Sunday, February 29, 2004

Jarhead

Jarhead
Sunday, February 29, 2004
11:40:00 PM CST

29 Feb 2004

Just finished reading a book by the name of Jarhead by Anthony Swoffford. It started out a little awkward since I was trying to understand the author's bitterness with the USMC. He was a Marine during the Gulf War and chronicles his life and feelings about becoming a Marine before the war and during. I never had those types of bitter feelings in the military because I was an Air Force puke and never experienced a war or conflict. I had it easy.

Tony seems to pour out his bitterness into the book by the bucketful. What is strange is that after I got further into the book, it actually reminded me of some of my friends that had also been Marines. His expressions and attitudes were actually somewhat similiar to how my friend from Lucent, Keith had described some of his feelings about the Corps. Just an observation.

Swofford kind of breaks the typical stereotype we have envisioned of the enlisted Marine believed to be someone with zero emotions (and at times zero smarts). He kind of lets you into his head and gives you a peak at what a Marine is really seeing, feeling and thinking in a war situation and in an articulate way.

It was an interesting read especially since I'm sitting here in Iraq some thirteen years after the US kicked their butts out of Kuwait. I would recommend this book to everyone except my Gram. Sorry Gram, I don't want you reading that kind of filthy Marine language. Too many four letter words.

Happy Leap Day

Happy Leap Day
Sunday, February 29, 2004
11:27:00 PM CST

29 Feb 2004

Happy Leap Day. Found out that the mortars that I heard the other night were US exercises. I knew that they sounded like they were at least as far away if not further than BIAP. Also, the rumors about the 10-15 Iraqis that got over the wall of the base and getting shot are true. And yes, they were all shot dead. The scary part is that the new trailer park and MWR building are over where this all happened. I'm hoping that this event will force the people making decisions to maybe reconsider opening the highway to the airport which passes our base and the entry to Camp Slayer (ISG). We'll see.

Last night I joined a few of my coworkers at Ishtar. There was a going-away gathering of sorts for a group of ITTer's from ISG. They are to be split up and sent to different sites around Iraq and Afghanistan because it has been suggested that they don't play well together and they are a bunch of whiners. Of course I'm not quoting anyone on that! Anyway, Ishtar is a full service restaurant located in the airport terminal at BIAP on the third or fourth floor. We didn't get there in time to eat because we were going to leave at 7 but no vehicle was available since everyone has been moving. Suffice to say, the refreshments were cold and satisfying. Hope they're as good at Rock Bottom on Tuesday night for my NIU EMBA TMC2 group.

Some Tennessee senator was also at Camp Victory tonight at the chow hall looking to shake hands with constituents. You wanted to see your tax dollars at work! I guess it isn't exactly $200 million in overcharges like KBR, but still a waste all the same. I'm sure he used no government money for transport here, but I've only seen C130's and military helo's flying into BIAP. Hmmmm, my pockets feel lighter already, don't yours?

Although, I have to congratulate him on actually making it to where the real people are. My only hope was that the senator got to enjoy our hospitality of sleeping in some of the vermin infested tents and fly ridden porta-potties for an overnight topped off with one shower trailer that doesn't work (compliments of KBR) and the other that only has cold water. Maybe his visit *could* help improve overall conditions for the soldiers and civilians here.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

We've Moved

We've Moved
Saturday, February 28, 2004
11:11:00 PM CST

27 Feb 2004

We've moved! KBR decided that they wanted their 24 man tent back, so they have moved us into a couple of other 16 man tents in Coalition Village. We have divided up the spaces so that each tent has or can have 8 people. My new space is about 8X8 ft. I carried all my stuff over about 1/4 mile away. The pickup was already being used by others,and I wnated to make sure that I still had some choice of location in the tent. Didn't want to be by the door again.

Kind of down today. Owen, one of the guys that I went through CRC with, left on the 25th at 0615. I'm kind of sad to see him leave, but he lined up a better job with another company here in Iraq. At least it is a better opportunity and he will be working on the equipment he has experience with. That was all he wanted in the first place. I knew he would go when they stuck him on help desk. We don't maintain the sat comm equipment and doesn't seem like any is on the horizon for awhile. Haven't heard anything fromhim to date since he got back to Camp Doha---so where's the email Owen?

Sal dropped us all a line from Kabul. Owen, Sal, Pat and I hung together at Ft Bliss for CRC and stayed at the Bliss Inn instead of the open bay. We also shared the car that Owen had rented to get around the base. Anyway, eight ITTer's are out in Kabul, Afghanistan now, Sal and Pat among them. Sal said that they are staying in a safehouse behind the embassy in the basement. "At least we have beds," is his upbeat remark about the site. Pat has been working midnights at the Tech Control but the others are going tobe working help desk and haven't really been doing too much yet.

Mortars have been booming in the distance since about 9pm. They sound pretty far away- probably over by BIAP (Baghdad Intl Airport). Don't sound close enough for Victory North or ISG (across the highway from us at the old Bathe HQ and Republican Guard Compound). Drove past Victory North on Tuesday and see that they have quite a nice BX/PX going in there. It is almost about the size of a Target...the store, not a bulls eye for mortar practice! Although some nights we really wonder. All the steel beams are up. Very soon this is going to be a growing base from the looks of things.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Just Another Day in Paradise

Just Another Day in Paradise
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
11:37:00 PM CST

24 Feb 2004

Day off today. I slept in for a change. It was windy and cold again last night, so I pulled a blanket over my head and stayed warm. This tent is pretty torn up and lets all the wind go through it. Dave from switch, Chuck who is waiting here for a convoy to Taji and I went over to BIAP to shop and look around. Chuck just came down from Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq and is transferring to Taji. He was telling us horror stories of his arrival on site three months ago. He was among the first contractors from ITT on site at Anaconda. Just like my buddy Sal who went up to Kabul, Afghanistan, they ended up sleeping in sleeping bags on the rocks at the airport. ITT has a habit of deploying you to remote sites unannounced and then you just hit the ground running. Adds a little excitement to the new experience.

Went to the Haji Bazarre on BIAP to look at their wares. Beautiful oriental carpets from Iran. I found a nice 8X11 in blue, cream and reds that was made of wool and silk. I forget the knot count, but it was a handwoven rug. He wanted $3300 for it and in the States, I know that it is worth quite a bit more than that. But, I passed on it this time. I want to pay off bills first before incuring more debt.

Owen is leaving us at Camp Victory. He was another guy that I had gone through CRC with at Ft. Bliss. ITT hired him as a Satcom (satellite communications) tech and maintenance, but we don't have any satcom here at Victory. The army is maintaining it. He doesn't want to lose the skills that he spent 8 years in the Army building and they don't have anywhere to move him where he could be working on satcom equipment, so he found a new job in Iraq with another company. He gave his notice yesterday, but they won't let him leave until our management talks with the country manager. Owen says that if he isn't out of here by tomorrow, he will just get a ride to the airport himself and leave. He will have to go back to the US and go through CRC at Ft Bliss again and then will come back through Camp Doha, Baghdad and go up to Camp Anaconda at Balad. The other company has their equipment in place and has a real job for him to do, so he will be working on satcom equipment again. Good on him!

The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
11:29:00 PM CST

23 Feb 2004

We had a lot of ground fire last night and a few mortars. It was noisy, but rumor was that the mortars landed over by the airport and north Victory. North Vicotry was originally Saddam's personal hunting refuge/area. Rumor also has it that on Friday night/Saturday morning, somewhere between 5-15 Iraquis snuck over the wall and constantina wire to get on base. This is all rumor, of course, but that supposedly was why we heard gunfire late Friday night/Saturday morning. So the little incident did not help the whole situation. But, this does mean that if the rumors are true, information about the base is leaving the base via local workers and they are watching for any chink in the armor.

Also to be noted, "he-who-shall-not-be-named" left the base this morning. His plane departed around 7 a.m. I think ITT wheeled some deals to quickly get him out of here and avoid further embarrassment.

Received emails from CRC buddies. Seems like ITT is shuffeling the deck here. The Army is going to take over the proposed civilian positions in some sites we already had people deployed to. So now our group-members will be moved to either different sites in Iraq, to different sites in Kuwait, to Afghanistan, or to Camp Doha to wait on reassignment.

We were cleaning fools today in bated expectation of the visit of a two star general. After all is said and done, it was a visiti of a Lt. Colonel with an entorage of majors. He was a pretty cool guy. My coworker Randal was briefing him and then he noted that the Colonel is looking at the equipment and thinking. Randal asks if there are any questions, as the Colonel was still looking like he was trying to formulate a question. Then Randal breaks his chain of thought and interjects, "You don't have to ask any questions if you don't want to." That put a smile on the Colonel's face.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

It Wasn't Avon Calling!!

It Wasn't Avon Calling!!
Sunday, February 22, 2004
11:48:00 PM CST

22 Feb 2004

We got woken up this morning very unexpectantly at 4 a.m. this morning. I heard someone fumblineg around with the zipper on the tent to come in or out and I just figured that it was Victor and Chris since they have been getting up at 5 a.m. to workout. Then I heard someone say, "you got a flashlight?" "Yes, right here."

Now, I want you to imagine your best recollection of Mr. Hainey from Green Acres. "KBR Security. Is there a representative from ITT in this tent?" Well, if the military didn't teach us anything, it was never volunteer unless you are specifically addressed by name. Even if they'd have shone the light in my face, I'd have feigned death sooner to admit that I was with ITT at that point. Victor, unfortunately for him, doesn't have sheets or a blanket up around his area, so they got him. "Yes, I'm with ITT."

"One of your employees has been arrested for drug possession, drunk and disorderly, breaking and entering, assaulting a female officer, resisting arrest..." Victor broke in then, "Could we discuss this outside?" Right then one of the old-timers who have been here for four months came out and said that he would go with them.

The alleged guilty party is to be flown out tomorrow morning. People in the office have been pretty quite about the whole issue; and for good reason. There is more history to this story, but I want to keep my job and don't know who all is reading this. Ask me once I receive my contract bonus and I'll bring the handwritten journal and we can discuss it over a beer or three at Rock Bottom in Warrenville,Illinois. It's pretty simiple; if you *need* to have liquor, you should be looking elsewhere for a job.

There was an article in the Stars & Stripes just last week about two rapes that occured here on Camp Victory last month. The new Colonel has only arrived on base for a visit about three days ago and hasn't been very cordial with ITT to start with. I'm sure that this incident is going to go over like a lead balloon. If we thought that we had problems getting trailers for our people before this incident, I'm sure that this isn't going to bring him over to our side. I already can hear his response, "Trailers!!! You idiots need cages!!!"

General Order Number 1A

Sunday, February 22, 2004
11:11:00 PM CST

GENERAL ORDER NUMBER 1A

TITLE: Prohibited Activities for U.S. Department of Defense Personnel Present Within the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) AOR.

PURPOSE: To identify conduct that is prejudicial to the maintenance of good order and discipline of all forces in the USCENTCOM AOR.

AUTHORITY: Title 10, United States Code , Section 164(c) and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Title 10, United States Code, Sections 801-940.

APPLICABILITY: This General Order is applicable to all United States military personnel, and to civilians serving with, employed by, or accompanying the Armed Forces of the United States, while present in USCENTCOM AOR....

1. STATEMENT OF MILITARY PURPOSE AND NECESSITY: Current operations and deployments place United States Armed Forces into USCENTCOM AOR countries where local laws and customs prohibit or restrict certain activities which are generally permissible in western societies. Restrictions upon these activities are essential to preserving U.S./ host nation relations and combined operations of U.S. and friendly forces. In addition, the high operational tempo combined with often-hazardous duty faced by U.S. forces in the region makes it prudent to restrict certain activities in order to maintain good order and disipline and ensure optimum readiness.

2. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES:

a. Purchase, possession, use or sale of privately owned firearms, ammunition, explosives, or the introduction of these items into the USCENTCOM AOR.

b. Entrance into a Mosque or other site of Islamic religious significance by non-Moslems unless directed to do so by military authorities, required by military necessity, or as part of an official tour conducted with the approval of military authorities and the host nation. This provision may be made more restrictive by Commanders when the local security situation warrents.

c. Introduction, possession, sale, transfer, manufacture or consumption of any alcoholic beverage within the countries of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In all other countries of the USCENTCOM AOR, U.S. military and civilian personnel will conform to their respective component restriction on alcohol, and follow appropriate deportment in respecting host-nation laws and customs. Because of the high operational tempo and various threats faced by U.S. forces in the region, it is prudent to exercise active control over certain activities in order to maintain good order and discipline and ensure optimum readiness. Accordingly, in all locations where alcohol is not prohibited by this General Order, Commanders and unit chiefs are directed to exercise discretion and good judgement in promulgating and enforcing appropriate guidelines and restrictions, regularly reviewed to ensure they are commensurate with current or foreseen operaitons and threats.

d. pertains to illegal drugs.

e. pertains to pornography

f. pertains to gambling

g. pertains to archeological artifacts

h. pertains to handling of local currency

i. no pets

j. proselytizing of any religion, faith or practice.

k. taking or retaining individual souvenirs or trophies...

Friday, February 20, 2004

Haute Cuisine at Camp Victory

Haute Cuisine At Camp Victory
Saturday, February 21, 2004
3:11:00 AM CST

20 Feb 2004

My good friend Laura Voll from my old MBA study group wrote me an email and was concerned about what we get to eat. First off, I have been avoiding MRE's since the very beginning. Meals Ready to Eat are not exactly what I enjoy eating, so I'm a hold-out for real food. Anyway, Laura here is the menu from today. Please keep in mind that this food is still served in a chow hall, no matter how tasty it sounds. Also, all taste and flavor has been removed as per military edict.

Breakfast: omlets to order, scrambled eggs, breakfast burritos, french toast, pancakes, fruit, cold and hot cereal.

Lunch: meatloaf burgers, stew meat over rice, brussel sprouts, and assortment of fast foods like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, etc., salads and lettuce, fruit and assorted desserts to include ice cream from Bahrain (the Kuwaiti milk and ice cream is much better)

Dinner: (Good thing I picked Friday to write this!) prime rib, shrimp, fish, rice, mashed potatos, salads, fruit, and ice cream.

Now keep in mind that there is a whole salad bar out there and other deserts as well. So, there is way too much variety and plenty to eat. We aren't going to starve, or not until KBR starts cutting back on our meals to make up that $200 million dollar overcharge to the government for the food and fuel bought from Kuwait.

Deep Thoughts...

Deep Thoughts...
Saturday, February 21, 2004
12:09:00 AM CST

20 Feb 2004

Deep thoughts...from the porta-pottie! I was in the porta-pottie this morning and read a rather comical truism. I'm going to paraphrase it in a "G" rating sorta way for our more sensitive readers, ok? It read, "If this porta-pottie (this is the altered word) is a rockin, it's probably an RPG. You're going to die in the porta-pottie (once again an altered word)! Ha, Ha, Ha!!! Dietrick strikes again." Well Dietrick, aside from stating the obvious and being a realist, you're also a sick puppy! I was talking to a seargent at lunch today and she was saying that there was a time not so long ago when mortars and groundfire were an everyday occurance here at Victory like it is now at Anaconda (Balad) and even at Taji. Thankfully, things have calmed down here. We haven't had any close mortars since the first night we arrived here.

Had a day off today! A group of us took a little walk around part of the lake around the palace today. I was able to get some nice close-ups of the wall reliefs on some of the out-buildings around the lake. I was actually surprised by the number of reliefs that depicted Iraq's success over the US in the Gulf War. Now before you pooh-pooh that point of view, please consider the Iraqi view on the Gulf War. Sure they got chased out of Kuwait,but the US then backed down once they reached the outskirts of Baghdad. They didn't follow up their threats with any punishment. In fact any threats from the US were ignored by Saddam. We promised the Shiites in the south that we would be there to support them if they would riot against the Saddam regime, but when they rioted, the US was nowhere to be found. Saddam ended up putting in prison or to death 20,000 to 30,000 people. Hmmm, looks like Saddam got his way and the US didn't have the guts or the strength, or money to back up the promise for over ten years. In their eyes, Saddam was a victor and the US blinked first. The US lost their resolve and their confidence.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Dave's Raves

Dave's Raves
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
11:26:00 PM CST

18 Feb 2004

I know it's about time that I provided an update, but I've been rather sleep-deprived and crabby over the past three nights. I'd love to tell you that it was due to mortar rounds and helo's flying overhead. In fact, I'd rather post that then the truth! But, I think you all deserve the truth and are ready for it. No flowering up a bunch of lies, so here goes.

The last few nights have been difficult to sleep due to my neighbor in the bunk across from me playing his TV loudly and enjoying conjugal visits! Yes, conjugal visits. They play videos until well after midnight and don't turn the volume down until they're getting more intimate than I want to know or hear. I tried sticking my fingers in my ears and singing LA-LA-LA!, to no avail. They are still louder than me. This giggling and squealing until past midnight has to stop!

You might ask, how does this type of situation arise in an open bay tent? Well, if you remember my earlier discussion of our tent set-up, most of us have sheets, blankets or poncho's hung up to provide us a soft-walled cube or sleeping area. They apparently believe that these "walls" are either soundproof or that the rest of us are willing voyeurs.

I'm not going to break up the tea party. There are others who have noticed the situation and brought it to the attention of the receiving party that maybe they need to chill out a bit. Anyway, I think that the subject of his adoration is deploying back to the States this week. So, I guess the issue will clear on its own. I'm still debating whether to move to a smaller lot at the other end of the tent to avoid the TV noise once his amore' is gone. At any rate, the other side of the tent is a quieter side of town.

As long as I'm ranting, KBR laundry still doesn't have my clothes back and I've run out of skivvies!! I washed a load of clothes at the office, but they don't have a dryer in the office, so now all of my clothes are hanging all over my cube area and draped over things like my suitcase and one of my full duffel bags. I sure hope my underware dries by morning, otherwise I'll feel like I'm wearing a wet diaper to work tomorrow morning! :0

Well, enough of "Dave's Raves" for tonight. Say goodnight Gracie. Goodnight Gracie.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Windstorm AND Sandstorm

Windstorm AND Sandstorm
Monday, February 16, 2004
10:24:00 AM CST

15 Feb 2004

Quite a windstorm last night. I was hoping that the roof of the tent would blow off, but no such luck. The velcro strips on the window next to my bunk came undone in the storm and cold air kept rushing in because the zipper on the tent door at our end doesn't close. We might as well have been sleeping outside. From everything I've heard, itsn't the job here or the mortars that make you want to leave, it's the living conditions provided by KBR!

By morning, the only damage to the tent is a few pulled stakes. I'm sure that KBR will be all over those work requests from ITT!

Reading the Stars and Stripes today made me hope they are going to get what is due them. Halliburton is under investigation for "war-profiteering under a broad contract KBRhas to provide logistical support to the military." (in Iraq) Quote in the Stars and Stripes, Sunday February 15,2004, page 3.

HA!!! Maybe we can't get proper living conditions from KBR, but knowing that their company is under the microscope may be the only satisfaction we will get at ITT in Iraq. I hadn't realized that Kellogg, Brown & Root, aka KBR were a subsidiary of Halliburton.

On to other happenings. Mark your calendars for the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. Yes, the same ones that pushed our departure from Camp Wolf back a day, will be at Camp Victory on Feb 17th. So bring your cameras and bring a permanent marker for them to autograph the group pictures!;) Additionally, plan on attending the MWR Salsa Dance on Feb 21st starting at 2000.

We had a great sandstorm here today. It only lasted about three hours, but it cut visibility on the base to about 500 feet. I'll be digging sand outta my ears for a week or growing potatoes. What was neat was that the sky turned an amber color and when we looked at office windows and open doors lit with flourescent lighting, the lights almost shone like a black light was lit --a very eery blue glow. The storm cleared up around 5 pm and the sky was clear with no clouds the rest of the night. All for now.

NNNN

And the Plural of Mice is....

And the Plural of Mice is...
Monday, February 16, 2004
8:20:00 AM CST

A mice issue has crept up, (so to speak) over the last couple of days. Victor brought it to my attention when he discovered a hole that you could fit a pencil through was eaten into his new felt hat. Others here had mentioned the issue of rodents, but I didn't think anything of it. Anyway, so one of the guys went over to the KBR building to get sticky paper or traps for the mice issue. He was told that it wasn't KBR's problem --call Floure--supposedly they take care of all physical issues concerning buildings and tents.

Well, let's give you some background on the KBR & ITT love affair here. ITT has been doing work in Iraq for quite some time now. When KBR came here, seems someone from ITT must have peed in their cornflakes one morning and now getting anything other than raspberries from KBR is like pulling teeth. This is why ITT contractors on Victory are in tents and all other contractors are in trailers. KBR is resigned to making the ITT guys as miserable as they can. Aren't political disagreements fun?

I guess the mouse issue was taken up the line because this afternoon, a KBR guy came to our tent to lay and deliver some sticky mouse strips. Don't know why the change of heart, but I'm not complaining. Maybe we should have also asked for trailers while we were at it!

Saturday in Iraq

Saturday in Iraq
Monday, February 16, 2004
8:09:00 AM CST

Finally got up early enough to call home. I've been wanting to check in all week, but the nine hour difference in time has made things difficult at best. Phil sounded good. I wanted to talk longer than the 15 or so minutes we spoke, but my phone card ran out of minutes. He said that both the dogs are healing well and both have all of their stitches out. Cayenne is still limping some, but for only three weeks after knee surgury, I'd say that she was doing very well. When she had her other knee done, she was hobbling along for a good two months.

Got out on another day trip today. Jay the outside maint guy, Dave and Eve were going shopping. First we went over to the ISG which is where the old Bathe Party HQ was. We visited the ITT people there and then ate chow there. The decision was to either go over to BIAP first and have lunch at BK or do the chow hall at ISG. Eve made the command decision. Turned out to be an excellent decision too. They had great chow! Lasagna that was as good as Stouffers and the banana cream cake was definitely bakery quality. Our chow hall at Victory can't hang with ISG chow!

From ISG, we hit the different "Haji" shops in the area. Dave was looking for jewelry, Eve looking for DVDs and I was looking to price out carpets. We were at just about every shop between ISG and BIAP that you can imagine. I knokw now that I will empty my suitcases on the way home and fill them with oriental rugs. Phenomenal rugs and great prices.

Made another stop at the BX/PX at BIAP for another 4-drawer plastic holder. Now all my clothes etc can be out of the suitcase and into drawers. I hate living out of a suitcase. So now this feels a little more like home --except for the rodent problem. More in the next installment!

BIAP and ISG Field Trip

BIAP and ISG Field Trip
Monday, February 16, 2004
6:22:00 AM CST

13 Feb 2004

Lee Bache and Ted Kinder came up to Baghdad with us and were to stay here at Camp Victory until a convoy was arranged to take them over to the Taji site - formerly Camp Franklin. Franklin had been moved to the Taji site due to the frequent mortar attacks. Anyway, plans have changed or have been put on hold as of this morning. So they will stay here at Victory until it is determined where they will go or if they will go.

This morning two of our coworkers took Victor and me on a field trip over to BIAP - Baghdad International Airport Compound. They have a bigger BX/PX *and* a Burger King. So, I got the chance to obtain a four-drawer plastic container to hold all me stuff. It feels more like home already. Stood in line for BK and Jay also buys the guards in the tanks at the gait a BK meal to show appreciation. The don't get to leave the post, and we don't have a BK or anything like that on post. So he takes care of them. I just thought that this was a nice gesture.

In the afternoon, Vic and I also joined Jay for another field trip over to another site in the area - ISG. ISG is situated on the old Bathe Party Headquarters. Ousay and Qusay also hung out in that area as well. This was also quite an elaborate compound. The Bathe Party Headquarters building was bombed pretty badly. One whole wing of the building is completely collapsed from a missle.

We also stopped and paid a visit to our ITT counterparts and got the guided tourl. They are definitely in a more dangerous spot than we are. The building in front of theirs has taken several direct hits from the locals. This building used to be a sort of convention center for the Bathe Party Headquarters and faces another man-made lake.

All in all, it was a great day for a field trip.

Camp Victory

Camp Victory
Monday, February 16, 2004
6:10:00 AM CST

12 February 2004

Camp Victory is located on the grounds of the palace that Saddam Hussain built near the airport. The palace is surrounded by an artificial lake and has a moat with a bridge leading up to the front door, but the other three sides are surrounded by water and the lake. Lee and I went for a walk around the palace today. The palace itself is now restricted. Construction workers are working on it to restore it for use as home to the American forces in Iraq. The path around the palace and lake runs about 2-1/2 miles.

There are some beautiful buildings on these grounds. Walking down the side of the lake, what is now the Australian Command building has two reliefs on it. One of the reliefs depicts an ancient Iraqui battle. The second relief depicts the Iraquis fighting in the Gulf War against the Americans. You can see the planes and helo's in the relief. Continuing around the path, buildings and watch towers are currently in different states of repair. The American government is painstakingly restoring and repairing these buildings for use by our forces and those of the coalition.

We need someplace safe, so this is as good as any. We are able to make use of the fortified walls, guard towers and other buildings in the palace parimeter. Eventually, this will all be turned back to the Iraqi people.

Tonight, Dave and Jay took me out in the pick-up to scout for a bed frame. The old unit that pulled out left a bunch of bed frames in the one parking lot a week or so ago. Sure enough, one lonely bedframe was still there. It wasn't perfect, but it works for me. As long as I don't have to sleep one more night on that damed cot. I had bought a 4 inch foam mattess during the day today because my back was aching from the cot. The bed is only a small six foot frame, but it holds that small mattress and it will do for now.

Welcome to Iraq

Welcome to Iraq
Monday, February 16, 2004
3:56:00 AM CST

12 Feb 2004

Just as we shut off the lights, the mortar fire began. First three booms sounded like they came from about three blocks away. Then a big single boom that sounded like it came from a block away and went over our tent. Everyone went outside to check it out, but it was over that quick. You could still smell the gunpowder in the air. Jay turns to two of us new guys and says, "Welcome to Iraq."

Gunfire off and on all night, but in the distance. Nothing to worry about. The hardest part of sleeping is the cots. The helo's passing overhead woke me up a couple times during the night, but I was able to fall right back to sleep. It's been awhile since I've lived on a flight line. Last time was at Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs and then in Biloxi on Keesler AFB.

All the frickin mud and stones here are a major pain in the butt. They had rain for about an hour the day before we arrived, so you can't go anywhere without dragging mud and stones along with you. I did claim a spot in the tent that was open when someone else had left. So I have squatters rights on a six by eight space. Most people have created their own space or cubes with blankets or the military ponchos we were issued hung across wire or cord strung across the tent. This gives people some privacy or sense of privacy in this little hell-hole we call home.

I don't know if I'll be able to say this in December when it gets cold, but I am actually getting adjusted to using the porta-potties. They really are some nasty and discusting things! I hate to even talk about them on an empty stomach. But.....One funny porta-potty side note. One of the guys I've been with since CRC at Ft Bliss is here now at Victory until he leaves for his site at Taji. Anyway, Lee Bache was joking about the "Blue Kiss of Death" when I had told him that the porta potties has just been cleaned. I had no clue what he was talking about, so he had to explain. Let's give a "G" rated version of his explanation. The BKofD is basically the splashback from the pretty blue water. You know you're bored when the humor starts to turn to toilet humor.

They Don't Fly a 777 Like That!

They Don't Fly a 777 Like That!
Monday, February 16, 2004
2:15:00 AM CST

11 Feb 2004

It was a great flight. The pilot had warned us ahead of time not to be alarmed at our approach into Baghdad. The approach is pretty much a 240 degree turn and a dive into the runway! Very interesting and kind of exciting. They don't fly a 777 like that!

We checked into the receiving tent at Baghdad Airport and Lee called the ITT Rep to come pick up the four of us. We were taken over to Camp Victory on the southwest side of Baghdad Intl Airport. Oh, btw, we don't actually use the international terminal. There are a cluster of tents and jamesways set up as the military terminal across the runways from the international terminal. Supposedly, the airport may open up to commercial service in June or so. When you look across the runways at the international terminal, you see the old Iraqui Airlines planes sitting on the tarmac. Looks a bit spooky at that side of the airport, kind of like that side is still stuck in a timewarp.

Got taken over to the TCF/Telecom Building on Victory and met some of the people. The site mgr, supervisor and a couple of my co-workers. They sounded surprised that they were getting another tech controller. Who knows? After this we were taken to our tent that we would soon learn to love and call home. OMG! Have you ever seen Edwin Muench's "The Scream"? Well then, just breath into the bag and you won't hyperventilate!

I'd like to say that it was actually better than that and that I'm not overreacting, but I can't! Ok, I'll get used to it. And if I don't get used to it, I will come to tolerate it every payday for one year! Maybe I need to start my short-timers calendar now and avoid the rush. For the uninitiated, a short-timers calendar is a countdown calendar used to count down the days until you leave.

As I write this, we have been hearing constant gunfire in the distance. Reminds me of my two weeks in Guatemala. I'm sure that I'll sleep though. Noon here seems too whigged out about it, so I'll kind of follow their lead. Well, I'm exhausted. Time for bed. More later.

Departing Camp Wolf

Departing Camp Wolf
Monday, February 16, 2004
2:03:00 AM CST

11 Feb 2004

Stupid SOB's. They tell us that they will be doing a roll call at 0500 for the manifest to Baghdad. If you don't answer up, you're not on the flight. 0500 rolls around, noone. 0600, 0700, noone. Victor goes over to tent D1 to find out what's going on, they tell him 1030 roll and flight; be ready. I went and got breakfast but didn't shower. I'll get one when we get there. The 1/2 mile hike to the showers may make me miss roll!

Well, we got on the first manifest for an 1100 departure. Dragged our bags over to the pallets for the loadmaster and then we were instructed to go to D1 and wait. *Don't* go anywhere because we don't want you to miss the flight! Predator was put into the DVD player and I'm thinking that we probably shouldn't get into the movie to much since we should be outta here in 1/2 hour.

WRONG! After the movie finishes at 1330, they come in and say that the second flight to Baghdad is going to depart first. Our plane is 5 minutes out and hasn't even landed yet. Why am I surprised? Still no lunch. We finally get loaded by 1500. I know what to expect for seating. A C130 that has two pallets loaded with our luggage is in back and rows of webbed seating running lengthwise inside the cargo bay. 5 years in the Air Force but my two C130 flights have been as a civilian contractor. One from King George Island in the Antarctic back up to Punta Arenas, Chile and now from Kuwait City to Baghdad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Be Careful What You Wish For...
Monday, February 16, 2004
1:04:00 AM CST

10 Feb 2004

Well, today was *the* day. We departed Camp Doha for Camp Wolf at the APOD. The APOD is a kind of holding pen for the incoming and outgoing. I am actually kind of sad about leaving Doha. Sal, Owen, Pat and I have been the four musketeers since we started with ITT. We developed a close bond and now we are all to be split up. Adam, our ITT liason at Doha was remarking in fact, on what a tight knit group all 18 of us have been. He had said that he has seen some groups at each other's throats. We all seemed to click right from the start. In fact, Laura, the only woman in our CRC group was kind of like everyone's little sister. When we first got to Camp Doha, she was all by herself in a woman's open bay that was down a dark alley and was filthy. The next day, she asked if she could bunk with us guys in our bay. Victor asked if we minded and everyone was in favor of it. She put up sheets to blcok out a section and it worked out well.

From what we are hearing, these accomodations are luxury compared to what we will be provided in the field. Well, it didn't take long to find that out! We checked into the departures/space available for today and we were advised that we would be first on the list for Baghdad on the 11th. Flights to Baghdad today were full of cheerleaders. Cheerleaders?! Yep, cheerleaders-big, buxom, bouncy cheerleaders. They first made a visit to Camp Wolf and signed pictures with the soldiers, hugs and poses, etc. MWR - Morale, Welfare and Recreation at it's finest. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."

So we got "billeting" in tent D4 with 60 others waiting to go to Baghdad. What is it like? Similar to the tents you see in MASH but stretched out about 30 cots on either side. The porta-potties were located about 1/4 mile way. Me thinks we are getting a taste of what is to come.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Getting Ready to Move 'em Out

Getting Ready to Move 'em Out
Monday, February 9, 2004
4:43:00 AM CST

09 Feb 2004

Got word toady that a group of us will be moved to the apod for preparation to deploy north. The Apod is the staging area at the Kuwait Airport which we first came into. So, tomorrow night will probably be spent under the "big top", the big white circus tent. No biggie, this isn't a permanent situation.

Looking back at my entries, I realize that I really didn't explain any of the accomodations here at Camp Doha. Since we are contractors and transitionary, we are nearly lower than dirt. We have an open bay sleeping area with about 20 or so bunk beds in an old converted warehouse. The bathrooms and laundry facilities are across the alley from us. But not only we use these sleeping quarters, but troops that come through for an overnight will be bunked with us too. It ain't the Ritz, but it is a hellofa lot better than tents and porta-potties.

The chow hall is your normal cafeteria-style eatery. Sometimes the food is good, sometimes it isn't as good. They do always seem to have a lettuce salad at the salad bar and fast food is also available if you don't like the main course.

The weather during this past week has been tolerable. Clear, sunny and temps anywhere during the day between 60-70 degrees F. They have a very well stocked Base Exchange/Post Exchange. The food court in the AAFES facilities includes Starbuck's Coffee, the internet cafe, KFC, Subway, Baskin Robins Ice Cream and Pizza Hut to name a few. Also included in the court are gold/jewelry dealers, rug dealers and other kiosks.

Now that I know that I'm leaving, I'm kind of stuck with about 30 Kuwaiti dinar, about $95 US. That's ok, I'll find a way to spend it on the way out next year.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

The Litter-mates Noone Wants

The Litter-mates Noone Wants
Sunday, February 8, 2004
9:44:00 AM CST

8 Feb 2004

Well, here we are feeling like the littermates noone wants! Several have already started to depart to their units. We are waiting on our individual gaining units to prepare for us. Until then, we get to watch as more littermates leave and we stay behind.

We have also compared ourselves to newborn babies. See, their only job in life is to eat, sleep and poop. Our situation is similar except we can add shopping to our resume here! Can you tell we're bored? Owen borrowed Band of Brothers from me and is just now finishing the last dvd in his Sunday marathon. Maybe he will have to borrow my first and second seasons of SouthPark. Inbetween chapters of Harry Potter book 3 yesterday, I was reviewing the first season of South Park. The alien satellite dish from his anal probe coming out of Cartmans butt always gets me rolling! If you've never seen it, it is highly recommended. That is the same episode in which Cartman's Mom utters the famous line, "Well, I know a certain kitty kitty who's sleeping with Mommy tonight!" Then again, Tom's Rinoplasty is also pretty hilarious. That's the one that has the substitute teacher Miss Ellen in it.

Well, I'm going to get back to Harry Potter 3. Another day or two like today and I'll be through 3 and into book 4.

Trip to Kuwait City

Trip to Kuwait City
Sunday, February 8, 2004
2:17:00 AM CST

05 Feb 2004 PM

Had a great opportunity today to go to Kuwait City. Paul an ITT guy who has been here for over two months was going into Kuwait City and asked Owen and I if we wanted to tag along. I was a bit apprehensive for obvious reasons, but Owen convinced me that it was safe. Owen has been out of the Army about three weeks now and had been stationed here at Camp Doha last year for one year. So, he is familiar with the area and the city.

Guess that I really didn't know what to expect. Going into the city, we passed the stretch were two contractors were ambushed last year and killed. Since then, the military police and the Kuwaiti police monitor this area pretty closely. The stretch has mounds on either side of it dotted with trees and shrubs. Paul was saying that sometimes you will see wild camels in this area too along with bedeoans. (spelling?)

Kuwait City is an interesting mix of posh luxury and slums. Actually, it isn't too different than any other western city or driving into Chicago for that matter. The drivers are just as crazy! We got into a traffic circle and some clown in the inside lane decided that he needed to get out of the circle right where we were. He nearly drove through the driver's side door and then honked at us because we were in his way. Paul took us to the souks to shop around. They looked alot like a huge flee market.

From the souks, we went over to the Sharq Mall. This mall is on the water front and is quite nice. Very modern and very westernized. This is the mall where that Scud missle landed in the water next to it. It has a great water clock in the middle. After we left the mall, we drove down along the water front to chose a restaurant to eat at. All the normal western restaurants are there. Fudruckers, Friday's, Appleby's, Chili's, you-name-it-it's-there.

I'm kind of regretting now that after dinner I didn't take a picture of the towers on the waterfront. The two towers are the image everyone remembers of Kuwait City. Some of the buildings have also been adorned with floors/stories of lights looking like the Kuwaiti flag. Paul was saying that they are getting ready to celebrate their independence from the Iraqi takeover back from the Persian Gulf War.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Life at Camp Doha, Kuwait

Life at Camp Doha, Kuwait
Saturday, February 7, 2004
10:38:00 PM CST

05 February 2004

Had a good workout today. First one in over two weeks. Sal and I got up at 5 am, ate chow, and went over to MWR to work out. Afterward, we got to talking with a guy who had come back last night from Basrah. He is an ITT guy who ended up having a bit of a disagreement about water usage with a naked Brit Lt. Col. (who wasn't tatood with his rank). The lt. col. was screaming at him about water useage and wouldn't let up. Basically, I guess that he told the guy to piss off so that he could get the soap off of his body and out of his hair. This guy wanted the ITT guy to just turn off the water and get out with all the soap still in his eyes. Sounds like our guy ended up a political pawn in the whole scheme of things. He wasn't recommended for dismissal, only for relocation in theater.

Called my sister Deb today. Hated to wake her, but needed to let her know that I'm ok. There is a nine hour difference between Kuwait and Phoenix. She broke the news to me that she had spoken with Phil and he had to board Cayenne at the vet until her stitches come out. I'm glad that he made that decision. He needs the rest and couldn't get any sleep because he was always worried that she was going to rip out the stitches and the bandage before it healed.

I've been worried about holw Phil is taking this whole situation. Deb said that she spoke with him and he seems to be in good spirits. That put my mind at ease. Leaving him with two healing dogs wasn't the easiest thing to do.

Uggh! Jet Lag

Uggh! Jet Lag
Saturday, February 7, 2004
11:30:00 AM CST

04 Feb 2004

Pretty stinkin jet lagged today! Got up at 0500 - just because I couldn't sleep anymore. We also got woke up this morning about 0100 by a group of incoming from Basrah. They will be bunking with us until they are deployed out again or until they head back stateside. We had briefings today with our gaining unit commander of the 160th. The briefing also included info about where we are going and further info about all the different sites - equipment, size, blah, blah, blah. (and more opsec bs that I'm privy to and you're not!)

A post script to our briefing with the 160th. The captain made a remark that the money may have made some of us civilians come on board for this mission. But, he remarked, the larger truth is that for us to come all this way and face the challenges we will now face, down deep we must hold a certain belief in the mission and in what our country is trying to accomplish in Iraq for the Iraqis and for the people of the middle east.

I'll be deploying up to a site near Baghdad, more later. I'm kind of bummed out a bit that we aren't all going to be deployed as a group. Four of us have become close since we spent so much time together when we stayed at the Bliss Inn. Now, word is that one of our 18 is going to leave for home. A certain misinterpretation of his contract and stubborness along with inflexibility on his part have made him consider that this may not be his cup of tea. Guess his discussion with HR became rather heated.

Here is a good one. I'm at Camp Doha, Kuwait at the chow hall for chow today. Looked over my shoulder and saw someone who looked familiar. This Air Force SMSgt looked strikingly like Stefan from Kalkar, Germany. Got a look at his name tag and sure enough it read Padillo! I called out his name and I think he was pretty surprised too. He says to me, "how long has it been?" I told him since 1987 when I left Kalkar and the Air Force. We exchanged email addresses and got on with lunch. He was on his way out of Kuwait. What a trip, can't seem to go anywhere in the world without running into someone from my past. The only thing that pisses me off is that he has less grey hair than me! Other than that, it was great to see him.

Onto New Jersey and Kuwait

Onto New Jersey and Kuwait
Saturday, February 7, 2004
10:45:00 AM CST

03 Feb 2004 Continued

We flew from Fort Bliss directly to Newark on the first leg. In Newark, we had a crew change and fueled up for the next leg to Kuwait City. The first flight was about 4 hours and 15 min. We must have been on the ground in Newark for about an hour or so and then left Newark for the 11 hour and 20 minute trip to Kuwait City.

I tried to sleep during this flight, but couldn't seem to get comfortable. So I ended up watching Under the Tuscan Sun and The Jury. Then I read a bunch of my Harry Potter book 2. Almost finished with this one. I did manage to sleep about 1 1/2 hours somewhere in there.

I thought about home when we were over Iraq. We flew to the north and west of Baghdad at about 37000 feet at what was about 4 am Chicago time. The food on the plane was good and plentiful. The main meal was chicken filets or beef. On the flight to Newark, AFEES provided burgers that weren't too bad either.

Landed in Kuwait City at about 1430 local time. Then we were bussed over to the army post on the airport for processing. Couldn't help but to think about how much Kuwait Airport looked like a US Air Force Base. USAF cargo planes mixed in with some British Airways and Kuwaiti Airlines planes.

We did manage to catch chow since we had time between processing and waiting for the baggage to get moved off the plane. Another big white circus tent, but a great selection of food. Also made a trip to the little BX/PX on the site. A few people went over to the AT&T tent to phone home. It was only midmorning, so there really wasn't anyone I could call that would be around. Besides, I really didn't have much to tell at this point. I'll call home over the weekend.

Departing Fort Bliss for Kuwait

Departing Fort Bliss for Kuwait
Saturday, February 7, 2004
10:35:00 AM CST

03 Feb 2004

Well, we've arrived at Camp Doha in Kuwait. This journey seems to have taken weeks since we left Fort Bliss. Just to clear things up a bit, we knew last week Thursday that our departure was scheduled for Monday. I just am complying with the OPSEC (Operations Security) rules since this involved the movement of troops and resources into the theater. That said, it was a loooong weekend of waiting. We all just wanted to get on with it and depart.

On the positive side of things, we were able to see the Super Bowl. What a great game! It all was up to the last 1:08 minutes. Sal (Salvatore Bono) and I went down to the NCO Club on Bliss and watched the last half on the big screen while sucking down some of the last beer we would taste.

We left the Bliss Inn at 0530 the following morning 04 Feb, to make an 0600 formation that never materialized. We had been told that we would have formation at 0600 and chow at 0630. Then briefings and departure scheduled for 1000. At leasted we stayed at the Bliss Inn for our last night. Our co-workers in the open bay in 503A were moved last night to an even bigger open bay circus tent near the flight line. It must have been the size of a half a football field with bunk beds as far as the eye could see. Not that we were expecting anything better than that once in Kuwait and Iraq, but why suffer any sooner than necessary?

We finally were bussed over to the military departure building on Biggs Air Field. The bags were then lined up for the dogs to sniff. We had taken our luggage and duffels over to 503A on Saturday morning for loading, so all that we really had on Monday morning was our carry-ons. Same routine was done at 503 with the dogs. Rows of baggage and duffels lined up flat for the dogs to give them the once over looking for contraband.

Briefings from teh chaplain and the outgoing reserve commander at around 0900 til 1030. We then were called alphabetically to board the waiting Continental 777 waiting for us. It wasn't a full flight, but we had about 40,000 lbs of baggage. Volunteers for handling the baggage got the opportunity to fly business class. That might have been nice, but moving 40,000 lbs of luggage four times isn't worth another ruptured disk!

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