Saturday, August 29, 2009

Couple more pics

See if you recognize any of the folks in these pics:

I'll explain in a subsequent post - but it would be interesting if you did know who any of these people are.

The leading pictures are from the BHut project out at the new BTIF. We didn't build them all, but we are doing all the electrical and HVAC in them (making them nice and cool/hot and adding outlets and lights). Lot's of good work going on there!


Friday, August 28, 2009

Long Break

Wow - it's been a long time since I posted a blog! (I"m sure that's what some of you are saying too!) :-)

Well - I bet you think I've been extremely busy! Honestly, not so much. Busy yes, - extremely (like when we first got here) - no. I have consumed much of my time reading a book - "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Bible". Now, before you draw any conclusions, I'll just say this - it's a very good read for ANYONE regardless of how much you think you already know about the bible. Several people asked me where I got the book - and honestly, I'm not 100% sure, but I'm pretty sure it was Nana (Emily) - Janice, I'm sure, will confirm.

We had our final Commander's call yesterday - the next time we all get together will be for our "End of Tour" party next week. That means less than 1 week of "work" to go - then some time to make sure we have things together for the next team and transition out! Whew!

For those who are wondering, no - you will not find out directly from this blog when I'll be coming home. You will get vague hints - sorry, that's the best I can do. I will, however, be sure to let Pam know all the info I know - which at this very moment, is about what I told you. It will be several more days before I know anything further. So don't start calling Pam just yet :-)

Can you sense a little excitement in my tone? Well - I'll tell you - I am very excited - on the inside. It's important not to get TOO excited and forget where we are. Staying focused is extremely important and a theme I will practice till we have "Wheels Up" out of here.

For those still praying for me, thank you SO much. I feel that your prayers are what keeps a smile on my face every single day. Pam tells me "You have a bad day only twice a year!" - I think I used one up on this trip, so I'm still good and I got one in the bank.


Monday, August 24, 2009

More Pics Up

For those who haven't noticed yet, there are some more pics posted here: I had the pleasure to witness three Airmen reenlist in the AOR last week. There have been a couple others do it also. It's pretty special to do ANYTHING in the AOR, but reenlisting, getting promoted etc - well, it's all good stuff.

You can see some pics of the handy structures work the guys did at "The Rock" fitness center - this is the main AF gym. They put some mirrors in so people can see how big (or in my case) how skinny there are getting.

Then we have the reenlistment photos out on the flight line with a static F15E display - very cool - and the graffiti is something I guess the pilots like to do when they are not flying.

Then just today on my walk home, I noticed the view is coming back into focus - not so much dirt flying around - it looked really nice so I snapped a few photos. These are only a glimpse of what it really looks like - the camera can only capture so much.

I'm fine - still smiling. More people are starting to smile more - I wonder why?

Looking forward to the next couple weeks!


Friday, August 21, 2009

A special day

Today was a great day for many reasons - and no, it wasn't even RIB day!

Today is my parents 40th anniversary! Pam and I celebrated 27 just 1 week ago! We are catching up! :-)

I got to Skype with them for more than 30 minutes! During our conversation, of course I mentioned a Happy Anniversary to them and my Dad was impressed I thought about it on this day with the many other things I have on my mind. All I could think of at the time to say was this is a very special thing - how could I forget?

It made me think that sometimes we DO forget things. I'm not perfect and I forget things too - we all do. I try hard to remember things like birthdays, anniversaries, and a few other significant events for folks - even the men and women I'm deployed with - I have all their birthdays and I make it a point to wish them Happy Birthday.

I thought about this a lot this afternoon and I came to conclude this one simple thing. If you forget about love, you might as well forget about everything else. I think I remember these events for people because they remind me of love - somebody's love - God's love!

And that's what is so important. Don't be too busy that you forget about love!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Election Day!

I bet a LOT of you wished it was in the US! I'm not talking about a US election, I'm talking about the second democratic presidential election in Afghanistan tomorrow. Should be very interesting the next several days. If' you are praying for me and the team - give us a double dose for tomorrow! This should be the most "interesting" time since we've been here.

I can tell you one thing, I'm glad MY time is almost done. Things are certainly going to change around here - in many different ways - especially the weather. Yes - it's been HOT and windy - but I'd MUCH rather have that than cold, muddy, rain/snow - and throw the wind into that mix and you have much worse conditions to work in than we have had. How ironic is it that the teams from GA and MA (no strangers to cold weather) spent a majority of their rotation in the heat and the team from HI (no stranger to nice weather) will spend their time in the cold/snow!

The other thing we've come to enjoy here is our own little space in these BHut's. It wouldn't surprise me if all that changes also. For the time being, we've secured a direct swap with the HI team. I just hope they are able to maintain this "luxury".

Lots of things around here are changing fast - including the time we have left. Yup, things are starting to shift rapidly now to focus on the transition. I just hope the Airmen remain professional, positive, and postured to make the HI team successful. We don't need to be selfish right now and just think about getting out of here. That will come - but it's important to finish strong and do this the right way. I can tell you that WE had it very good here when we arrived due to the diligence of the previous team. They set us up with billeting, worked with us to make sure projects continued, and left us a lot of work. The last part is pretty easy - there really is no shortage of work. There is always something to do. I really want to do the same (or even better) for the next team.

So - if your looking for something specific to pray about, try this. Pray that I stay a strong and alert. Pray the Taliban miss if they decided to act. Pray that God will show me the best way to lead everyone home safely and give me the strength to finish strong for the team coming in. For the team, pray the leaders stay focused on the mission and that everyone will be safe and come home to their families.

There you have it - short and sweet. That should cover the basics. There are many details to worry about, but the good news is we are a strong team together and I have no doubt whatever happens will be God's will and we will be able to get through this together.

Thank you all for all your prayers already and the many more to come.

The reason I wrote this was because I know many of you ARE already praying for me and the team. If your curious how I'm doing, well - really, I'm fine. I'm still smiling and I have a positive attitude. I'm proud of what we have done here as a team and I'm very glad to know there is a strong, competent team coming to replace us. I know my family is OK - they miss me, true, I miss them, but they are all strong people too. All of you have been extremely supportive and I hope you know how much that has really meant to me. From packages to prayers, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Better than I deserve

That's how I am -

I'm still here and thanking God everyday.

I miss you all.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mark's new friend

I posted a couple more pics of the "Super BHut" and the crew - obviously I caught the crew during a break. I say obviously because you can see the work and craftsmanship that has been accomplished on this Super BHut in just a very short time. These structures guys are awesome!

There are two pics of my friend Avnee - I have no idea how to spell his name - but that is the way it's pronounced. He works at the TMP vehicle maintenance yard - I walk by it every day on my way home - usually he's there and we talk for a few minutes. He also made me a spare key for my new truck and offered to wash it for me any time I wish! He's a great guy - very helpful, and kind. He's from Kosovo and will be leaving in a couple days for R&R - but he thinks he will be back before I leave. Let's hope so. I wanted to get a couple pics just in case.

Did I mention it was 110 in the shade today? (117 in the sun)


Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Spartan Sponsor

My brother in law, Scott Bielat coaches a little league team in CO - The Bear Creek Spartans. His son Jacob is on the team. Before I left, Scott had a banner made and he added the USAF as a sponsor in honor of yours truly. My father in law, Larry Bielat, bought some of our unit coins we had made and gave them to Scott - enough for his entire team and coaches. It just so happened they had a big game to play on the 4th of July and the day before that game, he chose to give the boys these coins. There is a great video of it here (and on the website).

Now I have to tell you - I'm not one to cry about anything - but this video was so heartwarming, I don't think anyone could watch it without some emotion. Just to know how much we (the military) are doing to keep you from having to worry about whether or not the plane you get on will be blown up, or if the building you are in will collapse because some terrorist decided to blow it up - etc... We live in a country where some take these things for granted - but not Scott and his coaches. Not only that, it just so touching that he explained it so easily to his boys - and just how important it is that we have the greatest military in the world looking out for you every single day. It is a hard assignment, but we do it because we love our country - and we carry on the fight so many have fought so hard for before us. It's not perfect, but it is a nice place to live - and the freedom we all enjoy is certainly not free.

Didn't mean to rant and rave, just wanted you all to know that I am very proud to be able to answer my nations call and to be doing my part to make sure my family, and yours, rest peacefully every night behind the security of the many great men and women in the US military.

I'm very proud of my brother in law. Not for thinking about me, but for teaching his boys to never forget that the reason we have liberty and freedom for all is because there are men and women out there willing to die to protect it.

It's not easy to explain that to kids, but when God blesses you with the ability to coach, you do the very best you can and make it LOOK easy.

Thanks Scott!


Couple neat things

I have a few good stories to tell you -
First, in line with the latest series of pictures in BAF12 is MSgt Bobby Vongphakdy - he is our primary EA guy and was tasked with the very difficult mission to survey the downed F15 crash site a few weeks ago. Recently General Kwast presented the team coins for his appreciation for their efforts.

Next I received the 9 ball from my brother Al - an avid pool player if you couldn't guess. I won't go into his favorite game either - but suffice it to say it was a great idea - he sent me 1 ball a month with some very nice care packages (you might remember the ITouch story - if not, I still think ti's worth the read) - and I'm very thankful to have been here long enough to have received - the 9 ball.
Here is a picture of all the balls sitting on my new desk.
And we also have some pictures of the HVAC guys who worked day and night (literally) to install the air conditioners you see in the pictures. I can't tell you exactly why this was such an important job, but the Army thought it was and presented all the guys who worked on the project - and also Cpt Jaw - an Army Achievement Medal.

I think I got some pretty good shots.
They you have it ... I have another special story to tell you, but it's so special, it gets its own title. Coming up next.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Another week in the books

Yet another week has passed and we had Commanders Call this evening. It was the first briefing where we opened the door for out processing actions and information! The 1st Sgt briefed the plan to exit billeting, the CC talked about team building and SMSgt Berrier delivered a "Finish Strong" message. I also gave a short brief about how professional the Airmen have been with integrating the beddown folks.

I'll be busy tomorrow taking care of some required paperwork for the entire team - plus I have a meeting with contracting and I plan to give a couple Major's a tour of the BTIF later in the afternoon.

It's been very busy the past couple of days, so I'm glad this week is over!

Not much else to talk about. The weather has been very hot and very windy this last week and that made for some tough working conditions. But the positive side of that is it's better than working in the freezing cold wind when you have freezing rain and wind to deal with - I certainly do not envy the team of folks coming in behind us for the winter!

I think the timing for our deployment was near perfect. We will be home for the major holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and we had relatively good working conditions. Yes, it was hot and windy - but like I said, it's better than the alternative!

All in all - we couldn't have picked a better time to do this if we had too.

I do miss all of you - thanks for reading and thanks again for all your prayers.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CSM Coin

Command Sergeant Major Capel (CJTF-82) presented some of our Airmen a CSM coin today for his appreciation for the effort rebuilding the only firing range on BAF. The range had not been used in a very long time because it was unsafe - and our team used a lot of sand and some heavy equipment to make it better. It was a great effort and CSM Capel was very appreciative - I got some good shots too!

There are three pics of the range construction at the beginning of this album and the coin presentation pics are at the end.

Also included in this album are the pictures from the Super BHut project that is moving right along! All the guys/gals from ALL teams are really working hard and it's nice to see them still so high on morale and finishing strong!

I had a very busy last couple of days - even today, but I left the office with a smile on my face and I said to the Lord, "Thank you for a GREAT day!" I did have a very good day - productive, and it was nice to get to hear CSM Capel talk so fondly of our team! He basically just reiterated what I already knew - we do have a great team and I am proud of all of them.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Flying High!


I got off Bagram today! I was treated to a Blackhawk ride with the Wing Staff to go visit Airman at on of the FOB's (Forward Operating Base). I have some great pictures here:

It was definitely a great experience to be with the Army Airborne Rangers and to fly on a fully loaded Blackhawk. It was a very short trip, but I am very thankful I got to be part of it. The Command Chief went with us and so did Chief McCarty - pictured on the album cover. I'll be able to tell you more when I get home. Suffice it to say - it was a great trip and I'm honored to have been chosen to ride along with the 455th AEW Staff.

We had lunch with the Airmen and also got a few moments to speak with the senior leadership there. It was great to see that for the most part, even though they don't have the same amenities we have here at BAF, they were all motivated and in very good spirits. They gave us a tour of the compound (all walking - which tells you it's not that big) and we left literally right after lunch. I think I got some great pictures.

I can tell you this - if your going to move around the AOR - this is the way to do it! It beats riding in a C130 - that's for sure!

So this was really a great day for me. I had dinner (RIBS) with the 955 AES Superintendent and one of his staff to discuss business. I try to make every moment count. I even made sure I'd be back in enough time to post this blog - for you.. :-)