My Weather

Sunday, August 05, 2007

My last post?

This could very well be my last post. Tomorrow, I’m “wheels in the well” and on my way to Kuwait. I don’t know if I will be able to keep up with this blog from there on not (the military is cracking down on bloggers and quite often, the websites are restricted).

My original intent in writing this blog was to keep my family and a few close friends informed as to what I was up to while I was over here. I purposely tried to stay anonymous by avoiding using certain key words—words like JCCS-1, RFF-611, EWO and a few others. But, I guess Google was smarter than me. From time to time, other Navy guys would say: ‘hey I know you, you write ‘My Desert Adventure’ ”. Well so much for anonymity! I guess it is a good thing—I was forced to keep all of my war stories closer to reality.

I had no idea what Iraq would be like when the “IA fairy” touched me last fall. It truly has been a fascinating adventure, one where I learned a lot and saw many things. I tried to write about as many as I could; from the mundane (like the fact they use old tank treads as speed bumps) to the downright asinine (like having to fill sandbags in order to eat lunch) to the political (just who is who over here).

I enjoyed writing this blog—it gave me an opportunity to reflect on the world around me, share what I was experiencing and get to read some really wonderful comments that helped so much to close the miles.

This picture was taken at my farewell ceremony last night. This may have been a relatively short chapter in my life, but a significant one nonetheless. At times it was difficult and frustrating, but in the end, it a very rewarding experience. I hope that I made a difference.
One thing that I know for certain: all that I accomplished over here, I couldn’t have done without the tremendous and loving support of my wife, Braye. She bore the real burden of this deployment. It is because of her hard work, dedication and love; I could focus all my efforts into my job. For her I am so very grateful. She made all the difference.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


For the past nine months, I’ve been serving with a Military Police Brigade in Baghdad. “Oh great”, I thought when I first got assigned here, “I’ll be working with a bunch of Cops writing tickets and checking ID cards.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth! To have a functioning democracy, an effective police force is essential. It is also something that is fairly uncommon over here. Saddam, the Shah, and other leaders used their Army to control the populace. The collation has been busy building the Iraqi Police into a functioning force. That is where our MPs come into play. They provide much of the training and logistical support to the IPs (Iraqi Police) It is a difficult job on so many levels. Our guys are outside of the wire every day, visiting local stations, conducting joint patrols and providing security throughout the country.
It is tough work. On the street level, some of these police stations are located in some of the worse areas of the country and Baghdad. We have taken a lot of casualties as a result. One guy I work with was hit by IEDs two days in a row. Sometimes, the local police are loyal to the insurgents. On the national level, inefficiency, politics and corruption make this a very difficult mission.
I have 18 years in the Navy and I have to say that this is one of the best organizations I have ever worked with. All the way from the Commander, down to the lowest “Joe”, these guys are professional, dedicated and very very good in what they do.
One thing that demonstrates what kind of leather their saddles are made of is the fact that they are re-enlisting. Since 9-11, there has been a huge demand for law enforcement professionals across the US. Any one of these guys can get a job in their home town, making 3 times what they are making now. Why don’t they? Well, there are many reasons, some stay for patriotism, some because of the strong bonds of camaraderie, but most of all, it is simply who they are.
Some members on congress say the Army is broken—I sure don’t see it. Of course, what do I know; I’m just a guy on the ground.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Curse of the Flamingos

I’ve learned a couple of things while I was here in Iraq. One of which—Flamingos are pure evil. Just ask any trailer park resident in “Tornado Alley”. The other thing I learned was that wives are often more right than I ever realized.

Last fall, my wife gave me a pair of pink flamingos to decorate my trailer. On the day they arrived, I spoke with Braye on the phone and told her that I was going to put one in front of my trailer that night when I got “home” from work. She relied “OK, but are you sure someone won’t use it as an aiming point?” At the time I thought “Well… someone has been watching the History Channel without me” and told her something along the lines: “I’m in Iraq, what could possible go wrong?”

Well a few hours after the Flamingo went into the ground, a rocket landed about 30 feet from my trailer. No big deal really since it was just a baby rocket. I was just glad that rocket missed my cable. At the time I didn’t suspect the flamingo of any wrongdoing.

A few days later, the flamingo was stolen. I was very upset (I had no idea that I was for my own good). Luckily, I had a spare flamingo (doesn’t everybody?) I proudly put that one on top of the concrete barriers surrounding my trailer. More visible than on the ground. Pleased with my rebellious display of individuality, I went to bed. Just before I entered REM sleep, a bullet hit my trailer! Had they only waited 10 minutes, I would have slept though the whole thing.
“Himm?” I thought “no way could the appearance of a flamingo have something to do with my sleep being interrupted?” I quickly put the thought aside. Things from then on stayed relatively quiet, but of course that flamingo was also stolen the next day.

Several quite weeks went by and one of my guys found my flamingos! Once again, I displayed my free spirit side and I put them on top of my extra tall concreted barriers (for some reason, the group of trailers that I’m in was the first to get the extra tall barriers). Sure enough, a little while later, a big ole’ rocket landed just across the street. Definitely not a baby that time!

The third time was the charm and both flamingos went into my closet. Things have been quiet ever since. Since I’m leaving soon, I decided to put the flamingos someplace where they can do no harm…. Both found new homes near my office—one on the island and the other on an old fountain. I pity to poor guy that decides to swim out there and steal one—he won’t have any idea what he is getting into.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Hey look a crab (no its not a sand crab!). I never thought I would see a crab in Iraq. As it turns out, they live in the lake. Had I known, I would have asked my wife to send me some Old Bay. Himm… I wonder what they’ve been eating over the years?

OK, I know that I’m going home and I shouldn’t complain, but the military really need to stick with things it understands—things like shooting people and blowing up things.

The military doesn’t send the “Freedom Bird” to a hub like Atlanta or Dallas, but rather Baltimore. Why Baltimore? Well, I guess people a lot smarter than me came up with that one. No airline uses Baltimore as a hub and not too many flights fly out of there late at night.
We are due to arrive at 8:00 pm. Since it is so late, we will either have to stay in the terminal until 0600 the next morning, get a hotel room, or try to catch a 3-stop flight that takes over 14 hours to get to P-cola. As painful as it is going to be, it will be more than worth it to get to see the 3 G girls.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


One of the many Army acronyms I’ve learned is RIP/TOA which stands for Relief in Place/Transfer of Authority. In the Navy, we just call is a turnover. Today, I am officially out of a job. My relief is fully up to speed and to coin another navy saying, “he has the conn”. Between now and Monday, I will finish packing and mailing stuff back home.
This is a picture of me and my relief. I am the one with the faded uniform and happy expression.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

End in sight

Well maybe it is a good thing that I’m heading home soon—I’m starting to run out of things to write about. Today I did more turnover with my relief and I had to turn in some more gear that I won’t be needing. I also found out that I’ll be leaving Kuwait sooner, rather than later which means the counter on the blog is right after all. I am so looking forward to coming home. Now that the end is in sight, I miss Braye and the girls more than ever.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Time is dragging by now. I have pretty much turned over with my relief and the days no longer seem to fly by. Most of my things are packed and I have completed just about everything on my “check out sheet”. I still don’t know the exact date that I’m leaving, so that adds to it. Either way, I should be home by the 17th or so. I hope it is sooner so I can have some” daddy daughter time” before school starts.
Last night, I took down all of the artwork our girls made and the family pictures that had been decorating my trailer—so now I’m back to living in a box in the desert. I’m thinking about getting an volleyball and naming it Wilson to keep me company until I head some…

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Packing my trash

Today, I’m finally starting to get excited about coming home. Of course, I don’t know if that will be on the 11th or the 15th. The navy still hasn’t made up its mind. I packed my duffel bags today. It was an easy job since 90% of all the stuff I never used while I was over here. ( I never unpacked it) Not much demand for a chemical suit, entrenching tool, or a few of the other items I lugged here from South Carolina.
We did some more turn over stuff today and did a tour of most of the base. A few more days of turnover to go and I’ll be just clock watching. I turned in my body armor and ammunition today, so it looks like I won’t be making anymore road trips. Tonight is the Asia cup soccer game, so maybe it is a good thing I still have my helmet.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

One thing I'll miss

Since I’m getting so short, I’m starting to reflect on the things that I will miss once I leave here. Yes, there are things I will miss about this place. Of course, I won’t miss the heat, the dust, mud, mortars and most of all—being away from my family.

One thing that I will truly miss is the Soldiers.
I worked closely with one a National Guard infantry company from Texas. In previous wars, they were called “GIs”, “dogfaces”, “doughboys” or “grunts”. This time around, they refer to themselves as “Joes”. Mainly they are kids, but there are some crusty old timers mixed in as well.
As a Naval Aviator, I may have had a preconception that they guys on the ground were a bunch of knuckle draggers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They are true professionals—dedicated to their jobs and each other. Once, while I was out on a mission, one of the Corporals told me:
“Sir, I’m glad that you are coming along…we make a good team... since you’re a pilot, you’re technical and since we’re infantry, we’re testicular, so together we’ll be fine”.
Yeah, I’m going to miss these guys.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Busy day

Today was a pretty busy day-- some days are like that. I went in around 0630 and I didn’t get out of there until 2000. Even after all of these months, I still find the work interesting and rewarding. A few things popped up that had to be taken care of and I’m trying to tie up as many loose ends before I leave. Tomorrow is when we start our turnover, so it will be another busy day.
As far as going home, I won’t find out the exact date until around the first. Right now I scheduled to head home on the 15th, but it may be bumped up 4 days. I hope so. Our oldest is starting school in August and I’d sure like to get home before she does.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


A picture of what will soon be my former office.

Yesterday was the semi final match for the Asia Cup. I guess it is some type of soccer thing. To the Iraqis, it's huge. There are 11 guys on the squad--Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Not only do they represent all of Iraq, but these guys have overcome huge odds to come this far. There are no leagues anymore, training facilities are in total disrepair and, until recently, Uday Hussein had a bad habit of killing athletes that didn’t perform. Yet these guys have excelled. I soccer were a real spot, the closest comparison would be Rocky Balboa fighting Apollo Creed.
I admit it, I’m not a fan of soccer, but I’ll be watching and rooting for them when they go to the championship next week. After overcoming the odds they have, they will be winners no matter what the outcome.
Iraqis everywhere went nuts when their team won. People were shooting in the air (every 12 year old has an AK-47 around here) , honking horns and waiving Iraqi flags to celebrate. It was as if they all put aside their differences for a few moments and were one people at peace.
It was the one thing the terrorists couldn’t allow. 2 car bombs drove into crowds for joyous fans and detonated—killing 50. A soccer stadium in Mosul was blown up. Innocent people murdered because they choose to put aside hate for a few minutes to celebrate a simple game.
This is who we are fighting over here

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

So, how's the weather?

Well that is something I haven't seen for awhile--clouds. They wontlast much past 0700 though. It has been getting hotter lately, with daytime highs around 120.
When I run at 0500, it is already 95. Yeah,yeah, it is a dry heat, but it is starting to suck just the same. StillI perfer it to a Alabama summer.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My new ride

In a few weeks I’ll be back in Pensacola. After I take some leave, I’m going to start flying the T-39 “Saberliner”. The Navy uses them to train Navy and Air Force navigators. Typically they are flown by civilian contract pilots, but there are always 2 military pilots that fly them as well. I’ll be one of those pilots. The T-39 is a good jet that has the same wing as the Korean War vintage F-86 Saber. I’ve flown it a few times before.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Relief in sight—literally

My relief flew in last night and I have to say I was happier to see him than he was to see me. I met him at BIAP (Baghdad Airport) drove him to his tent. Today, we spent a good portion of today seeing the sights and going over stuff. He has a weeklong school to go through and then we have almost 2 weeks to turnover. It is a far cry different from when I got here—we had very little training or turnover then.
Getting closer…

Sunday, July 22, 2007

How cool was that?

This is the “Perfume Palace”—according to local ledged, this was where Saddam and his buddies kept their concubines. I have no idea what it really was.

This morning, well before sunrise, I was out running when I came to the realization that I’m starting to like country music. When I left home, I took my wife’s iPod with me (along with the rest of her electronic gadgets). I was running along a canal when a Toby Keith song came on---the one where he talks about putting a boot somewhere. About halfway through the song, a flight of helicopters flew by a few hundred yards away, when one of them pickled a whole load of flares. Talk about lighting up the world like the Fourth of July. Way cool.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Gettng closer

This is the “Victory over America palace” I guess Saddam should have waited to name it until it was finished. Those cranes haven’t moved since the invasion. Like most buildings around here, they were built with “Oil for Food” money. Another one of those great programs we can than the UN for.
My relief arrives tomorrow. If all goes well, I’ll be home by the middle of the month. I have a feeling that these last few days are really going to drag on.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Through the eyes of a 4 year old...

Today, my wife sent me a present, although she may not have realized it at the time.

Recently she bought our oldest daughter an inexpensive digital camera. Today, she sent me a collection of our daughter’s handiwork. They are priceless! If I had a printer, they would be on my refrigerator right now. Sure, many are blurry and they are all taken from a height of 3 feet, but they are a window to her world. Seeing what she sees brings me so much closer to them.

This is one of the pictures she took today. Each morning, I get up around 4:30, so I can say goodnight to the girls. It really makes my day. Talking on the phone is one thing, but getting to see them is so much better. One of the most precious things any father can here is “watch me daddy!”. Even though I am on the other side of the world, I can.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Since I’m leaving soon, I figured that I needed to pick up a souvenir. Most of what is sold in the Hajji mart is either Junk or made in China.

Recently, I came across one of these “mini T-walls”--they are an exact replica of the walls that surround everything around here. The company the makes the real ones—77 Construction, also makes miniature ones. I had to have one. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to want one around here so the waiting list is huge.
Today, I had some free time, so I drove out to the concrete plant. In addition to getting a souvenir, I got a tour of a concrete plant. 77 is a Turkish company with one American employee, one Iraqi and the rest Turks. They are a great bunch guys were happy to hear how one of their barriers came in handy one night. Of course, the whole time the question kept coming to mind: “So Billy have you ever been inside a Turkish concrete plant?”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Getting Short

Well, I’m officially getting short. I found out that they guy that was slated to relieve me, will actually be my relief. He should arrive from Kuwait. After all of the training and turnover, I should head to Kuwait in the beginning of August. If all goes well, I should be home by the middle of the month. It won’t be a moment too soon—I miss my family very much.

Besides, Iraq is starting to get to me. I can live with the mortars and the heat, but they started doing karaoke in the chow hall.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I mailed my fly rod home the other day. With all the heat, thick clumps of weeds have overtaken the lake. As it is, the only fish that are biting are “masgoof”, which are Iraqi carp. They are pretty huge, but they are still a trash fish though—although the Iraqis love ‘em. Someone once told me that the only way to eat a carp is to filet it on a board, marinate it for 12 hours, throw the fish away and eat the board. Still, they are fun to catch, even though I’ve lowered myself to use a spinning rod and hunks of sausage for bait. In a few more weeks, I hope to take an “almost five year old’ fishing for the first time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Getting better

I watched the news yesterday and a bunch of politicians were saying that the “surge” has failed and the war is lost. Of course, the last of the “surge” got in place less than a month ago. I guess they are so heavily invested in defeat, the refuse to see progress.

As far as being a failure:

Just the other day, the commander of collation forces in Northern Iraq stated that he can start reducing troops by January.

2 Sunni tribes in Baqouba agreed to stop fighting each other and pledged to fight Al Qaeda. Baqouba was a pretty scary place not too long ago. Things have changed a lot.

Al Anbar province was the wild, wild west not too long ago. Now, local tribes are fighting the insurgents, essential services are being restored and US casualties are way down.
Sounds like a failure to me.
The three success stories, I found after reading the paper for 5 minutes. I guess some politicians are so busy, they don’t have 5 minutes to spare.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Summer around here is hot, but not unbearably so. Typically, we have seen temperatures around 115 or so. Some days, it is pretty windy and it feels like you are standing in a giant hair dryer. Some days the dust rolls in from the desert and the visibility get less than 3 miles. Everything seems to lose all sense of color and it is pretty depressing. On other days, it is amazingly clear out. I took this picture at 0700 in the morning. It was only 90 then. In a way, it reminds me of Arizona—minus the scenery.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Flag

Some time ago, I was at the US Base in Balad, Iraq. It looks like everywhere else in Iraq—concrete barriers, dirt and a few trees. One thing that really made a difference to me though: on every flag pole on that base, the U.S. Flag was flying. I felt a touch of pride every time I saw one.
Here at my base, you may see one being raised momentarily on Flag Day or the 4th of July, but you never see one permanently flying. I guess “the powers that be” are afraid of offending someone. Funny, I think our guys getting blown up is offensive. Of course, folks a lot smarter than me come up with these things

Friday, July 13, 2007

Starting to see the light

After many months of daily blogs, I’m starting to run out of things to write about. I guess it is a good thing that I’m headed home soon. If all goes according to plan, the guy that is relieving me is on his way to Kuwait as I write this. Of course I won’t know for sure when I’m coming home until a week before I leave Iraq.

The main reason for the uncertainty is that “the powers that be” don’t take into account that some people fall out of training or are disqualified prior to coming over here. I came over here with 35 other guys. Several months ago, 35 replacements were named to relieve us—no more, no less. So, if a guy drops out of training because they discover he has allergies to sand fleas—one guy over here gets extended. Since guys drop out at all stages of training, we have no idea how many replacements are coming until they get here

I know that there are a few guys that will try anything they can to weasel out of coming over. While the weasel is my favorite animal, it not right to make a guy extend over here

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I was sitting here, trying to come up with a topic to write about. I had the TV on in the background and the President just came on and gave a speech about the Interim Iraq Progress Report. I have to say it was one of the best speeches he has given. He laid out the situation over here perfectly—very clear and concise. Could things be better over here? Sure. Is progress being made? It sure is, but you have to be willing to see it. I see it and if the country is willing, we will prevail.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Well maybe I’m getting ahead of myself or jinxing myself, but I started packing—mostly my winter stuff and things I never use. My relief heads to Kuwait on Friday. He will go through a week of training there before eh heads to Baghdad. Once he gets here, hell go through another week of training and then we will turn over. Once I pass the torch, I will head to Kuwait for 4 days of “Warrior Transition Program”—(you gotta love all these cool chest thumping names they come up with). After 4 days of that, I’ll be home. Of course all things are written in mud, so we’ll see.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Bad Guys

In Iraq, things are not black and white. Of course, we are the good guys that wear the white hats. The bad guys, that is a little more difficult.
First, you have the Al Qaeda types. Those are the worse of the worse. To them it is their way or the highway. They are the most brutal and fanatical killers. Some are Iraqi, but Iraq is like Woodstock to a Jihadist and they come from miles around.
Next you have the Shiite militias. The Shiites are in the majority and they just seem to have a ball killing people. Sunni, Al Qaeda, Americans, other Shiites—they don’t care. Even though Shiites were in the majority in Iraq, the Sunnis held all of the power. Now they have a pretty big chip on their shoulder and they are looking to settle a score. Of course, Iran is a Shiite country; I wonder what they have been up to?

Finally, you have the Sunnis. Since they were in the minority and Saddam did some pretty nasty things to the Shiites, a lot of them are scared of the prospect of ethic cleansing by the Shiites. They also target Americans because they see the US as aiding their enemy the Shiites. They honestly feel they are fighting for the survival of their people. Recently, the Sunni tribes have been taking up arms against the Al Qaeda types out in the Al Anbar province and recently, south of Baghdad. I guess Shari law doesn’t settle with them very well. I also think they are starting to realize that it will be better for them to work with the Collation than against it.

Of course to the vast majority of Iraqis are good people that just want to get on with their lives. They are the ones that are suffering and we have a moral obligation to help--why? Because we are the good guys and it is the right thing to do. Of course, many people in our country don't see it that way. I guess ours isn’t a perfect country either.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Reset the clock--again

Just one of the friendly streets of Baghdad
If you’ve noticed, I’ve reset my countdown clock—again. The latest word is that I will go home on time. Although a lot of our replacements didn’t show up for training, apparently there are enough of the “right kind” (we have different kinds of jobs over here) of replacements to take my job. A few of the guys that I came over with will be extended, but only until the next class shows—which will be about 10 days.
So, I’ve reset the clock, but I know that I won’t be done with this assignment until I am home and I’ve unplugged the phone from my wall.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

By the way, we’re the good guys

I take my camera with me everywhere, just in case a good picture presents itself. Today, I was in the motor pool when the guys were getting ready for a mission. On the hood on one truck, right in front of a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) is a box of toys. When the guys go out on missions, they often take toys for the local kids as well as other things. There is no such thing as “Operation Toy Give-a-way” These guys give toys and other things to kids because, well…because they are kids and our guys…well that is just who they are. Sure doesn’t sound like the guys the members of the far left like to refer to as “Nazis”.
What do Michael Moore’s “freedom fighters” do for kids? Recently, a couple of them put 2 small children in a car bomb—so to not arouse suspicion while driving through a check point. Once they got through, the insurgents ran off and detonated the car bomb—with the kids still inside.

Yeah, we’re the good guys over here—make no mistake about it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Free Time

This picture was taken at “Warrior Park”, which is a spot on base that has picnic tables, volley ball nets, horseshoes, barbeque grills and of all things—a model car race track. Every night, on my way home from work, these guys are our racing their cars.

On another part of the base, there is an outdoor stage—the same one the Toby Keith played on a few weeks ago. Last night, a bunch of Soldiers got together and put on a play. Too much culture for me—plus it was 108 degrees .

These kids are over here for 15 months now and they gotta take a break from time to time. Just about everyone picks up some sort of hobby. Fishing is another popular past time as are the gyms. I have devoured quite a few books. One private I see comes into work with blood shot eyes after playing Dungeons and Dragons until 0300—just try to call him a geek though-he carries a gun with him everywhere he goes. I can, but that is because I carry one too.