Monday, November 28, 2005

Mosul and Turkey

Many apologies for not having posted in the past...oh...month or so but, I've been going back and forth on if anything particularly interesting and postable has happened on the blotter. So, I'll start off with my trip to Mosul and then wrap this up with a memento of thanksgiving.


I flew in on a C17 - this aircraft is notable because you can load a couple of Abrams tanks in the sucker. It's enormous. In fact, there was a large tractor strapped down about 2 feet in front of me for the duration of the flight. Watching it shift during take off and landing was an event.

Once I made it into town, we were taken to a small area where my unit is working. It's not a bad place. I could easily say it's probably a better location than where I spend my days of late but, for the most part there was a large international presence (Albanians). That right there just has a certain positive feel to it. I could genuinely say, "well at least we aren't the only ones here".

This reminded me of Kuwait. We had another international unit from a different former soviet republic at our camp with us. They were placed on lock down because they managed to steal about 500,000 dollars worth of gold from a bazaar that was being held by Aafees. Prior to their lock down, they were all over the dang place. The PX, the internet cafe', the dining facility. For most of them this deployment was a turn of good fortune upon them and it only accentuated the dire straights many of the former soviet republics still face to this day. Now...back to Mosul.

The dining facility was leaps and bounds beyond what I experience on a day-to-day basis. They had a mongolian bbq, weapons racks at each table, the amount and types of food were just mind boggling. I had problems figuring out what to eat because of all the options!

The gym was pretty typical for the area. Bubble-dome setup with every type of weight/cardio machine you could imagine, a room for classes, and a basket-ball court.

We were taken on a tour around the post and during this ride, we went past the iraqi part of the compound. A little further up the road and I had pointed out a bunch of boxes sitting there for what looked like months. We pulled over to inspect the area and as it turns out, the boxes contained voting materials from last winters election. We found ballots, offical election commission stamps, posters, etc.

I was under the impression that the Mosul post we were located at was a voting location, which make sense. It helps that these materials were located right next to what was once a Duty-Free shop for the Mosul airport. The voting kits had been rummaged through prior to our arrival. The Coleman-electric lamps had all been taken, probably by scavengers from the installation.

The following day, I managed to catch a stryker convoy north. When we made it to the final location, I was greeted by more soldiers from my unit. We talked communciations gear for about an hour and then I was taken on a whirl wind tour of the compound.

This compound, at one point, was a palace get away for the Hussien family. There were 5 palaces located on this facility. One large one for business. On the side of the building was a curious alcove which lead to a concrete room that contained PVC pipes sticking outside of the walls.

Numerous posters were aligned on the door to this room expressing that absolutely nothing should be stored in the room for longer than 1 week. It was a barren room and if the walls could speak, I'm sure they would tell stories of pain and indesency.

Inside the main palace, large mosaic murals of Saddam hanging out with children were set into the walls. One of his son's had a palace for himself, and his daughter. There was a smaller structure out of the main view of things that people had called the 'love shack'.

There was a nother structure located near the main palace and it featured a swimming pool spa area on the second tier of the building overlooking that part of Mosul and the Tigris. The remnants of a Ramada Inn were within view. The university of mosul was nearby.

The last palace featured a hole in the roof from an allied bombing run on this part of the city. A field artillery unit had placed it's banner of a deaths head outside of a window in the 10th level of the building. Kinda added some ambiance to the place.

I took a ride that day back on another stryker convoy to Mosul. Spent some more time there with out unit. I managed to see a detention facility going through the process of adding more residents to it's manifest. Seeing that building suddenly explained the calls for prayer that echo through the camp five times a day.

I also stopped by a "7-11". Some local national had painted his store in the 7-11 motif. He was selling all sorts of dvd's legal and illegal copies not to mention Saddam dollars and other trinkets that one can usually find in other middle eastern countries.

I flew out the following evening back to my current base.

Turkey Day

Well thanksgiving was really busy for me. My shop of 3 soldiers (that includes me) has been reduced to two. One of my soldiers was placed on night shift working in the operations team. My other soldier is currently traveling Iraq giving assistance to some of our teams out there. Leaving me behind to handle the worst week of signal disruptions that we have yet to experience. I managed but, it took a couple days to get things back together.

Thanksgiving featured bottles of non-alcoholic spritzer, non-alcoholic beer (which is *always* available), cake, pies, turkey, pork, etc. They went all out at our dining facilities. They had a whole pig on a spit and one of the dfac workers was slicing off pieces for soldiers to snag. The dfac workers also made intricate carvings into the sides of water melons and created giant display pieces. I saw a castle made out of marshmellows, churches (christian) made out of cake ingrediants. It's hard to explain how they made this stuff without showing photos so, I'll work on getting them posted soon.

So, that kinda covers the past couple of weeks. I've been getting a lot of mail of late and will get back with all of you as soon as I can. I'm enacting a 1 letter a morning quota upon myself because it's getting hard to find time to reply to everyone within 1 day. That's about that! Take care and I'll post as soon as something else interesting happens!

Dodging mortars,

Monday, November 07, 2005

And there I was, without my laptop

While I was in Kuwait, I managed to blow out the AC adapter on my dell inspiron. I had it plugged into a power converter and then plugged into a 220 wall socket, unfortunately there was a voltage spike and that managed to blow out *just* my adapter. So, I went about 1 month without my laptop. So there you have it. I made it into Iraq, minus 1 laptop.

Since then I've been able to order/procure another of the same make and model so I'm back up to speed. Since our sister unit rotated out, I've been able to get a lot of work/video game time in, much to the neglect of my enormous book collection.

I've started up again with East of Eden, it's still spectacular, I can't believe I put the book down in favor of text books. For those of you who remember or didn't know, I started reading the book back in my Junior year as part of a poor attempt at coming to peace with all of the stress I was encountering in the various facets of my life. Unfortunately the call of my keyboard ended up pulling me away from this book so, I promised myself that once I made it into Iraq, I'd knock it out first thing.

It really is an amazing novel. Probably one of the best I've read in the past 2 years.

Hmm. In other news, I managed to discover a John Coltrane novel while out here - it was about 18 bucks but the tunes are so right on. We're talking a 30 minute renditions of some of his best. I also discovered the new PX on post - they have *the* DVD assortment to kill any boredom from a soldier's heart.

I just need to find time to get out there!

Halloween wasn't too horrible. A unit on post held a costume party and another did a Hawaiian festival. I missed out b/c we had some network issues. So, I donned my vampire disguise kit and had SGT Cameron, my partner in crime, slap some fake blood on my cheeks as I popped fangs into my mouth.

I got a couple of great reactions from people around here. So, I'd like to think the comic relief paid off and brightened everyone's day.

I've ran into a fellow signal guy from my training school last winter, it was great seeing him and he's already out and out. It was one of those 'hey man how-ya doing' in the PX line (Ok I made it there 1 time this past week) - I found out his family is well, has a kid on the way, and he left for CONUS the day after we ran into each other. Boy, it's a small army.

In anycase, I'm going to be out of the loop for about a week or so - I'll be busy getting some work knocked out. So, thanks again everyone for the mail and the packages, I really appreciate everything all of you are doing for me!