Thursday, December 21, 2006

Quickie from home

Unfortunately I have no internet access at my apartment right now despite many attempts to hack into the wireless routers in my building. Instead I'm typing this entry from my neighborhood Starbucks (doesn't every neighborhood have a Starbucks?).

As you can see from my profile picture I went in to visit the guys at Ducati Omaha a couple days ago. They could not have been a better bunch of dudes. And they all ride the bikes they sell, and are really into it. I got to meet the sales manager (well duh, that's the guy I handed the check to), the service manager, the owner, a couple of their club racers and their shop dog Cedric.

They had a demo bike available in the model I want (it's the one I'm sitting on) but it's actually already been sold to a guy. I was still offered the chance to ride it around but I haven't been on a bike in awhile and I didn't want to crack up this guy's ride. I'll take that chance with my own bike, but not a fellow ducatisti.

On a slight down note the red paint scheme isn't currently available in North America, so I had to settle for the brushed titanium color. Jim (the sales manager) placed the order asking for red if at all possible, but it doesn't seem likely. The shop was great, and they're expanding soon for more display area for both bikes and apparel.

Bottom line, if you're in the market for a new motorcycle and don't want to be on the same thing that everyone else is riding then look these guys up at Ducati Omaha. Tell 'em Jeff sent ya'.

Well, I'm off to finish Christmas shopping. I no longer feel awkward with cartfulls of princess barbie stuff, since my nieces are just the most adorable kids in the world and if someone has an issue with that, well....good luck to 'em.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Well I made it home...

So the trip wasn't TOO bad. Lots of hurry up and wait, which is typical of any military operation. We got out of Iraq fairly quickly, but were stuck in Kuwait for a little over 24 hours waiting on a flight. Of course we had all the mandatory briefings, don't beat up your family, don't drink too much, DO show up for your flight back to Iraq on time. That kind of thing.

From Kuwait we flew to some airport in the back of beyond in Germany. We sat in an empty terminal for several hours while they refueled the plane and waited on the new crew. Once they got there it was take-off time and we were headed for Atlanta. That was VERY quick and easy. In and out of Atlanta before we really had a chance to adjust. Then we were in Chicago. The last stop before home. We found our gate, made sure we'd be able to get on the plane (we had reserved tickets so no concern there), and then I suggested we find one of the out of the way bars and grab a quick beer. My buddy I was traveling with thought it was an OK idea, so on we went. We walked around the corner, ordered a beer, and someone offered to buy it for us. Very nice. But like anything else relating to the Army the joy didn't last long. I had barely put the cup up for my first sip when someone tapped me on the shoulder… "Excuse me Sergeant, you're not really going to drink that beer are you?" He was a short guy, in a funny looking hat, but as he was addressing me he whipped out an ID card identifying himself as a Major.

"Sir, we just want to have one each quietly in the corner here, then we're going to go catch our plane. We just got home on leave from Iraq."

"So did I, but rules are rules, now put it down and just walk away."

Well, unfortunately he's an officer and that was a pretty direct (although chickenshit) order. I complied. Of course the very nice bartender asked me if the beer was OK, and I said "Oh yeah, it's great, but this guy back here is a Major and he says I'm not allowed to drink this. Sorry about that, but you'll have to talk with him." Then out we went. It seems that civilians can support the troops, but sometimes we forget how to do that ourselves.

The plane landed on time, and we made it into Lincoln just fine. The nieces are HUGE, and talking in sentences. The nephew is nearly as big as the nieces at only six months old! It's crazy!

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Are we pot committed in Iraq?

In my last apparently controversial blog entry my mom mentioned the 'gambler's fallacy' regarding whether or not we're continuing in Iraq because we fallaciously believe we're committed to doing so.

I'm going to attempt to work that out a bit here. As I start typing this I'm trying not to hold any opinion, and you'll be reading me working the problem out on paper. I sincerely doubt I'll be able to arrive at an answer, but it's an interesting intellectual exercise at 6am while I'm watching the Steelers beat up on the Browns (10-0 at the half).

Re: the gambler's fallacy. In poker we call that being 'pot committed'. Essentially you have so much already invested in the hand that you must continue to play. But the decision to continue play isn't made in a vacuum. It's a function of the amount already invested vs. the amount needed to continue, the odds of the hand you're playing, and the history/behavior of the player with whom you're contending.

Are we pot committed in Iraq? First, what must we continue to invest, and what are the potential gains?

The continued investment is difficult to conceive. The Iraq working group chaired by James Baker listed several options. I think however the option put forward by Senator McCain of increasing troop strength for a time would be more likely to gain us success. That and a shift back to more offensive tactics. Certainly a strong continued presence in the country would be required, with at least present troop levels maintained.

The potential gains are even more nebulous. To be honest we wouldn't gain much through any perceived victory. But we stand to lose a great deal. The end result could be a religious civil war across all of Islam. And since Islam sits on the largest centralized oil reserves in the world that would be bound to have a disastrous effect on the global economy. The reality probably wouldn't be that extreme, but you'd certainly see Iraq split into three factions along Sunni/Shia/Kurd lines. The Shia majority would likely leave the Kurds alone. The Peshmerga are fierce and brutal fighters who wouldn't pander to public opinion the way we must do and would crush any insurgency in their territory utterly. The Sunni would probably be subjected to attempted genocide or secular/tribal cleansing. The enmity between Muslim, Serb and Croat was neighborly disagreement compared to the level on which these people can hate.

How much have we invested thus far?

The last monetary figure I saw was on the order of 387 billion dollars. Additionally the lives of 3000 Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen (some of whom were my personal friends), and the countless man-hours of individual service members and contractors.

Can we afford to cast this aside? Not easily. Much national pride and political capital sits in the pot. To fold now might lose us a great deal of respect in global affairs and cause us to have to bargain from a weakened position later.

What are the odds of us winning?

This is much more difficult. I'd almost be likely to say it can't be done at this time. To truly engage and defeat the insurgency would require tactics so barbaric and violent that US public opinion would have us on the way home and on trial for crimes against humanity, and would damage our military's social standing probably beyond repair.

The tactics required would in my opinion be Alexandrian/Roman/Nazi. Entire villages known to support the insurgency would have to be 'depopulated'. Either through just putting the people on the street and plowing the village under, or driving in and killing everything that runs, walks or crawls. You can't buy these people off. They don't stay bought, and there's no concept of loyalty outside their tribe.

Which leads to the last point. How has the player we're contending with played hands like this in the past? The answer is, very well. The Arabs are particularly skilled at insurgency and preservation of their culture despite pressing influence from the outside world. They've only historically succumbed to brutal totalitarianism in the past, and are unlikely to ever accept a democracy foisted upon them from outside their society.

Sorry, no answers here in the end. It's a problem who's complexity is beyond my ability to solve. But I hope I've shown enough of my work (yes, I'm making a calculus analogy) that maybe someone smarter than me can work the other analogy (the poker one, thanks mom) a bit further.

Less than a week and I'm on my way home. I have today off so I'm doing some packing and getting a box shipped off. I'm also going to hit the gift shop on the east side and see what other fun goodies they might have. Also my last chance to really hang out with my friend Dan as he's an IRR soldier who'll rotate home for good while I'm home on leave and if history is any indicator I'm unlikely ever to see him again.

Be well all, and may the force be with you.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

So I got a myspace mail today...

And the subject line was 'Hello from San Francisco'. This was my first clue, for while San Francisco is a beautiful city I've not seen a political or social decision come out of there that I thought even bordered on logic or rationality.

The text of the e-mail was this:

I am so sorry that you are stuck in Afghanistan! I went to every protest against the war hoping that people of this damn country will wake up and do something to bring our entire troop home! It didn..t help!



Now the front of my profile pretty clearly states that I'm in Iraq. If you bother to read my blog you'll see that while life over here is sometimes difficult and most often dull I do believe in what we do here, and have no love or respect for the people I'm fighting.

What sort of misguided liberal naievete' would make someone think comments such as this are at all appropriate or likely to be positively received? My politics are tough to pigeon-hole, on some issues I'm extremely left wing, on others I'm farther right than those guys with jack boots and swastika arm bands. I like to think that most of my political and sociological opinions are based on observations, experience, and logical reasoning. More importantly when I'm wrong about something I have a pretty solid history of admitting such and seeking information to help me reform a better opinion.

I'm not going to let something like this bother me too much. I post this here not to invite attacks on the person who sent me this message, rather to point out the unbelievable gall of persons who have so much faith in the 'rightness' of their own position that they will cross any line in order to put that message out there (Fred Phelps, I'm looking at you here).

Hope everyone's doing well. Less than ten days and I'll be flying home on leave. I can't wait to relax on the couch watching TV, and use the bathroom without having to run outdoors.

See you all soon!


Monday, November 27, 2006

Dear (deity of your choice) what have I put in my mouth?

Ah, Army food. One of those long running cliche's which holds so much truth that it may never die. Now don't read too much into this, the chow halls over here are first rate. Well prepared, recognizable food, hot without being overcooked. But due to our scheduling and lack of proximity to the chow hall we almost never are able to eat there. So our one 'hot' meal per day is usually served to us at midnight out of mermites (insulated plastic food containers kind of like a portable steam table), and with little choice of items.

Tonight was salisbury steak, onion rings, succotash, and fried bits of some darkish meat substance. Originally we took it to be overcooked chicken nuggets, so very few of us selected them. But of course there are a couple guys who just can't stomach salisbury steak, or have a perverse fondness for chicken nuggets. Keep in mind that the entry control point isn't lighted at all, so you're seeing your dinner with a flashlight as you serve it up, and are often times eating in the dark finding your mouth by luck and instinct (silverware just isn't used).

My buddy who shares my check point with me had passed on dinner and I elected for salisbury steak so I was unsuspecting. I was just nibbling onion rings when I heard a coughing choking sound that for once wasn't our generator dying. Then over the radio I heard "Oh dear god, what IS that!" there was a pause, heavy with anticipation, then "Oh my god it's LIVER!"

"Last calling station did you say it was liver?"

"Affirmative, affirmative, some bastard breaded and fried little chunks of liver!"

"Are you OK? Do you need help?"

It was quickly established that those who had attempted to eat the liver were not in any immediate danger, but all agreed it was a dirty trick for the KBR guys at the chow hall to have played on us.

Most of the chow hall workers are foreign nationals, Pakistanis, Phillipinos, Indians and normally supervised by a few US Soldiers. We agreed that it was foolish of them to have done such a thing as we are all heavily armed and somewhat frustrated at our lack of opportunity to shoot people. Serving us breaded fried liver chunks seemed an almost suicidal breech of dining hall etiquette.

At the end of our shift it was agreed that we would meet again to plan some sort of counter liver mission. It's doubtful you'll hear any more on this subject from me in order to protect those who should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Not another holiday

It's almost 4am on Wednesday morning as I write this. I just got off duty about an hour ago and I'm still in the process of warming up. There's something about using a port-a-john when it's 40 degrees outside and you're wearing gloves, long underwear, body armor and two weapons that just makes the process somehow unpleasant. I'm here to tell ya', it's not the temperature, it's the length of exposure that gets ya'.

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Another holiday over here. We were at Camp Shelby last year for what I'm going to list as the worst thanksgiving dinner I've ever had. At least this year I'll have the option of treating myself to a pizza before I go on duty.

Here's the thing about holidays in a combat zone. You just go on with your regular duties and activities and in general try and pretend it's just another day. At least that's the way I handle it. If I focus too hard on what I usually do back home it just makes it harder.

So far in Iraq I've had Memorial Day, the 4th of July, a Labor Day that turned out to be the worst day I think I've ever experienced (go look up the blog entries), Veteran's Day, and now Thanksgiving. On the plus side it looks like I'll be home for Christmas on leave, but I'll just be getting on the plane around New Year's Eve.

Missing New Year's is NOT a big deal though. New Year's of 04-05 was my first official date with Cori (the latest ex). That was the first successful New Year's date I think I'd had since I was a senior in high school (gotta find Charlotte Doeschot one of these days).

Now of course my second favorite holiday (first is of course Christmas) is St. Patty's Day. And we celebrated that one in style on the French Quarter in New Orleans. No one parties like a bunch of soldiers heading off to war, so there may be some romanticism clouding my memories of that event, but my buddy Nick and I have vowed that we're going to do St Patty's day in New Orleans every year from here onward. Of course this coming St Patty's day we'll either still be here, at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin outprocessing, or Camp Ashland, Nebraska going to BNCOC. But St Patty's day '08 we'll be hanging off a bar in the French Quarter again tossing beads at coeds like the dirty old men we are.

So to sum up. Thanksgiving this year, stuffed crust pepperoni pizza. This past Labor Day, one I'd just as soon forget, Christmas will be at home with my family and with any luck an adult beverage or two. New Year's, probably on a plane somewhere heading back here, but fortunately not for much longer.

With any luck I won't have too many more holidays in combat zones.


Friday, November 17, 2006


This word gets tossed around pretty frequently. Please don't apply it to me. I'm just a man trying to do what I see as my duty, nothing more. Heroism is mostly a matter of circumstance. Audie Murphy, Alvin York, Joshua Chamberlain, Leonidas etc. are all men who were in bad places at difficult times. Their inate quality allowed them to succeed and (but for Leonidas and his valiant 300) survive. Certainly many of us here and elsewhere are brave, but few of us are heroes. I'm not one of them.

Things have been continually dull here for the past month. I'm counting down days on the calendar 'til I go home on leave, and unfortunately this makes time seem to drag even more slowly.

Seems like the housing market in Lincoln is set up for buyers right now. I've got two townhomes picked out. here, and here.

All I have to do now is get my down payment together, get my financing approved, and get ready to move. I notice both deals say that closing costs will be paid. Does any one know what this means? I'm not sure how much money this will save me, or exactly what closing costs they mean.

Those interested in learning more about heroism and it's nature and mythos are encouraged to read 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' by Joseph Campbell and 'Why Courage Matters' by one of my personal heroes Senator John McCain.

Less than a month and I'll be home with a black and tan in hand and a big smile on my face. See you all then!


(oh, and someone with our family support group make sure they're playing 'Throne Room Finale' from the Star Wars soundtrack when we have our welcome home ceremony)

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm a TV star!

This will be old news to all my family members that read this, but here's the text and video from the interview I did last week.

You can view the video by clicking on the link at the top of the story. This oughta be good for a few free beers while I'm home on leave!

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Quick Update

Well, I finally got my leave date. I'm supposed to be flying out of here on the 13th. No idea yet how long the trip's going to take, but generally it takes a day or two to get back to the states from here. I'm planning to fly into Lincoln, and probably going to sleep for sixteen hours straight once I get back.

The interview went pretty well. Pretty softball questions, and they brought my mom into the studio so I got to talk to her for a few minutes after the interview was over. The TV station should have the video online by Tuesday morning so I'll try to get a link up to it that day.

My mom took a couple photos during the interview and put them on her webpage. You can see them here.

We're getting some additional duties that are going to make our days a little longer, so I won't have as much time to myspace and e-mail, but I'll try to at least keep my blog updated. Don't be all pissed if I don't have a chance to answer every e-mail I get, taking care of my soldiers and accomplishing my mission still has to come first.

Be well, and I'll see everyone in about five weeks.


Saturday, November 4, 2006

I'm still not exactly a movie star, but...

Our public affairs office does these profiles of Soldiers and then let's us be interviewed by a TV station back in Lincoln (KLIN channel 10).

I went out to work early yesterday and shot a bunch of what they call 'B roll' which was just some guy following me around with a camera while I pretended to work. It would have been better of course if they could have come out while I was actually there with my guys, but I work the night shift and obviously lighting is a problem.

On Tuesday I go in for the 'live to tape' interview. I was told it'll be about two minutes or so worth of questions that should be pretty softball, like what I do, where I've been before, what do I miss the most. It should air next Saturday (Veteran's Day) or Sunday on channel 10 in Lincoln. If I can find a web link to it I'll post it here in my blog.

Morty the muj has been getting a little more daring lately, but nothing too serious. I still wish they'd sack up and actually try something against a fixed defensive position (i.e. mine). But then again most military persons know that's a losing proposition from minute one. The muj is not an amazing soldier, but he's not completely stupid either.

Sorry, still no leave date. The Sergeant who handles all of our paperwork (and that's a hell of a job let me tell ya') said he wouldn't know for sure 'til the 11th. I hope this doesn't inconvenience too many of my friends/family. I can tell ya' though that it looks like it should be mid-December, so there's a pretty good chance I'll be home for Christmas and possibly New Year's.

Well, I'm going over to the big PX on the east side to spend a little combat pay. Be well everyone.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

What Iraq really needs

Sorry it's been a bit since my last entry. I wish I could say it was due to being involved in alot of interesting and demanding activities, but the fact of the matter is every day has been full of the same mundane BS as the day before.

So tonight we watched one of my favorite '80s movies 'Better Off Dead'. A few days prior we had watched 'Revenge of the Nerds'. Apparently it's '80s movie week at the south ECP.

We got to talking about the one thing all '80s movies seem to have in common and that's the montage where everything gets fixed. The nerds clean up the house, Lane and Monique fix his Camaro, Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis slaughter a bunch of people.

We decided that what Iraq really needs is a good montage. Pick some appropriate background song (should be '80s music) and then cut to a bunch of Iraqis working on their power lines, picking up trash on the side of the road when a Shiite and a Sunni cross the street, smile and shake eachother's hand.

So here's the contest. From your own imagination compose the best 80s movie montage of Iraqis 'fixing things up'. Theme songs and cut scenes of your own, but following the general idiom. Feel free to include a helpful robot, sassy french girl, nerdy boy trying to get the attention of a girl who's way too hot for him, but let's leave the bloody slaughters in the Tarentino movies. I'm definitely thinking more John Hughes here...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ramadan winds down

Ramadan is a monthlong celebration of Islam, and includes the practice of fasting during daylight hours, frequent prayer, charity and self-accountability. It's can be compared to the Christian lenten period, but holds the same signifigance western culture attaches to Christmas. But unlike the Christian celebration of the birth of their god, which is a time for peace and fellowship with all men Muslims believe Ramadan is a time when Allah blesses military ventures. So Ramadan for Muslims is a time of combat.

In 1914 during the the largest war at the time ever fought in Europe the troops famously stopped fighting on Christmas. Spontaneously. No cease fire was ever called, and in fact commanders in the rear on both sides were ordering that their troops re-occupy their positions and begin fighting. Instead they exchanged food, sang carols, and played football (we'd call it soccer).

I'm not a Christian myself, but I can appreciate the spirit of the celebration of Christmas. I just don't get Ramadan. These assclowns seem to celebrate it by blowing up more patrols and convoys, and dropping mortars into villages. And let me tell ya', they can't aim their mortar systems well enough to know if they're hitting the police station, city hall, the hospital or the elementary school.

Around here we saw a slight rise in mortar fire and IEDs. My buddies who do convoy escorts got hit last night. Nothing serious fortunately. I was walking to the bathroom this morning when I woke up and the soldier who lives in the room nextdoor to me came limping out with a big bandage on his foot. He took some shrapnel to his foot last night, but he's fine and will be back on duty in a few days. Now he gets free license plates (my personal euphemism for earning a purple heart) for life. I'm just very very glad they're all OK.

On to other subjects. Since I volunteered for this deployment and it put me over the two year mark in a five year period I get a bonus for the last six months of the 18. I just got the notification of the first bonus payment which will get deposited next week. I'm sure I'll be able to come up with something good to spend the extra money on.

Six weeks 'til I get home on leave. I need to get a new cell phone. My best friend Scott is an electrical engineer at Motorola and designs new phones. I'm sure he'd like me to get a new RAZR, and I do like them, but I'm leaning toward a Blackberry. Anyone got any advice on the subject? I'll probably be getting it within a few hours of getting off the plane for leave in Nebraska so I can connect with everyone (I'll advise then what my new .. will be).

Not much else interesting going on right now. Just fighting boredom and counting down days. The guy I share a checkpoint with on nights we work the front of the ECP and I have a little celebration at the end of every shift. One more day down. Of course he goes home on leave next week, one day after his 21st birthday. So he's got extra reason to be excited.

Keep in touch, and I'll be home sooner rather than later!


Friday, October 13, 2006

Rainy Season!

We'll probably be sick of it soon enough, but the rainy season has arrived in Iraq! Of course last night it rained mud, which is what you get when you combine a soft rain with a dust storm. I was washing dirt out of places that most people wouldn't believe dirt could get after we got off shift.

When I was walking to the gym this afternoon it was overcast, and not nearly as hot. Then I heard a crack of thunder (don't ever let anyone tell you it sounds like artillery or mortar fire or whatever, it doesn't). I love thunderstorms, so now I'm in an extra good mood.

Of course I needed to be in a good mood after I talked to one of my buddies about what he'd seen on patrol a couple days ago. Seems a young woman approached them with her three year old son. His entire body from the armpits down was a single large third degree burn. She wondered if the patrol could do something to help the child. Obviously the task was beyond the field medic, he informed her she must take the child to a hospital immediately. Of course even then the chance that the child will survive are minimal. The saddest thing is this is a result of a standard Iraqi form of disciplining naughty children. They dunk them in very hot water. Seems the young mother had just mis-estimated the temperature of her disciplinary bath. What kind of morally and ethically bankrupt culture are we supporting over here? These people suck.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Current Events

Well, I have to adjust to another sleep schedule, but this time it's a good thing. We just transitioned to eight hour shifts.

I was on duty last night, staring up at the stars thinking that at night most places in the world look about the same. Or at least the stars do. It's cooling off here and it didn't feel that different from a late summer's night back home in Nebraska. Of course this reverie was ruined almost immediately by an explosion in the distance and two Apache helicopters flying about fifty feet overhead rattling me down to my toenails.

We're definitely over the halfway point now, the weather's getting better, and I go home on leave in about two months. I don't know if I'll be back for Christmas. We won't know our exact leave dates until the first week of November, but with my luck I'll end up spending Christmas in some airport holding area on the way back here. C'est la guerre.

Time to grab a shower and go collect laundry and make a quick trip by the PX. Hope everyone's well. Not much longer now.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Current mood: excited

Twenty-five hundred years ago on a remote mountain pass in northern Greece approximately five thousand Hoplites of various city-states stood shoulder to shoulder against a Persian army that may have numbered as many as one million men.

Chief amongst the greeks were 300 Spartan homoioi (peers). The elite land holders and nobles of their civilization. They arrived there knowing their lives would most likely be forfeit, and yet there they stood.

On the morning fighting commenced Xerxes the Persian emperor is reputed to have offered the Spartans the 'privelege' of surrender. He would set them up as the most honored tenant of his realm. "Spartans, Xerxes desires not your lives, only your arms!"

Leonidas, king of Sparta knew the fate of a fragile alliance of Hellenic cities hung in the balance. If he accepted Sparta would be saved, but Greece would fall. But Leonidas rejected Xerxes' offer of slavery saying simply "Molon labe!" Come and get them.

For four days the Greeks formed a phalanx blocking the pass and inflicting horrendous casualties on their Persian foes.

Finally with the help of the traitor Ephialtes Xerxes' Immortals found a trail running around the Greek position and prepared to surround the Spartans. The night before this happened Leonidas released the soldiers of all other cities, that they might spread the story of the Spartan's sacrifice and bring heart to the final battle which must by necessity occur further into Greece at a later date (it did, with a sea battle at Salamis, and a land battle which annihilated the Persian armies at Platea). Only the Thespians remained. And these few stood surrounded by the Persians, chewed apart by their arrows, and died to the last man.

I really believe that in his heart every soldier wants to fight in a battle that means something. If you're going to bear the lot of a soldier, then it might as well be for a purpose.

On March 16th Sony Pictures will release 'The 300' based on Frank Millers graphic novel, telling of these events.

The trailer can be viewed here:

This movie is going to absolutely rule! Someone save me a seat. Chances are I'll see this one more than 'Star Wars'!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Random News
Current mood: awake

Through some odd manipulation of fate I ended up with an extra night off. Don't ask me why. In the Army all things happen by the stroke of the platoon sergeant's pen.

The last blog entry of current events was pretty popular, unfortunately it's only about 48 hours old, so not alot has happened of late.

I remember saying in an earlier blog entry that Muji can't shoot. I'm pretty sure I can say this much. We're on the biggest base in Iraq, and they shoot mortars at us fairly often. Pretty much daily. It's a big base, with alot of open area so very little danger. But, here's the funny thing. Most days they can't even hit the base. I'm serious, this place is bigger than alot of Nebraska towns, and somehow they can't manage to hit this huge ass target.

There's a saying in Islam "insh'allah" basically it means 'as god wills'. So that's how they shoot. They point their weapons in a general direction and fire. If god wills it they'll hit something. You'd think by now they'd have decided that their god isn't on their side. As Han Solo once said 'Hokey religion and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.'

So some kind soul bought me a few books and DVDs off my Amazon wishlist (thanks!). One of them was 'Mortgages for Dummies'. Holy crap! That was one useful book! I read it last night on duty and found out all KINDS of interesting things. Here's a tip for other home buyers. Understanding the housing market is important, understanding your credit rating moreso, but if you don't understand mortgages and financing you're really going to come up short. Did anyone else know I can withdraw up to $10,000 from my 401(K) to put toward a down payment on a home with no penalties? Additionally when most people think of the interest rate structure for a mortgage they think of regular fixed rate only. But there are adjustable rate mortgages, and hybrids as well as some even more exotic products. If your other finances are in order you'll find you can afford alot more home than you thought possible.

On a down note my PSP somehow got smashed last night. We came in the lane from searching trucks, I did some log entries and housekeeping then went to turn on my PSP and just a cracked screen and funny noises. Oh well, I'm ahead moneywise, I thought. So when we got off I trucked over to the PX to buy a new one, but alas... No PSPs where in stock. Gonna be a couple weeks. No big deal, I don't really need it until I fly home on leave in December.

Since we've been working twelve hour shifts I've been neglecting my gym time. I wish I could tell ya' I've been working out hard every day, but why lie? I've been eating too much crap, drinking too many sodas, and not putting any time on the road or under the weights. We're going back to eight hour shifts in a few days, so there goes that excuse.

Anyone interested in a serious workout program is challenged to visit my mentors at crossfit. I'll be back in fighting trim in no time.

Hope all is well back home. Miss you all, and I'll see you all in a couple months.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Random Rumblings

September is now 90% complete. That means we're over the 1/2way mark. Just an imaginary mark on a calendar, but that's how you mark time around here. How long 'til you go on leave, how long 'til you rotate home.

I had to do health and welfare inspections this morning for my soldiers. Anyone who knows me (or gods help them has helped me clean house) knows that I'm the last person who should be charged with checking on the cleanliness of others. The absurdity of the situation was not lost on me, so I pulled off my combat boots, put on my flip flops and my gold lens Oakley sunglasses. Oddly enough everyone's rooms looked really good. Well, mine needs some work.

I want everyone to write to Ducati and tell them how absolutely wonderful they are for releasing the 2007 Monster S4R. It has a more powerful engine, better brakes and suspension than the '06 model, and is priced $500 less! So guess what I'm investing in when I get home?

The weather's cooling off finally. Last night it dropped into the low 70s. We were out on the lane searching trucks, and I actually had to put on my fleece jacket. But I kind of have a cold and I had the chills.

I've been house hunting online, and found several places that I like. I need to study up on mortgages a bit more, but I've been working hard the past few years on improving my damaged credit rating, and I'm seeing some results. I don't know that I'm going to buy right when I get home, I may enjoy a summer with the pool at the apartment complex first, besides home prices go down even more in the October/November time frame so I'm told. Can anyone confirm?

Tonight's my night off, and I just got season 2.5 of Battlestar Galactica from Amazon today. Right now I'm typing this and listening to music, but I'm gonna have a little sci-fi marathon here as soon as this is posted.

That's about it for now. I'll pass along more news if/when it happens.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Trying to get back to topics

"Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous."

A couple weeks back I said I'd try to speak to the quote above. It's something from Vonnegut (one of my favorite writers), and while I'm far from an expert on matters of the heart I think I have some experience here as one who's repeatedly tried and failed.

First off let's break down just who I am for those of you who may not yet know me. I'm not decorative, although I do clean up well. I'm not a party animal, although when out with people who's company I truly enjoy I can tear it up with the best of them. I'm not wise, but in place of wisdom I substitute observation from life experience and a sort of centrist point of view. That's a quick nutshell.

Now then, love and the everlasting quest for it. Let's right off the bat pitch the concept of lust and separate the two. Not that I have any great desire to really rid myself of lust. I'm a big fan of it, and believe that as long as the approach is honest lust can be satisfied without engendering pain. But lust is not love, although we often confuse ourselves on this issue, and that may be the central point of this whole theme. Let's examine.

Poets and romantics can define love far better than I can, but I always thought of love as having a partner you can trust absolutely. Having a love means having a friend, an advocate, a counselor, and a lover and so much more embodied in a single person. Lust means having someone you find physically attractive with whom you'd like to spend a few hours of joyful activity. The thing is, you can satisfy lust with your lover but when lust is sated the best part of that relationship remains.

My experience has convinced me that love is best found when it is stumbled upon accidentally. Otherwise unrealistic expectations sabotage a potential relationship before it even begins. I like the quote from Robin Williams in 'Good Will Hunting':

"You're not perfect sport, and let me save you the suspense, this girl you've met she's not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you're perfect for each other."

Seeking out 'true love' is the blueprint for unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations are the blueprint for misery. I'm not gonna walk that road. Instead I choose to live my life, and if in the future I stumble onto love again (I have and have blown it a couple times so far) I'm gonna try a little harder and hang on. Until then I promise to be me, strange as I am, and move forward with other things. Oh yeah, no more fix-ups either.

I guess step one is still getting home in one piece though, isn't it?

Oh well, the muj is still a crappy shot, our vehicle armor is very good, and so are me and my guys.

May the force be with you...always.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Getting on with it

It's been a week since the events I covered briefly in my previous blog entry. I'm doing OK. We had a sort of stress remediation group session with some counselors and that honestly was kind of helpful. More than that, just being around everyone and talking through events is better.

Now I feel guilty sometimes when I'm happy about something, or I'm focusing on some event or person, or thing I want to do when I get home. I remember that my friends won't be able to do these things anymore. Why them and not me?

Am I being selfish by dwelling on this? Should I just move on as if none of what's happened bothers me?

Just some stuff I'm sort of struggling with.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Why it was a bad day

Sunday night and Monday morning turned out to be the worst day I've ever experienced.

I volunteered to spend my day off as a gunner in a good buddy's vehicle on a convoy escort mission. My first time outside the wire, finally a little action.

It's said that you should be careful what you wish for. Now I know why...

On the return trip the lead vehicle in our convoy driven by my friend DB (you can still see his profile from my top friend's page) struck an IED. I'm not going to go into alot of details in this forum, but my friend was killed. Two more Soldiers I know well were injured, but will be back on duty soon.

I wanted to be a combat veteran, and now I just want DB back, and my other friends Josiah and Luis to be well.

DB's memorial service here in Iraq will be on Friday. I'll see if I can get a picture or two in order to share the experience.

Thank you again to everyone for your support (Grandma, I got your care package yesterday, folks at Arbor Day I got yours this morning). We need our friends and family at home now, more than ever.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

The no good very bad day
Current mood: sad

Today was a no good very bad day. I'll write more when I can.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sad News

I'm sad to report that my comrade Staff Sergeant Jeffrey J. Hansen passed away at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany Sunday. His family was at his side. It's difficult at this time to convey the degree to which we will miss him.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What's Cool?

I've got no new information to pass on regarding my injured comrades from my previous post, so I'm just going post something else that's been on my mind lately.

What makes someone 'cool'? Of course the word and idea behind it is very subjective. But overall who are people who are respected? The first thing, and the most cliche'd is that a person who is respected must respect themselves. Maslow's heirarchy of needs says that a person's ultimate need is self actualization. But like being cool being self actualized isn't something one can follow down a checklist of items in order to achieve an end. Most importantly some people's goals for achievement can be impossibly high.

Back in elementary school one of my teachers told me one of the dumbest things I think I've ever heard. 'Never let your reach exceed your grasp.' What kind of Marxist 'worker's paradise' crap is that? If a person limits their dreams to only those things they know they can achieve then that person has no dreams. Their goals will be as simple as the acquisition of material things or money merely for the purpose of having them.

I'm going to paraphrase what I remember as Vonnegut who said man's purpose in life was 'to be the eyes, the ears, the consciense of the creator of the universe...'. I'm a bit hamstrung with that one since I have no faith that there is a creator of the universe, but I can make allowances. If in place of the creator of the universe you inserted the idea of a collective consciousness of all mankind, then that's an idea I can get behind. But how does that make one cool? By most standard definitions the last three paragraphs I've written would make me decidedly uncool in pop culture circles. Eh, pop culture morons. If your life goals are to provide decoration and entertainment, then that's fine, but I sort of feel sorry for you.

So to be cool one must have a consciense. Okay, I could go for that I guess. What else?

What do I think is cool? People who've accomplished something. People who are educated, and strong, and able. Look at my friends list, there's a bunch of guys close to the top that I'm serving with over here. Every one of them is in my opinion 'cool'. Except for the fact that one of them is a Yankees fan, I couldn't think of a bad thing to say about any of them.

I know I quote Heinlein alot, but here's another one from him that I quite like: "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." I think to be cool one should be a bit more capable then a one trick pony. To be accomplished, to be able a person should be well rounded, a rennaisance man as it were.

So in my opinion a person who's cool should be accomplished, and have a conscience. Good starts there. But where is this taking us? Why does it matter?

Hey, it's just a blog. I can't offer all the solutions. It's just my observations of the world around me...

I'm going to close this meandering with a quote on love I found while looking up some Vonnegut stuff:

"Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous." Think on that one, if I can maintain some self-discipline I'll blog on it next time.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm OK

Two days ago my unit had a serious accident. While out on patrol one of our humvees slipped off a canal bank road and into the waterway. Several of the crew were critically injured and have been medevaced to Germany. The families of these soldiers have been informed of the incident and the soldiers' status.

Those of you who are religious please include them in your prayers, everyone else hope for the best. I'll advise with more details when I have them, and I'm allowed.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Man Culture?

It's my night off and I'm indulging with some relaxation time in front of the TV. What's on? Thought you'd never ask. I just got done with Jeffrey Ross's documentary about a USO tour of comedians Patriot Act. Now I'm watching season two of Entourage.

Entourage is amazing. For the unitiated it's about a group of four guys, one actor and his three friends following him around Hollywood. Why do I like this show so much? I've pondered on it a bit. Their value system is so divergent from mine. Where's the appeal? Then it hit me, this is a show about men. Unlike every fucking modern sitcom from Raymond to King of Queens to According to Jim and all that other shit, this show doesn't belittle us, or make us look like clowns. Well, there are moments, but in the execution of a man's life he'll make himself look like a clown from time to time.

What's man culture? I feel often like I have to apologize for having a y chromosome and a penis. Modern media, philosophy, and culture have somehow made me out to be the bad guy. Where the hell did that come from? Seems to me we've got at least as much to be proud of as to be ashamed of.

So where am I going with this? What's got my brain tied around this particular topic at this particular moment? I was in a message board debate earlier regarding a person who was offended about being addressed as a 'girl'. Contextually this is difficult to relate, on the one hand I could see her point. Calling any adult by the term normally used to denote a child can be seen as offensive. But in certain contexts it can signify affection, familiarity, or the existene of a mentor/apprentice relationship.

I'm tired of being made to feel apologetic for my gender. Some will argue that with the existence of Maxim magazine, Xbox, Tarentino films, and the eventual resurgence of Dick Dale men's culture never went away. Could be they're right. I say let's celebrate men's culture again. Cleavage, red motorcycles, and well done steaks for all my men, dammit!

This message sponsored by Guiness, Ducati, and World Cup Rugby.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sweaty sheets should be more fun

Well, we're officially on the night shift now. It's usually almost the regular lunchtime when we get off work, so I've been going to the gym, then coming back and going to bed.

Last night however was my night off. I sat around and played poker, watched baseball, surfed around, went for a run...well, we really don't need a catalog of the entire evening, do we?

Anyway, after I got back from breakfast I turned in. I woke up in the middle of the afternoon (clock said it was 15:24) and the first thing I noticed was silence. That in itself is pretty weird, since the generator out behind our living area makes a pretty constant low level hum, and you can always hear the air conditioner. The lack of noise from that particular appliance led me directly to my next discovery. My bed was soaked! I have no idea how long the power had been off, but it was friggin' hot in that room! I went outside and there were a couple Malaysian guys servicing our generator. Unfortunately they spoke no English, and my gift for language and non-verbal communication had deserted me sometime in the middle of the night.

They stared at me as I tried to ask when the generator would be back on, and I'm probably lucky they weren't armed, as I'm sure some of the gestures I was using could easily have been misinterpreted. I shuffled back to my room and changed my sheets and laid down to try to go back to sleep. No luck.

It's definitely going to be a long night!

Sweaty sheets should definitely have been more fun!

Monday, August 7, 2006

It's possible that I'm evil

As least as some would define it. I prefer to think of myself as pragmatic, but a persons perceptions are their everything, so believe what you will. Here's my thoughts:

I read this story online a few moments ago:

Lebanon Demands Cease Fire

Now here's the thing. Despite all this, Lebanon's prime minister is still referring to these unfortunate civilians killed in this raid as 'martyrs'. A typical bullshit concept that puts the worst possible face on innocent death. It relieves the government of all fault in their deaths, and consigns their fate to their god.

I say if Lebanon wants a cease fire, then let them round up and turn over to the Israelis every member of Hezbollah they can get their hands on. And if we can find the few that were responsible for the Marine Barracks in Beirut back in '83 then let us have those. Impossible you say? Well, needs must when the devil drives. If the Lebanese really want the bombing to stop, then they'll find a way that doesn't involve begging, hat in hand, for a result you know won't come about.

My first forray into political blogging, and I'm sure it's not going to make me popular. In fact I know some people I respect (Hi Mom) who will read this and likely be horrified by it.

Now, do I have the guts to hit 'post'?


Don't worry, this won't involve whipped cream, sweater puppets, or baby oil.

But a common question posited by women to men is 'what are your fantasies?'.

I have a few of them, none of which will probably fit the mold.

Fantasy number one is simple, it's to be involved in something while we're over here. To friggin' shoot back, to do something more useful than stare out into the landscape of Iraq and pray that SOMETHING happens today. Of course someone is going to hit me with 'be careful what you wish for'. To that I say 'bring it!'.

Fantasy number two is indoor plumbing. I just woke up an hour or so ago, and I hate having to stumble out in the middle of the night (which since I'm now on the night shift is actually around 3pm) to go pee.

Fantasy number three is the most fleshed out. The theory of relativity says that as one's speed increases relative to another object then the sense of time is compressed relative to the other object. For the purposes of this narrative we'll call the other object 'everything else' and the object traveling at speed will be me on the Ducati (Monster S2R since I can't quite swing the price of the Monster S4RS).

In my mind's eye I see myself stuffing a a couple hundred bucks in the pocket of my jeans, throwing on my helmet and walking out to the bike. It's a late spring day in Nebraska. Sunny, but the heat hasn't really kicked in yet. My hands are already buzzing with anticipation. I crank the starter, and then I'm in nirvana. I thread my way through town (damn stoplights, stupid mini-vans) until I'm on the I-80 exit, then the fun begins. 25mph warns the sign on the tight right hander putting me into the interestate. Yeah, right. I lean on the throttle, and look over my left shoulder, good to go. Once the turn straightens out I find that I'm very likely committing several moving violations. And the beautiful thing about relativity is that my sense of time while I'm doing this is suddenly not in synch with 'everything else'.

Now if someone knows some good places in eastern Nebraska, West Iowa, Northwest Missouri to go carve some corners please let me know. I'm not sure I can handle riding all the way to Colorado every weekend.

My dad is always on me to put up some more photos. Here's a couple of me and my battle buddy returning from an immediate reaction force mission. Don't let the term freak you out. The immediate reaction force usually rolls out to chase kids away from the gate, or to guard a bunch of engineers building a new fence. But its outside the wire, so it's better than sitting around and picking your nose.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Some Words

I enjoy words. The encapsulated meanings of ideas, the ability to combine them together in differing contexts and create satire, drama, humor, exposition, to define a convincing argument. My ability to communicate both verbally and in writing is probably the gift of which I'm the most proud.

I'm just going to jot down some words, their definitions and expound a little on what they mean to me.

aesthetics: plural but singular or plural in construction : a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste and with the creation and appreciation of beauty.

Now I'll never be accused of being an aesthete. In fact I'm probably the exact opposite. I much prefer the beauty of ideal functionality over the decorative. In my view man's artistic endeavors are at their best when they achive a purpose in engineering. That's why I find this:

to be one of the most beautiful works of art man has ever created. Every line is form. Every curve, corner, surface, the entire shape designed to get the maximum performance out of what were once lumps of inanimate metal. Certainly it was created for a terrible purpose, but that does nothing to detract from it's overall beauty.

Mediocrity: The state or quality of being mediocre.
Mediocre:Moderate to inferior in quality; ordinary.

Now that's a funny poster, but it gives me a larger message. I'm all too accepting of mediocrity in others around me, and even moreso in myself. I've got no excuses for my own mediocrity. Everything about me speaks of the far right end of the bell shaped curve. Truly the quotation "There's nothing so common as talent squandered." applies to me. I have a lackadaisical attitude about most of life. I can do better. I should have, up to now, done better. But Hollywood movies lie. The protagonist doesn't just one day discover his calling and is suddenly endowed with a font of energy and motivation. True success comes from tenacity. The day after day sustainment of excellence. It's hard, which is why truly successful people are pretty damned rare.

Love: Far too many definitions to list, so I'll pick a couple I like best. From the master himself Robert A. Heinlein. "Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." Next we have the inventor of the modern story William Shakespeare: " My bounty is as deep as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite." Now I'm sure someone's going to think I missed Yeats or Shelly or some other murkier and more romantic old European, but these are not in my.... my....

(Patsy: Idiom sir?)

Idiom, yes, thank you.

Camaraderie: a spirit of friendly good-fellowship. That's the Webster's definition. BUZZ, not even CLOSE! No one who has experienced the camaraderie of soldiers could define the concept so lightly.

For the past five months my mortar section had been attached to another platoon, separated, and integrated into other working units to accomplish a different mission, but today we got back together for four days of intensive training. It was a long day in the hot sun refreshing skills, and learning some new ones. At the end of it we got to promote one of our guys (Congratulations Specialist Cromwell!), and then went to dinner at the chow hall together. And we clicked back into old familiar rythms as though we'd never been apart. I looked around the romm surreptitiously and could see some envy at the spirit we share. Of course if I said any of this out loud to the guys they'd laugh me all the way out of Iraq, but in a way I don't think they'd be suprised either.

Well, not as many words defined, but alot of words typed. Hope it was fun to read. I know tomorrow's Friday back home, so someone go pull a black and tan and stare at a pretty bartender's ass for me while watching the Cubs get creamed. Time is flying over here, and I'll be home before we know it!

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Balding is a condition, bald is a choice

Well, I broke down today. I'd been trying to grow my hair out since we were in the field on Fort Polk for three weeks (bathrooms were few and far between). I've accepted that I have both thin and thinning hair. So immediately following my morning shower (which thanks to the vagaries of changing to the night shift took place at 1500) I looked in the mirror, grabbed my trusty Mach 3 Turbo and off it all came. Like the subject line says; balding is a condition, bald is a choice.

Folks are still asking what they can send in care packages. I went around to my guys (the ones who were awake anyway) and took a brief survey. Here's the results:

camel hair brushes (to clean the dust off weapons)
lens cleaning kits (for goggles, sunglasses, and weapons' optics)
battery powered digital alarm clocks (timex makes some good inexpensive ones)
single serving powdered drink mixes
good coffee (now that we're on the night shift)
hard bristle scrub brushes (for cleaning dust/mud/sweat off of body armor, boots etc.)
band-aids (for little ouches that you don't want to bother the medic with)
insulated coffee mugs
candy (the selection at the PX sucks, specific requests were starbursts, jelly beans, gummy bears, no chocolate)
electricians tape
Nebraska Huskers memorabilia (posters, bumper stickers, hats)
One guy wanted a signed poster of the 'Scarlets' Nebraska Dance Squad

If anyone wants to send a care package our way drop a line and I'll send you my address.

Thanks again for your continued support!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Random Rumblings

Well, no photos on this entry, so most folks aren't going to find this as interesting as the last entry, but it's been awhile since I've posted anything, so I know I owe some info' to all my faithful readers.

It's late on a Sunday night here at Camp Anaconda. I must admit I'm going a little stir crazy. Since we shifted hours we don't really get to eat at the chow hall anymore, but tonight we raced home so we could have a section meeting with real sit down food, plates, ice cream and everything. It was quite a treat.

We're having a bit of a shift change for various reasons, and my section is going to be on the night shift. No more sweating my tail end off in 60 pounds of body armor during the middle of the day! Of course now we'll be staying up for twelve hours overnight, but you can't win everything.

I wish I could write something meaningful and heart touching, but the truth is (as I said) I'm just rambling here. I'm also trying to change my sleep pattern, so I'm on a bit of a caffeinne high right now. Not the best for getting the creative juices a-flowin'. Maybe I'll sit around and brainstorm some topics, try to write something worthwhile over the next two days.

'Til then, keep the cards and letters (and care packages) coming.

SSG Murf

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Alot of people write asking me how horrible conditions are here, feeling sorry for what we must be going through.

I mentioned before that we were living pretty plush around here. Well, I gathered up some photos, and decided to share them with everyone.

First, here's where I live:

I'm a Staff Sergeant, so I get my own room. Partially as privelege of rank, but also in order to hold meetings, conduct counselings, and just to get me away from the guys so we all have some time to decompress.

Here's our front walkway:

The break in the concrete barriers in the middle of the picture leads back to our bathrooms about 20 meters away.

Here's the compound from the middle of the quad. On top of the stacked trailers where my room is you can see our satellite dish we use to connect to the internet. It alway kind of reminded me of Melrose Place.

Now I've got something interesting to show ya'.

What's behind those barriers? Lots of concrete there, it must be something important.

Here it is from the other side. Two gun trucks out front protecting it? Must be pretty valuable. Let's look around the corner.

Nope, still can't see anything. What could it be?

With double overhead sandbag covering, concrete bunkers all around, it must be the safest port-a-johns in all of Iraq. Well, at least we can't get hurt while we're going poo.

Friday, July 14, 2006

What's an Infantryman?

I'm often asked here and elsewhere what exactly an Infantryman is and/or does.

Robert Heinlein described them as the ultimate purpose and arm of the entire military. No other unit exists but to support the infantry directly or obliquely.

I'm an indirect fire Infantryman.. Which means I lead a heavy mortar section (2 120mm cannon crews). In conventional combat our role would be to serve as the commander's first indirect fire asset. We're his hip pocket artillery. Fast, accurate, and extremely destructive, our wide range of ammunition allows us to support front line infantry in almost every situation.

But what's an infantryman? Here's some links I find especially appropriate:

He's an Infantryman

The Infantryman's Creed

Wiki's infantryman page

The Go Infantry Forum

This should give you the flavor of who we are, and maybe what makes us tick (we're all mad, if you really must know).

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Saturday night in Iraq

Well dammit, I had a great paragraph all typed up, and somehow mozilla ate the page, so I have to start over again.

It's Saturday night in Iraq. Germany is kicking the crap out of Portugal for 3rd place in the world cup. Earlier the helicopters were out flying test firing their machine guns, and the night is crystal clear. I can look up and see THOUSANDS of stars (thanks Dr. Linder). Were it not for the 3/4 moon currently up I'm sure I could see the curve of the milky way across the roof of the sky.

Believe it or not I'm having to fight the battle of the waistline here in Iraq. Y'see our job is sedentary. We sit at a gate all day, sometimes we open it up, sometimes we walk around and do maintenance on a vehicle, but for the most part we sit, stare at eachother and sweat, alot. Now you can't stay conscious for very long unless you're replacing all the water you're sweating out, so we never lose that water weight. Add to that the fact that the food is good, and we get served lots and you have a recipe for disaster. So a group of us hits the road or the gym most every night. 45 minutes on the eliptical machine, running a few miles, throwing on a rucksack and going for a walk. Just trying to burn up those excess calories. I'm also having to discipline myself to stay to just one soda per day, and walk past the ice cream bar at the chow hall (thank god they don't have chocolate chip cookie dough, my favorite).

One of my squad leaders (I'm a section sergeant, so I have two squad leaders working under me) took a couple pictures immediately following a reaction force mission the other day, and I'm waiting for him to get them off his camera so I can post them up here. Once I have those I'll post up some shots of my room, and the compound where I live. Trust me, you won't feel sorry for me, it's plush.

Hey, Portugal just scored! WTH?

Anyway, that's Saturday night in Iraq. No beer, no babes, still no Ducati, but me, some good friends, and sights and sounds you couldn't find anywhere else in the world. Oddly enough it's good to be here.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Well, at least we had fireworks

This will be another quick one. It's about 9:20 in the morning and I need to get my gear on in a few minutes and get out the door.

Our Fourth was pretty quiet. We had a mortar attack, but it didn't land close enough to us to be much of a threat. It wasn't even very hot that day. In fact that last couple days have been nice and windy, which keeps the heat down.

After shift we had a little bar-b-cue in our pod (the collection of trailers where we live) with real stakes, real N/A beer and everything. Add the mortar attack from the morning and we had fireworks and everything.

I'm writing a story set in the future about the decline of traditional military organizations and the rise of private military contractors. Any writing advice from people who actually know what they're talking about would be helpful. I've written a couple pages of background. Should I outline the story first? Do I just go with the flow?

Well, time to pull on my boots and get out the door. Be well everyone, keep those letters and care packages coming.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Very brief

This'll be a quick one. It's about 9am on the 29th, and we've got guard mount in about an hour.

Cable TV is hooked up. So no more constantly buying DVDs in order to have something to watch. Now I just leave the TV going in the background. Plus I've gotten kind of hooked on the world cup.

I had a couple heat injuries earlier in the month. Dehydration/overheaing one day, and overhydration a couple days later. I'm now paying alot more attention to hydration, especially on the really hot days. On the worst days the sweat is running off of us like trees in a rainstorm. A person can get into trouble quickly in that environment.

The 'T' key on my lapop is sticking. I have to hammer on it a couple times in order for it to execute. Kind of annoying when you type as quickly as I do, and keep having to back up.

I can't believe June is almost over. Time really IS flying. We have zero plans for the fourth of July. Hopefully not much in the way of fireworks, as around here that usually indicates something bad. I'm sill waiting on the platoon sergeant to put out next week's schedule. I have a day off due some time in there, but not sure exactly when yet.

I think I'm going to start working on a story. I won't share too many of the ideas yet, but it's sort of a sci-fi/political type of thing. I'm no Robert Heinlein, or John Scalzi (a new favorite writer), but I'll NEVER be a writer at all if I don't actually write.

Time to start getting dressed up. Hope everyone is well.

By the way, here's my wishlist, in case anyone is interested

my amazon wishlist

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Random musings

Sorry it's been so long between entries. It's Tuesday night here in Iraq and to be honest things couldn't be any more normal. Lots of talk going on about the two soldiers captured at a checkpoint near Yousifiyah in the Sunni Triangle. Please everyone be comforted by the fact that it would be damned difficult if not impossible for such a thing to happen to any of my guys.

The first of the guys have started going home on leave. It seems like too soon to me. My leave isn't scheduled until early December. I picked late in our deployment so that I could come back and only have a couple months until we were all done. That and I wanted to have everything paid off, and just be saving money by that point.

I got my yahoo mail fixed. Just took several correspondences with the tech guys at yahoo, and some begging for help on my part and they squared it all away, so I'm back to my regular e-mail.

Just e-mailed Ducati Omaha about my motorcycle. We got prices straight and I'm planning to order a new 2007 Ducati Monster S2R around the same time we leave here so it should be ready for me to pick up when we get home.

Alfa Troop from our squadron (they were attached to a brigade combat team from Pennsylvannia) are just now arriving back in Mississippi and beginning the demobilization process. They've done one hell of a job over here, and I'm proud to know them. Unfortunately I still feel like I can't share the same pride in the job we're doing. Don't get me wrong, it's difficult, physically demanding but instead of dangerous it's merely tedious. We're just getting up going to work, suffering through the heat, and trying not to become complacent. If this is all we do while we're here, I'll feel no pride when we're done; merely relief at the completion of another in a series of interruptions to my life.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Just another Sunday

I got a care package from my Mom today. Lots of good stuff in there, candy, some lemonade mix (bottled water gets old fast), some magazines, DVDs, newspapers, mail from home and a squirt gun. I also got Ducati's annual catalog of their entire motorcycle product line. It's helpful to keeping up one's motivation.

I also got our Nebraska National Guard monthly newspaper, and in it was a poem written by the mother of one of our soldiers (Her name is Nan Fallon). I'm going to reprint it here, because I think it's pretty cool:

I sent My Son to War Today

I sent my son to war today; his best friend was at his side,

They used to play this game as kids, but in their game no one died.

With tears of fear and tears of pride I hugged him just one more time

Don't worry mom, I'm a soldier now, and I will be just fine

We've trained hard, and we've trained long, to keep you safe at night

It's my job, it's what I do, whether it's wrong or right.

You taught me well, to be a man, a year really isn't that long

Now YOU be tough, and YOU be brave, and YOU mom must be strong.

One million mom's have felt this way, wives and brothers and kin

Defending your country is an honorable job, to take another life a sin

Fields of glory and fields of honor are not just in those high school days

The battlefields of life and war is when it is time for all of us to pray.

Good bye my son, I will see you soon, be careful and be smart

I've never been more proud of you, I love you son, with every beat of my heart.

Nan's son is a soldier in my unit, he was attached to my mortar section for one of our live fire exercises, and I want his mom to know he's a good man, a good soldier, and someone I'm proud to have at my side.

Friday, June 9, 2006

I'm a new uncle!
Current mood: excited

My sister gave birth to my new nephew back on the 7th. New baby, mom, dad, and big sisters are all doing well. Now I'll have someone new to spoil half to death when I get home!

Additionally, my yahoo mail account was hacked around the same time. So anything anyone received from that address after the 7th, it wasn't me. Yahoo hasn't been any help getting this issue resolved, so I opened a new hotmail account instead. Just leave a comment, or message me here for that new address.

Internet is up and running in everyone's rooms now, so I'm a hero again.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Devil's Day?
Current mood: hot

Today is devil's day. What does that mean to us here at Anaconda? About the same thing as when its Valentine's Day or Memorial Day or Flag Day or whatever. Not a dang thing. If you asked half of my guys what day of the week it is they couldn't tell you. Some of them even get fuzzy on the date.

One of our sayings around here is "The hours drag, but the days fly". It seems like it can take a week to get through a single day, and yet sometimes when you do stop to look at a calendar you're amazed that its already June or whatever. This is commonly called the groundhog's day syndrome. The name of this malady is based on the Bill Murray movie from the early 90's where a news reporter is forced to live the same day over and over again until he gets it right and he's allowed to move on. He was working at redemption; we're just trying to reach a certain distant date on the calendar.

Weather here is getting pretty brutal. The guys who spend all day out in the sun and the heat in their body armor and helmets typically go through seven to ten bottles of water per day, and when we get back to our barracks after shift they usually look like the walking dead. Their uniforms are completely soaked through with sweat, and it can actually be uncomfortable stepping into your air conditioned room. We're pretty adamant about forcing our soldiers to drink enough water to keep going, but sweating through all that body armor still takes a toll. All this, and summer hasn't even officially begun yet!

How did the ancients do it? We have gore-tex, under-armor, and Kevlar, and if it weren't for the fact that we understand that we have to stay hydrated we'd be dropping like flies. How did a Greek or Roman soldier, whose kit weighs almost exactly what ours does spend all day on the march in the sun and possibly fight a three hour battle at the end? It sure seems as though weve softened up quite a bit in the last 2000 years.

Were making progress on the internet connection. After poring through the manuals I finally found the information I needed to start configuring our satellite modem. Of course this information was buried in the middle of chapter four which discusses some completely different and seemingly irrelevant concept. With any luck I can get back tonight and try again to get it connected.

Monday, June 5, 2006

How we got internet (I should know this, right?)
Current mood: busy

Its around 4pm, and here I sit at work. We sort of ease up on a few of our many details and relax a little bit. Just some basic vehicle maintenance, and clean-up stuff. None of our major construction projects.

I just bought a new DVD the other day, I dont know if anyones ever seen Boston Legal, but its just hilarious. Im sure some of the guys in the rooms connected to mine must think Im nuts hearing me laughing out loud in a little bitty room all by myself, but that show is just SO funny.

Now for a quick saga on our internet connection purchase. Some of the guys from third platoon (my mortar section is currently attached to our second platoon) went out wheeling and dealing to try and find the best bargain for a satellite internet system. They finally hooked up with some company out of Poland, and then getting the money to change hands and all that was even more complicated. Something about wire transfers, and currency conversions. Im pretty sure the whole deal ran to around $10,000. But when you split that up amongst forty people its really not so bad. But the company was dragging their feet getting us an invoice, then once we confirmed the invoice it took them almost a week to confirm the wire transfer of payment. Finally we found out all the equipment couldnt be shipped via US mail because the packages were too large. Understandable, as one of the components is a 1.2 meter satellite dish.

Well, the company in Poland decided to FedEx the stuff to us. This would be great except that for security reasons were not allowed to put the camp were on as part of our mailing address. So all they had was the name of some random staff sergeant, our unit and an APO address. Last week we got an e-mail from our vendor (Polish internet incorporated or something) saying the stuff had shipped and was sitting in the Fed Ex office in Baghdad. Wed need to make some kind of arrangements ourselves to get it from Baghdad to us.

Now Baghdad isnt much further away from us then Lincoln is from Omaha, but it might as well be the moon. We dont travel outside the wire, and if we did we certainly wouldnt be allowed to just up and decide that we need to go to the FedEx office in Baghdad.

But whats this? One of our extremely resourceful Sergeants (whos also an electrician in Fremont) discovered that theres a FedEx office on this very post. This shouldnt have been such a mystery to us, as we see airplanes with a huge red and blue FedEx printed on the side flying in and out of this place almost every day. So we decided to send him (our electrician sergeant from Fremont) over to the FedEx office and see if he could do anything to get our package to our location.

Well, theres good news and bad news. Apparently our package couldnt possibly BE in Baghdad, since according to the FedEx guys here on base theres no FedEx office IN Baghdad. Oh Crap! our guy thought, wondering where the hell our rather expensive equipment might be sitting right now.

Not to worry though. said the FedEx guy. Show me your tracking number and well see if we can determine where it really went.

We produced our tracking number, and computer keys clicked for a few moments. Well gentlemen, this is your lucky day. This immediately has us worried, as there dont really seem to BE many lucky days here in Iraq except the day you fly home. Your package is sitting in that shipping container right over there. In fact its been there for three days, and wed sure appreciate you getting it off our hands. So maybe there ARE lucky days in Iraq, theyre just few and far between.

Of course the package didnt ship completely, and running network cable to twenty plus different little hooches around our company area has proved to be a time consuming and somewhat thankless task (thank our electrician from Fremont, as he has done A LOT of work). Now one of my other sergeants whos a welder and metal worker (and amateur boxer) from Columbus is busy building us the framework on which well hang our satellite dish. Can anyone imagine just how hard it is to find three inch outside diameter heavy pipe on a camp in Iraq? Pretty freakin difficult, let me tell you!

So tonight instead of going to the gym Ill hopefully be configuring a router, and terminating a BUNCH of Cat5 cable, then (hooray) well have internet in our rooms!

I need to find my photobucket account so I can link some of the pictures Im taking of all this, and show them on my blog. Maybe thatll be mission number one when we get everything connected.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Gettin' all reflective

Its about 12:30 on June 2nd. I was just sitting here in my room reading, when I realize I could probably spend this time more productively by writing.

Back in October right before I left I invested some money in presents for myself. I bought this really kick-ass new watch, but I left that back in Nebraska so it wouldnt get thrashed here in Iraq (of course it got a little beat up during our first two months at Camp Shelby, but then so did I). Without a doubt however the best investment I made was my Ipod, and the time I spent pulling as much of my CD collection as I could onto it. So Im sitting here tonight, reading some half crappy fantasy book, but listening to songs that were taking me back to different times in my life. Something about late nights, hard days, and music can really bring about incidences of reflection.

Green Days album Dookie. That was around 1994. I was working at TGI Fridays (37 pieces of flair) and trying to go to school at the university. I can remember driving around campus in that beater little VW diesel blaring Green Day and The Offspring.

The Cult, Electric. Fun album for me. It was autumn of 1987, just months before I left for basic training. My friend Bill and I were regulars at the teen nights and clubs around Lincoln. Bills tastes were very pop, and I fancied I had some sort of pretentious college radio preferences. But The Cult and Georgia Satellites with their odd blend of southern rock, and a bit of metal, pop, and new wave flavors really appealed to me.

R.E.M. , Lifes Rich Pageant. One of my all time favorite albums. I was listening to it constantly the first time I was in college. I was so damn young, just seventeen when I started, and I had a seventeen year olds conviction that I was right, and knew everything. These were of course magnified by the fact that I was both somewhat bright, and somewhat lazy.

U2, and the Boy album. A bit tougher to pin down, but I always link I will follow to running somewhere on a cold day. I can hear Larry Mullen's amazing drum work, and at the same time I can see my breath in front of my face as I huff and puff through some obscure place going nowhere.

The Cranberries. Spain, 1992. I had the time of my life there. I was involved in community theater stuff (amazing since I lacked any actual talent in that arena), riding my motorcycle all over the place, and dating one beautiful Spanish woman after another. The song Dreams makes me think of three different girls whom I chased around at various times; Inma, Mercedes, and Paloma. Why did I ever leave there?

The Violent Femmes. This album is timeless. The Femmes, and the B-52s made some of my favorite music during my high school years. The Femmes actually swore, and talked about masturbation and stuff in their music! Add to that, their lead singers slightly whiny voice could easily have been mine.

Pantera, Vulgar Display of Power. Spain again, 1991. Running around the beach with Tony, going rock climbing, have I mentioned that Spain is a country absolutely packed FULL with beautiful women?

I also want to examine a little more what a 37 year old office working, YMCA going, pseudo-geek is doing as an infantry sergeant in combat. Well, the combat itself hasn't actually materialized, but I certainly volunteered and trained with the knowledge that it was the most probable outcome. The consensus of most of my brothers here is that once the bullets start flying we hope we'll continue to function effectively as we've been trained, but we still remain uncertain. At the same time few people Ive talked to have any real desire to court violence. Few people want to be shot at, and I'm not one of them. So why war as an avocation? Its certainly atypical when you examine the population as a whole. I think some of it stems from my fascination with military history, and hoping that my experiences with give me some kind of street-cred in my probably life-long study of politics, and politics by other means (war). I think there's some truth to this. I can think of a soldier standing under Hancock or Pickett, Patton or Peiper, Xerxes or Leonidas and understand a bit of what made them who they are. Better than a historian whose sole study of military history is confined to logistics, maneuver, and intelligence.

I had to go over to the east side today to take one of my soldiers to a soldier of the quarter board. While we were waiting around for the board to convene I got to sit at the internet, and surfed around for a bit. I found a blog sponsored by the journal star (Lincoln's daily newspaper) called the catty girl's something or other. At first I thought it was funny, then the triviality of their subject matter sort of pissed me off, then I thought the photos of one of the writers was pretty hot and looked a little deeper. Who am I to get pissed off because someone elses values dont match my own? Theyre doing no damage to me or anyone else. 99% of any person's life is made up of triviality, which is oxy-moronic if you think too hard about it. The moments that really matter are, for most people, few and far between, and often their importance isn't even realized until years later.

Im not sure I can look back right now and decide on the five most important moments in my life.

Well, it's 1am and I need to get up and fetch laundry tomorrow (there's a place on post that washes and folds it for free). So I'll sign off for now. Hopefully I can find this muse again, and maybe put some more important things on paper (ok, on electrons). The thing is, will I ever let anyone read it?

We'll close this up with The Screaming Trees Nearly Lost You. Its on the Singles soundtrack (my first Cameron Crowe movie). It was the end of 92 beginning of 93, and I was in Norfolk, VA. Carrying on a torrid affair with Debbie (who was just a wonderful woman), and waiting to separate from the Navy. Grunge was big, and I bought into it with a vengeance.

More to come