Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Marathon, anyone?

Last post, I wrote about my participation in a 10K run and how fun it was to leave the Army guys to choke on the dust kicked up from my shoes. Despite the comments of the older and wiser, who thinks there could be nothing fun about grueling heat and physical exertion while battling through sore muscles and aching joints, I have decided to take on a greater challenge - the half marathon.

"Now, why not a full marathon?" you ask.

Well, my friend, that would probably hurt. Besides, who's to say the marathon isn't half completed? All of you half-empty types out there...well...I would like to see you out there, running the full 26.2 miles. Then do it in the desert...while low-crawling through a mine field, while sneaking up to an insurgent hideout, armed with nothing but your K-Bar knife whith which you plan on unleashing your mayhem in the name of truth, justice, and the American way!! Hah! Didn't think I would have any takers!

Seriously, though, people often ask me why I run so much. "Why do you run so many miles?" My simple answer? Because they're there. My long answer? Because they're there. See, running for me has turned into kind of a therapy. I didn't mean it to turn out this way. Rather, I wanted simply to rid myself of a few pounds that attached themselves to my otherwise thin midsection. In the process of so doing, I learned that I really do enjoy strapping on the running shoes and hitting the pavement (or treadmill). It's relaxing. And I'm not fat anymore. And it keeps me from allowing my turrets syndrome to break through to the surface when dealing with the rediculous Army horse hooey.

Well, folks, wish me luck. I'm off to hit the pavement.

On a serious note, please keep my sister and her husband (and the rest of his family) in your prayers as they have suffered a terrible loss. Sis #1, I'm sorry and I'm praying for you guys.

A, E, L, I love you!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Last weekend, I had the honor to take part in the annual Audie Murphy association 10K fun run. I don't know if this event is held everywhere or just here in southern Iraq, but 6.2 miles is 6.2 miles no matter where you are. The Audie Murphy Assn. is one of those organizations that allows only the finest non-commissioned officers to join its ranks and claim membership. I thought it was special that they invited me to run with them. I was truly surrounded by greatness...

Until I left all that greatness in my dust!!! WOOOOHOOO, there were maybe 20 people in front of me out of about 300 who took part in the race. Meet army standards??? Hell no! I exceed them!

The title of this post is my time. I didn't think it was all that special of a time (actually a bit slow) but I later found out that whoever laid out the course miscalculated and 6.2 miles in this case was actually 6.4 miles. Oh well...can't trust the Army to count either.

I shouldn't be so hard on the Army, actually. After all, these guys are some of the finest young men I have ever had the pleasure of serving with. They have to be in order to put up with the Army's crap all the time.

In other news, I managed to find time to take part in a poker tournament on Thursday. I came in third place. Pocket jacks and an "all in" call got me the third place trophy. Stand by for a picture of the glorious statue. It's pretty comical.

Well, folks, I am sorry I haven't been posting as much as some would like, but I have been really busy running races and playing poker. Seriously, I do have a job, and it's a pretty involved one at times, so bear with the lack of posts.

A, E, L, I love you!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ahhhh Vacation...

Hello, everyone. I would say that I'm so sorry for not posting in a while and that I have been so busy that I just couldn't take the time to post updates, but neither of those statements are true. The truth is, the Army has a wonderful program called "Rest and Recuperation" of which I was recently taking advantage.

The view you see there is what I woke up to every morning. I would say it's a marked improvement over the desert sand and the 130 degree temperatures as well. Even better than the view, though, was the fact that I was able to wake up next to my beautiful wife every morning and then I could go and see what my wonderful kids were doing. That is what made the whole vacation for me. Fifteen glorious days in New Hampshire's Lakes Region with my family. Unbeatable.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and such is the case with my R&R. I am now back in Iraq, coping with the inordinately hot temperatures, mediocre food at best, and an understocked PX. Joy.

Well, I only have a few more months left here and it's not all bad. I do a job that saves soldiers' lives and that's what I keep my eye on. These guys are the greatest asset America has and they're certainly worth me giving it my all to make sure they come home alive.

A, E, L, I love you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What's So Dang Indirect About It?!?!?!


I am sorry it has been so long since I have written. I have really been slacking in that area. Funny thing called the war and all…You know how it goes…

Well, it’s business as usual here in southern Iraq. Memorial Day has come and gone, and unfortunately, one of my guys was one of the ones being memorialized this weekend. Please take a moment to remember his family in your prayers. He was a fine soldier and a great man. He will be missed by all who knew him.

As for me, I am nicely toasted and seem to be taking on a darker tinge to my skin. Yesterday, I saw the earth open wide and Satan himself came up, walked into my office, turned on a fan, looked at me and said “Man, it’s hot as crap out there!”

I got a bit of an education last week. I learned that “indirect fire” does not mean the enemy is not aiming at you. Way back in the Civil War (War of Northern Aggression, Second American Revolution, etc.) there was an artillery battery that was forced to move its gun behind a large hill. See, at the time, it was customary for cannons to be aimed directly at the opposing line of troops. The hill caused a bit of a predicament for the young Rebs who were manning the gun as it was the only thing standing in the gun’s line of sight. One of the soldiers quickly pulled out his Texas Instruments graphing calculator and calculated the arc that would be necessary to hit the line of Northern infantry on the other side of the hill. Such was the birth of “indirect fire.” In order to hit a known spot on the ground, one aims at a known spot in the sky, allowing gravity to take its course and guide one’s precious projectile safely to its target.

Last week, that target was ME! I took personal offense to this action, though I was not equipped with the proper munitions to counter said “indirect fire” (it’s IDF if you’re a cool Army guy). Alas, no matter how loudly I objected, the rounds kept whistling in and violently slamming into the terrain around me. Al Kut is definitely off of my “Places to Vacation” list.

Well, folks, I hope everyone had a good holiday weekend. Thank you to all who sent me packages. Everyone here is benefiting from the lift in mood they brought about. A, E, L, I love you!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Hello all! I don't know how many of you keep up with the weather, but it's been hot here. When I say hot, I mean HOT. The temperature has reached upwards to where you can actually turn your oven on and have it cooler than the ambient temperature. The average temperature here for this past week has been about 110-115 degrees. There's usually a breeze out there, but instead of making things feel cooler, they tend to make you even more miserable. It feels like someone has a hair dryer and is blasting hot air right in your face.

Now, I don't mind the heat, but it sure has put a damper on my running cycle. I have since taken to running indoors. I usually don't favor the treadmill. I tend to feel like a hamster on his wheel, running with all of my might, yet actually traveling nowhere. Futility at its finest.

No, give me the open road and 75-degree weather over that horrendous rodent-inspired contraption any day. Alas, there are no more 75-degree days to be had. For now, I will deal with the heat and press onwards toward the gym, where I can exercise in air conditioned comfort. At least until October, when it should start to cool off a bit.

Well, folks, I am sorry this was so short. Like I've said before, every day here seems like the previous one, so it's hard to come up with a new and intersting topic every day. Thank you to all who send me letters and packages.

Also, happy Mother's Day to all of the mommies out there. Mom, I love you. I know I'm playing with guns and running indoors over here, but I'm sure you understand.

To my wife, a special happy Mother's day. You are a true hero and my children are especially lucky to have you as their mother. A, E, L, I love you.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Observations from the Road

Hello, folks! It’s so wonderful to finally have some down time to sit and focus on my blog. Last week’s entry was a little hurried and I rushed to get something on the page to let you all know I’m still alive and well. As my friend Max used to say, “I’ve been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kickin’ contest.”

This week, I welcome a member of my favorite (dripping with sarcasm) service, the mighty United States Air Force, to my realm. He comes to me with 18 years of service and is dedicated to excellence. MSgt, welcome…Now, get to work.

I went out with some of the guys on a local mission and got some interaction with a few of the locals here. It’s amazing that a few pens and pencils doled out with a smile can make a kid’s day. I have attached pictures of the outing for your viewing pleasure.

Also amazing to me is how different this culture is from ours. In America, we have a government and we trust that government (sometimes) to provide certain services for us, such as promoting the general welfare and providing for the national defense. Well, here, the local tribe will take care of most of these issues. For example, the Sheik will have his people and all business that deals with his people will go through him. Business deals between the locals and the U.S. go through the Sheik and he sees to it that his people are taken care of. He is the negotiator and executor of all contracts dealing with his people. So, in exchange for water or use of a certain piece of land, or whatever, he ensures that the people on that land or who have right to that water are tended to. The Sheik has an incredible amount of power – more so, in most cases, than that of the government.

Another thing – Mark the Euphrates River off of my list of things to see. I find it incredible that this land used to be known as the Fertile Crescent. While there is vegetation directly on the banks of the river, there is literally nothing growing farther than 200 meters from the water line. It’s gotta be the global warming…Dang Babylonian kingdom with their chlorofluorocarbon-laden hairspray! What on earth were they thinking?

Enjoy the pictures and take care. A, E, L, I love you!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A week of farewells...

I must apologize for the length in between my posts. I have been extremely busy here. First, I must bid fair winds and following seas to my friend and coworker, Rob. He did his fair share of time here and it's time for him to go home. He will certainly be missed.

Next, I must bid farewell to Sir Boris Yeltsin. Though the press hails him as the champion of reform and democracy of the Eastern Bloc, there are those of us who remember things a bit differently. Were it not for folks like ol' Boris, I would have been unemployed throughout much of the 1990s. Thanks, Boris! Your neglect for your liver and subsequent mishandling of nuclear weapons, which led to a large portion of your inventory being LOST, sure kept the previous decade interesting for me.

Third, I must say good-bye to my beloved Navy-mobile. Other than the finicky starter and the horrendous outward appearance, it now has no power steering capability, nor will it stop by simply pressing the brake pedal. The emergency brake works, thankfully, or else I would have been a grease spot on the side of an Armored Security Vehicle today.

My first clue that something was wrong was the gushing liquid that filled the floorboard. It smelled like hydraulic fluid. It was hydraulic fluid. "Dangit!" I thought. "Why can't I steer anymore??? Oh Crap! Why can't I stop anymore!?!?!?" A few glimpses of my life before my eyes later, I had brought the vehicle to a halt. I guess the lowest bidder did build the Humvee...Problem is, mine was built by the lowest bidder about 20 years ago. They don't build 'em like they used to.

Well, I don't have much more to say this week. I am doing well here and people back home really love me. Thank you all for the packages, those who sent them. I can't tell you how much I appreciate them.

A, E, L, I love you!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Tradition Lives on...even in Iraq

Greetings all! Here are the pictures I swore I would post. The first is the chocolate bunny I got in the chow hall. Cute little guy, isn't he? Well, as you can see in the second picture, he's even better looking WITH NO EARS! MUUUAAAHAHAHAHAHAA....


Anyway, the other pictures of me screwing around at the Zigurat. The commander and I took a drive out there to grab some Kodak moments and found ourselves in the middle of a dust storm. Great timing on our parts, if I do say so myself. It adds to the ambiance of ancient ruins.

As you can see, I'm a regular Indianna Jones, even though my name is neither Indianna nor is it Jones. Whatever...I feel like a true archeaological pioneer. How many ancient ruins have YOU ever touched, huh?

Well, enjoy the photos. Glad I can share them.

A, E, L, I love you!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Pizza Night!


I write to you today the day before Easter. Yes, it's a wonderful day, that Easter. I remember the days as a kid, waking up, finding candy strewn around the house, and being sick of peanut butter eggs by nine, when we would go to Church and celebrate the resurrection of Christ (the real reason for Easter, by the way). Ahh yes, the pink and yellow peeps and the chocolate bunny rabbit whose ears were never safe from the likes of Dad...He always thought it hillarious to bite the ears off of the bunny. Now, looking back, I do too! E and L, I'm sorry I can't be there to celebrate Easter with you...and to bite the ears off of your bunny!

Anyway, things are going pretty well here. I start every day with a four-mile run, which helps to clear the cobwebs and puts me in a better mood to cope with the Army's way of doing things. I then spoil the runner's high by attending the first of many meetings of the day. Most have no purpose, but I go anyway because I'm not in charge and I follow my orders. Some, on the other hand, are quite handy and it is these to which I look forward. Those happen about once a week.

The meeting I look forward to the most is the weekly meeting of the EWOs at one of the local pizza joints. I figured it out, and if I just count those as a marker of time passing, every Pizza Night counts for 3% of my total time here. Therefore, I am almost 15% done with my deployment! We don't talk much about work at this meeting. It's mostly just a get-together and we talk about things like football, and the college basketball tournament, and so on. By the way, I came in dead last in the prediction for the March Madness basketball tournament. (YAY ME!) More than that, though, these meetings are a way for us to spend an hour or two not thinking about work. I know it's not much, but when every day seems to be the same as the last, you start looking for things by which to mark time.

Well, that's all for this post. I have some pictures I will post later on, but I forgot to put them on my flash drive. Keep checking for photos.
A,E,L, I love you!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

To Hooah or not to Hooah...

Salutations! I come to you today with a bit of a dilemma. It’s nothing major, nor is it anything over which I lose sleep. However, this issue occupies a goodly amount of my precious cranial resource whilst I am walking about the FOB. See, the Army has a way of greeting officers that is a bit different than the Navy. Yes, the right hand still reaches the brim of the cap in order to render proper military honors, but the difference is the additional step the soldier will add.

Every unit in the Army, I am told, has something for which it is known. These defining traits have been recorded throughout history and adopted by the individual unit as something of which to be proud. When saluting or greeting an officer, a soldier will reach back into his history files and pull out a catchy little phrase that reminds the soldier of that instant of glory and also defines said soldier as a proud member of said unit. Yes, even the Air Force has been known to participate in this tradition, possibly due to their former association with the Army in days of old. Marines…well, they just kind of grunt some unintelligible murmur that sounds like a cross between “hoorah” and “yut.”

The following are phrases I have heard just recently while walking around the base from our proud members of the non-naval services:
“All the way!” – My guys at Brigade like this one a lot…82nd Airborne
“Air Assault!” – I know this one from my father, who was, himself a member of the proud 101st Airborne.
“First to fight!” – Some National Guard unit from South Carolina, who, by the way, was NOT the first to fight, but is fighting now, making it worthy of this motto.
“Rock of the Marne!” – 3rd Infantry Division, remembering a time when they were surrounded and managed to pull out a victory none the less.
“Victory through Support!” – Yes, this one seemed gay to me too, but someone is proud of it.
“Air Power!” – from the guys and gals in (non-navy) blue, when they're not at the pool.
“Hooah!” – I take it that this is the generic greeting from a soldier, meaning he either has no proud motto, or wishes not to share it with a Naval Officer.

I understand completely. Pride and tradition certainly have their place within the rank and file of the armed forces of the United States. Here’s the problem, though. I have nothing to say in return. Do I repeat their saying back to them? Is there some sort of other saying that completes the original, signifying that I know the secret code for this particular band of brothers, marking me as a member of the club? But, I'm not really a member of the club! Or do I reply with a saying of my own? I could say, “Go Navy!” or “Electronic Warfare Power!” or “Peace through strategic nuclear deterrence brought about by the ever-lurking presence of a ballistic missile submarine!” or something of the sort, but all of my sayings seem forced or not authentic.

For now, I stick with the general “Good morning” or “Good Afternoon,” and sometimes the “How are you today?” types of response. Anyone who has something better, I am open to new ideas.

That’s all I have time for right now…Thanks for letting me get that off of my chest.
A, E, L, I love you!

Monday, March 26, 2007


Greetings to all! I wanted to update my page with some exciting news, but I couldn't think of anything worth posting or making fun of. I know I promised you photos, so here are a couple to hold you over until I can get more pictures of my shining face on here. A short description follows.

The first photograph is Al Faw palace in Baghdad. Currently, it houses the General and his staff. We acquired this beautiful piece of property from its former owner, Saddam Hussein, after finding that piece of excrement in a hole in Tikrit. His casa is now our casa. I honestly don't think he suffered enough at his hanging. Here is this beautiful palace, with solid gold script and fine marble lining the hallways, a giant throne room, with no other purpose but to make Saddam feel like he was king of something, and the people who lived here under that man were literally starving and dying in the streets. To top off my feelings of disgust for that man, there was a room dedicated in the palace to housing Saddam's harem, which was kept well-stocked with unwilling participants to be used and then murdered or thrown into the streets to be excommunicated from their families for being "unclean."

When Saddam was done with his daily fornication, drinking, and delusions of grandeur upon his throne, he would cross the road to his personal mosque, which is in the picture with the sunset. There, he would learn all there was that Allah had to say about such activities in the Quran. Maybe it was okay for Saddam to do such things. He did go to the mosque every now and then. What's an infidel like me know about the holy ways of Saddam anyway?

The Perfume Palace is another tragic story of the Saddam Hussein era. It was built for his brother's family, who were invited to live there and then were murdered for their efforts. I don't know if you have noticed, but there seems to have been a pattern with Saddam's despotism. It was a clear cycle of observation and then subsequent action. He would evaluate who was Saddam and who was not Saddam. Those deemed not to be Saddam were put to death (the subsequent action).

The fourth picture was taken here on Tallil. Since we have such a large contingent of Air Force personnel that share the base with us, we felt it necessary to provide them with the basic living essentials - food, water, swimming pool, etc. As you can see, the swimming pool is nothing more than a hole in the ground that fills when/if it rains here. I'm sure the Airmen here are receiving plenty of extra pay as compensation for days when the pool is closed. Something about substandard living conditions...

More pictures are on their way, so please keep checking back.

I have been doing well this week. My feet have finally healed to the point that running is no longer torture and walking is done without the slightest hint of a limp. My boots, after only three months of constant wear, are finally to the point where they are comfortable. Military boots are made by the lowest bidder, so the leather of which they are made is often the same texture as hardened steel when you first get them. It takes a while to break them in. So sweet it is when the breaking-in period is finally over.

I got a new room as well. No longer do I have to walk a quarter mile to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I now have rock-star access to the gym, showers, and the "latrines." The Army has their own language, I have noticed. The word "latrine," for instance, means water closet or rest room. Rooms in which we live are not called simply "rooms." No, that would be too simple. Instead, in an effort to assign every physical object an acronym, a room is called a CHU (Commercial Housing Unit). Why can't they just call things what they are, like the Navy does? Everyone knows that the floor is the deck, the "latrine" is the head, the ceiling is the overhead, the water fountains are scuttlebutts, the front of the vehicle is the bow and the rear of the vehicle is the stern, etc. Dang, the Army makes things confusing...

I hope you enjoy the pictures and everyone is doing well back home.

A, E, L, I love you!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

War Tourists

So, here it is. My first ever post on any kind of blog at all. Some have been receiving my weekly updates via e-mail, but this is so much more high tech! It's like someone gave me the keys to the castle...My very own web log!

Anyway, I am in Tallil, Iraq, fighting for the freedom of those who don't have it, and ensuring the freedom for those that do. No, I am not being facetious. I honestly believe that, and if you don't, you're free to tap on the "back" button and visit someone else and maybe, in the process, find yourself a buddy with whom you can burn the American flag and maybe smoke a bong, ya hippie. For the three of you still reading, I will continue...

Tallil is an interesting place, located about 20 miles south of Al Nasiriyah. Some of the locals still refer to the place as it is referenced in the Bible, and I imagine, in the Quran - "Ur." Yes, some of you scholars will recall that this, right here where I have parked my butt, is the birthplace of Abraham. Why he didn't stay here is beyond me...Maybe it's because there's nothing here but sand and the only thing one can see for miles and miles out here is more miles and miles. It's the most desolate wasteland I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

It does have its up side, though. Right here, within the outer perimeter of the base, there stands a 4000-year-old structure, called the Ur Ziggurat. Saddam wanted to turn it into a major tourist attraction, so he built information stands, a museum, and even renovated parts of the ziggurat itself. I guess the oil industry wasn't pulling in the cash fast enough...Anyway, before he could really get any kind of business, we dropped a plethora of 5000 pound bombs on the adjacent air strip, thus destroying virtually his entire air force. We managed to save the historical sights, though...solely for our ability to visit while fighting for freedom and the American way, of course.

I have attached a picture of myself in Tallil. I still have yet to extract the ziggurat photos from my camera, but I promise to get them to you soon. The picture here is one of myself, perched atop a hardened aircraft shelter that didn't quite make it. More to come.
A, E, L, I love you.