My Weather

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

No leave until morale improves!

We just got word today that there will be no leave for us. The group of Navy guys that I came to Iraq with are on 280 days orders (that is 280 days in Iraq, not including all of the training we went through in the beginning. My group will be away from home for 11 months total) Since we are “boots on the ground” for less than 365 days, we are ineligible for the 2 weeks of R&R. The big rub is that the guys that came here before us were on 365 day orders, got their 2 weeks of leave and were let go after 280 days. Several weeks ago, a high ranking admiral came to visit. He honestly wanted to know why people were not volunteering for this assignment!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


We had our first “sandstorm” today. To be honest, it was a bit of a letdown. I was expecting something from the movie “The Mummy”, with howling winds and stinging sand. In reality, the visibility went down to a ¼ mile and looked like a dirty haze. Outside also smelled very dirty. Call it more of a big dust cloud than anything else—very similar to Beijing. I was wishing that I had my camera to take a picture, and a few hours later, a new camera from Braye arrived in the mail. So, this blog is going to become a lot more visual.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Recently, the Army did some landscaping in front of my trailer. As you can see, my 8’ concrete barriers were replace by a slightly larger model. Believe it or not, but my trailer is behind all that. So much for my view! They worked through the night installing the barriers and I woke up to the monolith from the movie 2001 in my front yard.
But, there is an advantage, if you look close, you can see that the flamingo is back. To get it up there, I had to put some rock-climbing skills to work. I had to squeeze my fingers between the 1” gap between the barriers and slowly climb to the top. I almost killed myself and my fingers are bruised and scraped. If someone can get up there—good on ‘em. We’ll see if this flamingo is luckier than the last one.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Sundays are a fairly light day for me. I get up at 0430 to go run, eat breakfast and then I go to work. On most days, I have to do the same thing at work, which takes a couple of hours. After that, I plan on going to they gym then lunch. Hopefully, I will only have a few hours left at the office after that. I will spend the rest of my time going to the BX, doing laundry and catch up on some reading. I know that church is missing. Unfortunately, the only time Mass is offered here is on Saturday nights (during my weekly meeting) and in the middle of the busiest part of my day on Sunday.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Previously on my blog:

Dark scary road, things flying through the air, adrenalin rush…

Across the canal from where I was running, there was a facility that had very large spotlights. Just like in Florida, where there are big lights, there are big bugs buzzing about. Unlike Florida, there are very big bats that eat the very big bugs. The section of road that I was running on was very dark, secluded and across from a feeding ground—a perfect place for the bats to call home. Well, since it was just before sunrise, the bats decided to turn in for the “night”. Then along I came. Needless to say, when you spook one bat, all 500 of them join in the action. Before I knew it, they we swarming around me. Several of them hit me in the head and face—I think they may have been confused by the noise of my headphones. If anyone has been to the bat cage in the Singapore zoo, this was 1000 times worse.

Friday, January 26, 2007

“A bazaar sight in the middle of this…”

The other day, I had to take a detour that took me to the far reaches of the base. Along the way, I found myself on Flintstone Drive. As I went traveling by Saddam’s unfinished Palace, I came across what looked like a large house from Flintstones. According to local legend, Saddam built the ‘palace” for his grankids to play in. What a cool grandfather—I’m sure it came with a “Whack a Shiite” table and a “Gas the Kurds activity room”
Inside and outside, the walls are covered by graffiti. Not just Americans, but you can tell that the Brits, Aussies, Poles, Koreans and many more have left their mark inside. In a way it added character. I once saw Roman graffiti scratched into some walls that was over 2000 years old. I guess some things never change. Good thing I had my Sharpie with me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

There I was…

Like all good stories, this one starts: There I was….I was out on my morning run, just minding my business. For a change, I decided to go off the beaten path—maybe a bit too far off. I was running down a dark dirt road that ran along a canal, since it was almost sunrise, there was just enough light to see by. On both sides of the road were large willow trees. Off in the distance, the only sound I could hear was the morning prayers blaring over the loudspeakers. I just rounded a bend in the road, when I heard something that sounded like a rock crashing through the leaves over my head.
“Himmm, that’s strange” I thought.
Just then I felt something graze the back of my head. Things that go whizzing by you ear around here are usually unhealthy.
So, at that particular moment, I figured it would be in my best interest to pick up the pace a bit. How wrong I was, for about three steps later, there was a cacophony of noise and movement…
To be continued…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Only in Iraq

The other day, I gave myself a half of a day off. I went to my trailer with the intent of finishing up my latest Vince Flynn novel, when I heard a knock at my door. When I opened it, there 3 LNs (local nationals) an Indian KBR employee and a Soldier carrying an M-16 were standing there. (kinda sounds like the beginning of a joke). The soldier was escorting the LNs, who were the mussel for the KBR guy. The KBR guy tells me, “We have to work on you air conditioner.”
“Sure”, I reply, what else could I say?
Then, the LNs pull the A/C out of the wall and walk away with it. So, there I was with a gaping hole in my wall. It was about 45 degrees outside and we have a good 40 knot wind blowing. Dust covered everything and my new artwork was flapping my walls. At least it rained the other day so that kept most of the sand from blowing. Only in Iraq…

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Sad Universal Truth

I may be half a world away, in the middle of a war, but there are certain fundamental truths in life that are inescapable. One of those is that some people just suck. Every night I put a couple of cans of an energy drink on my trailer steps before I go to bed. That way they chill during the night and I drink them before I run. Anyone can get them for free from the DFAC, so it’s not like it is a hard to come by item. Well, some low life decided to steal them last night. Ok, I was pretty mad about it, but I got over it. But tonight, that is a different story. Someone stole the Pink Flamingo from in front of my trailer. It doesn’t cost much, but it was a piece of home and it meant a lot to me. At least, I have a spare flamingo.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Fellow Blogger

Several months ago, when I fist found out that I was going to Iraq, I tried to find out as much as I could about my new assignment. Since the Navy wasn’t very forthcoming with information, I did what anyone else would have done—I went to Google. Sure enough, Google came through and pointed me to Dan’s blog: The Desert Periscope. I thought it was a great idea and it was the inspiration for me to start my own blog. Although tempted, I never copied his posts and claimed them as my own-although his posts are much better than mine. Dan is almost finished with his tour over here, so he is what we call a short timer. I wish his god speed, fair winds and following seas and all that other stuff…

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Christmas has finally arrived!

Christmas arrived for me today and it made my entire month. Braye sent me a huge care package today. In it, were pictures from Christmas. For weeks now, I’ve been mentally picturing the look on the girls’ faces when they open their presents—now I get to see it. She also sent several pictures the girls drew, which are now decorating my walls. in addition was a book on the History of Salt—stand by for a book report later—it is surprisingly good, and a video camera. Today, I’m going to an interesting place here in Baghdad and a camera will come in very handy.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I guess my life is pretty boring over here since all of my good war stories seem to center around things that I see while I’m out running. The other day I was running near one of the canals when I heard something rustling in a tree over my head. I looked up and saw some type of critter. It was black and about the size of a large dog—but heavier. A bear? Maybe? It was pretty dark. I know that this was a hunting club at one point and that bears are indigenous to some parts of Iraq. I guess I could either look it up in Wikipedia to find out what it was or I could take my gun with me the next time I go running and shoot the thing—I can always claim I saw a sniper.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Busy Days

Today and tomorrow are my busiest days. Although I work for an Army Colonel, I also have my Navy boss. Every Thursday, the Sailors that work for me throughout the country send me their situation reports. On Friday, I have to write my own situation report based largely on their reports. On top of that, each Friday and Saturday, I have to give a brief to the Army Colonel that I work for. Luckily, these briefs are at 1845 each night, so I have all day to prepare. It is a busy time, but it is interesting, so that helps.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Well, I went for a run yesterday at 0500 as usual. Guilt got the better of me—that and the fact that the weather wasn’t as bad as I thought. The clouds quickly cleared and it was clear as a bell by the time I got out. While I was running, I saw a dark red crescent moon rising between the minarets of a local mosque. Since the red crescent moon is a Muslim symbol (they use it to mark hospitals—you know the places where they hide weapon caches and snipers), I thought hat it would be a motivating sight for some jihadist. As I ran along pondering the sight, it occurred to me that these jihadists don’t require any motivation—they are simply evil. In today’s sanitized world, we like to pretend that evil doesn’t exist. We rationalize it and try to explain away evil—in effect we hide our heads under the covers and hope that it passes us by. The sad truth is that if we don’t track this evil down and defeat it, it will come looking for us.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


It is 0430 over here, and I think I’ll be lazy today. I should go out and go run, but I think I’m going to put it off until later. It is cold and raining right now. Although I enjoy my morning runs, I can’t see much since it is dark. So today, I think I’m going run this afternoon to a place called “lost lake”. Might as well do some sightseeing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Another day

I guess today is just another day…The days seem to run together around here, which is a good thing. Of course, being away from home is always hard. As each day goes by, I miss more and more of those precious moments in my family’s lives. Missing holidays and birthdays is difficult, but so are the “average” days where nothing special happens. Just watching the girls pick out cereal at the store is something that I miss dearly. Well, I guess that is the price I have to pay in this occupation.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pre mission

This is a picture of a group of our guys getting ready to head out on a mission. They are gathered in a group around the chaplain. Every morning, he comes out to the motor pool and offers a prayer for the troops. It was once said, that there are no atheists in foxholes…I don’t think they are any on the roads around here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lights in the sky

Last night, when I was walking to my trailer, I saw a fiery object in the sky. It was blue and green with a yellow tail. Around here, we see many things at night, but they are usually going up. Tracers are usually red and go up in short bursts. Rockets only burn for a few seconds and then coast the rest of the way, so they are usually invisible. Mortars—well you never see those. Parachute flares look like very bright stars and if you look closely, you can see the smoke coming off of the flare. Those flares are used for illumination and are usually associated with fire fights, so you typically hear the popping of small arms way off in the distance. What I saw was falling to Earth instead of going up, so I’m fairly sure it was a shooting star—that and there was no boom when it landed.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Running in Iraq

I do most of my running here in the early morning. Parts of this place remind me of a construction site, with dirt, concrete barriers and hum of diesel generators everywhere. There are other parts where is quite nice. I went running along one of the many canals around here. Across the water, there were several buildings in Mesopotamian architecture with huge stone blocks and columns. I was enjoying the peacefulness and the scenery until a few minutes prior to sunrise. That is when the prayers started blaring over the loudspeakers I know that it is religious and all, and Islam is a all about peace, but there is something unholy about that sound…

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Rain is Back

We finally dried out and sure enough, it rained again last night. The mud seems to get everywhere! It sticks like glue to our boots and all of the building put down cardboard on the floors to try to keep the floor clean. I don’t know which is worse, the mud or the blowing dust. Oh well, it is a good thing that laundry is free. Also, walking to my truck last night I had a huge bat fly right over my head. It had a wingspan of a couple of feet—it was huge.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Of the many acronyms I have run across in the Army, my favorite so far is BLUF. It stands for “Bottom line up front”. I watched the President’s speech as well as the democratic response. He is the bottom line up front from my humble perspective:

We are at war, let us win. By attacking the president and his policies, you embolden our enemies. When that happens our kids over here in Iraq are getting killed. Put aside partisan politics, extreme rhetoric, and flat out untrue statements, and support our troops. We can win this thing—if you let us...and stop encouraging our enemies.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Going outside the wire

I work a lot with the kids that go outside the wire every day. I have to say that it is a privilege to work with them. They are the farthest thing in the world from the uneducated masses that didn’t do well in school and got stuck in Iraq. They are a serious, professional group. Their professionalism is evident in the way they prep their equipment—from loading their weapons to cleaning the mud from the windshields. They are dedicated to their tasks because they know that their lives and their buddies’ lives depend on them doing their job and doing it well.
They are fully aware of the dangers involved; you can see it in their faces. In many trucks, you see rosary beads, crosses hanging and pictures of patron saints. Of course, almost every soldier has his or her own personal good luck charm. Talismans to help them and their buddies come home in one piece.
They know why we are here and they support the mission on both the macro as well as the micro scale. As far as the big picture goes, they almost all support the war effort and they want to see a free and democratic Iraq. At the squad level, they are looking out for their battle buddies. When a truck broke down the other day, the kids that were supposed to go on a mission were truly disappointed. Not because of a longing for getting into the action, but because they knew it was their duty. If they didn’t go, then their buddies would be in greater jeopardy.
The camaraderie, dedication and professionalism is not unlike what I’ve seen inside a fighter squadron. It is a true honor to serve with these great Americans.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Something you won’t hear on CNN

The other day, I was talking with a local Iraqi man. During the conversation he said something to the like of: “Saddam was very bad. You helped Saddam go away, he go poof!”
He then gave me a handful of the old Saddam Dinars.

“He then said: “Here you take this, thank you very much!”

Even though they are no longer in circulation, I found a good way to spend them.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Interesting link

The Victory Over America Palace isn't very far from me. I thought you might find it interesting. Also, check out:
Radwaniyah Presidential Site

My typical day

My typical day starts at 0430 or so. After a cup of coffee and watching the nightly news (circadian rhythms have gone out the window here), I go for a run—usually 5 miles or so. After that, I grab a shower and go to breakfast. I usually eat at the DFAC closest to my trailer. There, Lenis, my personal omelet chef takes good care of me. After that, I go to work. Most mornings I send outside with the troops. On Friday mornings, I am usually teaching. After that, I get caught up on email and the rest of my daily grind. Each week, I have to give 3 briefs at 1845, so I devote a large portion of my time getting ready for them. When I get a break in the action, I take off to eat, and catch up on little things like laundry and such. On my meeting nights, I am usually “home” by 2200. On my light days, I’m back in my trailer by 2000 or so. I’m fairly busy, but it helps time go by.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A wet and muddy day

For the past week it has been clear and cold out here. Now, it is rainy, muddy and cold (35 degrees) . I’m not complaining, in a few months I’ll be happy to see temperatures below 100. Things are getting busy at work, but it is a good kind of busy. Good thing AFN doesn’t have anything good to watch, since most of my time is at work.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Baghdad Theme Park

I saw my first wolf while running today (I’ve seen Beauty and the beast enough times to know what one looks like) I guess with 80 ton tanks rumbling by, they aren’t phased by a person on foot. He just looked at me and slowly walked away. Just as I turned the corner, I came across a fox. This place is just like Disney Land—with live animals, cool costumes, exciting rides and even some fireworks!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

One month BOG

Well, I’ve had “boots on the ground” now for a month. Amazing how time flies. If I can believe me orders, then I only have 6 to 8 months to go. Recently, it was decided since we are here for less than 365 days, we were not eligible for the 2 weeks of R&R. The group that was here before us were on 365 day orders, got their 2 weeks leave and then had their orders cut back to 8 months. One option that was floated in our direction was: “hey, do you want us to extend your orders to a year, so you can get the R&R? Don’t worry, we’ll cut the orders back to 7-9 months after you get your leave…” Strange, no one took them up on the offer? I wonder why?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My rant for today

Sorry, I'm having a bad day...

I was watching the Kieth Oberman show on MSNBC today before I went to work. I guess it is fair to say that he isn’t the most conservative commentator on TV. That said, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’m a big proponent of free speech, but I am also a big fan of responsible speech. (Like the old example of yelling fire in a movie theater—sure it is free speech, but it isn’t very responsible). Basically, what he was saying was that the war is already lost, we are throwing away troops’ lives and President Bush is getting kids killed solely for his ego.
I know it is tempting to engage in fiery rhetoric when trying to get a point across, but he (among many other politicians and commentators) need to remember that words mean things. By saying that the war is lost and that we are dying for nothing has 2 major effects: 1. The constant drumbeat of failure talk has a demoralizing effect on our troops, 2. Irresponsible talk like that gives aid and comfort to our enemy. Every time they hear this defeatist talk, they are encouraged. They feel that, if they can hold out a little longer, we will give up and they will win. We know that. I truly feel that I we tone down the rhetoric, and let politics stop at the water’s edge, this war would over a lot sooner.
I have seen the situation over here first hand—we are fighting a truly evil enemy and we are winning, just let us finish the job. The president said it will not be easy and it will be long. He was right, but it is a fight worth fighting.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Time is flying by...

Today looks to be a busy day—which is good. It helps the time go by. I can’t believe that I have been here for almost a month. I still have a lot of time to go, but one month down is a milestone none the less.
I know that I often talk about the mundane in this blog. Hopefully, I am not too boring. I know for me, Iraq was the undiscovered country and I had little idea what to expect. Since I am here, I want to share as much as I can, so others can get a clear picture. If I do get to boring, please let me know.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

Although today isn’t a day off, it is a slow day none the less. So far the New Year has started off great for me. I had a good run on this cold morning—33 degrees. After that, I went to breakfast. One of the Indian cooks, Lenis, saw me coming and started making my usual without me asking. A pretty remarkable feat since he makes over 1000 omelets a day. Sure it is a little thing, but it is a combination of little tings that make up a good day around here.

Anyway, I wish everyone a very happy new year. Since I am 8 hours ahead of most of you, I can say the 2007 isn’t too bad so far.