Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Road Guard - (Germany) Day 489

Spaghettieis!! One of my favorite desserts from way back when I was 
an exchange student...ice cream made to look like a plate of spaghetti

This morning for PT I came in my ACUs. I was designated to be a road guard for the PT test. So during everyone's push-up portion I just sat around and chatted with the other designated road guards. For the sit-up portion I was one of the designated feet holders. Finally for the running portion I put on a reflective vest and stood on the road making sure that no motorists ran over our runners. After PT I followed SPC Mac to the auto detailer so he could drop off his car. Cars have to be spotless when shipping them back to the states. The shipping inspectors go a little overboard when checking out the cars before sending them back to the states. If there is dirt anywhere including the spare tire, the engine, or any other nook or cranny they can find, your vehicle will fail inspection and it cannot be shipped. This particular detailer guarantees that the vehicle will pass inspection, so both SPC Mac and I decided to just pony up the dough and pay to get it done. I gave SPC Taylor a ride home and then ended up taking him back into work once we were both ready.

In my office today I was able to get my schoolwork done as usual. I also finally made contact with my future platoon sergeant at the WTU in Ft. Lewis. I sent him all of my info including my flight itinerary. Now I don't have to wonder what I'll need to do once I arrive. I then went through my email and backed up any important info from my computer. Today will be the last time I use it. I made my final Tuesday run to Subway to pick up the party platters for his lunch bible study. The chaplain told me to grab some, which I did and headed to my office. I ate, shut the door, and then took a nap.

After lunch I basically just surfed the web and passed the time until 1700. I then headed over to staff duty and spoke with SGT Steroids who was on duty. With the new schedule where he is on call, I asked him if he wanted me to call him at midnight and wake him up…or if he wanted to just sign me out on leave at his convenience. He obviously chose the latter. Now I just have to hope that he does indeed sign me out on leave…I don't want any issues while I'm out. So I'll be on leave for the next 20 days…my next post will be after that with a short wrap-up. My mom and aunt are coming to visit Germany while I'm here, and I'll be playing tour guide.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Last Regular Monday - (Germany) Day 488

Just a random photo of me in rapeseed field. 
There are large fields of this all around the Heidelberg area.

This morning for PT we showed up at Campbell gym. Those of us on profile were in our summer PT uniform and headed to the gym, while the normal folks came in ACUs and their assault packs. They headed off post for a ruck march. I grabbed a stationary bike and got a decent cardio workout in.

I headed into my office and did the usual…schoolwork, check email, surf the web. SPC Mac came over and visited for a while, I think he just needed to get away from the ComSec office for a bit. He said all anyone does in there is watch videos on YouTube all day long. With the base closing and the ComSec office not issuing keys anymore, there is absolutely nothing to do. I headed over to Subway to make sure the order for tomorrow's bible study was put in. I then headed to lunch at home.

Once back in my office the chaplain called me down to his office to go over what's left of my time here…basically today and tomorrow before I go on leave. He thanked me for everything I've been doing to help him out and then surprisingly took a plaque he had made for me out of his desk. It's a pretty cool plaque thanking me for my help along with the picture of Heidelberg engraved on it. Even though I've never had any plans on being a chaplain's assistant when I joined the army, the job kind of saved my sanity. When all the crap came down on me for writing this blog and I was kicked out of the ComSec office, I hated life during my short stay in S-1. Having to deal with the CSM on a daily basis sucked and they had nothing for me to actually do while I was in S-1. So moving to help out the chaplain got me away from the CSM and gave me my own office with a computer. Even though I've never been too busy with actual army work, I've had the chance to do my schoolwork and at least surf the web on my computer to pass the time.

I thanked the chaplain a lot for the gift and let him know how much I appreciated being moved over. I found out later from my boss that the ComSec office couldn't have me back as they wanted because the chaplain had been praising me so much to the command…so they never moved me back and let him keep me for the remainder of my time here...lol.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 486-487

I love shopping for beer out in Germany...it's like a Disneyland for beer lovers!

This weekend we drove up to Ramstein to visit with our niece who happened to come down from England with her high school's soccer team to play. We watched the game, then took her out to eat and watch a movie. After that we hung out with her at the PX until the rest of her team arrived for dinner. It was fun hanging out with her, it's not too often that we get to see family while being so far away from home.

Sunday we did the usual cleaning and laundry. We also gathered together everything that we're going to ship in what's called "unaccompanied baggage". This used to be the part of your household goods that were delivered via air that you shipped before you PCS. This way they would arrive earlier than the rest of your household goods, so stuff you need earlier can be packed. There are some exceptions and the weight limit is much lower. We've been told they are not shipping via air anymore, but we could still make a shipment much earlier than our normal household goods in order for it to arrive earlier. So this shipment is scheduled on May 2nd, I'll be on leave…but I didn't have anything planned except lounging around. We gathered up the stuff we wanted them to ship and placed it all in our dining room.

I have two more days until I'm off on leave. I've taken 20 days of leave and will have the first few to just relax before my mom and aunt come to visit. I can't wait!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Another Day Gone By - (Germany) Day 485

The pigeons like to hang out on our window

This morning we had PT at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. Those of us on profile headed to the gym and did our own workout while the normal folks did a half hearted attempt at a run. Our platoon sergeant put our useless sergeant in charge of PT before he left for an appointment. The useless sergeant had everyone do a run off post to the hospital and back, which is a short run already. Half way to the hospital I heard he told everyone to turn around and come back…when they all got back he said they were done for the day. So a few of the soldiers ended up coming into the gym to finish a workout on their own. I worked on the weights and had a good workout.

I headed into my office and did what has become my normal routine…schoolwork, check email, and surf the web. I'm trying to wrap up this particular class I'm taking before I go on leave next week. I have 2 weeks worth of work to finish before then, so I'm grateful for all the time I have to do schoolwork at work. It may not be the best use of taxpayer's money, but then again I think half the stuff the army does is a waste of time and money.

I headed home for lunch, then back to work. I spent the rest of the day surfing the web and playing games to pass the time. I took a couple things out of the office to the dumpster. Next Tuesday I hear that we will be moving the furniture out as well. Right outside the ComSec office they have a large machine with a huge mechanical claw along with large waste containers that they move in and out as they get filled up. The big claw has been taking from large piles of chairs and office furniture that each office has just being dropping off in big piles and putting them in the very large waste containers. It's too bad the base can't sell or give this stuff away, because a lot of it is still in good condition, but it's all just getting tossed. My office is pretty much good to go, I've cleaned it up and thrown all the small stuff away.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cyber Warrior - (Germany) Day 484

This morning for PT we formed up at Patton gym in summer PTs, with the winter jacket for some reason…it's actually getting quite warm out, so we don't really need it. Everyone just came in hand carrying their jacket LOL. Anyway there weren't that many of us because of "regimental week". This morning a number of folks left at 0330 in the morning to head to Stuttgart for a 12 mile ruck march. Those of us left for PT just did our own thing in the gym. I did a cardio workout on the stationary bike and chatted with SPC Mac the entire time.

I headed to my office and did schoolwork for most of the morning. I did end up getting a call from my WTU rep here. I had emailed her a couple of times asking about some information about what I need to do when I get to Ft. Lewis. I haven't been given a sponsor or any information at all. I looked up what I could on the web and found out where I need to in-process at. I also plan to have friends or family pick us up at the airport, but if I didn't have that option I'd be out of luck. My WTU rep said she would find out the information and let me know tomorrow. Right before I was about to leave for lunch I got an email stating that I had to attend a meeting at 1400…great.

I had lunch at home and then headed back to work where I basically just passed the time until 1400. I headed over to the battalion conference room where we had another VTC lined up. This one was similar to the one yesterday with all the various components of the brigade from all over Europe, but there were also a few from the states as well…most notably from the signal headquarters at Ft. Gordon. I found out that the meeting was for E-7s and higher, but as usual our battalion made everyone come and attend so they could fill up all the seats for the camera. They even made the poor guys who left at 0330 this morning for the 12 mile ruck march attend (their eyes were half closed and their heads were like bobble head dolls the entire time). Even folks that had building cleanup were required to come in…all for appearances.

The VTC was all about the new MOS for cyber warriors. They explained all about it and what the big plan is for this MOS. Do I believe there is a cyber threat to the US? Yes I do. Do I think the army will be able to do much about it…..no. They should leave the defending of America's cyber infrastructure to the civilian experts. There is not much a soldier that is given 14 weeks in AIT is going to be able to do. I think the best they'll do is be the local cyber cops and keep an eye on the local network. They make the MOS sound all cool and everything, but I'm sure it will end up just like 25B…a bunch of people will sign up for it and more than half of them will not even end up doing that job…they'll end up driving a truck or something. I think the army should just get rid of AIT all together. Most of the soldiers don't do the job they signed up for, they get all their training "on the job". AIT is a waste of time and money. They cram all kinds of information down everyone's throat, then send them off. Most don't remember much and most don't get a real education out of it. I remember SGT Mex telling me that he is not even going to apply for any I.T. jobs in the civilian world because he doesn't feel like he learned anything useful in the army (I.T. related). They even required SPC Mac and his boss to come to this cyber warrior VTC and both of them aren't even in signal…they have nothing to do with computers. Both of them said that everything the people were speaking was like Greek to them! Sometimes the army can be so frustrating…I just had to keep reminding myself as the meeting went on and on…I only have 3 more days after today and then I'm on leave!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The CSM and his Crotch - (Germany) Day 483

These are seen around post housing...to kill the mice and rats I imagine. 
Ironically the German word for poison is "Gift"

This morning we had PT at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. We didn't even form up, but kind of gathered around our platoon sergeant sitting on the bleachers and listened to some announcements. We all then were dispersed to go workout on our own in the gym. The gym has become somewhat of a ghost town lately. With the closure of Heidelberg, there have been a lot of units that have already left. It's quite a stark contrast to when I first arrived here and every cardio machine was always occupied. Today I worked out on the weight machines and had a pretty good strength workout. As our platoon sergeant was leaving he told me I had to attend a VTC (Video TeleConference) this morning and to be there at 0845. This particular conference is specifically for NCOs and specialists that have made promotable status, I shouldn't even be going. The army is all about appearances though, and our platoon sergeant wanted to make sure all the seats were full for this VTC training. Another instance of "checking the box", just doing something for the sake of doing it…not because it's going to be actually useful.

I headed home and got ready, then my wife and I headed out for work. For some reason traffic was crazy, so I ended up having her drop me off at work instead of the usual routine with me dropping her off first. I arrived just in time and grabbed a seat. The VTC consisted of the entire brigade and on screen you could see a small live feed of each battalion with the brigade CSM taking up the large center portion. I'm not sure who setup the camera on their end, but all everyone saw the entire time was the CSM's crotch. He would pace back and forth talking (CSMs can talk forever) and all we saw was his crotch going back and forth. He went on about being professional and mentorship for 2.5 hours. The only phrase that stuck out was when he mentioned that America owes a lot of other nations money. He then asked if anyone knows why they don't come and collect…it's because we have the best military! That's just great logic <sarcasm> and it should not be something the brigade CSM is telling everyone. He's basically saying "it's OK to borrow money and never give it back if you're big enough and strong enough". The problem is that if you do that, nobody will ever loan money to you again, then are you just going to take it when you need it? Sounds like robbery to me.

Just when I thought everything was over and they shut down the VTC at our normal lunch time (1130), our battalion CSM in the room with everyone said he wanted his time now. He continued to talk for another half hour…I think my eyes were starting to turn yellow by the time he finally let everyone go at noon. Maybe drinking all that coffee was not such a good idea, but at least it did help keep me awake through the whole thing. I quickly exited and headed to the bathroom. What a waste of a morning…I really can't wait until I start my leave.

I ended up getting lunch at the subway in the food court and bringing it back to my office to eat. After lunch I did my schoolwork and the usual…check email and surf the web until the end of the day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Colonoscopy - (Germany) Day 482

This morning I didn't have PT, instead I had to drive the chaplain to the hospital for his colonoscopy appointment. We left at 0630 and once we arrived and checked him in, I headed to the USO in the hospital and made use of their free WiFi. I brought my laptop and had my schoolwork all ready to go, so I spent a while taking care of that and then doing some general web surfing. I was still a bit tired though, and ended up just heading back to the TMP and taking a nap.

The chaplain's procedure and recovery finished up at about noon. The nurse gave me a call and I headed in to meet up with him. We headed to the DFAC where he treated me to lunch. I just grabbed a quick sandwich and a drink, then we sat down and chatted for a bit over lunch. I'm pretty sure he was still a little out of it because he was a bit slow and kept asking me the same questions over and over. He wasn't as bad as "David at the Dentist", but it was still pretty funny.

After lunch we headed home and the entire trip he was talking the entire time, I wonder how much of it he'll remember. I dropped him off at his house where he was supposed to rest. I then returned the TMP after filling it up and had my wife pick me up. I headed home from there, it was a bit after 1400. There wasn't anything for me to do at the office and I got up pretty early today, so I just hung out at home for the rest of the day…and even took another nap.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring Clean-Up - (Germany) Day 481

A view of all the crap that people just leave behind. 
During spring cleaning it's all put next to the curb for 
the bulk garbage man to come collect.

This morning PT was at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. It's "Regimental Week" (whatever that involves), so there were actually only 4 of us there for the formation. The rest of the people were doing a run somewhere far away. I'm just glad they didn't make those of us on profile go and watch or something stupid. I'd rather at least get a workout on my own, which I did…cardio on the stationary bike.

This morning after getting ready, I took my wife to work and came back home. Today is our building's spring clean-up and everyone that lives in the building is supposed to show up at 0900 and help out. I don't mind because I get to wear civilian clothes and I don't have to go into work. We ended up moving a lot of stuff to the curb for bulk pickup to come get. There was a lot of stuff left in our building from various people that move out and just leave their crap in the attic or basement common areas. They don't want to ship it and they are too lazy to move it to the curb for bulk pick-up themselves. Sometimes I think that army families may be some of the laziest I've ever met.

We moved all the crap, took some BBQ grills over as well and then used an outside vacuum to pick up leaves and debris around some of the stairwells in the back. The place looks 100% better now and we finished by 1100. I'm scheduled to do this all day, so I just hung out at home until about 1400 when I headed off to cancel our cable TV (the service isn't that good and we don't ever watch it...one more thing I can cross off my PCS checklist). I then picked up my wife and had her drop me at the TMP office. I had to pick up a TMP for tomorrow's drive with the chaplain. We're leaving at 0630, so I needed the TMP at my place to leave first thing tomorrow morning.

The rest of the day was spent doing some schoolwork and then watching the original Rocky. It's been a long time since I've seen that movie! I forgot how slow it takes to get going.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 479 - 480

You can definitely tell which door leads to the men's restroom at this restaurant!

The weekend started off with me having to wake up, shower, shave, put on my uniform and head into the S1 office. I had to be there at 0900 for the staff duty change over. Why the junior enlisted has to go I have no idea, because all I did was show up stand there for 5 minutes, then told I could go home. The NCO has to sign his paperwork and hand over the on call cell phone. This new process is much better than the previous 24 hour shift, but this morning getting ready for a whole five minutes of standing in an office was a little stupid.

We headed out to Ikea to grab a few things, that place is always extremely busy every Saturday! We then headed out with SPC Mac and his wife downtown. We ate at a nice restaurant and in typical German restaurant style, we ended up just sitting there for hours. In Germany and I believe a lot of other European restaurants, the staff is in no hurry to get you in and out like the typical American restaurant is. Eating out and spending quality time with the company you're with is the experience, and they don't want you to feel rushed.

Being out of what I call "the American bubble" and seeing other cultures has been a great experience. If it wasn't for my family back home, I would definitely try to find a way to stay in Europe as a civilian. I think the laid back island culture is the only other place that I would want to stay. Watching the news and seeing America from the outside gives you an entirely different perspective of the world.

We spent our Sunday as we usually do…cleaning, laundry and lounging about…not much to write about there except I did take the OS portion of my Apple re-certification exam and passed…so I will continue to be a Macintosh Certified Technician for another year. Now if only I could actually do some I.T. work...

Friday, April 19, 2013

New Staff Duty - (Germany) Day 478

This morning for PT we formed up at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. The normal folks did some step aerobic training while those of us on profile hit the gym. I did a good cardio workout on the stationary bike.

I headed into my office and got busy doing schoolwork, studying for my Apple re-certification, and then checked my email and such. I then met up with SPC Mac and we headed to a local car detailer. I booked an appointment to get my car cleaned and detailed before I ship it back to the states. The process for shipping your car back is pretty strict and requires the car to be absolutely spotless inside and out. If there is anything wrong with it, they will deny it and make you come back at a later date. This particular detailer has done a few other folks cars that have recently PCS'd back to the states and there were no issues, so I figure it's worth paying someone to do a job that is guaranteed to pass inspection.

I headed to lunch at home, then headed to the USO office to purchase some tickets for an upcoming trip we plan on taking. They have a lot of trips selling out, so we wanted to make sure to get them as soon as possible. I then headed back to my office, where I cleaned up a little, surfed the web and played on my phone until 1630. I have staff duty tonight, but it's with the new format. With all the reductions in staff, they have finally changed the way staff duty is done. Now we have to show up at 1630 and still do the janitorial work for the S1 and S3 offices…which is still total BS. Why they can't clean up after themselves like every other office I have no idea. Another thing that kind of bothered me was that there were two soldiers there late that had to do extra duty. They had to work until 2200 for this extra duty…so why don't they just assume the staff duty shift as part of that? There was an NCO and a specialist. The NCO of course only has to supervise for his extra duty, which is also total BS. I found out that they both got an article 15. The specialist was a sergeant, but got demoted because he was watching porn on his workstation during work. What is even worse is that this guy works in an open office and his back is towards everyone else…talk about a moron. The NCO (a sergeant) had his wife call the MPs on him stating he was physical with her. He said they only got into a heated verbal altercation, but in the army if there is any mention of domestic violence, the husband will be the one to pay.

Anyway I took out all the garbage, and then I have to wait until the battalion commander leaves. Unfortunately I guess because it is a Friday, he didn't leave until 1830…so I sat there twiddling my thumbs until then. Once he left the NCO on duty with me locks up the building and takes the on call cell phone home with him. I go home as well and keep my phone nearby because I'm on call as well. I can't leave the immediate area and I cannot drink alcohol, but it's still much better than staying there the entire night and feeling like a zombie the next day.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Transportation Brief - (Germany) Day 477

You can tell it's getting warmer out...the ice cream truck is making the rounds. 
This is the view looking down from our living room window
 in stairwell housing on post

This morning PT was at Patton gym in our summer PTs. The normal folks did some circuit training and when they finished they split up and played a few games of volleyball. I headed into the gym and had a good workout with the weight machines. I would have loved to play volleyball with them, but one sudden jerk and I would end up in some bad pain for days, so it's just not worth it.

We were told during our PT formation that sergeant's time training was today in the ComSec office and had to do with ComSec procedures and such. What is funny is that because it's Thursday, they just have to come up with "something" for training. Never mind that the ComSec vault is actually closed now and they have no customers…let's just do the training anyway. I decided just to head to my office instead. The nice thing about working for the chaplain is that I can get away with not going unless they specifically tell me I need to be there. They didn't tell me and I didn't ask…so there is no way I was going to sit in an office and listen to a bunch of stuff that will never pertain to me again. Besides…I had schoolwork to do!

So I did my schoolwork and studied a little for my Apple re-certification, then headed over to the shopping center food court to meet my wife for lunch. I stopped by the USO first and checked to see if any interesting trips were coming, then met my wife for lunch. After lunch we both headed over to the in-processing/out-processing center and attended my transportation brief. The brief was about an hour and a half and went over everything we needed to do and expect when shipping our household goods and our car. I had to make some minor changes to my paperwork, but everything seems in order. Things are going to get a little crazy now. My mom and aunt are coming to visit and I'll be taking leave to be their tour guide. We have all our stuff to ship and I will also need to out-process. Trying to figure out when to schedule everything is going to be tricky. For instance it will be a lot easier having my car until the last minute possible in order to get everything done. Also once we ship the car, my wife will have to quit her job. Lots of decisions to be made!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

NBC Turn-in - (Germany) Day 476

This morning for PT we formed up at Patton gym in our summer PTs with the winter jacket. The winter jacket was just in case it was a little cold out this morning, the normal folks did various sprints outside, while those of us on profile hit the gym. I had a mediocre workout on the stationary bike. I think I took a muscle relaxer too late last night and was dragging this morning. It was also very hot on the second level where the bikes are located…I just couldn't get going.

I met up with SPC Mac and two other soldiers from the ComSec office this morning outside the ComSec office. SPC Mac and I planned on turning in our NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical - the stuff we wear in the gas chamber) gear today. The other guys ended up having things they needed to take care of in Landstuhl, so they wanted to tag along in the TMP since we were heading that way. Technically we could have turned in the NBC gear when we out-process, but I figured we might as well take a day to do it just to get it out of the way. It gave us something to do for the day and we also would have the opportunity to eat lunch at Ramstein Air Base.

We headed out at 0900 and drove to the company headquarters in Landstuhl. When we arrived the supply sergeant took our NBC gear. We then headed over to the hospital area and waited while one of the other soldiers had his taxes done. After that we headed to Ramstein and had lunch, then headed to another small post to check on training supplies for the other soldier. When all was said and done, we arrived back at the ComSec office at almost 1500. A good way to pass the time and have pretty much another day over.

I headed to my office, checked email, did my schoolwork and a little studying for the Apple re-certification exam. The chaplain was back, so we got caught up with each other and went over the upcoming schedule. Then before I knew it, the day was over.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

School Time - (Germany) Day 475

This morning for PT we formed up at Patton gym in our summer PT uniform. The normal folks did circuit training and normally during the stretching portion they let everyone on profile fall out and do their own thing. They didn't say anything and I wasn't going to hurt myself doing some crazy circuit training, so I just left on my own and headed to the gym. I did have a good strength workout using the weight machines. No NCOs said anything, so I guess I'm OK.

I headed into my office this morning and quickly realized that the chaplain is not returning until tomorrow, so I'm flying solo again…but in reality that's how it is most days, I'm just not checking in with him…or anyone really. I spent the morning doing schoolwork and also studying for the OS portion of my Apple re-certification. I am grateful that I do have all this time for studying, otherwise I'd be spending all my time after work at home doing it. So this really gives me more time to spend with my wife at home each night.

I headed home for lunch as usual, then headed back to my office. I then submitted everything for housing at Ft. Lewis, hopefully I'll hear from them soon. The rest of the day was spent surfing the web or playing games on my iPhone. Not a bunch to report…other than I'm getting a lot of studying done.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Flying Solo - (Germany) Day 474

This morning for PT we formed up at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. I'm not really even sure what the normal folks did, those of us on profile headed into the gym before the normal folks got started. I rode the stationary bike for a good cardio workout.

I headed into my office and started on my "to do" list for PCSing. I was looking up stuff, emailing people and taking paperwork to get signed. In fact I was so busy doing all this crap, lunch time snuck up on me before I knew it. What is frustrating is that I only hear bits and pieces of everything I need to do. I find out some stuff from the WTU here, some stuff just by reading on the internet, and other stuff from various NCOs. The whole process can be a bit frustrating. I was able to get my PCS leave packet all sent in and I should be able to apply for on base housing tomorrow.

I had lunch at home and took a little extra time because I ended up putting together a collection of selected photos from the UMT paintball event. I wanted to make sure the chaplain could take a look at them when he comes in…which is tomorrow I think.

When I got back to my office, I spent my time doing schoolwork and then surfing the web. The weather finally started to change for the better. Instead of the endless winter we seem to be having, it was nice, sunny and warm.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Day 472 - 473

Shopping at the commissary on post is hit and miss. 
Sometimes there is not a whole lot to choose from

This weekend was pretty easygoing. The only thing we really did was relax, do laundry and clean up a bit. Not a whole lot to report. After our big trip last weekend, this was nice and easy going. I did take the hardware portion of my Apple re-certification exam and passed it, so my next step is to certify on the software portion and I'll be good to go.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kilt Friday - (Germany) Day 471

This morning we formed up at Campbell gym. The normal folks all played dodgeball, in fact the entire battalion was playing so there were a lot of people in the gym. Those of us on profile that didn't want to just watch, headed to the gym and worked out. I hit the stationary bike and got some cardio in.

Today was civilian clothes day. Since it is now kind of acting like spring, I wore my kilt. I bought a kilt a while ago and the entire I.T. department would wear kilts on given days at my old job just for fun. Walking around in a kilt gets a lot of people doing double takes everywhere you go, especially if you're in a workplace. It wasn't a too big of a deal because I'm in my own office and I was in there most of the time. I did my schoolwork in the morning, then headed over to the ComSec office before lunch just to check in…and mainly let the platoon sergeant see my kilt. Everyone was a little surprised…especially the platoon sergeant, but they all thought it was pretty funny.

I headed home for lunch and changed into civilian gym clothes before heading back. The battalion was having an organizational day for the rest of the afternoon. It all centered around basketball with a 3 point contest, a half court shot contest, and a 2 on 2 tournament. It really sucked watching it all because all I wanted to do was get out there and play. I would have loved to stuff my first sergeant and kick some butt on the 3 point shooting contest. I know if I would have though, I would end up paying for it by being in pain the entire weekend. So I played it smart and just watched…it was tough!

I headed out around 1500 and visited my wife at work until she got off. Now it's time to start the weekend!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Exercise…for Real - (Germany) Day 470

So this morning I got up at 0315 and was ready to go by 0400. I had SPC Mac pick me up and we arrived to the morning formation in ACUs. Most everyone had on their body armor and helmets as well. Luckily I can't wear mine and it's all turned in anyway. We were all told of this mission that needed to be done today. We were told over and over that this is a "mission" and not an exercise. They said it's not an exercise so much, those of us that knew better already figured out they were overcompensating. It's Thursday which is sergeant's time training day and that kind of gave it away anyway. So the "mission" was to guard the gate at Patton Barracks. The squad would check every car that came in. Those of us on profile would end up working at the command center.  The battalion was split into four teams, each team with a number of gate guards and at least one person working in the command center. Each team was given a 2.5 hour shift with the first shift starting at 0600. Everyone not on the first shift headed back to the office and just hung out. So I had to come in at 0430, stand in the cold, just to go back in the office and wait about 6 hours for my shift. I didn't bring any schoolwork or even reading material because we weren't told anything about this "mission" ahead of time.

My morning consisted of surfing the web until the shoppette opened and I could grab a cup of coffee. I then headed to the food court for an early lunch, which I picked up to go and headed to the S1 shop (which was our command center for the mission). I was briefed on what my job was for my shift. I was to man the radio and log down anything that happened. I was required to do at least one radio check an hour. Time passed slowly…I made my radio checks and surfed the web. I chatted with the platoon sergeant for a while and then the sergeant major came in. He started looking through the food donation box and got all pissed off that someone put expired Halloween food in there. As he was throwing it all away he paused, then looked at me and said "now this is something you can blog about". I just shook my head.

When I was relieved at 1330, I headed over to my office and just hung out until my wife got off work and picked me up at 1630. I wish I would have at least brought my schoolwork to do. There is only so much surfing the web one can do in a day. I felt like the entire day was a waste.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Getting Records - (Germany) Day 469

A drink by Nestea that we found by accident while on one of our road trips. 
This stuff is awesome!!! Unfortunately they do not sell it in the U.S. :(

This morning for PT we had PT at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. We all found out that tomorrow we have to be in formation at 0430 for an exercise…not so great news. Those not on profile headed for a run off post, while those of us on profile headed into the gym. I rode the stationary bike for some cardio and had a decent workout.

I headed into my office and checked my email, then did schoolwork until about 1100 when I headed out for lunch at home. After lunch I headed to the post office and then to the hospital to pick up my medical records. This is one of the steps that need to be done before you can clear. With this post closing they are getting ready to move all the records to Landstuhl, so it's a good idea to get them before. When I went in to receive them, the room was full of boxes and folders everywhere. They are right in the middle of preparing for the upcoming move. I was able to get mine after a few minutes of them searching to find it. Why they still keep physical records when everything is recorded into the computer system I have no idea.

I headed to my office and checked my email, surfed the web, and passed the time. Right before I was about to leave at 1400 I received an email from our CAM. I received my leave form signed and good to go. Wow! I figured this would be another thing I would be stressing over up until the last minute, but the command was able to turn it around rather quickly…I'm pleasantly surprised. Now when my mom and aunt come to visit, I can hang out with them and be their tour guide and chauffeur. I headed out and stopped by the ComSec office to pick up a copy of this month's staff duty roster…I have it on the 19th.

I then headed over to the shopping center and visited the TKS shop. This is the company that provides our internet, phone, and TV package. I checked in with them to see what I need to do in order to close out everything before I leave. No big deal, I just have to turn in the TV box and I'll be good to go. I then went over to my wife's office and hung out with her until she got off work and we headed home. I figured if they are going to make me come in at the buttcrack of dawn tomorrow, I'll get my time back somehow.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Wee Bit O' Garbage - (Germany) Day 468

Where most of our platoon is today...a picture I took while we were paintballing 
the other day. The paintball course is next to the range where we qualify with our rifle

This morning we formed up for PT at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. There were only 6 of us total because everyone else was headed to the range and then the gas chamber. I think they were planning to do a run off post, but instead the platoon sergeant had everyone just do their own thing in the gym. I had a great workout with the weight machines.

I headed into my office and checked my email. I got a call from the AIC supervisor (the garbage man) because my number is the only one he has saved in his phone. He asked if I could check and see if anyone is coming out today, but said he did almost everything yesterday…only the TMPs would need to be dispatched and about 6 garbage cans checked on the two outer posts. I told him I'd take care of it. The chaplain is out on leave and I didn't have anything better to do.

First I spent some time doing schoolwork and then went around and took down the paintball flyers. I stopped by the ComSec office to check on the status of my leave request…our CAM said she would check on it. I then headed out early for lunch at about 1100 and stopped by guest lodging to reserve a room for when we final out of housing. Interestingly enough, the guy there said I have to email the request…they don't do reservations in person. So I'll do that tomorrow, again...I'd like to try and get as much done as possible before I go on leave.

I had lunch at my house, changed into civilians, then headed over to the AIC office and drove one of the TMPs to the dispatch office. I turned in the paperwork for both TMPs and received new paperwork, so they are good to go for a couple more weeks. I filled it up with gas, then changed out 3 garbage cans on this particular post. I then drove over to the shopping center and changed out 4 more cans. I drove back to the AIC office and unloaded all the trash and then drove the other TMP to fill it up. I finished up about 1500 and called it a day and went home.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up (Best of Holland) - (Germany) Day 464 - 467

One of our favorite pictures from Amsterdam...this is
the red light district at night

This four day weekend we signed up for a trip to see "The Best of Holland". It was a pretty amazing trip. We spent the early hours of Friday morning sleeping on the bus. We arrived in the city of Alkmaar where the bus dropped everyone off at 0800 and told us to be back at 1230. It was extremely cold out and it was hard to find anything that was even open at this time. As we walked around we quickly found out that Holland is extremely bicycle friendly. It seemed like there were a lot more people riding bikes around than cars. You also learn really quick to stay out of the bicycle lanes, they will just run you over! We found a coffee shop and spent some time in there trying to warm up. At around 1000 we ventured out once again and eventually found the cheese market. This was the main reason we made the stop here and it was pretty cool to watch. There was big wheels of cheese everywhere being sold to resellers. There were also a number of vendors around giving out samples of cheese. They were all so good, we ended up buying a couple different types.

We then headed on the bus to visit a cheese farm and shoe factory. We watched as the owner made a wooden shoe in about five minutes with the help from one of the kids in our group. We then learned all about how they make cheese at this farm. We were given several samples and they were all so good, we ended up buying even more cheese!

We then headed to our hotel which was near the Amsterdam airport. Once checked in and settled, we took a nap…the day had been long and the sleep on the bus was intermittent. We got up around 1800 and took the free shuttle to the airport, where we then took the train to downtown Amsterdam. We walked around and eventually decided on a place for dinner. This first night was just a bit of looking around and checking everything out. The city is pretty amazing with all it's unique architecture and canals running through it. It is also famous of course for it's legal use of drugs and prostitutes. It seemed everywhere we turned there was a "coffee shop" which sold much more than coffee. The smell of weed was abundant as we strolled around the many streets. We walked around the red light district as well, where there were many women behind glass doors trying to get business from all those who passed by, we saw plenty of men coming and going keeping these girls busy. Every guy coming out of one of those glass doors had a smile on his face...lol.

Our next morning consisted of a bus tour around the city with a local guide explaining a lot of the history. We were then dropped off in the middle of the city for the rest of the day. We wandered around checking out the various shops and taking many pictures. We happened across a flash mob, which staged a very large pillow fight. Pretty interesting to see, and the aftermath with all the feathers and other stuffing made it look like it just snowed.

The final day of our trip had us checking out of the hotel and heading back home with a stop at the Kuekenhof flower gardens. This place was huge and had a large number of tour busses already there. Unfortunately spring has started a little late here in Europe and most of the flowers outside had not yet bloomed. We could tell how amazing it must look and we also saw a lot of photos in the souvenir shops. We did check out the large green houses which had an amazing number and varieties of tulips. My wife had a great time taking some pretty awesome shots of the flowers.

We arrived home at about 2000 and had SPC Mac come over to visit for a bit before turning in and sleeping hard. We spent Monday recovering and just hanging out at home…being a tourist takes a lot out of you!

I've broken all our photos down to each day of our trip below...

Edit: I had a ton of photos, but Flickr deleted the slideshows I made when they changed their service from free unlimited to a paid version. Instead I'm just going to post a few of the pictures below:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Days of Excellence & Paintball - (Germany) Day 463

A group shot of the chaplain with all the paintballers

This morning for PT we formed up at the Patton gym. Instead of splitting up the profiles and non-profiles, the platoon sergeant just told everyone to go ahead and hit the gym…workout on whatever you need. I rode the stationary bike for some cardio.

This morning we had "Days of Excellence" at the hospital theatre. We had to be seated by 0845 and then started hearing a brief about how to be a good sponsor. It was strange that they were even giving us this class because there are no more new soldiers coming to Heidelberg with the upcoming closing of the base. I know some people in the audience may become sponsors in the future at another post, but most of the information that was given was all bout the resources available for new soldiers here in Heidelberg. Just another example of the army being able to check a box and mark that some training was done, even though there was nothing useful about it. We then had some ethics training and some safety training. The safety training included one of those vehicle safety movies that show all the gruesome videos and pictures that they show in drivers ed classes. The event concluded with a few PCS awards and a few promotions.

We were released for lunch, after lunch I headed to the Rod and Gun Club. The UMT has been promoting a paintball event for a while now. I've sent out numerous emails and put up flyers all over the battalion for it. Now was the time of the event. We had just enough soldiers come and attend in order to reserve the field. The chaplain came and said a few words, then turned everyone loose. The field is small and allows for 5 on 5 games to be played. There were some first timers as well as some experienced veterans who came with their own gear and "markers" (paintball guns). I think everyone had a good time, I spend the entire time taking a bunch of photos.

The evening with my wife was normal up until about 2000 or so, that is when we packed up and prepared ourselves for our upcoming trip. We met our van at the park and ride which is located right outside the post at 2230. This van drove us and a few others to meet the main bus at Wiesbaden, which left at midnight.

The chaplain giving a pep talk to everyone while they're getting ready to play
Taking cover
On the run

One of the guys from the ComSec office couldn't play, but wasn't afraid
to go on the field and take photos!
Taking cover
The guys at the start of one of the games
Battle wounds

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Invisible War - (Germany) Day 462

Movie poster on the internet of the movie we watched
for our sexual harrassment training.
This morning for PT we formed up at the commissary parking lot at 0530. There was a 5K fun run/walk being put on by the garrison for sexual harassment and assault. I showed up in my ACU because I'm on profile and cannot do the run. I sat in the TMP with SPC Mac and we just chatted about anything and everything. Unfortunately because we had to attend this event, we couldn't actually get a workout of our own in…instead we just sat and listened to the radio until the event was over, then we headed home.

The next part of the day was a movie that we were required to watch for our SHARP training. It was being shown at the movie theatre on post. As soon as everyone from the various organizations were coming in, they all started searching for the sign in sheets to make sure they get credit. Nobody wants to be forced to do the training over. I'm not sure why they don't just scan everyone's ID cards when they come in like they do at the gym. It would be easy and foolproof. No more loosing sign in rosters or illegible handwriting.

The movie was called "The Invisible War" and was actually quite good. I was surprised the army was showing this movie, because it really paints the military in a bad light. The movie is a documentary of several victims of sexual assault in various branches of our military. It goes over how they were treated throughout the process and how it has affected their lives since. The movie was pretty powerful and really stresses how the military needs to change their attitudes towards sexual assault. It has a very long way to go. I definitely would not want either of my girls to even think about joining any branch of the military. I've seen too much and I don't think anything will change very soon.

After the movie they had a little question and answer period, which I was hoping would go pretty quickly. I drank my coffee through the entire show and by the time it ended I felt like my bladder was about to burst. Unfortunately I was sitting exactly right in the middle of the theatre, so there was no easy way to easily make my way out and to the bathroom. 50 minutes later…the question and discussion period was over…I quickly made my way and relieved myself as fast as possible.

I then had lunch at home and headed into my office. The afternoon was spent doing schoolwork, checking email and surfing the web…oh and the occasional game on my iPhone. I am thankful for the time to do my schoolwork, but most of the time I just feel like I'm getting paid to do nothing.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dodgeball - (Germany) Day 461

Guys from my platoon on the attack

This morning we formed up in winter PTs at Campbell gym. The normal folks did regular army PT while those of us on profile headed to the gym. I worked out on the weight machines and had a good workout.

I arrived in my office and went through my email and checked my "to do" list which has been growing as I add everything I need to get done in order to leave here. There are a ton of little things that need to be taken care of and I want to make sure they are all done in a timely manner. I headed to Subway at 1030 to pickup a couple of party platters for the chaplain's prayer breakfast. He told me I could grab a couple of sandwiches, which I did and then headed to my wife's office. We had lunch together and I hung out there for a bit just wasting a little time…well it's not a waste if I'm spending it with my wife.

I then headed over to the in and out processing center for an out-processing brief that I had scheduled. They went over a number of things such as how to clear housing and transportation, medical, and various other items. We were given a bunch of paperwork and then sent on our way. If I would have gone to this brief first, I would have known to take my motorcycle registration to transportation!

I then headed to the barber to get my head shaved. Normally this is a non-event, but this time something very wrong happened. It started off normal enough, but near the end things went off track. Instead of using a brush to get all the hair off of my neck and the back of my head, the barber leaned in and started to gently blow on me. It freaked me out! I looked in the mirror to verify that this was actually happening! I'm going to assume this must be a German thing, but I don't think I'll be heading back to that barber shop again.

The end of the day was spent watching dodge-ball. Our company was challenged by the HHD company to a dodge-ball game. Of course I couldn't play, but I decided to show up and support those that could play. I brought my camera and took a bunch of photos. Normally I wouldn't do this because it was not a mandatory event, but I've been trying to do my best and be positive. I've also wanted to make a better impression with our platoon sergeant…which it did. He thanked me for coming and shook my hand before I left. I want to stay on all the leader's good sides until I leave. I don't want any trouble, I just want everything to go smooth until I get out of here. If that means showing a positive attitude when possible and going a little out of my way, so be it.

Guys from my platoon on the attack some more
Guys from HHD getting ready to start
A guy from HHD trying not to get hit

Monday, April 1, 2013

Leave Submitted - (Germany) Day 460

This morning we formed up for PT at Campbell gym in civilian clothes. The normal folks went for a run off post and those of us on profile stayed in and worked out in the gym. I rode the bicycle and had a good cardio workout.

I headed into my office and the first thing I started working on was my leave request for next month. My mom and aunt are coming to visit before I leave Germany. This is exactly one month before I would like to take leave, so I wanted to get it done right away. The big problem here in Germany with our unit is how long it always takes for leaves and passes to get approved. We are told all the time to get out and see Europe while we are here, but it's a real pain in the ass to get all the paperwork done and approved. We can't turn it in too early and we can't turn it in too late. We also are told not to buy or plan anything until the pass or leave is approved, which can take weeks. It's a mess! Anyway, I filled out the many pieces of paperwork and forms that are needed and then emailed them all to my boss.

I spent a little time with the chaplain going over this week's plans and by the time we finished it was time for lunch. I headed home to eat and relax. Once back in my office I checked my email, then headed over to the ComSec office to follow-up with my leave request. I checked in with my boss who then sent the request forward to our CAM (his boss). She sent it back to him telling him to sign one of the documents that he forgot to sign. He signs it digitally and sends it back. This whole time I'm walking back and forth making sure it's all getting done. Finally our CAM looks it over and then sends it all to our platoon sergeant. The platoon sergeant happened to see me and casually tells me that my pass for this upcoming weekend has been approved. So I have finally received verbal confirmation that my pass has been approved from our platoon sergeant. This is almost an entire month after I submitted it and only a few days before it actually starts. The trip we are going on actually sold out, but I did already purchase tickets hoping that the pass would go through. If I were to follow the instructions put out by our company, I would have missed out on this trip. I just hope my leave request doesn't take so long, which is the main reason I came over to follow-up with it and make sure it gets pushed through our office at least.

I spent the rest of the day working on schoolwork and surfing the web. Not a whole lot of exciting stuff, but I did get my main goal accomplished today with the leave submittal.