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.



At 9:35 PM, Blogger Jessica Tyler said...

happy birthday. i know i've been the worst correspondent in the world this year but i'm finally graduating *fingers crossed* in two short weeks (eep!) so that should improve. i do think of you often and i'm glad to see you're still hanging in there. much love.


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