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.
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