Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas Part 2

Merry Christmas Part 2

24 December 2004

Finally making time to catch up with what is going on around here. The last week had been relatively quiet up until the suicide bombing at the chow hall in Mosul. Since then, security has been pretty tight. Lighting on the base had been a big issue after the round of mortars and rockets back in April. Street lights and all outside building lighting from then on were doused. We were instructed not to leave any lights on at night because the light radiated into the sky giving the insurgents some direction to aim. Well, apparently since the bombing at Mosul, that has changed.

The next day after the bombing, big spot lights were set up at the chow halls so that the newly placed guards at the chow hall could check identification. Personally, a lot of us have felt that this was probably something that should have been done all along. Then effective yesterday on the 23rd, body pats are now being accomplished. Going to chow is like going through airport security three times a day. Since I never got plates issued for my flak vest (and never followed up on it, since I could have had them issued if I really wanted them) they end up giving me a more thorough body check. As long as there’s no tickling involved, it’s no big deal. I should ask them if they need to check the inseam while they’re at it!

Well today, they have started to have us open flak vests too. Next we will probably be strip searched to go eat dinner. If they are that worried about insurgents getting into the chow hall, then maybe they need to get rid of any and all Iraqis that are on the base, whether in uniform or not. If it is the TCN’s (third country nationals) that they’re worried about, then get rid of them too.

Now after I got in on shift tonight, I’m told that there was a firefight/gun battle at the front gate of ISG this afternoon on the side that faces the highway. If that isn’t enough, supposedly there are three Iraqis loose on base at Victory that they are still searching for.

Keep in mind that ITT folks are not issued weapons, our building does not have a cipher lock on the outside. The tech control area does have a cipher lock, but the Colonel has given the combo into the tech control to everyone and their frickin grandmother since everyone “needs” to have access to the bathrooms in this building (which barely function.) Any time any solids (including chewing gum, toilet paper and human waste) is put down these toilets, they overflow or clog up. So much for keeping the area secure and restricting entry into an area that is supposed to be restricted.

They worry so seriously about opsec and comsec (operations security and communications security) but give the combo to the restricted areas with crypto equipment, etc to anyone that has to take a piss! Go figure, access to restricted information used to be on a “need to know” basis, but now access to restricted areas is given on a “need to go” basis…to the pisser, that is.

But as we are always reminded, it isn’t our tech control; unless something has gone wrong or they need to blame someone for something. The last Colonel used to specifically tell us to our face that this was HIS tech control and we better not forget it. Guess that it’s true that it has always been about attitude, right Madonna? (Vogue)

Just got back from midnight chow a bit ago. We were watching about the suicide bombing that just happened tonight in the Al Monsur district in Baghdad earlier tonight. We all had heard a couple of good booms, so that may have been one of them. Although it is a good distance away from where Camp Victory is on the north side of Baghdad, the sound and impact still travel well.

Merry Christmas from Camp Victory, Iraq

24 December 2004

A blessed and Merry Christmas everyone! Although Christmas is one of the most difficult days to be away from home, I take comfort in the family and friends that I share it with here at ITT in Baghdad at Camp Victory, Iraq. Thank you all for your constant positive thoughts and prayers, email, letters and packages. See you all in another month.

Dave


Luke 2:1-14
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An Angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."



Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Mosul Attack

21 December 2004

Got woken up again this afternoon by mortars; four of them around 4pm. Only the last one sounded anywhere near us. In my tired stupor, I rolled onto the floor, put my helmet on and nearly fell asleep while curled up in a ball on my little carpet at the side of my bed. Since I hadn’t heard anything more after about five minutes, I crawled back up onto the bed and proceeded to go back to sleep for another hour. We’ve been hearing mortars on and off again the past few days, but none that have been too close. Mostly sound like they are aimed at North Victory lately.

I got to the chow hall at around 6pm and saw on the televisions there the reports about the Mosul attack. I can’t say that I’m surprised. I can say that when I got back to work and read the reports on MSNBC.com. They are printing more descriptive stuff than I was and I’m the one that got squelched by management for possible opsec violations! Gimme a break, already. What I was reading looked like it was copied directly out of my journal a couple of weeks back. Then again, a mortar and rocket attack here yields the same results when they hit their targets. The color of the uniforms, the blood and the tents/trailers are all the same, no matter where the attack happens in Iraq.

Only another three weeks here left to go. I guess I’m ready to get out of here. Can’t seem to get into the spirit of the season…in fact, the days just kind of slip by one by one, nothing really changes. The weather has gotten cooler and we’ve had a few cold days and frost on one morning, but other than that it’s all the same.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I'll Be Back

14 December 2004

Folks, due to technical difficulties, things are suspended right now. Can't explain, but I will repost everything with any and all backlog at the appropriate time...which isn't right now. Check back again around the end of January and I can give a full explanation along with plenty of excuses! Thanks.

DG

Sunday, December 12, 2004

More Excuses

More Excuses

12 December 2004

Just what we need...more excuses from Uncle Donny. Don, either you're with us or against us; enough of your excuses. You invited us to this little party, now play the gracious host and do what you are supposed to do. NO MORE EXCUSES. People's lives are at stake here. Would you send your family out here without the proper tools to do the job? Then why would you expect us to send our military family out here? When I see you traveling between Basrah and Baghdad or Baghdad and Fallujah in a partially protected convoy with scavanged protective gear on your Humvee, then you can tell us that "we go to war with the army that we have."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0412120352dec12,1,3302014.story?coll=chi-news-hed

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6700920/site/newsweek/


It isn't like we just jumped into this game last week. Who the heck is doing your equipment ordering and evaluation to make sure that the equipment is fit for duty? Are you telling me that they just sprung this info on you last week? We've been here over one frinkin year now. When are our soldiers going to get the equipment, spare parts and support from back home that they require to accomplish the job? Congress has approved how many budget increases for this Iraq skirmish now? It isn't exactly new news that this occupation is going on longer than expected and that our host country here is less than thrilled with our extended stay.

I am entitled to rant and rave. I live and work in this wonderful little stink-hole! I get jossled awake by the mortars and rockets just like the soldiers. I've seen the damage they do and the lives that they take. Thank god, I don't have to go out into the streets and highways of Baghdad like so many of these brave men and women that we live with here have to. Is it too much to demand that proper equipment be provided to the brave soldiers that our taxpayers are sponsoring over here?

Same goes for the protection that should be installed around the trailers here on Camp Victory and in other camps like Anaconda and Taji, that have always been taking constant mortar and rocket attacks. Yesterday we had another rocket attack. One rocket hit the five foot tall protective sand barriers next to a trailer in Dodge North. If I look over to North from my trailer, it landed even with my trailer about 300 yards north as the crow flies...or as the rocket flies.

The trailer across from the landing area was sprayed with shrapnel which also separated some of the siding off the trailer so the occupants had to move out of that end unit. I did go back later and take a few pictures, but really there isn't much to take a picture of. A big white trailer with black pock marks, a hole in the ground and some rocks and dirt scattered around. Real riviting view. I had just jumped into bed when they hit around 0830.

One of my coworkers broke his leg yesterday. He was trying to jump across one of the old concrete drainage ditches at 3 am and didn't make it. They say that his ankle swelled up as big as his head and that you couldn't even see his toe nails. From what I hear, he broke both bones near the ankle and will need pins, operations, rehab, you-name-it. He is now sitting at CPA probably pumped up on good pain killers awaiting a medevac out to Germany.

The weather is cooler and we have had some rain, but no gully-washers. Just enough to muddy up things.

Friday, December 10, 2004

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

10 December 2004

Talked to Phil this morning. He picked up Razor's ashes Thursday night on his way home from work. He had ordered a wood urn/box for the ashes which has a nameplate and a holder where Phil was able to slip a picture on the urn. The vet also surprised him with a foot imprint in clay too. They took the imprint and then wrote Razor's name above it. I thought that was very thoughful. Phil said that Cayenne is adjusting well to being Queen of the domain. I'm sure the only thing she is missing about Razor being gone is that she can't raid his food bowl anymore. She always ate everything at once whereas Razor was a grazer. He'd eat a little, come back later, eat a little, come back later. I am going to miss the old fuzzbag.

KBR was in yesterday again taking voltage readings on my sockets and taking human inventory yet again. They just waltz right in with their entourage of six people like I invited them in or something. Maybe I was supposed to offer them a drink. I had just jumped into bed and now I'm entertaining six KBR people that I don't want in my room at 10 am. The one guy saw my jeans siting on the dresser and wanted to buy them off me. I told him I lost one pair at the laundry, so I couldn't sell this pair! Seeing how much they were selling for in London, I know now how much they cost to buy them overseas.

Scott, my trailer-mate went on leave about a week ago and I'm just now adjusting to living alone. I am just surprised how I was so used to having someone around all the time. I've been listening to music on the speakers and watching movies and sleeping all weird hours now. Better not get too used to the freedom, since he's coming back next week Friday.

This last week here at Camp Victory has been pretty quiet. About the most excitement that I've heard about was the lawn ornament brought in by some stupid young "Gomer" on Monday. I guess this young specialist thought that the unexploded mortar that he found would make a great lawn ornament. So he brings it into the mayor's cell area and sets it down. Well as soon as he reported what he'd found, they call out the EOD team. EOD takes one look at it and says that they aren't going to move it, they're gonna detonate it where it is sitting. It isn't like picking up pop bottles for the deposit money. How many times do they have to tell you, "If you didn't drop it, don't pick it up!?"

Imagine the thoughts going between Gomer's two brain cells when he realized that he just carried that thing over from god-knows-where to where it was detonated! It left about a 12 inch deep hole in the ground and about 2 foot around. I'm thinking that he is going to be on sweeping detail for the next, well...forever.

People are starting to get into the Christmas/holiday spirit here. One of the offices in the mayor's cell area has the base of a palm wrapped in colored lights and a sleigh and reindeer all lit up in white lights. Working night shift, we probably get to appreciate it more since we arrive in the dark, go past it at midnight chow and go to breakfast in the dark. The big PX had two foot fake trees prestrung with lights and one of the vendors at the haji mall on ISG even had tree ornaments from China, but I just can't seem to get into the spirit this year. It's just not the same. This year, "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."

Monday, December 06, 2004

A Visit with Mark

A Visit with Mark

06 December 04

My visit with Mark on Saturday was great. Mark, my brother-in-law works out of downtown in Baghdad and I hadn't seen him since the last time he stopped back here in July. He got dropped off at Building 7 and we headed out from there. Eve let me borrow her bike so that Mark and I could ride up to the big PX on North Victory. Mark was pretty excited about that. Being so restricted at the hotel downtown, he doesn't get to get out like we do here.

We did the usual shopping thing. The bizarre had a sale going on, so we had a look. Mark was more interested in going to the PX since his hard drive bought the farm and he needed to get a new computer.

I had to drag Mark over to the carpet store too. I found the Nain (pronounced Nah een' ) of my dreams. It is a wool and silk 4 X 8 carpet in mostly midnight blue with carmel and beige outline. Problem is that I can't justify spending $1900 on it. I know that they run even more in the States, but 2K is a bit much to swallow for a carpet that is so small. Although, I'll never get such a good deal on a carpet so beautiful unless I go to Afghanistan, Turkmanistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait again in my life! Sorry, I'm being a little indecisive here. I'm still contemplating buying it, but that little Bohemian guy with the halo that is sitting on my right shoulder is scolding me severely everytime I think about forking over the money for it!

I left the carpet shop without the carpet, but picked up a few things at the bizarre and at the PX. We stopped over at Burger King (blech! :p ) for your choice of Chicken Sandwiches or Chicken Sandwiches. They were all out of burgers! Can you imagine the outrage if that happened in the States? Shortages are so common over here, you come to expect it and take it in stride. If you see something that you might need in the PX in the next few weeks, better buy it now, because you may not see it again for months! Can't do that with burgers, though.

Mark and I rode back to South Victory, returned Eve's bike and then went over to our PX where he was going to meet up with his people. He also bought the microwave at our PX so that we wouldn't have to try to cart it back via bike from North. The wait for his ride ended up a bit longer than expected, but they got there about 1430. I was exhausted by that time and was ready for bed. I had been up about 25 hours at that point.

Just as I was sleeping good I got rousted out of bed at around 2030 (8:30pm) by the sound of mortars going overhead. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. They landed and exploded out somewhere not near us, but the sound of them overhead was enough to make me hit the floor and put on my helmet and vest. After a few minutes on the floor, I got up and went outside and went out to the bunker that is only about 25 feet from our trailer and joined three soldiers that were in there waiting it out too. After the rocket attacks last week where something like 20 rockets were let off, I wasn't feeling real confident that the first four were going to be the last of it. But, after ten minutes, nothing more. Back to bed for me; the sandman still had it out for me.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Good Thing I’m a Morning Person

Good Thing I’m a Morning Person

03 December 2004

I was thinking this morning as I was walking home from work; it's a good thing that I'm a morning person. Being a 12-hour midshift worker, we live our lives in a perpetual morning state. When we get off work, it's 8am. What do we say when we pass people? "Good Morning." When I get up at 5:30pm and go to dinner (our breakfast) at 630pm, what do mid workers say to each other? "Good morning!" When we go to catch midnight chow, mid-rats (midnight rations if you choose) or in our case - lunch, what do you say after midnight to anyone? "Good morning." So if you're ever asked to go to midnight shift, you had better be a morning person, because you are going to be living your life in a perpetual state of morning.

Need to make corrections to yesterday's blog. The days get so twisted around here, it was the Wednesday morning at 930am before Thanksgiving that we had the incoming rocket. The Monday morning, three days after Thanksgiving was a bus bomb on the highway. We hear explosions all the time. Some stick in your mind, like a rocket, others like a car bomb or EOD (Explosive Ordinance Detail) exploding ordinance are like a car backfiring (with a bit more omph) and are soon forgotten. This morning (my morning at 5pm) I woke up to semi-automatic fire. It was outside the gate, so I just pulled the covers over me as if I had a kevlar blanket and caught a few more winks before the alarm rousted me out of bed at 6pm.

Had breakfast (dinner, whatever!) tonight with Yuri, the Ukrainian Captain that I mentioned about a month or so ago. I felt a bit uneducated because we started to talk about literature and I haven't really ever read any famous Russian lit. (Or maybe I just felt so American; only educated in American/English lit (although I did study German lit in school when studying German in high school and college) and so self-absorbed in only our language and our culture). The only Russian author I can remember having read was "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Solzhenitsyn. I think I read it for Sophmore English back in '76.

Yuri, on the other hand, speaks Ukrainian, Russian and English and was saying that he wonders how accurate any translation could be for an author like Tolstoy, where the words in Russian are so interlocking and passionate. I guess that will be something to add to my list of things to do--hopefully before I'm ready to retire. Maybe the college has a Russian Lit class that I could take once I get back home. (After all, I have been called a Professional Student by my friends and family!)

Yuri and I also spoke about the election uproar in his country. Even with the huge differences of interest between the agricultural west and the industrial east in Ukraine, he doesn't seem to think that the country will split over this. He believes that this is all a part of democracy and the process. As an example, he pointed out our 2000 election that went to the courts for decision. Maybe the media has beefed up the differences too much, almost trying to incite a disaster situation. At any rate, the country still takes in income from the oil and gas pipelines running across it from Russia to Europe. They have a thriving steel industry in the east (and an existing customer base in Russia and China) as well as fertile farmlands in the west. Now all they need is a president.

Tomorrow morning (Saturday morning) my brother-in-law Mark is going to be coming in from downtown Baghdad over to Victory. So he and I will make a field trip up to the North Victory PX and just hang out for a bit. I think that he has been back in country for about 6 or 8 weeks now. Haven't seen him in quite a while, so it will be good to hang out with him some and catch up on how my sister Deb is and how my Gram in Phoenix is when he was back there. It will be good to see him again.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Wastin’ Away Again in “Mortar-itaville”

Wastin’ Away Again in “Mortar-itaville”

02 December 2004

Wastin' away again in Mortar-itaville,
Searchin for my lost shaker of saltpeter...

Hahaha, isn't porta-pottie graffiti hysterical? Couldn't help it, but had to use this little quip from the porta-potties as today's title! Don't know if we can give credit to the infamous Dietrich, but ya gotta admit that it's pretty special. Don't know how amusing Jimmy Buffet would find it, but tell him he will have to pay a visit here to Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq to personally kick my butt if he doesn't like it! But I tend to think he would see it as a compliment that there are "Parrotheads" all over the world.

Meanwhile, back in Mortar-itaville. Aside from a rocket that landed near the haji-stand over by Lost Lake on Monday morning, things have been relatively quiet. I had just dropped off to sleep on Monday morning at about 0930 when the rocket landed. It's kind of funny how quickly you can snap to it even when sleeping and incoming mortars and rockets rock you awake. It's an automatic reaction to drop to the floor, put on the helmet and vest and stay put for a few until you feel like there aren't anymore incoming.

Peeking out the door I saw a plume of smoke on the other side of the fence up by Dodge North about 1/3 mile away. I hear some soldiers were wounded, but no other details other than that.

Growing up and seeing mortar or rocket attacks on TV, like in the old war movies or on MASH, you think, "man, if I was in that situation, I would be under cover and would make sure not to get hit." But the reality of it is that you continue your everyday activities and probably 98% of the time, you have no indication of anything inbound till it's in your lap.

But you can't really live in a shell the whole time here. And even if you could, what are the odds that you will be hit? Besides, if you are that paranoid, you don't stay. As I have indicated before, you probably stand a better chance of being hit by a taxi in downtown Chicago than by being hit or wounded by a mortar or rocket over here. It is just that we perceive the noise from the mortars and rockets as more theatening than the sound of a taxi revving its engine just before it runs you down on Wacker and Monroe in Chicago.

The weather has gotten considerably cooler over the last couple of weeks. This cooler weather has also brought with it the blessing of killing off many of the mosquitoes and flies. Not that the mosquitoes have been bothering me with the garlic tablets that I've been taking religiously (originally to supposedly help my blood pressure), but the flies are impossible. You can shoo them away and they circle around you and land on your lips and eyelids and in your ears. It's pretty disgusting! :p I just have nightmares of the movie "The Fly".

Although it has gotten down into the 30's, it isn't too bad since the air conditioners on the trailers all have heater settings on them. Still can't leave the heat on when we're sleeping though. Even on the lowest setting, you will cook in your trailer if you fall asleep with the heat on. So Scott and I turn the heat off just before we go to bed and it cools off nicely for sleeping.

Getting boxes ready to send home. I've packed up a bunch of already viewed movies to send to the neice and nephews. Hopefully, it will arrive before Christmas vacation so they have something to do while at home. I'm down to about six weeks left here in paradise.

Today I officially started the job search. I sent a resume off to a company and had to answer some questions on their app sheet, online.

"Why are you looking for a job?" "I'm a contractor at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq and will be completing my contract at the end of January 2005."

"Would you consider an international position?" To which I replied, "Yes, as long as it was temporary, wouldn't require me to relocate and didn't have too many mortars and rockets going off."

I don't think I'm asking that much, do you? Actually, if this experience hasn't taught me anything, it has been not to take myself too seriously. After how many rockets and mortars and the aftermath of those said mortar and rocket attacks; if you can keep your composure when everyone else around you has lost theirs, you can make it through about anything...except for maybe "Bloodbath McGrath." I think the calmest I've ever seen Lt. McGrath is when Hector walked in on her in the bathroom in Building 7 on her first day here! But, that's a precious tale for another blog or better yet, once I'm back home enjoying a few good Pale Ales at Rock Bottom in Warrenville.

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