Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve 2009

So I'm sitting here...oh, incoming. Lovely.

Okay, it's about three hours later. I had literally just taken one sip of my Coors Fake Beer and started typing when Big Voice announced incoming. The fake beer isn't anything to write home about, by the way. It tastes like a very weak light beer at first sip, but there's something missing...besides the alcohol, that is.

I was fixing to write a post about the other night, when I had occasion to listen to two Army chaplains have very lengthy and quite in depth discussion about Star Trek, all of the spin-offs, each of the movies, many of the characters, and Gene Roddenberry and his humanist views and the role his agnosticism played in the series and movies. They then delved into a comparably in depth discussion about the Star Wars franchise, the morality of each of the main characters, and how the Jedi compared to Buddhist monks.

It was a hilarious conversation to listen to, and I fear I lack the ability to convey just how geeky and surreal the entire experience was. I was going to try, though, until Johnny Jihad decided to help us celebrate New Year's Eve by throwing some ordinance our way.

So instead I threw on my IOTV (body armor) and helmet, got a headcount of my boys, and waited for the all clear. Then we trotted over to the Area Defense Operations Center(ADOC) and got accountability of everyone. Then we got flashlights and did a sector search of the entire camp, making sure there wasn't any UXO sticking out of the ground anywhere. This took awhile.

I was escorting a couple of civilian reporters and an Army Public Affairs journalist around while all this was going on. Mainly that consisted of me standing around while they followed the soldiers around, taking pictures of them scanning the ground and peering under vehicles with flashlights. By one barracks was the remnants of an abandoned party, grilled hamburgers growing cold on paper plates, near beer getting warm on picnic tables. Kinda sad, really.

Finally we checked the entire camp and we were allowed to stand down. We were informed that at least seven mortar rounds were fired, and at least two of them struck one of the adjoining camps, destroying some vehicles and wounding two soldiers. How badly I don't know.

So that's my New Year's Eve. I'm back in the room and in ten minutes, it'll be 2010. I'm polishing off another Coors Fake Beer and about to call it a night. I wish I had a real beer. I'm tired and my back hurts. I miss my girlfriend. It would be nice to be on a crowded dance floor with her somewhere, doing the countdown. Kissing.

Well. Maybe next year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Merry Chrisemas


Well, it's Christmas. I took my boys out for a short run this morning. Everybody took the day off, but not PSD. On our walk out to the running track, I butchered 'Fairytale of New York' for them. None of them had heard it before. On the march back, we sang Christmas carols. 'Jingle Bells'. 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer'. The first verse of 'Frosty the Snowman', because nobody could remember the words to the rest.

Back in July, my company commander told some guys that I'm a Scientologist. I've played along. About half the company believes it, with the other half suspecting I'm pulling their legs. Sometimes somebody will ask me about Tom Cruise or L. Ron Hubbard, trying to push my buttons. I always play it very serious. This morning, one of my boys decided to go there.

"Sergeant, are we out here doing PT on Christmas because not all of us believe in Jesus?"

"Drop, you. Do pushups."

"One, Staff Sergeant. Two, Staff Sergeant. Three, Staff Sergeant..."

I formed the rest of the platoon into the Extended Rectangular Formation.

"Extend to the left, march! Arms downward, move! Left, face! Extend to the left, march! Arms downward, move! Right, face! From front to rear, count off! Even numbers to the left, uncover!"

I bent down to where my young smart ass was dutifully pushing. "Twenty three, Staff Sergeant. Twenty four, Staff Sergeant.."

"Listen up, you. You mock my belief system again, and you will be a very unhappy young man. You got that?"

"Roger, Staff Sergeant."

"Recover and fall back in."

Anything to pass the time.

It's just another day here, pretty much. We had a White Elephant gift exchange for the company. I donated some bootleg Hajji movies. The Men Who Stare at Goats. Bad Lieutenant, Port of Call: New Orleans. The Maiden Heist. Armored. The quality isn't that great on some of them, some guy with a video camera in the theater. Others are DVD quality. Roll of the dice. $3.00 a pop, or four for ten bucks.

We've been here twelve days now. We are on the Victory Base Complex, near BIAP. My company is on a very small FOB within another FOB. I can't say too much about it, although it's all over the internet if you know where to look.

We have everything we need here, and life isn't too bad. We are living in the only hardstand barracks in theater, three to a room, but indoor plumbing so, hey. Chow hall is a very short walk, and the food is typically decent Army chow. We have an AAFES trailer here, and a decent gym and MWR.

I am the battalion commander's PSO, Personal Security Officer. His tactical bodyguard, in other words. I'm in charge of a ten man Protective Services Detail. Our job is to provide the BC, the Boss, with close-in protection whenever he goes outside the wire.

I've got a good bunch of boys. They're young and motivated and hardly a knucklehead in the bunch. They do keep me entertained, though. Funny little bastards. I've got a buck sergeant and a corporal to help me keep them straight. They are good boys.

We haven't run any missions yet. I don't know when we will. Or if we will. That pleases my girlfriend. It doesn't look like the Boss will be going outside the wire much, if at all. The war is winding down. The days of door kicking and meet and greets with tribal leaders and sheiks are pretty much down for. Sort of leaves me without much of a job. The vultures are circling, other section leaders licking their chops, wanting to strip my PSD of manpower to backfill their own sections. Free labor. Spare bodies.

We keep busy. We PT every day, run battle drills, work on formations, arrivals, departures. The BC knows we need to learn the area, get outside the wire, get a feel for things. I think he feels bad, knowing how much work I have put into building this PSD, and realizing we might never be used as we had envisioned.

He has me hitting up the other line companies who are going outside the wire. Trying to get my boys seats on some of their missions, strap hang so we can learn the routes and all. Maybe in a few days. Maybe tomorrow.

Today, everybody is lazing around, grazing on care package candy and cookies. I got one that had original crayon art by Hannah, a second grader from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, wishing me a Happy Merry Chrisemas. Included was more candy than I will eat in a year, some hygiene items, a Danny Thomas CD, and an ancient copy of Harold and Maude. We had an OPSEC briefing earlier from a guy in a blue polo shirt with an M9 on his hip and a tribal tat down his left forearm. Now, some of my boys are grilling burgers and shooting the breeze. The chow hall, like all chow halls today, should have a pretty decent Christmas spread.

Other than that, it's just another day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On to Iraq

Well, we are leaving for Iraq in about eleven hours. Nobody is sad to go. It's one step closer to getting home, really. Plus we get out of these tents and into some proper barracks.

Tito Ortiz, the MMA fighter, was here today. Some of the guys went and got their picture taken with him, got an autograph. I didn't bother, the line outside the USO was a little long. All the same, it's nice that he took the time out of his schedule to come visit the troops.

A few days ago, we escorted a bus load of soldiers out to a range. Most of the area we were in is filled with UXO, which means unexploded ordinance. That's Army speak for bombs and munitions that haven't gone off.





Along the way, we passed a Kuwaiti artillery unit doing some live firing, and some camel herders with their camels. Guess they aren't afraid of the UXO. They should be, because I hear a few of those guys get killed every year wandering around out there.





Thursday, December 10, 2009

Overheard in the Army

"I already speak a second language, Rock. It's called success."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Buehring

We are at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. It's not very nice here. It's been pretty clammy and cold and damp. Plus I'm coming down with something. Sinuses are stopped up. Throats tight and hot. Head hurts.

It's muddy here. Sand gets everywhere. We are crammed into big tents, sleeping on cots. No space, no privacy. It's loud and dirty. Lots of people are getting the crud, coughing, sneezing.

The amenities are nice, though. There's a couple of decent chow halls. A big PX. Lot's of MWR stuff. Taco Bell. Pizza Inn. I'm sitting in a Starbucks, even. So could be worse.

We have had some mandatory training and some mandatory briefings. These are the same mandatory training and mandatory briefings we have already had once or twice before. I guess those first couple of times didn't count.

I have been sending my guys down to the airfield, a couple of hours away, to meet incoming flights. Some of these were PSD missions with the Battalion Commander, but mostly they were just Force Protection missions, to let them learn the roads and get some missions under their belts. I did one night before last with three of my guys. Took most of the night. Other than taking a long time and a few close calls with Kuwaiti drivers, it was uneventful.

Now all my guys are here. We had two come late. One came on a cargo flight, escorting gear, and another came late because he had a baby born a few days before Thanksgiving, and we got him some paternity leave. Everybody is on the ground now, and we are just finishing up what we have to do before we move into Iraq.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Enroute

We leave tonight for Kuwait. We have a couple of fueling stops along the way. I don't know how long the flight will be...long, is all. Maybe I can sleep.

My unit mobilized in September for our train up. We did a few weeks at FT Hood, then flew out to McGregor Range, north of FT Bliss. We have been training the last couple of months. We're about as ready as we are gonna get. We will be in Kuwait for two or three weeks, then on to Iraq.



I took a walk around McGregor yesterday afternoon. It snowed overnight, and everything looked about halfway pretty. It was gone today and everything was muddy. McGregor Range is a mobilization point for units enroute to Iraq and Afghanistan. There are many large concrete barricades/boxes around McGregor that are similar to the T Barriers in Iraq. Some units passing through have painted their unit symbols on them. I took a few pictures of them on my walk. I'll post some of them in a few days, when I get an internet connection. Here is the one my unit did.



Okay. Time to go.

Echo

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