Tuesday, April 29, 2008

…And We Had to Walk 5 Miles Uphill Both Ways

29 April 2008

...to school...in the snow...barefoot! Yada, yada, yada. Like Baghdad never, ever had a friggin sandstorm before the American press arrived here to report on it! Sheez!

According to the news about two weeks ago, we had the “worst sandstorm in 100 years!” Have you ever heard so much hooey from such a bunch of dunderheads in all your life?! Okay kids, in case you didn’t notice, this is Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq has lots of sand and gets hot in the summer. Hmmm, let’s see, it’s about as elementary as saying Phoenix gets hot and has sandstorms. We stay a little warmer than Phoenix in the winter and get a little hotter than Phoenix in the summer, but otherwise our climate is very much like Phoenix. Get over it. It isn’t newsworthy, even on a slow news day. It’s weather. Whoopty doo!

What is noteworthy is that the Green Zone and Embassy are still getting slammed with rockets. In case you have any question, they are all supplied compliments of Uncle Ahmed in Tehran...you know, the guy who thinks 9/11 was an inside job! With the way the sandstorm has hung around the last few days, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more stuff in the sky. I’m guessing that the Green Zone makes a bigger impression in the news. Even the insurgents have gone Hollywood. Only out for face-time on the news!

Saturday when I got up at one point I could hardly see 150 feet in front of me. The sand in the air was as dense as fog. Then Sunday morning about 8am, it lifted only to come back during the day by evening again. Maybe the fact that we had less rain this Spring is going to make up for that in sandstorms this summer.

Saturday night, I was walking to work in the dark. Since I was headed north, through the fog of sand, I got a real good view of what I thought was C-ram testing going on at Liberty (which used to be known as North Victory way-back-when.) I saw the red tracers chase one another in a row toward the north-east but then they culminated in a white flash with a serious of boomlets, as usual. I didn’t think anything more of it. Once I got into work, Kevin mentioned to us all that he got to see two incoming into Liberty get shot down. Guess it wasn’t a test.

Toby Keith was performing here two nights ago…that same night at Liberty. One of the guys I work with went to the concert and said that he made mention of the C-ram display. He didn’t seem too fazed by it. He said that he had been in Kandahar (Afghanistan) during a mortar attack during one of his recent concerts there. I guess they paused the concert, took cover till the mortaring was done and continued after the incoming stopped! That is about how life works here. Just a blip on the screen and then carry on where you left off.

He is quite an entertainer and an avid supporter of the troops over here. He has been doing shows in Southwest Asia for the past six years. Now that is a real hero; he and Charlie Daniels Band and all the professional cheerleaders and so many other entertainers (including the Professional Wrestlers) who risk life and limb to come here and perform for the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

…Unlike a certain Mr Stallone who said it was “too dangerous” here for him to bring his plastic face and liposuctioned body over to Iraq. Call the whaaa-mbulance for big old Sly. You'd think tough old Rambo would jump at the chance to meet with the soldiers here. Sorry to disappoint you, but he is nothing but a wimp! The cheerleaders (Redskins and Dallas Cheerleaders) got it all OVER him! Hopefully it's no insult them by saying that Sly isn’t even worthy of a Dallas Cheerleader skirt to wear!

Monday, April 14, 2008

240, 241, Whatever It Takes…

07 April 2008

“Incoming!!! Incoming!!! Incoming!!! Pause…Incoming!!! Incoming!!! Incoming!!!

As is the routine again, we hit the deck and get under the tables. Lance and I had just gotten to the chow hall and sat down when the Big Voice blared the warning. In the background we heard the familiar sound of the ripping sound of the C-Ram’s working to knock out the incoming missiles on their way into Camp Victory.

Funny though, the chow halls are covered with a special Kevlar sheeting over the roof that is made to (and has in a couple of instances) repel incoming rockets or mortars like a sausage bouncing off a trampoline...okay maybe a little exaggeration...to protect the people inside from shrapnel from the impact. But the sausage bouncing visual is kind of priceless!

We heard and felt an explosion, but know that the C-Ram’s got at least one or two of the four coming in. And no, the fact that we had a slight sandstorm made no difference. That is usually the time “they” like to launch attacks because the believe it is harder for our blimps with the cameras to locate and follow them...or so they think.

The knuckleheads must have used up this week’s allowance from Uncle Ahmed in Iran because last week it was 240's (mm) and this week it was 120's (mm). Even though Al Sadr has called for a moratorium, it is starting to look like rogue groups are more and more behind the attacks that we’ve been seeing the last few weeks. Embassy and the Green Zone have been taking a beating, although I think Basrah has been getting some slack. It is just us and the other smaller sites that are seeing action now.

Just remember kids; if you hear something flying in overhead that sounds like big bottle rockets, IT AIN’T! Get flat on the ground. We’ve had people get hit by shrapnel because they felt that they needed to see where it was going to impact and only went down on one knee. Good way to add to that metal collection you have in that thick head of yours…or great way to start a new collection of your own. Something to also consider is that you may not always here Mr. Big Voice when the crap starts hitting the fan!

Blissful Sleep

31 March 2008

First, a rather long-winded (if I must say so myself) commentary about the wonderful visit we had last week from our reps over in Colorado Springs . They came with the full dog-and-pony power-point show (nothing more than a re-run from last year with the year updated.) Sadly or maybe not so sadly I did actually learn one particularly good lesson from my old old girlfriend Ann way back in 1980-1982…when you arrive, arrive late and make a grande entrade! But seriously, I overslept, the alarm didn’t go off and it was completely unintentional…officially, that is. Okay, so it got me a raised eyebrow out of the PM, but I was already outdone before I ever got there.

Earlier in the day, Embassy started taking incoming and took something like 20 rounds of incoming rockets and mortars…and we aren’t talking little stuff. We’re talking the “Made with Love especially for you in Iran ” 240mm rocket stuff! Let’s for argument sake say that they are about as big as, oh, I don’t know…maybe six feet long by about 2.5 feet wide in the center. Anyway, one packs a punch that left a hole in our asphalt last year nearly three feet deep by six foot round. Now multiply that by twenty and you’re talking one hell of a party favor.

One of the guys I work with has two brothers working over there…or by now had two brothers working there. One of the brothers decided right then and there to leave when one landed on his trailer. That was his sign to skeedaddle on back home. The other brother will shortly follow. So anyway when R comes into the meeting, I guess he was beside himself worried because he hadn’t heard back from his brother yet. So he comes into the meeting nearly breathless and explaining the situation without any punctuation, and put on quite an emotional show for the guests.

Well as rumor has it, our HR rep is whispering over to the other parent company rep something to the effect of that maybe they need to get-the-hell-outta-dodge before all living hell finishes breaking out! I hear that as R was telling all the hairy details of his story, their eyebrows about met up with their hairline, eyes as big as dinner plates and their hair stood on end! I wish I could have been there at that moment to see that. Those are the moments we live for here…to see how fast the uninitiated run. I’m sure they’d of about passed out on the spot if they’d ever experienced the “blue kiss” from the porta potties!

I ran into the assistant station manager this weekend (who used to be here with the 72nd back two years ago and is now retired Army) and told him the story! ‘Course he got a yuck out of it as did we. I also asked him that next time he spoke to those weenies down south all safe and sound (and drunk) in Kuwait, to just remind them that it is only dangerous 40 hours out of our 60 hours on duty during the week! (We only get paid danger pay for 40 of the 60 hours we are scheduled for...and 0 hours of danger pay for the anywhere from 12 to 24 hours of overtime we put in every week.)

So you can imagine our relief when Al Sadr called for a halt of attacks on Saturday morning. Too bad his fighters are freelance. As expected Embassy took more incoming on Saturday and on Sunday. We did too. Imagine my surprise at about 5pm (remember, I work mids) when the C Ram’s go off. At first, I thought that it was just another test. Seems like they test them every week or so. Initially, I thought nothing of it. Oh, btw, C Ram is the anti-missile system that is supposed to shoot stuff down as it approaches…kind of a weapons version of “meet and greet” if you will.

So I’m blissfully sleeping with one more hour till the alarm goes off and RIIIIIIIIIPPPPP (imagine maybe a (really really loud) weed whacker but ear-shatteringly loud), the thud of something falling and the earth shaking a bit with the impact. Till then, I was asleep, but wasn't a bit concerned until I heard and felt the thud. Then another incoming that didn’t get hit landed. My heart raced a little faster as I just rolled over and fell back to sleep. Just remember, as long as you heard it and felt it, you got nothing to worry about…this time. My thought is that I’m safer in my trailer which is surrounded by 12 foot concrete barrier t-walls than I would be running around outside the trailer like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find an empty concrete shelter and getting taken out by shrapnel.

Not that these 12 or 14 foot concrete t-walls are rocket proof, but if your number comes up, St Peter ain’t taking any excuses. During a rocket or mortar attack, you may *think* that you have time to react. And in spite of what the movies may have you believe, rocket attacks do NOT happen in slow motion. About all you have time to think about is what you’d like on your Tombstone ! (Make mine a veggie supreme, please)

So much for Al Sadr’s all-reaching leadership. Maybe it was a communication breakdown. Maybe his French-born-European-raised-and-funded-fanatical-Islamist-buddies fresh from training in Syria didn’t understand enough Arabic to know he had agreed or asked for a stop to the attacks. Who knows. At times all you can do is shake your head and keep it down.

I just finished Bruce Brawer’s, “While Europe Slept” which describes the rather fast approaching Islamisation of Europe. Within the next 15 years we should fully expect at least one if not two small Western European nations to be converted to Sharia law. With birth rates of their immigrants far outpacing their indigenous populations, the intense wave of immigrants of Muslim background and European hyper-sensitivity to Islamic views and the basic pacification of Europe to their immigrant demands and generous government funding continuing to pour heaps of money into mosques all over Europe, it may even come quicker than that. Very interesting book. Hopefully, not too correct in determining the future, but we won't have too long to wait and see when it becomes a reality, will we?

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