Monday, June 29, 2009

Shamal Winds

Still getting situated. The guys we were relieving left yesterday, so we're officially on our own. We got some ok training/turnover from them. It was only a couple of weeks, so most things we will learn by trial and error. So by the time I leave, I should be just about getting things down pat :)

I've been taking lots of pictures, but the Internet here is terrible. Low speed and and low bandwidth, so I haven't been able to load them onto the net. All of the money this country has and they don't have decent Internet. Part of the reason also is that the U.S. doesn't want to spend a ton of money on these bases because Kuwait technically owns this land. We're just leasing it, so at anytime they can ask us to leave. So as long as were in tents and trailers we can pretty much just pick up and go.

Right now Kuwait is experiencing what they call the "Shamal". The Shamal are winds that can come at any time, but mostly come in June and July. They range anywhere from 30-50mph. I think they come down from Syria, across Iraq, through Kuwait, and sometimes make it down to Somalia. I'm no Glenn Hurricane Schwartz, but as I understood it, that's how it goes.

The thing about these high winds, is they bring in nasty, nasty sandstorms. Like strip paint off of things sandstorms. Cant see your hand in front of your face sandstorms. They hurt. I have to wear this ski mask like thing with goggles to walk around outside in them. By the way, the showers and bathrooms are about 60 yards away from my barracks so I have to suit up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night occasionally. I have some pictures of these too, but again, can't get them to load on here, but if you google image search "Kuwait sandstorms" a few pics will pop up. One is here at my base. It looks like a scene from the movie The Mummy. It's just this huge cloud of sand and dust engulfing the base.

The other bad part about these sandstorms is that the dust and sand is so fine that it gets through closed windows and the air conditioner blows it right in. So far I've duct taped the windows and around the ac unit, and I also hung a curtain in front of the ac unit so the dust it blows in just hits the curtain and settles on the floor underneath it. Otherwise my room would be covered in sand and dust all the time.

Well that's it for today, and again, hopefully I'll get back in the groove and get these up more regularly and hopefully I can figure out a way to get these pictures up.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Journey

We'll I've been in Kuwait for about 2 weeks or so now (I completely lost track of days on the trip over). I'm still trying to get adjusted to everything. Internet is terrible at the moment, but they are supposed to be upgrading soon. Accommodations are OK I guess. Could be better, could be worse. No need to complain.

So anyway, I figured I'd start out my first blog over here by going back to the trip here. Its a long story so you might have to take a sick day or read a little bit a day to get through it, or I made some cliff notes at the bottom if its really too much for you to read.

As I said, I kind of lost track of days, but I'm pretty sure we left Seattle on the 3rd/4th of June. We had to exit the barracks at around 1am so they could be inspected before we left to make sure they were the same as when we got them. We sat outside for about 2 hours while that went on. At 3am we loaded our gear into a tractor trailer and headed to Sea-Tac. We would be going to South Carolina. We were divided up into about 8 groups of 6, give or take, and each group was on a different flight. They were commercial flights. We were told we would be going on a military flight to Norfolk previously, but apparently that went through.

Our bags totaled in weight about 500lbs each, so carrying them around was tough. My flight left at 6am and we had a layover in Cincinnati. That flight was forced to ask people to take another flight because it was over the weight limit. Most likely because of our baggage. Sorry. While in Cincinnati, we decided to grab lunch. Two of us chose "Worlds Best Cheesesteaks". Terrible. I'd like to talk to the person who told them they fit that bill. A man in line ahead of us paid for our lunch. We told him thanks but no thanks politely, but he insisted. I wanted fries and a soda, but since he was buying I felt guilty for some reason so I just got a sandwich. The guy with me said the same thing. He wanted a large sandwich, but got the small instead. It was really nice of him regardless. When we arrived in Charleston, we had to retrieve our 500lbs of gear and load it onto a small box truck. We had about a 30-45 minute ride to a small Army base there. I think it was near Ft. Jackson, but I'm not positive. We were in a classroom there that happened to have a shower in it. It had been awhile since I had showered last, it was about 7pm est by then. So I took advantage of that. We were to fly out at 1am that night. So we just sat in that classroom for about 4 hours when they announced our flight had been cancelled and that we would be stuck there till 9am the following day. Great. Classroom full of about 175 people for another 9 hours.

When we get to the airport the next morning we were greeted by about 50 or so people who came to see us off. VFW, Purple Heart Assoc, USMC Ret Assoc, boy and girl scouts just to name a few. Apparently there were triple the people the previous night when they thought we were supposed to be leaving. They had tons of food, care packages, prayer cards and things of that sort. It was really nice. They all wanted to shake your hand, give you a hug, wish us safe. You really felt like you were supported. Once everyone got a bite to eat and chatted with the people there, they formed two lines for us to walk between on our way to the plane. They were holding flags. It was rather moving to be honest. I didn't really expect any of it. I guess since this has been going on for so long, I had assumed people weren't as "motivated" as they were when the war first started. Not sure where I'm going with that, but hopefully you get the picture. The plane held about 350 and there were only 175 us and they seated by rank, so I got my own row which was nice.

Now here is where I completely lose track of all time. I have no idea how long these flights were. Our first stop was Goose Bay, New Foundland, Canada. For customs reasons we weren't allowed off here. We were there for maybe an hour or so while we refueled. Our next stop was Reykjavik, Iceland. Again, not sure what time it was there, but most of the airport was closed. No one was in it, so I'm guessing late at night, but you wouldn't know it because the sun is out 24 hours a day there this time of the year. The commanding officer of the flight allowed us to have one beer. The bar was closed. There was a gift shop open that sold like 10oz bottles of wines. Guys were buying them up like it was going out of style, like this was there last chance to have alcohol, ever. I passed. We were there about 2-3 hours. We departed for Leipzig, Germany. Once we landed we were informed we were going to have a 16 hour layover. There was a military terminal that had Internet and phones, for a hefty price, they also had food, a few gift shops and beds. I went straight for the beds where I stayed for 9 hours. I woke up grabbed a bite to eat and had two beers. Jumped on the net for 15 minutes (all I could afford) and then watched some TV before we got back on the plane. I'm not sure why such a big layover, but I know the Germans were raking in money there. Coincidence?

We arrived in Kuwait at 3am on what I'm going to guess was either Sunday or Monday. It wasn't very hot. It did smell terrible. We loaded our bags onto two tractor trailers and after a few hours we headed to Camp Virgina, which is about 30 minutes from the base I'm at now. Once at Camp Virginia, we unloaded our gear and moved into 12 man tents. They weren't all that bad. They had cots. We went right to sleep there since we had a brief in a few hours. After the brief we loaded all of our gear up again and went to Camp Arifjan which was about 2 hours away. Just a reminder I'm 30 minutes from my base. We get to Camp Arifjan around 9 or 10 pm. Unload all of our gear again and this time we move into 8 man tents and again we all just went to bed. We had to go to boring briefs and power point presentations. Mostly the same stuff as the briefs at Camp Virginia just longer. It's hot, drink water, drive safe, those types of things.

Death by power point lasted about 2 and a half days before we again loaded all of our gear (still 500 lbs) into a tractor trailer and went back up north to my final destination, Camp Beuhring. The accommodations are better here than the other places. I only have one roommate. I have a bed. The base is seriously in the middle of no where desert.

So that's pretty much it for the trip. If you read all of it great. If not, do you know how long it took me to write it? Are you really that busy or are you just that lazy? Just kidding. I might not even proofread this one its so long. Below is the cliff notes I promised.

The trip was long and arduous.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I'm here and doing well. Still getting settled in and adjusted to the time change and all. I promise I will get some posts up here in the next few days. Hopefully I remember all of the stories I wanted to share over the last week or so. It was an adventure to say the least.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

back to the grind...

As you all know, I got about 8 days back home to enjoy before I left to the sandbox. I decided the best way to spend the majority of those days was to erect a fence around the house. Yeah, not exactly relaxing, but mostly everyone was working during the day anyway, and home depot was giving military discounts for memorial day, so I figured why not. So I knocked that out with the help of some good friends. I'm still not sure if they helped because they felt bad or I because I offered to provide beer and pizza, but either way, it was very much appreciated. Couldn't have done it without them. It turned out great.

Then the Saturday before I departed, family and friends made the trek to good ol' Bear, DE to celebrate a few birthdays and to send me off. It was great seeing everyone, and hopefully fun was had by all. For those of you who didn't make it, I'm taking you out of my will. No, just kidding, seriously, we missed not seeing you, and don't feel bad at all. I know a few people called and apologized for not coming up, but it was one of those weekends were everyone has like 3 parties to go to, and the Woodlands had to be difficult and move an hour away from everyone else, so don't worry. We'll (my parents will do all the work and I'll show up) have another one when I come back.

So on Tuesday, around 4:15am, My parents and Christina took me to the airport, which is always the quietest car ride you can imagine. we said our goodbyes at the airport and I flew to Seattle. I ended up bumping into a couple of guys that are going with me, and they informed me that even though we were arriving in Seattle at 10:00am, we didn't have to report to the Army until the next morning, so we decided to rent a car and check out Seattle. Its a pretty nice city, kind of smaller than I expected, but very clean. More hippies than I expected too. But we went to Pike Market where they throw the fish around, a few Irish Pubs and then ended up at a mariners orioles game which was a good time too. I'll post some pics at the end here.

So tonight we fly out of Seattle and head to Kuwait. It's going to be about 26 hours of travel time so I'm sure I'll have a few good stories about that journey, so stay tuned.

PS: Not sure if everyone heard, but my Dad got Manager/Operator of the year for Pathmark, so Congrats to him.

Pics from Seattle
Safeco field. Home of the Mariners.

Our Seats. $13. As you can see the stadium is very empty.
So we upgraded ourselves to these seats.

And again upgraded ourselves to about 10 rows behind homeplate.
And yes, this was the night Ibanez had 5 RBI's and 2 HR so I made
sure to remind the Seattle fans what was going on.

The Crab Pot

They just dump all this seafood on the table and hand you a hammer
and bib. If you're a fan of the TV show Man vs. Food, he ate 2 of these.
2 of us ate one of these.

Seattle skyline. I bet you're wondering where the space needle is.
It's not exactly in the city per say, in this picture it would be to the far left.