Thursday, April 27, 2006

i'm not crazy, you're the one that's crazy. all i wanted was a pepsi...

do you ever have those moments where you realize you aren't wired together quite as tightly as you thought you were? that you're not quite where you want to be with your mental well being? as you know, i've got some general concerns about the redeployment back home and my becoming joe citizen again, weekend warrior. i've been through this before, so in alot of ways i know what to expect, but every tour is different. and this one has been considerably longer than the last. with the exception of leave and a week or so in between a military school and my actual deployment, i'm going on my 17th month away from home. but because i've had some experience with this, this deployment i've been trying to take care of myself. i'm doing the excercise thing more religiously. when you're in good physical health alot of the other stuff falls into place. i've been focused on schoolwork in addition to army stuff, so i've got multiple interests. every night i take time off to read a book or watch cheers or whatever. i try to find a few minutes to get away from everyone else and get some breathing room. i'm staying in touch with people back home, the works. a couple of us have joked around about being depressed because we've lost interest in food and things pleasureable, but it's just joking. the fact that we've been eating the same meals for over a year and seen all the same movies over and over and over again is why that stuff is going on.
i've got a buddy in another unit. from time to time we'll get together and watch movies or whatever. just bitch about stupid stuff going on at work. it's nice to have someone completely on your side because they're removed from the situation. or if they tell you you're wrong, you know it's much more objective. so a couple of the guys here got some movies day before yesterday that i actually hadn't seen so i was going to take those over. i put them in my cargo pocket and stopped on the way to order a pizza for dinner. it was going to take 15 minutes to make the pizza and the px is right there in the same little compound, so i went to walk around and see what stupid crap they had for me to spend money on. see where this is going yet? there was a buddy in there that i knew so we walked out together. when the sensormatic tag alarm started going off, i automatically assumed it was him. he has his stuff cleared again and went to walk out again and didn't set the alarm off. i went through, set it off and remembered the movies in my pocket. these are already opened, already watched and scuffed up movies. no yucky sealing tape on the edges of the box anymore, nothing.
so of course they had to question me or whatever. i'm cool with that. it was a boneheaded move on my part, i understand that. but there are ways to do that and let the customer retain a little dignity and to show a little respect, just in case the customer isn't lying and he didn't steal anything. and this guy did the exact opposite. and the more he was talking down to me, the fact that he had to get mp's to detain me instead of politely asking me to join him, when he started telling me how stupid i was for bringing stuff i bought in the store in (think about this for a minute, there's only one store here where we can buy stuff from for a year. everyone in the store probably has something in their pocket or on their body that they bought from there, and chances are alot of those things are more expensive than those two cd's. knives, gloves,zippos, mp3 players, underarmor, shoes/boots, wallets, the works. it's kinda assinine) the more it really set me off. i can honestly say i can't remember ever being that mad before in my life. i was shaking so hard that i was scared my knees were going to buckle.
i wear a combat sling on my rifle. since we had to give up our pistols, we've had to carry our rifles wherever we go. so i put it over my shoulder, across my chest and then cinch it up tight with the sling. i do that because we normally deal with the locals alot and i want to maintain positive control of my pistol and rifle at all times. i want them close to me so that when we're in a crowd and people are pressed up close one arm can cover both of them. my mom isn't going to get a letter saying "we regret to inform you that your son is dead because he was STUPID." i'm not going to get shot with my own pistol. anyways, had i not been wearing that sling at the moment, i'm actually fairly scared that i might've beat him with it. i was gripping the rifle and pushing against that sling so hard i have a healthy bruise across the top of my shoulder today.
so. i guess on the one hand it's good to find out about possible anger management issues in this type of situation. nobody was hurt, no harm-no foul. i didn't say anything i regret to anyone i care about, etc. and i know that i'm just going to have to be aware of this on the way home. so scary as it was, it's a good thing in the long run.
alright, i'm babbling. just a weird story. i'm normally a pretty level-headed guy. sure, sometimes i can flare up a little if provoked, but nothing like this. so it was one of those "huh, this'll be an interesting blog entry" moments. note, when i say that, i don't actually mean interesting to anyone reading it. i'm still amazed that anyone actually does.... i mean interesting to actually sit and think it out enough to write about it. some of the introspection that goes along with blogging is new to me. sorry it's been so long since i've updated. hope everyone is doing well.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

thoughts on homecoming...

... the last couple of times i've gone home from someplace downrange, i've always managed to sneak back into country relatively un-noticed. no big fanfare or hooplah, and to be honest, i prefer it that way. i'm painfully shy around strangers. and even though i open up to the point of obnoxiousness around people i'm comfortable with, i still don't take praise or compliments or thanks well.

paperback writer wrote about different reasons why the internet might be good or bad recently, and one of the things that she mentioned was the ability for shy people to take on different personas and come out of their shells a little bit in a "safe" forum. in alot of ways that's me. i wouldn't tell complete strangers or even alot of good friends any of the stuff i punch out here on the blog. and part of that is i don't like getting into big military discussions and dealing with some of the gratitude that comes my way. but this is different. in this environment it's kinda nice and not so overwhelming.

anyways, one of the things that is freaking me out about this homecoming is that it's probably going to turn into a big production. apparently alot of family members will be showing up at the airport to great us when we fly back to co. so i've been discussing the possibility of renting a car in north carolina and leaving my group there. when they fly back, i'd drive back. take my time, blast the music, feel the wind coming through the open windows and sunroof (it'd be worth the upgrade). but someone took me aside today and gave me a little mental kick in the ass. pointed out that we have an obligation to thse people who want to say "thanks". they stayed behind and took care of things while we were awake, and if they want to get excited and put on a little shindig for us when we come home, who are we to rain on their parade? it's not like it's a firing squad. it's a little embarrassing, but no biggie.


sexual frustrations...

3 of us wander over to the px tonight. we've got pogs, which yes, are those stupid cardboard things popular for some stupid reason a decade ago. the px uses them instead of real change because they're lighter to fly back and forth. i hate the px with a passion. it's just the worst organization ever and in my mind it doesn't service the customers. pogs are a good example. even though they say that they are redeemable at any px location worldwide when i went home from my last deployment and tried to use them, i got into a huge argument with the cashier and the store manager about whether or not i could use them in the states and ended up walking out of the store and throwing away about 50 bucks worth of the things. basically they make alot of money off of them because they're easier to loose or destroy than real coins and because they offer up resistance at other worldwide locations when you try to use them. think about how much change you acquire in the average month. multiply that by 12. then multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of soldiers deployed. if even 5% of those guys don't redeem their pogs the px has made tons of money. tracking?

ANYWAYS. we're walking through the px and frick and frack see toy battery operated boats for $1.29. yet another reason to hate the px. don't stock the shelves with stuff we need. no. send over crap that wouldn't sell in the states knowing that soldiers will eventually buy it here out of pure boredom. so after trying to talk the guys into not buying the boats, they buy them and we walk back and i give them batteries. it rained very heavily a couple days ago, so the lake behind our house is back. they go out there, drop the boats in and sit back to watch.

the First Sergeant from the new unit that is replacing us came out and watched with us for a couple minutes. then he got really bored with it and said "man. you guys REALLY need to get laid if this is exciting to you." and started to walk away. "hey top? you realize that this is going to be you in 12 months? your brain will be so mushy that you'll love this?" i think he whimpered...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

no clever title...

... i was looking for something about putting my guns to rest, but couldn't find one. the dylan lyrics aren't quite as close as i thought they were. when we deployed here, i had assigned to me my m-9 pistol, my m-4 carbine, a m-249 squad auto weapon and a m-240b machine gun. lemme tell you. you need a wheelbarrow for that much stuff, literally. it was really pretty stupid. once we got into country, i cross leveled the m-240b to one of our sub units that needed it, and a couple weeks ago i signed away the m-249. yesterday they took the pistol away and left me with the m-4.

now i'm not a gun freak. but that m-9 was brand new when it was assigned to me. several posts ago i mentioned how tight we've gotten here with one another because of all the time we spend with one another. i've spent even more time with that pistol. it's been strapped in a belt or shoulder holster for most of the last 13 months. i've shot better with that particular pistol than i ever have before and i'm usually a fair shot with the handguns. when we first got here, i ran with it. when i slept it went under my pillow. the only time it was really out of arm's reach was in the shower when i left it back in the hooch with a battle buddy. i've had lower back pains since i took it off my belt for the last time yesterday. that extra weight around your waist of the pistol and loaded magazines makes a difference. the holster i carried it in left the safety exposed. this isn't a big deal to me, because i always treat my weapons as if there's one in the pipe, ready to go, but alot of people get freaked out if they see a weapon that's not in the "safe" position. so i got in the habit of brushing the safety with my thumb throughout the day to make sure all was well.

it's funny, everyone in my group is going through the same seperation anxieties. you'll look at someone and seem them reach, and see that split second of panic in their eyes before their brain catches up with their muscle memory to remind their body that all is well. they didn't lose or forget the weapon, they signed it over to the new guys.

it's these little things that make the "desoldierization" process interesting. i knew a guy who came back from bosnia and walked with his head down for weeks before he got his body to understand that there were no landmines and he didn't constantly need to be on the lookout for such things while walking. another guy embarrassed himself at work when someone dropped a heavy piece of metal machinery. it sounded like a bullet striking a vehicle and he was under a table before he realized it. there's another guy here who's been deployed for almost 4 of the last 5 years. he's to the point where he has a concealed carry permit and just has a pistol with him all the time back in the states.

we went through a briefing the other day about mental stress and re-adapting to life back in the states. most of it was blah-blah-blah... but one thing that struck me was when they pointed out that during WWI and WWII, when soldiers came home, they were usually shipped back home, and the process took weeks. in vietnam poor joes were stuck on a plane and less than 48 hrs later were back in the states sometimes. the culture shock is amazing.

anyways, this sounds like it's all doom and gloom and really, it's not. just trying to give you a peek and what's going on.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

leave it to the army...

... to take all the fun out of being a soldier. with all their safety rules and "zero defects" mentality, they really sap the fun right out of shooting really cool weapons, driving really cool vehicles, jumping out of planes, playing with explosives, using rubber boats, playing with cool electronics gear, the works. and they also take the realism RIGHT out of training. i can probably handle the no fun thing alot better than the unrealistic training...

i broke some of the rules tonight though. with all the hoopla about troops not having armor over here, the old style hmmwvs with the canvas tops and canvas doors are hard to find. we've got one though, and we've taken the doors and tops off of it because it's starting to warm up here now. and because they're just a helluva lot more fun to drive that way. well, the big boss has claimed it as his own (see the helluva lot more fun comment above for further explanation...). tonight i had to run someone out to the airstrip so i asked if i could mooch his ride. he said "sure" tossed me the keys and away i went. well, you can't look a gift horse in the mouth at a time like that. so after i kicked the airstrip guy out of the vehicle, i took off. this base is really pretty big, and the way it's set up, almost nobody goes on the perimeter road except to change out the guard details. i hit it flying. i had my new mp3 player with me, the music was blasting, the night was cooling down, it was beautiful. just 20 minutes or so of pure bliss all by myself. amazing what the little things will do for you.

when i was a little younger, my dad really didn't want me riding motorcycles all the time. not as commuter vehicles so we compromised and i got a jeep. it was still an open top so i felt the wind on my face but it had a roll cage so he was happy. i loved it. i was living in arizona at the time, and me and friends would purposely drive to some little cross roads not-quite-big-enough-to-be-a-town an hour outside of the city late at night just to freeze our asses off, listen to the music, get there, have breakfast or coffee at the waffle house and ride back. solving all the world's problems on the way. it was always such a great feeling of freedom. tonight reminded me of that.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


paperback writer said something about liking people who can make her laugh, that's what triggered this thought, so blame her!

for years now i've said that my sense of humor exists for me and my amusement only. if someone else is around and gets the joke, that's awesome. if they don't? i REALLY don't care, i'm still going to crack myself up. now of course that's not 100% true. the people i consider my friends are of course people with whom i share some common interests that we bonded over. so hopefully they get me and get my sense of humor. but there are plenty of days when i'm crying because i'm laughing so hard and everyone is just staring at me, shaking their heads, waiting for the moment to pass so we can get back to the business at hand.

i love the addams family movies, especially the second one. there's a scene in it where wednesday and pugsley are at camp and there's a girl there who is the exact opposite of wednesday. they're practicing water skills at the lake and the instructors need someone to be the victim. the perky girl volunters "i'll be the victim!" and wednesday mutters "all of your life". preparing for this deployment there are of course multiple scenarios where someone has to pretend to be the victim of a gunshot wound, or an i.e.d. or just basic first aid stuff, a choking or burn victim. everytime someone volunteers i have to chime in... it's been 15 months and no one has gotten the reference yet, but it's still funny to me...

1000 apologies...

... but the last day or two i've started getting spammed. so the verification word thing has to go into effect. i hope ya'll will still keep leaving comments though!

thanks for understanding,

yet MORE stereo talk...

it was pretty late when i wrote those two entries last night, and there was alot of stuff bouncing around inside my nogging that i wasn't tracking on. one of the comments i meant to make about the speakers was how over the years they've turned into one of those little tests. there've been girls who have loved the sound of them, and been able to ignore the early late 60's styling. there have been some who've loved the sound AND the styling. and there have been those who've continually tried to get me to hide or replace them with stuff that looked much more contemporary, regardless of the sound. it's one way of sorting out the "worthy" from the "unworthy"...

i have tons of other ways. depending on what my favorite stupid movie is at the time, the world is made up of two types of people, those that love "empire records" and those that don't (or whatever). cat people/dog people. those that at some time have been a part of something larger than themselves and those that haven't. classic car lovers and everyone else. motorcycle enthusists and everybody else. people who appreciate a great steak and a wonderful baked potato...

when i was younger, i used to have stupid ones for girls. if she leaned over and unlocked my door for me after i opened hers for hers. if we showered together, i'd wash her whole body; would she bend down and wash my feet as well when she was returning the favor? or stop at the knees? did she put her feet up on the dash of my car when we were driving around? silly little things that i thought gave me deep insight into someone's character.

how about you? got any? either in the dating world, or just in your everyday dealings? for/against the use of emoticons? smoker vs. non-smokers? what?

Monday, April 10, 2006

more music/stereo thoughts...

... i have an old pair of AR2AX speakers. they're the most wonderful speakers in the world. for the kind of music that i listen to, they sound great. everyonce in awhile i'll listen to a song with some hard hitting base, and while they don't sound bad, some of today's speakers would probaby sound better. i could probably get a subwoofer, but the need isn't really there. every year i'll get an urge to go wander out and check out new speakers, but i always end up convinced that what i've got sounds as good or better than anything else i heard while shopping.

my dad has an identical pair. when he was a kid he was a real stereo buff. he built his own phonograph which he still has and which still works. picked up a nice kenwood receiver to power the ar's and had an extensive collection of old reel-to-reels... probably 15 years ago when i was in college i picked up a little pair of cerwin vega speakers. at the end of one semester i moved back in with my parents for the summer and brought them up. i was telling my dad how great they sounded for how little they were. he didn't believe me so he hooked them up to his stereo and we played them side by side with his AR's. much to his surpise, mine sounded much better. this baffled dad. come to find out that over the years, a rheostat that acted as an equalizer on each speaker had rotted out over the years. it was just a little knob on each speaker that adjusted how much of the signal/power went to the midrange speakers and how much to the woofers. because it rotted out, he was basically playing off of just his tweeters. the funny part is, the change was so gradual, that he never noticed it. (kind of a metaphor for life there, huh?). since his new receiver had an eq built into it, it was uneccessary, so we spent a night taking the broken part out of the circuit, plugged the speakers back in and they blew mine away! i was gushing over them, and my dad remembered that he'd bought his brother a pair and the last time he'd visited, he didn't remember seeing them in the living room.

i called my uncle and asked him about the speakers. he said he couldn't bring himself to throw them out, so they were still in the basement, but he didn't think they were any good. they hadn't been hooked up in over a decade. when his kids started growing up, there was always homework, or tv or whatever going on, and he never got a chance to listen to his stereo. so he sold it, kept the speakers in the basement and bought a little boombox for the bedroom. funny how parents let so many of their passions slide away for their family. and usually it's little by little. he didn't think they'd work, but he'd send them to me, free of charge. felt it was only fair since my dad had bought them for him and hadn't gotten any money out of the deal.

i got them about two weeks later. he was right, they were a mess. but after closer inspection, it really just looked cosmetic. a cat had clawed up the front of the speakers and that little rheostat in the back was rotted out. dad and i performed our surgery on that again, and i got some linen from the fabric store to recover the speakers with. i've now had them for close to 15 years and wouldn't trade them for anything. they're probably close to 40 years old now and to me still sound wonderful. i've never heard johnny cash or chris isaak sound as good on any other speakers. the stuff i listen to alot at home? the tom petty, traveling wilburies, lucinda williams, harry connick jr, stan getz, garth brooks, foo fighters, stones, aerosmith, lyle lovett, beastie boys, classic billy idol, ramones, suicidal tendancies, social d, bonnie raitt, johnny cougar, the cars, cracker, ccr, dianna krall, dire straits, the donnas, dramarama, dropkick murphys, flogging molly, eagles, eddie money, edie brickell, clapton, sinatra, geoge clinton and the p-funk, george thorogood, good charlotte, green day, iggy pop, old INXS, j. geils band, buffett, kinks, knack, KISS, lenny kravitz, living colour, skynard, michael penn, miles davis, old crue, nirvana, paul westerberg/grandpa boy/placemats, old peter gabriel, the police, portishead, STP, stray cats, talking heads, thelonius monk, violent femmes, weezer, zztop and whatever else i can't think of now, it all sounds great on those old AR's. and the icing on the cake? we lost my uncle about ten years ago to cancer. so that old set of speakers is a link to him.

when i'm listening to music, i'm not a fan of surround sound. i want to be over here, while the music comes at me from over there. i don't want to be in the middle of the band. i want to sit on the couch (or really lay on the floor with my feet up on the couch) and feel the music wash over me. feel the base vibrate through the floor. i love being equal distance between the speakers and cranking the volume and listening for little subtle nuances in the recording. a real pleasure is a song where the producer took full advantage of the stereo medium and i can pick up the differences of one speaker vs. the other.

i'm growing up. i keep feeling pressured to invest in a house, but to be honest don't want the headache involved. i love being able to call a landlord when something is broken. i'm totally capable, i just don't want to waste the little time i have fixing things that have broken. but the reality is, i need to quit paying money to someone else every month for rent. i should be making that money work for me. the biggest argument for me buying a house though? is so that after a year away like this? or a long roadtrip? i want to be able to come home, drop my bags by the door, plug my mp3 player in, pick one of my favorite songs, and blast the hell out of it without having to hear a neighbor complain...
leelee had a post today about her new blog where she's going to showcase music that she plays while cleaning the kitchen. the music has turned a totally dreadful experience into something she looks forward too. i'm the same way. friday nights after work i'll get sick of looking at the piles of clothes on the washer and i'll kick the stereo on and do some cleaning. i'll usually wash/dry/fold the clothes, do a load of dishes and just kind of decompress. then about every other sunday i'll kick the doors open and get a good cross breeze going, turn up the stereo and do the stupid chores like vacuuming, general straightening, etc... the music just makes it so much easier to get stuff done.

things changed significantly with the arrival of my ipod. i won it for filling out a survey about a website i used to have. up until then, i thought they were pretty stupid, and couldn't understand why people would spend the money for one. i had a PDA and i stored music on it, and used it as a walkman on roadtrips, etc... but with it, i had to rotate my songs out from time to time, and that was just as much of a chore as lugging cd's around. it wasn't til i got the ipod that i realized how wonderful it was to just rip all my cds once and then never touch them again. the ipod went everywhere with me. plug it into the stereo and use it as an alarm clock to wake up to the song of my choice, then plug it into the car and play my music on the way to work instead of listening to jabbering idiots. then plug it into the computer at work and listen to it all day there, again for the commute home, then plug it back into the home stereo.

it was such a great little device. i loved the way that it created playlists for me, categorized my music, and stuff like that. it learned what my favorite songs are and i could just chose that playlist for hours of music. when i wanted softer stuff to fall asleep to, it was easy enough to create those kinda of playlists. it just seemed like the greatest thing in the world.

then the honeymoon was over. the battery life started getting shorter and shorter, drastically so. i deployed here and for some reason decided to take the protective case off of it. i babied this thing for the first 7 months of its life. never dropped it, kept it in a rubberized case, the works. i took the case off, and to my shock the body of the player had started to seperate. the metal half of it had warped and pulled away from the plastic part of the body. i immediately contacted apple and was told it was out of warranty. i could pay 50 bucks to have the battery replaced, but that was it. they informed me that the battery must've overheated and warped the case, but that wasn't a manufacturer's defect? say what?

i wish i could say i was surprised, but i wasn't. when i deployed to afghanistan in 2001, i bought an apple ibook. within 30 days, the dvd stopped opening. i emailed apple and was basically told that i'd have to lose the ibook for 2 weeks for it to be repaired. 2 weeks in afghanistan time = 45-60 days. i asked if they could annotate it so i could swap it out for a new one when i returned to the states. i really didn't want a less-than-a-month old laptop repaired, i wanted it replaced. no luck. repair was apparently my only option. when i got home, i planned to pick back up being a full time employee and full time student, i couldn't afford to be without a laptop for two weeks. i didn't have a choice though, so immediately after i got it back i sold it on ebay. however by this time it wasn't a 30 day old laptop, it was a year old laptop and i took a big hit on it.

so i wasn't surprised to hear they weren't standing behind their ipod product, even after a lawsuit was raised against them for mis advertising their battery life. what DID surprise me though, was to realize that the unit we replaced here in iraq had purchased the same model ipod i had, at about the same time(this unit does alot of stuff with radio stations and loudspeaker broadcasts, so it's necessary to record alot of audio clips for playback later, hence the need for the mp3 player). these were all less than a year old. and they had 100% failure rate. so we now have about 20 paperweights. once again, apple didn't feel that this was a warranty problem.

i suffered on. the player still played and i still babied it. but then it glitched. i don't know what happened, but all of a sudden it didn't have all of my music anymore. fortunatey, i had it all on my laptop. all i had to do was sync it again, start over from scratch, right? nope. the battery on the ipod is so shot that it wouldn't stay powered up long enough to transfer all my music. and instead of realizing that it had transferred half of it when it recharged, it always thinks it has to start over again from the beginning.

so i've switched. i'm totally convinced that i have to have the mp3 player. i used it more than enough to warrant the cost. my sanity is worth $288 bucks. i'll just never buy another apple product. the kind of sad part though was that my new mp3 player showed up last week (a creative zen vision:m, i highly recommend it, although you'll need to read the brief instructions to figure the buttons out, it's not quite as intuitive as the ipod) and it didn't really thrill me that much. i'm a huge gadget freak, and normally i love ripping open new boxes and playing with a new toy. but i kinda already knew everything about this one. it was just a really expensive toy to replace a really expensive toy i had but that didn't work right. there wasn't that same sense of newness about it. damn those apple folks for taking my joy away! the other kind of sad part is that i lost some of my music. without realizing it, i'd saved alot of it in apple's proprietary format. so i'll have to spend some time and money obtaining that music again. yay!

i have NO idea how i got here from talking about leelee's new blog.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

it's time to get the hell outta this place...

it started out kind of "blah" today. my next door neighbor (when i say this, don't think of apartment dwellings or anything. there's a seven foot tall wall between us with about 3 feet of open space above it to the ceiling...) had guard duty this morning, but i didn't know that. so i woke up and the lights were off (the light switch is on his side of the wall) and so i thought he was still asleep. so i moused around until almost noon, trying not to make too much noise. the two of us keep getting hit up with stupid tasks that keep one of us, or the other or both up till all hours of the night so we get kind of protective of each other's sleep. finally about noon i popped my head over the wall, saw he wasn't there and finally started packing and getting stuff done. took a late lunch with a guy who came up to fix some equipment we have. he hadn't seen this base before, so instead of going back to work after lunch, i drove him around some. when i got back to the house, i did some more packing and then realized that the guy who normally runs everyone's laundry in wasn't here today and i probably better pick up the slack. by this time my neighbor was back from guard duty so he pitched in. we dropped the laundry off and picked up the clean stuff and realized we really didn't want to go back to the house yet. it was a BEAUTIFUL day here and we had a hmmwv with no doors or top on it. so we just went cruising around the base. just went crazy climbing up on top of all this gear and taking silly pictures, drove a little faster than we probably should've, and enjoyed the wind on our faces.

so if we had such a great end to the day, why is it time to get out of here? at the dining facility for dinner tonight, we were looking around and laughing at all the pink faces. today was the first WARM day here this year. we've had warm days, but not like today. and for the last week it's been cold and rainy and overcast. alot of people got sun today. it was so warm that when i went to take a shower tonight, i actually had cool water and it felt great. it's warming up here, and all i could think about in the shower was how hot and miserable it got last last year over the summer. 140 degree heat, vehicles overheating, kevlar helmets and body armor, carrying a basic load + of ammo for two weapons and water and all the electronics equipment whenever we got out of a vehicle... being away from the base for days so having to get into the same salt-crusted uniform for a couple days in a row because we were packing light... it got so hot last year that a guy burnt his toungue on water that was sitting on top of the transmission housing. we used to have to sit on towels in the vehicle to keep from burning ourselves and this was with the a/c running! so i'm more than happy to miss that heat this summer.

today was awesome though...

Friday, April 07, 2006

secret confession...

while it's nowhere near as juicy as hoarding food, i have to confess that it wasn't laziness that kept me from linking to everyone's blogs... well, okay, it was SOME laziness. the real reason was this fear i always have of doing such things wrong, either leaving someone out or putting them in an order that isn't complimentary to someone. and everyone who reads this is a mature adult who i know wouldn't be bothered by such things, but it's still the weirdness that is me... i obsess about such things.

it's YOUR fault that i don't write more...

... so many of you have good blogs of your own (and i'm way to lazy to list them, go through the comments and follow the links!) that i spend all my spare time reading your stuff instead of writing my own. see? if you sucked a little more, i'd write a little more. your fault. not mine. yours...

of course, the fact that i just got my new mp3 player in the mail doesn't help, nor the endless hours spent getting personnel records in order for us to go home and demobilize, or the carlos mencia dvds that just showed up or the trig homework, or because we were up til 5:30 this morning trying to track down personnel and a forklift to move pallets of gear, then woken back up at 8 to start the day by stupid people who slept while we got stuff done...but i'm blaming it on ya'll.

there are ideas. i've got this thing about how much military training sucks, especially after 5 years of continued combat operations, something about how i felt cheated by my high school reunion, an "i love me" post about how i sat back and realized alot of the things that have happened this year that i'm proud of and a thing about a.d.d. which i think would be interesting based on the wide variety of people who might respond to it... someday i'll get to those, and the rant about how awful apple ipods and apple customer service are counterbalanced with a "thank you" post to all the companies that supported me and my group...

anyways, i'm off to do homework and then bed. hope everyone has a great weekend! and hurry back, because i need to get my blog fix...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

my recommended reading...

... is ramboambo's blog. most of the people who read this all know/read one another already, so i'm not going to point you to someplace that you already go. but alot of you have said that you like reading about what's going on down here from a soldier's viewpoint. well amber is a medic who was deployed down here for a year at the same bases i've been at and is already home. so you get to read the whole journey from her. and being a female and a medic, it's just two different viewpoints than mine.

i recommend if you read her blog, that you start at the beginning and work your way up to the most current. i started mine mid-tour, so you miss alot of the angst from the beginning. as a reservist/guardsman it really, really sucks. with me, they pulled me on active duty and ripped me away from my civilian job 2 months before we deployed to the combat zone. it was really painful. you're all geared up, mentally ready, and then you get stuck in this HUGE holding pattern. and it's largely just piss-poor planning. this war has been going on for 5 years now. reserve and guard units are shouldering a large portion of the burden. there is no excuse for our training to be substandard, and our readiness levels to be at the state where it requires 2-7 months of training and prep work to deploy overseas. 2-3 weeks maybe, but not months on end. you feel alot of the frustration reading her blog.

she hits on the frustrations of combat. i've tried to stay away from some of that stuff for a variety of reasons. opsec, the fact that i have problems after the fact explaining what happened and ran through my mind, a sense of disbelief after it's over and other stuff. she just does it much better then i've ever been able to. the other thing that she hits that i haven't experienced yet is the home-coming. her blog ends rather abruptly with only one post since she's been home. and you can tell that she's having problems explaining everything that's going on, and that while she feels goofy for saying some of what she's saying, like she's being melodramatic, she's not. and has to say it if she's trying to explain it.

anyways, if you're one of the ones that has commented on being interested in this stuff, read it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

i'm soooooo tired...

.... which conveniently enough, gives me an opportunity to share one of my more favorite songs, which is "Cot" by "The Carnival Strippers".

we've been working some long hours here for the last month. not every single day, but we've had more than a couple 20-22 hr days lately. i rolled out of bed when the alarm when off this morning after just a couple hours of sleep, but mid-morning it really started to hit me. i know that i'm tired when i start feeling a weird, weak/numb kind of feeling in the back of my knees, like they could buckle at anytime. i've had that all day.

it's worth it though, as long as we don't make stupid mistakes. i was positive we'd go into a "lull" period at about the 8th or 9th month, where we'd really just be bored silly and time would seem to drag alot. but that's never really happened. so much different stuff has happened along this deployment that it keeps things fresh. so even now, after being away from home for some 14 months, it still feels like time is flying.

hope everyone is doing well.

Monday, April 03, 2006

one of the things i like most about being deployed... how appreciative you become of little things. right now all i need to be happy is a steady stream of reading material, clean sheets from time to time and for people to be quiet every once in awhile so i can sleep late. we get some cool-guy toys from time to time, and those are always fun, but life is just really distilled to the basics here. so things like those movies coming in the other day, or my new running shoes showing up today can totally have me happy for the entire day. all day today, even during the stressful times i was singing my "i've got my new shoes, i've got my new shoes" song today. hell, i was so happy to have them, i even went for a run!

when i'm at home i'm always looking for something stupid to spend money on. fortunately i've become ALOT better at just looking instead of buying, but i'm such a freaking gadget freak. granted it's good in some ways because of my job, but largely that's just an excuse i use to justify buying new stuff.

the last deployment i was on was even more of a shock to me. i kind of knew what to expect this time, but last time we had no power for a large portion of my time in afghanistan. no power meant no tv, no laptops, no movies... and early bedtimes or reading by flashlight. we just sat outside and watched the sunset every night. it was awesome. this time we've got juice, but i still just don't have time to veg like i do at home. cheers has really been my guilty indulgence lately, and it's only two or three episodes a night, and usually i'm working while i'm watching.

it's not just the fact that we had to pack light to get over here. it's going out into the local towns and seeing how little the folks here have. it really makes you re-evaluate the tons of useless junk you've collected at home, and realize just how lucky you really are.

anyways, it recenters you and your focus in alot of ways and really gets your priorities straight. that's never a bad thing. people pay serious money for this back in the states... and their insurance doesn't cover ammo!
my guys are funny. today was painful. very, very painful. when we got here, our commander made it a policy to do whatever we could to make it easy on the guys we were replacing to go home. he didn't care if they gave us dirty or broken equipment. they'd been here for 8 months, worked hard and we were fresh. he figured we could take the load. so now we've been here for a year, our replacements are here, and it'd be nice to get the same treatment. no such luck. the guy who's leading the bunch is well within his rights to be such a nit-picky individual. when he signs his name on the line and assumes control of this operation, he's the one responsible, so i understand his wanting everything to be just so.

but at the same time, he needs us for alot of things. what goes around comes around. there are alot of hints and tips and tricks that we're not obligated to mind meld and give to him. we've worked hard to make friends and contacts in the area, and they're under no obligation to warm up to the new guys like they did to us. the question though is what to do. for alot of the hints and tips and tricks i wouldn't feel right not sharing that stuff, or at least trying to. from what i've seen, alot of the new youngsters really want to listen and learn from us, but the boss might blow us off. he's a bit of a know-it-all. i think if we have alot of one-on-one conversations they'll appreciate what we're giving them. and all we're obligated to do is try, right? "you can lead a horse to water..." but the friends thing is another issue. i don't want to sour relationships with anyone because of this guy. and the reality is that i'll probably be back over here again for some reason or another, and bump into some of these same guys again. and i want to pick up these mutually beneficial friendships where we left off. it's nice to know that you can count on some guys to cover your back when you need it, and that's not speaking figuratively.

it's funny. i had volunteered to stay an extra six months with these guys to help them out before i really met them. i guess someone was looking out for me when the word came down "no."

wow, i got WAY off topic there. anyways, back to the reason why my guys are funny. in an earlier post i mentioned how i keep saying that people needed to be more upbeat and cheerful around here, and move with a purpose. everything that we're doing now is so that we can go HOME! but instead alot of them focus on the negative and grouse. so my saying has been "you know, if getting kicked in the crotch every morning for the next month until we go home was a requirement to get out of this godforsaken place, i'd take my kick with a smile and say "thank you, can't wait until i see you again tomorrow."" or something to that effect. well, today when things were really starting to get ugly, one of my guys pipes up "hey, ssg mac? that kick in the nuts you were talking about? can i pick that instead?" then later on after we got chewed on by higher-ups for awhile for not having things "just so" someone said "well, today's kick in the balls is over, can't wait for tomorrow's." see? they do pay attention...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

an old boss used to say...

"you've got 15 minutes (or five or ten, depending on time constraints) to bitch, moan and complain or to suggest an alternative solution, but then you need to move out and execute your mission." i liked that policy and adopted it for my own when dealing with subordinates.

some of my biggest gripes here are the numbers of awards being given out, the criteria for giving them out and the quick promotion process here. it's upset me so much that i actually went and requested that i not be submitted for an award at all, because i didn't want to weaken the meaning of the awards. i came over here as a communications sergeant but have really done less communications and more operations, personnel and supply stuff. the comms were up and working, or were easy to get up and working and people needed help in those other areas. i really just feel that 95% of us are just doing our jobs here and don't deserve special recognition for that. they don't give out awards just for showing up to work on time at wal-mart (or didn't when i worked there). i was over-ridden though and given a fairly high award. now i can't lie, after reading the justification for the award that was submitted, i was honored to see that my bosses felt that highly about me, but i would've gone home happy just having served.

this morning a lot of our very young, very inexperienced guys got promoted to sergeant. this is a big step in the army. it's their official step into leadership roles. granted, some of them might've had some big responsibilities before this, but this is really the point where they start influencing new soldiers and molding them into tomorrow's leaders. and the fact that these guys haven't had the experience or the training necessary for this promotion really didn't sit well with me. to the point where as soon as the ceremony was over, i left without congratulating any of them or shaking their hands, because i didn't want to "endorse" the promotions myself.

at some point today though, my own words rang through my head. "you've got 15 minutes to bitch, moan and complain or suggest an different solution, but then you need to move out and draw fire." and i realized that i'd already been bitching about this all year. i'd suggested alternatives, but nobody listened to me. so the time has come to man up, accept it and make the best out of it. what's this mean? it means i need to change my leadership style. step it up a notch if you will. i need to kick their asses a little more while they're in the lower ranks. make sure they understand the importance of standards, and realize what those standards are, then make sure the meet those standards. when they get promoted to sergeant, i need to hold them to task when their subordinates aren't being trained right, mentored right or are failing on the job. i've identified the problem, now it's my responsibility to do everything i can to minimize the effects of it.

stuff like this just keeps life interesting.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

quick bullets

a lot of stuff is happening right now, so i don't have tons of time. but i did want to jot some stuff down. this kinda started as a place for me to keep track of what happened and when so this post is more for my future reference than anything. in the last couple days:

-i've read and corrected more ncoers than any one man should, especially a person who isn't in the rating chain and who isn't a personnel specialist

-put a deposit on a h-d sportster. it'll be the first brand-new vehicle i've ever bought. it's weird, because i'm starting to enjoy riding less. i can see myself probably giving it up completely in the next five or ten years. my sense of invincibility is gone. the last time i had a bike (over a year ago) i caught myself enjoying it less and being worried more. so this is my last hurrah. which really impacted my decision making process. instead of looking at pure andrenaline rush bikes, i was considering things like resale value. damnit, i'm maturing again.

-the first wave of our replacements have shown up. this is kind of bittersweet. it's a light at the end of the tunnel. we're happy to be going home. but i'm sad about it as well. the sense of purpose, etc are all going to have to be redefined and found elsewhere in the next couple of weeks. also, there are a lot of things about this operation that are mine. i'm going to have to turn the reigns over to someone else and realize they're going to make changes. as the operations sergeant, this has kind of been my baby...

-i've gotten 3 of my favorite stupid movies in the mail. these were sanity savers. i love movies like this, that i know by heart, that i can put in and have playing in the background and i know just where to stop to catch the funny part. "big trouble in little china", "real genius" and "weird science".

- i've realized how close we are to going home, and how not ready i am. i am still 2.5 classes away from finishing my degree. i don't think i'm going to make the goal of finishing it before going home. so now i have to decide whether or not to wait on the job hunt until i have it completed or not. and i also realize how not ready i am for the job hunt. i've known i needed to get my resume completed and start it circulating, but i've procrastinated. i just dislike the process.

-just had another weird example of people bending over backwards to help us. there is a group of guys here who has better access to buy stuff off the local economy than we do. we used to have the ability, but we turned funds in as we were getting close to leaving. we've got a really bad leak in the roof of the building we live in, and so we'd asked them if they could get us some tar. i figured i'd just pay out of pocket for it. these individuals then just took this project over. all of a sudden we've got a multi-person work crew out there patching our roof, and they refused to let us help or pay for anything. i have no idea what we do to make people like us so much. it's weird. in the last month so many people have stepped forward with true acts of friendship and kindness to help us out.

-alot of new people have stopped by to read and comment. it's kind of humbling. thanks to everyone who has made a link or a reference about this.