Thursday, January 27, 2011

All packed up and nowhere to go...

Thursday has quickly become one of my favorite two days of the week; the other being Sunday. The reason is because those are the days that Daniel and I have for our half-days here in Afghanistan. Upon our arrival in country we were not given any time off and worked 12-15 hours per day. After the first few months were complete and we had a new commander he reinstated the half-day policy, which was an excellent idea. Twelve months without any time off will drive a man crazy!

Truly there is nothing spectacular about my half-day, but I have my little rituals that have become quite important to me. We leave work around 2:00 p.m. and I typically am able to come to my room and watch a movie or take a nap or something to just relax. My favorite thing about these days is the fact that I can Skype with my wife and see my kids running around in the background. It's a time when this war removes itself to the far fetches of my mind and some sense of normalcy reappears when I see their wonderful faces. It's tough watching the kids grow up online, but it sure beats not seeing them at all.

On another much lighter note, Daniel and I packed our shipping container today for movement back to the States. We are 100% packed up with nowhere to go! All that's left to pack is our clothes, battle rattle and maybe some personal gear. If someone told me I could leave in an hour as long as I could make the plane I now know that it could easily be if someone would just give me that opportunity!

According to our 'Circle of Freedom' we have completed 90.7% of our deployment and all we have left is 9.3% more. Five years from now I'll look back at Afghanistan in much the same way that I currently look on my time in Iraq. Funny how memories have a way of removing the less than desirable times and clean up everything so that we look with rose-colored glasses. Those memories are five years away for now I'm ready to be in my bed in my house with my wonderful wife and a consistently warm shower would be great!

So, for those of you out there in cyberspace keeping up with the days we're down to 30. The tracker says only 4.28 weeks left...I can do it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's 3:15 in the morning...let me sleep!

So, I've heard from fairly credible sources that for every hour you gain or lose in transit from one time zone to another it will take that many days to be completely over your jetlag. I'm beginning to think those guys were right! For the past six days I have woke up between 3:13 a.m. and 3:17 a.m. This would be normal had I gone to bed at 8:00 p.m., but I'm not even going to bed until midnight...enough is enough. I don't have to be at work until 9:00 a.m., but these days I am wide awake at 6:00 a.m. so why just lay there?

The Team is down to 44 days on the 'Circle of Freedom' that we are maintaining. In case I haven't mentioned it, the Circle is an Excel spreadsheet that keeps up with the exact amount of days/months/hours/minutes/meals/etc. that have passed and those that we must still suffer through. Most of the guys have personalized our own countdown with a picture of our kids or spouse and I must say that it is finally not depressing to open the spreadsheet and see how much time is left. We currently sit at 13.7% left on the countdown...not too bad if I may say so.

The three of us that went on R&R during Christmas have finally gotten back into some semblance of a routine. It's sad to say this, but my motivation in on the floor. Needless to say, it is very hard to get right back to work after spending two weeks at home with family and friends. I'm a little jealous of all the snow my friends back home are getting; being snowed in sounds like fun right now. There is plenty of snow on the mountains surrounding us and it has finally reached our base as I can hear the snow/sleet hitting the tin roof.

Since the last time I wrote it seems the Auburn Tigers have won the national championship. As an alumni of The University of Alabama I proudly cheered for the Oregon Ducks; if any Auburn fan is upset or thinks 'how dare you' then I'll gladly remind you all of the "Hook 'em Horns" and burnt orange Texas shirts that you all proudly adorned last year when the Tide brought home #13 to the trophy cabinet. Congrats to AU on the win, but just remember 13 > 2 !!! Also, Daniel and I have decided that we can not deploy again in the seems that Auburn is undefeated while we are deployed, 27-0 (13-0 in 2004, 14-0 in 2010). I'd almost volunteer if that were the case for Alabama, but during those same two seasons it seems that the Tide is a mere 16-9 and 0-2 against Alabama Polytechnic (Auburn). Oh well, we now go into the 8 month drough with NCAA least there are spring games in April!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Can you count to 50?

So, if you can count to 50 then you can officially count higher than the amount of days that I have left in sunny and scenic Afghanistan!

The last time I posted I was only a few weeks from heading home on my two-week R&R. I'm not quite sure if I feel rested and recuperated, but I am back. I've learned that it is a basic instinctive response to say "glad to be back" when someone says "hey man, glad you're back." I've caught myself responding as such and know that it is a total lie! I'm not unhappy to be back, obviously I would rather be home though.

One thing I am very happy about is that I am no longer in transit. The trip began in Huntsville at the airport and ended in Afghanistan approximately 50 hours later. Most people can sleep with no problems on an airplane, however I know that I am not most people. If I do happen to fall asleep on the plane it's only for 5-10 minutes at a whack and very unrestful. Also, should the crew choose to play a video then I am hooked if it is anything worth watching...we watched 4 full length films between Germany and Kuwait.

Upon our arrival back in Atlanta we learned that our flight wasn't for another 13 hours; when we realized we couldn't get an earlier seat we went and rented a car for the 3 hour drive home. Loni picked me up and was even more beautiful than I remember! My kids were great when we went to pick them up; both have grown considerably. My daughter has really gotten taller and slimmed down, while my son is now walking/running around trying to keep up with his sister. It was wonderful getting to see them again, literally unexplainable, even though my daughter put me in tears within the first 15 seconds when she grabs my face and very seriously states, "Daddy, I missed you...I needed you."

We made it back in time for church on the 19th, it was great getting to see everyone there. The prayers and support shown by them has made this deployment bearable. My father and brother planned a frosty motorcycle ride my first week home. The weather forecast had previously stated approximately 60* but when the time came a cold front came with it and we rode in cool 42* weather. Normally we would all say "no thanks" to riding in such weather, but we just had to ride once while I was home! We stayed on the run from the 23rd through the 27th from one Christmas gathering to another.

Loni and I took a much needed date night late in the R&R to Fleming's in Nashville. If you have never been there I highly recommend steak I've ever had, they also had wonderful service! I won't mention any names, but our night at Fleming's was free thanks to some great people for which I am forever grateful.

Two other gatherings that we attended during the latter half of R&R were our church Sunday school party and a get together with some friends. The church party was a blast at the home of Jeremy & Jodi Hopper...we played a game on their Wii called Just Dance and had a great time. I found out the next morning that it was as much a workout as it was fun! Loni contacted a few friends and we went to the Cheesecake Factory down in Birmingham; I'm not sure I have laughed that much in years.

There is a great deal of stuff that I haven't mentioned and won't due to this becoming a long post...either way, the time was spent with great family and great friends.

Also, for the first time since weather records have been kept beginning way back in 1880 our little town had a white Christmas! Most of you know the area, but for anyone not from Cullman you should understand that it snows there 1-2 times per year and very seldom sticks for more than a few hours. The reason I tell you this is because in a place like Cullman you have no real need for winter weather clothes. My children resembled Ralphie from A Christmas Story when they went outside; I'm pretty sure they each had on 3 sets of clothes. We built a huge snowman (relative to Cullman) with the help of my parents, which eventually fell under its own weight. We did make some really good pictures before it fell though...good times!

My time at home was as you might expect, an absolute whirlwind of running from place to place trying to see everyone during Christmas...I wouldn't trade it for anything.

So, to my family and friends...thanks so much for making my time at home special. Less than 50 days and I'll be beginning my trek back home for good.

I'll leave you with a good word from my friend and teammate Rich...
"Time! So elusive – I hate you and love you! What a relationship! Please make the days pass at lightning speed until I once again return. Slow down those days spent loving my sacred time with my friends and family. Watch over me, watch over my family and friends, keep their spirits high, their goals focused and their purpose meaningful."

Until next time...

Monday, November 22, 2010


So, this morning I get to work and get a gentle reminder from my mother that I haven't posted anything to my blog in almost a month. The whole reason for my beginning a blog was to keep the folks back home up to date on the happenings in and around me. I did really good for a few months, but here lately we have been so busy that I don't know whether I'm coming or going. On top of that I am so close to hitting R&R that I just want to get my work done and go home!

As of tonight I've got 23-24 more days until I leave here headed home for R&R. I've mentioned in the past that 3/4 of the team will be headed home for R&R at the same time. At this point we're like giddy schoolgirls just as excited as you can imagine.

We all feel very fortunate that we were able to schedule our leave during the Christmas/New Year holidays. Most of our military friends will be staying right here and serving right on through the holidays; hopefully each of their families will send them something to make it special. On my first deployment my wife sent an 18" Christmas tree that was already decorated and sat in my shelter way past Christmas too! It really is the small things that make the holidays special while deployed.

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself though, three days from now will be Thanksgiving! We're all really hoping that the dining facilities will have some good turkey and dressing...although they have tried making dressing in the past and is was a monumental failure. On Thursday our office will be slightly manned with each of us spending only a couple hours at work...hopefully the taxpaying public won't mind too much that we're taking the afternoon off!

Just like each of you at home this time of year gets us to thinking about all the things we are thankful for and helps us to put a little perspective on what's important. For myself this year is a bit different because absence from family makes you really appreciate the small things like family pictures on Christmas, watching Christmas Vacation with my brother, and getting together with family to hear the same old stories again that never get old. This year I'm thankful to God for keeping me safe on this deployment, I'm thankful that I have such a wonderfully supportive family, I am thankful to my church family for their love and support, and finally...I'm glad this deployment is 3/4 of the way over!

God bless and ROLL TIDE, Beat Auburn!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

One step at a time...

For those of you who have never been in this situation one of the things we deployment-prone folks do while on deployment is set a few benchmarks when we get here. Most tours are 12 months long and during that time there is certain to be quite a few things missed, but with each missed birthday or anniversary is just one more benchmark passed. The Team left on 10 April 2010 and for me the marks that I was looking for were as follows: birthday anniversary season
late-November...Thanksgiving...just kidding, Alabama/Auburn game!
mid-December...R&R (leave)

I really haven't given a whole lot of thought to the milestones past R&R, I just want to get there first. I assume a good mark will be the Super Bowl, after that we'll have less than a month left here.

My reason for discussing this is because tomorrow marks 200 days of deployment...only 50 more until R&R. We didn't plan for 250 days until R&R, it just worked out that way. By the time we get to mid-tour leave we will have been gone from home for over 8 months and 1 week...entirely too long.

Our office has gotten busy again after the two-week lull that we had for end-of-year closeout. Between work and Alabama football the overall deployment is going fairly well, no complaints outside of the typical Army complaints. It has been interesting in the sense that we are co-located with Air Force and Navy troops, which means that I've had to learn a new language or two. For a while I was in an office that was completely split...1 Army, 1 Air Force, and 1 Navy. We were constantly having to remind one another to stop using acronyms since no one understood them outside of our own service component.

The next exciting thing that is going to happen here is a back-up taping for ESPN of the UA/Miss. State game. ESPN plans to do a live broadcast from Bagram for that game, but just in case there are problems they will be taping ahead of time for the sake of redundancy. Apparently The University sent some Bama gear that we are going to get and there are quite a few Tide Alumni scattered around post. Hopefully I'll be on camera giving a shout-out to my wonderful family!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thank goodness I'm not paid to blog...

I have realized that if I were paid to blog then my family would go hungry very quick, or Loni would have to remind me to write all the time. It's been just over two weeks since I last updated my blog and there haven't been too many new occurences.

The end of the fiscal year came and went without any major malfunctions. It seems that when it's that late in the game everyone has an emergency need that must get purchased before September 30th...which happens for the most part. When we say "no" a General will often get involved and our no quickly becomes a "sure, I think we can squeeze that in."

We had a pretty amazing BBQ last Sunday to celebrate our end-of-year. SSG Martin and I did most of the prep work and cooking with some help from a couple of our Air Force buddies. We were able to grill steak, chicken, and even lobster really was wonderful. One of the guys said that day, "if it weren't for all this dust I'd think I was at home." We had a great time cooking out and I think everyone enjoyed their food. In the end there were probably 40-50 people who came and ate, we were literally on the grill for over 4 hours and you can definitely tell it by my sunglasses racoon tan. The good thing about that tan is that everyone else looks just like me, nobody walks around outside without glasses due to the sun and sand.

Today, Daniel and I had the opportunity to go meet a local vendor at our entry control point (ECP-1). The ECP goes right into the town of Bagram and we were able to see some things that we hadn't yet seen on this deployment. Even though we were not together on our trip to Iraq we did much of the same tasks with a lot of convoying in/around the country as a primary occupation.

I was just telling Loni last night how I hadn't seen a child in 6 months; I finally saw a few today. This one little boy walked right up and in the best English he could muster he asked for my pencil, which I gladly gave to him. He gave me a huge smile, a thumbs-up, and then ran off screaming about the pencil to his friends...too bad I didn't have enough for them all. It was the same situation in Iraq, the kids wanted to crawl all over you and wanted anything from pens to water to whatever was on your uniform and shiny. It's amazing how many of these people have so little that a child is overwhelmed by the gift of a pencil.

I find that it's easy to become somewhat jaded dealing with the locals and having to endure their business practices and lack of the English language...I'm not saying they should know English, I'm simply saying that their lacking English is a huge source of frustration. Seeing those kids today helps to put things into perspective quickly. I don't directly see the good that happens outside the wires of Bagram, but I pray that my being here helps these children in some way in the future.

That's about it for now...the Tide is 5-0 and they are coming on tomorrow night at midnight so we'll be having a big party (cokes & chips) to watch them roll over South Carolina on the way to #14.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why is my hut shaking?

Just last week in all of one day we went from having daytime temperatures in the 90s to all of the sudden it's not getting above 72 degrees. This sounds wonderful, but it's actually been quite cool around here. The nights are similar to what we experienced when we first arrived in country, hovering in the 50s. We have still been able to spend a little time clearing our minds every couple of nights sitting outside on top of the bunker watching the planes land...we just have to wear more clothes now.

Earlier this week I experienced my very first real earthquake and had absolutely no idea what it was. Once while in college I was awakened around 3:00 a.m. to what I thought was an earthquake, but it turned out there was a cave-in at a coal mine in a nearby town. I think I remember the cave-in registering around a 3.0 on the Richter Scale. The earthquake we had this week registered 6.3 on the Richter Scale and was centered about 125 north of us and apparently the epicenter was 120 miles deep in the Earth's surface...amazing how technology can pinpoint such a thing. Anyway, around midnight the b-hut I'm in started shaking like crazy...I thought someone was just playing a trick or something. Mom basically told me that me being in a war zone is bad enough, she can't deal with that plus earthquakes!

We're working like mad right now as September 30th is the end of the fiscal year, which means all of our contracts must be complete by then. This will keep us really busy for the next week or so. On the other hand, the General is coming in tomorrow (allegedly) so we've been busy cleaning for that as well...good times.

The 1960th as a whole is feeling pretty good right now because we can actually see the light at the end of the it's not the end of the deployment, but rather our R&R is coming up. CPT Campbell will be heading home in the next week or so, the rest of us have about another 80 days or so. College football season will get us through those 80 days much quicker than expected.