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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Back in Germany

I'm in Lleipzig Germany again on my way back to Iraq. I had such a wonderful time at home and I treasured every minute of it. Even though the flu was rampit in our house, we had a lot of little precious moments. ON the flight from P-cola, I started coming down with the flu myself, but I think I'm keeping it at bay--at least for now.
After ehre, we go to Kuwait, wait around there for a while and then to Baghdad.
It was hard saying goodbye, but at least the final countdown clock has started for us

Friday, March 23, 2007


I’m a little bit more than half way through my R&R. We decided to stay at home and just relax rather than deal with all of the stress and hassle of going on a vacation (Mickey can wait until I come home for good)

IT HAS BEEN GREAT! My youngest is talking in complete sentences now and it has been so much fun watching her figure out how to get dad wrapped around her finger. After 5 months, my oldest is so much bigger—I couldn’t believe it when I saw her at the airport.
Braye-- she has done a pronominal job of everything while I was gone—I am so impressed. Not only has she taking over every job I used to do around here, but she is doing them so much better. I was expecting a huge “honeydo list” when I got back, but sadly, there was nothing for me to do.

Not only am I catching up on everything that I missed over the past 5 months, but I’m building up memories that I draw upon over the next 5.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Transportation Security Administration

Should I be upset? My trip home had been predictability painful—so painful, that I was practicably numb when I got to Atlanta—my second to last stop. A couple of things happened in Atlanta that has me a bit bothered.

There were 350 of us on our flight from Kuwait and the majority of us had been traveling for 3 days. Under the best circumstances, one doesn't feel very fresh after so much traveling. In our case, add the fact that we spent many hours waiting in the sun, lugging heavy bags and sleeping on whatever piece of ground we could find; well, I'm sure that we smelled pretty ripe. As far as shower facilities, well...a baby wipe shower was the best you could do.

Now picture this: We arrive in Atalanta, breeze thorough customs and sail through immigration. Our next stop was security. While we are in line going through the metal detector, one of the TSA employees ( a very loud and boisterous woman) commented quite loudly how bad we smelled and started walking up and down the line spraying perfume into the air. At the time, I was numb and just wanted to get home, but the more I think about it the more her actions offend me. The way I see it, she could have either spayed her perfume before we got there (every day a planeload of troops come in from the middle east, so our arrival was no surprise) or held her nose and opinion to herself until we past. I'm sorry, but “you stink” was not the welcome I expected and definitely not one that these troops deserved. I can also guarantee that a lot of us have smelled things far, far worse while serving our country in a war zone.

My adventures with TSA got better from there. After security, I found out that my connecting flight doesn't leave for a couple of hours. So I decide to go to the USO for lunch and some buy flowers for my wife (one rose for every month she took such great care of everything back home), The USO and the flower shop are both outside security in the main terminal.

Coming back through security this time, I set off the metal detector (depending on the sensitivity of the machine, this happens from time to time since I have a hardware store where my elbow used to be).
I was then pulled aside. There I am standing in the middle of terminal (no privacy at all) in my combat uniform, boots off, hands out to my side, getting “wanded.” It was a bit embarrassing, to say the least, but I have no problem with added security. The wand kept beeping on my arm, so then they decide to frisk me. So there I was, getting patted down in front of a hundred people in the middle of the Atlanta airport. I felt like a common criminal. Right next to me, another TSA employee dumped out my back pack and proceeded to search everything. “Welcome home hero, SPREAD 'EM!" Quite a few people complained to security on my behalf and a lot of fellow passengers came up to me and apologized to me.

I am all for security and I have no problem being extra careful, but a little discretion goes a long way. Frisking a person behind a privacy screen would have no impact on effective security at all. At the time, I was numb and all I cared about was getting home. In hindsight, if I saw a private or corporal being frisked like that on his way home from Iraq, I would have been outraged.

Adventures aside, I am home with my family. For the next couple of week, that is all that matters

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

In Germany

I am in Leipzig Germany right now. It only took the Army 17 hours to get us on the plane. one more 9 hour flight and I'm home. I can't wait

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Well, I've made it to Kuwait—the first leg completed. I had a 0100 show time for a 0330 take off out of Iraq. After landing in Kuwait, I had a 30 min bus ride. As soon as we got off the bus, we were told “come back in 2 hours to drop off you body armor” Then it was: “come back two hours after that for your first briefing” Ahhh! Army efficiency! One of these days, I'll get some sleep! Its all good thought. I get to see the 3 girls in a day or so, so any hardship along the way is well worth it.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Well, I did some shooting today—don’t worry it was on the range. Every so often, we have to re-qualify on the range. I did fairly well will with my rifle. In Ft. Jackson, the Army issued me a bent, decrepit M-16 that must have been used as a crow bar at some point. The soldiers refer to it as my “musket”. They all carry M-4 carbines with laser sights and other cool toys. Anyway, I hit 35 out of 40 targets. (Translated, that means 5 whitetails that would have gotten away)
I then got to shoot my 9mm pistol. I have never shot with my left hand before, but even with that handicap, I shot 40 out of 40 targets. “Well, he is a pilot and they only carry pistols, so he should be good” True, but I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I fired a total of maybe 20 rounds from a pistol the entire 17 years I’ve been in the Navy . I also got to shoot an AK-47—it was fun little gun to shoot. Good thing it has a lot of bullets since they tend to go everywhere.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Almost out of here

In a few days, I’ll travel to BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) Once I’m there I’ll muster and wait for a flight to Kuwait. Imay be there for a few hours or a few days I wont know until I get there. From Kuwait, I will most likely fly to either Germany or Scotland. Fromt here . it will be hopefully direct to Atlanta. In Atlanta, I will pick up a plane ticket to Home. Hopefully, I’ll be home by Thursday or so. One of the great things aobut the R&R program is that my leave doesn’t start until I’m home

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Commander’s moon

This is a picture of what we call in the Navy as a “Commander’s moon”. Flying around the boat at night is…well…dark—sometimes darker than 10 feet inside a squid’s ink gland. On a darkest of nights you will never find a shortage of junior officers flying around. On a night where there is a large, bright, and comforting moon (and a well defined horizon) all of the senior officers seem to make it onto the flight schedule—thus the name “commander’s moon”.

Everytime I see a full moon over here I think of my family. I explained to my oldest that when she sees the moon in the night time, that I'm looking at the same moon in the day light.
I am only a few days away from leave—I am really looking forward to seeing the family. Recently, Braye and I managed to link up using web cams—which really helped close the miles. Of course, we have 2 little aspiring actresses that are more concerned with posing for the camera than they are talking with their dad. It is great seeing them in action. Of course, I will be there live and in person in a few days.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Why a palace?

This is a chandelier in the Al Faw palace rotunda

Many people have asked me why I am stationed in a palace complex. Well, its not because we are a conquering army enjoying the spoils of war. Good ole’ Saddam wasn’t that popular with his people. He was a member of the minority Sunni population and had a bad habit of conducting genocide. So, as a result, all of his palace complexes and government facilities are well fortified against insurrection. The collation has moved into these places simply because they are the most secure places in the country. The international zone down town is a similarly fortified position.
Of course, the international airport is also under collation control and it is nowhere as nice as a palace complex.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Being careful

It is amazing what you get used to after a while. I was talking with one of the Sergeants that is also a runner, comparing notes as to our favorite places to run. it is very dark around here, so most of us also run with flashlights.

There is a lake here that is very pretty with a road that runs around it. Since it is fairly close to the wire, from time to time more than just fish splash in the water. I guess the prudent thing would be to avoid the area all together, but it is a great place to run and a little added adrenaline never hurt anybody. So we figure it would be just as good to make sure we don’t have our flashlights off and stay in the shadows. Like I said, it is amazing what you get used to.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


The entire complex where I am at was designed for the elite in Iraqi society. Surrounding the stocked lake are villas, meeting places, boat ramps and other entertainment facilities. One of the things that surround the lake are these outdoor kitchens—I assume they are there to clean and cook the days catch. I’ve been to a few picnics where the temperature was in the 90s—and I was pretty miserable. I wonder how bad they are when the temperature gets into the 130s.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


This is a picture of the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Baghdad

The Army guys around here have a saying—“TOO EASY”. It reflects a very positive, can do attitude. When I brought my truck in to get the oil changed, they replied “Too easy” and got to work. Along the way, they discovered that everything under the floorboards was a disaster. Seeing the problem, they didn’t miss a beat and fixed everything. I was so impressed. The other day, I asked a medic if she knew where I could get a flight physical. “Too easy” she replied . I though it was a simple yes/no question. 15 minutes later, she got back to me with a sheet of paper with 10 phone numbers on it, 9 or which were crossed out. Not only did she find a number, she kept calling the numbers she had until she found the right one.
The sea going service, especially over here, lives by another motto: “DUCK AND COVER”. No matter how simple a task, many individuals will do their best to ignore the task as much as possible. Once they have ducked it to the maximum extent, they will then endeavor to the absolute minimum required. It is a systemic problem throughout the ranks. Trivial paperwork matters often take weeks if not months to get resolved. I am not the only one to notice this attitude; is a source of both humor and disdain to the Army.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Downtown Baghdad. Way off in the distance you can see what was billed as the world’s biggest mosque. It was one of Saddam’s pet projects when the war started and was never finished.

I was visiting an army hospital the other day. In the old days they were called MASH units. Now, they are called a CSH (pronounced cash) which is short for Combat Support Hospital. In addition to helping coalition forces, they treat some local nationals too.
It was there that I noticed something I had never noticed before. The vast majority of the LNs had these blank expressions on their faces. No fear, anger or joy, just simply a blank, lifeless look. One man I saw was in a wheel chair with a line of staples going from ear to ear over the top of his head and what looked like a couple big pieces of him missing--OK that could explain his blank look. But I also saw a little girl, maybe 4 years old and just as cute as can be; just sitting there was no life at all in her eyes. I watched for a few moments a Doctor examined her and she showed no emotion whatsoever. Her mother had a similar expression on her face. Later on, I saw another woman, with the same stoic expression.
Earlier in the day, I saw a young boy wave at me with what looked like the biggest forced smile on his face. His smile was so unnatural it was almost evil looking. Of all the looks I have gotten, his was the most disconcerting. Later on, I saw a group of young guys, they were all staring daggers at me. They didn’t bother me; it was somewhat comforting to know exactly what they thought of me. The young boy however…
I’ve been to quite a few Middle Eastern countries and I have never seen such looks before. Maybe it is the war? I don’t think it is the culture: I’ve seen some very animated folks in these parts before both in the good way and the bad way. If the eyes are the window to the soul then I don’t know what to make of some of the people around here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Swords of Qādisiyyah

This is a picture of one of the Swords of Victory. There are 2 sets of hands holding crossed swords. The two arches mark the entrances to a parade-ground constructed to commemorate then Saddam Hussein's declaration of victory over Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. Plaster casts of Hussein's forearms were the model for the hands. The sword blades are made from captured weapons and at the base of the statues, there are thousands of Iranian helmets—a lot of which have bullet holes in them. Further down the road, is a large set of bleachers and a balcony. If you remember a picture of Saddam firing a shotgun in the air as the Republican Guard marched by, this is where it was taken.
Recently, the government of Iraq started dismantling the swords—so to better rid themselves of the memory of Saddam.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Arms and legs

Soldiers today are protected by some of the best body armor ever invented. Thick layers of Kevlar and ceramic plates stop the majority of the annoying, stinging things that fly through the air around here. In the event that something does happen, military battlefield medicine is outstanding. It has been said that if a wounded solider gets to a military hospital over here, he has a 96% chance of surviving.
All of this armor and medical technology is a true blessing—guys that never had a prayer before are surviving the un-survivable.
It can also be a curse. Kids are now surviving with multiple amputations, eyes lost, and horrific brain injuries. These kids are listed as WIA—wounded in action. On the surface, the designation WIA doesn’t sound so bad—heck its better than KIA, so how bad can it be? The sad truth is that these kids are often permanently disabled and they will eventually receive a medical retirement from the military. A medial retirement is not enough to live off of, let alone provide for a family and educate children. I have been doing some research looking for a charity that assists permanently disabled Soldiers and their families. It is the least I can do for these guys.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Something in the air?

I guess there is something in the air over here. As I was walking into the palace, I looked up and saw a pair of falcons on a ledge. It looked as…well…um… if one was trying to get a piggy back ride from the other one. Since I always have my trusty camera ready, I quickly tried to take a picture (there has to be a metaphor in that somewhere). As it turns out, the ride ended before I could get a picture.

A few hours later, I was driving along when I came across a pack of dogs. One dog was trying to jump over another one, but couldn’t quite make it. He was persistent though and kept trying. I thought to myself a pair of mangy dogs playing leapfrog in the middle of the desert—now that has got to be a symbolic of something. But, as soon as I got my camera out, the game ended and a fight broke out.

Just don’t ask me what I saw tonight on my way back to my trailer…

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Are the Democrats onto something?

This is a picture of one of the villas that surround the Al Faw palace complex. Saddam ruled by the “carrot and the stick”. From the looks of things, he treated his inner circle, the Sunni Bathists very well. So much the better to maintain their loyalty. The Shiites and the Kurds—well they got the stick.

Maybe the Democrats are right in opposing the surge. Of course the surge will be devastating to the insurgents (which they can’t allow, less the President get any credit), but it will also mean thousands of additional residents in the already crowded housing market over here. A little while ago, I found out that I will most likely have to move to either a dry trailer or get a roommate in the one I’m in now. My room is just big enough for 1 person, to put a second bed in here would leave me with less room that what I had on the ship. Such an internal conflict—go with the democrats and keep my single occupancy villa or go with those that want to win over here! Maybe I should see if there are any job openings in Afghanistan.