Friday, August 31, 2007

Call signs revisited

Over the past couple of months we've had a newer (actually only new to me- he'd been here before) deputy project manager, who introduced himself as "Tex". Accustomed to the various call signs, and knowing there's a story behind each one, I started thinking: Tex. Maybe as in "nice shootin', Tex!" or maybe he likes to wear 10 Gallon hats and stetsons. Or otherwise walk around like a cowboy. Or he's really good with messaging on a cell phone, maybe?

So of course, I had to ask. He smiles and says "Texas, as in 'chainsaw massacre'." Now that's one testosterone laden call sign.

"Don't mess with Texas"

And of course he's been a delight to work with. He came back on special request from a friend of his, taking a substantial pay cut because he is loyal to people that are important to him. He's found that he needs to move on now, but feels that he's met the goals that he came to achieve, and we thank him for his work.

We wish him well as he answers the call of Africa.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And "the other side".....

After so much reading that is extremely critical of U.S. involvement in Iraq, I decided to go ahead and read a piece from someone who took a more positive view.

Some points that stood out to me:
I've heard Bremer held responsible for the CPA laws of de-Baathification and disbanding of the Iraqi Army, and rightly so, as he was the one declaring or signing those laws into effect.

He points out in this text that he feels the de-Baathification law was taken and applied in a way different to his intentions (It was in his intent to only apply to the top 1% of the Baath party, but was applied much more widely). But in some ways to me he seems to not take any responsibility for that law being misinterpreted- he had a year to clarify and rectify it, and we are still at this point four years later working on "re-Baathification". This reminds me that I need to take a shower as I have not done so after three workouts, now- no baths here- I'm told there's a pool at the place I'll get to visit on the four day pass three months from now. There's just no one here that I care to impress by smelling good, and with the smells around here, I just blend in anyway, shower or no. How's that for stream of consciousness writing? Too much punctuation, huh?

On the other point- the disbanding of the Army- his argument is that the army had already disbanded, he just signed it into law, and that to have brought them back would have caused too much tension from the Shia Islamists anyway. The hindsight criticism of this action was that he created, just as with the deBaathification law, a ready made group of insurgents by alienating this group of folks that have been trained in killing and other "kinetic" types of activities. From what I can gather, some did argue against this move, but their arguments were rejected. Of course, over time, the U.S. military, the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior have simply hired the military leadership back- most of the National Police leadership I work with here are former Army- generals, colonels, light colonels and so on- almost all leadership is prior military.

To his credit, he seems to have been the voice in the wilderness on the seriousness of the problem of Muqtada al-Sadr from the very beginning, and had considerable difficulty getting the U.S. military (and even more notably, the Spanish military) to take action against Sadr. By the time the U.S. military was ready to really go after Sadr, however, Bremer was calling things off or putting them on hold because of political concerns.

I found surprising how much he apparently felt his job was cheerleading and giving inspirational speeches to the Iraqis was necessary and/or effective- news conferences and photo ops galore. I cringe whenever I watch someone thinking the show is about him, and he seems to have fallen into this a bit. The Iraqis seem to have a great sense of when we are truly intent on working in their best interest, and I think some of his speeches may have led them to think "he doth protest too much."

In a sense it feels more about "his year" than it is about "in Iraq", even if Iraq is the word in large text on his book cover- it should have had "MY YEAR" in larger font than "Iraq". That sounds harsh, given that he obviously made many sacrifices in his service, and he clearly worked longer hours than I do while I'm here, but that was the feeling I had in reading it. Another feeling was the lack of introspection on his part- much play by play, and the text moved from one activity to another, but I didn't see any substantial acknowledgement of mistakes or missteps on the part of the CPA or himself as its leader. It is hard to believe that all of the problems faced here were entirely unrelated to the governing body that we established over the time of the CPA. Impossible even.

My thoughts there are not unique, however.
From Dexter Filkin's review of Bremer's text:

"For a memoir, this is a remarkably unreflective book. The aides gathered around President Bush are known for their loyalty; Bremer's case seems to be one where fealty to his superiors — or a desire to keep his job — overtook the needs of Americans and Iraqis on the ground."

To be fair, after 4 months here, it is easy for me to see and admit minor mistakes, but nothing major. Of course, my work is really "nothing major" relative to his being ambassador to Iraq, or the "viceroy" as some liked to refer to him. It is hard for all of us to see our mistakes and even at that point, admit mistakes.

It was a bit odd to me how he discussed how important it was that "his" Iraqi government not be controlled by Sistani, but then he made it clear that he essentially had to have Sistani's approval for any major policy moves, most notably, elected officials writing the constitution. It was clear who wore the turban in that relationship.

He discussed how important pushing sovereignty over to the people of Iraq was, and it was a noble gesture. The signatures and formal document, the "let freedom reign!" statement, all are a bit hollow even now, as we continue to occupy the country. Even in his afterword added later on, he doesn't seem to acknowledge that Iraq is even now not truly sovereign, that we are an occupying force, and that many of the same problems he dealt with, were still largely unresolved at the time of his afterword (and still remain to this day).

OK, after all that can I find something positive? Well, he worked very hard, and it seemed to me he was working in good faith, even if I do disagree with some of his assessments about how things were going. "A" for effort! He tried hard!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

33% "done"!!

Well, my deployment countdown spreadsheet confirms what the basic calendar approach tells me- 4 months done on the actual deployment. Of course, that doesn't count all the train up before, but it allows us to keep the fiction of the "1 year deployment" alive, as opposed to the 15-18 month deployment that it really is.

And in retrospect, my personal experience has gone about as well as I could have hoped. My sometimes manifest inability to get along with superior officers has not been a handicap, because my superior officers are in Baghdad, and I'm not. I'm engaged in work that matches my background. I've gotten a couple of Utah newspaper interviews to enable my exhibitionist tendencies even beyond this blog. And the only hostile fire I've taken is "indirect fire", which has scared me more for the noise than the actual proximity to me- I've not been hit.

I did lose 2 friends during this time, one fairly close given the amount of work we were doing together- Brendan and JJ were members of the BLP company, the contractors I supervise, who were killed in a convoy up to Baghdad from our location here at An Numaniyah. I sorrow for their families, as I know how dear I hold my family. I think the thought of potentially dying here bothers me more in terms of my family relationships than for me in and of myself. Thankfully, I rarely feel unsafe despite a need to remain vigilant anytime I'm outside of our "headquarters" building for there is always a potential risk.

I interact, when courses are in session, with Iraqis on a regular basis, but because of the professionalism of BLP's and L3's interpreters, I've made little progress in my Arabic (Shukran, ustath!). I have made no progress in my goal of getting some online coursework done because of bandwidth challenges at our fairly remote location, but am working through my library of books about Iraq and the U.S. involvement here. I exercise a lot more than I thought I would, but am not losing much weight because of the culinary excellence of BLP's Indian catering manager, Uday.

While it is still dang hot, it is not painfully so, and we have thus made it past the worst of the summer heat at this point. If I remain at this location through the winter, I will get to experience mud on a grand scale, I am told. I've seen photos of Humvees up to their axles in it, and can almost feel it on my boots already.

I've enjoyed my many relationships here, with my NCO, MSG Merrell, with the management and others here with BLP, and with the many local nationals, as well as the National Police Brigades' leadership and the U.S. Army National Police Training Teams that accompany them down to the Academy.

Tucker Family Sans Moi on a BYU Hill Spring 2007

And most importantly, my family seems to be doing well in my absence. I know this is hard on them, and I miss them terribly. I've missed everyone's birthdays to this point except Lucas', which is next month. I'll miss a few of them again early next year. We've been able to talk, usually about every 2 or 3 days, and they seem fairly happy on the phone calls. I'll get to see them for a couple of weeks during the Christmas break, which will be the 66% done milestone.

This photo was on CNN's website today with a caption incorrectly identifying the Iraqis as Army- the digital blue camouflage uniforms indicate they are National Police- chances are those uniforms were issued here at "my Academy." This is a standard traffic checkpoint, today related to a religious holiday this weekend.

At this point, some comments on the work with the National Police- our work with them is not 33% done. There are serious corruption issues. There are serious logistics issues. I question whether the U.S. has done enough to address either of these areas, and while I think everyone I work with is working hard and in good faith, I don't expect to see things change substantially while I am here. It is very frustrating. I mourn the situation of the average Iraqi who must deal with a world in which basic security is lacking, and the basic services of fuel, electricity, clean water and sewage, air conditioning, etc are also at best minimally provided or available. There is so much suffering here.

I watch the politics in Baghdad and Washington from afar, and wonder how many of them can truly understand the everyday experience of the locals or the private in the U.S. Army when they come on carefully scripted visits with huge security details. Do they think they're getting "the real skinny?" Are they asking the right questions and talking to the right people?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Inspirational books

After the encouragement from Ambassador Crocker and Chandrasekaren's Imperial Life in the Emeral City, I decided I needed more uplifting stuff to move me to new heights.

Just finished another similar book. And I'm reminded of why I stay so ignorant of politics and the military when I'm not on active duty.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Amusement, brought to you by E-bay and Amazon sellers and buyers

Who knew groceries and other online purchases from the grocery store could be so entertaining?

Here's one for the long-suffering moms of large families:

Here's one about a product available for delivery right to your door:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The fairly awful experiment! Look away, its hideous!

Washington Post
August 22, 2007 Pg. 1
Bush Turns Up Heat On Maliki, Iraqis Could Seek New Government, President Cautions
By Michael A. Fletcher and Megan Greenwell, Washington Post Staff Writers

Still, Crocker said, the strategy mitigates the negative effects of the national police force, which is known for its corruption and is distrusted by many Iraqis.

"As you look at the fairly awful experiment with the national police so far, this notion of local policing may be strategically important," he said.

Ambassador Crocker

Color me enthusiastic about my work following this "two thumbs WAY UP!" endorsement from the highest ranking U.S. civilian involved in our efforts in Iraq! Yes, I, too, can "make a difference" at the "tip of the spear!" Sometimes I feel more like the tip is embedded in my chest rather than my being the spear tip. Maybe I'm more of an asparagus tip. Reminds me of the old "sometime you're the bug, sometimes you're the windshield" thing.

Well, as Phase 3 kicks off, we can hand it over to the Carabinieri and see if they can perform a better experiment.

One thing they've got going for them is a much clearer advantage in mustache regulations. We were taught in our cultural training back at Riley that a mustache is a sign of honor here. Unfortunately, our grooming regulations in the Army prevent us from having anything much better than a Hitler style mustache. I present to you the man with more honor than anyone in the U.S. military could ever hope to achieve, Gen Pompegnani, of the Italian Carabinieri!

The most honorable Gen Pompegnani
Here's to hoping the men of much honor get first prize at this social science fair. Hey, wait! Has anyone seen my ferret?!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Christine!

Well, I've missed Elise's birthday, then Nathan's, then Malia's, then Christine's. Today we celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.

Well, last year's trip to Alaska was a blast anyway.

Love you and miss you.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Found this one on the Army's news website....

Op-Ed Contributors
The War as We Saw It
Published: August 19, 2007
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework.

And the photo is from one of my Australian friends. There is much beauty here despite the heat, the smells, the violence and dysfunction. The sunrise over a guard tower on the perimeter of the Iraqi Army base I live on.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Financial Management 101

Now, I can appreciate when someone takes a substantial pay cut to serve their country. I don't quite understand what kind of financial management is involved when you run out of money making $168k/per annum.

And somehow people are surprised when they are accused of being out of touch....

Visit from the Australian Ambassador to Iraq

We had the Australian Ambassador to Iraq visit yesterday. Except for the standard personal security detail (PSD) accompanying him, it was a fairly low key visit. My NCO irreverently found that he resembled Austin Powers a bit (I think he was referring to his hair and clothing, not his teeth). He toured a few of the sites of the Academy, talked with some of the shurta in training, observed some training, broke bread with some of the leadership, and then spent over an hour just visiting with the Australians among our expatriates in our dining facility in many one on one conversations. We were glad to receive him and his group. His stated purpose was to come and thank the Australians for their work. An unstated purpose was to let them know that their country hasn't forgotten them, and the ultimate sacrifice two of their members made a few weeks ago on that unfortunate convoy. We miss you, JJ and Hurstie.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Let there be no doubt

What was done yesterday in northern Iraq was a prime example of what I refer to as the pure evil that the U.S. and many in Iraq are fighting.

I saw a bit of the ABC TV news report on it this morning - and the knot in my stomach tightened as I watched the wounded children. Some try to point to the stoning of the Yazidi woman (by her own people) who was suspected of some form of inappropriate relationships with a Sunni as the trigger. It just doesn't compute that one would create such widescale suffering to so many innocents. It is not justice, an eye for an eye, or any other rational response to such an action. There were no American targets there. There were no others there who were working with the Americans. These were people in a fairly isolated area doing their own thing, like so many others in this country who just want to go on living their lives in relative peace. I can't pretend to know the Yezidis' culture in depth, but no one deserves what happened there yesterday.

As I've mentioned before, so much suffering.

Some silliness from an old mission friend

Sometimes I'm annoyed at forwarded e-mail jokes, but I found this one entertaining.

Performance evaluation statements collected:
1. "Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig."
2. "I would not allow this employee to breed."
3. "This employee is really not so much of a 'has-been', but more of a definite 'won't be'."
4. "Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap."
5. "When he opens his mouth, it seems that it is only to change feet."
6. "This young lady had delusions of adequacy."
7. "He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them."
8. "This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot."
9. "This employee should go far, and the sooner he starts, the better."
10. "Got a full six pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together."
11. "A gross ignoramus ... 144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus."
12. "He doesn't have ulcers, but he's a distributor."
13. "I would like to go hunting with him sometime."
14. "He's been working with glue too much."
15. "He would argue with a signpost."
16. "He brings a lot of joy whenever he leaves the room."
17. "When his IQ reaches 50, he should sell."
18. "If you see two people talking and none looks bored, he's the other one."

19. "A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on."
20. "A prime candidate for natural de-selection."
21. "Donated his brain to science before he was done using it."
22. "Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming."
23. "He's got two brain cells, one is lost and the other is out looking for it." 24. "If he were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered twice a week."
25. "If you give him a penny for his thoughts, you'd get change."
26. "If you stand close enough to him, you can hear the ocean."
27. "It's hard to believe he beat out 1,000,000 other sperm."
28. "One neuron short of a synapse."
29. "Some drink from the fountain of knowledge; he only gargled."
30. "Takes him two hours to watch '60 Minutes.'"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Umm. I'm in the news again.

Another day in the press- that makes 30 minutes of fame.

As the interviewer Matt said after a laugh at one of my comments, "there goes your star!" Yes, I'm destined to never make general. Heck, there's a good possibility I don't make light colonel. Good thing I never planned a career in the military.

Maori War Dance- gingerbread cookie style

This is apparently a commercial from New Zealand- I appreciate it much more after a year in Hawaii, watching the BYU football team's pregame, and living with some New Zealanders who work here at the Police Academy.

You don't want these cookies mad at you!

YouTube - Ginger bread man HakaGinger bread men doing the haka in an oven good stuff really ...
Watch video - 47 sec -

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Yes, more recommended media!

OK, I have to admit, I had enough free time to read a book over the past few days.... at least it took me 4 days, anyway.

In case you had an overly optimistic assessment of the successful first year of the U.S. occupation in Iraq (all three of you out there), Rajiv Chandrasekaran eviscerates the CPA with a scathing analysis of those who "drank the Kool-aid" among them, not realizing how much damage their actions or inactions were causing in the first year of what is now a process that has been going on for more than four years. The book is "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad's Green Zone".

The part that stuck out to me the most was how he points out over the first few chapters how highly qualified individuals in middle Eastern and Arabic culture, reconstruction and economic development, etc, were all pushed aside early in the process as the CPA sought to select folks of a certain political allegiance. What's your qualification? Right political party, and you're a fervent believer? Great, come on over- we've got a job that is a perfect fit!

And then the ultimate irony, one of the critics embittered by his experience in the CPA..."believed that the CPA had committed a catastrophic filling many of those seats [on the Governing Council] with politicians and leaders who were more interested in doling out favors to their supporters than in doing what was best for their country." You don't say!? Do as we say, not as we do, maybe?

Four years later, we're still working the same problems- limited infrastructure and life support capabilities, high unemployment, tenuous security, and so on.

A recent draft (thus the typographical and grammatical errors) of a report by Anthony Cordesman of the CSIS,

lays out the current circumstances pretty directly, with even some fairly damning comments about the results of our efforts with the Iraqi National Police. I thought it to be a fair treatment of what is going on here from my limited (and unofficial, not representing the military) vantage point.

Dueling blogs

Cue the music from dueling banjos.....

Sometimes our internet and blog happy world brings an interesting confluence of events, where we can look at the thought bubbles over the heads of two people in conflict with each other.

Here is one of those times:

This blog's Aug 11 posting:

corresponds quite nicely with this blog's 14 Aug posting:

Knowing smiles from all of us "in the field"- ok, again, I'm not in combat, but I'm definitely not in HQ- and praying that it stays that way. These two poor souls, by the way, were not 104th Div soldiers, but got sucked in by the talent vacuum that 104th had- so the Individual Ready Reserve was called to fill the void, and here they are with the rest of us. Hey, folks, welcome to the "104th family"!! Feel the love and support!!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The call of Africa

A bit dated, but a great story of how the LDS Church is making progress in Africa. I was particularly pleased to see this story given the work Christine and I had done with an African congregation in Gaithersburg and Germantown, Maryland over a 7 year period.

Cooling down!

I've alluded to the hot weather out here, but today have decided to dedicate an entire blog entry to the topic.

I have over these summer months been reminded of two movie moments: In Biloxi Blues where the main character talks about the heat at his training station- "Its Africa hot! Tarzan couldn't stand this kind of hot!", and in Good Morning, Vietnam! when Robin Williams talks about it being hot:

What's the weather like out there?
"It's hot. Damn hot!
Real hot!
Hottest things is my shorts.
I could cook things in it.
A little crotch pot cooking."
Well, can you tell me what it feels like?
"Fool, it's hot! I told you again!
Were you born on the sun?
It's damn hot!
I saw-- It's so damn hot,
I saw little guys, their orange
robes burst into flames.
It's that hot!
Do you know what I'm talking about?"

Haven't seen anyone bursting in flames during the hottest part of the summer here (each culture has their own way of protesting...), but a couple of weeks ago, it was in the 130s, and it made my eyeballs feel like they were melting. Thankfully it has cooled down to around 115-120, so now its just dang hot, but not painfully so. And also, thankfully, I'm in a position which doesn't require me to stay out in it for interminable periods- I can always retreat to the comfort of air conditioning if I start to feel like I can't handle it. Kudos to the National Police Training Teams who are out there for much more of the fun. I'm hoping we're not being teased by a "cold snap". It is actually even pleasant in the wee hours of the morning, which makes the walks with Binksie that much more pleasant- we're not likely to melt, now.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A cabinet with all the drawers doing their own thing

OK, the image stinks- but from

two polar bears fighting,

"Strife, As long was we have each other, we'll never run out of problems."

From an LA Times article today about the "surge", some comments about the state of the Iraqi government:

"The boycotting ministers will continue to run their ministries, but will no longer attend Cabinet meetings or cooperate with Maliki, said Iyad Jamaluddin, a Shiite Muslim cleric and parliament member with the Iraqi National List coalition."

Now this is dysfunction at its finest. Maliki is so weak, that not only does he tolerate this nonsense from his Cabinet, he actually has to beg them to come back, to play nice, etc. Holy poop. And when a third of your cabinet says they're going to do their own thing? Some folks need to yank their choke chains. And yes, that is a reference to a device used to control unruly dogs.

Again, the legal disclaimer, my opinion.

Follow up on the Note from Field to Headquarters

This evening's 20 minute burst of e-mail traffic from HQ was a beautiful illustration of the Duke of Wellington's Beefs (sorry, I couldn't resist that):

one request from HQ for a set of my orders (the same set of orders that 300 of us have and had submitted when we got to the HQ from the states back in May- they're all on one set of orders....)

another request from HQ for my dates of leave and passes, addresses, phones, next of kin information- all information on the leave and pass forms I have completed, submitted, and received approval from HQ on- they e-mailed them to me way back, and now I can e-mail them back copies of the copies they sent me once they were approved by HQ

a last request for biographical information that they could have pulled off of the military's databases (except for the "hobbies" question- in case the general would like to come play basketball with me, I guess).

Why pull out your files and read them, when you can just send a distribution-list e-mail and have everyone provide you the information that you already have?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Note to headquarters from the field

From the Duke of Wellington,

My Lord, If I attempted to answer the mass of futile correspondence which surrounds me, I should be debarred from the serious business of campaigning...So long as I retain an independent position, I shall see no officer under my command is debarred by attending to the futile driveling of mere quill-driving from attending to his first duty, which is and always has been to train the private men under his command that they may without question beat any force opposed to them in the field.

- To the Secretary of State for War during the Peninsular Campaign

He must have gotten in trouble for not having his Powerpoint in the designated font size. I'm not a warfighter, but a trainer (actually right now I'm just a training supervisor...)- I spend about half and half between time in the office on the computer and in meetings, and out in observation of training, getting the fingernails and boots dirty. I really am a Fobbit, but I'm not locked in the office, at least. But I did find the statement spoke to me, as I sometimes feel the important things get lost in the process that I observe.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Post-deployment reemployment

An opinion piece that exposes the lack of teeth in USERRA. Violations are difficult to prove, rarely enforced, and now the records and statistics on reemployment challenges that the military keeps are being kept under wraps. Way to go in supporting the troops!

Maybe all the optimism about retention and reenlistment is simply the flip side of the coin when folks know it will be hard for them to get jobs, especially as reservists.

I was invited to an interview at one well-known company last year in November, but was concurrently scheduled for a 2 week train-up with my Reserve group that was preparing for deployment in late January. My reserve commander decided not to release me for the interview, even though what we were doing during those 2 days that I requested was essentially worthless. I asked the company to allow me to interview an alternate date, but they indicated they needed to do the interviews and make a decision in a short time frame, and were not willing to schedule a separate interview for me when all the other candidates were interviewing on the original interview date.

And the company with which I signed an offer sheet is now saying they'll have to request headcount for me for next year because I didn't start in June- I was deployed.

I think for me it will all work out- I have been tremendously blessed in that respect, but I know there are plenty of holes in USERRA that folks fall through.

And frankly, right now, jobs stateside are an interest, but they are not life and death issues- the life and death issues are here. So I'll stop the "winge-ing" as my Aussie friends here say.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The knock on the door,0,5519247.story?track=mostviewed-storylevel

This is a human interest piece- the story of an Army wife with the dreaded knock on the door while her husband is deployed- except there's a twist- he used to have the job of being the soldier who would deliver the knock on the door, so she'd heard it all before.

So much suffering.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Some long recommended reading

If you're interested in a good, slightly academic piece on the military/political landscape in Iraq, this is a good article. It is a bit dated, but many if not most of the concerns and implications fleshed out back in 2005 are still relevant, if not already completely validated by the experiences since then.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Recommended media of the week

First of all, a follow up from the last post- only 4 Iraqis were killed by celebratory gunfire after the Iraqi win of the Asian Cup. Only 4 people who's lives were ended prematurely, to add to the tens of thousands killed in the country in the past few years.

And here's about as real as I can get on this blog about what is going on here, but of course, this is a media report, and as such does not represent the military's official position and all the other legal disclaimers-

I work with the National Police, who work under, but feel undersupported by, the Ministry of Interior, which gets hammered in this report.

This is a very graphic program, not for children or people who don't want to see mutilated, dead and/or tortured bodies.

This program should have been integrated into the 3 months of training we got at Fort Riley. It easily could have replaced a lot of the less relevant training.

So let's lighten things up a bit, I've been sharing juvenile but clean humor with my military friends and my son:

What has 4 legs, green, soft to the touch ... but will hurt you if it hit you?

A Pool Table.

Thanks for that one, TK!