Saturday, July 02, 2005

Stand in the door

Close, very close now.

Gy Greene caught back up to us today; we'd left him in Baghdad for a couple, maybe three, days to stay with our gear until it got up here. He flew in last night, and the gear just got here today. If we were in the rear, I'd be able to take him to the club and make it up to him over a pitcher of beer. Here, he get a tall frosty mug of "suck it up" and we have to push on.

Will be taking all of our gear with us, and it is a significant amount. I complain about the Wally World over on mainside here (the world's largest "combat" PX, which had a boxing match and band last night, etc.), but the good part for us with Uncle slinging your tax dollars around is that we GOT SOME GEAR. One of the Marines on the other team sweet-talked one of the Army soldiers out of brand new Camelbacks for both teams. These are smaller than out assault packs, but with a little pack space. This is the third camelback I've received since activating, plus I brought one of my own. There are a few things I wish we had a few MORE of, but we got at least one of everything we could have asked for. We have our own 5k generator, a crate of 96 rolls of toilet paper, and we are loaded for bear!

Will try to post some pictures later; have to run to a pre-deployment briefing. Check in later tonight.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Update - 30 June 05

Some quick admin notes.

First, I have tweaked the blog (I truly do hate that word) so that all of the members of the Team can - in theory - start adding to the blog as well. I will keep going as the primary, but this is a team effort after all, and this is our site, so... just don't be suprised if other folks pop up.

Second, on the pictures, you CAN download them. If you left click on a picture, it will blow it up. Right click, you can "save picture as" to your computer. You can never get enough Team Med-fah!

I am also going to start talking a little more about training and equipment; I will keep it somewhat civilian friendly, but let's face it, we ain't in Kansas anymore, Toto. Now that we are packing heat everywhere we go (each of us has an M-16A4 and M9 service pistol), and there will probably not be a picture you see from here on out without a rifle or pistol in it somewhere, I really don't want to dance around the issue. Plus, in all honesty, I think that knowing a little more about our equipment and training (all unclassified info) should make you feel a little better, a little more confident in our abilities. This place is more than a little dangerous, but frankly, after all of our training since May, so are we.

If anyone has any questions they want me to address in the blog, ask me, I'll be glad to write at least something. I am getting the impression that this thing is starting to take on a life of it's own, and AS TIME ALLOWS, I will be glad to address what I can. I say "as time allows" because we are about to get to our battalion and it is almost showtime for us.

Had some great training today from a SEAL named Mike (they aren't real big on military decorum or last names) on how to tactically enter and clear a building. Also some classes today on financing and how to pay for services and buy stuff from the Iraqi populace (namely, how to be a field ordering officer and contracting officer). That is actually a pretty good snapshot on what the spectrum of our capability has to be. Have to be ready to draw down on the bad guys in a full up gunfight, and then the next day submit the paperwork for cash which we will take out into town to pay locals to build a mud wall around the camp. All through interpreters, some of whom speak english at a second grade level. How did an simple artillery guy end up in this mess?

Hey, a quick "Kistler-ism" from a conversation overheard the other day between Master Guns Traylor and Master Guns Kistler. As a set up, Jimmi Hendrix is playing on the radio of the bus we are on, and Master Guns Kistler is a semi-truck driver by civilian trade...

Traylor: "Hey, Master Guns, here's some music from your time, back in the day!"
Kistler: "Oh yeah? Who is it?"
Traylor: "Jimmi Hendrix"
Kistler: (Pause) "Who is that?"
Traylor: "Jimmi Hendrix!?!? You don't know who Jimmi Hendrix is?!?!?"
Kistler: "No, ... Does he drive a truck?"

I thought I was going to choke.

From yesterday, we did finally get to meet the Iraqis. Met about a platoons worth in the afternoon to review (i.e. learn) checkpoint operations; how to properly stop and search cars, how to deal with belligerent drivers (Top Radke had an Oscar-winning performance as the driver, drunk on too much water). Gave us a chance to start learning how to communicate without always having an interpreter. Really all went quite well. The Iraqis LOVE having their picture taken. They will literally stop WHATEVER they are doing to pose for a camera. Quite strange. There was also at least one fruit-loop that just wanted to ask us about Michel Jackson. Hit at least half of us up with "MICHAEL JACKSON! MICHAEL JACKSON!" I have no clue. We then got on the bus and took a driving tour of the base and then out the front gate, "outside the wire", and walked the road with the US Army major in charge of the security. Met an Iraqi with 5 wives and twenty five kids. We couldn't believe it: FIVE WIVES! (I bet you thought I was going to say TWENTY FIVE KIDS). Just kidding, honey!

OK, gotta go. Class tomorrow, then practice driving in a tactical convoy, and that will pretty much eat up a day. Will be back at least once more before driving out.


Just got the lowdown on our mailing address. It is:

3rd Bn 2nd Bde IIF
HHC 1/506th (MTT)
Camp Habbiniyah
APO AE 09381

A couple of things. Make SURE that "MTT" is on there. This address is actually to the Army battalion that we are quasi-co-located with. If it doesn't have MTT, they won't know us by name to make the connection.

Also, in about a month, the HHC 1/506th part will change, since that unit will be rotating. The APO AE 09381 part is the real key; it will remain the same and the new unit will assume that APO when they come in. Point is, don't be suprised when the unit changes, but not the APO. We will still be in the same place, livin' the dream.

To decipher the address,...

3rd Battalion 2nd Brigade (equivalent of a Marine regiment) Iraqi Intervention Force
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn 506th Regiment

More later tonight; still in class, but wanted to get that out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Most of the Team today for the first time "outside the wire": Capt Rush, Gy Ellis, MGySgt Traylor, SSgt Walsh, Gy Roche, SSgt Decamillo, me, MGySgt Kistler. MSgt Radke and the CO somehow evaded me.
Bluedevil sends

Top Radke playing a belligerent drunk (this time on water) for a checkpoint exercise. He did a REALLY good job; he's about twice as big as some of these guys, so his size is always a topic of discussion.
Bluedevil sends

Capt Rush, Master Guns Traylor and Master Guns Kistler getting a good laugh about something (probably the jundee that was excitedly asking about Michael Jackson. Folks, it is a different world over here).
Bluedevil sends

Me with two jundee.
Bluedevil sends

Gy Roche and SSgt Decamillo flipping through the Iraqi phrasebook with two "jundee" (soldiers).
Bluedevil sends

The team finally meets the Iraqis today. How in the HELL they wear wool caps and polypro scarves in that heat I will never know. I am at far left; the CO is shaking hands in the center.
Bluedevil sends

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hogan's Goat

Sorry for the long delay in updating. As it is now 2330 our time, and has been another long, long day, I will try to be as complete as possible, but need to get to bed soon.

When last we left young Team Med-fah, we were about to head to the airport to fly to Taji. This did indeed occur, but is was a bit of a cluster (reference the title). Waited for two hours at BIAP, played the "wait, wait, wait, HURRY UP! HURRY UP!" game for about an hour. Staged on the runway looking right at a CH-47, were told that the next bird would be ours, and then were told that HURRY UP! this was our bird after all. Got dumped at the flightline in Taji about 2230(?), and... nothing. No one there to pick us up. Turned out that the trucks and two Marines there to pick us up were at another part of the runway where they'd been promised, but man, there is just no feeling like standing in the dark on the edge of a runway not knowing where in the HELL we were and not even knowing where to go to do something about it. They found us after a few minutes, got us to bed, and we started training the next day. Finally met the CO and 1st Sgt of the MTT (turns out that is pronounced "Mitt" by folks here); seem like really good Marines, and while happy to see us (no kidding), they seem just as dedicated to making sure they give us a good turnover. Their turnover when they arrived sounds like a classic nightmare scenario: three days here, then married up with their battalion in Fallujah last fall in the middle of combat operations, where they received the most cursory of turnovers (a classic one-hour "high five") and were then on their own. We are at least getting a good turnover from them. There are other areas which we realize were lacking, but it is now too late to really do anything about it. A day with the guys were relieving = a week of training anywhere else with anyBODY else.

Gotta go; am fairly awake because I still have some CONUS time in me, but will be starting another day in... six hours.

At a minimum, I will post once more before we hit the road to Habbiniyah.

Peterson out...

Top Radke apparently thrilled at getting a new pillow here at Taji. (For extra comedy, read the word printed on the mattress behind him).
Bluedevil sends

Deee-lux accomodations at Taji. Like being back in the squad bay at MCRD or OCS, but without the charm.
Bluedevil sends

Group shot back at BIAP waiting for our helicopter flight to Taji. It is early evening and starting to cool off a bit. We would be there for about two hours until the helo could lift us, after dark. The tent behind us is - and I am not making this up - the terminal. This is on the other side of the runway from the full-sized, civilian, NORMAL terminal.
Bluedevil sends

(LATE ENTRY): The team enjoying the BBQ the Air Force threw for us at McGuire. They actually had a functional bar in their headquarters (but alas, we won't be drinking until we return).
Bluedevil sends

Me at Baghdad International with the rest of the team in the background.
Bluedevil sends

Master Guns Traylor and Capt Rush suit up; Team Med-Fah has landed in Iraq.
Bluedevil sends

Gy Greene and Top Radke killing time on the C-17. Leg room wasn't an issue, but having a 10,000 lbs HUMMV bouncing in in front of you when flying through turbulance can be distracting.
Bluedevil sends

Members of our sister team on the C-17 from Germany. The members in the foreground are practicing wearing burkhas.
Bluedevil sends

Sunday, June 26, 2005

To Taji...

Quick update before we depart for Taji in an hour or so. All still OK; have hit the exchange twice (it carries freakin' EARLY PREGNANCY TESTS, if that tells you anything), made a few phone calls. Got a $3.00 haircut worth at least $3.50. Watched C-130s land at BIAP, dropping in like it was Khe Sanh (pull the nose up hard and DIVE in like they were going for the #3 cable on an aircraft carrier). We should be co-located with our sister team for about another 3-4 days until we finally "report" to our respective battalions. They are still going to Mosul, we to Habbiniyah (sp?). We will try to pry a mailing address out of the folks at Taji, and I will post again when I can and when I have something interesting to say.

Oddity of the day: Met a national guardsman or army reservist at dinner who was a former Marine and Beruit veteran (1981-1983?). The guy was still a sergeant, so must have been out for a while. Guess I'm not as old as I thought.

P.S. Master Guns Traylor pointed out a few errors on my first post. We also have some Marines from Philadelphia, and Reading isn't spelled with two "d"s. Also, Camp Striker isn't Stryker like I thought (as in the Army Stryker vehicle). I stand corrected. I tried to blame the crappy keyboards they have here, but forgetting Phiadelphia isn't a typo, but operator headspace and timing.