Monday, March 29, 2004

Camp Victory 10K Run

Camp Victory 10K Run
Monday, March 29, 2004
12:30:00 AM CST

28 Mar 2004

I got "shamed" into registering and running in the Camp Victory 10K Run this morning. My supervisor, our old area manager and one of the RSC guys ran and told me that I had to run. There were probably about 450 people that ran it. The first 350 to cross the finish line will get T-shirts, but they aren't in yet.

This run took me around familiar ground, but in the opposite direction than I normally run. I've been running since I got here, but my normal jog is only about 2-1/2 miles around the little lake and the swamp across from the big lake. I've done a couple of four milers by running an extra lap around the swamp, so I figured that I should be able to handle the six miles. We went around one of the sides of the little lake, then around 1-1/2 sides of the big lake around the palace.

The next leg was a 2-1/2 mile portion around Lost Lake. I had never known that lake was there before now. There are two bombed out buildings on an island in the middle of the lake and the lake also has a few little round islands with palm trees, bushes and flowers dotting the middle of the lake. It is really a scenic little corner of the base.

Unfortunately, the Lost Lake portion of the run is where I started to run out of steam. At that point, I took the backseat to someone else's pace to pull me through. When they got dogged out, I would find someone else to pace. I ended up toward the last 1-1/2 miles taking the pace of three guys in 72nd Batallion shirts. They kept a faster pace than I liked, but by keeping up with them, I was able to pull through the worst of it.

I crossed as about #305 with a time of 50:12. Hey, the old man of our group (me at 43) dogged em out! Shane at 37 came in with a time of 51:15, Phil at 42 came in at about 53:00 and Chris at 28 came in at about 56:00. Not too bad for an old fart, huh?

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Passing Ships and Screaming Eagles

Passing Ships and Screaming Eagles
Sunday, March 28, 2004
11:41:00 PM CST

28 Mar 2004

Dan left with the convoy to Babylon yesterday afternoon. He was only here for about three weeks, but we got along so well, it felt like a year. Funny thing about being a contractor is that you make alot of friends, but you and they all go in and out a revolving door. I know that you can never have enough friends, but oftentimes I'd like to hang out with them and see them for a bit longer. Maybe this is why contractors and old military people can never go anywhere in the world without running into someone they know. No matter what airport I travel, I'm sure to cross paths with someone from my past. All those passing ships on the same small sea.

We've been seeing alot of helecoptor operations over the past month or so. Usually, they are in groups of two or three as they seem to pass overhead and try to buzz the tops of the trees or tops of the tents. I'm going to miss seeing and hearing them when I leave here. Whenever I hear them coming, I can't resist looking up and following them across the sky. Almost like watching eagles and hawks in the mountains back in Colorado.

Friday, March 26, 2004

An Evening at Ishtar

An Evening at Ishtar
Friday, March 26, 2004
11:52:00 PM CST

26 Mar 2004

We started the evening at the ISG Chow Hall for Steak and Shrimp. I think that half of ITT from Victory was there!

From there we went to the Ishtar Restaurant in Baghdad Intl Airport on the 4th floor. Sounds like once the highway is open, we will be forbidden to come to the Ishtar. Things were mellow and the company was good. I've been there nights when things were somewhat out of hand. Sometimes, Brits and alcohol don't mix. They sure like to party. But, not tonight.

Sitting around we were talking about some of the comical situations occuring over the last week or so at Victory. We got a new flag holder at the doorway of our building this week. The thing looks like a missle cone. Dan was over there tapping it with a bottle of water seeing if he could simulate impact and some Sgt walking past was giving him a questionable look. I know it looked goofy.

Things being so dry here, everything is really dusty and dirty. We haven't had rain in over nine weeks so far. We were walking back from lunch the other day and walked past an SUV with graffetti scrawled in the dirt on the window, "I wish my wife was this dirty!"

We got a new tech controller in this last week. He is really a breath of fresh air. Frank has a great sense of humor and can take it as well as he hands it out. So Frank reports that our Babylon circuit is down again. I tell him, "Don't worry, it will be back up as soon as the shepherd has moved his sheep from the one pasture to the other and closes the gate." His response was as serious as a heart attack. "Oh, really? Okay." This is kind of a techie joke. The insinuation being that the circuit will be completed again and traffic passing once the gate closes.

There is this old rubberized flag holder at the base of the steps to the building. Originally, it probably held the unit flag, but hasn't since before I've been here. Frank had just finished a cigarette and put his still-lit butt into this flag holder. As Dan and I spring away from that spot, Dan urgently says, "What are you doing? That is a vent for the diesel tank below the street here!" The look on Frank's face was pure panic until Dan started roaring. Frank, not quite convinced, then throws a stone down the "vent" to see if he can hear the stone hit bottom.

BIAP Taxi and ISG Tripping

BIAP Taxi and ISG Tripping
Friday, March 26, 2004
11:25:00 PM CST

26 Mar 2004

Stuck around the shop last night so that Dan and I could go pick up the group returning from Kuwait. The flight got delayed till 2100, so we got to watch the end of the Godfather on AFN (Armed Forces Network). We got to BIAP-MAC around 2230 and their plane had just arrived. I'm pretty familiar with the back-roads drive to the airport by now, but the damned side-street turn-off from the highway is still tough to find. So we get back and drop them all off and Dan comes up to me and says, "Gotta go back. There is a Sgt from the 54th batallion that we left behind." Went back and picked him up and was in bed by 0030. Late night for me.

This morning, Eve, Dan and I went over to ISG to do laundry. I forgot how nice it is to use dryers!! No lint, No wrinkles, and no stiff-as-a-board clothes. How did Great-gram do it? It's been almost two months since I've used a clothes dryer. You develop a real appreciation for the simple things from back home. We went over and ate at the chow hall on ISG since we were there already. They usually have much better chow than Victory and they didn't let us down today. Ran into our counterparts at ISG from ITT and they kindly reminded us to come back for dinner. Tonight they will have Steak and Shrimp, cuz it's Friday.

ISG houses the CIA and other higher-up federal employees, so they have things a bit more comfy than us. No tents for them. Our country manager lives over there for that reason. Can't say that I blame him. No reason to suffer with us poor slobs over on Victory in a tent when trailers are readily available just across the highway. They are clearning more areas for trailers on Victory, but my number won't come up in the next few days. I'll be gone before then.

Also took a few minutes to get some pictures around the base. ISG, also known as Camp Slayer was the home to the Bathe Party HQ and to the Republican Guard HQ. More than a few of the buildings took hits from bombs and missles. A couple of them are currently being rebuilt courtesy of the USofA. We aren't giving the Iraqis anything less than what we did for Japan and Germany after WWII.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Let's Get "Physical"

Let's Get "Physical"
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
11:18:00 PM CST

24 Mar 2004

Let's establish one fact of life here...AOL sucks. Keep on getting timed-out due to our connection being slower than death. Trying to post the journals have been laborious at best. Now that that's out of the way... Today was a great day. Warm, sunny and about 90F. Wish I had the rest of the day off to spend in the sun. Got word today that I need to be in Qatar by 05 April. I will probably leave Victory on 01 April and spend a couple of days in Doha, Kuwait to pull together a wardrobe. Need a couple of pair of Dockers, more dress socks and a pair of shoes.

Dan and Wade didn't leave for Babylon today. Lt. Lee at Babylon is playing power games. He wants a Network Admin body and ITT hasn't found a need for more at that site. So, Lt Lee told his convoy to head straight back without the ITT guys. His and Dan's phone conversation went something like, "You mean those guys didn't get picked up by my convoy headed back south?" No, you pinhead!! More political games. This Lt has been yanking ITT around for the past few months trying to throw his weight around. Must be trying to make Captain.

Interesting dirt from the front. Apparently, a certain physical threat between two employees at an unnamed site back in December has somehow caught the attention of an ITT VP. All hell is breaking loose over this event since everyone and their grandmother knew of the event. But somehow, the said site manager never heard of the event and never made any paper-trail to counsel alleged victim and knife wielder!! Really, it isn't *that* dangerous around here most of the time!

Rumors are that heads are going to roll. Allegedly, this person had made other personal threats on others, but (surprise, surprise) no paper trail exists to support this wild, unconfirmed, nasty rumor. So, until this shakes out, let's pretent we're one big happy ITT family. Okay? Now smile for the group portrait. Johnny, stop choking Jimmy! Say cheese. :))

ISG Sightseeing

ISG Sightseeing
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
10:58:00 PM CST

23 Mar 2004

Dan and I bummed around yesterday. He is supposed to have left for Babylon, but who knows when his convoy is going to arrive? We first took a trip to BIAP for lunch at Bob Hope. The food was good as usual, but the flies about carried you away with the food. And the inside temp of the chow hall was about 85F.

Also picked up burgers at Burger King for the tank drivers and guards at the gait. The tank drivers don't get to leave Victory and the guards don't get off Victory but maybe once a month. So we cough up the money out of our pockets and bring them back a taste of home. I think we are one of the few contractors that do this for them. They like it and appreciate it too, especially since we don't have a BK at Victory yet.

Took a trip then over to ISG to go up the communications hill. I had never been up there but had heard the view was great. On the way, we took a wrong turn and passed alot of rubble and even an old billboard that had Saddam's face on it. The billboard had been knocked down and was sitting sideways with most of his face covered. Once up on the hill, you can see all of downtown Baghdad in the distance. CPA (the Coalition Provisional Authority) Palace stands above the city. But soon, most of the CPA complex will be turned over to the new government. Also got some good shots of the airport and Victory from the hill. ISG is closer to BIAP than we are. They are located near the end of the runways and the two are divided by the highway and about a 20 foot wall. After pictures, dropped by the one Haji shop and picked up a knick-knack. It is an Art Decco style Egyptian ashtray. Yep, it is kind of kitsch, but I like that kind of stuff.

Roam

Roam
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
10:40:00 PM CST

The other night, my site supervisor, Phil, came up to me and asked me if I might be interested in a position that might "make better use of my educational background." Keep in mind that I've had several people here say to me, "What the hell are you doing in Tech Control when you have an MBA?" Well, Tech Control has been paying the bills. Second, once you have that TECH tatoo on your forehead, it is difficult for management to look at you seriously as anything but a "techie". Third, So many consulting firms laid-off MBA's in the last two years, it's pretty much a no brainer that jobs are tight if you are trying to find consulting work with a new MBA. Anyway, I asked him what type of responsibilities this position might require. He said that it would deal a lot with QC, ISO9000 and pulling info concerning jobs and responsibilities theater-wide for South West Asia. So I said, "Sure, what the heck. Is this going to be in Doha, Kuwait?" His response, "No, try Doha, Qatar!"

Spoke with the country manager yesterday and I should be leaving Iraq for Qatar in the next couple of weeks. Guess I'll be working with the corporate types now. I'll let you know when I know more.


Roam B52's

I hear a wind, whistling air, whispering in my ear. Boy, mercury shootin' through every degree. Oh, girl dancin' down those dirty and dusty trails. Take it hip to hip, rocket through the wilderness. Around the world the trip begins with a kiss.

Roam if you want to, roam around the world. Roam if you want to, without wings without wheels. Roam if you want to, without anything but the love we feel.

Skip the airstrip for the sunset. Ride the arrow for the target--one. Take a hip to hip, rocket through the wilderness. Around the world the trip begins with a kiss.

Fly the great big sky, see the great big sea. Kick through continents, bustin' boundaries. Take a hip to hip, rocket through the wilderness. Around the world the trip begins with a kiss.

Roam if you want to, roam around the world. Roam if you want to, without wings, without wheels. Roam if you want to, without anything but the love we feel.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Tying Up Loose Ends

Tying Up Loose Ends
Sunday, March 21, 2004
11:08:00 PM CST

21 Mar 2004

Just a hodge-podge of things rattling around inside my empty head tonight. First off, Tweety is actually a very sweet woman. But, (you knew there was more to it) she is also a very troubled woman. Wade had lent his ear to her once and she just wasn't done bending it. She received papers from a lawyer this week that her ex husband wants custody of the kids. The kids are with her Mom right now and she is trying to get some money together while she is in Iraq working on giving her and the kids a better life. Her ex had done time for drugs and now that he is out, wants the kids, or just to make her miserable. So, she is very torn about what to do now.

Next, I apologized to Tony for inciting his outburst last week. We all work too close together for us not to get along here. So, I saved him his pride and I did the apologizing. I think that my Mom taught us too good how to pull people's chains. I gotta say in all honesty, it was pretty cool to see him pop his cork like he did! So I have a sick sense of accomplishment...sue me!

Dan and Wade are leaving for Babylon via convoy this week. Chris Chafin who came in with Dan is probably transfering over to ISG/Camp Slayer across the highway from Victory. Kenyon, one of our CRC buddy's that is down at Camp Wolf next to Doha, says that there are already 40 ITT people down at Doha awaiting assignment with more on the way. Where the heck are they stationing everyone??? RJ was supposed to leave for Afghanistan after being here a month, but no word yet for him. And a satcom guy here at Victory has volunteered to deploy to a job at a "hot" site in the Sunni Triangle. So which is worse; Groundhog Day, or mortar and gunfire?

I say Groundhog Day because it is getting to feel like everyday you wake up is the same day--just like in the Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day. You lose track of the days and even what day of the week it is around here.

Hope Sal is doing better in Bagram, Afghanistan. Seems he got a bad case of Osama's Revenge from the chow hall. Maybe Osama's cover is as a cook! I'd watch that mutton stew next time Sal. Or was it the goat's milk yogurt?

Friday, March 19, 2004

The Evil Tweety-bird

The Evil Tweety-bird
Friday, March 19, 2004
9:46:00 AM CST

19 Mar 2004

I know that at times, we all live vicariously though others and their experiences. Wade just returned from Landstuhl, Germany this week after having his kidney stones broken up and passed. We were chatting yesterday and he says to me, "Dave man, I don't know what I'm going to do about this BX manager chick. Let's do a (South Park) Kyle's Mom here, "What, what, what?"

"Yeah man, she has been stalking me ever since I was talking with her when we were in Doha (Kuwait). She's like knocking on the door of the tent at all hours looking for me." So I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe,Wade has a little bit of an active imagination. I just explained to him that maybe she just needs to talk to someone and you've been nice to her, so she just wants to talk.

So last night I'm in bed reading and around 1930 and I hear a knock at the door. Well, I know it ain't for me, so I go back to reading. 2000, another knock at the tent door. Ignore it, it goes away. 2030, I had to make a pit stop and just about ran into her. She's been hanging around the whole time waiting to pounce on Wade when he comes around the dark corner. "Have you seen Wade? Is he back from the office yet? Is he in bed yet? Do you know where he is?"

Not wanting to accept this invite into Wade's worst nightmare, I said no, that I hadn't seen him and don't know where he is. She still didn't go away. She kind of looks like the giant evil Tweety-bird in the Looney Toons cartoon but with dyed white hair--you know, the Tweety that took the evil doctors medicine and turned into the scary Tweety. The one with the big fangs and started to chase Sylvester around.

Wade was saying that Tweety turned up at the tent again this morning around 0700 knocking on the door. She woke up Phil our site supervisor and was asking for Wade!! Phil's like, "I don't want to get involved in your love life!" Wade is like, "She ain't any part of my love life or life period." Dan is like, "You laid the pipe...." Wade is like, "I ain't laid no pipe!" And I'm like, "Boy am I glad I'm not involved in this one!" Since she is a BX/PX manager over at BIAP, my best guess is that she is home-delivering that gross of condoms that Wade ordered and seeing if he needs any help testing them.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

A Market for Kevelar Pillows

A Market for Kevelar Pillows
Thursday, March 18, 2004
1:46:00 AM CST

18 Mar 2004

The mortars were flying over north Victory last night! I think it all started because of the night of the 16th. The far end of the base took a few mortars that night and some of the trailers in Dodge City on Victory took some shrapnel. One of our switch techs, Bo, was in that area and slept with his kevelar helmet on for the rest of the night. So how exactly does one sleep with a kevelar helmet on, you might ask. Well, probably about the same as a civilian might sleep with a bike helmet on. Maybe some company needs to develop pillows for this type of neck support. These helmets are heavy.

Anyway, the mortar rounds started around 9 pm, just as I was into the last part of "Breakfast at Tiffanys". Although the party scene in the movie was wild, I was pretty sure that the mortars were not part of the film. After about 12 or 15 mortar rounds, things quieted down around 11 pm. This morning we hear that two Iraqis are dead and six injured. We haven't had a night of mortar rounds like that since the night I arrived.

Finally received word from Sal in Bagram, Afghanistan. He is doing ok. They are just starting to ramp things up there and building a new TCF (tech control facility). He said that Wade who went from Victory to Kabul has left ITT and found a better job. He will be actually doing SATCOM work on real satcom equipment. No more telephone bee-otch stuff for him!

Speaking of bored, Sal sent along an email of a Reuters report out of Kabul under the subject of: The Dating Scene in Kabul is Slim. The story was about a poor Afghan guy who can't afford a dowery for a wife and was caught having sex with a donkey. I read in the paper yesterday that archeologists now believe that the pharohs weren't carried around by servents, but rode around on donkey's. It turns out that archeologists have found numerous donkey remains buried with some of the pharohs. This is by no means a suggestion that donkey's were buried with the pharohs to have sex with in the afterlife! Well, I don't know where else to take this thread, so I'll close for now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Leishmaniasis

Leishmaniasis
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
12:28:00 AM CST

17 Mar 2004

Happy St. Patrick's Day. Here are some pleasant thoughts to quaff down with your green beer....

Medical Advisory - Leishmaniasis

Recent reports from Iraq have raised concerns regarding the potential impact of leishmaniasis on deployed personnel. Leishmaniasis is a preventable disease native to Iraq and other parts of Southwest Asia. Spread by sandflies (not person-to-person), the disease as found in Iraq presents itself in two forms. The skin form called cutaneous leishmaniasis (Baghdad Boil) causes mild to severe skin lesions that take months to heal and may be permanently disfiguring, though highly effective treatment is available. The internal form called visceral leishmaniasis (Kala-azar) causes fever, weakness, wasting, an enlarged spleen, and a lowered blood count. If untreated, visceral leishmaniasis is generally fatal.

Currently, the greatest threat is in Central Iraq and the area around Baghdad... Reports from some locations in Iraq indicate very heavy populations of sandflies, 2 to 3 % of which carry the disease. Some service members at locations where sandfly numbers are high are reporting upwards of 100 bites per person.

So far, seven service members from Iraq and two from Afghanistan have been diagnosed with cutaneous leishmaniasis and successfully treated. Because the incubation period (the time for getting a sandfly bite to the development of disease) can be many months, it is also possible that deployed personnel may redeploy without knowing they are infected.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Times, They Are A Changin

Times, They Are A Changin
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
5:04:00 AM CST

16 Mar 2004

Tuesday, day off. Laundry again. Sitting here just watching it line dry. Ooo, doggies, what fun! Received a notice from KBR that per orders of the post commander, all gold tents will now house 10 people and all green tents will house 12 people. This is due to the expected influx of people from CPA and others what will soon arrive.

I was talking to a Sgt in line at finance yesterday while waiting in line to cash a check. He was reconfirming what I had already heard about closures and expansions in Iraq. CPA is the central palace in downtown Iraq currently used by Mr. Paul Bremmer and the embassy crew. Since this site is to be closed by the end of April, all or most of these people will be moved to Victory. The downtown palace will be handed over to the new government of Iraq after that.

When all is said and done, Victory will house around 30-35 generals AND the American embassy. It will be a pretty high-profile place with plenty of activity. This is why North Victory is growing so fast. They have to get the new BX/PX up and have all the amenities in place for the Big Boys when they arrive here. Can't have them shopping in a tent or trailer for their cookies and Gatorade, can we now? That might be too, ummm shall we say, "enlisted" for them.

Actually, the new big BX/PX complex will also replace the one over at BIAP. BIAP is also scheduled for closing by the end of June. The airport will turned over to the new Iraqi governement and opened for civilian and international traffic. So if the US can't fly military planes into Baghdad International, how, per se, do you resupply 30-35 generals with everything they must have *NOW*? You know how cranky they get when they can't have their "things and stuff" RIGHT NOW.

As it looks now, flight operations will be moved over from Baghdad up north to our site in Balad at Camp Anaconda. That camp is suuposed to grow like gangbusters in the next few months. All we can count on is change.

Another consideration is how the November election back home might impact our missions here in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Once again, torn between two political parties. My views are more similar to those of the Log Cabin Republicans moreso than the Democrats. But to those that know me, that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Although I am dead set against a couple of Bush's domestic policies, continuation of his foreign policy in these two countries is nothing short of vital. Vital to the new local governements survival and vital to security on issues dealing with world-wide terrorism. We absolutely can not allow what has begun here to come unraveled. Having the opportunity to live here and see the differences we are making for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan has convinced me of that.

The Stars and Stripes (military newspaper) is packed with stories of what we are providing the people of both nations here and how we are working with them to improve their lives. It may not be as happening as fast as we all would like, but it is happening. These are stories that don't make it in the newspapers at home because there isn't any blood and guts to splash all over the pages in living/dead color. Blood sells papers, getting schools up and running does not.

Read in the Stars and Stripes today that the new Spanish government elected in yesterday has threatened to pull out all troops from Iraq by June 30th if the UN doesn't take over here. Boy, that sure has the terrorists that blew up those trains shaking in their boots. It's hard to believe that the Spanish nation that booted ALL the Muslims out of their country in 1492 (with zero tolerance and zero regrets) is now kow-towing to a small group of terrorist Muslims that have just viciously killed 200 of their countrymen. Boy, that will sure show them bad guys who is boss! I'm sure that they will think twice about messing around with the Spanish Government again (whimps!). Next thing you know, the Spanish Government will be providing free office space for Al-Quaida in exchange for NOT setting off any more bombs. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Saturday, March 13, 2004

MAC - BIAP

MAC - BIAP
Saturday, March 13, 2004
10:55:00 PM CST

13 Mar 2004

Sorry Deb, didn't mean to make you cry. You know already that sometimes I just need to bleed on paper. It's my way of bleeding out the poison that has pooled in my system. In any case, I'm over it. Dan bowed to Tony for the sake of peace, but I've got Mom's and Dad's stubborn streak that makes me stick to what I believe in. Screw him. Don't need him, don't like him, his loss and his embarrassment.

Volunteered to take a group to the military airport at BIAP --MAC BIAP (Military Airlift Command - Baghdad Intl Airport) so that they could catch a flight down to Kuwait. Allen had me drive so that I could remember the way. See, MAC BIAP is around the back side of the airport. The route there is as circuitous as the route my Dad used to take to O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Route 83 to Irving Park Road to Mannheim Road to I190 west to the terminals. Dad used to say, "I won't pay to use the tollway! The roads should be free. Damned crooked politicians." As if the first Mayor Daley, Richard J., was getting a kickback or something. Wellllll, let's not go there. Chicago politics kind of have a history, don't they. I only voted once in the last election. So did all my dead great grandparents! I'm keeping them honest. One grave, one vote.

The road to MAC BIAP is like following an old Indian path through the forest. Remember your landmarks and everything is ok. Got there in plenty of time. They got on the manifest for the flight and made checkin. I even made it back to Victory with no problems. Took my 2 mile or so run around the small lake and then the second group needed to go.

Got the second group there and the first group was still sitting there playing spades. Their flight was delayed due to plane repairs. The plane hadn't even left UAE (United Arab Emirates) which is a two hour hour flight. So we made a run up to BIAP over to Burger King to bring back burgers since noone had had dinner. Estimated time of arrival still unknown.

By the time we got back with the food, the plane had left and was due into Baghdad about 2030. Roll call at 1930 and they are as good as gone. Now for the trek home...in the dark.

The trip always looks different in the dark. Guess that I forgot to mention that the area around the airport on this side is a "kill zone." Force is authorized. This is due to the fact that one of the prisons is right along side this far side of the airport. Add to this the extreme darkness, no street lights or reflectors, road bumps (not marked or painted yellow) to manage speed on the road, two traffic circles in the middle of nowhere that just pop out in front of you and a section of gravel road at a T intersection. It's like a live video game. Did I mention that this is the side of the airport that usually takes mortars too? Really, it isn't that bad, it is just all the factors together manifest themselves in strange possible scenarios in your little head when you haven't driven down this route in the dark and ALONE!

The trip home went very easy. The only scare came at a left turn at the end of the wall. I saw two semi's looking like they were going to turn down the T intersection I was turning left out of. No signals, but noone uses signals here (just like those old men in hats in Arizona, huh Deb?) so I wasn't too concerned. As the semi starts his turn inches away from my door, I realize that it isn't a semi, but a tank. No, two tanks turning with only just enough clearance from my door as to not squash me into the size of a can of tuna.

Fianlly got to the highway. Noramlly, on the highway, we are accustomed to watching out for objects in the road. Stick to the center lane. See, these kooky Iraqis have taken a liking to hiding explosive devices in ordinary items on the road side like in boxes and in dog carcasses and such. Obviously it's similar to a trip to the grocery store in suburbia. You have to just try not to be too schitzo about the dangers, but remain cautious and alert. Made it home safe and sound to Victory. See, just like a video game. Advance to round 3.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Personal Ghosts

Personal Ghosts
Friday, March 12, 2004
1:02:00 AM CST

11 Mar 2004

Not too much was going on today. Ate chow tonight and decided to stop in the shop. Dan is still getting his feet wet and Kenny went to dinner, so I stuck around to assist if needed. Worked an issue and when I hung up the phone, one of our Network Admin guys came into the TCF

I asked him if he had moved port connections last night when he was working on the Cisco equipment because one of the computers didn't have internet access this morning. It took about an hour to troubleshoot the cables, computer, etc and ended up being that the plug was plugged into a bad port. Since it isn't the TCF equipment, we don't usually fool with that, so I asked him again if he or anyone else may have mistakenly moved the plug into the wrong spot.

I'm actually glad that I didn't get any words inbetween his ranting. As with a drunk, any words that I might have gotten in would have been discounted and lost on him.

Now that I have buried the ashes of two parents, I don't have to permit myself to be verbally abused like that ever again. I don't have to bear the blame thinking that something I had done had caused their ills. I don't have to carry that guilt now. I was correct to stay silent --then and now.


My mistake is that I thought that when you buried people, the unpleasant moments, unpleasant words and the unpleasant feelings and everything associated with them was also buried and gone. All their words that made you feel worthless, non-deserving of respect and second-best; bury it all in the ground and forget about it. But it only takes a few words with the same rage and tone to remind you that your past is following right behind you waiting to pounce.

Your past follows you. Don't stop too quickly or the past may bump you in the behind. Push forward and become who you want to become. Don't look back, ever. Sometimes it is hard not to look back. The voices and tones of the past make you want to turn around and look back. Stay the course. Tomorrow will be better.

Psalms 144, verse 7:

Stretch out Your hand from above; rescue me and deliver me out of the great waters, from the hand of foriegners,



Don't Talk 10,000 Maniacs

Don't talk, I will listen. Don't talk. You keep your distance. For I'd reather hear some truth tonight, than entertain your lies. So take your poison silently, let me be, let me close my eyes.

Don't talk, I'll believe it. Don't talk, listen to me instead. I know that if you think of it, both long enough and hard. The drink you drown your troubles in, is the trouble you're in now.

Talk, talk, talk about it. You talk as if you care. But when that talk is over, tilt that bottle in the air. Tossing back more than your share.

Don't talk, I can guess it. Don't talk, but now you're restless and you need somewhere to put the blame, for how you feel inside. You'll look for a close and easy mark and you see me, as fair game.

Talk, talk, talk about it, you talk as if you care. But when your talk is over, tilt that bottle in the air, tossing back more than your share.

You talk, talk, talk about it, you talk as if you care. I'm marking every word and I can tell this time for sure, your talk is the finest I have heard.

So, don't talk, I was sleeping. Don't talk, let me go on dreaming. How your eyes they glow so beastly, I can tell that you're inspired. By the name that you just chose for me. Now what was that? Oh, never mind it.

We will talk, talk, talk about it. When your head is clear. I'll discuss this in the morning, but until then, you may talk, but I won't hear.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I Luv Ewe

I Luv Ewe
Tuesday, March 9, 2004
11:31:00 PM CST

09 Mar 2004

After dropping off her highness, we decided to do alittle Haji shopping. Eve found the bike locks she was looking for and purchased them for $3 a piece. She will sell them for $5 a piece back on base(the cost of handling and transport!) Made a stop over at ISG and the Haji shop there. That is the one where I saw the 4X6 rugs that I liked. They had an all silk rug that was beautiful, but $950.

This shop also had some unbelievable antiquities. Can't ship them back home, but they sure remind me of field trips in grade school to the University of Chicago Oriental Institute. This museum has all kinds of artifacts from the Middle East. In case you're wondering, the name is to indicate Oriental as opposed to Occidental. So the collections held are from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Isreal, Jordan, Syria, etc.

The museum also had this huge stone statue that they opened up the wall to move it in. It is a winged horse with the head of a human. I have seen this creature on several post cards and pictures of Babylon and that area. I'd love to get the chance to go there and see some of those sites there.

Got back to site at Victory from our field trip to BIAP and ISG and gathered up my wet laundry to hang dry it. Got everything up on the line outside tent 37 and then Eve, Allen and Tony come driving up to hijack me to go to dinner at Ishtar. I told them I need to take down my laundry first. I'm not leaving my laundry out on display! At which they proceded to make fun of my little sockies all hung symetrically on a hanger with a clothes pin on each, five to a hanger. I'm an organized kind of guy, what can I say.

The food at the Ishtar was great too--because it wasn't chow hall food! Eve and Allen had the Spagetti Bolognase, Tony had the shrimp fettuccini and I had the lamb chops. Let me tell you, you can't pull one over on me. Those lamb chops were really mutton chops- they've been around the block a few times and had some miles on 'em! Still, I haven't had lamb/veal in awhile, so it was a good change.

All in all, it was a nice day off. Oh, and about the posting name; take that to mean that I like to eat lamb, not any of your other interesting (and possibly sick or demented) inferences! Besides, there aren't any cliffs here to lead them to ;)

Personal Coachman for a Day

Personal Coachman for a Day
Tuesday, March 9, 2004
11:01:00 PM CST

09 Mar 2004

This was supposed to be a lazy day-off. Started out getting up at 0815 and ran my 2 miles around the little lake. I'm working up to the 4 miles around the big lake. Gathered up my clothes to wash a load at the office. Here is where my plans started to derail. Charlie came down from Taji yesterday and was leaving for Doha enroute to Anaconda. Keep in mind that managment only gave her an hour notice to say, "Pack it up, girl. You're moving out in an hour" Justification of the short notice was that their comms have been down for the past week. No official email, no phone available. Well, they could have contacted someone by personal email. ITT Middle East does not have a domain, so all official email is sent via Yahoo personal boxes!

Anyway, back to the story. Eve was taking Charlie over to BIAP to catch a flight and asked if I wanted to go. Sure, why not. I've got nothing better to do today. Should have known where this was going when Charlie looked at me and said, "That's my duffel over there," and then stuck her nose in the air, did an about face and walked out of the door (without her duffel, mind you). Being the gentleman I was raised to be by my parents and grandparents, I dutifully picked up the duffel and brought it out to the Pathfinder. Little did I know that I had just set a precident for the day.

We ran into Ziggy (Dan) on the way out and dragged him along too. Next stop was the transitory tent to pick up Emelda's other boxes of shoes! I forgot that last night when we helped her in on arrival that she had about seven boxes along with everything else. She had to finish packing again. Then she strutted out and advised us that she was ready and the other cases and trunk were in the tent for us to fetch. Now I knew why Eve brought us. The lady-in-waiting isn't supposed to be handling her highness, the Princess' heavy bags.

We got on the road and got up to the airport and needed to stop for lunch. Eve had mentioned that she wanted to try the Bob Hope Chow Hall right there at BIAP. Great Chow!! That was the best tasting chow Ive had since I been away from home, (not counting last Friday night on Victory when we had shrimp creole, lobster, crabs legs and steak). This was the chow hall the President Bush ate at when he came to Baghdad last Thanksgiving. And before you ask, no we didn't have to cut her food for her.

From there, we went to the military airport to see when flights would be going outbound to Doha. No more flights to Doha today. 9 a.m. tomorrow and a 0930 to Balad-Anaconda! So, she can fly directly to Anaconda tomorrow. Charlie decided to stay at the transitory tent at the airport so that we wouldn't have to move her bags again...and I do mean we--Eve, Ziggy and me. We three fetched The Princess' bags from the Pathfinder three tents away and carried them over to her cot at the far end.

We said our goodbyes and gave her a hug for the road and a "good luck." She did say thank you in the end, so I didn't feel quite so "used". But she didn't get the hint when I held my hand out for my tip.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

The Castaway

The Castaway
Sunday, March 7, 2004
10:59:00 PM CST

7 Mar 2004

Lee's letter to me kind of cleared things up about the whole Taji issue. In summary, it sounds like snitch was enlisted to do someone else's bidding. I think that's about all I want to say about it. He is on his way to another site as soon as he returns from sick leave for his kidney stones.

We received another inbound about the same time from Anaconda in Balad. He is going to stay here at Victory and works in the switch on the IGX equipment. He decided that he didn't want to live in the tents, so he approached KBR about moving into the old guard tower that overlooks Coalition Village--our little tent slum that we call home. Guard towers dot the roadsides and tower over the Republican Palace grounds like stray cornstalks from last years corn crop tower over this years soy bean fields back home. (Now you know that I'm from DeKalb County!) Some other contractors are living in other guard towers around the base, so it isn't actually that odd of a request. They said that as long as he had a written letter from his supervisor that it was alright by them.

So he spent the afternoon yesterday cleaning up the old broken glass and such from the tower. Inside the preformed concrete structure, it is ony about 9 feet in diameter, octagonal with a spiral staircase going to the top. It has a small facility tucked under the stairs with a sink and a hole in the floor as a toilet. The hole in the floor has like a three inch indent into the floor with washboard type grates on either side of the hole. Has no running water, no A/C. KBR is getting electric restored, so he'll have 220V to it soon. It has just enough space at the top for a cot. Also has a nice 360 degree concrete balcony allowing a view in all directions. The tower took a hit at some time during the American attack. There is a chunk of concrete as big as your open hand missing and exposing wires and rebar near the roof

Last night when we were at Ishtar, I was telling a few of the ISG folks about the tower thing but I couldn't remember the guy's name. The first thing that popped into my head was that he looked just like Tom Hanks in Castaway with his six inch grey beard, long hair and lanky build. So I just called him "Castaway." Next thing you know, everyone is calling, "Wilson!, Wilson!"

The Other Side of the Story

The Other Side of the Story
Sunday, March 7, 2004
10:46:00 PM CST

06 Mar 2004

Lee wrote me a letter in response to the whole mess. The short of the long is that he was interviewed on whether or not he knew anything about the guns and alcohol issue. Keep in mind that he has only been there for two weeks. So when he said that he knew nothing of any kind of goings-on, the interviewer said that he was lying! Gotta love it. I'm sure that if he was interviewing Charlie Manson, he would have probably believed that Charlie knew nothing of the actions of his cheerleaders.

Speaking of which, I wonder how Sal is doing in Bagram? He was supposed to have left Kabul today for Bagram. I think he is doing a whole Middle East ITT concert tour or something!

Filling in the Blanks

Filling in the Blanks
Sunday, March 7, 2004
10:40:00 PM CST

05 Mar 2004

Ok, here is the missing entries concerning the previous...

Thursday, March 04, 2004

And the Plot Thickens

And the Plot Thickens
Thursday, March 4, 2004
9:55:00 AM CST

4 Mar 2004

I found out today that the person that I believed to be the snitch, in fact, wasn't. He was a co-informer of the guns and alcohol issue. I spoke with the actual snitch today and found out much more than I wanted. He is a very personable guy and was concerned for his well-being when this drunk individual from his workplace entered his tech control and pulled the gun on him.

The complaint defensive situations accountable labeled innocent party's . guns and alcohol dumped snooping eyes. escalated ineffective. six similar written statements ? wisked away collusion obstruction of justi safekeeping upcoming searc investigation. miracle threats.

questioning perso l safety. We don't worry about mortars here as much as the "management

Harry Wright "when in doubt....

Sorry for the keyboard problems. I think I should be able to fix this update the day after I get my bonus from ITT in Feb 2005!!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Victory TCF

Victory TCF
Wednesday, March 3, 2004
1:20:00 AM CST

02 Mar 2004

Day off today, so I did laundry and am just waiting for it to line dry in the 85F sun. People have been emailing me and wanting to know what I do over here. My official job title is Tech Controller. I work in the communications facility or Tech Control Facility here at Camp Victory. We normally have two or three people on a shift and we monitor the equipment providing communications to different Army bases and sites mainly in Iraq. If a VTC (video teleconferencing circuit) has taken a hit making the video jumpy for the "customer", we get a call from our customer requesting we check the status of the circuit or trunk and verify the quality of the line carrying that circuit. If our equipment or lines have not seen any hiccups, the lines or the equipment on the other end my need to be checked.

Lately, since before I've been on station, we have been having issues with the path on a trunk going to another site in Iraq. More often than not, the problem has been worked to the satellite shot and problems at the sat comms vans at one end or the other. The Army has even dispatched their experts to troubleshoot this issue. The problems apparently began when the last unit deployed back home and took their "known good" equipment back home with them. Since the new unit arrived and installed their gear on the lines, things haven't been running quite as clean.

So alot of my job requires monitoring and querying circuit cards for perfomance. The equipment isn't much different from any other multiplexer that I've worked with in the past. It is probably most similar to the Newbridge equipment that I worked with at the FAA in Aurora when I worked for MCI. I am thankful that I got posted here at Victory. This site keeps pretty busy as far as the phones ringing off the hook and install activity, so the days go fast. I'm also working with a great crew here. Hope that I can say that all the way till the end of contract.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Oh, Now I Understand!

Oh, Now I Understand!
Tuesday, March 2, 2004
10:37:00 PM CST

02 Mar 2004

Ok, maybe I drew my conclusions too fast. More rumors are flying around about the whole snitch incident. Apparently, it wasn't so much about the drinking as about the guy who got drunk at this one unmentioned station one midnight shift and was waving around an ill-gotten pistol. Not only that, but a captain on duty reported the incident to his station commander who in turn called the unit commander at Camp Doha.

See, according to General Rule #1, guns are sort of out of bounds for the civilians too along with alcohol,drugs, antiquities, etc. Go figure. The rumor goes that a handful at this station are actively dealing in ill-gotten weapons and are taking them apart to hide them in the APO mail to send home. I guess one could hide a barrel in a carpet, and other pieces other ways.

Anyway, I'm glad I'm not the country manager for ITT at this point trying to explain things to the Army. With two incidents in the past two weeks from one contractor, (ITT) he has to be "doin sum splainin Lucy!" First you have one employee drinking, assaulting, etc, then you have another drinking and waving weapons around like Poncho Villa...Who says the spirit of Uday Hussain isn't alive and well in Iraq? Or was that Qusay?

Although the whole gun thing could be a farce. After we got here, Victor had to have this lighter that looked like a 9 mm. He saw this thing at the BX/PX in Doha and *had* to have it. He felt left out since everyone else had guns. If that wasn't enough, he decided that he needed a holster for it. So, not only did it look like a real gun, he was carrying it as such. With so many people carrying weapons around here, noone batted an eyelash. Who is to say that this drunk clown wasn't wielding a lighter? Who knows? Still, any rumors of gun aquisition and smuggling make for some pretty interesting tongue-wagging.

All we know is that in these kind of situations all we can count on is rumors!

The Snitch

The Snitch
Tuesday, March 2, 2004
2:59:00 AM CST

01 Mar 2004

The snitch is golden in Harry Potter's adventures. But in a tight-knit workplace where things can get easily blown out of proportion, a snitch is someone who quickly becomes despised and always suspect. Now that I know *who* the company "plant" is, I feel like we are tip-toeing around the Nazi spy in the office that doesn't know he's been discovered.

The snitch I'm talking about was pulled from another station after reporting several of his "friends" for drinking and having alcohol, but also for possession of an AK47. Okay, I am not advocating that we all go out and buy old AK47's, but.... He got caught by the alcohol nazi's and sang like a canary. So the country manager went easy on him as long as he got the info needed.. We are finding the new office politics interesting, are we not?

So now the snitch is planted at Victory for a month of "retraining" (and information gathering I suspect) so he can be planted, oops, strike that, placed at another site. Interesting for us, he is planted in our shop. I honestly think that he will manage to self-destruct in a few weeks. He is loud, obnoxious, know-it-all and generally rubs you the wrong way like sandpaper. You can make me work with him and train him, but you can't make me like him. I've lived with one like him during my winter-over in Antarctica. We mutually needed each other there for the station to stay running and the mission to be successful, but I have no need for him here. Someone else can play the part of "corporate best buddy" him.

March has come in like a lamb. Warm, hazy skies and temps about 75F. Not too much else going on here.

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