Wednesday, September 30, 2009

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Mark sent me some pictures of their convoy from Kandahar to Camp Leatherneck. To clarify and confusion...I used to think a convoy was a vehicle, and it actually the act of all of the trucks moving and following each other. Sorry the spacing is all goofy.

This is a town they passed. It
is at the base of the mountain/hill. If you squint hard, you can see it.

To the right, is a picture of a couple of locals. Taken as they passed through a city.

To the left, is a MRAP. Mark was in the truck following, which was a fuel truck. A MRAP is a truck that is intended to withstand explosions.

This one is pretty self explanatory. Gotta get from here-to-there some way!

I love this one. It is a picture of all the trucks that were following one
another. Look how many! No wonder it took so long to get there, so much traffic!

This is a picture of the inside of the truck that Mark was in.

In this last one, from L to R, Mark or "Pound", Stinson, Castor, and Dion. They all call each other by their last name- it's a military thing.

Random tidbit- The guy on the far right is on leave right now. He is the first one to take leave, and is expected back soon. His wife had a baby while they were in training, so he went home to see his new family. Sad, but happy all in one.

In case anyone is curious, 74 days until Mark leaves Afghanistan for leave. About 11 weeks! It'll be here before we know it!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

For the Record

Well, two more weeks until the care package partay. I'm pretty pumped. I'll make a post about the details when it comes closer.

This morning was a breakfast with the Fil (translation = Father In-Law. There is also Mil, Dil and Bil. We're goofy like that.) Lynnette had to work, so who better to take than the second best Mrs. Pound! haha. It was a good time- we were at the house of a pastor from Salem, where they cooked us up a delish Scandinavian breakfast. It was nice to see some of the Salem-goers again. I did manage to eat a tiny bit too much. You know when you get to that point when you have recline back in your chair a little to let the stomach expand. Mark was a little jealous of the people attending the breakfast, he said "It should be really good!" Oh, we also saw the progress of the Pound house renovations. I agree with the others when they say the Pounds should cook for us next, in their super kitchen! (But don't worry, I'll have no problem inviting myself over when it is finished. hehe!) Lynnette is probably having cooking withdrawals with no kitchen :).

Speaking of cooking, Mark had wanted me to "learn to cook," while he was gone. I'm not sure what that means since I am clearly not starving. This girl can whip up a meal if need be! It isn't something I particularly enjoy doing, but i've been doing a lot more of it recently. If you know me personally, you know that I don't eat much meat, besides chicken. The problem with that is, Mark does. I'm trying to find meals where meat can be thrown in, but will also taste good's kind of fun to experiment. I am also convinced that he will start liking veggies too- i've got a ways to go with that one though. I could make a meal with just veggies, and make it filling and delicious, but my poor husband would starve. I do plan on sneaking them in somehow (sorry if your reading Mark) :) Anyways, I'm excited to show Mark my skills.

Mark has been calling often lately. Can't say I mind. Maybe he misses me a little? hehe. We have also been able to talk via skype with a web cam too! I went over the Pounds with my web cam and headset to chat with Mark, and he had borrowed a web cam, so we were able to see him too! They have put a phone in their supply room, so he has better access to it, which is nice.

Yesterday he told me that their AC in their tent went out for several hours at a time, which made it very difficult to sleep. He said at one point there were a bunch of guys in shorts just lying on the floor. They have bunk beds, so it is probably a tiny bit cooler on the floor, if you don't mind a little sand. They have been seeing some activity over there (not good activity- catch my drift?). I don't know that I'm supposed to be telling people whats going on, nor am I sure that I am supposed to know. Anyways, Mark is safe, but it is quite a reminder that they are indeed in a war-zone, and safety is not guaranteed.

The picture on the left is of Mark goofing around in the bay, pretending to be wearing chaps. They use cut up jeans as rags. I'm glad he didn't lose his sense of humor since he's been gone :)

We just "celebrated" 5 months of marriage! I was telling this to a co-worker who giggled that we celebrate months. The truth is, we don't really. We just acknowledge that we have been married for such-and-such months. Really, none of us know how long we'll be around, so why not always celebrate love! Doesn't it kind of seem like we just got married? I feel like it! I can't wait to unwrap all of our wedding gifts again and unpack them in our very own home. Deployments really test your patience level. It's not a matter of if you can be patient, it is a fact that you have to be. Only 3 more months until Mark comes home on leave. We can't wait.

Lastly, I'd like to say how awesomely great people have been to me. Granted there are always going to be bad eggs, but the majority of people are great. I said it before, will say it again...I have a great family, great in-laws, and sweet friends. Not to mention all the people coming to the care-package party or contributing in some way, I am thankful for you too! My mom's friends and people who don't even know Mark, want to support him. It is awesome to see people reaching out, and giving back. It's amazing when the people around you know when you need to be kept busy, and friends who know when you need a night out. Glad to know they have my back when I need it! Love you guys!!

(If you want to see the pictures big, click on them.)


Monday, September 21, 2009

Things that make you go, "hmmm..."

Mark has always told me to question everything I read about the army and deployments...or about anything really, but i've heard this one in several different places.

With that said, I found this article on Yahoo, and it made me go "hmmm..."
(Side note: The first time Mark was deployed, he was stationed near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Close enough to get attacked by Pakistan.)

KABUL/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Afghan war will be lost unless more troops are sent to pursue a radically revised strategy, the top U.S. and NATO commander said in a confidential assessment that offers stark choices for President Barack Obama.

In the assessment, sent to Washington last month and leaked on Monday, Army General Stanley McChrystal said failure to reverse "insurgent momentum" in the near term risked an outcome where "defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

Obama continued to hold off on troop decisions, saying he would be asking tough questions of his national security team.

"We're not going to make any decisions on further troop deployments until we know what exactly is our strategy," he said in an interview on the "Late Night with David Letterman" television show, which was taped in New York on Monday.

Opinion polls show Americans and their European NATO allies turning against the nearly 8-year-old war.

A request for more troops faces resistance from within Obama's Democratic Party, which controls Congress, but refusing to give McChrystal what he wants would open Obama to criticism from Republicans who say he should act quickly.

Democratic Senator Jim Webb said of the assessment, "We have reached a turning point in Afghanistan as to whether we are going to formally adopt nation-building as a policy."

House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner said he was troubled by reports Obama was delaying action on a troop decision.

"It's time for the president to clarify where he stands on the strategy he has articulated, because the longer we wait the more we put our troops at risk," said Boehner.


A copy of the 66-page assessment was obtained by The Washington Post and published on its website with some parts removed at the request of the government for security reasons.

"Resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it," McChrystal wrote.

"Failure to provide adequate resources also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure."

McChrystal, who commands more than 100,000 Western troops, two-thirds of them American, has drafted a separate request spelling out how many more he needs but has not sent it to the Pentagon, which says it is considering how he should submit it.

McChrystal's spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Tadd Sholtis, said while McChrystal did not believe he could defeat Afghanistan's insurgency without more troops, he could carry out a mission with different goals if Obama ordered it.

"The assessment is based on his understanding of the mission as it was presented to him. If there's a change in strategy, then the resources piece changes," he said. He said McChrystal had no intention of resigning if Obama denies his request.


In his assessment, McChrystal painted a grim picture of the war so far, saying "the overall situation is deteriorating" and calling for a "revolutionary" shift putting more emphasis on protecting Afghans than on killing insurgents.

"Our objective must be the population," he wrote. "The objective is the will of the people, our conventional warfare culture is part of the problem. The Afghans must ultimately defeat the insurgency."

In a methodical critique of the war's conduct over the past eight years, he said NATO's International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, troops often lacked basic understanding of Afghan society. He also strongly criticized the Afghan government as having lost the faith of the country's people.

"The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF's own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government," McChrystal said.

Among the failures: Afghan prisons had been allowed to become sanctuaries where al Qaeda and Taliban fighters recruit more followers and plan attacks.

Even the West's multibillion-dollar development aid programs came in for blunt criticism: "Too often these projects enrich power brokers, corrupt officials."

In the weeks since the assessment was written, Afghanistan has held a disputed election, which makes it more difficult to persuade Western countries to send additional troops.

European allies, whose governments support the war often over public opposition at home, have begun openly wavering.

Britain has suffered its worst combat casualties in a generation, German troops called in an air strike that killed scores of people, and six Italian soldiers were killed last week by a bomb, all events that sapped European support.

Thousands of Italians packed the streets of Rome on Monday for a state funeral for the soldiers, amid mounting calls for Italy to pull its troops out.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the military alliance would stay "as long as it takes to finish our job" and it was premature to present any timetable for withdrawal.

"I think that a fair presentation of his (McChrystal's) assessment is that failure is a possibility but that success is achievable," he told Al Jazeera International. "I fully agree with him, we have to do more but not just more of the same." (Additional reporting by JoAnne Allen, Andrew Gray in Washington and Deepa Babington in Rome; Editing by Simon Denyer and Peter Cooney)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How did I get so lucky? (Pics)

Mark just sent me these pictures today.

Good thing I like a man in uniform! :)

Working on trucks- in the middle of the night. He said he prefers that shift because it is more calm (not tons of people all over). He gets along well with the night crew- who are a little bit more mature from the sounds of it. The perk is that it's prob not to hot at night.

He likes visors, what can I say?

Not really. He wore it around as a joke apparently.

They go to the gym to workout during their lunch break (also in the middle of the night).

I don't really have much else to say. I've been talking to Mark over Skype the past couple of days, and I figured out how to use a microphone dealy to talk to him, and a webcam to see him! It's kind of creepy seeing yourself on the computer though. It's free for them to call from Skype, versus over the phone. Cool deal.

I'm getting excited for his package party, i'm getting all the goodies together! Excited to see everyone too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Thing or Two

Per Mark's request, his e-mail address that he is most likely to respond to is...

He gets online about once a day if he can. They got a computer for the guys in their office, but the only website it allows them to go to is their army e-mail. Don't expect him to respond ASAP, but at least he will read it.

Also, I mailed a card today. I brought it to the post office, partly because I was mailing something else, and partly because I didn't know how much postage it needed. Well, it needs the normal postage as if you were mailing it within the US (44 cents).

I also picked up a bunch of boxes for us to fill next month! Exciting. Don't let us forget to fill out custom forms as we fill the boxes (we have to write on there what it's contents are).

And, as lame as it is, I'm going to bed at 8pm- the weekend was crazy busy. Night night!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September 2nd

Another week down. On the 14th, it will be 9 months until we can expect Mark back.

We just found out too that his leave is in December, which I am SO excited about. It will be a 2 week leave. We are planning a vacation- just him and I. Not sure where to yet, but it should be fun!

This last week has been especially challenging, but there are always small blessings to be found in hard times. The good news is, we are all alive and kicking, and I am really enjoying the new job. This weekend I am in a friends wedding, which will make for a very busy couple of days. I also get to watch my Godson (see picture) for the first time this weekend. He is a fresh, new, squishy baby and I think we'll have a good time together :) I haven't had trouble staying busy, that's for sure! If any of you know me well enough, you know that busy is my middle name, I seem to function best under pressure- whether that's a good or bad thing, I'm not sure. In November I will for the first time in the history of being employed, NOT have to work weekends! I won't even know what to do with myself, but am looking forward to some free time!

Mark has started working the night shifts (7pm to 5am). I think for the most part he is really enjoying it. The downside is, he has to try to sleep while half of his "tent-mates" are up and moving about with the lights on. Speaking of lights, he has moved to a 20-man tent instead of 200- person tent. The bigger tent didn't have electricity, and just before he found out he was leaving, decided with another soldier that they should rig up the tent with some electricity. Only Mark. He said that in a 20-man tent, usually there are only 10-15 guys because of the space all of their gear takes up. In Mark's tent though, they have managed to squeeze 22 guys in, so Mark said it is really cramped at the moment.

He got one of the care-packages I sent him already, and was really happy just to get a little something. I sent him a magazine, some fresh jerky that my uncle makes, some candies, Samoa cookies- compliments of the Pound parents, and some other things. The only thing that didn't make it the best were the cookies. He said they were all melted together to form three giant cookies- but he still ate them up and requested more hehe.

I have had a couple people ask about sending Mark a letter. To send a letter, I think I remember it requiring a special postage as well. You wouldn't be able to just put a stamp on it as you would if you were sending it in the states. The best bet would be to bring it to the post office and have them figure it out. He has said numerous times that he is very thankful to have such caring people in his life. We are blessed.

I'm thankful that they are getting into more of a schedule now, rather than working 14 hour days. Even though they don't really have anything else to be doing, it is nice to just relax for a couple of minutes. He has sounded really upbeat in our conversations, and is calling more often with more time to talk. For the first month, we had only been talking about every 3rd day for about 5-7 minutes, and now he is able to call more often and we get to chat for 20-30 minutes. Neither of us are phone people, but we seem to come up with tons to talk about while he is gone. Both of think it is cool so watch our relationship grow- even while he is a world away.

I've gotten lots of feedback about the care package party, which is great! If you have any more questions, let me know. I should be a good time. I wanted to say, if you can think of anything else that wasn't on the list that the soldiers might like, feel free to bring it over for our get-together, or send it to him. Items are not limited to what was on the list. There are also some people who aren't able to make the actual event. Some have wanted to send some stuff over, or send their own package, both of which is alright. E-mail me if you want to drop some stuff off for the rest of us to package up. I'll have to make a list or take some pictures of all the people involved in this! Mark will be so happy to hear from/see all of you!

I feel like there was something more I had to say, but can't seem to remember. I guess i'll save it for a different day.