Sunday, March 30, 2008

Back in the US

You may remember the old song by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass called, "I love to live in America". The sentiment is oh so true. Our group landed in Norfolk, VA on Easter Sunday and the first thing you notice is the clean and clear air. There is no dirt and smog, and you can see the sky so clearly. Sometimes it is the little things we take for granted that become what we are most grateful. After we got over our short return to nature, we started figuring out where to get beer for the rest of the day. Alcoholic beverages are the next thing for which we were thankful. Being Easter Sunday, we were a bit worried about finding a store open. Fortunately, the handy local 7-11 was open and we grabbed a few well deserved beers.

The week in Norfolk was spent examining our records and then conducting our final processing back to US Navy Reserve status. Many of us were frustrated with the lack of coordination and communication from the Norfolk processing site. This caused many of us to have to stay an extra day.

On Thursday, I finished my processing and did catch a flight out that afternoon. Unfortunately, I could not convince the Norfolk site process my ticket to San Diego, so I travelled to Los Angeles. Upon arrival to LAX, I had to figure out how to get to San Diego. I tried to work with the Reserve Center in Port Hueneme to book a flight to San Diego but that didn't work out too well. Stranded at LAX, I decided to try and rent a car. The first rental company did not have availible cars, so I headed over to Hertz where they proceeded to take care of me. The line was incredibly long, but I am used to standing around in lines and getting abused now... so I was pretty numb. I did finally rent a car, although I paid too much, and drove to my house that evening. I finally got to see Rebecca and the kids that night around 9:30 PM. Everything worked out in the end and I am finally home. It's great relaxing at home and enjoying doing nothing except hanging out with Rebecca and the kids.

Back on the homefront, (oh yeah... that's where I am) Thomas had a baseball game. I actually got to see this one. Madigan had a softball game, which I was also able to see. Today I spent a couple hours playing baseball with them both and working on some ball skills. It is great being able to play with them. We are all much happier.

Peace to you all,


Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Yes it is true, the journey home has begun. On Monday, March 17, 2008 at 1439 (that is 2:39 PM for you non-military time types or those who have forgotton how to tell military time) the wheels of our C-17 left the ground from Kabul International Airport lifting me away from Afghanistan for good. How fitting that the day I leave the country of Afghanistan would be on my Saint's Day, St Patrick's Day. Of course we celebrated with jugs of green beer and corned beef and cabbage. Just kidding, you know we can't drink here, we celebrated by having green MRE's; I really do hope that was food coloring and not some Afghanistan strain of bacteria that discolored the meals.

Prior to leaving Afghanistan, much of our original group all traveled to Camp Phoenix in Kabul to conduct final outprocessing. This gave us time for a mini-reunion where we had a little non-alcoholic beer and had a cigar. It is actually a funny feeling leaving and several of us noted the same strange feeling. For over a year now, we have been living the combat life and essentially doing the same thing and living a different life. Almost, all of a sudden, it is over and here we are finding ourselves having to adapt to new surroundings and new situations (at least ones we have not experienced for a while). The transition is somewhat ackward as you are extremely excited to be done and going home, but you have a little bit of trouble letting go of what you have been doing for the past year.

We have all arrived at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait including many of our original teammates who were down in Kandahar, Afghanistan. They met us in Kuwait and the original group is now all back together, minus a few who have either left early or elected to stay longer. We are in Kuwait (Rebecca and the kids have renamed it "Youwait" for obvious reasons) to go through the Warrior Tranistion Program (WTP). This is where we will turn in all our gear and weapons and listen to lectures about how to transition back to home life. Basically, don't get angry and kick the dog and listen to your spouse and of course enjoy your family. I can't imagine I have changed much, but I am sure I have. I am sure some people have changed a great deal depending on their personal experiences. The purpose of WTP is to help people cope with the transition, even though all of us are anxious to get home, we will cooperate for the next 5 days and do all we must to continue the process.

After Youwait, I will head to Norfolk, Virginia and go through the transition from Active back to Reserve status. There must be some procedure to once again allow logic to guide some of our decision making back in the real world. I call it the real world, even though they are both real because for me, this was a time away from my real world.

So all is well here. I am living in a tent, but it is pretty nice as tents go so I am comfortable.

Peace to you all,

Sunday, March 9, 2008


As Barack Obama might say, "Change We Can Believe In". Well I am about to go through a change that I certainly can believe in. I am leaving Afghanistan soon and going home. This will be one of my final updates from Afghanistan. I will be traveling in about a week and should be making my way home after several stops along the way. It has been a long journey, but it is not over yet. In a future update, I will reflect back on the entire experience. For now, I am slowly packing up my things and preparing for the next adventure: going home. My work is essentially done her. I won't say "Mission Accomplished", because there is still much to do, but for me my time here has come to an end.

Speaking of change, there is massive change in the CJ4 as many people are coming and going. This changeover creates a lot of disruption and some angst for the organization. So many who are leaving, including myself, have gained a greater understanding of how things work here in Afghanistan and at CSTC-A. Losing that knowledge does create quite a void. As new personnel arrive, it takes some time for them to get acclimated and become fully engaged productive team members. As with any change though, it is how you prepare and communicate change to the team that will determine its success. Imagine a company that had 30 to 40 percent of its personnel changeover every six months. You can understand what a challenge it is trying to make substantial progress.

Back on the homefront, my niece Elizabeth spent her spring break with Rebecca and the kids this week. They saw a ballet, went to Disney's California Adventure, spent the day at a spa and had high tea at the new Del Mar Grand resort. Thomas is having fun playing Little League on the "Angels" and Madigan's softball team, the Lil' Angels, is keeping her busy.

Rebecca is doing party preps and has booked a block of 15 rooms at the Navy Lodge at NASNI for those interested in staying at the beach the weekend of May 2nd/3rd for the "Welcome Home/Birthday Beach Bash". Rooms are $77/night. The block on the rooms is only in effect until April 18th – the rooms are released after that time. There is a 7 Day cancelation notice on these reservations. If you are interested, email Rebecca at and she will give you all of the details.

Peace to you all,


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Leap Year

2008 is a Leap Year. This is where the month of February has 29 days. The extra day is to make up for the lost quarter of a day per year we experience due to the rotation of the earth around the sun. I know you all knew that already, but it always makes me think about birthdays. For those who were born on February 29th, I am told they celebrate their birthday on March 1st (Happy Belated Birthday for those that did have a birthday). I don't know anyone born on 2/29 but perhaps you know someone. (Editor's Note: Dinah Shore and Jimmy Dorsey were born on February 29th. ) So what do these people do in Leap Years? Do they go back to celebrating on February 29th for that year? How do they fill out forms, do they put March 1st in regular years and then February 29th in Leap Years? I imagine it is somewhat of a conversation starter. If I were to have a child that had the possibility of being born on February 29th, I think I would tell my wife to either push harder or hold on for a day. I know that is not realistic, but I don't need to make a child's life any more confusing... like giving them a name that no one could possibly spell right after multiple attempts. For those with February 29th birthdays and hard to spell names, I apologize if I have offended you. Just putting some thoughts down...

For those scientific types out there, here is some further description of Leap Year:

Our solar year (the time required for Earth to travel once around the Sun, I know some of you thought the Earth revolved around you, but it really is the Sun) is 365.24219 days. (Aren't you glad this number isn't like Pii going out to infiniti) Our calendar year is either 365 days in non leap years or 366 days in leap years (Feb 29th inserted). A leap year every 4 years gives us 365.25 days, sending our seasons off course and eventually in the wrong months. To change .25 days to .24219, we need to skip a few leap days (Feb 29ths) .... century marks not divisible by 400. S o with a few calculations tweek the calendar by skipping 3 of 4 century leap years to average out our calendar year to 365.2425, which is pretty darn close to the solar year 365.24219.
Here's the history:
The Romans originally had a 355-day calendar. To keep up with the seasons, an extra 22 or 23-day month was inserted every second year. For reasons unknown, this extra month was only observed now and then. By Julius Caesar's time, the seasons no longer occurred at the same calendar periods as history had shown. To correct this, Caesar eliminated the extra month and added one or two extra days to the end of various months (his month included, which was Quintilis, later renamed Julius we know it as July).

This extended the calendar to 365 days. Also intended was an extra calendar day every fourth year (following the 28th day of Februarius). However, after Caesar's death in 44 B.C., the calendars were written with an extra day every 3 years instead of every 4 until corrected in 8 A.D. So again, the calendar drifted away from the seasons. By 1582, Pope Gregory XIII recognized that Easter would eventually become closer and closer to Christmas. The calendar was reformed so that a leap day would occur in any year that is divisible by 4 but not divisible by 100 except when the year is divisible by 400. Thus 1600 and 2000, although century marks, have a Leap Day. The calendar we use today, known as the Gregorian calendar, makes our year 365.2425 days only off from our solar year by .00031, which amounts to only one day's error after 4,000 years.

Alright, if that is not confusing enough, here I am in Afghanistan and they go by Solar Years. So here it is 1386 and soon to be 1387. If you did not figure it out, they do not base their calendar on the life of Christ as we do (AD, Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord). So just another difference that creates a challenge for Americans here in Afghanistan.

The big news this week was that Prince Harry was outed here in Afghanistan. The fact the British press kept a lid on it for 10 weeks is pretty remarkable. But now that he is found out, I think the Brits will be sending him home to reduce the risk to him and his fellow soldiers. If all it took was for the press to find out I was here to go home, I might have been writing letters to Time and Newsweek to get my name out there. Perhaps my presence is not as significant as Prince Harry's and all I would have accomplished is to upset some people and ultimately have extention added to my deployment. Probably better I kept a low profile.

The other big news in the world was the "retirement/resignation" of Fidel Castro in Cuba. I know many people never thought that would happen, so there is hope in the world. The jury is still out on his brother Raul who is taking over, but at least he wears a suit instead of funky old uniform like Fidel.

As far as work here at CSTC-A, I have been helping out in another part of CJ4 and making a little progress each day. I have been working various projects to keep the wheels moving, of course I am looking forward to finishing up here.

I hope you all took advantage of the extra day this year and did something worthwhile.

Peace to you all,