Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

500 Days in Afghanistan, a #vExpert retrospective from an #EMCElect

June 30th, 2014

Wow, so here we are… 500 days, it feels like just yesterday I was getting here. Okay, I’m only kidding, every day feels like every day before it, and every day after it.   So let’s take a moment to roll back the clock and see what kinds of things have happened and perhaps some various accomplishments out here! (Like how I rocked that title like a branding whore? ;))

Personal Accomplishments

  • Published two books
  • Completed a massive slew of Certifications including (But not limited to)
    • Cisco
      • CCNA (Routing and Switching, Security and Data Center)
      • CCNP Data Center
      • CCIE Data Center (Written… Can’t exactly take the lab out here can I :))
    • Brocade
    • VMware
      • VCP 5.0
      • VCP 5.5 (Beta and then the “Pass”)
      • Yet, due to the ‘class’ requirement I’m technically still NOT a VCP, yay right? :)
  • Finished 92 credit hours in a Bachelors of IT Security degree program (in a month) before I had to take time away to tackle other matters
  • EMC Elect for 2013 and 2014
  • VMware vExpert for 2013 and 2014
  • Avoided death by mortar, rocket, small arms fire, IED and any number of other VERY real threats for 500 days! (Woohoo!)

As you can tell that is quite a slew of personal things to accomplish (And I’m only scratching the surface), there are more things on the horizon some of which I honestly am not sure what else I want to pursue and other things which I’m always actively working on whether publicly or in secret to share later!

Professional Accomplishments

When it comes to what I do professionally I have to be a little obfuscated or in some cases I cannot even share any details due to the sensitive nature of the mission but there are some things which I can disclose and albeit a small list I’ll try to here (Essentially taken from my resume as it’s pre-scrubbed)

  • Afghanistan Senior Technical Director responsible for Operations, Management, Engineering, Implementation and Support of the US Operational Forces in CJOA-A mission command
  • Provide leadership and direction for team of 100+ engineers and architects geographically distributed across 30 Forward Operating Bases throughout Afghanistan
  • Subject Matter Expert for Virtualization, Storage, Data Center and Networking, lead coordinating efforts for the Dec 2014 US Troop draw down and architect of the sustaining architecture for post 2014 mission
  • Direct oversight and operations of enterprise infrastructure supporting over 100,000 users
  • Define policy, procedure and operational requirements to sustain OEF mission

This is equally a pretty awesome set of accomplishments, something I didn’t include in the bulleted list but I am particularly proud of, the fact that we have maintained 100% uptime. Yea you heard it, 100%, not five 9’s or three 9’s or one 8 and three 2’s, but 100%.  I do not include as part of that as scheduled outages where we were intentionally taking something down for maintenance nor do I include when we have a catastrophic site failure which is out of my control (Let’s say a generator gets hit with a rocket, or HVAC goes offline because its 140 degrees out, or someone decides to sever the network link) Yea, those aren’t included as a cause of downtime because there’s nothing we can functionally do about it, but operationally, configurationally, all of that, we’re talking about 100% baby! I’m sure if we owned the Network and Data center layers we’d keep their numbers higher, but logistically out of my control!

What is next on the horizon

Well, the question of what is next can be a difficult one to exactly predict, I mean there are certain levels of uncertainty and unknown but there are some things which are absolutely certain.

  • I’ll be attending VMworld in San Francisco this coming August
    • Will I be throwing a #CXIParty? A question I get asked often… well, … Maybe. You tell me, the logistical effort can be a pain to do from afar…
  • I will be going on R&R to spend time with my awesome family who will be living in (after having moved) to Nashville!
  • I will be spending (another) Birthday here in Bagram, Afghanistan. Oh the greatest place on earth to spend your birthday. Seriously. Not. :)
  • I will be talking to folks at VMworld (and as I currently am) plotting and planning for the next stage of my adventure when I am done with my mission here and ready to invest my time elsewhere.   I keep getting solicited and unsolicited offers from folks, keep it coming… I’ll find the right place to land my feet and make an epic impact like I have here (and everywhere else I’ve been)
  • Will I continue to be here in Afghanistan following November to see the final stage of the draw-down through and beyond into the Resolute Support Mission? That is really answered by the viability of finding where the ‘next stage of my adventure’ will take me. So that’s an unknown.
  • Will I keep being awesome? Definitely. You should too. :)

So there you go, a look back and a brief look forward.  See ya’ll at VMworld! <3

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Posted in Afghanistan, Brocade, Certification, Cisco, EMC Elect, Storage, vExpert, vmware, VMworld | Comments (0)

One full year in Afghanistan, oh where the time goes…

February 14th, 2014

Today marks one full year since I’ve begun this journey into the Warzone and oh the many things I’ve encountered in my time here…

Before I go into some of these details I’d like to refer to some of the past posts on this, just for consolidation effort! :)


So one full year in a war-zone that must be pretty crazy, right? Yes. Yes it is.  Over the course of this time I’ve gone through multiple military transitions (in and out) numerous base closures and as time has gone on and we prepare for “draw-down” a significant decrease in standard life services.   That may not sound like much but considering that we were already basically camping, and things have gone down from that point…. Yea, it’s been interesting. :)

Do I enjoy what I am doing? Absolutely.  I personally have a significant impact on the direction of things here and am able to take my decades of experience and put them to good use to equally ensure that our tax dollars aren’t fraudulently wasted, at least not on my watch!

In the short little time I’ve been here my responsibilities as Deputy Technical Director and Storage and Virtualization Lead for all of the efforts here in Afghanistan have been very rewarding.   I unfortunately cannot go into too many details without compromising aspects of the mission but let me just say… This has been an absolutely awesome experience the likes of which are difficult to rival.   The experience itself is not nearly as rewarding as knowing that the knowledge and skills I brought into this theater from years of work in the trenches and leading high performing teams has scaled to make this a case study for success which can be replicated immensely..

Some things which you can only truly experience while living in a warzone (or in some cases, Chicago…)

  • Taking a Helicopter to get to work, with a high powered machine gun out the side…
  • The incessant and regular explosions, whether controlled or by insurgents.
  • [REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED] – Oh how I’d love to be able to share that…
  • And more… :)

But this story is not over.   At this point I’m pretty sure I’ll fight this battle out a little longer to ensure everything is ready and in place for the executed draw down of American troops scheduled for 31DEC2014 – After which point I’m out of here and onto the next story where I can continue to do absolutely awesome things.    I get hit up regularly and I respect and appreciate that.   I’ll likely be looking to start that next story in the Nov/Dec to January time frame so if you’re looking feel free to hit me up as we get closer!

As always I’ll continue to update you in the form of tweets, facebook updates, Instagram, Tumblr and more!

Be safe, and on this wonderful Valentines Day <3 :)

Posted in Afghanistan, Christopher Kusek | Comments (0)

250 days in Afghanistan, lessons learned, experiences and OMG WTF IS THAT

October 22nd, 2013

Here we are… on my 250thaversary (I don’t think that’s a word…) and let me tell you… IM STILL ALIVE! Awesome, right!?

You may be able to see it from my tweets, facebook updates, and wacky images I’m able to capture with instagram, but I down play a lot of the ‘threat’ here.  Oh, the threat is VERY real on a VERY regular basis, but I totally downplay it, especially if sharing something might put American lives in jeopardy… so I don’t talk about those things… a LOT of things.   But hey! This isn’t something for you to be worried about! I mean, the threat is just as real as being in Chicago, so I’ll down play it some more! :)

Afghanistan is kind of like being in prison, except for all of the benefits… of being in Prison!

We often joke about the similarities to prison, I mean lets consider a few points…

  • Housing is “Free” in that we live in supplied housing.  And while at the same time… my room is roughly the same size, or slightly smaller than a typical US Prison Jail Cell, so that’s pretty awesome! Albeit the building can burn down at any given moment due to the fact it’s essentially made of balsa wood :)
  • Food is “Free” in DFAC provided food.  Except the food is typically less desirable than Prison food, which respectively isn’t saying much :)
    • OH WAIT, YOU’RE VEGAN. Yea. People often say, “It must be hard being vegan” Yes. Yes it is. Back home it isn’t, but in a warzone it’s HELL!
  • Everyone has guns.   Well, it’s true, everyone does, let’s add that we’re surrounded by huge walls with barbed wire. Except we’re trying to keep people OUT not in, per se. ;)
  • I live at an airport basically, though I never get to go anywhere! … And unless I’m going home, not really too much of a fan of traveling throughout the country!
  • Everybody loves shared showers! Just don’t let your skin touch any exposed surface. Seriously.

So you know, it’s not so bad!   And all, right?!

I mean, it’s not like my life is in constant jeopardy or that on numerous occasions rockets have not blown up within 100 feet of me. …………

So for those of you who wonder what the warzone is like, and the respective lessons learned you can apply to your own life…

  • It can be LOUD here. I own a pair of Klipsch X10i headphones. I tend to miss most rockets I cannot directly FEEL because of how well it buffers the sound.   Also if you happen to travel these are beyond invaluable, hell if it can block out the noise of flying inside of a C130, know it handles QUITE well on domestic or international travel.  FYI I have worn these headphones for about 235 of the 250 days, while I sleep.
  • If you see something out of the ordinary, say something about it.   This applies to the world in general.  If something or someone looks suspicious don’t let it slide; Don’t be paranoid but also be realistic…
  • Do your due diligence and don’t take overt chances.   I’m a risk taker as much as the next guy (Psst… Did you hear I’m in fracking AFGHANISTAN) but I wouldn’t go so far as to play around life explosives or put myself in a position to receive real harm if I can control it.
  • Smog is nasty, but a microscopic dust which enters into your lungs and you breathe it everywhere, that’s not so great.
  • Do not walk behind a blackwater truck, or hell, near one if you can help it
    • Blackwater trucks clean out portapotties, and emit a highly refined spray of feces into the air, it’s the original eau de toilette…

The list can clearly go on, but I need to sleep soon so I wish you all well in your respective places in the world.   I wish you good will, good life and be safe.

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Posted in Afghanistan | Comments (2)

Afghanistan, it’s as American as Baseball and Apple Pie; @CXI in the Warzone Update!

June 3rd, 2013

Today marks 107 days in the Warzone.  Okay, it’s not a sexy number like 100, or a gross number like 144… But it is the number of today where I’m writing this!     So, some of you might be asking, “What’s it like living out there in the Warzone?!”   I’ll tell you, and I’ll be as frank and honest as I can (or shirley?!)

I bet some of you went to college before, so you know what Dorm living is like, right?   Living in rooms where you may share walls or more with others.  It’s very much sort of like that… Well, Kind of. Sort of kind of I guess, I mean, a picture says a thousand words right?

The outside of a traditional "B-Hut" a plywood box of wonder! The inside of my wonderful B-Hut and it's ever so protective Plywood Door! 96 square feet! Thank you!

So as you can see from these beautiful photos, from the outside you can see the beautiful looks of a plywood box which I live in with 7 other people.  Awesome, right?!   And here’s a little glimpse of the ‘inside’ of the B-Hut, all 96 Square feet of space to stretch out and spend my days! (Nights!)

Clearly you’re thinking, “Damn, Ikea can make a KILLING there in Afghanistan with such lavish accommodations!”  Don’t you know it baby!

But when I’m not in my room sleeping, FaceTiming with the family, or at work, I walk down awesome pathways like this, or hide in bunkers like this!

The pathway to my heart is a mysterious one! Quick hide! ROCKETS ARE FALLING!

And now I’ll hit some of the Q/A which I regularly get asked to the best of my ability!

  1. Wow, as a vegan it must be really hard to eat out there. Do you find it difficult?
    1. I believe the technical answer is, HELLS YEA BITCHES.   I look forward to breakfast as it tends to be the most consistent meal of the day, and even that can be spotty often times.   I intentionally carb-load and over-eat while I’m here as “Winter is coming” or so my body needs to predict… as I don’t know when a vegan famine may be upon me, and it’s up to me to protect my well being!   There tends to be on average 2-3 items to eat per meal for a vegan, out of >50 items, those metrics aren’t something you can set a clock to…
  2. I see you tweet at times about rockets and mortars, SRSLY? IS THAT HAPPENING?
    1. Yes. Yes it does happen. I’ve been fortunate that the closet ROCKET to me has been a little over a mile away, which is fortunate considering the small rockets have a blast radius of 50 yards, I’d ideally like to stay as far the hell away as possible.    I’ve become a little jaded at Television special effects since being out here as I watch an explosion of say, an oil tanker 50 feet away have no impact on TV/Movies, yet a TINY IED goes off 3 miles away and it shakes the building I’m in? Yea, movies are totally ruined for me!
  3. Hey, Seriously WTF, why the hell are you in Afghanistan?!?!
    1. So, I covered a bit of that in this blog post here but on an added note.  I’m no warrior, I’m not strong, I cannot carry a weapon, nor perform physically bearing activities.  But I had the opportunity to do my part to serve our country, and serve our troops and do what I do best.   Help bring them home and make the technical environment which runs a warzone theater as Afghanistan as stable and solid as possible.  It just so happens I also carry with that a pretty hefty load of responsibility, but I’m no stranger to responsibility and leading.  So it suits me. :)
  4. Do you have any crutch music/movies to help get you through the days?
    1. Why yes I do.   I will often find myself watching Portlandia and Flight of the Conchords, and just trying to stay current on my regular Television as it airs.   I did watch Scott Pilgrim vs the World the other day, and I could watch that again and again.
    2. Musically, I will often be listening to Taylor Swift, Erasure and at this very moment as I type this, I’m listening to The Birthday Massacre.  My musical library obviously extends far beyond that; such that depending upon the analytical research I may be doing that is a perfect opportunity to blast The Ataris, Taking Back Sunday or Greenday in my ear holes!
  5. Asked by @nekosensei : What do you do while you’re on base to keep yourself entertained?
    1. This one may come as a surprise to a lot of you, but I *love* working. I always have, and being that I work 12 hours a day, I’m no stranger to the opportunity to work!   But when I’m not working and I’m not talking with my family on FaceTime (Skype sucks out here) I am watching shows, listening to music, or reading (or writing respectively).   It may not sound too glamorous, but it’s a good way to center yourself…
  6. Asked by @nekosensei : What locations have you been able to visit in the region when you were given the chance to get off the base?
    1. Honestly. I avoid leaving the base if I can help it (Exception while going on leave)   But as far as the places I’ve visited here in Afghanistan and in the region, here’s a breakdown…
      1. Kuwait – I visited Kuwait when I first got here, it’s where we flew in to.   I didn’t mind it too bad, dust storms and the weather wasn’t too bad but it was ‘winter’, apparently, it’s hot as all hell now, so not being there is ideal I figure.   The accommodations were a ‘nice’ transient tent with mice and food options which left much to be desired.  But it wasn’t too bad.  My time spent there was relatively pleasant.
      2. Kandahar – Wow. What can I say. I HATE Kandahar!   A lot of people may be surprised by that, but I was in a constant ‘transient’ state waiting to fly out of there and being promised a flight only to be disappointed constantly.  My time spent there, over 3 days was spent in a constant state of conscious/unconscious, but no sleeping.. I was never really ‘asleep’ as that might infer I was resting.   I slept on benches which hobos would laugh at in a PAX Terminal which a week prior had been hit directly with a mortar.   Let’s just say, I escaped from that without any scratches and I’m glad.
      3. Camp Bastion / Camp Leatherneck – This Marine base was a resort compared to where I’m at now!    The streets were laid out, well.. like streets. It’s as though they planned what they were doing (They did to some extent) it was well coordinated, and organized.  Albeit, they hadn’t had a rocket attack for ~18 months prior to my arrival, and on the day I arrived, there were like 6 rockets fired on us.  No one was hurt, so win!
      4. Dubai, UAE – The United Arab Emirates can be an interesting and cool place.   It is a Muslim country with a very strict and odd set of laws, but you must respect the laws of the nation you’re in, and I respectively did that.   I shared a lot of the photos, of both the Futuristic and advanced side of Dubai while at the same time I got a glance at the ancient ways things have been done for hundreds or thousands of years, poverty and royalty living side by side.   Whenever I leave or enter Afghanistan, it is always through Dubai so I’ll be no stranger to that place.
      5. Bagram – My ‘home’ away from home, where I live now and for the unforeseen future.    This is an old soviet base which they abandoned during the Soviet-Afghanistan war in the 70s or something? I can see why they abandoned it though.   To give you a sense of how it is here… The sun rises around 4am, it’s SUNNY and HOT by the morning, and it only gets hotter by the evening. We’re ~5000 feet above sea level, so we’re pretty close to the sun!   By around 7PM it gets dark and when it gets dark it gets COLD and WINDY.  It’s crazy, and the sand, dust and flour-like substance of dust/sand gets in everything.  If it’s raining a little bit, your hair will be plastered like cement.    So there ya have it!

Hopefully this gives you a little insight into life in Afghanistan,  and a brief idea of how things are for me.  Stay tuned to my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for regular updates on activities, photos and you name it!

Don’t be a stranger! I’ll be home eventually! :)

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Posted in Afghanistan, Christopher Kusek | Comments (4)

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