Monday, December 17, 2007

Ortolani Update

Sorry it's been so long since I've updated the blog, but it's getting crazy around here.  Of course we are preparing for Christmas. We have the house decorated, though not as much as we usually do.  It's going to be something of a subdued Christmas this year since our big gift is the Italy trip.  We are looking forward to Melissa getting here on Wednesday. It'll be good to have her home again for a while.

I've been flying quite a bit lately.  We are doing all the checkrides for the 2nd  Bomb Wing's formal inspection that we will be doing in March.  We have to get about 100 checkrides done before then, so I've been flying about twice a week doing that.  They are all no-notice checkrides, which means the aircrew don't know they are getting a checkride until they show up to fly in the morning and we are there to greet them.  It's been going well so far with only a few minor downgrades for the crewdogs.

Well, I'll try to keep this updated better than I have in the past.  Certainly there will be some updates in the following weeks, then when we get back from Italy.  We found out we are going to have to pack very light for this trip, so most likely won't be taking my computer with me, which means no updates while we're there.  But we should have a pic or two to show off when we get back.

Happy Holidays to everyone.  Hope ya'll have a grand time this year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

England Trip Part Two

       OK, so we had the opportunity to go to the town of Ely (not Nevada).  As we got closer I could see the Ely cathedral.  It was pretty big.  Well, John Litecky was driving and as we got inot town, we were very close to all the buildings so I lost sight of the cathedral.  In Ely

We parked in the "car park" and started to walk through the town.

John and Chris Marion and Guenivier DSCF6459

     As we turned a corner, my hand immediately covered my open mouth (it was jaw dropping).  I stopped in my tracks.  What I had thought from a distance as a pretty big building was the biggest church I have ever seen!


The Ely Cathedral.  At 537 feet, Ely is the fourth longest of the English cathedrals (Winchester is the longest at 547 feet).  The west tower, which can be seen from miles around, is 215 feet high.  There has been a church in Ely since AD 673.  The original church was destroyed by the Danes and the Ely cathedral was built by the Normans between 1081 and 1189.

     It was amazing.  As we walked in the doors, it was one long open building, floor to ceiling.

The Octagon

This is a picture of the octagon.  On February 22nd, 1322 the central tower collapsed.  It's width of 74 feet was too big to support a stone vault and so it was built of wood and covered in lead.  The octagon's internal height is 142 feet and it's total weight is 400 tons.  It took 18 years to build!  It reminded me of a kaleidoscope, and as most of you know, I love kaleidoscopes.  It was beautiful. 


I didn't want to use my camera flash inside so I had a hard time getting some pictures.  So, I hope you enjoy the few that I did get.

 The Knave Cool Stained Glass

The 13th and 14th centuries saw the rise of the cult of the virgin Mary.  And chapels in her honor were added to many churches and cathedrals, including Ely.  We entered what was called "The Lady Chapel".  It was completed in 1349.  At one time it was colored and had stained glass and painted statues in the niches.  It was all destroyed, as you can see in the pictures below, in the 16th century during the reformation.  The Puritans rejected all forms of religious decoration.

DSCF6444 DSCF6445 If you look closely you can see the damage.  Figures have been defaced and there are now empty pedestals where the statues stood.  As I thought about these broken stones, I was actually quite sad.  I thought about our 11th article of faith; "We claim the privilege of worshipping all mighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."  So, the history of this beautiful building has been destroyed because the Puritans had no tolerance for others' beliefs.

Can I tell you how awesome it was to see this building and everything in it and around it and know that it was older than our own country?

The north and south choir aisles are full of memorials.  We found some interesting names, stories, and very old dates.

Bishop Hugh Northwald Bishop Hugh Northwold, died in 1254.







DSCF6424 This guy's obituary that was carved into the sarcophogas said he was from the family "Stewart" and had some wonderful adventures and stuff he'd been involved in.  In all actuality it was all lies.  Apparently his real name was "Stywart", meaning "one who works with pigs", and his obituary was his way of trying to make his life seem much more impressive.

Ely Cathedral

Ely Neighborhood We also spent some time just wandering around the town.  Here are some pictures of what we saw. 






DSCF6464 DSCF6466

We had a great time in Ely.  The next post will be about our visit to Cambridge.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cindy's Post

Tonight I thought I'd do something a little different. I'm having a guest blogger. I've asked Cindy to write this particular post so we could all hear her perspective on what happened.
This is a picture of the new British outer wear I bought on the trip.

If you had asked me 25 years ago where I would be in November of 2007, I would have imagined my life somewhat different.
David has had the opportunity to visit countries all over the world. I, however, have not. Well about 4 weeks ago he said, "Hey, a few of us from the office are going to England TDY. How would you feel about going with me?" I hesitated at first. I couldn't imagine how much that would cost us. OK, so here I am, 2 days after our trip still wanting to pinch myself. I went to England!

The trip over "the pond" was a new one for me as well. Riding in economy was an experience in and of itself. Sitting so close to the people next to you made for an entertaining flight. Your elbows at your side even while you are trying to eat. I couldn't help but giggle. It reminded me of the comedian Brian Regan and his routine about flight. All squished elbows at your side, eating a cold fish head and a turnip with a spork. I couldn't do it every day, but it made for some good entertainment for a bit.

Well, flying in to Heathrow Airport, I could see London Bridge and the Thames River. It made my heart skip a beat. I was so excited!
After getting our luggage and going though customs we had to wait for our bus to RAF Mildenhall. There was a group of high school students outside. A lot of them wearing I ♥ NY t-shirts. I couldn't decide if they were Americans coming to England or British just coming back from New York. I decided to go outside and listen. They were so quiet. It took me a minute to figure it out. They were quiet, reserved, British high school students. I was amazed! Also . . . They all sounded like Harry Potter. It was awesome. Everything was different. The taxis, the emergency vehicles. And . . . they drove on the opposite side of the car on the opposite side of the street!
The guys & girl, David, John, Chris, and Rhonda had to work during the days and I, being who I am, was very scared of exploring on my own. Didn't dare leave the base on my own. So I just walked around the base everyday, waiting for the crew to finish up. Each night we drove to one of the surrounding communities to eat dinner, usually in one of the many pubs (there were so many!).

On one of these trips, I noticed a very old overgrown cemetery. The headstones were thin, crooked, and placed in no fashion at all.

So I talked the guys into stopping so that I could take some pictures and names and dates. We found our way in and as we walked around reading names and dates, we realized it was newer than any of us thought. Some of the headstones were from 1978 or 1956 etc. The way it looked, I expected it to have dates form the 15, 16, or 1700s. But most were from the 1800s and 1900s. So as I looked around to see the scattered headstones my thought was "They must have tossed the bodies over the stone wall and buried them where they landed." And . . . No one has come back to take care of the grounds.

We ate at the Golden Boar pub. David had the Bangers and Mash, which basically was sausage and mashed potatoes. I went the safe route I thought, and had vegetable curry. Curry is huge in England! Since India was a British colony for so long, there is a lot of Indian influence in England.

Driving around the town was also really cool in and of itself. The buildings were so old and so small. A few of the homes had thatched roofs. The thatch was covered with chicken wire. Once again, I was amazed!

Night two. John, who had lived in England a few years ago, told us of an old mill that had been turned into a restaurant. He said "If you guys want to go, I can take you and drop you off tonight. It's kind of expensive, but very nice, and great food." When I asked how much, he said "I think about $40 per person." Kind of expensive, but we thought "What the heck, we're in England and we may not ever be back." The restaurant was called Tuddenham Mill, which as you would suspect, is in the town of Tuddenham.

John made the reservations for us and when we arrived we were the only ones there for most of our meal. They sat us in a lounge on a couch, took our drink orders and brought out veggie chips.

The waitress handed us printed menus for that evening. 3 courses and we each had to choose which item we wanted in each course. Right before our first course was ready, she took us upstairs to the dining room. The atmosphere was nice. Old building, tables in black set so beautifully. Old water wheel encased in glass in the middle of the room. David's first course was three slices of smoked pigeon breast on a roasted fig, grape and Aspall cider chutney, and beetroot and red pepper remoulade.

For my first course I had beef tomato, salsify and spring onion terrine with beetroot and horseradish pesto, and nettle and lavender sabyon. On my plate there were 3 tiny stems, each with 2 tiny leaves. One stem was even smaller and it was purple, the others were green. I said to David, "Am I supposed to eat these or look at them?" I decided that they must be edible because thy had their own spot on the plate. So, hoping that the kitchen help wasn't watching and laughing, I ate one of the stems. Having never tasted watercress, I imagine that's what it was like. Not too bad, so I ate the other two stems. The tomato/potato layer was very good. Very small, like an hors D'oeuvres, but very tasty. The julienned beets were not so good. Very tangy.

My second course was Tandoori marinated pork (yes, meat) filet with coconut, lime leaf and sweet chili sticky rice, and a water chestnut, bean sprout and bok choi stir fry. We shared a dessert, also very yummy. Banana and toffee crumble, vanilla waffle and maple syrup ice cream.
Well, we decided that in England they let you just relax for as long as you want. After several minutes after our dessert, we had to finally ask for our bill. As we were taking care of the bill at the table with "THE MACHINE", as the waitress referred to it (a portable credit card machine) I asked the waitress, who's name was Pip, how old the mill was. She said "Well I'm not sure, but it's older than Domesday." I looked at David and he shrugged. After she left I said "What the heck? . . . Domesday?" Thinking . . . the end of the world. What? We had to look it up when we got back to our room. Domesday was a great land survey from 1086, commissioned by William the Conqueror to assess the extent of the land and resources being owned in England at the time, and the extent of the taxes he could raise. The mill was in the Domesday book! So the mill was older than 900 years. Amazing.
So, back to the dinner. John was wrong on the $40 per person. I think he meant to say £40 per person, which meant our bill ended up being about $160. Wow! The grounds were beautiful, the waterway leading up to the mill had 8-10 swans in it. They had these lights on the lake that changed colors. So, as we watched out the window while we ate, the swans changed from red to orange to yellow to blue to green to purple. It was beautiful! We took a taxi back to the base.
As I explored every day and night, I wished that I had paid more attention to world history. I was glad that David had his computer with him. I had to look stuff up every night.
OK, this is getting longer than I thought it would. I'll end here for today and finish this up tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

In England

We are actually in England now. What a day today was! We arrived at the Shreveport airport at about 8:30 Saturday morning. We had a bit a of a wait for our flight and while we were waiting, Cindy pointed out one of the passengers to me. It was Harold Ramis (He played Egon in Ghostbusters with Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray). Apparently he is in Shreveport working on a movie with Jack Black.

We flew to Dallas for a short layover then it was on to Chicago. We were able to watch The Simpsons movie while we were flying. Funny movie! We had a 3 hour layover in Chicago and ate at Wolfgang Puck's. Very good food. We shopped around a bit, then got back on the plane (same one) and then flew the 7 hours to London. Long flight and a first for Cindy. She's never been on a plane that long. This is a good warm up trip for our Italy trip. We landed in London at 6 am. We're fighting jet lag pretty hard right now.

After getting through immigrations and customs and retrieving our bags, we were waiting for the shuttle bus that would take us to RAF Mildenhall. While we were waiting Cindy went outside to take a picture of the taxi cabs. She came back in smiling and said "They all sound like Harry Potter out there." Don't know why, but it struck me as very funny. It was about a 2 hour drive to the base from the airport and we napped as much as we could. We checked into our rooms and then it was time to go hit the "town". We found this really cool, old cemetery. We took some pictures and I'd post them here, but it turns out we forgot to bring the USB cord for the camera. We won't be able to post the photos until we get back, but we'll keep you up to date anyway. After looking around the town, we went to dinner at a pub called "The Golden Boar". We took pictures and everything. Then when we went in, it turned out that they had quit serving food for the day. So, we drove to another little village and ended up eating at "The Olde Bull" pub. Great food! I had the bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes). It was great. Melissa, you would have loved the potatoes. Cindy had the vegetable curry. We all had a great time.

After dinner we came back to base, hit the BX to stock up our refrigerators and now we're home for the night. We (the inspection team) start the inspection tomorrow morning and Cindy is going to explore the base and find out what kind of tours are available. WE are very happy to be here, and I am personally thrilled that Cindy was able to join me on this trip. Even though I'll be working during the day, it will give Cindy and opportunity to explore a little on her own, and we get to go to town each night and eat dinner together.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Cindy's Birthday Present

It was an interesting confluence of events and some awesome timing have led to an interesting present for Cindy's upcoming birthday. I know it's early to be getting a present already, and your probably wondering why I'm putting it in my blog if Cindy might see it. Well, the fact of the matter is that it isn't a surprise. We just finalized the plans today. At the beginning of November (3rd through the 9th to be exact) Cindy will be accompanying me on a TDY to England. I'll be doing a Staff Assistance Visit to RAF Mildenhall (a British Air Force Base with U.S. Air Force personnel) and we've arranged for Cindy to come along. Mildenhall is in Suffolk, about 45 minutes from London. We are very excited about this trip. I figure it's a good warm-up for our trip to Italy in January since Cindy's never been overseas before. We'll definitely have a bunch of pics to post after that trip.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Visit By The Folks

Mom and Dad and their (and our) good friends the Bastians came out to Louisiana for a few days. It was a great visit. They arrived Monday afternoon. They had been driving all over the country on their way here. As Dad said, they came to Louisiana by way of Vermont. Really, they and the Bastians had been sightseeing across the country on their way to a fighter squadron reunion in Rome, New York. Then, the dropped by Louisiana.

As I said, we had a great time. We spent Monday evening just visiting and catching up. Then on Tuesday we rented an SUV so all 6 of us could fit in the same vehicle, and drove to Mansfield to visit the Civil War battlefield and museum they have down there. It was very interesting for us all, particularly the three military guys. Dad, Delmar, Cindy and I also had a good time looking for doodlebugs (or ant lions as they are apparently known in Utah) around the battlefield.

After Mansfield, we loaded up and drove in to Natchitoches. There we did a little window shopping. As we were walking around the downpour started. We ended up seeking sanctuary from the storm inside this very old catholic church. It was actually pretty cool. It was quite old, being built in the late 1800s. The stained glass was cool. It was interesting. We then went to The Landing, which is a awsome restaurant there in Natchitoches. Oh, what a lunch we had. We all started off with an appetizer of fried green tomatoes. Delicious. Then on to the main courses. Delmar and I both enjoyed bowls of chicken and alligator sausage gumbo. I have to say that I am going to miss the wonderful Cajun food down here when we leave.

Wednesday started a little later and much more relaxed. We went to the 8th Air Force museum here on the base. We all enjoyed the exhibits inside the building. Then, when we went out to tour the static display aircraft, the gals sat on benches in the shade while the guys walk around the airplanes. What an interesting walk it was. There were so many different aircraft dating from the second world war to the present and one of us (Dad, Delmar or I) had a story to tell about each aircraft there. What a fun walk. We then drove to the Libby glass factory outlet store so the gals could do some shopping. We ended the day with dinner at Ralph and Kacoo's. Again more wonderful Cajun food! Delicious.

All in all it was a wonderful visit. We all had a great time and it's really been a long time since I'd spent that amount of time with Wanda and Delmar. We were both very happy to have them visit us down here.

I'll put the word out here again for all our family. Wel have plenty of room down here and love to show off Louisiana, so feel free to drop us a line and let us know you're coming down for a visit.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Real Work Begins Again

So, my real important work is soon to begin again. I registered today for two classes in my masters program. Classes start on October first. Not really looking forward to taking two classes at the same time, it makes my horribly busy, but I want to get finished. I only have 8 more classes left. Well, actually seven classes and then the "comprehensive final", which is most likely going to be my thesis as opposed to an actual test. In fact, it would most likely be the submittal of a business plan, since this is a business degree.

The classes I'm taking this semester are Management Information Systems and Cross-Cultural Managment. Sounds exciting doesn't it? Actually the Information Systems class I think is going to be quite interesting. I just hope they don't keep me too busy. It does make for some long nights, as Molly can attest as I was in the middle of finals one semester when she traveled with us on our way to Louisiana. She might remember me being up til all hours working on my laptop while she and Cindy both slept. Not fun. But I survived. I am looking forward to being done, getting my degree, and being able to put it on my resume before I begin seriously looking for post-Air Force employment.

Well, back to work!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Finally at Rest!

Well, we made the big trip and now we're back home. Hopefully for good this time. I need a rest!
It was an interesting and very fun trip. It was quite long, though, and sometimes it felt as if I was spending the bulk of my time behind the wheel. Our first stop was in Wichita Falls, Texas. We were hoping to see some old friends of ours from Minot. It wasn't to be. After checking in to the motel, we decided to get a bite to eat before heading out for the evening. Had a wonderful dinner (really, it was). However, almost as soon as we got to the truck, I started to feel a bit funny. Before we were even back to the room, I was sick! Very sick! It was ugly. The only thing we could think of was food poisoning. So, no visit to any friends that night, and a long night of laying in bed watching TV. No fun.
Our next day was much more uneventful as we drove to Albuquerque, New Mexico. A much nicer day, but I was still feeling just a bit under the whole day. The next day was our first big stop. We met Melissa and her boyfriend Pete in Las Vegas. It was great to see Melissa of course, and nice to meet Pete. He's a great guy. We ended up staying at the Excalibur and going out to see the town.
Here are a couple of pictures of us in front of the hotel.
Vegas was an interesting town, and not really what I remembered from the last time I was there. It has become much less "family oriented" than before. Not that it was ever really family oriented, but it's now much less hospitable.
It didn't take us long to decide that we'd seen enough of Vegas, so the next day we were off for California! We stayed with my sister Nikki and her family in Simi Valley. It was great! We got to do a lot of catching up and we went to Magic Mountain to ride all the roller coasters, hit Hollywood and the beach. We also squeezed in a little 4-wheeling just for fun.
After a few full days of activity, we wound down with a great meal at an Italian restaurant across the street from Universal Studios. Great food and atmosphere!
John and Nikki
Melissa and Pete
Cindy and David.
So, after some time in California, it was time to head for Utah and the Fail Family Reunion. We were lucky enough that Jen and Dylan were able to go with us. We rented a trailer from Hill AFB and we all scrunched in. It was fun!
We played a little golf. And we hung out at the campground, enjoying each other's company and having fun. Here are some pics.

So, the fun was over and it was time to go home, almost. The night before we left, we were up at 1:00 am taking Cindy to the Emergency room at Lakeview Hospital with a bit of bronchitis and an Asthma attack. We were there for about 2 and 1/2 hours, so you can imagine we didn't get much sleep that night. Driving the next day was very exhausting. But, we drove to Salina, Kansas that night and then home to Louisiana the next day. It was a very long and tiring trip, but it was so much fun. We loved seeing the all the family and getting some time to spend with our kids and grandson. Wish we could see them all more often!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back home and on the road again!

Well, I finally made it home from Baghdad! I arrived in Shreveport at 10:00 pm on the 15th of August. Of course, Cindy was there to meet me. It was a great reunion after being gone for 7 months. It's a great feeling to be back home. I'll always remember my time in Iraq; the people I worked with, and of course the war, but I love being home again.

And, I'm on the road again. Well, I should say that we are on the road again. Cindy and I are taking a trip to see family along with a good portion of the Southwest. We are traveling to Albuquerque for a night on our way to Las Vegas. We are going to meet Melissa (and her boyfriend Pete) there and sightsee for a couple of days. Then all 4 of us are off to Simi Valley, CA to see my sister Nikki and her family. Can't wait. It's been about 20 years since I've been to California to see her. About 4 days there and then up to Salt Lake City to visit with my parents and kids, and of course our Grandson! We will also be attending Cindy's annual family reunion, which will be a lot of fun. Then it's back to Shreveport and back to work.

My first step when I get back to work is, believe it or not, go TDY. Three of us are going to Minot to do some currency flying. That will be great since I haven't flown since January! Can't wait to get back in the jet.

Have more to come after that. Keep checking back as I will be blogging during the trip and hopefully adding some pics of our adventures as we go.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The End of an Era

Saturday night was an ending for JCCS-1. Last night the squadron officially said goodbye to it's first wave of Air Force EWOs (and one Intel guy). Last night myself, Stoli, Foggy, and Dozer were all awarded our medals and the CAG said the official goodbyes. We each said our words and then the rest of the squadron came up and shook our hands. We are now only a few days away from beginning our trip home. In fact, the number of days until we get home are now counted in single digits! What a great feeling. That's the sweet part.

The bitter part is that we are only a few days away from beginning our trip home. I know, I know, that's the same thing I said was the sweet part! It's all one and the same. Although I am very excited to go home (and wouldn't stay for all of King Midas' gold) I also hate to leave. The people I have been working with here have been great. We have had a lot of fun, we've worked hard together, we've even come under fire together. They have all been hard-working, competent, focused professionals here to do the job, save soldiers lives, and win the war. It is difficult to leave them. They are also great friends. I've worked with the Navy before and it's always a pleasure. So, to my fellow warriors at JCCS-1 I wish you fair winds and following seas.

This deployment has been one of the most professionally satisfying of my entire career. I have found over the years that my combat deployments are much more satisfying than normal day-to-day ops at home. This particular deployment, being much closer to the fighting than ever before, has been the best of the best. That may be difficult for many of you who have never been in combat situations before, or who have never served in the military, to understand. But I know there are some out there who do understand it. One reason for the satisfaction is that, for those of us who have made the military a career, it's a chance to actually do the job that we spend such a large amount of our lives training and practicing for. For example, I have accumulated over 2,500 flight hours in the course of my career. Only about 250 of those hours have been under fire in combat. The other reason these combat deployments are so satisfying is that you have much more immediate feedback on the effectiveness of the work you do. In combat flying, you can fly your mission and when you land back at base and debrief, many times you have the bomb damage assessment already available to you. Instant feedback knowing that the target(s) you were assigned were destroyed. Here in Baghdad, it's been reading the daily reports of the IEDs and how often lives were saved because of the work we do here. It's a great feeling.

We should be leaving here in only 4 days. We'll spend a few days in Kuwait, turning in equipment and decompressing before going home to our families. Then we'll be on our way. As you can imagine, after 6 months away, going home is just about the only thing on my mind. I think Cindy mentioned something the other day about how she thought it might be pleasant for me to come home. Actually she's very excited, and who can blame her. As usual, she's had to deal with many things since I've been gone. We've burned our share of electrons calling back and forth, sending emails, faxing documents, etc all so she could do those many things that I would normally take care of. She's done a fantastic job as always.

I look forward to seeing you all again when I get back. If I don't get a chance to post here again before I leave, I'd like to thank everyone who read my blog while I was over here. It was my first attempt at blogging and I enjoyed it immensely. In fact, I enjoyed it enough that I fully plan to continue this blog (though under a different name) when I return home, so keep checking back. Obviously the content will change some, but I hope to keep it an interesting mix of what's happening with Cindy and I (and the rest of our family) and maybe some commentary on current events. Thanks again.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Night That Will Live In Infamy!

War is a funny thing sometimes. Occasionally it will take you quite some time before you realize who your enemy really is. I think we at JCCS-1 have now discovered the true enemy. The real enemy over here in Iraq? Rats! Big, huge, vicious rats.

There had been rumors floating around the squadron about a large rat-like creature that was said to be haunting the building at night. I had never seen it, and, it seemed, no one else had really seen it either. The stories were most often told about someone else seeing this mythical creature. "Oh, yeah, Oscar told me the other day that one of the Admin folks saw him yesterday." OK, so I mentally filed these stories away in the same folder as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Over time, the legend continued to grow.

As fate would have it, the legends were true! Friday night was my night to stand the watch. We have to maintain 24 hour security over our building, so each night some lucky soul gets to stand the watch from 10:00 pm until someone comes in the next morning. Normally around 8:00 am. So, Friday night was my night. I came in around 8:00 pm to get set up (I bring in some movies and stuff to keep me occupied) and was informed that yesterday Kuz and the Master Chief had killed the rat! Apparently it was big, too. As the story unfolded, it was said the beast was the size of a dingo, with large razor sharp fangs that dripped blood. OK, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but they did say it was the size of a small dog. Well, that made me feel better. I wouldn't have to worry about the rat that night.

Well, about 30 minutes later Cluster said "Hey, I just heard trap snap, I think we got another rat!". That was true. As I looked behind the kitchen door, there was another rat, wiggling and twitching in the trap. Great! Guess who's standing the watch, and therefore responsible for getting rid of the corpse! So, I decided to let him just hang out there for a while until I was positive he was dead. Picked him up and disposed of him. Not pleasant. But, hey, two down in two days, we must be winning the war!

Well, Saturday nights are much welcomed down time here for us. We all pitch in and order up some pizza from the Pizza Hut trailer and then we put in a DVD and watch it on the big screen while we eat. Good times. We were all quite engrossed in our movie, eating our pizza, when the night's calm was shattered by a startled scream! V.D. had gone over to the table to get another piece of pizza and, you guessed it, a friendly rat was sitting in the box, eating our pizza! Seeing the rat there startled V.D who yelled, thus startling the rat, who ran and hid behind some file cabinets. All right, they attacked our pizza, it was time to take the gloves off! So, we paused the movie, turned on the lights and went on the attack! We couldn't get the rat to come out from behind the file cabinets so our Deputy Commander (a Navy Captain, equivalent to a full Colonel) came up with a brilliant plan. He grabbed one of the fire extinguishers and, aiming behind the file cabinet, fired off a long blast. Let this be a warning to you. If you shoot off a fire extinguisher inside and there's no fire; it makes a huge mess! But after several blasts of the extinguisher it worked. The rat took off at top speed and ran right into the kitchen. Aha! Foolish rat, now you are trapped! We slammed the door shut and sealed it off.

Three brave heroes then decided to finish the job. The ran into the kitchen (and of course we shut and sealed the door behind them) and set about chasing the rat. After a few minutes, Paste began laying odds on how long the rat would survive. I personally began laying odds on which man would perish in the mighty struggle within the kitchen. As it turned out, we were never able to catch that particular rat. Don't know if he made outside to safety or if he's still holed up in the kitchen. I am happy to report that all men made it safely back out of the kitchen.

So, now you know. The real enemy we're fighting over here are the big, huge, vicious, pizza stealing rats!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Almost There

The pass down between myself and my replacement went well and is now complete. I am actually enjoying a day off today. Not quite sure what to do with myself, but it's nice to have no plans for once. The pass down went very smoothly with Tuna being quite anxious to take over the job and get me out of his way. Who am I to complain? So, as of yesterday, I am officially out of a job. I turned on my out of office reply on my email and am now unemployed! It's a good feeling after 6 months of pushing so hard every day.

Our travel arrangements are coming along also. We've been confirmed on our flight taking us back to the States. For me, that was the biggest hurdle. They are still working the arrangements to get us the rest of the way home, but as I look at it, if they get me to the east coast, well, I've got a government credit card, I can get myself the rest of the way home if I have to!

As you can imagine, I quite excited about getting home. This has been quite a long deployment for both Cindy and I. Not only has it physically been our longest deployment, but it has really felt longer. Time was always crawling by. But I think we are both ready for me to get home.

We have quite a trip planned after my return and we're hoping to see most everyone we can during that trip. It's going to be interesting as this will be our first "trailer trip" we've ever taken. We are renting a travel trailer and will be living out of that for two weeks. Our first couple of days will be getting us to Las Vegas where we will meet up with Melissa and her new boyfriend. We'll all spend a couple of days there to see the sights, then it's off to California for few days with Nikki and John. We are really looking forward to that! Then back up to Utah for some time with the family and the annual family reunion. It's going to be fun.

That's it for today. Not sure what I'm going to do now. Take a nap? Who knows, but whatever it is, it will be something I want to do for a change.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Latest

Although I've been cut off from my blog at work, I can still get to it sometimes here in my room. It's not the best connection so I have trouble uploading photos and such, but I can still post, so far.

Well, it seems that I might be able to start slowly winding down on my way out of Iraq. Still have a month before I'm actually home, but things are starting to move that way. My replacement, Major "Tuna" Fisher has finished his training and is anxious to get to work. Lucky me. We worked a little together this weekend, but will officially start our turn-over on Monday. It's going to be interesting to begin separating myself from this job that has been my entire life (long work days, 7 days a week) for the last 5 months. On one hand, I can't wait to get rid of the job, and on the other hand I'm losing a huge part of myself along with it. I'm sure I'll survive, but it will be an adjustment.

After the turn-over is complete I begin my preparations to leave Iraq and begin the process of returning to civilization. In the time I have left here in Iraq, I will be packing up many of the "extras" I have over here such as DVD movies, some of the books I've accumulated, extra uniforms that I won't be wearing in transit, and putting them together and shipping them home. I want to travel light on my way home. Other than that, I will be traveling around the base getting some of the pictures I've been to busy to take. Mainly, pictures of myself "around town". I realized the other day that, while I have pictures of most of the interesting sites around, none of those pictures include me. It's almost as if I was never here. So, I'm going to get some of those taken. I will also continue with working out, probably harder than before. Let's face it, Cindy hasn't seen me in 6 months I don't want to come back looking like the Michelin Man!

Our trip out should be somewhat interesting. I say "we" because there are 5 other Air Force officers traveling out at the same time. We all went through training together at Ft Jackson before deploying, and as a small contingent of Air Force people within a large Navy organization, we have remained close (as close as possible through email) throughout our time here. So, "The Fab Five plus Orto" will be leaving Iraq and heading for a base in Kuwait where we will go through the "Warrior Transition Program" (WTP). This is where we turn in our weapons and much of our equipment. We will have some medical screenings and attend some classes to help us re-integrate back into our families and society in general. It can be a big transition going from a combat zone to normal life back in the United States. After 4 days in WTP we will hop on a rotator flight that will take us to the East Coast and from there we will split up and catch our connecting flights back home. It will be an exciting day. It always is when coming home from a deployment.

It's getting very warm here lately. I've heard that the locals say that in August "The gates of hell" are opened up. Not looking forward to that time. All things considered, things are going well over here right now. I will try to post here more often now that I may have a bit more time available. Hopefully my Internet connection in my room will allow for that. I miss you all and am looking forward to seeing you all when I return.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

I know it's been a long time since I've posted here. It's been a busy time for me, plus I'm beginning to get that "short timer's" fever. My replacement gets here next week and we will be starting our turn over the week after that. Light at the end of the tunnel. So, it's been a while since I've updated this and I apologize for that.

I would like to wish all my friends, family and countrymen a happy Independence Day. What a great thing we celebrate this day. The founding of our country. I personally like to look at this day as another Thanksgiving day. A time to reflect and think of all that living in the United States gives to me. The freedoms and security afforded to us in this country. I hope as you are all enjoying the barbecues and fireworks that you take a minute (just a minute, have a good time today) to think about what we really have in our country.

Over here in Baghdad, July 4th is just another day. We are all at work and are attending our regular meetings. I do plan on having a hot dog and cheeseburger at the chow hall for lunch today, but we're hoping there won't be any "fireworks". I did get to see some very impressive sights the last two days. Yesterday, 3 July, there were a couple hundred troops who, due to their service in our military, we becoming naturalized citizens. Very cool. And this morning, on my way to a morning meeting at the palace, there were 500 troops all standing and raising their right hands and re-enlisting. 500 troops on one day, in a war zone, re-enlisting. Very impressive.

Have a great day. Have a burger and some potato salad for me!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Happy Birthday Dylan!

I know this is a bit early since Dylan's birthday isn't until the 5th of July, but I wanted to make sure this was in on time.
For those who may not know, Dylan Evan Roundy is my Grandson. He is turning one year old and is just the coolest, cutest guy I know. As luck would have it, he's been giving his parents some trials lately with some sickness and teething. As you can see, he's standing, and as I understand, is trying to start walking. His mom tells me that he will take a few steps then "chicken out". All in good time Dylan, keep up the good work.

Here are some pictures of Dylan. Enjoy!

Here are a few of my favorites. Dylan in the hospital with his first big "owie". A pic of him with his mom, and one of him in his crib. He is always so happy and smiling so big.

They're great when they're asleep arent' they?

Happy Birthday Dylan! You are the greatest. I love you.