Monday, May 31, 2004

The Sound of Freedom

The Sound of Freedom

31 May 2004

Kind of in a wicked mood right now (I don't understand, I took my bloodpressure medication today!!). AOL is giving me a hard time (I'm thinking of moving the journal over to blogspot.com) and I got a blister on my toe from my run three days ago so I haven't been able to run over the past couple of days following. I'm waking up at 5 am wanting to run, but can't, so I'm climbing the walls. Maybe tomorrow with any luck. Watched Cast Away last night. What a great movie!! I just knew that that stinkin two-timing-volleyball was going to take off on him. So many people commented on the length of the film, but I didn't find it that long. It actually answered questions you normally would have liked to find out upon his return back home and about how he would deal with fitting back into civilization. You know, the kind of questions you might have about yourself after spending too much time in Antarctica! ;)

On Saturday, I went over to the bazzare over by the PX on North Victory. One of the vendors had a painting of an old Arab guy that I had seen a couple of times before when I was there but never bought. So when I was there this time, it was gone. So I asked the guy about it and if he had others. He called on his cell phone to his other store and sure enough, he did! I bought it Saturday and now have *real* art hanging in my trailer. Maybe I'm getting too uppidy for the neighborhood! I'll have to look for a velvet Elvis next time I'm there, or maybe a tapestry with the dogs playing cards.

Last night around 11:30 pm or so, I had just laid down and about to drop off to sleep when I heard some semi automatic rounds fired; and nearby! The first thing that I thought was (no, not "Ahh, the sound of freedom," but "damn, that was kind of close by!" And if it is Haji coming over the walls again, I'm safer in here behind a locked door (even though it is a hollow-core wood door) with sandbags around the trailer than out there. First reports this morning were that a civilian and an Army guy got drunk, stole a Humvee and were firing rounds into the air. The latest is that it was only one Army guy who got a "Dear John" letter, got drunk, fired rounds which hit trailers in the Dodge South area (yes, I'm in Dodge South, I told you it was the "no frills district") and then led the military on a goose chase, totalling the Humvee in the process. The Humvee also had a number of rounds put into it. Just maybe this is the reason behind General Order 1 about no alcohol. You know, the whole guns and liquor thing.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Trailer Trash At Last!

Trailer Trash At Last!

27 May 2004

Yep, you guessed it; got my trailer assignment today. Yahoo! I'm officially trailer trash. I've already gone up on Amazon.com and ordered my lawn gnomes and flock of pink flamingos for in front. Remember here, I'm one quarter Bohemian and they were all from (yep, you guessed it again) BERWYN!! (enter flashback of Son of Svengooli--it's a Chicago thing, okay?) Anyway, I moved in today and am rooming with another ITT guy, Scott, who is working mids. So we will both have some privacy too since I'm on days.

The trailer is about the length and width of a standard single-wide divided into three rooms each of about 15X12 feet. Each room is shared by two people, so six to a trailer. No running water or bathrooms in these trailers--there are shower and toilet trailers only about 200 feet away. It's a far cry from my 1962 vintage singe-wide which was built with 2X2 walls that I rented my sophmore year down in Carbondale back in 1979-1980. No aqua kitchen with matching stove, sink and refrig, and no couch with the big sink-hole on the left side. Although, now that couch would kind of be nice for outside the trailer to provide "porch ambiance."

Which reminds me, I need to make a dental appointment at CPA to have a few front teefers removed. It wasn't in the rental agreement, but I'm worried about fitting in in this neighborhood. Dodge South where I'm at is in the "no frills" district. The trailers in Dodge North have carpet and large closet cabinets, where we only have tile floors and 18 inch wide metal lockers. Still, it is better than the tents. Much quieter and the A/C actually works. I've also heard that we have a lot fewer bugs, mice and less dirt.

Honestly though, iti s a real kick to finally be in a trailer now. If only the BX had plug converters in stock so I don't have to run my PC battery down. I'll have to go on a boondoggle to North Victory BX or the Haji shop tomorrow and try to find one or wait till I'm off on Saturday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Innocence Lost

Innocence Lost

26 May 2004

Not too much new happening here. Everything has been so routine, I've completely lost track of the days of the week here. People have started to go home on leave now as some of them start to hit their six month mark. Still wondering how many of them will jump ship and not come back, or will come back but with another company for more money.

As a contract worker, money is the name of the game. We are treated like soldiers of fortune, so it shouldn't be too surprising that we act like it. So often there is no dedication to the company because the company has no real interest in us. We are just bodies put in place for the company to collect their paycheck from Uncle Sugar. Bookmarks. Business is, after all, business.

The weather has started to get hotter here. Yesterday was up around 110F. By August, we are warned it will be in the 130's. Dehydration is always a concern. If you wait to drink water until you're thirsty, you are already dehydrated. The A/C in the tech control can't even keep up with the heat generated by our equipment now, I'm wondering what will happen when our unit finally gives up the ghost in the dead of summer and they have to install a real A/C unit in here. They put a bunch of new ones in every other area, can't figure out why they didn't think this area needed one. Hopefully, it won't be after we have fried equipment due to the heat.

Still keeping up with my running. I've been doing 6 miles about every other day, trying to build up strength. The one guy that I run with every so often is hinting that he'd like to take on a 9 miler around the "Victory North back 40" as it is known. It is outside the perimeter of the main palace grounds, but still in the green zone. I'm interested, but I need to feel comfortable being dogged-out by him at 6 miles beforeI try a 9 miler. It has been over 15 years since I've done that kind of distance. I'm pretty content doing my early morning run at 5am. No traffic to contend with. Maybe in a couple of weeks.

It's funny how being away from the safe environment of home has changed me already. Last night I saw a shooting star. Instead of wishing on it in child-like wonderment, I looked closer to make sure that it wasn't tracer fire or flares. Innocence lost.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Abu Ghraib Bound

Abu Ghraib Bound

20 May 2004

"The Army is setting up a new communications center at the Abu Ghraib Compound and I think you would be a great candidate for the lead tech position there. It will only be about 90 days and it's a great opportunity." All the blood completely drained from my face. I could feel my ears getting hot. I don't know if I was more pissed off or surprised at that point.

We have been hearing rumors that ITT was going to get tasked to support a new mission at Abu Ghraib, but I didn't want to even think about it. The conditions there are sparse at best. Eating MRE's, sleeping in cells or tents on the grounds, limited space and freedom and always demonstrations outside and mortar attacks. I didn't think that we had enough manpower to support any other missions at this point, so I figured it is a non-issue. Besides, after all the scandal that has taken place lately at the prison, *that* would be the last thing I would want on my resume! I can see explaining that in an interview. Me in my gray pin-striped suit with the red power tie and my nicely shined black shoes:

"So I see you were in Iraq at Camp Vicotry. I would really like you to tell me what you did at Abu Ghraib?" To which I reply, "Yes, I worked as a communications tech at Abu Ghraib, but I didn't have the opportunity to partake in any of the beatings or realize any of my sexual fantasies while I was there." And then his or her glare looks me up and down again and thinks, "Yep, sure you didn't. You look like one of those demented types to me."

So, my boss Phil, looks back at me and says, "So, what do you think? You ready to go? Well, think about it some. Oh, and Allen (our former tech control leader who is a friend of mine here at Victory (go figure) who has moved over to the RSC next door) says to let you know that you've been "had"!!

Un-fricken-believable. It was like a bad candid camera stunt! Phil said that he could see my face go flush when he said it. It's funny now, but I was pondering how I was going to fit everything in my suitcases to head back home tomorrow. There is now way in hell that I was going to Abu Ghraib. Originally, Phil explained, there was a request for us to possibly support this, but now that has changed. With any luck maybe the prison will be comingdown, inshalla. After all the horrible things that happened there during the Saddam regime and now all that has happened there during the US occupation, it needs to come down.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Paranoia will destroy ya...

Paranoia Will Destroy Ya...

15 May 2004

Just as I was dropping off to sleep last night, I heard and felt two mortars. They sounded like outgoing and sounded pretty distant, so I remember thinking as I rolled over and fell asleep, "Ahhh, the sound of freedom!" This moring, Ron who had been up at Building 8 when the mortars *came in* (all three of them, but I only heard two) was telling us a story about when he got back to the tent last night.

As he walked around the concrete bunker by the door of our tent, he discovered that it was packed with a civilian and a bunch of new soldiers fresh in from the States. Ron says to them, "What's up?" To which the civilian answers, "Wow, those had to have landed within 30 yards of us!" Ron responds, "No, I don't think so. They were pretty far away on the other side of the base. Otherwise, all the guys in our tent would have battle rattle on and be out here too." All of us were still in the tent sleeping. There is just no way that it could have been that close if I didn't wake up to hear the third incoming! If I wake up at home from a dog's cold nose staring me in the face with big sighs, I'm sure that I would have woke up for a mortar landing 30 yards from my tent!

So, all these fresh soldiers in their skivvies with sleep still in their eyes and Chicken Little pile out of the bunker and head back to bed in their tent next door. Guess the civilian said something to Ron about having been here for the rocket attack and he wasn't going to take any chances. Sounds like he's a little shell-shocked and should go back home. At so many of the sites here, mortars have been an everyday-thing. Not too much different or unexpected from if you were to hear the call to worship at least once in the day from the surrounding mosques.

Yes, it is dangerous here. But, so are so many other things around here and elsewhere that are dangerous too. Like the sandflies, scorpians, spontaneous combustion and taxis on the corner of Wacker Drive and Madison in downtown Chicago (if you're not watching out for yourself!) In some respect, it comes down to fate. We only have control of so many variables. When my number comes up, I won't be telling St. Peter, "No way, dude. I'm not ready yet." I'm being as safe as I can be. I'm not wandering around downtown Baghdad looking for trouble. I'm eating my broccolli. What more should I do? I'm just not going to live in a constant state of paranoia for the next eight months.

Friday, May 14, 2004

20lbs of Marshmellows in a 5lb bag

20lbs of Marshmellows in a 5lb Bag

14 May 2004

Good Morning! Last night I was going to relax and finally write out a few cards and letters, but plans got changed. Chris who I came here from CRC with, got notice that he has a trailer, so I ended up moving over to his spot in the back corner of the tent. We also had a KBR guy come in and drop off five cots for at least 4 people to arrive at 4 am or something like that. Things are going to be getting a bit more cozy in our tent. We have had only 7 people in our tent for the past month, so we have had some room to spread out some. Last night, Scott and I measured out and marked in pencil on the plywood flooring, five equal spaces on each side of the tent. Each bunk is allowed 6 feet 4 inches by about a 7 and 1/2 foot space. Not much space when you start taking into consideration that we've got two duffel bags of military crap, at least two suitcases, and then the cot. Now add to this a trunk and whatever else you've managed to accumulate along the way and we're talking 20 lbs of crap squeezed into a 5 lb bag. It's not enough that you can't even roll over in your cot at night without slapping your bunkie next to you in the face. (kind of like 3 stooges, huh?) Privacy is becoming less and less available anymore. The only privacy we have now is if you go out and use one of the few remaining individual porta potties. Now, you tell me, who wants any more moments than necessary simmering in a nasty porta pottie in 100 + degree heat?! Say no more! The air conditioned "confessional" porta potties in trailers are a bit less smelly, so that' a no-brainer.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Tracers Red Glare

Tracers Red Glare

13 May 2004

Last night was pretty interesting. It was around 945pm and the locals started sending up flares and firing tracer rounds into the air all over the city. From outside our tent and looking to the south and east towards Baghdad, tracer rounds were going up in all directions. I remember seeing them on CNN when the war started, but they always appeared green because of the camera and lighting used. Actually, they appear red in the sky. There had been helocopters in the air an hour earlier, but now there were no flight ops going on at Victory, so who knows what it was all about. Heard that one of the tracer rounds landed on a trailer last night and made it through the metal roof only to land on the chest of the guy inside like it had been dropped from a couple of feet above him. Some KBR guy on North Victory also took some stray round in the shoulder this morning at about 6 am.

Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Iraq today. One of my coworkers, Randel, saw him at the Palace. Randel was wearing an International (as in Navistar Trucks) cap and Don complimented him on the cap. Actually, I'm pretty sure that Don came here to kick my ass after my journal entries suggesting that he should "fix it NOW or move over." Good thing I was keeping a low profile. I should have known that he or someone important was on site by the tank that was parked across the access road to the chow hall. You could walk by it, but no motor vehicles were allowed near the chow hall in the evening.

This morning would have been the perfect morning to run a 6 mile. It was about 65F and breezy and clear--even at 5 am. But, I couldn't get my butt up early enough, so I only ran 3.5 miles. After te 100 plus degree days that we have been having lately, this cool spell is a nice break.

The Geneva Convention

The Geneva Convention

13 May 2004

Below I have listed only a few of the stipulations that the United States of America was a cosignature of when the Geneva Convention was adopted. Several sections were too wordy to include, but please feel free to read it if you have time.

Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Adopted on 12 August 1949. Entry into Force 21 October 1950

http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm

Article 3.1 "To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indespensible by civilized peoples.

Article 13: Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention...

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation against insults and public curiosity. Measure of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.

Article 17: No physical or mental torture, nor any form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secrue from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Human Rights Abuses at Abu Ghraib

Human Rights Abuses At Abu Ghraib
12:35:50 AM CDT

13 May 2004

Dear Friends, Being here in Baghad while this whole issue of mistreatment at Abu Ghraib unfolds has left us here somewhat in the dark as to the reaction back home. Sure, we see snipits of the news on CNN and Fox, but the news does tend to sensationalize everything to the point of numbness. So we can't always be confident that their reporting actually represents the mainstream opinion back home.

If Saddam had invaded the US in 1998 to save us from the wicked abuses of the corrupt rule of Bill Clinton, you may have been elated at the time. Until he started taking your children, your brothers and your friends in for questioning. Until he started raping and urinating on them. Until he started telling them, "We know that you know high level secrets and people involved with these secrets. We are going to attach alligator clips to your body and genitals and electrify you until you tell us everything. And if you resist, we will keep you awake for 72 hours with screechingly loud Whitney Houston music until you beg for mercy."

Now I might be making light of the torture scenario here, but the underlying fact remains that our soldiers, our government, and our interrogators with the blessings of higher ranked military people violated peoples persons and rights here in Iraq. They ignored the protections provided by an international agreement concerning treatment of prisoners of war. This investigation is NOT a witch hunt, as one of my friends has dubbed it. This investigation is built off valid, reliable reports by the Red Cross and photos that capture the activities which are specifically banned by the Geneva Convention. These are not issues driven by political concerns as Rush Limbaugh and followers would like the world to believe. These investigations are driven by the concerns of protection of basic HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES.

The human rights abuses administered by our soldiers upon the imprisoned Iraqis are no less deplorable than the abuses suffered under Saddam Hussain. You can try to quantify or qualify these abuses any which way you want, but the fact remains that right now, at this moment, the US government and the US military have acted no better than Saddam Hussain. Who is to say that being urinated on by a US captor (an infidel, mind you) is any less painful or less dignified than being electrified by Saddam's henchmen? Eitherscenario accomplishes the same shame and indignation upon the prisoner. Each crime scars the individual emotionally. Each human rights abuse is still a crime as defined by the Geneva Convention.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Move Over Don...You're Fired

Move Over Don...You're Fired
Monday, May 10, 2004
5:15:00 AM CDT

10 May 2004

An old Air Force buddy sent out an email today that had an editorial cartoon titled, "The Arab Street Reacts." The frame marked March 31 shows three Arabs reading the newspaper and expressing elation at the headline, "US Contractors Ambushed, Mutilated." "Praise Allah!" and "Can I get 8X10's" are the responses. The next frame shows the same three on April 30 responding to the headline, "Iraqi POW's Abused." To which their responses are "The worst atrocity!" and "Unspeakable savagery!" (Reference COXANDFORKUM.COM)

My buddy agrees with the wording on the abuses, but wonders if the first frame is "pure caricature and reflects the sentiments of a miniscule portion of the world's people who are mentally misguided and characteristically flawed." He also questioned his niavity of this situation. I decided to respond to him. I have made some changes to the original for clarity, but my email response follows:

I don't think that you're being niave, but this view of "The Arab Streets Reacts" is more popular than even I would like to believe. AFter having lived in Iraq for the past three months now and traveled Qatar and Kuwait, I must say that dogs in the US are treated better and more humanely than most of their third country nationals (guest workers) that are brought into work in these countries in the Middle East. They have a very strange way of viewing people--especially when they are infidels (non-Muslims) who are scrubbing their toilets or protecting their sovereignty.

Second, I am very disturbed inside by the way the Arab world seems to always need someone to blame for their ills. If they want something good to happen, the say "inshala"--God willing. Their belief is that everything happens for a reason and that they can not change the future or outcome. That view changes however, when something bad happens or is instigated by them. Then, they want to assign blame to someone else. You can't believe the number of injured and wounded Iraqis in the US Hospital at CPA in downtown Baghdad being cared for on a regular basis. People whose booby traps (IED's - Improvised Explosive Devices) went off in their own hands before they were able to lay them down for our soldiers to stumble on and lose eyes and require brain surgery to remove nails and other material in these little roadside bombs.

The Arabs almost seem to use God or the US as an excuse for their own shortcomings. When God doesn't provide the outcome they want, they rabidly look to find someone else to blame for their screw-ups and bad lives. Notice how no one in the Arab world would dare to speak badly of Saddam. No matter how many of his own people he silenced or gassed, no matter what bad things he did to his own people, no Arab ever spoke badly of him (and lived). Even his own people dared not move against him. But the minute someone outside of the Arab world does try to change that, we have assumed all the blame for every problem and issue of the past generations. The Russians also felt this in Afghanistan and are still feeling it in Chechnya.

Why didn't the US plan/prevent museum looting? Why didn't the US plan for electric restoral right away? Why didn't the US provide for water and sewer problems? If the US hadn't invaded, we all would have had jobs now in Iraq (no tongues because Saddam would have cut them out!, but jobs.) The US isn't providing us with food. The insane crime rate in post war Iraq is all the fault of the US too! As long as the Arabs don't have to assume responsibility for anything themselves, they won't and don't. Where are their "Arab Brothers" volunteering to provide neccessities now? It is always much easier to blame someone - anyone for all your problems when you don't have to carry any of the burden. Then you don't look like you have failed in the eyes of God. What ever happened to "The Lord helps those that help themselves."

Now, onto the Abu Ghraib issue. There is no doubt in any of our minds that what occured was wrong. What is terribly wrong is Rush Limbaugh trying to justify, sanitize and minimize the blame of those that should be held responsible for those crimes. I did read his website this week. An article on his website carrys-on about how Iraqis in exile still living in the US actually feel like the criminals in Abu Ghraib are getting what they deserve. Pardon me, I thought that that was what a justice system was for -- or at least a war crimes commission!

At any rate, I'm sorry that there is absolutely no room for excuses in this matter. The writing was on the wall concerning these human rights abuses and certain individuals *chose* to ignore those warnings. This issue has *NO* gray area whatsoever! It is wrong, wrong, wrong and should feel wrong to everyone of us down through our bone marrow.

Our civilian population and especially our military people can not continue to create excuses for what has happened. This crime has compromised the views of peoples around the world concerning our trustworthiness, our honesty, our values and our reputation around the world. I know in my heart that I'm not exaggerating this point.

Please don't apologize or worry about being politically correct in this situation. This isn't an issue to be handled in the political arena (yet). This needs to be dealt with on the human rights front first and foremost. The people who should be admitting guilt (this requires more than "I'm sorry", cards and balloons) are busy justifying their lack of initial response to Congress and hiding behind a curtain of excuses and lies.

Thanks for letting me vent some. Ultimately, all parties will need to answer to the Big Man. But for now, that isn't going to change the events that have occured. It may however, change the entire outcome of our actions here in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places where the US has been working to establish important strategic friendships around the world. No more excuses, Don! Fix it NOW, or get the hell outta the way.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Same Old, Same Old

Same Old, Same Old
Saturday, May 8, 2004
10:02:00 AM CDT

8 May 2004

Things have been pretty uneventful around here. I've been keeping up with my running and got up at 0515 to do 4.5 miles. With the daytime temps over 100 now, running in the mornings is about the only way to go. Don't want to run in the evenings because by the time I'm off at 8, seems to be abou the time the mortars are flying. I don't like the idea of running in the "Back 40" with nowhere to find cover. Plus, mortars just kind of break up the whole running routine.

The chow hall keeps on getting more food. Over the past couple of days we have been reaquainted with the likes of apples, oranges, lettuce, tomatoes and hopefully some bananas (need that potasium). I had heard that at one point there were some 19 trucks of food up in Balad/Camp Anaconda awaiting a convoy south. Well, they're here and we're happy.

No if only our BX/PX (Base Exchange/Post Exchange) would receive some stuff. There are *no* drinks at all in there except liters of sweetened crappy tea from Turkey and some bottled water. Like I should pay for bottled water when I can get it anywhere on base! The chow hall (DEFAC-Dining Facility) has had packets of dry powder Gatorade available for free too, but that doesn't mean that we wouldn't and didn't buy it cold in this heat. I think they're holding out on us. The new BX/PX circus tent is opening on Victory North on Monday and we think alot of the stuff has been diverted over there. This place will be about 10 times as big as our current BX, and will hopefully have some selection of items (and probably only 3 working checkout lanes!!)

But everyday we still go over to our BX and wander the isles like Zombies in Dawn of the Dead in the shopping mall, hoping to see that one new item that they just got in. The service and selection kind of resemble the remarks of Lily Thomlin when she played Ernestine the Operator on Laugh In. "Sir, Sir, We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company!" As if to say that if you don't like what we have, shop somewhere else!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Friends Sites in Kuwait

Friends Sites in Kuwait
Wednesday, May 5, 2004
4:38:00 AM CDT

05 May 2004

Jeff McLellan and I went through CRC together at Ft. Bliss. He has a nice little web site with captions. He also has a picture of a camel spider! I didn't realize that they were the size of a small dog. Pretty ugly creatures. The black and white picture in the Stars and Stripes a few weeks back don't do them justice. Have a look.

Another good site is Dan Taxson's site. I met him at Camp Doha when I was passing through on my way to Qatar. His is also a picture site with captions.

Enjoy!

Jeff's site:

http://www.uberforce.com/blog

Dan's site:

http://www.ilovemyhazardpay.com

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

...And Deeper

...And Deeper
Tuesday, May 4, 2004
11:04:00 PM CDT

04 May 2004

We had quite a little mortar party last night. About twelve mortars were deployed from Victory over about an eight minute period. I h aven't heard that many mortars fired since I've been here. As each one deployed, you could feel the tremble from the sound. Blue was watching them up in his guard tower and could see impact in the far distance on a few of them.

I reqad on MSNBC that there were some disturbances to the west of Baghdad, so that must have been the little party we were providing favors for. Eve's friend Jerry who is at Taji also called her to say that the insurgents were having a little gate-crashing party there. She said that he said that they tried to storm the gate. I wasn't there, so I can't confirm or deny the stories. Truth be told, I ain't making any field trips to Taji in the near future to find out.

After so many days of turkey rolls and rice, the chow hall received some food. Last night we had steak and shrimp. I just figured it was something they dug out of the freezer after finding it under all those turkey rolls! We haven't been down to MRE's yet, but the selection has been somewhat reduced. Haven't seen bananas in a week or so and lettuce only once or twice a week. At one point two weeks ago, there were some 18 semi's with food up at Balad awaiting a convoy escort. One of the trucks last week arrived with a hole through the cargo trailer. Must have been hit by an RPG or something. It had a big incenderary (sp?) splat mark on it. I had to catch a picture of that. Yes, I know, I will work on finding a way to post pictures.

Gotta laugh. One of our circuits going into downtown Baghdad traverses a tower in the swamp here on Victory. Well, we had some rain a few nights ago and the field had some standing water where the vehicles were--about two feet over an acre. Yesterday they dug a hole to drain the water to so they could use a pump to pump it into the lake. Looks like they hit an underground spring! The whole area is like a lake now. About three feet of water over a five acre area. Then one of the vehicles sunk into the hole up to the rear hatch. I got a great deal for you on some swamp land in Baghdad. No, really! And it's next to the airport! It's going to be the next Disneyland. Haji Disney!

Don Your Hip Boots, It's Gittin' Deep

Don Your Hip Boots, It's Gittin' Deep
Tuesday, May 4, 2004
9:53:00 AM CDT

02 May 2004

Mornin' All! The word from Victory is that three so far have been released. "Termination for Convenience of the Company" is the release they have been presented with. Ben, who came to Victory from Balad/Camp Anaconda about four weeks ago, Charles from ISG who was called back from vacation in the States, and Kenny who has been at Victory for over six months. Another two Network Admins have been released from Balad.

The unofficial excuse that is making the rounds is that "resources"(meaning ITT employees) were realigned to correct an error in manning in Iraq. The resources for Iraq and the resources for the new Multinational Support Team to be activated in Babylon had been combined and now the Army is insisting that they be split up. This left Joe (country manager) with the responsibility of realigning poeple and dealing with overages since they had since already hired more people for the Multinational contract.

Now, this could all be a crock of sh**, but it's about the closest thing to an excuse that I've heard for layoffs so far. Oh yeah, did I mention that you can also make the "A" list to be layed off if you have pissed off Joe anywhere along the line here. I started to talking with Ben the morning that he got his notice and he was removed from Balad after a long discussion with Joe. Charles and Kenny also got on Joe's bad side at one time. Three people who found out they were on the "A" list even volunteered to be separated, but were turned down. That should make their remaining time a pleasant time. Others who are to be going on vacation during this next month have even mentioned under their breath that they won't be coming back. They have had enough of the school of ITT Management by Intimidation.

I'm still wondering about my future as I was pissing on Joe's Wheaties about four weeks ago when I got back from QC training in Qatar. Not on purpose mind you, but he had assigned me QC responsibilities. Then he decided that he didn't want to participate in any program (namely ISO9000 or OSHA rules) that is going to increase his paperwork load. Paperwork! We don't need no stinkin paperwork!! Supposedly, he is too busy ducking bullets, mortars and rockets to fill out paperwork. I am trying to figure out what front of this war he is on because we haven't been ducking bullets here at Victory and he is only across the highway at ISG/Camp Slayer from us. I guess I picked a bad month to forget my hip boots in Doha, Qatar.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Things That Fall From The Sky

Things That Fall From The Sky
Sunday, May 2, 2004
1:01:00 AM CDT

01 May 2004

It had been a pretty warm day yesterday and as the darkness of night closed in, we began to see heat lightening. I noticed when I ran yesterday that the balloon was donw, so they must have been expecting weather. Just kicked back and was listening to some Phil Collins on the computer around 9:30 or so . During some of the drumming in "Tonight, tonight, tonight," three mortars exploded at our end of the base like they were part of the music. Ron put on his flak jacket to wander around and I decided to duck into the concrete shelter next to the tent to wait it out. These were too close to us not to take some precautions. People had started moving around again and the joggers were taking back to the streets. We waited about ten minutes or so and went back into the tent. Just then, thunder and more lightening. It was hard to tell if it was more incoming or if it was a storm moving in. As we got back in the tent, the rain began and then hail. Hail the size of garbanzo beans came down for about ten minutes. If you don't know what a garbanzo is, it is larger than a pea and smaller than a grapefruit. Look it up in the dictionary. Hopefully, I've spelled it correctly!

Shane and Phil (our site sup and RSC sup) wandered over after checking out the possible carnage from the mortars. We were hoping for the best (that the KBR housing office was smoked! You know, KBR the wonderful people who have been jerking around ITT employees at Victory since the contract started), but it looks like the mortars landed in the palm grove behind the transient tent (the first tent I lived in when I first got to Victory) used to be. They've since taken down the tent and moved in office trailers. Well, it almost got the KBR Housing Office, but missed. Shane said that the MP's were over there with floods trying to see if they could locate the impact and any remaining materials from any mortars, RPG's or rockets.

More wind and rain last night, but I slept like a baby with the raindrops tapping on the tent. At least the rain kept down the dust. The way the wind blows around here, everyday you come back to the tent with a new layer of dust and dirt deposited over everything. We live in a perpetual dustbowl. Still hoping my number comes up soon for a trailer. You know you're stooping low when you're greatest aspirationis to be trailer trash!

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