Monday, June 25, 2007

What's That Smell?

What's that smell? No it is not a new game show or reality show coming out this fall. Although if a show does come out with this title, remember you heard it here first. It is something we often ask ourselves as we travel around Afghanistan and encounter the environment and the local people. Because this is a third world country, sanitation is not something that is practiced on a regular basis. There are no modern sewer systems, no regulations regarding pollution and not a lot of running water. As you travel around you encounter many things you might find unbelievable in the US. We in the US are used to showering daily (well most of us) and are concerned about body odor. In Afghanistan this is not so important and possibly not very practical due to the conditions. It is part of the culture and the Afghans don't seem to mind, whereas the Americans find it a little bit disturbing. You can guarantee that if you are in a room with 4 or 5 Afghans your nose will be met with the distinct smell of body odor or worse. We had this happen the other day and some of the sailors took it upon themselves to provide some soap, shampoo and deodorant to a few Afghan civilians we work with. The funny part was that our sailors had to explain to the Afghans what shampoo, conditioner and deodorant was. So now my quest is to teach the Afghans about deodorant and provide it to them for use. If you would like to donate to this cause, please send solid deodorant to me and I will make sure the people get it.

This week I had the opportunity to share a traditional Afghan meal with some of our Afghan counterparts. It was very delicious. They actually slaughtered a lamb for me and other guests and served rice, naan and vegetables. We also had some cherries and the some of the best mango I have had in a while. Rebecca and the kids went to an Afghan restaurant in San Diego with our friends Gordy and Linda last week and they also had a great meal. They all wanted to get a sense of the food that I have been experiencing. I am sure by the time I get home, I will have had my fill of Afghan food and will head out for some sushi.

Work has been relatively smooth. The team is working hard to bring up the capabilities of people and operations so we can completely turn over the operations to Afghanistan. We are on our way to getting there and our group will be able to leave knowing they have made a difference for Afghanistan. Of course it is way too early to be talking about leaving, we still have about 10 months to go in country. If you have been counting this is day 70 since boots on the ground day.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca has been doing some fixing up in the house, putting shelving in the office and in our bedroom, painting the guestroom and putting some screen doors up to get ready for summer. The kids are enjoying their summer break so far and have some fun adventures planned. Their cousins Kathleen and Elizabeth are busy working their jobs and helping with painting. It is nice that they like helping with what I am sure would be on my "to do" list.

Peace to you all,


Monday, June 18, 2007


You might notice this update is a little late. Our internet service was out for a while, but now I am back. You also may have been reading news stories about events in Afghanistan, there is more activity going on now from insurgents and this puts everyone a little on edge. This is the time we really need to focus on our security and all the training we have had. Everyone has to make sure they do not take any unnecessary risks. We are all reminded that this is a war zone.

This was a pretty standard week for work, no special visitors, just business as usual. Still working on inventory, improving processes and training our Afghan counterparts. It is really quite rewarding to know we are making a difference for Afghanistan. Our Navy team is working hard and they are still quite enthusiastic. It has been two months here in Afghanistan and I know that it will get tougher for our team as the length of time away from family and friends wears on people. There is free time to relax; you just don't want too much free time. Being busy helps, idleness just makes you think of what you are missing. My job as a leader is to make sure we all do our jobs and come home safely.

One of the things we can enjoy in our free time is TV. It is called AFN, Armed Forces Network. There are 10 channels that show regular TV including sports (I was keeping up with the US Open), news and prime time shows. We tend to get the prime time shows a little late, but it is better than nothing and for the most part they are new to us. We also have a movie channel, no HBO which is a bummer because I missed the Sopranos (don't tell me how it ends). The strangest thing about TV is that I sort of miss regular commercials. At home I have the DVR and can fast forward past the commercials if I want, so it is funny that I miss them now. On AFN, we get commercials that tell us about how to drive courteously, or remember OPSEC (Operational Security) or not to drink and drive (kind of a waste since we can't drink anyway). Basically, it is filled with public service messages, so now I have no idea what to spend money on. I must rely on the fact that Rebecca will figure out how to spend our money.

I forgot to mention last week that I moved to a new room in what we call Legoland (a bunch of containers all lined up together on top of each other). (Editor's Note: You can tell this is Patrick's room... who else would decorate with a WD-40 Can Sticker in their window?)I am now in a "double wide" room. You might be a redneck if... when you move into a double wide, you think it is a palace. I think part of the strategy for making me move into a small room (remember it was 9' by 7') is that when you get upgraded, you do think you have really moved up in the world. My new room is 18' by 7' and it has a separation. So one room is the bedroom and the other room is the office, living room, dining room, kitchen, and family room. The bathroom is still down a walkway about 30 yards. I am sure that will be fun in the winter. I bet if I moved into this right away I would not have been as pleased with the accommodations as I am now.

Back on the homefront, school is out for the summer. I am sure it will be fun filled summer with lots of activities. Rebecca's job is keeping her very busy and she is planning Madigan's 6th birthday party, helping with a wedding shower for our former babysitter, Stacey (can't believe she is getting married, time is flying) and planning our good friend Linda's 60 th birthday party. My life is simple compared to Rebecca's.

Did you know what June 14th was this week? Yes it was one day after my wedding anniversary. It was not our best anniversary so far; kind of hard to celebrate long distance. Too bad because this one was our 15th wedding anniversary, and I think that is supposed to be something special. I know 16 years will be way more special. I am very lucky to have found (and kept) Rebecca. OK back to June 14th, I bet you said it was Flag Day and you are right, but it is a special day for one other reason... it was the 231st birthday of the Army. You should have seen the celebration here. I even had a beer (near beer, but it tasted like beer as far as I can remember). OK it was not that big a celebration, but we should remember the Army's birthday. We should also remember the Navy's birthday on October 13th (1775 same year as the Army)... and don't forget the Marine Corps who celebrates their birthday on November 10th (1775). Wow 1775 was a busy year. And I guess we should remember the Air Force who celebrates 60 years on September 18th (1947).

Since its birth on 14 June 1775-over a year before the Declaration of Independence-the United States Army has played a vital role in the growth and development of our nation. Soldiers have fought more than 10 wars, from the American Revolution through the Cold War, the Gulf War, to the current Global War on Terrorism. This year's theme is "Call to Duty – Boots on the Ground." (I can relate to that).

For all you fathers out there, Happy Father's Day (a day late). This wasn't my best Father's Day either if you were wondering.

Peace to you all,


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Yeah, You Blend

I went to church this week. I hadn't been since I arrived at Camp Phoenix as Sunday is a regular workday and Mass was previously only celebrated at 3 PM. The time was changed last week to 5 PM, but I forgot it was Sunday so I missed last week. It is easy to forget what day of the week it is because everyday is the same; I remembered this week.

Also, I visited the ISAF compound this week. That is where most of the European forces have their headquarters. In this compound each country has a dining facility and I chose to eat at the French one. I figured that the French have got to have good food and as a bonus I could use the 5 French words I still remember from high school French class. Well, the dining facility was much nicer than our US one. They had real plates and utensils, we use paper and plastic. It's funny how a simple thing like real silverware can be a highlight in your day. The food was pretty good and I was able to have a little Brie and Blue cheese. And of course the bread was excellent. It is nice to have a small diversion from the usual routine. I also saw some of the German vehicles they drive around in. So there is a huge difference between the US and Germany, we are driving around in SUV's (they are Toyotas) and the Germans are driving around in a space age tank looking vehicle that has racing seats and all kinds of cool equipment in it. The vehicle is about 10 feet high and it is impressive rolling down the street.

This week we continued working on inventories and trying to get a handle on all the material. We had some more process review meetings and everyone is very enthusiastic about making change. We also had our team meeting which went well. I presented some future plans and goals to the team and others as well as conducted training sessions on various topics. We plan on having monthly team meetings so we can all keep moving in the right direction.

By now you are wondering about the title to this update. The other day I was meeting with some of my ANA counterparts and we started talking about President Karzai and his hat.

I found out that his hat costs over $1,500 and is made from the skin of a just born lamb. (Editor's Note - I found an article from 2002 saying that the hat cost $35 and was made from an aborted lamb fetus, which I think is better and worse - in that order. Nonetheless, Patrick don't even think for a second about bringing the pelt of any animal - be it aborted, just born or dead by natural causes - back home. Yuck! ) Kind of a sick thought. I don't believe that PETA has made their way to Afghanistan or there would a ban on these hats. The ANA officers started saying how they would like to take me out in town. Of course we are not allowed to do this, unless on convoy, for security reasons. They said they could dress me up in local clothes and since I had dark hair and dark features I could blend in. I imagine I don't blend that much and I am sure most Afghans can pick out Americans without too much problem. So this reminded me of the movie, "My cousin Vinny" when Joe Pesci was saying how he fit in down South and Marisa Tomei (she won a best actress Oscar for this role) said, "Oh yeah, you blend." There I go with another movie reference. Rebecca often remarks that if I did not have any movie quotes I would have nothing to say. I just say, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." (Yes that is from Gone With The Wind).

(Editor's Note, To which I respond: "What we've got here is failure to communicate." COOL HAND LUKE 1967. I've been a Wade for 15 years, I can play this game now too.)Back on the homefront, Madigan had a Father's Day event at school, fortunately my brother Matt who flies for FedEx had a layover in San Diego and was able to stand in for me. He looks enough like me that I am not sure anyone knew any better, except of course Madigan. (Editor's Note: Matt tried to convince Madigan that having him was BETTER than having Dad, but she didn't buy it. Matt also helped us put up our yellow ribbon flag on the front of the house... I had a little trouble because it had grommets not a sleeve.)The kids have a few more days of school until summer break and then they are off to summer activities and driving Rebecca a little crazy. (Editor's Note: Too late, I'm already crazy.)

Until next week, I will continue to blend into my surroundings and stay safe.

Peace to you all,


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Momma Mia

I know you are thinking, how does Pat come up with these goofy e-mail titles? Well, follow me on this one and you might understand. I was meeting with Pat Meriwether (see Pat, I did get you in the update) about his operations at the Central Issue Facility where he issues uniform items and gear to the new Afghan Army recruits. We were meeting with an Afghan Colonel who oversees the supply and logistics for the training command in Kabul. The meeting went well, and we actually successfully used a couple of words in Dari. So after the meeting, Pat decided to give me and Nathan Duffy (he oversees our main warehouse) a tour of the training command. The first area we saw was a dilapidated pool that had not been in use for some time. We learned that this was the pool that the Taliban used when they were executing people. After they shot people, the bodies would fall into the bottom of the empty pool. Thankfully, the pool is closed.
Editor's Note: I found this description of the pool. (

Next we passed through a gate and were greeted by a terrible stench of wet garbage that had been left to decay. I began to wonder what wonderful thing we would see next. We came to the top of small hill where a run-down building stood. It was the bakery where they make all the bread for the Afghan meals at the training facility. Afghan bread is called Naan and we watched as the "bakers" rolled dough into flat, round pieces and then flung them into a fire burning clay oven using a big oven mitt. The dough would stick to the walls of the oven and be removed, after cooking, with a long stick with a hook on the end. I thought, there is no way this could be sanitary, but I tried the Naan anyway. They made a special batch of sweet bread for us and it was delicious. As I looked at the round flat piece of bread, it reminded me of a pizza crust (you are starting to get the title now aren't you) and the three of us thought about how we missed real pizza. It would not be a far stretch to take this bread, add some sauce and cheese and make a mighty fine pizza. So that is our next mission, to get some ingredients and make some pizzas. We even thought we could turn the little bakery into a pizza parlor, we will just have to think of a catchy name, something that translates well into Dari. Perhaps Afghanistan Pizza Kitchen or Papa Mohammad's.

My team is making great progress in all operations. We began doing inventories this week; it's more like a treasure hunt than an inventory process because we keep finding things that we didn't know we had there. The team is working hard and everyone is working well together. I was fortunate to have Chief Armstrong visiting from downrange. Since he wasn't doing anything that day, he agreed to help out with our inventory. We also had more visitors. This week General McNeill (4 star), the Commander of ISAF came along with Major General Durbin, CSTC-A Commander and visited Depot 1. We showed a small display of clothing we issue and also gave them lunch at the warehouse. Then we went on a tour of the warehouse including our weapons area.

In addition to visits there were several meetings to run through various processes at the warehouses. We continue to look at all processes and determine ways to continue the improvement process. We are all in basically the same position, new to the theater and trying to understand all of the relationships and procedures. All our efforts are leading to our long term goal of turning over the operations to our Afghan counterparts and we are making progress.

Back on the homefront, my nieces Kathleen and Elizabeth did get jobs, in fact two jobs each. They will be working catering at USD and working at Legoland. Rebecca has been planning lots of parties and end of the year school events. One of the parties was going to LIPS for Kathleen's birthday. For those in San Diego, you may know LIPS, it is a very unique venue where men dress like women and put on a singing and dancing show. You have to experience it to understand. Editor's Note: This is Patrick celebrating his 39th birthday at LIPS in May 2003. I prefer to think of this as "Mama Mia"!Also WD-40 Company invited Rebecca and the kids to the zoo for the WD-40 family day. I am sorry I am missing it, but I will be back for next year's event.

Until next time, arrivederci, and I hope to have a fine pizza soon.

Peace to you all,