pain away. I think we hit almost every ride in the park and even a couple shows before the park closed at 1930.

We then headed home and hit a "stau" on the autobahn. This is a traffic jam and when it happens on the autobahn (because of a wreck or construction) the backup can be long and time consuming. You will sometimes see people out of their cars, just hanging out. This one happened to last about 45 minutes and we eventually arrived to see a semi which just seemed to be stalled in one of the lanes causing the backup.

Once home we relaxed and took it easy.

Check out a few more snapshots of Europa-Park:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Sunday: A day of rest for us. I had initially planned a day trip to a city nearby, but everyone was a bit tired from Europa Park…so we just hung out at home, cleaned, went grocery shopping, and watched TV. My wife introduced the girls to one of her favorite new shows "New Girl" and my girls started a "New Girl" marathon. I think they are determined to watch the entire first season in one weekend.

Monday: Unfortunately my wife didn't have the day off like me, so I took her to work and then hung out with my kiddos for the day. In the afternoon we headed to the bowling alley here on PHV and did the $1 a game special. Good times and family fun.

After I picked up my wife, we had family dinner as usual and then watched "Star Trek". I've been a star trek fan my whole life, so it was fun to watch the movie with them…I'm not sure if I'll be able to get them to watch the older ones though, I guess we'll see.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The New Command - (Germany) Day 199

There was no PT this morning. We had a formation at 0730, then most of the folks got ready for the change of command ceremony. There were a lot that were going to be involved in it, and everyone else was told they had to sit in the stands and watch. The army seems to have a ceremony for just about everything and with most of them being pretty boring, nobody would attend…that is why people are forced to attend these events, they have to fill up the stands to make it look good...everything is about appearances.

I was lucky enough to have scheduled an appointment long before we were told of the ceremony, so I didn't have to be involved with any of it. I had to pick up my daughter and take her in for a physical. The physical went just fine and then we headed up to EFMP to schedule an appointment for the EFMP screening…which will be this Monday. We are now almost done with everything we will do for the command sponsorship progress. Once this is done, we'll submit all the signed paperwork and it will all be in the hands of the army.

After dropping my daughter back off at the house I arrived back to work just in time to take lunch.

After lunch I learned how to send ComSec material…it was kind of like arts and crafts day with boxes in boxes and lots of special (tamper proof) tape and paper. By the time we finished it was "Town Hall" meeting time with our new battalion commander and command sergeant major. The commander spoke for about 20 minutes about his expectations, then turned it over to the new command sergeant major and left. The CSM is a talker and went on and on for well over an hour. He talked about everything under the sun it seemed. His life history, expectations, consequences, having fun and so on. He called out an NCO in the front row and told her to stand up and say the first paragraph of the NCO creed…she stumbled under the pressure and he went on to say how every NCO needs to know the creed. We learned that he is a great spades and dominoes player.

We thought it was finally over, but then our first sergeant had to put in his two cents for a little bit before we were finally let go. We headed back to the shop where we then heard yet another speech from our platoon sergeant. At the end he did give some very good advice "Do not get into trouble this four day weekend. It's the new command groups first four day and if you get into trouble, they will make an example out of you" Let's hope everyone listens to that advice.

We cleaned up our office and were finally released for the day at 1630…time to start the four day! I headed home and had family dinner and a family movie as usual. The movie tonight was "Due Date" which my middle child had never seen…pretty funny movie!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Driver - (Germany) Day 198

There was no PT for me this morning. I came to formation in my ACUs so I could be the driver for SPC Mac. He had a doctor's appointment at the hospital in Landstuhl which is about an hour away. After accountability, we headed off and got the TMP ready to go…then headed off about 0700. The drive was uneventful and made it there without any issues. I volunteered to do this yesterday because SPC Mac is a good guy and it's always nice to get out of the office.

I took my iPad with me and sat in the waiting room reading while he had some X-Rays and MRIs done to his ankle. By the time we left he was wearing a large boot to keep his ankle in place because they found he has a stress fracture.

I drove under the speed limit on the way back, because I had no desire to go back to the office. SPC Mac is an older guy like me who joined late in life and we both had some good conversation on the way home about our unhappiness with the army and this unit. We both have no plans of staying in after our first contract is up. Both of us do not do the job we signed up for and can't believe all the stupid details we do instead. Mostly all the stuff I complain about in this journal on a daily basis.

When we got back I had just enough time to check my email and surf the web for a few before heading out for lunch (my iPad in the food court). Back at work I headed over to our S2 shop to talk to our head security guy. I'm in the process of getting a clearance which will involve a lot of paperwork and men in black suits interviewing everyone I ever knew to find out if I'm a psycho or a terrorist. We spoke for a while about the paperwork I filled out, then we BS'd for a while about our travels in Germany…the various vacation spots to hit…etc.

Back at work I surfed the net for a while, then had to inventory one safe before the end of the day. Home with the wife and the kiddos consisted of a family dinner and the movie "Act of Valor" which I had been waiting for. The movie had great action scenes which were very realistic, I'm guessing because they were filmed with real SEALs. The downfall of the movie is that the actors are real SEALs, so their acting leaves a little to be desired. A movie I would recommend though…just for the action scenes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Computers - (Germany) Day 197

This morning's PT was a little different. They finally decided to officially split those of us on profile and those who aren't. Those of us on profile, the ones who failed their PT test, and those who are on the overweight program all headed to the gym. We had one NCO who worked with everyone's weak areas. Those of us on profile were allowed to do what we could to get a good workout. I ended up doing the rowing machine for the entire time. I think I'll finally be able to actually get a decent workout each day now if they keep doing this.

I was in some serious pain for some reason today. I took the pain relievers I was given, but they didn't do anything really. I spent the morning getting army paperwork out of the way for the upcoming four day weekend…weekend checklist, 4-day counseling, and POV (Personally Owned Vehicle) inspection. A staff sergeant then arrived with a truckload of new computers. We helped bring them in and he started methodically exchanging them one for one with each of our existing computers, that should bring a little speed bump for us.

I headed to lunch, but it was a bit too hot in the car. I ended up going to the food court and reading my book over there. Unfortunately I couldn't really sleep in the food court though and I was dead tired.

Back at work I hung out for a bit before heading to my physical therapy follow up. The doc checked out my back and asked how everything was going. I told him I think the therapy doesn't hurt and the profile seems to be keeping me from getting the extreme headaches (except today). He extended my profile another month and my physical therapy sessions as well.

I headed back to work and checked out the new computers…they are a bit faster, quite a bit faster. I then helped one of our NCOs make a couple changes on some memos. Because our NCOIC is leaving, it seems that almost every memo has to be changed to update names and such. That was the extent of my work today.

I headed home and watched 21 Jumpstreet (the movie) that we received via Netflix today…pretty funny. I never watched the TV show, but you don't really need to in order to enjoy the movie.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (Unofficial 3-Day) - (Germany) Day 194 - 196

Saturday: This morning of course we slept in, then had our traditional "big breakfast". Once a week when we have the kiddos we make sure to have pancakes, bacon and eggs or some other treat instead of the usual cereal.

We headed off today to show the kids downtown Heidelberg (Altstadt - the old city) and then head to the castle. We drove down and parked at the Parkhaus which there are a few of within walking distance. The kids took everything in…the history, the vendors, the shops, and the people. Unfortunately there were not a lot of street performers out, but we'll see them next time I'm sure.

We went to the old bridge which offers a great view of the castle, then we headed to the bergbahn which is a unique "train" that takes people up the hill to the castle, which the kiddos thought was pretty cool. We then toured the castle inside and out before making our way back down the hill. We ate dinner outside at a table in the square of the church of the holy ghost. I love eating outside, we have the view of the castle and it's always fun to "people watch".

The day wrapped up with us heading home and watching "Midnight in Paris" which my oldest daughter really wanted to see. My kids can't wait to visit Paris and this movie shows a lot of Paris. It also has Owen Wilson who we all like.

An aerial view of the Hockenheim Aqaudrom...a large indoor/outdoor water park

Sunday: Today we headed out with SPC Whirlwind's family to the nearby town of Hockenheim to visit the "Aquadrom" swimming pool. The place is pretty cool and offers a variety of swimming pools. There is a wave pool, a salt water pool, a lap pool, a couple slides, a regular diving board along with a high dive. The pools are located both inside and outside and for 20.50 euro we were able to purchase a family day pass, which isn't too bad. The kids had a blast and were so worn out by the time we left, they all slept for the rest of the day at our house. This isn't going to help them get used to the time change!

Monday: Officially it's a work day, but I got the day off. I reminded my boss that our commander said we would all get a day off for all the time we put in for the change of command ceremony. Everyone else got their day off except for me, so I decided to collect today. To tell you the truth I didn't think I would ever collect, but as luck would have it, I was given the day off.

I took my wife to work and then hung out with my kiddos all day. I took my daughter in to get her EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) screening done today. This is the next step in getting her command sponsorship paperwork done. I was told I could just walk in, so I headed in after lunch. Once there we found out that of course, there are 3 other steps that need to be done before they can do the EFMP screening. Step 1, go to TRICARE and get a mini-registration done. Step 2, Schedule a physical for my daughter. Step 3, get the physical done and the paperwork signed, then I can go back to EFMP. The guy told me that we can do the mini-registration in the building next door at the TRICARE office.

We head over, sign in and wait to be called. A few minutes later we get called and head up only to find out that all mini-registrations are done at another post. My daughter was getting frustrated and I just laughed and told her this is how everything goes when I try and do anything in the army. We went to the other post and she did get her mini-registration done. I then headed home and we were able to schedule the appointment for the physical this Thursday.

I picked up my wife and we all had family dinner together and then watched a family movie together. I only wish I had the next 5 weeks off as well, but unfortunately I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Friday, July 6, 2012

AAM - (Germany) Day 193

This morning we did not have PT, instead we formed up at 0815 for Days of Excellence. The event actually started at 0900, but like everything in the army we had to hurry up and wait. The colonel told someone to start at 0900, the next person down told everyone to be there at 0845, and it kept going down the line until our NCOIC told everyone to be there at 0815…and of course we had to be there 10 minutes early, so make it 0805. So we headed into the theatre and waited…and waited. I brought my coffee, so I at least had that to drink to try and give me a little jolt.

Days of Excellence, a monthly event I've written about before always includes some sort of training, some speech by our battalion commander, and then awards. Our training was two hours of anti-terrorism training, I needed every ounce of my coffee to try and stay awake for that. PowerPoint…slide after slide of the same stuff we've seen over and over. We then heard from the battalion commander who is about to leave, so he had a very long winded speech about his time here and everything he's accomplished.

After that was the awards, of which there were a lot. Since the battalion commander is leaving he had a number of people (soldiers and civilians) that he wanted to thank and give a coin to. We then went through a number of other various awards, PCS awards for folks who are leaving and good conduct medals for people that haven't been in any trouble for three years. I was then called up and given an AAM (Army Achievement Medal) for my work at the FTX I did back in May. I was actually surprised because I've been told many times by both NCOs and officers that I'm getting an award only to find that something happened and it never went through. So this was my first actual award, which was pretty cool.

After Days of Excellence about 1230 we were released to our NCOs. Our company was then split into two groups…NCOs and junior enlisted. One group went with the commander and the other with the first sergeant. The commander wanted to know if everything was going alright and if there were any issues he needed to fix. He also went over the safety brief…basically don't be stupid over the weekend. We switched and talked with the first sergeant for a bit…he wanted to know how our supervisors were treating us and if there was anything he needed to do to fix it.

Finally we were released for the day at about 1300…nice. I headed home and hung out with the kiddos until my wife got off work. We picked her up, had dinner and then headed out to Mannheim to watch a movie. My wife bought the tickets online, but we headed to the wrong theatre…D'oh! We found out the theatre we needed was only a couple minutes away and we were able to make it in time before the movie started. We watched "The Amazing Spiderman". A pretty good movie, but I"m not sure why they felt the need to remake another Spiderman movie so soon.

When we left I could not find the parking coin. You see…in Germany at a "Parkhaus" (Parking Garage) when you enter, you are either given a coin or a ticket. You take that ticket or coin with you and when you arrive back, it has to be put into a machine to make your payment. Once you pay, you get the ticket or coin back and head to your car. You use the coin or ticket when leaving to have the gate open. We looked all over for the damn coin, even went back to the theatre to see if it fell out near our seats. No luck! So we had to call an attendant at the Parkhaus and wait for him to arrive so we could get out. Unfortunately when you lose a ticket or coin, you have to pay a full day's price in order to get out. We ended up paying 24 euro, which is probably about $34 or so for a couple hours of parking. That sucked!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Independence Day (2-Day Holiday) - (Germany) Day 191 & 192

A view of the setup at PHV for the 4th of July...lots of vendors and lots of people

Wednesday: We were not able to sleep in as much as we thought we would be able to. The kids are still a little off because of the jet lag and were all up pretty early. In fact they had already had cereal for breakfast and were watching TV by the time we got up.

We hung out and took it easy for a while before making a run to the commissary, then off to SPC Whirlwind's house for a BBQ. We then headed off the the center of PHV to check out the setup for the 4th of July. At the center there was a stage with a band playing and vendors all around the outside. Across the road in the bowling alley parking lot there were a number of games and rides that you see at your normal town fairs. The weather was a bit hot and my kids were still a bit jet lagged, so we headed back to the house to let them rest until it was closer to fireworks time.

We headed back out to see the action near dusk and watched the fireworks show along with some guys from my shop. It was a decent show along with music, which had to be selected by a Star Wars fan…because there several selections were from Star Wars movies during the show.

Thursday: We again took it easy today. My wife had to work, and the rest of us basically just stayed in. The weather was too hot and melted my kid's desire to head outside. We just stayed in and watched some movies. "Iron Man" and "Drillbit Taylor" were the selections as well as some home made movies we made from our previous vacations…always fun to look back on.

We headed over to the skate park on post and watched my son scoot around on his razor, then headed back to the house for dinner and a family movie…"Jumper".

The two days off were nice and it leaves just one day of work left before the weekend!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Kids Arrive - (Germany) Day 190

This morning's PT was muscle failure. I was able to do a lot of the exercises, so I got a pretty good workout. We went from one exercise to another and the only things I couldn't do were sit-ups and jumping jacks, but there were plenty of others such as push-ups and such that wore me out.

At work I checked my email and surfed the net a bit until 1100 when I finally got up and left for the day. I headed home and ate lunch, then headed off to the Frankfurt airport to pick up my kiddos. I think I was just a little too excited because I ended up getting there a good 2.5 hours before they landed. I spent the time reading my book and pacing back and forth waiting for them at the gate. Finally the plane landed and I continued to pace back and forth at the gate like a caged lion. Every time I saw a blond person my hopes would rise, only to be dashed when I realized it wasn't one of my kids.

At last they all came out…almost the last ones. We paid 90 euros for a chaperone that never came, so my kids kind of wandered around eventually figuring out where to go. I'm going to have to see about getting my money back on that one. Right now I'm not mad though because I'm just so happy to see my kids. I haven't seen them for 6 months now and it was an awesome reunion.

We took off from the airport and they were a little amazed (like I was when first driving in Germany) about how fast people drive on the autobahn. Once back at the house we all went out for dinner at The Village Grill (the restaurant here on post). One the way though I had to stop at my supervisor's house. Since we have a two day holiday in the middle of the week, I had to sign a counseling statement stating that I will not get into trouble. That's too bad because I planned on getting in all sorts of trouble on my days off, but now that I signed a silly piece of paper I'll have to be a good little boy.

We didn't plan a lot for the kids first night here, just the dinner out and watching a movie to wind down the night. My kids love movie nights with me, the only problem is picking one out that everyone agrees on…tonight's flick "X-Men: First Class". You can't go wrong with an X-Men movie. My oldest was asleep before the movie started, my middle child was asleep within the first few minutes and the youngest stayed awake for a good hour before succumbing to jet lag.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Destruction Day - (Germany) Day 189

With the Eurocup going on you see a lot of cars with German flags
 on them...this guy went a bit overboard!

This morning's PT was a run off post in civilian clothes for everyone except those of us on profile. Normally we would go for a walk off post, but we were able to talk the platoon sergeant into letting us do spin class. So instead of just doing a walk for a workout, we actually got a good cardio workout without breaking our profile..finally a little common sense.

I headed to physical therapy first thing in the morning instead of work. I did the normal exercises working my neck and back muscles. I then got some heat and the shock therapy (IFC) done and I have to say by the time I left I was feeling pretty good once again. This was my last scheduled session, my next step is seeing the physical therapist doctor for a follow-up session.

Back at work I was able to jump on the computer for a bit and check my email. I received back my EFMP form from our S1 unit. I can now move on to the second step of getting everything done for my daughter to get command sponsored so she can stay here in Germany with me. I'll have to take this form to a medical screening and have a doctor sign off on it.

After checking a couple articles out online, it was lunch time. I headed out to my car and listened to music while eating lunch and reading my book. I'm still on the 2nd book of the Game of Thrones series "A Clash of Kings". The book is good and is a great way to pass the time during lunch. I can't wait until next season's television series to start, by then I should have finished the series.

After lunch I was given a big pile of ComSec paperwork to destroy. At the end of each month we have to destroy a bunch of outdated crap that is taken out of the safe. The good news is that once it's gone, there is less to inventory. The bad news is that they keep sending us crap to put in the safe. I shredded all kinds of crap for a good half hour. I then updated our database so it would correctly match what should be in each safe before starting inventory.

Once that was done we thought we would be done for the day, but a problem with the alarm in the vault caused everyone to stay. We were told that if they can't get someone to fix it, that we would have to have someone stay and pull guard duty all night…and every night until it's fixed. Now that would suck, especially since my kids will be coming tomorrow. Luckily a contractor was able to come and fix it, and we all only had to stay until 1730.

At home my wife and I enjoyed our last quiet evening together…the calm before the storm when we are invaded by three kiddos!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 187 & 188

Seen while driving in Heidelberg...even being stationed in a "friendly" country, 
there are still plenty of locals around that do not care for a base full of foreign soldiers.

Saturday: We didn't do a whole lot today except clean house and make a shopping run to Ramstein Air Force Base. This particular base has a huge PX and a pretty big movie theatre as well. Unfortunately there wasn't anything good playing.

Sunday: We did even less today than yesterday…just did laundry and made a big grocery shopping run to prepare for my kids coming this week. We watched a lot of TV shows and listened to music. Since it's the beginning of the month I also did my budget and some maintenance on all of our computers. I say all of our computers because I have a main tower desktop, my wife has a laptop, I have a laptop, and we also have an older iMac in the kitchen that we use for recipes or playing music. I also started playing around with my blogs a bit. I'm in the process of importing all the entries from my time in Korea now.

Since not a lot has gone on this weekend I thought I'd spend a little time talking about McLovin. I've mentioned him before and he's a pretty funny guy. He's about to become the guy that people will talk about for a while in our unit because he will have literally eaten his way out of the army. Since arriving in Germany he's gained over 60 pounds. There was an incident (that I won't go into details with) but needless to say it involved alcohol and a loss of rank on his part. A lot of people think the incident was not fair and from the stories I've heard, he really got the shaft. Since that point he stopped caring at all about his army career and decided he wanted out of the army. He gained enough weight to fail the weigh-in twice and is now in the process of getting a general discharge from the army. Right now he's out-processing and will leave Germany in the next couple of weeks. His humor will be missed around the office and especially out on the FTX, he always made me laugh and boosted everyone's moral.