Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas From Iraq

Hello all and Merry Christmas. I'm going to appologize ahead of time for the brevity of this post, but for some odd reason I'm having Blogger issues and so I'm going to end up keeping it short and sweet. I hope everyone is having a good Christmas with plenty of good food and family fun. Chow here was mediocre overall I have to admit. But they did have the coctail shrimp again and I went to town on that, so all is not lost.

This blog is pretty much about my job as a Project Purchasing Officer (that's what they call it) for these reconstruction projects. These next photos are of our most ambitious to date. This is part of a large project to rehabilitate a canal system that will eventually irrigate thousands and thousands of acres of airable land for the Iraqi's to grow a lot more crops. The first part is to get power to the old pumps before we start to replace and refurbish them. To that end, we have here a monstrosity of a transformer that we are having installed at one of the local sub-stations for the national electrical grid. This thing will take in 132,000 volts and down size it to either 32,000 or 11,000 volts to be used in the motor houses along the canal. One side benefit is that it'll also help to provide quite a number of folks in the area with a stable electrical current as well.

And here is a photo of SGT Julun hard at work. He has an electrical engineering degree so he's the one I rely on to do my site inspections and make sure that everything is on the up-and-up and that the contractor isn't wasting our money (really his since they don't get paid till it's done).

He says that in a few weeks we'll go back and be there for the testing to make sure everything is running fine. I'm not so sure I want to be there to see if a 132,000 volt piece of equipment WORKS! I think I have him just come back and tell me how it went. HA!

I would have liked to have more photos of our project inspection...but we realized once we got to the sub-station that one of our tires wasn't doing so well. You see - this picture here below is what a GOOD tire on an MRAP looks like.

Well, as luck would have it we didn't get out of there and back to the base soon enough (we were over an hour away to begin with and the tire was already near flat). So in the end this is what we ended up with - a "not-so-good" MRAP tire.

Yep - we tried to limp it back home as far as we could but only got about half-way there. Then we had to wait a bit for the recovery team to make it out and haul our busted vehicle back home. The guy in the blue by the way is an Iraqi Policeman. They escort us everywhere since June 30th, so they were around too....probably doing the same thing most guys would be doing about then, trying to figure out if their wife will believe the "flat tire" story one more time.

Next up is a lot of cash. Though about as good as Monopoly money outside these borders, right here is the equivalent of $310,000 US all in Iraqi Dinar. This is actually two seperate payments for two similar projects. The projects were to complete all-encompasing assessments of the water and sewage systems throughout the province. Whereas we can usually walk into city hall and find out all about out water and sewage networks back home, that's not quite the same level of organization here. Things get put in place as needed, with little planning, and often times paid for by towns who don't communicate what they're doing to the state.

Below here are the two completed baseline assessments. With these the provinial leadership can stop managing by crisis and start a true planning process of how to repair their delapidated systems and plan for an improved water distribution and sewage collection network throughout their province. Also, bonus to the contractor and other provinces, now that the template is done really other provinces can hire this specialized engineering group out of Baghdad for their own province's assessements and they'll be able to be done for a little cheaper at least.

Last but not least - I keep saying that I'll show you what approximately 9-million dollars in paper looks like. Well here you go. The stack of files on the right of this picture is it.

Yep - that's 9 million dollars in that stack of papers. Now don't get me wrong. There is no way to quantify the hundreds if not thousands of e-mails and draft documents and phone conversations and virtual conferences that go into all of this. Especially on the big-dollar projects (over $500K). The amount of work involved is staggering. But it is also amazing to me that in the end, such a smile amount of papers can equal such a large amount of cash.
Also, I figured I'd throw in the photo of my desk on the left there. That's where all the magic happens. And the only reason it's so clear right now is that we've had about a week of "catch-up time" while most all the civilians are out of the office taking their R&R around Christmas. Not exactly fair if you ask me. But the time to catch my breath and knock out some of my t0-do list has been priceless.
Ok, sorry for such a short blog and I hope I didn't mess up my spelling too much in my haste (spell check doesn't seem to be working on Blogger right now either). Now it's time to make the rounds calling the family since I'm sure they're all out of church and hopefully still awake. Take care for now...and have a wonderful rest of your Christmas.

No comments: