7.12.2003

brown and root is on the ground...this always boost soldiers spirits...when those guys show up things start getting nice quick...they start putting up buildings and chow halls so quickly...they hire out local nationals to cook and serve food...the chow is already a step up from A-rats...but that really isn't that hard to do...it amazes me how much normal food will excite you...i'm not even talking about crazy stuff like pizza or burritos...i'm talking fresh vegetables and bread...every one has been craving a good sandwich...they send out prepackaged bagels with breakfast...they're actually quite tasty...i like to scoop out the cream cheese and put in peanut butter...so good...

brown and root can be a double edged sword...the quality of life does improve but they usually don't come in unless an american presence is going to last for years...like kosovo...

when i left bosnia...way back in the day...years ago...i was the 'super cargo'...they guy who convoyed back to germany with the gear and equipment...it was a brown and root convoy...bosnian tractor trailers...bosnian truck drivers...3000 miles...and me...with a camera...an amazing experience...

we stopped at the brown and root facility in northern bosnia...it was the strangest thing i have ever seen...brown and root hires contractors from all over...they fly in and they pretty much live a deployed soldiers life...locked down and working...

each shop...the metal shop...the wood shop...the electricians...they all made their own garages to work out of...and they all used their individual trades...so the wood shop was a humungous wood structure with literally everything possible made out of wood...and the metal shop was the same...it looked like they were trying to prove a point...and out do each other...

brown and root will improve the relationship between the u.s. and the iraqis...that's a good thing...we need some improved relations...and i enjoy interacting with the locals as much as possible...it would be a shame to have come all the way over here and never experience any kind of local flavor...i just wish that a lot of the interaction that america is having lately wasn't turning bad...and the worse things get the tighter the leash around us gets pulled...the more scared we get...bad things happen to everybody when the stress builds and people get frightened...frustrated...how do we slow this down...

if you watch the american news you would almost think that little to no iraqis are being killed at all...that it's all one way...like we are getting picked on...people have their reasons...with everything there is a cause and effect...and with any situation like this each effect is in itself a cause...it's a vicious circle...how do we straighten it out...

they fixed saddams air raid alarm today...i listened to it for a few hours...and no matter how much you try you can't tune it out...it's not one of the new digital ones we had in kuwait...it's straight old school...like something in the fire house of a midwestern town...or like the one on the beginning of that "black sheep squadron" show from 15 years ago...the pilots fighting in the pacific against japan...i miss reruns...i miss so much...you kind of start aching for simple things...it makes your eye lids heavy...but what can you do but keep keepin' on...just keep moving...

7.11.2003

i've speaking with an ex-navy seal who now holds political office (not gov. jesse 'the body' ventura)...we first started our dialog with a barrage of hate mail...he thought i was an ill informed ignoramus and i thought he was a neo con artist...but once we got past that we started debating on the issues at hand with a good deal of level headed discussion...

he feels that as a soldier i should keep quite about all of my political beliefs...i, as a soldier, feel that i do have the right of free speech with in the realm of the army...there are things that i can not speak about...my chain of command...the president...their decisions...and the like...

he brought up a point that i was curious about...although i have spoken to jag (military attorneys) and i know that i am safe in the eyes of military law as long as i do not step out of the realm of the military...i was not sure what the ethical dilemma of speaking out really consists of...i know what i am allowed to say but what should i say...

he believes that we (the military) are allowed to have views but we should not make them known...we are ambassadors of america and we should act as such...we should support our government no matter what kind of decisions they make...

i, on the other hand, believe that we are entitled to our (americans) right of free speech...as long as we (the military) do not step out of the realm of the military...i feel that the members of the military do not make their voices heard enough...we are the silent fighters...because the majority of us do not pay attention to the decisions that are made for us in the capital...

i actually have been performing an 'experiment'...i've been asking random soldiers who the vice president of the united states is...a very simple question...but i found a surprising answer...the majority of those i asked did not know the answer nor do they care...this is bad...our lives are at stake...our country as well...and we do not even pay attention...we have a voice...but we do not choose to use it...

the ex-navy seal used an example of a military member attending a political rally...we are not allowed to attend in uniform...however i pointed out that even though we can not attend in uniform...if asked we do not have to lie about our profession...we do not have to hide the fact that we are soldiers...i feel that this applies to expressing our political beliefs as well...now if we can just get the whole of the military (and america) to step into the voting booth...who knows what might happen...

I feel that we should not speak out or rise up against the chain of command...that would be counter productive and we are soldiers...we have a duty...no matter what our beliefs...we raised our hands and took the oath...I also feel that I should not make my beliefs known to my soldiers...I should not influence their beliefs at all...I would be wrong as a non-commissioned officer if I expressed my ideas with younger soldiers...I must watch for that...

7.10.2003

the ants are back...holy shit they piss me off...they're trying to escape the heat...one of the drones discovered the climate controlled comfort of my canvas house...and they went and told all their little mindless buddies...and every ten minutes there is a new line of them...i sweep them away...i slap them with my shower shoes...they fall back...they regroup...they send out a new scout team...and then they launch their new offensive...we've all been really careful about food in the tents and taking out the trash...we don't want mice which bring snakes...we still get them though...i don't think there is anything we can do...occasionally we'll see a really big rat run out from underneath the dumpsters...that’s a bit much...

i'm so ready to come home...and actually spend some time in a real building...with plumbing...mmmm...plumbing...during the day the port-a-johns turn into shit flavored saunas...and it takes me twenty minutes to cool back down once i leave the tent...luckily we brought a frig so i get cool water...that helps so much...

i saw some pictures today...some special forces guys found a booby trap lab...there were shots of kleenex boxes filled with plastic explosives...and oil filters and baby food...hubcaps and telephones...it really scared the shit out of me...some of them were even hollowed out tree branches...totally stuff that we would pick up...little souvenir type stuff...i learned in bosnia not to walk off the beaten path...because land mines are everywhere...and now i don't pick up anything either...no walking no picking...to easy...what ever keeps me alive with all my limbs...

7.09.2003

i didn't know what it was at first...it was a popping sound...like someone slamming books on top of the table outside...i ignored it for a second and tried to go back to sleep...then someone ran into the tent and grabbed their rifle and dropped it...i sat up...the popping continued...and then it went automatic...it was so close...in a flash i'm out side...no shirt...no shoes..."what the hell's going on"...

outside...troops standing...rifles in hand...staring through the center of tent city into the woods...a second later i've got my shoes on and my rifle...it's was so close...and still it continued...how close could it be??? a couple hundred yards??? just on the other side of the wall...i'm still groggy...my face sleep swollen...i can hear people yelling "YEAH YEAH"...i look back and people are getting hyped...their go buttons are getting pushed...i'm still trying to figure out if what i'm hearing really is what i am hearing...it's so close...the shots don't sound like m-16's...but they could be a 50 cal i guess...but i've only heard one fire off so i could be wrong...is that an a.k....man i just don't know...

i'm thinking in my head...where the hell do i go...should i get under a truck...what's the best spot for staging a defense...i'm looking around...sizing up tent city...and i realize that i've never really thought about my canvas home in terms of a battle field...i walk out into the street and i can't see anything...a few people in flak vests walking towards the shots...should i go down there...do they need my help...are those shots coming from inside the perimeter...is that other unit down the street engaging them right now...

i'm looking through the woods...and iraqis stepping out of the trees wouldn't even surprise me right now...i'm really doing it...i'm actually looking for the enemy...i'm scanning...trying to see into the darkness...looking through the foliage...this is to much...i'm breathing heavier...the heat of the day has already kicked on and i'm sweating...i wipe my brow on my sleeve...then it's over...there's a silence...and it lasts...i don't know if i should cheer...or talk about it...figure out what the hell just happened...or just go get back in bed...

in kandahar...we used to get mortared...the afghanis would set up their mortars in the back of toyotas and drive by at 60 miles an hour and drop the mortars...they didn't aim...they were just trying to mix things up...for the first few months they would call everybody in...full battle rattle...pulling guard shift inside our little perimeter which was inside the big perimeter...everybody nervous...people pulling out n.v.g.'s so they could see in the dark...and the WOMP...WOMPWOMP...the mortars striking...jumpy...

but after about 6 months of it...every morning...like an alarm clock...you just roll over and ignore it...pretend it wasn't happening...because your totally safe in here...inside the wire...there are guys out there whose sole purpose in life is to keep those other guys out...and they do a great job...and you start to take it for granted...you try not to...but it's an everyday thing...it's your life...and the things that occur daily...on schedule...just get put to the back of the mind and forgotten about...you don't mean to do it...but you have to make a life out here...so you have to accept things as normal...like stop lights and traffic...like your mom's dinner everyday and your fathers paycheck weekly...or like mortars in the morning and small arms fire in the afternoon...it just kind of happens...with out you thinking about it...

7.08.2003

from my shower point i can hear small arms fire...while i'm showering...with the cold water...TAP TAP...i pause for a second because that was pretty close...yesterday i heard an iraqi car horn...it sounded like it was playing la cucaracha...i had to smile at that...

the infantry pukes who volunteer to go out into the city...tell me to just yell over the wall and tell them to stop shooting...i didn't realizing that all i had to do to end a combat situation was yell like a grumpy old man..."GET THE HELL OFF MY LAWN AND QUIT FIRING THAT DAMN AK47 YA LITTLE SHITS"...he said the iraqis play tough but they're all scared on the inside...like the one who shot the civil affairs soldier in the back of the head...it's ironic...they are telling the troops to talk to the iraqis...to come down out of the tanks and talk to the people...and when they do........

when i get close to some walls i can hear iraqis on the other side...sometimes i want to talk out loud just to see what would happen...would they answer...what would they say...how would they say it...what if they spoke english...what would we talk about...would he yell at me...would he try to give me stuff...would i give him anything...curiosity killed the cat...i'm to much of dog person...i'd probably just start barking...

with the laundry service still down i'm washing my clothes in the shower with me...as i take it off i wash it with some shampoo...and then i'm all good in the hood...

talking with the infantry pukes everyday has made me more aware of the huge differences in other soldiers military experiences...ours have been so different you almost wouldn't believe we all work in the same business...i'm signed for millions of dollars in equipment...and in charge of 3 soldiers...they are signed for what they can carry and they have 'fire teams'...some of them are pretty miserable...their job is so stressful and they are always afraid of getting stuck in 'harms way'...going out and pulling some missions...killing other people so that they don't kill you...that's their job...it boggles me...my main concern is keeping my equipment alive so that no one bothers me...usually if i have to deal with my chain of command it means my equipment is on the fritz or i did something wrong...when they interact with their chain it's to get advancement orders to take enemy outposts and buildings...it makes me nervous just thinking about it...

i've always wondered how i would react in a 'situation'...i'm confident i would step up...i feel like it...didn't tyler durden say something like 'what could you possibly know about yourself until you've been in a fight'...

when we were flying into kandahar...under cover of night...the c-17 turned off all of it's external lights and the only light on the inside was a dim red one...the crew members put on flak jackets and kevlars...they stood by the windows in the corners and looked out with night vision goggles...they were looking for incoming rounds...i was pretty nervous...this was all new territory...i remember feeling like i should be the first one off the plane...it doesn't really seem all that important now...but at the time i thought something as small as that might some how prove my courage...seems kinda funny now...but i took it very seriously at the time...

the first night in kandahar was hard...we worked all night setting up...this was way back when the marines were still on the wire...before the 101st took over...the marines weren't afraid to light stuff up...the afghanis would attack and the marines would pop flares all along the wire...lighting up the night sky...the red flares, in themselves, are quite beautiful but they scared me to death...it was just a little to war like...some guys got pumped up by it...i thought that was a strange response...

i once read that some people come off as courageous because they are so afraid of being thought a coward...kinda like the chicken for the egg...i'm glad that as of yet i haven't had to prove my courage...that would mean somebody was trying to kill me...and right now...i'm content with people shooting off nasty emails instead of bullets...

but still...scenarios run through my head...i day dream...my imagination is in a constant over drive...i think out little 'movies'...where i take charge...or i follow orders...taking out the enemy...i try to pump myself up and tell myself that there is no question...i would be confident in battle...i know i could shoot somebody...that's the easy part...i've been trained for that...it's the 'living with it' that i'm a little rusty on...

7.07.2003

I saw an old friend today…from the company that I went to kandahar with…I didn’t even know that he was out here…they’ve got him working in the p.x. right now…but before that he was part of a task force whose sole purpose was to provide dial up internet access to the Iraqi people…they don’t have to many routers so they can only grant about a 1000 connections…which isn’t much…but the people are pleased…I wonder if salam pax knows about this...the iraqis are finding out about the connection through word of mouth…these guys aren’t out here to fight a war…they’re here to boost the moral of the Iraqis…they’ve been pulled from all over the world…japan…germany…the states…it sounds pretty amazing…I wish I was involved…

He was actually working right down town…and his interaction with Iraqis has been vast and great…they are saying the same things as all the others…”we are glad you came…we are glad that saddam is gone…we want you to provide water, electricity, and set up a government and then we want you to leave immediately”…he’s says they aren’t militant…I guess the fundamentalists don’t care to much for the world wide web…”it’s been an experience”…he also said that they have one Iraqi who tries to warn them of the attacks and ambushes before they happen…I wonder if they believe him…

I went into the palace again today…I’ve only been in there once…this time it was a lot easier to move around…I was able to take some really good pictures of the back side…we hit it with one of the JDAM bunker busters…the bomb penetrated three floors before it blew up…the crater is about 8’ wide…the bombs that blew up that restaurant they thought saddam was in left a crater that was 60’…technology is amazing…and part of me is pretty impressed…the soldier part…but at the same time…it’s strange…is technology moving us in reverse...killing with pin point satellite accuracy live over the internet...

Any strong government needs a strong military…I do not doubt that…I do not argue it…I am part of it…these things were created to keep us on top…a super power…and we definitely are that…but with being the top dog comes a price…everyone is gunning for us…probably because of the methods we use to become the big dog…ruthless…rules were made to be broken…long arms were meant to be extended…so now we dabble in it all…and we have no intentions of stopping…

The Iraqis were swimming in the lake…which is fed by the tigris…they were harvesting some kind of water plant…real dark green and leafy…they were scooping it out of the murky aqua water with big spatulas…most of them had just jumped into the water with their clothes on…except for two guys in a boat…there was one guard under a tree and he sat slumped in the heat…it would be hard to stay enthusiastic about your role in this war if babysitting was your life…there are units out here whose sole mission is to guard the work details we bring on to the compound…watching iraqis suck shit out of port-a-johns…and dig through the garbage…I couldn’t imagine doing 6 months of that…tedium…mind ripping boredom…

Out on the horizon there are huge antennas popping up all over…iraq is trying to get back into the swing of things…the lights on top of these 100 foot tall antennas blink through out the night…green and red…it’s a pretty simple thing but it makes me happy for some reason…I guess its just the sign of progress…you can actually see that things are getting done to up lift the city…there is also a huge mosque just outside the perimeter…one of the biggest I have ever seen…it’s two towers also have lights…at night…when the sun sets you can here the call to prayer…it’s spoken word…in a song like rhythm…

I had always wondered what the towers were for until my deployment to Sarajevo… I ended up in just the right spot to actually see a young guy come out of the little entrance on top of the tower…he started singing the prayer as loud as he could…so loud that his voice started cracking…but the more his voice gave out the louder he sang…he took the duty very seriously…and I was glad to have seen it…many mosques now use a recording…like the one outside the compound…I don’t think seeing it done ‘live’ is all that special…but at the time it sure felt like it…