Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Carpentry Day
Current mood: busy

Today was carpentry day. We built a whole bunch of these shelf things to stack our extra gear on in our rooms. So I was out in the sun all day doing carpentry, which I enjoy. And my tan probably looks a little better. But its definitely getting hotter. I must've drank four bottles of water and only peed twice.

We moved shifts back an hour, so now we eat dinner out here instead of at the chow hall. Its kind of a pain in the ass, because my guys now have to go fetch both lunch AND dinner from the chow hall for the whole platoon, but its nice to eat here, then be all digested and ready to go to the gym when we get back from work.

Speaking of the gym I've been kinda slacking lately, so no milestones to share there. Tonight I have to rearrange my room to make room for this new shelf, so I intend to get back into the gym tomorrow night. I'll document my success or lack thereof as it comes along.

We also did a 'by serial number' inventory of everything I'm signed for here. Some of the serial numbers were not correct though, which means I havent been doing my job. Fortunately I wasn't actually missing anything, just some pieces/parts had gotten moved around without it being noted.

I've dug my camera out of my pack, and I intend to get some photos of my hooch (my room), my truck, and a few other things. I'll get em up soonest.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

So what's new and exciting on Camp Anaconda?
Current mood: bored

The weather's getting a lot warmer. Being out and about in all your gear takes a lot out of you. Mostly long ,boring, hot days, a few walkabouts here and there. Regular trips to the gym, and other little distractions here and there.

One of the benefits of being here is the availability of some of hollywood's newest releases on DVD for a very low price. Of course its a gamble as far as quality goes. Right now I'm watching 'Date Movie' and in the middle of the restaurant scene theres the shadow of some guy standing up and walking across the front of my TV. That and the frame isnt exactly centered. On the plus side Ive watched the entire seven series run of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', 'Lost' and HBO's 'Rome'. Of course you get what you pay for, no special features or director commentary, but it keeps you occupied.

Alot of the drivers moving cargo around Iraq are what we call third country nationals (TCNs). This means they're from a country other than Iraq or one of the coalition force nations. Most of them dont speak much if any English, but they've been working with coalition forces for a few years now, making a pretty good paycheck, and having pretty regular contact with mostly American troops. A lot of times one unit or another will sort of grow attached to a few of their drivers, and some inexpensive gifts are exchanged. The other night though we saw a very friendly Malaysian guy with a t-shirt he must have gotten as a gift from one of the convoy escorts. He was proudly displaying the American flag held by an eagle superimposed on the map of Iraq. It was the caption, though, that had all of us rolling on the floor laughing. We couldnt convince our interpreter to tell him what "My Boyfriend is Proudly Serving in Iraq" really meant. But man, he was lovin that shirt.

Friday, May 5, 2006

How I got to Iraq
Current mood: amused

Well, I talked to one of the public affairs guys yesterday, so I have a little more guidance on what Im allowed to post here on my blog.

This would probably be a good time to document our trip onto Anaconda from Kuwait.

We had spent two weeks at Camp Beuhring in Kuwait. We attended a few briefings, went to a firing range, and basically adjusted to the weather.

Finally we were given a date to depart. At 2345 that night we cleared all our stuff out of our tent, cleaned it up, and stacked our gear to load it onto a truck. At about 1AM the truck arrived. At 1:30 we loaded on busses and left Camp Beuhring to go to the airbase we were flying out of. A couple of hours later (I was asleep on the bus) we arrived.

At the departure base there's a big personnel holding area in some tents where we waited for our flight. It was supposed to depart around 8:00AM. Right around that time someone kicked my sleeping legs (plastic carpet covered plywood floors are no fun to sleep on) to let me know that our flight had been cancelled, and they were going to put us on a flight leaving at 10:00AM. Around 10:00AM I was awoken again and told we'd be leaving at noon. At this point I woke up for the day, ate some Otis Spunkmeyer muffins (blueberry), drank some water and watched a very beat up copy of Total Recall on a very beat up VCR.

At noon they told us wed been delayed again, and should know something around 1600. Around 1630 they admitted that they actually had no information on our flight. The First Sergeant who was leading our merry band then asked if they could get us on a bus to take us to a chow hall, as we were all getting a little tired of Otis Spunkmeyer muffins and water. The nice civilian lady told us no. Since they weren't sure of any information about our flight, they thought it possible it might arrive any moment, so we had to be ready.

Finally around 2200 they relented and decided to send us over to the main side of the base and put us up in tents to get some sleep. Of course our sleeping bags, shaving kits, clean underwear and all that stuff were loaded on a pallet sitting over on the flight line waiting for the apparently mythical airplane that would take us into Iraq.

Amazingly enough you can get some sleep on a regular mattress using a helmet for a pillow and body armor as a blanket.

We were told we had to be formed up and ready to get on a bus at 6am. No problem. So, there we were, sixty-some tired, hungry, unshaven soldiers standing waiting for a bus. 6:15, 6:20, 6:30. I don't know if anyone's ever noticed this, but early morning in Kuwait can be kind of cold. Especially when youre body's used to 100 degree temperatures, and you've just spent the night sleeping under a blanket of body armor.

At 6:45 the busses show up and take us back to the personnel holding area. I choked down another Otis Spunkmeyer muffin (I'll be thrilled if I never have to eat one of those again) and waited for a couple of hours. Then the thrill of a lifetime, they public address system announces our unit's flight number! We form up, have a roll call, everyone goes to the bathroom, and then we load up busses and head out to the flight line. But what's this? We pull up to the airplane and it looks VERY quiet. Ooops, someone has made a mistake. Theres no crew for this aircraft. We do a quick check and none of us know's how to fly a C-130, so we go back to the holding area again. At this point I can't even look at the muffins.

11:00 rolls around and they announce our flight number again. We're insured there's a crew for the aircraft so we board our busses and head out to the flight line. Sure enough, skinny guys with long hair (well, long hair compared to us) in little tan flight suits are running busily all around the airplane. It looks like we may finally be on our way! Onto the plane we stomp. Fitting sixty some soldiers and two pallets of equipment onto a C-130 is a riot of pushing, cramming, shoving, yelling and getting closer to your fellow man then you thought possible, but we got it done. The engines start up, we taxi, the little ramp in the back of the plane rolls up, the plane picks up speed, and were in the air! And were bouncing around. And were sitting sideways crammed in like no coach class passenger has ever had to deal with. And we're getting air sick. After about ten minutes we hear some odd thumps and clunks over the drone of the airplane's engines, and we start to descend. Surely we're not there already. But we land, and as we get out of the plane everything looks very familiar. Yeah, the aircraft developed engine trouble on take off, so we landed again.

Back to purgatory. Oh, I mean the personnel holding area. No muffins, please for the love of god dont let there be muffins! Three more hours pass by. The whole time weve been waiting, other units have showed up, roll called, and gotten on their airplanes. But for some reason we cant have their seats. Oh no, were consigned to an eternity of woe. The torment of four bad movies watched over and over on a tiny TV set you cant really hear, lukewarm bottled water, and muffins. Hateful, evil little dry plastic wrapped muffins.

But what's this? The teasing voice of the public address system calls to us once more. Were forming up again, so we have to leave our sacrificial bonfire of muffins behind. Its the same airplane we notice on the drive up, but the ground crew happily explained (in terms we can't possibly understand) why its all better now. They've given it some form of C-130 physical therapy, and now it will get us where we're going.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Were back on the plane, still crammed in sideways when I spot a muffin. Some moron actually likes them. He's brought one on the aircraft with him, and now I realize were all doomed! But no! We take off, we fly, we belch and fart, and try to sleep. Then were told its going to be an assault landing by the kindly little hippy looking guys in flightsuits. Whats an assault landing? we wonder naively.

Then the plane drops out of the sky like a really heavy thing that drops out of the sky. Everyones already queasy stomachs rocket to the roof while our bodies stay belted to the nylon web seats. Diving, screeching toward the ground we go. From the smell I think its entirely possibly that someone has made a mess in their fancy under armor drawers. I just hope it wasnt me. Banking, turning, climbing, descending. Its the roller coaster ride of Satan. And just when we think it cant get any worse we bounce in for one of the best landings I've ever felt. Sort of anti-climactic really.

Obviously we're at LSA Anaconda. That's in central Iraq north and west of Baghdad. I work on an entry control point. Thats the part of the base where vehicles enter and exit. I'm the Sergeant of the Guard for the portion of the entry control point that searches vehicles and people in order for them to access the base. I don't go outside the wire, basically I'm a fobbit. But there's a Burger King and gourmet coffee stand 400 yards from my barracks. Hard to believe, but my paycheck does say Im in a combat zone.

Welcome to war in the 21st century.