Friday, May 29, 2009

Life in Kuwait - Waiting for Iraq

Well, for those of you who haven't heard, or those who might have heard but have not believed, or even better for those who have believed without even seeing.....yes - there is a Starbucks in the middle of the Kuwaiti desert barely 10 miles from the Iraqi border and about 50+ miles from any non-military sign of civilization. Not only that, I'm sure that it is one of the few Starbucks in the world virtually surrounded by large blast barriers. But that is where I am right now as I write this blog. I have only purchased one item here, and that was way too many. Don't get me wrong, the iced coffee mocha was great. But $4 for 16 ounces of mostly ice was a bit too excessive for my taste.

But enough about the extravagances we have here in the beautiful Kuwaiti desert. Let's talk living conditions and some of the beautiful sights and wild animals.

For starters, below is my cot area in our tent. As I believe I have stated before, our tents are a lot nicer than they were the first time around. They are semi-permanent structures with a real door and well sealed against the elements and multiple A/C units which actually makes for a relatively chilly morning wake-up.

This is a photo of my cot area. As in the first rotation, many times you have to make the best of what you have. I have indicated my little "dresser" made of empty water boxes. It's not fancy, but it's free and better than rummaging around in a duffle bag each morning that's for sure.

Also, I have declined the extravagance of my Army sleeping bag and I have some of my old college twin size linens and a $6 blanket that I bought from the PX (Post Exchange, aka - "Wall Mart")

As you might imagine, there is hardly anything that grows or lives in the desert. The main three living creatures other than human are Camels, Mice, and Sand Vipers. Mice aren't worth photographing because they look the same as everywhere else in the world. And I have yet to find a sand viper here. But here's some photos of camels that were part of a Bedouin herder's flock. The funny part is that most Kuwaiti citizens only see camels at the zoo. Once you realize the part of the country you have to go to to see them in the wild, you realize why. There's no good reason for a sane person to be this far out into the desert. However, there are apparently about 100 Bedouin (nomadic) families in this general area.

The Army, in its infinite wisdom and a way to over complicate everything has devised a "category" level for how hot it is. This is a snapshot of the tables that the army uses to indicate the heat category, how much water to drink, and work/rest intervals. Since the temp is a mathematical calculation using ambient air temp and relative humidity, the category depends on more than simply the actual air temp. Since the relative humidity here is roughly 5% (most of you are used to 15-20% on a normal "dry" day) the WBGT Index is actually usually LOWER than the ambient temperature by about 10 degrees.

That being said - the table was mainly meant for use in the US. Below is a photo of the flags that the base puts up in random places to indicate what the heat category is. As you can see in this photo, the flag is black - the most severe heat category. This is where it is for most of the daylight hours here.

I mysef have devised my own system of determining the heat and assigning a category. It is as follows:

Green = Pretty darn warm
Yellow = HOT!!
Red = D*&M HOT!!!
Black = Balls-to-the-wall HOT!!!
Yes, the last two categories seem on the surface to be a little profane - but if you were here you would totally understand and probably accuse me of understating it. There's a reason trees die at simply the thought of being here! The only bright side is, we get the heat out of the way up-front. The next 3-4 months will be miserable, but after that it's all down hill and once it starts feeling warm again it'll be time to go home.
Another past-time of many units in theater is to paint the concrete T-Walls that line the roads and provide blast protection against the most remote of chances that a suicide bomber would make his/her way onto base. I was driving around yesterday running "errands" and came across these two side by side. I figured my Kentucky friends and co-workers, as well as Donna, my family, and anyone else with any ties at all to Arkansas would appreciate them.

Last but not least, there was a sad moment at the base a couple days ago. Somehow these poor destitute young ladies wandered onto base. Allegedly the Oakland Raiders had sent them out for new dance uniforms and they ended up taking a wrong turn after crossing the bridge to San Francisco and ended up wandering into one of the tents. Poor things even had the unfortunate luck of having the airline loose their luggage between the US and Kuwait.

I promised them that I would ask my perfectly wonderful and totally understanding wife for permission to adopt one (maybe two) of them. As of right now I still have yet to hear back from her and I'm thinking maybe the last cell payment did not go through as the line appears to be disconnected. But I'm sure once I get to talk to her again I'll get permission to begin the adoption paperwork. I mean just look at the poor famished young ladies...all they really need is a good home.
Well that's about all for now on how life is in Kuwait. The next 3 days will be pretty busy with running ranges and training for my folks. Hopefully in a few days I'll get to throw some more photos up of folks actually doing "Army Stuff" as many folks like to call it.
In the mean time - if you see my wife, tell her to give me a call once her phone gets turned back on :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Power of Positive Thinking

This is my attempt to look on the bright side about Jason being overseas...

I have the bed all to myself. There's no snoring keeping me awake (except for the pug of course, but he's not as loud as Jason)

I have full power over the remote control. I haven't seen one Cubs game, or one episode of 24. The TV has only been tuned to ESPN once...but that was for the National Spelling Bee, so it totally does not count.

The utility charges only cost half as much.

The toilet seat is always down.

I've watched nothing but chick flicks for the last three weeks. Bride Wars is super cute

And...I can come home with a new pair of shoes and Jason has no idea.
So, I'm trying to find a hobby/activity/favored pasttime to participate in, because I'm finding myself with a lot of free time on the weekends. Does anyone have a suggestion?

Things you can only do in the Army

Some times I will have plenty of time to post photos and witty narration. Other times I will only have time for a quick update or maybe I just want to tell a story before I forget. This is one of those latter reasons for such a quick post.

There are certain things that you can only do legally in the military. Other things that you can only do in the military and only if you're lucky enough to be on the right mission at the right time. Two days ago myself and the Lt. Colonel with me went to the airport to meet our main body as they landed in country. I had only intended to go to the area that the busses from the airplane would take them to await escort up to the base. It would have been the area with the porta-johns in my last post. After a couple of gates and a couple of coin flips on whether to turn left or right, I get to the gate for the Kuwait International Airport flightline where the plane is actually parking to off-load our soldiers. So not only were we able to greet our soldiers as they were taking the steps down from the plane - but how many times in my life am I going to be able to drive on ANY airport's flight line, not to mention the flight line for Kuwait International Airport. My only regret is that I didn't have my camera with me.

Oh well - that's all for now. Just a quick post between assignments as I wrap things up for the day and prepare to go and see Street Fighter at the theater here on post.

Best regards!

Monday, May 25, 2009

48 Hours To Kuwait

The 48 hours leading up to my arrival in Kuwait was a bit of a whirlwind. The deal with being ADVON to Kuwait worked out well. Not only did Natalie get to go to her PM retreat instead of taking leave she didn’t have, I also got to spend my last day in the USA with my dad at one of the most historic places in our country – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That’s right, the birthplace of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, along with the final resting place of Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, William Bainbridge (the captain of Old Ironsides) and many, many more. This visit from my dad was due to him being in DC for an old Navy friend’s retirement ceremony. He drove up on the day before I had to leave to the airport and we spent the night in Philly and came back the next afternoon.

And of course - what trip to Philly would be complete without a shot of Ben Franklin's toilet?

Here's a shot of dad and I at the liberty bell. Funny how one simple gift that really stood for very little became such a symbol for so many things. The history of it's transformation into a national symbol is pretty interesting.

And of course - Independence Hall!! The place where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were both drafted and signed. Most of the stuff is replica, but the big main chair at the front center is the same chair that Washington sat in while the Constitution was being framed and signed.

Once my dad dropped me off back at good ol’ Ft. Dix I packed the last of my bags and headed off to the airport. We arrived roughly 6 hours before our flight took off. Being that our flight didn’t leave till 4am you get the idea of how long our two days of travel was.

Here is a picture of what the pilot said was the area around London, so I’m guessing this is a suburb of some sort.

After a layover in Germany where I was at least able to jump on the net fast enough to text Natalie we got on the move for Kuwait where we arrived at about 4am. This final photo here is the start of my time “In Theater” as we call it. It was a fairly nice sunrise all things considered. At least it was only about 90 degrees by this time of the morning. Though you will notice the line of porta-potties to the left….some things just never change apparently. I can’t wait for another year in a location where porcelain toilets are a rare commodity.

Well tomorrow the rest of our group arrives here. Hopefully soon I can get you some shots of the camp here. In lieu of that you can Google Earth for Camp Buehring, Kuwait and see some satelite imagary.
For now, it's time for a good night's sleep.

The Annual Property Management Retreat

Every year my department gathers all of it's property managers from across the country to meet in a chalet in Gatlinburg. We're a very eclectic group and it's always interesting to see what silliness will ensue.

I think the funniest story this year is the property manager who has been working for the company for over two years, has spoken with me countless times on the phone, and was at the retreat last year, but he just realized this retreat that I was Natalie Hoyt. He knew I was Natalie. But he thought the Natalie Hoyt that he spoke with on the phone to fix his purchase orders, send him leases, teach him MRI was a different Natalie. The Natalie that he met in person at the property management retreat was apparently some random Natalie from accounting...?

Does anyone know how to chum bream with a racoon? You learn a lot being sequestered in a cabin for four days

You also learn that drunk guys in a hot tub is hilarious. These boys spent a lot of time in the hot tub together...

We worked just a little bit

And played a whole lot

We managed to find the only go-kart track being run by crazy red necks. They were spraying water onto the course so that we would spin out and run into each other. One of our older property managers spent the entire time racing going in the wrong direction. One guy was hit so hard his glasses flew off his head. One girl was t-boned so hard she had a huge angry rash on her neck from the restraints. None of us escaped injury, and I'm still limping from the baseball sized welt on my leg. Best fun I ever had.

They're a good group of people. When they weren't chasing bears, making margaritas, riding bikes down mountains, or groping each other in the hot tub, they were waiting up with me for Jason to call one last time before he boarded the plane for Kuwait.

And like every good family, at the end of day we made the guys do the dishes.

I couldn't finish this post without some gratuitous doggy pictures

This was Jason on his four day leave right before he flew overseas. The dogs were so happy.

But now they're very sad. Does Sammy not look absolutely pitiful in this picture?

And I think Gus is about to cry here. He is not a photogenic pug. He looks like an old man. Or an Ewok.

We all miss Jason.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I Made It - Finally!

Well I don't have tons of time to write today - but maybe tomorrow will be different. Suffice it to say that after about 30 hours of travel, lay over, travel, lay over, rinse, repeat, travel, layover, etc. I finally made it to my temporary resting place in Kuwait. As I walked across the 50 feet of desert to get from bus to briefing tent, all I could think about was a famous quote from one of my drill sergeants in basic training. The first thing through my mind was the phrase that "it is hotter than two rats f*ck*ng in a wool sock" out here. I mean, I remember that it was hot here in the summer, but the last time I did this we landed in January so we were able to get used to the heat as it crept up over 100 and then way beyond. But imagine this time leaving New Jersey when the night before you needed a jacket, and 48 hours later it's 110 degrees with no shade in sight. It will certainly take your breath away.

The good part is that there is tons more air conditioning and a lot nicer facilities than the first time I did this. I actually woke up cold in my tent this morning and had to buy an extra $6 blanket at the PX today.

Well that's enough for now. I'll try and get a longer blog up in a couple days with a couple photos from the journey here. For now - back to work and time to try and call the wife.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ft. Dix # 2 "Army Stuff"

After some troubleshooting - here are some photos of our training here at Dix. Most of the training areas won't allow cameras because they don't want the distraction, and generally enjoy other stupid rules here as well. However we were able to get some photos here at the base defense training. Basically there were targets that represented bad guys and good guys/civilians and we had to defend the "base" while artillery and grenade simulators were going off, loud "music", smoke, and other distractions. During the defense they would also have people become casualties and require first-aid and CASEVAC (Casualty Evacuation - getting them back to the base medical station). It was a pretty good exercise and thank goodness no one got hurt too bad. This was seriously a morning I was somewhat afraid to "go to work" since a number of our Navy and AF folks aren't exactly what I would classify as "proficient" with a long rifle.

Here below is my LT and myself doing our best to hold off the horde of invading green plastic men and trying to avoid killing (too many) civilians in the process.

Remember that part when I said no one got hurt "too bad"? Well there's this funny thing that happens when you have folks firing rifles in close vicinity to yourself. The brass tends to eject from the rifle and hit you. Sometimes it hits exposed skin. And sometimes it gets lodged between your neck and your protective collar. It happened when I was performing the role of a safety and leaned over to check one soldier's rifle to be sure it was on "safe". That's when the brass from the soldier next to him jumped into my collar and got lodged there for a good couple seconds before I could dig it out.

Now understand that if hot brass simply bounces off your skin without getting stuck/trapped - thereby meaning that it's only touched you for a split second - it will still leave a 1st degree burn. So when you consider that it was trapped in my collar for a full couple seconds you can easily understand why I ended up with 2nd degree burns and missing skin. These pictures were taken only a couple hours or so after the incident.

The good news is that with a little TLC, neosporin, and a week it's starting to finally turn pink and the exposed nerve endings are decreasing in number daily. Right now it's kind of like a spot of the most severe sunburn you've ever seen. Pink skin underneath thick peeling skin. YUM!!
OK - well that's about all the Army fun for tonight boys and girls. I'll try and get some more photos sooner rather than later. But for now it'll be 1am by the time I'm asleep and 6am is going to come quite early.
Take care for now - and if you haven't called your dear Mom it's just plain right down too late now.
SFC Hoyt - OUT.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Somehow Still Alive at Ft. Dix

Hi everyone. I know it's been quite a while since I've posted anything on here and I sincerely apologize. But really, how can you complain about pictures of my beautiful wife and my super awesome dogs? It's been super busy around here since about the moment I landed. This post will be short and hopefully I'll be able to toss in some more a little later. We have picked up our team members from the Air Force and the Navy and I'll try and introduce you to them all a little later. Each of our 10 teams got 2 members from each service to supplement the Army contingent. The AF and Navy folks are primarily tasked to run logistics and admin, but they are for the most part all very competent folks who seemed to be carefully selected by their respective branch for this assignment and I'm sure they'll get to do more than just office work in the next year or so.

All that being said, I think the first person I'll introduce you to isn't even from my team. He's from another team going to another part of the country. The significance is not only in the fact that he is a member of the Navy like my father once was. It's also not solely because he's a Yeoman like my father once was.

The significance is that he is also a HOYT!!! He's the white guy in the above photo, and the middle guy in the lower photo.

Sorry for the poor resolution. The connection here is pretty slow and a high resolution photo would take forever to upload. I'm going to try and get a side-by-side photo soon here and I'll get that published eventually. There must also be something to do with the whole "what's in a name" thing because Petty Officer Hoyt is a pretty darn high-speed sailor and is definitely one of the top Navy folks in the whole group. The two I picked up are good too - but Hoyt is definitely in the top of the group.

And since some of you like seeing photos of "Army Stuff" I will oblige with a couple photos from our couple days practicing base defense. However since the Army computer doesn't seem to like Google at all I'm going to have to do so in a different post since I can't seem to get the photos to upload correctly right now.

Happy Mother's Day

Moms Rock! I'm not a mom.

I have a lot of respect for moms though. It takes so much dedication and responsibility to be a mom.

I don't know that I would ever have the energy that it takes to chase after kids 24/7

Especially since I like to sleep in so much.

Those families that have 12, 18, 52 kids...I don't get them.

I would be ok with 12 dogs though. So seriously how angry do you think Jason would be if he comes home to a couple more dogs?
Really angry? Or just a little perturbed?
I love you mom. I love you mom-in-law.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I have great friends...

...they make sure I don't sit home every night desperately missing my husband

...What's that Anna?...You want me to go to a Reds game?...I'd love to!

It was an absolutly gorgeous day to spend at the ball park. I have to admit, I hate baseball. But it's super fun going to games. I get to sit outside in the sunshine and socialize with good friends. And enjoy ball park staples like hot dogs and lemon ice...oh wait...I didn't get any lemon ice...Curse you lemon ice man!

I wore my lucky pigtails. But apparently they were the Braves' lucky pigtails, because the Reds certainly were not having any luck, or hits, or runs.

We chilled on Fountain Square afterwards, and compared our farmers tans and racoon eyes.

I really wanted to be that kid jumping in the fountain. Did you know they don't put any chemicals in the fountain, so it's totally ok to drink? I don't know, it looks to me like that little kid on the left is about to do something fishy in that non-chlorinated water...I'll stick to the bottled water.

What's that Amanda?...There's a toga party?...I'm soooo there.

Here's Amanda and was Jodie's graduation/toga party. These guys love themed parties...and drinking.

My team won the flip cup competition, thank you very much. And even though Amanda may look only twelve all of us were well over the legal drinking age. I love you Manda!

Here's Amanda chugging, and apparently me taking pictures of Chase and Jodie taking pictures of me taking pictures...

Hmm What excatly is Chase doing back there behind Chad? Hi Chad!

So, I have absolutley no idea who these two wonderful gentleman are. But they were drinking the spiked kool-aid and showing off their toned calves, so I took a picture.

It was a really fun party, and I actually had a number of other pictures, like with me and my toga...but when I downloaded the pictures onto my computer it deleted a bunch of them! I'm still a little upset about that. I've never claimed to be computer savvy, but that darn thing has really been giving me some headaches. Why do I need to reconnect to the internet everytime you go into sleep mode! I don't understand!