Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016....so sorry

I know this is long, but I need to share to try and heal and little more.

To McCall, Carver and Jenkins, I am eternally sorry......

In 2003/2004, I was deployed to Gardez, Afghanistan where I served as a member of a Tactical Human Intelligence Team (THT), with Joe (Team Leader), Khalid and James. We provided direct support to Special Operation Forces operating in southeast Afghanistan. During this time I earned the trust and respect of the best Special Operations operators in the world.

In 2007, I deployed to Iraq where I ended up serving at a THT team leader, at COP Cahill, Salman Pak, Iraq. Me and my 3 soldiers provided direct HUMINT support to Alpha and Baker Company, 1/15 Infantry Regt, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. Supporting leg infantry was the opposite end of the spectrum from my time working with SOF in Afghanistan. But I didn't care, I was excited to be doing my job and what I love most, tracking down and getting rid of bad guys.

CPT Thompson, Commander of Baker Company (B Co), was a former Ranger Battalion NCO who decided to become a commissioned officer and one of the best officers I have had the opportunity to serve under and work for. I sensed some hesitation from CPT Thompson, which may have been due to the fact that I was a female, that I was intel or that I was simply someone he didn't know and hadn't worked with. But CPT Thompson was a true professional and in spite of any doubts he had readily welcomed me to the Baker team and let me get to work proving that me and my team were definitely an asset and not a liability. B Co and my THT kicked ass. In no time we were rolling up bad guys and the situation in B Co's area of responsibility (AOR) improved noticeably.

Things with Alpha Company (A Co) did not go as well. The commander of A Co, whose name I cannot remember but was something like CPT Alexander or Anderson, I personally referred to him as CPT Asshat, and his 1SG both clearly had issue with the fact that I was a female. CPT Asshat refused to utilize my team and A Co's AOR was the complete opposite of B Co's AOR, it was a cluster and mess. Things got so good in B Co's AOR and so bad in A Co's AOR that the BN XO and S3 came over and held a meeting with CPT Asshat and myself and ordered CPT Asshat to begin utilizing me and my team. CPT Asshat was in no way pleased with this, I even offered to provide him with references from the SOF guys I had supported in Afghanistan...that even pissed him off more, too funny. This meeting took place just a few days, maybe a week before 30 October 2007 and this turned out to be too little too late.

On 30 October 2007, an IED went off near the police station in A Co's AOR killing three A Co soldiers, SGT McCall, Carver, SPC Jenkins and PFC Carver. As soon as I received word of the incident I rolled out with the Mobile Training Team (MTT) that periodically stopped in at COP Cahill and worked with the Police station where the IED went off. While still providing B Co with outstanding HUMINT support, I spent every waking hour establishing contacts, collecting intel and tracking down the guys responsible for the IED that killed McCall, Carver and Jenkins.

On 13 November my hunt for the killers came to a screeching halt when my appendix ruptured and I was medically evacuated (MEDEVACd) out of country. Several weeks later, in the hospital at Ft Benning, GA I received an email from CPT Tilley, who had been my Operational Management Team Officer in Charge. CPT Tilley wanted to let me know that because of the work I had done and intel I had collected from 30 Oct to 11 Nov, I had correctly identified the men responsible for setting off the IED that had killed McCall, Carver and Jenkins, where they were located and they had been apprehended. As excited and proud I was to hear this at the time I had bigger issues at hand, as I was battling life threatening infections and fighting to stay alive. So I filed away the situation and went on with my life.

All was well, until I recently found myself at Ft Stewart with my Mom where she was working as a teacher on post. Driving on post one day I passed Warriors Walk, 3rd Infantry Division's memorial to each of its soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It hit me like a brick wall, I wonder if McCall Carver and Jenkins have trees on the walk. When I first started looking into it I couldn't remember their names, but being the intel geek that I am, I was able to get their names and find their trees. Standing there in front of their trees is when it hit me and it all became real. I was/am a great counterintelligence agent and because of that was able to track down the guys responsible for killing McCall, Carver and Jenkins...now if only CPT Asshat had let me do my job sooner, I could have tracked down the bad guys BEFORE they killed McCall, Carver and Jenkins and there would be three less trees on Warrior Walk. And why wouldn't CPT Asshat let me do my job, simply because I am a female. If CPT Asshat had denied me the chance to do my job because I was too slow, a shitty shot or didn't know how to do my job, I would be ok with that. But having the fact that I am a female held against me, when I had already proven myself to the best operators in the world, hurt like no other hurt I have ever experienced.

The guilt I had and still do carry would probably incapacitate most, but curling up in the corner and crying isn't going to do anyone any good. And so I stood there in front of their trees and apologized and I sit here today and to them, their families and their fellow comrades again apologize and say I am forever and sincerely sorry for not getting the bad guys before they planted that IED. And to CPT Asshat, Karma is a bitch and I am hopeful that your chauvinistic sexist ass finds it hard to go to sleep at night, knowing that because of you and your assbackwards mentality, three of your men are dead. Your men could very well could be alive and well today if you had put your chauvinistic attitudes aside and given me a chance to prove that I was a huge asset and in no way a liability.

To CPT Thompson, Baker Company and the amazing operators I had the honor of supporting in Afghanistan...Thank you for putting your doubts and personal attitudes aside and giving me the opportunity to earn your trust and respect, I am forever indebted.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Getting back on trail for a few weeks...COME JOIN US!!!

Life post-war and post-Army has not been easy.  Long distance hiking has turned out to be a huge help in my effort to better myself, heal my battle worn body and soul and deal with the stressors of the civilian world.  In 2014/2015 my Mom and I thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, 2185.3 miles, from Georgia to Maine.  I want to share what works for me with my fellow veterans who are looking for ideas or help to cope and succeed post-war or post-military. 

My mom and I will be hitting the hiking trail again in June and July and I would like to invite any fellow veterans who are looking for a way to better themselves, heal their battle worn bodies and souls or deal with the stressors of the civilian world to join us at anytime along our way.  A day, a night, a week, the whole 2 months, you choose.  And it doesn't matter if you are an expert long distance hiker or have never spent one day backpacking, you are welcome join us.  If you have never been backpacking we well be more than willing to teach you all you need to know.  Yes, the fancy hiking gear can be expensive, but you can get out there and enjoy yourself and reap the benefits even without expensive gear, we can show you how.

Here is our plan: 

1-21 June - hiking on the Appalachian Trail from Carratunk, ME to Little Bigelow, ME and from Glencliff, NH to Killington, VT

27 June - 25 July - hiking the northern half of the Long Trail in Vermont.

If you are interested you can reach me on my cell at, 404-234-6513.

postwarhike.blogspot.com

Happy Trails!!


Hendo & Hendo' s Mom

Friday, February 19, 2016

Settling In

Me, my truck, my "home"/camper trailer and 2 cats made it safely to Holbrook Campground, Ft. Stewart, GA on Monday 15 February. Mom and I got settled in and are slowing but surely getting things figured out. I still have some work to do inside, but am making progress daily. Our neighbor across the way has a compressor, nail gun and radial saw which he is letting me borrow and is making my life much easier finishing the trim. So far this week I have put down 1/3 of the flooring quarter-round, put in my bed frame, installed a cabinet above the stove, installed shelves in the closet/pantry and put up two closet rods on each end of the camper for mom and I to use as closets. My to-do list is still pretty long, but I am getting there.
We are going up to Fayetteville, NC this weekend to go through our storage unit and bring back the rest of what we need. We will be have a huge rummage sale in May at a friend's house up in Fayetteville, can't wait to unload all my excess schtuff!!!!
Happy Trails!!!
Hendo & Hendo's Mom
Home Sweet Home, Site 13 at Holbrook Campground, Ft. Stewart, GA

Making my bed frame outside.

Bed frame installed in the camper.


 So happy to have a bed..whoohoo!!


 Installed a closet rod at both ends of the trailer so Mom and I have closets to hang our clothes in.


 A new cabinet in the kitchen.


Shelves installed in the pantry!!

On the Road!!!

And so the end is getting nearer. The trailer is now livable and Mom and I will start living in it tomorrow, at the Ft. Stewart camp ground. I have to go see the Post Command Sergeant Major to request an exception to policy to stay at the campground until June when Mom's job is complete. Campground policy only allows you to stay for 60 days and then you have to leave for some period of time before being allowed back. However, the campground manager said we can request an exception to policy from the Post Commander, there is a waiver for everything...haha!!

The walls are painted, ceiling needs to be painted, some wall and ceiling trim need to be put up, the laminate floor is down but quarterround needs to be put in and the water lines need to be connected.
The support I received from my family and friend John Worthington, was unbelievable and I am forever indebted. My Grandma Farnham really went for the gusto and definitely has earned the MVP award by not only scrubbing the entire outside and windows of the trailer, but also single-handedly painting the entire inside walls and doors of the trailer.
Grandma Farnham...painting fool!!!
Grandma Farnham working her way around the trailer, painting like there is no tomorrow.


 My cousin, Kevin Farnham, finishing up fabricating and welding on my spare tire bracket.


My cousin, Kevin Farnham, finished the fabrication of the frame to the left which holds my "garage" an 18in Hx12 in Dx6 ft long metal box, and is now finishing up my spare tire mount.


Cousin Kevin fixing the wiring on my truck, which is messed up from the factory and was not operating the tail lights correctly, but Kevin got them working!!!


 Hooked up and ready to hit the road!!  Goodbye Illinois, Hello North Carolina and Georgia.


Ilene and Grandma Farnham posing proudly in front of my new home.


I owe my success at my renovation to the amazing staff at Kenney's Ace Harware in Mt. Zion, IL. Were it not for there help and assistance I never would have been able to do what I have done. Owners Terry and Libby Kenney are amazing individuals and manage an amazing staff and store...Blake, Riley, Ryan, Tater, Kay and Pat were like my own personal renovation team!!!
Libby and Terry Kenney, the amazing owners of Kenney's Ace Hardware in Mt. Zion, IL




Ryan was my own personal "Carter Oosterhouse". You name it whatever issue I had to fix, Ryan was able to fix or get the person who could. When my renovation project started Ryan was not a fan of fittings, but by the end he was solving fitting puzzles with ease. Look out, he is a Terry Kenney in the making!!!


Ashley Hackl, Tater and Riley...three more members of the Kenney's Ace Hardware, staff and my personal renovation experts!!! Ashley was always eager to help me shake-up my paint, and Riley is a wiz when it comes to nuts, bolts and screws!!


Making my last purchase at Kenney's Ace Hardware. Tater was an amazing help, always able to make sense of all my purchases, returns and exchanges!!!

I came down to Fayetteville, NC and Mom came up from HInesville, GA in order to get into our storage unit. Being sleep deprived, I made a huge mistake this morning which resulted in the breaking of the tongue jack on the trailer. This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. While at Camping World getting a new tongue jack we came across a 50 ft heated drinking water hose on clearance, marked down to $75 from $140..whoohoo. We were also able to get an inline water filter. The hard side LP gas cover they have does not fit our tanks, so we will return it tomorrow and see if they have something else that will work.
We wanted to get back into the storage unit tomorrow, Monday, but a winter storm is supposed to be moving in. We will see if it holds out, if not we will come back up here next weekend to get out the rest of the stuff we need.
Here are the latest pictures.
Hendo & Hendo's Mom














Kitchen Table...proudest moment

This is my proudest accomplishment so far int his renovation...my kitchen table/Mom's bed. I am going to glue down pictures of our AT thru-hike and then epoxy over them for the table top. So I cut a piece of MDF, trimmed it with lathe trim with a 1/8 inch lip around the top which will hold in the epoxy, cut a 2x2 to use for the table leg with just the right angle so when it is extended it is perfectly straight, I stapled velcro to the leg and table to hold it up when the table is being used as a bed, attached the brackets which hooks it to the wall and voila...a kitchen table which sits level and fits perfectly between the benches for a bed!!!





Tomorrow we paint the inside, Wednesday the floor goes in and Thursday we tidy up and get ready to head to NC on Friday. I will finish up the details after I get down to GA on Monday. Looking forward to seeing Mom again!!
Happy Trails!!
Hendo & Hendo's Mom

Friday, January 29, 2016

Continuing Camper Trailer Renovations....

My life is completely consumed by my camper trailer/new home renovation at the moment. Mom is doing great at her new teaching job at Ft. Stewart, GA. I am moving along, but have had some bad days where I thought I had made a very bad decision is deciding to do this and felt completely overwhelmed and wanted to just strap some C4 to it and blow it in place. But as most should know by now I am not a quiter. I am receiving amazing support from my family and couldn't do this without them. I have also received amazing support from a new friend and battle buddy, John Worthington. He drove 6 hours to come and help me, two different weekends. He framed in and installed a new/used door and refrigerator, ran new gas lines, connected my electricity and has been an amazing on-call carpentry/fix-it extraordinaire.

I knew there was going to be some work involved in this project, but did not know that it would be quite as much as it has been. But as I am learning, renovation projects are full of Pandora's Boxes. What you think will be a quick and easy fix quickly turns into a borderline catastrophe.

The first 2 pictures are of of one of these Pandora's Boxes I have encountered. Once I removed the torn up covering and insulation on the bottom of the camper I found 3 areas of serious rot which had to be removed and replaced with new bracing and boards, right wheel well, left wheel well and under sink area and rear bottom bracing. The area under the sink I had to remove and the side of the camper open so I could remove and replace it all.





You can also see my Grandma Farnham helping me by scrubbing all of the windows.



The picture of the door is the beautiful new/used door my friend John Worthington framed in and installed. I was able to get the door from by uncle who has an old camper trailer he is demolishing to make a flat-bed trailer. My cousin Kevin used aluminum polish to make a smiley face and show me how nice the door will look once I polish the whole thing.



Another picture of Grandma working on scrubbing down the outside of the trailer.


The following pictures are of the inside with insulation and vapor barrier installed. 








 

I also got the wall on the back side of the bathroom installed. 

In the kitchen area I also replaced and got working the exterior vent fan over the stove...whoohoo.


I ordered and installed a new LP Gas 2-stage auto transfer regulator and now the stove and heater work...whoohoo.

Lovely blue flames on my stove.


My Uncle Steve has given me the metal box shown sitting behind the camper. My cousin Kevin is going to weld it and a rack for my spare tire on the back bumper. The box will be my "garage" and hold my generator and tools.


Paneling leaned up against the outside of the camper.


And lastly, the first of the paneling installed. I have 2/3 of the ceiling paneling installed, 4 4x8 sheets, and it has been quite the adventure cutting and installing it by myself, but I am making it happen.


That is all for now...I still have a pretty big to-do list, but I am taking things on fix-it at a time. I need to have this done by 5 Feb, so I might have to pull some longs days, but I will get it!!


Happy Trails!!

Hendo

























Monday, January 11, 2016

Camper Trailer Renovations Part 1

I apologize for the lack of updates. I have been extremely busy and overwhelmed at times. The camper trailer renovation isn't going as planned at all, my truck needs some significant repairs and my grandmother passed out and cant drive until 19 Jan so I have been helping her. Never a dull moment.
Unfortunately due to the need for significant structural repairs I haven't been able to make a lot of cosmetic improvements/fixes on my camper. But not to worry, I have been busy all day everyday working to get it up to par for living in. Here are some pics, I will try and get some more pretty ones as well.
Here is the tile I am going to use for the backsplash. I have been using leftover lumber and supplies my relatives have due to my lack of money, but the tile and floor are the two things I am going to splurge and get new.
I got the lights connected and working, all LED.
The wood framing around both wheel wells, across the back wall and under the water heater was rotten and had to be replaced. Pics of the rotten wood repairs for the right and left wheel wells and floor under water heater.
Onward I trudge, two stubborn to quit, even though today I was pretty close to strapping some C4 to the trailer and blowing it in place.
While showering tonight I noticed I am covered in bruises from head to toe, so my trailer/home is literally kicking my butt, don't worry, I will win in the end!!
Mom was hired as a 3rd grade teacher at Ft. Stewart, GA elementary school and started on Monday 4 January. She is doing well and enjoying it so far.
Happy Trails!!
Hendo & Hendo's Mom