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Saturday, 06 July 2013

Location: USA

So six months have gone by quickly!

Sorry, my last entry was the day after christmas. In my defense it was hard to top that prisoner exchange story on christmas eve, things got a little routine, but i did jot down some notes.

First, the Super Bowl. Had some die-hard football fans who got up at 0200 to watch the big game. Great game, best part was the power outage. Where we live, that happens 2-3 times a day, so it was kind of nice to see it happen during the prime time superbowl.

In the February timeframe, i was able to close my desk in Camp Leatherneck, aka "the moon". Thank god for that, I have told many people my time in Afghanistan has been much better than my time in Iraq, especially where I live in Kabul, but i earned my paycheck on the moon. After the new year is the start of rainy season in southern afghanistan, so not only did i have to put on shoes to go to the bathroom at night, now i was carrying an umbrella. A decreasing workload is the reason we closed my desk there, but i have to say it was a great feeling. I was the only "banking" person in an office filled with contracting officers, but they gave me a great sendoff, a commanders coin and "T-wall" gift, and allowed me to say some nice things. I'd been there off and on for about 6 months, I cant say that I enjoyed it, but there were some wonderful people there.

In March I was able to take my second Rest and Recouperation period, and I made it home in time to see my favorite University of Dayton Flyers Mens basketball team play their one and only game in the A-10 tournament in New York City. I am a huge fan having grown up in Dayton, and thanks to the Brewer Family in Ossining NY I was able to stay with them, take a train in to the city and catch the Flyers. I also was able to make the Brewer St. Patricks Day Party, which i had not attended before. Aiden is from Ireland, so its a national holiday there. I went to college with Stacy, she married an Irishman and adopted two Russian children so the Brewer house really does have an international flavor to it. I've long been attending their world famous Memorial Day Parties for year, but have never made the St Patricks Day bash. They have wonderful friends and neighbors, I had a great time, but i will say it does not rival the Memorial Day Party for outrageous stories.

My second week of vacation I made it out to visit Dad at Indian Lake, Ohio. An awesome place to visit in the summertime, but i have to admit, not so awesome in March. But we had a good time, my visit with Dad ended on Thursday March 21 at exactly 0900, and that was as planned. Two hours driving later i checked in to a hotel in North Dayton Ohio, which was strategically located at the last remaining Hooters in the Dayton/Columbus area. Twenty years ago there had to be 6 or 7, but now, only one remains.

As most of you know, I am a HUGE fan, of both Hooters, but most importantly, of the third Thursday in March, when the greatest four days in sports begins, March Madness. I started taking leave from the Navy in the mid 1990s to watch the first two rounds of March Madness, because during those first four days you get the CInderalla upsets. The #15 seed beats a #2 seed team that nobody saw happening, and its just a great feeling. Over the years more and more people have followed my lead and are taking that Thursday/Friday off, and I have to say the place was packed by noon. During my last two tours in Washington DC, a friend of mine Brendan would join me for the first day, we'd have our picks out and watch the games on a barstool from noon to midnight. I told guys from work that i was taking days off to sit in a sports bar down the road from work, and they didnt believe me the first year. They came to visit at lunch, then after work and they couldnt believe i was still there. I said not anyone can sit on a barstool drinking beer/eating chicken wings for twelve straight hours, you have to train for that, so of course they were impressed.

I didnt have my drinking buddies with me this year, but the Hooters girls made up for it, I have some awesome photos I need to post, and I will shortly. The most memorable moment for me, was Friday, the second day, I arrived at 11am, just as Hooters was opening, and i was the first customer. The waitresses were bored, and you know what Hooters waitresses do when they are bored, handstand races. I kid you not, these girls had races around the bar, the winner actually ran "backwards" on her handstand, it really was a beautiful moment. Thank you very much to all the Hooters girls in North Dayton, pictures to follow.

Last, before i forget, not only did i get to enjoy lots of basketball, chickenwings, and beer, but Ohio has passed a law since i left, allowing Casino gambling. I am also a huge blackjack fan, and just a short one hour north of dayton, in Columbus Ohio, is a recently opened casino. My routine for three mornings was to get up at 6am, drive to the casino, get in two hours of blackjack, and make it back in time to get a good seat for 12 hours of march madness.

My life on the Moon and Afghanistan leaves a lot to be desired, but I really did make up for it during that vacation.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Location: USA

Merry Day After Christmas!

During my time in the Navy I’ve spent several holidays away from home and some of them I was pretty down, but this holiday in Afghanistan has really been okay. My co-worker has missed Christmas with his wife and two little girls the last three years, so I really feel good about holding down the office and allowing him to spend time with his family in Virginia. I enjoy the job I’m doing, I like the people I’m working with both in Camp Leatherneck and Kabul, and I was able to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the chapel in Camp Leatherneck before I left, so I’m doing fine.

On Christmas day I went in to work in the morning, as I said in the previous post. For the afternoon I was able to see Captain Mattimore one last time before he departs Afghanistan, he has been away from his family for one year, no breaks, and leaves in just a few days. I made it over to his place in Camp Phoenix, Brendan is the expert shopper/negotiator I mentioned before, we did a little shopping looking for those Christmas Day sales here in Kabul.

Brendan has developed quite the reputation as the precious stones expert in Camp Phoenix, he was literally called in on a couple purchases from some of his people while I was there. They call him up on his cellular and say "Captain, I'm thinking of buying 2.5 carrots of Black Diamonds for $60.00, is that a good deal?" We find the shop where they are located, Brendan sits down at the counter, starts picking the stones apart, pulls out his flashlight for closer inspection, he's like Quincy that damn medical examiner from the 1970s TV show!

The one purchase he reviewed, the store owner pulls out this new instrument, a "hardness" meter, and he puts it on the black diamond, it registers something, then puts it on the glass countertop, it registers something else...The customers are looking at Brendan, the shop owner is looking at Brendan, we wait in anticipation…and then Brendan gives it his thumbs up! He walks in to the shops and he is like the damn "mayor", the owners shake my hand, they give him big hugs!

It is not going to be the same once he leaves Afghanistan, and I fear he's going to return to the FBI, take a walk for his morning coffee and start negotiating with the poor Starbucks lady....C'mon you can throw that muffin for free, I bought a $5.00 coffee! Do you know who I am? I was negotiating Black Diamond purchases in Afghanistan just last month, and you are telling me you can’t throw in a muffin??? Ahhh back to reality, no more captain Mattimore, just Brendan the old government worker from upstairs...

So we had a great meal in the dining hall, got some photos next to a pretty sad looking Santa, and I'm getting ready to depart back to my humble room in Green Village, when our security team calls me and says "Camp Phoenix is on Lockdown, we can't get on the base without approval." All these times visiting Brendan I've never had a problem, now it’s Christmas night and I'm stuck. So we walk around base, try to find the right guy to approve and of course Christmas night it is hard to find anyone in the office. We find one young LT in security, he tells me that I can walk out the gate to my security vehicle waiting on the other side, although he wouldn’t recommend it unless I was wearing body armor. I told him, "Son, I was in Iraq during the surge with General Petreaus when you were still a glimmer in your Daddy’s eye, I don’t need no stinking body armor." (okay maybe he was in high school…)

So we agree that’s the fastest method to leave the base, phone calls are made, my security vehicle is outside the gate and Brendan walks me down to the guard shack and it’s like a damn prisoner exchange in the beginning of the Angelina Jolie movie SALT! The guard shack is as far as Brendan can go, so he gives me a man-hug, a young Sgt in full body armor and weapon walks me down the long road to the end where I can see our SUV waiting for me, I am like "this is so damn cool, I can't wait to tell everyone back home!" I really wanted to make a run for it the last 50 feet but thought they may not find the humor in all that...And then we drove home.

So how did Christmas go at your house? Did any of the kids spill anything at the table? Did you do any tough negotiating for the last piece of pie? Ahhh I'm sure you have some crazy stories for me… just let me know!

Happy Holidays

Rambo Rick

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Location: USA

Merry Christmas from Kabul!

Can't say that I'm super happy about being here on Christmas day, but there really are a lot of good people here working hard, so it makes being here more bearable.

So I'm here in Kabul because my co-worker is back in virginia with his family, for the first time in three years at christmas. I feel good about getting him home and holding down the fort. So its me and our office of 4 local national Afghan banking experts. Obviously being Muslim, Christmas isnt a big deal for them, so I thought I'd try to add a little US culture to their plate this morning.

I wasnt really sure what i could get them, there isnt a lot to shop for out here, and i already gave them Moms cookies, so what could i leave on their desk wrapped up nice as a little christmas surprise? I noticed every one of them smokes, and they share one old broken lighter in the office, they click it like 100 times to get a flame, it bugs the heck out of me. So I hit the base exchange and got them 5 packs of good ole USofA Marlboro reds and a disposable lighter each. Not exactly the greatest christmas gift, but i thought pretty practical. I also left a note on their desk with the present, I took a picture and will tell you to go to the christmas photo section to see what Santa said!

Hope you all are having a Merry Christmas. After listening to some of your stories, I'd say i have it not so bad in war-torn Afghanistan! Somebody is getting a puppy christmas morning(i wont say who!) and the christmas gift is pooping all over the house of the gift givers the week before!

The holidays can always be tough, but I'm really doing fine over here, thank you for all the good wishes and my co-workers in Camp Leatherneck said my desk is filled with boxes right now so i need to get back there in the next week to see what Santa left me!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Love
rick

Friday, 14 December 2012

Location: USA

I have two work locations in Afghanistan, one in the southern region, at Camp Leatherneck surrounded by thousands of Marines, and one in Kabul, the country's capital, on a smaller base. At Camp leatherneck i am the EFT/banking representative for the area, so I work in an office filled with contracting specialist, but i'm the only banking representative. Our main office is in Kabul, and there I have a fellow contractor who runs the office, he was a banker in Iraq, then started working for the US in the EFT assistance center and has continued to do so for nearly five years. We also have four Afghanistan Banking experts, they are "local nationals" citizens of Afghanistan who are trying to earn their VISAs to eventually go to the United States. Its amazing what they have to put up with to come to work every day, but we've gotten to know each other much better over the last six months.

In November, one of the local nationals had his mom prepare us a traditional Afghanistan lunch, which was no easy feat. They did a wonderful job of not only cooking it, but transporting it from their home, to our front gate and then to our office, it really was a difficult evolution. It meant a lot to me, I wanted to return the favor in some small way, so I thought I'd tap in to some of my support staff back in the United States, namely Mom.

She makes some AWESOME sugar cookies at christmas time, i remember helping her as a little kid, they not only look nice and christmas-y, but they taste great as well. Thanks to the US Postal service, the cookies made it in six days, i requested two batches, one sent to Kabul to my co-workers, and one batch to me in Camp Leatherneck. The guys loved the cookies and sent me some photos from Kabul, and after taking my 1/2 of the batch in Camp Leatherneck, I put the half out for the Marines in the office, all gone in under an hour.

I'm not sure if it will bring peace to the Middle East but i know at least some Afghans and a few Marines are very happy with "Ricks Moms Christmas Sugar Cookies". Photos are attached.


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Recent Messages

From Jane Hurst
What's the scoop, Rick? You haven't updated your blog in months!!! How's it going over there? Should be nice & hot for you soon.
Loved the "Salt" story. I'm sure you'll have plenty more before you come home. When is that, BTW? Take care & stay safe.
Jane
Response: I'm sorry, you are right i need to update, will do shortly. Thanks and should be back September timeframe!
From Mrs. P, Madison, Wis
Rick,
What a great journal and I love the photos. I have been trying to picture your living and working conditions. Barry couldn't help the Badgers today. Bummer, for sure. Michigan and Purdue lost too. I guess it is the not so Big Ten this year.
I will send more Girl Scout Cookies if I can find some. Will also replenish the candy Buckeyes.
Take good care of yourself. We are looking forward to having you come to a Badger game in 2013 or 2014.
Love, Mrs. P

Response: Thank you very much Mrs P, love the sticker "from the kitchen of" that is awesome! Good luck to Badger basketball, hopefully we can both beat that school from ohio!
From Linda Anderson Busch
Rick, Be safe in the New year. Just found out a little while ago from your sister where u r now. Here's hoping u r well and being very safe. I have not told my dad yet where u r. Hurry home. Love
Response: Hey linda thank you! Happy new year to all the andersons, hope you have a wonderful year!
From LB
Hey Pops, I sent you my e-mail via fb along with my current picks. Good hearing from you. Stay safe.
Response: Sir Lawrence, thank you for post and i'll reply on email. I'm not comfortable with facebook, took me a week to see where my "timeline" was???
From Snowman
Hey Rick - finally got to see your website. I like your blunt posts and comments! Looks like Afghanistan will have its own fiscal cliff as soon as Brendan leaves! Stay safe and becareful over there.

The Snowman!
Response: Snowman, enjoy that new basement and hottub in Minneapolis. SKOAL Vikings! Thanks for checkin on me.
From mom
Hi Ricky,glad you are having some fun shopping with Brendan, also glad you are on base, I thought you were hanging in the streets of kabul.Just don't like to ask too many questions. Still have the ladies praying for you. Love, Mom
Response: Thanks for the prayers from the ladies mom. Always good to not ask too many questions too.
From Kurt
Commander,
Good updates, and GOOD photos - I know you can't go crazy with pics over there so it's cool to see a few new ones. You are getting some good stories under your belt, just stay sharp and frosty -
Response: My Ipad has been the best during drives in the car. I can prop it up and it is not obvious i'm taking pictures. That way I blend with the local people!
From Liz
Ricky,

Love the pictures and the updates. Glad you got out of Camp Phoenix safely and with humor! Miss you!
Response: Thank you! Glad people are visiting the site, and fun to post some new photos.
From Jane Hurst
Hey, Ricardo!
It's December & no new update from you! What's going on? Do you need any Christmas care packages? Send me your address & I'll get one to you. Also, my cousin, Kelsey Strub is an Air Force contracting officer over there right now. Keep an eye out for her. She's a cute kid. It would be wild for you two to meet over there...Take care of yourself! Jane
Response: Your wish is my command! I need to provide some updates, starting today!
From Bo
Leave it to you to find a Hooters t-shirt in the last place on earth I'd expect one to turn up! Survived the hurricane and will have the pool cleaned by the time you get back stateside. take care and be safe.
Bo
Response: Hey great to hear from you! Glad you survived, crazy pix of NYC, wierd that i had better living conditions in afghanistan!
From Zita
Think of you often.
Hope you are finding this experience
Peaceful. Hope our paths cross soon in NC
Zita
Response: thank you zita! Good to hear from you, good luck with all the issues in Chicago, i'm sure that isnt easy.
From
Hi Rick, glad to finally catch up with your web site. Love that you have so many faithful friends, You don't have to worry because I am doing plenty for you, also all the ladies are keeping you in our prayers. Be safe Love, Mom
Thanks for visiting the site mom!
From Georgia
Rick - we visit that area often. We are also doing a Det in Kabul soon as well. I "might" be able to work up a deal to have some items expedited to you if the timing was right. You know how that works. Take care. Football season starting soon. Go Pack!

G
Response: Hey thank you! That would be awesome, Kabul would be tough timing but anything is possible. I'm a bengals fan first, but packers #2. I'm ready for them to take the super bowl again. I think you got our old RB Cedric benson too. Thanks for the note!
From Trish
Rick, glad to hear you're hanging in there. I still can't believe you went over there! eek! Nice to see you're making the best of the situation. Love the photos. Hope you're headed home soon. Keep in touch. :-)
Havent see Airamid in awhile, thanks for visiting! Hope Michigan summers are nice, I'm in new camp leatherneck afghanistan, its like the moon! Enjoy the summer
From Lizzy
Hey Ricky! Thank you for the pictures, and way to go Chuck on the cupcakes! Miss you and hope all is well! Love,
Lizzy
Response: I'm so proud of Chuck. He was a great Dad before, no he's perfect....
From Jane Hurst
Ricardo!
I just signed up to be a USO volunteer about a month ago on their traveling roadshows. I don't think I like being referred to as one of the "older women" and "just like your grandma." LOL! I'm glad you made it safe & sound. Now just stay that way!!!
Jane
Response: Traveling roadshows, Jane you are an animal! Are you one of those eyecandy girls that used to hang around Bob Hope at the USO roadshows? Never cease to surprise me jane...
From Kurt
Hey Commander - Glad to hear the living conditions are better this time. Security sounds rock solid too - that's a huge relief.keep the updates coming, we love reading them (and get pics pics pics if you can...)
Response: I hear ya. Everyone is touchy about taking pictures, i just need to ask. Thanks for checking it out.
From Eddie M
Pops: Can you read this? I access the site but found it to be in need of cleaning from the posting from last trip to the sand box.
All is well here. Drop me a line or give me a call when you get a chance. Eddie M.

Response: Thanks for writing! All the visit messages were stacked up, i didnt know how to get to them. Thanks for visiting!
From Caro
Hey Ricky!
Thanks for keeping us all updated on how you are settling in over there!
BTW, it was really nice of that guy in the SUV to give you are ride! So nice to see that vets are appreciated!
Take care! We are thinking about you!
Love ya,
C
Response: Thanks Caro. I looked pathetic, so hot, tee shirt soaked and i was only halfway to train. I do feel lucky. Thanks for wishes, hugs to girls for me.
From Kurt
Commander Geekus ! This is such an awesome site - it's so cool to see your log from 5 years ago still here - and the photos from back then too. Try to get some new pics from this assignment when you can. Like you said, sounds like you got out of D.C. Just in time ( sure hope they have your power back on in 3 months...) So be safe, stay alert & never let your guard down. Looking forward to reading your updates !
Response: Thanks man, I appreciate it. Again didnt think anyone was visiting, but all these messages were in a file. Thanks for visits!
From CUZ NTLULU
Happy Birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, STO LAT--Sto Lat--That is the Pollack coming out. There is more to it, but I can't spell everything. The boys took dad out for breakfast this am for his birthday. We were all at Ted's house this past wwekend for a birthday party for dad. You know how big that can be when all the Anderson's are there. Quite a crowd. Rick watch the mail. I thing you will be getting a Xmas pkg. from the PLAV (Polish Legion of American Veterans). The Browns are actually not doing too bad this year. Super Bowl wouldn't that be something. I think not. Sorry it took me so long to drop you a line, So why not on your Birthday. Enjoy !!! Love from all the Andersons
Response: Thank you andersons, again from 5 years ago!
From ernest terry
Cmdr "P"
Understand you'll be back very soon. This will be a great, geat breath of fresh air see you soon.
Terry

Response: Mr T, I cant wait to see you either...I really want to make it to Dahlgren and see the new postal work area too! Happy holidays!
From Jeff Wendel
Rick,

Hope alls well with you. Anything in particular you need? I am sure you don' t miss the weather back home, it is mighty cold, as I am regretfully telling myself, the 140 degrees wasn't all that bad back in Afghanistan:)
Let me know should you need anything, will be happy to forward. Best to you. And happy belated turkey day.
Response: thanks jeff i'm good...I'm still thinking about those Colts cheerleaders, i gotta get there some day!
From GJ
OK so the Pack lost. It's not over yet. Better safe then sorry in pulling out Favre. Rodgers was a surprise and we did better then many expected. Moving on. Now - the next Cowboy's fan that hangs a banner in my office is going to get their butt kicked.

Can see that your busy over there. Almost time to come home. The leaves are almost gone. The red and golds were something to see. Getting colder but still warmer then last year. You may need to bundle up tho as you re-acclimate yurself there eh?

Stay Safe.
Response: We have a cowboys fan in our office...they can be a bit annoying when they win! GO PACKERS!
From "GJ"
Times a tickin. Almost time for that "Rhino" ride of yurs, eh? Got some Cowboy butt to kick at tonight's game. Oh Yea! Gonna be a heckuva ride. Take care and Stay Safe.

GJ
Response: Sorry about your packers, i'm pulling for old man farve this year....