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