30. April 2009 · Comments Off on Oh No! I Forgot! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

I forgot to thank Megan Henderson and her family in my previous posting for the care package she had sent!  I’m so sorry!

Megan was my roommate in college my last two years and she’s a pretty awesome lady!  She sent a box of books and magazines…thanks!

And for fun, here’s a picture of the two of us showing off our babies in their baby wraps!  This is from summer 2003, Jacob was 9 months old, Megan’s son Aidan was 6 months.

From 2003 06 25 Trip to New Hampshire 25-28 June 2003
23. April 2009 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been mulling this one for a while…

I’ve been home about 11 days now.  For the most part, things have been fine.  I’ve gotten back into the routine…somewhat.  I have to admit, having the new Macbook has been more of a distractor than anything else in terms of keeping to the housework, the kids and a couple of loose ends related to my deployment.

I figured I’d write about some various things on my mind these past couple weeks.  Not everyone who I mention necessarily reads this blog, but perhaps one day if someone Googles a person’s name, this post will come up.

First off, I owe a thank you to all of the folks who helped me prepare for this deployment.  This is a varied listing, from MSgts Lehman and Beaupre, who made phone calls and arranged for a lot of my training to be done from Offutt, to MSgt Curtis at Air Force Weather Agency, who made my local arrangements for weapons, chemical/biological warfare training, and answered my questions about medical outprocessing.  These senior non-commissioned officers made magic happen so that I could leave for the deployment from home instead of from South Carolina.  They even arranged it so I could get some drill pay to compensate me for the time spent just doing online training — about 40 hours worth!  I also need to thank the Veeneman and Anderson families, who provided hours of Timmy babysitting when there wasn’t space in the Offutt Child Development Center.

Thanks to everyone who sent me e-mails and care packages while I was gone.  This includes the Goldman, Warlick, Buckler, Vollmer (both the Nebraska and New York Vollmers), Fox, and Gifford families.  You listened to my requests for St. Patrick’s Day goodies, 100-Calorie Chessmen, toilet paper,  and single-serve sugar-free drink mix packets.

Thanks also to those who made my deployment experience outstanding while on shift…this could never be done without great people who continued to find a sense a humor, kept things “real” and kept their chins up even when things weren’t going hunkey-dorey.  There’s no way I’m going to include all the names, but you know who you are.  I learned so much about leadership, officership and military professionalism in general.  I will carry those lessons for the rest of my military career.

To the members of the weather team with whom I had the honor of serving: Maj Matt Hauke, Lt Joey Clevenger, AGC Angel Rossy, MSgt Chris Canarina and SSgt Mike Main.  To Lt Clevenger and SSgt Main in particular, they were my night shift compadres and I don’t know how many times they kept me in line — their seasoned, experienced work in CENTCOM helped keep me looking good!  Thanks!

To my deployment buddies — those who emerged from my crazy active duty past to cross paths with me halfway around the world: Maj Rose Lathrop, Maj Kasi Traweek and Capt Paul Bryan.  Thanks for taking time out of your schedules so we can get together for Friday coffees and Saturday pizza/gyro lunches.  I was reminded of “Sex and the City” where the gals got together every weekend for lunch at a diner and would talk about anything and everything — Paul, I know you’re not a gal, but you could gossip/chat/emote as well as the rest of us!  Rose and Kasi, congratulations on your engagements, and Paul, congratulations on your new baby — I owe you a blanket, it’s coming this week, I promise!

I owe a special “thank you” to Maj Paul Gifford — yes, that same Paul you’ve heard me talk about for quite some time.  He’s the one who stepped up with me to divide our 179-day deployment in half.  For this to work, we both had to be medically, physically, and duty qualified.  We were putting an incredible amount of trust in each other and I thank Paul for coming through on his end of the bargain…

Last, but certainly not least, the biggest thank you of all goes to my awesome family:

Dave: if you remember, I got the “invitation” for this trip the same week you were feverishly making edits to your dissertation for that last Dr. Lackmann signature!  This past July.  On top of finishing your dissertation and getting the family ready to move, you cleared your mind enough to give me the chance to press forward with preparing for my trip.  I know you weren’t jumping up and down saying “Please go, Patricia!”, but you helped me work out the timeline, helped with childcare during preparations and — most of all — played SINGLE DAD for 4 months during the worst winter you’d ever experienced.  I wondered if you had a catastrophe-free week: Howie’s ACL injury, all 3 of you with colds, flooded basement, van repairs. Getting to talk, via phone, webcam or even IM chat with you was the highlight of my time over there…thank you!

Jacob and Timmy: to my babies!  You two are amazing — Jacob, you continued to thrive in school and trusted that I would be home in “100 days”.  Timmy, I can’t believe how much you’ve grown since I left — you’re now READING and talking so well!  I loved talking and web-chatting with you while I was away, hearing your stories always put such a smile on my face.  Thank you for all the letters and artwork, too.  Jacob, your Groundhog decorated our weather section for about a month, while we celebrated a Groundhog’s Day…over…and over…and over.

While I was deployed, I found out there are some limited job opportunities here at Offutt, so I’ll be transferring units later this summer.  I love my unit at Shaw, but it’s time to move on and minimize these commutes.

I don’t plan to volunteer for another deployment.  If I get sent over, I’ll serve honorably…but it does lead me to a new question: “What now?”  A couple options have crossed my mind — at the forefront is looking into becoming a math teacher.  There’s a program called “Troops to Teachers” that is supposed to offer some flexibility for getting teacher certifications.

In closing, I was so glad I was able to be part of the Global War on Terror.  I was in grad school on 9/11 and I remember feeling like the most useless member of our military — I remember trying to donate blood and being told that the Red Cross wouldn’t even take my blood because I had spent time along the Korean DMZ.   To be able to see how we’re running our war, and seeing how incredibly tough it is to forecast the weather for Iraq and Afghanistan, was an experience I’ll never forget.

11. April 2009 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Greetings from Detroit! I’ve two legs down on this journey, three to
go. The flights from Doha to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam to Detroit
were more or less without incident (save a broken shoe heel from an
overambitious beverage cart that I didn’t notice till I had
I’m now getting ready to board my flight to Colmbia, SC where folks
from my unit will meet me at the airport to get some of my equipment
and perhaps have me sign a couple forms.
Then I will continue my journey home from Columbia to Chicago, then
finally homeward bound to Omaha.
I found some wonderful gifts for the boys at the Doha Duty Free shop,
including some European Easter candy that I remember getting at
Eastertime in 1980 in Hong Kong….when I was the same age as Jacob!!!
I can’t wait to see my boys again!!!!

11. April 2009 · Comments Off on Books Read on this Deployment – The Complete List · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Books Read on this Deployment
1.) The Marching Season, Daniel Silva: 16 Jan 09
2.) Angels and Demons, Dan Brown: 20 Jan 09
3.) Deception Point, Dan Brown: 25 Jan 09
4.) The Other Boleyn Girl, Phillipa Gregory: 3 Feb 09
5.) Marley & Me, John Grogan: 5 Feb 09
6.) Cruel and Unusual, Patricia Cornwell: 11 Feb 09
7.) Point of Origin, Patricia Cornwell: 21 Feb 09
8.) Black Notice, Patricia Cornwell: 1 Mar 09
9.) Holy Cow, Sarah Macdonald: 7 Mar 09
10.) Blow Fly, Patricia Cornwell, 16 Mar 09
11.) Trace, Patricia Cornwell, 23 Mar 09
12.) Book of the Dead, Patricia Cornwell, 31 Mar 09
13.) The Last Templar, Raymond Khoury, 10 Apr 09

10. April 2009 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be here than Bagram or Balad. The trips off base were great and I’m glad I took the risk to venture out there. But this is still a deployed location and I had to do without quite a bit.

Here’s a list of things I won’t miss about being here…

1.) Wearing reflective belts at night even though the AF Physical Fitness uniform is covered in reflective screen printing.
2.) The dust.
3.) Eating breakfast at dinnertime, and dinner at lunchtime, and lunch at breakfasttime.
4.) The dust.
5.) Having a first sergeant come up to me outside to ask me to tuck in my fitness shirt all the way. Like he was standing there waiting for me to arrive to give him something to do.
6.) The dust.
7.) Wearing reflective belts at night around my uniform, and around my backpack.
8.) The dust.
9.) Trudging home from work in 90 degree temperatures along the roadside while a young Airman whizzes past me in an air conditioned 2009 Ford F-150 with no other passengers.
10.) The dust.
11.) The smell of ASS in the trailers when we weren’t able to open the doors periodically. One giant collective fart.
12.) The dust.
13.) The smell of dead animals right outside the entrance to the dining facilities. There’s no better way to perk up your appetite.
14.) The dust.
15.) The dining hall main line servers (not military) who always would offer me TWO steaks, TWO pieces of lasagna, TWO Belgian waffles. What, did they think I wasn’t fat enough?
16.) The dust.
17.) Having to walk 90 seconds to the latrine if I have to pee in the middle of my sleep time…and having to remember to tuck in my uniform shirt and put on my reflective belt first.
18.) The dust.
19.) Having to reduce my entire life down to the contents of two suitcases.
20.) The dust.

08. April 2009 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

“Taken off the line?”

Yeah, I guess it’s a reference to putting a fighting unit in reserve after serving on the front lines for a while. That’s how I feel now. I’m no longer on the work schedule. My mission is to get home safely.

Paul is here, he’s fully trained and now has the helm of the weather team’s night shift. The training was a very busy time, and not without drama…we have to shoehorn the training here with real-world events and real weather issues. I’m popping in and out of the workcenter, mainly to say “goodbye” to the various people with whom I had the honor of serving alongside, but don’t ask me anything about the weather over Iraq or Afghanistan. I don’t know!

I also had some non-weather related drama this past week, with lots of troubles scheduling a flight home. I was cleared to leave anytime starting today, and about 6 hours ago I received my flight information. What a relief. I wasn’t as concerned with when I’d be headed home as much as simply knowing something to pass on to the family and colleagues. I should be home by the end of this weekend.

I went to my last weekly social tent call this past Tuesday and as is tradition, I put some money on the bar to celebrate it being my last week. It certainly didn’t hurt that I had taken 2nd place in the Air Mobility Division’s NCAA Bracket contest, much to the chagrin of the 20 other guys who didn’t appreciate my “Barbie’s Dream Bracket” prediction of UNC v. Michigan State for the championship game. I had predicted Michigan State to take it all, but oh well.

I got a lot of great pictures from Tuesday but here’s a sampling I’ll share. Working the night shift was awesome, we could be honest with each other and focus on getting the job done without the politics of day-shift issues like pretty Powerpoint slides for the generals.

Here’s proof that my replacement did indeed arrive and is doing well. That I didn’t kill him during our training! Ha ha! Just kidding! Paul was a great student despite the brutal schedule we gave him!

Me with some of my night shift colleagues. Yes, I’m the only girl in the picture above, but there were other ladies around…

See? That’s Sarah on the left (Royal Air Force) and Mel on the right (Royal Australian Air Force).

This is for Jacob. This young man, who goes by “Buddy”, flies A-10s in the war and has been temporarily assigned to our unit here for a couple weeks to serve as a liaison between his squadron and the air war planners. His patch is that of the Expeditionary Flying Tigers and I told him about how that’s Jacob’s favorite airplane, the Flying Tigers A-10! He gave me a unit patch for Jacob!

Now that I’m “off the line”, I have been converting my sleep schedule into more of a swing shift schedule, to better match Central Daylight Time. I have the time to work on this blog entry, upload about 50 new pictures, and I also have a chance to work out 1-2 more times before I head to the airport. In fact, I think I’ll go to the gym right now!

Just like on my trip here, I’ll send a note or two on my trip home, so long as I can pick up WiFi on my layover in Europe, and once I’m back in the states my phone can hop back on the AT&T network and I can write more often!

I absolutely can’t wait to see my boys again — knowing it’ll be this weekend some time is such a great feeling!

04. April 2009 · 8 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Hello! No pictures for today, since I’m preparing to go to bed, but here’s quickie update for the gang!

1.) My replacement, Paul, is here. Yay! Paul showed up in great spirits and so far has been taking the firehose of information quite well.

2.) Paul arrived on Thursday night. About 12 hours prior was when I was notified to pack up and move out of my room, it was to be given to Paul upon his arrival. Great. Typically, one moves into a “transient tent”, which is fine when you have an outbound flight arranged. I didn’t have an outbound flight arranged at the time so our first sergeant said that if someone in a dorm was willing to take me in, I can share a room with someone. Enter Rose! I had stayed in Rose’s room in March when she was on vacation (she’s deployed here for MUCH longer than me!) and she took me in for the duration of my tour, bless her heart. Thanks Rose!

3.) I don’t know exactly when I’m coming home quite yet. Even if I did know when I was coming home, I wouldn’t publish it on the Internet, but I could at least say here “Yay! I know when I’m coming home!”. I will say that the suspense is killing us!

4.) Those computer batteries I had purchased my first week here, that provided me 8 hours of life back in February before requiring a charge, now gives me a whopping 45 minutes of untethered support when I’m trying to webcam with the family. But that’s okay, I’ve found several hidden outlet spots that I can take advantage of when I’m doing the webcam thing at 3-in-the-morning here…very few others online at the time. Besides, something strange happened to the WiFi here and my connections aren’t so hot as it is.

Just as well on the computer and the batteries — it’s literally going into the GARBAGE when I get home, so it only has another month-or-so to live. MacBook, here I come!

So as you can see, there are many signs out there that my time here is wrapping up, even if I don’t have a clear date for leaving. I’m homeless, my replacement is here and is being trained up, and I’m getting weekly e-mail notifications about what date my e-mail address here will be turned off! All good signs.

Besides my husband and kids (and Howie, who is recovering exceptionally from his surgery of 10 March), I think the thing I can’t wait to do is COOK!!! I’m breaking out the big guns when I get home, I think: chicken etouffee, beef bulgogi, homemade bread, hand-decorated cakes!

Time for bed!

30. March 2009 · Comments Off on Interior Decorating… · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

So here I am, outside under the “Bra”…the wind is whipping and the dust is blowing. But I persist…things are well enough. I pulled a table and chair behind the giant wooden film screen, so I’m mostly blocked from the wind.

I’m getting ready for my replacement to arrive at the end of the week, although I’m getting rather anxious because I still don’t have a flight home arranged quite yet. No one here does it — suffice it to say that there’s someone in the U.S. who makes all of our arrangements. I’m hoping to hear something in the next 48 hours!

Meanwhile, I am still awaiting word that I have to move into the transient tents later this week. So I’ve been packing up the extra stuff and shipping home what I don’t need between now and when I get home, such as extra yarn and books. I just shipped two boxes today, and there will probably be two more later this week.

Before I took it all down, I thought I’d share with you how I decorated my dorm room:

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

I received so much artwork from the boys, and even several letters from Jacob, but some of art from Timmy included some of his first word-writing.

Jacob’s teacher encouraged him to write letters to me. Here are some examples:

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

Before you pick too much on his spelling, remember that he’s in Kindergarten and apparently the spelling part of his language skills come later. Here’s a card Jacob made for Timmy’s 4th birthday in January. That’s Thomas the Tank Engine pulling Annie and Clarabel drawn at the bottom.

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

This is Timmy’s work. My heart melted at his drawing of Howie.

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

And finally, enjoy the Valentine’s Day card I received:

From 2009 03 25 Kids_Art_DormRoom

I also had pictures of the boys up elsewhere in the room, and I enjoyed looking at the art and the pictures of my boys each and every day. I’m so excited — it won’t be long before I’m home!

I need to stop now — the dust is actually accumulating on the laptop screen and it’s getting hard to see outside with the outdoor glare. Keep in touch with my Twitter feed on the right column!

23. March 2009 · 6 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Books Read on this Deployment
1.) The Marching Season, Daniel Silva: 16 Jan 09
2.) Angels and Demons, Dan Brown: 20 Jan 09
3.) Deception Point, Dan Brown: 25 Jan 09
4.) The Other Boleyn Girl, Phillipa Gregory: 3 Feb 09
5.) Marley & Me, John Grogan: 5 Feb 09
6.) Cruel and Unusual, Patricia Cornwell: 11 Feb 09
7.) Point of Origin, Patricia Cornwell: 21 Feb 09
8.) Black Notice, Patricia Cornwell: 1 Mar 09
9.) Holy Cow, Sarah Macdonald: 7 Mar 09
10.) Blow Fly, Patricia Cornwell, 16 Mar 09
11.) Trace, Patricia Cornwell, 23 Mar 09

20. March 2009 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Happy Friday and Happy Spring! Another random funny deployment story for you.

So here it is…6:15pm on a Friday night, and I’m still awake.

“Hey, me too! Let’s go hit a club and go dancing later!”

No no no no no. I’m not supposed to be awake! For those unaware, I’ve been on the night shift my whole time on this deployment. I won’t give specifics, except to say that I usually sleep from about 4pm-11pm.

You saw my post from a week or so ago. Sleep, or lack thereof, can be a plague on one’s good attitude and overall productivity. I don’t think I get cranky, but I start doing strange things.

My first month here, I took a trip off base in the evening. I didn’t sleep all day, then went out to dinner in downtown Doha with friends. It was a fun time out but I didn’t sleep between one day’s work and the next.

I thought I was fine. I distinctly remember thinking how resilient I was considering my lack of sleep. The weather was keeping my adrenaline up, I recall. At about 4am I went out to the latrine trailer. Where I work, we have to leave our building and walk out to a row of latrine trailers outside. Not far, probably a 1 minute walk. Picture three construction office trailer-looking buildings…all in a row. Don’t fret, they aren’t bad. The leftmost and center trailers are for the men, the right hand trailer is for the women (since women are probably less than 20% of the population here, we have a pretty good deal).

I walked into the trailer, chose a toilet, and proceeded to do my thing. While I’m in the stall, I notice that the walls are black — when I’m used to them being off-white — and I began to ponder:

“When did they paint the insides of the toilet stalls?”

“WHY would they paint the insides of the toilet stalls?”

“And how come I can’t smell the fresh paint of these newly painted stalls?”

“Wait a minute! How did these paint flecks and scrapes appear on these walls covered in non-smelling, newly applied black paint?”

I finished my business, flushed and walked to the opposite wall of the trailer to wash my hands. It’s at that moment that I noticed (a) the wall of urinals that I didn’t notice before and (b) the MAN standing in front of one of them!

You guessed it — I had marched right into one of the mens’ latrines and did my thing. I guess on that day I was more tired than I thought.

This was back in early February, before the insomnia fatigue had kicked in. So after that lack-of-sleep shift I remember going back to my dorm and sleeping straight through until I had to get up to work again.

Stay tuned, maybe after tonight’s lack of sleep I’ll have a new “How Tired Were You?” story to share!