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Friday, February 29, 2008




Here's some photos of my new diggs. It's still not much more than my own 40 square feet. The major difference is it's just me and another guy, we can control the temp and lights, and I have a lock.



It's closer to the D-FAC. I get a locker unit and a bed. Everything else is pretty much mine to bring in or out. We'll be looking for some used drawers, chairs, fridge, and stuff. We don't need any of that stuff, but if we can find it cheap we'll buy some used stuff. No sense in spending too much for only a few months when spend most of my day somewhere else anyway.

I'm in the middle of the POD farm but I'm closer to a bathroom than not...so that helps.

that is all...






Thursday, February 28, 2008

WAHOOO

It's a red letter day. We all got our PODs - or containerized housing units (CHU). I've said before that the POD assignment system must be messed up and today proves it. All the board guys got pods even though some arrived before Christmas and I got in country mid JAN. Oh well at least it worked in my favor this time.

I'm now in a room with one other guy - my buddy Chuck. Spent the evening trying to get settled. I'll share some pics with you in the coming days. Not the best location nor the worst. Nice middle ground.

Had the cheese- steak from the "grill" tonight. Nothing like the original Philly. It was OK except when he said "everything?" and I agreed I didn't know it would have Jalapenos. I'm not much of a JP guy so my mouth was on fire after dinner. But it was a nice change of pace from the standard chicken fare.

Now I have a shopping list of things to get to decorate my new living quarters. All my techie buddies I need your help - look for a "tv tuner" that I can plug a cable (standard single tv cable) into one end and then plug into a USB port into the other. They sell them here at the PX but they are approx 80-100 I think. I'm guessing I can buy one cheaper on line. Search away for me. - please. That way I think I can plug in the Armed forces network TV into my laptop.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You gotta know when to fold’em…

Hello Blog Readers. I’m starting to enjoy the steak and seafood night less and less. The food is the standard – OK fare, but more importantly the crowd is getting bigger. I think the FOB is growing in personnel so that’s one reason. Maybe I’m more surprised at how many people must eat the fast food and other options on the other nights to make it less crowded.

Standard day of boards and prep for the next day. The one thing of note was a New York Times reporter came out to watch. She watched another board (Chuck’s) and interviewed him a little. I told him he was going to be famous. The NYT is not my favorite fish-wrap so I was ok with not being selected for the “visitor”

That brings me to an interesting point. We get visitors a lot (DV types). They want to see the boards and we all understand that. The frustrating thing is those that schedule these visits seem to miss the point on when we have the boards so we have to schedule around them. Remember how I said I was in charge but had no power…yet another issue/aspect of the process I’m unable to control.

Had our first Bible study last night. It was good – all about authority. My Rick and Bubba Code book continues to be funny. Got a care package full of love from the wife and kids…that was awesome. The most important item included to you blog readers is a memory stick. Now I can draft the blog on my laptop and just transfer it in the internet cafĂ©. That should help my post rate, length, (and maybe) the quality.

We are at the transfer point for the members of the board who are from the “corps” (the guys from bases and units all over the country who come and sit for a short period of time to help keep a fresh perspective on the boards). We’ll get a new crew of 10-20 guys tomorrow. I think I’ll be given the task of “training” them. Ahhh the power to influence the newbies.

Insight into deployed life: We don’t do our own laundry. They have some contract with KBR I guess where they pick our laundry and wash and bring it back within a few days. It’s a pretty good system I must admit. I go in – they inventory my stuff (you can chose the express line where there is no inventory just throw it all in a bag and hope it all comes back – but I never do – I go with the inventory line), they give you a copy of the inventory and then you come back in a few days and wallaa – clean clothes. I’m sure the mom’s out there are thinking hey, where can I get some of that? Well the funny thing to me is they always have some funny music playing in the shop. Today it was Kenny Rogers. Not sure if it was a Tape or CD or radio, but it was back to back old Kenny Rogers. Seemed like an odd selection for “Iraq” radio. And no it wasn’t the Gambler song.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Two Sexiest Fat Men Alive

Sorry for the dry spell...I haven't had a chance to get to the computer and type out some words. Nothing new or funny. Same story - 20 boards a day. Oh yeah - I'm in charge now. There is a new "tasking" (remember the Task Force joke) well some of the permanent MNFRC guys have been pulled for a special project I like to call SUPER MNFRC. They do the same thing but different focus...some of the more SR majors were pulled so that left me at the top. Actually I'm only in charge becuase the lead MAJ is on R&R. I plan to make sweeping changes.
1. No more hats
2. Disband the band.
3. Close the O-club.

No - wait I can't do that. In fact I have no power as the guy in charge. I still just sit on my boards. Had an ex-IAF general come before the board today. It's amazing the cross section of society I get to see.

The title for today is a reference to the Rick and Bubba show (a syndicated radio show in the south I used to listen to when were in the South). I found a book titled the "Rick and Bubba Code" I was L-O-L last night while I read the first few chapters. If you know the show...they are really a funny couple of guys.


Bible study session 1 - tonight. we'll see how it goes.


"Oh - wait - is she a great big fat person?"
(trivia for the day - free pound of Iraqi sand to the person that names the Movie that quote is from)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chicken

Today's blog starts with a trivia question.





What is a "chicken"?


a. A dinner entre choice at the the Bucca D-Fac every night


b. The pear shaped Iraqi Correction Officer that man's the gate to our courthouse


c. The phrase to describe every person on my board today...


d. All of the above






If you guessed D you would be correct. Chicken is a standard fare and usually not in a dish I want (except for that yummy cheesy noodle one with srimp). It is also the name of the funny round shaped guy who helps man the gate to our courthouse area. Not sure why they call him that but if you saw him - you would say - that fits. I'll try to get a pic with Chicken. Not sure if he is ready for the internet. And finally...no one today seemed to have any backbone in thier story...maybe I should say boneless chicken. Grrrr. Every once in a while you want one guy to stand up and say - yeah that was me.

And now for something completely different. Here is a pic of one of the walls at Bucca. Maybe the most photographed piece of concrete on the FOB. Of course the James Bond title fits a little better...a free piece of Bucca Chicken to the first reader to name the title I just referred to.

I saw a guard the other day with a patch on his pack that said...when I die I'm going to Heaven becuase I've already been to Hell - Camp Bucca. Watched the first of my netflix movies last night. 300 - a good military movie. Now none of the Spartans would have come into court and denied everything. Of course they would be dead first - but still they would have been strong in their convictions (oohh - the pun - convictions - I crack myself up).

Some have asked - hey let me know what you need so I can send you a care package. I've decided to be very specific in my requests. Since I don't really need anything except stuff to kill the time with...I'll do my best to ask people for things that I want instead of saying - oh just send me some snacks. So far I have asked two buddies for books I want to read. We'll see how that works out. Speaking of books - anybody know a good book on Thermopolaye (sp?) - the battle that 300 was based on? I'd like to know more about that but I prefer not to have to read something that's 800 pages and drags on about the rise and fall of some ancient civilization.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Son - we're gonna do this the Army way!

So I have this idea to start a Bible study amongst the board members. I found two other guys who would be interested and we discussed it and decided to make it happen. Where to meet? Well we found a room in the chapel annex. But to use it I need to schedule it. To schedule it I need paperwork and a sponsor? A what? After some digging I find out it's not that I want to use it for a specific reason it's that to use a "chapel" facility I need all this.

I'm kind of perturbed, but I understand the theory behind the overhead. I'll have to go back and huddle with the other guys to see if they still want to use that place or just use something else. The chapel encouraged me to use a study they already have set up instead of going on my own. I understand that but I also wanted to make this a unit thing so we could all become a little better friends. Oh well - just a quick stumble I am sure we'll get over.

For dinner tonight I went to this fabulous new rib shack. It was very good. They had a unique BBQ sauce/rub so I didn't need to drown it in my own sauce. I decided I would come back to that place. The meat was very tender and just fell off the bone. Oh and to top it all off - they had Dr P! Wahoo!

(BTW that was all a joke - it was just the DFAC, but the ribs were excellent.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Local Flavor

The interpreters have some local contact/family or something like that and they periodically get food for cookouts. One of the guys owns a couple of restaurants in the states and is a very good chef. He and some of the others treated us to some local cooking. Rice with spices, nuts, raisins and much more. Also some grilled chicken and steak mixed in, and some vegetable/fruit salsa like mix. It was all wonderful. Mostly becuase it was spiced. I've noticed the food we get in the D-FAC has variety, but never very spicy. That was a nice change of pace. Friday being a down day for the boards we gathered for a few minutes and broke pita bread together.









You can see me here with "Harry" after enjoying some of the good food. Someone spent the time and built this small hut/hang out area. There were funny signs written on the blocks around like :
MENU
Coke $0.00
Tea $0.00
Beer $0.00

It was funny becuase there is no restaurant besides what you bring out on your own.




This picture is a little closer and shows you the seating area a little better. The interpreters are all very nice to us. They are our link to the cases and we have to trust them. Most of them live in the US and have some background/history here in Iraq. They are all contract employees and have different arrangements for pay/leave/etc. But they live on the base just like us and eat the same food and use the same bathrooms/laundry etc.

I clearly ate too much. I went back for seconds just becuase I could. My favorite was the mixture of textures with the rice, nuts, raisins, and beets in the vegetables. Yum.

Prior to the BBQ I went with Brandon to play some video games to kill the morning hours. He trounced me. I think he has played a few more times than I have. We played the college version and he picked "ranked" teams and my teams were Arkansas and Air Force (so I knew I was already starting with an up-hill battle).

Constant change with the guys from the field. We get some guys we didn't expect or they don't come in on time (days late) becuase of bad weather or guys leave early. It's becoming quite the issue to work out the schedule. Luckily that is someone else's job. I just make sure I go to the right room for the day.
Congrats to: uus2bano5 and jj for solving the trivia puzzle. There was a request for more of those. I'll have to invest a few bain cells into that.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

video

video Here is the video I took of the giant Conex mover. I can't believe I actually got it to load up. Spent today with 2 Marines on my board. The funny thing was a couple people (guard and translator) told me I looked upset and asked what I was mad about. I said me - I'm not mad...I said I must be trying to look tough next to the Marines. You know a softy Air Force guy next to a Gunny Sargent...I had to appear tough or something.

They all thought that was funny so I guess I succeeded in making them laugh. Today was a lot of what we call "re-boards". Sometimes the recommendation we make is objected to by another unit. In that case we hold another board to reconsider. Unfortunately I have found these to be the toughest to decide upon. Today was no exception. Sometimes you get more information to make a judgement...and sometimes not.

There must have been some sort of break down in the supply/ordering system. All they had in the D-FAC last night (as far as can drinks) was Diet Coke (luck for me they have plenty of sweet-tea). And then today at lunch sodas were even more scarce. I hope Ex-PFC Wintergreen get's on that soon. (1000 Dinar to the first 2 people to tell me what book that is a reference from).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Baddest Boots on the Boulevard

This title is from a song by Toby Keith. It inspired me to go out and find the baddest bucca truck. Here's what I found:










Ok this isn't it..



































Nor is this - but my little guy would love to have one of these...















































This looks a little more rugged but still not the baddest.















































Hmmm...can carry a lot but mostly just old.














































This one is mean - but I think there are some tougher ones.






































Ok this smells bad - but not a "bad" vehicle.






















































Now these look cool. Armor on the front and all.









































Hey this one has a nice gun turret on top.


















































Now this one I could handle. I wonder if Gwyn considered the armored turret option when he was buying his Truck.





























Now these guys are a close second...they are way cool. Guns, big tires, all the stuff.






























And now the grand poobah - he was quite elusive. I had to search all over the FOB. I had seen him once before, but he's not out in the populated areas. In fact my first trip out he was no where to be seen, but then later in the day I corned the gaint beast. He's too loud and big to hide forever on this small place.


And the Baddest Bucca Truck is.........













The giant conex mover. You can't really get a good perspective on how gi-normous this thing is. The tires are as big as a person. It lifts these gaint metal conexes with this large claw. I took some video I'll try to load tomorrow. What man would not love to drive this thing.


I hope you enjoyed the vehicle tour...I mostly hope my son enjoyed it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Quips and Quotes

Today is Monday although I was convinced most of the day it was Tuesday. It is so impossible to keep up with the days. Everything is the same over and over.


So the other day Brandon and I were talking about how some of the guys (mainly the enlisted members) on our "jury pool" if you will are not so busy. Brandon mentioned isn't it funny that we work for a "Task" Force but they are not allowed to "re-task" us. The military is always full of those oxymoron like phrases. We both found that humorous. And then today I was commenting on the less than stellar vegatable offering of corn mixed with lima beans and Brandon mentions..."a few days ago I stopped eating for pleasure...now I just eat for sustenance" - he was dead serious. I was rolling.

Some of the guys who arrived before us and have been here a few months are going on the available R&R trip. The jury is out (pun intended) on this as to whether it really is a good deal. For them they were working pretty hard doing as many as 30 cases a day for a while 6 days a week. now that the rules have changed and members from the "field" are on the boards and we are just fill-ins the schedule is not so hectic. Anyway I can see how they would want a break, but more importantly we are not sure how much the hassle of traveling through to Qatar is worth it and how much is it worth it just to get to another open bay tent for a few days with not much more to do here than drink 3 beers a day. We'll see what ther report is when they get back.

I now have official email. I'm an idiot and didn't write it down, I'll try to get that in an official blog soon.

The Daytona 500 was a letdown. They did show Ricky Bobby on the big screen before hand so that was funny. But the race didn't start till after 10 - maybe 11 or later. I was done. It wasn't very warm either so I didn't stay up. But as expected there were some die hards out there in wrapped in Tony Stewart blankets and such.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What's a HESCO?

I've mentioned before that technology has changed the face of modern warfare. One interesting thing to me is how we protect our people/facilities. In old war movies you remember walls of sandbags protecting things and giving shelter. Well not any more. We've got a faster cleaner way. It is called a HESCO. It's named after the company that invented/produces them I think. The bottom line is it is a heavy cardboard box wrapped in wire mesh on the outside. We use large machinery to fill it instead of the old way with two guys and a shovel. It's very quick to set up and provides good rigid structure. Now we also have lots of concrete and jersey barriers (see earlier blogs about painted barriers) but in many cases we have these HESCOs as well. They can be stacked to provide a significant wall.

Here are some pics to help you understand what they look like.





Just for reference I have also put in a pic of some sandbags. The other advatage of the HESCO is they stand up to the wind and weather a little better. The sandbags eventually erode and become a mess. Just like in this picture. And these sandbags are just one layer over a concrete bunker (see corner coming through) so you can imagine what a mess it would be if they were 3-4 deep to create a wall. At camp Victory the temp tent we were in had some reall issues. The sandbags around the outside were falling into the tent on one side and falling away on the other. I'm guessing the HESCOs keep thier shape just a little better.

Here's a link to the wikipedia page on them if you want to learn a little more.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesco_bastion

Today is Sunday and I have the morning off. That's good for me because I will enjoy church.

Brandon had wings the other day for dinner. When I saw his plate I mentioned that I missed "Pops" the wings guy from Victory. He said "yeah, we went from 106 types - to 1" (I think he still enjoyed the wings though).

Friday, February 15, 2008

Love is in the air - no make that sand...

Today was a storm. I a kind of sand storm. We've been told this is not so bad - they will get much worse. We had seen something like this in Baghdad but it was our first here. The wind is much worse because there is nothing to break it up. It just blows across the open desert.

Today was training and orientation. Remember we don't do boards on FRI to honor religious preferences of the area. The new group of "field" guys are here for a couple of weeks and they got an overview of the Camp from the locals. Also had the (One Star) Army Commander show up to say a few words. I learned a few facts and figures about the base. Nothing really that I haven't mentioned before, know just more accurate. Big picture the place doubled as a result of the "surge".

We toured the compounds and other areas I have not seen before. I saw the "visitation" area where families can come see detainees. Also saw the Pita-bread factory. To feed fresh bread was taking up lots of time with transpo - so they opened a pita factory here and we (some local workers - not detainees) make them all fresh everyday. Each detainee gets 2 a day per meal - that's a lot of pitas. (we don't eact those in our D-fac - not sure why). I may have to take the tour every few weeks just to get fresh pita off the line. Not as good as Krispy Kreme's off the line but still hot and yummy.

I have a pic of the storm and another pic from the other day so you can see the difference. Also sporting the latest fashion. When not on some official duty we can wear Physical Training (or PT) gear. Have to carry our weapons all the time though so you can see my sporty shoulder holster. I prefer to wear the jacket not becuase it is cold as much as I like having pockets. The shorts don't have pockets. This is my buddy Dr Phil. Unlike the TV personality, he doesn't talk much nor is he a Dr but I like to call him that instead of the plain old Phil.





That's all for today. Back to boards on Saturday.





Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Now where did I park that truck?

One of the first things people told me when we got here to help orient myself was look for either the tower or the...Wal-Mart Parking lot. WM Parking lot you say, how is that possible in Iraq. Well apparently the Iraqi's aren't like people from New England and don't mind a Wal Mart here and there. No actually there is no W-M but we do have a parking lot that is affectionately called the W-M Parking lot. I guess it is becuase the lot is usually full and has lots of pickup trucks. Not sure. But it was funny to me how it fits perfectly. Here are a few early morning picks to show you what it looks like.


There is very little variation in all the vehicles. There are both ford and chevys but they are all pretty much white with extended cabs. You have to remember what number your unit/office has on the plate to tell them apart. Most have a bench seat in the back to carry people as well. I've sertainly ridden in the back quite a few times and I've only been here a week or so.

No shepherds today. Did have some that were much more educated and spoke english. Always give those guys the benefit of the doubt, must be something psychological when they speak the same language to be more sympathetic. Today was like Christmas it seemed like everyone was getting a good vote.
In the recurring theme department tonight:
1. Dr Pepper back in the D-Fac WAHOO!!!
2. Shrimp (or Srimp depending on your pronunciation) as the standard Wed Surf and Turf entre.
3. Mail - again!! K sent me a second pair of running shoes I can ruin while I walk around all this sand gravel and such and keep my running shoes a little more in shape.
I saw a sign today for the Daytona 500. No we won't be doing laps around the W-M parking lot, but they do plan to show the race on the big screen at the new stage. Here's a teaser pic of the stage while still in construction. The sign said coolers and lawn chairs welcome. Ya know - there are rednecks everywhere...even in Iraq. Too bad no Budweiser or it would be just like being at the race. I guess to make up for it there will be plenty of smoking and dipping by the locals.

End of transmission.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

MAIL!!!

Wahoo! I recvd mail. It was the first package (ok well not exactly - K had sent some stuff before I got here, but we stopped that when I went on my tour of central Iraq - but once I got here she sent a package and it made it).

It rocked. It was full of cookies and pictures/valentines from the kids, and a few goodies.

Today more boards. You'll get tired of me saying that so I'll try to avoid too much discussions on that. Let me add that my case load is approx 20 per day. I could talk more in person but won't on the blog. You'll just have to come visit me when I get back.

I still want to show you some of the more humorous/different things around here. I need to remember to take my camera with me to breakfast so I can snap a pic. With a full day of boards and then case prep for the next day I get back just before dark. A quick trip to gym to work on the spare tire and then it is dark.

Funny note of the day. One guy claimed to be a shepherd. Mind you he lives in the capital city and doesn't really have the ability/land/resources to be a shepherd. But that was his story. I could barely keep a straight face.

Dinner - the TV's were back on wahoo! And they cleverly hid shrimp in the "chicken with noodles and cheese" dinner. It was good. unfortunately I did not get much of it. I also picked up a BBQ pork chop (I always get 2 entress becuase you never know what one is going to taste like).

So I was reading my 3 day old Stars and Stripes and read an article about some remote outpost that had many more Non US soldiers that US soldiers...the point of the story was to talk about how that is the rarity - most bases are full of US personnel. The funny part is they have some US army enlisted running the PX. His quote was something like. "This sucks! If I wanted to do this I could have stayed home and worked at Wal-Mart" You see - it is all perspective. You could have that guys job and sell tobacco and soap (thier main selling item according to the story) to your fellow soldiers or you could have my job. I'll take mine.

BTW the second level on the deck is coming along nicely.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Work - and for real this time

GRRRRR - I just spnet 20 min typing a daily blog and it was lost into space somewhere. GRRR

Ok quick recap.

Worked a full day for one. 11 hours. Cases most of the day and then review files for the next day. Another officer had to leave becuase one of her troops died. SOme of the officers on the boards are from units here in Iraq - not just random officers like me.

They are making the deck/stage bigger. Not sure why. I think they had more lumber left over and said - let's make it bigger. No Dr Pepper for 3rd day...trend item. I wonder if the new sherrif is running a tighter ship. Also no TV again in the DFAC. I can't be bombarded with political news stories now that they have turned off the TVs.

sorry for the short version of the blog.

Out (that's army talk for goodbye)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Water water everywhere and not a drop to...oh wait no...that's not it!

We are in the middle of the desert as you know and how they get all the clean water here for us is something I have no insight into. But I am certain it is someone's job to monitor water usage and to try and keep it to a minimum. One of the things that person has done is put up signs in the shower and bathroom trailers to encourage water conservation. The person has some sense of humor. Here's a sampling of the signs:

Uncle Sam wants YOU to conserve water

Only you can prevent water waste

Just say no to Hollywood showers

Challenge the Shower Princess

Combat Shower = Combat Power (Ok I made that one up - but there is one about combat showers but I thought my version was better)

And of course no bathroom signage in theater would be complete without...

CHUCK NORRIS isn't afraid to challenge someone about long showers. (Queue the drummer to play after the punch line...)

They are pretty funny. At least that person has a sense of humor.

Today was just a file review and prep day for me. Once again - approx 3-4 hours. Although I felt I was a little faster this time. Today is Sunday so that means chapel. I made it to the Contemporary service. It was small but nice (20 people?). They had a small worhip team of 3 guitarists and a quick sermon from a Navy Chaplain. Funny how the chapel is the most emotional time of the day/week/deployment for me. I guess that is becuase it is something I regularly do with the family. It just seems wrong to be singing praise songs without K next to me. I really miss her and the kids when I'm there. But at least I get fulfilled in another way by listening to God's word.
Speaking of God - maybe I was bragging too much about the Dr Pepper. They have been out for the last 2 days. AAAAHHHHHHH!!!! And then today at dinner no Pie. My buddy Brandon was depressed (he's the Pumpkin Pie lover). I may have to go on a hunger strike unitl the bring the sweet ambrosia back. Meatloaf was the entre of the day. As long as you coat it in enough BBQ sauce, it tasted almost like home.
Been trying to update my Netflix account. It's got an automated address checker somehow tied into the USPS directory associated with zip codes. And it doesn't like my APO address. I've asked K to call and see if they can over-ride that in the system. Weather has been pretty consistent. Another buddy is a long distance runner and runs marathons. He's kinda bummed cause you really can't run that far here before you hit a fence. And he hates treadmills. Oh well. lots of laps for him.
They just built a new stage/super large deck area in the main street section. I'll have to snag some pics for you guys. They were in a big rush to finish before some change of command ceremony. We weren't part of the C-O-C so I really don't know who was doing what, but it was funny to see the guys woorking late at night trying to finish by the deadline.

Potential subjects for future blogs: The Wal-Mart parking lot, What's a HESCO? Who decided the rest of the world should be on 220V? Movies and Copyright laws.

Ok - feel free to request and I'll try to think up something funny to go with each of them.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Look into my eyes...

Day one of my part in the Multi-National Force Review Committee. It was actually easier than I expected. I worked hard doing my homework and prep. I spent 4 hours with the files the day before. Hoepfully I can get that down to a more manageable time.

The questions came easy since I had spent so much time with the files and took decent notes on what I wanted to quiz them about. As expected some were easy to decide and others were difficult. In the end it comes down to your own judgement. As I have said before - the culture under SH was one that did not tolerate people admitting to anything - otherwise they were killed. They grew up in a culture of deception. I did my best to look them in the eye as much as possible. I'm not sure I'm that good at reading people, but I at least feel better when I do that. They won't hold my stare for very long.

I won't share results or specific cases, but you should know it is quite a cross section of society and situations.

I'll stop before I accidentaly say something I shouldn't.

Because of the manning situation I'm not on the board tomorrow. This week I am kind of on a one day on one day off. That will allow me to review files on the off days.

Had hoped to watch Alien vs Predator Requiem in the small "movie room" in the MWR facility attached to the gym - but it was such a bad copy and bad plot I only stayed for the first 30 mins. The daily rag Stars and Stripes I have referenced before does not get here dialy. That's kind of a bummer. SO news that way is a few days old. I still have some access to TVs and I can burn my precious internet time on foxnews.com but I usually do not. No jackals here that I know of.

To clarify something from a reader - The showers and bathrooms are in metal trailers - not tents. It' s kind of like a locker room arrangment. The sinks and showers are in one trailer and the toilets are in another trailer. Kind of annoying - but I see why they do it to make management of the blackwater easier.

Thanks for your prayers and support.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

Greetings. The schedule has me on my first board starting Saturday. Then I'm on for the next 6 days...and probably next 6 months.


Today I wanted to share some about my current living conditions. I took some pics of the tent we are in and of "my room" - it is kind of a mess, but there is no real need to straighten too much. It's all temporary anyway. Although it could be months before we get into metal housing units. I did make my bed for you. It's standard desert living. Even
with moderate temps it is hot in the day and cold at night. We've had the maintenance people out for three days in a row looking at the heat/cool system and they don't seem to know the problem or don't care. Ok so I have this one bunk bed. I sleep on bottom and kind of store my gear on top. This a large tent with 10-12 rooms like this one each with 4-5 bunk units in it. They are separated by thin wooden walls. I also have a "locker" pictured below. I actually have two. I bought the carpet you see to help make it a little more homey so I can put my feet down and not instantly be covered in dust/dirt.



Here is the outside. Note the lovely curb appeal of the bunker/shelter right outside the door. Perfect for those late night mortar attacks (none of those yet...but I'm sure one day they will come). Shower and Bathroom facilities are in a separate trailers just about 50-100 yards down the road. I'll get some picks of Downtown and the surrounding areas in the coming days so you can see the rest of my little town. No pics of the internment facility or the detainees - big no no.

The other thing I wanted to write about are my thoughts heading into Saturday. I am reading A Table in the Presence - by a former USMC Chaplain. It's about his journey with one of the first units across the Iraqi border in 2003. It is very interesting. The insight into the culture and the way things were like for the people here has been very enlightning. Now as I sit on the eve of my first opportunity to come face to face with these people and be a part of thier lives - the consequences of my decisions weigh heavily upon me. Granted I am not the only one to review or decide, nor is my decision/vote in any way the final say, but it is clearly part of the process and is one factor in determining the future of that person for the near term. Pray for me and for wisdom to see the truth.

BTW - steak and crab leg night is Wed night in Bucca. Shrimp was ok - just like at Victory.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

From the middle of no-where






Today I'll try to recap our day trip from Buehring to Bucca. We were lucky enough to be "tied" to a large group so there were multiple black-hawk helos to carry us. The bad news is we were the end of the line becuase we were last to be added. That meant lots of stand around time waiting for our turn on the helo.



The other interesting part was our luggage. As usual the AF guys have way more "gear" than the other services. Insert your standard kitchen sink joke here. In fact we had so much stuff and we were the last group but did not have as many people as they had seats so they decided to pile all our stuff into one helo and then put people in the other two.



It was a nice smooth ride. We flew over very isolated desert. Nothing but flat lands and small hills all covered with sand for many many miles. Imagine Kansas plains but no green. All dry lifeless sand. Eventually we did get to some small groups of tents and structures where people lived. They were sproadic at first but then we did get close enough to some sort of greenhouse nursery area. I assume that is what it was. Lots of nice green in the sea of brown. Clearly planted and tended to thrive in this harsh environment.



As we got closer we could see the area of Umm Qasr. It looks to be a real city. I belive there is some sort of port/water access there as well.



One of the things we have from our travels is perspective, we've seen life in Kuwait for a week or two and life in Baghdad for a week or two, and now we can compare that to life in Bucca. Some things are better some are worse. I'll try to document those as time goes by. First impression is things are OK...not great but not the worst. It is smaller so the walk is much shorter than at Victory. We are in a large tent, but it has some plywood walls, "lockers" (I used quotes becuase many do not lock) and bunkbeds. After some searching and moving a time or two I found a bottom bunk I am happy with. Roommates seem ok.



We observed boards again today - things are slightly different than Cropper, but big picture it is all the same. Our presence helps these guys out a lot I think. They can rotate people in and out of the schedule a little more. Some of us start tomorrow. My first board is not till Saturday I think. They still don't have a good office for us to access computers and phones. But I can use the recreational facilities they have and type blogs like this one. I can get easy access to a PC here in the internet tent, but uploading pictures might be an issue. I'll have to figure out a plan for that one. They have many eating facilities here (Burger King, pizza, etc), but the D-Fac is plenty big and decent. Like I said yesterday they have DP. One issue is they do not have pumkin pie. I don't care, but my buddy has become addicted to Pumpkin pie at all the other places. I told him to find the "feedback/comments" box and write that one up. No "wings" caller either.



I'll cut this off and save more for another day.



comments:

AFN did block the commercials for the S-Bowl. I was able to see the main parts and then over the series of the next few days I caught a majority of the game at different times.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Home sweet Home

We finally made it to Camp Bucca. A quick blackhawk-helo ride in. It was all very uneventful. It will take me a fe days to get settled in and post pictures and stuff. Just wanted to let you know I am here and safe.

BTW - they have Dr Pepper - wahoo God is GREAT!!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Unbelievable

Today started early, a 0600 show for a bus to the airport. That obviously messed up any plans we had to see the Superbowl. But I was able to get up in time to eat breakfast around 0540 and I was able to watch the last 4 min or so of the game in the D-fac. I saw both teams score and the exciting finish – there is a God. You might think my title is related to the unbelievable upset the NY Football Giants put on the Patriots. It’s not. I’ll get to that in a minute. It is unbelievable to me though that the Pats didn’t just walk all over the Giants. They had so many weapons and were so good all year. Even when the Giants played them close a few weeks ago they still came out on top and I figured that would help the Pats to really crush the Giants this time and make sure they went undefeated. In a sense I wanted the Pats to win for Brady – I think he is a great football player, but in other ways I wanted them to lose. This loss only enhances the mystique of the Miami Dolphin’s undefeated season. And I’m not fond of the Pat’s coach so I’m ok with the Giants being champs. But you didn’t tune in to read my thoughts on football – you can get football commentary on any website.

The TEA blog is the only place you can truly see a miracle. The pic below is of my long lost laundry. Yes it finally caught back up with us today. We departed Baghdad Airport around lunch time and flew on a C-130. It was blue. It was a Japanese Air Force C-130. We all kind of laughed as we exited the building and saw the large blue C-130. As usual we were surrounded by young Army troops (most of them going on some kind of R&R break) and I overheard one of them say “I didn’t know they made blue ones?” I thought it was funny. The crew passed around “safety instructions” on a card printed in English on one side and Japanese on the other.
Ok so back to Kuwait. We flew south to Ali Al Saleem (or however you say it) AB (otherwise known as The Rock) and made it to the transition spot to go elsewhere in theater. I just have to say the Lord continues to shine on us. When we got to the place to sign up for transpo to Bucca and we made it just in time to get on today’s bus from Ali to Camp Buehring (literally by just a few minutes). And it sounds like we’ll depart tomorrow for Bucca on a helo. Bucca does not have a runway – so no fixed wing flights. During the few minutes were there gathering our bags one of our MSgt’s asked a few questions and quickly runs into the guy who knew where our laundry was. He made a call and then someone else made a quick ride across the base and cha-ching our laundry was back. If you remember it was “cleaned” here at Buehring a couple of weeks ago when we were here last. We had completed the necessary training and were told we’d sit there for a week waiting on our flight. Then the next day they changed the plans for us to fly to Baghdad. Many thought for sure those clothes/uniforms were gone forever.

The good news is we have linked up with many others going to Bucca and that will help the mighty military machine actually get us there – strength (and importance in getting a flight) in numbers. The bad side is we are all together and we’re in a giant open bay tent with 50+ of our closest strangers.

Just so you know the last day in Baghdad was another disappointment. Nothing but silly paper shuffling. And to add to the disappointment, this morning we had to say goodbye to one of our nine. He stayed for the chance of glory there at Camp Cropper. I was able to hit the weekly chapel service Sunday night so I guess it wasn’t all bad. I wanted to get a group shot of us at the “Welcome to Camp Victory” sign, but that never worked out. Oh well. We’ll get one of all eight when we get to Bucca. The pic below is one of me back at Camp Victory. I think this building is/was a mosque that is next to the building where we were working.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Uuuhhhh – could I get a Volunteer?

Today is Saturday – I think. It’s tough to keep track when the days seem the same. Everyone jokes that it’s like Groundhog day around here. Same routine day after day. Ironically it is Groundhog day today. The shop we’ve been working in gathers together on Saturday nights and watches a movie and socializes…today they are watching…you guessed it - Groundhog Day. I declined the invitation. We don’t know most of them and you know me…the stand-offish guy.

We kind of finished our oh so meaningful task of putting files away. There is a Navy Lt that is appreciative of our efforts. I think she saw the task as a major part of her many month deployment and we knocked it out in just a week or so.
I’ll recap the groundhog day for you just for grins:
0630 wakeup – shower – shave and dress
0715ish – breakfast – it was Saturday so I splurged with an Omelet and a doughnut (usually it’s just cereal for me)
0800 walk around the palace to our building
0815 open the large metal containers and begin placing loose papers amongst thousands of files
1100 quick check of work e-mail
1130 lunch – salad, plus a small taco salad mix on the side
1215 walk back around the lake, this time walk along the edge of the water on a sidewalk/path just above lake level – just to be different
1230 we had finished most of the papers so we started closing up
1300ish more files brought out from the dungeon (or wherever she was storing them)
1315 put the movie MASH in the dvd player while we sort a few thousand other pages into numerical order
**** we all looked and wondered how “different” the current deployment would be with alcohol. No alcohol here in Iraq – at least not any out in the open. ********
1400 we begin taking the sorted papers and putting them into the files outside
1630 or so – we cry uncle and start closing up
1700 ish back to the tent
1705 quick hop on the info dirt road, webcam with family,
1830 dinner (106 types of wings – if you were wondering…I watched as some guy played along with him and had him say it over and over again by asking “how many?” We postulate that he just adds a number each time it is wings night at the optional bar.)
1930 back to the tent to draft TEA blog, read, watch a few minutes of a movie on my laptop.
2300 sleep

Ok I know we aren’t working that hard or long hours, but I wanted to give you my groundhog day schedule because that’s the thing right – same thing over and over. Clearly it’s only been a few days and I was lucky enough to go over to Camp Cropper and watch some boards so that helped break it up as well. The guys who work in the shop are on 12 hour shifts with a crew at night for continuous 24 hour coverage. 7 Days a week with a ½ day off every 2 weeks or something like that. Like I keep saying – we could have it worse.

For those readers who are unaware you should also know that this is not where we are supposed to be or the job we are supposed to be doing. They brought us here (Baghdad) for a couple of days orientation…almost 2 weeks later – still here. We are all pretty grumpy cause hey – we are AF and we are used to the easy life. I was going to complain some more but I’ll stop.

The larger event of the day that I did not address in the routine was a call from the Navy O-6 for a volunteer. He asked if one of us (preferably an officer) would volunteer to stay and be an assigned board member at Camp Cropper. We debated it over lunch. One of the Lt’s volunteered. Since I’m never sure who is reading…I’ll let that Lt tell the world/family that he is staying Baghdad for the remainder of his 6 months. The funny part is two of the Lt’s flipped a coin for it.

None of us are excited about breaking up the nine. We not a close family mind you but we mostly get along. I’m personally sad cause I like the guy and he has a great movie collection with him. Oh well. I considered the volunteer, but decided against it because of the relative lack of facilities at Cropper. They rely upon some of the other bases for some facilities and I wasn’t real fond of that. Although there were many positives for it – more steady yet less taxing schedule, dorm like housing vs metal sheds, inside plumbing vs portables. Anyway – he jumped on the grenade.

Word is we leave Monday – at least that is the consistent story two days in a row.

We don’t know when we’ll leave but we are all praying it will be late enough for us to stay up and watch the Superbowl in the middle of the night (0200 kickoff). One thing we have heard is AFN (armed forces network) cuts out the commercials and puts in their own…we are all bummed about that.

No pictures today…I was not inspired to take any. If I can I’ll load a previous days picks, but no promises this late at night for uploading on the unpaved info-highway. No jackals either. A reader suggested I get some wings from Pops and use them as bait for the Jackals then take a picture for the blog. Funny.

We called Bucca today and they said – yeah you guys have about a million boxes in the corner waiting on you. We asked if our laundry was amongst the pile…they couldn’t tell because if it was it was inside a box. Never the less – good things await us!!

Friday, February 1, 2008

FORE!




Friday is Steak and Lobster night here in Baghdad. I don’t like my steak cooked in mass quantities so I avoid that but I love seafood! I had a big plate of fried shrimp, scallops and lobster tails. Work today was another day of filing. We helped the local office properly file mucho paperwork that has been sitting around for a while. It’s grunt work and it stinks, but they need it done and they are busy elsewhere and it gives us some (not so meaningful) work. I try to look at the positive and say I could be out digging a ditch or be somewhere with people shooting at me. It was nice outside so I tried to take advantage of that and volunteered to be one of the guys out helping to store the papers in some outside metal containers.

Since the weather was nice we walked back from lunch. One of the buildings along the way has this perfect balcony overlooking the lake. We’ve seen guys hitting golf balls into the lake and since it was nice as we walked by we made ourselves at home. Here’s a pic of my buddy Brandon teeing off into SH’s lake. I’m not much of a golfer (as many of you know) so I just watched…and took pictures. I’m not sure where they got the g-balls from. I’m guessing someone (ahem) borrowed them from a driving range or something. They had many boxes full of g-balls up there and quite an assortment of clubs. So we watched Brandon hit a few then went about our merry way back to filing. Ahhh the luxurious life in Baghdad.

Closed Captioning: Why don’t they use it more? It’s a great service all can enjoy. They have the giant screen TVs scattered around the D-FAC, but of course it’s loud in there and you can’t hear what is being said. Why don’t they just turn on CC? Then all could enjoy – only if they want to. I was especially frustrated today at lunch as the Simpsons were on. As many of you know I’m a big Simpsons guy and so I sat next to the TV so I could watch. It was the PIEMAN episode. I couldn’t hear the words but I basically got the gist of it.

I’m also including a pic of that silly unfinished palace I keep mentioning. I had forgotten to load it up yesterday so here it is for you to see. I think it was originally the Victory over Iran palace, but then changed to V over America – but then we kicked his tail and now it’s not so much a completed palace any more. There should also be a pic of me standing in front of the palace. This shot was taken from the Flintstones place across the lake. You guys can google the palaces and get more accurate info than I can make up and input with my slow internet.







Another picture of note is the tent. I’ve been taking pics of most of the tents. You can see this is the garden variety, but with sandbags. That’s the new aspect. Just in case a mortar or something goes off next to us we have some protection. The tent is in pretty bad shape, it’s kind of falling apart, but at least it is close to the shower. Wahoo.