Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Four out of five troops on patrol prefer No Man's Land Beef Jerky!

Got to go on a couple of MRAP rides, brought along some beef jerky my friend Quinton sent me. This is really good, and addictive, stuff! And made in Oklahoma.
Rest under construction.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Almost Christmas!

Wow, its hard to believe I've been here for around 90 days already. In just a couple more weeks, I get to come home on my R&R leave for a couple of weeks, and then its back to finish the tour.
On one hand, this tour has been pretty easy in the respect that there is not a whole lot of combat stress. With my job being completely inside the camp, I haven't had to worry about my safety much. The only time I had to put on my ballistic vest and helmet was to go to the range the other day to make sure my pistol still worked! On the other hand, it has been tough to be away from the family with all that is going on; the boys are getting big, Erin's new building, her move into Pond Creek, my parents moving into town, and her parent's new house. Without the support of our families and friends, I don't know how we would make it through this.
I have had a switch of jobs recently. I was the Deputy Mayor of one of the sub-camps (think suburb) and now I work in the Department of Public Works, or the engineering section. Why is it I'm always accused of being an engineer??? They brought me in as the Operations Officer and the Terrain Manager. My job is first to coordinate all the efforts of the section in order to keep our boss up to date on what everyone is doing. This has required building some spreadsheets and helping to build some computer databases in order to track the over 200 ongoing projects we have going on, from contracts to clean buildings to major construction of $25 million dollar buildings. The Terrain Manager part of the job is probably most challenging, because we have to balance current requests with future needs of land use, and the future isn't a crystal clear picture. Also, the US Forces redeploying from here in Dec of 2011 requires a lot of coordination to try to put the right tenants in the right piece of land. I am enjoying the challange, though. I get along pretty well with my new boss and there is always plenty to do.
One of the benefits of being here over the holidays is all of the people that come to visit. On Thanksgiving, a band called Brokedown Cadillac came with 6 Hooters Girls and put on a concert. Cole sent me a Beanie Baby iguana (Iggy) to take pictures with, so I have pictures with the band and the girls, all while I'm holding Iggy. Also during that show, GEN Odinero came to tape a "Go Army - Beat Navy" spot for the Army-Navy game. I managed to get my picture with him and Iggy as well. Kid Rock, Carlos Mencia, and singer Jessie James came a few days later, and while I didn't get a picture with Iggy and them, I took a picture with Iggy at the concert. This weekend we had the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, Anna Kournikova, tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, comedian Dave Attell, and Billy Ray Cyrus. I got an awesome picture of me and the Chairman and his wife with Iggy, and her little pal Pierre. A friend of hers gave her Pierre a few years ago and it has always gone with her wherever she goes. Taking pictures with Iggy has been a lot of fun, and the boys really enjoy seeing the pictures at home.
Finally, I'd like to thank everyone for all of the support, whether it has been prayers, care packages, letters, or just good thoughts. It makes everything worthwhile. Merry Christmas to everyone!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quick update

I've been in country about a month now, but there isn't a whole lot to report on. Things on the camp are fairly quiet, although there always seems to be plenty of work to be done. I know many of you have heard about the bombings in Baghdad and have wondered about my safety. Believe it or not, it was so far away we didn't even hear it. First I heard about it was on CNN.
I got invited to a "traditional Iraqi meal" by one of the local contractors who has an office on our camp. I smoked a hookah pipe and ate with my hands, just like the locals. The main dishes were lamb and rice, which was very tasty, and a 5,000 year old recipe for what he called "River Fish." We call it carp. It wasn't too bad, actually, but you definately had to pick on it very carefully.
I woke up this morning to the sound of a windstorm, and then came the rain. Its been raining for about an hour now, which means that it will be nasty and muddy for about a week. People may call this the "Sandbox" but dustbowl is a better term. The soil here is very fine and just a little bit of moisture makes it stick to everything. This is the first rain we have had since I've been here, but the ground seems to ooze moisture from below. Some guys call it "the mud that never dries."
As far as daily life goes, I work in an office on camp most of the time, and when I'm not in my office I'm somewhere on camp trying to coordinate something. My job is all about coordinating life support functions for the people here that do go outside the camp. They are the ones with the really stressful jobs, but I have to tell you, they are doing a great job of keeping the rest of us safe.
Well, that's about all for now, its time to get the day started. There is an 8 hour difference between here and Central Time so when people in the States are getting ready for bed, I'm getting ready for work. Thanks again for all the support!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Final family days in Chicago

The family and I got to spend a last few days together before I head overseas in Chicago. I told Erin that someday we need to go back just her and I so we can eat at someplace other than McDonalds! Speaking of McDonalds, I think they have a serious investment in the downtown Chicago area, they were everywhere! We had a lot of fun, but really didn’t even scratch the surface of what Chicago has to offer. We went to Navy Pier one day and rode the Ferris Wheel and the carousel, one day we walked down to the Buckingham Fountain, and one day we went to the Sears Tower and then back to Navy Pier. The second day at the Pier, we finally had time to go into the Children’s Museum, which was awesome. For those of you that have been to the Museum of Science and Industry, it was kind of like that but aimed at the 8 and under crowd, which of course means that I had a great time! We went up to see a great friend of mine, Whitney, up by Lincoln Park. Cole and Rowan had a blast chasing her dog, Walter, around the patio table and then we took a walk to Oz Park down the street and played until we were ready to collapse. It was so much fun that we went back and played in the park again the next night. It was great to see Whitney and catch up; we never seem to have enough time to keep in touch with those we care about.
The highlight of the trip had to be going to visit Aunt Stacey and Uncle Carlos. Carlos is a firefighter for McHenry Township, north of Chicago. We spent the night Friday night and Carlos gave us a personal tour of the fire station. Cole and Rowan sat on every fire truck at least twice, and some two or three times. Cole asked tons of questions and Carlos, like the great uncle that he is, answered every one in a way that Cole completely understood. Rowan ran around and had to sit in each and every seat that he could get to, squealing with glee every time. They got Uncle Carlos to run the lights and sound the siren just in time for someone to walk into the fire station with a badly cut hand, looking for help, so play time got cut a little short. But the boys had a great time of it and we can’t thank Carlos enough for the treat that he provided for all of us. The next morning, all Cole could do was run around the house in his firefighter uniform, pretending to put out fires. Sadly, it all went by too fast and it was time to say goodbye. I drove Erin and the boys to O’Hare, helped them get checked in and we said our goodbyes. Cole and Erin were great troopers, smiling all the way. Rowan was actually the meltdown, but more for the immediate separation, since he really doesn’t understand the duration of this thing. Sure, I will miss the family, and the family will miss me, but now there is a job to do, for all of us, and we can’t let our personal feelings get in the way too much, otherwise it will be one long, sad year. The family is strong, with a great support system, so the year should pass quickly without too much trouble. Now we just look forward to my mid-tour leave, which still has not been cast in stone but will probably end up in the first half of the deployment. Thanks for all the support, it means a lot to all of us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Almost Time to Go

After nearly 3 months of training to get ready, it is finally almost time to head overseas. Our training has been fairly comprehensive, which is to say we spent a whole lot of time training for things that we will not be doing over there, but most of it is good to know "just in case" type of stuff. These past few weeks we have finally focused on our jobs and I am confident to say that we should be able to do our mission without too many major problems.
Erin and the boys are flying up to Chicago to spend one last mini-vacation together. We are going to stay downtown, close to the Navy Pier, which has lots of kid friendly activities. The Chicago USO has pointed me to quite a few free or reduced price things to do, so the hard part will be to try to limit what we try to fit in so we have plenty of time to relax together. We will have enough stress as it is, as Erin is braving the airports just her and the boys, and I have about a 4 hour drive down from Ft. McCoy. I'm really looking forward to it though, one last chance to love on my awesome family before I have to say good bye for quite some time. Just can't tell Erin and the boys enough how much I love them and how much I'm gonna miss them.
Looking back at old posts, I realize I've missed a lot since I posted the last time. I did get a chance to go home at the end of July for just a few days. There were so many things I wanted to get accomplished, but so little time. I chose the "do what you can and don't stress about the rest" option, which made the trip a little better. I got to see Jim & Christine's new house nearly completed. All those finishing touches just seem to take forever, but I can already see a lifetime worth of memories just waiting to be made there. After a couple of days at home, we all drove up to Omaha and stayed at a Holiday Inn that had an indoor water park. We though the boys might really enjoy that, but the pool (separate from the park) turned out to be a better option and a lot less crowded, so we never did make it to the park. Oddly enough, I ran into a West Point classmate of mine at the pool. Jim Doty and I hadn't seen each other in probably 14 years or so, so when we saw each other at the pool, each chasing our kids, we did the "hey, don't I know you?" look. Jim just happened to be passing through Omaha on his way to his next post. My boss and friend, Jon Allbaugh, came up to see me off at our farewell ceremony and then treated the family to lunch at Chuckie Cheese. It gave the boys a chance to run around and blow off some steam before starting the 7 hour trip back to Oklahoma. I did catch Jon chuckling a time or two watching the boys run around, I have a feeling he enjoyed it, too. It meant a lot to me for him to come up, I can't thank him enough for making the trip.
Speaking of Jon, for those of you who don't know him, he is a big Oklahoma State fan, and not real fond at all of University of Oklahoma. But at the farewell ceremony, a Nebraska rep gave the unit a big Husker flag to "fly proudly" while we are overseas. Jon didn't want me to feel out of place, so when he got back to Enid, he bought me an OU flag and sent it up to Ft. McCoy. As you can see, I have it hanging over my bunk, were all the Nebraska fans in the bay have to look at it, every day. Thanks again, Jon!

Since my last post, a couple of friends have had babies. Congratulations to Jaime and Megan on their little bundles of joy!

Well, my next post will likely be from either Kuwait or Iraq. Please keep me and my family in your prayers, it is definately going to be a challenging year on many fronts. Thanks for all of your support!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wonderful Wisconsin

Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin brings back a lot of memories for me, which is somewhat strange, because I've never been here before. But I have been by here many times on the interstate and thus, the memories. Many of our summer vacations were spent on Long Lake, in northwestern Wisconsin. Ft. McCoy is right on the interstate where we came up from Peoria and Tomah was a ritual rest stop, mostly because of the Humbird cheese shop there. I can still remember the toys in the corner that I would try my hardest to convince my parents that I HAD to have something. There were toy bows and arrows that never lasted the week of vacation, little toy indian drums, rubber knives, cap guns, and all the other things that a little boy just couldn't live without. As we pulled into Tomah for lunch on this trip, I looked across the interstate and sure enough, there was the cheese shop. I hope to get over there just once on this trip before we leave. Ft. McCoy hasn't been too bad, so far. We have Week 1 in the books and the training has been a lot better than what we did at Omaha. Omaha was a lot of administrative stuff, the training here has been much more practical in nature; drivers training, weapons instruction, night sight familiarization, and that sort of thing. It makes the days go by fast and that is always a good thing. One of the downsides is that internet access is a little (ok, a lot) on the slow side, so no Skype and very little chatting is possible, so I do really miss being able to instantly access family and friends. The good news is that overseas I will have fairly good access to internet, so this is a temporary setback. The barber shop does leave a bit to be desired. I don't think I've had hair this short since Plebe year at West Point. At least now I know which barber to NOT go to! I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm really proud of how Erin is getting along with all of this. She has been handling the challenges of being a single mom like a pro. Not only doing the single mom thing, but also building a new practice office, preparing to move households, and if that wasn't enough, she got Lasik this week! What else can we pile on her while I'm gone? She really is a rock, just one of the many reasons why I love her. I even tried to send her some Godiva Chocolate from the Mall of America as a surprise, but it arrived a big soupy mess. I guess the people in Minnesota aren't used to shipping things to places that are typically hitting the 100 degree mark in June. I was pleased though that they quickly and gladly credited back my credit card. Well, that is about all that is new on this front. If you care to leave a comment on the blog, please feel free. We would like this to be an interactive forum. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Life on the Farm

Farm living has always been an adventure ever since we moved to the farm, so I do not know why my expectations should ever change in that respect. It always seems that it takes Shawn being out of town to have the adventures occur. I cannot determine if that is an unfortunate or fortunate situation--depends on who's perspective you are looking from. On the farm, I have learned to live among critters, and I am okay with that. It is not unusual for me to see a deer crossing the field outside the back yard, a raccoon on the roof of our underground shelter, a baby opossum in the dog food sack, a skunk peaking in my patio window. If they won't bother me, I won't bother them. With Shawn gone I have had to adjust to several things. I am less afraid of spiders than I used to be. Changing light bulbs and taking out the trash are no big deal. Switching out batteries in the kids' vehicles is a piece of cake. I'm a pretty self-sufficient girl and admit that I have a problem asking for help. However, when a mouse ran across my stove this weekend, I suddenly found an adjustment that I just do not think I can make. I've never been very good at killing things and setting traps is just not up my alley--I have delicate fingers, you know...have to be careful. So, even if I set traps, I'd just have a bunch of mice in traps laying around. Live traps and sticky paper pose the same problem. So, I'll learn to ask for help on this one!