31 October 2007

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone!

I have this tradition when I pass out candy at home. I load up the largest bowl I have in my inventory with candy and treats in preparation for the onslaught of trick-or-treaters that would parade through my neighborhood. When the doorbell rang or if there was scurrying outside my door, I would open the door really fast to see the kids in their outfits and give them handfuls of whatever pre-wrapped confectionary that I happen to have purchased the week prior. None of this “one miniature Snicker for the Ninja Turtle,” or “one individually wrapped Twizzler for the mini Mr. T.,” crap that I use to get as a kid. And if the kids have a real good outfit that shows they took some creative thinking to put together, I give them gobs of candy. This theory backfires sometimes because I once filled a small child’s plastic pumpkin to the top with candy because of her costume was that great. Instead of smiling or saying thank you, she looked up at her mom, gave the saddest little frown I’ve ever seen and cried, “Does this mean I have to go home now that my basket is full?”

Another Halloween I was recovering from an injury so my mobility to the front door was a little hampered. So, I just set myself up in a chair and when someone would open the door for me, I would just throw candy at the kids to see if I could get it in their bags or buckets. This bit of fun only lasted for a sortie or two as the kids tended to fight their way into the house to get the pieces that were deflected to the floor of the entryway. Fun to watch, but frowned at by parents with little tykes who could have been trampled by the candy grubbing stampede.

I also put a few cans of lima beans and pinto beans by the side of the door for kids who are old enough to shave or the ones who come begging for food without even trying to put on a costume.

This is a lot of reminiscing of being home right now and really doesn’t address what I’m doing here. Reason for that is we really aren’t doing anything different. We had a pumpkin carving contest and one of the generals passed out candy to the directors in our unit, but that’s about it. We do have fun with one of those motion sensor bowls that has a hand in it that moves when you try to take something from it’s clutches. It’s something I think everyone back in the states have owned or seen in the displays at the local grocery store. Lucky for us the Iraqis that work in our building are not familiar with these contraptions and it is funny to see them get spooked by the phantom claw that tries to catch their hands. It provides almost hours of enjoyment. And, just to up the bid for craziest Halloween in Iraq, Chris was locked in a duel to the masticating death in an M&M eating contest with a civilian in his section. Yes folks, after staving off diabetic shock and potential lock-jaw, he managed to down 7 bags of M&Ms in 6 minutes without puking them up. Ladies and gentlemen, let it be known that he is the person that will win this war.

Not only is it another holiday down, but it’s also another month of this deployment behind me. The more behind me means the fewer are in front of me.

The victor of the M&M eating contest

The pumpkin has done a lot of work here

This is the result of the combination of boredom and pipe cleaners

Yes, this is Rhino and he has not destroyed this pumpkin...yet

Pumpkin carving contest at the DFAC

27 October 2007


13.1 Miles is half of a marathon
2 Quarts is half of a gallon of milk
Fifty Cents is a rapper, and also half of a dollar

What's the point? Today is the half-way mark for the deployment, or more specifically, today is the half way mark for what is commonly called "boots on ground". For those of us who have a one year commitment to the cause, this is our midway point. That would be 182.5 days out of 365. There are plenty of active duty folks who are playing the not so fun 15 month game, but there are also tons of others who get to do the whole six month “mini-deployment” schedule. If I was one of the lucky Air Force or Marines fortunate enough to get a gig like that, I'd be packing my bags and getting on a plane today. What's even more disheartening is that there are short-tour people who arrived after me and will leave before me. No matter. As long as we all go home in one piece, then life is good.

So, let’s recap the last 6 months of this fun filled deployment. It started out with a short lay over in Kuwait where we dodged sand storms, shot at camels (not on purpose), and acclimated (which is a fancy word for sweating your rear off). From there, we took a not so enjoyable plane ride up to Baghdad and were dropped off at the abandoned soccer field of our FOB (which was just cratered prior to us arriving by bad guy incoming rockets). We spent the next month or so dodging mortar barrages, learning our jobs, and if our sweat glands didn’t learn how to acclimate in Kuwait, they got a crash course in how to work double-time here in Baghdad. I made some trips out and about which earned me the role of designated driver and makeshift PSD (personal security detail) for the myriad of field grade officers in my team. And because someone saw that my rifle looked different from everyone else’s, they made me the quick reaction force commander to somehow defend the fort less we get run over by insurgents (lucky me). I made a few trips along the way to the borders, from the south near the gulf, to the west, and to the north west. I’ve chucked rocks (and cats) into Syria, snapped pictures of Iran from a helicopter and have even peed in the Persian Gulf. I’ve ridden in every form of utility rotary aircraft here (save the Osprey because it’s too new) and I’ve done more convoys than I can shake a stick at. I’ve spent a total of 26 days sleeping outside the “wire”, although 7 of them were for my pass. I’ve made friends with 1 dog, 2 cats, 1 mouse, a lizard, and countless blood thirsty mosquitoes. I’ve lived in two different trailers, had two different room mates, and have spent more time in body armor and in a bunker than I would have liked. I’ve eaten Pizza Hut in Qatar, real eggs in Rabea’a (I can only assume that they were from a chicken), had meals with the Iraqis in Baghdad (still alive too), and have most likely consumed a five gallon tub of Baskin Robin’s ice cream by myself over the course of my stint here. I’ve run over 275 miles (on average) on the treadmill and running track, lost 10 lbs of blubber, and gained 10 lbs of ice cream. I’ve received more boxes than I can count, enough letters to fill a boot box, and have written over 96 blog entries.

I’ve come a long way, and like I wrote before, today is the day I summit the mountain of this deployment. From here I can take a good look at the past six months and see all that I’ve done to get me where I am today. I can also gaze wantonly on the completion of my deployment that lies at the end of the downward path in front of me. This makes me ecstatic, especially when I know that my mid tour leave is only 2 months away.

So, if well begun is half done, then half way done is pretty sweet.

Morale isn't as low as it was, but still low

As a wee lad growing up in Detroit, I remember my grandmother telling me the old adage, “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” It’s a wise saying that was probably made up by some poor soul who had a friend in the Army in order to politely tell that soldier that they complained too much. Regardless, it is an attempt to tell the whiners of the world that while we know things get tough and life sucks, we only want to hear about it in short spurts. If it takes longer than a commercial break to complain about something, then maybe you should wait until you can put a positive spin on it. I see too many military blogs where people just complain about their plight. Yes, it sucks, but all that bitching just makes the support structure back home worry. We will all have our share of good and bad days, but the hard thing to do is refrain from spilling the poison and wait until you can see things in a different light. I started reading some of my older blogs and found that I was getting a little more cynical lately. Things are hard here and things get tougher when there are problems at home that you are powerless to affect. Complaining about it doesn't make it all better.

I have been absent from writing lately because I didn’t have anything positive to say. Morale was low for a variety of reasons but it has significantly improved in some areas while it simultaneously got worse in others. Oh the joys of deployment. I have had a lot of support through these rough days; from members of the Mafia, from mothers of members of the Mafia, and from coworkers, friends and family back home. From packages to emails and even a letter or two, I’ve received more support than one person deserves and I will be forever grateful. Leading off with the most support are my mom and dad, or more specifically my mom. It’s not that my dad doesn’t support me, but I think it was just that my mom was hogging the computer to make sure she sent out a lot of long emails in order to get me out of my funk. Sometimes its in the form of tough love, but the important thing is that they love and support me.

I also have a wonderful girlfriend who has been an angel through all of this. Not only did she help prepare me for this difficult time, she has continued to send her love and support in what you would call an extremely difficult long distance relationship. Most people tend to focus on the folks who are actually deployed, worrying about them getting hurt or worse, but for every person in uniform over here there is someone back in the US who is struggling to keep the home fires burning until our safe return. We must not forget about these wonderful people. Alissa is one of the most wonderful people for me and it is good to know that she has family and friends nearby to get her through her own tough times. She and I have had some rough points in our history, some of which have come up lately as we approach the 6 month mark, but we are strong and we love each other and are working through things which is difficult given where we are at. She is a wonderful person and our relationship is what keeps my hope alive. Without hope, well, I would hate to imagine what life would be like without the important things like hope and dreams. I will see her and my family in about 2 months, and I can hardly describe how anxious I am for that day to come.

I don’t like airing out the details my problems in a public forum, but I can say that things are better now thanks to the support of some wonderful people. Morale is still a little low right now, but it's getting better due to the "surge" of support, hope and love I've received. I’m about to crest this deployment mountain before me and I pray that the downhill side will be easier and faster than the first part.

Thank you everyone.

22 October 2007


Morale is low today. Dare I say, it is the lowest. No witty banter, no pictures of stupid crap. Just low morale. Not much else to write besides that.

19 October 2007

Boxes and Desk

I get teased sometimes because of the mail I get. Not so much for the contents, but more for the quantity. Everyone thinks I get a ton of packages and correspondences, but what they don’t realized that I am the mail clerk for our section. This means that when I come schlepping through the building with boxes stacked up to my eyeballs and my cargo pockets stuffed with envelopes, they all aren’t all for me. However, I will admit that it does give me a boost in the popularity department.

The most recent pile o' goodies

I get a decent amount of mail thanks to some awesome parents, a great girlfriend, and the generosity of many family, friends and church groups that somehow acquired my overseas address. The amount ebbs and flows as the seasons change. The postman delivered a plethora of packages around the 4th of July containing flags and summertime items, but things slowed down a little after that with the lack of a real holiday in August and September. Now with Halloween right around the corner, we are getting the first batches of candy and pumpkin paraphernalia. Amazingly enough, some of the mini chocolate candy bars actually made it intact, although the gummy spiders didn’t fair so well as they look more like gummy blobs than scary, sugary arachnids. No matter. They all taste the same. Also, I have a veritable mountain of popcorn balls. Although I’m positive that their purpose was to bring joy to folks by consuming them, they now bring pain to the bystandards who get pelted with them (not the original intent, I’m sure).

Balls of semi-healthy snacks, or potential projectiles? I'm thinking the latter.

I do get some other cool things that end up as knick knacks on my desk. You’ve seen Gumby and Pokey proudly displayed, but there are other items like my floating basketball hoop set, my arsenal of water guns, a pool table, squish balls, gliders, Mr. Bendy, and some miniature construction equipment. Now there is even a pumpkin patch growing above my computer! All of these trinkets can make the desk seem a little cluttered and untidy, but I don’t care. The stacks of toys and pile o’ gourds are reminders of people back home who haven’t forgotten that I’m still deployed.

One of my coolest knick-knacks pushing a pistachio (send more pistachios!)

So, thank you one and all for the packages of goodies. If it wasn’t for your Costco memberships and mastery of navigating the postal customs form, my team mates would be a little slimmer (and sadder) and the Iraqis that we work with would go home empty handed.

Believe it or not, but there is actual work done at this heap o' stuff

17 October 2007


These past few days of chasing my tail at work has tired my resolve to stay positive. Couple that feeling with a comment on my last entry and I am coming to the realization that I feel more like a mouse in a maze than a soldier contributing to the rebuilding of Iraq. The high walls that both close us in and protect us from incoming also keeps me from witnessing the fruit of my daily labor. The network of red tape we navigate through to get projects complete is complicated by our cultural differences with the Iraqis and our unwillingness to let them fail at anything. What ever happened to the “teach a man to fish” cliché? I think it’s a good saying, very applicable to our mission here, but at times it feels like the brass is more concerned about showing reports of all the equipment we’ve given the Iraqi’s instead of educating a struggling government on how to procure the gear themselves. An Iraqi asking the current coalition force leadership how to make things better is much like a hungry man consulting the Long John Silvers cashier for fly rod casting techniques. We give them everything they need so they don’t let a mission fail, and the Iraqi’s know this. Instead of assuming the role of teachers and advisors, we more closely resemble the reluctant father teaching his child to ride a bike for the first time. If the child knows that someone is always going to be there to catch them if they lose their balance, then what incentive do they have to try to do it on their own? In my opinion, we need to let them fall. I’m not talking about just giving them a bike and walking away, but we need to let them get the bumps and bruises to do it on their own without depending on us to always be there to bail them out. We can give them pointers and maybe even a good shove now and then, but they need to want learn to do this on their own and make efforts to gain that independence. It’s the only way we’ll ever leave this place and not have to send our kids over here to finish the things we didn’t complete.

I have a sour attitude today that is borderline bitter, but despite my negativity, we are doing good here (take that skeptics!). It’s painfully slow and frustrating when progress is at glacial speeds, but we are making gains in areas that I’ll probably not be around here to see. In the meantime, I’ll keep scurrying about the labyrinth of “reconstruction” searching for the cheese. And when I say cheese, I’m not referring to a philosophical representation of national peace for the country of Iraq. I’m referring to the day that I depart from this place for my leave. Yes, it is short sighted and selfish, but the thought of going home, even for a little bit, is the only thing that keeps me motivated to put on my body armor each morning and trudge through another day.

Worthless fact of the day:

Did you know that Mr. T’s real name was Laurence Tureaud? He changed his name to Mr. T so that everyone would have to address him as “Mister”. I think if Clubber Lang came over to Iraq, all the kids would call him “Mee-ster T”.

16 October 2007


My arch nemesis is back…

…and this time he’s not alone. He’s brought a thousand of his closest relatives and even a few hundred friends he picked up from the garbage heap across the river. All of them are converging on the IZ with one sole purpose to their maggot born life; to fly in my ear and up my nose. Argh!

As I’ve noted before, the weather is getting cooler here, which I thought was a good thing. I think it only broke 100 degrees once or twice this last week with most days topping off around the high 90’s. There is even rumor of the high tomorrow getting to scalding 85 degrees! The milder weather has brought about a second spring here. Flowering bushes and roses, reduced to shriveled twigs by the oppressive summer heat, are now replacing their dirty browns with shades of green and are re-blooming again with the onset of autumn. Brisk mornings, singing birds and blossoming plants are all good things, right? Well, they should be. Everything would be perfect if it wasn’t for the re-emergence of the bugs. I’m now hunted at night by bloodthirsty mosquitoes and the flies spend most of the day buzzing around my head forcing us to beat each other profusely with fly swatters to keep them at bay.

So it begs the question, is it better to have bugs harassing you night and day until you lose your mind or to have 120 degree temps cook your brain inside your own helmet? I’m saying neither as I wait patiently for winter to come to Iraq. Let’s hope it come soon as I’m not sure how much longer before we graduate from plastic fly swatters to bullets.
Oh, on top of the bugs, we are seeing other critters like our friend Fival here. He lives under my desk.

Even though I’ve changed desks from one side of the isle to the other, he still makes frequent visits in hopes that I’ve dropped a pistachio or other morsel of food. I wonder if he can be trained to eat flies?

15 October 2007


Uncle Sam likes me. Not only did he treat me to an all expenses paid vacation to the sunny Middle East, but he also outfits me with a complete snazzy wardrobe to wear while I’m here and feeds me as much curry chicken, mushy ravioli and rubber lobster that my stomach can handle. Just recently he decided that I’m worthy enough for some protection around my living quarters from the mortars that get lobbed into our area now and then. I’ve been here going on 6 months and my trailer lacked any sort of protection from incoming, not even a sandbag (but I did have a cool ACU patterned blanket that was good to keep the dust and mosquitos off me). Part of this lack in protection is due to the fact that I live in a “stack” and they didn’t have a lot of barriers that reach to the height of my roof. The other reason is that they hate captains, which is why a majority of the crappy real estate is occupied by the O-3s.

I’m not quite sure why they waited this long to afford us the protection enjoyed by the other trailers on the base (both of higher and lower rank). The reason could be that we were waiting on a new force protection budget to be approved. Funny how we can spend roughly $178 a second to purchase pants and sunglasses for the Iraqi police forces but we can’t afford to emplace a $1,000 barrier to protect the trailers on our own bases. Maybe they were lacking the barriers in country. The normal barriers are called T-Walls (short for Texas Barrier) which don’t reach as high as the second floor. Maybe it’s because we passed the magic “1,000th rocket” mark and this is our consolation price for going this long without getting wacked. Whatever the real reason may be, it’s irrelevant because my trailer is now surround by thick hardened walls which makes me feel all warm inside. Funny how one can find comfort in something as simple as reinforced concrete.

I hoped that the addition of these gray fortress walls would protect my tin trailer from vibrating apart by all of the helicopters that like to fly right over the roof. Instead of making it quieter, it just makes it sound like I live in a seashell...with helicopters flying over the opening.

The placement took away my elevated view of the compound from my upper porch area, but that’s okay. I’ll exchange pretty sunsets for protection from exploding shrapnel any day of the week.

Ah, the days of unhampered views over the mortared soccer field

What's this? They're closing us in!

They installed what they like to call “Alaska Barriers” which are much higher than the T-walls. Does this mean that next bigger size will be called “Australia Barriers”?

11 October 2007

Which is it?

This is the back of an envelope I received today. Although it contained a wonderful card, I was perplexed by the stickers on the envelope and the image they were trying to portray.

So, I ask you, which of the two scenarios do you think is most representative of the picture? Is it:

a) Two happy and frolicking frogs hopping around at the excitement of playing with their new friend Mrs. Ladybug


b) Two crazed amphibians spaced out on meth, stalking their next meal

I'm guessing "a", but it's open for interpretation.

08 October 2007

Welcome home Jim Spiri

I never claimed to be a writer. Just ask my EN302 professor or my AP English teacher from high school. From my ignorance of how to properly punctuate a sentence to my habitual dependence on my computer’s spell checker, I am nothing but a hack at this game of wordsmithing. Just because I type a page or two of words on a computer, it doesn’t give me the credentials to be a writer.

This fact does not stop me from writing though.

My blog is just a venue to tell of my experiences here in Iraq. I created it for my family and friends and it focuses on my day to day happenings from my point of view which is why it’s closer to a journal than to any sort of real journalism. It has the smell of a voyeuristic diary with a smidgen of sarcasm for good measure, but there are people out there who tell the story of Iraq with much better flavor than me.

I’ve come across some good writers in my surfing of the web and I’ve highlighted them in the past. Check out the right side of this page and you’ll see the links to a few of their sites. Most are of fellow IRR officers I know or of friends back home. Two of note are Michael Yon and Jim Spiri. I read Mr. Yon’s articles a long time ago and supported his style of journalism because it focused on events that were not in the mainstream news. Two months ago I started reading the Philadelphia Newspaper site featuring Mr. Jim Spiri.

I first mentioned Jim back in August when I met him on one of my border visits. Standing outside a kitchen tent in the light of a sun setting over Syria, we swapped stories of our experiences and why we were in the middle of nowhere. He was a contractor helping with air movement in Kuwait and I was an IRR call back up from the IZ visiting the port we were standing in. Both the IZ and Kuwait were a long ways away from northern Iraq, so we took a minute to explain what we were doing there. I was informed that he was no longer a contractor but was traveling Iraq, collecting stories and taking pictures and documenting them in a blog on philly.com. It wasn’t until I returned to the IZ that I could start reading his entries and I saw that his stories portrayed a realism not seen in other news mediums. I passed the word out to my family and friends about this man on a mission and they soon followed me in tracking his progress across the country. Jim and his camera, a Nikon that was replaced 3 times during his time in the desert, followed soldiers and marines doing their day to day missions all over Iraq. From maintaining a fleet of unmanned drone aircraft to walking the beat in Fallujah, he has done an exemplary job of recording the lives and missions of the military forces in country. This is important because the people back home don’t get to see a lot of what is going on here, with the exception of the aftermath of a car-bomb in Baghdad or some important general pontificating about when they think we’ll start sending troops home. And the best part about it is that Jim wasn’t a paid journalist trying to gain any particular fame nor was he tied to the constraints of a finicky editor more concerned about selling papers than relaying the real stories over here. He didn’t go hunting for body counts to plaster on headlines nor did he seek to document smoldering battle damage that streams every half hour on the national news channels. He focused on the soldiers, the marines, the members of the military who do their difficult jobs, day in and day out, and that made him special. Read Jim’s blog and you’ll understand that he is a husband, a father, and more importantly, he is a patriot.

The reason I mention Jim is because his mission is now over. He returned to his home in New Mexico and is anxiously waiting for his wife (also deployed as a contractor) to return home. Because his travels are over, he will probably not write much more as he gets on with his normal life in the “real world”. However, if you have the time, you ought to check out his site and feel his Iraq experience through his eyes as he tells the tales of all of us over here. He can do this because he walked among us on the patrols, fought the complexities of air-movement like we do on a daily basis, shared a plastic tray of mystery food in the chow halls next to us and experienced the struggle and danger by our side. He might not have been wearing a uniform when I met him, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s one of us.

Welcome home Jim. God speed to your family, Candi and Jimmy, in returning home safely.

05 October 2007


It's 5 am on a Saturday morning here in Iraq and I'm listening to the sound of rain on the tin roof of the internet trailer. I can't even remember the last time I heard rain. It's amazing. I apologize for not having more to write about it, but I'm just a little giddy about this experience and I want to enjoy it.

Okay, so it only lasted for 2 minutes, but it was nice to hear for the short time that it lasted.

03 October 2007

Man in the Moon

Some folks have asked me why I added the “moon cycle” thing to my blog page. Maybe a better question would be why wouldn’t I put the cycle of the moon on my website? The moon is cool! In fact, it's the coolest! Vampires change under it, witches chant spells in its light, werewolves howl at it, and that’s just a small sample of only the Halloween appropriate coolness! Seriously, I’ve always liked the moon, the stars and space in general. The fascination with the night sky started with my childhood dream of growing up to be an astronaut and progressed after my 5th grade teacher taught me where to find the big dipper (along with the lattice method of multiplication and how to keep score in bowling). Little did I know that my dreams of walking on the moon would end at the tender age of 21 when a doctor informed me that my eyes weren’t good enough to be a pilot thereby squashing my future as a shuttle operator. With my hopes of spending time in Houston, eating freeze dried ice cream, and wearing those fancy space diapers that all the cool astronauts seem to be wearing in the news now a days dashed upon the rocks of disparity over my lack of perfect vision, I never let it ruin my fascination with the stars and the moon. Here are some cool facts about our nearest celestial body:

1. The moon was worshiped in many cultures and was known as the symbol of various deities to include Artemis (Greek moon goddess), Soma (Hindu moon god), Mawu (African moon goddess) and Khons (Egyptian moon god). And no, the “Man in the Moon” is not a god.

2. The moon is one quarter the diameter of earth which is a lot of green cheese!

3. The moon takes 27.3 days to cycle through all of its phases, which is about once a month. That means I only have 7.5 moon cycles to go until I'm done with this deployment.

4. The gravitational pull of the moon causes the changes in our ocean tides, but seeing as the nearest ocean is many miles from here in the Persian Gulf, I won't be seeing tides or waves any time soon. Besides, Iraqi's don't surf.

5. The moon is 280,000 miles away from the earth, which is just slightly farther than Iraq is from Texas (but only slightly).

6. Gravity on the surface of the moon is one sixth of what it is here on earth, which means that I could carry all of my gear and NOT get plantar faciitis there.

7. The temperature on the sunny side of the moon’s surface is 243 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about equivalent to a typical summer morning in Baghdad.

8. The moon is about 4.6 billion years old (only a little bit older than my gray hair makes me feel some days).

9. At a rate of 3.8 centimeters a year, the moon is slowly pulling away from the earth’s orbit. I wonder if I slept for an extra 3.8 minutes a day if I could just sleep through the last part of my deployment once I return from leave?

10. And finally, the moon travels at 2,300 miles per hour around the earth. That means if I could fly a plane as fast as the moon, I’d be home in about 2 and a half hours.

These are all great and interesting facts but none of them are the reason I posted the phases of the moon on my blog. With the days getting shorter here, I wake up in the morning and return to my trailer in the dark allowing me to see the moon quite regularly, except under the inky black night of a “new moon”. I use the moon phases to help me gauge how much longer I have to go here in lovely Iraq, kind of like how the American Indians and many other past cultures told time. As the moon cycles through it’s phases, I count the number of full moons and crescent moons I have gone through as a way of measuring my progress here. Oh sure, I could look at a calendar like normal folks, but I like answering the question of “how long until you take your leave?” with “I have many moons to go.”

Lastly, the moon is the only real physical connection I have with the people back home. Wherever I am in the world, I can look up at the night sky and see the same moon that they see which gives me a strange sort of comfort that helps when I get a little lonely over here. Just as the Man in the Moon shines his bright big smile at me, he grins the same grin to the people back home on the other side of the world. Yeah, it could be considered by some a silly interpretation of what can scientifically be explained as the normal reflection of sunlight off earth’s largest satellite, but I never claimed to be the most serious of souls in uniform here.

Interesting quote of the day:

“Gonorrhea is not in your chest!”

- a frantic response after a discussion of what could be causing the sickness of a captain who will soon be home with her husband while the rest of us here are hating life.


“We never miss a chance,
We get up and dance,

And do the Curly Shuffle.”

Ah yes. The Curly Shuffle. A song straight out of my distant past. That particular tune came out during my childhood at a time when staying up late past the 11 o’clock news to watch the Three Stooges on a Friday night was a rare treat. The comedy was simple and purely slapstick, but my brother and I would crack up while fighting to stay awake to catch all of the episodes. Frankly I’m surprised that through our childhood, neither one of us ended up blinded by getting their eyes poked out by the other.

For the past day and a half I’ve had that song stuck in my head. It’s like a bad rash that won’t go away, or more specifically, it’s like that bug they put in Checkov’s ear and bored into his brain in “Wrath of Kahn”. Anyway, I’m sure it has to do with the fact that our section is going through a “shuffle” of its own, but it could be because I’m trying to find some humor in the recent events that will most definitely turn the unit upside down. Not to get into the details of it all, but the job that I’ve worked hard at for the last 5 and a half months is going away to another section as we all go through a major reorganization at the behest of the guy in charge with the stars on his uniform. It’s not fun.

I’m not a big proponent against change. In fact, I have expressed my opinion many times before that change is a good thing. Here are some examples of good changes:

1) Change in leadership
2) Change of pace
3) Change of scenery
4) Change of menu at the chow hall
5) Change of underwear

Sometimes you need a fresh vantage point to engage with a new person in order to see a different perspective or to get out of a rut. Just because you’ve done something for 3 years or so doesn’t mean that you need to continue doing it for the sake of “that’s how it’s always been done.” Plus, change gives you the chance to start fresh by leaving your mistakes and issues in the past, paving the way to move forward and start anew with the lessons of your mistakes engrained in your brain (and maybe even on your heart). Change, however, is hard. You get so comfortable doing things a certain way or become overly confident in your understanding of the quirks and motivations of the people you deal with that it’s often difficult to entertain the thought of operating another way with relative strangers. I know that what I’m spewing here isn’t any great epiphany by any means. Ask anyone who has moved to a new place, changed a job, or adjusted to a new relationship and they will most likely agree that it wasn’t as easy as they thought it would be. You’d think we'd learn from this, but some of us don't. Despite the headache and heartache of the experiences, it doesn’t prevent us from tackling new adventures in the future. Some folks are more reluctant to change, scared to leave the comfort of their shell because they don’t know what’s around the bend or over the horizon. What they don’t know is that regardless if they find the courage to crawl out to face new experiences, change will happen with or without them.

Change here in Iraq is a good thing, but it is a headache. By throwing me and countless others into new positions under the guise of “streamlining”, it makes it hard to make a smooth transition when most of us just got into our current jobs not long ago. Plus, it takes away the small bits of job satisfaction that we struggled to gather in the 5 months we’ve been here. Projects and missions started back in May are just starting to develop and the soldiers who struggled to make these things happen will not have the fulfillment of seeing the final results of their time and effort here. Morale is low due to the uncertainty of where we’ll go and what we’ll do in this new organization. Preliminary reviews of the change doesn’t seem to make much sense either. Putting engineers in logistics roles or making infantrymen create PowerPoint slides seems counter-intuitive, but it’s the Army’s blog policy is not to bad mouth our superiors or the decisions they make. So let’s just say that things around here could be better...then again, they always could be better. In the meantime, I’ll continue holding out hope that I get picked to do a decent job after the shuffle, but then again, I really don’t care what I do for the next 6 months as long as I get to go home on time.

Funny quote of the day:

“Alright. Why did someone fork my beets?”

- an Army Captain in regards to the placement of his utensils on his food tray after leaving the table to get a beverage.

01 October 2007

"60 Minutes" and "Feet don't fail me now!"

Today I am an hour closer to home. Last night at midnight, B-town started “daylight savings time” by setting the clocks back 60 minutes. This means that today I got an extra hour to sleep in, although I didn't do that. Also, I’ll no longer stroll over to the gym in the dark when I do my morning FOB workout, although it does mean that I’ll come home in the dark from now until spring (even if my some miracle I get off of work before 9:00pm). The odd thing about this “falling back” of the clock is that the time change was official for all of Iraq at 11:59pm on Saturday, yet we were told not to change our clocks until last night. Little did I know that the coalition forces had authority to make that change. Makes you wonder that if we have the ability to alter time, why can’t we fix this place so we all can go home?

I’ve been struck down with a new injury that is weighing on me, or more accurately, the weight I’ve been carrying has caused me a new injury. I started getting some pain in my feet prior to coming to Iraq when I was doing train-up at Riley. I sucked it up and dealt with it because it wasn’t that painful and if I didn’t run for a day or two, it usually got better. It appears that I now need more than a day or two to fix it. Plantar Fasciitis (inflammation of the tissue that connects the heal bone to the toes) is the name of this new ailment and it sucks. Of course that’s just a guess as to what's wrong with me since I’m no doctor (and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night either). I pride myself in being a pretty fit person with only a handful of notable injuries. With the exception of a bum knee, reconstructed shoulder, torn ligaments in an ankle and a broken arm, life hasn’t thrown much at me in terms of bumps and bruises that I haven’t bounced back from. This new twinge in the feet started out as something I could deal with by limiting the frequency of my runs, but it has quickly turned into an injury that needs addressing since it takes more than a day or two to feel like I can run again. I spent the better part of this morning (thanks to the lovely gift from the CF of an extra hour to do with as I please) researching my symptoms online to see what I can do about fixing my howling doggies. I’ve ordered about $75 worth of arch supporting insoles for all of my boots and shoes, done a bunch of calf and Achilles stretches and am now trying to find out how I can get some golf or tennis balls to roll under my feet to increase the blood flow. The ice therapy could be the most challenging, but we’ll see how the other remedies work before I order a freezer online and get it shipped to Baghdad. I’m not too worried about it as I know that I can’t be stubborn if I want to get better. It’s just that I enjoy running to release the stress of the day and with the weather getting milder I’ll miss many a cool morning putting miles under me and my troubles behind me. I know I need to take care of myself in order to help with the healing process but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it, so forgive me if I brood for a little bit until I can get my mind past it. I’ll have to rid my vest of the extra ammo on it (and go back to just a basic load) and take all the junk out of my assault pack that I fail to use on a daily basis (why am I carrying a machette?). I’ll try to spend a few hours each day stretching the key muscles groups and stretching my toes (the latter I’ll do at my trailer as I don’t think the officers in my office would appreciate me choking them out with my stanky feet at work). I don’t know how long it’s going to take to heal this as I’ve read scenarios that ranged from a few months to years before it improved enough to do regular physical activity. My friend Kristine had the same type of issue when she deployed here a year ago and she’s still suffering through the pain to this day. I hope that it won’t be the same for me because I’m not sure what I’ll do as a sedentary person. In fact, my friends and family will probably agree that I’m quite possibly the worst sedentary person on the planet. Thank goodness they’re not here to see me slowly go insane.