Fun With Flight

Filed under: — lana @ 11:42 am

A quick relaying of a tale a good friend just told me. He was on his way home from ol’ Jihadistan from a year spent building sandcastles and wishing he were elsewhere when their plane made a bit of a thumping sound. Subsequently, Someone in Control wandered up to the person sitting next to my friend and the following conversation ensued:

Someone in Control: Are you a nervous person?
Hapless Soldier: No, not generally, why do you ask?
Someone in Control: Oh… well if you see the engine on fire or parts coming from the engine will you raise your hand to let us know?
Hapless Soldier: Okay… is this something I should watch constantly or just glance out the window and say, ‘Oh. The engine is on fire’?
Someone in Control: Welllll… it should be okay…

At this point in time they turned around flew to Iceland.

They made it back to the States just fine, after a minor delay. Welcome home to him and his companions, and keep an eye out the windows…



Filed under: — lana @ 5:39 am

Current updates on local events:

Event 1: My pending MEB (medical evaluation board, for those who don’t recall).

Situation update is as follows: Half of one day elapses between my appointment and the arrival of one piece of paper on the desk in the MEB office. Ten days elapse between the aforementioned arrival of said piece of paper in the MEB office and the subsequent transfer of paper to the approving authority office… down the hall. Fourteen days have since elapsed in which a single officer with a single pen needed to put a single signature on one line on said piece of paper, and then transfer the paper back to the MEB office so they can send me an electronic message. Phone call today yielded negative results. They are “attempting” to “find out what the delay is.”

Event 1 situation evaluation: Normal.

Event 2: Incident occurs which requires timely reporting.

Situation update is as follows: Three days elapse between event and subsequent notification of our office, through the Germans instead of through the United States personnel, of the issue. Four further hours elapse until the US personnel wake up and send along a message with their information and local reporting. Report immediately written and sent to review authority. One hour elapses and report is deemed to sensitive for current reporting procedures and subsequently trashed at review authority level. Two days elapse and US personnel send further notification of incident adding new developments. Immediate action taken to coordinate with criminal investigation element to determine need for reporting. Reporting need immediately confirmed. Report request sent to approval authority to avoid writing another report that will only get trashed. Two days elapse during which much hemming, hawing, and other harumphing is done many echelons higher to determine deconfliction and sensitivity, also during which several more requests for the report to be written are submitted to our office. Report need classified as a “maybe.” Report written and sent for review. Three further days elapse before edits are returned. Report edited and resent immediately. Three hours elapse. Report confirmed as “will be sent” but current standing is not yet published. Information is now 1.5 weeks old.

Event 2 situation evaluation: This is why military intelligence is an oxymoron.

Situation Normal… we all know the rest. I am intrigued every day at how the military continues to function like the in-need-of-an-oil-change machine it is. Ah well. Back to watching the clock…


Politics Schmolitics

Filed under: — lana @ 12:13 pm

Politics is an interesting animal. My father told me once “Never discuss politics or religion with those with whom you wish to remain friends,” which is fantastic advice… when it can be followed.

Unfortunately, I think it is my job position that makes following such advice so challenging on a day-to-day basis. If you run into someone who finds out you are in the military, they want to know if you have been downrange (colloquial military-speak for the Great Sandbox). If you have, they want to know your feelings on “The War,” which inevitably means the one in Iraq and not Afghanistan. Then, after awhile of listening to responses they probably didn’t want to hear anyway, they ask what I think about Muslims and Islam and persecution and whatever and who did what to whom and how many times.

So I answer: I go where I go because I am told to go there. While I am there, I don’t (surprisingly) crush the heads of babies between my meaty paws, I (to put it simply) attempt to protect the troops by finding out where all the little things that go boom might be before such things go boom. Day-to-day, I could care less about politics, I just care when the politics that sent me where I am takes one of my friends away from me, which I then can turn around and see as a failure on my part. As for religion, believe what you want so long as you don’t try to force others to do the same. That is where the extremists of all religions differ from the regular believers. Sure, everyone thinks their religion is right, or else they wouldn’t believe it. Does anyone have proof? Nah. So quit it with the fatwah and the jihad and the zionism and the crusading.

Those, of course, are the non-inflammatory answers. For use among those I wish to remain as friends.

But then I read the news and I see the kidnappings, and I get my emails from my friends still playing in the sand, and I scan the military newspapers to make sure I don’t know the people identified in the recent death notifications. And to tell the truth, there are few days that a part of me isn’t thinking about how to get myself sent back there. That is the real politics of it. I feel not just an obligation, but a want and a need to get back there and to work towards freeing/helping/protecting not necessarily those back across the pond, but those that are sitting in that dusty, dirty, sweathole of a region. I get angry reading about the Somalian militants and the direction Iran is turning back to with the hardcore “Believe Islam is the Way or Suffer.” Are they turning back this way because their skewed interpretation of the Qu’ran (really, quite a peaceful book, when read without the crazy streak) deems it so, or is it simply failed foreign policy? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. But I still feel the pull to go back.

And those who are do-gooders or war-mongers or war-hate-mongers can’t understand that pull, or those politics, because they have not been there. Even those in the military who have never been there don’t understand the same way that those who have been there understand. They can’t understand how whenever they change the rules that mean some detainee who blew up four of my friends can now throw his own feces through bars on soldiers, and then possibly go free, that it makes me want to find the head of the ACLU, shake him vigorously, and say, “Are you SERIOUS?” and then I have to sit there and listen to others say that they are treated too harshly in these detention centers. Hi. Abuse of a detainee is wrong. So is blowing people up. Sorry to be the one to have to tell you.

So politics is complicated. That is why I was an engineer in school. It is harder to argue with numbers.

In other and completely unrelated news, the German telekom company overcharged me this month by 105 euros. Despite the fact that they acknowledged and regret the error, not to mention the money will not be taken out of my account for another week and a half, they will not change the amount they are taking out and instead will refund the money over the following two months (so they say). I have lost all hope of understanding German business and economics. I will have to stick to politics and religion to hold ground in a discussion, it seems.


German Weather

Filed under: — lana @ 12:05 pm

There is probably nothing more depressing during the month of August to examine the ten-day forecast for your local area and all there is to be seen are cartoon-y rain clouds with little blue drops of rain all the way across the screen, and temperatures that do not reach above 70 degrees farenheit.

It is mildly more depressing to realize that it has been as such since the beginning of the month, minus maybe three days that I can recall.

Notoriously, the weather reports are wrong. They will say showers, it will thunderstorm. They will say thunderstorm, there will only be ominous clouds lurking over head, though I suspect they are on some sort of motion sensor to only drop rain when I am outside without my umbrella or jacket. Rarely is it wrong enough to coax the sun out for a few moments.

Thankfully, the weather has caused the local bug population to head for dry ground.

Unthankfully (I don’t know if that is a word, but I have been in the Army for three and a half years now, so anything will do), the dry ground may well be my apartment.

The earwig-looking creatures have largely disappeared in favor of snails along the walkway leading to my apartment, making for a fun walk of dodging shell and slime.

The large and persistent bee population is well and prospering out on my balcony.

A spider egg hatched somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen a week or so ago. Since then, I made public a fatwah upon them and declared jihad against the egg-layers and the former egg-occupiers. They are putting up a good fight, and I strongly suspect one morning I will not be able to get up, being tied down Gulliver and the Giant style with webbing. The war continues, as the jihad must continue until the righteous (meaning me) have perservered.

It is looking to be a long, dark, wet, and cobwebbed winter… which appears to be starting sometime early next week.



Filed under: — lana @ 9:52 am

Approximately one year ago this month I went on a little journey to a scenic place in the lovely get-away country of Iraq. Not that the trailer where I had up until that point been calling home was inadequate, but services were needed a bit further north for a few days so I hopped on the helicopter and off I went.

Note to all: never sit in the rear right-hand seat of a helicopter that will fly with the doors open. This is where all of the rotor draft will come in and attempt to drill your eyes out the back of your skull. Just a friendly tidbit. Moving on…

So while puttering around doing whatever it is I do, I was involved in a bit of a motor vehicle accident which ended up rather messy. Luckily, no explosives were involved, despite the erratic driving of the Iraqi vehicle, but a HMMWV, a truck loaded with Iraqi workers, and a frontloader construction vehicle all were involved. Two Iraqis died, and my foot became intricately familiar with the mechanism of a piece of metal in the back of the truck.

I went to the doctor, he poked around and said it was sprained. No X-rays at this facility, better luck elsewhere.

Three months later, another doctor hemmed and hawed and said it may have once been broken, but it was okay now. Good luck with that, it may be sore, sure you can climb a mountain, but it is going to be a bit painful. Have fun!

Three months or so after that (and after the frostbite and gangrene incident which earned me fame and glory in my unit), another doctor said it may not have been broken, but there sure was a lot of tendon damage. I might want to get out of the military, but to do so I would have to give up the Europe assignment and take my chances at Fort Bragg. I opted to try Europe for a bit.

Six months following, a doctor finally submitted the paperwork that says I may need to get out of the Army, because they have no idea what is wrong but they DO know that they should have started physical therapy on it a year ago. Oopsie. Here we go.

Thus begins the arduous process known as the medical evaluation board, or MEB. First, this doctor halfway across the country gave me the go-ahead and sent a piece of paper to some office in the heart of the most confusing hospital I have ever had the misfortune to tour.

Side note: Who, exactly, designed a hospital where the furthest point from anything and everything is the podiatry wing? Did not someone think, “Perhaps these are the people who might have a spot of trouble walking longer distances”? Did someone not think, “Maybe we should at least put signs up that tell people how to navigate this labrynth”? But again, I digress.

So he sends it to that office. I call a local office for the MEB and they tell me to call the one in the other part of the country. I call there. They tell me that they have yet to enter my information into their system (five days after the appointment and the forwarding of the original document) and that it might be loaded in today or tomorrow. No rush. Then it has to get sent to another office where a guy who outranks everyone else has to sign it. I must allow two weeks for his signature to grace that piece of paper. Take your time, Sir. THEN it has to go back to the first office, where they will contact me via an email address that they do not yet have (I could not provide it while on the phone because they had yet to enter me into the system, and writing it down on a sticky note to attach to the piece of paper he was holding in his hand would be out of the question) and will ask if I would like it sent to my part of the country (yes, please) at which point I must allow a bit more time so they can forward it. At that point, and that point only, I may call the office I first called and they will help me schedule a briefing. After the briefing, I can start scheduling the appointments neccessary to get the entire process started.

Right then. In the meantime, the weather in August has yet to be above 72 degrees, nights are getting down closer to the freezing point, it has rained every day for two weeks, and a nest of baby spiders hatched somewhere in my apartment so I spend the better part of most evenings tracking and killing baby spiders.

Pretty soon, they may be looking at an insanity chapter as well…


Extended Stay

Filed under: — lana @ 12:46 pm

Sometimes it’s a great thing to get delayed somewhere. Like, on a Carribean vacation, for example. Continue sitting on the beach sipping your mai tai and remember to hold out your pattern of flipping over every half an hour.

Sometimes it isn’t so great, like what just happened to a good friend of mine still down playing in the sands of Iraq, along with about 3000 others. Pack up at the year end of a hectic time of chasing bad men in man pajamas, get ready to get yourself on a plane to head to a place where even the heat index is about 20 degrees less than what it is outside, and then find out that you “get to” stay in country another few weeks, maybe months. And nary a mai tai to be seen.

To understand her predicament, let us briefly analyze the current situation in the land of sweet memories for me, the Middle East:

First you have Afghanistan, the land of rock farmers and mountain dwellers. It seems that this year the Taliban woke up after their winter hibernation in their caves, stretched out a bit, and decided this would be a lovely time of year to start coordinating attacks. Pop on over to the mountain next door, hook up with the band of infidel-haters over there, and have yourself a regular rocket party. Don’t forget to invite NATO. The situation there remains controllable, and there is backup with the international troops, and hopefully this year will be like the rest and soon the Taliban will have to start squirreling away their cans of peanuts for the winter months before they go into another sleepy winter at high altitude. Watch for frostbite, gentlemen, as plastic sandals provide little protection against the chilly air.

Then you have the Israelis and the Palestinians and Hezbollah and Lebonon and maybe Syria and Iran getting into the party. Everyone bombs everyone else, no one apologizes for anything, and certainly no one makes any friends. I personally have doubts that any resolution the United Nations comes up with is still not going to have the Iranian president having the Israeli prime minister over for tea. It’s like that kid who back in first grade said that nasty thing about your mother and forever more you will hate him, despite how silly it is years and years later. Now add heavy weaponry and a smattering of religious fervor and you have a full blown situation on your hands. No one can seem to get along and no one really understands why other than one group believes in Mohammed and one group doesn’t, and everyone on the outside of the conflict just ends up very confused.

And of course, the big question of Iraq. Would this mess have come about if we had minded our own business? I doubt it, because Saddam with his iron fist and occasional (alleged) biological weapons and massacres of his own people probably would not have allowed such loud noises outside of his pretty little palaces. Are we better off for it? Who knows. All the war protesters have no idea how it would have turned out either, thank you all very much, and all the war supporters are too busy backpedalling at this point to care anyway. Sunni and Shi’a have never gotten along since the days of ol’ Mohammed’s grandson, for anyone familiar with their Islamic history, so it isn’t like this is too much of a surprise. The only nice part about it is that they are so busy fighting each other at this point that they seem to have forgotten all the nice people in tan (and now that strange cubicle blue the Army switched to that really only seems to blend to an office setting) milling about. And the really interesting part, I am certain, is that now when you ask the man who didn’t see anything because he was sleeping on his roof at two in the afternoon and he was at work anyway and nothing bad ever happens in his neighborhood any questions regarding who put the bomb in the road, he will at least be able to tell you what religion the bad man was, even if he has no idea what you are talking about because there are no bad men here.

So why does that all combined mean that my friend has to stay in the sweltering heat for another few months? Well, because the middle east appears to be slowly eating itself alive, of course, and someone has to give CNN an excuse to keep sending reporters there.

So it becomes an extention for a few thousand soldiers, most of them exhausted and bored of the mud-based scenery. If only they would put in some poolside decks with swim-up bars serving mai tais…


All A’Buzz

Filed under: — lana @ 8:39 am

Anyone familiar with the military (and in fact corporate America in general) knows the concept of buzzwords. The more acronyms or nonsensical phrases in your written document (to be accompanied by a gaudy PowerPoint presentation, of course), the more feathers in your cap. If you cannot involve the words “expeditionary mindset” or perhaps “fight for knowledge” in your idea, you may as well forget it.

My supervisor sent me an email today asking my opinion on something he had received concerning a grandiose plan for our little bubble in the military community. He also took the time to highlight all of the catch phrases and buzzwords in red. About the only things remaining in black were the articles… the, and, a, and the like.

I find that when I read, I usually do not have to read things many times before understanding what it is the author is trying to say… if the author has anything to say at all. It was my conclusion after the fifth time through the article presented that in fact the author a) had no idea what he was talking about or b) was caught in some sort of alternate universe where the entire world only spoke in cliche and buzzwords, and was desperately asking for help and rescue. I waded through such examples as “operating from mud to space” and “empowered by the global grind,” then moved on to “synchronized network centric environment” and “technology insertion and spiral development.” Thankfully, the author spared various acronyms, or my brain would have completed its ongoing quest to crawl through my sinus cavity and spare itself further pain.

I would wager his PowerPoint presentation to accompany this article must have been dynamite.

I responded to my boss’s query with informed perceptions about what I believed the author was trying to say… I have no idea what that might have been, but I gave it a good shot. Most of it was a rant about getting advice and, sometimes, direct orders from people who insist on writing propaghanda like the article in question.

Also, I sent out a rescue team to help that poor man escape from that alternate universe… it must be torturous over there.

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