Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some Cheer--and Fear the U.S. Pulling Out

So, today is the day. The deadline that's been talked about for so long. The deadline that the previous administration worked out with the Iraqi government.

I read that there was a countdown on Iraqi TV last night...at midnight, they started partying and such. I guess I can say that it's a good time to be here, under the circumstances. A new government, military, and police/security forces taking the reigns from Coalition forces here. I hope they handle everything well.

The media has been going nuts about it of course. I've seen Gen. Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces here in Iraq, on TV more this week than at any other time. There is also a sort of dread or doom and gloom...the hardcore media asking if the Iraqi forces and powers that be can handle running their own country. This past week has seen it's share of bombings...all aimed at trying to throw everything in disarray. Our Soldiers have trained the Iraqis well. Let's hope that they use that training well because I've seen Afghan soldiers turn and run from a hot firefight. But...so far, the Iraqis have more pride and concern for their country.

I wouldn't want to see my child (or someone elses) come here in a military capacity. The bad stuff is what's going on across the border...in Iran. That's a whole other blog entirely...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Like a Blanket Across the Sky...

I think I'm getting pretty familiar with the weather patterns here. Yesterday, it was pretty hot again...around 122. After chow we came back to the MOC and I noticed that the wind was picking up and there was a light haze in the air.

The afternoon passed and we went to chow again (dinner). By this time, the wind had increased and I could see a darker haze off on the horizon. I told SGT Fardette that it looked like we might get a dust storm soon. We ate dinner and I went to my CHU for the night.

When I woke up this morning, I looked up at the window and noticed the tan/orange light streaming in through the blinds. Great, I thought. When SFC Quebec opened the door to leave, I peered outside and saw that a dust storm had come in. I got out of bed and got dressed. When I went outside to brush my teeth it was like I was on Mars. There was a light orangish tint to the sky and you couldn't see beyond 75 feet or so. The good thing about this weather when it occurs during the day is it blots out the sun's direct rays.

When I went by the thermometer, I checked the temperature. It was 98 degrees at around 0930. Nice. Usually, by this time, it's approaching 105. So, although the dust storm isn't the best type of weather to be in, it does help keep the temperature from rising.

On my way to the fuel point, I took a couple pictures to give people back home an idea of what it looks like here during a dust storm. Enjoy...

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Day in the Life...

Prologue - I've wondered if I've given an account of what I'm doing day by day. Some days ARE a little different than the last...but most days are the same.
Here's what happened today:

Wake up for PT.

PT was in the gym and you're on your own to conduct your workout.

Head back to the CHU for a shower, get dressed and head to chow (breakfast). Found out Michael Jackson died. Wow. He was the shizznit in the 80s and early 90s.

Walk to the media operations center for work. It was hotter this morning than any other and noticed that at this time, the temperature was already 100 degrees.

Start working. What did I do...SGT Logue and I went over to Lost Lake to drop off some memorial DVDs and grabbed some iced coffee. We came back and I sat down and checked my emails. We get around about 80 emails overnight and we have to sift through them to see what's important and what's junk. After that, I prepared five packages of newspapers to send out to the outlying brigade combat teams. I can't deliver to them so I mail the papers out. I edited a story and a photo release and by that time it was time to head to chow (lunch).

Walk to chow. It's about 3/4 of a mile and in this weather, it sometimes feels like it's longer. We walk over a bridge that spans a small canal and the fish and box turtles in the water are looking at us...waiting for food to be thrown down. What's for lunch? Chicken...chicken...but today I had pasta with a big salad. With this heat, you tend to drink more and have less room for food so I have to basically force more food down my throat.

Headed back to the MOC, watched SGT Logue and SGT Soles feed the fish and turtles bread and then headed to division headquarters because I needed to interview the division surgeon for my dental hygiene story. He wasn't there. I headed back to the MOC.

1326 - Took a picture of the temperature. See me in the reflection? 122 degrees! Ouch! Jumped back on the computer and I got three more pages done for the newspaper. Then, I headed over to the base's post office to mail off the newspapers that I packed earlier. After that I went to finance with SGT Risner.

After I came back, I ran over to division HQ again when I found out the surgeon was there and interviewed him. Great quotes. I stopped in the PAO cell and coordinated with MSG Conner for another story that I'll be doing. I ran back over to the MOC after the interview because I had to give a class to the other NCOs about leadership counseling.

Gave the class. It class was short, sweet and to the point and we talked about things that people miss or forget to do when you counsel a soldier. Right after the class, soldiers from the 225th Engineer Brigade dropped in for a DVIDS shoot. While they were waiting around, I jumped back on my computer and added the quotes from the surgeon to my story and let SGT Risner edit it. I have to turn it in to 1SG Martinez for final approval and then I'll send it off to division PAO.

(right now) - I'm typing this.

Chow (dinner) and I bet you it's chicken!

Afterward - Head back to my CHU...shower...relax and watch some TV or read a book until I get sleepy and go to bed.

Epilogue - My night-time schedule is going to change starting this weekend. I've joined a program that helps soldiers with English and math so they can increase their ASVAB score. The class meets six nights a week and I'll be working on their vocabulary, grammar, and paragraph comprehension skills. It'll be a welcome thing for me....I miss teaching.

So...that was about it for my day. How was yours?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day. Here, however, it feels like any other day. Hot. 118 degrees by lunch. There are probably a lot of dads back home BBQing, relaxing, and such. Some are getting the special treatment from their spouses, hugs and kisses from daughters...

Came in a little late today...it being Sunday. I noticed on the way to work that if you look carefully, you can see the remnants of the sand storm we endured last week on the poles, satellite dishes, fences, etc. On the poles, for example, there is a dark orange stripe running down the length of each of the poles that line the walkway alongside DIV HQ. It shows you that the wind was driving the sand and dust in that direction. Nature's spray paint job. The rest of the pole looks normal, a dull grey.

The day after that storm, someone sent 1SG Martinez some photos of the storm from close to the al-Faw Palace. Whoever that person is, they took some awesome shots. Kudos to him/her. Here they are:
The beginning...


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dust Storm Dominates Central Iraq

You know that feeling you get when it's cold outside and the much anticipated weather report had said that it's supposed to snow? You wait and hope. And then, the next morning, there is a blanket of white covering everything. You'd venture outside and marvel at the snow-covered silence and see your breath coming out in plumes...

But here, of course, it's the complete opposite. Yesterday was the beginning of one of the worst dust storms since we arrived back in February. At first, it looked like a normal, windswept day...hazy, very hot. But, after lunch, the wind began to pick up and the dust/haze in the atmosphere thickened. You could no longer see the sun, which was a blessing because that haze would keep our temperature at a respectable 105 degrees or so.

By close of business, you couldn't see 50 feet ahead of you. The sky took on a brownish/orange tinge and it was dark sooner than normal. When SFC Q (my roommate) walked in to our CHU, the wind was buffeting the outer walls and you couldn't see more than 15 feet ahead of you.

So I read my book in my room and sleep took me. I woke up this morning, got dressed as usual, and picked up my toothbrush and bottled water so I could brush my teeth outside. I opened the door and...slowly scanned the area. EVERYTHING was covered with a thick film of orange dust. If you haven't smelled the dust/sand of the Middle East, let me tell you, it's not appealing.

After scrubbing my teeth I went to chow and headed to work. Along the way, I marveled at how the dust clings to everything and gets into everything...EVERYTHING. It even makes its way into your CHU via the air conditioner...to lovingly coat everything you own. Not quite the feeling you want (unlike the snow), but you get it nonetheless. SGT Fardette said this morning, "At least snow is clean." He's got a point there.

The sign at Camp Slayer (this morning, after the storm) says it all, "Another Day in Paradise". Yeah.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Think Houston is hot?

We arrived here in Baghdad in early February. The weather was nice then...cool. Now, it's a virtual oven out there. The photo above was taken today in a covered area...shaded. 118...in the shade. The colors represent our heat category chart. It's over 100 everyday now. Osman, our in-house interpreter/translator, told me this is just the beginning. Have to be careful now when we get into a vehicle. Everything inside is heat-soaked and burns your hands. Wait until August...