Monday, May 29, 2006

As the heat rises so do our spirits

Team Porky

The base I'm stationed at held a marathon race about a week ago. I found out about this event from the duatholon event and I became inspired to share this experience with some of my fellow soldiers at headquaters. After messing with Mr. McMuffin about how he was going to be on the team, I managed to draw together 12 people for two marathon teams.

I had a rough weekend to say the least. Prior to turning in for the night, I requested a soldier on the night shift to wake me up at the crack of dawn to prepare for this race.

That night I managed about 4 hours of sleep but, as it turns out, the solider kept to my request and I was up before the sun.

I made it to the competition about 5 minutes before they started letting teams an individuals sign up for the event. No one I knew showed up for forty some odd minutes.

When they did arrive, only three soldiers from my unit showed up and we were able to pick up another two from a swimming group that I am now share membership in.

I ran leg 4 and, to be quite frank, my legs were very tight up and until the 3rd mile of my 4.something-or-other leg of the race. Hearing encouragement like "way to go man, you've got 2 more hours left!" did do much for my motivational level but, we did finish the race and I was pretty excited with the experience.

I managed a photo after our teams run and a t-shirt.

Pre PT Test Run

We were warned about 4 months ago that we would have to run as a group three times before our PT test. No one thought that our leadership would wait until the week of the PT test to call us out.

The first run was a distance event, which wasn't too horrible. Two something miles. No sweat.

The second event was for "speed". That consisted of eight laps around the local track/field and then a 100 meter dash resulting in one casualty.

After the eight laps, our leadership said something about how we'll be doing 100 meter dashes until someone beats him. Needless to say that the "speed" training he had been doing for the past couple months wasn't enough to withstand the speed of one officer in our group. So, we did one of those but, not before our fifty-something supply officer tore his calf muscle after 6 paces down the run-way.

After completing that we did some stair sprints and everyone vanished from the scene. Our supply guy was hobbling his way to the medical clinic and I was a bit ashamed that no one was helping the poor guy. So, I joined him in his waltz and managed to get both a vehicle for him and breakfast.

The Mourning Of...

I spent the rest of the week swimming with my new "collective". I managed to survive about 3 workouts with them, one of which was a very humbling experience.

We held our fitness test and I managed to do exceptionally well on all events. One soldier was pacing off me in the run and managed to pass me at the last 200 meter marker bringing me to "second place" in the run.

I was humbled again to find out that I've only maintained my weight and I've yet to actually drop the pounds I've spent the past couple months working so hard to lose. It's obnoxious. I've altered my diet and I've increased my exericse - even cut back on serious weight training - only to find that I'm "stuck".

In any event, the chaplain approached me after the fitness test and convinced me that running a 5K road race about an hour after the fitness test was a great idea! So, I nabbed about ten bucks for registration and we knocked out the 5K. The registration fee was to support a YMCA back in Oklahoma.

Slow Daze

It's been very slow out here this week. Not much expectation wise besides running coax-cable into a bunch of buildings for AFN television service. I met with some people conducting the installation project on post and will be attending a meeting with them sometime soon. I hope it's worth while.

The heat is picking up to 106F-110F daily now. The nights cool off to a balmy 80F. You feel the heat coming off of every surface. The day time heat is oppressive and sweating out the litres of water consumed in doors is not a problem. The nights are steamy and usually at 4-5 am, things are back to "normal", preparing to cook for the next day.

We've had a couple of power issues but, new gear has come into town so, that's no longer an issue.

I've about 2-3 weeks until I go home on R&R. I'm pretty excited, to get the heck out of here for a little while, even if it's for two weeks.

Well, time to return to the grind.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Post Haste

Today is my birthday. I've managed my third birthday away from the country that I call home. I decided to do something interesting for this day.

Typically, my coworkers would have a special cake prepared for me and we would drink what passes for real beer in this part of the world. Distilled near beer, gratis French or British contractors.

It's a harh drink. Requiring a type of patience...or desperation...not normally witnessed in America. Men do strange things when they are far from home and in pursuit of a cheap buzz.

Unfortunately, General Order No 1. states that, as a soldier, I am not permitted to partake in distilled alcoholic beverages. I'll have to settle for O'Douls.

In the past, I was exempt from this policy due to my contractor status. In any event, I heard there was a "duatholon" to take place a day or so prior to my birthday.

This event entails an 800 meter swim and a 10k run. A captain in headquaters mentioned doing a team version of this contest and he needed a runner.

At the time, I was thinking "What the heck! I used to do 5 miles a day in high school and 4-13 a day my junior year of college!" - has been almost 4 years since my junior year of college.

The Rat Race

The race started off with the captain completing his 800 meter swim in, roughly, 12 minutes. I waited his finish at the starting line for the run...two gentlemen passed me as I stalled for the captain.

He appeared, tagged my hand, and with a loud hollar, I sprinted off after the two men who were, quickly, leaving me in the dust.

I passed the first one at the half mile marker. He looked to be in his fifties. I later discovered he was 53. This guy was in superb shape and as I passed him, it would anchor my pace and place in the race.

So I thought.

The man in the lead was a exceptionally lean individual who, by the end of the race, would have a whole 10 minutes on me.

I kept, what felt like, a good pace. By the mid-point of the run, a lady about my age passed me with a strength and confidence that told me she wasn't giving an all out effort and was saving her energy for this last half of the race.

She would have a good 400 meters on me by the time I finished.

My final time was a rough, 47 minutes and we completed the event in just over an hour and 4 minutes.

Keep in mind, we were the only team effort in the event. Making us first place for the team competition and 4th in the real race...if you counted us as contestants.

I was shocked at the atheletism displayed by the top three competitors. These people swam 800 meters and ran t0k (~6 miles) in less time than it took me to run my part of the race.

Oh the Pain!

I'm now writing this journal log and my legs are exceptionally tight. I stretch them every 30 minutes or so but there is some pain in my mid and lower back (poor posture, running long distances always corrects that for me), my quads burn near my knees, and behind my legs by the ham strings, there's a deep muscular pain.

I've learned a valuable lesson from that race. Treadmills and lunges can get you far but...sometimes not far enough.

It was a refreshing way to celebrate my birthday and I plan to spend more time at home training and participating in this type of contest.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Have radio? Will travel...

I've spent about a two weeks getting back into the groove of life at the big FOB. Fobbit life takes a little adjustment. Especially when you've been traveling as I have for the past three or so weeks. I had a pretty incredible experiences, some I will definately note forget.

My first week out took me to another super FOB. At this location I was helping out some people and attempting to get a very complicated radio system functional. I ran into a couple of problems as each and every possible variable involved in this setup went wrong.

The result involved my having to take an additional convoy to a location that is now...relocating. This mighty effort to gather up crypto that expired ended up being more pointless as the very keys I was collecting expired again.

Upon my return from this convoy, the officer in charge of this group recommended I take a break from this problem and collect the final components, at another location further north, and get them shipped back so I could reach completion with the task at hand. The idea was that the relocation would be completed and I could score some serious points for the team.

It took us roughly a week to leave the FOB. It appeared that every possible flight north was cancelled for rough weather or low visibility. This situation only solidified my personal opinion that the crashes from this past winter have significantly impacted FOB travel.

That week was a bit rough, I couldn't get access to a good laundry facility so I ran around "stinky mcgee". Catching up on my recreational reading as the hours tolled onward.

I did manage to complete some tasks for the group which was just a fraction of my inital plan. They recently had some new personnel move from another location and I assisted with some additional communications problems they were facing.

Eventually, the OIC and myself made it up north. It was a series of hops in a chopper - an experience I've had many times before but this was more unique for a number of reasons I can't really get into in this particular forum.

The Monkey House

At the end of our trip, we were welcomed into the "Monkey House". The soldiers staying there offered us a "stinky room" to stay in - they managed to be assigned an old office building and each soldier had his own room that would be about two to three times the size of my trailer.

The "stinky room" managed to get the better of me, and I moved to a couch that was in the living area these soldiers shared.

They had incredible access to AFN and the local FOB was running a streaming movie and music server off the network that tied into a closed circuit tv station. So, all day, every day, movies were playing in a very large rotation.

My nights on the couch were more comfortable than the one evening in the stinky room, but the mosquito bites that would great me in the morning probably weren't worth it.

I was encouraged to take up a bed in local soldiers room as he was on leave and not making use of the space.

I gathered my equipment together. The weight of this freight was roughly 350 pounds and my new quest to leave that FOB began. I was unsuccessfull for a week.

During this time, I did manage to find my way on to a couple of convoys in the area. It would be the second time I was off FOB during this tour. The invitation was extended to me more for a force protection issue than anything else - I was to take the place of the soldier on leave.

The missions I joined were very refreshing experiences and reminded me of how much I took my civilian job for granted - in the civilian world, I sometimes conduct international travel and the restrictions imposed upon my work team are almost non-existant.

I had have the opportunity to witness a religious gathering and it was very...unique. To put it lightly. I did manage to run security for another mission and I received a lot of positive feedback from the soldiers I was working with regarding my planning, briefing of the plan, and execution of the duty.

Each day I would wake up, check the flight scheduling, make a series of phone call rounds to every available form of air travel with out success.

I finally managed a sherpa flight gratis a Citadel alumni. It's amazing how far the South Carolina connection can take you.

My flight took me back to the FOB where I'm normally stationed and I was a very hesitant to return, I had a suspicion that if I came back now, even for a pit stop, my superiors would cancel the rest of my mission out of annoyance for the amount of time it was taking.

I spoke with the OIC I traveled up there with about the situation and came to the conclusion that I would have to take the flight - it was the best I could do.

Back in town for just one night...yeah right!

The sherpa flight was spectacular! Unfortunately, another officer on the flight had a serious case of motion sickness and spent most of the flight with his mouth in an air sickness bag.

When we landed, I notified my superiors that I was in town and in thirty minutes I was back in the old office.

My superior held a meeting with me, during which I became painfully aware that my emails regarding the situation I was facing with this mission were not being read throughly. This was a bit obnoxious because it was mandated I make this trip and it was mandated I see it through to completion.

The course of the conversation developed into my worst fear and as it happens a VIP was due into our area and I had to be there for the visit. To hell with the mission!

As it turns out the visit was cancelled two days later and the last leg of my flight, the one that I fought so hard to get, was long gone.

So, I was stuck at my main post. Mission incomplete. It was a bit of downer considering I had placed so much energy and time into this trip.

We were able to get a soldier back this way to pick up the remainder of the gear and my section trained him on the appropriate skills and tasks needed to operate the equipment. He should be ready but, support up at this location is very mediocre and I fear it won't happen cleanly.

By the time we had the soldier coming down to my location for training, my superior told me I could continue my travel but I had to be back for any other up and coming VIP visits. When I inquired about when that would occur, I was told that "we don't know but you have to be back for it".

With that type of constraint placed upon my ability to travel, I thought it nearly impossible to accomplish my mission and I was glad that we had a soldier making his way to our locale to complete what I had started.