Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another Day in Afghanistan

I know that it is weird that I went so long without a post and now there are two in one week. Well, I am back to speak my mind.

First thing I want to talk about is the Pastor from Florida. I cannot believe that he was considering burning Qurans after knowing that doing so was going to put so many of us over here in danger. I am glad that he changed his mind, for whatever reason. There is one thing that I heard him say yesterday though that I have to agree with. Americans and Christians do not go killing people because they burn a bible or a US flag. I am not sure if that shows our lack of dedication, or we are more civilized. I will say that over all, I agree that Muslims are a peaceful people and that a handful of people ruin it for all the others. I know that as Americans it is hard to remember that after so many things negative have happened that were done in the name of Allah. I have worked with, and sat for hours and talked to Muslims. One that our ANA (Afghan National Army) counterpart stressed to me was that Muslims are peaceful people and it is a small number of people that are ruining it for the rest of them. We as Americans know how that is when it comes to racism and other sterotypes that we experience in our culture. For example, there are people that think that Soldiers are alcholic womanizers and are no good when it comes to relationships. I will not even go into the sterotyping of African-Americans. That would could get me yelled at or in trouble. We all have an opinion and are entitled to it, but we have to remember that all people are not bad if they are associated with a certain group or race. The Afghans that I work with and talk to on a daily basis are great people. They are dedicated and hard working. The dedication does not lay with the US though. I talked to a few and hard of others talking to Afghans that admitted that if the burning happens, then they would not know where they would side because they are so dedicated to their religion. Any religion that has people pray multiple times a day and there is nothing that will stop them, is something that I would take serious. I can see both sides, although I am not siding with either. I am siding with the safety of me and my brothers and sisters in the military.

I think that is enough on that for now. I can go on forever on that one. I want to complain about life here now. We had about 350 people on our FOB (Forward Operating Base) until last week. They sent about 80 more to live here for a months until they can move them to another location. That is not the bad part. The bad part is that we have limited number of computers to use and phones to use for MWR. Now, you add 80 more people to an already crowded situation, and it only gets worse. It is doable, but not fun. Now take all those people and add them to the line in the chow hall. It is already bad enough without having to add to that. But the worst, is the showers. We currently have 12 shower stalls on my side of the FOB, which is where about 70% of the people use. 12 shower stalls would work on a normal day, but are down to 6 usable showers. One building with 4 showers in it has been being renivated for over a month now. That means we cannot use it. Then there is the other building that has 4 shower stalls and only 2 work. As of this morning, we are looking at one of the two going down. You would think that some one would really make an effort to fix these issues. I am sure they are, but it is really causing a lot of mad soldiers when they have to wait 20 minutes to get a shower or there are 4 people trying to use one sink. I know this is bitching and I do not have the details, but I am sharing what is going on here.

Lets not forget the fact that we are out of space for people to live on our FOB and now we have to find space for even more Soldiers. The Army decided to send all these extras troops over here, and they have nowhere to but them. The situation in Bagram is even worse. I have heard stories of Soldiers having to find places on the floor to sleep when they are leaving for R&R and returning as well. A Soldier that returned a couple days ago informed me that she slept on the floor for 4 days. They want to up the forces here, but there was not enough planning to make it happen. Bagram has gotten insane. I am glad that I am on such a small FOB and do not have those worries.

I have complained about some things that Soldiers are complaining about all the time, but overall, this has been an easy deployment outside of the drama that I have to deal with in my office. There are some things that I do not agree with and would love to change, but I am not high enough on the totem poll to make that happen. Why make complaints to high command when it will come back down that I complained and then life only gets worse for me hear? I would rather keep my mouth shut, do my job, and hold my head high. There are some things that have happened to help keep my head high, although there are some things to make me hang my head. I do my best to do like my says and not let it show they get to me. I have found ways to vent and also found ways for my Soldiers to vent and it stays with me.

Lets jump to something else before I go on too much about that. Last night about 2am I woke up to my lips tingling and my body feeling very hot, and I was feeling really sick. I got a little worried and went to the JOC to sit so that I was around people in case I got bad or something. I was feeling bad enough that I was worried. I sat there for about 30 minutes and felt better. I went back to bed and woke up about 4am feeling the same way. I sat up in bed and waited until I felt better. I decided not to have them wake a medic to check on me, although now I know that could have been a huge mistake. I was talking to medic and found out that I was having an allergic reaction to the Amoxicillan I was given for a sinus infection. I also found out that it could have been very bad for me. So now I know that I cannot take penicilan for the rest of my life because it could possibly kill me. That is always great news when you are having a great day. I could go on about the way nothing with the convoy right today, but that will be another complaining session on here.

I am glad that there are people that are following the blog and I thank you. I am glad to have such a wonderful family.

I get to talk to Courtney some now and then, but not as much as I would like. I can't wait to get home and see her!!! She means the world to me and I have a year of spoiling to do in a short amount of time in Nov.

Thank you to everyone for the support and God bless you all. And to do not forget what happened 9 years ago today that has but so many of us over here for you!

Thanks again for all the support

SGT John L. Strader


Monday, September 6, 2010

Been A While

I am sorry that so much time has passed since the last update. I am still here in wonderful Afghanistan. There have not been many changes with the exception of several new rules on the FOB. I would go into detail and give my opinion, but you never know who will read this and make things that much harder on me.

Other than the soldiering issues that I had, things are going pretty good. I am staying pretty busy and getting a lot done. Some weird things have happened too. There was a snake in the dining facility a week or so ago. I guess it took quite some time to get the snake, a cobra, out where they could kill it and get rid of it. Of course there are still hundreds, if not more, lizards running around. They are everywhere you look. There is no getting away from them. I cannot tell you how many I have caught in my office. They are on the walls in the dining facility as well. There is a wall that I walk past at night and they are covering the wall. Last night I took the time and counted 25 on a 16 foot long wall and there were many more, to many to count. I said forget it and went on to my room.

The lizards are not the only thing there are plenty of. Mosquitoes of course, but there are these HUGE beetles that are all over as well. It gets worse when it rains, but it is bad all the time. I have never seen a bug that is this big in my life.

I was going to tell you it was boring here, and I still can. It was not there for a week or so ago, it would have been a really boring blog entry. We were directly attacked with small arms fire (guns aimed at us) and a few rockets twice in a week. The first night they hit a guard tower, which has since been rebuilt, and shot at us with machine guns. No one was hurt and the tower had to be rebuilt. That is one reason that I was waiting to write. I did not want to come here and say we have a tower that is destroyed and out defenses are weakened, attack now. That would have been crazy. A couple nights later we were hit with a couple rockets, but no real damage and no one was hurt in that either. That was the first time since this FOB was built in 2006 that it was directly and deliberately attacked. I hope it does not happen again, but I am sure it will with the elections coming up soon. Ramadan is ending soon was well. Ramadan ends and then it is time for the elections. I just with that it would cool off some here. I am over the heat and do not need any more of it.

I am not sure if in the last update I gave on my goal to lose some weight, but I am currently down 25 pounds and I have been for some time. I cannot seem to get the ball rolling to lose the last 25 and reach my goal. But one goal that I am getting closer is getting a Harley. I have been watching online and I am hoping to get a Harley VROD when I am home on leave. I have found a few that I really like on eBay, but I have not pulled the trigger yet. Hopefully it will work out for when I am on leave, speaking of which, will be in early November when I head home. I cannot wait to get home and see my wonderful daughter and get to go deer hunting in WV. Those will be the trip highlights.

Well, I hope this gets some of you up to speed on the events over here. I do have one request. We lost a friend, brother and Soldier a few days ago. This is someone that I knew personally and that makes it a little harder to accept. Please pray for his family that they have the comfort they need.

To all of you out there that support us, thank you and God bless you!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Long Overdue

I know that an update has been long overdue on here and I finally here to provide one. I am currently sitting at FOB Connolly doing the wonderful paperwork that comes with my job. I hopped a 20 minute flight over here to get some work done.
Well, there is not really much to share right now. I am sure that you heard on the news or read in the news that there was a base that was attacked here. Well, there was. It is the one that I go to on regular basis and is only a mile or so from where I stay. We have been pretty lucky that all the mortar rounds are going over us and not landing on the FOB. Makes for interesting nights when it does happen.
I have posted on my Facebook that I have lost some weight, and I have. I have been very excited about it as well. I have been working pretty hard to lose the weight and to get in shape. That means that I have been a lot pain the last month or so. My leg has not stopped hurting for several weeks, and I am not going to let it slow me down. I have fought hard to lose the 20lbs I have lost so far and plan on losing at least 30 more before I come home on leave in Nov.
I have gotten outstanding support from my family since I have been gone. They are checking on the house for me and they send me anything that I ask for. Speaking of getting what I ask for, OPERATION TROOP APPRECIATION is a great group of people that are doing a lot for Soldiers. They were pointed out to me by another unit that is on the FOB with me and they are sending some wonderful things for my Soldiers. I will not discuss what exactly they are sending right now, but I will tell you that they will take very good care you and your Soldiers. I owe them more thanks than I could ever possibly imagine. I can’t wait for the first box to arrive so that I can surprise my Soldiers.
There are really not many other things to discuss. For the most part it has been quiet on my FOB and we like it that way. Actually, yesterday, my NCOIC let us have the afternoon off so that we could relax and take care of personal things. It was nice to have that time because I was able to get a lot of things done that I needed too. To include a nice long nap.
Unfortunately my unit has lost two Soldiers, but we are still driving on. I have held off for a while mentioning that because I wanted to give the family time. It was a sad loss for us and we pray that there are no more losses for us while we are here.
Well, I know that this did not really tell you much, but I had to at least let you know that I am still out here and sweating to death. It is staying about 115-120 during the day here. It gets to a point that you are used to it, but it is still hot and hard to deal with at times. A couple weeks while I was out, I drank over two gallons of water in about 8 hours and still never peed. I know that you wanted to know that I did not pee, but that should give you an idea of how hot it is and how much I was sweating. It also makes it easier to lose some weight. I have been drinking more water than I ever imagined I would here. I am doing PT twice a day here and evening running on a treadmill or elliptical trainer, I am still soaking wet in less than 20 minutes.
I am not sure how many people out there are still reading this, or coming across it in searches, but I encourage everyone that reads to leave some kind of comment so that we know who is following us.
I know that I am all over the place today, but it gives something to do while I am sitting here. I guess I am going to close this for now and hope that my day remains quiet and easy going. Thanks to everyone out there for the support.
A special thanks to mom, dad, Jeremy, and Leslie. You guys have really been behind me all the way and Jeremy, when I get home on leave, we will fish. I don’t care if the lake is frozen over. We WILL fish and we WILL ride bikes. I miss you all and can’t wait to see you again!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bombs, Mice and Stupitity OH My!!

Well, the bombs I cannot really talk about...I don't think. Lets just say that the other night, it was interesting here in Afghanistan in my area. I was almost asleep and then......and then.....all clear.

Now the mice, I can tell you all about, but you better not be too queasy when you read this. Two days ago it was all calm in the office and then a call came in. Some one needed to jump on a helicopter and head to another base to take the Battalion colors and US flag for a Fallen Hero ceremony. Well, the lucky one was me. I ran to my room and started emptying my backpack to take with me when...out of nowhere...well out of my bag...came a freaking mouse. I was pissed seeing that my bag was hanging on the wall on a nail. The guy in the next room said that it had to been there a long time. I know that I completely cleaned out my bag weeks prior so I know that it got in there while it was here. Well, I started dumping my bag out and out fell 6...thats right mice. I was even madder. So to say the least when I got back from that trip, I started cleaning and looking my room for more. None were to be found, until 3am when I heard one a box. I grabbed the box and shook it VERY hard and knocked the little bastard out. He went flying across the road. I hope he enjoyed his time in my room, because he won't be coming back any time soon.

That trip was a long one. I flew from here to three other bases that day. I got a lot of good pictures, some of which are up on Facebook. You should stop by and check them out. IF you are not on my list, ask and you will be approved.

Life here at Finley-Shields has not been too bad as long as I keep my head out of my ass. I keep messing up little things that keep snow balling into bigger things. It is also not that easy being the only guy in an office. I am having to learn alot and thankfully I have an NCO that is over me that is willing to help me and not just say "change your ways". It is challenging for us both, but I know that I will come out on top as long as I stay focused and dedicated.

As far as the rest of Finley-Shields, it is getting old. Thank God that I get off the FOB on a regular basis. The food is the same all the time so now it is getting to where I do not want to eat. That does not mean send me junk food from home, that is the last thing I need right now.

Well, it is Sat night and that means that I get to sleep in a little tomorrow. Boy am I glad too. I need it!!

I have also been lucky to have been found on Facebook by an old friend. I am very thankful for that and glad it happened.

Thank you to everyone for the great support and thanks to my parent, brother and Leslie for all that you are doing for me. Oh and I cannot forget Jay who will be here soon and Steven who is here, but on the other side of the country.

In hot as hell Afghanistan,
SGT John Strader

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Update

Well, it has been a little while since I wrote anything that was worth reading. Now I am going to see if I can keep your attention for a little while.

Tomorrow is Courtney’s birthday and she will be six. SIX!!! My little girl is six. Where in the hell did time go? Oh wait…that’s right…I spent a year of that in Afghanistan and now another one. Being a father and in the military is not easy. You miss a lot and it hurts at times. Oh and she is graduating Kindergarten today as well. I am so proud of her and wish her mom would answer the phone for once so I could tell her. It drives me crazy.

Life here isn’t too bad. I have been doing the best I can, but of course I keep screwing up. It is little stuff that is adding up. OK, one was very important. But I fixed it. My room is pretty crappy. It is not as nice as Bagram but the only thing I do there is sleep. The rest of the day I am in the office. Hopefully it will get better. Oh and I get my first day off is tomorrow as well. I was not expecting one, but I got one. I plan on running a lot and getting caught up on some sleep. I am really starting to feel it now and when I get tired, it is not good. Mom says I get grouchy, but in this environment, it is different.

Mom and dad are doing good. It is weird for me to be gone like this and Jeremy at home. Last time we were gone together. He just better not leave when I get home. I will kick his ass!!

We are starting our R&R in Jul and I hope that I do not get stuck going so early. Mainly because I have not saved for a bike yet and I have been dropping all my money on bills and not ready to go on leave. It was not be too much fun to get stuck this early either. Only time will tell.

People ask about life here. Well, we have the biggest and nastiest beehives I have ever seen in my life right outside our door. There is also a small garden out here too. Not much, but enough to drive the sinuses insane. The heat…oh man the heat…its crazy. At 9am today it was 97 and the high was 107. Pretty sure it was well past that today. The food is not that bad but the Afghan Kitchen is pretty good. For $2 you get a lot of food and it is good. I ate it once, but I want to eat it more. With it being cash only here, I have to conserve my cash. We have no ATM or “Eagle Cash Card” systems here. Finance comes once a month and we can get cash then. The outgoing mail is only once a month as well. We do get mail every day but Wed though. Overall, I would rather be here than Bagram. Like I said it is not too bad here. The hardest part is getting used to the air here. I am trying really hard to get a PT Test score though. I need it so that I can get ready for the board and hopefully get promoted. I am trying to get to SSG before Jeremy does, but I doubt that will happen.

Once I get the PT test done, I will be able to start planning my reenlistment. I am not sure how long for this time, but my plans are another 16 years on Active Duty. I want that retirement. I am praying a lot about how to reenlist. I can choose to stay at Fort Campbell, choose a reclass into another job and hope I get Fort Campbell again, pick a location (out of the question because I want to stay at Fort Campbell for now). If I take the chance of reclassing, I would not know where I am going until I finish the school. The job I want, with computers, is about 6-8 months long at Fort Gordon, GA. The Army will send me where they need me. If that happens, I will have to put my house up for sale and not sure how that would turn out. So many things to decide on. I wish this decision was easier.

Oh, I cannot forget the mosquitos here. Holy crap are they bad. I have never seen like it before. We are required to take malaria pills here because risk is so high. The last unit that was here had 3 cases. One was actually taking the medication.

I typed this up on the computer at work and emailed it to myself so that I could copy and paste onto the blog quickly when I got a chance. Well, I have plenty of time and I added to some things.

Well, I am calling it a night and headed off to my room. God Bless you all and thank you for the support.

SGT John Strader

PS: Not sure if I posted my address or not, but here it is:

John Strader
APO AE 09310

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Find me on Facebook. I am sorry the posts are limited on here, but I don't have time to get on here. I will work on an update soon. It is VERY hot here and the local food is pretty good too.

SGT John Strader

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Short and Sweet

Well, nothing sweet about it. We are in a HOT dry climate that is killing us. Not literally....yet. I ran about 2.5 miles this morning and thought I was gonna die because I pushed it too hard and ended up puking all over my self and almost my soldiers. It was rough one this morning.

I am writing to tell you and I am finally in a long term spot and can start receiving mail. I will give you my address and a few things we know we need. We do not have a PX to speak of and rely on a convoy to take us down the road or a heli flight to another FOB. The PX we do have is only open for 2 hours a day. I have yet to make it in there to see what they have. I have no desire actually at this point. I am pretty set except for a things. I already made one trip to FOB Fenty to take care of a few things and pick a little bit of stuff I needed.

I will make a short list of things we could use. I could put the things I want, but will wait for Christmas on those things.

John Strader
FOB Finley-Shields
APO AE 09310

Here are some things we could use:

clorox wipes or something to wipe toilet seats with
pre sweetened or sugar free drink mixes
Tobacco-only if you know some one will donate it. Smokeless is so hard to get it is limited to one can a day when they have it.
small junk food items-beef jerky or nuts or something halfway healthy
Other than that, the normal stuff you send soldiers.

I am sorry this is so short, but I have a chance to catch some sleep and I am going too!!

Thank you again for the support.

Oh and pray that Courtney's mom will answer the phone for once so I can talk to my daughter.

Out here in middle of nowhere.....
SGT John Strader