Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

To each and every person reading this I hope that you have a wonderful Memorial Day. Today was a real good day for us here in Aghanistan...we began by running the Afghan version of the Cotton Row 5k run that is held annually in Huntsville. I must say that I won't be nearly as willing to say "yes" to the next request to participate in a 5k, it really whipped me. All four guys in the 1960th ran and I think we did pretty good considering the conditions!

The main reason today was so good is because we actually had a pretty fun day, mandatory fun if you understand the Army. Two people in the unit were promoted so we had a ceremony for them followed by a cookout. We reserved the grill and volleyball court for the event. We've had quite a bit of planning go into this cookout and we wound up eating steaks, lobster, and was good! After eating we played probably 10 games of volleyball and now I look like a lobster...and yes(Loni & Mom), I was wearing sunscreen. I must say that my favorite part of the day is that the commander gave us the rest of the day off after the cookout, it's not that I dislike the work because I don't, but even a half-day off is always welcome.

My final thoughts for the day are for all of the thank-you's and well wishes that we've received over the past few days. Memorial Day and Veteran's Day afford us the time to remember the fallen and honor them in some small way. I truly don't feel old enough to fit into the Veteran's group, but I guess I fit nonetheless. Growing up all the veterans I knew were old, or at least that's what I thought. The current wars have changed all that and now there are thousands of veterans yet to reach the ripe old age of 20.

If you have the opportunity today and see a veteran please tell them thanks for their service and sacrifice. I complain from time to time about the fact that I'll be here for a full year, but then I remember that many WWII vets spend upwards of 2-3years overseas at one time.

"DUTY. HONOR. COUNTRY." ~GEN Douglas MacArthur

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Soldier Prayer

As you read from my last post we had one very interesting night last week. The night has been relatively quiet this week in our neck of the desert, however our teammates down in Kandahar haven't been so lucky. They are fine, but it seems their area is a bit more exciting than ours.

Unless you have served in a place like this you really can't imagine what it's like to be awakened to bombs...not that you would want to imagine that. Sometimes the possibility of being awakened like that is worse than it actually happening; someone in the intelligence field will get a lead or have a wild hair and we'll all find out that there is "credible evidence" that we could be attacked tonight. This same thing happened on my very first night in Iraq...just try to sleep after someone tells you that on your first night in a war zone. The unknown can be somewhat expect a bomb so you sleep light (if you sleep) or maybe you sleep with your clothes on...or if you're like me you lay everything out just right so you know it will take only a few seconds to be fully clothed and operational.

This past Sunday at church the Chaplain spoke at great length regarding a subject that put my mind at toes got stepped on, but I can sleep better now. For those of you who don't know "The Soldier Prayer" it can be found in the Bible, it is Psalm 91. As the Chaplain read aloud the words of King David (who never lost a battle) I felt a sense of peace come over me. The Psalm is as follows:

"He that dwelleth in the place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; In Him I will trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust; His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand may fall at thy side, ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked, because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample underfoot. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and him my salvation."

These words now hang on my wall and I read them at night...just like a child feels safe when they have a certain blanket or a bedtime story, these words wrap me in the comfort of knowing that man cannot destroy my spiritual body.

Good night and God bless.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Not my favorite way to wake up...


As many of you have heard on the news or read online, Bagram Airfield did come under attack yesterday. My wife has a policy that served her well while I was away in Iraq to not watch the news during deployment. A female co-worker of hers while we were in Augusta gave her that piece of advice because her husband was in Vietnam and the news drove her crazy until she stopped watching it.

Yesterday was an exception to policy for Loni. After numerous phone calls and inquiries she deduced that something must have happened so her curiousity got the best of her and she found out after a few minutes of browsing online. Needless to say, I received quite an e-mail this least Daniel got one too after Marla found out.

I'm not planning on going into great detail other than to say that I'm fine and all is well here. I appreciate all the "keep your head down" posts on Facebook and warm wishes, I do love Facebook for that reason. I will give a story or two from yesterday that I think might lighten the situation...

Story 1) The horrible wake-up.
Once upon a wait...just all remember the 6'7" roommate that started as an offensive lineman at Marshall University from his freshman year until he graduated, right? After the first rocket went off yesterday I was still in a semi-conscious, half awake/half asleep state because we have a aircraft bombing range nearby and I assumed the Air Force just failed to warn us like they normally do. It wasn't until my rooommate hears small arms fire that he jumps off his bunk and screams, "WE'RE UNDER ATTACK" and proceeded to hit the door at Mach 1 speed. I was out of my bunk and fully dressed like Superman, likely dressed in under 10 seconds...of course my boots were untied, but that's alright. So now you understand my wake-up situation. When you are accustomed to a light shake from a loving wife a screaming giant just doesn't sit well.

Story 2) The quote.
This really isn't much of a story, more like a simple quote that I really enjoyed from Washington Post. I am not typically a reader of the Post, however, they nailed it this time. For a little background there are over 30,000 people on this post...most of which are military. You obviously understand that means there is a lot of firepower condensed into a relatively small space. According to reports online there were 20 insurgents yesterday that decided to attack. Even if only half of that 30,000 is military that breaks down to roughly 750 gun-toting, well-trained and motivated Soldiers per insurgent...not good odds for them. I know they are expecting 72 virgins after martyrdom, but at those thanks. Anyway, back to the quote.... the Post yesterday stated "20 insurgents attacking Bagram Airfield is like a dog attacking a school bus." I feel it's more like a fish attacking an aircraft carrier, but not a bad quote for that paper. BAGRAM: 1, INSURGENTS: 0

Again, all is back to normal today. Keep us in your prayers and God bless.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The safest church service ever...

Today is Sunday over here...which means that I had the opportunity to sleep in for a bit before going to church. I might add that it is so much easier to get myself up and to church on time than it is to get an entire family ready to go...but I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Sunday is our half-day so we all report in around 1:00 p.m., the morning is all ours to do as we please. After a long night of watching movies and talking to Loni on the phone I got up this morning around 9:00 a.m. and went to church. As you might imagine, the church here (Abundant Faith Chapel) is a non-denominational worship service...and I do mean worship service. It is very similar to the Wednesday night service back home with our youth group...lots of worship songs with a full band (all in uniform) followed by a message from the chaplain.

The chaplain is an Army Major, but the worship band is quite mixed. Department of Defense (DoD) electric guitar player, DoD backup singer, Air Force Staff Sergeant backup singer, Army First Lieutenant drummer, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel bass player, and an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel lead singer/guitar player. It is quite interesting seeing them all up there worshipping in uniform.

I assume the chapel likely holds 150-200 personnel and it was full from front to rear. Fear and danger definitely make people believe in God! The interesting part of the service and something that you'll never see back home is that most every person in there has either a pistol or a rifle. Only the civilians don't wear weapons...everyone else is armed. I chuckled when we arrived and mentioned to Daniel that "this is the safest church service I've ever been to."

After the morning service we ate some dinner, unfortunately for me it was not Buenavista, and then we experienced our first real good dust storm. We had to walk about a half mile still when the dust started kicking up so bad that we could only see about 5' in front of us. Once we arrived at the office we basically had to take a bath to get the grit off of us.

After getting settled in and starting to work on a contract I put on a little music like I do each day and the first song that came on was very appropriate. I'm not sure who wrote the song, but the version I have on my iPod is sung by Adrienne'll recognize it...

"In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song. This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest droughts and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are still, when strivings cease. My comforter, my all in all, here in the love of Christ I stand."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What a week...

If you noticed that I haven't updated my blog in a few days there is good reason for that...#1)not a lot changes from day to day over here and #2)we have been absolutely swamped. Our work days have gone from a mandatory 12-hour day to more of a necessary 14-15 hour day. The days are not boring and they really don't seem like they are 14 hours long because we are staying so busy.

I think that Daniel and I have finally gotten ourselves into some sort of routine. Our days are as follows:

0600-0700: Wake up, personal hygiene, call home
0700-0830: Work
0830-0915: Breakfast
0915-1330: Work
1330-1415: Dinner / Supper
1415-2000: Work
2000-2100: Work out / run
2100-2200: Personal hygiene, watch movies, etc.
2200-0600: Sleep and start over!

As I mentioned...the days are long, but they sure are full. Daniel has been working in the Commodities section of the Contracting Center, which means that he buys items (ie. cell phones, desks, computers). I've been working in the Services section, which means that I actually lease/rent more than buy (ie. lease vehicles / dozers / forklifts, food services, janitorial services).

The area we work in is actually quite nice, it's very similar to any office you would see back home in that it is a solid building and not a tent! The only bad thing about the job is that we are constantly bombarded with LN's or local nationals who are looking for more work, trying to get paid, or trying to gain access to the base for their workers. Friday's are nice because that is their version of our Sunday and they typically don't come around, which allows us to get more work done. On the other hand, we only work a half day on Sunday and that allows us to go to church, get some rest, do laundry, etc.

I never judge people back home by what other people say, but a guy who performs background checks on the locals told me today that he would trust about 5% of them...the other 95% are crooked as a dog's leg. As for them gaining access to the base, there is a badging system that I won't discuss at this time...but I do believe they take a lot of pride in the color of their badge; like a caste system. One color means they must be escorted at all times and another color gives them a little bit of my book the less leniency, the better for the sake of protection.

As for pictures, I've tried unsuccessfully to upload pictures from here and I just don't think it's going to happen. The bandwidth is just too small here. I'll keep trying, but if it doesn't work I might have to send a CD of pictures home to Loni so she can upload them.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 the Mothers in my life...

I'd like to start the blog tonight by saying "Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day." In case you didn't know, and I'm guessing that you didn't since I just found out yesterday, there is a day (the Saturday before Mother's Day) devoted to honoring the spouses of military members. So, next time you see my wife, the wife of my deployed brethren, or any other military spouse for that matter, give them a great big hug or at the very least, tell them thanks for the job they endure. Their job is truly the hardest in the military. In the absence of their spouse they are required to be mother and father, run a household by themselves, and take on the role of all things fix-it. Those ladies in Good Housekeeping don't hold a candle to the military wife!

Now, other than thanking my wife for being an awesome military spouse, my other reason for writing tonight is to thank the mothers in my life. In case you don't know, I, like many of you, have more than one mother in my life. There are four mothers that have made a significant impact on me or my overall outlook and well-being; my mother (or Mom), my mother-in-law, my step-mother-in-law, and of course, the mother of my children.

First off, the mothers-in-law in my life have made a huge impact that is felt in a very indirect way. These are the ladies responsible for shaping and molding my wife into the woman and mother that she is today. For those of you who might still believe that when you marry someone that you are marrying him/her and not their family...that's just crazy. Eventually you realize that you get the bad with all of the good, and trust me, behind every person is a family member they don't want you to meet. So, to both of my very normal mothers-in-law...thanks for giving me a chance, thanks for believing in us and not being too nosy, and thanks for the job you did raising my wife. Happy Mothers Day!

Next is the mother of my children, or my wife! Now I've never forgotten her birthday and I can assure you that I haven't and never will forget our anniversary, however it has taken me a while to realize that I had better do something special for her on mothers day since our children are still too small to do so. As you might imagine, that is quite difficult to do from such a distance. I've had people offer to pick something up for her, but I just didn't want to go through with just seemed impersonal. At this late hour the best I could come up with (other than sending her a card a couple weeks back that still hasn’t arrived) is tell you what I think about her.

My mother always gave me the advice that I should never date someone that I wouldn't consider marrying. When I was young that didn't make a lot of sense because I wasn’t even considering marriage at the time, but I eventually realized that Mom was trying to tell me that I had better not date someone that I would be ashamed to bring home to meet the family. Now my mother always had the uncanny ability to size up a prospective girlfriend in less than .005 milliseconds...again, it is absolutely uncanny. Also, once a mother gets in her mind that some girl is "not the right one," you might as well move on because moms rarely change their mind on women who are good enough to marry their son or daughter.

When Loni and I met we went on a couple of dates and my mother approved from the very beginning! I should say that it took about half a date to realize that I was smitten and maybe three dates before I knew Loni was the girl I would marry. I had no problem telling her that either...I'm just glad she didn't freak out. Can you believe that...I actually remember telling her after just a few dates, "you know we're gonna get married, right" and her response was "yeah, I know"...some folks are just meant for one another. From the moment we met I could see her holding our children with that wonderful smile on her face. God has blessed us with two little angels and it still makes me smile when I come in from work to see her holding our son in her arms, he is completely at peace in the loving arms of his mother. To hear the excitement in my daughter’s voice when we get home from school and she screams “MOMMY” is a tribute to her as a mom. To the second best mom in the world, happy mothers day!

Finally, for my favorite mother, the one who has been there when others weren’t and has wiped more tears and bottoms than her fair share…where do I actually start with my own mother…how does someone tell others just how much their own mother means to them? Each year about this time my brother and I take our mother out to eat at a nice restaurant after church, this typically includes both of our families and sometimes we even talk Loni’s mom into going with us. Needless to say, with all of those children, it’s sometimes seems to be more about keeping sanity and less about our mom. We mean well, but mom could literally make plans now for the next five mother’s days. We are that predictable and always have been; when we were little we got her the same pair of shoes each year for probably six or seven years because we thought that was what she wanted. It wasn’t until a few years later that we found her stash of white Keds; there must have been five pair as white as the day they left the store. Each year she opened that same gift and managed to be so surprised that we had gotten her exactly what she wanted.

Why tell such a story…because this is quite typical of my mom. Mom would always make the biggest fuss over other people (my dad, my brother, me) at birthdays, church events, graduations, etc…and never once would she accept the same in return…always downplaying her role or passing on the praise elsewhere. My mother made sure I treated girls with respect and dignity, and if you were to ask Loni I think she would agree that mom did a fine job. Mom has always believed in me, she’s always been honest with me, and upon adolescence she has treated me like an adult.

I’ve never told my mother this, but one of my favorite things to do while home from college was to sit and talk with her. Dad and I can sit and talk, but my mother and I can sit and talk and talk and talk. We are both extraverts and love to talk so sometimes we would talk for hours with nothing to actually talk about. Whether she was consoling me over a girl situation gone wrong or something more serious, she’s always been there and made the time to try and “fix” whatever needed fixed.

It’s quite difficult being away from the mothers in my life for such an extended period, but I know now and always will be certain that they back me in my decisions and believe in me and love me unconditionally. So, to my mothers…happy mothers day. I love you all and long to see you all again soon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oh Afghanistan...

I'm sure we all remember hearing Dorothy tell Toto, "we're not in Kansas anymore"...I don't think any statement could ring more true here either. If you haven't had a chance yet, take a minute and read SSG Richardson's blog over at, he gives some great insight to this country that I'll be pulling from here today.

For those that don't know it, Afghanistan is 9.5 hours ahead of Central Standard Time...or "Alabama time" as my Dad likes to call it. This time difference makes for a very small window of opportunity when calling home, it has to happen just after I wake up or right before I go to bed. I believe that Daniel and I are finally beginning to get into a routine. We get up around 6:00 a.m. and go to the office, eat breakfast around 8:00 a.m., work some more, eat lunch/dinner around 3:00 p.m., work some more, work out around 7:00 p.m., and then we'll either work some more or come back to our room.

The current command has everyone working a minimum of 12 hours per day, however we are required to be there during peak hours...the same hours as you would expect stateside. The Contracting Office is quite nice compared to where I worked during my first deployment; I'm in a building with central heat/air here, in Iraq I worked out of a tent, the back of a truck, or driving in a truck. It seems that if we worked according to our workload we could literally stay there 24/7, but we've been warned to pace ourselves since we'll be here for a year.

The office is broken down with construction and commodities contracts in one building and the services area (where I work) is adjacent. The entire area is surrounded by bunkers, sandbags, and blast protection walls...the doors stay locked and you have to code in each time to enter the area. In all honesty, working where we do could easily make you complacent with all the security measures in place.

The bad news about the area is that we are right beside an entry point to the base and yesterday we received credible information that someone had a VBIED (Vehicle-borne improvised explosive device...aka car bomb) right outside our area. Let me tell you, when someone tells you there is a car bomb outside you manage to get uncomplacent right quick. The good thing is that we were all quarantined, so to speak, until the threat was over inside our little area. Business went on as usual since we are inside such a highly protected area, except we couldn't leave.

According to folks who have been here for a while they tell us that the place is pretty safe with only minimal rocket attacks. I'm sure they're still using rockets from the 80's war with Russia. Anyway, the mountain passes around us are still packed with snow so they can't bring their rockets over the mountains yet. I'm not saying to scare anyone, I'm really saying it more to let you know the situation.

I've got to get to work for now, don't want to be late. I'll try to upload a picture or two later, but the bandwidth is low here and that could take hours. So for now, know that we're safe and working like crazy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

We're there!

Just before bed on the 29th we were informed that we would be flying to Afghanistan the next morning...which typically means a long day of riding buses and sitting around air terminals. The four of us went to bed, but I don’t think any of us actually slept that well. Each troop had his own thoughts, worries, and prayers. I got in bed at midnight and woke up wide awake at 0300, just so happened that Jeff and Rich both woke up within about 45 minutes of me. Our day went as follows:

30 APR 2010
0300 – Woke up at Camp Buehring and prepared for flight
0730 – Manifest (this is where all personnel are called out by name)
0800 – Load buses
0900 – Arrive at Ali al Salem
1100 – Ate lunch at a McDonalds…too weird!
1230 – Roll call
1500 – Final roll call and departure from Ali al Salem
1700 – Wheels up
2300 – Arrive at Bagram, Afghanistan
2330 – Part ways with CPT Campbell / SSG Richardson
2345 – Directed to our new home
1 MAY 2010
0000 – Begin cleaning / unpacking
0300 – Finish unpacking
0315 – Shower
0400 – Lights out

We arrived at Bagram Airfield just before midnight on the last day of April. Up until this point "The Team" had been told that we would be splitting up and going four separate ways. However, upon our arrival here we learned that we would not be split completely but would go in pairs. Jeff and Rich would have one more leg on their flight before finishing up in Kandahar; Daniel and I would remain here at Bagram.

Bagram is the largest military base in Afghanistan and Kandahar is either the second or third largest. After speaking with my counterparts in Kandahar is sounds as if both Regional Contracting Centers (RCC's) will stay quite busy. I'm not sure about Kandahar, but the area surrounding Bagram is actually very pretty. If it weren't for the fact that we are in Afghanistan, this place could probably be a tourist attraction of some sort...maybe a ski resort.

Daniel and I got set up in a pretty decent "B Hut," which is a plywood room that is probably 20' x 18' (or so) and holds 4 people. Our roommates are both civilian contractors who work in the same office as we do. We haven't met them yet, but one of them has a poster on his door that states..."DUE TO FREQUENT DISTURBING EMINITIONS ORIGINATING FROM THIS LOCATION, ALL PERSONS ENTERING THIS LOCATION ARE STRONGLY ADVISED TO DON PROTECTIVE ASPIRATION EQUIPMENT IN THE EVENT OF AN UNANNOUNCED EMINITION. THANK YOU." Again...we haven't met him yet, but he sounds interesting already.

I will try to upload a picture of my hut or the area surrounding us as time allows, but for now I just don't have the energy to do so. We are both suffering from some serious jetlag and haven't slept more than a couple hours each night we've been here due to our proximity to the airfield. Planes, jets, and helicopters are leaving at what seems to be all hours of the night and you might imagine they are very loud. After speaking with our co-workers it looks like we'll be working at least 12 hour days with a half day off on Sunday!

That's it for now, I'll post more as time and energy allow.