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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.