Friday, October 29, 2004

Dust Devils & Side Arms

If I had to describe Iraq in one word or less it would be "Grapes of Wrath dusty"! Holy Mackerel it's dusty here. It's not like a huge dust storm or anything, more like you can smell and taste it in the air kind of dusty. Rather hot days and slightly cool nights but our weather guy says it's gonna start getting a bit cooler over the next month or two.

This is a great unit to serve in for many reasons, not the least of which is that my uniform consists of combat boots, black shorts and a brown T-shirt. Also they gave me some high speed Oakley glasses for the day and a Petzel light for the night.

Our living conditions might be considered Spartan but it's not as bad as some other guys have it. My little hooch looks like the trailer on an 18 wheeler except it's only about half that size and has no wheels. More or less a big metal box with a window at either end, a door and a small A/C unit. There are bunk beds in it but fortunately there are enough of them so that I don't have to share it with another officer. RHIP!

The chow is not bad either. It's not home but it's not totally unpalatable. However, the Iraqi people who make it seem to really like cabbage. Not Korean kimshi type but it's cabbage nonetheless. Not often the main course but almost always included as a side dish in one of about one million configurations.

My unit operates on Greenwich Mean Time rather than local time so we get up around noon local and hit the sack around 2am. That's actually up around 9am zulu (GMT) and then to bed at a quasi decent hour. Where I am is relatively safe, or at least as safe as a war zone can be. We hear gunfire periodically but it's fairly far off. Besides which, we are surrounded by other units and everyone is carrying loaded weapons. My unit all have pistols they carry around loaded. Kind of old west style. The conventional army guys around here carry their ammo separately so they don't accidentally shoot someone. I always thought that was the point of fighting a war. Silly chaplain. They watch us walk around and get a bit ticked that they have to wear flak vests and ballistic helmets all the time while we wear shorts and Oakleys. Nice!

It's exciting around here at times. Last night our guys went on a mission and jacked up three bad guys transporting mortar tubes. They won't be trying that again.

I'm glad to be a part of this effort. Our guys are doing a wonderful job for the cause.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The 50,000 Foot Nap of Death

It seems the nature of this business in this day is separation. Again today I loaded a plane without my family and headed to Iraq, alone. The past several weeks have been spent preparing so that once on the ground and settled in I can begin to reach out to our soldiers in their place of business, the field. I don't regret my calling or career choice. I know I'm doing what God wants me to do. However, it would be nice if I could do it with my family.

At any rate, after several hours of loading our gear, we finally boarded a C-17 and headed out. This is not a small aircraft. Exactly what we brought with us is kind of classified, but we did bring a lot of stuff. And then we crammed in a lot of guys. Once we reached altitude, we each took an Ambien to help us sleep, picked a nice spot on the floor between boxes and machinery, and tried to get some sleep. About 2 hours later the flight crew woke us up to buckle in while the aircraft was refueled in flight. That took about an hour or so. Then we moved back to our own piece of airborne real estate and tried to sleep some more. However, sleeping on a hard metal floor that is in no way uniformly smooth while flying close to the arctic circle at about 50,000 feet is not easy. It was cold, with emphasis on the word "freaking"! This had the effect of making one believe the notion of "sleep" was a fantasy only to be hoped for and never actually achieved. This meant that in the course of multiple hours of flying, I laid on every possible side I could think of, critically damaged several hip joints and induced the kind of all over pain one normally associates with prolonged wearing of medieval armor. Couple that with the giggly euphoria one experiences from mind numbing fatigue and you will get a slight idea of the wonders of last class travel. Finally we landed in Germany to switch out flight crews and have our last taste of western culture (Burger King) before moving on to the big sand box.

After another mid-air refuel and another unsuccessful attempt at sleep, we landed in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. The month of Ramadan was about half over so there was an extremely full moon. Thus my first impression of the desert was that it was much lighter than I had expected. As we taxied to a stop, someone turned on all the lights inside the plane. At this, everyone started shouting to shut off the light. Then I remembered we are in a war zone and lights equal targets. Mortars not being uncommon here I was pleased to join in the call for darkness.

After doing a little paperwork and unloading our gear, we were assigned a hooch and allowed to crash. So now here I am, at war , supporting the fight for freedom in Iraq, and sleeping well. It's not home but it ain't an airplane floor either.