Please vote for Rex’s blog in MILbloggies awards

Rex recording memos.

From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: Rex is out on a mission and I am using this space to ask you for your continued support. A few days ago I asked that you help nominate Rex and his blog for MILbloggies awards as a special anniversary gift for Rex. You came through and now Rex has advanced to the finals. So again if you are a regular reader of his blog and like what he writes and photographs, please cast your vote at the Milblogging.com/votestandings page (you have to be signed into your account to do so).

This would be the best anniversary gift ever so please help me give it to Rex by voting!

******

Here is more information about the online voting for the Fourth Annual MILbloggies

Thank you to everyone who participated so far, but it’s not over.  Congratulations to all the Finalists.  Voting has begun in the Fourth Annual MILbloggies, which will end on Wednesday, April 7 at 11:59 PM EST.  To find out who advanced as a Finalist in this year’s MILbloggies and to cast your vote in each category, go here. Voting is easy.  Just go to the Standings, click on a category, then cast your vote for one of the finalists.  (You have to be signed into your account to do this.)

Winners will be announced at the 2010 MILblog Conference on April 10th by this year’s Platinum Sponsors USAA and General Electric.

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?).

***

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

A Day Off

My room

My room

It was Jumaa and I was caught up with my work.  No training, no missions, just a day to relax.  I even slept in until 0630 hrs this morning.  Woke up refreshed and planned my day accordingly.  My room Internet connectivity seemed to be operating too.  I planned to use this to my advantage and catch up on reading a backlog of emails and send a few emails.  Simultaneously while I patiently waited for Internet pages to load, I would clean up and organize my room.  Several of my former roommates left behind a bunch of stuff to include over 50 miscellaneous movies, books, administrative supplies, and drawers full of miscellaneous junk.  I was also the beneficiary of 4 care packages from family and friends.

My desk and my "privacy sheet"

My desk and my "privacy sheet"

Because of my SNCO status we only put 4 people to a room and then divide it with lockers, blankets, and parachute cord.  Just for kicks, I measured my cubicle at 8’ X 9’4”.  Don’t tell my roommate but I think I have 4 more inches of space than he does.  Hey isn’t a standard jail cell 8 X 10?  In addition to a locker, I managed to score a homemade wooden shelf to help separate my books, gear, etc.  The desk you see in the picture is where I spend my time communicating with my wife and writing these blog entries.  Connectivity is a sore subject, but I am happy when it works.  If not, then I wait my turn at the MWR facility to download my stories and pictures within the 30 minute allotment.

"I wanna be a cowboy."

"I wanna be a cowboy."

You just never know what you might see at the camp and this is why I make a habit of carrying my camera with me.  The sand volleyball court and adjoining horseshoe pit has multiple uses. Today I watched an AF Captain practice his lasso skills with a wooden saw horse.  It just so happens he is also one of my ETT teammates.  The captain is married with 5 kids and is stationed in the Northern Tier at Minot AFB, North Dakota.  When he is at home station, he raises 4 Paint horses and enjoys riding the horses with his family.  He jokingly said when he grows up; he wants to be a cowboy.

Army enjoying the sun and volleyball

Army enjoying the sun and volleyball

The Army was taking advantage of a hot summer day and engaged in a game of volleyball.  They looked pretty good, but I think the AF can still take them.  Tonight my team is going to practice after it cools down.  The ANA SGM is still challenging our ETT team to a game of volleyball.  We need a lot of practice because he is stacking his team with his best players.  Apparently he bought them all uniforms too.
Blog Update:  It still amazes me how many people are reading and sharing my blog.  Last night I was interviewed by AF Chaplain Mark Campbell.  LtCol Campbell is Chaplain to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy Office.

More Army volleyball

More Army volleyball

We chatted about my experiences here in Afghanistan and about some of the missions I’ve been on.  If he posts my interview, my wife will be sure to post it on the blog.  That’s about it for now, time to go play volleyball.

WUSF radio evening report 5-15-09

Rex talks about preparing for missions

This afternoon Rex was able to call WUSF radio reporter Bobbie O’Brien.

WUSF’s morning radio report 5-15-09

WUSF Radio\’s Morning Edition story from 5-15-09

Dedicating a new memorial + Afghan Meal #2

Written on 5-14-09

The sun rises early here and rudely awoke me around 0445 hrs as it peeked through my window and around the cloth window covering.  I used this as an opportunity to walk around the camp and take in my surroundings.  We are surrounded by huge bald faced mountains.  I watched as the sun slowly rose between the mountain peaks in the distance.  By best guess, the peaks reach up about 7-8000 feet.  They appear harmless, yet beyond them the enemy awaits for an opportunity to attack the coalition and Afghan forces.  This is when the reality of war reminds me where I am.
I ate an early breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, ham, and cheese accompanied by some polish sausage and an overcooked hash brown.  Nearby I filled a paper bowl with some fresh pineapple, honeydew, and topped it with fresh strawberries.  My choice of coffee was limited to strong and weak coffee.  I learned from Camp Phoenix that strong coffee was really strong.  I wasn’t in the mood for watered-down asphalt, so I opted to mix my cup with half of each flavor.  This seemed to pacify my coffee tooth.  Yes it’s a far cry from my Millstone home brew and it can’t hold a candle to Starbucks either, but hey I’m in combat and the coffee is hot.  No need to complain.
Leaving Phoenix 008(2)Today we dedicated a special monument commemorating the efforts of the US and Afghan forces.  Previously the plan was to sacrifice a lamb and then allow it bleed it out for a day and then feast on the meat the next day.  Due to logistical challenges, the lamb was purchased and made in advance.  The Afghan Honor Guard surrounded the memorial and several guest speakers spoke.  Meanwhile our small military flight stood at parade rest in 90 degree temperatures and a glaring sun.  The Afghan general spoke in Dari without a translator for almost 40 minutes!   Our arms and shoulders grew weary from trying to maintain this position and our military bearing while everyone spoke.  Eventually the speeches ended and they unveiled the monument epitaph.Oops, someone forgot to spell check it, so “dedicated” was misspelled as “didicated”.
After the ceremony we were treated to another Afghan meal.  This time the main course was lamb, more vegetables and leafy greens with Nan bread.  Once again I forgot my spoon, but it wasn’t required for today’s feast.  The lamb was a bit tough and unsure what spices or marinade was used if any.  I smiled politely as I separated the gristle, fat and meat with my teeth.   I washed it down with some bottled water manufactured locally here.  I’ve included some pics for your viewing.Leaving Phoenix 007 (From Liisa: I’ll post more pictures in a slide show in the coming days!)
Later on in the afternoon a group of AF personnel took on the Army again at beach volleyball.  Yesterday we played for 2 ½ hrs.  The AF lost one game during the entire time.  Our volleyball court is rather unique.  It’s wedged between 2 buildings and surrounded by concrete barricades.  The out of bounds area is only 6 inches from the barracks walls.  It makes really interesting playing, especially with the air-condition units protruding from the walls.  So far nobody has gotten seriously injured as we are all cognizant of the dangerous obstacles.  I also took the opportunity to teach two of my teammates some more advanced fundamentals of playing volleyball.  They are quick learners and have added a jump serve to their weapons arsenal.  The Army won’t stand a chance!!

My first Afghan meal

The next morning we hit the ground running and inspected the up-armored vehicles that we would be responsible for.  Our training at Fort Riley familiarized us with them and now we will put our training to use.  The only difference is every time we leave the FOB, we will go “hot” with live ammunition instead of blanks.
After we received a small briefing, we visited our Afghan Kandak.  A Kandak is equivalent to an Army battalion.  I was informed my responsibility for the next year is to mentor the Afghan Sergeant Major.  Before we would meet and greet, we had to get a translator to accompany us.  The interpreters have a good understanding of our English language except for when we use slang or idioms.  They are too proud to tell you they don’t understand, so it’s important to observe nonverbal facial cues and provide clarity.
Initially the Sgt Major wasn’t in so we stopped by to greet the Kandak colonel.  My team chief was already inside his office when we arrived.  We were greeted and offered the traditional cup of chai (tea).  It reminded me of past deployments, especially in Kuwait when I made purchases for the government from local vendors.  Every vendor would insist on a cup of chai before discussing business.  I’m convinced by the end of that tour; I consumed a 55 gallon drum of chai!
Later on I met the Afghan Sgt Major.  He seemed impressed with the few sentences of Dari I was able to mutter.  Using the translator I explained that I was a writer and I wanted the American public to read and hear stories about Afghan life.   I quickly learned he has been a soldier for a long time and witnessed war first-hand.  My interest turned to the Soviet occupation era.  He explained that the Russians forced Afghan soldiers and citizens into their army to fight the Mujahadeen.  Recall the Mujahadeen warriors were being indirectly supported by the United States.  So in essence you had Afghans fighting Afghans.  Based on my short research of Afghanistan, I don’t recall reading about this in any history book.  So I am looking forward to exploring this subject in more detail.  If I were to draw a parallel, this would be similar to our Civil War.
Leaving Phoenix 004My team was invited to join the Afghan leadership in a specially prepared meal.  Immediately I panicked because I forgot to put a spare spoon in my pocket for this occasion.  As we sat down at the table I scanned it carefully and no flatware was to be seen.  Leaving Phoenix 005We would have to eat the meal with our hands.  The cook was stirring some sort of egg mixture in a steel pot on the floor.  It was equivalent to our eggs Ranchero.  On the table, the paper plates were filled with some basil leaves, Italian Parsley, small slides tomatoes and cucumbers and in honor of us they made some sort of French fries.   After watching our hosts eat, I mimicked them and followed suit.  The Nan bread substituted for the missing spoon for scooping up the eggs Ranchero.  We ate our meal, exchanged some pleasantries and then returned to our camp.

%d bloggers like this: