Friday, July 31, 2009

Iraq Update

So, I've talked to Kelly I think maybe four times since he arrived in Iraq. He called this morning which was a nice change. It was nice to talk to him when I'm not half asleep so I can actually carry on a conversation. Apparently the Chief (his friend the Warrent Officer) has a DSN phone in his office that Kelly can use. With a DSN phone you call a number and they connect you with someone locally (Portland or Salem) who then forwards the call to the number that you are trying to reach. Usually you have a 20 minute time limit when with out warning they just disconnect you. Fortunately, for some reason, the phone he uses doesn't do that so we are able to have a nice, long conversation.

He is at a base called Al-Assad and is getting situated in his CHU (his conex home). He said it is a little bigger than the one he had in Afghanistan but has less in it. He is busy buying things from the group from Texas that is leaving. I know that he bought a bicycle, and a TV and DVD player. Apparently they have AFN (Armed Forces Network) cable in their rooms. He is trying to find an antenna for his laptop that he can put outside to pick up the wireless internet signal so he can finally get on the internet. The signal isn't strong enough to penetrate the metal walls of his CHU so he's hoping an antenna will help and he wants to get it before he starts paying $60 a month for internet.

He told me that his jobs at this point are:

1. He is the NCOIC (Noncomissioned Officer in Charge) of the convoy academy. Working with the Texas Guard (who are leaving) to coordinate the transfer of the academy to the Oregon Guard. He will be making sure that they have instructors and making sure that they are doing what needs to be done.

2. He is the NCOIC for the BNOC (basic noncommissioned officers course) doing test administration. He taught this course for several years while he was with the Military Academy.

3. Assisting the Chief who is the "mayor" of the CHU and is responsible for 400+ housing units.

So, needless to say, he is busy! It has been, of course, extremely hot there with temps well above 100. They have also been having sand storms which make life pretty miserable.

Hopefully, his time to be out on convoys will be very minimal. I know that he will be out there sometimes but the less the better. Especially after reading today that soldiers from their group who are at a different base have already had two roadside bombs go off. Thankfully no one was hurt!

So, that's the most that I know for now. I will write more when I know more!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kelly's in Iraq

Well, he has finally arrived in Iraq. He was supposed to leave Kuwait on the 26th but got moved up to the 24th. We were gone camping so he couldn't call and let me know. I finally got a call from him on the evening of the 25th. He didn't give me a lot of info, our connection got cut off three times and he had to call back. I'm not sure how we are going to communicate, apparently the USO phones at his base are not free like they were in Kuwait and the internet is interesting, to say the least. From what he has been told they used to have "hard line" internet on the base but had too much trouble with people "stealing" it so they did away with that and now have wireless. Unfortunatly the wireless is spotty at best so he's not sure about paying $60 a month for that. Anyway, he was supposed to call me Sunday morning but I haven't heard anything yet. I'm trying to be patient, it's just so hard when I don't know what's going on!

Camping 2009

Every year (except last year when we went to the beach) for the past like 14 (?) years my family (my parents, my sisters, sometimes hubbys and all the kids) go to Foster Lake near Sweet Home, OR for a camping trip. We normally stay for three nights. My requirements for camping include showers and flush toilets! The bad thing is that over the years it has apparently become more well known and has become very busy. We got there Monday night and by Wednesday they had put up the "campground full" sign. This year was interesting. My parents went with their camper, since Kelly is gone it is just the girls and I, Julie and Dennis just had Rilee so they sent Cassie and Hailey with me and came for one day, and Joanna and her kids came.

Monday night at about 11pm a group of kids drove in the campground in a very noisy truck and apparently came just to party. They made noise until about 4am when they packed up their stuff and left. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep that night. Tuesday the boys fished, all the kids swam and we all hung out. Tuesday night at about 11:30pm the lady in the group across from us had a medical emergency so we had an ambulance idling outside our tent for about an hour (she had apparently had a reaction to some medication). Wednesday we hung out some more, kids swam, boys fished, ect. Thursday we packed up and came home. Three nights is about perfect for me. I'm really ready to be in my own bed, steps from my own potty and able to take a shower without worrying if the hot water will last.

So, another camping trip, another summer almost gone by.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

He's in Kuwait

So, like I said in the last post, Kelly left Georgia on Friday, July 10. From there he flew to Canada, Iceland and Germany before touching down in Kuwait. I think he said it was like 27 hours or something, most of them in the air! He called yesterday, 7/11 at about 3pm or so. The girls and I had gone to Turkey Rama with a friend thinking if he called it would be later in the evening (when it was morning in Kuwait). But no, he called at 1am his time! Apparently they got there at like 10pm and after getting "settled" he went to find the phones and found a two hour wait! Lucky for him rank has priviledges so he went to their "TOC" (tactical operations center) where he found a phone that was less in demand. They are limited to 20 minute calls though. Anyway, he called back this morning at 7am while I was in the shower. I had taken the phone in the bathroom with me hoping he might call after I got out of the shower or something but no, he called right when I was totally soapy, had conditioner in my hair and had just put soap on my face. The phone rings and I know it has to be him so I try to reach around the shower wall to the counter on the other side of the shower, lose my balance, fall out of the shower onto the floor taking the shower curtain with me! When I told him what had happened he did call back a few minutes later when I had a chance to replace the curtain and rinse off!

He told me that when they arrived in Kuwait the "advanced party" people were still there! They left Georgia on about the 15th of June and were supposed to go ahead to Iraq to have everything set up for the "main body". Apparently the Marines who run the base where they will be are still trying to get ready for them and so now their whole Brigade will end up in Kuwait. I don't know if they will all go to Iraq at the same time or if they will stagger them (most likely). Also, Kelly did get bumped from the cargo plane he was hoping to fly on because they had issues with the weight of the load. He flew on the regular flight with all the "joes"(as he calls them).
When the people on the cargo flight got there he found out that they had to layover in Italy and the layover was so long that they had to get rooms and some people didn't have money, etc., so he was glad he didn't fly with them.

The temperature in Kuwait is a lovely 108 - 110. He said it's like turning on the blowdryer on "hot" and blowing it in your face. Fun times!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Next Phase

I am getting really tired of writing negative posts. Hopefully things will improve.

Kelly left this morning for Kuwait. All day yesterday I cried or got teary every time I would think about him. (and it's happening right now!) Today I went through the drive-up at the bank and my friend there asked me about him and I said that he left today and then I had to tell her that I couldn't talk about it anymore because everytime I do I start to cry! He called me at 7am while he was at the airport in GA waiting to board the plane. We talked for a while and then he said he would call me later because they were flying to Maine. Later he texted me as they were taking off and told me that they were actually flying to no phone call. If I had known I would have talked to him longer when he called! He sent me an e-mail from the airport in Canada and told me that he wasn't sure when he would be able to contact me again. This is the part that was so frustrating when he went to Afghanistan. We had really no form of communication for a while except for sporadic e-mails. It's so hard when I usually talk to him at least once a day.

Anyway, I am tired of feeling like I am swimming through mush. I don't know if that makes any sense but I just feel so tired and have no interest in doing anything. I keep telling myself to stop but I also am trying not to stuff my feelings this time,'s kind of crazy. Do I make myself stop feeling depressed or just go with it and feel it? I don't know. We will see what tomorrow brings I guess...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Baby Rilee Arrived Today!

This morning my sister, Julie and her husband, Dennis had their first baby. Little Rilee Kennedy arrived at 8:34 am, weighing 7 lbs 10 oz and was 21 1/2" long. She has a cute, round little face and dark black hair. She has two older sisters, Cassie (15) and Hailey (14) from Julie's first marriage and is now the 12th grandchild on my side of the family. There are now 10 girls and 2 boys. Oh yeah, girls rule, boys drool! She is also almost six months younger than my grandson! Following are some pictures for your enjoyment!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Finally an Update on Kelly

Wow, I can't believe it's been two months since I wrote anything about Kelly! I figured the 4th of July was an appropriate time to do so.

Part of the reason that I haven't written anything before this is that things have been difficult and changes have happened that I wasn't ready to put out there until it had all settled.

Ok, Kelly arrived at Ft. Stewart, GA on the 7th of May and things continued to be challenging with his Sergeant Major (SGM). Every time that I talked to him he was so stressed and tired, trying to do everything expected of him and more. It was really a difficult time for Kelly to become a 1st Sergeant (1SG). He didn't get to go to 1SG school, he had never had the 1SG role before, he was coming into a Company that was new to him and that was deploying on top of it all! Not the best time to do on-the-job training! There was also a Master Sergeant (MSG) who had expressed his desire to spend time in-country as a 1SG and the SGM had planned to have he and Kelly switch duties half way through the deployment. (Note: a 1SG and a MSG are the same rank (E-8) they just have different duties) Anyway, in mid-June the SGM had a meeting with Kelly and told him that he was switching them at that time. It was so difficult. I knew that he was feeling like maybe he had failed to live up to expectations but he was also so relieved to be out from the pressure. When he told me I could really sense his stress level had come down a lot. (There are a lot of under lying things that have started coming to light recently that make us believe that this didn't really have anything to do with Kelly or his abilities)

So, now he is a MSG and is working as an Operations NCO. Their mission in Iraq is Convoy and Base Security so as the Ops NCO he will be working to coordinate convoys, etc. Much less stress! One benefit of his new duty position is that when I went to visit 6/22 he had the ability to spend lots of time with me. If he had still been the 1SG I doubt that I would have seen him much! (you can read about our adventures in the previous posts)

The plan at this point is that he is leaving for Iraq in less that two weeks (I can't give the exact day for security reasons). He requested and at this point has been assigned to fly on one of the cargo planes as a "pallet rider" instead of flying with all the troops. I was surprised, thinking that they would be sitting in the cargo hold in the jump seats but he told me that on the these planes there is an area above the cargo hold that has nice cushy, reclining seats. Figures!

Anyway, the next post will probably be when he arrives in Kuwait. Following are some pictures that I took of the area where is lives and trains at Ft. Stewart.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vacation Part 2 - Georgia Days 2 +

Wednesday morning we headed to South Carolina to visit our nephew Josh's wife, Marcella and their sweet little girl, Aurelia. (Josh was away training in Virginia) We had a nice visit and went to lunch.

Entering SC

After leaving there we drove to Hilton Head. For me, really a disappointment. The houses are so close together that you can't even see the ocean and between each house are signs that say "no parking" and "private beach".

Hilton Head

After leaving there we decided to drive out to Tybee Island, GA ( just past Savannah). I was determined to dip my toes in the Atlantic Ocean! We got there, paid to park (crazy) and found a restaurant. We told the waitress that we were going to sit outside and after 20 minutes with no one coming out we left. We walked down to the beach were I walked in the ocean. It is so weird to this Oregon girl to walk in warm ocean water!

After leaving the beach we decided to try this place called "The Crab Shack" so we plugged it into the GPS and after driving down a small residential street we came to this really awesome place. It was really big with indoor, screened in seating and outdoor seating on a deck next to an inlet. There was an alligator pond where kids could feed alligators (the alligator food looked like dog treats) using poles with strings attached.

When we got our table we were seated in the outdoor area! It was a gorgeous night, warm and not humid with the lights in the trees and the noise of whatever kind of bugs, frogs, etc. you always hear in the South at night. We ordered the special which is Low Country Boil. It was amazing!

Thursday afternoon I got on the computer to do my online check-in for my flight Friday and it kept telling me that it couldn't check me in because my flight was more than 24 hours from then. Finally I called the 800 number for the airline and listened to the recording that said "your flight scheduled for JULY 26th....July?...yes, I am that stupid! I scheduled my return flight for July 26th instead of June 26th! So, many phone calls later I was rescheduled to return on Sunday (Saturday would have cost $800 more!), added two days to my rental car and hotel room and paid $250 more for my flight (worth every cent to spend two more days with my sweet hubby!). I spent the next three days hanging out in the room and going places on post with Kelly when he had free time. Saturday night we went with a friend of his out to dinner at Chilli's (they actually got to leave the base and wear "real people" clothes!). Sunday morning I got up at 2:00 am, drove to the airport, turned in my rental car and flew home. I got home at 11:00 am and it felt so good to walk out the airport doors and breathe cool, fresh air! It was an amazing, wonderful trip and Kelly and I even talked about going back to the Savannah area for vacation sometime!

Vacation Part 2 - Georgia Day 1

Ok, continuing from the last post...Brittany, Holden and I were at the St. Louis airport. I checked my bag and was told that my flight was delayed an hour so we went to Starbucks to have a drink and a snack, then sat outside the security area for awhile. While we were sitting there I overheard two flight attendants walking by say something about a flight being cancelled. I found a flight info board and found out that it was my flight! So, we went back up to the check in desk, waited in line and was told that the first available flight was not until 6:20 pm! I asked to be put on the stand-by list and told Britt that she might as well go home because I had to be on the other side of security to wait for flights. I was able to get them to rebook me on the 5:30 pm flight and remained on stand-by for earlier ones. When the 3:20 flight was getting ready to board they made an announcement that the airport in Atlanta was experiencing some weather issues and was completely shut down! The 3:20 flight ended up taking off about 10 minutes before the 5:30 flight and I got on as stand-by. When we arrived in Atlanta is was absolute chaos! My flight to Savannah was at 10:50 pm, we boarded on time and then sat on the tarmac for 1/2 hour while they changed the direction for take-off! When we arrived in Savannah it was midnight and the car rental counter was about to close so I rushed there, got my car and headed out for Ft. Stewart. I had planned my arrival for 2:30 pm so it would still be light out and I could navigate in the daylight but so much for plans! I arrived at Ft. Stewart at about 1:00 am, found Kelly and our room and went to bed...for about three hours until the alarm clock in the room went off at 5! We finally got it turned off and went back to sleep until about 9.

Kelly was given a 60 hour pass so we had all day Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday morning to spend without any interruptions.

Tuesday morning we stopped off at Starbucks, went to Wal-Mart and bought a GPS for the car and headed out to see the sights. First we went to Savannah and drove around the city. We stopped at a cemetary in the middle of town and walked around for awhile, had lunch at a funky little place called "The Mellow Mushroom". It was decorated in a 60's theme and played 60's music. It was pretty fun. We did forget to put money in the parking meter and ended up getting a $15 ticket (within 10 minutes of parking). After we left Savannah, we went to a movie.

Vacation Part 1 - Missouri

Part one of my trip began with me flying out at 12:30 am on Monday, 6/15. Got to Minneapolis airport for my layover and went to the gate for the next leg of my flight. After sitting there alone for about 1/2 hour I looked at my ticket again and realized that I had looked at my seat number! I found the right gate (after a lot of walking) and when I got there the departing flight was not for St. Louis. I looked on the flight info board and saw that now my flight was leaving from a gate in "C" concourse and I was in "A". After walking probably a mile in the stupid airport I found the right gate with just a few minutes to spare before boarding began! When I got to St. Louis, Nick and Britt were late because of an accident on the interstate so I hung out at Starbucks until they arrived. It was pouring rain the first day that I was there and that night there was thunder, lightning and driving rain. Next morning it was kind of humid but still cool enough for Brittany, Holden and I to take a walk and play on the playground.

We spent the week pretty much hanging around the house because it was so humid it was miserable to do anything outside! Saturday I babysat Holden while Nick and Brittany went to a movie and out to dinner for Father's Day. Oh, how I love this baby boy! He is such a good, happy baby and so much fun!

Sunday we had planned to drive up to Lake of the Ozarks State Park where they have swimming beaches and a cave to tour. We wanted to take the dogs with us so I got on the parks website to see if dogs were allowed. To my surprise I read that all the beaches and the cave was closed due to flooding! So, we went to a park next to a river on post where we could swim. The first place we went to the current was so strong we could just wade. Then we moved to another place where the water was calm but the bank was so muddy that to get in the water you pretty much had to slide down on your backside. I stayed out of the water and was so sweaty by the time we left that I felt like I had been swimming!

Monday morning Brittany, Holden and I left for the airport at 5:15 am for my 9:30 flight. Then the story gets really crazy. You'll have to the read Vacation Part 2 - Georgia for that!