Monday, December 29, 2008

What a Day!!

My day today started early with a drive to Austin to give my car up for 3 days for more service. Then I went straight to by the time I got there at 0945 I'd already been driving 4 hours!

The fun began when I couldn't log onto my computer. We have to use our CAC (or military ID) cards to log onto our computers. The card goes into a reader on the computer and then you have to enter a PIN to log onto the computer. I tried 3 times to put my card in the reader but the computer wouldn't pick it up. I rebooted. it wouldn't work again. I rebooted again. It still wouldn't read my card. Until I realized that I was trying to log onto my computer VISA card. Amazingly enough, when I used my actual CAC card I was able to log on. :)

Then I got my LES (Leave and Earning Statement...our paycheck stub) and realized I'd gotten paid $846! I was paid more than that when I joined the Army as a Private 19 years ago! Stressed, I called the finance and accounting office it took two hours for them to realize that I had a debt of $9,000. But it was a clerical error...somebody put the wrong code blah blah blah wasn't supposed to get BAH blah blah blah need to do blah blah blah. Okay, just tell me two things:
1. How are you going to fix this?
2. How long before my money is back in my account?

Oh yeah, I also finished up the last of the paperwork to take to Ft. Dix. I think. Seems every time I open the mobilization notebook to make sure everything is done I find one more document that I need. I think it's all done now. Famous last words!

Cheers, and Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The first day after Christmas... true love and I had a fight. I took and chopped that pear tree down and burned it just for spite..!

Okay, that was a song I remember from Junior High Concert Choir. Sadly enough, that's the only line I remember...

I can only hope that everyone reading this (and those who don't) had a wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. I had a very Merry, peaceful, and quiet Christmas. I'm in San Diego visiting my friend, Cindy, who recently had surgery and is a little on the sick side. That's okay...she's been lying around making fun of me going to Iraq and I've been sitting around making fun of her stitches. :) What a pair. Right now I am uploading all of her CDs into iTunes and then will dump them on her iPod. I knew that she wanted me out here for a reason! She's on a total liquid diet (most of it through an IV) and I've shown my solidarity by joining her in a liquid diet. But we're consuming two different types of liquids.

Tomorrow I head back to Bryan through Houston and then start final prep for mobilization after the New Year. So much to do! I remember sitting in my den last year, in Minneapolis, looking at my Christmas tree and sadly thinking that it would be 2, maybe 3, years before I saw my tree again. Since my stuff stayed in storage after I moved to Texas, I didn't have a tree for Christmas 2008. No lights, no tinsel, no lighted village underneath. No garland on the mantel, no wreath on the door, no Advent wreath on the dining room table. Well, here it is...Christmas 2008...I wasn't able to put my tree up and since my friend has been ill she and her husband didn't get their tree up either. You would think that I would be sad. But I'm not...because I've had such a great time here with them, eating cookies and swapping stupid stories, that I didn't even notice there wasn't a tree. Well, I did notice, but it didn't bother me because I always know that Christmas means more to me than decorations. Religious beliefs aside, Christmas is a time to remember how lucky I am that I have my health, my friends, and my life. It's a time to reach out to those who mean so much to us or even to reach out to those we dislike...even if it's just to say "Merry Christmas" and move on.

So, I didn't get a tree this year and the reality is that I probably won't get a tree Christmas 2009, either. But be time I do get the chance to get my tree up there will be so many ornaments, lights, and tinsel on the tree that the branches will droop down!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Silent Night...

...or should I sing "Silent Hallways"?

Yesterday, right before noon, we released our Soldiers here on ADT for premobilization training for the holidays. They will spend the next 12 days at home with their families, or out visiting their friends, or maybe even just hiding away from it all and enjoying what is probably their last moments of peace, quiet, and privacy.

I was anxious for them to leave! I still had some last-minute work to do: paperwork, organizing, phone calls, arranging things. I wanted them out of my office and out of my hallway so I could work in peace and quiet.

But now, today, I want them back. It didn't take me too long yesterday to start wandering the hallways, looking for someone to accomplish a task or just to talk to. My office co-horts (in crime) were nowhere to be found. I kept walking by the computer lab and sneaking a peek inside, hoping to see the Soldiers as they were working on the computers or finishing paperwork. But the lab was empty and dark, all the chairs put up on the tables. There were no sounds of laughter, no shouts of "permission to enter the commander's office to send a fax!", no sounds of footsteps on the stairs and then the slam of the hallway door. Nothing. Just the hum of the air conditioner blowing cold air into an already cold office.

As a commander I am truly blessed with the talent and positive attitudes that I am surrounded with in the Soldiers of the mighty fightin' 211th. As we sat on the floor in a semi-circle yesterday, listening to Santa while he read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and munching on sugar cookies, I looked around at all the faces that had become so familiar to me over the past 2 1/2 months. (Thankfully Santa didn't use PowerPoint!) I still remember 10 October, our official "hit" day, and how very far away 23 December seemed at the time. We had so much work to do...21 days of RTC, multiple classes, paperwork, packing, equipment training, etc. Now, it's done. We've done all that we can do prior to arrival at Ft. Dix and I am confident that all will go well.

I've never been with a unit so prepared to go into a hot zone, not just with the required training, but with the upbeat, professional mental attitude that must go with Soldiers for a successful mission. We have truly become a unit, a family, a band of brothers and sisters, who are ready for anything that Ft. Dix and points beyond can throw at us. Like a true family we have had our squabbles and misunderstandings. But also like a true family, we take care of one another and help each other when necessary.

Many of us have already been deployed. For some of us, this is our second trip down the yellow brick road to Iraq. We have experience and we know, for the most part, what to expect. But we also know that no two deployments are the same, even if you go to the same place. Especially with the new Status of Forces Agreement and other changes in personnel that are already starting to alter the structure of US forces in Iraq. But I am confident that the 211th will adapt and overcome, and face any changes with the same professionalism...and humor...that we have faced problems with since 10 October.

I miss you, 211th. Come back in January safe and sound...and ready.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Did you know that the 211th MPAD is filled with some excellent dancers? Well, that's what I thought anyway after I saw many of them dancing around in line, waiting their turn to get their Christmas present from Uncle Sam...a little white plastic bottle.

We did a required urinalysis today. Always fun!

The funny part is that everyone always starts slamming back water, soda, coffee, or juice once they realize that they are being held captive in a small, stuffy room until they give the required product for testing, no matter how long it takes. The problem is that once you fill the bottle, there's still much much more liquid left inside your body. I had to go to the bathroom again before I even turned in my full bottle. And the need to pee continues throughout the day because basically your eyeballs were floating.

Our training days in Bryan are winding down...tomorrow we start some broadcast journalist training and loading our equipment into our conex for shipping. Friday we finish up those tasks and also have two holiday gatherings: a luncheon at the Reserve Center with all the Center personnel; and a party at the home of one of our former Soldiers. Saturday we have family readiness briefings and then Sunday...we'll find something to do! Monday we do our Physical Fitness Test (push ups, sit ups, and a 2-mile run or 2 1/2 mile walk for the older, broken crowd). Then Tuesday I send all those Soldiers back to their families for the holidays. I didn't think I'd ever say this...but I'm going to miss those guys...even those noisy ones who invaded my office last October and turned my peace and quiet into chaos. I had a whole room to myself once, where I could do work and have privacy. But since October 10 my office has been shared with 4 other people. I'm sure while I'm there over the holiday break I'll be looking around for them, ready for a joke or a lunch break or an impromptu BUB to solve issues or bring up others.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who Invented PowerPoint?

And were they properly punished for unleashing such pain and terror on an unsuspecting world? I wonder how our lives would have been affected if no one had invented a method of putting bullet comments on a computer screen, later to be projected onto a larger screen for people to view en masse. Think of all the information we wouldn't know without PowerPoint: statistics; lists of _____ (fill in your own word....I pick vitamins); points of contact; directions for doing just about anything. How could we ever have evolved as a civilized population without PowerPoint and its evil twin, Excel?

But the most amazing thing about PowerPoint is its ability to put people to sleep. Better than any lullaby written by Brahms or drug known to man! I don't know why people spend money on sleeping pills when all they need to do is watch some form of a PowerPoint slide show, preferably one about a topic that has nothing to do with their job or is redundant, duplicate information. It's a treat to stand in front of a group of people and try to educate them on important topics such as nutrition or performing contract negotiations and watching their eyelids slowly close.

It's also a pain that the heat has been turned on in for the winter in our building. That's a good thing except for the fact that it's 80 degrees outside! There's nothing like having the heat on and every window on our floor open, some with fans bringing in cooler air from the outside. My office is a sauna. If I were sitting in a Jacuzzi with a glass of wine that would be nice. But not at work trying to do the last details for mobilization. It's making us cranky.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's Beginning To Look Alot Like Christmas...

So, since mid-November I've been in a Scroogey mood regarding the holidays. I have always liked to decorate my house every year from Thanksgiving through New Year's with all types of decorations. But this year all my stuff is in storage so I didn't have anything to put around the house. Well, except for the ceramic pumpkin and the 2-foot Christmas tree that I dragged with me from Minnesota.

The day after Thanksgiving was always my favorite day for decorating...dragging the Christmas tree from the living room into the den (because, you know, I never saw a reason to actually take it down in January when I was just going to put it up again in 11 months), putting garland on the fireplace, hanging lights in the bushes outside. Those lights always looked cool when they were covered with snow.

And it's hard to be in the Christmas spirit when it's 85 degrees outside! It's supposed to be cold. And white.

So it was nice a few weeks ago when I had my household goods delivered out of military storage into a private storage unit. I was able to pull out a few boxes of Christmas decorations. And then yesterday we had some snow! Right here in Bryan, Texas! Some flurries in the morning and then clear skies. But around 2 or so it started snowing just a little bit (not "real hard" as 1LT Sarratt stated). By the time we got to the track and started running the stairs for PT it was snowing harder and it was windy.

It was like being in Minnesota again. In April. :)

After PT was over I went driving around for a bit, enjoying the falling snow and the cold weather. Temperatures dropped to the 30s overnight but by about 9 this morning all the snow was gone. The high today is supposed to be around 60.

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

We had a team here yesterday going through the finance and supply records that we have to cart to Ft. Dix for mobilization. (The phrase "we're here to help" makes me very nervous.) Today we did some more training, including make-up classes for those who have missed previous classes. Those Soldiers are hard to find when it's time for make-up classes...don't worry...I'll find you!

We've reached the "small stuff" part of mobilization. All the big stuff is done. The files are mostly ready, our equipment is ready for storage, shipment, or turn-in, most of the classes are finished. It's time to add the final details...the things that are going to make us crazy once we get to Ft. Dix.

Oh yeah, these people think THIS weather is cold! Wait until we get to Ft. Dix. New Jersey. In January. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


You ever have one of those days you wish would never start? Or would be over with before you got out of bed?

Today was a big day for us...a day most of us have been dreading for a while: IV stick day! Since Thursday our unit has been sitting through a Combat Lifesaver Course to learn fun stuff such as sticking needles in people's chests to relieve built up air, carting people from Point A to Point B in a litter, and applying a tourniquet. I have to admit that these classes have upped my appreciation for anyone who is in the medical field, especially those who routinely find themselves up their elbows in blood.

Today everyone had to start a saline lock and IV. But not on manikins (not my spelling!!). Oh no...we got to impale, er, start an IV in our own unit members. I grabbed Hinojosa and jumped into the first line so I could get it over with before I chickened out. We were second for our group and Hinojosa stuck me first. She did a good job even though she hit the catheter when it was already in my arm. Ouch!!! Not too much blood came out, either. She did a nice job.

When it came for my turn to stick her we decided that I should stick Logue since Hinojosa's veins were nowhere to be found (can't blame them...I'd hide too if I saw me holding a large needle!). At first I was so excited...I had stuck Logue with no blood drops! Turns out I had gone right through the vein. :( Since this was her second stick I had to find a new victim. Thanks Alfaro! I passed...had some blood seepage, but nothing major. I was glad to get that over with.

Later on Johnson needed someone to stick so I offered her my arm. She did a fabulous blood came out at all! She certainly had a nice touch.

After the written test we were all presented our certificates stating we were now certified. Except for Burrell...I made a mistake on his rank when I submitted the roster. When did he make SSG? I could have sworn he was a SGT when I picked him up at the airport a few weeks ago. Sorry SSG Burrell. You'll get your certificate on Monday.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

And then there were 20...

At first there were 18.

Even though the Soldiers of the 211th have been training together since October 10, and even though the Soldiers of the 211th have bonded well, there has always been a hole that we couldn't fill...until yesterday. We had 20 Soldiers on our battle roster when we arrived at RTC on 18 October but we had 2 Soldiers who couldn't train with us, so we were incomplete. These two Soldiers were attending school and graduated while we were at RTC so they were waiting for us when we returned to Bryan in November.

And then there were 19.

Unfortunately, we lost a Soldier off of our battle roster at the end of RTC for reasons known to him. That was a dark day for me and for the rest of the unit. I hated saying good-bye to this Soldier. I hated sending him back to his unit in Tennessee. Our family was losing a valuable member...someone who contributed to the high level of professionalism in our unit as well as the high level of...insanity.

We then went through a few Soldiers who didn't work out for various reasons before we finally wound up with SPC Soles. He arrived yesterday and we were happy to welcome him into our family. I hope nobody warned him about our unit. :) I told him he would be "up to his ears in alligators" and today he spent most of the day inprocessing and enduring Power Point classes, getting caught up on the required training. Like a trooper, he did everything asked of him.

And then there were 20.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Family and Friends

Family members have always been important to Soldiers, especially those preparing to head off to deployment. After Soldiers, family members are the Army's most valuable asset and we need to salute their efforts and support.

In my previous deployments my family members have always been supportive, from letting me park my car in their driveway to receiving my mail and then forwarding it to me.

But what about friends? Our friends who support us are truly the unsung heroes of military personnel. Only until recently Army programs have ignored the support we get from non-family members and even now it's not always enough. And I must say...I have the best friends in the whole world!

Even way back in Bosnia in 1998, when deploying Soldiers were the minority, my friends stepped up to the plate and kept up my morale. Suz sent me cookies and Star Trek: Voyager videos while Michelle sent me untold amounts of funny e-mails and stories. In Kosovo the videos and cookies and emails continued and then B and Kel sent me West Wing videos.

For this deployment planning has been difficult. The hardest thing to organize is my mail. I don't get a lot of mail (yay for auto pay on the Internet) but still...I need to have it collected and forwarded. Step in Judy. She and I basically grew up together back in Alabama...we were inseperable. We had a lot of fun times. But we grew up, I moved away, and life moved on. Now Judy lives just down the road from me in Austin and we had a chance to reconnect. She has generously offered to gather my mail at a PO box and forward it to me every week or so. It might seem to some like an insignificant task, but to me it's a huge relief. One less thing that I have to worry about. And she's also offered to start my car up once a month or so while it's parked in the garage of yet another friend. Both of these tasks are time-consuming and a big responsibility and Judy has never even hesitated to offer her support. And this past week over Thanksgiving her and another Alabama transplant, Jennifer, both stated that they wanted to send packages not only to me but to the unit. Whatever we need just ask and they'll send it to us.

Oh yeah, thanks Barbara for checking in on my stuff in storage! And to B for holding and eventually sending the Keeping Up Appearances DVD.

So, we need to remember the families of our Soldiers, how much they have sacrificed and what they go through when a Soldier deploys. But let's not forget those who aren't related but who nonetheless offer us support, making our lives just a little bit easier when we're dealing with a lot of difficulty. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Almost Thanksgiving

1SG Martinez told me today I had to update my blog or he was going to make me sit in the corner and take a timeout.

To say that life at the 211th is busy is like saying it snows in Minnesota once in awhile. We are about 6 weeks away from heading off to the desert and between training, administrative requirements, and physical training all the Soldiers in the mighty fightin' 211th are putting in some long hours.

I don't think I can ever say it enough, but with each and every passing day I get more impressed with the 211th Soldiers. After weeks of training and 21 days at RTC, the unit has come together nicely. Soldiers are becoming more comfortable with their assigned tasks and responsibilities and the result is...a well-oiled unit. I can't wait to get into theater and start MPAD-ing. Is that a word? It is now!

I think the funnest (or maybe funniest?) training we've done is HUMVEE licensing last week. We borrowed three brand-new (less than 200 miles) up-armored HUMVEEs from our higher command, borrowed driver trainers from another command, and spent three days out learning to go up, down, through, between, and upside down. No, not upside down...that was another training session!

It's been over 6 years since I last drove a HUMVEE and never an up-armored one. Fun!!! And going cross-country through the Texas backwoods was a thrill. At one point I was driving up a hill so steep I could only see blue sky.

I want to wish anyone who reads this a Happy Thanksgiving! I'm heading to Austin to see an old friend and then on Friday I'm taking my car in for service. Unfortunately we're back on Saturday to pick our training back up. What a weekend.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wicked Cool

That's all I have to say about the last 8 days here at Ft. Dix. Wicked Cool. What a great group of Soldiers! I'm the lucky one here...19 Soldiers ready to go, lock, stock, and...lollipop. It's going to be a great year. :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

This is Just a Test

Testing, Testing - Is this thing on?