30 April 2007
Greetings from Kuwait. Our trip started in a gymnasium in Kansas where we lined up to weigh us and our gear prior to loading the plane. My total weight with my IBA, weapon, helmet and assault pack was 290 lbs (I only weigh about 169 lbs soaking wet). They bussed us out to an airfield where we boarded a commercial airliner and spread us out for a long, but comfortable flight. After a plane ride that took the better part of a full day to get over here, not to mention the hardest landing I’ve ever had on a commercial airliner during our pit stop in Germany, we arrived at our temporary resting spot in the friendly country of Kuwait. Our mission here is to receive a few more days of training and to acclimatize to the heat. I’ve learned that after spending the better part of the last 10 years living in the state of Texas that I’m not entirely positive that it is something possible to do. Nobody ever gets “use” to 100+ temps. They just get beat down enough were they just quit complaining about it so much. Lucky for us, this area has experienced a “cool spell”. With the help of a few cloudy days and a sand storm or two, the temps have not climbed too far into the triple digits.
Life is slow here as it is impossible to do much living on the surface of the sun. The schedule for the first few days had nothing but “acclimatize” on it, which meant getting use to the heat and the jet lag. We are 8 hours ahead of the US central time zone and it was not uncommon to be awoken in the middle the night by the growling of stomachs that were use to their own feeding schedule. The food is plentiful and the facilities are surprisingly decent. The provided living and sleeping arrangements include a giant air conditioned framed tent. It’s a little cramped, but as long as the AC is working, there’s not much complaining. Besides, it’s better than staying in a regular GP medium tent with no type of environmental controls like most of our predecessors did when they first arrived over here a few years back.
Things would be a LOT better if the military hadn’t lost a whole section of duffle bags on the flight over. And here I thought that lost luggage was limited to only companies like Delta Airlines. All of us packed 4 giant duffle bags and a rucksack of gear which contained the uniforms and gear necessary to survive the next year in country. Most of it is pretty essential stuff and to be without it is sort of like moving to a new house and freakishly losing the moving truck with in route. Included in the 60 person group that are missing their bags are CPT Brendan, SFC Jay and myself, which isn’t a good way to start off the war. Maybe this is an omen that we aren’t suppose to be here. We did get our rucksacks which have a basic change of clothes, some hygiene items and a smattering of sleeping essentials, but that’s about it. They are currently investigating the strange disappearance of the 100 or so duffle bags, but things are looking pretty grim. Borrowing clothes from others is a last resort option, but who wants to lend out their underwear? A better question might be, who would want that underwear back?
26 April 2007
So, as I said before, it looks like this thing is really going to happen. A lot of folks have asked me if I’m ready for this. I guess I am. I know that doesn’t sound as confident as I would like it to but that’s how I feel. I’ve been given a LOT of training and empowered with a lot of information to help me do my job and hopefully, do it well. I’m not sure if I’m anxious to just get this job done with or if I’m just eager to leave Kansas!
People also ask me if I’m scared of getting hurt, or worse. Since most of the injuries have been based on being the unlucky vehicle in the convoy that gets hit, or being in the inopportune place when the random mortar round comes in, the chances of getting hurt are just that: chance. It doesn’t make much sense to be scared of something that is so random that no matter how much training you receive to protect you and your fellow soldiers, or how much armor you burden yourself down with or hide behind, or the degree of firepower you have at your disposal to inflict on the enemy, it won’t matter if you are unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This doesn’t mean that if given the opportunity I won’t use that training, armor, and firepower to make sure me and my fellow soldiers get out of a sticky situation. On the contrary, I don’t plan on making it easy to get hurt. What it does mean is that I’m not going to preoccupy my mind with fear and instead try to focus on the things that are within my control. This may sound all macho and cocky, but it’s not meant to be because the answer to question of whether or not I’m scared is yes; I am a little scared. One would be foolish not to be with the knowledge that there are people out there who are willing to sacrifice themselves and others to hurt you and those around you. But I’m more scared of failing the people who depend on me than of getting hurt or dying.
So with that I will not say goodbye, but rather “so long” since I hope to have internet access on the other side to continue my blogging. Besides, today’s blog has gotten a little too interpersonal for my taste and it’s best to end it before I blather on any more. So in the immortal words of Ben Affleck in the movie Armageddon:
“All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go (how in the hell am I suppose to carry 4 duffles at once?)
I'm standin' here outside your door (or sitting in the bleachers at some gym on post)
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye (don’t wake me from my nap)
But the dawn is breakin', it's early morn (someone has to talk to the Army about sleeping in)
The taxi's waitin', he's blowin' his horn (more like a big yellow school bus)
Already I'm so lonesome I could die (but I’ve got a whole bunch of other folks to share the misery)
So kiss me and smile for me (don’t ask, don’t tell)
Tell me that you'll wait for me (best not to wait cuz this is going to be a while)
Hold me like you'll never let me go (there won’t be a lotta huggin’ going on)
'Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane (a big one at that)
I don't know when I'll be back again (hopefully not 15 months from now)
Oh, babe, I hate to go” (yes... I hate to go, but don’t fret, I shall return)
24 April 2007
For some reason it is very important for Uncle Sam to keep the actual dates and times of deployments all hush-hush, so I’m not going to go into the details of it all. Let’s just say that in the coming week or so, I’ll no longer be on US soil. I’ll gradually lose communication assets as we get closer to the date. First will be the mail service (please don’t send any snail mail as I won’t get it), then the internet, next the cell phone (not that it works much anyway) and then I’ll be “locked down” so as not to leak any info out to family and friends who are desperately trying to find out what’s going on. I’ll pick up coms on the other side at some point and I’ll be able to relay the fun and exciting life of a deployed soldier.
These next few days are full of last minute details, like packing, cleaning and filling out the last bits of paperwork. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pics of the weeks past that I’ve neglected the blog, but we’ll see how things go.
15 April 2007
Just three months ago today I was waking up to my first day back in the Army. For 90 days I’ve been at the whim of the military’s re-indoctrination program and while I’ve learned a lot, I feel like I still have so much I don’t know. In about 2 or 3 weeks from now I’ll be getting on that big iron bird and jump the pond for my assignment. Hopefully they’ll teach me more once I get there... well, actually I’m sure they will. Most of it will be “education through emersion”, or a better analogy might be a sink or swim type of scenario. Regardless, I will be drinking from the fire hose of information and will keep my eyes open and my head down until I get to go home, whether it’s 12 or 15 months.
The military has been cracking down on military blogs as of late which might lead me to leave a lot more information out of the mainstream web than I had intended. So, if I’m a little more vague than usual, please understand.
By the way, I broke down and bought the PSP, although I’ve been too busy to even play with it. I’m sure I’ll have ample opportunities to work on my carpel tunnel syndrome while I’m waiting to board the plane.
04 April 2007
There is a new addiction among soldiers and it goes by the name of PSP (play station portable). What is this PSP I speak of you ask? It is a portable video game that allows you to win the Stanley cup, ride an ATV through a mud course, and fight the forces of evil all from the palm of your grubby little hands. Plus you can watch movies, sort through your picture collection, and listen to MP3s.
Now normally, I’m not a big video gamer. My brother was always able to kick my rear when it came to mastering the hand to eye dexterity for video games so I didn’t get into the whole gaming craz like some other folks (with the exception of a few strategy games on my PC that I dabble in now and then). I do not own a Nintendo, Xbox or Playstation gaming system because they are a) highly addictive and b) I’ve heard of relationships being torn apart by these machines (Not now honey, I’m battling the Germans on my PSP!). When I was at Ft. Benning, a few of my fellow IRR folks bought these things to help pass the time between training sessions and here lies the dilemma; do I break down and buy one? Recently we’ve lost a member of our team to the PSP. He use to hang out with us between breaks but now he delves into the high resolution screen and dukes it out with some animated foe. Like I said, they are great at passing the time away, and best of all you can play against one another (up to 4 players) without any cords! But, if you had so much spare time to waste, it could be better spent hanging out with your friends or reading a book. I could go on all day listing the pros and cons of this addictive system, but I’m still trying to find out if I want to get one for myself. Apparently, the plane ride overseas is about 12 hours long (or more). There are only so many books you can read and so many DVDs you can watch on the laptop before you go batty and need something to help pass the time. Plus, the military practically invented the whole “hurry up and wait” concept, and what better way to pass the time than by challenging your buddy to a virtual game of football?
I’m still in a struggle about this purchase, but I only have a few more weeks to think about it as I will be on a plane headed for the land of sand and the “little PX”.
02 April 2007
It’s been my experience that when the training schedule states that our day will be spent at the Riley Convention Center that it won’t be a day of “good training”. Instead, it will be a duel to the death with the sleep monster and let me tell you my friends, he is a powerful adversary. He has claimed victory over many of my comrades in our prior engagements at the RCC, but by the grace of my friends the Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish and Coca Cola (or the sugar and caffeine they contain), I have not fallen victim to his lullaby attack of stupefied unconsciousness. Okay, maybe I have had the heavy eyes or the head bob now and then and maybe CPT Kevin had to give me a chop to the ribs to keep me from completely succumbing to a full blown upright nap, but I stayed awake, for the most part, to get this valuable training the Army felt that I needed to survive in theater.
I don’t want to trivialize these briefings because it is semi-good information that they are putting out. I can’t help but feel like I’m repeating myself as I try to simultaneously praise and bash the training that they are feeding us. They call it “foundation training” in which they try to tell us a little bit about what the unit we are replacing does in theater and how they fit in the big picture so that we’ll glean some insight of what we’ll be doing when we replace them. Great information, but it would have been nice to get some of this about 6 weeks ago when we were asking ourselves what our jobs were and what in the heck we were doing here. Despite the 8 hours of briefings today I can honestly say that I still don’t have a clue as to what in the heck I’ll be doing. They have us scheduled for 3 more days of this stuff. And to add to the kick in the manhood that we are already receiving, they are slapping us with some night briefings that force us to shove others out of the way in the dinner chow line so that we can make these all important meetings on time. Where was this motivation 6 weeks ago?
The one kernel of good information that I found in the dump truck of fecal matter that they labeled “briefings” today was some good info that I can’t write about since its all secret squirrel stuff. The highlights that I can talk about are the pizza we had for lunch and changing the tire on a Hummer. One good, one bad. Are you feeling the whole ying and yang vibe? I know I am.
On another note, I have some friends of mine who are watching my pet crabs. Yes, that’s right folks... I have crabs. Long story on how I got the hermit crabs, but I’ll save that one for another time. The gist of it is that one is molting, which is a little stressful for the little buggers, not to mention a little weird for the people who witness it as it can look pretty bad. Being foster parents who have only a brief history of managing a “crabitat” and it’s occupants, they are doing a great job of keeping me up to date. Let’s hope for a successful molt and that they don’t get too freaked out.
01 April 2007
Okay, so I haven’t updated much (which Brendan's mom conveniently pointed out to her son). I have an excuse though. I had a busy week. Here is a brief list of my many accomplishments which prevented me from updating my blog:
1. On Monday I stayed awake for the first day of training of BI-LAT training (bilateral negations). Oh this might not seem like a notable achievement, but if you sat in this class listening to the soft mono-toned ramblings of a self proclaimed negotiation expert, I challenge that you too would have succumbed to the ether-like fumes emitting from his motionless mouth.
2. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I helped to successfully negotiate the building of a power plant in the Iraqi village of Al-Hurriya with the local Sheik and his cousin the contractor. I learned that haggling is a favorite pastime for most Middle Easterners and if you are not good at it, then they will make you stay longer in country until you get better. Plus, I drank some official Iraqi tea, although I later found out that the tea was from India. Does the fact that it was made by an Iraqi make it “Iraqi tea”? I guess under that logic, every time I make Pop Tarts they could be considered Korean Toaster Treats.
3. Thursday I was the passenger of a notional mounted combat patrol where I got to dodge notional IEDs, shoot at notional bad guys with notional ammunition in notional villages and throw not so light dead people, err, notional dead people, into the back of my notional gun truck. Notionally, it was a good day of training.
4. Friday I was the commander of the lead truck of the notional (you get the idea) mounted combat patrol and dodged the same IEDs and maneuver around role playing civilians who threw tennis balls (notional rocks) at my truck. Later that day, my truck was blown up and me and my gunner played dead while the rest of the team got to do a MEDEVAC for two other casualties. Both days were very long with highlights including lots of cat naps and book reading.
Dueling Rat Faces
5. Saturday I cleaned weapons and spend a lot of hours taking online computer courses in Microsoft Office. Normally this would be something that could be looked at as a good thing, but after the first few hours of watching demos and examples on my monitor while listening to the canned computer voices tell of the joys of making justified spacing with style changes in PowerPoint, I wanted to punch myself in my groin to make the pain go away.
Today was spent recovering from last night. We shed the chains once again and went out for a bite to eat and somehow ended up at the local dive where MSG Tim was accosted by the local bar fly’s sister. I successfully avoided being squirted in the eye by MSG Tim, however CPT Brendan wasn’t so lucky and spent the rest of the night with a halitosis free eyeball. I played the role of taxi and dropped the gang off at the drinking establishments in the next town where they proceeded to almost get beat up by a fat guy. Overall, a good weekend, for any time spend away from Riley is usually a good time. Granted, it wasn’t as good of a weekend as last weekend, but to actually be considered a weekend I feel that it should consist of two full days and two full nights where we aren’t tethered to the base. I know that there will be a time in the near future where we will long to have these 24 hour liberties away from the base (although we might not want to leave the safety of said bases overseas), we should enjoy every second of freedom while we can.
Here’s to a short week for our 4 day pass looms in the near future. Using Kevin’s logic, which has been proven to be sound, these next 4 days will be the longest ever. Let’s hope he’s wrong.