Hey everyone! Â It’s been such a long time in coming, but we just found out that the court hearing has been scheduled. Â For those of you who do not know, Â Sarah and I have been fostering two beautiful, amazing girls. Â Their mother’s parental rights are at stake at this court hearing. Â If the judge denies her appeal then the girls will be available for adoption. Â If they approve her appeal then the state goes back to trial. Â Pray for us.. this could all be over really soon.
Monday, Sarah and I took the girls out to go see the Belton 4th of July parade. I haven’t seen a parade in probably 2 years. The first thing I did was teach L how to sign parade in ASL. She picked it right up. It was incredibly hot outside, and I was really glad my wonderful wife had the forethought to bring a ton of liquids.
The heat was well worth putting up with when car 122 came around. About 90% of the cars in the parade brought forth a cheer and clapping; the other 10% didn’t deserve them. Some Civic theatre had reproduced the famous V-J kiss moment. That was definitely one of my favorites. The 10% that didn’t deserve it was a group of
thugs that had souped up cars blaring incredibly inappropriate sexually explicit music.Â Â There was one more falling into this category.. and the events that unfolded around it were AWESOME.Â
Car 122 was a vanÂ with words written in big letter on the side.Â “Bell County Democrats”Â *cricket* *cricket*
Seriously.. silence fell over the entire crowd as they passed by.Â Â There were even a few ‘boos’ from the crowd.Â The floats were so close together that I was still hearing the boos of the next group about 10 feet away to the left of us when the crowd erupted in cheering.
What was everyone cheering about?
Someone had put them back to back.. the next float was “Central Texas Tea Party”Â Â
God Bless Texasâ€¦ Itâ€™s great to be home
So nothing much has changed here. I have settled into my 9-to-5 except it is 6-to-6, day shift, 7 days a week. Some days nothing much happens, some days it is 12 hours in the incredible sun of desert Afghanistan. My lovely wife packed 5 bottles of sunscreen for me and several hats, and so far I have not gotten a sun burn.
I do have a new address. The unit that I am attached to is headed home, so I have to use the “general purpose” address for the camp, which is somewhat slower, but that is ok.
APO, AE 09373
Below: Me in one of the helicopters sitting next to an Afghani interpreter. I think this was the 53.
Here are my travels so far:
7 June to 22 June:
Commercial from Norfolk to Dulles
Commercial from Dulles to Doha
Commercial from Doha to Kuwait City
C-17 from Kuwait to Kandahar, Afghanistan
C-130 from Kandahar to Bastian
53 from Bastian to Dwyer
53 from Dwyer to Delhi
Osprey from Delhi to Geronimo
Osprey from Geronimo to Dwyer
53 from Dwyer to Marjeh
53 from Marjeh to Bastian
C-130 from Bastian to Dwyer
That is some traveling! The 53 helicopter spits out hydraulic oil like crazy. I totally ruined a pair of pants from all the oil. All of this traveling after the commercial flights had to be done in full battle rattle, including flak vest with plates and kevlar helmet. It is far from comfortable. And talk about LOUD! Even with properly inserted ear plugs, the helicopters are deafening! The crews really know their job though and are incredibly professional.
So I was traveling with a buddy the whole way along. He is the WPPL expert (wireless point to point link – a big line of sight radio) and I was to soak up everything I could as he taught marines. His name is Rob and he is just the nicest guy you can imagine. He was born in Texas but has lived in Georgia most of his life and totally has the southern charm down, distinctly different than the south-west charm you see in Texas.
This is Rob and I am pretty sure we are in an Osprey in this picture.
This was at one of the smaller FOBs (Forward Operating Base). They had the cutest little Afghani kittens. We would be in the middle of a lesson and the class would screech to a halt because they would be doing something cute and demand attention. I have never been a cat person, but you just had to fall in love with such gentle creatures in such a harsh environment far from home.
This is looking out the back end of one of the birds. They all fly with the back end and side doors open and manned with gunners. If you look closely, you will see a square compound of some sort on the ground. There are hundreds of these out in the desert, the vast vast majority of which are deserted. I donâ€™t know their story, but imagine them to be amazing. Probably more interesting in my mind than in reality.
Here is a picture of Rob â€śreadingâ€ť. He totally posed and asked me to take this picture for him.
I am not posing at all, just reading my book, waiting for a chopper and clueless to the world around me. He said he got 5 shots before I noticed.
You may not know what that is just by looking at it, but it is the â€śpiss wallâ€ť, the only place to â€śgo number oneâ€ť on one of the smaller FOBs I visited. You â€śgo number twoâ€ť in a bag and burn it, seriously. I had the particular displeasure of walking by the â€śwallâ€ť when a female was utilizing it. It was actually more modest than a male using it, as she had an â€śextenderâ€ť of sorts, but it was still disconcerting. It was very uncomfortable using it out in the open. There were only 5-7 females on this FOB of fewer than 200 dudes. They walked around convoy style, never leaving each other alone. If you look close enough, you will see bottles of hand sanitizer on the sand bag walls.
This particular day they sent a whole flight just for me and Rob. Seriously, just me and him on the whole bird, besides crew. Talk about making us feel important!
This is the sign you see as you exit the flight line and enter Camp Dwyer, the place I live. I used the stock pictures of the planes and helicopters above because there are strict rules against taking pictures of the flight line. Anything else is fair game though, including pictures while you are actually on the birds.
And this is the tent I live in with 10 other guys. I get a bunk to myself, and a 5 x 8 foot area next to it, enclosed in blanket walls. It is plenty comfortable, more than I expected.
Thanks to the several of you who have left me messages on the number I left for you to call. In case you missed it, it is under the address a couple of posts ago. I really appreciate the messages! Sorry I havenâ€™t answered the phone much though. I actually am working 12 hours a day, every day. No days off, probably for a long time. We just donâ€™t have enough people for a better schedule.
I am somewhat miserable, missing my most wonderful wife and adorable little girls. I am managing though. Until next time!
But alas, it was not to be. I arrived here at Camp Dwyer two days ago and got a little training but am now off on a ten day jaunt to see three different forward operating bases.
For those interested in exactly where I am, here is the readout of my gps/Google Maps:
I flew in on a Blackhawk and today get to fly on an Osprey, a lifelong dream since reading Hammerheads as a teenager. Will update when I can!
I was told that Leatherneck would be my final destination, but it turns out I will be at a much smaller base. That can be good and bad, no biggie. I am going to Camp Dwyer, and leave tomorrow.
My new address will be:
Rushing, Steven M SWAN/WPPL FSR
RCT-1 HQ Co. S6/COMM
FPO, AP 96427-0145
And a phone number where you can catch me if I am on Skype or leave me a message if I am not:
Will update when I get to my final destination and a more reliable connection.
I have had three fights cancelled so far, one to Bastian and two to Kandahar. For now I am stuck in Kuwait waiting to get to Camp Leatherneck via military transport.
Has anyone seen the Neverending Story? Remember toward the end when the Child-like Empress is pleading with Bastian to help them by making a wish or something like that?
I know, itâ€™s creepy, me being 30 years old, but the Child-like Empress was something of a first love to me as a 6 or 7 year old. This scene always moved me, and when she calls him Bastian, she says his name funny, Bast EE an, rather than Baschan, the typical American pronunciation. So I pronounce Camp Bastian the way she did, just to throw people off. =)
I just found out I made the flight to Kandahar, so I need to pack up and take off. Have fun!
So training went well enough. I learned more than I should have been able to about satellite stuff. I feel a bit under-qualified. This last week I have been at Blackwater qualifying with medical and such. Best part was a video introduced as â€śbrought to you by PETAâ€ť that showed pigs (properly anesthetized) shot with Kalishnikovs and then worked on by military medics/corpsmen and other troops. Apparently the pig upper body (lungs, heart, etc) are incredibly similar to human upper torsos. They were properly euthanized afterwards as well. Actually, the video was kinda disturbing, I just liked that they introed it as â€śbrought to you by PETAâ€ť.
I leave tomorrow night for Kuwait out of Norfolk. I get to Kuwait Monday night, Kuwait time. The longest stretch in the air is DC to Qatar, just shy of 13 hours straight. Wish me luck and long life to my batteries. =)
Korean War Memorial
Addendum to things I missed about the mainland:
Squirrels! They are so cute and fun to feed. They are little furry personalities and I know my little girls would love them.
Billboards! There arenâ€™t any in Hawaii and I just saw my first â€śthe end of the world is coming in May!â€ť billboard yesterday. â€śWe buy ugly housesâ€ť is fun too.
Last thing: I took some panoramas while I was there, hope you like them!
In front of the Washington Monument. Look west to see the Monument, and east to see the Capitol. You can zoom out with your mouse wheel to see the whole of the monument.
Emancipation Hall, US Capitol visitors center.
The center of the Mall. Again, W to see the Monument, and E to see the Capitol.
Floor level waiting area
Emancipation Hall, Capitol Visitors Center