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I have been slacking off on writing my final deployment post. My deployment ended a couple of weeks early because I passed out and they decided to send me home. One minute I was waiting to use the bathroom in the hospital lobby and the next I was waking up on the floor of the hospital laundry. When I woke up, a friendly Afghan man offered me a bottle of water and a Jolly Rancher in case it was blood sugar and I sat down for a couple minutes and then left. My boss made me go back to the ER and that was when it got interesting.

They did some labs and they came out that my platelets were really low and my white blood cells a little high. I had an EKG while declined, laying flat and standing up and I guess I passed since I didn't pass out. They took some chest x-rays and scans to look at my lungs and heart. After a little while the doctor came back in and said they were going to run more tests to see if I had a heart attack and then no one came back in to talk to me for another hour and a half. That time was a little stressful. I did not have a heart attack and they said my heart and lungs looked really good. The final determination in the ER was that I had some type of infection or virus that my body was fighting off.

When I went into the office the next day, they told me I was being sent home. I went for a follow-up and my blood numbers better, so the doctor said I could return to work. She also said that it made no sense to send me home and wrote a letter that if they were concerned, she would schedule me for regular visits and lab work to make sure there is nothing serious. It didn't work and I left that night.

The most humorous part was that my original travel itinerary would have had me traveling for over 2 weeks. I would have spent 8 days in a tent in Kuwait, 3 days in an airport in Germany (I wouldn't be allowedd to leave the airport), 2 days in the Baltimore airport and then to Atlanta and Fort Benning to outprocess. Apparently I was too sick to stay 3 minutes from a hospital but not too sick to sleep in airports and tents for 2 weeks. Luckily it didn't take that long to get home. I do still have to see my doctor here to make sure everything is fine.

I am back home and loving it. I get to hand out with my wife and the "pupples" and sleep in a bed I fit on. I also have ice to put in drinks and can drink milk out of a glass that I am mostly sure is real milk. I didn't want to come home, but once that decision was made, I was just ready to be back. Plus, it was only 2 weeks or so early. It just means they got to stop paying me earlier than expected. I also have got to have a lot of sushi, some Fat Tire and more "real" food. Since my wife works from home though, I think she is wondering if I can deploy somewhere else for a while.

It was a lot cooler in Kuwait this time around. Instead of the 140s from July, it was only 110. I also spent more time wandering around the base there to see what was going on. The most dangerous part of my deployment was when I got back to Fort Benning and our bus engine caught fire. I did get molested at the Atlanta airport going through security and I may never fly again. It was kind of like that one "Friends" episode with Joey and his tailor. The good news for men is that while they are checking to see if your testicles are wired to explode, they can also check for hernias and lumps.

Overall, I enjoyed the deployment. It was hard to be away from home, but I met and talked to a lot of interesting people from all over. I also got to go to a place that most people will probably never be able to see. If it wasn't for all the war and instability, Afghanistan could be a beautiful place and they are loaded with resources like precious and semi-precious stones, many of which I got for my wife. Luckily she liked it because I mostly just picked up the stones and items I liked such as mystic topaz and blue and white opal. Blue opal may be one of the most interesting and beautiful things you can find so everyone should buy their wives, girlfriends or pets some. It is all less expensive over there, but not as inexpensive as I would have liked. The one thing we have managed to spread over there and they have accepted is capitalism.

I have been telling people that the real reason I got sent home was because I was too sexy for Afghanistan after losing weight. No one believes me. No one believed my story about the Taliban drone that attacked my nose either even though I still have a bump.

I lost 38 pounds over there and ran and worked out almost everyday. I worked out few times with some Marines, but I was pretty sure they were going to cause me to die so I didn't do it for long. They were crazy. I mostly ran and worked out with exercise bands because the equipment in our gym kept breaking. None of my clothes fit anymore.

I will miss working and hanging out with Michael and Felecia. We had a pretty good time together and Felecia was our "shopping assistant" when we went to the Afghan shops. They also showed me the good barbecue DFAC and we joked around a lot. The people I will miss most though are the ones I talked to every night passing messages and the regulars that came in to the office. We built up pretty good relationships for never actually meeting and they were all great to work with. Not only were they good at taking the messages, but they helped me get through the nights since we were never passing a lot of positive messages. It is really one of those time where you have to be able to joke with each other or you will get depressed and never get through the shift. You can tell the people who take themselves too seriously because they are always in bad moods and bitchy.

I really was in a fairly good place to be deployed though. We were fairly safe, we had a PX and several shoppettes, several Afghan shops, showers and bathrooms. Our rooms weren't luxurious, but compared to what some others had, they were like the Ritz. There were people at Bagram that complained and it wasn't like back home, but it was not a bad place to be if you have to be away from home and in a war zone. Sure, everyone could have had their own suites and bathrooms, but they could have also lived in tents and dug holes for toilets.

And a very big thank you to everyone that sent things over for me and for the troops. The little touches of home meant a lot and the snacks helped me avoid eating junk food.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram Home Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram October 18 Edition   Spin

The next post will be a long story. This one is a little late and I will explain it all later.

Today I have decided that it is about time to be done with this deployment. Unfortunately, I do not actually get to make that decision. I know that people deploy over here for longer and do jobs far more dangerous and harder than mine, but I am ready to hug my wife, fight with my dogs for space on the bed and maybe even play with my wife's hair without complaining about my hand hurting after a few minutes.

I think it was more of a nervous breakdown than a decision. I am not sure what to call crying in the shower for no apparent reason. It was a manly crying. Last night there was another baby that died among the regular death messages occasionally broken up by someone not dying. There was a birth also, but I am tired of passing messages about babies dying and specially to parents who are not with their children. I also had another person cry while I was passing a message.

I was also thinking how I have not hugged or kissed my wife since June 6 and that seems like forever. I think it is in large part because my dumbass chose to come over over. It is a little late to be second guessing I would assume. I should have done that a little sooner. It is getting closer to being over though and I think that is also part of it. The end is so close and I am so ready. It is like 4:30 on Friday when you are just waiting for 5 and then you have an awesome night or weekend ahead.

All is not bad though. I did mail home some of my stuff today and being the jerk that I am, my wife's anniversary presents are in a box that is padlocked. I wish we would be back before November 7, but at least I will be back for the holidays. A lot of people will not be and my hat is off to everyone of them. At least I will only miss one major day. The one that really matters is my wife's birthday week. Her birthday is February 1 and she gets the whole week. Some of you may be saying, "but Scott, isn't your birthday on February 2?" Yes it is, I get a birthday minute for her and the puppies to sing to me at midnight and then her week continues.

I also still enjoy the job for the most part. I like to interact with the people I call messages out to. I even learned that the petty officer I call messages out to at night is a Hawkeye fan from Moline and that he knew Ed Podolak growing up because his father was friends with him. I can't say that I like to go to the hospital because I would prefer the hospital was so slow it closed, but it is also rewarding.

One of the first things I want to do when I get back is to have real milk in a glass and any beverage with ice in it. July 8 was probably the last time I had either. I want a steak from Pittsburgh Blue and a pizza from almost anywhere. Mostly, I want to hug my wife and do nothing but annoy her by always being next to her and following her around.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram October 18 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram October 15 Edition   Spin

I went on a hospital visit with one of our volunteers on Wednesday and I almost passed out. I hadn't been feeling good to begin with and I didn't feel great talking to the less serious injuries and illnesses, but I almost went down in the surgical ward. I don't know if it was me not feeling good, the injuries we saw or a combination of both, but at one point if I hadn't found a chair in the hall, I would have been the newest patient at the hospital. I have visited the ward before with no problems, but we will how it goes next time.

We saw 2 guys that had been hit by IEDs. One lost his leg above the knee and had other injuries and one had a long list of injuries, but most of them were internal. He had a broken tib-fib that had pins and plates in it and was unconscious, but our volunteer was awesome with him. I love visiting the hospital with him because he is great with people and talks to them all like they are friends. I am going with him again tomorrow and hopefully this time I can remain standing the whole time.

Overall, it was pretty quiet at the hospital because a couple of flights had left taking people to Germany. It was extremely busy the night before. The first guy we talked to was there for a suicide attempt. He seemed to be doing pretty good when we saw him and was very open about what was going on with him, what he was thinking at the time and how he was glad that he didn't go through with it and would be getting help with the things that were bothering him. He was also so young. When I was these guys' age, my friend Greg was driving from Dubuque to Iowa City because Zima had come out and I said I wasn't going to drink until Zima came out. Anyway, the guy seemed sincere and you can never be sure, but hopefully he accepts the help that is offered to him and they take good care of him.

That is about all the excitement of the past week. I apparently slept though an incoming alert today, but still managed to follow instructions without waking up. The directions were to shelter in place and I did that perfectly. Maybe Tylenol PM with a Nyquil chaser is not the most intelligent breakfast over here.

Wednesday was the first time I have eaten meat in quite a while. Although, I can't be sure I am eating meat even when I do have it over here. The steak has the strangest texture I have ever seen. It is kind of like a fatty, stringy sponge. One of the guys who comes in every morning and I have decided that it is probably camel that they found that had stepped on a mine in the mine fields. I think it is paper mulch, ground mouse and dirt.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram October 15 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram October 6 Edition   Spin

I was just finishing up "Skype-ing" my wife and walked out of the MWR room and a guy asked me if I was from Minnesota. I said, "ya, you betcha. How did you knoooooow, eh?" That is the third person who has just met me and asked me if I was from Minnesota. I think it may be time to move.

I have been reading "The Brothers Karamazov" and the more I read, the further I seem to get from the end of the book. Although I liked "Crime and Punishment," this one seems more interesting and keeps my attention better from the beginning. When I start to go blind from reading text that I should use a microscope to read, I have also been listening to "Creating True Peace" by Thich Nhat Hanh. It helps remind me that getting angry does not accomplish anything or solve any problems and often does the opposite. So, now when I get mad and think I should duct tape someone to the inner office door and repeatedly slam the outer, I will instead close my eyes, breathe and repeat, "I am in touch with the energy of peace in every cell of my body and understand that this person has suffered and is angry. I will not add to that anger and suffering or let it cause me to suffer." Of course, if that doesn't work, I will keep the duct tape handy.

Three times in the past week I have passed messages to people who have cried while taking them. Then I want to cry and everything gets messed up. One of the messages was for a newborn that was not going to survive its first night. Another was passed to someone who knew the person it was going to and also was reminded of her mother that had died this year of the same thing. The third was just after I had passed a few to the same person and they just kind of wear on you. You can only take so many messages about someone dying or sick or injured before you need to do something to release it. I don't have a problem with crying, but you don't know if you should keep going with the message or stop.

I used to cry all the time on funeral detail when I was in the Army and I never knew anyone personally that we did a funeral for. When "Taps" starts playing and they start folding the flag and then hand it to the family, it is hard not to cry. I also cry at good versions of the "Star Spangled Banner" like the one by Josh Groban, "Marley and Me" and some commercials with dogs in them. I sometimes want to cry when a mouse gets caught in a trap in my room, but then I remember that they are the ones that broke the truce. I said if they stayed on the floor, I would not put any traps down, but they had to push it.

I got some Peeps sent to me this week. For those that don't know, my name is Scott and I am a Peepaholic. I tried to make them last, but I finished the last ones while doing this. I may be in Peep rehab later this week.

I will end with one of the "14 Mindfulness Trainings:"
"Aware that anger blocks communication and creates suffering, I am determined to take care of the energy of anger when it arises and to recognize and transform the seeds of anger that lie deep in my consciousness. When anger comes up, I am determined not to do or say anything, but to practice mindful breathing or mindful walking and acknowledge, embrace and look deeply into my anger. I will learn to look with the eyes of compassion on those I think are the cause of my anger."

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram October 6 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram October 2 Edition   Spin

I finished the "Hispanic Heritage 5K" and felt fairly good afterwards, but I also spent a lot of time not running very fast. We finished in about 40 minutes, but my running partner was not feeling too well a day after a little food poisoning so I stayed with him most of the time. He would walk and I would run in circles or back and forth across the road. With that extra distance, I may have actually run 10K. I probably could have finished in 30 minutes or so.

It looks like I will get to find out next weekend. I have apparently signed up for another "Hispanic Heritage" run. This time I will try to see what I can do. I don't think I will keep up a fast pace for the whole way, but I am going to try and keep up a good one that is steady. We will not be running in as nice or as new of an area for this one though. The one we just did was in a new area with smooth roads and only a little dust. We also got to run just inside the perimeter fence where there was nothing but chain link separating us from the outside world.

The other exciting part of the week was that I saw camels. I tried to get pictures of them, but they were a bit outside the wire and my camera kept trying to focus on the chain link so I couldn't zoom out to the camels to get a better view. We were also stopped in front of a mine field they were clearing so we couldn't stay long or try to get closer to the fence to try and get better pictures. They frown on us being around when they are clearing mine fields although they use people to do it. We occasionally here a boom when they detonate one, but they are all "controlled dets" and as far as I know, it has been a while since one has gone off and hurt someone.

There is nothing else exciting really going on here. I can't wait to be able to talk to my wife without 10-15 other people in the room with me shoulder to shoulder. Skype is nice, but it is nicer when you don't have everything else going on around you. The Reserve unit from St Cloud will be rotating to Afghanistan from Iraq, but I am not sure if they will stop through Bagram or not. I will buy them a coffee and ramen noodles if they do.

I have decided that it would be pretty nice of Verizon to give me a Droid R2D2 as a welcome back gift for my loyalty to them. Even though they do things like lock options that come with phones so that you have to pay them for the same program, I still like their coverage and it works a lot better than Sprint did at our house when we had that. I would also accept a regular Droid X, Droid 2 or HTC Incredible from them, I just wouldn't look like as big of a nerd, I mean as cool.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram October 2 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram September 29 Edition   Spin

I missed my normal Saturday update. Time is strange here. A day takes forever to end, but weeks seem to go by in no time. I don't know if it is like that for everyone. I have worked on about 1300 cases so far and no one has obeyed my moratorium on death and illness. I tried to get a law passed that only healthy babies could be born with no complications, but Afghanistan is a lot like everywhere else and no one listens to me. There were few cases this past week involving newborns that ended up not making it.

Considering it all, I have the easy part over here. I am not talking directly to the family like I am back home and do not pass the message to the service member over here, but it sucks a lot. I was talking to one of the people I pass messages to last night and he was saying that he felt for us because it must be hard. It is, but we knew what we would be doing when we signed up. Compared to what they deal with, it is nothing. I don't have to worry why a convoy or route clearance team hasn't checked in yet and I don't have to track casualties like many of them.

On a different note, the UAE compound isn't far from the office and I get to listen to the call to morning prayer most mornings. Some people don't like it, but I think that is more because they don't respect the religion and not the actual sound. It kind of reminds me of those "Chant" CDs made by Benedictine monks or some Tibetan Buddhist chants. It is kind of nice and relaxing. I also heard one of the guys at the laundry drop-off point rapping in English. It wasn't very good, but with the Afghan accent sounded kind of fun.

Speaking of music, I could of sworn I just saw Russell Simmons, Heavy D, Easy E and Justin Bieber walk into the DFAC together. The Bieber lookalike was a woman in the Air Force, but I am thinking about forming a band. We also heard a trumpet playing outside the wire the other day so I may go recruit that person also. Maybe we will just make a YouTube video that will go viral and get us on Anderson Cooper or the Daily Show.

I am ready to be home and getting closer. I don't mind the job and have met a lot of interesting people who have shared a lot of stories with me. A group from Michigan was more than happy to let me know that th Hawkeyes lost and how they cheated at Michigan State last year. Some of the things just seem stupid and annoying though that go along with it. I suppose it is like every job except I don't get to go home at night to get away from it. I am lucky that I do not live with any of my coworkers in that I can get away from them if needed, but even then none of them live more than 3 minutes away. I will have some interesting stories to tell when I get back. I would tell them now, but I am sure someone would say that it was an "OPSEC" issue even though I am not sure that many people over here know what OPSEC really is. I think some people think that if you say something they don't like, it is an OPSEC issue. But they also believe they can brag about knowing some secret piece of information and that is not an issue.

I had better finish up. I am trying to get some pictures of snow in the mountains, but the clouds and light aren't cooperating. Yesterday it rained and hailed where we are most of the day, but the mountains got quite a bit of snow. Maybe I will go skiing.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram September 29 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram September 19 Edition   Spin

Went through my first earthquake this week. Without a map I am not sure where exactly it was centered, but we felt it here. At first I thought it was one of my coworkers walking around the office and then I thought maybe the wind, but it kept going when both of those stopped and then I said, "hmm, an earthquake." It wasn't as dramatic and exciting as I thought my first earthquake would be. I didn't even leave my chair or run around yelling about the end of the world.

It has started getting colder here at Bagram. I think it is still warmer in the southern, desert areas but it has been getting into the high 30s/low 40s at night. It still gets kind of warm during the day, but that will be changing shortly too. It won't get Minnesota below zero cold, but they will regularly have temperatures below freezing. I am not sure how much snow they get here, but there is still snow on top of a few mountain peaks which seems kind of odd because there were times when it was over 100 while I was here at Bagram. I can't tell how tall the mountains are or even really how far away they are. They look close, but I bet it would be a lot of walking to get there.

I am pretty sure the earthquake was caused by me finishing "God is Not Great" and I made the gods angry. I am also pretty sure that if a lot of people knew I had the book that I could find something that many people on both sides agree on, that I am evil. I would be able to unite the evangelicals in the military with the people in Taliban and Haqqani network. Can you get a Nobel Peace Prize if the peace comes in a mutual hatred of you? I think you should qualify. I don't plan on walking around with it though to test my theory. I have enough to worry about with mice, snakes, gerbils, earthquakes and dust.

I have apparently signed up for the Hispanic Heritage 5K next Friday. I am not 100% sure how I did that or why I chose a t-shirt size that wouldn't fit me but would fit one of my coworkers, but I guess I am running. Depending on the wind, dust and how active the burn pit for garbage is, I may run in my gas mask. I guess I would have to find that before I could run in it though. I am sure it is somewhere in my room.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram September 19 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram September 12 Edition   Spin

It is a sad day at BAF. My first B-hut roommate has left and is heading back home. I guess it is good for him, but who is going to wake me up during the day if the alarms go off and tell me they are going off, but I shouldn't worry about it unless I hear something close. I have followed that advice well and sheltered in place in my bed the other night.

To celebrate the end of Ramadan, some of the people shared their fireworks with us. It was a very good show because they apparently didn't shoot them very high and they only shot 1 or 2 at a time, but it sounded like a good show. I am not sure if any of the rounds landed on base, but they kind of sounded like that laser sound from movies and TV followed by a boom. Those usually hit the wall or fall short since they are RPGs and the people firing them don't want to get in range of the guns in the towers or have too far to run before the Apaches get in the air.

I only heard explosions from 2 of the 3 attacks. Apparently a mortar took out a flag pole. I thought I heard the whistle of it coming in, but never heard anything after so I assumed I made it up for one of my stories I will tell when I am old about how I survived the 'Stan even though it rained rockets and mortars every day. I may also include how I climbed over the wall with just my Gerber and defended the base against an invasion of a huge force and how the base would have fallen if it wasn't for me. Of course I will also add that the reason no one has read or heard about it is because it is classified since I am Red Cross Special Forces.

Other than that, not much exciting is going on that I am able to talk about. If you follow what is going on over here, you have seen a lot of injuries and deaths recently and I think it will get worse in the coming months as troops try to secure some areas down south.

If any of you have children who want to write to a service member or draw them a picture, let me know. Someone from Camp Ripley had the idea of having kids she knew write letters or whatever to the wounded in the hospital, but I will try to help out with any ideas people have. The people in the hospital come and go pretty quickly, but we can give them out when we go on our visits.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram September 12 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram September 5 Edition   Spin

I am not sure how to exactly describe this week in Afghanistan, but I will start with this.

Petty Officer 3rd Class James M. Swink, 20, of Yucca Valley, Calif
Master Sgt. Daniel L. Fedder, 34, of Pine City, Minn
Staff Sgt. James R. Ide, 32, of Festus, Mo
Spc. James C. Robinson, 27, of Lebanon, Ohio
Spc. Chad D. Coleman, 20, of Moreland, Ga
Pvt. Adam J. Novak, 20, of Prairie du Sac, Wis
Capt. Ellery R. Wallace, 33, of Utah
Pfc. Bryn T. Raver, 20, of Harrison, Ark
Gunnery Sgt. Floyd E. C. Holley, 36, of Casselberry, Fla
Sgt. Patrick K. Durham, 24, of Chattanooga, Tenn
Spc. Andrew J. Castro, 20, of Westlake Village, Calif
Capt. Dale A Goetz, 43, of White, S.D
Staff Sgt. Jesse Infante, 30, of Cypress, Texas
Staff Sgt. Kevin J. Kessler, 32, of Canton, Ohio
Staff Sgt. Matthew J. West, 36, of Conover, Wis
Pfc. Chad D. Clements, 26, of Huntington, Ind
Sgt. Joseph A. Bovia, 24, of Kenner, La
Lance Cpl. Cody A. Roberts, 22, of Boise, Idaho
Lance Cpl. Christopher B. Rodgers, 20, of Griffin, Ga
1st Lt. Mark A. Noziska, 24, of Papillon, Neb
Staff Sgt. Casey J. Grochowiak, 34, of Lompoc, Calif
Lance Cpl. Joshua T. Twigg, 21, of Indiana, Pa
Staff Sgt. Vinson B. Adkinson III, 26, of Harper, Kan
Sgt. Raymond C. Alcaraz, 20, of Redlands, Calif
Pfc. Matthew E. George, 22, of Gransboro, N.C.
Pfc. James A. Page, 23, of Titusville, Fla

Two of the people killed were part of the unit I kind of adopted and asked some people back home if they could send stuff for them because they are going to one of the many places where there is nothing. Their main body hasn't even arrived and they had only been here a week or so as part of the advanced party. I have received many boxes for the unit and they have all been sent down. They have even started arriving there and I received a thank you from them the day after the two members of the unit were lost. Little things mean a lot here and bring a touch of home or "normal" to a foreign and dangerous place.

One of the units has pictures of all the soldiers they have lost over here hanging up in their building. Most of these kids weren't born until after President Reagan left office. They look so young and some look like they know what is going to happen to them in their photos.

Other than that, I caught the mouse in my room and felt so bad when he got stuck in the glue that I wanted to free him, but couldn't. The little scream he made when he first realized it was stuck and as it struggled to get free were horrible to me. I wanted to free him and cry, but didn't do either. I also feel kind of bad that I threw him out with the trash. I thought about a burial for him, but they aren't too keen on people randomly digging over here. I am not a big fan of killing and still feel bad about it. Poor little mouse. If I wasn't afraid of running in to a cobra, I would have let him be as long as he stayed out of my stuff. I wonder how much bad karma there is in killing a mouse.

You may be thinking what the heck is that idiot doing in a war zone. I have started valuing all life as part of what makes everything. None of us are separate or independent from our environment and every creature, plant, tree, piece of dirt and mouse plays a role in our existence. I try not to hate the Taliban or call them the enemy even though they would probably be more than happy to get a hold of me and post me online as an example. There are plenty of people over here who hate each other and I am not even really sure anyone knows exactly why. Don't get me wrong, if it were to come down to where it is me or the other person who gets it, I am going to do my best to make sure it is him. I will just feel bad about it afterwards. I would also be mad that he would try to ruin my getting through the deployment and getting to see my wife and puppies again, so it will be mixed feelings I guess.

On lighter the lighter side, I went to this magical place known as the "barbecue DFAC" the other day. It was a strange land where they had ribs, pulled pork and chicken all cooked on grills. I can't say it was the best I have had, but it was really pretty good and amazing compared to what I have become used to. They ran out of barbecue sauce so I didn't get any, but the pork had it mixed in and the ribs were pretty good without it. I also had chili and potato salad. It was like eating at Famous Dave's or Red, Hot and Blue only not.

This has gotten kind of long and I suppose I should stop. Tonight we get to tour the forensics lab here at Bagram and that will cut into my sleep schedule. I wonder if I have to wear my uniform on the tour. I should have asked. Because I mainly work the night shift, I have only worn my uniform 3 times since I arrived in Afghanistan and once was just so I could take pictures of myself in it.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram September 5 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram August 30 Edition   Spin

Not that I am counting, but I have been away from home about 85 days and have about 77 left.

I saw the coolest mountain bikes today. They were both in the new multicam and the bikes looked like a good way to get around. I have seen others with the ACU and a few other paint schemes, but the multicam looked the best overall. It may not even have the actual multicam, but it looked a lot like it if it wasn't. I wonder if New Belgium Brewing Co can send me a Fat Tire bike so I can also look cool riding around? If they could find a way to smuggle Fat Tire in it that would be even better.

Not much new since yesterday other than that. The men's bathroom and showers in my area ran out of water again. It makes it hard to take a shower and brush your teeth. There are also some issues with people using the restrooms when the toilets can't be flushed, but there aren't many portapotties near us, so I guess they do what they have to.

I have spent the past couple of days looking for cobras and checking my room to make sure there are no mice or snakes. Mice don't bother me and I don't have much they can get in to, but there was a cobra found in one of the B-huts recently and it was apparently after mice. They say it was a small one but I am not sure I consider a 6-foot long snake that will chew on me while it is injecting venom that could kill me quickly small. I already had my encounter with a rattlesnake when I was in the Army at Fort Carson. I stepped on one and I think the only thing that kept me from getting bitten was that it was as surprised as I was. I think I woke it up and it took it a minute to realize some jerk stepped on it while it was sunning and I got a little distance between us while it was deciding what to do about it.

One of my roommates in my half of the B-hut heads back home in 8 days or so and my half will be mostly empty most of the time. Of the 4 rooms, one is occupied by me, one by a soldier that spends a month at a time on missions, one room will be reserved for a unit from Nevada when they have people coming through here on leave, and one is SSG Downs and he will be leaving. They may assign someone else to it, but I was thinking about knocking down the wall separating them before they do and make a suite. I say wall, but it is really plywood that doesn't go to the ceiling and has gaps on the floor and along the wall. The top of the wall is about forehead level for me. The wall separating my half of the B-hut from the back half is taller, but there are still gaps and you can hear everything the person on the other side is doing.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram August 30 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram August 29 Edition   Spin

Today was a pretty big day for me. I went to the Saturday bazaar which is really a tryout for vendors looking to get into the larger bazaar when it starts back up. There is a lot of lapus lazuli there and it is apparently pretty common in Afghanistan. It is very blue and some nice things are made out of it. My favorite things there besides the hand-carved Buddhist chess set were the items carved from granite and marble. They had a mini-keg type thing carved from granite and goblets and tea sets of all kinds. I would look like a king or a classy pirate with those things.

I also got a new mattress today. The master sergeant who has been staying on my B-hut waiting for his unit to head out to their FOB and saw people unloading new mattresses and asked how he could get one. He was told that he could get 2 mattresses for his unit patch and so he came in with 2 mattresses and I got one of them. I didn't get much sleep today because of the bazaar, moving in the mattresses and then some Air Force guys dropped off a lot of cases of paper for the master sergeant and them throwing them around sounded like we were getting shelled, but when I was in bed in was very nice, at least compared to my old mattress that had springs that poked me in various places. It isn't a Denver Mattress Company pillowtop.

On the other side of things, it has been a busy time down south with a lot of fighting. That makes it pretty busy at the hospital and the day staff here does a good job of getting over there whenever they hear of new wounded. Their last visit was hard for them with a lot of wounded and several serious injuries. Two guys who they say are maybe 20 both lost their legs. One was intubated and started to cry and they did what they could to comfort him. Most of the ones who came in yesterday got flown to Germany last night on a special plane for critical care. I am waiting to here if more have come in from the staff over there and if they think any of them could use a visit and care package bag and then maybe I will stop by tonight if it is slow or tomorrow morning. It is odd; I both look forward to and do not look forward to those visits. My first visit was pretty easy with mostly illnesses, but they won't all be that way.

Since we got here I have worked over 700 cases. That is a lot of death, illness and an occasional birth. Some of the more humorous parts of cases I have worked on are unit's locations and addresses occasionaly in the messages. I had a message tonight for Cannd Jar, Afghanistan (Kandahar), worked on ones previously for Camp Leatherneck that came in for Weatherneck and Leathernecker and apparently there is a Bagraham Airfield someplace over here. Those are just the ones that stick with you; there are lots of other problems due to phonetics and such.

Last night I traded a Red Cross coin for a combat patch for the 2 Battalion 503 Infantry 173 Airborne. He said he was here when Restrepo was being filmed. He had an advanced copy he said the director sent everyone who was there and we tried to watch it, but my queues were too busy and we didn't get it done. We had to stop it when they started talking about "Operation Rock Avalanche." I have no idea if he was there or not, but I have no reason to think he wasn't, so I choose to believe he was. He seemed to know a lot about all the people and what went on. But you never can tell. I have been telling people things from "The Unit" as what I did when I was in the Army.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram August 29 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram August 26 Edition   Spin

Anna Karenindone!

Yay me! I finished "Anna Karenina" and have now read "Crime and Punishment," "Anna Karenina" and "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" since I got to Bagram. I think I like Tolstoy a little more than Dostoyevsky, but there were both pretty good. Tolstoy was a lot easier to get through. My next decision is between "Great Expectations," "War and Peace" or "The Brother Karamazov." I am leaning towards "Great Expectations" because it is shorter. I need to build up my endurance for the other two.

Other than that it has been fairly quiet and I am still not sure I like it. Not that I want anyone shooting us, but I don't like that they fired rockets at us 3 times in 4 days and now there hasn't been anything for 2 weeks. Maybe that means they have given up in this area since they cannot win, but it could also mean they are saving up for a grand finale. They can't really get close enough to hit most of the post, but there are areas they can hit and they know where they are. I am not in those areas, but a lot of people are. Let's hope for the best though and that everyone is starting to get tired of fighting and maybe we can move forward to improving things without the constant threat of violence and death. A boy can dream.

Tonight is pretty cool out. There was a little rain and it has been pretty cloudy so some would probably think it was cold, but it is nice. The moon is full, but you can't see it. Today the sun came out about an hour later than normal, but that is because it was blocked by some clouds over the mountains. I think without the mountains, the sun would rise here about 3 AM.

Unfortunately, although it has been calm in our area, other areas have been fairly active and there have been several deaths and a lot of injuries. I can't even really say it has been quiet here since a lot of people come through the hospital here and they are almost never looking for something to do over there at the hospital.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram August 26 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram August 23 Edition   Spin

Greetings from Bagram

It has been a fairly quiet last few days here. I don't think we have had any rockets fired since Tuesday and I am not sure if that is good or bad. The hospital has been busy and the people down south deal with regular attacks and unfortunately injuries and deaths that will probably only increase during the coming months. The hospital and medical staff here are almost always busy.

I went on my first hospital visit today. The ICU/ICW was full, but it was mostly illness or none-combat injuries like back problems. There were a couple of service members who had lost legs and an Afghan who lost a leg. There was also an Afghan with serious burns to the face and body, but I am not sure what happened. There was also a beautiful Afghan girl, maybe 10 or so, who the nurses seemed to love. I didn't see any injuries on her so she may have been brought in with someone or her injuries were minor.

We handed out our little Red Cross bags with things like socks, shampoo, body wash, M&Ms, phone cards and such and talked for a while. I think we were there about two and a half hours. I went with Michael since he knew the nurses from previous visits and we took a new volunteer with us. Overall, it was a good trip and I hope to go more. My schedule doesn't always match up with when they have time for us to wander around. Many of the people we visited today were supposed to be heading to Germany tonight, but judging from the news, they will be getting more in shortly.

I have taken a few days off from my workout, at least the running portion of it until I get some running shorts. I wonder what happened to the times when I probably could have run naked with no problems. I guess that was a few pounds ago, but I am working my way back to a Dutch god physique. I am not sure if Dutch gods look like Greek gods or not, but maybe you will see me next to David someday.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram August 23 Edition

Spin   Greetings from Bagram August 18 Edition   Spin

Greetings from Bagram

Not only did I get to hear my first RPG explosions on Saturday night/Sunday morning, but they fired a few more at us last night (Tuesday). I was heading out to eat and heard it and my first thought was "shit, I am going to have to shelter and will miss dinner." Then I had to decide where I wanted to head. I chose to go to the Red Cross to shelter in place. I watched part of the Cubs game and some of "Mission Impossible 2" with some others who also chose to shelter here. The rockets ruined "Ladies Night" at the Red Cross when women get to choose the movies.

As far as where the rounds hit and where they came from, I have no idea. It is hard to say in this bowl we live in. They could have hit anywhere and been fired from anywhere. I just know I didn't see or feel any explosions. The ones that hit on Saturday we could feel in our office and even those weren't real close to where I am. Michael though is still the most diligent of us regarding getting his armor and heading to the bunker, but I think that is because he was an RA. He always says "there is no such thing as a false alarm" as far as how you respond to them. I did what the giant voice in the sky told me to do and I sheltered in place. I was mostly just glad they hit after I was done in the shower. To take a phrase from Michael, "it would be a war crime if I ran out without getting dressed first."

The UAE siren sounds kind of like an ice cream truck and its voice sounds a lot more excited than the one over here. Ours is a recording that always sounds like it just woke up.

I probably had my best overall workout last night before the rounds hit. I think having gum in my mouth to keep it from drying out helped. I still didn't keep up with the Marine next to me, but I also didn't look like I was going to die so that is good. 2 of the 4 treadmills are now dead and the big weight station with the pullies is down because the cables broke. Luckily I have my exercise bands in my room that I like for a lot of exercises.

Much Metta!

Greetings from Bagram August 18 Edition

Spin   Boom Shake Shake Shake the Room   Spin

Last night I got to hear my first 2 RPG round impacts. I was talking to someone in the office and we heard an explosion and were kind of asking what is going on and was that incoming or outgoing. While we were deciding that it had to be incoming the second round came in. We then decided that the correct procedure was to go stand on the deck and see what was going on. That was all there was to it so we went back to work.

The people here keep changing. I have had 9 different people staying in my half of the B-Hut and only one other and myself have stayed the same. He will be leaving shortly too. The people we call messages to also seem to change a lot. I get used to someone and they leave. It kind of feels like a good friend moving away even though I have only been here a month or so. You learn a lot about people and their families when you are on the phone calling messages out.

I sent a box of things to a Marine I call a lot with messages. We have a good time on the phone giving each other a hard time. The whole top half of the box has feminine hygiene and "girly" body washes, deodorants and soap. I don't think he has gotten it yet because I imagine I would have heard from him. I have gained a new respect for the Marines. I have always thought of them as hardcore and a little crazy, but they are professional, polite and always look put together. They make me think about pressing my uniform.

I have still been hitting the gym almost everyday. I took a couple days off last week because my knees were hurting, but I still did resistance band workouts in my room. I like the bands. I may run a 9.11K on September 11 and a 5K in honor of the "Black Hawk Down" incident, but I am still deciding. I have to make sure someone in worse shape than I am also runs so I don't finish last.

Much Metta!

Boom Shake Shake Shake the Room

Spin   Lessons of Month 1   Spin

As I get ready to complete my first 30 days at BAF (Bagram, Afghanistan) here are some things I have learned:

  1. Even though there are those loud as Air Force jets taking off and landing all the time, trucks of every sort driving around, doors slamming and outbound artillery fire, the thing that will keep you from sleeping is a buzzing sound from the air conditioner

  2. People need to take more naps

  3. People need to tell their friends and families their units and other information to get messages if there is an emergency. If you need to get a message to someone and say that your son is a Marine in Afghanistan with no other information, you are wrong. If you say they are an engineer in the navy and that is all, you are wrong

  4. Steak and lobster are not always gourmet or even good

  5. I learned that my boss resigned at my chapter back home. I wonder if that means I will learn that I donít have a job when I get back. Anyone need a high paid assistant with disaster response experience who has deployed to Afghanistan? Maybe I will call Senator Franken

  6. The Cubs aren't any better when you are in Afghanistan

  7. I miss sleeping in my bed with my wife. I even miss being crowded on a king size bed by two dogs who seem to expand in size at night

  8. Tolstoy is easier to read than Dostoyevsky

  9. I am not allowed to put on here what I think about the people who don't think homosexuals should be able to serve in the military, but have girlfriends or boyfriends on the side

  10. Even if you are going to Afghanistan, do not buy the cheap sheets at Target. They can be used as files for fingernails and calluses

  11. Hot is relative. Kuwait is hot. Everywhere else I have been is mild

  12. People from South Carolina refuse to accept that Minnesota has more people and they think we are all simpletons without electricity or Internet like the "big" cities have

  13. The laundry service here can shrink anything. Maybe I will see if they can work on my gut

  14. Marines do smile and joke around occasionally. But, I do not enjoy working out in the gym when it is full or Marines, they are crazy. I keep doing it though in case I get in better shape by just watching them

  15. I may run the Mogadishu 5K in October. I am not running the 75K or 50K. As much as I would like the t-shirt for doing it, that is a long ass way

  16. Some people take themselves too seriously and make everyone around them tense

  17. Not all Air Force people are fat and lazy aristocrats

  18. I am sure there are some other things, but I am not very witty tonight

I think I will start doing hospital visits this week or over the weekend. It is one of those things I am most and least looking forward to. Besides just visiting with people, we also try to bring phone cards when we have them in and sometimes items like shaving kits and such. I think I will try to find someone to play cribbage with. I don't have a cribbage board though so if you have an extra one around and feel like sending it to Afghanistan, let me know.

I won't use names, but I am pretty sure one of our teammates over here is crazy. I think she is going to have PTSD from things that haven't actually happened. I am not sure if it is an overactive imagination or insanity, but if her stories were what were reported as what was going on over here, people would think that there are constantly Taliban gunmen on base and every operation is some secret special forces thing that only she knows about. It would be humorous and I laugh at her a lot, but it is also scary because I think she believes herself. She wasn't even here on May 19 when the Taliban tried their attack, but her view of the event is more like Tet than reality.

Michael is my favorite coworker. He started working nights with me and seems to be convinced that every door slamming or outbound round is the start of some large scale assault on BAF. I want to make a video of him when the sirens go off though and dub over the part from "Monty Python" where they are yelling "run away." It is good that he takes it all very seriously, but it is excellent for comedic relief.

All in all, things are going well as can be. I am adjusting to living in a closet and my room looks mostly organized. I am on my third book and have worked on 300 messages as of last night. I am an expert bread maker and have started adding a pinch of cinnamon when I make coffee, but I am not sure anyone has noticed.

Much Metta!

Lessons of Month 1

Spin   Always Bad News   Spin

I think people should be able to send messages through the Red Cross with positive things like Jimmy got an "A" in physics, Susie hit for the cycle, Christian said his first word and it was Hawkeyes, or today was a good day and I didnít cry. Instead, most of what we get to deliver are deaths, illnesses, accidents, miscarriages and pregnancy complications. It does kind of get depressing, but it makes those occasional birth messages we get to deliver all the more enjoyable. I think it would also be nice to get a leave extension request not for something not good, but maybe a request saying I would like an extension of two days because my husband/wife wants to spend the day in bed and not get dressed. Maybe I will talk to General Petreaus about changing message policies.

Speaking of General Peteaus, I was pretty sure that things would turn around quickly once him and I assumed command in Afghanistan. It is taking a little longer than I expected, but I am sure we will stabilize everything and start a long period of peace and joy in the region. The general sent me an email that I needed to drink more tea with the Afghans so maybe I will work on that. I wonder if they like Stash Organic white tea with mint or organic vanilla chai. But really, who doesn't.

If they would let me bring over some Absolut Citron, Fat Tire or a good scotch, I am pretty sure everyone would be in love by the end of the night. We would all be friends sitting around telling each other how much we love each other and that we are best friends and all those things you say when you have had a little too much to drink. Maybe pass around the "peace" hookah also and we can have everyone home by Christmas. Then I will turn Bagram Airbase into a lovely resort. It is surrounded by mountains and ruins of ancient cities so book your stay early before it fills up.

Much Metta!

Always Bad News

Spin   Deja Vu All Over Again   Spin

As much as I want to write more and update everyone on what is going on, every day for me is pretty much the same here. It is seriously like "Groundhog's Day" for me here. I go to work around 2200 and work until 0600 or so, I go to the little Internet cafe and Skype with my wife for an hour or so, I go to the gym for 30-60 minutes on the treadmill and some weights, I drink my protein shake, take a shower, read, try to get to sleep, wake up, go to dinner, read and then back to work. I do regularly talk to one of my roommates, SSG Roosevelt Downs, because he is pretty interesting. He is from South Carolina and we spend a lot of time talking about barbeque, grilling and chili. I wish I could make some of my chili here, but it is probably best that I don't in such close quarters.

I did work on my first SPA (suicide prevention action) case a couple of days ago. He was online with his soon-to-be ex-wife and said some things that worried her. The 1SG walked in and took his gun and then they took him to command to meet with a chaplain. I don't know what happened beyond that because we only stay on the line until they tell us the person is secure so that we can tell the family.

I worked on my second SPA case 2 days after the first. It was a lot more time consuming since we did not know much information about the person. It was 3 hours of stress and then when they finally found him, they broke the lock on his room and he was asleep. His mom had called and said she talked to him and that he said he was going to commit suicide and had mental issues. When they woke him up, he said that he hadn't talked to him mom in months and that he was fine. I suppose it is better to wake a bunch of people and be wrong then to wait and be too late though. I can say that the military takes these suicide threats very seriously and they will wake up anyone they need to so that they can track down the person.

I am about to finish "Crime and Punishment" and must decide which book is next. Do I go with "Anna Karenina" or "Great Expectations?" Such are the decisions over here.

One of our coworkers gave us all dream catchers that were made by a relative of hers back home. Hopefully it will keep the evil spirits out of my room. I got one in Santa Fe years ago, but I lost it so this is perfect. When she was giving it to me, she asked me if I was a believer and I was worried that I was going to get another lecture on why I am a sinner and heathen for not considering myself a Christian any longer, but luckily she just wasn't sure if I believed in dream catchers. My dream catcher is currently hanging in my room next to a little Buddha and a bird ornament Dick & Judy Pike got me on one of their adventures.

No excitement is good over here and although it has been quiet for me in my little world, many others are in much more dangerous situations and are getting hurt or killed. It is strange and also kind of reassuring to be in a place where everyone has a loaded weapon or two except for you. Maybe this is what living in Texas or other places where everyone seems to have a gun feels like. I think my unofficial truce with the Taliban where they won't do anything silly while I am sleeping is still holding up. I just wish the Air Force would keep the noise down too. I am not sure noise cancelling headphones would do any good.

I am also occasionally not sure if the Taliban is attacking or if it just the wanker on the other side of my wall coming home. He slams doors, throws stuff around and is always mad at someone. Last week he was going to kick some SSG's ass because he wanted the SSG's room. Then he was mad at someone for who knows what. He also is the only person of the 8 rooms that watches TV without headphones and does it loud. I have asked him through the wall if he would be a little quieter, so I am sure he has also talked about me. Damn E-2s! They are like second lieutenants because they both think they have learned it all in their 6 months in the military. The only thing that doesn't make the guy next to me angry is the 300GB of porn he has on his computer. Luckily, I don't hear that since I assume he keeps it quiet due to it is very much not allowed over here.

I suppose I should get back to work. Some people are in our lounge area watching "Entourage" and I should check the queue and if nothing is there, do some paperwork that I always let build up.

Much Metta!

Deja Vu All Over Again

Spin   Breaking News From Afghanistan   Spin

I have terrible news. It appears the Taliban or some other organization that hates freedom has stolen the a goalie, a forward and the ball from our foozball table. It also appears that no one is interested in investigating this war crime. I smell cover-up. Maybe the USO is behind this.

Much Metta!

Breaking News From Afghanistan

Spin   My Travel Agent Sucks   Spin

I am going to try and blog about what is going on over here while I am in Afghanistan. There is apparently a lot of stuff I am not supposed to talk about or take pictures of, but I will just talk about my experiences.

I work the night shift and it is usually the busy shift for us since it is daytime back in the US. We mostly deliver messages if there is an emergency back home like a death or serious illness, but we also have some things in our office not related to that part of the job. We have a TV and DVD player to watch movies and get AFN satellite channels. Apparently the exciting news about AFN is that they are going to start showing "mature" HBO programming in August on it. We also have a fairly large collection of DVDs and books that have been donated or purchased by the Red Cross that can be checked out to watch on their own if they don't want to watch here.

My favorite part is the bread maker. I have made bread twice. The first time was alright, but I made cinnamon raisin bread yesterday and it not only smelled good, but it tasted good. Don't ask me the recipe though because like any good chemist, I don't measure anything. Apparently the smell of baking bread is magnetic here because a first sergeant came running in and said that someone from her unit came by and told her it smelled like the Red Cross was making bread. I didn't hear if she liked it or not.

Tonight I heard my first firefight. I am not sure where exactly it was, but it was loud. It sounded like fireworks and I don't believe it was incoming since that probably would have been even louder, but it could have been at one of the guard towers I guess. All I know is that for about 20 minutes or so, someone was shooting and blowing something up big time. The alarms never went off for us to seek cover or for people to take their fighting positions, but it was an interesting experience. There were 2 women outside on the deck at out office. They had their body armor and kevlar on with their weapons waiting for the alarm to sound. It never did, but I thanked them for coming over to defend our deck.

Whatever was going on, it was over fairly quickly and several jets and helicopters took off, but it has been quiet since. It is kind of weird though being one of the few people without a gun. If I figure out how, I will try to post pictures of my B-Hut and the Red Cross office.

My room is about the size of a big closet. I have a desk lamp that heats up the room so I often resort to using a string of Christmas lights to light the room. I can't read using them, but it is better than adding heat to the room since the air conditioner sometimes decides to take a break for a day or so and the windows are supposed to be sealed so the inside kind of gets like a sauna without the moisture. I guess it is kind of like an oven when it doesn't work. So far, the highlight for me has been getting a fan from

Speaking of ovens, Kuwait sucks. I think the average temperature was 130 while we were waiting for a flight to Afghanistan. I don't know if I so much got sunburn as I did get overcooked. It was insane. You know that feeling when you first open your oven while it is cooking, that is what it felt like all the time.

That is all for now. I am working on a few cases and hope to get them done before the next shift comes in. They never really stop coming in and there is not really such a thing as being caught up, but at least it helps time move faster.

I also want to scratch my shoulder where they gave me the smallpox vaccine. It is a very unpleasant looking thing and itches like hell.

Much Metta!

My Travel Agent Sucks

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