Help me give Rex an awesome anniversary present

From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Rex has no Internet access today – our 4th wedding anniversary. 😦

So I’m using the space to ask for your help. I want to give him a special anniversary present and if you are a regular reader of this blog and like what you see, you can help me. I would like to get Rex nominated for this blog so he can compete for the most prestigious military blogging award there is – the MILBloggies. How to do it is outlined below – Rex is listed under “Afghanistan-My Last Tour on the http://milblogging.com/ website – but you can’t nominate him until tonight Eastern Standard Time (if you are a reader in Afghanistan, maybe you can help nominate him tomorrow your time?).

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The 2010 MILBloggies Kicked Off this morning (March 31, 2010) and they recognize military bloggers for their contribution to blogging, news and information

Here are the Rules and Instructions

The Milbloggies Award recognizes military bloggers for their contribution to blogging, news and information, and to the military over the past year.

Nomination and Voting Overview

1. A military blog can be nominated ONLY once by the same registered user.  However, a user can nominate as many military blogs as they wish and nominating your own blog is allowed.  However, please do not register multiple accounts in order to place more than one nomination for the same blog, as we have the ability to track this information.  If you encounter problems registering/activating your account, just send an email to milblogging@gmail.com and he will activate your account as quickly as possible.  Occasionally, the Activation email gets blocked by your Service Provider.

The nomination phase starts Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 and all nominations must be submitted online through Milblogging.com by 11:59 pm EST on Saturday, April 3rd, 2010.

2.  The top five nominees in each branch category will be announced on Sunday, April 4th, 2010 and those nominees will move into the Voting Phase beginning April 4th, 2010.

This is the type of abuse a military blogger's beloved personal laptop endures during deployment. Rex's busted up laptop was soon replaced after R&R in Germany. (He's on his 2nd camera at this point too.)

3. Nominees may be military blogs that belong to the following branch categories in the Milblogging.com database:

U.S. Military Parent
U.S. Military Supporter
U.S. Air Force (Rex qualifies in this category)
U.S. Army
U.S. Navy
U.S. Marine Corps
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Military Veteran
U.S. Military Spouse
Foreign National Military
U.S. Reporter

4. To nominate and/or vote for a military blog, you must be signed in to the Milblogging.com website.  Registration is quick and free and you will not receive any SPAM.  This helps maintain the integrity of voting by reducing possible click fraud.  To place your nomination, simply click on the listing in the Milblogging.com database starting the evening of Wednesday, March 31st, 2010, and click the Nominate button that appears at the top of the military blog profile.  Keep in mind, the Nominate button will not be shown on the website until TONIGHT on Wednesday, March 31st (this is Eastern Standard Time).

5.  To vote for a military blog (once the nomination phase is over), a chart will be published that includes the top nominees in each category, along with the ability to vote.

The Voting will close on Wednesday, April 7th at 11:59 PM EST.

6.  Winners will be presented awards at the 2010 MILblog Conference on April 10th.  Winners are not required to attend the conference in order to receive their awards.

Twitter Hashtag:  #milbloggies

WUSF radio interview – June 11, 09

Follow the link to the latest interview with WUSF radio reporter Bobbie O’Brien

My Last Tour: Memorial & Shura

WUSF Radio interview for 6-5-09

From SMSgt Temple’s wife Liisa: Since Rex could not do his weekly segment with the radio station, WUSF Radio instead spoke with his boss. Col. Larry Martin is the Commander of MacDill Air Force Base’s 6th Air Mobility Wing here in Tampa, Fla. He spoke with reporter Bobbie O’Brien about Rex’s blog and the military’s take on “social media.”

More here: My Last Tour: Are Blogs OK?

Teaching M-16 rifles and lunch with my ANA SGM

Training on M-16 rifles

Training on M-16 rifles

Lying on a bed of jagged rocks, the ANA soldiers take careful aim at the stone wall in front of them. Their M-16 rifles do not contain any bullets, yet. This is the first stage in teaching the ANA the fundamentals how to properly hold and aim their weapons. In the next stage they will be provided a weapon magazine to practice loading and unloading before being transported to the live firing range. After this they will receive additional instructor training so they can train their soldiers how to properly use this weapons. A US contractor with the aid of a translator exercises patience while providing aiming instructions. Note: The thumbs-up gesture is no longer considered vulgar here and is widely accepted.

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SGM eats at US Dining Facility

SGM eats at US Dining Facility

This morning my ANA SGM had very little small talk and quizzed me on military formations. Since the ANA is trying to replicate the US Army, I found myself unable to answer his questions since the US Air Force has different procedures and do not hold formations as frequent as the US Army. I saw this as an opportunity to invite him to my camp for lunch so I could find an Army soldier to answer his questions. The SGM enjoyed the western food and commented on the variety of food being offered. At his DFAC, his favorite meal is beef kabobs. Today he settled for Cornish hens, French fries, corn, fresh fruit and salad fixings. His favorite soda is A&W Rootbeer. After lunch we sat in a pavilion and a US soldier answered his questions on military formations.

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Rainstorm at camp

Rainstorm at camp

Before dinner tonight, the clouds became dark and we had some intermittent thunderstorms. I tried to capture the dark clouds with my camera as they surrounded the mountains off in the distance. It kind of felt good to be pelted by some cold rain drops. It’s the small things that give me the greatest pleasure. Behind the DFAC, I found some employees practicing their cricket batting skills.

DFAC employees playing cricket

DFAC employees playing cricket

Charity drive, mentoring and new dog

Thanks to everyone for their interest in supporting the troops.  I personally don’t need anything, but know of others who would appreciate a care package.  So as I travel to these outposts, I will record the name/address/needs of these individuals.  These guys need the items the most.  But in the future, I want to start a charity drive for poor village children who lack the most basic necessities, i.e., soap, toothbrushes, pens, paper, crayons, etc.  This is the mission that is near and dear to my heart.  Our Counterinsurgency (COIN) operations define this platform as “Winning the hearts and minds of the people”.  Our PAO (Public Affairs Officer) has some great ideas and together we want to work on this project.
My mentoring session with the ANA SGM was enlightening today.  Today’s topic was about motivating soldiers and the tangible/intangible rewards associated with it.  I explained a leader’s challenge is motivating their troops without being directive in nature.  The goal is to get the soldier to want to do a job not because they have to do it.  I used the analogy of a puzzle to explain where each soldier fits into the big picture.  In this case, each job the ANA accomplishes contributes to the overall goal of providing national security for their country.  The SGM listened intently and took a few notes.  Then we discussed the obstacles to this concept.  He explained how the ANA priorities are often focused on support for their family’s survival.  His other challenge is making the soldiers understand the new ANA Army’s way of accomplishing the mission.   The ANA is still breaking out of the old Soviet paradigm of doing things.  The SGM said he might use my puzzle analogy as a mentoring tool in future sessions with his soldiers.
I mentioned visiting King Zahir Shah’s lake house and hadn’t noticed on the wall is a picture of the King’s cousin Daoud who took over in a nonviolent coup.  The SGM provided me a history lesson on what transpired.  Then our talk shifted to the upcoming presidential elections in August.  This is when we had a small communication barrier.  I referred to the Gregorian calendar which August is the 8th month, but conversely the Afghan calendar utilizes the solar calendar and August is the 6th month or Sonbloa.  My translator also tried to explain why they subtract 621 or 622 years from the Gregorian, but my head reeled in confusion.  To complicate the matter, he said they use 3 different calendars in Afghanistan.  I about fell out of my chair and chose to save this for a later conversation.

Fluff who likes to hang by the camp entrance

Fluff who likes to hang by the camp entrance

On my return trip back to camp I noticed another dog at the gate.  This dog’s name is “Fluff”.  Note to dog lovers who expressed concern:  Sometimes food will accidentally drop from a soldier’s pocket or plate into the waiting dog’s mouth.  Or the dogs will brush by and touch your hand inadvertently.  I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think this is feeding the dog or petting the dog, therefore the general order is not being violated……wink..wink…nod…nod…

Back from mission with a little traffic mishap

We all gathered in a circle and placed our hands on top of each as the customary prayer was recited.  We also repeated our motivational chant and then jumped into our armored vehicles.  May 30-31 mission 028We would cover a lot of ground today, so it was going to be tasking on the drivers.  Our first stop was an ANA outpost and chatted with their American mentors.  It was a good place to take a break and munch on some of the beef jerky my wife included in my care package.  I shared with my teammates and they eagerly consumed it.  Along the way we passed by an old Soviet base.  I envisioned the Soviet Hind helicopter gunships departing from this area in search of the elusive Mujahedeen during the 1980 era.  Now the base sits in ruins as a constant reminder of the former occupation.
The next destination was a large French FOB tucked in the foothills of a desolate area.  The sun was extremely harsh today and not a single shade tree could be found.  Some of my teammates waited in the long chow line for some homemade French cuisine.  Rumor has it they have some of the best chow in Afghanistan.

Making our own shade

Making our own shade

Meanwhile my remaining teammates tied some tarps between the vehicles and settled for good ol’ US MREs.  Note to self:  Do not eat the chili and beans flavor.  Anyhow, I had a different mission and was in search of a bathroom.  After drinking several bottles of water to stay properly hydrated, I needed some relief.  Well this was a bit of a challenge because I don’t speak French,   their facilities weren’t universally marked and they didn’t seem to understand English.  Fortunately the universal sign of tugging on the front area of my trousers resulted in resolution.
Our final destination was a rest stop at the former King Zahir Shah’s summer home.  He was the last king who ruled Afghanistan from 1933-1973 before he was ousted in a coup by his cousin.  Later on he returned from exile and was named “Father of the Nation” in 2002 and passed away 2 years ago.  His summerhouse or lake house has a spectacular view of the surrounding lake and even includes a docking ramp for his yacht or the translator referred to is as a big ship.  May 30-31 mission 013The winch machine is no longer operable and rusted after years of neglect.  I was particularly drawn to the outside decks complete with concrete fireplace and bar.

Stairs to the lake at King Zahir Shah’s summer home

Stairs to the lake at King Zahir Shah’s summer home

I’m still puzzled by the steps leading down into the water.  Going out on a limb, I would venture to say this might have been where they took a bath, because shower or bathtubs were ominously absent in the house.
May 30-31 mission 031On the return trip we took our chances with the J-Bad Pass again.  The traffic was gnarled and backed up for several miles.  Our grumbling HMMVWs threaded through the center of traffic as vehicles pulled off to the side to give us the right of way.  One of my teammates misjudged the several inches of clearance between vehicles and hit a Jingle Truck.  The truck rocked from the impact, but after the driver examined his vehicle, he motioned for us to continue forward.  In all truth, the HMMVW had more damage than the Jingle Truck.  The damage was minor and we continued forward until we arrived at the camp and ended our mission.

More mentoring, “Darkness” – the dog and my 1st care package

This morning was a productive mentoring session with my ANA SGM.  We delved into the problems causing the greatest unease for his soldiers.  Receiving combat boots made with second-rate quality was a concern.  The boot contract is local, but I surmise they are manufactured in another country.  Using my translator, I explained about contracting and capitalism.  Just because Company A was awarded the contract, doesn’t mean they will manufacture the goods.  Instead they will subcontract with Company B who often subcontracts with Company C and D.  As a result, inferior quality is sometimes substituted so each company layer can claim their profit margin.  He seemed to understand.
The SGM also mentioned ANA like to play volleyball.  Well this sport is near and dear to my heart.  He wants to schedule a volleyball match between the ANA and coalition forces.  Our Air Force members have been practicing daily after duty-hours and have a talented team.  But before we slaughter and embarrass our hosts, I think it’s imperative to see first-hand their skill level and plan accordingly.  I’m certain they would turn the tables on us if we played a soccer (football) match.

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Darkness 002Outside the gate I saw a black dog lying next to the Hesco barrier resting in the shade.  The guards have nicknamed her “Darkness”.  Apparently she likes Americans but is skittish around the Afghans.  For some reason, stray dogs frequently sit outside the compound.  Due to the potential of rabies, we are not allowed to pet them or feed them.  But there’s nothing wrong with taking a picture.

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postOur small post office is run by 3 Air Force personnel and they are responsible for sorting the camp’s mail.  Needless to say, I was relieved when they looked on the dusty wooden shelves and gave me a white box with my name on it.  My care package from my wife finally arrived!  I hurried back to my room and opened it.  It was filled with beef jerky, Fig Newtons, and our treasured wedding picture.  Wedding pictures-originals 117It seemed like yesterday when we were standing on the sandy beach exchanging our vows.  In addition she packed a quality pair of shower shoes, spare contact lenses, and my favorite peanut butter crackers.  Lastly, she included photographs of our furry boys playing along with some heart-felt cards.  I am a happy camper tonight!  Having access to Internet and telephones and receiving mail are the biggest morale boosters for a deployed person.

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