Thursday, August 31, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
I found a spot in the transient barracks to sleep. It was the best mattress I could find close to the back corner. The only problem was the lights from the other partition were on until 0200 hours in the morning. It was also very cold, just like last time. I learned from my last visit and brought my sleeping bag with me. The only problem with the sleeping bag was it kept me too hot. It could never be just right. The accommodations weren’t the best in the world but it’s a whole lot better than sleeping outside or in my Humvee.
On the way to Ramadi we stopped at Camp Fallujah to grab a bite to eat. It was already getting dark and we wanted to leave before we lost our daylight. So we were given 45 minutes to get inside the chow hall and eat before it got too late. I was glad we stopped. Most of us didn’t have anything for lunch and we were hungry.
One of the guys got promoted to Sergeant this morning. We left Ramadi after his promotion ceremony. The trip back wasn’t bad and there were no significant incidents.
Monday, August 28, 2006
We were just sitting there, waiting before getting ready to leave. Most of the gunners were sitting down inside their turrets. A few of the guys were outside, standing, chatting around. Then there it was, BOOM! It shook everything from where we were located. I immediately knew that it must have been close and big. The first thing I noticed was that all the birds were flying away from the sound of the blast. I had an idea where the explosion came from but wasn’t too sure. Usually, after an explosion I’m looking for smoke. It’s the first sign of where the blast occurred. The birds also helped me identify the location of the blast.The smoke started rising into the air. The gunners started orienting everyone on the location of the blast. We were all just getting ready to leave too. IPs and IAs were immediately rushing out to the scene like firemen headed to a fire. They were jumping onto their trucks and gearing up as fast as they could. Some were running to the scene from where they were. I started to feel the adrenaline rush. So much of me wanted to get out there and help. I was hoping that we would leave and be the reinforcements on the scene. I knew something was still going on because I could hear the sound of sporadic gunfire continuously after the blast and following afterwards.We started moving towards the gate and I started doing some last minute checks on my gun and ammo. I wanted to make sure everything was ready just in case anything happened. I think all the gunners were psyched up and ready to go. We were ready. Then we got the call to standby. We weren’t going to leave the gate. A big part of me wanted to get out there to help. I don’t know what it was. I was anxious to just get out there then to just sit around and wait until things died down.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
I kind of won a game of poker last night. I say kind of because I gave up. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to win or not. There are five of us that were playing and it came down to this other guy and me. We had to play in the dark for a little while since the power went out, again. We were playing by chem.-light until they got the lights back on. Well, it was getting late when it came down to the two of us. So we both ended the game. I’m not sure how it would’ve turned out.
I knew that my roommate was coming back from Ramadi today since last night. I knew that they were going to come do some business here and then head back to Ramadi. Well, a few plans have changed and now my roommate, The Big Man, will be staying here. Well I enjoyed having the room to myself while it lasted. It sure didn’t last long. It’s still up in the air whether I may be going to Ramadi or not. At this point I don’t care. Wherever we go I know it won’t be long.
So I was a little surprised to when I found my roommate moving all of his stuff back in. He was getting situated and reorganized. I wasn’t too sure what was up but he told me that his team wasn’t going back. Well, that’s cool. At least I have some company again.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
A lot of the guys don’t like the mission over in Ramadi. I was talking to my roommate, The Big Man, and he said he liked it there. I was surprised. He likes being stationed there but he doesn’t like the mission either. Living there doesn’t bother most of the guys; they just don’t like what they’re doing over there now.
Well, whatever happens, happens. It won’t bother me if they decide to move me over there. I won’t care. We’ll all be leaving pretty soon anyway and I’m finally starting to look forward to leaving. Our time is getting short and I’m sure it’ll go quick enough. The month of August is almost over.
Friday, August 25, 2006
The Downhill Slope
It was hard for me to make a decision early on in the mission. I wasn’t sure whether it was a good decision for me to volunteer to stay here. After about 8 months here my mind was made up. I’m ready to go home. I’m actually looking forward to it now and I’m hoping that nothing happens. Not just to me but to anyone for that matter. It would totally suck to be here for like 11 months just to end up a casualty.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I had some more Iraqi food for lunch today. At least time it looked better even though I didn’t get to see how they prepared it. In fact, I didn’t want to know. It was basically a simple meal, nothing fancy. Pitas are really big over here. I had some chicken kabobs with an appetizer they call Haba Kahnook. My terp, code name George, told me to try it out. He mentioned that it was made from eggplant. I guess it was ground into a white creamy substance. He was so interested in eating some native food that I went ahead with him to eat.
Tomatoes and cucumbers also came on the plate of chicken kabobs. I’m getting the impression that they like tomatoes and cucumbers. Either that or there’s plenty of them grown around here. I asked George where they grew them and he said that they grow them here in Iraq. They also like their pitas, which they call Shamoot if I could remember right.
I tried eating the Haba Kahnook by itself but it tasted too strong. It was too bitter or something. It was perfect on the chicken pita I created. George said, “How did you know to do that? You’ve eaten this before? That’s what you’re supposed to do with it.” It was probably my Chicano heritage coming out. We’re always pouring stuff on our food like salsa, lemon/lime juice, or guacamole.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The IPs and IA soldiers are pretty friendly. It seems like we’re getting more waves too. To me that’s a good thing. I especially like it when the kids wave and it seems like they’re doing it more often. Or maybe it’s just me.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The Fashion Police
Monday, August 21, 2006
We were in the PX in between our trip back to Baghdad when we heard it. BOOM! It wasn’t too loud but powerful enough to rattle the walls inside the PX. For some reason I didn’t even think it was anything but the air pressure going up in the building. Everyone was going about his or her business since it is nothing really new for us.
When we went outside Sergeant Mechanic asked me if I hear the mortar impact. We looked over to our right and there was the rising cloud of smoke. That must have been it I assumed. Weird? Usually there isn’t that much black smoke with a mortar impact. Must have caught something on fire.
A little while later while we were hanging at the MWR mission before our clearance to leave we heard an announcement over the loud speaker. “All personnel with O blood type report to Charlie Med.” At the time I thought they might need to do a resupply of blood. Then a few minutes after that was another announcement, “Any available 91 Bravos report to Charlie Med. Any available 91 Bravos report to Charlie Med.” 91 Bravos? What’s that? I forgot but then later I remembered, medics. Oh man. I wonder what’s going on? A little while later there it was overhead, “All units clear the road. All units clear the road.” Oh shit. Man they’re some casualties coming in and they’re going to the medical facility.
Later I found out that that explosion was actually a car bomb and there were some that got hurt.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Well the trip didn’t seem like it was going to be bad at first. There were no cars on the road and the city looked like a ghost town. There was hardly anyone out. That was until we turned a corner onto a certain section of town. There were crowds of people that looked like protesters all walking in one direction. I wasn’t sure what was going on. It definitely wasn’t a funeral procession since there was so many of them. They all seemed to be walking to the same place. I figured they were walking to go protest but I didn’t know where.
I wasn’t worried for certain reasons. The crowds were big in some sections and some of the people looked like they were chanting and raising their fists. Some had banners and flags that were waved in the air. The IPs were out in full force but it all seemed pretty peaceful from where we were. I have no issues with protests as long as there are no problems. I’m sure it could’ve turned into a bad day real easy.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
I was having breakfast with one of the guys from another platoon. He’s a pretty good man, a devout Christian. He’s been in the military for years and it amazes me that he’s just a specialist. I was also surprised when he mentioned he had grandchildren. He definitely doesn’t look at all his age.
I asked him how things were going in his platoon. I hear that a lot of the guys like it now that Abu Ghraib is closed. There’s a big difference in the time they spend out on missions now. Since Abu Ghraib has closed their mission time has been cut by two hours each day. He mentioned how they go about their business now. Part of it didn’t make sense to me because of the way they do it. I came up with an idea for half the platoon to do part of the mission in the morning and come right back and the other half to go in the afternoon and complete the mission. He already tried to mention a plan like that but it seemed like no one wanted to try something different. I thought it would be great because it would motivate the guys since they’d have a shorter day. They’d want to hurry up and complete their mission so the could come back here to the FOB to go to the gym, do maintenance, or whatever it was they needed to do.
He also mentioned that there was a lot of tension in his platoon. It’s like a ticking time bomb ready to explode. That doesn’t surprise me either. That’s one of the hardest things to deal with anywhere, personal relations. The problem in the Army is that we eat, sleep, and live with these people. At least back home my job was only Monday thru Friday. So I only had to see my coworkers 40 hours a day. That wasn’t enough to get tired of them. He said he needed time to himself and I don’t blame him. That’s another problem around here. Even when or if we get a day off the leadership never ceases. They are always there bossing us around. I guess it be like comparing it to having a weekend when your boss come to your house, knocks on the door, and tells you that there’s something that needs to be done at the office. And that boss would knock not at 10am on a Saturday morning but like at 8am Saturday morning.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Tonight I went to play Halo on the Xbox with the guys. It was fun and I had a good time playing. I got my ass kicked. I’m not that good at it and I hardly ever play.
Most of the guys have bought an Xbox 360 around here. I guess it’s the new thing. Everyone is getting them. In fact they have then networked all together. There’s network cable running to all the rooms that have Xboxes. When we were playing tonight we were playing with up to 14 other guys all over the pad.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
The Ramadi Bus
The trip there went without a hitch. We had no problems getting there and the trip seemed pretty pleasant. When we got there we did what we had to do. We planned on staying there for a good part of the day so we went to the MWR to hang out. The transient barracks weren’t too far away. I attempted to get onto the internet but the system was down, so I went to the MWR to see what the rest of the crew was doing. Most of the guys were around the makeshift movie theater. The place was in a dark room made up of a big screen television and surround sound speakers.
I sat down in front of the other big screen television that mainly played television shows instead of movies like the theater. I watched Wheel of Fortune for a while before nodding off on the couch. That’s when I decided to take a nap so I headed over to the transient barracks. I think that’s the best thing about Ramadi. At least there’s a place to lay down, instead of inside or on top of a Humvee, to get some sleep. The place is made up of bunk beds and worn mattresses but I didn’t care. The only problem I had with the place is that it was freezing.
I took a nap and we left. We did encounter a few problems on the way back. First off, we ran into a cordon. I hate the things and I’m sure the Iraqis do too. I’d be as frustrated as they are. It’s no fun waiting around for the area to get cleared, especially out in the sun. The second problem we ran into was a flat tire. It wasn’t a big problem since all it took was a simple tire change but it did delay us a little bit.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The Iraqi Police
Very few of the IPs were clean-shaven and approprately dressed. Most of the IPs looked very untidy with their shirts wrinkled up and their pants hanging loose around their waist. I think the best ones are the guys that have pride in their uniform and in what they do. They look unlike any policeman anywhere back in the States. I’m sure it’ll take a lot of work but I’m not sure appearance is not on the top of their list.
The IPs remind me of single soldiers. They live the life of an IP 24 hours a day. Like soldiers that live in barracks these guys live at the police station. They sleep in small rooms on bedsprings and worn mattresses. Some of them even sleep on the floor with just a blanket. The police station is their life and they live the life of a policeman day in and day out just as a soldier lives on a military post. They give their life to a cause. The sleep there, eat there, and I’m sure they bathe there too. They don’t have many amenities and there doesn’t look like there is much to do there. They seem to spend their time socializing with others, smoking, or eating.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
I bought a pita for lunch. I was going to eat it until I saw the guy handle it with his hands. They don’t have the same sanitary standards that we have back home. I’m not sure where that guy had his hands and these people aren’t the most sanitary people on earth. I lost my appetite before I even took a bite. I wasn’t about to dare it and I didn’t feel like being sick later.
These people love their bread here. They also love their veggies. This pita was mostly filled with tomatoes and cucumbers. At first I thought it was a veggie pita because I didn’t see any meat in it. That wasn’t until I opened it on a second time to look inside closer. That’s when I found a small piece of beef at the bottom. As for the soda, I haven’t drunk it yet. I’m saving that for later. I was tripping out because the logo on it almost looks like the logo on a Pepsi can.
Monday, August 14, 2006
It’s really nice having the place to myself now. It does feel a little bit lonely now. Now there’s no one here to speak with. If I want some company I either have to go visit someone else or hope that someone comes over to visit me. For me it’s ok. I like having my privacy and I do like to do things by myself. I’m a social person at times and sometimes I like having the time to myself.
I don’t know how long it’ll be like this but I hope it’s for a while. I’d hate to find out tomorrow that we’re moving to Ramadi too. I’m not looking forward to moving over there but if we do the good thing is that it can’t be that long. That is unless the Army decides to extend us over here.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Ramadi is like an armpit of Iraq. It reminds me of Kuwait, without so much of the sand and camels. The dirt is like a fine power type and the air is full of dust. The area is more arid then the Baghdad area even though it borders the Euphrates River. I found myself covering up my mouth and nose with a scarf which I don’t normally do. The wind was picking up every bit of dust it could find and the sky had a brown dusty haze because of it.
I wouldn’t want to be stuck there. The living conditions are a lot better here in Baghdad then they are in Ramadi. The PX wasn’t as grand as the one we have here, of course. The MWR/Recreation Center is undergoing some remodeling so it’s pretty chaotic inside. There were areas of the recreation center that were closed and parts of the place that were disorganized.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
The trip to Ramadi
We also had a problem with our Humvee. The A/C went out again. It might be because the air intake filter is all clogged up with dirt, I don’t know. The mechanics checked it out when we got to Ramadi and said that everything seems to be working fine, pressure wise.
We spent the night in the transient barracks there. The accommodations weren’t too bad. It wasn’t hot in there. In fact it was cold, really freaking cold. It’s part of the reason I couldn’t sleep last night. The only thing I took with me was a travel pillow and a poncho liner. I didn’t expect it to be that cold in there.
We dropped of the guys and the stuff that was staying. They started making themselves at home in their new temporary abode.
We were supposed to leave this morning, but ended up leaving this afternoon. I was happy to get back. With my roommate moved out I could rearrange the room to make it more for myself. It’ll be nice to live in privacy for a while. Too bad it’s only temporary.
I just found out some bad news. Not only do we have to go back to Ramadi, we have to back today. That sucks. It’s not like the drive is long and hot enough, but to make a drive here and then back there again. That’s just great!!! At least it’s seemed relatively safe.
Friday, August 11, 2006
My team is going too, of course but we’re not staying. We’re just going to spend the night over there. Up until yesterday I thought we were staying too. I found out when I asked The Colonel if there was any suggested packing list and he mentioned, “For what?” For what else I thought, the move. “Didn’t you hear? We’re not going. I told you three days ago.” Yeah right I thought. Three days ago he told me we were going. It was just another lie that just makes me mad. The good thing is we’re not staying.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
East of The Tigris
There’s also something new here in Baghdad. Strykers. I haven’t seen them here at all until a couple of weeks ago. The news of more troops moving to Baghdad has been all over the news and I read about it in Stars and Stripes. I’m seeing these Strykers more and more in the city.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The streets are really narrow as well. I’m not used to riding on narrow streets. I’m used to the west where the streets are wide and straight for miles, unlike the east coast. Oh but that traffic. They just don’t pull over, which makes it worse. They’ll all drive forward and began to bottleneck when the road either comes to an intersection or there’s a checkpoint. I just wish there was some other way to make them stop. They know they’re always supposed to yield to military vehicles.
We almost got lost a couple times too. It happens all the time, especially when driving in new territory. It happens to anyone driving in a part of a city they’ve never been to before. At least this time we only took one wrong turn. We almost went over a bridge, crossing the Tigris River, to a bad part of Baghdad. I’ve even heard stories back home on the news a couple of years ago about how the Marines had to hold the bridge as a stronghold. I knew this was the bridge in reference to.
On the way back to our camp one of the Humvees got into a collision with a civilian vehicle. The Humvee was in front of us when it was crossing the traffic circle, going straight. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this car starts crossing from the left at a high rate of speed. I watched the car go right into the intersection, as the gunner was looking right at it. Then, all of a sudden, it clips the right rear of the Humvee real hard and the rear of the car comes a little off the ground. I knew nothing was going to happen to the Humvee because these things are built tough and the weight could handle that little car.
The Humvee that got hit started to keep going before they stopped. When talking with the guys inside they said it didn’t even feel like they got hit. They thought they ran a dog over or something. The guys that ran into them totally lost the front left end of their car and their bumper was lying on the road, off the vehicle. They totally messed up that car. They appeared alright when it happened because they got out and started swearing, cursing, and waving their hands. They were looking at me like it was my fault. That’s what they get for speeding through an intersection. I don’t know what was wrong with that guy but I saw the whole thing and he was totally at fault. I just wish we were recording it like we usually do with everything. Again, another missed opportunity.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Happy Birthday Peter!
Today is my oldest son’s birthday. It’s also my birthday. He turns 9 and I turn 32. Yes, we have a birthday on the same day. I consider him my birthday present. I’ll give him a call in a little while since it’s still early over there. I hope he likes the birthday present I bought him, a Nintendo DS. Happy Birthday Son!
32 years. I can’t believe it. I’m 8 years away from turning 40. It’s weird because I don’t feel that old. I still feel young and some of the guys think I’m in my 20s.
I was amazed that no one personally said happy birthday today. Heck, I didn’t even get the day off when others did. Sometimes I’m kicking myself in the ass because I don’t say anything. I think its pride. I didn’t tell anyone but I did expect at least my team leader and platoon sergeant know about it. It’s not like I went around telling everyone it’s my birthday. I think it’s the first birthday in my life where no one has personally said Happy Birthday. I did get a few e-mails and letters so I’d like to say THANK YOU to those who sent me an e-mail or snail mail greeting.
I decided to treat myself to a birthday treat after I finished dinner. I was so stuffed after eating dinner that I skipped the cake and just went for ice cream.
Monday, August 07, 2006
The End of Abu Ghraib.
Finally, I heard an ultimatum come down from command with a deadline for shut down. It was this August. For the past month I finally noticed changes and it finally looked like it was actually going to close. It began to look like a department store that was going out of business. The place was clearing out. Everything was getting cleaned up and all of the equipment was being moved.
We finished up our missions there this past week. It’s the last time I’ll ever be at Abu Ghraib. Abu Ghraib prison is finally closed and a part of history. So long Abu Ghraib. Never see you again.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
While we were over there I ran into this cute little girl. I gave her some pencils and note pads that Kathy from Tucson had sent me. The little girl was so cute. She was in a cute little dress and was wearing the shades just a little bit down on her nose. I had to get a picture with her so when we stopped I jumped out of the turret. I don’t get a chance to take photos with kids often so I’ll take opportunity I could get.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Where did the day go?
Another thing I can’t figure out is how some of these guys get up so early in the morning, especially when they don’t have to get up. I’ll get up at 0300 hours and walk to the latrine to shave and brush my teeth in the morning. It’ll be dark outside and pretty cool too. I’ll drag my body, half asleep, to the latrine hoping I don’t walk into anything. Then I’ll notice that there’s someone already up, just hanging out. What the heck? Are they getting up early to see the sun get up? It seems like it because they get up early every morning! They’ll sit around and chat while having a morning cigarette. They’re nuts!
Another thing that gets me is the people that get up at 3am to go running. What the heck? You won’t catch me running at 0300 hours in the morning. Forget that. It’s not like it’s the only time they’ll get to run. They’re plenty of people here that will run in the afternoon regardless of how hot it is. Heck, I’ll even find people running at 1300 hours when it’s like 110 degrees out. Won’t catch me doing that. I’d probably end up passed out on the pavement.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Not much to day about today. It was a maintenance day so I had to take the Humvee to the motor pool to do some maintenance. I guess they had to replace the pads on the front brakes since they were worn. I went to lunch, then the gym, then back to the motor pool to pick up the Humvee.
As for everything else, there’s not really much going on around here. The weather again was hot, sunny, and clear. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
The ASV Experience
It’s been a while since I’ve rode in one, when I was training in Kuwait in December of last year. I really enjoyed the break from gunning. I didn’t have to do much, just sit there to monitor and operate the radios mostly. The guys did most of the work like driving and the gunning. It gave me a chance to recover from all that work of carrying that .50 cal from my room to the truck, getting the ammo situated, and getting all of my gear ready. This time I just jumped in and we were ready to go. It was so easy. In fact Baloney had one of those Staples, ‘That Was Easy’, buttons attached to the inside frame and I just wanted to press it to hear that voice say, “That was easy.”
Strangely it was fun. Maybe it was because I got to ride along and mess with the siren. The guys were laid back and the thing was I was in charge. I let them do their job because I know they know how to do it. I wasn’t there to change things. I was there to supervise and make sure they did their job in a military manner.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
As we were walking she started fretting as we approached her unit commander. He was walking with an LT and I guess they were walking to chow. She was getting worried, I could tell. I don’t know why. There was some tension in her voice and she said, “Oh, here comes my commander.” Her sensitivity surprised me. What was she scared of? She wasn’t doing anything wrong. If her commander said anything I would’ve told him that I’m walking her to her pad as her battle buddy.
On the walk back to the pad I gave her some information on where she might get a phone. We’re leaving in a couple of months and some of the guys in my unit may be selling their phones already. I also explained how to access different phones and how to call online with Skype. It’s a computer program a buddy of mine showed me that allows me to make phone calls over the internet. I like it because it’s really cheap, like 2 cents a minute, and the quality is almost as good as a regular phone.
I also told her that the ‘Battle Buddy’ rule will go out the window pretty soon. I explained to her, “We used to do that too when we first got here. Don’t worry, they’ll forget all about ‘Battle Buddies’ in a month. Do you see anyone else walk around here with them? We had all kinds of rules when we first got here too. Don’t worry about it.”