Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

I started writing this last Monday- but couldn't bring myself to finish. Partly distracted by the last week of training for this group of Iraqi National Police, partly because I hesitated to get to the work of thinking about the meaning of the holiday.

About 2 weeks ago, a group of nine U.S. Army soldiers that was participating in training here at NNPA had finished their tour. After a farewell dinner, each of them had a few words to say to the collective 40 or so of their remaining teammates. The most heartbreaking of them was the one who shared his sorrow that his best friend on the team was not returning with them. He had been killed by an improvised explosive device about 3 months ago, the only one so far to have been killed from this National Police Training Team.

I am not in a combat role, or even one of the advisory roles where U.S. soldiers essentially embed with police and army units, putting their lives on the line daily. Regardless, as I hear reports of soldiers missing or killed, I feel my eyes water. Watching one of the weekly news shows this morning, they put up brief profiles of soldiers killed, one after another- name, rank, service, and hometown (or duty station), with some mournful string music in the background. I hurt when I see it, I hurt as I write about it.

In my religious culture, tithing is a part of our way we show our love and dedication to our Creator. In a sense, serving a church mission a while ago was a tithe out of the first 20 years of my life, and I often think of time spent in church service in a similar way- a small, but meaninful effort on my part to return the love and blessings that I have abundantly enjoyed.

I have come to think about this deployment in a similar way. I have been pleased with what I am learning and what I am allowed to do within the scope of my responsibilities during this deployment, early though it is in the process. But this is not a life and experience that I would choose for myself or my family. It is painful for me to be away as each of my four children experiences vital and important milestones in their lives, to hear my 20 month old learning to say "I love you, Daddy", only it is over a crackling cell phone on the other side of the world, and I'm not able to hold her in my arms. It is painful for me to not be there to support my wife as she struggles with our good, but very young and energetic family on her own. It is painful to them to not have my support- I would guess the deployment is harder on them than me- I have stuff to do which helps the time go by.

But despite those things, I do consider it an honor to serve the country I love so much. This is my second time outside the country for a long period, and I am yet again reminded how blessed our country is. I have served as a reservist or guardsman for 16 years, and at this point I have been asked to take up arms and work full-time to help the Iraqi police forces reach a level of self-sufficiency. No, not fun, but I will at the end be able to say I have done my duty, and I have served my country honorably. I will let that be one way in which I can show my gratitude for the sacrifices made by my brothers and sisters in the military.

Some funny terms from my time here in Iraq

From my buddy up in the IZ (you know who you are, TK!)

For Your Situational Awareness (FYSA): I am so important I am forwarding this to you so you can see how hard and important my job is

From SGT Albert Merrifields' BOB on the FOB series,

Hard Lurker: one who avoids as much work as possible, while working hard to make it appear that one is a productive, active, and important member of the team. The hard lurker is exceptionally skilled at projecting the appearance of hard work while superiors are around (ie, the start and end of each shift) yet manages to disappear for the rest of the day. They can usually be found at the coffee shop, gym (although never working out), or in the Internet Cafe during regular work hours, and if found will usually explain that they are "on short errands" that somehow last all day.

Groundfob Day: 1. The perception that each and every day in-country is indistinguishable from the one that preceded it; all days are the same, 2. The state of existence where the only way to tell one day from another is by using the menu at the dining facility to differentiate between days (see also "menu months")

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Christmas in May- our bags are here!


Well, the exciting day when our bags caught up with us has arrived, and there is much joy among the Contracting Officer Representative and his non-commissioned officer assistant!
Now we have a plethora (El Guapo! Did you say a "plethora"?) of gear. In fact, most of it is not needed, but we have to get into the bags and dig out the stuff we do need. And then in 6 months, we'll see what our next job is, and what of all this gear we'll need then.
As I deal with the 118 degree heat here, it is hard to believe I'll ever need the cold weather gear, but I'm told it is the temperature differentials that will make that necessary as winter approaches down the road.

Friday, May 25, 2007

For the psychologists among you....

Hallmark Scientists Identify 3 New Human Emotions

The Onion

Hallmark Scientists Identify 3 New Human Emotions

KANSAS CITY, MO-The new Hallmark-brand feelings will fill any gaps left by the company's "Thinking of You" and "Just Because" categories.

The folks at the Onion can really make me laugh sometimes. This is one that I particularly enjoyed. Click the link above if it interests you.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

La Vie en Rose ou La Vie en Noir?

My post for the day comes off of the Army Knowledge Online "Early Bird News". I thought it was a fair article, representing some of the challenges of determining what is actually happening on the ground here in Iraq.

The New York Times
The World
In the Heat of Battle and Politics, the Hard Facts Melt
Published: May 20, 2007
America wants progress reports. What’s lacking in Iraq is good information.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Top and Bottom 10, My glorious 5 Days in the International Zone

Top 10 about my five days in the International Zone
1. Even better showers than Camp Buehring!
2. My own trailer room, with AC that worked quite well.
3. Easier internet access
4. My very own e-mail address
5. Food. Plentiful, with great variety.
6. Found out what my job would be for the next 6 months or so.
7. No close calls with small arms fire, indirect fire (mortars and rockets), or improvised explosive devices.
8. Getting acquainted with my colleagues in Baghdad who will support me from afar while I'm out here at An-Numaniyah.
9. Hearing that I'll be much safer at An-Numaniyah when I get there.
10. Catching the bus rather than walking with all of the body armor.
Bottom 10:
1. Transition housing, transition workplace, transition relationships- still not "my" place.
2. Bags not coming with us. Why use all four of your duffel bags when one will do?
3. No clue when will get reunited with bags.
4. Daytime convoy with civilian contractors on way out of Baghdad to An-Numaniyah. They did a great job, but I would have appreciated a helicopter flight. Toyota Riva is something else, though- looks like a rhinoceros, with angry people in the turrets trying to keep the guys inside safe.
5. Military aircraft flying overhead for either combat or medical- either way, flying almost all night, rattling my trailer.
6. Continuing to hear about combat casualties- wounded or dead.
7. Sweating in the 50 plus pounds of body armor
8. Missing my family
9. Seeing people with weapons everywhere. Loaded. You're not in Kansas, anymore, Toto!
10. Seeing how much reconstruction remains to be done in the city. 4 years after the invasion.

Monday, May 14, 2007

They don't attack non-functioning pipelines

This is from an LA Times article I got off of Army Knowledge Online today. The primary focus of the article is the challenge of legislation about Iraqi oil production and revenue sharing. What got me giggling however, was the ending (the attacks aren't funny, but the explanation for the decrease in attacks was) :

"There were at least 15 attacks on Iraqi oil facilities in the first three months of the year, according to the institute. They included slayings of oil industry workers and bombings of wells and the pipeline that carries oil from Baiji, in northern Iraq, to Turkey.

The number of attacks is lower than during the same period last year, but Luft said that is because saboteurs' favorite target, the pipeline, has been hit so many times that it rarely functions.

"They normally do not attack pipelines that are not in operation," Luft said.

Times staff writers Zeena Kareem, Raheem Salman and Ned Parker in Baghdad and Maggie Farley in New York contributed to this report.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

First, a happy Mother's Day to my mom and wife. Love to you both, hope you enjoyed the short videos I sent.

Second, condolences and peace be upon those mothers who have lost husbands and children in this conflict in Iraq. I have been saddened over the past few days as I hear of fellow soldiers dead or captured and then killed, of Iraqi police and soldiers killed, and those who are being killed by death squads and other violence here in this country.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Top 10, Bottom 10 of our week at Camp Buehring in Kuwait

Dana’s Top 10 Things he liked about Camp Buehring, Kuwait:
1. Great food- beat the Devil’s Den at Fort Riley, KS- salmon, steak, crab legs, ice cream of all varieties
2. Ample time to work out, sleep, read, wait for internet pages to load at the USO.
3. The USO at Camp Buehring
4. The camels walking around at the firing range
5. Fitness center (see number 1 and 2).
6. Showers (combat showers, 1 each per day)
7. Hangin’ with the team.
8. Starting the 1 year boots on ground clock
9. Tax free combat zone and other financial perks
10. Usually functioning air conditioning in tents

Dana’s Bottom 10 Things he did not like about Camp Buehring, Kuwait:
1. Porta-Johns- profanity, sexual, and racist graffiti, stench, heat, and rough toilet paper
2. The camels keeping us out on the ranges longer than would otherwise be necessary
3. More time with less desirable elements within our larger unit
4. 60 men in a tent….. crowded, smells, sounds, and lights on at awful and unnecessary hours
5. Missing the family- no video conferencing due to internet bandwidth issues
6. more poorly thought out briefings- some people don’t communicate, teach, or train well
7. waiting with no real idea of when we would move until under 24 hours- I have an agenda to plan!
8. always being wet from Sweating
9. continuing to heal from smallpox
10. disrupted sleep/wake cycles combined with heat fatigue

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What's in a name?

Army Capitalizes 'Families' in Official Correspondence

I've gotten a military e-mail on this and then see it in a headline in a commercial e-mail I get from

These types of pronouncements always seem a bit silly to me from my personal, non-official position. The way soldiers know families are important to their leaders in the military is in the way their families get treated. For example, in a situation where a soldier is in a garrison environment, if there is no training being done, and you hold a soldier on a post rather than letting him spend time with his family until training starts up again, you suggest families are even less important than "doing nothing".

I'm not going to rant, and I don't have much cute to say about this, just wanted to post on the odd way we sometimes play with words in the military. We'll know "Families" are important in the way they are treated, and in the way their soldiers are treated. Again in my estimation, there are times the military succeeds, and there are times it is less successful. The fact that I have chosen to serve in the military as a Reservist reflects this- I wouldn't want the military impacting my family all the time, but for certain periods such as this deployment, we are working through the challenges.