Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm back...

So I realize I haven't touched this thing in a couple months now. Sorry about the lack of correspondence. I'm back in El Paso now, back to work at Fort Bliss. The schedule is pretty easy right now, there's not much to do as most of the unit is still on leave. I'm sure it will get more complicated soon. I got back in the states at the end of July, had to rush home on emergency leave. It wasn't quite the welcome home I had wanted. The passing of my grandfather was tough, and being stuck on the other side of the world, unable to do anything about it was very difficult for me. Thankfully I was able to make it back for the funeral, but only due to a stroke of luck. Most cases take days to process and get home. It was good to be home but I wish it had been under better circumstances. I took five days of emergency leave and flew back to El Paso for "reintegration training." Pretty much it consisted of redeployment physicals and medical assessments, followed by the classic "don't shoot your wife, blow all your money, drink yourself into a bottle, get in a fight, or make stupid decisions briefings." I stayed in the Geo-bachelor's quarters while waiting for my household goods to arrive (which took two weeks). Overall that whole experience sucked. I ended up in a musty old building in a dirty cheap-motel type room with no sheets, a poorly serviced evaporative cooler, and a shared bathroom. I got to the point where I decided to move into my house, furniture or not. I bought an air mattress and slept in my sleeping bag. To be honest it was more comfortable anyway. After reintegration, we were released to go on leave. I headed home, and I'm glad I did. It was great to go home, see my family, and just relax. I came home with no plans at all, and just kinda let things fall into place. I got to spend time with mom and dad, went to the Wyndham golf tournament, went to a nascar race with a good friend for his bachelor party, ate a lot of good food and just spent some time recharging my batteries. The drive back to El Paso was a bear. I drove out to Dahlonega first to visit some friends from college and spend a little time in the mountains. The next day I drove out to Valdosta to see my sister. I wish I could have stayed and visited longer, but I had a long way to go, especially with my puppy in the car. I spent the next two days driving as far as I could (or at least as far as Jackson would let me go.) I spent a night in Sulphur, just outside of Lake Charles. The next day I drove the rest of the way into El Paso, after almost running out of gas and driving until 11 at night. I didn't want to spend another night in the hotel if I was going to be less than a hundred miles away from the house. Believe it or not Jackson did very well on the trip. I had gotten a sedative for him, but ended up not having to use it at all. He slept most of the way. It was better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have. Jackson is growing like a weed, and mom and dad took great care of him while I couldn't be there. Jackson is a great puppy, he gets on my nerves sometimes but I still love him. Its like having a toddler, except I can't take him with me everywhere with me. So far he's learned to open drawers, open cabinets with safety locks, unzip my couch cushions and strew the innards all over the house, and "sit". We're still working on "stay", as well as other fun commands such as "don't chew on rocks," "don't chew on cords," "don't chew on chairs," "don't chew on the couch," "don't chew on furniture," "don't chew on the remote," "don't bite," and bringing the toy back after I throw it. He'll chase it all day, but once he bites it, he's not bringing it back. We had a little scare the other day, I bought him a new bone at petsmart. It was one of the nylabone "healthy edibles." Thinking it would take him a few days to consume, I gave it to him and left him alone to work on some things in the house. The whole thing disappeared in seven minutes. It was unbelievable. When I caught him, he had the last bite in his mouth. I freaked out, contemplating a trip to the vet. Everything is ok though, he was sick for a couple days, and made a mess of the house but a steam cleaner and time has made everything better. He's learning though, and thats a good thing. Getting big fast though, he's up to 17 pounds now. I have a feeling he's gonna be big for his breed, even though he was one of the smaller puppies. I'm willing to bet he'll be closer to 50 than 40. I'm finally getting somewhere as far as moving into the new house now. I've got my kitchen stocked up, the furniture is in, I'm starting to hang pictures, and everything is starting to piece itself together. The yard is still in need of some major work, but Ill get to it eventually. It just needs a little TLC. Its great having a garage, lots of storage space and a safe place to park my truck at night. I like my new house, its big enough to be comfortable and still affordable. Lots more to do though, and I'm running out of days where I'll have the free time to do it. Feels good to get back in the kitchen and cook again, Last night was steak tips with a cocoa chile sauce and grilled peppers, plus mashed sweet potatoes. Tonight its smokehouse maple pork tenderloin and pierogies, plus a salad with homemade vinaigrette, chopped pecans and fresh crumbled blue cheese. Its good to be back.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Another day, another 75 cents

Winding down here in Iraq, a little more than a month to go. I'm just glad its over. Finally got finished ripping with the new guys for the STT, now its back to the motorpool for something that remotely resembles logistics. Also, I've been appointed as the investigating officer for a property loss, so that should keep me busy for at least a week. I find myself spending my evenings thinking about redeployment back to the states. The foods, the smells, the comforts of home... I can't wait. Looks like I'm going to be able to take a few days when I get home for a little time with the family! Somewhere in mid-August I'll fly in to NC, stay for a while, and then drive back to Texas. Should be fun and exciting... got a long list of things to do! I'm horrible at posting on this thing as often as I should. Maybe I'll get better eventually? All for now, early day tomorrow.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

eat, sleep, work, repeat

Well, a lot has happened since the last time I wrote. Sorry I haven't updated but I've been very busy. I try to call home on skype as often as possible but with my current schedule I seem to only get about ten minutes at a time. The job I'm doing is very taxing, and I find myself more and more tired. The paperwork is more tiring than the physical aspect. My workout schedule is shreds, I haven't had the time to get in a rhythm, so I guess it will have to wait until I get back to El Paso. Until then I'll do what I can. The days melt together like gummy bears in the microwave. Not sure how to separate them. I know one day a week is maintenance, and after that we should have the rest of the day off. My guys get a little rest, but the rest of the day for me is spent in meetings and briefings. Part of the job I guess. There's been some long days and nights here lately. In other news, I put down a deposit for a rental house in El Paso yesterday, its very nice and close to where I work. I think I'll enjoy staying there. It will be great to have somewhere to go when I return, rather than a hotel or my buddy's garage. Also got myself put on a waiting list for a German Pinscher puppy. I'm looking forward to having a puppy around the house, it'll be fun. I'm about ready for a vacation. I need to get some real food, have some real fun, and get some real rest. I can't wait to get out of here. I've got a lot of plans for when I get home, a lot of big changes.I'm really looking forward to getting home. If I could hurry it along, believe me I would.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Attention to Orders

aaaaand its official. I'm now a 1LT. Nice pay raise, new black bar, life's good. I'm working my rear end off trying to do all the work that is involved with the STT. Right now I'm planning training for the IA BDE at end of the month that involves a leader's reaction course, troop leading procedures, IED defeat, squad movements, reconnaissance, knocking out a bunker, room clearing, detainee operations, tactical questioning, tactical site exploitation, and a stress shoot all in one culmination of training. I've got my work cut out for me. Good times, and good experience though.
In other news, I've started P90X and I'm currently on Day 2. I've watched all the dvds, and tried them all out leading up to the program, and they're not easy. I have a feeling I'm going to be pretty smoked for the next 270 days. There are three programs. The first for me, X Doubles, is the hardest of the three programs. I figure this will get me where I need to be with the best results to begin. After that I'm planning on doing the X Lean program, which is another 90 days but more cardio based. My final phase will be the X Classic. With everything I've read into this, I think it will work. The science makes sense, and the workouts are tough. I've set goals for myself and I'm gonna stick with it until I reach those goals.
Its 2325 and I've got more work to do... sleep's a crutch. Drink water, drive on.

Friday, April 23, 2010

quick update

So two weeks? It all runs together, sorry. Here goes. Work with the MiTT team is complete, our transition to the STT is in full swing. I've effectively taken over the responsibilities of 4 captains and two majors, although I'm not sure if I will be as effective as al of them together. I'm sure we'll get by though, we'll get the work done and thats all that matters. I think I'll be working a little harder than usual though. We still haven't moved yet, its a couple days away and I'm still trying to figure out how we're going to accomplish the move with everything going on as well. There is an Iraqi Squad Competition that we've planned for a few days from now, which should be lots of fun and a very unique experience. It will last four days and cover everything from sector sketches and marksmanship to individual movement techniques and battle drills. Its a challenge, and its the first time most of my guys have had an opportunity to teach these things. Most of them have only been in the army a couple of years, if that long. Still, I am proud of them for what they are doing and the efficient manner in which they do it. I couldn't ask for a better platoon. We've also got our patrols, KLEs, and other tasks, and then I've got my meetings, then more meetings, then additional reports, etc. Its a busy schedule. I love it though, it actually feels like we're doing something worthwhile out here. It has really helped the morale of the guys doing this, even though we're working more than we were before. In other notes, I've started planning for redeployment. The date of my return is screaming closer a mile a minute. With days running together like this, it will be over before I know it. I can't be unprepared. Working on budgeting, trying to find a house, all the little things that have to be set up when I get back. I want to get my plan in order now so that when my guys have problems I can help them without having to worry about my own. I'm looking for another 3 bed 2 bath to settle into when I get back. I realize rent will be higher but I'm not too worried about it. I like having some space, especially if I'm going to have visitors. All for now, got work to do!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Another week down

I think I can probably manage at least one post a week now. Things are going well, I'm enjoying the new job and working with my Iraqi counterparts. Outside the wire every day, working with the Iraqi Army. There's a lot going on here in Iraq, but I'll stay out of the details as much as I can. Just know I'm busy working, doing what I do day in and day out, and I love my job. I've started running again, and believe me its been a rough start. I hate running. I'll find excuses not to run. I'm good and fast if its a short distance, but I hope I never HAVE to run very far. I'm not so good at distance. The army still uses a 2 mile PT test, so I guess I'll conform to the masses and just deal with it until they come up with a sprint test or something. Or until I'm old enough all I have to do is show up to pass. Still, I've started running again. Someone once told me the only way to get better at running is to run more, so I've started. Besides, its probably good for me anyway. Still working on the diet, no results thus far. No progress. I've got more time in the evenings now, so its easier to get to the gym. About the beginning of May or so I'll start a P90X program, and try to maintain it for the full 90 days. We'll see how that goes. It will be right after we move to the new complex, so I'm hoping the location change will be what I need to amp up the schedule. Got my sister a birthday present today, hopefully I'll get it in the mail and shipped home before she leaves for Georgia. Got a little something for my mom as well. I miss being at home. Looking forward to the day I get out of here and get to go home for a while. Thats all for now, back to work.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter in Iraq

Happy Easter to all those at home! I'm really missing home today. Wish I could be with my family. I just got back from my Easter dinner here in Kirkuk... a square fish patty, broccoli, a dinner roll and grape juice. Not exactly the best but at least edible. I broke down and had a mountain dew as well. Church was nice, but a very short service. Overall its been a busy day today. Everyone in squadron had a holiday, but my day was filled with all the things I've been neglecting to do the rest of the week. Got most everything done early; haircut, laundry, cleaned my room, took out the trash, sent some documents to the burn pit, and started packing for my move to the complex. After that I took some time to relax, sit back and read a couple magazines, dream about hot rods, and make a couple phone calls. My room mate took the day to catch up on the sleep he's missed out on the past couple weeks. I don't blame him... his schedule has been pretty hectic here lately, especially post-election. For once I'm much more relaxed. Its simple really, I know I'll go out every day in the morning, and I'll come back sometime later that afternoon or evening. Going out every day is much better and much more manageable than the possibility of going out every day at a moments notice. In the end it means more time outside the wire and on the road than before, but at the same time its better because I can plan it, and plan around it. Tomorrow's back to work, business as usual.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


We are a full week into transitioning from the Mobility Platoon to the STT/MiTT, and I have to say its going pretty well. Looks like we'll move to the new complex in less than a month from now. We're calling it Ligerville. There's a big back porch and a common room, with personal and shared rooms inside. Must say I'm looking forward to that. Far better than the shipping container I'm in now. So far we've been to the Brigade headquarters and each Battalion in Kirkuk, and its been interesting getting to know my new Iraqi counterparts. I have a feeling I've got my work cut out for me, and I know it will be overwhelming at times, but I'm pretty sure we'll do fine. Its a lot of responsibility. With the current drawdown and withdrawal plan, I may be the last American these Iraqi Officers have the opportunity to work with. That in itself is a huge burden, as we are the example that the future of Iraq will follow. At the same time its like being a part of living history, a legacy unlike any other. Not many officers, much less Lieutenants, get the opportunity to do something like this. Positions such as these are usually reserved for senior Captains and above. I am embracing the assignment though, and will work my hardest to do it right. In the end I know it will pay off. Its not the cool, kick down doors blow stuff up shoot shoot shoot assignment from the movies, but its effects will long outlast the tracer burnout of offensive operations. Right now its what the country needs to be able to pull out of a more stable Iraq, and I aim to see that when we leave, the country of Iraq can be self sufficient. Despite what you hear on the news, they are well on their way. Sure they have a few kinks to work out.... We as the United States took over 100 years to work out our differences, I don't expect Iraq to be any different. The Iraqi Officers and NCOs I'm working with now are very professional and welcoming. I've only been here for a week and already I feel welcomed as I walk in. They all know me by name already. You wouldn't believe where I work now. Its one of Chemical Ali's homes. When you walk in there is a spiraling marble staircase atop three arabian arches, all marble floor and tin ceilings. It is in disrepair, but I'll bet it was a sight back in its prime. In front of the building are ancient sumerian ruins, just south of Kirkuk city. Thats all for now, more later.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dust-cloud of stuff

Well y'all, it’s been over a month since I've updated, and there has been a world of change since my last post. I've been home on leave, the elections are over in Kirkuk and the results have been announced. We've begun the process of changing over to the MiTT team as well. We've all been busy, and it’s been a lot of work but I know its been worthwhile.

It felt great to get home for a while! I flew out of Kirkuk in early march, to Balad, then Kuwait, then Ireland, and onward to Atlanta and Greensboro. The whole process took about 4 or 5 days. That whole thing kinda runs together. The flight was long and tiring. Anyone who has tried to sleep in an aircraft seat will agree with me... they aren't the most comfortable seats in the world. Much better than an MRAP seat though. Had a great burger in Ireland... cost me a fortune but it was great. Irish cheddar and bacon, hand cut fries... it was good to have real food not made in a DFAC for the first time in 5 months. You can't imagine how good it felt to land in Greensboro. It was so good seeing my mom and dad at the airport. The relief of finally making it home, the things that go through your head, the first things you think of when you get there. Soldiers talk about what they're going to do on leave for months, planning out each detail that gets forgotten within moments of stepping off the plane. Thinking about leave is something that keeps you going from day to day out here. You spend half your deployment thinking about leave and the other half thinking about redeployment. I tried for weeks to plan out my leave, but I eventually settled on planning to do nothing and see how it goes from there. It worked out for the best. On the flight from Atlanta I thought about all the things I had missed the most while I was in Kirkuk; my family, my friends, Cubby (the sweet, spoiled-rotten miniature pinscher/yorkshire terrier that has commandeered my pillow since leaving), good BBQ, good food in general, driving my truck, grass, a real bed, cheerwine, true sleep, silence, I could go on all day! I was able to spend some much needed time with my family, which meant more to me than anything else, but I got to have a lot of fun too. I bought a truck the morning after I arrived in North Carolina. I had found it online while at Taji a few weeks back, and after speaking with the dealer I was able to get them to hold it for me until I was able to get home. After a test drive, I knew it was just what I needed; a silver and black 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 with a Flex Fuel V8. It’s not the top of the line but it’s everything I need, and the flex fuel option is great! E85 is hard to come by, but I was able to test out a tank of it and I was very impressed. It’s much cheaper too; almost by a dollar. When I got the truck it had a little over 700 miles, I'm pretty sure I tripled that while I was home. I was able to make it home for my little cousin's birthday; he's growing like a weed! I gave him a teddy bear that plays the army song, and gave my other little cousin a big stuffed camel. I think my aunt has her hands full with those two. The smallest one has just discovered that the most fun places to get in trouble are just beyond the baby-gate. The other little one is already too smart for her age. It was good seeing Nana and Papa, even in the hustle and bustle of a little one’s birthday party. I spent the next day with Poppy, my other grandfather. I wish you could see the look on his face when I walked in and surprised him… it was priceless. I really missed my family a lot, even though I’m not very good at taking the time to tell them so through cards and letters. I stay pretty busy out here, and it’s hard enough for me to take the time to write in this thing, much less anything else. I should do better to keep in touch with them while I’m away. Had dinner with my sister at the Dairi-O while I was home, and she told me all about her plans for Valdosta in the fall. I think she’s really looking forward to it, and I hope she does well though. I think she’ll enjoy Valdosta, if she can stand the summer below the gnat line. Lord knows it gets a bit warm down there, and pretty humid too. I took a few days and went down to Georgia. I had to drop my mom off in Atlanta for a conference for work, but it was fun having a five-hour road trip to hang out with her. Had a great time catching up with old friends from college and walking around in the small town square of Dahlonega where I spent the better part of five and a half years. Not much has changed in Dahlonega, but there’s a good bit of construction going on at the college... lots of new dorms, new buildings. They’re tearing down the building I lived in for most of my college years and putting up a new two story dining facility. Spent a little while talking with Chief, seems like the military program is still running strong. He has been and always will be a huge influence in my life and leadership style. I owe a lot to Chief, he put in a lot of time and effort into molding me into the officer I am today and words cannot express how much he is appreciated. Went out to Cullowhee while I was in the area to see a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a while. He’s like a brother to me, and while I was up there found out he’s getting married! Got to see the ring and everything. He told me he was gonna wait to pop the question on his upcoming trip overseas, but I was willing to bet he wouldn’t make it that long. Turns out I was right, its all over facebook now and he’s not headed out there ‘til May. Did a lot of driving up in the mountains while I was home. I missed the curves, the trees, the sound of water over the rocks, the feel of torque and acceleration in a pickup truck. Felt good to be sitting in the drivers seat with the windows down again. Went up to hanging rock with mom and dad while I was home. The drive, the lake, the trees, everything about that day was beautiful. I'm starting to see how much I take for granted. You don’t realize how much you take for granted until you don't have it or can’t go there anymore. Well, I could go on for days about the fun I had on leave, probably more days than I actually spent on leave… as a matter of fact I probably should have posted more than once this month. Wish I had, now that I think about it. Gotta run, lots of work to do. More later.

Monday, February 22, 2010


So, after doing this workout a while, I've realized I haven't allocated much recovery time into it at all. Given the weight and intensity of the exercise, I reckon I should probably rethink it for a while. It did however boost my metabolism a good bit, but I'm afraid if I continue the result will be injury. Last night I clean and pressed 180 pounds ten times during my eight exercise workout. Thats more than ten pounds over my current body-weight (the Iraqi diet I've been on has helped a good bit with that... I left Warrior at 175) and a good bit of weight to throw over your head. I'm definitely feeling it today, after wearing all my gear for 10 hours straight. It might do me some good to stick to the traditional methods. Maybe cut the weight training to 2 30 minute sessions 3 days a week or something. I'll figure it out. Anyway, I'm back at Warrior, back to work. Good to be back with my platoon and back out on the road again.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Since I've been out here for a couple days with not much to do, I've taken some time to think about a few things. For one, I think I might have stumbled on a new program for weight training that fits well into a very busy schedule. I've tried it for the past week and I think it will work. The program is based on four 15-20 minute blocks throughout your day five days a week, rather that an hour and a half all at one shot. In that fifteen minutes, you do high intensity weight training consisting of eight exercises of varying numbers of reps. For three of your days, you substitute one session of weight training for explosive plyometrics. For your sixth training day, all four blocks are a cardio/plyometric mix. The seventh day is always rest. Keep in mind this has to be paired with a good nutrition program in order to truly produce the results everyone wants. Theoretically, the metabolic effect of intense exercise at different times during the day will result in the body's ability to burn fat for a longer period of time throughout the day, as well as increase flow of endorphins and energy. You'll burn fat and stay energized longer, while producing the same or better results than your 2 hour gym rat buddies. I've set my program up for my blocks to hit the time I wake up, right before lunch, right before dinner, and around bedtime. So pretty much, 0530-1130-1700-2100 daily. This is all of course mission dictated, and must be flexible in order to facilitate for a busy lifestyle. Not everyone has a whole hour to an hour and a half every day to go to the gym. Some are lucky to have an hour three days a week. Pretty much everyone has fifteen minute blocks of free time, and its high time somebody took advantage of that time. In theory, since you are only doing one set of each exercise, you should be able to lift more weight than if you're saving it for 3 sets. Multiply the increase of weight by the number of blocks per day and you will be doing more WORK than your average workout, in turn producing better results. Also, since you are only doing one set, you can put a good amount of time and effort into your technique. No one gets results with crappy technique, unless you call injuries and decreased ranges of motion "results". Focus on your form, do the work, and you'll see results you won't believe. This is different from anything you've tried before, but the exercises are basic. No inverted triple sow-cow handstand leg lift twirly-press squats here. Just basics. Here are the exercises: 1 Overhead Squat, 2 Clean and Press, 3 Bench Press, 4 Bent-Over Row, 5 Pullup, 6 Dip, 7 Weighted Situp, 8 Deadlift. Simple. For most exercises, find what you can handle for 12 reps, and do 10. If you get a little froggy add weight for your next block later that day. For situps do at least 15 reps as heavy as you can without swinging. Maintain control over your body movements. And don't be the one with 45s on your chest doing situps. Be a warrior and put the weight behind your head where it should be. The resistance from a ten pound weight behind your head is approximately the same as a 45 on your chest. For overhead squats, do all 12reps. The overhead squat is the great separator for most. It is by far the most difficult squat, but it also is a test on the flexibility of your body and will help you find your weak spots that you can work on. The Clean and Press is probably my favorite exercise. Its full body movement, POWER exercise that if used in proper form will yield increases in power unimaginable. Bench press is well, bench press. Its a great staple, and undoubtedly the number one exercise for chest. Its an exercise anyone can do, anyone can do with good form, and anyone can do well. The bent-over row is pretty much a backwards bench press. It engages your back, but having the bent-over stance rather than the seated row helps you to develop stabilizers and engages additional muscle groups in execution. Pull ups... as much as most people hate them are one of the best exercises you can do. The only way to get better at them is to do them. Dips are another great deep chest and tricep exercise. Couples with pullups, you'll find your biggest gains here. Do them slow, and pull as deep as you can. The results are worth it. Weighted situps are a monster. The added resistance from the additional weight rather than gravity will amaze you. Think of it as adding weight to a fulcrum. Gravity only does so much. To build the strength you have to add the resistance. Don't slack on the deadlifts. Concentrate on your form and do the work, no matter how tired you'll be. Doing them will be tough, but worth it. On your plyometric blocks the possibilities are endless. They're body weight controlled, and as long as the exercise is explosive, its effective. If your heart isn't pounding after a block of plyo, you're not working hard enough. Push yourself. This program is made to be applicable to anyone. Try to fit in at least six plyometric exercises, if not eight. It will be tough, but the results will be worth it. Try it once, and if you like it, post a comment and I'll try to write more ideas. Seriously though, try it. You'll hate me tomorrow, want to kill me two days from now, but give it six weeks and you'll love me forever. All for now.


So, while I was sitting here yesterday waiting on a flight back to Warrior, I noticed a group of Iraqis gathering on a field, so I figured I'd walk out and see what was up. Turns out they were setting up for a game of Cricket. They invited us to play, and since really there wasn't much else to do, we agreed, provided they show us how to play. Well, I had a blast. We didn't have enough people for a real game, as there are 11 on each side and we had about 8 guys total, but we still made it fun. The bat is heavy, somewhere between a baseball bat, a hockey stick, and the "board of education". Its flat on one side. The swing, best I can figure is somewhere between a baseball swing and a chip shot in golf. It is a lot like baseball, but not exactly. It reminded me of days in-between games back in little league, playing wall-ball next to the concession stand. The guys don't really have a "field" or "rules" or anything like that, its just for fun. They do enjoy the competition though. Our "field" was the corner of a makeshift muddy soccer field with goals made from steel bars and camo netting. We had no lights but an old yellow street light. Old parking barriers as wickets and bumpers. No helmets, no gloves, no pads, like a bunch of kids on a sandlot. Just a few soldiers from different walks of life, from different sides of the world, getting through a deployment the same way.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pacha, Eastern Toilets, and Other Ramblings

Still here in Taji waiting for a flight back to Warrior. Really looking forward to seeing my platoon again, but I'm counting down the days to R&R as well. It will be good to get home for a while before I come back and take the MiTT team. This course has been very interesting, and the experiences have been quite unique. I've tried things I didn't ever think about trying before. I've had about 8 different Iraqi dishes now. I've gotten myself hooked on this chewing gum that tastes like the Pine Tea I used to make in the field. Its an unusual but interesting flavor I can't get enough of. I'm trying to get my interpreters to get me some more for me when I get back to Warrior. I only have 7 pieces left. Cuzi, which is stuffed lamb with rice and a tomato and bread soup, is my favorite so far. The kebabs are also very good. Baklawa is about as good as it gets, although I prefer it from the Kirkuk area over the Baghdad area. The ingredients are richer and more flavorful. As you all know, I love cheese. Baladi cheese, Geimar, and Labaneh are all wonderful, with Baladi being my favorite. Pasha is a delicacy here in Iraq. It is made from the head and innards of a sheep or goat. Yeah, never thought I'd try it. Turns out its not so bad. Eastern toilets... pretty much a hole in the ground. They flush here, so it could be worse. Pretty much you pray you don't fall into your own, takes a little balance. Not great for slick floors. Can't wait to get back to the Western flush toilets of Warrior. Chai Tea here on the Iraqi post has been the closest thing to back home that I've had since I've deployed. Reminds me of the tea we have back at home right before it gets put in the fridge. So much sugar that it barely dissolves it all. Consequently, when added to their chain smoking habits, Iraqi's have a high rate of diabetes and heart disease. Learning the language has been hard, but I'm slowly progressing. It is going to take a lot of practice for me to be able to speak it well. I am getting pretty good at reading it though, and writing it has proved easy for me, although proper spelling is a bit harder. Still learning when to place the dashes and squiggles and dots that make words sound different. After talking with the COL, I found out there is a logistics course later on this spring that I should try to come back for. I'll have to talk to the commander about it upon my return. In other news, I'm turning into a gearhead. The more I read and learn the more I want to work on cars, even if just as a hobby. I'm trying to start a project truck when I get back to the states, I've already got lots of plans. It'll give me plenty to do in El Paso on those days when I don't really feel like wandering around aimlessly at Walmart or driving in heavy traffic. I'm not a huge fan of big city traffic, or big cities for that matter, but El Paso could certainly be worse. I'm planning on taking advantage of the things outside of El Paso as well... there's mountains and cooler weather just 2 and a half hours away, and plenty of weekends to make the best of Fort Bliss. However, having a hobby and a project like the truck will keep me busy and active back in the States where the op tempo will be drastically slower than it is right now for me. As long as I've got something dependable to get me from work and back (and of course walmart and back) the project has no limits. Its really whatever I want it to be. I realize its delayed gratification... it'll probably take me 5-7 years to finish it, but in the end it'll be worth it to me.'s the outlook for leave, best as I have it. I'm coming home, sometime... probably spending a couple days in GA followed by a train ride home to NC, spending some time with family with maybe a vacation somewhere in the middle. All in all its about 2 weeks. Not sure exactly when though. I'll get there when I get there. Wish I could tell you more, but "I got nothin'." Well, guess its about time for me to go sit around and wait a little longer, maybe read a little more. Will write again when I can.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Camp Taji, Iraq

Getting to Taji from Speicher was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. To get to Taji, I got a ride on a Chinook that went to 6 other FOBs en route. Normally that wouldn't be so bad, just a couple of hours in the air. However, this particular Chinook didn't have a working heater. Given that we had snow and freezing rain earlier that day, you can imagine how cold it gets when altitude and speeds climb. There was frost on my glasses, which are plastic, if that gives you any idea how cold it was. The pilots said it was somewhere around zero when they were at altitude. AND there's me, of course, jacket packet away neatly in my rucksack, inaccessible for the whole flight. Other than that, not so bad. So far I've been through one day of training here at COINSOC. Camp Taji splits in half, one side Iraqi, one side American. I'm actually staying on the Iraqi side. There are Iraqi guards at the gates and Iraqi tower guards. The chow hall serves Iraqi food. Call to prayer sounds on the FOB just like in the towns everywhere else in Iraq. We train with them side by side. I have Iraqi instructors for Language, Culture and History. In a couple hours, I'll sit in the Chow hall with my Iraqi food and my American beer, and watch the Super Bowl. We've got a training holiday for the Super Bowl, which is pretty nice. After the game I'll hop a ride to the American side to go to the PX. The basic amenities are all here. There's a PX you can go to (about the size of a small college dormitory room), an Internet cafe for MWR, a laundry facility that has a faster turnaround than the one at Warrior, and a phone center. I'll have access to skype, but only the chat feature. The computers in the lab have skype on them, but no headphones or mics. Did I mention the chow hall is great? I actually enjoy the Iraqi food, its pretty good. We are supposed to go to an authentic Iraqi Restaurant in sector sometime this week. Everything I've heard about it says its some of the best Iraqi food you'll find. I'm looking forward to it. Right now we're still learning the alphabet and how to write words in Arabic. It isn't an easy thing to learn in 3 days, but so far I'm doing OK. The instructor is impressed with my ability to write in Arabic, says it is very accurate, but doesn't like that I write left handed. As far as being able to read what I write and translate... that's a different story. I'm getting there though, slowly but surely. Missing the first day didn't help much. I'm catching up fast though. That's all for now, I'll try to write again later.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Spent pretty much the whole day yesterday trying to fly out to Taji. Had a weigh-in this morning followed by OPT with the Squadron Commander. Nothing like some "Ultimate Football" to get the blood flowing. Its one of the only times we're able to get all of the officers together in one place. It was cold, and it snowed for about half the game, but lots of fun. The snow kinda slowed down travel in Iraq a bit this morning. I couldn't believe it! I was pretty sure it was cold but I certainly didn't expect snow. I guess I can't complain about not seeing snow this year, even if it was mixed with rain and not enough to cover the ground. Heard they got more snow back at home, saw a few pictures online. I got one of the flights I needed, but the second flight was full by the time I got to Speicher. I'm sitting in the terminal here at Speicher right now, waiting to go to a "Cultural Immersion" course at Taji. I'm pretty sure I'll be the only LT going. Everyone I've seen thats going to the same place is Captain or above. There is a Major here that I flew with out of one of the Armor BN in our BDE. He's in charge of an STT in their sector. Speicher is OK, I got here just in time for dinner last night and spent the night in a tent. Dinner was less impressive than Warrior, but I wasn't expecting much. They had a small kitchen that gets supplied by the DFAC for transient guests. The bigger chow hall is a few miles away from here. Yesterday was the first time I had been in a Chinook, they're not so bad. To be honest, they look like they shouldn't be able to fly, but they get from A to B alright. I got a couple pictures flying over Kirkuk. I know its been a while since I've posted anything, I'm averaging once or twice a month. I'm trying to do this a little better. A lot has happened since my last post, a lot that I can't talk about. I'm doing just fine though, skype has been a lifesaver. I just wish my schedule allowed me to call any time other than 1130 at night and 7 in the morning. Lots of things are changing over here, the situation changes from day to day. Some things get easier, some more difficult. All in all its just work. Its only been a day since I've been separated from my platoon, I miss them already. It felt weird not walking out to the trucks this morning with them to go to work. Its only two weeks though, I'll be back soon enough. I just hope nothing happens to them while I'm gone.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Here I am, halfway through January on my deployment to Iraq. We've got our combat patch ceremony coming up in a few days. It is hard to believe we've been gone this long already. The past week or so has been slow, the guys need to get back outside the wire. They all look bored. They are getting some good rest though, and it will help them in the next few weeks when the schedule gets hectic again. We have been lucky so far. To be honest I can't wait to get out in sector again to check up on the school projects going on in the area. Those missions are almost always the best. The new guys have been a great addition to the team, they've added a little bit more life to the party and have done well to blend in with the rest of the platoon. Everyone is still missing home, guys have started to make plans for leave. I'm not sure if I'll be taking it, doesn't feel right to leave my guys out here. I miss home but right now, this is where I need to be. I'm not bored, there's plenty for me and the guys to work on. It gets monotonous, but training has to be like muscle memory. So we'll keep training, we'll keep doing what we do. I'll see you soon enough.

No More Excuses

Today, after some serious introspection I have come to a decision. I'm tired of making excuses, tired of slacking off. Its time to get in shape. Its time for me to man up and live the way I should be living. In my profession it is mandatory for me to be in the best physical and mental state that I can be, if not for my own sake than for the sake of those I lead into battle each day. I can't go on living the way I have been. I've gotten myself into this hole and there's one way to dig out, and thats to dig deep inside and do it the right way. All the sweat, all the stress that it takes I'm doing it this time. No more messing around. Today, I weighed in at 182 pounds, about 14% body fat. I'm not as quick as I used to be, I can't lift as much as I used to, I've got high blood pressure, and I'm definitely not happy with where I'm at physically. Its time for a change. Whatever it takes, I'm gonna make it happen. Its time to be the man I need to be.