I left home a couple of days ago and I am currently in Virginia. I did weapons training yesterday on a 9mm Sig and an M4 with some weapons retention training thrown in. I haven't shot in several years but "it was like riding a bicycle" and I did ok - always room for improvement though.
115 in Baghdad. The low there was the high here.
PS: I had been trying to get to Iraq for 2 years working mainly through the Special Forces network. This offer came about from Charles Wesley (Wes) who had been in Vietnam with me. He put me in touch with Trinity Technology. I was required to have an up-to-date weapons qualification. In Virginia I worked with another employee who was also a NRA instructor. He signed off on my qualification.
It was hard to leave. I was very comfortable with my lifestyle, had a loving wife whom I am very in love with but I felt if we were at war then all of us need to make a sacrifice. My son had been to Iraq during GW1 and now was back for GW2. I needed to help. My wife agreed but made me promise only 1 year.
For that idiot jerk from SF who faked his beheading - he needs a one way ticket to Baghdad. When I get home I hope I run into him downtown so we can have a little chat . . .
I am still suffering from the going away party! Kirk, you are dangerous!
This is CRC (Conus Replacement Center) for most folks going to Iraq. Lots of people processing here. Lines and waiting. This is where they make sure you have all the shots you need, military id, and flight arrangements. I am sleeping in a barracks with enough beds for about 300 people. There are about 100 (men) here. (The women have their own barracks and most of them seem bound for Bosnia.)
I was supplied with an army blanket, 2 sheets and a pillow. My gear is stored in a foot locker. Man, this makes Motel 6 look like the Hilton!
Today was medical day. I had to get 8 (!) shots which included Anthrax, Smallpox, 2 different Hepatitis. Sorry about spelling, etc. - this keyboard is really worn out. It was a real long day starting at 4:30 and going until 6:00. The group is about 50/50 military and civilians. Civilians are DOD, Army employees or contractors like me. Very composite group.
PS. In the replacement center they had about 10 computers people could use for email and such. The wait was at the most 10 minutes.
This was very much like Basic Training without the harassment and physical training.
A big problem for many was a new requirement you must have a 6 month supply of any medication you are taking. Insurance companies will only allow a 3 month purchase and that usually takes prior approval. Of course, the Doctors here (Ft Bliss, TEXAS) will write you a prescription but in is only good in NEW MEXICO as the Doctors don't seem to be licensed in Texas. Hmmm, the Army hasn't changed much . . .
Drawing equipment took up LOTS of time today. Sleeping bag, helmet, boots, etc. Most of it will be left behind but the Army says I have to draw it. Did the dental clinic this morning - all clear to go. They keep panoraic xrays of everyone for identification if needed.
PS. Some had to go downtown and have dental work done before proceeding. I don't understand that as the instructions were very clear in stating to have all of that done before getting here.
We drew some ridiculous equipment like winter boots with liners; 3 duffle bags full in all. My son came and got most of mine and turned it in at Ft Huachuca so I wouldn't have to deal with it.
Finished up CRC on Friday. It was a "death by Power Point" day - lots of information from enemy tactics to how to fight stress. My son came over from Ft. Huachua to help me with my gear. Several of us went out Friday night with him and got a little carried away - old timers talking about old times. Lots of fun.
Saturday, my son, SFC Keith Messinger, helped me get my gear ready. He fixed my kevlar (helmet) with the band, cover and advised me on what I would really need equipment wise. He took a entire duffle bag of not needed gear back to Ft. Huachua. It was invaluable having his expertise!
Sunday, we set all the baggage out at 7:30 so the dogs could go thru it. They found no contriband and the baggage was loaded on trucks to wait until our departure. We had to wait until 8:00pm before going to Bigg Army Airfield where we were "wanded" and the carrry on checked by dogs. The CG's Deputy, Chaplain and others gave us a send off - real inspiring. The plane lifted off about midnight and finally, I am on my way to Iraq!
PS. One of the old timers there was Bob Carson. A commo expert, Bob had done the teletype lines we used for communication in Vietnam.
I did have some contraband that escaped detection. A pint of Jack Daniels that I was suppose to give to a contact in Kuwait.
I am at Camp Doha where the temp is about 120 today. The plane ride beat me to death - El Paso to Baltimore to Frankfort to Kuwait - about 20 hours, five meals, six movies - and I got no frequent flyer miles! The flight crews (there were 3 total) were great but that is a long time to fly. Coming into Kuwait we flew around the city out over the Persian Gulf and then back - Kuwait City is real big! On TV you see just little shots of it but in reality, it goes on for miles with lots of tall buildings, freeways, etc. We loaded onto buses and it took about 45 minutes to get to Camp Doha. As we were leaving the airfield, we passed a C5A - an honor detail was loading (we only saw one) a flag draped coffin - a very sobering sight.
Here, I in-processed into the theater of operations, got a temporary bunk, drew body amor all in the hottest I have ever been. There are pallets of water bottles everywhere - most hot but you got to take what you can get.
Got manifested to fly out to Baghdad but the flights (2, C130) did not have enough seats. Military get priority and there was a back log as there were no flights yesterday. So, hopefully I will fly out tomorrow. My goal today is to stay inside as much as possible, get a little sleep and wait for the flight announcement. That comes between 0200 and 0500 each day so sleep continues to be a bit elusive.
There are lots of GI's here going to Iraq. Some are individual reserves, some are in units. I have spoken to some quite bitter about have to come here. Now, these troops signed up for reserves or NG, took the monthly checks and now that it is nitty-gritty time don't like it. I don't feel bad for them at all. I do feel bad for the reservist, active duty or national guard troops being called for a 2nd or even 3rd tour - that is one reason why I am here and the reason several others are here also.
PS. The bunks are located in very large buildings with air conditioning. Some are sectioned of with chain link so units can stay together. There is a good PX area where many hang out waiting for flights. Porta-potties are everywhere and they all have liquid hand soap near by for washing your hands. Going into the dining facility (DFAC) there are also hand washing facilities.
I was supposed to meet a Brown and Root guy here (that is way the Jack for for) and he was supposed to take me to the gate to meet a company rep with my body armor. That never happened so I had to draw armor here. You cannot fly without a helment and body armor.
I yam here! After waiting 8 hours for the flight, we boarded a C130 (California National Guard - pilot was from Thousand Oaks) for a 1.5 hour trip to BIAP (Baghdad International). The last 10 minutes was the best part - a severe drop in altitude and an evasive pattern - a real "E" ticket ride.
This morning I traveled from Camp Victory to the Green Zone via a very fast convoy. Leaving Camp Victory I saw much of the Water Palace where Saddam and his cronies hunted (there were once even Elk there) and fished. No bass though - I am told only carp swim in the lakes.
Checked in and am waiting to go to HQ to get my "kit". Got to see a small part of the inside of one of the palaces and practice a little arabic with some drivers - hey, they understood me! Of course, my vocabulary is about 100 words so I have a waaay to go.
Not as hot here as Kuwait. Lots of junk and waste around. Saw one "bombed" building. I hope to have some photos up later - need to find out the rules about that.
PS. I was met by a fellow employee and taken to temporary quarters at GRC (USACE, United States Army Corps of Engineers; GRC - Gulf Region Central). Most of the temporary quarters mean sleeping in someone else's bunk while they are on leave or somewhere.
We traveled Rt. Irish, which at that time I knew nothing about, to the Green Zone (International Zone). I met a couple of great guys, Todd Amos and John Shanahan (who was to be my boss for awhile). Air conditioners were everywhere in this palace. The faucets looked like they were gold, the floors are polished marble. I had my first introduction to an Iraqi toilet where waste paper is not flushed but put into a trash can.
Until I get out of Baghdad I am staying in an Iraqi house that is leased by my company. It is a residential area with some homes in disrepair and some lots full of trash. It is close to the main palace so perhaps many moved out during the war. There are street lights but only one works right now and there is a weekly trash pickup - folks put their trash out just like we do at home, imagine that!
I walked down to the corner and around. There is an Iraqi police station there with a brand new police SUV. Kids were out last evening playing soccer in the street. I have seen dogs and a cat. Our security guards were feeding one cute puppy. The cat was very timid. I have spoken to the kids in Arabic - when I asked (in Arabic) how are you, one replied in English - I had to think about that. Across from the police station was a convenience store - with this store you don't go in. You go up to a window like opening in the wall and ask for what you want - they bring it out and you pay - coffee, soda, water, toothpaste, jam, etc.
You don't see this on TV. Laundry hanging out to dry (takes right now only about an hour to dry). Gardens - our house has roses and an herb garden plus an orange and a lime tree. Date Palm trees line one end of the street. This morning one gentleman was out washing his car.
PS. Up on the roof last night looking around. Every home has access to the roof where they sometimes sleep to be cooler. A major show of weapons being fired started - gunfire 360 degrees around with tracers arching into the sky. Turns out Iraq had won an important soccer match and about 10,000 people were celebrating by shooting in the sky.
Packing up to fly out to Mosul tomorrow morning. Of course, I have drawn more gear so have even more to carry. Today I drew weapons, a 9mm Sig (pistol) and an M4 carbine (small rifle) plus body armor. I had military armor but I will leave that here. Our guards here are Gurkas - yes, like in Gunga Din. Missed a chance to go to the Gurka mess hall but will do that the next time I am here.
The mess hall is next to the Baath Party HQ. That building was really pounded during the initial phase - it is a wonder it is still standing. I was looking at the big crossed swords that cross the street in the distance. They were modeled from Saddam's hands - they did a cast of his hands holding a sword then used that for the design of the real thing.
Traveling thru the streets is definitely not for the weak at heart. We go in 3 or 4 cars, one armored with the passenger(s) (called "prime" who is the reason we are driving somewhere), the others carry gunners which watch sectors, cars and people. The drivers talk to one another and block intersections while the car with the prime moves through. They also stop cars from coming up from behind and from getting too close. Very correographed. Lots of weapons. Moving very fast.
Tomorrow north to Mosul.
PS. All the cars are armored. The gun trucks however, have no side or back windows to allow shooters to respond to situations.
Ok, not really scalped. Just got a haircut from Marjan, a Kurdish barber - used a #1 so it is REAL short - paid $10 US - that is where the real scalping occurred! At the PX the haircuts are about $3.00 and at the Embassy in Baghdad, free.
I was awaked this morning at 5am by the amplified call to prayers. It was a long way off but they certainly don't need to play reveille here. I am currently trapped at the airport. Arrived yesterday after 6pm so the team could not come for me. Today they will pick me up on their way back from a mission.
The wait yesterday at BIAP was long and hot. I made the mistake of packing my camel bak and get-away bag thinking I would not need them. Never again! I spent 8 hours on dirt and gravel under a camouflage netting waiting for the C130. Then we were held for an hour after boarding before we could take off. Landing was a trip - no long approaches here - about a 4 minute dive, pull up and bang, the runway.
No supper last night but a delightful black bean and rice burrito with picante sauce for breakfast. MREs - not bad after C-Rations, LRRPs and PIRs. There are at least 3 different vegetarian MREs and all pretty good!
Stranded with an EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) guy. His guys can't get to him as they keep blowing tires. He has been doing nothing but blowing stuff up everyday for the last 9 months. He says they will be blowing up stuff for years - there was so much stashed away, buried - no one could have know where it all was - some very old - some of the Spanish bombs were filled with blocks of TNT still in wrappers - would not have worked had they used them.
Couple of strange looking cats around - very short hair and very lean. Funny, they don't seem to know what "kittie, kittie" means!
So far, the scariest thing in Iraq - all the DOD civilians walking around with guns!
PS. Yep, that barber saw me coming! The ride to BIAP (another trip down Rt. Irish) was done with one the HQ teams. They were also taking a crazy (true!) Russian, who was being sent home, to the airport. I forget if Alf (team leader) told me before or afterword who was next to me in the back seat but now it seems funny.
I landing at Mosul Airfield (Diamond Back) where the hospital, PX, dentist, etc. are located. It is right next to another base, Marez.
This will be home for awhile. Small camp but pretty. My office is in a palace and I hope to have some pictures up soon. I have made several trips now to Diamond Back (the airport) and one to Al Kasik (the speedometer said 160 kph) during some of that trip.
Mostly I am turning a room of dirt, dust and crap into a functioning operations area. Lots to do and figuring out who and how to do it is the biggest challenge.
Today we zeroed weapons and practiced team tactics at the Special Forces range. Shot my 9mm, my M4, a shotgun and a machine gun - that was a trip!
I am tired though. Nights seem short and every morning I am awakened a 5am by the amplified call to prayers. Our compound of living quarters is surrounded by high concrete walls. We have bunkers along the walls you go to if there is IDF (indirect fire, i.e. mortars or rockets). We have been to the bunker once and had incoming fire at Diamond Back one morning.
OPSEC = Operational Security . . . that is why I don't talk about upcoming events and am a bit vague in the details. But, if someone has a question, post it and I will answer it if I can.
Internet access has been a real pain. I only have access thru the military network which means I cannot use my laptop which gives me real problems in transferring pictures, maintaining the website, etc. I hope to have all that resolved in the next few weeks. In the interim, I am having internet withdrawal pains.
Trips - very scarry. Watching rooftops, high ground, vehicles coming up behind. All hold dangers. We were fired at the other day - no damage to us but the car that carried the shooter needs a lot of patching! IEDs and VIEDs are a worry also but, I don't go out everyday like the team does so I am lucky. The average Iraqi just wants to get on with life - I am sure they will be just as happy as us when things are more stable and we can go home.
This is where I work. My office is behind the brown copula on the left.
This is our living compound. I am in a unit on the far right front. You can just see my roof.
This is my room. My M4 is next to the bed. Computer on the desk but there is no internet (yet).
PS. Camp Freedom, actually FOB Freedom, had several names while I was there. The funniest was when for one day someone decided all FOB should be know by Iraqi names. Problem was no one knew how to say it so there was mass confusion.
This was the first of three rooms I had. The internet was a big point of contention. The company paid for one internet connection and an internet phone so the guys could stay in touch with home. Of course immediately they tried to spilt the connection into 4 or 5 and things rapidly went to hell. Our HQ finally abandoned the entire project.
A Gurka Security Guard and I pose near our quarters in Baghdad. Taken a couple of week ago but I just got it uploaded.
PS. At the time I had a holster for my 9mm and moved it to my armor when traveling. Later I gave up the holster to one of the team and just kept the Sig on my armor. The teams are usually short supplies like holsters, buckles, ammo.
The team is out on a long run which requires they RON (remain over night). I am catching up on paper work in a hot office. Power went out yesterday and when it came back on, the air conditioner didn't. Some where there is a breaker waiting to be thrown.
IED yesterday hit a convoy pretty hard. Our team had passed the same spot an hour before. Why an hour later? Were they still asleep, or waiting for a different color car, or to busy praying when we went by - who knows?
Will take some more pictures of the palace tomorrow. Got to figure out how to get some exercise - I am going nuts just eating and working and eating and sleeping.
Hey, I saw part of the Republican Convention at breakfast. Giuliani - what a great guy!
PS. I never did get into the exercise thing. For a while I was running the perimeter of Freedom but was leary of several exposed places. After one guy got shot in the throat by a sniper, I stopped that. Good excuse huh?
Guys going and coming off leave. New team members coming in. Old team members being relocated. Lots going on. We had one close mortar round last night. I put my boots on and waited for a second - if 2 hit, I am off to the shelter - but, it never came. Most are like that, 1 or 2 rounds just to keep you tight almost every night.
The Mosul Airport Starbucks - going to have to give it a try one of these days!
The north palace wall.
One of the many shelters for IDF (indirect fire).
Operations (my office).
PS. Never did make it to the Iraqi Starbucks. It closed before I could stop by.
Team members get leave of about 2 weeks for every 12 weeks in-country. This changed all the time and was the biggest source of contention on the team and probably my number 1 problem. We could
About the team. Mosul Team 1 had several different call signs but finally settled on Echo Foxtrot. Made up of British, South Africans, Americans, Romanians and Scottish. The Brit's all had experience in Iraq, Northern Ireland or in Bosnia. Most as time went on were from the Para Regiment. The South Africans had experience in the bush wars so we had a pretty good group. The team leader, Ken, had been a SGM in the British Army. Scottish, he was fearlessly loyal to Scotland and a great soldier.
In time, the team came to be British and American. The Brit's were undisciplined. profane, independent and selfish and I was proud to have served with everyone of them. They were great soldiers, loved to party and talk bad about the Americans.
ka, ka,ka, ka, ping, ping, ping, boom - lots of voices in the background. Is this a dream . . . (2130 hours)
No, it was real - seems one of the Task Force Olympia patrols ran into a group setting up to drop a few mortars on us. Score one for the good guys. 2 dispatched to paradise and 3 captured. No US casualties. Maybe these were the guys who were firing mortars into the camp most everynight - hope so!
So when the firing started we grabbed our "kits" (its a British company for God's sake!) and took up our positions. My kit is body armor, rigged with a camelbak, ammo pouches, Sig (9mm pistor), radio, first aid, cell phone, etc. and my M4. It is damn heavy. All the civilians (mostly Army Corps of Engineer folks) in the pad head to the bunkers - my position is right outside the bunkers. We were worried the perimeter had been penetrated. We got countabilty on the civilians so we knew no one was left in their quarters, our guys were on all access points to the pad and we wait, watch, and wait somemore. Couple of hours like this - helicopters overhead sweeping the perimeter and probably Stryker teams doing things - we could only see directly around our area - and we get the all clear.
So some of the guys have questioned me locking my door at night - I also have a loaded Sig in reach. We forget the lessons we learned in Vietnam. How many times did we get perimeter penetration there? Yet here lots of people do not lock their doors and of course, most civilians cannot carry weapons.
So to bed at midnight . . . another day in Iraq.
Many times all you will find is a hole in the floor leading to God knows where. If there is running water, there will be a hose near by and everything will be pretty clean. If there is not running water, you should try to avoid this area at all costs . . . it is not a sight to which the average citizen of the red, white and blue is accustomed. Sometimes there will be a porcelain fixture over the hole with places for your feet - maybe so you don't slip - I don't know. And sometimes there is a western style sit-down but where these come from I don't know either. They don't have little handles you push down to flush but a knob on top you pull.
Now, it seems the Iraqi pipes can't handle toilet paper so there is a trash can into which you deposit said article. Do not attempt to flush it - you will cause a flood. In fact, the average American's "daily" is itself almost enough to cause a flood - there seems to be a large (hee-hee) difference - perhaps a product of our diet.
In the palaces of course, things are more fancy. Not only are the toilets inlaid with gold, black, blue and red designs but there are bidets. Thet look kinda like an extra toilet with valves. Now for my Special Forces friends, these are not to be used for the washing of hands, feet or a cooler for icing down beer you stole from the table - in fact, just avoid these appliances - I think they are French anyway so they can't be of any real value.
And in closing - always carry your own supply of paper. One doesn't want to resort to New Taiwanese dollars like I once did and Iraqi money is too small to be of real use.
PS. Tne NT thing was years ago in Taiwan.
On Sunday we drove to Tikrit. Wow, no wonder the folks there liked Saddam. His palaces there make the one in Mosul look like a 10-year old mobile home after a Oklahoma twister. I saw at least 3 palaces along the Tigress. He must have employed thousands to keep the grounds maintained.
This is a very small out-building now used as offices. The river is directly behind.
We did not get into the town proper so I can't comment on the conditions there. The outskirts of town looked more properous than Mosul and there was some building going on. Lots of rubble - noticed that on the way - downed power lines (the big metal tower type), many destroyed buildings - the power of the US Military is very evident - do not get in their way! Sadr are you listening? You better take a good look at what went down because that is exactly what is coming to your front door in the future.
I commonly see shepherds (they are usually on donkeys) with flocks of 25-100 sheep. Lots of small villages made of mud where they don't have running water but they do have satellite dishes! I hope they are watching something besides BayWatch.We stopped at this power plant on the way back. I have never seen anything so dirty and polluting in my life! It is near a major refinery and you can smell the hydrocarbons in the air. Every low point in the terrain had pools of dried up or still wet oil or crude. If you worked here, you could count on taking about 20 years off your life span. At the loading docks of the refinery, there was oil all over the ground and road. BTW, say an Iraqi is walking along reading a paper - if they finish, they just drop it in the street. Pop can, coffee cup, doesn't matter - just drop it where ever.
Back in Mosul in time to see the sun setting into the dusty sky. This is off the back of the palace with the Tigress River in view.
A long day, mission accomplished with no incidents. Team did a great job as usual.
PS. This was the Bayji Power Plant. In the US it would have been shut down in about 2 seconds for pollution. It was a filthy place with oil pudded about and air so bad you could taste it. Just a mention about communications. Then they were pretty sorry. We could not talk to the military and once we left Mosul we were on our own. When we would reach a destination (like Bayji) we would call via land line to USACE in Mosul.
The building at the top was a guest house, I think, in the Saddam days. Now it is offices for the State Department's restoration teams. The entire compound is FOB Danger in the southern part of Tikrit.
Toll in Iraq a Grim Milestone - I have put the text of this article under the Special Interest section. Please read it if you have time.
I am proud to be here with our soldiers and civilians. Some are here for money, some because they have to, many because the commander in chief said, "go" - lots of reasons. Soldiers bitch and complain about food, mail, pay, etc. but when the boss says go they do. They leave it up to the civilans to debate and talk and anlyze and have hearings and protest - for most, it is enough the President said we need to do this.
Thank God for the American soldier and their familes. I am honored to work with them. And if you see a soldier today, say thank you.
PS. The article is no longer archieved here.
OPSEC - Operational Security prevents me from posting the details of how we operate. Suffice it to say we escort “Principals” to wherever they may need to go. We travel in convoy, with both armored and soft skin vehicles. We are heavily armed to include crew served type weapons.
Should we have to leave the vehicles we have rehearsed and planned ways to move. Shown here is an IA (immediate action) Drill, live fire, where the team was moving with the Principal and received fire. You can see the PPO (personal protection officer) with his arms around the Principal, moving him away from fire while other team members return fire and close for protection.
We practice a lot both driving and on foot. How to go thru an intersection, under an overpass, over a bridge. What to do if we have a flat tire (vehicles all are equipped with “run-flats” but anything can happen), vehicle 1 disabled, IED, how to move thru a crowd, around threats, etc.
I can say we are VERY aggressive and HEAVILY armed as this helps overcome any language or communication problems. Point an AK47 at someone and suddenly they seem to understand you with no problem. Keeping in mind we do this only to fulfill the mission - protect the Principal.
I don't go with the team on all missions. Luckily, I get to stay in Ops most of the time and travel with them only when an extra gun is needed.
You can count me as a Vietnam Vet Against Kerry (shown here with my Vietnam Vets Against Kerry button).
Not that I agree with Dubya on everything he and the Republicans stand for BUT Kerry has consistently voted anti-military during his years in the Senate and his behavior in protesting the VN War was shameful. Oh, he had and has the right to protest and I have the right to call him what he is, a moral coward who joined the anti-war movement because it looked good politically and he stood a chance to score with the chicks (unbathed as they were . . .).
True, he did go to Vietnam but somehow I don't think experience as a junior naval officer gives him a leg up on the current Commander-in-Chief. And don't think he will extricate the USA from the GWOT (global war on terror) - that battle is joined - there is no quarter, no turning back. Whom ever the President is, they will have to deal with this for years to come.
Haven't you always wanted to learn how to initiate an IV in someone? Here was a free chance to "stick it to someone" and boy, did we!
First we listened to medical humor (no, really, it was pretty funny!) and then came the chance to apply what we had just learned!
First, find a good vein (my arm).
Slide the needle in there,
wait . . . how about THERE!
Tape it down. NOTE: this is not the arm we started with. The orignal arm was damaged and is now healing. (just kidding - we did change arms to find a better vein - I was not damaged in anyway.)
Start the flow - ahhh, it feels sooo good.
He's alive, I tell you! He's alive!!
PS. The team practiced this all the time along with other medical and life-saving drill. They were all qualified to the combat medic level. Pictured with me is Mike, a USACE person who had been with the team during several contacts.
If you get up early, you get to see blue sky overhead. Not at the horizons though - in all directions the horizon is brown and as the day progresses the entire sky turns brown. About 10pm it clears overhead and you can see the stars but the horizon is always out of sight behind brown dust. The dust is like talcum powder - it gets everywhere and it has a smell to it you can't seem to wash off your hands and face. In Kuwait, the dust was sandy but not so here - talcum powder - brownish white.
The bugs are very aggressive. Well at least the flies and gnats are - they fly right into your nose or your mouth. Don't breath out of your mouth - you will be getting bugs! I have only see a couple of mosquitoes so far but they did give us malaria pills (which no one takes because of the intestinal reaction they cause). The hootch I moved into had 4 cans of bug spray and a spray can of citronella - I think as it gets cooler more bugs will come. The Hajji store downstairs sells a bug zapper - I may get one.
It was hotter in Kuwait but yesterday, it was hot! Imagine the hottest day in the east bay and then get your hair dryer out and have it blow into your face also - that is how hot is gets. Which is not to say you can't cope with it - as long as you take water you are ok. Hootches have air conditioning and so do the armored vehicles - the gun truck doesn't - and the windows are down in it so they get hot and dusty.
PS. And the dust did get every where. On the walls in my room and everything else. When I got home, my computer's fan ran too much. I blew it out and a cloud of white Iraqi dust came out.
I pushed back from the desk and computer to take a break, stood up and turned around and saw the bird. It was on the floor in the middle of the room looking at me. Now, the room's doors were shut, there are no windows that open and here is a bird.
It was a cooperative bird. I herded it along towards the balcony and it waddled along. I opened the door and it jumped upwards and onto the balcony with littler urging on my part. And then it just sat there . . .
A hour later I saw it had moved under the air conditioner and ignoring the noise it made, climbed into a condensation pan below the unit. The pan had about 1/4 inch of water in it and the bird drank a large part of it the continued to stand there soaking its feet.
The next morning, it was still there! The water was all gone though and finally the bird moved back to the balcony floor and sat down. I grabbed some bread from the dining facility and put out some bread and fresh water.
During the afternoon the bird moved up to the window sill and started watching all the other birds flying around. It spent the afternoon there cocking its head and occasionally standing up to stretch. Late that day I looked and it was gone. I stuck my head out and looked at the ground 2 stories below . . . no bird. My guess is it went home to mama!
How did it get into my office? High (my ceiling is about 30 feet up) in one corner is a hole leading to who knows where. My guess is the bird somehow got into the building from the roof, made its way along until it "popped" out into my office.
In a place devoid of pets, it was fun to have some local "wildlife" visit.
No, not mortars or rockets - emails and phone calls . . .
We need AK47 ammo for training, we need M4 magazines, we could always use better commo, I am out of coffee we are even short on toilet paper and all Baghdad wants to know is what size clothing the team is wearing . . . calm down, Keith. Time for a martini - I WISH!!
PS. There was always some kind of argument with HQ. Thats the way it is when the paper work finally starts catching up to where you are in the war. The longer it lasts, the more paper work you have. BTW, we had some great people in Baghdad.
This vehicle had armor but was not set-up as a gun truck. We removed the back door, laid in a kevlar blanket and mounted the seat for the tail-gunner.
Next the guys cut the steel plates to fit the sides but still give our gunner a side view.
Add a steel plate in the rear and a gun post.
Danny tries it on for size.
Round some corners, a little paint and we are good to go. The tail-gunner spot is critical to our mission. Not only is this the SAW (squad automatic weapon) but he keeps bad guys from pulling along side or passing us. Can't say enough about the 133rd Engineers - this is another reason why we win wars!
PS. The 133rd was from Maine and what a great bunch. We convoyed with them several time back and forth from Marez to Freedom. Professionals and focused on getting the job done.
Went over to the SF detachment the other day. Guys here from 1st and 5th Groups. While I was there, a Stinger was brought in. Missing the thermal battery and grip-stock it would have been hard to fire but otherwise was functional.
This is a view from the palace to the northwest. Nice looking neighborhood but also where we get occasional incoming mortars and rockets from.
PS. This neighborhood had street lights and clean street with nice looking building. From some, they could seedirectly into the compound but for some reason that was not a problem. Most of the rockets or mortars came from the east. We had a line of trees that protected us from direct exposure when walking to the Palace. A contractor in charge of rodent control cut them all down. We found a different route.
This is my front door. The hootches are about 12x15 with their own bathroom. Most of the team are two per room but I have all the team supplies and exra gear so I am alone.
This is the view out my front door.
All of these areas are called "pads" and there are many pads - each unit here having their own pad or pads. They are all surrounded with T-walls and have bunkers inside that you run to when there is incoming.
PS. This was my first of three different locations. My friend Wes, who was in Vietnam with me (and is no longer with us), lived here before I got here.
The entrance to the American Embassy in Mosul.
There is no PX at Camp Freedom. We have a couple of “Hajji” shops like this. I bought a case of Pepsi Light and it had all lost the carbination - flat Pepsi, ugh!
The Arrowhead Cafe. I have never eaten here but I saw on the outside menu “falafel” so I will have to give it a try!
PS. The Arrowhead Cafe never did reopen. Its owners probably fled because of threats or killed. The owners of the shops (food, clothes, a barbershop) are Iraqi Christian or from Turkey. The Iraqi's work at risk of reprisal. One of the young men who checked ID's at the palace was killed and I know of one shop owner and an engineer that where killed.
To the gang at the Special Operations Association Reunion in Las Vegas this weekend . . . I 'll host one for all of you tonight. I am proud to call you my friends, associates and fellow "reprobates!" All of us still having fun - hang in there guys - I will see you next year!
Expert care is available 24/7. We have 3 medics on the team and lots of people to help.
I will have to visit here soon. I forgot to get my Anthrax booster so will have to start the series of shots again. Darn!
PS. Never did finish my Anthrax shots. We had one threat where we we had to carry gas masks for a couple of days but gas was a non-event. This clinic stablized patients before transporting them by chopper to the larger facility at FOB Diamondback.
This is my body armor. On the bottom (left to right) you see 2 M4 magazines, 2 9mm magazines, a Sig 9mm pistol and 4 more M4 (30 round magazines.
Next row up is a flashlight and to the right of that a pouch I keep a notebook, camera, a shiny (signal mirror). Connected here is my microphone for the radio and also the earpiece (just for the photo).
The pouch immediately next to the flashlight has a field dressing and a tourniquet. The long tube is connects to my drinking water and the little blue cap you see on the upper right is sun screen for my delicate :^) fair complexion.
Here is the back view. You can see the radio on the upper left. My black Camelbak is attached to the back of the armor. It holds about a gallon of water.
The armor is heavy and hot. Even though most of the time we are riding in vehicles it is extra protection and you never know when you will have to deploy from a vehicle. It is a very necessary piece of equipment and has saved many lifes.
I also carry a bandolier with 4 more M4 30 round magazines. That gives me a total of 11 (one in the M4). I would like to carry about 5 more but need some different ammo pouches. It is hard to find good ones - it seems the people that make these things never really use them for real. We are constantly breaking the plastic buckles, the ammo pouches wear out, tear, and some are impossible to figure out how their maker wanted them to work.
PS. Guys change the configeration of armor all the time it seems. I ended up with the radio moved to the front, the first aid pouch larger and on the back. I raised the 9mm up and carried all my M4 ammo in 2 bandoliers. You double up the magazines in the bandolier so you can carry 26 magazines (2 are attached together in the M4).
Arbil or Erbil or Irbil (pop. 884,968) A commercial,
agricultural, and administrative center with a predominantly Kurdish population, it is one of the world's oldest continually settled towns. The ancient Sumerian and Assyrian city of Urbillum (Arbela) was on this site. Modern Erbil is on an artificial mound surmounted by an old Turkish fort. Since 1992 Erbil has been one of the main towns of the so-called Kurdish Autonomous Region.
This is a picture of one side of the fort and the "tell" it is built upon. The fort is surrounded by the city and is about a mile square (except of course it is "round" ).
WHAT A GREAT CITY!! You can actually walk around and feel pretty safe. Shops selling wedding dresses (Western style) and pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Children in school uniforms. People waving and smiling.
Everyone wanted their picture taken with Americans. I got to give away some of the pencils I brought to the kids. Next trip I will bring some soccer balls.
We saw a Catholic Church (St. Josephs), a large "teaching" hospital and now I know where the airport is - here by the way, you can board a commercial flight to Jordan and elsewhere with no problems.
The young man on the left in this photo came running up waving when I was taking another photo. I thought he wanted me to stop - instead he wanted to be in the photo.
There was one lady with a couple of children begging for money but for the most part the difference between Iraq and "Kurdistan" is striking. Once you drive across the river (Great Zab which flows into the Tigris) you can see the difference. Highway has "lanes" painted and speed limit signs - I saw gas stations and stores under construction - cars are nicer, larger. Homes being built. Many signs in English also (you see that in Iraq too, business names in Arabic and English - I don't know why).
PS. They all wanted copies of the photos and some of them had email addresses. Here is a photo of the fort - the walls really go up but when I look at this it looks like a hole.
This is what an IED can do to a armored Ford Excursion.
For OPSEC (operational security) reasons I won't give details. No one was hurt in this attack and this was not my team.
Without the armor, clearly there would have been injuries. The car was actually driven out of the kill zone on "run-flat" tires and made it to safe territory. This vehicle was part of a convoy and the only one damaged.
Convoys are used all over Iraq on a daily basis. Some are military, some civilian, some mixed. They transport people, fuel, mail, beans and rice, etc. Everything moves at some point by convoy.
AIF (anti Iraqi Forces) use IED and VBIED ( vehicle born improvised explosive device) often. Easy to use, requires few personnel, very effective.
PS. The Ford Excursion is the best vehicle for this type of security work. It gives you everything its got and then some.
On the road again and this time the Fruitloops decided to have a "go" at us. Score=1 Fruitloop down and hopefully on his way to Paradise; Goodguys loose 0 - Excellent!
Thanks to the armor put in by the 133rd Engineeers (see the entry on building a gun truck) our tail gunner was safe. As we drove up a hill, we were fired upon with two of our vehicle taking hits. The gun truck returned fire with good results. We drove out of the "kill zone" and a ways down the road.
Stopping, we blocked the highway in both directions, secured the high ground and commenced to change tires that had been shot out on two vehicles. That took about 10 minutes, and loading up we were on our way home for lunch.
PS. This was on the way back to Mosul from Kirkuk. The team was alone having dropped our passengers off. We crossed over a bridge and started up the hill. There was a car a couple of cars ahead slowing everyone down. I was riding in #2 with Mac when we heard noise like you would when driving in gravel - that was small arms fire striking our vehicle. Simultaneously the gun truck open up on insurgents behind the berm to our left. We all accelerated out of the kill zone, pushed on a mile or so and stopped to change tires. Forming a defensive perimeter, Mac ran to high ground, I started trying to establish comms with HQ or Kirkuk (to no avail) and Ryan and drivers started changing tires. Other team members took up defensive positions around the vehicles.
Danger around every corner stifles Iraq's rebirth
By Phillip O'Connor
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Oct. 03 2004
MOSUL, Iraq - When U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. Kurt Ubbelohde wanted to check the progress of reconstruction around Kirkuk last week, plans for the two-hour road trip began days in advance.
His staff reviewed security reports about the route, arranged convoy vehicles that included armored SUVs and notified a heavily armed eight-member private security team they would be needed as escorts.
Six months ago, the trip might have been considered routine. But the growing insurgency and deteriorating security situation are making even the simplest steps treacherous, and efforts to rebuild Iraq more and more difficult. "The frustration is, it's impeding the progress that the Iraqi people deserve," said Ubbelohde, who commands a district covering the northern third of Iraq .
"Every day we can't finish the job means there's another day that somebody has the possibility of getting injured or killed, whether it's a soldier . . . or an Iraqi civilian, who are oftentimes being targeted now because of their participation in their own reconstruction."
That's what happened Thursday, when terrorist bombs killed dozens of Iraqis - many of them children - at the opening of a new sewage treatment plant in Baghdad.
Last year, Congress approved spending more than $12.6 billion to help repair roads, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed by decades of war and neglect. About 650 reconstruction projects are under way, and the goal is to increase that number to 1,800 by year's end.
Yet months after the work began, construction is going slower than first anticipated, due in large part to the ongoing hostilities. Last week, construction spending had reached only $1 billion, sparking criticism in Congress and elsewhere.
"There are folks who don't believe we've moved fast enough," said Brigadier General Thomas P. Bostick, the commander of the corps' Gulf Region Division in Baghdad. "I certainly think there are things we could be doing faster, and each day we're looking for those opportunities.
"Most of the contractors who are working reconstruction never in their wildest dreams thought they would be working side by side with military who are in the middle of an insurgency fight. But having said that, they have stepped up to the plate in amazing ways, both U.S. contractors and international contractors, but more importantly, the Iraqi people."
Last month the State Department requested that nearly $3.5 billion of the money targeted for energy, water and sewer projects be redirected to what administration officials characterized as more pressing needs. About $1.8 billion would be used to pay for tens of thousands of additional security forces to help stabilize a nation racked by lawlessness and violence since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The idea is to create a safe political environment that will allow the Iraqi government to hold elections in January and move toward self-sufficiency. A more secure environment might then attract other nations to invest in the rebuilding. The changes in spending still must be approved by Congress.
Of the $12.6 billion in scheduled construction, 10 percent is allocated to pay for security.
But the true cost for protection is far greater.
The figure does not account for time delays that are the result of ensuring safe work environments, costs that have increased dramatically in the last six months as violence increased.
For example, trucks delivering building materials to a site now undergo more stringent inspection. That may entail dumping the load outside the gate to check for bombs and then having to reload it for the move inside. Other trucks carrying tar, water or other products are now X-rayed. Bomb-sniffing dogs also are used.
Projects with a large number of workers that require a large security force can require the construction of expensive, fortified camps that workers often refer to as "Fort Apaches."
Before they are allowed on job sites, Iraqi workers undergo extensive searches that can delay the start of the workday by hours. Once on site, the workers must be escorted by soldiers or U.S. government employees. A shortage of such escorts limits the number of workers allowed inside the gates, further delaying projects. And every day that work is delayed, the costs go up. The overhead for the reconstruction bureaucracy alone runs $6 million a day.
"They're hidden, tangential kinds of things," said Ubbelohde, 47, who prior to coming to Iraq in June served as commander of the corps' Omaha District office.
The high cost of protecting Americans is one reason the corps wants Iraqis to take on more responsibility for managing construction projects.
"We want to minimize the American presence because it makes the projects a target," especially at remote building sites outside of Baghdad and other large cities," Ubbelohde said. "It's challenging for the U.S. or the coalition to get to some of these rural areas and be able to operate in an environment that they consider safe." The corps is encouraging its contractors to hire and train Iraqi engineers to perform project assessments, construction management and quality assurance duties.
"It's a risky environment because the insurgents are targeting them as well, but they can travel around much more freely . . . and that minimizes the security expense," Ubbelohde said.
Success - at a price
Before the war, Iraq 's oil production averaged 2.8 million to 3 million barrels a day, according to U.S. Energy Department estimates. In the war's immediate aftermath, production came to a standstill. The corps met its goal to restore production to 2.5 million barrels a day by March 21. But since then, attacks on pipelines and other factors have caused production to drop to between 1.8 million to 2 million barrels per day, resulting in losses of as much as $27 million a day, according to corps figures. That's money that isn't going into a fund that supports virtually all aspects of the Iraqi government operations, from salaries to road repairs.
Despite some estimates that Iraq contains the world's second-largest oil reserves, behind Saudi Arabia , the country's antiquated refineries are incapable of producing enough fuel to meet a growing demand.
"In order to increase the refining capability, they're going to have to start from the ground up and build new refineries," said corps Lt. Col. Mark Snyder, who spent the past eight months monitoring efforts to increase oil production and ensure adequate fuel supplies for Iraqis.
But the current security situation and the fact that supply exceeds the demand for oil in the Middle East will make finding a private investor willing to build a refinery a challenge, Snyder said.
"The (profit) margins just aren't that great," he said.
Snyder strongly endorses the American mission in Iraq . Like most corps officials interviewed, he believes the media provide a distorted picture of the situation.
"Every time you see the news, you think we're losing the war and every Iraqi hates us and we're not doing anything," he said. "It's totally frustrating because I think a lot of the Iraqi people appreciate what we're doing. I think we're going to help them become economically viable and, hopefully, self-sufficient. Of course with the insurgency it makes it tougher. You have to spend more money to do the same things. But, overall, I think we're being successful."
Duty and danger
Last week was typical of the problems the American rebuilding effort is facing.
Threats against Iraqi workers, attacks on trucks and the death of a driver along supply routes prompted other drivers to refuse to deliver materials, halting construction on several projects, according to Maj. Paul Dansereau. He is responsible for operations and security in the corps' north district.
Shots fired at Iraqi workers hired to help sandbag a corps base camp delayed work for several days.
Thieves also stole four electrical generators bound for a major military base, causing further strain on the nation's already taxed electrical grid.
And finally, the horrific bombings Thursday at the site of the new sewer plant in Baghdad.
Since the transfer of sovereignty on June 28, the number of attacks affecting reconstruction projects have increased by 5 percent, to a weekly average of 21.
Reports of bombings, kidnappings and rocket and mortar attacks also make it difficult for the corps to recruit its own civilian employees needed to complete the mission. About 300 corps employees are in Iraq . To date, about 2,000 active-duty and civilian corps employees have rotated through. All of the civilians, who make up the vast majority, volunteered for the duty.
"We need a lot more people," Snyder said. "It's a struggle to get them over here."
For those who do come, the conditions are Spartan. Most of the workers live in fortified military compounds protected by heavily armed soldiers. They work and live behind 15-foot-high concrete barricade walls, concertina wire and sandbags. They sleep and relax in trailers that offer living space smaller than most college dorm rooms.
Many regularly work 12 to 14 hours a day or more. And even the civilians are required to follow the Army's General Order Number One, which among other things prohibits the consumption of alcohol. Still, some manage to sneak a beer every now and then.
Despite the chance for some civilian corps employees to earn double or more than their stateside salary because of overtime and danger pay, some believe the perceived risks far outweigh any financial gain. When Brian Harper volunteered to leave his job as a planner in the corps' Alaska District office to come to Iraq in August, all but one of his 30 co-workers had the same reaction.
"They thought I was nuts," said Harper, 38, who handles personnel matters and other duties in the north district office. The only co-worker who didn't hold that view had just returned from his own voluntary tour in Iraq . Harper said he believes most who come don't do it for the money.
"I'm here because I want the corps to succeed, I want the reconstruction to succeed, and I want us to do a good job restoring the infrastructure of the country," he said. "I want us, as an agency, to do it right."
Although no corps soldier or civilian employee has been killed in Iraq , there have been plenty of close calls.
On the afternoon of Sept. 16, Major Erik Stor traveled north out of Baghdad to inspect damage caused by an insurgent attack on an oil pipeline. On the return trip, a bullet smashed at head level into the reinforced windshield of the SUV in which he was riding. The bullet's impact caused a spiderweb of cracks in the glass, but Stor was unharmed.
Less than two weeks later, Stor, who helps oversee the reconstruction of Iraq ' electricity grid, again rode to visit a power plant north of Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded. The blast split the windshield, blew out both front tires and shredded much of the vehicle's front end. A 12-inch, three-pound hunk of shrapnel landed near Stor's left foot.
Other than a slight concussion, Stor again was uninjured.
He plans to mount the shrapnel on a plaque and have the date of the attack engraved on it.
Such incidents won't deter him, he said. Nor does he consider himself brave.
"The bravest people out there are the Iraqis going to these plants each day making a difference," he said.
Huda Adil Mohamad is one of those people. The civil engineer, 30, knows she is in danger of being kidnapped or killed for working with the Americans. She is scared. Still, she saw her pay jump from $90 a month under Saddam to $1,600 today. But she doesn't do it just for the money, she said. She is learning new skills and gaining valuable experience. She believes the reconstruction and the jobs it provides for tens of thousands of her countrymen is helping bring stability and a better way of life to a war-weary nation.
"We all believe that that this is the best answer against the terrorists," she said. "It is an opportunity given to us. We must also take risks. This is our land. I want to raise up our people."
Early Wednesday morning, Ubbelohde and three others huddled with a private security team who briefed them about their trip to Kirkuk. Dansereau shared information with the group about a car-bomb attack against a military convoy the previous night in Mosul. The explosion overturned a large armored vehicle, injured six American soldiers and rattled the windows of the corps' offices about a mile away.
The security team leader told the passengers in a thick Scottish accent about the route they would be following, recent incidents along the road and what to do if the convoy was attacked. He told them they were required to wear body armor, Kevlar helmets and eye protection.
Once on the move, the three vehicles wove through choking traffic at high speed, honking horns and blinking headlights to clear the road ahead. When forced to stop at an intersection, a bodyguard jumped out and warily eyed other nearby vehicles (photo above, the Colonel, Ken and myself). When a car began to move up alongside Ubbelohde's SUV, the guard menacingly pointed his AK-47 at the young driver who stopped.
After dropping off their passengers in Kirkuk, the security team headed back toward Mosul. In an area known as "ambush alley," they were attacked by small arms fire. Several bullets struck two of the vehicles and flattened a tire on each.
The guards returned a hail of fire and wounded and possibly killed one attacker. They didn't stop to find out.
In Kirkuk, Ubbelohde visited a 2,300-acre base being built to house and train 3,000 soldiers for the new Iraqi army.
A similar project in the United States might require one or two security guards to man the main gate "so a truck didn't get stolen," said Bill Upton, an American who is managing the $64 million project. Here, he employs 140 guards. He estimated that security and related equipment on some projects could represent 20 percent of costs.
"This is an armed camp,"
Upton said. "We take fire and we return fire. If you don't, they keep shooting at you. They hit soft spots. We try to be a hard spot."
Reporter Phillip O'Connor
E-mail: [email protected]
PS. In the picture at the beginning of this article you will see the back of Colonel U. with me sitting in front of him. That is Ken on the outside. When stopped by heavy traffic the guys in the gun truck would deploy to prevent somone from just walking up and rolling a grenade under a vehicle.
Once more into Kurdistan . . . always a pleasure!
D'Huk is a pretty city between two low mountain ranges. We were here escorting some folks involved in building a new school here. D'Huk is a thriving community with a University and lots of friendly people driving by and shouting, "George Bush!"
I was the PPO (personal protection officer) on this trip so I had to go inside with the principals to the meetings. I stood just outside of the room in which the meetings were held. Many people came by to tell me they wanted a free Kurdistan - they did not want to be part of Iraq. If it were up to me, they would be separate.
After the meetings (which ended at 2pm - all the offices close and the day is done) my principals were invited to lunch at a near-by restraurant. Our hosts also invited the entire secuity team so, off we went!
What a feast! We had salad, which was cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, cabbage. The milk on the table tasted like yogurt but was cold and good. They brought around a small piece of breaded meat - tasted like fish - afterwards we had onions, garlic, carrots and other veggies.
Here I am with two members of the team, Danny (left, from Australia) and JB (right, John from the UK). The picture behind is of a site not far away in the mountains.
PS. This meal became one of the team's legends because after we had what looked like a fried piece of flat meat, we discovered we had eaten sheep's testicles. We were never to go out to dinner again without dregging up this meal and the appropriate (or inappropriate) jokes.
Team training today. Hey, we don't just ride around you know. Today we worked on . . .
Fitness training usually consists of magazine races which is like a relay race where you stop, change magazines, cock the weapon and run on to the next location where you do the same again. Two groups are doing this side-by-side which makes a race out of it.
I didn't really get an injury. A joke Debbie and I use when sore from exercise. From "Cheers" and Sam Malone. Groin Injury Rap
SHEEP, WOLVES, AND SHEEPDOGS
By LTC (RET) Dave Grossman, RANGER, Ph.D., author of "On Killing"
Edited by Keith Messinger
Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. In a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997, William J. Bennett questions, " What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?"
One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: "Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident." This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another.
Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since repeat offenders commit many violent crimes, the actual numbers of violent citizens are considerably less than two million.
Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.
I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.
"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there that will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.
"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf." If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path; someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."
That is until the wolf shows up.
Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.
There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. - Edmund Burke. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision. If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.
This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheep hood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.
PS. The pup was from Al Kasik, an Iraqi Army training facility north of Mosul. He was ferocious with very sharp teeth! You might also want the read a poem by Russ Vaughn, The Sheepdogs.
Tanks above in a graveyard of destroyed guns, trucks, etc. We found enough pieces to put together a training mortar and an RPG.
Truck convoys (right) move almost everything. Most of the trucks up here are from Turkey. Convoys are 50-150 trucks long. They take loses but like the Liberty Ships of WWII, they keep coming.
Returning from live fire training at the range (hence the head gear for sun protection) we stopped for this photo op. Kneeling (lft to rt)Danny, Australia; Cassie, RSA; Keith, DPL, USA; Pierre, USA. Standing (lft to rt)Mac, UK; Ken, TL, Scotland; Ray, UK; JB, UK; Sean, RSA, Drew, Northern Ireland.
PS. Team members come and go, sometimes assigned to other teams, sometimes moving on to new opportunities. The ones still there when I left, were Ray (team leader-Brit), John (Yank), Danny (Australian), and JB (Brit).
Head out on the highway . . . looking for adventure . . .
No friendlies were hurt here but several Fruitloops were seen looking for the door to Paradise. Vehicles needed a bit of repair. Lucky me, I was in the office for this one!
Looks kinda like hunting season in Colorado when all the out-of-staters get there. We took several rounds into this vehicle and into the gun truck (not shown here).
Our driver (Cassie) thinks they were picking on him - hmmmm, he may be right!
In this ambush, the team was receiving fire from 2 sides. The bad guys had also meant to hit us from above and behind but that part of their force was wiped out before they even fired a shot.
Seriously though, there has been an increase in VBIED (vehicle borne improvised explosive device). Hard to defend against this or any suicide type of attack. We use special tactics to mitigate their effectiveness but there is no complete defense.
The armored vehicle can stop most SAF (small arms fire) and this is the only way we transport the Principals.
PS. That is Major Dansereau looking at the vehicle in picture 2. He was the Operations Officer for USACE here and did a terrific job. Every incident like this resulted in lots of paper work both from the USACE side and our side. BTW, "fruitloops" is a Major D expression to describe the, well, fruitloops.
No internet for the last couple of days - what a pain! Lots to catch up on now that we are back on line.
Ramadan is the time of year where the fruitloops get even fruitier and loopier! First, the call to pray which is played over PA systems from the local mosques (there are 2 close by and they seem to be in competition on who can be louder) now seems to last twice as long as normal - if only they would play some Tom Petty . . . Second, for the first few days of Ramadan we are restricted to base - no movement. That phase should be over soon and we can get on with the job. During Ramadan the fruitloops get special credit for doing away with a infidel and the last week (it lasts a month) they get double credit - so if they normally go to paradise and get 20 virgins they will get 40. It is a time of fasting so they can't eat or drink during daylight hours - makes them grumpy. Myself, I have been thinking about a "Ramadan Diet" - probably could drop 10 pounds.
I got a resupply box from Debbie. Thank goodness I have Cheez-Its again! Also got some peanuts - I will leave some out for the Magpies (yes, like in Colorado not like the Scrub Jays in California). Still trying to get a picture of one but they are very elusive.
USACE is very busy with jobs trying to re-build the infrastructure. Not an easy job with all the supply and contractor problems they have.
We are not sleeping well. There has been IDF (indirect fire usually mortars or rockets) on the camps around us and we expect the same. So you sleep partially dressed and ready to dash to the bunkers.
PS. We actually had incoming almost everyday. If not in the afternoon, for sure at night.
Damn! Pulled a hamstring yesterday in team training so I am out of action for a least 10 days. I will be an "office dweller" as I cannot run and can barely pick up something if I drop it.
PS. I had never pulled a hamstring in my life but this was to bother me most of my time in Iraq.
If you are coming to Iraq (for US) you will almost always have to process through CRC (Conus Replacement Center) at Ft. Bliss, Texas. Depending upon your status, active military, DOD civilian, DOD contractor, you will be issued different equipment. For DOD contractors about 2/3 of what they issue, you do not need (i.e. winter boots, linings and overshoes, etc.) - you can ship it home for storage and they know you do that - at CRC, they set up shipping days just for that purpose.
Somethings you do need . . .
Boots - DOD contractors are NOT issued any desert boots. The boot shown here is a Converse Desert Boot and is excellent. It has a composite toe, is very light and does not get too hot in the weather like leather boots. It is available on the web from many vendors.
Ear plugs are a necessity, even at Ft. Bliss and the he Aearo Combat Arms Ear Plugs shown here are excellent. I have only found them at http://www.botach.com - Botach Tactical backorders a lot (at least for me) but everything I got from them is good. Another source is Brigade Quartermasters - they ship very fast (10-14 days to Iraq) at http://www.actiongear.com.
If you are going to be authorized to carry a weapon, a good sight is a must. Four of us on the team use the EOTech holographic sight. This can be zeroed on a 25m range for 300m and is battery operated. It replaces the carrying handle and rear sight on your M4 or M16. Great support and sevice on this sight from http://www.skdtac.com. They made a special effort to get mine right out when I ordered it.
If you need medications, you need to bring 180 days (or more) with you. You need 180 days worth to process thru CRC and you need to set up someway to have prescription drugs mailed to you. The military here will try to help you but often does not have medications that a lot of civilians use.
If you look at the damage done to the windshield in our armored vehicle you'll see flying glass is a distinct possibility (there were tiny glass slivers all over the dash). Some sort of ballistic eye protection is needed like Wiley-X.
You can get many items in the PX here and almost everyone has access to the PX at sometime. We get to the PX about once a week. You can buy clothing, CamelBaks, sundries, etc. so no need to pack too much. Travel light - you will be moving about in C130s, armored vehicles, etc. and YOU will be carrying your baggage - travel light and have anything you need shipped to you.
Well, so much for being out of action. We were short team members* today so I joined in for a run to the airport. We linked up with a military convoy both ways to give us a larger footprint. Pro and cons there - more fire power but they move a lot slower. We had no problems, thank goodness! The same route yesterday had several IEDs/VBIEDs against Iraqi forces.
I was in the navigator's seat in the lead vehicle which means I was the "caller" - everything I see I put out on the radio and into the team's earpieces . . . parked car on the right; civilian on the left - hands clear; barrel on the right; traffic slowing, merging traffic right - one blocking; etc.
I did score 2 cases of Diet Pepsi (one plastic bottles, one cans) so I am a happy camper. Spoke to my son this morning before we left - he will probably be back over here next Spring.
*Two guys from the team flew by helicopter as PPOs for some of our normal principals. They were delayed in getting back.
Last night we had a pretty good dust storm. You could not see lights 50 feet in front of you and the wind was howling. The dust is like talcum powder and gets into your mouth and nose. I imagine when it finally rains, there will be a lot of mud. This morning the air was very clean like after a rain storm.
Also yesterday we took IDF (indirect fire) from a couple of mortars. About 7-8 rounds but no one hurt. An empty fuel tank burned for a while causing a lot of black smoke.
Today I fixed the links to the hi-res photos of the World Trade Center before and after. I also added a poem, The Sheepdogs by Russ Vaughn, Vietnam vet from the 101st Airborne Division.
PS. This was nothing like the dust storms they get down south.
Today we are going to the Mall. I will be buying 2 RPKs and a PKM. I will spend about $1600 US - prices have gone up since the Iraqi government has started buying back weapons. The RPK shown here with a bipod and drum magazine is a bit heavier than the standard AK47. We will use them should we have to deploy out of the vehicles.
The PKM, much heavier than the RPK, but still considered a light machine gun, will replace our US SAW (squad automatic weapon) in the back of the gun truck. It is much more intimidating and fires an armor piercing round that can easily disable an approaching vehicle. Shown here with a scope, stand, etc. but ours will not have a scope and will be pintle mounted in the back of the gun truck.
Since our M4s do not have burst or auto capability, we carry AK47s for extra fire power. All the AKs are folding stock somewhat like shown here.
The team, when out and about, will have approximately, 8 M4 carbines, 8 AK47s, 1 shotgun, 1 SAW, 2 RPKs, 1 PKM, 8 9mm Sig pistols and lots of ammo.
We get so spoiled at home with overnight delivery and mail coming everyday. Here, it comes in about twice a week (now that is doubtful since some Fruitloops have been shooting at the planes) and then sits until someone can deliver it. Parcels take from 10 days to 5 weeks so it is very frustrating! Debbie shipped 2 boxes to me on the same day - I got one 2 weeks ago and the second has yet to show. Hey, got to have my Peets coffee in the morning and Cheez-its for a snack at night - I roughed it enough in the last war - this one will be civilized!
Incoming motar rounds (and one rocket) have started a fire about 50 feet from the pad where we live. No one hurt and the Fire Department is there. This has been a daily occurence and getting on my nerves. At night there are explosions and small arms fire of various intensity almost every night - add that to the helicopters coming in and out and the mosquitoes and a good night's (darn . . . more incoming) sleep is hard to come by.
Well, it has been a busy 3+ weeks. The actions south of here forced many AIF and other Fruitloops into our territory. This caused lots of problems and some loses.
We had 21 incoming rounds one day which caused some casualties. None from the team but still not good.
Another day we left for a 1 hour trip which turned into 5 days! Lesson here - take a "bug-out" bag with you every time you go! What happened is we rolled into another installation just as a "lock-down" occurred and we were stuck. (this contributed to the no postings - SAT! I had almost 0 bandwidth for 6 days.)
The picture here is a vehicle like we use. Not one of my teams but part of the organization. A wrong turn into a area of town we don't go into - that is all it took. Not a happy day. See the lovely Mosque in the background - they were firing from that (as well as other places) but of course, we wouldn't think of hitting them there . . . you know, I don't think Rummy and George really know about some of the crap that goes on here. I just don't think they would put up with it.
Because of all the activities going on, we are now running a larger, stronger team. That is great and so far, has been working out fine - better for us and for our clients. We are running 2 gun trucks now which means much more fire power and greater capabilities.
Good news! We hear the armored calvary is coming to town. Hooray for Bradleys and the fire-power they have! Also, we may pick up some of the 82nd Airborne. I don't want to be cynical but does this have anything to do with the recent elections?The new general here knows what out-going is and we have been having that also on a regular basis. Hooray for the artillery and 155 howitzers!
So, all-in-all, things are looking up here. I have a good supply of Cheez-Its, not hurting for Peets coffee, know other packages are on the way - things are good.
PS. November was a bad time in Mosul. The team was stranded at MAF (Mosul Area Airfield - side by side to Marez). We could not get back to Freedom because it was so bad. The Kirkuk team was stranded at Freedom and staying in our rooms. The Tikrit team (what was left of it) was with us on MAF. They had come into Mosul from Tikrit and not being familiar with the city, decided to detour through what was, unknown to them, a very bad area. The burning car above was one of theirs. We lost one young S.A., who left a wife and child at home. No one from USACE was hurt physically but I know it was a terrifying experience for them. The team went into a police station for support and the police promptly fled. So our guys had to hold off the fruitloops who were using RPG and mortars, until the Army QRF could get there. The Army did a great job and got everyone safely to MAF. During this time some of our guys at Freedom were manning the radios 24 hours a day and we only had contact with them with handhelds. There was a lot of professionalism shown during this dark time.
The team is out today but should be back around 4pm. Just in time for left-overs.
The line at the DFAC (dining facility) is about a 1/2 mile long - rumor has it the gravy is a tad salty but there is lots of food.
Sun is shinning, no rain - it is a beautiful day in Mosul. Lots to be thankful for; especially the fact that I am an American - free to live a productive, happy life.
I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
Reader Comments (1)
I wish you and all your team a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
by Jean-Pierre on November 25, 2004
PS. JP is a friend who lives in Europe.
I got my little turkey on Thanksgiving day which was really cool!
I was surprised in the DFAC today - there were no left overs really - ummm, maybe the pumpkin pie but I didn't try that. They did go out of their way to make Thanksgiving nice for the troops. My hats off to whomever (KBR?) is in charge there.
Spent this morning training - practicing drills for flat tires, IEDs, blocked roads, etc. Always finish off the training with magazine races. First AK47s, then M4's - lay out magazines about 100' apart - run to the first, eject your mag, put in a new one, cock the weapon and run to the next . . . relay style with the loosing teams doing "press-ups" (Team Leader is from Scotland). Actually great fun!
They opened a PX in the burned out palace so we finally get some good stuff. Right now nothing but bleach and salsa but room for a lot more so one has to believe!! Hey, they might even have Pepsi Lite that has not lost all the carbination!
Time to head for my quarters. One more meeting tonight and then I can call home, study Arabic a little and hit the hay. Still cold - you can see your breath and it rains most every night.
PS. Our team leader (the guy really in charge around here) is a professional soldier from Scotland. He is great tactically and great with the guys. I am am very glad he is here.
The team after a day on the range. Ran life fire exercises and zeroed in the SAW (squad automatic weapon).
Yep, that's me in the kneeling in the center.
PS. These guys made up the heavy team we started running after all the problems in November. Three US here (the forth was taking the picture), four from SA, one from Australia, two from Scotland and five from Britain. The range was at Marez where in December an insurgent got into the DFAC and did a great deal of damage. We often ate there.
Had a major road trip yesterday. Went by a very long route south to Kirkuk then across to Tikrit, up to Bayji and back home again. We were gone all day - uneventful (yea!), just saw lots of sand, sheep, farmers planting (wheat I think), donkeys and mud houses. Saw a kid riding a donkey, chasing a donkey - really funny . . . ok, guess you had to be there . . .
Called my nephew, Chris, this morning to wish him a happy birthday. He thought it was neat that it was his birthday here but not his birthday (yet) there.
Lots of activity going on in Mosul. People are out shopping and building and working and playing (no, not us - the Iraqis!). Saw the first wedding since before Ramadan. Gardens are planted - looks like orange trees (some type of citrus) in some yards. Seems many are trying to get on with things. There are some that want turmoil but most just want to get on with life. I see kids many places I go, waving at our passing vehicles - wish I could stop to give them water colors or crayons or something - of course, we can't stop, but they keep waving.
Put a Christmas tree up in the office. I will get a picture eventually - little 3' job from the PX. It does snow here so who knows - we may have a white Christmas.
KA-BOOM! Out going 155 just now - cool.
PS. For a while when we were in the main palace, there was a 155 howitzer in the field behind. We could watch them fire from a large window (the glass had been replaced with plexiglass). When the gun would go off, you would see smoke and then maybe a 1/2 second latter the window would shake and things would rattle.
There just aren't near as many helicopters in this war as in Viet-nam. Guess they are too expensive. We used to fly everywhere but now you are lucky to get onto a chopper.
Weather is turning cold and cloudy again and yesterday I pulled my darn hamstring again - so, I am out of action for awhile. We were doing magazine races . . . fun unless you lose and end up doing pushups!
I was in the office until 1am last night - I am getting tired (literally) of this job. Maybe after the elections I will head home . . .
PS. I was starting to get down here. My depression was coming back big time. Adding to that, a FNG in HQ was riding me about something he had no knowledge of. Finally the CO told him to get off my back and let me do my job.
You can see the AT4’s in the corner next to the MRE’s. The mosquito netting lets me leave my front door open at times.
PS. I had scrounged the 9mm ammo from the SF guys. We had to do that more than once.
I head out today south towards Baghdad and beyond. I won't return here until sometime in January. I will have daily contact with the team(s) and will let you know where I am as we go along.
Reader Comments (1)
Hope you and Debbie have a wonderful Christmas holiday. . . I enjoy your site . . .
London! What a great place to be during the Christmas season!
How did I get here? Flew out of BIAP (Baghdad International Airport). Here is a shot from the window of the plane. When you take off, you immediately begin circleing and climbing - all within the confines of the airport. You never leave the airport until you are at about 20,000 feet.
Before I left, I went into the Duty Free Shop. There I saw a gift package of wine from Wente Winery! I wonder if they know they have wine being sold in Baghdad? It was pretty strange reading the box about Livermore and the wines of Wente while standing in Baghdad, Iraq!
I flew on Iraqi Airlines (I think we get a bargain rate with them) into Amman, Jordan. Traveling from the airport to the hotel, I found myself watching for IED and ambush sites - parked cars, overpasses - all looked suspicious and when ever a car passed us I really got nervous (we don't let any one pass us or merge into the convoy in Mosul).
When I got to the hotel, I was surprised to find a Christmas tree and decorations everywhere. And they were playing Christmas carols in Arabic - no, not Arabic carols but "our" Christmas carols. I headed straight for the bar to get a Martini but, sadly, they had no idea how to make a good one. (Sorry, I am a Martini snob - I make the best in the world and judge all others by mine!). It was cold in Amman, perhaps a little colder than in Mosul (30 ° F. ) first thing in the morning.
The next day I flew out via Royal Jordanian Airlines to London. Very nice plane and service - had room to move about and the trip (about 5.5 hours) went by quickly.
Got to my great hotel, The Montcalm, (thanks to our great travel agent, Craig at [email protected]), dropped my bags had headed out in search of - how did you guess - a Martini! I did not have to leave the hotel and with just a little coaching, got a great, welcome to London, very dry (only a mist of vermouth), Tanqueray, "shaken, not stirred", with 2 olives, martini! Ahhhh, the "Queen's tears" - I was a happy man.
PS. At the time I flew I think only Royal Jordanian and Iraqi Airlines flew in and out. Iraqi Airlines was kinda "seat of your pants." They were very nice but when I got up to go to the back, they had a tarp pulled acoss the doorway and the crew were all back there smoking. Royal Jordanian lives up to the royal part.
About Mosul . . . FOB Marez, MAF (Mosul Airfield), FOB Freedom (the palace) and FOB Patriot are all within about 10 square clicks of each other. Three of the above have large DFACs (dining facilities) that are permanent soft skinned and roofed buildings. When full there may be 600+ people eating and working. They serve 4 meals per day.
All of the above bases get mortars or rockets everyday. Sometimes just one or two, one day we got 26. They are shot randomly - seldom hit anything, sometimes miss the FOB entirely. Occasionally they get lucky and kill someone. That is what happened yesterday. Will it happen again? Yes. And unless we change the way we eat (and sleep) they will kill a large number again. None of the DFACs and none of the sleeping quarters are mortar proof from either high explosive or air bursts rounds. The quarters are metal trailers with the roof totally exposed to any kind of incoming - and there are 100s of trailers. You can’t sandbag the roofs or put Kevlar blankets or anything like that because they are so cheaply made they will not support a lot of weight.
I saw one DFAC (if you say “mess hall” it dates you) in Baghdad with a proper stand-off roof that would cause premature detonation - not good for your hearing, but you would be alive. Why don’t they all have something like this where we are? Money. And that of course is the reason for many things - lack of armor, lack of troops, lack of security - it all comes down to money.
I am normally at FOB Freedom. Neither of my teams nor the folks we protect were involved.
The big problem here is we don’t shot back. We know where the mortars/rockets are fired from almost from the time they leave the tube but we don’t shot back. There are many excuses, i.e. they shot from a mosque, they shot from an intersection, they shot from a residential area. Frankly, that is BS. We must shot back every time regardless of where they shoot from. Then if “Achmed” sees some “Fruitloop” setting up a mortar in his neighborhood he will do something about it. We should never be willing to trade an American life for an Iraqi life. As long as we are willing to do that, we are (visions of Viet-nam and Korea) fighting with one hand tied behind our back.
The ROE (rules of engagement) are very clear. If someone points a weapon at you, you shoot him. This must apply to indirect fire as well. Sun Tzu said, “Compel others, do not be compelled by them.” Our modern day tacticians should take heed of history.
PS. This was written when the Marez DFAC was hit by what was then thought mortars but quickly changed to suicide bomber.
No “Happy Holidays” here. It is full blown “Merry Christmas” and it is SO good to hear it. The locals tell us there is a movement to PC Christmas here also - hold the line my British cousins!
We have done all the sight-seeing possible without interfering with “pub” time. What a great city and a great time of year to travel. Today at St. Paul’s Cathedral, not only did we get to tour that magnificent achievement but several child choirs were rehearsing and we got to see and hear them. We were also impressed with the chapel dedicated to those Americans who died defending Britain in WWII.
Due to the impeccable timing of my Rolex (one of the trade marks of an old Special Forces soldier), we got to where we were going always on time. Not so with those who rely on Big Ben which obviously is just a little fast!
The Cabinet War Rooms are not to be missed. That tour brought home the price Britain paid in nightly buzz bomb attacks - I had always thought maybe a couple a night - try 300 or more a night just hitting randomly throughout the city. Hard to imagine how that was.
“Up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear” - the Eye was great as was Mary Poppins the night before.
Tomorrow we move on. If you ever can travel during Christmas, it is the best time every to do so. We met lots of British, shared a few pints, and have had a great time in merry old England!
PS. We love London! What a great city. Everyone was nice. The Guiness was great and you can get a great martini!
Merry Christmas from Dublin! We had a bit of a white Christmas, opened a few presents and are waiting for the time to start the phone calls home.
Dublin is a wonderful place. Lots of shopping, things to see and pubs to visit. Yesterday we visited Christ Church, the Jameson Distillery. Much was closed for Christmas so we had to hang out in many local pubs - ah yes, life is hard!
Oliver St. John Gogarty's Pub at Temple Bar; Farington on Eustace St; O'Neils on Suffolk St; McDaid's on Harry St. Looking for traditional Irish Music, we found Trini Lopez, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and Davy Jones . . . hmmm? But what fun! Many famous writers got inspiration in these pubs, James Joyce and George Berhard Shaw to name a couple. The pubs were all old - at least 200+ years and the Guiness was great. (We tried to go to Guiness but it was closed.)
Today we pack for we are off again tomorrow for Scotland.
Meanwhile, the team is busy in Mosul today running a mission north. From them, a Merry Christmas also!
In Mosul, no snow (not yet anyway) but cold. Work continues with tighter security. About the Marez suicide bomber - he could not have done it alone. Normal workers come through several check points and are searched. If he was IRA (yes, that is what the Iraq Regular Army is called), they come in in trucks but someone should have recognized a stranger. What can and has happened - the AIF kidnap family member and then make a person carry explosives to save the relative. Meantime, meals in Mosul, especially Christmas dinner are eaten in a scary environment.
PS. The team ran with our boss from HQ. I managed to be out of town everytime he came up. Actually, now that I look back upon it, I think he was trying to miss me. Little arogant jerk who thought he knew everything.
Tonight we'll host a couple of malts for all of you.
May your 2005 be merry and bright.
I said a tearful goodbye to my love today. She is heading back home while I will head for Jordan. It was a great vacation except for goodbyes - the hardest part about being deployed - these are the times when you start to question why help in Iraq . . .
We had an absolutely wonderful time. Scotland and the new year's Hogmanay was too cool. I ran into several from the Black Watch (the Tartan I wore) who insisted upon buying me and my wife (to her distress!) drinks. Ireland and the pubs there were great and the snow incredible. London was awesome - my roots.
With all the horror of the Tsunami it was perhaps a bit subdued but in the end, we can only go on. Elections in Iraq coming . . . here is hoping 2005 will be good!
Now, off to Jordan to tour a little and study Arabic as much as possible. Reports from there forthcoming. And, time to start planning the next leave/vacation. Keep the cat sitter on standby as we will be heading out again in 4 months or so!
PS. After returning home in August, I came to realize how much of a sacrifice my wife had made. I think any deployment is harder on the family left behind.
Time to get back to work
Posted on Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 04:37AM
Unless I get held up in Baghdad for more than a day or so, the next post will come from Mosul.
I had a great leave but am ready to get back to work. I know there is a ton of work to catch up on and I am looking forward to getting back to that great KBR food and the occasional MRE . . .
Jordan is a neat place if you have the chance to visit. Desert in the south with big canyons and mountains in the north and lots to see. Today, I put my hands in the waters of the Dead Sea and yesterday I was on Mt. Nebo where Moses saw the promised land. I hear the local wine is good but I did not get a chance to try.
Iraqi Airlines, then a C130 or chopper back to Mosul. I'll keep you posted on what's going on there.
Oh, about the Iraqi employees murdered on their way to Mosul by bus. This has happened before. I don't know why the Iraqi army or the US Army who hired these kids can't understand they must provide security! If you are affiliated with the new government or US and travel the highways into Mosul from anywhere - Kirkuk, Tikrit, Arbil, Dahok - and you travel without a security escort you will most likely get killed - pure and simple. And the escort won't keep you from getting shot at, it will just give you the capability to defend yourself. These men were unarmed and traveling from Baghdad to Mosul - just as well put a sign out "Come and get me."
PS. I also saw Petra while I was here and walked where Roman Legions had once marched. I swear I could feel their presence.
Back in Mosul.
Into Baghdad via Iraqi Airlines. I saved my ticket - not too many will have one of those! Made a quick change to a "push me, pull me" - Cessa Skymaster. (I flew as Covey in one of those in Vietnam!) Then north to Mosul.
I spent one night in the MAO (Mosul Area Office) before moving on to the palace. On the way back I saw the remains of a donkey IED. Yes, they used a donkey hauling a cart and blew it up! Poor thing - just it's head and front legs were left there in the gutter - these people are real fruitloops!
Working late - team is out. Normally we don't run at night but sometimes it is better.
The team at MAO is still waiting for vehicles to come in. Supply problems here are ridiculous. We wait 3 months for a part you could ship DHL in a week. Cell phones for some of the folks have been on order since November and we still don't have them yet you can go to the local Haji and buy one. The support contractors for the most part are idiots - not the guys here with us but their "further-ups" back in the States.
PS. Mud, mud, mud - basically everywhere. The Mosul Area Office picture is where Tm2 is assigned. That is at Mosul Airfield or Diamond Back.
As it turned out we started running a night quite a lot for the Freedom/Diamond Back run. Made for long days.
A nation at war . . . that is how the President describes it. Yet often watching what little news we get it seems the only ones involved are those going, leaving or here.
But, there is a big crowd of support troops - the folks at home that are helping the families of those deployed. Those range from neighbors to employers to kids sending cards.
And lucky me, we have some great friends and neighbors helping to keep the home front in good shape. Many thanks to all of you! Without your help we couldn't do it. We'll have to have a cocktail party when I get home - pencil us in for sometime in August/September.
Takin' names and kickin' butt
Much less incoming now. At Marez, used to be a day without incoming was very rare - now, many days without. Here at Freedom we used to get it every afternoon - now some folks have never experienced it.
We have had lots of outgoing from the 155mm howitzers the last couple of days - cool!
We also have Bradleys here like shown here.
Add all of this to the Stryker's we had and then throw in tropps from the 82nd and hey, we got a whole new ball game!
The other day one of the Kiowas (shown below) flying around shooting at bad guys took some fire. As a result, the pilots did a forced landing, got out, put out the fire, dropped off the rocket pod and took off again - now that is coolness! I like to think these guys were probably some older reserve pilots, called out of a cushy civilian job now over here doing a great job!
So, as the elections approach, things look pretty good security wise. The DFAC will be crowded and the gym has been converted to housing (somethings never change - years ago when I was in the Army, I was once billeted in a handball court at Ft. Bragg). With all the troops here lets hope it stays nice and quiet.
I have added a new link (to the left) which will take you to the USACE website. More often than not, pictures there are from our area and you will see projects the team is envolved with.
PS. Here is the link USACE GRD. It was good to be connected to this organization. I did value their contribution and their courage - most of the folks were civilians who volunteered to come over. They did a great job.
It was a great day (Jan 30) in Mosul yesterday. The voter turnout was dramatic - in some places the lines were 500 people long, snaking in and out of alleys and streets; they closed the polling station here on FOB Freedom after the Iraqi and Kurd folks who live on the FOB voted and moved it to another polling station that was being over-whelmed by voters; polling stations ran low on ballets and boxes to put them in; at a meeting in the afternoon, our interpreter proudly showed her blue-tipped finger, a sign she had voted.
All-in-all, casualties were no more than an average day in Iraq although 2 killed in Baghdad, were from USACE, the folks we work for.
Today, the DFAC is open again (it was only open for breakfast the last few days) so we are off the twice a day MREs and the guys are on the range checking zeroes. Tomorrow, back to business as usual.
PS. I can say this day was indeed a happy day for the people of Iraq. Their smiles were genuine and for a minute they looked into the future.
Mosul continues to be relatively quiet. Local police chief has given AIF (anti Iraqi forces) a deadline to turn in weapons. I would have preferred a shorter deadline but hey, this is the same police department that in November has everyone quit - they have come a long ways.
Team out today transporting a client to his new job site. Lots of projects going on and coming up . . .
These projects are all over northern Iraq - Mosul, Dahuk, Irbil, Bacubah, Talafar, Ninawa, Kirkuk and more.
Still, lots of frustration with delays. We have had one team down since 20 January because of a fan-belt - something you can get for $6.00 at home almost on any street corner. I have been missing my power supply to my laptop since 9 January (that is why no photos) - new one supposedly on the way but who knows . . .
PS. The missing laptop power cord came about on my way from Baghdad after returning from Jordan. 2 of us crammed into a OV-2 (Cessna Skymaster). We were in a rush and my duffle bag was left in one of the vehicles. In it was the power cord, my winter coat, my shoulder hoster, leatherman and a variety of other items I needed. I drove everyone crazy emailing and calling Baghdad about the bag but no one found it.
After I returned home in August I get a call from an AF Base in South Carolina. Was I missing a duffle bag? A like that, they shipped it to me free. Where had it been or gone? Who knows. It was still locked with a loaded magazine for my SIG, plus all my other things.
We are seeing lots of IEDs. Most small, but many more than we have seen in a while. The team got hit by one in January - no one was hurt but we had to destroy the vehicle. I will post a movie of that if I ever can get a power cord for my laptop (*&$&#*#*).
Part of the perimeter wall fell down a couple of weeks ago - still not fixed - seems the contractor involved is busy on something else. Now in the "old" days we would have put a 100 privates out there filling sand bags. Of course, no rush, IT IS ONLY THE PERIMETER WALL! Jeez!
Rainy, muddy . . . got to clean my M4 tonight and watch some more of the Civil War cds . . . makes this look like a walk in the park.
PS. We watched a lot of cd boxed sets like the Civil War (borrowed this my associate Martin, who was from Scotland), Sheena - Queen of something, Band of Brothers, etc. With no TV you end up seeing lots of movies.
Half way to our destination this morning, the lead gun-truck was in a head on collision with a fuel tanker. No one was killed but we did have some major injuries.
We flew in a Medivac helicopter to carry off the injured. We then stripped the car of radios, ammo, etc. and I set it on fire with an incendiary grenade.
Not a happy day.
Tomorrow we start scrambling for a replacement vehicle.
PS. We were in route to Dahuk with a couple of USACE passengers. It was early morning with rain. The highway slippery and busy. Many, many fuel trucks traveled this route from Turkey every day. This was vehicle #1, a gun truck. I was about 100' back in vehicle #2. There were 4 vehicles in all. I watched as our driver slipped off onto the shoulder, over-corrected and slammed head on into a fuel truck. The truck was going up hill and travelling slow while #1 was probably doing about 60 mph due to traffic. It was horrendous. Everyone (5) in the vehicle was injured. Miles C. in the left front was laying in the mud, hurt and in pain yet he managed to pull it together and help give first aid to the others. Miles was one of our primary medics and could always be counted upon. After medivac, some were flown to Germany, others treated locally and then all put on medical leave. All but one managed to come back to duty. BTW, this was a FORD Excursion - had it been any other vehicle several of our guys would have been killed.
It has rained for at least 30 hours straight. A cold hard rain. There is snow in the mountains to the north and east and we expect it will snow here. Some of the T-wall barriers around our pad decided to lay down on the job . . .
There are several ready to go! The rain has softed the soil enough that the ones that were installed incorrectly are now failing. We walk thru the barrier at this point. Now everyone hesitates then walks real fast
Several of the trailers have leaks but not mine. It is pretty cozy in the rain.
Lots of laundry being done as you put on clean clothing and you can't last 15 minutes without getting muddy.
We have a replacement vehicle and new guys so the team is rolling. Our injuried guys left today for home.
We had about a inch on the ground and then it started to melt. Cancelled ops for today. Our vehicles have all weather tires and 4-wheel drive but we are worried about the local vehicles.
Hard to believe we will see 120° in just a few months.
Another day (snowy) in Iraq.
Reader Comments (1)
Talked to Debbie today. Don't know if you remember me but I was at your wedding. We're all proud of what you're doing and look forward to seeing you home soon. P.S. Deb has a surprise about Hawaii :-)
So imagine driving 70-80 miles per hour in total darkness, all you can see is a "chem-lite" which is taped to the rear bumper of a vehicle 200' in front. You see the brake lights flash twice (little slots of red as the tail lights are taped up with just a little sqare showing) meaning a turn. You brake, slow for the turn, skid around a sharp corner and stomp on the accelerator . . . night ops - cool!
I got to drive a couple of nights ago as we are short handed right now. What a blast! Of course, that is looking back on it - while I was behind the wheel, I was a nervous wreck, worried I would hit a concrete barrier they seem to leave about here and there in the middle of the road.
Of course a good question is why don't we have night vision goggles? And the answer is . . . too much money. Cheaper to replace a vehicle and a couple of guys. Now I know what I am "not worth".
Another day (night) in Iraq.PS. We finally got set up to borrow NVGs from the Army. Normally the guntrucks would use them and the drivers.
A few days back the team went through an VBIED/SAF (vehicle borne improvised explosive device/small arms fire) attack. It was recorded and now you can see it in the Special Interest section of this site.
It is a pretty large file, SAT. Part way thru it goes to black - that is when the camera was put into someone's pocket. You will see the view from the rear guntruck as it is hit and the guys immediately start laying down fire. The vehicle coasts through the "kill" zone and as it comes to a stop, vehicle 2 backs up towards it to assist in recovery. The vehicle was not recoverable so it was destroyed in place. No friendly forces or civilians were killed or injured.
Another day in Iraq.
PS. Here is the link . . . watch IED
We are moving out of the main Palace to a small near-by palace. No stairs - all one level. I've got 4 techs up here moving antennas (all 5 of them) and tomorrow or the next day we will move ops. For a while no internet but we need to secure the building so the rest of the unit can follow. I will post some pictures soon.
HQ is up here doing an asset audit - jeez, you would think we were back in the States!
Sun was shining today and I heard birds singing. Although I don't think the rain is over, winter is fading fast. Roads are dusty in the middle and completely muddy on the shoulders. Can't dry out soon enough for me - I hate mud!
Did I tell you I have passed the half-way point so it is all down hill from here on? I can't wait to get home and go to a Giants game!
Another day (sunny) in Iraq.
PS. The move was a major effort. Antennas, furniture, equipment, etc. and there are no moving companies here. It was all done by the team and the gang from USACE.
7am - 5pm Work
5pm - 6pm Mission meeting
630pm - 730pm Team meeting
9pm - 10pm Incoming Drill
11pm - 1am Work
Tomorrow, back in the office at 7am. Hey, we had incoming today. 3 rockets, 2 hit the FOB, 1 exploded - no one hurt.
Egad! This morning I am brewing Maxwell House! I am sure the Starbucks or Peats is on the way but in the interim - war is hell!
Reader Comments (1)
Instead of boring old coffee, why not have some TEA, best drink of the day.
by Martin (Keith's apprentice) on April 10, 2005
PS. Martin, being a Scot, got harassed by me for all his tea drinking. He even had his own pot!
Dark, almost 9pm. A single vehicle comes speeding towards you. All you see is headlights. It covers the length of a football field in 3.4 seconds - you have 1 or 2 seconds to decide whether or not to shoot . . .
Now, the rules - all of Iraq knows the rules - approach a check point slowly - that mean 5 mph and if you are a member of the coalition, you display certain signs to show that. If not, you will be stopped and searched. If you come in fast, don't obey, cause a trooper to fear for his life, you will be shot.
The suggestion that the US would target Giuliana Sgrena, a so-called journalist for the commie rag Manifesto is really out there. She is about as important to most as dust balls under someone's bed.
What happened was simple. If you break the rules here you get shot and sometime even if you don't break the rules you get shot. That's what happens in a country with a zillion guns and bullets and where the bad guys are waiting for a chance to kill you.
Reader Comments (1)
Yes, I'd shoot! ! ! How big of a weapon do I have? A bazooka or RPG sounds too small. . . I am surprized that only one person was killed and another injured in that car if our troups fired on it for effect. I suppose a round or two fired in an attempt to stop the vehicle could have ricocheted off of the block or gone higher than it was intended. I am sure that if elimination of the personnel in it were the goal no one would have been around to offer such a ridiculous accusation.
By Tom S.
This is the new place we are moving into. Our office moved first (note the antennas on the roof) and will be followed by the rest of GRN -USACE.
The contractors are here now (from Turkey) and are running new electric, putting in lights, building partitions (you have to have a cube to work in!) for USACE.
We are roughing it until the contractors are done. We are using generator power with existing outlets. Some spark when you unplug something! This is on the outside of my office. My office is directly behind this wall.
The sandbags are coming out and a door will be put into this window.
A beautiful day in Arbil. Had my picture take with a couple of Korean troops that were part of another PSD team. I think they were Special Forces (they had HALO and SCUBA tabs) but could not confirm that with the few words we had in common.
Picture of an American, in Kurdistan with 2 Koreans, taken by a Brit with a Japanese camera! A coalition or something . . .
I got to drive #2 today. Wish I could drive like this in California. 4 SUVs with speedometers pegged at 140+ kph - get outta' way, I'm a comin' thru!
Last night going through a check point, I hit a pot-hole so large I had to use 4-wheel drive to get out. Crushed the power steering damper and bent something. Team had to borrow a car for today's run.
Here is a typical street with a couple of homes. Most are built with concrete blocks and covered with plaster. They have a court yard with a lawn, citrus tree(s) and some have gardens.
Dogs and cats are always around but it is not clear who owns them. The cats I have seen are all with very short hair.
Electrical is pretty basic. I don't know how they get charged as there are no meters. Fuses are on the poles themselves. The electrical connections use a 2 prong and a 3 prong. The 2 prong is hopeless - falls out, shorts. And there is no grounding.
The concrete blocks and walls are done very different than at home. They don't use much mortar and the walls are not very strong.
Inside, the floors are tile or marble with rugs. Here is a kitchen. Not visable here is a stove with burners and oven.
Living room with TV, bedrooms and one bath is the norm.
Pretty spartan by US standards but most are very clean and well-kept.
Reader Comments (1)
Interesting pictures of the "neighborhood". Quite a contrast to the ones we have from #2 Son (Army) who is working out of Victory around North Baghdad and up toward Taji.
Thanks for the time and effort you put into your site. I've been stopping by for quite a while, now, to see what's new, and I enjoy your take on things. It's a welcome break from searching news sites, casualty sites, etc trying to keep up with what the "kid" is up to on a day to day basis.
Just another Viet Vet,
PS. The electrical system in Iraqi cities is way worse than this. We ran down a side street once and the antennas on the vehicles were pulling down low wires.
The grass is growing out of my sandbags. I need my trimmer from the garage!
It was hot today - I think winter is done. Hopefully no more mud.
I understand the Secretary of the Army was here overnight. I know someone important was as I saw them take-off - 4 Blackhawks and at least 2 Apaches.
Got some Martini olives from my HB today! Hooray! Not tonight (I'll be out with the team) but soon perhaps a real martini!
PS. This was the 3rd and final room I was in. I was right across from the laundry trailer and a bunker so it was great.
Drinking in Iraq was illegal unless you were with the State Department - they always have their own rules. For the military Rule 1 was no alcohol. If you were caught with alcohol you could (and some were) be sent home. So you had to be discrete and keep it well hidden. Since we were on the road, we could buy it at liquor stores - yep, Islam might not like drinking but there were plenty of liquor stores around. Drinking was normally done when we were on a stand-down of some sort - never if we had a mission the next day.
This is the latest team photo. The guys come and go - some on leave, some to other teams. We have a good core though with some of the guys here (on this team) almost a year and some on their second time in Iraq.
Reader Comments (1)
Think about you guys all the time. STAY SAFE! Thank you for all the safe time you provided us.
PS. Vera was one of the USACE crew. Couldn't find a nicer person!
Not true! Don't believe the weather channel on MSN. Makes me wonder how accurate the reports for the other places I monitor. Here the sun is shining, as it was yesterday and most likely will be tomorrow.
Reader Comments (1)
I love reading your journal! My co-worker and friend, Linda, is there working for USACE and she doesn't get out and about quite as much as you do! Your journal and photos have helped me understand what it's like over there for her, for you and for the Iraqi's. She will be coming home soon (hooray) but I will still be checking your site because it's a great one! Thank you for all you do to keep the "sheep" safe.
PS. Linda was another great person. She was scared but still did her job and was a pleasure to be around.
PFC Joshua Key, Jeremy Hinzman - two of about 100 cowards seeking refuge in Canada. Hinzman was turned down for refugee status recently.
I suggest we let them all live in N. Korea - weather is kinda like Canada - we can put them there and then check back in 50 years or so to see how they are doing.
Reader Comments (11)
So, what you are saying is that unless you agree with the current administration's foreign policy you should be sent to North Korea? Your absolute intolerance for opposing views and dissent is inconsistent with our nation's Jeffersonian ideals and 1st amendment right of freedom of speech.
Is the freedom American forces are fighting for in Iraq the freedom to disagree with one's government or the freedom not to agree? It seems your assessment of PFC Hinzman and PFC Key leads to me to believe that you are not fighting for freedom of speech and fighting for the imposition of your beliefs on others hence the North Korea comment.
There is a glaring contradiction of your actions and beliefs. You are supposedly fighting for freedom but despise those who exercise that freedom.
One question; when a tank shell misses its target, hits a nearby home, and splatters a baby's brain across a room, who has commited the sin? I mean according to Judeo-Christian moral teachings there is never a "time out" on sins during war so who gets the the violation rung up on their soul? Who will ultimately face eternal damnation? Is it the enlisted man/woman triggerman who faces eternity in Hades or is it passed all the way up the chain of command to W himself? Last time I checked there wasn't an asterik next to the 6th commandment.
So, who gets strike three on their soul in these situations?
Let freedom ring! Our country is there. Where are all the other countries? Where is this writer? At home in the USA? Is he a foreigner? If he is go home to your own country. Do not cry for us when you need help.
How are they exercising for freedom if they are running away to Canada and not fighting for USA.If it wasn't for the person who wrote this website (the person who created this website is in the army right now fighting for our country right now) then we would not have freedom of anything!!!!!!!!!
supporter for website creator :)
ps: The so called Elvis is an idiot as so what my Uncle would say.
supporter for website creator :)
Let freedom ring. Absolutely. I couldn't agree with you any more.
But please grasp what you are saying. Freedom is the right to have your own set of beliefs and opinions and act on them. Freedom is the right of self determination and the ability to dissent. Freedom is not having the fear of goverment or public reprisal for standing up and saying what you believe in at the top of your lungs. Freedom is the ability of every Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Socialist to say their goverment sucks and not fear being locked up or told they are un-American because the essence of being an American is yours and every citizens right to freedom of self expression. And yes that freedom includes disagreeing with this war.
I hear what you are saying, but I cannot accept that our men and women are dying to protect what we as Americans believe in. If your son or daughter were dying then would you be so self-justified?
Yes, I agree but if it wasn't for these courageous soldiers then there WOULD NOT BE ANY FREEDOM! Besides Elvis sounds like someone who ran off to Canada. COWARDS, YELLOW BELLIES, and TURNCOATS! Freedom of Speech.I ask you, are you an AMERICAN fighting for these rights?! or are you just some runaway who can't handle the pressure for fighting for this country?! Also, why are you protecting all these cowards who are not fighting this great country?
supporter for website creator :)
Again, the all or nothing rhetoric of saying you are a yellow belly if you don't want to fight in this war is not what the framers of our constitution and bill of rights believed in. This war is not supported by millions of Americans and this freedom not to support something the goverment does is GUARANTEED by the Constitution. Yet, the statements above are completely intolerant of this guarantee thus the contradiction between the action of "fighting for freedom" and the hatred of those who exercise the freedom to oppose the war.
"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war." -John Adams
"There was never a good war or a bad peace." -Benjamin Franklin
Please give me the stats on millions of Americans. I would like to support your viewpoint in a paper I am writing. Again, I need the stats.
I don't agree that making a rational decision to leave the current insane situation in American is cowardice. Freedom is not being bullied by rhetoric and character assassination.
Everyone must act according to his conscience. It's easy to condemn without wanting to understand.
Personally, I think anyone who swallows the line that U.S. soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq for our freedom is a sucker. Hope you all choke on the truth when it hits you smack between the eyes.
PS. I had it in for these guys during the Vietnam War and I still do. Pukes, scum and elephant dung.
This team is currently running 4 Excursions. They seem to take the abuse and extra weight pretty well. We did have an Expedition as a guntruck but it could not handle the weight.
These vehicles are all armored with Class VI armor (will stop a 7.62 mm round). The gun trucks (running #1 and #4 position) are modified by pulling windows and rear hatch so gunners have the ability to warn-off and shoot if necessary.
If your going to Dahuk (north of Mosul) which is in Kurdish territory, you can stop for groceries and other items in a Walmart like super market. We stopped in to get some items for a team bar-be-que.
I especially like the plastic palm trees out front. Maybe a couple of those in my front yard with a few plastic Flamigoes would look good.
The shopping carts wouldn't hold much so we had to make several trips. Lucky there were several of us to carry all the supplies!
Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
This isle had all sorts of beans, rice, couscous and many items that I had no idea what they were.
And if you get too much to eat you can pick up some excercise equipment!
Pick up the latest Microsoft product and
it is time to check out and head home.
PS. This market was in DaHuk,Kurdistan. You could see the difference when you crossed into the Kurd's territory. Everthing was much cleaner, kids were going to school in school uniforms - so different than the Iraqis. The guys loved to have a BBQ when we were standing down. It got so USACE would join us with their goodies also.
The contractors have been going nuts trying to get things completed. Most are from Turkey and speak no English or Arabic so any communications I try is very limited. They do a great job though with what they have to work with - they are very innovative and hardworking.
Thank goodness we moved first. It was inconvenient at first but now, in all the confusion, I can gloat - my office is up and running and looking good.
My office (and new door) is on the other side of these sand bags. They will come down soon, replaced by a T-wall.
This is my door. Hard to find right now! But it won't be long and all will be looking good. We have a parking lot and would you belive, a flag pole that will fly the USACE flag. I think the day that goes up we will get in-coming!
The team is out today and I am stuck doing weekly reports. 3 weeks until leave.
Here is my communication center. Somewhere back in the blog you will see a picture of what it was like in the beginning. We have come a long way! The TV monitor has BBC and EuroNews (darn, I wanted FOX but will have to wait until I return home - sorry Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly). On the desk I have 2 VHF sets, 1 Codan (HF), computer with Windows (of course!), Thuraya satellite phone, VOIP phone, cell phone and hanging above the VOIP is an Iridium satellite phone. Why so many different kinds of comms? Well, not all work at any given time at any given location - so we need multiple resources.
Lately the weather has been characterized by afternoon thunder-boomers and lots of rain falling in a short time period. Big, tall cumulonimbus with the sun hitting the tops and the bottoms black with the promise of rain. Humid and just hot enough to suspect what is in the future temperature wise. Mosquitoes are coming out in force and some of the darn flies are back - too cold for air conditioning and too hot to turn the heater on - it is a changing time of year.
Hey, we had Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors in the DFAC (dining facility) today. I had Pralines 'n Creme and thought about how much fun it was taking the grandkids for ice cream. Twenty-two days and a wake-up until my leave starts - sure will be good to get home for a while!
We spent most of yesterday on the range practicing immediate action drills and tactics. Had a lot of stoppages with the weapons (M4s) that we blame on the British training ammunition. If we had stoppages like that during a real situation, we would have casualties. A friend, Josh from Tulsa, came up with some 9mm ammo so the guys got to do some pistol shooting also. We don't get to practice with the pistols too often as ammunition is hard to come by (yep, true!).
Just got trained on upkeep and driving the Werewolf. This is a vehicle from South Africa that may come in handy. It seats up to 8, has firing ports and is very tough and heavily armored. We expect to get one more of these in and then we may use them on some missions.
This one though, is unoperational. Came missing parts, pieces broken and a leaking fuel tank. This seems to happen to much of the equipment we get. We get the equipment and then have to wait another month or two for parts to repair the brand new vehicle. Of course, even if all was ok with this vehicle, it still would not go out as we only have one. We need two so if something goes wrong we can recover the passengers and vehicle.
Shown here are Ben, Andy and me (in the front).
Yes indeed, Hell froze over on April 1 when Mosul Team 2 became operational! We have been fighting that battle since December. Finally, about two weeks into March I had had enough - I said April 1 they will roll and wow, on April 1 they ran their first mission. I know folks on the outside don't realize how big this was but believe me, IT WAS BIG!
Where are we now with the situation in our area? We currently have 484 projects under construction, 33 of those projects are delayed two weeks or greater due to security impacts (data as of 10 Apr 05). The projects which remain delayed experienced significant loss of productivity primarily due to material delivery delays and/or shortage of required labor force due to threats and/or attacks. Many of the projects are now experiencing improved security, however they are unable to regain lost work days. Yesterday's report . . .
You come to realize that time and materials and workers operate differently here. You have what you need or it is "on order" and the latter is true for most things. You go along and do the best you can counting the days until leave (10 and a wake-up)! Inshalla.
PS. More on Team 2. They were located at Diamond Back and were supposed to be an asset of USACE Mosul Area Office. Everytime they got close to having enough equipment and/or people we would have to borrow for Tm 1. Finally it seemed, came the perfect storm - all the equipment was there. Enough people were there. All I had to do was overcome the lack of desire by some members of the team, to be operational.
So you are out driving around near the Syrian border, looking for a grid reference that as it turns out is 2-clicks off.
Suddenly you see this sign (Gateway to Iraq). . . hmmm, aren't you supposed to be IN Iraq?
Reader Comments (1)
One of the most dangerous things in the military is a 2LT with a map and a compass.......another one is a 2LT with a GPS.......you should give him a map and a compass....and a senior NCO. Heh heh heh! Good times! I remember being in Iraq once when we were supposed to be in SA.....silly butter bars! Miss ya!
By Keith (the other one)
This is a picture taken at sunrise. This is before the T-Walls went up as shown in the next photo. We have replaced all the sandbags now and the flag pole is up (not for a US flag - can't fly those - but a USACE flag).
This will be that last post until I get back from leave. For those in the area, there will be a party on the 30th at my house, 7pm. If we didn't get a chance to tell you, consider this an invite.
Ok, I am back from leave all ready for another few months. This time it is different though because the next time I leave it will be for good - so, I am counting the days . . .
Traveled home via Kuwait and London. Flew the "Great Circle" route for the first time and got to see the ice of Hudson Bay breaking up as Spring came to the Arctic.
Seat space was terrible of course but British Airways had great food, movies and made the flight as nice as possible.
Driving from the airport to home, I was cringing when we passed parked cars or debris on the shoulder of the road - good thing there are no IEDs in California.
A couple of days after getting home we had a combination birthday party (for a good friend), and a Cinco de Mayo party.
Look out! Too much tequila and too much fun! I think many had saved up the party mood until I got home because all were ready to party.
Thanks once again to all the good neighbors and friends who dropped by for a Margarita. We will do it all again in September!
Some are upset by this. Seems it is a terrible thing to show this sub-human creature doing his own laundry or in his underwear.
Perhaps we should ask some of the many he killed what they think.
If you are nice (insert "show weakness") to a bad person (insert "dictator, Korea, Syria, Iran") you will die (insert "be dead, nada, finished, overrun).
The real question that should be asked is what is taking so long to bring this person to justice?
Opps, did I just offend someone. Well, excussssseeeee me!
Reader Comments (1)
When Saddam is no longer with the living the world will be a better place.
However your comment about dying if you are nice to a bad person isn't quite accurate.
Former Sec of State James Baker. "Had we attempted to isolate Iraq, we would have also isolated American businesses, particularly agriscultural, from significant opportunties."
A 1989 State Dept memo states, "In no way should we associate ourselves with the 60 year old Kurdish rebellion in Iraq or oppose Iraq's legitimate attempts to suppress it." (Guidelines for Iraq Policy page 6)
Another 1989 State Dept memo states, "Human Rights and chemical weapons aside, in many respects our political and economic interests run parallel with those of Iraq." (Overview of US-Iraq Relations and pressure points page 1)
Senators Bob Dole and Alan Simpson. April 1990 in a 2 hour meeting with Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader stated "a large scale campaign is being launched against us from the US and Europe." Sen Dole assured Saddam, "Not from President Bush" Sen Alan Simpson went on to tell Saddam "I believe that your problems lie with the Western media and not with the US goverment...The press is spoiled and conceited." Congressional Quarterly, April 27, 1991 p. 1077.
Former Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater on US policy towards Iraq- " We want to see those relations continue to develop, Our position that we've taken on chemical warfare, chemical weapons is in no way intended to diminish our interest in those bilateral relations." Press Conference at the Waldorf-Astoriua Hotel September 26, 1988.
President George H. W. Bush-
Overriding Congressional opposition GHWB signed a directive authorizing an Export-Import Banbk Line of Credit of $200m for Iraq. Jan 17, 1990.
Oct 2, 1989 GHWB signs National Security Directive 26 which states "normal realtions betweeen the US and Iraq would serve our longer term interests and promote stability in both the gulf and the Middle East." http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nsd/
It seems that these guys mentioned above did cherish and nourish the relationship with Saddam after his use of chemical weapons on the Kurds in the 80s. And they seem to be doing fine in 2005.
The US gov may not have created this Frankenstein but we sure did feed him.
Team 2 (See entry Hell Froze Over) was hit by a suicide bomber as they approached HQ. This was a complex attack using a suicide bomber, a secondary IED and SAF (small arms fire). No friendly forces were killed and most of the injured were back to duty the next day. This speaks well for the armored Excursions - the armor absorbs the blast damage and we walk away.
Please tell the guys my prayers are with them. Hope they are ok. I think about you guys all the time.
PS. My good friend Ben was wounded in this one. He ended up going back to the States for physical therapy. He was gone a couple of months before returning.
The suicide bomber had apparently been circling the interchange waiting for a target. As our guys drove north, he entered the highway from a on-ramp and drove into the side of vehicle #3. #3 ended up inside the guard rail and in the smoke and dust from the explosion #4 hit #3. This happened within sight of FOB Freedom. All that was left of the suicide bomber was a foot and his esophagus laying in the road. Bits of fat were deposited here and there on the vehicles.
The other day Pierre is walking by a bunker and a black desert cobra comes flying off it. He sees it out of the corner of his eye and ducks. The snake flies by, lands on the gravel. The snake raises up in the classic cobra pose (da da daaa da da) then scoots off under a T-wall. To say the least, Pierre was a bit shaken.
The bunkers are covered with old sand bags and withered, yellow grass now. I think the cobra thought he was in a field and then he saw the top of Pierre's head moving by he launched himself after what looked like a rat (sorry Pierre).
Later, I was moving a box in the office and found a black scorpion. He was about an inch long and did not like the fact I took his cover away. We put him outside along with the office pet, a spider with legs about 3 inches long.
Ok, enough of mother nature. Lets get back to just flies and mosquitoes! They are aggressive enough for me.
Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (IS-22) is FEMA’s most comprehensive source on individual, family, and community preparedness. The guide has been revised, updated, and enhanced to provide the public with the most current and up-to-date disaster preparedness information available.
You can download this file (21mb) from the Special Interest column. Yes, you do need this - read it, study it, be ready.
Also, for business and industry, the FEMA Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry. A must for any size business. Hey, if you are looking for a ATFP (anti terrorism/force protection, crisis/emergency management type, I will be available in the middle of August - yep, I am officially looking for work!
Here you can see the building techniques used in Iraq. Currently almost all is done by hand. Here concrete is being mixed for a floor.
The workers are very motivated and hard-working. If something is needed they don't have they are also quite inventive. Much of the labor still comes in from Turkey yet more and more Iraqi contractors are starting to become involved in projects.
PS. At home whenever we saw piles of gravel along the highway we'd say the Ants had been busy. That is where my usage comes from.
It will get into the hundred and "teens" range before long. You have to remember to drink lots of water as it is easy to become dehydrated. The ponds behind us are drying up. Last year they kept some water going into them but not this year. When they dry up, it will be stinky - there are (were) a lot of small fish.
When I first came to Iraq, I was excited and ready to go. After a while I settled down into the work, glad to be busy and helping the effort. Now, all I can think about is getting out of here. I think I peaked too early. I have hit the wall; 7 or 8 weeks to go and I am ready to pack now.
Tm2 lost a vehicle to mechanical problems yesterday. We went out on a few minutes notice to help them get back in - it was about a 3 hour, uneventful ride - the best kind. On the trip I noticed all the winter wheat has been harvested and now they are harvesting all the stalks - I think it is like straw.
Tonight is a going away barbeque for one of the USACE folks. Major D. worked with us on a daily basis and made life and my job much easier. He is a hard working, intelligent soldier. I hate to see him go. He will be missed.
First mission at 5am today. It was a short one and I went back to bed afterwards. Another one tonight towards midnight - makes for long days.
I got two care packages today - hooray!! One was pretty crushed and had taken a month to get here but now I have plenty of Cheese-its! Will only expect a couple of more care packages before I leave - is there anyway to make the days go faster. I count in days, weeks, number of OM reports I have left to do . . .
They spread poison on the ground for rodents and I guess snakes. Now when you walk along the trails it sticks like poison - not a good thing I suppose.
Reader Comments (1)
Make it back safely. Unfortunately, my boyfriend, PFC Diego Rincon, never had the chance to come back home. Take care & come home to your friends and family! - Catherine
Our CO presented certificates of appreciation to the medical staff that helped out Tm2 (see Team 2 takes a hit) after the suicide bomber hit them.
Sometimes all the support that makes our job possible gets forgotten. Thank goodness for teams like this - always there, ready and willing to help out. They did a great job patching up team 2 before medivacing them on.
Let's face it, I'm just not a blogger. If I had to write a daily column for a living, I'd be homeless in Dove Creek, Colorado. Some of these bloggers talk about their digestion, their religion, their mommy's - jeez, frankly there are somethings I don't want to write about and you don't want to read about.
Team is out tonight. I am watching a tape of the Giants beat the Diamondbacks. MLB.com keeps blacking out the live games - they don't belive I am in Iraq - they want me to call in on a land-line - I tell them that all the phones are cell or VOIP and they suggest I use a pay-phone! If you know someone who works for MLB.com tell them they need to make some adjustments for the guys in Iraq and Afghanistan - it would be nice to watch a Giants or Oakland game and not be blacked out.
So, about 5 weeks left. I come in everyday and stare at the calendar. Actually, the days do go pretty fast, just not fast enough. Ok, Giants win 9-2, the team is back, time for bed!
PS. I had been suffering from major depression since November. I went off my meds a couple of months before Ft Bliss in case they would refuse to send me. I should have stayed on them as it definitely affected my attitude and the way I interacted with people.
When you walk to work or the DFAC or anywhere for that matter, you have to make your way thru the dreaded Suicide Bugs. Flies, gnats, mosquitoes - the gnats will fly right into your mouth or your nose or dive into the corner of your eye - when I get to the office I usually wash my face to get the bug remains out of my eyes and nose.For the flies, there are hundreds of these fly traps around. The darn flies will land on the food on your fork as you put it into your mouth. They don't try to fly away. Instead, they fly directly into your face - BAM!
Most of us have mosquito netting rigged so when the door is open there is some line of defense. Fly swatters are a big seller here - the Army issues some kind of bug repellent but I don't want to cover myself with that chemical concoction.
They "duded" up the DFAC with flags and colored place mats but for the most part it was a pretty laid back 4th.
Team was going out early on the 5th requiring me to be up at 4am so I went to bed early. At 1015 the 155 howitzer fired an 18 shot salute for the 4th, shaking my room until about 1045 - it would have been better earlier but it is kinda fun to not only hear the fireworks but feel them as well.
PS. The 155's were positioned behind and slightly above us. On the nights they fired over us it was VERY loud and exciting.
London - what can I say . . . the price we pay for living in a free society. Here, there are checkpoints everywhere, all wear ID badges, bags are searched, cars have even had to remove their trunk lids so officials can easily see there are no explosives in the trunk - will we live like this someday in the UK or US? I hope not but it may come to that.
Next time I hear someone say the East Bay is "cookin'" - I'll have to say, "Whoa there son, let me tell you about hot!" Right now, the cold water in warm enough to shower with - the water tanks are outside and exposed to the sun.
We went out the other day and noticed the local farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs. (ba-boom)
When we got back we went to the DFAC for lunch and ate hot chilies to cool our mouths off. (ba-boom)
Latter that night, when the temperature dropped below 95, I felt a bit chilly. We are starting to worry the ammo we carry in the cars will start cooking off and since the fuel is also stored outside we may have to start lowering the temperature before we can burn it . . . (ba-boom)
Only a couple of days left here now. All in all, I am glad I served. It was a long year, harder on my family than me yet necessary in the scheme of things.
USACE - this organization does not belong in a war zone. Too top heavy, too bureaucratic - not prepared for deployment. Don't get me wrong, the individuals for the most part are very dedicated, hard-working folks - then there are some that are complete idiots here only to play soldier and get a medal. The problem is you cannot use systems/techniques developed in the US here - an example: forcing workers to wear "hard hats" - this clearly marks the site as US so the AIF (anti-Iraqi forces) can come in and intimidate or kill the workers - do we modify our policy? Nope, gotta wear those hard hats - someone might get hurt. We have wasted $2.3 billion here on projects that could have been done faster and better by conventional Army units. Will it change? Probably in the next war.
The US Military - proves in battle yet again the soldiers are great - willing, smart, dedicated but being lead by incompetent bunglers who 2 years latter still can't control 7-1/2 miles of highway (Rt Irish), who rather than offend an Iraqi will let a soldier be shot from a mosque not once but week after week.
DoD Contractors - much like the military, the guys on the teams are very dedicated while the bosses are interested only in one thing - profit (and they are making huge amounts of that!)
Islam - a religion that holds its followers back and down by dwelling on the past, blaming every conceivable problem on the infidel. It allows no compromise, no quarter - despite what you hear from liberals, peace-niks and others, a threat to our very existence.
PS. I have since changed my opinion about USACE. In this kind of war the work they do is invaluable. Lots has been learned and that will only make them better - not that they aren't now! They did great with what they had: working thru interpeters, explaning concepts not heard of in this region, adapting to the ever-changing tactical situation. Good job GRN.
Leaving here in about 20 minutes enroute to an overnight stop where I will fly out tomorrow. Trip is threatened by a giant sandstorm in Baghdad - lets hope tomorrow is clear and bright! I'll be moving by Stryker as the team is down - broken vehicles, a constant problem.
This is me a couple of days ago on my last trip to Kirkuk. Driving a honkin' big diesel ProCat with a Banks Turbo - long, hot trip but good to get outside the wire!
Here is the side view of my ride. Made it to MAF (Mosul Airfield) with no problems. I was the only passenger. I have been on the route maybe 100 times this year - I could tell every turn just by feel.
I had my pocket angel with me and all the best wishes from friends and neighbors. Thanks everyone for your help and support. We couldn't have done it without you!
Tomorrow, Baghdad and Amman!
Well, here I am. Just finished my second night at the place where I planned to stay only one. Looks like I may be here until Saturday. A bad sandstorm in Baghdad has stopped all flights in or out.
I have been in worse places for sure - this is right "downtown" - I can even get pizza if I want!
Still here waiting for a flight . . . There have been many scheduled but none made it for various reasons.
I am now scheduled to go out at "0 dark 30" in the morning - keep your fingers crossed! The people (KBR) are nice - they tell me when I go into the office, "If we know you by your first name, you have been here too long!"
This is the terminal (above). Not what you expected is it?
I am travelling pretty light as you can see from my bags. I will drop one bag, the body armor and rifle off when I get to Baghdad so will only have to worry about 2 little bags. I have lifted this stuff so many times though my back is sore.
And actually, I did have to be somewhere. I was supposed to see my son, who is home on leave from Korea. That won't happen now.
Glad to hear you are getting out of there. Thank you for being there for us. I always felt safe because you guys were looking out for us. That isn't to take anything away from our soldiers we all know what they are going through and my heart and prayers go out to them and the PSD teams. Thank you all.
Plane left at 4am - I was up all night and am feeling it today! I was picked up and taken to GRC (here is the GRC kitty) where I tried to grab an hours sleep but couldn't turn off. Got picked up by a team and taken to HQ in the city. Route Irish looks the same as it did last year.
Turned in my gear and here I sit in a 3 person room, air conditioning blowing right on me promising me a cold, waiting until tomorrow where once again, I will be waiting for a flight. This time I am wait listed so I probably won't make it out until Monday. Keep your fingers crossed!
Here I yam in yumpin' yermany and I yam yumpin' on the next flight in about an hour.
Yesterday, after all the ticketed folks checked in, I was told there were only seats left in 1st Class. I would have to pay another $100 to get out of Baghdad - I had that $100 on the counter so fast they never even saw me open my wallet. Then, standing in line, they came up to me and said they would upgrade two of the guys with me also (free for them) - so, it turned out pretty good.
Climbing out of BIAP, you circle until you have enough altitude so no one can shoot you down. While circling, I could see a reddish brown dust all over the tops of the parked planes and roofs, etc. The dust is like talcum powder - very fine and gets everywhere. Climbing out, you know how you usually climb thru white or gray clouds to get on top - we were climbing thru red dust.
Got to Amman with no drama. The new travel agent there is a gem - very efficient. Went to the hotel to get a few hours sleep but couldn't so I gave up and went to the airport about midnight. Plane was to leave at 3:15 - we got away about 4am. It is raining here and everything is in German (go figure). I saw a self-cleaning toilet seat here. It even cleaned the seat! What can I say about German efficiency?
I landed at SFO on the 15th. My HB was waiting and it was sooooo good to be home again.
A quick ride home, a martini on the front porch … ahh, the pleasures of life in the USA.
I won’t be closing this blog for awhile. I still need to journey to Ft. Bliss to de-mobilize and want to document that procedure.
I sit now in Starbucks thinking back on the past year. Gads – a year is an awfully long time! Did I do any good? Was it worth it? Did I accomplish anything goal-wise or growth-wise? I can say yes to all of those questions. It was an incredible time to be part of the foreign policy of the USA and the GWOT (Global War on Terrorism). You see, it doesn’t matter why we went to Iraq or if that was correct of not (that debate should be long over) – the fact is that we went. The Commander-in-Chief decided we should go, Congress backed him and for me, once that decision was made, it was my duty to help in anyway possible. My HB didn’t agree with the CnC’s decision but she understood and supported mine. For that I am a lucky man.
I think back on those first days. Speaking Arabic to kids in Baghdad and having them reply in English; rolling into Arbil, people flashing the “V” sign and some shouting, “George Bush, George Bush!”; Everyone wanting their picture taken with an American. For the Kurds, perhaps more than any others in Iraq, this was a chance at true freedom. For the average Iraqi, once the constitution is in effect and we are mostly gone, they will be able to get on with some semblance of a normal life. And perhaps we will gain a friend or two.
PS. I never did make it to Ft. Bliss. I declared myself de-mobilized.