Thursday, July 16, 2009

Beginnings of a Journal

May 20, 2005
Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) hired me as a Senior Defense Analyst to work from their Newport, RI office with such clients as Navy Warfare Development Command, Naval Undersea Warfare Center and Submarine Tactical Development Squadron – Groton, CT. As a retired submarine officer with a Master of Science in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, I was especially eager to get back into that kind of work. I had been twiddling my thumbs with Johnson Controls for four years in Lenexa, Kansas and at a short stint with ATK as a lead-free ammunition Program Manager for the Army. I was thankful to have the work and happy to live near my daughters, Jordan and Jaclyn, just 45 miles away. Moving away from them was the second hardest thing I have done in my life with the first being leaving them in the first place. Anyway… I love them – they love me and we are all ok.

Fast forward 4 years: after four BAH annual assessments which cited the need for me to “become a subject matter expert in operations research” so as to make a name for myself and therefore… what? Therefore, what? I had the credentials, just no actual OR work to gain “subject matter expertise” and make a name for myself. My pay raises were barely, if at all, keeping up with inflation (depends on what tables you look at.) Plus, my office manager wanted to keep me as his “lieutenant” doing his pet projects. I was underutilized and underappreciated. Sure, I could leave anytime I wanted to visit my daughters, but I was not “happy in my work” as Chairman Mao suggested we all should be.

Through it all, my beautiful and wise wife has been very supportive. I am so thankful for Lora. She loves my daughters and accepts my solo visits to see them. She keeps a loving home and is a great cook - I could not ask for a better wife!

May 25, 2009
Enter Leonie Industries, LLC. Within 4 weeks of Rob Laverty, a colleague at BAH, telling me about a Department of Defense (DOD) Operations Research (OR) position in Afghanistan with a small contracting firm, I was hired and attended training at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) in Arlington, VA. Leonie, a small, woman-owned business whose original mission mainly involved strategic communications found themselves needing to find a couple dozen ORSAs (Army speak for Operations Research Systems Analysts) with at least a Master’s degree who wanted to go to either Afghanistan or Iraq, unaccompanied, for at least a year. I know of 5 they’ve hired since last year, myself included. While the timing was not perfect (is it ever?), it was about as good as it could have been to say ‘yes’ to the opportunity. Will it allow me to establish myself as a subject matter expert in Operations Research? I think so. I will focus on analysis of IED events with the expressed purposes of improving life-saving measures for Afghani civilians and coalition forces and of attacking the network of IED bad guys. Not only a subject matter expert, but a potential life-saving one at that! Say ‘no’ to that! Will it give us more options in the future? Again, I think so. The money is good. Will I survive? God willing and the creek don’t rise. I suppose there are safer places to live, in general, but dying can happen anywhere.

May-June 2009
After hiring on with Leonie Industries, I commenced a 2 week program crammed into 6 weeks of training, indoctrination and processing at locations in the greater Washington, DC area and Fort Benning, Georgia. JIEDDO, the ultimate customer, started the program in 2008 to provide ORSAs to the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the middle of all that, we travelled to St Joseph to see Jordan matriculate from Central High School. A month prior I had attended freshman orientation at UMKC with her where we both got a dose of the campus and facilities and a wake-up call regarding the competitive nature of the nursing program. The girls came to DC and CT for 10 days during that time, as well. We had lots of fun cooking out and making campfires and smores. The weather was just a little too cold and damp to enjoy the beach at the lake, though. The tankless propane heated soaking tub was a hit, though! The girls knew they wanted one the first time they sat in it. I bought a 110 gallon hard rubber stock tank from Tractor Supply in Voluntown, CT and framed it with 2x4s and ¼ “ plywood and insulated it. I ordered the tankless water heater online and easily connected a garden hose, propane tank and shower hose/nozzle to allow filling and showering. This was a project for Lora's benefit more than anything else...

June 29-July 1, 2009 Bozrah-New London-Boston-London-Dubai-Bagram
Lora and Greta drove me to New London, where we parted with a final kiss and where I caught the NorthEast Express to Boston South Station. From Boston South Station I caught the SL1 bus which runs mostly underground to Logan Airport terminals. Terminal E was my stop – the international terminal. I had about 4 hours to kill and watched Transporter 3 and listened to audio book. London Heathrow! Not too exciting. Mailed a few postcards and some snacks using the 10 pound note I found in Michael Dunkley’s shorts. (He had sent them to our house as part of a garage sale.) I sat next to a young mother and her gorgeous 10 month old Zoe with the green eyes that hardly ever left mine: no sleep that leg. Then on the way to Dubai I sat next to the S. Baptist missionaries from Memphis who were headed to the UAE for a 3 year tour. Arrived Dubai around 2300 local, went through customs and two xray machines just to get into the country. I got snagged at the second machine and had to unpack everything. That took 30 minutes. Then I had to figure out how to get to my hotel without being robbed or kidnapped. Local taxi driver (I use the term driver loosely – his movements were very fluid yet chaotic) knew the best route so I tipped him well. Dubai Hilton – beautiful hotel, I think. My eyes were open a total of 23 minutes while I was there.

The next morning, I met Tom Schwartz in the lobby (seemed like the same 23 minutes later.) We caught another cab back to the airport, another 2 xray machines, signed a release of liability waiver before boarding the plane operated by DFS Airlines which I think means a “D” at Flying School and enjoyed the Uzbekistan stewardesses who barely spoke English but who loved the cartoon show “Tom and Jerry” which we watched the whole 2 ½ hours from Dubai to Bagram, Afghanistan. We had an omelet with mystery meat (somewhere between a Vienna sausage and Oscar Meyer with a sort of dishwater grey hue) on the side. I ate it. I’m still here.

Afghanistan! Hot, dusty, dry. Bagram sits at 4000 feet elevation but I did not really feel the effect of that until I found my 106 pounds of luggage and had to drag it down the street to the Billeting office. I helped Tom carry his stuff since I had a rolling bag.

Ray was supposed to meet us with a van but got side tracked doing something – not sure what. He was recently hired by Leonie to work with me at FOB Fenty (Forward Operating Base) in Jalalabad.

With no one to meet us, Tom and I made some calls, but no one seemed to know who we were. So, being the resourceful and motivated men we were, we went to billeting knowing we would need a place to sleep. Fortunately, Billeting was just across the alley and up the street a few blocks. Unfortunately, we were told that our only option was Tent City. So, we went to Tent City after about an hour of waiting for shuttle buses, getting luggage on and off and waiting through 5MPH traffic. The tent (open barracks of about 250 personnel) to which we were assigned was full – no cots. So, we went to the next tent – female only. The last tent had some bunks available. We plopped our stuff down, locking what we could and made our way to Task Force Paladin.

The rest of the day we wandered around this Twlight Zone getting ready for some major jet lag. So, I decided to treat myself to a ‘Beauty with Spa’ haircut at the PX compound while Tom and Ray did some clothes shopping. Beauty with Spa barbershop was filled with SE Asian looking 20 something women. I thought, “Well, we are close to China…” Then they spoke, perfect Russian, and turned out to be from all the “stans” north of Afghanistan (Uzbek, Tajik, Kurdi). So, I got to practice my Russian while getting a haircut, shampoo and head rub for $9 by Udmilla.

The PX compound has a Burger King, Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, Green Bean coffee shop and several Afghani knick-knack shops (old guns, knives, animal skins, rugs, hash pipes, etc.) There is also an ATT Call Center, a Cellular shop (local cell service), a satellite internet provider, a few college extension offices – quite a potpourri of store fronts. It’s the local hangout. Every soldier carries a weapon of some sort: most have M-16s or other shoulder slung rifles. Most of the officers carry 9mm handguns. There are a few pirates, too, with scabbards and flintlocks.

So, this is a Coalition Task Force. On this base there is a large compound of Polish and of Egyptians and of Koreans, in addition to huge compounds of contractors. One of the largest contractor firms is KBR which runs base support: PX, DFAC (dining), janitorial, construction, etc. There are so many contractors in this “war”. Seems more like we are fighting urban and rural blight than an insurgency. One of the biggest issues is: WATER. Not only is Afghanistan in a severe drought, but they have no sustainable water supply. I foresee lots of dam and reservoir construction: more Taliban targets.

July 2, 2009
Attended IED Recognition and IED Lane training.

July 4, 2009
The 4th of July party was fun: steak/ribs/chicken/hamburgers/hot Italian sausage and other accouterments along with 0% beer and a double feature movie viewing: Taken and The Day the Earth Stood Still. The most fun was watching the CEXC folks fight, with water. It started with water balloons launched from a distance, indiscriminately into the crowd. Then, they gouged holes in the caps of unopened water bottles and squirted them like cannons at each other. Then came the mop bucket sneak attacks. Good fun.

1 comment:

  1. Forgot to embed pictures that go along with the journal entry above:

    Jordan Graduation:

    Bagram Air Base:

    Just cut and paste the links into your browser window if you can't click.