Saturday, December 29, 2007

Family and Friends Update

Dear Family & Friends,

This has been a relatively quiet week here (cannot say the same for Pakistan) -- no visits from any world leaders this week, but just a very nice Christmas day.

There was no work scheduled for our guys, so everyone got to sleep as late as they wanted. The headquarters group had a Christmas party in the late morning, and then everyone had a terrific lunch at the chow hall. In the afternoon, some of the guys got together for a football game and then we had a big dinner again (prime rib, fried turkey, steamship round, shrimp cocktail, ...).

Most of our guys broke down into two groups throughout the day: one group played a computer game that was networked across three Bhuts and the other engaged in a marathon session of watching the one season of the series "24." Strangely enough, both of these activities involve a lot of hollering either at the characters on the TV or the game monitor, so you know that our guys had a lot of fun.

I am also happy to report that our replacements arrived in country (edit). The 92-man group is at the NATO Camp Warehouse for some in-country training and will move over here to start the transition with us (edit).

There are no special plans for New Years, and we will be treating it pretty much as another work day. We do, however, want to wish you all a very happy holiday, and know that we are just a few short weeks away from returning now.

Happy New Year,

Team Leader/Senior Mentor
1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Gift

My sleeeeeepppy girl
My goooofy girl....
My happy girl.... (and my wonderful father)

Monday, December 24, 2007

All I Want for Christmas

Dear Santa,

Like 160000 other US families all I want for Christmas is my soldier. He has proudly made an untold number of sacrifices throughout his many years of service to build the expertise necessary to do his part to make our world a safer place.

Over the last year, the most profound of our lives, we have only spend 15 days with our hero. He sends us love and tells us stories of his days over email and during the few phone calls. Like so many other experiences, I just can't accurately describe the depths of my pride or love for him.

I am a wildly independent spirit. After completing college I "married" my career and resigned myself to living the life of a single (*single as in: unmarried) woman. I worked ridiculously long hours and gladly volunteered to take the holiday overtime pay for co-workers with family obligations. Travel was never something I had to actually plan for, I just packed and was on the road. Decisions were not something to be shared or negotiated, they were to be calculated and made on my own.

My how plans change.

Thanks to the encouragement of my sister and the assistance of technology, fate put me in contact with the most amazing partner. He was, from the beginning, more that I could have ever dreamed of. He was willing to entertain strange questions (on topics ranging from politics to toothpaste squeezing techniques) as we were getting to know each other. It was clear from the very first conversations that we connected on a level deeper than the average pair. I woke especially early so that I could return from the gym with enough time to talk to Geo before work. There were many days when I entertained the idea of calling in sick just so I didn't have to leave the computer.

It was clear that we were going to meet when he returned to the States. Our first date started at a Burger King parking lot and included the film Osama and a delicious Indian meal (where he ordered for me). I was hooked.

We married last year, shortly after hearing of his upcoming deployment. The day was one of the happiest of my life. It was easy to vow to walk through the remainder of my life with him. George is truly my soul mate. We share similar values, passions and comfortable silence.

We have shared losses and disappointments on several levels together. We've changed jobs and even career paths. We've made decisions and then changed them. We've relocated and decided to expand. Each of these things has helped to build the unshakable, unbreakable bond between us.

And just when I thought that it couldn't be possible to love and admire him more I saw they way that he connected with our daughter...
There is a very special bond that they share. It was instant and beautiful and it made my heart expand even more. So, Santa, the only thing that I want for the holidays is for my wonderful, amazing, loyal, dedicated husband to feel our love for him and to be safe.

Babe, When you finally get a chance to read this, know that we love you with all of our hearts and souls. We think of you every minute of the day and pray for your safe return. Home just isn't the same without our stinky ol' tanker. Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Family and Friends Update

Dear Family & Friends,

This was rather a quiet week...except for today.

This past week the Afghans were celebrating the start of the Haj followed by the holidays of Eid Ul Adha. We did not know which day it woud start exactly because the scholars have to analyze the moon to get the day exacly. We found out on Monday that it was going to start on Tuesday, so our ANA comrades were off Tuesday through Friday allowing many of us to take it easy too.

Today, however, the President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy visited us for about 45 minutes; we found out yesterday that he was coming. He arrived just after lunch with a huge entourage, direct from a lunch with President Karzai. He reviewed an ANA formation and then inspected the French equipment. Some of the guys on our team had the chance to shake his hand and then some of us had our pictures taken with him too.

Everyone was excited by the visit and I have heard folks looking at each others picture until the late hours of the night. It went well and our French friends were very happy, and the ANA were extremely proud to host the world leader.

We finalizing plans for our Christmas. I have arranged it with the ANA that it will be another day off for us, and the general consensus seems to be that most people want to sleep as late as they want and then gorge themselves once they get up. Our KBR service pesonnel are ready to oblige and our Christmas dinner menu is supposed to include ham, turkey, steamship round and shrimp cocktail.

Although the Pennsylvanians will be able to celebrate the holiday in the relative safety of Camp Dubs, some of our comrades from the 1st Brigade Team here -- US and French -- will be out on missions over the holiday. We also think about the thousands of other Americans who will still be on tough duty in those outposts in the Eastern Zone that we left just last month. Please keep in your prayers those American and allied service members on duty this Christmas.

On behalf of "Team America,"
Have a Merry Christmas!
We'll be seeing you soon...

Team Leader/Senior Mentor
1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Schwartz Family Holiday Extravaganza

This post is a bit late but the wintery weather has made me want to hibernate. I'm a slacker...I know.

OOOhhhh!!! Melissa & Doug train set!
Sophia is especially fond of the Dino puppet. He's just a bit shorter than she is and she enjoys giving him slobbery kisses.
Dadder picked out a great set of wooden beads for hours of stringing (and gnawing) fun.
Mommy Hugs book. Books are The (nerdy)Schwartz family staple gift and we have already started a great library for Sophia.
.....and......Our family photo...