Friday, May 31, 2013

Just Say No to Days of Excellence - (Germany) Day 519

Today was "Days of Excellence" and there was a battalion run before the event. Because it was being held in Kaiserslautern, the folks from here had to leave at around 0400. I'm glad I'm out-processing. They wanted me to come to the Days of Excellence to receive my PCS award, but I let my boss know that I had to turn in my car to the detailer in the morning. So all I had to do was text my boss around 0830 and let him know I'm still alive.

The day turned out to be pretty easy going, in fact I didn't even put on my uniform at all. I dropped off my car at the detailer. This is a local German company that cleans cars and guarantees that they will pass the inspections required before we ship the car out. I've heard some horror stories of people trying to clean their car themselves and then having issues trying to ship it. I figured I'd pay the money and make sure there are no problems. I had SPC Mac pick me up and take me back home, where I spent the rest of the day. I did a little cleaning and that is about it. All I have left for out-processing is vehicle registration, the company commander's signature, housing, then the final out-process before I leave.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Little More Out-Processing - (Germany) Day 518

A picture we took before the movers came. Just some of the places we visited 
and grabbed a Starbucks mug while we were there. We have a few more that we 
obtained after this picture was taken. Unfortunately Starbucks discontinued the 
"Global Icon Mugs" design shortly after we came back to the U.S.

This morning our PT formation was at Campbell gym. We had our accountability formation, then I took off. There were a few people that had to take a PT test. After my wife got ready for work, I took her in then headed home. I didn't really feel like going in, so I just stayed home until after lunch.

I then headed to the APO (Army Post Office) to have my clearing papers signed. The APO is such a joke. I've mentioned this before and I'm surprised half the stuff even makes it through. In fact I'm pretty sure half the stuff that gets sent to us does not make it. My wife has had numerous clients email her stating that their checks were returned. I had Netflix send me an email stating some DVDs were returned…while still others come through…we haven't changed anything! So it is with great satisfaction that I closed our APO box and just put my wife's parents as our forwarding address. I know the US Postal Service will do a much better job at handling our mail than the APO does. Just one more reason I want to get as far away from the army as possible. We thought about living on post when I get to Ft. Lewis, but not for long. Just thinking about having to live on an army post again started to make me sick, I don't want to deal with anything army any more than I have to.

After the APO visit, I headed to the ComSec office and checked my email. I received my NIPR/SIPR clearing paperwork signed by the NCO in Landstuhl. I added that to my clearing papers and now only need my vehicle registration and the company commander before I final out. I am almost done…but I know there are still going to be some bumps in the road. I have to take my car to get detailed, pick it up, take it to vehicle registration to get shipped and also get the company commander in Landstuhl to sign my clearing paperwork. With less people in the ComSec office it's going to be a challenge to line up transportation to get all of this done. Unfortunately SPC Mac flies out this Sunday…so there is one less person I can truly rely on.

I headed over to my wife's work and just hung out with her for the rest of the day…pretty much the same as yesterday.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Day…A Couple More Signatures - (Germany) Day 517

Viewing the sunset from out our was pretty amazing!

This morning the PT formation was here on PHV, which is always nice because I get a few extra minutes before leaving the house. I pulled up in the parking lot and there was a light drizzle, so I waited in my car for everyone to get out. I guess because our platoon sergeant wasn't there they decided not to even have a formation. The lone NCO just told the guys to head to the gym and came over to my car and said I could head out.

I did pretty much the same thing as yesterday morning, took my wife to work when she was ready and then slept for an hour in her parking lot. The weather has turned to crap and it was a bit colder, which made the nap a little less comfortable than yesterday…but hey…a nap is a nap. I then headed into the ComSec office to check my email. I did get a little bit of good news, the supply sergeant in Landstuhl who I needed to sign a part of my clearing papers was coming out to Heidelberg today. So I waited in the office for him to arrive and when he did I had him sign my papers before he had a chance to do anything else. He wouldn't clear me on the NBC gear, so I had to send an email to our NBC sergeant asking him to confirm me by email that I'm good to go.

I then headed out to my car and hung out for a while listening to music and playing games on my iPhone. I just didn't feel like hanging out in the office with nothing to do. After a while I decided to head home for lunch. I took a two hour lunch and then headed back to the ComSec office where I was glad to see an email reply from our NBC sergeant stating that I am indeed good to go. I then forwarded that email to our S-4 sergeant and headed over with my clearing papers for him to finally sign off. I spoke with my boss for a bit and he sent up another portion of my paperwork to our company in Landstuhl for my NIPR/SIPR access to get signed. Now all I have left before I final out is the post office and vehicle registration (once I get that NIPR/SIPR paperwork back).

I left the office and spent the rest of the day at my wife's office just hanging out with her.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

About to Lose My Mind - (Germany) Day 516

PT formation this morning was at Patton gym. I headed in my ACUs and listened to the morning announcements and then headed off back home. I waited until my wife was ready for work and then drove her in. I then proceeded to stay in her parking lot for an hour to take a nap in the car.

After the nap I headed into the ComSec office where I checked my email and then headed to the S-3 shop to get my clearing papers signed. I then headed to the S-1 shop to have them sign them as well. I found out that I have to make a trip all the way up to Landstuhl to get another signature besides the commander's signature. So I'll have to make the hour long trip each way…twice. This whole clearing process is really starting to piss me off. It sucks because our post is split up between 5 or so smaller ones. Our company is split in 3 different groups all working very far apart. The vehicle shipping office is also located about a half hour away on even another post. We are supposed to zip back and forth to all these places for what seems like no good reason. 95% of the people just grab my paperwork, sign and stamp on their place. There is no ID check and they do not even look anything up or put any information into a system. It all seems like a stupid joke.

I picked up the Subway platter for the chaplain's bible study lunch and delivered them. My "payment" was to take enough back for my wife and I to have lunch ourselves…lol. With Subway in hand I headed over to my wife's work and we had lunch together. The chaplain encouraged me to take even more than I did because they always have so much leftovers.

My next step was to "pre-clear" housing. The housing office is located a couple of floors above my wife's office. So I headed up and asked to be "pre-cleared". They said they can't do this…it's just not possible. I told them I have to have them sign it and "pre-clear" me on the paperwork, or else my commander will not sign his portion. They said they absolutely cannot do this and that I have to wait until the 6th when they do the inspection (which is also the day I final out). I have to have my commander sign it before I final out. I told them at least 4 other people from my office have come in before me and done the same exact thing. They flatly denied me and I had to leave. I was pissed off…why does something so simple have to be so hard. I called my boss and he asked me to get their number which I did. He called them and they gave him the same BS. The solution they came up with was to highlight that particular portion of my clearing papers green, which means it is part of the final out process so my commander will still sign my paperwork without that portion being filled out. I just don't understand how they would do it for some and not for others. I was pissed off. I told the lady this is exactly why I can't wait to get out of the army…stupid shit like this all the fucking time! (pardon my language). The army makes even simple things so damn complicated. I took my newly highlighted paperwork and left. I was pretty upset, so I just called it a day and headed home. This entire clearing process is a joke. Thinking back to when I out-processed from both Ft. Gordon and Yongsan Korea, I remember both of those being very easy. Of course each place was totally self contained, so you didn't have to travel to various posts in order to get things done.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up (Memorial Day 4-Day) - (Germany) Days 512-515

Looking up at the Eiffel Tower

This Memorial Day weekend my wife and I headed to Paris with SPC Mac and his family. We took the train to Paris and ended up taking a very expensive taxi ride to our hotel. SPC Mac's wife put the whole vacation together, so I can't complain…we were just along for the ride. I wanted to make sure we went out and did something fun on our last four day weekend here in Germany. Our hotel was outside of Paris situated between Paris and Disneyland. We spent the evening unwinding in the hotel and then we each enjoyed a couple's massage the next morning. We watched SPC Mac's son and his friend until they finished, then we headed into Paris. I've been there once with my kids, but still had a few things I wanted to see. With the two little kiddos we didn't make it very far though, we hung out mostly around the Eiffel Tower and waited until it lit up at night before we left...a pretty cool site to see!

The next day was Disneyland! We took the train to Disneyland which has a stop almost right outside the park's gates. We had a lot of fun checking everything out, but the lines for the rides were a little outrageous. We hit some good rides though and had a lot of fun in the process. The park is setup very similar to the magical kingdom in Orlando and Disneyland in California. We were going to wait until the fireworks at night, but ended up only staying until after the parade and then took off. The two boys were pretty worn out…as were all of us adults!

The last day was filled with our trip back to Germany. France is a place I'm glad I have been able to visit, but I have to say that the people just aren't as nice as a lot of the other places we've visited. The French just have sort of a different (kind of rude) attitude that I will not miss. Both SPC Mac and I did this trip off the books. Neither of us put in a pass to leave the country (because of all the hassle) and both of us were a little stressed when trying to catch our train back to Germany. If there were any problems we could have both been in quite a bit of trouble. Luckily everything went well, everyone had a great time and I'm glad we were able to do one last big event before leaving.

Check out the slideshow below, or check out my Flickr album:
Edit: I had a lot of pictures in a Flickr slideshow album, but Flickr deleted it when they switched to a limited free option. I have all the originals, but haven't put them back up on the blog unfortunately.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Prayer Breakfast - (Germany) Day 512

The chaplain up front doing his thing at the prayer breakfast in Landstuhl

This morning was an early one. I headed over to the chaplain's house by 0430 in the morning. I had told him earlier that even though I would be clearing, that I would help him out with this last prayer breakfast. We drove up to Landstuhl which is about an hour away. On our drive there the chaplain asked me to pull over at the next rest area…a minute later he said take the next exit and just pull over! He had to go pee and it was an emergency. So I pull over and the chaplain takes a few steps off the road and relieves himself…lol. We get back on the road and arrive at our destination then headed to the 181 company conference room. Eventually the 102nd Signal Battalion chaplain and CSM arrived as well. This will be the chaplain that takes over once our 43rd Signal Battalion chaplain leaves and the 43rd Signal Battalion shuts down.

The breakfast spread was pretty amazing because of one particular female specialist from 181 in Landstuhl. She brought in all kinds of stuff to eat including breakfast burritos and some type of egg dish. There were some pastries as well and of course coffee and juice. I stayed in the back most of the time taking photos for the chaplain and helping out whenever needed.

After we finished the breakfast we headed out, I was able to grab a muffin and scarf it down before we left…not quite the breakfast I imagined, but at least it was something. On the way back the chaplain wanted to stop in Mannheim at one of the posts to ask some questions about his car. He's looking to sell it before he leaves and needed to find out some information. We ship all our cars from this post in Mannheim, so I'll be making a trip there in the near future. The chaplain wanted to get his car washed and inspected (the inspection is a requirement in order to sell). He was going to have me stay with him all day, but I let him know I still needed to continue to out-process. So he took me back home and then headed back to Mannheim. Because it was close to lunch time by now, I decided to eat some lunch and take a nap. I then downloaded all the prayer breakfast pictures I took and emailed them to my work address so I could forward them to the chaplain later on.

I headed into the out-processing center and finished up my last remaining office there which happened to be the passport office. I'm not sure why we have to out-process there. I sat down handed him my clearing paper, he signed it and I took off. I then headed to the ComSec office where I sent the prayer breakfast photos to the chaplain and also uploaded them to the 181 Facebook page. I call it a page, but it's really a closed group. I checked my email, talked with my boss for a bit…then headed out. I was able to find the S-4 NCO and he signed most of my paperwork, but needed some confirmation from our company headquarters that I don't have any gear checked out. So I had to go back to the ComSec office and send an email requesting this. I think there will be a lot of this type of stuff as I'm trying to tie up all the loose ends.

I headed to the hospital to knock out the clearing paperwork there. The problem is that with the closing of the post, everything is consolidating and nothing is where it should be. Some offices on my clearing paperwork state they are on the 4th floor of the hospital, but they have removed everything from the fourth floor! I ended up on the 2nd floor looking for a behavior health office, when I walked in there was no receptionist. Shrek was playing in the waiting room, but there was nobody there…it was like an abandoned clinic. I wandered around the hallways peering into empty offices and passing by some offices that stated "In Session". Finally a gentleman came out of an office and I asked him if he could out-process me. He said the CPT that usually does that is gone…then gently knocked on an office door that was "in session". The lady who answered told the gentleman to sign my paperwork if I had never been to behavior health before…I told him I hadn't, he signed it.

I then headed to the first floor to the family practice center is. The receptionist there took my paperwork and signed off on everything else except one office called social welfare or something. She told me it was upstairs. I headed back up to the place I just came from and after seeing nobody there, decided to sit down and watch Shrek for a while. A CPT came in who was also out-processing. I told her that everyone was in their offices with "in session" signs on their doors…and the rest where empty. She said she actually works in the hospital and since they signed my behavior health already, she would just sign my social welfare. I don't really see the point of having to do all this out-processing. I never had to show an ID card. The people never looked anything up in a computer or any records, they all just took my paperwork and signed it. It's just a big waste of time!

I headed home and took a nap…getting up so early left me drained. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Clearing Papers - (Germany) Day 511

This morning I headed to the 0630 PT formation once again in ACUs as I will for the duration of my time here in Germany. I pick up my clearing paperwork today and then will start out-processing. I listened to the announcements in the accountability formation and then headed back home once it was finished.

After eating breakfast and such at home, I headed into the out-processing center and picked up my clearing papers a little after 0800. The paperwork consists of a large number of places I need to visit and get signed. Some of the places like Tri-Care, ACS, ID Card and more are located in the same area as the out-processing office. So my morning consisted of choosing a station, getting a number and waiting for my number to be called. I would then take my paperwork to them and they would sign it. Some would ask me a few questions and others would have me fill out some additional paperwork, while others wanted copies of my orders. I also had to get cleared from both the bank and credit union on post even though I don't even have an account at either of them. I did pretty much everything I could at this particular post, then headed back to where I live on PHV and cleared from the dental clinic, the MPs, and the Self Help office.

I headed home after that and had lunch along with a nap. I headed into the ComSec office after that so I could use one of their computers and check my email. It had been piling up since I'd been on leave. I spent some time dealing with the email and printing off a few things. I then headed to our S-3 office to clear and nobody was there. This may be the most difficult part of the clearing process, with the base closing there are less and less people available. Hours of certain shops have been reduced and there are only certain days available for clearing at other locations. I headed to S-2 and again found nobody there, but luckily on my way out I ran into a worker that was on his way there. He was able to sign my paperwork after I filled out some for him. I then headed to S-4 where again the NCO was not there. After that I decided to call it a day, I'll try and get more done tomorrow. I headed home with about half of everything I need to do complete. Most of these are the easy ones, so I'll be trying to get the rest done here and there as I find people available. As for today, I finished up around 1500 and spent the rest of the day with my wife at home.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

HHG Shipment - (Germany) Day 510

One of the movers hard at work packing our household goods

This morning I headed to PT in ACUs. I showed up for accountability only, because I have household goods being packed out and shipped today. During the formation our platoon sergeant was telling everyone the upcoming events and it seems there are quite a few big ones coming up (change of command ceremony, days of excellence, and even change of responsibility ceremony…along with other training events). All I can say is that I'm glad that I start out-processing tomorrow and I don't have to deal with any of that crap.

I headed home after formation and changed into more comfortable civilian clothes. I then started unhooking all of my entertainment system and computer systems in preparation for the movers. The movers came a little before 0800 and immediately started getting down to business. There were about 6 movers all together and they used the divide and conquer method to wrap, box and ship everything we own. Last night we put the necessities we need to keep in a couple key areas and made sure the movers knew not to pack these items. This is stuff like important paperwork I need for clearing, clothes, minimal bedding and such. We purchased some plastic plates and silverware to use as well during this transition period.

The movers were like well oiled machines and surprisingly had everything entirely moved out and in their trucks a bit after 1200 including my motorcycle which went in it's own special crate. I was pretty amazed at how fast they could take everything we own and leave us in an empty place. After they left my wife and I just sat there wondering what to do. We ended up sitting on the floor and watching a little entertainment on the laptop.

It wasn't until a bit after 1500 that our temporary government furniture was delivered. When I first made the appointment, I was worried we would still have the movers packing out our furniture while the government furniture was being delivered…no worries there. The guys brought up the uncomfortable couch, chairs, coffee table, and bed in just a few minutes. All this furniture is very uncomfortable, but it does beat sitting on the floor and it's free…so no complaining. The delivery guys on the other hand smelled pretty bad. So bad in fact that my wife had to open up a few windows and let our place air out for quite a while after they had already left.

We now start our period of living out of suitcases and eating from plastic-ware…this in-between period while I start out-processing and prepare to leave Germany…and go home.

Looking down from our window at all our household goods 
getting crated up and loaded into the truck

Monday, May 20, 2013

Leave! - (Germany) Day 509

Me hanging out in front of the Parthenon 
on the Athenian Acropolis

For the last 20 days I've been on leave and I've been loving it! The first few consisted of just lounging around enjoying not having to shave and wearing whatever I wanted. I would take my wife to work and then run errands…and take a lot of naps. The beginning of the next week my mom and aunt came to visit. I took them to see castles, old churches, France, Switzerland, Italy, and they took my wife and I to see Greece. We stayed in Athens for 4 days and checked out all the old ruins and such that the city has to offer. You can tell the country doesn't have the money that France and Germany do, things are run down and there is quite a bit of graffiti all over. It was still quite a bit of fun and we had a blast checking out all the sites and tasting all the great food.

Everyone had a great time and I sent my mom and aunt home worn out, but they had an experience they will not forget. It was my first time in Switzerland, Italy and Greece as well, so I think I had just as much fun! Seeing my family and getting away from everything army was just what I needed. I feel refreshed and ready to finish up my time here in Germany. I called into staff duty at around 1800 to officially sign back in from leave…that was a hard call to make.

Check out the photos below of our adventures...
Edit: I had albums of my trips to Italy & France, but Flickr deleted them. They did however leave most of the Vacation to Greece you can check out below:

A Mini Vacation to Athens, Greece: Slideshow below or my Flickr album:

Created with flickr slideshow.