Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shutter Bug

Here are a few photos I've taken of places/things here so far.

This is one of the mosques that poke up out of the skyline of Baghdad. This one is across the street from the al Faw Palace. I was dropping off two of my guys at the helipad early in the morning.

This is a sunset view from the porch of our building. It's in front of a lake many here call Z Lake. People run around that thing everyday.

I saw this sunset today when I ran out after a Soldier who forgot something. I ran right back in the building to get my camera and get this shot. I guess I should carry the dang thing around with me.

More to follow in the coming days and weeks....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Day Is It???

Ok. I had to stop and blog. I've done 10 pages of newspaper layout today and I'm tired. Time to ramble and relax my mind.
The other day we had a dust was bad. On a nice day we can see the al Faw Palace from our building's porch. Looking at the picture, you'd think nothing is off in the distance....but it's there. It's been really nice weather these past few days. Clear skies, cool mornings and mild temperatures in the daytime. When summer hits it'll feel like a white-hot hammer out there beating on you.
We're all working pretty hard on our print and broadcast projects. I don't get to go here and there writing about what soldiers are doing. That may come later. SGT Risner and SFC Quebec work in division headquarters. You can say a lot when you look at SGT Risner behind SFC shows Quebec's uncanny ability to sleep whenever, wherever, and SGT Risner's way of releasing the day's tension from work. Rock on.
MAJ Daneker and 1SG Martinez went on a cleaning rampage in the break room today. They tend to tag team on things like that. It's pretty well-organized now as compared to our print room where we work. Our room is organized chaos. As they were chucking stuff out, they found some bags that were full of little stuffed animals. They dumped them all out on the floor in the commander's office and we proceeded to frolick in the fuzziness. It was fun for five minutes. The animals were bagged up once again and will be distributed to the little kids of Iraqi via our friends in Civil Affairs.
I've started getting mail too. That's a freakin' awesome thing to look forward to when you're deployed. I've already gotten an espresso machine (gotta get my fix!), and I'm going to get some coffee from Deidrich's and Starbucks. Man I miss Deidrich's. The Green Mountain Coffee place is really good here. Iced. White. Chocolate. Mocha. Mmmmmm.
Started my workout schedule yesterday. I was glad I got to the gym when I did because at 8pm, there was a bench press competition for guys and gals. What a mess that created. I've been stuffing myself at the chow hall too. They give you all the food you want and more...and it's good. We'll see how much I gain this time.
My wife told me that my daughter is learning a lot of new words and using phrases. I miss them. I have a cell phone here and I'm able to call them once in a while. She'll be turning two soon.....
Ok. It's almost 10pm and I've gotta get back to my hootch, take a shower, and hit the bed. Tomorrow, when I wake up, I'll start this all over again.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Working Out the Kinks...

Here at Camp Liberty, I'm getting a little more organized and into the flow of things. Housing arrangements, check, got my CHU...and thanks to SFC Hilton, we have a TV, a fridge, and converters in our room. Food, always good on a deployment...and you can get it anytime. Work, check, I will be working on the 1st Cavalry newspaper layout, The Crossed Sabers. Anyone can access it on While I'm doing that, I will help out in the print section and maybe even be able to get out a do a story.

Most know I like Starbucks. A lot. I've discovered Green Bean Coffee and man, that is some dang good coffee! I've fallen for the iced white chocolate mocha. Every espresso-based beverage they make has two espresso shots--minimum! Mmmmm.
I went to the al-Faw Palace again today. A few more needed MND-I badges and the other three wanted to look around. I took a picture of the large chandelier in the middle of the building. SPC Anderson took a picture of me sitting in the famous chair.
Pretty soon I'm going to start getting my butt in the gym. Last deployment I gained 25 lbs. I hope to do that may be a little more difficult here due to the heat in the summertime. If you drink more liquids, you sometimes don't eat as much.
I've been kicking myself in the butt because I haven't had my camera with me to take pics of my goings-on. Time to head out to stomach is talking to me. Oh and in the last picture, check out the landscape behind me...that's Kuwait. Nothing much grows where we were. We were at the 'range' to shoot off some rounds with our M4s and our M9s.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Gears Need Some Greasing...

Today is Valentine's Day, the first 'holiday' we 'celebrate' here in Iraq. Happy Valentine's Day everyone. I've been running around all day today. First we finally moved into our CHUs. Cozy little setup there. Gotta hit up the PX for creature comforts now.
After lunch, I ran over to Division HQ to prep for my new job: layout and designer for the Crossed Sabers, the 1st Cavalry bi-weekly newspaper. I'm going back and forth between there and the MOC because I'll be doing that and managing the print journalists. We're going to be pretty busy.
It's just slow getting that start because of admin issues, housing, and learning where everything is. Fun. Can't wait to get into a regular schedule.....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On Your Mark...

After our trip to Camp Liberty, moving around 4000 lbs of our equipment, hooking up with the unit that we're replacing, and getting kinda settled in, we're about ready to get to work. It rained last night and the powdery sand that covers just about everything turned into a light layer of muck. Winter is the rainy season here.
After breakfast, I had the opportunity to meet many of the members of the 128th MPAD, two of whom were giving me a rundown (not the Mustang Rundown...may that paper rest in peace) on what they've been doing for the past nine months or so. They worked for the 4th Infantry Division who just handed over control of this part of Iraq to the 1st Cavalry Division. We will be working for them during our duration here.
Today, during my time at our new office, I was able to go to the al Faw Palace. This huge hunk of marble was one of Saddam's palaces and it's nearly surrounded by water. As you walk in, you cannot help but look up and see these amazingly large and bright chandeliers lighting up an enormous atrium. I even used the bathroom in there....a large area to wash your hands and then you turn and go in another door and there's the bathroom....a mother-of-pearl and marble encrusted toilet and beday. Saddam spared no expense.
I also went to Camp Victory (one other part of this huge base) and visited Green Bean Coffee. Now, most who know me know I'm a Starbucks caffeine freak. As I said before, excitedly, there was a Starbucks in Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Of all places....but, sadly, no Starbucks here. So, Green Bean Coffee loomed in the distance and I walked in. I had no idea what to get since I've never been to a GBC or even heard of them. I got what the Soldier from the 128th iced white chocolate mocha. One taste and I was hooked....two shots of espresso, milk, chocolate syrup and ice. Freakin' good! Anytime I'm in that area, I'm going to try to pick up one of those.
So, today was interesting and informative. Tomorrow and the next day we'll be jelling with our counterparts from the 128th which will prepare us for the day where we will fully take over the mission. We'll also be moving into our new housing units soon...saw one of those today too. Small and cozy. Until next time....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Welcomed By a Dust Storm...

We're finally here in Baghdad, and we were welcomed by a dust storm. When we flew in, which was via a C-17 (yay, seats!), the weather was nice. Calls were made and people started freaking out because we were in country so quickly. I've deployed once before and have had to ferret media around in aircraft and I've never been so 'lucky' in getting mil air transport so quickly. We off-loaded and loaded all our crap again and arrived at our tent. We made it to the main chow hall before it closed and were off to sign in. The guys at the S-6 were also surprised at how quickly we got here.
So, we got back to the big ole tent, got settled in somewhat and crashed. Ahhh sleep...I woke to what I thought was rain. It wasn't. The tent was being rocked back and forth and I knew that we were in for a day of gusty winds and blowing sand/dust. It remained like that until late afternoon. Gotta love the Middle East.
The change of authority or COA was today where the 4th Infantry Division handed over control of this area of operations to the 1st Cavalry Division (that's who we work for). The unit we're replacing is working to vacate the media operations center (MOC) and their containerized housing units (CHU--what we live in) so we can move in and get to work by Friday.
From what I'm hearing, I'm going to like working for 1st CAV. The CAV are elitists in a sense...they have their own logic, their own way of doing things, their own mentality...and it's full of tradition. I'm looking forward to seeing how we do.
Today, I had to buy a leg holster for my M9 because that's what I'll be carrying around the base as I conduct my daily business. The PX here is very large and has just about anything we could want or need. My care package requests will probably consist of coffee and little mementos from home.
In the next couple of days, we'll hook up with our replacement unit personnel and get acquainted with what we'll be doing for the next year or so. For now, this blog, prepping our equipment and Soldiers, eating chow, and learning where things are on base is what we'll be doing. Thanks for keeping up...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Waiting in an Ocean of Sand...

We're here in the middle of the Kuwaiti desert at Camp Buerhing. It's not bad...nothing grows here. Very desolate. We had to go shoot our M4s and 9mm weapons yesterday and we saw a line of camels walking way off in the distance.
Right now, I'm in the USO building where military personnel can use DSN phones, the internet, play games or just hang out and chill. It's nice....and very busy. I have limited time on the computer so I'm being brief.
Amazingly, there is a Starbucks here! It's surrounded by a 8-10 foot tall Hesco barrier. Walking in there makes you think you're back home. So, we're basically waiting for a flight to Baghdad. More to follow....

Monday, February 2, 2009

From a Party to a Jet Plane

After over four months of pre-mobilization training, we are set to board the jet that will carry us to a faraway land. My phone is on 'suspension', my extra stuff has been mailed home, and all the last-minute items have been purchased.
Yesterday the field house here (the gym) held a Super Bowl party for mobilizing and demobilizing Soldiers. We went and had a pretty good time. As you can see by the photos, there were some very good sponsors. We had everything from the Olive Garden to On the Border and Starbucks to Hooters. So I heaped Italian food on my plate, grabbed some wings from the Hooters table, and snatched some donuts from Dunkin Donuts for dessert. After downing all that, the game came on and I settled in with some iced coffee from Starbucks. Lieutenant Douglas and I are the die-hard Starbucks members of the unit. We freaked when we found out they were here.
After the game (the end was great!), we prepared for a day of packing. Most of us have two duffle bags, a large rucksack, and a personal bag/computer bag/footlocker. That first bag, or the 'A' bag, weighs around 80 lbs. since our body armor, helmet, and most of our gear resides in that bag. The second bag weighs a little less and the rucksack is the bag we will live out of for the next couple of weeks. I have a footlocker holds personal items that we like to have during deployments. Since we're only a 20-person unit, we're not authorized a nice container like a conex, an ISU-90 or a couple of quad-cons to transport our stuff in.
We have the pleasure of moving all our baggage and our unit equipment ourselves from place to place, piece by piece when we go from our staging area in Kuwait to Baghdad. Great workouts are in our future!
So, for now, this is my last blog until I get situated in Kuwait. Tomorrow we load up, clean up and head over to the terminal for our flight. Right now, a lot of us are in the day room, hunched over a laptop or watching Total Recall for the 3rd or 4th time. This time tomorrow, we'll all be sprawled over baggage and chairs, iPods and MP3 players raging, munching on snacks, and waiting to board. We'll see Fort Dix down below as powerful turbine engines take us higher and we'll doze off...thoughts of families and friends lingering...I'm sure I speak for everyone in my unit when I say that we take them with us.