Monday, November 29, 2004

Eating in the mess hall and the CIB

This past weekend was great. Saas Fee was awesome for snowboarding and expensive. More to come.

While eating in the dinning facility or in the old army lingo, the mess hall, you will end up sharing a table will sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen who was wounded or has a medical condition from the Middle East. Since Landstuhl Medical Center is down the street there is a medical transition company in the next kaserne. The Marines who were wounded in Fajulla carry themselves with a bit of swagger and tell some incredible stories. One navy female Chief Petty Office who is a truck driver was asking me why she could not receive the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB). I told her that the regulations will only allow infantrymen, not tankers, field artillerymen or other service members to receive the CIB. The infantry corps or mafia (depending on your point of view) will never allow the CIB go to outside the infantry. She told me that she mastered and could use any weapon that the infantry used and how she was wounded in an engagement during a convoy. I sympathized with her and said that the Department of Defense will have to address this issue of rewarding support troops bearing a heavy load of the combat during present operations. She left the table not happy, but wished me the best luck and I did the same.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving and the hospital cafeteria

Tomorrow is the American holiday of Thanksgiving and I will get it and the Friday afterwards off. So I am planning to rent a car and head to Saas-Fee in Switzerland to do some snowboarding. I figure this will be my last chance to ride a board before going down range. Also I will get a way from the army and visit a new place. I hear that Switzerland is beautiful and this will be my time to find out. So there will be no posting until Sunday the earliest. Have a nice turkey day!

The other day I went to the hospital with some fellow soldiers to get cleared by the doctor to go down range. He gave me the all clear, so I am finally good to go. At lunch time we went to the cafeteria. The food was good and was even better when I said “I am part of OEF/OIF”. When I said the magic phrase the cashier waived me through with out paying.

We sat down and started to eat and talk about our appointments with the doctor when one of patients who came down to the cafeteria to eat spotted his old Platoon Leader, who is now part of the same unit that I am in. He had a bit of wild and dazed look in his eyes. He told us about getting wounded in Iraq and how he is permanently out of combat. His story was incredible and he was lucky to survive. The table next to us was filled with civilian employees and they had the look of disbelief and horror while listening to him. I figure he had to vent and tell somebody about what he went through; it would be better to be us, fellow soldiers, than some civilian who could not relate or show disrespect to him. After his recount of events in Iraq he told us that he went to a German disco in K-town, but he had to leave since the house music had a heavy beat and percussion sounds that reminded him of mortars and machine guns. He felt embarrassed and I told him it was ok and normal to feel that way. It would take a while to get used to the civilian world again. He laughed that he must have “freaked out the German chicks” with his low crawl out of the disco. We laughed too, saying with that comment he was on his way to coping with his ordeal. We all wished him good luck and a speedy recovery. All he said was keep low, shoot first and straight.

I pray I will not have to go through what he went through, it was more harrowing to hear it from a participant than seeing it in any Hollywood movie.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Later tonight

This afternoon I took the bus to the center of Kaiserslautern to eat a nice German dinner in a café. The bus ride cost 1.60 Euro or 2.08 USD for a five minute, two mile ride. All the stores were closed; I thought they would be open for Christmas shopping and only a few small shops at the “Christmas Village” next to the main church were open. My intention was to find some German Christmas gifts for my girls. A concert of Mozart’s Requiem mass was being conducted tonight and I would have liked to attended, but I was not dressed appropriately, so it was a not to be.

Dinner was potato soup, bratwurst, purple cabbage and mash potatoes washed down with some Alt Beer for 12.70 Euro. Not bad, since I did not have to walk with a tray, tell a server that I want some of that and bus my own plate and eating implements. What was surprising, a German couple sat next to me and asked if the food was good and I replied “”Jah, gutten.” Do I look German? Maybe it is my Celtic FC shirt.

Tomorrow will be a long day of qualifying on my rifle. More details later.

I have spent an hour trying to fix the side bar of links, but Blogger’s servers must have had too much Alt beer to drink, because it looked like crap. So I just deleted half of it make it look more presentable. Time for bed.

In-processing

Since I am a newly mobilized reserve soldier that will be deployed to the Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility I am in processing to become an active duty soldier. All aspects of life are covered from updating medical and dental records to pay. I received another set of immunization shots and the dentist said that my teeth are good to go. In the legal area I now have a new power of attorney made giving my wife total control of my personal affairs back in the US; the Army is recognizing what is actually happening in reality. In the pay or financial area, once I am down range I will draw hazardous duty and imminent danger pay and my tax status will change to the “Combat Zone Tax Exclusion.” I will figure out what that means in a few weeks.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Reporting to duty

About a week ago I left my wife and two daughters with friends. It was a tearful good bye between me and my wife. I told her that I love her and gave her a kiss. My three year old daughter ran away and said she wanted watch the television, while my eight month old daughter just smiled. My friend J told me to keep low and come back in one piece. After that I drove from Bethel, CT to Logan Airport in Boston. It was beautiful outside with a fresh coat of two inches of snow. I made it Logan Airport and the flight to JFK was late because of the snow, but I was told that I would have enough time to make my connection to Frankfurt. When I landed at JFK, I ran down the terminal, got on the plane, sat in my seat and saw that the airplane door was closed behind me.

Delta is pretty airline good, but it has a bit of catching up to do with Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines. Both of those airlines give you your own flat screen TV to watch a variety of movies.

When I landed at Frankfurt Airport I took a train to the main train station in Frankfurt and then switched to another that went to Darmstad, Manheim, Neusted and Kaiserslautern. It was an easy ride and very efficient. The trains left on time and the cars were clean. Last was a taxi ride to the gate of the Kaserne. All of that took 22 hours. Not bad considering that I covered a third of the planet.

Friday, November 19, 2004

OPSEC and Blogging

Unlike civilian bloggers, I have to keep in the back of my mind the requirement of Operational Security or OPSEC. Here it is from on high. Here are two perspectives of blogging from the box: here and and here. So sometimes I will not be able go into the detail you might want. Details of unit identifiers, dates, times, names of individuals, places, and other information that could be used aginst US or Colilation Forces, will not be included in any posts. I understand that being in the stockade sucks, well that is life for you.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Testing

This is a test. I am just in-processing. More to come.