Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween

I better get all the souvenirs I could get before I leave. We’re just hanging around now. We’ve pretty much turned the missions over to the new unit. Now we’re pretty much sitting around, waiting for the day when we fly out. They’re may be a little bit of a lag while I’m in my travels but I’ll try to post when I can.

I heard that when we get back to the States, we’d be on lockdown. I was told that we wouldn’t be able to leave the Fort or our area. I also heard that they’d have a no drinking policy. I could live with it but it still sucks.

This wasted my afternoon playing Halo in the Scorpion MWR. It’s not the same MWR that I was used to going into. This once is closer to the tents and further from our trailers. I got caught up playing Halo because this other guy from the platoon talked me into it. I’m not sure what we’re doing tomorrow, probably nothing. It’ll be another day for me to workout, watch a movie, and maybe visit the PX for the last time.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I will take it slow

That’s the motto of the day. It’s the phrase that the chaplain came up with. We went through some of our demobilization briefings today. There was also a liaison from legal and finance. They explained to us how our earnings would change and what we would receive. Legal told us about any legal issues that may arise such as court subpeona while we were overseas.

I thought the chaplain was the best of the three. He entertained us with humor and gave us the pleasure of only viewing a few slides on his power-point presentation. The first slide was a picture of a stack of books. He explained how he had read all those books to try and get into a soldiers mind but none of them really helped. Then he turned to the next slide that had a picture of a Maxim magazine, The Cat in The Hat, and a few other simple books. That’s when he said that he had found a way into the mind of a solider. His next slide had the simple phrase "I will take it slow." He had us repeat it a few times and then he told us about issues that would arise when we arrived home. After every issue, such as drinking and intimacy, we would all repeat, "I will take it slow." That was about it. The chaplain discussed suicide prevention as well.

Today was the last day to turn in our laundry. We also got dates for the rest of our demobilization until we arrive home.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Over Yet?

I wanted to spread the good news but we’re not entirely finished yet. I may never leave the wire again but there are a few of us that still have to. So I’ll hold off for now. We had a day off today. I was glad since it gave me a chance to do some of the things I needed to do. I still need to go to he post office to mail a few more packages before we leave.

I got up this morning around 0700 hours. I got dressed and walked over to the chow hall. Since we don’t have our trucks anymore we have to walk everywhere we go. It doesn’t bother me too much since I like walking. There were rainstorms this morning, which made it hard for me to walk to chow. When I thought it was going to come down hard I’d start running for time and possible shelter. The Army PT jacket didn’t help keeping me dry. My back still felt a little wet. I made it to the chow hall in about 15 minutes and ate breakfast. Afterwards I went next door to the phone center to call home and talk with the wife and kids. They’re all expecting me and can’t wait for me to arrive home.

I had my morning planned out before I left the tents and I was sticking to that plan. After calling home on the phone I went over to the MWR to check my e-mail. The internet was a little sluggish mainly because of all the rainstorms. I spent about an hour on the internet before I went to the gym. It’s been a while since I’ve worked out and since I’ve finally had some time off I wanted to take advantage of it. I was almost done with my workout when one of the guys from headquarters platoon showed up. He got an extra to-go meal at the mess hall and offered it to me. I accepted and we walked back to the tents.

This afternoon I turned in my laundry for the last time. I also got my last haircut in Iraq as well. I had to go out of my way to go to my favorite barber but it was worth it. I have a few more things to do but hopefully I’ll have enough time to do them.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Changeover is Hell

I had to smoke a cigarette today. They’re not hard to find. There are a lot of guys that smoke in the Army. Maybe it’s an Army thing. I don’t smoke but today I decided to smoke one. We’ve had a hell of a week and after it was all done with today, it felt relieving.

We were told last night that we were meeting up this morning in the motor pool at 0945. I decided to get up early to chat with the wife and eat some breakfast before the day started. I arrived at the motor pool at 0930 just to be on the safe side and found that I was the first one there. I wondered where everyone else was for a while. The next person on the scene was one of the squad leaders from the new unit. He’s a pretty good guy, tall, brown hair, and resembles Mel Gibson. He asked me where everyone else was. I told him I didn’t know, I was just told to be there at 0945. A few minutes later a few more of his guys started arriving. Only a few of the guys from my platoon arrived a while later. Some of the guys were already going AWOL and I was pissed cause leadership was doing nothing about it.

This afternoon we were having the change over. We were turning over our trucks and all the equipment. It wasn’t too bad. We had to wait forever because the supply sergeant from the new unit had to go through all the serial numbers on all the equipment for each vehicle. I grabbed whatever I had left and said goodbye to my truck. It was being turned over to a new team.
Another milestone happened today. We also turned in most of our body armor and ammo. That brought to me the realization of something else; I may never go outside the wire again. It’s still possible, but unlikely. I heard the guys are going back to Ramadi pretty soon. I’m hoping I don’t have to go with them. Not because I hate going outside the wire, I don’t, I just don’t feel like going through all the motions. After the day was done and the headaches were over with, I decided to have a cigarette.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Return To Ramadi

For a while I thought I’d seen my last day as a .50 cal gunner. We left to Ramadi yesterday and I sat in the back seat. I thought I was just going along for the ride. There wasn’t much else I could show the new gunner since he had already been trained. To me, I was basically coaching and orientating him a little bit. I’d help out with the other guys where needed as well. Most of the problems were with our radio communications and not our weapons systems.

When we got to Ramadi I thought I’d be done for the day. I thought I was finished and we’d go hang out at the MWR and find a place to sleep in the homeless shelter. Hopefully it’s the last night I’ll ever spend in Ramadi. It didn’t go as planned though. The PL wanted me to go with him to the range. The Hoosiers were going to go to the range to test out their weapon systems and troubleshoot any problems that arise. Our platoon wanted an NCO and I guess I was the best person he could find. Why me, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I didn’t do shit but sit in the back seat of the Humvee.

Luckily the PL and me left the range before the guys were done. They were able to take care of themselves and their 1st Sergeant was there to oversee all the testing. We went back to AR Ramadi and ate chow. I knew our day was over with. Afterwards we went to the MWR to hang out for the rest of the night. I picked up another book in the library there. I wasn’t in the mood for watching a movie or television, or playing video games. It’s too noisy in that place and all I wanted to do was spend some quiet time reading a book. I’ve been reading a Star Wars novel but I dumped it. It wasn’t enjoyable at all and I got tired of reading it. I found this other book in the library there titled, “Second Sunrise”. It’s about this Navajo State Police officer turned vampire. So far it’s very entertaining.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rainy Days Are Back

It sucks. For a while I thought that I wouldn’t have to go to Ramadi tomorrow with the rest of the guys. I just found out the news that I’m going and I have to be up at 0445. As if I haven’t got enough sleep lately. But I have a plan for that. I know that I won’t be gunning tomorrow. It will be one of the Hoosiers and I have a plan on how I’m going to sleep in the back of the truck. I’m going along for the ride. I don’t know why I am, but I am. I had my hopes up too. I was planning on catching up on some sleep and getting a haircut tomorrow too. Now it’ll have to wait.

We took two different squads out today. The first gunner out amazed me with us this morning. Just by talking to him I got the feeling that he knew what he was doing. I don’t know how or why. Maybe it was his upbringing. I got the impression that he grew up on a farm and sure enough he did. He spoke of all kinds of things like windage and mathematics. He mentioned that he had a sniper rifle. I really recommended to him that he brings that thing out. I’m getting the impression that he’s the shooter of the platoon. Heck, no one in our company even has a sniper rifle. I also got the impression that he’s an expert marksman. Heck, I should be asking him questions instead of the other way around. In fact, next time we’re together I’m going to start asking and finding out what tips I could learn.

We came back to the camp for lunch chow then went back out. In the afternoon we took a different squad out. We took them through some of the mean streets of Baghdad, almost trashed a few cars in traffic, and gave these Hoosiers a little bit of a tour.

It felt a little relieving today. I felt as if I’ve move up to another level, alumni. I feel like I’ve graduated to another class, riding in that back seat today. I wasn’t gunning for the first time. I was actually, just along for the ride. I got to sit down and look around and see Baghdad from a different perspective. Now I am a coach. I’m not sitting on the sidelines, watching the action, and telling my players what to do. It also helps me realize that I won’t be here for long. These guys are taking over day by day. They’re pushing us out and I don’t mind. I feel sorry for them, but not for us. They have a whole year to spend here and we haven’t even finished ours. Pretty soon I won’t be riding along anymore and we’ll be handing over the rings and everything else to someone else.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Finishing Up

Right now our 2nd platoon is having a barbeque. It’s looks like the biggest party on the whole camp. I’m sure others are wondering who the hell we are. They’ve got their Humvees pulled up around the barbeque pit with all the lights on. They’ve also got some cots and chairs situated around the grill. They ran an extension cord from outside the tent so they could also play their speakers outside too. They’ve got the stakes on the grill and the only thing they’re missing is the beer.

I’m trying hard as heck to get these guys prepared for what’s ahead. I’ve already let a few get comfortable with being outside the wire and with how to interact over here. All the training in the world could not prepare these guys for the real thing. Sure the training helps, but it doesn’t replace actually interacting outside the wire on the mean streets of Baghdad.

The way I figure it, the sooner I get them doing the job, the faster I get to kick back and start preparing to leave. I haven’t had time to do things like get a haircut and make sure I’ve bought all the souvenirs I want before I leave. I’ve waited till the last minute like always and now I think I’m running out of time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Familiarization

The weather wasn’t bad today. It was cloudy for most of the day with some very light rain. The weather has also been cooler, which I really appreciate. I can’t believe how nice the cool weather feels. It’s almost refreshing. So refreshing that it almost makes me want to move to someplace cooler. I’m glad the days of hot weather are long gone and even the rain is starting to feel a little nice. That’s as long as it doesn’t pour.

We went on some more missions today, showing The Hoosiers around Baghdad. I tried to talk and explain to the guys as much as I could think of. I did end up getting a little frustrated though. Well, maybe I wasn’t frustrated, just upset. That’s because we did some things that were ate up that I don’t think we should’ve done. The team in the lead truck of our patrol just came back from Ramadi. There have been some changes on the roadways and such. They just decided to put an inexperienced driver at the head of the patrol. I brought it up at the AAR. I recommended that the lead element have the most experienced and best driver, that way they don’t get lost. There’s nothing wrong with Ses’ driving, he just hasn’t driven here in a while. Stuff has changed since he’s left and came back.

This evening, on the way back to camp, I noticed these teenagers on the street with an AK-47. There were about five of them standing around a parked car on the side of the road. I was wondering at the time whether it was the real thing or a toy. I wasn’t sure and it was hard to tell. As soon as they saw us coming they put it away. I kept an eye on them though. I was waiting to see if they were going to try anything. Now that I think about it, maybe we should’ve stopped them. It’s not my decision though. I just reported it to my team leader, as I should. It’s not my job to convince him into investigating those teens. But, thinking about it now, they were trouble and I’m sure we could’ve easily confiscated that weapon from them. That’s only if they didn’t decide to make our day.

I was sitting in the tent this evening, after I ate dinner chow and showered to type up my blog. That’s when this girl arrived to talk to one of the guys here. It surprised me because we never get girls around here, especially around our tent. I’m right at the doorway so I asked what she needed. I had seen here before in the mess hall during a lunch one time. She mentioned that she was here for someone and I told her that he went out to the phone center. I figured she say thanks and walk away but she just stood there, silent. I didn’t want to be rude but I was curious as to why she just didn’t walk away. There she stood, looking into our tent, checking out as much as she could. Her silence caught me so I wanted to find out what else she wanted. She didn’t talk much and was pretty reserved.

So I got up from the cot, turned my laptop off, and walked to the doorway. I started a little chitchat but I really wanted to find out why she hadn’t left. There was something she wanted and I knew it. I kept repeated that the person she was looking for wasn’t here and that I’d let him know that she had come by. After I spoke to her for a little bit, she finally opened up. She mentioned that her husband had left her. Tears had begun to run down her face. That’s when I thought, oh God, not this and why me. She opened up to me, a complete stranger. Why, I don’t know. Maybe she wanted someone to talk to.

So I listened to her and asked her questions. I tried to understand her situation as best as I could. I recommended that she talk to a Chaplin but she mentioned that she had already tried that and it didn’t work. She needed help and I could tell. I had a long deep chat with her. It’s not one that I’d prefer to have but felt I had to do. I felt I had to give the best advise and direction that I could. I told her about my life experiences and my relationship with my wife and my buddies over here. I tried to talk her into finding some friends over here, true friends, someone she could talk to. I was a little worried at first and I have the feeling that she’s depressed. I don’t know. I’m no therapist. Heck, I’ll probably need therapy at home after this.

I think she’ll be ok. There’s no telling how her relationship goes. Her relationship all depends on how her husband and her work together. I told my buddy that she came by when he arrived. I let him know about what she told me. He already knew from the conversation he had with her earlier. I’m glad she was looking for someone she could talk to. I don’t trust her with that weapon of hers. Hopefully, she’ll be ok. I hate having to take care of even these things over here. I’m no Chaplin or counselor.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Tent

I guess that I should perhaps describe our tent a little bit. They’re supposed to fit 50 of us in here but right now there’s only like 30. Thank God. That leaves more room for us. These tents aren’t your typical Vietnam era tents either. We have an a/c unit attached to both sides of the tent, blowing out cool air. The tent is also equipped with a two fire extinguishers and smoke detectors throughout the inside. The flooring is tiled with smooth plywood and cots are lined up and down the tent on both sides. In some ways I like it and in some ways I don’t. I like the fact that there’s more social interaction here but less privacy. We get to know each other a little bit more now because we have to live with one another. I’m already pretty familiar with my platoon buddies but we’re also sharing the room with 2nd platoon. I’ve started socializing with guys from that platoon that I’ve never socialized with before.

We took the guys from Indiana to Ramadi today. We didn’t take all of them since there wasn’t room for all of them in the trucks we took. We passed a few cordons here and there but there wasn’t anything significant. The ride there and back wasn’t too bad actually. The only thing I hated about the trip is the fact that we had to take out a spare truck because our original truck didn’t get dispatched. Hopefully, we’ll be able to take that truck out tomorrow.

I did forget to mention one thing about today. It happened after we left the wire this morning, about 10 miles out. One of the trucks in the convoy was almost out of fuel as soon as we left. We had to turn around and come back to the camp so he could fuel. It was a pain in the ass and we were all pissed. It added about 45 minutes to our trip. Talk about not being prepared. I wonder what The Hoosiers were thinking of us. Maybe they didn’t think much about it since they didn’t bring it up in the after action review.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Orientation

Right now we’re in the tent, planning our bank robbery when we get home. Our plan is to rob a bank using our weapons and Humvees on a drill weekend. We’re just dreaming, thinking, and planning but we’re not going to do it. We’re just using our imagination and dreaming like little boys. But we’re coming out with a nice plan. And now, the tent is quiet because all the guys are thinking about it. The other funny thing is these guys actually think they could do it. They’ve got it all planed out. It’s what happens when you get a bunch of bored guys together. Heck, I might just get in trouble for mentioning it. We’re not supposed to talk about our locations, activities, or other such things that may endanger our lives but they never said anything about planning a heist. These guys have been watching too many crime movies.

Today was the first day the guys from the new platoon went out with us. They’re all from the Indiana National Guard. I’m glad they’re guard members like me. It’s easier for me to relate to them even though I’ve been in the regular Army before. They guys had lots of questions about everything from how my deployment has been here to questions about our mission. I answered all of their questions and tried to tell them about as much as I could think of. I couldn’t get to everything because I couldn’t think of everything at the time. I explain about as much as I could. The other nice thing about these guys is that they’re infantry soldiers. That means I could focus my training on field experience rather then military tactics, techniques, and procedures.

I guess I’d compare it to getting a policeman that’s been trained but doesn’t have the experience in my city. Most or some of them may have no experience at all but the thing is they are all well trained for the job they will be performing.

It was overcast today with a few light showers. The weather has been cooler and it’s been a little windy. I was told that it’s supposed to rain for the next two days but these guys never get the weather report right.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Clearing the Conexes

We spent the whole day going through customs. They went through all the crates and personal boxes we were going to ship back home overseas. The were looking for things like alcohol, pornography, cigars, cigarettes, US government property, ammunition, weapons, and flammables, It was a pain in the ass because we had to unload all of the stuff that we had just loaded the other day. It wasn’t hot but some of the guys got sunburn from being out in the sun all day.

It was an all day event. The customs officials were MPs from another unit. We worked from 0630 until 1600. We had a lunch break from 1200 to 1300. We weren’t done after the customs officials went thorough everything. We still had inventory to do. It’s a daily thing that we’re doing now because of the NVGs that got misplaced. Well, I’m glad we finally got everything packed and ready to go. I know we’ll have to do the same thing when we get through Kuwait.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Closing the Game

Boy I hope nothing happens to us now. That would totally suck, to be here for a year and to get hit. That’s all I would need at this late point in the game. We weren’t supposed to go out on mission today. I had gone to the MWR to check my e-mail and get some lunch when I got the news. It was bad news and it was a note that was hanging on the window of my Humvee. They had found my truck at the parking lot of the chow hall and left the note on my truck. I opened it up and it read, “1300 mission at the TOC.” Great I thought! It’s just what I wanted to do, go out on mission.

It’s not that I’m worried. I’m not. I just didn’t feel like going out. I wasn’t in the mood for it, especially on late notice. Maybe it might have been alright if they gave us an advanced notice instead of an urgent notice. We all linked up at the TOC and got ready to head out. I put the .50 cal together, T-Rex did the checks on the Humvee, and The Colonel was making sure everything was getting completed. We got set and then rolled out the wire. Along with us were the new officers from the new unit that was going to replace us. Our mission was to give them a tour of the IZ. I’d rather scare the shit out of them and give them a real tour, Sadar City perhaps. Maybe fuck around with them a little and maybe play some pranks on them here and there. T-Rex could drive real fast and I could yell that we were getting shot at, taking fire. We have to initiate these guys somehow.

We stopped at some little street store operated by a couple of kids. The oldest looked 14 and his little brother appeared to be 10 years old. They were selling all kinds of souvenirs and goods. What surprised me was that they were also selling paperback books that looked like they were donated by organizations back home. They even had stickers on the front cover displaying which organization donated the books. Now they were for sell. They sold flags, knives, swords, coins, pins, and other items with Saddam’s face on it.

The weather has been warm during the days with high humidity. It’s been raining just a little bit every night almost. There still hasn’t been as significant an amount of rain as the other day. Last night there were some evening thunderstorms that were reminiscent of the monsoons back home in Arizona, without the haboobs.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Moving out

I can’t believe we went out on mission this morning but we did. What could we do? The mission still had to get completed whether we had packed our bags or not. It’s a fact I didn’t like but I had to deal with it. I knew my morning would be occupied with a mission out in Baghdad. I also knew that we would be back around noon, which wasn’t too bad. Once we got back to the camp things turned hectic.

First off we had to pack our personal boxes into the conexes. We took all of them out and loaded them to get shipped overseas on a ship. We won’t see them for about 2 months so they told us to pack whatever we wouldn’t need for 2 months in there. I didn’t realize until my box was already in the conex that I still had stuff I had to put in there.

My room was a mess and so disorganized I didn’t know how I was going to start packing to move. I just started throwing stuff into duffle bags as fast as I could. I didn’t have much time so I tried to move as fast as I could. That’s when we got interrupted. All the NCOs had to go to the team leaders’ room for a meeting. Oh no, I thought, it’s another one of those. It’s never a good thing, only a bitch session. It’s a time to put it out about how messed up things are and how bad we all are. It didn’t bother me though because the issue at hand was the missing NVGs. Apparently they were found but the point that was brought up was that us, NCOs had to step up.

I guess that was said because of the carelessness and irresponsibility from some of the other team leaders. I’m not a team leader myself so I didn’t care so much. In fact, I felt the issue had nothing to do with me. I just blew it off and hoped that the bitching would end so I could go back to my crib to pack my things.

We finally finished moving out at 1800 hours. The new unit arrived around 1500 and had to wait around for us to clear out the pad. I’m sure it would’ve been done earlier if some of us didn’t have to go out on mission this morning. We’re moved into tents and now we’re trying to get situated for the duration of our stay here in Iraq. I time is getting very short now. It won’t be long before we’re on the plane out of here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Getting ready to move

I went to the post office this morning to ship out my box. I went first thing in the morning. I think that was a mistake because everyone else decided to do the same thing. I had to wait in line for 40 minutes, which wasn’t that bad. I took a book to help pass the time. I’m glad I finally got though that headache. It ended up costing me $54 with insurance.

We’ve been on lockdown all day because of the missing NVGs. The PL went searched through our rooms and all of our bags looking for it. They weren’t found and I doubt they’ll find them. They’ve been missing for a month and no one knew about it until just the other day.

This evening we searched for those NVGs some more. We weren’t able to find them, of course. During that time The Colonel broke a few of us for chow. I decided to run over to Burger King and while I did that would go and get my rank sown on my cap. What I found at Burger King was the same nightmare I’ve been finding at the chow hall, post office, and just about everywhere else. There was a long line. The camp has also been a little crowded since the past week too. That’s because of all the troops that have arrived here. I’m sure it’ll get a little more crowded once our relieving unit arrives.

I never really thought of it but tonight is our last night in the trailers. Some of the guys are having a barbeque tonight. I think it’s in honor of our last night here. I’d join them but I have tons of stuff I still have to take care of.

Tomorrow we’re moving out of the cribs and into tents. It’s just another step towards making our way home. We’re moving out so the relieving unit could move right in and make themselves at home. I don’t have much stuff now, only a few duffle bags full. Luckily, this time I’m prepared unlike a lot of the other guys in the company. I found that this place looks more and more like a flea market. Guys are just putting the stuff they don’t want right outside their doors. As I look up and down the pad I find junk in front of rooms everywhere. Sometimes I wished I could throw money away as easily as some of these guys do. I’m really, really conservative with my money. Before I buy anything I usually consider to myself whether I really need it and whether I’ll use it. That’s why I never bought much stuff over here. I’m sure it helps being married with children too. It causes me to have a tight budget.

Monday, October 16, 2006

In A Hurry To Get Things Done

So today I got word, maybe official. We’re moving out of our cribs and into tents on the 18th. So today I felt a sense of urgency to start getting rid of my stuff and finding out what I’m going to carry with me on the plane back home. The less stuff I take, the less I have to carry. Then there’s always the issue of weight. They weigh all of our bags to make sure the plane isn’t so heavy that it can’t lift off the ground. I didn’t have time to do much because this morning we had another inventory. This time it was a kind of a turn over inventory. A supply sergeant from the advanced party was going through all of our vechicles and recording all of our equipment.

Afterwards I had things to do so I knew I’d have to plan accordingly. I needed to get a haircut, mail a box at the post office, and pick up a plaque that I ordered, customized, at the bazaar. Plus I had to drop off some laundry at the cleaners. I had a lot to do today and little time to do it. Whatever I didn’t finish today, I knew I would have to finish tomorrow.

So I dropped off my laundry and then headed over to the Bazaar. It was closed for some reason or another. So then I went over to the post office to mail my box of personal stuff home. There was a long line at the post office and I knew that I’d have to wait for a while. So I decided to go to the post office tomorrow and get a haircut today. So I drove over to the barber, got a haircut, ate dinner, and went to the PX to pick up a few things. As soon as I got back The Colonel asked me if I could drive around and look for Private Pennis. The commander wanted to see him right away in his office about some Article 15 Non-Judicial Punishment. I found out that he was on another camp so I drove over there to find him. I got there and luckily found him in no time. I gave him the word and drove back to our camp.

I went to the recreation tent to get on the internet to check my e-mail when T-Rex walks in and tells me that we’re on lockdown. I asked why and he told me it was because some NVGs (Night Vision Goggles) were missing. I asked who’s and he told me. It was from a team that left Iraq to train some troops that are on their way over here. Great I thought. It’s just another thing to get bothered with. I know what the deal is in these situations. They’ll search around everywhere and still won’t find it. I knew it too. Soon enough we were asked to go out to the motor pool to be prepared to search the Humvees. It sucked because it was already dark and we’d be looking for these things at night. They are very sensitive and very expensive. Losing one could cost a Joe his career.

So we searched all the Humvees in the platoon in darkness to no avail. We were unable to find any NVGs. Then we searched a few rooms. We ended up finding some pornography, which is contraband, instead of the NVGs. A few of the guys that last handled the NVGs had to fill out witness statements and the rest of us are now locked down in our room. I’m sure the search will continue tomorrow.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Country Rock

We spent the night in Ramadi last night. That’s the reason I didn’t get to blog. It’s not that there’s not internet access over there. There is. The problem is that we could only get on for a limited time so I only had enough time to check my e-mail.

We’re lucky we had a place to sleep this time. The transient barracks were full. That’s because there was a unit that was leaving and of course, they needed a place to stay. It’s usually full when a unit is coming or going. These guys were a National Guard unit out of Colorado and were on their way home. I was happy for them. We were fortunate to find a couple of unoccupied bunks to sleep on for the night. We had to got Ramadi late because of a cordon that took hours. When we got to the Ramadi I really didn’t feel like hanging around the MWR there. I wasn’t in the mood for watching a movie on their big screen TV or watching some college football. I didn’t feel like playing video games or lifting any weights. The place was crowded, noisy, and disturbing and I didn’t feel like being there. I went into the library to read and get some peace and quiet. I started falling asleep so I figured that I was tired. That’s when I decided to go next door to the transient tent to lay down and read on my bunk. I felt relaxed on my bunk. It was nice and quiet and more peaceful then the MWR. I ended up falling asleep around 2200 hours.

Tonight when we got back to Baghdad I found out that there’s a live concert. I didn’t know who it was and figured it must be some amateur rock band from the camp. I heard the music from my trailer so I figured I’d go check it out. I do like some rock but I’m more into alternative. On the walk over there I ran into a buddy that just came from the concert. He said that it was a country band. I couldn’t believe it, hearing the music from where I was. The band had set up on a stage and was playing outdoors. There were stands in front of the stage for all to sit on. I approached and found another one of my buddies sitting, listening to some of the music. I love listening to live bands so I wasn’t going to pass this opportunity up.

The band was very different for country. I’m not sure how old country fans would take it. To me, it was more like a mix of rock and country. It’s perfect if you like rock, and you like country. I enjoyed it and I’m sure others, mostly rock fans, would too. Afterwards the band, with lead singer Brian Stace, signed autographs and took photos. They’re on tour here in Iraq and will be around to see the soldiers over here. I’m glad they came out.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Laughing My Ass Off

There was a late notice last night. I was at the gym yesterday afternoon and went next door to the MWR to see what was playing in the makeshift theater. On the door to the entrance was a flyer for, The Comics On Duty World Tour. The show was going to start at 2000 hours that night. I was a little excited about it and planned my night around it. I came back to my trailer, took a shower, put on a clean uniform, and went to eat dinner. After dinner chow I was going to walk over to the MWR to see the show.

The comedy show featured Drake Witham, Steve Mazan, Dave Mishevitz, Keith Alberstadt, and Tom Foss. I knew there wasn’t going to be a big audience because of the short notice and sure enough, there wasn’t. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the way the crew at the MWR set up the chairs. They set up the chairs in a sort of a box fashion around the front of the stage. I would’ve liked it more if the chairs were set up in rows in front of the stage. I got the sense that even the comedians were uncomfortable with it.

I’m sure they thought it was a rough audience too. Hardly anyone was laughing at any of the jokes at first. If we were we weren’t being that loud. I think that we were too embarrassed to have a good time and make loud noises. Most of us weren’t comfortable laughing out. Some of the first few comedians had a hard time getting us to laugh out loud. I wondered what they began to think. Some of the jokes were ok and had me laughing here and there. It was the last entertainer, Tom Foss, who had me laughing my ass off. He was hysterical! It’s like the whole mood of the audience had changed once he got up there to perform. He said he was from West Virginia and even reminded me of a buddy of mine from Snake Creek. He was funny too. I even wondered if they might be related because he resembled him a little bit too.

Well, I’m really glad that these guys came out to entertain us troops. They’re doing a tour through Iraq and will be going from location to location. They appreciated our service, shaked each and everyone’s hand, and gave us all these Comics On Tour patches. They also had guest books they wanted us to sign after the show.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Moving Right Along

This morning we started off by having a vehicle inspection. Our 1st

Sergeant wanted to go through our Humvees to make sure they were in appropriate condition to turn over to the next unit that will relieve us. Unfortunately, I had to clean the windows again because it had rained a little last night. It’s been raining almost nightly now for the past couple of nights. But there hasn’t been a significant amount of rain. The only other thing the rain did to my Humvee was leave dirt spots all over it just after I washed it. Someone had remarked that it had to rain because we washed our Humvees. Of course.

This afternoon we had to go to the medical clinic to start our out-process. We had to complete this questionnaire on these PDAs that they handed out to each and every one of us. There were questions such as what was our job here, where we served, if we’ve had any illnesses, and what types of agents and working conditions we were exposed to. I felt like a regular health assessment to find those at risk for any health or mental problems. I doubt I’ve acquired any diseases or medical problems while over here. The only thing I’m worried about is the amount of dust that may have accumulated into my lungs.

Tonight The Big Man and me ran into a 1st that got on our ass. He came up to us tonight while we were selling some more of our stuff on another pad. Most of the stuff was the Big Man’s. He was selling his TV, microwave, fridge, and some other small stuff. The reason he got on us was because we had parked in an unauthorized area when we were selling our stuff. He came by and asked who’s truck it was and we said it was ours. He said that we couldn’t have it there. So I told him ok and that we would move it. I didn’t know his rank at the time because he was wearing a PT uniform. At that time The Big Man was in the middle of a sale. That’s when I told him we’d just move over to the parking area and do a deal over there. It’s wasn’t even a minute before the 1st Sergeant got on us again about moving it. The Big Man was ending the conversation and getting into the Humvee. I was going to ground guide him out of there. That’s when the 1st Sergeant got on our case again. He said, “I told you to move this vehicle.” I replied, “Roger, we’re moving it right now.” Then I walked over to The Big Man and told him, “Hey, we have to get out of here right now. This 1st Sergeant is getting on us.” I was pissed because he didn’t allow us the time to get in, start the Humvee, and drive off. I think he would’ve rather us fly out of there. I don’t understand what his problem was but that’s the way they are sometimes. I would completely understand if we had blown him off and didn’t start moving out but we were. He had told us that we weren’t allowed to park there but there were no signs anywhere in sight that said there wasn’t any parking allowed. I was just pissed off at the 1st Sergeant’s behavior, attitude, and lack of understanding. I had apologized to him for parking there when I didn’t know we could park there, and had motioned to move the Humvee the minute he told us to move it.

The pics above are from the living conditions in Ramadi. They live like pigs. I'm glad I'm not there and if I were I'd probably have them clean up a little bit.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

For Sale

Last night I found out that we’re moving next week. We’re moving out of our cribs and into tents. It’s a change that makes it seem more and more like things are moving along. It’s really starting to feel like we’re leaving pretty soon. I didn’t realize how soon it was until I looked at the calendar and noticed that we actually have less then a month here. WOW! I can’t believe it. Less then a month and I’m sure it’ll come by in no time.

So, I tried to come up with a plan so start packing and shipping my stuff. It’s time to start sending my junk home and selling the stuff I can’t take home. Before I was able to go to the PX to buy a Gorilla Box I had to go to the motor pool and wash one of the Humvees. We have a vehicle inspection tomorrow because of the change over of units.

At the PX I ran into a solider that had a drawer in the register line. So I asked her how much she was paying for it. She told me $25 and I told her I have one exactly like it that I would sell for $5. Obviously she wanted it but couldn’t come to my pad to pick it up. I guess her unit just arrived and she didn’t have any ride except for the local bus transportation that makes rounds. The only other way for her to pick it up would’ve been for her to walk all the way to my side of the camp.

So I offered to deliver the drawer set for $7. I was happy to get rid of it and was willing to drive wherever. Once I got to her pad I had to find out where her room was. The minute I got there someone else was asking me how much I wanted for the drawer. I told them it was already sold but I had plenty of other stuff to sell, mostly my roommates stuff. Their unit had just got her today. So now I don’t have to worry about selling all of my stuff. I told her to ask around to others in her unit and see if anyone else was interested in anything.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Taking Out The Winch

On our way to Ramadi we ran into another one of those car bombs. Luckily, we weren’t at the scene when it exploded. We arrived after the fact. There was debris everywhere and the truck was still smoking. There’s definitely no fire department here because the mess was still there on the way back. It ended up leaving the overpass black. Pieces of the truck were everywhere.

On the way back from Ramadi we ran into some Marines. They had their bot out too, looking for IEDs. So we just drove around them and moved on. At this point, bombs are no big deal. I’ve even heard a story of a local Iraqi boy who picked up an IED to show some guys in our platoon where it was. They ended up giving him candy, money, and cigarettes of all things. I heard he was begging for cigarettes.

This afternoon when we got back we had to stop off at the motor pool to drop off the trailer and some tires. As we left we didn’t realize that our winch had become unlocked and was getting released. We were leaving the gate when some of my buddies from the other team started yelling at me to stop. I wasn’t sure what all the commotion was about. I looked and saw this cable and heard one of the guys say, “you’re dragging a wire!” I didn’t realize what it was at the time. I just went ahead and yelled at the driver, Oregon, to stop. He stopped and they got out to look at it. We actually got lucky cause if we hadn’t have known we might have dragged the fence all the way back to the parking lot.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Switchover

There’s been another change. I’m now switching teams and going to another truck. I really don’t have any problems with it and I’m kind of glad. I like the team I’ll be moving to. The only thing I don’t like is the fact that I won’t be riding in a brand new Humvee like before. I’ll have to make some minor changed too like move some of my personal stuff from one Humvee to another. I’ll have to get use to the dirt again. Our new truck was clean. This new truck I’m going to is dirty and has lots of problems with it. It’s like going from a Cadillac to a Pinto. Oh well. I could deal with it.

I’ve started packing some of my stuff. We brought these big boxes with us when we came over. They’re job boxes and were sent just for the purpose of storing the additional stuff we accumulate over here. I myself haven’t bought much stuff since I’ve been here unlike other guys. Some others have lots of stuff to get rid of like big screen TVs, stereos, DVD players, furniture, and other stuff like guitars. I, myself never bought much stuff because, for one, I’m broke because I’m married with children and two, because I didn’t want to end up shipping a bunch of stuff home.

My job box is now packed and the packing list has been filled out. It’s only half full. We’ll be putting them in the connex soon to be shipped overseas.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Bullshit We Have to Deal With

I think I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The hardest thing to deal with over here isn’t the insurgents or the living conditions; to me it’s the politics. It’s all the rules they place on us. I can’t complain much because I’m not supposed. Sometimes I could understand and agree with some of the regulations they place on us and other times I think that we’re being micro-managed. And sometimes I think it’s ridiculous. For example, today we were told we were going to have some instruction on proper use of force. OK, I’ve been here since December of 05 and in the field that whole time and now, right before we’re getting ready to leave we’re going to have this kind of class? And to top it off it’ll probably be by a person that has less experience as a gunner in the field then I do. So, in essence, someone who hasn’t done my job will tell me how to do it. Great. At this point in the game we should be getting briefed on how to readjust with civilian life and adjusting to change and demobilization.

I received an apology from the Platoon Sergeant during lunch today. I can’t talk much about it but he said that he was sorry for not helping me earlier and he never understood. I’m glad he finally realized the situation. It was about time but at this point, I don’t care anymore. I’m proud of myself for dealing with all the bullshit that I’ve had to put up with. I never thought it was fair but I was able to deal with it and drive on. I’m still here and this mission is almost over. It’s almost time to go home, and now most of us are looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Suicide Rover

At least the weather was almost perfect. Today would’ve been a good day to die. At least it would’ve been on a day when the sun was shining brightly and the sky clear. Our headaches started this morning before we left the camp. Today, for some reason the captain, Roughneck Six, decided to join us. He had some business to attend to in Ramadi I guess. We linked up at the TOC as usual before we move out. What gets me is how time is wasted while we’re waiting before rolling out at the TOC. Instead of trying to work out commo issues while we’re all prepping, some of the guys would rather chat and give the morning greets. It’s crazy. It’s like some of these guys haven’t seen each other in months. Well, as we were getting ready to leave commo became an issue. Roughneck Six was unable to get anyone on his radio. So there we were, wasting another half hour while they tried to get their comms together. We were all set and ready to leave the camp. Our Humvees were running, everyone was wearing their seatbelts, and it looked like everyone was ready to roll out.

After the nightmare that was commo, we left the camp and headed to Ramadi. All was smooth sailing and it looked like it would be an uneventful trip until we passed Fallujah. We were driving down the road at a high rate of speed. I wasn’t even paying attention until T-Rex began to hit the brakes really hard. OH SHIT!!!! FUCK!!! “BACK!!! BACK!!! BACK!!!” I yelled! He already knew and I really didn’t have to yell. It was an IED right on the side of the road, a.k.a. roadside bomb. At the same time I got up in the turret. We were the lead Humvee. The next thing I was worried about was the Humvee behind us. I wanted them to know that we were backing up urgently and without much notice. I started waving my hand in a backward motion to get them to shift the transmission and go in reverse. We had stopped about 10 feet from the bomb and I was expecting it to go off. At least it wouldn’t be a surprise and I’d be ready for it. No shaking here. I was ready to see it explode and hear the loud sound of a boom.

Finally we started get far enough away that I was starting to feel comfortable. I wasn’t as worried and if we did get hit I knew it wouldn’t do anything significant. We sent the robot, The Roughneck Rover, to investigate the bomb and check it out. We kind of hoped that it would explode and take the bot with it. We wanted to watch the toy RC blow up. I guess it’s typical of boys. We like to blow stuff up. I wished to see the 4-wheeler burst into pieces and fly up into the air.

We called the bomb squad and awaited their arrival. They came, took care of the bomb, and we continued on our way.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It Rained?

I woke up this morning and went to the latrine. I overheard a conversation from some of the guys that were in there that it rained last night. Actually it rained in the early morning. They said that they heard it around 0500 hours and there was some freaking crazy Joe outside their crib yelling, “It’s raining! It’s raining!” They were ready to go outside and tell him to shut the f*#@ up. Anyway, I sort of believe it except for the fact that the ground doesn’t look to wet. I would’ve never known if I didn’t hear about it. I’m surprised the ground isn’t muddy. I guess it didn’t rain that much. If so, I think it’ll be the most significant amount of rain we’ve had here since April. It’s been that long. This place really is a desert.

It was kind of overcast all day today. It never rained but it was never that cloudy either. Any clouds in the sky were high clouds, like it’s been for the past several months. I haven’t seen any low clouds for a while and it hardly ever gets cloudy here. It the sky is dark it’s mostly because it’s filled with dust. If that’s the case it’ll be windy and the sky will have that brown haze look that’s typical of LA.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Scorpion King

I was walking back to the pad from the MWR last night. I had just left the MWR to use the internet. It was around 2100 hours when I left and I was getting tired. As I was walking out I and walking back towards my crib I noticed something crawling along the ground really fast. I couldn’t see that well because there wasn’t much light but whatever it was looked big. At first I thought it was a mouse at the speed it was moving. But then I noticed the legs and started to assume that it was a scorpion.

It was running across the ground really fast and I wanted to stop it to see what it was. That’s when I started assuming it was one of those mythological camel spiders that I’ve heard stories about. It really was huge and didn’t take my eyes long to notice in the dark. I stepped on it lightly enough not to kill it. It was fairly easy since it was running in a straight line instead of running an irregular pattern. I turned my flashlight on to take a closer look and moved him with my keys. He didn’t move at all. I assumed that he might be dead but he seemed to move a little.

Just as a boy would do I picked him up. I was careful as not to get bitten. I wasn’t too sure whether they were poisonous or not. I took him back to the entrance of the MWR to check him out under the lamp. One of the other Joes that were there told me that it was a camel spider. He’d never seen one before either. I had to show him off so I carried the spider back to my room.

I showed the spider to my roommate, The Big Man. The minute I opened the door I yelled at The Big Man to get me a bottle quick. I wanted to keep him in a jar or something. I was thinking of taking him back home but my roommate talked me out of it. He said that if they don’t let us take dirt, do I think they’d let me take wildlife. Then he started making fun of me. Asking me if I remember what they always tell us, “Don’t mess with the wildlife.” It’s almost a common saying in the Army. I think they say it for stupid Joes like me that like to mess around with snakes, spiders, and other animals.

When I picked the spider up I picked him up by his antennae. They were so long I thought they were legs. They extended right out in front of him and Pennis, the kid, called them feelers. He did have eight legs like a typical spider and two noticeable body parts like most spiders, the abdomen and the thorax. He also had two pinchers and I was worried that he was going to bite me. I was ready to drop him any time he tried it. He also looked as if he could jump too but I’m not sure if they could or not. I did injure him when I stepped on him so he wasn’t able to crawl as fast as he usually does. He was very hairy and about 3 or 4 inches long. The Big Man said he was small for a camel spider. One other thing, I don’t know why I keep calling him a he. I don’t know whether the spider was male or female.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Broken Gun

We made our frequent trip back to Ramadi today. It’s not bad and by now, I’m used to it. The trip out wasn’t bad, thank goodness. It was almost non-stop. We only stopped once and that was because some Marines were checking out an IED. Other than that, there was nothing exciting about the trip there or the trip back.

Before we left Ramadi I noticed a problem with my .50 cal. It’s not the same .50 cal I’ve always had. We turned in our old .50 cals last week and withdrew these new ones. They’re not actually brand new, just newly issued. Well I noticed while assembling the gun that the barrel didn’t lock into the receiver like it’s supposed to. I was able to twist the barrel back and forth with the bolt forward and it’s not supposed to do that. I’m sure the gun would’ve worked and my only guess is that by some chance the barrel would’ve shot right off too. I wouldn’t know unless I tested it out but then again, I don’t think it would’ve happened. Still, the gun does have its problems so tomorrow I’m going to clean it up and turn it in so the armor could look at it.

I’d rather get the gun replaced if at all possible. There’s just something I don’t like about this gun and I like my old gun better.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Time Change

I got up this morning at what I thought was 0730 when it was actually 0630. It’s no wonder the chow hall was still open for breakfast when I left. I had no clue what was going on and I thought they were just letting the late arrivals in for breakfast.

I totally forgot about daylight savings time. I thought it was at the end of this month really. It’ really strange because it’s now 2140 hours and to me it feels like 2240 hours. I’m not sure how I’m going to like it now since the evenings will come earlier. I think it’s really weird having daylight savings time here. I’m kind of glad we don’t have it back home in Arizona.
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