27 January 2008


So, what did I do on my leave? If I was a good blogger, I would have updated this thing while I was actually on my R&R so that people could keep up with where I was, although I’m not going to apologize for relaxing instead of typing. I spent the first part of my leave in the great state of Texas. I flew into Dallas on New Years Eve day to be greeted by my family and friends, not to mention a slew of volunteers who were just out that day to welcome troops home (Thank you). That day I got my first real pizza since my pass in Qatar and then I got to spend New Year’s Eve with some friends, but was asleep before the ball dropped. I know...real exciting, but I was truly exhausted from travel. I spent a few days in the Dallas area taking care of business and catching up with a few folks. I then spent some time with my family down in the heart of Texas, although I regret that it was too short due to me and some outside circumstances.
About 6 days on the backside of my leave were spent relaxing in St. Lucia with my girlfriend and it was just what the doctor ordered. We split our time on the island between two different resorts with two very different styles. Near the south by the Pitons, we spent 3 days at Stonefield Resort in a villa overlooking the cliffs to the water below. There we had our own hammock, plunge pool, and picturesque scenery in a very quiet setting nestled in the rainforest, perfect for getting the sound of helicopters out of your head. The large mahogany plantation blinds did not have any windows behind them and the room was very open to the jungle around us (which made the mosquito netting around the bed more than just a pretty decoration). The outdoor shower gave you the impression of bathing in the rain and the wildlife was always hiding behind the nearest wide banana leaf ensuring you didn’t happen to drop any morsel of food. For three days we gorged ourselves on scrumptious island food. The small restaurant at Stonefield had a great breakfast and thanks to the advice from Kevin and Beth, we ate dinner one night at Laderra up on the ridgeline and were treated to one of the most wonderful meals (and bottles of wine) we’ve ever had. When we weren’t stuffing our faces, we were lounging by one of the three nearby beaches and took long walks along rocky coastlines chasing crabs and looking for picture opportunities. On the fourth day, we said goodbye to Stonefield and took a long two hour twisty cab ride north towards Pigeon Island (which is more of a peninsula than an island) to stay at the all inclusive Sandals Grande St. Lucian. While Stonefield was a little more quiet and rustic, Sandals was classy and full of energy. Everything was at your beck and call and everywhere you looked there was someone there to help you move a bag, freshen your drink, or ensure you got fitted for that nice $4k TAG watch which I was enthusiastically told was worn by Brad Pitt, as if the watch would suddenly make me handsome and married to Angelina Jole. If there was only one word to describe the resort, it would have to be luxurious. Our room was upgraded upon arrival and while we exchanged our original view of the Caribbean with a top level room looking over the parking lot and the Atlantic Ocean. We had free reign over the well stocked mini bar (which we never used) and full use of the 24 hour room service (which we took advantage of right away). We spent the next 3 days lounging by the pool or the swim up bar, laying on the beach, or keeping tabs on when the ice cream cart was going to serve it’s next batch of milkshakes and sundaes. We took a bike and hike tour into the rainforest to climb a waterfall and frequented the spa for some muscle relaxing massages. The food again was top notch (as can be seen in the growing waste lines of our pictures) and while we had full access to eat or play at two other Sandals resorts to the south, we ended up staying put and eating at one of the 5 restaurants they had at the Grande. We took LOTS of pictures, only a few of which I can show here due to space restrictions. I got back stateside only to find myself with a little more than a day to pack my stuff and ready to end my leave. I rushed to see my parents and my brother one last time and made the excruciating trip back (as outlined in a previous blog).
View from the room at Stonfield of the Petite Piton
The Raintree Villa at Stonefield where we stayed for the first 3 days

One of the three beaches we visited in the shadows of the Pitons

Henry the bird who guarded the hammock

The scavengers of Mango Restaurant

View from the Mango

This is the "rustic" room we stayed in on the beach...okay, not really.

Apparently, tourist getting bonked in the head by coconuts is an issue on St. Lucia

Alissa about to do her Tarzan impersonation

The bike portion of our "Bike and Hike" adventure
The waterfall. Thank goodness for waterproof cameras.

Alissa and I at Sandals

Rainbow over Pigeon Island

One of the many cool sunsets over the Caribbean at Sandals

I’ve been back in Iraq for about a week now, still riding the wave of relaxation from my leave, but being battered by a nagging sickness and lack of a normal sleep regime. Although I hear of folks not taking their mid tour leave in order to avoid the stress of it all, with the exception of the regret of not seeing my mom, dad and brother more than I did, I’m very glad I went home.

Now, we are in the home stretch of the deployment with anywhere between 70 to 100 days left before we get released from our indentured service. The military likes to keep things vague for reasons that I’ll never know or understand.

24 January 2008


I’m tired. I plodded through these past few days like a knuckle dragging ape trying to get into the groove of being back in Iraq. My sleep schedule is all screwed up and I’m coming down with some Ebola-like illness most likely brought on by spending multiple hours crammed in an airframe with 300 other sick people (either that or I’m allergic to Iraq). I am also convinced that my motivation to do work was lost somewhere over the Atlantic by the airlines. It’s a shame because I need that motivation to post pictures of my R&R. I guess I’ll get around to it when I can.

21 January 2008

Back in Baghdad

So, I’m back to the IZ, although there is part of me that feels like I shouldn’t be here due to the myriad of obstacles that attempted to prevent me from being here. Let’s recap:

16 Jan: My leave officially ended at noon and I sat in the airport with my girlfriend until the plane took off around 2pm. The flight from Dallas to Atlanta was on time and uneventful, but what was originally scheduled as a short lay over to pick up some more R&R soldiers turned into the first of many delays in my travel back to theater. A wintery storm bringing in sleet and freezing rain converged on the Atlanta airport that stacked up planes to be de-iced 50 deep. After sitting on the runway for almost 8 hours, we ran out of both food, water and fuel and had to return to the gate. With no hopes in us leaving that night, we were bused to local hotels at 3am to catch some sleep before the flight the next day.

17 Jan: Awake from a short nap, we were bused back to the airport by 11am to wait for the flight out. We boarded the plane mid afternoon and began the second leg of our air voyage.

18 Jan: Ireland was suppose to be a short stop to only refuel and let us stretch our legs, but when they didn’t let us back onto the plane after our hour break, we knew something was up. Mechanical problems on the plane were not fixed as fast as they thought so once again we were packed onto a tour bus and brought to a nearby hotel. Ireland is a very pretty country I’ve been told, but we didn’t get to see much as it was cloudy and rainy. Plus we were not allowed out of the terminal or the hotel to do any sightseeing. At the hotel we were fed (potatoes of course) and given a bed to wait until our trip out the next day.

19 Jan: Tired from the travel and the changing time zones, we left the hotel around noon to try our luck again. We boarded the plane, pushed away from the gate, and headed for the runway, only to abruptly stop and pull back toward the terminal. Seemed we left someone at the hotel. Oops. So, to ensure we didn’t leave anyone else, we emptied the plane onto the tarmac and had a formation in the rain to get accountability. This delayed the flight by another 2 hours that we had not planned.

20 Jan: After 6 hours of flying, we arrived in Kuwait in the wee hours of the morning. We stood in formations, sat through briefings, retrieved our much missed body armor and helmets and were loaded up by mid afternoon to catch the military flight to Iraq. This was by far the simplest portion of the trip and the shortest stop. We arrived in Baghdad in time for lunch and the wait for the ground shuttle to the IZ. Did I mention that I would be sharing this trip with a large Air Force unit? Normally not an issue, but it would result in more delays.

21 Jan: We loaded up the vehicles and moved out after midnight and made it to the IZ. We could not leave the staging area until we unloaded all of our bags for inspection. After moving what felt like the luggage of entire Air Force, we were release from the yard. I got back to my trailer around 5am this morning.

So, what normally takes 3 days of travel turned into just shy of a week of movement. I'm not complaining because despite all of the delays, it really didn’t bother me to stall my return to Iraq. It still smells like garbage here and I didn’t miss wearing my body armor one bit. In the two weeks I was home I almost forgot the sound of helicopters. I have about 11 weeks to go before I get to go home for good. I can’t wait.

My leave was good, and I’ll try and muster up some pictures and details of what I did when I can. In the meantime I’ll try to get back into the groove of being here.

19 January 2008

Divine Intervention

There are forces acting against us. First there was an ice storm in Atlanta and then there were mechanical plane problems in Ireland. Today, it is something else that has pushed back our departure time by “multiple hours”, the cause of which is still a mystery to the 300+ soldiers lounging around the airport. It’s as if we were not meant to go back to Iraq, which, although its okay by me, it might not be okay for the Army.

18 January 2008


Yes, I'm writing from Ireland...again. This time its the return trip and again I am delayed from returning to Iraq once more, although it is due to a mechanical problem this time instead of a weather issue.

It is raining in Ireland (surprise) and there isn't much to do since we are trapped in the terminal. Not that there is a lot that I desire to do right now as I am travel weary and am hurting for a good night's sleep. Maybe I could go hunt leprechauns or search for four leaf clovers if they set us free for a little bit.

17 January 2008


So, I'm in the terminal of Atlanta airport waiting for another flight back to the sandbox. A big ice storm kept us on the runway for about 8 hours last night before they gave up and shuttled us to a hotel for the evening. With 6 hours of sleep (not done on the floor of the terminal) we again get to play the waiting game that the Army plays so well. Thank goodness that the delay is on the back end of my leave instead of the front part. It's not like I'm in any kind of rush to return to Iraq any time soon.

R&R, just like weekends and vacations, was too short. I didn't get to see everyone I wanted to see or do everything I wanted to do, but it was still just what I needed. I don't have the time to get into the gory details of it all right now, but I will say that I had a good time (great at points and not so great at others) and that a lot of people went out of their way to ensure I had a relaxing time to recharge my batteries.

Although this little break served as a boost to the morale department, I'm now even more anxious to be done with this deployment. I only have a short amount of time left to go when you look at how long I've been activated and deployed. I was called up 1 year and 3 days ago to play this game again and I'm now in the final innings. With my countdown calendar telling me that I have 101 days left to go until I hit the 1 year mark on my "boots on ground" status, I'm hoping that I will get a definite date as to when I will be released from my indentured service in the near future.

Maybe I can convince the powers that be that I forgot how to perform basic PowerPoint skills during my R&R and that I'm no longer useful to the cause. I wonder if that will get me sent home early, or just make them find something even dumber for me to do?