Friday, May 30, 2014

Some Items Reconsidered

One of the weirdest and most wonderful things about driving to work in Okinawa is listening to NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Marketplace”.

Weird because listening to a round up of today’s news headlines first thing in the morning is definitively weird.  Wonderful because Robert SiegelAudie Cornish and Melissa Block are my co-pilots.

I have been a big fan of NPR for a long time.  WHRV 89.5 was the standard radio setting in both cars, and most mornings began with the news on in 3 radios across the house.  It is possible that I memorized all of the standard giveaways during the semi-annual pledge drives (if you are feeling generous, you can call 889-9476 or 800-940-7170 to donate during the next pledge drive, and no, I didn’t have to look up those numbers). I am the elusive “Under-40” NPR Listener Demographic (Don’t even get me started about “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” and “Fresh Air”). 

When AFN cuts out the AM channel (which offers All Things Considered in the morning), I get bummed out and complain to Leora all day.

When there is an article (I refer to pieces on the radio as articles, even though Leora and family prefer to call them something else) that inspires me, it is all that I can think of for a little time.

I was driving to work on Thursday, when LaVar Burton came on air and talked about his KickStarter campaign to raise 1 million dollars to bring “Reading Rainbow” to a new generation.  (If you don’t yet know about this campaign, I highly recommend you read about it and donate even a couple dollars at

Since then, I have written a Shabbos drash about Reading Rainbow.  Sung the theme song up and down the halls of my battalion.  I have been inspired to open a couple of the books that adorn my office. 

All things considered, it’s a pretty good way to start the day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Good Day for a Bash

There was a dunk tank, and I didn’t have to get in it!

After spending sometime setting up, I consider myself blessed to have survived a CLB-31 “Barrack’s Bash” without getting wet.  Considering that not 20 minutes before start time it was pouring, my staying dry was a rather impressive feat.

Units try to do these kinds of events regularly, but we usually stumble over ourselves and get so eaten up with planning out a formal day that we never get around to having the event.  But we have a new FRO (Family Readiness Officer), and she was going to make it happen.  Respect.  My RP and another Marine really took over to ensure the details.

It wasn’t much.  A barbecue.  Homemade side dishes and desserts from the spouses (thanks Leora for making cookies, they were delicious). Some tents.  A football and a soccer ball.  And, of course, a dunk tank.  It doesn’t have to be much; it can still be a great time.

Sure, there were complaints:  Beer might have helped.  We should have gotten more time off work.  Why wasn’t there chicken?  Here’s the thing: as long as there is a Marine Corps, there will be complaints.  

But for as many complaints as there were, there were many more laughs.  A lot of people smiling who I have never seen smile ever. Overall, we got a good start to the Memorial Day weekend.  And while it’s not the best way to commemorate those who have died in service for the country, a good bash is a nice Friday-way to celebrate those who live and continue to defend.  Happy 96!

Finally, a big day of congratulations (which by the way, is one of the worst parts of living out here; I really feel distant from all the good simchas).  First, close to home: my RP, RPSN Shawn Bennett, was selected to be a Petty Officer 3rd Class in the United States Navy.  Hoorah and Semper Fortis!  To all those who graduated or had family graduate from college this week, all those former campers who are now about to start the next great chapter – mazal tov!  In particular, mazal tov to Rabbi Yael Hammerman who graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary.  With her ordination, the Hammerman-Rabin sub-region of the Rabbinical Assembly is now equal in size to the Skolnik-Warren sub-region.  Congratulations!

Friday, May 16, 2014

bureaucracy 101

At the end of season 4 of The West Wing, Toby and his ex-wife Andi have twins. Stunned by the whole birthing experience, when Toby makes it back to work he remarks to several people that, unbeknownst to him, babies come with hats. In Okinawa, I’m sure they come with hats, too – but really, they come with paperwork.

Today, Yoni and I attended what’s called the Birth Registration class, which is highly recommended if you want to properly understand everything you have to do to get your child a birth certificate, passport, and social security number. To be fair, having never had a baby in the US, I don’t actually know how complicated it is to accomplish these things there. I’m sure passports at least require the usual paperwork. But I very much doubt that you have to attend a class to make sure you properly fill out the pages and pages of paperwork necessary for all of the steps of the process. Oh, and by the way, the class is taught by the only employee of the Birth Registration Office – a Japanese woman – who is solely responsible for processing about 130 births a month. And each package processed requires a one-hour interview with both parents and the baby in attendance.

I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. After all, if there’s anything a military life trains you for, it’s an understanding and expectation of endless bureaucracy. But just in case finagling a birth certificate, passport, and social security card didn’t seem like enough, you also have to get the baby enrolled in the military personnel system, added to your healthcare plan (I’m sure that’s normal outside the military as well), and – my personal favorite – you have to request that the hospital create a medical record for your new child. Apparently, it’s not obvious that all of the medical records generated by being born need to be collated and kept on file somewhere for future use. Instead, one must specially request that the Medical Records office create a file. Will wonders never cease? 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Just a POG in Pohang

Leora is now home!  Today was a crazy day between Leora coming back, doctor's appointments, and a full day of work.  However, it was made clear to me by higher powers (read: Leora) that the near month long break in blogging needed to come to a close.

Instead of writing about what exactly I did during this past deployment, I thought I would share some operational pictures to show you some of the neat stuff that happens on these things.  Particularly those people on the deployments who don't do things that you expect out of warfighters.

POGs are "Persons Other than Grunt".  It's a term that traditionally in the Marine Corps is used pejoratively.  I'm embracing and owning it.  Because these people are doing good stuff, slogging it out in the mud, and working in rough conditions.

1)  Replenishment at Sea:

RAS:  You can see the crazy waves as the tender gets really close to us

RAS:  Marines and Sailors pull a line that connects the ships communication systems

RAS: You can see my hair going crazy as the wind beats up on us during the first RAS.

2)  Amphibious Landing

Amphibs:  RP and I get ready to get on an LCAC and then are photobombed by an Intel Marine

Ambhibs: Loading on to an LCAC

So what exactly is an LCAC?
Landing Craft, Air Cushioned

I'm going to try to put in a couple videos of LCAC Operations later.
It's kinda awesome.

Amphbis: There goes another one! 

And one more!
One of the camps at the beach (this was the deluxe one, not the one I was at)

4)  Moving people:  Trucks are fun, but they ain't easy.  And they stage these guys far away from normal amenities...

Sun is setting and we are about to hit the road.

Driving Korean roads with aggressive Korean drives in very large trucks.  Not so easy.

3)  It's not always sexy.  There is a special kind of cold reserved for Korea.  ESPECIALLY when you live in tents on the end of a pier in a freezing harbor.  Sometimes you have to make your own fun and games.

Chief and I develop a game where we throw pebbles at a mouse trap to see who can set it off.  The series ended tied.
Rematch is planned in the near future.

The Korean military has a game that merges soccer with volleyball and tennis.  The ball is kicked over the net, bounces once and then can be kicked over the fence or passed to a teammate (with a bounce in between)

This is going to get crazy

 While it is sad not to be home or sleep in a comfy bed, some days are just nice days to be at sea:

Some days at sea were just nice days to be at sea