Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Postscript....long overdue.

Its been over 5 years since I last posted in this blog, I have almost forgotten about its existence.  As of today in April 2013, all US Troops are preparing to depart Iraq for good, Osama Bin Laden has been killed and Afghanistan is once again a pressure cooker.  Wow, a lot has changed in the 5 years since I took off the uniform for good.  Oh yeah, that's right, I should mention I am retired from the Guard now as well.  I like to tell folks my wife retired as a military spouse and took me with her, but it was much more me than her.  After 21 years in a fruitful, but stagnated career in the guard it was time to go.  The people and culture was changing, the military I had loved was rapidly transforming and the last thing they needed was a chubby NCO sitting there while they all got ready to do their thing.  Many of the troops that served with me as E4 - E5 types are now senior NCO's and the like and I wish them all well, it was a pleasure to serve with them.

A little more info about activities after the last post in September 2007.  Well the last few weeks in theater were "interesting" to say the least.  Awards and certificates were handed out, more last minute right seat/left seat training with our replacements.  My tour ended the way it began, with me personally spending almost every minute training my replacement (instead of being trained) while a lot of others got to kick back and ease out of the routine.  Then there was the unavoidable "hurry up and wait" for briefings and such and seemingly endless details to turn in, clean or clear buildings..and packing, lots of packing.

I know it wasn't necessarily the case, but it seemed like the 437th got picked on a lot that last month for crappy details and such. We had to share our PCB (which in all honestly was the least filled) with our replacements from the 8th HRSC out of Ft. Shafter, Hawaii. Overall a nice groups of troops, but they kind of annoying to some degrees, loud talking when they were getting up for PT while the rest of us were still in the racks, trying to low ball guys on buying stuff that we were leaving behind (a few of us even resorted to just giving our stuff away to the TCN (foreign labor workforce) so that the new guys wouldn't get the satisfaction of getting it. Briefings, packing, briefings, more briefings, more packing, some cleaning, and a lot of waiting. I must have sent 4 or 5 foot lockers full of stuff home in addition to what I carried home and what I loaded into the unit connex container. What I remember about the last day is this, it was bittersweet.  I really, really wanted out of there and to see my family, but I knew I was leaving the Army for good shortly and this would probably be the last time I would be a part of something as big as all of my experiences at Arifjan.  Strange but to this day I still miss some parts of it a bit, the camaraderie with my fellow soldiers and some of them as well.  I have kept up with a few, but for most of them now I am another memory of their past that they occasionally connect with as they continue with their futures.  Anyway, any tearful thoughts were squelched with baggage detail right before we left as we got to get hot, sweaty and dirty/dusty one last time before  we left AJ as we packed duffles and such into buses for our trip to Ali Al Saleem airbase.  Funny, some of our own folks had been in charge of running units like ours in and out of there for a year, and now it would be our turn.

The trip to AAS was also kind of surreal. It was like I realized that all of the sights I was seeing of the Kuwaiti landscape as we drove through it would be the last time I ever got to gaze upon it.  Don't get me wrong, not going back to visit if I can help it, but still it was an experience I don't regret having.  I watched Kuwaitis stare at our bus as we rolled through the out skirts of Kuwait City and wondered if they wondered about us, or even gave a damn for that matter.  To this day I still maintain that the Kuwaiti government paid off Al Quaeda to stay out of Kuwait and let them make their money from us.  How else can you explain the total lack of violence against Americans in the country while just a couple hundred miles away wholesale carnage against convoys was happening.  I don't know, the Kuwaitis I ran into on MWR trips seemed nice and all but you always wondered what they actually thought of us and I, for one, always kept my guard up when off post.

Just a little sandstorm at AAS my last day...

AAS was a classic hurry up and wait, bust ass and hurry up again type scenario.  We got there late at night and were immediately put on baggage details to unload our stuff from the buses.  I forget the exact order of the events, but we either got our gear through customs check and then were left with our personal bags and got some sleep time or slept and then did the customs check.  Either way everything was in the dark so it was either really late at night or early in the morning when we did it.  Customs check was fun, kind of a "dump all of the stuff you jammed in duffle bags out, shake it out, and then stuff it back in as quickly as possible while under a time crunch" type feeling.  My highlight is when they opened up my body armor and found 3 live rounds that had somehow gotten into my SAPI plate holder.  No idea, must have been from Afghanistan. I thought I was done for but the Navy custom guy was more like "seen it before" move I did.  Had a day where we were waiting for a flight so people just hung out wherever they could with their carry on bag.  We had a sandstorm that last day, to cement yet another reason why I was glad to be leaving in my head, so most of the day for me was spent inside. Many like me had laptops and finding an outlet to charge your computer was at a high premium that day before the flight.    We finally got to get into "quarantine" which is where they shake you down one more time and put you into a fenced off area to wait until your final ride to the airport.  It sucked.  It was one of those almost there, but not quite moments.  We had most of 9 hours there just waiting, sleeping in chairs and the like.  Finally, another long roll call and multiple accountability formations, jam onto yet more buses in the stifling heat, finally get to the airport, board our plane and finally....take off!
left to right...Renick, Underwood, Me, Ingram, Roberts, Wells, Streem and Goetke.

About 6 hours later we landed in Shannon Airport, Ireland to refuel and got a few hours to stretch out legs.  It was much more comfortable than the old East German airport I flew in and out of on leave.  We boarded the plane for the long trip across the ocean back to the states, and I do mean long!  I remember being so freaking cold on the flight back 36,000 feet above the arctic circle! We got fed a couple of meals provided from European sources which meant more sandwiches and chocolate bars,...but what the hell, it tasted good and if nothing else gave me something to do for a bit.

Finally, we touched down in the US at an Airfield in Indiana en route to Camp Atterbury (South of Indianapolis about an hour) and were relieved to find a contingent of our fellow Buckeyes from Ohio there to take us over from the "dreaded" 3rd PERSCOM folks.  Oh, a sweet memory that is when we realized our tutelage under their control was at an end.  Once back under our own control for our demobe processing things went much better.  Like "old times" at Fort McCoy without having to worry about 3PC coming up with some insane requirement to fulfil. I remember one night we left the barracks after dinner to go walk around and get something to eat as some remnants from that unit stood outside in the near dark doing some type of gear inventory.  Suckers.

Despite the interjection of common sense into our lives (and command) again, we still spent several days of being poked, prodded, surveyed, filling out forms, waiting in lines, turning stuff in and the like.  I tried to convince somebody in medical that I had a constant ringing in my ear, but to each inquiry they just stuck me in a booth and had me listen for beeps as in any hearing test.  I passed of course.  To this day the ringing still comes and goes, a condition called tinnitus I am told.  Also, I had to choose between being awarded a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal or a Afghanistan Service Medal.  Even though I spent only a brief time in that country, we had officially been "attacked" where I was located and thus I received orders for the medal in Kuwait after we returned.  I could choose one or the other, but not both.  I chose the Afghanistan medal but have since regretted it since I have met many others that surely did more to deserve it.  I am currently seeking to have it changed. Also, I found out that due to some new law, I was entitled to extra leave days that I was assured was correct and thus got additional terminal leave days after we got demobed.  It was a lie apparently.  A few years later I received a letter of indebtedness from the government saying I owed that money back.  Then a couple of years after that I received another letter asking me to apply for a bonus based on multiple deployments (Noble Eagle being included in the GWOT service period) and received several thousand dollars in return.  Uncle Sugar giveth, then he taketh, then he giveth again.  To this day I still await another letter saying I owe them.

Finally we got to take a bus back to Columbus for our demobe ceremony.  Getting off the bus we were instructed to stay in line all the way into the school that we were to have our ceremony at, but upon seeing my wife and Monica waiting for me I immediately broke and ran over and scooped my girl up and carried her into the school with me, several others also said screw the rules and did the same.  To tell you the truth, what I remember about the ceremony was taking Moni with me across the stage to get some "parting gifts" from the guard, a bunch of local politicians I don't remember speaking, and then getting the hell out of there into the truck and leaving with my wife and kid...nothing else really mattered that day.  Sure, I said some fairwells to some folks and all, but damn, I just spent a year closer to many of them that I wished, it was about ME now, not them.

I had requested to retire while deployed and had been given the choice either to remain in the 437th PSD and retire there, or to return to State HQ where I had been for various years in my career.  I elected to stay in the 437th.  Sound funny, but what they say about the men (and women) you serve while in "combat" with being close to you is correct.  At that time they were my military family and were whom I chose to end out my 21+ years of service with.  Over the next few months - the military requires a 90 day "cooling off" period after you come back to make sure you're "OK" before they let you leave - I attended drills with the 437th and did a few more mandatory post deployment briefings and activities, all the while knowing my time was short.  My last drill day was kind of surreal. I just kind of walked around thinking about the previous 21 years of service and thinking to myself "after all of that, this is how it ends...with a whimper".  I mean, I never thought I would rule the world in uniform, and there were a few reasons (both mine and other factors) that never saw me higher than an E5, but at some point I saw things ending differently for me.  I kept thinking back to all of the soldiers I saw that retired at drill, who got called at formation to report "front and center" to be awarded a piece of colored ribbon, said a quick word, went back to their spot and after drill you never saw them again.  Still surreal to think of all the faces I saw and how vividly I remember their names and faces.  Some that retired at my current age when I first got in would be in their late 60's or early 70's now.  Some, like my friend Stan Hopewell, died after leaving without anyone in the guard being the wiser or even caring.  I guess that is how most of us go out anyway.  Not everyone gets a heroes departure.

Being congratulated on retiring by LTC Steve Stivers, now a US congressman

I did get a medal that day, one that I would never be afforded a chance to wear officially again....a Meritorious Service Medal.   Not too shabby I might add for a career junior NCO.  Later I would receive, in the mail orders and a medal set giving my the Ohio Distinguished Service Medal for my 21 years of service, again not too shabby and I wonder which one of my former comrades had a hand in awarding that to me.  I also got a cake and punch reception on the drill floor with the unit for my retirement.  It was nice but being at the end of drill most folks were anxious to get out of there and just took off, still I really thank the folks that put that together even if in all reality they have forgotten the event at this point in time.  Hopefully everyone that makes the journey to the end takes a moment to look back and remember everyone else they knew that came and went and realize how personal that journey is and how lonely it can be as well at the end.

And there I was, retired.

Bummer, or not.

I get most, if not all, of my weekends to myself now to do whatever I please for the most part.  Don't have to worry about drills coming on important dates and whatnot.  Sure I do have some commitments with family and other organizations I have joined and the like, but still, they are my choices.  I was never forced to extend or reenlist over the 21 years I served, I just did.  I figured a commitment like that is one that once made you don't walk away from and just kept going until it was time I knew I had to get off the ride.

Today I also manage another blog called Huey's Gunsight where I muse about firearms, the 2nd Amendment, the military and some other popular culture issues relating to them.  I went back to school and got my bachelors degree, finishing up just as my GI bill benefits ran out....nice, left nothing on the table.  I still work for the State of Ohio doing IT work and life is generally fairly normal, decent...and boring. 

But boring is good.  Boring is nominally knowing that tomorrow is coming and will again the next day.  Its not looking for trouble and having trouble not necessarily looking for you.  Its life, and its good.

Its been touted that those who have served in the military since 9/11 are the .45%.  Meaning that only .45% of the population has served in theater or any capacity since then.  I did not serve on the front lines, but still, I did more than 99.55% did and saw some spectacular shit in the process...and not all since just 9/11.   I have seen the best, and worst, of myself while in uniform and while I probably never pushed myself as hard as I would of liked in retrospect while in, I know I sure as hell pushed myself harder than if I had never put on my first set of combat boots.

I don't ever expect that these words will come to light upon the eyes of anybody except maybe my family.  Life is a lonely journey within ourselves that if we are lucky if we get to share with a few close and loved individuals.  I hope my own daughter and her descendent never are forced to wear the uniform by cause of conflict. But if they choose to serve I want to give a faint reminder that while we do not have a long and distinguished line of veterans in our family, that once in a while maybe someone in our gene pool will swim to the surface and put on the uniform to do our part to maintain the thin line we have.

It is to her and them then that this memoir of sorts is written.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Goodbye Kuwait!!

This will probably be my last post from the land of the Camel. Wish I could say I was going to miss this place, but let’s be real, I won’t. Sure Kuwait has some real nice places to go and see and some nice buildings and such, but it still is in the middle of a freakin’ dessert. This opinion doesn’t in any way take away from my view of the Kuwaiti people, who I have generally found to be nice and hospitable, if only a bit aloof. I guess having thousands of servants from other countries to do your bidding will do that for you. I have to give credit to the Kuwaitis and the other people who live in this county and call it home, I wouldn’t want to live for an extended time here. If the oppressive heat and dust don’t kill you, well you have Iraq and Iran to keep you company.

More MWR Trips

Has it seemed like the last 4 or 5 months have been nothing but MWR trips for me? Well, they have been (just kidding). Actually after sitting here on post for the first 5 months straight and finding out some of our folks had been going on MWR trips almost bi-weekly I said to hell with it and started signing up for any that sounded like fun to me. To keep it in perspective, the majority of the trips I signed up for were on Sundays, which is my normal day off during the week so I wasn’t skipping work to go or anything like that. It just made sense to go and try and see a bit more of the country than what the boundaries of Camp Arifjan provided.

This time around my friend Mary and I went to the Grand Mosque of Kuwait, The Kuwaiti Towers (made famous during the first Gulf War) and the Kuwaiti Science Center (again – 4th time I think). The Grand Mosque was, well, Grand. This is the primary mosque in all of Kuwait built by “His Eminence the Emir” between 1979 and 1986. This place was huge, “seating” over 10,000 worshipers inside and accommodating another 50,000 outside in the courtyards. Fact: Women are not allowed to pray in the Mosque. The females that went with us on the tour had to wear hibjabs while they were there. I picked us some literature by a Christian-Muslim outreach group that explained some of the similarities and differences of the two faiths. I had no idea that the Virgin Mary was one of the most revered women in Muslim teachings.

The Kuwaiti Towers is a group of 3 towers that sits on the gulf and is one of the most well known sights in not only Kuwait but the Gulf region as well. The main tower houses various restaurants and an observation deck as well as a pictorial display of the damage done to them during the Iraqi invasion of 1990. “Barbaric Invaders” is how they are most commonly referred to by the Kuwaitis. The second tower is actually a functioning water tower for the complex and surrounding area and the third is simply a mechanical and maintenance building for the other two. We ate a delicious meal of mid eastern cuisine in the main restaurant ($8 KD or about $25 a plate!) and then took some pics from the observation deck. That place is pretty cool. It has an interior track to the building that rotates 360 degrees so you can stand in one place and get a panoramic view of the area in about 30 minutes without moving a foot. After the towers we went to the science center and, since I had basically seen it 3 times prior, just went into the gift shop and bought some things for Monica.
When I say "Grand Mosque" I mean HUGE!!
I got to sit on the big chair in the front of the Mosque. I don't recall what is used for as their is also a pulpit above it. I believe elderly Imans sit there when they give liturgy to the masses on Friday (a Muslim's Sunday)
A view of another tower in Kuwait City (not part of the Kuwaiti Tower Complex). Notice the driver of the vehicle in the picture is wearing traditional conservative islamic clothing. This practice is more widespread in the city than the outlying countryside from what I have seen.
A view of Kuwait City from the observation deck of the main tower.
Striking a "heroic" pose in front of the towers.
Two Kuwaiti men holding hands at the Science center. This is a common practice in arab countries and does not in any way indicate any sexual preference of the individuals.
The "Smell The Heat" comedy show sponsored by the USO recently. Onstage is Horatio Sanz formerly of Saturday Night Live dressed in drag as part of a Dating Game skit.
Getting Ready To Go Home

We have been spending the last few weeks getting ready to redeploy and training our replacements. Our replacements are from the 8th Human Resources Support Center (HRSC) out of Ft Shafter, Hawaii. The guy taking over my job is SGT Philip Gandia, a cool native Hawaiian who I have been hanging pretty tight with since he got here. He has a long road ahead of him, having little prior computer experience and now being tasked with one of the most demanding IT jobs of the rotation. I know how he feels though. I can remember about this time last year being thrown to the wolves and trying to absorb the vast amount of information about various systems and policies by my predecessor. At least he is a cool guy and I plan on keeping touch when I go back and helping out anyway I can for him.

We have packed, packed and packed some more. I cannot believe the amount of boxes that I have shipped home. I must have a pack rat in my family tree somewhere (my Grandmother Katherine most likely, RIP and love you Big Mom). Anyway, at last count I have sent 3 footlockers, 4 large boxes and several smaller ones home. I am trying to rely as little as possible on the military to get my stuff home. I only threw a footlocker and a couple of duffle bags on our connex to go home. The up side to all of this is that I am only planning to have to drag a single duffle bag, a backpack and my laptop bag with me on the trip home. Poor Vicky has had to drag all of those boxes in from the front step or pick them up at the post office. Sorry honey, you’re the best.

We have also had various ceremonies to case our colors and present awards. Since I am “flagged” currently for being “More than I can be” I was not eligible to receive any individual decorations (Army Commendation Medal or Army Achievement Medal). I was however eligible to receive the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Overseas Service Ribbon. Whoopee, ribbons I will get to wear maybe once in December if I decide to go to our annual Christmas Party in my Class A dress uniform before I retire. Oh yes, retire, what a sweet sounding word. They (the unit) did award everyone a nice certificate set and an etched acrylic plaque which are nice mementos of the tour.

Anyway, as I sit here and write this it is the morning of my last full day on Camp Arifjan. Tomorrow we head out to begin the journey that will take us through our demobilization sight and finally to the long awaited reunion we have been patiently waiting for.

In a DCS outprocessing brief to go home, hence the smile.

Specialists Kathleen and Errol Griebel demonstrating that in addition to being married that they also have Wonder Twin powers.

Myself, Specialist Wells and SGT Ingram relaxing while we wait our baggage to be checked by the US Navy Customs folks.

SGT Philip Ganida, my replacement at my, er...his, desk!
The Plaque that 3rd PERSCOM will place in the activity center at Camp Arifjan to mark our deployment here.
Kudos to You!

Thanks to all that have made my stay here a bit more bearable by your support: Vicky, Monica, Mom and Dad, Sandy, Dawn and Rich and the Kids, Paul and Karin and the Kids, Jon and Angie and the kids, Uncle Roger and Family, Pat, Tom, Brian Gartland, Uncle Carole and Uncle Bill CSM (ret) Lowell Shank and Family, all the cool soldiers I have had the pleasure to serve with over here and anyone else I may have inadvertently left off this list.

One more shot of my MWR crew (from lower left clockwise): SGT Mary Cornell, SGT Jermey Streem, Specialist Joe Smith and Specialist Adam Wells. Thanks for the good times!

My Sony PSP, aka my morale support system. It seems wierd playing games at 39 but this thing rocks. I used it to play games, watch movies and videos and listen to music the entire time I was here.
All though I won't miss this place, I will miss the camels!
Bye Bye Camels!

Adios Dessert!!

Monday, August 06, 2007

August 2007


Bend Over, Here It Comes Again!

Well folks, we are almost done, less than 30 days until the Freedom Bird transports us up and away from this patch of sand they call Kuwait. We are knee deep in stupid time right now as all of the brass seem to want to put the finishing touches on their own evaluation reports by kissing tail and redoing everything that we have been doing for the past 11 months to make it seem like they are inovative. Needless to say it is the lowly enlisted that pay the price for such folly. At least it has been cool and comfortable wait, thats somewhere it has been hot as hell and muggy too, if you can believe that. If the wind comes from the West out of the desert, it is like an industrial strength hair dryer in your face, if the wind comes from the East off of the gulf, its like a pail of sweat gets poured on you for the simple exertion of simply walking to the latrine. Man, I really hate this place.

MWR Trips (Again)

Took a couple more MWR trips to the big city since last post. Nothing better to do I guess, or maybe I just really like it here. Nah, nothing better to do I guess. Anyway, went back in July to the Kuwait Science Center and a mall with some friends. Ate some Mideastern grub and did some shopping. Today we went to another mall in Kuwait City. Later this month I am going again to see the Kuwait Towers and the Grand Mosque here in Kuwait City.

The obligatory picture of sushi eaten while on a MWR trip. The place we went this time. YO! Sushi, wasn't as good as the little stand in the Sultan Center of our last trip. This dish was delicious, this is Wasabi and Dill marinated Salmon Sashimi. Yummy!! Mom and Dad, you really should try it just once!

SPC Adam Wells and myself outside of the Kuwait Science Center in Kuwait City.

Getting ready to watch an IMAX movie at the Science center. From Left to Right, SGT Jeremy Streem, SPC Adam Wells, SGT Mary Cornell and SPC Joe Smith. These are the folks that I have been going on trips with most. They are a blast to hang with.

SPC Wells and Smith give a rundown of the sitrep here in Kuwait

On an earlier trip, getting ready to grub down in a middle eastern resturaunt, mostley Lebanese. Looking over previous posts it would seem that I was sent over here to write a resturaunt guide for finer dining in Kuwait!

Now this is eating! Grilled meat and vegetables, fresh breads, hummus and yogurt for dipping! Yum!!

Life on Post

Not much to report here, just more and more groundhog days. I have been using Sunday evenings after I get out of church as a reference point for the rest of the deployment. I have only 4 more services left before I get home.

Spent last Saturday organizing a truck to move footlockers that some of have bought over here to the post office in order to mail stuff home. I sent 3 footlockers and 2 boxes back home. Because it is a military APO post office, it cost me less than $120 US to get them all home. I could have shipped them free in a conex container but I wanted to make sure they got home so I can get my equipment turned back in to retire as soon as possible upon our return.

Most of my off time is spent in my barracks trying to avoid the heat. It is so hot over here that even with the sun down in the late evening it is over 100 degrees with the hair dryer like wind blowing right in your face. I have been going to some movies in the small theatre down the road in Zone 1 on post too. We often head over there to eat off of real plates and with metal forks and spoons at the "nice" chow hall there. I have eaten off of plastice plates and with plasticwear for over a year now, it is like a picnic from hell is some regards. The food, while generally good and by judging from my wasteline plentiful, is pretty much the same over and over. Anyone who has had to eat the same meals over and over in a school cafeteria or college dorm knows what I am talking about. When we got here everybody was all aglow about the "Surf and Turf" night on Wednesdays with steak and either lobster tails or crab legs, but even those items fail to satisfy after a while. Especially when the meat is thin and overcooked and the crab is boiled so long the shells are soft on King Crabs Legs. Anyway, I really shouldn't complain compared to what some folks have (and don't have) to eat. And I'm talking about back in the US, not up in Iraq! There are worst things to eat, like an MRE or good ol' Ham and M@&**!!@!@$ from a "C" ration (bring back any memories there Uncle Roger? ha ha!)

Self portrait riding the shuttle around post. Notice the government issued Uvex polycarbonate eye armor designed to protect the soldier against both blast fragments, blowing sand and UV rays. Also notice the double chin designed to protect the soldier from starving to death and ever being promoted again!

Hanging out at the PX. Don't know why, I just spend money there. It's not even that cheap to buy stuff in there, and some of the stuff is rediculous. Why do they need to have $1000 stereo systems for sale when we are supposed to have 24 hour quiet in the barracks? Oh yeah, to take soldiers money. I am as guilty as anyone on this, but when you are bored over here you buy stuff for the stimulation and short term satisfaction of having something shiny to look at. I finally came to my senses and mailed my credit card home.

At work, the computer shown in front of me houses our database that I am responsible for maintaining. It contains all the data on deceased and wounded servicemembers in Southwest Asia since September 11, 2oo1. I am checking on the status of the previous days backups of the database. It is not glamorous work, but I like to think it serves a useful purpose for my time over here.Some of my fellow soldiers say I am too stressed out in the office and need to relax, I haven't got a clue what they are talking about. Anyway, here I am practicing for the evening gown portion of the 2007 Miss Arifjan Casualty Office competion.

SPC Damon Renick and I checking out the decorations in another soldiers area. Damon is checking out the Hooters calendar and all I can think about is getting my hands on some hot wings, go figure.

Back to life in the office, this is my boss LTC C. This one of his 3 most used positions, the other two are smoking a cigarette and riding my back (Just kidding SIR!)

We got a visit by BG Matthew Kambic, the Assistant Adjutant General of Ohio, who ate dinner with us. Here he is telling some soldiers what a great time they are having in Kuwait. They all agree even if we weren't getting paid we would still be here. From left to right, BG Kambic, SPC Tom Roberts, SGT Brad Cohen and SPC Joel Goettke.

Returning movies over to Zone 1 at Camp Arifjan. Notice the varied landscape of the Kuwaiti countryside.

In my ongoing homage to the heroes of Arifjan that call themselves the Navy Seabees, here is a nice pavillion that they built for us near our living quarters. I expected the post to have a nice opening ceremony with a cookout or something but nothing happened. Neverless it is a nice addition to the camp and gets a lot of use already.

A close up of the pavillion, notice all of the hand laid brickwork that went into its construction. Now if I could only get them to come back with me to Ohio and start on my patio....

And just so you think it is totally the same every day over here, this is a picture of this lumpy wet stuff that fell from the sky one day, I think we called it Rin or something like that back home...

More Kuwait Pics

A couple of pics to show you the difference between the Kuwait that the country of Kuwait wants you to see, and the other 95% of the area. Basically, in my opinion, Kuwait is Kuwait City. It is pretty obvious that the majority of the population in Kuwait lives in and immediately around Kuwait City and all of the tourism stuff shows you this modern city with fountains and greenery and construction. Which is true. You get out of Kwuait City and it is another landscape alltogether. Gone are the glitzy highrises and shopping malls, replaced with the stark reality of life in one of the worlds harshest environments. Respect the Bedouin people who call this place home. 99% of us would die outright withing a month if dropped off in the middle of thsi country with no support. Seriously, it is that brutal. If the lack of available water and heat doesn't kill you something else will.

Kuwait City as seen from a walkway at a mall. Beautiful isn't it.

Another view of the Kuwait City skyline along the coast with multi-million dollar construction projects, yayht clubs and expensive cars the norm.

SGT Mike Kimble and SPC Harold Joshua experience life beyond the city first hand. Notice the camel herd lumbering inte background. Shhhhhh! Be vewy quiet, we're hunting camels!

Yummy! Camels! I hear the hump is the tastiest part! Please notice the vast expanses of nothing going into the distance.

Happy Birthday Moni!!

My little girl recently celebrated her 5th Birthday. It really sucked missing this one. I got her a few small gifts that I sent home and made her a promise that this would be the last birthday I missed due to the military.

It was a Hello Kitty affair!

My wife outdid herself this year and rented this giant waterslide for the party. My lovely Mother-In-Law Sandy is standing in front of it to gauge in the picture how big it really was. It was a huge hit I am told and the kids (and some adults) played on it all day long.

Moni enjoying the slide after getting to be the first one to test ride the slide when it was put up. I know I have a Daddy's predjudice, but she is the most beautiful little girl in the world as far as I am concerned!!

While shopping in Kuwait City I saw this Princess castle and thought it would be a good gift for my little girl...

...that was until closer examination showed that it could potentially possess her Barbi dolls, sacrifice the family dog and try and swallow her soul. I left this toy alone!