My Weather

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Getting to the nuts and bolts

An interesting day today. Today, we started learning some specific systems that we will be using over there. For a change, we had an instructor that taught rather than simply read Power Point slides—it makes a big difference.
Apparently, the Army is going to start cracking down on blog sites. Here is an article that deals with the issue: Blog article. Like I’ve said before, I’m going to keep this blog intentionally vague for security reasons. Any good war stories I may have, I will save for when I get home (that will give me plenty of time to embellish them). Of course, my job is going to be very boring and very far from any action, so I may need many months to come up with some good stories.

I have had many questions about the war from both family and friends. In short, I fully support the President and his decisions. We are over there for the right reason. I truly believe that the president is thinking in the long term and the world will be better off years from now. Unfortunately, it seems that many politicians in our country think in micro terms instead of macro terms. I guess that is partly understandable—most politicians serve either 2 year of 6 year terms. It takes intestinal fortitude to think beyond the next election. I believe that the president is thinking in the long term (not unlike Teddy Roosevelt) and one day the world will be a better place. Propping up pro U.S. dictators may work in the short term, but oppressive regimes only breeds resentment and despair—which ultimately leads to terrorism.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Boneyard

Today, I traveled up to Tucson to check out the aircraft bone yard at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. It was very impressive to see miles and mile of aircraft lined up. I was also surprised to see just how many F-16s and A-10s were there—hundreds. There were even a few B-1s out there. The facility was closed, so I couldn’t walk about and check out the planes up close.
I also couldn’t help but be impressed by the base itself. I have to give great credit to the Air Force—they treat their people very well. The base looks super and the facilities are excellent. For example, there are 2 mini marts on the base and they are actually open 24 hours a day. A convenience store that is actually convenient!! This is in stark contrast to a Navy base. One time at, at a Navy base, I asked the clerk at the mini mart why they no longer carried milk in the store. Her reply was “We couldn’t keep it in stock and people started to complain, so we stopped carrying it”. I love flying in the Navy, but living on an air Force base would be great.


Today, I road tripped to Nogales, Mexico. It took over an hour to get there. The topography of Arizona is very interesting. During my trip, I traveled through rolling grass land, saw barren wind-swept mountains; but also passed through some heavily wooded areas and saw mountains covered with trees that looked similar to the Blue Ridge.

Nogales was pretty disappointing, since it is so far off the beaten path, even the Mexican junk peddlers seem to avoid it. I was hard pressed to find trinkets for the girls. On the way back, I decided to stop at a local winery. I admit I have a limited pallet and never knew that Arizona produced wine, so I decided to check it out. I was very surprised with what they offered. Too bad there is no way I can bring some back with me

Run Stimp Run

I try to get out and run at least 5 miles each day. So far, I have explored as much of Sierra Vista as possible. Today, I had a great run. I went out of town into the desert. The scenery looked like something from Forrest Gump. I really enjoyed watching the sun rise over the mountains and shadows fade over the desert. Along the way, I passed a cemetery with an American flag flying. I was a very inspiring sight.Today, Braye successfully replaced the water pump on our Suburban—I am so impressed. Her growing automotive skills will translate to me being able to slack off and watch the History Channel all day.

What I'm doing with the Army

I’ve gotten a lot of questions as to why I am going to Iraq to serve with an Army unit. Due to security reasons, I need to be intentionally vague as to what I’ll be doing. The Army has a need for individuals that possess certain skills that are necessary for them to accomplish their mission. The Navy has such individuals and as such we are contributing to the efforts in Iraq. Unfortunately, I have no special skills other that the fact that I am relatively trainable, which should be good enough.As much as I hate to be away from Braye and the girls, I have a job to do now. God willing, I will do that job to the best of my ability. I truly hope that my efforts will help some of our Marines and Soldiers come home in one piece.


Today was a fairly light day, with both classes ending relatively soon. I put my extra free time to good use by doing some shopping and getting a haircut (good ting Braye won’t see me for a couple of weeks). Braye called me today and told me that the water pump is failing on the suburban and bought another one to replace it. I know she has the intellect to replace it, but I don’t think she has the four letter word vocabulary necessary for auto mechanics. Class is bearable, but I am still frustrated.

A Better Day

Today was a better day. In class we are getting to the meat and potatoes of what we will be doing. The instructors are doing their best, but it is clear that this course is in this infancy. There are still parts of this class that have no bearing on what we will be doing in Iraq. Being away from my family is difficult, but when I’m wasting my time, that really bothers me.Class ended at noon today so we could spend time researching our oral presentations and papers (I’m not kidding APA format and everything). I spent my research on the road. I drove to Bigsbee, AZ and then to Tombstone. Being a history buff, I was looking forward to Tombstone, but I was disappointed. It is now a total tourist trap. At least the scenery was beautiful to look at.

Welcome to the Army

Well, today was an interesting day to say the least. Being at an Army base has been an eye opener. To save money, the Army has turned off most of their lights inside their buildings to save energy, so everywhere I go, things seem very dark and gloomy. I had dinner at the chow hall tonight. With only one out of every five lights on, it was very romantic—too bad Braye wasn’t with me.The Army has also adopted “water less urinals” to save on water consumption. Great idea, but the smell is unbearable.I also went to the base gym today. One would think the Army would go all out on their gym facilities, but I was very disappointed. The base gym consists of one set of dumbbells and a couple of benches. Every one there was bigger than me, so I defered to them and left feeling very scrawny.To cap things off, I learned that, in order to reduce traffic accidents, the Army has a “no left turn” policy on this base—you can only make right turns. To enforce this police, barricades have been erected to prevent any scoundrel from making a dreaded left turn. Getting on base was fine, but getting off was a challenge. Affected by hunger, brought on by the fact that I couldn’t see my plate due to the darkness, I was desperate to get back to my hotel. I finally had to dive in reverse to make the necessary turns to get to the front gate. Sure it was a drastic measure, but what are they going to do—send me to Iraq?As far as my schools is concerned, well, I don’t want to sound too negative in this blog, so I will emphasize the positive—the civilians instructors wear very nice ties.

Ft. Huachuca

Well, I made it to Ft. Huachuca. Today was a busy travel day, with the total trip taking 14 hours. I rented a van in Phoenix and five of us drove the last leg. That saved the Navy $1500 and saved us 7 hours. I don’t have much to report as to what Arizona is like so far. It looks like a typical desert, but maybe a bit greener than say Fallon. I saw 2 aircraft graveyards on the drive down from Phoenix, which is something you don’t see every day. Tomorrow, I start school at the Army base. I will be a taking a 3-week course. I’m staying in the Gateway hotel with so far is really nice. My room is more like a small apartment than anything else.Well, I’m exhausted, so I will sign off now and I should have more to tell tomorrow.

Can we make things any harder?

I arranged to get on an earlier flight to Phoenix. Once I get there, I hope to catch an earlier flight to Tucson, if that doesn’t work, then I plan to rent a car and drive to Ft. Huachuca. It is amazing how painful things are so far. We have received minimal logistical support so far. What support we have gotten has been totally inadequate. Case in point: We are supposed to fly from Norfolk at 0835 with one airline. Land in Phoenix at 1400, wait 7 hours so we can catch another flight to Tucson which lands at 2230. After we land, we have to get our bags, get rental cars, find our separate hotels, check in, and…oh get some sleep. Class starts at 0730 the next day.

Day 5 at NMPS

Well, we are done with NMPS. Today was uniform issue—something that took all day. I wanted to head to D.C afterwards, but I simply didn’t have the time. I went to Williamsburg instead and had a good time walking around. This weekend is free for military, so I timed it fairly well.Next stop is Ft. Huachuca, AZ. As of this afternoon, we have no idea how we are going to get there. All we know is that we are going to fly to Phoenix with one airline and then fly to Tucson on another—pretty painful.Braye and the girls are back home after spending a week at her parents. This week was fall break. Next week, they will be back on their regular routine with school and soccer practice.

Day 4 at NMPS

A long and painful day today. My only official function today was to get my latest Anthrax shot—a process that took most of the morning. I was very busy although. Hertz rental car over charged me for my car—they gave me the walk up rate instead of the government rate. Although they admitted that I deserve the government rate, they refused to refund the difference. To make matters worse, the Navy will only reimburse me for the government rate. So, it looks like this little trip as cost me a couple of hundred dollars so far. It is a shame that a big company like Hertz treats its customers like that.On a lighter note, I went to the Yorktown battlefield today. I wanted to go to Williamsburg, but after dealing with Hertz all day, I didn’t have time to make it all the way up there. I wound up going to Yorktown instead. As a fan of history I was looking forward to walking around the ramparts and fortifications. It turns out that this weekend is the 255th anniversary of the battle of Yorktown. As a result, the park was packed and much of the area was roped off for the reenactments that are scheduled for this weekend.

Day 3 at NMPS

Not much done on the Navy front today. We mustered at 0800 and were told to come back at 1000. At 1000, we were told to come back at 1530. So far, this experience has been pretty disorganized. The big issue today is what uniform are we going to be issued? No one knows. It will be either Navy desert camouflage or the Army’s new digital camouflage. The other major issue we have to deal with is that we are pretty much on our own to arrange our travel to our follow on training sites. This process has been done before, but it seems like the wheel is being re-invented each and every time

Day 2 at NMPS

Hurry up and wait is the task for today. Today started with group PT at 0600. I checked things out and then went off for a 5 mile run. I saw a lot of the base here at Little Creek. Seeing all of the Halloween decorations really reminded me of the girls. I hate missing out on holidays. Poor Braye, she will have to fight Madison all alone to get her costume on.Things were pretty slow at NMPS today. I did the majority of my medical stuff before I arrived, which saved some time. One thing I learned was to make sure the documentation for all shots and lab work is in your medical record. Pensacola medical filled out the pre-deployment medical screening sheet, but NMPS went through the record anyway and if they didn’t see the forms for, say small pox, you will have to get it again. One other thing, make sure you get a complete set of labs before showing up. A lot of guys have to fast tonight and get their blood taken at 0600.Tomorrow should be a fairly easy day, with the only important meeting in the afternoon.

Day 1 at NMPS

Today was the first day of NMPS check in. In fairness to them, they have to process a lot of folks. On the individual level, it is 2 days of processing crammed into a week. At least I have a car to get about in. Our days start at 0600 with group PT followed by filling out paperwork, medical exams and a lot of waiting around. Today, I snuck out and hit the gym for a quick working out during my lunch break. Speaking of food, since government messing is available, we are on the PMR (partial meal rate) so the per diem we get is pretty minimal. The galleys her have pretty good food and they have convenient hours.The big lesion I learned today is that flight suits are cool at NMPS. I regret bringing my khakis.I met some of the other RTF-611 guys that I’ll be going over to Iraq with. We are all pretty much in the dark as to exactly what we will be doing and where we’ll end up. There is a fair amount of information out there, but a lot of it is contradictory. I guess we’ll find out once we get over there. I just got an email from a friend of mine from Japan. He is currently in Iraq and saw my name on a list of folks coming over there. It will be good to hear what he has to say.As of right now, my schedule is to process here in Norfolk until the end of the week. On Saturday, I will go to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona for 3 weeks of training. After that, I get to come back to Pensacola for a week. Once I completely disrupt the household and ruin what ever system Braye sets up, I’ll head for Ft. Jackson, S.C. for 2 weeks of Army training. After that, I catch either a NALO flight or a commercial flight to Kuwait. I’ll spend up to 2 weeks in Kuwait conducting training. After that, I’ll head to Camp Victory Iraq

Leaving P-cola

Today is day one, the day that I left Pensacola. It was very hard saying goodbye to Braye and the girls. Considering everything that has happed in the family lately, leaving is especially hard. Mary Elizabeth held up great until I got to the security checkpoint, then the water works started. Braye was so strong for the girls, I’m very proud of her.Traveling to Norfolk was painful with each flight delayed. Once I got on deck, I called the NMPS CDO and he told me that billeting was overbooked and that a rental car is now authorized on my orders. A lucky break for me, I’d hate to spend a week at Norfolk on a walking tour. I’m now at Little Creek Naval Base. Over all, not bad accommodations.I’m writing this blog for my family and friends so they will know what I’m up to. I’m also writing it for other IAs that may be looking for some gouge. Since this is unclassified, I may sound vague and cryptic at times.