Thursday, December 30, 2004
My Wish List for 2005
-Less time stressing, more time at the gym
-Meaningful projects at work (aka escape the 'Office Space' reality I'm stuck in at the moment)
-Become debt free (We're pretty close to it thanks to my Wife's amazing accounting skills)
-Videotape the kids more. They're growing up too fast!
-Publish another article
-Move to a location with good schools, a safe community, and a nice, warm beach
-Start 529 college-saving plans for my girls
-Spend more time with the family
-Win the largest lottery jackpot in history so I can share it with all my peeps
For the Nation:
-Start giving the Saudi's the bird by reducing petrol consumption (Drive less, Drill up North, etc)
-Throw away the current Tax Code and all payroll taxes. Initiate a National Sales Tax ASAP
-Convert Social Security into Private Accounts (like the rest of the modern world!)
-Grant all current illegal aliens limited amnesty. Using the political capital we receive, build a solid, secure border between the U.S. and Mexico. As for Canada, just dig a mote.
-Start cataloging Hilary Clinton's amazing transformation from radical leftist to moderate conservative for the upcoming 2008 elections. (Losing her Senate seat in 2006 would also help)
-Send an additional 100K troops to Iraq to secure the place once and for all. I'll be the first to volunteer to go if it helps save the lives of our troops and the Iraqis.
-Continue the military transformation and close the useless bases around the country.
-For Alaska: Cancel the annual Permanent Fund Dividend to its citizens (like me), and just have one last giant payout. The state population might dip a bit, but that money will help all involved.
-Fix the Executive Branch Line Item Veto amendment so it's legal. This will save billions from all of the pork-barrel projects Congress passes each year.
-Give the Mainstream Media the kick in the arse it deserves and let its ratings continue to plummet. Maybe they'll finally get a clue and stop skewing and dumbing down reality with their garbage they call news. 2004 was the year of the Blogger... let's repeat it for 2005!
For The World:
-Make the worst natural disaster in modern history the best rescue and rebuilding effort ever seen. If we can rebuild the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean, we can do anything.
-Realize that the U.S. is the good guy on the block, and that we've done more for this world than any country in the last 1500 years. (Rome still has an edge on overall influence, but not a lot)
-I hope we're attacked by aliens so we can finally overcome our stupidity and unite around something. Of course Will Smith needs to be around to save the day!
-Peace, Love, and Progress
For The Universe:
-The moon is ripe for the taking. Let's start making it our next vacation paradise/place to handle overpopulation. Let's hope they find gold up there soon to motivate everyone
-I hope those little robots we have on Mars find enough water so we can start colonizing that place as well. Hurry up, I'm getting old!
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Your Thoughts, Prayers, & Actions (Update)
Please Pray for the millions of victims living around the Indian Ocean who have lost everything, but also please pay to help them. Imagine if everyone around the world gave just a dollar or two to help, so many lives would be saved from disease and starvation.
Here's the Red Cross link to contribute what you can.
Update! Here's USAID's list of organizations out in the field that you can donate to.
Another Link! Amazon.Com is taking donations for the Red Cross. You can see the amount of donations given already. It's amazing what people do to help out.
My Favorite Movies....
Some day when I finally create a movie library these movies will line the shelves. They are my all-time favorites. If you can think of any flicks I've missed please send them my way.
Favorite Movies (In an order as random as my thoughts)
Man On Fire
Pink Floyd - The Wall
Dumb and Dumber
Point of No Return
The Wizard of Oz
James Bond: Golden Eye
James Bond: The World Is Not Enough
Legend of Drunken Masters
Smokey And The Bandit
Me, Myself, & Irene
The Last Starfighter
2001: A Space Odyssey
Return of the Jedi
This Is Spinal Tap
Full Metal Jacket
A Christmas Story
The Right Stuff
So I Married An Axe Murderer
American History X
The 5th Element
The Big Lebowski
Southpark The Movie
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
National Lampoons Vegas Vacation
Kill Bill Vol I, II
The Usual Suspects
Black Hawk Down
Honeymoon In Vegas
Saving Private Ryan
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Oh Brother, Where Art Though?
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Pirates of the Caribbean
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Ace Ventura, Pet Detective
Ferris Beulers Day Off
The Princess Bride
Die Hard: With a Vengeance
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
Star Wars (The Original)
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Latest Good News From Iraq and Afghanistan
Yes we had a very bad day in Mosul yesterday, but that doesn't change the prevailing course we're on in Iraq. Please click on this link below to read the latest good news from Iraq, as well as the world's newest democracy, Afghanistan.
Latest Good News From Iraq
Latest Good News From Afghanistan
Most importantly, please pass it around to everyone you know so that the good word gets out. We can't take too much more of this negative crap in the news.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
A Lucky, But Terrible Shot
MOSUL (Reuters) - A mortar and rocket attack on a U.S. military base in the Iraqi city of Mosul killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 50 on Tuesday in one of the most deadly attacks on U.S. forces since last year's invasion.
When I was stationed in Iraq I never knew where the next rocket would strike. The attacks were daily, but were also very random in targeting because the insurgents could never truly aim their rockets, not to mention the fact that they couldn't arm them properly. My only comfort was knowing that someone would have to be really lucky to hit anything important, such as the chow hall. That lucky shot was sometimes referred to as the 'Golden Beebee.' Well, in Mosul today, it finally happened.
My thoughts are with all of those out there, killed or wounded, or shaken because that simple comfort of knowing you wouldn't be hit with the 'Golden Beebee' was shattered. Some lucky piece of shit hit the chow hall during dinner time. I can only hope that he makes the typical insurgent mistake of being overly confident, and that one of our guys hits him where it hurts the most. Hell has a special place for people like that.
Never give up... Never surrender... Never give in to fear. We will prevail, and Iraq will be free.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Little Bro Joe...
Hey, my little bro Joey finally discovered my Blog. Enjoy... and please pass it around. The more people that look at it, the better.
Friday, December 17, 2004
A Hero, A Marine
December 17, 2004 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "It's stuff you hear about in boot camp, about World War II and Tarawa Marines who won the Medal of Honor," Lance Cpl. Rob Rogers of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment told the Army Times. Rogers was describing the actions of his fellow Marine, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who enlisted in the Marine Corps the day he received his green card.
Most readers of this column probably haven't heard about Rafael Peralta. With the exception of the Los Angeles Times, most of our mainstream media haven't bothered to write about him. The next time you log onto the Internet, do a Google search on Rafael Peralta. As of this writing, the Internet's most used search engine will provide you with only 26 citations from news sources that have bothered to write about this heroic young man.
Then, just for giggles, do a Google search on Pablo Paredes. Hundreds of media outlets have written about him. The wire services have blasted his story to thousands of newspapers. Television and radio debate programs gladly provide the public with talking heads that can speak eloquently on the actions of Pablo Paredes.
You see, Pablo Paredes, a Navy petty officer 3rd class, did something the liberal elites consider "heroic" and the media consider "newsworthy" -- he defied an order. Last week, Paredes refused to board his ship bound for Iraq along with 5,000 other sailors and Marines. He showed up on the pier wearing a black t-shirt that read, "Like a Cabinet member, I resign."
We know this because Paredes had the courtesy and forethought to notify the local media that he would commit an act of cowardice the following day. Perhaps he hoped to follow the lead of another famous war protestor who went on to become a U.S. senator and his party's presidential nominee by throwing away his military medals. Paredes stopped short of trashing his military I.D. in front of the cameras because he said he didn't want to be charged with the destruction of government property. The media, we are promised, will continue to follow this story intently.
It is a shame that the media focus on such acts when they could tell stories about real heroes like Peralta, who "saved the life of my son and every Marine in that room," according to Garry Morrison, the father of a Marine in Peralta's unit -- Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison.
On the morning of Nov. 15, 2004, the men of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines awoke before sunrise and continued what they had been doing for seven days previously -- cleansing the city of Fallujah of terrorists house by house.
At the fourth house they encountered that morning, the Marines kicked in the door and "cleared" the front rooms, but then noticed a locked door off to the side that required inspection. Peralta threw open the closed door, but behind it were three terrorists with AK-47s. Peralta was hit in the head and chest with multiple shots at close range.
Peralta's fellow Marines had to step over his body to continue the shootout with the terrorists. As the firefight raged on, a "yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade," as Lance Cpl. Travis Kaemmerer described it, rolled into the room where they were all standing and came to a stop near Peralta's body.
But Sgt. Rafael Peralta wasn't dead -- yet. This young immigrant of 25 years, who enlisted in the Marines when he received his green card, who volunteered for the front line duty in Fallujah, had one last act of heroism in him.
Peralta was the polar opposite of Paredes, the petty officer who turned his back on his shipmates and mocked his commander in chief. Peralta was proud to serve his adopted country. In his parent's home, on his bedroom walls hung only three items -- a copy of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. Before he set out for Fallujah, he wrote to his 14-year-old brother, "Be proud of me, bro ... and be proud of being an American."
Not only can Rafael's family be proud of him, but his fellow Marines are alive because of him. As Peralta lay near death on the floor of a Fallujah terrorist hideout, he spotted the yellow grenade that had rolled next to his near-lifeless body. Once detonated, it would take out the rest of Peralta's squad. To save his fellow Marines, Peralta reached out, grabbed the grenade and tucked it under his abdomen, where it exploded.
"Most of the Marines in the house were in the immediate area of the grenade," Kaemmerer said. "We will never forget the second chance at life that Sgt. Peralta gave us."
Unfortunately, unlike Paredes, Peralta will get little media coverage. He is unlikely to have books written about him or movies made about his extraordinarily selfless sacrifice. But he is likely to receive the Medal of Honor. And that Medal of Honor is likely to be displayed next to the only items that hung on his bedroom wall -- the Constitution, Bill of Rights and his Boot Camp graduation certificate.
Yes, Virginia, there are still heroes in America, and Sgt. Rafael Peralta was one of them. It's just too bad the media can't recognize them.
Latest South Park Episode
Not sure if you watched it or not, but the latest South Park episode had to have been one of the most psychotic, insane, drug-induced cartoons ever created. And yes, it was funny, but in a sick and twisted way. Throughout the show I was either shaking my head in disbelief, or laughing my ass off... of course feeling guilty afterwards. If you watched it, you'll know what I mean. If you didn't, here's a brief synopsis:
Stan in forest, cute cuddly forest creatures pregnant with their messiah, manger scene, mountain lion killed, creatures are satanic and sacrifice their bunny friend, followed by gratuitous forest creature sex, mountain lion cubs learn about abortion, satan is born, Santa kills cuddly satanic creatures with shotgun, satan possesses Kyle, lion cubs abort satan, Santa kills satan with sledgehammer, Santa brings mountain lion back to life, Kyle dies of AIDS, all of which happened in Cartman's Christmas Story, which he read to class.
I love Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, because they know what they're doing. Whatever their message is, it's usually very funny and isn't intended to be taken seriously... it's just their satirical views on the world. I remember when they made their South Park movie a few years back. During an interview they stated that their intention was to make fun of as many people as they could and get away with it. Of course those people chosen deserved every ounce of what they got. (Winona Rider and the ping pong ball skit) The movie was a masterpiece. I haven't seen Team American, their latest movie, but I hear it's more of the same.
My point is that this latest episode of South Park was so twisted and off the wall, it far surpasses what they got away with in the original South Park movie. I'm still confused as to whether I should feel privileged to have seen it, or I should go and take an hour-long shower because I still feel dirty for watching it. I'm serious... it was that crazy.
In the end I guess I should just hope that their intentions were good. After all, it's just a cartoon.
Now, time to go take a shower...
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The East Coast Pacific Highway...
A Long Road Ahead
Posted by TMMKKT22
Another Picture Experiment
Posted by TMMKKT22
Look Out Bin Laden
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Osama bin Laden take note: You wouldn't be safe in Costa Rica. A startled taxi driver shot and wounded a jokester wearing a plastic mask of the al-Qaida leader, police said Tuesday.
Leonel Arias, 47, told police he was playing a practical joke by donning the Bin Laden mask, toting his pellet rifle and jumping out to scare drivers on a narrow street in his hometown, Carrizal de Alajuela, about 20 miles north of San Jose.
Arias had startled several drivers that way on Monday afternoon. But when he jumped out in front of taxi driver Juan Pablo Sandoval, the motorist reached for a gun and shot him twice in the stomach. He was hospitalized in stable condition.
"For me and I think for anybody else at a time like that one thinks the worst and so I fired my gun," Sandoval told Channel 7 television.
Police declined to detain Sandoval, saying he had believed he was acting in self-defense.
A Great Link
Turn up your volume and open this link.
Next time you're complaining about what you do every day, remember this.
Monday, December 13, 2004
What?? The Matrix Was A Rip-Off??
Usually I can spot an opportunist who just wants to cash in on someone else's success, but this woman is totally legit. I hope the Wachowski Brothers, the lying bastages who claimed to have written the Matrix series, pay through the roof for this. Don't get me wrong... they're good movie makers, they're just dishonest.
Here's the link.
I especially like this quote from the victim. "The reason you have not seen any of this in the media is because Warner Brothers parent company is AOL-Time Warner... this GIANT owns 95 percent of the media... let me give you a clue as to what they own in the media business... New York Times papers/magazines, LA Times papers/magazines, People Magazine, CNN news, Extra, Celebrity Justice, Entertainment Tonight, HBO, New Line Cinema, Dreamworks, Newsweek, Village Roadshow... many, many more!... They are not going to report on themselves. They have been surpressing my case for years..."
Hmmm, and they claim that Fox has a monopoly on the media? Where is Drudge on this story?
Friday, December 10, 2004
What's Up Doc
When I drive from Dayton to Cincinnati down Interstate 75, I am always amazed by one particular interchange of the Interstate and a Highway. At this one place you will find a prison, a steel mill, a strip club, several fast food establishments, a truck stop, an industrial park, two flea markets, a rest area, an anatomically correct statue of a rearing bronco, gas stations, a pornography superstore, and a church with a flashing billboard and a giant 60+ ft tall statue of Jesus. This is truly an interchange of America's culture, capitalism, religion, and society.
In the immortal words of that famous philosopher, Bugs Bunny, 'Cwazy, Isn't It?'
Where Should We Move This Summer?
Well, the assignment list is out for my career field this week. As we all guessed, the options are very bleak. Here's a short list:
Kirtland, New Mexico
Rome, New York
Maui Island, Hawaii
Los Angeles, California
Sure, some of the places don't look too bad, but let me fill the picture in a little more. The nice places have one, maybe two slots open. The not-so-nice places have 10, 20, maybe even 30 slots open. You can see the odds are not in our favor. So, I'm taking nominations... where should we go? Send us your suggestions and Tonya and I may just take them seriously.
Only In The UK
Now this is funny...
LONDON10/12/04 - News and city section - Fancy dress soldier sparks terror scare
A drunken soldier sparked a security alert when he left a regimental party dressed as an Arab suicide bomber, it emerged today. Fifteen squad cars, armed police, and dog handlers were called out after an alarmed member of the public spotted the sergeant dressed in the terrorist outfit. Royal Military Police were also called out after he was seen wearing a turban and false beard and Arab style clothing at around 4pm on Wednesday.
The sergeant, from the Coldstream Guards regiment, also had orange paper, wires and candles stuffed into his combat jacket to look like explosives. He had been to an annual fancy-dress party at Aldershot Army base, in Hampshire, celebrating his regiment's role in the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815, and was walking home along Camp Farm Road when he was spotted.
The sergeant, with 10 years' service, was arrested by Hampshire Police and spent a night in custody. He admitted a public disorder offence and was fined Â£80. A Hampshire Police spokesman said the regiment had been embarrassed by the incident and the Sergeant Major had called to assure police "there would not be any other people leaving the party dressed like that".
A spokesman for Aldershot Army base said the party was supposed to be held in the privacy of the Army base but this particular soldier had tried to walk home along a public road.
"Soldiers have ways of coping with the things they do. They face people like that. If you take the mickey out of them, that's a device for coping," he said. "That's perfectly fair. What's not correct is spreading alarm by walking about like that on the public road."
He added: "There is a security situation isn't there and we might take the time to consider what is a suicide bomber doing walking down the main drag in the army camp all by himself.
"That's not exactly what these people do but I would rather somebody gave us a call so that we can deal with it rather than leave it."
A Hampshire Police spokesman said: "There wasn't anything behind his actions. He was just a drunk soldier, therefore he didn't get charged with anything more serious.
"There's going to be an internal army inquiry."
Thursday, December 09, 2004
One Of My Heros....
Why do so many people fear strong-willed, independent-thinking women? Turns out they only fear the conservative ones. If you've never heard of Michelle Malkin, you're missing out on one of the most brilliant writers and authors of our generation. Here's her latest article in Town Hall.com, and her blog (which is one of the best out there) is linked in the right hand column of my blog.
Read it if you dare to learn something from a brilliant Asian American Woman. (Sadly, I can hear the screams of fear and panic even now)
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
The Inspiration To Countless Bloggers
I honestly knew very little about Blogs until June of this year, when I came upon what would later be called the most famous of the Iraq War blogs, My War. I was preparing to deploy to Iraq myself, and after reading this guy's posts I quickly looked into setting up my own blog so I could share the stories of my upcoming deployment with my family and friends.
I mention this because this guy took more flack for writing what he did, yet he was and still is the best in the business even though he can no longer post to his site. If you want to read the best account of combat and military life in Iraq, please click on this link and scroll to the post at the bottom called"Men In Black." Trust me, once you start reading you won't stop.
Like I said, this guy took a lot of flack for what he wrote, thanks in part to all of the news stories written about his blog. I hope he can write a book on his experiences some day. I would bet the offers are already on his doorstep. I'm sure he's smart enough to take the highest bidder, because his story is worth every penny.
How Could This Happen?
Homeless Iraq vets showing up at shelters
Please tell me this isn't so, or that it's just a rare occurance.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Gotta Love Dave....
Top Ten Things Overheard At The Opening Of The Clinton Library
10. "I'm sorry, this part of the library is strictly for 21-and-over."
9. "A library in Arkansas--well, now I've seen everything."
8. "The hours are 9 to ???"
7. "This is the first presidential library I've seen with hourly rates."
6. "He has the largest collection of adult magazines since Herbert Hoover."
5. "Don't forget to try the snack bar's impeachment cobbler."
4. "That concludes our ceremony--you're all invited to stay for ham hocks and moonshine."
3. "Damn, Bubba has a huge desk."
2. "It's the only presidential library with a ladies' night."
1. "Security to the front--Kerry is here sobbing again."
Freedom Is Born...
In case you didn't know it, Afghanistan is about to inagurate their first freely-elected President, Hamid Karzai. Check here for the latest Afghanistan government news. For most of you, it may not seem like a big deal, but just stop for a minute and think about it....
Thanks to Osama Bin Laden's stupidity and yearning for a hard-line Muslim theocracy, we now have 28,513,677 Afghans living free in a democratically elected country that hasn't seen peace since the late 1970s. There is more peace, prosperity, tribal cooperation, justice, and hope then ever before, and it's only just begun.
28,513,677 people free in Afghanistan
25,374,691 to go in Iraq
Just be patient!
Please Read.. IT'S ALL GOOD NEWS
Please open the links below and read. They have been a personal requirement for me to read, and are updated every two weeks. It's information you rarely get elsewhere, and it's something you should share with your friends and family to help spread the word. There is so much information it's easy to overload. You should at least try to skim through it and catch the most important parts. It's broken down for easy skimming. (i.e. Society, Economy, Reconstruction, Humanitarian, Security, Education, etc.)
The best part, IT'S ALL GOOD NEWS.
Latest Progress In Iraq
Latest Progress In Afghanistan
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Around The World In 20 Days....
I'm at a loss for words to describe the events from October 4th through October 24th, 2004. It's taken me a month just to find the time to explain it all. The only thing I can do is simply start from the beginning and hopefully it will all make sense. After all, how do you describe a trip that covered most of the globe and involved many different countries, life or death situations, and moments that brought to life of so many dreams I've had throughout my life.
Between October 4th and 7th, I continued doing my Exec job at Kirkuk. The only difference is that I had to train the two knucklehead Lieutenants that worked for me how to do my job (since I did most of their work in that office). I also had to find the quickest way off the base, so I spent most of my time driving around from office to office looking for a way down to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. When my Commander released me I didn't realize I was truly on my own in finding transportation from Northern Iraq to Qatar. Let me rephrase that... I had to find timely transportation down south. I could have waited around for a week until a C-130 found its way to Kirkuk, but I had two very important reasons for not waiting around. First, I did not want to stick around. We had gone nearly a week without an attack, and I would rather not stick around and wait for the Insurgents to catch up to their monthly quota of attacks against our base. The second reason was because I ended up finding a Travel Agent down in Qatar who hooked me up with a great deal on a commercial flight from Qatar to Sydney Australia. I originally wasn't going to go and meet Tonya down there, but when I came across the deal I couldn't pass it up. The only catch was that I had to find my way down to Qatar as quickly as possible or else I would lose my tickets. To make it worse, I had to know when I was arriving so I could arrange a ride from the Air Base in Qatar to the commercial airport in Doha City. The travel agent, who I really didn't know, offered to pick me up outside of the base and drive me there as long as I called him ahead of time. Basically I set myself up for disaster... almost.
Whipping the two Lieutenants into shape didn’t take long, but on Oct. 7th I handed the whip over to the true holders of power in the office… two of the coolest and hardest working Admin troops on the planet. Of course they’re women, but calling them the Admin Girls, Lavern and Shirley, or Janet and Chrissie just fit better. Thankfully they didn’t file an IG complaint. Honestly, these two were the best people anyone could ask for, and they made my deployment a million times better. The senior of the two, 'Janet', knew her stuff well, so things happened despite my daily attempts to mess everything up. She was also very funny, and her sarcastic humor kept everyone on their toes. The other one, 'Chrissie', was actually very intelligent, she just constantly acted goofy to make things more fun. She was a great motivator when things were getting harder. I really do miss them both, and I can only hope to be stationed near them some day down the road.
Later that night I found out that the Army had a 'Sherpa' headed up to the base bound for Balad, Iraq. Balad is the 'Mega Base' in Iraq, and I knew that if I could just make it to Balad I could easily find a flight to Qatar. A Sherpa, or C-23, is literally a propeller-driven shoebox with little wings. (Click here for to see pictures of it) I was told by the Army folks that I would be flying Space-A, so there was only a 50/50 chance of actually hopping on this flight. The next morning I knew I was in for a rough day as soon as I woke up. I slept in, so when I realized what time it was I shot out of bed and slammed my head against the top bunk. The way things started off, I thought I would never get out of there that day.
I quickly drove to the Army terminal and dropped my bags off. With 2 hours to go until the plane arrived I continued driving around base to other organizations to see if I could find other ways to travel south just in case this didn't pan out. I wanted to make sure I had a backup if this flight didn't pan out. By the time I made it back to the terminal I had two others lined up... a ride with the civilian contractors down to Baghdad that afternoon and a helo ride to Balad late that night. Of course either would have made me miss my flight out of Qatar, but at least I had options.
That reminds me... when I said I dropped my bags off, I meant that I dropped four 80-plus pound A-Bags full of gear and equipment, my weapon, 1 laptop, and 1 small gym bag. Whereas the Army troops pack one C-Bag and a backpack to last them a year, the Air Force makes you pack hundreds of pounds of gear that you will never come close to using. Air Force personnel are always the comic relief at military transportation terminals because we're always over packed and struggling to carry all of our gear.
Anyways, as I drove back to the terminal the Sherpa was pulling up. Turns out they were doing a stop-and-go, meaning they would spend very few minutes there and would not shut off their engines. I kept my fingers crossed of course, hoping they would take me. So far the answer was no because they would be picking up more folks elsewhere and they were going to be too full. At the last moment, they came in and told me to grab my bags and hop on. Remember my bags... picture me trying to run across the flightline with about 300 pounds of baggage. It was pathetic, but I had to make it. Struggling along with only about 10 steps left until I reached the plane, with the engines still running, the crew chief signals to me that they were full. I dropped my bags, and for about 10 seconds I just stood there in disbelief and exhaustion. Just as I was turning to head back another crew member stuck their head out the plane's door and waved me back. This stroke of luck would be the first of many over the next 48 hours.
I threw my bags up to the crew chief, who I could tell was pissed off with all of my baggage, jumped inside and sat down near the front of the plane next to a large passenger window. The seats were all cargo-net jump seats running down each side of the plane. I was the only one sitting on the left side of the plane, and I was sitting across from about 10 Army troops all wearing full combat gear. Once again, the brilliance of the Air Force, all of my body armor had to be left at the base supply hanger because of the low supply of them in theater, making me travel across the country with nothing. These Army troops must have thought I was a total dunce for just sitting there with nothing on. Trust me, I wish I had had the gear to wear. The plane was so small, anyone with a BB gun could have punched through it and done some damage.
We were given a quick safety brief and informed that we would be flying about 100 feet off the ground, going from base to base to move troops around, until we reached Balad. Instead of earplugs, I put on my headphones and hit the play button on my 20Gig Mp3 player. Little did I know that the next 5 hours in this little flying shoe-box would be the best thrill-ride of my life.
Within seconds after lift off we leveled out at about 100 feet and proceeded to hug valleys, rivers, and hills, dodging houses and power lines with inches to spare. With the band AC/DC blasting in my ears, this ride was the most fun I'd had since my last F-16 ride through the Alaskan mountain range. We were going fast, but we were so low to the ground that you could see the kid’s faces as you flew over their homes, or the farmers stares as you flew over them and chased their sheep across the ground. I couldn't believe how much agricultural land there was. To me, it was almost as if I were flying across the Central San Joaquin Valley in California. Nothing but farms and rivers as far as the eye could see. Like most people I always assumed Iraq to just be a big sandbox. This place is very fertile, which explains why civilization started in this region. I know I had the best view in that plane because the Army troops were sitting too close to each other to look out their windows. That, and a few of them were getting pretty sick and filling multiple vomit bags. Like I said, this was the best ride ever... better than any roller coaster or thrill ride I'd been on before.
We flew this way for a good hour until we landed at a small base called 'Key West.' Once the plane stopped and turned the engines off, everyone got out and went into the terminal shack. I just laid down on the flightline under the wing and enjoyed the quiet and warm breeze. A few others realized that lying on the ground was much better then sitting in a small shack and joined me. I just laid there and thought about how I never could have predicted I would be laying on the flightline of one of Saddam's old Air Force bases in the middle of Iraq. It just reinforced my belief that life is truly unpredictable. (As long as you make it that way)
We hopped back onboard the plane and flew another hour to yet another base, doing exactly the same thing as last time. One funny moment at the second base happened when I was laying out on the flightline. About 10 helicopters flew down the runway and landed next to us in perfect formation. Without turning off the engines, and almost as if on queue, all of the crew members stepped out of their helicopters, walked about 10 feet away, and relieved themselves. It was one of the most perfectly choreographed moments I'd ever seen. It must have been the normal routine for the Army because I was the only one laughing at it all.
Once again we took off and headed further south. I was enjoying the low-flying ride and listening to great music the entire way down. We stopped at a third base, did the same thing as the first two, and then finally headed to Balad. Of the many things I noticed as we flew over Iraq, most of the larger farms were putting together all new Agricultural equipment. I'm from California so I know modern equipment when I see it, and the larger farms had loads of brand new irrigation equipment, tractors, and other equipment. It gave me some warm fuzzies inside knowing that this ancient and fertile land would be producing more food and resources then it has ever done in the last 10-thousand years of farming. These people will be prosperous again soon.
As we flew into Balad we crossed over a very large city that reminded me of a giant Palm Springs California. I couldn't help but notice once again how I had no protection as we flew in whereas the Army guys had all of their gear on. Anyone could have taken a pot-shot at us and I would have been hit. I hated that feeling. Anyways, we landed at this insanely large base and rolled to a stop. It was 1200 in the afternoon.
The terminal where I needed to sign up for a Space-A flight to Qatar was a few miles a way, and I was going to have to wait a good hour to get a shuttle to take me there. As luck would have it, the Colonel I was chatting with at the various bases we landed at along the way had a ride waiting for him, so he let me tag along and drove me to the terminal. He even helped me with my bags. That was extremely nice for an Army Colonel. Once in the terminal, I signed up for the first available C-17 headed to Qatar. It was scheduled to leave at 1630 local time. In keeping with the historical military transportation motto, it was time to 'Hurry Up and Wait.'
I just sat in the terminal and chatted with the employees. At one point I hopped on a shuttle bus to go around base and find a phone. I'm glad I did, because the driver was this old retired African American guy with a Cavalry hat on. He was from Georgia and was enjoying his retirement by driving busses on an Air Force base in Iraq. He really enjoyed his job, and I was lucky to have met him because his constant joking and story telling was the perfect tress reliever after all of that traveling. On the way back to the terminal I had a bus driver who was from Macedonia. He was cool to talk to as well. He reminded me of the character Steve Martin used to play on Saturday Night Live... when him and his roommate would say in their thick Eastern European accent, 'We're two wild and crazy guys.'
When I got back to the terminal I started talking to the civilian employees a lot more. After all, they were the ones that could get me on a plane. I wanted them to know how important it was for me to get down to Qatar since my commercial flight left the following morning at 2am. Talk about feeling like I made a mistake and was going to miss my flight. I had a good thousand miles to travel still, or so it seemed, with only a few hours to go. Well, at about 1600 (4pm) I was informed that my flight was cancelled, which is a standard thing for traveling Space-A. They signed me up for the next available plane that left at 1830 (6:30pm). At 1800 (6pm), just as my taking me to Qatar plane was supposed to arrive, the base was attacked by insurgents with mortars. Once again, I had no gear. Gotta love it. The interesting thing about that attack is that 15 seconds after the mortars started hitting the base (you could hear the thuds and explosions), I heard a set up booms that sounded different. Turns out that the Army had a way of tracking the point of origins for the mortar attacks, and immediately starting returning fire. There I am standing outside with a bunch of other troops, the sun had set and there was just a little bit of blue light in the sky, and you could hear cheers all around you from the folks who knew our guys were firing back at the insurgents. One of those surreal moments I guess.
After a good 30 minutes the plan finally landed and I was whisked aboard along with 3 other guys. This was my first C-17 ride, and if you've never seen one of these planes before, it is truly a work of art. The C-17 is the Air Force's newest cargo plane, and it is amazing. I'm so used to flying in much older planes (40+ years old). This new one is not only spotless, it actually works well. In the past, new aircraft systems took decades to perfect. This thing is perfection, and has proven itself as the best transport ever flown. Thankfully we own it. Nobody else can get equipment to any point around the globe like we can. Anyways, we took off and I proceeded to lay down in the cargo jump seats along the walls and listen to my music. It was so spacious inside of this plane, I felt as though I were in a auditorium or hockey arena. I wouldn't feel safe until we left Iraqi airspace, but since I had no windows to look out of all I could do is wait until we landed. FYI, bring lots of ear protection if you ever fly in one of these things. They're not insulated from the sound of their huge engines.
Finally we landed and I stepped foot onto the 90+ degree flightline in Qatar at about 2200 (10pm) at night. I had 4 hours until my commercial flight left and I still had to inprocess onto the base through customs, change out of my uniforms, store my weapon and gear, and get to the gate to meet my ride who I had called before I left Balad to tell him I was on my way. Nothing went smoothly. The hardest part was changing out of my uniform in a storage room, packing my little gym bag with a couple shirts, pants, and toiletries, and then bribing the armory troops with Iraqi coins to store my bags for almost two weeks. Once they agreed, I hopped on a shuttle and rode to the front gate. I had no guarantee that my ride would be there, and I still didn't even know if I could trust him or not, but I really had no choice.
As we pulled up to the gate I met Albert, my travel agent and ride to the airport. He was an older man, about my height, and drove a beat-up old Honda Civic. He turned out to be one of the nicest guys I had met along the way. He was originally from Jordan, and he informed me that he was Christian, which was out of the ordinary for a country like Qatar. He couldn't operate his manual transmission if his life depended on it, but he got me to the airport safely and on time. Along the way I was able to see Doha City, Qatar. No kidding, it looked exactly like Torrance California. Lots of stores, shopping centers, large streets, and restaurants such as TGI Fridays, Applebees, Arby's etc. Qatar wasn't too bad for a tiny little speck of land that stuck out into the Persian Gulf from Saudi Arabia. The conversation with Albert was good as well. He joked about how nobody liked the Saudi's. Why, I have no idea, but that was the norm there. Honestly, could they really tell the difference? (There's my Western ignorance shining through)
Turns out Albert used to be a manager at the airport, so he helped me work my way through all of the various desks and security checkpoints, and waited there until I got through security and my passport was verified. We even had a quick bite to eat... my first that day, but it wasn't my smartest move. Never, ever ever eat a chicken sandwich in Qatar... 'nough said. Once I passed through security I sat at a coffee shop and played games on my laptop until I had to leave. It was a western-style shop, but the employees waited on you as if it were a restaurant. One funny moment was when I was sitting at my table next to a window at the Cafe, and outside there was an airport employee who was staring at my laptop screen as if he were gathering vital intelligence. No matter what I did, he just kept sneaking up to the glass, trying to see what I was doing. I guess you just had to be there to see why it was funny.
From there I got on the plane at 2am, an Emirates flight from Qatar to Dubai, UAE. It was only a 45 minute flight, but it marked the perfect transition from that insane day of traveling to an even stranger day of flying across the globe and landing in Australia. Within 48 hours I had traveled through Iraq, hopped across the Persian Gulf, and stared out my window at the Sydney Opera House.
Don't ever tell me that life is not amazing and unpredictable...
To be continued