Monday, March 31, 2008
I took a turn with the new toy last night and watched the NASCAR race from Martinsville as well as two NCAA basketball games. It was awesome. I must say the remote control he bought along with the tuner is the hook. Switching back and forth from channel to channel was nice. You should know the cable has been outside the whole time we have been here, but without a TV we had no way to watch nor were we willing to spend money on a TV that is 220V. So it’s really an Army thing – not just AF.
My Dad continues to poke fun of me and the AF (he’s an old Army guy who was stationed in the Germany and lived in the mud more than he wanted to). Well I am sure he’ll love this story. Cable TV in a war-zone. What have we come to?
As I read the book 1776 and reflect upon the differences between the rag-tag bunch of patriots fighting the well trained and equipped red-coats, I can’t help but see the comparison with today’s modern battle in the war on terror. The most technologically advanced armed force of history (with cable TV in their pods) fighting against many who are illiterate and can barely afford the basics of life.
On a lighter note – I went to the gym this morning and right as I walked in the door I noticed something wasn’t right. It was quiet and less crowded than I have ever seen. Then the wave of hot air hits me. Ahhh now I realize the electricity is out. Remember everything runs off giant commercial generators here. The generator was out. Well now I have the choice – return to my POD and hit the gym later or continue and workout as planned just sweating a whole lot more. I stayed. Not sure if that makes me more dedicated or just stupid. Just so you know it was HOT HOT HOT in there. As I churned away on the elliptical (treadmills require electricity) I watched many people walk in make a funny face and then leave. I actually enjoyed it…it was like being back in Arkansas in the humid summer. Some of my running buddies could attest that I usually enjoy a hot day run more than a cold day run.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
On to brighter things. I mentioned a few days back we had a cookout. It was a kind of farewell for one of the leaders of our courthouse activities…his rotation was done and he was moving on. Well here are some pictures of the yummy food. I was a little more prepared this time (with my spork – thanks Gwyn) and made a pass through the DFAC to pick up a couple of sodas to drink. We had an assortment of music and a large crowd. Someone counted over 60 people, so it was a great turnout.
Other random thoughts:
Had my weekly bible study tonight. It was really good. We are studying Acts. I saw detainees today but I’m off tomorrow. Maybe I’ll hit the gym again right as the power goes out. It’s time for me to submit a package for Squadron Command Selection board. I’m not sure I’m interested. I’ve moved way more than I want to in the last few years and add the deployment and this would make another mandatory move. I may sit out a year and then try for it next year. I’m sure many of my mentors will now start to counsel me otherwise. I have a few weeks to decide.
Perspective – always perspective – one of the Army Majors that is here for boards (his second trip from somewhere else in the country) made a comment at dinner about his 458 days or something like that (he’s on a 15 months deployment). The rest of the table (all USAF on 6 months rotations) became silent. We just have no comparison to the life they live these days.
The other night some of the civillians who work on the base had a celebration. Many of the interpreters are Kurds or form the kurdish region so in the local tradition they celebrated the Kurdish new year. I hoped to get some better pics, but my camera battery died. I may get some more pics from one of the guys who organized the party and works with us...but I still don't have them (and it's a slow news day).
So here is a link to what the celebration was all about.
They made a few speeches about how happy they were that Coalition Forces are here and that Iraq is a better place. But mostly they just played local music and danced around the stage. This few second clip gives you the general idea.
Sorry for the short blog - just not very inspired tonight.
To begin a secret code was developed, a rough timeline laid out, and all operatives were ordered to maintain a high degree of “operational security” so the target would not suspect anything.
A diversion technique was used very effectively to distract the target from the real goal of the operation. The assets were shipped under clandestine means, and placed into position for rapid deployment. As the day of the operation neared I began to get nervous that my target was onto our plan. I shifted my schedule to ensure that details were not divulged. I enlisted the assistance of another covert operator to aid in my mission. He was eager to participate. As with all missions the Fog and Friction of war come into play. The night before just as the mission was about to be kicked off a snag in the plan arose. Our transportation was off schedule, we would possibly have to resort to the backup plan. Luckily, my partner was able to secure the necessary transportation but had to make several passes by the target to pick me up. We were concerned that the target was suspecting something, but in post-mission analysis the target claims no knowledge of the event.
Once in position we executed to plan with precision. We recorded the layout for de-briefing and returned to base. The assets were in place, the target had no idea (we hoped) and would walk right into our trap. To keep a close eye on things, I personally escorted the target to the area of operations the next morning. I ensured he was not distracted and walked right into our trap.
Yes it was my pod-mates birthday yesterday. His wife had contacted my wife and asked if I would help set up something for Chuck. She shipped me a box of party stuff in advance (under an assumed name of course). I hid the giant box, hoping Chuck had not seen it (he usually gets to the mail before I do and would be suspicious of this large box for Ted, but one I never brought back to the POD). His wife shipped him a cake and present to distract him from thinking something else was up. I invited another buddy to help me set up the night prior. We only have 1 truck, and someone else had to use it, so I was nervous it would not work out. But my buddy secured the keys, but had to stop by my pod and ask where I was (of course I was out blogging or something). So he had to mention to my roommate – “hey tell Ted I have the keys?” I was sure Chuck knew we were up to something (he says my cover story of making a phone call from the office threw him off the trail). I tried to let everybody know so they could be there for the big show. I made sure to drive Chuck straight to the office that morning. And – Walla – Operation Birthday Box was a huge success. Happy Birthday Chuck.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I don’t know why they are so prevalent, but we have flies – everywhere out at the courthouse. I think it’s related to the cesspool outside the wire (but that is a different post). It could also be related to the food and drinks we have out there everyday and the trash sits in the sun for a while and well you know the flies just seem to always show up. Today I took some pictures of the little things. We have to deal with them in our small office.
We have to deal with them in our break lunch area. This is a table where we sometimes eat lunch. As you can see by the end of the lunch time the table is covered in flies. It’s really gross. All those black spots are flies. I usually can’t stand it and just go somewhere else. I’ll prefer to sit and eat in the sun than fight with these guys.
And we have to deal with them pretty much everywhere. Here you can also see the boxes they bring out for lunch everyday.
We use these strips to help trap them. We also have the standard issue fly-swatters that we use to control the population. One of the guys ordered a fly zapper and put it in the office. We all say a little cheer when they get zapped. They aren’t as bad around the pods, but I wonder if that is because we are farther from the cesspool?
Anyway the shooing of flies is a constant battle. Blech!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
So the mail is has been coming in at a steady pace recently. A buddy sent me a book (per my request) but he also sent me some more fun stuff. This picture gives you an idea of some of what he sent. Too bad I can't wear this to the DFAC. He also sent a musical card with the chicken dance on it. Once that get's in your head - it's hours of entertainment.
In regards to the Easter blog - K asked me what I expected. She said things are no different in the states with chocolate bunnies and eggs surrounding the holiday back home, and after all the predominant religion here is Islam. I don't have a good answer for her. I'm not sure what I expected. Just seemed curious to me.
The internet café just keeps getting slower and slower around here. I spent 10 min in there today and not one page would load up. Worthless. I've now gone to surrogate posting. I email this to K and she posts for me. (Did I mention she rocks?)
I've mentioned this before - it's all about perspective. As I was reading my files for the next day I was in the room with another Army officer. He was talking to someone else and he mentioned he was in the Guard but on active status for this deployment. Said it was his third time over since 03. His son is 5 years old and he's only been home for 1 birthday. He lost his job (they "downsized"), he's divorced, and doesn't really know his kids anymore. It slapped me in the face that some pay a much higher price than I do when I whine about missing my DP. And that doesn't even consider someone who gets hurt or those that lose family members over here. I'll start praying for that guy.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Just to be clear - we take every FRI off in respect for the local customs and culture...but I worked Easter Sunday. Just making an observation. Sorry if I sound bitter, just want to give you insight into life here in the sand.
Monday, March 24, 2008
OK so the Hogs didn't pull out the upset. I'm ok with that. I am frustrated that 2 SEC tems had to face #1's like that in the second round. Also, It's tough to beat NC in the state. I know the committee reads the blog so maybe next year they can put Arkansas in Little Rock instead of NC?
Here's a pic of me enjoying a recent gift from a family member. You all know my Dr Pepper issues. Well an Uncle sent me a bottle of DR Pepper BBQ sauce. The box lunches they bring out come in three flavors - main line (turkey, chicken, beef), salad, and Fat-Boy (Chicken Nuggets, fries, and some other fried food). So today I picked up a fat-boy happy meal and tried out the sauce. I didn't think it was that different than some random BBQ sauce, but one of the other guys was adamant that it tasted like DP.
The other picture also shows the Easter Bunny. He's been showing up in our office for a few days.
I had to sacrifice quite a bit of sleep to watch the game last night, I can't say that it was worth it. But I'm no worse for it. Who needs sleep. Tip off was 50 minutes after midnight. Met another Arkansan watching the game last night. It's fun to to play the - Arkansas - oh yeah - wherebouts? game. 'Yep I been there' usually follows.
Just so you know as I type this some local nationals are putting some concrete barriers outside the tent I am in with a small crane. The "guide" is directing the motions in the this funny voice like he is working with sheep...hete hete hete hete...now he is whistling as well. We are all praying the giant concrete barrier does not come through the side of the canvas tent qnd crush us all.
I made it to the Sunrise Service. It was good - not great - but good.
Thanks for the sauce
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Welcome to day one of the experiment. I’m typing this on Sat – but you may not see it until Sunday – tricky I know. The big news for the day – no news. Wait, that’s not completely true, I heard we topped 100 degrees today. Mar 22. Nice. Can’t wait for JUNE.
Brandon is on R&R – slacker. He and another LT got their 4 days of R&R and they are off enjoying the luxury of $6 beers. He sent me a note and said it was fun. I got up before the sun today and made it into the D-FAC to watch my Razorbacks beat Indiana in the NCAA tourney. Next up – North Carolina – ouch.
We finally have a nice phone in our office. We had some piece of trash (literally) that someone found and we plugged into our one line. Since then we found a nice new phone. I used it tonight to share a few minutes with K on a DSN moral call. Hadn’t done that in a while so it was nice (moral call is a free call using govt phones we got some allotted amount of minutes every few days). Instead I usually just use this thing they have called “SPAWAR”. I am sure it’s some acronym I don’t know – anyway they offer $0.4 per minute calling. That is also the same place I use the internet (for free). The phones are scratchy but they are much cheaper than AT&T ($0.20 per minute). The Internet is slow – but it’s free.
Ok enough jabbering on…I’m off to bed so I can make it to Easter sunrise service tomorrow.
Christ is Risen…Risen Indeed.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Did I tell you I have the best wife in the whole world? She has powered through and continues to keep her spirits high. She has filed taxes, found us new renters for our house in OH (we pray), solved a couple of maintenance problems at house at home station as well as in OH (including flooded basement), and has a serious looker for the old van we are selling…not to forget all the while maintaining the hectic lifestyle of a mother of 4 young ones. She completely ROCKS! I’m the luckiest man alive.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
Ok I’m just teasing. The putting green has nothing to do with Easter – or at least I don’t know that it does. They do have this set-up outside. I took a few putts after my photos. I thought it was a great idea. I remember when we were in Baghdad and some of the buildings had places to drive golf balls into the lakes. The Chapel does have a plan to show the movies I listed as well.
Today was my standard ½ day because we don’t have boards on Fridays. After feeling under the weather for a few days I made it back to the gym today. I’m getting psyched up for the impending March Madness Tournament. Too bad I don’t have a good place to watch it as much as I would watch it if I was at home.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
We've developed the same for the boards we sit on. I know it may not be funny to you and maybe even difficult for you to understand, but we've started to kid each other about things in life as they relate to our cases.
For example - many of them are "farmers" and they constantly refer to that or sometimes they will say "I only go from my house to work and back again - that's all I do"...well when we sit around at dinner (the family meal) we'll make jokes about "I'm only a MNFRC member...all I do is go from the courthouse to my POD. I never do anything else"
I know that won't be as funny to you, but it is very interesting to me how quickly we become desensitized to things. We don't joke about the individuals - but the general situation we are in and hearing the same stories over and over.
Stink - this will be the subject of a future blog I am sure - but Bucca has a smell all it's own. It is nasty. I mean nasty. I like to call it "MNFRC Fresh" -it is just wrong.
Things are good here. Normal flow of work, plenty to read/watch, and now just have to hunker down for the long haul of time before I'm done.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
All of us out at the courthouse made sure to get a package of our own and then we had to sort many of the others because they have things we can’t give the families – like pork products (beef jerky). Here’s a picture of the goodies. We also pulled the T-shirts and have been giving them to the troops around us. There are lots of guards and other soldiers out there with us so I am sure it won’t take long to disperse all the goodies.
It also had a calling card, hand cream, candy and snacks. I’m very appreciative of all those that take part in programs like this to help build and donate for the care packages. I think I’ll take one of the T-shirts and use it for a tablecloth for my nightstand - since we can't wear civilian clothes.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Just before 11PM local...I was about to head out for a final bathroom hike for the night. While I was locking the door (chuck was out somewhere), I see this truck pull up with lights flashing - remember it's 11 PM and most are asleep or going to sleep soon or already on ther night shift. A guys gets out of the truck and asks me - my POD number. Knowing I had a work order in for a new light I quickly assumed he was here to fix it. After we confirmed he was at the right place...
I am not making this up. What was your guess to the title question?
The correct answer was - 4. One to hold the clipboard, one to supervise the clipboard guy, one to hold the new/bad bulb, and one to stand on the ladder and replace the bulb. Keep in mind the pod is only 8ish feet tall. And Chuck could reach the light bulb standing on his feet.
Maybe it's a union thing - Judge Lisa can you help me with that one?
Sunday, March 9, 2008
BTW – this blog is being posted on a new wireless internet some guys are starting up. I’m debating if I’ll sign up or not. Chuck requested the cable TV service they have for our POD. Granted we don’t have a way to watch it yet – but he ordered a tuner to watch it on his laptop.
Went to the contemporary service at the Chapel today. I liked that better than the Traditional service I went to last week. The temp is picking up day by day. It has been into high 80s - low 90s so far. Starting to see more critters about. Bugs and things on the desert floor lurking around.
Funny thing - Iraq does not observe DST like the US. Not that they should, but when they stood up the new govt - I guess 1 APR was the official day to change the clocks. We did not spring forward here at Bucca and not sure if or when we will.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
1. Two fluorescent bulbs in our pod - the one on my side burned out. I submitted a work order to get it replaced, and the guy said by contract they have 2 weeks to fix it. But it should not take that long. I hope not.
2. Heard they surrounded the broken down buses with concertina (sp?) wire - wonder if the blog had anything to do with that?
3. Netflix movie #2 arrived. It's really really slow getting those things back and forth. Have I told you about the Haji (our slang) movie shop? They sell pirated movies here like they are hotcakes. Some are really bad - just some guy sitting in the movie theater recording. You can hear the laugh track from the audience in the theater and then sometimes a guy will get up and block the camera. I have refrained from buying from them on principle. They are anywhere from $3-5 for a movie. And the shop always has people in there shopping. Frankly I'm offended that they allow that but I guess it helps keep the masses happy. Seems kind of wrong to allow people to knowingly violate the copyright laws...oh well. There were many articles about that issue (it is prevalent across the country not just here at Bucca) in the Stars and Stripes Editorial section a month or so ago. No change in policy from what I can tell.
Friday, March 7, 2008
It reminds me of that TV commercial where the Football player walks over to the grounds-keeper who has just finished painting the end zone and says – “That looks great, but who are the Chefs?” he was supposed to spell Chiefs like the Kansas City Chiefs but he left out the “i”
When I went to take a picture of the truck the driver was just walking around the back end and kind of shook his head like yeah I know. Everybody points it out to me.
More books came in the mail for me. I’m set for a few weeks at least – maybe the whole deployment. A friend sent me a note and said they have Dr Pepper back at the Commissary back home so maybe I won’t have to extend my deployment. One of the guys playing risk last night had some extra stuff from a care package and he shared his Doritos. YUMMM. K can tell you I’m a sucker for nacho cheese Doritos. You know the ones that make your fingers orange? They have those in the small 100 calorie snack packs. That makes it even more convenient so you don’t have to carry around this large package. Hint Hint.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
After I was through I enlisted Brandon's help to make a nightstand table for me. He's much more experienced at that kind of stuff than I am. And he's a little better at good sqaure cuts and stuff. I had seen his work and compared it to my work for the shelves I made. So I asked him to help me with the nightstand.
Once again I refrained from taking a pic and having evidence of the officers actually doing any work. But here is a pic of Brandon holding up the finished product. I mostly just supervised while he did all the real work.
Here's another pic of what it looks like in my room. Note the books in the queue to read. I got another in the mail today. Tonight was our standard social event night for the MNFRC guys. Brandon had organized a Risk game (the Board game where you try to take over the world). He won the last time 4 of us played so we were all weary of him.
When the game started I had a good portion of North America. I worked to secure the Continent with many battles from the Doc over Alaska. It took us almost 3 hours to finish...but you can see in the pic below how things turned out. Brandon and I were the final two players. I had the momentum going and swept across the board in one mighty turn. In the end I massed my forces and crushed Brandon's stronghold in Australia.
It was fun and it killed a few hours. Our buddies made it back from R&R so the schedule is a little more relaxed for the next few days. Until they open more courtrooms we have more people than we do boards. Getting things moved or set-up here is like a bad movie - it'l take 2 weeks. Yeah right.
Congrats to Uncle Ben for the big win on The Jerk - movie trivia question. I hope you found that quote as funny as I did.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
The group of 9 (that dropped to 8 when we left a guy in Baghdad) is starting to separate. It’s not that we don’t like each other (well maybe somebody doesn’t like me, I can be standoffish) it’s that now that we are in PODs we don’t have the unity that comes with living in the same small tent for days on end. I predicted this would happen. Just call me Nostra-Teddy.
The one thing that helps to combat this separation is the dinner meal. We all try to sit in the same area every night so we can catch up. All the MNFRC guys sit together kind of like a family (at least the permanent ones). It helps that we can all see each other for a few minutes and share the funny cases of the day. Don’t worry it’s a classified D-FAC so we can discuss all we want (just kidding). The courtroom setup we have keeps us separate most of the day and so we don’t see much of each other out there.
Whoever can tell me the name of the movie the title came from – just step right up and win some crap …anything from these two inches right here can be yours just for playing…
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
I walked by this POD last night and they had the door open and a movie on with people spilling out in to the walkway. It was kind of funny.
Also got some more reading material in the mail. I'm set for a few days...work, movies, and reading.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Colors...who says there is no color in the desert? Chuck and I debated if these were from "us" (meaning American stuff that had dropped seeds for the weeds that were somehow scattered here) or indigenous to the area. I say "us" he says birds, wind and other stuff has scattered weeds everywhere. I said I guess he is right.
These lovely pieces of pollen are right outside our CHU. Nothing spectacular - just a bloom in the gravel.
I also wanted to show you the Flag someone left us. It was here when we moved in and obvisously has seen better days. I show it here to give you some perspective of the wind. It always blows and you can see how tattered it has made our little piece of Americana. Not sure if they sell flags at the PX. I'll have to look.
Another thing to show you is the street signs. All these rows of CHUs look alike, you have to look for things to help you remember on what row to turn. The Flag is one indicator as well as this cleverly disguised case of water. Some think it's just there as trash - Chuck and I know it is our street sign telling is this is where we live and that we do need to turn left.
As I have walked around I have seen some more interesting "decorations" I'll have to share. It was dark tonight when I saw them so they will have to wait.
One more flower shot for the nature lovers. I tried out the new (commercial vendor) Internet Cafe. For $5 an hour you can plug in your own laptop and get decent download speeds. I videocam-ed (is that a verb??) with K. It wa nice to see her face. I had not seen her in a few weeks so that we both enjoyed the few minutes. Even the little guy and baby Lu seemed to be excited about it.
A free and partially torn US flag to the person who can tell me what person would always say the line in the title?
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Saturday, March 1, 2008
This evening I went on a scavenger hunt with one of our Senior NCOs. We went to the motor pool to do some "acquisition" - since I'm an acquisition professional I thought for sure I would be good at it. Unfortunately the guy we talked to for approval was not as willing to make a decision as the guy a few weeks ago...we'll have to check back tomorrow to complete the "acquisition" (of a bus seat as a couch for my CHU). Afterwards we all decided it was a bad idea to ask permission rather than beg forgiveness [when will I learn Gwyn?]. But we needed to ask for some tools...so we had to at least explain what we were up to.
As I was reading The Rick and Bubba Code - they mentioned something I quite agree with. All men should marry up. I know I did. My wife is clearly more beautiful and worthy of more than a funny looking balding guy like me. For her - I am thankful - thanks to R&B for reminding me of how lucky I am.
Weather is in transition. These days it is nice. Cool in morning and evening then approaching warm in afternoons. I know pretty soon it will be miserably hot.