Monday, April 30, 2007

Still Pregnant :)

Just wanted to let everyone know that we're still pregnant (despite hearing from everyone...including the proud Dad... that I appear to be ready to BUST!)

I've finished my days of work and am just settling into the house until the big day. I haven't experienced the "nesting" insanity that I've heard and read about. Evidently there are ladies that start washing walls and scrubbing all the crevices of the house with toothbrushes. I think kids should experience lots of dirt! Haha.

So, things are still going well. George and I still have regular communication. I am, however, experiencing difficulties dialing his international cell phone. Who would have thought placing a phone call could be so difficult! ATT=Evil.

He and the guys are preparing for a small move in the near future. He's assured me that, as of now, this will not effect his mailing address or contact info. So, feel free to continue sending letters, etc.

Hope you're enjoying the sun!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Update from Home and the Field

Happy Friday everyone!

Just wanted to catch everyone up with the HomeFront. All is going great. We're on a countdown now! We're due in less than two weeks! I can hardly believe that it's almost over. The Pea enjoyed our silent weekend in Virginia, so much so that the midwives say that she went from 6lbs to 7.5lbs in less than a week! All that weight and I was only eating veggies and drinking water! Maybe it was all the energy that I conserved when I wasn't talking. Anyway, we're both feeling great. As a matter of fact, I'm spending this weekend with my family. I've been getting that "shouldn't you be at home" look from many people in the community, but I just feel too energetic to be cooped up in the house wondering if "today's the day."

Hope this finds you doing well. I'd like to thank everyone again for the most amazing baby gifts. I feel so blessed to have the love and support of so many amazing people. Your energy lifts me and I could never find the appropriate words to appropriately express the depths of my gratitude.

I'll keep you updated!

Here is Geo's latest update:

Dear Family & Friends,

Our two new teams are now effectively integrated with the rest of the Brigade Team. I'd like to welcome Nikki Reed to the mailing list. Her husband, Robert, was one of my company commanders when I commanded the 2nd Battalion, 103rd Armor, and he joined us last week with the new National Guard team. As the saying goes, it is a small army. They live in northern Virgina, but unfortunately do not have a family network.

Most of this past week has been taken up with training for the two new teams, doing some of our own training and in servicing vehicles. The weather has been great, with the days topping out in the 80's. Tomorrow is the big Victory of the Islamic Nation parade that our ANA troops will march in, and the celebrations run over into Sunday. Our counterparts have been working hard, and we all hope that it is a good event for them.

I am afraid that the team is going to start going in seperate directions soon. Beginning next week, the ANA brigade will be moving into another area of operations for about four months, and some of us will be going with them, while others will remain here at Darulaman. Some of our guys are also going to going to new assignment to mentor the Afghan National Police.

I have an agreement with the guys that I would provide general information about our team, and that it would be up to each one of them to let you specifics, including their assignment.

Otherwise, it is business as normal next week with some highlights being our first ever re-enlistment seminar for the ANA because one of our kandaks has about 200 soldiers getting ready to end their term. We will also be doing some communications and medical evacuation training.

Best Regards,

1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Family and Friends Update

Dear Family & Friends,

I apologize for this update coming a little late. I had problems getting into AKO for a couple days.

The weather has been nice and everyone has been busy, despite the ANA's focus on their parade which is finally coming up this Saturday. The Victory of the Islamic Nation (over the Soviet Union) celebration will be both Saturday and Sunday. Most of the brigade is participating, we will not be!

This past week, we had two of our "Dubs Challenge" events to help train new teams joining our brigade. In this case, it was the French ETT and the new National Guard Team. During the event, new ETTs do a lot of marching in full body armor, stopping at various stations along the way to get tested on critical tasks. Participants are usually rather winded by the end because most are not used to the 6,000' elevation here.

Also this past Thursday morning, we hosted a Sports Day with the ANA Brigade. Teams competed in soccer and volleyball, with the ANA winning the volleyball tournament and the "Coalition Forces" (a whole team of French paratroopers with one Marine) won the soccer. It was a lot of fun; see the attached picture.

This coming week we will be doing some weapons refresher training and planning the post-parade training for the ANA.

1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Shower Pic

Today was the Baby Shower organized by my lovely mother and dear friend, Punam. What an amazing day...filled with delicious food and the love and laughter of friends and family. This pic is of my very favorite gift. It is perfect!!!

I, of course, have about 100 more pictures. One of every gift that I opened thanks to the lovely photographer. Many feature me holding up a beautiful, thoughtfully chosen baby gift with some silly/funny/horrifying facial expression caught while I was talking. I didn't post them all here (you're welcome!), but if you're interested you can view them on my Flickr account.

I have been talking to Geo rather regularly. He mentioned that the French arrived at Camp Darulaman and have been settling in. He has been really busy preparing for their arrival, the arrival of the additional ETT team from the US, and planning the move to the FOB.

In addition, he was also tasked with handing out (er...getting rid of) 200 boxes of Girl Scout cookies that were mailed to him recently. 200?? Yes, 200 friggin' boxes. On one hand I am humbled by the generosity of the person who donated the cookies, and on the other hand worries me. If our soldiers were to eat all of the lovely goodies that were sent to them would they really be in the optimum health to do their jobs? Shouldn't we be sending them really good, protein filled energy bars, nuts and other healthy snacks that would increase their nutritional intake? This is not to say that I do not send snacks to George, but overall I get a bit concerned when reading articles about the types of things that are being shipped to our soldiers. Uh...rant has concluded.

I had a wonderful, funfilled day and this Mama is about to hit the couch for some quality time with her crochet hooks and yarn before zonking out.

nik and the pea

Friday, April 13, 2007

Holiday Fun

Dear Family & Friends,

The highlight of this past week had to be our Easter dinner. All of the guys (except for MSG Bitt, more on that later) got together at a table that we had reserved in the mess hall. After a great meal, SPC "Tato" Maritato presented everyone with Easter baskets that his Mom, Cindy, had sent over for us. The treats were great and really appreciated, but the plush, camoflauge-pattern baskets turned out to be the real treat. (See picture picture.) Boys being boys, they instantly became the newest thing for us to play with. Thank you Maritato Family!

As I mentioned, MSG Bitt was unable to join us because he is working for us over at Camp Blackhorse as the Brigade's Liaison Officer (a.k.a., LNO). He is off to a great start, and is representing us extremely well. It can be a tough job, especially when the Army tradition is to assume that naturally your higher headquarters is all messed up.

Today the French ETT arrived here at Camp Dubs. They are a 49-man team that will be taking over responsibility for one of our Afghan battalion. (The team that is currently in that role is going to be reassigned.) They bring a lot of capabilities to our team including a doctor and EMTs, more personnel for the Security Force, and additional radio operators for our Operations Center. Their English is good, but not perfect, so I imagine that we will have to go through an adjustment period. They are all professional soldiers -- paratroopers, in fact -- with a lot of deployment experience, and we are happy to have them on the team.

We are also expecting another US ETT that will be assigned to another one of the Afghan battalions. With their arrival, our manning will be where it needs to be in all of the battalions, and close to what is required to run the headquarters. We had been working understrength since our arrival. I should have more news on them next week.

This coming week, in addition to the normal training and meetings, we will be putting the French through our orientation training program. The weather has been great and the temperature is getting warmer, so the training and our operations should go well. Also at the end of next week, the ANA Brigade will be doing a Sports Day that we helped them plan. Each Kandak (battalion) is fielding teams for several different events with ETTs on each team. It will be a fun day.

Best Wishes,

1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)


I forgot to mention in my previous note that although the active duty Army has announced that it is extending tours, this does not affect Reserve Component Soldiers at this time.

The National Guard has plans to limit total mobilization time to one year (so the time spent in training counts towards that year too), but at this time, we are still on a one year tour.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Two Heros in the News

It's a bit late, but I just received and email containing the story of Bert Brady. He's a Vietnam Veteran who wakes up every morning and goes to the Dallas Ft. Worth Airport to meet and greet soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. He was ABC's Person of the Week in February. Here is a short clip:

In other news, our Stud had a small piece in last week's Shore News Today (30 March). After clicking on the link, click on pg. 19 and scroll down. (Thanks, Eileen!!)


Saturday, April 7, 2007

Let There Be Spring!

Has it really been that long since I posted? Wow!

The end of pregnancy has brought with it long, activity filled days and forgetfulness (now, where did I put those car keys??). Things are going well, though. I'm still feeing healthy and with each visit to the
midwives I am reassured that the baby is doing great. Kate, the midwife that I see most often, always tells me that "we're perfect," which no pregnant woman in her final month can hear often enough if you ask me! Sleep has become a bit more sporadic and the Pea gets bigger and prefers that I work on her time schedule as opposed to the one that the extra-uterine world works on. This is just one of the reasons that I feel blessed to have been able to cut down on my work hours throughout the pregnancy. It gives me the time to "do what I need to do" to take care of myself, which often means taking a nap around Tea Time. So, we're on the 4 week countdown :)

George and I have been fortunate enough to talk on the computer almost daily for the last two weeks. He's generally wrapping up his day around my lunch time and we chat for sometimes 1-2 hours. The "real time" communication does a lot to keep us updated on each other's lives, but it also really helps us feel more connected. So, we can each get our fair share of harassment in ("Uh, babe, did you get your weapon cleaned today? Why not?....How about your laundry? and..."Nik, you're a little punchy today, did you take a nap?, maybe you should head to bed for a bit and rest the Pea's pod.") It's great!

I am planning on working next week and then heading to an amazing
ashram in Buckingham, Virgina for a 4 day silent retreat. I've participated in a 10 day retreat before heading to graduate school and it was a memorable experience. I'll put me in a great space to focus and assist with a easeful, peaceful delivery. After my return I'll make a better informed decision on when to actually stop working.

I hope that this posting finds everyone doing well. I deeply appreciate the word of encouragement and support. Feel free to give me a ring!



Here is Geo's latest:


Dear Family & Friends,

The weather has been nice and there is a lot of green. The Afghans say that this is unusual, but there has been a 10-year drought. In some areas, the Mullahs are looking at the beautiful spring as a sign from Allah.

Things are pretty much business as usual here. We sort of had a two-day weekend because in addition to the usual Fridays off for the Afghans, which we usually enjoy too, they also took last Saturday off because it was the Prophet Muhammed's Birthday.

1SG Walter has been doing a lot to improve the quality of life at our camp. We have a barber here twice a week, today Finance is here for guys who want cash, and we get mail and newspapers (Stars & Stripes) regularly.

There was a MEDCAP (Medical Civil Assistance Program) Thursday and Friday that many of our guys volunteered to assist in. It was right outside the back gate of the ANA's camp, and almost 4,000 villagers were seen (see attached photo, the near woman in the burqa was brought to the MEDCAP in a wheelbarrow). These are really for temporary care, often dispensing only drugs for what ails people at the time, but a couple of people were sent by ambulance from the MEDCAP to the hospital.

The parade practice is really ramping up for our ANA brigade, and they spend a lot of time marching in formation. We found out today that a large group of them will be driving armored vehicles in the parade, even though they are not qualified to operate their systems. While we often view this as a "dog & pony" activity, the truth is that the Afghans are very proud of their multi-cultural army, and they want to be able to showcase the Army in their country and around the world. Thankfully, the parade is at the end of the month, and then we can really focus on training them.

This coming week we will be receiving a French Army ETT on the brigade team. We met some of their soldiers this past week, and although I am sure that we will have to work through some cultural challenges, the soldiers come from their elite parachute unit and are highly experienced and qualified. One of the Master Sergeants with their group has had 15 deployments (they usually only last 6 months though). We will train and integrate them into the team the week after next.

I am glad to see that some people have registered for our new
FRG website. I hope that we will be able to share a lot more information with each other using that.

Best Regards,




1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)