Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Rocket Attack Reactions

Rocket Attack Reactions
26 October 2004

This last rocket attack seems to have made some nerves raw around here with ITT people. Many of our newer employees over the past three months have been placed into the trailers at Freedom Village where the rocket landed. One of the guys I work with pals around with a female soldier who lives there, only about two trailers over from the site of impact. She hasn't been able to sleep since then and when she does, she sets the alarm for 3 am and high-tails it out of there to any building made of bricks and mortar. She won't shower until after daybreak. To reassure her, I told him to let her know that the last two rocket attacks that have landed in the trailers have been on Sunday mornings between 0445am and 0500am.

Another guy that I work with lives about two trailers over from the impact site. He has also had problems sleeping since then. Another ITT guy here is coming up on completing his contract and was going to extend for a month, but has decided to pack it in at this point. He only wanted to stay an extra month to make sure he makes his days out of the country for tax purposes, but he says now that it's just not worth the risk at this point. "I gotta make it home and see my babies." He's got two kids, a wife and a job offer he just got today to start in early December, that he needs to get back home to.

One other ITT guy that lives over in Freedom has also had a lot of trouble sleeping. He and his trailer-mate were one of the first people at the shower trailer after the attack. He says he can't get the vision out of his head of the one injured guy sitting in a towel on the barrier outside bleeding from shrapnal wounds to his head and neck and the other guy who died on the floor between the wall and the bench next to the shower covered in blood from shrapnal wounds.

He's only been here three months and is thinking about seeing if he can get moved down to Kuwait. He'd still be in-theater, but away from this BS. It definitely has a lot of contractor types here wondering if we are being paid enough.

Many suspect that the insurgents are using the towers from the mosque outside the back gait for spotting purposes. Seems like it is from that direction that the rockets and mortars are coming. Not to mention that the call to prayer seems to start right (I mean directly) after their party favors are shot off into Victory Base around 5am. I get a perfect view past the wall of this mosque whenever I run around Lost Lake. It looks innocent enough. There is also a housing area right around there too. So what good is having these balloons/blimps with cameras posted above the base if we aren't going to take any action to stop this kind of crap?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Another Saturday Night

Another Saturday Night
24 October 2004

Saturday night is my normal night off, so I spent it the usual way. Slept in until about 9:30pm, of course, I didn't go to bed until about 2pm. Got up, went in to check email and call home. Finally about 1:30am or so I went back to the trailer. I've been meaning to watch this DVD that John lent me two months ago, so I finally found the chance to watch it. It is a comedy with Bill Murry situated in London called The Spy That Knew Too Little. Kind of light and easy to watch.

By 04:45am, I'm right at the end where they are on the beach and a huge ba-boom (like the one a couple of weeks back) goes off. Scott and I hit the deck and scramble with our helmets and flak vests while laying low on the floor. He says to me, "You're getting kind of good at this," because I beat him at getting my gear on. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I was already awake, so pulling myself together wasn't quite the project it was if you're just shaken out of bed and trying to arrange yourself...so to speak.

As it is now routine, lay around on the floor for a couple until you're feeling sure there are no more incoming, then get up and poke your heads out of the trailer like gophers on the pairie. As soon as you see the other gophers out, you know the coyote has gone. Looked like the rocket hit in the new trailer area of Freedom Village. No flames that we could see from Dodge South, so we figured that may have been a good indication at this point.

Got into work tonight and was reading msnbc.com and yahoo news and both confirmed the worst. We know now that one was killed and at least one injured. One was a State Department employee here on Camp Victory. This fact was in both write-ups in the news. The injured and the one killed were in the shower trailer when the rocket hit. The rocket landed right next to one of the shower trailers and riddled the side with shrapnel. Our shower and bathroom trailers have concrete blast barriers. I don't know if these did. But even if they did, their trailers sit up higher and you would need 12 foot blast barriers to protect anyone inside from the shower of shrapnel from the impact. Scott had a look at it this afternoon and told me tonight at dinner that the rocket made about a three-foot in diameter impression in the ground and a bit deeper where the tip impacted.

People that live over there said that the impact was enough to knock out the water to the line of the other bathroom and shower trailers in that area. They'll have it back up soon. We don't take a lot of time to lick our wounds around here. It's not that we don't recognize or pay tribute to our losses; just try not to dwell on them too long or too deeply. The mission still has to go on. Be thankful that the runup to our elections aren't as bitter, violent and deceitful.

Friday, October 22, 2004

I Want My Amazon.com!

I Want My Amazon.com!
22 October 2004

I'm finally getting over the worst part of a cold that I came down with this week. I was sneezing a bit more than usual on Monday and Tuesday and just figured that it was the dust around here. It has been pretty dry and dusty lately. But, it wasn't dust, it was a cold. Wednesday morning when I got off work, Scott asked if I wanted to go up to North Victory with him, shopping. All I wanted to do was to hit the pillow! (That's when you know I was sick!) I have been wanting this carpet for two weeks now, and all I could think about was sleep! After I read this to Scott, he concurred that he knew I was sick when I didn't want to go shopping.

Speaking of a shopping fix...Amazon has really been my friend as of late. I've been ordering music, DVD's and books so I have them in time for Christmas. I've also ordered a few other books and movies inbetween. I just finished reading a book about the break-up of Yugoslavia. I started this book at home, but had to reread the parts I started. So many people that I work with here have spent time in Bosnia as part of the peacekeeping force or as contractors. This book dealt more with the political wranglings of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. I just ordered another book that was recommended by a couple of people here that deals more with the massacre at Srebrenica. Also ordered another hardcopy of Zlata's Diary. I think my first one is either with my neice or with my goddaughter, Andi.

Also ordered a book about a Civil War story that Disney made a movie about called The Great Locomotive Chase. I think that movie and book started my infatuation with the Civil War era as a kid. As I'm getting older, I'm finding that I want copies of books that made a big impression on me when I started reading more after the 5th and 6th grade. Kind of funny having some of these kids books in my collection, but they are like having a security blanket. Warm and fuzzy things from the past...

Strange dust storm happening tonight. It almost looks like a thick fog. There isn't any wind, so it is hard to believe that it is all dust. But it is leaving a layer of fine dust all over everything. The dust kind of resembles concrete mix, that's how fine it is. Around daybreak it started to settle some, but the air is still thick with dust. I thought about running for a bit, but who needs all that crap in your lungs, especially since I'm just getting over a cold.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Hello, Iraq Calling...

Hello, Iraq Calling...
20 October 2004

I woke up today about 2pm in the middle of my night and made a trip out to the bathroom trailer. On my way back to my trailer to go back to sleep I ran into a guy who was knocking on doors somewhat frantically. He came over to me and asked if I knew anything about satellites. Well, I know about communications, but am kind of limited on my knowledge of satellites, why? He's got an Inmarsat phone that he can't get working and they have to call back to Ukraine. We went over to his trailer to have a look. The telephone is a bit bigger than a standard desk phone and the dish for this thing is about as big as a cushion you'd take to the ballgame to sit on. Kind of a portable little thing. Anyway, when he dials out, the phone shows connecting, but no connection is established. I asked to see the instructions, but it didn't do me too much good. Even after rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, it was still written in Russian! I gave him my number at work and told him to call me after 8pm. We have a couple of satellite techs on site, I'm sure they may have a better understanding of this than me.

It was after 830pm and I hadn't heard from Yuri, so I explained the story to our sat tech, Chris. We decided to make a trip over to the trailer and have a look if someone was there and if we could still help. Yuri was at work, but a couple of his counterparts were there and they still hadn't gotten the thing working, so Chris started to have a look. He checked out the instruction manual and he could at least make some sense of the english phrases which were then translated into Russian...enough that he could almost step through things. He adjusted the dish which had an audible locator on it for finding the strongest signal and receive levels. Soon enough, the Chief and Colonel were talking to Kiev via Inmarsat connection.

Did I mention that they were a contingent from Ukraine? While we were waiting, I was asking them some questions about Ukraine since my grandfather was born in Zhitomir about 60 kilometers west of Kiev. I have great grandparents on both sides of my family (ethnic German) that were Russian born in the Ukraine. Given the opportunity someday, I'd love to go there to research some of the family history. We also got a bit of history and geography lesson while we were at it. You just never know who you're going to meet in Iraq.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Catching Up

Catching Up
19 October 2004

I've not really been much in a writing mood lately. Just kind of blah. My step-father Bob passed away last week on the 13th and was buried on Saturday the 16th. I guess that and the change of seasons along with waking up when it's dark just kind of are all getting to me. I had an interesting surprise on Saturday morning. I'm sitting in the entry of building 7 watching TV at about 7 am and a guy comes up and asks if I know where Dave Gallas works. Well, of course I do. He introduces himself as Steve and says that his wife is a big fan of my journals! I forget what a small world we live in here. Web sites get passed around from people we all meet here and from CRC and soon enough, you've become the eyes of the world and giving people a glimpse of Iraq that they don't get from CNN.

I was actually quite flattered but it certainly makes me wonder if maybe I've said too much at times. He told me that my entry about the trailer being hit by the rocket was a bit unsettling to his wife. But at the same time, I'm writing my impressions of things that are happening to me as I am seeing them. I don't do it to shake people up, I'm just expressing my feelings as I'm spazzing out on paper!

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a guy who was considering taking a contract to come over to Iraq. He was weighing his options and asking my opinion on different companies, etc. In spite of my effort to not give him a biased opinion of ITT, he has chosen to come work for us. Haven't seen any email from him in some time, but I'm sure that I'll hear from him once he is in country. In fact, Steve complimented me on my description and commentary of CRC. He said that it provided him with accurate detail of what to expect throughout the whole CRC process.

This morning I was headed back from breakfast and decided to make a quick pit stop. Just as I'm about to step out of the porta pottie, I hear what sounds like a giant bottle rocket swoosh overhead. No booms, so I guess that was the good news. As I stepped out the door, I see Colin and Kevin picking themselves up off the ground. I think they about pooped their britches! I was just laughing and asking them if they had anymore of those bottle rockets. Damned kids, lighting off bottle rockets and pointing them at people! I guess that now I know the answer to what a rocket sounds like when it flies overhead. I think I'll pass on the sound of a mortar flying overhead, if you don't mind.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

IM Chit-chat with Pete (Do You Yahoo?)

IM Chit-chat with Pete (Do You Yahoo?)
12 October 2004

Had a good IM with Pete in KC today. An old friend from my Timeplex days. I finally set up my instant message ID and have been logging into it more often. Just thought I'd share my IM that I had with Pete. It gives a little insight into everyday life here...

dave: pete, i'm back. I was doing some running around, so to speak, on another domain
Pete : Dave. How are you doing?
dave: be right with ya. i'm logging up a ticket right now....
Pete : What are you doing up in the middle of the night?
dave: i'm back on mids...AGAIN! Story of my life
Pete : Oh yea, I forgot you are working mids.
dave: how bout you? What are you up to? Long time no hear.
Pete : How much longer will you be in Bahgdad?
dave: I'm scheduled to leave here at the end of January, but I'm probably going to stay on three more months
Pete : Why three months? $$?
dave: Yep, money in case I don't find a job right away! That way if I do find a job, I can pay off the student loans.
Pete : Why don't you start circulating your resume now?
dave: problem with circulating a resume now is that I can't be home to interview right now. I'm planning on taking a vacation in January and will put out some resumes then. That way if I find something, I can give my 30 day notice, hike back to Baghdad and pack things up.
Pete : Everytime I think of you, I think of MASH (desert style)
dave: Actually, it is very much like that except we live in trailers now. Although I started out in a tent!
Pete : How many hours do you work a day?
dave: we work 12 hour shifts 5 days a week.
dave: 3-1-2-1
Pete : Has it become pretty routine at this point? And do you really get scared once in awhile?
dave: My journal last week should have reflected a bit of fear when that trailer got hit! Things do become very routine very quickly. Every day is Groundhog Day!
dave: hitting the deck and donning a flak vest and helmet in the middle of the night is more routine than one should be allowed to get used to!
Pete : That was a wake up call. Have the attacks slowed down at all?
Pete : I'd be sleeping with it on all the time.
dave: yeah, alot less incoming this week. constant outgoing though over the past three days.
Pete : With the elections coming up, it could get even uglier!
dave: hard to say at this point. I think some areas are going to continue to be problems, but overall, most Iraqis just want peace and some type of safe environment so they can get on with their lives.
Pete : Sounds like you had a kick ass vacation.
dave: too much fun.
Pete : Did you eat up all your vacation days for the year?
dave: no way. we get a ton of days, plus we're given days each month in place of holidays. they used to rook us out of the holidays by not giving us our extra duty pay. Like the insurgents give us a holiday from rockets and mortars! So to make it more fair, the company is taking the holidays back and giving us extra vacation days to take at our discretion.
Pete: I have to dash
Pete: Are you working again tomorrow?
dave: no, i'm off tomorrow
dave: but i still check email and such.
Pete: Next time your working, IM me.
dave: ok, will do. you may see me up tomorrow when I''m checking email. still come into work for that. take care.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Ode to Mom, Dad and My Second Ex-Step Father

Ode to Mom, Dad and My Second Ex-Step Father
10 October 2004

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad...well, if they had stayed married it would have been 45 years. I always said that they probably would have stayed married if they would have just bought adjoining duplexes and didn't live together! We buried Mom's ashes a year ago today and now I find out more bad news. Deb sent me an email last night which I'll paraphrase below:

"... Dee called last night while I was out. On Wednesday night, Noel called her saying he couldn't reach Bob & was getting worried .. could she run over there & check on him. She did & had the landlord let her into his apt. He had a stroke sometime either late Monday or early Tuesday - tho she didn't find him until 8pm on Wed night. He'd been laying on the couch essentially paralyzed all that time. She called 911 & then Noel and went to the hospital...He took a turn for the worse this morning while I was on w/ her & the hospital called her cell while we were chatting. They moved him back to ICU at noon and had to put him on a respirator & by dinner he had started hemmoraging at the brain stem and had slipped into an irreversable coma. They have to keep him on the respirator..."

Bob was Mom's third husband. Even though they divorced a few years ago, they still were in contact almost every day. He was always treated as family by Dee and me. He could be a jerk and difficult at times, but we still cared about him and we still considered him as part of our family. Dee was just saying last night that he would show up on her doorstep sometimes in the morning with Dunkin Donuts and coffee just to BS. She will miss him. I wish that I could be there to help console Dee and my Uncle Noel.

I am really saddened by this and will find some comfort at some point. The last year has been sad. First Mom, then Wags and now Bob. Sometimes being a million miles away is a blessing, but other times, you want to just hop a plane and be home with a normal life and wrap yourself in the comfort of family. I prayed last night that the good Lord would take him quickly so that he doesn't have to suffer. His kids are with him now at the hospital. Let him go in peace and without any more pain.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Son of "Serial Mom"

Son of "Serial Mom"
09 October 2004

Okay, I haven't been completely honest lately. There had been reduction in vehicles here since my return, but I have been bumming a ride over to ISG with Scott and Shane on Saturday mornings the past few weeks to do laundry over there. However, this week we had no vehicle. They took Shane's truck, so now there isn't any chance of doing laundry...or is there? I have a bike now! Scott and I packed up backpacks and bungi corded laundry bags to our Huffy's (see, I really do need a Mary Poppins basket) and headed out on the 4 mile trek over to ISG. My laundry and I (in my quest to maintain the whitest whites) remain the pride and joy of someone who could rightfully be given the title of "son of Serial Mom." If you don't know of or haven't ever seen it, it is a classic Kathleen Turner flick--a "must rent" and future cult classic (along with Bagdad Cafe).

Maybe it's the cappuccinos at the MWR during the wash cycle, but I'm guessing that it is just the need for change of venue that drives this need for the whitest whites and clean tidy whities. You just gotta have a change of venue from Victory every so often. It certainly isn't the Turkish Coffee at the MWR!!

Last week when we were in line at MWR to get our usual cappuccinos, the guy in front of us recommended the Turkish Coffee as he was walking out with his. On his recommendation, we took the plunge. So we sit down and start reading Stars and Stripes and sipping out Turkish coffee in the common room. It was a situation where neither one of us could believe how terrible this stuff tasted, but we weren't going to admit it to one another. I finally gave in and said, "This stuff tastes like brewed grass!" I've been in DeKalb for manure spreading season and the taste of this coffee about beat out the smell of that. As I poured it out, it had two inches of fine ground something nasty. Don't ask! :P Disgusting. I went and got Scott and myself two of our regular cappuccinos--but it was spoiled for me by the fact that I kept belching up the brewed grass flavor. Well, let's chalk that one up to experience!

Anyway, laundry is done for this week. What a load to be dragging all over the Arabian desert. Since I've started running again, there is a lot more stuff to wash now. I think that Bo has the right idea by using his duffel bag to haul it over to ISG. He also bikes over to ISG to do laundry. Says that the duffel is the only way to go since he was dragging a blanket and sheets over with him. Man alive, how obsessed are we with our laundry? But it's either that or gray, dingy clothes that come back with funky stains compliments of KBR Laundry Service--anything from blueing to bleach to god-knows-what. And you really wonder if they are even washing the stuff sometimes. Certainly doesn't smell "April fresh" to me. Of course then there are the unaccounted for underwear that they lost on Jocelyn. Would you like to make a claim or put out a search bulletin for a missing pair of undies? Yes, they are pink with a couple of rips at the right leg...At least I have control of my clothes and know when they are done, when I will be able to wear them, who is wearing them or doing whatever with them! Sheez!

Today was a beautiful day. For the second day this week- clouds! I don't think we have seen clouds here in months. It almost looks like rain, it's great. I guess that means that we will have rain soon. One can only hope. I ran 4 miles yesterday but ended up walking for a little in the middle because it was so blasted hot again. By 0930, it felt like it was already 95F. At least when we have cloud cover, it doesn't feel so hot. But lately, we have had a bunch of humidity too. I guess it is a trade-off. Clouds for humidity versus hot with less humidity.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Dan's Joy Ride

Dan's Joy Ride
05 October 2004

Be patient, I haven't written this one yet...I'm just a little behind, but I am done with the next one!

I have a little story to tell. Let's assume that this is a hypothetical situation here. Since I don't want to implicate anyone as being a complete and utter bonehead or certifiably unfit mentally, I want to declare this as a hypothetical situation. But between friends, this really happened--the names have been changed to protect the insane...

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