Thursday, February 28, 2013

Burning the Midnight Oil - (Germany) Day 428

Campbell Barracks from the air. The buildings behind the building on
the far side of the parade field is where the S1 & S3 shops
are located...where the stupidity that is staff duty is located. 

This morning we had PT at Patton Barracks gym, the normal folks did circuit training and the profiles headed into the gym. I did some cardio on the stationary bike next to SPC Mac. Instead of listening to music the whole time, we just chatted about anything and everything…we both hate this place. Well we both love Heidelberg and Germany, we just hate the unit we're in.

I headed into my office and after doing a quick email check, I grabbed the keys to the TMP and went outside to find it. It wasn't parked in it's normal spot, so I was walking around the entire post clicking the unlock button on the keychain and looking for lights to flash. I finally found it half-way across the post, then jumped in and prepped it for our upcoming trip (cleaned up, filled out the paperwork, setup my GPS, and filled up the gas tank). I then waited for the chaplain and we left at 1030 for Wiesbaden.

Once in Wiesbaden I ate lunch in the food court, then found a barber shop. After getting my hair cut there, I may just plan my haircuts around our trips to Wiesbaden. There were 3 people cutting hair and there was not that much of a wait. The lady cutting my hair shaved it bald, then rubbed some lotion onto my head. This haircut was second only to all my haircuts in Korea where each cut ends in a nice little shoulder and arm massage.

By the time I was finished, I waited in the TMP and played a couple games before the chaplain was finished and came out. We left at a little after 1400. When we got back I did some admin stuff for the chaplain (mostly emails). I then headed over to our S1 shop at 1600 for staff duty.

My staff duty shift was with an NCO I haven't yet done staff duty with. The night went fine with me either playing games on my phone, reading Mac Life on my iPad, or listening to Tales from the Spacepod. At 2200 the NCO says "I'm going to take a little nap", then proceeds to grab a big comforter from his truck. He comes back in and sets up a makeshift bed in the middle of S1. The guy slept from 2200 until 0400. I was more than a little pissed. I would have liked to sleep to, but this guy didn't care. One of the many reasons I hate this place. At 0500 I took all the trash out…the janitorial duties of staff duty, cleaning up after the S1 and S3 shops. I didn't vacuum and I didn't replace any of the liners in the trash cans…only because I couldn't find any. I really didn't give a crap at this point. I just couldn't wait to leave.

The only good thing about having staff duty today was that I didn't have to participate in the "Fit To Lead" event the next day. This started off with a battalion run, and then a bunch of events in the gym all day long including a weigh in. I'm not sure what all was involved, I don't really care because I have recovery the rest of the day…I'm going home and falling asleep.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

No Haircut for You - (Germany) Day 427

A view of Patton Barracks from the air...mostly used for
single soldiers. The gym is on the left of the big field near the top.

This morning we formed up at Patton Barracks gym for PT. The normal folks did circuit training, while those of us on profile headed to the gym, I did my usual weight lifting routine and had a pretty good workout, I'm going to be sore later on.

I headed into my office and after settling in, I headed straight to the barber shop. My hair is getting a little long and I thought I'd have them shave it all off. Much to my surprise there was only one barber working and there were three people in line waiting. For a moment I thought about just waiting in there, but I quickly changed my mind and headed back to my office. I did some admin stuff, some surfing of the web, and some studying for my Apple recertification before heading home for lunch.

On my way back to work I stopped by the hospital. My MedPros status for hearing is red, I guess I need another hearing test. When I called to make an appointment, they told me it's a walk-in for MedPros. So I went there and the doors were shut for audiology. No sign…nothing. I waited around for a bit, but there was no sign of anyone. I headed back to my office, I figured I'd check out the barber shop again…no luck. The place still only had one barber and again…three people waiting. Must be the budget cutbacks! I headed to my office did some emails and played some games on my iPhone. Today seems like I didn't get anything done.

I did receive a call later on after work though from the WTB-Europe transfer coordinator. He verified all the information I had given them previously. He said I should find out for sure where I'll be heading as early as the beginning of next week.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another Brief - (Germany) Day 426

This morning we formed up in civilian clothes at the gym on Campbell Barracks. Those not on profile headed off post for a run, while those of us on profile did cardio in the gym. I'm not sure why we are doing cardio two days in a row, but who cares…I got on a bike and rode.

My wife and I headed into a briefing at 0900 at the WTU here in Heidelberg. The lady basically explained the overall process that happens when a soldier overseas starts the medboard process. Unless they get an exception to policy letter, they will PCS back to the states and complete the entire medboard process back in the states. We were shown a list of available places we can choose from. There were a lot that were unavailable, I guess because they are currently full. I chose Ft. Lewis, but there were no other available posts to choose that are anywhere near Washington State…so I only picked one place. I also had to give a reason why I wanted that particular base…of course I put that my kids are there, my family is there and my wife's family is there. We'll find out for sure where we will be going and when we'll be going in two weeks. The briefer said it could be sooner, but she always tells people two weeks. Once I get my orders, I can turn in all my gear. I will also be able to get our plane tickets and then start the countdown until we leave.

I took my wife to work after the brief and then headed into my office. Unfortunately there is only one key to my office and it's locked in the OIC's office. Everyone that had a key to his office was gone…so I was stuck without an office for a while. The chaplain let me leave early and make sure the TMP was gassed up, then I just went home for lunch. When I came back the chaplain had to go home to take care of a sick daughter, I used his office while he was out. I did some admin stuff for him. We were going to head out to Landstuhl today, but because of his sick daughter it got cancelled. So I just continued admin tasks and then started studying for my Apple recertification. I just got notice that it is time to recertify once again. The learning never stops when you're in IT.

Monday, February 25, 2013

White Monday - (Germany) Day 425

This morning PT was at the middle school track here on PHV, but during the night it snowed and ruined the leaders plans of running around this morning. After everyone arrived, the platoon sergeant told everyone to head to the gym and do their own workout. I headed over, hopped on a stationary bike, and proceeded to do my cardio while watching some college hoop on the TV.

Work this morning was garbage as usual for my Mondays. A slight twist came when the supervisor called me and said he was sick. I had to drive to his house to get the key to his office in order to get the keys to the TMPs. I think he caught the same thing my wife has had. A guy from the dental office was there to help and we did our usual thing…play garbage man for the day. I had lunch with my wife and then later on right when I was about to finish for the day, I got a call from the WTU (Warrior Transition Unit) briefer here in Heidelberg. She wants me and my wife to come by tomorrow for a briefing. I heard this is the one where we request an actual WTU location. I'm sure we'll get a lot more information as well. I would just like to know a date that we'll be leaving so I can plan accordingly.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 423 - 424

Some graffiti I thought was worthy of a picture on the way to the Heidelberg flea market

This weekend we headed out early Saturday to a post in Mannheim to check out the NAF Sale. This is kind of like a garage sale done by the NAF government offices. NAF includes MWR, so there is a potential to be some pretty cool stuff. We arrived at 0845 and the doors opened at 0900, there was already a pretty long line and it was freezing outside. My wife had an idea of what she was looking for…some wine glasses, but unfortunately they didn't have the ones she wanted. It's too bad because all their glassware was going for 5 cents each. There was everything from snowboards to golf clubs there and people were going nuts. If I were into selling on eBay or something, this would be a prime spot to build up my inventory! We left without buying anything and headed to a flea market in Heidelberg. The problem was that it was so cold, we didn't really hang around too long to look at anything. My wife didn't feel too good the rest of the day or even on Sunday, so we took it easy the rest of the weekend. Not a whole lot to report…we're really planning on getting out and about starting in March.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Prayer & Paintball - (Germany) Day 422

The chaplain starting off the prayer breakfast

This morning I didn't go to PT, instead I headed into my office to get ready for the prayer breakfast. The chaplain and I gathered the paperwork and headed over to the German Cantina on post. There was a side room reserved for us and I setup each of the bulletins in front of each chair, then waited. The chaplain offered to purchase me breakfast, but I had already had some at home…I didn't know exactly how much time I would  have to eat, but I did grab some coffee and orange juice. When the prayer breakfast actually started only 3 people actually showed up, not counting the two chaplains, the singer and myself. I guess I didn't need to have so many bulletins printed off! The event still was nice, the singer played his guitar and sang a few songs. The guest chaplain gave a little speech about personal courage, then our chaplain said a prayer. I used my camera to take a few snapshots during the event for the chaplain, then we packed up and headed out.

I headed home, hung out with my wife for a bit then took her to work. I went back to my office and did the usual administrative type stuff until about 1100. Now it was time for the Adventures with the UMT Paintball event. We had reserved the paintball field for the soldiers to use and play paintball on from noon until 1600. We arrived along with a TMP full of soldiers from Landstuhl. Unfortunately the place said it was too cold to use their compressor to fill the guns, so we had to cancel the event. It was snowing and well below freezing, so I guess it was probably for the best. Our platoon sergeant said everyone could go to Patton gym and play basketball as a consolation. We headed over and I shot around with everyone. It felt awesome to play around again, I was in the groove nailing 3's from all over. Everyone decided to play a game called "bump", which is basically a shooting game. Two people start at the three point line and shoot, the object is to make your shot in before the person in front of you to knock them out of the game. If you miss, you can chase down your ball and still try and get it in before the other person. As soon as you make it, you throw the ball to the next person in line. This process keeps going and going until one person wins. We played a number of games and I was able to win a good majority of them, it was a ton of fun. It really made me miss playing basketball all the time.

I then went back to my office and ended up doing my schoolwork. At about 1600 I heard the HHD company was having their safety brief and then getting released for the day. The chaplain never came in, so I decided to just leave as well. My wife was at work, but still feeling pretty sick and wanted to be picked up…no problem. Not too long after I got home, I started feeling the affects of playing basketball today. I thought just shooting around wouldn't be a big deal, but I was wrong. I guess the "jumping" part of the "jump shot" really got me. My back hurt, my knee was throbbing and my head was killing me. It was one of those times I wish they prescribed me some heavy pain killers. Instead all I could take was some Excedrin, some muscle relaxer, and some scotch. I learned my lesson and I will not being doing anything like that again!
The singer offering up a little entertainment during the prayer breakfast

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Smoke Break - (Germany) Day 421

On the way it coincidence that there are dark clouds 
looming on the way back to work?

PT this morning was a little odd. It was combatives, which meant that I just came in my normal uniform, sat in the bleachers and watched. It was scheduled for 2 hours which meant 0630 to 0830 in the morning. The funny part is that the platoon sergeant was sick as a dog and left after we had accountability. The normal combatives instructor (SGT Steroids) was on staff duty, so they had another sergeant teach it. Let's just say that this sergeant is the last person you would expect to teach anyone combatives. They started and after about a half hour everyone stopped and took a smoke break. When they came back in they shot some baskets on the basketball court…I joined in on that venture, something I can do. Then they went back to combatives. Basically all their combatives training was just picking two people to square off and see if they could submit the other within 2 minutes. Once everyone had done it again after the smoke break, we cleaned up and went home. We left earlier than planned, so I was home a little before 0800 and didn't have to be back to work until 1000.

They had planned on doing the same classes for sergeant's time training, so I just headed into my office. I had to prepare for our events tomorrow, check my email, and make sure the TMP was gassed and ready to go for today. After that I headed to Subway and picked up a sandwich. I ate it, then headed to a mandatory lunch with the brigade CSM (Command Sergeant Major). He was down to visit Heidelberg and instead of having a mandatory meeting, he decides to force everyone to take their lunch break and spend it with him. Lunch is not provided, we have to bring our own. To me that just seems like a guy with an ego trip. He talked about "go army" stuff, the coming budget crisis and how it will affect everyone. It was hard to hear everything because the noise in that room echoes a lot and the CSM kept walking around sometimes talking with his back to people. I sat through it patiently, then when it was over I split. I had to be at the TMP at 1300 to take the chaplain to Landstuhl. On my way out a first sergeant told me to stop and help put away all the chairs. At first I didn't realize he was talking to me and I just kept going. He sent someone running after me to stop me and have me come back. I let them know I'm currently "on a mission for the chaplain"… in retrospect I should have said "I"m on a mission for God"…that would have been funny. They guy turned around and went back and I kept going. Something about that whole event just pissed me off. It's not like I was trying to get out of putting a couple chairs away, I needed to get a move on.

I had the TMP ready to go when the chaplain came out and we headed off to Landstuhl. When we arrived, he went in and did his thing with the soldiers and I delivered some boxes I brought up for the supply sergeant. I then sat in the van and did my schoolwork. I must have been tired because at one point I fell asleep reading my textbook, but I was able to finish my chapter before the chaplain came out at 1600. We headed back to our office and I readied some paperwork for the Prayer Breakfast tomorrow morning. I headed home about 1730 to take care of my still sick wife.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Busy Body - (Germany) Day 420

This morning for PT we formed up at the Patton Barracks gym. Patton Barracks is located a little closer than Campbell Barracks and is where most of the single soldiers live. This was the first time we have done PT there, and after today I think we may end up going there more often. There were a lot less people there and with it being closer, it seems like a no brainer. The normal folks did circuit training while I headed into the cardio room and road a bicycle.
When I got to my office, the first thing I did was check my email box. I had to fill out a form that was sent to me by the medboard folks asking some basic information about me and my unit. I filled it out and emailed it back. I then went through a varied assortment of other email. When the chaplain came in I met up with him and we went over the plan for the short week we have left. My big mission today was to get the scoop on ordering party platters from Subway. I had some other errands such as getting some flyers and bulletins printed on a color printer and sending out some emails…mostly administrative stuff, but it kept me busy all day long.

I headed home for lunch and when I got back I continued with the administrative duties. I received an email late in the day from the medboard folks again. This time it was sent to my commander and I was carbon copied. It basically stated that unless an exception to policy letter is done, or some other event, that I should be leaving within 90 to 120 days. The policy is for overseas soldiers to go through the medboard process back in the states. I have an appointment back in Landstuhl on the 5th of next month where I believe I'll get a lot more answers. As for now, I hope that they move me to Fort Lewis for the medboard process. It would be nice to see friends and family once again. I would also like to be able to see my kids more than just a short period each summer. One can hope.

My wife was starting to feel pretty sick, so the chaplain let me leave early and take her home. I'm not much of a cook, but I did make her soup and tried to take care of her as best I could. I'm also popping vitamin C every chance I get…she looks, feels, and sounds pretty bad and I don't want any part of that!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Flying Solo - (Germany) Day 419

This morning we had PT in the Campbell gym. I participated as much as my profile would allow. We did the standard army PRT drills along with push-up and sit-up drills. I then headed home and got ready for my day as a garbage man once again. Even though it's a Tuesday, it's still the first work day of the week (because of the holiday weekend) and this means that it's garbage day for me. I arrived and chatted with the supervisor for a bit while we were waiting for the other person to show up. After a few emails and calls we found out there will not be anyone else, I'll be flying solo on today's garbage journey. That is fine with me, I took off in one of the flatbed TMPs and started my rounds changing out all the garbage cans. Not a glamorous job, but I get to wear civilian clothes and it passes the time.

I ate lunch with my wife at the food court and then started checking around the post for bulk trash. The city comes each Monday to pick up stuff, but people are constantly putting out bulk items. They just leave them by the curb and wait for someone to pick them up…that someone is me if the city doesn't come and do it. It's amazing what people throw away…we really are a "throw away" society now. People are moving and just want to get rid of stuff. I ended up having to get the supervisor to help me out a bit on the last load because the stuff was just too big for just me to handle…stuff like couches, tables and big chairs…all in perfectly good condition. There are other things too that drive me nuts, like people that just don't want to walk all the way to the garbage or recycle area for their building and instead just lay it all out at the end of their building for "someone" to come and magically pick it up.

I then drove the little golf cart around with a long "pincher" I used to pick up random garbage that people leave everywhere. I always thought that a military base would have the cleanest people of any neighborhood, but I've long since thrown that crazy thought from my head. Military families are messy and just throw their garbage all over the place…they know someone will be around to pick up after them eventually. It makes me sick.

I finished up around 1500 and took it easy at home until it was time to pick up my wife. I also ended up getting a call from the medboard folks, they sent me an email last Friday and need me to respond to it. I let them know because of the holiday I haven't been in the office. Also because I'm a garbage man today, I will not be checking my email. I assured them I'll have it done first thing tomorrow. I want it done as soon as possible as well, I want this ball rolling.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up (President's Day) - (Germany) Day 415 - 418

A unique public toilet in downtown Stuttgart

Normally I break the weekend down each day, but I think I may start doing just an actual "wrap-up" for each weekend. This was a four day weekend and my wife's cousin and her daughter came to visit us from England. They flew in on Friday and we had a great time visiting with them. My wife's cousin has lived in Germany at various points in her life. She had her middle school years here while living with her parents who where stationed here in the army. Her husband is in the air force (currently deployed) and they were stationed in Germany again. Since her cousin has seen a lot of Germany already, there wasn't anywhere special she wanted to see…except Patch Barracks down near Stuttgart. She wanted to see her old stomping grounds where she spent some of her childhood. We made the drive Saturday and when we arrived she said it was like stepping back in time…not much has changed on the post at all. She got out at a few places and took some photos telling us stories the entire time.

Breakfast at McDonald's in Germany...some items are the same 
and others like this are a traditional German Breakfast

We then headed to downtown Stuttgart and I accompanied the girls while they checked out all the shopping. Stuttgart has quite a bit of shopping with many big name stores. I took advantage of grabbing an iTunes gift card while I was out on the local economy. Since I've lived here for a while, I hear a lot of German music on the radio. I want to buy it on iTunes, but a lot of it is not available in the US Store. With a German iTunes gift card, I was able to create a German apple ID and then fund the account with Euros from the gift card. After that I was able to download the music I've been wanting. It's a bit of a pain, but I now have two accounts that I can use to purchase from both the US and German iTunes store. Once the songs are downloaded they play seamlessly on my iPhone and AppleTV.

The rest of the weekend was a lot of hanging out and visiting. The girls went out and got their hair cut and just had a great time being able to hang out all weekend long. Unfortunately both my wife's cousin and her daughter started getting sick during the final part of their stay. This cut short some plans to check out some sites, but I think all in all everyone enjoyed themselves. It was nice spending time with family.
Driving on the autobahn...fog and snow today
Whenever there is a wreck on the autobahn, backups (stau) can be extremely 
long and take forever to get going again...when you gotta go, you gotta go!

We finally found out what was causing the long backup on the autobahn!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Another Day…Another Sergeant's Time Training - (Germany) Day 414

This morning we did not have PT, we met up at the PHV bowling alley at 0730, then took two cars to Mannheim for sergeant's time training. There were a number of people at the range, so we only had 7 total for this training. When we arrived at Mannheim they had one person there to attend the training. Shortly after getting setup, three people showed up from our company in Landstuhl (about an hour and a half away from Mannheim). The training was typical army training, the people that were in charge of the various subjects were told at the last minute yesterday that they had to come up with some training for today on selected subjects. So these folks threw together some PowerPoint slides and we sat and watched each of them speed through their training. I don't think anyone wanted to be there and was really just a waste of time. We had the training just for the fact that we can say we did training today.

We arrived back at PHV in time to eat lunch, so I had lunch at my house and expected to get a ride from one of the other guy's in the ComSec office (SPC Squirrel…because he moves and acts like a squirrel). As I was waiting in front of my building I get a call from SPC Squirrel saying he's going to be a bit late…his dog just ate 6 chocolate cupcakes. I wait and wait, then call him back after about a half hour. It turns out he ended up going to the vet and asked SGT Steroids to give me a ride, but he never showed up. I ended up calling my wife and had her leave work and come give me a ride in. I showed up an hour later than I had planned, but no big deal…none of it was my fault.

In my office I finished up some tasks for the chaplain (emails and some research), then did a little schoolwork. I contacted housing in Wiesbaden to get that process started. Even though I'm now on permanent profile and I should be going through the medboard process at some point, it may take quite a while. So right now I have to plan as though nothing has changed, but it would turn out to be pretty stupid and expensive for the army to move me to Wiesbaden only to turn around and move me again back home.

My wife came and was able to hang out in my office for the last half hour or so before I left. It's a four day weekend now and I haven't had a safety brief or a POV inspection. I feel like I can go buck wild crazy…LOL.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Lotta Training - (Germany) Day 413

This morning's PT was a little strange, I asked SGT Mex last night what was going on for PT this morning and he told me it was in the gym at Campbell in civilian clothes. I arrived and nobody else from my platoon ever showed up. I suspect they formed up outside close to the gate for an off post run, but I wasn't going to go around looking for them. An NCO told me to be in the gym and I have my phone, so I just stayed in the gym and did a cardio workout on the stationary bike. I'm using "workout" loosely, because all I was doing was slowly peddling and wasting time. I am still trying to get over a cold and just didn't have the energy this morning.

I headed into work for only a short time, enough time to check my email and that is pretty much it. I then turned around and picked my wife back up from her office. We both have to attend some mandatory training that is being held in the PHV theatre. The training was TARP (Threat Awareness and Reporting Program) and is a yearly requirement for both of our jobs. A special agent lead the PowerPoint presentation, but the training had issues from the beginning. The guy's microphone kept going out, so he finally gave up trying to use it. His voice was going out by the end of the hour long presentation. There were also some videos as part of the presentation, but nobody could hear the sound from the tiny little speakers they brought. This caused the special agent to just give us a little explanation of what was going on while skipping through the videos. The basics were to look out for potential bad people and report them to authorities…it could save lives. Now I can check this off as one of the mandatory training modules I need to complete.

I took my wife back to work, then headed back home for lunch. After lunch I headed into my office where I started up on the rest of the mandatory training that I have left to do…everything from sexual harassment to ethics. I was able to finish what I think is all of the modules and email all my certificates to my boss and our CAM. I'm sure they'll let me know if I'm missing anything. I did a few things for the chaplain and then called it a day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It's Permanent - (Germany) Day 412

This morning's PT was at the gym on Campbell, those not on profile did circuit drills while those of us on profile went to the gym and worked out on our own. I got a good workout doing my normal routine of weights. The only bummer about having PT at Campbell is that it makes the rest of the morning a bit rushed.

I headed into my office and had time to finish up one of the mandatory online training modules, but when I tried to do another I found out that I needed an upgraded version of flash in order to do it. So I put in a help desk request and perhaps I'll be able to do it tomorrow. The chaplain had me work on another flyer and after that it was about time for lunch, so I headed home.

After lunch I headed to the Landstuhl hospital for my neurology appointment. I arrived and saw my doctor, the appointment was a follow-up and all we did was talk about how everything was going. By the end of the conversation we both agreed that after almost a year of being on temporary profile and trying a number of options, nothing has improved. So she changed my profile to permanent and it has a PULHES (a scoring system used by the military to rate a physical profile) score with multiple 3s. A 3 means I have some medical conditions that require significant limitations. This will trigger a medboard at some point, the doctor could not tell me how fast it would happen because it really varies. The good news is that I do not need to go get my profile renewed all the time and I will not have to do anything that will aggravate my neck/head. I guess we'll see where this takes me. Glad to have this first step done and over with.

I headed home and picked up my wife from work. I finished my schoolwork and spent the evening hanging out with my wife.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Hard Day's Work - (Germany) Day 411

This morning we had PT at the middle school track on PHV. It was 27 degrees outside, and it felt even colder with the icy wind blowing. Even though we had our full winter PT uniform on, the cold wind cut like a chainsaw through butter. Standing in formation I couldn't stop shaking. This is just too cold to do PT outside. They had planned on doing 60/120s on the track, but there was still too much snow and ice. Plan B was to just run around the streets of PHV, while those of us on profile headed to the gym. I can't complain about that, I felt sorry for everyone else. The platoon sergeant said I've been on profile too long and they need to hurry up and fix me. I let him know I'm heading to the neurologist tomorrow and I'll have more information. Sometimes you can't just flip a switch and make everything OK…I wish it were that simple. My hope is that they will just release me from the army, nothing they have done or tried has helped with my symptoms.  As for today…I rode my stationary bike for my cardio workout in the warm gym with my iPhone playing music into my ears.

Today is Monday…and that means I'm a garbage man again. The difference is that I wore civilian clothes to the job, which was more comfortable and less stressful. I didn't have to stay on the lookout to make sure I don't miss a salute, I can wear my hat anywhere I want, and I can talk or text on the phone if needed while I'm on the move…not like I needed to do that, but I could if I wanted to. The day went pretty normal at first, me and another worker from the dentist office went around and changed all the garbage bags around post. I had lunch with my wife at the food court, then we headed back and picked up some of the bulk items that were left out. We then took the golf cart out for a spin to pick up any trash we saw just laying around. This part was actually pretty fun, because I drove the cart like I drive any golf cart…fast and wild.

The surprise came when we found out that we had to pick up all the bags of recyclable material and other various bags of garbage that were left out in officer housing. It seems that the city will not be by for a while to pick up their garbage and they were afraid the birds may start getting into the bags and spreading the garbage. We ended up taking four large truck loads…loading them and unloading them. It sucked and I ended up pretty tired by the end of the day. My back is sore and I'm ready to lay down and crash…but I had to do a few important things first like pick up my wife, eat dinner, do schoolwork. Another day is over and I'm one day closer to getting out.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up (Carnival in Köln) - (Germany) Day 409-410

Carnival in Köln...a ton of people dressed up and a lot of fun!

Saturday: This morning we met up with our CAM and SGT Mex at 0700 in the morning, well we were supposed to meet at 0700…we ended up getting there around 0710. We had to swing by the ATM and also didn't quite get out of the house as early as planned. This was not a big issue because it took our CAM and her mom a bit longer to get ready as well. We all piled in her truck for the trip. First stop…the gas station, then we ended up heading back to our CAM's house because they forgot to turn off the coffee pot! D'oh! I don't think we ended up leaving until about 0830…LOL.

We are heading to check out the carnival festival in Köln. They really celebrate all week, with different events going on each day. Unfortunately because we actually have to work on the weekdays, we couldn't check any of the other stuff out. We wanted to leave early so there would be no issues with traffic or finding a parking spot downtown. Upon arrival, we headed downtown and right away we saw numerous people in costume. It seems Saturday is just a day to walk around the town in costume and party. It was pretty cool people watching and checking out the occasional procession of folks in costume. We grabbed lunch from a vendor…I can't ever pass up a good bratwurst with mustard. There were groups all dressed the same and playing music as they went along, sort of like a marching band. I'm not sure exactly what was going on, but we followed a few of them and ended up in a square. At this point the place was packed and if you bought a glass for 5 euro, you could drink all the beer you wanted…what a deal! There was a lot of music and people everywhere! It was a pretty cool experience.

A full day of walking around the city and taking in the sites and the people left us pretty tired. We tried to see the chocolate museum, but it was closed for renovations. We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, kind of funny to travel to a German city, participate in their festival, only to have American food. It just sounded good to everyone though, and it was nice to get off our feet for a while. We took our time, ate, drank, and socialized. We ended up heading home at around 1930.  A good day all in all.

Sunday: We enjoyed what has started to become our typical Sunday…sleep in, stay home, do laundry, watch a lot of TV shows or movies. We were able to chat with family and friends back home. It is nice to take a day on the weekend and just do nothing, especially when you do so much the day before.

A few more pictures of our day trip to Carnival in Köln:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Prayer Breakfast & FPU - (Germany) Day 408

I had to leave pretty early this morning, I got up at 0330 and picked up the chaplain in the TMP at 0430. We left from PHV and headed towards the Landstuhl hospitable about an hour away. Once we arrived, we made sure the room adjacent to the DFAC was ready to go. This morning the chaplain hosted a prayer breakfast. The prayer breakfast is open to any soldiers that want to come, they purchase their own breakfast at the DFAC and then listen to the chaplain speak for a few minutes. Today's featured speaker was the 5th signal command chaplain…a full bird colonel. My job at this event was to make sure everyone got their fliers, everyone signed in, and also to take a bunch of photos.

After the event the chaplain and I took a short break in the main part of the DFAC and had some coffee. We went over the pros and cons of the event and then headed to 181st Company Headquarters. Here the chaplain went around and talked to the various soldiers and during this time I was able to stay in the TMP. My plan was to study a bit, but I was too tired…I kept reading the same paragraph over and over, then eventually gave in and just took a nap.

I met up with the chaplain in the conference room at 1045 where we setup for a financial training class. The chaplain brought along Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. I've listened to this guy before and he does a really great job of explaining finances and helping people get out of debt. Not only is he entertaining, but he gives some really sound advice. We watched about 45 minutes of his video on debt. The chaplain then spoke a bit and answered any questions. After that the commander and first sergeant had to get their time in, which eventually turned into a safety brief for the weekend…always one of my favorite topics (sigh). Interestingly enough when we were all leaving the first sergeant patted me on the back and asked how I liked helping out the chaplain. I told him I'm doing the best I can to help him out. The chaplain has been informing the commander and first sergeant how much he appreciates my help and I think it's starting to win the command over. The first sergeant has gone from accusing me of being a terrorist, to patting me on the back and actually being nice to me. It was pretty strange. I haven't been told anything about the investigation at all. Right now I'm cautiously optimistic that they are just going to drop it because it just got all overblown. It sure has caused me a lot of stress and really soured my view of the army. Right now I'm just working through each day knowing I'm one day closer to getting out.

We drove back to PHV where I dropped the chaplain off and then took a quick lunch break even though it was already past 1400. I then headed back to my office, stopping to top off the TMP gas tank along the way. Once I arrived, I went through my email and got all caught up. The chaplain let me go at 1630 for the day. Glad to finally start the weekend!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Observe the MAC - (Germany) Day 407

This morning for PT we did modern army combatives. This meant that I just showed up in my regular uniform and watched. I couldn't go work out on my own because I guess just watching still gives me credit for learning combatives, which we are supposed to have a certain number of hours learned each year. This went on from 0630 until 0800, when we were allowed to go home and get ready for the day, we had to be back at the ComSec office at 0930 for sergeant's time training.

This week's sergeant's time training involved basic ComSec forms and the correct way to package and inspect boxes for shipping ComSec material. This is actually some training that pertains to the job people do in ComSec, so I can't complain. I think all the training should either be MOS related or job related. The training lasted until lunch time where I headed home and ate, then headed back into my office to finish out the day. I spent the majority of the time going through my email. I've been backlogged and I finally made it through everything. I was also able to get everything on my "to do" list input digitally, so I feel like I'll be a little more efficient from now on. I grabbed a TMP and loaded it up with everything we need for tomorrow, checking to make sure there was a full tank and everything was ready to go. The only drawback…whoever used this TMP last bathed in cologne! I had to drive it home because we're leaving so early in the morning tomorrow and I had the windows rolled down the entire way even though it was very cold outside. I guess I'll see how well that helped when we take off tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Check That Box - (Germany) Day 406

This morning for PT we formed up on PHV and those not on profile went on a run around the post, while those of us on profile headed to the gym. PT here on the same post where we live saves a lot of time, and I can't say that I don't mind heading into the gym to workout and listen to my headphones. I rode the stationary bike for my cardio today and I was able to get home in time to get ready at a normal pace instead of rushing around like a chicken with my head cut off.

I arrived at my office and saw the computer was still not there, I was hoping the tech would have returned it ready to go by now. I gave him a call and he said he was still working on it…makes it tough to get much done. As usual I brought my textbook so I could read and do schoolwork. When the chaplain came in later on, I made some phone calls and ran some errands for him. I then left early before lunch and headed to the hospital, I was told yesterday by our CAM that I was due for another immunization shot and I had to get it done asap. When I arrived and told the immunization clinic at the hospital, they looked up my record and said I'm fine. I had them print off proof so I could take it back to the ComSec office and show them. It seems our company's records are a little out of whack. I headed home for lunch after leaving the hospital.

On my way back to my office, SGT Mex called and said our CAM wants me to come back to the ComSec office today and do more of the mandatory online training. So I spent the last half of the day doing just that and I was able to finish quite a few. It seems that they are rushing me now to get them all completed. Everyone else has had weeks to do them all, and I haven't even had a computer to do them on while at work. At 1700 I left and headed back to my office to lock up, and finally to my surprise my computer was there. It seems the tech finally got around to getting it working now. At least now I can do the mandatory training in the comfort of my office, and catch up on the over 190 emails I saw that are now in my inbox. The chaplain has a ton of stuff for me to work on as well, so I think I'll be a pretty busy guy at least for a while.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Back to Army PT - (Germany) Day 405

This morning we formed up in the gym and did PT as a unit once again. We are now back to normal PT, which means we start at 0630 and do the standard army exercise routines. This morning reminded me why I don't care for the army PT…not only is it at the butt crack of dawn when my body isn't acting normal yet, but I also hate doing PT as a group. I get a much better workout when I hit the gym on my own, but I can see why they made the change…too many people were missing PT because of work that always seemed to go late. If PT is done first thing on the morning, everyone usually gets it done.

I headed to my office at 0900 and tried to log into my computer with no luck, they still haven't added it to the domain. I called the IMO and he came down, tried some things, then said he would have to take the machine and image it. He said he'd have it back in a couple hours. Shortly after that the supply sergeant came by doing an inventory looking for the machine. When I told him the IMO took it, he got a little pissed. I guess the IMO is supposed to fill out a bunch of paperwork before he takes it.

We had some pretty crazy weather all of a sudden, there was thunder, then hail, then a ton of snow fell all at once. I've never seen anything like that before, I was heading out the door to run to the next building over when all of this happened. Within a couple of minutes there was an inch or two of snow on the ground…pretty crazy! I headed home for lunch…after wiping all the snow off my car. When I headed back into my office the IMO came back in as well. He said the image he put on the computer expired a few days ago and he has to download a new one. So I will not get a working computer until tomorrow…unless something else goes wrong. SGT Mex called and said our CAM wants me to do more of the online mandatory training. After I explained the situation with my computer, they told me to come over and use one of theirs.

I headed over, it was weird being in the ComSec office once again. When I signed onto one of the computers a co-worker emailed me the answers to a few of the tests, so I could get them done pretty quick. I guess they started to build a comprehensive list of answers as they did each test to help each other. I was appreciative as it helped me get through three of them very quickly. It's all about getting the box checked to show that you're finished and not about actually learning anything. Speaking of email, when I opened mine I had over 170 emails in my inbox…I haven't checked it since Thanksgiving because of all the drama that has been going on and my local access taken away. I guess I'll have to go through those tomorrow if I get my computer back and working properly. I also got my orders and I will be heading to Wiesbaden no later than August 31st. This makes an interesting dilemma trying to decide how to spend the summer with my kids. They can't come until late July and I'll be out processing and moving in August.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Garbage Trio - (Germany) Day 404

This morning I took my wife to work, then headed to my shift as garbage man. To my surprise there were three of us. There was a person from the dental office as usual, but there is also another woman who is getting kicked out of the army. So she is now doing the AIC detail (post cleanup…garbage man) on a daily basis. This made cleanup go very fast, the other two took the truck and I took the modified golf cart. They hit all the major garbage cans and the big stuff, and I hit all the playgrounds and also just drove around looking for miscellaneous trash along the roads. I was surprised how many little playgrounds there are here on PHV. You get a different view when driving the golf cart around behind buildings and such, I ran into at least 3 playgrounds that I didn't even know existed. There wasn't too much garbage around because it's still pretty cold for kiddos to be playing around, but there were plenty of little bags full of dog poop in the garbage cans…people still have to walk their dogs around.

I finished up about 1130 and then met my wife for lunch after changing into civilian clothes. The supervisor said from now on I can just wear civilian clothes every Monday when I'm pretending to be a garbage man. This is nice because I can wear hats that cover my ears to keep them warm, I can also dress comfortably and I don't have to worry about saluting officers…I can just do my job. I headed home after lunch and did schoolwork. The supervisor said he'd call me if he needed anything else done.

After some schoolwork after a quick nap, I started coordinating this weekend with some folks from work. We want to check out the carnival festivities in Köln. While chatting with SGT Mex he said our CAM is still waiting on all my mandatory online training…I told him I was picking up garbage all day. I wish they would actually give me some time once I actually have access to a computer. I also heard that my orders are already in, so I'll have to swing by there tomorrow and pick them up. I should then have a time frame of when I'll be moving to Wiesbaden…then I can kind of plan out my summer.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 402 - 403

Saturday: We didn't have any big plans to go anywhere this weekend. Most of the places I want to go either don't start opening until March, or the weather just hasn't been good enough. So we ended up just heading out to IKEA which is in a neighboring town not too far away. We went to actually have lunch and then just do some window shopping. When we got back we ended up going to see a movie here on post. The movie "Parker" was an entertaining action blow-em up movie…fun to watch. I'm assuming since I never got a call to come in and finish the mandatory online training, that they are not doing it today. I'll work on it next week if my office computer has been added back to the domain.

Sunday: Today was another day of rest. My wife and I just hung out all day watching TV, then video chatting with the kids and family during the night. The Super Bowl is on tonight at midnight and the rest of the office gets to come in at 1300, but because I'm now the designated garbage man every Monday…I have to start my job at 0900. This means no watching the Super Bowl for me.

Friday, February 1, 2013

SHARP - (Germany) Day 401

An exercise in communication...teams trying to build a lego structure. 
The builders were blindfolded and the supervisors could 
not communicate with their mouths.

This morning I headed out a little early, my wife dropped me off at my office a bit before 0630 where I met up with the chaplain after his formation. We were unable to get a TMP to drive up to Days of Excellence which is being held in Ramstein, so we took his car. He wanted me to drive…the good news is that it's a BMW, the bad news is that I didn't bring my GPS. I get lost easily once I leave our immediate Heidelberg area. We only had to double back once on the drive there. Once we arrived, I took a seat next to SPC Mac and some others that I used to work with back in the ComSec office.

The ceremony started off with some awards and promotions. One specialist got an army achievement medal for saving another's life while in a restaurant. He stated "I want to thank SPC so and so for choking and CSI Miami for teaching me the Heimlich Maneuver" LOL. We then went on to some required army training. The topic of the day was SHARP (Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention). The first module was the same ol' PowerPoint presentation that we usually get along with the same slides we see over and over again. The training itself was actually not that bad all because of the enthusiasm and the motivation the sergeant had while giving it. The second module was unlike any army training I've had before. The topic was on communication and instead of using PowerPoint, the trainer picked five lower enlisted soldiers to head up on stage and five NCOs or officers to join them. The lower enlisted were the "supervisors" and the NCOs and officers were the builders. The supervisors were shown a building (an assortment of large legos put together) and had to tell the builders how to build it. The rules…builders were blindfolded and supervisors could not speak. It was pretty funny to watch. The supervisors were stomping and clapping and the builders didn't have a clue, in the end I think they didn't even get the base put together. The trainer then went on to go over the many aspects and feelings people have when trying to communicate. It was nice to do something a little different and I think everyone got something out of it.

After the event we all had to stand outside in the rain and cold to listen to our commander and first sergeant give us a safety brief for the weekend. It's super bowl weekend and they don't want any issues to arise. Every time we thought it was just about to finish the other would start talking more and more about being safe. This went on for a while and the commander also promised that if the company goes 81 days without any incidents, he and the first sergeant will work some shifts for the soldiers…that would be funny.

I drove the chaplain to the hospital first, so he could get some contact info for the chaplain there. He also bought me lunch at the DFAC there and we had a decent meal. I don't know why, but it always seems as though that the hospital DFACs have the best food. On the drive back the chaplain fell asleep and I ended up taking us through a detour through the middle of Mannheim. I finally found some signs to head towards Heidelberg and we eventually made our way back. I think I may just keep my spare GPS in my office, so I'll always have it no matter what from now on.

When I arrived back I ran some errands for the chaplain here on post, then headed home. I ended up getting a text from my boss later on asking if I wanted to have a few beers with him at the bowling alley…no problem. We had some beers, played some darts and just hung out and talked with a couple other NCOs from the maintenance side of the ComSec office. It was a pretty good night.

Me on the right with some guys from the office watching the communication exercise