Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 277 & 278

A view down the street during the "Heidelberger Herbst"

Saturday: We slept in and took our time getting ready this morning, then we made the trip to Frankfurt airport to pick up my wife's cousin. He's in the military and going on a deployment, but as luck would have it, he has a one night layover here. We jumped at the chance to pick him up and have him stay with us for the night instead of a hotel. He was going to have to take a taxi from the airport to Ramstein Air Base on Sunday. We wouldn't have that, we said we would just have him stay with us and we would take him there ourselves.

After getting home we unloaded the luggage from our car, then took him out to eat at a local restaurant we've both heard a lot about. Everyone calls it the Schnitzel House, so we found out the directions and checked out the reviews on the web. It's a little off the beaten path, but was worth it. The food was awesome and it was the least we could do to treat family to a nice meal before he leaves for his deployment. He'll be away from his immediate family for a while. I may not have been deployed yet, but I do know what it's like to be separated from family. When you're on your own, it just sucks.

We headed to downtown Heidelberg to check out the "Heidelberger Herbst" (the Heidelberg Fall Festival). The place was packed! While the streets usually have plenty of people on them, they were completely packed everywhere we looked. There were vendors all over the place selling everything from wonderful smelling food to various items or services. There were street performers all over as well. I wish we could have stayed longer, but our guest wanted to be able to video chat with his family.

We came back to the house and he was able to video chat with his family before turning in for the night. It broke my heart watching the video chat, his daughter was getting ready for homecoming and he wasn't able to be there for that. He'll also be missing the upcoming holidays as well as birthdays. All I can say is that it really sucks.

Sunday: We slept in again, then after getting ready we headed to the Rammstein Air Base. We ate lunch there and then shopped around a bit before seeing my wife's cousin off. It was emotional seeing him off. Knowing that we're the last family he's going to see for a while. He gave us both big hugs, then we headed out.

After we got back to the house, I had to use my little portable shock treatment kit that was issued to me during my follow up session with my doctor. This little device can attach to my upper back and neck and give me the same treatment I received while in physical therapy. It really helped a headache that was killing me, as well as the pain that I had in my neck. All this from a little 9 volt battery!

We just took it easy the rest of the day catching up on all our TV shows that finally started up again. I'm at the tail end of a cold, and my wife seems to be just starting hers…so we were both happy to just cuddle up on the couch and relax for the rest of the day with some tea and then soup for dinner.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Last Day Pretending - (Germany) Day 276

This morning PT was a battalion run, and as usual the whole morning pissed me off to no end. This place drives me bonkers! We were told to come in our full winter PT uniform minus the hat and gloves. It's getting colder and this actually made sense to me, have the soldiers not freeze…it's just common sense. So the winter PT uniform basically adds the jacket and pants. The formation was at 0545, but we are required to arrive 10 minutes early (0535), then again it's also strongly suggested we arrive a wee bit earlier than that (0530). So I arrive and not 5 minutes after everyone starts to form up, we're told that the uniform changed…now it's shorts and a long sleeved shirt. Most everyone already had on the long sleeved shirt and shorts under their winter PTs, but we did have an NCO that had to race back to his room to change. We then proceeded to stand in the chilled formation for…I kid you not….an entire hour. We had to wait for the bus from Landstuhl to arrive with the rest of our company and when they finally did, we started the warm up stretches. The stupidity reaches no bounds. I hate the necessity to arrive so early, just to stand around. Then on top of it, we downgraded our PT uniform to make us cold.

Once the profiles fell out of the formation, the sergeant major made sure all of us had a "no running" profile. The profiles were then supposed to do a brisk walk to the commissary and back. I just fell out and headed to the gym. My profile actually says I can't walk for aerobic exercise, so I headed to the warm gym and rode the bicycle with my headphones. I have never been so excited to get away from other people. I did my own workout and then headed back just as everyone was coming back from the run. I had to listen to all the leaders give their same ol' weekend safety briefing…don't do drugs, don't drink and drive, don't beat your wife…and on and on. We were then released and I took off to get ready for work.

Work today was my last day of pretending to be a civilian. Dressed in civilian clothes, I headed to the mailroom and worked my butt off. There was a lot of stuff to do, but this made the time fly. Everyone else had to attend "Days of Excellence" which always consists of some sort of army training, commanders speaking, and then various awards given out. Nothing I'm too fond of...especially the army training. They were released after that, which I'm not sure what time it was…but to tell you the truth, I'd rather work hard an entire day pretending to be a civilian like I did today, instead of going to "Days of Excellence" and getting off early.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Acting Civilian - (Germany) Day 275

This morning PT was a ruck march around PHV for those not on profile, those of us on profile headed to the gym to workout. Before anyone could do anything though, we had to listen to our platoon sergeant get all pissy about some people that weren't even in formation. He went on and on bitching and whining about how we all need to be on time and be clean shaven for the PT formation. What doesn't make sense is that the people he was talking about were not even in our formation at the time. So he's basically yelling at everyone who was already there on time and clean shaven. I don't understand some people in the army. While I'm bitching here let me also say that ruck marches have to be one of the stupidest things to do for PT as well. I'm just glad I'm on profile and get to go to the gym and have a normal workout.

During the PT formation we also heard about all the sergeant's time training that was going on today, luckily I am still working in the mailroom and I will not have to attend any of what I'm sure will be mind numbing training. I headed to the mailroom at 0900 and started putting all the sorted mail actually into people's mailboxes. I did this until the front door opened at 1100, then worked the front desk doing customer service. I felt like a civilian at a normal job. Time flies by because it stays pretty busy. I wear civilian clothes and people are actually nice. I would have short conversations with folks that come in.

I had my lunch in the food court instead of my car, because it was just a little too hot. I did read my book for a while before heading back into the mailroom and finishing out the day working at the front counter. I actually really miss being a civilian, working a normal job, feeling normal. If I could keep working in the mailroom I would jump at the chance, it's not like I'm actually doing my job I signed up for in my current office. It's a little too early to start looking for a job when I get out, but I think about it all the time. I'm going to enjoy my last day working in the mailroom tomorrow and then enjoy the weekend as well, before I have to head back and be a soldier again next week.

At home I did the usual…ate dinner with my wife, did schoolwork, and watched TV shows. Our nightly routine and I love it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Therapy Follow-Up - (Germany) Day 274

This morning PT was a run around post in civilian clothes for most people, as usual those of us on profile headed to the gym and worked out. I rode the stationary bicycle for my cardio and had a good workout.

I headed into the mailroom…my office for the week. This morning they had me and the other soldier form a small assembly line and go through a ton of mail. I took each piece of mail and marked a line through the address. I was told this had to be a special line, starting at the top left of the address making it's way through the zip code in the bottom right. I then had to initial next to this very important line. Well, I was told to scribble something that could resemble and initial. Then I would pass my piece off to the soldier working with me for him to stamp with two different stamps to the right of the crossed out address. All this was done so they could haul this mail out and throw it all in the dumpster. These were all undeliverable pieces of mail, most of it bulk mail that was sent out. Any first class mail will get returned to the sender, but presorted bulk mail gets thrown away after all this. We had several tubs full of this and worked on it until lunch. So for 3 hours straight, I sat there with a pen marking a line through addresses and scribbling an initial. Going through all of this made me wonder how the post office is losing so much money if companies are still sending out so much junk mail.

I had lunch in my car as usual, but remembered to actually bring my iPad today, so I was able to read a bit as well. On my way back to the mailroom I was stopped by a Stars and Stripes reporter. She saw my Seahawks t-shirt I had on and made a beeline straight to me. She was trying to get people's reactions on the NFL referee strike and the replacement refs. There has been a lot of controversy with the replacement refs, especially a call in the last Monday Night Football featuring the Seahawks and Packers. Unfortunately I wasn't able to give her much of an opinion. I just said, since I've joined the army and especially since I've been stationed overseas, I feel separated from the whole sports scene. It's hard to catch any hometown games via AFN. I like to watch football and basketball, but it's just very difficult to do so while stationed overseas. I could keep up via the web, but I think I'll probably just wait until I get back home and enjoy the games with family and friends.

When I arrived back in the mailroom, I worked the front customer service desk. I did the usual, get people's packages, answer simple questions, change their address, and hold their mail. Time goes by pretty quick up there and before I knew it, I had to head out for my physical therapy follow-up appointment. I met with the doctor who gave me some new exercises to try on my own and also gave me a portable shock therapy device. This means I can now do my own shock therapy at home. I'll schedule another appointment in a month to see where we're at. I told him as long as I'm taking the medication and not doing any impact exercises, my headaches seem to stay under control. He said next month if I'm still the same, he may refer me to the hospital up at Landstuhl. They may take an MRI and also try other treatments such as Botox in my neck. I'm not really excited about that prospect, but I'll see what else they have to say.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Neither Sleet nor Snow - (Germany) Day 273

The Mannheim Mailroom Center...someone has a sense of humor

This morning PT was football for those not on profile. I do like that they are now starting to mix up PT a little bit. If you can get a good workout and have fun doing it, that has to be the best way to do it. I headed over to the gym with the profiles and used the weight machines. I had a good workout, even though it wasn't playing a sport, I enjoy heading to the gym where I'm inside listening to my music. I get a good workout on my own without having to deal with all the extra crap that the company always has to go through. I was reminded of this on my way back from the gym as I saw everyone getting in formation and going through the stretching cool down. It's all just so formal and a waste of time in my opinion. I stretch out and get everything done quickly, whereas when doing it in a formation takes a long period of time.

Yesterday our office was looking for someone to work in the mailroom for the week. The person that they were asking stated that it hurt his back to stand too long. I volunteered to do it. Normally I don't volunteer for anything, but working in the mailroom is not a bad gig. For a week I will get to come into work in civilian clothes. This means I don't have to worry about wearing a hat every time I go outside and I don't have to worry about an officer sneaking up without me knowing and having to salute at the last second. Ironically you also get a lot more respect in civilian clothes. If you are in civilian clothes you are treated differently. Those in the military don't know if you are actually a civilian, or if you are enlisted or an officer just in civilian clothes. There are a lot of times where NCOs or officers see I'm only a specialist and all respect goes out the window.

Time in the mailroom also goes by pretty quickly. Even though I know I'll be working until 1700 for sure each day instead of the chance of getting off sooner, the day will fly by. I started off the day sorting mail into folks boxes, but was quickly pulled to head off with one of the civilian GS employees. He remembered me from the last time I was there and asked me to ride with him to Mannheim. The conversation on the drive there was interesting. With Heidelberg closing in the next year, all the mailroom employees are trying to scramble to find new jobs. There are only two actual full time GS employees. These two will get priority placement which means the government will offer them a job somewhere when theirs disappears. For everyone else, there is a lot of stress involved at the moment. Even for those who will get the priority placement, there is still some stress because the job they are offered can end up being pretty much anywhere. We arrived in Mannheim and I was reminded of the time I worked for UPS, but on a much smaller scale. A semi pulled up and they started unloading mail onto a conveyor belt, where we kept an eye out for packages heading to Heidelberg and grabbed them. We had another conveyor belt that led up to our truck and sent all the packages and bags of letters to it.

We left and on the way back to Heidelberg I noticed traffic start to slow from what looked like a taxi that had pulled off to the side. At first I thought it had broken down, that is until we got closer. As we passed I saw the passenger had the driver pull over so he could take a piss on the side of the road. I guess when you have to go, you have to go…traffic be damned!

By the time we got back and unloaded the truck, it was time for lunch. I ate in my car and listened to music. I headed back into the mailroom and worked the front desk, which is basically only getting people's packages when they bring up their notification slip. This can come and go in spurts, so I would surf the internet for a while to pass the time during the slow periods. The most common comment made all day long…"What the heck did my wife buy now?"

I got off at 1700 and picked up my wife from work. We both are starting to feel a little sick..scratchy throat and such. I started popping vitamin c and we both had soup for dinner. I'm hoping this comes and goes quickly!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Back to the Office - (Germany) Day 272

This morning PT was cardio in civilian clothes. Everyone headed for a run off post, while I headed to the gym with the other profiles. I did my cardio on the stationary bicycle and had a decent workout.

Back in the office at 0900…I really didn't want to head back in. The day turned out to be not too bad though. It started off with my going through all my email. Being gone for two weeks can make for a big inbox. I also printed out my tuition assistance "statement of understanding" to get signed. This is a form that has to be updated once a year. I had to print it out, sign it, and then scan it to my platoon sergeant to have our commander sign. Surprisingly I received it back by the end of the day. I could then upload it to "GoArmyEd" and keep going to class for another year. So I just signed up for my next class which will start at the end of October.

I then helped issue some encrypted key out to a couple customers. What had been a process I didn't quite understand before, has now become an easier task. With both classes behind me, and experience in the office, I finally understand and know everything that needs to be done. I didn't actually load the key on the customer's SKL, but I did everything else…which is basically all paperwork and making sure the customer signs in the right places. I can't say that it's an awesome job, but I do understand it a lot more now.

I headed out to lunch in my car…as usual. Music and a nap was on the menu today! Back in the office I was able to surf the internet a bit to pass the time. We have two people out taking a Security+ class and another out because of a dental surgery. With other appointments and such, there were computers open for use. I don't think that will be the case in the future.

We were let go at 1630 and I headed over to pick my wife up from work before heading home. I did schoolwork and then we watched "Sons of Anarchy"! Glad the new season has started up!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (Oktoberfest) - (Germany) Day 270 & 271

The entrance to Oktoberfest...I was constantly amazed how many people were there

Saturday: This last week my wife and I had discussed attending Oktoberfest here in Germany. It's something you hear about all the time and I figured we had to do it at least once while we were here. It takes place in Munich, which is about 4 hours from Heidelberg. We thought about driving, but did not want to drive back afterwards…we both wanted to partake in some consumption of beer after all. I think it would have been difficult to get a hotel room with such late notice, we heard that they get booked up pretty quickly. SGT Mex wanted to go as well and started looking up train prices, I ended up checking to see if the USO or MWR was having any trips. The train prices were a bit too expensive, but I did find out that MWR was heading down this weekend. We chose the MWR trip, not only was it just $69, but they leave from PHV and also bring us back…so we will only be a minute from home when we get back.

The bus left at 0600 and along with SGT Mex, the CAM in our office went as well. (The CAM is our ComSec Account Manager…the person in charge of everything at the ComSec level). Once on the bus I put in my headphones and rested most of the way there. We stopped at McDonalds about 3 hours into the trip for a break. It's interesting looking at the differences in the menu here vs. the US. They offer some of the same things, but then offer totally different things like a bread basket for breakfast. The menu accommodates the culture that surrounds it.

Once we arrived, we were told that the bus would be leaving at 2300 sharp…with or without us. We made our way to the festival, which was not far from the main bus and train station. We just followed the crowd full of lederhosen. Along the way we ran into the opening day parade. It would have been cool to watch, but the crowds around the street were so deep that I could only hold my camera up above my head and snap a few photos. Everyone else is even shorter than I am, so there was not a whole lot to look at.

We then made our way to the entrance, which was packed full of people. The parade was making it's way through the entrance as well, so there was not much room for people to get in and out. The whole festival looked somewhat like a fair on steroids. There were vendors selling all kinds of tasty smelling foods. There were amusement rides all over the place. There were also what I'm going to call the beer halls. I thought there were going to be tents, but these are actual buildings that everyone piled into. When I say piled into, I mean it was similar to trying to make your way to the front of the line at the opening day when the new iPhone goes on sale, or perhaps to the front of the line in the wee hours of the morning before a black Friday sale. In fact it was pretty much impossible. We decided on standing in a line to get into another smaller building, but I think we only moved when people gave up and left that were in line in front of us…then it started to rain. I was thinking this pretty much sucks. I wondered how people even got drunk at Oktoberfest.

We then decided to drink at an outside beer garden that we found. Although not ideal, the rain let up for periods of time and they had outdoor space heaters. They used a squeegee to clear off the rain from our table and seats, then we proceeded to order a beer. The beer is served in a very large glass that we were told was the size of 3 regular beers. Contrary to what I had imagined, our server was a dude and not some busty German gal carrying 12 glasses all at once. In fact all the servers I saw were dudes. No worries though, the beer was good and when we decided to order food, the chicken was delicious!

We drank, then went on some rides and then drank some more. One of the more adventurous times was visiting the male bathroom. They setup two troughs shaped in a giant "U" to go pee in. This ended up with a final shape somewhat looking like a giant "W", so when positioned at one of the troughs you would be looking another man straight in the eyes while you relieve yourself. That wasn't even the crazy part. Just getting to the trough to go pee was exactly like fighting to get to the front of a giant crowd at a heavy metal concert. After pushing and pulling your way to the trough, then finally relieving yourself…you would still be getting pushed and pulled around, all while you are in the act of going pee. So there would be streams of pee shooting out with everyone trying to keep it aimed in the trough. It was quit and adventure, and one I had to repeat many times because of those extraordinary large glasses of beer I had been drinking.

The whole place was crowded, but it was full of entertaining people to watch all over the place. A lot of folks were dressed up in costumes, guys wearing lederhosen and girls wearing the dirndl dresses. There were public displays of drunkenness all over the place, there were also public displays of affection all of the affects alcohol has on folks. All it all it was pretty entertaining from the time we arrived until the time we headed out.

We finally left with plenty of time to spare. Everyone had a great time in spite of the rain. We made it back to the bus and I was surprised that actually everyone made it back in time. There were little garbage cans near each seat in case someone needed to grab a bag and vomit in. Everyone was warned that if they threw up in the bus, they would be charged $100 (clean-up fee). Before we even pulled out, a guy grabbed a bag behind me and started throwing up!

I put in my earphones and slept all the way home.

Sunday: Since this was my only day off before work (I can't call Oktoberfest a day off…I was busy the whole day!), I took the opportunity to take it easy. We did a little laundry and cleaned up the house. We watched a few TV shows and basically just relaxed. It was nice to sleep in and just hang out in comfy clothes all day. Tomorrow I have to head back to the office…I wonder what has changed since I left??

Friday, September 21, 2012

Intel 35 Day 10 (Final) - (Germany) Day 269

This morning was a little different than previous mornings, since it is our last day here in the hotel, I had to gather up all my crap and load the car. We ate breakfast and thanked the owners for their great service and wonderful food. We headed off to pick up our classmates on the way to class. The car was pretty full with four people and all our luggage.

We headed into class and were given the instructions for the final exam. There will be no talking or taking breaks at the same time. We then started at 0830 with a time limit of 6 hours to finish, we also were told that there was a mandatory lunch at noon until 1300 if we were still there. The test was actually easier than the master scenario that we did the previous two days leading up to the test. We basically setup more accounts and did some more with various accounting procedures. We did work with others in the class as other accounts, so at times we had to send stuff via floppy disk and wait for stuff from them. This was only an issue once because one of the students in class was very slow, double checking and triple checking every single mouse click. I ended up taking a small nap during the test while waiting on some material from her.

We all finished the test before lunch time and the instructors graded each of ours one at a time. We needed a 75% to pass the test and I received a 91%. I made a couple of typos and also made a stupid mistake while on autopilot at the end of the test. No worries though, I passed and made it through both courses now. Because of this, I was awarded "The Creed of the ComSec Custodian". A funny take on the various army creeds, but applied to the ComSec world.

We headed out and ate lunch at the food court before heading home. Unfortunately the way home was full of frustration. The autobahn we were traveling was closed, so we were rerouted along a detour. The traffic was horrible and we decided to have the GPS calculate an alternative route. We took the alternative route, but ended up hitting quite a bit of traffic off and on. Traffic backups on the autobahn are called a "Stau" and this term is used by both Germans and Americans here. The autobahn is awesome when you can drive at whatever speed you want, but when you run into a stau, it can suck big time. We found plenty of staus along our way home and instead of getting home at our original ETA of 1605, we arrived at 1930. It sucked, but it was nice finally getting home and seeing my wife again. Hopefully I won't have any training, or any more TDY assignments that take me away again for a while.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Intel 35 Day 9 - (Germany) Day 268

Another normal morning at the hotel and then off to class after picking up our classmates along the way. This morning we all headed into class and continued working on our "master scenario" exercise. Unlike previous classes where we chit chat about the news, today we just sat down and got to business. The process isn't that hard as long as you follow the workbook and do each step in order.

We were forced to take a break at 0900 for a "Suicide Stand Down". I guess soldiers at least all over Europe are required to attend more suicide training because of all the suicides that keep happening in the army. Now don't get me wrong, it sucks that soldiers are committing suicide at abnormally high rates, but we have been having this training shoved down our throats it seems every other month at least. Obviously this forced training is not helping, in fact maybe it makes people think about suicide more than they usually would. I'm not sure what the answer is, but the army's solution to everything is forcing more training. As you should already know, army training drives me nuts. Not much I can do though because it's required, so I sat through the class like a good soldier and signed the attendance form, so they could "check the box" and say more training was done.

We headed back and continued with the master scenario exercise until lunch. I was almost finished, but lunch was mandatory. We all left to the DFAC and then did some wandering around the PX for a bit before heading back to class. I then finished up in a few minutes and had to wait in the break room until everything was graded. I did make a couple small mistakes that I had to fix, but nothing major. Really just a couple typos, but they still would have been a few points deducted if this were the final. I'll have to double check my work tomorrow to make sure I don't make any silly mistakes like that again.

By 1500 everyone was done and we could leave. We headed to the hotel where I read and took a nap. Dinner was amazing as usual and we were also each given a large dessert menu and told to pick one since it's our last night here. I chose one that consisted of hot raspberries over vanilla ice cream….mmmm. The owners here are awesome! We ended up doing our pre-check out, so tomorrow morning we can eat breakfast and then just leave.

I'm going to miss this place, but it will be nice to get home to my wife once again. We already have plans for this weekend and next weekend as well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Intel 35 Day 8 - (Germany) Day 267

A photo I snapped of Grafenwoehr's iconic water tower landmark,
it features a large water tank, as well as a conference and training room. 

This morning was pretty much the same routine as yesterday, eating breakfast at the hotel and picking up the other two that are in our class. We went through the last of the actual material today (blocks of instruction along with our hands on exercise). We then went through the process of initializing our systems back to the starting point. All that work we have done with each practical exercise building on the system, all wiped out in a couple of keystrokes! We then were briefed on our master exercise. This exercise is huge, we will be given a total of 8 hours to finish it. It basically has us start up the system from scratch once again and do everything we've done in the last week and a half all at once. We can ask for help during the exercise and we have to make sure everything is done correctly because the final exam is done based on all the groundwork that the exercise lays out.

We left for lunch and headed to the Grafenwoehr PX. We ate at the food court and SGT Mex went looking for some shoes, but came out empty handed. He was hoping to find something here that our PX in Heidelberg doesn't have. We headed back to class and actually started the master exercise. We all were well ahead of schedule, so the instructor told us to stop when we reached a certain step. At this step we backed up the systems, then shutdown and left for the day. It turned out we ended up leaving at about 1430, which was pretty cool.

Back at the hotel I took a nap, read my book, and then ate way too much dinner. I have to start slowing down and eating less, but all the food they cook here is so good. In addition to the dinner, I've been having a pretty large beer with every meal. I figured hey, I'm staying out on the economy…I might as well live like a German. We only get one free drink per meal. Every drink is in a small glass, unless you order a beer. The beer is served in a large glass, so there is no need for a refill. (On a side note: the water in the mini bar in each room costs as much as the beer). The dinner conversation included some new words that I now have in my army vocabulary: "Dependopotamus" - This is the spouse of a soldier that sits home all day, eats and gets fat. Then there are "Dependabrats" - These are the screaming kids you see in the commissary of a soldier…funny stuff.

The rest of the night consisted of schoolwork, reading and video chatting with my wife. I have one more full night here at this lovely hotel…then it's back to reality :(

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Intel 35 Day 7 - (Germany) Day 266

Had my normal routine in the morning with breakfast at the hotel and then heading into class. This morning we picked up the other two in our class at their hotel. They were renting a car for the last week, but had to return it after the weekend.

Class this morning went on as usual. We go over a block of instructions and then do a hands on practical exercise. It seems the more we get into this class without slowing down, the less I actually understand. I can still get through all the hands on portion because it's easy enough to find the keywords and also look through our slide book to find the step-by-step instructions. I will definitely need some time on our system back in the office in order to feel comfortable working on it and really understand what and why I'm doing what I'm doing. There is just a lot of information that we need to go through for the class, I'm sure in our account we only use a portion of it though…we'll see I guess when I get back.

Lunch today was going to be at the DFAC, but when we arrived, the lines were out the doors. Normally we would have stayed and just waited it out, but today I had to also head to the library. My boss sent me a message last night stating that I had to log onto a computer with a CAC reader and electronically sign some DTS paperwork for my last trip out here. I guess they are still trying to work on paying me for that one. So we ate lunch at Burger King and headed over to the library to get that taken care of.

We were released from class a little before 1600 and headed back to the hotel after dropping our classmates off. I read some and then just listened to music and relaxed on the bed for a while. I think I was in and out of consciousness for about an hour just listening to music and taking it easy.

I then headed out to the dining area and ate dinner with SGT Mex and the other soldier here. Dinner was great as always. I then finished watching a movie on my computer and video chatted with my wife for a bit.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Intel 35 Day 6 - (Germany) Day 265

Back in the routine today with breakfast in the morning and then off to class. The class has been moving along, I can't say that I understand everything though. In fact at times we'll go over a block of instruction and then do the practical exercise, I'll just follow through step by step in the book not exactly sure what is going on or why. I think a lot of this will make more sense when I get back to the office and see what exactly we do and why.

Lunch was at the DFAC as usual, except that SGT Mex didn't come. He had to run to the commissary, but I didn't want to spend any money…so it was just the DFAC for me. I ate my food and then just played games on my iPhone until it was time to head back to class. The evening portion of the class was similar to the morning, except we had a very long practical exercise. I like having the hands on, but I'm feeling lost at times wondering exactly what I'm doing. I'm hoping the final test is pretty straight forward.

We were released at about 1630 and headed back to the hotel. I read a little and then took a short nap before dinner. During dinner the other soldier staying here with us found out his house had been robbed. He's stationed up in Belgium and he got a call from his first sergeant telling him that everything is gone! Someone must have pulled up a moving truck. He was understandably pretty pissed off and there's not a whole lot he can do about any of it since he's down here until the end of the week. After dinner I did my schoolwork. Not a whole lot to report today…my stomach is full of good German food and I'm ready to relax for the rest of the night.

Overheard Quote: "My piss smells like bacon" (SGT Mex describing how he can tell he needs to start drinking more water.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (Regensburg) - (Germany) Day 263 & 264

Me standing in front of the Walhalla Temple near Regensburg

Saturday: This morning we woke up and had breakfast a little later than usual since it is the weekend…everyone agreed on 0900. After that my wife and I got ready and then headed off to a city called Regensburg. The owner of the hotel suggested it as a place to see, so we took his word for it and headed off. The drive was about an hour and after a little bit of research on the web, we had some sites we wanted to check out and were on our way.

When we arrived, we ended up parking in a parking garage almost in the center of town. We came up and started walking around downtown to find a maze of small alleyways filled with various shops. One could spend days here just going from shop to shop checking out the various things to buy. We were not here for a shopping spree, we were here as tourists ready to see the sites…but there was a major situation arising…I had to pee pretty badly. I found the tourist information center and promptly asked them where the nearest bathroom was. Once that was taken care of, I was able to think clearly and we started enjoying the sites.

We checked out the Regensburg Cathedral which has two large towers that dominate the skyline. The inside is impressive as well, and there are tombs of past bishops which I was surprised to see. After that we headed out and found a restaurant to have lunch at outside. This is one of the things I love about the European towns that we visit, on a nice day one can sit outside at the many tables and grab a bite to eat. It's enjoyable to people watch and take in the fresh air.

With full stomachs we headed to check out the The remains of the East Tower of Porta Praetoria from Ancient Roman times. It always amazes me when I check out ancient ruins and think back at how long ago they were built. We headed across the stone bridge which was finished in 1146! This ancient bridge was very important back in the day and was used by the knights of the crusades on their way to the holy land.

We spent more time just checking out the city before heading out for a short drive to Walhalla Temple. This huge building is full of famous and historical German figures and is modeled after the Parthenon in Athens. We did have to pay for parking (2 Euro) and then pay for entrance (3 Euro), but it was very impressive. Inside it is full of busts in the likeness of the historical figures and outside it is just massive, with the columns and the large steps.

We headed back to the hotel after that and had another great meal by the owner here. I think the coolest thing about this trip is that we would have never even thought of it unless it was recommended by the owners. I'm glad we were able to make it there and enjoy a city we would have missed otherwise.

Sunday: We had breakfast again at 0900, then headed off to the Grafenwoehr post. I had to do laundry (one of the only downfalls of this hotel is the lack of a washer and dryer). While I did my laundry, my wife shopped at the PX, which is fairly large compared to ours in Heidelberg. We then planned to eat lunch at a wonderful Chinese place called "Tea Garden" off post, but when we arrived we found it closed. They are closed for a month while they go on vacation. This is something you don't see much of in the states. A business usually doesn't just take a month off so they can go on vacation. They have a different outlook on money I guess, and they put more emphases on their own quality of life. I guess this isn't a bad thing, except for the fact that my wife and I wanted some good Chinese food.

We ended up headed back to the food court on post for lunch, then went back to our hotel for a nap. My wife left at about 1500 to head back home and I did schoolwork and then read for a while before eating another wonderful dinner here at the hotel. I'm afraid to get on the scale when I get back home!

Pictures of our day trip...check out the slideshow below or go to the album on my flickr:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Intel 35 Day 5 - (Germany) Day 262

Had the usual morning breakfast in the dining area of the hotel. One of the nice things about each morning is that the three of us that are staying here, all sit at one table and have some morning conversation while we eat breakfast. It kind of starts the day out right, a nice breakfast with some fellow students who like to talk about anything and everything.

Class today was similar to the previous days. Today we focused on transferring encryption keys we made to devices called SKL (Simple Key Loader), which is the device similar to an oversized palm pilot. We also loaded the audit logs from the device to the machine. As with the other classes we would get a block of instruction and then do a practical exercise giving us some hands on experience.

At lunch we ate at the DFAC and then headed off to try and find the health clinic on this post. Evidently it's an emergency that I get my flu shot now. I guess the rest of the office received theirs and it was actually marked down in their MedPros, so now I need to get mine done. We finally found the place, but found out they only do flu shots on Mondays. I told them it was an emergency…LOL, then told them I'd be back on Monday.

We got out of class at 1500 which was pretty cool…a nice way to start our weekend. We came back to the hotel and I did my schoolwork before doing a little reading. By about 1800 my wife had arrived. We ate dinner in the dining area with SGT Mex and the other student here. My wife finally got to experience some of the wonderful food the owner makes here. I'm guessing I'll probably gain about 10 pounds in these two weeks I'm here.

We were planning on heading to Munich this weekend, but after the owner came out and suggested we check out Regensburg (which is only an hour away) we decided to take his advice.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Intel 35 Day 4 - (Germany) Day 261

Had my usual morning breakfast at the hotel before heading to class. We started class after our usual morning news brief. This is where the instructor hangs out in the front of class and we discuss the daily news. They say we can discuss anything except politics and religion…LOL. They would prefer security related news, but everything is fair game. Today it was mostly about the attacks on the US Embassies in the middle east. These places also have ComSec material, we were wondering at what point they might have actually started their destruction process (destroying all the ComSec classified & top secret  materials while the embassy is under attack)

Class went by pretty quickly, as usual we listened to a block of instruction and then did some hands on with a practical exercise on our system. We generated electronic encryption keys on each of our systems by the end of the day.

The day also included a number of breaks where discussions would arise and the one I hear most often is the difference between tactical vs. strategic units in the army (tactical units deploy and strategic units do not). I'm told that if I were in a tactical unit, then there would be no doubt that I would be actually doing my job (Information Technology Specialist). On top of that I hear from everyone that the environment in a tactical unit is much different than that of a strategic unit. The idea I keep hearing is that since a strategic unit doesn't deploy, they hang around worrying about stupid stuff all the time. A tactical unit on the other hand has more money to spend and just gets things done…they don't do the stupid crap all the time. How much of this is true, I don't know…since I've never experienced the tactical side. It seems to be the common theme I hear from everyone though. I think my whole experience, thoughts and feelings I have about the army would be different if I had been in a tactical unit.

Once class was out we headed back to the hotel where I started watching the Apple special presentation on the new iPhone 5. I have to keep up with the tech news even while I'm away! I then had dinner in the dining area with the other two soldiers here. The cool thing about staying in such a small hotel out with the locals, is the ability to interact with them. One of the owners of the hotel came out and chatted with us for about an hour.

I then video chatted with my wife for a while before heading to bed for the night. Looking forward to the weekend coming soon, my wife will be coming up and we'll be doing some site seeing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Intel 35 Day 3 - (Germany) Day 260

A view of SGT Mex in the outside dining area at our hotel...I love this place!

Had my usual nice breakfast this morning along with my "to-go" coffee…I love this hotel! Arrived at class and because we have such a small class size (only 4 people) we have been moving along faster than planned. We ended up taking quite a bit of time just chatting with the instructors between each block of instruction. At one point we chatted for an hour about random stuff. There were some pretty interesting conversations. Both our instructors have retired from the army. Our female instructor had an interesting career with overseas time in Korea, Kuwait, Norway, and Germany as well as some time working at the NSA. She did say something that I can really relate to, probably because I joined so late in life "I was a civilian in a military uniform". I think and feel the same way. Being older, I'm already set in my ways and I can see past a lot of the bullshit that goes on. I also question a lot of the stupidity that I see versus a young person who may not know any better.

We did have a couple hands on portions during the day, but today was more instruction than usual. The instructors said they still have to give these current blocks of instruction, but the army does not use this information anymore. It's funny because even the last bullet on the slide stated that the army no longer uses this…but we had to go through it anyway because the material had not been changed yet by Fort Gordon. Everyone was left kind of scratching their heads wondering why we just wasted two hours of our lives.

We were let out at 1600 after another long random conversation session between us and the instructors. We backed up our systems and did an inventory of all of our personal items, then we left. We headed back to the hotel, where I read my book for a bit, then took a nap. I then ate dinner with SGT Mex in the dining area along with another soldier here for training. This hotel only has 3 rooms! We had some good dinner and good conversation before heading back to each of our rooms. I did homework before video chatting with my wife, then called it a night and turned in.

Intel 35 Day 2 (Tittie Tuesday) - (Germany) Day 259

Ed's Bar Dresscode...LOL

This morning I woke up and after getting ready, met SGT Mex in the dining area for breakfast. I'm loving this little hotel. It's more like a bed and breakfast, but it also has a cafe that serves lunch and dinner as well. The contract all the local hotels have with the military here include breakfast and dinner. We eat lunch at the DFAC on post. I love the owner's cooking!!

Class today consisted of a lot of hands on with our systems. The instructor would go over a block of instruction or two and then we would do a practical exercise on our own using our systems. The day went by at a decent pace. We are basically still getting our systems setup. Each step builds upon the previous steps. We were able to make our systems communicate with each other and transfer information.

After class ended, we headed back to the hotel to change and eventually eat dinner. I had mentioned to SGT Mex about the last time I was in this area during the FTX I had to attend. I told him about Ed's Bar in Grafenwoehr (which is about 25 minutes from Vilseck) which some of the guys in my barracks visited on a Tuesday because of a special "event" held only on Tuesdays called "Tittie Tuesday". The way they described it sounded like they went to this bar and the waitresses went topless on Tuesday. After hearing this SGT Mex decided we had to go. I looked up the address and we headed out. We ended up arriving about 1930 with plans to be back in our beds at 2200 at the latest. Let's just say things didn't go as planned.

We arrived to find a bar that had one customer and an ugly bartender. I thought to myself, this isn't a good sign! We decided to have a drink and play some pool anyway…we did drive all the way out here, we might as well enjoy ourselves. We played 3 games with me winning 2 of them. I felt like a pool shark because I was killing him the entire time. The only reason I lost one of the games is because I scratched when trying to hit in the 8 ball...I was on fire! We then started playing darts. They had an electronic machine there, so we played a game of cricket. This is a long game that passes the time. I ended up with a miraculous win by hitting three bulls eyes in a row. I wasn't so lucky the next two games. Is it wrong that my arm was sore after three games of darts?

By this time there were a couple more people in the bar, but we decided to call it a night. It was 2130 and we headed out. On the way to our car, we saw they had just opened up another door to Ed's Bar (Ed's 2) and went in to check it out. It turns out that was the actual topless portion and had just opened for the night. Not wanting to miss out we decided to have one more drink before we left. It turned out not to be topless waitresses at all, but a full on strip club! There was a pole and chicks came out and did their dance and eventually went topless. It turned out to be a pretty funny night. We didn't leave as early as planned…we had to wait and watch each of the dancers at least once before leaving (we didn't want to be rude).

By the time we arrived back at the hotel it was 2300. The front door was locked, but luckily we were given keys to get in. I made it to my room and crashed…it's way past my bedtime on a school night…LOL.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Intel 35 Day 1 - (Germany) Day 258

This morning we woke up at our hotel and after getting ready headed outside of our rooms to have breakfast in the dining area. The breakfast was modest, but more than enough to satisfy. I had orange juice, a roll with jam, a banana, and a slice of bread with some cheese and meat. The host also filled up my travel mug with coffee for the road…Awesome! Now I'll have coffee for a while during class.

Speaking of class we arrived and started the process of the first day of class. There were only four of us and nobody was on the actual schedule to take the class. We all came on stand-by status…LOL. We were all missing at least one piece of required paperwork, but after making some calls we all were able to get everything taken care of before the end of the day. This class is much different than Intel 34. We have the same instructors for Intel 35 and even they joked that the previous class (Intel 34) is very boring and tough to teach. All the instructors remembered me from the previous class. We started off by doing a little introduction, then headed into an overview of what the class will involve. This class will be a lot more hands on. In fact the first half of the day consisted of mainly PowerPoint, but the second half was all hands on. It wasn't much, but we did turn on the LCMS system, created accounts and such.

I think this class is going to be so much better than the previous class. It's also nice having SGT Mex from my office with me here. We are able to hang out and chat quite a bit during breaks, lunch, and after class. We got out at 1630 and headed back to our hotel. After changing and reading a little I met up with SGT Mex in the dining area to eat dinner. We chose to sit outside because it was pretty nice out. I had a typical German meal with a sausage, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. A German meal wouldn't be complete without a beer, and dessert was ice cream of course. I'm loving that we get to stay and eat at this hotel for free. The place is nice and the food is outstanding!

I then settled down and did some schoolwork for a while before video chatting with my wife for a bit. Now I'm going to relax, read a little and turn in for the night.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (Dürkheim Wine Festival) - (Germany) Day 256 & 257

A view of the wine tents from high above on the ferris wheel

Saturday: This morning we slept in a little and did the usual Saturday morning things such as a bit of cleaning and laundry. We then decided to check out the Dürkheim Wine Festival also known as Dürkheim's Wurstmarkt. SPC Mac told me about this even and said it was a lot of fun. We wanted to get out and do something because today was the only real day I'd be home for the weekend. Dürkheim is not too far away, so after setting our course in the GPS, we took off for about a 40 minute drive.

We arrived in Dürkheim and not knowing exactly where to go, we didn't have to look long. We headed towards the city center and ran smack into the festival. To my surprise it was much larger than I was expecting. I thought there would be a number of booths with various wines to sample and perhaps some booths with food as well. It turns out there is a lot of wine, but it's not really sampling that you do. Instead you order a full glass (large or extra large) and can either sit in a tent and drink, or walk around the festival and drink. When the glasses are returned, you receive your deposit back. Not only does the festival have a large number of drinking tents with wines from various vineyards all over, but it also has a carnival feel to it. There are a number of carnival rides and games. There are also a number of vendors selling their merchandise…everything from scarves to jewelry.

It was hot, but a lot of fun. It was pretty cool to sit down with a glass of wine and just people watch for a while. Next time we go I'm sure we'll bring a lot more money so my wife can do a little more shopping…LOL.

A view with my wife looking back as we were
walking around the Dürkheim Wine Festival

A view of some of the vineyards from the top of the ferris wheel

Sunday: I had to wake up at 0630 to get ready and leave with SGT Mex for our Intel 35 class. We made the drive to Rose Barracks in Vilseck and had lunch in the food court. We then made our way to the student orientation and filled out the required paperwork. I was hoping to get in the same hotel on post because the experience wasn't bad and I was within walking distance to everything, but the hotel was full and they sent us to a hotel off post. The government contracts with a number of hotels off post to house the incoming students and feed them breakfast and dinner. We ended up getting sent to a small hotel (really a bed & breakfast) called "Cafe & Pension Ringer", which turned out to be a very nice little hotel out in the middle of nowhere, but only about 5 minutes from post.

The hotel has internet, which was my biggest concern and the folks running it seem very nice. We took off after unloading all our luggage and headed to the Grafenwoer post to check out the PX and grab a few supplies. We headed back to the hotel where I promptly took a nap, then woke up for dinner…which was awesome. All my fears are gone and I can say that I'm excited to be staying in this hotel off post, in fact I think I may like it better than the hotel on post. Not only do I have the necessities, I get much better food than the DFAC and I get to interact with the locals a bit more. Hopefully I'll be able to get into the class because we are both still on stand-by status because for whatever reason neither of us have been officially signed up for the class yet. Everyone has known we both need to go to this class, yet we never were signed up. This means just like my last class here, we have to show up and see if we can get in.

The night consisted of dinner and lots of conversation with SGT Mex, schoolwork, then Skyping with my wife. I'm turning in for the evening…we'll see what tomorrow brings.

A photo of my room at the hotel I'll be calling home for the next two weeks

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Another Town Hall - (Germany) Day 255

The going away dinner for SPC Whirlwind and his family
at the Schwetzingen Brewery

This morning was just one of the many many times that just reaffirmed my decision to get out of the army after my current contract is over with (I think I must say this every other post). We were told we had to be at the PT formation at 0550 because we were doing a battalion run. The season has definitely changed here in Germany, and even though the day may still end up being warm, the mornings are getting a lot colder. We were told to wear our long sleeve PT shirt with our shorts, but it was still pretty cold. We formed up and stood in formation for at least a half hour…just standing there, waiting…standing and freezing. Finally everyone got formed up and ready to go. The leaders came to the front and started the getting everyone stretched after having those of us on profiles head to the back. The sergeant major then came back and asked each person why they weren't running. He made all those on "run at your own pace and distance" go back and join the group saying they had to do exactly that…run at your own pace and distance. The rest of us walked to the gym and worked out.

When we came back the leaders stated how they thought the run was great and even some of those on profile did a good job keeping up. On this point I have to disagree. If a person feels they can indeed do the run, then by all means let them do it. I think there were some that were pressured into doing the run even though it meant running through the pain. Doing that is just stupid. If your body is in pain, it's trying to tell you something…and just ignoring it is going to make it worse. We then had to hear a safety brief from the battalion commander for the weekend. It contained the usual…don't drink irresponsibly, don't beat your wife, don't do stupid things. He then asked the battalion command sergeant major if he had anything. Of course he does, he's an NCO…so he adds his input, which is almost exactly the same thing (drink responsibly, don't beat your spouse, don't do stupid stuff). We then get released to our company commander who in turn gives us his safety brief which is all the same stuff. He asks our company first sergeant if he has anything to add…of course he does! He then proceeds to say the exact same thing. We're standing out in the cold listening to the same thing over and over and I'm thinking I'm going to go nuts just watching the time go by and my available time to get ready shrink by the minute. It's this kind of stupidity that I absolutely hate about the army.

Everyone had until 0930 to be at "Days of Excellence" which was being held on PHV at the theatre. I of course have to get ready a lot faster than that, because I take my wife to work by 0830 each morning. I then had a knee exam scheduled today before we found out about the Days of Excellence, so I was allowed to keep my appointment. I headed to the appointment, which was great…that meant I was going to miss "Days of Excellence"! The knee exam was a huge disappointment though. My doctor just moved my knee in a couple directions and said oh there's no ligament damage. My X-Rays show a little degenerative evidence on my knee cap, so she said I'm just getting old and I have to deal with it. I know something's not right with my knee, it's throbbing every day now and I can't even keep it in one position for a long period of time without being in pain. Then at random times I have shooting pain…but it's all just because I'm getting old and I have to deal with it. There has to be more that can be done, I was a little frustrated leaving there. I did get some pain medication refilled, but that stuff doesn't seem to do much of anything.

I headed home and changed into my uniform (I had to be in PTs for the knee exam). I grabbed a snack and waited a little bit before heading to then end of "Days of Excellence". For those of us that live on PHV, we went to a Town Hall meeting on the closure of the base. It was open to anyone and they went over pretty much everything we already knew, PHV will be closing by August 30th of 2013. Sometime between now and then everyone will be moved to their gaining units. Most of it will be done after June because they don't want to interrupt those with children in school. The other message put out was that everything they do this year will be the biggest and best ever…they want to go out with a bang. Unfortunately the meeting went until 1300 and I was starving! When we left we were released for the day. As we all headed out the sergeant major was there and told everyone to go back in and get a flu shot. I ended up pretending to go back in, but then headed home instead. The problem with flu shots are that I don't really believe that they protect you from the future flu season. Also we will be required to get one at a later date and have it recorded in our records, so those who went back in to get their shot are likely to be required to get another one in the near future.

I headed home and ate lunch. I then headed into the office in civilian clothes where I met my boss. I had to print off a couple items to take to class this Sunday. I then headed home and took a nap. I passed out and didn't wake up until I went to pick up my wife at 1600 from work. Later on we met up with my boss and a few other people from the office. We headed out to a brewery (and restaurant) in Schwetzingen, a city only a few minutes away. It was basically an unofficial good-bye to SPC Whirlwind and his family. We all had some good food, good beer and good conversation.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Zonk - (Germany) Day 255

This morning we formed up for PT as usual. Once everyone was accounted for SGT Mex who was in front of the formation looked at us for a moment, then said "Zonk". Everyone just split and went home. It was pretty cool, especially since I'm still sore from Tuesday's muscle failure. This is a welcome break.

At work we had sergeant's time training. Our platoon sergeant has been on leave which I have to say has been very nice. SGT Mex was the instructor for the training and he quickly went through a number of slides on detecting IEDs and IED avoidance. This is another case of training for the sake of training and SGT Mex knew this. This is something that is not going to help us with our current job and if we do end up in a tactical unit, we'll be trained on all this stuff by qualified folks. So training went by in about 15 minutes or so and we all broke. I was able to jump on a computer and check my email and the news. I then ended up talking with some other guys in the office about various subjects including the economy, the upcoming election, the army, and the state of America. We had some good conversations all the way until lunch.

I ate lunch as usual in my car, listening to music and then taking a nap. I headed back to the office and learned how and where we go in order to send registered mail. After that I headed over to the shoppette to put some more money on our prepaid SIM cards for our phones. My wife and I now have unlocked iPhones, but we have to put money on our cards at least once a month. Instead of straight up pre-pay, we chose a plan that costs 10 Euro a month for unlimited calls and texts between T-Mobile users and along with 100 MB a month of data. It's not a bad deal because my boss uses T-Mobile as well. We just keep our data usage down and we're good to go with a really cheap plan.

When I got back to the office I was told I had to fill out a personal data sheet. This stuff just pisses me off. All the information on it, our company has in various places. They wanted my hat size, the date I joined the army, the date I got my rank, the size of my NBC mask. I just started making crap up, I don't know all this stuff off the top of my head. My religion…it's now "Jedi", why they need all this stuff over and over again is beyond me. I spent the rest of the day on the maintenance side of the office since our two computers were taken. I just chatted with the guys over there while they watched youtube and while SPC Mac applied for jobs all day. (The maintenance side of our shop has been "closed" for business for months now and will stay closed until the base closes up for good. So the guys have no job and just hang out and find ways to pass the time every day...the army is smart like that)

We cleaned up and went home at about 1630.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Another Day…Another Town Hall - (Germany) Day 254

Watch Out!! MPs on patrol....
mounted on Segways with Training Wheels...LOL

This morning we went back to our usual PT here at PHV. The normal folks went for a run, while us profiles headed into the gym to do cardio. I did the stationary bicycle and had a decent (no impact) workout.

The morning started off at 0900 as usual. I tried to move my dentist appointment scheduled for 12:30 this afternoon because SPC Whirlwind was having his going away party. The dental folks said they could move my appointment no problem, but since I was calling within 24 hours of the original appointment, they would mark it as a missed appointment and inform my command. I guess there has been a big issue with people missing their dental appointments. So big in fact we see stupid commercials about it on AFN. I thought calling would solve this problem, but I didn't call soon enough…so I had to keep my dental appointment and miss SPC Whirlwind's going away lunch.

I hung out on the "other" side of the office this morning (the maintenance side). Since we only have two computers on our side and they were taken, I decided to interact with they guys on the other side instead of sitting in a chair, looking at a wall. I basically sat on the other side and read the latest copy of the Army Times. All the NCOs were at a "town hall" meeting with brigade. When they came back, all the junior enlisted had to go over and attend. It was basically just a dog and pony show with them telling us how great they are, how great we are, how great the army is.

After that I left for lunch. I just headed home for a little bit before going over to the dental office. I didn't want to eat anything before they cleaned my teeth. The cleaning went fine except I really hate the scraping of the teeth, it's like nails on a chalk board. I then went back home, made myself lunch and ate it before heading back into the office.

Once in the office I uploaded some more documents to my DTS account for this next class I'll be heading to on Sunday. I did hear the SGT Mex will be coming as well, that is a good thing. I checked out Facebook and noticed my sponsor (when I arrived here in Germany) posted that he is going to be out in 97 days. He then went on to say: "only in the military can we take a person with the ability to cure cancer and make him a lawyer. The army sets you up for failure, tries to dictate your career path based on the last 4 of your social security number and please pray that nothing happens to you where you can no longer run a 14:40 2-mile. I realize that I'm too outspoken and have too much common sense for the military. And if I go to my next job and ever hear someone say 'you should be ready to do (insert task here) any day at any time', I'm quitting and walking out."

Needless to say, I'm not the only one that doesn't quite understand why the army does the things it does, and how it can drive you nuts. It's basically the reason I have no desire to stay in past the end of my contract or the desire to get promoted and be an NCO.

We didn't do much the rest of the day, took the new safe combinations over to secure in another office's safe and then cleaned up the office. We were able to get out about 1630. I gave the new guy a ride home after picking up my wife and some gas as well. I filled my motorcycle gas tank up and warmed it up a little. I even drove it around the parking lot a bit to get it's juices flowing. It's the only riding I'll be able to do for a long time I'm afraid.

SPC Whirlwind and his family came over for dinner and we were able to have our own little goodbye dinner with them. They are a great family and will be missed once they leave.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back in the Office - (Germany) Day 253

This morning I woke up after a pretty crappy night's sleep. I was thinking too much about having to go back in the office again. I may have complained about school the last two weeks (mainly because it was boring, gave me more training in a job I did not sign up for, and it made me not only miss my trip I had planned to England with non-refundable tickets, but it also made me miss my required motorcycle course in order for me to get my license to ride here in Europe.  I also just checked today and there are no more classes available for the rest of the year, so it looks like I'm waiting until spring of next year), but at least I was not in the office every day.

PT this morning was our entire battalion. We've never done this before and we all had to form up at Campbell Barracks, where I work. We formed up and did PT on the parade field, which is full of red dirt and little rocks. Fun stuff to have to lay in, roll around in and do general PT in. (That was me being sarcastic). Those of us with profiles had to stay in formation for this special event and just do what we could, and do alternative exercises of our choosing for those that would break our profile. (for example if the exercise was sit-ups, I would just stand there and raise my knees one at a time) I did as much as possible and I'm sure I'll be feeling it later, because I haven't worked out at all in two weeks! With my head hurting the way it was, there was no way I was going to do anything these last two weeks. Hopefully things will go back to normal tomorrow and I'll head to the gym and do my own routine. I get a good workout while inside and listening to my music, instead of people screaming and showing off in front of the command sergeant major…give me a break.

Work started at 0900 as usual and when I came into the office I saw that some things had changed. Our side of the office shrunk and we lost a computer to the other side. There already wasn't enough computers to start with, now we're down one more. So if we aren't one of the lucky ones to get a computer at the moment, we can sit in a chair and look at the wall…retarded!

I spent the morning (after I had a chance to get on a computer) going through my email and then finalizing my DTS information to send up. This is all the information that is supposed to get me paid for my TDY going to class the last two weeks. It's not a lot, but we'll see if it ever happens to come…I'm not holding my breath.

I went to lunch in my car as usual, listened to music and played "Plants vs Zombies" on my iPhone (forgot my iPad with my books on it). After that I headed back to the office and had to change the combination to all our safes in the vault. SPC Whirlwind is leaving this Sunday and anytime someone leaves, all the combinations have to be changed.

I then tried to start the process with DTS for my next trip. I'm going to the next class "Intel-35" next week. I also made some appointments this week while I'm here. The day went by pretty quick and I'm glad. It all came rushing back to me why I just can't stand being in the office. I'm actually looking forward to going to this next class. I'll be out for another two weeks and I've been told this class is a lot more hands on with no homework. Also SGT Mex may be coming with me, which will be nice. We just have to wait and see if he passes his weight test. He can't go to any schools while he's overweight. Hopefully we find out soon, and he'll be able to come. It will be nice to have someone I know there with me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (4-Day) - (Germany) Day 249 - 252

A view of from the Wasserturm (Water Tower) in Mannheim.

Friday: Even though today starts the four day weekend for everyone else, I'm still stuck here for this class. I started the day a little different than usual, I had to get ready and pack everything up before leaving to have breakfast. I headed over and checked out first, leaving my bags at the hotel desk. I then had breakfast, then made my way over to our classroom.

Today is test day…we had 3 hours and 15 minutes to finish the test. I took my time and skipped any questions I didn't know the answer to. There were a total of 50 questions. After I finished, I went back and looked up each of the questions I skipped, and the ones I wasn't too sure about. I finished with plenty of time left. I waited for the instructor to grade my paper and found out I got a 94%. Not too bad for a class I had no interest in and no desire to take.

I headed over to the hotel and changed into civilian clothes after getting my bags. We were required to take the test in ACUs. I only had to wait about 5 minutes or so before my boss arrived to pick me up. We went to lunch at a restaurant off post called the "Tea Garden". Probably the best Chinese food I've had here in Germany. We then went to the PX before heading back home. When all was said and done I made it home about 1700. I just hung out with my wife and relaxed for the night. We were both a little bummed because we should have been in England at this moment, and we lost out on the tickets we purchased because of this class.

Saturday: Today we just relaxed and took it easy. We slept in and after a while decided to head out to downtown Heidelberg for a bite to eat. We walked around until we decided on a Mexican restaurant. After we finished we headed back to post and went to the theatre to watch the movie "Brave". My wife had been wanting to see it for a while and we lucked out with it playing here again. It was a cute film.

Sunday: Today was a day of sleeping in of course…then cleaning. Laundry and cleaning the house was the theme of the day. We then watched some TV shows and relaxed the rest of the night. Not a whole lot to say about today.

Monday: We decided to head out and check out the downtown area of Mannheim today. We had been there before for movies, but I read that there is a large pedestrian zone with a lot of shopping and restaurants to check out. We walked around checking out the sites, but by the time we decided to eat, we were starving and the only place close by was a McDonalds….LOL. So we ended up eating there and then continue our site seeing adventure. There is a lot to see and we could probably spend another day there just checking out the shops and restaurants…but next time we'll eat at an actual restaurant or cafe. The "Wasserturm" is a pretty cool attraction with fountains, statues and nice grounds surrounding it.

We headed home and took it easy for the rest of the day. We watched "Battleship" a movie about aliens invading from space…a fun sci-fi movie. I'm really not looking forward to heading into work tomorrow….Uggghhh.

This whole four day weekend didn't turn out exactly as originally planned, instead of going to England we just took it easy and relaxed for the most part. Nothing too exciting to report.