Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Comms Blackout

Occasionally Gunnar's unit has a comms (communication) blackout.  That means that they shut down any and all forms of communication in and out of their outpost.  Usually comms blackouts happen after some really heavy fighting, or if a soldier has been injured and family members need to be notified.  I think there's some security reasons too.  I don't understand very well what exactly they are protecting.  I think it has a lot to do with making sure bad guys are listening to their conversations etc.  I'm going to try to get some better information on the subject.

Fighting has been crazy intense over there lately.  It's usually between 120 and 130 deg. F over there.  I am always complaining about North Carolina heat and then remind myself to shut up.  It's not like I have to carry 100 pounds of gear and walk for 6 miles in it.  I can't even imagine what that's like.  It's amazing that people live there in the first place.  Aside from being completely overheated, and because of it, very grumpy, Gunnar is doing just fine. 

I'm not sure exactly when he's coming home.  We still have a few months to go and I wish I could get something more specific.  I don't even really need to know the day.  Just the month or week would be outstanding.

It's really hard to support the war there in general.  I understand that the point is to eradicate the Taliban, so they will no longer have control over the country, and to help make Afghanistan a self-sufficient country.  I do support my husband 100% and I want him to do whatever he needs to in order to come home to us safely.  I have mostly feelings of disdain when I read articles or hear him talk about what he sees there.  It's a crappy place.  Gunnar posted this photo today though and I can't describe how it made me feel.

Isn't that awful?  It makes me so desperately sad.  Maybe we do need to be there so women can be treated with some dignity.  Can you even imagine this being your life?  The oppression and despair hit me to my very core.  It hasn't always been like this there.  I was in high school when the Taliban took over the government there.

I don't know how our military is going to fix the problems in Afghanistan.  I think it's going to take a very, very long time to do it though.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Emotional Rollercoaster

I'm feeling completely blah today.  Going from instant messaging Gunnar a few times a day for a few weeks to an abrupt halt in communication is really tough.  There are new reports every day of the escalated fighting in Afghanistan and this month marks the deadliest since the war started 9 years ago.  It's so hard to be this nervous and worried for this long.  It really is.  And this deployment completely kicked my butt today.  I had a very pathetic, oh-woe-is-me, stay in pajamas all day long, watch 4 Grey's Anatomy re-runs type of day.  My kids were fantastic to indulge me in such a lame day of parenting.  But, in my own defense, they are clean and fed and I did play Candyland 4,829 times today.  I know logically that he is doing fine.  Fighting a lot, but doing fine.  I just really need him to tell me this himself.  And soon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Little Fun in the Sun

When I found out we were being stationed at Fort Bragg, I thought of all the fun beach vacations we'd be having.  I didn't really think about having them without Gunnar though.  As summer approached I started getting anxious and overwhelmed by the idea of taking two small kids to the beach by myself.  How could I keep track of them both?  What if one of them runs off?  Or worse, runs into the ocean and drowns or something like that.  I started thinking I should buy some of those swimming vest and make sure the kids were attached to me at all times.  Gee, do I maybe overthink things??  A lot??

Well yesterday (with barely any planning at all), I loaded the kids in the car and we headed to the coast.  It's about 2 and a half hours from Fort Bragg which is really nothing to us.  The kids are getting pretty used to spending way longer in the car.

I had to pick a beach that had bathrooms and other general amenities.  Logistically it's just a lot of work getting the kids dressed, SPF'd and ready to hit the beach, and even more work to get them de-sanded, re-diapered and ready for the ride home.

We went to Fort Fisher, part of North Carolina Parks and Rec.  It was beautiful!!  I really think we found a  great spot.  I think the kids agree.  We'll definitely be making more spontaneous beach trips this summer.  The only thing that would make it even more fun would to have Gunnar here with us.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Near Miss

My husband was driving his MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) truck with a handful of other guys last night when they encountered an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).  They were very lucky to have avoided something much worse.

That's the hole that was left by the 500lb IED.  The MRAP went airborn but Gunnar was able to recover control quickly and get to safety. 

It's peak fighting season over there right now and I so scared and worried for his, and everyone else's safety.

He just needs to get through a few more months...

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I unintentionally screwed up somehow today.  Here's what happened:  I posted a video from msnbc.com today on my Facebook page.  It showed an embedded reporter (Richard Engle, ooh la la, he is so handsome!) with Gunnar's unit, but different company.  They came under attack and it showed some fighting and some injuries to US soldiers.  It was on the msnbc page right there for the whole universe to see.  Gunnar does have internet at the COP now and when he saw that I posted it he sent me a very serious sounding message telling me to take it down. 

Of course I took it right down but I seriously don't understand the problem.  Also, the unit's FB page instructed everyone to refrain from posting the link on the unit's page, and doing so would result in that person being blocked from viewing that page again. 

This is obviously some really serious stuff.  I respect the Army and it's request but I am left with a lot of unanswered questions.  Why in the world does the Army allow embedded reporters and their cameras and then try to restrict families of these soldiers from seeing what they are doing?  I've seen reports and documentaries from the same reporter on TV and the Internet.  Why would it be a big deal to see the video on Facebook, even though you can go right on msnbc and find the same thing? 

I hope I can talk to Gunnar soon and learn more about the details.  I am just really confused about it I guess. 

I'm too paranoid to post the link on here but you can find it online or email me and I'll send you the link.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

OPSEC - As Promised

I feel like I've missed out on loads of information since Gunnar was assigned to a unit that was already deployed while he was still in training.  We didn't have deployment readiness training, or literature of any kind.  We didn't have the deployment prep that other soldiers had.  This is our first go at this crazy life together and sort of just stumbling through it blindly.  To some military spouse veterans out there, a lot of information may seem intuitive, or second nature, but honestly to me, it's not. 

OPSEC is the military term for "Operations Security" and there is a huge emphasis put on this.  I'm only recently hearing about it via Facebook forums etc.  I would assume if we had been part of this deployment from the start, I would have learned about this in a more direct way.  The security they are trying to enforce relates to protecting the information we have about our soldiers from the enemies.  I would like to safely assume that the Talibad does not in fact read this blog, but apparently that's some sort of a real possibility, according to OPSEC rules.  And boy oh boy do they have a lot of rules.  Here they are with regards to internet communication:

  1. Do not post exact deployment dates or redeployment dates
  2. Do not reveal camp locations, including nearby cities. After the deployment is officially announced by Military officials, you may discuss locations that have been released, normally on the Country level.
  3. Do not discuss convoy routes (“we travelled through Takrit on our way to X”)
  4. Detailed information on the mission, capabilities or morale of a unit
  5. Specific names or actual nicknames
  6. Personnel transactions that occur in large numbers (Example: pay information, powers of attorney, wills, etc)
  7. Details concerning security procedures, response times, tactics
  8. Don’t discuss equipment or lack thereof, to include training equipment
  9. Don’t speculate about future operations
  10. If posting pictures, don’t post anything that could be misconstrued or used for propaganda purposes. A good rule of thumb is to look at your picture without your caption or explanation and consider if it could be re-captioned to reflect poorly on coalition forces. For example, your image might show your Soldier rescuing a child from a blast site, but could be re-captioned to insinuate that the child being captured or harmed. (it’s happened!)
  11. Avoid the use of count-up or count-down tickers for the same reason as rule #1
  12. be very careful if posting pictures of your loved one. Avoid images that show significant landmarks near their base of operations, and black out last names and unit affiliations
  13. Do not, ever, post information about casualties (coalition or enemy) before the official release of the information.
  14. Do not pass on rumors (“I heard they’re coming home early”, etc) 
So basically, I am not supposed to tell you how long we still have to wait before Gunnar comes home etc.  I don't even want to count how many dozens of times I've violated these terms already on this blog.  It's probably not a good thing but heck, it would have been nice to know this sort of stuff way back when, ya know?

Also, there is a lot of guilt-driven propaganda swirling around this OPSEC business.  I understand the gravity of the situation and what's at stake but do you really need to see stuff like this:
I mean really!  That's a little over the top, don't you think? 

Or how about people strangely trying to find the humor in OPSEC...

Unicorns?  Really?

Anyway, I'm going to make a conscious effort to not violate and OPSEC rules in the future and hopefully I'll see some dancing unicorns around here soon.  And I'll just leave you with one last little gem...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm So Not Badass

I came home this evening and found a big (no lie - this thing was a good 3-4 feet long) gross snake guarding my doorstep.  Guarding it from what exactly, I don't really know.  Definitely preventing me from getting in my house with the kids though.  This is precisely the crap that I don't need in my life right now.  I finally talked to Gunnar today after a week of zip/zero/zilch communication and everything he told me scared the bejeezus out of me.  I am pretty sure I would be violated a trillion OPSEC rules if I said anything specific (more on that in another post) but suffice it to say I'm worried sick that something really bad is going to happen over there in that country.

Ok, back to me.  And the creepy snake.  I really tried to not freak out because I really wanted to not make my kids as irrationally terrified of snakes as I am, but no such luck.  It just sat there staring at me, daring me to try to make it move.  I called my brother Nathan - he is a very proud owner of 10 or 15 or hell, 20 snakes or something like that.  I'm actually not exaggerating, by the way.  He said to get a stick and just sort of lift it's body over and it will scoot away.


Yeah right.

I got the stick but couldn't physically make myself get that close to it.  Then Nathan said to just agitate it a bit with something and it will go away.  I (barely) tossed a few little pieces of gravel in it's general direction and all it really did was cock it's head toward me and keep staring.  All I knew was that I wasn't going up against this snake at all.

Luckily some guy was walking his dog on the other side of the street and I begged him to come over and he shooed the stupid snake away from the door but it basically just went into the bushes somewhere.  At least I was able to get into my house but I'm afraid I've done irreparable damage to my kids with my freak out session.

I know you're probably tired of hearing me say this but it bears repeating today:  I can't wait for Gunnar to come home, and get the damn snakes the hell away from the house.