"Not the victory but the action. Not the goal but the game.
In the deed the glory."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Combat Zones are Fun

This is what we call a SAPI (Small Arms Protective Insert) plate. It goes into our body armor and is rated for up to 7.62mm rounds (the big ones that the AK47 fires). The funny thing is that it says Handle With Care on the front. Kindof makes you go hmmm. It will stop a bullet but whatever you do don't drop it. We also were issued the new side armor, which gives us an extra level of protection. The only bad thing is that all of the armor is heavy, and when it is 106 outside it gets a touch on the warm side. Our guys out on the gates and in the towers wear it all day, even in the heat. I've never been more thankful to have a desk job!

Speaking of deks, here is a picture of my desk. One thing that is different about being in a combat zone is that my desk is much smaller here than at ConAgra. Also, instead of the Corporate Cup coffee mug I had on my desk at home I have 120 live rounds just hanging out. Unfortunately it is against the rule to bring any ammo home with me, so I don't think I can put these on my desk when I go back to work. They may have come in handy. Those of you that work at ConAgra will notice that I have some David sunflower seeds. They were on sale at the PX for 25 cents. I'm not sure what the deal is there, but I'm pretty confident that we aren't making any money on that, especially with the cost to ship it to Iraq. Plus I'm sure we gave some sort of OI and they took a deduction on the backend as well. On a side note, the word from Omaha is that the Deduction teams that I managed before I left surpassed their year end goals by over 15 million. I'm really proud of everyone for going above and beyond and excelling as always. They were a great group to work with and, believe it or not, I actually miss the office. It will be interesting to see how much things have changed when I get back.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Patriot Guard Riders

Today is Memorial Day. This holiday takes on special meaning when deployed to a Combat zone. It was a little bit odd because due to the mission it was really just another day. They had a service to remember the fallen soldiers that have gone before us, but we didn't make it over. The tempo has ebbed up again, so there is much to get done as always.

I read an article on about a soldier from Nebraska that died here about 2 weeks ago. I was at first angry because the group from Kansas was there to protest. I for the life of me can't figure out how any American could live with themselves after going to harass a family of someone that just lost a loved one fighting for their country. Where does that enter in your mind that is an acceptable path to get your message heard? I actually pity them for choosing this method to get their message out, I know that deep down they know what they are doing is wrong and will pay for the actions by losing a little bit of their humanity in the process. There is, however, a positive out of all this. The Patriot Guard Riders were formed to offset the people who show up to protest. I couldn't believe it when I checked out their website that they have around 56,000 members. Here is their mission statement:

The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security. If you share this respect, please join us. We don’t care what you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a "hawk" or a "dove". It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you’re from or what your income is. You don’t even have to ride. The only prerequisite is Respect. Our main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives.1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.2. Shield the mourning family and friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors. We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means.

I found it incredibly encouraging that something so positive could come out of something so evil. The whole thing is volunteer as well, and the amount of organziation it takes to attempt to cover as many funerals as they do is impressive to say the least.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I Love This FOB

We had a distinguished visitor to LSA Anaconda yesterday. Toby Keith showed up and played for about an hour. It was a good show, you could tell that he was genuinely glad to be here and a big supporter of the troops. He did all of his big hits and a couple from his new album. The only thing that was really missing was a few cold beverages and the night would have been perfect. He actually made a joke about the NA beer, and of the soldiers ran up on stage and gave him one. He said if it was good enough for us he would drink one, so he did. That wasn't the best moment of the night however. There was some reserved seating right in front of the stage, and we were joking that it was probably for the general and the other brass. About 2o minutes before the show started, a bus pulled up and they brought in wounded soldiers from the base hospital, which is the largest in Iraq. The crowd (I would guess 3000-4000) gave them a standing ovation. There is a memorial day service tomorrow which I'm sure will take on a new meaning being here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Comic Writer or Punter? You Decide

Here is a recent picture of Benjamin playing with his tractor. I found something interesting on the internet. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has a blog. It is pretty funny stuff and can be found here He appears to be bored with his lifestyle of writing cartoons about office life so he has chosen to grace us with his wit. I was expecting posts about comics and his troubles with getting good ideas. There are some of those, however he also likes to post about topics like terrorism, creation vs evolution, religion, and politics. I think his entire intent is just to see how many people he can upset and how many comments he can get. It is a fun read if you are looking to kill some time. Somehow he finds time to post almost every day, although when your sole missions in life is to pound out 3 frames of comedy a day I'm sure you have some spare time. I was trying to think of a better job than semi-famous cartoonists but have been struggling. One at the top of my list would be NFL Punter. I mean come on, getting paid a few hundred thou to trot out 3-5 times a week to kick a ball, what could be better? Video game tester wouldn't be a bad way to make a living. Any kind of critic would be pretty good, you would get paid to go see movies, eat dinner, read books, visit amusement parks, etc., although people second guessing every one of your decisions would probably start to suck after a while. Sportscenter anchor, radio personality, and college professor would also be somewhere up there.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Missing Husker Flag

I couldn't remember if I sent the picture home or not so I thought I would post it on the blog. This is an old Iraqi tank that is behind our building, with SSG Johnson and I holding up the still MIA and presumed lost Husker flag. Today is Sunday. We still work but the day does seem to be a little more laid back. We can go to church services if we want in the morning, which breaks up the day. Chaplain Luken preached a good sermon today. The topic was deliverance, he talked about the story of Gideon from Judges. He is working his way all the way through the bible, hitting a book each sermon, and tying them all in together under the overall subject of our covenant with God. It will be interesting to see how it progresses. The Squadron received what I'm sure was an answered prayer a few nights ago. We had a Humvee get hit by IED and totally destroyed, however all 3 soldiers escaped without any injuries. I haven't seen the Humvee, but from what I've heard from looking at it is a miracle they weren't seriously hurt. Please continue to keep our soldiers in your prayers, they are often in harms way and all though the violence has definitely lessened since we've been here, Iraq is still a very dangerous country. Also pray for the families at home. Without going into any details there have already been issues both at home and over here that are testing the resolve of soldiers and their families. The stress of separation weighs heavily on even the most stable of relationships.

Chief Regan ran in a Marathon relay today. They did teams of six and said they had a good time. I was going to try to round up a team, but I originally misread the flyer and thought the entire thing was going to be run at the stadium on a quarter mile track. Running 18 laps in a row is not my idea of a good time. Turns out that was just the starting point. It also started at 0530 so that was another reason not to go. SFC Kerchal and SPC Benes went on a mission recently and were tasked with driving a couple of Army semis on a round trip. They said it was quite an experience and very different from life here on Anaconda. There was a tense moment when one of the trucks in the convoy got stuck but it turned out to be uneventful. They re-iterated what has been said before but I don't know if I've shared, our soldiers are incredibly professional and they do their jobs as if they've been here for years. There isn't another unit in the Army that I would be more proud to serve with. We have our share of issues from time to time, but overall our troops are motivated, dedicated, and always in pursuit of doing the difficult job here better.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

LSA Anaconda Pool

Here are some pics from the pool. The temps have been consistently over 100 this week, we hit 105 one day. After the workout we've found a dip in the pool is quite refreshing. I finally got up the nerve to go off the big platform. The highest one is roped off, so the second is as high as we go I'm now trying to get my dive down so I can go head first. I've done it okay on the low board, but the second is much higher. I also want to try a back flip, but there is plenty of time for that. I've been getting back into running some lately. I'm back up to doing around 5 miles for my long day. It is a little strange, I usually wait to run until it cools down to about 85, which is around 900PM. All of the buildings and street lamps are turned off in order to deter the bad guys from shooting at us, so it is incredibly dark. They aren't very good shots so it doesn't matter much. I keep to the roads away from the wire so it is as safe as being in the gym on the treadmill. I was thinking the other night how much I miss running around Lake Zorinsky at home. Jason and I went quite a bit, and having someone to talk to makes a big difference. The great thing about running around a lake is that you get a few miles around, there is no quitting early. Here, you have to do laps so if you get tired or bored you just quit. And no headphones because they are a safety hazard. Also the air here is really dusty so that makes another challenge. I may train for a 1/2 marathon while I'm here. We'll see how it goes and how motivated I am. Mongolian night is cancelled tomorrow, so I'm pretty bummed about that. At least we got advance notice so we won't be too upset.

Monday, May 15, 2006

VTC and Birthday Cake

Yesterday was a neat day. The unit set up a Video Teleconference with the Lincoln Armory for Mother's Day, and I was lucky enough to be one of the soldiers that got to participate. I got 10 minutes to talk with Erika and Benjamin. I could see them great, but they said that they had a little bit of a hard time seeing me. There was a little bit of a delay, but overall it was very, very cool. The 10 minutes went by really fast, but being able to talk and see them was well worth it. Talking on the phone is great but being live is so much better. I really hope that I get another chance to do it again. Benjamin waved goodbye at me and was a good boy the whole time. At one point he tried to crawl off the table but mommy was there to grab him. It definitely made Monday easier to deal with and my spirits have definitely been lifted. Here is a picture from Ben's birthday party of him enjoying some cake.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Holling Heights

Here is one for the small world column. I was helping sort mail today and noticed a return address for Holling Heights. I spent 7 solid years there, Kindergarten - 6 grade. My company commander, Captain Lorenz, happens to teach there, or at least did before he got deployed. So we got to talking and some of the teachers I had are still there, Ms West in 1st grade, Mr. Melichar in 3rd grade, and the music teacher Ms Elliot. Ms. West I think kept me after school for an entire quarter. Mr. Melichar, as I remember it, banished me from ever writing in cursive again because my handwriting was so terrible. To this day I still write in block letters, all caps, and even that is hard to read. The pit is still there, and the train that some of the parents of kids in my class built is still there, although in a little different setup. They still get pizza for the crossing guard detail on Friday's, although it is Pizza Hut now and not Valentinos. Sadly, Mr. Colinino and Ms. O'Hare were not around at the same time as CPT Lorenz. I am little worried what some of the teachers may say, as, believe it or not, I caused a little bit of trouble as a young man. Some would say I had a bit of a smart mouth. If I'm lucky they'll remember what a good student my sister was and forget about my antics.

Hair Cuts and Other Stuff

Good morning. We had a distinguised visitor this week. The General in charge of the theater, General John Abizaid, who is a 4 star. He took over for Tommy Franks in 2003. He was in our building along with a handful of other Generals and some other celebs. He had his own security detail and quite the entourage. I don't think we got any pictures because he was only here for a short time and then was on to bigger things.

Benjamin got his first haircut this week. He is quite the grownup now. Here is the before:

And here is the after:
Quite a handsome fellow in my opinion. His birthday party is today, so he should have a good time with friends and family. I bet he will be handful to get to sleep after all of the excitement.

This may come as a shock, and I hesitated on whether to write it or not, but we skipped Mongolian night on Thursday. SGT Hanseling said the line was too long and he didn't want to wait. We had gotten there a little late, because after working out we went for a dip in the pool to cool off as the temp has been hovering right at a 100 all week. The AC in the gym has a hard time keeping it up, I checked the thermostat and it was 88 inside. It feels a little like a sauna, and the smell is, well, not too fresh if you know what I mean. So, the man who loves Mongolian the best out of our little group made the call to just get a sandwhich. Tomorrow is Fried Rice so hopefully we will be able to redeem ourselves.

Our section is responsible for getting mail for all of our troops, and I went to help out today. We had almost 4 pallets of mail. Luckily, we are no longer doing it by hand, they load it with a forklift and we unload it with a forklift, so we only have to carry it a few feet. We used to do it all by hand, but with the volume that is coming in we would never keep up. We are all curious how much is going to show up around the holdiays, we can barely fit it all in to the mail room as it is now.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Buffalo

This is a picture of a big truck that rolls around the base. The Humvee is included for scale. If you know how big a Humvee is, you can see how giant this beast is. We are not exactly sure what it is used for, but it looks pretty mean. There is quite the variety of vehicles here, some that I didn't even know existed. Since this is a coalition base there are also vehicles from other countries. I think my favorite are the British, they cruise around in Land Rovers with little Union Jacks (their flag) on the bumpers. We also see some of the private contractors vehicles, they have uparmored Suburbans with all kinds of crazy attachments. Most of them look like they have seen a few trips around the country.

Yesterday was Benjamin's 1st birthday. I called and sang him happy birthday and he seemed to like that. While we were on the phone he stood up by himself for the first time! He is a big boy now, no longer an infant and now a toddler. The hardest part about the deployment so far is being away from him and Erika. Missing his milestones never gets any easier. His party is this weekend, I'm looking forward to the pictures and hopefully some videos. I sent him some new books for his present. I think he will like them.

For those of you that are following along at home, today is Thursday, which means Mongolian! Another week is almost over. SSG Johnson has a new plan for Saturday's Fried Rice night. You can take your food to go as well for up to 3 people. He is going to eat one plate, then go back up and make another one and take it with him, so he can have Fried Rice for 2 or 3 days in a row. We had steaks last night, they weren't very good but at least they tried.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mondays in Iraq

Well, one thing that doesn't change in a combat zone is that Mondays still stink. It must be a universal thing, no matter where you are at, someone has a case of the Mondays. I should be in a better mood, I actually got a day off yesterday, for the first time in 45 days. It was much needed. I was worried at first that I would be bored, but that wasn't the case. I slept in a little, finished up the second season of Scrubs, and then went to lunch. After lunch I took a little nap and then watched a movie that Erika had sent me, one of the newer James Bond ones. We did our usual work out and then called it a day. Unfotunately I stayed up too late since I was well rested and now I'm tired again.

Speaking of DVDs, they have a bazaar here where you can buy movies from the locals. A big favorite is the tv shows, and they are really cheap. I got 4 seasons of Scrubs for $32. SFC Kerchal got 6 seasons of Sopranos for $60. I am thinking about buying 24, I can get all 5 seasons, including the one that is on tv now, for 58 bucks. That may be a little bit too much Jack Bauer for me though. I'm going to hold out until I get really bored. It is funny because they are obviously pirated, but it isn't against the law here. The quality is a little bit off from what you get in the states, but you can't beat the price. I guess you can get individual movies as well for $2. The only catch is that some of them are filmed with a camcorder, so you can hear people cough and or walk in front of the screen. I guess it is pretty funny.

Here is a picture of Benjamin from this weekend. He looks pretty serious reading this book. I hope he got it figured out.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cart Racing for Dollars

Today is Saturday. Not much different on Saturday's except for the fact that it is Fried Rice Night at DFAC #3. I am working on assigning something to look forward to for every day of the week, but I'm not quite there. Here is what I have so far: Monday, Tuesday - open. Wednesday - Bible Study, Thursday - Mongolian Grill, Friday - Office Cleaning Day, Saturday - Fried Rice, Sunday - Ice Cream day. So as you can see I'm getting close to having all slots filled. I'm currently considering candidates for the 2 openings, I'll let you know when they are filled. If you have any great ideas feel free to add a comment! It may seem trivial, but having these little things to look forward to helps break up the days somewhat. One more day to Ice Cream day! When you wear the same clothes everyday, work with the same people, and follow the same routine, the days/weeks can start to grind on you.

We went swimming yesterday. The temp has been hovering around 99 all week. The water in the pool is really cold, which feels great with how hot it is outside. There are 3 diving platforms, although you can't go on the highest. We think the 1st is 4 meters and the second is 8 meters. I went off the first but haven't tried the second one out yet, I don't want to ruin all of the fun the first time out. SGT Hanseling has been the off the big one a few times, which is good motivation for me to do it eventually. It was funny, because it was almost like being home for a minute or two, people playing water volleyball and basketball, laying out, and having fun. I say almost because a couple of Apache attack helicopters flew over at what looks like about 50 feet, ruining the illusion.

I got a little bit of pub this week. This link is the bi-weekly newsletter for the Brigade. Quick Army lesson. Brigade is our parent unit, 1/34 BCT (Brigade Combat Team) out of Minnesota (Red Bulls). Within the Brigade there are multiple Battalions, mine is 1-167 Cavalry (Task Force Saber). Since we are Cav we call ourselves a Squadron but it is really the same thing. Within each Battlaion there are companies. Again, we like to be different in the Cav so we have Troops. My unit is Headquarts and Headquarters Troop, hence the HHT, 1-167th Cav that you see on my mailing address. Some of you asked what the RSTA stands for, that is Reconaissance, Surveilance, and Target Acquisition, which is what our Squardon is transitioning to from the traditional Cavlary. There will be a quiz on this next week. Okay, back to what I was saying originally. We have a legal section to each newsletter, and I have the honor of being the first paralegal featured. If I would have known that is what they were going to use the picture for I would have sent them this one:

I am trying to organize two wheel cart races but no one wants a piece of me. Or maybe nobody wants to break an arm. They also did a nice write up of our whole section in the Cav newsletter, but it isn't on the web yet, so I can't post it here yet. Once it gets uploaded I'll link to it here. If you just can't wait and want to see it, send me an email I'll send it to you. Talk to you soon.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hello and Welcome

Okay, this is my first post from Iraq. I don't really have much new to say, my last group email that I sent out was rather long and covered most of what is happening here. The chaplain started a bible study last night, we are looking at the book of Mark. There were 3 of us besides the chaplain, it was great to be able to do something here that I enjoyed at home. It made me realize how much I miss our small group back at Candlewood, we really had a great group of people. Erika and I are both praying that our faith will grow deeper through this time of trial.

No word on the missing Husker flag yet. The Squadron commander had me file a report with the MPs, but they didn't seem very confident that it would turn up. When we get another flag we are going to have to lock it somehow. We are also considering placing snipers out at night to deter any other thieves. For now, I'll just look at the pictures with a tear in my eye.