Friday, November 23, 2007

Sorry so non-prolific

Almost a month since I've written anything here.

I'm ensconced in Springfield, MO taking full advantage of my father and his wife Joy's considerable hospitality. I'll never understand people who resent or don't get along with their families. Mine is wonderful, and I'm both proud and pleased to be descended from them. If that sounds a bit too Eddie Haskell, well tough shit.

I'm enjoying putting on a few (or ten) holiday pounds, but working them off after the new year is likely to be challenging to say the least. I'll be Mr. Self-Help fitness guy again at that point, and probably insufferable in my certainty that I'm always right, and I'm working harder than anyone else in here. No, I still don't intend to go to Ranger School this summer, or ever, but I might as well get back into the kind of shape where such a thing isn't just a cruel joke.

Lots of full weekends with work stuff, Army stuff, family stuff, and more Army stuff. My Guitar Hero controller sits woefully underused by my TV, and as you can see my blog suffers from lack of attention as well.

I need to sit still for a bit and think of something good, something important to write. It was a six hour drive down here (which I did in five hours fifteen minutes thank you very much) and I was full of ideas which flew right out of my head as soon as I turned off the engine and stepped out of the little green truck.

Zombies, Soldiers, interstellar princes and pirates beware. My imagination will once more flow with dangers and trials to quell the heart of any Cimmerian or Jedi.

Happy Thanksgiving too all my friends and family.

Thanks Tosca, you rule.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stun Gunned by Shatner!

I just watched the guy who beat me out for the 7th grade school play get stun gunned by William Shatner!

Here, you can see it too:

His name is Jim Hanna. It's been kinda fun seeing him here and there, in tv shows like Angel and Bones, Alias, and Malcom in the Middle.

Here's his IMDB page:

So look for Jim sometime. I haven't really spoken to him in years, I doubt he'd remember much about me at all, but when I knew him he was a hilariously funny, and all around good guy.

I hope for his continued success, and maybe at our 25 year reunion I won't have to be in some far flung war torn corner of the world, and I can say hello.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The folly of believing you're a nice guy

What does it even mean? It's a rant I've run across often on single's message boards and support forums.

"Women don't like nice guys, they only want bad boys." opined a mid-twenties gentleman from the upper midwest.

Sorry there bucko, but you're incorrect.

Here's some facts about women that I don't think are far over reaching.

1. Women like men. (well, most of them do)
2. Even women who say they hate men, actually secretly still like men.
3. Women are not as confusing or as hard to understand as most men, or women, think.

Confidence fellas. That's the bottom line.

Women don't like bad boys because they're bad. They like them because they believe in themselves, and are willing to stand apart from the crowd and be their own person. They demonstrate what women perceive (often correctly, but not always) as strength of character.

Often nice guys talk about how they'll do anything for a woman they love, only to be relegated to the purgatory of the friend zone.

Think about this. A woman doesn't respect a man who will wait on her hand and foot for no other purpose than to be in her presence. How could a man even respect himself in that situation?

As a man, who do you respect most? What qualities about a person would cause you to admire someone's character and their ability? Women admire strength, achievement, prowess, and intelligence just like men do. The only difference is that confidence and accomplishment is to a woman what cleavage is to a man.

So think on it fellas. Next time you're indulging in the 'nice guy' rant. Besides your ability to be a footstool or lackey for the woman you're attracted to, what do you bring to a relationship?

Go out and accomplish something. And then believe in your own excellence based on that/those accomplishments. You don't have to be the alpha male, necessarily, but you DO have to believe in and like who you are.

Shifting Gears

I've been home from Iraq for four months now. My feet are pretty firmly replanted on the ground, my career is re-established, and I feel pretty good. While this is definitely something to be happy about, there's also the side effect of an absolute lack of drama or anything interesting to write about.

Therefor I'm going to attempt to write an advice column full of my bullshit philosophical meanderings on the subjects of dating, and establishing the social duties of manhood in the 21st century.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Opening Day

Very fun times in Lincoln, NE! My best friend from like 7th grade onward found a job here, and finally moved back from Chicago. So, yay! Best friend back, and that rules.

As a bonus he has Husker season tickets, and I get to go to games with him occasionally. Like yesterday, opening day. Huge crowds of people wearing red. I'm a pretty rabid Husker fan, not nearly as bad as some, but I do love my football.

It was also neat seeing two of my fellow Soldiers from my unit in Iraq on hand to open the doors when the team ran onto the field. I was sorely tempted to ring one's cell phone while he was standing there on the big screen, but I thought that might be a little cruel.

Great game, though. The team had some kinks to work out in the first quarter, but they were executing with precision by the end of the half. The second half was just an absolute domination. I'm hoping this will be a big year for the guys, they really deserve it.

So after the game I got home, put some lotion on the sunburn (why do I never remember sunscreen?) and relaxed for awhile. Eventually I noticed that I was hungry so I headed for my favorite neighborhood sports bar, Heidelberg's. Normally when I go out alone for dinner I just sit at the bar and watch whatever games are on, but the bar was full and the only table where I could see the TVs (they have like 30 of them) was a pretty large one down front.

Well, it was late I'm on my own so I just grabbed a seat at the far end of the table. I'd made my order (guinness and barbecued ribs) when a young man dressed like an abercrombie and fitch model paused at my table, "Hey, we're having a wedding party and I wonder if you'd mind moving to another table since this is the only one we'll all fit into."

I'm happy to oblige, and pretty easy going. No worries. I moved to the next table over sharing it with a bunch of other fans doing the same thing I am (drinking, eating, and regretting their lack of sunscreen foresight). I watched the 'wedding party' come in. It was obvious he wasn't making things up. It was an evenly gender balanced group, and the young woman I'm guessing was the bride had some flowers woven into her hair. All very nice, but I couldn't help notice that the rest of them were dressed like characters from a hollister, GAP, or A&F commercial.

I'm a pretty informal guy, no doubt. But even I don't think I'd go so far as to have my wedding reception at the sports bar. But at least they got to watch Kansas State lose, and a rookie pitcher for the Red Sox throw a no-hitter in his second major league start.

All in all I'd call the evening a success.

Now its on to housework!

MTFBWY (and me too)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Happenings and Goings On

Currently I'm watching the Cubs attempt to lose a game to the Brewers. It's 1-1 for the series, and my Cubbies really need to win this one. So...everyone get your rootin' hats on.

So things with the therapist didn't really go that well. I don't honestly know what I expected to hear, but hearing that there's essentially nothing wrong with me that time and a bit of determination won't cure wasn't it. Strangely enough my displeasure over this encounter has re-animated me.

In my kitchen I've always had a dry erase board that I mostly use for keeping notes, to-do lists, phone numbers and the like. The day after my therapy session I wiped it clean and got restarted.

The list of things to do is broken down one by one. The house is being thorougly cleaned one room at a time. Kitchen, living room, guest bathroom, office/guest bedroom, my bathroom, my bedroom. So far I've made it to guest bathroom, but my apartment is already looking alot more liveable. As long as whoever stays out of the 'unclean' areas then I think I'm OK.

I made another list. The therapist said I needed to reconnect with life, and to do so I'd have to establish some things I feel passionate about, and set some goals.

I've always been a fan of the action hero movie genre so I asked myself this question: "Conan, what is best in life?"

I came up with the following answers:

To feel your heart beat strong in a body fit enough to achieve greatness.

To imagine wondrous things, and communicate these imaginings to others.

To be at peace in one's castle. The responsibilities of life mastered, relaxation your only aim.

I also wrote the following in black marker at the very top:

Get up, you are a man. Not an oxygen/glucose conversion factory.

So far so good. I'm not wasting every day, and I try each day to do SOMETHING productive, no matter how small.

I did however lose my prized and pricey Oakley sunglasses somewhere. If anyone's seen them, drop me a note.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

WTF is the matter with me?

Sunday a buddy and I went for a long ride. As many twisties as we could find in SE Nebraska (not many) some speed, some sun, some cheeseburgers. It was a good time.

After about five hours of hard pushing and pulling on the Ducati I was very happy to park it. I pulled into my garage, hit the kill switch and parked it for the day.

Monday morning I had a dentist appointment. Moving around a little slowly. Sore and resigned to another week back at civilian work, I grabbed my helmet and headed back out to my garage. Key in, bike in neutral, mash the starter button and nothing. WTH? Shift down to first, and back into neutral and mash again. Nothing. Pull in clutch. Nada. What the hell?

Well, Ducatis have this strange key setting. If you turn the key all the way past steering lock you can turn on the tail light for some reason known only to Italians. I didn't think I'd done this, but I've already turned the key so that must be what happened. I drive my truck to the dentist.

Monday night I run by Menards and grab a trickle charger ($70). I get home and suffer my usual emotional zero once stepping in the door. Once the work shoes are off and I find myself on the couch I can hardly get up the energy to move. So, the bike sits wanting for attention.

Tuesday, work again, but some friends of mine have been on my case about my lethargy/slothfullness and tell me to take this online test about depression. I do. I win.

Oddly enough knowing that I'm not just some loser but might actually just be having some adjustment issues perks me up a bit. I write a blog entry. It gets a lot of positive comments from friends and family. I feel better about myself. Then I get home and *kabang* into the dumpster again. WTF is wrong with me? Why do I suck so much? I'm just a terrible miserable person who's taking up space and oxygen that most other people could probably use alot more effectively.

Wednesday, up and off to work. Caffeinated. Busy busy day at the office. Everything's crashing, everything's going wrong. I love it! I'm doing stuff, I'm fixing things, I'm having an impact and my work and intellect are making things better. Yay, I'm a winner.

I leave work kind of manic and decide tonight the bike gets fixed dammit. Out I go and disconnect the battery. Easy peasy. Hook the battery to the charger (after having to go buy tools, no metric sockets $150). Wow, it only took about thirty minutes to reach full charge. That's one hell of a charger!

I take the now charged battery back out to the bike and hook up. This requires a little more 'tongue out the side of the mouth' dexterity and some swear words but eventually the battery is mounted and I'm feeling good.

The key is in, lights look good. I mash the starter button. The EXACT same thing! WTF? I know I need to head in for the 750 mile break-in service, but they wouldn't cause the bike to fail to start due to late maintenance. I'm sitting there staring at the handlebars when I notice the kill switch on the right handlebar. Oh. The setting it's on has a little ghostbuster's line through it.

I mash the kill switch the other way and va-ROOM. One sweet sounding V-Twin waking up the neighbors (OK, it's like 7:30pm the neighbors are likely fine). So, now I feel idiotic again. $70 worth of battery charger, $150 in a socket set (well, if you're gonna get a socket, might as well buy a whole good quality set, right?) all because I forgot I'd shut the bike down with the kill switch instead of the key Sunday afternoon. And...I feel worthless again.

That therapist had better have something pretty damn good to say to me next week, 'cuz I do NOT like myself much right now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Breaking the cycle

Everyone always asks me, either question one or shortly thereafter; "So, how are you adjusting." Generally I give the same reply. "Eh, it's some changes, but I'm doing OK."

And honestly I am. Mostly.

But there are things that are giving me problems. Once I get home from work I'm lazy as hell. Typically I'll settle onto the couch, turn on the TV, fire up my laptop and watch televsion and surf the internet until I'm too hungry to avoid dinner any longer. So I'll cook something. Usually something pretty easy. Pasta and ragu sauce, burgers on the Foreman, microwave a couple hot dogs. Whatever. Eventually it's after 10pm and I'm starting to get tired for some inexplicable reason. So it's off to bed I go. I'll read for an hour or so, watch more TV, then eventually turn off the lights and try to sleep until my alarm goes off. The next morning starts this cycle all over again.

My house is a mess full of dirty clothes, I manage to dishes often enough to keep the place from smelling but there's usually a day or twos worth in the sink all the time. My motorcycle battery is dead, I really enjoyed going out and buying a new battery charger that now sits on the floor in my entry way, decidedly NOT charging my battery.

So I'm being not just lazy, but really monumentally lazy. A mountain of chores and tasks sit awaiting my attention. And I avoid them, procrastinate, and sink into self-loathing.

I don't usually post like this, I don't like admitting that I need help with anything. I guess I probably just need a kick in the ass, but I seem incapable of giving it to myself. I'm a couch potato with a dirty house, a dirty truck, and a motorcycle that won't start. So how do I break out of this? Where do I get my kick in the ass?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


I've been keeping a blog on myspace for about a year and a half now. I'm going to try to import it over to here. How successful I'll be remains to be seen.

I'm a 38 year old National Guardsman. A citizen soldier, which is why I chose 'American Hoplite' as my name.

I'm a big aficionado of the classical period of history. I think I became interested in it back in 1996 when I read Steven Pressfield's excellent historical novel 'Gates of Fire'. If you haven't read this book yet, you really need to pick it up. It's an excellent and timeless insight into the minds and emotions of Soldiers.

I hope to put up entries of great import, or at least something interesting. Or at a minimum stuff that doesn't make me sound too moronic.

Thanks for reading thus far, and I'll see everyone in the cybersphere.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I just don't understand men/women/martians
Current mood: good
Category: Romance and Relationships

Probably the most cliche'd concept in American society is the battle of the sexes, and our lack of ability to understand one another. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Women must follow 'The Rules' men should live by 'The Code'.

Here's the thing my friends. There IS no understanding of men or women in a larger general sense. You can't pigeonhole every man or woman together as a gender and hold them all accountable for the same type of behavior.

Men are dogs, women are manipulative. Bullshit. Allowing yourself to believe such a thing is going to perpetuate a cycle of loneliness and misery that you really don't want to indulge in.

No one is special, no one person is entitled, but each person is unique and should be judged individually without all the baggage one has acquired from past dealings with their gender.

If you're consistently being treated poorly or improperly by members of the opposite sex then I submit that the opposite sex might not be the problem. Look to your own behavior. Might be something there.

Well, thanks for reading my rant. If you're gonna disagree let's go ahead and get a comment war started. I know I'm right and am prepared to defend my position.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Vegas baby, the aftermath
Current mood: tired
Category: Life

Well, that was fast but alot of fun. Next time I think I'll try to stay for longer than two days. The craps tables at New York, New York were very generous, and I'm not really that good a player. Pretty conservative. But the thing with craps is you always go up at some point. I'd play for an hour or two, only risking about $200 and when I'd get up another hundred or so I'd say hey, I think I'm gonna go to the piano bar and grab a beer, or coyote ugly and watch the over rated bartenders be coy and attempt to be rude.

There was ALOT to see, and alot of being seen. I'm not Mr. Fashion, but I could tell I was out of place in my midwest cargo shorts, camp anaconda t-shirt, and new balance tennis shoes. So off to 'Fashion Show Mall' I went and thanks to some very nice sales girls at Macy's my craps table winnings went into some very nice brand name clothes. ($44 for a t-shirt?). But at least I know I looked good. I'm hoping women were staring because my arms and shoulders looked good in the tight t-shirt, not because I had something hanging from my nose.

I ate at the required NY NY eateries, Il Fornaio, Nine Fine Irishmen, and Starbucks. I wandered all OVER the strip. Unfortunately on my first night there my brain made a decision my feet couldn't back up. I walked about four miles up the strip from NY NY to Treasure Island in my flip flops. I've got blisters that would make a Ranger School student grimace.

After that I discovered 'The Deuce' which is a double decker bus going up and down the strip. Lots easier to sit on the second floor as the bus moves around and decide where you want to go next from there.

There will be another Vegas trip, and I will have more fun. But I think I slept maybe 4 hours the entire weekend, and one night of hard crashing at home has not yet helped me catch up.

So that's it in brief. Many little details I'm forgetting once more. I really need to take notes of all the odd little things that happen.

Oh yeah, I have a garage so the Ducati has a safe, dry place to sleep. And I promised the girls in the leasing office they could have a ride tomorrow.

Back to work on Wednesday, I'll let everyone know how that goes.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

A warrior no more?

Let's be upfront here at the front. I was not some iconic, steely eyed, larger than life warrior with bronze cuirass, shield, and spear. I was an average to slightly below average example of the typical American combat soldier in Iraq. But even that was fulfilling in its own way.

Now I'm home, and with any luck won't be putting on the uniform bound for a combat zone anytime soon if ever again. Now that I'm safe, and comfortable, well fed, and showering indoors I'm of mixed emotions about this. Iraq was hot, dirty, uncomfortable, and very occasionally dangerous. But despite the complexity of the overall mission, we had clarity of purpose. Defend our position, find the bad guys, protect those under our care, and take care of our soldiers.

I love my regular civilian job. Problem solving, research, helping people utilize the technology available to maximize their productivity. I can't wait to get back to it, especially after a good meeting with my boss yesterday morning.

But I'm going to miss that clarity. The danger, the excitement, and the comradeship. I wonder if this is something all veterans experience. Or are most of them just happy to be home and that's the end of it?

Well, I need to get some laundry done, and maybe go buy some new clothes for the trip to Vegas tomorrow (alone, my date canceled on me).

Take care, and may the force be with you.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Chapter 'the next'

Wherein our hero attempts to readjust, has some fun, spends alot of money, and has yet to kiss the pretty girl.

Today's July 4th. We've been home for a little over a week now.

I'm getting pretty good at driving around without poopin' myself everytime there's a bag or large chunk of trash alongside the road.

Fireworks are....interesting. During the daylight hours it's not really a big deal. Firecrackers don't really sound anything like small arms fire, so I thought it wouldn't be a big deal. Then I was standing outside last night with all the fireworks going off and that kind of got my attention a little bit. When I'm nervous or whatever I tend to put a wall directly to my back and get kind of hyper-vigilant. I was fine again as soon as I went inside. I wouldn't call it a disorder or anything, just a readjustment.

What else have I done with my time at home? My best friend Scott drove down from Chicago to hang out and kind of drive me around. He also brought me two kick-ass Motorola cell phones. It's funny about those friends you have from when you were young. We sat down and started talking and it was like no time had passed.

I've driven my motorcycle around quite a bit, and yesterday I went and invested in a 'passenger' helmet. It's not as fancy as the Arai that I wear over my bean, but it's still a good safe solid helmet. And it should fit over the pretty girl's heads when I start giving rides.

I also (brace yourselves) started the process to buy a house. I got my mortgage pre-approved for an excellent rate (way better than I thought I'd get with my checkered economic past) and no down payment and the payments while more than what I'm paying in rent aren't really all that bad.

I was planning on hanging out at the pool today, but it's 10:20 and I'm still kind of sitting in bed. I think I'm gonna go grab some starbucks and see what develops from there.

So many things I'm leaving out. My mom threw me a great homecoming party and I think everyone in Lincoln showed up. A very good buddy from Iraq now lives two doors down from me in my apt complex, another lives a couple miles away. So I've got friends in the neighborhood, which is very comforting.

I'll close this up for now and go try to enjoy my day.

Thanks all, and may the force be with you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What did it all mean?

I wrote this on my blackberry while on the bus from Wisconsin to our homecoming in Lincoln, NE.

We've been up all night, and we're too excited to sleep now. There are about 400 Harley Davidson's bracketing our convoy of busses. It's crazy.

I find myself, however, sitting and wondering what it all meant. The deployment, the danger, the depridation, the detachment. Did we make a difference? Sadly I think I have to say 'No'.

I've now served in two countries trying to recover from the effects of generations under totalitarian regimes. Much like slavery dictatorship can rob people of all that is best in them. Under totalitarianism men are robbed of industriousness, individuality and that spirit of sua sponte which is necessary to live in and grow a healthy culture.

Dictatorship oppresses, stifles, coddles, and eventually crushes the spirit of its citizenry. Until such time as the Iraqis discover self determination as a culture they will be lost to democracy and the benefits of western culture and economy.

They may yet discover these things for themselves. They can't be shown them. I doubt, though, that this is going to happen next year or even next generation. There exists too much culture inertia thanks to Saddam, the Ottoman Turks, and Islam, and not enough necessity to change them at this point.

But my time there is done and now I'm home. I doubt I'll be going back. The writing is on the wall and I fear our feeble efforts will probably be recorded as an overall failure in nation building.

I guess it's best not to dwell on the negatives. Instead I'm going to get on my motorcycle, talk to a pretty girl, and try to recover my own life.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Here we go again...

20 Mar 2006

..> ..>

Here we go
Current mood: determined

"When a man seats before his eyes the bronze face of his helmet and steps off from the line of departure, he divides himself, as he divides his 'ticket' into two parts. One part he leaves behind. That part which takes delight in his children, which lifts his voice in chorus, which clasps his wife to him in the sweet darkness of their bed.

"That half of him, the best part, a man sets aside and leaves behind. He banishes from his heart all feelings of tenderness and mercy, all compassion and kindness, all thought or concept of the enemy as a man, a human being like himself. He marches into battle bearing only the second portion of himself, the baser measure, that half which knows slaughter and butchery and turns the blind eye to quarter. He could not fight at all if he did not do this."

-Stephen Pressfield Gates of Fire

"Looking darkly upon Hector, swift footed Achilles answered, 'I cannot forgive you. As there are no trustworthy oaths between men and lions, there can be no love between you and me. Before then to glut with his blood, Ares, the god who fights under the shield's guard. Now the time comes for you to be a spearman and a bold warrior. You will pay in a lump for all the sorrows of my companions you have killed in your spear's fury.'

-Homer The Illiad

Here we go. Pass time is over, weapons are back on our shoulders, and very soon it's off to war we go. I'll keep the photos coming as much as possible. Keep us in your thoughts and your hearts.

15 months ago we set out anxious to give a good account of ourselves, accomplish the missions set before us, and take care of each other.

It's been a long fifteen months. In August of last year we lost Sergeant First Class Jeff Hansen when his truck rolled into a canal. He was medevac'ed to Germany where he passed away a few days later, his family at his side. Less than a week after that while escorting a convoy from Tikrit to Balad the humvee driven by Sergeant Germaine Debro was struck by an IED. He was flown from the attack site to the hospital here on Anaconda . He died there while the rest of his team sorted out the chaos and completed their mission.

It was, I believe everyone's greatest wish to come home with all the soldiers we left with. Sadly, this won't be the case. Their memories will live on.

Fifteen long months enduring heat, cold, wet, and dry. It seems like everything imaginable fell from the sky on us. Rain, hail, sleet, mud, mortars, rockets, and who knows what else.

Well, the Cavalry is coming home. Lock up your daughters, your beer, and judging by the expressions on some of my comrades it might not be a bad idea to secure your livestock as well. It's mission accomplished for us. We'll see you all when the bar opens. First round is on me.

Garry Owen!


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Movin' on out!

Time's flying by now! We're out of our old pods and living in temporary housing (open bay barracks again, but not for too long). Things are going well, and we should be on our way to the next step in our Oddyssey soon. Not real soon, or very soon, but soon.

Hope all's well with everyone back there! Stay in touch, and we'll see you all sometime next month!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Are we there yet?
Current mood: geeky

Einstein told us that as an object approaches the speed of light in relation to its starting point that time compresses, and the perception of the passage of time is lengthened for the object traveling at speeds approaching c.

Relativity also tells us that as an object approaches the speed of light it gains mass. So is the distorted time sense a product of mass itself? If so, does time pass at a different rate outside the gravity well of a planet or a star? Since mass creates gravity, and causes space to warp, does it also affect time and cause it to warp as well?

Does that mean that events that have a great deal of gravity (like us getting the hell out of here) also alter our perception of the passage of time as we approach these events?

I need to study some more physics. Maybe that'll tell me why it seems to take forever for events like Christmas mornings, dates with pretty girls, and plane rides out of a combat zone always seem to take longer to arrive than events like physical fitness tests, doctors visits, or performance evaluations at work.

Oh well.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Winding Down

The end is most definitely nigh.

Guys are selling off their TV sets, DVD players, refrigerators, microwaves, and other miscellania. We're also trying to sell our satellite system. If it goes for the price we want it's going to most likely be grabbed and sold right off. I'll try and put a last post out before I disconnect it all and pack it up.

Some of the guys and I are talking about going to a motorcycle 'rally' in Iowa at the end of June. We couldn't get hotel rooms, so we'll probably just spread bags out and camp.

After that I'll be packing up and heading to Vegas for a few days. I'm sure I'll spend some money at the tables, see a few shows (Monty Python's Spamalot is playing there somewhere, as well as Penn & Teller), and just relax by a pool.

Eventually I'll find myself back at my desk, going to Starbuck's every morning on the way to the office, and resetting people's passwords. That's going to be a mental gear shift that I'm honestly sort of nervous about.

I'm also planning to go back to school at Bellevue University. Their website is more than a little confusing, and a degree program that I had been interested in suddenly isn't on the curriculum any more, so I imagine I'll have to sit down with an advisor there and plot my course. I've got alot of education benefits that I can use up, so I might as well put in some work of my own and get something out of it.

Tomorrow is the dedication of an IED training area here on the base. I'll be acting as the master of ceremonies, and one of my buddies will take a few pictures for me. I'll post some as soon as it's all over. Now there will be both the Tricia Jameson Troop Medical Clinic and the Germain Debro IED Training Lane on this post. That's two facilities on this base alone named for Nebraska National Guardsmen. It's an honor certainly, but I'd still rather have DB coming home with us.

I've got my final blog entry from here already written, I'm just waiting for the time to be right to post it. When you see that, you'll know we'll be home soon!

Miss you all and see you soon.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Morals and ethics of a secular guy

As many people know I'm not a follower of organized religion, not very spiritual, and could probably best be described as agnostic or humanist.

I was asked during a discussion the other night from where I draw my morals if not from an organized faith. I responded that I'd made my own ethics/morality up based on my own life experiences.

Here they are:

My moral/ethical codes:

"And it harm none, do as you will." – The Wiccan Rede

Do your duty as you perceive it, don't shirk, don't whine.

Every day is a new day, every challenge a new opportunity to do the right thing. The right thing is typically to do the best work you possibly can. Don't despair yesterday's failures, look ahead to today's opportunities.

Smile at people.

Do not corrupt the innocent.

Punish the guilty.

Protect the weak.

Do or do not, there is no try.

Around the survivors a perimeter create.

Be brave.

Do SOMETHING, anything. Inaction can still lead to a solution, but if you don't participate in the process how will you know if it's the correct solution?

Make a sandwich and enjoy the sunset.

That's it. No other news to report right now. Every day gets us perceptibly closer to coming home. It's a happy thing, but man it's frustrating. Like a kid waiting for Christmas morning, we want to be on that big airplane right NOW! Oh well. See everyone soon.


Monday, May 7, 2007

Another entry about nothin'

We're sitting in temporary billeting now. Twenty-five guys sleeping elbow to elbow in a not very big room, all of us with too much time on our hands. It's amazing we haven't gotten ourselves in any real trouble yet. Those planes had better get here soon!

Nothing much earth-shattering to report. It's a long walk to the shower, the food in this chow hall isn't as good as the one on the other side where we used to live, and I'm trying (and failing) not to spend too much money at the PX in my boredom.

We have an internet connection available, but you have to walk about 3/4s of a mile to get to it, and that's kind of brutal in the heat of the day. We usually wait until after sunset to make our way over here. Definitely not as convenient as having one at your bedside like in our old hooches.

It's going to get kind of strange having both a bathroom, cable TV, internet, and a kitchen all in one place. Lots of things I'm sure I'm going to need readjusting to, but it's the little stuff that I can't even imagine right now that I'm certain will cause the most stumbles.

It's been interesting as well boiling everything I own down to few enough items to fit into a ruck sack, a duffle bag, and a carry-on backpack. I also have a pelican case for my laptop, but since I can't fit much in it besides my laptop I'm not sure it counts. Underwear and t-shirts become disposable in such circumstances. There's a towel, and a pair of desert boots that also aren't going to last past the final pack-out. Nothing like getting out of a combat zone to really make you evaluate which stuff is important. The answer seems to be 'not much'.

It'll probably be close to the end of June for our homecoming. Family and friends I'm sure have already been invited to my Mom's the following Saturday for BBQ and beer, and probably showing off the new motorcycle. I can't wait to bounce the nieces and nephew around a bit, and just sit around in shorts and a t-shirt.

Not much else to say right now. I just realized I hadn't posted in awhile, and thought that even no news would be good news. It has to be better than nothing at all, right?

I want a lightsaber!

Yay, I have four days off from work in a row! Due to the extension we all get a four day pass in addition to our 15 day R&R leave. I elected to take my four day pass here rather than pack a bag and live in a tent in Qatar for four days.

I'm starting off my pass with a six movie Star Wars marathon. I've just decided that the one material possession I believe I would prize over any others is a lightsaber. Not one of these flashlights with the plastic tube, or a Hollywood replica. No, I mean a real functional lightsaber. How cool would that be?

Geez, I'm such a nerd.

I'm going to pack out a couple footlockers tomorrow. Then I may take a nap around two, followed by something tasty (or at least as tasty as is available here) for supper, then an extended nap later in the day.

I'm practicing for my first couple of weeks after I get home. I'll be sure to let everyone know how the relaxation goes.


Friday, May 4, 2007

Here it comes

Getting out of here a little early may actually mean we're getting out just in time! Oh, I don't mean heavy duty insurgent activity or anything like that. From what I can see things are relatively calm around here in that regard. No, I mean the dreaded Iraq summers.

Here's the weather underground page for Balad, Iraq. As you can see it's already getting up close to 120 by the end of the week. At least I work nights, so I don't have to be out in body armor anymore during the worst of it (I was on day shift last summer).

Of course we'll still have plenty of day time work to get done to get out of here on time, but we'll just drink water and muddle through like always.

See everyone soon!


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Interesting News

I can't give out any real information yet, but I can say this.

Do not send any mail to me here in Iraq after May 15th. In fact probably better if no one sends me any more mail here from now on.

No word on exactly when we're out of here, but it's likely to be sooner than we had expected.

Temptation you evil wench

Well, I have tonight off duty.

Every time I have a day off I always go buy a pizza to sort of celebrate. Today was no different. The little pizza hut (shack) is right next to the PX so I wandered in there while I was waiting on my pie (medium supreme with extra cheese). What should my weak-willed eyes behold? A shelf full of Playstation 3's. Only ten were left.

I wandered around, grabbed a movie, a magazine, some snacks and then wandered back by the shelf of PS3's. Only 5 were left. I am weak. I brought the number available down to four. It was $600, but I'm pretty sure I'll use it when I get home. The only problem is since my room is already overloaded on electronics (our satellite modem and all our network switches run from there) that as soon as I plugged in the PS3 before it was even powered on it kicked over my circuit breaker.

Well, maybe I can find a different circuit to run it on. No hurry, no worries. I can feel some stress evaporating already!


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Things to do before one dies

Apparently there's a rather popular book making the rounds titled something like '1001 Places to see before you die'. There was also a credit card ad I happened across in a magazine listing some anonymous Joe's goals he wanted to accomplish in his life.

I thought it sounded like a fun topic, so I'm stealing guiltlessly and doing the same thing here.

In no particular order:

Finish a college degree

Ride a motorcycle across the US

See a sunset or sunrise from the Grand Canyon

Play in the World Series of Poker

Go hang-gliding at Kill Devil Hill's, NC

Run in a 10K race

Own my own home

Write a book (doesn't have to be published although that'd be nice)

Bench press 300

Swim 1600 meters

And lastly to spend as much time as I can reading good books and relaxing in the sun, and never getting blown up again.

There are probably 10,000 things I'm leaving out. I'm an ambitious guy. My dog tags say 'Jedi' under religious preference, but I don't really possess the quiet mentality necessary for serious reflection or meditation. Still, who doesn't like to sit beside the pool reading a good book and looking at pretty girls?


Monday, April 30, 2007

Our connection is restored!

Proving that I might still be worth my salary as a network administrator, once I get home, I have gotten our internet connection restored.

Friends and family members should shortly be inundated with e-mails, and skype calls.

Proving how dull life is, that's the biggest news to report. But at least I'm a hero again. I'd rather be well thought of by these few guys than by every show girl in Las Vegas.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Quick update

Well, our internet woes continue. We're waiting on the company to ship us a replacement router/modem...and we keep waiting.

There are lights at the end of the tunnel though. We haven't been told yet exactly when we're leaving, but we know it's probably sometime in July. We're already starting to pack a few things up. Winter clothes, and other less necessary items are being boxed and put in shipping containers.

Life in general remains the same. Groundhog's Day Pt 380 something. We went over a year on the ground in Iraq earlier this month, right about the same time all the active duty units in theater found out they were being extended 3 months as well. Morale's better than could be expected despite this, but everyone (of course) is looking forward to getting home.

Well, I'm just hopping through the computer lab to post this, so I can't stay on very long. Please forgive all spelling and grammatical errors as I'm in a bit of a rush.

Be safe, and we'll be home as soon as we can be!


Saturday, April 7, 2007

Lost our internet

Our satellite router cooked a circuit board, and is no longer functioning. We're sending it back to Poland in the hopes that they'll send us a replacement quickly, but it's likely to be a few weeks at least.

I'll try to get on here every 3 or 4 days to catch up, but won't be able to check e-mail and things daily as before.

Oh well, at least our time is running down...slowly but surely.

Be well everyone, and I'll keep in touch as best I can.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Writin' and stuff

As many people know I'm a frustrated writer. Like many people who actually make their living writing I'm also an avaricious reader. Some of my favorite days are the ones spent sitting on a couch at Barnes and Noble reading and people watching. I have an unfortunate habit of spending too much money there, but there are probably worse places to blow a paycheck.

There isn't much of a selection at the PX here, and I can only get so much stuff from, so I end up reading alot of 'crappy science fiction' which is about the only thing they stock at the PX that I can really stand. I've discovered that alot of people getting paid to write aren't really very good. That's the bottom line.

So I thought I'd blog a little bit about what I understand to be the necessities of a good novel in any genre.

Number one is characterization. Now I've seen several people saying characters should be sympathetic to the audience. They should be flawed in some way so that readers can identify with them. One of my favorite authors Robert Heinlein didn't write flawed characters. He wrote about good, strong, capable people in adverse and unusual circumstances. I'm just trying to slog my way through a rather terrible book right now and the writer has just ham handed his way through some of his major characters. People who are supposed to be very successful in their career fields, so they must obviously be capable in some way or another, and yet they have these glaring character or personality flaws. Rampant dislike/distrust of authority, an almost aspberger's like inability to appreciate the social dynamic surrounding them, or just blatantly self-serving and dishonest. I think it was Anne Frank who said that despite alot of evidence to the contrary she still believed people were generally good at heart.

I look around at the people I know, family, friends, and comrades and I honestly believe this to be true. Oh some may have poor impulse control, they may take some odd joy in being manipulative, or have an inability to empathize, but generally they're good people. I firmly believe that every person I know has it in them to be a hero and not the goat. I think the vain, self-serving coward is probably much more rare than the person who's going to do the ring thing under adversity.

Dialogue. Many a newby writer's weakest point. I mean look at 'Star Wars', one of the greatest sci-fi/fantasy movies of all time. The dialogue is terrible. It was so bad that the actors still make fun of it to this day. Lucas researched characterization to a tee. He studied the fundamentals of mythological storytelling and captured these to create a character set in which everyone found someone to love and hate. But he never figured out how to make them speak. He was only saved by setting his universe 'A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away'.

I'm not very good at dialogue either, so I take notes. When I'm around the guys talking, and I hear something good I write it down, or try to remember it. I try to notice how people from different cultures speak, and carry themselves. I've got a ways to go, but I think just observing reality is going to help me there.

Another key is plot. Storyline. Arc. Or 'where the heck is he going with this thing, and why doesn't he hurry up and get there'? This is harder to do, and I think you actually need a story written up, and then be willing to have it savaged by your first readers in order to clean it up and move the plot along. A story doesn't need the entire Napoleonic wars as its backdrop like the Sharpe novels, Horatio Hornblower, or War and Peace. Michael Sharra wrote a great book whose title I can't currently remember, but it was made into a Kevin Costner movie called 'For the Love of the Game'. The entire story was a fading pitcher's very last game. A few flashbacks to what led him there to reveal more of his character, but mostly it followed this guy struggling to leave a mark in his chosen career in what he knew to be it's twilight. Amazing stuff!

Well, there's a few paragraphs about what I think about when I think about writing. A few of my favorite writers, John Scalzi and Stephen Pressfield both have books about writing, and their bottom line advice is to pick a story and start writing. The details will take care of themselves.

It's kinda hard to focus on writing right now in these circumstances, but maybe I too should just pick a story and start writing. Well, we'll have to see.

"A long time from now, in a galaxy that would look pretty familiar to most people holding this book in their hands there was this guy, and he had a problem..."


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Where's my brain going?

I'm no genius, but generally I'm as bright or brighter than the average cat, but lately I just don't seem to have it as 'all-together' as I used to.

Truly nothing I do around here requires a great deal of mental agility. The Army drops the required intellect to perform most tasks to the lowest common denominator and that denominator is pretty low. Maybe it's just lack of utilization that makes me feel like I'm in some kind of mental fog. Or maybe it's the fact that I'm constantly having to take nyquil or benadryl in order to be able to sleep during the day.

I read another friends blog a couple days ago and he was lamenting that his writing skills seem to have fallen off, and that got me to thinking the same thing. So, I could just be experiencing hypochondria.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vegas baby, and other thoughts

On 'Entourage' whenever the guys need to take a break to perform a mental/emotional reset they always pack up and go to Vegas. This is probably why I've chosen to take a trip there myself. It's 1000 miles by motorcycle (no, I'm not going to get myself killed) through some beautiful country with an adult Disneyland as the payoff.

I've tentatively selected New York, New York as my hotel/casino of choice. They have an Irish pub, Coyote Ugly, and some of the most interesting scenery, it's right in the middle of the strip and I can get there off the interstate pretty easily. Now I'm just waiting around to find out when I can make my reservations, and see what kind of deal I can get (I'm splurging but I'm not going to toss money aside needlessly).

I'm still not adjusting well to the new sleep schedule. Some days I'll get like 3 hours, others I'll take NyQuil or something and crash out for like 14 hours between shifts. It's frustrating. Right now it's about 11:30. I have to go to work in like two and a half hours, I've gotten about four hours of sleep for the day and I'm not the least bit sleepy. I guess eventually I'll adapt...probably 3 or more months from now when we get relieved and I have to shift back to working days to pack everything up and get out of here.

Nights can still be kind of cold. Well, they seem cold when you're out in it with no heat or anything for eight hours. It's probably around 50 or so. Nothing that some long underwear and moving around a lot doesn't cure. If last year is any indicator then I imagine in another couple months I'll look back on 50 degree weather quite fondly.

Nothing noteworthy has happened on duty the last few days. Not much off duty either, really. As soon as I'm done typing this I'm gonna hop in the shower, and come back and do some room cleaning. I might as well get some advantage to this sleeplessness, right?

Hope everyone's well. We're still hanging in here, we'd be counting down days if we knew what day to count to. Oh well, by the time it gets hot we'll know we're close to coming home.


Friday, March 16, 2007


Instead of another boring old 'NSTR' (see previous blog entry) I'll delve into some minutiae.

Most days since we started working the entry control point are downright dull, and the last couple have certainly been no exception. But there are always some odd little details here or there that if I remember to sit down and blog right away are certainly more interesting than reading 'not much going on around here'.

The rainy season in Iraq is....well, it seems pretty fluid. I had thought it was over. I thought wrong.

My platoon and I got off duty at about 10:30 this morning and as soon as I had dumped my gear in my 'can' (slang for the little metal buildings we live in) I walked over to grab my laundry.

Last night's shift had been pretty cold, in fact due to my failure to dress for the occasion it was sort of miserable. But, this morning warmed up nicely, and the sun was shining bright with only a few clouds in the sky as I departed our 'pod' (the collection of cans where everyone in my unit lives). I even grabbed my sunglasses as I headed out the door.

It's less than a five minute walk to the KBR laundry building (a bunch of nice Filipina ladies sort through the chaos and mess of our laundry) and as I walked back I decided I also needed to hop by the PX for some sundries. The PX is another five minute walk in the other direction from the pod. At this point the sun is still shining brightly and still only a few clouds in the sky. The sky was lieing to me, baiting me in.

I was in the PX for less than 10 minutes (picked up the new Cycle World and a John Ringo book but I'm saving them to read on duty tonight) and on my way out I stopped by Green Beans which is a sort of low end Starbucks extent on alot of the bases over here. As I'm waiting for my triple latte' I notice everyone outside is starting to move a bit quicker, then I notice it seems to be raining a bit. Oh well, I'm not sweet and I won't melt. Out the door I go, and on the five minute walk back to the pod. I had failed to consider the Iraqi version of mud. Everything here is pretty much coated with a fine layer of dust, and when it rains that dust quickly congeals into foul mud that sticks to everything, and makes your shoes weigh three times their original. I had also failed to notice that it wasn't just rain but hail. So I was muddy and half beaten to death by the time I finished my five minute walk back to the pod. You just can't run with a triple latte' in one hand and a PX bag in the other.

We also got new beds yesterday. There was nothing wrong with my old bed, but I got a new one anyway. Actually I got two.

If you look on my friends list there you'll see 'Mathew'. He's the one right next to two other Matts. He was instrumental in helping me get the new bunkbed setup constructed in my room. More than instrumental actually, he did all the heavy work while I just kept saying 'thanks' over and over again. He's a hell raiser, but also a hell of a good guy. And I still need to fix his computer for him.

So there's a couple things more significant than 'NSTR'. I know they're not terribly exciting, but I'm sure everyone would rather know that my biggest struggles are with sudden rainstorms and awkward furniture rather than IEDs and angry insurgents.

Hope all is well back home. I'll be back as soon as I can.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Well, that was less than fun

We got blown up a couple weeks ago. I told the guys in my crew I wouldn't write about it until they'd had a chance to talk to their families, and let them know they were OK.

It was my last patrol, and a brand new truck. The double whammy. We were the third truck in line, and somehow still managed to roll over a crappy little anti-tank mine. It was a pretty weak little IED. Kinda messed up the truck, and rung our bells for a couple minutes, but other than that no big deal.

Everyone in the crew was fine, and we were all back on duty the next day. Of course we had to go to the hospital for screening when we got in from that mission. It was really kinda funny. By the time we got into the clinic to get evaluated it was after 10pm, and we'd been on the go since 4am so we were all pretty much exhausted. Part of the evaluation are these tests to determine possible brain injury. Memory tests and that kind of thing. We didn't do so well on those just because we were so exhausted, so we had to go back and take them again the next day. We did fine, no worries. I was kinda sore and had kinda black eyes the next day also.

Now I'm back on duty at the gate. The night shift. I'm having a little bit of trouble adjusting to the new sleep schedule, but I'm sure that'll work itself out in another week or so. Nothing like caffeinne and sugar to keep me going until then.

Still no word on when we'll be done here. Lots of rumors that we'll be relieved by this unit or that one, we'll get home this date or another one, but nothing official. Just like getting extended I'll bet our families will know before we do.

I'm enclosing a picture of my truck right after the blast. They even managed to get it all fixed up again, and it's back on the road with someone else now.

The truck commander (me) sits in the passenger's side front seat, so that sucker went off right under my feet. It honestly wasn't as dramatic as the picture makes it look though.

Hope everyone's doing well back home. Spring is in the air, and it's starting to warm up pretty fast, hope the same is true back there. I'll try bein' more careful and I'll see everyone when I get home.


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Random Stuff

This whole Walter Reed 'scandal' is sure taking the focus away from Anna Nicole. I just wish it wasn't giving the army such a (well deserved) black eye. It's heartening to see the SECDEF handling it so well. Ya' gotta like how he didn't take any bullshit from the 'establishment'. Go Mr. Gates! Now that we've fixed some blame and fired some people let's fix the problem. In the end that's what really matters.

So I've been around on the web looking for motorcycle gear. I found plenty of great sites reviewing various motorcycles, but not much information covering the quality of protective gear. I'm thinking of staring a website devoted to this after I get home. Start off with reviews of the gear myself and my friends use, and see where I can go from there.

Another thing I found while out surfing around for potential purchases is the 'ultimate online wish-list'. Our family has gotten alot of mileage out of the wish lists in the past, and you can find ALMOST everything at amazon if you look hard enough. But sometimes other websites have better details or prices on an item. Well with MetaWishList you can tag stuff from anywhere you like. For example here's mine. Just another handy tool to keep track of future purchases, or keep folks apprised of stuff you'd find useful at christmas or birthdays.

I'm all done patrolling. Back to the nice, quiet, but dull ECP. I'm doing some training for the next few days, so I'll be on a regular day work type schedule, then I'll start overnights. Still no word on exactly when we'll be outta here. I don't imagine we'll be home for independence day, but I wouldn't think we'll still be here by the end of that month either.

Hope everyone back home is doing well. Looks like the snow's melting off, and a Nebraska spring is right around the corner (the groundhog either saw or didn't see his shadow...whichever one means an early spring, I forget). We'll see ya'll this summer!


Sunday, March 4, 2007


One of the best things about the military is the sense of community. Especially in this kind of environment. Everyone here is experiencing some (no matter how minute) element of danger, everyone is working together (not without a few problems here and there of course) toward a common goal, and most everyone wears the same clothes to 'the office' every day.

Yesterday I went over to the PX because I was feeling like I needed a new movie, and a case of soda. I know the chow hall has free sodas there, but the PX has good old shipped in from America stuff, whereas the stuff at the chow hall is local stuff that's brought up from Kuwait and Dubai. We call it 'hajji soda' and it just doesn't taste right.

While wandering up the DVD aisle I bumped into a tall, young, black soldier. We both right away piped up "Hey, sorry man." Which was immediately followed by "No problem." And we smiled at eachother. Outside the Army this guy and I probably have nothing in common. I'm sure if he looked on my iPod he'd not find much he liked to listen to, my books and movies would probably seem weird. But we're both Soldiers and that cements a pretty deep bond.

Back home if someone bumped into me in the DVD aisle they'd probably walk away without saying a thing, or breaking their conversation on their cell phone. And I'd probably get pissed off about it.

Readjusting to life back home whenever we're done here should be interesting.

I'm back on the ECP now, been working there for about four days. It's dull, but the days kind of start to flow together, and time's going by pretty quickly. Still no word on when we might be home, but I mailed the Ducati dealership and asked them to have the bike ready for me by July 1st. Just in case we're back a bit early.

Hope everyone's doing well. Sounds like Nebraska got alot of snow dumped on them in the last few days. The high today is 72 degrees and sunny. Tomorrow it's supposed to get up into the 80's. Pretty soon the base pool will open up, and I may even find time to get over there this season.

Keep in touch, and we'll be home as soon as we can.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Crappy Day
Current mood: crappy

I'm blue for no particular reason. I'm gonna go play basketball for a couple hours, 'cause getting my ass kicked there will certainly help my self-esteem, which will in turn elevate my mood.

I really need to take laundry in in the morning. My dirty clothes bag sits on the floor and mocks me. It's an evil thing.

Do you think if one drinks enough Mt Dew Pepsi will give you shares in the company?

After passing out mail today I'm fairly certain that Bravo Troop (my unit) is a significant statistic in's balance sheet.

Is there anything else of importance going on in the world besides the aftermath of Anna Nicole Smith? CNN needs new feeders.

Is it July yet?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Busy few days
Current mood: melancholy

Well, it's been a hectic last few days, that's for certain.

A month or two before we moved in to our present quarters the area wherein they're located had flooded. We weren't aware of it at the time, but the floorboards in several of the trailers (including mine) had rotted out. A few weeks after we moved in the floorboards between the joists collapsed, and I found myself walking through hills and valleys just to reach the door from my bed. It took a few months to get the base housing office to even look at the problem, and by that time I had thought we were only a few months from leaving, so I told them not to bother with it. Well, once the extension went through I decided to have it fixed after all. Yesterday was the day. The process involved removing everything from my room, and sitting out all day while workmen installed a new floor. The end of this process yesterday afternoon found me sunburned and exhausted, but happy with my new level floor.

I seem to have lost the battle regarding the combat infantryman's badge. It turns out that even though I have been serving in the mortar section of our unit in an infantry MOS (military occupational specialty) for the duration of our activation this was not the case. On paper I still held the cavalry scout MOS. So when my unit needed me to be a mortarman for live fires etc. I was given all the responsibilities of that MOS, but when it came to collecting the reward (the Combat Infantryman's Badge, or CIB) they decided I was a scout. Typical Army bullshit. They'll give you the worst deal possible as long as it makes someone else look good. The problem is the paperwork all lines up supporting their position, arcane though it may be it's correct. The spirit of the regulation would indicate that I should be awarded the combat infantryman's badge vice the combat action badge, but the letter of the regulation says differently. This has me in a bit of a funk.

Only a few more days patrolling, and I'll be back on the entry control point. This also has me in a funk as I've really enjoyed the variety and responsibilities of this mission and don't look forward to the more static and highly structured and supervised environment on the ECP.

I got a package from the folks at Arbor Day today. It was kinda neat since while watching AFN last night I saw a commercial for the Arbor Day Foundation. It puts a smile on my face, but makes me a bit homesick as well.

Hope everyone's well. No word yet on when we'll be going home, but I'm keeping a weather eye on events. I'll want to be able to give the motorcycle dealership some idea of when they should have my bike ready for delivery. I'll let everyone know as much as I'm allowed to say as soon as I'm allowed to say it.


Friday, February 16, 2007

How can anyone be expected to go to school on a day like this?

Mindful of the fact that it's icy, rainy, and about three degrees below zero back home in Nebraska I must say that the weather here in Iraq has been great! Sunny, mild breezes, highs in the mid-60s, cool comfortable nights. It's amazing the effect the weather has on one's mood. Our time out on patrols is coming to an end, we're already working with the platoon that's going to replace us, and then it'll be back to the boring old entry control point. But I've had my fun out here. It would have been a shame to be sixteen months in Iraq and never see anything but the base, or one dark and horrific night on a two lane highway in northern Iraq.

A few days ago we dropped off some school supplies at some of the smaller villages just outside our base. We got mobbed by kids begging for stuff, and believe me these kids can beg. It's kinda cute at first, then it gets frustrating, and then offensive. A couple kids brought a dog out because they thought we'd want to trade something for it. We're not allowed to have dogs, so we couldn't trade with them. The problem was they were really just beating the hell out of this dog. Carrying him around by the leash with a neck collar. Eventually they ended up killing the little guy, but I don't think they realized it. As we were packing up and leaving the village I saw them 'walking' the poor little guy away, dragging him along the ground, his little legs motionless underneath him. That's an image I'm not going to get out of my head for awhile.

My new computer got here, and I've been having a grand time getting everything transferred from my old one onto this one. But job's done now, and it's a blast. This thing is HUGE! The screen on it is almost bigger than the screen on the TV in my room. It's fast as heck, and photos and graphics look fabulous. So, mad money well spent.

So, to sum improving. Iraqi kids suck. New laptop good. And had we not gotten extended we'd be packing stuff up and training our replacements.

Be safe everyone, hope the weather back home improves soon.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Out on Patrol

Patrols in Iraq are definitely more interesting than sitting on an entry control point for eight hours a day, but even with the differing scenery, towns, people, and times of day it can still get dull. One of the ways we keep awake and stay focused is to sort of rip on eachother. I get picked on alot for my choice of 'hairstyle'. Which is to say they give me a hard time for being bald.

Every now and then we take along personnel who are assigned to the entry control point as a sort of 'ride-along'. Let them see a bit more of Iraq than just Camp Anaconda. Tonight we had a Sergeant from the New Jersey unit riding along with us. This particular Sergeant is 55 years old. He's from North New Jersey, and of Puerto Rican descent. He speaks english with a very heavy accent, and it's hard for some people to understand him. But once you're used to him it's really no problem at all.

Well, just as we're pulling out of the gate my driver delivers one of the best rips I've ever heard. So timely, so accurate. "So, Sergeant P., how is this different from patrolling on wooly mammoths back when you first joined the cave army?"

Morale is better than most people would expect. Don't get me wrong, most of the guys would rather be on the way home right now, but we want to do our duty as well. Mostly we just don't want to let down or appear weak in front of our peers. That's a pretty big motivation for a soldier. It'll make them do all kinds of things they wouldn't think they could accomplish otherwise. Go here to see just how far some men will go when motivated by the sense of duty to one's comrades.

Still waiting on my computer, but I'm told by very reliable sources (Hi Mom) that it's been sent and is even now winging its way to lovely Iraq.

Hope everyone at home is well. I know it doesn't feel like it in Nebraska right now (-1 for the high?) but summer's just around the corner and we'll be back soon.


Saturday, February 3, 2007

Groundhog's Day

So yesterday was February 2nd. Groundhog's Day. We've often correlated life here with Bill Murray's same-day over and over again existence in the movie (AFN played it last night).

Fortunately since I've moved over to patrolling the Groundhog's Day syndrome has gone away. Every day is a little different. The challenges and chores are similar, but we do something a little bit different every day.

We had our physical fitness test a couple weeks ago, and while most everyone passed the results were less than stellar. So we started doing 'organized physical training' every other day. A different Sergeant will come up with a PT plan for that day and off we go. Usually it's pretty heavy on the basics, push-ups, abdominal workouts, and running. Yesterday one of my buddies was charged with leading PT. He's a straightforward, uncomplicated and very physically tough guy and he decided we should run. We'd done alot of push-up and abdominal work the last two sessions so his PT was going to be all about running. So....we ran for four miles. I haven't run that far in like forever. We went a little over three a few times at Camp Shelby during training, and managed to get by with it, but honestly I was in alot better shape then. Oddly enough I did way better on our little four mile run than I thought I would. I didn't really stop to walk very often (twice both for very short time periods) and finished in about the middle of the pack, well ahead of several of our 20 something soldiers who seemingly didn't feel like putting out.

So the old man still has it. I'm tougher than I thought I was.

Hope everyone back home is doing well. Miss you all.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Random rambling
Current mood: chipper

Almost the end of January. Again with counting down days on the calendar. Valentine's day is fast approaching, and unfortunately Uncle Sugar took away the present most of the guys in my unit had been counting on being able to give our loved ones...namely getting our narrow asses out of a combat zone.

A quick word about operational security. Succinctly operational security is the concept covering the measures taken to protect information which might prove harmful to us were the enemy to come into possession of it. Here are wikipedia's and Defend America's articles regarding operational security.

Operational security is why occasionally some of my blogs seem to lack color or detail, and why I can't discuss precisely or sometimes even vaguely what I do on a particular day. It hamstrings me a bit, but since it's my ass and those of my crew and my platoon on the line I am not about to discuss things which could be used by a potential adversary to do us harm. I'm sorry if that means that things aren't always as interesting as they could be, but better safe than blown up.

No longer about OPSEC

Now that I've accepted our extension, and my leave is well over with I'm getting back into a groove. I'll admit I was suffering from some blues and anger over the situation that I kind of had to battle back against. Well, I won and I'm back on my feet.

This resurgence of the cheery funny me has manifested itself oddly in my case. I've gotten on an organization/cleanliness/fitness regimen. My room still isn't spotless, but it isn't the frightening cave it was shortly after I got back here from leave. Instead of collapsing on my bed, or spending hours surfing the internet after missions I've made time to get into the gym and get into some good hard Stew Smith and crossfit style working out. Also my battle buddy Nick has been on my case to start running again, and today made me go out and do two miles on the somewhat worn out new balance sneakers. That's OK, more are on order from amazon as we speak.

Speaking of amazon feel free to check out my amazon wish list. Most of it is just fluffy feel good stuff, or some things I set aside for myself to remind me to buy when I get home, but some things like the pull-up tower would really be handy over here. Y'see Anaconda has a pretty well equipped gym for the most part, but there are literally two pull up bars in the whole place and they're both stuck between the cross cable pull stations so it's always a contest or a chore to get in and do pull-ups. I like to do pull-ups. I'd like to be able to do alot more. I honestly don't think it's possible that such an item could be shipped over here, but there are some wonderful creative people out there who read my blog, so maybe something nice could happen.

Nothing new on the home robbery front. It's not really that big a deal though, just stuff. It was insured, and while I'm out the cost of my deductable it's not going to sting that much. Crazily enough they didn't get a really nice watch I had sitting on my bedside table (inside of which were my guns) or a leather Ducati motorcycle jacket that cost almost as much as the competition glock pistol they stole. I guess if you're going to be robbed it's best it were done by dumb and/or lazy criminals. Still, if I get their hands on them they'll be briefly sadly and then in enduring pain.

As I type this I'm doing some Valentine's day shopping, and listening to iTunes. It's almost 10pm but we have a late start tomorrow so I can afford to stay up for awhile. That and I just drank a soda an hour ago so it's going to take awhile for the caffeinne to burn off. I'm also playing with a new photo printer I just bought since someone requested I send them some photos she could get her hands on. Well, I'm working on it. Just trying to pick some photos out. I'm terrible at that. I'm a good photographer and a horrible model.

Hope everyone at home is safe and warm. We're doing OK over here, and multiple news reports to the contrary aren't experiencing any kind of surge in enemy activity. This makes patrols kind of dull, but keeps the loved ones happy.

Take care, and I'll write again soon.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Yesterday was a grumpy making day

It didn't start off well, the weather was rainy and nasty. We had a patrol, and the roads can get pretty hairy when the weather is bad.

Then I got an e-mail from my mom. Some asshole broke into my house and stole a whole bunch of stuff. Some guns, some change, and my remote control helicopter. Beyond that I can't be sure exactly WHAT was taken since I'm not home to be able to do any kind of inventory. So that had me REALLY po'd.

Then I saw a notification that there had been a helicopter crash south of here in which 13 Soldiers were killed. A good friend of mine is stationed a FOB near the crash location, and was due back from leave yesterday. Now there are literally hundreds of helicopter flights around here every day, and the odds that my friend was on that bird were slim, but ya' still can't help but worry, y'know?

Then just to make the morning perfect the showers were locked up for some reason no one was able to explain.

Well, today is a new day. I heard from my friend and she's fine. The showers are back on, and an annoying problem with the gun turret on my truck has been fixed for the moment. And myself and my electrician buddy from Fremont climbed up and fixed our satellite system.

My apartment being broken into and my stuff stolen still has me kinda ticked, and kinda sad. But I have insurance, apparently they were dumb enough both to steal registered firearms and to leave fingerprints, and when we get home in July I think myself and some battle hardened buddies may just track them down and have a brief discussion about why stealing from Soldiers is a bad idea.

Not much else new and interesting to report right now. Take care all, I'll keep my head up (and on a swivel), and we'll be home...eventually.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Now with pictures

Changing over to patrols from the ECP has been a good time. Still long hours, and crappy weather (mostly) but with different goals, and a different work environment it's been making the time go by a little more quickly.

Here's some photos of life on patrol in Iraq...

This is my office

My mom sent some action figures along to relieve us so we could go home. Since they won't let us leave we put them up in our gun turrets as reinforcements.

Prepping for patrol. This is when we sergeants walk around going 'Do you have everything you're supposed to have, and does it have new batteries?'

If you're going to roll into combat, it's best to do it well prepared. How could you be better prepared than with a nice hot ultimate sized cafe' latte'. This is how you go to war.

Uh-oh, we had to stop out in the middle of nowhere, what's going on?

Oh, someone had to get rid of their latte'.

Hope those were well enjoyed. Not much more to add right now. Take care, and see ya'll soon.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Here we are; born to be kings; we’re the princes of the universe
Current mood: determined

Thus begins one of my all time favorite songs, by Queen from the soundtrack to the movie 'Highlander'.

It feels like that sometimes, being a soldier. You're out amongst a population of people many of whom are violently hostile toward you, but you're wrapped in an armored vehicle, wearing sixty pounds of armor plate, carrying deadly weapons with which you're more than proficient, and you have a group of buddies right next to you who will endanger their own lives to keep you from trouble and vice versa.

Now that our extension is effective most of us have come to terms with it, and have found the positives (although persons are encouraged to write their congress-critters and have them vote us a sizeable monetary bonus). I worry more for our families who are still worried for us. I'm afraid that they some how think we're going to come back from this changed mentally and emotionally beyond recognition from the people we were when we left. It's my observation that this couldn't be further from the truth.

While I was home on leave people would occasionally ask me "So how is it over there?"

If they were veterans I'd give them some details and specifics, but no matter who they were I'd always answer "There are good days and bad days, but mostly just long boring days."

A well known military cliché' is that war is long periods of tedious frustration punctuated by moments of intense fear, and elation. I've come to realize that most of the time when something about which you SHOULD be afraid is happening around you, you're usually too busy dealing with it to even realize you're afraid. After the situation is resolved, and normally resolved in such a way that you realize you were foolish to ever be afraid in the first place, is the period of elation. Also short lived. But nothing about what we're seeing and experiencing over here is likely to make us into people who are fundamentally different than we were before we left.

Certainly our fathers had it far worse in Vietnam, and our grandfathers suffered and fought through horrific conditions in the second world war and Korea. My great-uncle (my grandfather's brother) Leonard Ulrich was a radio operator with the 734th Tank Destroyer battalion on 6 June 1944. They were on one of the very first waves ashore on Omaha Beach. He died that morning communicating with following waves out on the water, insuring they would be able to more effectively place their troops. On that single day they suffered casualties in numbers and horror that dwarf anything that happens over here.

Our enemies are cowardly, poorly motivated, poorly led, and poorly supplied. Their one advantage is the ability to melt into the local population and hide there, rendering nearly impossible our attempts to bring them to the fight. This is frustrating, but when we ARE able to engage them directly that's where the elation comes in. Anti-Iraqi forces have NEVER won a gun battle against US forces, and I predict they never will. The roadside bombs are bad news, and we do what we can to protect ourselves, but beyond that you just drive and don't worry. But we're always hoping they're going to pop up and start shooting at us. Because then we know we can win. Why? We're the princes of the universe. "I have no rival, no man can be my equal!"

Six more months and we're on the way home. At least it'll be summertime. The pool at my apartment complex should be jumping, I'll have 30 days of leave, and a brand new Italian motorcycle just begging to have its wheels ridden off. Plus quite a bit of cash in my pocket.

So don't feel down for us. We'd rather be home, but we're also ready for another opportunity to take the fight to the enemy. So bring it Muji, me and my guys are coming home on our feet, and we'll see you in hell.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Well, it's official
Current mood: crappy

We had a formation tonight and our commander informed us that the extension order had finally come down and we are oficially extended for 125 days. We're staying in place here, so everyone back home keep your blood pressure down, I'm not going to Baghdad to kick down doors.

I did get moved off the ECP to the patrol element for a few weeks. This was something I was expecting, and doesn't really elevate the danger level all that much, but it is more interesting than sitting in one place staring at your buddy and watching him either sweat or shiver depending on the weather.

I got some neat pictures yesterday, and I'll be editing and posting them in another blog entry in the next few days.

I know some folks are disappointed that I won't be home as soon as expected. I'm one of them. But I'm still proud to be over here doing my duty and taking care of my guys. Oh yeah, I bought a brand new high end Dell laptop to quell my hard feelings.

Take care all, and may the force be with you.

SSG Murf

Friday, January 12, 2007

Rumor control

Rumors are very powerful in a military organization.

My brigade has a whole web page devoted to combatting rumors which can be viewed here.

The latest rumor that's been making the rounds is that the brigade to which I'm attached is being extended in Iraq for 120+ days. Everything I'm seeing from 'unofficial' channels, that is news media and officers not in my direct chain of command, indicates that the extension is a done deal and we'll be here until July.

If I were a gambling man (and I am) I would bet that these rumors turn out to be true.

An important fact though is that we've received NO official notification yet. Our orders to redeploy on time had already been approved when this rumor started to make its rounds in the news media, and as of yet no orders extending our tour have come down. That's not to say that they won't, it's very likely that the process of writing and pushing those orders down is taking a little time. Troop movements of this size are large and complex endeavors and the lag between announcement of intent and the delivery of specific orders could take time.

I'm still hoping to redeploy home on time, but at this point I'm not counting on it, and most of us have already accepted the fact that we will probably be over here until summer. On the plus side I think about how much more money I'll be able to save. Perhaps enough to just pay cash for my new Ducati.

I've already contacted the dealership that they may have to delay delivery and I'm waiting to hear back from them.

So long story short, we may be staying a bit longer. We're a little bummed out about it, but we're disciplined and capable soldiers and we'll do what's expected of us to the best of our ability. If we DO end up being extended I'm not going to attend any schools, and will instead return home with the rest of my unit.

As soon as we receive official word I'll let everyone know. I miss you all, and I'll be home as soon as I can.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Plane Crash

Well, yesterday was a bit hectic. A Russian aircraft full of Turkish contractors crashed right outside our base. The last numbers I heard were 35 dead, one survivor badly injured. I wasn't involved in this in any way except to hear alot of discussion on the radio.

Nothing else too exciting going on. We have to take a physical fitness test tomorrow morning. We're hoping for good weather. It's been raining alot, and the whole base has turned into a big muddy swamp. The forecast says it's going to be nice, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

I've been procrastinating on laundry, and I've GOT to get some taken in in the next couple days or I'll run out of underwear!

Sorry this one isn't particularly fun or interesting. Be well, and we'll be home soon.


Thursday, January 4, 2007

Welcome back to Iraq

Well, I can't give out dates or anything like that but we're definitely on the downhill side of our visit here, and accelerating to the end.

It was SO nice to get back here after two weeks of R&R at home. Let me describe a couple of my experiences that were real 'welcome back' moments.

Alot of IEDs and other explosive ordnance are found before they detonate. They're transported safely and detonated in a controlled manner where they can't hurt anyone. But detonating things are loud, and the word about when they'll be detonated doesn't always get put out. It's always fun being awoken early in the morning or if you're a soldier suffering from jet-lag being awoken from an afternoon nap by several explosions which shake your living box and literally rattle the fillings in your teeth. After five or six of these you finally here the sirens and the public address system announcing the controlled detonations are complete. Not gonna miss that...

As I said in my previous blog entry the movement here was quick, without much pause at any one location, but lots of time on airplanes. All in all it was about forty hours between taking a shower and shaving at home and being able to settle down and do the same thing here. So I was really looking forward to a hot shower. I did my research by asking my buddies which shower trailers had hot water lately, and waiting until I knew the showers wouldn't be too busy. Of course my efforts were for naught.

We have these trailers with about 12 shower stalls, sinks and mirrors in each. Each trailer has two large water heaters which should theoretically provide plenty of hot water. However all the water feeds down the same line. So there I am, enjoying a nice hot shower. Somehow I didn't hear the other soldiers walk in and turn on their showers at the same time. My first clue to this was the blast of ice (not cold water, it literally felt like being hit with ice) pummeling me from the shower head, and I'm pretty sure I screeched like an angry chimpanzee.

My platoon sergeant (who's a pretty good guy, and a friend back home) had a heart when he saw I hadn't slept at all the day I got back and gave me the next day off. But he still has responsibilities to meet too, so I was back on duty yesterday.

It's cold in the mornings here, but warmed up to about 65 in the afternoon. I of course was dressed in my thermal under-armours and was roasting when I had to go out on the lane in my body armor and try to drill some big signs into concrete barriers. Of course the drill, the drill bits, the screws, and the anchors were none of them designed for the task, and we had to push, grunt, swear and improvise. We managed to get two of the signs up. Then backed up and re-planned and we'll finish that little task up today. But that's typical of Iraq. Some stupid little job that is probably important but seems trivial. And it has to be done with the wrong equipment by people not really trained for it in a short amount of time.

I hope that doesn't sound like I'm bitter. I'm sure the story reflected above has more to do with us being National Guard than the military effort here in general. The Guard is a bit different. Special in a way. Most of us have whole separate careers for which we're well trained and qualified. This means that we usually expect to just take these little jobs and run with them rather than bothering with the rigamarole official channels necessitate. When it's something we can do like in my case setting up computers or writing a news release it all comes together well. When it's something we can't do like in my case drilling holes in concrete and mounting signs it can be sort of frustrating. But we're a 'can do' organization and when someone says something needs to be done we look for ways to do it rather than reasons not to.

Well, it's almost six AM here. I'm going to see what the shower situation is like.

Love and miss you all, only a few more months to go.


Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Just the facts
Current mood: tired

I'm back in Iraq. That happened fast! Yes, I was on airplanes forever, but unlike the trip home from here the trip back went very quickly. It seemed to be raining and crappy everywhere, and our plane in Chicago broke down, but they quickly put us all on another flight and we left only about two hours later than originally scheduled. I arrived in Atlanta, checked in and had about two hours in which to catch something to eat and call friends and family (Hi Mom, Dad, Joy and Tamara) before the plane took off.

The flight crew from Atlanta to Germany were very nice. Just as we were passing over Newfoundland they passed out apple juice (no drinking allowed...sigh) and we had a new year's toast. We landed at the former Hahn air base in Germany, and there were little sandwich stands and a duty free shop to spend money in while we waited for our plane to be refueled. Two hours after landing we were back in the air.

I landed in Kuwait and got through our various briefings just in time to run over to the morale tent and watch Nebraska lose to Auburn (big frown face). I sent out a quick e-mail over the world's slowest internet connection then grabbed a few hours of sleep and we were on our way again by 6am. I arrived here in Iraq around lunchtime today. Like I

To all my friends and family with whom I discussed timelines regarding our return it looks like I was right on. Only a couple more months here. Instead of my first training evolution being in Ashland it's now going to be back at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. After that it's over to Montana for a couple of weeks, but I'll still be all done and arriving home for good at about the same time.

I had a great time home on leave. It was kind of like being a rock star. People would just come up to me in the airport while in uniform or bars and stuff and thank me for my service, and buy me a drink, or just pat me on the back. In a way it was sort of difficult as I'm not really comfortable being in the center of the spotlight. I don't mind being recognized for having done something, but I honestly don't feel like I deserved all the attention I was getting. The free beers were nice though.

Nothing much has changed here, except it looks like I'll be finishing out my tour quietly on the entry control point. Not much glory, but not much physical danger either. And all I really want now is to get all my guys and myself home in one piece and let us go on and enjoy our lives.

So to sum up; I've arrived safe and sound, not much longer to go, not much danger to worry about, and I had a great time on leave.

Thanks to all, and I'll see everyone again soon.