Saturday, January 30, 2010

Where am I and what am I doing?

About a month ago, I left Virginia on a 120 day rotation in my AF reserve capacity. I'm in Honduras working at Soto Cano Air Base (SCAB). SCAB was established in the 1980s to promote democracy and to help with natural disasters. As bases in central America closed, SCAB remained open. (It has a runway capable of accomodating C5s among other assets.) Today, the missions for SCAB include humanitarian assistance, medical relief, building partnerships, and counter drug.

I'm working in current operations. That means that I am one of 3 people who form the information node on the events for the upcoming 30 days (including today... so I get all the "today" crisis). I get to see a lot of information. It's my first time working in operations, and I'm learning a ton! I'm getting exposed to the military (Army) planning process as well as the missions in central America. I'm also getting to practice my Spanish!

I got here on 9 Jan, started working on 11 January. Of course the earthquake hit Haiti on 12 Jan, so things have been very busy! Our area of focus includes latin America, and it does not include the carribean islands, but we are relativley close. We ended up deploying a medical team (23 people who can provide surgical services) on 17 Jan. They are doing phenomenal work... they've treated more than 1,500 in 11 days. (They've been supplemented with medical teams from other organizations, including other countries.) I was part of the planning efforts and now am part of the tracking efforts related to this team.

This blog is my way of keeping track of what I'm up to... and my way of learning how to do the blog thing! :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Trip to Duyure, Honduras

This week, I traveled by UH-60 to Duyure, Honduras. It was a pre0deployment site survey for a longer trip we'll take in about a month. The point of the trip was to get all the logistics for the next trip worked out.

Duyure, Honduras is in the south east part of Hondsuras about 5km from teh border of Nicaragua. It has 19 sub-districts and is one of the poorer areas of Honduras (about 70 percent live in poverty). It's an agricultural area and the primary crops are corn and beans.

Their mayor is a woman (dentist) who just got reelected. She has some ideas for how to improve her community. For example, there only is a healthcenter in Duyure but not in any of the other 19 villages. The health center staff travel to provide vaccinations, etc, but they have no facility to work out. She's hoping to be able to build a small clinic in each village to facilitate delivery of services. She also is working to turn the internet back on (2 presidents ago, there was an initiative to make internet services available in all alcades (city centers), so they have a building with computers but under President Zelaya money dried up and there is no internet service. So, she's working to get internet service. ). Anyway, it was a super cool trip and I was very impressed with the alcade (mayor). I'm looking forward to going back in a couple of weeks! Here are some pictures of the trip This is the baptist church in the village.

This is the library.

The school has classrooms on one side (long side of a rectangle), the principal's office on the short side, and bathrooms on the other short side. In the middle, there is a large, covered basketball court (shown above). There are pretty planter boxes along each side of the court. We'll stage the medical exercise in this school. This area will be where we provide the health classes and hand out vitamins.

This is the inside of the principal's office.

This also is the inside of the principal's office.

This is a view of the outside of the school. It's a primary school. There are 6 classrooms plus a kindergarten. The school is used for 300-400 primary school students. Some of the students walk as far as 5km each way. (In the high school -- close by the primary school -- some of the students walk 7km each way.)

This is thr group -- locals plus those from the base. The mayor is the 3rd from the right. I'm in the middle. We'er standing outside the classrooms. To our right is the basketball court.

I have other pictures which I'll post later.
It was a great trip!

Monday, January 25, 2010

My sitting room and one of my new plants.
My bedroom. I just got the colorful comforter.

My kitchen (1/2 of the first room I have).

Outside of my hootch. Note the fine metal shutters I prop open to get natural light and air. They put mesh and plastic over the window openings to keep bugs out. (They also spray for mosquitos twice a week.)

Where I live

I wanted to drop a note and post some pictures about where I'm living. I have a full hootch -- relative luxury here! You have to be a field grade officer (or senior enlisted I think) or here on a full year tour to rate such space. It's like living in a camp. I've got 3 rooms, only one separated by a door. It's all wood because they have a massive termite problem here... in fact, I have to clean up after termites each day (just sweep up the dust they leave behind). If the dust is too bad over my bed, I can get the boards replaced.

I hired a lady to help me keep things cleaned up and to help me with laundry (probably could do it myself, but I wanted to infuse money into the local economy... they are very poor in Honduras). It's nice to have help, especially with the termites. I do not keep food out in the open in my room because there are lots of ants here. I either keep things wrapped (granola bars that are unopened) or in the refrigerator. Mostly, I don't keep food in my room... just eat in the dining facility.

Anyway, I'm attaching pictures of my room just so you can see what it looks like. I ordered the colorful bedspread from Target and was thrilled when it arrived last week so I could break up the brown!

I'm also attaching some outside pictures. Two are of my hootch. You can see the shutters that prop up for light and air. The other two are the buildings across the street from me. One is the bathroom building. I'm lucky I only have to stumble about 50 feet to go to the shower/restroom!

(Ok, i have dial up connection, so I'll add pictures later... need to go to work now.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

After one week

I've learned a lot! Base is very comfortable. We have a small BX and a few MWR activities. Maybe I'll make a hammock at the hammock shop! We have a dining facility which serves decent food. There is a base pool.

I'm working the night shift in support of Haiti for the near term, so I have been trying to sleep for a bit in the late afternoon at the pool (why not get color, too!). Things are interesting in the current operations cell. I'm starting to adjust to night work... it's hard to sleep during the day! But it's nice to have daylight hours. It also means I don't go to PT formation... not that I minded PT.

Since I'm working nights, I haven't been able to get off post yet. Hopefully soon I'll get to do a bit of exploring (at least in Comayagua the town closest to base).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 1

Yesterday was the big day. I left DC and traveled to Honduras. It was a very early morning, but things moved quicker than I expected at airport. Flights were uneventful and I got a bit of rest. Clearing customs was easy, and I found the rest of my party easily.

We drove to the Air Base which is situated in a valley. The big event for the trip was being hit by a drunk driver. His front end was ruined (but he drove off anyway), and our bus had minor damage. (No one on board was hurt.)

When I got to base, they toured me around and showed me my hootch. I'm pretty lucky! I get a whole hootch to myself (3 rooms - kitchen, living room, and bedroom). I've got a tv and couch and decent storage. It looks like a camping cabin, but it's comfortable. I'm across the street from the bathroom facilities.

Last night, there was a farewell dinner and I was invited to participate. It was great to meet some of the folks with whom i'll work.

Today was a day for wandering and getting unpacked. I also started my new workout routine.

I'll continue my workout schedule tomorrow morning with PT at 0615. I'm excited about tomorrow!