Sunday, March 31, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 458 - 459

This weekend we didn't end up doing a whole lot once again. We decided to save our money for our trip next weekend which is a 4-Day. Saturday we did head up to Ramstein air base just to get out of the house for a bit. We watched "Broken City" at their theatre and did a little shopping at the big PX. Sunday was spent at home cleaning and doing laundry…pretty boring, next weekend is going to be much more fun!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Flyer Boy - (Germany) Day 457

This morning for PT we formed up at Campbell gym. The normal folks started their stretching as a group and I headed to the gym. Shortly after SPC JayZ came and asked if I could play basketball with them, the teams were uneven. So disregarding my better judgement I went and played with them. I love the game of basketball so much, that it's really difficult for me to say no. I told everyone I was not going to run, jump, or do much…other than be a body out there because I didn't want to hurt myself anymore. That is pretty much what I did, but of course you have to jump for a jump shot and I ended up getting bumped around a bit. I did a fast walk anywhere I went. I didn't think it went too bad, but my neck and head ended up being somewhat sore at night and throughout the weekend. At least it wasn't horrible, but I do think I need some stronger pain medication. The Excedrin is doing nothing for me now.

I headed into the office and after checking my email and such, I did some schoolwork and surfed the web until lunch. I headed home for lunch and then when I came back to the office I took a number of flyers for various events that the chaplain wanted to promote and hung them up all around the battalion. The chaplain wanted to increase the number of bulletins that are getting put out. I don't think it's that the word is not getting out…it's that people just don't want to attend the various events or their command will not let them. No big deal, I try and help him out as much as possible. When I arrived at the ComSec office, my boss wanted to take that time to go over my monthly counseling with me. He had me sign it and then asked me to print out my clothing record. All the NCOs have to go over each of their soldier's clothing and equipment. Luckily I turned all my crap in, so when I printed mine out it only stated that I do not have anything issued to me…pretty easy.

I spent the rest of the day in my office passing time surfing the web and playing games on my iPhone waiting for 1700 to come…and then the weekend.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Repeat - (Germany) Day 456

Last night I sent a text to our CAM asking about this morning's PT. She replied stating that there is no PT, instead there is LandNav and other various training in Landstuhl today. They are leaving at 0730 from the office. I promptly informed her that I'd be with the chaplain today. I've already turned in all my cold weather gear, and believe me it's still very cold outside. I also have no desire to do some stupid training outside in Landstuhl all day. So I'm glad I have my escape, which also made for a nice easy going morning with my wife as we both got ready together and left for work.

I headed into my office and unfortunately was in quite a bit of pain most of the day. The entire left side of my head, neck and shoulder were all pretty bad all day long and not even a generous serving of Excedrin throughout the day put a dent in the pain. I was able to check my email and do schoolwork in the morning. I headed home for lunch and then headed back into see transportation after lunch. I had to rebook my transportation brief because it was on the same day they are planning to come and pick up my unaccompanied baggage. (Unaccompanied baggage is shipped much faster than normal household goods, but is limited to 500 pounds). I was able to get this changed quickly and then headed over to housing to setup my final out date and arrange for government furniture to be delivered to use between the time they pack up our household goods and when we leave. I got an urgent call from our CAM saying that it's imperative that I update my SGLI (Life Insurance) today. I guess the battalion is making sure everyone's insurance has been checked within the last year, now it's an emergency that I get mine done.

I then headed back to my office and then to our S-1 shop where I updated my SGLI. The process involves the sergeant on duty to bring up my current statement, I look at it on the screen, say yes…keep it the same, then input my CAC card to digitally sign it. The process only takes a few minutes. When I got back to my office I then received an email from my boss stating that he needs training certificates for a bunch of the mandatory training we had to do. They did add a few new things, but most of it was stuff they just had us do. Luckily I saved all my training certificates on my desktop because this is like the third time I've sent them! I swear paperwork disappears all the time in the army. I had about 4 modules that were newly added that I needed to do, so I started tackling those. The training is so mindless and stupid, I don't know why they have added even more to our list of mandatory online training. I ended up getting a couple done before leaving for the day, I'll finish the rest tomorrow…I feel like banging my head against a wall!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Getting Off Early - (Germany) Day 455

This morning for PT we formed up at Patton Barracks in civilian clothes. For some reason I went on auto pilot and headed straight to Campbell Gym. Once inside I realized I was in the wrong place and quickly drove to Patton. Luckily I left early enough this morning that I still arrived just in time. The normal folks did all kinds of strange exercises with SGT Steroids. Those of us on profile headed to the gym and when we came out the normal folks were finishing up doing leap frog over each other…I don't even want to know what else he had them doing.

I headed into my office and checked my email, surfed the web a bit, then did schoolwork. I did a couple edits on some paperwork for the chaplain, then headed off for lunch at home. After lunch I headed into the transportation office. The office had one person working and there were already two people in line before me. I waited almost an hour before being seen. Government efficiency at its best! Finally I headed up and gave the guy my paperwork and my orders. He gave me a couple more appointments that I had to attend and gave me the dates for pick-up. I had to head straight home and email the guy a copy of my registration for my motorcycle. I guess I was supposed to bring that as well because they'll be shipping it back.

I then was able to take the rest of the day off. The chaplain said that because we worked so late last night, I could leave at 1400 today. Even though transportation took longer than that, I still enjoyed the rest of the day off.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Going to Jail - (Germany) Day 454

A view of the jail we visited, located at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim
You can see the guard towers at each corner...and of course
there are fences and barbed wire along each side.
This morning I headed to PT in my ACUs. I just showed up for formation and then headed back home. I'm turning in all my gear this morning, so I brought my wife to work early and headed to CIF (Central Issuing Facility). There are walk-ins from 0800 - 1200, I arrived at 0730 and brought in all my gear…and waited. I knew I was early, but I wanted to be first and get it done with. They opened up a little early and I packed all my crap inside the office. The local national (German dude) working the counter had me give him a copy of my orders and my memo stating I can turn in all my gear early. I am turning everything in as if I'm ETSing (leaving the army). He printed off a list of items that I needed to turn in and I started handing him things one at a time. He would give them a quick look over and then mark it off the list. It all went pretty quick and even though I was missing a grenade pouch, he said he had a few extras and I wouldn't be charged for it. After that he gave me some paperwork showing everything I had turned in. I've heard horror stories about turning stuff into CIF, like if there is a speck of dirt on an item they won't take it. Luckily my guy was pretty easy going.

I headed to my office and did a quick email check, then checked in with the chaplain. I had to head over to Subway and pick up a large order of party trays for today's lunch bible study. Once I brought them back to the conference room, the chaplain told me to take a couple for myself. I took a sandwich and headed to my office where I ate lunch and surfed the web.

We headed out after lunch, I drove the chaplain to the hospital in Landstuhl for his appointment. There were no TMPs available, so he had me drive him in his own car. The appointment at the hospital actually took quite a while. In addition he had to get some paperwork from another office on the other side of the hospital and bring it back to where we were. Before we left he bought me a snack and some coffee.

It was already well after 1500 by the time we headed to the company in Landstuhl. He visited with the soldiers there while I stayed in his car and did some schoolwork. It ended up being after 1700 by the time we left the company, but on a good note I was able to get all my schoolwork done. We then had to head to the prison located in Mannheim. The chaplain received a call from the prison chaplain asking if he could stop by the prison because he would not be able to make it. So we headed to the prison and I headed in with the chaplain as well, just to check it all out.

The outside and inside is pretty much like you see in all the movies. Large fences with barbed wire and guard towers. Inside there were plenty of gates that had to be remotely opened for us. We checked in and left my utility tool and the chaplain's pocket knife. I was able to bring in my phone because I was with the chaplain, but I wasn't allowed to take any photos unfortunately. We were escorted to a part of the prison called the SHU (Special Housing Unit) which was kind of like solitary confinement. The chaplain spoke with each of the 4 guys staying there. It was a pretty depressing place. Three of the four guys had kids and either a wife or girlfriend. I checked out some of the empty cells and let me just say I'm glad I'm not staying there! The cells were tiny with just enough room for a small bed, metal sink and toilet right out in the open.

On our way out we passed by a gym and a common area. The place is no joke and downright depressing. I don't think I would ever want to work in a prison! It was pretty cool to be able to go inside and actually check it out. An experience I probably would not have if I was not helping out the chaplain. We finally made it home a little after 2000…a long day!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Garbage Man (Reprise) - (Germany) Day 453

This morning for PT we formed up at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. Those not on profile headed off post for a run, while those of us on profile stayed in the gym to workout. I rode the stationary bike for a pretty good cardio workout.

I headed into work and shortly after arriving, I got a call asking if I could do the post cleanup detail today. I checked with the chaplain and he said there was nothing pressing for me today. He doesn't like having me gone the entire day for post cleanup, but because the rest of the company is doing training…it only left me.

I thought I was done playing garbage man…I thought wrong. I had planned on doing some stuff to prepare for out-processing today, but I'll have to put that off until tomorrow. I headed home and changed into civilian clothes. Nothing worse than carrying around a garbage bag and worrying about saluting or taking my hat on or off. I worked with a guy from the dental clinic that I've done post cleanup with a few times before. This time he showed up and didn't have any rank on. It turns out he got into some sort of trouble and was demoted to E-1. He is also getting chaptered out of the army. I didn't press to find out exactly what was going on, because he was still in a little shock about the whole ordeal and didn't seem like he wanted to talk about it too much.

So we did our garbage cleanup around post, I had lunch with my wife and bought lunch for the dental soldier with me (his bank accounts are currently frozen because of whatever trouble he got in). We finished up early at about 1300 and I headed home for the rest of the day.

The longer I'm here the more I dislike the army. While I really don't mind helping out the chaplain, I have a lot of time where I'm doing nothing…which is similar to my job working in the ComSec office. I also actually don't mind pretending to be a garbage man. I get to wear civilian clothes and I get done early and go home. The army just doesn't use it's resources very well. If it were a business, it would have gone out of business a long time ago. I was trained to do a particular job for the army. I actually came in with many years of experience to do this particular job. I have a number of certifications in the field of this job. I graduated at the top of my AIT class for this job. I broke the schoolhouse record when getting my security+ certification for this job. Then the entire time I've been in the army, I don't do the job. It happens to soldiers all the freakin' time. An entire half of the ComSec office (the maintenance side) has been shut down for half a year. They do not do anymore maintenance on ComSec equipment at all, so the soldiers just sit around watching YouTube all day. It would be the equivalent of a large hospital spending a large amount of money recruiting experienced surgeons only to have them sit around and do nothing, or perhaps teach classes on construction management (something totally different than what they are hired for). I really can't wait to get back into normal life as a civilian.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 451 - 452

A photo of Vapiano in Mannheim

This weekend we took it easy. In fact the only real adventure we went on was going out to eat in Mannheim. We ran into our CAM at the post office and invited her along as well. So the three of us headed out and ate at a place called "Vapiano" which has some great Italian food, cooked fresh. It's a little different than traditional restaurants. When you head in, you are given a card (kind of like a credit card) and you take the card to the cooks and make your order. They make your dish right in front of you and put all the expenses on the card. You can also order drinks and deserts from different locations putting all the charges on your card. When you leave they take your card and ring up the balance. The food is fresh and very good!

We spend most of Sunday just cleaning up around the house. I put all my TA-50 (army gear that was issued to me) together. I cleaned up anything that looked dirty and packed it all so I can turn it in this coming Tuesday.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Day Without the Chaplain - (Germany) Day 450

This morning PT was at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. The normal folks did step aerobics, while those of us on profile headed to the gym. I headed to the weights and did a little strength training.

I headed into my office and did the usual…check my email, do my schoolwork, study for my Apple re-certification exam, and surf the web. The chaplain went to France with a number of other officers for some officer training. Their training was a sight seeing trip checking out a defensive barrier called the "Maginot Line". He was gone the entire day, so I just basically hung out and tried to keep myself entertained on the computer. At lunch I took a nap in my office, then spent the rest of the afternoon doing pretty much the same thing I did in the morning.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lotta Driving - (Germany) Day 449

This morning I didn't go to PT, instead I picked up the chaplain in the TMP in front of his house. We headed off to Wiesbaden where the chaplain did his UMT training and I headed to the food court to do schoolwork. I stayed in there until 1000 when the library opened up. By that time I had my schoolwork done, so I headed to the library and played around on my iPad using the free WiFi. I headed back to the food court once again for lunch and then met the chaplain at the TMP at 1300.

We then headed to Landstuhl where the chaplain went in and chatted with the soldiers. While he did his thing, I just stayed in the TMP and took a nap while listening to the radio. We headed out at about 1600 for home.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lost in the Shuffle - (Germany) Day 448

This morning for PT we formed up at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. The normal folks went for a run off post, while those of us on profile headed to the gym. I rode the stationary bike for cardio and chatted with SPC Mac the entire time.

I headed into my office and ended up just sitting in the hallway for over an hour. There is only one key to my office and it's stored in a lockbox in the OIC's office. Everyone was gone this morning, so I just sat there and read my textbook while drinking coffee. Finally the OIC came in at almost 1030 and I was able to access my computer.

I found that my office requested I change the address on my pass form. I'm not sure why, because I used the same exact form as an earlier pass and used the United European Airlines address. It turns out they wanted me to put Amsterdam as well. It's a little frustrating, but I did it and sent it off. Later on I get a call asking for the memo I gave our CAM a while ago stating that I do not need a dental appointment. Unfortunately I gave her my only copy…now it's lost. I know better than to give my only copy of anything in the army, but I didn't think this was a big deal. So I had to make a trip to the dental clinic and get a new memo stating that I in fact do not need a dental appointment until August…the company's records are incorrect. I scanned this memo and emailed it to the office, now I have a digital copy!

I spent the rest of the day after eating lunch at home studying for my Apple recertification and then schoolwork. Around 1600 I picked up the TMP and filled it with gas and drove it home. I'll be leaving early tomorrow to pick up the chaplain for a long day of driving him around.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Recovery - (Germany) Day 447

This morning I finished up my staff duty shift until 0900. SGT Steroids and I took turns taking a couple hour nap, but trying to sleep on chairs setup in another room was uncomfortable to say the least. As tired as I was, I didn't nap very well at all. I headed home and then was able to crash until a little after 1400.

I always hate the day after staff duty, I feel like a zombie the entire day. I also woke up with a raging headache, which seems to be the usual after a staff duty session. It's just such a waste of time. The people that make the decisions forcing us to do it, don't have to do it themselves…so it's no big deal. I can't wait to get out of here! As for the rest of the day…I didn't do much because my head was killing me. I was able to get everything turned in for my schoolwork and watch a few TV shows, but that is about it. A wasted day at staff duty yesterday and a wasted day today trying to recover.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up (St. Patricks Day 4-Day) - (Germany) Day 443 - 446

The Brandenburg Gate

This weekend was pretty awesome. We left early Friday morning and headed off to the city of Leipzig. Here we met with a guy that my wife and I both worked with over 10 years ago at the newspaper. He worked with me in the I.T. department. Now he sets up robots in hospitals around the world and happened to be here in Germany, so we made the 4 hour drive to visit him for a while. He showed us around the city and then we had lunch together at a great Italian restaurant where they make the food right there in front of you.

After visiting with our friend in Leipzig we headed off for a 2 hour drive to Berlin. I had booked a hotel for 2 nights right in the middle of Berlin. The stay was awesome and the city was great. We were going to try and either walk or drive to all the sites, but decided to get a city circle bus tour pass. This pass let us ride special buses that just made loops around the city stopping at all the interesting sites. We could hop on and off at our leisure and check out whatever we wanted. During the bus ride we would hear interesting facts about the city and the places we were about to see. It was pretty cool to see everything and I would recommend any tourist to check out this bus tour. We took a ton of pictures and got to see some amazing stuff. I made the mistake of climbing to the top of Victory Tower…my legs are still sore!

We also met and had dinner with one of the exchange students that lived with me and my family back in high school. I also had the opportunity to stay with her and her family for a summer after high school. She happened to be living in Berlin and I had just recently made contact with her again thanks to Facebook. Now I've been able to reconnect and meet with all three of the exchange students that have stayed with me back in high school. Pretty crazy after all these years!

Unfortunately SGT Mex had his going away dinner on Friday. He left and then flew out on Saturday, so we didn't get to see him off. We had already booked the hotel before they made these plans. I also didn't tell them where we even went. Berlin and Leipzig is well outside of the 150 mile radius we're allowed to travel without putting in a pass. Putting in a pass is such a pain in the ass, that I didn't even bother. One of the nice things about being in the chaplain's office is that I haven't done a weekend checklist or had a POV inspection either. I did put in a pass for a trip I have planned in April, but that is actually leaving the country.

I had to cut my 4-day weekend short because I had staff duty on Monday. I'm not too pissed about it because we had so much fun on the 3 days prior…but it's still such a waste of time. Sit in an office and surf the web just trying to pass the time. One good thing about staff duty when I have schoolwork…it gives me plenty of time to deal with all of it. With more people leaving staff duty is becoming quite the burden. SGT Steroids has it with me tonight, then has a recovery day tomorrow and then staff duty again on Wednesday…it's out of control.

Check out a few of the photos below (Edit: flickr deleted my previous slideshows unfortunately and there were a ton! So I just had to remove the links that were here)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

IDES Appt - (Germany) Day 442

This morning I did not head to PT, instead I drove a TMP up to Landstuhl hospital for an appointment. I had an appointment at 0830 and left at 0630 even though the trip is only a little over an hour. The problem comes when you reach the hospital gate in the morning because traffic gets backed up pretty far. This morning it actually took me a while to leave because there was ice all over the TMP, so I had to get all of that cleared before leaving. When I arrived at the gate, I was in a long line for about a half hour!

I ended up heading straight into my appointment and only arrived 10 minutes before the scheduled time. A couple minutes later and I would have been late! The appointment was basically sitting down with a doctor and going over all my conditions. The doctor was pretty cool and was able to do a good job of going over everything step by step. We went from my knee issues to my head & neck issues. He had access to all my records at his computer and we went over X-rays and everything else while I was there. His job was to put together a consolidated list of everything that is wrong with me. This list will then be sent to the medboard folks in Ft. Lewis and the process will move on from there.

The appointment lasted until about 1030, then I headed to the food court and ate lunch. After lunch I headed to the TMP to take a nap before driving back. Nobody was expecting me back until 1400 and I didn't want to disappoint them. I ended up getting back a little before 1400 and headed to my office. I was able to do some schoolwork and then some SkillPorts before calling it a day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Chaplain's Coin - (Germany) Day 441

The chaplain's challenge coin I was given 
(blurred out the name only because I don't use real names in my journal)

This morning for PT we headed to Patton gym, the normal folks did circuit training while those of us on profile headed into the gym for our own workout. I rode the stationary bike for some cardio since I didn't get much of anything yesterday.

I headed into my office and after checking the road conditions and weather reports, let the chaplain know it may be better if we don't do any traveling today. He was looking for an excuse not to make the drive up to Landstuhl today, so this was his way out. In truth it was snowing lightly outside and it was very icy with both Heidelberg and Landstuhl showing road conditions as amber.  So without any driving to do today, I concentrated on work I needed to do here. I started a new college class, so that was priority number one. I then moved on to studying some for my Apple re-certification. After that I did some SkillPorts so I can add them to my CompTia continuing education hours.

I headed home for lunch and then headed to the transportation office afterwards. I didn't go to see them, but just to pick up some of the required paperwork that must be done before seeing them. I'll fill all of that out and then swing by sometime next week to make dates for our household goods pickup. The rest of the day was the norm, just checking email and surfing the web. The chaplain came in at one point and said how much he appreciates everything I do for him. He then gave me one of his coins as a token of appreciation. I thought that was pretty cool, it is actually the first coin I've received since being here in Germany. While in Korea I received numerous coins, but it's been a different story here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Snow Again - (Germany) Day 440

This morning for PT we were supposed to go to Patton gym, but as I arrived everyone was being told to head back home, grab our dog tags, then head to the S-1 shop with our ID and dog tags because they are doing a PAI (Personnel Asset Inventory). This is a basically a process where everyone has to report, show their ID and dog tags, then sign next to their name. Why they chose to do it right when PT was about to start I don't know. So I head home, grab my dog tags, then head to Campbell Barracks which is where our S-1 shop is located. Once there they said it was changed to just a roll call, so after they marked me down I headed to Campbell gym to try and get a little workout in. Not too long after I started riding my stationary bike, our platoon sergeant came in and had everyone head back to S-1 once again. It seems that it wasn't just a roll call, it was indeed a PAI. So we all got in line and showed our dog tags, ID, then found our name on the roster and initialed next to it after verifying our personal information. We were then supposed to head back to the gym and finish our workout. This whole morning has been pretty stupid, I sat on the bike for a bit maintaining a slow peddle for about 10 minutes, then just headed home. Everything is so disorganized and lack of communication is rampant here.

It had started snowing when I had left to PT and it hadn't let up. It seems strange to have it still snowing in March. It continued to snow all day and it was worse up north. The Frankfurt airport cancelled a number of flights and the road conditions at Ramstein and other army posts were red. My day consisted of making a couple flyers for the chaplain, studying for my apple re-certification, and surfing the web trying to pass the time. My big mission of the day came when I headed to Subway and ordered 7 foot long sandwiches for a bible study lunch the chaplain puts on every Tuesday. Besides that I was pretty bored.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Prayer Breakfast - (Germany) Day 439

The guest speaker at this morning's prayer breakfast

This morning I didn't have PT, instead I helped out the chaplain with a prayer breakfast at 0630. The event was held at the hospital DFAC in a side room. I brought the bulletins and other paperwork…along with my camera to snap some photos. The event went fine, except there was no coffee available at the DFAC, how can you have a breakfast event without coffee. It turns out that by the time we left, they had the coffee machine working…go figure.

I headed home and ate my normal breakfast (cereal and yogurt) along with some freshly brewed Kona Coffee that my wife made. I then headed back into my office and took a nap after checking email. I then did a little studying for my apple re-certification before lunch. I met up with my wife for lunch at the food court and then headed back to work. I almost crashed my car on the way back because I saw a little midget with a long beard…he looked just like one of the 7 dwarves! I was trying to get my phone out to snap a picture while driving…not a good idea. Luckily I didn't crash, but I also didn't get a picture either.

Back in the office I gathered the paintball flyers and went around taking down the prayer breakfast flyers and replacing them with paintball flyers. Besides the prayer breakfast early this morning, that was the only thing I really did all day. The rest of the day was spent surfing the internet or playing games on my phone. I think most of the days are going to be like this until I leave this place. I start my next class in a couple of days, so that should help pass the time. I feel all the time that joining the army has been just a huge waste of time professionally.

The singer for this morning's prayer breakfast
The chaplain gave the singer an award during the prayer breakfast

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 437 - 438

My wife giving a little money to a street performer in downtown Heidelberg
After that he posed with her for another pic :)

This weekend we decided to take it easy. We went for a trip last weekend and we're planning on a weekend get-away next weekend, so we used this weekend to just relax. This turned out to be a good thing, because my neck and head were not doing so hot. It seems I can take an entire bottle of aspirin with no effect. I resorted to a combination of aspirin, beer, and a muscle relaxer at night to dull the pain.

We did make it out to the flea market and then downtown Heidelberg for some food. We even made it to a car wash to get our filthy car cleaned up a little…at least until the next snow or rain fall. I also spent quite a portion of Sunday going through all my army gear to turn in. I have to turn in everything before I leave here as if I'm getting out of the army. This was a slow process that involved checking off each item from a list I had printed out. I also had a PDF that had a list of item numbers and pictures of the gear so I could figure everything out. Sometimes the name on the list isn't too helpful. I was able to find everything after a bit of searching…except one grenade pouch. Hopefully that will turn up, or else I'll have to pay for it. I also found that my med pouch was full of charcoal from when we had to do chemical exposure training and rub it all over our faces. Needless to say, some of the stuff required some cleaning. I cleaned a few pouches and my helmet cover in the sink, then threw them in the washing machine. Hopefully everything else will be clean enough for turn in. I'll try and get that done soon.

Outside a chocolate shop in downtown Heidelberg :)

I'm really going to miss all the different great beers here in Germany!

Friday, March 8, 2013

No More TA - (Germany) Day 436

This morning we had PT at Campbell gym. The normal folks did step aerobics while those of us on profile went to the gym and worked out. I did my usual weight machine routine, but it seems like it's not so usual anymore. Something always seems to be coming up on the days I normally do weights, so when I do end up doing them it turns out to be pretty tough.

I headed to work this morning and after checking in with the chaplain, I headed over to SATO. This is the travel agency on post that does both official travel as well as travel for fun. I brought the required 3 copies of my orders and was able to get my itinerary for my flight back home in July. I then headed to the out-processing center. My orders state that I needed to head there immediately upon receipt of my orders, but when I arrived they said to come back April 15th.

I headed back to my office, checked emails, and surfed the web for a bit. I then headed home for lunch. When I arrived back at work I did a little more revising of my "to do" list. I want to make sure I get everything done as soon as possible when it comes to getting out of here. With the post shutting down for good, it may prove to be a little difficult if I wait until the last minute to do everything. We received official notice that because of sequestration, the army is suspending all TA (tuition assistance). I have already signed up for my next class and actually planned on not resuming after that until I arrive in Ft. Lewis. Hopefully by then they will have the budget issues all figured out. TA is a great benefit to soldiers. Soldiers can use TA to pay for college while serving. It's free and soldiers can use up to $4,500 a year for this purpose. I've been using it quite a bit and now have only 7 classes left until I get my degree. I just hope I can finish it up before I get out.

I spent the rest of the day studying for my Apple re-certification and doing some general web surfing. Not a whole lot going on…just waiting to get the weekend started.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Driver - (Germany) Day 435

Just a photo I snapped while driving along the autobahn. 
OK I may have the humor of a 12 year old...LOL

This morning there was no PT because of some sergeant's time training in Landstuhl. I was exempt because I had to drive the chaplain. I spent the first half hour at work putting together everything to submit a pass request. We are planning a trip on the April 4-day. Anytime you go on pass or leave, there is a ton of paperwork that must be submitted.

Once the pass was submitted to my boss, I headed out with the TMP and filled it up with gas. I was back and ready in plenty of time for our scheduled departure at 1030. I drove the chaplain to Landstuhl, so he could meet up with the soldiers located up there. On the drive up, the chaplain fell asleep and he doesn't like the radio on…so it was a quite ride. I dropped him off and then headed to the hospital to grab some lunch at their food court. I was planning on having some Subway, but the line was out the freakin' door! I guess showing up at noon is not a good idea. I chose pizza instead, there was only one person in line…LOL.

After eating, I headed back and waited in the van while parked in the parking lot. I was drained, so I took a nap. I then read a "Stars and Stripes" newspaper I bought at the hospital. I noticed the headline about North Korea threatening a preemptive strategic nuclear strike and had to read it.

The chaplain came out and we left around 1500, again he slept on the way home and no radio. It's pretty strange to think that this is a days work for me. Driving a guy back and forth and a lot of waiting in a van. When I got back it was after 1600, so I spent a while just surfing the web passing the time until 1700 rolled around.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Got Orders? - (Germany) Day 434

This morning PT was at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. The normal folks went for a run off post, while those of us on profile worked out in the gym. I rode the stationary bike and chatted with SPC Mac the entire time. We are both on what we call the "WTU Train" (Warrior Transition Unit) going through the medboard process.

When I came to work I went through all my emails and filled out some required medboard paperwork that the transition office requested. I chatted with the chaplain and did some more admin work for him. Before I left for a hearing appointment, I took the transition paperwork to our S1 shop and dropped it off for them to sign. My MedPro status had changed earlier from green to red because I needed a hearing test done. I need to have everything green in order to put in for a pass or leave, so I wanted to get this taken care of as soon as possible. The last time I went, I couldn't find anyone there. This time the door was unlocked to the audiology office, but when I stepped in it looked like a ghost town. There was nothing in the room except some sparse furniture and phone wires with no phones attached. At this point I started to get a little worried that I may have to head to Landstuhl in order to get this hearing test done. I went to the information desk and inquired about it. The guy made a call, then escorted me to an unmarked door where a man greeted me and started the process. Strange that they would not put a sign up or something, but no worries…I'm there and ready to get this done with.

The hearing test was a standard test…put on some headphones and listen to beeps, clicking a button each time one is heard. My hearing has degraded since my last test in basic which is no surprise. I'm older and have heard a lot of loud noises while in the army. I got my slip stating that I had my test done, then headed home for lunch.

Once back at work I went by S1 and picked up my paperwork. I then headed over to the reassignment office to turn all the paperwork in. To my surprise they already had my orders ready. The guy gave me multiple copies and wished me luck. It seems that much more official now that I finally have orders to Ft. Lewis! I then went back to my office and started making an electronic checklist of everything that I need to do both at work, for my PCS, and the passes and leave I want to take. There is a lot of stuff and I want to stay organized and on top of it all.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

PEBLO Briefing - (Germany) Day 433

A view of the Landstuhl Medical Center from the sky.
I was told that it's design was to help in case it is bombed, there
are several buildings all attached instead of one large hospital building
This morning I headed out and instead of going to the PT formation, I hopped into a TMP and headed off to Landstuhl. I headed out at 0630 with an appointment at 0845 at the Landstuhl hospital. It normally takes a bit over an hour to get there, but I heard traffic in the morning at the gate is horrible…and I have to be there 15 minutes early of course. Traffic was indeed horrible at the gate, but I made it in plenty of time. I went to the coffee joint in the hospital and picked up a mocha and a bite to eat for breakfast.

When I arrived they had me sign in and then my case nurse (or something like that) took me back into her office. We went over all my paperwork and she gave me a little pre-briefing briefing. I headed back to the conference room where there ended up being a total of three soldiers going through the process. We had a total of three briefings all about the medboard process. The first was legal, then another guy who works with a number of soldier organizations, and finally the PEBLO brief. We learned what the process will be like and how long it should take. We learned the various outcomes of the medboard process and what things we can appeal and what we can't. It was an interesting brief, but I had heard a lot of it before from SPC Mac since he just went through his. It's always best to hear it straight from the source though…as the ComSec motto goes "Trust No One".

After the brief I had to make an appointment for an OPIN appointment. This is where a doctor will discuss everything with me and write down kind of a consolidated form with everything on it. This will be sent to the WTU in Ft. Lewis and used as a starting point for the medboard process. I have that appointment next Thursday.

I grabbed a bite to eat at the food court in the hospital, then headed back to my office. By the time I filled up the TMP and turned it back into the ComSec office it was 1500. I met up with the chaplain and we went over everything that's going on with all his events. He also said he talked to my platoon sergeant and got me off of garbage duty from now on. The chaplain said he needs me too much, and can't spare me every Monday. So…no more "Garbage Man Mondays".

Monday, March 4, 2013

Garbage Day - (Germany) Day 432

This morning I arrived to PT at Campbell gym only to find out that there was a miscommunication and I do not have a PT test this morning. That was only for SPC JayZ who has to do one as a prerequisite to WLC. The normal folks went for a run off post in civilian clothes, while the profiles worked out in the gym. I rode the stationary bicycle and had a moderate workout. I didn't bring my headphones because I thought I was going to be taking a PT test…so I just couldn't get motivated on my bike.
It's Monday and that means garbage day. I met up with the supervisor and went over everything he wanted done. I started out by myself, but after about a half hour PFC Ski from the ComSec office showed up and joined me. With his help we were able to get quite a bit done pretty quickly. I had lunch with my wife and then finished up the regular garbage detail. Special duties today included taking down some advertising that some locals put up on the outside of one of the post fences (not allowed), and driving around the modified golf cart doing a police call around some fields. We finished up around 1430 and I headed home to rest a bit. I got a call from my medboard liaison here and she told me I will be heading to Ft. Lewis and will report on July 9th. This is good news and relieves a lot of stress from my shoulders. I will now be able to see my kids, my family and my friends back at home while I'm going through the medboard process.

I picked up my wife from work and then headed into town to meet up with a classmate from high school. It's crazy, but a person from my small town high school now lives and works in Heidelberg. We met up for dinner and chatted about how he ended up here…pretty crazy.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 430 - 431

A photo of Löwenburg castle from the side...after I climbed up a small hill

This weekend we decided to finally get out of the house for a while. With the crappy weather and sickness, it seems like we keep spending each weekend at home. I made a list of various places that I want to visit while we're here in Germany and picked one from the list. We ended up taking a road trip to the city of Kassel, which resides at the edge of our 150 mile radius that we're allowed to travel without a pass. I read an article about some of the best castles to see in Germany and Löwenburg Castle was one of them. Löwenburg Castle happens to be located in the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. This park is huge with the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe (a palace filled with antiquities and arts) at one end and the Hercules statue standing at the top of the hill. Everything in between is filled with various trails, water, and a Roman aqueduct. The Löwenburg Castle is located within this park and we checked out all the scenery taking pictures all over the place. We arrived at the castle and purchased the tour, which is the only way to see the inside. Even though the tour was all in German, I understood enough to get the basics. It was also pretty apparent what was what, just by looking around. We had to pay an extra 5 Euro in order to take pictures as well, but I figured we'll only be here once…we might as well get some pictures while we're inside.

The trip was pretty cool and I look forward to doing more things like this before we leave Germany. I got a call on Sunday telling me that I have a PT test tomorrow. Thanks for the advance notice guys. Usually we know a week or two out. I usually eat a little better and drop a few pounds to get under the weight limit, but not this time. This will be the first time I actually have to get taped…unless I magically lose a few pounds while sleeping tonight. I'm a little pissed off that they are even making me take a PT test. I'm on my way out via the medboard process and only giving me a night's notice is crappy too. They will only get the army minimum standard tomorrow when I take it. It's just a bunch of BS!

Here are a few pictures from the trip:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Recovery Day - (Germany) Day 429

I mentioned in the last post  what my morning consisted of…staff duty. I headed home afterward and crashed until a little after 1400. I always hate the days after I get off of staff duty. The entire day even with the nap is spent feeling tired and not quite right. I picked up my wife from work and we spent the evening together hanging out until I passed out once again for the night. Pretty much a waste of a day…other than spending some zombie time with my wife.