Friday, November 27, 2009


So, another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Thanksgiving here was fairly uneventful.  We ran the clinic on a skeleton crew, so I was able to have the day off and get a few things done, including mailing off some Christmas presents, finishing up some paperwork that I'd  been procrastinating on, and getting a haircut.  We had a big Thanksgiving dinner in the mess hall, complete with real turkey (not the "turkey pucks" some other friends had described during prior years' deployed Thanksgivings) stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie with as much cool whip as you wanted. 
It was sad not to be able to spend the day with family, but I was at least able to Skype with Cristin and some of her family who were having Thanksgiving at our house, and my parents and siblings having Thanksgiving in Hampshire.  In talking about Thanksgiving memories with some of my soldiers, I realized yesterday that it's actually been a few years since I was able to have Thanksgiving dinner with my extended family.  The last 3 years while we lived in Augusta, either Cristin or I were always working or on call over the Thanksgiving weekend, so we'd celebrated Thanksgiving with other geographically isolated residents with a pot luck at my friend Zach's house.  He'd cook up a mean turkey and we'd all bring sides.  This year, we'd initially thought it'd be much easier to go home, since Waynesville is an easy day's drive from northern Illinois.  But, obviously, the Army had other plans.
Today's the day after Thanksgiving, so it's officially Christmas season.  I won't be doing any shopping today, but I've got my room decorated for the season.  Cristin sent me a box full of Christmas decorations and candy that arrived earlier this week.  So, my CHU is now festively decorated, complete with what my mom described as my "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree".

  Our medics have gotten into the Christmas spirit as well, and Christmas decorations bought from some of the local national run shops on post are starting to get hung up.  They've even gone so far as to tinsel our air conditioning ducts. 

Unfortunately, alot of these are made in Taiwan and I think the quality control's a little lacking. 

Either way, it's the thought that counts.  Happy belated Turkey Day everybody and enjoy your shopping!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fun Pics

So, I finally broke down and had the internet company run a hard line into my CHU today.  I wish I'd done it sooner as the connection is now stable, and about twice as fast as it had been wirelessly.  Of course, it's still dismally slow by U.S. standards, but it'll work for what I need.  I'm going to find out in an hour or so whether it's finally stable and fast enough to allow me to use Skype.
Anyways, due to this faster internet connection, I can finally put some pictures up.  More will be coming soon, I promise, but these will at least show you what me and my living conditions are like.  This first pic is me in full battle rattle (shortly after doing the whole MRAP rollover ride).

These other two are the interior of my CHU in all of its glory.

That's all I've got for now.  So, talk with you all later.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


So, I woke up this morning and got a surprise... it was cold!  For the most part, I can't really complain about the weather here.  When I initially showed up in Kuwait, there were a few days where it got up into the mid 90's around lunch time, but for the most part it was comfortably in the 80's during the day and down in the 70's at night.  Here, it hasn't been much different.  From what I've researched online, where I'm at can be horrendous in the summer (up to the 130's), but right now weather hasn't been bad.  Most days, it's warm enough that you might get a little sweaty if you're walking a long distance or wearing body army, but otherwise it's fairly comfortable.  Anyways, last night I'd left my window open as there wasn't much wind and I felt like my CHU needed to be aired out some.  I woke up this morning and it was in the mid-50's!!  Thankfully, my sheet and poncho liner (basically a camouflage blanket with a few strings attached so that it can be combined with a poncho to form a sleeping bag in a pinch) had kept me warm.  But, as soon as I was out of bed, I was shivering.  It's warmed up through the day today, but I'm wondering whether we won't need some more of that nifty cold weather gear that the Army issued me than I thought.  It's supposed to be in the low 50's again tonight.  I still don't expect to need the 3-inch-thick snowsuit that I was given anytime soon (which is good because I think it's still on a boat somewhere on it's way here right now), but some of the other lighter stuff may get some use.
 In the grand scheme of things, I probably shouldn't complain.  I've got one friend in Afghanistan right now, with a few more likely on their way soon, and from what I understand, it gets much colder there, to include snow in the wintertime.
Otherwise, things are going well here.  Yesterday I worked in the clinic all day and I'm really enjoying working with all of the medics that we have.  As I'd mentioned before, they've still got alot to learn about taking care of patients, but they're always in great spirits and eager to learn, so I think they'll do well. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Address Change

Just a quick note to draw your attention to a slight change in the address at the left.  We've updated the address slightly to remind a mail clerk that there's another unit using her mailbox so she doesn't send back packages if she doesn't recognize the name of who it's addressed to.  (Thankfully it wasn't one of my packages this happened to.) 
Otherwise things are going well.  I've started working, although I really am not working nearly as hard as I do back when I'm at home in Ft. Leonard Wood.  More on that later.  For now, thanks for all the emails and facebook messages I've been getting, I appreciate them all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm here... finally

So, I've reached my final destination, at least until they decide to move me again.  I haven't really started working much yet, but I was able to feel my way around camp today and get my living quarters set up.  As I'm officer, I get to live in what's referred to in the Army as a CHU (pronounced like you're sneezing), otherwise known as a Containerized Housing Unit.  Basically, it's a small 6 x 12, air-conditioned, furnished shipping container.  It's not huge, and it's certainly not dust-tight, but it's home.  Thankfully, I have the CHU to myself for the moment.  At alot of other sites around the country, docs who outrank me are having to sleep 2 to a CHU, which can get a bit cramped.  Most of the enlisted soldiers here are sleeping in tents that have been "foamed" with this insulating foam that helps to keep in the air conditioning and keep out the noise.  The end result is pretty nice inside... although the outside looks like something out of Star Wars.
The last occupant of my CHU left behind quite a bit of stuff, including a refrigerator and an electric flyswatter!  (It's like a bug zapper fused with a tennis racket, you charge it, and then hold down a button and start swinging. I don't have any bugs in my room currently, but I'm contemplating leaving my door open for a while just so I can try it out.)  So that, combined with a few purchases (sheets, etc) at the PX today and I was good to go.  Thankfully, after a few weeks of sleeping on a cot, all the sleeping quarters here have beds with real (albeit only 3 inches thick) mattresses.  I hadn't realized how poorly I'd been sleeping on the cots before until I slept on the mattress again last night.
There's internet access, and even sattelite TV, available in your room here (even if you live in a tent) if you want to pay for it.  I think the sattelite's probably a bit much, but I may try the internet out eventually.  In the meantime, we've got an internet lab next to the hospital which is giving me what I need.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Break-Dancing My Way to Freedom

I still haven’t moved anywhere, but at least we’re doing more training now. I talked before about playing video games at the Army’s expense. The last 2 days, I’ve been riding a carnival ride on the Army’s dime, also known as rollover training. In this training, they’ve got a few Humvees and MRAPs mounted on these huge motorized wheels that literally flip them upside down. So, we all climb into the vehicles, strap ourselves in with the normal seatbelts, and then they spin the vehicles around a few times (i.e. multiple times being completely upside down held in only by your seatbelt while you desparately try to hold onto the gunner's legs to prevent him from bounding around the inside of the vehicle like a ping pong ball) and then stop the vehicles while they’re upside down. The “ride” itself was kind of fun, but safely releasing yourself was interesting. I was the “driver” when I was in the Humvee, and there wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver on the ceiling, especially when you’re weighed down by body armor and your helmet. As soon as I released myself, I was stuck on my back on the ceiling with my feet towards the door and not enough clearance to sit up. I had to do some sort of turtle-spin move to get to where I could open the door. A nearby Major commented that “all those break-dancing classes finally paid off”… right. Either way, it’s nice to be doing stuff again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More waiting...

Hey all,
No real change in my status, and really, no a whole lot going on.  We've collectively decided that our current location can be considered a kind of purgatory.  Not so much because it's painful or particularly hot at the moment, but we all feel we're kind of stuck waiting here until we can move on to our final destination.  I've had a few random training events, but for the most part there's been alot of time for reading and free time.  Thankfully, there's enough on post to keep myself and all the other soldiers busy.
I've been spending alot of time in the gym (which as I previously mentioned is much nicer than the Army gyms in CONUS).  Also, we've started tapping into some of the other resources available on post.  MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation... the army's fun department) has a number of tents set up to keep us all occupied.  One is a free movie theater.  I saw Land of the Lost a few days ago (not a great movie, but it made me laugh some) and watched Funny People last night (a much better movie, despite some raunchy jokes).  They've also got other tents set up with some TV's where you can check out and watch DVD's, as well as a bunch of video game terminals (I haven't really hit up either of those yet, I figure the younger soldiers are going to keep those tied up).  The USO's also got stuff set up here with a tent with free phone calls and internet (if  you don't mind an hour or so wait), as well as some other odds and ends to include some board games and a guitar that you can check out (I've already taken advantage of that a few times as I'd let my guitar playing lapse these last few months.) 
My favorite amenity by far though is the United Through Reading Program at the USO tent.  This is a really cool program where they've got a couple of sound proof rooms rigged up with video cameras.  Service members can go in with a children's book and they film themselves reading the story for their kids and then the USO will send a DVD of the recording, along with a copy of the book you read, back to your kids in the states.  I did my first reading yesterday, so hopefully Drew and Cristin will be getting the video in a few weeks.  It definitely brought to the surface how much I was missing them, but hopefully the DVD will be something that Drew can watch to have a little more "contact" with me while I'm gone.
Otherwise, not much else going on here.  I'm sitting in Starbucks at the moment (yes, they even have a Starbucks here, right next to the KFC) taking advantage of their more stable internet connection.  I may go hit the gym later and then it's one more day down before I start doing some real work.  Talk to everybody later.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


So, life goes on here in the now unnamed country. (Our security office has informed us all that we're not allowed to list where we are on our blogs.) We continue with training, etc, although we really haven’t been too busy so far. It’s been nice to have time to spend an hour at the gym every day and lounge around the tent, but I’m ready to just get everything over with and move on to my final destination.
Due to a combination of a mishap involving my normal glasses and a supply screw-up on the Army’s part, I’m now wearing some very goofy looking glasses. Once in Iraq, we’re expected to wear ballistic eye protection (Army-speak for pseudo-bulletproof glasses) anytime we’re outdoors. The Army was kind enough to issue me 2 different pairs of glasses with both clear and dark lenses, as well as a pair of goggles for when the wind and sand gets too bad. All of the various eyewear was made by a company known as ESS, and seems pretty nice. They’re all made so that those of us who are blind as a bat without glasses can get prescription inserts to drop into the glasses so that we can be protected and still see. Unfortunately, the Army decided to issue me inserts for a different brand of glasses. Thinking ahead, I brought in every pair of inserts that I’d been given since I joined the Army. With 3 different brands of inserts, none of them fit the glasses we were issued.
The first day I got here, I was attempting to wear my own glasses from home, but was told we had to have “Army approved” ballistic glasses over the top, which was fine, since the sun was out and a little sun protection was appreciated. Unfortunately, doubling up caused a lens to pop out of my normal glasses and, with the tools available to me here (i.e. my Army-issued Gerber), I haven’t been able to get the lens back in place. So, in the meantime, I get to wear what we affectionately refer to as BCG’s, or Birth Control Glasses. These glasses are what everyone in the Army is issued if they to go an Army optometrist. As you can see from the attached picture, they’re pretty goofy looking. Army tradition has it that, as long as you’re wearing them, you don’t need to worry about any birth control (as you’re going to look too silly to get in a situation where you might impregnate someone. ) One person who will remain nameless previously noted that I look like my dad when I put these on. I’m not even going to touch that one.
I’ve been told that there will be an optometry shop located with us when we get to Iraq. So, hopefully, I’ll be able to get the appropriate type of inserts and no longer have to wear these goofy glasses.
That’s all I’ve got for today. I’ve got one or two more mandatory classes today, and then we’re free for the rest of the day. Nothing too exciting planned for the night. Probably we’ll go to the gym, Skype with Cristin if the Internet behaves, and then I think we’re going to see Land of the Lost at the MWR theater tonight. For those who are interested, here’s a picture of my current living quarters, complete with the obligatory Euchre game in the background.