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Changing clothes

January 23rd, 2014 No comments

At home most of us get dressed in the morning and that is the end of the worries. Energetic people exercise and then dress for the rest of the day (one change). Some get dressed for work and put on casual clothes when they get home (one change). I am not counting bedtime because I really don’t want to discuss the variety of clothing worn – or not – to bed. If you happened to belong to the upper crust, perhaps there is an additional clothing change prior to drinks and dinner served by your staff.

And then there are the clothing requirements for cruising. On this particular cruise line it seems like I get dressed in the morning, change for social hour/dinner and change once again for the fitness center. This doesn’t include any trips to swimming pool or hot tub and excludes the previously mentioned bedtime discussion.

Perhaps I could take it down to one change if I could exercise in the morning. However, the Legend after the most recent dry dock has decreased the size of the fitness center which is now reachable only but walking through the spa. That particular fact is only of importance because it means that other entrances, popular on other ships for avoiding the posted hours have been eliminated. A smaller fitness center translates to 20 minute turns on the aerobic equipment which for me defeats the purpose. In the evening, however I can grab the only treadmill with a marathon setting and jog to my heart’s content. The only others present are staff; performance staff on their nights off and a few of the junior officers not on duty.

Back to clothing changes and I haven’t even mentioned formal night. So let me add up what is required: casual clothing, exercise clothing, swimsuit(s), smart casual, formal with the potential for four-five changes a day. Unless you are wiling to wear the same outer clothing over and over it means a rather large suitcase. For those of us who happily spent years in uniform not having to worry about fashion, styles or what to wear it is much easier. Figure out mix and match cruise uniform and no need to worry about wearing the same thing multiple times.

But it can be tiring. Too bad I just can’t stay in my civilian PT clothes!

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

TFME

January 15th, 2014 1 comment

stands for Task Force Med Eagle. For those of you who have been on this mailing list since its origins in my 1998 Bosnian deployment, the above abbreviation may make some sense. For everyone else, it sort of goes as follows:

In 1998 when I was the Commander of Würzburg MEDDAC/67th CSH I was tagged to deploy to SFOR as the Medical forces commander in support of Multinational Division North (which was 1 Armor Division at the time). Oh, yes, and take along several hundred of my very best troops while I was at it. We deployed in April 98 and redeployed in Oct of the same year. Since I had been on email for about 12 years at that point, it was the mode I planned on using to stay in touch with scattered friends and family. Using the DSN phone system meant I could call back to Europe, but otherwise cell phones were only slightly smaller than Motorola radios, text messaging effectively didn’t exist and in any case calling was extremely expensive.

Email at that time was much less complex than today. ASCII character programs, the newer ones of which actually had progressed beyond line editing. The government was not so concerned about computer security that the servers could be used to route email through to private systems for distribution. My choices were to use the CHCS mail program which would have involved individual emails to everyone on the list or routing through to min.net in Baltimore which was where I had my private account courtesy of Halla’ connections.

What I was determined to do was stay in touch with people without having to write numerous daily emails and so the original list was born. I don’t honestly remember if I even bothered to give it a name other than to think of it as my distro list. It became both a communication device and my own personal journal.

For whatever reason, the habit sort of stuck and I continued the practice through the subsequent years, sometimes being extremely reliable about updates and other times not writing for weeks. Deploying for OIF in 2003 pretty much reenergized me and the list grew. Technology had progressed and websites were now more than static repositories on information. The military had developed strict guidelines for the use and distribution of information on the internet effectively limiting the use of websites containing anything more substantial than smiling friends waving from un-identifiable and non-security risk locations. For some reason email lists marginally fell through the cracks and I didn’t ask permission.

In Spring of 2007 saw me decide to compile my TFME emails into more coherent document similarly to what I had done with the Kuwaiti daily emails. After tracking almost all of them down and finding that there are very few of us who save every single last email offline that we receive I started the process. Rapidly I discovered that ASCII email is a pain especially written by an exhausted someone who has no spelling skills at the best of times much less more than a marginal connection to grammar. Even eliminating all the headers, I was still left with six monthly documents averaging 15k words each of interesting but rarely structured writing.

The task seemed overwhelming and after adding monthly and daily headers, I put it aside in favor of the by far more interesting job of creating a few websites. Ravelry had just been establishing and chatting about knitting was by far more interesting. I was bored at work, but not so bored as to invest in seemingly endless edits and revisions.

Since then, the world has changed and I have added a few years. This April will mark 16 years of email lists and if I don’t start now, I am not sure it will ever happen. Last fall I loaded the six documents onto my computer and always intended to start editing on sea days. It didn’t happen in 2013, since knitting and chatting along with reading seemed a lot more fun. I finally started on April 98 yesterday. The good thing about imposing order on chaos is that the word count steadily decreases even on a first run through. If any of the about 20 of you remaining from that original list are interested in reading and commenting I will gladly send you each month in both the original and revised format. For that matter, anyone else who wants to make comments would be welcome.

Categories: military Tags:

Veterans’ Day = Remembrance Day

November 11th, 2013 3 comments
Esperance Memorial

Esperance Memorial

I am in Esperance, Western Australia. It is the 11th of November and the year is 2013. It was 95 years ago that the War to end all Wars – the Great War which later was renamed WWI officially ended. The crowd is composed of the old, the tourist, the locals and school children. It is also comprised of a number of veterans.

When they asked for Allied Military Veterans to join the ranks, it would have been impossible to stay in my place in the shade. I wound up standing next to a lovely woman from Queensland. She served 10 years, a cousin was the MC, an uncle was responsible for raising and lowering the flag during the ceremony.

It is a day to pay respect to all those who, inspire of personal cost, served their countries call. It is not a time to debate the rightness or wrongness of the governments decision. It is not a time to lay blame; whether it be to the Kaiser, the Tsar or the Brits (for sacrificing the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli). It is simply a time to respect and pay homage to those that lost their lives or brought back the scars of war to be borne for the rest of life’s span. It is a time to note the sacrifices of all those on home fronts who in many lands were not in harms way, but suffered loss and privation. In other locations, the war was in their skies, their fields, farms or homes.

It is a day on which to think about peace. And the fact that we seem as a specifies constitutionally unable to settle differences without violence.

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

Esperance

November 11th, 2013 No comments

I followed my new Australian acquaintance over to the local museum. Unlike the heavily curated and organized within centimeters of existence -this is an exuberant exhibit of the local settlers. Somewhat organized, the building is chock full of items from the early white settlements on. Ranging from household items to signs, farm machinery, frogs, wildflowers, musical instruments and various collections of medical & dental instruments, there is pretty much something fun for just about everyone in the collection.

There is also an exhibit about the collaboration with SkyLab (yes, that SkyLab).

I spent a happy hour wandering around and taking a few pictures before sitting down to write out the obligate postcards. My collection of magnets seems to be growing as well. Since I can stick them on the wall, I am avoiding thinking about the weight till I have to complete my final packing.

After this current stop at the library, I will still have a couple of hours to explore the shore line and see if any birds, sea lions or whales grace me with their presence.

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

Hawaiian Sunrise

October 3rd, 2013 No comments

First, I want to say thank you for all the birthday well wishes; they were truly appreciated.

We arrived in Honolulu early this morning, island time. Which means between 0700-0800 for the mortals who run ships and think that breakfast at 0800 is a reasonable thing.

So there I was sitting on the balcony before 0600 when the brain cells fired and I figured out that it would be really smart to grab the camera. Be warned, the algorithms produce by far more reds than are seen by the eye.

After heading to the Aloha Tower,

I walked around and looked at a bit of this and that


- The Hawaiian Military Memorial

to the men and women of Hawaii who have served in the military

to the men and women of Hawaii who have served in the military

and the location of the first missionaries (tours are docent lead only)

after that – it is just wander since most of the other places I wanted to see are closed due to our lovely, intractable elected officials who are representing who knows whom.

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

Marseilles

August 12th, 2013 No comments

To many, Marseilles is that French city which is the gateway to Provence; just a stop on the way to more interesting places. Of course there is a somewhat famous cathedral, winding streets, little outdoor cafes and the obligate castle.

To me it is that place in 2011 where we disembarked from the MSC Lirica in a commercial area a complicated and deadlocked highway system from downtown. If it hadn’t been for the Eldest and her hauling out her French, smiling at a taxi driver we might not have made our departure. Note that Maus and College Guy were along, both of whom speak a more than adequate French but didn’t want to play. Mine is fine for reading, but I don’t speak taxi.

It is also home to several colleagues at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, the National Arbovirus Reference Center and the Army Health Service. Marseilles, as I am now reminding you – is a port. France like many of the other European powers was want go to sea, Plundering Africa was fairly high on their list which explains all those French speaking locations that don’t belong to the Belgium King.

So it was interesting to explain to fellow travellers that not only is it the second largest city in France but it remains very immersed in maritime culture.

We docked in the commercial harbor; the old being strictly pleasure craft and the small tour boats. Learning from past experiences, I took the ships water shuttle.

Along both sides of the inner harbor is an interesting mix of eateries, tourist shops, bars, cafes, marine supply & chandlery, sea going agencies, and more than one antique store dedicated to ships artefacts.

Oh yes, museums.

What turned out to be the hardest again was finding stamps, especially since the country in which I live is aka Germany ( soft g) as English has crept in even in this bastion of national superiority and purity.

Pictures soon – they seem to make the phone server nuts.

Categories: Medicine, military, Travel Tags:

Life changes

May 17th, 2013 3 comments

There are times where you can see life, specifically your life, changing around you gradually. Where you have come from is clear and where you are likely going to end up (not discussing choices now, just obvious directions).

And then there are those moments, perhaps but certainly not more than a few hours where everything permanently and radically changes. I went through that 18 years ago and everything has faded to the point where the information sits quietly in the background and only occasionally ambushed me. For others, that point is current and acutely painful causing a reexamination of life, plans and the future.

So it is for a colleague with whom I had lunch on Wednesday. I remember him from 2000 when I was stationed at the SanAk as a cheerful but serious, studious officer committed to both medicine and the military. His off time as a single person was devoted to travel, specifically to Thailand where he continued to work at several clinics which has been established during one of his deployments to the area. The last time he returned, he did so with the unexpected complication of a pulmonary embolus probably secondary to the the long plane flight.

Now as a person who rarely drank, never smoked and always lived his life in moderation, this was a serious change in his life and short term travel limits. Not to be outdone, about six months later within the space of 24 hours a small bit of upper back pain turned out to be a major evolving myocardial infarction. No family history, no nothing and not 60 till his next birthday.

What do you do when you are on your own, your cardiac function is now so low that you are being retired. Your daily regime includes more than 40 pills a day and your doctors have basically suggested that traveling more than an hour from a major medical center would be extremely stupid. Your plans of Thailand as a long term member of the clinic are gone. In fact, trekking and travel are pretty much gone.

My choices were much simpler not being in the “drop dead tomorrow without any notice” category. But given the choices I made 18 years ago, it is obvious that my thoughts tend toward quality over quantity. I am decidedly happy that I have my current health, my husband enjoys his job and my offspring are all busy with their lives.

So I travel, meet people, knit, read and write this blog on those days when I have internet connectivity. Multiple ways, I goes, to leave a little of oneself behind.

Categories: home, military, Travel Tags:

No BBQ

May 15th, 2013 No comments

The middle day of these conferences always seems never ending.  To top it off, the weather is cold and there is supposed to be a BBQ tonight. I am sure that you can just imagine how excited I am. Not.

In fact, it seems pretty much a given that I am skipping most of the social events. Since I am no longer in the situation that attending these kind of things constitutes mandatory fun – I see no reason why I should pay to attend something where there will be little to nothing I am willing to eat. Oh, yes, and beer – not particularly interested in that either.  Originally I was going to go and meet friends for dinner, but that has been postponed which leaves me an evening to myself.

I can’t say that I am disappointed after having spent the day first listening to a succession of gloom and doom scenarios for which various assorted detection, diagnosis, triage and treatment  ideas and protocols were put forward. I will admit to a certain bit of cynicism after working in the field for so many decades. Plus, I find a basic fallacy in everything that is proposed.

Please tell me how many of the terrorist attacks (Afghanistan, Boston, Twin Towers, you name it) have been single point events and how many have involved more than one nasty item.

Exactly. Unlike the bio-defense people who know that the most likely thing to happen is going to be more than point source, not instantly detected and a rapidly spreading problem – these lovely people are still happily in the “one oops” one time pinpoint release/explosion/meltdown/whatever mindset. I suspect that there is most likely much more intelligent planning going on somewhere behind classified doors to which, thank goodness, I am no longer privy.

So – with an evening to knit (grin)

the hat needed a matching scarf

the hat needed a matching scarf

Categories: Knitting, Medicine, military Tags:

Building 06

May 14th, 2013 No comments

For those of you not familiar with the military tendency to number buildings in large numerals rather than give them names, let me introduce you to the phenomenon.

Military installations may vary in size and complexity. The naming convention for a particular post may involve heroes, places, battles, famous people, depending on taste, time and tradition. But if you need to give someone directions or turn in a work order, using a name may just make it more difficult. If you number the buildings then there is absolutely no question of which building is under discussion. Numbers don’t change and each one is unique.

Further, on larger installations numbers run in sequences and batches. If you are standing in front of building 100 for example, the buildings in near proximity are going to have numbers higher or lower in the same sequence. This is not your usual street in Germany where on one side you have buildings 11, 13, 15 and 17 directly across the street from number 168. Instead, you can be fairly safely assured that Building 5 is going to be located between Buildings 4 & 6. If a building is big enough to have multiple entrances, it is common practice to name them …. A, B, C …..

Anyway, when I come to these conferences I always ask for billeting on the Casern. When I was active duty, it was just easier since force protection rules said no uniforms off post. And, since some of the times I came it was in permissive status, it was just easier not to have bills to pay. That is right, the German military doesn’t charge for barracks use for conferences. Now, since this is entirely out of my own pocket, I am more than happy to not have any more expenses than my train fare and a few Euros for meals in the mess hall.

Building 4 has rooms with private showers. Buildings 5 & 6 are your typical single room with sink. Showers and toilets are down the hall. These are not open (like field latrines and showers) so I am more than a happy camper. I’m not in a tent – what’s not to like? Free room, cheap board, 18 CME credits and getting to see old friends and colleagues. So staying in building 6 works for me. Especially since I even have a room on the ground floor!

Categories: military Tags:

A not so ancient pilgrim

May 8th, 2013 No comments

One of the lovely things about aging (and not so gracefully many a day) is that you get to both keep friends around for decades as well as make new ones as you travel.

One of those of long acquaintance  I was able to bail out of the train station yesterday and bring home looking a bit like a sheep dog for shaggy white hair and beard. One picture is here but that does not truly reflect the hair, beard and eyebrows which are rapidly growing out of control reminiscent of  weeds thriving after a good rainfall.

Getting to retire from the military can do strange things to your appearance and wardrobe. Perhaps it is more noticeable in the men since women have long been able to change clothes, change hairdos and disappear without a ripple into the civilian stream of travelers.

After an evening of chat last night, today we set out to run errands. A trip to Nachrichten Kasern was bittersweet – almost all of the clinics which had been consolidated a few months ago are now closed. I am able to pick up my trifocals and visit with one of the few remaining docs. Brad and I stop by the lab, but anyone he might have known from his years here in the early 1990s as the pathologist have long since returned to the states or found employment elsewhere prior to the closure.

Is it worth mentioning that once again I forgot the post office on PHV doesn’t open till 1100?

Otherwise we headed downtown, dropped off books at Neugasse Bookshelf, bought Gummis for Maus and the College Guy, stopped through Wolfskin, had lunch at Red, and wandered back home through the Weststadt. His feet held out so he can visit friends Friday and head back to the US without me turning him into a cripple.

Even with white hair anyone who is younger than me simply is not old!

Categories: home, military Tags:

Out two years

May 1st, 2013 1 comment

It went by without me even thinking of it.

Today marked two years out of the Army. It shows to go you that I was totally and completely done. So done that I don’t really see why it people need to know what I did for a living for over 30 years. Worked for the federal government which is what took us overseas. But not saying I am a physician avoids most of the really stupid questions, concerns and long, drawn out quasi medical resuscitations. It is not that I don’t care (really, I mostly like people) but many find it hard to believe that I have no interest in knowing their complete medical history much less offer an opinion on medications, treatments and some distant relative.

Where was I? Oh yes, being out of uniform. I think that there are those who cling to the military – examples are when someone asks “who here is in the military” and you get not just the active duty but the retirees standing. I was in the military. I am not inthe military. There are those who also parlay their old job into something new for a beltway bandit or other contractor organization. Maybe it is the age most retire, or perhaps it is men with families they need to support. But me? I cut the strings. It helps that I happened to be married to this really cool guy capable of supporting himself (and paying college tuition….)

I also really, really hate the “thank you for your service.”

Why? It was my job, my life, my choice. I want to ask these same people if they are routinely thanking their local fire and police personnel (why not?) or why they didn’t serve….. It is like they have said something, and it somehow absolves them of any and all personal responsibility.

Off the soap box and back to life.

And I don’t think that I am anymore likely to remember next year, but perhaps I should celebrate?

Categories: military Tags:

one clock for another

March 9th, 2013 1 comment

Where two years ago my life was regulated by staff meetings, videot-eleconferences and the meal times of what ever DFAC I was able to tolerate at the moment, today my life is bounded by docking and on board times. Yes the concern of matching meal times is there, but faintly on the horizon since it is possible to get food 24/7 on a ship.

It is still under two years ago since I redeployed from Afghanistan via the Air Force in one of their few charitable acts (not being known for their willingness to make life easier for non-MEDVAC patients but having enough sense to fill extra seats since it really didn’t cost them any extra effort). 

I turned in ACUs – in fact I have gotten rid of essentially any and all clothing that even remotely resembled my uniforms in favor of the uniform of a civilian. There are few mementos in our house. Those that up on the kitchen wall I am planning on replacing with photos and art from travels.

My uniform now is Jack Wolfskin casual made up of t-shirts, long & short sleeve shirts along with pants in varying shades of grey and black with the occasional bite of red thrown in for luck. For dress up, there is a skirt/top in mostly black with a couple of color accents. I have jogging gear where the only color really comes from rainbow shoes just for cheeriness.

I now have an iPhone which I keep on airplane mode most of the time just to avoid roaming charges but it seems tho that I still bound my life with schedules. I still know where I am going to be for almost every day between now and next year at this time. The difference is that I am making the choice and am not at the whim of some faceless bureaucracy in DC or some commander who is more concerned about their own evaluation than they are about those who work for them.

Perhaps in a couple of years this phase of my life may be over as well, but there are so many places to go and ports to see ….. in my personally chosen choice of clothes…

Categories: family, military Tags:

People Watching

February 16th, 2013 11 comments

or perhaps I should title this one “business attire.”

I think you all know that I am in my early (!) sixties which means that my opinions of what is proper to wear for different occasions are informed from growing up the fifties augmented by being at University in the 1960s. You also have heard my rants about inappropriate dress in the main dining room on cruise ships.

I can remember professional medical meetings from the mid-1970s. Everyone was in business attire and by that I specifically mean sports jackets/suits on the men and blazers with skirts or pants (or dresses) on the women.

This experience was followed by years of attending various assorted conferences and meetings either sponsored by or paid for by mililtary services of one country or another. Again, a uniform or dress code was the standard of the day. To a certain extent you and your professionalism was judged on the way you presented yourself.

I don’t know when fashion changed. I can actually understand not seeing many people dressed up at a travel medicine meeting. One of the things that unifies those who are travel med is their personal adiction to travel and dress seems to reflect travel and recreational modes. You will see plenty of hiking trousers and fleece.

At regular medical meetings I guess I expected a bit more. Causal and slovenliness is not uniform across the board. Those from various Asian nations are uniformly well and conservatively dressed. Almost all those non-caucasians representing various African locations are also in jackets and ties. Those over 60 and most over 50 are dressed conservatively which just leaves especially those under 40 from Western Europe and North America.

Jeans, t-shirts and the occasional sweatshirt seem to be the standard. Sandals and falling apart chucks on the feet. Now it is one thing if you are sitting in the audience for the main meeting but if you are one of the presentors?

Is it me? Am I reflecting old trends which say appearances count? Does how you dress impact your audience; show respect? Or are those totally irrelevant concepts to today’s young professionals. And I do emphasize professionals. The minimal educational level in this group seems to be a master’s dregree with a huge number having a doctrate level degree in one field or another (medicince, public health, stats, epi, lab sciences, modeling, vet).

Ah well. I will continue to wear a blazer and look how I think an adult should appear. Of course, I suppose that some might object to my knitting……

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

What San Juan needs

December 13th, 2012 2 comments

is a Pied Piper. Not for rats, but for cats.

Now, for those of you who are great supporters of PETA, the SPCA and other animal rights organizations – stop reading right here. You are not going to be happy with the rest of the post.

This is Puerto Rico. There are still crippled beggars and children in poverty. For whatever reason, there is a large group which has devoted itself to the care and feeding of a huge population of feral cats. These cats are plump and lazing all along the coastal walk to El Morro. In the short distance I covered I counted more than 50. Happen to over hear a woman excitedly talking about the group which was feeding, sheltering and attempting to “fix” the strays.

I looked back at the cats. All the females I saw were either pregnant or nursing.

Population control? I don’t think so. It took me back to the rather nasty discussion we had in Kabul between the bleeding heart liberals of ISAF who wanted to run a similar program for the feral dogs. On the other side were those of us who looked at 100,000 dogs knowing there was no way to keep up with flood; and those ER docs who were dealing with the aftermath of the daily maulings provided by those self same dogs to children scrounging in garbage cans for a chance to fill their bellies.

Sorry, but I firmly believe that the needs of children come before those of animals. If someone wants to adopt – take an animal home and be responsible – fine. But pouring money into feral animals when children are at risk? I don’t think so.

So here I am in San Juan. There are no guns, IEDs or terrorists lurking around every corner. Instead there are overfed tourists coming off the cruise ships and acting like taking care of all these cats so that they can continue to reproduce is a good thing.

Feeding the cats is wrong. Good nutrition leads to more breeding, larger litters and better survival of the kits. It doesn’t lead to rat, mouse or other rodent control. It doesn’t do anything for the ragged sleeping on park benches or hidden in back door ways.

So here I sit in a quandary. I don’t get a vote here. But I think of Germany and all the no kill shelters. Who are we kidding? Does it make all of us feel better to know that a sick, mean, or unwanted animal will spend the rest of its life in a cage, pen, kennel rather than be put down?

Meanwhile, we have to deal with the aftermath of war. Injured and ill people are much harder. We don’t care to look at either population. So instead we have well fed cats.

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

Military Museum of the Azores

September 28th, 2012 Comments off

The last time I was here (May 2012) I didn’t walk all the way to the left down the harbor. I saw that there was some kind of military structure but didn’t think a thing of it.

Today I made the hike and discovered the Museu Militar dos Acores. For a whopping 3E entry fee I spent time happily wandering around. The following are random photos taken inside. Again, as always – double clicking a few times will enlarge.

As you can tell – the various toys date from the first world war on up. We will not mention time spent in Angola or Mozambique, nor comment on handwriting in the 1500s. All of the items are tucked into various internal rooms in the fort.

All work is being done by active duty, trucking around with mops and buckets. Somethings just don’t change.

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

Halifax

September 11th, 2012 2 comments
The line had formed to exit the ship and the crowd was getting restless.
The Captain came on the overhead to ask for a minute of silence., which he got. From the crew, staff and passengers.
I don’t think it takes six degrees of separation to connect with someone who was directly affected by the Twin Towers Bombing; the Pentagon explosino or the airliner forced down in Pennsylvania by the passengers. Not when the losses were so severe; brothers, sisters, parents, children. People doing their jobs and risking their lives for others or simply taking a tour in New York. Friends at a staff meeting in the Pentagon, clearly cheerful to be in the new section after putting up with horrible accommodations for months. Colleagues at the Pentagon Health Clinic trying desperately to help get people out, triage and keep alive as many as they could.
I refer you once again to Exhibit 13 which has been completely moved over to YouTube here although it is hard to tell anymore which is the official version.
I am off the ship in Halifax and taking a bus tour around the city. Somehow, stopping at the Maritime Museum to see the exhibits sounds like the right thing to do.
Categories: military, Travel Tags:

Alaska Veterans

August 1st, 2012 Comments off

Also in Anchorage is the Alaska Veterans Museum. Almost completely voluter staffed, there are a lot of former and retired military in the area (two army bases, two air force bases, an air station and …..) Anyway -there are a few well done and clear exhibits. Most importantly, they have an extensive oral history archive.

The Alaska Territorial Guard was heavily involved since the establishment (purchase) of Alaska.

It doesn’t hurt to remember that recycling is not a new concept – more than one woman was married in a dress made from used parachutes (complete with bullet holes) or used the material to fashion nightclothes. That the Japanese actually landed in the Aleutians during WWII and occupied them for several weeks killing families including babies) in the process).

And that we still have military members whose fate is unknown.

 

 

Categories: military, Travel Tags:

It was hot

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

as Bruce reminded me last month when I mentioned the temperatures in Phoenix. He remembers me welcoming him to Kuwait at 0200 on 21 July 04 with a temp of 112F.

That was eight years ago as the world turns, the calendar leaves fly away and I spin further out of control. I was near the end of a very long 15 months in the desert away from family.

To say that I was glad to see him and start my departure countdown would have been an understatement.

In true ARCENT-KU fashion, I had recruited my successor. Few, if any of us were willing to leave our escape in the hands of the slugs at PERSCOM (or HRC or whatever fancy title they were using that month). It was obvious that we were moving into a long term basing stance in Kuwait. It was equally obvious that no one in their right mind would want to live on Arifjan.

But if you are command sponsored (and not too many of those positions around) you get to live off post. My good buddy Bruce, by dint of having been insane enough to work in Saudi and enough fortitude for him and his family to survive the ordeal with sense of humor intact seemed the perfect candidate. We managed to get it organized, get the orders cut and have him on the ground before the Command realized what was happening.

Never mind that I never would have stuck a good friend with the command structure that feel into place after my iteration.

I escaped, he and his wife Better survived two years (plus or minus a few days) and we have since moved on with our lives.

Last year I went in and out of Kuwait a couple of times while deployed to Afghanistan. Neither the heat nor the sand had changed a bit.

Categories: deployment, military Tags:

If you want to survive in

June 6th, 2012 Comments off

the Phoenix area heat – you have to have access to one of these

cool, clear, water

As I stood there looking at it, my mind went back to the Blue Factory in Bosnia and the kiddie wading pools three of the docs had set up in their billeting area. What should have been an easy discussion turned into a major goat rope between the docs on one side and the Command Sargent Major on the other. His issue was not the pools, it was the swimming suits and setting standards. Who knew it was such a complicated issue – making sure that suits met some kind of consistency.

Me? I was just happy to settle for suits since the Norwegian women were routinely sunbathing on the roofs of their containers and providing a major distraction to my helicopter pilots.

Categories: deployment, military, Travel Tags:

No Lights

January 19th, 2012 5 comments

it is dark along the A6 as I head for home. The rain helps obscure the road leaving me little doubt that the speed limit in round red lights overhead of 130 is a bit excessive. Neither the trucks nor I are going anywhere near that fast as we head in the direction of Mannheim hoping for as little problem on the journey as possible.

Certainly we don’t want the current issue of the A66 near Wiesbaden where someone is driving down the wrong side of the road. But I can see how it could happen, in the dark where there is no traffic and the road is pitch black. There are certainly no lights along the autobahn to give you an idea of direction. Nothing. Not like in Belgium or the Netherlands where the gleam of yellow energy saving lights reflect like cat’s eyes from over the road. Nor is there the orangish glare common to some of the other major roads elsewhere on the continent.

No, Germany can remain proud of its decision to not waste energy on lighting major roads which normally do not have speed limits. Those same roads, when it is dark and the fog swirls up from the fields covering the roads and obscuring that place, just a soccer field ahead of you where there was (wasn’t there?) a rather large tanker just a minute ago.

The drive was long, dark and I arrived home exhausted from a day of teaching ATLS in Landstuhl.

I have a full tank of gas and a promise that I don’t need to be there before 0900 in the morning which is good because I am more than brain fried having left home at 0530 this morning.

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Veterans Day at Sea

November 11th, 2011 4 comments

at 11:11 this morning the ships Captain called for a minute of silence and reflection. Silence descended. All around me there were young people with curious expressions on their faces just standing there while grey haired heads all around me were bowed in remembrance. Most than one button hole was sporting a poppy purchased from young soldiers yesterday in Bridgetown.

It was a long time ago that war that was not the Great War, for no war is great. It was also not the War to end all Wars. Those of us with age and experience can think of all those lost to battle, wounds and illness.

I am grateful to be a Veteran no longer on active service. Military service is best performed by those young and fit.

May we as elders have sense, compassion and a commitment that does not allow us to squander young lives for foolish reasons and pride.

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High Heels

October 28th, 2011 Comments off

You would think that a group of professionals in town for a Biodefense conference could be courteous. Those with money are staying at various hotels. The rest of us, mostly old timers with a good leavening of various militaries have been provided rooms in Buildings 04 and 05. As one of the directors remarked “the billing is your standard military one star accommodations.”

I think the price is excellent, especially since I am on the self pay plan. That is really not the reason that I skipped the outing to the Hoffbrauhaus. I just don’t care for a dinner with 300+ others in a large cavernous room where the highlights are beer, meat and Blass musik.

This is a barracks. Linoleum floors, echoing halls, stairwells with doors which are always open. You can easily hear voices, every door that shuts or slams and shoes as people walk down the long halls.

All of this is background to the fact that there are women (since we are not in cowboy country most men just don’t have those kind of shoes) clicking and clacking up and down the halls in high heels. It is driving me nuts.

To make it worse, most of the offenders seem to be from the former Eastern Block countries. It reminds me of the women in fatigues with teased hair, lots of make-up and high heels in the Russian camps in Bosnia. I think things have changed from those days, but sometimes I am not sure.

Technology challenges -Oh – and if you want your phone to ring – it really helps to turn the ringer on.

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The Ticking Clock

October 27th, 2011 Comments off

27 Oct 2011 – The TIcking Clock

How many lectures have you attended where the speaker is totally oblivious to his/her allotted time resulting in a complete disruption of the schedule and cramped up the speakers to follow? citing time than I want to admit I have fantasised about different ways of evicting the discourteous person who is droning on and on. Perhaps a hook from the side? Noose from above? Water cannon? Occasional the speaker can be good or even great and entertaining. Even so, to blatantly ignore the time limits just drives me nuts.

Part of the blame must be placed squarely on the shoulders of the panel moderators who have a greater responsibility to the conference than just introducing the speakers and calling for questions at the end of the session. The good moderators insure that their panel runs smoothly and politely but firmly cut off those with verbal diarrhoea and an inability to tell time.

This year’s meeting added a nice tool; a countdown time ticking away in the lower right hand corner of the projected slides. Green turns to yellow at one minute remaining and at the end of the time the counter starts increasing in large flashing red numbers. Most speakers this year stayed within their limit. Even so, there were those who just didn’t get it. Coupled with most of the moderators who failed to do their jobs, I wasn’t able to avoid the aggravation completely.

Now, if we can just get an interlock so that anyone who goes more than 5 minutes over has his slides disappear to be replaces with large flashing letters saying “time up” I think the problem would be solved. Doubt that more than one speaker would need to be embarrassed to make the point.

Test Knitting

Success! I finished the third repeat in the morning and the fourth over lunch time cutting my time from an hour per repeat to 30 minutes. Sitting down at 1800, i managed the last four repeats then figured out how to close up the cuff (hint – just grafting doesn’t work neither does binding off) and need to remind the designer to put proper instructions in her pattern (first row and last row don’t have the same stitch count which means ….).

After that, you should not be surprised when brain death hit. I happily wound the second ball of Cherry Tree Hill for the Taj Mahal before remembering that I need a centre pull ball in order to knit both halves at the same time.

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Trying Space-A

September 15th, 2011 4 comments

I always meant to travel via Space-A when I was on active duty, but something always seemed to get in the way. Either there was not enough time, I had deadlines to meet, or there was something going on with the family. I always seemed to need the comfort of fixed travel plans and had the money to buy plane tickets.

I am now retired. I might just have the time at least until I actively start consulting. I am driving the two college age kids doing their on-line classes nuts with my demands. One seems to be with the program and the other is still fighting me every step of the way.

I have been home for three weeks and my feet are getting restless.

Originally, there was a conference in the US this week that George had mentioned, invited me along even. Then his travel schedule became way too complicated and I sort of fell off the invite roles. So there I was sitting, having planned on being in the US this weekend and maybe visiting friends next week and thought of Space-A.

Courtesy of Ms Soprano, I looked at Ramstein PAX terminal Space-A listing on Facebook. Each day they list how many stateside flights there were, how many Space-A seats, how many filled and lowest Category of travel. This week there have been empty seats on every flight with people leaving the same day they sign up.

Why not? I can afford a few days and signed up to head to the East Coast – perhaps DC area or NJ as I know people in both places. Kathy kindly agreed to let me camp out at her flat tonight so that I might be able to meet an early morning time if needed.

I will let you know how it goes. For $29.95 if I wind up on the contract flight, it seems like a pretty good deal.

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Berlin Wall

August 13th, 2011 4 comments

It was in 1961 starting this week that the East German government suddenly, although not without warning, divided the city of Berlin effectively walling off the West German portion that belonged to the Four Powers.

As per usual – Wikipedia has a good summary here. ZDF’s program placed the known death count from attempted escapes at 119 but acknowledged that there was not a completely accurate count. A far cry from the 3.5M+ that had bailed from East to West in the preceding decades.

I remember visiting both West and East Berlin in the early 1980s; the stark difference in the look and feel of the two societies. Unlike most Americans, I was not there to buy feather beds. Rather, George and I bought kids books by the dozens from presses which are no longer in existence. The rules for US military were strict – we could only go across at Checkpoint Charlie. I had to be in uniform, but rank, insignia and name had to be removed. Money changing was strictly regulated although I knew people who went around the currency regulations all the time.

After 1983, it was six years till I again traveled to Berlin. By duty train – an experience that ended with the end of the Cold War – a four-six hour journey could take 12 hours or more.

I have several pieces of the wall in my cupboard; small, simple looking bits of cement and stones. They don’t seem like much of anything, collected in a basket on my last trip, a friend and I walking along one of the crumbling areas and gathering up hand size and smaller pieces for everyone we knew wanted them.

They are still there, in a container waiting for me. A relic of the history I experienced first hand watching people stream into West Berlin in Nov 1989. I should mount them/shadow box them/secure them in some way before they are inadvertently tossed by a well meaning person helping in clean-up who might not recognize my memories in the plain, unpainted shards.

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SanAk

May 17th, 2011 3 comments

The first time I attended a course/conference at teh SanAk was 1989. It was part of the planning process for Op Lindwürm and Ms Soprano was an infant. I made myself very unpopular by having both her and a sitter in town. I think thez had a better time than I, being able to truck around München while I spent hours shut in the auditorium with drapes pulled and slide after slide flashing on the screen while I valiently tried to keep my eyes at more than half mast.

Fast forward to 1999 (ignoring a few meeting in the interveening years), when I found myself uncerimoniously dumped at the SanAk for two years. Ostensibly serving as a liaison officer; it was not a good time. Looking back at my email list from those years it is pretty obvious that I was not a happy camper. Other than increasing both book and yarn stash, I didn’t see much positive about the experience.

I was working with some great individuals in Occ Med, Microbiology, Rad Health, Public Health and Toxicology. Those relationships have lasted through to the present, so it was not all bad. And no where near as bad at the time as I led myself to believe. In a pattern that was going to become very familiar in upcoming years – support and direction from the US side of the equation was essentially non-existent.

The family loved München while, as I have stated, my attitude was less than positive. Perhaps it was because I did not have the German to do the job properly. OTOH, I made no effort to increase my speaking or writing abilities which, in retrospect was extremely dumb since there were a number of courses in which I could have easily participated.

My connections to the specialty institutes have survived and strengthened over the years. I am still attending the major conferences which have provided reunions, conversations, CME, education and contacts over the years. I have stayed in communication with various of the PM and OM docs which lead to exercise participation and emergency response planning cooperation. It meant knowing people on deployments, at committee meetings and working groups. Hosting folks and dinner invitations have rounded out portions of my life.

So here I am, retired. Sitting in the same lecture hall as 22 years ago listening to opening remarks made by a colleague who retired from the Bundeswehr last year (never mind he is still surving as chair of the German equivalent of AMSUS).

We are all getting older. The former head of the Rad Institute died last month. Two of my other good colleagues from here have retired with in the last year. The presenting researchers are looking younger and younger while the problems we are discussing might have been “reformatted” but are still essentially the same.

Perhaps there is a message in that? Me? I am going to spend the evening knitting. I can see progress after playing with yarn and needles.

München, Germany

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Hair and military

May 16th, 2011 11 comments

Traveling by train, I once more had my interest snagged by the issues of hair cuts.

Or maybe it was arriving at Ernst-von Bergman Kaserne and seeing the difference between US and Bundeswehr uniform hair regulations. The rules for head hair on male soldiers are esssentially the same. Facial hair does differ (Bundeswehr allows beards where the US obviously does not – except for certain people in the Navy and we simply are not going there.) Women’s hair is where you see country politics at their absolute best. Neat and well kept is the order of the day. The more senior women have either short hair, or when hair is long, it is pinned up neatly. Not so much with the younger women who sport various versions of pony tails; flowing freely even in field uniforms. And that is where I am so startled.

It didn’t take me overly long to learn that wearing my hair loose (or in pig tails that trailed down to my waist) was not going to pass muster in the US military of the 1970s. Especially near the end of the WAC era when many of the NCOs felt that their contribution to the Army was being seriously questioned or downgraded.

As it turned out, the new, all voluntary, US military would not have survived had it not been for the thousands of young women who flocked into its ranks. Finding in the military, like nowhere else in the US at that time, jobs where equal pay for equal work was a reality. Where base pay did not depend on being male or having a family. (leaving aside for the moment the challenges of getting interesting jobs and promotions). A PFC was a PFC. One with 2 years in rank got paid the same regardless of gender.

I got üast my initial embarrassment of not understanding the uniform regulations, learning to pin up my hair in uniform and some how the years have rolled by.

Now it is 2011 and I am just about over the culture shock after being out of theater for a couple of months of seeing men in uniform with a serious amount of hair on their heads. My mind does not automatically think – oh, there goes another 90 day reserve/national guard doc who is blowing off the hair regulations. I am no longer living in an environment where the impetus for close cropped hair or shaved heads has to do with limited water and a dislike for spending time in group showers and not with personal long term preferences.

I am home. I don’t have to put on a uniform any more. No one cares whether my hair is up or down, what color it is or how long. Must be why I still wear it pulled back, altho in a long tail or braid rather than giving me a head ache pinned to my head. It also just might be why I whacked off 40 cm this morning prior to going out the door to München. Not catching my braid all the time is a good thing.

-Holly
München, Germany

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Stick a fork in me – I am done.

April 29th, 2011 28 comments

After spending the morning at Landstuhl attending some orientations lectures and filling out a ton of paperwork, I made it back to Heidelberg by 1230.

Do you have any idea of how annoying it is to have every single gate guard remind you that your ID Card expires in the next couple of days? I know that they are trying to be helpful, but the third time in a day going through a gate gets to be really, really annoying.

At 1300 the lovely guy who runs the Heidelberg transition center opened up his door. He had all the information he needed and in the next 30 minutes managed to cut my retirement and transition orders (only one error – and that was entered at DA which he can’t fix). Complete all the forms related to actually doing the retirement, issue the DD214 and otherwise manage everything.

After that – it was a matter of getting though finance without part of the needed paperwork (would you believe that the Embassy in London is not functioning today?) and getting and signing more copies of everything. By 1500 I had finally reached the rest of the crew who came over to get ID cards updated.

I am now the proud owner of a blue ID card, have sent Ms Soprano her paperwork in the mail so she can do the update this coming week and have changed out of my uniform for the very last time. I joined the reserves in Jan, 1978. My last day on the payroll will be tomorrow – 30 April 2011. It has been a long and unintended 33 years. Just going assignment to assignment had the years piling up. I don’t have words or wisdom or a great farewell speech. Not even had this whole process gone smoothly would I be writing a long essay. I would hope that I have made a positive difference over the years.

In any case I think I am going to lie down in the hammock for a while. I think I have earned it. Of course, since it has rained – the hammock is soaked. Next bright idea?

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Eleventh Hour

April 28th, 2011 13 comments

It is 1800 European time. I don’t have orders. In a little over 48 hours – I will be retired from the Army. I don’t have the paperwork back for housing allowance stop (you don’t want the housing tale – trust me). I have a DD214 that is incorrect and a rising feeling of anxiety.

I never thought it would be harder to get free from the Army than it was to get in! Tomorrow will be pretty busy. I have a briefing at Landstuhl in the morning which leaves me the afternoon to deal with finance and personnel (which includes getting new ID cards for the crew).

Did I mention that I don’t have orders?

Given that I am assigned to the Pentagon with duty in the UK and attached to USAREUR for admin support, obviously the situation is complicated. Further, I am a great believer in Murphy (aka the domino theory of events).

Something goes wrong. This leaves you outside the normal ways, means and procedures; a very bad idea when your organization numbers somewhere over half a million). Being outside of the usual limits means that you are exposed and ripe for getting knocked further off kilter. Being in a remote location is never a good idea – leaving it up to an organization in DC to support you is asking for trouble.

Shall we now add in a deployment? I started corresponding with the DC crew when it got to be mid-Feb and I had no orders. Funny thing – I had orders just a couple days later – and they were wrong. After a couple of corrections – they were still wrong.

And then the fun began. It took a full three weeks back in country before I finally got all the paperwork for the European out pushed through the system. Once I had those – my orders were really, really wrong (not just incorrect). Since the end of last week – emails have gone unanswered in DC. Since that particular office never put a phone number in signature blocks – I managed to hunt up a couple of numbers which were never answered.

Today – panic mode was setting in. You can’t get to the on-line phone books anymore unless you are on a government system computer. I am not local, I don’t have a government computer. I don’t have a local account – all I have is AKO, which wasn’t letting me do much in the way of look-ups. Bless the IMD folks at HMEDDAC – they let me on one of their open user computers and I started to work my way through the system. As it turns out – looking up Ft Myer, going to the installation page, then looking at services got me introductory phone numbers.

Early this afternoon – I actually got through on the phone. She even answered! Says she never got any emails from me or the other people here in the last week (hello – one I can understand, but all of them?) and promptly said she had been waiting for the go ahead to rescind the orders she had cut so that they could reissue them in Germany. That was exactly what I had requested in those emails which she didn’t get/read.

Then I received an email from her (a direct reply to an email from me in which I provided her one of the many emails she had not received) asking if I had received the revoke.

No – and I checked all my accounts. I emailed back – and heard nothing so I called again.

Computers are not responsible for making errors. It is people who make major mistakes, computers and Outlook just make it easier and faster to make truly bad mistakes. Outlook, for example, will keep a “frequently used addresses” list for you. When you start to type in a name, it will give you an address. If your habit pattern is to continually write new emails and add people to the CC: line rather than hitting , you will wind up with addresses from your personal address book – and not necessarily the address from which the person just wrote.

See where I am going? I had been writing from AKO. She had been responding using her address book which contained my Afghanistan address. @swa.afghanistan alphabetizes before @us.army and I never got any emails from her. No replies – nada.

As of 1500 – I received the revocation. Now it is going to be a challenge for the Heidelberg Transition Center, at the eleventh hour, to cut orders. Cross your fingers everyone.

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attempting to retire – part whatever

April 21st, 2011 9 comments

And it is round whatever in my “attempt to retire” challenge.

As it turns out – MDW (aka Military District of Washington) no matter how nice people they are, apparently can’t get my retirement orders correct. Especially they don’t seem to be able to rescind the transition orders which they cut the end of Feb and have redone four times now (and are still not correct). That is, not with revoking the retirement orders right along with them. According to the Heidelberg Transition Office (who do overseas retirements on a more than regular basis) the format of the orders and all the codes (which in term provide transportation entitlements) are not correct.

Not surprisingly – they used the CONUS format and authorized me for a CONUS to CONUS move. Said move has to be completed with in a reasonable amount of time. Catch, of course, is that I am OCONUS and am looking for a OCONUS to CONUS move with the ability to get extensions on the privilege.

The very nice manager of the retirement program here finally understood why I have been so frustrated. In fact, he told the stateside people to just revoke the whole mess, email all the pertinent information and Heidelberg will cut the whole orders in the right format with the right information.

And we have between now and next Thursday afternoon to make this happen……

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storm is coming

April 8th, 2011 13 comments

If you are not in the US, the whole social machinations for money debate which is holding up the US government process has got to seem pretty stupid. If you are in the US, you lives aren’t going to change much on a daily basis. Whether or not you tolerate the Tea Party, support it, or want to drop the rock right back on their thick heads – the implications for US personnel overseas are significant.

Personally, I don’t like being held hostage to some right wing agenda. I make a very good living as does my husband. And we should have our tax rate drop from 35% to 25% because? Why? So that some one on the poverty line can drop below as they pick up a larger share of the burden? So that we cut health services to the impoverished – driving even more into the ERs where care is even more expensive than the basic pre-natal care, childhood immunizations?

To top it off today – it was a USAREUR training holiday. Means that active duty were off work while civilians worried about having a paycheck. About making their own rent, feeding their families. Fretting that they could not get to the commissary today. Which might be shut tomorrow, leaving them without bread, milk and TP.

Never mind you might be able to buy many things cheaper in Germany than in the PX, it is the principle of anxiety foisted off by those who “are holding the troops hostage.”

Last time I looked – that was one of the definitions of terrorists.

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