Halfway done!

Just a couple more days and I’ll be at my 90 day mark in-country. Not only that, but I finally (after 6 months) got my follow-on orders. After I’m done in Iraq, I’ll be heading to Japan. Rock on!

I’ve been trying to go back to Japan since I left there in 2003. At the time, I was on the USS Kitty Hawk (nicknamed the Shitty Kitty for reasons I soon found out). I had reported there in June of 2001. For those without a calendar, just a few months later was the infamous 9/11 incident in New York. Being a forward deployed battle group, we were naturally one of the first units to respond to the upcoming war in Afghanistan.

We were actually doing steam testing the day it happened. We cancelled the rest of the tests for the week and we left port 2 days later. We actually broke the record for transit time to the Arabian Gulf: 10 days. The old record was 12 days. We sat off the coast of Pakistan and acted as a floating base for the Special Forces guys in their helicopters.

So, long story short, I didn’t have a lot of time to sight-see while I was in Japan. I was only there for 19 months or so; I got my submarine qualifications reinstated so I left Japan in ’03 to take a spin underwater again. Now, the only water I see is in the shower. 🙂

However, I’d rather be here than underway on a ship. Or maybe I’ve just had bad experiences underway. My time on subs was spent as a nuclear chemist/radcon technician, so naturally there’s an excessive amount of anal-retentiveness to how life in the nuke world operates. My time on the Kitty Hawk wasn’t much better; I still worked in engineering only there weren’t any nuclear reactors to deal with.

It didn’t help that 70%+ of the crew was straight out of boot camp and didn’t understand the concept of “military ambassadorship”. We had so many people get in trouble for burglary, car-jacking, rape, assault, underage drinking, etc. I’m glad I left when I did; ultimately the Commanding Officer, the Chief Engineer, and many other people got fired for letting things get so bad. I heard that right after I left the Admiral got busted for having an affair with one of his junior officers. Generally speaking, it wasn’t a good place to be.

So, back to Iraq. It’s bloody hot here. Normally I don’t notice it because I work in the air conditioned Palace. But yesterday I had to walk over to the dental clinic to complete my overseas screening, a 40 minute walk round trip. Of course, that’s the day it decided to reach 130 degrees.

It was actually so hot that my nose dried out and I felt like I was going to faint. I normally drink 2 liters of water a day but I ended up drinking 3 liters yesterday plus a Gatorade or two. I thought I was going to pay for it during the night by having to constantly go to the bathroom but apparently I got so dehydrated that my bladder never bothered me.

Normally life is pretty quiet. Too bad the walls to our trailers are paper-thin. I used to think that was just an exaggeration but no, it’s true. There is just enough structural support in the walls to keep the roof from falling in. I can hear the guys next door when they’re talking or practicing the banjo; if I strain a little bit I can even understand what they are saying. And when the helicopters fly over, the whole trailer shakes. Luckily it’s not very often.

Life is pretty boring, though. Most people work 12+ hours a day; because of my job, I only work 8 hours a day (we don’t have the space for all the people to work 12 hour shifts). Too bad there isn’t much to do until later at night. Because I have to wake up at 4am, I usually end up going to bed around 8pm (if not earlier) which is when a lot of the MWR activities start. I was planning on continuing my martial arts training but most of the classes start after I’m getting ready for bed.

I’ve considered starting on my Ph.D. simply for something to do, but I’m really enjoying not having homework for a change. I started on my BS degree 3 years after joining the Navy and went to school (online) non-stop until I completed my MS degree earlier this year. I figured out that I’ve been going to school continually for nearly 10 years since joining the Navy. Prior to that I worked on my AS degree immediately after graduating high school. I think I deserve a break. 🙂

Well, that’s about it for right now. Just wanted to mention that I’m halfway through my Iraq deployment. I’m sure I’ll have another one or two to do before I get out of the Navy but, since I’m applying for officer school next year, maybe it will be different next time. At least I won’t be stuck doing tech support for incompetent people who shouldn’t be left alone around computers. 😉

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