Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

Well, its new year's eve now and I'm doing alright, finally getting off work right now and getting ready to go grab dinner before the chow hall closes, so I'll have to keep this short. Nothing planned for tomorrow, a day off. Have a football game to play in around lunch, looking forward to it. Again, not so much of a holiday as it is back home as it is downtime for soldiers to relax a little. Gives me a day to reflect on this past year and everything that has happened along the way. Lots of memories to store away. Lots of things in the future to plan for. Not planning on doing much other than clean my weapon and get some sleep tonight. Hopefully there won't be any fireworks accompanying our New Year's celebration this year... would create a lot of work for me to deal with tomorrow. Praying for a very uneventful and relaxed new year. Hope you and yours have a Happy New Year as well

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Iraq

Christmas in Iraq is, for lack of better description, different. Doesn't quite feel like Christmas, doesn't look much like Christmas, but its still Christmas. We make do with what we've got. It isn't easy being away from home for anyone, but I especially feel for the guys that have wives and kids back home. I can't imagine how tough it is for them. I know its really the first Christmas I've spent away from home, but I fear its the first of many missed holidays for me. For the first time since I got to Iraq, we had a whole day off today. From 0600 today until tomorrow at 0600, I'm free. With the exception of a couple of events, I haven't been "on call" like I am the rest of the week, ready to roll on a mission at a moment's notice. It has been wonderful. I was able to go to the gym and drop off my laundry unafraid of the 1/2 mile sprint back to the CHU to grab my gear and head to the truck. War doesn't wait for a time thats good for you. I'm reminded every day that there are still those in tis country that don't want us here. I have a feeling they are far outnumbered by those that appreciate what we have done and continue to do. Today was good, the guys decided to cook out, so we had bbq chicken and chips for lunch and sat around listening to music and watching movies. Several games of spades and dominos started up, a couple people gathered around with a guitar, weapons cleaning parties and the like. It has been good to see everyone have the opportunity to relax and enjoy everyone else's company. We're not exactly family, and its not exactly home, but its all we've got. The Colonel came by today with Christmas gifts for all my guys, and several cards and letters from care packages sent by the FRG and soldier's wives. Skype has made my holiday a lot more manageable, I was able to make some phone calls back home and talk longer than just a couple of minutes. As I'm sitting here, listening to "Rudolph drank the moonshine" and cleaning my M9, I'm thinking about home. I'm thinking about memories of Christmases past. I'm thinking about the lunch spread, and the foods that have become a yearly tradition that everyone looks forward to. The family has probably just finished lunch and the grandkids are gathered in the living room sorting out the gifts, while everyone else is enjoying a cup of coffee. I bet there's still snow on the ground, and I bet the tree is beautiful just like every other year. Everyone smiling, everyone laughing. It feels weird not to be there. Guess its something I'll have to get used to. Just a couple more hours until its time for work again. Time to put the harmonica away and pull the boots back on. Another day in Iraq.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A few words here and there

So I realize I'm slow at posting these things. Its only a few days until Christmas, I've been gone for over a month with only four posts to show for it. Here's the deal. I spend a good bit of my time outside the wire in sector. When I'm not outside the wire, I'm either on standby waiting to go outside the wire or training to go outside the wire. I don't get much downtime. If I do, there's no guarantee that I'll have internet access during that time. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, I could be bored behind a desk somewhere. Its a job, not much different than any other. I wake up and roll out of bed just like everyone else does. I just go to work in a four truck armored escort with 50 cal machine guns wearing an IOTV, ACH, an M9, an M4, and ridiculous amounts of ammo. I still go to meetings, just like everyone else, often in other towns. I have more than one boss, a computer, and other employees that work for me. Not much different than home. No biggie, really. Just a job. Overtime would be nice, I just got off a 30 hour shift, so I'm pretty sure I'd make bank by Tuesday every week. It hasn't been too bad so far. Some I won't talk about, maybe when I get home. Maybe. All I can say is I'm alive and well. Mail is getting here, slowly but surely. I haven't had a chance to write very many emails back, but I am receiving them, I'll try to respond when I can. I really appreciate the are packages. The thought and little things put into them make this all worthwhile. Makes it feel much more like home. We've started throwing out candy and cookies when we pass where we know there are kids living. We can't do much, but its helping the Christmas spirit. Not much music, only one tree with a couple ornaments, no lights, its cold but that's about it. Not exactly holidays at home, but Christmas is what you make it. Sorry for the delay, thats all I can do for now, gotta go. Another mission.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Deployment update

Things are coming along well though, we're almost ready to take over from our counterparts. Just got back a little while ago from a long and boring escort mission, which was uneventful at best. It is good to get out and see the areas we'll be working in for the next year though, so I'm all for it. Been here in Iraq for a little while now, gone on a few missions and have already learned a few things. Number one, whoever designed the seats in the back of an MRAP has never worn body armor and has probably never actually sat in their designed seats, especially not for six or more hours. If they had, they might have considered a cushion. Training with my crew has been fun and interesting. They are a good group of guys, and I look forward to working with them all year. We've taken the nickname "the Dogmen," based on the elite Dog Soldiers of the Cheyenne. The guys seem pretty excited, my NCO's were able to go out on a mission tonight with me for the first time. We've got a lot of training to get through, but the team meshes pretty well and they learn fast. Going to be pretty busy in the weeks ahead. More to follow when I get the chance again.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Boots on the ground

Well, so far I've been in Iraq for about two days. I figured I ought to check in and let everyone know I'm here safe. Phone service isn't the best, but I've still managed to make a couple calls. Kirkuk is OK I guess. It isn't great but I didn't really expect it to be. We are still getting settled in, most of my guys aren't here yet. I've actually already been on my first patrol, which went well. The unit we are replacing has been very receptive. I know they are glad to see us come in, because it means they're one step closer to going home. I know I'll probably feel the same way when its my turn to get home. I'm looking forward to the deployment, its what I signed up for, but that doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to getting back home too. Kirkuk is a sight at night, the flames from burn pits and oil refineries light up the sky. It reminds me a little of oil country in Texas. Our Iraqi counterparts seem to be standing up very well, and are taking charge on a lot of missions. A lot of questions are still unanswered, but I guess that is part of the job. It really depends on how well we do. The officers in the unit we are replacing have been great hosts so far, offering as much information as they can. They are working as hard as they can to make our transition into their sector as smooth as possible. Thats it for now, more for later when all is more stable.

Monday, November 16, 2009

cricket... cricket...

OK, so its been a while since I've had the opportunity to post. I do apologize, but this one will have to be short as well. Just a quick update, I'm currently in Kuwait, finishing up mandatory training before headed up north. I'm doing well, its actually not that bad here. The weather is tolerable, and I'm well adjusted to the ten hour time difference now. Glad I'm not here during the summer, heard it gets into the 140's. Miss everybody from home, but I'll be back soon enough. Kuwait is an interesting place. The city as I saw it from the air looked rich, with tall buildings and busy well lit highways, surrounded by a whole lot of nothing for as far as you can see. Where I am right now, I've yet to see anything but six camels, dirt, and rocks. Nothing but dirt and training complexes for miles. Facilities here are alright, huge tents filled with cots and lots of porta-johns. The chow halls are actually impressive, for the most part better than the ones on post in the states. Not extremely stressful here, short bursts of business followed by periods where there isn't much to do other than pray for an email from the unit we're replacing. Ran into a few buddies from school and training. Its good to see familiar faces and catch up. Small Army I guess. Thats all for now, I'll try to update again later.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The beginning

Standing at the top of a mountain, twenty five years tall, looking back on the past and ahead to the next peak. Today is as good as any to start this blog. It is something I've tried to do for a while in countless lost journals packed up in boxes through pages yellowed with age. Its something I need to do. The realization that twenty five years of my life have gone by that exist only in my own memory and the memories of those that shared it with me. Those that know me know this is an area of concern; I'm lucky to remember where I put my keys last night, much less whatever else happened yesterday. That being said, writing gives me a chance to reflect and release, a way to learn from my own mistakes. The memories I have are ones hat I'll cherish always, but I can't count on my own memory forever. I've seen too much loss in old age to believe that. I love sitting around listening to my grandfather's stories, and I want to be able to do the same when I'm his age. This blog is an attempt to make that possible. Life is a target rich environment; too quick and too full of lessons to go undocumented, so I'll write what I can when I can, and reflect on the past when I get the opportunity. It was a hard decision to put this out in the open, but maybe my words and experiences will help someone along, or make someone smile on a bad day, laugh on a better one. So here it goes.

" Life is like the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in winter. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset"
- Blackfoot