Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Three Bad Haircuts

Yesterday Scott received three bad haircuts and the end product is below. Now we both look like little basic cadets (doolies). The picture was taken before our nightly walk. Every night we try to get together at 9pm to walk around the base (or post, as the Army likes to call it) for some alone time. The last couple of nights have been beautiful and last night we got a great view of two helicopters practicing medical evacuations.

Today was our last day of combatives class. We fought three, three minute rounds and I got beat up. I hyperextended my arm a little bit because I was caught in a straight armbar and didn't want to tap out. I was able to get out of it, but my arm's a little sore. In the below picture we're practicing throws and it was my turn to hit the mat.We also finished our radio training today. It was pretty dry, but now I can program three different kinds of radios. Tomorrow we're supposed to have most of the day off, so I'm going to get all my gear and weapons in order. It's hard to believe how much stuff we've been issued since starting this process.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lazy Sunday

We didn't drive around in the humvees with the live BLF today. So we got out early from class and it turned out to be an easy day. We still did combatives in the morning and we learned new chokes. We have two more days of combatives before we're done. Tomorrow I have a communications class which will be interesting with a little luck. I will try to post some more pictures soon.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Choke Your Boss Day

It's not everyday you get to choke your boss. Today we had a two hour combatives class that started at 0500. It was very similar to the training I had at USAFA, so it was a lot of fun and I was ahead of the power curve. I was partenered with my boss and I got to choke her and put her in an arm bar. One of the guys in our class volunteered to be choked to sleep and it was weird to see him flop around on the floor. At the end of the class we did three, two minute sparing sessions. It was stran ge to do that with guys, but I think I suprised all of them. I even got two of the three to tap out with a choke (my personal favorite).

After class we did training on the Blue Force Tracker (BFT). It's a computer system that works off of GPS and displays friendly and enemy forces on the battlefield. We'll be using it when we roll outside the wire. Tomorrow we will roll out in humvees and play with a live system. I will post pictures!

Yesterday we were issued weapons and magazines. So my new best friend for the next 11 months is my M-4 and 9MM. I haven't named them yet.

Scott is doing well. He went on a five mile road march yesterday and he said it went well. We usually get to see each other a couple times a day, which is nice.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Our First Foot Movement

Yesterday we had our first foot movement. Two and a half mile march in 38 minutes with all our gear and helmet on. It was actually pretty fun and I only got a couple small blisters with my three week old boots. When we arrived at our destination, we got to shoot 9MM and M4 simulators. We used real weapons that were hooked to to a big computer game and fired lasers at targets on a big screen. It was a lot of fun and I shot really well with the 9MM. The M4 was very difficult because we had our gear and helmet on and we are not used to shooting with that stuff.
The 9MM is above and the M4 is below.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Culture Clash

Everything has been going well at Camp Atterbury. We were issued a lot of our gear yesterday. Each person got around $6,000 in equipment...cold weather gear that can take you to -60 degrees Fahrenheit, modular sleeping bag, flak vest with plates, ruck sacks and four sets of Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs). We can only wear the Army uniforms when we go outside the wire in Afghanistan. Too bad because they are really nice! Below is my Civil Engineer (CE) Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) getting fitted for his flak vest.
Scott and I ran into each other during the equipment issue. We filled up three of those green bags with all our new gear.
Here's a picture of our Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) marching down the road. They march everywhere, but officers don't have to be in the formation! The Army and the Air Force culture is very different and creating some tension. It seems like we do everything at different ends of the spectrum and everyone is frustrated (except for me, I find it amusing). Hopefully things will settle down soon.

I've been talking with the Capt I'm going to replace in Afghanistan. It seems like I will be very busy once I get in country. There are currently 52 active construction projects worth $72 million. If that's not impressive, there are 79 planned projects worth $112 million. I will be super busy! And there are some cool projects I'll be working/planning, like building an airport! Cool!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sixty-four Females and Eight Showers

No, that's not the title of the latest porno flick, it's the living situation for the next two months. Sixty-four females with eight showers, eight bathrooms and seven sinks. Did I mention that EVERYONE has PT at 0500 and hygiene/breakfast time from 0600-0800? It's going to be a long two months...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rubber Glove for Lunch?

The chow hall (dining facility) on base serves edible food. It's nothing to write home about, but the have a nice salad bar that makes up for the mystery meat. Today for lunch they were serving a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. After Scott took a couple bites into his salad, he discovered a latex glove in his salad. All the employees are required to serve wearing these rubber gloves and one must have fallen off and into the salad. Apparently it was never noticed. After the incident was reported, it seemed like everyone on base came up to Scott and offered him apologies. It was pretty gross.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tell an Afghan, Tell the World

The past week has been pretty depressing. After receiving briefing after briefing from academics about how we are losing the war in Afghanistan and all the things the Americans are doing wrong, it is difficult to understand why I'm putting myself in harms way. If we are to do this country justice, we will be there for at least twenty years (I increased my earlier estimate of ten years after hearing from all these PhD's). Then yesterday we received a classified briefing on all the ways we can get blown up or killed while we're over there. Fun stuff.

Today we started our training by the Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan District. Four construction quality assurance personnel who spent at least 13 months in Afghanistan taught us about the experience and challenges we will deal with while we're there. It actually sounds like a lot of fun and we'll get to do a lot of outside the box thinking. They told us the living conditions in Afghanistan is circa the 11th century, so the designs/construction methods we use have to be sustainable by the locals. And then in their next statement to us, they say "build lots of solar panels and wind farms." But that's a completely different topic that I won't get into right now. Needless to say, none of my buildings will have solar panels.

I wanted to thank everyone for their comments and support. It's great to know people are finding my blog useful and a somewhat interesting read. :) Scott and I are escaping the base today for some good ol' fashioned fun at Walmart.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Graduation Day

Yesterday was our graduation from the Pashto language class. I enjoyed learning the language and the culture, even if it was intense. The language sounds like Russian and a little like Spanish and has some cool sounding words. We completed 56 hours of instruction in seven days, so I will have to work hard to keep my proficiency. Below is a picture of me receiving my "diploma" from my instructor, Zalmai. Zalmai is a great teacher and moved to America from Afghanistan in 2003. He shared many stories from his childhood in Afghanistan and they were fascinating.
After graduation our class escaped from base and went to a traditional Afghan restaurant in Bloomington called Samira's. The food was amazing! I am looking forward to good eating once we're in country. For dinner I had manto, which is a thin dumpling filled with shredded beef and onions, topped with a yogurt sauce. It was delicious!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Miss New York

The Army is considered to a "macho" and "hooah" branch of the military, am I right? Then why on earth do they require their soldiers to wear their reflective belts like sashes? Navy (including Marines) and Air Force personnel must wear their reflective belts around their waist. But not here on Camp Atterbury. We must follow every Army rule.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Taking Sips from a Fire Hydrant

The first part of our pre-deployment training is a cultural and language training class. For eight hours a day we learn how to speak Phasto, the native language where we will be going in Afghanistan. It is very exhausting and by the end of the first hour my brain is fried. At the end of the day, I can't remember a single thing I've learned, forcing me to study when I get back to my dorm (which is pictured below). After the language training, we have an hour and a half lecture on various topics about Afghanistan. I haven't been impressed thus far.

The barracks have four wings with bathrooms/showers in the middle. We only have five females right now since only a small group are here for the language and cultural training. We should have more females trickle in over the next week and then we should be full when the regular combat skills training (CST) kicks off at the end of the month.

My humble bed below. The Air Force knows how to do quality of life, but the Army...not so much.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We're in the Army Now

Life in the Army is very different! Camp Atterbury is considered to be a forward operating base, so it's like we are already deployed. We are not allowed to have any fun (drink alcohol, wear civilian clothes, possess pornography, leave the base, drive or ride in a personally owned vehicle). The Army also does a lot of waiting around. We were told to be at Camp Atterbury on 31 March when our class doesn't start until 2 April. Today Scott and I tasted Army food at the chow hall, used the computers at the USO and worked out at the gym, which is actually pretty nice. Scott and I are not allowed to visit each other's barracks, so...

Tomorrow our cultural and language class starts. I will write more about that later and post some pictures of my barracks.