My Weather

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


This is a picture of one of the nearby mosques. Even though Islam isn’t my religion, I believe that a Mosque is a house of God and I treat it with a large degree of respect. Every time I walk by it, I feel a sense of peace and serenity. The collation has gone to great lengths to avoid even the most remote appearance desecration. One of the most telling signs that this isn’t a war of religion is that our enemies will use these inspirational sites as weapons caches, command centers and sniper positions. Once the insurgents use a Mosque as an instrument of war, its no longer a Holy place—in effect, God has left the building. If they were civilized, and if they respected the religion that claim to fight for, then they would never use Holy ground as a staging area to kill innocent people.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Strange but true

One of the features that this blog is that I can assign labels to various posts. So far I have:

I never thought I would see that in Iraq—strange sights I’ve come across
Not the place to be in ’03—vary unhealthy places to be at during the invasion
No way am I making this up—Things that are so ridiculous, they have to be real.

Today’s post falls into the “No way I am making this up” category. In a war zone, there is a need for sandbags. Nobody likes to fill sandbags however. Troops like to eat, however. Therefore, the “powers that be’ said: “hey we need sandbags and the troops need food—they go together like peanut butter and jelly” So, there is new rule: in order to enter the Dining Facility, you must fill one sand bad. True, one bag isn’t that big of a job, but eating is one of the few self indulgent pleasures around here. Soldiers are like dogs, they are generally happy, mild mannered and loyal, but don’t get in between them and their food bowl.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Live and let live

This is a picture of one of the walls that surround the compound. On the inside things can be very tranquil at times. On the outside, however, it is a far different story…

When it comes to my running, I am pretty much a libertarian—live and let live. From 0430 to 0530, it is my time. The rest of the day belongs to the Army. For a little back ground, the Navy doesn’t have an official PT uniform. I typically run wearing a pair of blue shorts and a grey Tee shirt with NAVY written across the front (the Army has the same shirt, but with ARMY written on it)
Anyway, there I was at 0445, running along, minding my business, when I came across 2 guys running in the opposite direction. One of them did a post hole maneuver (a 180 degree turn) and started following me. I didn’t think much of it at first, but I noticed that he was gaining on me. Having competition is a good thing and it helps me avoid slacking off, so I picked up the pace some. Well, this guy kept coming, so I picked up the pace a little more. Finally, he pulled up next to me and, while huffing and puffing, said to me:
“hey!”, huff pant, “you need to tuck that shirt in…” Of course it took him quite a few breaths to get that sentence out. He was an older guy and not in the best of shape.
Since it was clear that he was violating “my time”, I decided to have some fun. I picked up the pace some more asked him to repeat what he said. He again struggled to tell me that I had to tuck my shirt in.
“Why?” I asked him
“Army” pant, puff, huff, huff... “regulations”
“really which one?”
“Um” pant... pant, huff, puff “Army regulation 1475” huff huff, pant.
A this point we are doing a 6 minute mile pace and I’m starting to feel it. This guy however, is about 2 heartbeats from a massive MI. So I say to him “well, I’m not in the Army”
He then starts to say something else, but all I heard was “Oh F%$@!” and then a retching sound.

I made a loop around the lake and a few minutes later I passed him again. He was bent over on the side of the. This time he wasn’t very talkative.

Live and let live

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Truck II

Several years ago, I (um.. I mean a friend) was on a cross country flying to California. Along the way, he developed a mechanical problem and wound up diverting to a base in Texas where a Marine Reserve squadron was based. It was a Friday afternoon and a Gunnery Sergeant met me at the jet and told me that despite the fact that it was quitting time, they would take care of me. A few hours later, he was on my way—extremely grateful for their help.

A few days after that, he flew into the same base. As soon as he shut down, the same Gunny was there asking me if there was something wrong. “Yeah”, he told him, “something is stuck behind the ejection seat”. He climbed up the latter and saw that there were a couple of cases of beer. These guys gave up their Friday night to fix the jet and it was the least that I could do.

My truck was finally finished the other day. One of the guys that worked on it told me that had to replace everything under the floorboards to include the mud on the tires. They went well above and beyond the call to help me out.
Believe it or not, but there are liquor stores in Iraq, but if I showed up in the motor pool with a case or two, quite a few heads would roll. So, I went to Pizza Hut instead and bought a bunch of Pizzas for the guys. It was the least I could do for these guys.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


My leave was approved by the Navy the other day. Now I just have to wait on the Army. Since we were only recently allowed to take R&R, I was way behind the deadline to submit my leave request. Hopefully it will get approved. 15 days at home sure sounds nice. Right now, I’m just looking forward to sitting on the couch with my wife and watching our kids do somersaults.
This is one of the bridges that cover the canals around here. Even though I am in the middle of a war zone, at times, it can be quite peaceful here.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Anna is dead, Brittney has no hair! Get over it! Next.
Very rarely do I get to watch the news. Today I work up at 0500, and since I’m taking today off from running, I was looking forward to watching Hannity and Colmes. Nothing but Anna Nicole Smith, Brittney and a snippet about the Oscars. I find it so strange how all of these TV personalities lament on how much time is spent on the story—If they don’t like it, stop talking about it! A lot of things are happening out there in the world—events that have far reaching implications than a dead and bald blonde.

A very ugly day yesterday—it rained just enough to make the roads as slick as glass. I was having a hard time keeping the back end of my truck behind the front end, when I watched a bus spin out of control on the road ahead of me. The amazing thing was we were goign15 MPH at the time. I would have never guessed that knowing how to drive in ice and snow would be a useful thing here in Iraq.
This is a picture of one of the canals that run all over the place. Things are starting to look green. Off in the distance is the BX tent. As you can see, mud is everywhere.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What I can and Can't say

Like all Americans, I have a first amendment right to free speech. Also, like most people, I have my fair share of opinions. Of course, being in the military, that means I have certain restrictions as to how I can exercise this right. For one, I am forbidden by the UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice) from “Contempt towards public officials”—individuals such as the President, Vice President and members of Congress. (Too bad so many members don’t reciprocate). I am also bound by the rules of OPSEC (operational security) so, I will not discuss certain aspects of my job or of the mission over here. I may also be intentionally vague when writing about certain things or I may delay my writing about a particular event until it has long since passed.
One issue that does come to mind is the recent “non binding resolution” that was approved by the House of Representatives. I think a better name would be “The hang in there Al Qaeda resolution.” In my opinion, the resolution will not deter us from our mission---a mission that I fully support and feel will be very effective. I also feel that this resolution will embolden our enemies. The bad guys know that they will never win the war over here-they will win it inside the Beltway. This vote was a major victory for them. In our not so distant past, our leaders knew the politics should end on the waters edge—they abided by this rule because they new that young Americans would wind up getting killed if they didn’t.
These are some M-1 tanks on the base, just one of the common sights around here

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The lake

The place that I am at is dotted with lakes and canals. All of them artificial. With all the heat, they would quickly degenerate into swamps if it wasn’t for constant attention. This is a picture of some of the LN (local nationals) pulling up the weeds and cutting down reeds from the lake. It is a huge job and there are giant piles of rotting vegetation along the banks. I guess with 70% unemployment, they don’t have a hard time fining workers. Just one of the everyday sights I wanted to share.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Dawn is my favorite time of day around here. It is actually quite pretty—I can see why this place was a presidential retreat. In the mornings, the haze has yet to set in and the rising sun casts long shadows everywhere. The other day, we had a good rain that washed the dust away. With the temperatures are in the 70s, spring is in the air. Patches of green breaking out everywhere.

I deleted the picture of my catch and replace it with one taken last night…
I took this picture walking into work. I scared a duck and you can see him flying away. The ducks here ahve to get a running start before they get airborne.

Monday, February 19, 2007

For the birds

I’ve been fairly busy lately, so I decided to take a relaxing Sunday. I went to work for a couple of hours and then went to lunch. After eating, I stopped by the BX and went back to my trailer to do some “spring cleaning”. This dust gets everywhere! I replaced the sheets, dusted everywhere and mopped the floor. I then went to dinner, spent a little time fishing and then called Braye. All and all, a pretty good day.
I admit I’m no Burt Lancaster, but I like the sounds of birds in the morning, so I made a bird feeder from some things I found laying around. So far, no takers, but it has only been a few hours.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"My" Truck

The other day, the Army told me that I had to turn in my trusty HMMWV. I mentioned the fact to one of the folks over at the Navy side of the house, and long story short, I now have a Navy truck to drive around. I have complete faith in Navy maintenance as far as airplanes go. I’m a little skeptical as to how good they are with boats. As far as anything with wheels…well I was downright suspicious. I took my “new” truck to the motor pool to get a quick once over. A few hours later, the sergeant over there told me: “Sir, if you drove that thing over here, you are lucky to be alive!” The list of gripes is long and distinguished and these poor guys have been replacing just about everything below the floor boards for two weeks now. I am grateful-too bad I can’t hook them up with a couple cases beer for all of their hard work.

Also, click here for an interesting link about the history of the middle east

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A pretty good day

Today was a pretty good day. I had lunch with my Iraqi friends today. This time we had fresh lamb. It was really good, and of course we had Chai tea. One of the men I was talked to immigrated to the U.S. after the Shiite uprising in 1992. Saddam crushed that rebellion and he and many others had to leave town in a hurry. He wound up settling in Richmond, Virginia and became a very successful mechanical engineer. Today he is back in Iraq. I asked him why and he told me: “Because this is my country and I have to help”. Doesn’t sound like a lost cause to me.
Later on, I had a few minutes to kill before my meeting tonight, so I put that time to good use:

Friday, February 16, 2007

Another celebrity sighting

I was minding my business this morning getting a cup of coffee when I looked up and saw Geraldo Rivera toasting a bagel. I knew he was somewhere in the country, I heard him address the troops on the radio last night. He was very impressive. I have to say that he is a very down to earth, patriotic and genuine guy. Unlike Bill O’Riley, Geraldo is fairly short—he also looks older in real life.
Sorry no celebrity snap shot this time—the building I ran into him at doesn’t allow pictures.
By the way, the flag is gone—I figured it wouldn’t last more than a day or two

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Not quite the Valentines day surprised I intended

Today, I got some great news. The “powers that be” decided to allow us Navy folks to go home for R&R. I was on the phone with the family today and I thought I would share my good news as a Valentines Day surprise. I had the bright idea to have our 4 year old break the news to Braye. Of course, things can always change, so I don’t want the kids to know that I’m coming home until I’m on my way. I needed to be cryptic, so only Braye would understand. I asked MEG to tell Braye: “Happy Valentines’ Day Mommy, daddy is getting leave!”
Of course, what I heard in the back ground was a little different:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The duality of man

OK, this isn’t as dramatic as in the movie Full Metal Jacket where the General asks Private Joker why his is wearing a peace button on his body armor wrote “born to kill” on his helmet
There is an old dining room in the palace that is now our gym, library, recreation room and arms room. These kids were cleaning their weapons guns and watching TV. Of all things to watch, it was Sesame Street! They were absolutely captivated. It struck me how young they looked. They really are just kids, but don’t let that fool you. They are true professionals.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Old Glory

One thing you never see around here is the American flag flying. I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that it is an official policy not to display the flag so not to give the impression that we are an conquering Army. Much like my flamingo, someone in my trailer park decided that their trailer needed a tough of home. I came “home” the other day and saw the flag flying over our trailers on a makeshift flag pole. As strange as it may sound, it was an uplifting sight. Maybe not as inspiring as when the flag was raised over Iwo Jima, but it was nonetheless it was a feel good moment. I’m sure it won’t last.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I ate lunch today with several Iraqis. We ate locally caught fish called Shaboot, cooked over a open fire, Iraqi bread and salad. They assured me that all the fish that fed off the dead bodies have long since died off. We also drank Iraqi Chai tea—way better than anything I had in China. It was a very enjoyable time. One of them told me that the majority of Iraqis hate the U.S. They hate us because they think we steal their oil and want to suppress their religion. He told me that this impression was fed to them by their media, the Imams and popular culture. He later immigrated to the US and saw that everything that he was told was false. HE now loves the U.S. and Americans.
He also told me that the Whabbis (an extreme sect of Sunnis—i.e. Bin Laden), are behind much of the violence over here. Some time ago, his sister received a phone call saying that “we know that your Husband is a Shiite”
She said: “No, we are all Muslims here, it doesn’t matter if we are Shiites or Sunni”. Later that night, her husband was murdered. He went on to tell me that if her husband was a Sunni, they would have killed him anyway and blamed it on the Shiites. All the Whabbis want is for the violence to continue.—they see opportunity in the chaos.
The Egyptian Pharaoh Necho (610-595B.C.) sent a navy to sail around the African continent—a feat that wasn’t repeated until Vasco da Gama made the same voyage in 1498

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Guard towers

A couple of folks were wondering what the building was that I took a picture of yesterday. It is one of the many guard towers that dot the area. Saddam was a member of the Baath party, which was in the Sunni minority. For some reason he was a little unpopular around here. As a result, there are defensive walls and guard towers everywhere. The area was still under construction when the war started (using Oil for Food money—great job there U.N.). This tower is more typical of the work in progress when we moved in. Although, impressive and sturdy looking when finished, underneath, they are rather shabbily constructed--much like Saddam’s regime.

In 116 BC, the Roman scientist Varro accurately described the existence of microorganisms—nearly 1500 years before Pasture

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Off duty entertainment

I spend most of my time working, but I do have some free time every now and then. 3 days a week, I have fairly late meetings, so I simply head back to my trailer and go straight to bed. On my lighter days, I typically watch some TV or read a book after work. The MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) department has certain events, but they are usually geared towards the younger guys—things like basketball tournaments, Salsa night, Texas Hold ‘em games, etc. In the Army, it is possible to take a entire day off during deployment, but I haven’t been able too yet. I have taken a few half days though—that is when I went to the Flintstones Palace. Today, I may go to a local market and do some shopping for the folks back home—of course I have to squeeze the trip in between meetings.
Braye sent me several history books to read (the closet thing I can get to the History Channel) While reading, I came across several interesting tidbits of information, which may make it as a regular feature in this blog:

All fish swim in schools—with the exception of Herring, which swim in shoals.

I am also posting more pictures of some of the everyday sights around here. They may or may not have anything to do with what I write about. I just want to share as much as I can so everyone can get a feel of what this place is like.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Life’s precious moments

A great life isn’t the result of one or two spectacular moments in time, but rather a collection of hundreds of small precious moments all bundled together. The hardest part of this assignment is missing a year of those precious moments. When my youngest dressed herself for the first time—I wasn’t there. When my oldest got “Star student of the day” I was on the other side of the world. These are precious moments that I will never get to experience. Is the sacrifice worth it? I think so—I just hope the rug doesn’t get pulled out from under us…

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lost and Found

Yesterday, when I was out and about, I saw a Stryker (a huge 8 wheeled armored personnel carrier) with a Mercedes Benz hood ornament mounted on the front. Obviously, a resourceful soldier “acquired” the hood ornament from somewhere. “Himmm”, I though, there is a lot of acquiring going on around here. I wondered what else might have wound up in or on another truck. Part of our job involves spending a lot of time in trucks. So, I wrote an email to the Sailors that work for me—asking them to see what they can find. Well, one of them found a couple of interesting items inside his Battalion’s trucks:

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Little Differences

There are numerous little differences here that serve as a constant reminder that we are very far from home. I will try to share as many of these little differences as I can. One that comes to mind is eating. I can’t show pictures of the DFAC—no cameras are allowed. To get inside, you have to show your ID card and weapon. It is basically “no gun, no bullets, no service.” Once inside, you have to wash your hands before you can get a plate. From what I was told, this requirement came from a lesson learned from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Back then, sickness was rampant in their Army and it was attributed partly to a lack of hand washing. (Note, I am not hinting for more hand sanitizer in care packages). Once inside, the DFAC looks like you average cafeteria. Believe it or not, they frequently have live music. One of the Army divisions has a band and they have several musicians performing live during meals. Why? I have no idea. Some of them, like the flute section, are pretty good. Unfortunately, a lot of the time it sounds more like the local high school band room during practice than a restaurant. I have been driven away a time or two by an over zealous tuba player.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Super Bowl

As a life long Redskins fan, I didn’t have a dog in the fight as far as the Super bowl was concerned. Also, since the game came on at 0300 or so and the military stripped away all of the commercials, I didn’t feel very motivated to watch the game. I woke up at 0430 and did watch a bit of it as I was drinking my coffee. I was out running when I saw some flashes of light off in the distance and heard some gunfire. A few seconds later, there was one bright flash and a boom. I guess there were either some Colts fans outside the wire whooping it up or some Bears fans shooting at the Colts fans. At work things were pretty slow.
A lot of offices were at minimal staffing so guys to sleep in after the game. I’m glad that they did—the kids need a bit of home from time to time and watching the Super Bowl, eating Nachos and drinking near-beer—we’ll that makes for a nice break from the reality out here.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Yesterday, I was lamenting at work how someone stole my flamingo a second time. At that time, one of the intelligence officers told me “hey take a look at this”. He had a picture of him holding a flamingo in front of a local Mosque. He was out and about a week ago and saw a flamingo sitting on top of a pile of sandbags near a mosque. Seeing the obvious potential, he grabbed the flamingo and a camera for a quick photo op.
So, will reliable intel, we set off to recover the flamingo. It was a classic “snatch and grab” operation: i.e. hit ‘em hard and hit ‘em fast. We raided the mosque, grabbed the flamingo with no resistance, and got out of there before they ever knew we were there.
Our victory was shorted lived though. Upon returning to our Brigade, I realized that the Flamingo was not mine. So, under the cover of darkness, I sheepishly returned the flamingo back to the mosque. I know first hand the trauma of a stolen flamingo brings and I couldn’t inflict that upon someone else.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

An Eye For an Eye

One of the pillars of the culture around here is the principle of “an eye for an eye”. From my perspective, religion is not the chief factor in the strife that occurs around here. Like most religions, people’s secular and personal needs often trump their religion practices. Even in Christianity this applies—not every Catholic has 12 kids and more than one Southern Baptist has had a drink or two. Islam may preach peace and tolerance, but “an eye for an eye” will win out. The scale in which this is practiced over here is largely misunderstood by Americans. We tend to believe in, at most, “a lawsuit for an eye”. In the Iraqi culture, the concept is more cut and dry. If an Iraqi police officer kills a bank robber in the line of duty, then the bank robber’s brother may seek revenge against the police officer’s family. (This partly explains why you see Iraqi Army personnel and Police officers wearing ski masks.) People here, like everywhere else, divide themselves among ethnic, religious and other lines. Here, religion is the main classification, but the killing for a large part is not based because religion. If Iraq were to be all Shiite, then I have no doubt that Persian Shiites would go at it with the Arab Shiites. A side effect of “an eye for an eye” is that it can quickly spiral out of control. A car bomb goes off—a whole lot of people loose their eyes.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Some people still suck

After an 16 hour day, I come “home” to my trailer only to find that someone stole the flamingo. I said it before, some people just suck. I have a good addition to the golden rule (apparently it is too difficult for some people to figure out) If your actions cause someone else more harm then it gives you happiness—then don’t do it. Sure it was just a pink flamingo, but it was a piece of home.
On a brighter note, I woke up to find out that MEG was the star student of the day in her school—again. I am so proud of her—and of Braye.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Anti War Protesters

I got to watch a good bit of the anti war protests in D.C. last weekend. I have to say that I’m truly disappointed. First of all, it was mostly a bunch of aging former hippies that were trying to relive the glory days of the sixties. How pathetic. So, I thought I’d offer some free advice:
Do you homework—I listened to Sean Penn shout “Hell no, we won’t go!” I didn’t know anyone was asking for him to go. We don’t want him. By the looks of him, I doubt al Qaeda wants him either Come on Sean, you are the intellectual elite—you can do better than reusing a 40 year old catch phrase. At least “No blood for oil” was somewhat original—even though not based on fact.
Wardrobe. If you are going to relive the sixties, where was they tye dye, love beads and John Lennon specs? If you are going to talk the talk—walk the walk. I was hoping to see the Million Austin Powers March. It looked more like a recruiting drive for AARP.
Where is the music? Now come on folks, in the sixties, there was some great protest songs. Where is Edwin Star, Buffalo Springfield, the Mammas and the Papas and the Joan Baez of today? I mean, throw us a bone here. There was one Iraqi rapper there—oh yeah… that will make the Apocalypse Now II sound track.
I mean, let’s get serious here—we are doing our best here in Iraq. If you are going to protest the us and the war—at least put some effort into it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Things are busy right now, so I don’t have a lot of time to write. Today started off with a cold rain, but it quickly cleared up and today was one of the prettiest days I’ve seen over here. I had a few minutes to play with my new camera. I took a bunch of pictures from the patio of my palace and spliced them into a panoramic scene—it was pretty cool. Just click on the picture for a better view. I am so happy with my new camera. Too bad I don’t have more time to play with it.