Friday, February 27, 2004

Home Sweet Frozen Tundra

It's literally 0ยบ outside and I'm in my office dreading the hell out of going out there for formation in exactly twenty minutes. These Sappers, I should have known they'd want me standing tall for PT right off the plane.

I walked into my lovely pad at about 3 am two days ago to find the place turned upside down, but not disastrous. The kitties broke some things and there was hair everywhere. They'd pulled two rolls of toilet paper into the bathtub, shredded them, and somehow even dumped soap on the whole shitpile, a monument to their displeasure. I expected all this. I was only able to sleep about three hours, and the first thing I did was call a cleaning lady.

Her name's Marie, she's a strapping little country lady, and why I never thought of this before is beyond me. By 5pm, the place was returned to its tranquil, tidy former self. Marie even gave me the first hour free as a thank-you for deploying. It's cheaper than a message to have a cleaning lady and much better at reducing stress--I'm buying my free time, having her come over every Thursday. I spent yesterday nesting--buying plants and some new furniture, watching the last eight episodes of Sex and the City, and just generally lazing around my much-missed house reconnecting with friends and the two felines who regarded me with open suspicion when I opened the door on Wednesday.

I get two weeks of leave starting a week from Monday--I'm planning a big Montreal trip, some skiing, and general laziness. Delicious.

Saturday, February 21, 2004


I just deleted an entry before I'd even posted it. I'm getting better at this. It was a lugubrious tirade about The Butthole, who has been doing/saying things behind my back that can only be called sophomoric and unprofessional.

He's been dismissive of me and my contributions since I arrived, only speaks to me when he has to, has NO idea what I've done because he never TALKS to me...what kind of "supervisor" does this all add up to? Answer: a piss-poor one. And I've fought with the female tendency to think it's something I'VE isn't. Not in this case.

How do I know it isn't me? Well, I had my Officer Evaluation Report and counseling with the Colonel. All very positive, and he is not a man to pull any punches. I point-blank asked him if there's anything I should work on, and he said, "No, nothing jumps out at're easily one of the best Lieutenants in the Battalion." BOO-yah!

The shoes: I was told this morning that we could leave tomorrow, so I went directly to my hooch and started packing...I was pissed off at The Butthole anyway, it was a good idea to exit the office before I said regrettable things. I decided several days ago to toss both pairs of running shoes I brought--I've pounded the crap out of them, they're filthy, and I have two brand-new pairs waiting for me at home. I ordered them online and had them delivered so they'd be waiting for me.

We have three locals here on a work detail for the Battalion. I brought them a large bag of food and the two pairs of shoes. They completely ignored the food and went straight for the shoes, arguing loudly over who gets them. One guy, he sat down on the ground right there, removed his falling-apart pair, put mine on, and walked his old ones right over to the dumpster, grinning and laughing all the while. The other one with holes in his shoes, he got the other pair. They both wear them now.

One of them, the first one to take a pair by force, now stands on the porch just outside the window, grinning at me, dancing around in his new shoes, saying, "My friend! You my friend!"

I can't believe they fit these guys--I have small feet, even for a girl.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Dirty Tee Shirt and Underwear

I slept in this morning, sandbagged PT, showered, and retrieved my rifle from the pile of laundry I'd leaned it against. On my way to the office, some guy stopped walking in the other direction, openly staring at me. "What the hell's his problem?" I sat at my desk and took the weapon off my shoulder...and there, dangling from the end of the rifle, were a dirty t-shirt and a pair of blue panties from my laundry stack. Christ.

We had a SSI-FWS ceremony--Shoulder Sleeve Insignia, Former Wartime Service. It means we now wear the "combat patch," or the 10th Mountain crossed-swords, on our right shoulders as well as on the left. It's a priviledge restricted to those who've served in an active combat zone, and you are entitled to wear it the rest of your military career. Those of us leaving next week also received our service awards...Army Commendation Medal in my case, my fifth one. But it's special--my first combat award.

I didn't sleep well last night at all--another noisy night on the airfield. I am counting the hours until I leave this place.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

You Have MRE's!

Now I understand why SGT B got so worked up over the Korean MRE's...they are amazing. I have pledged not to touch chowhall food until I leave in favor of these space-age, pre-packaged meals. Open the thick ziplock baggie, pull out all the little packets--toasted sesame oil, peanut oil, that red spicy powder they put on everything in Korea, and generic M&M's. Pour boiling water in, add all the seasonings (minus the M&M's of course), reseal the bag, wait ten minutes...better than anything else here. Rice, vegetables, some kind of tofu pellets, and the little slices of very fishy dried fish I have to pick out before adding the water. Nasty!

In Korea, I constantly picked things out of my food. I went to a Korean restaurant in Uijongbu with Jerry, my summertime fling. It was July, and brutally hot. Korea smells dreadful in the summertime--a symphony of human waste, rotting fish, industrial flotsam, decaying rodents, whatever.

We sat at the table, each speaking just enough Korean to get there. There was a wok-thing in the center. A smiling older gentleman brought out the raw food, dumped it into the wok, stirred it up, and walked away. I tore my eyes off Jerry long enough to check out the ingredients.

"Um, what's this?" I nudged a plump, to describe these things? It was the pupa of a silkworm, highly prized in Korean food. I don't eat bugs. Ever. And these looked directly like something off Fear Factor.

"Oh, it's those silkworms," Jerry noted, amused at my squeamishness. He ate one right then and there. I heard it crunch and squirt as he chewed it.

I proceeded to pick them all out, sequestering them to the edge of the wok. I siezed the opportunity to show off my chopstick dexterity, plucking them nimbly from the mix and over to their new mass grave. I selected a large cabbage leaf and ceremoniously covered them up.

"I'm putting them to bed. I can't eat looking at those sumbitches." I patted their new blanket with feigned, exaggerated reverence. Jerry laughed. He'd eaten dog once and a small, live octopus while I watched in horror in the market. He let the legs kick and squirm outside his mouth while I swore total celibacy until he brushed his teeth, twice.

It was pure machismo. This was Jerry. He'd been a door-gunner before reclassing to MI. Think Apocalpse Now.

Presently, the kind-faced Korean waiter returned with a large, slotted spoon. He stirred up our meal with big, grand gestures. The worms, they went right back in the mix. That damn Jerry, he gleefully stared at me, grinning widely across the wok as I smiled tightly at the waiter, trying to be polite. As soon as he left, I picked them back out and put them in a napkin, threatening to wipe the floor with them if Jerry was tempted to eat them.

These MRE's, minus the nasty fishy fish, are incredibly tasty. I'm eating one a day--half for lunch, half for dinner. Somehow SGT B, with all her shouting and mistreatment of our Korean partners, scored a case of them. Koreans are very kind and generous people, for the most part. Some of the younger ones like to toss Molitov cocktails at us and violently protest outside our bases in Korea, but they are almost without exception college students. Must be a right of passage.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Too Much Time...

You know you're bored when you spend several hours meticulously cutting the Australian Major out of a photo in which he holds our battalion colors (that's our flag), and pasting the image on the Moon, at the Washington Monument, in the French Revolution. We've printed these out and distributed them widely. And they're on email. It's great fun.

I've been tasked with taking photos of each soldier holding the colors with a bucolic mountain backdrop. This will then be framed with some hua little caption, "Operation Enduring Freedom, 2003-2004," something like this. A great idea. But the weather, it is NOT cooperating. You can't even SEE the bucolic mountain backdrop. And I leave in a week. This tasking came from the Battalion Commander, and what kind of a jackass can't execute this mission? If I can't get these damn pictures taken, I am a miserable failure as an officer.

So out of frustration, I took a gorgeous landscape I shot last week, crisp view with fresh snow, and pasted the unfortunate Australian Major's likeness, hoping to create a believable portrait despite this shitty weather. It looked like something out of a 1960's sci-fi flick--downright comical. Which is how the cut-and-paste-to-moonscape-with-Buzz-Aldren frenzy began. MAN I need to figure out how to post pictures to this site.

Hell, it killed a couple of hours.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Feel the Noise

The Division ran aerial gunneries all night long. Loud explosions, large-caliber machine gun fire, birds taking off and landing...several concerned citizens knocked on my door and asked if they should go to the bunker. The thing about rockets and cannon fire, there's no way to distinguish between ours and theirs. I completely understand why these guys would think perhaps we were under attack.

The bed shook all night, and not in a good way. The planes, they were so close that at one point, I halfway awoke to the sound of a just-airborn jet, and through the earplugs it sounded exactly like I was actually ON the plane. You know, that low humming just as you've lifted off, the flight attendants are just beginning to move about, and you lean your head against the window, anticipating a long nap.

So I dreamed I was on the flight home, initially. The dream then shifted to my front porch--I stood in front of my door, about to reach for the handle when I noticed a fat electrical cable snaking up to the knob. I knew in the way that you know things in dreams that the FBI was pissed off about something I'd said or done and they were trying to kill me.

"Ha!" I thought. "You can't get an ex-33 this way!" I cut the fat cable, sparks flew, and I walked into the house unharmed.

Except that there were four cups of hot coffee on the kitchen counter. I started to write them a note:

Whatever I'm doing that's pissing you off, I'll stop. Just tell me what it is.


I heard bumping and shifting around in the kitchen pantry. "Hey, I'm just writing you guys a note! Come on out and let's discuss this!" Somehow, I wasn't afraid.

They rolled out of the closet. Amends were made. We shook hands and they finished their coffee, complimenting me on its quality.

Sunday, February 15, 2004


This is my favorite time of the whole day--after the daily Ops meeting, everyone goes to chow. But since I eat a big bowl of oatmeal in the hooch every morning, I stay here and enjoy the relative quiet. It's the only time I can count on reading emails and making blog entries in private.

Yesterday the Compound held a farewell barbeque for the Koreans. I spent a year in Korea, and so did SGT B, my roommate. I opted for a Korean MRE, complete with kimchee and hot sauce...I do miss that food. SGT B sat down next to me and a Korean Captain. He did not speak any English. I nodded to him and said, "Anyung-ha sayo," the standard greeting. SGT B asked him if he had any extra MRE's. He laughed nervously and nodded, clearly not understanding a word.

Here's where it got annoying. SGT B started yelling, as if he just hadn't heard her, and assumed the badly-executed accent of a Korean who doesn't speak English, as if he'd better understand it that way, leaving out most of the verbs. "YOU HAVE MRE? YOU GIVE ME MRE?" Eyes wide, shouting, nodding.

Holy shit it was annoying. It was probably downright insulting to him. The poor guy, he just stared at his plate, nodding and pretending to understand. She just got louder and more incoherent.

I reached over and touched his elbow, asked him quietly, "Do you speak any English?" He shook his head. At which time I said, "Stop yelling at him. He doesn't speak English!" She thought it was funny. I, however, did not.

It would not be the only annoying conversation I'd have inside of an hour. A guy I've never liked from our higher headquarters stood behind me making very unsportsmanlike remarks about our trivia team. You know, the one with five players, three of whom were new privates, to their team of ten with six field grade officers? Stan and I were the only ones answering questions. We knew we'd get creamed.

I gave him the Evil Eye over my shoulder, continued eating. He then stated, loudly, "Yeah, we National Guard used to worry that we couldn't cut it on deployment with you Active Duty, but now we just laugh because you couldn't hack it in the REAL world."

I was FURIOUS!! But you know, it ain't worth it.

So, according to this jackass, we're only Active Duty because we're too stupid to be civilians! I have not one doubt in my mind that I could walk into a civilian job and just kick ass, because this is HARDER than the "REAL" world.

And secondly, how is that even relevant? I'm not in your world, buddy, you're in MINE. What you do as a civilian, your so-called "REAL" job, means nothing over here! I couldn't care less if you're a civil engineer, you're still overweight in your uniform, you can't run a half-mile, and you had to spend two days MDMPing guard duty, for chrissakes.

What I found so offensive about that exchange, is that I don't drive that wedge between Active Duty and Guard/Reserves. I never comment on the differences, I don't treat them any differently than I do my own soldiers. I treat them according to individual merits, or lack thereof. The only times I've ever heard nasty remarks, they've come from Guard/Reserves, not Active Duty. Sounds like they're the ones with the complex, not us.

Get over it, folks. Last I checked, we're on the same side.

Manage Posts

I went back and deleted yesterday's post--it was All About Politics. And really, politics just are not very interesting, you know? I have concluded that people believe what they believe despite any amount of evidence, so why create hard feelings arguing about it? You won't change my mind, I won't change yours, so what exactly is the point? I bite my tongue in the office all the time--I'm one of the Army's only Democrats, and I'm not sorry!

I have very solid reasons for feeling the way I do about the issues, but I usually just say, "We'll just have to agree to disagree," and leave it at that. I used to get all impassioned, pound my fist, defend my position to the end--but to WHAT end? When the time comes, I quietly vote the way I vote, and that's all the action I need to take, ever. Leave the pissing matches to the pundits.

We had mad Valentine's Day Trivia Night...our team was called My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad, but no one's dad got beaten up last night. We also only had five players, and the winning team had eleven...more people, more right answers, because someone's bound to know something!

I am happy to report that I can name every single country in Central America, without delay: Belize, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Grenada, Nicaragua. The capital of Guyana is Georgetown. Lewis Carroll wrote Through the Looking Glass. Geography, literature, history, art, I am the Woman. Modern music? I'm a miserable failure. I don't know Everclear from ass. I couldn't answer many movie questions, either...I don't watch most movies that come out, because most of them look so stupid that I can't see wasting the two hours I'll never get back. I think I got the one about Ocean's Eleven since I'll watch anything with that much man-candy.

I did just watch Seabiscuit in my hooch--very uplifting, nice little movie. I'm okay losing two hours on that one. Besides, between now and when I get on the plane to the U.S. in two weeks, every single one of these hours is completely expendable. Here, have one.

Friday, February 13, 2004


Changed the title of the blog to reflect the fact that soon, it will NOT be the "Aghanistan Private Blog." I won't be in Afghanistan, and I don't think it's particularly private, so I release it. Fly and be free!!

Yet. Another. Minestrike.

Two of our guys were on patrol with the infantry unit they're attached to, and wandered slightly off the road near Ghazni...and hit a landmine. Not just any landmine, an Anti-Tank, which is about like hitting a medium-sized bomb. One dead from the infantry, four wounded, including a Private and a Specialist from our battalion. They're okay, just shaken and bruised up--they wore the right protective gear and even had Kevlar blankets in the vehicle.

The Private sat in Battalion Headquarters this morning. I walked in and said, "Hey, Junior, how are you feeling? Are you okay?"

He shook his head and looked at me. "Ma'am, I feel like I called Mike Tyson a sissy."

He'll be okay.

On Point for the Climb to Glory!!

I'm seized with a perverse compulsion to shout these words in Command and Staff at a dead run on the way out the door, just to hear the chairs clatter to the floor, tables overturn, curses and death threats. It's a raw nerve around here.

See, we had this battalion commander before the current benign dynasty, he was one of those people you wish you outranked so you could tell him to Just Shut Up for Chrissakes. "Climb to Glory" is the Division Commander's motto--he's a 2-star General. "On Point" was a speech by the Army Chief of Staff, the highest ranking uniformed member of the U.S. Army. This last guy, a Lieutenant Colonel, he appropriated both pieces and insisted the Staff brand this new, plagerized motto on every memorandum, every Powerpoint slide, every office sign in the battalion. He would publicly humiliate anyone who failed to include both it and his nickname (probably self-appointed), "Rock," on any correspondence internal or external to the battalion. When our current commander took control, he eliminated it immediately and received a standing ovation on doing so.

It became a big joke...someone welded the offending motto to our last S-3's parking space marker, and much merriment ensued.

Our unfortunate Signal Officer, he didn't know about The Rock. He designed our webpage to read "On Point for the Climb to Glory" across the top. The head of our benign dynasty, he was appalled. While the discussion took place here in the headquarters, Chief slipped out, went next door, and told the Sigo to change it, quick! Moments later, I hit refresh on the webpage, and it read only "Climb to Glory." Whew!

The things we get worked up about in here. Earlier, there was a heated discussion on the subject of wooden bullets, were they truth or fiction? Personally, I couldn't care less. But Stan, the one with whom I debated at length about whether rugs as such were invented vs. discovered, insisted the wooden bullets were a myth. It was swiftly pointed out that Stan had just yesterday argued for the existence of Sasquatch in the mountains around our airbase, but he can't swallow the concept of a wooden bullet? I then suggested that Stan and Chief go get into the Scooby Doo van and go sniff out ole Bigfoot up there on the slopes. Take some snowskis and play James Bond with Johnny Taliban. That got a big laugh.

Stan and Chief are both flying home with us. I want us all to sit together, and those two need to be right up by the pilot. We won't stop for anything if the guy in charge has to listen to Stan's craziness...HIGH entertainment value.

If you didn't know Stan, you'd think he was about four asshairs away from the looney bin.

The other main discussion of the day centered around lunch, and Maybe they'll have the little pizzas! We love the little pizzas, we don't understand why they only serve them once a month or so. We plead with them, please bring us little pizzas! It falls on deaf ears. Another dish we wish to see more of is spaghetti. Simple, humble spaghetti, one of the easiest entrees on the planet to prepare. No one can screw up spaghetti! Boys, just open up a can of mater sauce, boil some water, you're there!!

DAMMIT!! I have twice gone back and deleted that post that's on here twice, and it keeps popping back up! What do I have to do??

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Catch Them Flies with Honey

Call me a whiner. I don't buy that ideal of "You're in a combat zone! It's supposed to suck!" bullshit leadership philosophy. I think that's just laziness, a lack of will for fixing what can be fixed. In any situation, if you CAN make something better without compromising mission effectiveness, why wouldn't you? Our heat, or lack thereof, in the tent--I knew it could be fixed, so I called KBR again last night.

These two old guys showed up. I told them the short version of the history of our damn heat. They shook their heads and said it was that damn "Phase Two Power" issue. So, rather than get pissed, jump up and down, and make an Issue of it, I just asked, very sweetly, "But you could fix it, right? I won't tell."

Old Guy scratched his head and said, "We haven't been given authorized to change the power over...but I guess I could hook you up. I won't tell if you won't." Five minutes later, we had nice, warm air flowing from the vent. I got the guy's name--Vern, if you can believe it--and promised I'd send home-baked brownies and cookies when I get home in two weeks.

That is a promise I will keep. And I make a mean batch of brownies, jack.


Hmm. Amazing. The Belly's already shrinking, with a satisfying swiftness. I'm back to my pre-Afghanistan weight, and at this rate will reach pre-Drum weight before I get home. NICE.

In the absence of direct supervision via a visible PT formation, these guys will use any little event as justification to roll over and pull the fartsack up higher, skip PT altogether. Today the lights were off in the showers, so they didn't do PT, rationalizing that they wouldn't want to stink all day. Fair enough, I suppose, but it wouldn't kill them to do some push-up/sit-up improvement. I work out on my own, absurdly early, so I didn't even know they'd sandbagged it until I got back to the hooch, flipped the lights on, and was met with loud protest. I showered in the dark.

I have one soldier here, an E5 who made it through Special Forces I don't worry about his fitness. One joe, whom I'll call Junior, is slated for PLDC (Primary Leadership Development Course, school to become a Sergeant for you civvies out there) when we get back, and I'm concerned for him despite the fact that he's not my soldier. See, I'm female and not incredibly fast--respectable, I don't fall out of formations EVER, but not winning any weekend footraces--and I smoke the guy. And I must admit that it rankles the shit out me when I pass him and he's making that whining, "This is too FAST" sound. You know the one, the little whine on exhale....Huuuuh, huuuuh, huuuuh. Bitch, please. He reasons that it's because he's "old." At thirty-two, he's a year younger than I am. Should I be additionally insulted by the Grandma implication?

No, not really. I like Junior just fine, even though I call him Eyore in my mind. I just don't get it when a tall, skinny guy like that can't keep a ten-minute mile. He'll figure it out. PLDC is a total cakewalk--physically, mentally, all of it. Even Junior can handle it. And the rest of them, if they sandbag PT every day, the best thing I can do is keep my mouth shut, let the NCO chain handle it, and keep smoking myself daily, thereby Leading By Example.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

SG? Who Are You?

That last posting has a comment by someone named SG...I'm racking my brain trying to figure out who this person is, and how he/she heard about my weblog. Not that I mind, of course, I just didn't think it was interesting enough for a stranger to enjoy.

So SG asks if I have any tips for someone deploying to Afghanistan for a six-month stint. So here goes:

1) If you don't already love to read, learn to love it. Bring books, Amazon delivers here (books, but not much else, for some reason ) have your buddies send current magazines (I'm a religious Runner's World and New Yorker fan--the PX carries Runner's World, but I'm probably the Only Soldier in the U.S. Army to read The New Yorker. And I'm not sorry!). I used to think I was also the Army's only Democrat, but I work with two others. My take on my politics: I've been a soldier for five years, and female for thirty-three...George Dub-ya has deployed the CRAP out of us and completely decimated reproductive rights, so I ask: What has he done for me lately? Or, EVER? Ok, I digress...I do that a lot, in case you've not noticed.

2) Become very adept at biting your tongue. Pick your battles wisely, they WILL be remembered on redeployment. And yes, this coming from the poor slob who got hugely pissed over my own defense, I didn't lose my temper, I don't think anyone (besides Major K, my vent buddy) even knew I was hugely pissed over cookies.

3) You know that black bearsuit thing, the wonderful fleece jacket they issue you but tell you not to wear? Bring it. Unless something changes, it's authorized for wear with PT's, and roundabout October it gets mighty chilly around here.

4) Websites that will greatly improve your quality of life, if you're into Nice Things:

They all deliver over here. It's amazing what a big bottle of expensive Philosophie Pumpkin Pie-scented shower gel will do for your spirits. I procured it just before Thanksgiving and annoyed the crap out of the other ladies in the shower by standing there with a handful of it, eyes closed, smiling, and sniffing happily. It smells just like its namesake.

Netgrocer, great for food compatible with microwave and hot pot. You will get so sick of that damn chow hall, you won't even want to put yourself through the trouble of walking 500 yards to it.

You'll wear out your running shoes on the rocks, so Roadrunner is a great source--they have everything. Oh, and Victoria's Secret. A girl's gotta have pretty underthings, even in a combat zone.

5) Buy nice, soft earplugs if you're coming to Bagram. The airfield stays maddeningly busy all night, every night, with every flavor of aircraft taking off and landing constantly, and I could hit them with a rock from my back door. The yellow foam ones and God forbid, those horrid rubber things the Army gives you? Not good enough. Look at the decibel ratings on the packages at the drugstore. The kind I found are light green, very comfortable, and block out 33 decibels of sound. Doesn't stop the bunk from rattling violently as the Chinooks hover right over your head, but they definitely help.

6) If you have a personal computer with games and a DVD player, bring it. The bazaar (if it ever comes back) sports a huge collection of pirated DVD's, muy cheapo. I even found the first season of Six Feet Under for ten bucks.

Can't think of anything else. I think the boredom is the toughest part, and that depends on your job. OH, bring a lamp! Clamp on, whatever. They don't sell them at the PX and you WILL want one! Shit, one more thing--if they don't issue you the WileyX goggle-glasses things, you'll want those, too. If you come here in May, that's the beginning of the Winds of 120 Days. No shit. Think mad, gale-force sandstorms every day for months on end, lovingly accompanied by 110+ degree heat. This is summer in Afghanistan. You'll think you landed on Mars.

Get outside the wire every chance you get. Think the Bible meets Apocalypse Now...camels and donkeys, mud huts, burqas against a backdrop of bombed out tanks and wrecked Russian MIG's. Unreal. It doesn't look anything like any other place on Earth, I'm convinced.

Friday, February 06, 2004


Happily, I'm leaving before March 8, even. We could be wheels-up anywhere from February 26-March 3, and that March 3 one is the latest we're outta here.

This is what's bound to happen when you get lucky enough to travel with the Sergeant Major. See, it's like a club, much more powerful than those wierdo Free Masons, you can only be a member if you are a Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army, and it means that when you want something, folks hand it over to you with a smile. Thus, I have no worries whatsoever about leaving here. I know in my heart it'll happen when scheduled, or even earlier.

The truck starts right up, I'm told. Darling Rachel went and got the gargantuan stack of my mail. As for the house and the gorgeous new furniture, the curtains, etc, all at the mercy of two very young and very bored felines, I can only hope it'll be okay. The curtains will be easy enough to replace, but the furniture? Oh, my.

The other mess I was worried about, my office in the rear, I'm not so sure about. I emailed my new Assistant S-2, a brand-new Lieutenant, asking questions about two clearances. This was three days ago, and it's something we cannot do here. We have to rely on the rear detachment for this type thing. I haven't heard a word back, which directly pisses me off. I wouldn't go home until I'd answered any questions from the deployed folks when I was in the rear. It sounds like this guy is utterly on his ass. I sent a very direct email explaining the rear-forward relationship. Well, another bad first impression, both ways this time.

I don't much care if he thinks I'm a bitch. He should do his damn job! He only has about an hour's worth of work back there every day, so the very idea that he didn't fix what I'd asked him to is just outrageous.

Bowlfull of Jelly

I was much amused in Germany to realize that I could prop my magazine on my big belly while lying on the bed. It has gotten entirely too big. Most days, I don't think about it and it doesn't bother me--after all, I'm still running well and my clothes fit. For the most part anyway. But at Le Meridien in Munich, I took the only bath I've had since October, and there was no denying it. Girl got a big fluffy belly. Its days are numbered.

However, I was much encouraged in the gym in Landstuhl--I got on the treadmill at sea level and started running at 6.0, or a pedestrian 10:00 pace. This is how sluggish I am here at 6000 feet--I would be embarassed to run that pace at home, and here my heart rate at Bagram hits 180 bpm almost immediately.

10:00 pace...okay, I'm not breathing hard. 9:00...huh, I'm still not breathing hard. I'll stick here for ten minutes, see if it catches up to me. Ummm, no, still not feeling it. 8:30...OK, the first indications of exertion. 8:00--now we're talking. Or not talking, because now I'm actually having to work at it. So I stuck at an 8:00 pace for over 45 minutes and felt fabulous at the end of it.

Holy SHIT. That altitude training is no joke! I can't normally maintain 8-minute-miles for more than two or three miles, and that's really pushing it, I'm trying hard not to fall out or throw up or both. I was so worried I'd show up at Drum unable to hang in the 9:00, 5-6 mile formation runs, and it's a load off my mind to know it won't be an issue.

Now, if only The Belly were an altitude-induced illusion...

Thursday, February 05, 2004

One More Thing...

Something I left out of my rant about that Mouthy Bitch I'd made the mistake of travelling with: in my desire to seem like a nice person, I failed to mention that I dumped her in the middle of Munich. Cut the slingload on that dead weight and walked away, after handing her the train ticket and the map. I just could not waste another precious moment of my one day in Munich listening to all that blah blah blah. Sometimes, you just have to be selfish.

The takeaway from the entire ordeal: Trust Thine Instincts. And mine were shouting at me on first meeting her, Get Away! Run Far Away! I've been so conditioned to think that being judgemental is a glaring fault...I see that it can also be an asset, and that I should listen to it always, and act on it when appropriate.

I was just informed that all the crap I'd left in my desk back at Drum--the usual girly assortment of nail polish, lotion, my personal paperwork, etc--was all strewn all over the top of the desk. So someone went in there and cleaned out MY desk, and I'm guessing it was the E7 who came in right after I left. I will be out for someone's ass when I get back, believe me. The very idea that someone felt it was their place to clean out my desk, when there was never any question I'd be back and in that same position, and then to just throw everything on the desktop...that is just beyond belief. It was my NCO, he'll get a bad first impression of me, because I'll jump all up and down on him for that shit.

OK, Angry Girl has left the building. I am admittedly very territorial, and I do NOT like my shit being screwed up, EVER. Not in my house, not in my office, not on a train, not on a plane, Sam I Am Green Eggs and Ham.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Heat is On...

Two pieces of happy news on my return...I'm redeploying on March 8, and the heat in my tent works (at least nominally).

What shall I DO until March 8? In my sudden absence, my NCO took over my duties completely, and now I'm left surfing the net all day instead of just after lunch. There's only so much I can do, webwise, before it gets just brutally dull. I think I'll start sneaking out for catnaps and hooch-cleaning/packing.

So the tent--it may just be that's it's been relatively warm. I don't care what dynamic plays out there, I was just very very happy to walk into the warm tent last night.

We have two new lieutenants here--I just met them this morning. One's a prior-enlisted OCS guy, which like Southerners, instantly endears him to me. The other's a First Lieutenant and they both seem easy to get along with. Even still, I'm bored to death already.

And I'm a bit apprehensive about returning home--will my truck start? How destroyed is my home with two lonely kitties in residence for four months? Will they let me take the assload of leave I need? How hosed up is my mail situation?

Monday, February 02, 2004

Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me

Remember that Hee-Haw song?

It's 5:25 am, I'm in civilian clothes, and the guy at the desk just told me he didn't find me on the manifest for the bus going to Frankfurt and on to Afghanistan. I can only figure that the nice men at the liason office hosed it up. Thing is, now I'm all packed, and I didn't sleep last night BECAUSE:

Both my roommates snore like wooly mammoths. I mean, it was just unbelievable. Normally, I wear earplugs to drown them out--wouldn't even have worked last night--but I didn't want to miss my alarm this time. It's not that I'm eager to get back to that hellhole, but now I'm packed up, ready, and sleep-deprived enough to guarantee an unconscious busride or planeride, if that's to happen today.

And that stomach nastiness I got on arrival in Afghanistan is back, with a fierceness. I can't eat, it's too hot in here, everything pisses me off, and I'm forcing myself to be polite. And I am being polite, really.

Back to the cold tent. Back to SGT B turning the damn light on in the middle of the night for no evident reason. Back to the same food every day. Back to the 250-meter sprint to the toilets. Back to the ubiquitous darkness (Bagram is almost completely unlit at night, black as the bitch's brew). Back, worst of all, to the abiding boredom. This was a lovely distraction, even when you throw in that self-absorbed wench.

And wouldn't it just be a damn shame if I got stuck in Frankfurt?

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Deutschland Uber Alles

By a sudden and bizarre twist of fate, I ended up in Germany this week. I'm at a strange little Army base in Kaiserslautern, a charming little city near the French border. I've been here since last Wednesday night, after eleven hours on a C-17. I was violently ill the entire flight and utterly drained of energy when I got here.

Not now, though.

I awoke early Saturday morning, having completed my suicidal-soldier escort duties, and decided to take the train to Munich. I booked a five-star hotel in the middle of the city via internet, packed a huge rucksack (planning to run, had to bring running shoes, etc.), and was on my way out the door when one roommate stirred. Kris, whom I instinctively didn't care for on first meeting her. It's that air of superiority, it's written all over her face. She wears a Superior Little Smirk. I figured, maybe it's just a defense, she's probably okay.

"Where are you going?"

Me: "Munich."

"Want some company?"

Actually, NO, I didn't. But wishing to be polite, I said, "Uh, sure!" That was my first mistake.

That Air of Superiority, the Superior Little Smirk I was so quick to chalk up to my own judgemental nature? I was right on the money, jack. I knew I'd screwed this up for myself the minute we set off--later than I'd intended, so I was already a bit peeved. As we walked toward the front gate, it was game on. Let the insufferable boasting begin!

I'll address it by theme. First, it was I'm the Best Leader of Soldiers in the Army, and All Soldiers Bow Down to My Very Presence. Then, it was The Active Army is Far Inferior to the Weekend Warriors, and oh by the way, we're only Active Duty because we couldn't get real jobs. Then, it was I'm Taking a Huge Paycut to Go to Iraq, Where We Suffer So Much More Than Anyone Else. Embedded in this one was the question, "Oh, are we still in Afghanistan? I didn't realize that." (Insert insufferable little sniff here.)

Then, just when I'd reached the point of wishing her dead and had given up arguing all her bullshit and had resigned myself to the utter misery of her company, and had for hours been avoiding all eye contact and only answered with, "Mmm, mm-hmm, yyyeeaahh," she launched on We Are Bitter Towards the Active Army Because We Had To Live In Barracks For Six Weeks. She had the nerve to argue that all the junior-enlisted Active Army should be moved into the open-bay, shithole barracks alotted the Guard/Reserve Mobilization facilities (because they are TEMPORARY, for Chrissakes), on a permanent basis because it's just not right for a lieutenant to live with privates for those six weeks.

I basically called her an idiot. Which she is.

And for all her hardcore talk, PITIFULLY out of shape. I walked as quickly as was comfortable, hoping to either lose her or make her shut up, and she was smoked, couldn't keep up. I almost succeeded in losing her, but then felt bad because I had the train tickets.

I tuned her out completely and enjoyed the lovely Munich anyway. I'll write more when there is time, as someone hovers behind me waiting to use this station.