Monday, July 31, 2006

Dust Devil

Another month draws to a close. Besides the imminent payday, it's exciting to know that I'm more than half way to my R&R leave! And as an added bonus, the weather is supposed to begin cooling down after the toasty hot July. August is only the second-hottest month over here. The weekend was actually reasonably cool (around 108) thanks to a lot of blowing dust that obscured the sunlight. Haze has its advantages, I guess. Although I'm seeming to think that the dust which seems to settle on everything around here is finding its way into my respiratory system. I am always clearing my throat and/or coughing. Speaking of dust, the petty officer who works with me and I have a new vehicle. He bumped into another humvee with the "Deathtrap" and broke off one of the turn signal lights. Rather than repair it, the motor pool just gave us another one. It is more like a pickup truck, having only two seats in the front and an open bed in back. A great advantage over the other one is that it is air conditioned! On the door, a tazmanian devil (from the cartoon strip) is painted along with the words "Dust Devil." Kind of reminds me of those small "Dirt Devil" vacuum cleaners... and makes the same noise sometimes too! Enjoy the rest of July. See you next month.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Microsoft Warrior

All right, I'll admit I frequently take my fair turn bashing the company everyone loves to hate, but can't live without. Anyone who has ever done any staff work in the military has learned to become familiar with Microsoft Office products. In spite of taking a lot of time off today, my work time was extremely productive, thanks to Bill Gates and his inventions. (And a nice assist from the folks at Adobe who make Acrobat!) I was able to put together a couple of well illustrated emails (in Microsoft Outlook, of course) including products from Excel and Power Point. And a few attachments in Word for references. I think I deserve some sort of badge for that! Speaking of rewards for computer work, some of the work I've done earlier has managed to attract the interest of a few more higher-ups, which translates to more work for me in the coming weeks. What's that they say about being careful what you ask for? At least it's the interesting, fun stuff that I've been doing that I'll perhaps be able to do more of.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Possession is nine tenths of the law

Unfortunately for me, the saying in the title of this post is accurate inasmuch as possession only goes 90% of the way. That leaves 10% available for people to snatch things right out of your hands. Or your office. You may remember my mentioning that there was a very large TV set in my office (although I admit I have only watched half of one movie on it in the 2 1/2 months I've had it). As my current battalion prepares to leave Iraq and return to Germany, they're tidying up the property books to make sure everything is accurately accounted for. And, in fact, I signed a "hand receipt" yesterday taking custody of that really nice TV, so it could be tracked when they left it behind. Alas! This morning I arrived to work and my TV was gone! Worse, I had just signed for it, so it was "mine" and I was financially responsible! Fortunately, I knew who had it (A master sergeant had told me a few days ago that he was going to take it, but thought maybe he had changed his mind!) and apparently he offered it to somewhere else where soldiers can actually make good use of it. And to prove that he's actually that big hearted, he gave away his own flat screen TV too. Now we are both staring at empty walls. At least I still have my own TV in my hooch. And AFN, too, so it's actually useful.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

TGIF! I decided to cap off the week by doing a little bit of analysis work in Excel. Simple stuff, really, and I spent more time typing up my results in Powerpoint than I did doing the analysis (thanks to a lot of up front work that I did a month ago). I surprised myself with the results. I had previously been making one recommendation just based on a gut feeling, but when I actually threw numbers at the problem, as my Operations Analysis training has shown me to do, I realized that things weren't quite as significant as I had expected, and I'm changing my recommendation. Amazing what a few cold, hard statistics can do. (I could have twisted the statistics to back up my recommendation if I had wanted, too! Math is fun that way!) Anyway, onward to a hopefully relaxing weekend.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Humor me

Today was a relaxing day. Surprisingly, I found enough to keep me just busy enough to pass the day but not too busy to be able to leave work early enough to attend the "Comics On Duty" performance this evening.

Comedy (especially when making the usual jokes about the usual stereotyped people) isn't exactly my favorite form of entertainment, but it was an amusing distraction from the routine, and most of the soldiers seemed to like it. Some of the most well received jokes were when some of the comedians made fun of how nice the Air Force people had it.

I had to leave the performance early to attend a video teleconference with the new folks coming in a few months to take over for the battalion I'm working with. The new battalion seemed in good spirits, probably because they're doing a lot of tedious training and want to get in the game. And the guys about to leave were obviously in good spirits, since they were talking to their ticket home. Me? I'm just calculating how much more work I'll have trying to get the new guys up to speed on the stuff I work with. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


The good news is that today was a productive day. I managed to finish a few major tasks that have been taking a while. It was satisfying to mark "100% complete" on nearly my entire to-do list. Unfortunately, that leads to the bad news. I've finished everything. That means starting tomorrow I'm going to have to start seeking out new things to do. There are a few options of some things that need some attention, but I'm not sure how many cans of worms I want to start opening, when the pace of other work picks up again. We had an interesting conversation at lunch about all the places we could have been stationed, and how (other than the heat) this base isn't that much different than some places back home. (Assuming you can't leave base either.) Some of our work deals with an Army organization at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and one of the officers joked that when he was first told of his assignment, he was told he might be going there. Another officer countered, "I'd rather be in Iraq." (Apologies to any New Jersey readers!)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Subject to change without notice

I'm not sure what I had planned to do today, but instead of whatever productive work could have been done, I spent the day acting and reacting to a series of schedule changes. A VIP (Army 2-star) was in the area visiting and his itinerary changed by-the-minute. I was one of the many links in a chain of phone calls/emails between those changing the schedule and those providing services at the various locations the general was visiting. It was frustrating to say the least. Near the end of the day, a visit to one location was cancelled, and I called off the soldiers prepared to provide assistance there. An hour later, that visit was turned back on again, or at least they attempted to. It's a lot easier to turn something off than back on. After a series of phone calls, it was back off again, but this time blaming me/us for not supporting, rather than blaming the person who told me that part was cancelled. ARRGH!! AFN is showing a movie tonight called Under the Tuscan Sun. I haven't watched much TV since actually getting one, but this movie looks neat... and Italy is on my list of places to visit someday. So I think I'll relax and de-stress.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I don't have much to write about today so I'll answer a question in yesterday's comments about pods. The housing here is broken up into several areas, beginning either with an H or an S. The running joke is that H stands for Huge and S stands for Small. I live in an area called S4. There are only three pods (A, B, and C). We're across the street from the much larger H4 housing. And I'm not sure how high the lettering goes there, but it probably covers the commenter's "I-Pod". When I first got here I was living in the H3/5 area... a merge of H3 and H5 together. Sort of a super-H. They definitely had letters all the way up through Q. One of my friends lives over in H6 housing, which is half Army (the low rent district) and half Air Force. The AF guys have the laundry, the movie room, and even the Green Beans Coffee stand, all within a locked gate. A true gated community. (Although everyone knows the combo!) All the small barriers have been moved away from my trailer, and they haven't even poured the concrete yet. At least I have sandbags in case an errant mortar shell heads my way. Tall walls soon...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Recreation & Vehicles

Another Sunday down. I didn't do much work today, and don't have much to do tomorrow, but I am finding some productive side projects to fill my time, which is a plus. I was able to see the Robin Williams movie RV this evening. Very amusing, especially considering the fact that my wife and I have toyed with the idea of an RV vacation. I think I'm going to reconsider that. A reader commented on my post from a few days ago, about being able to see so many movies, and enjoy fine food. (All right, I'll admit the lobster and King Crab aren't that good, but if you drown anything in butter it tastes great!) While I tend to highlight some of the few really nice things (Baskin Robbins for dessert every day), they really are just a few bright spots in an otherwise bleak environment here. It's certainly not like being at a base back home. For one thing, everyone (well, at least all the Army and Navy people... and a small minority of the Air Force) is carrying around a weapon. And you see people all the time who have just come back, or are preparing to go outside the wire on missions. There's definitely a sense of being close to the front lines, even if not in actual combat. The occasional explosion of a mortar round reminds you that you are in a war zone, and there are always fighter jets and helicopters flying overhead. And, of course, the base itself is sort of an "island" that you can feel trapped on. There is really only so much to do and so many places to go. So... in spite of the ability to escape reality for a few hours in a movie, or enjoy fine food or dessert at the DFAC, there's no forgetting that this isn't home. Well, enough of those depressing thoughts. Back to the fun stuff. Vehicles. As I've mentioned before, some of the guys I work with like to do custom modifications to vehicles (in addition to their normal jobs of repairing just about any damage they get). They have been on the "Monster Garage" show, as I said on my first day here. They have made, among other things, a 500-horsepower Humvee. As one of their grand projects before they head home, they're doing another interesting project. A "stretch humvee". Seats six instead of the usual four. They have doctored a picture of a regular one to show what it's going to look like... so far they have the frame and are working on the drive train. It's fun to watch them put it together. Maybe I'll become an auto mechanic for my second career....

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Class IV

As promised, today I'll mention concrete. I was inspired by the Mike Blogger's post yesterday about construction of a boxing ring (P.S., see today's post of the actual fights!) to describe the latest concrete work being done in my area. It serves a much more utilitarian purpose. A few months ago, I mentioned that the army has ten classes of material supply. Class I is subsistence... food, water, etc. And the Army needs plenty of fuel (Class III) and ammunition (Class V). Sorely missing from any base in Iraq is the "Class Six" store for "personal demand" items. But I digress. Class IV is construction materials. In the case of military bases in Iraq, much of the Class IV is in the form of concrete barriers, like the ones near my office in the picture to the right. A few weeks ago, they started moving some of the smaller barriers from around our housing area and pouring slabs of what looked like sidewalks. But they went sideways, not the direction people were walking. Eventually I figured out they were supports for much larger concrete barriers. The big crane lifting them into position was a big clue. :) They have recently completed the "A Pod" (a group of CHUs) barriers, and are now beginning work on my "B Pod". Temporarily, there are no barriers around my trailer, but that will soon change and I will get the new, taller variety. The picture below shows the difference... the A pod is on the left with the new tall barriers. I guess I'll be safer from a mortar attack while in bed, but reviews from people I work with who live in the A pod say they block all the wind and it is hot and stuffy. Ah, well... hopefully the temperatures will start to drop soon.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Yo ho yo ho a pirate's life for me

TGIF! Friday is the day new movies open at the theatre here. Tonight was the newest Pirates of the Caribbean. I usually avoid the Friday night movies because they are so popular, and you generally have to arrive an hour early to get a seat. Of course, I was invited, and went early anyway, and of course it was a long movie. So needless to say, I have little time to make my daily post. Although things have been quite busy here for a while, I'm anticipating a big slowdown the next week. I'll be seeking out smaller jobs to do, but during the brief respite it will be tough to fight the thought that I'm wasting time here that could be better spent somewhere else. There are some advantages and disadvantages to having such a narrowly focused job like I do. The weather has been consistenly hot, hot, hot here, although we've been hearing about heat waves back home as well. At least we have air conditioning! One month into summer, we're hoping maybe the temperatures might start creeping down a little. But it'll probably be a month before we notice it. More news tomorrow, when I'll talk about concrete.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Jumping Roundup

Well, it appears World Jump Day came and went without a significant change to the earth's orbit. Or so one would surmise. Or so one could prove scientifically, but at least it was an opportunity to be part of one of the largest ever "flash mobs". If you missed your chance to jump, and want a round two, there is apparently a site concerned about the effects of World Jump Day who wants everyone to jump exactly 12 hours after the original one, in order to undo the effects! That will be early in the morning for me, so I definitely won't get up for it. But you can vist Contra World Jump if you feel like hopping. Back to reality. Today I added my blog to a collection of almost 500 blogs from military people associated with Milblogs. The motto is... well, you can just read it on the photo:
I selected a nice submarine picture. Like it? Although my particular daily musings qualify more as a journal than a blog, since I don't post many opinion pieces, I decided to join in order to give you all an opportunity to surf around and hear what other military people have to say, all across the spectrum of ideas. We may not all agree with each other, but we all will (literally) fight for each other's right to share their opinion. And speaking of other military bloggers, I'll summarize the latest entries from those I've linked to. Dried Squid has posted pictures of his plush accommodations in Baghdad's Green Zone. I envy the fact he doesn't have to trudge through sand (or mud when the rainy season arrives) for the latrine facilities. Otherwise, his CHU looks remarkably like the other thousands of CHUs in country. The Mike Blogger, at The Chronicles of Narmya (that's NARMY-a if you, like me, were slow in getting it the first time) has announced that he will be a father soon. The counter is on his blog, give or take a few weeks. Mike visits my base roughly once a week and we've chatted about getting together sometime soon. Desert A-Dub (Desert AW) is just starting the Navy IA Combat Training course at Fort Jackson that I wrote about 3 months ago. I had the "luxury" of the last cool days of spring. He and his classmates are suffering through the summer heat. The girlfriend of sdsailor is still waiting to see where he will eventually be assigned, along with having a terrible horrible no good very bad day at home. Another JCCS-1 EWO's girlfriend at My boyfriend, the Sailor, is in Iraq! is counting down the months. It's nice to know I'm even a month further along than he is, although we all share the same observation that time is flying by. And finally, the first Navy Officer (I think... he's truly anonymous!) to welcome me to Iraq, cdr salamander is posting lots of opinion pieces on current events both here and at home. Be sure to give all of the above your support, prayers, encouragement, and comments.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Go Ahead and Jump!

Halfway through another week, and not much interesting or unique happened here today. So I'll distract your attention with some useless musing. You may have heard that tomorrow (July 20) is World Jump Day. Yep, apparently some website, claiming all these scientific theories (although the professor cited doesn't exist) that if they get 600 million people in the western hemisphere to jump simultaneously, they will shift the earth's orbit. At the time I am writing this, they have 599,188,027 people signed up to jump at 11:39:13 GMT. I don't know how he picked that time. That's 7:39 a.m. for East Coasters. I doubt people on the West Coast will get out of bed at 4:39am just to jump. But I suppose there are probably some oddballs in California who will do it! Alas, I am apparently in the eastern hemisphere, so I couldn't sign up to jump. I am pondering jumping (at 3:39pm my time tomorrow) anyway, just so my little jump counters the effect of some other jumper elsewhere. Truth be told, though, I'll probably forget completely about it. Anyway, feel free to jump if you're in the western hemisphere and awake and be part of something really big and really useless.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Highly trained officer... or babysitter?

After such a good Monday, I had higher hopes for Tuesday, but they were not to be. I spent a lot of time today dealing with little issues that I shouldn't have had to deal with if other people would have done what they said they would. I like to avoid nagging people, but I guess that everyone does have a lot to do, and I ought to offer more gentle reminders to people. It can get frustrating at times. The soldiers in the motor pool just outside my door have been working on quite a few custom pieces of equipment that all involve welding, or plasma cutting, or various types of machining that involve either sparks or blowtorches. Like all males, I have that pyromaniac streak in me somewhere, so it's been amusing to watch the process and see what takes shape. I'm impressed what they can put together with bits and pieces that they grab from the local junkyard (actually the DRMO... the R stands for Reutilization, but I forget the rest of the letters. Commenters can help me with that one too... and you should go read the comment thread from yesterday's post!)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Lost and Found

This was one of the best Mondays of my life. Mainly because I found the coffee cup that I lost last Friday. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get through the weekend without my coffee cup? Gatorade just doesn't do it. Even the coca cola that KBR charges $45/case for (but we get free) wasn't providing enough caffeine. Ah, life is normal again. The work load is a little lighter this week, just picking up a few loose ends (or loose beans?) from last week. It's giving me a chance to organize my mailbox and file folders. Now when I'm done with that, who knows what I'll find to pass the time. Someone showed me a list of acronyms today, that we pretty much use on a daily basis around here. I was surprised how many terms I know and use, that I was totally unfamiliar with a few months ago. There is one acronym that I use daily that I still can't remember what it stands for: CULT. I'd tell you what it meant if I could remember. It does prompt lots of jokes. Actually, even not using acronyms prompts jokes. I was telling the staff we'd be fielding terminators for some of their equipment and movie jokes came from everywhere. They wanted to know if the Predator fielding was next. :)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

It's like riding a bicycle

Whoever invented the phrase about doing something you haven't done in years, saying, "It's like riding a bike" must never have ridden a bike for the first time in ten years. I got my light-equipped bike back from my friend after watching Superman (and I'm not sure what all the hype was about), and rode it back to the office, and then a few miles around base to do some training. My philosophy was that I could ride anywhere. Somewhere in this process I realized that my muscles aren't quite used to the effort required. My legs are sore and my back is sore. I think I need to work up to that "around the base" ride, and start more simply than I did. At least I'm able to get around more quickly than walking. And I only crashed once when trying to go over a curb! Heh. In other news, I've added a link to another blog associated with a JCCS-1 sailor (apparently all three of my fellow JCCS-1 bloggers are named Mike!). Enjoy reading sdsailor (possibly to be renamed later) when you get a chance. And speaking of JCCS-1, if you haven't had a chance to read the letter posted on our command's homepage in the Bravo Zulus section, it's a great read. It's from General Chiarelli, the commander of coalition forces here in Iraq, written to the Chief of Naval Operations, who sent us all here. His comment regarding what we're doing here:

Sir, I honestly believe this support will reduce casualties more than any other single action of the long war.

It's a tough expectation to live up to, but I certainly hope he's right. And recent trends seem to be in that direction.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Anaconda 24/7

Another week down, and I haven't bothered to open the spreadsheet to check how far along I am. I know it's a while until the next milestone and I don't want to depress myself with lack of progress. On the bright side, it really doesn't seem like it's been a week since I last checked. I joined in on another Saturday night poker game. No gambling, of course, but you can really get some high quality chex mix with what everyone pitches in. One of my luckier nights, chip-wise. We branched out from Texas Hold 'Em to do a few "dealer's choice" games. Given our current location at a base named "Anaconda," I occasionally dealt the poker game by that name. The Sergeant Major hadn't heard of it before and got a kick out of the fact that an alternate name for Anaconda is "Pass the Trash." Very much an Army way of thinking, I've learned. I finally got issued a handheld radio today. The good news is that it's a great status symbol. You must be important if people need to get a hold of you 24/7. Of course, the bad news is that people can now get a hold of you 24/7. Fortunately, the batteries don't work very well, so there's always a ready excuse for why you didn't answer. And honestly, I don't actually get that many calls.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

I'm having difficulty accessing the site to post tonight so I'm trying to send a post by email. Obviously if you're reading this, I was successful. One of my fellow Navy EWOs was in my office tonight for a videoconference (I have the software set up on my computer) and noticed that I still hadn't taken the packaging off all the wonderful safety equipment I purchased for my bike. I answered that it was always too hot during the day and then I never had the motivation at night to put all the lights on in order to use it. He proceeded to do all the hard work of putting the equipment on the bike for me... what a nice guy! It just goes to show you, if you procrastinate long enough, someone will do your work for you. I did repay the favor by allowing him to ride the bike back to his office tonight. And then it will be ready to go when I actually want to use it! Work has finally settled down as the weekend approaches, and I can see the light at the end of the current bean-counting tunnel. That, of course, means I'll soon be bored and looking for some other task to fill my time. Sometimes it's not so good being efficient at your work. But we continue to do good things, and we continue to receive accolades from everyone we work with. We have definitely had a positive impact here, and that bit of job satisfaction makes the tedium of the day to day job a bit less frustrating.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Crunch Time

I'm beginning to hate Thursdays. A lot of people hate Mondays... not me. Mondays are easy. But everyone wants their end-of-week briefs sometime on Friday or Saturday, which means all the preparation has to be done Wednesady or Thursday. I sometimes feel like I spend more time documenting what I'm doing than actually doing things. Oh, well. At least it gives me something to do. In answer to the comment asking about bean counting, yes, I'm sure all the services use the same beans. Generally, we count beans and bullets. Sometimes, we don't bother to count bullets. But we always count beans.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


This morning started out eventfully with a VIP visit. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld stopped by our base to give a short motivational speech and answer questions. I was one of a select few (few hundred, that is!) to have a seat for the occasion, but I was so far back that none of my pictures turned out. So I borrowed one from someone in the front row! I was there, honest. Didn't get closer than about ten feet from him, though, thanks to the white-vested security detail guys. I'm sure they were having fits being in a room with seven hundred people all carrying weapons. Look at the face of the man to the left of the picture! Anyway, it was a good speech, talking a lot about how much we're doing, and that we're making history. He invoked the history of restoring Japan and Germany after WWII, and how long that process took (and how there were naysayers in our country even then). I was expecting more of a "political" speech, but he really just gave a lot of motivational phrases that I think were great for the troops. He spoke for a very short time and then took several questions, answering all but one in detail. The one he declined to answer was the last, where a Nebraska National Guardsman asked him who he thought would win the Army-Navy game this year. Heh. After that we all stood around for about 20 minutes while he shook hands and posed for pictures with a lot of people who weren't me, and then he left to go do other interesting things in Iraq. As for me, I spent the rest of the day doing very uninteresting bean counting, and having fits over typos in trying to correlate serial numbers. It would be fine if they were all uniquely different, but when you're dealing with equipment straight from the manufacturer, the serial numbers are all sequential, so they all look very much alike. My eyes hurt.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bean Counting

Today's post will be short and sweet, because I'm taking a brief break from counting beans. Well, not actually beans, but that doesn't really matter. I've spent most of the afternoon and evening reconciling inventories among the Army's various supply tracking systems. It's rather frustrating having to deal with different people who maintain the same inventory in completely different systems, neither of whom talk to the other. And, of course, the higher-ups ask the question why the two inventories sometimes don't match. I also took a break earlier in the evening to catch the movie "Click." The premise is a man who gets a universal remote control that lets him fast-forward through the parts of his life that he doesn't like. (Like, I'd love to skip to the end of the Iraq tour and be back home!) In the movie, of course, he misses all the good things in life as well... I think I'd still like to skip to the end of this Iraq movie! Anyway, back to the boring, frustrating, and tireless work of counting beans.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Century Mark

I made it to triple digits! Today was the 100th day of my deployment. (Yes, I know the web counter doesn't show quite that high, but I'm ignoring time zone changes as I celebrated making the century mark.) The unfortunate thing about such an achievement is that I look forward and still see almost 300 days to go. Ugh. Oh, well, at least the first 100 didn't drag on for too long. In honor of the occasion, and in recognition of the fact that there is, in fact, a David Letterman Drive on base (over on the Air Force side), I'll post a list of the top ten reasons it's good to be over here in Iraq. 10. Free movies. 9. Free gas for your vehicle (if you are lucky enough to get one). 8. It's practically impossible to get hit by a car when you're walking (because you weren't lucky enough to get one) because everyone else is limited to 15 mph. 7. All the Baskin Robbins ice cream you can eat. (Although only 4 of the legendary 31 flavors are available each day.) 6. Steak, Shrimp, Lobster, and King Crab legs twice a week (if you alternate DFACs). 5. Free bottled water. (All the purified Tigris River water you can drink!) 4. An unlimited supply of Coca Cola (and associated brands), Lays potato chips (and associated brands), and just about any other snack or breakfast product made by Kellogg. 3. Low chance of catching diseases from other people because handwashing is almost a religious ritual before each meal. At gunpoint. 2. Never having to do the dishes. They just throw all the plastic into the huge burn pile. And the number one reason it's good to be in Iraq... 1. It makes you really appreciate all the things you take for granted at home. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

It's not the heat, it's the humidity

The desert is one of the last places I would expect it to be humid, but the previous week has been a bit unusual for weather, in that it has been humid. Not the thick, pea-soup humidity that I recall from the U.S. East coast, but just enough to make the not-quite-so-hot temperatures (about 110-ish) a bit more uncomfortable than the dry days when it got to 115. In any case, we're a third of the way through the month, and someone was energetic enough to actually research and find out that July is the hottest month here (followed closely by August and June). Lucky me to have arrived just in time for it. At least the balance of my tour here will be in the more comfortable temperatures. As is usual on Sundays, the work load was light (meaning fewer meetings) but tomorrow will strike back with a vengeance (a few extra, and very long meetings!) I was able to spend a few hours throwing together another useful Visual Basic program (in Excel) that the soldiers in my battalion can use. I'm pretty dangerous with it and I don't even know that much yet. Fear me when I actually start learning how to do the "neat" stuff. Some aspects of the job are very rewarding (usually those involving helping people face to face) and some are immensely frustrating (usually those involving dealing with inanimate objects). On the balance, at least there's some variety.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

All in for a quarter

Has another week gone by already? This was a busier week than usual, although probably because of either staying up all night on Wednesday or the catching up on sleep on the other days coupled with the normal workload. In any case, I'm amazed that it's the weekend yet again. Speaking of elapsed time being amazing, I checked my time tracking spreadsheet today and realized I just crossed a good milestone... a quarter of the way through my deployment! Yay! Only three more like it and I'll be home.

Speaking of quarters, I finally managed to find the weekly poker game! Note that this was difficult, since technically gambling is illegal here. Texas Hold 'Em is apparently the game of choice, and it took me a while to catch on, as I kept losing at the beginning, and was going to quit, but was convinced to stay... and did a lot better. Of course, we were just playing for chips, and fun. Not gambling. Nope, that would be against the rules. We did all chip in to buy the snacks, and at the end some of us got back some money because we put in too much. Somehow I ended up with a few dollars more than I started. Such is life.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world

I'm beginning to wonder if I should have posted yesterday's story of my adventure outside the wire. I received several emails from worried parents and friends of other officers headed over here, some with my unit and going to "similar" jobs. So today, I think it's necessary to provide a litte clarification. As a Navy officer, I am a veteran teller of "sea stories". Yep, when I get back home I'll be sitting down in the O-club with a beer and chattering on to my shipmates about "When I was in Iraq." One necessary ingredient of sea stories is giving just enough accurate detail to make something sound really cool and dangerous, while leaving out the details that would make the event similar to watching a good action film. Unfortunately, because I don't want to discuss the details of tactics (either ours or what we know of the enemy's) I can't really elaborate on the details that make what happened much more benign than it sounds at first telling. I think one of the biggest sources of fear is worry about the "unknown". I was very worried before I went out the first time. I was much less worried (but still cautious) the second time. I'm still worried enough that I turned down an offer of a "third time" next week. But it's not really as dangerous as you would think from watching TV or reading news focused solely on the negative. Some, especially those who have a sailor over here, have asked me if they will have to go outside the wire. My answer is "probably not." Most of the Navy jobs do not require it at all. Even within our unit, there are many who have not ever left the FOB (Forward Operating Base)... making them, in the local parlance, "Fobbits"; and there are some who have gone out much more frequently than I have. I probably could have said "no" to my trips, but I chose to do them for specific reasons and am still glad I did. I have learned a lot more about the way my unit operates, and that knowledge is directly improving my ability to train and advise them on their operations. John LeCarre once wrote, "A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world." That generally applies here. (Okay, I admit, my desk is a rather safe place, but the quote is not meant literally!) Anyway, the bottom line to all of this... well, the bottom two lines: it isn't as bad as you imagine (and I can't explain why), and for others out here, Navy, Coast Guard, or otherwise, they're in a different job and if they say they're not going outside, they're not going outside.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


In my previous deployment on board ship, we had a phrase which referred to those members of our staff who went ashore to perform some of their duties. We said they were "going to the show." It was a great inside joke and found its way into various briefings when comic relief was needed. I didn't post an update last night because I was outside the wire again, riding a convoy. (For those really concerned (Hi, mom!) that this is something routine, don't fear. This was probably my last time.) The theme from my previous trip was consistent, in that the trip took over twice as long as it should have, but the reasons were far different. I won't describe in detail everything that happened, but with regard to the saying from my last staff job, I can say that I had front row seats to "the show." I can now say I've seen an IED go off. And I've been pretty close to a firefight. A little bit more excitement than I wanted, a few stories to tell my grandkids someday, but all in all, I returned home safe and tired as the sun was rising. (By the way, nobody else was seriously hurt either, so it was a successful night.) So now it's back to my desk job and learning new and exciting ways to apply my geekly skills to the war in a much better manner than I could sitting in a Humvee watching the war.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July, everyone! A lot of the staff took the day off to attend various BBQs or other recreational activities. Of course, the war does go on and we did have a lot of folks doing their daily duties in support of that. The enemy isn't taking the day off. Speaking of the enemy, they did oblige us with a few mortar shots for the nice "boom" in lieu of fireworks. Alas, nothing from the base. Some of the soldiers have said they will be shooting off some pen flares once it gets darker out. Another one of my JCCS-1 colleagues has informed me of his blog, so I've added a link to The Chronicles of Narmya. Feel free to check out the adventures of someone at a different base with, it appears, quite a different daily routine than I have. He also explains the meaning of the symbology of the logo and translates the Latin motto. Speaking of logo, I was provided the other version of our command patch with my preferred colors, posted here. And, for added measure, I'll toss in our "tactical patch" that we wear on our sleeves, that is a detail of what can be seen on the shield of the larger, colorful patch.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Today is lucky enough to be a Monday and a Friday at the same time! (That's some real fun with time zones, eh?) Actually, since tomorrow is the 4th of July, all the daily meetings have been cancelled. We're still going to do all the rest of the work we normally do (and had a few extra long meetings today to prepare) but it should be a nice relaxing time. I've been meaning to post our command logo here for you to look at for a while. I finally got around to doing it. Here's the JCCS-1 logo. I think it's pretty cool, although I might quibble with the color choices. (I've seen a blue version that I like better.) Our organization is part of a larger counter-IED group called "Task Force Troy". And as you can see below, they have a really cool logo, especially for people like me who spent some of their formative years reading "Mad" magazine and enjoying the "Spy vs. Spy" comic series. I actually purchased this colorful patch to sew on to... well, something when I get home. (P.S. We're the guys in white!) No fireworks planned that I know of, but they are going to show "Superman Returns" at the theatre. I've heard he no longer fights for the American Way (it's now just Truth, Justice, and all that stuff) so I'm not sure how good a fit it is for Independence Day, but it's better than a meeting.