Friday, December 28, 2012

Finally Friday - (Germany) Day 367

This morning I headed into the office…and guess what I did? The exact same thing I've done this entire week! With the chaplain gone, I've just been hanging out on my own. I don't even know if my office or command even realizes that he's gone…and I'm not going to bring it up. I'll just keep doing what I was told, and that was to assist the chaplain…and the chaplain told me to work here until noon and then take off the rest of the day. So I got in my office and read. I finished book 3 of the Game of Thrones series. I decided to take a little break and start reading a new book I downloaded called "No Easy Day". It's about seal team 6, the team that killed Osama Bin Laden. So far it's a pretty interesting book, documenting what it's like to be not only a seal, but an elite seal which is what team 6 is composed of. The book was actually on the news because of the controversy suggesting it violates OpSec. Funny because that is what they are trying to say my blog has done as well.

I'm also reading the magazine "MacLife". I decided to subscribe to the digital version via Newsstand on my iPad. I used to get the print version a few years ago, but now I figured I'd try out this new version. I've read my text books and other books on my iPad, why not a magazine? I also am trying to do my best to keep up with technology and I figured the magazine subscription wouldn't hurt.

So reading and yes a little bit of cleaning in the office. For today's task I decided to sweep a small 2 square foot area in the corner that the janitor misses when she comes in with the vacuum. It had been accumulating a small amount of trash for some time. That was my work for the day…then my wife came and picked me up a little before noon. Now barring any last minute staff duty shifts or anything, I'm off for another 4-day weekend!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

One Year Down - (Germany) Day 366

Today was almost exactly the same as yesterday. Get to work, read a little in the conference room until the contractor comes in and I'm able to get the key to my office. I then go in my office, read some more, do a little cleaning (the bookshelf today), then take off for the day at lunch time.

On another note I've completed an entire year here in Germany. As I look back and reflect on this year I'm appreciative of being in Germany, but very disappointed with the unit I ended up in and the work I have ended up doing. Back before I came, I was very excited to be in an actual signal unit. I figured everything I did would be related to computers and networks…everything I signed up to do in the army. I was also excited for the chance to be able to travel and explore Europe with my wife.

I arrived and was immediately surprised at how unorganized everything was. I remember spending days during in-processing wondering what I was supposed to be doing. Finally I started my job only to be transferred to the ComSec vault after about 5 minutes of training. Finding out exactly what ComSec involved was pretty disappointing. Here I was ready to do something with computers or networks and I find out that I'm basically going to be a librarian checking out encryption keys and making sure people sign on the correct line. What a joke that this is considered a 25B job. In fact you don't even need a computer to do the job. On top of that I couldn't believe all the stupid stuff we had to do all the time. The training is crap, it seems that instead of people, we are just numbers. The people in charge just want to make sure the box is checked so they can call it good. I feel in the year I've spent here, I have become stupider…if that is a word. In I.T. it seems the technology is always changing, since I don't do my job anymore I feel I'm not keeping pace with everything. Instead of expanding my technological knowledge…I've been falling behind.

On the bright side, my wife and I have been able to see some pretty incredible places. We have also met some awesome people. The people I work with have been really great for the most part and I have no complaints with them…just the "upper management". I've been able to visit old friends I made back when I was an exchange student over 20 years ago. I have no complaints except I wish I had more money so we could go and see more.

I've ended up on what seems like an endless temporary profile. Everything the army has checked or tried to do to help, has done little to help with my pain. I have headaches ranging from very minor to very extreme on an almost daily basis. My knee has a dull pain that never goes away and feels swollen most of the time.

Finally the whole issue with my blog going public has been very troublesome. I've been alienated from everyone. I've been yelled at and treated like crap from the command. I am now in limbo working as the chaplain's assistant, reporting to him and my old boss as well. Sometimes I'm not sure who to tell what. I also don't hear a lot of what's going on, where to report, what I need to do…if I do it seems as though it's last minute. I've come to the point where I have passed the point of caring. I could care less what they decide to do with me. I can't make any plans until I hear something, so everyday my wife and I are wondering what is going to happen. It's put a lot of stress on both of us.

As of now, I have no clue how long I'll be here in Germany. I'd like to stay longer so we can see more. I'd love to visit Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, and much more. I also wouldn't mind just getting out, I can't imagine 2 more years like the last month. Heidelberg is closing later next year, so whatever happens we will not be staying here. I will have to just wait…wait…..wait…and then see what happens. Hopefully my next year will be better than this one.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On My Own - (Germany) Day 365

Back to work today. The chaplain is on leave this week, so it's just me in my office. It's also a half day work day schedule for the week. There are a lot of people that are complaining because usually the half day schedule starts a week earlier, but I guess I'll take what I can get. We didn't get a half day schedule at all while I was in Korea. I ended up just sitting in the conference room from 0800 to 1000 because the civilian who has my office key didn't come in until then. No problem though, I was able to read quite a bit.

When I was able to get into my office I was able to make an appointment with my regular doctor. This will be a follow-up and to extend my profile. I have that appointment next week, then another with pain management the following week. In early February I will follow-up with my neurologist and if there is no improvement she said we will talk about starting the medboard process.

I then cleaned up the office a bit, the office isn't too big and I've been doing it in sections. Today was the corner and the window. It didn't take too long, then I settled in and kept reading my book. Nobody has contacted me from the ComSec office letting me know if we are doing PT or not. I don't really care, the chaplain told me to work until noon and then I'm off. I'm taking that as I'm heading home at noon and not coming back. If my platoon wants me to do PT, they'll have to let me know. I've heard a lot of complaining about the staff duty schedule for next month. I guess our company is getting quite a few days, so I wouldn't be surprised if I end up having to work a few weekends. I guess I'll see when they decide to let me know what days I am on the roster. I just hope they tell me my schedule before the day I need to show up.

When I got off work I headed home and ate lunch. I then picked up my wife from work and we headed to a post called Spinelli Barracks in Mannheim. We needed the air pressure in our tires checked and the tires rotated. The closest place that does it is located about 20 minutes away at another post. It's a little different trying to get your car worked on here in Germany. I'm sure there are places out on the economy that you can get stuff done, but it will be more expensive in euros and there is also the language barrier. So we have limited options here. We found the place pretty easy and we were able to get everything done…and we don't have our annoying little warning light on anymore!

It was nice getting home pretty early, my wife and I had a lot of time to hang out and enjoy each other's company. Half days are an easy way to ease my way back into work mode after Christmas break :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (Christmas 4-Day) - (Germany) Day 361 - 364

At the Stuttgart Christmas Market

Saturday: We took it easy in the morning as we got ready for the day. We headed to the main train station along with SPC Mac and his wife. We wanted to do something a little different this weekend, so we decided to check out the Christmas Market in Stuttgart via a train. We always hear how easy it is to use a train and we thought it would also be nice not having to drive and search for parking. It would also be nice to just sit back and relax.

We arrived at the train station and headed to one of the self service kiosks. We switched the language to English and proceeded to check out our options. We chose a group ticket that allows us to travel all the public forms of transportation in the state of Baden-Württemberg (the state we live in and includes Stuttgart). The cost was only 34 Euro for all of us and was good for the entire day. We boarded the next train and did exactly as planned…sat back and relaxed as we made our way from stop to stop until we arrived in Stuttgart.

The main train station in Stuttgart is located basically across the street from downtown, so we only had to take the correct exit out of the station and we were there…this did however take two tries as we left the first time out of the wrong exit and didn't quite know where we were. The Christmas market was amazing. This market seemed to go on forever and had everything from ice skating to rides for the kids. Of course it also had every type of vendor you can imagine. It seemed every corner we turned, the market just kept going and going. This would be one we may have wanted to start a little earlier in order to see the entire thing. We did our best and enjoyed some tasty food while shopping and people watching. There were also a number of street performers all over which added to the atmosphere of the whole market. Everyone really enjoyed themselves.

We headed back to the train station and saw it was about an hour before the next train to Heidelberg, so we sat in one of the cafes and had a drink. When our train finally arrived we boarded and took off shortly after. In Germany a lot of the public transit is based on the honor system. You purchase a ticket and then get on, but rarely does a person come by to check it. This train happened to have a ticket checker, and we found out why shortly after he came to us. The train we chose was an express non-stop train straight to Heidelberg…and the ticket we purchased was good for everything except the express trains. The guy gave us a break and only charged the four of us for 2 tickets since we had purchased the group ticket earlier. We had to pay another 52 euro, but on the bright side the train only took about 40 minutes instead of the hour and a half…or more that the slower train takes. We paid, we relaxed, and learned a lesson in the German train system.

Sunday: Sunday as usual was a day of rest…and cleaning. We hung out in the house and either watched TV shows, or cleaned up. We decided to go see "The Hobbit" which was playing on post. The show was long …almost 3 hours. If you like The Lord of the Rings series, you'll like The Hobbit. Not much else went on…a pretty laid back day.

Monday: Today…Christmas Eve, I had the privilege to do staff duty. This meant that I had to get up and get ready for a 24 hour shift starting at 0800. Staff duty has to be one of the stupidest things we have to do here. Other units issue a cell phone to someone for emergency calls which serves as their staff duty, but not us. Instead of using common sense, we need two people to sit at desks the entire time. Luckily I was working with SGT Mex. After chatting for almost the entire morning, he released me for my lunch break. I left at 1130 and he told me to come back at 1500. My dinner break was from 1700 to 2200, so I'm not going to complain too much. I was able to spend quite a bit of time with my wife on Christmas Eve. He's single, so he didn't mind hanging out while I was away.

We both stayed up for most of the night, although micro naps were a common event for both of us. I read a lot, listened to music and played Plants vs Zombies to pass the time…no movies this time because a lot of the time was spent either at home or chatting with SGT Mex.

Tuesday: I spent Christmas morning of course at staff duty, but our replacements came on time. I headed home right at 0800 and after kissing my wife, promptly headed to bed for a nap. I feel bad for the guys that had to pull the Christmas day shift…it just sucks that this is one of those things the command will not budge on.

I woke up about 1400 and hung out with my wife. We opened our presents that were sent from our family and the presents we got each other. This was a strange Christmas, and I can't say that I enjoyed it too much. I love that my wife was here, but it was tough not being with both of our families for the holidays. We have a lot of family traditions that I missed out on. I'm very thankful for Skype, as we were able to video chat with both of our families while everyone opened presents…but that is just not the same. I miss my family…I miss home.

Downtown as we were getting ready to checkout the Stuttgart Christmas Market

More of the Christmas market

...and more of the Christmas market

Friday, December 21, 2012

Adventures with the UMT - (Germany) Day 360

Inside the Church of the Holy Ghost

This morning I met up with the chaplain before his formation at 0750 in civilian clothes. Yup…you heard that right…civilian clothes! Today we are having an event called "Adventures with the UMT" (Unit Ministry Team). It's basically a way to get out of the office and hang out with the chaplain and do something different. It's a great way to see people outside of work, in a different light and also meet their family as well.

There wasn't a lot of people who signed up, which I was surprised. In total there were 12 people, but it also made for a little more intimate setting. People could actually talk and get to know each other a little better. We walked from Campbell Barracks to a street train that took us into the heart of old town Heidelberg. From there we visited a statue of the bunson burner man (Robert Bunsen) who lived here in Heidelberg. We also talked about Heidelberg University (considered one of the best in all of Europe). We then headed to the church of the holy ghost. We had planned to climb up the bell tower and get some views of the city, but it was closed for some reason. Instead we stayed in the congregation area and listed to stories of daring escapes from communist east Berlin into west Berlin back when the wall was up. The theme of this event was personal courage.

We then all headed to a restaurant and ate lunch and then finally headed to the Christmas Market ice skating rink. Only three people participated in the ice skating, but that was fine…they had fun. On the way back to the street train we made a number of pitstops for folks to do a little shopping. I was able to talk quite a bit with a sergeant from our company who works in Mannheim. He had heard about the way I have been treated by the company and was pretty pissed. He has a lot of the same views I do and is upset by a lot of things here. It was good chatting with him and hearing his point of view on a variety of subjects.

We finally got back to Campbell Barracks at about 1600 and were released for the day by the chaplain. I headed home and hung out with my wife for a bit, then got a surprise call from our CAM saying we should all go out tonight. We ended up going to a karaoke bar downtown and it turned out to be a lot of fun. We had 3 other NCOs from the ComSec vault go and one NCO from S-1 show up. They all ended up buying me and my wife a lot of drinks. It was nice to hang out with everyone, we all ended up having a great time. We were responsible and caught a cab back to the base…after grabbing a bite to eat, and then turned in for the night. I can say for the first time in a while I actually enjoyed my entire day and just didn't feel numb while going through the motions throughout the day.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Swearing - (Germany) Day 359

Just a random photo I saw on Flickr showing just how big the
satellite dishes are at our company headquarters in Landstuhl
(I never took a photo myself worried that it might break OpSec rules) 
It's Thursday and no sergeant's time training…I can be thankful for at least that today! I headed into work and read for a while as usual, I guess I'm starting to get used to this "new" job of mine :) I spoke with the chaplain about 0900 and he asked me to get the TMP ready and topped off for our trip today. That gave me something to do for the morning I guess. I took the van over to Patton barracks (about 5 minutes away) where the TMP fueling point is and filled it up. All TMP vehicles can get "free" gas at this point. We just have to log in the odometer reading and log it in our log book.

After getting back, I read a little more and then headed out at 1000 for an early lunch. I headed home and watched a little more of the Ultimate Fighter. I got a call from SGT Mex asking what I had planned today. It turns out that if I wasn't taking the chaplain to Landstuhl, they were going to have me ride with our platoon sergeant up to Landstuhl anyway. I learned that I have to see our XO when I get up there…bummer, I had planned on just hanging out in the van and reading.

We ended up leaving about 1200 for the hour drive. The drive had a lot of conversation between me and the chaplain. We discussed everything from my current situation to world war II. When we arrived I headed into the XO's office not quite knowing what to expect. It turns out he wanted me to fill out a sworn statement. He had me write a few questions down and then answer them on a special form. The questions were like "did you receive OpSec training" and "did you commit opsec violations in your blog". There were a couple other similar questions. He told me I don't have to fill it out if I don't want to, or I can seek legal help first. I figured I would fill out the basics…yes I did have OpSec training at some point earlier this year, I don't know exactly when. No I didn't believe I committed any OpSec violations while writing my blog. I signed it and that was it. I left and went out to the van and waited for the chaplain to finish his thing.

We left a little earlier than his usual visits because he wanted to make sure and get back for some PT. On the way back I mentioned to him that I actually wouldn't mind working for him the rest of my time here. He said he would love to have me and hopes they can work something out. I guess I'll just wait and see what will happen. I do plan on going to JAG at some point during our short week next week. The chaplain said he'll be gone on leave next week, so it will be a good time to take care of any issues I need to.

We got back a little before 1600, so I changed and then texted my boss letting him know we're back and I'm heading to the gym. I eventually saw my boss in the gym and we chatted for a bit. I had a good workout on the weight machines…then took off for the day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Trip to Wiesbaden - (Germany) Day 358

This morning I headed to work and did the usual…read a book. The nice thing about my new office is that electronic devices are allowed. I bring in my iPad and either read my school textbook or Game of Thrones. I ended up taking an early lunch at about 1000 because the chaplain wanted me to drive him at 1130. I headed home and watched a little Ultimate Fighter, then stopped by my wife's work to drop off her phone that she forgot, then it was back to work.

This afternoon I drove the chaplain to Wiesbaden for some training he had to do. I brought my GPS, some snacks, and of course my iPad. Once we arrived, I stayed in the van and either read or played games on my iPhone to pass the time. We had a good talk on the drive there and back, he thanked me over and over again for driving him. I told him that it's no problem, I'd much rather be helping him out than just sitting in S1 doing nothing. It just sucks being in limbo not knowing what or when something is going to happen to me.

By the time we got back it was a little after 1700. I already let my boss know my schedule for the week, so he would know that I probably wouldn't be at PT in the afternoon. I sent him a text to let him know we made it back safe, then I headed home. Another day in my new army life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Training Day - (Germany) Day 357

This morning I headed into work and as what has started to become the norm…I sat in a conference room and read. I did this until lunch time and then headed to meet my wife for lunch at the shopping center food court. My boss happened to come in and ended up sitting with us to chat for a while. After lunch I headed back and read some more, until I got a call from my boss telling me I needed to call our company XO (executive officer). So after a few tries I finally get through to him and he asks me if I've completed certain training (opsec training and social media training). I tell him that I'm not sure…I've done all kinds of training and can't remember specific ones. He then tells me he's going to email me a link so I can check…I remind him that he's going to have to email it to my personal account because I'm not allowed on any computers here. He then tells me to go use the library computers and if I haven't done the training to go ahead and finish it.

So I head off to the library, which is actually on PHV. I log in and find that one of them I did 2 years ago, and the other has no record. I do them both and get certificates printed out. By this time it's a little after 1600, so I head back to my house to scan the certificates and email them to him. I can't make it to PT, but I find out that nobody else did either because there was a company Christmas party today that everyone had to go to in Landstuhl. I read my email and the XO replied back (after I already started the training) telling me to go ahead and do it tomorrow so I can attend the party. LOL…I didn't even hear about the party, and I don't think I was invited anyway. There is no way I want to spend any more time than I have to with our first sergeant who already hates me.

All of this crazy stuff that has happened to me has really altered my mood. I don't sleep very well, I am alienated from everyone I used to work with, I feel like crap every day, and I don't do much of anything at work each day. One part of me wants to just get this all over with, I don't care what happens…the other part wants me to go to JAG and make sure I keep all my rights. Honestly I've tried calling JAG quite a few times, but nobody ever answers the phone. I just keep plugging though each day knowing that it's one day closer to getting out. I really hate my life right now…I hate being depressed. Christmas is usually a really fun time of year, but not this year. Hell…my wife actually bought all her own presents and wrapped them so they're under the tree. I just can't get into the spirit…it's all I can do to get up and get ready for work each day. I can hardly bring myself to smile anymore. I am glad my wife is here with me or else I'd be in a deeper depression. I hate feeling like this, but it seems there is nothing that changes it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reading Time - (Germany) Day 356

This morning I headed into work and after I arrived I found out that the lady who has the key to my office is gone. The chaplain wasn't in yet, so I headed to a small conference room and started reading my school textbook. I might as well get a little schoolwork done while I'm waiting. Well this went on (with some small breaks to play some games on my iPhone) until lunch. The chaplain never came in and I ended up doing nothing.

I went home for lunch and then headed back and did a little more of the same as before, I had finished my chapter for school, so the reading I did in the afternoon was just my entertainment reading (Game of Thrones…book 3). At some point the chaplain did come in, he said he had a meeting in the morning and has physical therapy shortly. He told me to just keep reading until PT since I couldn't get in my office. I spent the rest of the afternoon doing just that…reading until it was time to head to PT. It feels very strange, I have no idea what's going on with my future here or in the army. I hear there is going to be a town hall style meeting on Friday letting everyone know where they are going, but I don't even know if I'm going to the meeting or not. I don't hear anything anymore. When I went to PT I just started doing my cardio on the stationary bike. Usually I wander around for a while looking to see if we are having a formation, but it seems that half the time we do and half the time we don't with this new schedule. So I guess I'm going to stop worrying about it until someone says something. As I was riding I saw one of the sergeant's from the ComSec office come in, I waved and he acknowledged me…so I guess that's good enough.

My boss eventually came in and talked to me for a little. He asked if I had heard anything about going to Landstuhl tomorrow. I said no, I haven't heard anything yet. He said he overheard people talking about it…I guess if it does happen, I'll hear about it last minute…typical.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 353 to 355

The Mannheim Christmas Market at night

Friday: I found out late yesterday (during PT) that today was actually a last minute training holiday. Surprise…everyone has the day off! This actually worked out very well. I don't mention my headaches all the time because they are pretty much a constant in some form or another, but yesterday my head just kept getting worse and worse all day long and I ended up waking up with an extreme headache in the morning. So being able to just relax and lay around for a better part of the day was just what I needed.

I didn't do a whole lot for most of the day and my headache did get better as the day went on, in fact by the time I picked up my wife from work, I was back in a functional state. All in all I didn't do much, so not a whole lot to talk about.

Saturday: We slept in this morning and had a lazy morning just kind of lounging around for the better part of the afternoon. At about 1400 we started to get ready and then headed out to the Mannheim Christmas Market with SPC Mac and his wife. Similar to the other Christmas markets we've been to, there were a lot of vendors, photos with a skinny Santa, and some small rides for the children. We hung out, checked out the vendors, and ate dinner from one of the many food vendors.

We then parted ways with SPC Mac and his wife and headed towards the SAP Arena in Mannheim. My wife bought me tickets to probably the best German rock band of all time…Die Toten Hosen. This band has been extremely popular in Germany since the early 80's. They are still making great music and it's being played on the German pop stations. Not surprisingly the crowd in the arena ranged from young teenagers all the way to some old folks. I've been waiting over 20 years to see this band in concert (since I came to Germany many years ago and fell in love with their music). They put on a great, energetic show and even my wife enjoyed herself…even though she hadn't heard of them until recently. I had a great time…a great early Christmas present that I'll remember forever.

Sunday: Today was our usual Sunday day…lots of cleaning and laundry, then some TV shows. We also watched "The Campaign" which turned out to be a pretty funny movie. I had seen it before, but my wife has been waiting to see it for a while. We also chatted with members from both our families, so nice to see everyone…but of course it makes it tough because we both miss everyone a lot. I hope now more than ever that I will end up just getting a medboard and sent back to Ft. Lewis which is only a half hour from my hometown. Not a lot else went on…a pretty mellow day.

Getting ready to cross the street and check out the Mannheim Christmas Market
Die Toten Hosen Live in concert!

Die Toten Hosen Live in concert...what a blast!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More of that Sergeant's Time Training - (Germany) Day 352

This morning everyone had to meet at the bowling alley parking lot at 0630 in the morning to head out for training. We weren't told much at all about the training, even if it was inside or outside…only that we had to bring full battle rattle. I can't wear mine and I've let PFC Ski borrow it because he hasn't been issued his yet. I did dress for the weather though, with what we call our "ninja suit" on underneath my uniform. It's kind of like army issued long johns and help keep you warm. I also wore my polar fleece and brought along a snack…always good to be prepared.

After arriving at the bowling alley we found out that we were going to Mannheim, we took a TMP and a few people's cars. SPC Mac and I hitched a ride with SGT Mex. We were the group of misfits I guess. SGT Mex is getting chaptered out for being overweight, SPC Mac is getting medboarded, and me…who knows what's going on with me.

We arrived in Mannheim and ate breakfast at the DFAC before starting training. The training took place in a conference room, so all the full battle rattle gear that everyone had to bring sat in a pile in the corner of the room. Why did everyone have to bring their gear…who knows? We sat through a lot of PowerPoints on everything from modern warfare to escalation of force all so a box could be checked off stating that yes…we've done this training that has nothing to do with our current jobs or environment. My point of view has not changed with our army training…a complete waste of time and resources.

I was lucky enough to be able to leave at lunch time with SGT Mex. He had an ACAP appointment that he had to get back for, and the chaplain mentioned he may need a ride to Landstuhl so I had to be back as well. After eating lunch, I headed to my office only to find the entire building locked. I sat in my car and did some schoolwork while I waited. I finally saw someone unlock the doors and head in, so I followed. The sergeant there said the chaplain should be back any minute…so I waited in the conference room either reading or playing games on my phone to pass the time. 1430 came and went…the time the chaplain said he wanted to go, with no sign of him. I waited until about 1530 doing the same thing and then headed over to do PT.

I met up with the rest of my platoon in the gym and found out that we have a day off tomorrow! That's great news…a nice surprise for once! My boss also talked with me for a bit wondering if I've heard anything about my investigation….not a thing. We talked for a bit, then I finished my workout and headed out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Little Bit of This & That - (Germany) Day 351

This morning I headed into my office as usual and spent the first half hour reading. I then did some more cleaning of the office, I have to keep remembering to pace myself. I then found a drawer full of old paperwork from the previous chaplain's assistant. I laugh every time I see a commercial on AFN about identity theft, the army puts your social security number on practically everything. I spent a good amount of time shredding.

I headed home for lunch and then headed to the post office yet again to mail off more presents. When I got back to work I realized I didn't bring any of my PT clothes…D'oh! I had to drive back and get everything. Luckily the chaplain had meetings the rest of the day and just told me to keep doing what I'm doing, so it was no big deal. I spent the rest of the day reading some more until it was time to get ready for PT. Everyone did resistance band PT, while I headed to the gym and ended up having an awesome workout on the weight machines. I'm already sore all over and the night's not over.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Surprise Garbage Duty - (Germany) Day 350

This morning I headed into my office as usual, I spent the first half hour just doing schoolwork (reading my textbook). I figured it's a great way to start the morning, drink some coffee and get some reading out of the way. The chaplain doesn't come in until about 0830 or so…so I have a little time to kill. At about 0830 I got a call from SGT Mex and was told that I have to do AIC detail. AIC detail is basically post cleanup…a.k.a sanitation engineer…a.k.a. garbage man. It doesn't surprise me that I was picked to do it, but I was surprised that they told me so late in the morning.

I quickly left and headed home, then promptly changed into an old worn out uniform and my old boots. I arrived at the AIC office here on PHV and along with another guy, we were told that along with the normal cleanup we needed to get some furniture out that someone put in a dumpster. We headed out and I knew something was up with this guy because he was a PV2 (E-2), but looked older. I found out that he got into some trouble about a year ago and has been basically sitting at a desk doing nothing everyday. He volunteered to do the AIC detail everyday in order to give him something to do. He was an MP and while out drinking a buddy of his beat up a German, putting him in the hospital. Even though the guy wasn't actually involved in the fight, he didn't stop it, so he went from a specialist (E-4) to a PV2 (E-2). He is barred from reenlistment, which means that he can't gain his rank back…he's stuck at a PV2 until he gets out. All from an unfortunate night out drinking. His buddy that actually did the fighting is in jail…I think he said for 5 years!

So we checked all the garbage cans around post and picked up any large items people left out. We then headed to Patton Barracks and checked their garbage as well. We found the dumpster in question and were able to get two large recliners out of the dumpster. This required me to jump in and help push them out to him. Luckily there wasn't much else in the dumpster. We finished off the day by checking the garbage at the shopping center and then taking it all to the recycling center on PHV.

We were done by lunch and I was released for the day. I met my wife for lunch and then headed home and finished my reading for school. I took a little nap, and then the phone rang. Unfortunately I have the only key to my office…and they need to do an inventory check of the computer and printer in there. I had to drive in and bring the key to them…from now on I'll just pick it up in the morning and drop it off each night before I leave…no more surprise phone calls. I had come in my workout clothes, so I just hung out a bit in the office and then headed over to the gym. I was told today is cardio day, so I rode the stationary bike once again and did a little core work on the machines before leaving. I like having this PT schedule after work because we get a longer time in the gym and I feel like I get a better workout. I also get to sleep in a little…I hope we keep it this way!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Day of Appointments - (Germany) Day 349

You see some strange things on the road here sometimes...if you don't see it right away, 
look a little closer at the model of this car.

Yes it's Monday again, and even though I'm in a better place now, I still have that feeling that I just don't want to go to work today…it's Monday. I'm not going to complain about my "new" position, but just like all the rest I've done in the army, it's not the job I signed up for. Oh well…such is life. I went into my office and after settling in, I headed over to the ComSec office to grab some cleaning supplies. I then started cleaning my office.

I had to leave at 0930 for an appointment. I called the appointment line and scheduled this "Fit For Duty Exam" and when I arrived, I found that they had scheduled me a visit with the dietician. I guess "Fit For Duty" is relative and they thought I was on the overweight program. I'll have to get some clarification from my boss to see what this exam I need is actually called. The dietician was really nice and asked if I had any questions while I was there, I asked what her thoughts on multivitamins were…she like my physical therapist doesn't think they are needed and that one should try and get all their needed vitamins from the food you eat.

So I left there and headed home for a quick lunch before heading out to Landstuhl for my next appointment. The drive is a little over an hour and I took my own car, I don't want to hassle with trying to get a TMP. The appointment in Landstuhl was with my neurologist. She asked how everything was going, I told her that the shots didn't really help and that I still feel pretty much the same. I will now have to make an appointment with "pain management". I guess they will try a few things and in a couple months I will see my neurologist again to go over how the treatments go. If I don't see any improvement she said we'll talk about whether I should stay in or get out. To me that is really a no brainer…I want out. I have degenerative disks and a bum knee. I don't think just making the pain go away is the answer. No pain would be good, but it would then mean I would be doing more to make myself worse in the long run. If they can't fix the problem, I don't want to do anything to make it any worse than it is.

By the time I got back from Landstuhl I had a few minutes to change and then head to PT at 1600. Everyone headed to the gym and did their own workout, some were going to play basketball after about 30 minutes or so, aarrrggg…I wish I wasn't old and broke, but unfortunately I think my days of ever playing basketball again are over.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 347 & 348

A view from the Frankfurt Christmas Market

Saturday: This morning after getting ready we headed to the post office once again to mail out some Christmas packages. We then headed off to Frankfurt to check out their Christmas Market. As I mentioned yesterday, each town has their own Christmas Market and we basically just picked a city and left.

It was pretty cold, so I'm glad we headed out and spent the day there instead of going at night. We walked around and checked out all the vendors. The setup was huge, it just kept going and going with vendors everywhere we looked. We not only checked out the vendors and ate our lunch there, my wife also had to check out some of the traditional stores in the mall. It was a good day, it was nice to get out of the house and spend time in the big city.

Sunday: Today was a day of rest…if you don't count the shopping trip we made to the commissary, we seemed to be out of everything. Usually we use the self checkout because it's easy and you don't have to spend extra money tipping the baggers. Today was not one of those days, we had so much it was just easier to have a bagger give us a hand. Other than that we just sat inside, cleaned, cut my hair, and watched TV shows and the snow come down outside. It was a nice day of just hanging out with my wife.
There is always plenty of good food at the Christmas Markets!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Snow - (Germany) Day 346

The Heidelberg castle all lit up above the Christmas Market

This morning I headed into my office and the chaplain didn't come in for a while. He had some appointments first thing in the morning. I basically just did some schoolwork and then played Plants Vs. Zombies on my iPhone until he came in. We talked a little about the plan for next week. I headed home for lunch and headed to the post office to mail off some presents to family back home.

Back in my office I spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out, not much to do at all today. I headed to my car at 1530 and grabbed my PT gear, then changed into everything in my office. Not too long after that the chaplain came in and said my boss just called and said we were released for the day because of the snow conditions. There has been a light snow all day and they wanted to get everyone home sooner rather than later just to be safe.

I picked up my wife and headed home, we then changed into warm clothes and headed down to the Heidelberg Christmas Market. Christmas is a pretty big deal in Germany and it seems every town has a Christmas Market with a number of vendors selling gifts and food. Glühwein is a specialty that you'll see served at a number of the booths. This is a hot wine that will warm you up on the cold December days and nights. At first I thought hot wine might be nasty, but after giving it a try it turned out to be pretty tasty. The Heidelberg Christmas Market not only has all the vendors, but also has a merry-go-round and an ice skating rink setup.

Walking down the street towards the Heidelberg Christmas Market

Thursday, December 6, 2012

God is My Co-Pilot - (Germany) Day 345

This morning I dropped my wife off at work and then headed into my office. I sat in there and looked around for a bit, picked up some of the larger items of trash on the floor and found a 73rd Signal coin…hmmm I guess the guy in here (the old chaplain's assistant PCS'd and because this base is closing, they did not replace his position) before didn't want the garbage it goes. I didn't do much of anything until the chaplain came in a little before 0900. We chatted for a bit, then he decided to check on the weather. We had planned to drive to Landstuhl today, but I keep hearing it's going to snow. We found out there is going to be some snow flurries, so to play it safe the chaplain wants to leave at 1130 so we can head back before it gets too late. This means he wants me to go get the TMP at 1100 to make sure everything is good to go and we can leave by 1130. This also means that I have to take lunch early…so I took off and headed home for lunch. I was still finishing my coffee while eating some left over lasagna.

I picked up the TMP, a large cargo van was the only thing they had left. So here I come to pick up the chaplain in a large yellow cargo This also meant that when we arrived at both places we went, that we had to get out and let the guards search it with their dogs….D'oh! I just waited in the van at both places and either read my textbook, or played Plants vs. Zombies (I'm addicted). There was no way I wanted to be seen by our first sergeant or commander…I just don't feel like getting yelled at today. We ended up staying in Landstuhl until almost 1700, the plan was to be back at around 1500…so we were a little over. I guess there were a lot of people he needed to speak with. There were indeed snow flurries and at one point while I was waiting in the van I started to get a little worried…the snow started to come down pretty hard. No worries though, by the time the chaplain came out everything had stopped and the roads were fine. After dropping the chaplain off, returning the TMP, and driving home it was about 1830.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another Day in the Office - (Germany) Day 344

Started work today again as the chaplain's assistant. The chaplain is a little eccentric, but is a very nice guy. I want to do all I can to help him, but I also have to keep in mind that I have to pace myself. So I slowly finished up the inventory of the books and magazines until about lunch time. I then shut my office door, yes the chaplain's assistant has his own office! I ate my lunch and then laid out on the floor and took a nap!

On a side note with this base shutting down, sometimes people look past the local nationals (Germans who are employed by the base). When the base closes all of these people will be out of a job and a lot of them have worked here for years. The local nationals who work in the building that I'm currently in with the chaplain have started to bring in breakfast and eating together in the morning. They have worked together for years and now have to start preparing to say goodbye to each other and their jobs. A traditional German breakfast is more like bread and slices of meat, than our breakfast of cereal or bacon and eggs. I feel for them because they all seem pretty sad that this will all be coming to an end soon.

After lunch the chaplain had me head over to another building that has a food donation box to see if there was anything to pick up. There was nothing to pick up, but it was nice to get out and stretch my legs a bit. I then headed back to the office and had to do some mandatory training. I'm not allowed on any of the computers at the moment, until my investigation is finished. So the chaplain had to print out the PowerPoint presentation for me to read. I read it and then called back to my boss letting him know I finished it.

I spent the rest of the afternoon picking up around the office. Any paper that looked like it had anything important on it was shredded. I checked the drawers and such, but there really wasn't a lot to do. I'm going to wait until tomorrow to actually start cleaning up everything, that should keep me busy for a while.

I headed over to the gym for 1600 PT. The normal folks worked with resistance bands, those of us on profile headed to the machines and worked out. I actually had an awesome workout with the weight machines…I guess I was getting out all my frustration. Another day over and still no closer to finding anything out.

Another side note with things that just drive me crazy about our unit. SPC Mac has just been told he will be medboarded and will be on profile until he gets out. With his profile he can't wear any gear of course. Our platoon in all it's wisdom wants him to miss an ACAP appointment he has tomorrow to attend some RF training. This is the training for those who have to pull special missions such as extra guards on the gate. This is always done with full battle rattle, so why even force SPC Mac to attend. He will never be able to actually be on this guard duty…the reason is simple, the platoon sergeant wants to make sure all his boxes are checked (everyone has attended the training) common sense be damned!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Chaplain's Assistant - (Germany) Day 343

I arrived at my new office at 0800 this morning to start my day off with the chaplain. I basically did the same thing I did yesterday and boxed up books. I'm taking it slow because I learned my lesson working too fast in S1. I had an appointment at the physical therapist to get my profile extended. He asked some questions and had me lay down while doing some massages on my neck. He extended my profile another month, I'll have to go back to my primary provider from now on because physical therapy has not been able to do anything to help out with my headaches.

I headed home for lunch and then back to my new office to box up some more books…it keeps me busy I guess. I changed for PT at about 1530 and headed over to the gym early. We are supposed to workout at 1600 with this new schedule, and I have to make sure I'm there 10 minutes early and all…I can't do anything wrong now with the spotlight on me. I arrived and walked around the gym without seeing anyone. I tried calling my boss…no answer. I hopped on a bicycle and started riding. Nobody every showed up! My boss called back about 45 minutes into my workout and said they were running late. They were going to work out at PHV, so he just told me to finish my workout and head home. I was starting to worry that I would get an FTR (Fail to Report) at a formation, because nobody told me anything had changed.

Another day down…only 1,082 days left…I just think I threw up a little in my mouth.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Picking Up the Wife - (Germany) Day 342

A sign at the gas station pump encouraging folks 
not to sweep off the snow from their cars

We started a new schedule today called something like "Reverse PT". With this new schedule the battalion will start work at 0800 and then at 1600 PT will be done, then leave for the day at 1700. The goal of the schedule is to give soldiers more family time at home. I think it's a great idea, I get to sleep in a little longer…we'll see how it all plays out.

I headed into S1 to start my day and did my usual thing…sit down and start reading my textbook. The CSM came in and was all pissed off. He told me to call my supervisor to come over and see him. I said "Roger", then he stopped and corrected me "Roger, Sergeant Major". Even though I've been in the army for over 2.5 years, it still does not come naturally to me to end every sentence with sir, sergeant or sergeant major. So I said "Roger, Sergeant Major…sorry". He must have thought I said something else, because he stopped again and asked "What did you say" in an accusing tone. I said it again "I said…Roger, Sergeant Major…sorry". I could tell today wasn't going to be a good day.

Our CAM ended up coming over and went in the CSM's office. When she came out she told the sergeant that I've been reporting to, that I'm not allowed to read anymore while I'm over in S1. They have to find "something" for me to be doing. The CSM then came out and called both our CAM and myself back in his office. I guess he was able to read a lot more of my blog that they printed off before I set it to private. It pissed him off to no end that I have been unhappy. In fact he was pissed off that from what he read, I didn't have anything positive to say…except that we left early some days. I had to stand there at parade rest and listen to him chew me out. Letting me know he could have me transferred to Afghanistan with just a phone call. I should be thankful for all the army has given me. He asked if I still wanted to be in the army and I think I surprised him when I said "joining the army was probably the biggest mistake of my life." Of course I would like out, but I'll serve my contract out until the end. I also told him that I'd be fine with going back and working in the ComSec office. He said he didn't believe me and then after a little more butt chewing, I left.

In S1 the sergeant I report to had me ride with a couple soldiers so they could take her car to get a warranty item fixed. I road in a van to the dealership with her following, then we gave her a ride back. It was basically just to get me out of the office because they didn't have anything for me to do. Once back I was told that I would be moving to help out the chaplain. I was actually pretty excited about this, I will be in a totally different building and maybe I'll be able to do something helpful. I was also told that I have to get a "fit for duty" exam because I've been on profile for so long. I'm not exactly sure what this is, but hey…perhaps they will just kick me out sooner rather than later. I can only hope that this is the beginning of the end.

I headed over to the chaplain and was asked to inventory all the books they have. I started the job and left at lunch time. I let the chaplain know I'd be gone for the rest of the day, I have to pick up my wife from the airport. I ate lunch at home, then slowly drove to the airport. It was snowing, but I gave myself plenty of time to get there. Picked up my wife and her late flight, but all is well…I now have my wife back, at least I'll have her home at night now. Later on in the evening, I got a call from our CAM just checking in on me and making sure I'm doing OK. For everything bad that is going on with me and the army, the one shining spot are all the NCOs in my office that I work with. They all have been very supportive and very…very awesome.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 340 & 341

A view out our window of the new snow
Saturday: Kind of a lonely weekend for me without my wife here. I just cleaned up the house and did laundry all morning, video chatted with my wife and then watched TV until the evening. I met up with SPC Mac at about 1930 and we headed to the bowling alley here on PHV. We had a few beers, played darts, some pool and then watched the SEC football championships…all the typical bar stuff. It was cool to just get out and do something and try to forget about all the drama that has been going on in my life lately. There ended up being a couple others from our platoon there and we all had a good time just hanging out. The game turned out to be pretty good and I didn't have to worry about drinking and driving because we walked there…a good night.

Sunday: A pretty relaxed day, I didn't do much of anything except hang out and watched some basketball on TV. It snowed quite a bit…the first time this season. I try not to think about everything that is going on with the investigation and all, but it's hard not to dwell on it. I did have a chance to video chat with my wife for a bit, it will be nice having her back tomorrow.