Sunday, July 18, 2010

Another Day, Another Dollar

So, what has been happening lately. A whole lot of nothing.

One of the lovely perks of my job is that I get to go out and meet every flight that comes into MeS. This includes flights that are not even for my unit, which keeps me on a pretty unroutine routine. Luckily, we are through the worst part, but when I'm not picking up a flight, I'm responding to a red cross message (message notifying a Soldier that something is not right at home) which is what I am currenlty occupied doing...or waiting to do... at 1123 PM.

It's really pretty frustrating. The world is suppose to stop spinning when you get one of these things in, but for some reason in my brigade, it is just a leisurely matter. Not to mention, I would like to sleep at some point!!

Anyway, so let's see what else has been going on. Well, I'm suppose to be trying to lose weight while I'm over here, but, of course, I'm the only person who hasn't lost a pound despite the fact that I'm eating way less and working out more. Figures. I did do my 1 month celebration today. There is a fairly decent restaurant located in the atrium and I indulged (against my better judgement) with a hamburger, which tasted pretty good. We also went to cafe next door to get a piece of cake. All I was thinking the whole time was that any progress I had made was going to be undone by this little celebration.

On a brighter note, I haven't lost my job - yet. We've had two people relieved since we've been out here. I don't know if it's the General McCrystal effect, but there's some serious drama around here. Anyway, let's just hope I can avoid the firing squad.

On a different note, I saw another friend from West Point who just got into Columbia business school. I'm about sick of hearing about all my old friends moving on with their lives. Anyway, I guess I need to just stop being so bitter.

It's just been a kind of bad day all around. I got my ice machine the other day and was very excited about finally getting to use. Of course, someone stole my transformer so now I will have to get another one which only delays my gratification.

Anyway, I guess you have to take the good with the bad. Everything here is two steps forward and one step back. It's good life lessons. Maybe if I don't lose any weight, I'll at least gain a little patience.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Waterless in Marmal

So, yesterday I spent all day running around, getting prepared for the new guys coming in from the states. My day started at around 7:30 AM and ended at around 10:30 PM. Naturally, after a long day of running around in 111 degree temperatures with wind and dust blowing all around, one tends to get a little sweaty. All I wanted to do was make it back to my tent before the new guys had a chance to figure out where the shower was and run out all the water.

Needless to say, I didn't waste any time when I got back to my tent. I just grabbed my stuff and went. When I got to the bathroom, it was late and there was no one else in there. Relief. I jumped into the shower and threw the water on and out comes a light trickle of water. Of course, I wasn't prepared. I had no soap out yet, no shampoo waiting in the wings, and as I hurried to try to procure the necessary items, the water slowly trickled to nothing.

So there I was, wet and naked in the shower, with no water and no hope. There were cases of bottled water not too far from the bathrooms, but that would mean getting out, putting my clothes back on and trudging to the water point to pick it up. Once I realized that this was my only viable option, I put my clothes back on my now wet, sweaty, dusty body and headed for the pallet. I thought about just running out there in my towel as a statement, but then I thought getting in trouble on top of not getting a shower were just make the night worse.

I retrieved a case of water and headed back to the shower trailer. The one good thing about 110+ temperatures is that the water is nice and warm. When I got back to the shower, both the entire case of water and I got into the shower. The first bottle went for wetting the body. I then soaped up entirely and was about to rinse with the second bottle (I was pretty impressed that it might only take me 3 or 4 bottles to get the job done), when the soap on my hands made it impossible to open. Instinctively, I reached for the faucet to try to rinse off the bottle, hoping that there would be enough drops left to allow me to open it. To my surprise, when I pulled up on the handle, the shower head came on with full vivacity. I've never been so happy to have a shower.

I probably will not be complaining as much about some other things anymore....well, I probably will.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Alright, I Get It, the Germans Hate Us

Well, if I didn't know, now I know. For the most part, Germans (or at least the German military) have a great deal of disregard for Americans. It's actually pretty ridiculous. There are so many rules here that are not at all tailored to the US military, but because this is a German post, we are forced to abide by them. Here's a short list:

First, we are not allowed to go anywhere in our work out clothes. I'm not sure why they have this rule, but we must remain in our full uniform all day long. We can only wear PTs from our rooms to the gym and back. On top of that, the laundry facility is about 100 ft. from the gym, but can we pick up our laundry in work out attire? Of course not. Even though it is on the way to the gym, we have to return back to our rooms and get back in the duty uniform before picking up laundry. Conveniently, the Germans are allowed to wear civilian clothes here, in which they CAN to pick up their laundry (civilian clothes include shorts and T-shirts).

Vehicles have the right away here, which the inbrief warns you about at length. I guess people must have been hit before because we have been warned half a dozen times to stay out of the road. A truck blared its horn at me the other day when I was walking on the side of the road because apparently I was not on the shoulder enough.

We are only allowed our contractual 4500 gallons of water a day, which we have run out of everyday. If you are the unlucky fellow or lady, to be in the shower or not taken a shower when the water runs out, then the jokes on you. Meanwhile, the Germans (and other European entities) spray water on their volleyball courts to keep the sand from getting too hot.

There are other inequities as well that the American military does little to correct. We are forced to play by German rules to a fault so as not to step on the Germans' toes. While the Germans are allowed to walk around without head gear (that is their rule), we aren't allowed to do that because that is not our standard. They roll their sleeves, ride bikes without helmets, and have individual, hard-stand rooms (think dorms), each with an individual A/C; we have to blouse our boots, leave our sleeves down, ride bikes with helmets, glasses and a running belt, and live in overcrowded tents, basically sleeping on top of one another, with limited A/C. It's nuts. Oh, and we were told that the Germans "don't like the way we talk in their DFAC", so we have to keep our noise to a minimum. I feel like a naughty kid at my great grandmother's house. Luckily, they are building an American area, which, get this, is outside the wire (don't worry they are building a new force protection wall).

See, the Germans did not want us to come to this base at all, but they reluctantly allowed it and granted us access for a small portion of our unit; however, we ended up greatly exceeding the capacity - a decision about which they are none to pleased. The Germans have to tolerate us, but I suppose their command didn't tell them they had to like it.

I guess the most frustrating part is that in Iraq, there were coalition forces just like there are in Afghanistan, and being that most bases in Iraq are American built, we would be the de facto country in charge. That being the case, we were always told to be understanding of the differences in military culture. For example, a lot of countries allow their female Soldiers to wear their hair down or partially down, but we would tolerate that. Or another example, I hate the way Germans keep both their hands on top of the table - it's barbaric and bad table manners - but you don't see us telling German forces, "hey, we think that's rude, so tell your Soldiers not to do it."

This is a war zone. We (NATO forces) are trying to get a job done. Our country has volunteered to send even more Soldiers over in harm's way to help these people out, and what do we get? To be treated like red-headed stepchildren? We understand the base is crowded (and it is a very nice base I have to admit). We understand that we don't want us messing up the afternoon coffee in the tranquility of the atrium (another hard-stand building with cafes, a bar, internet cafe and lounge or their beer at the end of their work day. But I have to ask, can't we all just get along?

And I have to agree with these guys on some points. For the most part, Americans have a bad habit of putting our personnel stamp, if you will, on a place. We throw our cigarette butts on the ground wherever we stand. We throw trash on the ground and spit on the sidewalks. We leave skid marks in the toilets (believe me, this is a hot button issue for them) and generally take things for granted. We are so used to others taking responsibility for our messes that we literally don't know how to take care of ourselves. For the first time, I have to admit, I'm a little embarrassed to be from America. I don't want to seem like neanderthals to the rest of the world who just come and destroy whatever they come in contact with. I'm honestly a little self conscious.

And there's really no reason we can't keep this place nice. It's like when you look at a Soldier who has thrown trash on the ground and ask them to pick it up, they have this look of incredulity that you would ask them to do such a thing. The bottom line is that we are ungrateful. We just got new bathrooms the other day - hard-stand trailers - and they're already a complete pig sty. We just take things for granted, and when we destroy them, we expect someone else to pick up the mess.

I'm hoping this is just laziness and not our modus operandi. I would hate to think that's the direction our culture has taken, but, as I look across the board at all aspects, it is starting to seem like it might be the case. Can't find a job - welfare. Bought a house you can't afford - where's the government intervention? I'm not saying European politics are much different, but it doesn't seem to have rubbed off on them as much. Everything seems like a "give me" without any sense of responsibility. No wonder the their is increasing disdain for the American collective. It's not too late to change that sort of mentality, and I am going to start with myself first.

Alright, that's as political as I will ever get on this blog (I promise).