Monday, September 26, 2005

Putting the War on TiVo

I was asking a guy I work with how he managed to get up and go to lunch during his shift since he was in charge of monitoring air assets around the theater. His response was “I just put the war on TiVo.”

It made me think for a while about why we’re here and what progress we’re making. If we could just stop everything—pause live TV so to speak—and think about it what would be our course of action? I have gotten into such a routine so far that I can’t see changes occurring before my eyes. I am amazed at how we’re fighting—we truly are the most powerful, high tech, ass-kicking military in the world. But I don’t see differences in front of me. Granted, I haven’t been here since 2003. So I imagine things may look considerably better than they did a while ago. But the bad guys aren’t catching a clue. They don’t realize that lifting a weapon against freedom or the United States is a virtually automatic death sentence. So they keep coming, and we keep going to get them.

It’s been slightly busier for me personally in the last few days thus the lack of updates. I’ll keep trying to get on here at least every couple of days. I have managed to get to the gym in some form at least once every day, but the running part of my life has seriously been sidetracked. The overall atmosphere here is kind of like a minimum-security prison with a lot of benefits. People just kind of do their thing with the intent of being a better person when they leave.

I miss my family immensely. 110 days left.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It's the Little Things

You learn to appreciate a lot of things being in an environment such as this. Things that didn’t seem like a big deal before suddenly become big now. Take, for example, privacy. I finally got my room today. You would think that I had just moved into a 4-star hotel. Just the knowledge that no one was going to be moving in with me at some point during my slumber made me sleep better. And TV. I’m sure I’ll get sick of it later but I was lucky enough to purchase a TV from someone that was leaving last week and had him drop it off in this room. 40 channels, none of them US, but better than the constant whirr of an air-conditioner to break the silence.

Another thing you learn to appreciate is access. Access to quick food, quick bathroom, quick shower. My caloric intake has gone through the floor for the simple reason that I have to walk a half mile to get to the chow hall. The food’s great—it’s just a long walk in hot sun. Makes the hunger pangs go away pretty quickly. And bathrooms. The nearest “Cadillac,” as they are called, is about 50 yards away. Not a big deal unless you are asleep in the dark at midday and have to go do your thing. There’s nothing like walking out into the noon-time sun after you’ve been sleeping just to go take a whiz.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

End of Week One

One down, fourteen to go.

What I learned this week:

1) There’s a lot more going on in the war than I thought.

2) Smallpox immunization sucks. Bad.

3) If you slam three Fosters you can get a quick buzz for about 10 minutes.

4) “Alias” is a pretty cool show. Especially without the commercials.

5) They really do wear rags on their heads. Like Texans really do wear cowboy hat-shaped hardhats.

6) Advil works like a champ on joint pain.

7) Privacy, especially when working nights, is a good thing.

8) Tom Brady, apparently, is fallible.

9) “Shandalahar” means “thank you” in Arabic.

10) I really miss my family. About ten times worse than I thought.

Ok..I’m off to the doc now to have him check out my smallpox injection that has, according to the “experts” in the CAOC, apparently gone south. While I’m there I should have them examine my hip to make sure I won’t be in a wheelchair next week.

Friday, September 16, 2005


I turned 33 today.

I was wondering what I would do on the big day before I came here. As it turns out, it will be just like any other day. I mentioned it to the guy I sit next to here at about 0130 in the morning—he had his headphones on watching “Gladiator” on the Media-Web movies thing on the computer network. So either he didn’t care or he didn’t hear me—either way my birthday happened twice—once in Omaha with my family, Mom and Dad, siter and her husband, and once the night before I left where the kids helped me blow the candles out.

The general routine has been set and fine-tuned. The “bar” as it were (really just a small building with some pool tables and a really pissed-off airman who never smiles) is just a place where they serve you alcohol—up to three beers a day. It would seem kind of lame but it has become kind of the thing to do at 10am after night shift. If you drink them really fast you can get a quick buzz and then wander off to sleep. Not eating helps too. I should be losing weight just from the diet—I have usually only been eating once a day, at midnight. I’m just not hungry at 0700 when I get back to the compound.

I’ve made a couple of friends here—unfortunately they’re all from the last rotation and will be leaving in the next few days. They all agree that the job I got handed is kind of a joke. An important joke, but nonetheless…

We should be getting busier soon with the elections coming up in the AOR. Not a whole lot of extra work for me but I get to watch the show anyway. I feel bad for Ben—his life is pretty miserable with the 0300-1200 shift and he actually does work the whole time.

Talked to the family the other day. mcgdo got a 100% on her spelling test. Sammy was really easy to understand on the phone. Especially when he said “Daddy I want you to come back.” The sad part is that my tour didn’t officially begin until 2 days ago. Guess I got here early.

Should have my own room soon and thus be able to write more when I have the computer set up. Talk at you soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Playing Catch Up

Continuing on my attempts to catch up…

I’m starting to get my sleep schedule together. It took me a day to figure it out but essentially my AM is PM and vice versa. As long as I think in those terms setting up a schedule isn’t too difficult. I’ve had a couple of days to get into a routine. From what I understand this will change a few times during my tour here.

2000: Wake Up

2030-2130: Run

2130-2200: Shower/Get ready for work

2215: Bus to work

2230-0700: Work (eat @ 0100)

0700-0800: Gym

0800-1200: Free time to do errands, laundry, hang

1200-2000: Sleep

And that’s about it. I think if I can stay on that schedule I shouldn’t have much difficulty sleeping, which is apparently a worry because the rooms aren’t exactly light or sound-proof. While we’re on the subject of rooms, my solo occupancy of my temp room ended about 3 hours after I fell asleep after arriving. That’s when I picked up my first roommates (3 of them) and all their bags. To say it was tight is an understatement. As soon as they moved out 3 more moved in. On my third day they moved out and I currently have the room all to myself. In theory, the guy I’m replacing should be leaving in the next couple of days and I’ll be able to take his room. I’ve already bought a used TV, though I’m not sure what’ll be on during the day.

I have a pet ant in my room. On my first day I saw him wandering around the mini-fridge and I thought it was the first signs of an invasion, but the same ant (Gerry) has been there all week, just wandering around the same area. I haven’t had food in there, so I’m not sure what he’s up to. He’s moved up in status as I have been avoiding stepping on him. I was thinking of taking him on to my next room but if he lives there I wouldn’t want to waste him for my own personal enjoyment.

As you can see I’m getting bored already. Working out a couple of times a day, so hopefully I’ll get in better shape.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Ride Over

Greetings from sunny Qatar. The experience so far has been…interesting. A little narrative of the journey to the other side of the globe:

The night before I left Emily and the kids bought me a birthday cake. When they bought it the kids were excited as they always get when we do the birthday thing. It was a “secret” to me, so I wasn’t supposed to know. To keep the kids calm, well, Sarah anyway, we had been telling them that I wasn’t going anywhere until my birthday. Well, when Emily told her that it was time to have the cake she lost it. Cried for about a half an hour. I knew the morning wasn’t going to be fun.

I needed to get my smallpox shot taken care of so the plan was to drop the kiddos off at school as we left for the base. Sammy was not a problem(for him, anyway). As I was trying to avoid breaking down completely he just waved and went into school. I guess he just doesn’t really grasp what was going on. Sarah was a little different. When I was hugging her goodbye she started to cry a little, but was ok. As soon as she walked away, though, she fell apart (so did I). I honestly don’t know how the Army does this for more than a year. That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.

At the base I got a little lost as to where we were supposed to be but we eventually found the right place. It was pretty chaotic but there was a pretty charged atmosphere. As a result Emily and I’s goodbye didn’t get to last too long. It’s probably better this way for me, but I felt really bad for Emily. They were calling us together as Emily rode off, my last sight of family for the next 4 months.

Like I said the atmosphere was charged. As the bus rolled up they were playing rock music over the loudspeakers and it seemed that everyone was pretty pumped. This was hour #1, at 1015 Tucson time.

1030-2200: 11.5 hours into trip

Relatively painless inprocessing. Got a couple of briefings on terrorism from the mid-90’s (still not sure why after all the training we’ve gotten so far). Some Congressman came by, mainly talking about how great the government was for getting the $51B for Katrina relief. A general came by but didn’t say anything. Finally my boss came by to wish us well for 5 minutes. Strange how this works out.

Finally we loaded up. Officers got to sit in the front of the plane (another not sure why point) which gave us a little more room. My buddy Ben and I shared a three-seat row, which we managed to keep for the whole flight. We landed in Baltimore at 2330 ET, marking our first night. Funny how there aren’t many stores open at that hour. We managed to find one pizza joint open (all 150 of us) and completely cleaned them out. Reminder if I’m ever a squadron commander: call the restaurants at the stateside stops and let them know we’re coming. By 0100 ET we were on the plane again and headed East.

2200-0530: 19 hours into trip

About 3 hours into the flight the Captain announced that there was a great view of the northern lights out our side. I’ve never seen them, but it was amazing. From as far as I could see left and right was a blue haze breaking through the night on the horizon. Every once in a while a shaft of light (like a spotlight) would shoot skyward and vanish. The first thought in my mind was how cool the kids would have thought this was. That was the first time it really hit me how far away I was going to be from them and for how long. Talk about depression. I popped my two sleeping pills and crashed for the remainder of the flight, dreaming about them the whole way. When I woke up we were on descent into Frankfurt in the daylight, my second day.

0530-1230: 24 hours into trip

When we landed in Frankfurt you would swear it was the heart of the war. There were troops from the Air Force, Army, and Marines everywhere—hundreds of them. About 50 of them were put on board to go to Kuwait with us. We were given two hours to be back. Fortunately Ben knew where the BX was so we checked out of the airport and speed-walked over to the BX to grab a Subway and a six-pack of beer. We downed it in about 20 minutes and speed-walked back. While waiting I tried to call Emily but there was no answer. We re-boarded with our Army guys in their flak vests and took off for the middle-east. On the way there we passed into the darkness again, marking my second night, also marking the fourth anniversary of 9/11. Kind of surreal. You could see the fires (intentional, I assume) of the oil fields in Saudi Arabia as we passed over head. At around 1230 Tucson time (0230 Qatar) we touched down in my 28th country, Kuwait. It was strange being in the place that Saddam Hussein had stormed 15 years earlier. After filling up on water and dropping off our Army dudes we jumped back on the plane for the last leg.

1230-1630: 28 hours into trip

We touched down in Qatar at about 0330 local time in the dark. A First Sergeant that you would swear was a marine met us at the bottom step of the plane and shook all of our hands. Really cool. There is definitely a war going on here. Dudes with rifles everywhere, concrete bunkers all over the place. And lots and lots and lots of sand. We were quickly shuffled into a big hangar to check in with the personnel folks who gave us little idiot-bags (lanyard around your neck) to hold our ID’s. Then it was back outside for the “bag drag.”

Two HUGE trucks pulled up with all of our bags. Roughly 200 people, four bags each, with a max weight of 70 pounds per bag. That’s a lot of bags. We formed 2 lines and handed them over and over until they were put into rows, which took about an hour. Then came the mad rush to find them. I marked all of mine with colorful scarves, so I saw them go by when we were in line, but I had a hard time finding them when in the crowd. After about another half hour I found them and dragged them through the checkpoint into the base. My sponsor, fortunately, was waiting and after we rounded up Ben (his sponsor didn’t show) and his bags they hauled us off to the CAOC.

I can’t really say a whole lot about the place due to security reasons, except that it is the most heavily guarded and protected place I’ve ever been to. Also the most high tech. To say I was in awe when I walked in is an understatement. Wish I could say more—it’s very Tom Clancy-esk.

From there it was off to my room, where I will be staying until the guy I’m replacing departs in a week. I had envisioned a bedroom-type setup. I was wrong. The “cubicle” as I call it, is about half the size of my master bathroom back home. It has 2 bunkbeds and a small fridge, and that’s it. Smaller even, than my rooms in college at The Citadel. I got the room to myself, which was a blessing with my bags as it was tight to say the least. I wandered to the chow hall to get something to eat (more on that later) and finally crashed, roughly 33 hours after I left Emily.


Friday, September 9, 2005


Here we go...

Of course I forgot to change the counter on the I'll have to give countdown updates periodically. Today, though, while I have cell
phone reception, I'll be sending in photos of the day's events. Not the best quality, but better than nothing.

So far its a lot of sitting around. Should be loading up soon.

Waiting in the Holding Bin


Thursday, September 8, 2005

Away We Go...

And away we go..

I've been asked a million times if I was "ready to go." The answer, after laying in bed with my son playing video games this morning, is a resounding "no." Physically, I am as ready as I will ever be. But I won't be here for Odie's first kick (Odie's the name my 4-year old has given to the creature growing in Emily's belly). I won't be here when mcgdo loses her next teeth. Halloween should be fun--although I will live through it in pictures. Bottom line is that I have been waiting for my entire career to go to war, and when my chance has finally popped up--the only thing I want to do is stay here and watch my kids. So, no--I'm not ready. And I don't think I ever will be.

Internally the hardest part, aside from family, is the uncertainty. I wish I knew what I was headed for as everyone else I'm going with does. All I've heard is "well if you have to deploy, that's the place you want to go to." So it looks promising. But not knowing is killing me.

From this point on, assuming that the Air Force disallows me from actually loggin into the blog, there won't be any photos. You never know--maybe I'll figure something out. But I would expect everything from here on out to be via email. If they continue to block Yahoo! email accounts I'll post mine on here so that if anyone wants to write they can.

I leave tomorrow morning at 1000 hours. I'll post from the road if I can.

God Bless.


Wednesday, September 7, 2005

A Little Glitch

Man the military amazes me.

Before I begin my rant, I want to introduce you to my niece/nephew at the left. Looks like he's about the size of a jelly bean. You can follow along at my sister Katie and her husband Marc's website chronicling the birth of their first kid. Type the password "babybrun" to take a look.

Three little tidbits of knowledge were revealed to me today. Here's a list of the latest morale boosters the United States Air Force have developed for those of us deploying overseas:

1) Blocked Websites: And this is a kicker. I just found out today that the Air Force blocks even more websites on their servers over there than they do here. I think the intent is to keep guys from surfing websites that they're not supposed to, ala porn and gambling. But they expanded it significantly to "non-required" websites, such as Fantasy Sports, news websites and, of course, weblogs. End result is that I won't have access to this site while I'm over there. I guess I have the option of emailing my posts in, but pictures will be non-existent. If any of the 10-15 blog surfers that come by have any suggestions, I'm open to them. This was, more than anything else, a way for my family to keep tabs on me.

2) Power-Point: I also found out that my high-speed very important job over there is going to be working the 2300-0700 shift as a power point presentation creator. That really makes sense to have a pilot Major sitting in the dark typing powerpoint slides 10,000 miles away from home.

3) Deploying Isn't a Big Deal Anymore: I had this false impression that the military was going to, at the very least, have the families standing on the tarmac when we headed out. They used to. Now, I guess it's not that big of a deal anymore. Instead of a "send-off," Emily, who has bent over backwards to get released from work long enough to see me off, gets to drop me off at work and say goodbye. 8 hours later I get on the plane. That's it. No big deal. In fact, throughout this whole ordeal, I have had the feeling that noone really even cares that we're going.

What have I gotten myself into.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

All Packed Up

So much for time off. I had what I think is my last day off until January yesterday. You would think we would spend the long weekend chillin' out, but instead we blew large wads of cash getting my last bit of supplies ready. I'm all packed, ready to go. My mom would be amazed at how far ahead I'm all set. I even have my clothes laid out for Friday.

The waiting is killing me. I got my new mp3 player and have been downloading 4 months worth of CD's into it, got the PSP ready with as many games as I can stand, and for a new skill I'm finally going to learn how to play the harmonica (I'm sure my roommate, if I have one, will appreciate it).

The kids and I made bracelets with our names on them to wear while I'm gone. I made mine permanent, I think Sarah's will probably break by next week.

Sorry this isn't very exciting--I'm just in a holding pattern until I leave. Today's link is a blog called "Dancing with Katrina" and is a live account from the disaster on the Gulf Coast. While your waiting for mine to get interesting go check it out...

Friday, September 2, 2005

Final Countdown

One more week to go.

The bags in my house are starting to pile up--chem warfare bags, deployment bags, uniforms. Em will probably be happy to get me out of here just to clean the house up. My departure still hasn't changed--still leaving for a 30-hour journey next Friday. My apprehension is starting to pile up too--whenever I've had something to be nervous about I could always look at it as a short-term trial; like a test, a short TDY, a move. This one when I think about being nervous it's followed up by "well at least it's only four months long..." I'll be packing and finishing up things around the house this weekend (my last days off until next year, I think) like fixing the swingset that Sarah's been after me to fix. She lost her second tooth today--at least I was around to see how goofy she looks with a big gap in her teeth.

My town here calls Sept 9th "Patriot Day," presumably in honor of those who did the job on and after 9/11. It's ironic that that's when I'm leaving. It's also the day that "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" comes out--also ironic since my mother-in-law is named Rose.

The current discussion in the household is what to name the baby. We're assuming it's a girl from the way Emily's symptoms are raging. The current front-runners are Lillian and Emma. I like Max if it's a boy. Feel free to throw your favorite into the hat.

The link for today is the Red Cross again--as things have clearly deteriorated since my last post. I still can't understand what has taken so long for any action from the government. I know, since I've been on those alert crews, that we (the military) can react at a moment's notice.

Please keep them in your prayers--see you next time.