Sunday, July 29, 2007

A House Not a Home

This week I continued learning how CJ4 works and discovered what all of my responsibilities are here. This involved many meetings and some visits to our various operating locations. I am starting to get the hang of things around here in the office and around Camp Eggers in general. Much of what we have to do to improve operations at CJ4 is to clarify roles and responsibilities between the internal divisions. I am leading a small team of people to do just that, and documenting some of the processes we perform. So far it is going well and it is really helping everyone to learn what each area does and the challenges they face each day. I am confident we will have things humming along in a few weeks.

Now a little bit about Camp Eggers. Camp Eggers is a military base in Kabul located near the US Embassy and the President of Afghanistan's Palace. The camp is named after Capt. Daniel W. Eggers,
a US soldier from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina, who was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) along with three other soldiers on May 29th, 2004 near Kandahar.

The base, or Camp as the Army calls it, is a maze of buildings all labeled by "House" names. For example, my office is in Eagle House, we also have the Rose House, Liberty House, Justice House, School House, Pool House (yes that's its name, but there is no pool), Jail House (that place rocks), Out House (it has a very funny smell) and the Big House (you don't want to go to that place). OK, I was kidding about the last three. It is pretty funny how every building has a name with house. I live in a place called Pena House, and it is right next to one of the very few building that is an exception to the naming rule - it's name is "Motel 6". It is named that because it looks like a motel. Besides I think, albeit more appropriate, Roach House was taken. So Pena is my house. I dare not call it my home, but for the next nine months it is where I will live. Camp Eggers is building a new complex on the base with housing for all the folks who live off base. I know they will all be happy to move on to the base, thus avoiding the traveling back and forth from "safe houses".

The base has all the basic ammenities such as a gym, dining facilities, post office, laundry facilities, and a small exchange. One thing this place does have, that Camp Phoenix lacks, is greenery. There are actually trees and grass in many parts of the base, whereas Camp Phoenix was all concrete and rocks. It does make a difference to see some trees and grass in a desert environment.

One of the funny things military people notice at Camp Eggers is the amount of high ranking personnel here. There are many Generals, lots of Colonels/Captains (O6's) and bunches of Lieutenant Colonels/Commanders (O5's) on the base. I would not say it is as many as the Pentagon, but it might be a close second. Just in my Directorate we have 10 - O5's with 2 more on the way. We are obviously a bit top heavy; its amazing any work gets done. Actually, we have a great group of people who are not afraid to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Back on the homefront, the kids are involved in summer activities. Thomas has been going to to Magic Wizardy class and Pirates on the High Seas class. Madigan is in First Grade World.
(Editor's Note: Madigan also lost her first tooth last week.)This coming school year we will have a Third Grader and a First Grader... and they will both be on the same school hour schedule. Rebecca is happy to finally have one drop off and one pick up at school a day. My nieces, Kathleen and Elizabeth, only have a short time before they return to college. They had a rough week as their car's transmission went out. They did get the car fixed and are praying it will last for years to come... or at least long enough for the trip back East. Rebecca is still working hard at her job and at home, I wonder how she does it all, but she is doing great. By the way, if you want to see pictures of Rebecca with John Stamos (mentioned him last week) go visit my blog.

Peace to you all,

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Moving On Up

First of all, let me apologize for not getting my update out last week. Thank you to my lovely wife Rebecca for communicating to all of you. I finally got onto my e-mail and I saw that she got more responses to her message last week than I regularly do from mine, go figure. So, this weeks update will have to be for the last two weeks. Better get ready for a marathon or more appropriately a Tour d'Afghanistan (you know the Tour de France is going right now).

You all remember the classic 70's TV show "The Jefferson's".
The opening song went something like this, "Well, we're moving on up, to the East side. To a deluxe apartment in the sky." Thanks to Rebecca, you all knew I was moving as a result of a "promotion"; more on that in a minute. Well my move was actually West to Camp Eggers closer to downtown Kabul. I am moving from the luxury of my double-wide connex with two rooms and internet to a shared small room in a broken down building with peeling paint and mold in the bathrooms. No deluxe apartment for me, more like a run down motel that charges by the hour, not that I have ever stayed in one of those. Of course I could be living in a tent and sleeping on a cot, so it is not all bad. At least I am on the base, some people have to live in what are called "safe houses" off the base and put on all their gear to take the 5 minute shuttle ride to the base to go to work. I can walk to my office. Living in my double-wide, I bought a few things and got the place quite comfortable. Moving to a smaller space meant that all the stuff I had just could not fit, so I am living among boxes in a space that is about 7' by 7'. I have to always remember though, there are plenty of people living in much harsher conditions than me, so all is well.

On to the promotion. After three months of getting things organized and getting things humming along, the CJ4 Director, Colonel Davis (Air Force) was impressed with the progress I had been making with the ANA. Because of this progress, he asked if I would take over a position at CJ4. Now CJ4 is under the command of CSTC-A (Rebecca explained that a bit) and this is the major command for which we all work. CJ4 is the Logistics Directorate with some pretty big responsibilities. After Col Davis offered me the position, I thought about it and then asked a bunch of questions. One of those questions was about the organizational structure of CJ4. I stated that I did not agree with the way it was organized as it was split between ANA and ANP which caused confusion. I asked him if he was willing to restructure the Directorate. He said he was thinking about it. Well, that night I sent him my ideas and the next day he added some thoughts and came up with a new structure. As part of that structure he now wanted me to be his Operations Deputy. At that point I really couldn't say no, even though I knew I would have a lot of work to do and would have to move to Camp Eggers.

I have been at the job for a week now and the main reason I accepted besides the huge pay raise, bonus, and stock options (yah, not so much) was that from this position I can effect a lot more change and make more of a difference. I oversee operations for both the ANA and ANP or as we now say, ANSF (Afghan National Security Force). My first week has been an information firehose; lots of material blasted at me in a very short time under a lot of pressure. I am less confused each day and I am starting to understanding who is who and which organizations do which activities. I can't say I am there yet. I told Col Davis I need a month to get things in order. I finished the organizational structure and still have to do some work on clear roles and responsibilities. It is difficult to learn while at the same time trying to keep up with the day to day tasks. This causes me and everyone else to work very long days. We are usually here past 10 o'clock at night. So the bad room thing is not so bad, since I just try to wind down and sleep there.

The group of people I work with are great, and that makes a lot of difference. It always amazes me the number of people who are making such great sacrifices to be here and do their duty. Everyone is pretty optomistic, and as always, I am remain positive about this experience. We are doing great things for Afghanistan. No, its not perfect... but we are making it better. I am always shocked at how much money we are spending to help Afghanistan, especially as a tax payer.

My big accomplishment for the week was that I found a few moments to find the laundry facility and turned my laundry in for cleaning finally. I also found the Dining Facility and the post office. Speaking of the post office, since I moved my address has changed.

Patrick Wade
Camp Eggers
APO AE 09356

At the office, I am not done settling in and currently work from a temporary desk. I made a few trips out to see the ANP (Afghan National Police) distribution facilities, as I have to learn all those operations now. I am fortunate that I has already figured out the ANA side, well as much as possible considering only it's only been three months and I am in a foreign country.

Almost two weeks ago some of you may have heard about one of our Air Force brothers, Master Sergeant Gillespie, was killed by an ANA soldier who opened fire on a group of people killing the US Airman and 4 ANA soldiers. It was a horrible incident and once again reminded us that bad things can happen over here. It was also very disturbing as this Airman was part of the class that went through Fort Riley with us. He was already eligible to retire and decided if others were going to fight the War on Terrorism he should go too. He planned on retiring when he got back.

Last Friday was "The Fallen Soldiers" Ceremony. I really hate these ceremonies. They are well done, but the whole thought of one of our military brothers leaving us is just a very unpleasant situation. As I stood in ranks that night, and listened as fellow soldiers told stories about this Master Sergeant, I looked up and saw the row of 16 flags from all the nations supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. I began to listen to the flags blowing in the evening wind. The wind always picks up in the evenings here in Afghanistan. Have you ever listened to a row of flags blowing in the wind? It sounds like waves crashing on the beach. It was actually a very calming sound as I love the sound of waves on the beach. Kind of funny that a sailor standing in formation at a funeral in Afghanistan hears the beach.

Speaking of the beach, bad transition here, Rebecca took the kids to the beach for a week at Camp Pendleton's Del Mar Beach. They stayed at one of the rental cottages on there. They played in the water, celebrated our friend Linda's birthday and had a great time. If you have never been to Camp Pendleton's beach, you are missing out because it is one on my favorite beaches. The beach is wide and clean... and patroled by the Marines, so it's very safe. The Marines also built new cottages in 2003 which are very nice. (Editor's Note: I took this picture of the sunset from our patio one night.)

Also speaking of the beach, our good friend Karen invited Rebecca and our nieces, Kathleen and Elizabeth to go to the Beach Boys concert at Pechanga Resort.
(Editor's Note: This is Kathleen, Bruce Johnston, Rebecca, Mike Love, and Elizabeth backstage at Pechaga. The show was amazing. The girls and I were singing and dancing through the whole show.)

Karen got them back stage passes to meet the Beach Boys and guess who was playing with them, John Stamos. And guess who spent some time with John Stamos, yes Rebecca did.

(Editor's Note: John, yes we are on a first name basis now, is absolutely, positively GORGEOUS in person, much more rugged than I thought, definitely not a TV pretty boy... and smelled great! I don't know what scent he was wearing, but I noticed how he smelled because he had his arm around me for a good 5 minutes! My friend Michael Lynn - the E! Hollywood producer that I met through Karen - who is btw doing the True Hollywood Story of John Stamos airing Sept 29th - had trouble with his camera while trying to take our picture. John waited patiently drumming his fingers on my shoulder... yes I thought I was going to pass out. John had a nice conversation with my niece Elizabeth, I was too star struck to speak. Leave it to the 19 year old to stay composed.

He even gave her a kiss... on the cheek of course.
(Editor's Note: After Michael finally had his camera working and had taken my picture with John, he said - something like "give her a kiss". I turned my head towards Michael completely shocked that Michael said that and John really did kiss me. And then as I stood there absolutely star struck and blushing, John said "I hope your husband comes home soon". To which I lamely replied "How did you know?" He said "I have my ways". I thought maybe he had seen my battle zone bracelet. Karen admitted later that night that she had mentioned to John earlier in the day that Patrick was in Afghanstan.)If he had slipped her some tongue I would have had to fly home and beat his butt, although I am sure Rebecca wouldn't have minded. (Editor's note: Not true, and oh by the way, nice word choice Patrick. Semper Fidelis - even if I'm not a Marine. And for the record, I texted Patrick immediatly after and told him "John Stamos kissed my cheek - have a pix" and he texted back "Nice. Did you kiss his? Hope you had fun" So Patrick is not the jealous type at all.) So it was just a cheek and hug; I am sure John Stamos has had his fill of blonde girls named Rebecca. For those not up on not so recent current entertainment events, John Stamos is divorced from Rebecca Romijn, the model.

I told you this was a long one, hope you didn't miss me too much.

Peace to you all,


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Delay in the next update

Editor's Note: Last week Patrick was "promoted" to a new Narmy position in Afghanistan. This is a new job, not a new rank... and there is no salary increase or any of the really good things that generally come with a promotion. It is a lot of additional responsibility, he is just getting up to speed with the new position. This promotion included a move from Camp Phoenix to Camp Eggers on Friday the 13th.

Camp Eggers is the home of CSTC-A (CSTC-A is the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan). CSTC-A (pronounced systic-alpha) is the main command post headquarters for the entire Afghanistan Theater. It is located in Kabul located near the US Embassy and the President of Afghanistan's Palace, about 10 miles from Camp Phoenix. Originally "Kabul Compound" the camp was renamed after Capt. Daniel W. Eggers, a US soldier from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina, who was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) along with three other soldiers on May 29th, 2004 near Kandahar. With his new position and living quarters, Patrick can now walk from his room to his office without being "locked and loaded" in an up armored vehicle convoying "outside the wire". So it is slightly safer at Camp Eggers. That's the good news...

Here's the bad news - no more double wide. Yep, Patrick is now back to sharing a room and the accommodations are not nearly as nice as Camp Phoenix. (read that: the walls are crumbling and the only thing holding them together is the mold.) The worst part about his new living quarters is that there is NO Internet connection in his room. SO, no more web cam conversations with us at home and no more Live Messenger chats. He has a computer at his new office, but that is for official government business only and he can't load any software on that machine. And there is no cable TV connections either, so he will miss Armed Forces broadcasts of baseball and football games now. As Pat Meriwether succinctly summarized Patrick's living situation in an email to me last night, "From the penthouse to the outhouse just like that..."

As soon as he can find some spare time and an Internet cafe, he will send an update. For now, I'm adding some pictures to the older posts.

Rebecca Wade

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Independence Day

This week we celebrated Independence Day! This has special meaning for all Americans and is especially significant to military personnel as it was our military force that made our independence possible. It was a regular work day here in Afghanistan, but there were some celebrations and a special meal of barbecued ribs and chicken. We actually did a few more events on Friday, July 6 because most people have that as a low operations tempo day. There was a 5K run and volleyball tournament. I was not able to participate in either of them because my ankle is still healing, but I did watch.

Also this week I had to the opportunity to go to the range and fire a D30 Howitzer. This is basically a big cannon-like gun. Pat Meriwether, Chief Spinelli and myself arrived at the range in the morning and observed as the ANA soldiers did their training evolution. It is interesting to watch them as they train. They are very excited and very professional in the way they operate the weapons. When they are not in the training cycle they wait while squatting as if they had to pee really bad. This is very similar to the Asian culture where squatting is quite prevalent. Here is a quick language lesson just for the fun of it. The words fart and poop are very funny especially to my kids and most kids. The word for fart is "gouz" and the word for poop is "go". I started thinking about how the ANA squat and wondered if I could squat like that for very long, I could not. If you did not know, the local toilets are holes and the people squat over the hole to do their business. That explains why they are so flexible. I am sure if I had to squat every time I had to "go" I am sure I would be more flexible.

After the ANA finished the their training, I had the opportunity to fire the howitzer. It was a simple operation, load the round in the chamber and then stand back and pull a cord to fire the weapon. It makes quite a blast and blows dirt in all directions so you get pummelled with sand and pebbles after it fires. The round lands on its target, hopefully, and blows it up. I did it once and that was enough.

Once we finished shooting on our range, the ANA was still firing mortars on the range just to right of our position. As they were finishing, we heard a blast and then a whistle above our heads. A mortar had misfired on the range and blew up in the weapon killing 3 ANA soldiers and wounding 8 others. It was crazy after that with the ambulance rushing in and people running to the scene. It was a terrible accident and reminded us all how dangerous it is even during training.

I mentioned in previous updates about the humanitarian missions that Camp Phoenix and the military perform to help the people of Afghanistan. I and many others, mostly Navy folks, are involved in something called Operation Not Forgotten. Our focus is on providing school supplies to needy schools and children and providing clothes and toys to villages and orphanages. There is a great deal of work to receive and sort all the supplies that wonderful people donate to the cause and we spend about 2 days a week in the evenings doing this sorting. Once all the supplies are sorted we plan the humanitarian mission and go out on a convoy to the schools, villages and orphanages. If you are interested in contributing to this worthy cause, you may send your donations of school supplies (crayons, notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, and toys etc) clothes and shoes (please separate them by gender and size, it makes our job easier) to the address as follows:

Operation Not Forgotten
Camp Phoenix
APO AE 09320

In addition we are looking for corporate sponsors, so if you know of any companies that would like to contribute, please give me their contact information and I will make introductions and let them know how they can help. E-mail addresses would be best, but mailing addresses will work as well.

Back on the homefront, Rebecca and the kids along with their cousins Kathleen and Elizabeth celebrated the Fourth of July at our old neighborhood where they hold an annual block party. They also started a short summer vacation at Del Mar Beach in Camp Pendleton where they are celebrating our friend Linda's birthday. Peace to you all, and remember to watch where you "go".


Monday, July 2, 2007

You oughta be in pictures

I know some of you would love for me to send some pictures of my adventures over here and I would be glad to, however, the internet speed is quite slow here and pictures tend to bog down both our systems. So if you would like to see some pictures, Rebecca has posted plenty of them on my blog at Go check it out. After having said that, I did attach a few humorous pictures with captions by yours truly; just to keep the mood light.

You might wonder what the weather is like over here. It seems this is one of the safest conversation topics and everyone is always interested in talking about the weather. When I first arrived in April, the weather was quite beautiful. It was sunny and 85 degrees. It reminded me of San Diego. Now as the summer has come the weather is getting a little bit warmer. We now get temperatures that range from 85 during cloudy days to 108 on sunny days. It's a dry heat though. You do have to be careful to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of liquids. Of course, when the summer ends the weather changes quickly and we get snow as early as October in some places. In the middle of winter I hear it gets in the single digits; I will be sure and bundle up then.

This week I visited the Central Workshop where they repair and make many items. Their repair facility works on weapons of all sorts, and vehicles. They have several shops that make various items like license plates, small gun parts, medallions and plaques. It really was quite interesting seeing the array of things they work on. Nothing is very automated here and there are groups of people who work with very old machinary to fix and make the items at the facility. As I wandered around it was like being in the 1800's based on the old buildings and the equipment they were using.

The warehouses are moving along and we are working on a couple buildings and grounds improvements to make it better for the workers. In addition, we are working on some inventory projects and making space as we plan for some upcoming receipts. There is always lots of activity and it certainly does make the time go by more quickly.

On the home front, the kids are doing their summer activities; swimming, various camps, and of course Taekwondo. Rebecca is still working hard with iMetrikus and planning parties. Madigan turns 6 on July 2nd and had her party on Sunday. I wish I could have been there for her.

Peace to you all,