On Friday, we (my mom, the two boys and I) took a trip to the Orem Library. Our city's library is brand-spanking new, and VERY small. My mom was looking for a specific series of books, and since the Orem City Library is huge, we went there to look.
As we pulled into the parking lot Cooper asked, "What is this building?"
I replied, "This is the Orem Library."
His immediate response: "Does it have a lot of Orems in it?"
It all started Sunday night; acutally Monday morning at 12.45 am. I woke to some loud people outside my tent. They were speaking in the normal army language where every 3rd or 4th word has to be four letters or else no one would understand what you are talking about. All this time it was raining quite heavily and that is when I heard it.
Those people walked right past where I was sleeping and they were sloshing through water. About 30 minutes later several phones started to ring and we were told to put everything that we had on the floor up high because the tent could flood due to the rain.
I went and looked outside and the water was about an inch from coming into our tent. After about 1-2 hrs I was asleep again. In the morning I was told not to go to the Aid Station (where my clinic is) because the water was still too high to be able to walk down there. I went to breakfast and it was a bit of a maze to try and stay on some ground so that the rain would not enter my boots, which are at least a foot high.
On the way I saw a car in the culvert and heard stories of many more with the same fate. People were saying that the sewage ponds just about a half mile from us had overflowed so the water that we were standing in was probably contaminated. It smelled like it too. I returned to bed until 1200 pm because the water was too high to walk anywhere without getting really muddy and wet. They brought some pump trucks and removed a lot of the water, I think, because when I looked out again most of it was dried up and that does not happen around here.
The tents below us were full of mud after the storm and people started to bring their gear out and try to clean it. There was muddy gear everywhere. They also began moving people into these big buildings that have 4 bays per floor. Each bay is able to hold 58 bunks for a total of 116 people. Not everyone had a bunk-mate so it ends up being close to 80 people per room. The funny thing about these buildings is that they flooded also. The sewer lines in them backed up and so they shut down the restroom facilities in them for a while.
For the next two days we were told that we would be moving. I mean not moving. Moving. Okay, not moving. Moving. Wait - nope, you're moving. Yes, you are definitely moving today. We are not going to have to move. Scratch that - you need to be out by this afternoon. Sure do love the army.
We finally ended up moving Thursday afternoon. The building is acutally pretty nice if it is kept up. I believe that the soldiers will be in charge of the up-keep and that may turn into a sanitary hazard. The bathrooms still smell like sewage, but they are all porcelain tile with flushing toilets and good lighting. Almost makes you feel a bit at home, as long as you plug your nose and don't look at the sink and floor that has just been used by 160 people at least, most of which do not care to clean up after themselves.
The outside noise is blocked out very well because these buildings are designed to withstand rocket attacks. There is more noise inside with the number of media devices and confinement of more people to one space. So there is plenty more of the not so friendly four letter words. I have been told that this will be our final destination for the remainder of the deployment. I will believe it when I see it. I have moved 3 out of the 4 months that I have been here and everyone that has been here longer has moved at least one move per month except the month of January.
In the midst of this chaos, I receive an email from COL Manga (director of advanced residency selection at Fort Sam Houston TX) on Monday saying, "Can you give me a call at this number? It is important." It is a reply to a message that I sent to him making sure that he new if there were openings this year that I would be willing to start.
Of course I am thinking, "Oh great! Some good news!" So I call and keep calling and do not get in touch with anyone. Then I find out that his wife is having surgery so he will not be into the office for a while. I get this email and then I am left in suspense for two days before I get a response saying, "Had a possible position to start this summer, but the Officer decided to begin the program. Are you deployed right now? If you are you would not be able to start anyway."
I responded to his email that I had already spoken to my command and they said that they would be willing to work with me. His response was that the position was filled and if another one opened that he would let me know. As of now I am scheduled to begin my training at Fort Lewis in July of 2011. Yeah. I am excited about beginning, however, I still feel like I will start this year. It may be that I get the call at the very last minute, but if that is what it takes that that is what we are preparing for.
Fortunately, I have the absolute best wife ever who is the most supportive and wonderful person in the world. She is of the same mind-set that we will begin this year. So we will see how it all goes.
So that is my week so far.
Pretty exciting being part of the Afghan soap opera.
Time is starting to move much quicker for Brent these days. For the first few months, it passed at less than a snail's pace. Since the beginning of the year though, he's had more patients to see each day (4-5 rather than 0-1).
Just before Christmas he was called to be the 2nd counselor in the branch presidency. He was never set apart for that calling however, because the District President is stationed in Kabul and doesn't make it to Khandahar too often. It's so interesting to see how the church operates in such a setting. He was actually interviewed and called via email. The former branch president is redeploying soon (returning home) and so Brent has now been set apart as the new branch president.
"I am now officially the branch president of the Kandahar Military Branch. I was told that it is the largest military branch in the Northern Africa District. Elder Jeffrey R Holland oversees this area and under him is Elder Bruce D Porter and Elder Steven (I think that is his name) Pieper of the 70. Our district president is Gene Wikle (pronounced W-eye-kle). He is a retired air force person that is helping the Afghany Air Force set up their stuff. He has been here for 3 yrs already and I am not sure that he knows when he will be going home."
I was so grateful to hear of Brent's calling, because he is the type of person who is not happy when he doesn't have work to do. He's enjoying the branch and getting to know the members. His main concern right now is finding all of the "anonymous" members in his area. Just last week he found out that the NCOIC of his clinic (non-commissioned officer in charge - sort of like an office manager) is a member of the church! He still counts down by half-days, feeling good when another morning is over and he's that much closer to being home.
He's also keeping busy by studying for his upcoming OS Residency and he's gotten a group of guys doing "P90X" each day (a super-intense workout program). His closest friend is named Brad. Brad is a physical therapist who works in the same clinic and stays in the same tent as Brent. They get along well because they share the same values. Brent often says that he's never heard such filth before in his life as he does out there. Brad is a Catholic with a family back home and they like to talk about their families and religion/faith together.
When Brent first arrived at Khandahar in the first week of October, he was told that they would be moving into "modular" housing very soon. Modular housing consists of a room made from a shipping container with a window and power. They even have internet connections. The rooms have heat and air conditioning, and he would only have one roommate. Well, after five months he is still in a tent with 30+ other soldiers. They are giving the modular housing to those who are just now arriving. So as he is trying to sleep, other soldiers are playing xbox together, eating, etc. Alarms go off at all different times of the night, because the soldiers are all on different schedules. I would never survive! He's looking forward to coming home to a "real" bathroom (rather than an outhouse) and a shower with hot water.
We're hoping that we'll soon have his return date. The tactical people are leaning toward sending him home with the first wave of returning soldiers in May, so that he can be there to get their dental work done. Many of them are being transferred to other bases and need to be medically ready before they move. The others have only 90 days once they return to be back up to "code". Brent says that he'll believe he's returning home only once he's on the airplane.
His favorite days are Friday and Saturday, as those are the days that he gets to work in "Role 3" (Oral Surgery at the hospital - with real bathrooms!). He's gotten to observe, assist in, and even perform a few surgeries. He gets super excited about any surgical procedure - like a little boy at FAO Schwartz. It's fun to hear him happy and excited every once in a while.
He are a few pictures that he emailed this week:
From left to right:
COL Todd Tyree district council member, CPT Eric Harp district council member and chaplain, John Pearson the only member of record in our branch because he was baptized in Croatia 3 months ago and moved to Kandahar shortly after that, Master SGT Joseph Jacobs second counselor in the branch presidency, CPT Brent Bethers branch president, CPT Justin Metcalf first counselor in the branch presidency, President Gene Wikle District President of the Kabul Afghanistan District.
So, my brother-in-law sent this to me (thanks Gerratt!) and I'm a little embarrassed to say that I got teary...
Just prior to the start of the Air Force-BYU football game, Sept. 22, 2009, this video was broadcast in the BYU stadium in Provo, Utah. Later, the USAF Academy Superintendent, Lt Gen Gould, showed this clip to the faculty and staff. He told everyone that BYU ran it minutes before the kickoff at the game. He was clearly moved by it, as were those who watched it.