Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review & Personal Reflection - (Germany) Day 248

A normal break during class...everyone sits or stands around here
looking across the street at the post office checking out
and commenting on the girls

This morning started like all the rest, with my continental breakfast and then getting ready in my room before heading off to class. We picked up where we left off yesterday with the practical exercises. We did the remaining 3 scenarios taking a break between each of them and then taking lunch afterwards.

I had lunch at the DFAC as usual and I was glad that today would be my last day eating there for a while. Even though this DFAC has decent food, I have grown tired of the long lines and all the people. Sometimes when you are surrounded by a ton of people is when you feel the most alone. After eating a quick lunch, I headed to my room where I chatted with my wife for a bit before taking a quick nap.

Back in class we started our review, which was based on the 3 questions we each came up with earlier in the week. We played a little game where a person would ask one of their questions, and the person that answered it then in turn read one of their questions. This limited each person to only answering 3 questions and forced the entire class to participate…pretty smart thinking on the instructor's part. We then went through some questions from the instructors with people just shouting out answers. After that we finally took a quiz, this was the same quiz we took the first day of class. Afterwards we were given both our quizzes back so we could see how much we've improved. I scored a 70 on the first one and a 90 on the second…there's hope I may pass the final!

After that we were released at 1500 for "personal reflection". This was done so they could say that we actually did a certain number of hours for the week. For those that will get a certificate, this will give them promotion points. I headed to my room and read a little bit. I actually finished the second book in the Game of Thrones series, now I'm on to book three. I then took a nap before heading to the DFAC for my last dinner there…for a while at least. Unfortunately none of the juice machines worked and half the soda machines were out of order…that was a little frustrating, then to top it off I went to get an ice cream cone and the stupid machine ran out of ice cream without even filling up my cone! Stupid DFAC….grrrrr.

I headed back to my room and did some schoolwork before settling down and watching a movie. Tonight's feature was "Buffalo Soldiers" which had Joaquin Phoenix and Anna Paquin. It was interesting because the story takes place at an army base in Germany in the late 80's. It was funny to watch how they portrayed soldiers and all the drugs and crime that went on. I was laughing out loud at one point when an entire tank crew is high while out training and ends up driving the tank around a German town.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Practical Exercising - (Germany) Day 247

Today was a day of what they called "Practical Exercises". It was definitely much better than listening to a lecture all day. We were given a scenario and then have to find all the correct forms and fill them out to the specification we learned earlier in class. The problem is that there are so many government forms and each scenario seemed to require quite a few forms to complete it. The entire class did their work in pencil so we could erase our work and put in the correct answers as we went over each scenario. Each scenario builds upon the previous scenario, so if you get your paperwork messed up, then you will end up with a huge mess. Once we were finished with each scenario, we would head to the break room and wait until called back into the classroom. This was a great opportunity for me to take a nap each time.

I headed to lunch at the DFAC as usual and then talked to my wife for a bit during lunch. I didn't really have time to take a nap, but that was made up for with each of our breaks in class. We continued the scenarios until about 1530 when we were released. We'll be finishing up the scenarios tomorrow and then doing some review before our test on Friday.

I headed back to my room and changed, then headed to the shoppette in order to get some shaving cream, I abruptly ran out this morning! While there I ate a Yufka Döner from a vendor on post. Those things are so good, they kind of look like a burrito, but they are filled with tomatoes, lettuce, onions and chicken with a yogurt sauce. I haven't been spending money on food while I'm here because the DFAC is free, but it's nice to have a little variety every now and then.

Back in my room I spent some time doing schoolwork before settling down and watching a movie. Tonight's movie "Brotherhood of the Wolf". Like a lot of my movies, I just borrowed them based on the name. I was expecting some type of werewolf movie, but it turned out to be a foreign film (French) and had nothing to do with werewolves. It was about a french village that was being terrorized by a monster back in 18th century France. A French man along with his American Indian buddy are sent by the king to investigate the killings. The movie is long and has takes some time to build, but had some good fighting scenes (who knew that American Indians knew Kung-Fu?) and was ultimately a decent movie... interesting to see a movie that is not Hollywood produced.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fighting Sleep - (Germany) Day 246

They got more than just tanks on display on this post

This morning was the same as usual, I've settled into a nice routine with plenty of time to get up and actually wake up before heading to class. This usually helps with me being able to stay awake, but today was especially difficult. It was not just me either, the entire class was having a tough time. At our first break an hour into the class at 0900 everyone couldn't believe we had only been in class an hour. The class is going over forms and what each field means, more dry stuff and I can look around the class and watch either everyone's head bobbing or looking down propped up with their hands so it looks like they're reading along in the manual…when they are actually sleeping. I think I actually fell asleep with my eyes open a couple times. I would be staring at the teacher trying to listen and totally zone out, after who knows how long I would zone back and and see her talking, but not know how long I was zoned out or what she was even talking about.

Each hourly break was the same, everyone complaining about how bad the class is and how hard it is to stay awake. We finally broke for lunch and I headed to the DFAC and then took a quick nap in my room after talking to my wife for a bit.

Back at class the teacher's switched out, and even though the material was still very dry and boring, this teacher was a little more engaging and lively than the previous one. Everyone suffered through the rest of class until we were finally released at 1600. I headed back to my room and read for about an hour before heading to the DFAC to eat dinner. The good news is we didn't have actual homework tonight, instead everyone had to come up with three questions that we will use for review before the test on Friday. I did that easy enough and then sat back, relaxed and watched "Beowulf". I was a little surprised when I watched it, because I didn't realize the entire movie was a cartoon. I really didn't care for it too much, it seemed like I was watching Shrek…but instead of funny it was trying to be a serious action movie.

Time to read a little and then go to sleep.

Overheard Quote: "You should never fight over a woman…and maybe only fight over your wife every once in a while" (One of the guys in our class giving everyone some wisdom during a break)

Monday, August 27, 2012

SKL - (Germany) Day 245

This morning I settled into the same routine I've been into since arriving here…eat my continental breakfast, watch NBC Nightly News (free video podcast via iTunes), drink my coffee, then shower and get ready to start my day.

I headed to class a few minutes early today. Everyone always gets together in the parking lot to go over their homework…well it's basically people just copying answers that they couldn't find from others that could find them. I usually arrive just in time to head straight into class, but over the weekend I did have one answer that I couldn't find, so I joined the "study group" this morning to get my answer. One of the sergeant's was furiously writing down every single answer from another guy, he ended up drinking and partying all weekend and didn't do any homework!

Once in class we started off the morning with the dry material. We are now into what exactly constitutes a ComSec incident and how to write reports for those incidents. Fun and exciting stuff right? I decided to entertain myself…we have some very large manuals that we have to look up everything in all the time when doing homework and when taking the test. We were given a lot of little sticky post it notes to mark important pages in the manuals. I started taking my little post it page markers and sticking them in the manual of the specialist sitting next to me. He already had a bunch of markers in place…so I just started adding to them on totally random pages. Anytime he would look away, or when we would go on break I would add a few more. He's going to start wondering why he marked certain pages…LOL.

We broke for lunch and I headed to the DFAC, then to my room and spoke with my wife for a bit before laying down and taking a quick nap. Back in class it actually got a little interesting. We were each given an SKL (Simple Key Loader). This device is similar to a Palm Pilot, but is a lot larger and has been "ruggedized" for military use. It's main purpose is to receive the encryption keys that we give it, and then load them into an end user device such as a radio. We all had some hands on training and at least we were playing with a gadget. We were actually doing something other than trying not to fall asleep in class. We practiced by adding "items" such as Apache and HMMWV (Humvee). We then used a cable to transfer these items to each another person's device. After I transferred my items to my partner he looked a little confused when the instructor said we should now each have 6 items on our device. My partner kept looking at the board and back at his screen. I had made an item called "Your Mom" and it had transferred to his device. He was looking on the board to try and find "Your Mom" under the items…LOL. I had to tell him I was joking around before the instructor asked him what was on his device. I could just imagine...Instructor "what's on your device", and the kid telling him "your mom".

We were released at 1615. I did my usual nightly routine…go to room, change, go to DFAC and eat, then proceed back to room. I was hoping that today would be the first day that I wasn't in a lot of pain, but as the day progressed my head got worse and worse. I ended up having to take some headache medicine after dinner. I'm getting so tired of my head always in pain!

I watched a movie called Bangkok Dangerous with Nicholas Cage. Of course I thought it was a decent movie, Cage is an assassin and goes around killing people and blowing things up. What surprised me is that the movie started off in the city of Prague where I was just visiting!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (Prague) - (Germany) Day 243 & 244

A photo of me posing in old town square

Saturday: With my wife here and being only 2.5 hours away from Prague in the Czech Republic, we decided to drive there and make a day of it. After a little research I found out that even though the Czech Republic is part of the Eurozone, they have not switched over to using the Euro as their currency. What does this mean? It means that we can travel back and forth over the boarder without restrictions, but we have to get some money exchanged to some Czech Korunas. I also found out that instead of using either taxes or toll booths like most other European countries to pay for their roads, they require you to purchase a small decal and place it on your windshield in order to drive on their freeways. At the border crossing we stopped and purchased the smallest available pass - 10 days for 16 Euro. We also exchanged 80 Euro to use as spending money while checking out the city.

The drive was pretty uneventful. We did borrow a co-worker's GPS which had all of Europe, unlike ours which is a little older and could only hold a map of Germany. I don't think we would have made the trip if we didn't have the GPS, it's just too scary trying to get around in a foreign country without one…especially one that I don't even know a single word of. The highway was very similar to the autobahn except the max speed limit was 130 kph which is about 80 mph. It seemed though that there were a lot of people that drove and acted as if it were the autobahn. I was getting passed consistently while traveling at 130 kph. At one point I was even going about 145 kph (about 90 mph) and a car passed me so fast that he must have been going at least 210 kph (130 mph). The drive to the city was mostly countryside with the occasional rest stop or gas station.

When we arrived in the city we found a parking garage that just happened to be under a very large shopping mall…my wife was excited. We ended up eating lunch in the shopping mall and then made our way around the mall checking out the shops. We headed outside and just started checking everything out. We headed towards the old town square and took in the scenery. The place is full of very cool architecture as well as people of all shapes, sizes, and color. There were also a lot of street performers around, which I love. The whole atmosphere of the city was just amazing, I loved just walking around and taking it all in. We stopped and had a beer outside at one of the local restaurants in the old town square. I had to try one of the local Czech beers, which was pretty good!

We walked around and eventually crossed the Vltava river across one bridge, then made our way back across again using The Charles Bridge. This pedestrian bridge was the first bridge used in Prague and is crowded with people, artists and street performers during the day. Along each side of it is a number of statues as well, it was pretty cool walking across and just taking it all in as I had been all day. We made our way back through the old town and eventually headed back to the car and made the trek home.

Being able to make a trip like this, especially at the last moment is one of the main reasons I wanted to be stationed here in Germany. I wanted to be able to take advantage and see all kinds of different places and people. When I was a teenager, the cold war was going on and the Czech Republic was a communist nation and part of the Warsaw Pact. I would have never even dreamed of being able to visit this country, but times they have changed and look at me now! Prague is definitely an awesome city that I'm sure I'll have to visit again. There are churches, museums, and the castle I'd like to go in next time…but this day trip was perfect for what it was, and I had a great time with my wife.

When we got back we decided to go to the movie on post and watch "The Bourne Legacy". What was funny is that I didn't realize that the character "Jason Bourne" isn't even in the movie (I hadn't seen previews or anything…just knew the name). It was a good movie and a perfect end to an exciting day.

Sunday: After yesterday, today is going to seem a little boring. My wife and I slept in, and then headed to the neighboring army post of Grafenwoehr. The Vilseck post (Rose Barracks) and Grafenwoehr are actually connected via a tank trail called "One Community Road". This makes the trip back and forth pretty easy because there is no travel outside in the city…just a back road through all the training areas. We visited the PX which is quite a bit bigger than ours in Heidelberg. We had lunch at the food court there and then headed back. Nothing too exciting, just a nice and easy relaxing day together.

My wife left a little after 1400. I then proceeded to do laundry and homework for both my ComSec class and my college class. Once that was done I watched "Awake". An interesting movie about a guy who is basically awake, but paralyzed after going under anesthesia. He can hear and feel everything that's going on, but can't move or say anything. Pretty crazy stuff!

You can check out a slideshow below (or visit my album on flickr):

Created with flickr slideshow.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Short Day - (Germany) Day 242

This morning I woke up as usual and grabbed my continental breakfast, then got ready and headed to class. We sped through a number of briefings so we could head to lunch and then come back for the week 1 quiz. This quiz is to establish where we are at in the class. Before we left we went over our homework, I scored an 80…I guess that's right on target to pass the class. I'm not too concerned with the homework though, I just need to pass the final exam which is a lot easier than the homework. The final exam is multiple choice and you do not need to put down a reference for every answer like we do with the homework. That is actually the entire goal of all our homework assignments, it gets everyone a lot of practice looking up regulations in the manuals.

I left for lunch at the DFAC, headed to my room for a quick nap, then back to class for the quiz. We had an hour to take the quiz and then we went over each of the answers. I scored a 90. We cleaned up and then we had to hear our safety brief from the class leader. He had everyone give one thing out to the class for the weekend (such as don't drink and drive...don't beat your wife). These are always pretty stupid, the same thing over and over again…and they don't stop soldiers that are going to be stupid and get into trouble from being stupid and getting into trouble. When he got to me I said "don't commit bestiality"… he said he's not going to ask me We were then released for the weekend.

I headed home and did one of our homework lessons for the weekend. I then went and ate dinner at the DFAC before doing a little reading. My wife headed over after she got off work. When she finally arrived, we hung out a bit and then watched "Contagion" on my laptop. It turned out to be a pretty good movie. It's all about the fear and the fragile balance of our society…it only takes one event for everything to start falling apart.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Class is a Headache…Literally! - (Germany) Day 241

So I woke up this morning and performed what has become my morning ritual…get up at 0620, throw on some shorts and a t-shirt and then head to the continental breakfast. When I finished my cereal and yogurt, I tried to get my coffee and head back to the room as usual. I kept pressing the button, but nothing happened. One…Two…Three times still nothing. I guess I was still on auto-pilot and really not awake because I did not see the huge "out of order" sign on the coffee machine. Crap!

I was able to brew coffee in my room and finish getting ready for the day. The day of class was the same as the previous days…lots of very dry material, lots of reference manuals, and lots of me trying to stay focused. One of the main problems is that I'm still having some major headaches constantly each day. I wake up with my head pounding and it continues to pound all day long until I go to sleep. Sleep seems to be my only respite. A couple of days ago I was hoping it was finally going away, but unfortunately that was not the case. My upper back and neck are tight and sore as well, and it seems no amount of headache medicine or muscle relaxers do anything. Well the muscle relaxers I only take at night for fear that I'll actually fall asleep in class if I take them during the day. There is something very wrong with me and my head, a normal person isn't in constant pain for this long. I know I'll have to push through and finish this class before I can go back to my doctor, but this is just going to suck. On top of that I have my knee issue which is always a dull throbbing pain…I'm fucking falling apart!

After lunch we were given our homework back and I finally got a passing grade with an 85%! (80% is passing). The homework doesn't count towards passing the class, but it kind of gives you an idea where you are at the moment. My previous grades were 70% and 75%. Normally I would be pissed unless I received anything less than 100%, but not with ComSec. Don't get me wrong…I do want to pass the class and I plan too, but I just can't seem to get excited or motivated for it. I'll just keep plugging along one day at a time.

We were released about 1630. I headed to my room, changed and then headed to the DFAC after 1700. Once back I chatted with my wife for a bit, then spent a couple hours doing homework for both this class and my online class. All I'm doing is filling my head with more and more information…I had to take a break and relax a bit…my movie tonight was "Armored"…not a bad flick! Now it's time to video chat with my wife before heading to bed and starting it all over again tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Positive Side - (Germany) Day 240

Everything has been so negative lately, I really made an effort to try and focus on the positive stuff today (which may account to why it's a little shorter than usual). It was tough because I was still in quite a bit of pain…and you know…I'm in this stupid class, but not counting that, I tried to think positive! The day was a little cooler today and I had my usual continental breakfast before heading to class. The class was pretty much the same as I'm not going to dwell on that too much. I will however mention that one of our instructors sounds like and actually even resembles Cuba Gooding Jr. We have three instructors and as bad and boring as the material may be, he does the best job of trying to make it as interesting as possible.

Lunch time was actually pretty good at the DFAC. I have to say that this DFAC is actually not too bad. I've been to some really bad ones in the past, but I actually look forward to eating my lunch and dinner there every day. In fact I had such a big lunch that I only had a pretzel for dinner. My wife is coming up this weekend to visit and we're starting to make some plans on what we'll be doing. I'm looking forward to her visit and also what we can go see since we're usually not in this area too much. Since it's around a four hour drive from Heidelberg, it's usually not a place we would plan to drive to on a weekend…but we have a free hotel room and I'm free on the weekend, so we can't pass it up.

I was able to finish my homework right after I ate my pretzel for dinner, I also had some time to do a little of my normal schoolwork as well. I then watched a quick and silly movie called "American Virgin" and then called it a night after video chatting with my wife for a bit.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Please Kill Me Now - (Germany) Day 239

There is no missing that I'm on an army base...
tanks and other vehicles all over the place

This morning I hit the continental breakfast once again…Frosted Flakes, yogurt and some coffee. After that I took my time getting ready in my room before heading over to class. Unlike pretty much everything else in the army, I try not to be early to this class. They do not open the doors until 0800 sharp, so everyone just sits outside waiting and it's already starting to get warm. I am glad I was able to show up a few minutes early though, because I was able to get a couple answers from our homework last night.

The class was similar to yesterday, except no movies. So just a bunch of very dry material being discussed. We would take turns reading paragraphs at times or the instructor would read and discuss. The material is boring as hell…all we do is talk about something and then look it up in the reference manuals. As if I didn't hate ComSec enough already, this class is making me absolutely despise it.

At lunch I headed to the DFAC and then to my room where I took a nap for a bit. Once back at class we had a similar experience as our morning session. All I wanted to do was stand up and run as fast as I can straight into a brick wall…instead I sat in my seat trying not to fall asleep or daydream too much.

We were released at 1600 which was a nice surprise. I headed to my room and promptly changed into a t-shirt and shorts. The weather outside is hot as hell and walking around in full ACUs just sucks. I have sweat through everything by the time I make it back to my room. As far as pain goes today, it wasn't as bad as it has been. I think I'm starting to turn the corner finally. I did have to take 6 headache pills and a muscle relaxer, but it did seem as though it was getting a little better. Hopefully after another good night's sleep it will keep improving.

Dinner was at the DFAC of course, which is about a 10 minute walk from my room. It's still hot outside, but much more manageable in a t-shirt and shorts. Once back in my room I video chatted with my wife for a bit before doing my homework. OMG…It's only Tuesday and I have the rest of this week and next week still to go…AAARRRRGGGG!

I did end up finishing my homework in time to watch a pretty interesting movie called "" staring Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci, and Justin Long (Hello I'm a Mac). It was pretty interesting and not quite what I had expected. I think I'll have to add it to my movie collection.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Johnny Walker - (Germany) Day 238

Eating DFAC food once least they have chocolate milk!

This morning I woke up and was ready to go by 0630 so I could take advantage of the continental breakfast offered here at army lodging where I'm staying. I can get breakfast at the DFAC, but I didn't want to walk all the way there when I have the basics available to me here.

Next stop was student processing desk to see if I will be able to attend class since I'm on the stand-by status. Once I arrived the sergeant behind the desk just told me to go to the classroom at 0800 and find out from the teacher if I'll be able to attend class. I'm used to this now being in the army…go here…go there…no go here.

I arrived at the class and the teacher called each person on his list in one by one. He made sure they all had the proper paperwork and then had them sign in. For those that didn't have everything they needed it wasn't a big problem, they were just told to get it asap. I then checked in and found that the class was pretty small, so I would indeed be able to attend…I wasn't too excited, but I guess on the bright side I don't have to pay for my hotel room and then try and fight to get reimbursed by my unit. I had all my paperwork except for a memorandum stating my security clearance. Not a big deal, I was able to text my boss and ask him to email it to the instructor. While I was texting my boss I had to ask him to also call and cancel my motorcycle class….grrrrr.

Class started with the basics, introductions and a description of what the class will entail. We then were given all the paperwork required to maintain a safe. We also each had a three ring binder that was our "training safe". So we had to fill out the paperwork (combination, inventory, open & close, as well as an end of day checklist). So now we have to fill everything out as if we're opening a safe each day…pretty funny.

We then went through some basic slides and watched a couple movies. One of the movies was pretty interesting. It was about one of the most damaging spy cases ever uncovered. A guy named John Walker along with help from a friend and family sold the KGB massive amounts of secret and top secret data. His case actually changed they way we do ComSec now and is the reason everything is much more secure. What's crazy is that he would have never been caught except that he divorced his wife and she was pissed off at him and turned him in. (Here's the Wikipedia Page pretty crazy stuff!)

The class then went on and on and I did my best to stay awake. I hate ComSec and still a little pissed that I even got stuck doing this job. Whoever decided ComSec should be a 25B job should be tortured and slowly killed…it has to be the farthest thing from what I envisioned when I signed up for the army. In class we just went over reference manuals, documentation, and a bunch of other places to look up obscure crap I have no desire to know. I hate this…I hate this with a passion.

I had lunch at the DFAC and it reminded me of my time in AIT. This is sort of like AIT, but without the stupid formations and room checks…in fact I have a maid come clean my room and make my bed each day!

The rest of the day consisted of more suck in class. I did find out that they do not give certificates out for E-4 and below in this class. That is pretty funny because I'll finish the class and come back with no certificate…I wonder what my unit will think. They did say once a person gets promoted to E-5 they can call and have their grades uploaded so they can get a certificate. I don't ever plan on making E-5, so it looks like I'll be attending this class and have nothing to show for it…but I could really care less. I'm in a bad mood…I've been in a bad mood for a while now…and I've also still been experiencing major pain in the back of my neck and head. So on top of everything I'm still in pain all day long and my headache medicine and the muscle relaxers are not doing anything to help.

We were also given a massive amount of homework to do. So much so that I had no time to watch a movie tonight. I had planned on watching a movie each night at least for some entertainment. Instead I've been plowing through huge manuals looking for answers to questions that are hard to find. In other news I'm hearing from my friends that the "Men In Black"...well in this case it's the "Woman in Black" is interviewing everyone (to see if I'm a drug addicted closet terrorist/extremist) in order to get my clearance. I'm going to video chat with my wife for a bit before hitting the sack and starting all over tomorrow.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 236 & 237

The joys of rest areas on the Autobahn...some have bathrooms and some have the woods
(My boss during one of our stops on the way to Vilseck)

Saturday: Today pretty much sucked all around only because I felt like crap. I went to bed with a headache last night and woke up with a major headache in the morning. I didn't have any plans, so I just stayed home and tried to take it easy. I'm not exactly sure what brought the headache on, usually I'll get these bad headaches after I've done something to my upper back like wear my body armor or run (the impact from the running)…but I didn't do anything physical that would cause this. The only thing I can think of is that it must be brought on by stress. I mentioned a few posts ago about this training that I have been told I have to attend. It has stressed me out a lot because it's just ruined all my plans. Plans we've already bought tickets for! I'm not sure if that is what is causing it or what, but it seemed like no amount of aspirin or even my muscle relaxers would do anything to help it. I stopped taking aspirin after a while for fear that I might end up with a hole in my stomach if I keep taking them. Being in pain sucks, and it's really taking away from my quality of life. There were times when my kids were here and I wasn't able to play with them like I would have liked to because I was just in too much pain. I wasn't like this before I joined the army, I just hope I can find some solution…I hate it.

The only thing I was able to do for the day was get my bag packed for the training and do some laundry…other than that I either sat or laid down. My wife (bless her heart) took care of me and made a nice steak dinner and we had some cake and ice cream since I'll be leaving Sunday.

Sunday: Happy Birthday to me. I got to spend my birthday getting up at 0620 and leaving the house at 0645 picked up by my boss and our platoon sergeant. I then headed to the office to get some paperwork before we all headed off to Vilseck Germany, which is about a 4 hour drive. I just sat in the back seat listening to my boss and the drill sergeant (our platoon sergeant) talk…some of it interesting…some of it boring. I still had a pretty severe headache, but not quite as bad as yesterday, I tried to lean my head back and rest.

When we arrived at the base, we headed to the food court for lunch. After that we headed to go get me registered. I filled out some paperwork and was told I will be staying at the army lodging on post since I will not have a car. I was told we would find out today if I would be able to make it into the class because officially I'm on "stand-by", but their computers were down…so I have to wait until tomorrow. I was also told that if I don't get into class, then I will have to pay for my night's stay in the hotel and get reimbursed by my unit. That's just great! Not only do I have to wait until tomorrow before I find out if I'm even in the class, but if I'm not I have to pay for my room. I know getting the money back from my unit will be a long involved process and if I do ever see it, it will be way down the road.

The only good thing about my room is that it does have free internet. So I was able to do my schoolwork and then catch up with everyone on Facebook as well as video chat with my wife. If I do end up staying here, I should be able to focus on my schoolwork and watch a lot of movies…LOL. Right now though I'm in pain and I'm a little pissed off. Let's hope that tomorrow brings the good news that I will not be able to attend this class because it's full. I will then be able to attend my motorcycle course and see England. I'm crossing my fingers!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Organizational Day…Kind of - (Germany) Day 235

This morning we did not have any PT, instead we met up at 0730 in PHV at a BBQ event area. Today is the "organizational day" for our company. This is basically a soldier appreciation day and family appreciation day put on by the company. We put up a jump house for kids and the company purchased a large amount of meat (hamburger and hot dogs). Everyone else brought side dishes. It was extremely boring after we got everything setup, so I headed over to the get a coffee from the Java Cafe located here on post. I spent some time in the shop checking my Facebook on my phone using their wi-fi. After that I headed back to the "festivities". I can say that I will never buy a coffee from the Java Cafe on PHV again. This is the second time I've had a mocha and it was almost all chocolate syrup…yuck!

I found out that I had to head into work to help my boss and our CAM out with something. This was fine with me because there was not much going on at the organizational day. At work we received a lot of new ComSec material. The stuff we receive through special mail is all old fashioned paper based ComSec that we never actually issue out. In fact we receive it…hold it in our safes, inventory it every time we open the safe, then finally destroy it when it expires. It really makes no sense that we even have the stuff, but that is not for me to say. Since we have new items that arrived I had to go through and make sure that everything was accounted for and then go through each page of every little booklet that we received to make sure none were missing. I then had to add it to our inventory, so when we check our safe it will match up. This process took about 3 hours.

By the time we made it back to the festivities there was a little food left, but it was on plates that had been sitting out…so it was cold by now. I instead decided to walk home and eat my lunch at my house…in my living room where I watched a little TV. My wife took a break from work and came home, then we headed back to the festivities together. By the time we got there everyone was packing up and cleaning up. So much for attending. I was going to snap a few photos as well, but unfortunately the jump house and pretty much everyone was gone by the time we got back.

I headed home for the day at about 1400 and took a short nap, then did some schoolwork, then watched some TV. My wife came home and brought cake and ice cream. Since I will not be home for my birthday she was nice enough to make a cake for me :) We watched the first two Fast & Furious movies with the kids when they were here, so we decided to continue with them and watched number 3 and 4. After watching number 3 "Tokyo Drift" I started to wonder what order these are supposed to be in chronologically. I found out that "Tokyo Drift" is actually the last in the series and there was actually a short made called "Los Bandoleros" that actually occurs before number 4…I know confusing right? So I downloaded and watched "Los Bandoleros" as well. It basically just shows everyone getting ready for the heist scene in the first sequence of the movie in number 4. Anyways…that was my exciting night, I'm looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow for my one day of weekend.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The SKL - (Germany) Day 234

This morning's PT was supposed to be a ruck march around PHV in summer PTs, but it was raining. We stood in formation for about 10 minutes listening to the days announcements from our platoon sergeant. We then had our accountability taken and after that the decision was made to abandon the ruck march and work out in the gym…which is where I would have been heading anyway because of my profile. Our platoon sergeant gathered us around him outside in the rain…that we've been in for over 10 minutes now and says "OK guys, I'm going to get you out of this rain". He then proceeded to talk about an upcoming sensing session with our commander. He went on about how we can always come to him with problems or issues and then asks if anyone has anything they want to say right now. Of course because we've been standing in the rain for almost 20 minutes nobody says anything. Lastly he says he needs to address NCOs and soldiers that have been coming late to formation…"Let me put this as politely as I can….Un-Fuck Yourselves". With that we were turned loose to go workout at the gym.

Work started out normal enough, I checked email and was able to log into DTS to upload all my required supporting documents for this upcoming Intel-34 class that I have to attend. We had sergeant's time training at about 0930, which SPC Whirlwind did. He went over SKLs (Simple Key Loaders). This is a device somewhat like a very large Palm Pilot that we load encryption keys into for our customers, who in turn load the keys onto their devices so their communications can be encrypted to keep our secrets away from the bad guys. This is a class I actually didn't mind and was actually not just a waste of time. First of all SPC Whirlwind is very knowledgeable about the subject and second it's actually something we come in contact with in our job. He had a couple of SKLs for us to play with and do some actual hands on training. No complaints for this sergeant's time training for once!

After the training our platoon sergeant gathered everyone around and spoke about upcoming changes to our platoon and company. Everyone knows that Heidelberg is going to be closing next year sometime, but we haven't heard much other than that. We did find out that there are talks going on about where each of us will be going. Our company will be absorbed into 102nd which is up in Wiesbaden (about an hour north of us). New soldiers that come in from now on will actually live in Wiesbaden and take a bus down to Heidelberg to work everyday…now that would suck! Chances are that most of us will go to Wiesbaden, but our company headquarters in Landstuhl is not going anywhere, so some could be headed up there as well. Time will tell, but it's nice that we will start hearing more information now.

I took lunch in my car…my usual escape with music and my book. Back at work I had to do my required annual Information Assurance training. This training is required in order to keep my access to the network. It's basically common security sense (i.e. don't leave your computer logged in, don't download crap from the internet, etc). The rest of the day was pretty much surfing the web, then inventorying a safe. I was able to do some reading for my college class I'm taking. The class is basically a required class to start taking online classes at Columbia Southern University, nothing too difficult…but I'm excited to get started once again. I have 10 classes left before I will get my degree!

I spent the evening with my wife hanging out, doing a little schoolwork and then watching a couple shows (True Blood and The Newsroom).

Overheard Quote: "They must be dick flavored" (An NCO exclaimed after someone mentioned how my boss was making the chips he was eating look so good)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don't Make Plans - (Germany) Day 233

PT this morning was circuit training for muscle failure (for the normal folks), I headed to the gym with the broke people and did my own version of muscle failure on the weights and ended up with a pretty good workout.

I had an appointment first thing in the morning, so I headed straight there after dropping my wife off at work. This was my follow-up appointment from my knee x-rays. The x-rays didn't come up with much except for some degeneration of some of my bone. The doctor said that I would probably have to get an MRI, but they wanted to go through the steps first. My next step is to have my doctor do an actual knee exam, which I have to make another appointment for. Then they will schedule me for an MRI. The word arthritis was also mentioned…am I getting that old that I already have arthritis? I'm not sure what it is, but my knee is in constant pain, either a dull ache or sharp pains, and it always feels swollen.

Since the doctor's appointment didn't take too long, I headed straight over to the dentist office to get my yearly checkup done. This is done on a walk-in basis until 1130, so I had plenty of time. I needed this done so my MedPros will show up as green, then they will approve my pass request. The checkup went fine, I had to get x-rays (I may start glowing soon) and I have to now schedule a cleaning. After the cleaning I will have to schedule an appointment to have an existing filling removed and replaced. What fun…I hate the dentist.

I headed to work for about an hour. As I was checking my email I was informed that the company is sending me to the Intel-34 class. This class is all about ComSec from what I understand. Everyone is all super excited about this…except me. They told me I'll be leaving this weekend to Vilseck which is 172 miles away…all so I can be on stand-by for the class. You see I'm not even scheduled for the class, they are just hoping I can get a spot if there is an opening. If I do get a spot, the class lasts two weeks. I had signed up for my motorcycle class next week so I can get one more step closer to actually getting the license I've been after since I've been here. I have to wait and see if I get in this Intel-34 before I should cancel the motorcycle class or not. I also had put in a pass for the end of the month so I could head to England with my wife, but if I'm stuck in this class…I'll be there one day too long, so I will not be able to make the trip (which I've really been looking forward to). Needless to say I was pretty bummed. I don't want to be away from my wife for 2 weeks, I will miss the motorcycle class and will have to try and schedule another one…if they offer one in September, and I will not be able to make an awesome trip to England which I've had planned for months. All this for a class I could not give a crap for. It has nothing to do with I.T. which is what I signed up for…it's all about this hell called ComSec which I have ended up in.

I headed to lunch with my head swirling, not believing what just happened. I ate in the food court listening to music on my iPhone and reading my book. I had to then leave a little early and head over to my physical therapy appointment. I did my core and neck exercises and then laid down on the heat while the shock therapy was going on, it must have been extra relaxing because I crashed. I guess I was snoring pretty bad too…LOL. Anyway, I left the place feeling good physically, but still not good mentally.

Back at work I had to fill out the DTS (Defense Travel System) for my school and start gathering the required documents. The trip will be TDY, so I will make some extra money…but that doesn't mean crap to me. Everything is just a big hassle.

I cleaned up and we left at 1630. The good news is that we were finally able to get AT&T to unlock our phones legally, so I went and purchased another prepaid SIM card. Soon my wife and I will be able to use our iPhones as actual phones instead of just glorified iPods! I started my college classes again. I switched from University of Phoenix to Columbia Southern University and I'm hoping I'll like this school better. I'm starting with one class at a time to try it out. I'd like to finish my bachelor's degree while I"m here in Germany.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lumberjack - (Germany) Day 232

One of "the branches" that we had to pick up during AIC detail

This morning PT was cardio in our summer PT uniform. I'm not exactly sure what the "normal" guys did because us profiles and special pops folks left to the gym before much got started. They placed a specialist in charge of the PT formation for the regular guys. The guy wasn't even ready for it, he was just told to get up there and do it. I know they want to give the younger enlisted a chance to do this sort of thing, but at least let them prepare and be ready for it. Also they should make sure that the person is someone who wants this experience…who wants to get promoted. If they forced me to go up there, I'd be pissed off, luckily I'm on profile and just do my thing in the gym…no impact…inside…with my headphones…the way I like it.

On my way into work I got a call from our platoon sergeant telling me that I have to go to do AIC detail. I was going to get my dental appointment taken care of this morning…the one that is due on the 30th of September…the one that they said I had to get done before my pass for the end of August will be approved. So now I can't do the dental appointment, instead I get to go play garbage man on PHV and clean up after all the pigs. So I dropped my wife off at work and turned around and headed back to PHV.

I had one helper, a PV2 from ironically enough…the dental clinic. We went around and did the normal cleanup of the garbage cans and the messy playgrounds. I swear parents here just tell there kids to just leave all their trash on the ground because we'll be around to clean it up eventually. There are usually small garbage cans located all over the playground, but nobody really cares. I think that part pisses me off the most. I don't mind cleaning up all the trash out of the cans, but all the random trash laying all over the place just pisses me off.

We then were told we had to pick up some "branches". I put that in quotes because when we went to take a look, we found what looked like entire trees that had fallen. Somehow this now became our job to pick up and take to the recycling center (where we take all the trash and waste as well). We did our best to break apart the branches as much as possible, but ended up loading a huge piece on the TMP. I was a little worried if the MPs saw me driving with this crazy long "branch" on our TMP I would get a ticket. I drove slow and had my hazard lights on…I also drove the long way around to stay away from the MP station. When we arrived at the recycling center they gave us a saw and told us to cut it at least into three pieces before putting it in there…having a saw would have been nice before we loaded it.

We were then told that we had to pick weeds…WTF? I was already a little pissed and that was just too much. It was like we had extra duty and we were being punished. Screw that! I took lunch and let them know that I had my physical therapy appointment to go to afterwards. It's days like this that just adds to the reason I will not be staying in the army after my contract is up. At this morning's formation our platoon sergeant was stating all the required training that needed to be done by everyone. He also went through all this other non-work related stuff that needs to be done. I joined to do my job…Information Technology Specialist, but it seems nobody really does their job…there is always other crap that needs to be done. I just shake my head and keep trudging along.

I ate lunch at my house…nice get to watch TV in my underwear (it was hot out and I needed to change for my physical therapy anyway). I then headed to my therapy appointment and did the usual…core and neck work, then the shock treatment with some neck massage afterward. Always feel good after that!

I headed home and caught up on this blog…(had to take a few days off because of my kids leaving and the 4-day), then finished watching UFC 149, which turned out to be a little of a disappointment all around. Most of the fights were slow and drawn out, then won by decision. I picked up my wife from work and after dinner we watched "The Grey". It turned out to be a little slow, my wife actually fell asleep. Staring Liam Neeson it's about survival after a plane crash in Alaska. The movie was "OK", but nothing special. I think I was just expecting awesomeness with Liam Neeson in worries though, I'll send it back via Netflix and wait for the next movie to arrive.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day Holiday Park & Rothenburg) - (Germany) Day 228 - 231

Me with my wife and daughters on the Free Fall Tower at Holiday Park

Friday: This morning we surprised the kids and took them to "Holiday Park". It's a smaller theme park than Europa Park (which we visited earlier), but it's also a lot closer (only about a half hour from Heidelberg). It's also cheaper, and for what it is, we had a lot of fun. We arrived shortly after it opened at 1000 and stayed until almost closing time at 1800. Spending the day at the park was probably the perfect amount of time to go on each of the adult rides at least once, and then let the kiddos ride their favorite rides over and over again. By far the best ride is the Expedition GeForce roller coaster. It had a long line, but we had a blast riding it! There are some smaller roller coasters, a free fall tower, a log ride and a river raft ride…so there was plenty to do and keep us busy all day long. It was a good day for all.

The family riding the Teufelsfässer (Devil's Barrels)

Saturday: We traveled to Rothenburg once again. This is probably one of our favorite cities in Germany so far and we wanted the kids to see it before they leave. Rothenburg is about a 2.5 hour drive from Heidelberg and is a great medieval town. The old city has a wall surrounding the city, which is where we started out. We walked a good portion of the wall letting the kids explore the wall and the city below. We then walked around downtown checking out the many shops full of all kinds of souvenirs. The kids loved checking out everything from medieval weapons to Christmas ornaments. Each shop is a little deceiving, they don't look that big until you enter and they seem to keep going and going…especially the Christmas shop.

Hanging with the kids in Rothenburg

We were taking a bit of a gamble bringing the kids here hoping they would like "sightseeing", but it turned out to be great. We ate lunch at an awesome Italian restaurant, the only disappointing thing about the place was that we had to eat inside because there were no tables available outside. Rothenburg is a great place to sit outside and eat, you can "people watch" for hours. We then made our way to an ice cream shop before eventually heading home.

Eating "Eis" (Ice Cream) in Rothenburg

Sunday: We used today as a day of rest and packing. We took it easy and did a lot of laundry before packing all the kids suitcases. We did take the kids down to Heidelberg one last time and bought them each a souvenir to take home and remember Germany. We also had one last ice cream and walked around downtown enjoying the street performers and just taking in our last full day with the kiddos.

A street performer in Heidelberg that amazed the kiddos

Monday: Today I had to take the kids back to the airport. It was a pretty emotional day for everyone. We stopped by my wife's work and had lunch with her before leaving. We arrived at the Frankfurt airport 2.5 hours early…and I'm glad we did because the line at Condor Air was amazingly long. We waited and waited…folks that were in line for a flight to Vancouver were then allowed to go to the front (upsetting my impatient kids). We waited some more and then folks in line for a flight to Baltimore were allowed to go to the front (which upset the kids even more). We finally arrived up front after about an hour and a half waiting in line. We checked the bags and received the boarding passes. I was also able to get a pass to take them all the way to the gate which was nice. We waited in line for security and then made our way to the gate. They were already boarding by the time we got there, but it didn't really matter because they wanted all my kids to board last since they were unaccompanied. This gave us time to hug and say our good-byes. I then had to wait until the plane pulled out before I could leave…that really sucked watching them leave. It will most likely be next summer before I see them again. I wish the command sponsorship paperwork would have gone through, then at least I would have had one of my kids…but that is the government for you…slow as hell.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

No CBRN = A Good Day - (Germany) Day 227

PT this morning was a little different. Instead of forming up as a company, I just met up with my boss and his boss at the gym. Everyone else in the company formed up a little later at about 0745 to leave for Landstuhl where they were going to conduct the CBRN (Chemical, Biologica, Radiological, Nuclear) … (Think Gas Mask and all the protective suit and boots that go on over our uniform) training. This was one I was happy to miss. I've been through the gas chamber at basic and then a more comprehensive one with additional training at our last FTX. The last thing I want to do is all that…all over again. Instead I had a good workout at the gym and then headed into the office because they needed at least one person there with the CIP inspection wrapping up.

I spent the day answering the phone every now and then along with checking email and surfing the web. The day was pretty easy going. I ate lunch in my car, listened to music and read my book.

Back in the office I was merrily surfing the web, when SGT Mex and a new guy (in our company) came back. SGT Mex asks me if I'm busy…this is kind of a trick question, if I'm not busy he'll give me something to do. I tell him "I'm doing some MOS research" (reading technology articles). He then asks if I can show a sergeant from Landstuhl and his new soldier how to get to PHV…and then I can have the rest of the day off. No problem! I lead the way and then head home to surprise my kiddos.

I spent the rest of the day with my kids…playing games and just hanging out. After my wife got off work, we then took the kids out to dinner with SPC Whirlwind and his family. I had promised my daughters that they could have a beer at a local restaurant since we are in Germany. I remember my first time over here as a teenager and how "cool" it was to have a beer at a restaurant before I was 21. Both of my girls only ended up drinking a small portion of their beer, not wanting to waste I finished one and Mrs. Whirlwind (a German) finished the other…in fact she finished it like a pro downing the entire glass in just a couple gulps!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fare Thee Well - (Germany) Day 226

SPC Matrix showing off his parting gift

PT this morning was a run off post in civilian clothes for the normal folks, I headed to the gym with the other profiles where we all chose a cardio machine. I picked the stationary bicycle as usual and had a good no impact workout.

I headed into the office and checked my email, then surfed the web a bit. I had to go over to the bank and pay the speeding ticket that I received yesterday. Since these come in quite a bit, they have set up a system where you can take your money in and pay the ticket right there on the spot. The bank makes the direct deposit and gives you a receipt. I then had to take the receipt back to the office and show our platoon sergeant that I actually paid the ticket, like a little kid. I then had to help my boss inventory two of the safes for the CIP inspection. The difference with this inventory was that we had to take everything out and show it to the inspector who studied each item, which of course made the process take quite a bit longer.

Lunch was at a Chinese restaurant where we had a farewell for SPC Matrix and SPC DubYa. They were each given a little token of appreciation that we all put in a little money for. These are both pretty good guys and I'll be sad to see them go. I had to leave a bit early in order to make my physical therapy appointment. All went well until my spinal manipulation by the doctor, I'm not sure what he did, but I ended up with a bad headache for the rest of the day which sucks…usually I'm feeling pretty good for the rest of the day after leaving.

Back at the office I surfed the web and passed the time chatting with SGT Mex. I did find out a little bit of good news…I don't have to go to the sergeant's time training tomorrow which is up in Landstuhl. They have to do CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear) training…i.e. wear the gas mask and all the full body gear. There were rumors that there was going to be a gas chamber as well. Because of the CIP Inspection, I do not have to attend…for that I'm thankful, it would be a crappy day all around doing that all day.

I headed home and spent some quality time with the family. Our time is running short…we spent a lot of time just watching my screensaver on the TV which just goes through random photos I've selected…so it's a lot of fun to watch.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Getting Counseled - (Germany) Day 225

An example of a German speed trap camera like the one
that "flashed" my wife

PT this morning was muscle failure for the normal people. I headed to the gym with the profiles and did some weight training…a good workout on my core. Have I mentioned I love going to the gym much more than PT with everyone else? I was able to listen to my iPod and work on specific areas without hurting myself.

I left to work a little early in order to pick up the new guy and give him a ride to the shopping center for in-processing. I remember those days…trying to stay awake in a room while getting bombarded with brief after brief all day long. I headed to the office and took a 10 minute nap before actually heading into the office. I've become used to this morning nap and really look forward to it now. I have to always leave early in order to take my wife into work, which brings me to my office usually about 15 to 20 minutes early.

The day started with some preparations for the weekend. I had my car inspected because it's a four day weekend coming up. This is something I still think is stupid. I'm a grown man and in all my other jobs I never had to deal with all this extra baby sitting big brother crap, so it's a little hard to get used to. I then had to sign a counseling statement for the 4-day weekend. I had to agree by signature to the following:

If you consume alcohol do so in moderation

Do not drink and drive

Use the buddy system

Do not use drugs, unless prescribed by your provider

Plan your travel accordingly if traveling outside the Heidelberg area

Check the forecast for bad weather, heavy traffic, or delays.

In the event you need transportation use your chain of command

Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment will not be tolerated

Use OPSEC (Operational Security), be aware of your surroundings and do not bring attention to yourself

Avoid domestic disturbance, if this issue arises leave the area immediately

Stay away from the off limit areas

Use common sense, if you have to think twice about it, then don't do it at all.

Receive an updated alert roster

Failure to comply with safety standards will result in corrective training or recommendation for UCMJ…Have a wonderful weekend and be safe!

I get that they want everyone to be safe, but signing a little piece of paper isn't going to change anyone's behavior, it just adds more paperwork. We also have to sign another paper which is virtually the same thing called "Under the Oak Tree" stating that we've discussed the weekend with our supervisor. Oh and on top of that we have to turn in our weekend checklist stating exactly what we are doing this weekend. Of course I put the usual on mine "Spending time with my lovely wife and family within 150 mile radius of Heidelberg". (This is the mileage limit we can go without submitting a pass).

I had lunch in my car…my music…my book…my escape. Back in the office I surfed the internet for a while. I contacted one of our customers about a change in a memo they need to make because of our current CIP inspection. I then found out I had to sign yet another counseling statement. This one was because on the 24th of April my wife was driving the car and got "flashed". Here in Germany they setup a lot of traffic cameras in the places that do have speed limits to catch people breaking the speed limit. There are a few in Heidelberg and everyone knows where they are and when to slow down. On one particular day all the lights were green and my wife accidentally got caught going 9 kilometers over the speed limit (which is about 5.5 miles over). So now in August the commander finally gets the ticket and it gets passed down through the chain of command until my boss gets it. He then has to write up a counseling statement that I have to sign…because it was my car that was flashed (even though I was not driving). Here are some exerts:

As a United States Army Soldier, SPC McGuire these actions are unacceptable.

SPC McGuire driving is a privilege and can be revoked if you continue to abuse the law. Do not make this a habit.

If this conduct continues, action may be initiated to separate you from the service under AR 635-200.

Wow…so my wife's bad driving can actually get me kicked out of the army! LOL. I had to give her a hard time about that one  :)

We were released at 1700 and I spent the evening just having some quality time with my family. Still no word on my daughters command sponsorship paperwork, so we are assuming that she'll be going home with her brother and sister this coming Monday unfortunately.

Monday, August 6, 2012

CIP Inspection - (Germany) Day 224

PT this morning was a run off post in civilian clothes for the normal guys and cardio workout in the gym for those of us on profile. I used the stationary bicycle for my workout…a good cardio workout with no impact. Speaking of PT…SGT Mex is back on the overweight club. He did pass his last test as I mentioned last week, but the first sergeant thought it was too much of a drop since their last measurement. So the first sergeant wanted to verify it last Friday and by that time I guess SGT Mex had gained a little of his width back. So he's back on the 2-a-day workouts and still flagged while on the program….bummer.

Work started off normal enough. My boss and his boss left for his promotion board. I had to attend a meeting with the platoon sergeant since I was the last person left in our section. I heard all about the various things coming up this week as well as all the paperwork that needs to get done. I'm shocked that everything is not digital…they still do so much by paperwork, even when some of the stuff is available digitally.

The inspector came for the CIP Inspection that we had been trying to prepare for all last week. I really didn't deal with him much other than saying "hi" when he came in. He spent the entire time in the vault with our CAM, and my boss once he came back from his promotion board. He is methodically going through all of our paperwork checking to make sure everything perfectly matches up to how it should be. I hear he'll be doing the same thing tomorrow and then checking out some of our accounts on Wednesday.

I then checked my email and surfed the web a bit. I also had to get all the paperwork together to submit my pass request for the end of the month, we're planning to head to England for the Labor Day 4-Day weekend. I think I had to submit a total of 6 items! I still get mad, but mostly I just shake my head at all the red tape and BS that has to be done to do anything.

I took lunch in my car, then had physical therapy afterwards…which is always nice. I was also told that I had to see the optometrist by my platoon sergeant. He said I was due for an "IME", but couldn't tell me what exactly what an "IME" was. I headed over to the optometrist, but they had no idea what I was talking about which didn't surprise me one bit. I headed back and told my platoon sergeant that I tried.

The rest of the day was surfing the web a bit and then cleaning up. We then inventoried a safe and left a little after 1700. Not much to mention about the evening other than we enjoyed some quality family time together which I cherish.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (Frankfurt & Heiligenberg) - (Germany) Day 222 & 223

A view from the Main Tower of Frankfurt and The Main River

Saturday: This morning we got up with the plans to head to Frankfurt for a day trip. My girls have been staying up late watching movies and texting with their friends back in the states, so when I tried to get them up and they didn't budge, so we just left them. We took my son and headed off to Frankfurt. I've told my girls over and over again not to stay up late, they can chat with their friends all they want when they are in the states…why not take advantage of everything they can while here in Europe?

So my wife and I headed off with my son to Frankfurt, which is about an hour drive from Heidelberg. We first headed to the "Main Tower" in the middle of the city. This skyscraper is 200 meters, the building is pretty high and is very "visitor friendly". We purchased tickets for 5 euro each to take a ride to the top via an elevator. We were granted spectacular views of the entire city of Frankfurt and the Main River.

Our next destination was the Frankfurter Dom (the Frankfurt Cathedral), but along the way we ran into an Italian festival in full swing. There were plenty of vendors and music going on, so we stopped and had lunch. We then proceeded to the cathedral and checked that out as well as the Roman ruins outside of it.

After that we headed down to the river where they had a sort of carnival going on. There were vendors and rides all along the river. We checked everything out, my son played a few games and we all went on the ferris wheel. After that, we called it a day and started to make our way back to the car and then back home…a fun day had by the three of us.

The night consisted of "cosmic bowling" at the PHV bowling alley. By this time my girls were up and about and came with us. We met up with SPC Whirlwind and bowled from 2100 until after midnight. I say we, but most of us quit after the third game…then everyone except my son quit after the fourth game. My son continued to bowl six more games before we finally left!

Street performers in Frankfurt

Sunday: Today we slept in, then had a big breakfast before heading out to "philosopher's way" in Heidelberg. This trail is long and offers many scenic views of the city of Heidelberg as well as the castle and the old bridge. We hiked up to "Thingstätte" the Nazi amphitheater at the top. This was built in 1935 by the Nazi party and was used for rallies and festivals. It's an amazing structure still and has great acoustics. We broke out our picnic basket and had lunch, but the most requested item was water…everyone was pretty thirsty after the long hike.

Not too far above the amphitheater is the ruins of St. Michael's Monastery. This place was built in 870! The place is pretty cool to walk around, and you can still climb up a couple of the small towers that are still standing to get an aerial view of the ruins. The top of the tower seemed to be the place to hang out and relax as there were a few German kids just hanging out up there talking on the phone and relaxing.

We made the trek down the hill (which is called Heiligenberg) and back to our car parked in a garage back in the altstadt (old city) of Heidelberg…of course on the way we stopped for ice cream and enjoyed the various street performers along the way back. I love just walking around the altstadt on the weekend….lots of people and things to look at.

A view of the Heidelberg Castle along with the old bridge 
and altstadt from Philosopher's Way

A view from the top of the "Thingstätte" a Nazi amphitheatre

A view from one of the towers looking down at one of my 
daughters and my wife exploring the ruins of "Klosterruine St Michael" 
(Monastery of St. Michael)

Friday, August 3, 2012

No Days of Excellence - (Germany) Day 221

The door of the DFAC in Campbell Barracks...pretty cool!

PT this morning was just a formation for accountability, then everyone headed off to Rammstein for Days of Excellence…that is everyone except me, my boss, SPC Whirlwind and our CAM (ComSec Account Manager). We all stayed behind in order to do our last minute preparations for the CIP inspection coming up next week.

After the formation we headed to the DFAC here at Campbell Barracks. I have never went there before, but I was told it was good. So we headed over and what seemed like down into the basement and through some secret passages. I had to duck quite a bit to avoid hitting my head on the pipes and doorways. We finally arrive to a very small DFAC. At the register we pay and fill out or order for eggs or omelet…very cool. The food is indeed good and makes me wonder why we haven't come over here before.

Back at the office I work on the issues we found in each of the account folders yesterday. I had to email each customer requesting a new memo for this or that reason. I also sent them copies of their old memos with a template to create a new one. This process took most of the morning and actually made time go by pretty quick.

I headed to lunch at the food court…Subway, a book, my iPod…my escape at least for an hour and a half. Once back my part of helping out was done…I just did some serious web surfing the rest of the day. I spent most of it reading news feeds from my Twitter page. I've started following quite a bit more news and tech and now usually have a ton of posts to read and follow up on. I also spend a substantial amount of time on Facebook and my hometown newspaper's website (The Kitsap Sun).

When everyone finally got back from the Days of Excellence around 1500, I was informed that I didn't miss much. Some long army training on stuff we seem to have almost monthly (sexual harassment) and a few awards. I'm glad I missed out on it.

We cleaned up and waited. I inventoried a safe with SGT Mex, then waited some more. I waited…1700 came and went. I waited. After 1700 I turn off my computer thinking we'll be leaving soon, but instead I wait longer. I wait and look at a black screen. I wait…and I wait. This is one of the many things that just drive me completely nuts about the army. Finally at 1730 we get released and I take off to spend the rest of the evening with my family.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Training Day - (Germany) Day 220

Just a random sign that I came across while driving in Germany....
I have no idea what it means??? 

PT this morning was on PHV. The regular folks did normal muscle failure PT out on the grass, while those of us on profile headed to the gym. I had a great workout using the machines and working mostly my back and core. If I can keep having a great workout like this inside at the gym, I hope I stay on profile for the rest of my army career. I get such better workouts when I do my own thing vs. the standard army PRT…plus I brought my headphones and was able to rock out a bit :)

At work I was able to send off more correspondence for my clearance. This is one of the things that just drives my crazy about the government and all the various offices. I had previously submitted all my paperwork and after a couple of days I was told that on one of the release forms, that the number "2" that I wrote when writing the date and signing my name didn't look very good. My number "2" did not have a long enough curve at the top and the bottom didn't loop well enough. My first "2" in "2012" was OK, but the second one was not good enough. Now that I've submitted my paperwork, I can't log back into the site and print off a new form to fill out and send in, I have to cross out the date on this paper and initial, then write a new date with a better looking "2". So I do this and send it in, but the problem is that when you make a copy of a copy, the page gets a little darker. So that second submission was rejected because it was too dark. I had to email myself the copy to my house so I could use Photoshop and lighten up the entire PDF, then submit it. I'm still a little in awe of all the crap that I had to do just for a stupid little paper with my signature and date on it. Anyways…it's in now, I'll wait and see if there is anything else they want to return if for.

It's Thursday and that means sergeant's time training…army training. I always hate army training with a passion…most of the time it's just training for the sake of training. To make it worse I was told that I had to give a class at the last second. I was pissed off! When I say training for the sake of training, I mean that they do "training" no matter if it does anyone any good or not…at least we did some "good training". The first class was done by our maintenance department on how to fill out a maintenance form. I have no idea why we did this class…our maintenance department has been shut down for months now and hasn't taken any forms since then, and will not take anymore…ever. So we are learning how to fill out a form that they used to take, back when they used to be an actual working maintenance department. Pretty flippin' stupid if you ask me.

Luckily because of the upcoming CIP inspection, I was pulled out before the class actually ended. This means that I didn't have to sit through anymore worthless training, and I also didn't have to give any stupid class. I then helped my boss and his boss get everything prepared for the inspection.

I had lunch in the food court, listened to music on my iPod and read a book…my escape for an hour and a half. Once back at the office I went through each of our customer's folders with SGT Mex looking for anything that is out of order…also called "scrubbing our folders". Since it was just me and SGT Mex doing this and we are both fairly new at doing it, we both learned quite a bit. Everything has to be perfect, all the paperwork has to be in order, we have to check to make sure people's DEROS has not passed, make sure they are up to date on their briefs, make sure signatures are all in the right places, make sure no memos are out of date, and that memos are signed by commanders that are actually still in command. We've had a couple change of commands, which is going to require some updating.

We had a new guy arrive today. He's an E-2 (PV2) and as tall as a house! The guy is freakishly tall…he sticks out like a sore thumb even standing in the back of the formation! I feel bad for him…just out of AIT as a 25B expecting to apply his new skills fixing computers only to find out that he's stuck in our office, where he will be doing nothing close to that.

Our platoon sergeant then was talking to me and a couple other guys about soldiers in general and about the stuff they can do that is just crazy. He said there were a bunch of soldiers that were in one of his previous units that did some crazy stuff right before they ETS'd (left the army for good). In the barracks they crapped in the microwave and turned it on to 99 minutes, they crapped in the oven and turned it on, and they also pissed in another oven…but didn't turn it on. Needless to say when the NCOs came in the barracks they said it smelled something awful…I can't even imagine. They said they had to throw away the microwave and the oven. The oven that got pissed in was left and when someone finally used it, it started stinking as well…they ended up throwing that one away too. The guys that did it were long gone by the time it was all sorted out…the sergeant major was pissed beyond belief. If there isn't one already, I think there needs to be a book written about all the stupid crazy crap that soldiers do!