Sunday, June 30, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Days 21 & 22

About as Pacific Northwest as you can get...
The Sonics and Starbucks!

The weekend consisted of mostly cleaning and organizing our house a bit. We still had some stuff in boxes from our storage and the unaccompanied baggage delivery. We took some time to clean up and put some stuff away as best we could. We also took time to visit both sides of our family. This is one of the things I really missed while being stationed overseas. I tried to soak it all up! Unfortunately I was also in quite a bit of pain for the majority of the weekend. The pain medication "Tramadol" seems to do nothing when I'm in a lot of pain. I'm hoping maybe my doctor will be able to find a replacement that actually works no matter how bad the pain is.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Unaccompanied Baggage - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 20

This morning I had my unaccompanied baggage scheduled to be delivered. Unaccompanied baggage is sent off early before you PCS and in turn arrives earlier than your household goods. You can put stuff you'll need sooner (such as pots, pans, and clothes). We mainly shipped summer clothes along with all my army uniforms and gear that I had left.

My squad leader unfortunately didn't pass along the information that I would not be at morning formation this morning, this prompted a call from another squad leader who was filling in for him while he was off as well. The call came in at 0630 in the morning and I explained that I had talked to my squad leader and would not be there due to my unaccompanied baggage arriving.

Transportation originally gave me a window between 0800 and 1700, but the driver called me and said he would arrive around 0930. He did arrive and they dropped off our 10 boxes of items. I signed for them and they took off…pretty easy.

I then get a text around 1100 that we have a mandatory formation at 1400 today unless we have an appointment. There is no way I'm going to make the hour drive to Ft. Lewis which I have to cross a toll bridge to get to, just to stand in a formation and hear a lame safety brief. I replied back to the text saying I will not be able to attend due to my unaccompanied baggage arriving today. I figured I have more important stuff to do...I still have to put everything away and I still need to go back and visit my sister some more.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

False Start - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 19

I headed to morning formation in ACUs with all intentions of turning around and heading straight back home. My sister found out she has cancer and will be in the hospital for surgery all day. I planned to be there with her and my mom. The powers that be had me picked for a pee test this morning...again. So along with about 9 others, we headed to the company to do our thing. I was a little surprised they were doing another pee test so soon…and I was also surprised that I was on the list yet again. I guess they probably have a lot more pee tests here because marijuana is legal in Washington state and because everyone in the WTB unit is broken. When you're broken, you're in pain a lot of the time. This means there is a lot more potential in abusing drugs. In fact I would love the chance to test out the medicinal properties of marijuana. If it helps with half the things that it's proponents say it does, then I'd be set and in no pain anymore! I'll have to wait on that though until I'm out of the army, because while I'm owned by the army…marijuana is still illegal.

I sat waiting for the urge to go pee along with my small cup of water that I had refilled a couple of times. I then felt a tingle down south and knew the time was near. I notified the NCO in charge and was assigned my small cup to fill up with my pee. As I headed in the observing NCO had me head into the handicapped toilet stall instead of the urinal. I thought that was a little strange, but headed in as instructed. Next came a very uncomfortable situation!

As I unbuttoned my pants and prepared to fill the cup, the observing NCO squatted down and put his face about 6 inches from my crotch! I'm not exaggerating one bit! As I tried to pee I found it extremely difficult with his face so close. Perhaps it was a little stage fright, but I was only able to squeeze out a tiny bit…nothing close to what is needed for the actual pee test. What the observing NCO did next didn't help at all. He started cheering and rooting my penis to push out some more urine into the cup. I told him I'm going to have to try again later.

There I left with barely enough urine in my cup to fill the bottom. I had to rinse the cup out and then smash it before throwing it away. Then it was back to drinking water…and lots of it. I got into a routine of drinking a glass of water, then playing a little of my game on the iPhone. I repeated this process for quite a while. There were a couple times I thought about going, but I didn't want another "false start" episode again. If I went in the restroom with my little pee cup and had to have the observing NCO 6 inches from my junk, I wanted to make sure I had to go…and go bad.

The time finally hit and without any doubt, I informed the NCO in charge and headed in with my new little pee cup. This time there was no question and not even an NCO within 6 inches of my penis was going to stop the floodgates from opening. I filled the cup and sat it aside while I kept going and going and going. Finally I finished up, screwed the lid on and headed back to the NCO in charge with a full cup of pee in hand. Surprisingly I wasn't even the last to finish, there was still one more person after me that still hadn't gone yet…even after waiting over an hour!

I then was able to head home and change, then I headed into the hospital to hang out with my sister, mom and other extended family. I'm grateful I'm back home now to be here for them.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Narrative Summary - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 18

I headed to formation in my ACUs. I didn't have any appointments or anything, but I was extremely tired most likely due to taking a muscle relaxer too late last night. There was no way I could do PT this morning. In fact I've been losing interest in doing PT at all. I really want to get back on a normal PT schedule, but when my head is in pain I have no desire. I also have no desire to do it with this company.

After formation I headed back to my car where I passed out for over 2 more hours! I felt better after that and headed to the SFAC to use their computers. I guess I arrived during rush hour at the SFAC because all the computers were being used. So I waited in the lobby playing on my iPhone for a while. When it seemed nobody would be leaving anytime soon, I headed to my car and continued watching a few more fights from UFC 161 on my laptop.

I headed to the SFAC again at lunch time and was able to check my email, then eat lunch. I headed to my next appointment which was with a MedBoard doctor. She was making up my narrative summary, which will get sent off to the PEB (Physical Evaluation Board) which will use that along with the rest of my medical records to decide if I'm still fit for duty, or if I'll continue through with the medboard process and get medboarded out of the army. The narrative summary is basically a summary of my issues listing my limitations and such. I did one with a doctor in Germany before I left, which made this appointment a bit easier. The doctor asked me a bunch of questions about my limitations, pain, and basically everything about my neck and head pains along with the history of treatments. With this information and the previous narrative summary, she will put everything together and send it off.

I headed to the SFAC and was able to get on a computer where I finished up my online ACAP briefing. ACAP (Army Career and Alumni Program) is the process soldiers have to go through before they leave the army. It helps with the transition process and helps prepare the soldier for life in the civilian world. I had to go through the brief and choose various things I was interested in finding out more information about (such as employment opportunities and education). The ACAP counselor will then take all this information and go over it with me on my next appointment. I believe I will then be scheduled to attend various other ACAP briefs based on my answers.

I signed up for my next college class. Now that I have internet at home I need to get back to taking my college classes. One of my major goals is to finish my degree before getting out of the army. I have 6 more classes to go.

I headed to my usual hangout lately…my car. I watched some more fights from UFC 161 up until the main event. At this time I headed to our final formation at 1600. I'm not sure why they even have this final formation. I know I've mentioned this before, but it's really just a waste of time. We stand around and wait for an NCO. Sometimes we form up, sometimes we don't. The NCO usually just comes out and says he has nothing for us and takes off. Sometimes he says "get your self-assessments done" and takes off. Usually only about half the people even show up for this formation because of various appointments.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The PEBLO - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 17

This is where my PEBLO is located...a bunch of temporary units on Ft. Lewis

Headed to PT formation this morning in ACUs and surprisingly they decided to have it inside because it was raining. Maybe I was a little too quick to judge yesterday, perhaps the company is getting a little common sense! I came in ACUs because I had an appointment with my PCM (Primary Care Physician) at 0900. Technically we are supposed to come in ACUs only if our appointments are at 0830 or earlier, but I wasn't going to chance it. I didn't know if the company was going to be stupid and make everyone do PT outside or not. After formation I headed to my car and took a nap after eating my breakfast.

My PCM appointment went fairly routine. The doctor went over how I felt the last couple of weeks and then gave me a refill for my Tramadol. The medicine doesn't take away all the pain, but for my mild to moderate headaches it does a decent job…far better than over the counter pain killers.

After my PCM (Primary Care Manager) appointment I headed straight to my NCM (Nurse Case Manager) appointment. During this appointment we went over how the last week has gone. She mentioned some things she may want me to try such as yoga. She also said after an appointment I have on July 11th, I should be transferred to B company. I'm currently in HHC company, but this company is only for soldiers as they are arriving and in-processing. I'm not sure what will change once in B company other than I'll have a new squad leader and a new NCM…I'll keep my PCM and everything else. My guess is B company will have squad leaders that are a little more in touch with their soldiers because there isn't as much transition going on.

I headed to the SFAC with my laptop. After using their computers to check my army email, I had a seat in their lobby and used my laptop to surf the web and waste time until lunch. I had lunch in the SFAC and then headed to my next appointment.

This next appointment was to meet my PEBLO. This person is the one who will help me through the entire medboard process. She will be the one I go to if I have any questions, she will basically be my guide through this process. My last task of the day was the pharmacy. After my last visit to the pharmacy I was expecting a madhouse, but surprisingly it was not too bad. I got my number and was called up within 10 minutes or so.

I then headed to my car once again and did a variety of things to pass the time…watch a little of UFC 161 on my laptop, listen to music, play on my iPhone, take a nap. The weather changed a bit and by the time I was about to leave to formation it was getting pretty hot! As the summer progresses I may have to find a better place to hang out and pass the time.

Finally it was time to head to our evening formation. This formation is at 1600 and I don't even know why they have it. Half of the time we don't even form up. They never take accountability and it usually only consists of one squad leader coming out and saying he has nothing to announce and we can go.

Monday, June 24, 2013

IDES Brief - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 16

Looking at Madigan hospital from the parking lot between the hospital 
and the WTB (where I usually try to find parking)

This morning was the first time it has rained during our morning formation. It's crazy because even though it's summer time, it usually rains more than it has lately. I have to say the army…or perhaps this company is just plain stupid. We formed up in the rain standing there getting wet the entire time. People may say stuff like it's only rain and we're the army and we're tough, but actually it's just stupid.

After the formation another squad leader called me over (my squad leader was not there). I was told I had to visit the company HR guy at 0900 this morning. I told him I had the IDES brief at 0930, so he said "OK make it 0800 then". So I go and change out of my PTs and into my ACUs, then head up to see the HR guy. I waited for about 20 minutes, but he never showed up…so I left.

I headed to the IDES (Integrated Disability Evaluation System) brief which was located in the hospital in a meeting room on the ground floor. The meeting went all the way until a little after noon. The entire meeting was basically an overview of what will happen with all of us during the MedBoard process. The VA came in and gave a short brief, then the SFAC came in and did the same, then Tri-Care came in and gave their brief. Finally the legal team came in and gave a long brief going over everything we needed to know. Most importantly they stressed that we should bring anything to them before we sign it. I left having a lot better idea of how everything will work and I'm hoping there will be no setbacks. Their goal is to get the soldier out after 295 days or so. We'll see…it's already day 16 so that gives them 279 days.

On a personal note we became semi-independent today. We slept in our own house for the first time. We don't have a lot of stuff in there yet, but we purchased a coffee maker and we had a mattress in storage to sleep on. We'll still eat dinner and pack our lunches at the in-laws, but we'll be staying in our new house from now on.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Days 14 & 15

The Olympic Mountains behind a bridge in Bremerton. 
Just one of the views I see living in the Pacific Northwest

This weekend we got the keys to our new rental house and started the process of moving in...well moving in what we could. We had some items we left in storage here from when I first joined the army. So our house now has a mattress, some outdoor furniture and a coffee table. My brother-in-law let us use his truck, so we made trips back and forth from the storage unit. There are a number of boxes with who knows what now in our garage. I'll have to go through those later. We didn't actually stay at the house this weekend because I had my son and we didn't really have everything we needed yet, so it's still hanging out at the in-laws for now.

Friday, June 21, 2013

More SHARP - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 13

Saw this on the way home...a portable toilet!

We had our normal PT formation and right after accountability we were all told to head into the WTB multipurpose room for some SHARP training. Of course more training to "check the box" is exactly what the army needs to solve it's sexual harassment and assault problems.  We started to watch a video, but it was streaming from YouTube and about 3 minutes into it, it froze. The cadre were unable to get it working again, so we went straight into questions and answers. After a couple of these I was able to get up and leave. Fortunately I came in my ACUs because I had an early appointment.

This appointment was to start the actual MedBoard process. So far I've just been seeing doctors and such to treat my current symptoms, but the MedBoard process to get me out of the army hasn't actually been started yet. This appointment was basically just going over some of my records and making sure everything such as my name and address were correct. He then scheduled me for a MedBoard briefing next Monday and an appointment with a MedBoard doctor next Wednesday.

I headed to the SFAC and used their computers to finish up my mandatory training and do a little web surfing. I then headed to my car to hang out, listen to music and play games on my iPhone. I did this until lunch time. I had lunch at the SFAC as usual and then headed out to what was supposed to be the end of day formation at noon, but only one other guy showed up. I guess we didn't get the message that there was no formation, so I took off and headed home for the weekend.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Getting Taped - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 12

I arrived to PT this morning only to find out all the new folks had to get their height and weight measured. So no PT for me...I then find out I'm actually 2 pounds over the maximum amount I'm allowed according to army regulations for my age and height. When this happens, you have to get taped to measure your body fat percentage. This involves taking a measurement of your neck and belly. I was well under the limit, so I was good to go. I've never had to get taped before, I guess I just had too much schnitzel, beer, and ice cream while in Germany. I think it also didn't help that I haven't done PT consistently for a long while now. I'm starting to wonder if I ever will until I actually get out of the army.
For some reason this was another high pain day, my head was just killing me all day long. The new pain medication (Tramadol) which I had hoped would be a silver bullet is turning out to be just your normal average bullet. It does help, but it takes a long time to start working and it doesn't last long enough.

I headed to my car and relaxed, taking a nap for a while and listening to music. I then headed to the SFAC and finished my in-processing with them. After I finished I used their computers for a while. I take more of my pain killer and I finally start feeling the affects, but as I mentioned earlier it is not strong enough and doesn't last long enough...or I guess my pain just outlasts it.

I then hang out more in my car, take another nap, listen to the radio and play games until 1600 end of day formation.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Starting the Commute - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 11

A view inside the SFAC showing the small dining area on the left, the kitchen is to the right.

We formed up for PT this morning and then those of us actually doing PT headed to the gym. The gym is a bit of a drive, so now that I know where it is I just met everyone there. Once we finished I was able to change and get ready in the gym locker room. After that I parked in the WTB parking lot and took a nap in my car.

I headed to our finance office with my paid hotel receipt in hand. When I was finally waited on, I was told our finance office doesn't do the hotel reimbursement. They told me to go to Waller Hall. This pissed me off just a little bit, because I'm starting to wonder what the finance office at the WTB does at all.

I headed to Waller Hall and after waiting a while to get called, I am told that because I haven't been paid for my PCS travel, they can't do my hotel reimbursement yet. "They can only do one thing at a time". Sounds like lazy bastards that don't want to do their job to me. Sounds like they are hoping people forget to bring in their receipt to get their reimbursement. I was pretty pissed off because now I have over $800 charged on my credit card and they said the PCS travel payment can take 4-6 weeks. This is such BS! The hotels on post in both Korea and Germany both just settled the billing behind the scenes. I didn't have to do anything, let alone pay in advance and hope to get reimbursed. I left the place very pissed off! A crappy way to start the day.

I head to the SFAC and did some online training until lunch time. I ate lunch in the SFAC and then headed out to my car. I listened to the radio, played games on my iPhone and read a bit on the iPad. I have a feeling I'll be spending quite a bit of time in my car while I'm stationed here.

I head back to the SFAC and get both my ERB and LES printed out for a future appointment on Friday. I then head to the 1600 evening formation and then to the battalion newcomers brief. This brief had various people come in, introduce themselves and tell a bit about their office and what they do. The problem with this shotgun approach is that I couldn't tell you how many or even who all came up and did this. It's just a little overwhelming. Once they were all finished there was a dinner prepared by volunteers afterward. I found someone to sign off on my in-processing checklist and took off. I'm very grateful for the volunteer's efforts and I'm sure the food is great, but I had my wife and family waiting for me at home to eat dinner with. This is mainly for the single soldiers that live in the barracks. I didn't feel bad cutting out early.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Making the Deposit - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 10

Headed to PT in ACUs because I had a meeting with my NCM. The NCO in front of the formation then called off about 10 names and told them to gather to his left…mine was one of the names. I was wondering what the heck was going on, but quickly found out that it was for a random pee test. Unfortunately I had just gone pee right before formation. We head up to the company headquarters and I hang out next to the water fountain drinking water almost non-stop for 45 minutes. Finally the urge to pee hit and I headed it to take care of business. The drawback of drinking all that water, was that I ended up having to pee constantly for almost the next two hours. I swear every ten minutes I had to stop what I was doing and go pee.

I headed to the SFAC once again and attended a newcomers brief. I was the only person there, so it was pretty easy. One of the guys who works there gave me the basic overview of all their services, then I had to meet up with each of their representatives and have them sign off my checklist. They have everything from veteran services to ACAP. When I hit the HR guy he went over my ERB (enlisted record brief - basically your entire history in the army) and said it was all messed up. He asked me why and I said I have no idea. The problem is that we get no training on our ERB, there is a lot of information on it and unless you're assigned to an S-1 shop you don't know what it all means. From some of the S-1 shops I've visited, I can say that they don't know everything about it either. The HR guy added my overseas dates and places and also added another overseas service ribbon to it. Once my household goods arrive, I'll have to bring him all my awards and have him add those as well.

I then headed back to the hotel where I checked out. I found out that I have to actually pay the bill of over $800 and then take the paperwork to finance to get reimbursed. This really sucks, because it's just another hurdle that I have to do in order to get my money back. In Korea and in Germany I didn't have to do this, the hotel on post just billed the company I was assigned to and took care of it all behind the scenes. I didn't have to worry about any of that. On top of that it was required for me to stay at the hotel. I would have rather just stayed with family instead of dealing with this crap.

We packed up and headed to my in-laws where we will be staying until we move into our rental. We were able to pick a house to rent that we really liked. It's located in East Bremerton which will make my commute to Ft. Lewis about an hour, but it is within minutes of both my wife's family and my family. My wife will also be commuting in the opposite direction, so it's centrally located for both of us. We met with the landlords and made our deposit.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Morning - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 9

 A photo showing the entrance to the SFAC on JBLM

PT this morning was led by my squad leader. We did a few stretches along with a few exercises, then walked around the WTB complex. A pretty easy workout, but that is fine with me. I need to slowly get back into shape.

I headed to the SFAC (Soldier & Family Assistance Center) in the WTB. They have a number of services such as a kitchen, Wi-Fi, and computers attached to a printer for use. I used these computers to check my army email and surf the web a bit.

I then headed back to the hotel room and took a nap to end the day.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Days 7 & 8

I've loved traveling the world, but it's so nice to be back home!
A photo I ran across on the web that shows just a fraction
of how beautiful the pacific northwest can be.
(The Seattle ferry with the Olympic Mountains behind) 

This weekend we stayed with my wife's parents and we were able to check out even more places to rent. I was able to visit my grandma and my best friend as well as my sister and mom. It was a busy weekend, but it was pretty awesome seeing family for the first time in a long while.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Meet the Commander - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 6

Went to the morning formation and then headed back to the hotel room and had breakfast with my family. I then met with my squad leader in his office at 0900. He signed off on some of my in-processing paperwork. We chatted for a bit and I decided to cut him some slack. He is so overwhelmed with stuff to do, and I was able to see it in the short amount of time I was at his desk. He is dealing constantly with new soldiers arriving among a lot of other things. He gave me another packet filled with some mandatory online training I need to finish. I was able to get in-processed with S-4 and the training office while I was there, so my "days 1-5 checklist" of in-processing is looking much better.

We had the commander's newcomer brief at 1000. He had a few people come in and give their information, then he had us take a short test. The questions were based on our soldier handbook that we were given when we first arrived. Once we finished that he basically stated his expectations and let us know how important it is to make our appointments while at WTB. Our mission while we are here is to rest, heal, and get better. If we miss 3 appointments it can be a UCMJ offense and we can get into some serious trouble.

I then went back to my hotel room and had lunch with my wife and son. We then left to check out some houses my wife has been investigating online for us to rent. We had appointments for a couple and we just drove by a few more. I let me squad leader know I would not be at evening formation because of this. We then headed to my wife's parents where we had a BBQ and stayed for the weekend.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Finance & In-Processing - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 5

I went to PT in my ACUs this morning. Since I was unable to contact finance at Waller Hall yesterday, I had to make sure I headed down there first thing this morning. When I arrived at the front desk, I told the guy my problem about missing the 2nd part of the finance brief and he said "no problem, just come back to that same room at 1030, I'm going to give that brief today". So I headed back to my hotel room and hung out with my wife and son for a while.
I headed back to Waller Hall and I was able to attend the 2nd portion of the finance brief. It was a similar situation as the first finance brief, I just joined a room that was already full of people going through brief after brief for their in-processing. It's amazing to think about how many people get processed through this building every month. The brief had us fill out more paperwork as we followed along with the speaker. Once finished we turned it in and he looked it over…then we were dismissed.

I felt a lot better now that I got that out of the way. Now I will get almost an extra $1,300 in my paycheck for housing allowance. I had lunch with my family, then called my squad leader to ask some questions. He was busy at the moment, but said he would call me back…he never did. I was a little upset and was thinking if he doesn't care, then I sure as hell don't care. I ended up getting a couple more signatures for my in-processing done (the mailroom & tri-care).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Frustration & Goal Setting - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 4

 The Rainier Inn on JBLM...the army lodging hotel where
we stayed the first 10 days of arriving.

This morning those of us that did PT went to the gym and worked out on our own. I rode the bicycle and got some cardio in. As I was there peddling I realized that this was the first time I've worked out since the end of March. I went on leave the first of May and then was out-processing once I came off of leave. I need to get back into shape!

I had an appointment with Occupational Therapy at 0900. Occupational Therapy is the place that does what it can to help soldiers in the WTB make the transition into the civilian workforce. They help soldiers in the WTB get internships with federal agencies that can be done while still in WTB. We went over all my limitations and the guy told me about their programs and such. They want to make sure soldiers are busy doing something to help with the transition for when they get out, school and internships are what they are really pushing.

I then started doing some of the in-processing still needed. I hit S-1 and some various other places. When I made it to the finance office, I found out that I actually missed one of the finance briefs the other day. I went to one and then left, but they didn't tell me there was more than one I needed to attend. I still need to get my housing allowance setup, so I can live off post. This stressed me out quite a bit. I was given a number to call to schedule an appointment, but after trying at various times throughout the entire day…they never even picked up the phone.

I continued to get more things checked off my in-processing checklist until 1445 when I had an appointment for my "goal setting" class. I had to set goals for my time here at WTB in six different areas such as professional, educational, spiritual, and such. It was kind of difficult to come up with short term, medium and long term goals in each of these areas. Some of them are kind of stupid like "go to MWR events monthly" under the "social" section. My real goals are just to get through this and get out. I should be able to obtain my bachelors degree before I leave as well…which is one of my biggest goals.

I then headed back to our hotel room where my son was there waiting for me. It was awesome to finally see him after all these months! It is really nice to be home again.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mandatory Appointments - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 3

This morning I headed to the morning formation in ACUs. They do morning PT here, but anyone that has an appointment at 0830 of before comes in ACUs and then takes off after formation. I'm still figuring everything out, so my squad leader just told me to come in ACUs.

My first appointment was at 1030 which was with the social worker again. I had to fill out a lengthy sheet filled with various questions such as "Do I feel like harming myself or others". We took time to go over each of my answers. Yesterday's visit was very short, but today's was quite a bit longer and more in depth. After all was said and done, I am still considered mentally fine I guess…lol.

I then went to lunch back in our hotel room with my wife. I had another appointment with my primary care manager, which like my previous appointment was much more in depth. We went over all my issues and she did a couple basic checks on me as far as feeling my joints and listening to my breathing. The doctor also prescribed me some new medication after our talk. One was just a renewal of my muscle relaxers, the other is a pain reliever that also makes me drowsy…that will help me sleep at night, so no complaints with me. I also asked to try a stronger one called Tramadol. After speaking with a former co-worker that had a similar situation with neck pain and headaches, she said this was the only thing that helped her out. So the doctor gave me a small amount to try out. I'm willing to try about anything now to get rid of my pain.

I then had an appointment with the pharmacist who went over all the prescriptions I'm taking and she explained everything about them. The other pain reliever the doctor prescribed me to take nightly is called Amitriptyline. It is actually categorized as an antidepressant, but can be prescribed for pain. From what the pharmacist told me, it will build up over time and help with the pain in my nerve endings. The side affect is that it will make me drowsy, so I'll be taking it at night before bed. I've been having trouble sleeping, so this is a welcome side affect.

The pharmacy at Ft. Lewis is pretty crazy! The place is crowded with people in overflow seating outside of the pharmacy. A number is taken and when it is called you can stand in the line which has two people working just to make sure there are no issues with the line…like cutting or going before your number is called. I waited a little over an hour for my prescription.

I didn't get any of my actual in-processing done because of all my appointments. I'm also pretty frustrated over how busy they keep us when we first arrive. I need to find a place to live and only have this hotel for 10 days, after that I will not get reimbursed. They are giving me no time to get out and look for a place to live and it can get frustrating.

Monday, June 10, 2013

No Rest For The Weary - (MedBoard: Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 2

This morning I had a 0630 formation at the WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion) unit. Even though I just flew in from half way around the world and I'm still trying to adjust to a new time zone, there is no break at all. It wasn't just formation either, my day was busy from beginning to end. Right after formation an NCO took me to sick call to get seen by a doctor for an initial visit. There are a number of time sensitive things they have to take care of within the first day and this was number 1. The doctor asked some basic questions to see if I was a high risk factor for self harm. She then gave me some basic information and turned me loose.

I met with my NCO again and she drove me to Waller Hall which is where most of the major in-processing and out-processing is done for all soldiers except those in the WTB like me. I was shown a meeting room and told the finance brief will happen at 0900. It was kind of strange because there was a room full of people doing in-processing and I ended up just joining them for this financial piece. The brief covered our travel costs and I had to fill out some paperwork step by step as the briefer went over it. Once she was done everyone lined up and turned in their paperwork. There were a couple folks looking it all over and then stamped it and signed off on it. I asked if that was it as far as financing and the person who stamped my paperwork said "yup", so I left. I didn't care too much for just being dropped off with hardly any information, but I figured I would find my way through it all one way or another.

I then headed back to my hotel room for lunch with my wife. After that I headed back to the WTB unit and saw a social worker who also assessed my mental health situation. I guess there are a lot of folks coming into the WTB depressed and suicidal. Once the social worker saw that I was feeling fine and had no suicidal tendencies, she turned me loose. I then headed across the hall to see my NCM (Nurse Case Manager). I found out this person would be my single point of contact for almost everything. All appointments go through her and I will be checking in with her weekly. She gave me a list of appointments that she scheduled already for me. I was told who my squad leader was, this person will basically be my boss while I'm here. He gave me a bunch of in-processing paperwork to start on.

I found out that I'm assigned to HHC, which is basically only during the in-processing stage of my time here. Once I get through in-processing, I will be assigned to either Alpha, Bravo, or Charlie company here at the WTB. This means I'll be getting a new squad leader and everything shortly. I'm told in-processing lasts as long as a month.

I headed back to my room. I'm jet-lagged and very tired. I was in Germany yesterday and I've been going non-stop since I arrived here. I promptly passed out in our hotel bed.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

MedBoard Starts Here - (MedBoard Joint Base Lewis-McChord) Day 1

 Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis- McChord
A place I'll be spending a lot of time at.

So I am now in the process of getting a MedBoard. Here is a little timeline of how I ended up here:

2011: I notice I'm getting frequent headaches, but can't figure out why. Try to do research online for cures to my symptoms such as drinking more water and reducing sugar intake. Nothing helps.

2012 (Spring): I finally go to the doctor to see if they can find out why I'm getting headaches all the time. X-Rays, CT scan, Physical Therapy are all done. No medications so far have helped.

2012 (Fall): Finally referred to a Neurologist who schedules an MRI and also tries a nerve block by injecting a substance in the back of my head near the top of my spine.

2013 (February): My Neurologist gives me a permanent profile after nothing so far has helped. This permanent profile triggers the MedBoard process. I am contacted by the WTU (Warrior Transition Unit) in Heidelberg to start the process. I put in for Ft. Lewis since it is close to my hometown and end up getting orders to head there. My original orders had me arriving on July 10th, but they moved it up to June 9th because of the closure of Heidelberg.

I'm very glad we chose to stay in Frankfurt for our last weekend. It was nice to be away from anything army, and my wife and I had some quality time just hanging out together. We really enjoyed our last weekend in Germany. The flight was straight through from Frankfurt to Seattle…10 hours on a plane. I have no complaints about the plane or the service from our Lufthansa flight crew. We were served either meals, drinks, or snacks several times throughout the flight. I had enough legroom and we had our own in flight entertainment system. I ended up watching "The Last Stand" and "A Good Day to Die Hard". Those along with music and podcasts on my iPhone helped pass the time.

We arrived in SeaTac and after making our way through customs, there was an NCO at the baggage terminal waiting for us. She gave us a ride to Ft. Lewis (actually it's now called JBLM - Joint Base Lewis McChord, but this is mainly just in name only…they are still basically two physically separate bases). She drove us around and showed me the hospital and the WTB barracks and offices right next to it. There was a lot of police tape in the parking lot with MPs standing around. I later found out that a WTB soldier had just killed himself! We then checked into our hotel where my wife and I were picked up by a friend shortly after.

Our friend took us to surprise both of our families. Nobody knew we were coming back earlier (everyone still thought the date was in July). So big surprises everywhere and lots of visiting with both sides of our family. We were able to borrow my father-in-law's car and took that back to our hotel on base, where we promptly passed out…it's been the longest Sunday ever!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Conclusion - (Germany) Day 526

During our last visit to Frankfurt...The Myzeil Shopping Mall...has a pretty cool hole in it!

This weekend we are staying at the Sheraton hotel which is connected to the Frankfurt airport. We'll have a lot more available to us including a short train ride into downtown Frankfurt instead of being trapped on "PHV island" without a car for our last weekend here in Germany.

As for my thoughts about my time here….

I had been to Germany as a young lad as part of our high school exchange program and had a blast, so I was excited to come back and visit as an adult. I was also very excited to be assigned to an actual signal unit, I figured I'd be doing my actual job and getting involved in all kinds of high tech information technology…geeky stuff. I figured wrong.

Germany and Europe were a blast as far as being a tourist goes. My wife and I made the most of our time here. We explored as much of Germany as possible and also made our way to England, Holland, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, and Greece. I loved being able to see all the history and my wife and I really enjoyed our time here. Our hometown of Heidelberg is a great city. The food and beer in Germany is amazing. The people we met were awesome and I was able to visit all three of the German exchange students that had lived with me in America as part of our exchange program.

Professionally my time in Germany was a real bust. Even though I was in an actual signal unit, I ended up being a ComSec clerk…which is actually a glorified librarian that only needs to make sure customer's paperwork is in order and all the signatures are in the correct places. A computer is not even needed to be a ComSec clerk. On top of that there were so many special duties and training that we had to do which had nothing to do with the job I signed up for…an Information Technology Specialist. Truth be told the only I.T. work I did was when I worked on my home computers. When I vented my frustrations via this blog, I ended up in all kinds of trouble. Free speech was thrown out the window. One does not simply shine a negative light on what's going on in the army. If a high ranking someone gets butt hurt, then there is going to be hell to pay. Even without getting in any official trouble, I had to deal with a lot of unofficial punishment…special duty, verbal assaults, and being alienated. Even though I never received any official punishment, my life was a living hell for a while. Ironically during my year and a half in Germany I received 3 AAMs (Army Achievement Medals) and the Good Conduct Medal.

I eventually ended up working as the chaplain's assistant, which helped him out and got me out of the sergeant major's bullseye. It worked out and my stress level went down considerably. During this whole process I did receive my clearance and I also ended up getting recommended for the medboard. So now I will move on to the next and last chapter of my army career as I go through the medboard process. The good news is that I'll be stationed at Ft. Lewis during the process which is only about 40 minutes from my hometown. I'll have the support of friends and family. I'll also be able to be a bigger part of my kids lives.

All the posts in Heidelberg closed down about 3 months after I left. The local newspaper had an article along with a video showing the Germans checking it out for the first time. (The page is in German, but if you use the chrome web browser it should offer to translate it for you. The video is also in German, but you can watch it as it shows you around Campbell Barracks where I worked)

Check out the video here:
Edit: Unfortunately the newspaper has since removed the article :(

We did make one last trip via train from the airport to Frankfurt...

Street performers in Frankfurt...I love watching street performers, they
give a city some personality

Taking a break and posing for a picture
Me posing under the giant Euro sign in Frankfurt

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Final Out - (Germany) Day 525

 Guest lodging entrance at Patrick Henry Village

This morning PT formation was at the PHV bowling alley parking lot, so I was able to get up and walk over there in my ACUs. The few that were there were doing a ruck march around PHV. I checked in and then headed back home…after a pit stop at the shoppette to pick up some coffee. We no longer have a coffee machine…one of the last things to get tossed from our house. When I got back home, we ate breakfast and got ready for the day. I then took down our bedroom curtains and gathered together all our bedding materials. All this stuff went straight to the trash, which is unfortunate. The recycling center closed down and we can't fit all of that into our luggage, so it all gets thrown away. We then did a quick sweep around the house and spot cleaned a few things. I unhooked our internet and phone, then threw the router and phone away as well. Both devices were 220v so we can't use them back in the states, and I couldn't find anyone who wanted them here.

We put our suitcases right outside our door and hung out until the housing inspector came by at 0845…the moment of truth. Now is the time we see if all our hard work cleaning every nook and cranny of our house really paid off. The inspector came and literally did a 30 second check of everything along with our appliances. He then checked to make sure we still had all our assigned keys and proceeded to have me sign some papers while he signed the required clearing papers. We were all done in well under 5 minutes…holy cow! It went a lot easier than I thought it would.

We waited on a co-worker to bring the TMP and then loaded up all our luggage and transported everything to guest lodging (the army hotel on post). We were allowed to check in early which was nice, this way we didn't need to store our bags and check in later at 1400 when they usually do it. I headed off in the TMP to the out-processing center and finished up my final paperwork there. I also picked up our plane tickets back to the states. They were supposed to email them to me, but I hadn't received them yet. I stopped by the internet provider and cancelled our service and then the bank where I turned in some rolls of coins that had accumulated during our time here. A quick stop by S-1 to drop off copies of all the final-out paperwork and then I was done for the day.

My co-worker dropped me off at guest lodging and I hung out with my wife for the rest of the day. We at dinner at the local restaurant on post "The Village Grill" which happened to be the first place we at dinner here when we arrived a year and a half ago. We've now come full circle and will be heading to the airport tomorrow. We could have stayed in guest lodging for free until our flight out on Sunday, but we decided to get a hotel at the airport for our last two nights here. That way we can get out and see Frankfurt if we want, we won't have to deal with any army base issues, and most of all we will not need anyone to drive us up to the airport very early on a Sunday morning…instead they can drive us on a Friday instead and get out of the office for a while.

Saw these on a tree outside guest lodging (the army hotel) and it made me smile

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Day Without The Uniform - (Germany) Day 524

This morning PT formation was at Campbell barracks. Since I don't have a car and I'm also clearing, I just had to call the platoon sergeant and let him know I'm alive at 0600. Once that was done I went back to sleep…which by the way was much better last night than the previous night thanks to a muscle relaxer. My head on the other hand is feeling a little better, but still in pain.

When I did get up I spent the morning with my wife getting ready for the day. We then continued to clean our house. I took a number of loads either to bulk trash or straight to the dumpster depending on what they were. Our place is completely empty now except for the government furniture and our suitcases we will be taking with us. Just a few things left like our bedroom curtains and our comforter will be thrown away tomorrow. My boss called and said one of my co-workers was on the way to drop off my clearing paperwork that our commander finally signed and sent back. I was afraid we would have to make the hour long drive up there just to make sure he signed it.

We made a stop by the post office to mail off some packages both to others and even ourselves (stuff we didn't want to pack). We ate lunch out and then I got my haircut. Now I'll be good to go when I arrive in Ft. Lewis. We came back home and did some more spot cleaning. An acquaintance of mine from back in high school came to the post and I signed him in. He's lived in Germany for years and wanted to do a little shopping in our commissary before I left so he could get some things he's been missing (such as root beer) that they don't sell out in the German economy.

I came back home and hung out with my wife for the rest of the evening. I took down a couple more loads of trash even including the shower curtain once we took our evening showers. The inspector comes first thing in the morning tomorrow and we'll see if all this cleaning was worth it or not.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shipping the Car - (Germany) Day 523

The morning did not go as planned. I haven't been writing a lot about the pain I've been in because it's pretty much a normal every day occurrence. My back, neck and head are usually in some sort of pain, but it happens so often that I just work through it. I usually take a few Excedrin if the headaches get too bad and that helps sometimes and sometimes it doesn't. Last night I was feeling sore and took some Excedrin before bed. I didn't sleep well at all and at 0340 the pain was so bad in my head that I ended getting up and taking more Excedrin, which unfortunately did absolutely nothing. I ended just getting up for good at 0440 and starting my day because of this. I wish I had something to really kill the pain when it gets this bad, and I'm hoping we can figure something out when I start going through the medboard process at Ft. Lewis. A hot shower helped a little, but I ended up with a pretty terrible headache that lasted the entire day.

This morning PT formation was at Campbell gym. I showed up in ACUs as usual and listened to the usual morning announcements. I then coordinated with my boss to make sure someone would be able to pick me up after I drop off my vehicle for shipping. I then headed back home and got ready for the day.

I headed out about 0800 to Spinelli barracks in Mannheim which is about a half hour away and is also where vehicle processing is. I had an appointment at 0900 and arrived at 0830. They had me sign more papers than when I originally purchased the car! I was at a desk signing paper after paper, making sure to give them 5 copies of my orders in the process. I then went out with the inspector who said it passed the agricultural inspection (the one which I've heard so many horror stories about) and then he went over the "scratch and ding" report. This is where he marks on a drawing of a car every scratch and ding he can find. The end result looks like the car exploded on paper, but they want to document everything before shipping and after to make sure nothing happens during transport. I signed more paperwork and eventually was given my German license plates to take and "de-register" my car.

At this next office I signed in…I was the only person there…and waited a half hour for someone to see me. There were no other customers and two workers there. Ahhh…the life of a government employee. When I finally did get seen, I was able to de-register my vehicle, turn in my German license plates, get some new temporary ones to use in the states, and get my clearing papers signed. By the time I finished my boss and another co-worker were there to pick me up and take me back to the office.

We headed back, I scanned my cleaning paperwork and emailed it all to my boss. He in turn sent them up to the company commander for him to sign now that I have everything else done. We then went out for lunch and took our time coming back. The ComSec office used to be pretty boring, but now it's taken boring to an entire new level. There is no ComSec anymore since the place is closing. Nobody has a job to do anymore, so the only thing everyone does is watch YouTube on the computers all day. They have removed a few of the computers, so not everyone even has a computer. It's pretty crazy! I played games on my phone waiting for the commander to send back my signed form. I spent the rest of the day doing this as my boss called twice to check on the status. At the end of the day I got a ride home from a co-worker.

I spent the last half of the day playing games on my phone, when I could have been home cleaning. I final out the day after tomorrow and need that signature in order to do so. It's a little stressful waiting on others. I will feel so much better once I final out and make it to the hotel at the airport. I'll be done with this company and with this battalion.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cleaning the House - (Germany) Day 522

This morning we had PT formation at the bowling alley here on PHV, which was good because I don't have a car…I could just walk there. So I got up, put on my ACUs, walked to the formation, then walked back home and changed into my cleaning clothes. I then took it easy getting ready for the day with my wife. We ate breakfast, drank coffee and watched the NBC Nightly News video podcast each morning. This keeps us up with what's going on back in the states.

We then spent the majority of the day cleaning the house. Scrubbing the appliances and cleaning the bathroom to make everything look even better than when we arrived. We did take a break and watched a documentary called "Super High Me" on Hulu. This was done by a comic (Doug Benson) who jokingly said he should do what Morgan Spurlock did on "Super Size Me" with McDonald's…only instead of McDonald's food he smoked weed. A film producer took him up on his joke and they decided to do the documentary. It started with the comic going 30 days without any weed or alcohol. During this time he was seen by a doctor and given a series of medical tests. The next 30 days consisted of him getting high from the moment he woke up until bedtime each day. The medical tests were done again and surprisingly everything was about the same…except his oral math skills kind of plummeted.

Hulu has been a great entertainment venue while we've been over here in Germany. Now that we only have our laptops for entertainment…we've been watching quite a bit more on Hulu. I then got back to work cleaning our house. I emptied out our small attic space and our basement. A large air conditioner, a fake Christmas tree, and various other items were all brought out to the curb for bulk pickup. I had a guy pick me up from the office and take me to the car detailer around 1500 to pickup my car…it's never been this clean since we first purchased it! They guarantee that it will pass inspection, I guess we'll see tomorrow.

By the time I got back home the A/C unit was gone…which I'm glad. I hate just throwing good stuff away, but nobody I worked with was interested in it. There are a lot of things that people just end up throwing away because they are PCSing and don't want to take it with them.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up - (Germany) Days 520-521

This weekend was a little different, as we had no car. Usually not having a car in Germany is no problem. Their public transportation is awesome, but living on our post (PHV) is like being on an island. There is no public transportation to speak of, in fact the taxis can't even come on post. So without our car, we were pretty stranded here on PHV. We did want to make it downtown at least one more time, so we called a taxi and walked off post to catch one. Taxis are expensive and just the short trip downtown costs about $20…round trip is double that, so you have to think twice anytime you decide to take one.

We walked around downtown, did some last minute shopping and had some ice cream. The nice thing about Europe is that there is an ice cream shop on every corner at least…and it's good stuff. There is something that is just better about the ice cream here and I'm going to miss it. It was actually a little sad walking around knowing that this would probably be our last time in downtown Heidelberg. It's a great city and we have loved living here.

SPC Mac and his wife came by in the evening and picked us up for dinner. We headed to one of our favorite restaurant and breweries in a neighboring town and had our own farewell dinner. One thing about my life in the army so far is that I've met some pretty cool people, but the bummer is that they are always limited in of us is always moving because of the army. Of course I've kept in touch with everyone through Facebook, but it's not the same as hanging out with them.

Sunday we ended up spending most of the day deep cleaning our house. We have to get it all cleaned up by Thursday morning when the inspection happens.