Nature at Fort Bliss

I didn’t have a chance to post these, but here are my pictures from Fort Bliss, Texas, where we spent the early part of Oct. 2008.

Upon arriving at our tent at Westbrook (out by McGregor, in the very middle of nowhere), we were greeted by the following little guy:

We escorted him out of our tent, and let him go on his merry way.  It was the only scorpion I saw.  There were tons of beetles and other insects, however, like this guy:

Behind my tent, there was a one-earred baby bunny.  I saw him several times, like when I’d be on my way to go to the shower facility about 50 yards away from my tent.  The rabbit lived under our air conditioning unit behind our tent.   I’d often bring him carrots from the dining tent.  He’d run away fairly fast, but here is a photo of one of his friends.

Fort Bliss itself is surrounded by high mountains, here is a picture of the old part of the post with its parade ground, and the El Paso area mountains in the background:

Finally, on my last full day at Westbrook, I walked all the way back from McGregor to Westbrook with WO1 Morphis and CPT Allen.    Luckily, it was a cool, cloudy day.  I was wearing the wrong boots for this 5-mile hike, and almost got blisters.  Here is a picture at about the half-way point.

Hooray for Bankruptcy Pro!

I use the Bankruptcy Pro software (produced by Legal Pro, www.legal-pro.com) for all of my BK cases.  Turns out that October is the month where I have to pay the annual $150 license fee to keep on using the software.  This was a bit unexpected, as I don’t expect to use the software that much while I’m over in Iraq.  The other day, I was sitting at the exercise, and got a call from Roy telling me that they were waiving the fee and appreciated my service!  Wow, that saves $150 right there! 

My thanks to Legal Pro for making very nice legal software, and for their support of the troops!

The exercise is going just fine, very little legal play, however, which makes for a very slow day.  If you can imagine over 100 people crammed into a smallish WWII style building in the middle of Fort Hood, that’s pretty much what the exercise is.

At Fort Hood, Texas

We left our tents at Ft. Bliss (Westbrook facility near McGregor Range in New Mexico).  This was a few nights ago.  The buses left at 11PM at night, and drove all night Eastward.   It was about a 15 hour bus ride from Ft Bliss (which is at the extreme western part of Texas) to Fort Hood, which is in the eastern/middle part of Texas, sort of between Dallas and Austin, and near Killeen/Waco.  

The drive was no pleasure, but most of us did manage to get some sleep on the bus.  When I woke up, we were in a new world.  You could really tell where the West Coast scenery of dry scrub and desert in the west gave way to the East Coast scenery of trees and forests. 

We drove through a town named Fredricksburg, which looked lovely.  I learned it is a resort town out here in central Texas.  A few miles later, we stopped for lunch at Johnson City, where most of the group ate at a Dairy Queen.  I went a few stops down to Ronnie’s BBQ, where they had a selection of slow-cooked Texas BBQ meats.   It was surprising, but a guy in boots and a cowboy hat bought my lunch for me!  This is the 6th or 7th time since 9/11 that someone has bought my lunch upon seeing me order in restaurant.  I feel a bit guilty about taking the free meal, as I could well afford to pay, but it would be rude to turn down a patriotic gesture like this.  I thanked the guy, and ended up spending some time talking with the regulars at Ronnies in Johnson City, Texas.  Turns out this was a childhood home of former president LBJ.  And you can buy a full house here for under $100K!   I always like to find out a bit about wherever I am, and although i doubt I’ll ever end up living in Texas, I was attracted by the low cost of housing and the friendly people I met at the BBQ place.

We are now at Fort Hood.  I can’t say this is a pretty place.  The base is bleak and unattractive, and it is sprawling over a large area with virtually nothing of interest to see.  It’s the home to many large armored and mechanized units.  Lots of rain over the past two days.  Our barracks are better than the tents at Ft. Bliss.  I have a room to myself, with a shared bathroom between my room and MAJ Oliver’s.   We are getting ready for an exercise to prepare for our mission.

Who is MAJ Lance Oliver?, You ask?  HERE is Major Lance Oliver:

At McGregor Range

The whole unit has been here for a week now.  We’re doing training of all sorts.  Lots of folks were late add-ons to the unit, so they have lots of training to do.

Although this is a desolate and remote location, they do have shopping, internet, and cell phone service.   They even set up a shopping trailer for us out in the middle of our Westbrook location, just in case you need to buy some junk food, or maybe toothpaste or a pillow.

This week, we go to Fort Hood, TX, for a couple of weeks for an exercise.  It will be a long bus ride…..

At Fort Bliss

We had a nice going away ceremony last weekend.   It was at the Riverside Marriott and held at the Riverside Convention Center right next to it.

Here is a picture of my wife and children (Judy & Rebecca) at the farewell party at the Riverside CC:

Our unit flew from March AFB at Riverside to Fort Bliss on Sunday, Oct. 5.

Photo of the flight out of March AFB:

We’ve been staying not at Ft. Bliss, but at McGregor Range, about 40 miles north of Bliss.  The range is operated by Bliss, but it is in New Mexico, close to the White Sands missile range, which is basically in the middle of nowhere.  We are not even really at McGregor range, but at a place called “Westbrook” which is another 3 miles further out into nowhere. 

We all live in big tents, about 16 guys to a tent.  We eat in a giant tent, and the showers and bathrooms are blue metal containers about 50 yards away from our tents.  I feel lucky, because we at least have electricity, a concrete floor, and cell phone reception (but not internet).  It’s spartan living.

Here’s what it looks like:

Anyway, they are getting us ready to fly out to Kuwait in mid-November.  We are doing some training, but mostly just readiness stuff so far:  checking medical status and finance records, issuing equipment, etc.  It’s dull stuff.  

One interesting thing that happened was that I met Joe Biden’s son (i.e. the son of the Dem. VP candidate).  He and his unit are going to Iraq also, to the Victory Base at Baghdad.  He was a very friendly guy, and I enjoyed meeting him.

Here is Captain Biden:

Something I’ve noticed is that soldiers have an insatiable desire to go shopping.  We have been living in the desert since Sunday, and the first thing that people want to do when they get back into the main Fort Bliss post is to go shopping at the Post Exchange.  I haven’t bought anything for myself, but I’m tempted to go, and have to admit it would be a nice change of pace to spend some time shopping instead of sitting in my tent.

A few days at home

Boy has it been busy.  But I’ve really cleared out almost all of my cases, and I feel very good about that.  There has also been some good time with my family.

My going away party is at the Riverside Marriott Hotel, 3400 Market Street, Riverside, CA 92501.   It’s at 6:30PM on Saturday, Oct. 4.   If you’d like to come, you’ll see hundreds of people saying goodbye to loved ones for the next year. 

BIG TRIAL today, 1:30PM, Courtroom 41.  The court is really showing some extra consideration to me in setting this trial so I can get this done and deploy without having to worry about this!