Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I think I'm suffering the same fate as most people back home, trying to work on the Tuesday after a 3-day weekend. All the work that I put off over the last three days has come back to haunt me, so I'm still working late in the office trying to finish up. Or at least partially catch up so tomorrow won't be as ugly as today was. But I'll spare a few minutes to post about something amusing I see every day.
What do you see unusual in the below picture? Hint: it's green.
Did you say grass? Congratulations! You win a free trip Iraq to walk on the only lawn on the base.
I'm really not sure why they have grass growing there... almost every time I walk by there is someone watering it (you can see him in this picture, too). Perhaps it's the fact that it's located at the ROWPU (I think that means Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit) and they're trying to impress people at the purity of their product. Or maybe it's overflow that won't fit into the water tower. In any case, it's actually nice seeing green grass in the middle of a desert. Even if the temperature is 109.
I got my first "care package" today, a small envelope from my mom that only took 6 days to get here. Impressive! I think we're at the mail hub for the whole country... it comes here first. Your results may vary, of course.
The other news of the day is that they finally emptied my office of all the old electronic equipment (copiers, non-working TVs, etc.) that had been in here before. It's now a very large, and even somewhat clean, office. Now to begin decorating the walls...
Monday, May 29, 2006
Back home now I know you're prob'ly sleeping, But over here it's the middle of the day. I finally found some time to write a letter, Sittin' here a half a world away. I heard about all them folks protesting, As if I really want this war. But that don't stop me from believing There're just some things worth fighting for. And if I die before you wake, I pray the world will take A good look at what God's given us. If we could only understand Everything is in His hands. All we need is a little faith and trust. I want you to know it ain't too high a price to pay If I die before you wake. Tell everybody that I miss them, and I can't wait to get back home. Until then, I'll serve my country and be proud to wear this uniform. And if I die before you wake, I pray the world will take A good look at what God's given us. If we could only understand Everything is in His hands. All we need is a little faith and trust. I want you to know it ain't too high a price to pay If I die before you wake. No, it ain't too high a price to pay if I die before you wake.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
My country,' tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing; land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride, from every mountainside let freedom ring! My native country, thee, land of the noble free, thy name I love; I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills; my heart with rapture thrills, like that above. Let music swell the breeze, and ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song; let mortal tongues awake; let all that breathe partake; let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong. Our fathers' God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing; long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light; protect us by thy might, great God, our King.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
The concert was set up in the stadium where, during Saddam's reign, the Iraqi national soccer team practiced and played. It was big enough to comfortably seat (or stand) the 2000 or so people who came for the performance, sponsored by the U.S.O.
While I'm not a huge country music fan, I was pleased to recognize more than half the songs. Toby started out singing how he'd "like to get down with my boys in Afghanistan and Baghdad city too / I am a red, white and blue blood graduate of Honkytonk U" and a few other songs which I didn't know, but quickly got into familiar territory when he told us that he was opening up several restaurants in Harrah's Casinos in several cities (including Las Vegas). They're named I Love This Bar and Grill (another song he performed) and the management has been instructed to offer a free meal and beer to soldiers who patronize the restaurants, filled with memorabilia from his many U.S.O. tours.
He finished up with several songs I know and enjoy, including Courtesy of the Red White and Blue, What Happens down in Mexico Stays in Mexico, the closing song A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action, and the encore, Whiskey For My Men and Beer For My Horses. But he got a standing ovation for one of his more famous songs, which I'll quote in its entirety in honor of Memorial Day and the heroic men and women that I have the honor of serving with now, and those who have gone before and will come after. Make sure you put out your flags this weekend.
I'm just trying to be a father, Raise a daughter and a son, Be a lover to their mother, Everything to everyone. Up and at 'em bright and early, I'm all business in my suit, Yeah, I'm dressed for success from my head down to my boots, I don't do it for money, there's still bills that I can't pay, I don't do it for the glory, I just do it anyway, Providing for our future's my responsibility, Yeah I'm real good under pressure, being all that I can be, And I can't call in sick on Mondays When the weekends been too strong, I just work straight through the holidays, And sometimes all night long. You can bet that I stand ready when the wolf growls at the door, Hey, I'm solid, hey I'm steady, hey I'm true down to the core, And I will always do my duty, no matter what the price, I've counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice, Oh, and I don't want to die for you, But if dyin's asked of me, I'll bear that cross with an honor, 'Cause freedom don't come free. I'm an American soldier, an American, Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand, When liberty's in jeopardy I will always do what's right, I'm out here on the front lines, sleep in peace tonight. American soldier, I'm an American, An American, An American Soldier
Friday, May 26, 2006
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved homes and the war's desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
So more than one of you noticed the absence of a post yesterday. It's good to know you notice! Sorry if any of you were worried. I do have a good excuse.
Yesterday afternoon and evening (and well into the wee hours of the morning) I got to ride along on a Convoy Logistics Patrol (CLP, pronounced "clip"). It was my first time "outside the wire" (the "wire" refers to the barbed-wire fence surrounding the base) and is probably one of the most dangerous things I've done in my life. Fortunately, it was uneventful (that means nothing bad happened) but very educational.
The purpose of my ride was as part of my job advising the battalion on tactics. It's hard to give accurate suggestions without actually knowing what they do so I got to observe them in action. Here's a picture of the HumVee that I got to ride in, as they were setting up for some of the pre-convoy training drills.
It was interesting to see how much of the tactics (and actual operations) were the same as what we learned in our training at Fort Jackson and in Kuwait. I definitely felt like I understood what was going on, and I was able to learn even more about some of the specific ways my battalion and its batteries do business.
The vehicle I rode in was updated with all of the latest armor modifications, which made me feel partially secure. And then add to that my full "battle rattle" of body armor and other items (see picture at left) and I felt about as safe as I possibly could be.
After we all got ready and tested out all our equipment, we met up near the gate to the base to prepare to escort the convoy, a mix of trucks hauled by contract by Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) and another company that the government contracts with, which hires mostly Third Country Nationals (TCNs) as their drivers. The troops often joke about them as they don't generally speak English, are difficult to direct (the phrase "herding cats" is heard often), and are rumored to be "KBR rejects". Below is a picture of the convoy just before we rolled out the gate to carry important supplies to a nearby Forward Operating Base (FOB).
As you can see by the slowly darkening sky, we ended up starting the convoy after sunset and it was dark throughout the entire thing, other than the rather bright lights that they used to light up the road as we drove along, so I didn't get too much of a chance to look at the scenery. Still, what I did see was interesting. We passed a few local nationals, mostly teenagers. The majority of them smiled at us as we went by. Some ignored us. Some stared with an unreadable expression.
The trip was only supposed to be about an hour each way, with an hour or two wait. Because of a variety of events, it ended up being a two-hour trip there, a four hour wait, and the expected hour back, but I didn't get to my trailer until 4 a.m. and I wasn't about to try to find an internet connection to do my update then. So here you are after a halfway decent morning's sleep.
Interestingly, when I told my wife about the convoy beforehand, I mentioned that of all the possible routes I could ride, this was probably the safest one, and I would be safer than sitting around on LSA Anaconda with the mortar threat. How true this turned out to be. The most exciting part of the evening was after we had already returned to the base and were getting ready to refuel the vehicle. A mortar landed not too far away from us as we drove along... close enough that the driver floored it to get out of range of a possible second shot! Yikes. Maybe I *was* safer outside the wire.
That's it for the excitement. Back to my desk job for a long, long time.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Friday, May 19, 2006
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Friday, May 12, 2006
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
In addition to the other issued items, I also got a few more pieces for my body armor, completing the set. I feel like quite the turtle now when I walk around in it. Which, I suppose, is supposed to be the intent. I just hope that I never have to actually put my "shell" to the test.
Off to do some more packing. I'm glad I didn't bring much of my own stuff, as I now have five bags full of Army issued items. But hopefully within a few days I'll finally have a "home" that I can unpack in. Living out of a sea bag is getting very tiresome.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Monday, May 08, 2006
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Friday, May 05, 2006
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Monday, May 01, 2006
On to the messing and lodging arrangements. The food just keeps getting better and better. I thought it was good in Kuwait. It's awesome here. Imagine every buffet line you've ever eaten at at a restaurant. Now put them all in one building. There are numerous choices for main courses, including a carving station, a stir-fry where you can pick your ingredients and hand them to the chef, pasta, pizza, tacos, burgers, and any manner of food you want. I can't imagine chow getting much better than this.
In contrast, the lodging arrangements are continuing their downhill trend compared to the beginning of the training. While not quite as bad as our desert training (we have a bit more room, and cots) I'm still sharing a tent with 30 people. Fortunately it's a temporary thing, and I hope when I get to my final destination I'll be in more comfortable surroundings.
I expect the next several days to be busy as I actually get to work on the stuff I came here for. And busy is good. I don't think I want to be bored here. Other than the great food, there's not much to do.