Monday, May 28, 2007

A Day of Remembrance

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. (source)

Memorial Day Poem by Moina Michael, 1915
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

To those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, have served, or are serving, I salute you and I will never forget.

Please take a moment at 3PM Washington DC time to remember those who have given their lives in the defense of freedom for our country.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sad Day...

Today was an especially sad day for me. Every evening after chow, I make a nice fresh pot of coffee with my 1-liter French Press coffee pot. After I share and finish my coffee, I head to the kitchen to clean out, wash and rinse my press for the next day. Well, I had just finished rinsing the pot and I sat it down and it tipped over and the GLASS BROKE! ARHGGG...Oh whoa is hoo!! Never fear, my blog-reading friends, my super-wife with her shopping super-powers has already sprung into quick action and hopefully by this time next week, I'll be enjoying some fine blends of freshly ground HIGH quality magic brown, COFFEE again. Yes, I am addicted to GOOD coffee. Until then, I am remanded to drink the Army sludge they call coffee.

As you enjoy your memorial day weekend, please keep all the folks in Iraq in your prayers. Especially these guys in the picture. They go out EVERY DAY and clear roads of road-side bombs. I ran into one of the drivers one day at the MWR and he told me had been blown up twice in one day. He seemed to think nothing of it other than that was his job and he knows his job saves lives.

All my LOVE to K, J & C!! I hope you enjoy the NEW iPod Nanos!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Beauty Found

Even in a place like HOT and DIRTY IRAQ there is beauty. I know it's hard to believe, but there is beauty all around. Even though it gets hotter than heck, there are still green spots around the town. Last night I was showing someone around when I spotted this falcon flying around. I grabbed my camera w/zoom lens and snapped a few photos. There were actually two of them and I believe they were hunting for dinner. Isn't the falcon majestic and beautiful? I started to look around and spotted some other things of beauty. This next picture is of a local farmer doing his thing...taking care of his crops and herding his sheep. He's not out there trying to kill Americans. He's surviving off of the land. You see, not everyone over here is trying to kill us. In fact, if you look at the statistics from this war compared to VIETNAM, we are doing very well. Although we continue to lose people on a daily basis, the numbers remain extremely low compared to Vietnam. It seems that the Democrats are trying to make the US Military suffer (No Funding), make Bush look bad (Bush's War), and make this war a Political Party issue. We have so much stuff over here, it would be impossible to pull out in a year. There is beauty in everything, you just need to stop and look around every once in a while.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Heatin' up!

Well folks, late last week after the storms it cooled down to the high 80's and low 90's, but this week the temps are in the 110's and IT IS HOT and it's only going to get hotter. Today was 105, but it felt like 98 according to the weather guy. I guess the 5-10 knot breeze helped to make it feel like it was cooler....but it's still like a dang oven here. The humidity is low (15%) so it feels like when you get the whoosh of hot air when you open your oven. I really feel for all those soldiers that have to wear their Body Armor and Kevlar helmets in this HEAT!! Our DOC gave us a preemptive warning about running between the hours of 11am to 3 pm. That's when the heat is the worst and you could suffer from heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. So I have moved my daytime running to later in the afternoon...but it's still hot. Air conditioning makes life over here tolerable.

The picture above is of another Palace directly across (or behind) the Al Faw palace. There are more palaces here than you can shake a stick at...some people call the funny dome "the juicer" palace because the top looks like a juicer.

I miss AMERICA especially my family. Love you K, J & C!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Today I was out and about when it started Mudding. What is mudding? Well, that when it rain becomes mud because there is so much dust and dirt in the air. So instead of it raining, it was mudding. I was in the truck and at first I thought the "rain storm" would clean the truck, but every few seconds I had to squirt the windshield to help the wipers remove the mud drops. It was like I am in some sort of bizzaro world. The truck ended up dirtier than before. In the early evening, we had a big thunder and lightning show and a pretty good down pour. After the storm, the air smell pretty clean, but I'm sure by tomorrow the air will filled with dust and dirt quickly.

Toby Keith is coming to Baghdad on the 22nd of May. Hopefully, some of us are going to see the early afternoon show at a nearby FOB.

I am doing well and I am very safe. I love you K, J & C!!

The picture above is of a burned out hulk near Baghdad International Airport...not sure of any's been there a while.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

To all the Mothers out there:

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope your day was special. Remember, We all have mothers and they decidedly brought us into this world.

To honor all Mothers, here's a poem for you:

Before I Was Myself, You Made Me, Me
Nicholas Gordon

Before I was myself you made me, me
With love and patience, discipline and tears,
Then bit by bit stepped back to set me free,

Allowing me to sail upon my sea,
Though well within the headlands of your fears.
Before I was myself you made me, me

With dreams enough of what I was to be
And hopes that would be sculpted by the years,
Then bit by bit stepped back to set me free,

Relinquishing your powers gradually
To let me shape myself among my peers.
Before I was myself you made me, me,

And being good and wise, you gracefully
As dancers when the last sweet cadence nears
Bit by bit stepped back to set me free.

For love inspires learning naturally:
The mind assents to what the heart reveres.
And so it was through love you made me, me
By slowly stepping back to set me free.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Competition and Blogging

The military is full of type 'A' personalities. I know this is not a surprise to all of you, but yes, there are competitions of all sorts to pass the time. Last Friday there was a boxing match on one of the bases in Baghdad to see who was the strongest in the ring. I don't know about you, but I think boxing is pointless. I did box when I went through flight training way back in 1986. I did so because I had to not because I wanted to. We had a match each week to work each of our skills; week one was jabbing, etc. For the first 4 matches I was paired up with someone that was about the same build and we faired well against each other. Two days before the last "all out" match, some sailor rolled into our class and they re-distributed everyone in my weight class. Wouldn't you know it, I was now up against this guy that was 6'3" with an arm-reach of a gorilla. I got the living crap beat out of me. In all fairness I did get ONE GOOD gut shot on him, but that only made him more mad and his hits only came harder. Thank goodness the match only lasted 2 minutes. My instructor told me that I did the best I could considering. Anyway, the idea of two people beating the crap out of each other to prove who is better just doesn't make sense to me. So, it seems in order to pass time soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen come up with all kinds of goofy things. Just the other day I was showing a soldier how to spin a football on the ground. Shortly thereafter it became a competition to see who's ball could spin the longest. Silly games do pass the time.

I read a lot of other blogs of Sailors just like me. (See column to the right labeled "Other NARMY Blogs"). Some of our experiences are very similar and some couldn't be further apart. We all do about the same thing for the Army. I saw this comic called Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis yesterday in the Stars and Stripes and I just had to put it in my's just too funny. It's a newer comic that is very well written. It's been touted as the Seinfeld of comics. Another day down and another day closer to coming home. To my wife: I hope you enjoy your Mother's Day flowers; I love you. To my kids: I miss you and love you!! To everyone else, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Speed bumps, Prison (Part 2), and News

Speed Bumps:
I've told you all before how horrible the roads are in Iraq. I was picking up someone from the military side of Baghdad International Airport and on the way there is a VERY bumpy road with lots of SPEED BUMPS. Now I am not talking about your standard Wal-Mart speed bump, I am talking about big honking speed bumps. Some are made of rubber, some out of asphalt and some are made out of old retired tank tracks laid across the road. These speed bumps are laid out along the VERY bumpy road to control speed. Not as if the bumpy road wasn't bad have to drive 5-10 miles an hour so you don't lose a kidney. So, there I was behind a 5-ton truck, which is about 10 times larger than the Toyota pickup I was driving. We stopped at a stop sign and right after the stop sign is one of these LARGE speed bumps. I am thankful I waited a little bit because right after the 5-ton clears the speed bump, his BIG GIANT spare tire tumbles off the truck headed for me. OH MY!! were my first thoughts...and then "OH, what a cruel way to die in IRAQ, by the hands of a spare tire." (Not really....but that is funny). No, the tire careened off of the road and landed on the shoulder. I immediately honked my little truck "beep beep" horn and flashed my lights (This was all at night). Well, the truck driver slowed down for about 2 seconds and then started to re-accelerate. Once I was clear of the stop sign/speed bump combo, I pulled up right next to him and told him about his wayward spare tire. It was some Private and I am sure he was thankful because he probably would have had to pay for the lost tire. The rest of the journey was un-eventful.

Prison (Part 2):
I've been running (or as Ron Burgundy would say Jhogging with a soft J) along my prison walls and I finally got a picture to share with you all so you will all see the uncanny resemblance. The only problem is that I have been running in the afternoon and it's starting to get H O T, H O T! Only about 95 degrees and so far it's been a dry heat. I ensure that I am hydrated before each run and by the time I get back to my room, my shirt is soaking wet and the cool air conditioning in my room feels wonderful. Thank you Mr. Stuart Cramer & Mr. Willis Carrier! We will all be forever grateful.

We got most of our news from the AFN Europe Television and Stars and Stripes (Middle-East Edition). They print and distribute the S&S paper with stories from around the globe along with local Iraq war stories about what's going on and who's who in the zoo. My favorite article is called "What's up with that?" On Sundays, we get a separate insert that has 4-pages of educational, I mean comics. :) I really do look forward to Sundays....and Fridays too! Two reasons for Friday: First, it's flight suit Friday. The only day of the week when I can wear my Aviator Jammies and actually wear my NFO wings. I am not allowed to wear any devices other than Rank, Name, Branch, and US Flag on my Army Combat Uniform (ACU). Second reason, is that Friday's are Steak, Lobster, Crab and Shrimp night. The Shrimpies are good and the steak is hit or miss, but then again that's why they invented A-1 steak sauce. That's about all from Baghdad.

The picture to the left is of one of my recent GeoCache finds called "Hero's Cache" near Camp Victory. The bullet holes are real and it's where Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, US Army, earned the Medal of Honor in April 2003. Please read this hero's story here. It was truly an HONOR to stand in the shadow of a giant. He is just one of many that have made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. NEVER FORGET THAT FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!

K, J & C, I love, miss and think of you all the time.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tanks a lot!

Tanks a lot:
The other day when I went to Camp Slayer (same place as the water palace in the previous post), I saw a pile of tanks. These were Iraqi tanks that have been in the same location since 2003. I could tell that the tanks had been burned badly and one of the turrets was blown off. There are four tanks at this location. This, now safe, area that I am standing on was a war zone. It's hard for me to fathom the amount of destruction that took place during the beginnings of the war. I certainly see war scars everywhere I look, but several years have passed and most of the wounds have healed. Some of the scars are still visible if you look for them. These scars include destroyed buildings (previous post), and bullet holes in walls and buildings, etc. The areas where we work and live are the safe zone, but outside the guarded walls it's a completely different story.

Now if you really want to the truths of war and which political party has killed more Americans for the cause of war then click HERE.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Shootin', Re-arrangin' and Narmy-isms

The other day we went to the shooting range to keep our marksmanship skills. I shot my M-16 (5.56mm), M-9 (9mm) and my buddy's M-4 (5.56mm) with laser sights. I was given a complement: My shots were pretty tight using 'IRON' sights. When I shot the M-4, my groupings were very tight. Pretty neat. I also got to shoot in the Auto mode....which means the weapon keeps firing until you stop pulling on the trigger. I was told to shoot in burst. Well, I held the trigger down for a while and don't you know my bullets walked right off the I know why you shoot in bursts. All in all it was fun and the range time furthered my confidence in my shooting ability.

My third roommate moved out (he transfered) and so my other roommate and I re-arranged the room so we each have have of the room as our private space. I can't tell you how nice it is to actually have a 'room' instead of a walkway. The picture to the right is my 'new' room. One of the supply guys hooked me up with an Army Folding Field table. I'll make sure I take care of him for taking care of me. Now my laptop has a place. In addition to gaining more personal space, I also inherited a nice chair, a lamp, a new comfy bed, and a marble coffee table. The picture to the right is my new setup. The opening to the armoire is on my side of the room so still have a closet. My desk is just around the corner from the fridge on the left. The mattress on the bed is a new mattress that has built in springs and cushioning. In addition to all this, my roommate had an internet connection on his side of the room so I bought a wireless router and now i have internet at my desk too.

The Navy has a buddy system and in the Navy you call your liberty buddy a 'Shipmate.' A shipmate is someone you can rely on to keep you safe and take care of you of something were to happen. In fact, in all foreign ports, you cannot leave the ship unless you have a liberty buddy (or Shipmate). It's always safer when you travel in pairs (or more). In the Army, they call it your 'Battle Buddy' and in the Air Force, they call it your 'Wingman.' In Naval Aviation, we use the term Wingman as well. The reason I bring this up is because there ARE differences between the services, but we all have a buddy support system. You always take care of each other. Where I work, I don't hear a lot of Hooah-ing going on, but we do take care of each other.

The job is was doing on the Ship was a Staff job. Most people can smell a staff weenie a mile away. Well, the job I am doing here is very close to a staff weenie job but for and with the Army. I sit at a desk and communicate and coordinate. Almost the same way we do it in the Navy. In the Navy staff world, we have a code system to define each person's job. For example the N-3 is the Operations Officer. The only difference here is that instead of N for Navy they use S for Army? Go figure.

The other day, I finally made it to the post office before it closed (they work 9-5 M-F and 9-4 on Saturday and 9-1 on Sunday) and was able to mail off a few goodies to repay some kindness that you have all shown. Anyway, after the post office, I was able to do a little GeoCaching. I found four more caches at Camp Slayer. The picture to the right and left are of a Water Palace. The place is surrounded by water. It appears that the right side of the building was demolished during the start of the war back in 2003.

On the 27th, I added the web-counter to the right and I can't believe how many people view my log everyday. I will attempt to post more often now that I have a connection in my room. That's about all for now. To my loved ones, I really appreciate all your sacrifices so I can do my job over here. Know that I love and miss you all very much and I couldn't do it without your support.