Monday, November 19, 2007

Life in the Middle East

Many friends and acquaintances have asked me about my Dad and what he does exactly over in Kuwait. Typically I tell them that he is a Warrant Officer in the Army and that he is heavily involved in Logistics, which he is, but I haven’t really known all of the specifics.

So, for the benefit of all those around (including me), I decided to send Pop a good ‘ol fashioned email and ask him first hand about his duties are overseas. 

I sent the email at around 11:30 PM my time, which is about 10:30 AM (11 hrs. ahead) his time,
 and by the time I woke up I was excited  to find that he had found time to answer my questions. 

So, for those who were curious, enjoy.

Please feel free to comment with any other questions you might have. I know dad would be happy to answer them.


What is your title?

My rank which goes with my title is Chief Warrant Officer five, and I hold the position as the Theater Ground Maintenance Technician for South West Asia (SWA). I am assigned to Third Army ARCENT (Army Central Command) which is headquarters is in Georgia. I am the forward element working for CFLCC (Coalistion Forces Land Component Command).

Who exactly do you interact with on a weekly average, and who do you report to?

My direct officer that I report to is Colonel Tunstall who is the Deputy G4. He is my rater on my Officer Evaluation Report. In turn Colonel Tunstall works for Brigadier General Hodge who is the Director of Operational Sustainment. General Hodge is my Senior Rater who endorses my performance and provides guidance on short term and long term goals which he has envisioned. This provides me with a focus of his expectations and how I can further make him successful.

Is Kuwait relatively safe?

It depends on which aspect we look at. As far as insurgency, roadside bombs, snipers, IEDs, and suicide bombers go the answer is definitely YES. Now, as far as safety on the roads the answer is a resilient NO.

There are posted speed limits, 120 KM being the average, but no one ever pays attention to speed limits, turn signals, or any other basic fundamental rules of the road. Here it is simply a matter of boldness and defensive driving.

I typically stay out of the main flow of traffic so that I am not apt to get involved in any mishap. The accidents that happen here seldom have survivors due to the rate of speed. If we see an accident in Washington, it is really not all that often. However, here it is a daily repetitive occurrence.

Do you ever get to leave the base?

Actually, I can leave whenever I need or want to. But based upon the previous question and answer, I really only leave the base when I need to travel for missions. I do not travel for the sake of seeing thousands of acres of sand, and one camel does look like the next.

What is your preferred mode of transportation inside and out side of the post?

I walk to and from work each day, to include the dining facility, etc…. However, when I need to walk more than a few blocks I resort to the Suburban.

As far as off post travel goes, naturally I take the Suburban. The last time I traveled to Iraq, I took the Suburban to the flight line then a Blackhawk to Camp Ali Alsaleen, then a twin prop C12 into Baghdad.  So dependent upon the purpose of the trip, transportation varies.

What type of food do you eat? Any perks here?

Well for breakfast I basically stick to oatmeal with a little brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. On the side I will have a piece of fruit and a couple of strawberries. Lunch and Dinner primarily consist of a salad, prime rib, steak, shrimp, crab legs, lasagna, spaghetti, cold sandwiches’, tortellini, tacos, burritos, chicken, fried catfish, baked salmon, deep fried white fish, or any combination of the above on any given day.

To be perfectly honest, you can pretty much determine what you will be eating based upon what day of the week it is. The food is fairly tasteless and not really enjoyable, but that is probably due to the fact that I am not with my family.

The perks here are the Baskin Robbins located in the dining facility!!!!! But as for me and my stomach, this is not a perk!!!! I view it as Satan's temptation, and I must admit I am doing just fine in resisting.

What do you find most exciting about your duties?

I like the diversification of responsibilities and interaction that I have with all the fundamental aspects of how the Army functions. Whether it be transportation assets, communications electronics, missile command, Tank and Automotive Command, contracting, new equipment fielding (MRAP), maintenance, refurbishment, or working with item managers back in the States I find that there is never a dull moment and that my direct knowledge and leadership ensures that the right mixture of assets and planning is in place to ensure that the needs are being met across the battlefield.

What part of the day do you look forward to?

If there is a part of the day I look forward to it would be the morning, because I now know that I am one more day closer to going home to my family.

How does your work week function (hours of duty, time off, breaks)?

Do I need to remind you, I am a CW5!

(Editors bragging note: There are only about 60 Warrant Officer 5's in the whole army. 
They are roughly the equivalent of a Colonel, but typically specialize in a very specific field. Dad's field is Maintenance and Supply, or Logistics.)

All kidding aside, I typically work 7 days a week. I go to the office around 0800 and I leave at 1800. From there I grab a bite to eat and go to the gym. I try to stay as busy as I can so that I do not have to think about where I am, and that I am not with my family.

What are some things most Americans don't know about the Middle East?

That the quality of sand here is so poor, that they have to import sand in order to make quality cement!!!!

Do you ride camels to work?

No, but it would be interesting to say the least.

Where do you live and what are the conditions?

I live in a two story brick apartment complex. I have all the amenities that a western apartment has. There is a small kitchen with stove, microwave, refrigerator, toaster, and of course a coffee maker. Inside my room is a entertainment center, desk, dresser, closet, end table and bed. Additionally, there is central heat and air, telephone, and wireless Internet.

So, for a single man, I guess the living conditions would be great. However for a married man who longs to be with his family, there is nothing that can replace the loneliness of each passing day.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Filmaking Genious (Update: Video should work now)

I know I still owe you all an update about my father and what he does over in Kuwait, but I'm currently caught up in some other exciting film projects that will soon become public.

The first project coming soon is the result of mine and Brian's (if you don't know who his already you will soon) families getting together for an evening.

The second is a project that promises to be exciting, educational, and beneficial to those who have ever watched a movie and have had even the least bit of interest in making one but really can't do it all themselves.

In any event, to preface the post about my dad I thought that I would share with you all a film that my siblings and I made when our parents went on a lunch cruise in Seattle and we were left alone at our home on Fort Lewis trying to think of something creative to do. Being a military family, the theme to us was fairly obvious to us.

The film was shot on the decrepit family s-vhs analog camera and and then digitized a year later. This was our first film and we were proud of it in all of it's imperfect splendor (and we remain so to this day).

Please share how this feature film has momentarily changed your life.

Please note: I use the DIVX player because it allows the highest quality streaming experience (which is essential with this film short). Just install it once and you never have to do it again. It's safe and free.