Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Thank you...

I want to thank all of you for your incredible support over the past year, it has helped me tremendously and I hope I was able to help you in return. I have been home safe for about 2 months now (the artillery range still gives me the creeps) and hopefully will not have to return. Again, thanks to all of you for your amazing amounts of support. -B

Monday, March 21, 2005

HOME!!!

I AM HOME!!! BACK IN THE US!!! THANK YOU GOD!!! B

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Bored out of my mind...

That's right, I am officially bored out of my mind. I thought that a few days just chilling in Kuwait would be nice. Well, they were and now I'm ready to do something besides sleep and watch movies. Yeah, I know there are worse places I could be right now, but at least time might go faster there than a slow snail's crawl. And they don't even know when we'll be getting out of here, could be a few days, could be 10 days. I have no idea what I would do here for 10 more days. I think I truly would lose my mind. I mean, you can only play so many games of spades and watch so many movies before even that gets old. I just want to be HOME.
Sorry about that rant, I know that I've got it pretty good right now, not being shot at or rocketed but man, I just wish I were home already. B

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Back in Kuwait...

Hey all, I've been pretty busy moving myself and all our stuff to Kuwait. Yes, that's right, we're finally back in Kuwait. As much as I dislike sand, it is GREAT to be here. Because being here means that I'm almost home. :-) They keep changing the date on us, but as long as they're not planning to send us back to Iraq, I could care less.
Like 2 hours after I got into Kuwait, they put me on a detail for the next day. Wash rack. Yeah, we had to take ANOTHER unit's vehicles (ours were already done) to the wash rack for "the day" and get them cleaned. We ended up spending over 36 hours there, mostly just waiting in line to get the opportunity to clean the vehicle. It was a mess. I was so glad to get back to our camp, take a LONG shower, and sleep. Hopefully things will go more smoothly and we'll be out of here before we know it! B

Saturday, February 26, 2005

TOA...

As of 1900 hours tonight, I have fufilled my duties as a combat platoon leader in Iraq. For the past few days I've been training my replacement and his platoon on escort missions in Iraq. We've been preparing for this for about a month now and all that is left is to ride along and make sure he's caught everything I've tried to teach him. (We call it trying to drink from a firehose.) I think he's going to do an awesome job and hopefully will do an even better job than I have done. We'll see tomorrow how things go....
This step means I'm that much closer to coming home back the land of the big PX. I am very very excited not only to be home but to know that I've been able to serve my country and bring all my boys home safe and sound. I know we aren't quite out of the woods yet and please, I ask that you continue to pray for my and my guys for a safe return. Thanks so much for all the support I've received on here. B

Monday, February 07, 2005

First and Last Call....

On Saturday, at our nightly meeting, we were informed that one of our platoons was missing because they were currently conducting a BEER RUN. A large beer company had donated enough for each person in all of 1st CAV to have 2 beers for the Super Bowl and the Commanding General found it in his heart to waive the prohibition against drinking for that night. So, imagine with me, 4 heavily armed humvees escorting a flat bed truck completely FULL of beer down the streets of Baghdad. So cool.
My plan was to go watch the Super Bowl at 0230 in the morning and drink my two beers UNTIL I found out that we still had a mission in the morning. Grrr. So, I went over with some of my buddies when the place opened at 2300 and sat down with my 2 beers. Wow, sitting in the middle of Baghdad with an M-16 in my lap and two beers in front of me. :-D It was definitely an experience to remember. And in closing, it's amazing what two beers will do when you haven't had any in a LONG time. LOL. B

Friday, February 04, 2005

CPT

Hey all,

I just found out I made the CPT Selection Board which officially makes me a First Lieutenant (Promotable). The down side is that it won't happen for about a year, but it's so cool to have made my first promotion list! Yay me! B

Monday, January 31, 2005

Elections...

The Iraqi Democratic Elections happened yesterday and I think I'll join the rest of the world in declaring them an unqualified success. The bad guys mission was to disrupt the election process and it was an utter and complete failure. Only 44 people were killed yesterday across the ENTIRE country of Iraq. That is so many less than anyone projected, it's amazing. It's hard to contain my optimism at this point for Iraq and its people.
We did have some missions to do yesterday and mine enabled me to drive around a little of Baghdad seeing for myself what was going on. Amazingly, even though the sounds of explosions echoed across the area, people were out voting. Voting in droves. Voting with wives, friends, strangers. But VOTING. What really made me happy was when I went out in the afternoon and saw kids in the street playing soccer. Couples walking down the street. Older Iraqis sitting on front porches (well, not porches, but sitting in front of their houses). There was no fear. No scared looks. To me, it was almost a glimpse into the future of Iraq, where that kind of thing is normal, commonplace, expected. I do not know if anyone on that street felt as I did, but I sure hope so. Throughout the day, multiple reports flooded in about IRAQI security forces stopping car bombs, walking suicide bombers, bad guys trying to mess the elections up. I know how I felt when my very first mission was a success and the confidence it gave me to do the harder things. I hope that the ISF feel the same way. I think they performed over everyone's expectations. And if they are able to follow this success with others, they'll be on their way to securing their own country without our help.
I just have a great and optimistic feeling about Iraq today with how well things went yesterday. I just do.

B

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

An explosive day...

Hey all, just wanted you to know that I hadn't yet gone out when the car bombs reported today on the news went off. So, I'm safe and those that do, keep praying that these elections do happen and that as many people as can get to vote. And for the safety of all here. Thanks.

B

Saturday, January 15, 2005

It wasn't the sound of the explosion that scared me. It was feeling the roiling wave of heat and seeing the dust cloud envelop everything around me. A moment of absolute quiet before someone yells out "INCOMING!" I become aware of the staccato sound of machine gun fire all around. I saw it land 15 meters behind us, yells my driver. Principles. Must get the principles out of here. Are my boys alright? That was too close. Yes, we're good. Got to get out of here. NOW. Nothing until...At the entrance. Forever waiting, not moving...they're here? Ok, time to go. Get everyone to safety. Everyone else running towards the blast and I need to get away. You want me to what? Analyze the impact? Now? Shouldn't I get the principles to safety first??? Yes, ok. Inside the International Zone. Deep breath. Wait. Am I okay? Still got all fingers and toes. Nothing wrong but a slowly building headache. Deep breath. Yes, we're mission complete. And you have another mission for us...................................

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Iraqi Elections

I've been asked to comment on the Iraqi elections and I will do so staying within my own parameters for information that I can put out on this forum.
I believe the Iraqi elections absolutely have to happen on time. I think that any delay will give the AIF (Anti-Iraqi Forces) the proverbial foot in the door that they need to continue their attacks against Iraqis. (And I say against Iraqis because for the most part, they have ceased attacking US military targets.) I believe the elections need to happen, even if a large number of the Sunni population refused to vote, because Iraqis will elect someone. Even if every Iraqi hates this person, he will still have been ELECTED in a true democratic election. He will have a "mandate" from the Iraqi people for the first time. He cannot be called an American stooge because the Iraqis elected him. I think no matter his motivations for running he will realize that the hopes of every Iraqi rest in him. Also, I believe that the few numbers of AIF forces that are truly Iraqi will give him a chance to prove that he can run this country. Those that are foriegn fighters will be driven out by the increasing potent Iraqi Army and Iragi National Guard. I may be wrong, and that comes from being an optimistic person, but I truly believe that elections on January 30th can turn this country from the brink of war to peace. A truly lasting peace that will allow Iraq to become a prosperous and powerful nation.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Still doing okay...

Hey all,

Not much going on here with me. There've been LOTS of explosions but luckily nothing near me. We're all pretty much ready to come home and very much looking forward to that. I can't wait to touch American soil again.
For those keeping up with the news, pray that they either have the elections on time, or push them back at least 3 months. That way we can leave on time. If they only get pushed back a little, then we have to stay, something no one here wants. Anyway, that's about all that's going on here. Out.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone! I am doing pretty good here although it is very hard to have a Christmas away from my family. I thank all of you for your continued support of the troops over here. We really do appreciate it. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers especially tomorrow.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Armor

I wanted to jump the gun on this post and address something that's been in the news a lot yesterday and today. It concerns the number of armored Humvees in Iraq right now. First off, the vehicle I ride in is the fully uparmored model and I've seen them take a thousand pound bomb and still protect those inside. So, please don't worry excessively about me over this.
Also, I feel like the media is solely concentrated on the exact NUMBERS of humvees in Iraq that are not uparmored instead of concentration on what MISSIONS those Humvees are used for. As some of you know, I rode around in a totally unarmored Humvee for 6 months while I worked in the International Zone. In that area, there is just no need for armored vehicles. Also, there are many in staff positions who only need a set of wheels to get them to their various meetings. These are only two examples of situations in which fully armored vehicles are not needed. For the most part, as many units as I have seen on my patrols these last few months, almost all have had fully armored or uparmored humvees. In my own personal opinion, this is just one more thing the media has grabbed a hold of to show how ill prepared we are here. And I believe that that just isn't the case. This does remind me of the huge protective vest (OTV) scare that happened right when I arrived in country. I do not how many remember back to that, but it was the same thing. The media grabbed a hold of the pure numbers of soldiers deployed verses OTVs without checking if everyone really needed one. So, please, don't freak out and think that we are all riding around in unarmored vehicles.

Also, I feel like I've ranted pretty good about the media over the last two posts but it does frustrate me a lot that they just aren't reporting the truth over here. I'll try to make sure that my next couple posts don't have anything to do with the media. I really will try.

One last thing and then I'll go. A reporter and photographer from Newsweek were here this morning taking pictures of my platoon. So, if you see a Newsweek with the armor story, let me know so I can see if we're in there. Thanks! B

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

10 Minutes...

For those of you who read what's going on in the news over here in Iraq probably read about the double car bomb that went off at the IP station right outside one of the checkpoints for the Green Zone. My platoon and I had only left that checkpoint 10 minutes earlier. Amazing how the difference of just 10 minutes decides whether I'm writing this post to you or going home in a body bag. It is a quite sobering thought and I know that I don't usually post things of this degree of seriousness but I thought it was something important to put out. There are many of us over here, roughly 140,000 troops all risking their lives on a daily basis. I try as best I can to keep up with what the news media chooses to put out and I feel that this message is seriously lacking. There are many good people who have chosen to come here and work to make Iraq a better place. We are succeeding. I see that every day and yet all that is put out is how many people die in what bombing/explosion/assassination. I can't speak for my fellow soldiers but I know that if I had known that I would be coming here, to Iraq, to do this in 2000, the day I signed on the dotted line and entered the military, I would do it again. Even the most cynical of my fellow LTs said to me the other day that he gets this feeling of purpose, of being a part of something bigger than himself that he will, never again participate in as long as he lives. That is the prevailing feeling over here. We know we are here to do good and good is being done. I urge those of you who read/watch what's going on here in Iraq to view that news through a filter. Understand that what is published is only the good, juicy, sensational stuff, not the "mundane" hard tiring work that is going into making this country strong enough to stand on its own. I'm going to step off my soap box now. Thanks for understanding and for all the support that pours in for the soldiers over here. It means more than you will ever know. B

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We got served a pretty nice meal with all the trimmings here. It was actually pretty good. The weather here was a perfect Thanksgiving day. A nice brisk 60's with a beautiful blue sky. All I needed was some football to play. Lol. Anyway. Happy Turkey Day to all!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Flu

Hey all,

Yeah, yeah. I know I promised to write sooner, but then again, the promised holy grail of flu shots was supposed to protect me. It didn't. 3 days ago, after coming off mission at 1830 I staggered to the Aid Station feeling really bad, and really flushed. I had a temp of 102.7. Not good. So, they declared me to have the flu, gave me some meds, and told me to rest. So, here I am, 3 days later, still battling a touch of nausea whenever I get up and walk around. Anyway.

Things have been pretty good here (besides the whole flu thing). My platoon is starting to gel in the way I had always hoped to have happen. My platoon sergeant and I have realized that our differences and stubborness about things probably makes us and the platoon stronger in the long run.

The weather here has taken a turn for the decidedly UN-Iraq. It's actually COLD outside today and I think they reported snow in Mosul today. I actually have to use my big winter blanket at night because it gets pretty chilly (and that we have no heaters yet). We've even started using the heaters in the trucks in the morning, which is a wierd feeling. But the good news is we aren't sweating all day anymore.

With Thanksgiving coming up in a few days, please keep all the soldiers over here in your prayers. This is going to be a hard time for a lot of us, so we will appreciate all the support you can give. Thank you.

B

Monday, November 08, 2004

Still alive and kicking

Hey all,

Sorry for not posting in a while, there's been a lot going on here, with Ramadan and a record number of VBIEDs going off. Because of the flooding we've been getting in our semi-underground garage/living area, we've been moved to a much nicer area, but one never occupied before. So, we're having to wire electricity and lights just to make it livable. It's pretty crazy. We're also all hunkered down because of the Fallujah thing so, we'll see how that pans out. I'll definitely give ya'll a better update when I'm not so tired. Later all! B

Saturday, October 09, 2004

New Baghdad Pictures posted...

New pics...get em while they're hot...

http://photos.yahoo.com/phantomdw2

B

Scared...

Scared. It seems so harmless sitting there in black and white. Am I scared? No. Not really. Scared really isn't the word. My first 6 months in Baghdad were spent being randomly mortared and rocketed, so, there's no point in being scared. If that random thing gets you, it was your time to go. That sort of mindset has followed me over to my new job. I know there are bad guys out there looking to hurt me and my boys, but I can only do so much to prevent that. We have lots of procedures and very strong vehicles to protect us and I trust my men implicitely. I think cautious and observant would be two better words to describe how I feel. B

RAIN!

A while ago, I posted about not having any rain or clouds for months. Well, that has certainly changed. Today was overcast and an actual thunderstorm rolled through. We only got light sprinkles but it was indeed wierd to have water falling from clouds in the sky. I almost stood out in it until someone reminded me how polluted the air and water are here. I then went quickly inside.
Supposedly Iraq has a rainy season were there are torrential rains. And even though they've had these for hundreds of years, drains where rainwater can flow out of the streets into the HUGE river have just never been more than an afterthought. And to top that off, the sewers back up too. (I'll just pause and let that mental picture waft over you.)

As for my job, it's definitely a totally different type and experience but it's causing the time to FLY by. I'm amazed at how much time has passed since I moved. If the rest of the time goes like this, I'll be home in no time at all. B

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Iraqi Reaction...

In my desire to get more people to ask me questions in the comments section, I'm going to answer the latest question posed to me. "How do the Iraqis respond to us?" I've been going out about 2 weeks now, so I think I have a pretty good idea of the answer to this one. For the most part, they try to stay out of our way and obey what directions we give them. A lot even make the effort to give us a clear lane to travel, and that works out better for all, because that way we get out of their way faster. There are those that are driving and just not paying any attention to anything and luckily 5 tons of armored truck with a machine gun mounted on top makes them wake up. I've had several close calls with inattentive drivers but none that have hit my vehicle. And then, there are those, teenage drivers who try and weave in and out of traffic not realizing that we will win any battle between our vehicle and theirs. That being said, the most important thing for us is to be clear about what we want the traffic to do. When we're clear, we usually don't have any problems. And that's good for everyone.

Today I got a grand tour of the city, going on my first long range mission and visiting lots of places in Baghdad. Depending on how much space I'm allotted on that picture site I have, we'll see how many I can post. As for now, peace out! B

Friday, September 24, 2004

Busy busy busy

Today I got my first day off in a week and a half since I've started my new job. Techically this was my first day off since I got into Iraq, since as the lone FSIO I never was "off" (even though I did have a bit of free time in between making badges). My job now consists of escorting people (civilian and military) to various locations around Baghdad. It has definitely allowed me to see much more of the city (pictures coming soon) and a new face of the Iraqi people. Before, as some maybe have guessed, I saw a very small section of Baghdad who was, for the most part, very well behaved and very well regulated by the government. As I'm getting outside of the Green Zone more, I'm starting to see much more of what would be called the "real" Baghdad. Lots of open air markets, people riding in ox carts, people going about their normal lives as best they can. There is a lot to admire in those that are carrying out their every day activities even though they know there's always a threat of a VBIED or mortar or rocket or even random (or not) small arms fire. That is definitely something to admire.


Saturday, September 18, 2004

Moved...

I haven't been able to post in a while cause I got the call Monday evening to have all my bags packed in an hour and a half to move to my new job. So, here I am, in a TOTALLY different job having to learn everything over again. All my extensive knowledge of the Green Zone is now totally useless cause my new job entails me going all over Baghdad on missions. I'm still trying to decide how much I'm going to be able to reveal about what I do now, but I'll still try to post on things I know aren't classified, like how I no longer have an over abudant supply of hot water. And how after 6 months, Burger King fries can be the best thing I've ever tasted. So, I'll try to keep those sorts of things coming and let you know as much as I can about my job as it is now. Later. B

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Crazy Morning

It was indeed a crazy morning (for those who follow the news will know what I mean.) I was attempting to fall asleep when a long series of mortars started dropping all around the Green Zone. The definitely was the heaviest barrage that we've sustained in a LONG time. And to cap it off, they even tried to blow up our checkpoint (not something covered in the news). Again, though the bad guys tried really hard to, they didn't kill or wound any Americans in the Green Zone. They only managed to kill their own people. I think that's the saddest part of all this, most frequently it's not the Americans who bear the brunt of the shrapnel, it's their own people. B

Sunday, September 05, 2004

To Remember....

"It is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press."

It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech."

"It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate."

"It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burnthe flag."


Authored by: Dennis Edward O'Brien, Sergeant, USMC

Friday, September 03, 2004

Replacement...

Sorry I haven't posted much in the last few days. (Again.) My replacement is here and I've been fairly busy trying to teach him all it is that I do here. It's kind of cool, but a little annoying to be dealing with someone who is actually excited to be here and ready to work. This has become old hat to so many of us that we forget that we were once excited to be here. Sometime in the next week I should be switching over to my new job. Which has me pretty nervous, but a little excited too. I've been waiting a long time to get a platoon of my very own. I have no idea whether I'll be able to keep posting when I move, but I surely will attempt to. Ok, back to work. B

Games Soldiers Play

Interestingly enough, soldiers actually do get tired of video games after a while and what have we found to replace them? RISK. Someone brought a Risk board here and now we have nightly Risk games. Every once in a while it hits me: A bunch of soldiers in IRAQ playing a game of world domination. I hope Al-Jazeera never gets wind of this. They'd never let it go. B

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Soccer

As some of you know, I'm not much of a soccer fan (I'm way too obsessed with football to leave any room for another sport) but I couldn't help but watch the Paraguay-Iraq game last night. Partially cause we were actually ordered to monitor the score and partially cause I genuinely wanted Iraq to win. We had to monitor the score (and yes, it feels surreal) because some Iraqis have a habit of grabbing an AK and firing hundreds of rounds in the air when they win. Even with that, I was still pulling for the Iraqis to win. How awesome would that be if Iraq had brought home the gold. Man. Like one broadcaster said, no one deserves it as much as Iraq. I was very sad to see them lose that game. My sympathies to Iraq and their loss.
Also, I was quite mystified the other day when I logged on and found that I had had 150 hits in ONE day. I couldn't believe the numbers. So, I started poking around on Iraqi and Soldier blogs and found that my blog has made the List of Iraqi Blogs. YAY! What a great moment in my blogger career. ;-) B

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Food Cravings...

So, we're almost to the sixth month mark here in Iraq and that must mean that it's time for the insane food cravings to hit. You know how, in the states, you get a craving for something, you just go get it. Not so here. Even if we could get what we're craving, it usually doesn't hit until AFTER everything is already closed. Like the other day, I'm sitting on night radio watch and this commerical comes on the TV showing Chinese food. CHINESE FOOD. Grrr. My stomach starts rumbling and I have this crazy craving for chinese food. And no way to get it, especially at 4 am. Two days ago, one of the guys busts into my room, BEGGING for anything even vaguely chip-like. So, of course we didn't have any, but he kicked off one heck of a craving for chips and dip with my roommate and I. Grrrr. And yesterday, I was playing Risk (the game, and actually winning, for the moment) and one of the guys started talking about real pizza, and burger king burgers, and real fries, and steak. The whole game stopped as we sat there, just imagining those things and how good they would taste. We all snapped out of it at once and were ready to kill this guy. Why'd you do that? OH, jerk, you're going home tomorrow. GRRR! (He said he was going to seal up some McD's wrappers and bring them back to tease us. I think we shall have to kill him if he does.) I'm hoping this food craving phase stops, cause I can't keep dreaming of steak at night. I can't get no sleep. B

P.S. Speaking of dreams, one of my roommates woke up this morning having had a dream where he couldn't stop staring at the sky cause it has white puffy things in it (I think they're called "clouds"). I think we've been here too long.

Who thought cold water would be a luxury...

After groggily ripping yourself out of the hungry jaws of sleep, you stumble to the shower. Still blearly eyed, you turn on the hot water. Check. Now, reaching for the cold water handle, you try to get a nice temperature to enjoy your shower. But all that comes out is boiling water. Confused, you step into the shower hoping that the water will mysteriously cool down as it...OW...OW...HOT! Sound backwards? Used to actually running out of hot water? Welcome to IRAQ! Yes, in their infinite wisdom, the builders put the water tank on the ROOF of the buildings. Yes, this would be on the ROOF, as close as possible to the firey ball in the sky some call the sun. And just to make sure that it gets nice and how, the water even flows through a hot water heater. Now, this might not be a big problem if we were somewhere like, Michigan, but we're in IRAQ, where it normally gets around 110 degrees. And as we all know, water likes to store heat. I never thought I'd say this, but what I wouldn't give for a cold shower. B

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Job update....

I just talked to the guy actually in charge of my job switch in order to find out what was going on. The guy I was in a rush to replace (by Sept 1st) was replaced by an Infantry LT so, I'm basically waiting now for my actual replacement to come in. Because of the job I do, I have to actually wait for an Artillery LT to come in from Hood. And who knows when that will happen. Let's just say that 2-82 BC isn't in a big hurry to replace the FISTers. He seems mainly concerned with getting replacements for 2-82. Anyway, what this means for me is that I'm basically on hold until my replacement comes in. If he ever does.
As for things Iraqi, it's quieted down a lot here. There have been very few mortar/rocket attacks lately and no reports of a bad guy army invasion. The National Convention (thanks for posting that article, JDenn) that was supposed to be 2 days long has decided to keep meeting until they can get their issues resolved, or at least on the way to being resolved. It's still a great step for Iraq and something they should all be proud of. That's about all that's going on now. Later. B

Monday, August 16, 2004

Boom

Sorry again for not posting as soon as I wanted to. I've been pulling a lot of night radio duty in the company command post (yes, we're that short-handed). So, that's really messed up my sleep schedule and it seems everyone conspires to not allow me to sleep. Sometimes, I can't fall asleep until like 0600 and then get woke up at 11 for something stupid, but then I can't get back to sleep. Anyway, things have calmed down and I've been trying to get on a normal schedule again.
The other day, I had gotten off shift at 7 am and took a little bit to get to sleep. I got woken up at 1130 with the words "sir, wake up, you're in charge." I groggily asked, in charge of what? The company, sir. Of course, my first thought was that everyone must be dead for me to be in charge. Luckily it was only b/c the XO and CO had left the area for a mission, which left me in charge. It only lasted a couple of hours, but it sure was a nice feeling. I'm definitely going to have that as a block on my officer eval (OER).
They've still been launching lots of rockets at us lately, especially since the National Convention is going on. Never heard of it? Yeah, I'm not surprised. It seems that covering big bad American soldiers defiling the most "holy city in Iraq" Najaf and killing millions of innocent civilains is more important than covering the fact that hundreds of delagates from all over Iraq are meeting right now to start drafting their own constitution. A huge step forward in making Iraq its own nation on its own terms and it's NOWHERE on the news. Very frustrating.
I promised more information on the job switch I'm about to make. As early as September 1st, I may be switching back to 2-82 FA. The relies on someone coming to replace me, but he is supposedly on the ground at Fort Hood right now and should be on the way soon. The reason that my switch date got moved up so much is that I'm the first in the chain reaction of moves to be conducted. I have to take Guy 1's job, so he can take Guy 2's so he can take Guy3's so he can take Guy 4's and so on. Not that I'm complaining too much cause I am more than ready to move out of this position. It becomes more frustrating every day for reasons I really cannot get into on such a public forum. As for the job I'll have, I'll be taking over a platoon (what I really want) conducting escort missions. I'm hoping that this will give me a much more regimented schedule and get me back sleeping normally again. It is a tad more dangerous job, but hopefully one that will leave me more fufilled than I am right now. Well, I actually have some things to do today, so I'll leave it at that. Later. Brian

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

still here...

Sorry for not posting in so long. I've kinda been in a funk lately and haven't felt like doing much of anything. I am doing pretty well, on the whole. Had a mistaken report today that my replacement was here. Kind of a shock/suprise that I'll really be moving soon to a new job. Lots of things happening in Iraq, for those who've been keeping up with the news (I'll detail them later for those who don't ;-) ). In the last 4 days there've been over 20 mortar/rocket attacks in the Green Zone, so it's been pretty crazy. Hopefully, I'll get on later tonight and let you know more about what's going on over here. Brian

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

New Job update...

A day or so ago, I recieved an update about my new job here.  A lot of us are due to switch out and this is a part of the whole "officer career progression" ensuring that as soon as an officer gets good at his job, he gets moved.  Lol.  Anyway, most probably I will be going back to 2-82 FA to be an FDO.  For those who haven't been paying attention to my mini lectures, that's a Fire Direction Officer.  He is charge of the brains of the gun battery.  It's not the job I wanted, but it's a stepping stone to get to a Platoon Leader job.  The overwhelmingly good thing is that I'll most likely be working for the CPT who is my current boss.  (Not the company commander, but the Task Force FSO, who I get along with extremely well.  There are some downsides, like he knows me and what I'm capable of, which means I'll never be able to get away with anything, but, that'll be good.  The good things are that I know how he thinks and what he expects, so there won't be the normal confusion that comes with having a brand new boss.  So, I'm pretty excited.)  It looks like the switch will come sometime in mid-October when the senior first lieutenants become Captains and have to move out of their current jobs.  I'll definitely be glad to move, for reasons I can't really discuss using this forum.  And the other really cool thing is that we are probably going to be able to shoot our guns to qualify while we're here.  I can't wait to hear the sounds of friendly artillery.  Well, that's about all that's going on here.  It's been fairly quiet here this morning.  Well, except for 6 mortar rounds that impacted in the International Zone.   And I didn't even wake up for them.  I must be getting used to this.........   B

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Something must be in the air over here...

I think there's something in the air over here driving people out of their minds.  We've had a division sergeant major relieved, a division commander relieved, 3 battalion commanders relieved, and untold others moved since we've gotten here.  There is something about this situation that has caused a crazy amount of stupidity.  Doing things that are just DUMB.  I can't really go into it, but things that they should KNOW better.  I mean, some of these people have spent 20+ YEARS in the army.  They should know better by now.
Not to say that the stupidity factor isn't already high (Donk, I know you can back me up on this one) but man, what were they thinking?  I'm just amazed.  Behavior you would expect out of some private with no more sense then a concrete block.  Absolutely amazing. 
And for a great example of the normal level of stupidity.  (We were talking today and if they made a movie of things over here, no one would believe it.)  An Iranian National came to the checkpoint with information about nuclear weapons in Iran.  But he only spoke Farsi, which has some Arabic elements to it.  So, we could kind of tell what he was saying.  He wanted to give us the information but also to surrender to the United States Government here.  Guidance from higher said to take his statement and hold him there.  As long as possible.  So, I ask, why do we want to hold him after he gives his statement?  Higher says, cause we're trying to find someone that speaks Farsi.  Ok, makes sense.  BUT HE WANTS TO SURRENDER.  Give himself up.  And we're just messing around.  I even asked about the State Department getting involved and got told to stay in my lane, dumb lieutenant.    And yes, we are the greatest army in the world.  And no, I have no idea how.  B

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

VBIED...

For those of ya'll who have caught the news today, a pretty massive vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) exploded at the checkpoint my unit is responsible for. No Americans were killed and only one slightly injured but we lost 2 of our fellow Iraq brothers in arms. They gave their life in the ultimate sacrifice for their country. There are very few acts more noble than that. They will be buried with honors as if they were one of us.
As for me, I'm exhausted after spending all day on the checkpoint and am going to get a shower and some much needed rest. (It was 127 degrees today.) Hopefully tomorrow will be quiet and we can all get back to work. B

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Wannabe tanker...

Part of being a Fire Support Officer is getting attached to a manuever company. In my case, I am attached to a Tank company. When we first got here, they did not have any tanks, it wasn't believed that they would need them in the Green Zone. The higher powers that be decided we needed tanks, so they shipped them FedEx from Fort Hood. Now that they are here, they have to be outfitted with all their proper gear, including tank main gun rounds. This is where I come in. I really am a wannabe tanker. It was my first choice for a branch (Armor) and something I always wanted to do. We were short on manpower yesterday, and so I was asked to help load main gun rounds. The round is about 100 pounds and 2.5 feet long. Not too heavy at first, but carrying and then lifting them onto the tank sure gives you a nice workout. (Yes, I am sore.) Also, add to that, it was around 120 degrees outside when we were doing this. Quite the workout.
AND while we were out there, the Captain walked by and said to me "THIS is outside. Trees, sun, sky." I couldn't believe he busted me out like that, ESPECIALLY cause the reason I spend so much time inside is that I'm STILL making badges for HIM. I guess no matter where I go, I'll end up being a computer doing something. It's my lot in life. ;-) Which is perfectly okay, I like A/C. B

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Very very quiet...

So, I really have nothing much to talk about or discuss. It's been really quiet here lately but the tension everyone was feeling is gone. I think everyone is starting to hope that things really have calmed down and the Iraqis can go about rebuilding the rest of their country. I have to say, today was just about the hottest day since I've been here. We sat outside for about an hour and I was TOTALLY soaked by the time we got back. It was insane how hot it was.
Somewhat funny story for ya'll. The uparmored suburban rolls into the Green Zone (just about the safest place in Iraq) and stops just past the gate (inside the GZ). They all get out, wearing just DCUs, and move to the back of the truck. Opening the hatch, they pull out their OTVs and Kevlars, put them on, get back in the truck, and drive away. Someone tell me what sense that makes? Driving around the red zone with no protection, but put it on when they get in the GZ.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy 4th!

Happy Fourth of July!!! Woo hoo! As much as I wish I were back in the States standing over grill cooking up some sweet steaks, I can't help but think it's pretty cool to be in Iraq today. I keep thinking of that scene in the Great Escape where the Americans celebrate the 4th in the midst of the British inside a German POW camp. Not that I think that I'm in some sort of prision camp (well, maybe a little), the parallels are still there. Supposedly they are roasting several goats and a pig for a semi-party tonight. I hope I get to attend that shin-dig. As for Baghdad and the International Zone (someone decided that the term "Green Zone" connotated that there are different areas of safety in Baghdad and could be offensive ), it's been rather quiet. I hope that the bad guys don't decided to launch fireworks of their own tonight. That sure would put a damper on things. And maybe they'll even launch the million dollars (yeah, they bought a million dollars worth of fireworks) worth of fireworks tonight. That would be quite a show, especially since every Iraqi with an AK would slap in a mag of tracers and let em fly. Lol. I hope everyone enjoys their Fourth and remembers to eat a couple steaks and throw down some beer for the troopers over here in Iraq. B

Friday, July 02, 2004

Drops?

It is now the second of JULY (thanks, Dad) and it's another quiet day here in the Green Zone. I didn't wake up to explosions or gunfire. I never thought I'd say this, but this quiet is kind of disconcerting. It looks like we're preparing to resume normal operations and it seems that this is a year 2000-ish bust. I'd hate to be wrong, but I'm hoping more now that ever that this quiet will be sustained. The going theory is that everyone is waiting to see what this new government does with it's newfound power. I, along with everyone else, am hoping that they do the right things and get this country back on its feet. They have all the tools, including HUGE oil resources. (I wonder sometimes how much oil I'm sitting on right now.) If we can keep the bad guys at bay long enough, Iraq could really come out of this way ahead.
Anyone being reading/hearing about Saddam Hussain's trial? Yeah, it makes for some pretty interesting and funny reading. The asked him what his name was, for the record, and he said "Saddam Hussain, President of Iraq." Lol. He claims he is the rightfully democratically elected president of this country. Riiiiiiiight. The article I read says that the tenant of his defense is that under Iraqi law, the president cannot be deposed by an illegal invasion. Hmmm, I wonder who wrote that law? And what would be a legal invasion? (I think you could call America's current infestation with lawyers a legal invasion. :-) ) Saddam Hussain is going to go down hard and protesting the whole time. One of the Iraqis interviewed said they should burn him alive, and let dogs loose on him. Ouch. Another said they should do what he did and kill off his entire family. (Oops, didn't we already do that?) I don't think most Iraqis like him very much. And as long as the ones who do keep strapping bombs to themselves, that problems should be dealt with soon enough. Anyways, time for chow. Later. B

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The other shoe...

So, it's nighttime on the 30th of June. They transfered power two days ago and NOTHING has happened. No massive attack. No volleys of rockets screaming into the Green Zone. No VBIEDS. This is totally unexpected in it's quietness. You can feel the tension, as everyone is actuely aware that things could get out of hand at any moment. This is a terrible place to be, afraid to be happy that things went smoothly and afraid that the attacks will start at any minute. I even had a dream last night about standing on the top of an apartment building watching hundreds of rockets impact on the Green Zone. Not exactly a plesant dream. Anyway, so, even the news is covering other things than Iraq. In fact, not one article on my yahoo homepage is about Iraq. Kinda feels wierd. Like, that this isn't a good thing. That the only way things get covered here in Iraq are if people get killed or seriously hurt. OR if we mess something up. Then for sure it'll be covered. Anyway, so we're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. The more hopefull, optimistic side of me is hoping that all the bad guys have decided to wait and see if Iraq really can be governed by Iraqis. The more realistic side of me thinks that they're just waiting a few days until everything calms down a little, and then they'll launch their attacks. But, I don't think anyone really knows what's going to happen. So, as usual, I'll keep ya'll posted! B

Monday, June 28, 2004

SURPRISE!

I wake up this morning to the words "hey, they're turning over soverignty in like an hour. wake up." Lol. Which, of course, confused me so much cause I knew it wasn't Wednesday. But as I woke up, I realized that it was a fantastic idea. If it caught all of us off guard, it certainly caught all the bad guys off guard. Paul Bremer only knew 30 minutes before we did. In fact, I went to my normal monday meeting with the Iraqis in our area, and THEY didn't even know. I had to tell them. Hey, congrats. You're in charge of your country now. Enjoy!
They seemed all happy at first, but then, I think they realized all the things the Coalition was doing for them, they had to do now. For themselves! I'm pretty sure they wanted to give their soverignty back. Lol. Unfortunately, we're pretty sure the bad guys will still try to do lots of damage, but at least they can't impact the change in soverignty. That's the good thing. So, that's about all that's going on right now. Tomorrow should be a very interesting day. Stay tuned! B

Saturday, June 26, 2004

From Dallas News...

This article is written by an embedded reported that came here for a few days. Enjoy.

Green Zone: Safest place to be in Iraq
U.S. troops who guard Baghdad's Green Zone confident but cautious

10:52 PM CDT on Friday, June 25, 2004
By ED TIMMS / The Dallas Morning News

BAGDHAD, Iraq – Baghdad's so-called Green Zone is Iraq's ultimate gated community.

Heavily armed soldiers control access to the area's closed-off streets in central Baghdad, aided by a seemingly impregnable maze of dirt-filled barriers and imposing concrete walls topped with razor wire. From observation posts above, troops monitor potential threats.

Because U.S. occupation authorities and members of the emerging Iraqi government live and work in the Green Zone, keeping it safe and secure is a top priority. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi National Guard forces search thousands of pedestrians and vehicles that enter the area daily. In addition, high-tech sensors and dogs trained to sniff out explosives help keep bombs from getting inside.

First Lt. Jordan Enger, 24, of Houston is a 2002 graduate of Texas A&M University who serves with the task force responsible for defending the Green Zone and some of the adjacent neighborhoods. He said tight security "creates a much different atmosphere" than the rest of Baghdad.

"With our presence here, it's definitely the safest place to be in Iraq," he said.

In fact, life inside the Green Zone is more low-key. Pizza takeout is available. Nonmilitary personnel can visit several bars. Soldiers can walk around their compounds without helmets and body armor..

Civilian joggers in shorts and T-shirts or tank tops run along the streets unarmed. Women, including Iraqis, are more likely to wear Western clothes, including jeans and short-sleeved blouses.

But the Green Zone is a big target for insurgents who want to sabotage U.S. efforts to establish a more stable and democratic government in Iraq.

"If we don't protect this base of power, then we'll never get a reasonable democracy or government stood up in this country," said Lt. Col. Robert Campbell, 42, of Bonham, who commands the nearly 1,100 soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, and other units that comprise "Task Force Warhorse."

His soldiers are taking additional measures to beef up defenses and rehearsing for possible attacks in the coming days.

Even now, the Green Zone is not immune to attack. Mortar shells and rockets randomly detonate within its boundaries, usually harmlessly. Occasionally, car bombs – to date, the deadliest method of attack employed by insurgents – explode just outside its boundaries.

So far, none of the car bombs have made it past the defenses. Insurgents sometimes fire at the soldiers manning the checkpoints, from the cover of buildings or from vehicles. But the task force has suffered no fatalities.

"It's like water coming up against the dam," Sgt. Daniel Stinebaugh, 43, of Killeen, said of the violence on the Green Zone's edges.


No illusions of safety

The soldiers have no illusions, however, that they have it safe or have the luxury of relaxing their guard. They know that insurgents would like nothing more than to successfully launch an attack against what is effectively Iraq's political and military nerve center – and that their security measures are constantly being probed for weaknesses.

"It's very hard to stop somebody who's willing to give their life for what they believe in, right, wrong, or indifferent," Col. Campbell said. "We know we can't stop a car bomber from setting off a bomb outside a checkpoint, or right at a checkpoint. What we can do is limit the number of casualties."

A tangible reminder of the risk is gouged into the road that passes through Checkpoint 11. The filled crater marks the spot where a car bomb exploded on May 6, killing Arkansas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Hesley Box Jr., 24, of Nashville, Ark., and seven Iraqis, shortly before Col. Campbell formally took command of the area.

At checkpoints, soldiers give Iraqi workers and residents the most scrutiny. Residents have been issued identification cards. They can receive visitors from outside the Green Zone but must meet them at a checkpoint and surrender their identification cards, as must the guests. The documents are returned when the visitors leave.

Iraqi workers and residents sometimes must wait for hours in line to be screened before they can enter the Green Zone.

"At the same time, there are ways that you can show that you care," said Staff Sgt. Richard Barrera, 25, of Fort Worth. "Some guys who are sweating in the hottest part of the day, maybe you offer them a drink of cold water. Somebody who looks like they're hungry, you offer them a little food."

This week, traffic at one checkpoint was halted for more than 90 minutes when tests indicated that a car might be carrying explosives.

"We upset some of the residents who live here ... but we don't want anyone driving through here while there is possibly a car bomb," said 1st Lt. Bryan Frizzelle, 24, of Baltimore.

None were found in the car.

The soldiers who man the checkpoints develop a knack for spotting vehicles and individuals who merit more scrutiny.


The 'low-riders'

Sgt. Edwin Ordanza, 36, a native of Baguio in the Philippines, looks for "low-riders" – cars that seem weighted down. People who seem nervous, appear to be sweating excessively, or whose hands shake as the soldiers check their identification also are more likely to get more attention.

Some soldiers are able to tell when a vehicle that's not normally in the neighborhood is parked on the street, potentially a car bomb.

Getting to know the neighborhood also may lessen the chance of a misunderstanding with potentially dire consequences.

Spc. Joseph Lampron, 43, of Rumford, R.I., one of several Rhode Island National Guard members who volunteered for service in Iraq, learned that some Iraqis living near Checkpoint 11 raise homing pigeons and wave flags to get them to land or fly. Soldiers who were unaware of what they were doing, he said, thought it might be a signal to insurgents.

To break the monotony, soldiers rotate through different positions at the checkpoints, and many go on patrols through Iraqi neighborhoods in the Green Zone, or in adjacent neighborhoods under Task Force Warhorse's control.

"Everybody likes patrols," said Sgt. 1st Class John Kaasch, 40, of Columbus, Neb. "One reason is that you get out and mingle with the civilian population."

By cultivating relationships with Iraqi residents, the soldiers said they hope to encourage their cooperation in helping deny insurgents use of Iraqi neighborhoods in the zone to launch attacks. They also said they want to help Iraqis improve their neighborhoods.

Capt. Alexander Rasmussen, 27, of Crown Point, Ind., the task force's civil affairs officer, said projects valued at about $500,000 – ranging from sewage system improvements to school supplies – have been funded in its area of responsibility. Task Force soldiers have helped jump-start neighborhood governing councils and provided aid to businesses.

Capt. Henry Alvarez, 31, of Roswell, N.M., whose soldiers operate in the Iraqi neighborhoods inside the Green Zone, said he is asked to help resolve everything from housing issues to domestic disputes.

"The only thing I have trouble with is everybody wants me to come over and eat at their house – and the Iraqi food kind of tears me up sometimes," he said.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/ latestnews/stories/062604dnintgreenzone.746f.html

Friday, June 25, 2004

It's a good thing you can't OD on sunflower seeds...

With what's been going on here, I got tasked to work night checkpoint last night. Wow, what a tedious boring shift. I stood up in one of the guard towers and watched traffic. Woo hoo. I ate so many sunflower seeds it wasn't even funny. But, it was pointed out to me that being bored is much better than the alternative. I was so glad to get back and fall asleep. Especially since I hadn't really slept in like 3 days. Anyway. So, Baghdad. There's just this...tension right now and we're still FIVE days away from the transfer of power. And there's not guarantee that things will calm down after that. Some here think it's going to be just like the year 2000 thing. Lots of freaking out before hand and absolutely nothing happens on the actual day. I sure hope that'll be the case. But, I can't shake the feeling that the really bad attacks are still to come. And for the most part, it isn't even Iraqis causing all these problems. It's these foreign fighters who are scared to death of a healthy powerful Iraq. They will do whatever it takes to keep Iraq down and fighting with itself. Even Al Sadr, once he talked with the Iraqi President, agreed to stand down his militia and become a political power instead of a military one. But, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. (I have to admit, it is pretty cool to be here at the "birth of Iraq" and witnessing all this first hand.) I'll keep ya'll updated. B

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Iraq burning...

The proverbial stuff has hit the fan. We've been waiting for it for a while, but it is still a tad bit of a surprise to wake up and realize that the bad guys have launched their major offensive. What I've read so far is that 4 cities are being targeted and multiple things are happening here (I can't really post those). What's worse is that I tried from 11 pm to 6 am to fall asleep. I finally fell to sleep around 6 am and of course, got woken up several hours after that for dumb stuff. So, I'm pretty thankful for all types of caffiene right now, especially iced coffee. There's not much more I can post on here about what's going on, but things are crazy. I will continue to try to post small blurbs to let you know what I can. B

Monday, June 21, 2004

The best laid plans of mice and men......

Anon#2 got me thinking of another fun encounter with Iraqi Culture...My first day riding around with the unit we were to replace, they were telling us the small bits about meeting people here. As we rolled up to a house, they told us that if we wanted to drink the local water, it was our choice, that it didn't mess you up that bad. I just kind of shook my head. So we sit down, and the owner of the house brings out a pitcher or tap water and ONE glass. So, I'm kind of wondering where the other glasses are as the first guy takes the glass, drinks the water and hands it back to the host. He fills the glass back up and hands it to the next guy. And of course, I'm like the last guy in the line of people. Now, being new, I'm being really paranoid about offending people I've just met so, it comes my turn, I took the glass and drank a couple of sips. Hoping he would be offending, I handed the glass back and all was good! Well, not all was good about an hour later...but I think you can figure that one out on your own... B

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Happy Father's Day

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY! For all fathers out there but especially for mine, because every day I realize a little more just how right he was on just about everything and how I wish I had just taken his advice. Especially the advice to maybe not do ROTC. lol. But, here I am and I just want everyone to know how absolutely great a father I have. Thanks so much Dad, for everything. (And there should be a phone bank set up here in the next few days, so I look forward to calling home.) B

I HATE BADGES!

Now, I really hate badges...8 straight hours of making badges...........

Friday, June 18, 2004

TGIF

Well, I guess here it would TAIT (Thank Allah It's Thursday). Anyway, last night, some Iraqis got married and the Reception got a tad out of hand. Apparently one guy accused another of stealing beer and things went downhill. By our reports, it was a 100 person brawl and I missed it. Bummer. Ah, probably a good thing, as soon as we showed up to start crackin heads there would have been news cameras all over that place. So, I guess it's a good thing we missed it. I definitely just passed out for like 3 hours today. I'd been outside all day, drinking more water than I thought humanly possible, and started not to feel so good. So, once we got back, I decided to lay down for a bit and woke up 3 hours later. Lol.
So, I read the other day some group conducted a poll in Iraq and found out that all of them want us gone and see us as occupiers. Well, I know where they must not have checked. The Green Zone, cause everyone I've talked to, young or old, has said they like having us around. That if we leave, there will be a civil war. One said asking us to leave is like playing Russian Roulette with an automatic pistol. I don't know if maybe it's just that our unit has had the right approach, or that we have the right people, but they like having us in charge of their security. They surely do not want Iraqis in charge of their security, too many are still taking bribes and not enforcing all the laws. My crew was discussing that they just need to grab up all the Queen's New York cops, hand them the rules, and let them loose. The Iraqis would never know what hit them. I'd love to sit back and watch that transformation. Anyway, my main point is that the Iraqis do actually want us here, at least until they can clear out the corruption and get their feet up under them, then they will allow us to leave and invade Syria. J/K. Well........

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Pictures from Baghdad...

I put up some pictures on my yahoo account...you can get to them by going here

http://photos.yahoo.com/phantomdw2

and checking them out. Let me know if ya'll want to see more pictures from around Baghdad or of me ;-), just let me know what you want to see.

B

(New pics updated 19JUN04)

Metaphor for Iraq...

As you know by now, my unit is responsible for the security in the Green Zone. And in that "Green" Zone, we have an apartment complex inhabited by mostly good people, but we know there are some bad living there that we haven't managed to uncover yet. So, the people requested that we seal off all but one of the entrances to this apartment complex to increase the security and allow no unauthorized access. Being the high speed unit we are, we immediately began emplacing a barrier for the 2nd biggest entrance (one that leads in from a back way). So, we blocked off this entrance with concrete barriers and LOTS of concerntina wire to make sure no one could get through. As we're putting this up, two old women walk up and start argueing with us. They tell us their house is right over there and could they get through. No, this is blocked off, you need to go around. But but but. They stayed there for like 30 minutes trying to argue with us. I think finally they realized that we weren't going to open it up just for them and so they left. It couldn't have been more than 5 minutes later when I saw them on the other side of the barrier entering their house. So, for those who are now wondering why in the world I told you this story, here's the point. Sometimes, I feel like Iraq is just like these two women. They'd rather sit and argue and complain then just do a little extra work to solve their problems. They want us to do everything for them. I mean, don't get me wrong, there are those here that have done TONS of hard work to solve their own problems, but the majority of them just want us to do everything for them. I have serious doubts at this point that Iraq can become a soverign nation in 14 days. But, I guess we'll see...

Monday, June 14, 2004

lost in translation...

At lunch today with my CPT, and two of our translators, (one who is like 24 and the other who's like 50ish) the server handed us all canned sodas. I take mine, and like subconciously, like normal, I tap the top of the can to make sure it doesn't explode when I open the can. Our younger interp looks over at me and says, "Why do Americans tap the top of the can before they open it, because I've started doing it and I've been saying to my self 'you IDIOT, you keep tapping the top of your can and you have NO idea why you're doing it!' so please tell me why you do that?!?" I'm just rolling on the floor at this point, so, I stop laughing long enough to explain it knocks the bubbles off the sides of the can, keeping it from exploding when you open it. He looked SO relieved when I finished. So, now he knows why he's tapping the top of the can. LOL.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

ahhh...found my last box of tic tacs...

It was hiding from me, but I found it! Of course, being my last box, I'm trying to save it, but, they're just soooo good. I cannot stop myself...

Friday, June 11, 2004

Some interesting news...

For those of you who took the time to read the post on what my job is here, first off, congrats for making it through that post, and secondly, here's a little more to add to that. As a lieutenant in the Field Artillery, there are three jobs I am supposed to have before I make CPT (usually takes 3ish years): Fire Support Officer (FSO), Fire Direction Officer (FDO), and Platoon Leader (PL). I'll spare you all the boring details of what these jobs would entail if we were back at Hood. I'll just fill you in on what they mean here. Basically you know what I do right now as an FSO. The PL and FDO, as far as I know, have both been turned into patrol leaders with the mission of escorting important guys around baghdad. It's a very interesting and ever changing job. Obviously there's a reason I'm explaining all this (no snickering, I heard that), that I'm due for a change in jobs here soon. I've been an FSO for about as long as I could manage and they're telling me it's time to move on. Partly I do want to move, but partly I want to stay doing the job that I'm doing. I'm right here in the thick of everything that's going on. You cannot find a more central location than the Green Zone. But, I keep seeing lieutenants who have no leadership skills or understanding of how an officer is supposed to act, running platoons right into the ground. So, I want my own platoon, so I can use all the things that I've been seeing, good and bad, to run a platoon well. Well, at least I hope I can.
The big news, and what prompted this entry, was that one of my fellow LT's might get relieved here soon, and since I'm next to move, that would mean I would take his platoon. So, this could all change very shortly, OR at the scheduled time in 3 months. I'll definitely keep you informed. B

Thursday, June 10, 2004

A little bit ironic, don't you think?

Definitely found a new definiton for the word ironic. Sitting in downtown Baghdad watching the Iraqi Police Colonel play the shoot-em-up game Conflict: Desert Storm on his computer.

This one time...at the checkpoint...

In order to get in the checkpoint, you have to have some sort of access badge, and in some cases, a memoradum with a proper photo ID can get you in. So, this one time...at the checkpoint, this teenager walks up and says he works at the hospital, he needs to get to work. They ask him for some proof, and he's got no badge, no name or number to call, nothing. They tell him without some sort of proof he's not getting in. He stands there for a second, walks 20 feet away, and whips a piece of wrinkled paper out of his pocket. He scribbles furiously on it (IN ARABIC) for a few seconds and signs the bottom. He turns, walks back to the checkpoint, and hands it to the soldier. He says that this his is proof that he works at the hospital. The soldiers just shakes his head. Just go away.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

For those wondering...

For those I've left wondering just what is it I'm actually doing over here, I'm going to try to explain all that my job entails over here. I am the FSIO for my company, FSIO standing for Fire Support and Information Officer. My primary job, and what I went to school for, is the coordination of all indirect fires (artillery, mortars, close air support, attack aviation) for the company. Well, since we're not doing much shooting of artillery in downtown Baghdad, they added the Information Officer part. This part means basically that anything not normally done by the company, I get to do. Yipee. Primarily, that's debriefing every section when they get finished with a patrol in the Green Zone. I pass that up to higher so they can decide what to do with the info I gather. I also gather HUMINT (human intelligence), which is a glorified way to say that I talk to people about things that are going on and hope that at somepoint they tell me about bad people doing bad things in our area. That is without a doubt the most fun, becuase I geniunely enjoy talking to Iraqis and finding out how they think. Also, in my scope of responsibilites is handling GZ access badges, translators, the census of everyone in the GZ, any walk-up HUMINT source, and any other thing that no one wants to do. That may sound like a gripe, but it ensures that my job is very varied and I cannot get bored doing the same thing every day. Burned out, but never bored. Lol. OH, and any impact in our area, I have to go there ASAP and analyize it to figure out where and what was fired. I love that job most. LOL. So, I hope that explains things a little. Any confusion, just leave a comment, and I'll clear it up. B

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Welcome to Iraq...

A few weeks ago, an Iraqi approached me while I was chilling out by our Humvee. He started talking almost perfect english (a semi-rare thing here) telling me that he was Iraqi but had moved to Oregon and become an American citizen. (He showed his passport and Oregon driver's licence.) He had come back because he was homesick and wanted to visit the new Iraq. His issue dealt with borrowing the apartment his brother's cousin lived in and paying to have his brother live outside the Green Zone. This was very important because his wife and kids were coming here for their summer vacation. I thought that was pretty cool, except I think I would have waited at least a year before bringing my family here. Anyway. So, he goes in to talk to the Neighborhood Advisory Council (who controlled housing at this time, and was trying to figure out who lived in each apartment and whether they were their illegally) and they told him to bring the apartment owner in to discuss the issue soon. So, yesterday, this guy, named Laith, and his brother's friend show up. The NAC tries to sort it all out and find out if he is telling the truth. During the discussion, I'm kinda zoned out since it's all in Arabic. I hear the noise level rise dramatically and so I start paying attention again. My translator is like 3 feet from this guy and they are both shouting at each other. The other NAC members join in and I realize they're about to throw down. So, I jump up, one hand on my pistol, and move over to calm the situation down. As I walk over, everyone starts standing up and yelling. The room goes quiet just as I grab the interpreter to ask what's going on. At that point, the CPT comes in (he'd be outside the room) and pushes the two apart. I'm like, what's going on? He just said that he would kill anyone who tried to take his apartment away from him or go in the apartment. And that he is an Amercian citizen so they cannot do this to him. One of the NAC members throws down his badge saying he's going to quit because of the threat on his life. The CPT tells him to SIT! We verify that this AMERICAN CITIZEN just threatened the lives of Iraqis. Sure enough he did. The CPT calls for Zip cuffs and says "LT, grab your rifle and lock and load." CHA CHINK. He realizes at that point how deep he's in and tries to backtrack. Too late bubba. We haul him out in zip cuffs. I'm just shaking my head at this point. What a bonehead move. What was he thinking? Jeez. So, drive him over and lock him up in an Iraqi prison. As we're leaving, he asks, what did I do? Both the CPT and I give him a incredulous look and the CPT says, you threatened to KILL members of Iraq. He looks at us and with all seriousness says, but I have free speech. I was just using my free speech rights. What? Bubba, you're in IRAQ. They haven't quite gotten to putting that in their constitution yet. And you cannot even threaten people in the US. I'm again shaking my head. And yeah, guy, WELCOME TO IRAQ.

You know it's hot when....

You know it's hot when the internet guy says the reason we're not getting our internet service is because the cables on the roof have MELTED!

Friday, June 04, 2004

The Usual Suspects...

We got a call yesterday from the Marines guarding CPA headquarters. There were two older ladies there who had been there every day for the last month and were harrasing these Marines to death. (They were demanding to see Paul Bremer.) So, we roll up to the CPA parking lot. CPT and I walk to where the Marines are holding these two ladies. We get the brief about them, that they keep demanding to talk to Bremer and that they would like the women to be escorted outside the Green Zone. So, CPT and I ask them to stand up and come with us. The first lady is like 5 feet tall, with her arm in a sling. (From a car accident a month ago, in which she wasn't hurt.) CPT takes the lead and asks me to take the trail position. The second lady is, I kid you not, all of FOUR FOOT FIVE and chinese with big square red glasses on her face. The Marines decide to walk with us to the vehicles. Since the first woman could walk pretty good, they soon pulled ahead. So, picture this in your mind. 2 heavily armed marines and two soldiers (one of which was me) in full battle rattle escorting this FOUR FOOT FIVE Tall old lady down the sidewalk in front of the CPA and she's walking slower than I can low crawl. Every CPA official walking by was ROLLING. These two Brits come up behind us and one says "Make sure she doesn't run away!" I was just hoping there were no TV cameras. Although, everyone would be laughing, cause I sure was. B

Something to Ponder...

When is doing the right thing not the right thing?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

What an insane day...but I'm okay...

WOW. Today was the mother of all crazy days. I had a feeling this morning that it was going to be another one of those days. Especially when I found out that the IGC was going to be choosing a president and prime minister to run the country until elections in January. So, that being said, we rolled out to our normal "meet the community" day and there was about half as many people. I turned to the gunner and commented on the bad omen this was. Sure enough, as we're driving from the community center. BOOM! BOOM! One was close and right behind us. So we turned around and drove to the impact site. No damage cause it hit in an empty piece of dirt but the shrapnel went everywhere. So, I do my crater analysis piece (more on that when I get around to telling ya'll what I do here), take some pics and entertain some special forces guys who heard the blast and want to sightsee. About half-an-hour passes and I get back in the truck to continue our mission. Both the CPT and I are sitting in the truck with our Kevlars off trying to cool down in the heat when we hear the sky torn apart. RIIIIIIP! We both just look at each other and scramble for our kevlars. BOOM! BOOM! He throws the car into gear and squeels the tires getting to the impact. We get the grid and realize that the impact is in the middle of a housing complex (the KDP, Kurdistan Diplomatic Party). We turn onto the street into a tornado of activity. People are running everywhere. Screaming. Crying. Shouting. I grab the radio to call it in as the CPT sprints to the scene. Wounded he yells. I call up the information to my fire support guys. Realizing I'm sounding just a tad bit too freaked, I take a deep breath to calmly call it in. At least 4 KIA, mulitples wounded. Main copies and askes if we need medical support. I tell them no because the Kurds are throwing people in their silver SUVs and hauling butt to the Combat Support Hospital. About 4 SUVs speed off with lots wounded. After they clear out, I run over to the house and go inside to asses the damage and make sure there's no UXO in the house. I couldn't believe the damage. It ripped part of the roof off of the building and just decimated the room. Ensuring everyone left was okay, I ran back downstairs to the truck. Taking a deep breath and lots of water, my heart slowly returned to normal. Hearing that the other boom is close to where we are, we drive towards the reported location. Luckily, this one hit a building no one was in and there aren't any casualties. Hot as all get out, I'm downing as much water as I can without getting sick. Taking a pause, we sit on the side of the road waiting for everything to get cleared up. After about 15 minutes, we turn around and start moving towards our checkpoint. We're driving on the road leading right to the checkpoint when BOOM! and the whole HUMVEE shakes. I look up the road and all i see is this massive cloud of smoke rising up from past the checkpoint. I know immediately that it's a VBIED (vehicle borne improvised explosive device) and that lots of people are very hurt. The driver floors the gas to get to the checkpoint. Rolling up, we hear tons of small arms fire, about 500 meters in front of us. Sounds just like a firefight. I jump into the tower to see what's going on and see a burning building but not much else. I look around for a while, and decide to go back to the ground to see what else is going on. The VBIED is outside of our sector, so we can't really do much about it but listen to the radio. Lots of reports coming in, all pretty bad. Luckily though, no American soldiers hurt in any of the blasts. What a crazy day. That's a really long post so I'll leave it at that. I hope it all makes sense, if something doesn't, just post a comment and I'll clarify. To reiterate, no Americans were hurt today and I am safe and sound. But I think I definitely earned my combat patch today. I think, in some ways, I'd rather be in a direct firefight instead of having rockets falling all around me. Anyway, we'll see what fun things tomorrow brings. Black Knight 14 out!

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Weekends...

You know, you think that a weekend is just a construct of our 40 hour work week, but here, I feel myself much less motivated on the "weekend." Most times I don't even know what day it is, but I have a harder time waking up. (Yes, hardER time. We all know I have a hard time waking up as it is. Except this one time, I got a buddy of mine to wake me up and hand me a cup of coffee. That was awesome!) Anyway, so it's Sunday here and I have the wonderful opportunity to be in my PTs at 10 am! (Also drinking some WONDERFUL black coffee.)
So, another little story about the trash cleanup day. We're driving around, giving out trash bags and taking pictures of people cleaning up. We get to this one apartment were no one is working. So, we get out of the truck and are trying to figure out who is the apartment manager. Meanwhile, bunches of kids start showing up (I swear they have kiddie observation posts to track the CPT's movements). They're doing their typical "Meeeeester Meeeeester! Gimmie food. Gimmie water. Gimmie that. Gimmie this." (Donk, I know you know what I'm talking about here.) We're trying to get them to help out picking up trash but they (all of a sudden) don't understand any English. We're trying for about 5 minutes and then the Captain asks us for one dollar bills. He does nothing more than flash a few one dollar bills and the kids go NUTS! They're grabbing bags from each other, flinging trash in the bags, RUNNING to pick it up. It was like the Tazmanian Devil at work. Amazing what a simple good old American dollar bill will do here. If only everyone was like that. Here IGC, here's a dollar. Play nice with each other and get this country working again. You need candy too? Okay, here's two butterscotch disks. Go rebuild Iraq.
June 30th is going to be a VERY interesting time. Iraq is becoming a soverign nation. I have to say, it's pretty cool to be here at the birth of a nation. And for all of you who think the new government of Iraq will ask the American soldiers to leave. Not a chance. If that happens, they'll be a new government in Iraq the next day. Yeah, say Hi to Mr. Coup. The Iraqis do NOT want us to leave. They love having us here protecting them and keeping them safe. Do not let the media tell you different. B

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Crazy days...and fun trash cleanup...

Yesterday I saw something I did not think I would see here. We had an cleanup day in the apartments in our sector. I truthfully thought that no one would really come out to clean, especially since the apartments have been TRASHED for forever. When we rolled into the apartment complex, almost everyone was hard at work. Picking up garbage, sweeping sidewalks, trimming bushes. It was amazing. Iraqis actually taking pride in their living areas and putting in several hours in 110 degree heat to make it nicer. I swear we gave out about a hundred big trashbags. Amazing. After they got finished, the area looked SO GOOD. It was absolutely shocking. Actually, the shocking thing was that the majority of the residents wanted to do this at LEAST once a month. That's almost unheard of here. WOW. Maybe we are making a good impression here and positively influencing people. So, time to get back to work. B

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Much better day

This has been a phenominally better day than yesterday. I'm actually in a good mood. Lol. Gotta finish typing up these debriefs, drop them off, and then maybe do some PT. I'll type a better entry later. B


Quote of the Day: While I was taking a picture of a man and his family. He points to his wife (who knows no English) and says in a perfect monotone "This is my wife. I want to push her in the river. Stand right there honey."

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

.............

Since when am I the commander's babysitter? He's a freaking CPT but I'm supposed to tell him what to do. RIIIIIGHT.

These two days have been the hardest here. I just want to come home.

By the way, Happy Birthday to Me.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Loooooooong Day....

Today was an INCREDIBLY long day. Wow. I finally got back at 9:30 pm. No dinner and I hate MREs. But I ate one anyway. Started out wierd...ended weird...lots of wierd in the middle. For some reason today was "Fire lots of Rockets into the Green Zone day." We had 5 impacts here today. Um, that's an increase from normal by...um...FIVE. Lol. No damage and no injuries, thank God. The one I got to analyize did make a heck of a crater. It was about 2 feet deep and 3 feet wide. A pretty nice one. Anyway, I think I'm going to tuck myself into bed now and prepare for another fun "Meet the Community" Tuesday. Whoopie! They usually turn into LT Hall takes names and pictures to issue ungodly numbers of badges.

Quote of the day: "Bring my truck here, I need my phone." Said from the commander to his driver 200 feet away.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Crazy nights...

So, here's another one for my great stories collection. I've finally sat down, loosened up my boots, and started to watch a little TV. One of the guys on radio comes in and tells me that we have a situation. The guy controling power to a large part of the Green Zone has shut down the power and locked himself in the power station until he gets paid. So, I jump up and go to the radio to find out more information. This guy has gotten 4 guys with AK-47s to protect him inside the building and is demanding 4 or 5 dollars to turn back on the power. FOUR or FIVE DOLLARS? I call back and ask if someone has considered just giving him 5 dollars. Of course I'm shaking my head. They come back that he wants 5 dollars from EACH FAMILY he supplies power to. He supplies 30 families so that makes about 150 dollars. He's shut off power to an American checkpoint for 150 dollars. That not make sense to anyone else? And of course, after briefing our Commanding officer, he goes running out to the checkpoint to, I assume, meet the business end of MR. LONG RIFLE. :-) LOL. So, I'm still waiting to hear the end of this one. I'll update this when I find out.

UPDATE: Sure enough, they did a cordon and raid. Meaning, they surrounded the building and then told the people inside we would shoot them if they didn't come out. There were 2 armed guards (who were FPS Workers, Iraqis we hire, give uniforms and weapons to guard things in Iraq) who tried keep their weapons. Apparently, put your weapon down or we WILL shoot is an effective statement outside of movies. So, endstate is power back on to the checkpoint and to the families.

Abu Ghraib

Every day I check the news and swear for a week there's been something about Abu Ghraib there. Yes, it was no way to treat prisioners but I have a few observations. First, we're supposed to treat prisioners with respect but what happens when an American soldier gets captured? He's beaten, tortured, hung from a bridge, beheaded, need I go on? But that still doesn't give us a right to treat prisioners badly. Next, the people in Baghdad do not care. I've had the opportunity to ask around and no one cares. The comment I've heard most is that if they hadn't done something bad in the first place, they never would have ended up in Abu Ghraib. The media has built this up into some sort of atrocity that has outraged the Iraqi people. The day (last Wednesday) that the first American soldier was put on trial, we were expecting a protest to number in the thousands. 100 people showed up. ONE HUNDRED. That's it. And most of them had signs saying "No to Terror." They walked around for about an hour and left. That doesn't seem to me to be widespread outrage of the Iraqi people.
And lastly, we were having a conversation about the subject and an NCO made this point. It's never the front-line combat soldiers that do this type of thing. It's always some rear echelon non-combat puke 3 times removed from the action that does it. There are so many good men here that would never do anything like that. Especially taking orders from who they're claiming they took orders from.
I hope all that made sense. After another cup of coffee I'm going to reread it and make sure it makes sense. Just to be clear I do NOT condone what happened at that prision. But it is not the outrage here among the Iraqi people that the media is making it out to be.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Tic Tacs

Tic Tacs are addictive. I keep reading the label but can't find anything that would cause me to eat them non-stop. AHHH. Must....stop....eating....tic tacs...

Friday's Off

One of the interesting things here is that Friday is the day off here. Yeah, the only day off. So, you know what that means. All the Iraqis get drunk and party on Thursday night. Lol. And yes, for those of you who thought like me, that there's a stigma on alcohol. NOPE. They get raging drunk just like us. They especially like to get drunk and drive by our FOB flipping us the bird. We just laugh. And, humorously, they have no minimun drinking age. That reminds me of a funny story. Me and this SSG are sitting in the back of a Humvee chilling waiting for the XO to get done with an errand. And of course, as we sit there, all the kids are driving up on their little scooters (I swear, all of them have one) asking us if we want to buy DVDs. These two ride up and I notice that the scooter is kinda swerving. The kid gets close and I swear he'd been smoking some wacky weed. So, the SSG and I are teasing him. "Dude, you're stoned out of your mind." He finally goes "3 beers!" and almost falls off his scooter. At that point, I'm ROLLING. Then he zips off, swerving all over the road. ROTFLOL!

What I would give for a full night's sleep

But as my boss says, sleep is overrated and that's why coffee is very much my friend. I don't even put anything in it anymore. Black as motor oil to get me going in the morning. But at least it's always something different waking me up earlier than I want to. Sometimes it's car bombs, sometimes rockets, sometimes people at one of the checkpoints who have "information", and sometimes just choppers buzzing our building for no apparent reason. Like I said, at least it changes. Green Day's Time of Your Life just came on the radio. Wow that brings be back to freshman year in college. Who would have thought I'd be sitting in Iraq 5 years later. Jeez. Anyway. I gotta get back to entering the rest of the Iraqi names I've got into my database. I swear these people need birth control bad. Dude 60 years old, 10 kids...in a 2 room apartment. Something just wrong with that. But props to the old dude. ;-) Lata.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

i hate badges

Today was a badge making day. For those of you not up to speed on what's going on, I'll put together a post explaining all about my job here. But for now, all you need to know is that I'm in the Green Zone of Baghdad, Iraq, responsible for the security here. In that job, we have to make sure that the only people in the GZ are the ones that live here. In order to regualate that, we have to make badges. These badges are such a pain in my butt. Instead of just making a decision to issue out all new badges to everyone living here, the powers that be are trying to pass the buck to someone else. The CPA wants us to do it. We want the CPA to issue a badge. I'm thinking that it'll end up being ME and my company issuing badges. The badges issued by the unit before us were VERY simple. One sided and easy to make. But also, very easy to counterfeit. Battalion decided we needed to make badges that were hard to dupe. Without getting into the details of it, I enlisted the help of some SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) in the field of ID card making (;-)) and came up with a pretty good badge, if I do say so myself. But the kicker is that they're harder and more time consuming to make. This isn't a big problem when you're making 10 or 20. But for the 10,000 people that live in the Green Zone, it's a BIG deal. I only made 70 today and it took me all afternoon. Heaven help me when it's decided I have to make all 10,000 badges. Well, 9930 badges. Alright. Time for a shower and my bed. Later!

First Post...

My first post on here. I've thought about doing one of these for a while now and finally decided it might be a good way to keep track of what goes on while I'm in Baghdad. Quite a lot of interesting stuff goes on here, and I'll do my best to keep up with it. I hope ya'll enjoy reading about it and please let me know if you do. B