Friday, December 9, 2011

Home Sweet Hawaii

Ric made it home safely on Thanksgiving morning. When I first got to the hangar, there was a big rainbow stretching over the runway where Ric's plane would land - it was such a beautiful reminder of God's promise and faithfulness. It was an hour before the plane was due to land and I was already tearing up! The homecoming was the most amazing event I have ever been involved with. Watching families being reunited, daddies seeing their babies for the first time, and injured Marines welcoming their brothers home is a beautiful thing. Ric was one of the last Marines to get off the plane so I had time to take in everything around me. Once I saw him, however, it was like someone slapped blinders on my face. I don't have the words to describe the feelings of welcoming my love back from Afghanistan. Getting to see & hug Ric after seven months of praying for his life and his safety was shear ecstasy. It's a cliche, but everything was right in the world. I felt like I could relax for the first time in months. Having Ric home is a good thing!

Since Ric's been home, we have been enjoying Hawaii (what's not to love?!). He had four days off before he started work again so the first day or two (or three) he slept A LOT. Like 15 hours a day. I got to know every corner of the hotel real fast. But once he could hold his eyes open for longer than a meal, we ventured out to the beaches. When Ric started back at work, only half days till January, I started familiarizing myself with base. All is well and we're so thankful for this time we have together before coming home for Christmas and the wedding. It's going to be a busy two weeks at home but I couldn't be more excited!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Not Much To Say

Well, this blog is pretty pointless for the trip home. I cant talk about where I am going and when I am going there. Boo.

I'm assuming this is going to be my last post though because these next few days I will be pretty busy. And I am not the type to blog on a regular basis, if you haven't already caught that from the past 6 months.

What I can tell you is that I am in Leatherneck now and it has been fantastic! The food is great. The hot water is great. The weather is great. The lack of things to do is great. The USO is great. The wireless internet is great. And all of these great things equal a fantastic time after leaving Kajaki. I definitely didn't obide by the PT shower rules posted on the walls in the head. 1) Turn water on, get wet, turn water off. 2) Soap up. 3) Turn water on, rinse off, turn water off. No way. Instead, it was more like this. 1) Turn water on away from body until it gets hot because you have had enough cold showers. 2) Stand under the hot water for as long as you'd like. 3) I know it feels good, but don't forget to clean yo, nasty self. 4) Continue to stand under the water until you are clean, then stand under it some more. If you can't tell, it was a wonderful experience.

Some very cold weather in in my near future, and that is a terrifying thought. I'd almost rather go back to Kajaki. Almost. Oh well, after that, it will be Hawaii so I think I will make it.

The Noles are just terrible. We need to stop talking them up at the beginning of every year until they give us a great season. Booooo. Way to put me in a bad mood on my way home from deployment.

Oh, I snuck an FSU football in my CO's pack so when he gets home he will find it! He hates Florida State (big Clemson fan) so I'm really looking forward to hearing about that one after the 96.

Well, I guess thats about all I've got to say for now. I am safe. I am sound. And I will be home soon. Love you all

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Little More Rain

Well... good news. Other than the fact that I am headed home soon, it has only rained a little bit more out here. I was a worried the rainy/cold season would catch us here, but it doesn't look like it. That is great news because if you know me, you know I hate cold weather! Unless I'm on a snowboard. Then and only then is cold weather a LOT of fun. It is snowing in Manas however so I am not looking forward to traveling through there. And it better not delay our flight out.

I helped a little boy out today. It felt great too. We got a call from one of our southern patrol bases that said a station wagon was on its way up to the FOB with a boy that had been shocked by telephone wire. Being that he was completely clothed, they thought it was just his hand, but when he got up here it, the boy was burned on the entire right side of his body. We searched the vehicle to make sure it was clear and I showed them on the FOB to the aid station to get further care. (By the way, when I say showed, I mean I drove in front of them on our new Polaris Rangers which are $13,000 a piece. And they are wicked!) Because the burn was so bad, we requested an immediate air evacuation and I escorted the locals down to the LZ with a corpsman, interpreter and local police officer. Once we got to the LZ, I helped the Doc with the patient. He was just 11 years old and completely blistered from his right ankle all the way up his leg, hip, ribs, and right arm. It looks like he grabbed the wire with his right hand and the shock ran all the way down that side of his body. But you know what? Not one tear. It was amazing. I cry when I touch a burner. You could tell that he was in a lot of pain... he was clinching his teeth and flinching every now and then and his right leg was twitching too. Impressive. Kids here are a different breed in more ways than one though. They also work from the time they can walk. It is normal to see a 5 year old boy leading a donkey down the road with hay on its back. It's crazy. And this kid was probably helping with running electric wire. What are our 5 and 11 year olds doing? Anyway, as the bird approached I threw out the smoke for a mark to let the bird know where to land and we turned the kid over to the MEDEVAC crew.

On the topic of helicopters... last week I got to help out with a HST lift. We had some big refrigerators that were broken and needed to be flown out. IT WAS SWEET. Let me tell you why. Basically, you get to stand next to the reefer (fridge) with a chain in hand. The bird hovers right over your head with a wire hanging down and a loop on the end. All you do is hook up the chain to the loop. But having a machine so big flying right above your kevlar is a cool experience. Maybe it doesn't sound as fun written out... but I promise... good time.

Other than those two bits of news... I'm in the process of turning over all of the Battalion and Regiment gear to the next unit. I am so pumped about this. It has been my biggest headache the entire deployment. I don't think anything has been more exciting to think about than turning this gear over. And the time has finally come!!!

Alrighty then, hope everyone is doing well! Hawaii bound soon! Love you guys.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back early

Lookie here. I am writing on the blog and it hasn't been another month.

I went up to the Observation Post for a couple days, but after the very first day I started feeling guilty. There was nothing going on. No enemy activity hardly at all. So all I ended up doing was relaxing, sleeping, and sitting on post. It was a great time, don't get me wrong, but like I said, I was feeling guilty. I don't like sitting around not doing much on deployment. It made me feel like I was wasting my opportunity out here. For the first time. That being said, I came back after three days and got back to more exciting paperwork.

Right now it's not all that exciting on the FOB. Everyone is working on submitting their leave paperwork to send to me so that I can look over it and make sure their plans are sound. If so, I'll recommend it and forward it up the chain of command. I'm also working on Equipment Density Lists concerning all of our serialized gear to make sure we take home the correct gear and turn it in back in K-Bay. And the smoother that whole process goes, the quicker we can all go home and enjoy time with family and friends. The last thing I am focusing a lot of attention on is my duties as the Plane Team Commander on the flight home. Surprise surprise right, just another job for me. This one entails keeping everyone informed of our flight times, ensuring we all make it through customs by not having prohibited items and keeping accountability of everyone at all of our stops. Sounds exciting, I know.

Alrighty, well hope you all are doing great. Love you guys.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thankfully, Time Continues to Fly

I had this bad feeling that as time got closer to leave that it would start creeping along. So far that is not the case. And that is a great thing. Some if it probably has to do with how busy we have been around here lately. I thought things were crazy before, and it has certianly been turned up a notch since then. Annnnd guess what? I love it.

Last week I spent about 5 days up at one of our Observation Posts (OP). It was great to be on top of a mountain and watching all of the operations going on as opposed to being in the Combat Operations Center making all the operations happen. I liked being an observer for a little bit. Actually I am headed back up there tomorrow for another week. Then when I get back I will be turning things over to the new battery! YESSS! While I was on the OP we had our first rain of the season. At least the first rain that I have seen. Supposedly a few days prior is sprinkled a little bit. It was great to have different weather, but at the same time it was not fun being on top of a mountain in a storm. Not only was I on top of a mountain, but I was in a tower on top of the mountain. Then the lightening came. I had just gotten off post and laid down in my stretcher that was suspended about 10 ft off the ground in the tower when BOOOOM. It was like daylight in the tower. Yep, we were struck by lightening. I thought a bomb went off right next to us so I was actually glad for a second that it was just lightening. The three guys on post were luckily not touching metal and since I was suspended off of the metal I was good too. We quickly evacuated the tower though and got rained on in a bunker for about an hour. While sitting in the bunker, it reminded me of the miserable times I had freezing my butt off at TBS and I was instantly happy. It was bad, but it was no where near as bad as it was in Quantico. That's why we train that way.

I had a soldier try and knock the Marines once saying that Marines are such robots that when but in a bad situation, they accept it. While a soldier, for instance, if sitting in a fighting hole is freezing his butt off, will grab a heater and put it next to him. He is somewhat right, but mostly wrong. He is right that he and a lot of his buddies will look for a more comfortable situation, BUT he is wrong about the mentality of the Marines. When we train, we accept the bad situations because we know it is preparing us for the worst case scenario. Not because we are dumb robots. So as I was sitting in the bunker on top of a windy mountain getting rained on, with no electricity around me... I was glad that I had to sit in the snow for hours on end in Quantico with nothing to heat me up but my wet jacket. It made me harder. And it made me appreciate the fact that at least I was not getting snowed on.

Haven't gotten mail in a while but we should be getting some today. I am looking forward to that. In case you have forgotten... its past time when you can send packages, so please, no more. If you do send a package, just mark that it can go to any soldier or troop. Because I am sure after 4 months when it shows up on my door in Hawaii that nothing in it will be good.

I love you guys... and time.... keep on tickin'

Friday, September 30, 2011

Is summer over?

Hello everyone!

This is much easier to do if I keep it updated weekly but oh well! I guess I'm too much of a bum to stay on top of it. Julia got on to me this time and told me I need to get back to updating this more often.

You'll notice one thing different about me. I now double space after periods. It's crazy how quickly I got into the habit. I know its the proper thing to do but I have never done it until now. Not even in college. The reason I now double space and the reason I have not written in a while is because I have spent this whole month writing awards. The last thing I felt like doing after writing awards all day was to come back here and write some more. In total I wrote 21 awards, 12 of which were at least a page of military writing and four of them over two pages. The first few awards I had to go back and fill in a space after each period so I made myself learn quickly. And now I double space without even thinking about it. All the time. No matter who I am writing to or what I am writing about.

I have spent a lot of this month thinking about Hawaii. More than most. I am so excited about being home in November and seeing Julia when I step off the plane. It is going to be so nice to be "home." Which of course lets you know how excited I will be when I actually do get to my real home in December. You guys have no idea how important you are to me. You don't realize how special the people closest to you are until you can't have them around. I appreciate you all very much.

Other than award writing we've been pretty busy. As most of you know, the troops will be starting to pull out soon, but you wouldn't know it up here. We are continuing to roll on like normal. And I love it

September 11th was a great experience up here. It was so neat to fight for our freedom on that day. There was something special about it. Kind of sad that we are still over here 10 years later, but I can see that if we had come here and left quickly, it would not have changed much. These locals need to see stability and they also need a lot of guidance before we just take off. It's been fun taking part in working with the local police force. They are a mess. I had chai tea with them the other night and let me tell you... it was GREAT. They heat up the water by plugging two wires directly into the socket and place the other ends into the water. It works pretty well. Seeing the article of me on the internet on Sept 11 was pretty sweet too. I was excited to see what Julia and my mom said. That will be a neat thing to hold on to for the next few years... or the next forever years.

We celebrated Memorial Day with ribs and steak and then celebrated the Air Force birthday on the 18th with steak, chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy. We love celebrating holidays and birthdays because they send us all kinds of good food to celebrate it with. The Marine Corps birthday will be the best. Obviously. Not only because of the food but because we will start leaving Kajaki shortly after. And leaving this place after all the Marines have been through will be a joyous time. I know I'll miss it though. I can already feel a part of me is attached to this place. I'm already thinking about my next deployment and I keep hoping I get to come back here. It's such a unique area.

Really, I think thats about all I can update you on. All the operations are still Secret and on a "need to know basis" only. You guys be safe and I look forward to seeing you in a little over two months. Stay warm! It sure has stayed warm here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back to School

Some of you may think that I am in a pretty crummy place... BUT I will take being here over that "back to school" feeling! I always dreaded that. I'm sure Julia would like to get on to me for saying that :)

Sheesh, a lot has happened this past month. I doubt I will be able to remember everything.

First thing first, we got a notification from the Battalion that everyone should be back in Hawaii NLT 27 November. That is, if we don't have any issues with flights. Which is not likely. On the way here you remember we were stuck in Ireland for a couple days because they could not seal the door shut. As much as I would enjoy getting stuck in Ireland again, if it were to happen on the way home I'd be bummed. Now, all the units will not get back on the 27th. The batteries will be heading home in a few waves. Of course, my battery will be the last one to Hawaii since we were the last ones to leave. Being that I thought we wouldn't be back until after the first week of December, I'll take 27 November any day of the week. I asked Julia if I could have pizza for Thanksgiving since she is going to be there to see me... she said yes! I really miss the taste of pizza. Bob's Pizzeria to be exact. I crave it ALMOST as much as Piggys BBQ. I really miss that brisket.

Now, as for the deployment. The marines are still trucking along. I'm impressed with them more and more every day. The strength they have to pull through things out here is remarkable. Its tough, we are working on giving out awards and I think they all deserve something. But, we have a certain amount we can give out. All I can do is write up as many as I can, as well as I can, and hope they will work. Its my number one priority right now. I need to have most of them done in the next two weeks.

The Commanding Officer from the battery that will be replacing us just left. They usually send CO's out a couple of months before they are coming to get an idea of the job they will have when they arrive. I was able to get the name of the guy replacing me, send him an email and give the CO all kind of information I wish I would have had. Its exciting to think about replacements! I never knew whose spot I was taking or what Kajaki was really going to be like but I'm going to help these guys out as much as I can.

I feel like a fatty. I just ate Nilla Wafers (thanks mom) dipped in Nutella (don't remember who sent it). Never had to combination before, but its pretty tasty. Though, a lot is more tasty out here than it is in the states. Another example is Arizona Sweet Tea. The stuff used to be nasty, but now its my go to drink. We have a couple marines travel back to Camp Leatherneck once a month for comm gear and they grab me 6 every time they go. Mmm mmm good.

I've had weird sleeping habits lately. Can't fall asleep until around 0100, wake up at 0500 or 0600, then have to take a nap in the middle of the day. I am not exhausted because of it. I'm actually getting used to it. Just worried about what its going to be like when I get home... how long it will take to get back into a rhythm. Of course it will take a while because the traveling to Hawaii will throw me off... then traveling to Florida a couple weeks later will throw me off... then the wedding and afterward [:)] will throw me off... then traveling back to Hawaii will throw me off. Thats a lot of getting thrown off a schedule. Oh well, its all going to be so exciting that it will be worth it!

My new room is wonderful. I am loving the privacy. I worked on fixing it up the past couple weeks. Painted the walls, build some hangars, fixed my door handles and patched up some holes in the doors.

Mail from June is still trickling in. Its crazy how old and beat up some of these packages are looking. The ones who wrote Kajaki on the boxes get here fast. No later than two weeks after it is sent.

Services are going very well. I'm still not getting a lot of people to come, but the ones that do come are pretty consistent and are enjoying it. I cant believe I have this opportunity, every day it excites me. A marine preaching every week, twice a week. Just last week we got a few combat replacements in and one of them is a young marine who led a couple bible studies back in HQ Battery where he came from. He said he would love to start helping out so I think he may start teaching every other Wednesday. That will help ease my work load quite a bit. Studying what to teach takes a good chunk of my time.

Alright, I am going to try and get some sleep. Hope you are all doing well. Love you guys.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Julia's Life

Ric is apparently on strike.  He refuses to post again until I contribute to the Blog.  I'm not a Miller yet so I don't really see how this applies to me but here goes nothing.  Also, just so you are forewarned, my life is not nearly as exciting as the deployed artillery officer's.

Last night I wrapped up seven years of teaching swim lessons.  I'm still lifeguarding through September and have started back with the Champions program put on by Titus.  I have been cleared to work as a substitute teacher in Leon County and will start pursuing that next week.  These things, plus planning a wedding and sending our spoiled Marine care packages, are what I do to keep time from crawling too slowly.  And a lot of trips to the beach, of course.

I moved home in June to avoid either searching for a month by month lease or breaking a lease.  Living at home, I'm able to save more and will hopefully have my car paid off by the time Ric and I get married allowing us to start off completely debt free - a goal or ours.  Everyone at home is sooooo happy that I moved back and we party all the time!  ...that might not be completely true, but I'm enjoying this time with my family.

Your prayers and continued support for Ric are so appreciated.  He is now more than halfway through his deployment!  December can't come fast enough.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Good Night

Wow, what a good night. I just had a great talk with a Marine about the Lord. Obviously I will refrain from going into the details, but it all boiled down to stop trying to be strong. When we are weak, His strength is made perfect. So why do we try to beat everything when we can let go and allow the perfect power of God take control? ... a good thought.

People. I am sorry I am have not written lately. But things have been going very well. My job has gone from something that I love doing to something even greater. Along with my job, I have the opportunity to preach the Word of God twice a week. As I said in my past post... Wednesdays I am going through the books of Peter. We are only on 1 Peter 1 and we've only gotten to verse 4. Its been 3 weeks! Haha I love it. God has definitely been giving me good stuff to say that we need to hear... all in 4 verses. My Sunday sermons have been great as well. The first one was on Ezekiel 37, the valley of the dry bones and why hope is essential. Maybe one day I can tell you all about it. The last Sunday I went through the book of 1 Samuel looking at Israel's search for a leader and the principles a leader should have. We did a lot of looking at the faults of Saul and comparing them to David. Tomorrow will be on the Transfiguration. One of my favorite stories in scripture. I'm really looking forward to it. I actually need to write out my jumbled notes into one organized set of thoughts for tomorrow. I will do that before I go to bed.

TO THOSE OF YOU WHO SEND PACKAGES... READ THIS!! From now on, after you have packaged it up and addressed everything properly, take a marker and write "KAJAKI" on every side of the box. I've noticed this is something the mail clerks do when they send stuff to the wrong location. So when they see KAJAKI they will think they've already messed up once and make sure it gets to the correct place. Julia sent me a package on the 21st and I already got it today! Thats the fastest I've gotten anything. 9 DAYS! And she wrote KAJAKI everywhere.

I got to shoot something new a couple weeks ago. EXCALIBUR! Look it up if you'd like. Its basically a round that is GPS guided and can go up to 40k. This is the ultimate indirect fire for artillery. Its a good $100,000 a round too. So... thanks for the tax dollars... know that I used $200,000 of it within minutes. War IS expensive. We got to shoot it with one of our most powerful propellants as well so it gave the FOB a nice shake. This is why I love artillery. We make the ground shake. I have now shot everything I wanted to shoot in combat. Time to come home right?? Hahaha not quite. BUT only 4 more months to go. Hard to believe its been 3 months since I left Hawaii.

Hawaii. Oh how I miss that place. Just last night I looked up photos of it on Google images just to remind myself that I actually live there. Back when Julia and I were just little love birds in high school, we talked about running away to Hawaii together frequently. True story. I even gave her a sugar packet one time because it was made in Hawaii and told her one day we would live there together. She has the proof to this day. I LOVE IT. We will actually be living in Hawaii together. Dreams do come true. However silly they may seem. Just a fair warning... we also talk a lot about living in Nicaragua one day so watch out!

Alright peoples... I need to get going. I have an early morning ahead of me. I've got new pictures up on Facebook so be sure to check them out. Love you all, and you too Maj. Graham ;)

The other night... forgot to post

July 12-

This evening I snuck out of the COC early so I could get some studying done. And by early I mean 2000. 0600-2000 I think is sufficient for a day. I've spent the last two hours studying the word. And wow, it is nice. I have decided to go through the books of 1 and 2 Peter as a bible study on Wednesdays. Also, on Sunday I will do a more traditional type of service. Music and a topical discussion as opposed to going through verse by verse.

After tomorrow I need to start preparing sermons. I have some that I enjoy… One on leadership from samuel, one on John 9, one on the transfiguration Mark 9, another on the parable of the Sower. Thats only 4 weeks. I have 19 more to go!

This is going to be a challenge for me so I know it will be a learning experience for me. I am praying hard that I teach truth and truth alone. That I don't try too hard to water down any message and simply bring TRUTH. I also want God to show me the best way to teach these men, the best way to communicate to them. I am not worried about results. I am simply concerned with teaching truth and giving Him glory. I pray God gives me the opportunity to be His vessel in leading others to him.

Going to be a fun last 4 months!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

July is among us!

I have never been more excited about the first of the months coming! Just means one month closer to Julia, Hawaii, Tallahassee and my wedding! Its a better feeling than the feeling you get in high school when the year is almost over.

The weather here is quite warm. Funny thing about it though is that I usually work out around 14 or 1500 which is the hottest part. Maybe because it makes me feel like I am working out harder because I sweat more. Pathetic, I know. I don't know if you all remember my pact to not drink soda while I am here BUT that has gone out the window. Its really hard to turn down the only cold drink offered to me once or twice a week. Our cooks keep them in the big refrigerators we have.

It stinks to be here when new things are happening back home. For example, Julia is 22, Caleb is walking, Riley is writing and the family vacation is in about a week!! I guess I get to experience my own new things. Maybe one of the best things about being out here is not having to listen to the news every day. I know what is going on first hand. I don't have to rely on a source begging for viewers. It's nice.

If you saw my Facebook status, you heard about my 4th of July. It was a great day. In the morning, we located an abandoned compound housing explosives so we blew that up. I went with our grunt attachment to run a range for the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) where I shot an AK. We also BZO'ed the SASR (.50 cal sniper rifle) and right before I got to shoot, it malfunctioned. Oh well, maybe next time. I learned some Pashtun so i could talk to the AUP some. Singaye, Judaye, Apayaye is like, hey, how are you, hows your family, hows life in our translation. But instead of answering it with "good" or whatnot, they just say it back. It goes back and forth until they get tired of it I guess. Also, Manana is thank you. I forget what Your Welcome is. I also tried to learn how to count to 10. I had them racing me. They would say it in English and I would say it in Pashtun. yao, duu, dre, ahh I can't remember. Anyway, after that, I came back to the FOB only to have a glorious meal in front of me. Steak, hot dogs, goat, mac n cheese and cake!

Well, looks like they might be needing me in the COC, so much for going to sleep! Love you guys, and thanks so much for the mail Julia, Mom, Chasons, Knipples, Enfingers, Andy, Mama Grandma and Papa, Mopsey, Aunt Sandra, Dick and others that I may have not received yet! I am certainly loved. And overly spoiled!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Little Break

Hello everyone! It's been a while... I've gotten a good taste of how crazy inventory-ing all of our gear is going to be. Very crazy. It took a little over two weeks and a lot of re-tracing my steps. I updated my gear tracker though so it should be a lot better next go around. (5 days!!!)

Exciting news... about a week ago we took small groups back and forth from the dam to go swimming. The water felt AMAZING and the marines loved it. It was a good morale boost for a proven tough week ahead. I'm glad we made the time for it. We also found a boat down there that does not work too well and we didn't use it for any boat rides, but we did hook it to a trailer and bring it to the FOB with hopes of fixing it up nice.

I'm sitting here eating White Cheddar Cheez-it's, drinking Arizona "Southern Style Real Brewed" Sweet Tea and watching The Office. That is what I call IDEAL. I'm pretty excited about this moment right now.

As another month wraps up it is hitting me again how fast time is going. I'm still enjoying it up here. I have such a unique opportunity with this battery and I am not taking it for granted. I'm already looking forward to my future B-Billet which is another 3 1/2 years long where I get to give back to the Marine Corps some and teach. I know for a fact this experience here will be the topic of many discussions.

The tough times we've had the past couple weeks has really brought us together and made us think about how we are running things. Here's an issue I'm learning. When you always win, you think about how you just won and therefore try to keep doing that same thing. Now, when you lose, you think about how you can not ever lose again. Therefore, after a while, the loser has the advantage because they have to force themselves to think outside the box and find a way to be better. Yes, I haven't gotten too good at explaining myself but hopefully you catch my drift. As they say, knowing is half the battle and realizing this will help us continue to see progress in the area. Speaking of progress in the area, the locals are starting to trust us more. We no longer have to pull information from the farmers. They are now starting to come up to us to talk about all kinds of good information. Also, they started telling the insurgents they don't want them in their town anymore because they only bring harm to the area. All of that means it is a very fragile state right now. We have to be very careful not to make any mistakes. The more we show we are here to help and provide stability to the area through training up the local police, it will only get better. The local police are much more disciplined than the Iraqi's were so thats at least one plus!

Alright well I'm going to run! Look me up on Skype as marinemiller29 or Roy F Miller IV. It's turning out to be the best way to communicate. Ta ta for now

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Questions from Julia...

"1. Do you ever to get to eat at Afghani restaurants?

2. Who cooks your dinner? Do you have a designated chef?

3. How do you work out? Do you have a gym?

4. Can you pirate films while on base? How closely do "they" monitor your computer?

5. What is your job on base in Hawaii?

6. How many officers are with you in Kajaki?

I'd like a full description for each question please. Three to four sentences should suffice.

Thank you! Love you! Bye!"

These were presented to me in an email a few days ago and figured if she had these questions, I'm sure others do so why not answer them on here.

1. No. Actually I don't even know if there are any Afghani restaurants. I know for a fact there aren't any where I am, its way too crazy for a restaurant to be around here. The closest I have gotten to Afghani food is the bread that a local guy brings us. He makes it in the bizarre outside the Fob and walks it up to us sometimes. Its pretty good.

2.We have two designated cooks. That is their job in the Marine Corps. They were attached to us before we left and take care of us for breakfast and dinner. We also have a SSgt who is my platoon sergeant, SSgt Robinson, that is an excellent cook so he usually goes down there and teaches them a thing of two about seasoning the food to make it taste better. I have nothing to complain about, I've been really impressed.

3. We do have a "gym." I need to do a better job at taking some pictures. The trick is I cant take pictures of the layout of the Fob so I will have to make sure to zoom in where you can only see the gym. It has two flat benches, a curling station, 1 set of weights from 15 all the way up to 100, a row machine, a few pull-up bars, a squat station, leg press, leg curls, a ghetto pulley system for triceps or lat pull downs and thats about it. It works.

4. This is a scary question. I haven't thought much about "them." I don't pirate films, Julia! I'm a good boy and pay for all my stuff. I guess if I really wanted to I could but it would take forever because the connection is pretty slow.

5. My job on base in Hawaii was Fire Direction Officer. When I get back it will be that, as well as Headquarters Platoon Commander until they move me somewhere else.

6. This is a funny questions because today I met my second general since I've been here. We get ALL KINDS of officers coming to visit for a few hours. Its definitely not uncommon at all. But as for the ones with a more permanent status... about 9.

Well, if anyone else has some questions please ask. It makes my writing a lot easier. Update on myself... I had my own room for one night only to be told the next day that I needed to move out because we have to leave that room open for VIP's that get stuck here. I argued it with some tact trying to get a good reason as to why we have to leave a nice big AC room wide open all the time when one or two nights out of the 6 months someone will be staying in there. I'm here for 6 months, they may have to stay 1 night. I said I'd gladly give my room up when they get here, but it was to no effect. After 4 hours of moving in one night, I got everything back out the next day. Except I took the furniture and internet with me. So I do have shelves, internet, and a bed. Just no privacy. Its okay. I really don't mind. Just wish I had known before I stayed up past midnight unpacking all my stuff. I agree with my commands' decision, just a little frustrating that the word didn't get passed to me until it was too late.

Anyway, I'm going to run. Hope everyone is doing well. Much love!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More rank, more work

Well good evening everyone! I got to sleep in this morning (0730) because we didn't have any patrols going out for once, so I am writing you at 2200 instead of sleeping like usual. For the most part I've been able to sleep through the night. Though there have been a couple instances where my presence was needed while I was in bed and I had to go through that get up and get ready as fast as possible feeling. I don't like that feeling one bit. Rushing is never an exciting thing when you'd rather be sleeping.

So, check it out... its already June! How exciting! I'm sure time hasn't passed as fast for you as it has me but time its just whizzing by. The next few days will continue to go by fast as well because it is the beginning of the month which is when I have to do my CMR inventory. ugh! Not only do I have to verify all of our gear, but my CO wants to go through everything with me at the same time which means I can't just take care of business when I want to, I have to make sure his schedule is clear. Its really throwing a kink in my plans. I had a whole process in mind to knock this out in a few days, now its all kanked. It's going to take at least 10 days I bet.

I have been working out pretty regularly. The problem is that I've traded running for lifting. This means I may be getting stronger, but at the same time I'm getting a little flabby too. I just thought of this because I had an itch on my lower back and noticed my love handles seemed a little bigger. Running here is bad. All we can do is run in a small "circle" around the FOB about a thousand times and that makes a mile. Repeating the same route during a run is no fun at all. Thats also why I can't stand running on a treadmill. It drives me crazy! I don't know what I'm going to do. Maybe I'll start running twice a week or so. I'm not committing to anything yet until I run once and see how miserable it is.

Guess what? Something pretty cool came around these past few days. A mobile PX. Yeah, really! I didn't know we had these things. A ton of goodies came on a helicopter, they set up a little shop in the USO building and we were able to go in and buy all kinds of stuff. I bought Sweet Tea, some Hormel microwave lunches, Pringles, White Cheddar Cheez-itz, razor blades and a few other knick nacks. The Marines, including myself, loved it. What a great morale booster! Supposedly they will come once a month. That would be nice. I think almost every enlisted marine bought at least one pack of Monster/Throttle energy drinks. I cant believe how addicted to that stuff these guys are. It can't be good. They down them too. I bet within the next week most will have run through all of theirs and anyone who has any left will have GOLD to trade for whatever they want.

This past week we tried to get a swim session in for the Marines. They are on a multiple day rotation and we want to give them something to look forward to afterward. We figured jumping in a nice cold lake would be fun. It didn't go through but maybe within these next couple weeks we will work out the logistics and security to make it available to them once a week or so. I should have brought a fishing pole(not really)! We see some big creatures in that water. I'm sure its nothing compared to the creatures we have in the south though so I'm not worried.

Still waiting on a room. The guy whose room I am supposed to take cant get out of here! He's been trying to for the past week but can't get on a flight. I'm really looking forward to having some privacy. I'm done with this whole living in the open out of my bags. Heres what I need to do... the next chopper that goes through I should just tie him up and throw him on.

I got to do something else new!! We just recently got IR Illum for M777 a couple years ago. So new I never even learned about it in the schoolhouse. Anyway, we shot it tonight, its pretty sweet. We wanted to see how effective it was at supporting our Marines on a patrol. Not a big deal for most of you, but its kind of cool to say I shot it.

Well, I am going to cut this one a little short, just wanted you all to know everything is going well, I'm still loving it, and I miss you all a lot. I have done a VERY bad job at calling people. I actually haven't called anyone in over two weeks. Email really is the best way to talk so if you want to chat, try that route!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First Lieutenant

We're so excited for Ric's recent promotion from Second to First Lieutenant.  Unfortunately they did not provide him with a celebratory cake in Afghanistan - we will have to eat one in his honor.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Loving it

It's been about 10 days since my last post. If I can't do better than 10 days then I'm just being lazy, no matter how busy I claim to be. I not only have a lot of catching up to do on here but I haven't done to great of a job calling people on the phone either. Here's what you need to do if you want to talk to me... Tell me to get my butt up early in the morning before the patrols go out and call you. If I get up at 0500 here then its 2130 your time. Thats usually a decent hour to call people, unless you are my mom :) Speaking of my mom, last time I talked to her (finally) she had just recovered from a tragic night being stuck out on a boat. She has always told me to watch the tides so I don't get stranded out there on the sand bars and what does she do? Gets stuck out there on a sand bar... with three other "responsible" adults. I wish Sammy and I had this gouge on our mothers when they didn't want us to take off on Mo-peds in the Cayman Islands. Though, we ended up doing that anyway.

But back to Afghanistan. Well, you all know the collateral duties I have so I'm sure I don't need to say things have been busy. I am continually learning to appreciate being busy because as stated in a previous blog, it makes time go faster. I really wish I could talk all about what I have been doing but I guess that is frowned upon by S-2 (Intelligence). What I can tell you is I am already having the experience of a lifetime and we've only been running the show for a week now. Some of our Marines have gotten into some tough situations and my Marines have done a great job at getting them out of those situations. These kids seriously impress me. I know we have a long deployment to go but these guys will do anything to save their brother and I'm looking forward to watching them work for another 6 months. Again, we have great eyes over our whole Area of Operations so there is no threat to our FOB immediately. We see them long before they are able to gain any kind of foothold. Just want you guys to be ensured that I am safe.

Now I want to run you through an average day so you can see what its like here. I must start in the middle of the night because I toss and turn a lot. I still don't have a room yet which means no AC. Just last night I moved into a different lobby than the one I have been in and it has 1 AC unit for the whole area, so it is a little better than the lobby with no AC at all. Looks like early June one of the rooms will be opening up, then I will have my own space and hopefully some internet of my own. Right now I just have to bug Lt. Ealy (I'm going to start calling him Dan from now on) to let me hang out in his room. Back to the morning, after waking up for the nth time, I start checking my watch periodically because I know morning is near. If we have a patrol going out in the morning, which we have had for the past week, I need to be in the Combat Operations Center/Fire Direction Center (COC/FDC). That means my mornings have started around 530-6. I started skipping breakfast because eggs heated up in a bag along with bacon and sausage gravy heated up in a bag gets old after a while. Unless Mopsey is cooking. I could eat that every morning for the rest of my life. Mmmm that also makes me think about this delicious sandwich Julia likes to make for breakfast with eggs, some kind of meat, cheese, and jelly. Sooo good. Or, the whole-in-ones I always requested from my mom! OR Lindsay's famous french toast!! Wow, I need to stop, my mouth is watering. (If you are around any of these people any time soon, request breakfast from them... they will deliver)

Usually as I get to the COC, the patrols are getting ready to step off and we just verify that their numbers and everything match with what they told us the night prior. After that I make some oatmeal (someone from Bravo battery left it behind in the COC), drink some coffee, and track the patrols movement throughout the AO. This is where I can't really get into detail, but if stuff happens, stuff happens and we take care of it. You can say I work in the "brains" of this deployment. We always have to know whats going on at all times. Who/what is at all the locations, who is patrolling, whats going on, are we sticking with the mission, are the vehicles ready to go and much, much more. I'd say on average patrols get back around lunchtime, maybe a little before or after. I try to bum Ramen or Manchurian off people for lunch, but if I cant, I settle for an MRE. There is one new MRE that is fantastic. Maple Sausage. It is a chunk of sausage sitting in a maple syrup juice. Yum, yum, yum. BUT, noodles are my favorite right now and I really hope a package from my mom comes soon containing those items. If you want to know what to send me, those will work. I like any flavor. Spicy, chicken, beef, spicy chicken... you get the picture. I could also use a pillow. I wish I had brought one of my really comfortable feather ones, or stole one from the hotel in Ireland. Right now I sleep on a bag of t-shirts I have. A pillow is probably difficult to ship though so I wouldn't worry about it. I've blown two fans since I have been here as well. One time I didn't think the 220v power was running through our room and the other time I thought it was plugged into a power converter. It turned out to be some crummy bulky blue outlet extender or something. I don't know. I had the chance to get a power converter in Leatherneck too! The good thing about Laptops though is that they come with a converter in the cable so at least I can charge my laptop. Plus I bought a nifty little 4 inch fan that plugs into my computer via USB. Its not as good as the fan I brought with me (one that I blew) , but being that it actually works, it will do.

Wow, I am really good about going off on a tangent. I just try not to bore you with COC talk too much, that is all. So yes, when patrols are back, I eat, then get to work on all my other stuff. Today consisted of playing with Microsoft Excel for hours making a template for the hundreds of pieces of gear I need to maintain accountability of. I'm separating the gear by which unit is responsible for it and making a record of where it was seen last. That way, when I have to get eyes on everything once a month it won't take me forever! I am really dreading having to do this for the first time though while I try to figure out where everything is. Oh well, just another thing to keep me busy. I also worked out some organizational things with the Armory as well. I know that the more I get things in order now, the easier my life will be for the next few months, but it is sure a pain now.

In between the paper work junk I try to take a break to work out (around 1500.) I've been pretty consistent with it. 3 days on 1 day off is my rotation. Though, instead of working out today I took a nap because I was too exhausted. That made it two days off. Oh well, maybe I'll go do some pull-ups later. Then again, maybe not. I promised Julia I'd be a hunk-a hunk-a burnin' love when she sees me next so I'm trying to stick to a routine. I also have a confession. I said I would stop drinking soda because I didn't think it would be around. Well, the other night I sat down to eat a DELICIOUS (more on that later) meal and a Corporal brought be a soda. I didn't ask for it, but I couldn't refuse it. So, I have had one soda over the past few weeks. Still not too bad if you ask me. At least I don't get headaches anymore from not having one.

After the workout, or nap, I get back to work until dinner. This is when I surprise you. The dinners here have been great. It could very easily be crappy food, but our guys know how to work the seasonings just right to make things very tasty. Heres just a few solid meals we've had called "Class 1 meals". Steak kabobs (with chopped garlic, I saw the cook preparing this one). Homemade mashed potatoes (which I missed out on because they ran out before I got to the food line). Beef Enchiladas. Green beans with bacon. Ribs. Beef gumbo... Thats all I can think of now. But even the food they have to warm up in bags they make taste better too. I'm very impressed. If they don't get a combat action ribbon, they deserve some kind of great award.

After evening chow, its back to the COC to finish things up for the night. This could mean I get out of there as early as 1930 or as late as 2230. Just depends on whats going on. After that I head to Dan's room to see if internet is working (it wasn't last night, sorry Julia!) I may watch one or two episodes of a show or a movie if its not too late, then I hit the rack just to do it all over again.

All the heads (bathrooms) here crack me up. To turn on the sink, shower and toilet is some huge ordeal with instructions written all over the walls on how to do it without screwing everything up. I wish some plumbers could come see some of this piping. It is ridiculous.

We have little mini clothes washing spinny buckey things that most of us use to wash clothes, but there is also a bathtub outside where you can let your clothes soak and use that ribbed scrubbing thing that they use in The Little Mermaid to clean everything, including Sebastian. Yes, I just referenced Little Mermaid. Yes, I am a Marine. So what. Anyway, last night I washed off at about 2200 in the tub. I just hosed off with water, rubbed some soap on me, and rinsed. It was really cold water, and a very glorious feeling. I can now say I have had goosebumps in Afghanistan during the summer.

Okay, well I think I am going to call it an end for now. It is already so long that I am contemplating not proof reading it. Maybe I will just skim. By now you already know if I actually did proof read it or skim because you've kept mental notes of all the silly mistakes I wrote, or did not write. Love you guys, talk with you soon!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

About to Take Charge

May 16-
Man, days can fly by like that. I can't believe the 11th was the last time I wrote something. Thats fine by me though. The faster the time goes, the better. And by the looks of how busy I will be, I'm going to wake up and be getting married in no time. Busy you ask? Yes. Let me ramble off just a few of my jobs.
Of course first and foremost, Fire Direction Officer. Next, Headquarters Platoon Commander, Watch Officer, Supply Officer, Armory Officer, Assistant Executive Officer and Command Emergency Response Program Pay Officer. So what this means is I lied to everyone when they asked me what I would be doing in Afghanistan. I thought I would just be receiving calls for fire from observers, processing some data and sending it to the guns. That job in itself can be quite busy, but since we are providing fire for ourselves we will usually know when fire support will be needed. That is, when we send a patrol out, be ready to go. When a patrol is not out, do everything else. Honestly though, I love it. Like we discussed earlier. Busy=Time going faster. Time going faster= getting home soon. Getting home soon=getting married soon. Getting married soon=Having a wife sooner. Now, I'm no Einstein but I believe that means, Busy=Wife. Gentlemen, does that sound correct? Hahaha and the best part is, there are no women here to slap me. And by the time I see you women you will be too happy to see me you wont want to slap me. You know its true.
Going with the facts just proven and thinking about my life being busy with a wife, that kind of makes me sad. That means the time that I will want to slow down and enjoy will go the fastest. Booooo. I no longer like my logic.
Its very pretty here. The lake, dam and river provide irrigation to all the farmers in the area which makes for some nice greenery to look at. On top of that, the water is beautiful. I'm holding out hope that they will let us swim in it! My mind should probably be on more important things, like my job(s), but this water out here is really distracting. I don't think there is anywhere else in Afghanistan I'd rather be as far as a FOB goes. From everything else I have seen, its all dry sandy desert. I'll put some photos of the area up when I get a chance so you can enjoy it with me. It is very hot though. Its not even the hot months and I'm convinced we are hitting the 100's already. I'm betting it gets up to 120 around August. Its a crazy but very true thought. For the past two weeks and the next 6 months I will sweat every single day, almost all day long. It's just like at OCS in Virginia where I was soaking wet all the time from the humidity. For example, right now I'm sitting on my cot in pt gear with shower shoes on and I am STILL sweating.
A good time for me to PT here is around lunchtime. There is a problem with that though. No, not the heat, I can work through that. Its the fact that we can only take showers during a two hour block in the morning and an hour and a half block in the evening. If I get up early, it will be to call home because its nighttime then. If I stay up late to work out, it is packed. The gym isn't very big as it is, then throw 20 more Marines around and you end up just watching a bunch of dudes work out. That may be your cup of tea, but not mine. I tried using the shower that the CO/XO/1stSgt/Gunny have because they can shower whenever but I was told I wasn't allowed to use theirs… that its only for the people who live there. Sometimes I just don't understand people.
I've taken a tour of most of the battle space that we have Marines on and gotten a pretty good picture of how things may pan out over the next couple months. I'm not saying I know whats going to happen, but its nice to know some history about this place and learn from the unit that has been here the past 7 months. Don't worry about us too much over here. I am confident in the capabilities of our Marines and our Commanding Officer. We will never take unnecessary risks. We know our job, know our buddies jobs, and know how to accomplish our mission.
My living quarters right now aren't too bad considering the situation. I am in a building and I have a cot. Thats pretty good. Problem is… no A/C, no fan and nowhere to put all my stuff. We all love living out of our suitcase though so no big deal. The great thing is that after B Battery 1/10 leaves this week we can move into their rooms. The one I have my eye on has A/C. I'll let you know if I acquire it. I didn't even sleep in the building last night because there is no circulating air. Instead, I took a bug net and a cot and laid outside in my skivvies. It got nice and cool. I even got in my sleeping bag liner halfway through the night. I've decided to continue doing that until I can move in to my room.
There is only one spot on the FOB with purified water. The problem is, the water in the sink is cooler (coming from the Dam) so I tried drinking that. It actually worked out well. I have not gotten sick yet and its a much more convenient trip to the bathroom than the water pump. The plumbing system here is pretty funny though. Theres directions on how to work everything written all over the walls saying turn this handle, don't turn that handle, that knob is for decoration, that knob will overflow the head, etc etc etc. Thats how complex it is.
Food is just fine. Meal rats in the morning and evening and MRE's during the day. On Fridays we have steak and crab meat. Last night (Sunday) we had a meal rat steak that tasted better than the real steaks we get and the crab meat taste like snot. The "good" food is called Class 1 I think. Class two or three should not taste better than class 1, but sometimes it does.
Okay, I am about to pass out, not sure if its because I'm tired or hot, but either way, I need to get some rest. PEACE

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Just Want Pizza!

May 11-

Something interesting actually happened last night. The fact that this is interesting just goes to show how lame this place is. I really feel like I am sitting in 29 Palms just watching everyone else build roads and waiting to do something important. All that to say, here it goes. I was in the middle of watching The Modern Family and the dad decided to cool things off by going and getting pizza. This of course got me thinking of eating pizza back in Hawaii. Bob's Pizzeria is quite a find over there in Kailua. I meant to get it the day before I left and pack a few slices away for the trip. That didn't happen. It's okay, next time I will spend my time more wisely so I can better spoil myself before I leave. (I mean, I'm never going to deploy again Julia, so I take back that last sentence.)

Oh right… pizza. Its nearing dinner time, around 1830 so I take off my headphones to ask if there is anywhere we can get pizza, knowing it probably wouldn't happen. At just that moment, a few Staff Sergeants were talking about some pizza they ate for lunch! WHAT? WHERE??? I mean, I'm an officer, I can't sound too excited about this, lets try again. Where did you guys find pizza? It turns out there is another smaller base right across the way that has a nicer PX and better places to eat. Leave it to our Staff NCO's to find it. Another one of those little things that makes the Marine Corps great.

The directions to get there seem easy enough. Take the "black line" to camp "Bastone" and order a pizza with wings. But again, if you know anything about the Marine Corps, leave it to the Lieutenants to get lost. Not the stereotypical lost in the woods kind of lost. Because honestly, I know I can find my way around with a map and compass better than most. This is the kind of lost that Junior Officers get in when they try to make quick decisions and just go for it. Well, after waiting for this mysterious "black line" bus for 45 minutes, Lt Ealy decided to lie to us and tell us the bus to the flight line will take us to the same place. So, we all hop on. Now, I am not above asking people for directions if I don't know where I am going. Julia might disagree, but usually I know where I am going with her ;), so I don't ask. In this case, I welcomed the idea of asking how to find Pizza Hut, the problem is the only words the driver knew in English were: "no" "flight-line" and "other bus." So we decided yes we will take this bus to the flight line because there is no other bus.

After arriving at the flight-line and mentioning the word 'pizza' to a pilot we were just talking to, he stops us… pizza? Hahahaha he laughs out-loud. Turns out we should have waited for the "black line" back at the other stop. The black line takes you to Camp Bashtun (not sure how to spell it because we never made it there, point is, its not Bastone) And get this, the flight line is not a block away. Its a good 15-20 minute drive. By this point it is 2030 and we are starving. Oh, I just realized you all don't even know who we is. It was myself, Lt Meek and Lt Ealy. I am one of those people that will continue down a path that looks hopeless simply because I spent so much time waiting, ill just keep being miserable until i get what I want. These other two guys are the kind that abandon ship when they are hungry and will take a stale sandwich over trying to find this pizza place. Here I was hoping for a hot pizza and wings and I end up back at square one. I would have been more excited about eating at Camp Leatherneck but after 2030 they stop serving hot chow and they just have bread thats been sitting out all day and sandwich meat thats been sitting out all week. They overrule me and we head back to Camp Leatherneck to get a sandwich for dinner. We finally get some food in us around 2115. Which stinks because I had planned on being back around 2000 so I could call Julia and catch her on her lunch break. Oh well…

So thats it. For those of you worried about me over here… save it. That is about as crazy as it gets here. At least where I am now. We are going to try again today to find that pizza place. That was the deal I made with them. If we give up, we try again tomorrow. We did have a very interesting discussion over the failed 3 hour dinner adventure. We talked about the Marine Corps. Its purpose. What we are doing and what we should be doing. The gist of it is that we are fighting right now as a medium sized expeditionary force as opposed to a lightweight amphibious force (which is what the Marines are traditionally supposed to do). The Marine Corps has spent a lot of money making us this medium sized expeditionary force. Why? Probably because for the past 10 years the fight has been inland and the nation has called us to occupy when the Army needed help. To me, occupancy is for the Army alone. That's why they are bigger and its what makes them slower. The Marines should go in, hit em hard, and get out. If the US wants to occupy and stabilize or whatever else, don't make us do it. Remember, this is just my opinion, no one go quoting me as a spokesman for the Corps.

[A few hours later] Random Thought: I've stopped drinking carbonated beverages. I hear deployment is not the time to try and break habits BUT i figure there may be a lack of soda so the temptation wont be as strong. I'm going on one and a half days now. I almost forgot at lunch today and had to give back the Sprite. Yes, lunch. We made it to pizza today and it was FANTASTIC. I got a Hawaiian (naturally) because its the most healthy pizza out there ;) Except instead of ham they put pepperoni. Last night we were actually at the wrong bus stop. No black line stops there. This time we went to the right one and on the walk to it the bus was driving by to I stepped out in front of it to stop it. They drive slow so it wasn't dangerous. Though, it is likely the most dangerous thing I have done since I've been here haha. Sorry elementary school teacher, I walked out in traffic. Oh and the camp is called Camp Bastion. That was exciting as well to finally know how to spell this mythical pizza hub.

I woke Julia up this morning. It was nice to hear her tired voice. She is always so sweet when awoken, with a little bit of delirious on the side. I love it. It's nothing like when she is sick though, oh man, I cant wait to have fun with that one day!! I also tried calling mom again but she wasn't awake yet. One day I will get to talk to her. I really want to talk to my sister too but I always draw a blank when I go to make the call. I know the number, 4*9-4*6* (for security purposes, hah) Not to keep it from you all necessarily, but my whole life all my buddies have wanted her number and I have yet to make it available to them. You are welcome Linds. Thanks for being beautiful all your life, I always enjoyed keeping my friends away from the house when you were home.

Well, looks like I am finally heading up to the Dam soon. Thats all I have for now. Love you guys.


May 9-

Well, not much has been going on recently. Who knew getting to my final destination would lead to so much down time? Not only that but there was all this stuff I bought thinking I wouldn't be able to get it anywhere and sure enough there has been a decent PX at my last couple stops where I could have stocked up.

It's been tougher connecting with people back home. Mornings are the best time for me to talk while I'm here at Camp Leatherneck because the phones and computers are open. The problem is everyone in Florida is sleeping at that time. In order to call people back home at a good time I would need to call in the afternoon or evening here and the wait at those times seems like forever. I think I'm just going to deal with the wait tonight to I actually get to see how everyone back home is doing.

Both my mom and my grandma hit the ignore button when I called. Its funny to see what solicitors have done to people back home. They bug everyone so much that we can't take calls from unknown numbers. No one wants to deal with them. There must be something more to this soliciting business. Theres no way it can be that great of a technique. If you have ever bought something from a solicitor, comment on this post and let me know how in the world they got you to pay attention. The whole time they are talking to me, I try to think of a clever new way to say no and get off the phone. No matter the excuse, they can't argue it. And now I don't like them even more because they made me miss talking to two of my favorite women in the world.

Julia though, she is just so nice that she answers the phone no matter who is calling! At this point in my life I am going to enjoy that fact because it means she is going to pick the phone up when I call. A few years down the road when we have bills from the phone company or solicitors saying we bought something, we can re-address the issue. Its funny to think that a few years down the road I will still be with that girl. All that time, 6 or 7 years now, I spent wasted trying to figure out what/who the Lord had for my life. Little did I know it was this crazy beautiful blonde that was there loving and supporting me all along. Now that I know, and I cant spend time with her, I'll be sure not to take that time for granted ever again. Thinking about our future is something that I really enjoy occupying my thoughts with. There are SO many things to think about that I know her and I will love doing together that I rarely even have to think about the same thing twice.

Sorry, I'm getting a little soft. Its only been a week and a half too… I'm scared to know what these posts will look like in 5 months. :/

I'm getting really eager to head to the Dam. I'm waiting for a letter from Pops talking about all the Dam fish or the Dam people in the area. Thats not all I'm waiting for though. It will be nice to actually feel like I have a part in helping something with the war. However big or small it turns out to be. Sitting here just feels like a waste. I am very glad this is not my stopping point. I'm sure some of you would rather me stay here for safety reasons, but please don't wish that on me. I would be miserable! And I would come back fat. It's hard to turn down the fresh dipped ice cream after every meal when I know I won't be getting any for a while. The food here is pretty stinking good too. Last night I had surf and turf. Yep. Steak. Lobster Tail. Shrimp. The whole shebang. mmmmmmmmm

Time to get to another episode of The Modern Family. I'm a new fan. I have the whole first season (of course) and it is cracking me up! I love it! Cant wait to see the new season that is running in the States right now. Bye bye for now…

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Almost There...

I am not really supposed to tell you when exactly we get to our destination, but I can tell you I am finally in Afghanistan and will be where I am supposed to be shortly. We had to shoot a range yesterday and have a few classes to do here at Camp Leatherneck before we can move on.

The flight in was good. Actually, it was the first time I've flown in a C-17. Nothing too special. No in flight meal or movies showing. It only took a little over two hours so that wasn't bad at all. The tent we are staying in is decent as well. At least we have AC here. I will be sure to enjoy it while I can. The base here is HUGE. Looks like they just found some unoccupied land in the middle of the desert and built a base. There is nothing else around for a good ways. Getting internet access here is more difficult than in my last two stops. You have to apply to get WiFi and it takes about two weeks. So for us just passing through, our personal computers are good only for movies, music and games. These internet cafe's all have about an hour wait, so good thing I don't have anything going on today but a class tonight.

I'm scared to look at my bank account. I've made a couple phone calls with my credit card, having no idea how much it was going to cost. It doesn't really matter though. There's not much else to spend money on anyway. I lost two great pairs of sunglasses (surprising, I know) right before we deployed so I'm debating getting a good pair. Other than that, I just buy sweet tea from a can because I'm terrible desperate and that's about it.

I don't really have much more time on the computer so I need to wrap it up. I am also not going to take the time to proof read it so give me a break. My high school English teachers would kill me. I hope everyone is doing great. I love you all and can't wait to see you again. I'll try to get back to you guys soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


May 3-5
Well, I awoke to another beautiful morning in Ireland. I'm sure you are wondering what was on the menu for breakfast. You guessed it. Potatoes! Actually there was a great layout of fruit, granola, weird bread, cereals, eggs, bacon, sausage, beans (yes, beans), and potato wedges. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Other than that there wasn't much more to my day. It consisted of an 8 hour flight, a movie (Unstoppable) and an episode of the Band of Brothers. Unstoppable was good because it was based on a true story. If it hadn't been, I don't think I would have bought it. I forgot to mention a few days ago I began my Band of Brothers Series. I have a few different seasons of shows and decided to start on this one. I think The Office will be next. I'm on the 7th Episode now. They are all just over an hour long and there are 10 total. It's very good. I highly recommend it. I wouldn't say its better than The Pacific but still, worth a look. 
I slept for most of the flight. Once we landed some busses took us to an unloading zone where we eventually grabbed all our gear to make sure it didn't get lost and stacked it all up on pallets. Then it was off to get linen's because we will be here for a couple days and then chow. I've now officially had two breakfasts today. One Irish breakfast on the 3rd in Ireland and a decent chow hall breakfast on the 4th in Kyrgyzstan. What happened to my lunch and dinner in between??? Oh yeah, flying over a billion time zones to the east is a great way to completely miss a day. If you ever start off a day on the "wrong side of the bed" and just want it to be over with, here is your solution. Hop in a plane, and fly east. If you want your day to never end though, wait till I get back to Hawaii and fly west to come see Julia and me!
I think about living in Hawaii often. The fact that I will be living in the best place I've lived yet AND that I will be living there with the greatest girl in the world somehow always consumes my thoughts. 
Two times now my Marines have mistaken me for one of the Corporals in the Battery. When enlisted Marines mistake a Lieutenant for a Corporal, it makes for an awkward moment. One time I was Skyping with Julia and a fellow Corporal proceeded to wrap his arms around me and pretend to kiss me on the cheek. He would have noticed it was me much sooner but his eyes were closed preparing for a passionate kiss. He later told me it was the most embarrassing moment of his life. The other time was when a SSgt woke me up shaking me telling me to get out of the rack before he gets in it with me. Hahaha, and people wonder why I love this job. Marines are great. You never… never know what to expect. 
This place is alright. Theres some neat shops to check out and a lot of chow halls. I'm glad I don't have to stay here for deployment. I think I would gain 30 pounds. Its a shame that some people actually do deploy to a place like this and get all the same pay benefits others get in combat zones. Oh well, not my worry.
Looks like I'll be here for a little bit longer. Hope you are all doing great back home. Love you guys.

- Ric

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stuck in Potato-ville

2 May 2011 -

Well… a day later and still stuck in Ireland. I shouldn't say stuck because that has a negative connotation to it. I'd rather be here for extra days than in Manas where I have to carry all my gear around everywhere I go. At least here we get nice rooms, convenient showers, and great food. Wow, it's only 10:00 am back in Hawaii and we are about to go to bed!

It's funny… every meal has potatoes. Yes, some stereotypes are very, very true. I had potato soup today for lunch. Remembering it was from a cheap hotel made me think it probably isn't going to be the best quality. Well, the worst potato soup in Ireland can still compete with the best potato soup anywhere else. This stuff was good. For dinner, instead of soup it was mashed potatoes. One of my favorite foods out there. It wasn't as good as Mopsey's mashed potatoes, but it was still pretty good.

Tea. Tea is everywhere. It's actually competing with coffee and for me that is a big deal. I am usually a big fan of coffee and not so much a fan of tea. But they know how to do it right here. Times like this make me want to travel the world to eat all the local foods I enjoy in America and see how everything is supposed to taste. You know what else is in every store here? Guinness. If you are a Guinness fan, I don't think there is anywhere else that can compete with the selection you'd have in Ireland. I'm sure it's driving the Marines crazy that they can't partake. I'm fine with tea and potatoes.

Random thought: Writing day two of this journal I am discovering that somewhere along the way I learned to type without looking at my fingers. I know in college it was my goal, but I don't remember it ever happening completely. I need to go back to one of those typing games I always practiced on and see how much better I am.

I saw a castle today. No, we didn't go sightseeing or anything, its just that right behind our old hotel through the woods is a freaking castle! No joke. I couldn't believe it at first. I had only seen castles in movies and here one was. You would think it would make me think of kings or royalty, perhaps even knights. But no. Instead what came to mind was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Sad, I know. Anyway, the castle was sweet and it had a beautiful lake right in front of it. I looked for a moat but no luck. I wish I could post a FANTASTIC photo that Dan took of my today doing the heel click on my way to see the castle. Its classic. I'll show it to you whenever we can get his camera hooked up to a computer.

I guess the reason it is so green here is because out of 365 1/4 days in the year, it does not rain about 10 of them. It's just a light drizzle the majority of the time which isn't bad, but its overcast all the time. That made me change my mind about wanting to own some of this beautiful land. I like Sunlight and warmth way too much. I know my fiancee does too. She would likely end up killing me if I brought her here to stay.

Supposedly Osama Bin Laden is dead now. I don't say that because I think they are lying, I just say it because the fact that he could actually be dead has not sunk in yet. And to bury him at sea because Saudi Arabia wouldn't take him? Thats ridiculous. Someone was talking about how they had to do something with his body quickly because Muslims believe you need to be buried within 24 hours of death. Personally, I would say who cares when he should be buried. It's not like he's going to heaven anyway. I don't think, however, that we should do what an unnamed marine posted on his Facebook wall concerning the treatment of his body. It had something to do with being wrapped in bacon. The main problem with his status update is that it did not read Osama… instead it read Obama. OOPS, not smart Marine. Classic mixup. Classic junior Marine. Classic I hope the media doesn't grab that statement and twist it into something completely inappropriate that Marines say.

For those of you thinking it will change things, I am thinking it won't. Only when leaders of small or tight knit organizations are killed is when that organization may fail. This is an huge, very spread out "organization," if you will. All it means is someone will take his place, we may have a new head honcho to look for, and the Taliban will continue to do what they've been doing the whole time… attempting to murder, torture, coerce and control innocent civilians. It will be easy to remember that the day Osama was killed was the first day I deployed. So much for my glimmer of hope to capture him :)

Well, thats all for now. I know these posts will start getting a lot shorter as my time becomes more occupied but there really is not much going on right now so I'm taking advantage of it.

Bye Bye Paradise

1 May 2011 -

Our wait in Hawaii was not as long as I thought it would be. Turns out, we pulled up at Hickam Air Field and were out of there within two hours. Realizing that I would not be able to talk Julia every day was more painful than I thought it would be. I figured because she wasn't physically there, goodbye wouldn't be too tough. Sure enough, it still broke me up a little bit. I love that girl. I simply can't explain how much more I love her than I ever thought possible to love anything in this world.

Our first stop, Alaska. A quick 5 hour and 15 minute flight brought us to Anchorage and the first thing I see when I walk into the airport is a statue of a white grizzly bear. Awesome. They said it would be an hour wait to refuel and resupply the plane. Again they delivered. We were back in the air in no time. Good thing too because no one was at the airport, every shop was closed, and there was nothing to do.

The flight to Ireland was a little longer. What was scheduled to be an eight hour flight over the north pole turned into about nine hours. Good thing I really don't mind long flights anymore. Flying to Hawaii and back a couple times helped me prepare for times like this. I just see it as more time to sleep and watch movies. Arriving at the airport again they promise a short stop… approximately one and a half hours. We held a short promotion ceremony for 6 Marines right there inside the airport and shortly after discovered we may have to wait as much as three hours while they attempt to fix a bent door. I always wonder how they find such significant problems AFTER we get off the plane. It was obviously not that big of a deal, and if it was, they should have caught it before we trusted this beast all the way back in Oahu.

The airport was nice. A bar and grille was open where I enjoyed a latte and later on a delicious cupcake and Fanta. It was humbling to see how much value the American dollar had actually lost outside the US. I paid 6 bucks for a cup of coffee that was a little over 2 Euros. My bother was quickly distracted by the accent of the bar tenders and all the Irish attire around. I almost couldn't resist getting a t-shirt. I'm sure I will on my way back home. I also got to talk to Julia! I was SO happy she answered the phone. I've never wanted someone to answer the phone more than that call right there. I'm still not sure how much the payphone cost me because I paid via credit card, but those 10-15 minutes talking with her were priceless. I was telling her you would think it would be sad to hear her voice and just make me miss her more, but it was kind of the opposite. I was just happy. No sad thoughts at all. I felt so lucky to have the chance to talk to my baby just one more time before it becomes much more rare.

Oh yes, the flight, right, well… we waited and waited and after about 6 hours we realize they aren't fixing the plane and will need to send us a new one. So what do they do? Put us up in a hotel for free. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? A Boeing 747 on my pre deployment flight to 29 Palms first class, and a hotel stay on my deployment to Afghanistan. See, they do take care of us. At the hotel I found an advertisement for Dungarie Castle. I don't know what it is but I love the name. Makes me think of how great it would be to come back to a place like this just to visit. It is nice at least to get to see more than just the airport though. It's dark right now, but I look forward to the scenery in the morning.