Thursday, July 14, 2011

Long hiatus....

I received my milBloggie today and it is making me want to start blogging again.  I had stopped for a number of reasons, but I want to know if anyone has an opinion.  I haven't even logged in for over a month, and I see I still got 1,800 views last month without any new content!  Any comments?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hawaii Pt. 2!

I am a little sunburned today!  I had some time off yesterday so I went over to the east side of Oahu to Waimanalo Bay to hang out on the beach.  I bought some random sc-fi novel for $0.99 on my Kindle and decided to actually try to relax.  I am notoriously bad at relaxing so I thought a little fiction might help since I have not read a fiction book in something like 2 years!

The beach was awesome and after growing up going to the beach in Delaware where its packed with people the solitude was incredible!  There were some people out there, but not enough to encroach on my in anyway.  I could sit there and read without hearing anything but the wind and surf; no loud-ass people from jersey feeding the seagulls either!

Last week I also went snorkeling for the first time.  Me and one of the guys I am here with rented snorkels, masks, and fins here on Hickam ($6 a day, not bad) and drove up to the north shore.  We went snorkeling in a place called Sharks Cove, but we did not see any sharks!  The water was incredibly clear and although the coral wasn't that amazing, the fish were!  The highlight of the trip was getting to see two sea turtles up close and personal!  I got to see baby sea turtles in Malaysia, but missed out on seeing the full grown ones.  One of the turtles was probably a full meter across and the other was much younger and was maybe 1/3 that size.  These pics are of the younger one who was much more playful and photogenic!
Thanks Millward for jacking up the photo!

Shark's Cove

We climbed up and jumped off of this a few times...

Shark's Cove

More Fish!


Another attraction I hit up on some time off was Diamond Head Crater.  Most sites will list it as a moderate hike, and although I will concede it is steep, I must saw the most difficult part is navigating around the sweaty, panting, overweight people on the path!  The view from the top was totally worth it though, and the pictures speak for themselves!

Diamond Head Crater.

Honolulu and Waikiki.

I look really bald in this photo... stupid genetics...

I am actually heading home in a few hours so my next post will be from Japan!  I have a lot of stuff going on at home and I will be pretty busy in the next few weeks.  I will be moving houses and starting a new grad school class! Matane!

Monday, May 23, 2011


First, let me apologize for not posting for two weeks but for some crazy reason the government wants me to actually work to earn my paycheck!  I've been in Hawaii since the 8th and have been trying to see as much as possible while I've been here, which was a lot easier when I wasn't working 12-hour graveyard shifts!  Another reason I was unable to post was that my laptop broke my first day here!  I just recently purchased a new 17" Macbook Pro and three weeks in the screen went out on it (it may or may not have fallen off of my nightstand).  Luckily I was here in Honolulu where there are three Apple stores and not in Misawa where there are NONE!  The people at the Apple store were awesome though and I was able to get a new screen installed under warranty and it only took about five days to order the part and have it repaired.

So, Hawaii!  Although I have travelled a lot this is pretty much my first "tropical island" trip and I was a little dissapointed the first few days because the weather sucked!  It was overcast and raining everyday and a lot of my pictures definitely look a little gloomy!

We are staying on Hickam AFB which is next to Pearl Harbor and was also attacked on 7 December 1941.  When we arrived and in-processed we were able to go into the PACAF HQ bulding and see the original bullet holes and the memorial inside.  At the time the building was used as a barracks for over 3,000 soldiers and it was heavily strafed during the attacks.  The first day we had some free time several of us headed next door to see the Pearl Harbor museum and check out the USS Airzona memorial.

Entrance to the USS Arizona Memorial.

The museum is cool because it gives a great chronology of the events leading up to the attack on both the US and Japanese sides.  The attack itself was a surprise, but the idea that Japan was going to attack was not.  The museum goes through the entirety of the events of the attack and the aftermath.  The Hawaiin islands were placed uner martial law and some of the events there were just crazy to learn about!  Kids had to carry gasmasks on their way to and from school, the beautiful beaches were lined with barbed wire and obstacles, and everyone lived in constant fear of an attack!

Kids wearing gasmasks!

The USS Missouri where the Japanese formally surrendered.

One of the parts of the Arizona that is usually visible.

After checking out the museum you get to go into a theater and watch a short documentary film about the events leading to the attack and the attack itself.  For a government produced film it is actually pretty good!  After that we headed out to the Arizona memorial where the ship is still sitting in the harbor.  The first thing that struck me was the smell of diesel.  The Arizona continues to leak diesel fuel and will do so for decades to come.  The videos and pictures of the attack show the Arizona burning with huge, billowing black clouds of smoke coming from the ship.  Smelling that diesel immediately made me think of the vehicles I'd smelled burning in Iraq and how intense the smell in the harbor must have been on that day.
Diesel leaking from the ship.

The memorial at the Airzona was a moving sight also; seeing that wall with over a 1,000 names on it is pretty humbling.  One of the coolest things at the memorial was the list of surviving sailors who were interred with the ship after they passed away later in life.  One of the more suprising things about Pearl Harbor is how many Japanese tourists go there.  I would really like to hear from some of them what they think about it all...

I spent a lot of my time off downtown in Waikiki too.  The biggest surprise I had down there was how Hawaii is full of homeless people and extremely aggressive prostitutes.  The hookers will literally walk around the police and look for customers.  The cops said they can't do anything unless they see money changing hands so they pretty much leave them alone.  I think that shit is crazy!

We had a little more time off the one day and I drug three coworkers with me to go see Moana Falls, a 150 foot waterfall back a 1 mile jungle trail.  It was a pretty easy hike but it started raining heavily about halfway in and we ended up getting completely drenched.  We stopped just long enough for a photo before heading back to the truck!

Moana Falls - definitely couldn't fit all 150 ft in the photo!

I'll be sure to post again soon now that I have some time.  I have some great photos from climbing Diamond Head Crater and snorkeling in Shark's Cove.  I have a little more time off next week and then next weekend I'll be heading home.  All in all I can't really complain about this trip to Hawaii!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Osama Bin Laden, Milbloggies, and 8 fast years!

Well friends, family, and readers from around the world who stumbled upon my blog, it has been one interesting week!  Before I jump into the main thing I want to take about, my 8 year AF anniversary, I'd like to take a minute to comment on the death of Osama Bin Laden!  I, like most of the military community, was absolutely elated when I heard the news.  I have been completely hooked on all the details that are coming out about the operation and while I know we may never get all the details, the stuff we are hearing about is pretty awesome.  Even though I know it will not drastically change anything it is still a huge psychological win for the United States!

Next up, Milbloggies.  Sometime around the earthquake on 11 March my friend Jenn, who is a producer for an ABC affiliate in Phoenix, AZ, did a spot about my experience and linked my blog.   After that my little blog for friends and family took off and started getting read all over the world.  I was also linked on a number of blog aggregate sites, the mainpage, and a lot of other sites.  One of those was the military blogging community, Milblogs, which is affiliated with  Apparently they have an annual conference and they select some blogs from different categories for awards.  I didn't even know it, but I was nominated for Best U.S. Air Force blog!  I received an e-mail yesterday letting me know I had won the category.  Pretty cool for something that started as a way for me to show my family what I have been up to in Japan!  Thanks to whoever nominated me and anyone that voted.  I'm really glad people are enjoying the blog and I am sorry I have not been writing as much as I was!  You can check out the other winners by clicking the dogtag below.

Ok.... now that I've got all of the out of the way I want to talk about how this Friday I will hit my 8 year anniversary in the United States Air Force and what that means to me.  It's been a wild ride so far, and it's sort of hard to believe 8 years has gone by already.  My hairline can certainly attest to the time, but I'm not sure if my brain has caught up to the idea yet!

Eight years ago I was living in Philadelphia and I was not exactly heading in the direction I wanted for my life.  A friend of mine told me he was going to join the Air Force and after he told me about the college benefits and some of the programs they had, I decided to at least go talk to a recruiter.  The recruiter was fairly typical and told me whatever I wanted to hear, but the thing he told me that would stick in my mind was "you're joining the Air Force, you'll never see the front lines."  This was March of 2003 and the same week I processed at the MEPS in Harrisburg the US invaded Iraq.

I came into the Air Force without a guaranteed job and was given "Vehicle Operator" as my career field in Basic Training.  I was devastated.  I had come into the Air Force to do something highly technical, and driving was not what I had planned on doing.  Tech school at Ft. Leonard Wood was a breeze and two months after basic I was back at Lackland AFB, but this time as permanent party.  Immediately after in-processing I started hearing about a new type of deployment for Air Force Vehicle Operators.  The Army was short on drivers and needed help running convoys, the Air Force agreed to support the mission, and 9 months into my time in the Air Force A1C Scotty D on a plane heading to Kuwait to stage before heading into Iraq.  This was the beginning of 2004 when the IED threat was heating up, the insurgency was building, and we had no armor on our vehicles.

In Mosul, Iraq.

In Irbil, Iraq.

It is so tempting to turn this into a damn memoir and write more and more, but I will try to keep the details brief.  That first deployment cemented my love of the Air Force, and showed me that there are a lot of good opportunities in my career field.  I saw both good and bad out there on that deployment, and on my next.  I ended up logging over 35,000 miles on the streets of Iraq from 04-06, was shot at, blown up, and lost five good people.  Army Sgt Ladd and Lt. Stovall, and Air Force Sgts Peters, Norton, and McElroy.  I'll remember those names for the rest of my life.

The deployments were just one facet of the job, and at the risk of rambling I will just include some highlights!  There just always seems to be something going on and I am lucky to be a part of it.  I've been coined by two different Secretary of the Air Force and dozens of Generals.  I've helped with relief efforts with two major natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquake here in Japan.  I had the opportunity to spend two years teaching combat skills to over 1,600 different Airmen across the Air Force who were deploying into dangerous countries.  I graduated college with a Bachelors in Computer Science at almost no cost to me.  The Air Force has been nothing but opportunities for me.

When I look back at the last eight years it seems like it went by so fast but at the same time it's like I've lived two lifetimes worth of events already.  This July I will put on Technical Sergeant, E-6, and just over 8 years.  That's pretty fast for the Air Force and while it may preclude me from getting to do as much hands-on work, it opens up a lot more opportunities to lead.  I'm excited about where the next 12+ years will take me, and the great thing is that I honestly have no idea where my final destination is.  I just know I want ride this gig out as long as I'm still having fun, and if the next 12 years are as good as the first 8 I may stick around longer!

So this blog sort of ended up a little random, and I tried not to ramble too much.  Next week I will maybe post some photos of cherry blossoms from the last week since I went to the Cherry Blossom festival in Hirosaki and then went out to a local park with some Japanese friends for a Ohanami style BBQ.  This weekend I will also be heading out to Hawaii for work for three weeks.  I've never been there and I am really hoping I get some time off to see some things! 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Busy Busy Busy!

I am so sorry I have not been posting lately but I have been extremely busy!  We have been very short-manned at my unit and I have been double, and sometimes triple, hatted at work the last two weeks.  Things are just starting to normalize a little and then I got officially notified yesterday that I will be going TDY to Hawaii for three weeks in May!

My unit has continued to support the Misawa Helps project which has contributed more than 20,000 man-hours to local clean-up projects, and I am proud to say I've had a big piece in that success by making sure they get there and back.  Starting next week they'll be going on overnight missions to the village of Tanohata which is about 3 1/2 hours away from Misawa!

I have had some time to myself over the last 2 weeks and have had some awesome opportunities to hang out with some locals.  I was at a BBQ two weeks ago that was about half American and half Japanese and there were two grills going, one American style, one Japanese.  This weekend I am going to the Hirosaki to see the Cherry Blossoms.  There is an old area in the center of town with an old castle that has about 1000 cherry trees so it should be pretty cool to see.

There was so much going on the last 2 weeks and this blog won't do it justice.  Next week I plan on getting a little personal because I will be hitting my 8 year mark in the military.  So if you don't want to read about my reflections on the past and projections for the future go ahead and skip that one!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another Big Quake

So we had another big quake Thursday night about 2330.  I had just went to bed when my phone went off with an emergency earthquake report, which it pretty much only does when they're a 6.0 or over.  The phone vibrates and flashes and makes a siren sound.  You get a text message in Kanji telling you where the earthquake has happened that the translator app I have translates to something like "Earthquake in Miyagi prefecture.  Please prepare a strong tremor."  This earthquake was pretty strong with the USGS saying it was a 7.1 and Japan saying it was a 7.4.  I figured it was going to be in the 7's right away because after the 900+ (60+ over 6.0) earthquakes we've had since 9 March I've gotten pretty good at guessing their strength!

For those of you who don't know, the Richter scale is no longer in common usage to determine the power of quakes.  Scientists use something called the "moment magnitude scale" and it is extremely similar to the Richter scale for layman purposes.  Both scales operate in a base 10 logarithmic scale (everyone who knows me knows I am a nerd so if you're not into science content skip ahead!).  This means that the power of quakes increase exponentially and not linearly.  In normal language it means that when you jump 2 levels on the scale the quake is not twice as powerful, it is 1,000 times more powerful.  So basically it would take 1,000 5.0 magnitude quakes to equal the energy released in one 7.0 magnitude quake.  This is why after feeling a 9.0 a 7.1-4 seems like nothing and after I saw that there was only going to be a .5-1 meter tsunami (the tsunami on 11 march was 10 meters up here and over 30 in Sendai!) I went back to sleep!

The quake on Thursday knocked out power about a full day but by Friday evening everything was back to normal.  One of the guys from work married a local girl whose parents own a Japanese pub, or izakaya, and he had a BBQ Friday at the restaurant.  I would loved to have gotten some photos from going out on Friday, but sadly my phone died early in the night from not getting charged the night before!

I didn't get to go on the clean-up to Noda like I had planned last week.  My work schedule changed and I am going to be taking over a new section so I have been trying to learn that job.  I was also sick for a few days after cleaning up the farm in Hachinohe last weekend.  It's starting to get warm here now and the weather this last week has been awesome.  The bad part of that is that the cedar trees are releasing noxious clouds of pollen which are tearing me up.  Luckily today I was able to chew up enough Zyrtec to get through a nice 4 mile run through Misawa City!

We're still getting to support relief efforts around Japan by receiving supplies and distributing them.  I was able to get out of the office for a little last week to drive the AT forklift and help deliver some water to some guys who were distributing it down in Miyagi prefecture (where Sendai is).  The point of contact for this effort was Simon Bernard, an American ex-pat who lives in the area and runs an organization called "Outside the Gate."

Simon has a page for Outside the Gate on Facebook and if you want to find out more about what is going on in Misawa you can add the Misawa American Red Cross, AFN Misawa, or Misawa Emergency Management pages.  They usually have up-to-date info as soon as something happens around here.  It's great the DoD has embraced social media sites because when you're at home it is usually the fastest way to find out what is going on.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hachinohe Farm Clean-up

Yesterday I went out on another clean-up mission at a farm outside of Hachinohe.  We took route 338 on the way down and there were parts where you could see how the water had come up over the road and just deposited trash everywhere as it tore things apart.  The mission yesterday was a short one and only went from 1200-1700 and we definitely had our work cut out for us when we got out there and saw the field we would be cleaning up.

I wanted to get a shot of a regular field for a frame of reference but just know that the fields here are usually straight mounded lines of black soil, and not completely covered in garbage and pine needles.

We had about 80 volunteers out there for the clean-up effort and only about 3 hours to get it done (the farm is more than 30 minutes from Misawa).

There is still a lot of work to be done out here, but we definitely cleared off all of the big stuff, and about 30+ huge trash bags of small stuff off of the field.  We found all sorts of random debris in the mix of tree limbs and lumber such as some microwaves, unopened cans of beer, furniture, lots of tires, and dozens of other random items.

By the end of the day we had done a pretty good job of cleaning that field up.

In the background here you can see the piles of debris we stacked up and one of the destroyed outbuildings on the farm.  

I'm working next weekend so my days off this week will be Wednesday and Thursday.  I am signed up to go on a long clean-up mission on Wednesday in the town of Noda.  I'll try to get some pics and info up about that one next weekend.