Thursday, January 31, 2013

False Start - (Germany) Day 400

This morning I headed into my office and tried logging onto the computer for the first time since they suspended my account. I was told that my account has been reactivated, but when I tried to log on…it didn't work. It seems the computer that is in my office has not been turned on in so long that the domain admins took it off the domain for security purposes. Now I have to wait for who knows how long before they put it back on. I was wondering how many emails I was going to have…I guess I'll be wondering a while longer.

I started reading my school textbook for a bit and then got a call from my boss. There is more paperwork needed before they can start the process of getting me ready for the upcoming move when the base closes. I had to head to the transportation office and get a "cost estimate" memo to show how much it will cost to move all my crap. I then had to go to my house (because I have no workable computer) and fill out another form (4187) stating why I need to move…ummmm because the base is closing. I then attached all the paperwork together and emailed it to our S1 office. I headed back into my office and arrived at about 1030. The chaplain was there, so we went over everything that needs to be done this week and next week.

I headed to lunch at home (felt like I was just here) and had some leftover spicy spam fried rice…mmmm. When I headed back into the office I made some phone calls and ran some errands around post for the chaplain. I then finished my homework while I had the chance. At 1530 I get a call from the ComSec office telling me that I need to have all the required training done by tomorrow. I say my computer doesn't even work yet, but they say I have to do it all at home then. WTF? Everyone else got weeks to work on this while they were in the office. I've been able to do some on my home computer because I have my own CAC reader and installed all the necessary software, but I was only given certain hours to do it. This is total BS! I told the chaplain I had to go because I needed to start on this mandatory training. I didn't go to PT…I just picked up my wife and headed home. I started trying to do the training, but got frustrated and just stopped. I'll deal with whatever consequences they have for me. I don't give a crap! I haven't even had computer access since Thanksgiving holiday. They said anyone who doesn't finish the training has to come in and do it this Saturday…that's fine, I'll drag in another NCO and they can sit there and waste their time as well.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Day Away - (Germany) Day 399

This morning I headed out and met up with SGT Mex and another guy (PFC Ski) from the ComSec office at 0730. We headed out in a TMP to the Landstuhl hospital. PFC Ski had an appointment at 1000 and I had one at 1300. We did head out early which had us arrive early and PFC Ski was able to get his appointment all taken care of shortly after we arrived. We then headed over to Ramstein Air Base which is only about 15 minutes away. We decided to eat lunch at Chili's, but found out that it doesn't open until 1100…and it was only 1020. So we drove around the base and then finally just waited outside until they opened the doors. We had a great lunch. I was a little shocked to receive American style service by the waiter. Eating at restaurants here in Germany is quite a bit different than in the states. It is more of a social experience here in Germany and people tend to stay quite a bit longer. The staff at the restaurants take their time and usually only come to your table if you flag them down. I've found myself waiting trying to get a waiter's attention to pay my bill and leave. This was not the case at Chili's on the base, the waiter was there about every 5 minutes it seemed, just checking on us and refilling our drinks (something that costs each time at a local restaurant).

We then headed back to the hospital where I was going to my appointment. After checking in and going back, I found out that they can't do the procedure because I didn't actually have a headache today. What's ironic is that I've had a killer headache that has lasted the last three days, but just like when you take your car to the mechanic…it was fine today. They schedule about a month out…how am I supposed to know that I'm supposed to have a headache when coming in? I guess if I would have known, I would have done some running or sit-ups the night before. They did give me a special number to call and said that when I have a painful headache, I can give them a call and they can see if they can fit me in. The problem is that the place is an hour away, and I have to coordinate time off. So we left and headed back to Ramstein Air Base. We did some shopping and then headed to Baskin Robbins for some ice cream. Nobody was in a hurry to head back to work.

We did leave a little after 1500 and headed back. Even though I didn't get to actually do anything at my appointment, it was a good day. I had some good conversation with SGT Mex and had a good time hanging out with them both. SGT Mex is wondering why he's still here, they started the paperwork to chapter him out a long time ago. I think they are keeping him around to help while the base is closing, but we'll see. He's a little pissed off, but he's dealing with it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chaplain's Assistant and a Part Time Garbage Man - (Germany) Day 398

This morning I headed into my office and hung out as usual…reading from my iPad waiting until the chaplain came in. It was about 0930 when I was able to chat with him. We went over the schedule for the week and then I headed over to the ComSec office. I needed to ask my boss a few questions.

1. What is the plan for me to get to Landstuhl tomorrow…I need someone to drive me. Another guy has an appointment as well and SGT Mex is going to drive us in a TMP.

2. What is the February staff duty schedule…he gave me a copy and surprisingly I only have it one day that month…and it's not on a weekend. Wow!!

3. During AIC detail yesterday the supervisor told me that I was his for the rest of the time here. Turns out yes, they just forgot to tell me. So every Monday I'm a garbage man and the rest of the week I'm a chaplain's assistant. Just what I signed up to do in the army! I'm super glad I can put my 13 years of technical experience, my certifications, and the hard work in AIT to graduate at the top of the class…all so I don't actually work on computers.

4. Last question was asking if there was a town hall meeting today. The chaplain mentioned it and asked if I'd be going. Why yes there is a town hall meeting at 1300, make sure to be there 15 minutes early.

I headed over to the barber shop after that and got my head shaved. I usually have my wife shave my head, but she's not feeling well and it needed to be done. I headed back and informed the chaplain I'll be busy every Monday from now on and will not be in the office. At least I know ahead of time now and I can plan accordingly. I headed home for lunch and then headed over to the theatre on PHV to attend this town hall meeting. It seems in addition to me not caring about anything anymore, I can't seem to focus either. The meeting started off with the CSM and the brigade commander saying how great the 43rd is and then presented an award to the unit. Lots of posing for pictures, then they were on to the town hall business. I couldn't stay focused at all, I just stared up at the slides…but couldn't concentrate on the actual meeting. The brigade commander was talking about the closure of this base and the deactivation of our unit, but there were no hard facts or numbers. Instead it was all about feelings and stuff.

By the time he was finished and asked if there were any questions the room was silence…only crickets. Finally the CSM asked a question, then a civilian in the audience. When the town hall was finally over I really felt like I had wasted over an hour of my life…but it's the same as sitting in an office just reading my books, or cleaning up garbage…I don't really care. As I thought we were about to be released, the CSM told everyone they could go except the enlisted folks. We all had to gather around him, which is unfortunate at this moment because for the last 15 minutes or so I felt my bladder getting fuller and fuller…the need to pee was imminent and just as I thought I would be able to relieve myself , we get pulled into a semi-circle around the CSM. I guess there was a DUI this last weekend, so we had to all hear about the dangers of alcohol and driving. He said he was only going to be 10 minutes, but 30 minutes later we were finally released…I made a mad dash to the restroom. It's kind of funny, everyone who didn't get into trouble has to stay and hear all that from the CSM…the person that did have the DUI was not even there.

I had planned to stay home after the meeting and get some more of the required training done, but I then found out that the TMP we are going to use tomorrow needed to be dispatched and gassed up. So I took care of that and by the time I was done it was about 1540. I wasn't feeling the greatest (I'm starting to get a sore throat) and because the CSM took a half hour of my time, I figured it was only right to get that back. So I just headed to pick up my wife and call it a day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ho Hum - (Germany) Day 397

This morning I headed into my office and started the usual…sitting in my chair and reading from my iPad. I usually do this until the chaplain comes in and then we discuss any plans that he has for me. As I was sitting there reading away I got a call from my boss at about 0900 and tells me I have AIC detail today…post cleanup (sanitation engineer…garbage man). At first I was a little annoyed, not because I have to play garbage man for a day but because the report time is 0900 and I am just now getting told. So I lock up and head off to my house. I head home first because I need to change into my older uniform and add my army issued "long johns" underneath. It's still a little cold out there and I want to be as comfortable as possible.

I arrived to the AIC detail and met up with the other guy from a different unit that was there to help. We drove a little golf cart that has a miniature truck bed in the back to check out the various garbage cans around post. One of our special missions today was to get the ice out of several garbage cans located near the single soldier barracks. A number of these garbage cans had little or no garbage, but they did have a bunch of water that had frozen into a big block of ice at the bottom of the bag. We had to dump out the block of ice and replace the bag in those. We also had to walk around several areas and pick up garbage that people just throw out. You would think that people on an army base would be cleaner, but I think it's the opposite. People just throw trash anywhere because they know someone will be around to pick up after them.

We had to dispatch both TMPs as well, so we took one to the dispatch center shortly before lunch. Dispatching a TMP just involves taking in the paperwork that is filled out each time a person drives it into the TMP office. The TMP office checks your TMP license and then prints off new paperwork for you to keep in the vehicle. Once this was done I met up with my wife for lunch at the food court.

After lunch we took the other TMP and dispatched it as well. We then finished up another "special mission" which was to take a couple boxes of FOUO (For Official Use Only) paperwork from an office. We transported it to a big locked dumpster used only for this paperwork. This paperwork can't be thrown away and needs to be destroyed…I guess this particular office doesn't own a shredder. When we got back we had to pick up a little more garbage in an area we missed earlier…more cleaning up after messy people…whatever.

The day actually lasted quite a while, by the time we finished it was almost 1600…normal quitting time. One of the perks of doing the AIC detail is that we just go home afterwards, but that wasn't much of a perk today. I picked up my wife from work and we headed home after swinging by the commissary. I have a feeling that I can't really shake lately. A while ago I was very frustrated almost everyday and it seemed that all the stupid little things would always get to me. Then the whole incident with the command and my blog all came up and I was stressed out beyond belief every single day. Now I'm to the point where I don't care. I don't seem to have much emotion at all about anything that's going on. It's a strange feeling…and I'm not sure what to do about it…or even if I should worry about it at all.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 395 & 396

Saturday: I had staff duty today, so that means I really don't get a weekend at all. I headed to our S-1 office to start my 0800 shift. I ended up trading with a girl from the HHD company because she had a class she needed to attend. This meant I'm doing the shift with an NCO from HHD that I don't know very well at all, I've only seen him around here and there. The first thing he says when we start our shift is "so you're the blogger from 181?". I let him know I'm not blogging any more (publicly at the moment) and he said it's all a bunch of BS. He told me I should keep blogging, just on a different site. I don't think so…I'm not going to risk anyone finding that and having to deal with even more drama. My army life here has turned into one big stress ball because of it. The HHD NCO was a non-stop talker and talked my ear off all the way until lunch time. He was telling me stories of others that have been here in the past and it even got to the point where he said I should reenlist and also go to ranger school. Now that is some crazy advice! The way my body is already starting to fall apart, ranger school would probably be the final blow. Maybe when I was a young lad back in the day I would do something crazy like that, but now that I'm much older and wiser…no thank you.

I had a two hour lunch break that I used to go home and spend with my wife, then I headed back to staff duty and watched a movie called "Undefeated" which seemed to have actors from a wide variety of the shows my wife and I watch all put into one movie. It was a decent movie about a boxer from Queens NY and how his life changes when he hits the big time. I played games on my phone after that until it was time for my two hour dinner break which I used to head home and eat with my wife. The rest of the night at staff duty was pretty chill, just relaxing at the desk playing games on my iPhone and listening to my friends podcast episodes "Tales from the Spacepod".

Sunday: The morning of course was spent finishing up my staff duty shift. As each hour passes I was counting down until 0800 when my shift was done. The last hour seemed to take forever. The replacement NCO showed up, but the runner didn't. So this meant I had to sit there and wait, and wait. I was pissed, mostly because I had been counting down the hours and the minutes until my shift was over, only to find out I have to stay longer. I sat there for a half hour with two NCOs until they finally said I could go…the runner thought he was supposed to come in at 0900.

I headed home and crashed until 1400. When I woke up, I was still in what I call the staff duty fog. I was tired and in a zombie like state for a while as always after a staff duty shift. We had no plans because of the staff duty shift, so my wife and I just hung out and watched shows for the day.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Repeat - (Germany) Day 394

This morning was…yes, the same as yesterday. The only difference was that I took the test and finally finished that training module that I've been working on for the last couple of days.This training module is quite a bit different than most of the others that I've had to take. The test ended up being kind of like a "choose your own adventure" video game. Your character is shown doing stuff and at certain points you have to choose what action to take, the choices you make determine if you pass or not. It's kind of a unique way of doing things and definitely makes you think a little more. Once I finished and made a PDF of my certificate, I did one more module on "combating trafficking in persons". Luckily I was able to take a pre-test and pass with a 100%, so I didn't even have to go through the training. After 5 minutes of work I had another certificate saved. That was enough to call it a morning for me. I emailed the chaplain the completed versions of the fliers I made him this week and then laid down on the couch for a bit. My head was hurting and I was able to just rest for about an hour before having lunch and then heading into my office.

When I arrived in the office I did my schoolwork and then played games on my iPhone until it was time to hit the gym. Not a whole lot to write about this afternoon…I had a good workout on the weights and then picked up my wife and headed home.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Training at Home - (Germany) Day 393

A picture of my company doing LandNav in the snow...
glad I didn't have to participate in this 

This morning as usual for this week, I drove my wife to work then headed home. I continued on the same training I started yesterday. This is the longest training module I've ever done online. I spent a lot of my morning yesterday on it and today I spent from 0800 until 1115. I finally finished the actual training portion and now have to take the scenario based test, I'll do that tomorrow and hopefully be done with it…then I can move on to the many other modules I still have to complete.

I ate lunch at home and then headed into my office where I did schoolwork until it was time to hit the gym. As I was heading into the gym I ran into SPC Mac and we chatted a bit. It turns out they had sergeant's time training in Landstuhl today and it was LandNav in the snow. He put up some photos on Facebook and everyone looks pretty cold, I'm glad I was never called to join them! Being away from the ComSec office and working with the chaplain has eased my frustration quite a bit. I used to get mad at every stupid thing that came up. Tomorrow is my last day on this great schedule where I get to stay at home until after lunch…I'm going to miss it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Good Schedule - (Germany) Day 392

Just another picture of the snow while picking my wife up from work. 
The train station is close by and you can see all the tracks in the background

This morning with my new routine for the week, I drove my wife to work and then came back home. I worked on another flier for the chaplain for about a half hour and then started on with the mandatory online training our company is requiring everyone to do. Normally online army training is pretty easy, go to the training module, click next a bunch of times and then answer a few easy questions. Print out your certificate and you're done. The first module was like this and I finished fairly quickly, but the next one was different. I think they are catching on that nobody actually does the training. This particular training module forces the user to wait until the video is done before you can click the next button. OMG…talk about some boring training, and it's long too. This particular module is about evading capture and what to do if you are captured by the enemy. Why we have to do this as a strategic unit I'm not sure. Just another one of those "we can check the box" training. I know if I end up in a tactical unit that deploys we'll have to do this training all over again, then I would actually pay attention. I couldn't take it too long with this one, I would let the video start, then go do something else until it was done and click next, and then repeat. The problem is that the training is so long I wasn't even able to finish before lunch, so I'll be stuck doing the same module where I left off tomorrow. Oh well…I can't complain too much, I'm at home and comfortable.

I ate lunch and then headed into my office just to show some face time there. I just sat in my office reading from my iPad until it was time to work out. I headed to the gym and had a great workout on the weight machines. With the holiday schedule and driving the chaplain, I haven't been able to get on a normal routine lately and I can feel it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Back to Work…Kind of - (Germany) Day 391

This morning I drove my wife to work, but instead of heading to work myself…I headed back home. The chaplain is on leave and he asked me if I could make a couple of fliers for him while he's gone. He knows I can't get on the computers at work, so he said I could take some time and work from home. So I decided I'll spend each morning here at the house and then after lunch spend some time in the office and go work out at the end of the day.

It worked out perfectly, I was able to finish a flier for an upcoming paintball event with a couple of versions for the chaplain to pick from. I then started to try and do some of the mandatory online training that everyone has to do, but after booting up into Windows on my Mac I found out that I needed a number of updates…so I ran all those and got everything ready to go so I can work on the training some tomorrow.

I ate lunch at the house and then headed into work. Not much to do in the office, so I just read on my iPad until it was time to change and head to the gym. I did run over to the ComSec office and drop off the EFMP paperwork to my boss…not a whole lot else to report, a nice easy day. This week should be pretty good!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up (MLK 4-Day) - (Germany) Days 387 - 390

The front of the Cologne Cathedral

Friday: My wife had to work today, so I took her to her office and dropped her off. I stayed home and took a nap first and foremost. I then basically just hung out watching TV and doing a little schoolwork until I could go pick her up from work. We spent the evening going to the theatre on post and watched "Gangster Squad", which was just up my alley…lots of action and violence.

Saturday: In an effort to get out and about again, we decided to take a road trip to Köln (Cologne) Germany. We have heard from others that they enjoyed this city and we have yet to visit. The drive is a little over two hours and for whatever reason it seemed that I had to go pee the entire time! I went before we took off, then we also made a pit stop at a rest area along the autobahn. The rules at these rest areas are quite a bit different than ones back in the states. A bus was unloading as we pulled in and what seemed like the entire busload of guys was lined up outside and relieving themselves. There was a line of guys making yellow snow! This is just something you wouldn't see in the states, but things are different here. They did have bathrooms, but it seemed nobody wanted to wait and nobody really cared if they just had to go pee. It wasn't just the guys in the bus either, cars were pulling up and people were getting out and going pee in the snow. One of the other things you have to get used to about relieving yourself in Europe is the fact that a lot of the bathrooms cost money to use. It can be as little as 20 cents to a Euro.

We finally made it to the city and found a parking garage in the city center next to the main cathedral. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed to the church to check it out. The building itself was pretty impressive, with two large towers looming high above the rest of the neighboring buildings. There were statues around the entrance and once inside we were amazed at how huge the place was…and also how cold it was inside. I could still see my breath as we were walking around. There was a worker making sure everyone took off their hats once inside. We took our time admiring the various sculptures and stained glass, then headed off down a shopping street filled with a ton of people. We took a few breaks inside some various shops just to warm up a bit before moving on.

We then visited the National Socialism Documentation Center, this was the headquarters of the Gestapo in Köln and has now been turned into a Nazi museum. It was pretty interesting checking out all the pictures, but the most interesting part was the basement. This was used as a jail by the Nazis and is still very well preserved. There are a lot of inscriptions from various prisoners. A chilling reminder of what life was like for the unfortunate that had to spend time there.

With the weather being so cold and my wife not feeling a 100% we decided to call it a day, but we do have plans to come back and see some more of the town.

Sunday: Today we pretty much just chilled together, we did a little cleaning and a little laundry…typical Sunday stuff. We then headed over to our CAM's house and met up with my boss and another NCO from the maintenance side of the ComSec office. We had a bunch of food and drink while we watched the NFL conference championship games. It was nice to see everyone again and just hang out and have some fun together. My boss told me that I will be going to Wiesbaden after Heidelberg. This is good news, but I can't pin all my hopes on it until I actually see some orders. Things change so much, it's hard to plan too early for anything.

Monday: A pretty laid back day. I was going to meet up with a high school acquaintance that lives here in Heidelberg, but the snow caused some problems with the train schedule and he was unable to make it. So instead my wife and I just hung out together all day…we didn't do a whole lot except TV and some schoolwork.

I've been thinking quite a bit today about my future in the army and here in Germany. I'm hoping that Wiesbaden will turn out to be a lot better than my time in the army here in Heidelberg. There are still a ton of places that I want to visit while I'm here in Europe. I would also like to have a good experience with a job in the army, I would like to learn something new, I would like to feel that I'm advancing in my career field. I also want to finish school while I'm here in Germany using tuition assistance. It seems that tuition assistance is always in a position to be cut when budget talks are going on. I have 7 more classes to complete in order to get my degree. The downfall is that I do have health issues that I'm dealing with. I know I could just deal with the pain and go on, but I don't want to end up even more injured once I get out of the army in a couple years. I guess I'll just take it one step at a time as I have been…but the sound of moving to Wiesbaden makes me feel a little optimistic.

Photos from our day trip to Cologne in the slideshow below:
Edit: Flickr ended up deleting the slide show I made, so I grabbed this one:

  The Nazi basement jail cells

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Day in Wiesbaden - (Germany) Day 386

This morning I got up a little earlier than usual and readied myself for the day. I then got the TMP ready to go, because it snowed yesterday and last night it was covered with snow. I started it up then started the process of brushing off all the snow that had accumulated over the entire van. I then headed to the shoppette parking lot where I waited (with the van running) for the chaplain. It was freakin' cold outside, so it took a while for the thing to get warm. After about 10 minutes of waiting, the chaplain showed up and we were off to Wiesbaden. The chaplain has some training there and I'm his driver. The drive is a little under an hour usually, but with all the snow and the road conditions it took a bit longer…but not too bad.

Once we arrived I stayed in the van reading my school textbook while he attended his training. About two hours after it started a sergeant came out and I helped him move all the boxes of books from my van to his car. With the closing of Heidelberg we are transferring material. I ate lunch at the food court and ended up staying in there for a while reading from my textbook and then playing around on my iPad. Once it became a little too loud I ended up heading to the library on post. A nice surprise at the library…free wifi! So I was able to sit on a big leather couch and play around on my iPad for a few hours.

We ended up heading back a little after 1500. I could handle more days like this…just hanging out in the library and getting all my schoolwork done. When I got back, I had to head over to the ComSec office to sign my 4-Day counseling stating that I will not get into trouble over the weekend. I also had to get my POV inspection done. All the stuff that used to drive me nuts, but I just laugh at it now. The company XO was there and on his way out he asked me if I had found a job yet. I said "no"…I wonder if he knows something I don't. I don't really care anymore. I'm off for the weekend!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Online Training Day - (Germany) Day 385

Self checkout in the commissary closed...figures, it's on a Windows machine
This morning I took my wife to work as usual, but then came back home. Yup, I came back home and took off my uniform top, then sat in front of my computer. I had talked to the chaplain yesterday and because of all the mandatory online training that we are required to do, he said I could start it at home. Home is my only option because I'm not allowed to use any computers at work. I was informed by our security officer that I officially have my actual clearance from the US government, but the local command says I can't use any of their computers. How stupid is that? I haven't touched a computer at work since I got back from Thanksgiving in England, it's the middle of January now! So I have a CAC reader that I hooked up to my computer because most of the training websites I need access to require my ID card to be inserted to verify it's me doing the training and to have access to the website.

The only problem was that it took me a while to get everything working. At first nothing worked with the smart card reader. After a little research I found that I needed to update the firmware on the reader. Then after installing newer drivers, I was ready to go. I did finish a few modules, but let me tell you that all this training is scattered over a number of different websites. Some websites were easy to navigate and find the training, some were extremely difficult. In fact I gave up on a few figuring I'd try them again at a later date. There is so much training that we have to do, it's going to take a while.

I did this until lunch time, after that I met my wife for lunch and then we headed to the EFMP appointment. The appointment was pretty easy, the doctor just said he had to physically see my wife and ask her a few questions. The questions were to find out if she had any special needs that would need to be taken into consideration at another post. She doesn't have any, so after a couple minutes he signed all the papers and we were out of there.

She dropped me off at my office and I read a little as usual. At about 1500 I picked up another office's TMP that I am going to use to drive the chaplain tomorrow. I loaded it up with all the books that I inventoried and boxed up when I first arrived to help out the chaplain. Once that was finished I headed to PT and had a quick workout on the weight machines. Even though it was a quick workout, it was a good one. I wanted to get out a little early because it was snowing and I still needed to fill up the TMP so it would be ready to go first thing in the morning.

I actually didn't see the chaplain at all today, but I got a call from him while I was at home after work. He just wanted to tell me how much he appreciates me and everything I'm doing for him. In fact he said he sent an email to my boss and our CAM to let them know as well. I'm glad I can help him out, and it's good to feel appreciated.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Planning Day - (Germany) Day 384

A photo that was taken of my company doing spin class for PT

This morning I headed into work and after getting settled in, I headed over to the ComSec office. I was told to head over and fill out an EFMP form to get the process started for the upcoming move. The EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) is a form where I list all the dependents that will be moving with me. We have to fill it out no matter if we have dependents with special needs or not, checking a box showing that they either are or aren't special needs. After I filled it out (outside of the actual ComSec office because I'm not allowed in there yet), SPC Mac typed it up and printed off a copy for me. It was good seeing everyone there and chatting a bit while getting everything done. I took the form to our S-1 shop where they verified the information and signed it.

I headed back to my office and read for a while. When the chaplain came in I headed down to his office to go over my "to do" list. I also let him know of a bunch of training that I've been told I have to do. I guess there was a packet given out to all the soldiers of our company with a ton of online training that is required. It's going to be a little tough for me because I don't have access to any computer. We basically made a plan for the rest of the day and tomorrow, as well as our big day on Thursday where I'll be driving him very early to Wiesbaden.

I headed out for lunch at home, then headed to the library to check out their computers. They have computers with CAC readers, so I thought I might be able to do some of my required training on them. Today was just a test drive to see if I could access the needed sites, and it looks like I can. I then drove to the hospital and setup an appointment for the EFMP screening. This is where they will actually chat with my wife for a bit (I guess to make sure she doesn't have any special needs) and then fill out and stamp my paperwork. Once that is turned in, I guess they can start the process and maybe I'll hear when and where I'll be going once Heidelberg closes. The two places that keep coming up are Landstuhl and Wiesbaden. If I had my choice, I would choose Wiesbaden. Landstuhl would mean I would still be in the same company with a first sergeant that hates me…and that could make being at work a miserable experience every single day.

I headed back to my office and read for a while until it was time for PT, I changed and then had a pretty good ride on the stationary bike. I'm going to enjoy this reverse PT while I can, I'm not looking forward to next month when we revert back to normal PT.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sanitation Engineer - (Germany) Day 383

This morning I headed into my office and started reading my school textbook, but after about 15 minutes one of the local nationals that works in the same building came in and told me I had to come to the conference room. It was one of the contractor's birthday and they had brought in breakfast. I wasn't hungry because I just ate, but they wouldn't take no for an answer. So I sat there, ate, and chatted with them for a while. Actually it turned out to be for about an hour before I headed back to my office to continue my schoolwork. I just finished reading the chapter when my boss called and told me I had AIC detail. This was a little late notice, but I wasn't too worried. I called the AIC office and told them I am on my way.

I headed home and changed. It was snowing out, so I wanted to make sure I was dressed appropriately since I was going to be out in it playing "garbage man" for the day. I put on the army issued long johns, my older "dirty" boots, and my rain jacket. Once I was ready to brave the elements, I headed out and met up with my helper, an E-2 that works in the dental clinic. I've actually done AIC detail with him once before. We took the modified golf cart out first. This little golf cart has a miniature truck bed in the back where we can put garbage bags we pick up, it can also drive all over the place…so we are able to get up right next to each garbage can to see if it needs to be changed.

We finished up and then dumped the bags we accumulated into the large dumpster. We then took one of the larger TMP trucks and had to go around the officer's quarters and pick up all their old Christmas trees that were laying out. We filled up the entire bed of the truck with old Christmas trees and headed back to the recycling center to drop them off. I have to remind you that the recycling center here on post has huge bins for pretty much everything you can imagine from freezers to plastics and of course wood…where all the old trees ended up.

We then headed over to another small post "Patton Barracks" and checked the few garbage cans there as well as the shopping center located just a couple of minutes away. We broke for lunch where I met my wife in the food court. After this we dispatched the TMPs and headed home, we were done for the day…or so I thought. It was about 1400 when the guy in charge of AIC called my cell phone. It turns out that for some reason some folks at the very edge of post put out a bunch of garbage bags and lined them up right outside of their garbage bin. Why they didn't put them inside, I have no idea. Since it's an eyesore, the AIC boss asked if I could take the TMP and take care of them. Since I had already changed out of my uniform, he said I could just do it in civilian clothes. No problem…15 minutes later everything was taken care of and I was actually done for the day.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 381 - 382

Just a picture of the snow starting to fall outside our window

Saturday: Today we didn't do a whole lot, it snowed out and we decided not to do any traveling. The only place we went was a local shopping center not too far from post. We were able to pick up some goodies to send friends and family and also grab lunch at one of the little restaurants. We ended up heading over to SPC Mac's house to hang out for a while. He had some technical issues with his AppleTV and wanted my expertise. After hanging out for a while (and teaching him everything he needed to know about his AppleTV), we all headed to our CAM's house where we met up with another NCO from the ComSec office and SGT Mex. Our CAM had a bunch of food and drink that we all enjoyed while watching the NFL playoffs. It was a lot of fun hanging out with everyone, because I don't get a chance to see anybody anymore since I've been alienated from our office.

Sunday: This was another one of those lazy days where we just did laundry and watched TV shows all day long. I did take some time and do some research on a lot of the places we would like to check out here in Germany. We decided we're going to try and start doing a lot more road trips and do some more tourist activities while we can, we don't want to waste away our weekends.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Days of Excellence - (Germany) Day 380

This morning I headed to the PHV theatre after dropping my wife off at work. The battalion "Days of Excellence" was being held there and started at 0900. Our formation was at 0830, which meant that we were supposed to be there at 0815…hurry up and wait. As 0815 approached I was still in my car and I noticed everyone just heading into the theatre, so I went in as well. It turns out that because it was cold outside, everyone just went in and I was keeping an eye out in the parking lot to see when the formation was actually going to start. Our platoon sergeant had some common sense and just told all the section leaders to make sure all their people were there and had us sit down instead of going out and having an actual formation.

Because we were some of the first to arrive, I ended up sitting right in the front. After a few minutes our first sergeant came to the front and started talking with everyone. He ended up sitting on the stage right in front of me, I kept waiting for him to give me a dirty look or say something about how nobody should be blogging about their lives…but it never happened. I was surprised, but it didn't keep me from being nervous the entire time he was up there.

Days of Excellence started on time at 0900 with some training on "Consideration of Others". This was basically a PowerPoint on treating others how you would like to be treated. We were then given a scenario and had to break up into smaller groups to discuss it. The next training block was on finance. This was basically training for the younger people who joined showing them the pros and cons of credit. The event wrapped up with some awards for a couple soldiers, then we were given our safety brief from both the first sergeant and the sergeant major. I haven't had a safety brief for a few weeks, I'm surprised I haven't been out there getting into some major trouble each weekend <sarcasm> . In fact I haven't had access to a computer at work, so I haven't turned in a weekend checklist, been given a weekend counseling, or had my POV inspection.

During one of our breaks our platoon sergeant came up to me and started talking. At first I assumed that I was going to be told some bad news or get yelled at, but he was actually pretty cool. He said my local clearance should be granted again soon. This means I'll actually be able to get on work computers once again. He said that this whole issue with me and my blog has been blown out of proportion. He said I should have been given a negative counseling statement the day after it was discovered and had that be the end of it. My boss was there and asked if I would come back to the ComSec office now, but our platoon sergeant said that was the next discussion. So I'm glad to hear that I'll be getting my local clearance back, but "soon" is a relative term, who knows how long that will take? I am also glad to hear that at least everything is being talked about, I feel like I'm in limbo just waiting and waiting which is driving me crazy. If I'm going to get into trouble, I'd like it to just happen and I'll deal with it and get it over with. Instead I'm left to wonder and stress about it every day.

After Days of Excellence, I met up with my wife and we had a quick lunch at home. I headed into my office and made some more calls for the chaplain. I then did a little reading for school before I headed to the gym to workout. We were told in the Days of Excellence today that the reverse cycle PT is going to end and we'll go back to normal PT starting February 1st. This is a bit of a bummer, but I didn't see it lasting too long. Too many people either missed PT, or just weren't working out. I really liked it because it gave me a lot more time with my wife each morning, and I like working out after work much better. I also liked just wearing civilian PT clothes to the gym each day. Now we'll be getting up early, we'll be standing in the cold doing our PT formation, then we'll be doing whatever is on the PT schedule for that day. I'll still be on profile, so I'm hoping they just send me to the gym after the formation like they used to. I guess we'll see.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Caller - (Germany) Day 379

This morning I headed to work as usual, but I had a little extra stuff to do today. The chaplain needed some calls to be made, so I was able to help him out and get some information for him…then I did my usual reading all morning until lunch time. I headed home for lunch, took some Excedrin and rested my neck on a heating pad. Today was another one of those days where I woke up with a killer headache. It didn't go away until late in the afternoon. After I came back from lunch I took a nap in my office, which I think helped with the headache. I was able to hit the gym at about 1545 for a good 45 minute workout before leaving for the day.

I was able to get some schoolwork done and hang out with my wife for the rest of the night. I found out that there is a "Days of Excellence" tomorrow that I have to attend. At least it's here on PHV, so I can drop my wife off at work and then come back to attend it. Hopefully we'll be dismissed afterward, I just have to make it through all the boring training and the longwinded safety briefs. I have to also try and not to get cornered by the command, I really don't feel like getting yelled at tomorrow. We'll see how it goes….

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Driver - (Germany) Day 378

This morning I headed to work and did my normal reading routine, but it was not as long as my usual days. Today I have a mission to accomplish…I'm driving the chaplain to Landstuhl. So a little after 1000, I get the keys to the TMP and check it out making sure it's gas tank is full and such. I then took a very quick lunch, I drove home and quickly ate, then grabbed a snack and a drink to take with me. I headed back to work and at 1125 had the TMP warming up and the GPS set. The chaplain came out and we headed off to Landstuhl. The drive was uneventful, we had some good conversation and arrived a little over an hour after setting off.

I waited in the TMP because there is no way in hell I want to walk around the company headquarters and take the chance of getting cornered by the first sergeant…no thank you. I just waited in the TMP with the radio on and my textbook for school. I got a lot of reading done and some nice relaxation as well. We left at almost 1330 and after getting back and turning in the keys, I headed home. My wife and I just finished watching all three of "The Transporter" series…I'm thinking maybe I should get some driving gloves now that it's become part of my job…LOL.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Back to the Gym - (Germany) Day 377

Last night I had another horrible night's sleep. I guess I had my mind set on the idea of going into a follow up appointment early next month with my neurologist and having the ball start rolling on getting out. The process is going to take terribly long because it seems each time I need to make an appointment at the pain management clinic, it's going to take almost a month to do. Pain management also wants to try a number of things they hope will help…this means the process is going to take months to finish before I can make the follow-up with my neurologist. It also means I'll be here a lot longer, and in the army a lot longer. I just hope that they can actually fix what is wrong with my head and not just waste a bunch of time.

In other news I headed to work this morning and read. I then read some more, then played some Plants vs. Zombies on my iPhone. Don't get me wrong, having the ability to have my iPhone and iPad in my office with me is awesome, much better than the times when I had to sit and stare at a wall for hours at a time. I did have a break in the norm when the chaplain printed out some PowerPoint slides that I had to look over on some refresher training on security. I then had to take a completion certificate over to our security manager for him to file away.

I had lunch with my wife, then headed back to work where I…you guessed it…read some more. At about 1530, I changed into my civilian PT clothes and headed to the gym. I did a moderate ride on the stationary bike since I haven't been to the gym since the Christmas break! I'll ease into things this week and then get back to normal again next week. I am glad to be back on a normal gym schedule now, I was starting to feel a little lazy doing nothing for so long.

I'm trying to look at the bright side of staying here longer in Germany. There are a ton of things I still want to do and see...and I really do love being here. As far as being in the army, I'm going to just take it one day at a time and try not to look any farther.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pain Management - (Germany) Day 376

This morning I headed once again into my office…well I spent the first hour in the conference room as usual waiting for the contractor to come in so I could get the key to my office door. I spent the entire morning reading on my iPad. I switched back and forth between MacLife and the 4th book of "The Game of Thrones" series. I feel like I'm stuck in neutral and not going anywhere. I know some folks would think this is the greatest job in the world, all I do is sit around and read all day with the occasional times that I drive the chaplain around. I just want to feel like I'm doing something with my life…I hate doing nothing.

I had lunch at my house, then headed to Landstuhl medical center for an appointment at the pain management clinic. The doctor did a lot of checks and wants to try another type of injection into my neck this time. I had to schedule another appointment for this procedure, and the next available one is on the 30th. What I thought was going to be a number of quick appointments at the pain management clinic is going to turn out to be a long ordeal. This means that I will not be able to do a follow up appointment with my neurologist for quite some time. I had actually been looking forward to the follow up appointment because the neurologist said if pain management can't do anything to fix my headaches, then I'll have to start the process of getting out of the army. I had it in my head so long that I was probably getting out, that this set back was disappointing to say the least. Don't get me wrong, I would love to have my headaches fixed, but I've grown to pretty much hate the idea of being in the army. Maybe it's just this unit, maybe the next one will be better…but I really doubt it. What I thought the army was going to be like, and what the reality is seem to be oceans apart.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 375 & 376

Saturday: After getting up and getting ready for the day, we decided to head out to a shopping center near Mannheim (almost 20 minutes from our house). It was something to do and it got us out of the house. With the weather this time of year, we are not doing a lot of site seeing. We hung out at the mall, ate lunch, shopped and had some Starbucks before we left. Not too exciting, but we did get out of the house and actually do something. Our mission was to find some iPhone covers, but we ended up ordering some on the web when we got back from our trip. We just didn't see anything we liked while we were out.

Sunday: Today was a totally lazy day…I've been having a lot of these lately. We just hung out at home and watched a Dexter marathon. It was nice hanging with my wife all day and doing absolutely nothing. I'm back to the grind tomorrow and I found out I have another staff duty next Saturday, so just relaxing and spending time with my wife was fine with me.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Recovery Day - (Germany) Day 374

During the staff duty shifts it's almost impossible to stay awake the entire time :)
This morning I finished the staff duty shift at 0800. The shift went as usual at the back end, with some micro naps along with some conversation with SGT Mex and of course the occasional game of Plants vs. Zombies on my iPhone. I did my janitorial duty and emptied all the trash cans from the S-1 and S-3 offices. After the shift I caught a ride home with SGT Mex and passed out in my bed until almost 1500. The day after staff duty is pretty much lost, yes I didn't have to go into work, but I slept most of it away. The time I was awake, I am still tired and more in a semi-zombie state until actual bed time. I hung out with my wife for a bit when she got off work and we watched a couple shows, but nothing too exciting to report for today.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Surprise Staff Duty - (Germany) Day 373

Today started off like any other day, I sat in the conference room and read my book for a while. Unlike most days, I didn't grab the key to my office from the civilian that came in. I had an appointment at the security office (S2) for an interview at 1000. I decided to just read in the conference room until it was time for my interview. I wasn't sure what to actually expect with this "interview". I just knew that it had to do with my blog of course. As the time grew near, I started to get a little nervous. I had no idea what to expect and my stomach was in knots, I could feel my pulse quicken, and I even started shaking when I started to walk over to the S2 office. OK…the shaking was probably because it was so cold out, but I was extremely apprehensive about this "interview"…I had no idea who or what or how it was going to go.

I arrived 10 minutes early of course, and quickly found out from the main security guy that the people who were going to conduct the interview cancelled it at the last minute. They said they could not interview me while my investigation was still ongoing. I chatted with the main security guy for a while. He said nothing in particular about my blog stood out as being an actual major OpSec violation, but if you add up all the little things then it gets into a grey area. He also said that he knows I really pissed off some of the higher ranking individuals with some of the stuff I said, so he thinks they are hung up with all of that. So no answers at all today, just a bunch of anxiety for nothing. It was good to talk to the security guy though, in his eyes I should only get a warning…too bad he isn't the one who is going to be making the final decision.

On my way back after visiting S2 I ran into SGT Mex who gave me some unexpected news…I have to do staff duty tonight with him. I guess the guy who was scheduled had to do QRF tomorrow, so they had to pull him off of staff duty tonight. Lucky me…on a week of scheduled half days, I have to pull an all night shift. I expected this kind of stuff to happen to me a lot here with all the brass pissed off at me, so I took it in stride. At least I will not have to go in tomorrow, and I get to work the shift with a good NCO.

I headed home for lunch right after talking with SGT Mex and then returned at 1600 for my staff duty shift. The shift went as usual, we talked quite a bit which passed the time. I left at 1830 for dinner and didn't have to return until 2200, which was a nice break to spend the evening with my wife. When I got back we chatted some more and then I finished the book I have been reading "No Easy Day", which turned out to be a pretty good book. It not only tells the story of how Osama Bin Laden was killed, but it goes into more detail about the lives of the guys in seal team 6.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Half Days Continued - (Germany) Day 372

Last night I had a horrible night of sleep, which has become the norm after every weekend when I have to head back to work the next day. I take forever getting to sleep while my mind wanders, wondering what kind of crazy is going to go on with me and the army. I then wake up periodically looking at the clock, then start the process of falling asleep all over again. It really sucks!

I headed into my office this morning and sat in the conference room for an hour reading my book before the civilian with the key to my office came in. I then sat in my office for another hour reading until the chaplain came in. I was starting to think he took this week off as well, but it turned out he only had physical therapy this morning. We chatted for a bit about this week's schedule and the schedule for next week as well. I headed back to my office and continued to read until 1130…lunch time. As I was telling the chaplain that I was off for lunch, he informed me that we are having half days this week as well. This is great news!

I headed home for lunch, but didn't change out of my uniform. I had an appointment with my primary care physician in order to get my profile extended. I went in at 1400 and after checking my vitals, the doctor asked how everything was going. Because I'm headed to pain management next week and the neurologist in February, there wasn't a whole lot that my doctor needed to do. She gave me another 3 month profile, so I'll be good while I go through all the next steps they'll have me doing trying to get me fixed.

I then headed home for a bit before picking up my wife from work. If I didn't have the appointment, I would have worked out a bit. We'll see how tomorrow's schedule goes. I need to get back in the gym now that the holidays are over.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up (New Year's 4-Day) - (Germany) Day 368 -371

Saturday: This entire weekend turned out to be very mellow. We were asked if we wanted to attend some events for New Years, but because my wife has to work New Year's Eve, we really couldn't do much…especially anything that required us to go anywhere very far. The entire day Saturday was spent in my bathrobe. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty cool just hanging out and relaxing. We just watched TV and didn't do much of anything.

Sunday: Today our big event was to at least get out of the house and do something. We ended up heading to the Ramstein air base. We saw a movie called "This is 40", which considering I'm almost there, I thought was pretty funny. My wife and I both had a great time, the movie was funny, the popcorn was good, and we did get out of the house.

Shortly after we got back, I met up with my boss and SPC Mac at the Village Grill on PHV. They show all the football games each Sunday. Surprisingly there were only about 6 people there including us! I finally got to watch a Seahawks game, I haven't been able to see one of those since I joined the army. As luck would have it, they won the game…but because of the time difference it didn't finish until 0200. One of the reasons I don't watch any of the games, but with the day off tomorrow it worked out perfect!

Monday: My wife had to go to work and I spent all of New Year's Eve in my bathrobe. By the time my wife got home she had tweaked something in her back and was pretty sore, so we ended up just staying home and watching TV shows, then Mission Impossible until midnight. We gave each other a kiss and wished each other a happy new year…then headed to bed. Not the most spectacular new year's celebration, but I can't complain…I was with my wife and I didn't have staff duty or anything.

Tuesday: Today we started off the new year by having a "Dexter" marathon. We watched a lot of season 4 and also did a little cleaning. All signs of Christmas are now gone. My wife's back is still quite a bit sore, so we weren't going to do anything strenuous. This new year will be full of changes. One way or another, I'll be leaving Heidelberg at some point. I just hope this investigation and whatever it brings happens soon. I want to get it all over with because until then, I can't go on pass or leave. I can't make any plans, I'm basically just stuck in limbo.

Not much of a holiday weekend as far as getting out and seeing things. In fact it was about as total opposite as you can get from that. I hope that this new year turns out to be much better than last year. I will not take anything for granted, and I will always remember that no matter how bad things may seem…they can always get worse.