Mrs. Scholl is better known to me as Cousin Kelly. The questions that I've been answering for the past few days have been from her class. As it turns out, it's been a pretty popular thing with the kids (and other people on the web too) so I'm going to keep right up with it. So let's get started...
Jordan Lee Gustafson
(a very inquisitive young man) asks:
Are you in the Navy or are you in the Air Force?
I'm a Captain in the US Air Force, but I so far been stationed at a Navy base (NAS Pensacola) several Air Force bases (Randolph AFB, TX; Altus AFB, OK; Robins AFB, GA; and McConnell AFB, KS), and an Army Base (Ft. Lewis, WA). I'm working very closely with the Army in my current job which is something that we're not very used to doing in the USAF.
Do you have an Army course where you train?
When I'm back home I go along with the Army on some of their training. Usually, I'm only with them when they need to have someone there to help them understand how to deal with the Air Force. I went to a course called the Joint Readiness Training Course (we call it JRTC for short) in Louisiana last March and I went to an exercise called Cobra Gold all the way over in Thailand last May.
What do you wear?
We have to be either in uniform or in our exercise clothes (we call them PT gear) all the time in Iraq. When I'm in uniform I wear my tan colored flight suit. Here's what I look like in it:
What is a war like?
That's an interesting question. I suppose it depends on who you ask. If you ask the people that fly air refueling tankers (like I do), they would tell you that when you're at war, you spend a lot of time getting ready to fly and flying and not very much time sleeping. When we first started flying, the missions were pretty scary because we expected the worst. But as we flew more and more missions, we learned that it wasn't so scary.
If you ask people that are on the ground fighting, they would probably have something very different to tell you. They would say that war is scary and frustrating. The guys that are on the ground have to spend at least a year in the war and after a while worrying every day becomes very hard to handle. It isn't any fun which is why people like to get letters like yours so much, it takes their mind off of their situation for a while.
"What kind of guns do you use??
Whenever we're outside, we have to carry a weapon. Officers are allowed to carry M9 Barettas. They also issued me an M4 which is an updated version of the M16.
"Do you have to do math?"
Heh, someone is wondering if they can ever quit thinking about Math. Well Jordan, my job doesn't make me do very complicated Math. The most I have to do is addition and maybe some multiplication. When I was a Navigator, we had to do lots and lots of math when we were using the stars to navigate. And I talked to the people that shoot the 155mm Howitzers (those are the huge guns the Army has) and they have to do some very complicated calculations to make sure they hit what they are aiming at.
"What is it like in Iraq?"
The middle and southern portions of Iraq are very hot deserts. Northern Iraq (where I am) is hilly and even gets mountainous. It is very dry and gets extremely hot in the summer. In the winter it actually gets pretty cold and sometimes even snows. It never gets as cold as Minnesota, that's for sure.
"P.S. How many people did you kill?"
I haven't killed anyone fortunately. That isn't what I'm here to do.
"I think that if people are in the war they get really cool uniforms."
I know that isn't a question, I just had to comment on it. The part of my uniform that I like the best is my GoreTex jacket. It's just the right length and has some great hidden velcro pockets and keeps out all the wind and rain. I've got one that's green and one that is desert colored. They're the best.
"I have to wonder, how big are your tents?"
We don't live in tents out here fortunately. But I have lived in a tent before and they're just big enough to hold 12 cots (although that many people is uncomfortable). They have tents for other things though. There are tents just like the ones that you could see in the old TV show MASH (and sometimes it's actually the medical people who use those kinds of tents still, but now we call it the CSH and pronounce it "cash"). The biggest tends I've seen are ones that are used as either hangers or buildings. I have seen movie theaters and gymnasiums inside of those tents. They are so big that you can even hear your echo.
"Do you have TVs in your tents?"
We live in trailers, but yes, some of us do have TVs in our trailers. We can even get cable set up in there if we want. I don't watch much TV so I don't need that in my room, but other people like to watch live sports which, because of the time difference, means that they have to be up very late at night.
"I always wonder what it would be like in the war. Is it fun or is it hard? I think it looks hard."
Well that depends on what you're doing and how long you're away from home. There are some people that don't have to be gone all that long and get to do fun things like fly. Sometimes people who fly don't even have to fly all that much when they are at war so they get to spend more time having fun. Other people have to live in areas that aren't as safe for a long time and have to go and risk their lives and sometimes kill people. War isn't very fun for those people. Not very fun at all.
Did you need to go to Army school?
When I went to college, I was in a group called the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). In ROTC I learned the basics of what it takes to be an officer in the US Air Force and the basics of how the Air Force is structured. There are other programs where you learn the same things: Officer Training School, and the US Air Force Academy. I was lucky to get into ROTC because I was able to have my entire college paid for.
Thanks for writing Jenessa and say hi to your twin sister Julia for me.
"My favorite animal is a dog. What is your favorite animal?"
Well, lets see here. I like dogs a lot, but I also like other animals too. One of my favorite zoo animals is the sea otter because they seem so smart and playful. One other animal that I saw in Australia that I liked a lot is the Wallaroo
. Those are like Kangaroos except they are a lot smaller. They are very friendly and lots of people have them as pets.
"Do you have an animal?"
No, not yet. Both my wife and I are in the military which means that we sometimes have to leave for months at a time. In fact, right now both my wife and I are away from home right now -- I'm in Iraq and she is in Germany. She's having a much better time than I am right now. Pretty soon I'll be out of the military because we want to have children. I'm sure that we'll get a pet when I get out too.
Do you guys have schools?
There aren't any schools out here for us. The military does have elementary schools in Europe and other places and I think those are a lot like elementary schools anywhere else. Actually, the best person to ask would be my wife, she attended some of those very schools when she was a kid. Beth?
Do you have a boss?
The thing about my job is that I've got a lot of people who want to be my boss. My only real boss right now is someone that works all the way down in Baghdad and who I've only met once. I couldn't even tell you his name, I only know his title. That means that I have to be responsible and get everything done without anyone constantly watching over me. But like I said, there are lots of people that don't know exactly what I do and want to have the right to tell me what to do. Sometimes that gets a little frustrating.
"I sort of have a boss, but it is called a teacher. My teacher's name is Kelly Scholl."
Okay, that's not a question, it's just cute.
Thanks for your letter Erika!
The next letter is from Summer
(no last name given) and I want to take the time to reprint everything she wrote:
My name is Summer. I am in 3rd grade. My teacher is Mrs. Scholl. I am 9. Enough about me. What color do you like? What is your name? What do you like to do on your free time? Do you like where you sleep? Do you have a family? Thank you for taking care of the
[I can't make the word out]. Hope you like what we sent.
P.S. Please write back!
Then Summer drew a gun with a circle and a slash (meaning no guns), the word weapons with a circle and a slash, and a picture of a bomb that you'd see in a cartoon with a circle and a slash and the words "in school" next to them. That cracks me up.
Okay Summer thanks for writing. I like Blue ... a lot. In fact, I like blue way too much. Ask my wife Beth, she almost has to force me to buy clothes that aren't blue. Seriously, it's just silly how much I like blue.
My name is Mike Lane, I'm Kelly's cousin.
On my free time when I'm in Iraq, I like to watch movies on my laptop and I like to workout. Also I like to read things on the internet, play around on Photoshop, read books, and write things on my blog. When I'm at home I like to ride my bike, take pictures, and mess around on the computer.
I don't mind where I sleep except that it is difficult to feel safe there. For about a week when lots of people were trying to hurt us, we slept inside of a palace which has big thick walls so nothing could hurt us. Everything has calmed down a lot so we are sleeping in our trailers again.
I do have a family, we all do. My Mom is in Missouri and my Dad is in Nebraska. My wife lives with me when we're home but right now she's in Germany. We don't have kids just yet, but we will pretty soon!
Thanks again from writing Summer!
gets right into her questions:
"Do you have to wear uniforms? We do not have to in school."
We have to be in uniform all the time unless we're sleeping or working out. Our uniforms aren't like school uniforms and the military is a lot more strict with how we wear them. We always have to wear a hat when we're outside and there are certain ways that we can push up the sleeves and sometimes we aren't even allowed to push up our sleeves. We're supposed to wear black socks but almost nobody actually does. By law, we have to display the flag of our country somewhere on our uniform (the Air Force wears it on their left shoulder, the Army wears it on their right). We also wear our rank and a name tag.
"How long does it take to get to Iraq?"
It takes a pretty long time to get here Krista. We are about 6000 miles away from where you are, and I'm about 7000 miles from home. To fly here it takes a total of around 19 or 20 hours but we usually have to stop and stay somewhere over night.
"Do you lets bombs?"
I don't have much to do with bombs although some of the Army guys do. The Iraqis have a lot of bombs that they try to use on us so we have to be very careful.
Thanks for your questions Krista and keep doing well in school!