30 June 2009

Starting to Say Goodbye

The NCOIC is the first to leave. His replacement and one of the new airmen arrived late last week. We've given gifts to our food service workers and their supervisors.

Today dawned beautiful and relatively cool (only 80 degrees). But soon another dust storm rolled in. That halts the convoys (no fresh produce) and our mail (no box from home). But, more importantly, it makes it difficult for the medical choppers to fly. So some folks get stuck at the Combat Surgical Hospitals (CSH) and have to wait there before we can move them forward to Germany.

The Medevac Unit here is known as "Dustoff". 2-641 AVN moved their operations to the helipad next to the hospital a few months ago. I helped them get things set up for on-call personnel to have their meals at the hospital DFAC (since they cannot be more than 10 min away from the choppers). As thanks their command chief presented me with one of the Commander's coins.

Last Friday we hosted the final results of the second round for "Fit-2-Fight" (our weight lost competition). This time around we put emphasis on fitness and body composition rather than just weight. My team got 2nd place (average 5% fat loss amongst the four of us).

The hospital Commander called me up in front of the participants and presented me with his coin to thank me for all the work I have done at the hospital this year. He cited the remodel of the DFAC, bringing in some new food/beverage items; the Halal meal contract so our Iraqi patients would eat more (helps in wound healing and decreased length of stay), and the Medical Nutrition Therapy (clinical care, nutrition support, diet education).

28 June 2009

CrossFit "MURPH"

Full "MURPH" is the following, done in order:
run 1 mile
100 pull ups
200 push ups
300 air squats
run 1 mile

Took me 1 hour 23 minutes. First mile was done at a steady 6 mph pace.
Here are my last 10 pull ups (I needed about 2-3 min rest in between each set of 10, took me 25 minutes to do them all)

The pushups took about 20 minutes (started out 3 sets of 20, then could only do sets of 10 at a time, about a 30-45 sec rest between sets). The air squats were sets of 30. Getting back on the treadmill was wobbly, reminded me of the bike-to-run transition during triathlons. Last mile took just a little over 10 min.

After I was done, I still had something to prove. I needed to do a real pull up.


27 June 2009

StarTrek - Trek Fest Troop Shoutout! TODAY!!!

This year’s theme is “The Voyage Home.” Walter Koenig (Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and George Takei (Sulu) will appear on a special Star Trek float. Steve Miller will be Grand Marshal. In 1984, Miller suggested the town declare itself the official birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. Miller had read a book by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, "The Making of Star Trek," in which Roddenberry declared the captain had been born in Iowa. The city council wrote to Roddenberry asking for his permission to designate Riverside as the official birth site. He agreed. And the rest is history – or it will be in 2228 when Kirk is born behind a former barbershop, which is now marked by a large stone and plaque.

How To listen to Live Stardust Radio Broadcasts
Trek Fest Saturday 6/27/09
11:45am - 2pm Central
Troop Shoutouts 11:45am - 12pm appr

1) Local Area Riverside, Iowa - Tune in to 1690 AM radio

2) Simple Audio with Live 365 - Go to our website at www.stardustradio.com Click on the Listen Live button in the center of the screen which will connect you with the Live 365 listening service at no charge. You may need to select whether you prefer to listen through Windows Media Player or Flash Player. You will immediately be able to listen to the broadcast at any hour of the day or night.

3) Chat Star Teleconference Auditorium - If you would like to join the Stardust Staff in our teleconference room during the broadcast where you can text questions and listen to the show, you will need to sign up at the Stardust website. Go to www.stardustradio.com, click on the Chat Star white and gold box. When the About Me dialogue box comes up, enter Trek Deployed. You will receive a password that will allow you into Chat Star. You will need to download a very brief, totally safe program as you enter. Once inside Chat Star, you will see a list of room names on the left side - click on the United We Roll room and you will enter the room with the staff and any other Chat Star visitors. Note: military duty computer firewalls will not allow access. MWR and personal computers will allow access.

We hope you enjoy the show! Please feel free to sign our guest book on our website. Your feedback is very important to us.

To Listen & Download Previous Episodes Of United We Roll World Tour Shows
Tapes are in MP3 Formats - No Streaming
go to http://www.stardustradio.info (episodes after 6/10/08)
Click on United We Roll button top left
Scroll down to desired show date and click on download

Judi Burns
United We Roll
Stardust Radio

'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

23 June 2009

Indirect Fire

On Sunday afternoon/evening we had a couple of power outages and then we had the Indirect Fire alarm went off (during Bingo). One of the guys at the table had his camera. No booms in our area so hopefully no one got hurt.

21 June 2009

Happy Father's Day

I sent out coloring-book neckties for hospital people to find their inner child and help decorate the DFAC (dining facility) for Sunday. Here are some standouts.

The base DFACs put out a special meal on holidays and provide us with a sheet cake.

It's Getting Hotter and Still Lots of Sand

I heard it's hitting 130 degrees in Qatar - I hope I won't have to spend more than 1 night there on my way home.

Results of the Sand Storm earlier this week:

20 June 2009


Five weeks ago I started doing the CrossFit workout as I entered the second round of our AFTH Fit2Fight competition (I lost about 10 lbs in the first round earlier this year, just from diet and lots of walking). Round two would putting more emphasis on body composition (fat loss), waist circumference and exercise than just weight loss. I knew that jogging wasn't enough. Resistence training was necessary. In my first class I couldn't do a single pullup (I think the last time I did a pullup was during the peak of my college swim team days). Last month I set myself a goal of doing a CrossFit Pullup by the end of four weeks.

Well, it took me one extra week. Yesterday I was so close; got my chin up to the bar. Today I finally did one. Dropped to the ground and then decided to try it again. Did one but couldn't do two in a row. After today's workout (500 meter row + 0.25 mile run x 5 sets - 28:12) I decided to try it again. This time I did two in a row! Yay me!

Thank you to Whacker, Vanessa, Lee, Red and all the other folks in the class who keep me motivated to lift a little heavier and push a little faster each day.

19 June 2009

157 Days Forward

I'm not counting down yet.....but I'm getting close. Started outprocessing and have my medical appointment on Sunday. There's a mandatory briefing on Tuesday. And I have to find out if I will be allowed to pack my knife in my luggage or if they will let me mail it home (which would leave me without my knife for almost two weeks).

Today's CrossFit workout, the "Filthy Fifty" (last month I did 30 reps of each exercise, took me 21 min).

Do 50 of each exercise then move to the next.
Box Jumps (I did the first 25 on the 24" box, the rest on the 12" box - last time it was just the 12" box).
Jumping pullups (I was so close to doing a real pull up before class, I got my chin just to the bar today - I will get it over the bar for sure next week).
KettleBall Swings (8 kg again)
PushPress (35# bar this time, was only 18# last time)
Knees to Elbows (if only the pullup bar was a little thinner, then my fingers wouldn't get fatigued trying to hold my body weight and I could do more than just 5 in a row)
Back extension (used the 18# bar this time)
Wall Ball (squat down low enough for the elbows to hit the knees but I'm not strong enough to get that 12# ball 10 ft up on the wall yet, just 7-8 ft)
Burpees (you know you have been working hard when you get dizzy after every set of 5)
Jump rope (can't get the hang of double jump so I have to do 150 singles)

Time: 35:00 min - the same 7 min per 10 rep pace as last month, but more reps and some heavier weights. I think that means I've gotten stronger. Oh, and last time I hadn't done a 5K earlier in the day. Definately means I've gotten stronger. I just hope I can maintain the same intensity (mostly) at home.

18 June 2009

Run for the Rainbow for Childhood Cancer Research

The last of the 5K runs in Iraq for me. My JBB best time, 28:33 (and I didn't have to stop to walk). I was a little worried after doing two CrossFit workouts yesterday (walking lunges/pullups/situps/repeat x 30 min and Back Squats 5 sets x 5 reps - maxed out at 100#!). But I'm ready to work on a 10K when I get home. Who knows - could I do the Las Vegas Marathon this year?

Just kidding. I'm so NOT a runner.

Before & After

Stay tuned for numbers (lbs, fat & inches) TBD next week.

Edit 23 June 09:
Jan: 155#, unkn waist, est 34% body fat
May: 145#, 30" waist, calculated 29% body fat
Now: 140#, 28" waist, calculated 25% body fat

Iraqi Medal

17 June 2009

Dust Storm

Big dust storm has come through. Annoying to breath, coats the glasses, and totally negates the effects of a shower (well, at least as much as it gets into your hair and turns it into a mud bath).
I hope it clears up soon. I have a 5K on Friday morning.

Edit: Wow, that was some nasty dust. Lee (the pediatrician) took some great pictures outside the hospital and let me have a few.

It was blowing hard around 10p. Around 10:30p we lost power in our pods. No A/C for hours. Got up in the middle of the night to brave the dusty air on a visit to the bathroom cadillacs. Soon after getting back into bed "Incoming, Incoming" heard over the loudspeakers. Didn't get the "All Clear" announcement for another 20 minutes. Power finally returned later in the morning (about time to get up for the day). Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep this night. This is NOT "Camp Cupcake". A busy day at work kept my energy level up. It's okay to have adversity and hardship. We all need that to remind ourselves why we are really here. And it will just improve our appreciation of things we take for granted back home.

14 June 2009

Headlines: Landed at Joint Base Balad

New Air Force surveillance aircraft makes combat debut
Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tiffany Trojca / US Air Force
The MC-12 Liberty completes its first combat mission and lands at Balad Air Base.

A new Air Force surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft has successfully completed its debut combat mission, military officials said last week.

The MC-12 Liberty is a turboprop aircraft with a specialized four-person crew that provides full-motion video and signals intelligence. Essentially, it is a manned, souped-up version of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that roam the skies above Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Liberty is "the first of its kind," Air Force Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Central, said in an Air Force news release. "What our Air Force teams at our various headquarters staffs have done with the program has been nothing short of miraculous. They’ve satisfied very ambitious objectives and done it alongside our industry partners to achieve combat-urgent requests in a superb fashion, from initial contracts to combat sorties inside eight months."

The first Liberty aircraft arrived in Iraq on June 8, making its debut combat mission later that day, officials said. The aircraft will be assigned to the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron while in Iraq.

"The MC-12 is an embodiment of the Air Force’s commitment to Coalition ground forces," Lt. Col. Phillip Stewart, 362nd ERS commander, said in the statement. "Our focus is to provide dedicated, responsive [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] operations, and we’re ready to go."

The Liberty is one result of an effort ordered in April 2008 by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for the Air Force to better support troops on the ground.

Running in Balad

Army 234th Birthday 5K this morning. In the very dusty air. Yup, breathing that stuff. Hard to tell on the photo but I'm covered in orange dust, my hair looked 5 shades lighter. My best time here so far, 28:52.

Next race is this Friday, for Childhood Cancer. Can I get down to 28:45?

I wore the pedometer most of the day. It's about a mile from my trailer to the stadium. The race was 3 miles. Another mile back to my room, pickup my pool bag, then over to the hospital for rounds. After that, back to the stadium for the outdoor pool (only swam 10 laps, too tired and no motivation to 'workout' today). Another mile back to housing after sunning (more like baking with the heat) on the deck.

As soon as I got into the compound there was an "Alarm Red" so I got to spend 20 minutes in a bunker (instead of getting some lunch). Finally got back into the relative comfort of my room, made the bed and cooled off for an hour before yoga.

After getting dinner tonight, the total is 25.6K steps (probably 8 miles today). I'm having a cookie with dinner tonight.

12 June 2009

Custom Scrubs

Within the hospital we can wear scrub tops. And many of us have customized our scrubs to reflect our mission here at Joint Base Balad.

I hope to show mine off later this year at my civilian job back in the states.

Hail & Farewell/EMDG Olympic Bash

Food & Drinks

Fun & Games

09 June 2009

Getting Strong

Some interesting changes happening in my fitness levels.

Getting more comfortable jogging (finally). The Air Force fitness test pushups and situps are now a piece of cake (easy to get max points). But I would have to run the 1.5 miles in less than 12:30 to get max on the run (probably not going to happen - I've never been a runner, much less fast runner). Wish there was a standard for swimming instead - relatively I'm much better in the water. Tomorrow is another early morning 5K run. Goal is to break 29 min.

Today in CrossFit I was challenged to reach my max for a deadlift. Started at 115# lifting once then adding 10#. I got up to 155# (tried 165# and could only get it 5" off the ground). Hope my butt hurts more than my low back tomorrow (cause that would mean I was doing it correctly).

After class I managed to climb halfway up the rope (first time getting off the ground)!!! Still working on my goal of doing an unassisted pullup. Making progress. Tomorrow we'll be doing benchpress & pullup sets.

08 June 2009

The Amazing Race: EMDG Style

(Hopefully I'll have a few pictures later I can add into this post).

This was easily the MOST FUN I've had here at Joint Base Balad in 5 months.

As part of the AFTH's Olympic Games (see St Patrick's Day Party when I completed a personal best doing pushups for the first event), the last event was the "Scavenger Hunt". In reality, this was much more the Amazing Race (so tons better).

Each Squadron fielded a team of 4 (EMDSS had 2 from Logistics, 1 from BioMed, and me from Nutrition). During all parts of this event (except when doing the challenge at each destination) all 4 of us had to be holding onto a rope (keeping us together).

1. List the names of Wing & Hospital leadership (piece of cake). Then we get our first envelope. At the first mention of "Dawg" in the clue, we immediately ran to Logistics (they are the "Log Dogs"). Out on the loading dock we played bean bag toss; had to score 4 to get the next clue.

2. "Flag" and "Patriot" sent us flying through the long hospital hallway. "Coming through" was my warning as we ran full throttle. Out to Patriot's Passage (parallel to Hero's Hwy). Our challenge: Say or sing the "Star Spangled Banner". We finally got it on the fourth try.

3. We were instructed to carry a litter and 2 sandbags to a place for a game that combines handball and tennis. Must be the volleyball court. In order to get the next clue we went one at a time in a crab crawl from the serving line to the net line and back. Nice dirty butts.

4. "Alarm Red" on the clue had us drop to the ground and then run for the nearest bunker (okay, not the nearest, the second nearest) to drink 2 cold bottles of water without spilling a drop. I do much better with room temperature water but our team really stepped up to the task. Next clue was in red and immediately I thought of the "Dragons Den" (our classroom in the basement).

5. One of us would have 10 seconds to find an envelope with our squadron name on it. If no luck, the next person goes. We got it with the second person. Much easier after the person at the door said "look under the chairs".

6. This next clue confused all 3 teams. When we think of "special people" and "smoking", we all thought of "OR5" where the doctors (and others) enjoy their cigars & unwind (on the roof of the main building). Whoops; it meant the regular smoker's pit. Down the stairs, out the back door. We had to write down the names of all 50 states (fortunately we got the first letter of each, in alphabetical order). Unfortunately we got a little hung up on the M's (sorry Minnesota, you were the last we remembered).

7. Final clue was easy, back to the beginning. Final task, recite the Airman's Creed. Then show we had all 7 envelopes and all 7 clues. EMDOS beat us by less than a minute. But our 2nd place finish we'll keep our boss from having to get a pie in the face during the closing ceremonies this Thursday.

CrossFit Had Me In Tears

This one was a toughie - and trying to do all those pullups made me nearly cry, cause I was really trying. But even with the resistance bands I could only to 30 of 40 in the first round, 25 of 40 in the second, and then I couldn't even get to 20 at the end. I wanted to, so much. But no more 'jumping' pullups for me. The running part was easy (first 1/2 mile was done outside but damn it was hot), the other two were done on the treadmill at 6 mph (my usual pace).

For my 'challenge' I first did 100 pushups. Then I took the 45 lb weight lifting bar and did 10 push presses....but the last one knocked me in the chin on the way up. Fortunately didn't break the skin, but I ended up icing it when I got back to work - gonna feel like one heck of a bruise tomorrow.

For more information about all these CrossFit classes I've been doing for the past four weeks (today was the start of week 5 and I still can't do a proper pullup on my own - but I'm getting closer), check out Wisdom of the Warrior. Jim often posts the daily workout and that's where I get pictures of us (maybe we'll get some action shots - I'll bring my camera and we'll see what happens).

07 June 2009

Lazy Sunday?

Allowed myself to sleep in past 6a. Finally got out of bed and went to the hospital around 7:30a.

Patient rounds at 8:30a, wrote some nutrition support orders, typed some documentation.

Walked to the pool with Erika and we did a good 30 min workout (200 warm-up, 5 x 100 on the 2:20, 10 x 50 with 10 sec rest between laps, 150 cool down). After a shower I laid out in the sun with my homework (Air Command & Staff College unit 2).

Around 12:30p walked over to the Beauty Shop for a manicure - waited for over an hour but gave me time to eat a Subway roasted chicken & read some more homework.

Managed to get back in time for the yoga class at 3p, followed by my regular Sunday Muscle Therapy (aka "Massage").

Now I'm in the Rec Center, waiting for the Sunday night Bingo game at 8p.

With all the walking around (including the trip from the Rec Center where I sit on the computer most evenings to the Dining Facility and back), I've walked 12K steps today (according to my pedometer).