Thursday, July 21, 2005

Update - 21 July

All right, it looks like more than the families are reading this thing now. The hit counter is approaching 4000, and my buddy, Major John Piedmont (a.k.a. JPP, a.k.a. the Evil Clown) has linked me to his blog, and yet another fellow (Kim du Toit) has linked to me to HIS blog. Further down the rabbit hole we go; guess I better watch them words (and them grammar too).
Today’s subject: An Average Day in Habbaniyah. It is now 2220 on Saturday, 16 July. I am sitting here in what I refer to as the “battery office”, our team work area. It’s a pit; it makes the lounge in your worst fraternity look pretty good. Three beat-up desks, three book cases made out of scrap lumber, four fluorescent lights, three pieces of furniture that I KNOW are from the 70’s (although this is Iraq, so they could have been new a few years ago). The A/C is, of course, busted, so this is the hottest room in the building, day and night. The floor is that square stone stuff that you used to see in hospitals, and everything – EVERYTHING – is covered in a fine sheen of dust. I dusted these desks myself a few days ago, but we had a dust storm, so now I get to dust again. It wasn’t a “sham’al” like I remember from Desert Storm, which blow like a nor’easter with sand and dust; this was more a fog, like the storm had stopped blowing, but the dust carried. It infiltrates everything. Two wool army blankets hang by nails as drapes; the fan is at full strength yet fails to move any air. Hey, the forecast today is high of 120, low of 91! Welcome to Iraq.

Wake up about 0630 feeling like you have a hangover from the night before. (An aside: the Iraqis have a different schedule than us. They tend to drift into breakfast about 0730, take a long siesta around 1100 to 1500, and stay up to unholy hours of the night.) Get dressed, go get the lock for the port-a-head (we keep a couple locked for out team only; let’s just say the reasons include boot prints ON the toilet seat accompanied by water bottles in the urinal, and leave it at that.) Go to the shower trailer (we have out own team trailer too); get dressed. We are in rooms similar to our battery office, but have managed to find enough where the air conditioners work for three of us to sleep per room. I live with the CO and our interpreter, Ayman, a really good guy. Great english, quiet as a churchmouse (or perhaps mosquemouse). The other rooms are Radke, Greene, and Roche; Decamillo, Ellis, and Walsh; and the early-birds, Kistler, Rush, and Traylor. Metal army racks with a cheap foam mattress, and some furniture made from ammo crates and spare lumber by previous teams. Depending on the room you walk in to, you’ll find M-16A4s, M4s (the carbine version of the M-16), clips of ammunition, M9 pistols, Night Vision Goggles, some pyro, cans of ammo for the machine guns, an Arabic phrasebook, and in SSgt Walsh’s case, about TEN letters from his lovely bride. (The first mail came in about two days ago; SSgt D had one, SSgt Walsh had a stack. “How long you been married?” asked Master Guns Kistler. “About a year,” says SSgt Walsh. “Thought so.” Then there were some more old boy smart-aleck comments about wives and marriage, the only thing missing was cigars, beer, and a football game (we love you, ladies!).)

OK, so now to breakfast, which I have started to get at the Iraqi chow hall. It is always ALWAYS the same thing: lentil soup, eggs (fried or hardboiled), milk, and flatbread kind of like naan, if you know Indian food. I usually go for just the bread. And then there is chai. Wonderful chai. Chai in the states is this expensive concoction involving milk, and usually a lot of money in a gourmet grocery store. Here, the recipe is as follows: really strong tea and a freakin’ LOT of sugar. Refill when required. I thought sweet tea from North Carolina was sweet, but this stuff will damn near make you diabetic. Oh well, when in Habbaniyah,… No coffee to be found anyway (except in the two Master Gunny’s room, where there is ALWAYS coffee).

Hold a quick team meeting here in the “battery office”, which is already starting to heat up. With a slight breeze, you are OK until about 1000. If not, you will be sweating hard all day. If you are on a mission, in a flak and helmet, you will sweat through your uniform, through your boots, through any paper products like notepads that you may be carrying in your pockets. I run the meeting, but the CO jumps in whenever we start to dissolve into “sidebars”, which we tend to do. Very much like any other office, except our topics include scheduling the battlesight zero range for our rifles, who is lined up for the evening patrol (both to walk on the foot patrol and to stay with the Quick Reaction Force which will go in if the patrol gets into trouble), addressing concerns the interpreters (known as “terps” here) may have, who is running the mad dash across the highway to Al Taqqadum (“TQ”) for HUMMV parts, etc. OK, so maybe not your normal office meeting.

0900, time to start on whatever is on fire that day.
Run to the US Army side of the camp, driving the Russian version of a Willys jeep (this one is new, 2001), wave to the guard at the Checkpoint Charlie separating “Us”(the Iraqis) and “Them” (the Americans). Dodge some potholes, hit more, weave over to the 1/506th Tactical Operations Center (“TOC”). May go by the field laundry drop off point (called “El Mariachi” for reasons unknown to me; there are actually soldiers whose job is to do laundry all day every day), may go by Gunner Walker’s building to check the internet (VERY slow at the peak times), go visit with the terp’s employer, Perry, with Titan (the company). (Note: since we’re “safe” on base, except for the occasional distant unidentified boom, I don’t wear flak and helmet on base, and carry only my pistol.)

Come back, meet with the Iraqi operations officer, run around chasing some items to ground, go to lunch, back for a brief on the afternoon patrol, putter around trying to set up the office with dry erase board info, etc. Coming up on time for the patrol (which will go on foot out the East Gate), and I have the QRF today, so I say goodbye to the dry erase boards and get my flak, helmet, rifle, (4) magazines on my left leg, pistol with extra magazine on my right leg, and camelback with at least a liter of water. Sit in the HUMMV with the two or three other Marines on the QRF (plus a squad of Iraqi jundee in their truck). Nothing happens except that we sweat like mad, the patrol comes in after an hour, we go back to our rooms. Go to the battery office, find out what crises have arisen, talk through the issues for the next day. Compare notes about the most outrageous thing we had seen that day (and those stories, gentle reader, will have to wait for a later time). Drink a lot of water, go to bed. Next day, almost exactly the same. Rinse and repeat.

There! I feel better, and now you know what life is like out here in the sticks. Gotta run; it is now July 20, and we are almost all getting up at 0300 tomorrow. The CO is going to Ramadi with Gy Ellis and SSgt Walsh to swap them out with MSgt Radke and their respective companies (SSgt Walsh has been our guy with the SEALs and their Iraqi trainees, but he is pinch-hitting for a few days; long story).

Hope all are well. Will try to start posting more pictures and more funny stuff in the near future. Again, if anyone has any specific questions or requests, e-mail me. Don’t be offended if I take a while to respond.


Anonymous mrsgyellis said...

Are the wool blanket curtains a result of Gy Ellis? That was his decor of choice when we met. (He would still have them up if I would let him) As a matter of fact, the description of your accomodations isn't far from what it was like at all. minus the dust storms.

21 July, 2005 17:13  
Blogger Pat said...

I am one female that has linked to your site, don't be polite on my account, I love reading your blog. I grew up a Canadian Army Brat, my Dad serving 30+ years in the Cdn Artillery retiring as a CWOI he wouldn't take the Commission to Captain. Brings back alot of memories. You stay safe and keep up the great work. Your blog will only grow in readership you are a great writer, is like really being there.
Stay Safe.

21 July, 2005 19:18  
Blogger Wild Bill said...

Hope you dont mind me pokin my head in here every now and then.. I get a kick out of the "accomadations" you have pics and descriptions of.. I'm an old Air Force Sgt. that spent many days on exercises and deployments to locations much like yours.. Wish I could be there with you guys, but I dont have what it takes any more.. With thoughts, prayers, and many thanks for the sacrifices you and your unit make, me and my family here in Texas wish ya'll all the best..

23 July, 2005 09:24  
Blogger Bec said...

Really enjoy reading your blog! Keep up the good work and stay safe.

26 July, 2005 08:39  

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