War in Iraq, a Soldier's View
This is the original journal, or as close as you're going to get to the original. I edited a few things and changed a few names to protect my personal thoughts from the world; you probably wouldn't get much out of the missing parts without having lived my life. What's left is an almost day by day accounting of what it's like to be in another country that you don't want to be in. Some of it may see like bitching and moaning but since I NEVER had any work to do all I could do was sit around and think about how much I didn't want to be in Iraq.
This is the whole journal so it's pretty big, it's also missing the pictures and commentary that can be found in the individual journal entries found here.
24-Mar-03 8:21 PM
I’ve started this journal, its been something I wanted to do being at war and all, I actually thought of the idea back at camp Arifjan when I thought of tracking my progress through my deployment. Maybe some day I’ll publish it to the internet along with the pictures I’ve been taking. CNN may send journalists along with the troops but they’ll never actually see what its like through a soldier’s eyes or know what it feels like when your one of the people that’s involuntarily doing the shooting.
The last five days are in a separate story that I felt should be separate from the journal, I’m actually almost done writing it now, just putting on the finishing touches.
Not much of anything new going on today. All of the units that were here when we got here have left and a whole new set of different units are here but we don’t know for how long. It looks like it’s as for our group it’s just us and the 177th CP tent nest to us.
The guys at the 177th loaned us a GP small that we turned into our own theater tent, since we’re not doing much we might as well try to pass the time watching movies, bringing our TV/DVD was a good idea, it keeps me and Patterson from having to wear out our Laptops.
Other than that the day was just spent getting our area built the way
we want it, one of the priorities was a place to take a crap, leaning
up against sand piles was too visible to everybody else, even at night
some dumb-ass in a Humvee was bound to spotlight you with his headlights
and just sit there for everybody to see.
25-Mar-03 5:21 PM
Well I’ll try getting as much typing in as possible, the generator is off due to a huge sandstorm right now so I’ll type till the battery warning comes up.
This sandstorm is insane; it started about 10am and hasn’t let up yet. Visibility is about 20ft at the best of times and 3ft at the worst, wind speed is about 45-50 MPH. The dust is choking literally I thought I could get by without a dust mask but now I’m hacking up with a dry throat so I decided to get into the C&E shop and keep the door shut to keep the dust down. But since there is no power to the shop I just sit in the dark listening to music, that’s why I decided to start writing.
My thoughts are all over the place, but mostly of me being at home… what is it about the dark that makes the mind wander aimlessly? It seems I’m asleep, my thoughts are so vivid they’re like dreams but I’m still wake listening to music because when one of my favorite songs comes on I start tapping my toes to the beat subconsciously.
I’ve been thinking of my friends at home and girls. Not in the way you’re thinking although I have been out here for near 5 months and my mind does wander to “that” quite often. No today I’m thinking of a girl back home I really like. I’ve been thinking of her on this trip a lot more than I thought I would. See we really don’t see each other that much. We’ve hung out only a few other times before over the course of the last 3 years but I remember each time and every day after I think about how much I enjoyed being with her. I guess that’s one of the reasons that I’ve been thinking about her. I also regret more than anything letting her slip through my fingers each one of those times, and it’s not like I can’t easily get in contact with her, all my friends know her, I could easily get her number. But still I chicken out every time I want to get her number or ask her out. That’s one of the things you do most out her waiting for war, think of all your past regrets and mistakes, she probably has no idea how I feel about her. I feel ashamed I’m thinking about her so much being that we hardly spend any time together, what am I some kind of stalker? I meet a girl 5 times not as a date just hanging out as friends and she’s all I think about when I’m away from home?
I guess the only redeeming reason that makes it ok is that I don’t think about her in a sexual way (well I do some times but she is VERY attractive), I just think about being with her as a companion. I’ve been single long enough to realize that a good relationship isn’t about sex; it’s not even about being with somebody that you can spend the rest of your life with. I could probably stand being around certain friends of mine who are guys for the rest of my life if I had to, but it doesn’t mean I want to marry them.
She’s different, when I imagine me and her I think she’s the type of person that is my compliment in every way. For me that's what REAL love is; somebody that when they’re around you, you feel like a better person, and you know that they feel the same. Somebody that becomes your every reason to live, and you know that the only thing worthwhile in their life is you.
Now here in Iraq I’m surrounded by 16 other people that I can’t get any privacy from and I’m still lonely.
When I get home I’m not going to wait though, the first few nights I’ll probably spend with my family but I’m going to make sure to call her within the first week of being home.
But then comes a whole set of questions, has she gotten married since I’ve been gone? Is she in a serious relationship with someone and not want anything to do with me? Has she ever felt the way a bout me that I do about her? Did I miss my chance that last time I saw her? She said she had a “serious friend” that she was seeing but I shouldn’t have let that stop me. If she is still free and miraculously wants to see me will we even have anything in common? Every time I’m with her we talk and she’s so intelligent and funny and it seems like our minds think exactly alike, but maybe that was just a fluke and we’ll never have anything to talk about.
I’ll try anyway though, I’ve been regretting not asking her out for years now, even I get shot down, even if it doesn’t work out I NEED to take the chance, if only to be able to move on with my life.
That brings up another question, what if I spend all this time thinking
about her and I end up with somebody else that I know. Would I feel like
I’m cheating right now thinking of another girl? If I meet a new
girl after I get home all of this could be excusable because I didn’t
know her before I left, but what about the other girls I’ve had
close relationships to before I left? There are a lot of other friends
that I could seriously think of being with. What if I end up with them?
And I should have spent all this time thinking that THEY were my perfect
partner? How would I explain all spending all of my time thinking about
another girl that I actually know less?
I doubt that this part of the journal will end up on the net or any where
but on this computer not just to avoid that situation but also to avoid
letting people know my innermost feelings.
Why does the dark make me think like this?
Oh well I enjoy the time here. I’ve sitting in here for 6 hours now and I love it. I finally got the privacy I’ve wanted for 5 months. And I actually feel like I’m somewhere else.
I’m not at war, I’m at home or where ever else I want to be.
I don’t think about being hit by a SCUD or killed in a gas attack, I forget that this may be one of the last days I spend alive. I just listen to music and relax.
Well now my mind’s done wondering, I’m done philosophizing about what will happen when I get back home and I’m back to realizing I’m stuck in Iraq.
The wind outside is howling, I don’t want to leave the relative cleanliness of my shop. I’ve spent most of the day here doing nothing and I want do something, but not bad enough to brave the sandstorm. I’m just so sick of being dirty, and I can’t take a “shower” till the sand stops. Thank god my hair is still kind of clean, it bothered me driving out here because it got more sticky with sweat and dust for three days, now it’s kind of soft again but I’ve been making sure to keep a hat on out in the wind so it won’t get so full of dirt. But I need to clean up. I can feel the grit of dirt on my chest when I move and my crotch is so sweaty I think I’ll have to burn my boxers when I take them off (sorry to be so vivid but you have NO IDEA how dirty this sand makes you). The dust is making my throat hurt, I feel liking coming down with a sore throat. I hope it goes away when the sandstorm subsides.
But will it and when?
I hope I don’t have to sleep through this; the last straw will be sleeping in a gritty sleeping bag. Even covering up with my rain poncho and MOPP jacket won’t keep this sand out. Right now I have my poncho over my bag and pillow but everywhere that’s leeward of the wind has a pile of 1 inch deep sand next to it.
I can’t wait till this week's over and we can move forward to the airbase. There’s a rumor going around that the airbase has hangars and building which means it might have running water and power, and we’ll at least have a place to get out of the sand.
Funny how important the VERY little things in life become when you don’t
I can’t wait to go home.
26-Mar-03 4:16 PM
Well when you don’t think things can get any worse they do. Our horrible sandstorm turned into a rainstorm. The air just turned to mud and so did the ground, I hadn’t seen a rainstorm like that yet in Kuwait of Iraq. Even in Utah it’s hard to get rainstorms that come down that hard; some times it sounded like hail it hit the side of the C&E Van so hard. I didn’t want to be out in the dust so I had moved into the back of the Deuce then it started raining. Everybody else had a pretty crummy night cramped in the other trailer but I was warm and dry in the van.
The next day sucked though, there was mud everywhere; in and outside my bags. So most of the first of the day was spent cleaning out all of my stuff and getting mud out of it.
There wasn’t much to do but we moved the TV out of its tent since the bags had been moved into the tent and there was no place to sit and watch. As we moved the bags we saw a couple of scorpions we decided the next ones we found we’d have them fight to the death, we didn’t want them crawling around the camp anyway; I mean their scorpions, not cute little puppies. I don’t really have any regret killing them. I actually got the idea from dad when he was telling me stories about how they would pass the time in the Salt Flats trying to pass time during his stint in the National Guard; now we were in the exact same situation bored, doing nothing, and trying to make the day pass a little quicker. But since we weren’t finding any new ones I started looking around for the nests and digging them up. We found a few good sized scorpions that were about 4.5-5 inches head to tail. We put them all into a road triangle container and let them fight it out, it was hard to see when they got good hits in but soon they all started slowing down and we figured it was time to put them all out of their misery so they got burned with our garbage.
I took the time to take a bath and wash my hair since we found out that we’ll be going up to the airbase tomorrow and I’m not sure when the next chance to take a bath will be. I call it a bath but it’s more like washing what you can easily get to with a bottle of water; pretty much armpits, chest and face. Plus it will be a more pleasant drive if I get a good night's sleep in some new clean clothes. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll even get some showers and bathrooms.
Now we’re all watching our last movie before we pack up and get ready to move in the morning.
It’s been nice just relaxing here but it’ll be nice to sleep indoors, IF we get a place to sleep; we were promised a place to sleep here and things fell through. No tent and a huge sandstorm/rainstorm comes through. Hopefully we’ll be luckier this time.
27-Mar-03 9:37 PM
Today was another crazy day.
Today of course was the day that we moved up to Tallil Airbase (just outside of An Nasiriyah). The day started about 7:00am and we immediately started packing, nobody seemed to be in a hurry we just went to it, I guess we’ve got plenty of moving experience now so it’s not that hard of thing to do. I got my gear loaded in the Deuce and got the Deuce prepped to go then started helping everybody else get ready. I’m starting to like having the Deuce, it’s not as good as my Xterra but I know how to handle it now and drive it without any problem. I bet I’m even a better driver than Griffin especially off-road. He talks about how he’s got so much experience driving deuce and a halfs but I’ve noticed that a lot of what he say’s is talk. If you put him behind the wheel he’d probably be all over the place and then make up some excuse about why things are going wrong (He’s been getting on my nerves today if you haven’t noticed).
Anyway the last few minutes packing were getting pretty bad, I was loading the trailer AND I had to get the Deuce brought around and hooked up and SGT. Garcia, who hadn’t been helping for the last half hour, told me, “ the stairs have to be put on the trailer too.” I told him to, “get some guys and take care of it.” So I went around to move the Deuce up to the trailer and he yells at me from 20 meters away (while talking to E-5 Anderson) to ask me if I had taken care of the ladder. I just yelled back “NO!” and kept doing what I was doing; luckily Layton had overheard what had happened and took care of it for me.
That’s what has been bugging me this whole day; it seems like all the NCOs have been telling people what to do but instead of helping they watch for hours just watching us sweat while they talk and sip their waters like we weren’t desperate for help. E-5 Anderson especially has a problem with this, he’ll order people to load his crap onto a truck so he can go have a smoke.
Now I understand that by the rules of the military all they have to do
is order us around and let things happen, but when there only 17 of us
the help is needed, especially when they have nothing else to do. I’ll
never be able to respect any leader, NCO or Commissioned officer, that
isn't willing to get his hands dirty and work with the rest of the grunts,
especially when its obvious help is needed.
After all the drama we still got out to by 9:00am and met up with 8 other vehicles that we were going with to the airbase.
Major Yarber gave us a briefing and told us to keep our, Kevlar and flack jacket because there have been snipers taking potshots at convoys. That was my first indication that we were going closer to the “action”.
Once we got on the move there wasn’t any snipers or firefights to the airbase but we saw lots of signs that there was a war going on. Luckily this time I had my camera charged so was able to get pictures. First I noticed that a lot of vehicles broken down on the side of the road, marine LAV’s and a lot of 5 and 2 1/2 ton trucks. Plus the road was littered with rubber pads thrown from tracked vehicles speeding along the highway. I know enough about the way the Army deploys armor to know that that was a sign that when I saw the tanks driving on the road a few days before, they were expecting combant in the next few miles. They usually truck the tanks in on Super HETs and drive them the last 100 miles to their target.
Above on the overpasses there were the same guard buildings that I had seen before but now I’m almost sure that they are Iraqi made to deter traffic on the road. Some looked like they had bullet holes on the side but they were definitely made like the buildings here at the airbase. The closer we got to the airbase the more combat vehicles we saw, mostly Bradley IFV’s and Humvees with top mounted grenade launchers and machine guns.
As we got to the airbase we saw lots of interesting things. First there was a large bunker/ palace looking building that I thought was an Iraqi command post but it turned out (according to LtCol. Lockwood) to be the birthplace of Abraham.
Then as we got to the base my questions were answered weather it was civilian or military and how big it was. The outskirts had lots of junkyards with old military trucks scrapped and some of the buildings had pictures of Saddam Hussein at the gates. It reminded a lot of the Nazi pictures of Hitler around all his military installations, frankly I’d get really sick of seeing pictures of Bush every where I went; thank god we don’t do things like that in America.
At key intersections were more Bradley’s and Infantry dug in incase
somebody tired to storm the base. Most of the soldiers looked like they
were resting but there was always somebody peering down the back of a
barrel at everything that passed. Once we got on base we saw just how
big it was. Compared to any Air force base in America it would be considered
second rate but for a country that had a no fly zone covering 70% of the
country for the last 11 years it was pretty extensive. There were units
camped out in the parking lots in front of just about every line of buildings
we passed. It was like the army dedicated the parking lots of an apartment
complex to different companies and each had a definite job.
One thing that stood out to me about this area of Iraq was how similar to Utah it was. Some areas had sparse trees and marshy areas next to the road, it reminded me of undeveloped areas north of the Great Salt Lake. Coming up to an intersection you could have transplanted some tiny farm town/intersection from northern Utah and it would look exactly the same.
If the area looked like Northern Utah then the airbase reminded me of the way the DDO in Ogden looked like before Ogden revamped it. The narrow roads had shallow ditches on each side and trees planted at regular intervals but it was all in a kind of disrepair. The buildings were made of brick and stucco and some of the nice buildings only looked a few years old but still neglected. Others looked like they belonged on the outskirts of Mexico City, the walls were cracked and debris was everywhere.
We got to the area that was going to be our maintenance area for the next little while, we were told that EOD had done a small surface sweep for ordinance and booby traps but nothing had been checked in depth. Major Yarber told us that all of the buildings in the nearby area were ours to do with as we wanted but if we moved anything around we had to be careful since EOD hadn’t done a full check of the area yet.
We started nosing around to see what there was and it looked like the place had been abandoned so fast that almost everything had been left behind. One room was full of oxygen bottles and fire extinguishers, one was full of gas masks and rubber gloves, and some were obviously living quarters and offices. I looked at some of the items on the desks and cabinets of the rooms and they had lots of notebooks with Arabic writing in it. Another desk was covered with the little head shots of a bunch of Arabs I assumed to be the guys who worked in the buildings. From what I gathered the awning and buildings housed the fire reaction crew for the airbase, that’s why there was wrecked fire equipment around the area. At least 6 if not more people slept on the premises and had their lockers with all their gear behind the living quarters. The living quarters had a lot of personal gear left behind; personal hygiene and shoes mostly plus a lot of notebooks with writing
One had Donald duck on the front and kind of childish writing on the
inside. I wondered if it was from the guy’s child of something and
the writing was something the father held dear to him. So I left it where
I found it even though it will probably never get back to him (If he hasn’t
been killed in the war).
After investigating we started to figure where our “Necessities”
were going to be.
I check a nearby bunker that turned out to be bigger than I thought,
it went well down into the ground and had power inside, it might have
been an underground command post but it had been wrecked when the Iraqi’s
But one room had already been turned into a TV room so we spent the night watching a movie before going to bed under the stars. I set my bed up in my Deuce so I could get my own room.
I enjoy having the privacy, it’s nice to have some time alone for once, I may end up a hermit from the rest of the guys but right now everybody’s fighting anyway, maybe after everything has settled down things will be better.
Tonight we still have the guards up to keep an eye on us with the NVG’s. According to Maj. Yarber there have been probing attacks almost every night and two larger firefights since the base was taken 4 days ago. And our area is in the center of the base but next to the runways so we don’t have combat forces on each side so I feel a little better with people staying up at night. The worst things we’ve had to deal with were the explosions EOD has been doing to get rid of the UXO’s in the area. The blasts are big enough to rattle the doors and windows in all the buildings and vehicles and you never know when it’s going to happen.
28-Mar-03 5:27 PM
Today was a slow day, not much happened.
Everybody else moved into the nearby buildings and started making them their personal rooms. Layton, Hansen, Patterson, Svedin, and Keller moved into the Day room and now they claim it’s their room. I can already see that there’s going to be problems when people want to come in and watch movies while others take naps in the afternoon. In the process of moving everything out they burned all the personal possessions of the people had been there before. I guess there’s nothing else we can do with the stuff I still felt like they were burning somebody’s house down or something.
We found out some information about what’s going on around here right now, mail will take so long I hope we’re out of here by time it makes it to us. The DSN line still isn’t up which is too bad I was hoping to call my family this afternoon. The company that promised to let us use their DSN line when it’s up is still saying they’ll let us but they also might be moving out soon. I haven’t talked to my family since before the hostilities started. For all my mom knows I could be on the front line right now.
I’ve been feeling very sick and I might go to sick call tomorrow, I keep waking up in the middle of the night with coughing fits. I think it’s something to do with the sandstorm a few days before. Maybe there was some chemical in the air that’s making me sick, or more likely my lungs are still thick with dust.
Other than that it’s just another day, tomorrow I guess we’ll be making a shower and washing area, if that doesn’t take too much time I’m going to take everything out of the Deuce and clean it out, then I’ll clean myself too.
30-Mar-03 10:00 PM
I haven’t written in the last few days but there’s been some things going on here. Nothing too exciting but enough to keep me busy.
Yesterday we built the shower, it’s pretty low tech but it’ll do quite well, it’s just some pieces of plywood and a shower curtain for cover and a water jug on top with a valve and a shower head and the floor is just a pallet.
SSG Andersen told all of third squad that we’d start work at 9:00am, right after breakfast, but when 9:00 rolled around all of the guys in the MWR room decided to re-arrange their stuff so it would be more comfortable. So of course Patterson and Svedin decided to do that instead of work on the shower with the rest of us. I was a little peeved because I planned on cleaning out the C&E shelter (my room) that day and put it off for the shower, now they were doing the same thing but it got them out of work. I didn’t say anything though because I knew this is exactly what would happen.
So me, Sgt. Griffin and SGT Andersen figured out the way we were going to make the shower and started working. The two NCOs spent their time making the spigot for the shower and I put the floor in and got the plywood into place.
As I was working Patterson comes over and sees that the shower is coming out different than what we originally had in mind (the three of us had come up with some changes that we thought would make it easier to put up). So Patterson says, “Are YOU going to do it like THAT?” Making it sound like all the changes were my decision and that they were a bad Idea because it’s not the way HE envisioned it. I just said,”Yeah” and kept working. If he had a problem he could deal with it, I wasn’t going to waste an more of my time then I had to.
A bit later when the MWR room was done Patterson came back to help us tie the plywood into place.
By now it was noon and I was surprised how short it took us (me) to put up the shower so I decided to do the C&E trailer that day too.
I spent the rest of the evening emptying out the trailer, cleaning everything and putting it all back. Plus I re-arranged some things to make a bit more living room for me.
I was feeling better so I forgot about sick call but I ended up going to the TMC at 6:00pm anyway because a Colonel had told us that we could come over for a hot meal since we did a job for him. We bumped into him around 4:00pm and asked him if it would be alright to come over that night. He started backpedaling saying things like, “I can’t be expected to feed the whole camp.”
Just like an Officer.
But we told him that he did promise us, so he said we could come over at 6:00 to pickup the leftovers. Then when Horsy and Harline went to get the leftovers, then they told us that our whole group had to come if we wanted anything. So a few of us decided to go get some warm food. It was really good, not like you’d get at home but way better than an MRE. While we were there I overheard some of the cooks say that they were about done but they were waiting on 17 more, I knew they meant us so I told them that not all of us had decided to come but all of us who had were already through. So they started asking me if we wanted to take any back or if they were sure they weren’t coming because they didn’t want to throw all the food that was left away. If they had so much extra food why was the Colonel being so stingy?
That night me and Durham had guard duty from 8:00pm to 5:00am… 9 hours. I thought it started at 10:00pm so I was a little late getting ready, Durham was the same. But there were still people milling about at 9:00 so I don’t see how it was such a big deal.
That was an incredibly long night; I fell asleep a few times but never for more than a half an hour because it was so cold. SGT Slocum was the last to bed and the first to wake, and always smoking a cigarette, he must be so addicted to those that he can’t get a full nights sleep. That would explain a lot.
All the smokers are going to be hating life when their smokes run out. There’s no PX out here so what they brought is all they got. One of the TMC guys some how has a supply chain worked out. He sells cartons of Cigarettes for $25 a piece but ups the price to 40 or 50 when Supplies are thin and smokers pay with out a second thought.
He was the guy who went with Horsy and Harline out side the gate for parts to the Suburban that got brought in. From what Horsy said it sounded like a tip to hell.
They went to a small Iraqi Village outside of the base to trade with the locals for the parts they needed, they got 5 WW1 rifles for 5 packs of cigarettes a piece and a car battery for 10. Harline stayed at the gate and the TMC guy, two translators, and Horsy went to the town. When they pulled up there were only a few people but after a few seconds people started coming out of the woodwork. They were quickly surrounded by about 200 Iraqi civilians but some were on top of buildings and some were hiding around corners. Horsy and the translators guarded the Humvee while the TMC guy got the part, but even the translators were saying, “Let’s Go, Lets Go! Not Safe Here!” Horsy couldn’t see the TMC guys so he didn’t want to leave the Humvee. Finally the Guy came back and they headed out of town.
On the way out they passed an Iraqi Military Commercial vehicle. The Army wants a few of these so they can transport Iraqis civilians back to their homes without worrying about being such a target. But when we bumped into the guy that night at the TMC he said that when they went back with a tow vehicle they vehicle was gone and all that was left was the smell of paint thinner.
After my guard shift was over I was so tired I went straight to bed and didn’t wake up till 1PM because of all the commotion that was going on outside of my “room”. They were moving the fire trucks out of our perimeter because Slocum and Anderson want to build a bunch of foxholes in case we get attacked (even though we’re in the center of the base right next to the Command Post, and our positions will be firing at the back of the 82nd airborne’s heads since they are the ones guarding the perimeter). The whole process of moving the fire trucks was very un-managed, un-safe, and un-ethical considering the Bulldozer we were using was given to us with the hope we’d fix it and instead we fixed it then kept it for a while to use to our own ends.
Typical 872nd policy under Dumb and Dumber.
So I got up and decided to use the phone since we were told it was up. There was only one phone and the MSG letting us use it was doing so under Higher Head Quarters nose so we’re not to abuse the right. The plan was that on the day after your guard duty you could go over and use the phone for a few minutes. I asked to double check on the particulars and found out that Harline and Warner were already going. Apparently a lot of people had been going while I was asleep. Patterson had been down with Durham and Garcia had been down before them. Since only two could go at a time, we had to decide who out of me, Warner, and Harline were going. Since 2pm-3pm was the only time I call my family I argued that I had to go now and the others could wait. Gibson added that since it was my day anyway is should be my decision anyway.
Warner got called away to do some work with Griffin on a Generator while
we were talking so the problem solved itself. But when we got over there
we had a hard time getting the operator at Hill Air force base. First
Harline tried for 15 minutes then he left me to try. I got an operator
on my third try but nobody picked up at my house (assuming that the operator
dialed the right number). So I decided to leave and call back in about
If he ruins the benefit for us there will be a murder here on base.
The day flew by pretty quick, I fiddled around for awhile, having the
C&E shop clean and powered up was great, so I spent most of the day
inside listening to music and reading TM’s for the van.
At the end of the night Gibson got the NVG’s from me and I went to give Patterson his computer back. The shower was fully operational and somebody had finally gotten water so we could take showers. I checked to see if a red lensed flashlight would give enough light to take a shower and decide I was dirty enough that I’d go for it. Gibson said the water would be cold if I did it in the dark but I didn’t want to spend another night dirty.
The shower was freezing but I feel great now. The shower head only trickled and you had to work fast to try to stay warm but that was one of the best showers I’ve had. Now my hair feels soft and clean again, and I can’t smell myself.
Now I’m just typing waiting to fall asleep. The “wolf pack” of stray dogs is making a lot of noise and it seems like helicopters take off every 10 minutes at night, but I feel tonight is going to be a good nights sleep anyway.
02-Apr-03 3:00 PM
Another slow day for the 872nd. I finally got to call home though, that was nice. I really appreciate MSG Grimshaw and SPC Anderson letting us use their phone. All we did for them was fix an Alternator on the convoy over here and they hooked the unit up with calls home. Not a fair trade for them in my opinion, calling home from this place is probably the most precious ability to have out here. But they don’t seem to have a problem with us keep using the phone. I don’t want to impose since they live out of the expando-van that they have the phone in so I’m keeping my time over there to a minimum. Maybe a call every week or two at the most just to keep my family notified that I’m all right.
We were told that the invasion of Baghdad was expected soon so we need to be ready in case Saddam sends any missiles out in retaliation. I'm kind of glad that they’re going in, maybe that means the war is wrapping up. We don’t get hardly any info on the war out here and rumors are treated like legitimate news a lot of the time. We just found out the girl that had been “dismembered’ was found alive and ok and has been rescued although she was raped and tortured.
Apparently she was part of an MST just like us, and she had been a few hours ahead of us when we made our big trek up to Cedar. The only difference is that they got lost and most of the group was killed and the others captured, if things had been just a little different that could have been us.
I’m hoping that when the war is over that we won’t be here much longer after that. Although from what MSG Grimshaw said all tours over here have been lengthened to a year but he says that that news was put out a few months ago so it would have been before the war was in final planning stages.
It was good to talk to my family but it’s always a bittersweet feeling. You keep hoping for the time to call home and if you don’t get through you feel like crap. But when you do get through it makes you feel good to hear their voices on the phone; it’s just like when you imagine them at night but its real. So you feel good till about an hour after calling when the homesickness sets in, and its worse that the homesickness you get when you wakeup because you can still hear their voices in you head. You want to go into the next room and talk to them again but it’s not like at home where you can do that because you don’t want to hold up others who want to call their family. There are a lot of soldiers here who want to talk with their families and you don’t want to abuse the little time you get to call home.
Let’s see. What else has happened today of interest.
There were a couple of Iraqi Civilians walking past our area that got taken away by the MPs. SGT Slocum watched the whole thing and started telling everybody that they had come across the airfield and “surrendered” but I had watched the whole things and that’s not at all how it looked to me. They came down the road in the first place not across the runways and they weren’t surrendering they were just trying to tell the soldiers that they were passing through and wanted to go to the other side of the base. It was a man and his son and they were carrying some things maybe from another village on one side of the base and were going back home to a village on the other side of the base and they just wanted to cut through the base so they didn’t have to walk as far.
Anyway they came up to the checkpoint and tried to tell the MP that they wanted to go down the road but he wouldn’t let them pass. After calling in on the radio he patted them down and made them wait while he got more authorization a bunch of MP’s kept coming by till there was a huge group at the intersection, some MP’s guiding traffic around the area some covering the civilians with M60’s mounted on the Humvees. Finally one Humvee came by and picked up the two Iraqis. I don’t know what happened to them after that.
I thought it was typical that Slocum would assume that they were dirty Iraqi’s trying to surrender, he’s seems to be very biased against all Arabs often to the point of being blatantly racist. Sometimes in conversation with him he says the US should just go in and carpet bomb Iraq regardless of civilian casualties because in his eyes they all hate the US so they should all die.
It worries me a lot of the time to have him commanding us. I think he would be disappointed if we get through this deployment without shooting anybody. I think best thing in the world would be if we make it thought without shooting or getting shot at. This isn’t the movies, it’s not a game. Things don’t happen like in “Black Hawk Down”, for every soldier that comes under fire and comes back out a hero 5 others don’t come back at all.
I really think about what my mom said to me today about how a lot of the Iraqis civilians are mad at us for invading their country. I wish I could just talk to them so they would know that most of us that are in their country don’t want to be here either.
That’s one of the reasons that they won’t let us put up our Utah flag because we’re not claiming this land for our own, were just here to get Saddam and leave. But from what MSG Grimshaw said that’s not entirely true, they want to build up this place into “Camp Adder” and make it as built up as Camp Arifjan. Hardly the actions of a country that was not going to remain involved militarily in another countries affairs.
These blood sucking gnats are really getting to me; I had to leave for a few minutes there just so they would clear out of the van a bit. Plus I realized I hadn’t taken a panoramic picture of Camp Adder yet so I took some pictures.
05-Apr-03 7:54 PM
The last few days have been incredibly hot. They (whoever they is) say the temperature has been breaking 100 degrees, I’m not sure if it has or not but it’s definitely in the upper 90’s if not more. It’s the type of heat that’s just bearable when you’re out of the sun and wind, then as soon as the wind picks up it feels like a blast furnace blowing against your face. It’s really hard to relax when the wind is hotter than the surrounding air.
The way the buildings are built kind of help the heat, they’re made of concrete and they hold the cold air in during the day then hold the heat in at night. The difference is about 20 degrees which feels like a lot. It’s like walking into an air conditioned room after being in the heat, but Layton says that it’s holding too much heat at night now and it’s hard to sleep.
Anyway all of us are getting really tired of this country now that the heat is picking up, if they don’t get some way to give us air conditioning soon we won’t be able to work between the times of 11am and 8pm. Tensions are starting to show in the group; before we were sick of the Army but we would still stick together. Now we’re sick of the Army and sick of each other, we can still stand to be around each other but everybody needs a lot more personal time.
There’s a rumor, from SSG Andersen this time, that SGT Slocum asked
Maj. Yarber how long our orders will be for, he said the options are between
6 – 8 months. Eight is a little long but I’m glad that the
12 months on our original orders might be flexible. Six months would be
a dream, and it could be possible the 183rd DS Maintenance Company is
coming to the airbase so that we will be superfluous. That would mean
that we could be flying out of the Gulf region in 2-3 weeks.
Seven months would be tolerable but I don’t think we’d have
anything to if we stayed any longer than 6. But the Army is fucked up
and upside down, they seem to do the most useless thing they can just
because some officer feels he needs a wrecker crew attached to his command
so he doesn’t have to ask other officers for help when his stuff
breaks down. We could be here wasting another 6 months of our time, taxpayer
money, and army supplies, just for some officers piece of mind.
The 36th Engineers are doing 1 hot meal a day for certain companies in the base and we happen to be attached under one (the 171st) so we have the option of hot chow as long as we give one of our guys over for 3 hours to do KP. But when we got to where the chow hall was there was only 5 people doing KP, and at least 8 different companies eating there. I wonder if 171 is taking advantage of us so they don’t have to send people to do KP. Either way I can already guess that SGT Slocum won’t count the NCOs in the rotation for KP duty even though there are officers doing it from the other companies. That leaves 13 of us to do it so I guess I’ll have KP duty every other week on top of my weekly guard duty. But it’s nice to have hot food available, it’s not much better than MRE’s but you don’t have to heat it up yourself and they have breakfast every other day so there are benefits.
From the look of the way they prepare the meals they just heat a tin of food, open it and empty it into a tray to serve out of. I wonder if the food is prepared in the US and shipped out here just like the MRE’s.
We also started getting Cold Weather MRE’s which sounds really dumb in the desert but it gives a little variety in what menus there are to eat. The only trouble is they don’t come with heaters but you need heated water to add to the freeze dried meals. Luckily the sun is hot enough you just have to set a bottle of water on a black surface during the day then you can have a hot dinner as the sun sets.
I’ve been enjoying the sunsets and stars the last few evenings. Watching the sun go down is really nice here because there are no mountains blocking the last of the sunset like at home so you can see it all the way till it goes down below the horizon, you can actually see the disk without blinding yourself as it gets lower.
Then there’s the point about 5 minutes before the sun goes below the horizon that the reds and oranges suddenly explode across the sky, bathing everything in a dim reddish orange light.
It must be kind of funny from anybody else’s point of view; there’s me standing in the middle of the concrete pad with my hands in my pockets contemplating the sunset as a war rages on in the surrounding country. An attack hit the perimeter at any time causing me to break away from the sun and go running for my rifle and web gear, or a scud attack can have us putting on our gas masks and send us all scrambling for the bunkers. Still I stand oblivious to it all; although sometimes the C-130’s or A-10’s may take off and go flying across the sun sending my thoughts back to the war. In reality I mostly just spend that time wishing I had somebody with me to share the beauty of the sunset.
After the sun goes down we need to follow light discipline so there is no white light allowed especially for those of us along side the runways, so things get really dark really fast. About 1 hour after the sun has gone below the horizon and the stars are out, I go out and sit with the guards for a few hours and talk about nothing or sometimes I’ll just stare at the stars like I did the sun. The stars are so bright you can see lot more of the constellations than you can back home. We could see enough of Orion to see his head, and bow; plus I can actually see the Orion Nebula with my naked eye. Sometimes I’ll just think about how the stars are the same stars my family will be seeing 10 hours later, it’s too bad the stars can’t be messengers to run messages to my family for them to pick up when the same stars come out for them.
Then the rest of the night we have to put up with all the noise coming from the runway. It’s about twice as busy at night so they take off and land about every 10 minutes. You can’t actually see them land unless you have NVG’s on because they don’t use normal lights they have dim Infra-Red lights, but you can sure hear them use their airbrakes to slow as soon as the wheels are on the ground. The racket they make is enough to rattle doors and windows, especially the cargo jets.
I usually avoid the noise by spending the time listening to music on the computer (like I am now). Most of the time it’s techno (Layton’s getting me hooked on this stuff), its really relaxing listening to Heaven by DJ Sammy imagine I was dancing alone with the woman of my dreams.
With the lights out for the night I can close my eyes and Iraq, the C&E trailer and all the rest of my worries melt away and it’s just me and her on the dance floor alone in each others arms.
“Oh, Thinkn’ about our younger years.”
06-Apr-03 10:23 PM
Another day bites the dust. You’ve probably noticed that all of my recent journal entries have been done at night; it just shows how hot it gets out here. Even now at 10:30 it’s like a sweat box here in the van.
I’m a little pissed off tonight; SGT. Slocum has been singleing me out at every chance he gets. He’s always treated me different than he treats others like Layton or Hansen, he probably thinks I have a bad attitude which is true but the reason I have a bad attitude is him.
A perfect example was a few days ago. I was out of clean brown shirts because I hadn’t done laundry in the last two weeks but we finally had our shower up. I was clean and I didn’t want to put dirty clothes back on, so I put on a grey PT shirt. Usually that’s a big no-no but nobody was wearing uniforms anymore, we had been at MOPP 1 for two weeks, and the heat made it stifling to wear anything under the MOPP suit. But Slocum tells me that I have to change because, “Grey Shirts aren’t the uniform.”
I my head I was screaming, “NOBODY”S IN UNIFORM YOU SENILE
Today just made things worse. I‘ve been wanting to put up camo netting around the C+E shop to keep it cool enough that I won’t have to wait till midnight for the temperature to get low enough to sleep. But again he started arguing and making lies about how it’s not needed. Sure unless you DON’T want your soldiers to become heat casualties. We argued and finally I told him that if he was going to let there be a Poncho sunshade over his room he should allow a sunshade over my room, especially since mine also makes sense tactically and that seems to be one of his big worries.
The icing on the cake was an hour ago. I was in the Van with the lights on and there was some light leaking out of the vent in the front. Even though all of the units around us have white lights shining out across the base and our very own MWR Room has light poring out of the windows. So Slocum comes to tell me to turn off my light. It wouldn’t bother me so much if he was also enforcing the light discipline standard to the rest of our unit but instead he orders me around like I’m breaking all the rules while everybody else gets away with murder.
I really can’t wait to get home and explode to the Captain how Slocum has dragged this deployment down. I don’t know how anybody who’s spent more than 15 minutes with the man can still feel he’s fit to lead a squad let alone command a detachment. It’s obvious that the unit sent him out here just to get him out of their hair, he’s in a slot two ranks above the one he has earned (which is the same rank as me consequently), in command of a squad that needs a commissioned officer to be leading it.
I seriously believe that in a combat situation our lives will be at stake with him in charge of us. The question for me is what the better choice is: following his suicidal orders, ignoring him and doing my own thing, or shooting him so he doesn’t waste another friendly soldier’s life? Obviously I wouldn’t shoot him, but I hope everybody else in the detachment is smart enough to ignore him and follow SSG. Andersen’s lead rather than risk their lives. They’re lives are worth a lot more than his.
From talking with the rest of the lower enlisted I’m sure everybody else would be smart enough to let the old man do his own thing while we save some lives.
I’m sure anybody reading this would think I’m overreacting, but they don’t know how far bad it is. I’ve never known that incompetence could be this bad in a human being. All you have to do is look at our track record of work when he’s been here and when he was gone.
We spent 2 months in Arifjan fixing 1 vehicle every two days and generating
a back log of broken vehicles numbering over 20, not to mention that under
his orders we were cannibalizing one vehicle to fix another (a HUGE no-no
in military maintenance). Often times cannibalizing an important “Priority”
vehicle to fix a simple problem on another vehicle. One of the Humvees
had so much stuff cannibalized off it we weren’t able to remember
all the things we took off it when we finally got around to fixing it.
Plus when he was gone the amount of complaining among the soldiers went from a lot to hardly any while he was gone. That was the golden days of the deployment, we enjoyed working, even the shit jobs like sweeping the sand off our concrete pad, or mopping up other units oil spills. As soon as he came back it all went straight to hell again. In fact the first day he was back SSG Andersen said he was going to go pick up some Water and MRE’s from Class One (something that any soldier can do) and SGT Slocum stopped him saying, “That now that he was back, he was in charge, NOT SSG. Andersen.”
I’m always going to wonder why the unit put an E-5 who only had his E-6 till his time to pass BNCO ran out in charge rather than a soldier that has had E-6 for three years and is a manager in the civilian world.
Well less bitching for now, there will be plenty of time for that when the unit “Debriefs” us.
07-Apr-03 9:23 PM
Excellent news today, we got a warning order that we’re going moving back to Camp Doha, for de-mobilization!
It’s not for sure, I think the reason that we got the warning order was something about the Colonel getting and E-mail about us going home. I don’t want to get too excited, the order to go home if it exists may not have us leaving for another month, but it would still be nice to have a definite date that were going home. The odds are pretty good too, all of the last warning orders I’ve gotten have eventually gone through. First the order to be deployed, then the order to go to Arifjan, and then the order to move into Iraq. This will be the first good warning order we’ve gotten.
When SGT. Slocum called us aside for a detachment meeting, I had a bad feeling. It seems any time we get a “Detachment Meeting” we seem to get screwed somehow, that’s probably why I’m so apprehensive about believing the order to go home. But it’s still hard not to start planning on going home. We’ve all be thinking what we’d do when we finally go home, it’s probably the most discussed subject that we have here even before the warning order.
I’m wondering when I’ll tell my family (assuming the orders come through of course); I was going to call today because the guys that are letting us use the phone are moving out. Now I don’t want to call because I don’t want to tell the family till I’m sure I’m going home, and it would be too hard to talk about other things if I call now. How can I discuss how much I want to go home when I can’t tell them that there is a possibility of it coming true soon?
But on the other hand what if the orders don’t go through? Then the guys with the phone will leave so I’ll be cut off from the family until we can get another phone line here. What I’m hoping will happen is that the orders will go through and I can call at Camp Doha. I was originally thinking of calling once I was back in the US and springing the news on them then. The process of going home will take a week or two if things go smoothly, it can take a month or more if things go poorly, so is it worth having them know I’m coming home and getting their hopes up then me not showing up for another month?
I guess I better just wait till we know we’re going home for sure before I start worrying about things like that.
In local news everything is still the same, we got conformation to cannibalize a Humvee that was in a head on collision and so we started pulling parts off. It was amazing how quickly other units found out the Humvee was being taken apart. They started coming like vultures and claiming parts for themselves. We had to keep telling officers that they had no jurisdiction to tell us what parts to give them. The vehicles in our bone-yard took priority and a few others that had priority got first dibs. One guy was from St. George, Utah and I talked to him about what they needed. Apparently one of their Humvees had broken down on the trek from Kuwait and needed a new Differential. They were moving forward with the 82nd airborne but they had fallen behind due to the broken vehicle and the 82nd was already two jumps ahead. We started taking apart the drive train on the Humvee to get the needed part out but then some 82nd soldiers came up and told them to get the Humvee ready to be towed, they couldn’t wait any more for them to move.
It makes me think about us moving again; as me and Patterson were driving around to go to the gas point I noticed that a lot of convoys were getting ready to move out, but I’d bet good money that most all of them were moving forward. When we got to the gas point we found them dismantling everything, the guys said that they were moving forward in two hours. What if there was a miss communication? Maybe we’re getting a warning order to move forward with every body else, now that the 183rd is moving up here they don’t need us here anymore, maybe a small maintenance unit 100 miles further into Iraq is what they need. (Edit to Add: This last sentence shows that I can predict the future!) Or maybe the order to go to Doha is because all the Maintenance units have left there and they need us to come back and make repairs in the rear. On second thought that’s not very likely, they have all those civilian contractors back there to do the work for the units left behind. Not the Kabals though, maybe we’ll end up in one of those (I’m not superstitious but it can’t hurt to knock on wood).
They’ve been clearing areas around here for what looks like tents like they had back at Camp Arifjan; but only enough to hold about a thousand soldiers. I wonder how much force will stay here in Iraq. They say they want to get the country handed back over to the Iraqi’s as soon a possible and this is a pretty major airbase for the Iraqi’s. I’d think that they’d want it back eventually to rebuild their new air force, the area needs major refurbishing but if the US lifts embargoes and starts trading oil I’m sure the Iraqi government will be able to afford it.
Some times I think about what's going to become of this country. Will a change of government make much difference, and how much? Kuwait is rich enough to pay its citizens a yearly salary just for being alive. There’s a big gap between the rich and the poor but most Kuwaiti citizens are very well off and the government has plenty of money to throw around. If Iraq gets as powerful and rich will the US still trust it? I guess the economy won’t be that great because there isn’t much to export here except oil, so they’ll never get as big as the US; but they’ll still have tons of money.
Maybe that’s Bushes big plan; he’s not making a new trading partner, he’s making new customers for the US.
09-Apr-03 10:06 AM
The nights here are getting worse and worse, it’s getting so hard to sleep at night, and if the heat goes up anymore there won’t be any hours of the day or night that I’m not sweating and panting.
Last night another dust storm came through, it looked like it would be as bad as the one that hit us in Camp Cedar so I took all the spreaders down out of my camo netting. That night after the movie (the movie was “Enough”, it sucked, bad) I went out and spend the first of the night talking to Layton and Hansen who had guard duty and Svedin. It’s always nice to talk at night on guard duty, if you have duty it makes the night pass faster, if you don’t have duty it something to do while the temperature drops enough to go to sleep.
The whole area had been pretty dusty all day making the light seem red but it had all stayed up in the sky so it was still easy to breathe. When I got my chair out and sat down we could still see the runway lights, today was the first day they had been on. As we talked they slowly faded in and out as the wind blew. Then all of the sudden it seemed like half of them just turned off. You couldn’t see what was happening but the trees upwind started making a lot of noise like the wind was really whipping through them. Suddenly we were hit with a blast of dust and sand that didn’t let up for about 15 minutes. Svedin said he had enough and went back in his room, I tried to stick it out for a bit longer but I couldn’t take it either.
But things weren’t much better in the C&E van, since I wanted to keep most of the dust out I closed the vents but that trapped all the heat inside. I stripped down to my boxers and laid on the cot without the sleeping bag then tried to force myself to sleep though it but I just had sweat rolling off my face and couldn’t get any sleep.
I decided to open the door vent to let some fresh air in and at first the wind felt great but then when the sweat dried off of me the wind felt hotter than it was inside the van. I got inside, this time with the vent open and shined the light at t he vent to see how much dust was getting in and so much dust showed in the light it looked like smoke coming through the vent. The vent was supposed to have a filter in it but the unit didn’t give us one to put in when we shipped out but I was able to jury rig one of my towels to fit in the vent. It worked great at keeping the dust out but now there was no breeze coming through, but I felt better knowing that I had fresh air coming in and I went to sleep.
The heat was too great to stay asleep long and I woke up two hours later drenched in sweat. I sat up trying to think of a way to cool off with out letting the dust in, I went out of the van for a few minutes to dry all the sweat off me which felt great but there was still a ton of dust in the air. I went back in and thought about pouring some of my bottled water on the towel to create a simple evaporation cooler. The water was warm so it didn’t seem to work very well so I laid back and tried to sleep for a few minutes. 30 minutes later I was still awake so I checked to see if the towel was working. The wind wasn’t blowing hard enough to have any real airflow through the towel but when I put my hand against the towel it was cold, colder than anything I had felt in the last two weeks. I spent 15 minutes just pressing my face into the cool towel trying to enjoy it while it lasted. Finally I decided to try to sleep again, I only woke up once more that night, the wind had settled down so I was able to crack the door open a bit and let the wind blow through.
Today everything is covered with dust but it sounds like everybody else here is in the same boat, nobody got any sleep and everything has a deep layer of dust on it. I thought of a quote I read in the paper from Donald Rumsfield about how long he expected the war to be. He said he didn’t know then he said that if it goes all summer it won’t affect the troops, the heat won’t affect them. Obviously he’s never actually been to the Gulf Region.
09-Apr-03 10:45 PM
Well tonight looks like it’s going to be a lot more comfortable than the last two nights.
I called home today, it’s always so nice to hear your families’ voice and just talk to them like you would if you were back at home. I told them I was at the air base outside An N??ir?yah and a little bit of what has been going on here, I mentioned how there’s been so little happening around here and its be really quiet so far as attacks and things like that.. I got a lot of information about what’s going on in that war around me. I guess there’s a possibility that Saddam may be dead now. The US Government got a tip that one of Saddam sons and most of the Iraqi leadership was in a bunker in Baghdad so they dropped 4 2000ton bombs on the bunker turning into a giant crater. The problem is that they don’t know if he’s dead for sure or not, they don’t have access to that part of the city, and if they did there probably wouldn’t be anything to ID.
They also told be the story about “Jessica” the female POW that had been rescued and how the Iraqis at the hospital had helped the Special Forces when they went in and got the girl out and they told where the rest of the bodies were buried. It’s nice to know that some of the people here just want to see an end to the fighting. We need to remember that we’re not fighting the country of Iraq, we’re fighting the leadership and that’s all.
Our news about going home has changed but now it’s so up in the air nobody knows what's going on. The current story is that we’re definitely NOT going home, we’re supposed to be going back to camp Doha because they have a back log of 300 vehicles that need to be fixed (yeah right) and our help is going to fix that. But the other part of the rumor is that there’s a General that wants us to go forward to Baghdad with him. Either way we’re getting screwed now, what kind of sick joke is it to tell somebody they’re going home after 6 months then saying never mind. On April 1st we thought of the jokes we could play on each other and one that came up was that we could tell people that we got orders to go home, but as soon as we said it we knew that it wouldn’t be funny at all, and it would end up with somebody getting the shit kicked out of them. Now the Army has played the same joke on us, but it’s worse because the rumor to go home came from the people who actually would be telling us when we do go home.
But I’m trying not to let it bother me, I was withholding my enthusiasm because I know that nothing’s official till the orders are in hand. So it’s back to just wishing I was going home. I told my family that I was moving either forward or back and we didn’t know where and they were really concerned because they wanted to know where I was, I guess since they have access to the news they can feel like they’re a little closer to me if they can see what’s going on around me.
Tonight is so much nicer than last night, not only is there a gentle breeze but there’s not dust in the air (or at least less than we’ve had recently) and the temperature is perfect, not too hot to sweat, not too cold to shiver. It’s so nice that everybody stayed up later than usual just talking. Me and SSG Andersen had a long talk about enjoying the moment out here. We talked about the experience that this will always be and what we’ll take home from it. Back when I was in Basic Training I was miserable and all I wanted was to go home, but now when I think back all I remember was the parts of Basic that I liked and all the good things I got out of it. That was back when I really liked the Army mentality, the camaraderie and such. It was only in the last year or two that I lost that feeling. But we wondered if we would have the same feeling about this deployment after it’s over. It’s hard to see the good in being here when you’re in the coolest place on base and you’re still sweating just sitting in your chair. But when the air gets nice and cool like it is now you don’t think this place is so bad. The whole conversation started when SSG Andersen asked me what I was thinking, I was staring at the runway lights thinking about the fact that I’ll probably never see this place again after this deployment is over. There are a lot of things that I’ll never see again (I hope), the explosions on the horizon, the EPW’s, the Iraqi kids standing on the side of the road begging for food, the A-10’s screaming into the sky on another attack run, the C-130’s taking off at night with lights off for safety, the gas alarms, the relics of a previous war during a war in the same place.
SSgt. Andersen talked about how much the things he’s seen here has mad him thankful for what he’s got. The average standard of living here is about the same a transient in the US has. Andersen talked about the trip to the training camp he went to this morning. On the way down the highway we had come up parents were sending their kids to the side of the road to beg for water by making the motion of drinking a bottle of water. He said he first noticed it when MAJ Yarber threw a full bottle of water out the window. He wondered what the heck he was doing then he saw and older woman doing the same thing to ask the convoy for water handouts.
At home we think we got it bad when we have to go to the grocery store to pick up some more food because the fridge doesn’t have any fresh food. The people here would consider themselves spoiled if they had running water coming out of a tap. They take water from a swamp and run it through a cloth to purify it before they drink it. No wonder they have such short life spans here, they spend they’re whole day doing all they can to barely squeak by with enough food and water survive.
Back home the water we use to keep our lawns green in the middle of the desert is drinkable. We literally throw away as much water in a day to have a green lawn in the desert that these people would give their weeks salary to have. Even for us soldiers we only get a ration of three boxes of drinking water per day, one box of water is about as much as one flush of the toilet back home. So if you flush the toilet three times you’ve wasted the same amount of drinking water that we are allowed for 17 soldiers per day. And we have it great compared to the Iraqis around us.
Andersen is right; when I get home I need something to remember how well I have it back home.
If you can sleep in a shelter that has temperature regulation you have
it better than me.
If you don’t watch the sunset go down every night I got it better
I had to go out and do some thinking but I’m back now. I hope that this movement that’s coming up turns out to be for the best. That seems to be the only sure thing is that we’re probably going to move. The 183rd will be here so they don’t need us here.
If we go forward toward Baghdad I hope the living conditions get a little better, and I want to see some more of this country. It’s too bad we can’t just go sight seeing around here, this is the birthplace of one of the oldest civilizations in human history. Before our short lived country, before the kingdoms of Europe, before the Romans, and before the Greeks. Plus the religious history here is amazing, just outside of the airbase is temple that’s the birth place of Abraham of the Old Testament. The three major faiths of the world all believe in Abraham, even though I’m not religious it would be great to go to a place that’s that important. It’s like being at the birth place of Christ, or Mohammed. But it’s been deemed off limits because some officers had gone in and left their trash in the temple and the local people noticed it. Too bad maybe I can get a Humvee ride nearby and get some pictures.
I all comes back to that feeling about just how important this experience is. A very small number of people have experienced the type of things I have. Not many people have been in an actual war, it’s not a training exercise, it’s not a hostile zone, or a small military action; it a real war. The chance of death is real, the rounds in our M-16’s are live rounds produced given to us with the intention of us firing them against an enemy trying to kill us. The gas masks are kept on us so we don’t run the risk of inhaling a chemical that would cause the lining of our lungs to blister and bleed till we drowned in our own fluids.
It’s all for real.
And like SSG Andersen mentioned, it’s funny how the mind deals with what it’s given. Here we are with our lives in danger and we spend our night up in T-shirts and pants talking about the dumbest subjects that come to mind. Even when the gas alarm goes out it feels like a chore to wear the mask and MOPP suit. With the heat the way it is you just keep hoping the all clear will come soon because you want to tear off the mask and suit because you feel the heat is going to smother you before the gas can kill you.
I don’t fell special for what I’m doing; I’m no more a hero than any other person in the US. But when I tell anybody else back home they make it seem like I’m somehow stronger or more powerful than the average US citizen for being able to stay out here. But I’m still scared, I still get sick of being here and want nothing more than to go home. I don’t care how the war ends, or when as long as I go home soon. How does that make me a hero? If anything this deployment has made me angrier at the US than I was before. I feel less inclined to fight its wars, and do what the Politicians want me to. Why should people look at me a more Patriotic than others?
My mom says that it may not seem like it to me but I do have more mental
constitution that most people would have out here, the fact that I can
stay out here more than a month without losing it sets me aside from others.
I’m not sure if that’s true or not. In the middle of the night
when I realize how alone I am and that I’m thousands of mile away
from all the people I care about I think how my life could end so quickly
10-Apr-03 8:04 PM
Just got done having a very deep conversation with Patterson and Andersen (they did most of the talking, I just listened). I admit I like talking to people about their beliefs, it’s easy to go too far and end up having arguments, but when the people you’re talking to are fairly intelligent it’s easier to avoid letting things go too far (although Patterson seemed to be very into proving that what he believed was right).
I think that a lot of philosophical thought occurs during war; a lot more than most people think. Everybody’s here with plenty of time to think to themselves and they’re in a situation where they question their own existence, because there the possibility (however small) that they may not exist much longer. There could be some great philosophers coming out of war, and anybody who thinks they know everything could do well to be in a situation like this because it makes you question your beliefs or it makes you see them in a different light.
It was really interesting to listen to SSgt Andersen describe why he believes in the Mormon faith and what his thoughts of the existence of god and creation are. He’s one of the Mormons that I really like because their ideals are pretty much the same as mine and their not too close minded to question and ponder their faith. He reminds me of the same type of Mormon that Robert Kirby is, people like Kirby and Andersen make me believe more about the church than most Mormon bishops and presidents do. I guess it all comes down to my own ideals; what religion you call yourself doesn’t matter, it’s your actions that define whether you’re good or evil. Andersen would see the logic in that where as many Mormons think that if they are Mormon and they despise all that aren’t they are still better just because they go to church every Sunday.
Patterson didn’t go too much into his beliefs too much he just questioned Andersen on his beliefs and how he couldn’t conceive of a god. But some of his ideas seemed to contradict themselves to me. And a lot of his beliefs were based off of one principal of different philosophers; it reminded me of people who read the abridged version of a book and discuss one part of the book based off a simple statement like “time is relative”. They can understand the definition of each individual word and what that means together without knowing the meaning behind the words. He used the phrase from Descartes that “I think for I am” and how that related to the movie “The Matrix” but I don’t think he knew just how deep that phrase went.
I like having in-depth discussions like that because of what I learn from the people talking, sometimes I learn facts I didn’t know sometimes I just learn about people and what they think. It’d be nice to grill Patterson on his beliefs because I think he has a lot of the same beliefs that Andersen has just in different ways and directed at different things.
Today in Americaland the weather was great, last night was so perfect I slept like a baby all night, and the day never got too hot, the only time I felt a little sweaty was between 1:30 and 3:30 PM, and I spent that time in the MWR Room so I was cool all night. Right now is probably the hottest I’ve been all day because the I’m in the C&E Van and I have to keep the vents closed so that no white light gets out (I don’t want Slocum coming by and bitching because he can see slightly more light than a cigarette coming out of here). The news about going home is all but gone now and the news about going to Doha is iffy, we still may be going forward. But I still wish I was headed home soon, it’s hard to tell how much longer we’ll be here without knowing what's going on in the rest of the country. The way I’ve always seen it is that they’ll keep us here as long as the war keeps going, as soon as the war ends we’ll probably spend two weeks to a month staying here to fix vehicles damaged in the war then once they didn’t need us anymore we’d go home. I don’t know how they could keep us busy for the 12 months original orders, unless the war drags out for the next 6 months.
But here I don’t have much to do so I keep thinking (and philosophizing) and wish I was home. Tonight I’m listening to DoCo for the first time since we were in Arifjan; it reminds me of watching Japanimation with my sister late into the night back home. We’d sit up watching Ranma ½ or whatever animation she had rented from the Library. I still remember one night about a week before I left we went to see “Spirited Away” at the Tower Theater because we had noticed the poster for it when I had driven her up there to rent movies. I’d be really happy to stay up all night watching those dumb Ranma episodes with her right now. It seems like me and her are the only ones that get it even thought we don’t even know what they mean. Plus I’ve been looking at pictures on my laptop of the Xterra events I’ve been too. I really miss not being able to go spend time with those guys down in Moab this year for Easter Jeep Safari. For GOX it’s really nice to see Colorado and the San Juans but this is my chance to showoff Utah's beauty to everybody, I like sharing that place with people I trust to enjoy it. But I guess the plus side of not being there is that I don’t have to watch other people abuse Moab. EJS is getting to many “yahoos” as my dad would call them. The high school and college kids who think it’s fun to go there and get piss drunk then go egg their friends to do stupid things to their vehicles (and the environment in the process).
As much I know there will be good things I’ll take home from this deployment I know that I’m ready to go home NOW. SSgt Andersen said that he’d rather go to Baghdad if given the choice between Doha and Baghdad but even if they plan on keeping us in camp Doha to do some work it seem like a step in the right direction to me. It’d be a lot easier to pack up and leave from Doha than it would be from the heart of Iraq.
12-Apr-03 10:58 AM
Well we just had a group meeting and we’re moving forward to LSA Scandia which is 26 miles from Baghdad, It sucks big time. And for some reason I blame Slocum, I’m not sure if it’s really his fault but he seems to be excited about it. He said that we they’re sending the best maintenance unit forward which is idiotic because the only reason that we were able to fix anything here was because we cannibalized parts of wrecked vehicles, if there’s nothing wrecked in Baghdad then we won’t have any parts to work with.
Plus there’s the fact that Baghdad is 200 miles away so we’re looking at another convoy like the one we had to get here, hopefully we’ll average more than 15 miles per hour but this is still going to be a long drive. I don’t know why there still sending troops forward, according to what Durham said the word on the news is that the war is pretty much over. The fifth corps of the Iraqi army just laid down its weapons and went home so now all the resistance that is in Baghdad is from pockets of civilians resisting. And there isn’t any organized resistance in the whole of Iraq now.
It makes me wonder when I’ll be going home, my detachment was one of the first groups into the region and we’ve always been just a few steps behind the front, so shouldn’t we be one of the first groups expected to leave when this is over. The last few days have been so slow that I wonder why they even keep us out here, no work got done yesterday; there was just nothing to do.
Anyway we don’t have any word when we’ll be moving out, Andersen asked Slocum what date our orders to move are and Slocum replied that he’d check the time but it might be as soon as tomorrow morning. He asked the date not the time you senile old man! Either you know that we’re leaving tomorrow or you don’t know what day we’re leaving.
Just last night me and Durham were on guard duty and we were talking about how nice it would be to get out of here, we were pretty sure that we were going to be moving back to Doha no matter what and probably moving home soon after that.
I also wonder who we’ll be attached to now, if the 171 coming to the same place or will we be getting orders from a different group now. That fear of being such a small group that we get lost in the paperwork and left out here for two years is starting to seem a very real possibility, and I don’t trust Slocum to do anything to change that, He’s happier out here than he would be at home, and he definitely wouldn’t have the balls to tell an officer that we need to go home, he wouldn’t even have the guts to ask when we might be going home.
12-Apr-03 11:44 PM
Well everybody seems to be ok with going forward but everybody has it in their head that their going home around just over 180 days too, which I hope comes true. They don’t have enough here to keep us busy now let alone a month from now.
We didn’t know if we were leaving tomorrow morning or not but apparently it’s been delayed till the area we’re going to has been cleared, so for now we wait; tomorrow will probably be spent packing the last of our things so we’ll be ready at a moments notice. I haven’t started packing but it won’t take more than an hour or two to be ready. I was more worried about getting some more brown T-shirts from the PX and calling my family to tell them I was moving. They said they wanted to be notified as soon as I knew so I tried to call them but I couldn’t get any answer on the phone. It was about 7:00am on a Saturday so I know that somebody was there if not everybody I guess they just didn’t want to answer the phone, which pisses me off when they know that I don’t have very good access to a phone. I can only call a few times so when I don’t get through I don’t really have a chance to try back later. For me trying back later means calling the next week. And with us moving it’s not sure if the phone will be moving with us or if we’ll have that ability when we get to LSA Scandia, so this might have been my last chance to call for another month and they didn’t pick up.
Oh well, I decided to send a letter so that it may take them a week or two to get the message but it’s on it’s way. I also was able to transfer some money from my Savings account to my Checking account so they can keep paying the bill to my storage unit. I have a lot in there now, enough to pay off my Pathfinder but it’s hard to get all that done when I’m over here. I wanted to do it when I was in Arifjan but now there is so much going on that it’s hard to think about that kind of thing when you can only call home once a week and only for 15 minutes.
Considering the fact that we’ve been fucked out of going home (or tricked I guess) everybody’s been in good spirits. We spent the day washing laundry and the night we just spent sitting around talking about this and that, especially speculating about what’s going to happen in the next few days and weeks. It was really nice, the weather is perfect and everybody just sits in a circle talking, if there was a fire in the middle it would be just like camping.
We also spent a lot of time making fun of the NCOs, tonight was there day to have Guard Duty but they tried to pawn it off on Keller and Gibson at the last minute (7:30pm) but they refused and went to bed. The NCOs didn’t burn the shit-can either so it’s nearly overflowing. I’m sure that tomorrow they’ll be bitching about Keller and Gibson not doing their jobs, but screw them. We don’t like doing duty but we do it every time were scheduled, they don’t feel like it and try to force others to do it (by abusing their rank) and then act like children when they have to do it anyway.
Lead by example indeed.
I’m not complaining and I only got 5 hours of sleep since I had duty last night, today was supposed to be my night off but I helped get things ready without saying a word.
I was too pissed about the change of orders to mention how nice guard duty was last night. Me and Durham talked about a lot of things but spent a lot of time talking about her beliefs as a Mormon and my beliefs about religion. It was a similar conversation to what Patterson and Andersen were talking about the day before except I wasn’t trying to prove her wrong, I was just learning about her beliefs. It sure helped make the night go faster, it didn’t really start to drag until the last two hours when it got freezing cold and I was too tired to think straight. But I love just having thoughtful in-depth discussions with people. That was kind of nice about talking tonight with the guys around the table, it wasn’t quite as deep but you learn a lot about people, and everybody’s quirks like Keller’s trying to assert that big powerful Trucks are so great, or Layton and his infinite Financial wisdom.
Anderson pounded on my door looking for the NVG’s I guess he was volunteered for guard duty tonight. He seemed pissed to say the least, but screw him and screw the rest of the NCOs. They have one night a week to divide between 5 people; that means they have it a little less than once every two weeks. If they cry about that they can start doing it every week like the rest of us, and if they can’t figure out a fair way for all of them to do it then they need to learn how to become LEADERS.
When I was in line for the phone a bunch of Special Forces guys were in line behind me and Patterson and they had the same Army mentality as me, they didn’t get hung up on the little things. I guess the SF has a reputation for that, they let their hair grow out and sometimes grow beards, for them the Army ideas of a good soldier being one with a shaved head and a freshly shaved face don’t apply. They realize that actions speak for more than trying to follow a set of guidelines. I feel the same way about the Army, discipline is important but not to the point that we judge a soldier’s abilities on how polished his boots are. The Army should instill a sense of pride in appearance and uniform but it shouldn’t base its promotion system off of it too.
The stress is really starting to get to everybody. We all spend the day avoiding each other, not because we don’t like each other we’re just getting tired of our situation. We’ve been living in close quarters with the same people for the last 5 ½ months, the only people that it doesn’t seem to bother are people like Layton, Griffin, and Anderson who have personalities where they always want to be around others. But even with them we’re all getting a weary look on our faces, the deployment is really getting to us, some people are totally content to spend all of their time active and on deployment, but we’re Reservists and were used to the civilian life. We can handle this kind of thing for a while but we’ll always be fishes out of water in this active Army mentality, and it’s starting to cause us to fall apart.
13-Apr-03 11:15 PM
Talk about a lazy day, I slept till 9:00am and then took a 3 hour nap at 2:00pm. But the weather was so nice today it was hard not to enjoy an afternoon nap, there’s been a storm moving in all night and it just barely hit about an hour ago, enough rain came down to make everything wet but not enough to soak everything like the rain storm after the big sandstorm. The night has been nice, cool and humid from the storm and we got a good light show before the storm.
I’ve been thinking of a girl back home all day because of a dream I had last night. It was one of the dreams where it was just good to be with somebody. We were running through a park just playing around and acting like a couple of kids. It was a great dream, just because it was nice to have somebody who loved me and was having fun just being around me. The last part of the dream was us holding each other looking each others eyes.
So the whole day I’ve been thinking of what it will be like when I get home to see her again. We’ve always been good friends and there was a time I wanted to go out with her but she was with someone else at the time. By time she was single again I had noticed that we were two very different people. Me and her have some similar interests we also have many differences.
She’s the type who likes to go to art shows and plays every now and then but not necessarily because se likes them but because it’s the sophisticated thing to do. Patterson’s the same personality, he talks about going to fancy restaurants, art shows and wine tastings but he brags about it like it makes him an adult. He considers himself a connaisseur to be more grown up, and because of the he likes to rub in how much he knows about “sophisticated” things. She’s very similar, she doesn’t brag about it as much but she thinks it puts her on a level above others, one time she was going to an art opening and I was interested so I asked her a few questions about it, but she blew it off like I wouldn’t know what she was talking about. It’d probably surprise her to know that I’ve been going to art openings that my mother was in since I was 3.
Plus she’s not the outdoors type; she needs to be close to a big city because she’s more into the night life and comforts of home. I know she likes to go camping, but she likes to go camping the same way as most of my other friends do, going up in the mountains for a couple days to drink alcohol around a fire, bring as many amenities from home as you can, and never leave the camp site. I can never see me and her going on 5 mile hikes through the mountains, or my favorite thing in the world Backpacking.
So with so many differences between things that she likes and things that I like how come I’m attracted to her? And some people get a taste from things like the outdoors and really pick up on it. Maybe it could work out.
Then it all goes back to what I’ll do when I get home. I’m sure I’ll see her again within a few weeks of getting home, she’s a good friend and I should visit her soon after getting home. There will probably be a welcome home party or something like that, but should I ask her out? (Assuming she’s single) I already know that we have our differences, or should I wait till I get some signal from her? No, I know that’s a bad idea because guys never pick up on signals, if I wait for that I’ll be waiting forever. But if I do ask her out and it doesn’t work out it could ruin a really good friendship. On the other hand could I stand to just be friends with her when all I can think about when I’m talking to her is how much I’d like to go out with her, when I keep having dreams where we hold each other an look into each others eyes?
Too much to be thinking about when I might be going to Baghdad in the next day or two. The trip up there has been put off because people in the convoys going up have been getting shot, and they want to secure the route before we move. Plus it turns out that Maj. Yarber, MSG Grimshaw, and Col Lockwood are going home; they’re supposed to be the guys taking care of us and then when we go to the lions nest they get a “get out of Iraq free” card? That just sucks, there’s no reason for us to be here, we don’t have the parts supply lines to do DS work up there. Hansen’s theory is that we’re just going to be the first maintenance group up there to get everything ready for the next to come up. That’s certainly the way it seem to go for us. Ever since Arifjan we go in and are the only maintenance around till another full size DS unit can come in. The trouble is that this means we go into a place right after it has been take from the enemy, set up our stuff and try to jury-rig what we can for a few weeks, then when the nice things like warm meals, air-conditioned tents and a PX show up, we pack up to the next miserable site.
Tomorrow at 10:00am we should get more info on what’s going on, from what we’ve heard it’s going to be as miserable as Camp Cedar so we sure as hell better get some tents before we move this time.
Well I’m going to bed, hopefully I’ll have as nice as dreams as last night.
14-Apr-03 10:55 PM
Well we finally got word on when we’re moving, 10 hours before we have to be online. So we spent the last two hours packing everything up. There’s still a little bit to do but not so much that it can’t be done in an hour.
I spent the day walking around Adder taking pictures, they had taken one of the Saddam Murals down and defaced all the others, there was only one that you could still see his face, and it was in the press holding area. I also got pictures of the EPW’s (Enemy Prisoners of War) wandering around their little pen. As I was taking pictures of them a couple of them pointed to me and waved to be in the picture. I was putting my camera away at the time so I wasn’t able to get a picture of it.
The base is growing pretty fast. Now the PX is here and there is a large tent city going in. It’s not quite as big as Arifjan but it has the same tents and they have air conditioning. We got some tents to take with us to Scandia because we didn’t want to end up like we were at Cedar. But there isn’t any air-conditioning to go with our tents so we’ll probably be spending the afternoons out of the tent in whatever other shade we can find.
Now that we have a toilet and a shower it’ll be a bit better than the first time we got here where we didn’t get to cleanup for a week. I was surprised I didn’t have moss growing in certain places after that first week in Iraq. From what we’ve been able to gather Scandia is about as primitive as Cedar, even though Slocum/Anderson says it will be better. I’m just hoping that Hansen’s theory of us being there for only two to three weeks is right; I don’t care so much where we go now as long as we go home soon.
Now the speculation begins about what the next few days will be like, it should be asphalt almost all the way to Scandia so I’m hoping that it will be a quick two hundred miles to Baghdad. But I also worry about one of us breaking down, we’ve all PMCS’d the vehicles but it would be really easy to have a blowout on the way and be stuck along side the road in an unknown place. From what I gather we’ll have armed escorts to take us up there, which is good because the reason we’ve been waiting is because they say there have been armed civilians sniping at the convoys.
CSA (Combat Support Area) Scandia is 26-30 miles south of Baghdad and it’s a place where groups moving into Baghdad stop to get their supplies and rations before moving closer. And our mission will be fixing what has broken on the drive up there. So pretty much the same thing we were doing that first day in Cedar. That means we’ll be a quick Lube type place because we don’t have the parts to do any major work.
I just hope the drive goes smoothly and once we’re up there we’re in a secure area, from what news we’ve been getting the war seems to winding down. Most, if not all of the organized Army has surrendered or lain down their arms and gone home, all that’s left fighting is the Militia’s and any civilians that have taken up arms. I hope that Saddam is dead, the US will have the new government set up and the troops on the way home soon.
15-Apr-03 9:12 PM
We’re at our new home but things aren’t setup so I’m going to try to type as long as my Laptop battery holds out.
We woke up at 6:30am to get things ready, everything went smoothly, I was able to shave and get my stuff loaded, then I checked the tire pressures on all my tires, the spare was flat and the rest were 15psi down. I wanted everything to be as close to perfect as could be since most of our trip was supposed to be on asphalt; the last things I wanted was the deuce to have a blowout, there were rumors of people getting shot at and we were going north into the heart of Iraq.
We got on line for the convoy at 8:20 and waited another three hours for everybody else to get there. I guess we’re the only ones who care about timetables. By time we left it was getting hot, and the flack vest was just holding the heat in. I tried to take as many pictures as I could but the terrain was much less interesting than the first convoy, plus the road was so bumpy and our speed so high that it was hard to get good pictures. There was a guy along side the road with only one leg and he was trying to make progress through the sand on his two crutches. It made me wonder how many people have suffered in this country in the last two wars with America.
First we went out along the highway we came to Adder on, technically it was all the same road all the way to Scandia (Highway 1), but the pavement ended a mile after Adder. Griffin was talking up a storm and I wasn’t in the mood to talk so I just let him go off on his own. Once we got off the pavement the convoy speed slowed way down, we were supposed to be maintaining 40 MPH but we were lucky to keep 25. There was a bunch of empty 120mm shell containers along side the road where Griffin guessed they had re-supplied a bunch of tanks. Then we started to see Iraqis.
They were the typical Iraqis we had seen out here in the desert, they were very poor and lived herding goats. But they knew that convoys passed by here and they know we had food and water so they were alongside the road begging. And it wasn’t just a few here and there it was a group of about 5 people every 200 feet; and it wasn’t just when we were next to the cities, there were people begging all along that road for at least 20 miles. At first I would wave to them to play the friendly soldier; I wanted to make them feel like they could trust us, if somebody invaded my home whether I wanted them too or not I would be really apprehensive about them driving through my neighborhood. Especially the way the most soldiers before us had been. There were empty MRE bags and water bottles everywhere, plus all sorts of other trash alongside the road obviously left by passing convoys. So as I passed the Iraqis I’d wave to them and smile and some of them waved back. None showed any ill will toward us but after the first few people passed I realized they weren’t waving. They were pointing with their thumbs into their mouths and rubbing their stomachs. Most were just kids from the ages of 3-8. The convoy would slow to go over bumps and the kids would run along side the vehicles shouting in Arabic (I’m sure they were asking for water) and pointing to their mouths. A lot of them were holding bills of Iraqi Dinar; sometimes handfuls of cash waving it asking for bottles of water. I remember one man who was waving a stack of at least 20 Dinar (presuming they were all 1s) and holding up two fingers, at his side was his 4 year old son wiping the dust from our convoy out of his eyes. It was obvious that he would give anything to get some water for him and his son. We had been told not to give MRE’s or water to the kids as we passed but as soon as I saw those thin dirty kids begging for water I didn’t care what the army said, I would have giving them almost all of our food and water. But I didn‘t have any MRE’s on me and the only bottle of water I had was the one I was drinking out of. If I had any extras I would have been slowing down and giving them to everybody I could; they obviously needed it more than us. We’re rationed only a certain amount but I could go thirsty for a day to give my share to one of these kids.
When we stopped at a checkpoint the Marines Guarding the road kept the Iraqis at bay without having to do anything other than walk around with weapons brandished. Then one of the Captains from the MP group that was guarding us started walking up and down the line demanding to know who had given away water and MRE’s (there had been a few kids with new MRE’s in hand waving wildly at the convoy with big smiles on their faces). He wanted to know who had broken the rules like it was a crime to help these people. After hearing that I was thinking that he needed to be put on trial for war crimes as much as any of Saddam's men. Sure we needed the rations for ourselves but we could definitely spare a few, everybody has thrown away parts of their MRE’s (usually to a big box where anybody who wanted the part they threw away could take it). And water was hard to come by but that didn’t stop people from using it to wash their hands and face. Hell, the Troop carrier started to overheat so Slocum dumped seven 1.5 liter bottles into the radiator even though there was 35 gallons of Non-potable water in the back of the generator trailer. His reasoning, the drinking water was in the back of the troop carrier and the non-potable water was 3 vehicles back and he didn’t want to go get it.
When we go back I’m sure that we’ll be going back over that same road, so I’m going to plan ahead and put a case of MRE’s and Water Bottles in the front with me and Griffin to give to people on the way, the unit has at least three days of excess rations which amounts to about 200 bottles and 500 MRE’s. Slocum wants to take the MRE’s home to take camping or whatever but I think they’d go to much better use out here. If Griffin doesn’t want to participate because he might get in trouble I’ll do it by myself and take the blame. What’s wrong with helping a bunch of starving people? A lot of people would use the excuse that they don’t need as the rations as much as the make it look like and that they’re really just mooching off of us. But that doesn’t really matter, I get 3 meals a day and all the water I need. If this makes it so they get more than 2 meals a day they still have it worse than me. They live in tents year-round making nothing, the only way they survive is by raising and selling small herds of goats.
Layton said it best, moving from home to here our standards of living got 100 times worse, but our standard of living here is still 100 times better than these people live with their whole lives. At the end of my deployment I’ll go back home to my car, my steady job, my vacations, and drinking water coming out of the tap. These people will be in the same place they are now. Their lives will probably be a bit worse because they won’t have US soldiers here to get handouts from anymore. Anybody who thinks these people don’t really need help need to see the little girl I saw today. She must have been 7 years old with a decorated red gown on and pretty green eyes. But as I passed her she wasn’t laughing and smiling like kids her age should, she had the weary eyes of an adult as she stood there hands clasped begging for a bottle of clean water.
We kept going past all these people begging for food and water and the road kept going from a 4 lane highway to a 4 lane wide dirt road. At one point we passed a nice bridge over the Euphrates River that was heavily guarded by Marines. Some of the Marines had put cardboard signs up with things written on them like, “I DESPARATELY NEED DIP” or “ONE WEEKEND A MONTH MY ASS!”
Shortly after the Euphrates we crossed another smaller river/canal with a quick form military bridge across. Weis’s best friend we met in Arifjan was an engineer in a bridge group and we figured it was probably his unit that erected the bridge. We were thinking that that bridge looked like it had been there more than a week so he may have been right behind the front when he put that bridge up.
Whenever we passed an area where the road got rough there would be more Iraqis begging for water, I guess they knew that at those places it was easier to beg because we had to slow down. I tried to smile and be friendly to the people we passed but if you looked them in the eye they would assume that you were interested in giving them something and they’d come closer to the vehicle but I never had anything to give. They were trading Dinar and some had cigarettes that they were trying to trade for water. Usually as I passed I would nod my head no and hold up empty hands and they would know that I didn’t have anything to give. They would wave and smile back so I knew that they had the best intentions of us and they didn’t mind our presence enough to do us any harm.
I some of the more remote places there weren’t any Iraqis, there was one place that was just endless dust as far as the eye could see, whenever the wind would kick up it would become a white out. In the distance we saw a fire, that turned to be a tanker truck going up in flames, I’m surprised that it didn’t explode it just kept gushing fuel up into the air and then it would instantly ignite and shoot higher like a giant flame thrower.
There were other broken vehicles all along the road, usually gutted and broken; both from the US taking what they could and from the Iraqis smashing what was left. Plus we passed two tankers that looked like they had been left due to breaking down but one looked like it just leaked, the other looked like it had leaked then set on fire.
After about 40 miles of alternating dirt and pavement we finally got back onto solid pavement for awhile. And then came to an intersection that had about 15 cars waiting for the convoy to pass so they could cross. The terrain was getting greener and had some trees and the intersection reminded me of Utah. It could have been outside just about any small town in southern or western Utah. I waved to thank the other vehicles for letting us pass and I forgot for a moment that I was in a different country; I expected to see some farmer in his truck waving back.
We pulled over to get gas at a small Marine post off the side of the road; I didn’t need much I was only down about 1/3rd a tank so I guess the road PSI in the tires helped. There were a lot of people waiting to get gas but I guess we had priority so we went to the front, they were rushing people through as quick as they could, there were at least 8 different pumps going all a once and as soon as you were done you’d pull out of the way and there was somebody guiding the next vehicle in. We pushed on and then the paved road turned back to a 6 lane highway with the road sign “Baghdad” above so I knew we were getting close.
One over pass that we went under had “THE WAR IS OVER” trampled into the dirt on the side so we could see it coming towards Baghdad. I thought it was pretty cool, either the war was over and we hadn't gotten word yet or the soldiers had just thought that we were kicking butt so much they would put this in the sand as if to brag. When we got to camp Patterson was up in arms about the sign, either he was pissed that we hadn’t found out the war was over or he was pissed that somebody would spread disinformation like that. I’m sure that when the people writing it, some active duty combat group like the infantry or the marines had hesitated when they stopped to think, “Will this offend somebody in a non-combat group that will follow me?” Give me a break, if it raises the morale of a bunch of soldiers who are actually risking their lives I say go ahead and write what you want.
At almost every overpass there was a small group of military vehicles to the side with camp set up, one was a marine artillery battery and that worried me a little, artillery had a long range but not that long. If we were going past them, it was probable that whoever invaded us would be who the artillery was pointed at. We were about 1 mile closer to Baghdad than the artillery when we finally got to TTP Scandia (we figure that TTP stands for Ted’s Tire Place). It’s a nice place nestled among the palm trees and fields off the side of the road. This place is definitely more interesting than Cedar was but the humidity is keeping the heat up and the bugs keep biting everybody, bad. There are Iraqi’s all around us, there were some sitting on a hill watching us move in, they were about 200 meters away, they obviously live in the area. These Iraqis are obviously much better off that the ones in the desert; even though I saw a yellow “humanitarian MRE” sticking the concertina wire next to us when we came in.
The Iraqis just seem curious about what were doing, which is good because the Iraqis up here aren’t the Sunni that don’t like Saddam, these are the Shiite’s that are generally on his side. One thing I think that we all need to remember is that were setting an example to these people while we’re here so we need to make sure we don’t litter or use the bathroom (leave little piles) in the area. Tonight we’re bunking down next our vehicles tomorrow we’ll probably set up camp; and considering the Army will have a hand in this you know there will be a lot of bad decisions made.
17-Apr-03 2:51 PM
A lot’s happened in the last two days; we woke up in the morning and found out that there are 2 DS companies within an hour’s drive of here so we’re not really needed. So we there was a General that was going to come through and decide if we needed to stay here or move back to Doha. We waited till 1:00pm for a decision then we found out that they wanted all of the soldiers within the concertina wire up by the gas station so we packed up the few things that we had taken out over the night and moved over there. By time we had moved we had gotten word that there was no decisions on what we had to but that we were probably going to be staying for at least a few days.
We spent the afternoon putting up GP Medium Tents like the ones we had in Camp Arifjan. We all started putting up one then Patterson decided that we should split into two groups to put both tents up at the same time. It didn’t really matter how things got done, we would have to still work together to do things but this way his little Command Sergeant Major attitude was placated and the rest of us were far enough ahead that we could take the lessons learned to set up the other.
It didn’t take more than 4 hours to get the tents up so we had everything done before the sun went down. The unit that was setting up next to us started about an hour after us and they had more people but they only had one up by time we were done. We helped them as much as we could but they were just lazy and we weren’t going to do the work for them.
Once the tent was up we moved all our gear in and hooked up power to the TV, it’s not quite like Arifjan but it’s pretty close. We also have access to the DSN phone and internet that the signal company has set up next door. Plus there’s a kitchen unit that has things like soup for lunch but dinner is a big meal the only trade-off is that we need to donate two people every other day for KP.
Today has been a lot more relaxed, we don’t have much to do because nobody has anything to fix around here. Horsy said that the other maintenance unit here hasn’t had to do anything because they don’t have any parts and it takes at least 4 days to get parts out here (and they’re a full size unit), but by then the people have gone forward again.
This morning a couple of well dressed Iraqis came down the road from their homes toward the military area. Two of the guys were in suits and the other was in one of the robes everybody around here wears. The MPs turned them around and sent them back but it got me thinking about how the people around here live. They seem to be pretty well off here, I wonder if this is considered upper or middle class living. And I thought of how we were disrupting the way of life around here. Were the two guys just coming over to talk, that‘s why they got dressed up in “western style” clothing, they thought they’d have a better chance at not being turned away? Or were they just trying to cross the highway and they had to go the long way around now because we’re camped out in their way?
Patterson was set on getting the internet routed right into our tent to the point he even had us all empty the 5-ton trailer out so we could get the CAT-5 cable out. So we got everything out but we couldn’t get the computers configured. But I’m not to worried about getting internet up, it would be nice but it’s been so sporadic that I don’t rely on internet anymore, as long as I can call home once a week. Besides we have access to internet and DSN 50ft away; is it that important to have it running to the tent?
Other than that everybody’s been trying to stay out of the heat for the day, none of the Iraqis are around, and all of the soldiers are in their tents. I wonder how long we’ll have to sit around like this, SGT Slocum said that the 3-4 day time table was out the door and we “will be here awhile.” But I’m not sure how much information he knows compared to what he’s assuming. Patterson spent some time in the signal tent reading the news and Tommy Franks has already flown into Baghdad to asses the situation, I guess the organized resistance is over and all that remains is hunting down the few armed civilians that are still causing trouble.
18-Apr-03 9:10 PM
Things remain quiet here, there’s not a lot for us to do. Besides pulling KP every other day and giving a little help here and there to units that need a wrench or something we have no purpose. I wonder how long we’ll stay here doing nothing, I literally spent the day trying to pass time, and the only time I officially did stuff for the Army was when I lent a cable reel to a Sergeant in the 551st.
I’m definitely going to call my family tomorrow, it will be a Saturday morning and I have bad luck getting hold of them on Saturday but this time I’ll keep trying throughout the day, we don’t have the restrictions that we had in Adder.
In fact I’m listening to DoCo songs right now and it makes me wish I was at home wasting the evening watching Japanimation with Jennifer. It wasn’t the best use of my nights but it was one of the most enjoyable. With us having no reason to be here it makes it that much harder to be away from home, if the Army wanted me to waste my time sitting on my ass all day the least they could do is to let me do it in Utah where I could spend my free time with my family.
I took a shower today, that’s the highlight of my day. I’m sure that many people will come back from this war with journals saying that they invaded a town outside Baghdad as the highlight of their day. And here I am under the command of the same people doing nothing. If they don’t need me, send me home, if they do need me lets get doing something! I’m sick of having nothing to do, it’s worse than the days that we’re overloaded with things to do. The days drag so much longer for one thing, things that happened this morning seem like they happened yesterday. And the only thing that makes missing home worse is the days passing slower.
The only thing that consoles me is how nice the area around me is, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m here against my will it would be a pretty nice place. Mildly humid, temperate, surrounded by palm trees and marsh. It’s like southern California without the smog. I wish this was just a vacation that I was on and I was making a road trip in my Xterra. If this was just a place that I was visiting with some friends this would be much better. Passing through, and stopping at places like this gas station to take a few pictures of the area and the locals.
Horsy mentioned that he couldn’t get a hold of his girl friend because she was down in Moab for Easter Jeep Safari. It made me sad that I wasn’t there; hanging out with the Xterra crew, talking about the trails that you had done that day. I wonder how many of the thousands of people down there living it up are thinking of us back here. With the war winding down the news networks probably aren’t seeing it as the ratings draw that it was a few weeks ago so we’re probably being moved back to just having the headlines reported. I’m sure that every night on the 10:00 news they report the latest about how many more troops have surrendered and how close we are to finding out what happened to Saddam, then they move on to the latest story of how big of buzz “Matrix Reloaded” has already become. And just that quickly the country forgets that there’s a quarter million people over here that have been involuntarily taken from their families. Besides the families of the soldiers and a few of their friends how many people really think of us all the time? Is it just that when CNN shows footage of tanks firing into the distance that most Americans become “patriotic”? When the war is over and we’re here still mopping up will Americans keep us in their prayers or be distracted by the latest gossip of what Michael Jackson is doing?
I don’t care one way or the other I guess; I just can’t wait to go to sleep and be able to mark myself one day closer to going home.
19-Apr-03 8:35 PM
I just got off the phone with my family and it was a “good” call. The difference between a good call and a bad call is that after a bad call I feel like I wasn’t able to say everything I wanted or I was interrupted so much that I didn’t get to enjoy the time hearing the voices of my family. But a good call is one that when I’m done calling I’m happy and the rest of the day is better no matter what was said on the phone. Even if it’s kind of bad news it could still be a good call, like when I found out that my dog had her eye removed it didn’t bring me down, I was sad that my poor puppy was still having troubles and getting older, but it was so good to hear the voices of people that I spend all my time thinking about that it didn’t matter.
Tonight we just talked about how good it was that the war is winding down and that the chances are getting better every day that we’ll go home. I told them that I was frustrated that we had to come out here even though we were supposed to go to Doha and that our next move will probably be backwards and that it was still up in the air when we’d be moving.
It turned out that they got my message that I’d missed calling them when I moved and they were really waiting to hear from me. So much so that they had decided not to go to the gym this morning and wait by the phone for a call; I guess it’s really good that I decided to call today instead of waiting till tomorrow or the next day. Plus they we’re happy to hear that I had phone and internet access out here. They told me that I could call anytime, even if there was no new news or that I just wanted to talk to somebody. Plus I need to get on the internet and get my AKO account to stop forwarding so I can start e-mailing again. I had to give them my AKO address because the Army has been blocking access to hotmail, which is a major pain in the ass, I wonder if they’re blocking us from telling what’s going on or if their trying to censor what news we get in here.
I asked them when the best time to call would be and they said it was still any time during the night, they didn’t mind getting woken up in the middle of the night if it meant they got a call from me. They said that they go to the gym at 5:00am and to work right after that, and after work they’re usually running around the valley on errands. It’s funny that thought made me homesick; I miss the freedom of being able to drive anywhere to get some thing I need. Here anything you need is hard to come by, rations, parts, help; back home if you need anything you just hop in the car and pick it up, here we need to barter to get anything we need, luckily maintenance is something everybody needs and if you have something we need you can get your equipment fixed a lot faster than everybody else. Sgt Garcia is especially good at bartering for things we need. When somebody comes around asking for anything he’ll ask them what they can do for us. If they’re nice and offer whatever services they have he’ll be happy to do whatever they need; if they’re jerks and start demanding that we give up our supplies he’ll tell them that we can’t help them (even if we can). I only wish Slocum had the same attitude; we’d probably be getting screwed a lot less and have a lot more amenities that we have now, or at least had them sooner.
There’s a duty roster up now for things to do around here, we were going to be on guard duty at nights but only because Slocum heard more than what an MP was telling him. Apparently an MP had been telling him what our sector of fire was if the enemy attacked; Slocum somehow took this as a message that we needed to have a night watch guard. I guess somebody straightened him out and we’re not in the immediate danger he perceived. Now the daily duty just includes the regular duties of taking out the trash and burning the shit-bucket every day. I noticed that the NCOs weren’t on the list again which has always been something that bugged me. Any other unit that gets battalion duties says that their NCOs are included on the roster and even the officers do duty sometimes. And EVERYBODY is on the roster for the companies personal duties, it’s like when we had night guard at Adder and the NCOs had one night a week to do it and they pulled themselves off the roster because, “they had important things to do during the day and couldn’t be tired from guard duty.” Funny that the important duties they had to perform was sitting out with us and shooting the shit like the rest of us always did. I think the real reason that they don’t do duty is that they’re lazier than they claim we are.
I hope that this deployment ends soon and I don’t have to deal with this bull crap any more. I’ve had my share of being under the orders of a moron whose only reason for being in charge of me is due to the fact that he’s been in the Army longer then me. Considering it took me 4 years to reach the rank that our current “commander” has been stuck at for the last 10 of his 18 years proves that he’s not qualified to be in the position he’s in. I’m not saying that the job should be mine, I wouldn’t want it anyway, but surely there was somebody, anybody more qualified to lead soldiers into combat.
Till I have a chance to get out from the situation I’m stuck in right now I’ll just keep hoping that I’ll get the order to go home soon.
24-Apr-03 9:20 PM
The boredom continues.
Not much has happened in the last few days, they all seem to blur together when they’re the same. I had KP Duty, it wasn’t as bad as back in Basic and AIT, but you can’t do much when cooking consists of boiling a tray in water and serving from it. All I did was take out the trash which I only had to do once. I saw a huge convoy coming up the highway while I was waiting for the garbage to fill; it had all kinds of vehicles. Since it had been in the news that the Marines were pulling out of Baghdad and the Army was going in I figured this was all of the replacements coming to occupy till the new government is in order.
All of the Bradley’s were on Super HETs but they still had all of the infantry and drivers in them, I guess the thinking is that if the convoy gets attacked the Bradley has all of its firepower to fight back, even as it’s being towed. But since there’s no resistance along the highway all of the tankers were just chilling out and watching us get warm meals. There was one girl in line that was pretty attractive and I saw one of the tankers pointing over to her and his buddy got out the binoculars and the sat there looking at people through the binoculars. I thought it was pretty funny that they were spending the half hour stop on the road checking out chicks.
I also saw the EPW holding area with some guys in it, the sun was beating down pretty hard and I was having trouble being in the sun and these guys had to sit cross legged facing out through the concertina and they couldn’t move from their place all day. They could lie down or sit cross legged but it looked really uncomfortable with their hands tied behind their backs. One guy was bound at the hands and feet and he had a gag on, he just kept lying on his side in the heat, I heard that the reason he was gagged was because he had been yelling all night and they had to keep him quiet. But the MP’s weren’t just letting them die in the heat; they’d come around every 30 minutes and give the prisoners water. I thought it was kind of strange that the MP’s would put rubber gloves over their hands before giving them water, I wonder who’s benefit it was for.
Getting on the internet and phone has been nice, it’s always great to talk with the family every week and have them email you what the current events back home are. They said they finally got the first part of the journal I sent home that described the beginning of the war. They said it was pretty interesting, I wonder how good these last 41 pages will be.
Living around here is getting pretty normal now, I’m used to our self made latrine but we’re having trouble burning all of the crap out of it. It just won’t burn no matter how much fuel you dump on it and how long you let it go; we’ll have to find a better solution. The shower is nice but it’s a pain to get everything ready so I only take one every 3-4 days, I’m not sure if it’s the dust or something but you don’t stink as much as normal out here. Back at Arifjan if I went 3 days without a shower it was pretty obvious, here its not.
Even though we’re used to our crappy conditions here everybody keeps talking about what it will be like when we get home. Everybody just wants to get out of these field conditions and get a normal shower and take a crap with something more than a hole in the ground. And everybody is still pretty sure we’re leaving soon, we keep trying to get some information out of our leaders but they just say that they don’t have any news like that. Now that the war is over all soldiers in camp are hearing rumors that orders have been shortened to 6 months maximum which we’ll be reaching in about 4 days. The thing is that most people that we know have known a rough estimate of when they’ll be out as far as a month in advance. If we’re here a month from now I’m going to go crazy.
Today has been a day for me to really hate the MP’s; I never really liked them because they seem to be kind of whiney. First they made us set up fighting positions near our area even though we already had a good berm that would protect us in emergencies. They wanted more permanent fighting positions which makes sense when there is an emergency, but the chances of me every going to a fighting position is nil plus 0. The locals around here are pretty friendly, they don’t really want anything to do with us but they ignore us and we ignore them. Except for one kid who has come up trading cigarettes and Iraqi Dinar for US dollars. I got a few Dinar for souvenirs, I traded 2 US dollars for 500 Iraqi Dinar, but considering the Dinar is soon going to be obsolete the kid probably made a 1000% profit off of me, but I got my souvenir with Saddam’s face on it.
Anyway back to the Jackass MP’s, they made us set up useless fighting positions but it didn’t take us long so no harm done; then they wanted to do some positions for them. The way I see it whoever is going to be in the position should be the one to make it, I made mine in front of my tent why couldn’t they do theirs? They seem to be more lazy and shiftless than anybody else out here.
The next straw was the fact that they obviously don’t have any work to do, they spend all their time on the telephone. I go in there every other day to use the internet and I see the same MP’s in their every time, and they spend plenty of time on there holding up others in a line that they wouldn’t have to be in if the MP’s showed any restraint in calling home daily (maybe more).
Today was the last straw, apparently an 11 year old Iraqi boy was taken into custody and MP’s had control on him. Anyway one of the MP’s was violently pushing the kid around, enough to get SGT Garcia pissed off enough to go yell at the MP’s that was rough-handling the kid. I guess they treat most prisoners pretty violently as they move them from place to place, and they don’t even let them have their dignity as they use the bathroom. I remember when the guys were in the EPW holding area, they didn’t speak Arabic so they’d just point at where they wanted the Iraqis to go and start yelling, if they didn’t move fast enough they’d start screaming in their ear like the Iraqis understood a word they were saying.
None of this would bother me if all of these people were looking to harm those of us over here, but the MP’s aren’t the judge and jury of this country and some of the people they bring in thru turn out to be innocents that were caught doing something that looked suspicious but turned out to be benign. Personally I’d be pissed to high hell if I was brought in even though I was innocent and the MP’s treated me the way they treat the prisoners here.
Then for icing on the cake, we were told that all of the warm chow was being moved to the MP’s MKIT so we had to go there for dinner. So we went in our normal DCU uniform, but when we got there we were told that we couldn’t eat till we put on all of out gear: flak vest, mask, rifle, Kevlar, LCV. The Master Sergeant there told us that it was the “Camp Uniform” put out by the camp commander himself. But we knew the camp commander and had seen him out and about and he didn’t wear all of that stuff and he didn’t have a problem with soldiers wearing as little as PT uniforms. After talking with the normal cooks that we had been going to (and I had done KP for) we found out that they weren’t going to be combining the MKITs because they thought the MP’s were dicks too. So I guess I’ll just keep going there and if I’m ever forced to go to the MP’s I’ll just start eating MRE’s. As for the MP’s, if they want any help from us they better be ready to bend down and kiss our asses.
On a more personal note, I’ve been thinking of girls back home again, especially the one that’s always on my mind (no I won’t tell you her name). I was wondering if she is still single. This whole time I’ve kind of assumed that she’s single or that if she was with a guy it wasn’t serious enough for it to matter, but I started thinking what will happen if she is in a serious relationship with another guy? What if she comes to my welcome home party in the arms or somebody else, what if their engaged or married? I don’t want to ruin anything for her but I wish she was with me, I guess deep down I want her more than most of the other girls I know. But if not her then who? And what if they were all hooked up? I’d have to go back to looking for women wherever I could and it’s so hard to meet good women.
They only want one night stands at the clubs and even if I could meet lots of women its hard to find the ones that have the same tastes as me. The trouble is that things I like to do aren’t in places that there are a lot of people like bars or clubs. I like to go hiking, camping, driving in the X, biking, running. But it’s hard to meet a woman as you go rushing past her on the Jordan River Parkway. I guess I could be a little more aggressive but that’s not my style. How will I handle that night when I find out if all this time I’ve spent thinking about her is all for nothing or all for everything?
I put away the computer and started getting ready for bed (which included going out and using the bathroom) and I just noticed what a beautiful night it was. The daytime here makes you wish more than anything that you were back home, but the night isn’t bad at all. It’s one of those nights that you can’t take a picture of; and no matter how hard you try to describe it you don’t give it any justice.
The stars are out and you can see so many of them, not quite as many as in the Uintas but there’s more than enough to fill your eyes when you look at the sky. The temperature is perfect, I’m not sure what the exact temperature is to be perfect but it’s that temperature tonight; where you can just stand there and you’re not hot and not cold. It’s the kind of temperature you get on the beach in California on a clear June night. And the breeze is so faint that you can only feel it when you close your eyes and focus on it.
The noise from all the soldiers around having conversations gets a little annoying at times but most of the time they fade to the background and all you can here is the noise coming from the marshes. There are so many different noises coming out of the marsh that you have to concentrate to pick out the frogs from the crickets, every now and then you hear a sound from some insect that you thought only came on old 80’s video games, and the faint breeze rustles a few reeds every now and then to remind you its there. On the horizon you can see the dark outline of the palm trees against the slightly lighter starry sky, and the stars light up the reeds enough that once your eyes adjust to the dark you feel that you can see everything out there.
I can’t wait till I get home but on a night like this I can wait a few more hours.
25-Apr-03 10:29 AM
Not much going on today either, except that the General is coming through and we’re hoping that he’ll be bringing our orders to go home. I get the feeling that the only reason that he’s coming through so that the commander of this camp can kiss his ass and show him how proud of this camp he is. He won’t mention that we’ve been here over our 180 day mark or that we’ve been out here longer than any other unit at the camp. But I have had a feeling the last few days that today we’ll find out that we’re going home. It seems that that’s how good news always comes, when you’re at your most miserable point somebody says something that just brings you around a full 180. That’s the way the news to go home was before, everybody was miserable and SGT Slocum told us we had a group meeting. We were all sure that we were going to get news to go forward further, then he told us we were going back to Doha and probably home. Of course a few days later he said that the news had changed and we were going forward now and that brought us right back down to the gutter.
I’ll just keep hoping that the day to go home will fall on the time when I had my bet which is sometime in the next few days.
As for keeping busy the last few days I’ve been using Quicken 2001 to get all my finances in order. It’s nice to plan how much money I’ll have in the future and how much I’ll be making. Almost all of my future plans are just estimations (that’s why it’s called the FUTURE) but even if I get a job after this that pays near what I’ve been getting at Balkamp and here then I’ll be well on my way by the end of the year. From what I’ve been able to enter in my net worth right now is 15,000 with only my two vehicles as assets, and I’ll be out of debt by Dec-2004. But I had to get the interest rates of my vehicles off the top of my head and there’s always things that crop up at the most inopportune time to take all of your money away. Plus I can’t expect to keep the same cash flow I have here. When I’m here there’s no spending and I only have cash flow in. But even when I tried to put as many deductions in my future plan as I could it still came up with a steady incline reaching $5000 in the bank by mid October and $15k by May 2004.
I’m sure that a lot of other things will come into the picture that will keep me from getting to far above $5000 but hopefully I won’t have any loans in a year and a half and it will only be regular payments like phone, rent or whatever. And it will be nice getting a career started where I’ll have 401k and medical and dental, plus with all of the VA benefits that I have after this deployment I’ll be set on house loans and other things like that. I’m not even sure what benefits I get when I’m done with this, it would make sense that we get most all of the benefits that they get after a 20 year term of service, service in an actual war has to worth something. I wonder if you get any money for retirement, or if you get full medical/dental or if they only work on things that were caused during the war.
My mom said she got a booklet in the mail that tells what some of the benefits we get are, like unemployment when we get home. That will be nice, I’ve been thinking of taking at least 2 weeks off for myself when I get back because we’ll have that much accrued leave, but now I might let it go as long as a month. And when I start looking for a job I’ll be able to take my time and get a good one because the job market for Network technicians has been down lately. I’d like to get a job where I was getting at least 15 an hour starting with plenty of room for promotion, I want to get my CCIE and run large networks for companies like American Express or Qwest , maybe even start designing large networks. It’s weird that I find networks so interesting to work on, just describing what a network technician does bores most all people but figuring the best way to move information from one place to another is just so interesting to me. I guess it comes from when I was a kid when I got interested in engineering problems of moving rivers to get water to communities, building efficient tall buildings and other engineering feats.
It will be nice to pick up where I left off when I got activated and get my life on the move again. I just hope it comes soon because every week I spend here is one more week I’ll be behind in getting my life on the move.
It will be nice to start hanging out with my friends again too, I’m listening to Social Distortion right now and it reminds me of going to concerts with the whole group. The concerts are always pretty good but the best time is hanging out before and after just talking and listening to music.
I hope that the General has some good news about us, it would be nice to be on our way out soon, it would be absolutely fantastic to be back safe with my family and friends as soon as two or three weeks from now. I already have so many plans on what to do, me Layton and Hansen will probably go to Vegas within the first week of being home, I’ll spend most of the first week getting the Xterra tuned and out in the mountains, and all nights I’ll spend with my sister watching movies till 2:00am. One weekend in the first week or two I need to have a party with ALL of my friends there, not a welcome home party just a big hangout party like we always have. And there needs to be a UXOC trip to Moab within the first month of being home with as many Xterra’s there as possible including others from other clubs, maybe we can even see if some of the other guys here in Iraq home by then and we can have a “make-up” Moab Easter Safari. I’m sure by GOX almost all of the soldiers will be home and we can talk about where we were and what we saw.
Hopefully it will all happen soon.
27-Apr-03 9:49 AM
This place SUCKS!
I told my family I would call them on Saturday in and email and I almost
forgot to do it, so instead of calling in the morning like normal, I tried
to get through about 12pm Utah time, but the phones wouldn’t let
me through no matter how hard tried so
I got so depressed last night just laying in bed, because I had been in line to call from 10pm to 11pm and by time I got done trying to get through it was 11:45pm so I laid in bed at midnight pissed I couldn’t get through and it seemed like everything was going wrong. We haven’t gotten our orders to go home yet and there’s been no news. The bad thing is that none of our NCOs seem to be trying to change the fact that we have no information. SSG Andersen says he doesn’t expect orders till May 7th so he’s not going to think of leaving till then. SGT. Garcia is the only NCO who’s busy so he doesn’t have much time to think of going home, and SGT. Slocum and SGT Anderson both have things better here than they do at home. I know Slocum likes it here because he has some authority and purpose, that’s a bad thing because he’s the one with the most control over trying to get us out of here. He keeps saying that there’s no information about leaving but he could easily have been asked if he thinks we need to stay here and he would say, “No, we’ll stay here.”
Anyway I’ve got the sick feeling that we’ve been forgotten. In July or whenever that they finally pull the entire army out they be out processing us and say that we were supposed to be out of here in May and that we didn’t have to do the two months after that.
Well I finally talked to my family this morning and it was 10pm back home so I still got through on Saturday like I said but I feel bad for making them wait so long. I feel a bit better after talking to them but now that I feel like I’m going to be out here a lot longer it’s a bittersweet feeling, it’s more like I’m being taunted because it’s going to be so long before I actually do go home.
My sister said that she liked the part of the journal that I sent home so much that she’s thinking of joining the army. She said that it sounded like fun hanging out with friends and that it didn’t seem that scary. I guess that I didn’t express quite all of the feelings that I was feeling then. It’s not fun here and it is scary.
I don’t think about it all the time but every minute there’s the chance that I’ll die. This place isn’t safe yet. The group that got lost in An Nasiriyah and killed was an MST unit just like me that had been going the same place as me just a few hours earlier, if circumstances had been just a little different that would have been me. And here in Scandia things have been pretty safe but it could change in a heartbeat. Many people have been picked up in the area carrying AK-47’s and the area 20ft from my tent is accessible to civilians, if any of the locals wanted to they could grab their AK’s and walkthrough the reeds in the field across the road and get within 40ft of camp without being noticed. After that they could just open fire on our tents and there would be a lot more deaths suffered by the Americans. Luckily I’m near the other side of the tent so that the three people next to me would probably get hit before me but they could just wait till we go out to use the bathroom and pick us off one at a time.
Some people would compare the living conditions here to being like a camping trip, and in some ways we have it better with our generator and all of our meals prepared for us. But this isn’t camping, when you’re camping if things get bad you can just pack up the car and go home. Here you can’t escape, the heat climbs in the afternoon to upper nineties and hundreds, the coolest place to go is the tent which is about 5 degrees cooler. And at night you can’t sleep because of the heat, it doesn’t drop, it just stays 90 degrees and you sit there and sweat. And as you sweat you try to ignore how uncomfortable you are because the wind is bringing in dust and sand, enough that you can taste the dust on your tongue. So you move a little and all the sand has been sticking to your sweat so when your skin rubs together it feels like sand paper. But the dust permeates everything, not just the tent but your clothes too, so you end up with sand under your arms, between your legs, all over your back, behind your knees, between you toes, EVERYWHERE.
Finally around 3am you pass out for a few hours at a time, waking up is pools of sweat every few hours. In the morning you wake up at 9 because the temperature has already started to rise again, dust covers every thing and your nose is full of muddy boogers making it hard to breathe, but you’ve sucked so much dust down your throat that you’re coughing up huge amounts of brown phlegm and breathing feels like you have emphysema because you can’t breathe in all the way.
Today I woke up to the smell of burning shit. It’s a very distinctive smell and it makes you sick no matter how little of it you breathe in. I was thinking of being at Bear Lake and riding a jet ski to Garden City when it interrupted me. I just couldn’t think of anything else, there’s no place in the world that smells like that except here, so it brings you back here every time you smell it.
I keep trying to hope that we’ll get orders to go home soon but it just doesn’t help anymore, I feel worse because it makes home feel that much farther away. There’s still a chance that they’ll tell us today or tomorrow that we can go but I think it’s just wish full thinking right now, and we’re stuck till Bush orders the Army out of here once and for all.
03-May-03 3:18 PM
Well 4 days past 180 and still no word about anything. That’s not completely true the Major says that there’s a list being made up of all the people that are going home and now that the combat arms are gone the support is next. And it’s supposed to be first in first out. But there’s still the very good chance that we’ll be overlooked until the last troops are pulling out, so if things go good then we’re out of here mid to late may, if things go bad then were here till the end of June.
Being here has gotten so tedious, we don’t do any actual work and were doing more crap details more and more. The MKIT that we were getting hot meals from got pulled back so they moved our KP duties to the MP’s MKIT. But the food there is worse and you have to put all your gear on to eat so nobody goes there. We tried to get Slocum to tell the Major that if were not eating there we shouldn’t have to do KP but nothing came of it.
The last few days have been horrible for bug bites we’re all covered in them now, but Gibson has it the worst. You’d think he has the measles by looking at him. I’ve never itched so bad, it sucks that there’s no bug repellant or hydrocortisone to keep the itching down. Even the aid station is no help; all they got is Benedril for allergic reactions.
The last few days have been the most depressing of all, it seems that the lower enlisted are anxious to get out but the NCOs are content to just sit here as long as they have to. It pisses me of the have people that don’t represent my views standing up for me. If it’s up to them we’ll be the last ones to leave here. Today a lot of effort is being spent getting things ready for some Colonels coming tomorrow, we have to make it look we’re hard at work even though most of us have been sitting on our asses for the last three weeks and others, like me, have been sitting on our asses doing nothing the whole deployment. Patterson was joking that we all need to go sun tanning tomorrow so the Colonels see that we have nothing to do, I don’t want to suntan but if the Colonels comes anywhere near me he’ll see that I have nothing to do. I don’t care what anybody says I’m not going to pretend to do things when there’s nothing for us to do out here. It’s that whole army mentality I hate where people think they have to appear busy at all times, doing useless work even when there’s nothing else to do is still a waste of time.
My sister told me about all the new movies coming out back home, I wish so much I could just go see one if I wanted. Matrix 2 sounds great but just the freedom of going to the store and renting a movie sounds great now.
I’m listening to DoCo right now and it’s getting me in the mood to watch Japanimation again. I love watching weird movies late at night with my sister, I keep reading on the net about new anime that I’ve never seen but I always thought about renting. When I get home I’m going to have to buy “Spirited Away” and “Princess Monoke” and rent, Nausicca, Bubble Gum Crises, and the Macross Series.
This place is such a dump it torture being surrounded by the landscape here. I’m sitting in a concrete and brick building that is littered with dirt rocks and straw; the flies are bothering me and the gnats are biting. But out across the road the field is full of reeds swaying in the breeze. Across the field the concrete buildings of the locals lie in the shade under the palm trees. There's nobody about because it’s so much cooler inside out of the afternoon heat. The sky is bright blue with just a few wispy clouds down near the horizon. Obviously no storms are due for the next few days.
Last night I noticed that the locals had their lights on again. I wondered why they had been off all the time we were here, first I thought that it might have had something to do with the religious holiday a week ago but that didn’t make sense so then I though that they might have had them off for fear of being bombed like the British and Germans in WW2 but that didn’t make sense either because they had to realize that the war was over and they were safe with us so close, then I remembered that the power has been out all across Iraq and they must have finally gotten the local power plant running again. Good for them but now the stars at night are dimmer. That’s kind of representative of how things are going right now; the Iraqi people are getting happier that they have more freedom now but us soldiers are getting more depressed because were losing ours.
06-May-03 4:02 PM
The last few days have been horrible, whatever could go wrong has.
The temperature has been rising for the last week and is topping out today at 98 degrees, the reason this is so significant is that the day before yesterday I had my first serious experience with severe dehydration. I hadn’t been feeling good all day, I suppose I may have eaten something bad or I had just been partly dehydrated the whole day. Anyway that afternoon I decided to join everybody in a little sunbathing. I knew I would burn quickly so I spent a lot less time out than everybody else, about 30 minutes per side.
I came back in when I was done and sat down for awhile, I had been drinking regularly but I was still feeling sick when I sat down. For the next hour I just sat trying to fight the rising nausea and sipping what water I could drink without feeling sicker. Finally I puked; it was horrible in the heat to be in that sort of situation. Back home if you got sick you were throwing up in a porcelain toilet and when you’re done you wash your face with clean water and go lie down where you can cool off and relax, maybe take some medication to make you feel better.
Out here it much different, I was doubled over the dirt berm in front of the tents on my knees. When I was done I hobbled over to the water jug and rinsed myself off, I couldn’t drink the water because it was non-potable. Then I went in the tent and tried to cool off in the 96º sweat box. I kept feeling ill so I decided to go out next to the tent where I could get a breeze to cool me off. I sat there watching my skin get more and more pale before I puked again. This time there was blood in my vomit so I decided it was time to go to the Aid Station. Walking was making me dizzy but I was able to stumble over there myself because it wasn’t too far; besides Slocum didn’t show any signs of helping me anyway when I told him I was sick he just pointed the way to the Aid Station.
When I got there they asked me some questions, I guess it was obvious what was wrong with me because as I was answering questions they were already getting Saline ready to put in me. I joked that I waited to come over because I didn’t want to get stuck with a needle. They said it was amazing that I hadn’t passed out yet (I guess I was a lot paler then I thought). They put the IV in my arm and gave me a shot that was supposed to help my upset stomach; it also did a good job of knocking me out. I kept waking every now and then overhearing what they were saying. They were pretty amazed how fast I was sucking the saline down. By time I woke up it was about 11pm and I had drained 3 and a half bags of saline solution. I lied and told them I was feeling a bit better than I was so that I wouldn’t have to stay the night on that uncomfortable stretcher. They gave me a Pepto-Bismol tablet to calm my stomach and I went back to the tent to sleep.
The next day was spent just trying to recover; I still had a headache but my stomach was finally keeping water in long enough to stay hydrated so I just sat in the tent drinking and listening to music.
Today started off bad, E-5 Anderson came in and told me that I had to go do police call down at the staging area. I was feeling a lot better so I didn’t put up much of a fight about doing it and got ready to go. MSG Martin took me down and I started picking up trash with the other two MPs that were assigned to clean, I guess there were supposed to be more but they didn’t show. Cleaning was disgusting as usual but near the end I started to feel the dehydration coming back and I realized that it had been a VERY bad idea for me to let E5 Anderson send me out here. We were about done though so I didn’t have to tell the MSG that I would have to be taken back to camp.
The locals were sitting along side the road waiting to trade with convoys coming through. A few boys from the ages 6-10 went past in a group and one of them tried to get some water from me but I told him I didn’t have any and waved him away. When I went back to the 5-ton we were loading with trash, one of the MP’s that was helping clean, SPC Taylor, saw the kids and started yelling at them that if they came any closer he’d shoot. They were still on the road about 30ft away but that wasn’t enough for him so he pulled out his 9mm started walking over to them a few of them came toward him thinking that he wanted to trade; I guess they hadn’t seen his weapon yet. He started yelling that he’d “fucking shoot you mother-fuckers!” and to prove his point he chambered a round in the 9mm and started aiming at the closest boy to him. For a minute I got the sickening feeling that I was about to see somebody die, an 8 year old boy for that matter. I could already see the headlines I would later read on the internet, “Iraqi boy killed at military check point”. Luckily the kids finally saw the weapon and turned and ran. When he came back he was smiling proudly at me like he had done something great and told me, “I fucking hate those little Hagis” (Hagi is the derogatory slang term for Arabs out here).
That wasn’t the end of the fun detail either. As we were getting ready to leave a larger group of teenage boys came up and were trying to ask MSG Martin something, he was trying to tell them that they couldn’t come across the road incase they got hit, SPC Taylor was with him but this time he was acting a little more civilized with a MSG next to him. All of the sudden a Humvee came rushing up and a SGT with a buzz cut jumped out and rushed the kids like a maniac yelling that he’d kill them if they didn’t get out of here. He started yelling at the two soldiers for talking to them till he noticed that one was his MSG so he joked that you have to scare them rather than be nice to them.
On the way back I noticed that three of the 8 year olds that had passed us earlier were handcuffed and sitting in the EPW holding area. They were giving them water but it was so hot out I don’t think it helped much. MSG Martin asked what they did and the SGT in charge told him that they were walking down the street and they could be killed by a passing convoy so they would sit in the pen for a few hours so they would learn. It was approaching the hottest part of a 98º day; even with water those children were in for torture under the sun, just to “teach them a lesson”.
To say the least it pissed me off. Soldiers or at least MPs, treat these people as less than animals. To them they’re just a nuisance that gets in our way and we’d be better off just killing them all off. I used to wonder why somebody would sacrifice the lives of thousands of innocents to crash an air plane into a building. Now I know; if I had been that 8 year old that got thrown in the pen and I had to learn what Americans were like from the examples we have here, I’d probably do the same. When SPC Taylor pulled a loaded weapon on an unarmed 8 year old kid and threatened to kill him, I realized that we’re no better than the fascist regime that we just got rid of.
07-May-03 12:30 AM
I had to make a quick entry.
We had a nice night tonight, Garcia and Keller had gotten some booze from some of the locals and they shared it with all of us tonight. I didn’t have enough to get really drunk just enough to relax and enjoy my surroundings for a little while. It was fun sitting in a circle and talking to everybody but then people started arguing about politics and other things like that and I got fed up and had to leave. I thought I should write about what I thought when I was on my own.
It was another beautiful night; I think I’ve described the type of night before. The smells, sounds, sights, and feeling was all just perfect. I just sat on the berm taking it all in. First I though about how everybody was missing one of the few times you can enjoy this place for that stupid discussion they were having behind me. They were discussing politics, things back home, and other things about the past. But no matter how much they discussed US and UN politics in Iraq there was no way that they could change the events that have happened in the last month and a half. And while they argued about what the US’s reaction to the UN resolutions SHOULD have been they were missing one of the best nights in Iraq. But then I started thinking about whether it was one of the best nights in Iraq. What made in the best night? I remember other nights that were perfect and they may have been better than this. But no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t experience those nights the way they were. But this night I could experience it the way it was now. The thing I realized is that you need to live in the present, not the past.
Patterson told me that people that don’t worry about world politics are close minded. But to me people that worried about world politics and let the good things in life pass them by on a night like this night, were the one’s that are close minded. When I’m on my death-bed I won’t be worrying about whether the US should have waited for UN approval before invading Iraq. I'll be regretting all those times I spent worrying about it rather than enjoying the life around me. It’s nice to know what’s going on in the rest of the world, it let’s you put things in perspective, but if the only reason that you read the news is so you can bitch about what’s wrong with America is just childish.
Then I just enjoyed the night and all the things around me. But it was sad because I only had myself to share it with. I’m in Iraq so everybody I know is half way around the world, but even if I was home I wouldn’t have anybody to share my thoughts and experiences with. Some of the guys have girlfriends and others have wives, but I don’t have anybody.
Even if I did would they be able to share my thoughts? Then I realized the most perfect mate/partner/companion however you want to say it; the most perfect companion, would be somebody that could experience things as deeply as you. I know a lot of people that I could tell them every thought I had out there tonight and they would be bored to death, they would be wondering what was on TV or something like that. It may sound conceited but I think a lot of people I know wouldn’t have the intelligence to be on my level, or at least not the maturity to discuss thing like tonight. All anybody really needs is another person that can think on the same level and share the same thoughts as you. Especially on a perfect night like this.
23-May-03 11:14 PM
I haven’t written in a LONG time. It’s the boredom, it causes time to pass faster and you feel like doing less. I’m really lazy now, it’s not that I don’t want to do anything it’s just so hot that any movement heats you up. A lot has happened since I last wrote, but none of it is really important.
The resent news (it feels recent but it was already a week ago!) was
the Colonel came to talk to us, the rumor that got started about the 10th
was that we were going to be leaving on the 22nd;a lot of units heard
it, it seems like every but us heard it. Anyway the Colonel came to have
a talk with the whole unit on the 17th. Since the colonel wanted to talk
to all of us we figured it was good news and we were going to get the
orders to go home and the colonel wanted to tell us in person. Unfortunately
it wasn’t what we wanted. He came and told us that we had been doing
a good job and that our help getting the camp set up was very important.
Then he asked us if we had any questions.
We looked around at each other to see who was going to ask the question and Corey finally asked, “When are we going home?” The Colonel, like a good officer, immediately went into the subject of why he didn’t know when we were going home.
The long and short of it was that we were waiting for replacements, the 110th were coming into country and they were going to take over for the 183rd at Camp Adder and then an MST would come up to relieve us. The time frame he gave us was some time in June, but “not around the 1st” as he put it. The days after this were VERY depressing and we’re just now coming to terms with being here another month longer than we thought we would be. Now the big question is how much more time before the 110th gets here. I guess we were wanting information before whether it was good or not and now we know, and its wasn’t good news.
Other than that it has been a job of just passing time. A few nights after the last entry we all got a lot of alcohol and drank enough to make everybody sick. But for the 5 hours that we were talking and joking it was really fun, we forgot that we were here and we just kept jamming to music and cracking jokes. The next day I had KP though so I paid for my fun by being hung-over all morning.
To pass the time I have been spending a lot of time on the internet, I looked up all the things I want to do to the Xterra as soon as I get home including adding up how much it will cost me, I guess I’ll have to adjust how much I pay off the Xterra from the budget I had made up in Quicken. I spent some time getting interested in GPS; I planned what I was going to buy for that too. I used the GPS’s we have here but they don’t have the user friendly interface that the commercial ones have.
I the last few days they lifted the ban on the internet A LOT. I got Outlook Express working so emailing home is easier and we were even downloading free MP3’s from anywhere we could find them, but according to Corey they‘re blocking them again. While the block was down the internet flew, sometimes we could get downloads nearly as fast as a DSL line back home. I spent a few days getting all the Ranma ½ MP3’s and videos. Kind of a nerdy thing to do but it keeps me interested and reminds me of home.
The heat has been incredible the last few weeks, 100’s are the norm for the day now and nights are so hot that we don’t even sleep on TOP of our sleeping bags because its too hot. Luckily our bodies are adjusting to the heat and it’s more bearable that it was when it first started breaking 100. Before it would be so hot that you would literally explode in the middle of the night in anger and frustration. Now we just sit and wait for the evening when the temperature finally drops enough that you don’t sweat just sitting.
I still think about what I will do when I get home. From the vacations that I’ll go on to the way I’ll spend my day. I also think about the people I’ll see, I still think about “her”, I’d really like to talk to her. I was thinking about sending an email to Aaron to ask about her (among other people) to see what's going on back home. From the emails I get from people it sounds like my friends are still fighting so the “Big Party” when I get home may just be me visiting people individually in turn which sucks. I wish they would get over themselves and stop acting like kids. Oh well, if I spend less time with them I’ll just start to get to know others. It’s too bad because it sounds like it will be a good Warped Tour this year, it’s rare that the Warped Tour is that good but its always fun just to hangout with everybody and have fun. It might all be moot with the way it’s looking for me to go home though, I’m trying to stay optimistic about getting out of here in time for it but I may have to start worrying about making the Bear Lake trip in July.
It’s hard out here at night. Tonight was nice and clear and I could see all the stars. Me, Rex, Durham, and Keller talked for a bit about whatever came to mind but after that I just looked at the same palm trees that I had been looking at for so long and though about how nice it is here but how much I want to go home, I wonder what the people in the homes across the field are doing. Are their homes air conditioned and bug free or do they put up with the same things we do here? Now I’m the only one up and I’m listening to the Ranma songs I got off the net and It’s reminding me of staying up late just like this and watching videos with Jen. I can’t wait to spend a relaxing summer at home; at least I hope its still summer when I get home. I’ll have to budget some money to buy some Ranma Videos for me and Jen’s collection. I told her I would before I left but I never had that much excess money, now I have a ton because I couldn’t spend the money if I wanted to.
There have been a few trips to local points of interest recently like the ruins of Babylon and the temple of the birth place of Abraham. It’s nice to be able to see some local touristy stuff while were here, I’m not sure if I’ll ever come back so it’s nice to take advantage of the things while I’m here…
Music rules what you think at night I’m finding out. I’ve been listening to my list of favorites to go to bed at night and I get more into it lying in bed at night that I do listening to things during the day. Now depending on what song I listen too my attitude and mood changes completely. The emotion that comes up the most is loneliness, maybe it’s that I want somebody to share the enjoyable music with, maybe it’s that I just want to talk to somebody else. But I don’t really want to be spending a lot of time right now or when I get home being close to anybody because I have been so close to all the guys here. How can I be lonely and want to get away to be alone at the same time… weird.
Too bad it can’t be more comfortable here I could listen to music all day, I’ve broadened my musical horizons out here, country is the only music I can’t get into out here. Even hardcore metal is nice to listen to in doses.
I think I’ll write that email to my friends, I can’t tell if the whole reason that I want to is a covert attempt to learn what “she” is doing but it will be nice to learn what everybody is doing, and hopefully it will give me something to discuss with other people that who I deal with here. The few people I can have in-depth conversations with here are really getting on my nerves, I can still talk to Durham and Hansen to a point but Patterson’s need to be right bugs me and Andersen’s constant optimism is irritating, maybe because I just realize that I’m really sick of being here and its hard not to complain about our situation.
Well I better get to that email, even if I don’t send it will keep my mind occupied.
27-May-03 9:09 PM
Today was great, but first I’ll update you on how soon we’ll be out of here. We got news yesterday that the 110th advance party got to Adder on Friday, and the rest of the company got there on Saturday so we may be going home soon, we’re just wondering how long it will take to get an MST up here to replace us.
Back to today.
Today I went to Dogwood to get some pictures and to get some money from finance to buy souvenirs. It was an awesome trip. The first was interesting because we got to go off the freeway through the town outside Dogwood, I think it was Musaiyib or something like that, next time I’m going to take a GPS so I can Document where everything is so I can get some detailed maps at home and see where I’ve been. Anyway it was interesting to go through this little town. The outer part of the town was mostly rural farms and I got to get some pictures of people making their living here, there were a lot of enemy tanks in good condition along the road, it looks like they had been disabled by taking the engines out. Deserters probably left them there and the US disabled them so they couldn’t be used by the populace. People here weren’t as friendly as the “Traders” along side the freeway that saw US troops all the time. The worst I saw was some kids giving us dirty gestures and swearing at us in Arabic (or something like that). According to Gibson he saw two girls spit at us as we passed and another kid made a motion like he was cutting his throat towards us. But most the kids I saw were staring or waving as we passed by, sometimes they would see that I had a camera and they’d wave and try to get their picture taken. One of the kids even elbowed his friend that had jumped in front of him so he could be seen better. When we got to the main intersection the town was pretty busy, there were cars driving everywhere and they didn’t have any regard for rules or driving laws, it’s just drive through and dodge anybody in your way. It seemed all the shops in the buildings were garages for fixing different components in cars and tractors. All of the food being sold was done right on the side of the road, in some places it was hard to dodge oncoming traffic because the crowded the road so much. But most of these people were selling to the locals and not the soldiers like the guys along the freeway.
A lot of kids were coming back from school near the city in their uniforms; they looked so cute I had to get as many pictures of them as I could. The guys working in the garages behind them were less enthusiastic to see us and so I didn’t take any pictures of them. Then we headed back out into the more rural areas and past the “market” where everybody was getting stuff from Salam. We ordered some chickens to be cooked to pick up on the way back, and drove through. All along the way to Dogwood there we little shops and every so often one had soldiers parked getting things.
The “Market” here isn’t quite the same as at home. The way most Iraqis sell to others is by setting up stands along side the road; some aren’t more complex than a kids’ lemonade stand back home. But most are a little more deluxe with an awning to sit out the heat of the day and tables to show off their souvenirs. Plus they usually have a cooler to hold ice and cold drinks. The age of the person running the stand can be anywhere from 10 to 60, and most only have a small grip on the English language; they can manage, counting up to 10 and a few common courtesies like “Sir” and “Thank You”. Some are a bit easier to talk to, they have a small English vocabulary and they can get the rest of the point across with hand gestures.
The stands are all along the road in areas where vehicles have to slow down for some reason or in high traffic areas. As you drive the sellers wave a few of the products they have to try to get you to stop and buy, most of the ones that pander to the soldiers are selling cheap Iraqi souvenirs, ice, and soda pop. The others that sell to the locals sell fresh fruit and vegetables; some sell other household items like cooking utensils. Usually if you stop anywhere near a stand, even if you’re stopping to fix a tire, all of the kids hanging out at the stand will come over carrying trinkets shouting, “One Dollar! One Dollar!” usually holding up one finger but sometimes more. When you actually look through the items on the tables the seller will watch you to see what you’re interested in and hold it up and show you how it works or tell you how great it is and give you a price for it. If you don’t seem interested and walk away they’ll start yelling lower prices to get you back. When you finally make a purchase they’ll bag it for you and take your money and hold up something else and ask you to buy that too. Sometimes they’ll give you some small trinket for free, “Because, you my friend! I give to you.”
Outside Dogwood there are about ten shacks spread about 100ft from each other down the road, most sell items to both locals and soldiers but most focus on selling to soldiers because they pay Dollars instead of Dinar. They also paint signs in English to advertise what they have to give, usually with many spelling errors. “ICE” is usually spelled correctly (although I’ve seen AICE) but “Super Market” is often “Supper Market”.
All sellers are friendly though, if you regularly buy from them you become a “Preferred Customer” and you can usually get things for a dollar less than they usually are, but the seller will usually give you the best of the stuff they have to give. The sellers are always men or young boys, never women; but that seems to be the way the culture is here, the woman stays out of sight in the house or in the fields working while the man goes into town and sells the goods they have. Still the treatment of women here isn’t as harsh as the Army briefings made it sound. Some women walk around in veils but most just cover their hair and bodies, and they don’t always have to be accompanied by a man. And I’ve never seen a woman beaten for showing too much. Imagine 50’s America where a woman’s place was "in the home"; except that they can only show their faces after puberty. It’s not unheard of for a woman to climb pretty far up the social ladder but it’s pretty rare.
At Dogwood we cleared our weapons and went in, the water trucks went to fill up and I went to finance to get some money from casual pay. The building I went in had A/C and if felt awesome; I hadn’t been in a cold room for the last two months. The last room I was in with air conditioning was the Tent back at Arifjan the night the war began. Anyway I was enjoying being there and I went to the finance SGT and he gave me a hard time about having long hair (Two and a half inches in the Army is LONG). I told him that I had been in the field for two months and we didn’t have the facilities that he had. He just shook his head and started filling out the paper work. I joked how nice it was to be in air conditioning and he said that it sucked because it was such a hot day it wasn’t working too well (he obviously had no idea that it was at least 20 degrees cooler than outside). So I was a little pissed that somebody that was so pampered was giving me a hard time when I’ve spent the whole war shiting in a can and breathing through wet towels to cool off when I felt the heat was going to suffocate me.
Back at the meeting point we waited another three hours for the water trucks to get back and we just kept getting more and more sick of the trip for water. I thought about how every trip I take this happens, when I went to Baghdad International I ended up waiting 7 hours to get some crappy supplies from the PX (at least I got some Beef Jerky there).
We finally decided to pick up our chicken while we waited for the water trucks to get back; we just told them where to meet us. At Salam’s place I got some souvenirs and a case of Pepsi, the kid there kept trying to get me to buy things, first a few Iraqi Dinar and then a set of prayer beads, usually I don’t let people keep talking me into getting things, I don’t fold so easily, but they were all things I was thinking of getting as souvenirs anyway. While we waited I walked to the other sellers shack and looked at what he had but none of it interested me enough to bother asking how much it was, so I decided to take some pictures. First I took a panorama of the area so people could get a feel for what its like to be there because the land was really beautiful and fertile especially compared to what I had been living in for the first 5 months of the deployment. As I was taking pictures two little kids ran up and started asking about my camera. One looked to be about 5 years old and the other 7. They didn’t speak a word of English but we tried to communicate by using hand signals as much as possible. They wanted me to take their picture so I took it and I let them look at the review on the screen. They started pointing at the camera and then at themselves like they wanted it. I told them I can’t give it to them but they kept persisting so I figured they were saying something else because they can’t believe that I’d give them the camera. Finally the little kid wanted to hold it. I had the neck strap around my wrist so I let him take it but I could take it back if I wanted. I started looking all over the camera and made gestures to open compartments on it and pointing at himself. I realized that he thought it was a Polaroid and he wanted the picture of himself to keep. I told him “no it didn’t work like that” he kept gesturing but he finally realized that it wouldn’t do it so he just wanted o take a picture with the camera. I showed him which button to push, he held the view screen up to his eye and took a picture of the road and road shoulder then looked at it in the replay. It obviously wasn’t what he wanted but I think all he wanted to do was play with the camera anyway.
He lost interest with the camera and gave it back, then he pulled out some Dinar and asked a dollar for it. I was trying to get more as souvenirs so I traded him 100 Dinar for a dollar (good trade on his part) but another kid came up and saw the wad of Dinar I had gotten from the kid working for Salam. He ran up and started arguing with the little kid saying that the wad was worth 5 dollars. I figured that he had thought the kid had sold me a wad of Dinar for just a dollar (still a good deal considering the Dinar is nearly worthless to the dollar) but I told the kid that we had only traded the 100 Dinar and the dollar, he finally got the hint and pocketed the dollar and started to leave. The little two kids that had treaded me looked sad that their hard bargained dollar was walking away so I grabbed the kid and had him give the dollar back to the little kids which made them really happy. I walked back to Salam’s market and the kids followed me and two more started to tag along. By time I was at the market the two new kids were interested in the camera. One spoke a few words of English so he wanted his picture so I took one of him and his friend and showed them the replay on the screen. He joked if I wanted to sell the camera, I said, “No... Too Expensive!” He smiled and told me his name was Mustafa, and his friend was Anise (pronounced Ah-Neise) Gibson had been watching the whole thing so I told him, “His name Trent. My name Dustin.” They smiled and repeated Dustin and started trying to talk about the wrecker (we were standing in front of it), they were pointing at the shackles in front and saying “pull” while making motions of pulling one hand with the other. Gibson the ever proud wrecker operator said “yeah we pull big things with this!” The kids looked up into the grating and pointed at a few things then Mustafa pointed at it and asked “You sell to me?” and him and his friend broke up laughing.
Our troop carrier pulled up and all the Iraqi’s looked up at the new customers to see if they were interested in anything. I walked over and Brian showed me the coin of Saddam that he had gotten, they asked me if I wanted to go up the road to look for some Diet Pepsi for Durham and I hopped in. We got up there and I bought a new Styrofoam cooler and some Ice and asked the 16 year old seller if he had any Bayonets, he pulled out three nice ones with wooden handles but I wanted one with a scabbard, His friend said he had one for 10 dollars at his shack down the road. So me, him, and Rebecca walked 100ft over to his shack and got it. He tried to sell me some coke and candy he had there but I said no, thanked him then hopped in the troop carrier that Blen brought over and we went back to catch up with the water trucks that had passed us on the way up. I hopped in with Sgt Anderson and told him the buys I had been making.
While we were taking a kid rode by on the holding an older man on the back of a motorcycle. Anderson told me the kid, Mohammed, was the cousin of Raheed a friend of his here that was going to Baghdad University. He knew some English and Anderson always talked with him when he came through. The kid beckoned him down to Raheed's shack and so we decided to go down and take to him while we waited for the rest of our group.
As soon as Raheed saw us pulling up he started waving and shouted “Alan, Alan!” Sgt Anderson waved back and we hopped out to talk with him and his friends. The kid and the old man on the motorcycle pulled up and came over and started talking too. Sgt Anderson told me that Raheed always gave him free things for no reason just because they were friends and sure enough he grabbed a box of crackers off the table and handed them over to him saying, “For my friend Alan.” As Sgt Anderson was thanking him he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of Iraqi candy and gave them to me saying, “Here. For Friend” Anderson and Raheed started talking about a picture that they had taken together before, Raheed said that it’s on his wall at home so he could always see it. Anderson told him that he came through a few days before to get a picture of him and Mohammed but Mohammed wasn’t there that time and this time he forgot his Polaroid. Raheed introduced the people around us two were other students about my age from Baghdad University but they didn’t speak English, three of the kids were kids that had just gotten out of school and were hanging out at the store for the afternoon, one of them, Mohammed was with his father. His father gestured to Mohammed and said something in Arabic and Raheed translated that he said, “He’s my little child” and put his arm around him. It was obvious from the way they put their arms around each other that they were VERY close as Father and son. Raheed told us that his friends wanted to be in the US Army, and they asked us how long we had been in. They were amazed that Anderson had been in thirteen years, they told us that the conscription for being in the Iraqi army was three years and if, as Raheed put it, “If you don’t go Army, government kill.” While pointing his hand as a gun aimed at his head. We told them that they can become Us Soldiers if them come to America and be a citizen. Mohammed said he wanted to go to America and joked, “I go home with you!” We all laughed and Sgt. Anderson asked if any of them had been in the Iraqi army. Raheed was quick to say no, like he was a little afraid that if he said yes we’d have to take him in or something. He pointed at himself and the two other guys his age saying, “Job, university” Then the three kids saying, “Job, School” and finally at Mohammed’s dad saying, “Job Farm.”
Mohammed’s dad gestured at my camera and said something in Arabic. Raheed asked if that was a camera. I said yes and popped off the cover and showed them how it worked. An interesting guy was walking beind us in the field and Sgt. Anderson nudged me and mumbled under his breath that he was looked just like Jesus, and he did, with his shawl wrapped around his head. Raheed and his friends said, “take picture of him”, pointing at the Jesus look alike, I said, “ok” and fired up the camera to take a picture. But all of the guys started shouting, “No! No!” so I stopped and looked at them with a puzzled look, Raheed said, “Not really. He no like picture. He afraid of gods.” While gesturing at the sky. I wasn’t sure if he literally meant gods or if he meant spy planes that flew over and didn’t know how to say it. Either way this would explain why a lot of people glared at me when I took their pictures as I was driving by. Mohammed’s father asked me to take a picture of him and his son, so I took one and let them see the picture on the screen they were impressed but unlike the younger kids they didn’t expect me to be able to give them a copy. Then he asked me something and Raheed translated, “how much camera?” I told them $600 American, and they were all shocked, I told them I saved up a long time to afford it and they all just laughed and nodded.
Some guy pulled up in a Mercedes and walked up to the group, Sgt Anderson gave him a wave and the guy gave a kind of courtesy wave but otherwise ignored him and walked past with a scowl. Suddenly Raheed told Anderson, “Alan, walk with me.” And wandered down the road twenty feet. Mohammed’s father started talking to the guy and gave him the ice he wanted to buy. The rest of the group surrounded me and we tried to have what conversation we could but all we could manage is what all our names were, one of the kids tried to ask me something about how he could move to America but he couldn’t get his question across and faltered. So we wandered over to Anderson and Raheed and joined their conversation. Me and Anderson talked about what the whole thing about him getting called away was about, and we figured that the guy getting ice had a little anti-American sentiment and even though he was sensible enough to keep it to himself with us there Raheed wanted to keep us separate from him till he left.
I caught up with the conversation when Raheed was telling us that there were 27 million people in Iraq before the war and now there was 25 million. We asked shocked that may people were killed in the war? He hurriedly said, “No! No! Not all Americans kill, many Shiite, Sunni kill. Iraqi kill Iraqi.” Making a gesture punching his two fists together. Anderson tried to tell him that we respect all Iraqi people for all the things they’ve had to deal with. Raheed didn’t understand respect and it was had to get the point across, he didn’t know the words honor, integrity, or trust. Finally we told him simply, “Iraq people are good.” Then he got in and said, “Yes Iraq people good, we strong, we keep going.”
As we were talking with Raheed he kept asking about, “where was Bucka?” We couldn’t figure out what he was saying till I realized he was talking about Rebecca (Becca). He said that she was very pretty and wanted to see her again. Sgt Anderson told him that he’d bring her by and take a Polaroid of Raheed and her to give to him. We also asked what the river nearby was. He kept saying how nice the water was and it was nice to take a swim in it, finally after a bit of prodding he realized that we were asking him the name. He kept saying some name we didn’t understand, he told us there were two rivers in Iraq, both were names we didn’t recognize. Anderson told him that we called them the Tigris and Euphrates, one of the guys recognized Euphrates and said it quicker. Turns out that is the word Raheed had been saying the whole time he just pronounced it, ooh-fra-tis. We also asked him what the name of the nearby town was, he said it was Musaiyib and said something about Hillya. He asked us how much the bike that Mohammed and his father were driving cost in America; I answered about 3 thousand American. He said that he got it for 1 million Dinars and 1 million was about 1000 dollars. This interested Raheed and he asked what the carton of Marlboros he was selling cost in America, we told him about 20-25 dollars and he was shocked, he told us, “it only 15 in Iraq, we sell for 20.”
Then the rest of the convoy came through and it was time to go, Sgt Anderson, told Raheed it was good seeing him again and we said our farewells to the group. As we were leaving Raheed asked if Becca was married, Anderson told him no. He said, “Tell her I marry her, she beautiful lady.” Anderson said sure and we left. As we were leaving Rebecca was waving at the guys and they waved back, then Raheed blew her a kiss.
As we pulled away they waved to us and me and Sgt. Anderson waved back. The rest of the trip back was pretty much the same as the trip over there, I got a lot of pictures and we dealt with a few irate drivers yelling at us as we crossed the intersection in the middle of town, but most of the time I was thinking about the talk with Raheed. For the last tow months I have been looking at the homes nearby wondering what the locals thought about us being here and now I finally got the discussion I’d been waiting for. It was a little frustrating because there were so many other questions I wanted to ask, Raheed’s English wasn’t good enough to have too in depth discussions but it was still great. I hope there are many more people like Raheed and his friends; with them over here this country will be in good hands. It amazed me how friendly the people here are. There are alot of people indifferent to Americans but that’s to be expected, being able to talk to some Iraqis and have them treat us as equals gave an insight on how they look at others under normal circumstances (when they’re not occupied by foreign armies).
Mohammed and his dad were one great example about how important family is here, the infant mortality rate is much higher here so parents treasure their kids. When I saw Mohammed’s father look at his son, you could tell by the look in his eye that he was the world to him. And with Mohammed being 15 at that point in his life where he starts showing that he’s not a child anymore, he’s becoming a man. Mohammed didn’t fit the American Arab stereotype, if he spoke English you would have easily mistaken him for a homegrown American boy going to school, with the goggles he had on his head he even looked like an American teenager. And he was obviously becoming a man socially, during the conversation he kept joining in and giving his opinion whereas the younger kids just watched the adults talk and smile when people laughed. And every time he talked his father would look at him, proud of the man he had become.
And watching how the group of locals reacted to other Iraqis that past showed how close communities were here. And cars would pass horns would honk and the driver would wave and yell something in Arabic as they past. The whole group of guys would wave back and one would shout some answer back and they go back to talking with us. One guy came by on a bike and yelled “<Something> Raheed!” And Raheed yelled back some reply to the greeting.
After seeing how kind these people are you wonder how you could ever assume that they could bear any ill will to any other person. Sure there is a bit of animosity towards us soldiers when they see us, but we’re outsiders. If we weren’t here as conquerors and just as tourists or ex-patriots who want to live in a new country I’m sure that they’d extend the same kindness to us. It’s amazing how nice they are to us the way many US soldiers treat their country. I don’t think I’d be as kind if the roles were reversed. It’s so true what Sgt. Anderson about respecting how well these people handle their lives. If any American had to live in the circumstances that they have here they wouldn’t be able to do it, they just don’t have the patience.
It always shocks me how much Iraqis and Americans have in common. Iraqis don’t even look like the Arab stereotype that we give them back home, most people here would fit right in America with some more western clothes and if they could speak American English. It’s a shame that a few bad apples have ruined our countries perspective of the people here. If we could get over our own superiority and realize how great people are here we could have some great allies for our country. Again I wonder what will become of this country in the future, and how their relationship with America will be. This country has so much potential right now. Most of the infrastructure they have here is enough to get by but there’s so much room for growth, and with the economic turn they will make when America starts pumping money into here they’ll be able to do anything they want. After meeting Raheed, Mohammed, Ahmed and their friends I know that the deciding factor about how the relationship develops between Iraq and the Arab people, and America is going to lie solely in America’s hands. I hope we can help these people to the standard of living that their kindness demands they should get.
07-Jun-03 12:58 PM
A lot has happened in the last few days, I’ve been meaning to write but something always comes up.
I’ll start with the 3rd; I got to go on a tour to Babylon. The ruins are really close to where we are so the drive is only about 30 minutes. Me, Layton, Hansen, Warner, and E5 Anderson were the only ones from our unit that went, four other people from other units tagged along for the ride too.
We got to the ruins at 9:00 and a guide was already waiting to start taking people through, but just as we were about to go in a ton of Marines showed up so we had a few of them join our tour group so we ended up with about 30 people in our group. The tour guide spoke pretty good English, he had studied archeology at the University of Baghdad and then spent three years in the Iraqi army (which is required of people here), then he decided to stay a little longer and reached the US equivalent of Major. But then he left the military and went back to his chosen profession of Archeology. And had been doing that since 1975, with alot of that spent studying Babylon and other ruins in the area form the same period.
He was very knowledgeable of the history of Babylon and he really wanted to teach us all he could. He kept asking us if we understood what he said and if we had any questions. Then he told us that he was an expert in this area and it was his duty to pass his knowledge onto us so we could pass it on to others.
The ruins were mostly reproductions that were 25 years old. The original ruins had been stripped for bricks when the Turks took over the area so only about 1 meter of the foundations remained. The way Babylon formed was that in the first period the city grew but was flooded (it sits on the banks of the Euphrates) and most of the city was 10 meters deep in mud, so the King filled the area with sand and built the city on the ruins of the old city. After that period the city was destroyed once and rebuilt the third period of construction was built on top of that. Then the city was torn down to the 1 meter level. All of the relics were taken by Nazis in WW2 and now sit in the Berlin Museum. And 25 years ago Iraq rebuilt the city on top of the original ruins so now you can see the bottom meter is the original wall but up from that is all new brick.
Since all the tile was in Berlin there wasn’t much to see but just being in such a historic place was great. We walked along the old road into town and the Tour Guide told us about the parades that would come down for the yearly celebration every October when the city was in its heyday. We also went into the king’s chamber where king Nebuchadnezzar sent David to the prison of lions and later redeemed him and accepted his word. It was also the place Alexander the Great died after creating one of the largest empires in the world. And I stood in the same place where it all happened. We then went and saw the only relic left from the Germans, a half finished Lion conquering a man. And then we went through the Ishtar gate and went down to where the remains of the gate are still there from being buried and safe from looters. I got to touch one of the “Dragon” carvings in the brick that made up the covering of the gate when it was still above ground.
It was a great tour and the Tour Guide was really informative but it seemed that me Layton and Hansen were the only ones that thought so. As the Tour Guide was talking the marines wouldn’t be paying attention and they would crack jokes at their friends so loud that it was hard to hear what the guide was saying. Two of the guys that were with the group that we brought from Scandia brought sunflower seeds and were spitting them all over the place as we went through. The area was clean so that they really showed up everywhere they went. It made me sick that Americans could be so disrespectful of a place that is in a different country that them.
When we went to where the ice was stored from winter to spring it was
full of bats and made the room stink. The tour guide told us that the
bat poop was toxic and we couldn’t go in there, plus the smell was
so bad that nobody would want to anyway. One of the Marines whispered
under his breath, “Smells like Hagi’s to me.” Comments
like that about somebody who’s taking the time to do tours during
a war pisses me off; screw the Iraqi dissidents attacking soldiers they
have to wait their turn because a lot of these guys need to have their
asses beaten for being so inconsiderate.
After the tour we played around the amphitheater and then went to the market to pick up some souvenirs, I got a t-shirt with Saddam's face on it, some awards given to soldiers, an Iraq army beret, and a huge wad of Iraq, Iran, and Kuwaiti Cash. As we were waiting for others to get back from the market we talked about how nice it would be if we went back to Scandia and they were all packing to move back and go home.
Funny we would think that. As we were pulling into Scandia I noticed that two of the vehicles out front had “110 MT” written on the front. I started asking the guys at the tent if they had heard anything and they didn’t even know of the vehicles. When I went back out Rex was in front of me saying, “Saturday! Saturday!” with a big smile on his face and he couldn’t seem to say anything else then he ran off to tell others. I asked a few people that had been talking to him and they said that he just found out that the main group was coming Saturday.
Since then we’ve just been waiting and getting things ready to move. We still don’t really know much except that were leaving here Sunday morning (tomorrow) to Tallil where we’ll wait for official orders home from the Colonel which may be already done and we just have to pick them up or we may be waiting weeks to get orders out of here. Plus we have no idea when we’ll leave Doha or how long the out processing will take. But it’s still great that we’re finally starting the process the get out of here. Today we packed everything up except what we need to sleep for tonight, and then tomorrow we sign over all our tents and move out in the morning. I’m not sure how much time I’ll be able to write over the next few days but I’ll try to keep up the journal of what happens over the next few days.
A little off topic but we just got some radios today and have been listening to different stations and found one that speaks English. I thought it was interesting that they referred to the US forces as the “US/ British Occupation Force” We’re always being told that we’re a “Liberation Force” not an occupation force.
09-Jun-03 8:14 AM
Well we’re in Tallil now; it was a relatively quick trip down MSR Jackson. The traffic was insane, I tried to take as many pictures as possible but I was worried about getting in an accident so I had to take picture really quick, I didn’t have time to aim at anything I just pointed and shot. The road was so narrow and the trucks passing each other so fast it was hard to keep control. It reminded me of the Hana Highway on Maui except it was straight and the speeds were 45-50 MPH (Our max speed with the deuce and 5-ton fully loaded). The trip was hot, you could feel the temperature rise as you drove south and the palm trees got thinner and thinner then disappeared. One city we went through was pretty interesting; it was the largest city that I passed through so far. The buildings were two to three stories high and the downtown area actually looked like a downtown area back home. It actually reminded me of Kansas City because you had to pass over a bridge right into a dense busy city. Most of the people just treated us like normal traffic and waited to pass before crossing the road. A few kids waved as we passed but I was too busy trying to pay attention to wave back. There weren’t many rules for driving so I just tried to be nice and let people in when they needed to merge. I could see the convoy a few car lengths ahead so I wasn’t worried about getting lost. The scene on the main street reminded me of pictures from Thailand and China of the street markets next to the road and the signs up on the buildings and everything being so busy. I don’t know how anybody could possibly think of owning a car in such a dense pedestrian area. But there were people parked just off the road, wedged in between vendor stands.
Tallil is about the same as before, as we were driving in I noticed that there wasn’t as much security as there was when I left two months ago. They have a couple of check points but there’s no Bradley’s or machine gun nests guarding the entrances now. The base seems to have more people now but they also have better living conditions now, there are a lot of tent cities and most of them have A/C. And people don’t walk around in Kevlar and Flak vests anymore; in fact many are walking around in Civilian clothes. They have an MWR tent now with phones and a big screen TV and they even have a weight room. But none of its air conditioned and since the temp is higher here than up at Scandia I can’t see me ever going there unless it’s the middle of the night.
I hope we don’t have to worry about another night here though. We’re just waiting for our orders before moving to Doha, the Colonel said he’d look into what's going on today. I hope he does it soon; it only takes 5 hours to make the drive to Doha so we could leave as late as 3:00pm and still make it before 10:00pm. Plus the heat is so bad here I don’t want to spend anymore time here than I have to, yesterday was hard but today would be terrible. Plus we have absolutely nothing to do. We just sit and stare at each other, all we can talk about is speculation on how soon we’ll be out of here and you can’t keep your mind on anything else.
A couple of South Koreans just pulled up in a pair of Hyundai’s; they’re wearing camouflaged DCUs but they have bright blue base ball caps on so they look a little out of place. As we were coming in one of them at the check point waved at me. So they seem like really friendly people to me. It’s funny how many different nations I’ve seen on this deployment. Now one of the Koreans is taking pictures of the buildings, just like I did when I was here for the first time a few months ago. If I’ve learned anything from this deployment it’s how similar everybody across the world is. There’s no reason to ever look at people as “Us and Them” everybody across the world acts the same, with the same desires and same reactions. Somebody from a different country may have slightly different priorities, like the Iraqi’s here trying to scratch out an existence in the desert. But when you’re friendly everybody smiles the same and reacts the same. As for the soldiers me and this Korean are just a couple of tourists.
When I was at home I was always trying to be friendly to the people around me. To me it seems that if you’re nice to the people around you they will be nicer to you and then nicer to others. Then the pass on the kindness to others and it spreads. Now I know that all people in the world are like that not just Americans.
SGT Garcia just came and told us that the official temperature here is currently 95º at 8:30am. That sounds like a lot but we were just saying how nice it is right now, warm but still not hot. We’ve been wondering how hot it really is out here. The only way we could tell what temperature it was to look at the WeatherChannel.com and see what they said for the area. But we knew that they could easily be wrong and we weren’t actually in Baghdad, just nearby. Now that we got an accurate temperature reading it’s kind of amazing how well we’ve adapted to the heat. I can’t wait to go home and feel what it like to have a high of 85º and a low of 60º!
10-Jun-03 9:54 AM
Well I’m still stuck in Tallil and I’m hating life. The temperature here is a lot worse than it was up at Scandia so it’s that much harder to sit here and do nothing. The official word is that we need to wait while they make up our itineraries to go home, but nobody knows how long that will take. We keep asking every morning if orders are ready; they tell us to come back in the evening. We come back in the evening and they tell us to some back in the morning.
One bad rumor going around is that there’s a two week waiting list to get out processed and the Colonel wants to keep us here till he knows for sure that were getting out of here. I’d rather wait down in Doha where there are things to do than wait here in this 115º weather and this boring tent.
I guess all I can hope for is for the out processing after this to go quickly and still get us home soon.
13-Jun-03 6:31 PM
Still stuck in Tallil!!!
I understand it taking a week or two to out-process because of all the turning in and briefings we have to do but a week just to wait for an email that says we can move to Doha? Give me a break, I knew that the Army had problems getting things done but it doesn’t take a week to type an email.
Here’s the whole story.
The next day we ask if they’re done; they tell us that we need to check back that night. That night we check back and they say check back in the morning. We check in the morning and they tell us to come back that evening. This went on for two and a half days.
On Wednesday, our 4th day here, they tell us that they’re making up itineraries and all of the timetables to get us all the way back to Ft. Carson in the states, but it will take another three days. We figure no problem if they’re getting everything planned out then I can wait that long, that way we’ll know what we need to do.
Well it’s been three days and now we’re getting all kinds of info, most of it bad and none of it being our orders to go home. E5 Anderson is telling us that we were told by CFLCC that it would take two weeks to get the orders printed, and get this; they’re not orders to go home just orders to get transferred from 171st ASG. Another rumor of his is that we’re going to get redeployed to another unit in the area, i.e. we’re not going home! He got Garcia spouting his rumors now too but so far as we can tell they have no basis.
The most accurate information we can get is from Slocum because he spends a lot of time with the Colonel to get these things moving. He says that they’ve been emailing CFLCC who is going to send orders to us then we can move down, the last word was that the orders will be ready “soon”, that was a day or two ago. The Master Sergeant said that we’d probably be getting out of here Saturday which is tomorrow. But for us to leave tomorrow we need to get orders tonight so we can leave in the morning. The earlier we start the less time we’ll be in the heat, and the drive is 5 hours to Doha.
That’s one of the other problems facing us now; will our vehicles make it? The 5 ton has had a main seal class three oil leak since we entered Iraq, luckily it only leaks while driving and we can fill up the oil each night and it doesn’t drop too low. At Scandia the Wrecker developed a problem with the spider gears on the 3rd axle; it makes noises but so far no problems. If it goes either the axle will seize or it’ll lose power to the rear 4 wheels. To solve the problem we’re planning to disconnect the main drive axle and shift into 8 wheel drive so the front 4 wheels pull it all the way back to Doha. Now the Troop Carrier has developed a death knock. It’s pretty loud and some days are worse than others but what it sounds like is one of the bearings on the crankshaft have given out and now the connecting rod is bouncing around due to there being to large of gap. If it goes out we plan to tow the troop carrier with the wrecker, all the soldiers will have to stay in the towed vehicle because there’s no room for them in the rest of the vehicles. (I know that in the Civilian world you don’t ride in a vehicle when connected to a tow truck but out here things work a little differently).
Anyway here’s hoping that we get our orders in the next few hours so we don’t have to waste another day here sitting on our asses.
17-Jun-03 12:50 PM
Well, still here. It’s starting to seem like we’ll never leave like the whole story of us going home was a lie. It’s not that far fetched it, happened to us once before, at this very base in fact.
Recent news is that we got Army Commendation Medals for being out here; in the Colonels speech he made it sound like we’re on our way out but it’s obvious that the process will take a long time. We’ve been getting called away to do more idiotic details now that we’ve been here awhile. They want us to set up the coming USO show, and to escort Kuwaiti trucks from Cedar 1. When we got here we were told that we were in transit status so we didn’t have to do this stuff but now that we’ve been here nearly two weeks transit status doesn’t mean much I guess. At first they told us the details we’re voluntary now they’re voluntary but we NEED to do them. I’m starting to think the reason that they’re keeping us is so we can do these details for them.
So to stay “out of sight, out of mind” I’m sitting in one of the buildings that we’re camped next to. They’re actually the same buildings that we used when we were here before; some people of the base fire department are in our old sleeping quarters but the others are free and they’re a bit cooler than the tent so some of us sit in here in the afternoon heat.
I was just sitting here thinking about the people I have met on this deployment. There are the Army people I’ve met; most of them bring my opinion of the Army down quite a bit. SSG Adams that has been bothering us since Scandia is one of the worst, he’s one of the typical Army Pricks that hates anything not American or “their” version of America, and not only that he hates anything that doesn’t have to do with the active Army. The Reserves piss him off because they lack discipline so he gets mad when he comes by and we’re all in our PT uniform even though we don’t have anything to do. He also told us that he thinks that having women in the Army brings us down. He said this right in front of Rebecca; he justified what he said with “No offense but...” like that makes it so that it’s ok for him to say things like that in front of her.
Not all the Army personnel I’ve met are jerks, most of the officers are pretty cool, Colonel Larson is really nice and lets us use his phone and computer whenever we want (but we don’t like bothering him so we try to keep it to a minimum). And Major Byrd will even joke with us like were just another one of the guys like rank doesn’t matter. But it seems like for every 1 person like that there’s 10 that will use their rank to make others lives worse; I definitely think that I’m going to get out of the Military as soon as I get home.
The biggest surprise was the Iraqis I’ve met; they’re nothing like America portrays them to be. Even when the American media tries to portray them in a favorable light they still do them a disservice. I remember the guy I met in Babylon at the market. I was buying some souvenirs and had some questions about some of the meanings on the stuff I was buying and they called this guy over to translate what the Arabic writing meant. He told me and I bought a few things and kept looking. As I was about to leave he asked me if I could answer a question for him. He didn’t speak great English but he wanted to know what religion I was; he mentioned Islam, Jew, or something else (I knew it meant Christian from talking to Raheed before). My religious preference isn’t an easy thing to get across, I’m not religious but I don’t deny the possibility or a god existing so I’m not Atheist. The closest I could come is Agnostic, but that’s not exactly it either. To really get what my religious preference was I would have to have a big discussion with him using words that I’m sure he wouldn’t know the meaning of. I tried to tell them that I believed the values of all the religions he mentioned but he didn’t understand that I just have my own set of Values that are very similar to most religions.
To sort things out he pulled out an Arabic-to-English English-to-Arabic dictionary and asked me to find my religion so he could understand. I thought of choosing Agnostic but that didn’t fit quite right, so I found “Undecided” and gave that to him. But as I was looking it up he was called away to translate for another soldier a few vendors down, we were trying to have this discussion in the middle of a bustling market. As soon as he was done I gave him the book and pointed out the word. He was very interested and looked at the Arabic meaning paused a few minutes and laughed saying, “I don’t believe you! You must have (a) Religion!” It tired to tell him that I believed things from all religions just not the spiritual parts. He just laughed and shook his head and told me, “Thank you for your time!” I told him thank you and left.
The thing is that he was really interested in knowing what religion I was so he could understand soldiers more as a people. I wish I could have told him more of what I believed and asked him what he believed. I really wonder how people in a place with such strong religious ties would think about such a diverse group of people in their homeland. I know a lot of animosity can come from very religious areas when you’re not religious, after all I’m a non-Mormon from Utah, if these people are anything like Utah Mormons then they definitely look at us in a different light because we’re not the same religion as them. In Utah if you’re not Mormon then some people won’t trust you any further then they could throw you, where as other will still treat you just like they would trust anybody else that they meet. If people here are the same way then that would definitely account for a lot of the looks we get when passing through cites. And I wonder if the traditional Arab/Jewish animosity is directed to us because they know that there are Jewish soldiers in the ranks. Or do they look at us just like we’re all one religion or a bunch of different religions?
I wish I could go back and talk to that guy again except with an interpreter so we could understand each other more. I’d like to tell him that it doesn’t matter to me what religion you are as long as you believe in helping others and doing what you can to make the lives of your fellow mad better. I’d like to know if that’s the way him and the majority of Arabs are or if they have the “us vs. them” attitude that the American Media seems to be eager to pin on any Arab. I’d bet that it’s the former and not the latter, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about people here it’s that they’re just like us in every way, if the majority of Americans have the best interests of the world in mind then the majority of the people of Iraq have the best interests of the world in mind too.
I hope that someday he reads this entry on the internet (if he has access) to answer his question or if somebody has the same question about Americans reads this so they can understand us a bit better. It seems to me that a lot of this Terrorism problem comes from the fact that people don’t know enough about each other. One side thinks that the other is evil because of something they heard or read but that in no way reflects how all of those people think. I bet there’d be a lot of Americans that would be surprised to know that most Arabs don’t bear them any ill will or harm. And I bet a lot of Arabs would be surprised to know that most Americans are against America smothering other cultures with its own.
21-Jun-03 7:33 PM
Well yesterday we finally got a “Frag” order that told us we have “Load Date” of July 17th. The trouble is that nobody really knows what exactly that means; it could mean that’s when we fly out of Doha, when we load vehicles on boats, or when we go off active duty. I get the feeling that it means load vehicles onto boats and we probably leave soon after that.
Plus we don’t know how set in stone that is, it’s an approximate date but I doubt it will change much if at all. I hope that if we get things out processed faster than the Army thought then we could then we can get bumped up to get out of here sooner. I really wanted to be home before the Bear Lake trip with my family on the 16th; I’ve been to 22 trips so far, if I miss this one then it will be the first one I’ve missed since I was born.
Oh well I really just want to be home, if I miss Bear Lake I’ve got a pretty good excuse; I was at war.
Now it’s just back to the speculation game, but that’s better than the, "I hate it here", game. The last few days have been hell too.
The winds are really bad during the day now, not quite as bad as "THE big storm” we got at the beginning of the war but it’s still pretty bad during the day. We were laughing about it yesterday; it seems you would be sitting there thinking to yourself, “It can’t get any worse here.” And just like that the wind kicks up and you get sandblasted. All I could think was, “Thanks for proving me wrong again, God!”
Now that we have a small idea when we’re going home it’s a lot harder to sit through the day without getting bored. All you can do is think of getting home even though it the load date is for us to go then we’ll still be here another 26 days. It would be a lot better to be waiting in Doha then up here; at least we could pass the time by going to the gym rather than sitting and watching the sand stick to your sweat.
In recent news here, I got in a big argument with the local networking Sergeants here. We’ve been using an IP address that we got the third day to get on the internet, but apparently we’re not supposed to use it because they need to give out the exact same IP address to others who use the MWR internet connection. Except the way they have it set up is so stupid. Only people that work in networking will be interested in this but they have such a security problem here it’s not funny.
The problem is that for whatever reason they cannot give each computer an IP address (which makes no sense because they use NAT for the connection to the internet so they can use any addressing scheme we want), so when they give an address to use the MWR connection they want us to take our laptops to the communications department so they can put the address on the computer. Then I can use the connection; but when I’m done I have to go back to them and have the IP address taken off. Their reasoning is that they can’t have us wandering around with that IP, if we go to another connection when somebody with the same address is using the MWR connection then there will be a conflict. I tried to tell them that we won’t be going to any other connection because we’re only here temporarily. That’s not good enough because they also say that people will steal IP addresses as soon as they know the network address by guessing the last octet till they get one that works.
The thing is that even with the Static Addressing Scheme they have they can just use a set up a class A network and they’ll have enough IP addresses to give one to every single person on base. Or they could use DHCP to have a computer give the IPs out when the computer comes on the network and automate the process. Plus they can setup permissions on the routers to block the IPs from accessing anything other than the internet. Right now it would be a piece of cake to hack into any computer on the net because they don’t have any permissions on the routers.
So they think by putting in tons of man power into a flawed way of keeping IP addresses under control that they can secure the network. If this was a corporate network these guys would be fired outright for incompetence, any hacker has full access to the net and all they have to do is look at the IP on one computer and use it for themselves. Good thing Iraq doesn’t have many malicious hackers.
God knows what other problems they have with their network, apparently they have a direct satellite back to the states, and they don’t have to go through Doha or Arifjan. They should have the same access speeds that Scandia had, nearly DSL, but here it takes three minutes to download a 156k email. I bet that the IP problem is just the tip of problems with this net, now I know why Doha and Arifjan had civilian contractors running their net. I wonder how much fixing their Addressing Scheme could help speed up the net.
Oh well, as soon as I get home and become a great Network Admin for a big company I can make fun of the Army with my coworkers.
As soon as I get home… I can never get away from that thought.
23-Jun-03 7:20 PM
Layton just read me his little pissed off letter home and it inspired me to write a little about my thoughts on our situation.
Our situation is a joke right now; we’ve been here for far too long. It doesn’t take 16 and counting days for them to send us an order to move from one base to another. I could understand us being out here for weeks if we were busy turning in equipment and washing vehicles to be put on ships. But we sit here literally doing nothing to help ourselves or the rest of the Army. I made up a quick spreadsheet to see how much it costs to keep us out here and it came up with $2,770.63 a day for the detachment, $78,563.80 a month, and almost one million ($942k) a year if we had to stay that long (heaven help us).
All that taxpayer money for us to do nothing but sit and get fat; at least back in Arifjan we fixed a few Humvees a day. Now we’re just a money sink that they’re delaying from leaving. If any corporation had a financial problem like this they would get turned upside down when they got audited. From a former taxpayers point of view I’m outraged, but right now I don’t care, I just want to go home. But if you ever wondered how much the war is costing us I figure that it takes $55.4k a year to put one person to sit here, that doesn’t include equipment, ordinance, or clean up costs the years after the war.
I was thinking of why I want to get home so much, a small part of the reason is that I want to be home in time for Bear Lake but I’ve wanted to be home even when I thought I’d be home before the Bear Lake trip. I know you’re probably thinking that you know why I want to go home, nobody wants to be out here away from their family, but I’m talking about a different feeling of wanting to go home.
When you take the family and friends out of the picture and go just off of my personal life, I don’t really have any reason to be so worried about going home. I don’t have a wife or kids like a lot of the guys here. I don’t have a job anymore so there’s no reason to worry about that. I don’t have a girlfriend to miss, although I feel the longer I’m out here the worse the chance I’ll have that the girl I want to go out with be single. I don’t have any school that needs to be done soon; I can start back in my curriculum whenever I want. Basically I’m a free agent as soon as I get home; no matter when I get home I can get started. So do I get so depressed that I’m still out here?
I guess I’ve always had a problem with being left behind. When I was a kid I’d have weird dreams where all my friends were going to some great/fun place but for some reason I couldn’t follow them. One time it was because they lost me and I didn’t know where to go; another they got shrunk down and went through a tiny door and I didn’t know how to follow (I think I had just watched Alice in Wonderland before). But I always hate being left out.
When I was a teenager my Mom couldn’t get me to sleep because she would be up late watching TV and I had to be up too incase she was having fun and I was missing it. And now today the times I get the most depressed is when my friends send me letters or tell me of all the fun their having back home. When I was hearing all the stories of the GONE Moab trip with the Xterra crew I was so pissed of that I was here that I nearly exploded out of jealousy. I hear about all the great movies coming out, and all the fun things I could be doing if I was home and I feel like life is passing me by out here.
A year is a small part of my whole life but it seems that the year I’m spending out here is one of the most pivotal in my life and that this may have long reaching effects in my life. I hope that nothing bad comes out of me wasting so much time out here.
26-Jun-03 1:08 PM
Well the Army just burned enough food to feed a starving village for a week. They cleaned up the MKIT and got rid of all the extra food they had; our guys were helping to clean up and they had a bunch of food that we were told to “Get rid of”, there was enough food for about 3000 meals so we asked where they wanted it. They said they usually just burn it. We thought that was a huge waste, especially when we’ve seen so many people begging for food. So we asked if we could give it to the locals; they said that we’d have to ask Civil Affairs if it was ok.
We asked Civil Affairs and they told us to get back to them, then when they got back to us they told us to burn the food. They don’t want to give the food to the people because like a dog they would keep coming back expecting more.
That food could have fed a small village well for a few days; if they only ate as much as they usually do then it probably would have lasted as much a two weeks. No wonder poor people are starving all over the world; the rich are burning their food because they don’t want people to bother them.
I can’t believe how easily Americans turn their heads away from the problems of the world. We’re quick to fight to save people from oppression but then just as quickly we turn our backs on the people we just “Liberated”.
All this deployment seems to do is make me hate my own country. How messed up is that?
03-Jul-03 10:00 AM
Well still in Tallil, it’s getting a little ridiculous now. There’s a lot of really nasty things I’ve got to say about the way the Military works but I’ll start with the good things.
Last night I had another dream about that girl again (the same one from during the dust storm), it was great, all it was was me coming home and me and her were flirting, that’s it but I woke up with the greatest feeling. In the dream I was just spending time with my friends and she was telling me how she’s been so bored the last few months and that she really wanted someone to take her out. I guess the dream was just pandering to want for her to be single when I get home.
Back in reality life sucks.
Our projected load date of the 17th got bumped back to the 20th, but it got a little more set in stone too. Then we were told by LtCol Moody that they were trying to get us to Arifjan as soon as possible so that was would have plenty of time to get our stuff done (good news), so Slocum and E5 Anderson flew to Arifjan to turn a list of the bumper numbers of our vehicles. We…
Sorry, got interrupted. Everything just changed.
Slocum and Anderson just showed up, they told us that they went down there and the 377th didn’t even have us in the computers. Apparently according to the Army we don’t exist out here, supposedly all that has been fixed now or is in the process of being fixed. It makes me sick because this is what I’ve feared all along.
The Army forgot about us.
We would have been out of here along time ago but they forgot about us and we got left out here. That means that nothing has been done the last 25 days; no wonder we’ve felt like we’re wasting our time here. We have.
They’re still trying to get us out of here by the 20th but if we don’t hurry we’ll be swamped by the 3rd ID and have to wait another month to go home. I don’t even want to think of that scenario. It’s bad enough that we’ll be going home with only a month of summer left to enjoy before school starts. If we have to wait another month I’m not going to fall semester, it will be just like we left for a whole year.
I can’t believe now that I woke us so happy and ready to go home. I was looking forward to seeing everybody again, now I feel like I’ll be here forever…again.
Right now the current forecast for us getting out of Tallil is Monday, Slocum has to call back to the 377th but since Independence day will be tomorrow they’ll be closed and we’ll have to delay getting out of here another day. Happy Independence Day 872nd.
I keep hoping that as soon as we start our processing to get out of here things will go really fast but so far the only thing that happens is delays. First we hear a bunch of assumptions from the officers about what’s going to happen then we find out that nothing has been done and all the things we’ve been told is merely to keep us complacent. I wonder if all this information we got is false too; will we find out on Saturday that we’ve been bumped again? I’m not sure how much more I can take before I snap and go insane. It’s impossible for any organization to be as fucked up as the Army; the way I can see all of this making sense in the end is if they suddenly tell us that we were a part of an experiment to see how much disappointment a soldier can take before they kill themselves.
Maybe soldiers have been lied to in all the past wars and this is just how it goes. I’ll have to ask my Grandpa if he can remember how long it took for him to get sent home after WWII; obviously with all of our technological advances things should go a little faster. I wonder if they told him lies to keep him from getting angry at the Military for their shortcomings. Now I know why so many people leave the military after a deployment to war, it’s not learning the about war that makes you want to leave; it’s learning about your own military that makes you want to leave.
09-Jul-03 8:25 PM
Well we finally got the good news yesterday, we’re leaving tomorrow. I’ve been so excited that I forgot to write in the journal. We were originally going to head to Navstar on the border then to Camp Victory then to Doha; but since we don’t want to get stuck at Victory we asked some other officers if it was ok to move straight to Doha and skip Victory since we already have housing.
Anyway we’re hoping to be out of here by 7:00am tomorrow but now 171 wants us to go down with 3 other vehicles. Slocum doesn’t want us delayed so he asked if they would be ready by 7:00AM and 171 said that was good enough for him, but I get the feeling that we’ll be waiting for them until 9 or 10. Since they’re going they don’t want to stop for ice on the way out so we’ll be cooking the whole ride down.
It doesn’t matter as long as we’re out of here.
I’ve really been enjoying the sandstorms today, that sounds weird but it feels really good when you know it’s probably the last day of your life that you have to deal with things this bad. Hopefully the ride down goes good, and this is the end of the misery of Iraq.
I’m not as excited as I was when we left Scandia; I guess waiting a month has let the buzz that we’re leaving wear off. I’m not saying that I’m not excited though, I’ve been counting the hours till we leave, and we keep talking about home like it’s only a few days away. Then we start talking about how nice Doha will be compared to this. Burger King, Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Inn will be nice to go to but even the D-Fac will be 5 star compared to the MRE/T-Rations that we’ve had for the last 3 and a half months. And there’s a good chance that we’ll have A/C too.
I think I’ll be spending all my free time at the Gym trying to catch up on all the exercise that I’ve been missing since I’ve come to Iraq. And I’ll have to find a port to hook my Laptop up to, the net will be different and last time they wouldn’t allow us to put a Laptop on the net unless the wiped the drive first, but I’d much rather hook my laptop up rather than rely on the internet café they have there.
Everybody’s pretty excited that we’re leaving; everybody’s up right now talking outside the tent about what’s going to happen in the next couple days. We spend so much time speculating and going over scenarios that we’ll make great consultants when we go home. We can predict the future with all the speculating we do.
I can’t believe I’m actually getting close to seeing everybody back home, I hope Ft. Carson goes smoothly and quickly; I don’t want to have wait any longer to see everybody. It’s too bad that so much of the summer is already over, I would like to have a giant vacation over the summer but the last month will be nice, after that I’ll be on my own because everybody will be going back to school. That’s another thing, should I go back to school in fall instead of spring or should I focus on getting a Networking job before school or should I just chill out till spring and slowly ease back into everything. I won’t be able keep away from work for too long, but I will have Leave until September and unemployment after that. I’ll have to decide things on the fly I guess, there’s so many variables that I’ll just see what comes.
A lot can change in the next month or two, I’m really glad that we’re finally getting things moving again though. Sitting on my hands for the last month has been really frustrating, I’m glad that my life is finally moving again.
11-Jul-03 6:36 PM
Well we’re in Doha, and it’s so much nicer here that we just can’t get over how relaxed things are.
I guess I’ll start at the beginning. The trip out of Tallil was just as I thought, the guys from 171 that were coming down with us we’re 30 minutes late, then when we got to the gate to leave they had forgotten to get their clearance so we ended up leaving at 8:00am just like I predicted. The drive wasn’t as exciting as some of the other ones we’d done in the area; we didn’t even see any cities till we got to the Kuwait border. The traffic on the road was light which was good because there is always the possibility of getting shot when out in an unprotected convoy.
The Kuwaiti border wasn’t like we had thought, we didn’t even need any papers to show when we went through, we just went by and waved at the border guard. At Navstar all we did was gas up and keep going.
By time we were at Navstar the sand storm that we had been expecting was in full force, so visibility was only about 1 mile for the drive through Kuwait. We had a good idea where we were going and since I had a GPS I could tell when we were near the Doha turn off. Although we did take one wrong turn, we took a gas station turn off before the Doha one and had to maneuver all our big vehicles through the gas station parking lot.
Finally inside Doha we parked the vehicles and waited to find out where our stuff was. While we were waiting me and Weis went to the PX food court and had the first real food we had since the war began. The best was the huge ice cold Pepsi that I got with my Subway sandwich. Then we went through the PX picking up all the stuff we needed but couldn’t find for the last three months.
When we got back Slocum was back with the info on where we needed to be so we unloaded all our stuff and went to our home for the next few days. The place we got is a 60 man tent and the only people in it are the 17 of us and it has air Conditioning! It’s only a swamp cooler but it’s a lot better than the 100+ degree weather outside, plus now we can close the tent up and keep most of the dust and sand out.
The chow tent next door has even better A/C and is like a refrigerator, plus the food is just as good as the stuff they serve at the main D-Fac. The MWR tent has a big screen TV and is just as cold as the chow tent (we watched “Old School” today, it was awesome). And the showers are real showers, not the quick-fab ones like at Tallil, they’re just like the ones you get back home, well maybe a little cheap compared to the ones back home but close enough.
All together this place is great compared to everywhere we’ve been recently. And now I’m really anxious to get our stuff ready to get out of here; we’ve started getting our personal gear clean but we still have to clean the vehicles and the gear we were issued. Tomorrow we should get a list of all the stuff that we have to turn in here.
Eating real food is great but I’ve already spent a lot of money and eaten a lot of junk food, I’m definitely going to the gym at night to try to get my bod back in shape and to work off all the junk I’ve eaten in the last couple days.
Being back here is also a culture shock, it’s weird seeing everybody in Civilian clothing, plus a lot of the women around here are “hooked up” with guys , I wonder how many of them are married and how many of them will still be in love after their deployment is over. A lot of people think that since they’re away from home cheating is ok.
I called home this morning and told my dad and sister that I was ok and they said that they’d have a message given to mom down in Arizona. It was great talking to everybody when we’re all so happy, we were all just really relieved that I was in Doha and on my way out. They also told me that Bear Lake was 25-28th not 16-20th like I thought, there’s still not much chance of me getting home in time to go but there’s a chance that I’ll be getting home about the same time they get back. It gives me more hope that Ft. Carson gets us through quickly; it would be awesome if my family could pick me up at the airport and bring me up to Bear Lake to see everybody even if just for one day.
Oh well I just hope that the next couple weeks go quickly and smoothly.
11-Aug-03 9:49 PM
Well alot has happened in the last few days and now I’m finally home (when you’ve been in a foreign country for the last 9 ½ months, anywhere in the US is home). The experience has been great; it’s so nice to think that we’re almost back to normal civilization.
Checking out of Kuwait was a bit of a pain, first we had to move all of our vehicles to the port on Saturday. The humidity has been really bad for the last week or so and the drive was pretty miserable. The heat plus the humidity means that you always have sweat pouring off you. When we got to the port they didn’t know we were coming even though we’ve spent the last two weeks waiting for CFLCC to get us authorization to load our gear. They just checked us in no questions asked, if we had known that we didn’t need CFLCC’s help we would have brought the vehicles here back on the 20th and been gone by now; but as soon as that was done all we had to do was wait to fly out. Since we were flying out at 7:30 am we needed to be at Camp Champion by 9:00 pm but SGT. Slocum wanted to be there early so we left Camp Doha at 5:30pm. It didn’t help though; we ended up waiting at Champion till 2:00am to have our gear checked out by Customs. We were tired of the heat and humidity and the waiting by time we ran our stuff through so it was irritating to unload all of our carefully packed bags, then repack everything while others waited. Then we had to wait in a tent for till 7:30am to get on a bus to head into the airport to the plane.
The officers got all the business and first class seats, typical but it seemed to sting worse than usual because the officer in charge, Major Lee, was an ubër prick. He segregated everybody into E-7/below and officers for everything then made all the lowest ranks do stupid menial tasks just to keep us busy. Even in basic I’ve never seen so much segregation and mistreatment of the ranks, it was like he was always mad and he took his frustration out on the lower enlisted. And if any of the lower enlisted came near him he would glare at them till they left. This made me think that he may use his bad demeanor to keep his soldiers from bothering him with their problems. Even though you should be able to go to your officers for help and guidance he tried to scare off all who tired to come to him for help.
Once the flight got started it was great. The flight crew was all volunteers who wanted to be the ones to fly soldiers home; most had plenty of time in their jobs, apparently a lot of people volunteered to fly troops home so the ones with the most experience got the job. They encouraged us to visit them and talk with them about our experiences; even the pilots had an open door policy and let us up into the cockpit to talk.
It was the friendliest flight I had ever been on, and the inside of the plane was decorated with yellow ribbons, flags, and drawings and letters made by elementary schools from all over the US. At Frankfurt the flight crew switched and another came on and were just as good to us as the one before. Every crew that came on would say over the intercom how it was such an honor to be able to be the ones to being us home. I talked a little with the stewardesses and I went up to the cockpit and take some pictures out the windows, with all the restrictions on airlines now I doubt all ever get the chance to do it again.
As we flew over the Atlantic everybody was falling asleep, I had slept on the way to Frankfurt (and missed the chance to take a picture of the great pyramids in Egypt and the Collusieum in Rome from the air) so I wasn’t tired. I kept looking out the window and watched as we passed Greenland and flew over Canada. Then when we approached Michigan the captain came on and apologized for waking everybody up but told us to look out the windows and said, “On behalf of the flight crew and everybody else in America, we’d like to officially welcome you back to the United States.”
As we were flying back the unit that had chartered the flight (Maj. Lee’s unit), asked why they couldn’t fly straight to Ft. Hood rather than Dallas/Ft. Worth. The captain radioed and asked why not and the response was that even though the soldiers had been through customs the flight crew hadn’t so they decided to switch flight crews in DFW and make a quick jump down to Ft. Hood. This was all great for the unit going home to Ft. Hood but our connecting flight to Ft. Carson was at DFW so we were stuck in Ft. Hood turning our hour layover into a 24 day detour, thanks again Maj. Lee.
At Ft. Hood they formed us all in a formation and lined us up to go into the gym where all the Ft. Hood guys’ families were. They put their company in front and the rest of us in back so it looked like there were a ton of people coming home and it would be a great photo op for the Colonel who gave a little speech. I was a little peeved that they were taking advantage of us like that but it didn’t really matter that much, it was nice to be surrounded by American civilians rather than just military.
I guess they didn’t realize that the whole speech of us being finally being home with our families and watching all these other people’s families and girlfriends crying was just depressing the rest of us that wouldn’t be with our families for another week. As soon as the speeches were over the soldiers were released to be with their families and the rest of us (3/4 of the formation) were quietly swept behind a curtain to sign in to the ITO to get on our way again before all the families realized that some of us still weren’t home.
Luckily not all the organizers of the reunion were as heartless as the officers. Some of the family support members came back with us and welcomed us back to the US, gave us hugs, let us use their cell phones to call home, and talked with us about where we were going and how much longer before we would be home to our own families. Those that hung out with us deserve a big thanks; it was 12:00 AM but one little girl giving out candy and a few soldiers wives stayed and talked with us and gave us some free sodas till we were on our way to our temporary barracks. I wish I had gotten their names because it helped a lot after going to a reunion that just made us more homesick.
Luckily the ITO at Ft. Hood was a lot more on its game than CFLCC; we were taken to barracks to stay in for the night and within 24 hours we had a flight up to Ft. Carson. The plan was to drive 2 hours to Austin, fly to Dallas/Ft. Worth, then land in Ft. Carson. There was a little trouble at the gate, apparently E-6 Andersen and Harline’s tickets were messed up and they wouldn’t make the flight so SGT. Slocum paid for their tickets out of his own pockets, we hope that the Army will be smart enough to realize that this was their problem and that Slocum saved the group form getting screwed over and reimburse him the $1000 dollars the tickets cost. Unfortunately we got stuck in Austin for two hours when the weather took a turn for the worse. We loved it though because we hadn’t seen rain in months and it was amazing to see lot’s of it, and lightning too.
While we waited me and Layton had a few beers at the bar, we weren’t really drunk but we were so happy to be going home that everything was so funny and we had a great time making stupid jokes. Then we found out that the flight was delayed so me, Layton, Patterson, and Hansen went to the bar and each got long island ice teas. As we were paying we were talking to another guy getting drinks and Patterson told him that these were our first drinks since getting back, so he offered to pay for our drinks. 4 Long Islands at an airport run about $28 dollars so Mark, wherever you are we owe you, thanks.
We relaxed for another half hour then found out that our flight was boarding and we had to run and catch it before it left without us. The flight to Dallas was short which was good because pounding that last drink and running to the terminal had me a little sick. Once we were at DFW we had to run to make the next connection, even though we were 2 hours behind schedule the flight had been delayed for weather so we wouldn’t have to change flights. Unfortunately DFW is a big airport and we had to run from A6 to C36 (if you’ve been there you’ll know how far this is). It’s Ironic that it took 4 hours to make it to Dallas when it was a 3 hour drive from Ft. Hood, but nobody can predict the weather.
At Colorado Springs, our out processing SGT was waiting with two vans and a truck to take our stuff to Ft. Carson. Horsy was there to meet us, his mom’s still in the hospital but so far she’s making it through. Fedak was also there, he’s a solider from the 872nd that was sent to Afghanistan and he’s currently stuck in Ft. Carson waiting for orders to get on medical disability (he got hit in the shoulder with some friendly shrapnel at a firing range). So finally after three weeks all 17 of us were back together.
Now we’re just settling in and getting ready to begin out-processing, I’m already loving having an actual bed again. We had one in Ft. Hood and now here; they’re typical lumpy army beds but compared to what we’ve had for the last 9 months they’re heaven. You can actually bounce on them, I spent 10 minutes just laying on the bed an flopping like a fish once to make the springs bounce, as soon as the bed quit bouncing I’d do it again. I feel like a little kid playing on the bed, I almost feel like standing on the bed and bouncing like it’s a trampoline.
12-Aug-03 9:57 PM
Well not as much happened today as I thought would. We woke up at 6:30 to go to the SRP site to get our TB tests done, mine’s already fading away but the guy that stuck me with the needle was a butcher, I’ve got a little bruise where he poked me because he shook the needle so bad.
It only took about a half hour to get the TB shots so we went over to the Central Issue Facility to get lists of what we need to turn in but Sgt. Slocum didn’t really understand what’s going on an told us that all we need to turn in 3 of our uniforms, but we got two lists and I think he only looked at the first, the other one had all the expensive stuff and I don’t think the Army will just let us leave with all that stuff without paying for it.
While we were waiting a guy who was leaving the building saw us and gave us two dozen doughnuts, we asked him why and he just said for thanks for what we did overseas. So Jeff, thanks for the doughnuts. It’s nice of people to do so much for us out of thanks for what we did in Iraq but I always feel guilty because it seems like there are thousands of others deserve thanks more than me. I wonder if other people who come back feel like me, or if they feel that the world owes them a debt of gratitude for what they did. Either way I’m glad there are people like Mark and Jeff that are willing to do things out of the goodness of their hearts.
After CIF we didn’t have anything left to so we went back the barracks to relax for the rest of the day. We actually wanted to do more to get out of here but I guess they were expecting us to get here today and this was our relaxation day and the out-processing starts tomorrow. So we went to the PX and the Bowling Alley and just hung out for a while. A few of the guys decided to go off post to watch a movie and eat at the Olive Garden. I decided to stay here and take a shower and write in my journal (it takes hours to write some of these long entries).
I also walked to a phone to call my family and tell them that I’m in Carson now; it was great talking to them knowing that I’m probably going to see them by the weekend. They’re excited, I’m excited, it’s hard to be patient and wait the four short days till I can get home. Back at Tallil we spent 14 hours a day for a month sitting on our butts trying to ignore the wind and heat and wait to get out; now I have trouble waiting 15 minutes for Slocum to get a list from CIF, I just want to get home as soon as I can.
03-Sep-03 1:23 AM
Well I haven’t been writing very much recently, things have been going great. The first week home was a sit and veg-out week, I don’t know if it was jet lag or if I was so comfortable being home but I didn’t do much. The second week I spent with Rex and Corey in Vegas, it helped get my mind back into the swing of things and now I’m at GOX in Colorado.
Tonight was the Outlaw dinner night, it was fun and after dinner we went
to the silver eagle for more drinks. I kept back and drank just enough
to relax me. At the Eagle things started to get dramatic one of the couples
was having a few problems. They ended up fighting and the girl ran off,
we all went looking for her and I was the first to find her so I spent
the time doing what I do best, sitting and listening. Long story short,
she’s confused about her marriage and is second guessing herself.
Her husband is caught up in it and wants to help but the more he tries
the more space she needs.
Then it hit me. Things had come full circle.
I was ignoring the puerile discussions that people were having trying to look cool just like I had in Scandia. Plus I was mediating the drama like I had with my friends before I left. The deployment and my real life had come together. The best thing about all of it is that I’m still the same as before, maybe a melding of the two parts of my life but still the same basic person.
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