Thursday, June 30, 2005

Interview: 'Sergeant'

Disclaimer and Scope: It is important to be aware that the interviews I conduct are from a small sampling of people. I do not claim nor believe that what I present as interview information is widely true nor the only perspective. To the contrary, I provide these interviews to challenge the popular idea that what the commercial media in America presents is the true and only answer as well as spark debate on this blog, at your homes, your workplaces, and other forums. I have stated before that every interview and poll that I have read in American Media has been sampled from citizens of Baghdad. Baghdad is one of three (relatively) urban centers in Iraq; indeed the largest and most modern. But that does not mean what is true in Baghdad is true in the rest of rural Iraq, or what is good for Baghdad is good for Iraq as a nation. The interviews I provide will present the responses of the interviewed as closely as language barriers will allow. Most responses will be conservative paraphrasing, focusing on the meaning that was being conveyed to me at the time. For further insights into the Iraqi experience, please visit Michael Yon's blog. I highly recommend it and would gladly trade him careers.

Sergeant is a nickname given to him by KBR. I was asked to use his nickname instead of his real name so that he couldn't be tracked down on the internet.

Sergeant is 21 years old and works in the main laundry facility. Eighteen months ago he was a student, living at home in the Diyala region of eastern Iraq. We took the opportunity to discuss some of the 25 most interesting questions my readers submitted.

Do you feel safe? Have you ever had your life threatened because of your association with Americans? Yes, I feel safe. I have not received any threats of any kind.

How long do you believe US Forces should remain in Iraq? I think that the Americans should stay until everyone (in the country) is safe. After the new Iraqi government is able to protect its citizens and brings order back.

What is your opinion of the new (Iraqi) government? Did you vote? Right now, they are not strong enough to do anything. In the future they will be strong. And no, I didn't vote.

Do you feel that the different groups (Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites) will be able to construct a peaceful, co-existant, cooperative, unified country? We all live together now, we lived together peacefully before. I think we will continue to do so. I am a Sunni muslim.

What is your opinion of Americans? I think Americans are good people.

Have you ever been outside Iraq? No

How do you feel about the removal of Saddam? (Shrug) Doesn't really matter. He was a bad man but it doesn't really matter to me.

Do you feel that the Iraqi people, as a whole, are suffering more or less than they did under Saddam's rule? Do you feel more free? I feel the same. The bad people form before, under Saddam, are the bad people now. Saddam's friends, people that used to work for him. They are the insurgents now.

Why do the insurgents attack? Because they were friends of Saddam. They have small brains and will do anything for money.

What do you want most in life? Safety.

Do you have any family? I don't have my own family yet. I live with my mother and my sister.

What is your favorite food? Chicken....lot's of chicken.

What do you for fun? I play soccer.

Sergeant's responses did not quite match up with what I expected nor with what I find in the media. This could be mainly due to the region he is from and his age. Diyala is almost completely rural. Balad Ruz is listed as a main city. You can get a brief 'tour' of Balad Ruz by watching the Pet video that I produced. Balad Ruz is the city with the cow standing on the median.

What I find most interesting is his veritable indifference to Saddam and his removal. To me, this is evidence of the perspective I assume many rural people have. Their day-to-day life has changed little; they still farm to eat, maybe have low paying jobs at the brick factories or as mechanics in towns like Balad Ruz, a larger percentage are shepherds. In this environment, the political and religious differences between the Sunnis and Shiites are of little consequence. This is consistent with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Please, I encourage you to post comments so that I may clarify or expand on anything concerning this interview with Sergeant. I have kept my opinion and interpretation to a minimum so to spark some conversation. It is my intent to continue interviewing people from significant sectorsas they become available.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I Can't Even Think of a Clever Title for This One....

Ok, let me just admit that I know the limitations of UCMJ and how far a soldier can criticize Officers and elected officials. I am going to toe that line. Here it goes...

I am outraged as a possessor of Common Sense. I just got back from a mission through eastern Iraq, being alert for insurgents, IEDS, car bombs, small arms fire, etc. I returned 'home' tired and soaked in sweat to sit down and read the most absurd insult to American intelligence and to those fellow soldiers that have given their lives for this little field trip.

Has anyone read the latest story on Rumsfeld and his view of the insurgency?? He must really view us Americans as ultra-ignorant. Let me point out some intellectual lowlights from his statements:

"..Mr Rumsfeld said US officials in Iraq have had talks with leaders of the insurgency."

During a round of network TV interviews, Mr Rumsfeld made light of a report by a British newspaper that said US officials have secretly met with Iraqi insurgents.

Meetings go on "all the time", Mr Rumsfeld said, adding that Iraq's government often initiates contact.

"I would not make a big deal out of it. "

Meetings go on all the time? Don't make a big deal out of it??? Apparently these meetings go on near one of the largest of American FOBs in Iraq. Holy shit Batman! I thought the Marines, Army, and Air Force are all here trying to find these folks. No wonder we can't find them, no one would have ever thought to search American strongholds! Why are we meeting with them anyway? Why are we not killing these bastards when we have the chance?

And this bit of information....

"The US defence secretary told Fox News: "Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years."

"Vice President Cheney, who said in a CNN interview last month that the insurgency was in its "last throes," stood by that comment in another CNN interview Thursday."

Ok, I haven't been to the War College or anything yet, but what does he base this tendency on? Name another insurgency. Go ahead, dare you. If you *can* name one, which I doubt you can, how long did it last after the troops pulled out? Twelve years? That is an unusual number to pick. Why twelve years?

Now before you get all worked up and demand Rumsfeld resign, may I remind you that he has stated several times that it really isn't his fault. Rumsfeld stated that he has indeed tried twice to resign but Bush has not accepted them. In other words, "It's Bush's fault that I am here." Since when can't a person resign from any job? It still is America, right? Land of the Free?

I am outraged that our leadership expects us to lower our IQs so that their 'Emperor's Got New Clothes' scenario appears to work.

Please take the time to read the articles associated with each link. They provide interesting and pertinent information to this discussion.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Interview: Babu Devkota

This casual interview is the first in a series of interviews I will be doing as time and opportunity permit. As you may have learned from earlier posts, we have privately owned company, KBR, providing us many services here and at other FOBs in Iraq. KBR hires many Americans under contract as well as many people from southern Asia. Most of these Indians, Nepalese, Thai, etc, work in food service.

Tonight I had the distinct pleasure to talk, at length, with my friend Babu. I see him almost every day working in our Dining facility (DFAC) and often take time for short conversations while in line for food. He always struck me as an intelligent and interesting man, always happy to serve us soldiers with a unique pride. This was the first time, though, that we had time to kick back and chat.

At 29 years old, Babu has an interesting history and philosophy on life. Born only 20km from Buddha's birthplace in Nepal, Babu grew up Hindu with strong Buddhist influences. From this philosophical / religious background, it was easy for me to see the source of his view on life. Babu sees people as individuals, and their struggle. He does not see race, nationality, religion, political party, etc. He looks to the problems we all have as humans, in the most basic ways, as motivations and as an opportunity to support the person in need. This is the most fundamental premise of Hinduism and Buddhism, where religious tolerance is not even as much as a thought, because we all are born into the same struggle no matter what our other differences.

I asked Babu his opinion of the War and Islam, what America is doing in Iraq. He did say that it does seem that muslims always wish to fight, but then focused again on the human struggle behind it. He has no big-picture opinion on the War or our purpose here. He is secure in believing that we are doing good for the truly good people in Iraq. He takes care of us soldiers by feeding us so we can take care of our business.

Babu had left Nepal years ago because of rebels that have been trying to overthrow the current government. Apparently, certain factions view the government as illegitimate and ill-gained. These terrorists, as he puts it, had tried to recruit him and his brothers under threats of death. Babu originally left to go work then in Malaysia where he was in charge of the worker's camp. The entire camp was populated by Nepalese and Bangalese workers. Once a fight broke out after some Bangalese men were drinking. The fight turned into a mob scene into which the localauthorities were called. Because Babu was technically in charge of the workers, he ended up spending 7 months in jail getting his water from the toilet, wearing the same set of clothes, and getting little to eat. Shortly after returning home, he started work for KBR (Kellogg, Brown, Root) which brought him to Kuwait for food service. KBR then moved he and his crew to Iraq where he has spent the last 13 months. Babu plans to remain another year, saving money for his family with the hopes of someday being able to move to America. His brothers and sister are already their with their families. He knows little of America except for the idea that if he can get there, works hard, he will succeed and his family will be happy and safe.

Though Babu wanted me to not write about what KBR pays him, I will say that by our standards it is low and in no way even on the same scale as the American that hands out towels in the gym. He does not complain, always maintaining the smile of his face because he knows God will provide for him.

He told me many stories of his home where they don't even bother with cash. His family has many fields with fruits and vegetables, so do the other towns people. They share with each other and extend that hospitality to anyone in need. He spoke of many temples and the beauty of the Himalayas. His family remains there, waiting for him to return hopefully with enough money saved to immigrate. Babu has been married for 9 years to his wife Arina. They have 2 children; a daughter, Biddhya, age 8, and a son, Bishal, age 5. Babu will be away from them for more than 2 years.

Babu represents to me several things. First, he represents the third party cultures that either benefit or exploited by the business of war (depending on your perspective). He also represents to me the truly peaceful religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. I hate to label them simply as religions because we tend to trivialize that term. He is an practicing example of the application of those philosophies / cultures; his thoughts, views, answers. I just wish more cultures and people considered these perspectives. He has no sense of 'entitlement', rather he gets what he works for and is happy for the opportunity. Once he is given that fair opportunity, his is eager to make the most of it in striving for his overall goal.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Home on the (M249) Range

I spent most of the day at the edge of the FOB participating in an M249 range. Fun stuff, another chance for me to fire my machine gun. I qualified as Expert....undoubtedly. Nothing else really to tell except thatI have been so NOT stressed lately that I have gone into binary mode. I am either full on or full off. For instance, I woke up for the range, got cleaned up, wiped down my M249, and drove out to the range. The unit that was there from 0500 was running over time. It was now 0930. So I slept in the HMMWV. About 90 minutes later I was awakened to start firing. Did my little expert shooting and made it back to my hooch. Ate lunch quick and napped. Got up to make some phonen calls, resumed nap. Ate a bit of supper, napped. Did some PT....stayed up. Go figure.

Got dehydrated at the range, enough so that I almost passed out. Even though I am a CLS (Combat Life Saver) and know all the precautions and symptoms, that crap sneaks up on you. First thing I did, right out of bed, was drink almost 1.5 litres of water and ate a protein bar (thanks mom!). I thought that would hold me, but it didn't. Seems you sweat so much more than you can imagine when A) you've become used to 120 F heat and 2) you wear an IBA (Interceptor Body Armor) that hides the profuse soaking that develops. Once I got to my hooch and took off the IBA, I realized I was soaked through 2 layers of clothes. No wonder.

The only other noteworthy thing that happened today was 1LT Rodriguez started teaching me to play soccer. Maybe by the end of this deployment I will be playing against the Iraqis.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Sometimes the demons are really angels, come to strip away the remnants of your life to make you free.
-A rough paraphrase from the movie Jacob's Ladder.

The last 48 hours have been pretty difficult for me to bear for a few simple personal reasons. Indifference is the starvation of the soul. I had to change scenery to try to work through it all, so I went for a walk around base. The quad that I live on is pretty small and uninteresting. The only place to walk is outside the quad on a 2.5 mile pill shaped loop of a road in the center of base. Off I went by myself and into a surreal little experience.

Taking consideration of my personal life and personal experiences since I've been deployed, I know I have a tremendous sadness that consumes me. I began to walk. Lately it has been dusty and inhospitable by most westerners' standards, visibilty is low and everything tends to be beige. That is when I realized how much harder life is in this environment; how many comforts I have given up, things that I had taken for granted now not even a part of my life. I began to feel stripped away but free. The sadness separated from me and I felt as though it didn't have to define me anymore.

Then came some Iraqi soldiers driving by in their LWTs (Little White Trucks) with the machine guns mounted on back. They waved and beeped in a friendly, brotherhood-of-soldiers kinda way. There's always that moment of mistrust when you see a foriegn army with weapons coming at you. That's when things started to get surreal for me. I realized that I am more apprehensive about living with the sadness and its cause than of facing armed Iraqis and death. Death is easy, takes no real effort.

I kept walking around the loop and past some Iraqi guards. They waved as I passed. That's when I started thinking about how friendly these Iraqi soldiers are despite their situation. Walking a bit father, I started to notice that evening prayers had begun and from the mosque a voice droned over the loudspeakers. By this time I was so drowned in my surroundings that I left thoughts of myself behind. Passed by armed troops in HMMWVs and LWTs, I could see in the dimming distance groups of people milling around. I came upon dozens of Iraqis gathered around a soccer field (really a flat piece of dusty land with homemade nets at either end). As I approached, many of them stared at me until I waved and sat down. They smiled and went back to watching the game. I couldn't at first describe how amazing it was to me that this seemingly simple situation was happening. Amazing because I was the only American sitting with a large group of Iraqis playing soccer in some rural outstretch of an anarchic Iraq. Amazing too when you remember back to when Saddam was in power, his sons would summarily execute the soccer teams if they lost.

These particular Iraqis are on base because their sense of patriotism dwarfs mine. They have volunteered to be soldiers in the IA (Iraqi Army). They are not the best trained, most fit, most disciplined group of soldiers. But they have heart and some deep seated desire to see Iraq heal. Despite dozens of casualties in April, they still train with an eagerness. They know it is an uphill battle for them to form an army and take back control of their country. They had the courage to volunteer to make that difference. They put their lives on the line frequently taking high risk assignments at check points and guard posts. Last year 50 soldiers fresh from Basic training, received here at Caldwell, were mass-executed on their way home on leave. Each time we convoy from here and travel through the front gates, there are lines of volunteers gathered for in-processing. This is the spirit and determination that really can make changes. I was recently sent a wonderful article written by Ben Stein in which he praises American soldiers for being the true heroes and role models for our nation. I turn and salute the soldiers of the IA for possessing the same values and selfless service in the face of deadly adversity.

I soon got up and continued my walk back to my little haven amidst this surreality. For a few moments, I was not burdened by my sadness. I found escape in the idea that these particular Iraqis had set aside their lives, material possessions, attachments, to find hope in an uncertain future. ...and still they played soccer.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Grave Excercise

Where is Jesus?
Since there has been little going on with me besides the daily grind, I thought we could try a little interesting excercise. A close friend recently asked me what I would want on my grave stone. I thought about it, overlooking the fact that if I died here, more than likely I would be buried in Arlington with my name and dates on the white cross.

So here it is,
1. you must have a grave stone
2. you must have a statement on it.
3. you may take a look at the larger picture, titled Where is Jesus? and guess where I took it.

What will it be?
Please post your responses in the Comments section, as will I.


I've been tagged by Crys, link to her blog on right side of this page.

Total volume of music files on my computer:

179 Gigs. (all full albums)

The last CD I bought was:

"Dick's Picks Vol. 12" by the Grateful Dead

Last aquired:

Judas Priest, "Angel of Retribution"

Song playing right now:

A Perfect Circle, "3 Libras" (have you ever just sat down and listened to the lyrics?)

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me: (I made it 6 to be thorough)

"3 Libras" by APC
"Callie Man" by Slightly Stoopid
"Pictures of You" by The Cure
"Something I Can Never Have" by NiN
"Hurt" by Johnny Cash
"Eulogy" by Tool....("He had a lot to say, He had a lot of nothing to say....")

Five people to whom I'm passing the baton:


Cheap sellout move to increase traffic. Adding top search engine keywords :) Feel free to do the same on your blog.
Current Top Keywords music lyrics paris hilton playstation 2 cheats jokes katie holmes pics google tattoos yahoo carmen electra ebay

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Power is in the hands of an unelected few....

"Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy,"

A quote by George W. Bush concerning the elections in Iran recently. I don't think I have to even further comment on the quote. But if I didn't just tell you who it was by and what it concerned, you may have thought it just the opposite. An article on BBC World News states that Iranians turned out in droves, against adversity in many cases, to cast their votes. Where is passion like that in America for Bush to criticize?

Recently, I was asked a provocative question. Someone asked me what I would do if I found that our government flat out lied. After the initial shock of finding someone that doesn't presume the govrenment always lies and acidentally lets truth slip trough occisionally, I began formulating my response.

Thomas Jefferson said,
"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience [has] shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."
The question I am left to answer as a responsible citizen is "What is the tolerance limit?" I alluded, albeit in a very circuitous manner, to the process by which we are duped, in my entry Boiling Frogs. The process of boiling frogs is how we become accustomed to the transgressions bestowed on us. For those that are not familiar with boiling frogs, the old addage says,
If you want to boil a frog, you can't just drop it into a pot of boiling water; the frog will get burned and jump out in reaction. Instead, put the frog in cool comfortable water to put it at ease. Then over time, increase the flame. By the time the complacent frog realizes the water is too hot, it is too late for it to react.
The tolerance limit is what we individually must determine for ourselves. Then we must work collectively to have our voices heard.
The bureaucracy is a circle from which one cannot escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge. The top entrusts the understanding of detail to the lower levels, whilst the lower levels credit the top with understanding of the general, and so all are mutually deceived. --Karl Marx
So how do we get our voices heard? How do we measure our success? Well, we've started the process already on this blog, and many like it. Several times there has been such impassioned debates about the core topics and motivations that face us all as members of the American society. We have shown that many of us are not complacent frogs. Also, we can see how our voices are being heard concerning the non-existant "Exit Plan" for the Iraqi war. Bush refuses to create one. But the topic has gained momentum enough to come to the forefront of social concern.

We need to know who we vote for, their integrity. We may even be inclined to join local politics like an old friend of mine hopes to. Take matters into our own hands in a pointed, peaceful, and noticeable way. Act on what you believe in. I am in Iraq, in the Army for just those reasons. I never considered it a great act of patriotism, I consider my choice a simple act of living how I speak. We must bring politics back to the political process and not have it be based on celebrity. Politicians racing toward the middle give voters little choice and disaffect the most citizens. We need a polarized, multi-party system based on plans for action, not neverending military actions and beaurocracies. Politicians should have no outside sources of wealth, no personal investments, no positions within corporations. Politics should be a life of consignment so that personal interest is not a factor and corporations can't amass power behind the curtain.

Karl Marx suggest this as our measuring stick,
Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included.

A Video from Iraq...kick back, relax.

I pieced together some scenic footage from my travels. This video is one you can watch and relax to, believe it or not. Admittedly the camera can't fully catch the stunning beauty and ugliness of Iraq. This version has been encoded in Windows Media Format (wmv) so all you Windows users should have no problem watching it. Soon I will make all my videos available on DVD with DVD quality audio and video. The song is "Planet Caravan" performed by Pantera, originally written and recorded by Black Sabbath.

Video can be downloaded from HERE. 28MB

Do not click on the link above!! Instead RIGHT-CLICK and chose SAVE LINK AS or SAVE TARGET AS to download the whole video instead of streaming it.

By request, here is an Xvid / Divx version 16MB

Please. If you download this video, leave a comment stating that you did. I have no counter on how many times this video gets distributed and would like a general idea. As with all my videos, please feel free to pass them around.

Thanks to Mark and Frank at for hosting the file.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I Admit I Love the Attention

Found that my blog seems to be making a name for itself. I am thrilled that this site is linking to me, seems like we share a lot of the same views. Click the pic to check out the site in another window. Good stuff! Linking to me? Referrencing me? Please let me know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


You all have seen that past fad of wearing a strap around your wrist with the letters WWJD on them. Right? What Would Jesus Do? Well, I propose starting a new fad that may prove a bit more devilishly fun. >;)

What Would Dorman Do?
(I spelled it out for any special readers out there that might not have caught on as quick as the rest of you.)

Simple, same principle; you find yourself in a peculiar situation and WHAM!!! you stop, say to yourself, "What would Dorman do?" That should take enough time that the situation has long past and the answer to the question now moot. But wasn't it fun? Disclaimer: Do not do this in traffic, while operating heavy machinery, or standing on railroad tracks.

So to start the ball rolling, I will now give a situation....THE situation that inspired this new idea. here it goes....

Once again I find myself in the shower trailer, this time I made it into a shower stall with little interference from the others. Picture if you will, some of you will, me standing there lathering up with a small bar of soap. Not small in the sense of hotel-room-soapbar small, small as in I've been using it for a while. The soap jumps out of my hand, bounces off the rim of the stand-up shower basin, and lands just between the basin and the wall. That area is plain floor which is covered in water and whatever else splashes off the one taking the shower. So I retrieve my soap since I am only half-done. Upon inspection I find that my little soap bar has collected several short & curlies. WWWHHHAAAAMMMM!!!!!


( answer will follow in the comments after you all mull your answers around for a bit.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Cartoon Phyics of an Existential Crisis

Wyle E. Coyote...alas, a modern day Sisyphus. Mr. Coyote incessantly pursues the Roadrunner to no avail, always to be foiled by his own machinations and contrivances. In English, he's always caught in his own traps, or more appropriately, he finds himself 10 feet past the edge of a cliff. Literally and figuratively, over the past week, I have found myself dangling unsupported, with little more to do than blink at the situation.

I took a trip to FOB Speicher in northern Iraq. It started out frustrating as usual, not being able to get a definite flight and lots of waiting around. Finally, though, I was able to get on a flight with really no time to spare. We loaded up onto the Blackhawks, I got the end seat facing the rear this time. I don't prefer to face the back, hard to get good photos, but no big deal. Since we were packed with passengers this time, I barely had enough space to get all of me on my seat and strapped in. Not a problem because once the crew closes the doors I can shift around and have a little more space. So there I sat facing a civilian, both of us with out feet dangling out over the edge of the floor.

Funny what happened next. Instead of the crew coming around to close the doors, the engines raced up and we started to lift off, quickly. Understand that I do not usually experience fear; a rational mind tends to eliminate fear. I love roller coasters, speed, and danger, but this caught me off guard. I don't think I would necessarily classify it as fear or fright, but I would admit to having some severe apprehension about the situation. I have been on flights where the pilot did several high speed banking maneuvers that dazzled my sense of physics, all tucked safely inside the closed-door bay of the Blackhawk. Now, with those memories in my head, I sat there staring straight down at the ground, suspended suspiciously by nothing more than the shadow of the helicopter as we turned to our heading. We were a mere 200 feet off the ground at this point, but my general sense of right-and-wrong was being challenged. Had gravity taken a coffee break? I was almost expecting a roadrunner to pop out from stage left and hand me a boulder. Luckily, after a few minutes of this new thrill, I had regained composure enough to grab my video camera and record some of this footage. Look for it in an upcoming video.

That would be the high point of my trip to Speicher. Had I known what was in store for me, I would have missed the flight and stayed at Caldwell. Because I then experienced one of the most profound existential crises I have had in several years. It was all based on self-image and a minor setback.

I had been scheduled to appear before the promotion board. I have wanted to be an E-5 for nearly a year and I finally had a chance. Problem was that because I focused too much on my mission, I had little 'me time' to prepare for this board. It was a mutual failing on my part and C Co. since they failed to provide me with any support for the board. Other soldiers get time set aside for studying, study partners, mock boards to practice. I got undelivered promises. Water under the bridge at this point and I now know better for next. Nonetheless, I showed up at Speicher, at my home unit, at the last minute because I couldn't even get prioritized on a flight. There I had to face my chain of command, whom I truly respect. It wasn't easy telling them how unprepared I was and why. I felt like I was dishing them load after load of bullshit, but I wasn't. I decided pretty quickly to back out of the board to save myself and them any embarrassment. I felt like I had disappointed the few people I actually trust. We then came up with a plan of action for me to attend the August promo board.

During this self-esteem crushing experience, I began to get ill; excruciatingly painful sore throat, sinus pain and congestion, fever. Nothing like a fever in the desert. I sure didn't feel like my usual social self; I couldn't think straight, couldn't stay awake, couldn't function. This, coupled with the fact that I now had several days in which I had no purpose, threw me into a tailspin. I did the wrong thing and started to be critical on myself, picking out the flaws that led me up to this shortcoming. I am definitely not used to failures nor shortcomings. I am much more critical of myself than anyone else. And unfortunately the house-of-cards tumbled when I began to scrutinize the other factes of my life. Many of the disagreeable positions in which I find myself can be traced back to a very limited number of bad choices. I have been paying the price for these choices for years and now find myself in situations where there seems to be no acceptable outcome. Very close friends and some family know the situation, some of you may get an idea. With my illness worsening, I broke down. I found myself without a purpose (at least for the time being), disappointing, and alone. I was consumed with self-doubt; wondering what I had achieved by working so hard, and why. Fortunately I have a close friend here that I could vent to. There were no answers he could give me, I knew that. He just was there to validate me so I didn't feel like my whole life was a self-deluded farce. It wasn't pretty but it helped a bit.

The next few days found me languishing in illness and purposelessness. Usually when I visit Speicher, I work, work harder than when I am on my mission at Caldwell. I talk with people all day, feel missed, and feel part of the shop. This time I had no equipment to fix, no real reason to be here. So I kept feeling like an odd-man-out, the guy that accidentally peed in the pool on the 4th of July weekend party. I figured I just had to wait it out, maybe feeling better would help me recover existentially. So I began waiting for my flight home to Caldwell. That's when Hansen and I started to hang out a bit in the evenings, playing guitar and singing songs from A Perfect Circle and Slightly Stoopid.

I am still waiting, hopefully flying out late tonight. And I am starting to feel better, so I actually feel like socializing again. I have picked up a lot of the pieces and seem to be moving forward again, now with a slightly different set of goals. I have 2 months to prove to myself what I have believed about myself all along. I will stay focused.

Monday, June 06, 2005

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.

-- Sun Tzu

I am in a Signal unit. That means our mission is to provide all / any communications to other units and bases. We are not intended to engage the enemy. But we convoy.

We must convoy from base to base to take supplies, operational materials, and to repair things. That is my job, I am in charge of a C&E (Communications & Electronics) team. I volunteered to be on a convoy team for many reasons, but operationally it makes good sense to have a C&E rep present as much as possible.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, it dawned on me recently that my attitude is more of an infantry soldier. I don't fear being outside the protective bounds of the FOBs. I don't fear interaction with the locals. I do fear ignorance, indecision, and the fear of other soldiers. I want to face the situations and know my threats. This became clear to me during the Anaconda convoy when I interacted with 'Fish Man'.

Understand that we had been trained repeatedly and extensively how to engage the enemy, what drills to do when a crisis occurred, how to realize that when you are off base you are vulnerable. A healthy dose of paranoia keeps us all alive, or does it. I realized right when some other soldier on the convoy said he would have just shot Fish Man. I can only think it would be fear that would motivate that decision.

A week or so ago, SGT Siler from the Tennessee's 278th was killed in a HMMWV rollover incident. He was the gunner and was crushed by the truck. That is the biggest danger to gunners today. I lived right across from him when we first arrived. There is now a memorial to him outside his CHU. I walked past there today and they added a picture of him. He was sitting, wearing full battle rattle, with 2 Iraqi boys apparently teaching them something he held in his hand. The 278th is responsible for engaging the enemy, clearing roads, and securing the eastern part of Iraq. He showed no fear of being out in the local towns, interacting with the locals and children.

One of our companies was convoying further north. A sergeant was on gunner duty passing through an Iraqi checkpoint. Our sergeant opened fire on an ING (Iraqi National Guard) killing the ING and a civilian that stood nearby. Apparently the ING raised his weapon as our sergeant drove by and it was interpreted as a sign of aggression. I don't know the outcome of the situation, it may still be going on. My point though, is the contrast between the two scenarios.

We fear what we don't know. We react to fear. As a signal unit, we must constantly be mediating that ignorance of our surroundings and the locals because we are not given the opportunity to build the bridges we need to become familiar with them. If we could become familiar, we would stand a better chance of discerning an insurgent from Fish Man. We just keep our heads low, unfortunately, and hope we complete our convoy missions. I fear the ignorance that is innate to our situation, I work to personally overcome that constantly.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Just spent the last 3 days convoying to Anaconda. Again, I filmed about 60 minutes worth of the trip. Look for upcoming videos. We had some intel the morning we left Caldwell that there was a hot zone we'd be driving through right near Anaconda. There had been increased IED attacks on a short stretch of road lined by cypress trees, tall grass, and mud huts. We've driven that route before and it can make you more than paranoid if you allow yourself to picture all the places Haji could jump out at you, fire an RPG from, or plant an IED. After a while, you become numb to that noise and are able to focus on scanning for real threats. This stretch of road starts at a Sapper Bridge that spans the Tigris River. A few IEDs had been found there in recent times, in attempts to take out the bridge and slow down the supply route.

As we passed through the corridor of trees and grass, we came upon a group of vehicles blocking the road. This was an EOD team (the bomb squad) at work. They found a 60mm ordnance along the road and were going to detonate it. So, I filmed as they had the remote control robot go inspect the ordnance.

While doing so, we put our HMMWVs into a box formation and stayed in the trucks. Our leadership is (overly) careful about us getting out of the vehicles or getting into harms way. Our gunner, SGT Weatherbee, yelled to me that there was some Haji creeping up from behind. We did pass some stopped vehicles along the roadside and I thought he meant that one of them was rolling up on our truck. I told him to follow the Rules Of Engagement and use escalation of force; start by waving them off, shouting, showing them your weapon, then shooting them if they continue to pose a threat. SGT Weatherbee said something else right after I spoke but I couldn't hear what he said. So I opened my door to lean around and talk to him. Instead, there I saw a Haji walking up on us. He had a smile on his face, trying to be as friendly as possible, while making some weird hand motions. Fine, he was apparently trying to tell me something or it was a ruse to get me off-guard. I stayed seated in the truck, M249 still wedged between the middle hump and the door frame. I motioned for him to stop. He briefly did then kept walking right toward me. I made clear gestures to stop and go back. He extended his hand like he wanted to shake hands. Believe it or not, I really like to bridge gaps of misunderstandings and all, but the scenario playing through my head kept me a bit more cautious. I motioned to stop and yelled "Qif!" (pronounced 'cough'), he didn't stop. Now he is about 10 feet from me with hand extended. I can't tell if he's trying to trick me to grab me or just show he means no harm. Either way, he refused to stop. I elevated. I grabbed my M249 and stepped out of the truck. He understood this time, so did I. He stopped, made the hand motions once more before I motioned for him to get back in his truck and turn back toward the other road. It seems he had a pick up truck bed full of live fish that he didn't want to die in the sun and heat.

Then came the controlled detonation. The EOD brought their robot back to the truck then sent some soldier out in a safety suit. Couldn't help thinking that he must be the lowest ranking. He went to inspect the device for a few minutes before returning to the trucks. So, after a robot and the guy with the shortest straw we done inspecting, a team of 4 stepped up to do the deed. These guys didn't even bother with body armor. They just walked up and put some C4 explosive on it. A small blast came moments later which I captured on tape. Must be a fun job.

After all that excitement, we made it to Anaconda to do our business. Business done, we spent the next afternoon at the pool. I just can't understand how Anaconda works. It is nicer than many permanent Army bases in Europe and the U.S., people always seems to be off duty since they walk around in PT's all the time, they get mortar attacks but still walk around with a soft capin when in uniform. Deep down I feel that if there are so many people at Anaconda with such a high quality of life, we could and should be saving money and troops. If so many people have so much free time to enjoy the free Surround Sound theatre, the new olympic sized pool, and the many MWR (Morale Welfare Recreation) facilities, then send troops home. I would gladly work a little harder so others wouldn't have to come here for a year.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Stupid Human Tricks

Ok, what do soldiers do when they are bored, have too much time on their hands, and have firearms? Easy, balance the weapon on their chins. PV2 Kessler showed us how it is done using a 16.4 pound M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (like the one I carry).

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A side note: Kessler is young and single, so if there are any ladies out there who can appreciate his obvious skills and would like a pen pal, just let me know.