Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Down to Single Digits!!

Thirty things I'll miss about Iraq...

  1. Omnipresent aerostat balloon watching over me.

  2. Free food.

  3. Free gas.

  4. Free laundry.

  5. Wearing body armor = free exercise.

  6. Walking everywhere = free exercise.

  7. Running for bunker = free exercise.

  8. No cooking.

  9. No cleaning.

  10. No utility bills.

  11. No cell phone.

  12. No commercials on TV – and the military infomercials are so entertaining.

  13. No grocery shopping or trips to the mall.

  14. No yard work.

  15. No pesky “What will I wear this weekend?” dilemmas.

  16. Every volleyball court is a sand volleyball court.

  17. Bronchial rattle of hooch air conditioner comforting, reassuring.

  18. Two guns and a knife make me feel like a bad-a*s.

  19. The Gator.

  20. The bat house.

  21. Random weirdness, such as abandoned open box of Q-tips at bus stop.

  22. That fresh bubble gum smell of a clean port-a-john.

  23. Cha Cha wetting his pants.

  24. Bugging the engineers.

  25. “Jambo jambo!”

  26. Can always depend on a good giggle from Australian uniform “camouflage” (It has lavender hearts, I’m not kidding)

  27. World’s most beautiful palm trees.

  28. Bird song saturating the hot mid-morning air.

  29. Feeling of contributing to history.

  30. The friends I’ve made.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nuclear Fallout Day

I awake with a start when my roommate, Mouth, taps me on the shoulder.

“It’s Nuclear Fallout Day,” she says.
Shuffling to the trailer that’s our neighborhood’s collective female bathroom, I see what she means. It’s going to be one of those dusty, hazy days. The dust doesn’t whip around and pelt you, they way you would expect, the way it did in Kuwait. Here, it just settles in thickly. My boss calls it “Dirt Fog.”

Mouth slips eye-drops into her pocket as we shut the door to begin our 20-minute walk.

By the time we make it to work, my front teeth are gritty. The mosque across the street seems like it has a curtain of dust hanging in front of it. Some people are walking around with surgical masks, balaclavas, or even t-shirts over their faces. Inside, I rejoice that a group care package has a few toothbrushes left.

We have it easy, working in a building most of the day. I feel for the folks who will be out in the dirt fog all day, like the ECP guards.

Late afternoon is deep orange, like in the movie Total Recall. It’s eerie and indescribable. The mosque is now completely obscured. Our faces and eyelashes are coated with a light layer of dirt. Several of us drive to the next FOB over and visibility is about 100 feet. The lakes, chalets, and the palace that define this FOB are invisible. Vehicles have their lights on.

Here's the mosque across the street on a normal day:

The mosque on the morning of Nuclear Fallout Day:Here's the same view of the mosque on the afternoon of Nuclear Fallout Day:And we all feel it, the trepidation.

IDF (indirect fire -- mortars & rockets)) usually comes on days like this.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Dear Gentlereader,

It’s important to realize that not only does the Pecanbon product feature a generous topping of chopped pecans, but an extra layer of caramel goo, slathered right on top of the classic whitish Cinnabon goo! This is critical information when deciding how to celebrate a promotion in absence of alcohol.

Calories in Pecanbon roll:

Fresh-baked cinnamon roll topped with pecans and smothered in sweet caramel frosting

Manufactured by Cinnabon

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 roll

Amount Per Serving
Calories 1100
Calories from Fat 504
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 56.0g 86%

* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

The regular Cinnabon is also scrumptious, of course, and has a mere 730 calories; it’s practically diet food.

These vital stats have come to my recent attention here in Iraq. It’s a strange place; indoor plumbing is a rarity, but you can get Cinnabon.

A quick update: I’ve moved to a new job teaching people who do my old job. (My new office building, a Saddam-era bungalow, has indoor plumbing.) I’m really enjoying this new job! I have always found reward in teaching. Plus, I’m back amongst my shipmates, at the heart of this organization. In a way, it’s like “coming home” to the Navy. The casual observer, upon entering the building, may not realize he is among sea-farers in Army uniforms. But, certain subtle design elements of the d├ęcor hint “nautical”:

It’s springtime in Iraq, and the birds are singing and nesting. One species, the ring-neck turtle dove, is especially familiar and even comforting because my family used to keep them as pets. They coo differently here, though. I guess they coo in Arabic.

This pair decided our building’s overhang was ideal for a nest. Here’s Mama Dove looking down from the nest while Papa Dove keeps guard against weird chicks wearing camouflage.

Not all is Cinnabon, Sailors and doves, however. One afternoon the sky darkened, and everything turned orange – a stand storm. Thankfully there wasn’t much blowing sand like there had been in Kuwait and I’m sure there was in other parts of Iraq that day. It’s hard to describe what it’s like in a sand storm, but here is a picture of a nearby Mosque on a normal day and during the sand storm.

Also, I have a new plant, and I would appreciate suggestions for a name. Poor Spike has gone to the Big Greenhouse in the Sky, but this new one seems hardier. Thanks, Mom, for finding ways to bring green into my life.

On a last note, I have a request. Please read this article – it’s imperative.
You’ll see why. It is of much greater consequence than most “news” reported daily and far more important than anything I have to say. Note the difference between the terms “link” (could be financial, providing sanctuary, etc.) and “operational link.”

Keep the troops in your prayers!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

And Monkeys Might Fly Out of My…..

Assimilating into the Army has at times been hard.

Some days I truly feel like a squid out of water. Everything is new: acronyms, jargon, tempo, phone etiquette, unit organization, staff culture, acceptable jokes, the system itself. Anyone who has ever been a guest in someone else’s system can relate to how hard it can be to get things done. The division of labor among the battalion staff members is similar to the Navy’s, and just different enough to screw me up. The S-3 is kind of like a Squadron OpsO, but there’s nothing equivalent to a FRAGO in a squadron. The XO is an XO, but is also the head Maintenance Officer. The S-1 and S-2 are junior to the S-3. The S-6 is one of the most junior officers, but has about 15 people that work for him.

Having said all that, my Army comrades have been accommodating and forgiving of my blunders, and patiently answer my bewildered questions, such as, “Where is the convoy schedule?” (There isn’t one) and “What does ‘scunion’ mean?” (Still don’t know). They don’t really know what I do. Maybe that’s good because it’s less they have to worry about. I prefer to work behind the scenes anyway.

But it can all be isolating. After all, not only am I the weird Navy chick, I’m also the New Guy.


And as the New Guy, I should not be surprised to find this affixed to the back of my IBA:
Ha ha, guys. As payback, you can clean my musket, because I suck at that.

So what does this have to do with monkeys? Well, nothing makes a person feel more remembered, loved, connected and anchored to reality than mail from home! Thank you to everyone who has blessed me with care packages, letters, and emails. They really help. I am really lucky to have such caring friends and family.

One particularly blog-worthy presento came from a good friend of mine who was also a Navy IA in Iraq. (Sherm, they still talk about you.)

He knew just what to send: A Handheld Flying Monkey Launcher!!!!