October 11th, 2007

Generally I’m a pretty compassionate person, but there are limits.  Apparently that amazing ability of the human psyche to convince itself “that couldn’t happen to me” extends even to those living in a city in a war zone.

Call me crazy, but if you live in a city that has a serious VBIED threat I would think you’d probably be pretty careful where you park.

Well not this guy.  He decided there wouldn’t be anything wrong with parking his car on a busy market street that had been barricaded off (he had to drive over the sidewalk to get past the barricades), locking it up and wandering off to do some shopping.

Understandably, somebody got worried and called the authorities who called us with the rather predictable results (this isn’t the first suspected VBIED in Kirkuk and it won’t be the last) seen in the photo linked above.

Hopefully the guy learned his leason, I certainly enjoyed administering it.

The Golden Lady of Kirkuk

October 11th, 2007

So the other day on my way to a suspect VBIED I noticed this statue:The Golden Lady of Kirkuk

I asked our terp Mike about it, he said it wasn’t an actual person, but a personification of freedom for women in Iraq.  Pretty cool.

Trying Something New

September 26th, 2007

So, I’ve been back at FOB WARRIOR (a.k.a Kirkuk Regional Air Base or KRAB) for about a month now, and despite my best intentions I haven’t posted anything in the intervening time.  After some pondering as to why this is I’ve come to the realization that previously (i.e. in Afghanistan) I had more time between missions/call outs to write rather more lengthy posts.  Well, that’s not quite the case here in Iraq, so instead I’m going to try and post shorter tidbits when I get the opportunity and perhaps post more lengthy bits on my all-too-infrequent down days.  We’ll see how that works out, stay tuned!

The FOB Life

July 21st, 2007

9 July, 2007

What is a FOB you ask? FOB stands for Forward Operating Base, its Army speak for a smaller base, away from a main base that is used to expand the area that troops control. But wait, there’s more: the PB or Patrol Base, is an even smaller base used, oddly enough, to launch patrols from so troops can further expand their area of control.

Currently I’m operating out of a FOB called McHenry, outside of Kirkuk, and rotating to two PBs, BAKER and MILLET. We were sent down here about three days after getting to Kirkuk. FOBs are fairly rough compared to main bases (even deployed location main bases), but the conditions are definitely livable, we have (mostly) indoor plumbing, air conditioning (usually I’d call that a creature comfort, but in 120 degree plus weather, they’re pretty much necessary for those of us that didn’t grow up in this environment), and actual beds (more or less) to sleep in. We get to live in rooms made from modified Land/Sea containers and eat at a DFAC (Dinning FACility) that’s not a tent.

On the other hand there’s not much that will make you appreciate the comforts of modern living like a PB. Living in a tent in the middle of a desert country (not the rolling dunes kind of desert, more like the American West desert – scrub brush, dust, heat, various poisonous critters…) is a bit rough. With twenty or so cots to a tent there’s no privacy and because there’s no plumbing it generally smells pretty funky (you get used to that eventually though). If you’re lucky your tent has a couple of good AC units and stays below 95 during the day and you can stay relatively cool when not on a mission. At night the tent AC can generally keep up and you can actually sleep in relative comfort. On mission there’s not much you can do about getting hot, even at night its pretty warm and wearing 30 or so pounds of body armor and equipment tends to bring your temperature up a bit regardless. There’s also little in the way of outside communications at a PB. Other than military radio traffic and the occasional satellite phone call, there’s really now way to get in touch with the outside world. Mail only makes it as far as the FOB, and forget about internet. In fact, even at the FOB the only internet access we have is for half an hour at a time in the MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) tent, and the wait is usually about 45 minutes for a connection that makes dial-up look speedy.

For all of that though, life could be worse, we could be living out of our trucks with nothing but what we can carry, so I’ve got that going for me. So for those of you checking up on the site over the next month or two, it may be a while between posts but I’ll try and keep everybody up on the (fairly) current events here in Iraq when the opportunity presents itself.

FifthTime’s a Charm.

June 17th, 2007

So many, many moons ago I wrote a post about waiting to find out if I had been promoted followed by another post wherein I announced I had not been promoted and was somewhat bummed.  Well, this past Thursday the Air Force announced the listing of the newest Technical Sergeants and yours truly was on it.  Woohoo!  As the list was announced while I was at al Udeid in Qatar, I was able to take my ration card to the MWR tent and celebrate with two of my three federally authorized Strongbow hard ciders.  Yum.

 P.S. – For those that don’t know, I’m not actually a Tech Sergeant (TSgt) yet, I still have to wait my turn to “sew on” my new stripe, that should happen this fall some time.

And So It Begins…(Again)

June 17th, 2007

Hey everyone, it’s that time once again, I have departed my home and family for another rousing adventure in the cradle of civilization.  This time instead of Afghanistan though, I’m in Iraq, so I’ve got that going for me.  At any rate, after a stint in the worlds largest hair dryer (al Udeid AB, Qatar) I managed to get here unscathed, if slightly sandblasted.  So anyway, more to follow and apologies to anyone who’s been checking in for the past year and a half or so with not much to show for it, I’ll try to make it worth your whiles.  Take care all!

Time Travel

July 15th, 2006

Wow, so um, sorry to anybody whose been checking back since my last post, I’ve obviously been remiss! Not that it’s any sort of valid excuse but once I redeployed from Afghanistan things just didn’t slow down like they were supposed to, but I guess that’s the military life. Anyway, the return trip was uneventful, and after a couple of days in transit I was finally reunited with my family here on Okinawa in mid September. Flash forward 10 months (time travel, get it?) and here I am. The intervening months have been filled with all manner of exercises, inspections and various other missions that have, combined with enjoying my family, completely distracted me from pretty much everything outside this little corner of the world. So, once again, apologies to those who have been waiting for me to post for the last ten months, I’ll try and keep that from happening again.

Hey! You Can’t Do That to My Cannonball!

September 6th, 2005

From AFMAN 91-201 Explosive Safety Standards:

“2.12.4. Do not tumble, drag, drop, throw, roll, or “walk” munitions.”

Now, I realize that the general public doesn’t spend a lot of time reading Air Force publications, but it seems to me that treating any munitions item with care, even one that is over 100 years ago, is common sense. Apparently the guy in this article wasn’t aware that munitions can be hazardous if abused. I especially liked the bit where he “put the ball in the back of his pickup, where it rolled around for a year”. Granted, it probably wasn’t as dim as playing with unexploded munitions from more recent times but a cannonball exploding in the back of your pickup will still ruin your day. I also like his lackadaisical attitude towards detonations: “Sure, it could explode…” If it was just his life he was putting at risk I wouldn’t have a problem with his attitude, but when your driving around a metropolitan area with live ordnance in the back of your pickup there is definitely a question of public safety. The Anchorage Bomb Squad Sgt’s assessment of this guy is dead on.

Why? (Inspired by Mom, Hi Mom!)

August 29th, 2005

I was talking to my mom a while ago and I was trying to tell her a bit about what it’s like here in Afghanistan. During the conversation it came up that mom was trying to describe what I do in the military, what I am doing in Afghanistan and why I do it to an acquaintance of hers. Apparently there was some difficulty involved in explaining all three, but particularly the last. Hearing that got me thinking as to just why I do what I do.

The short answer is because I enjoy it. The long answer is, well, longer. The military has always appealed to me, even when I was really young I remember playing “Army” and G.I. Joe, all things military were cool. I love military planes, and I think my grandpa’s career as a military pilot, aeronautical engineer and test pilot might have had something to do with that, the fact the my dad flew for the Maryland Air Guard probably helped too. When I was a bit older and learned about my other grandfather’s service in WW II and my uncle’s service in Viet Nam it seemed to me that there was some small history of military service in my family, so that contributed. After high school I tried college, when that didn’t work out I contemplated joining up, but decided not to. Instead I decided I wanted to “do my own thing” for a while, so I went and got a job and an apartment and started living in the real world. I enjoyed working were I did, but I couldn’t shake the feeling it wasn’t what I was meant to be doing, I wasn’t really satisfied. Eventually I figured out what was going on, I wanted to do something to help out, be a part of something bigger and better than just me, and it had to be something exciting. Some of this I think also came from my involvement with the 1st MD Revolutionary War reenactment group. Learning more about how our country was formed gave me a better appreciation for how unique it is and helped solidify my desire to help defend it, and the best way to do that was to join the military. So that’s why I joined the military, somewhat simplified, but I don’t know that I could fully explain myself any better, I’m not that proficient a writer.

Once I got that bit figured out I had to decide what to do. Initially I wanted to do search and rescue, I figured you couldn’t get more helpful than that, plus it involved flying, jumping out of planes SCUBA diving, and various other activities that I’m sure would give my mother fits (not that I wanted to give my mother fits, it just kind of worked out that way). The selection process for Pararescue (Air Force search and rescue specialists) being what it is, I didn’t qualify and so needed to select another career, so I decided if I couldn’t rescue people directly I’d help some other way. Maybe it was the episodes of “Danger UXB” I watched on PBS at my grandparents house when I was little, but when I read the description of EOD amongst the various career fields available to me, I knew that was the one. Going through EOD School I discovered that not only did I enjoy the military life, but I was good at my job and enjoyed it too. There are quite a few reasons I enjoy EOD so much not the least of which is it’s challenging, there’s also a certain thrill involved in detonating large quantities of high explosives. There’s also the fact that by successfully accomplishing my job I’m saving lives, and in Afghanistan it also usually means I’ve denied the enemy a chance to do harm, always satisfying. So that’s why I’m in EOD. Again, the simplified version, but like I said above, I’m not sure I can explain it any better.

Anyway mom, I hope that helps.


August 29th, 2005

Hello all, I must apologize for my lengthy absence. It seems that some rather disgruntled individuals running around the Afghan countryside have decided they don’t like the idea of national elections and taken it upon themselves to try and disrupt the elections by blowing people up. My job being what it is I have been somewhat busy dealing with the handiwork of these people and it’s aftermath on some occasions.

On a different note, I have experienced another first today: my first instance of blog comment spam. When I logged in there were two comments awaiting moderation. When I checked them I found both were for online gambling sites. Imagine my surprise; I thought I only had to deal with this stuff in my Hotmail account. Oh well…

Anyway, I’m alive and well and hope to have another post up shortly. Speaking of shortly, I will soon be rotating back to home station and family, yeah! I should be passing through Baltimore for a few days enroute, so I’ll try and let everybody there know when I’ll be around as the crystal ball that is the Air Mobility Command flight schedule becomes less cloudy.