30 December 2007

Top o'da morn'n to ya

It's New Year's Eve day and I'm typing from the airport in Shannon Ireland. First time I've been here, and there's not much to see except darkness and closed duty free shops.

It's been a long frew days of travel, but the end is near. I should be back in Texas for a little R&R within the next 12 hours baring any major delays at the airports back home.

I'm anxious and I'm tired all at the same time. I want to be home and I hope that the next leg of my trip will allow me to get some sleep. We'll see.

No alcohol for us until we hit US soil, but to everyone out there, raise a glass for me and have a very Happy New Year.

24 December 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the FOB
Not a creature was stirring, cuz they were still doing their job
Of making presentations and creating large briefs
To be given to the boss, the CG and chief.

The stockings were hung on the file cabinets with twine
While the new guys were sulking and staring to whine
About lack of free time, TV and the cold,
We told them “Quit whining and do what you’re told!”

“We’ve been here for 8 months and have 4 more to go.
Your puny 6 month tour will get you no show
Of sympathy or tears,” we say with a glare
And look for some common sense (which is blatantly not there).

Christmas Eve in Baghdad, well, it isn’t much fun,
For there will be no enjoyment until the work is all done.
The slide shows keep growing and briefing’s a pain,
For the light in the tunnel, I suspect is a train.

But we do the best we can as we build all the tomes
While friends and family send us reminders of home
Like real Christmas trees sent from a snowy state
How it passed customs is what we debate.

And trees that are fake get their own type of bling
By creative soldiers and cans of Silly String
Instead of detecting booby traps or finding trip wires.
Safety note: Be sure not to get it too close to fire.

Knick knacks from home decorate the shelves
With army men, Snoopy, snowmen and elves.
While penguins and polar bears sing Christmas stories
The IRR Christmas pumpkin shines in all of its glory.

Boxes of treats pile up on the tables
As we stuff ourselves with cookies our belts are not able
To hold back the onslaught of goodies and food
All sent from home to get us in the Christmas mood.

Will Santa come to Iraq? Well, we surely don't know
If he'll brave the danger (and the complete lack of snow).
His sleigh better have countermeasures and pass all the tests
And Rudolph and Santa better have bullet proof vests!

Christmas away, well, it just plain stinks
There’s no family to laugh with, no eggnog to drink
And no sneaking kisses from the person you love
While standing beneath mistletoe hung from above.

But despite all the sniveling, we are all above ground
And have use of our body parts (no reason to frown)
We don’t like what we’re doing and the time is not fun
But we’ll keep doing what is asked of us until we are told we are done.

We might not make much progress or win the war today
But we’ll keep on trying so that our children can play
In a world without fear of speaking their mind or worshiping their God
Or terrorist threats and roadside bombs.

So on this Christmas Eve while you sit with the fam
Singing carols and dining on turkey or ham
Remember the soldiers, the airmen, marines,
The sailors and heros that you’ve never seen.

For they don’t need more hand sanitizer or boxes of wipes
Or expensive tins of cookies filled with holiday hype.
While these things they are all useful and give us a smile
They will soon run out after a while.

Instead send some love, a letter and some time
And give them something that doesn’t cost a dime
They just need your support for they know you are there
Where they want to be
Just send them a prayer.

Support those who fight so you don’t have to stress
About ever losing the freedoms that you possess.
They sacrifice so much for all the right reasons
Which is, after all, the spirit of the Christmas season.

Maybe one day we’ll have peace, but until then,
We are blessed to have soldiers to protect us again and again.
I've got a few days go before I see my family and friends
And I will miss spending this Christmas with all of them.

That's okay, because I will see them all in a few days,
While I try to make up for the time that I've been away.
And as go back to my trailer with dreams of a Christmas white,
I wish a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Merry Christmas everyone.

12 December 2007

Christmas Pumpkin

It’s Christmas time and you know what that means? It’s time to decorate the Christmas Pumpkin! Yippee! I remember when I was just knee high to a grasshopper anxiously waiting for the month of December so I could break out the knives and scoops and decorate my festive pumpkin. It was always a great tradition and I honored it this year by carving the IRR patch in it. I know I’m not home for Christmas, but having my holiday pumpkin makes me feel like the Christmas Spirit has found me in Iraq.

Okay, so this is merely the product of my ignorance and laziness; ignorance because when my work sent me this foam pumpkin in my Halloween box I didn’t know you could carve and laziness because even after I had the knowledge that you could cut into it, I didn’t do anything with it until this last week (6 weeks after Halloween). I can’t take too much credit for the design as Tom actually had the idea of putting the IRR patch on it and he made the template and Stacey provided the flickering LED lamp that sits inside of it. I simply put pen knife to foam and put the Santa hat on it. It sits next to my fiber optic Christmas tree on my desk along with a myriad of cards and knick-knacks to help me get into the spirit of the holidays. Part of me just wants to forget that it is Christmas and just skip this year because I’m not home. But that part conflicts with the part of me that enjoys Christmas. So, since I can’t string lights up around my house and trim the tree in the window, I will clutter my desk with paper snowmen and bendable Santas and try to forget that I’m deployed.

11 December 2007

Plans and B2

My job was not the only one to change back in October. Both Brendan and Kevin were “reorganized” into what we will call the planning section. How ironic that the unit operated for the better part of 7 months with no such segment, which begs the question, what was our plan for all this time? They are now responsible for developing the strategy that will win the war, or at least the war for our section. It sounds like a tough job with grueling hours of writing operations orders and attending marathon long meetings, but they seem happy with this new situation. This new found cheer could be a result of the new leadership they are under or because they now have a mission to focus on instead of playing firemen and putting out the multiple helmet blazes (most of which were created by their old supervisor) that plagued their daily lives. Most likely the lion's share of their happiness is derived from their new living conditions in which they have moved into a palatial room complete with internet and cable TV. I could be envious or jealous, but if anybody deserved a better room, it was them.

I think I’ve written before about change and how different folks deal with it here. In Brendan and Kevin’s case, their change was for the better as they have lived in the equivalent of a lawnmower shed for the better part of 7 months. And to think we were all jealous that they had a “wet trailer”, or trailer with a shower and toilet, before any of us did. For the most part I look favorably on change, but in some cases, it’s nice to have something familiar or something/someone you can count on. A few months back, it was nice to get a break from the regular shelling we received (i.e. change was good), but now that the shelling has reduced, the norm are days without the once familiar booms of the bad guys and we now dislike even more the infrequent occasions that we have to scurry into a bunker (i.e. change is bad). The Captain Mafia use to eat together all the time, but our jobs, leave, sleep and other factors have kept us from overtaking a table or two in the chow hall and sharing a meal (and gossip). So, while I do enjoy change, I’ve come to learn that there are times when it’s nice to have familiarity you can count on to get through the day.

I don’t have much to report for things I’ve experienced or have done lately, so instead I’ll post some pictures for Brendan’s family as he never updates his blog.

Brendan complains that I only get pictures of him at his desk, so this was one on the bus.

Brendan likes to do crossword puzzles...

...mortar attacks do not stop his desire to do crosswords...

...and, he hates work.

07 December 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Things are looking a lot more festive around here as people decorate their areas with little reminders of the holiday season. There are groves of tinsel clad mini Christmas trees throughout the building and stockings are hung at every empty vertical surface. There is one general officer in our building who has a full on holiday display in his office complete with twinkling lights, cardboard fireplace and stuffed dog sleeping at the hearth. The only thing it is missing are mechanical elves and a lighted lawn reindeer. It’s a mixed bag when it comes to describing how these decorations make everyone feel. Some folks really get into the spirit and break out the fake snow and Santa hats while others just shy away from any sort of reminder that they are in a war zone for Christmas instead of being back home with their families. As in typical military fashion, we keep an eye on each other to make sure we all get through the month with our sanity intact.

As for me, I just got a big box of Christmas supplies from my job (my civilian one) and they jammed it full of cool decorations. I got a fiber optic Christmas tree (a long story behind that one), some decorations, and some toys to put under the tree. Plus, they filled the box with magazines, books, and enough food to feed my entire team. The amount of food we get here can be a little crazy at times. Some of us believe that the insurgency have infiltrated the homes of our grandmothers and friends back home and are secretly sending us cookies and treats to fatten us up, thus making us easier targets.

My employer has been very supportive during this deployment and so have the folks I work with. It makes me look forward to going back in a 142 days to a job where the typical office hazard does not require me to wear body armor as part of me PPE.

My growing colleciton of knick-knacks

For those of you checking, there are only 17 more days to shop until Christmas morning. I’m not too worried about buying gifts this year as I hear there is a surplus of lead base painted toys at the local bazaar. What a bargain!