Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's Eve

























My goal for the night? To be asleep by 1030! Such is the life of an intrepid Whateverthehellmyjobis like me. I still have a little work that I need to get done before sleep, and I haven't really talked to Lauren much in the last couple of days, so I'm keeping this short tonight.

Assuming everyone else is denying themselves New Year's fun in a show of solidarity with me, you should take a break from Army 2.0 for a night and read up on headier events currently transpiring here in Central Asia. I recommend e-Ariana as a solid, daily news source for all things Afghanistan...so enjoy~!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Television, Sports, and Marketing...or Lack Thereof



One thing that shocked me upon getting to BAF was seeing how prevalent cable TV is. I'd heard that there would be TV's in the gyms and dining halls...but seriously, I can get cable hooked up in my room. With HBO and ESPN and CNN--for $15 at that.

So don't weep for me and all the Duke basketball games I'll miss this year. As long as I'm willing to negotiate the 9.5 hour time shift, I can watch all the games I want out here. Case in point, the Redskins/Cowboys game tomorrow. It starts at ~0145 local. I haven't decided whether I'm going to try to get up for it, but it's nice to know that if I wanted to, I could.

That said, similar to how the nice people at the Army/Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) facilitate war profiteering w/o charging service people any pesky sales taxes, the Armed Forces Network (AFN) doesn't waste our time with commercial ads.

But don't think we get off ad free--nope, instead we get to watch a series of commercials cum public service announcement about everything from baby shaking, to how to properly marry a foreign national. Useful stuff, without a doubt--though I still think that there isn't a better way to handle an angry baby that a good shake or three.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Deployment Statistics

While I'm here, I plan to track certain things. I haven't decided exactly what those things will be yet, but whatever they are, I plan to track the hell out of 'em. Because the way I figure, if you take some otherwise boring task (like, say, living on BAF every day for ~10 months), and you add statistics to it, then you've turned your boring task into a sport.

That said, I've been brainstorming what kinds of things Bagram Airfield Living (BAFL, pronounced Baffle?) should track. So far I've come up with:

Books I complete

Percentage of said books that unbeknownst to me are part of Oprah's Book Club

Miles I run

Workouts I work out at

Times I get yelled at when I might have done something to bring it upon myself

Times I get yelled at for reasons indiscernible to me

Money spent at the Post Exchange

Number of fast food meals purchased and consumed

And that's about it. (For the record, I currently stand at 1 / 100% / 3 / 1 / 1 / 1 / $55 / 3).

I had some hygiene related stats in mind, but I think that the world can live w/o knowing how many days I go between showers.

Also, I'd add something about number of hearts and minds I've personally won, and how many I've indirectly captured through my positive influence on others...but the numbers would be so astronomical that they'd look puny next to the, say, 3 whole miles I've run since I've been here. Wouldn't be fair to the rest of the stats, you know?

I will work on this and get back to everyone. I think stats should be rolled into the weekly roundups.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Week 1 Roundup and General Awesomeness


It has been quite the eventful week here at Army 2.0. To summarize:

I left Fort Bragg last Saturday to head to Afghanistan. Terrorists, it would seem, very much needed fighting, and a little thing like Christmas wasn't going to stand in my way of taking out the trash.

After brief stops in Maine, Ireland and Kuwait, I finally arrived here in country. I spent Christmas at Bagram Airfield, the largest installation that the Army has in Afghanistan.


Along the way, I reflected back on my pre-military appearace, and I said goodbye to a good friend.

An interesting first week at war, I reckon--with many more yet to go.

A late Merry Christmas to everyone, and a happy new year to all. Happy Holidays, and for my non-daily readers--I'll see you next week!

Saying Goodbye to a Friend


Today was a difficult day. Today, I bid farewell to Jeff, who has been sent on a (possibily) temporary mission to FOB Salerno. It's a good job that Jeff's going to, and we've heard very good things about the command there. I know that Jeff is going to do great, and I wish him safety and good tidings as the new year quickly approaches.

Jeff and I go way back. We met at the M16 range at Fort Jackson during my second week there, Jeff's first. Along with Chris and LTC Smalls, we formed a close knit group that weathered storms great and small at Fort Jackson and Fort Bragg.

Chris, Jeff and I had similar stories to tell--we got mobilization orders during our second year of MBA programs at Indiana, Ohio State, and California, and we subsequently were granted delayed report dates in order to complete our degrees.

The emotional roller coaster that is the IRR accepted us as passengers back in the Fall of 2006 when we each received our initial orders. By the time we all met in June of this year, I for one, was enormously relieved to find two guys who were trapped on the same ride that I was. We quickly bonded in the way folks so often do in the military, over a shared hardship. That we had similar histories and goals only strengthened the bond.

Inevitably, though, the three of us (along with LTC Smalls) would not all be sent to the same place in the war--or so we thought. As the battle rosters ebbed and flowed (Djibouti, anyone?) I all of a sudden found myself, this past October, in the same unit as Jeff. This was exciting stuff--regardless of what happened in the unit, or what jobs we might hold, at least I'd have a good friend at my side.

At the end of October, Jeff and I met up with our current crew. We were told that we would have similar jobs, on the same staff, and speaking for Jeff--we were pretty excited to be able to stick together.

There is a long, (possibly) interesting story to tell regarding what has happened in the months since we joined the unit. One day I'll share that with anyone who would like to hear it.

Which brings us back to the present. The latest twist in our tale happened a few days ago. Jeff was told that the unit needed to fill a position at Salerno, that he had been chosen to fill it. These things happen in the Army all the time, of course. It would be naive to assume that just because Jeff and I had been slated to work together for the next 10 months, that such would definitely be the case. Still, the announcement came like a blow to the gut.

Jeff and I had been one another's band-aids, I think--keeping each other grounded as the IRR process continued its inexorable march to the sea in FOB Patriot, en route to Central Asia, and finally here in Afghanistan. All of a sudden, it came time to rip the band-aid off. To engage in our duties here in Afghanistan independent of someone who remembers what the Impact Zone at Fort Jackson was like. Or the sickly feeling in your gut when you walked up the steps of the building with the red awning.

We will both be fine, of course. There are good folks here at BAF--good friends and colleagues. I'm sure Jeff will find the same thing at Salerno. And I think Jeff and I will do well at our respective jobs. And who knows, perhaps this really will be a temporary gig, and Jeff will return to BAF triumphantly in a couple of months to assume an interesting, useful, clearly defined role on one of the infinite number of staffs that live here.

All the same--today was a difficult day.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2:05 AM 25 Dec 07--My Hooch at Bagram Airfield


Blogger's Note: The following post was written the night I arrived in Afghanistan. It is one of a series of time-stamped posts that I'll be after-the-fact publishing to Army 2.0 over the next few days. I hope that the out of order dates are not too confusing.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I'm laying on the bed I'll sleep on for the next 10 months, inside the shelter I'll live in for the next 10 months, about 10-15 meters from the bunkers I'll take cover in for the next 10 months--but only if and when the nice people of Afghanistan decide that attacking Bagram Airfield is in their political or personal best interests.

Before I go on, I should mention that Bagram is pretty darn safe place. We're a smidge north of Kabul, far away from the hot spots in Afghanistan to the south and east. That said, there have been attacks here. I do carry a loaded weapon here. It is still a warzone, for whatever that's worth.

Back to the hooch--I have my own little compartment here inside a larger structure that sleeps 4 of us, all told. My portion is about 7' x 7'. Not bad at all, especially after I spruce it up a bit.

I've been told that we're nestled inside some beautiful mountains, but as we arrived in the middle of the night (11:07 PM, to be exact) I haven't had the chance to see them yet.

The flight from Kuwait was 4 hours long and uneventful. I strained my eyes to keep reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, and I did my daily brain exercises on my Nintendo DS.

I'm basically free to get settled from now until about 3 or 4 pm tomorrow. I don't know what's going down then, but it promises to be an orientation of one kind or another.

For now, I need to get to sleep. This might not get posted until some days after Christmas, but all the same--merry Christmas, and a happy new year to all.

Sad to be away from my family and wife, but in good spirits all the same,

Andrew

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

1:58 PM 25 Dec 07--Bagram Air Field

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

I'm safe and sound here in Afghanistan, 6 months to the day after I reported for duty at Fort Jackson. Feels like that was a lifetime ago.

I stayed up last night typing a post on my personal computer about Bagram and the last leg of my trip, so I'll hold off on all that information for now. I should have an internet connection in my hooch sometime in the next week or so, so I'll be able to post more extensively about my travels then.

For now, love to all, and I'll talk to you soon. Again, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

10:31 AM 24 Dec 07--Relaxing in Kuwait

Not much to report, but I'm safely here in Kuwait. Which means that I'm safely free of having to pay taxes for the month of Decemeber--take that, IRS.

We're not here for very long, so the next you'll hear from me should be when I make it to Afghnistan.

Kuwait has been fun, though--great dining facility, a chance to sleep on a bed, and shake off the cob webs after a 17 hour, 3 continent journey.

One last note--Rod Stewart was at the pub at the airport we were at in Ireland. I didn't so much see the man, but several people swear that such was the case. And why would several people lie to me?

So here's to you, Rod Stewart--maybe next time you'll hang around long enough for me to get a picture.

6:14 AM 23 December 07--Shannon, Ireland


After a 5+ hour flight from Maine, I find myself in Ireland for the first time in my life (roughly where the green arrow is pointing in the picture to the left). Though I have to say, my usual standard for having visited somewhere includes leaving the airport. So flying from DC to Seattle w/ a layover in Chicago doesn't count as having been in Illinois, for example.

It pains me to say so, but I feel like I should apply the same standard here. As such, I'm in Ireland right now, but I've still never been to Ireland.

We have one more pre-Afghanistan stop. Not sure how long I'll be there before I head to my final destination.

I'll continue to shoot out little updates as I can, and look for the full story to go live in the days and weeks after I'm pleasantly settled in the war zone.

Peace and Love to all, and if you haven't already, please check out the holiday message that Lauren sent out on my behalf when I took off yesterday.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

7:35 PM 22 Dec 07--Bangor, Maine


I'm sitting in a crowded snack bar at the Bangor International Airport (not sure if that's what it's called, but that's what I'm calling it.)

We weren't planning on stopping here, but here we are--a nice 2 to 3 hour layover after a 2 hour flight from North Carolina.

Upon disembarking the plane, I was greeted with the rather bleak landscape pictured above...

And around the corner, I was greeted with quite another landscape .

I've never actually seen anything like the greeting line I ran through here in Maine. Apparently they have a welcoming committee here, and apparently most people had heard about it before (or experienced it for themselves). But the whole thing was a surprise to me, and I have to say--I can be a cynic sometimes, but these friendly, grateful Maine residents (Maineians? Maineiacs?) really touched me. When one older woman told me that she was so sorry that I wouldn't be able to spend Christmas with my family, I about lost it. I was choking back tears, thinking about my wife (who isn't too far away in Connecticut right now), and it makes me a little weepy remembering it right now.

3:50pm 22 Dec 07 -- Fort Bragg Mystery Hanger

Hi everyone,

Its Lauren, posting for Andrew. He wanted me to let everyone know his long journey has begun and he is flying to mystery location number one. It will be a long trip and we are both already missing the constant contact we have come to depend upon during our relationship. Andrew asks me to say Merry Christmas to all, and that he loves and is thinking of all of his friends and families.


As a side note, I have his address in Afghanistan, so please feel free to email me if you would like to send him a note or something.


Keep Andrew in your thoughts - its a long 11 months ahead of him.


Love, Lauren Exnicios

12:13 PM 22 Dec 07--Final Meals


We were served our final meal here on American Terra Firma. It was catered by the same nice people who fed us out at FOB Patriot for these last couple of months. Next up: airline food.

11:04 AM 22 Dec 07--Holiday Musings on Hairstyles of Yesteryear


This picture has been previously posted, but I thought it might be nice to remind myself of where I was 7 months ago. I took this photo a week or two before graduation from business school, and I imagine this is how most of my friends and colleagues from Cal remember me.

Back then, I figured that by Christmas of 2007 I'd probably have been in Iraq for 4 or 5 months by now. The thought that I might end up in Afghanistan didn't really cross my mind. And I would have called you crazy if you told me I would spend the days before Christmas still at Fort Bragg, after 6 months of training and schooling and blogging and weekending w/ my wife.

Now, if only they'd let me ride out the hair cut this whole time, then we'd be talking.

P.S. I posted another pic over at my parallel blog, so check that out at your leisure...

10:41 AM 22 Dec 07--Get Eur-Ass Back to Eurasia


Jeff and I are sitting in a massive hangar awaiting the word to board the plane that will transport our unit overseas to a location in the greater Eurasian Metropolitan area (that I still can't mention by name).

The hangar we're in is typically used for Airborne troopers getting ready to load up on a plane with all of their combat gear.

As you can see in the pic, though, Jeff and I are not thusly encumbered. We've got carry on bags, and yes, our rifles--but we'll be loading onto a chartered commercial flight, not a C-130 military air craft. We'll have flight attendants, airplane food, the whole nine yards. So we probably won't get to jump out of our plane to rain death and destruction on some unsuspecting terrorists (a minus). But I will have plenty of time to play my Nintendo DS (a plus). All told, it should be fun. Check back for more as the morning/afternoon drags on...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Almost There

I can't give specifics, but I'm getting very close to my travel date/time. I'll be moving through several different countries on my way to Afghanistan, and once I've moved through, I'll tell the tale here.

The problem, then, is that I don't know when and where I'll next have an internet connection.

How will I overcome that, you wonder? With pluck, grit, and a healthy dose of hardworksmanship, that's how.

By which I mean I'll be writing posts to myself on the laptop as I go, saving them on a flash drive. When I get access to a computer, I will upload the posts. Tale told, end of story, right?

Now, for those of you wondering if lack of access can explain my poor blogging record over the last month...sadly, this is not the case. For the sake of making excuses, though, let's say that I've spent the last month driving around the US in a van solving mysteries.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Still Alive


Still at FOB Patriot.

Still in great spirits.

Why?

Because I'll be DONE w/ FOB Patriot in a week.

Awesome.