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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.

Friday, July 06, 2007

What it will take

I had a long lunch with one of the Iraqis I work with. He fled in the 90s when ole’ Saddam went on a killing spree. He made a good life for himself as an engineer in the States, but decided to come back here to work as an interpreter. He has been away from his family for over 2 years now. He is an American citizen now, but his home is Iraq and he is here trying to make it a better place. He is a very interesting person to talk to.

Today I asked him what he thought needed to be done to fix this place. His answer: Pull out of the city and let a full scale civil war break out. After a while, when the different factions have sufficiently thinned out each other’s ranks, have to collation come back in and restore order.

It might work, but seems a bit draconian to me. Innocence will always get caught in the middle. Besides, I don’t think they will ever get tired of killing each other.

Some people suggest that we partition the country into a Kurdish region, a Shiite region and a Sunni region. The only problem is that the Arab Shiites will start killing the Persian Shiites. The Al Qaeda Sunnis will keep on whacking the regular Sunnis.

What I think needs to be done is that we need to do is hunker down for the long haul—this thing used to be called “The Long War” until the powers that be said we couldn’t use that phrase. Slowly, things are getting better. Up north in the Kurdish areas and out in Al Anbar in Ramadi are two examples. Most people don’t know that there are shopping malls that are open and doing great business in parts of Iraq.

As their neighborhoods became safer and their living conditions improved, average Iraqis started to take more ownership in their condition. This ownership soon developed into a sense of pride and social responsibility that drove the fanatical elements out of their neighborhoods. It worked up north and it is working out west. Baghdad is much more complicated, but it can be done here as well.

Iraq is in a unique position. Not only do they have vast amounts of oil wealth, but they have the agricultural capacity to be breadbasket of the Middle East. With its rich archeological and religious sites, Iraq can become a travel destination. The city of Krabala, for example, has 100,000 visitors a day—right now. Just imagine how much more appealing the place would be without car bombs going off.
Iraq will get better, but it is a question of time. Time that is measure in years and not election cycles

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Well said

This was painted on one of our concrete barriers. You may have to click on it to read it. I think it says it all…

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

July 4th

For the fifth time this century, Americans are celebrating July 4th in a hostile land far away from their homes and loved ones. Out here, we will celebrate with barbeque, fried chicken, “near beer” and if we are lucky, our neighbors will treat us to a fireworks show. It will also be a day of reflection, a day for all of us to remember what we are fighting for and what our ancestors fought for.

July 4th does not commemorate the creation of our government nor does it mark the end of the Revolutionary War. It marks the day that our founding fathers declared that we were no longer the subjects of an oppressive King and that we exercising our God given rights of freedom and liberty.

July 4th 1776 was the beginning of a long and difficult struggle. The Revolutionary War would rage for another seven years. Thirteen years would pass before our founding fathers agreed on a government. Two more years would go by before the Bill of Rights would become the cornerstone of our nation. Only then were we a people at peace, united under a government by the people, for the people.

Events of today are not that far different from what happened in American 231 years ago. A fledgling democracy is struggling under extreme odds. Just as the French assisted us in our fight for freedom, we are helping the Iraqis obtain the same God given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we hold so dear. It is a long and difficult struggle, but the cause is just. Although he spoke these words over 40 years ago, John F. Kennedy said it best when he said:

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are. The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it."

With the blessings of the Almighty and the prayers of all of you back home, we will prevail. God bless and have a happy 4th of July.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


As you can see, I live in an exclusive neighborhood. We don’t allow just anybody to drive through.

Evenings around here are different from those back home. By the time I head back to my trailer, the sun is just setting, but it is still well over 100 degrees. Back home, things seem to be winding down, but not here. Helicopters regularly fly overhead and convoys continually rumble by. There is a big pot hole in the road the runs in front of my place, so if a truck hits it going fast, my entire trailer shakes. Before the weather got warm, you’d see Soldiers sitting around outside cooking on grills and drinking “near beer” under the shade of camouflage netting.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Like all neighborhoods back home, mine over here has its own personality. After a while, you get used to the daily routines and everything seems “normal”. Although to the folks back home, I’m sure that this place would seem so very far from the ordinary.

Take for example mornings. Right now, it is a cool 92 degrees. The sun just came up, but you can’t see it though the haze and dust. A couple of guys just walked by on their way to work. Instead of business suits and briefcases, they are wearing body armor and carrying machine guns. Just down the row of trailers, there is a guy sitting outside in a folding chair typing on a laptop. Since it is early morning, it is evening back home. Most likely he is outside to get a better wi fi signal in order to Instant Message someone back home. The concrete T-walls wreck havoc on the signal at times. Another common sight is Soldiers talking on their cell phones outside. Since most people here have roommates, they often go outside to make phone calls so they can get a little privacy.

Just like back home, mornings are peaceful for the most part and are my favorite time of the day.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


OK, if you don’t have kids, then you haven’t seen Bob the Builder.
If you have, then your notice that the backhoe “Scoop” is now in the Army. The other day, I saw “Lofty” the crane putting concrete barriers out in town—he was all armored up as well. I haven’t seen one yet, but there are also armored cement mixers around here—no kidding, they are named “Dizzy”.
They have got to be the safest vehicles in Iraq. Not because of the armor, but because who could ever hurt any member of the gang from Sunflower Valley?…Except for that annoying Spud guy—I’d shoot him myself.

Should I tell the girls?

I saw that thing again today...maybe the girls wont care. Who knows?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

No thank you, Mrs. Speaker

Recently, the Speaker of the house reiterated her desire to pull out American forces from Iraq. She stated that withdrawal was the best way to support the troops:

“Democrats are committed to an American military that is second to none. That is why in this Congress we have made huge investments in America's military readiness. And we will always do whatever it takes to support our troops. But we believe that the best way to support our troops in Iraq is to bring them home.”

This is a sentiment shared by many people in our government.

Funny, no politician ever asked me how they could help. I hate being away from my family, but right now, my place is here. If I have to stay another year, I will. For if we cut and run now; 9-11 will have not have been an isolated incident. 3,500 Americans would have died for nothing. Tens of thousands of more Iraqis will die.

This is a real war, with real bad guys. They cannot be reasoned with and they will not go away if we simply leave them alone. I want to see this thing through, so my children will never have to fight or be afraid like we all were on the morning of 9-11.

If you want to support the troops—give us the tools we need to win. Stop making statements that are harmful to our morale and encouraging to our enemies. Stop attacking our President and allow him to devote his attention to being the Commander in Chief. Most importantly, either stand with us or get out of our way and let us do our job.

Of course, what do I know? I’m just a guy on the ground.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Reset the Clock

Well, today was another day. I reach a milestone in a couple of days—I’ll be down to double digits (funny, I have a strange feeling of déjà vu). Sure we are disappointed about the possibility of being extended, but what can we do? As a British Sergeant Major once told me while we were sitting on a curb outside of an Irish Pub in Bahrain:

“Bloody hell, I take the Queen’ s shilling and I eat the Queen’s biscuit, so I do the Queen's bidding...”

The funny thing is, I was truly embarrassed when I told my Army boss that the Navy has no idea of when our reliefs will show or why enough didn’t show up for training. The Navy is still relatively new at this game and I’m sure the process will go through some growing pains for some time to come.
I just hate the fact that all I can give my family are vague answers and more uncertainties. If that isn’t bad enough, I saw something today that my girls may be very upset to see (or they may think it is cool) Who knows?

Thursday, June 28, 2007


We got word last night that my group may be extended over here. How long? Hopefully no more than a month, but who knows? Apparently, there was supposed to be 35 people in the group coming over to relieve us, but only 15 showed up for training. I wonder if coming to Iraq is optional now? I guess I could get mad, but there are enough angry people around here.
Ever since we were married, my wife and I lived by the motto “plan for the worse, but hope for the best.” I’m just glad that my family and home are in such capable hands.
I wish now I hadn’t promised our daughter that I would be home in time for her birthday. Good thing she doesn’t know how to read a calendar—we may have to “move” her birthday a little to the right.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Road Warrior

These are some of the vehicles that the route clearance teams use to hunt IEDs. The little guy in front is called a “Husky”and the bigger in back is called a “Buffalo”. Both of them are heavily armored and have “V” shaped hulls to deflect the blasts from landmines. They look like something straight out of a Mad Max movie. Everyday engineers go out in these vehicles to hunt IEDs. It is pretty clear what type of leather their saddles are made of. As tough as these vehicles are, the guys that ride in them are much, much tougher.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


One of the things I like about running around here is that it reminds me of home. When I’m out pounding the miles, I often forget that I’m in Iraq. It is a nice escape. Take for example, the run I had the other day.
While I was running along, I saw a coyote on the side of the road. They are pretty used to people, but they usually sulk away. This one, however, just stood there. I then saw why: her 3 pups were attacking a rat that was bigger than they were. They were having a grand old time, but the rat was taking things a little more seriously. I think it was the animal world’s version of “Mommy is too sleepy to cook breakfast, so have Pop Tart instead.” Except in this case, it was “have a rodent instead.”

I was so busy watching the coyotes that I didn’t see the water pipe sticking out of the ground. I tripped over it and went rolling over the ground like something from a Calvin and Hobbs cartoon. I scrapped my knee and hands fairly pretty good, but my pride was hurt most of all. The momma coyote just kept staring at me and I’m pretty sure, I saw her shake her head ruefully. Good thing she wasn’t a hyena, I would have shot her for laughing.

Dusting myself off, I limped away to finish my run. I try to stay off the beaten path as much as I can and I took a detour down a “tank trail”, just like back home running along mountain bike trails. Of course a tank comes rumbling by (again, just like back home). It hasn’t rained here for quite a while and a 30-ton tank kicks up a lot of dust. Combine the dust and the fact that I was all sweaty=instant brown sugar cookie. I was covered head to foot.

I finished my run and I was walking back to my trailer, when I ran into a solider I know, carrying a .50 cal machine barrel over his shoulder. (again, just like home) Looking at me covered in dirt with blood on myhands and knees, I answered him before he could ask:
“Somebody tried to tell me to take my iPod off”
“Dammmmmmmmmmmm!!, he outta know better”

Just like home

Monday, June 25, 2007


You are looking at acres of pallets of bottled water. As the temperature goes up, this “water field” has been getting bigger and bigger. All of our water comes from the Tigris River and I guess it gets purified along the way (I’m sure the recent case of flesh eating bacteria had nothing to do with the water). Somewhere I read that the water from the river is just as clean as the water in any reservoir back home. Considering how dirty it is outside the wire, I doubt it. Once it bakes a while outside, it tastes something like dirty bath water (my kids would love it).
Down in the Green Zone, the folks there have it much better—they get to drink authentic Kuwaiti Spring water. Every time I go down there, I try to grab a few.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


The other day, one of my guys came down with a case of appendicitis and had to go in for an emergency appendectomy. The nearest hospital was located at a detention center. There, the worst of the worst kept. These guys aren’t your everyday criminals. These are the guys that blow up mosques, plant IEDs and execute children.
When I went to visit him, he was in the ICU recovering. There were a few detainees there as well, some of which were in pretty bad shape. One thing that really struck me was the compassion the nurses showed the detainees. I watched a nurse comfort a detainee while a doctor was adjusting none of the many tubes running into him. She was the same nurse that was looking after my guy and there was no difference at all in the quality of care that she provided. This was true of all of the nurses and doctors I saw. They are true professionals and it made no difference to them who they were treating or what they had done. It spoke volumes about their humanity.

I’m sure that the insurgents treat our prisoners with the same level of compassion and care.

Of course, I must be mistaken, according to the senior senator from Massachusetts:

“Shamefully we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management.” Edward Kennedy

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I didn't know it was warm out until I saw the sign...

We topped out today at 117 degrees. OK it is cliché, but it is a dry heat and it isn’t so bad. Alabama in July is much worse. I’ve gotten a few bad headaches from not drinking enough, so I make a constant effort to drink all of the time. The little Crystal Light packets are real life savers (except for Raspberry Ice or peach tea—they are so nasty they can’t give that away in the DFAC) since the Tigris river water tastes pretty bad—too many dead bodies I guess. Of course summer isn’t here yet. The funny thing is that when I went to work this morning, it was 81—and I felt cold!!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Continuing my rant…

Yesterday, I went off on about how certain members of our government seem to have no incentive for us to win over here—in fact, they seem determined for us to fail. Of the 14 troops lost, one was from my brigade, so hearing Lou Dobbs cheerfully announce the latest casualties, it bothered me more than usual.

These statements also have a lasting impact on our enemies as well.

Taking a lesson from history; one of the most trying times in America’s history was the winter on 1777-1778. That was when Washington’s army spent the winter at Valley Forge. Out of his army of 12,000 men, over 2,000 died from disease and starvation. Desertion was a constant threat. Those were dire times. How do you think their morale would have fared if they saw a British newspaper account stating:

“Parliament declares King George III’s America policy a failure and demands immediate troop withdrawal from the colonies”.

While a story like that wouldn’t put food in their bellies or help fight off pneumonia, it would help motivate Washington’s men to hang on a little bit longer. It is amazing how a little hope can help men endure the most difficult of times.

Life ain’t easy for an insurgent. They are fighting the world most advanced military. The Iraqi Security Forces are increasing their capabilities every day. We have CSI guys over here that are way smarter than any of those guys on TV—we are talking scary smart. Just recently, tribal leaders out in the Al Anbar province have taken up arms against Al Queda. Life sucks for them. In 2004 the late Al Zarqawi complained to his buddy Osama that their situation was becoming ever more desperate.

Now take the statements such as “the war is lost” and America’s involvement in Iraq is a “grotesque mistake”. What effect would those words have on an insurgent? I would imagine they would be pretty encouraging and would help them carry on the jihad for another day.

To me, it sounds like aid and comfort. But what do I know? I just live here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Words mean things

Certain politicians will exploit any tragedy to further their political position—regardless of the damage they cause. They have forgotten that words mean thing. The war in Iraq is a tragic example of that.
How would a mom and dad feel when, after losing a son or a daughter, would turn on the TV and hear the Speaker of the House say that our mission over here is a “grotesque mistake” ,or the majority leader of the Senate say the “The war is lost”?

Words mean things. With their vicious rhetoric, they are adding insult to injury to the family members of fallen heroes. It is inexcusable. I for one, am ashamed.

It is sad that so many Americans —many of which are Democrats, are so invested in our defeat. What would JFK say today? Back when he was president he said:

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are. The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”

JFK would be ashamed of his party. Today the Democrats have embraced the likes of Michael Moore, who said:

“The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' or 'The Enemy.' They are the revolution, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow - and they will win. “

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Operation Gratitude

Some time ago, someone signed my entire unit up for “Operation Gratitude” Yesterday, we had two truckloads of care packages show up—each one was addressed to one of the soldiers. It really made a lot of people’s day-it was like Christmas morning with everyone opening them up. Of course, since I’m on loan to the army, I’m not officially assigned to my unit, so I didn’t get one. I guess I was the bad kid that got a lump of coal.
We have it pretty good here in Baghdad and a bunch of our guys took their names off of the packages and immediately sent the packages to some of our units that are way out in desolate FOBs and need every bit of care they can get. Soldiers take care of their buddies.