Saturday, May 28, 2005

I'm Not Gonna Make It, Go On Without Me

I got my first combat wound and had minor surgery yesterday. Before you get too concerned read this entire blog and then decide if you should be concerned or not. There are two versions to this story. The first is “The War version” that I’ll probably tell for the rest of my life, and the second is a much less interesting version I like to call “The actual truth”. Here goes.

So there I was, hanging off a rope from a Blackhawk thirty feet off the deck M-16 in one hand and a bowie knife in the other. A grenade dangling from my teeth. Explosions to the south and sniper fire from the north. We were in too far to turn back now. It was all or nothing.

Intell had pinpointed the location of an enemy weapons cache filled with anti aircraft guns and munitions. The infantry needed an Intell assessment of the cache so Major M and I were asked to tag along. The mission was expected to be low profile and go off without any resistance. The cache was an underground bunker from the Saddam days and was thought to be forgotten by the regime. The plan was to go in, get whatever worked and blow the rest in place. We just wanted to get to the weapons before they fell into the wrong hands. We knew there was enemy activity in the area but figured they hadn’t found the cache yet. The action was too hot to go in on the ground so air insertion was the only option. We would go in on two Blackhawks and repel from 30 feet to the drop zone. Blackhawks can’t defend themselves on the ground so they wouldn’t be landing for the insertion, only the extraction. We knew that would be the most critical point in the mission. Enemy resistance was expected to be minimal.

“2 minutes to target”, our headsets crackled to life. “Do your final checks.” The pilot gave us periodic updates in the monotone character of a seasoned war pilot. We’d done our pre combat inspections and were ready to go. We patted each other down right before climbing onto the cargo deck of the helicopter. Helmet, ear plugs, and eye protection were all good. 210 rounds of 5.56 mm ammo strapped to our body armor vests in 30 round magazines. Two Israeli bandages, one 4 inch and one 6 inch were each in our cargo pockets along with a new addition to our personal first aid kits, the one handed tourniquet. Medical research had recently change it’s mind about tourniquets. Before, they were a last ditch effort used only when there was no way to save the arm or leg they were tied to. Now the thinking is to stop the bleeding and just loosen it every once in a while and let the blood flow so you don’t kill all the tissue. I kept my 4 inch bandage and my tourniquet in my left cargo pocket and my 6 inch bandage in my right cargo pocket along with my shot record and extra dog tags.

“On Target.” We tossed our headsets aside and knelt by the door. Slinging our rifles over our backs we tossed the rappel ropes over the side. Adrenaline surging through our veins, we cinched our black leather gloves tight around our wrists and peeked over the edge of the helicopter to see what the ground was like below. Dead palm branches and trash covered most of the ground, a perfect hiding spot for booby traps. The last few feet of the ropes coiled in a pile on the ground. Drawing from the practice of hundreds of drops the pilot held the helicopter perfectly still as we grabbed our ropes and prepared for the quick slide down. Major M was already down his rope and running 20 meters out to get out of the prop blast and take up his spot on the perimeter. I was down the rope next. Half way down the slide I heard small arms fire to the north. The infantry guys from the other Blackhawk were already on the ground returning fire and suppressing the enemy when we heard a huge blast from the north. For a second the helicopter shook but the pilot made a few adjustments and it was rock solid. Less than a second later I was on the ground taking my place on the perimeter. The lead Blackhawk did a strafing run across the enemy position spitting spent casings and chain links all around us as they unloaded a reign of fire. Then, just as if someone flicked a switch, there was silence, just the sound of your own breathing and your heart pounding blood and adrenaline through every vein in your body. The Blackhaws flew off to a safe area and maintained a constant flight path until they were to return for the extraction. We scanned our sectors of fire searching for the slightest movement, staying low for a few minutes as we assessed the situation. The bunker was shielded by a small berm situated between us and the enemy, but we knew we didn’t have much time to mess around. We made our way to the small opening of the underground bunker using tactical movements we’d practiced dozens of times. One team would leapfrog the other while they provided cover in case the insurgents showed themselves. Our training kicked in and we didn’t even have to think about the movements, they came as naturally as breathing or walking. A well orchestrated symphony of military power. We got to the opening without incident.

The platoon leader from the infantry unit snapped a couple of chemlights, shook them to activate the green chemical light, and tossed them down the opening. All clear. The plan was for Major M and me to go in first, snap a few pictures and identify the weapons. We shimmied down the half collapsed entrance and fell onto a pile of old Russian 20mm anti aircraft guns. Cobwebs and mosquitoes thick as fog in every nook and cranny. We batted the dangling silk traps out of our way and coughed up a few lungfuls of dirt as we slid down the hole swatting the stinging intruders. Our eyes adjusted to the eerie green light of the chemical glow sticks as we unpacked our cameras and started our job. The guns were rusted and battered but at least one of them looked like it would still work, maybe two. We’d have to take them all just to be sure. There were hundreds of rounds laying haphazardly in the piles of tangled metal and discarded weapons. Most of the stuff was junk, but it only takes one to kill Americans. This was a good find. We crawled out of the hole as the infantry guys slid down and started passing weapons and ammo out of the hole. There was a clearing to the west where we set up a small perimeter watching and waiting as the infantry guys hauled the find into the circle of protection. We radioed the Blackhawks for a pickup in five minutes. So far we'd had no enemy contact since the air insertion. With two men per gun we could load all the weapons up in one trip and then one additional trip for the ammo. All said and done the Blackhawks would only need to be on the ground and vulnerable for a minute at the most.

The first chopper touched down as we were running the guns toward it. Major M and I had one of the 8 foot long 200 pound guns between us. He had the muzzle and was in the lead as I brought up the rear holding the firing assembly and feed mechanism. Someone flipped the switch again. Small arms fire everywhere. We could hear 50 cal sniper rifles echoing from across the banks of the Tigris and small explosions were walking their way toward us as they tried to get their mortars zeroed in. We had only a few seconds to get the stuff on the birds and get out. The Infantry guys started laying down suppressing fire as me and Major M took a squad and ran back for the ammo. One can a piece and we were in a dead sprint toward the screaming door gunner in the second Blackhawk. That’s when it happened. A small explosion shook the ground right at my feet. White hot pain shot up my leg as I stumbled but didn’t fall. I knew if I fell I’d be dead. I fought the pain and dove into the helicopter, ammo can and all. My feet still dangling out the door we were airborne. The door gunners were ripping holes into the terrain below with their big belt fed machine guns as I clawed my way into my seat and fastened the five point harness around my wounded body. Trees and body parts exploded in the trail of metal and fire as the door gunners hammered the insurgents relentlessly. We were away. I turned to Major M and told him I was hit. It was my left ankle. Shrapnel smoked through slashes in my desert tan boots. Slowly and carefully we peeled the boot back and saw the shrapnel lodged in my ankle near the Achilles tendon. I tried to pull it free with my fingers but it was lodged too tightly. I pulled out my trusty Gerber multiplier and gave the steaming chunk of metal a tug. Nothing, it must have been too jagged and was cutting into the soft tissue inside my foot. As we approached the FOB the pilot radioed the Medical center and told them we’d be landing there.

A few minutes later I was out of my body armor and helmet and laying face down on a gurney in the makeshift operating room on FOB Justice. The second of the two gurneys sat empty on a pair of sawhorses just waiting for the next wounded soldier. To the left was a stack of plywood cubby holes filled with neatly stacked medical supplies. A small desk in the corner with a few file folders stacked in the center. One lay open with a pen slowly rolling off the edge of the desk. The Doc must have been taking notes when we rushed in. A quick shot of lydacaine to deaden the pain and he was quick to work. He slowly and carefully started cutting the metal shards from my foot dropping them one by one as they pinged into the bottom of the metal pan. I was on my belly so I couldn’t look back to see what was happening but I could feel him working his way around my ankle and toward the bottom of my foot. The drugs had deadened the area enough that all I felt was the Doc’s fingers and instruments pushing and prodding with a few more pings in the metal pan. A few minutes later it was cleaned and bandaged. An antibiotic shot to my butt and it was all over. All said and done we had expended over two thousand rounds between the soldiers and the helicopter and captured three working anti aircraft guns, one RPG, and multiple cases of ammo.

Now for the actual truth.

Major M and I got into the little Nissan quad cab that we use to tool around on FOB Justice. We knew of an underground bunker on the FOB that had some old Russian anti aircraft guns. We wanted to take a look at them to see if it would be worth taking a few back to the states to put in a military museum. We flipped on the air and cranked the radio up to the Armed Forces Network while we retold exaggerated stories from our days in Mahmudiyah. A few minutes later we were parked in a mess of old dead palm branches and piles of garbage. About 20 meters away we could see the small opening of an underground bunker long abandoned. Under the watchful protection of the American guard towers we leisurely strolled toward the hole snapping pictures of the surroundings as we went. One of the guns was laying in plain view on the ground obviously discarded outside the bunker. We each took turns posing with it and set it aside. We slid down the half collapsed entrance onto a pile of discarded weapons and containers. Half of them were American garbage earlier units had thrown down there instead of having to deal with them as inventory. We hauled the three guns out of the hole and took some ammo cans and an RPG. One of the guns might have been operable if you knew what you were doing. The others were rusted and burned beyond saving. It looked like some of the rounds had been cooked off in the bunker years earlier and probably started a small fire. We grabbed our loot and carried it back to the truck one piece at a time. As we were carrying the second gun my right foot snagged on a dead palm branch and drove one of the tines into my left ankle. There was a momentary sting and I figured it had just poked through the nylon part of my desert boots. The uppers are just nylon and the lower part is actual leather. This makes the boot lighter and cooler in the desert atmosphere. I shrugged it off and kept working. About thirty minutes later we had the weapons loaded in a conex and were back in the office. My ankle was hurting a little bit so I took my boot off. Sure enough there was a splinter about the thickness of a small knitting needle sticking out of the skin just in front of my Achilles tendon. I tried to pull the sock off but the barbs of the spike were holding it to my skin. Major M was nice enough to just rip the sock off sending a momentary burning pain through my ankle. I tried to pull it out with my fingers thinking it was just a small splinter. I couldn’t get a good grip on it so I pulled out the Gerber. Even with the pliers I couldn’t pull it out. Each time I tugged on it the skin all around would lift up but the barbs on the inside wouldn’t let go. I figured this was now a job for a trained medical professional. I hobbled to the Nissan and Major M took me to the TMC (Troop Medical Center). I hopped up on the stretcher on my belly and the Doc took a look. “It’s in too far, I’m gonna have to cut it out.” “What, it’s just a splinter, pull it out.” “I can’t, the barbs on the thorn will rip the tissue in your foot.” Fortunately he numbed the area before he cut it out. The incision was too small for stitches so he put some antibiotic ointment on and wrapped it with gauze and a bandage. I asked if I could keep the offending thorn so he put it into a little Ziploc bag. One shot in the butt later I was on my merry way back to work. No worse for wear.

Of the two versions of the story I do think I prefer the War version.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

He Shoots, He Scores. Gooooaaaaal

Man, it's been busy and excited and hot the last few weeks. I've formed a pretty good friendship with some of the Iraqi guys that attend the classes we give. It's really cool to just sit around after the class and just talk about whatever. I've learned so much about their culture and about Saddam's Regime. You just wouldn't believe some of the stuff that went on. Last night they invited me and one of my American friends to play football with them. Of course we're Americans and we already used that name for a sport so we call it soccer. It's kind of like the metric system. It works really well for the rest of the world, but since we can kick the snot out of everybody, we use something different. Football (soccer) is like the national sport in Iraq and everybody plays it pretty well. Last night was no exception. Those guys are a lot younger and a lot more skilled than we were but it was a blast. It wasn't competitive like a pick up game would be in the States. For them it was a chance to hang out and bond. They were more than willing to let the unskilled Americans take the goal shots. It was pretty cool.

After that my roommate and I came back to our room to a disheartening silence where the hum of the air conditioner should have been. For about the last week our power goes out around 10:00 in the morning. We put in a work order to have it fixed and they fix it the next day at 9:30 a.m. like clock work. Then, like clockwork, it goes out again at about 10:00 a.m. and we sleep in the steeping heat of the Tigris river swatting bird sized mosquitoes and listening to the scamper of La Cooks running on the floor. At least when the air does work it's too cold for the mosquitoes and too loud to hear the cockroaches running on the tile floor. Every time we come back to our room it's with bated breath and nervous anticipation. Will the power be on, will it be off? Will the Cockroaches be sleeping in my bed or will they be gone? Will Heraldo ever be respected as a real journalist. All of our questions are answered with the turn of a key. Well, not the Heraldo one, He pretty much answers that one over and over again on his own. I just keep telling myself it's an adventure and it will soon be over. It feels kind of hypocritical to be complaining about no power and no air conditioning when you think about all the previous wars America has been involved in. This is probably the most comfortable one we've seen.

We came to FOB Justice just as another unit was pulling out. With them went their chaplain and all religious services. Today I saw someone in the chapel working and there was a sign saying they would start services again this Sunday. I guess they found a spare Chaplain. It'll be good to get back to church.

There has been a terrible case of diarrhea and stomach flu going around camp. Some people say it's the Iraqi food but I don't think it is. I've eaten quite a bit of it and I haven't gotten sick. I think it's the water. Some guys use it to brush their teeth and I think that's where it's coming from. I use bottled water for everything except showering.

Last time I wrote we had just been introduced to our terrible bathroom. We scrounged around some of the other buildings that the other unit was moving out of and found some scouring powder and some of those little green scrubbing cloths. I put on the black elbow length rubber gloves that come with the chemical protection suits the Army gives us and went to town. We scrubbed every square inch of that place. Since it doesn't have a real toilet, only a hole in the floor and a hose, we were able to direct the water from the hose just about anywhere we wanted it. Of course sometimes it went where we didn't want it but that's a whole other story. You wouldn't believe the difference. We have a standing agreement that under no circumstances does anyone use the toilet, just the shower and the sink. There's a row of port-o-podies outside the building that do just fine. If you hit them in the morning they have T.P. if you hit them too late you'd better have some baby wipes. With the stomach problems going around T.P. has been in high demand. I've seen evidence of some very desperate soldiers in the form of soiled socks floating in the port-o-podies used in the heat of the moment when no T.P. was available. I guess Rummie's quote about war also applies to bowel movements. "You go to the Port-o-podies with what you've got. Not what you want."

That's about all that's going on right now. If the plan holds I should be out of here in about four months. Then it'll just be some memories, a few pictures, and some good friends.

Oh yeah, there's a little debate going around about the new Star Wars movie. It'll come out on Haji DVD in a day or two but We're sure it's going to be bad quality. The debate goes something like this. The movie will probably not be in theatres anymore by the time we get home, so we're probably going to miss the theater experience all together. "We're probably going to miss the theatre experience. Why what is it? It's a big building where people watch movies, but that's not important right now." (If you've never seen Airplane then ignore the last little section) The question is this. Get a Haji version and possibly ruin that first time movie watching experience, or wait until we get home and watch it on regular DVD and miss out on that universal new release feeling. I talked with my wife and we decided to wait until I got home, but the temptation is strong with this one. We'll see what happens. By the way, don't tell me what happens, as if the outcome is a mystery.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Can't See the Bathroom for the Mold.

Last time we left our hero he was living in a storage room in the basement of Saddam's old Intelligence building. No air conditioning, 7 guys and a strange unidentifiable odor. What will happen next? Will our hero finally get a room? Will he live in the basement forever? What is that smell. Tune in for the exciting conclusion of "Find Your Own Room in Iraq, No not that one."

On Wednesday we got the word we had a room in the back of the building behind the chow hall. We packed up what little we had unpacked and went to scope out the new digs. Not too bad, not the greatest but not too bad. By the time we walked back over to the storage room/ living area the plan had changed. I'll pause here while you recover from your surprise' he says steeping in a heavy layer of sarcasm. It seemed we were to stay in the storage room just a bit longer.

Thursday afternoon, after a pretty exciting training session with the Iraqis, we were told we now had a different room and needed to vacate the all important storage room by midnight. We hoofed it to our new room and walked into a little bit of a surprise. We had heard that these rooms had regular bathrooms with a shower, a toilet, and a sink. That would be cool. I haven't had a bathroom since being in Iraq though I am unexplainably fond of the port-o-podies. Do you remember the bathroom I had at Fort Hood? No? I'll jog your memory. Urine soaked towel and trash everywhere. Well it seems that the guys who lived at Fort Hood before me have some Iraqi cousins and I just moved into their place. The bathroom here makes that one look like a gourmet restaurant. There is a toilet but not a toilet like you think. Oh no. It's a hole in the floor with a little hose so you can rinse your business down the hole. I don't think the former inhabitants understood the concept of the hose though. There's years of dry crusted urine on the floor. I can picture it now. "Habib, Habib!"' he cries as he squats over the hole in the floor. "What do you think this silly looking tubular thing is sticking out of the wall? Look I can make water come out of it." "I don't know Achmed, but hurry up I need to pee all over the floor too you know!" It seems aim was not one of their strong points. Volume however was. The shower doesn't have a curtain or doors on it, it's just a shower head and, once I scrape the mold off, I think there's a drain pan under the shower head. The sink, oh the sink. It reminds me of a beautiful hike I once took in Texas through a moss bog. The surprising thing was that none of it smelled badly. Well, until we turned the water on and got it wet. Dried urine doesn't seem to have a smell to it but get it wet and you could burn the nose hair out of a fisherman. I almost threw up but I think the vomit was too afraid to touch the floor so it decided to stay inside where it was nice and safe. The bad part of all this is that this is a really small FOB and there are no cleaning supplies to be had anywhere. There is also a little problem having to do with the lock on the door. Or should I say the lock that should be on the door.

When we were told what room to go to there was a phrase that caused me to pause for a second and just shake my head.

"When you get to your room it may or may not have a lock on it. If there is no lock then the Army will not be held responsible for anything stolen because you did not secure your room. Any questions?"

Well yeah, I have a few. "Who's responsibility is it to provide a lock for the door?"

"The Army's"

"So just to get this straight if the Army fails in it's responsibility to provide a lock and my stuff is stolen then it's my fault for not locking the lock the Army didn't provide?"


"Then would I be allowed to not go to work until either the Army provides a lock or until we go home?"


These are your tax dollars at work here ladies and gentlemen. I can be recalled from my civilian life and do nothing but sit in a room and guard my own stuff until it's time to go home.

"Grandpa tell me the story of when you were in the war."

"Well sweetheart, I moved some of my stuff from America to Iraq and sat in a room watching it until we went home."

"Oh, Grandpa, you're a hero. That's my favorite story, can you tell it again?"

"Well sweetheart, ........"

They did however install a lock so all would seem to be alright. Right? Wrong. The lock they installed has but one key. There are four guys to a room and they each work completely different schedules. So all that accomplished was to keep everyone out of the room including three of it inhabitants. Make another key you say? A capital idea. However nobody can do it. Little FOB remember. Fear not, I'm a handy little dude so I acquired a hasp and installed it on the door. Now we have a combination lock from one of the guy's duffel bags and the room is secured. Fear not Army my room is now locked, you can rest assured that if my stuff is now stolen I will allow you to pay for it all.

We spent Thursday evening into Friday morning lugging our crap from the storage room in the basement to the top floor of an entirely different building. This is a small FOB until you carry all your stuff from one end of it to the other for the second time.

Next time a convoy goes to liberty one of us is going to jump on it and get some keys made and pick up some cleaning supplies. Especially rubber gloves. Where's crazy bathroom lady when you need her?

On a more positive note this was the first week for the training with the Iraqi intell guys. It went very well. These guys are so excited to learn anything we have to show them. They treat every subject like it's the very information that will not only keep them alive, but also lead their country to freedom. You almost can't stop the class at the end because they want to learn more. Most of them are in their late teens or early twenties. Much like the American Army. It almost makes me embarrassed for Americans. If you put the same number of Americans from the same demographic together for the same reason you'd be hard pressed to get them to even pay attention. They'd be way too cool for school. On the contrary, these guys are so eager to learn there was even one guy who had scheduled some leave and was going to cancel it so he didn't miss any of the classes. We told him we would be here for a while and would catch him up on anything he missed. It's very exciting working with them and very validating. It almost makes up for the crusty urine.

One way the Iraqis show honor and respect is to invite you to eat with them. Food is a very important part of their culture. I'm pleased to say they've invited us to eat with them a few times already. The other day I had a dish they call Coobba. It's a yellow ball the size of a baseball. They make a paste out of something very similar to chick peas by grinding them up and adding some oil and water. Then they make a cup from the paste in their hands. They fill the cup with ground meat and onions and spices. Then they put more paste around the ball to close it off. I think they bake them to cook them. The paste gets firm but not crispy. They brought them in a pot with a red sauce and dipped them out onto plates. They also had many different plates with pickles and cucumbers and tomatoes on them. You eat everything with your hands and some flat bread similar to a pita. They serve the bread hot and sometimes use it to pick up the food. It was very good. Some of the guys have had some trouble because the sanitary standards aren't the same as ours, but I haven't had any trouble yet, knock on moldy porcelain.

I've put a few more pictures up on the photo album and made a new page called "FOB Justice". I'll post some more later this week. Hopefully the rest of the training will go as well as this week has.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Wagons Ho!

On the afternoon of May 7th I moved to my new home at FOB Falcon. It’s pretty cool here. It’s smaller than Victory but it has established buildings. It also overlooks the Tigris river. This means grass and tress as opposed to the dusty barren desert of camp Victory. There’s also roads and sidewalks instead of foot trails beaten into the desert dirt. The trip here was pretty much uneventful. When we got here we fully expected to move into the rooms we had scouted out on a previous trip. They’re sort of dingy third world out of a movie kind of rooms. The paint is peeling off the 13 foot ceilings and there is a make shift fan with a missing blade loping in a lazy circle overhead. One wall was just windows with a panoramic view of concrete barriers set right in front of them. They are kind of cool in a 'just visiting wouldn’t want to live here forever' way. They have a bathroom in each room, well sort of. It’s a concrete room with a hole in the middle. It has a sink a toilet and a pan in the corner with a shower head over it. The shower isn’t enclosed or anything and the toilet is literally cemented to the floor. It looks like someone punched a hole in the floor, set a toilet down and mixed a bucket of cement around the edges of the toilet. I guess it’s OK as long as the guy living above you doesn’t have a similar setup. So I say we fully expected to move into these rooms because that’s what the plan was. If there’s one thing to count on in the military it’s don’t expect to follow the plan, especially if officers are involved.

My new assignment involves training the new Iraqi Army intell guys. I’m pretty excited about it because there are very few of us involved in the project. That means I should, if all goes as planned, (see above comment about plans) actually make an impact on the history of Iraq. Good or bad remains to be seen, but an impact none the less. This is a project that has been evolving for some time before I was actually plugged into the mechanics of it. Now the plan is in full swing and is drawing attention. Of course wherever attention is to be drawn you can rest assure the normal enlisted Army guys are obviously fully incapable of handling it, even though they got it to the point where the attention was drawn. Cue the officers. There was an entourage of brass through here today who decided that our rooms were perfect for them and we would have to find shelter elsewhere. The problem is that there is no elsewhere. Those chuckles were never part of the original plan so now there are more bodies than there are rooms. When there are officers and enlisted with a shortage of rooms guess who gets stuck holding the “go find your own room” end of the stick. So right now six of us are living in a storage room in the basement of one of Saddam’s old buildings while they try to unscrew the mess they’ve made. The door doesn’t lock so we have to have someone in the room 24/7 to keep an eye on our stuff. It’s not all bad though, it’s got a nice homey feel to it and it’s pretty spacious. We just pretend we’re special forces and we just commandeered a building for our use. We don’t actually pretend that but it was fun to think about. We’ll wait and see what tomorrow brings.

This place was some sort of military installation under Saddam’s regime. There are a few buildings here and there and even a big outdoor swimming pool. There’s no water in it but it has potential. There was talk of hiring a contractor to maintain the pool but I don’t think that’ll actually pan out. There aren’t enough American’s here to entice KBR to sign any contracts so we eat Army chow. It’s really not that bad though. Three meals a day compared to the one meal a day in Mahmudiah. There’s a small gym and a computer lab run by the Army. There are a few Haji shops but no phone centers. There are some phones in one of the Haji shops that the guy charges you 35 cents a minute. He’s also got a few computers you can use for $2.00 an hour. The Army ones are free and they’re faster than what I had in my room at Victory. You can get the phone cards for the cell phones here so I’ll end up using those. I was sad to see my internet connection go. That was my main means of communication with my wife. Hopefully we’ll be able to work out a schedule when I can go to the computer lab at the same time she can get on-line. That way we can chat on Yahoo. I don’t think they let you use a web cam in the Army internet café though. I let a guy take the cat5 cable from my room to use while I’m here with the understanding I get it back if I go back to Victory. The plan is to stay here for the rest of the rotation and leave the country from here. What a glorious day that will be.

What else? I shipped some Iraqi snickers bars back to my wife to taste test and pass out to a few people. It was sort of a test to see how they traveled before I bought them by a case size and shipped them. It seems snickers bars don’t travel well in the mail from the desert. She said by the time she got them they were hard and crumbly. I had a few here like that and they just sort of loose that special something. Oh well, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I’m sure some exciting things will happen working here with the Iraqis. I’ll keep you posted on what I can. Oh yeah, it’s mosquito and sand flea season and all I can say is crap. I’ll try to post some pictures on the photo album later this week.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Dude, Where's My Humvee?

The "Army Law of Efficiency" wasn't a rousing hit. Here's one that should be a little easier to follow.

About a week ago it really stormed here. It rained all day and night so the next day it was really muddy. It doesn't get muddy like in the states where it's thick dirty mud, it gets really slippery muddy here. The roads around Camp Victory are all dirt and some gravel. The dirt's real fine so when it gets wet it makes a paste first and then when it's fully wet it starts to turn to mud. So this was about the time when it was turning from slippery paste to full blown mud.

The Humvee we drive on post most of the time doesn't have any doors on it. It only has a cloth roof over the driver and passenger seat. The whole back end is just open to the elements. It was lunch time and shift change time. Usually the guy from the shift before me goes to lunch with us before we drop him off to go to bed. So,the Humvee had been sitting out in the rain overnight and the roof was bowed in with a big puddle of water. The shift change guy got into the driver's seat and as I was getting into the passengers seat he decided he should push up on the roof to get all the water off. Almost all of it ran off the roof, down the front of my body, and right onto the passengers seat. So my whole front was wet but my backside was dry. Looking down at the seat now filled with water I shot him a dirty glance as he laughed his head off. The operator's manual in a Humvee is in a three ring binder. It's fairly water proof so I put it on the seat and sat on that. We went on to lunch slipping and sliding all over the place. 4-Wheel drive is cool until all four wheel start spinning. Of course we didn't try to stop it. One of the perks of war is you can drive pretty much anywhere you want and run over pretty much whatever you want to. Curbs, hills, insurgents, it doesn't really matter. So we get to lunch, eat and exit the chow hall without incident. I dropped Mr. Shiftchange off at his trailer and headed back to work. He had used the "sit on the manual" trick also, but left the manual on the seat. As I'm slipping and sliding all over the road I look over just as the manual flies out the door. Oh well, I'll just pull over and grab it. I stop the Humvee on the side of the road and pull the emergency brake. Humvee's don't usually have park in the transmission. You just put them in neutral and set the hand brake. Little did I know but I had pulled just far enough over to get the passenger side wheels on the edge of the road that slopes off into a ravine. No sooner had I set foot on the ground then the Humvee starts to slide sideways down the embankment. Some guys were driving by and loudly and obviously laughed as my Humvee slipped right down into the gully next to the road. It wasn't like I'd be able to grab it and stop it so all I could do was watch it slide down the little hill hoping against hope it didn't roll over. "Umm, SGT. Where's my Humvee?" "Sorry First SGT but I left it in a ditch upside down." Standing there with a grimace on my face and hands clinched in anticipation I sighed with relief as it came to rest at the bottom on all four wheels. It took some wheel spinning and mud slinging but I muscled the Humvee back up the berm and slid my way back to work. No harm, no foul, just a muddy operators manual and a huge smile on my face. Next time it rains I think I'll try it again. It was a lot of fun in retrospect. You just gotta love the Army. Where else can you get paid to go four wheeling with a high powered semi automatic rifle? Oh yeah, they pay for the gas too.