25 November 2012

Week 20 from Afghanistan

Week 20 from AFG

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
We had a good one here. Something I was surprised about, because the food isn't usually very good. The best part though was knowing that my family was able to enjoy the company of their grandparents, an aunt, cousins and some friends. As it happened, we had a water emergency with our water heater, and some ministering angels from the Ward came and helped resolve that. There is much to be thankful for.
I got some letters in the mail this week that were pretty interesting. THREE's teacher had the kids write letters to me for Veterans Day. That was very nice of them. The letters are cute and some are funny. I thought I'd share some quotes. These are fourth graders now, keep in mind:

"I'll pray for you that nothing bad ever happens."
"If you fly stuff [I don't] is there any guns on the flying machine. How many flying stuff is there. I bet you are good at being in the airforce."
"How hard is your job? Do you like it? Is it hard being away from family? Do you like my letter? Happy veterans day. Hope to see you soon."

24 November 2012

Holiday mail

USPS deadlines for APO/FPO/DPO


Thanksgiving Day Surprise

I would have posted a pic of the finished turkey but we had an unexpected surprise Thursday morning. I went out to get some supplies from the garage and saw water leaking from the water heater. Not totally busted but enough to have to call a plumber. I called Roto Rooter and there was going to be a 2 hr wait and a $1290 charge for new heater. I remembered a friend from church was apprenticing as a plumber. He came over right away and we got the water pipes cut off so we could at least I've water during the holiday. We decided to buy the heater Friday morning.

Thanks to Black Friday and a 15% military discount we got good deal on a water heater from Lowe's for $360. That plus a couple fittings put it around $420.
So we were very thankful this thanksgiving for good friends. This friend also helped when my sons minivan needed some minor repairs. His wife and I were able to sit and have some fun conversation while her husband worked.

22 November 2012

Turkey and Stuffing

This year was the biggest turkey I've ever cooked- 28.4 lbs.
Every year my kids look forward to helping me make parts of the dinner. They always help me with the stuffing. It's an old family recipe passes down from my mother and her mother and grandmother.
4 loaves bread
Celery and onion diced
2 lbs. Sausage
2-3 eggs
Chicken broth
Poultry seasoning and pepper to taste

The kids love to break up the bread into bit size pieces into large brown bags.

Cook sausage.
Sauté the celery and onions together.
Mix sausage and veggies together. Set aside. Watch out for little hands wanting to taste the mix.
Mix bread, eggs, sausage, chicken broth and poultry seasoning and pepper- letting the kids get their hands a little mushy is always fun.
Stuff turkey and save some for extra pan.

I cook my turkey (wrapped in foil in foil roasting pan) over night with the oven set at 250*F although this big bird probably could have gone to 275*F as it took a little longer than usual to get this turkey cooked all the way. I start at 10pm and usually at 6 or 7am it's ready to take the foil off and brown.
(Put a drip pan underneath to catch any dripping)

20 November 2012

Christmas Care Package

Was trying to think of a way to send Christmas to hubby while he's deployed. He shares a room so it can't be something too big or crazy. He has a bed, a side table, and a wardrobe with two small shelves. Not much room. And I don't know much about the roommate to know if big decorations would be appreciated or cause tension. So I figure whatever I send can be put on side table or taken in to work to put in his desk.
I was able to find a small Christmas tree at big lots one that fit perfect on a small surface. Then found mini ornaments and a mini star topper. Hubby likes Andes mints and hot chocolate. I found a nice Christmas mug and some seasonal shortbread cookies that he likes. And of corse some of the old fashioned hard candy.

18 November 2012

Week 19 from AFG

The days and weeks here all start to blend in together after a while. Unless I have something that stands out, it is really just fairly routine staff work every day.

One thing that does stand-out--I will never get used to posturing I see from folks thinking more about promotions and credit, than doing good work, but I guess it is just a state of our society. So much of what Trenchard described in the corruption of the UK in Cato's Letter applies today--but it is a sad thing to see it having crept into military ranks. Its not everywhere, but it is pervasive enough at the senior ranks to give one pause. Absolute power corrupts absolutely right?

13 November 2012

"We just got bombed, but don't worry."

I had a funny conversation with hubby today. It started out by him asking how my day was going and how the kids got off to school. Then he laughed and said, "We just had a RPG hit us but everything is ok now. We'll probably make the news."

I quickly searched nbcnews.com and saw nothing. I think he'll be a bit disappointed that the national news stations are covering the happenings in AFG much any more. Although his boss's boss is Gen. Allen so it will be interesting to hear what he has to say about the scandal in the news the last couple of days.

11 November 2012

Week 18 from AFG

Hope all is well. It was a mixed week this week, but some incremental progress on several projects. Not having much effect yet, but I am hopeful and we are on the cusp of changes that should improve performance. We have some folks doing very good work, and some others that are not--hopefully we can bring everyone up to a similar level. When our guys are effective they are saving lives and taking Taliban off the battlefield.

I had a chance this week to travel to see some of our top troopers. When you talk to elite troops, you see some of the very best America has to offer. The folks from these high intensity units will deploy for four months at a time, because they are doing raids every night of the week. It is a pretty intense environment. One soldier I met was on his 18th such deployment.

I had a chance to go out on a mission with some of my Air Force guys. They were out on operations into a village sympathetic to the Taliban that have been launching rockets at the Air Base. Pretty tough place. Its nothing like what I saw in Iraq. These people live in dirt. Literally. For some reason, they chose to build a village in a pile of dirt. Its not desert like the west, it is a very fine dust. I couldn't see any water around, but they must have a well somewhere. They make mud huts on top of the dirt and lay carpets down on top of it for flooring. When we were walking into the village there were about 100 or so kids following us around (there is no school), trying to break into our security cordon. We wouldn't let them in (Taliban will sometimes use kids as suicide bombers). Finally they gave up and started playing this crazy game where they would run around, throw a kid into a pit, beat him for a while until he could escape, and then they would run around until they caught someone else to throw in the pit. At this particular location I was helping pull security for a team that was conducting a meeting in the village, so I watched this game go on for the better part of an hour until we started to leave. Then the kids followed us out of town. They didn't seem to like us much--they were throwing rocks at us as we left. Anyway, that was my first encounter with an Afghan village and I'll have to admit--if I grew up in a pile of dirt, had no education, got pounded my whole life, and worse (there is rampant pedophilia among the Pashtuns), with no prospect of work--I'd probably be a Taliban member too. Why not. There's nothing else to do. Its a local cause and gives them something to "stand for". Sad stuff.

Anyway, it was great to see my guys in action. They are much better at what they do than we were a decade ago in Iraq. Lots of lessons learned. It was good to see. I should have some photo's up soon. They look a bit like homeless people in uniform, but they like those beard in Afghanistan--it is a sign of maturity and experience.

10 November 2012

Veteran's Day Discounts


05 November 2012

Week 17 from AFG

Not much to report from here this week. I found myself fighting pitched battles within our own staff. Contention is never constructive. Hopefully we will all end up on the same page and can move forward in a more unified direction, but I fear that due to ulterior motives and capacity issues we will have some more train wrecks ahead. My job here is kind of like being a conductor; I don't actually control anything, I just try to direct all the disparate efforts of some 40 nations and a variety of US units spread throughout the country within three levels of command. I sit at the **** headquarters, but there is also **** headquarters and ******* running divisions underneath all of that. Anyway, not sure I got much good done this week.

[I got] a case of tendonitis in the elbow. I've had it before, and this go around, its been pretty consistent for the last six weeks or so, but it has been getting more and more painful. I had to stop my normal workout routine and shift to pure cardio to keep off the elbow. I love to run, but our headquarters is the size of a postage stamp and I hate to run on treadmills. But its probably going to take a couple of weeks to heal, so I've been getting on the machines.

Probably more interesting stories in my email next week.