Friday, March 31, 2006

We have a live band.

Well, not really. One of the guys, a really young dude, has an electric guitar. He’s a crazy young dude. He had a bike shipped over from home. I think it cost him as much to ship it as the bike actually costs. He’ll have to fork out the money to ship it home at the end of this tour, the same with his guitar.

He plays it every day and he does seem to be getting better at it. I’m glad about that. We could here him play that electric guitar from as far as 100 feet. It’s that loud. I’ve heard some say that they could hear him play in the internet trailer and I’ve even heard him from the MWR tent. He’s usually playing all kinds of chords and melodies. Just recently, I’ve heard him play some Nirvana from the early 90s. Like I said before, Pennis is getting better at it. That’s the nickname we’ve given him because of his actual name.

He’s pretty respectful about his music. Although it is loud he doesn’t play past 2200 hours and doesn’t play early in the morning. The other day I almost felt like going over to his room to tell him to turn it down but it wasn’t that loud. If it does get too loud I’ll have to go over there and tell him. He’s pretty good about it though.

I got stuck today. We had a little refresher training on administering IVs. I should’ve given an IV myself but I offered to get stuck instead. I need some practice on getting those veins. I used to get nervous when I first began but now I remain pretty calm. So I got stuck and I took two bags of saline. Some of the guys say that I was dehydrated but I don’t buy that. I’ve been drinking lots and lots of water. I’m getting ready for the summer. I’m ready to take on the heat.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Roughneck Rover

We got a new toy. It’s a rover. It’s about time. I mean it took how long, like four months? I feel sorry for the guys that we relieved they never had a chance to play with the rover. I’d like to see it in action. Actually, I can’t wait to see it in action. It’ll be really cool when it blows up! I’m glad at least that it’s just a bunch of mechanical parts and not us.

It’s funny because of the guys, including myself, have suggested sending the little bot over to the female showers. We’ll just send it to go right inside once the door opens. Then we’ll all be able to watch the action from the video screen while the bot catches the girls showering on camera!

There are more and more automated systems out here. There’s some stuff that I can’t talk about here. Some of the stuff is really really cool and I wish we had it. I guess in the future we’ll have all these robots fighting our wars for us. Too bad we can’t have that now.

We had another motor attack today. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing but one of the motor rounds did not explode. The reason I say that is because the whole area gets cordoned off and it doesn’t take less then one hour to clear the area. It’s like when the highway patrol closes of the freeway, it’s going to be a while. I was coming back from the chow hall when I encountered the roadblock. Even though it was pretty far from the unexploded round I couldn’t go by.

So I stood there and waited for 30 minutes before I gave up. I figured I’d hang out at the MWR recreation center. So I hung out there for 30 minutes before I’d try my luck again. When I walked outside I found that there was still a cordon and the whole area was closed off. I decided that it would be better to walk around the whole area to get back to my trailer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

No IEDs yet.

Although I do see more and more spots where explosions have occurred on the road. It seems like there’s a lot more of those blacked out spots with little craters in the road. As long as they don’t hit us I’m happy. I haven’t seen that much of a gun fight and I’m sure that we would kick but anyway. I’m just waiting for that next IED because I know that the insurgents are putting them out there. I just hope we’re not the lucky ones.

Supposedly they’re setting up internet towers all over our camp. I haven’t heard anything about internet service as of yet. The internet service I’m using right now is really slow and I get disconnected from the wireless connection all the time. It’s definitely not worth the $10 per 5 hours I’m paying for service. I think we’re all getting ripped off around here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I’m finally making a routine.

I’ve started going to the gym on a regular basis. Not only that, my diet has changed as well and so has my schedule. A little self-discipline goes a long way. It makes it easier when there’s a routine involved. So, I’m doing well so far. I just hope I keep this up.

I’m getting adjusted to my new roommate. He’s an alright guy. I’m glad he’s a clean freak. So, I have to do my part to keep my half of the room clean. We’re getting well adjusted. He like’s to wake up really early and he goes to bed really late. It’s like he’s a night person. He’ll go to the gym like at 3am in the morning. The other morning when he woke up I thought that I was late for link up. Then I realized that he just wakes up super early. I think he likes doing things at night. I feel better sleeping at night and staying awake during the day like a normal person myself.

Monday, March 27, 2006

There was a bad accident yesterday.

It occurred with one of the other platoons. One of their Humvees had a rollover accident. Luckily, no one was hurt. It only rolled over on its side but it could’ve been a lot worse. I’m thankful no one was injured. I heard that the gunner’s head hit the road and that he had a concussion. It’s the little things like helmets and seatbelts that keep us safe.

I worry about it myself. My driver drives too fast at times. I haven’t told him to slow down but I’m getting to that point. I know he’s more experienced than the driver that was involved in that accident. The driver of that vehicle took that turn way too fast from what I could see. The turn wasn’t that sharp but he must have been going at a high rate of speed when it happened. The thing about Humvees is that they’re like SUVs. They are very top heavy and prone to rollovers.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The benefit of the doubt. That’s what my mentor told me to give my team leader. Gosh I thought. The guy lied, cheated on me. There was no reason for what I did. I wanted to use The Mentor as a mediator because he viewed my opinion. So my team leader and me went to see him. I discussed my argument and then my team leader changed his reasoning. “I didn’t know about the 249. I had the chronological order of events mixed up,” he said. So, I was ok with it and our conversation had ended. Problem solved.

Later in the evening it came to me. I remember telling him everything, such as the problem with our M2, mounting a M249, and the all events in chronological order. He knew because I told him before, once he arrived back from R&R. I forgot I had told him until dinner chow.

Well, we had a little pow-wow and I was the target. I didn’t expect to become the target but that’s fine. I’m very open to criticism when it’s justified. So I took it, some of it. I didn’t agree with everything that was said. I’ll take heart to some of the issues that were brought up and work on them. I’ll also take other issues with a grain of salt.

There were issues that I brought up as well. I blame a lot of the team problems on our leader. Parts of those responsibilities are my duty as an NCO and I have failed. So I am partly to blame but most of my blame goes on my leadership. I let him have it and told him how I felt. The problem is I’m not good with using tact so I think I upset him a little bit. I tried to bring up these issues as best as I could with respect.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

We had a meeting, the secret kind.

Actually it’s about the problems that we’re having as a platoon. I didn’t realize that the whole platoon was having problems. I thought it was just my team. I guess not. The problem is relationship problems. I guess it’s the problem with the whole world, “Can’t we all just get along?” I guess it’s more that that. It’s leadership and communications problem as well.

It was time to let it all out. I didn’t say much. I didn’t want to undermine the integrity of my team in front of the others. For me it’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to sit with my team leader and have a little chat. It might be to my benefit, it might not.

The meeting lasted for one hour and it was a chance for some do discuss their issues. Some let it all out. For me, one thing came to mind. We brought issues, problems to the table. The thing was, nothing said was specific. We couldn’t address the problem because the issues were generalized. Something kept popping to the top of my mind. It’s a piece of paper that was handed out to all of us before the beginning of that meeting. On that piece of paper was a creed.

It came to me and I wanted to mention it. “It’s all right here,” I thought, the answer to all our problems. It was on this piece of paper that was handed out and no one mentioned it. It was in that creed. If we follow it then maybe we’ll find our solution. It was the NCO Creed.

The NCO Creed

No one is more professional than I. I am a Noncommissioned Officer, a leader of soldiers. As a Noncommissioned Officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as “The Backbone of The Army.” I am proud of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the military service and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself. I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit or personal safety.

Competence is my watch-word. My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind- accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers. I will strive to remain technically and tactically proficient. I am aware of my role as a Noncommissioned Officer. I will fulfill my responsibilities inherent in that role. All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership. I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own. I will communicate consistently with my soldiers and never leave them uninformed. I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment.

Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties; they will not have to accomplish mine. I will earn their respect and confidence as well as that of my soldiers. I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers and subordinates alike. I will exercise initiative by taking appropriate action in the absence of orders. I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage. I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, Noncommissioned Officers, leaders!

Friday, March 24, 2006

They love soccer here.

It’s like the Iraqi national pastime. People love it here and I think it’s starting to rub off on the Joes here as well. I was a little tempted to check out the soccer field when I noticed the guys on the field.

I didn’t have any motivation to lift any weights today. I just did some cardio and abdominal workouts. Walking back to the trailer is when I noticed the lights on the field. The guys were running up and down the field, chasing the ball. It looked like fun, better than what I was doing inside the gym.

The thought has been coming to my mind like a dream, playing soccer. I never play but I find pleasure in doing it. I might have to see what nights they play and start attending some games. Maybe I could join a league or team and play on a regular basis. I’ll just have to find the time in the evening when I could. The only things I have to worry about are the early missions in the mornings. It would be something fun to do.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

US Embassy, Baghdad

It’s the first time I been there. It nice. Really, really nice. It was like walking into paradise. I didn’t take any photos of the front because I’m not sure if I’m allowed to. They restrict us from taking photos in certain areas for security purposes. Sure most of the Joes keep the photos for themselves but then there are others like me who share photos online.

Anyway, the place was beautiful. I couldn’t believe that there’s a pool there too. The front was manicured and everything was well landscaped. Inside the floors and walls were covered in marble tiles. Dome roofs featured exquisite architecture and artwork that symbolized the Arabic culture.
I plan on going back in the future to get some more photos. I was just worried about having my camera confiscated and getting reprimanded by some senior NCO or OIC of the Embassy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I saw a commercial on AFN today.

It was about mentorship of all things. It featured the US Army Solider of the year. He was saying that he wouldn’t have been able to do it if it weren’t for the mentorship of his leadership. I think his leadership should pat themselves on the back. I’ve sure his NCOs took good care of him and encouraged him to be all he can be. I’m sure he wouldn’t have done it without his NCOs, his leaders.

At the end of the commercial he said, “There could be a Soldier of The Year with you.” You know, he could be right. I’m sure he had the qualities and will to become Solider of The Year. It took effort on his part and on his leadership.

Well, my new roommate has just got back. He’s back from emergency leave. I asked him how everything was back home and he said that it’s going fine. Seems like he was in happy spirits. He didn’t want to come back. I wonder how bad he feels about being back. He’s upset because of all the stuff he’s been hearing back home. I couldn’t believe it when he told me. The guy goes on emergency leave and is upset about what some Joes are saying over here. Boy, I’m glad I didn’t have that issue. The only thing on my mind while I was on leave was how the guys were doing. I wasn’t concerned about what they were saying about me because I knew that they weren’t saying anything at all. I was just like dust in the wind that blew away.

So he’s back and now I have to get adjusted. T-Rex has to get adjusted to his new roommate too. T-Rex and me got along great. I know he was comfortable with me and I was with him. Now we have to get readjusted. We’ll see how it goes with my roommate and me in the next few days. We’ve already had some issues. First there’s the issue of the mat. When I moved in there was this ugly green mat on the floor that said welcome. It looked worn out, old, and dirty to me. So I went ahead and gave it away. He gets back and asks about it. “I gave it away and bought a new one.” I said. “Gave it away?” He replied. I didn’t think he’d care so much about it. Did it have some sentimental value? It’s just a mat for crying out loud. So I asked him if he wanted it back. “Yeah,” with no hesitation. Great I thought. I can’t even remember whom I gave it away to.

I hate the fact that I had to move out of T-Rex’s room but it was something that had to be done. We were getting along great and everything was just fine. If we were in another situation it would’ve be different. If we were the same rank then there wouldn’t have been a problem.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

We’re like the only Platoon that is like doing anything.

First I thought that we were tied with 3rd Platoon for being the busiest. Now it seems like we’re the only ones doing missions. Am I complaining? Not really. I like the missions we’re given and they help the days go by pretty fast. I guess you could say that it’s better than hanging around the trailer all day. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were stuff to do on the camp be we could only get so much of the PX. The really isn’t anything else to do here recreation wise.

It was another long day. I’m glad we had a break in between missions. I took advantage of that to get some rest. I took sleep over lunch. I had snacks to eat anyway. Waking up before the crack of dawn and going to bed late at night doesn’t help me get much sleep.

I finished another book, Red Wind by R. Karl Largent. It’s an older book, not a new release. It was ok but I wouldn’t suggest it for the Clancy fans or counter-terrorist fans out there. I did try reading a Star Wars Yoda Dark Dendezvous book before I began on Red Wind but I just couldn’t get into it. I guess I’m not much of a Sci-Fi fan anymore. I used to love Star Wars too, that is until the prequels came out and ruined the series for me.

One of my buddies, Officer Ramrod, let me borrow two other books, The Closers by Michael Connelly and Velocity by Dean Koontz. I think I’m going to start reading The Closers first. I’m not really much of a reader but I am finding the time to read. I usually find time during missions when we’re not doing anything but just sitting around.

Monday, March 20, 2006

There’s not much to say.

Had the day off. I took advantage of that to get a haircut, workout, and clean my .50 cal. I’m starting to feel better because I’m beginning to stick to a diet. Between that and exercising it’s helping me feel pretty good. I think I’ve been sleeping better too. I have some of it to thank to the influences of guys like Staff Sergeant and the Lieutenant. He got me off the sugared drinks like Gatorade and now I’m drinking more water. He also got me running more because he’s always looking for a running partner. We’ve been making trips around the lake here. I heard it’s about a three-mile run.

Staff Sergeant has been helping me with my eating habits, mainly because I feel ashamed to eat junk food. So I’ve been sticking to food that is healthier and easier to digest. Now I just have to cut out the sweets. I’m doing what the LT advised; eat sweets at lunchtime and not dinnertime.

I’ve also been working on my appearance, making sure my uniform looks sharp and that I’m well groomed. If I’m going to be a Sergeant I have to be at least presentable. I’ve also started working on my room. I’ve gotten rid of all those bad influences that I had from my old roommate. He was messy and that rubbed off on me. Now that I’m in a room with another Sergeant I have to make sure that we look respectable. The only thing is that on his side of the room he has magazine cutouts of revealing women posted all over the wall like wallpaper. Staff Sergeant has told me that it’s against Army policy and I’ll probably bring it up with him when he arrives from leave.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Which one would you rather have?

A leader that doesn’t seem to care about you, that doesn’t seem like he knows anything, and has a negative attitude. Or would you have a leader that seems to care about you, knows what he is talking about, and has a positive attitude.

I wish I could choose because if I could I would’ve chosen the latter one. There’s more good stuff to learn from him then the one that doesn’t seem to care. That’s the dilemma that I’m in right now. I’ll just have to work with it the best that I can. It’s good to know that I could still talk to the guy that I respect the most. I’d follow him anywhere. That’s the thing about a leader. If you gain their respect and trust as a leader your men will follow you anywhere.

It’s time for me to get working. The Army has a motto for NCOs. It’s Be, Know, Do. I have to start working on that more to show that I’m competent, professional, and capable of being a leader. I’ll pray to God to give me strength to build qualities and help me make the right decisions.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The problems with our procedures.

The problem with our procedures is that they keep on changing. One day it’s one thing then another day it’s something else. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say that. It all depends on who is in charge. When I got back from R&R I noticed a few changes. I was ok with them and it didn’t bother me. The thing is, once The Colonel got back, things changed back to the way they were.

I’m not tired of it yet but I hate having to explain reason for my actions. He’s back now from R&R. When I do something that usually isn’t procedure it seems like the squad comes down on me.

He’ll get on me about one thing but doesn’t get on the other squad members about the same thing. I’ve brought it up before but I don’t see any action from him. I think if he’s going to set rules they should be fair across the board.

Tonight a few other Joes and me went to see a USO show. I’m glad I went. It was pretty funny. It was starring Kathy Griffin, Michael McDonald, and some other actress that used to star in the television show Jag. They were pretty good. They did a lot of stand up and they had us laughing for hours. I’m glad they came and it looks like Kathy Griffin does this a lot. I’m glad the USO is able to put something like this together for all of us.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

And what a lucky day it was. This morning the Lieutenant and I went on a little run. Well, I guess it was about 2.5 miles. It wasn’t bad. It was around the lake of Saddam’s old Palace compound. It wasn’t a bad run and I really enjoyed it. I could tell the Lieutenant enjoyed it as well. He kept commenting on how good he felt and how his metabolism would go up before breakfast. I guess I was looking at it the same way. I like to run and I’m glad that I’m starting to exercise a little bit more. Last time we ran it was in the late morning and it was already getting warm. I joked to the LT that we should run at that same time during June or July and see how it feels.

I didn’t know but there was a little lottery giveaway at Abu Ghraib in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. So when we got to the prison we rushed to get our lottery tickets. Everyone grabbed three tickets for each person for three separate lotteries. The prizes were donated from AAFES and other private vendors that manufacture military gear. Chief Bronson was the one who organized the whole event.

I just happened to get lucky and win on all three lotteries. I was almost the one to win the most times. Sergeant Shoe won all three lotteries plus an extra drawing they had for knives.

So I ended up winning a bandanna, a helmet insert to keep me cool, a weapon sight, a Spec-Ops cargo/ammo pouch, and a pistol leash. I ended up giving my pistol leash and ammo/cargo pouch away to guys that needed them more than I did. I kept the rest of the stuff. It was fun and lots of the guys were anxious to win prizes.

Pictures above are of the Abu Ghraib Fire Department.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

“Are those Jarheads?” That’s what the Lieutenant said this morning when we passed them by on the road. I thought it was funny at the time because they looked like they were lost, like always. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Marines but I think the Army is better. They’re a great group of guys and some of the best Soldiers are ex-Marines. I guess I shouldn’t call them ex-Marines but I will anyway just to get them upset. “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” They like to be considered former Marines.

I did crack up when I saw them though. I don’t know what mission they were doing but I could tell they were lost. I didn’t even identify them until we got up close. They wear different uniforms. They looked like Army because of the Humvees they drove. We were about to pass them on the road when they suddenly stopped. I started to wonder why they did when they slowly began to turn around. One by one they turned their vehicles, lost came to my mind. “Are those Jarheads?” asked the Lieutenant. “Yep!” I yelled. Figures.

Well, the relationship with T-Rex and me is improving. At least we’re talking now. Not much. We’re not having conversations like we used to. I still have to sit down and have a little chat with him. I shouldn’t wait long though. Staff Sergeant wanted me to wait a little bit, let things cool down. I think about now is a good time. He suggested having T-Rex write a one-page report on Military Customs and Courtesies. I think it’s a good idea.

My .50 cal situation has been remedied for the time being. The Lieutenant made the decision but I should’ve suggested the idea. I was a little behind the Lieutenant. I don’t mind. I’m still a growing leader. It’ll come with time and experience.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I don’t have much time to make type up a post today because I have to get up super early tomorrow. So, I’ll post an e-mail that I got from a friend on leadership. I read the e-mail and found that there are a lot of similarities between what I posted and this article.

Being mean is part of the job.

· · As one of the senior leaders in the Army, I spend a majority of my time coaching and mentoring many of our great young officers and NCOs on the subject of leadership and “taking care of Soldiers.”

As most of you know there is no “cookie cutter” solution or formula that identifies great leadership or how to “take care of Soldiers.” FM 22-100 (Army Leadership) is an excellent training aid, however, it does not give us as leaders every answer we need to take care of our Soldiers.

One of the ways I try to relate to junior leaders on what our responsibilities are in taking care of Soldiers is that being a leader is very similar to the role of parenting.

As a parent your role constantly evolves as your child grows older. We give the child more freedom and responsibility as they get older, mature and demonstrate they are capable of functioning on their own.

Granted we sometimes face challenges with the generation gap, but we learn what tactics work by trial and error.

We still have an inherent responsibility to teach our children right from wrong and instill the values of being a good citizen and a productive member of society.

That same responsibility applies to our role as leaders. As the young Soldier matures, we give them more responsibility and less supervision. We still have an inherent responsibility to teach and uphold the Army Values and the Soldiers Creed. We also have an obligation to know, teach and enforce adherence to the Army standards, whatever the situation is we face and hold Soldiers accountable for their actions that don’t adhere to the standard.

During my 19 years of service in the Army, I continually looked for any piece of literature or guidance from superiors that would continue my professional development as a leader.

As a brand new sergeant at Fort Hood, Texas in 1989, the post newspaper ran an article written by the III Corps Public Affairs Officer Col. Bruce Beals.

The title of the article was “Being ‘mean’ officer/NCO part of the job.” That article had a profound effect on me as a leader in that it reinforced to me what my role as a noncommissioned officer was in knowing, teaching, and enforcing standards. I have carried the article with me ever since and I try to provide a copy to every leader I coach or mentor. The article is still relevant today, so I would like to share with you a reprint of the great article by Beals:

“Recently, my wife and I were Christmas shopping and we stopped at a small knick-knack store. As we looked around, I spotted some samplers on the wall with catchy sayings and poems. You’ve seen those nice frame adages like, “Today is the first day or your life” or “Old Soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

One of them caught my eye. It was entitled The Mean Mother. It began with something like “A mean mother never lets her children have all the candy they want.”

As I read the attributes of the “mean mother” my wife approached. She saw what I was looking at and quickly observed that many of the characteristics of the “mean mother” could be applied to the “mean officer” or the “mean sergeant.” As usual, my wife was right.

I’ve made my list of traits that distinguish the "mean officer and sergeant."

The mean officer/sergeant:

- Holds their Soldiers accountable for their equipment. He makes the Soldier clean it after an exercise and replace lost or damaged items.

- Inspect their Soldiers on a regular basis and holds them to an established and well understood standard.

- Insists their Soldiers are at the right place at the right time in the right uniform.

- Encourages every Soldier to take care himself/herself physically, mentally and spiritually.

- Checks to ensure the Soldier takes care of their family.

- Doesn’t allow their Soldiers to abuse equipment, vehicles or facilities.

- Makes their Soldiers study for promotion boards, competitions and skill tests.

- Insists that their Soldiers read and use the right manuals and reference materials when using and maintaining equipment and weapons.

- Demands earned respect from their subordinates.

- Teaches their Soldiers to show initiative and discipline in their absence or in the absence of orders.

- Teaches their Soldiers to respect each other, their unit and the Army.

- Insists that every Soldier accept responsibility for their own actions.

- Expects their Soldier to look out for their fellow Soldiers.

As I was putting my list together, I found a quote by General Curtis Lemay, former Air Force Chief of Staff and Commander of the Strategic Air Command that sums up the “mean leader.” “I don’t mind being called tough since I find in this racket it’s the tough guys who lead the survivors.”

The next time you hear about a “mean” officer or sergeant, think about that.”

Being a by product of the baby boomer generation and a parent, I realize that there is a distinct difference in the personalities and the things important to the Soldiers from the different generations in our formations today. There are very few families today where “June Cleaver” is at home waiting for the “Beaver” to get home from school and who is always around to instill strong family values.

Just like today’s parents must remain flexible to the changes in society, leaders must also remain flexible to the differences in our young Soldiers. That same tactic that worked when they were a young Soldier may not work on today's generation.

However, that does not relieve leaders of their responsibility of instilling good order and discipline and holding all Soldiers accountable to the standard.

If you talk to a dozen leaders, you will probably get a dozen different definitions to describe a good leader, who takes care of their Soldiers. To me in order to be good leader, you have to first love being a Soldier; second you have to love being around Soldiers and their families. You have to love leading, training and caring for Soldiers and you have to put all of your efforts towards doing that.

Just like a parent makes the investment of their time and money to raise their children, the leader also needs to make a similar investment of their time in taking care of their Soldiers.”

One of my favorite sayings is “I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care.” I believe that simple saying applies to a parent as well as any leader.

It is one thing to know how to do things. It is another to care enough to make the time to help your child with their homework, or your Soldier study for the promotion board or fix a pay problem. If you can’t make that investment as a parent, then in my eyes you truly don't care whether your child is successful. If you don't make that investment as a leader, then in my eyes you are probably a “combat ineffective” leader, who will end up getting your Soldiers killed or injured.

If your leadership style is in line with the attributes of the mean officer or mean sergeant, then you truly earned the title of “leader” and your Soldiers will follow you anywhere.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I’ve learned so much today.

It all started with a problem with T-Rex but it’s turned into a big opportunity for me. I’ve found a mentor, a leader among men, one that I’ve grown to respect and honor. He’s taught me so much, so far, but there is still much to learn.

I’ve learned that when I started this mission, I had the right intensions. I knew what qualities and attributes I required to become a good leader. The problem is I’ve given up. Sure, at first I was following my duties and taking responsibility. Later I gave up on those duties and responsibilities, mainly because I failed. I quit. I gave up. I didn’t have a good mentor and leader to support me. I fell apart. That’s why the machine broke down.

The Army has regulations regarding military customs and courtesies. These regulations tell us about the respect that is given to people of different rank. For instance, we are commanded to stand at the position of attention and render a salute in the presence of an officer. We address officers as “Sir” or by their rank. Non-Commissioned Officers (Sergeants) are to be addressed by their respected rank.

When orders are given they are to be followed without question, unless it’s an unlawful order.  We are not to question authority.

The problem is I’m not a great leader. I know leadership isn’t something we’re born with, it’s something we learn. My acting squad leader told me that some men have charisma, but that doesn’t make them a great leader.

Earlier, I had to turn in my .50cal for services. My acting squad leader, which I’ll mention as mentor from here on out, told me to get my .50cal in for service. Roger Sergeant. I took the .50cal to the armorer to have it turned in. It would be out for a couple of days.

We’ve been told that we’re not supposed to fire a weapon we haven’t qualified on. Since the .50cal was turned in we were left with the SAW as our crew served weapon. I told T-Rex that he’s going to have to gun since my .50cal has been turned in. He had a problem with that and was looking for all types of excuses to get out of it. Basically, he didn’t want to gun.

I had a problem with that. I could see it coming already. He always manipulates the squad leader and he begins to manipulate me. Well, I’ve seen this and I’ve put up with this for too long. He has to do what he is told and follow orders. He has to maintain a military bearing and respect both NCOs and Officers.

So we got down to the gate to begin our mission. We were getting ready to leave. That’s when I told him that he was going to gun. “No I’m not.” He replied. “What?” I asked. “No I’m not.” I explained to him why he had to gun and not me. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to gun. So I called for the Lieutenant who is our team leader. I told him that T-Rex wasn’t going to gun. T-Rex told him that he wasn’t going to gun and the Lieutenant gave in. So once I explained the situation to the Lieutenant he went ahead and made the decision to leave T-Rex as the driver. I had no problems gunning. My issue was with T-Rex disobeying orders. I didn’t have time to inform from my squad leader and we were getting ready to head out on mission. So I went ahead and carried on.

I figured I take it up with my mentor when we got to our destination. It would have to wait. As soon as we arrived I sought my acting squad leader out. When I found him I told him of the situation. I didn’t get through even a quarter of the situation when he told me simply, “You’re the Sergeant.” It was that simple. That’s all he said, just three words. “You’re the Sergeant.” I stopped what I was saying. I totally agreed and somehow, it was there, I just didn’t know. He’s right. I’m the Sergeant. I’m the first line leader of our truck. I make the decisions. Not T-Rex. Me.

I sought my mentor for advisement and I totally agreed with him. We were getting ready to leave again and go to our next destination. So, I went to the truck and told T-Rex, “You’re going to gun. I don’t want to hear about it, that’s an order.” He took it for a minute. I jumped in the driver’s seat and got myself situated to go. He came by my door and then said, “So, now that you’re moving into your own room you’re all of a sudden going to become an asshole?” I about had it when he said that word. First off, he doesn’t call me an asshole and second, he doesn’t disrespect a Non-Commissioned Officer.

I was infuriated and I tried to maintain my composure. It was hard and it took a lot.   So I yelled at him, “Stand at ease!” and jumped out of the vehicle. Usually I don’t get upset until I’ve reached a point and he touched my button. I told him twice before he got to the position of At Ease. Then I rushed over to my new mentor, Staff Sergeant. I told him that what he had just called me. He was so calm and collective but I could understand that. No one directly disrespected him. He walked over to T-Rex and said “Stand down.” He was very calm about it. T-Rex obeyed. Then he went on to tell him that I am a Sergeant and that he will take orders from me. And that he is not to disobey a Non-Commissioned Officer.

So I went ahead and jumped back into the truck and T-Rex jumped in the turret. The Lieutenant got in as well. “What was that all about?” he asked. “It’s NCO business Sir.” I told him and it was. He understood.

When we got to our next destination I got out and went over to my acting squad leader again. I wanted to tell him everything else. Well, I rode in his truck for the time being so I could talk to him. I told him everything and I wanted him to know. How T-Rex had questioned the officer, how he disobeyed me, and how he called me an asshole.

I sought advice and he gave it to me. “What should I do?” I asked. “Should I smoke him?” I didn’t want to act out of anger because I knew that it wasn’t the answer. “No, you shouldn’t smoke him. Leave it alone for now. Let him go.” He went on to say I need to have a talk with T-Rex about military customs and courtesies, to do a written counseling. Right, he was right. I was thinking about that too before he even told me. I just had to inform him but he also gave me his advise. Right. Don’t smoke him but give him respect as a person. At that time I wanted to give it to T-Rex. I had a plan whip him up but my mentor didn’t agree. So I agreed with him.

“We want T-Rex to become a great Sergeant someday.” T-Rex as a Sergeant, I thought. I couldn’t see it. He was looking at T-Rex’s potential. He mentioned problems that he’s noticed on our team while I was on leave. I knew he’d see them. It’s the lack of respect and the different type of management style of my actual squad leader.

I broke it down to him from there. I didn’t want to ruin the integrity of my team, but I had to tell him and let him know how I felt about my leadership. I spilled the beans. Our actual squad leader does have management issues.

Staff Sergeant mentioned something to me. The problem with some people is that they want people to like. You can’t do that as a leader. If they respect you and like you then that’s great. People want others to like them. That’s my problem. I wanted T-Rex to like me. I would do everything to appease him so he would like me. I shouldn’t be looking for that in him. I shouldn’t look to become liked. That’s where I failed. That’s where I fell apart.

We ate dinner chow at the mess hall and came back to our trailers. It was time to move and I had to do it tonight. It’s been long overdue. An NCO should not be living with a Joe. I think our leadership realized that mistake. It all started Friday. That was the big day to move. Our command made room changes and it would be soon. We had till Friday to assume our new room assignments. T-Rex didn’t like the idea. He was comfortable having me as a roommate but I knew myself that I shouldn’t be in a room with a lower enlisted. An enlisted shouldn’t be boarded with an officer. It’s against Army policy and it’s cause for fraternization. There’s a reason for it and this is why. It’s what broke the team down.

I’m partly to blame. I should have told my leadership but I didn’t see a problem with it at the time. I had feeling about it but I didn’t express them. My mentor saw it the moment he came into our unit. He expressed his feelings about it. I had the same feelings so I told him about it yesterday. He had a talk with the platoon sergeant and the rearrangements were made. I’d be moving out and moving into a room with another Sergeant of equal rank. “How can I be his first line leader when I’m his roommate?” I explained to my mentor yesterday. I didn’t have to explain this, he already knew and agreed with me.

T-Rex was upset about it and was upset that I didn’t tell him. I didn’t have to tell him. He’s not my boss. I figured that his behavior would change in a couple of days anyway. I knew he was upset but I also knew he’d get over it.

There are many problems with living with a lower enlisted or someone of different rank, especially when they are on the same team. First off, I have to watch what I say. If I want to express bad attitudes about our leadership or command it shouldn’t be in front of him. T-Rex has mentioned a few things that create some responsibility on my part to correct. These are such things that, when I’m aware, should cause some action on my part as a Sergeant. If I fail to act, I fail at becoming an NCO. Some opinions about the unit shouldn’t be expressed to me as a roommate.

So I came to the decision to let it go for now. I’m going to give T-Rex a written counseling. We’re going to set some goals, I’m going to express my expectations, and I’m going to give him some duties.

After moving my stuff I went over to see my mentor. I was heading to his door when I noticed a small fire behind the trailer. I approached to check it out and came to find it was Staff Sergeant. He was burning some letters with addresses written on them. “Staff Sergeant” I said. “I just want to thank you.” “Thank me for what?” “Well, I want to thank you for being a good NCO and a good leader. I respect you and I respect what you’ve done here.”

You see, before he came our platoon we had problems. Once Staff Sergeant got here he made some changes. Granted, some of the guys didn’t like the changes but it was because we weren’t following rules and regulations. Staff Sergeant had created some animosity among the platoon. Guys hated the fact that he didn’t want to see Corporals running teams when we had available Sergeants. He didn’t like the fact that there were NCOs living with lower enlisted. He didn’t like the fact that my room was a mess. He saw a lot of things wrong with this unit. I knew there were some problems but I gave up on fixing them. Heck, if no one cares, why should I? Sure I’m an NCO but I’ll just worry about T-Rex and myself from now on. I myself had the wrong mentality.

He sees great potential in me. What I need is proper guidance. He’s right. I need a good mentor to become a great NCO.

Staff Sergeant told me that later, “When guys get old and look back at this they’re not going to remember the NCOs that did nothing, they’re going to remember the ones they respected the most.”

He gave me lots of insight. He expressed his relationship with God. I find that he follows a certain path. He follows orders and is very obedient. He demands and gives respect. He treats people as individuals, everyone is different. “Our country was not made great overnight. We’ve fought many battles.” He said. “You don’t run right away. First you crawl, then you take baby steps, then you walk,” referring to leadership and potential. “It takes time and effort. The mentor has to put in the time and effort just as much as the junior leader.”

I found something in my NCO guide that I’d like to express here:

“Mentorship offers unparalleled opportunities to build a better Army. If you are a noncommissioned officer and are not mentoring several promising young leaders, you are missing an important opportunity to contribute to the Army’s future. Mentorship is the single, easiest way to develop young leaders. But to do so, the mentor must be willing to commit the time and energy necessary to do it right and to set the conditions for success so young leaders will seek him out to be their mentor.”

I hear people discredit the Army all the time. A lot of people think it’s a waste of time. Not me, not ever. Just as they say about kindergarten, you learn everything you ever need to know about life. Well, it’s not everything. I’ve learned a lot from the Army. Who would of thought, becoming a solider helps me become a better person. I’ve renewed my relationship with God just as I had when I was active. God must love the US Army. I’m sure there are many soldiers like me.

Being a Sergeant is kind of like being a Father and these lower enlisted are like children. Learning how to lead them might help me become a better Father.

I’ve gotten off track in life, I admit. With leadership comes responsibility. I’ve done some bad things in the past, things I regret. I can’t take them back. Sometimes I wish I could. But Staff Sergeant has helped me become aware of these things. I knew about them, they’re in the Army Values. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. These values not only make a good solider, they also make a great individual.

You plant the seed and watch them grow. Sometimes weeds grow and we have to pluck those weeds. We build deeper roots so our tree grows up healthy and strong. The same applies to Joes and children. When there are weeds we have to pull them out. Problem is I’ve gotten tired of pulling. I didn’t have a mentor to guide me and I had given up. He told me that I shouldn’t have given up. I quit because I saw a lack of leadership, until now.

There are three things we have to feed in life, our body, spirit, and soul. Staff Sergeant told me that we feed our body with food. We have to watch out though because some food is junk. Problem is people eat too much junk and that’s bad for their body. The spirit is fed by socializing, listening to music, movies, reading, and playing. You feed the soul by praying and spending time with God. With those three things we have to moderate. He couldn’t be truer.

The problem is that I haven’t been given a good mentor. I’ve found one. Unfortunately he won’t be my direct line leader for long.  I’ll pray to God for good leadership and guidance.

As Staff Sergeant, my mentor would say, “GO FORTH AND DO GREAT THINGS!” Amen to that. God Bless.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I’m coming to find out that we are the platoon that does the most.

Well, almost. We’re tied with another platoon that does as much as we do. I complain about it sometimes but then think it’s better then doing nothing and sitting around at the camp all day. The only problem with it is that we’re given more responsibility. I still have to learn how to manage my time. I find myself having fun before work. It should be the other way around. It’s not an easy job, being a gunner. When the mission is over I have to make sure that my weapon is clean so that if functions. I also have to make sure my ammo is clean too.

Which makes me come to this point. I got chewed out about having dirty ammo today. I guess it’s something I could’ve prevented. The thing is I didn’t see a problem. It’s mainly because of one round that had some corrosion. I knew that it would fire. Too bad I couldn’t test it out to prove my point. I wish I could’ve. I was ready to place some bets and put my faith in that bullet. Oh well, I don’t get to prove my point. So, I’m going to discard that round and go with the rest of the ammo that I’ve got. It’s no big deal. The only other problem is that my weapon doesn’t chamber a round correctly. It has a problem loading rounds from the magazine. I guess I should bring it up to the armorer but it doesn’t make that much of a difference. I have an M4 that I’ll be using as soon as I qualify on it.

Sniper came back from emergency leave. He’s been home for a couple of weeks. He’s just here to get pick up his things. He’ll be going back home. He’s coming off the mission. It’s sad to see him go but I’m with him, family comes first. He’ll be missed and his team won’t be the same and neither will the platoon.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I don’t know how to gain T-Rex’s trust.

He’s like my son. I tell him do to do something and begins to question it. My son does the same thing until I make him realize that he failed because he didn’t trust me. Then, after he fails to do whatever it is, I make sure he knows it. Hopefully he learns from his mistakes. Today it happened twice with T-Rex. I try to treat him like an adult. He’s older than me. That’s one of the reasons I hate outranking him. It’s hard for me to get over that fact. It’s not a problem when they’re younger because I feel like I have more authority.

It all started early this morning when we were getting ready for mission. We were configuring the radios and I told him to adjust it a certain way. T-Rex thought I was wrong. He came to find out afterwards I was right. I didn’t rub in that I was right. I just asked him, “Can you get anyone now?” Sure enough it worked. I didn’t go anywhere else with it from there. I proved my point. Then it happened again in the afternoon.

We were on the road and we just happened to have to back up. I told him to stop like three or four times. Again, he didn’t listen. He wanted to do his own thing. Well, it cost him because he backed up right into a barrier. Thankfully, it didn’t do any damage to the Humvee.

He’s going to get me to the point where him and me are going to have to have a little talk. I’d rather he learn to listen than to have me tell him. He’s not a little boy.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I’m brewing some coffee right now.

I’m trying out the coffee maker that one of the guys had given to us. I want to make a good cup of coffee before we head out on mission in the morning. I’ve gotten used to drinking coffee every day. It’s just something I have to have. I crave it daily every morning.

We had the day off. That meant no missions. I planned on sleeping in but that plan went out the window when the Lieutenant came knocking on my door at 1000 hours in the morning. He just had to wake me up. I think he did it on purpose. I don’t think he wanted T-Rex and me to sleep in. I’m glad we had the day off. It gave me the opportunity to drop off my laundry and go to the PX.

There were a few things I wanted to get from the PX. I bought some sunglasses, a light, and a microphone/speaker headset to use with my laptop. I also got a pistol belt. I was dying to get one of those and I couldn’t find one in the PX. So I went to the Bazaar. The Bazaar has lots of stuff that can’t be found in the PX. Most of the stuff comes from vendors that are local Iraqis. Most of the goods they sell there are found on the streets of Baghdad but this place is operated by AAFES. That doesn’t mean that we could return the items if defective. T-Rex told me he had a hard time returning stuff there and that they wouldn’t take it back.

I didn’t do much more during the day. I did plan on cleaning on my .50 cal but that never happened. I think I’m going to clean it up a little on the way to our missions tomorrow.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I am now a combat veteran. We got hit by and IED, and I’m not just talking about the Platoon either. I’m talking about our Humvee. It got hit. Me, I, we. We were within 10 feet of the thing. How we survived without a scratch, I don’t know. The Humvee wasn’t damaged and no one got hurt. No broken windshield, damaged body, no cuts or concussions. Thank GOD. We all made it in one peace. We pulled up right on the darn thing. We were just sitting there, then all of a sudden there it was, POW! I immediately got down. I knew we had got hit but I didn’t expect it to be so close. It had our name on it. We were engulfed in a cloud of smoke and debris.

Some of the guys in other trucks that saw it happen thought we were gone for sure. Some said that they couldn’t even see our Humvee at the time of the explosion. Some thought that our Humvee had got blown to pieces and thought that the turret was the hood of the vehicle. I couldn’t seen anything myself for a few seconds. It was freaking loud too. It was so loud I felt the vibrations in my chest. What can I say about it? It was like something exploded. Obviously.

I don’t see why T-Rex didn’t see it. I told him after it exploded too, “Didn’t you see it! It was right in front of you!” I was alright after a little while though. I regained my composure immediately since this wasn’t the first experience in the field. I still can’t believe that he drove right up on it. Unbelievable. And to have us all walk away like nothing happened, miracle. I don’t know why. That thing had our name on it. Heck we were right next to it and T-Rex and the Lieutenant had front row seats. They were facing the thing when it went off.

Devine intervention is all I thought about. That’s all I thought about all day. Hadji must be wondering what happened. I don’t know how and I can’t explain it myself. We were in a cloud of smoke. How could we just drive away, like nothing happened? Hadji probably thought we were laughing at him. Instead, I think we were all thanking GOD for giving us another day. How unbelievable. A miracle.

It’s changed my perspective on life. To be thankful for everyday we have. To cherish what we as Americans take for granted. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

We got hit by another IED. I barely heard the thing this time. It actually didn’t hit me or even come close. It hit one of the other Humvees

pretty far behind me. I just feel bad about not finding the thing first. No one was hurt, Thank God. It wasn’t as big as the first one I ran into. We all made it back to the camp in one peace. Some of the guys suspected someone and we had the chance to either apprehend the guy or send him to the maker. I’m sure he’ll do it again if he has a chance. It wasn’t my decision to leave the scene so I don’t feel guilty about it.

I’m so tired right now. I’m ready to go to bed. It’s been a long day and our mission today didn’t run as long as usual. So I’m going to keep this short and hit the sack.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

T-Rex got promoted today.

He’s no longer a Private. I think he deserves the rank of Specialist. It’s about time. He’s been waiting a while for it. I didn’t think he needed to be a Private First Class anyway. Some of the other Joes got promoted today as well. That’s good. It’s kind of funny because this morning when the Lieutenant told us that we were going to have a formation we asked if it was bad news or good news. He lied and told us that it was bad. A few of the guys got promoted in the company. That’s a good thing. All of them were deserved. I hate it when someone gets promoted when they don’t deserve it. It happens a lot in the Army.

Today was pretty easy. I expected a long day but it turned out in our favor. We only did one mission today. We had the rest of the day to stay on standby. So I guess the only problem with it was waking up early in the morning. I’ve already gotten used to it. At least it’s not cold in the morning anymore. The days here are pretty nice. This is the perfect time of year to be here.

I finally went to the gym. It’s the third time this week. I hope I could keep this up. It’s also helped me change my eating habits. Instead of eating like a pig I’m eating healthier foods.

I’ll try to post some more photos on the website. I’ve been having problems, mainly from the really slow internet service over here. They’ve been installing a tower and I’ve heard it’s for the internet upgrade they’re doing on our camp. I hope it’s done soon.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What can I say about today?

We didn’t see too much. Well, I really can’t say that. It’s just that not much happens when we go to the IZ. It’s a pretty controlled area and it’s generally safe compared to the other parts of Baghdad. It’s pretty amazing how it’s controlled compared to other parts of the city. The thing I like about it is that there’s less traffic and I don’t have to worry about walking down the street. Sure there have been incidents there on occasion but it rarely ever happens. I don’t see how anything could happen there anyway; security is pretty tight.

I like going to the IZ. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it’s the center of the city. There are things to do there but I find more stuff to do back home or in another western city. It’s a lot different from being at home.

A lot of the guys are starting to renew their relationship with God. It’s weird but it doesn’t surprise me at all. I find myself doing the same thing. Sure I don’t want anything to happen to me but that’s only because I want to get back home to raise my boys. They need a Father and I’ve learned so much that I could pass on to them. I feel the same way toward the other guys here too. I pray that we all go back home after the mission. That would be so great to have everyone go back home and move on with their lives.

I was talking with an IP, having a conversation on the political situation. It concerns me mainly because I’d like to see us finish this mission here. We spoke of the Shiite and Sunni Muslims. I got the impression that he as Shiite from talking to him. He’s glad to see the Americans there and he didn’t have much admiration for the Sunnis. I told him I couldn’t understand why they can’t get along. I told him that there are all sorts of different religions in America and we all get along. We’re not having gun battles over religion. It ridiculous. He told me that he’s lost some of his friends and that his patience is wearing out. I could understand where he’s coming from. I only have the best of hope for the future.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I want to thank Mr. Ansay and his local VFW.

He sent me some much-needed supplies such as wipes, soap, shampoo, and all sorts of other good stuff. I really appreciate it. I handed the stuff out to the other Joes in the platoon that were in need of any supplies. To him and everyone else at his post, a big THANK YOU!

I guess I tend to remember things when I say them or hear them out loud. Navajo and I met some soldiers from the United Kingdom Army today. They were both from Scotland. Anyway an Iraqi was approaching us when the Scotsman greeted him in Arabic. As soon as he said that phrase I remembered what it was from back in Lewis. I’m lucky he said it before I did because I forgot how to say good day. I usually speak English to Iraqis anyway because some of them know it and I think it might be good for them to learn anyway. I figure people speak English all over the world, might as well learn to speak the language here as well. Besides, I think English is already proliferated among the Iraqis from the British rule of this country in the 19th century.

Our mission got cut short today, mainly because we upset a few Iraqis. I can’t go into details. They just got upset when they’re identities were revealed. Others saw them when they did not want to be seen. Some of the nationals keep their identity hidden to protect themselves and their family and friends from reprisals. It wasn’t really our fault that they were seen. My guys didn’t know. My Joes were just following orders so I’m not at all worried about it. I told them not to worry about it either. I’m sure it’s hard when there were a bunch of Iraqis yelling their lungs off and pointing the finger at them. It’s like they were trying to blame my guys. They were just doing what they were told.

Anyway, I think it was a good thing because it caused our mission to end right there. The meeting was over and so we packed our bags and left. I guess we now know what to do incase we want to get the heck out of there.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

It’s our first barbeque as a platoon in Iraq. First squad has a barbeque all the time. I was surprised when I heard about it because I wasn’t told about it. We never have barbeques as a platoon. T-Rex and I were just about to walk to the mess hall when Hard-Balls stopped us and told us about it. I’ve seen the other platoons having barbeques all the time. We never have time for them. We’re always busy on missions and coming back to the camp late at night. It doesn’t matter for 1st squad though, they still throw their barbeques. I think it’s good to build team cohesion.

We got the steaks and lobster tails from the dining facility. They gave us a ton of food, so much that we had lots of stuff left over. I was drinking some St. Pauli Non-Alcoholic beer. There are no alcoholic beverages allowed in Iraq. We all had a good time. We all got to talk about some old times and tell some of our different war stories.

During the barbeque one of the Joes was telling me how he got kicked out of the MWR tent. I was pretty upset about it. I know the problems rose after the old unit left. Well Gameboy used to go in the MWR tent with his laptop and hooked it up in the back corner. He would take one of the cables and extend it in the back after he set his chair. He didn’t go to one of the laptop stations on the table because he wanted some privacy with his Wife on her webcam. He used to do it all the time when the old unit was here.

Well, one night he went in the tent and set up his laptop in the back corner with the cable extended, connected to his computer. Well the Sergeant in charge of the tent told him that he had to use the laptop station first. Gameboy explained to him that he wanted to see his Wife on the webcam in private. The laptop stations are in the front row where everything could be seen. The Sergeant in charge told him that he didn’t like his attitude and that he had to leave. So essentially he was kicked out of the MWR tent. I cannot believe that that had happened. That is a place for all the Joes to relax and relieve their stress.

I can’t believe that another Sergeant would do that to another Joe but that’s the way this new unit is. Now Gameboy never wants to set foot in the MWR tent again after that incident. I think it’s a big shame. I was thinking of telling the 1st Sergeant or Commander about the incident but I don’t they’ll do anything about it. Gameboy is just waiting until they start setting up internet service in each of the individual trailers. I hope it happens pretty soon too. I’d like to have personal internet service myself.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The weather was absolutely wonderful.

Today has to be without a doubt the nicest day we’ve had since we’ve been here. It was so nice I had to open the door to my trailer to enjoy the weather. There’s a slight breeze, the sky is clear, and it’s not hot or cold. It’s a wonderful day to be outside. I wish all the days were like this. I’m trying to enjoy this while it lasts. We all know the hot weather is coming. We’re all starting to dread the summer and think about ways to stay cool.

We didn’t have any missions today so I was pretty happy about that. So we took the opportunity to go to the range to fire our M2s. We went down the road a little ways to an Iraqi Army base that isn’t too far from where the camp is. It’s the first time I’ve been on an Iraqi Army base myself. It’s nothing special, not much to see. It was a lot dirtier and looked more typical of Iraq then our camp does. When I’m on our camp I feel like I’m back home for some reason. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because the camp is clean, people drive in order, and there are Americans everywhere.

We found a few problems with our .50cals on the range. I’d rather have issues now and find out what they are before the time comes to use our weapons for real. I’m very surprised that we haven’t test fired our weapons before. We’ve been here since December and this was the first time I’ve fired my .50cal. What a shame. I had some issues with the timing on my weapon myself. The timing is the rate of fire that the weapon fires. So I adjusted that a little to make it fire a little faster then it was firing before.

Friday, March 03, 2006

It’s supposed to be a day off.

It never ends up that way. It doesn’t surprise me though. Sure, our leadership says, tomorrow we’re getting the day off. Yeah, right, sure, is what I think. I know it’s never a day off. Last night we were told that we were going to get the truck cleaned out and our ammo turned in at 1000 hours. Well, our truck was already cleaned out and we had no issues with our ammo. So what should we have to wake up and get dressed for? If it’s going to be a day off then I think they should leave us alone and give us the day off.

Well, sure enough the Lieutenant comes over and tells us that we have to get our Humvee over to the motor section to get some stuff upgraded on it. Oh well for our day off. My driver and I turned our Humvee into motors, which took a couple of hours. We ended up having a late lunch. Afterwards I had to get my M-4. I’ll be getting rid of my M-16 pretty soon for this shorter and newer version of the M-16. I like it a lot, mainly because it’s lighter then the M-16 and because it’s shorter as well. It has some features and modifications that make it better then the M-16. It’s perfect for the type of weapon for what we do.

I think I’ve figured out how to go about posting photos online. I set up my digital camera to save photos at a lower resolution. It makes it a lot easier for me to upload and post photos to the site. So, I’m sure to be posting a lot more photos in the future from now on.

The photos to the left are from the Balad area. This is an area north of Baghdad. This area of Iraq lush with farmland.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I was very fortunate yesterday.

A few other Joes and I got dropped off at the trailers early since we had started the mission early yesterday. We were lucky because if we‘d gone out with the rest of the platoon we would’ve been stuck out there until after 2300 hours. I guess the platoon encountered not one but two IEDs. Luckily, no one got hurt. I still think I was fortunate yesterday since my day went pretty well.

Today wasn’t too bad either. T-Rex got pulled from the mission today since he got stuck on some other duty so we were left finding another driver. We had no problem finding one and he fit in real good. Again, I’m glad we didn’t encounter any problems today either. I was surprised to find that T-Rex had it made today. That duty that he got stuck with was a joke. I think he weaseled his way out of it because when I came back from mission he was in bed sleeping. I told him it must have been nice to have the day off. He’s a good con man but he can’t con me anymore. I’ve already got to know him. He comes up with a lot of bullshit. I like it but I know its bullshit. He’s tried it on me before but it doesn’t work on me anymore. I think the Squad Leader still goes for it though.

This is a picture of a typical Iraqi dump. These garbage piles are everywhere.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday

Today was a holy day for me, mostly because I’m Catholic. I spent the whole day reflecting on my life, how much peace I’d like to have, and how to renew my spirit. I was hoping we wouldn’t see any action today. To me it’s a day for blessing and reflection. To me it’s not really a day for combat and I didn’t want to see it. If it came to me, oh well.

Our Army Chaplin gave us a blessing in the morning. He’s never come out before but I think a big reason may be because it is Ash Wednesday. I think it was a good day to receive a blessing since we just happened to be doing one of our most dangerous and most exhausting missions. Another reason he was there was to give the ashes to anyone who wished to receive them. Now I’m in a different period of my year, the season of Lent. I believe Muslims have the same sort of thing during Ramadan.

I’m glad to say that we made it all back home alive. The last time we did this mission we were hit by sporadic gunfire and by an IED. This time we didn’t engage in any incidents whatsoever. Well, we did run into a VBIED but we bypassed the road and went around the thing. The mission tonight was a success and when without any significant events.
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