Archive for May, 2009

Have a Manas kind of day

Posted in On the road with tags , , on May 31, 2009 by jetgwot
Manas Air Base

Manas Air Base

So my journey is currently in limbo. We left Ramstein, gobbled in Turkey for a few hours and then sped onto Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. From here, we will eventually travel down to Southern Afghanistan and arrive at my base … eventually.

Manas Air Base is nice. It serves as a crucial hub for troops and supplies heading in and out of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Manas AB is closing soon. I’ve linked an article talking about the closure at the bottom of this post.

I’m not sure if you can say they are “roughing” it here. Next door to the internet cafe I’m in is a Pizza Hut, small gift shops and a gaming center. Although anytime you are away from family and friends for months on end it’s rough no matter how you look at it. This “stuff” just helps ease the separation.

Oh, two of my bags have gone missing. Somehow they either got taken off at the wrong destination or they grew legs when we got here to Manas. On the bright side (there’s always a bright side), my weapons and uniforms made it through. The rest can be replaced. Hopefully it won’t get to that point and they will arrive at any minute. We can only hope.

Click here to read about the Manas closure.

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Is that lion’s hair in your wallet?

Posted in On the road with tags , , , , on May 29, 2009 by jetgwot

Why, yes it is.

So, for those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Kenya, East Africa. I was three months old when I first arrived in Kenya. Technically I flew before I walked. My dad has lived there since he was two, his parents were missionaries in the Congo before they moved into Kenya. My dad went to college in the states, married and took my mom back to Kenya to follow in his parent’s footsteps.

I have a good friend out there named Jim. He’s a retired U.S. embassy veterinarian, who lives with his wife on a 20-acre farm, subdivided on a 20,000 acre wildlife sanctuary. Jim’s love for animals certainly didn’t retire when he did; he has at least four lions and a leopard. I believe he just captured a fifth lion last month. Most of the cats he has have been injured in one way or another and because the Kenyan government would rather let them die, Jim takes them in and cares for them.

Jim has no children, but if you ask him, these wild cats are his children and he treats them as I would my kids. Everything Jim has goes to pay to feed these animals. At more than $500 a week, it’s almost more than he can afford. Sadly, Jim would go without a meal before his cats do. I was able to see him last October and it was a wonderful reunion. I first met Jim in Nairobi National Gamepark back in 2001. Jim and I shared a passion for the Kenyan wildlife and we would meet up in the park several times a week and drive around spotting wildlife. Everything from cheetahs stalking deer, to rhinos and hippos, and lions eating a warthog.

Before I left in October, Jim gave me a clump of lion hair. He told me to carry it in my wallet for good luck. I still have it to this day and it will travel with me through the desert sands in Afghanistan.

So, yes, that is lion’s hair in my wallet.

Ipod causes plane to crash

Posted in On the road with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by jetgwot

Really? No. But i did get my googly-fingers on and googled it. Found nothing connecting Ipods and plane crashes. Which, if it can’t be found on google, it doesn’t exist or has never happened. True story. I tried telling the stewardess that there was no connection between the playing of my Ipod and the safety of flying the Alitalia aircraft I was on. She, unfortunately, decided me listening to “Sail Away,” by Enya was less important then the aircraft suddenly having a malfunction mid-takeoff.

I have yet to see a menu setting on my Ipod that says, “Push to crash jet.” Anyway, we can only hope that one day we can sit back, relax and enjoy the free-flowing music from our musical devices while jetting off to 30,000 feet. In disgust, I resorted to humming to the extreme distaste of the passengers within a five-foot radius.

So, here I am, sitting in the Rome airport waiting for my flight. I feel like I’ve lived out of terminals the past week or so. So far, this one get’s three espresso shots out of five. Why not five you ask? Let me fill you in real quick on the deductions. First off, nine euro for a day pass of internet freedom. What happened to the wireless hotspots that were free? The good ‘ol days. Second, no power source to plug my depleting MacBook into. I even tried bribing the cafe attendent to run my power cord over the counter to give me some extra juice. No such luck — One hour and four minutes of potential blogging time remains.

Last night I took the family cosmic bowling. I’ll see if I can load the video of my dance-a-holic children later. As I tucked them into bed later that night, thoughts of escaping with them to some random island flitted through my head. Unfortunately, common sense took over and I decided it would be better to press onto Afghanistan.

Back on the road

Posted in On the road on May 26, 2009 by jetgwot

Well, the journey continues … I leave tomorrow morning for Germany and then from there I’ll be ferried around from one country to another until I get to Afghanistan. Time has flown by since I found out seven weeks ago that I would be heading downrange. From getting everything sorted at home with the family, to intense Army training, I’m ready to get this deployment underway.

It was great to come home for a few days, it’s just that much harder to say goodbye. Especially since my kids don’t really understand why daddy has to go “help” other people in another country. “Daddy, stay and help people here,” said my four-year-old son, who wishes I didn’t have to be gone until Christmas.

Thanks for all your messages and comments throughout the training. I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone as my journey continues.

Temporary rest

Posted in Combat Skills Training on May 24, 2009 by jetgwot

Home with the family. I thought I wouldn’t see this day for another seven months or so. Seems I was wrong. An unexpected flight diversion to Germany allowed me the opportunity to sneak home for about five days. Talk about excited. My two year old kept yelling, “Daddy, daddy, daddy,” while jumping up and down (Well, as much as a two year old can jump up and down).

I got home about 1 a.m. in the morning and turned around the next morning at 5:30 a.m. to take the family to a waterpark about three hours away. I was exhausted but the time was well spent. Turns out you don’t need much energy to lay by the side of a pool.

Several of you have asked for pictures of the children, so here you go. They are what make this deployment the hardest to deal with — saying goodbye for months at a time. Thankfully, technology is at a point that with webcams, email and digital cameras, we can stay in touch relatively easy. I just haven’t figured out how to reach through the webcam and give my daughter a hug when she isn’t feeling good, or when my son just needs his daddy. Maybe one day …

Defend the base

Posted in Combat Skills Training, Videos on May 22, 2009 by jetgwot

Here is a link to a video on our “Defend the Base” scenario we did last week. This will probably be the last video I load from CST. Look for more as I go downrange. I had trouble getting the audio to work on Youtube, but it’s finally up and running. Click here.

United Airlines earn coveted A+ Weaver award

Posted in On the road on May 22, 2009 by jetgwot

That’s right. Take any negative feelings you had for UA and throw them out the window. Today they went from mediocre to Awesome-dosom! What’s that you ask? Why? Because I’m writing this fully stretched out in Business class. Let’s backtrack real quick.

I believe in always asking for the moon. The worst you might get is the stars or maybe a simple no. But, every once in a while, you get handed the moon. Today, it’s in the palm of my hands. Before we boarded the flight to Germany, I let the UA attendant know that I and three others were heading to Germany and then on to Afghanistan. I asked if we could get upgraded to Business Class since I heard the flight was full.

She took my name, but it didn’t sound promising. Five minutes before we boarded, my nervousness was washed away with relief when I heard my name and the three others in our party called over the loud speaker. It seems they had worked it out and in two minutes our coach seats were switched to business. They then thanked us for our service to our country and wished us a safe trip.

I’d always boarded a plane with severe envy as I walked past the business class elite — stretched out and relaxing while being waited on by personal servers. Well, now that’s me, and I could really get used to this.

So, United, you get two big thumbs up for taking care of four servicemembers. Keep it up, I’ll be back in six months and I wouldn’t mind the same treatment! -)

On a side note, as I walked through the airport in my uniform, I felt humbled as people repeatedly stopped and thanked me for my service. The media doesn’t portray what the average American seems to think of the military. The people I met are proud of what we are doing and hope everyone comes back in one piece. Let’s spread that message. How about it?