8.09.2003

if i would of left 10 seconds sooner or later...i would have missed him...

my troop showed back up after his classes this morning...and i rolled out to lunch time chow...carrying all my gear because my night shift guy had already driven the hmmv back to the tents...i walked down the steps through the gate in the wall...into 'salute ally'...officers every where...past the smaller pool...and the phone center that the rest of the troops use...it's got a line that looks like it lasts for about 2 hours...

inside the old zoo...they have set up the brown and root chow hall...there is a little pond that is extremely disgusting...old bread bags and coke cans floating on the green slimy surface...there is another little bridge...and once i get up to the buildings...out walks a real skinny pale guy...i see him out of the corner of my eye and i think to myself..."hey that looks like laub."...and i use the double take...and he's doing the same...and hot damn if it isn't laub....we hug like brothers..."Holy shit man!!!"...

he was my first room mate at the fort...the first person i met once i came back to the states after my tour in germany...he helped me move my boxes...and we talked...he saw my turn tables and he let me know how much he liked techno...we cracked open my records and we spun all night...i knew just about everything about him for a while...i knew his favorite place to sit in his room to truly experience his stereo...i knew about his ex-wife...i knew about his troubles with that dude who went to jail for a few months...we went raving...and we partied...hard...

the fort that i am stationed at now is an hour from anything...there is nothing to do but drink and get laid...the total opposite from germany...i could walk out of the 'keserne' (a little military post) and i was instantly down town...those days are long gone...if you want to have any kind of spontaneous fun...you've got to plan it for at least a day and a half...but we always managed to pull it off...even when he was broke...

we both got sent to afghanistan last year...we were part of the same task force and we shared those hardships together...our plane broke in thailand...and we were forced to spend the weekend in the marriot...care of the government...your tax dollars at work...i thank you all for the great time...i bought him a wooden buddha that i saw him looking at...because i knew how much he would treasure it...i actually talked him into reenlisting for germany...because he needed to go be in the homeland of techno...he loves it that much...i just knew that germany would have the same effect on him as it had on me...

he left kandahar earlier then i did...so that he could go back to the fort and p.c.s. (permanent change of station) to germany...while he was there...for a month...awaiting his orders he got married again...you just couldn't know how much i laughed when i heard that in afghanistan...his divorce had just been finalized while he was in kandahar...and not even a month after he got home he met a girl...fell in love...and got married all over again...so the only time that he was single was the 4 months that he was deployed and there was no possible way he could meet a girl...classic...

he's really happy with his wife from what he said...they've already traveled a good bit...catching munich and paris...but he's kind of bummed that his new unit loves to stay in the field...and he's also pretty distressed that he just p.c.s.'ed to iraq...in a round about way...because his unit isn't leaving anytime soon...they'll still be here long after i'm gone...

we talked for a while...and caught up...in the sun...holding up the line for chow...sweating profusely...shuffling around on the rocks...he congratulated me for making rank...and we said good by...with the promise to stay in touch and meet up again...we've still got some raving to do he said...i hope so...i really do...
i'm pulling a double shift today...my soldier had to attend classes all morning...and then he's got a football game...the classes are over basic army stuff...s.a.l.u.t.e. reports (size of enemy unit, activity of unit, location of unit, uniform of unit, time you saw the unit, and any kind of equipment you see the enemy using)...medivac procedures...proper internet responsibilities (stemming from the internet craziness we've been having lately)...it's all stuff we've gone over a hundred times...but the army has to drill this stuff into us...i know i sure don't want a soldier screwing up my medivac if i get injured...

he joined the task force football team and they compete in an intramural 'football season'...my hat's off to those crazy bastards...it's just to damn hot for me to be running around out there on the rocks and dirt...i learned my lesson a long time ago...when ever i play sports i always go balls to the wall...and i end up hurt for the next 2 months...limping around...unable to turn my head to the right type stuff...the last time i played touch football i walked away with 8 stitches in my face...probably because i'm about 95% aggressiveness and about 3% skill...leaving about 2% for sheer stupidity...i'm just getting to old for that stuff...

my soldier playing football is the heat baby...so the only way i will let him participate is if he promises to drink a ridicules amount of water while he is out there...i'm so afraid that he will fall over dead from heat stroke...

besides the football...they've also shipped in big basketball hoops...real good ones from china...to bad we don't have any basketballs...

they've also got a stage set up for u.s.o. bands that are making the tour around the middle east...bands with names like 'government pension fund'...coming from places like blue bayou lousiana...the n.f.l. cheer leaders are always showing up too...but that’s like some strange form of military torture..."here are some of the finest women on earth troops...and they like football...but keep your nasty ass hands to your selves!!!"...

pulling double shifts isn't even a thing to me...my rig is where all the cool stuff is any way...the t.v....the phone...the computer...and the semi reliable a/c...i just wish i had a comfortable chair...i had a canvas fold out one that i bought at the p.x. in afghanistan...it was really nice...but between the dirt and perpetual butt sweat...it really has this deep down stink to it that will not wash out...i can't even sit in it because it will make my clothes smell rancid...truly noxious...the 'mac' chairs always sell really quick because most soldiers have little more then a cot to park thier asses...and they aren't even comfortable to lay on...let alone sit on...

i learned in afghanistan...where we didn't have all the cool stuff that i knew to bring on this deployment...that all i really need to be 'happy' out here is a comfortable chair and a good book...when i get in 'the zone' i'll read a book a day...and still i will have a back log of them...because i brought about a trillion paperbacks...literally...

8.08.2003

my poor comments link is dead...i don't think they could handle the amount of response that they were receiving...i'm not sure if i will even put more up...they were kind of getting a little bit crazy any way...lots of off topic stuff and internal bickering...like a message board or something...i guess i should be flattered...in a way i am...i never expected such a world of feed back and perspectives from such a diverse assortment of people from all over the world...

there is a huge smuggling operation going on...the iraqis are making mad money off of us bored soldiers...some entrepreneurs are driving as far away as bahrain to acquire liquor and bring it back for G.I. consumption...with a considerable mark up of course...but the troops aren't complaining...

i've heard stories of the 'smugglers' asking for ridicules amounts of money for bottles of absolute vodka or jordanian whiskey...i think they have no concept of the value of american money...40 dollars a bottle type stuff...the troops laugh at them and offer them 20...they try to haggle and i'm sure some dumb troops take it...but if you have any kind of street smarts you would know better...

i was impressed very quickly with the iraqis with their skill at seeing a prime opportunity when we convoyed up from Kuwait...most of them just tried to sell us crap but there were a few who had the foresight to go out and buy coolers...ice...and cokes...what g.i. wouldn't turn down an ice cold coke when he's been convoying for 2 days in 100 plus degrees...it was a shame that i couldn't buy anything from them...

we were under strict orders...the forces that be were trying to nip the 'side of the road swap meet' in the bud...but it was no use...there were just to many convoys on the road...in the dust and heat...everybody wants a trinket...

i remember one instance on our convoy up when we stopped at a refueling point along the 'expressway'...there were these iraqi kids on bikes...they were trying to sell us everything from the scarves off their head to the rings on their fingers...i attempted to be as firm and as polite as possible...using the right hand to tell them no...putting myself in between them and my trucks...but they were every where...and even though i was pretty sure they weren't going to throw a grenade into my hmmv...how could i really be sure...my index finger stayed real close to my trigger...the m.p.'s rolled up in their trucks...wearing reflective vests...so that they could be easily spotted by the iraqis...the kids bolted leaving their bikes...the m.p.'s chased them down...they apprehended them...they were just trying to scare them away form the convoys and the fuel point...they took their bikes...just for a few minutes...just long enough to make the kids think they wouldn't get them back...and then they released the kids with a strong warning not to come back...

out at the check points is where all the magic happens...the soldiers out there pull shift and they interact with the iraqis...a lot of the infantry pukes that i help out with internet and phone time tell me stories that impress me...one troop...a samoan guy from the midwest takes them out the care packages that his unit receives from the states...we receive so many packages that a lot of it goes to waste and he had the ingenuity to see that the iragis would really enjoy some of the stuff we might just toss into the dumpster...

in return they bring him iraqi food...he says he loves it...the people of baghdad make great sandwiches...and he can't stop talking about his amazement at the tastiness of their pizza...

the iraqis trust them...they come up all the time with wounds needing attention...and the infantry pukes will treat them right there at the scene...and if they can't they will call in some medics...the other day he told me how his combat medics in his squad treated a little girl with a metal sliver in her eye...this is where we will win the hearts and minds...not with propaganda magazines called the liberator...but with humane understanding and helpful hands...

all is not lost in this country...the iraqis are not blind...so keep sending your care packages america...they might just end up in the hands of a very thankful iraqi child...

8.07.2003

here are the crappiest photos yet...the camera is an atrocity...it chews through batteries like bubble gum and it can not handle any kind of light what so ever...i had to adjust the pictures on a photoshop type program...you couldn't even make out what they were until i screwed around with them...when i finally get to leave iraq i am going to run over the camera with my hmmv...enjoy...
big shout outs to salam pax...i've been hoping for months that you would find my site...you are the reason i started this one...you're an inspiration man...and you give me hope for the future...stay safe...

i think i heard the embassy explosion this morning...i know i saw the smoke...it's so hard to tell with all the 'blowing up of stuff' that is going on around here...but i know that e.o.d. (explosive ordanance disposal) has set times that they light stuff up...this one was way off and didn't sound like the 'normal' demolitions...you know you've been deployed way to long when you think you can actually tell the difference between mortars, e.o.d., and car bombs...just goes to show you that the 'militants' are mad at everybody...whose to say that i wouldn't be too...everyone wants to have a purpose to their lives...

the p.x. is in full swing...it has been for a while...but there was a stretch where it wasn't to well stocked...the supply trucks were coming under fire on their way in from kuwait...but now i think they are getting fed pretty regularly from the airport...good for us..

the p.x. carries a pretty good assortment of stuff...from toiletries to music c.d.'s...but they really make their money with the junk food...i've seen soldiers spend a 100 bucks on stuff they were just going to cram into their mouths...i was doing pretty good...just staying away from that place kept the money in my pockets...but once you start...it's pretty hard to stop...sometimes i'll go in just out of boredom...because spending money is fun...like today i needed deodorant...so i bought it...and 50 bucks worth of gatorade and food...i try to justify it to myself...i'm beyond sick of MRE's...and the brown and root chow hall just isn't very reliable...sometimes it is extremely good and then they next day it will be something like 'sweet and sour gopher curry'...

in all fairness i am a very picky eater...i used to think for years that i was allergic to chicken...my mom would try to hide it in foods that don't usually get chicken...and i could taste it...chicken used to bring bile up my throat...but in my attempt to whip myself into shape in afghanistan...i tried to keep a very low fat high protein diet...and the army already knows that chicken is cheap...so 2/3 of the MRE's are chicken...i learned to stomach it...and now i can handle it...i even like it occasionally...but i still don't like pig...or meat from the water...or even embryo (a.k.a. egg)...don't know why...that's just the way i am...

i do try to eat healthy...big servings of vegetables...and power bars...but i'm a sucker for a nutter butter...and i always buy bags of chips two at a time...they are my weakness...

i would kill for some ice...our boxes of water sit outside...baking in the heat...and by the time i arrive at work...the bottles are well over a 100 degrees...and you have to force yourself to suck them down...because you have to stay hydrated...especially with no a/c in the tents...

back in afghanistan i worked in a much bigger van...it actually housed to a/c's that were each in themselves twice as powerful as the little bitch i'm forced to used now...we could actually pull the front vents off and stick our drinks and candy bars in there...it was just as cold as a fridge...i would spank a dead horse for one of those now...not literally of course...

they actually issued me a cooler for my rig before we deployed...we use it to wash clothes...because it is never going to see cold water..."ha ha i laugh at your cool refreshing water"...it's just one of those things...you learn to live without...no cold water...no a/c...no sleep...no girlfriend nookie...if these are the worst things i have to worry about through out this war...then i'm way under the bell curve...i'm doing just fine...

when we finally had to relinquish the giant commercial a/c that i had in my van while my crappy ass military one had to be fixed they made me give it to a team chief whose system didn't even have one...they haven't had one this entire deployment...not even in their van...i couldn't even imagine...just the look on his face when i helped him carry it over to his hmmv made my day...a few day later i asked him how he was doing now...and he said he's freezing at night...with a giant smile on his face...

8.06.2003

the on again off again game with the a/c is getting really old...it went off about 2:30 in the a.m. last night...it's so hot outside...even at night...you wake up immediately...and after p.t. this morning...after i worked out on the little bench with the broken dumb bells...which coincidently i took 2 different sets of broken dumbbells and combined them to make 1 complete set...i am a genius...

covered in a drenching sweat i can't even stand to be inside the tent...everyone's face shows their disgust and exasperation at the situation...we all migrated outside the door of the tent...using make shift chairs...trying to sleep upright...but it's no use...the heat is like an enveloping glove that you can't escape...wrapped around every ounce of your body...

some one piped up and said that the big pool behind the p.x. has finally opened...and the water in there keeps the tent (yes a huge circus tent...saddam was so weird) at least 20 degrees cooler then the outside...

i remember that i've actually got a pool floaty...since my girlfriend mailed me two air mattresses...because she is that smart...i get the one that?s real purpose is pool time fun...5 foot long and blue with an extra blow up pillow...we're off...i'm walking and blowing...getting dizzy...my buddies guide me...because i can't see around the raft as i blow blow blow...

when we get there a few soldiers are already enjoying the area...and the marvel at my unbelievable preparedness...and if they didn't they i let them know just how smart i am by exclaiming very loudly..."i am a genius"...if you tell someone something enough they might start to believe it...

there are some girls there...the kind that thinks they should get preferential treatment because they are 'cute girls'..."hey can i use your floaty"...in a high pitched girl voice..."no"..."but why"..."well i've got a very good reason actually...it's mine"...get out of here...

some one minding his own business on a float is an open invitation to be flipped by his dumb ass buddies...the same buddies who brought a nerf football to the pool...and try to use it as a water logged weapon...it really hurts when it's used up side your head...

at about 14:00 the pool starts to fill up with hot hot soldiers...they hit the diving board and perform amazing displays of acrobatic amazement...stuff i don't have the balls to do...full gainers...triple flips...i think i even saw a triple lutz double toe loop thrown in for good measure...then they started climbing...

there is giant pole holding up the tent...and lucky for us...it's located a little to close to the deep end...which is a least 12 feet...there is a ladder that starts about 9 feet up the pole...so they jump...and they pull...then they climb...and i'm a little nervous...because somebody could slip...and about half way up the pole...there is a section in which they bolted the two poles together to make one big one...it's a little platform kinda thing...and they start jumping...the very first guy belly flops from 30 feet in the air...probably the single most stupid thing i have ever seen...

and the whole time i am barraged with cute girl voices..."can i use the floaty now"..."can't you see i'm still using it"...gimme a break...

after about 10 minutes of pole diving madness...i decide to call it a day and head back to the tent...the generator powering the a/c should be fixed by now...i finally relinquish the floaty with strict orders not to let anyone else use it...because people will break it...and then the wonderful rare thing that my girl friend had the amazing fore sight to mail me will be gone..."please bring it back to my tent"...

my clothes and bag are soaked...i guess i didn't follow the lead of everybody else and put them up and over on a platform...which by the looks of it...has a sole purpose of keeping ones clothes and bags dry from the pool time fun...my genius notch sliced to pieces...blasted...

back at the tent the a/c is indeed working...bitchin'...i break open an MRE...tai chicken...it's my flavorite...with the rice and the jalape?o cheese...all mixed up in a bowl...and just as i'm about to suck up the food...i here the generator crash...and i just move my meal out side...and say screw it...

i get to work and i pass out on the floor...i just woke up as a matter of fact...i might as well just admit that the crazy sleep schedule that i had in afghanistan is now in full swing in iraq...somethings never change

8.05.2003

the v.t.c. (visual teleconferencing) went really well...i waited around until the middle of the night and then i was escorted into the 'restricted area'...where all the magic happens so to speak...past giant wall size television screens with maps and diagrams...past rows and rows of desk with computers and soldiers working around the clock on the war effort...into the back of the room...through a door...down a short hallway...where the line had formed...they started off the show early...i was supposed to be first but i got some bad intel...so i went second...no problem...

the conference room was exactly that...i'm so used to seeing rooms and quarters converted into these things...usually they are set up in kitchens...or garages...or boiler rooms...like in afghanistan where i lived...
but this one was on honest to god conference room that i'm sure was used by saddam and all of his buddies...and now it belongs to us...because we took it...

a big U shaped table...dark wood...most definitely imported...the big guy spares no expense...and every chair was plush and colorful with hand carved wood trim...there was another giant screen on the far wall...and projected onto this screen was my brigade conference room back at the fort...

i stroll in and i see the sergeants family who was in front of me saying good bye to his...a big family with 3 kids and a wife trying desperately to keep her composure and get her family out of there in an orderly fashion...and then in the corner of the screen...coming through the door way...is a very distorted shape that the camera is trying to focus on...it walks like my girlfriend...it's the same size as my girlfriend...and it just so happens that it is my girlfriend...she giggles...and i wave and smile...

i have to press a foot switch every time i want to speak so that the microphone turns off...other wise the delay will cause an echo that is killer...there is at least a 15 seconds of delay that makes normal conversation useless...speak...pause...pause... pause...pause...response...but she is there and she can here me and i can see her...

she's wearing the 'curious george' shirt i bought her on the universal city walk in l.a...it fits her perfect...and her hair is beautiful...she's had 3 hair cuts since i left...but luckily she sends me pictures...so i stay up to date with the girlfriend fashions...

we have this thing that we do...it is very silly...but its so great...it started one night when we were at a rave in l.a....to the beat i say "girlfriend" while i nod my head...and then i say "run in place"...which i do...to the beat...it's a sign of my affection...so there i am...in baghdad iraq...running in place...in saddams conference room...so that my girlfriend can watch me over a v.t.c. on the other side of the earth...i'm sure that every network administrator who was tuned in from here through kuwait and germany and washington d.c. got a good hearty belly laugh out of my foolishness...but i did it all for the nookie...

my woman brought pictures that she ran over to the camera on her side and showed me...then she jumped up and down so that i could see her up close...the camera was up on a shelf...

then i showed her my muscles...my big ol' arms that are twice the size as when i left...she was impressed...or she at least faked it for me...she's a good woman...

the 8 minutes went so quick and half of it was wasted on the delay...so we got about a good four minutes of talking...but we made a life time of memories...

i watched her leave...right up until they brought in a young black lady...all wide eyed and looking at me...i'm sure she caught the last sweet things i said to my girlfriend...and the last running in place...

i left in my hmmv...hating this place more then ever...but also feeling a bit more relaxed...jovial...my girl went out to my truck...and cried...just like i knew she would...but she is strong...stronger then i have ever been...she made it home and on with her day...i made it to my cot...and i sweated off into sleep...

this is almost over...

8.04.2003

they called in the 'net rangers'...and they had a bust...some fool was using up a third of our bandwidth on mp3 downloads...very bad...there are guys whose sole purpose in life is to catch people doing stuff like that...some people just think they are smarter then the rest of us...they're special...they get caught...they always do...if you do the wrong thing long enough...you will get busted...the most important lesson that i've learned...you can be doing the right thing all day long but that one minute you step out and do the bad thing you'll get caught...

we had another guy get busted today too...one of the 'net rangers' was just checking his computer for some normal 'net ranger' stuff...and he was locked out of his administrator log in...very interesting...the 'net ranger' had the soldier log into the admin desktop and low and behold if there wasn't all kinds of crazy soft wear...hacker soft wear...soft wear for breaking into routers and servers...again very interesting...especially since he's on a military LAN network...yeah he's in trouble...computer geeks like to feel powerful...

they're talking now about yanking the NIPR drops (my internet access)...they want to throw up fire walls because of stupid shit like this...so i might disappear off the internet super high way...we'll see what happens...i'm sure i can work something out if they do some drastic stuff...

i was supposed to go convoying tomorrow...i actually volunteered...they were going to yonk my nightshift guy for it but that just screws up our entire schedule and it takes two days to recover...some crazy kind of escort detail...where i follow somebody important around baghdad...like i'm gonna put the fear into them..."oh shift don't fire they've got a signal guy with them"...

but they cancelled it...i didn't object...but i'm sure my number will get pulled again...i'll be sure to take my camera...

we've bummed a playstation 2 off the civilian contractors...so now we've got dvd access...and some of these guys out here have thousands of dollars in movies...unbelievable...I’ve never really understood the whole collecting movies thing...usually when i see a movie once i'm good for at least 5 years...some of these guys video choices are quite interesting...stuff i would never watch...especially more then once...but lucky for me i've got lots of guys out here who love to watch movies...i'm watching 'one hour photo'...but i can barely hear it over the loud ass military e.c.u. (environmental control unit a.k.a. crappy ass air conditioner)

8.03.2003

the a/c's in the tent city are dead...at least for the time being...they were trying to set up the 'prime power'...the commercial power...they want to pull the strain off the military generators...because they are dying too...but they screwed it up and now everything’s dead...but we do have lights...which are very important at around noon...in iraq...it's like an oven inside my tent...and sleep is impossible...absolutely impossible...even at night...it's well over a 114 degrees outside and i'm sure the humidity is pushing it way over the top...i can't even imagine how hot it is inside the tent...catastrophically warm...

i slept for most of the day in the moral building in an uncomfortable chair...with guys playing spades as loud as possible and jackie chans 'the tuxedo' as my lullaby...but at least there is some a/c in there...i learned it in afghanistan and i'm sure the same is true here...sleep is not as necessary as you may think for operating and moving...it is...however...important for coherence...but who really needs that...in a combat zone...in baghdad iraq...

my soldier was back in the t.m.c. (troop medical center) again last night...until 2 in the morning...he's really starting to freak me out...i'm spending a lot of time watching him lay on a gurney with a puke bowl under his chin...between his dehydration...and the iraqi viral flue of death...and his migraines...and i'm worried about him...i wonder if there is something bigger going on..."it's not a tumor"...

tonight is the v.t.c. (the visual teleconferencing) with my girlfriend...i'm first on the list...and i'm so excited...i only get 8 minutes and i'm sure they will fly...my woman has been afraid that she won't have good stories for me...she won't need them...she was trying to save one from her night out that she took with one of my best friends who just got home from iraq 2 days ago...

he was out at baghdad international for the last bunch of months...doing absolutely nothing but waiting...my woman met him and took him to his house that he has never even seen because his room mate moved all their stuff to a new one while he was gone...first thing he did was set up a bed so he could sleep...the friend that was supposed to take care of him and pay his bills while he was gone...dropped the ball...his insurance was cancelled and his tag was expired...he's borrowing my truck until he's back on his feet...just going home isn't always enough...sometimes home isn't ready for you...

they met up at the club with an unexpected surprise...my soldier who just left last week to go home just happened to show up with my bronze star buddy...and they all had a righteous time...with out me...i knew it too...while i was laying on my cot...i could feel it...at that exact moment i knew they were having a blast...

in a few hours i'm going to lie down on the floor of my shelter...and try to sleep...