New address, no new news

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.

Steven Rushing
TCS
Camp Dwyer
APO, AE 09373

Easy enough?

I totally owe you guys an entry, Let’s call it “FOB Hopping”

Below: Me in one of the helicopters sitting next to an Afghani interpreter. I think this was the 53.

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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

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C-130 from Kandahar to Bastian

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53 from Bastian to Dwyer

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53 from Dwyer to Delhi
Osprey from Delhi to Geronimo

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Osprey from Geronimo to Dwyer

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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.

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This is Rob and I am pretty sure we are in an Osprey in this picture.

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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.

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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 don’t know their story, but imagine them to be amazing. Probably more interesting in my mind than in reality.

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Here is a picture of Rob “reading”. He totally posed and asked me to take this picture for him.

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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.

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You may not know what that is just by looking at it, but it is the “piss wall”, the only place to “go number one” on one of the smaller FOBs I visited. You “go number two” in a bag and burn it, seriously. I had the particular displeasure of walking by the “wall” when a female was utilizing it. It was actually more modest than a male using it, as she had an “extender” 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.

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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!

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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.

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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 haven’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 don’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!

Well, I thought I was at my final destination…

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:

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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!

Well, I made it to Leatherneck, but still traveling

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
UNIT 40145
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:

(254) 231-4269

Will update when I get to my final destination and a more reliable connection.

Sitting in a terminal in Ali Al Salem

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, it’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!

Leaving tomorrow for Kuwait

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 “brought to you by PETA” 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 “brought to you by PETA”.

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. =)

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Korean War Memorial

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Lincoln Memorial

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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 aren’t any in Hawaii and I just saw my first “the end of the world is coming in May!” billboard yesterday. “We buy ugly houses” is fun too.

Last thing: I took some panoramas while I was there, hope you like them!

WWII Memorial

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.

Things I didn’t realize I missed about the mainland

Some of these things will be about the mainland, and some are Georgia specific:

  1. Parking spots are huge! I can park and hardly worry about opening my door and dinging the car next to me. Space is so precious in Hawaii that they put very little space between parking spots.
  2. I can drive and drive forever. I visited with Russ (Märia’s dad) yesterday. We met in Augusta, which was roughly halfway. He bought dinner and we saw Pirates of the Caribbean, and we had a very nice visit. I actually drove down using all back roads and drove through a national forrest and it was quite pretty.
  3. The trees are taller and greener here than in Hawaii, although there is far less botanical diversity. As I mentioned, driving through the forrest was very fun.
  4. You can drive fast! Ok, I don’t mean that fast… The highest speed limit on O’ahu is 55mph and I can drive 63mph reliably without getting pulled over. The speed limit towards Russ was 70 and I was doing 80 and getting passed!
  5. They sing like angels in church here. I think this might just be Georgia because the singing wasn’t as nice in Washington or Texas. Seriously, you have to visit Georgia just to here the singing in church. Today they focused on seminary graduates and graduation (basically just the end of high school for you non Mormon folk =) today, so lots of youth speakers. When the congregation joined the organ, it was more than worthy of the organ. The singing in Hawaii (and most other places I have been) is really kind of sad. You have 1% of the congregation who are showing off (whether they have something to show off or not) and maybe 10% who are singing from their heart and then just a lot of mumblers (thats me!). Today it seemed as if everyone was singing from their heart and everyone had a voice worthy of showcasing. The difference was stark. And then it got better when the youth choir sang.
  6. Waffle House, Huddle House, The Olive Garden, Sonic, late-night Chinese delivery, etc. There are so many restaurants here that haven’t made the jump over the pond.
  7. The stars! There are no stars to see on O’ahu because of the incredible night pollution. I can go out any night, drive 10 minutes out of town and see the clear band that is the Milky Way. It makes me wonder and a little sad because my telescope is at home.

So yeah, there are probably a few more that I am just not remembering right now. I miss my wonderful wife and little ones at home. I get to video chat with them, and sometimes it is great but today it was a bad picture and that makes me a little sad too.

Off to work tomorrow though! I hope to head off to Kuwait in a week. More on that next time.