24 November 2011

What I’ve learned

Today is Thanksgiving – a great American holiday. It’s one of my favorites, but it’s not because of history. I love Thanksgiving because there’s no presents to shop for, no pressure (except for the chefs), just good friendly family gatherings. Today, even though I was deployed and living alone, my friend from work invited me to enjoy Turkey day with his family. It was awesome. What a spread. What a meal. It’s been 5 hours and I’m still full. It was a great way to spend Thanksgiving in a foreign country. Thanks Fitts family!

My Inlaws have a farm – and all the family tries to get there at least once a year – all at once, I mean, as a big family.  It’s a great feeling being in a huge family where the grandparents can kick back and enjoy the company of both the children and the grandchildren. Where the parents can relax, kids can play, and the day just drags along – and that’s okay. It’s okay because there’s nothing planned, there’s no schedule to meet, no video teleconferences to dial into, no deadlines for input, nothing. Just wake up and be. Sit on the porch and look at the pond while sipping coffee. Go hunt for a while. Read a book. Run around with the kids, play with the dogs, feed the cows, anything you want. I like it and I can’t wait until the day I can get back there and just unwind.  

November has been a really good month for me. I got four care packages! (thanks friends and family). It was my birthday. I was invited to share Thanksgiving with some good friends. I’m about to celebrate my 4th Anniversary with my beautiful wife. But wait! There’s more - I leave Cairo en route to the good ol’ US of A. And I am READY.

One of the things I like about my Esquire magazine subscription is a series they run called: What I’ve Learned. I like to read what ‘seasoned’ men and women have seen, experienced. Some things, I can imagine, have changed their perspective – maybe even their lives. Having spent so much time in Egypt, I’ve seen their struggle, I’ve sat and listened to their gripes, the helplessness in the voices, and  to institute change. I have met wealthy and found a new low when describing poor. I have learned a lot – at home and at work. I’m sure when writing this article there is a writer asking questions that the subject answers. But there’s no one here except me and the voices in my head, so I’m going to stop taking my medicines for a minute and conduct an interview of myself.

What I’ve learned:
Tear Gas is heavy and it doesn’t dissipate quickly. You can feel it in your eyes, on your skin, up your nose – even when it’s 4 blocks away.
Television is an incredible time waster. And very well received when you are lonely.
Save Draft is your best friend when you are sending an important email. Write it, save it, walk away, then come back an hour later and edit before you hit ‘SEND’.
When you are annoyed or irritated with someone else’s email correspondence-- NEVER “Reply All” until you’ve calmed down. (also, see above)
I used to think it was cool that my dog only obeyed me. And I thought it was funny that she only came when I called her.  I don’t think that anymore.
In today’s America, we like to say things like “Freedom isn’t free”. You know who just learned the meaning of that phrase? Syria, Egypt, Morocco, and Libya.
A country’s military force should only be used to protect. It should NEVER aim its own weapons at its own citizens. (also, see above)
Just when I think I know enough, I realize I only know enough to be dangerous.
You don’t actually have to be at a funeral to mourn. But not being there doesn’t make it hurt any less- or more for that matter.
Softball is actually a fun game. A little competition, a little camaraderie – it’s good for the spirit.
People who say that Skype is makes deployments easier – never tried talking to a 2 year old online or tried to hold one still in their lap and coax her to talk.
A good attitude helps the day fly by. A strong supporting wife makes a deployment fly by.  

I leave this joint in 4 days. I get to see my family in 17 days…I’m jumping out of my skin. 

22 October 2011

One Giant Catch Up Blog Post

I will admit it. I have not paid any attention to this blog for a long time. Last month I started a new post, but some shiny object distracted me (ops normal) and I am just now sitting back down to get caught up.

There have been some serious stories to tell since my last post (July). I think I will break them up into several small posts (back dating them to make it chronological).

Here we go!

Ramadan in Egypt. I thought it would be a big deal. See, during Ramadan Muslims fast from 1st prayer (~4:30am) until dusk. No eating, no water/tea, no smoking cigarettes or sheesha,  no sex - nothing. I'm sure it's pretty frustrating. Here's a link that breaks it down better: Ramadan Explained

The idea is their fasting puts them in the same shoes as the poor - who fast like this their whole lives against their will. Understandable and admirable, if you ask me. There's a lot that goes into the tradition of Ramadan and I will even try to hit all the facets of it. There are two parts of Ramadan that I participated in: Iftar and Eid. It won't surprise you that both of these include eating. Iftar is the break fast meal, observed everyday. Eid, is the celebration of the end of Ramadan. At iftar, the Muslims lay out a huge spread of food and they invite friends and family to enjoy the feast. And what a meal it is! My office was invited by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense staffers to 'do' Iftar with them. It's just like Golden Corral...Egypt style. Soup, salads, hummus, fresh veggies, lamb, beef, chicken, rice and if that's not enough - tea, cakes and ice cream. I rolled out of that place. It was delicious. 
Eid was a 4-day weekend. I happily celebrated this. No action necessary. 

I think the best reason for me not participating in Egyptian Ramadan is because I was stateside - living the life with my family! I spent about 18 days in Pensacola enjoying the muggy, summer sunshine with my ladies. We had a great time.

When I got back from leave, I had an opportunity to head to Luxor, Egypt to see the Valley of the Kings and other amazing ruins.
It was only a two day trip, but that was enough! I saw too much to recount. Here are a few highlights.
I didn't actually take this picture but I did see this guy.  He seemed really nice. 

Focus, camera, focus! 

Me and my new friend. Check out the squatter in the background. Later, I paid him  100 Egyptian Pounds (~$17 or about a week's pay) to show me some restricted ruins...money talks, baby!

You can take the kid out of the country...

Look how awesome these hieroglyphics are! I think the one above me says : It was a "fowl" moon. 

Horus - my favorite Egyptian god story, god of war and hunting.. Son of Isis and Osiris. This picture doesn't show it very well, but the pigment is still intact after 4000 years. I wonder what happened if it got on your hands while you painted?
 The tour was really fun. Luxor, as a city, has about a half million people who are mostly farmers. There are farms and crops everywhere and they feed most of the Southern half of Egypt. Lots of corn, wheat, fruit trees and even bananas. The Nile River runs right through Luxor, so there's never a loss of fresh water or irrigation. The climate is very similar to the SE region of the US, so I see lots of the same plants, trees and flowers.

September had some pretty decent moments in Tahrir Square also. The January Revolution has lost some steam and the youth groups are growing frustrated by it. So every weekend since I've been back from leave (and sometimes during the week) there has been a protest in Tahrir. The red building with the round dome is the Egyptian Museum. 

My embassy isn't in this photo. If you were taking the picture, you'd have to turn to the left about 90 degrees to see it. I can walk to Tahrir Square in about 5 minutes. Surprisingly, I don't.

The Egyptian protests are hard to control - as with any assembly. There are conspiracies that different faction groups place 'bugs' in the crowds to incite violence from what was initially designed to be a peaceful sit in. Lately more violence has bubbled up. It's the most violence since January, an October display of power.

Okay! Enough about Egypt politics.
October is here and with it comes my obsession with my countdown...To Leave Cairo! 

There are several different theories behind military deployment countdowns. Everyone does it a bit differently. Some maniacal people track hours, some count months, some count paychecks, hours, holidays...you get the point. I break my countdowns into significant events. In order for me to make it to P'cola, I have three flights. One in late Nov, one in early Dec, and then my flight home. It's getting close. 35 days to leave Cairo, ~40 days to be in San Diego again. About 50 days to be in Pensacola. It might seem like a long time - but believe me, it's not. The days have been flying by lately - and I want to reach down and cut the brake lines to make sure it doesn't slow down.

And finally, a bit of Egyptian risk management. Look, they are all using two hands. I wonder what their HMO co-pay is?
Okay! That's it! I'm all caught up.
More to follow!

23 July 2011

One of my past times revamped. I call it paradise found.

Okay, I'm not going to beat around the bush here.  There's one specific topic we all know I like to talk about. In my family it comes up during every holiday. Heck, I am pretty sure I brought up my bowels during one of these blog posts.

Forget about sliced bread, the below photos show what might very well be - the greatest invention. Period.

I've always been pretty baffled by the idea of the bidet. I think it's a natural question for Americans though, since we don't usually have access to them. To be honest, since I've gotten to the Middle East, there has been a separate bowl in each of my bathrooms. Yet, for months, I have not used them. I wasn't sure:  Are they just for women? Which direction do you sit? Do you even sit? Do you use soap? Or just blast away with the water? Then what, do you hop back over to the regular bowl?
Another problem is that I don't know who I should ask these questions.

But - now that's all changed!


Okay, right now it looks just like a normal Clark Kent toilet bowl.

Butt, all you do is reach back to that white knob on the right side and..SUPERMAAAAAN!

Splish, Splash you'll be taking a bath!

The pressure is controlled by you, so it's as gentle or as 'evasive' as you prefer. I did a test run (fully clothed) and it shot a stream of water all the way across the room!

The bad news is that my 'home base' hotel does not have this.

I'm going to special order one and plumb it into our next house!

Hello Mr Albert!

It’s been since Mother’s day since I’ve written on here, so I better get to work! The delay is for several reasons. One, There’s been quite a bit of work for me at my new position and when I get home I just don’t feel like sitting in front of a computer any more. Two, my Gramps passed away in June and that has been a bit challenging for me to deal with. Three, after work and family life there really hasn’t been that much to write about! So I figured, why publish a blog about nothing.
I have finally found some good stuff to write about so here it is. I reported to the US Embassy in Cairo on 15May and will most likely remain here until about 10DEC, when I will transition back to San Diego for some post-deployment processing. After that I will make my way to P’cola and hopefully Katie and AC will be all ready to enjoy some Christmas holiday festivities – even though we will essentially be homeless until we get back to California! That’s a whole story in itself, but I can’t wait for that to play out!
I spent the better part of May and June planning and polishing up this bilateral exercise in the Red Sea between the US Navy and Egyptian Navy. I've made a few trips to Alexandria, but mostly my job is at the Embassy. I like it here. The hotel I'm living in is very comfortable. Hello Mr Albert is the greeting I get from all the hotel employees. I stop and talk with them everday and I think that makes it easy for some of the Egyptians to form a good impression of Americans.  I like walking around the local shops and grocery stores, trying to decipher prices, names of foods and I like talking to the locals. A couple weeks ago, I realized I hadn't learned any Arabic and remembered how frustrated I would get at people in San Diego when people only spoke Spanish, so I decided to make an effort to learn the basics. I think it's appreciated because when I say words people are surprised and then they smileand respond back - but then I have to explain that I only know a little. My Arabic skills leave A LOT to be desired but I can eek out: Good Morning (and the response to good morning), Hello, How much is this, My name is, what's your name, have a nice day (or night) good evening and a couple odds and ends that keeps me from getting scowled at like an outsider who's not even trying to speak the local language. Most of the groceries have pictures on them, so aside from the deli meats and cheeses, I have a pretty good idea what I am buying. Cheese is a weekly surprise. I never know what flavor, texture or dollar amount I'll be getting when I point to one and ask for half a kilo. But after 8 weeks, the deli manager knows that I like soft swiss-type cheese vs hard parmesean-type.  People are nice here and once they see that all I'm here to do is buy from their shop or eat from their restaurant they are very welcoming. When the say "Where you from?" and I say America, most of the time I get a big smile and a "Welcome! Egypt and America are friends". Sometimes it's not like that, but that's okay too. Everyone doesn't like us around. I understand that too.  I've found that people are people and most of us are just trying to make a good life for ourselves and our families. Here's what it looks like from my hotel room. This is the Nile River and some pretty cool pics that I took.
Downtown Cairo traffic

More city shots

The sign says 6.55 Egyptian Pounds = $1.25

Khan El Khalili Market
Here's me on the golf course. You'd never know I was in the middle of the desert!!

 These pics are from a famous market called Khan El Khalili. They have it all there! Papyrus (pronounced: pa-pie-rus, don't laugh someone I know needed some assistance with that :), silver jewelry, bronze and copper everything, touristy trinkets, blown glass and clothes. I had to get out of there before I spent it all!

Last week I flew from Cairo to a place called Hurghada and then drove to Safaga, Egypt to put my plans into effect. It was a six day, 1000-member exercise that more than 10 naval assets participated in. There were lots of logistics to iron out, translate, and then put to work. With the help of many, we made it a successful exercise and I think both navies are better for it. I only snapped a few photos of the exercise, mostly because I was on the Eg Navy base and it’s prohibited. Also because when I wasn’t working I spent my time at the hotel. That’s where most of my pics are from. Not too exciting and it paints a picture like I was on vacation – please believe me, I’m not. If I was, I’d have my two ladies out here basking in the sun with me!
Egyptian warrior
The falcon headed guy is Huron, son of Iris and Osiris. I can't remember
 the significance but one eye is the sun and the other is the moon.
This is just a quick picture of the grounds of the resort
I was staying at in Safaga, EG.
Another resort grounds photo. It's a tough life, but someone
has got to live it!

Here is me getting a quick rubdown before the exercise started. I had no idea they were going to make me into art, but hey, if they recognize my skills and good looks well, more power to them.

Inside the Lobby of Intercontinental Abu Soma

There was SO much grass to mow. These guys were
mowing all day all week long! It's also necessary to mention
the temps were in the low 100s.

 'Safety First' That's what I always say!

08 May 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Katie always does these long tribute posts, so I thought I'd give it a try too. Not like this is a competition, but I mean come on. It's a competition, I'm an only child.

I met Katie in 2006, she was a wild woman. A party animal. Her weekends were a blur. She knew all the hot spots. A regular at Bamboo Willies and Saltshaker. Little did she know it was all about to change!

One night at the local tapas bar she met this stud. He swept her off her feet - then proceeded to leave without getting her phone number. Thank goodness for Myspace or he'd never would've gotten the digits.  Katie certainly knows a good thing when she sees it. She sunk those talons in quick! 18 months later, they were married. How about that?

Lucky for both of them, Matt and Kala got married...
Who could resist a man in uniform?
What a handsome couple!

And a couple of weeks after the wedding...We had to start taking pics like this!
Micro-baby bump
Who looks better?

 Then...we got to start taking pictures like this!!

Happy Mother's Day Katie!Love,

30 April 2011

Six Weeks Down, Thirty Four To Go.

I will start by saying this: I love you, Al Gore, for inventing the internet. I like you a lot, Niklaz Zennstrom (from Sweden) and Janus Friis (from Denmark), for creating Skype. Because - These two venues have allowed me to stay tuned into my family and friends - fairly seemlessly for the past two months. That's a great thing.

Here's the laydown of the lowdown (on the downlow, no doubt) from the past couple of days.

After a quick week in Bahrain, my predecessor and I made our way to Cairo and Alexandria Egypt for some planning meetings.

Not Pictured, but with honorable mention: About an hour into a four-hour trip to Alexandria from Cairo our Chevrolet Suburban that was outfitted like a tank, started to shimmy - and by shimmy I mean the steering wheel looked like it was trying to make mashed potatoes it was shaking so hard. The driver pulled over and we found a 18" tear in the inner wall of the tire. Crazy. So we limped on down the shoulder for a few km until we found a gas station/ Burger King. Oh yeah! Beef Royale with Cheese! That's the Lemon/Lemonade scenario for you! That would also help explain the symptoms of what I like to call the Bahraini Mudslides that I can't seem to get rid of...TMI? Never.

Naval Planning (aka- Making Sausage)
We helped organize some naval activities that will happen in the next couple months. It was not my first time interacting with another country's navy, but it was the first time I've been on a planning board with a foreign navy. It was pretty darn cool to be a part of the initiative that puts a plan together for about 12 vessels and aircraft to work at sea. It was a two day conference, and the Tuesday evening we all met up at the Egyptian Naval Officer's Club for supper. It was a fabulous spread - the best meal I've had since I've been here. I'll spare you the details, but it was ladden with fish and squid. Soups, salad, hummus and more. Awesome. For someone like me who loves to try new foods, it was right up my alley! I wanted to take more pics of us eating but I didn't want to be 'that guy'.

We stayed at the Four Seasons. It was the best hotel I've ever been to. Except for one thing. Internet is ridiculously expensive here! They will provide a business center for free, but if I wanted internet in my room it was going to cost $72 for three days! Sorry honey, no Skype this week. I'm a tight wad, what can I say.

We drove back to Cairo on Thursday without any incidents. There were a lot of reminince of the Revolution on this side of the highway for some reason. Cop cars with rocks through their windshields and a few vehicles overturned and burned to the ground. Lots of graffiti about 'Freedom' and 'Welcome to Free Egypt'. I can tell the Egyptians are proud of their accomplishment and everyone one wants to tell their part of the action. One of the men that worked in the lounge told me he was rioting at Tahrir Square when the police hit him with the firehose. It knocked him down and he was trampled so bad by the masses, he had to be rushed to the hospital. He fractured his nose and was badly bruised in his back and chest. Even with all that, he was still at work because he can't afford to lose his job - he has a family to support - that was straight from his mouth.

What can you say about internal fueds? Well, we've had some pretty serious ones. I can't imagine that when the American Revolution ended this country was in a great place. I bet it was like this, "Yes! We did it!...okay, now what". And that is right where Egypt is today. Now what. They'll get it. A civilization doesn't make it for 7000 years to let a small thing like Hosni Mubarak slow them down.

So far so good out here. Can't wait to see what's next!

20 April 2011

I'm Finally Here

With my training in South Carolina over, I turned in all my gear, packed my bags and said good-bye to my new compadres. Then I hit the rack (I call it Operation My Racky Freedom). I actually went down at about 8:30, which was a miracle - I'm usually up until at least 11. I was beat like a drum after two really tough days of "culminating events" training.

Here's a quick rundown of my travels to B'rain:
Wed morning I had to catch a flight pretty early. My airport shuttle left at 0415! I made it to Norfolk at 0830 and called my cousin Becca. She came and picked me up and she, her husband Tony and I had a fun morning catching up. Then Becca dropped me off at the military airport. That was around 3pm. My flight was at 7:50pm...now it's been delayed until 10, then 11, and then it finally boarded and left sometime around Midnight-thirty. So that was awesome.

We stopped in Spain for two hours, Italy for two hours and finally made it to Bahrain at 3am on their Friday (translates to 5pm EST Thursday). The flights weren't too bad. I sat next to a normal sized guy that thought he was He-Man though. We spent most of the Atlantic Ocean fighting over the armrest. Then I finally told him we needed to come to a 'Gentleman's agreement' over whose elbow goes where. After that, we had two nice flights. I'm sure he was happy to see me leave as he headed on to Djibuti (where is that anyway? Just kidding, but not really).

I slept about 13 hours Friday, then ate dinner in my hotel Friday night. It was an awesome meal. I went to a lebonese restaurant in the lobby. I was going to take pictures, but I mean I'm only so much of a rube...anyways while I interacted with the host and server, I realized this is it- I'm really on deployment! We both misunderstood each other for about 5 minutes to start. What I did understand is that I sat down at a restaurant with a 20 Bahraini Dinar minimum...that meant nothing to me as he explained it three times. Then I pulled out my handy-dandy currency converter (thanks Ipod Touch) and realized 1 BD = 2.7 USD. Oh yeah! I was about to drop $53 bucks on dinner plus drinks. Later I explained this to Katie. She said I should think about eating Ramen, PB&J crackers and a big glass of milk. "It's got all the food groups, plus you can call it the 'AC College Fund Diet'. I promised I would, and as my cracker crumbs fall between the keys I feel the Lyme's Disease setting in. At least my baby will get the smarts!

The work week here is Sunday - Thursday. I think it's because of the 7-10 hour time difference to the States. Sunday I checked into my new job. My office looks like every Navy office, partitioned cubicles, coffee pot, etc. Everyone seems pretty nice and I think I'll fit right in.

The weather is pretty comfortable so far, although today was as hot as Hades. I take a shuttle to the base, but there's a pretty decent walk through base to get to my building. I like it, it gives me plenty of time to get some fresh air and sunshine - something I don't get a ton of while on ships.

Bahrain is an island in Arabian Gulf (which is the same as the Persian Gulf, it just depends which side of it you are standing on - Iran or anywhere else). Everyone here is mostly arabic. However, lots of the employees (masons, restaurant employees, etc) are from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The country is East of Saudi Arabia. Qatar is a bigger island just South of Bahrain. There are lots of English speakers here, some better than others. Most are very friendly (especially the salesmen) and offer me tea to come in their store and shop. They sell lots of trinkety stuff (my favorite!!), rugs galore, throw pillows, awesome sheets and towels, hand made blankets and stuff like that. The furniture is so beautiful and I'd love to get some but I'm not sure I can justify the shipping. There are tons of options when looking for a place to eat. There's a TGI Friday's between "home" and work. They even have Krispy Kreme! But I bet by the time they are flown over here they are not as hot and fresh as they are stateside. There's an entire street (I haven't been there) that has all American restaurants, in case I get home sick. That's where all the Sailors go when a ship pulls in, understandably. My hotel has 7 restaurants in it. Mexican, Italian, Lebonese, Iranian, and more. I have only eaten at the lebonese place.

Okay that should catch me up for right now. I will get some more pics uploaded for your viewing pleasure.


16 April 2011

Technical difficulties

I have actually posted twice since I've been in Bahrain. However, due to some quirks in the system - They have not made it to the website.

So tonight I will try again.

I don't want to let down my cadre of followers...loyal readers of my blah-g.

10 April 2011

News: some good, some neutral, some bad

The Good News:
It's been a pretty hectic couple of weeks. The Army has managed to stuff 10lbs of knowledge into this 5lb brain of mine. They've trained me up so well, I could probably cross over to be an Army officer...Whoa, whoa, whoa! Let's not go too far- I still like my three hots and a cot on a ship!

We've done plenty of training, some highlights include: Plenty of classroom work- Land navigation, Convoy operations, some other good-to-knows. We've had lots of weapons and range time and plenty of war fighting tactics. The USA and USN do some things alike, but most things are worlds apart. I like it. It's interesting how our positions (on land vice at sea) change concepts so much. The easiest one to explain is time zones. For the Navy, we operate in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) because ship's movement crosses time zones so often. To reduce confusion, we task the message sender to translate their local time into GMT. In the Army, they just use local time - because their boss is most likely at the same post as they are! That probably seems pretty minor to most, but it's the best I could do.

Since I'm using an iPad to publish this report, I can't figure out how to get my pics from Picasa to Blogger. I rate my tech skills at about 65%. There are a bunch of pics in the top left hand column you can paroose. Warning: The videos are mostly at the Heavy Weapons range and deserve to be played at low volume...buyer beware.

The Neutral News:
I am about three days from leaving Camp McCrady, SC. That means I'm about three days from leaving the good ol US of A for a couple months. Although the shock of leaving has all but worn off, it will be replaced with the shock of cultural difference, time zone shifts, new food, having to haggle for any item I buy, and many, many more. I'm happy to do it though. Katie and I have been planning this for nearly two quarters. She and AC is adapting nicely to their new lives. That's what's most important to me.

I've also been able to get all my 'good-byes' in. I got to spend last Saturday night and Sunday with my whole Aiken family, which was really, really important to me. This Sunday, I was able to hang out with my Dad and Step-mom. I would have posted these last two in the Good News department, but good-byes aren't necessarily good news.

The Bad News:
Today I got a call from Katie and she told me that my dog Belle got out last night and ran off. After about an hour, she got in the car and started searching for her. Now, Belle is a pretty decent mix...Lab and Dachshund is the best I can do to describe her. She's short and long (tubular really). Her face looks just like a dachshund but larger. Big, soft, floppy ears that never get infected and are always in need of a good scratching. (see the pics in the upper left column). She has a great nose for hunting (squirrels, cats, oppossums, raccoon, but not armadillos-that's Lilly's job!). In fact, three times during our walks she just started smelling the ground and just started digging furiously- only to pull up a mole! These days, inside the house she's pretty easy going, and at 7 yrs old (her birthday was last week) she mostly looks forward to a daily back scratch and head pat, laying in the sunshine with Lilly and her two meals (give or take some scraps that might fall directly from my hand into her mouth). She's a great dog and many of you know I call her 'My Saving Grace', because she was the reason I would make my way home most weekend nights...pre-Katie, of course.

She's been a passenger on many a road trip and has logged some serious highway miles. She was my shotgun to Tampa, Aiken (on several occasions), Gainesville, Ozark AL, Rhode Island, Washington DC, Virginia Beach, and most recently the P'cola-San Diego-P'cola voyages. One time she even took a 10-day golfing vacation with me on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
Well, she must have gotten the scent of something pretty good last night because she darted into the darkness. And after calling and calling her, Katie got into the car and started searching for her.

Belle got hit by a car and died. Katie promises me that when she found her, it just looked like she was asleep and there was no real 'signs' of the contact. It breaks my heart that she's not sleeping on the dog bed my Mom made for her right now. One of the many things I looked forward to when returning home from this deployment was the way she was going to react when she saw me again. She flipped her gourd every time I was at sea for over a week- it would have been ridiculous, I can promise you.

Katie says AC asked "Go Belle Belle go?" (that translates to: Where's Belle?) two times today. She didn't know how to answer. She's out playing with her doggie friends is what the answer was. But well all know the real answer: All good dogs go to Heaven. Right?
Good night old girl, I love you and will surely miss you.

I promise to try to post a funny one next time. I'm not trying to depress anyone!

29 March 2011

Today's Training

Today in my training we went over a ton of legal literature. Rules of engagement, rights for personal protection, and one that really struck a heart string for me, the military member's Code of Conduct. I've had a bunch of training on this in the past, but for some reason it really hit home this time.

Here it is:

After Korean war the American armed forces jointly developed a Code of Conduct. The President of the United States approved this written Code in 1955. The six articles of the Code create a comprehensive guide for all American military forces in time of war, and in time of peace. The articles of the Code embrace (1) general statements of dedication to the United States and to the cause of freedom, (2) conduct on the battlefield, and (3) conduct as a prisoner of war.
The new Code of Conduct is not a part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Instead, the Code of Conduct is a personal conduct mandate for members of the American armed forces throughout the world.

Article I: I am an American, fighting in the armed forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

Article II: I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

Article III: If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

Article IV: If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

Article V: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service, number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

Article VI: I will never forget that I am an American, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

27 March 2011

Marching on

But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.
- Robert Frost

Last week was a whirlwind and so is this post. So i apologize in advance for the length and lack of humor or pics.

I drove cross-country in Katie's car. Almost 2000 miles. I had company though, Belle & Lilly! I made pretty good time, only stopping to eat, rest, eat and sleep. Lilly is a great car rider. Belle on the other hand was a mess. From the minute I started the car until I slowed below 40 mph, she was panting and shaking uncontrollably. It was bad. But we had to get home...I made it home by Friday and I immediately began to really feel the pressure of deployment weighing me down.

Saturday was great though. MGM and Grady had a nice cookout for me. Everyone came over to enjoy some ribs and wings. It was a really nice send off. Big T& Charlotte, Brian & Robin and the twins and my Mom and Lloyd were there too. KT made one of my favorite salads and MG made banana pudding. Food equals love in my eyes and there was a lot of love in that house Saturday!!

Sunday we met Marie and Lloyd at Ft Pickins for some sunshine and history exploration. I'd never been to that fort. It was very fitting, I felt, to visit a American fort utilized in our very own country's fight for independence just days before I leave for a country trying to do the same thing. It's all perspective.

Tick, tock...Says my internal clock.

Monday was gone in a flash. I can't even remember what we did.

Tuesday, the movers showed up! Moving day is always exciting. I wish I could tell you I loved this day. Good news first. None our stuff is broken, it all fits into the new place, and what we don't need to use fits in the garage. The bad news is that all the hard work we did separating our things into : immediate use, might use, permanent storage didn't quite get followed by the packing agents. Long, long story short we were opening kitchen boxes that had KT's high school memorabilia in it (those huge hair/white eye shadow pics have a home in the garage and only get pulled out when I need a chuckle).

Wednesday and Thurs we just worked all day to get the house settled. It wasn't done on Sat when I left, poor KT has to wrap it up while chasing the baby and two dogs out from under her feet.

Wed we headed out to Dinner but it's Spring Break and we ended up eating at Margaritaville. It's a bar slash restaurant...I hope the drinks are good, b/c the food...notsomuch.
Thurs night we met Tony and Charlotte for supper at a local fish house. It was great, AC was a gem and I really had a nice time visiting with the in-laws.

At this point, I'm panicking on the inside. One of my self-proclaimed good qualities is that I keep my cool on the exterior. I think I did a pretty good job of masking my emotions up to this point. But Katie seems to see right through it. Friday, AC was supposed to go to school, but I asked to keep her home. We played and had fun all morning, then she napped. Then by the time she awoke, it was nearly time to say good-bye. She stayed at Aunt MGs because of the Baynard-Davis social hour (the night before their wedding).

Now, I've been doing this for going on 12 years. You'd think separation would get easier, right? Notsomuch. Wow, it just hovered over me the whole week. The past three years KT and I (and more recently AC) have had our share of separation because of my ship's underway schedule and such. Two weeks away is lousy...but leaving my home while staring a 9 month deployment in the face, well that flat-out hurts.

So I said good-bye to 20mo old Anna Cross Friday night and the next morning did the same to 31 year old Katherine Cross. I'm not sure which was worse, the one who knew where I was going? Or the one who squirmed out of my arms because she wanted to keep playing? I think I choose 'D' all of the above.

In high school, whenever I was running late my Aunt Cindy would call for me to hurry up and I would respond "I'm coming, I'm coming!", then her reply would ALWAYS be "Yeah, so is Christmas". I sure hope she's right this time.

I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

09 March 2011

The Buckeye Stops Here

About two weeks before Christmas 2010, I was selected for an IA. An IA, individual augment, is one of the ways the Navy supports the other services of our United States military. Naval officers and enlisted alike are essentially plucked from their current duties, trained up, and sent to a forward deployed duty. These jobs are a wide variety and can range from a planning assignment for troops in theatre to human assistance jobs in the wake of some natural disaster. There are Sailors hand picked based upon their skillsets to help work with specific weapons systems. My job will eventually send me to Cairo's US Embassy to be a liaison officer for naval exercise planning. No one really is 100% on their job description until you are actually boots-on-ground (BOG)-there's a zinger of a military term for you.

Last Sunday, 27FEB11 started my first step for training, Wright Patterson Air Force Base - the Birthplace of Flight. I had no idea what it was for. In fact I though it was going to be about my use of classified material. Nope, Foreign Military Sales (FMS). That's right boys and girls, Uncle BoBo is going to be drafting up contracts to aid the Egyptians purchase US goods and services for their military. **For anyone who knew me in high school and/or college, please contain your laughter**
It's been almost two weeks and I feel pretty confident with my new abilities and I really hope that when I get to Egypt (my counterpart is actually working out of Bahrain right now) I will be able to settle in and do a great job - no matter what the assignment.

In the meantime, back in San Diego - the party is still kicking. Apparently, there's a new DJ in town and all she wants to listen to is the smooth hits by our little red friend, Elmo. la la, la la <Elmo, Big Bird, Snuffy's> Song... I know KT is going crazy- I sing that song in my head at work and I've been gone for 10 days!

I do get to fly home Friday for a couple days. The house gets packed out on Monday and shipped on Tuesday. Also, KT/AC fly home Tuesday and I'll be driving the car and dogs to Pcola.  Google says it's 30 hours of driving so I think I should be able to make it by Friday night. So if you want to call me - please do!