Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bats, Mosquitoes and Booms

As I walked from my tent to the computer place to check email, I saw lots and lots of bats. This is a good thing because as the weather starts to warm up, the mosquitoes will start to get worse. I already have 4-5 bites and they do itch. GO BATS!!!

Booms: The other day my wife asked me if I heard the explosions on base. To which I answered “Which ones?” You see, in day to day life near Baghdad you tend to hear explosions all the time but they are always distant. They (us and them) are always blowing something up. Please don’t worry about me, I am safe and sound at the base.

I'll soon start my new job and finally get to work.....instead of training.

The picture above is of the barrier walls (called T walls) that protect most structures around the camp.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Another Day down

There are three things I'd like to talk about today; Army stuff, my next job and Apple.

The Army operates a lot differently than the Navy.

Point one: The Army considers the Army Physical Training (PT) clothing a uniform. Now I don't have a problem with that...in fact the outfits are a whole lot better than the Navy's. They have silky sweat suits that actually match and are somewhat decent; unlike the Navy sweatshirt and pants. The problem stems from walking down the street and getting saluted by someone in PT gear....I think that is just plan silly. The Army believes in saluting indoors and outdoors with or without headgear (Navy: Cover). The Navy only salutes outdoors and while wearing head gear. Now there are exceptions like during a ceremonial Change of Command indoors...salutes galore. My point is that the Army is different than the Navy.

Point two: Everyone in the Army says Hoo-ah and it has many meanings. It can mean good morning, or yes, or understood, or I am having a crappy day. Now as a Navy guy working with the Army, we are all getting acustomed to using the Hoo-ah term like a bad habit. I'm sure once I get back on the ship, I'll be quickly broken of the habit or be sumarily ridiculed.

My Next Job: I found out that I am staying put where I currently reside. I'll have to move to my permanent living quarters and learn my job. I cannot tell you specifically what I'll be doing, just know that I will be supporting the Army guys to WIN! Our class is being scattered all over Iraq. We'll see each other when we leave.

Apple: Arggg!!! My new MacBook has died. When we were leaving Kuwait to fly here, it was acting funny then all of a sudden no startup! After a bit of troubleshooting, I concluded that the Hard Drive (Seagate 60 GB SATA Piece of Crap!) went bad. I tried calling the 1-800 number using my AT&T calling card and guess what? It doesn't allow 1-800 numbers. I called the operator and asked and they informed me that the card doesn't cover those numbers and if I wanted to I could charge it to my credit card. I asked how much it would be and the response flattened me: $12.95 for the 1st minute and about 5 dollars for each additional minute!!! HOLY COW! I kindly said no thank you and when I went to work I used the phone there. It took me one and a half hours to get a new Hard Drive sent to me. I spoke to the Technical Support Engineer and explained the problem. His response was to send the computer to Apple to have it repaired. I explained that his solution wasn't viable (~5 weeks without a computer...NO WAY!). He directed my call to his supervisor and I re-explained my case with two possible outcomes; either he sends me a new computer or a new hard drive. He agreed to send me the Hard Drive. When I gave him my Iraq FEDEX mailing address I was further informed that they don't "DO" international shipping.....so so make a long story shorter, I had them send it to my wife and she is FEDEX'ing it to me. So I should have my MacBook back up and running by the end of the week....hopefully.

The picture above is of the pallets and pallets of bottled water outside of every location here....Stay Hydrated!

That's all for now.....Love to the ones I love!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

In Baghdad

Well, I made it safe and sound. We flew in last night and the last part of the flight was shall I say interesting. We were in no danger that we knew of, it was just the pilot making his combat approach. Fun. What wasn't fun was sitting in a regular aircraft seat with all my body armor and kevlar helmet on. There isn't much room to move around.

Let see, where did I leave off last time? In Kuwait we received some close quarters combat arms training in the desert. Shooting next to someone you trust is a must. It was almost like camping but much dirtier. I took a baby wipe shower one night and you'd be amazed at how much better you feel after one of those. It was nice to get back to the base and take a real shower and shave. The professionals that taught us all of our combat skills along the way have been superb. Lets hope I never have to use those skills. Nuff said.

The one item I keep patting myself on the back for buying in the states is a headlamp. I paid $14.97 at Wal-Mart (in the camping section...made by everready) and it has been by far the best investment for this trip. The lamp has four settings and in most places, there isn't enough light to read by, so with the help of my headlamp, I can read at night using the red light. Our bathrooms (Navy head or Army lattrine) are parked outside of our tents and sometimes it's a short jaunt to get to the little boys room. The headlamp lights the way. If you are headed out here or if you are going camping, this little light is a god-send.

Back to Baghdad. Today we did some admin stuff and went to the Al Faw palace (I'll post pics later). This was Sadam's premier palace and the place is gorgeous! One thing about Baghdad that amazed me was that, unlike Kuwait, there are trees here. Lots of them. The weather is warm-hot in the day and cool at night. A group of us went to the PX to see what was available. Didn't buy much except a power adaptor. We start our classes tomorrow and I should find out where my permanent location will be shortly.

To all those following my journey, thanks for your unwaivering support and to my loved ones, I miss you all! That's all for now.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

In Kuwait

I'm in Kuwait for the next step in my training. We flew out as planned and the flight was long but we were comfortable. The Flight Crew was extremely nice and took care of us during our journey. We landed at around 10PM local and by the time we got to the base, completed our in-processing, and got to our new homes it was around 2:30 am. Our schedules are all upside down. Most of us agreed to unpack and head to breakfast at first light. The hot shower made me feel human again. The chow hall here is very nice. The assortment and quantity of food is amazing and good. We all need to be careful not to over indulge and PT often. After making a call home, I laid down to re-cage my clock and slept until around 1PM local, then did some admin check-in stuff.

With our nice new homes, the bathrooms (Army Latrine; Navy Head) are located about 100 meters from our hooches. We have shower trailers and separate bathrooms. It's funny how the small things amuse people. As I was using one of the nice latrines (running water, flush-able toilets with a sink), I was looking at one of the hanging smell-good air-freshers and noticed that something was lost in translation. See attached picture for some silly humor. The sand in Kuwait is more like fine powder with dirt like qualities. The sky today was filled with sand. Visibility was about 5 or so miles. Very strange to have a bright day with a brown sky.

The base has a lot of basic creature comforts. We have a PX (post exchange), internet cafe, a phone center, a few fast food joints and even a coffee joint.

If you don't know already, I am into Geocaching and there are four geocaches very near to where I am located. I went in search of my first "combat" cache today and was successful with the find. We will start our training soon and I will post when I can.
I miss you all.....

Monday, March 12, 2007

NIACT Complete

We have graduated.

We finished up our Navy IA Combat training on Friday with a short graduation ceremony and a pizza party organized by a chaplain that was going through the training with us. He's quite a character and a really good guy. We gathered for a class photo with our Drill Sergeants. Our platoon achieved the highest pistol and rifle qual scores, so the Sergeants won the highly coveted Basic Rifle Marksmanship trophy pistols and belt. Spirits were high that we were done with this part of our training. Thursday we fired the BIG GUNS. The one I forgot to mention was the M-2 (MA-Duece -- 50 Cal). Wow, that thing is LOUD. Check out this link to learn more about the M-2.

We were told we'd fly out to Kuwait in Monday, so we had the weekend to goof off. Three friends and I went out in town to enjoy our last weekend of FREEDOM in a nice hotel. Oh the bed was so comfy. Sometimes its the small things that really make a difference. We went out to eat and had some well deserved rest. We went to the movies on Saturday (two of us saw Wild Hogs while the other two saw 300) and did a little book shopping at one of the chain stores.
I received a phone call from my brother and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was coming in town to see me. He and his wife picked me and my friends up and took us out to dinner. We had a great time. On Sunday all four of us had watch, so my bro drove us back out to the training center and dropped my friends off. My brother, his wife and I did a little shopping at the PX and then they were off to return home. It was VERY nice to see them and I thanked them for coming to see me before I left.

I also received a call from a friend from Pennsylvania. She was in town and said she'd like to see me. She was nice enough to pick me and my friends up from the base. Did I mention that it is a 60 dollar cab ride to downtown from the training center? She offered and we accepted the invitation to dinner. We ate at a place near five points in Colombia. Five roads diverge to a single location. The eatery was a local joint with delicious food and the company was good. It was really nice to see her and her little ones. We hadn't seen each other since DEC 2002.
I am blessed to have such great family and friends. Thanks for making my lastweekend (for a while) in the states a great one.

Love you all, especially K, J & C!!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Another day Closer to Iraq

Well we've been busy this week. We completed reflexive fire (that's where you shoot at close range with no notice), Close quarters combat, Convoy operations, and a bunch of other Army combat related drills to include marching. Uhggg, my feet.

On Tuesday we marched for about 1.2 miles to a mock town where we practiced Army stuff. When we were done, we marched back. I was really tired at the end of the day and even went to bed at 9pm. The days start early and end late.

Today, we did a practice convoy in 7 HMMV's (Humm-Vees). I got to play as a heavy machine gunner. I got to shoot (blanks) a M-249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon). I'll tell you that this weapon can thow lots of lead down range in a hurry. We also did a Land Navigation practical using the Army's Grid system and a Combat First Aid practical. Ah, new ways to navigate with a compass and your feet. We also got our transportation brief as to when and where we would be flying. It looks like Monday is the day, but that could still change, we'll see.

Since the beginning of my training, I've been issued four seabags FULL of stuff and now I'll have to drag it to Kuwait and Iraq. I've had to mail home some of my things so I can try to minimize down to three....we'll see. Tomorrow we get to shoot the big guns with live ammol. M-19 Grenade Launcher (Adapted from the Navy), M-240 (M-60 replacement, again adapted from the Navy), and the N-249 SAW. We will travel to the firing range at Fort Jackson and have old vehicles as targets to shoot.
Friday is Graduation day.....That's about all for now....out.
Hugs and Kisses to K, J &C!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

First Post!

Well, here it is, my first blog post. For those of you that don't know me, let me introduce myself. I am a Naval Officer with 23 years of active duty (12 years prior enlisted). I am an EA-6B NFO by trade, but haven't been in a squadron since 2002.

I was attached to an Admiral's Staff on a Carrier which was about to deploy for 3 months when I was informed that I would be heading to Iraq on a 9-month Individual Augmentation (IA). What does that mean? Well, I'll tell you. I will be assigned to a job somewhere in Iraq to support the ARMY. So, I've named my blog Today's NArmy (Navy's Army) to honor my time in country (or as others have told me: the big SUCK). I left home on February 11th, 2007 and I have completed two of my training stops and I am currently getting the best Army training that the Navy could afford at Fort Jackson, South Carolina with hundreds of other Navy types. The training is called NIACT (Navy IA Combat Training).

The training is basic Army stuff: How to shoot, how to wear your personal protective gear, etc. I've qualified on the 9mm (Expert) and on the M-16 (Sharpshooter?). This coming week we will be shooting some BIG guns....sounds fun. The days are long and I WISH that the military would equip us with comfortable boots. My feet hurt at the end of every day.

I miss my family: K, J & C I love you and think of you all the time!

That's about all for now. Later!