Sunday, December 23, 2007

Back in San Diego

From the Editor:

Finally. Patrick made it to Dallas last night at 10:30. He was able to go home with to his brother Bill's, shower, eat, sleep in a bed and have a couple of scotches. He got to see both of his brothers, sister and his niece and two nephews... including Austin Wade who was born while he was away.

This morning the kids and I went to church and then straight to the airport to pick up Dad. We got there extra early because military families can get gate passes to meet their family members returning from oversees at the gate. Which means that the kids and I had to stand in the secruity line as if we were going to be flying somewhere. This is the kids seeing Dad's plane pull into the gate.

This is our first site of him. Yes I was a little emotional, notice the puffy eyes in the next picture...
It's going to be a GREAT Christmas.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Frohe Weihnachten!

From the Editor: This is unbelievable. Patrick called Saturday morning at 5:51am from Leitzig Germany where it is currently 3pm. He asked if I needed any Hummels… which I do, I am missing the angle and one shepherd from the Hummel Nativity scene (dubbed “The Jesus Barn Pooty” by Madigan but that is a whole ‘nother story). He is in some waiting area for a hour and a half and then the plane will go to Shannon, Ireland. And then to Maine before finally getting to Dallas. He did find a place to charge his phone. He is in very good spirits but he is getting sick because he has been in such crappy conditions with so many people many who have been “coughing all over me.” He is on the lookout for some zinc lozenges and has been pounding vitamin C. So after four days Patrick has finally made it out of Kuwait. And no, he is not allowed to drink, imagine going to Germany and Ireland without so much as 1 beer. I’m sure some day this will be funny…

Oh, Frohe Weihnachten means Merry Christmas in German.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Still Waiting...

From the Editor: OK… Patrick just called from Kuwait again… it is 3:45am there. He is in a big tent with some chairs, no beds and no heat. He is with a lot of other people freezing their butts off waiting for a bus to come at 7:30am to take them to the airport. He had to shut his phone off because his battery is almost dead and there is no way to recharge it. He does not really know what time he will get into Dallas (since the original take off at 6:20am is impossible now) but his brother Bill is being told 10pm on Saturday night. He is suppose to be on an American Airlines flight coming into San Diego at 12:05pm on Sunday. Not sure what he will do from 10pm until he takes off the next morning, but if he can leave the airport and go to his brother’s house in Dallas, I am sure there will be scotch involved. He said all I need to know is to be at the San Diego airport in terminal 2 on Sunday at noon. I’d bet anything that Thomas will be up at 5am on Sunday.

I just told the kids, Thomas started to get weepy and Madigan is just really angry. Thomas has had it with the ‘just one more day” promise… Madigan is all confused and afraid he will miss Christmas or Christmas Eve. We have been washing Patrick’s clothes all day so that he has something to wear when he gets here – it’s amazing how yucky clothes smell after sitting in a drawer for a year. Not a good day at the Wade house.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Flight out of Kuwait on Saturday

From the Editor: Patrick just called and he has a flight schedule… keep in mind that everything is subject to change. He is now leaving Kuwait on a military charter at 6:20am on Saturday morning 12/22. This charter will be going from Kuwait through Shannon, Ireland and then to Dallas (skipping the Atlanta stop thank goodness). Because of the time zone changes, he is scheduled to arrive in Dallas at 4:35pm on Saturday 12/22/07. Since it is a military charter, there is no flight number. He does not have the information yet for the last leg of his trip (let’s hope he can come directly to San Diego from Dallas)… so I don’t know if he will be in Dallas for an hour or three hours. Flights are filling up fast, no kidding, but he’s hopeful that he will make it to San Diego on Saturday night. If he gets a direct flight from Dallas, his arrival into San Diego will be an hour later than the Dallas departure (again because of the time difference).

I still have no voice and a horrible cold. I guess it’s better that he not be exposed to me right now, and otherwise he would spend his time off with this nasty cold. Pat also missed the Navy game here in San Diego tonight too… but it’s raining and Navy lost to Utah 35-32. I will let you know if there are any updates.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stuck in Kuwait

From the Editor (Rebecca): The good news is that Patrick will be home until January 5th or 6th… the bad news is that he is currently stuck in Kuwait. He was hoping to get home on Thursday the 20th of December. The escape, I mean his leave, started out ok… an uneventful convoy to Bagram from Kabul. And he waited for quite some time in Bagram only to get diverted to Qatar before going to Kuwait. (When he was trying to go to on leave in September to Qatar, he had to go to Kuwait first – go figure!) So tonight he called after making it to Kuwait… he is being assigned a “room”, but really it’s a bed in a big tent, to wait in until Friday the 21st. He will get his tickets on Friday the 21st, so he still does not know when he will be coming through Dallas/Ft Worth… but it won’t be before Saturday the 22nd. I will let the Dallas welcoming party know his itinerary as soon as I can… He thinks he will be going from Kuwait to Shannon, Ireland… then onto the States through Atlanta… to Dallas… and then finally to San Diego. We’ll be lucky to get him Saturday night, but more likely on Sunday the 23rd… which quite frankly is just cutting it WAY to close to Christmas for me. I will NEVER ever complain again about traveling in the US from one coast to the other… And just in case you are wondering, he is not allowed to have a beer until he is home here in San Diego.

Yes I am disappointed and yes VERY cranky about this new development. I will come up with some Pollyana way to deliver this news to the kids (or I’ll make my friend Kristin who is here from NYC do it for me).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Wii little story

Curious isn't it how I became Scottish while in Afghanistan? Not really, Wii is the name of video game like XBox 360 and Play Station. I knew little of this game called Wii, and yet it has become one of the hot toys for this year... and hence hard to obtain in time for Christmas. Rebecca and I have always debated purchasing a video game system... our concern primarily that the kids would become addicted, or more likely she and I would waste hours playing mind numbing games. After looking into the Wii, and realizing it was interactive and required moving around to play it, we decided this would be a good Christmas gift for the kids. Rebecca began searching for places to purchase a Wii console, only to find it was unavailable at most stores and on line the prices were quite high. The actual price of the game is about $250 and yet they were selling for more than $500 or $600 in some places. At Walmart there was a deal for over $600 and required buying a bunch of games for the unit. She continued her search and was ready to have our friend Kristin, who lives in New York City, stand in line at the Ninetendo Store in Rockerfeller Plaza for a chance to buy one.

Thus began my search. So I talks to my guy. (Editor's note: I believe Pat is trying to use a wiseguy accent here, so I will let the grammtical error slide.) Yes, I gots a guy and he says he has tracked down two units as he was in the market as well. He was able to find the units in Bagram, Afghanistan at the Exchange there. So he makes arrangements to have them sent to us in Kabul and about a week later, they are delivered and we have our Wii's. So, I am half way around the world and find a Wii in Afghanistan for $250 and no tax. I will be carrying it home with me and hope I don't get mugged for it.

I have been easing my way out here at the office, making sure I pass down any information regarding current projects and things that need follow up. I leave the operations in good hands and know that I will enjoy my time off.

As the Christmas season is upon us, and this is the time we think about giving to others, I thought it appropriate to tell you of a story about a friend of mine. His name is Jerry Lenaburg and I went to the Academy with him. After the Academy he served in the Navy, as we all were required... and was soon married to a wonderful woman named Mary. Jerry and Mary had a son Jonathan and all was well. Soon after they had a daughter named Courtney, but she was born with disabilities and many complications which has caused an extreme emotional and financial hardship for the Lenaburg's. Jerry left the Navy to be home more and help with his daughter. The financial strain of caring for Courtney, has caused them extreme distress. They have remained strong for years trying to do it all on their own, but they are now in extreme financial trouble due to all of the medical bills. These are very good people, just doing what is right and now they need help. If you are looking for someone to help this season, the Lenaburg's are in need. If you would like to know more about this story please go to http://www.courtneyscampaign.blogspot.com/.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season.

Peace to you all,
Pat

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rain drops keep falling on my head

Remember that famous song "Raindrops keep falling on my head" by Burt Bacharach highlighted in the movie, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid? I thought about that this week as we had our first rains in a long time. The weather is not quite cold enough to snow, so we got a little rain. Actually, the rain is really nice because it cleans up the air and gets rid of all the smog and dirt floating around. It is nice to have somewhat cleaner air to breath as we normally are subjected to air that is filled with dirt, dust, and who knows what. They say that dust primarily consists of dead skin cells and here in Afghanistan they say it consists of about 50% fecal matter. (Oh that is disgusting). I don't know about you, but I am one of those people who when I blow my nose, I always look at what came out. Not sure if it is curiosity or some habit I developed as a young boy to gross people out. What I normally find here after a good blow is a tissue filled with black "dirt" as if I had been caught in a fire. This is not as bad as some people I have seen who hold one nostril and blow onto the ground, now that is disgusting. OK, enough gross out, the point is it was nice to have a little rain to clean out the air.

Work continues to be busy. I had the opportunity this week to host a tour of several logistics facilities for General Terry. We saw, maintenance facilities and warehouses and traveled through downtown Kabul. It was an amazing site, the city was packed with cars and people and it took us over 40 minutes to get through it all. It made me feel like I was in any big city in the US. Of course, in the States I usually don't have to worry about some vehicle ramming into me and blowing up. It was nice to see the hustle and bustle of a city, I am sure they must have all been out Christmas shopping, you know how holiday traffic is. Yes I am kidding.

We have several big projects going on and they are really keeping us busy. We are reconstituting the Afghan National Police sending lots of supplies down range. We are also fielding the Afghan National Army with M-16 rifles changing them over from AK-47's. This is a huge process as there are training requirements in addition to getting them the weapons. I am looking forward to a break.

I am counting the days now until I go on leave and head home for Christmas and Thomas' birthday. Only 7 more days until I leave and about 9 or 10 until I am home. I am looking forward to seeing Rebecca, Thomas and Madigan and relaxing a bit. Rebecca and the kids have been busy getting ready for the holidays and I think all the stress may have caused Rebecca to get sick, which of course spread throughout the house. I hope they are all well when I get home.

Peace to you all,

Pat

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Navy Wins!

Navy Wins! Six in a row, quite a season and quite a streak. Perhaps we can match the streak that Notre Dame had over Navy. It was a great game for Navy winning 38-3, in case you missed it. Navy has won the Commander's in Chief Trophy again and they are off to San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl on December 20th. Editor's Note: And BC lost... choked really. Ending the season 10-3, they are off to Orlando Fl to play in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec 28th. The Eagles will face the 7-5 Michigan State Spartans. I've never heard of the Champs Sports Bowl either... but it is certainly better than the MPC Computers Bowl on the blue field in Boise Idaho last year!

The weather is starting to get cold here in Afghanistan. Some areas are getting snow, we have been getting very cold rain here in Kabul. I think it feels colder when the weather is not quite cold enough to snow and you get that wet, cold weather that sends a chill through your whole body. I was actually looking forward to a little rain to clear up the air and clean out some of the smog.

This week marked two significant events, one for the country of Albania and one for Romania. We have both Albanians and Romanians who work for us here in CJ4. We were invited to Albania's Independence Day celebration at the Turkish Camp here in Kabul. Albania's Independence day is November 29, 1912. We listened to a couple speaches and then had a some nice appetizers in an underground bunker. They had bread, cheese, sausage, chicken and various dips. They also had real beer and wine, of course we could not have any. The most interesting thing about the ceremony was the number of countries represented. It was like being in a Benetton commercial. I noted the following countries represented: Albania, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Turkey (it was their compound), Poland, France, Italy, Germany and of course the USA.

The Romanian's National Day was December 1, 1918. We were invited to have a barbecue at the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) compound. The evening was chilly and raining. I am sure it would have been nicer if it was not raining, but the food was outstanding and we enjoyed a slide show about Romania. If you did not know, Transalvania is in Romania and the slide show gave a nice overview of how Dracula became famous.

This past week we had a very serious incident. A VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) exploded right outside the Eggers compound.




The blast hit three vehicles in a convoy that were heading out for the day. Fortunately, they were in armored SUV's and no one in the vehicles was seriously injured. Innocent passers by were hurt however. The blast was so close to Eggers that you heard the bomb blast throughout the camp. We all thought we were getting a rocket attack. So the sirens sounded and everyone put on their gear and ran to the bunkers for safety. It was around 7:30 am so some people were just getting ready for work and others were wondering around. I was just about to eat breakfast and heard the blast and then saw the huge tower of smoke that was created from the bomb. It was pretty scary, I am just glad that it did not cause as much damage as it could have. I recently read an article that stated that the number of deaths in Afghanistan was now higher than Iraq. Not a good sign, I am hoping the cold weather and snow will slow the Taliban down.

So it was a very interesting and international week. It is a great experience to work with and get to know people from so many different countries and cultures. I continue to stay busy and just counting down the days until I go home for Christmas.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca, Thomas and Madigan made it back home to San Diego and are back in the grind of work and school.

Peace to you all,

Pat

Monday, November 26, 2007

Go Navy Beat Army!

It is almost time for the greatest rivalry in College Football (at least that is my opinion), the Army-Navy game is this Saturday, December 1st. Editor's Note: The Army-Navy game is on CBS at 12pm est. However a really important football game starts at 1pm est on ABC - the ACC Championship game #11 Boston College vs #6 Virginia Tech. Thank goodness for Tivo, I can finish watching Navy after the BC game. I am sure you all remembered. Also, don't forget to watch the commercials, there should be some pretty good ones from all over the world where Army and Navy personnel are serving. I don't count the one I did as part of the good ones, I saw it and it is a bit lame. I blame the writers strike, it is difficult to get good writing these days... we thespians are the ones who must suffer.

Here is a little history of the game:

The Army-Navy football game is one of the most traditional and enduring rivalries in college football. It all started in 1890 (Army won that one). Navy currently owns the bragging rights as they have beat Army 51 times over the 49 Army wins (there were 7 ties). The Army-Navy Game, pits the football teams of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York (Army), and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland (Navy), against one another. The 2007 game will be played on December 1st at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. It was in the 1963 Army-Navy game that instant replay made its debut. Navy won the most recent contest on December 2, 2006, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and with the win broke a Naval Academy record for consecutive wins against the other Service Academies with four winning years against both Army and The Air Force Academy.

And now for the news... This past week was Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. We celebrated here by actually having a day off. I of course only worked a few hours thinking I could do some catching up, but alas it was a futile effort as the next day reality struck me and I was bombarded with too many things to do. One of the military traditions is for Officers to serve the Thanksgiving meal so I did my part and became a server. I was the ice cream man, so everybody like me. I wish I had my summer whites so I could really play the part, but I was dressed in my DCU's with a smock and white paper hat. It worked for me. After I was done with my shift, I enjoyed my Thanksgiving meal of real turkey, we usually are served pressed turkey. I forgot how good real roast turkey really is.

During the day, we had a chance to play volleyball in a dirt volleyball court. I say dirt because it wasn't so much sand as it was the fine powdery dirt that covers most of Afghanistan. The dirt is so fine that you actually have to hose it down to keep it from filling the air with dust as you play. Well the game was close, but our team lost in the first round 21 -16. It was still a good time, although I wish we had practiced a little so we could have honed our skills a bit.

We were also fortunate to have some entertainment from two comedians from the states who put on a very funny standup show. It was a nice diversion from the normal routine.

The rest of the week was filled with meetings, e-mails and providing reports; the usual stuff.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca and the kids celebrated Thanksgiving with my family in Dallas. I was able to get on a webcam call with them all and see how it was to have a party and consume mass quantities of alcohol. I can almost remember that.

Go Navy Beat Army!

Peace to you all,

Pat

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I am Thankful

The Thanksgiving holiday is just about upon us. This is a very special time and reminds us to think about those things for which we are thankful. I am thankful for my wonderful wife, Rebecca, who has kept our family together especially during this deployment. I am thankful for my children, Thomas and Madigan, who give me such joy all the time. I am thankful for all my family and friends who have supported me during this deployment, it is very special to know there are such great people close to me. I am thankful I have had this opportunity to serve in the military and do my part to help the world and keep us safe and secure.

Work is as busy as ever, I can't seem to catch up, not that I had thoughts of ever catching up. I had some VIP tours getting out to facilities to see how things are going. I took a Chinook helicopter ride to Gardez, which is a city East of Kabul, for a meeting.It was great being able to see other parts of the country. It seems I am constantly writing evaluations and awards as people are leaving and others are coming. We are doing great work, although sometimes it is frustrating trying to get things done with the Afghans as they move at a slower pace than Americans. We also struggle with a society that has a culture of corruption and it is difficult to know who to trust. We press on and make change where we can.

On the homefront, Rebecca took the kids to Dallas for the holiday to spend time with family. My brothers and sister live there and Thomas and Madigan will get to see all their cousins. They have a fun filled holiday time planned, I only wish I could be there with them.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

Peace to you all,

Pat

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thanks to Veterans

It was veterans day this past Sunday, so I would like to say thank you to all you veterans out there. I am proud to be among you and whether you served a long time ago or are serving now, the United States is better for your service. It was also the Marine Corps Birthday this week, November 10th. Happy Birthday Marine Corps.

I am swamped this week so this update will be short. Just want to make sure you all know that I am doing fine. It has been a busy week. Had several meetings with my Afghan counterparts, working on many projects. It seems we are always trying to catch up with so many initiatives ongoing. We are revamping how we train and outfit the Afghan National Police, in addition to keeping up with our regular shipments of equipment to both the ANP and ANA. I am looking forward to my break at Christmas time, it is just about a month away so I am getting close. We had a few new people arrive to replace those who are leaving or who have left already. That is always a nice thing because it means I am getting closer to coming home. I made contact with my relief this week and that is a real good thing to know that my relief is already identified and eager to come over here (well not really, but he has a lot of questions.)

Back on the homefront, this week was parent teacher conferences so it was short days for school. Rebecca had a little less free time with the kids around more. With the fires the week before, the kids were out of school and this past week they had short days, I am sure Rebecca wants a break. Editor's Note: Rebecca is losing what was left of her mind... this was a three day weekend for the kids too! Free time is not exactly what I have when the kids are in school... there's that whole work thing that takes up most of that time. It just means that when they don't have school, I have the kids with me on trips to the grocery store etc. And anyone who has kids knows what a joy it is to have two kids with you when you are trying to shop. Yes, I actually did break down and buy them Lunchables last week.

Peace to you all,

Pat

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Streak

A streak: an unbroken series of events. There have been many streaks throughout history, mostly tracked in sports, and every streak must end. The Boston Red Sox not winning a World Series for 86 years, now they have won two in the last four years; Cal Ripkin's 2,632 consecutive games played and then he sat out; (how about basketball?) the longest losing streak in NBA history was the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1982 with a stretch of 24 games without a win and finally for college basketball the dynasty of the UCLA Bruins won 88 games without a loss.

We all love the streak. We say, "Oh they're on a winning streak or they're on a losing streak." We love tracking streaks. For all the Navy fans out there, you know one of the longest running streaks in college football history ended this weekend. Navy had not beaten Notre Dame in 43 years and this year in triple overtime they beat Notre Dame 46-44. I wish I had seen the game, but I only got to see the highlights. Either way, they played tough and beat the Irish and ended the streak. Unfortunately for Rebecca and the other Boston College fans, BC lost a tough one to Florida State ending their own winning streak of 8 games.

On to business, this week was pretty normal following up on projects and keeping up with e-mails and loads of information. It is almost winter so our big project lately has been fielding the Afghans with winter clothing and supplies to keep them warm during the cold winter months. We have to put together large shipments of supplies to ship to all corners of Afghanistan before the heavy snows start and the roads are impassable. Actually, I have been waiting for the cold weather here in Kabul, but it has been absolutely gorgeous. We have had temperatures in the low 70's during the day and at night and early morning it has been in the 40's. It has been quite pleasant; I am just waiting for the cold stuff to start.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca and the kids celebrated Halloween. They had great costumes, Thomas was a trashcan and Madigan was an ice cream cone. They both won the costume contest at school. They got a fair bit of candy from trick-or-treating, but not their biggest haul. Probably a good thing since we have plenty of treats in the house already. We may even have candy leftover from last Halloween.

We had a small Halloween celebration here on Camp Eggers. No trick-or-treating, but some people dressed up and there was a pumpkin carving contest. The winner was a pumpkin made up like a man puking into a toilet bowl. There was an Irish band, but I was too late to listen to them play.

Go Navy Beat Army!

Peace to you all,

Pat

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Commercial

My big news from Afghanistan these past two weeks (yes last two weeks, some of you may have noticed I missed getting an update out last week) was that I made a commercial. You might ask what am I doing making a commercial in Afghanistan? Aren't I supposed to be fighting the Global War on Terrorism and defending freedom? Well there are a group of people who have not yet begun to fight and they are the Midshipmen of the US Naval Academy. Each year the Naval Academy plays the Cadets of the US Military Academy in the famous football game called the Army - Navy Game. By the way Navy is 4 and 4, not even close to the year Boston College is having (Rebecca is a BC graduate so I am glad to see them doing so well). This year the game is December 1st and in preparation for the game, soldiers and sailors overseas prepare commercials from far away places to be shown during breaks in the game. For those who have watched in past years, you may have seen some of these commercials. This year several of us Navy folks in Afghanistan got together and made a short 30 second spot. My small part is a sailor in the barber shop getting a haircut when I see another Navy person enter the shop and exclaim, "Another sailor, here in Afghanistan!" My other line was "Go Navy, Beat Army!" Not much in the way of a speaking part, but in all fairness it was a short commercial. In any case, I am hopeful it will be shown some time during the game. I have to say the acting skills of all the Navy folk left something to be desired, but its the thought that counts.

I have been really busy these past two weeks. I went out for several site visits to check on operations and have meetings. I had meetings with the Ministers of Defense and Interior and made a trip to Bagram for a visit with colleagues. My big thrill was that I got to take a ride in a Blackhawk helicopter to go to Bagram. A relatively short ride but the view was great. Much better than flying in a plane or driving. We flew pretty low so you could really see the landscape from the aircraft.

Back on the homefront, the big news was obviously the fires. I am sure you are all aware of the terrible situation in Southern California and specifically in San Diego. Most importantly, Rebecca and the kids are fine. They did receive the reverse 911 call and did have to evacuate the house. Fortunately our good friends Mark and Annie took them in and they were safe. After two days they were allowed to return home and the house is fine. We are much luckier than so many people in San Diego and Southern CA. It is difficult to be this far away when emergency situations occur at home. I am thankful we have good friends to watch over us. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims of these terrible fires.

Peace to you all and Go Navy Beat Army,

Pat

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Evacuation - By Rebecca

We are fine, back in our house and the air quality is much better than it has been all week. Most importantly the Santa Ana winds are gone and there is only a light breeze. The fire that was threatening our area was the Witch Creek fire. When we went to bed at 11pm on Sunday night, it was a small fire… my friend Annie woke me up Monday at 6:30am, it had spread and the area above state route 56 (just north of us) had been evacuated. She wanted to send her husband Mark over to check on me, but we were fine and still sleeping! School was cancelled at 6:45am. That’s when I knew it was serious. The first “do you need help” calls came from WD-40 folks. Andrew who works with Patrick and Heidi (who works with Patrick but is also my friend because our kids go to school together) both called by 7:30 to see if we needed help getting stuff together and in the car. The next few hours were a deluge of calls from local friends offering to help. Funny thing, the Navy called at 11am – the next day! We ended up getting a lot of emails from Fleet and Family Support but honestly I’m going with local friends and/or the WD-40 folks if there is ever another emergency!

I was glued to the TV on Monday. You think you are prepared, but then when you have time there is always one more thing. I spent Monday videotaping the house (which I had done a few years ago) and taking pictures throughout the house. I burned both of those to DVD’s and I also did another backup of my files to a backup machine. I staged all of our non replaceable things in the my bedroom, the family room and the garage. By dinner time, it looked like we were staying and then during dinner my friend Heidi (who lives a few street down) called and said that we were being evacuated. I turned on the tv and started packing up the staged items. There was some confusion on the news as to whether our area “Torrey Hill” was being evacuated. The news anchors admitted that they were unsure but as one of them said… “Hey listen, if I lived in Torrey Hills I’d leave”. Good enough for me! While I was loading the car we did get the reverse 911 Mandatory Evacuation notice (about 8:30). We were out by 8:50pm and the whole street was almost gone by then. I think that without the reverse 911 and the confusion on the news, some of us would have stayed… but we didn’t stick around to wait for the police to come through with bull horns like people did in 2004. The reverse 911 is brilliant. A “Get out now” phone call is very effective. I registered my cell phone on it yesterday just in case I am not at home the next time. This fire is worse (size of the fires and number of homes destroyed) than the 2004 fires, yet there have been only 4 or 5 direct fire related deaths. All other deaths being attributed to the fires are of older people that died during or after being evacuated.

We drove north to our friends Mark and Annie’s. We were really comfortable, VERY well taken care of, actually slept really well and honestly the kids didn’t want to leave. We were recalled yesterday at 8:30am, but we took our time. I still have stuff packed, but the threat is over now that the winds are gone. Here is a picture that shows in red/orange where the fire has burned. I put aqua blue arrows to show the potential route that the fire could have taken. Our house is on the street above the aqua blue dot. The problem with maps is that you don’t get to appreciate the topography. There is a canyon behind our house that is a fire corridor… if that fire had gotten into the canyon system behind Santa Luz it would have ripped down the canyon to us…. It is very hard for the firefighter to fight in the canyons with a Santa Ana ripping through it. That’s the problem with Santa Ana’s – especially for us when they are sucking the air southwest to the ocean.
I did load all of my old photos, yearbooks and negatives into the car first… memories (and blackmail) first I guess! And then all of the kids artwork that I have saved throughout the years. And then the computers, cameras and a bunch of financial stuff. I left behind my Doug Flutie autographed Charger’s Jersey… and the Beach Boys autographed surfboard. That was hard. The kids packed the craziest stuff… but I let them chose what was important to them. Madigan did have a big moment of apprehension when she realized her 2 American Girl dolls were left behind. I assured her that I would buy new ones if they didn’t make it. We have a lot of work to do to finishing putting things back… and a whole lot of ash to clean up. Hopefully we can get back to normal by Monday when school resumes. Oh and Patrick, everyone asks if Patrick knew what was going on… yes I emailed his .mil account and he called right away. He had to register in Afghanistan that his family had been evacuated… I think that’s why the Navy called to check on us. Apparently if we had lost the house, he would have been sent home to deal with the situation. Hmm… where are those matches?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Happy Eid

This past month was Ramadan in the Muslim religion. This is a very high holy holiday and all Muslims fast during the day and pray a lot. At the end of the holy month there is a celebration called Eid which lasts for 3 days. Eid this year was October 12 - 14. This holiday and the period of Ramadan are never exact because it is all based on the phases of the moon. Yes, when the new moon in September is seen that starts Ramadan, when the new moon appears again, Eid starts. It seems weird to base things on the moon but that is how they tell when things are around here. So to all Eid Mubarik (that is like Merry Christmas to us).

This week we also celebrated the Navy's 232nd Birthday; it doesn't feel a day over 230. We had a couple nice speaches and of course cake. Some of the Supply Officers were able to take a picture together. I hope to get it into the Supply Corps Newsletter. To all of you Navy folks out there, Happy Birthday.

Work has been pretty routine, continuing our mission of equipping the Afghans and providing mentoring and training. We have had people finish their tours and move on and we have had others start their deployments. I also reached a milestone passing 6 months in country.

This week we also had a memorial service for a fallen camrade. He was hit by a VBIED while on a convoy. His name was Corporal Adam Quinn and he was a young Army soldier. He was doing his duty here in Afghanistan and was taken too early. The worst part was that his wife was expecting a baby and he will never get to see his child. Terrorist activity during the past month has been heavier than normal. We have all been extra cautious making sure not to go out unless absolutely necessary. I am hopeful that with winter coming soon, activity will slow down.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca and the kids have been getting ready for Halloween making their costumes and decorating. Rebecca has also volunteered in Madigan's classroom even though she said she wouldn't. Of course she was asked and she couldn't say no. So with work, the kids, and volunteering for school, life is still busy at the Wade household.

Peace to you all,

Pat

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Back to the Grind

Well I am back to the grind here at Eggers. Actually, it only took me a couple days to catch up and I am back in the groove. Of course getting back to Eggers was quite an adventure; let me explain.

On Sunday night I checked in at the R&R office at 8 PM. Following a short briefing, we loaded on buses to go to the air terminal. Then we began the check in process and then we waited and waited. We were warned that our planned wheels up time (that is lingo for departure) was 0100 (1 am) so I knew we would have a long waiting period. Well the time came to load up the plane so we loaded back up on a bus and were taken out to the aircraft. For those who have not flown military before, we flew on a C130 which is a prop aircraft built in the 70's.
And, oh yeah, there are no seats or at least seats that you would be used to seeing. We sit in cargo net seats stationed on the walls and down the middle of the aircraft. There is no first class, in fact I don't think this qualifies as coach either. In any case we loaded up and sat on the plane, which by the way did not have any airflow, so we all sat sweating waiting for the pilots to do their preflight checks. After an hour and a half the pilots determined that the plane would not fly. I am thankful they were cautious but I did wish they had figured that out before we all loaded up and were forced to soak our uniforms with sweat.

So we unloaded the plane and loaded up on a bus again and sat for another half hour while they found another plane for us. You can guess what we did next, that's right, we loaded up another C130 and sat another hour; sweating. We finally went wheels up at 0245. No sleep and lots of sweating and looking forward to a 5 hour flight back to Afghanistan. The flight was uneventful, which is good, and we landed at KAIA, Kabul Afghanistan International Airport, but we could not get off even though getting back to Eggers was only a half hour away because my weapons and gear were locked up at BAF (Bagram Airfield). We let a few passengers off who were destined for KAIA and then loaded up some other passengers, so another hour of waiting. We took off again and took the short 10 minute flight to BAF, where we were finally at our destination.

I was still not back to Eggers so Pat Meriwether and myself needed a ride. We both started making calls, fortunately Pat was able to get a hold of crew that was at Bagram and we connected with them a few hours later after collecting all our weapons and gear. We were on our way back to Kabul. Unfortunately the team was going back to Alamo, the FOB where Pat is stationed and so they dropped me off at Camp Phoenix. I started making a calls to get ride back to Eggers and a few hours later, I had a crew pick me up and get me back to Eggers about 4:30 PM. I immediately went back to my room and unpacked and think I passed out soon thereafter.

I went to work that night to try and catch up on e-mails and see what had been happening while I was gone. There was no chance of catching up but it was a start. The next day I had several meetings to get up to speed on significant projects going on and after a couple days, I was back in the groove.

Saturdays are the day I go to Mass at 4 PM, but this week I had a meeting so I missed church. That evening at 6 PM there was Christian service that was being ministered by someone I knew, so a couple of us decided to go that evening. I had not eaten yet figuring I would go to dinner after the service. That would prove to be a mistake. The service was more of a revival/gospel service which was quite good.




There were two gospel choirs and lots of singing and shouting and it was quite entertaining and uplifting. Now being a Catholic, we tend to get antsy when the Mass goes over an hour so when the service hit 3 hours, I was not only antsy, but I was really hungry. The Bishop who was the guest speaker and coworker had been speaking for about an hour and was very inspiring and then began laying hands on people predicting peoples' ailments and healing them somewhat. At that point the only healing I needed was a cheeseburger in my belly. My friends and I called it quits after 3 and half hours and immediately went seeking food. The dining facility was closed but we convinced the kitchen to make us a turkey sandwich and we enjoyed our meal and we were thankful.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca took the kids to Disneyland since they are so rarely there. (Editor's Note: Now that I am working and both kids are in school, it is actually becoming less frequent. Last Sunday was a special occasion because my friend Michael Lynn was celebrating his birthday and celebrating the premiere of his latest E! True Hollywood Story - John Stamos. There were 12 in our group, 6 of us went to Club 33, which is absolutley wonderful. Michael, as you may recall, was the guy that yelled "kiss her!" to John Stamos... and he actually did kiss me. The corollary to this story is that Michael put that picture in the show. SO during the end segment, if you watch closely this photo is in the John Stamos THS... I really, really wish I had lost that 15 lbs now!

Besides, it is Halloween Time at Disney and I suspect we will be back in the next few weeks.
They also had a visit from a good friend, Patricia Lee, who Rebecca worked with for a long time. Pat sent me a note talking about how nice her visit was and how wonderful my kids are. It is nice to know the kids behaved, but also to remind myself how lucky I am.

Peace to you all,
Pat

Sunday, September 30, 2007

R & R

R&R, Rest and Relaxation, no worries and no responsibilities. No place to be and no meetings to attend. This is Qatar and I certainly rested and relaxed. Some people had claimed that coming to Qatar was not worth all the hassle of the travel, but I disagree, it was well worth the time and effort to get here and enjoy a few days of free time. Some of you may think this was a vacation spot, an Oasis in the desert so to speak, it was not necessarily that, but it was different than Afghanistan and that fact alone made it worthwhile. Although there were no drink girls at the pool serving me funny drinks with umbrellas in them, they do have a pool and a very nice one at that. I spent a couple days at the pool just lounging and reading and it was a great diversion from the usual routine at Eggers.

Pat Meriwether and I started our trip at Bagram Air Field where we spent 2 days waiting for a flight. We did have a room so it wasn't like we had to live in a terminal like Tom Hanks in the movie "The Terminal". We went to the gym, the dining facility, the computer room and the movie room to watch football, so it was a mini vacation. We checked in each day to see about flights and we ended up catching a C-17 flight out that was transporting HR (that is Human Remains). We all stood at attention as they moved the flag draped metal casket passed us and into the belly of the plane. We all sit in the belly of the plane because it is a cargo plane. We all sat with the casket firmly secured in the middle of the cargo area. I did not know the name of the man we were travelling with, but Rebecca did her research and found out his name is Army SFC (Sgt First Class) Matthew D. Blaskowski, 27, Levering, Mich. When we landed, the passengers once again stood at attention as SFC Blaskowski was taken off the plane. (Editor's Note: SFC Blaskowski was serving in the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy. He was killed when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire during combat operations in Asadabad, Afghanistan. SFC Blaskowski was awarded the Silver Star Medal for his action in May 2005 in Afghanistan. This is part of his Silver Star Medal citation – “The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to Matt Blaskowski, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as 3d Platoon Weapon Squad Leader for Company C, 2rd Battalion (Airborne) 503rd Infantry, in action on 3 May 2005, in Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Blaskowski displayed undaunted gallantry and valor without regard for his own safety under heavy enemy machine gun and RPG fire for over four hours while wounded near Bulac Kalay, Afghanistan in the Arghandab Valley. Numerous times, Staff Sergeant Blaskowski placed himself at great risk while engaging the enemy positions and relaying directions to his machine gun crews.” Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of SFC Matt Blaskowski for the grave loss suffered. He is in our prayers.)

After finishing our check in process at the Aliudid air base we waited for transportation to Qatar. This took almost 4 hours of waiting in a small tent with a TV. I can understand how some people would think "this is not worth it" but we were fed and still had no responsibilities and our liaison officer from Qatar eventually showed up. We loaded on a bus and we were off to our vacation spot. When we arrived at Qatar, we received our welcome briefing which consisted of all the rules we were to follow. We also learned that because it is Ramadan, many of the tours were cancelled. It really did not matter to me, I was there to relax. We were taken to our barracks which consisted of rooms built in the inside of warehouses. Apparently Camp Asilyah was a forward staging base for equipment, so many warehouses were built in support of this effort. After a drawdown, the warehouses were emptied so that left a lot of empty buildings. Someone had the idea to create an R&R base for soldiers and thus Camp Asilyah became the "Club Mideast" for the military.

So this does not become a 10 page e-mail, I will give you some highlights of activities. I slept and then I slept some more. Actually, I did catch up on sleep but also enjoyed some activities. I mentioned there is a very nice pool and spent a couple days lounging and reading. We also went on a beach trip. We travelled by SUV's across town to swim in the Persian Gulf. On the way, the tour guides took us on an offroad trip through the desert sand dunes. This was quite an adventure as we did not know the driving skills of the drivers and while on a trip to the beach we witnessed 3 vehicle accident, so our confidence was not high. Our concern was confirmed as we were driving up and down the dunes when the vehicle in front of us stopped suddenly and we were forced to go around. That vehicle took the high road and we took the low road and eventually the first vehicle took the low road too as it rolled over off the side of dune. The vehicle sat for a moment and toppled over in slow motion. Fortunately it righted itself and no one was hurt, but the vehicle had its winshield smashed and roof crushed. Everyone immediately started snapping pictures and laughing about the whole incident. I am glad I was not in that vehicle. We arrived at the beach and they had a great set up with cabanas and lunch prepared for us. We swam in the warm water of the gulf and sat out in the sun. It was a good beach day.

Another event was a visit to the mall. Hard to believe I could get excited about going to a mall as if I were a teenager or something but when you have limited access to things of home every little thing helps. The mall was exactly as any mall in the US would be, just a lot of different people wandering around. Since it was Ramadan the stores did not open until 7 PM and then it became just like any other mall. We wandered around shops and grabbed a bit to eat. There was one interesting thing as we walked we saw a line forming near the middle of mall and we noticed it was a line of children waiting to see some lady sitting in a chair giving out small gifts. It was like the line to Santa Claus, except this lady was giving out toys and not just lollipops.

The other event that made Club Mideast good was the fact that we could drink. It had been a long time without a beer and we wanted to get our fill. Each night, we are allowed to have 3 beers. Now these are not Yards of beer, these are 12 to 16 ounce beers (depending on type) just enough to get you warmed up. In any case, they had Guinness on tap and that was worth the hefty prices they were charging. One good thing the beer helps with is Karaoke night, it helps loosen the pipes and nerves. I did not sing, I am more of 6 beer Karaoke man.

For dining they have a real Chili's restaurant and we ate there once and then decided to eat most of our meals at the dining facility for free. The food was pretty good and it was different than our regular dining facility so it made it alright. We also played games of putt putt golf and bowling. Overall quite a good little vacation. We were also fortunate to have a visit from 3 Heroes of the Diamond. These were 3 former major league baseball players who decided to tour the mideast and visit troups. We met pitcher Jack McDowell (mostly known for time with the White Sox), infielder Frank Menechino (spent time with the A's, I had never heard of him either), and infielder Darren Bragg (who bounced around many clubs but did some time with the Red Sox). It was nice of these guys to show their support for the troops. Once they left Club Mideast, they were off to Afghanistan to visit various FOB's (Forward Operating Bases).
Now we are waiting to go back to Bagram and then somehow work our way back to Eggers. It has been a good time here in Qatar and I am glad I came. For now I will say, I'm so glad we had this time together, just to share a laugh or sing a song, seems we just get started and before you know it, comes the time we have to say "so long". So long everybody. (Yes, that is from the Carol Burnett Show).

Peace to you all,

Pat