Thursday, September 30, 2004
When I was a kid, September and October were always my favorite times of the year. Along the Central Coast of California, the summer months of June, July and August were almost always cool. Each day the Monterey Bay started off covered in fog until 11am, and then the sun would shine for about 4 hours until the fog rolled back in. I used to love watching the immense wall of fog roll down my street towards me. Anyways, when September and October rolled around the weather finally warmed up to something worthy of summer. It was called the Indian Summer. Why, I have no idea, but that's what they called it. I miss that weather, the air... riding my mountain bike along the beach or up in the mountains above the bay. For years after I left home I used to dwell on how much I missed that place, but now I dwell on how much I want my kids to be able to enjoy that beautiful place as I once did. I can't wait to take them down along Portola Blvd, or ride bikes with them along the cliffs, across the harbor, and then across the railroad trestle leading to the boardwalk. I long for the day I can walk around capitola village and buy them something cool to drink at Mr. Toots. Maybe then my family will understand why I always take things in stride, why I'm always layed back, and why I am almost always longing for the smell of the surf, the salty air, and the cool breeze.
Now that I live in Southern Ohio I've come to enjoy Octobers again, but for a different reason. In never knew what fall was when I was a kid. In Ohio, fall is the explosion of colors on every tree, the warm dry breeze that smells of pollen, Holloween and Thanksgiving. I'm sure this is what fall is to most of the country, but to me it's all new and very beautiful. Best of all is that my baby girl was born on Holloween, so she will always remind me of my favorite time of the year since of course she is my little pumpkin. My stepson was born on 2 November, so to me his birthday represents the coming of Thanksgiving. (Trust me, on his birthday he's very thankfull that we're giving)
So back to reality. I'll be spending my favorite month of October here in Iraq, where it's dry, hot, and where all the trees are off base and too distant to enjoy. Even then, I don't imagine they'll be changing colors like ours do back home. Once it starts raining here they say it will rain non-stop through March, with a good mix of thunderstorms. Can you sense the excitement in my words? No? Didn't think so. All I will have to enjoy my favorite time of the year are the pictures I'll find online. Of course I will be looking at photos of Ohio, Monterey Bay, and my children. I hope they find a pile of leaves to jump through for me!
Photos of fall in Ohio
Photos of fall in Monterey Bay
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
To All My Friends And Family.....
First of all, referencing a news article is something I haven't done before, but I've never come across a story that has given me so much faith in what we are doing here. If there is anything you accomplish today, please please please read this article and pass it around to as many people as you can. It's so important that you do this because you will never come across this information without digging, and so few people take the time to research the news. Yes it is longer than most stories, but you will thank me after you finish reading it. Again, here it is... please read this for me and for all of us who are out here.
Now, back to reality. Welcome to my blog. For all but one of you (Thanks for the help Bev), this is the first time you've been here. What I created was a Web Log, or Blog for short. It's a much easier way for me to share my pain and suffering with everyone. Plus, it's actually better then sending emails out, as you will see in the near future. I can update this more frequently (and painlessly) as well as post pictures and link to other websites. Over time you will come to enjoy it, or else! (Kidding of course) At the end of every entry I make there is a place for you to make comments. Be aware that these are viewable to all, so no mushy gushy stuff.
I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I will enjoy writing them. Please look around the entire website to see all the features, archives, and previous posts. It's very simple to use. If you have any suggestions or comments or requests, send them my way. Oh, and ignore the typos... I'm no Will Shakespeare so expect some mistakes now and then.
Pleaes feel free to send the site address to anyone you know.
posted by El Capitan at 10:10 AM
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
We're Not In Kansas Anymore
This morning my Commander made a comment to us all regarding what we say to our friends and family back home. His concern is that we only share the bad stuff about this place, placing an unnecessary burden on everyone back home. He wanted us to share more positive things about this place instead of all the gloom and doom. So here I am at 1am with nothing better to do, so I decided to give it a shot.
Let me start by describing this place from the outside in. Driving from my building where I work to my MOD (living quarters) at night, roughly half the horizon is lit up with flames from oil refineries. These flames are burning the excess natural gas that comes up from the wells, and at night they turn the flames up. They're miles away, but they dominate the sky with their 100ft plus flames that shoot upward. You can almost hear them, but you know you can't. They are nice too look at, although they only remind you of where you are whenever you see them. The other side of the horizon are the suburbs of the city. Street lights, apartments, buildings, you name it... just a normal every day city.
The climate here at this time of year is very similar to the San Juaquin Valley in Central California. Honestly, this region is not a desert. It's very fertile farmland, cris-crossed with rivers and irrigation canals. Just off the non-city side of the base you can see farms, fields, and a citrus grove. Occasionally you'll see sheppards herding their sheep just outside the fence, and as I've mentioned before, there is always one or more kids hanging outside looking in. They're always cool to see.
This place not only holds most of the oil in Iraq, it could also be a very successful agricultural region. It simply lacks more water infrastructure for irrigation, as well as investment capital. Add a little more money, an ounce more water, and pinch of security, and this place would be booming agriculturally.
The sky is mostly sunny, but the horizon is always blurred with dust or smoke from the fires. Not the best to inhale, but it always makes for beautiful sunsets. The flat valley we're in is surrounded by hills, one of which has an ancient castle on the horizon. Not sure what significance it has, but I'm sure I'll find out. Just a few miles away is the Citadel with David's tomb, as well as a few other very important biblical figures. And about 25 miles away is the eternal flame. The Army Chaplain explained to me that the flame is mentioned in the Old Testament. It's the location of the furnace where Chadrack, Mishak, and the other dude (someone remind me what his name is) were thrown into. In the Old Testament, the three were protected by a fourth person that appeared in the furnace with them... Jesus.
The local leaders could not understand why this flame attracted so many tourists. The Muslim leaders looked upon it as a scientific anomaly, where natural gas was coming from the ground and was burning continuously. The Chaplains on base have a great relationship with the local religious leaders around here, and when they informed those leaders about the significance of that flame to the Christian religion (one of the first places Jesus showed himself to the world), they finally realized that it was a special place. Even in Islam Jesus is regarded as a very important profit, so they now have more respect for that spot. There's so much more to the story that I can't remember clearly, but it is fascinating to listen to.
So back to describing the area. Without giving up any info to the bad guys (you never know who's out there), I can only describe the spaces where we work in live as a maze of barriers, roads and buildings. We use some of the existing bunkers and hardened shelters that were here when we liberated this region. They made those things pretty strong actually. The base is pitted with underground bunkers, above ground bunkers that look like small pyramids, and lots of dirt. The base must be the dirtiest place in the region because of the lack of vegetation. The dirt is similar to baby powder in consistency, so it blows everywhere and gets into everything. I gave up trying to stay dirt free the first day I arrived. It's impossible. There are a few trees on base, but most of the trees are off base and throughout the city. Like I said, very much like the Central California Valley.
Since we share the base with the Army, each service has its own gyms and facilities. We share everything, but the Air Force tends to have better stuff than the Army. The Air Force definitely takes care of their own.
The food is actually great, but it does get repetitious. There are typically 3 food lines... One with a basic square meal with meat and veggies, one line for pizza, or pasta, and the third line for fast food (i.e. fries, burgers, dogs, egg rolls, etc) There's a sandwich bar, a fruit bar, and plenty of juice to drink. I haven't had this much fruit juice in years, and I'm sure my body is loving it.
I'm constantly comparing this to the soup lines of old, when military chow was something to fear. It's amazing how far we've come. Of course the chow hall is contracted out to a private company, which is why it is so good. The Government has never been great at preparing thousands of meals a day for its troops. The company running the place hired its servers from the Philippines, and most of the chefs from India. Not sure how much money they make, but they are certainly doing very well here. Be confident that it is enough to overshadow the risk, and enough to return home and live comfortably for a very long time.
Well, it's getting later and later and I'm finally falling asleep. There is much more I could describe, but I hate to give it all out at the risk of giving too much out. The only downfall to sharing info on this blog is that you must always assume the wrong people are reading it. Don't worry, I won't give any info out that our Commander doesn't put out. Some back home might call that censorship.. I call it keeping my ass safe. These guys are shooting at us, so the less they know the safer I am.
Don't forget. In one of my previous posts from yesterday I mention an article that discusses all the good things we're accomplishing in Iraq. Click here to see it. Please read it if you haven't already. If you have read it, pass it along. We need to get the word out to everyone that our country is truly making a positive difference here.
I know, some of you are thinking..."Surely he can't be serious."
I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.
And don't forget to pass this website along to anyone else. I only charge by the minute.
Monday, September 27, 2004
Time To Change...
Caught this little blurb on MSNBC's website tonight. It's probably true, but my first assumption is that MSNBC put this out to scare you into thinking someone (hint hint) wants to start another war. Here's the text.
Oct. 4 issue - Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is "busier than ever," an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries. (Syria is regarded as a major route for jihadis entering Iraq, and Iran appears to be actively pursuing nuclear weapons.) Even hard-liners acknowledge that given the U.S. military commitment in Iraq, a U.S. attack on either country would be an unlikely last resort; covert action of some kind is the favored route for Washington hard-liners who want regime change in Damascus and Tehran.
If in fact this is true, why would we release it to the press? Simple... there are those that still don't understand that we are not the United States of the 1990s or September 10th, willing to give into false promises of tyrants and dictators. Iran, Syria, and North Korea are now faced with a very simple future. They will either stop destabilizing their regions and supporting terror, or they will be overcome by the biggest use force known on the face of the earth - Freedom. Those in power will cease to exists, and their people will be free at last. It worked with the Germans, Japanese, the Soviet Union, and slowly but surely it's working in Iraq (although the Big Wigs in New York would like you to believe otherwise). Those three countries don't stand a chance, and trust me, at least two of the three will do what Libya did... learn from the mistakes of others and change their ways without single shot fired.
This article may just be friendly reminder to the hundreds of thousands of Iranian conscripts standing on the border 60 miles away from where I am at this moment, as well as the hundreds of Syrians and Iranians that have filtered into Iraq to destabilize the power they fear the most... democracy.
Sorry dudes, it won't work. Time to change.
Well, hell froze over last night. I got a call from our Passenger Terminal, or PAX, telling me that all three of my A-bags finally arrived. If you remember, I arrived here in Iraq the uniform on my back and my carry-on bag... no luggage. I had to wait until 1 October before I could make a lost luggage claim and receive compensation for my things that were lost. 3 days... I only had 3 days to go, but they found them. Of course I am thrilled to get a couple of things back, but most of it must be fried to a crisp by now.
Those bags were located sitting out in the hot 120 degree sun down in Qatar. I tried to lift them by their handles but the bags were just tearing apart because they were deep fried for 30+ days. I have yet to open any of them... I'll do that tonight, but I'm afraid at what I might find. If anything is damaged, and I can only imagine most if it is, then I can claim those items at least. C'mon... Daddy needs a new digital camera! Seriously, I'm sure the camera is fried. We shall see.
Last night I was up on the rooftop, enjoying a cigar my brother in law sent in a care package. Beautiful night, except for the small firefight we had just behind the gate. Someone was taking pot shots at us, so our guards gleefully returned fire to convince these poor souls that they chose the wrong career path. Not sure what came of it, but the fireworks were a sight to see.
Other than that, everything is going great. We're doing some great work on the infrastructure in the area, as well as keeping the peace in the region. The Army guys on base took an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) while driving into town, but everyone walked away with their lives thanks to the new armor they've put on most of the Humvees and vehicles around here. It's amazing how quickly we've adapted to the AIF (Anti-Iraqi Forces) tactics across this region.
Clausewitz, the brilliant 19th century Prussian military 'dude' who's writings shaped our military, as well as Szun Tzu, the even more brilliant Chinese general who's writings from over 2,000 years ago effect our military tactics and training, both wrote about the importance of adapting to one's enemies. If they could see us they would be so proud. FYI here's great article written by an up-and-coming genius about Clausewitz. If you get a chance, click here and tell me what you think. (He accepts donations and free beer as well if you like what you read)
It's off to chow and then I must open my deep fried luggage to see what Santa has brought me this year. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Latest and Greatest
Well, I’ve been away now for 30 days and in country for 27. Still not sure if time is flying by or simply dragging along, but it’s nice to see the days ticking away. I know lots of bad things have been going on around the region, but I was truly inspired by Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi’s comments the other day. He said that no matter what happens between now and January, this country will have its elections and democracy will rule. ‘This will be the ultimate blow to what the terrorists are trying to accomplish.' If his words inspired me, I hope the rest of the people around Iraq were just as inspired. Yes, bad things are happening around here, but there is so much hope for the future, you just can’t stop people once they have a taste of freedom. Our forefathers who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution knew that freedom was not something handed out by man. It was a gift handed down by the creator of all mankind and instilled in everyone's heart, and we all have a God given right to it.
I’m currently reading a history of the Soviet Union, and I find it amazing how the hundreds of millions of people who lived for generations behind the Iron Curtain had all succumbed to communism and socialist rule, but their yearning for freedom never truly faded away. That is why, as time went on, so many of those people gained enough strength and demanded democracy and freedom, resulting in the velvet revolution... the revolution that conquered the Soviet Union without a shot fired. I only hope the Iraqis are the same way. If freedom is ingrained in all of us, then give these good people a few years and they will be well on their way. In the mean time, we’ll keep helping them kick terrorist ass.
We’ve had the occasional random attacks, but nothing significant. I’ve still got all my bells and whistles intact. It’s cooling down, so the average day is about 105F. Just perfect for us out here. Oh, and yes, I did the deed. I shaved my head with a razor on Sunday. I could never do this permanently, but it is kind of cool. It makes life so much easier out here with the 3 minute showers and wearing the helmet every day. It just better grow back before I get home. I look like Mr. Clean.
Since I was one of the first to arrive for this rotation, I’ll be one of the first to leave this winter. The sad part is that I’ve made some great friends over the last few weeks who have now all gone home. I’m happy for them, but I have to admit the folks on their rotation were much better than the ones on mine. There were some great Captains and Senior NCOs that would always gather up on the rooftop, smoke a good cigar, and just chat. Now I’m surrounded by junior Airmen and Lieutenants. My God, I can’t believe I survived being a Lieutenant. These guys are knuckleheads! One has only been in a year, and he’s a Zoomie, so there is no hope. (A Zoomie is an Air Force Academy Graduate) The other is from Hanscom AFB, Mass. He’s got to be the most arrogant guy alive. He knows his job, don’t get me wrong, but he had the misfortune of disagreeing with me about our office. We tore apart my office, repainted it, and then moved 1 more person in it. Now there are three of us sharing a space about the size of my old dorm room in college. Since I’m the Group Exec I am in charge of these two knuckleheads, so I placed the desks accordingly. When the Lt saw where I was putting the desks he succumbed to his inner 3 year old and started throwing a temper tantrum. He would not shut up, and he would not stop telling me that I was wrong, that he wouldn’t sit there, and that I didn’t know what I was doing. I politely straightened him out and told him that the decision was final. He left, but the next day when I arrived he moved his desk back, so I pulled him out of the office and as far away from the others as I could. I then politely told him that I didn’t care what his reason was for not listening to me, he’d better move his stuff back. Next thing I hear is him whining and yelling at me. To make a long story short, everyone in the building could hear my response, and he has yet to raise his voice at me again. Yes, I’m always a nice guy and I usually let people sit where they want to, but had I given in, this guy would have been walking all over me for 4 months. I at least have half a brain, so I know never to yell or scream at someone who outranks me, no matter how right or wrong they are. So yes, I’ve wielded my power, cleaned house, and as Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be the King.” Now all I need are some cigars. I ran out.
Hey, my mouse count is up to 8. I’ve caught 8 of the suckers in our building. I have these sticky traps all around, and they just keep coming. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like once the rains come. The only thing that sucks about the sticky traps is if you step on them, it’s impossible to get them off your boots. Trust me, I know from experience.
Not sure if I mentioned this, but I’m in charge of this renovation project here on base. There is an ancient Muslim Shrine and cemetery here on base, and a lot of the folks around the area pray to it every day. They can see it from miles away. We found out that renovating the place will pay huge dividends in improving the relations with the locals since Saddam kept so many away from the place and refused to help in its upkeep. Anyways, the Army is getting 100K to fix it up and I’ll be the Project Manager on it. It means I’ll be working with local clerics, which will be very interesting. Hopefully we can get it rolling soon. I’ll keep you updated as it progresses.
Someone pointed out a building that is fenced off in a corner of the base. I guess Saddam had killed a group of Kurdish leaders and dumped their remains inside the building. Since Islam dictates that bodies should be buried by nightfall of the day someone dies, Saddam dumped them there to give the locals the proverbial middle finger. Nobody goes near the place for obvious reasons. I’m sure the locals will want to collect their kin some day in the near future. You’d be amazed to hear the stories told about Saddam around here. The bombed out soccer stadium behind our base was a Bath Party hangout, and during soccer games they would bring out people who had done something wrong and execute them in front of the crowds. At another stadium they interrupted a soccer game by bringing out a large number of people, killing them in front of the crowd, digging a trench in the middle of the field with a backhoe, dumped them in the trench, quickly filling it, and then continued the game.
Sorry to talk about stuff like this, but you just never hear about how bad it was before we came along. Yes, there is bad stuff going on and it’ll get worse before it gets better, but most of the folks here in Iraq are happy we’re here because of what they endured for decades under Saddam. We already cut and run back in 1991 after telling these people we’d support any uprising against Saddam. Not only did we leave them hanging... we allowed Saddam to fly his gunships in and mow'em down under the guise of flying humanitarian missions. Not one of our proudest moments. Yes they never forgot that, but they have forgiven us because we’re here now and we’re helping them become a democracy. Now if the nimrods back home would just shut up about cutting and running again because we've shed blood here. Don't they remember when Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Okay, I’ll get off my soap box. Like I said before, I can’t wait to see these people years from now and how much better off they will be because of what we’re doing here today.
Thanks for all the funny emails. Tam, the joke about the Redneck wrestling the alligator was a big hit around here. Bev, thanks for the letter! Michelle, thank you for the e-cards. Shane, thank you for the pictures of the kids at the apple orchard. I can’t believe they’ve changed so much since July.
Keep in touch, and keep counting down the days. I’m almost there!
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Never A Dull Moment
Never a dull moment. I was going to head out to lunch, but there is now a fuel tanker truck on fire parked next to our DFAC (Cafeteria). Hmmm, coincidence…. I hope that’s all it is. If it all goes up in flames I’ll be snacking on MRE’s for the next few months. Oh well, now I have all the time in the world… or at least 30 minutes… to write.
Nothing much happening here. I am now the ‘Old Timer’ around here since I’m going on four weeks and everyone else is brand new. It wasn’t fun saying goodbye to the friends I had met over the last few weeks as they transitioned out, but the advantage to coming in first is that I’m going to be the first one to leave. That said, now everyone is coming to me with questions and needing help, so I do my best to pretend I know what I’m doing.
I was up on the rooftop again a few nights ago, and it was my first time up since the rocket hit last week. I figured it was safe, but after about 30 minutes we got hit with two rockets. Nothing close to me, but as soon as I heard them hit I was back on the bottom floor. I swear I’m a rocket magnet. I’ve been through too many attacks in just 3 weeks.
I’ve been doing my best to work out at the Army gym whenever I have a free moment. So far so good, but I’ve got a lot of work to do. I had forgotten how nice it was to work out. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day, you tend to forget to take care of yourself now and then. If anything, I want to be healthy for my family. I don’t want to be some slug who dies because he's out of shape, leaving his kids fatherless. Having no fast food around here helps as well. We do have a burger king, which we call ‘Hadji-King’, but everyone says it tastes funny so I won’t go there. I did try the Pizza Hut, but the meatlovers pizza must have had camel or something. It just didn’t taste right. The only way I can describe it was that it tasted like Kuwait smelled... 'nough said.
We have LNs, or ‘Local Nationals,’ who come in and clean our building daily. It’s a father-son team, and the kid always reminds me of my brother Joey. He’s tall with funny hair. It’s amazing though that he’s only 15 years old. I chat with him now and then, and his English is pretty good. We had someone send us hundreds of bags of candy for the troops, so I gave him a bag yesterday and he was thrilled. Both him and his dad are making what most locals would consider a fortune by working here. More power to them… I’m glad they get to work and make good money. I was talking to one of the U.S. civilians who run the gym, and he’s making 80K a year tax free just to sit there and clean gym equipment. I’m in the wrong business. He was a school teacher making 26K w/taxes in Tennessee, but he couldn’t pass up the job offer.
The Kurds are still pouring into the region, trying to get in place for the upcoming census and elections. The little tent city they’re building next to our base is very organized, and it’s amazing how many tents have satellite dishes. They’re still very poor, so the kids are always coming up to our perimeter with grenades and munitions, trying to get money for them. We used to have a buy-back policy and would pay locals for munitions, and it worked very well, but since the kids started coming up to the fences holding stuff that could kill them we’ve cut back on giving out money. Now we just hand them water or an occasional MRE. At least it’s something, but you don’t want to encourage them to keep coming. Just the other day a kid was standing next to the fence banging two grenades together like toys. Scary…..
We have a bizarre coming to the base this weekend, so my goal is to buy some stuff and send it back home. If anyone has a request for anything please send it my way. I’m not sure what they’ll have, but it should be interesting stuff.
Last Saturday was the third anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I was charged with organizing a memorial, and we had a good turn out for it. I bought a flag and had it raised, and then folded up. It’ll be something special to keep at home when I get back. As for the anniversary itself, I thought about the tragedy and how horrible everything was that day, but then I thought about what we’ve done since then. Over the three years since the attack we’ve liberated 55 million people, ended a tyrannical and oppressive theocracy, removed a murderous dictator and his regime, improved the infrastructures and healthcare systems of two countries, opened schools so that both young boys and girls are now educated, and in a few short months those 55 million people will have the opportunity to vote in national elections for the first time. Someone said, and I forget who it was, that from tragedy comes opportunity. How true that is.
Okay, the fire is out, so we can now go and eat lunch.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Well, I just had one of the most intensely insane moments of my life. I blame it all on Kharma. Today I told everyone how nice and safe this place was, and how secure we are here. Sure, we’ve had rockets fired at us often and the occasional sniper taking aim, but that seemed to be just background noise. We’re so busy doing so many different things, it’s easy to make that stuff seem unimportant. Well the shit hit the fan tonight.
I was on a rooftop with some folks, just as we typically do once or twice a week. We had been up there for about 45 minutes just telling jokes and talking about home. Next thing I know I hear a whoosh and Boom, and saw the flash. A damn rocket hit right behind the building we were on top of. I don’t know if I was knocked out of my chair or I just jumped, but we all hit the deck, expecting a rain of crap to come down on top of us. I feel bad but I crushed a guy underneath me. Can’t really coordinate those things when you’re all hitting the deck at the same time.
Anyways, we’re now glued to the rooftop and one guy shouts that the rockets almost always come in two's. Just great, we’re totally out in the open and stuck to the rooftop, not sure whether to run for the stairs in the center of the building or just sit there. We ran. I guess you can tell the new guys from the old, because the old ones weren’t as shell shocked by this as us new guys were. So we make it down stairs and now we’re stuck in this building until all is found secure.
Can’t explain the situation any better. All is well, and this will just be chalked up as another average rocket attack, but not for me. That was too close for comfort. Honestly, that really sucked. Yes, understatement of the century, but I’m trying to be calm. It’s that damn being an Officer crap. We’re supposed to always be calm and collected. Of course I am calm on the outside, but inside I’m definitely shaken. Who wouldn’t be? My head’s still ringing… Personally, I hope I never see that crap again.
Keep those prayers coming!
**Okay, an hour has passed and all is good. Been busy with the post attack stuff, but it’s complete. Hopefully the ringing in my ear goes away tonight.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
A Fond Farewell
Here's a little update. I was hoping to have posted more last night, but I never really had the opportunity. Everything is good here, and I'm working hard as usual. No, I'm not being sarcastic this time. With the transition between rotations, everyone is coming and going at once and it makes for a busy schedule. Yesterday was something that made things a little harder.
Late yesterday afternoon we got word that one of our Army folks here on base was Killed in Action. Since we had a C-130 arriving soon, they planned on transporting the young soldier on it. The folks that schedule those planes, located at another base, decided that we had to place our outgoing troops, luggage, and pallets on the plane along with the casket. Since the plane was originally intended to take folks home, they wanted it used for that.
I have to give my boss credit on this one. He fought for quite a while to just have the casket flown back on the empty plane, and finally just did it despite the folks telling him he had to load it. It just wouldn't have been right. We all agreed, good call.
Just as the sun was setting, the plane pulled up and parked on the ramp and the new passengers walked off. They were greeted by a few hundred Army and Air Force personnel, all quiet, who were in formation at the rear of the plane on each side of the ramp. Those new troops joined in once they saw what was going on. What a way to be introduced to the base.
Anyways, we stood there at attention as they carried the flag-draped coffin along the flight line and onto the plane. We stood there for about 30+ minutes moving between attention and parade rest while waiting for the coffin to arrive, but nobody complained or griped or even said a word. After 4 years of training and 5+ years in the Air Force, that was the first time I realized why we were in and what we were doing here. I used to hate formations and military bearing and all of that pomp and circumstance stuff, but no more. I will never forget that sunset I watched while standing there as the coffin went by.
None of us knew the guy, but we're all going to make an effort to get to know his fellow soldiers that are still here. I can't imagine being his commander...
After that we went and delivered food to all of the passengers that were supposed to have left that night. Then a few of us went up to the roof of our building and chatted about everything while watching the stars, the lights from the city, and the moonrise.
Most of the troops here are all leaving in a few days, so I'll be the 'old guy' as their replacements arrive. Kind of funny I guess. Other than that, it's starting to feel like the movie groundhog day.
Repetition... it's torture. I'm not complaining, it's just strange to wake up and not know what day it is because they're all the same.
In the 'Clam-tina', which is where most events take place on base, they're going to have another Bingo night on Saturday. It's free, and they have a few thousand bucks worth of stuff, so it's worth it. Maybe I'll get an AAFES certificate so I can buy the stuff the Air Force lost on the way up.
If I haven't mentioned the food, it's good. The servings are a little too big, but the Filipino women who serve it don't speak good English, so it's hard to tell them to not give as much. Half the time they think you're flirting with them if you try and speak up, so you just shut up and get your food. I now skip the meal line all together and go straight to either the 'fitness food' bar, full of fruits and nuts, or the sandwich bar. I may just lose a few pounds out here thanks to those women.
I've been working out almost daily, and they do have a swimming pool, but I'm one of the unlucky guys who work for a living so I never have time to go and enjoy it. I have been running outside more because the sun feels nice even though it's 115 degrees. It's a dry heat. The only concern is all the oil smoke in the air. People say it'll make you wheeze after a while. I've even heard that everything you send home smells like oil. Have fun Tonya!
Did I mention I got my first Helicopter ride yesterday. Quite the ride. Hopefully you'll all see the pictures. It was very different then an airplane. I know, you're saying... duh, of course it's different. It just felt different, and the movements and turns were very strange. I almost liked it better. Of course I'd trade it in for a flight to Australia in a 747 any day of the week.
The admin staff has been asking me for my OK, or my opinion, on a lot of things. I forgot that I'm in charge of their office and they're supposed to do that. It's been a long time since I've had folks under me, and I've never actually had a 'staff' working admin issues for me. Hmmm, maybe they can write my blog posts for me too. Kidding, this is the only fun I have. I won't have them doing my laundry, cleaning my bathroom or anything else like the last Commander did.
Speaking of laundry, it's time to go and get it done. I don't want to say up late tonight. I've been having the strangest dreams for the last few days. Very vividly real dreams that are so strong I wake up and lost track of where I am. They say that's a common thing here too. It ruins my sleep, so I don't like it. Funny, I sleep right behind an ancient Muslem cemetery, so I wonder if the ghouls are bugging us. Kidding of course... just a thought. I want to walk through it and look at the head stones, but I don't want to tick anyone off and I wouldn't understand the writing anyways.
Thanks again for the emails and the good cheer. I miss you all, and I can't wait to be home.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
As my oldest stepson would say… Horaay for me!
Guess what I got to do for my birthday. My first Helicopter ride! (I sound like a little kid, but who wouldn’t after a ride like this?) We just criss-crossed around base, but it was ten times better than ‘Son of Beast’, the painful wooden roller coaster with a loop at Kings Island Ohio. Especially when we hit negative g’s… I let go of my water bottle and it hovered in front of my face for a while until I grabbed it. Definitely fun. Someone filmed a 30-second digital video of it, but it’s too big to send now. I’ll have to put together a CD. That was it though… another long day again.
We lost an Army troop this afternoon. He’s flying in now on the same Helo I flew on this morning and we’re going to have a memorial for him as they load his casket up on the plane. Definitely a bad day for us all. I can’t imagine being his Commander and having to write that letter home. He was about 24 years old. Ironic thing is that the plane that’s taking his casket was scheduled for troops to go home in. HQ in Qatar wants those troops to ride with the casket, but we’re saying that it’s disrespectful to the soldier and to all folks heading out. Qatar has messed all of our flights up for the last week, not to mention losing most of our bags and gear up here, so I think we’re just going to send the casket alone. It’s only fitting, and I don’t believe one person headed home would mind waiting a few hours for the next plane.
Don’t worry, I won’t go off base any time soon. Plus, the insurgent ‘Rocketeers’ are so bad at aiming what they launch at us, my chances of winning the lottery are better than getting hit.