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

Monday, August 28, 2006

How I Got the Nickname Sack: A Love Story

Some time ago I was asked how I got the nickname Sack. Well, I think it is about time to tell the story. You may want to grab a Coke and a bag of popcorn, this may take some time. I need to give you a little bit of back story first and I'm sure there will be a few side trips along the way.

So, there I was, a young freshman at the University of Nebraska. In high school I worked at the Don and Millie's in Omaha. Upon moving to Lincoln for school, I was able to transfer to the D&M in Edgewood. At the time, I was kind of a punk and thought I knew everything. Plus the Omaha store I worked at was the busiest in town so I did actually know everything. Brian was the resident cool guy so we had a few run ins at the beginning as he was stuck in his small town ways and I was simply trying to hook him up with some better process flow. Luckily, we moved past our differences quickly after uniting over a few Blue and Chromes. I think that night that sealed our friendship was an after hours party at the apartment I shared with my sister Mindy. Why my sister let me move in with her I still don't know, but it was pretty cool not having to live in the dorms. This particular night, we didn't have any firewood for our fireplace. So, Brian and I went out on a recon mission and "borrowed" some from our neighbors (kids don't try this at home). After running through that, we had an old rocking chair that was in poor repair. We decided to smash that up and use it as firewood. Good stuff there. The rest, as they say, is history. After that time Brian and I were the best of friends.

Now, I'm a little hazy on the actual timeline, but I think we need to fast forward about 6 months. When I first started at Don and Millie's, one of my first shifts I believe, I met the most beautiful girl in the world. At this time I decided that she would be mine, oh yes, she would be mine. By winter time, there was a whole group of us that were hanging out together. We would all (me, B, Criztoval Gunitoa Sanchez, T/D-Huh, Beautiful Girl, and any others that were around) close on Friday nights and then go party. We would fill up a 320z drink cup with frozen strawberry margarita to go and be on our way. Tip of the day: if you own a business that sells alcohol don't ever leave a 19 year old in charge, no matter how mature they may seem. Seriously, don't do it. Often times we went to the beautiful girl's house because she had 3 roommates and people old enough to buy us beer. But, the key is we usually all hung out together. I had to open Saturday morning so I usually got the worst end of the deal, we would stay out until all hours of the night and then I had to be up at 7:00. Everyone else got to sleep in and then laugh at me when they came in somewhat well rested later in the day and could see that I looked like I had slept in a dumpster and then ran 6 miles to work. Jerks.

Now, the group slowly started to disintegrate on Friday nights when B broke up with his high school girlfriend. I may have been partly responsible due to the time that I was driving to work and I saw her and B driving in her car. I honked and waved and got no repsonse. I was a little bit miffed, so when I saw B later that night, I was all like, whats up with the no wave. And he was all like what are you talking about. And I said I saw you and your girl driving on 10th street. He said, I wasn't on 10th street. Uh oh. So of course when he confronted her later I ended up being the bad guy, like it was my fault for being nice. Things were never the same after that. Which worked out good for me because I didn't like her anyway. She was one of B's 16 exs at the hospital the night I stabbed him, I'm sure to this day she is convinced that I did it on purpose. Which I did so she would be right. Hey, I won right? Okay, back to the story. So Brian and T-bone started seeing each other that winter/spring. There was then pressure to hang out at Ts place because it was right across the street from ol' D and M. A lot of nights I had to choose between my plan to continue to woo the beautiful girl and hanging out with B. Some nights we all hung together, some nights we split up. This particular night, the night I was glossed the Sack, was one of the nights we went our seperate ways.

On the night in question, we were doing the usual, playing presidents and assholes, drinking cheap beer, making fun of people from Wyoming, and talking about the freakin' National Champion Husker football team (we won 2 national titles my first 2 years at UNL by the way, coincidence, I think not). The beautiful girl was hungry, and wanted to make the requisite trip to Amigos for a midnight soft taco. I don't remember if I was hungry or not because there was nothing that was going to stop me from driving her there and buying her tacos, in the hopes that she would fall madly in love with me and I could move out of the dreaded friends zone. I think there were others in the car but can't remember who else was there. When we returned from our little trip to our horror Lincoln's finest were at the house handing out MIPs. Well, maybe not MIPs but that sounds better than telling everyone to go home. We of course cruised around for a while until the 5-0 had done their business. So by the time we got back, we had been gone about 2 hours.

Now we get back to the house, and get the run down of what we missed. We heard about the usual, somebody puked, somebody else got in a fight, somebody fell down the stairs, etc, etc. The one thing that was odd was that they kept getting prank phone calls from someone. They went along the lines of, "I want the Sack", "Gimme the Sack", "Where's the Sack?" You get the picture. Nobody had any idea who it was or why they were calling, other than the fact that the person was incredibly inebriated. Keep in mind this was before every infant was issued a cell phone at the hospital along with their shots and birth certificate and I don't remember there being caller ID but I could be wrong on that. I'm a little fuzzy on the actual turn of events, but I think eventually I answered the phone and realized that it was B and that for some reason I was the Sack. This is probably a little bit anti-climatic, but to this day I really don't know where he came up with it. I don't think he does either. I asked a few times and he could never give me an answer. But, the name stuck, and to my college buddies and Lincoln friends I will forever be known as the Sack. So there you have it, in 1500 words or less. You probably feel cheated having read all the way down here for me just to say I don't know but it is my blog so I'll do what I want. Plus I'm guessing most of you just skipped down the end anyway.

Internet Fun - 3

A few more articles from around the Web dealing with our deployment.

This is a story about our Civil Ops team and how they are working on getting clean water to villages. Trick or Treat: the latest from Rebecca Santana about the dangers of handing out candy to the locals. This may be the last rotation of a Nat'l Guard Brigade Combat Team. Read the Shrinking Guard Role in Iraq for more.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Internet Fun - 2

I stumbled across on this article on the web. Good read. Why I Continue to Believe in the War in Iraq

This article is on some of the soldiers in the Cav who work in the Effects Cell. SGT Carper was my roommate in the "closet" I stayed in for the first few weeks I was here.

Charlie Armor is our unit that runs the Guntrucks on the convoy missions. They have arguably the toughest mission in the Squadron. The article was written by SFC Schultz and published on GX online.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

SSG Johnson is Mean, but SGT Hanseling Saves the Day

Okay, I left out an important part of the pool party story, and would be remiss if I didn't share it. We (the S1 guys) were hanging out in the deep end of the pool, just relaxing and enjoying the cool water. On a side note, they shut down the high dives since I guess too many people were getting hurt (black eyes and separated shoulders). I had just jumped back into the pool and then put my sunglasses on. SSG Johnson thought that I had jumped in with them on, and wondered if that hurt my face. We had a good laugh like usual at his expense, so he got angry. He then said he was going to kill me in my sleep with his bare hands if I didn't get back out of the pool and dive in with my Army issue Oakley's on. Being afraid for my life, and not wanting to disobey a direct order from a senior NCO, I got out and dove in. I was primarily worried about hurting myself, and was so shaken by the threat on my life that I wasn't thinking correctly. So I dove in, and sure enough, when I surfaced, the shades were no longer on my face. The bad thing about it was that the deep end is like 14 feet deep, and there is a current, so they quickly floated out and down towards the center of the pool. The Hammer would not be deterred, and immediately dove down to the middle, 14 feet deep, and 14 feet out, and rescued my sunglasses. I owe a big debt of gratitude to SGT Hanseling for saving me from paying the Army for my glass. Thanks buddy! SSG Johnson never did apologize for forcing me to do it, but that is just how he rolls.

Pool Party!

Pool party time! Hammer's blog has pretty much the same story, you can check out his for a few different pics and some witty comments as always. One of the units that is attached to us for this deployment is the 1257th Transportation company out of West Virginia. They are getting ready to rotate back home in the near future, so they decided to put together a pool party. Their co-sponsors were the New Jersey Cav guys. They were nice enough to invite us to attend as well. It was a great time, they had a steaks, lobster tails, and chicken that they grilled up. We were impressed at how much better the meat tasted on the open grill as opposed to the normal broiling method. It was probably the best meal we've had since we've been here.
A water volleyball game. If you click on the pic to enlarge it you can see that some are wearing their Stetson in the water.
Me, SFC Kerchal, and SGT Hanseling enjoying an ice cold Becks NA.
SSG Johnson, SFC Kerchal, and the Hammer. If you look at the 2 pictures back to back you can tell how much taller I am than SSG Johnson.
The grill area.
Meat on the grill. Yummy. For some dumb reason we headed to the gym afterwards for our normal workout. It was one of the worst workouts as far as motivation that we've had. In hindsight we should have just skipped it and kept the memories of the summer 2006 pool party fresh in our minds.

Monday, August 21, 2006

WTC and Terrorism

SGT Hanseling and I went to see World Trade Center tonight. It was a really good flick and I'm glad I went. I was a little bit nervous when I first heard about it because it is directed by Oliver Stone, but he did a nice job of telling the story of 2 Port Authority workers trapped under the rubble and stayed away from any type of political angle. The movie was very well made and definitley brought back memories of that day. Jon and I were talking about if afterwards and it is really amazing how much that one day changed the lives of millions of people. Surely I (and countless others) would not be over here writing this blog entry as we speak without 9/11. I also stumbled upon This Website tonight while waiting for the final round of the PGA to start. They are looking for 2996 bloggers to do a post on 9/11 commerating each victim that lost their life. I signed up to do one, they still need like 900 some more people so if you have a blog go get signed up and help.

The movie left me with one question that maybe some of you can help me answer. I know this has been asked before but I don't know that it has ever been answered. What do you think the terrorists were hoping to accomplish, other than the loss of American lives? What are their goals and how did this help them move toward completing these goals? Is it less American "interference" in world affairs? If so how does this help? Isn't the logical answer that we would look to strike back? Or, have the terrorists taken our past responses to terrorists attacks and assumed that we would simply wring our hands and go about our normal days? That wouldn't be an entirely incorrect assumption, as we have in recent times chosen to ignore blatant attacks on Americans. Here is a brief summary of some of the more deadly attacks that we ignored:
  • 1983 - US Embassy in Beirut bombing. 63 dead (17 Americans). Response - covert team sent into to Beirut to gather intelligence. Yikes. That would deter me from future attacks. The embassy was also bombed again in 1984 resulting in 24 dead (2 Americans).
  • 1983 - Beirut barracks bombing. We lost 241! US soldiers and our response was..... not a damn thing. The Secreatary of Defense at the time said we didn't want to retailiate because we risked upsetting some of the other Arab nations. The soldiers were there on a peacekeeping mission. Not only did we not respond, we pulled out of Lebanon soon after.
  • 1988 - Pan Am Flight 103 destroyed. 270 people killed (189 Americans). 1 dude was convicted. Libya eventually paid out over 2 billion to the families. No military response.
  • 1993 - Attack on WTC. 6 killed and over a 1000 injured. We fired a few cruise missles at a camel and some tents in the desert and called it a day.
  • 1996 - Khobar towers bombing. 19 American servicemembers killed, hundreds injured. Suspects were rounded up, 4 convicted and later beheaded (ouch). Others escaped.
  • 2000 - USS Cole bombing. 17 sailors killed, 40 or so wounded. Blew up a car with 2 suspects in it. Arrested 13 who later escaped and are still at large.

So, I'm sure you are asking yourself what's the point, or how about another Deal or No Deal post by now. I guess what I'm getting at is that maybe we have set ourselves up to be terror targets by our relatively weak response to being attacked. Rather than holding Nations accountable, we look to round up a few patsies, have a trial, and call it a day. Take Israel for example. 3 soldiers are kidnapped (not even killed) and they get right down to business. Give us back our guys or someone is going to get hurt. Now I'm not advocating that in all cases we should respond as such, or that the civlian casualties in the recent conflict are not unfortunate, but I think that type of response resonates in the mind of groups like Hezbollah. If I was a terrorist and read the American papers, I would assume that we have no backbone and would just as soon stay at home and cower in fear. Maybe this is why they feel like something can be accomplished by flying planes full of innocent people into building full of innocent people, or trying to blow up 10 planes full of innocent people at the same time.

Friday, August 18, 2006

IRR Soldiers - Rebecca Santana

Even though she has left LSA Anaconda, Rebecca Santana is still writing articles about our unit. This is the latest about IRR Soldiers. The IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) is what is sometimes referred to as inactive service. Basically, when you sign up for the Active Army, Army Reserve, or National Guard, you are required to serve an 8 year contract. Within that 8 years, there are different variations, for instance the Guard is pretty standard at 6x2 (6 years of "active" guard - drill, AT, etc; 2 years of inactive guard). During your 2 years of inactive guard, you don't drill or get paid for anything, but you are subject to recall if your country needs you. Active contracts can be as short as 3x5 (3-active, 5-IRR), and I think maybe you can even do a 2x6 year now. So, you are taking a little bit of risk when you get out of the Army before your full 8 years has been served.

Now, back when I enlisted, getting called up from the IRR was pretty much unheard of. With this war dragging on longer than anticipated, and the Army stretched all over, they have called up a ton of soldiers. Some of you may remember that I was at this crossroad last year when my original 6 years ran out. I choose to re-enlist in the Guard, as I didn't want to do any time on the IRR and was willing to take a chance on not getting deployed in that 2 year window. When you get recalled for Active Service, you can get called up to serve in any unit anywhere, and pretty much in any job. So my worry was that I would get recalled, trained as an MP, and sent with some unit from Texas to guard prisoners. There are definitely benefits to being deployed as part of a unit from your home state. They guys we have here at good soldiers, they did the right but difficult thing of showing up for duty and fulfilling their contract. Many choose to ignore the summons and go on the run, which ends up with them being treated the same as a deserter.

This story was on and is about an Iowa Guard unit that is deployed with us. They are also attached to the 1/34 BCT for this mission only, similar to how the Cav is attached. They are unfortunately stationed with a bunch of Marines out in Western Iraq. They are on the base where the 67th ASG out of Nebraska is stationed, so their paralegal, SPC Dumbauld, works with my buddies from back home, SGT McNally and SGT Hannant. The ASG is getting ready to roll home here shortly, which definitely makes us here jealous.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

1-167 Cav Leadership

Here is a cool picture that SFC Schultz took for the latest RSTA Review. It is in front of the JDOC, CSM Hall (without sombrero) and LTC Apprich are seated with other members of the Cav surrounding him. In the back are M1114 Humvees which are uparmored from the factory and are the primary guntrucks for convoy escort and other missions outside the wire. The sign in the middle was donated by a gentleman back in Lincoln, it has been carried with the Cav throughout the deployment. Centered on the sign is the flagpole that flies the Scarlet and Cream daily, which is unfortunately too high to be seen.

Here is a recent picture of Mr. Benjamin. He is up and walking everywhere. I asked if he was brushing by himself but he is just carrying the toothbrush around.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

BLUF: It Is Hot Here

I thought it was time for a weather related post. Sufficient time has passed since SGT Hanseling and SSG Johnson both posted essentially the same entry on the same day. Well, the BLUF (bottom line up front, a new acronym I just learned this week) is that it is hot here. SPC Burnham is a meteorology student at UNL, and dropped big bucks on his own weather station. It is up on the roof of the JDOC and provides us with up to minute info on the weather here. It is sophisticated enough that it measures the actual ambient temp and is therefore much more accurate than the common thermometer.

We had 2 notable weather events this week. We hit a high of 117 this week according to the "Burnometer." What I think is strangest about the weather here is not necessarily the highs that we get, but how quick it gets hot and how long it stays hot. The average day it gets to a low of 85 which is around 0600. When I get up to take a shower it actually feels cool outside. Most days by 1000 it is over 100. The high seems to come around 1500 and 1600. Now, the day it hit 117, it was still 115.9 at 1900. It usually doesn't dip back under 100 until after midnight. So, there is pretty much no escaping the heat and the so-called oven effect. Also, there isn't the breaks in temp like we have back at home. I can't remember a day when it has been below 110, most days it hits 112-115.

The other weather related event was that I also woke up this morning to see a sight that I hadn't witnessed since probably early April. Clouds!!! All across the sky, it was fantastic. Burnham informed me that they are alto-cumulus clouds. Not sure what it means, but it sure sounds cool. They are a welcome change of pace from the hot, sunny, and windy climate we have become accustomed to here in Iraq.

SPC Burnham on the way up to the roof to place his weather station.
The weather station itself.

Friday, August 11, 2006

1-167 Cav in the News

LTC Apprich (the Squadron Commander) did an interview with the folks back home that you can find at He is not exaggerating, if you had to pick a place to be in Iraq, LSA Anaconda would be at the top of the list.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Internet Fun

I thought this story about Screech getting accosted in Omaha was pretty funny when I read it this morning on I was even more surprised when it showed up on Yahoo news as the most viewed AP Story of the day. No word yet if the woman was Lisa Tuttle. This seems like a likely scenario though, a woman breaks into his hotel room to steal his video games. And he detains her while she screams rape. Right. This is about as believable as Justin Gatlin saying the reason he tested positive steroids was that an angry masseuse poked him with a syringe or Floyd Landis saying "insert any of his 10 excuses here." I think Screech pulled the whole, "Hey, come back to my hotel room and I'll introduce you to Zach" card after a long night of telling dirty jokes at the Funny Bone.

Richard Hatch in Jail was the second most viewed story of the day. I had forgotten that he actually got some jail time. 51 months in prison, albeit a low security one. Not a small sentence by any means. I wonder how much time he'll spend walking around his cell naked and whether he think he can get voted out of prison.

Boondoggle over Baghdad 2

Here is the Latest Article from Rebecca Santana. It deals with a mortuary affairs job here at Anaconda. I hold these soldiers in the highest regard, how difficult it must be to get up everyday knowing that your job only exists because soldiers are dead. A heavy burden, I'm sure.

Here are a few more pics from my Baghdad trip.
Baghdad from the air. The city is packed together tightly. What I thought was strange was the amount of rubble and trash at every house. You can definitely tell there has been a war going on for 3 years. Some bigger houses on the Tigris river. It looks like waterfront property holds the same value in Iraq as it does in the states.
Another outside shot of the palace and the lake.
Bathroom. Unfortunately the bidet is now used as a TP holder.
Some arabic writing on the palace wall. I believe it says something to the effect of Saddam is the greatest ruler of all time, and will crush the American infidels.
What is called the W bridge. We placed 2 2000lb JDAMs on this in the beginning of the war, cutting off the entrance and exit to the palace in addition to the power in case Saddam was hiding here.
The palace pool. No word on whether they are going to try and get it up and running.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Boondoggle over Baghdad

Here is the Latest Article from Rebecca Santana. She makes a pretty good point that we all forget here sometimes. It is easy to get down or complain about little things, when it is important to remember that people are giving their lives to support this effort.

I got to take an interesting trip this past week to the fabulous city of Baghdad. It was for a 2 day legal conference, AKA Boondoggle. I was surprised to learn that Boondoggle was in such widespread use, I had assumed this to be a ConAgra term that Kris had made up, but it appears it has permeated to Iraq as well. The conference was okay, most was boring, a few good speakers. We heard from LTG Chiarelli (a 3 star in charge of a good portion of the troops here) on the secretarian violence in Baghdad and what they are doing to stop it.
This is a picture from the Blackhawk (UH-60) that we flew on. It was a nice 30 minute flight from Anaconda to Camp Victory. We flew with the windows open and about a 100 feet off the ground. It was my first ride in a helicopter and much better and safer then taking a convoy. The pics from the air didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, they are a little blurry.
This is the palace of Al Faw. It is a site of a victory by Iraq over Iran in their war in the 80s. Saddam didn't hang out here too much, but Udai and Quasi had hunting parties up here. It is approx 45,000 square feet. The lakes are all man made. It is now office space for the US Army.
This chair was a gift to Saddam from Yassar Arafat. Our tour guide said they weren't sure how it ended up here in this palace. SGT Sauvageu is a legal nco from Minnesota.
This is the big chandelier that hangs in the foyer. Pretty impressive, except for it is plastic. The columns are pretty cool as well. They are made of 1/2 inch marble instead of the more standard 4 inch to save money. Much of the palace looks very nice but is actually very cheaply made. They think it will be un-livable within 25 years. The Army has pumped a bunch of money into it to improve the structural quality.
This is the "deck" outside. There were decks/patios all along the outside.
The entrance to the palace.
PFC Blackstad, me, MAJ Hagen, and SPC Dumbauld on our way out of Baghdad.
Our ride home. The blackhawks always fly in pairs. The only negative of the trip was waiting around for 4 hours for my flight back.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rock Paper Scissors, Stevie Wonder, and Road House

I thought at first this Article about Rock, Paper, Scissors was a joke. But it wasn't. There is a World Championship for Rock, Paper, Scissors. Seriously. No joke. The creators of Win Ben Stein's Money decided it would be cool to have a tournament and give away prizes. Sometimes I think it is a good thing that I'm not independently wealthy, because some of my "good ideas" would surely be put into practice if I had the funding to do so. Guess who they got to sponsor it, none other than Bud Light. It sounds like the beer was free, so you can imagine that some of the people were pretty tuned up. I think this is one sport where the amount of alcohol probably didn't hurt any. The funny thing is that if you read the article, they talk about their "strategy" for winning. Whenever the wife and I have to decide something important, like what to name our son or whether to refinance the mortgage, we like to go to the RPS method, which I invariably lose. I also overthink it too much, whereas my better half prefers just to let it fly. The dude that ended up winning ($50,000 !!!!!) is from Omaha. I was already thoroughly enjoying the article, and then I got to this gem at the end:

Twitchel explained his championship strategy this way: "I have no strategy at all. I drink beer and throw whatever comes to my mind." Which might explain why, when McGill went the bureaucratic route and threw paper back-to-back in unconventional fashion, Twitchel, too aggressive, went rock, rock to lose the title. "I was thinking, 'There ain't no way he'll throw the same thing twice' -- and he did," Twitchel lamented. "I give him all credit. He is a good guy; good thing he won."

Wow! Paper back to back, unbelievable. That has to rank right up there in great sports moments with the Tommie Frazier Run or the 1980 US Olympic Hockey win over mother Russia.

Thirty minutes after his victory, McGill didn't remember his winning combination.
How did he train for the six-hour mental marathon? "I shotgunned a ton of beer," he said. "I listened to a ton of Stevie Wonder. I was nailing that. "I can't write a thesis or something like that. I am not very good at intense math or something like that. But rock, paper, scissors is something I am good at. Feels pretty special. I would compare it to Swayze after the filming of 'Road House.'"

Priceless. Only in a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament do you get a Stevie Wonder and Road House reference in the same quote. Unbelievable. On a side note, did you know they made a Road House 2 , Dalton is dead and his nephew takes over the bouncer with a heart of gold role. This has to be in the top 5 uncessary sequals of all time. I would put it right up there with Speed 2, Superman 4, Rocky 5, Oceans 12, and the worst sequel of all time, Caddyshack 2.

Friday, August 04, 2006

SPC Joshua Ford

This Article, the second one by our embedded reporter, pretty much sums up how I feel right about now. I'm slated to go home for my 15 days sometime in September. The soldiers that are quoted are a New Jersey unit that is attached to us. They are pretty unique bunch, the first one quoted, SGT D, has the thickest Bronx accent you can imagine, and he has a bunch of "sayings". For example: Am I beautiful or what, baby? You know you love me baby! Who's better than me, tough guy? I could go on all day, but again, this is one of those things that you probably have to be there for.

Another Nebraska Soldier died in Iraq this week (see stories at WOWT and SPC Joshua Ford was from Pender Nebraska and was assigned to a transportation company, which means that most likely he was out on the roads all of the time. He is the 4th Nebraska Guardsman to die in Iraq and the 41st soldier from Nebraska and Western Iowa to die in the war on terror. His dad says in the article that while he was home on leave both he and Joshua discussed the feeling they both had that he might not come home. Obviously pretty tough on a family. Every death over is tough to take, but our fellow Nebraska Guardsmen hit pretty close to home. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers this weekend.