Thursday, July 30, 2009

28 July 2009

0445 Lora Call: She was beat from 3 days of getting ready for and visiting with Michael Dunkley, and Katrina/George. She went to sleep around 9PM right after we talked about nothing stuff for 30 minutes. I love her so much.

0515 Workout

0615ish Breakfast: Oatmeal/mixed berry yogurt. 2 x grapefruit juice (these juice boxes are 200 ml each. Ate with Chaplain Brad West – we discussed The Purpose Driven Life and the Chaplaincy at Fort Drum, NY.

Work: Nothing on email. Nothing at the 0730 meeting. I went and got my three boxes which came in yesterday: One from Lora, One from Mom and the last of three I sent myself back on June 29. Of course, Ray Robison had to forward them all to me from Jalalabad adding an unknown number of days.

Snack: Almond Sesame Seed Bora Bora Bar.

Anyone reading this who wants to send food items to me, send Bora Bora bars! You can find them on Any flavor is fine!

So, the one from Mom had lots of reading material (magazine articles), a couple puzzle books, some postcards from Central Coast California, but what I cherished most were the three letters she had written. She asks in all three if there is anything I want or need: cookies, for instance, but not homemade she is careful to point out. My mom says some of the cutest things.

She asks the question in her letter of 17 July, “Do we ever know during our life what real happiness is?” I believe that everyone defines what happiness is for them. The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-12, “Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Note, his use of the word ‘learned’. Paul learned how to be content which to me implies we should take an active part in being happy/content. Happiness eludes those who do not actively seek it and learn to be content no matter what the circumstances. So, Mom: That’s my answer and I’m sticking to it. J

I decided that I would keep all the reading material together and take it to the stall every time and read a little each visit. Today, I read the July 19-25, 2009 First Baptist Dallas newsletter: Dr. Robert Jeffress, Pastor, says that Criswell College is spinning off FBD. I wonder why? I read a page on “Five Things We Learned from Books This Month”: you should glue a bunch of oyster shells to your fireplace mantel to achieve a ‘dazzling focal point’ effect. We can blame 1960’s A&W for bacon on hamburgers: as if they weren’t fattening enough already. And, my favorite, a blurb on a book called ‘Deeply Rooted’ in which unconventional farmers bring their intellects, consciences, and concerns for the future to their work. I read an article about ‘seven stylish campsites that allow travelers to embrace their inner Thoreau – without actually roughing it.’ My favorite campsite name is the Huckleberry Tent & Breakfast of Clark Fork, Idaho. There’s a big animal skin on the bed… And finally, an article about some people who moved from their ‘hectic Fort Worth, Texas existence for a slower pace’ by moving into a Hill Country barn. It does not resemble a barn, now, but there are some cool decorating ideas, such as, bull horn towel hooks. So, I will read a little and comment on it each day or each bowel movement, depending on what kind of day it is…

Lora’s box: took me 23 minutes to separate the toothpicks from the Papaya Extract tablets which had mostly all come to rest in the bottom of the box. Some were in the already opened boxes of Bora Bora bars, some were in the protein shaker bottle, which, incidentally, turned out to be a great separating device! Very happy to get all she sent, though. She is such a good wife. I really can’t complain. Oh, I can, but I’d be lying. She is absolutely the best wife I could ask for. She hates shopping. She loves me. She likes being around me. She loves my family. She is creative and insightful. She loves God – and that one is HUGE!!! A woman who loves and wants to please God is a woman to keep around… No nagging, no selfishness, no woe is me – she is darn near the perfect woman!

1030ish Bible Reading: Exodus 26-29; For the first time, while reading all the regulations and preparations God required of the Hebrews and of Moses and Aaron, I got the feeling that God was being specific because He could and wanted there to be no doubt what was expected and also wanted to give the people the opportunity to do the right thing according to his word.

Lunch: General Tso’s Chicken (half-portion), steamed mixed veggies, collard greens, fruit salad, V-8, orange juice. Dined w the Gonzalez’. We discussed submarine anchors, Talcuhano, Chile, One Ton Tomatoes, and other stuff.

Bought the big bed spread and pillow cases and small rug and a jeweled frog that opens to store stuff and two dolphin bookends made out of some sort of carved stone. $42. Sending the small rug, frog and another purchase to Lora (see picture.)

Forgot to take picture of frog before packing…

1430ish The Purpose Driven Life Reading: Not read, today.

1600 Lora Call (0730 her time)

Dinner: Cheese enchilada, very small turkey leg, tossed salad, strawberries, 2 small V-8s

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Journal July 27, 2009

27 July 2009

Shank July 27, 2009 Part II

0500 Workout

0615ish Breakfast: oatmeal/mixed berry yogurt, grapefruit and orange juice

0630 Lora Call (2200 her time): She was almost asleep. Joe and that gang had just left from strawberry shortcake, after Katrina, George and Michael had spent all day w her.

1030ish Bible Reading: Exodus 19-25. Why was God so specific with the construction of the ark of the tabernacle, the candlesticks, the table, the tabernacle, etc.? Why did He ask for skins of rams and badgers, specifically (v. 25:5)? Rams’ skins dyed red I can almost understand, but badgers? Did he just not like badgers and was instituting a badger reduction program?

Lunch: Chili con carne w jalapenos, onions, lettuce, sour cream, cheddar cheese. Corn off cob, green beans (all tossed together, of course), fruit salad, V-8, Orange Juice, water.

1430ish The Purpose Driven Life Reading: Chapter 4 Made to Last Forever.

“God has planted eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“Surely God would not have created such a being as man to exist only for a day! No, no, man was made for immortality” Abraham Lincoln.

C.S. Lewis said, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right then, have it your way.’ Tragically, may people will have to endure eternity without God because thy chose to live without him on Earth.

When you live in light of eternity, your values change. You use your time and money more wisely. You place a higher premium on relationships and character instead of fame or wealth or achievements or even fun.

What is it going to be like in eternity with God? Frankly, the capacity of our brains cannot handle the wonder and greatness of heaven. It would be like trying to explain the Internet to an ant. It’s futile. Words have not been invented that could possibly convey the experience of eternity.

1600 Lora Call (0730 her time): Not a restful night. Thunderstorms. Can’t believe how much it rains there! None here, except the one time. I mentioned the travel plan for my first trip stateside: leave Shank around 6 Nov and hopefully arrive by 9 Nov (Monday). Spend a week or so with Lora and dogs, then drive to Texas for a few days then up to Missouri for a few days. Then, I could fly out of Kansas City back to Afghanistan and Lora could drive on down to Oklahoma for a while. Perhaps someone would drive back with her.

Almost forgot about this funny story: I was sitting at Filipino General Care shoppe and in walks this huge African-American soldier in uniform with weapon. He uttered words I just knew for a fact I would never hear from such a one's mouth, “Say, I heyah I’s kin git me a pet-ee-cure aroun’ heyah.” I was enjoying my ice coppee (Filipino for coffee) to that point and darn near fell off the couch. Melody chimes in and says, “I kin do.” She ‘grapped’ her foot bath and utensils. He took off his desert boots, sat down and commenced soaking. I decided right then and there that if he can ask for one, I will, too! Effective this Wednesday, every 2 weeks, I will pay Melody $7 (plus $3 tip) for a pet-ee-cure.

Went to Afghani Bazaar on base, again, today. Selected three blue and gold tapestries and a couple dolphin book ends. Haji-mon carefully boxed the dolphins and put all into a sack and said fittee dollah, plee. I handed him a $20 and he laughed and said you got the big one (meaning tapestry) – I can show you smaller for cheaper. I said no thanks and walked out. I will try again tomorrow. (Post-script: I did. Different Haji-mon. Same stuff, plus a really cute bejewelled gold frog whose upper body opens to hold small jewelry for Lora! She never reads this, so I know I'm safe writing about it before she gets it. Lora if you are reading this before you get the frog, I'm sorry that I said you never read this blog - have a frog.)

Dinner: Blackened trout, corn on cob (about one and one-half inches long – it was more like a cube of corn on the cob), steamed mixed veggies, potato salad, grapes, V-8 x 2 w Texas Pete added (that's an every time occurrence).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Journal July 26, 2009

26 July 2009

Breakfast: Instant Oatmeal w strawberry yogurt, 2 x grapefruit juice, coffee.

Had instant oats this morning since breakfast line was not open, yet. Got up early to call Lora. Missed her. She picked up Michael, grabbed a bite, then stopped at Larry/Laura’s where Joe/Maureen were. Michael was mostly beat and wanted to turn in. He is starting a company that does interactive applications via the web. Quite the innovator and entrepreneur. Later, Katrina and George are coming over for light lunch, meeting and early supper. They are bringing Lucas’ crate, also. While I was talking w Lora, I was standing outside. I saw a large yellow dog come around the corner, then another large black dog. There were no human escorts. I gave them a wide berth and came back into my B-hut. I will bring this up at the next homeowner’s association meeting. There are big passive traps out there, but they aren’t set.

Chapel Service: Sin. Romans 5:12, Genesis 1:1, Isaiah 29:16, Romans 1:20, Colossians 1:16-17, Genesis 1:25-27, 28. We were designed in the image of God. We are his Creation and under his Authority and Rule. Autonomy or self-law breaks this pattern. The lie, “You will be like God” was satan’s lie to himself and to man that caused both to fall (Isaiah 14 show Lucifer’s fall and Genesis 3 shows man’s fall.) “I will be like God,” is the heart of sin. 2 concepts of sin: Missing the mark (practical) and Rebellion (personal).

Bible Reading: Exodus 14-18; Moses initially complained to God that he would not be able to speak to Pharaoh. Some preachers have said this may have been because he had a speech impediment. Yet, in chapter 15 he breaks out into song in front of the whole assembly of Hebrews he just brought out of Egypt. Six hundred thousand men, alone! (see Exodus 12:37) So, I ask you, would a man with a speech impediment break out into song in front of what must have been over a million, probably almost TWO million people?? Evidently, that was the first rock concert. Who in modern times has drawn two million at one event? I ask you. I know, I know, he was singing to God because his heart was full of thanks. I would, too. Notice in chapter 16 when the Israelites complained about not having any flesh or bread to eat as they did in Egypt, what God provided them: flesh and bread. When they cried out because of thirst, He opened the first mineral water stand in Horeb (chapter 17.) Then he made Moses raise his arms so that Joshua could defeat the Amaleks. When Moses put his arms down, the Amaleks dominated, but as soon as he showed his pits, they started losing. Was that the first time a biological weapon (Moses’ pits) was used in warfare? I stay up at night pondering these issues…

Lunch: grilled turkey, fruit salad, steamed broccoli, V-8, gatorade

Dinner: Chicken stir fry, 2 chicken wings, pinto beans, steamed mixed vegetables, V-8, grapefruit juice, strawberries

Lora entertained Michael Dunkley, and Katrina and George today, from 1000-2030. They had a light salad, went to the meeting, then back for steaks and roasted potatoes on the grill and strawberry shortcake. Joe, Maureen, Larry and Laura came over for dessert and stayed until around 2130. Lora and Michael were beat! Michael leaves tomorrow with Lucas, the PBGV.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jaclyn's Facebook Pictures of Boo and Greta

From Bulldogs!

From Bulldogs!

Journal 25 July 2009

SHANK July 24, 2009

25 July 2009

Breakfast: oatmeal/strawberry drizzle/strawberry yogurt, grapefruit juice x 2, coffee

Rich Gonzalez asked why I ate tutti-fruitti breakfast all the time. Told him it kept me regular. When you get to be my age, the next BM is something to look forward to. Offered him some counseling on how to handle seniors and juniors: told him that relationship building was one of the most important things anyone could do for any career advancement.

SSgt Kim Zelton was voted the “hottest chick on the FOB” by 3/10 staff - she was embarrassed.

Wrote friends at CSDS-12.

Saw Saturday morning Czech formation on way to/from shower.

Requested information from CEXC Paladin re: UBE/HME proliferation in Spartan AOR.

1030 Bible Reading: Exodus 8-13. Why were Pharoah’s enchanters able to do the rods-to-serpents, blood and frog things, but not the lice? Why did God require “cutting” of the foreskin to separate his people from others?

Lunch: Grilled turkey, steamed broccoli, black-eyed peas, fruit salad, V-8 x 2, water Gonzalez’ twins and Dave the TERP supervisor. Rich asked me if I knew any good Navy jokes. I said, “Yeah – a lot. There’s a lot of Navy jokes walking around.” I just happened to have my hat with the back folded into the front and sitting on top of my head such that the bill was point straight up, like a tiara. When he and Hiram (MSgt Gonzalez) looked up from eating at my answer about Navy jokes and saw me with hat up – they both busted guts. The best jokes are well-delivered in verse and in time.

Fur coats for $100-$400 (without negotiating): fox, wolf, chinchilla, mink, sheep, goat. Bought a $15 lamp, plug adaptor and bulb for my desk at work. Though it worked at the Afghani bazaar, when I plugged it at my desk, it did not. I took it back and traded it for the jewelry set I wanted for Lora.

1430 The Purpose Driven Life Reading: Chapter 3: What on Earth Am I Here For? “Knowing your purpose focuses your life. It concentrates your efforts and energy on what’s important. You become effective by being selective.

It’s human nature to get distracted by minor issues. We play Trivial Pursuit with our lives. Henry David Thoreau observed that people live lives of “quiet desperation” but today a better description is aimless distraction. Many people are like gyroscopes, spinning around at a frantic pace but never going anywhere.

Without a clear purpose, you will keep changing directions, jobs, relationships, churches, or other externals – hoping each change will settle the confusion or fill the emptiness in your heart. You think, Maybe this time it will be different, but it doesn’t solve your real problem – a lack of focus and purpose.

The Bible says, “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly,. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.”

The power of focusing can be seen in light. Diffused light has little power or impact, but you can concentrate its energy by focusing it. With a magnifying glass, the rays of the sun can be focused to set grass or paper on fire. When light is focused evern more as a laser beam, it can cut through steel.

There is nothing quite a potent as a focused life, one lived on purpose. The men and women who have made the greatest difference in history were the most focused. For instance, the apostle Paul almost single-handedly spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. His secret was a focused life. He said, “I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

If you want your life to have impact, focus it! Stop dabbling. Stop trying to do it all. Do less. Prune away even good activities and do only that which matter most. Never confuse activity with productivity. You can be busy without a purpose, but what’s the point? Paul said, “Let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us.”

Earlier today, I wrote in a note to some friends at DEVRON-12 that it’s refreshing to work with young, professional soldiers who have the privilege of focus to overcome the insurgency. I wonder, though, if the focus is sharp enough? I wonder if my focus is sharp enough? How can I refine my own life focus to be sure I am accomplishing everything God wants me to accomplish?

Dinner: Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya, corn, cauliflower, grapes, V-8, diet Coke.

Lora says Gertie did not win anything, today. There were 4 champions. Not sure how much longer Lora will keep this up with her. It’s almost like a gambling addiction. You keep playing, hoping to win, but knowing it’s really a crapshoot based on the judge and the field and the judge’s relationship with the field and how the judge is feeling that day, blah, blah, blah. I don't think Lora is addicted like this - she's learning and having fun, but I have seen others who probably are...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Journal 20-24 July

SHANK July 20, 2009

July 20 – Monday, already? Every day is Monday. Hard to believe I have only been at Shank a little over a week and in country just three weeks!! The days actually go fast, but the weeks, slow. Why is time so relative? Guess it depends on which relative you’re with just how slowly or quickly time flows.

Morning routine: wake around 0500-0530 (no alarm). PT gear. Call Lora & tuck her in for her night. Hit the gym: 30 mins on a cardio machine (elliptical, bike, treadmill, stairclimber) then weights: alternating between chest/arms and shoulders/back ending with sit-ups. I usually see this DOD civilian (Tom? Rick?) at the gym. This morning he asked me if I had settled in. I retorted, “I hope I never settle in. I hope I never get comfortable in this place.” He laughed and agreed, having been here only a month, himself.

Then, breakfast: oatmeal with yogurt blend. I usually see Cpt Richard Gonzalez of Mee-ahm-mee, Florida. His family is from Domican Republic. Then there is Master Sergeant Gonzalez, no relation, of Manhattan, NY. He’s Puerto Rican descended. Great guys. I keep them both laughing. The other day, Rich was talking about aliens and area 51. (I think he really believes.) He was asking another civilian, Steve, who lives in my B-Hut and is a network engineer at the S2 Fusion Center, whether there are actually craft at Area 51, knowing Steve has some connections. Rich also wanted to know what kind of alien spacecraft were there. I jumped in and said I heard that there were Ewok gliders still loaded with bags of Wookie manure and Bic lighters for setting the bags alight prior to lobbing at the enemy aliens. No one knows what happened to the Ewoks. Some say they moved to the cooler North (Coer-d’alane, Idaho) from the Southwest where they joined a neo-nazi skinhead group, but were quickly laughed out of the area after the head-shaving initiation. Perhaps the kinder, gentler Canadians are looking after them.

Anything, solid or liquid that may have been in Rich’s mouth or craw was propelled from his body. He laughed so hard, he cried. I think he needed the laugh. He has not stopped talking about it, yet and wants to make a slide with that visual imagery for briefing since he is the ISR officer (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) in charge of all airborne operations for Task Force Spartan.

Went to my first targeting meeting. I am finding a vast gulf between what this brigade would like to accomplish and what they actually can get done with the limited time and resources. But that’s war.

July 21 – Afghan Threat Finance Cell members, 1Lt Frazier and SPC Berry are with us for the rest of the week. They are providing us there database and tools for monitoring and analyzing Threat Finance operations in the area. CWO4 David Slyman (HUMan INTelligence supervisor), Cpt Reagan (Acting S2), CWO2 Fleshman (TGT Lead), SSgt Tia Williams (new Threat Finance lead for TF Spartan) and Frazier, Berry and I met to discuss the future of Threat finance for the AOR (area of operations.)

July 22 – I am realizing a role I did not expect to have over here, but why not? Mentoring young soldiers in all kinds of ways, mostly dealing with professional issues, such as how to write a Data Collection and Analysis Plan. How to develop a charter for establishing a new operations cell, how to work magic using Microsoft Excel. It’s refreshing to be around this group of polite, professional, young soldiers.

July 23 –
Breakfast: oatmeal w peaches and peach yogurt mixed. Grapefruit juice x 2. Coffee.
Lunch: Roasted chicken, black-eyed peas, steamed broccoli. V-8 & Grapefruit Juice. Dinner: General Tso’s Chicken, Steamed Cauliflower, succotash. V-8 & Grapefruit Juice.

Had dinner w a bunch of Aggies from the Texas National Guard. 2 are HUMINT resources and the 3rd is a psychologist. Jeff Kinney, Clint and Tom. We reminisced about College Station, etc.

Bible Study this evening covered Chapter 24 in The Purpose Driven Life: Transformed by Truth. “Many of our troubles occur because we base our choices on unreliable authorities: culture (“everyone is doing it”), tradition (“we’ve always done it”), reason (“it seemed logical”), or emotion (“it just felt right.”) All four of these are flawed by the Fall. What we need is a perfect standard that will never lead us in the wrong direction. Only God’s Word meets that need. Solomon reminds us, “Every word of God is flawless,” and Paul explains, “Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.”

Bible Reading today: Genesis 45-50. Can anyone explain to me what Jacob is saying to his sons in Genesis 49? I’m not sure if he is blessing them, cursing them or telling their fortunes.

July 24 – Rough night. Got only 3 hours sleep. Lora and I had a tiff. She went to bed mad at me, while I had to spend all day ruminating about things. Stupid reason, too. Aren’t they all?

Breakfast was a bell pepper, onion, ham and cheddar omelet, 1 biscuit w sausage gravy and strawberry yogurt, 2 x grapefruit juice, coffee. By far the biggest breakfast I have had in a while. I think I needed the comfort.

Lunch was chicken quesadilla, tossed salad, V-8 & Grapefruit Juice with the Gonzalez boys. Dave the TERP supervisor joined us late. TERP means “interpreter” The topic was racism in America.

Read Chapter 2 of The Purpose Driven Life: You Are Not an Accident. God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes. He has a reason for everything he creates: even me! Why did God do all this? Why did he go to all the trouble to create a universe for us? Because he is a God of love. This kind of love is difficult to fathom, but it is fundamentally reliable. We were created as special objects of God’s love. God made us so he could love us. That is a truth to build a life on.

Bible reading: Exodus 1-7. Every time I read about Moses, I think about the movie “The Ten Commandments.” So, Jacob had Levi who had Kohath who had Amram who had Aaron and Moses with Jochebed (Amram’s aunt.) Question: why did God allow Yul Brenner’s, I mean, Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened and the Hebrew people to suffer more before he finally delivered them? And why so many plagues?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Journal July 19, 2009

Shank July 19, 2009

July 19 – Woke up to find a hint of rain on the ground – just enough to stir up the dust. Hurried to the MWR call center and rang Lora. She was in the soaking tub at 2130 EST – good for her! I’m glad we got that set-up and going before I left. She’s really enjoying it. We talked a good deal about lots of things over the course of her day/my evening/morning: getting healthy, family, dogs, trailer repair, coming home, my work, finances, Bible, movies, books, setting up our own blog. We will use Google Documents to collaborate and write ‘all about Lora’. J

Excerpt from chapter 1 of The Purpose Driven Life: It All Starts with God –
“Contrary to what many popular books, movies and seminars tell you, you won’t discover your life’s meaning by looking within yourself. You’ve probably tried that already. You didn’t create yourself, so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for! If I handed you an invention you had never seen before, you wouldn’t know its purpose, and then invention wouldn’t be able to tell you. Only the creator or the owner’s manual could reveal its purpose.” So, that’s actually quite liberating when I think about it: I don’t have to figure out what my life purpose is or go through life perplexed about what I am really supposed to be doing. My owner’s manual, the Bible, lays out specifically what God, My creator made me for. I am His invention with the capacity to discern through His word and Holy Spirit, exactly what I should be doing with my life. Anything short of that can only result in dissatisfaction or malfunction. When I think in terms of machines and inventions that were created for specific purposes, I realize they can only work best when used according to that specific purpose. An invention that does not live up to its potential and according to its purpose eventually gets discarded.

Started the private blog with Lora, today: Lora and Jeff, Sitting in a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Chapel Service: Romans 8:18-25 and Genesis 3:17-19, Psalm 91:15
God works in us through hardship. Paul points out the disparity between hardship on Earth and the glory of Heaven. The ground and all around us is cursed because of sin. God uses hardship to get our attention to remind us of Him and His provision. God will be with us in times of trouble. Revelation of the day: Being with Lora is the closest thing to Heaven I will experience on Earth.

Had lunch with Chaplain Brent Sanders of Dallas, TX. Good guy. Young. Just a first lieutenant. He flies around to the ‘outposts’ or COPs and ministers to the troops, mainly through one-on-one counseling. We talked about our reasons for being here: as individuals and as a country. I gave my opinion. I disagreed that we came over here without a clear endpoint in mind. Now that we are here, we can’t just leave, at least in Afghanistan. We/the world has so much work to do here. Part of that work is building schools and educating the people. (The Taliban forbade all girls to go to school during their ten year reign.) The coalition also must essentially go village to village winning the people to ‘our’ agenda for them. Mind you, we come in peace and we come to help (infrastructure, security, freedom, democracy, apple pie.) But that message is best delivered person to person. They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Daughters, I love you. I am hoping that you get something from my written words, kinda the way we Christians get something from our Heavenly Father’s words in the Bible. Because I have you, my children, I understand more about the relationship God wants with each of us.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Afghanistan, Part One: Boston Globe Photo Essay

Breaking Into The Underwater Boys’ Club

Breaking Into The Underwater Boys’ Club

Sailor One Of 12 Women To Be Submarine-Qualified
By Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes, July 21, 2009

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – A sailor once asked Lt. Cmdr. Marilisa Elrod where she got the twin dolphins sewn below the U.S. Navy lettering on her uniform. She could understand the sailor’s confusion – he had probably never seen the insignia on a woman before.
"I said I borrowed them from my husband ... just to tease him," said Elrod, a doctor and undersea medical officer based in Hawaii.
Then she explained how she studied for more than a year and passed her qualification test aboard the USS Key West before earning the distinction of being a submarine-qualified sailor.
To a submariner, those dolphins mean that the sailor wearing them knows enough about every function of the boat to save it in an emergency.
Elrod is one of 12 submarine-qualified women in the Navy, officials said.
As a medical officer, she has had the opportunity to ride on several vessels. However, crews stationed aboard submarines remain all male in the U.S. Navy.
"I think in the beginning it would be difficult from a logistics standpoint, but I don’t see any reason why women would not be well-suited to be on subs," Elrod said.
Australia, Canada, Spain and Norway all allow women to serve on submarines, though their deployments tend to be shorter than those aboard U.S. nuclear-powered subs.
Some U.S. sailors say having women serve aboard subs would hurt unit cohesion. Others say sailors would adapt.
"You’ll hear all sorts of arguments against it, some medical ... some similar to the arguments you hear against having homosexuals serving in small units," said Petty Officer 1st Class Jim Grisham, an electronics technician serving aboard the USS Seawolf. "Nothing credible, in my opinion, and little that the surface Navy and the other armed forces haven’t learned to deal with."
Female U.S. Naval Academy students have come aboard the Seawolf and other submarines for years as part of their summer training.
While aboard submarines, Elrod has shared an officer’s stateroom.
If women were allowed to serve permanently aboard subs, they would need designated spaces that aren’t available on today’s boats, said Submarine Group Seven spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Greg Kuntz.
"It’s the space and the design itself that makes it very difficult at this time, but it’s not that we aren’t constantly reviewing [the idea]," Kuntz said. "The big question we continually ask ourselves is, ‘How could we make this work?’ "
Studies on retrofitting existing submarines to accommodate female berthing have shown that doing so would be prohibitively expensive, Kuntz said.
Lt. Cmdr. Marilisa Elrod, shown here in Hawaii recently, has a rare distinction: as a doctor and undersea medical officer, she has become submarine qualified in a service that excludes women as crewmembers. Elrod says it would take effort and changes but believes women can successfully serve on submarines. (Photo courtesy of Marilisa Elrod)
Submarines are already packed tightly with equipment; the few spaces that aren’t, like the chief petty officer’s lounge, aren’t likely to be given away to enlisted sailors of any gender, Kuntz said.
Meanwhile, rack space is precious; the lack of bedding requires some enlisted sailors to "hot rack," meaning that three sailors share two racks while working different shifts.
Nonetheless, some sailors think it could be done if women are willing to put up with the same near-absence of privacy as men. For example, an extra curtain could cordon off a women’s bunk area in the existing berths.
In Elrod’s case, a sign hung on the door of the head, or bathroom, when she was using it. Certain times could be designated as women only, as they are for shower trailers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Undiagnosed pregnancies before deployment could interrupt missions, detractors say. However, there are protocols for evacuating sailors with medical emergencies.
Submarine medics would also need to keep women’s health issues in mind; for example, abdominal pain can be harder to diagnose in women, Elrod said.
"There are definitely some things that would need to be worked out and some instructions would need to be written, medically speaking," she said.
Other than the logistics, the biggest change would have to occur among attitudes. A large group of men in their 20s and 30s, living in very close quarters, tend to produce a lot of off-color humor.
"There’s a sort of fraternity culture on board that would have to evolve, but if destroyers and the space station can be sex-integrated, then so can submarines," Grisham said.
Kuntz, who is submarine qualified, said that successful submariners of any gender tend to be shaped by the existing culture more than they change it themselves.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth Powers, 29, said that even most sailors who think it’s a bad idea wouldn’t have much choice but to do their jobs.
"It would probably work out," Powers said. "I don’t see it being impossible. … People would just get used to it."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Journal 071709_071809

July 17 – These days are all starting to run together. I met with Major Jason Dempsey, S3-Operations, today. He wants me to make threat financing my number one priority with a second goal of going through surveys/polling data. Today, Lora went to Odetah Bingo with Larry and Laura Smith. So glad she has good people to watch over her and hang with while I am away...

July 18 – This morning, I found some financiers in Logar who we may want to speak with. An F-15 crashed , today, neither pilot survived. Mechanical failure they say. War and training for war can get one killed. So can hanging Christmas lights on a ladder. We don’t escape death, but we shouldn’t court it either. Am I courting death by being here? Some would say, “Yes!” I did not think much about dying in making my decision to take this job and come here. Since being here, I am even less concerned: I am right with God and right with those whom I love. I am ready to go if called, but hope to enjoy many more years with those whom I love here on Earth!

Working my way through Genesis still. Reading today about Joseph and his brothers. There is a parallel between Joseph, who was sent by his father to go to his 11 brothers and who was subsequently mistreated and sold, and Jesus and the disciples (Judas Iscariot not included). There was lots of killing going on, even Abraham got his hands bloody when rescuing Lot. Then the story of killing all the newly circumcised men. Jacob/Israel had a rough patch with Laban, his own father-in-law, and were it not for God’s intervention would have probably been killed by Laban. I have heard some preachers talk about Jacob as one of the unlikeliest ancestors of Jesus, yet God used him.

Came down with a scratchy throat – probably just getting the routine illnesses for which I don’t have immunities same as on the boat when we would all go out in a sealed pipe for weeks and catch each other’s colds.

Watched ‘Angels and Demons’ and ‘Righteous Kill’ in the afternoon, early evening. Read some in The Purpose Driven Life. Took a shower – forgot towel, but put on shorts and tee-shirt. Was completely dry when I got back to my B-hut: a tribute to the 115F no humidity weather pattern.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Journal 10-16 July

July 10 – MSgt Gonzalez does not have a place for me, yet. Staying in the 6-man hooch. CPTs Reagan, York and England don’t know what I do nor where I will work. I went to drop off laundry and also ended up getting a massage from Melody, the Filipino masseuse for $20/hour. She’s not nearly as good as Elizabeth White of Newport, RI, but I was very surprised to find an actual massage person. The Filipinos run the barbershop, coffee shop, hair product shop and the massage business(it’s actually a tiny room (about the size of our trailer bedroom with two tables, Afghan rugs on the walls and a thin bed sheet (unstained) acting as a partition between the room and the rest of the shop. Oh, the Filipinos will also do your laundry for $2 a load. They also run the internet servers and probably anything else one might want here on the FOB. There is one Filipino whose gender I am yet to determine – I don’t think I want to know.

July 11 - MSgt Gonzalez does not have a place for me, yet. Staying in the 6-man hooch. CPTs Reagan, York and England don’t know what I do nor where I will work. Spent most of day on internet at MWR and watching The Unit Season 3.

SHANK July 12, 2009

July 12 - MSgt Gonzalez does not have a place for me, yet. Staying in the 6-man hooch. I met with CPTs Reagan, York and England to establish my credentials and asked for a desk – got one. Called Lora and wished her a Happy Anniversary. Went to chapel – sermon was from Hebrews 12 regarding hardships and how God chastens those whom He calls sons and loves. Had lunch with Chaplain Brad West of Fort Drum, originally of Minnesota. His 26 Y/O son and 23 Y/O daughter are having a grandchild within a few months of each other.

SHANK July 12, 2009

July 13 - MSgt Gonzalez does not have a place for me, yet. Staying in the 6-man hooch. CPTs Reagan, York and England don’t know what I do nor where I will work.

July 14 – Moved to my new B-Hut number 27. On the end right by the front gate. 2 huts down from the Filipino Barber/Coffee/Hair product/Wireless Internet server/Massage Shoppe/$2 laundry – wash/dry/fold. Built a wall and door for my 3-walled, 6x6 foot hole. Brought over the high velocity fan and snap-on lamp from MSgt Gonzalez’ hut (they weren’t using it, anyway.) First Sgt Johnson, the FOB Mayor, gave me all the materials and loaned me all the tools I needed to do the job. Afghani screws aren’t very well made, though. They melt during insertion – one must be gentle and slow. There has to be a joke in there somewhere.

Shank July 14, 2009

July 15 – Got tasking from CPT Reagan, acting S2: find out any Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) associated with Unknown Ballistic Eexplosives (UBE) and the chemical makeup, who’s doing mine clearance operations, where is the money coming from?

July 16 – Came down with the Shank runs. OK – it was only once, but a lot of others had the same thing last for 2-3 days. Either I am immune or did not eat as much of the same thing. The food is quite good, but I am restraining myself to non-red meats, fresh veggies and fruits. No desserts, no sodas, no bread or starches: basically no sugar or flour. I am feeling good. Went to Bible Study tonight. We are going through Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” and are on chapter 23, at one chapter a week pace. How We Grow is this week’s discussion. Chaplain Brad West posed the question: What is God’s Will? He quoted Romans 8:28-29 and pointed out that in v. 29, God wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son. Ultimately, that is God’s will for all of us: How He does that is unique to each of us, but we have the promise that He will use all things to work together for good to those who love God. No matter what we decide, He will use the circumstances to make us more like Jesus.

SHANK July 16, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Journal 5-9 July

July 5, 2009

Chapel service. Tom Schwartz and I got up for a later breakfast and walked down to the Enduring Faith Chapel (Operation Enduring Freedom) for the liturgical protestant service (Episcopal) at 0830 hours. I noticed the traditional Protestant service was at 1900 hours and decided I would return for that one as well: I did not. Got caught up with doing some work and talking with Lora on Skype. The service was good: Faith was the topic. God is more interested in the quality of our faith than in the quantity. All we need is a small amount for Him to work with. There are certain religious groups, “Name it, Claim it” who believe that the quality of your life is a direct result of the quantity of your faith, that we can somehow manipulate God to give us more if we only show more faith. Never heard it put quite like that. Attended CIDNE training at 1000. CIDNE is the database of IED activity for Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bagram July 5, 2009

July 6-7, 2009

Work at TF Paladin. Got a desk in the CIDNE shop and use of their unclassified WiFi. Found out I am going to FOB Shank, vice FOB Fenty. Lot more IED activity at Shank. Ray is still going to Fenty and is upset that he won’t have another Leonie employee with him. I think he will eventually end up at Shank with me given the amount of activity, but we shall see.

Bagram July 7, 2009

July 8, 2009

Attended Indoctrination training and heard from several different speakers: Assymetric Wargare Group (AWG), Counter-IED Expolitation Cell (CEXC), Counter-IED Operations and Intelligence Center (COIC), Electronic Warfare office (EWO), Counter-IED Radiofrequency & Electronic Warfare (CREW), Law Enforcement (LEP), Counter-Intelligence/Targeting (CITP)
In other words, a lot of different groups all attacking the IED problem. There are others...

Bought a telephone, today. It’s a Samsung Afghani version. I have to load Afghani credits on it and can then call the States at $0.25/minute. Skype wasn’t cutting it – satellite internet too sporadic.

Bagram July 8, 2009

July 9, 2009

Tom Schwartz was told to go to TF South (Kandahar) yesterday. He arranged a flight with S3 Air (a Navy P-3 pilot). Tom got to the PAX terminal only to discover his plane to Kandahar was inoperable. P-3 pilot then said, “OK, try again tomorrow.” Tom did. Same broke plane. Tom went to the PAX desk and arranged his own flight. When he told me how head-up-butt the S3 Air was, I decided to let me fingers do the walking and called around and was able to arrange a Chinook helo the same day heading to FOB Shank! Packed my bags, got a ride to the rotary wing terminal and caught the Chinook (double rotor helicopter). Oh, the rotary PAX terminal had no idea this bird was coming in, nor any of the other birds headed to Shank that day. I had to watch for the thing to land and TELL THEM it was here! So much for customer service. I tell ya, if you don’t know where you are going in this country AND how to get there, you won’t. The helo ride was quite smooth and uneventful – just the way I like my helo rides. The rear gunner sat off the tail which was lowered. I sat toward the back and got to look out and watch the countryside go by. Very beautiful country. Lots of forested areas, fields of wheat, adobe style housing and fences. Such a mountainous country, though. We were climbing, dipping and swerving over, down and around peaks, some of which were snow-capped. I went from 4000 feet elevation at Bagram to 7000 feet at FOB Shank but have not really noticed a breathing problem – even when on the elliptical machine. Arrived at FOB Shank: home of Task Force Spartan and the 3rd Brigade 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, NY here in Logar Province. Got a ride with Specialist Post on a gator, a 6-wheeled heavy lift golf cart over to the East side HQ where I had to charm my way to a ride in an up-armored HMMVV “across the street” to the West side. Crossing the street is a big deal, apparently, because it’s technically off the FOB even though the Army has guard towers posted that can see all angles – no one would be able to do anything without getting shot. This is a rural setting, too, with no trees in the immediate vicinity. MSgt Gonzalez put me up in his 6-man hooch for the night. He will find me a permanent bed-down tomorrow. Good night.

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.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Let's Begin with Pictures

Since this is my first attempt at blogging, instead of writing a lot, I will post the pictures I have taken so far beginning with CONUS Replacement Center, Fort Benning, GA, home of the Army Rangers. Plus breakfast is about to end and I don't want to miss my oatmeal!

CRC: Fort Benning, GA early June 2009

Bozrah-New London-Boston-London-Dubai-Bagram June 29-July 1, 2009

Bagram July 3, 2009

Many more pictures and writing to follow... I may even throw in a picture of myself , now and then!