Saturday, September 29, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
Me in my new dream car...
My new dream car. Haha. This $250K fully armored vehicle looks cool, but it is a slow, piggy diesel, and it is too heavy to go off road without being totally bogged down. But how sick would it be in downtown LA!? I totally want one. This will be the first in a series I will call, "Ridiculous things Nancy wants now."
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Anyway, let's see...what's new?
Saturday night, Melissa and I were walking to a party at a friend's trailer, out by Lost Lake, when we heard the incoming alarm. We didn't know where the duck-and-cover shelters were out there, so we kept walking. All of a sudden, off to our left (north), the base's defense system fired a volley of rounds into the sky. We could see the bee-line of rounds go from left to right. Then we saw some sparkles, heard a big boom off to the far left, and a small boom off to the right. I won't way what was fired at us this time, but suffice it to say our defense system did what it was supposed to, and Melissa and I got to actually watch it happen. SOOOO cool. We were all high fiving and slapping each other's backs like we were war heroes or something. Haha. Anyway, I hope I get to see it again, IF if happens again, which it will, but not that I want it to happen again. (I am aware of the grammatical impropriety of that sentence.)
What else, what else?
Last night, I was sleeping very soundly due to a bit of illness I think I am fighting off. I had gone to bed at 8 pm. Two hours later, still sleeping soundly, I think I heard and felt a tiny boom. I can't be sure, though, if I really heard or felt anything, because I was wearing my earplugs and blindfold, per SOP, and kept on sleeping. Suddenly, I was rousted out of my slumber by cries of "GET UP! GET UP!!!"
I groggily removed my blindfold to see the whole tent (except for sleeping and disgusted Melissa) in a tissy to get outside and grab protective gear (reverse that order). I got up and went to the toilet, pointing out the location of the bomb shelter to all who were interested, and then went back to bed. Every other tent was pitch black and sleeping soundly while ours was alit and scurrying about frantically. When you think about it, it's really quite funny. I don't want to make the ones who woke us up feel bad, because they were trying fervently to save our lives, but this is Iraq. Things go BOOM! in the night. The protocol is to just ignore it, since there is nothing we can do about it, anyway. Booms happen all around us, and the vast majority are very far away, so get over it. I remember returning to San Diego after my year here before and hearing a big boom outside of Dave's apartment building. It was a garbage truck messing about with dumpsters, but I defaulted to "mortar or IED" in my mind, casually wondering which it was before realizing that things that go boom in the U.S. are almost always neither. SOOOOOOO, don't worry about us, becasue booms here are just booms, too, and I suspect last night's was a controlled detonation. No worries. We ain't skeered.
What else, what else? Um....Oh yes!!! I know. This is important, and it is part of my excuse for my blogging lull. My camera broke. Yep. It sure did. So, now I am unable to post new pics. I guess I will recycle older pics until I go to visit Dave and steal his camera back from him. Actually, it's my old camera, which I sent to Dave to replace the camera that HE broke. The one I broke Saturday is my NEW camera. So, that's just our luck. Electronics are in danger in our posession...Must be a Salisbury thing...
Thursday, September 13, 2007
By DAVID RISING, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD - A fatal attack launched two days ago against the sprawling headquarters base of the American military in Iraq was carried out with a 240 mm rocket — a type of weapon provided to Shiite extremists by Iran, a U.S. general said Thursday.
But such an attack with a sophisticated weapon against a nearly impregnable compound — far less vulnerable than the Green Zone in the heart of the capital — sends a strong message to the Americans that nowhere in Iraq are they safe, even in the nerve center of the U.S. mission.
It represents a major confrontation between the U.S. and armed Shiite groups the Americans insist are supported by Iran.
Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner said the rocket was launched from a populated area in the Rasheed district of west Baghdad, which he said was infiltrated by the Mahdi Army militia of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Bergner said Shiite groups "have received" such weapons "from Iranian sources in the past" and "used them against coalition forces." A 240 mm rocket was fired against a U.S. base south of the capital in mid-August.
"The Iranian... rocket is the only 240-milimeter rocket found or fired in Iraq to date, and Jaish al-Mahdi is the only group known to fire that rocket," Bergner said, referring to the Mahdi Army by its Arabic name.
Camp Victory, a huge area located near Baghdad International Airport, has occasionally come under fire, but attacks with such a large number of casualties and with such sophisticated weapons are rare.
On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected the congressional testimony of the top U.S. officials in Iraq accusing Iran of interfering in its war-torn neighbor.
In an interview on Iranian state television, Ahmadinejad said Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker raised allegations of Iranian meddling solely because of the political debate within the United States over the war in Iraq.
"Iran has no need to interfere in Iraq. The Iraqi government and nation are close friends of Iran," he said.
Bergner insisted the U.S. was certain that such rockets were of Iranian origin based on their color and markings on fragments. He said Shiite extremist leaders under U.S. detention had acknowledged that Iranian Quds Force operatives were providing 240 mm rockets to Shiite militias.
Last month, al-Sadr announced a freeze of operations by the Mahdi Army to give time to reorganize the force.
"There are indications that some of his followers are fulfilling that pledge of honor," Bergner said. "We have seen other indications of others who are not fulfilling the commitment he made. We know there are some that are not operating within the bounds of his guidance."
Bergner said the victims of Tuesday's rocket attack were a mix of American military personnel, other coalition troops and civilian contractors. The fatality was a civilian contractor from a third country, meaning neither American nor Iraqi, he said.
Also Thursday, the U.S. military said a joint three-day operation between Iraqi troops and U.S. Special Forces netted 80 prisoners and killed three suspects in the Hamrin Ridge and Diyala River Valley areas of eastern Iraq.
Among those captured were four suspected al-Qaida in Iraq terror cell leaders, the military said in a statement.
The U.S. said Iraqi troops also seized 40 AK-47 assault rifles and machine gun ammunition. More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers took part in the operation, it said.
Meanwhile, violence continued in Baghdad, with Iraqi police saying six people were killed and 18 wounded when a bomb hidden under a parked car exploded in Sadr City. The bomb was apparently aimed at an American convoy, but missed its target — killing all civilians and setting shops in the area on fire, police said.
In eastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed one person and injured two others, police also said.
And near Samarra, 60 miles north of the Iraqi capital, authorities said about 60 gunmen attacked a police station and ignited clashes with residents and police — leaving four assailants dead and two policemen wounded.
The attacks came despite the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began Thursday for Iraq's Sunni Muslims, and Friday for the country's majority Shiites. Tradition requires faithful to abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset during the monthlong observance.
The U.S. military issued a statement Thursday saying it had begun releasing between 50 and 80 Iraqi prisoners a day as a gesture during Ramadan.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I'm not going to say where it hit, or whether it was a mortar, a rocket, small arms, or what, but suffice it to say I was in a port-a-potty with my pants down when I heard enemy munitions incoming. It was very loud, and it was fast, and it got louder and louder as it approached, and the explosion when it impacted was even louder and shook my perch. IT FLEW RIGHT OVER MY HEAD. As soon as I heard it, I squated down into the fetal position, pants down, hands shielding my head, and waited to be blown to smitherines. God spared me, and my teammates, but there were injuries in the impact area. I don't know the extent.
After it hit, I zipped up and ran outside. I immediately saw the smoke rising from the impact area some 200 meters away from my location. Just after that, I heard the incoming alarm sound. That is the first time I have actually entered the duck-and-cover shelter at the sound of the incoming alarm. Things like this usually come in twos or threes. Luckily, it was a single. I hope we got the bastards; I'm sure we did. We went to see the damage and were told about the injuries. Fire and ambulance crews were at the scene. That's all I want to say about it.
UPDATE: Since it is in the news, I can admit that the attack happened Sept 11, and one civilian was killed. We also saw them working on the many wounded. Here are some of the links that are carrying the story (they all are the same, so if you've read one, you've read them all).:
Attack Kills 1 at U.S. Base Near Baghdad
1 killed, 11 wounded in attack on major U.S. base in Baghdad
Attack kills 1 at U.S. base near Baghdad
Attack Kills 1 at U.S. Base Near Baghdad
One of the girls in my tent had a bandaged arm as a result of the attack, but she is ok.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Wilson Gil fires up the crowd.
Last night, Melissa and I decided to attend a concert we saw advertised on a poster in the baby DFAC (the smaller of the two chow halls on Victory). The rock band Wilson Gil and the Willful Sinners was in town, courtesy of the USO/MWR, and we decided to see what they were all about.
Well, we were certainly pleasantly surprised! We arrived at the Victory outdoor stage area, and there were no more than 20 spectators there waiting for the show. The band was already set up and finished with their sound checks. One of the members, the bass guitarist, was off to one side chatting with the Army MP's and their dog, and the rhythm guitarist/lead vocalist, Mr. Wilson Gil himself, was finishing up some business on stage. His path toward the bleachers intersected ours, and he shook our hands and asked if we were staying for the show. "Heck, yes, Wilson. We came to rock."
The show kicked off in a swirling dust storm, and the indefatiguable band members rocked their hearts out from start to finish. Melissa and I were greatly amused to see Wilson's cowboy hat predictably fly off of his head at the start of each song, when his uncontrollable guitar groove movements would cause his back to arch, his neck snapping backward as he bounded into the air to make the most of his first chords. He was awesome. I took photos and made MPEG movies of him and his band so that I might be able to study his style and memorize some moves for the next time I play Guitar Hero on our XBOX 360. Kick A!
Wilson Gil were an awesome act, and it was super cool of them to come all the way to Iraq from Northern California to play for the troops. They have been in-country for more than a week, touring around to the different FOBs so that the weary troops can relax and rock out. The only reason we didn't have too many people in attendance at Victory was that it was a last-minute addition to the tour circuit, their flight to another FOB having been cancelled that day due to dusty conditions.
At the end of the show, Wilson invited us all out to Bakersfield to see a show, hang out, or even just drop in on them to say hi and talk about "all the crazy $4i+ we did when we were in the Middle East", even going so far as to give out his home address. Haha. Cool guys.
I encourage you all to visit http://www.wilsongil.com/ to learn more about the band. Melissa and I will be emailing them some of the pictures we took (btw, they stayed after the show to sign autographs for everyone who wanted them), and I hope to maybe see them play in Cali sometime. Our favorite song is "Dirty Mattress."
Thanks for coming out, guys. You made our night!
Autographs for Nancy and Dave.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
The heat source. When there is enough dust in the air, you can look directly at the sun without damaging your eyes (I hope).
Sunglasses work! (Right) Sun viewed by naked eye. (Left) Sun viewed through Oakleys. (By the way, Oakley, if you are out there, Dave's new Flak Jackets got scratched, and the dealer out here doesn't have replacement lenses; want to send some? If so, I'll give you my address.)
Yeah, that's a 5 in there...
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
That reminds me: Our office is typically about 100-110 degrees inside. That’s right, I said INSIDE. Remember my air ducts? Well, they can’t combat the heat when there is too little insulation and too small an A/C. So at least we still have THAT to complain about.
What we cannot complain about any longer is our lack of automobiles. We were supposed to get vehicles as soon as we got here, and I had two quotes the day after touching down on Iraqi soil, but contracting officials always require three. So, after fighting tooth and nail, I finally got a third, and even a fourth. Then, finally, a fifth company, which was not one of the ones I got a quote from, ponied up the vehicles. That’s very lucky, actually, because every one of the other four were completely out of cars, and we were all pretty tired of walking everywhere in this intense heat. We’re now sharing three vehicles between eight (soon to be 10) people, which is quite a luxury. Last time, we had one car for 19 people for the longest time.
Let me take a peek at my “Blog Topics” list. Ah, here’s a good one. I want to speak at you all briefly on the subject of “being snubbed.”
Snubbing is a rampant disease that seems to have gone gangbusters in the military, particularly in the Army. When you are walking down the street, or through the passageways of your office building, or down the hallway in school, and you greet someone with a warm “hello,” or “good morning,” or “Buenos Dias,” for those of you in California, don’t you expect some sort of a reply, or at least a head nod? My mom taught me to be kind and respectful, and I think ignoring an obvious greeting is the height of unkindness and disrespect.
I realize that it takes some effort to say hello to somebody, and maybe you don’t want to say hi, or you can’t be bothered to acknowledge another human being’s presence, but COME ON, PEOPLE! It’s shitty out here. Everybody is hot and miserable. We’re all in the same boat. Would it KILL you to say hello?
Truth be told, I often substitute a nod or a slight smile for a hello, if nobody else initiates a greeting, but if someone actually says something to me, I feel obligated to respond. If you don’t want to tax your vocal cords or waste your breath, though, then I have one request: DON’T STARE AT ME!!!! This is something that military people, in particular (or perhaps it’s just that I am around mostly military people and have worked with mostly military people for most of my life), love to do. They will be walking toward me, and I toward them, and they will be looking me straight in the eye as they approach. Their faces are blank or stern, but never friendly. As we get within a few paces of each other, and the offender (almost always a male) is still staring at me, I will usually say hi. But the offender NEVER greets me back! I mean, how can you stare at a person and then not greet him or her after he or she offers a friendly greeting? Are you kidding me? At least speak to me if you are going to stare at me! For crying out loud! So, this is for all you mute starers: UP YOURS!!! Learn some manners, you turd burglars!
Ok. Sorry about that little outburst. I had to put up with that a lot at the Pentagon, too, and it is just ever so annoying.
Let’s see…what else…how to end this on a happy note…