Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jason's Influence

In the book New Moon, Bella is so distraught over her one true love, Edward, leaving her that she begins doing really risky and dangerous activities because she hears his voice in her head telling her to be careful, to stop doing those things, to take care of herself. One time she goes to the top of a cliff overhanging the ocean.

She's so desperate to hear Edward's voice, to be close to Edward, to pretend that some little part of him is still with her that she jumps.

The problem with me partaking in high risk behaviors in an effort to stay close to Jason is...

His voice in my head doesn't tell me not to do tells me to do it twice.

Never in a million years would I have ever made this leap before...Jason has had a very interesting influence on my life.
More stories and lot's of pictures will be coming soon of all the weekend fun at the lake house...Stay Tuned!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What do Iraqi goats look like?

Well apparently like the thing in my hands here...

This was the conversation I had with Sgt Hubby a couple days ago.

Me: I hope you remember our anniversary is coming up in a couple days

Sgt Hubby: What? Oh is it...that's nice.

Me: I hope you're just playing, because if you're serious...*shakes fist in angry way*

Sgt Hubby: I have no idea what you're talking about

Me: No really, please tell me you're sending me flowers or something because you're thousands of miles away and we don't get to celebrate any special day together and our wedding anniversary is totally a special day, and I remembered and I sent you a card at least, I mean I can't send you flowers you're in the desert, and what manly soldier wants flowers from his wife anyway, and if you don't send me something I think my head is going to explode *puts head between knees to avoid the exploding scenario*

Sgt Hubby: Well it has to be a surprise, so I'm not going to send you flowers. Maybe I'll see if there are any goats for sale and send you those. You can keep them in the backyard and they can eat the grass so you don't have to mow anymore. (Cross my heart, that is what he actually said to me)

Me: Naw, you're not serious. Stop joking around...this is serious business!

Fast forward two days and I'm still not sure if he's serious or not. I mean he's not going to send me goats, surely. But will there be flowers, a card, a freaking stuffed goat name Ackmed, anything!?

I have such a wonderful husband.

Happy anniversary honey. These last four years have been great.


Birthdays aren’t really the same when you’re deployed – for many reasons. The obvious reasons are that you’re in a combat zone, in a barren wasteland …just for starters. The not so obvious reason is – what do you get someone for their birthday? Especially when, like in our group, you have been together for really only a handful of months and it’s not like it’s a person you have known all your life. Top that off with the fact that possessions don’t really mean much here, and what you do get you have to either pay to mail home or throw away at the end of the deployment.

Cue Tech. Sergeant Justin **enters desert, stage right**

Tech Sergeant Justin is one of the Air Force folks that you met in the previous blog. I must also say that he is one of those Sergeants that you go your whole career hoping to work with. I’ve worked with some great folks, don’t get me wrong, but he’s definitely in that top one percentile to be sure. Well Monday was his birthday. And he has been going on since we got here that he wanted to get his photo taken with an AH-64D Apache helicopter. Or even a UH-60 Blackhawk if that’s all he can get. Apparently in the Air Force they don’t have cool toys or something. Or maybe it’s just the toys are always shinier on the other side of the fence. Either way…it’s been his darn near obsession.

So, a couple weeks ago I organized a hands-on “tour” of the aircraft for his birthday…but didn’t tell him. Honestly, the pilots are a really cool group of folks just about anywhere you go and will gladly show off their toys, so that was easy. The hard part was – keeping it a secret from him. This was especially true over this past weekend. Over the weekend he kept pressing me with stuff like “you think you can get me over there for a photo for my birthday or something” and stuff like that. It was really a pain to keep our game faces on. No less than 3 times he brought it up between Friday and Monday and each time I had to play dumb (“oh, I thought your birthday was Tuesday not Monday”) or lazy (“Oh, I haven’t seen one of the pilots at chow yet”). In keeping it a secret and making it a true surprise, everyone else was in on the joke.

Back story – there is an old collapsed blast protection bunker outside our sleep area. It’s made of a LOT of sandbags. It’s useless since we live in a concrete building so it’s safer there than inside the bunker.

Cue Sergeant Hoyt **enters desert, stage left**

“Ok guys, I tried arguing the stupidity of it – but none the less apparently the Colonel wants us to shore up the blast bunker outside the sleep area. He says it has to be in good condition in case someone is walking outside our area when the sirens go off. Yeah, I know it’s stupid but he wants us to do it now and says he talked to someone where there are a lot of pre-filled sandbags for us to take. So hey guys, look on the bright side, I know it’s 120 degrees outside but at least we don’t have to FILL the sand bags.”

So I pulled this about an hour before the trip to the air field and boy was Justin PISSED!!! He knows a B.S. detail when he hears it and I just ordered the biggest B.S. detail he’d probably ever heard in his life. So at almost 3pm we all loaded up in our vehicle and I took a pick-up truck “to load the sandbags in back”. On the trip there he even mentioned going to the sleep area to grab his work gloves and I gladly obliged just to keep him thinking. He was so fuming pissed at the whole detail plan when we got to the airfield he hadn’t even put it together yet. He figured we were getting the bags from that area. Once the Lieutenant (Blackhawk pilot) and Chief Warrant Officer (Apache Pilot) walked out one asked “So where’s the birthday boy” and we started singing “Happy Birthday”. I think it wasn’t until about halfway through that he figured out what was really going on. This is one of the most even keeled guys I know and he was so pissed he wasn’t even thinking straight!!! Yeah, PUNKED ain’t got nothing on us!

So – enough story for now – how bout some photos.

Here you have Justin and C.J. in the most feared helicopter in the world…the AH-64D Apache Attack (and Anti-Armor) Helicopter It’s over 20 years old now and still just absolutely amazes me with its combination of relative stealth (for a helicopter) and lethality.

And here’s a photo of the whole team in front of the beast.

Here we are at the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. This is really the workhorse of the Army’s air movement inventory. The thing is highly reliable (as far as military equipment goes) and can be configured for various different missions.

This here is La’Sheema getting into the fun playing on the toys as well.

And here’s another group photo in front of the Blackhawk. Most feared military in the world I say. I think this should be on a multi-service recruiting poster or something.

It’s pretty darn rare for either Air Force or Navy to get to play around Army stuff (I’ve never played on non-museum Navy gear), and it was the first time for the LT Jennifer and C.J. to get the guided tour and crawl around on them as well. So pretty much everyone was living it up and it was a great time. And I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a small sense of accomplishment and pride while watching everyone have such a good time. Again, it’s one of those things you can really only do in the military.

At the end, we finally got our photo at one of the signs we keep saying we should get a group photo at.

Even before we got here we heard of the boasting that Delta had been deemed “The FOB of Choice”. It was probably someone’s idea of sarcasm at one point, but really I and our team are quite happy here – and the visitors like hanging around as well. The chow is good, the rooms are “nice”, the work is serious, and we don’t have the stress of being near a major headquarters with all the accompanying headaches like picking weeds in a land where nothing grows. It’s still austere in plenty of ways – but I still have yet to have someone tell me a place I’d rather be in this country. I consider myself quite lucky.

Well – that’s enough blog for now. Maybe in my next blog I can tell you how I am helping two Iraqis get their visa to the U.S. and how that means trying to find a phone number for the Russian Air-Force Engineering School in Kiev.

Think about it – where is Kiev?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Not Quite a Hollywood War

Hello all – and quit yelling about how I promised another blog sooner than now. It happens, live with it, I’ll trade you places if you want. OK – had to yell at someone because the options for targets here are limited. Consider yourself as having helped me out.

Well, this issue will be devoted to the office. Yeah, it’s a war zone; but we’ve evolved as both a species and a fighting force. It’s amazing the amount of office time that goes into any operation really. When done right it insures that copious amounts of planning go into the execution of an operation thereby virtually guaranteeing swift and efficient operations. When done wrong it just means that a bunch of jackasses are getting paid to suck up air conditioning while accomplishing virtually nothing. Hopefully our organization is one of those mentioned in the former and not the latter, and I truly believe that it is. And those who know me know I wouldn’t mind saying so if it was otherwise.

First and foremost, I keep promising a photo of the team. Well here you go. One of our local employees wanted a picture of him with the team so we obliged and I got a few with my camera as well. The three non-Americans that you see in the photo are some of our local translators. They have to be darn good to get on our team; in terms of language skills, education, and people skills these guys are all tops. When your business is helping U.S. professional businessmen, lawyers, politicians, education officials, and the like interact with their Iraqi counterparts, you had better be good. The military side of our team is pretty decent as well if I do say so myself. In this photo you will find:
Bottom row, left to right – Lieutenant Jennifer, Mr. Ali, and Petty Officer Juan P (Navy).
I’m in the middle of it all – as is appropriate I guess as the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC).
Top Row L to R – Sergeant Mashell (Air Force), Mr. Firas, Sergeant Justin (Air Force), Petty Officer La’Sheema (Navy), Mr. Arkan, and Sergreant Christopher “C.J.”

And again, sorry about the white out over the eyes of our Iraqi’s, but as I said before, the only thing they really fear is other Iraqis. Mr. Arkan even quit work for a year and a half because of the threats he and his family received. And Mr. Ali has been doing this since May of 2003 despite all the threats. I guard them like I guard my own soldiers, sometimes even more because they are unarmed and have to go back to home in town at the end of the day.

Here’s another photo of most of our team. This photo is from our “Combat Patch” ceremony for the first-time deployers. An Army tradition started in WWII is that if you serve overseas in a area designated as a hostile area by the Sec. Def. then you wear the patch of the unit you were assigned to on your right sleeve (current unit is always on your left sleeve). Being multi-service however means something a little different for each person. The Navy wears our uniform when attached to Army forces and therefore is authorized the patch while wearing our uniform. The Air Force isn’t authorized to wear the Army uniform and don’t wear unit patches anymore anyway. Even still, we included them in the ceremony and gave them a patch as a symbol of belonging to the team and in keeping with a common motto over here with all the different forces on the ground, “One Team, One Fight”. The Velcro stuck to their rank long enough for us to take the photo.

Now I always make it sound like so much fun over here, but sometimes you do need a little stress relief. Sergeant May here bought this $7 alarm clock at the PX only to realize that the alarm didn’t work (makes me wonder what she was using this past 2 months). Instead of taking it back to trade it out or a refund, she took the opportunity to release a little stress…to it’s demise. Quite a show seeing someone out in 115 degree weather smashing away at an alarm clock with a hammer – but hey, whatever works for you I say.

Last but not least, you have to appreciate the food. Some might think that Iraqi food would be disgusting or revolting. On the contrary, the food is one of the things I was actually looking forward as I was preparing to come back here. Two of the main dishes here are a simple baked chicken on rice or “Kabobs” which is basically lamb prepared like hamburger. It’s cooked in strips and you put it inside pita bread with toppings and chow down. The bread is quite good really. And the meats are usually outstanding in and of themselves (I love the kabob seasonings). But what really makes it memorable are the vegetables. I’m telling you I have never had such fresh produce in my life other than when we grew our own in Arkansas. This stuff can’t be more than a couple days old. And to top off some good meat and bread with scrumptious cucumber, tomato, and fresh onion – YUM!!! Oh, and the baklava ( desert is some of the best ever as well. All hand made and extremely fresh.

This particular spread here was a “small” party for our outgoing Deputy Team Leader who is a Lt. Colonel who has been with the PRT for the past 11 months.

There’s another dish I remember that had meat and veggies wrapped in something like a large grape leaf. That and large fish are for extremely special occasions – but hopefully I’ll get some before we’re done.

Well, that’s about it for now. I think it’s time to go and get some chow…I’ve made myself hungry. Take care all and hopefully a new post sooner rather than later.