Sunday, February 21, 2010

More Military Terminology "From the War Zone"

Every war produces words, acronyms and phrases which become embedded in soldiers' vocabulary. WWII had "Kilroy Was Here", Vietnam spawned "Sorry About That," "FTA" (Fun, Travel & Adventure), and "REMF" ("Rear Echelon Management Facilitator"). Here in Baghdad, the one-word description which uniquely belongs to this conflict is..."Iraq-able", as in, "She's Iraq-able" or "I wouldn't want to marry the guy, but he is definitely Iraq-able!" I haven't heard if there is a similar phrase in use by our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.  The equivalent to the Vietnam-era RMF is known as the "FOBBIT", describing someone who never leaves the FOB, much like a Hobbit prefers to remain in the Shire. (See photo)

The term used to describe soldiers over here has its roots in WWII and also the still-popular Hasbro doll. Both male and female soldiers are usually called, "Joes", short for "G.I. Joe"...It seems to connote an equality between genders. I like it for its simplicity. Every so often you'll hear soldiers referred to as "Grunts" (usually by us Vietnam-era types), or "Troopers" (We have a lot of Cavalry units here), and the 3rd Infantry Division Song still pays tribute to the "Dogface Soldier" of WWII vintage...but the only time you'll hear a soldier called a "Doughboy" is during the monthly weigh-in!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Almost Live Update from Baghdad

My apologies to John Keister for using the name of that great local Seattle comedy show, but the term, "Almost Live" perfectly describes me at this minute. It's 0030 hours, (Half-past Midnight), I just walked in the door to my CHU, after 16 hours in the office. The culprit behind this late night is what's innocently-named, "Team Chief Case Review". Once a week, our supervisors review agent's case files, write copious notes about what needs to be corrected, and return 'em to us. Of course, most of us shoot for "zero defects", but that almost never happens. The amount of documentation required for each case file ranges from a minimum of 50 pages for a basic, no-brainer investigation. A homicide, or even a bus theft case file can easily grow rapidly to the size of a NYC phone book...and yep, I mean the Yellow Pages! In between assembling all this pulp filler, there's some actual detectin' going on, plus plenty of phone calls, emails, and the usual Army dumb stuff, like having to check if we still have our weapons with us...
Finally, my much younger colleagues spend about 20% of each hour playing tricks on each other, or other hi-jinks, such as engaging in hand-sanitizer gel fights, impromptu no holds-barred wrestling matches, or other activities too gross to describe here. The soundtrack to all of this circus behavior is a combination of hip-hop, country-western, and the occasional classic oldies tune. (which to my colleagues means from the early 90's) Believe me when I say that this might not be the optimum environment to support concentration and organization skills. So, rather than be a stick in the mud (and the circus IS usually rather entertaining, at least until somebody gets an eye put out), I just do my best to putt along, until everyone else leaves around 7 p.m. that's when I crank up my own tunes (a mix of Celtic, Bollywood, and rock music, which my mates refer to as "Geezer Eclectic"), and start putting files together.
I can only handle these "surges" once a week, but it is sure nice to have my files stacked in the Team Chief's office, ready for inspection first thing in the morning.
Besides, while he's occupied with my stack o' files, I can grab a nap in the porta-john, which is surprisingly comfortable when the weather is cool.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pathway to Reaching "Seriously Stupid"

Step One: Get your hands on some liquor, even though it's strictly prohibited here.

Step Two: Invite a co-worker of the opposite sex, who you know is gay, over to your quarters to discuss your marital problems.

Step Three: Become intoxicated.

Step Four: Try to rip your co-worker's clothing off and have sex with them.

Step Five: Discover while attempting to perform Step Four that your co-worker has a Black Belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, and REALLY takes offense at your actions.

Step Six: Kiss your $200,000/year contractor's job goodbye, in addition to suffering a broken nose and a possibly-torn knee ligament, which the government health insurance will not cover.

Step Seven: Congratulations! You've just achieved "Seriously Stupid" status. You may now depart Iraq. (Don't worry...your summons to U.S. Federal Court will follow you shortly!)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Leaning Forward in the Foxhole

While we are still going Mach 2 with our hair on fire around here, I've noticed a definite change in focus among my fellow unit members since I returned from R&R. With about 90 days left in-country, planning to get out of here has moved to the top of the discussion list. Office improvement projects which had been deferred until Springtime are now relegated to the "Why should we bother messing with that?" category. The mountain of snack food which once filled the shelves in the break room has been whittled down to eight boxes of frosted Pop Tarts, a half-eaten box of Girl Scout cookies, a can of fat-free refried beans (which my office-mates have told me I am prohibited from consuming by the Geneva Convention.), a package of snowman Peeps left over from a Christmas care package, which should still be just as edible should we ever find ourselves deployed here again in five years, a bottle of BACOS fake bacon bits, which might come in handy should we ever invite the Iraqi Police over for lunch. ("Colonel Nasir, would you care for some delicious BACOS on your refried beans?")
We're also finally receiving some of the hot weather combat gear which was supposed to be issued when we first deployed. When it's 50 degrees and windy, nothing beats wearing a thin mesh Army Combat Shirt to avoid heat stroke! (I'm afraid it doesn't do much to prevent hypothermia...)
But when we are 90 days from leaving this lovely paradise in our virtual rear-view mirrors, we simply DO NOT CARE! It's too late to send us to Afghanistan, the rocket and mortar attacks have tapered off, and in my case, I have enough books, underwear, socks, and serviceable uniforms to get me through any eventuality. In the meantime, crime ain't taking a holiday here, so the time will continue to fly by with long work days and nights for us Two Digit Midgets!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Reflections on R&R

I've been back in Iraq for 3 days now, sitting in my CHU, with my mud-caked boots at the doorway, a 50-foot pool of rainwater surrounding my front step, and more mud than a congressional debate beyond that. It's hard to reconcile this dreary scene with the beaches and jungle of Kaua'i, or even the coziness of home, with a dog in my lap and my spousal unit by my side. Even after the rigors of travel from Baghdad to home and back (8 days), I am glad I went. Not every soldier feels the same way after returning from mid-tour leave. Some have tough family situations to deal with, others just hate the travel, or more accurately the pain in the neck that is military travel. Especially when contrasted when flying First or Business Class on a major airline (like when we flew to Kaua'i), long hours on a military transport or a charter aren't very comfortable. Worse than the flights themselves are the deadly dull periods of waiting in metal and cement buildings, or tents, undergoing endless briefings and accountability formations.

One aspect of coming home demands special mention: The folks at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport USO, American Airlines staff, and the people who happened to be in the DFW terminal when our flight arrived were all simply Class Acts. I especially appreciated having access to a private, deluxe shower at the American Airlines Admiral's Club so that I was "de-stinkified" when reunited with my sweetheart a couple of hours later. Thanks to all of you special folks!