Growing Up

There comes a point, well, multiple points, in your life where you realize that there is something about yourself that is holding you back from being the best you that you can be.  I just happened to have one of those today.

We all have our pet peeves.  I am big on having faith in others to do what it is they are expected to do.  And while I can be very forgiving, there are some times, with some people, that I am just unyielding in my perceptions.  After all, isn’t that what it all comes down to, our perceptions?

So I realized about myself, today, that, though I do have a very ‘Can Do’ attitude (courtesy of the Seabee’s), I lose that when someone I have lost faith in asks me to do something.  That’s not the right answer, but it was my flaw.

So I am deciding, today! that I am going to work on that.  To not just limit my Can Do to those that I have faith in, but for those that I don’t.  Because I recognize that, sometimes, my perceptions are flawed.  And though I may not have faith, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the capability.

I guess, you could say, this was the major life lesson I had to learn while I was over here.  That, and how to make new meals out of the Dining Facility ingredients.

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All Hands Call

Group photo of Sailors at All Hands Call

The Sailors that attended the All Hands Call in Bagram, Afghanistan pose for a group photo.

All Hands Calls are as much a part of the Navy as uniforms and work.  Though I am attached to the Army right now, that doesn’t mean I stop being a Sailor.  So when Rear Admiral Scott came by for a visit, I went to the All Hands Call to see what the Navy was up to at this time.

Well, the meeting was held in a location deviated from where large gatherings usually take place.  Luckily, I was about an hour early, so I spent half of that hour just looking for the place.  I found another Pizza Hut on base (right next to the Air Terminal) as well as where the USO was located.  I have been here for nearly four months, and I was just finding some of these locations.  When I finally did find where we were meeting, I realized that I had passed it once before and even had said, “No, it won’t be in there.”  Obviously, I ate my own words.

When I went in the oversized tent, I took a seat near the front.  There was a twelve-pack of water set next to every other row of seats.

Rear Admiral Scott talks to Sailors

Rear Admiral Scott talks to Sailors at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan during an All Hands Call

When Rear Admiral Scott came in, he was very personable.  He talked to us about where the Navy IA (Individual Augmentee) “business” was going, as well as letting us know that his team was there to support us while we are deployed, and up until we get to our final destination on the way back home.

Admiral Scott points to his head

Rear Admiral Scott points to his head telling Sailors to use “this” during an All Hands call at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

He also touched on sequestration, and how the Navy was more concerned about the Sailors and their families than about Blue Angels shows and Fleet Weeks.

Xander Gamble and Rear Admiral Scott

Xander Gamble and Rear Admiral Scott pose for a picture on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan after an All Hands Call.

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S’mores

The American Red Cross organization here in Bagram, Afghanistan had a “S’moresgaboard” of entertainment for us on Bagram Air Field.  There was S’mores, cookies, a band, and more importantly, s’more S’mores.

Here is the 101st Airborne Band playing some music to set the mood for the evening.

When I showed up, there was a few people gathered in a few locations, and I walked up to one of the Red Cross employees, asking if there was a line, or if I just help myself.  The tables were filled with pre-halved graham crackers with chocolate already laid on one side.  There was a basket of marshmallows with some already on spikes (that’s what they called skewers in Greece) and all I had to do was grab one of each, and head over to the fire pit that was lickin’ flames.

Flame and a marshmallow

A flame jumps up as a soldier puts a marshmallow into the grill during a S’more event courtesy of the American Red Cross organization in Bagram, Afghanistan.

I waited until just the right flame caught my marshmallow on fire and it blackened on the outside, and melted the inside.  This is the best way to eat your S’more, of course.  I smashed it in between the chocolate and the other graham cracker, and pulled the spike out until it was a beautiful (and tasty) treat, just waiting to be eaten.

S'more

A soldier holds a S’more at the S’more event courtesy of the American Red Cross organization in Bagram, Afghanistan

101st Airborne Band playing music

The 101st Airborne Band plays music for those that are attending S’mores night, courtesy of the American Red Cross organization in Bagram, Afghanistan.

 

 

As I was eating my tasty treat, I took a look around, and saw the band playing.  The music complemented the evening well, and made me enjoy my night in Afghanistan.

I spent the rest of the evening going about, helping out at the Cat in the Hat, and was generally in a better mood.  It is amazing what a little chocolate, some graham cracker and a marshmallow, as well as some good music, can do to lift your spirits.

Bucket List

Walking home from the Cat in the Hat meeting last night, I was talking with Captain Koenig and Lieutenant Pino, and we started to discuss some of the things that we look forward to when we get back home.  This gave me my idea for today’s post: my post-deployment bucket list.

  • Sleeping in my queen-sized bed… with my wife.
  • Taking a shower without flip-flops.
  • Driving my truck.
  • Going to the movie theater to watch a movie… when it comes out.
  • Taking weekends off.
  • Wearing something not green.
  • Leaving my home without making sure I have my gun on me.
  • Cuddling.  With my wife, of course.
  • Time alone.
  • Space.
  • Home-cooking.
  • Stable internet.  Faster than dial-up.
  • Walking with my dogs.
  • Wearing flip-flops (but not to the shower.)
  • A bathroom that is inside.
  • 2-ply toilet paper.
  • Relaxing.
  • Cross-country driving.
  • Being in the same(ish) time zone as friends and family.
  • Spending quality time with my wife.

There are a lot of little things that I miss about being home.  Due to my time here, I have gained, I think, a greater appreciation for these things.

Time is Flying

Is it another Wednesday already?  I feel like I just got here, and it is already half way through my tour.

The internet was really on-again, off-again last week, so I didn’t have much of an opportunity to do anything, like update my blog, but it seems to be working better now.  I think the reason was that it was too lightningy out for the internet to get a good connection.

Well, I have been walking about three miles each meal for the last month and a half, and when I weighed myself on the first, I had already lost about ten pounds.  So that is good.  I feel healthier.

I went on a run this week, also, and hit about three miles in a relatively fast pace.  I haven’t been able to do that well, that far, in quite some time, and I think a lot of it is just from the walking almost ten miles a day that I have been doing.

Other than that, things are going well.  Got my retrograde story out this week.

 

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Three Amigos

There are good things and bad things about every deployment.  You make some good friends on a deployment, but you also have to say goodbye to some of these friends.

About 45 days ago, Shanna Pike, Cordelia Magwood, and I started working on our Enlisted Expeditionary Warfare (EXW) pin together.  There were a lot of late nights, and even one night where we were in a class together until 2:30 in the morning, learning what we needed to learn about the EXW program.

We started the program together, and this week, we finished the program together.  We had our board Tuesday afternoon, the three of us, who had gone to every class together, had taken the test together, and even studied the material in preparation for this board together, were sitting across a giant conference-room desk at two Chiefs, two Senior Chiefs, and the Command Master Chief of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Group TWO.

The first round of questions started off great, taking turns, each of us answering with confidence and without hesitation, making it through the first of 20 rounds of questions in a little over a minute.  Master Chief McLean told us, “You guys keep this up, and it’s going to be a fast board.”

But it wouldn’t be that easy.  Going into the second round, we started to hesitate on a few questions, and by the third round, we were already starting to realize where we were lacking in knowledge.  Luckily, for the most part, where one of us lacked the knowledge, another one of us would be able to provide it, satisfying the board of our collective knowledge.  But things were slowing down.

EXW Award Certificates

MC1 (IDW/EXW) Xander Gamble, HM1 (IDW/EXW) Shanna Pike and LS1 (IDW/EXW) Cordelia Magwood show off their certificates that they were awarded for completing the Enlisted Expeditionary Warfare Specialist program while at Bagram, Afghanistan.

By the end of almost two hours, our board concluded, and there was only three things that we had to look up as a group, as none of us could provide the answers.  They were the Decontamination Stations, the types of Chemical Warfare agents, and the types of work order requests for a camp.  Within the day, we had those answers back to the board, and had our certificates drafted up.

It was Saturday afternoon that we were pinned and presented our certificates, showing that we were indeed, Enlisted Expeditionary Warfare Specialists.  But our happiness would not last long.

That evening, we held our farewell for one of the Three Amigos.  Shanna Pike left today to fly home.  While this is good news for her, as she made it safely through her entire tour, it is sad that a friend that I had just made was already moving on to the next step in her life.

FCPOA Group Shot

Members of the First Class Petty Officer Association on Bagram Air Field pose for a group photo at Shanna Pike’s farewell get-together at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Thanks for the fond memories, and may you excel at everything you do.  Fair winds and following seas.

EXW Certificate

The Enlisted Expeditionary Warfare Specialist (EXW) certificate presented to MC1 (IDW/EXW) Xander Gamble for completing the EXW program with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group TWO on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

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Spring Time

“It’s spring time for Karzai and Afghanistan.”  This is what I was singing today as I was led to some tulips growing here on Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.  Though my life is no musical out here in a war zone, it is nice to be able to find beauty amongst all the dust, debris, and dirty atmosphere.

Here are a couple of photos of the tulips I found right outside my office.  Thank you, Air Force Technical Sergeant Beth Romero for showing me where they were.

Tulip buds in Afghanistan

Tulip buds grow just off Disney Road on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Tulips in Afghanistan

Two tulips grow on the US base in Bagram, Afghanistan.

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Cat in the Hat

Reading

A Sailor reads aloud to a group of local Afghan children during a class at the Cat in the Hat Learning Arts Center on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

A few days a week, I spend some time volunteering at the Bagram Air Field Cat in the Hat Learning Arts Center.  This is where I spend time with local Afghan kids, teaching them basic English skills.  It’s a great opportunity to be a role model, and to help develop a relationship with these kids that will last a life time.

Of  course, being that I am the goof-ball that I am (and those of you that know me personally, you know what I am talking about), I think I fit in better with the kids than I do with the other Servicemembers.  I was even asked today if I would teach the kids English, rather than poorly repeating their Dari back at them.  (I think the girls were having me count out of order, as well as throwing in other random words… but what do I know?)

Translation

A US Servicemember and an Afghan child look at a translation guide book to help communicate with each other during a class at the Cat in the Hat Learning Arts Center on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

We teach the kids just a few words each week (since the different groups only show up once a week) and try and take care of them the best that we can.  There are different teachers for each of the different classes, and I act as a teacher’s assistant.

Sometimes we get enough volunteers that we can have one volunteer for every two students.  Sometimes, we only have a couple of volunteers, so it is two or three of us trying to handle the entire class.

The kids range in age from quite young to almost teen-aged, but they come from quite a few schools around the area, and some of them walk a couple of hours just to get to the bus and come to the school.

Math

The teacher uses an aid to teach an Afghan child how to add a string of numbers at the Cat in the Hat Learning Arts Center on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Overall, the program is something really special, and I am glad to be a part of it: helping shape the future leaders of Afghanistan, by winning the hearts and minds of a few students at a time.

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Going Expeditionary

The phrase that has come out this week is “Expeditionary In, Expeditionary Out.”  As a part of work, we are coming up with a commercial campaign to get the message out about it.

Basically, what this breaks down to is, we, as a force, came into this country in an expeditionary nature.  We were living in tents, eating MREs for our meals, doing push-ups and running outside instead of having a gym, and other amenities were minimal.

Since we are nearing the end of our time here in Afghanistan, part of the drawdown is that we go back to an expeditionary state.

Our time-table and our method is not exactly clear at this point, but it will be happening, and it will be soon (ish?)

While this is a recent development, I have been working for the last two months on my Enlisted Expeditionary Warfare (EXW) qualification program (much like the Enlisted Information Dominance Warfare Specialist (IDW) qualification, but regarding a different side of the Navy), and I will be taking my board for it on Tuesday.

This is what the EXW pin looks like:

EXW Badge

The Enlisted Expeditionary Warfare (EXW) breast insignia.

The things that I am learning about in this warfare device are essentially what we are planning to go to as a force in Afghanistan: Expeditionary.

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DC Shoot Off

One of the greatest ways to improve your skills is to seek out those that are masters and glean what you can from them.  As a photographer, it is important that I seek out those photographers that are masters of the craft, and learn what I can from them.  This is an opportunity that is provided to me each year through the DC Shoot Off organization.

This year, rather than actually being at the DC Shoot Off, I participated from Afghanistan in the Shoot Off International category.  Even though I was not able to be physically with these great photographers, I was still able to practice the craft, and even learn a thing or two, both about photography, and about myself.

Each year, there are a variety of topics that are submitted by the contestants, and these are then taken down, and drawn at random for the 24-hour shoot off.  Last year, the topic was “Space”.  This year, the topic is “Warmth.”

These are the photos that I submitted for the competition this year, and though I did not place, I feel like I did a lot better than last year:

First Submission

Army Specialist Aaron Demetreon moves between two conex boxes on March 16, 2013 as a part of spring cleaning at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Second submission

Army Specialist Aaron Demetreon drags two Pelican cases to a conex box on March 16, 2013 as a part of spring cleaning at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Third Submission

Portrait of Army Specialist Aaron Demetreon at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan on March 16, 2013.

Fourth Submission

Army Specialist Aaron Demetreon pushes a Pelican case into place in a conex box on March 16, 2013 as a part of spring cleaning at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Fifth Submission

Army Specialist Aaron Demetreon drinks water during a break from spring cleaning on March 16, 2013 at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

There are a lot more photos that I took, and some had nothing to do with my submission, but I wanted to share them anyway:

Afghan Man

An Afghan custodian poses for a picture at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Lee Stewart

Portrait of Lee Stewart of Vigilante Pursuit CACI at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Reflection

A reflection off of a puddle at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Two Man Lift

Army Specialist Aaron Demetreon and Vigilante Pursuit CACI Logisitian Lee Stewart two-man lift a large box to carry from one Conex to another at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.