Monday, March 20, 2006

Speed of the Irish

A couple days back, we had the St. Patrick's Day Fun Run. It was a 5K course that consisted of two and a half laps around a living area. It took place in evening, as that's about the only time you can block off some of the roads and streets on post without having to worry about people getting run over by heavy duty vehicles.

Long story short, it's pitch black outside and we start. Some 200+ people coraled into an exceptionally small road way.

As we took off into the night, I rounded the first corner with our s3, I quickly managed to notice something was a little bizarre because airmen and soldiers were crowding around carefully positioned tables near the road.

The three and me passed the first one and hit the second on the back stretch. Low and behold, the cups we collected didn't contain green gator aid. They contained green near beer!

We continued our pace trying to splash what we could from the cups into our mouths but it seemed as if we only succeeded in spilling more and more of the beverages on to the street.

The three gave up and ditched his cup, I held on tightly and after completing the back stretch, tossed my cup aside.

We had to complete one more circuit of the course.

After finishing the race, we worked our way through the crowd and signed up for t-shirts. The other two individuals with us came in a bit later and after a short dinner, called it a night.

It was an excellent experience and I'm probably going to follow up with any additional fun runs that come up at this location!


Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Muffin Man

A couple weeks back, my roomate, the BMO went on leave. Leave can take between 3 and 4 weeks to complete and during his departure I had come up with a perfect prank to pull on him.

The ops captain is a pretty funny guy and for the past few months, he's refered to the BMO as 'McMuffin' (the guy has a scottish name and some people can't resist the temptation when someone's got a "McLastName"). He's sounds kinda like kermit the frog and inspite of the hard time people give him, he does have good come backs and we get along perfectly.

Each day he was gone, I would go to breakfast in the morning and collect 4-5 muffins from the dining facility. I would then return to my trailer and spread them around his bed.

Long story short, after about 3-4 weeks of doing this, the BMO had a blanket of muffins!

One morning at 2 am, I woke up because of some ruckus, a crunching sound, and a burdened, "Ah man!"

I got him! I got out of bed and walked over to the BMO's bunk and said to him, "Great to see you made it back! We really missed having out around here!"

I helped him get all the muffins placed into a plastic bag and as it turns out - he had enough muffins to stay in and do breakfast in the trailer for an entire month and a half!

It's time to move

This past weekend I was moved out of my trailer. I no longer have a roomie. The BMO is in his own place now and I've my own space. It's not too bad. I was a little worried about losing what little social life I had out here but, I now have time to read, study arabic, gre prep, and well focus on all those little things I wanted to do out here.

It took all of saturday to shuffle people around rooms but, when it was over with, I started to sift through my worldly possessions here and managed to weed out what I am going to use for the next 6 or so months from what needs to go into permanent storage in my foot locker.

I'm ready to get the heck out of this place!

The Big Sissy

We had a surpise visit this weekend from a General and Congressman of my unit's state. They were here to visit another unit but, since we were in the same vicinity, my command managed to weasle in seats to dine with these two, prominant, individuals.

The day prior to the visit we were notified and my XO told talked a little bit about who these men were and why it was important for the staff to attend this function.

The general was the commanding general for the GA Guard. The congressman is from GA and at this point in time, the XO told us that he was part of the "sissy".

I guess that's how you're supposed to pronounce an 'SSCI' but, hey, I think there's probably a better way of pulling that one off. A way that involves less comedy.

One of our captains thought that was kinda funny and for the weekend he kinda joked about how a big and important georgia 'sissy' was coming into town. You had to have been there. It was a riot.

The function consisted of chow at one of our dining facilities. I ducked out because, to be frank, I had other things going on (I'm in the middle of a great book!) in the evenings and hearing a congressman tell me he's proud of me and what we're doing over here is something i see on AFN everyday. No offense but, watching the booty kissing and politicking that was also going to happen was not something I wanted to see anyway.

At this juncture, it was mentioned to the command that most of the staff officers weren't from GA in the first place and so an exemption for going to the function was posted. The phrase 'highly recommend' means "you are going if you like it or not and unless you're deathly ill, expect to be there".

I opted, instead, to scope out the turkish place and see a movie. Both were better than I expected and I got back from my event to pick up my now messy-from-the-move trailer.

The next day, I asked about the event and it turns out I had been correct. There were a lot of "we support the troopisms" (Hey, if you REALLY want to support us, enlist! That would increase my dwell time between deployments and we'd stop over taxing our already stretched out force!) and politicking. I didn't miss much.

Mind your grammar

We had a number of investigations this tour. I recall staff meetings where the XO and BC would complain about the status of these investigations and then calling specific senior officers aside to 'council' them on the way the reports were finished.

Things like word choice or whatever. Long story short, the XO has a penchant for fine grammar and the Army Writing Style is something he, apparently, loathes.

On occasion, I have been told that he places the red pen to sworn statements (which I have also been told are supposed to be presented as is because it's an exact accounting of events in a witness's own words). A couple of people have also told me they have had to make multiple trips around the country to have people redo the sworn statements and long story short, this guy has a specific way he wants to see these documents and if you don't do it his way, you'll spend a couple months redoing them over and over again. I also hear the standard isn't well defined.

Well, in order to improve upon the writing quality of these reports, we now have a mandatory English Grammar class that we are required to take during the week. It's hosted by (let the angelic trumpets cry out) a west point graduate.

Which I guess is supposed to be a gauge of how 'high speed' the quality of the training is - I don't know, I haven't had to do a report and that means I'm exempt. Basically, the audience consists of any and everyone who did an investigation thus far.

That's about it for now. It's the start of a beautiful spring day here in Iraq and I've a couple things to start working on.


Monday, March 06, 2006

The more things change...

The more they stay the same.

The days are more and more a like since there was a big mission change for us. Since then, there really hasn't been much demand for my skills beyond the usual IT disruptions. Even then, DOIM (I mean Big Brother still manages to keep me in middle man status.

Lately, DOIM has decided to shut down our ability to use "unmanaged" (non-Cisco) switches on the network. Apparently, some regulation, somewhere states they are unacceptable. Well, we're in Iraq and my battalion lacks the funding (and desire) to purchase these devices. So, the past month or so has been spent applying more and more band-aids to a much larger problem.

A couple days back, a fiber line truck showed up - soldiers from "some other unit" started running fiber through sewage ducts and into our buildings. The NCOIC came by telling me it'd be a short while until the switches showed up. So, my month of ductape solutions and prayers will soon be replaced by the required (cisco) equipment.

I think it's a conspiracy and I also believe this is just another reflection of how long the US will be running operations. People out there, in spite of what you hear at home, this place is going to become another Korea or Germany.

Seriously Officer, I Fell

So we have mandatory runs and they aren't a formal thing. I was running the other day and in an attempt to cut a concrete corner, I managed to slip on gravel. The slip became a full out fall. I recovered and noticed that my fall managed to impact a pebble (or rock) the size of my pinkie finger nail into my shin.

I immediately fished the rock out of my leg, checked the wound for other bits of rubble, hopped back up, and finished my 3 miler.

After completing the run, I jogged to our CP looking for a medical kit to sterilize my wound. Someone coughed up iodine and after a couple minutes of applying that to my leg, another soldier drove me out to the TMC for more 'professional' care.

The wise cracking nurse dumped peroxide and some other cleaning solvents into my wound, he applied gauze and tape. Told me to return if it became infected.

So, my driver and I returned to the CP and I went to my room for a little relaxation.

It took about 1 day for the pain to settle in and now I'm over the majority of the pain. I think it's healing up nicely, and I should be able to make it back on the road ways soon.

This isn't the first time I've crashed and burned running and from the looks of it, not the last. Some soldiers out here cracked a couple jokes at my expense:

"Sir, you know it's going to take more than that to get your medical leave back to Germany!"

"So I take it sir, that you'll be putting in for the Close Action Badge now?"

All I could really respond with was,

"Well an LN (local national) was looking at me funny. So, I think I can get some mileage off that...then again, I should probably omit that he asked if I needed help from the report."

Bad Joke, I Know

All lameness aside, the "Ground Hog" day effect is in play here. My arabic studies continue to be fruitful, as are my gre preparations, the reading i've been tackling ('Lords of Discipline' is excellent! As was 'Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way'), still fiddling with the occasional video game and dvd movie - mostly save those for particularly slow nights. I've also continued my software development hobby - making a lot of progress in graduate-degree-style work.


I was on my way to the gym awhile back and a strange siren went off. I wasn't on army turf and it was an alarm that I wasn't used to hearing. I dashed across the pallet side-walk and into the gym-tent that was a good 25 feet from my position.

As I moved into the tent, I noticed airmen and soldiers sprawled under weight lifting equipment. Civilians behind desks and wash towel carts.

A man managing the gym told everyone to stop and take cover.

We were in position for about an hour and a half. During this time, some people became fed up and walked out the tent as others slapped on head phones and rocked the time away.

Someone mentioned to me that the incoming fire impacted some 2 blocks from the gym I was sprawled out in. I thought that was strange because the usual thud and vibration that follow a "danger close" round were never present.

I guess I'm luckly and missed it.

Eventually, the "all clear sounded". I started up my work out and walked back to my trailer. Seems like an insignificant story to me, but it probably explains best how things work out this way.

This is the command post...

Before I break until the next post, I'll have to relay one more story. I'm a bit suprised this one almost slipped my mind.

I was going to the gym the other day (post fall) and started hearing the warbling charlie brown voice over the loud speakers positioned around out FOB.

"Attention FOB...blah blah blah blah blah"

Was about the most I could make of it. I continued my journey to the gym, did some upper body work and on my way back, I recall hearing the same message,

"Attention FOB...blah blah blah blah blah A Positive blah"

I thought about it for a bit and figured it must have been a call for A Positive blood. I mean that's the only thing that could make sense! The FOB is low on blood, holy crap! I need to high tail my booty to the dining facility (it's Lent, I'm Catholic, and I'm fasting), grab a quick bite to eat and haul butt to our TOC!

I dashed (as much as one can) through the DFAC and grabbed some choice fruits (bananna and apple) and a sandwich.

I made my way quickly to my TOC. The "Incoming message from the Big Giant Head" (for all you 3rd Rock from the Sun fans) repeated, this time with a new voice,

"Attention FOB all soldiers and air men with A Positive Blood that are willing to donate, please go to the nearest medical facility. I say again..."

It took about an hour to hear a clear message about this need, and I jogged back (wincing) to my TOC and requested a ride.

The NCOIC told me that they had called the medical office and the need for my blood was no longer an issue - yet the incoming messages continued to emplore personnel that wanted to donate to hurry it up.

We were confused and started with more phone calls and emails. Within 10 minutes we confirmed that the hospital no longer needed blood and after another 50 minutes the incoming messages had started to relay that the demand for blood was no longer a big deal.

That was a downer for me. Everytime I had gone to the hospital to take other people or for my check ups, I have overheard doctors prepping their areas to care for incoming iraqis and soldiers.

So, I'm going to explore blood donation more on post now, and may try to make a regular effort to donate. There are people here that have a true need for my small contribution.

That's all I have for now, I'll continue the good word and take care everyone.