Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Surprise! Water Shortage in the Desert!

Seriously? That's news? Yeah, I guess it must be, as we've gotten dire warnings from the base administration folks over the past week. One of the threats which has gotten the most laughs is that the toilet trailers will be closed, and porta-potties will be placed at the end of each row of CHUs. Heck, for most of us, that'll represent an improvement! (In my case, it'll shorten my walking distance from 250 meters to 5 meters...I vote, "Heck Yeah!")

The old joke about "Save Water, Shower With a Friend!" has been resurrected by a new generation...there is even a rumor floating around that some wiseguy has distributed flyers around the base, offering himself to females as a combination "Shower Security/Water Conservation Partner". His nickname? "Clean But Creepy Dude". If this is more than an urban legend, I'm sure he's gonna get punk'd a bunch of times.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It's Raining Lead...

But no one was saying, "Hallelujah"...!
Last night the Iraqis announced that Mr. Allawi's party had outpolled Mr. Maliki's party in the recent elections, which sent Allawi's supporters outside to the streets, shouting, singing, and firing thousands of rounds of AK-47 ammo up toward the heavens...and then back earthward, which the Iraqis seem to conveniently forget every time they whoop it up.
I was reading in my CHU when the heavy gunfire erupted. I grabbed my helmet, body armor and weapon and bounced outside, ready to defend the base. Peering out from behind the closest concrete T-wall, I quickly sized up the tactical situation. Recalling the basics of gunfire analysis from my days as a cavalryman, I noticed a whole lot of red and green tracers emanating from outside the wire...but all heading in a more or less vertical direction. That meant no attack, just your basic Baghdad celebration. The tracers triggered the base warning alarms, and the loudspeakers blared, "Attention, this is the command post, take cover immediately due to Iraqi celebratory fire!" Since I no longer had to emulate the great Sam Elliott in his role as CSM Basil Plumley, ("Gentlemen, prepare to defend yourselves!"), I retired back inside my CHU and took up a position on my bunkbed. I knew I'd be shielded from falling projectiles by the combination of the thin aluminum CHU roof, ultra-hard and lumpy upper mattress, and the plywood base.
I grabbed my laptop and TV remote and chilled out, listening to the rattle of gunfire which was soon joined by the pounding of a gigunda thunderstorm. Is it possible all that lead seeded the clouds, provoking the deluge? At any rate, nobody on base was hit, and aside from another darn mudfield, we survived the Iraqi celebrations in one piece.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Phalanx Phollies

Here's another slice of life here that illustrates how fast things can turn from scary to hilarious:
It was lunchtime, and an SUV-load of us was traveling the gravel road toward the mess hall, windows down, enjoying the spring sunshine. I was driving, and as we neared the main PX, I heard the indirect fire alarm go off. I quickly pulled over at a handy roadside bunker, and we all piled out of the SUV...I managed to bonk my noggin on the door frame as I bailed out, and landed flat on the ground in a big poof of dust. When my head cleared, I looked up toward "Strawberry Hill" just as the Phalanx 20mm gatling gun blasted a long stream of bright red tracers skyward. I wasn't the only person entranced by this awesome vision of firepower...a young soldier pedaling a mountain bike, rifle slung across his back, and wearing his kevlar helmet jerked his head up at the Phalanx's distinctive sound (think of Godzilla breaking wind), and managed to run head on into a cement T-Wall. We all laughed when it became clear only the soldier's pride was injured, and also at relief when no mortar rounds or rockets came spiraling in on top of us.
I still have a small bump on my forehead, and a couple of my teammates got skinned forearms from hitting the gravel, but these minor wounds were just the price of admission to a brief moment of combat zone comedy. We were all definitely glad that the comedy wasn't followed by tragedy...unless of course you count the bent bicycle wheel.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!!!!!

Tis the Fighting Leprechaun's second most favorite day, (ranked only behind me wedding anniversary), so what will I be doin'? Sure now, I'd like to be chasin' out the insurgents with me trusty shilelagh, but I doubt I'd be gettin' permission for that bit of fun...

Looks like I'll have to be content with gettin' everyone to go for the wearing of the green...and it looks like I'll be havin' a great deal of success...

Never underestimate the powers of a Leprechaun!

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Battle Buddy Moves Up!

One of the newer concepts in the military is the "Battle Buddy"...this is the person who has your back, watches your rifle while you are in the porta-potty, shares their Tabasco when you get a crappy MRE...like a best friend , but with hand grenades. Well, back in my civilian job, I was fortunate to have a Battle Buddy as well. I'll just use her initials, LDSG, in keeping with my blog's policy of anonymity. LDSG was a Signal Corps officer in the Army, and still wears combat boots to work. She's one of the most talented instructors I know, can captivate an audience even while discussing some esoteric trivia about disaster logistics...yep, the girl can make SANDBAGS sound interesting! LDSG is a steadfast friend, a schizophrenic BamaTex cowgirl, practical joker, hater of bureacratic stupidity, and will sell her soul for either a Taco Cabana burrito or down home BBQ.
Well, I got good news and bad news last month...My Battle Buddy won't be occupying her cubicle down the corridor when I return to work in 90 days, because she has been snagged by FEMA to be their regional logistics guru. LDSG will be able to preach the gospel of high-speed emergency supply systems to a much greater (and possibly more appreciative) audience. I'll definitely miss having a partner in mischief, who coincidentally does the best Eric Cartman impression (South Park) I've ever heard.
So, congratulations, Battle Buddy! I know you'll kick butt at FEMA, just like you did at Building 20. Semper Mobilis!!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Baghdad Birthday

One of the guys in the detachment celebrated his 39th birthday today, which coincided with our "personal maintenance day", so a party of sorts was in order. We've had a few birthdays among our crew, but either work interfered or the birthday person was reluctant to celebrate. Actually, the dude today didn't want a party, but we ignored his wishes because we wanted to eat cake.

I volunteered to procure said cake, having seen them in the freezer at our Post Exchange. Our mess hall also is supposed to make cakes for unit celebrations, but they require 30 days notice, so that option was a big no-go. I stopped by the PX after work last night, grabbed the only pre-decorated cake available, and headed for the cashier. Mind you, this was not a big spectacular cake, it was only about the dimensions of my laptop computer, just a couple of inches thicker. Back home, this quarter-sheet cake costs about nine bucks, and there was no price tag on either the cake or the shelf. When Muhjibar from Mumbai (I'm not making that up) scanned the bar code on the package, he gasped and pointed to the display. "Sir, this appears to be a $40 pastry...do you still wish to purchase?" I thought Muhjibar was messing with me, so I responded, "Gee, at that price I'll take five!", but then I took a closer look at the cash register and uttered my favorite German phrase..."Heilige Scheisse!" I don't believe Muhjibar speaks German, but my shocked tone was multilingual,, causing Muhjibar to shake his head and growl, "Bloody rip-off wallahs!" Once we ascertained there was no mistake, I decided to complete my purchase, as there was no reasonable alternative. (Everyone chipped in, so I didn't lose my shirt on the deal.)
The next day, our party was typical deployment style. We got Iraqi pizzas to go, went back to the office and watched a movie, "Team America, World Police" which is the perfect birthday party flick, ("Durka durka!") and did the traditional "Happy Birthday" song while presenting the cake (sans candles, which are prohibited for some odd reason). So, how did that $40 cake taste? Well, everyone had two pieces, it was that tasty. It was baked in Germany, had whipped cream frosting, and was pretty fresh considering it had been frozen a couple of weeks ago, flown to Kuwait, and then trucked to Baghdad. The Birthday Boy was happy, which is what really counts.

Now if we were on the front lines, I suppose we could have taken an MRE pound cake, mixed up peanut butter and cocoa powder frosting, and lit a piece of C-4 for a candle, but since we are on a civilized base, acting like infantrymen in a foxhole would have been kind of poser-like. (Credit for the combat cake recipe goes to Chris and Ted...Thanks, guys!)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hitting "The Wall".

Long ago, when I could call myself a long-distance runner, I experienced that runner's phenomenon called "hitting the wall." A lot of runners hit that notional wall after two-thirds of the race is complete, and it literally hurts when you run into it. Well, sportsfans, I've been getting the feeling lately that this wall-hitting stuff happens to soldiers on deployment too.

You'd think that getting ready to go home in a couple of months would be uplifting and spark raised morale, wouldn't you? Apparently that ain't the case so much. With the finish line almost in sight there is a pervasive gloominess stuck to folks like Baghdad Mud. I don't really get it, being the persistent optimist, but sometimes I find myself being affected by the "bummertude" around me. For some of my Regular Army colleagues, new assignments or school selections promise to turn their lives upside down. There have been a few disappointments too, as the capriciousness of the Army personnel system punches some really great troops in the solar plexus...or lower. We've seen a couple of examples of crappy agents getting selected for promotion over much better qualified folks, which is like pissing on soldier's heads and calling it a hot shower.
Some fellow reservists have also been gobsmacked while deployed. I personally know four soldiers whose civilian jobs were eliminated while they have been serving over here. Talk about effectively reducing the "joy of homecoming"...
I know for sure that I have got it good when I get off that Freedom Bird. I've got the best spousal unit anyone could ask for, a comfortable home, great friends and family, a meaningful job and superb colleagues...and essentially a stress-free life...once I'm out of range of those darn rockets! So I'll do my best to be sympathetic to my grumpy battle buddies, but I plan to avoid joining 'em up in the Bummer Bleachers for these last few remaining miles...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors...

And a 30 TDY (Temporary Duty) of the guy next door makes for a GREAT neighbor! This dude, who I'll call "Godfrey", is an okay person, but he's got a few quirks which have made sharing a thin dividing wall a real challenge. Let's start with his alarm clock. Godfrey owns one of those 300 decibel model electric clocks...the indirect fire warning klaxon is quieter...which by itself is relatively harmless. In Godfrey's hands, however, it is hell with a "snooze" button. Godfrey is a sound sleeper, which means neither rocket attacks nor his alarm clock usually awaken him. Unfortunately for me, I am a fairly light sleeper (thanks to over 30 years of being "on-call" either for the Army or law enforcement), so while Godfrey slumbers peacefully on, I wake up immediately...and since he doesn't turn off the alarm, I have to get up and pound for several minutes on the wall or his door until he gets up. Godfrey regularly sets his alarm for 10:30 p.m. most nights, so he can call his wife. If I go to sleep before then, I can be sure of experiencing "Sleepus Interruptus". Once the nightly phone call starts, Godfrey's foghorn of a voice makes sure that I hear everything...and I do mean EVERYTHING...he says to his wife. Unlike Godfrey, I'll spare YOU the details...no need to thank me...but there are some verbal images seared into my brain which it may take therapy to erase. An hour or so later, the phone call has reached its climax, so to speak, and it is relatively quiet until 0500...Yep, you guessed it, that's when Godfrey's alarm goes off again, with the same non-result on his side of the wall, and my same choice...try to ignore the beep Beep BEEP BEEP!, or get out of my snug bed and hammer on the vinyl paneling. Some choice, eh?
It gets better. Godfrey is a 3 pack a day smoker. Seconds after his feet hit the floor, he's standing just outside his open door, lighting up the first butt of the new day. Godfrey apparently believes the laws of physics don't apply to his carbon-monoxide laced clouds, but believe me, they are sucked into his room...and then thru the seams in the shared wall in to my abode. If I open my own front door to throw something heavy at him, the smoke senses new territory to befoul, and now my room is "Ashtray Fresh". Who needs Agent Orange, when I have Agent Godfrey?
Yesterday, our battalion HQ called down with orders to send Godfrey up north for a month to backfill an office. I definitely owe whoever came up with that mission a steak dinner when we return.
Now, if you'll excuse me...I have some serious sleep deprivation to rectify...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....