Tuesday, September 27, 2005

This may look like a section of tank track, but it is, in fact, a speed bump. I am not kidding. This will damn sure slow you down!
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One of our convoys staged and ready to roll to Ramadi.
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Sunset in Civil Camp. I was on patrol with SSgt Walsh when he suggested I get this shot. Picturesque, but again, you are missing the smell.
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This picture about sums this place up. This is a bomb robot rolling out to deal with an unexploded rocket while a donkey looks on from a crappy, never-to-be-finished cinderblock building. Throw in a few water bottles (literally) and you have the perfect snapshot of Iraq.
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Master Guns Kistler and SSgt Decamillo on the same op.
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Gy Roche looking Rommel-esque on an op in Civil Camp about two weeks ago.
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Master Guns Kistler looking like - and I quote his fellow Master Guns - a Sergeant Major (minus the cofee cup).
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Monday, September 26, 2005

Team Update - 26 Sept 05

Howdy from scenic Ramadi, y’all.

As strange a place as Habbaniyah had been, this place is stranger. Wouldn’t have thought it possible, but hey, this is Iraq! When it cames to strange, there is always room for more here.
Everyone is doing well. The move from Habbaniyah was painful, but it’s (mostly) done. You know how moving yourself can be? No matter the distance, you have to pick up everything you own, put it in a box, figure out where to pack it, etc? Well, that was like this move, but include automatic weapons, hand grenades, personal gear, etc., plus the language barrier, plus trying to keep the Iraqis from taking everything not bolted down, and you start to get the picture. Instead of a moving van, we had metal shipping containers and quadcons, complete with M1A1 and Bradley escort. The distance itself is probably 15-20 miles, due west, so not a LONG move, but the "atmospherics" here (a new Army term) are very different.

We moved in three different serials, so the team was split up for about five days. The CO went first with a terp and two other Marines, I stayed around until the bitter end. It was a fair trade; the CO had to deal with the other Iraqi battalion we took over from as well as the various "life support" issues like the lack of proper facilities (read "no porta-heads"), excessively poor hygienic conditions in the camp, and the Iraqi penchant for modifying all electrical wiring EVEN IF NEWLY INSTALLED and the actions of the ubiquitous "Ali Baba". Remember the kid’s story about Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves? Well, here in Iraq, if something turns up missing or is stolen, the finger gets pointed at Ali Baba. You can watch the guy in the act of stealing itself and confront him about it and it will be "Ali Baba". Here, Ali Baba was trying to make off with a bunch of air conditioners that the American engineers had just installed. Luckily, the CO and Top Radke have considerably more force of personality than Ali Baba.

On my end, I was having to deal with some of the same issues, as well as the jundee from another battalion starting to move in to our spaces before we even vacated the buildings. That and the fact that the Iraqis never got that lesson we all did about leaving something in better shape than you got it. Accordingly, our barracks were wrecked and I had trouble getting them to pick up the water bottles they themselves left adrift in just the parking lot. I have pictures, but to post them would be too unbelievable.

Our digs at Ramadi are interesting to say the least. Two main buildings, one the old Iraqi Police headquarters, one the former Ba’ath Party HQ. Both have the ambiance of Beruit circa early 1982. Thanks to the CO, we do have heads now, but let’s just say the "flushing" will involve a 5-gallon can of diesel and a metal pole. I will get some pictures up at some point.

The op tempo is very, very, very different here. Much, much quicker. The entire team is busy beyond busy, especially with the move, but everyone is performing magnificently. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I could not have asked a better lash-up of Marines to be with. These guys cover each others backs, in the field and in "garrison" (note: there really IS no "garrison" here). Obviously we are very top heavy in terms of rank, and you would expect us to be mission-oriented and to do a good job, but they have really come together as a team and not just a bunch of really well trained individuals. You can be proud of all of them.

Gotta run. More later. Will throw some pictures up later; currently having computer issues (namely operator head space and timing).