Saturday, December 05, 2009

Back to the Roof of the World...

I was working up until November 8. I was laid off, and I joined the 11% of the USA population that is unemployed. I got two weeks of severance, and I began looking for work right away. I had a few nibbles, and a firm in Arizona was interested in me. But I am not able to move to Arizona at my own expense, and take a job that pays $35 per hour. I told the firm, that if you are recruiting nationally, that you should be prepare to stand the cost of relocating people.

A firm called on Friday (Dec 4) and indicated that I met their requirements for an Afghanistan position, and I said that I was very keen to return. I do not have an offer letter yet, but I should be getting an offer soon.

Another firm sent me a "contingency letter", asking me, to agree to accept a position with their firm, if they got the contract in Afghanistan. I signed the letter.

A recruiter in Fort Worth, Texas, asked if I would be willing to let her represent me, for an Afghanistan job. I agreed, and I sent them a letter of authorization. If their firm gets a contract with the US Government, and the firm makes an offer, then the recruiter will get a finder's fee.

My in-laws are in town, and they are interesting people. My FIL broke the water vase for my hookah-pipe, and there is no chance of getting a replacement. My MIL has been riding the broom, but she does not speak English. She can give me a cussing in her language, and I do not understand. She feels better, and my feelings are not hurt.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Erin, I need your email

I spent two weeks at FOB Boris in Afghanistan. If you send me your email, I will fill you in on the place. The old name for FOB Boris, is FOB Bermeil. The name of the post was changed in 2008. I suggest you google "FOB Bermeil".

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Looking for work

I am again unemployed. I was laid off, due to the fact that the contract requirements changed. I was hired by a firm in Northern VA. This firm, loaned me out to another firm, which had a project in Afghanistan. All civilians who work in Iraq/Afghanistan, are required to spend a week at Fort Benning Georgia, for briefings, and to insure that their health is adequate, and they can spend time in a country with low-standard medical care.

I cleared Fort Benning five months ago, and I worked in Iraq June/July/August 2009. My new firm required me to go back through the Fort Benning process again, even though the school is good for one year. The Army found an old medical report, and required me to get another medical exam. The medical exam showed me to be completely healthy, and free of any possibility of cancer.

While I was waiting in the barracks, the prime contractor was informed that the requirements changed, so I was surplussed. If I had already been in Afghanistan, I would have been recalled, and had to fly back to the USA.

The result is, I am unemployed. My firm is assisting me in finding a new position, either overseas or here in the Northern VA area.

My current resume is at

If anyone knows of any work I can do, please feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Still stuck at Fort Benning

I arrived at For Benning three weeks ago, I thought I would be here for six days. My old medical screening was determined to be invalid, so I had to see a urologist in town (Possible cancer of the prostate). Fortunately,I am cancer-free. But the Army needs everything documented.

I had to have a needle biopsy. The doctor rams a 14 inch plastic dildo up your rectum, and then shoots 11 spring loaded needles directly into the prostate, and the base of the penis. The pain is unbearable, and there is no anesthetic. I had this procedure done, last Monday. I felt pretty good Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but on Thursday, I was unable to urinate for 10 hours. I called the paramedics, and I was taken to the emergency room.

I had a plastic PVC pipe inserted into my penis, and I passed 1000cc of urine. I was told that I must wear the catheter all weekend. I went in to see the doctor on Monday, and he told me that I must wear the device for two more days. It is now Tuesday, and I will see the doctor on Wednesday, and hopefully, have the catheter removed.

I must have the doctor submit the paperwork to the Army medical office, certifying that I am cancer-free. Then I can conclude the processing here at Fort Benning, and travel on Afghanistan.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stuck at Fort Benning

I was informed on Friday 16 Oct, that I had to fly to Fort Benning on 17 Oct. I flew down at 0600am Saturday morning, and enrolled in the CRC school. I have to complete a week of training, medical exams, dental,etc. I was supposed to fly to Afghanistan on 23 Oct. Problem is, I was here in May 2009. I had a medical problem, and had to get a medical exam. I was cleared for international travel, and I flew to Kuwait on June 1.

When I went to the medical office here at Fort Benning on Tuesday the 19th, my old medical hold was still on the computer. I told the doctor, that I had seen a civilian doctor in Columbus GA back in May, and that I had just returned from Iraq on 6 September. Nevertheless, I was put on a medical "no-go".

I had to return to the barracks, and turn in my badge. I have been "disenrolled" from training school. I went to the medical clinic on Wednesday morning 21 Oct, and the nurse drew my blood for a blood test. The results should be in on Friday, and then I can see the doctor, and get another clearance letter. I will have to re-enroll in CRC on24 Oct, and go through the whole CRC process again. I should be able to get the military air flight on Friday 30 Oct.

I am stuck in the barracks, with no rental car. I just hang out in the barracks, or go to the recreation center and use the computer. Last night, I watched "The Bourne Identity", and "Jeapordy!".

My military protective gear arrived by UPS, and I showed it to the supply sergeant. I have all of the military issued equipment I will need for Afghanistan. I asked my dentist for a clearance letter, and the office assistant FAXed it in to me this morning.

This Army "hurry up and wait", is maddening. I am perfectly healthy, and I have been working in Iraq and Afghanistan for over 5 years. When I went to the clinic on Tuesday, I got the seasonal flu shot. I still need the H1N1 "up the nose" spray shot. It will be just my luck, if I ge the flu, when I am in Afghanistan.

The good news, is I am on the payroll. I am getting a pay check, for sitting on my behind in the barracks. I have medical insurance. I have all of my military equipment, and I have completed nearly all of the classes here at CRC school.

Once I see the doctor, and get the clearance letter, I will be good to travel. I can't wait to get back to Afghanistan.

Friday, October 09, 2009

On the job for a week

I was hired by a firm on 1 Oct. And- man is it great to be back on the work force. My previous contract concluded on 8 Sept. I started looking for work, from my desk in Iraq, as soon as I learned of the project's completion date. I did what I always do, just get on google, and type in "Iraq jobs". The jobs just pop up. Man, do I love the internet.

After I returned to the USA, I interviewed with a firm, and they were just drooling over me, and offered me a position on the spot. However, the firm did not get the government contract, so the offer was withdrawn. Another firm spotted my resume, and they offered me a position. I was out of work for less than a month.

I work for a firm, that has a great reputation. I signed on the payroll, and went to their office in Falls Church VA. They are a sub-contractor for another firm. The prime contractor is a major firm, that has a telecommunications contract in Afghanistan. I will work on an unclassified telecommunications project in Afghanistan.

Even though I have completed the CRC training (required of all civilians deploying to Iraq/Afghanistan) three times already, I must do the ritual again. CRC is the "CONUS Replacement Center". Which is kind of misleading. CONUS is the Continental United States, whic is the 48 states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. When a Civilian is going overseas, he/she must complete the week of school and processing, at the CRC. I went through it the first time in August 2005, at Fort Bliss Texas(El Paso). I went through it again, in March of 2008, at Fort Benning GA. I went through it again, in May of 2009.

The prime contractor is in charge of getting me overseas. They tried to get me into the CRC starting on 9 October. There are so many people deploying to Iraq/Afghanistan, that there were no open spaces. Now they are trying for the class that opens on 16 Oct. You fly to Columbus GA on Friday, and report to the office on Saturday Morning. Then you spend a week in classes, and processing paperwork. You meet a formation at 0500am on Friday morning, and go out to the Army airfield, and wait a whole day in the terminal. That afternoon, you fly to Kuwait.

The last flight I took was great. You get on the plane, and then you fly to Shannon, Ireland. You de-plane, and spend four hours in the terminal. The plane is serviced, re-fueled, new crew,etc. Then you get back on the plane, and fly to Ali Al-Saleem Kuwait. You stay in a tent city, and try to get to your next destination. I got a military flight to Baghdad airport, and my supervisor met me. That was on June 2, 2009.

This week , I have been signing up for my company benefits, medical, dental,etc. A couple of days after I returned from Iraq, I got really sick, and had to see the doctor. Since Sept. 8 was my last day of work, I thought my medical insurance was paid through the end of the month. I saw the doctor, and had some tests. I found out that my firm cut me off the medical plan on Sept 8. I had to pay the entire costs. I got my FedEx letter, with the option to purchase medical insurance, two days after I started my new job. I gotta write my congressman. You need to have medical insurance when you leave a job, until you can get your own, or start a new job.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Going back to work

I was in for a job in Afghanistan, setting up video teleconferences. The firm was all ready to hire me, but the firm lost the contract with the Defense Department, to another firm. So my employment offer never came through.

Another firm saw my resume, and they decided to offer me a job in Afghanistan. I accepted. I will begin training school in Falls Church, VA on 1 Oct. This looks like a great job and the company is a major Fortune 500 firm.

I will complete the school here, and then around 8 Oct, I will fly to Columbus Georgia, and go through the Army preparation/training school once again. I have completed this school once in Fort Bliss, Texas in 2005. I completed it again in 2008, and again in May of 2009. This will be the fourth time that I have completed the processing. I should be flying to Afghanistan on or about 15 October.

Since the US made the deal with Kyrgyzstan, to utilize the base at Manas, I will probably be flying in there. Then I will get a flight to Bagram. My initial work will be in Kabul.

We bought a new house in Alexandria VA. I returned back here, just in time to assist in moving. Moving is the grandmother of hassles. A million things to do. I engaged a professional mover, to get the furniture and heavy items. It took all day, and cost $900. Then I got a U-Haul truck, and some of my church friends came out to the house, and we loaded the small boxes into the U-Haul, and delivered the goods to my new place.

For the past week, I have been unpacking, and putting my goods away. I also had to have some repairs done, including getting new lighting installed, getting a circulating fan for the master bedroom, new cabinet lights, etc. What a hassle. I also bought a lawn mower, for the first time in my life.

The timing worked out pretty good. I have completed the move, and I will just pack my desert clothing up again, and then begin school on Thursday. My mom and dad are driving here, and they will arrive on Saturday afternoon. We will have Sunday free, and then mom/dad will drive up to Syracuse, NY, and see my brother and his blended family.

This will be my fifth contract in Afghanistan. Here is the history:

Feb 2004: Arrived in Kabul, to photograph the civilian air traffic control equipment at the Kabul international airport. Most of the engineering work had already been completed.

Mar-May 2004: Hired by a firm to supervise a police radio upgrade project. When I arrived in Kabul, I was told to drop that project, and coordinate a drug eradication radio project.

Nov 2007: Assigned to FOB Sharana, to work a data collection project, supervising data collections on four bases in Western Afghanistan.

Sept 2008: Arrived in FOB Salerno, to assist in training soldiers in how to operate video cameras.

There is my Afghanistan history.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back in the USA

Arrived back at Dulles airport Washington Sept 6. I went home. Spent Labor Day weekend, relaxing. On Friday I had a phone discussion with another firm, about a television project in Afghanistan. On Tuesday 14 Sept, I interviewed in person. The engineers past along a "strong recommendation", that I get hired. I should have an offer letter by Monday 21 Sept.

I have been sick! I had some blood in my urine, so I went to the doctor. I am scheduled for a cytoscopy on 1 Oct. The doc will insert a video camera up my private parts, and take a look inside. I find this ironic, I work in the video industry!

Friday, September 04, 2009


In Baghdad Airport. Flying out tonight to Kuwait City. My supervisor brought me to the airport. He did not offer to help carry my bags, and he did not shake my hand.

I am not glad about losing this job, but I am glad to be leaving here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Going back to the USA

I am going back to the USA. My health is fine, I was checked out by the military doctors in Baghdad, and all the tests were normal.

I am glad to be getting out of this heat, and a chance to cook my own meals again. I get bored with chow hall food.

I will be looking for work, telecommunications and electronics, in Iraq/Afghanistan. I think I will get another contract soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In the hospital

I was having some heart palpitations. I checked into the military hospital, and I had a series of tests. All of them came back normal, and I am feeling 100% better.
Please keep me in your prayers, regardless. I am going through a rough time now.

With Windows Live, you can organize, edit, and share your photos. Click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Added a new link. Please check in

I have added, by request, a link to a Masonic discussion board, in Turkey. The board has English Language capabilities. You can access it directly from this blog, or you can go to:

I am more than glad to add any link on this blog, all you need to do, is ask, and if your link is of interest, I will post it here!


HOT in Iraq today, about 114 degrees. I have been out in the heat, went to lunch a short while ago.

Friday, August 07, 2009

August in Iraq

I have not made a new posting in almost a month. I do make regular postings on Feel free, to sign up on twitter, and follow me.

I finished my first road trip, and returned back to my home camp. There is a great deal of work here, and I will be very busy here. The firm hired a new man, and I have been giving him some orientation. He is heading to a base up-country.

July and August in Iraq, is the most miserable time of the year here. I first arrived in Iraq, August 15, 2005. I was in a concrete barracks, with air conditioning, so I did not mind it so bad. I really liked Al-Asad. I spent 16 months there, and I was "living large". I wish I could have stayed there.

Anyway, I am now here at Camp Liberty. I live in a "containerized housing unit". It is decent, good air conditioning, and I have my own shower and sanitary facilities. I do not have to walk 200 yards down a gravel path, to take the shower. The Army pretty much leaves us alone, but we have been notified, that "health and welfare" inspections will be starting soon. This means that the Army will be going through our living quarters, looking for contraband. Mostly they are looking for alcohol, drugs, pornography. An American was caught with empty beer bottles in his trailer, and the Army wanted to expel him. His company convinced the Army to let him stay.

Work here is seven days a week. 8am to 6pm seven days a week. Even if there is no work, we have to be in the office. I must say that I am impressed by the food here at Camp Liberty. They serve an excellent breakfast. Because of health concerns, you can only get hard-boiled eggs, and scrambled eggs. Omelettes are made with powdered eggs.

There is a whole family of fast-food here. There is Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza hut, Subway, Cinnabon, Popeye's chicken, etc. Sometimes, I will pass on chow hall food, and get fast food.

I have been told that the US Dollar is to be phased out here, in October. This is strange to hear. I almost never use paper money here. I use my credit card at the PX. I have an "Eagle Cash Card", issued by the Army. It is a debit card, that I take to the finance office, and "load" funds from my USA Bank Account. Then I use the card at the barber shop, or fast food place, and the dollar amount is taken off the card. In five and half years in Iraq/Afghanistan, I have spent less than $300 in cash.

I started with this firm on May 4. On August 4, I had ninety days with the firm. Thirty days of that was in the USA. I spent two weeks in Florida, doing in-processing, getting my security clearance transferred, and setting up my direct deposit. I also had a medical exam. Then I spent a week in Fort Benning Georgia, going to classes in First Aid, and how to spot a roadside bomb. I also got some shots. I was all set to fly out, but I needed one more medical exam. I had to spend an extra week at Benning. I finally arrived in Iraq on 2 June.

I sure do not have much of a life outside of work. At 6pm, I walk across the street to the Recreation center. I watch Jeapordy at 6:30pm. If there is a decent show on TV, I will stick around, and watch "Law and Order". Last night there was a movie "Inkheart". By 800pm, I am usually worn out, so I walk back to the trailer, and take a shower, and climb into bed. I have a couple of books that I am reading, but I can usually get through only a few pages, before I am collapsing.

The generators here run 24/7, so there is no quiet in my trailer. By dawn, there are often helicopters flying over, so they wake me up. I get up by 7am, and walk to the office. I usually sweep the place out, and on Sunday, I mop the floor. I wish we could get some Filipinos, or other people to handle the janitorial work.

I do not like Iraq, but I like working in Iraq. This is my third contract in Iraq. I first did data collection. Then I came back, and worked a project where I supervised Iraqis, installing radio sets in Iraqi army vehicles. Then I came back on this satellite project.

I would like to stay for the entire year, but I may not. I would rather be working here, than unemployed in the USA. I would like to finish here, and return to the USA in 2010. By then, the economy should have picked up, and I will be able to find a position in Washington DC metro area.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back to Belediyat

Back to Belediyat. I got the system on line, and then returned to Loyalty base. What a nice place! I have a real bed, with sheets. The chow hall is first-rate. The system was serviceable at Belediyat, and I have been waiting here for two days.

I found out this morning, that the system is off the spacecraft. I must now return to Belediyat on the night convoy. Then I will get the system back on the spacecraft.

I am out of clean laundry, maybe I can get some washed there at Belediyat.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


I have just completed my first assignment. It is a great feeling to accomplish a task. I was told that this install would be easy, and that I would not have to use "tool one". Boy-was that wrong. I arrived up here at Belediyat two weeks ago. The equipment was not serviceable. I spent a couple of hot-sweaty days on a roof, trying to get it to run. I finally, disattached the dish antenna, and took the pedestal down.

I drove back to Liberty, and when I opened the pedestal, one of the circuit cards was burned. We scrounged a replacement, and I installed the card. Then I spent a couple of weeks trying to get a ride back here to Belediyat. I caught a chopper on Monday, and arrived. The army had to build a bed for me. I got started the next morning.

The antenna was not working properly, so I cracked open the case, and found that one of the gears was not attached to a shaft, and thus it was spinning freely. I did not have a correct allen key, but I found one. I got a carpentry crew to loan me a battery, so that I could turn the motor, and I set the gear properly.

This morning, I borrowed a compass, and pointed the dish antenna, and gave the equipment a run-through. I was able to capture the satellite, and it works great! I am glad that I was able to get this system up and running. Score one for me.

I am sure that everyone knows that the USA has turned over security in the Iraqi cities to the Iraqis. I read this myself. What the news reports did not say, is that now US military vehicles cannot even drive in the streets of Iraqi cities, except between midnite and 0500am. This means that moving around Iraq will be even more difficult for civilian technicians, and anyone who has to "float" between bases. What a hassle.

There are no convoys driving tonite, so I will catch one later. I will get a ride in a military vehicle, and go to Loyaltly base (20 mins away). Then I will catch a chopper to Liberty, a twelve minute ride.

Food here is pretty good. Since convoys do not run in the daytime, this post has set up a kitchen. They serve a decent breakfast. Since most of the soldiers do their duties in the middle of the night, the food schedule is breakfast at 1030am Lunch at 5pm, and supper at 630pm. Supper tonight was ground beef and pasta, so I had a slice of cheesecake for supper.

No TV here, sometimes they show a videodisc in the break room. At least here they have indoor plumbing. The latrine is just down the hall from my room. I forgot to bring a razor and cream, so I am letting the beard grow. The shower is weak, the water just dribbles out, and it is warm. But I can wash myself thoroughly.

So for now, I will just relax, and wait for the next convoy.

Monday, June 29, 2009


An awful dust-storm yesterday. It was so bad here, that the storm made the news in the USA. The internet was out, and phones were out. the Airport was closed. Today, the air is quite a bit clearer. Still gray and depressing.

I have to return to Beledia, and do an install. The equipment checks out OK here, I just hope it goes properly at the site. I want to keep this job, for the entire year, and perhaps go for an additional year. I hope so.

I got some additional clothing and bedding from my family. This was a godsend. I even have an additional laundry bag. The laundry service here is excellent. With the sweat and the dust, clothing gets nasty fast.

I wish I could sleep more soundly. I have a difficult time falling asleep, and then I must get up a couple of times per nite, to visit the bathroom.

My supervisor gave us the whole day off Sunday (Thank you, Mr. Scrooge). I slept late, and I got a subway sandwich. I watched a couple of movies at the Rec Center. "Duplicity" with Julia Roberts. I also watched some political broadcasts.

I will not be taking any vacation, during 2009. I prefer to take my time off, in between contracts. I have a strange list of priorities:

I like to cook my own meals. When I am here, I eat what the Army tells me, and on their schedule.

I like to watch cable TV. I like to go to the store. Call me weird.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Back to Beledia

On Sunday, I flew to Camp Loyalty, about a 12 minute flight from here. I was lucky, and I found a soldier,with a John Deere Gator. I loaded my duffel bag, and tools, and he took me to the transient quarters. I checked in with the Army, and made arrangements to get a ride to Beledia on Monday morning. I got up at 0600, for the 0630am ride.

I got to Beledia, and found the system was not working. I decided to return to Loyalty. I checked in with the office, and my supervisor told me to get back to Beledia, and dismount the system and bring it back to Liberty.

I spent a difficult night, on a cot, using my shirt for a pillow. Fortunately, there was a general officer in residence there, so the Army sent a hot breakfast over for everyone.

I dismounted the system, and caught a convoy, back to Loyalty. I had gone three days without a shower. I stored the system at the communications warehouse, and went to the transient quarters. I took the grandmother of showers.

Wednesday morning at 0800, I went back and got the system. Then I caught a convoy back to Liberty. I opened all of the equipment cabinets, and found that one of the circuit boards had burned out. I was able to find another board, and replaced the defectiver board.

On Thursday, I called the NCO back at Loyalty, and asked for arrangements to be made, to shuttle me and the system back to Beledia.

Thursday was a HOT day, and I was outside most of it. I washed off the system, and stored it in the packing crate. We had a nice barbecue last night, I offered to buy all of the food and sodas, but one of my co-workers bought everything.

I am finally able to sleep much better. I was able to obtain some sheets, that actually fit the bed. I also got a package of more clothing and underclothes. Keeping a reasonable standard of hygiene in this environment, is difficult!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday morning

Went to the aiport last night, to fly to Loyalty base. Got on the chopper, and flew for 20 minutes. Then got off so the chopper could refuel! Then got back on the chopper, and taxied for 20 minutes, to the passenger terminal. Got off the chopper, weather hold! I got my firm to come and drive me back to the barracks.

It is now Sunday, and I must go back to the chopper pad tonight, and try again to fly to Loyalty base.

It is hot today, and dusty. But the sky is clear, and the choppers should be flying.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday morning

In the last 24 hours, another 100 people have read this blog. I am amazed. I did not know so many people were interested.

Yesterday, was a HOT one. We had a bad dust storm, over the past 48 hours. The sun literally disappeared, and when the worst was over, the air was an eerie orange color. Everything had a half-inch of dust on it. We have been washing off the equipment, since the air cleared.

I assembled two satellite dish antennas yesterday, alone. It was hot and I sweated through my clothes. I have to drink 4 liters (a gallon) of water every day, just to keep up with the sweat.

I am delighted to hear from so many people, and especially brother Masons. I often get inquiries about Masonry in Afghanistan, but I do not know which bases have operating lodges. Best I can do, is refer these people to the Chaplain's office, and the recreation center. They can often provide the information.

I will be going to Camp Speicher, after my training and orientation is completed here. My firm has a house there, and my co-workers have informed me, that the quality of life there is good.

Last night, we grilled burgers and brats. I contributed a case of soda pop. The guys were up late, singing and playing guitar. Up till after midnite, actually. I got up early this morn, and picked up some of the trash from the revelry.

I would like to invite anyone who is interested, to follow me on

Just sign on to and follow cemab4y.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday, the ides of June plus three (Ides of June is 13 June)

In the last 24 hours, 100 people have hit this webpage. I am astounded! I cannot imagine what it is that makes this blog so popular. I guess I will have to start posting more information.

I would like to hear from anyone who reads this blog. Feel free to leave a comment (This can be done anonymously), or email directly at

Hot and dusty today. Got my laundry. Tomorrow, I will go to the finance office, and get some US dollars. You do not need much cash here, but I would like to keep some around, just in case. Also I need to add some money to my debit card.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Finished my week

Sunday night. We get Sunday morning off, so I slept in till 1100am. Great. The air conditioner works fine in my trailer. This was an interesting week. I worked from 0800 to 1000pm Thursday, and it was rough. I got a pizza after work, and it was excellent.

I went to Burger King this morning, and tried to get a sandwich. My credit card did not work, so I went back to the office. I called the credit card company, and it seems that a retailer was hacked, and several thousand credit card numbers were compromised, so my account was closed, and a new number assigned. I explained that I was in Iraq, and I needed my account, so the closure was cancelled, and now I can use the old card again.

Last night, I went to the rec hall to watch "Law and Order". The music in the dance room was so loud, that I could not hear the program. I miss having my own TV in the room.

The food quality in the chow hall remains excellent. I am impressed, that the KBR people can do such a good job, in this environment. I am eating much better than I ever did, when I was on active duty 30 years ago.

I also miss Masonry very much. I have completed the year of suspension, and now I am eligible for re-instatement, and my friend R.B. Hooks Jr, will attend my lodge (KY) next week, and get my reinstatement completed. I still need a letter to be sent to New York and Massachusetts, so that I can have the suspension lifted in those states as well.

I am going to Camp Speicher ( pronounced SPY-ker) and I do not know if there is a lodge there or not. I plan to start a square and compasses club, if there is not one there already.

Believe it or not, I miss Afghanistan. The climate there is not as harsh, at least you have some elevation, so you do not broil in the sun. I drink 6 liters of water per day (about 1.5 gallons) and I still cannot keep my self hydrated. At least I can sleep well. I got some cardboard, and taped over the windows in the trailer, so that the sun rising at 4:30am did not wake me.

I installed a counter on this blog, and I am amazed that 50 or more people read this blog every day. I am astounded. I did not know I was so interesting. I wish more people left comments, and joined in on the conversations.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another day here

Still having a hard time falling asleep. The trailer is cool, the air conditioner keeps up. We have our own power generator here in this compound, the generator is 100 yards from the hooch. Why in the world we cannot use the main power from the camp, is beyond me.

The food here is good. Iraq has better food than Afghanistan. Here the rice and pasta is not overcooked. There is California iceberg lettuce on the salad bar. The chow hall does an excellent job. We still cannot have eggs that are not fully cooked. This means no over easy eggs.

I have not yet received any postal mail. I ordered some items from the USA, and I am getting some packages shipped here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Had pizza for supper last night. Looks like another hot day here. If anyone is interested in the film "Brother's War", you can see the website:

I am not certain of the USA release date, I know that DVDs are available, possibly through

Monday, June 08, 2009

Monday morning

Had a barbecue last night, excellent steaks! We talked for some hours, about all kinds of stuff, mostly why the moon always keeps one face towards the earth. Had a difficult time getting to sleep, had to take some Benadryls (sp?), to help me sleep.

I have had the worst case of jet-lag, I have had in several years. I usually get over the jet-lag in a week or so.

I turned in some laundry this morning, and I will get it back on Wednesday. I am going to be assigned to Camp Speicher, once my initial orientation is through.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Made some changes

I have set up the blog, so that you can read my latest "tweets", on Twitter. Also, what I post here, will be repeated on Twitter.

I will see how it works, and adjust it if necessary.

First post to twitter

Hello everyone!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A great day

Last night, there was a barbecue, and I was invited. I drove over to Camp Victory, but there was a dust storm, and I could not find the place. I just drove around for a while, and decided to drive back, before the darkness made driving impossible.

I went on a service call this morning, and helped with some repair. This job looks like it is going to be terrific, and I will be learning a lot about Satellite engineering.

The office got a 5,000 BTU air conditioning unit installed here, and the office is like a meat-locker. We will not be sweating in the office! I was going through the piles of junk in my room ,and I found a set of new bedsheets! I have been sleeping on the bare mattress.

I am about over the jet-lag, and I got a decent sleep last night. Problem is, the sun rises at 0415am, and the light and heat begin early.

I ate a decent breakfast, the chow hall here at Camp Liberty is decent. I had a good lunch, I will probably pass on dinner. Maybe I will go to the Recreation Center, and see a movie. Last night they showed "Frost and Nixon", but the dance music in the main hall, made it difficult to hear the film.

I met some people who smoke hookah, and I may attend their smoke sessions. Back at Taji, we smoked every night.

What a country!

HOT today

Got into the office early. It is going to be a HOT day. I will go on a service call at 1000am, and probably be there most of the day. I found out yesterday, that I will be going to Speicher (Iraq), when I finish the orientation period here. This is great, my firm has a house there, and I should have a good stay there. I still do not know about Afghanistan, I guess I will go there later this year.

Friday, June 05, 2009

New features here

I added a hit-counter, so now I can see how many people are reading the blog. I wish I had added that years ago. Also- I have added my blog to receive my Twitter "tweets".

I will be here in Iraq for about 90 days, and then I am traveling on to Afghanistan.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

On the ground in Baghdad

I got up at 0100, so that the luggage truck could get me at 0130am. Then I checked in at the terminal at 0200. The roll call was at 0300, and the bus pickup was at 0430. The airplane took off at 0600, and landed and Baghdad International AirPort at 0700. At 0930 am my supervisor picked me up.

I had lunch, and then went back to the office. I have the jet-lag really bad. So I will be off to bed.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

In Kuwait

I am at Ali Al Saleem Kuwait. I left Fort Benning Georgia on 28 May, and we flew to Shannon Ireland. (I did not see any leprechauns). We spent four hours in the airport, then we flew to Kuwait. I checked into a tent, and I slept for 12 hours!

I am now trying to book passage to Babylon (Baghdad's old name). I have a pass, and I will be headed up there shortly.

This is an interesting life, I lead.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Leaving tomorrow

My assignment has been changed to Iraq, for the initial 90 days. I will be in Baghdad for 90 days. Then I am to be assigned to Afghanistan. I cannot believe my good luck!!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

In Tampa Florida

Flew to Tampa on Sunday (now it's Wednesday). I got the shuttle from my house to Reagan National Airport. Then I flew to Atlanta, and changed to a Tampa flight. Got into Tampa, got my rental car, and went to the hotel. Ordered some Chinese food, sat back and relaxed.

Went to the office Monday morning. Paperwork, checking in. Started some training.

I will have to go to Fort Benning Georgia for a week, then on to Afghanistan. I will not get any time back at Lorton, prior to departure.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thurs nite. Pain in the A**

Sitting on the back porch, just chillin'. Listening to the oldies on the stereo. Then I heard a "thump" and a man yelling "Get out of here". I thought, just some kids messing around. Then I heard the man "Your front window is broken". Sure enough-the storm door was smashed to bits.

Called the police, hassle. Tomorrow, I have to get a new door. I am flying to Tampa on Sunday, this could not have happened at a worse time.

Confirmation of start!!

I heard from my firm on Wednesday morning. I start work (actually training school) on Monday May 4, in Tampa FLA. I set up my flight from Reagan National to Tampa on Sunday May 3. Now, I have to pack, and get my paperwork in order. I made hotel reservations, and I will be in Tampa for about two weeks. I may have to do the one-week training school at Fort Benning GA. I did the school in August of 2008, and the training is usually good for one year. If I have to do it again, I will.

I would like to get a week off and go to Kentucky. Maybe I can.

If you have questions

If anyone has questions about any topic, please email me directly, I will be more than glad to answer. I got a question about the air quality in Kabul. I have done a couple of projects in downtown Kabul (way back in 2004). I thought the air quality was fine, you are up in the mountains, and there is no industrial air pollution at all.

On my first trip to Kabul (Feb 2004), I developed a blockage in one of my lungs. I got an inhaler from the US Army doctor. There I was, at 6000 feet, operating on one lung. I had to climb 12 flights of stairs to get to the top of the airport control tower, and I was wheezing badly. I eventually recovered.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday night, Midnight

Got up early this morning. Made biscuits from scratch. I like to measure the flour, and the baking powder. I have a toaster-oven, that is perfect for a batch of biscuits. I also made some sausage and eggs. What a delight to be able to cook my own meals. I have been eating in chow halls since I first hit the ground in Afghanistan, February 2004. That was my first experience in Kabul.

I was hired by a firm in Reston VA. I filled out my security paperwork, and got a military ID at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. I flew on a civilian airplane from Dulles (Washington DC) to London. I then flew to Dubai United Arab Emirates. I drove out to the Al-Udied Air Base, and caught a military flight to Bagram Air Base Afghanistan. The place was primitive. I stayed there, then next morning I caught a chopper to Kabul. I photographed the air traffic control system at Kabul Aiport. I could not wait to clear out of there.

Any way- I am enjoying the transition back to ordinary life. I am getting used to driving again, on the freeways. I got lost Saturday night, and again this afternoon. It is easy to get disoriented. I went to the dentist, and I got a cleaning, inspection, x-rays. I have some deterioration in one of my teeth, I need to get a new crown, maybe.

I bought some hummus (chick-pea paste), and some stuffed grape leaves, and some pita bread. I find it ironic, that in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible to get middle eastern food. I got hooked on hummus, when I lived in Saudi Arabia in 1991.

I got some small submarine loaves. I got some shaved ham, and swiss cheese, and I can actually make a sandwich. When you are eating in the chow hall, that is all there is.

I went to a discussion group on Sunday, up in Adams-Morgan, a district in Washington DC. It was nice to have an intelligent discussion with nice people. There was a man there , who is going to be assigned to China. I was in the foreign service from 1983-1988.

It is the end of April, and it is already getting hot here. Washington DC summers are the worst. HOT and sticky. I already miss the dry heat of the desert.

-I still do not have a definite start date for my new job. I am scheduled to start in Tampa FLA on May 4. I may have to wait an additional time.

In the meantime, I will be "living large". Taking tub baths, cooking my own meals, driving on the freeways, enjoying cable TV, and just "chillin".

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday afternoon

Starting a new contract, there are 1000 things to do. I got the information package, and contracts in the FedEx last week, and there were about 40 forms to fill out, but nothing about medical. So I called the admin office and asked the person about medical forms. She said I will fill the forms out in Tampa.

I went to Wal-Mart, and got light bulbs, and an ashtray. Larisa said she quit smoking, but since her mom flew back, she has been chain-smoking. She will never quit smoking.

I bought paper towels, and mouthwash, and a decent plate to eat from. I have been eating from paper plates, and I decided enough was enough. I have rubbed holes in my jeans, and I got some iron-on patches.

I went to a meeting yesterday, it was at a mid-eastern cafe. I got some decent hummus (chick-pea paste) and some pita bread. I think it is ironic- In the chow halls in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army does not serve middle eastern food! I had some good moroccan tea, but it costs $2.5o per glass. On the other hand, I got a bottle of water, and it was free.

I paid $17 for my snacks and $15 to park the car. I thought I could drive in to Washington DC on a Sunday afternoon, and there would be adequate parking. BOY was I wrong. I went to a district called "Adams-Morgan", and every free space in the area was filled.

I wanted to go to lodge tonight, but after all this hassle and driving around, I am going to give lodge a pass tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday night in Lorton VA

What an interesting day. My mother-in-law was staying with us. This afternoon, she flew back to Moscow. She is in the air, even now. Larisa has been trying not to act too depressed about it. Anyway, we can have a bit of privacy, now that we are alone in the house.

Today, a Census employee dropped by, confirming our address. I worked for the 1990 Census, in computer operations. I used to tell people, that I had a job that really counted.

I went to McDonalds for breakfast. I like their steak/egg/cheese bagels. I drank a cup of their industrial-grade coffee. I bought a copy of the Washington post, I usually read it on line.

I went to the grocery store, and bought a Boston cream pie. I have not eaten one in many years. I also got some lettuce and tomatoes. There is no Imperial valley iceberg lettuce in Iraq, there is a lot of Romaine lettuce. I must get filled of all the USA foods that I can, When I return to the desert, I will do without.

My suspension from Masonry will expire in a couple of weeks. I am anxious to return to being a Mason in good standing, in Kentucky. Then the Grand Lodge of KY will inform Massachusetts and New York, and I can go back to being a three-lodge mason again.

I went to MENSA on Friday night. Only one other person showed up. The group has dwindled.

Tomorrow is Sunday, I will probably sleep in. Larisa gets all mad, when I fry, the odors waft right into the bedroom.

I would like to visit a horse race track, before I return. There is a race track in Tampa! Maybe I can attend.

I get the most interesting emails. But I keep referring the inquiries here! If people would visit the blog, they can get updated more easily.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back to work in Iraq or Afghanistan

I have accepted an offer of employment with a telecommunications firm. I will be flying down to Tampa, FLA in the next week or so. Then I will deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. I may have to do that military training at Fort Benning GA again. This is great news, and I am looking forward to returning.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Things are looking up

My contract in Afghanistan concluded on 4 April 2009. I am in Lorton VA, seeking employment. If anyone has information or a job lead, please feel free to write me.

Anyway, today I interviewed (by phone) with an engineer in Iraq. The interview went very well, and tomorrow, I have a phone interview with the tem leader in Tampa Florida. If I pass the interview, I will be hired for this new project.

I have completed four (4) contracts in Afghanistan, and two (2) contracts in Iraq. If selected for this project, I will attend a training school in Tampa, Florida. Then I will return, either to Iraq or Afghanistan. Believe me, the quality of life in Iraq is better than the quality of life in Afghanistan. The US presence in Afghanistan is growing so fast, that the infrastructure (housing,etc) cannot keep up with the demand.

Iraq is drawing down in numbers, but the US presence will be there for many years. I work in Telecommunications, and Telecommunications is always the first in and the last out! I am looking forward to returning.

I will keep everyone posted.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Email from a friend

Good Evening Charles, Sorry to hear you are under the weather due to coming back to the US. I know when I went out West, I caught the chest cold thing and it took a week to get use to the new climate. Do you live in the Washington DC area? (Yes I do) If so I will be up there on a April 30 and 31. I have found a job working for a large engineering company who corporate HQ is in Washington. I am going there to fill in all the paperwork and from Washington going to Camp Lejeune for a month of training then to Afghanistan. I would like to shake your hand if you are feeling well and have the time on Thur. or Friday week after next.Douglas Seaman (phone number deleted)

Email from a friend

Good Evening Charles, Sorry to hear you are under the weather due to coming back to the US. I know when I went out West, I caught the chest cold thing and it took a week to get use to the new climate. Do you live in the Washington DC area? (Yes, I live in suburban Washington) If so I will be up there on a April 30 and 31. I have found a job working for a large engineering company who corporate HQ is in Washington. I am going there to fill in all the paperwork and from Washington going to Camp Lejeune for a month of training then to Afghanistan. I would like to shake your hand if you are feeling well and have the time on Thur. or Friday week after next.Douglas Seaman (phone number deleted)

Sunday afternoon

A quiet Sunday. It is Russian Orthodox Easter. I had a good supper last night. I fried two italian sausage links, and the house smelled like fennel and garlic. My mother-in-law has asthma, so she did not like the odor. My wife opened the windows, but kept the venetian blinds down and closed, so no air circulated.

I am suffering the effects of some kind of upper respiratory illness. I have not been sick one day in the last seven months in Afghanistan, and it is much more unhealthy up there. As soon as I get back to the USA, I get exposed to a whole new family of bacteria and allergens. My chest is sore, and I have a sore throat, and I am coughing a lot. I guess I will get over it in a couple of days.

I had a couple of bagels with strawberry cream cheese. I am enjoying drinking real american coffee, made in a drip coffeemaker. I also enjoy half-and-half in the coffee. I enjoy cooking my own meals for a change. Last night Larisa, sent me to the store for two containers of sour cream, and some whole-grain bread. I bought some spices. Army chow hall food, is bland, and they never use any spices. Even the chili is bland. I guess soldiers do not like spicy food. There is always hot sauce on the table, though.

It is a change to be in the house with two women. Larisa and her mom, have their own rituals. They do not have a good grasp on "kitchen science" and bacteriology. They leave a can of condensed milk, open, on the table for weeks. and they have left a can of creamed corn, on the counter for a week, open. Gross. I always make it a point to use only clean dishes and tableware. I have been washing the dishes in the dishwasher, because my wife does not keep a clean table.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Home a week

Well, it has been an interesting week. I was interviewed by phone, by Amber Healy, for a story in the local paper. And I just got off the phone with a photographer. I have been looking for work, and I have a couple of leads, hopefully, I can get back to Iraq soon.

It is good to relax, I have been in Afghanistan for seven months. Driving is a challenge, I almost hit a couple of pedestrians. It is difficult to get used to the traffic of Washington DC metro. And cooking my own meals! I can sleep the whole night, without aircraft waking me up! Biggest hassle, is my mother-in-law is here, and there is not much space for three people. The kitchen is small, and the wife and mother-in-law are always complaining. When I fry sausage, the odor goes all over.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Email from a fan!

Dear Mr. Martin,

Glad to read that you have made it home safely. Thank you for all you have been doing for our troops. I have been reading your blog for a couple of months trying to gain some insight into the needs of our troops. I am the mother of a deployed paratrooper. He is a (deleted)at FOB (deleted). I would trully appreciate any insight in regards to what they could use to make it easier. I know there is no px and they need hygiene and snacks. I also sent my son a box of laundry detergent after reading that you did your own laundry on Boris. In addition, I would like invite you to a web site I have recently found. There is a forum and chat room that people use to try to figure out what to send etc. OPSEC applies there like everywhere else. Nothing is more important than the safety of our children.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Laurie (deleted).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday morning

A quiet weekend. I watched "The Sound of Music". This morning, I went to the car wash, and got the SUV washed. I went to Wal-Mart, and I bought some T-shirts. Then I went to Lowe's and Home Depot, looking for household grease, and a bathtub stopper. It is an adjustment to get back to normal life. Driving, and going to stores is strange. I went to Jiffy Lube, and got an oil change, and the differentials serviced. Then I went to taco bell. The chow halls in Afghanistan, cannot do mexican food properly.

I have a phone interview for a job in Iraq on Wednesday. If the interview goes properly, I will be heading back to Iraq.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Comment from Amber Healy

Good afternoon Mr. Martin,My name is Amber Healy, I'm a freelance reporter for the Connection Newspapers in Fairfax County, VA. Your blog popped up on my editor's desk this morning courtesy of the mention of your (safe) return to Lorton. I was wondering if you might be interested in talking with me a little about your time in Iraq and Afghanistan, what kind of work you do there, etc. Please feel free to email me at (DELETED) if you're interested.

I am delighted to hear from you! I am flattered that you are interested in a story about me. I called the paper, and left a voice mail for the editor, and I emailed you with my contact information. I am always delighted to work with the Fourth Estate. Please contact me, and we can set up an interview! Charles E. Martin

Friday, April 10, 2009

Back in the USA

I am back home in Lorton VA. It is good to have some peace and quiet, after 7 straight months in Afghanistan. I am enjoying "decompressing", I have been to the grocery store, and I have cooked my own meals. I actually made some coffee! I will find out on Wednesday, if I get to go to a training conference in Tampa Florida. I have not been to Florida since 1980, when I went to Walt Disney World.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Going back to the USA

I am heading back to the USA soon. For a well-deserved rest. Keep in touch on my blog.

Going back to the USA

I am heading back to the USA soon. For a well-deserved rest. Keep in touch on my blog.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Cool this morning. Went to breakfast, first time in weeks. Had some eggs, first time in weeks. I am going up to Jalalabad soon, on a training mission. I went to J-bad back in 2004, it was bleak. The place has probably grown, and it is bit more modern now.

I still have trouble sleeping, the tent is too near the flight line. Last night, the mechanics were doing "Static tests" on aircraft engines. That is where they place an engine on stilts, and run up the motor, to see how it runs. It is LOUD, about 140Db.

I like Afghanistan less and less. But it is better to be working here, than unemployed back home.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday afternoon

Got my weekly pizza. It was delicious as usual!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thurs nite

Went to the other side of Bagram this afternoon. There is a trivia contest at the main recreation center tonight. I am going to enter, and see if I can win. I will let you know!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday March 11

What a day. Took a shower, and went to lunch. The spring is on the way, I do not need a jacket, in the afternoons. Nights are still cold. At least it is dry, I can get by with one shower every two days.

There will be much work here. The place is ramping up. I would like to stay in Afghanistan until 2011.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Slept all right last night. The base is getting new plywood huts, and I may be moving out of the tent soon. Biggest hassle is the NOISE. The generator runs 24/7 and the heater blower is loud.

Tonight at dinner, there was shrimp creole and rice. One of my co-workers said I was losing weight. I am.

Life in Afghanistan is strange, to say the least. There is not much for me to do, just now, but the work is ramping up. With 17,000 more troops headed this way, the work is going to hit the fan.

I enjoy hearing from all of you, please continue to write!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

8 Mar 2009

Pretty weather at last. Went to church, and got a pizza. I also bought some magazines, I never have enough to read. It is a hassle getting around, the bus schedules are science fiction.

I am going to a trivia contest on 12 March. I think I will be able to do very well.

Just waiting on an assignment.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

At Bagram

I arrived this morning. Tues 24 Feb 2009. What a dump! I am in a tent, right next to a 30KW generator, blasting away 24 hours a day. I am in a bunk bed, no room for privacy or my personal items. Bagram is an anthill, crowded and lines everywhere. Afghanistan is adding new people so fast, that the infrastructure cannot deal with them.

I want to get to a forward base, so at least I can sleep in quiet.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Assignment- Bagram Afghanistan

I am now assigned to Bagram Air Base Afghanistan. If anyone needs my postal address, please email me, or leave a comment here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Afternoon

Stuck at FOB Boris. I keep trying to leave, but the winds of good fortune are not blowing in my direction. I just make the most of it. I got a haircut today, including sideburn trim, and close cut on my upper lip. I also took a long shower (I only shower every two days, when I am traveling). I wanted to watch "O'Reilly factor", but a soldier was watching wrestling. I always let the soldiers watch anything they like. I mostly hang out at the recreation center, so that I can read. If you like to read, Afghanistan is the place.

I am a little tired of this "OpSec" crud. OpSec means operational security. In my emails, I am required to let my firm know my whereabouts. This is not classified. Neither is the weather. You just look outside, and you can see if it is raining or snowing. Some helicopters can fly in lousy weather, some cannot. I hate being nitpicked.

I washed my clothes today. The water is safe for washing, but not for drinking. When I am at my home base, I just drop off the laundry, and collect it the next day, clean and folded. The Afghans do a good job. Here, I wash the clothes myself.

I wish I could lose the "blues". Just being in this part of the world, with the loneliness, and the "same every day" routine, gets to be a drag. I get up in the morning, and check with the flight desk, to see if any helicopters are flying. If not, then I just go to the Rec Hall, and watch TV. Lunch is served at 1130. Then I go back to the Rec Hall, and watch "Jeapordy" at 1pm. Then "O'Reilly" at 330pm. In between, I read. Then supper at 500pm. Then back to the concrete hooch.

My bed has two mattresses, the top mattress has steel rods, but, I just position my body, in between the rods. Fortunately, the barracks is quiet, and the heater works well. I try to get to sleep by 1100pm, then it is back up for another day. This place is like "Ground Hog Day", the same every day.

With luck, I can get a chopper back to FOB Salerno soon.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A cold and lonely time

Time now is 0140am Saturday morning 7 February. I am at Forward Operating Base Boris, Afghanistan. The outside weather is cold, just above freezing. The full moon is overhead, making it easy to see around. One thing about the cold winter, it is safer. The bad guys go up into the mountains, and they are huddled up, waiting for the spring.

I have been getting some good feedback about the employment project. We have several good people, back in Virginia, who are assisting. With the unemployment rate soaring, I feel that Masonry should do more to help our unemployed members and their dependents. Doing nothing is unacceptable.

The Army continues to feed me well. Tonight, grilled steaks, lobster tails, crab legs, shrimp, corn on the cob. Only thing they do not have here is fresh eggs and coca-cola. Such is Army chow.

The rec hall here, has a huge selection of videos. I watched some "Law and Order" episodes. Also "Spartacus", one of my favorite films. I also read books sometimes, I have been perusing "Born Again" the story of Charles Colson, the Watergate guy.

I could sure use some chocolate, there is no PX here, so there is no way to get chocolate. There is a little Afghan restaurant, but I have not yet sampled their wares. The soldiers eat there sometimes, I guess the food is safe.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

An open letter to the Grand Master of Masons in Virginia

Dear Grand Officers, The USA is now in the biggest recession in the last 80 years. Unemployment is spreading fast, and this tragedy is also affecting our brother Masons and their families. Just last week a man lost his job in California, and then he went home and killed his five children and his wife, then himself. In his suicide note, he asked "Is there no hope for the widow's son?" During the 1930's and for some time thereafter, Many Grand Lodges (and other masonic groups) assisted Brother Masons in seeking employment. I think this activity is part of our splendid Masonic tradition. I therefore wish to make a formal request: Can we revive the employment assistance bureau in Virginia? Is there a way for brother Masons to assist our unemployed Brother Masons (and their wives/widows/dependents) in seeking employment? Some people have said that Masonry has no business getting involved. Some say there are legal issues involved, that there could be legal ramifications if an organization like ours got involved in assisting people who were out of work. Some say that the government, and state employment offices are better equipped to assist the unemployed. I think that is a bunch of crap. Private, non-government organizations can assist people in finding work. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints (the Mormons) operate a national network of employment offices, and no one objects. I request that the Grand Lodge seek out a legal opinion, and determine if our Grand Lodge can re-open the employment services, that we ran decades ago. I am certain that there is no legal problem at all. Please let me know if this is possible, and if it is, I request that we get it underway quickly. There is no time to lose. (BTW- I am in Afghanistan. There is not much I can here, but when I return to the USA in Sept 2009, I would be more than glad to get directly involved. Charles E. Martin
Here is a "template" of how a program could be operated:

-A service set up, similar to what was done by lodges and Grand Lodges in the 1930's, and what Kentucky ran right up into the 1980's. -The Grand Lodge will serve as a "coordinator", and advisor to individual lodges (and Masonic districts). Districts/lodges will be offered the opportunity to participate in the program at their own discretion.

-The service will exist to assist Brother Masons (and their wives/widows/dependents) in all phases of seeking employment. The service will be open to assist the general public, and any individual who applies for help. Guidance and advice will be offered to anyone on a non-discriminatory basis.

-The service will primarily consist of counseling and providing advice in guidance in helping individuals conduct their own job search. The Grand Lodge will NOT go out and find jobs for participants.

-The service will be educational in nature. Clients will be advised in the methodology of how to seek work in the internet age. Assistance will be provided in how to prepare both a traditional paper resume, and how to prepare an electonic internet resume. Clients will be coached in how to seek work on the internet, and in the print "want ads", as well as other traditional job-seeking venues. Clients will be coached and critiqued in how to obtain interviews, and how to dress, how to answer interview questions, etc.

-The program will be staffed by volunteers. The Grand Lodge can provide office space, administrative assistance, and logistical help.

-District Deputy grand Masters, will be asked to select an employment coordinator in each district, and/or in each lodge that chooses to participate in the program.

-When a mason (or dependent/widow) or anyone who asks for help, needs employment assistance, the district/lodge employment coordinator will assist the applicant, in all aspects of the employment search process, including seeking help from other government agencies (the state employment service).

-Individual companies will be advised of the program, and offered guidance in how to get job openings distributed to individuals who are seeking work. This could be done through the operation of an internet page, run by the Grand Lodge. Non-government organizations have been providing individuals with employment search assistance, with programs exactly like this for many years, with absolutely no objections from any government agency, or any fear of lawsuit. As long as the assistance is offered to anyone who applies, and the help is provided in an educational and advisory capacity, there is no problem. There is absolutely no danger of being in violation of any federal or state laws, nor of any conflict with equal employment and equal pay legislation.

The USA is now in the worst recession that has occured in the last 70 years. See: am going to run this proposal past an attorney friend back in Virginia. I am confident that a program run this way, will pass all legal muster. And you can be sure that any Grand Lodge will check it out thoroughly before they get involved.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Been off the blog for too long

I apologize, that I have not made any new entries for some time. I got back to Salerno safely, and I was told to leave for another mission to Orgun-E. I went there last October. Then I was informed to go to Forward Operating Base Boris. I went down to see about a chopper flight, and I have been trying to get a flight for three weeks. I finally got out today (29 Jan 2009).

I have been assigned permanently to Bagram Air Base. When I return to Salerno (After this mission) I will collect my gear, and fly to Bagram. I would really much rather stay at Salerno. I have a bed, with a mattress and sheets. I am in a tent, but it is more than adequate.

I will be on a cot, with no privacy at all at Bagram. The base is an anthill, way too many people for the square mileage. It takes forever to get any where.

Anyway, I am at Boris. I got some decent quarters, and the chow hall is adequate, but not Class 1. The chow hall has three meals per day, instead of the two per day served at FOB Tillman. There is a decent Rec Center, where I can use their computers for my work.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Leaving Tillman

Well, the work is not done here. But there is a shortage of helicopters, and as the winter weather closes in, there will be fewer flights. So I am leaving Tillman tonight, I cannot say that I am sad to leave here, fact is , it will be good to get back to my home base, and clean sheets, and some privacy. Also the chow hall at Salerno is Class1, with three meals perday. Also I have two months of mail waiting on me, back at Salerno.

The work is not finished here. There is a hassle with one of the power supplies. I do not like to leave a base, where there is a problem.

I have been getting some more comments on the blog posts. I am always glad to get comments, 99.9% of them are very positive. Since I changed the "open comments" policy, the comments got much more positive.

Some individuals have offered to send personal care items and snacks for the troops. For this I am grateful. I take the items down to the Rec Hall, and give them out to the troops. I was at a small base, that did not have any soap, and I collected a couple of soap bars at the Rec Hall one time.

It still amazes me, how much these guys like beef jerky. Personally, I cant stand the stuff. Also, I am amazed at how many of these guys dip snuff and use smokeless tobacco. I cannot think of a more disgusting habit, and it destroys your teeth and gums. Live and let live, though.

I am not glad to be flying at night. I have to wait outside in the cold for an hour on the flight line, then I have to fly in a helicopter, with the back door wide open, and the wind whooshing through the passenger compartment. By the time I get back to Salerno, it will be almost sunrise. Then I have to crawl into the bed, and try to sleep.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sunday night

Wrapped up the work here at Forward Operating Base Tillman. What a miserable and lonely place! I am very anxious to clear out, and return to my home base. I am going to have to fly back to FOB Orgun-E for an installation. When I get there, I may be stuck there for some days or weeks.

The sun came out, and the small volume of snow melted away, leaving the base a sticky mud-hole. I had chicken with penne pasta for dinner. I am appalled at the way soldiers waste food. Truck drivers risk their lives, to bring the supplies here, and then the soldiers pile the food on their trays, and then throw so much of it away. I say, take all you want, but eat all you take.

Physically, I am much better over the past couple of days. The medicine that I got from the Army doctors cleared me right up. The high altitude and the thin air, is still taking some getting used to. I have to walk a lot here, and the rough gravel works like torture on my feet. I have a new set of combat boots, but they are wearing out fast.

The ice froze out the satellite dish last night. On Saturday, the Army TV station broadcasts an episode of classic "Star Trek", and I like to watch the shows. The ice melted off the satellite dish, and I was able to watch some TV this afternoon. There are some new movies being released this spring, and I would like to see some of them. When I get back to the USA, I will go to the movies a lot!

It is now after 10pm here on the roof of the world. I think I will watch some CNN news, and then call it a night.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

3 Jan 2008 Still at FOB Tillman

Wrapping up the work. It is cold and snow flurries. Just enough to make the whole base sticky and muddy. With luck, I can get out of here soon.

If anyone wants to donate personal care items to the soldiers, you can send the items to me, and I will pass along the items to the troops. The guys are nuts about smokeless tobacco (I can't stand the stuff), also beef jerky and chocolate. Soap, toothpaste, razors, etc. are also highly prized. If anyone is interested, please send your donations to:

Charles E. Martin
BETTS-C Project
FOB Salerno
APO AE 09314

On behalf of America's finest, I thank you!!