31 August 2007
I guess that doesn’t really explain my annoyance very well, does it? Maybe a little background information is in order.
Okay, so part of my job is to coordinate different aspects of the supporting the Iraqi borders; mainly the ports of entry. I work with different organizations so that we can coach, teach, and mentor the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement to protect their country from unwanted outside influence (seems pretty ironic, doesn’t it?). In any case, I work with Captain Chris in our engineering cell to ensure that the construction done on site is completed and then report to the higher powers on the various statuses and updates that they are looking for. In a status meeting a few days back, there were some heated questions pertaining a particular generator that was suppose to go to one of our ports. The higher powers asked if the port had power, in which we replied that it did not, but a generator was going to provide power to the port and be installed per the construction schedule. A few days later, the question was asked of the status of that generator and Chris confirmed with the program manager on site that the generator was delivered to the location as previously stated in the meeting two days ago. Then, they asked if it was a new or used generator. Okay, that sounded like a valid question. We queried the project manager on the ground and he said it was new. Then, out of left field, someone who visited the site said that they didn’t see this generator and were concerned that the port would not have power. This caused a stir all the way up to the colonel level again and the question was asked “Does the port have a generator?” The answer was the same as it was a week ago. Yes, we confirmed, the port has a generator. It’s the size of a small VW microbus and it won’t be hooked up until later. But how could that be when a person who visited the site said he couldn’t find it? Well, the person visiting didn’t link up with the project manager who would have showed them the generator was there, waiting to be hooked up.
Now erupted the senseless questions, like a giant “stupid” volcano. Where is this generator? When was it delivered? What size is it? Who signed for it? What color is it? Does it prefer white or wheat bread? Does it have a sister?
At this point I lost it. I tried to call the person requesting this information to ask them why they were so freak’n interested in this generator? Why can’t someone give a status and be held accountable for that report without everyone and their brother asking questions that have no bearing at their level? Why do some individuals feel that micro-managing makes things better? If a colonel, who is paid much more than me, doesn’t believe me when I say something is a certain way, then why am I here? Why doesn’t he run the project for me? The amount of time and effort it would take to call down to the project manager and dig up the kind of miniscule information that was being asked for just so that someone could have their “warm-fuzzy” about power situation at the port would have cost the American tax payer probably in excess of $10,000.
This infuriated me. In fact, it made me upset enough to send a scathing email littered with sarcasm and attitude to the requestor (only because the phones were not getting through to his office) which I also copied to my boss. Subsequently, I was reprimanded for this and told that if I wanted to let off steam next time to go outside and kick the T-wall behind our building.
I think I’ll be beating up a lot of T-walls if this kind of stupidity continues.
I’d take an angry Asian face picture like I normally do when I get frustrated, but I’m too mad to do that. I hope my engineers back home read this and remember this story when I come home and re-assume my job as their team lead. I hope that if I ever get close to micro-managing their projects that they will be professional. I'd want them to compose themselves like a grown up, take a deep breath to clear their thoughts, and politely kick me in my shins.
28 August 2007
The layout of the mess hall can be a little non-conducive to proper gossip and bullcrap sessions. The tables are only made to seat 6, its always crowded and the TVs are always blaring some insignificant sport that interferes with conversation. Seriously, do people actually watch cricket and lacrosse on satellite television? So, we try to arrive at odd meal times to avoid the crowds, we attempt to secure multiple tables that are close by, and we have the “no low talking” rule to avoid missing any juicy bit of info someone might have heard. Rumors run rampant at the captain meals, and since all of us are in different offices, there’s really no way to confirm anything. One day it’s hype over which field grade is getting fired from their position and the next day it’s which soldier got moved into a trailer bigger than Brendan and Kevin’s (that’s usually every soldier). Most of the time the conversation hinges on how much we hate this place and when we think we’ll be leaving here. The rumors are fairly outrageous (“I heard they are extending us all until the end of 2008!”) to the almost plausible (“The last unit only spent 11 months boots on ground, so we should be the same.”). We all know that it doesn’t help to believe in crazy tales based off of half truths, but it’s just a way to entertain ourselves and share in the misery. For a bunch of people recalled to work 15+ hour days away from our family and friends for a year in the middle of nowhere, it’s the only way we stay sane.
Tom W. (Tommy), my former room mate, is the bitter guy who ensures that we all know that it sucks here. Colleen (Col) only comes part time due to her mission requirements, but shares in Tommy’s bitterness. Tom N. is only slightly less bitter than Tom W. but has a sense of humor about it all that festers under a semi-controlled roid educed rage. Kevin (Rhino) is the verifier of all information and the first to tell you that the there is something interesting about this or that. Brendan is the quiet guy in the corner who is a closet dessert junkie (he only takes dessert back to his desk when no one is looking). Stacey is an aide to the general and her travels equip her with many a funny story involving people of much higher rank. Chris, my compadre since Benning, tries to show how much he doesn’t care by doing daring stunts like sleeping at work or taking a day off. Joanna (JoHa) plays the role of big sister to us all, not because she is older than us, but most of our jobs are in her hands since she works in the personnel section. Ryan, my current room mate, is not a regular at the table, but he tries to stop by and tell us how huge he’s getting from working out. There are others that I didn’t mention (Scottie Mack, Claudia, Shane the 1LT, Jen the MP LNO and sometimes Tad), not because they are any less important, but they aren’t the regular crew. They can’t be considered part of the mafia if they don’t frequently contribute to the combined misery.
In all seriousness, they are a good group of officers who are working hard to get the job done (even if they don’t admit it). We are the lowest ranking folks in a world of brass and we do the work long after the field grades go home to their private one room trailers at night. We do some silly things and rip on each other enough to draw attention from those around us, but that’s how we look out for one another. We stick together, pick each other up when we are down, and ensure that we know that we will all get through this, one way or another.
I’ve continually tried to get a picture of this motley crew but am foiled by the “no cameras in the mess hall” rule that is enforced by roving guards. I guess they don’t want us to leak out any DFAC culinary secrets to the bad guys. Most of us are trying to take our 4 day pass together to spend some time outside of the war zone to watch some football and shop. Okay, maybe I should clarify. The guys are going to watch football together and the women are going to shop. Sounds stereotypical, but so does me attempting to take pictures of everybody.
26 August 2007
Link to CPT Corry Tyler's eulogy
God bless him, the soldiers in the Blackhawk with him, and their families.
By the way, I’m now officially one third of the way through my deployment. I’m at the 120 day mark today, which is just shy of four months. I’m trying to keep my head up and focus on the mission, but it's hard not to think about the next break (only two weeks away) which will be my first four day “pass” from theater. I’m looking forward to a short vacation from the routine here, but I wish I was going home on my two weeks of leave instead.
I promise the next blog entry won't be so glum.
We flew in two days ago to Spiecher on a last minute log flight and stayed with the same Marines that started this whole trip, although due to some mission requirements we didn’t see much of them. There was work being done to the power grid in the area so the M*A*S*H tent we occupied last time was absent of power and subsequently lacking in A/C. It made sleeping a little rough, but once the heat dissipated from the concrete barriers and Hescos, the temps dropped to a comfortable 87 degrees.
Now we are back within the confines of the IZ and it’s good to sleep in a familiar environment. I had to bust into my room at three in the morning disturbing Ryan, my trailer mate, from his slumber and I took a long hot shower which probably woke up the neighbors as well. Our walls are just two or three millimeters greater than newsprint. Normally I would try to be considerate of everyone’s sleep time, but I didn’t care as I had to wash the funk of the last 3 days of travel off before I laid down in my bed.
Nine o’clock was the latest I could sleep in before I got up and rolled into work today. It was not something I was looking forward to, but it had to be done because there is much to do. The computer on my desk tells me that I have 248 email messages in the last 10 days that I need to swim through and my boss back here wants a trip report to send to higher before the day’s end, which is very ambitious given my current state of consciousness. While I don’t plan on winning the war today, I do want to take a stab at the pile of work on my desk so I can leave early. I’ve got some laundry to do and I’m thinking that I will take advantage of my comfy mattress cover and semi-reliable A/C for an early rack session.
*Note: This blog and the ones previous to this were written over a week ago during my trip up to the border. I didn’t post them all at once because it would be a lot to read, so I just posted them one at a time to fill in the days.
Also, for those of you who are wondering, Brendan has not deserted the Army in order to coach the Iraqi junior Olympic soccer team nor has he taken up the lucrative career of professional pirated DVD salesman. He is fine, but busy. When he is not battling to save Babel, he is battling Rhino for space in his tiny room.
24 August 2007
Pictures from the early morning convoy
Before my departure from Heider last night, I met a gentleman by the name of Jim Spiri. I didn't know what he did on the base up there as it was obvious that he didn't wear the uniform of a soldier or the attire of a contractor. He was a photographer as far as I could tell and he followed the teams around taking pictures. At first I thought he was one of those combat photo journalists, but it turns out he's just a guy who likes to travel around and write about his visits with the soldiers and Iraqis in this area. He gave me a about half a gig of pictures he took in that area on the condition that I would give him credit for any of the photos I use on my blog. While I didn't add any of his pics these past few days, I did put his link on my site. It's always good to see different perspectives of the war and he and his camera have done a good job of documenting that.
Sykes is probably one of the best kept secrets in the world of FOBs over here. It has a decent mess hall, a small PX, and a huge MWR (morale, welfare and recreation) building. This converted warehouse houses the largest movie theater, gym and rec room I’ve seen over here. There aren’t enough soldiers here to use all of the facilities so it’s never really crowded. After being on the road for the better part of a week, I wanted to go work out but was lacking the proper gym attire to do so. So, I stood in line for the internet access to send back my situation reports and to try and read some email. Unfortunately, the connection was slow and to avoid viruses, they don’t allow thumb drives into the lab. This prevented me from replying all of the emails I wanted to or updating the blog. It was disappointing, but I was glad to be connected to the rest of the world for a little bit.
The phone system requires a type of phone card that I did not have so I had to wait in line for a DSN phone in the terminal. This particular phone was not the greatest, but after several attempts to use my calling card, I got through to wish my girlfriend a happy birthday. Being far away for days like this really brings down morale. Missing important dates is just one of the many reasons these deployments are taxing on relationships. It was a short conversation due to the folks at the terminal waiting to use the phone to make arrangement for their connecting chopper flights, but it was good to hear a familiar voice after being on the road for so long. I told her to call and tell my folks I’m still alive and I’m sure she’ll do just that after she’s finished partying for her birthday. I miss her, and I wish I was there to spend her birthday with her.
The terminal has become our second home here. At least the A/C works.
We are in waiting mode, again, I’m tasked with typing up trip reports and task matrix for all of the things we need to do when we get back to our home base. It might still take 4 more days to get there, but I’ve got enough work to hold me over for a few days. Thank goodness I brought my computer.
Sunset last night at the port. Bye Bye Hippster!
23 August 2007
- Floating parking lots
- A cat that acts drunk, but really isn’t
- Extreme load bearing tests of the roof on a 1978 Chevy Suburban
- A friend of a friend who I haven’t seen in over 7 years
- A bird nest, in the hallway of the Iraqi Customs Security Building
- The ridiculousness that ensues when a general officer wants to tour of the port facility
Since I ended last time with a sad story about a cat, let me start this blog off with a feel good story that involves a cat. Let me tell you about Hippster. Hippster is a young stray cat that has become the unofficial mascot of the POETT at Haider. He should, for all intents and purposes, be dead. As a kitten he got into some rat poison which messed him up pretty good. It affected his muscle motor control which robs him of the sleek and graceful movement of a normal cat and replaced it with the gait of a drunkard. He walks sideways most of the time and frequently falls down for no apparent reason. His disability doesn’t stop him from being a cat though. He chases flies, climbs Hesco barriers and loves attention just like your typical feline. If it wasn’t for the POETT caring for him thus earning him the title of best fed cat in Iraq, he never would have survived his first kitty birthday in this harsh environment. He’s got good protection now, just as long as he doesn’t start side stepping up the grain tower stairs any time soon.
Yesterday and today was spent getting ready for a big visit from some high ranking folks at the POE. It was just coincident that LTC Ron and I were here for the tour and we were witness to a magical transformation of the port that only happens when important people come calling. Barriers were suddenly painted bright white, workers were actually wearing uniforms and trash that normally litters the place was partially picked up. In the last 24 hours, they tidied the entire port up in preparation for an Iraqi and US General visit. I guess it’s really no different than what we would do in the Army, or for that matter, what any normal person would do. If you have guest coming over, you tend to clean the dishes in the sink, hit the visible areas with a duster and even pick up the dirty laundry on the floor. I think it’s human nature to do that, but in this case it seems counterproductive to our efforts to make things better. A fresh coat of paint just hides the desperate need for infrastructure improvements, litter picked up from the vehicle inspection lot doesn’t allow one to see that the lot is made of roofing tar poured on the ground instead of asphalt or concrete, and a clean, pressed uniform only conceals the corruption of the person wearing it. Sometimes I think the high ranking individuals forget the lessons they should have learned with their rank and their little “visits” don’t accomplish anything but getting everyone into a frenzy to put on a show that doesn’t reflect truth.
5 star accomodations
The one good thing about the tour happened before the entourage showed up. I was sitting in the largest room the unit had for briefings when I noticed a guy sitting near the refrigerator that I recognized, or at least I thought I did. Turned out that he was a friend of a friend that I only briefly met many moons ago that I didn’t recognize because he had a mustache (and I think he put on some weight). Our mutual friends from Kansas had told each other that we would be in country at the same time, but Iraq is a big place. The chances of me getting to the border where he now worked were one in a million, but here we were, shooting the bull about our different experiences in the land of sand. It’s a small Army.
Bird nest in the hallway of the port
Our mission should end tonight as we catch two helos leaving for Sykes, although with our luck on transportation, this is more hopeful thinking than an actual plan. It’s been a good visit here to the border and I have a new sense of purpose in my job to help the port team and their mission at Rabea’a. Although the team didn’t have much, they offered up the little space they had, they fed us grilled food from their personal stash when our only other options were MREs or tainted MKT (mobile kitchen trailer) food, and they made two relative strangers feel welcome in a very foreign place. I feel vested in the future of their assignment here and having a goal will keep me focused (and that should make the time go by faster, I hope).
I don't know what's sadder, the fact that Love-a-Lot Bear is co-pilot of this truck or that I know his name is Love-a-Lot.
20 August 2007
- The largest flock of sheep I’ve ever seen (stretched a good 2 or 3 square acres)
- A Mexican standoff between a HMMWV and a donkey (can it be considered a “Mexican” standoff if it’s an Iraqi donkey?)
- Cow tipping, US Army style
- A HMMWV playing chicken with, you guessed it, a chicken
- Creative uses for a grain warehouse – or – the sad excuse for a stable living area for soldiers
- A two story pile of potato chips
- A flying cat
Last night we convoyed to our final destination. After countless cancelled flights and multiple visits to many airbases, I now sit in the Iraqi port of entry (POE) known as Rabea’a. Actually, I’m currently sitting in the FOB adjacent to the port because the port isn’t the type of place to just hang out and type blogs. In fact, it’s utter chaos over there, but I’ll get to that in a little bit. First let me tell you the interesting long distance convoy. Yesterday we left FOB Sykes when our pick up came a little earlier than we expected. Instead of a dusk trip where there was a chance of cooler weather, we departed under a hot high sun for what felt like a very long ride. The POETT (Port of Entry Transition Team) picked us up in up-armored HMMWVs, which as we all know is the vehicle of choice when one travels through a part of town where people shoot at you. Because we were just lowly passengers, LTC Ron and I couldn’t pick a seat up front or in the turret (no calling “shotgun” in this scenario). Instead, we sat in the cheap seats in the back and relaxed for a leisurely stroll through Tal Afar and points beyond. We were always told that things are greener up in Northern Iraq and have heard stories of lush fields of grass and droves of trees with a backdrop of the picturesque snow capped Sinjar Mountains. I’m not sure if it was due to the fact that it’s the middle of the hottest month of the year or everyone was lying to me, but I failed to see much green let alone snow. The terrain actually reminded me of west Texas with vast amounts of rolling rocky dirt speckled with small patches of scrub. What wasn’t covered in dust or pebbles was taken up by sheep. Lots and lots of sheep. Apparently the sheep are very coveted in this area for their wool and their meat, which makes them a prime target for smuggling. That’s right, you heard it here first; sheep smuggling is a serious problem in Iraq and the coalition needs to do something about it. Who knew? Sheep aren’t the only wildlife in this area. Donkey carts appear to be the primary mode of transportation in the smaller villages we passed through, and you’ll even run into a few cows on the road (literally).
Look at the LTC, all cozy in his back seat Hummer ride
After the trip in the sweat-box, we arrived at FOB Heider around dinner time. We threw our gear in the deluxe accommodations of the former “grain storage warehouse turned makeshift barracks” and tried to get over the excitement that we actually made it where no other Border Forces team member from Baghdad has made it before. We wanted to find out what was going on at the port, assess the progress of the transition, streamline procedures and resolve infrastructure issues (we had a lot of spare time to excited about this) but it was getting late and the port closed at nightfall. The Army Major in charge of the POETT gave us a Cliff-notes version of how things were going and said that we could address more of the issues tomorrow once we actually got on the port. The Major, a special forces/ranger type who just left his command of a SF Team, was initially not very receptive to us. In fact, he didn’t even know we were coming and what we were here to do. It made him and his team, which consisted of military, Department of Homeland Security agents, and a handful of contractors very stand offish. We learned that there was a significant breakdown in communication and promised ourselves not to rely on someone else coordinating our movements in the future. Anyway, after some explaining what we were here to do (mainly help them and their mission), they warmed up to us, but like us, they were tired of after a day of traveling in the heat. We called it a night and departed for our 4 star room with the satisfaction that we were here.
FOB Heider is located next to POE Rabea’a, which is located west of Mosul on the Syrian border. POE Rabea’a is one of 2 open ports of entry into Iraq from Syria. With over 4000 pedestrians and 400 trucks a day moving through the port, it provides a major source of income for the government of Iraq through taxes and duties of oil and goods traveling between the countries. Different ministries operate out of the port to collect fees to include the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Oil, Ministry of Transportation and my personal favorite, Ministry of Tourism. And let’s not forget the most prominent ministry on the port, and that would be the Ministry of Pocket, which is in reference to the corruption that exists in places like this. Now Syria isn’t the best when it comes to regulating the people or products who enter and leave their country, so some of those undesirable tend to leach into Iraq through the ports and borders. We as the coalition and the Iraqi government both have a stake in preventing these undesirables (and we’re not talking about sheep here) from entering the country, which explains the strong US presence. Without getting into the details, the Major and his small team have an important mission and they do it with virtually no support, which is the main reason the LTC and I took 6 days to get here.
The makeshift housing. By the way, those are concrete roof truses, that are not very stable.
Mound - o - chips
Oh, in regards to the competition between the HMMWV and the chicken... the HMMWV won.
It's a little fuzzy, but the temp is 120. And I thought it was suppose to be cooler up north!
19 August 2007
Okay, we were a little concerned, but as the sun started to dip behind a distant berm we heard the familiar thud of UH-60 Blackhawks, a sound that I normally scorn since my living trailer back in Baghdad is next to a landing zone. A forceful dust storm proceeded the landing of two helos on this little remote pad and a gunner directed us to approach the bird. We couldn’t help but feel a little important. I mean two Blackhawk helicopters were sent across the country to come pick up the two of us, a light colonel and little ol’ captain. We had to be somebody to rate our very own choppers! The gunner ignored our giddy excitement of our new found status and exchanged some cursory information.
Helos to the rescue!
“Good evening sir. Are you the two officers we’re suppose to pick up?”
“I guess so, because I don’t see another human being for miles around.”
“Where are you going sir?”
“Going to FOB Spiecher.”
“Roger that sir. Which landing zone?”
“Not sure. We didn’t realize that there were multiple locations. The Marines said that they were sending a few helos to come get us. Can you take us to the nearest Marine unit on the FOB?”
“Sir, I’m not sure where the Marines are on Spiecher.”
“Umm. Okay. Can you just take us away from here? We lost our VIP room.”
After a smooth flight across barren landscape of Anbar Province bathed in a warm orange glow of the quickly setting sun, we landed an hour later at FOB Spiecher in the complete blackness of a desert night, clueless to where we were or where to go. Across the tarmac I lugged my gear to a set of lights and found that the Marines we were looking for lived a mere 45 yards away. How lucky was that? We stumbled into their TOC (tactical operation center) hidden in an enclave of T-walls and Hesco barriers under a Semper Fi flag. Our reception into their operation center, which also served as their living quarters, resembled a reunion of long lost friends. With open arms they offered us water, food, and a place to rest, all the while apologizing for the mess up in the flights. They took us on a nickel tour of the office and without our knowledge, swept our gear up and placed it on cots in an air conditioned tent just around the corner. I think that if they had mints to put on our beds or knew how to make funny animals out of towels, they would have done both. Weary from traveling, we retired to our tent, glad to be away from Al Asad.
And that is how we were rescued by the Marines.
We woke up this morning in our MASH like tent to the sounds of choppers and UAVs racing into the fight. The Marines are now busy beating up on an Army team in softball and today I’m rooting for the Marines. The LTC and I are just waiting for the next leg of our journey after trekking the half mile to the nearest chow hall and being introduced to the “co-ed” toilet and shower facilities. Interesting. Okay, maybe not that interesting. The shower trailer has a sliding sign to denote the sex of the occupants, but we were informed that it is always wise to knock so that no one is surprised. The toilet trailer, now there is a different story. It has a row of stalls and sinks, absent of the normal stand up urinals. Really not that far out of a concept due to the limited space here, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little weird to use a stall in a bathroom and hear a woman’s voice in the next stall. Making eye contact at the sinks afterwards is also a little awkward.
18 August 2007
These vehicles fill the small niche in the lack of personal transportation here; the perfect compromise between riding a bike (and looking ridiculous with your helmet and armor on) and being tied to the bus route. I’m not sure what the appeal is about them. Maybe it’s the fact I never had a go cart as a kid. Jealous was the 12 year old whose friend had an acre of land and a lawnmower powered source of transportation. Everyone took turns zooming around a pseudo dirt track before you ran out of gas or someone ran into something, thus rendering the vehicle inoperable for the rest of the afternoon (or if you were too short to reach the break and drove off into a ditch). A two seater was even better because you could double the enjoyment. It was always preferable to be the driver, but a passenger, with dirt and rocks flying up and hitting you in the head, had the ability enjoy in the fun and convince the driver that he didn’t have a hair on his ass if he didn’t take that jump at full throttle. Looking at the practicality of it, I don’t even know what I would do with a two seater ATV back home. It’s not like I’m a hunter who needs a utility vehicle to haul his elk carcass out of the backwoods or a ranch owner that needs a mode of transportation to check out the back forty acres. If I wanted a “fun” vehicle, I could get a dirt bike, or even a regular one person ATV. They are both much cheaper, faster and they don’t have the “jacked up golf cart” look to them. I have friends who have single seat ATVs they use for hunting, and unless you have your own you can’t really go riding with them. Face it, there is just no cool way to fit two guys on a bike or ATV, which is one of the many manly reasons for getting a side by side. Seeing the folks zip around here in these mini utility vehicles makes me wish I lived on a farm to justify purchasing one when I get back. Some already come with windshields, dump beds, stereos, and even have A/C! Of course I would modify it by adding a massive roll cage adorned with flood lights, a winch, a push bumper, trailer hitch, maybe some chrome or brushed aluminum wheels, and a 5 point racing harness for the driver and passenger. Did I mention the custom paint job with chrome flames? I’d want to keep the functionality of it without turning it into a sand rail or dune buggy, therefore it has to have the option of adding a lawn mower attachment to it for when I get too old to blaze trails.
I think the appeal has to do with the freedom they represent here in Iraq. Not very many people have their own dedicated transportation. Those who are not fortunate enough to have a job that assigns them their very own Ford Explorer to drive wherever they wish (within the confines of the base of course) are slaves to the bus schedule. For people who live in big cities and frequently use public transportation, this does not pose a dilemma for them, but even the seasoned urban commuter will frown at the fact that our buses never run on time and waiting outside in 110+ temps in your battle rattle is far from fun.
So, when I get home, I will fight the urge to run out to my local Polaris dealer and start outfitting a tricked out 4 wheeler (and a matching trailer) which will just take up space in the garage next to my road bike, my mountain bike, and workbench, only to get the standard coating of saw dust that all my toys get after a winter of woodworking. Instead, I’ll just add this to my wish list, which includes a Waverunner, a bass boat, and a house (not necessarily in any order of priority). In the meantime, I can still look at them with an envious eye and dream of making up for the various off-road adventures I missed out on as a kid.
Still stuck here in Al Asad. Maybe we'll leave tomorrow.
17 August 2007
Al Asad Airbase is our home for the next who knows how many days. Thanks to my boss, we are staying in the VIP billeting. The two bunk beds, miniature TV and couch inside the hanger says that it’s for important guests, but the brooms and trash stacked in the corner says this is nothing more than a storage closet. Our 5 man team is waiting on air transportation to get to our next destination, which is a common theme here in Iraq. You tend to do a LOT of waiting on the next airplane or helicopter which are frequently delayed due to weather or other high priority missions. Sitting around in a hanger waiting for the next flight manifest can suck the life out of you, but I’m armed with enough books to keep me occupied for at least a couple of days, and when I run out of reading material, I can always watch the big screen TV with the sketchy satellite reception. Right now, George Bush is on the tube giving a brief, although it looks more like watching Max Headroom than the commander in chief.
What ever happened to Max Headroom anyway?
07 August 2007
Most escapes are only day trips thus making the excitement of freedom short lived. On occasion, these excursions cover multiple days in order to reach far off destinations, of which I’ve been privy to only a few such outings. More often than not, trips last a lot longer than one packs enough clean clothes for because time waiting for military flight availability and unpredictable weather constantly try to outlasting your supply of dry underwear. Who in their right mind packs 4 t-shirts for a 2 day trip or better yet, who takes up room in their pack for a blanket while traveling in a desert in the middle of summer? After a few days sweating on a hot tarmac of some distant landing zone or freezing beneath an air conditioning vent in a tent, you quickly learn to pack for the unpredictable.
On a serious note, we have soldiers who go out every day, sometimes multiple times, in order to protect our movements from place to place. These young soldiers of the convoy companies are true warriors who risk their lives doing what they do so that I can sit here and complain about how I hate to sit behind my computer each day. Every one of them is a hero in my book and I can’t thank them enough.
So, although I’ve been absent from the blog scene for a few, it looks like I’ll be gone for a little while longer. The availability of power, time and access will determine how much I can update the site, but then again, absence of those things have never stopped me from trying before.
Mom and Dad, don’t worry. I’ll be safe.