Monday, May 20, 2013

233 Days

233 days ago, I landed in this beautiful country called Afghanistan.  A lot has happened since that day and I am sure much will continue to occur in the next 22 days before I make my way home.  I have yet to receive a day off, although I will admit I have never asked for one.  I make the best of my time away from the office with coffee, sports, working out, hanging out with friends, and banana milkshakes.  Friends really do have an amazing effect of taking the burden out of life.  Thank you.

The first 15 Soldiers have arrived from our replacement unit.  They are currently conducting the necessary training to remain in country, something that is very important to us.  It almost seems surreal that they are here already.  We cleared out of MOD housing in preparation for the main body that will be arriving next week.  Instead of staying in a trailer-type metal building, in a room shared by three people, I am now living in a big bay with about 100 other females.  We are packed in there pretty tight with a few people on top bunks.  It is nice to know that there is an empty female bay across the hall from where we reside.  The only bad part about this arrangement is my working/sleeping hours.  Since my move to nights and my recent move to a bay full of another unit’s females, my sleep has suffered tremendously.  22 days.  Mark, the guy in charge of the building is a sweetheart and reminds me a little bit of my father.  He tries to make sure I am able to sleep during the day, but there is only so much he can do.  On moving day, he allowed me to take my blanket and pillow into the empty bay so I could get a couple hours of sleep before work while 100 females moved in across the hall.  As expected, a female NCO complained that I had an entire bay to myself even though I was only using it for sleeping purposes, none of my belongings were located in the empty bay, just me a blanket and a pillow, and I was told I could no longer use that bay for sleeping.  Such is the competitive/jealous side of human nature.  The bay is really nice though, so I really can’t complain.  The showers are bigger, the toilets actually flush, and since it is a hardened facility we don’t have to run to a bunker when the alarms signaling danger start making noise.  I could complain that the facility is further from work, that we don’t have any type of storage for our belongings (just bunk beds are provided), or that the bay is freezing cold, but  I won’t.  I am very thankful for what I have, 22 days left.
There is a lot waiting for me when I return to Fort Benning.  I am moving to a different state, so I have a house to sell and to empty.  I will have already purchased a new home by the time my flight lands State-side.  My new home is smaller, so I am looking to sell/give some items away.  I am switching units, so I will be re-integrating into the States, out-processing from my current unit, and moving within the first thirty days home.  I am excited for receiving the opportunity for a new career path and extremely excited to leave the unit with which I am currently employed.  I am sure there are a lot of people who can relate to this excitement.

Once the initial 30 day excitement has passed, I will be traveling home to relax and party for approximately 30 days before signing in to my new unit.  Those are my plans as of right now.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Victory Day

Tomorrow is Victory Day here in Afghanistan.  What does that mean?  Well…Mujahideen Victory Day is a political holiday observed in parts of Afghanistan, falling on the 28th of April each year.  It commemorates the day when Mujahideen rebel forces overthrew Mohammad Najibullah's Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1992.  It is celebrated mostly by former warlords and their followers, such as the Northern Alliance.  Other Afghans are against celebrating the day because it marks the start of civil war, and the fact that the Mujahideen were not only Afghans but included men from over 50 Islamic nations around the Muslim world.

I had a very interesting thought today.  If the Taliban were to become decent, honest people, this country would have one hell of a security force.  Think about it, they fund themselves, organize themselves, train themselves, and execute missions both individually and as a unit.  If they focused inward on improving and securing their country instead of killing everyone who isn’t from their country or doesn’t hold their religious views, this place would be a very successful nation.  I am anxious to hear your thoughts and opinions on this.
Congratulations to Dad on becoming ordained as a Deacon in the Catholic Church today!  I am so proud of him and all the hard work he has put forth to achieve his goal.  I wish I could be there to support him as he has always been there to support me.  When he first learned the date, about a year ago, he told me the only acceptable excuse from me for missing this event would be a deployment.  I’m sorry Dad, but I think you jinxed us with that comment because here I sit in Afghanistan missing your big day.  Love you Pops!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I'm a Survivor!

Since last I wrote, a lot has happened.  I have survived an earthquake, a horrific sandstorm, two massive hail storms, a thunderstorm, and a girl fight that made me think I was in a ghetto. 

I have been working the night shift, which means I sleep all day (well, I try to anyway).  These days, I am thankful I am sleeping during the day.  It started with the earthquake.  I was asleep in my bunk when I was awoken to a gentle rocking.  I was confused; why was I rocking from side to side?  Was I having a seizure?  I rolled over and it stopped so I went back to sleep.  I thought maybe my stomach was grumbling so much that it was making me rock.  A quick flip to my back and the problem was solved.  However, this was not the case.  When I got to work, the first thing I was asked was “How’d you like that earthquake today?”  At least I can check that off my bucket list…Survive an earthquake…check!

A few days later, I was walking back from the Military Police station (that is closed on Sundays apparently) after a failed attempt at taking care of a parking ticket.  On my walk back, I decided to stop for a banana milkshake.  I am not sure why I enjoy these banana milkshakes so much, perhaps it is because I have only seen a banana twice since I have been here or maybe because my body craves the potassium.  Either way, they are fantastic and I urge you to go out and try one!  It was hot that day and the Police station was not as close to my room as one would hope.  Enjoying the nice, cold milkshake on the walk back to my room, I looked up at the sky.  On the horizon was an ominous group of clouds.  Definitely storm clouds, but they were not the right color for a thunderstorm.  They contained a red tint to them which told me this might be a dust storm.  I returned to my room to find my roommate was there taking a nap.  Ten minutes later we could hear the wind whipping outside and the sound of sand hitting the metal building.  My roommate asks if that is rain hitting the building.  As puffs of dust enter through our unsealed window, I reply, “Nope, I think that is all sand and dust.”  We both went into the hallway to peer through the windows.  Outside is nothing but dust and the hallway is quickly filling with dust spewing in from the windows.  We both went back to bed and covered our heads to keep as much dust out of our lungs as possible.  When the storm was done and we awoke, everything was covered in a thick layer of dirt.  That was not fun to clean.

That Tuesday, two days later, while I was working nights, I heard what sounded like a train outside our building.  This was odd because we don’t have trains anywhere close to where I work.  There is the possibility that there may not be a single train located in all of Afghanistan, but I do not have that knowledge to confirm or deny this fact.  Upon further investigation, I discovered that it was a thunderstorm complete with moth ball sized hail.  This was fantastic, as everyone knows I like a good storm, however, this was four hours prior to my PT test.  Thankfully it cleared up two hours later, and by the time the PT test started, the field was mostly dry.

That same day, as I was trying to sleep to a nice pitter patter of rain on the metal roof, I was abruptly awoken to what sounded like gravel being poured on top of my MOD.  My roommate and I went to the hallway to check if we were being buried alive in gravel or if we would live to see another day.  We were being attacked by golf ball sized hail!  The ground still has dimples from where this hail hit the ground.

The very next day, I had fallen asleep to the relaxing sound of rain hitting the roof.  I jumped as the loudest boom of thunder sounded and shook the building in which I lay.  Luckily, the relaxing rain continued and I was able to roll over and sleep once again.

Hmmm, I feel like I am missing something…oh yea, the girl fight.  I didn’t see any of it, but I have heard several witness accounts.  It was Saturday night.  It was movie night for a room of females in my unit.  They live in a separate MOD as enlisted and officers are normally separated in living situations.  The fight broke out because one room of females was trying to sleep while another room was trying to watch a movie.  The sleeping room knocked on the door to the movie night room and asked if they would turn down the volume of their movie.   They agreed and turned down the volume.  Moments later, the sleeping room knocked on the wall (I assume this was their way of saying, “Hey, your movie is still too loud”).   The movie room knocked right back and I think this is how tensions were elevated.  After a series of knocking, the sleeping room went to confront the movie room once again.  The movie room claimed that the sleeping room was always loud and that if they turned down the movie any more, no one would be able to hear it including those trying to watch the movie.  In short, the movie room told them to deal with it because the sleeping room was normally the loud room.  I know, this doesn’t really make sense in justifying the noise, but that is what was said prior to the door being closed and locked in the sleeping rooms face.  The sleeping room didn’t like this and kicked the door in to the movie room.  The movie room went to push the door closed again and slammed the sleeping rooms arm in the door; injury number one.  This is when the ghetto girl fight began; four females in the hallway attacking each other with fists, elbows, hair pulling, and kicking.  Any female that tried to break it up was pushed in the face or cussed out.  It was so bad the First Sergeant and the Company Commander were called in to deal with them.  A female in the MOD, an innocent bystander, is an MP who called the station.   So not only was the entire Chain of Command aware, but the MPs are now involved.  I spoke to several of the females living in the MOD to make sure they were ok mentally.  One said she felt like she was living in the ghetto and another had to be completely removed from the MOD for a few nights because she felt threatened and unsafe. 
All this to say, it is time to go home to the States!  47 Days!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston, Afghanistan

First, I would like to say my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the families of the victims, and the first responders in Boston.  What a terrible tragedy, but we, as a country, will join together as one to support and rebuild all those affected.  This is a trait that I admire in people.  In times of misfortune, no matter the race, sex, origin, religious affiliation, or sexual preference, people unify for the greater good.  

This event occurred as my shift began.  I received a phone call from a coworker at another location.  He told me that there were two explosions in Boston.  I immediately looked at the big map of Afghanistan that is plastered to the wall beside my desk.  In a confused manner, I asked, “Boston?”  I had never heard of a Boston, Afghanistan so I was searching the map looking for where this place was located.  He then informed me that the explosions were positioned at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  That was when it hit me; he was talking about Boston, Massachusetts.  I turned to my NCO and told him there were two explosions in Boston.  His first reaction was to check the CENTRIX computer which tracks all activity in Afghanistan.  I was inwardly relieved that I was not the only one that thought Boston was in Afghanistan.  I informed him that I was talking about Boston, Massachusetts.  It took him a moment, but then it sank in and he hopped back to the NIPR computer to check  We changed the channel on the TV to the news and there we saw the tragic events unfold over and over again as CNN replayed the explosions.
Tonight we continue to follow the events following the bombings.  24 hours later and already so much has been accomplished in regards to patient care and recovery as well as the investigation.  An NCO and I were discussing what would be banned next as a result of this catastrophe, but we are pretty sure bombs are already banned. 


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Waiting for Breakfast

I was relieved from work this morning at 7am and headed over to the dining facility to meet some friends for breakfast.  While I was waiting outside for them to arrive, I saw some very interesting people.  There were two extremely thin blonde females that appeared from around the corner.  There is a smoking area 50 feet from the entrance to the dining facility and they stopped to have a smoke.  They were speaking a foreign language, and I can’t even begin to assume which language they were speaking, so I decided to ad-lib my own words. 

Girl 1-I am really hungry today, do you think we should go in and get something to eat?
Girl2-What? There is food in this building?  I thought this was just our special spot to smoke when we got hungry.
Girl1-Yes, there is a bunch of tempting delicious fatty foods in there which is why we can’t go in.  We don’t want to look like those fat Americans now do we?
Girl2-Oh, no of course not, but this is where all the fat comes from?  Good thing these cigarettes cure these strange pains in my stomach.
Girl1-Oh yes, see that American girl there, she is also not sure if she wants to go in, but she will eventually, just look at her.
That was the conversation in my head anyway, and I must have had something right in that conversation because when they were done smoking, they returned to where they appeared from and it was not the inside of the dining facility.

Then I saw an older woman walking along the side of the road.  It is not strange to see people conducting physical training along the roads, but this woman was different.  She was approximately 45 years of age, perhaps a little older, and wearing spandex shorts and an under armour type t-shirt.  Normally, this outfit would not call out to me as disturbing, however her shirt was tucked into her spandex shorts and she obviously spent a lot of money on workout clothes to simply walk around dusty Kandahar.  She was not fat, she was average, but who tucks a shirt into spandex shorts when not conducting anything short of a cartwheel?
Next, I saw a British woman pull up in a militarily painted Land Rover.  She was by herself and the truck obviously had no windows.  As I was standing there, she hopped out of the truck and looked around.  She saw me standing there and looked me up and down.  She did a slow walk around of the truck looking in all the places there should have been a window present.  Then she slung her weapon over her shoulder, gave me one more up and down glance, and walked towards the dining facility.  I don’t think she trusted me to stand next to her truck for some odd reason. 

Finally my friends arrived and we went inside to eat.  Today is the first time I noticed a true language barrier between the guy dishing my food and what I was asking him to put on the plate.  I asked for a small amount of bacon and pinched my fingers together to make what I thought was the universal sign for small.  I ended up with a plate of bacon.  I asked him if they had French toast today and he puts two pieces of fried dough on top of my plate of bacon.  I asked him for a large bowl of grits thinking that maybe this guy has the words small and large mixed up in the translator in his head.  I ended up with a large bowl of grits.  At least he understood something and I still had a good breakfast. 
As we were eating, I looked around the dining facility to notice some of the civilian contractors.  A few larger individuals were sitting close by and I noticed their trays were overflowing with food.  I wondered if they knew the dining facility handed out food four times a day every day.  Do they eat like that at every meal?  That would explain why they were so large.  Do they know there are gyms available here?  Then my thoughts went back to the two thin smoking blondes.  Maybe the conversation I created in my head was completely accurate because it was holding true, fat Americans eating all the tempting fatty delicious food.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

It's Been A While

In a quick turn of events, I have been moved to the night shift.  This is a great opportunity to get away from my boss and return to the wonderful world of blogging.  Not only that, but now I am online and awake when my friends and family in the States are awake.  All around wonderful news, although I will admit when I was first informed I was not happy, but perhaps that is because I had already worked 6 hours prior to being told I was working nights starting that same night.  Also in the world of wonderful news, we finally received the authorization to work eight hour shifts.  These next 60 days should pass relatively quickly. 

A word of advice from the lesson I learned yesterday.  Do not stay awake for 29 hours straight.  While on night shift I think I was hallucinating.  I was so tired, I felt sick to my stomach.  When I finally hit the pillow, I started having the weirdest dreams; for example, I dreamt that everyone on Kandahar Airfield was walking around dressed like chickens, big yellow mascot type chicken suits. 
Tonight is not so bad.  I am well rested and full of coffee.  I think I can survive the next eight hours without hallucinations or falling asleep in my chair.  This experience makes me wonder how I ever stayed awake so long as a child.  I remember having competitions at summer camp to see who could stay awake the longest.  After three days, I started seeing penguins and decided to take a ten hour nap. 

What have we missed while I was unable to write?  Oh, I am moving to Kentucky when I return from deployment.  It is official and I have my Orders in hand!  If anyone wants to move to the Fort Mitchell, AL area, let me know, I have a great house to sell.  Thus far, the house hunting in Kentucky is going extremely well thanks to Dad, the internet, and email.  I am thoroughly excited to be moving closer to home and receiving a new job.  I am going to be working as a Health Care Administrator at the Fort Knox hospital providing administrative services to the Army’s health care facilities, specifically the Ireland Army Community Hospital (IRACH).  I will coordinate care delivered, advise on health care delivery and management, and establish/implement policies/procedures affecting the US Army Health Care System.  Sounds like a great position!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bad Roommate

I feel like the worst roommate ever today.  I returned to the room late last night due to being out with old friends from a past deployment catching up on life over coffee and banana milkshakes.  The group of us lost track of time and before we realized how long we had been out there, it was 11pm.  I entered the room in pitch black darkness, groped my way to my area in the very back right corner and as quietly as I could, prepared for sleep.  Once I was all comfy cozy snug in bed, I realized I had to pee, once again making way for the opportunity to awaken my roommate by opening the door located in her area. 

I was no better this morning.  Instead of slapping my alarm to silence it, I punched it so that it went flying off the bed, hitting my tuff box, and eventually hiding under my bed screaming for attention.  Once that situation was resolved, I had the daunting task of trying to open my wall locker without it screeching.  I usually open my wall locker at night so that I don’t have to cringe in the morning while opening it.  Another fail in my corner, as the wall locker managed to screech louder than I think it has ever screeched.  I was no more quiet when I returned from my shower as I was seemingly tripping and kicking everything available for kicking and tripping over.  It was a morning that should have been spent in bed, in my opinion.
When my roommate arrived at work, I apologized for being so loud to which she told me she didn’t hear a thing.  I couldn’t believe it.