Saturday, June 30, 2007

Iraq - The Ultimate Suckfest

Alright well the last patrol that I just got off of was a very, very, very long and crappy time. It seemed as if the time would never pass and we would never make it back into base. But eventually time did pass and we finally made it back home. Just seemed like an eternity out there this time.

To start out, we ended up doing the usual market babysitting that apparently, the 82nd Airborne, a prestigious unit full of strong battle heritage, has been tasked with a job that the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police should be doing. But anyways. We dismounted through one of the markets to look around and make sure everything was all well. We got a couple new guys in not too long ago, and I had one of them on my team. This meant an extra eye on that guy to make sure he was doing what he was supposed to. Not to mention that he's not used to how everything is and what to do, so I also would have to give him pointers and tell him what to do. Its a learning process and I understand that. Nothing really exciting in the market, although there was a guy trying to get me to buy some "freaky sex tapes". This is nothing new. Theres always a good assortment of guys selling copied porn DVDs.

Once we loaded up, we headed over to another market. As we were leaving there, we heard a loud explosion, and then the call came up over the radio that some mortars had been fired at the market. We rolled back over there to check it out. I guess only 1 or 2 had actually exploded and there were a couple unexploded ones. Almost immediately after pulling up to this IA checkpoint, one of the snipers from that one bad area started shooting. They constantly shoot at the IA, as well as the civilians just trying to shop in the markets. Its not very often that they do this when we are there, but this guy was ballsy enough to take a couple shots with us there. None of them were directed at us, but they were definatly shooting in our direction. We couldn't see anything, or where he was, so we could do anything.

This really got me thinking about the whole "Market Security" job that we have been tasked with. It seems that we are there to help secure the markets, but I dont really think we are securing much. In fact we are pretty much in a reactive posture. Something happens, we try to take care of it or help out. Not very proactive, which I think is what needs to happen. There needs to be more of an effort to go after those responsible, not just trying to stop them in the act, or reacting to an attack. In the few months that we've been doing this, there have been, by my count, at least 5 car bombs, 2 of which were quite devistating. There have been several mortar attacks and IED attacks on the markets, not to mention the almost daily sniper attacks at a couple of the markets. So I have to ask myself, what are we really doing? I know some people would say that there are fewer attacks because of our presence. Maybe so, but if so, I dont really think its much of a difference. I just really hope people who need to know this see this or recognize this and we start going after those responsible, BEFORE they do something.

Well due to the time it took us in the market with the mortars and sniper, we ended up missing breakfast. Fantastic. We ended up going somewhere and chilling out for a little bit. Although it was still early, it was already starting to get pretty hot out. All I could think about was getting to lunch. I was absolutely starving at this point. We ended up having to go pick up our commander, so we were happy because that meant that we would get to eat chow back on base. Well by the time we got there, it was almost closing time for chow, and for some reason, the CO told us not to get chow. You have got to be kidding me!!! So no breakfast and no lunch. At this point I was throughly pissed off and didn't even bother to hide it anymore. It added fuel to the fire the longer and longer the CO took to link up with us. It took so long at one point, the decision was made to just send us in and get togo plates. Not quite like eating at the chow hall, but at least we'd get something to eat. I also snagged an icecream to help with the searing heat.

Nothing else much happened the rest of the day, but that night we were getting ready to possibly do a raid. I actually wasn't looking forward to doing this, because I was just pissed from before and just hot and tired and hungry. I didn't want to have to do the raid thing all late and have to deal with anyone that we took into custody for a good part of the night. In hindsight now, I wish we would of done the raid.

Word came down that we would be pulling security for engineers that were going to be installing some barriers at this one market where a massive car bomb went off a while back. They were to do their work durring the night, and its not quick work. Yup, go figure we ended up pulling security for them until like 5 in the morning. This was one hell of a long night and the best part was, we still had all of our normal crap to do that morning and throughout the day. This was going to be a rough day, lemme tell you. I figure that by the time we leave Iraq, it will be one giant labryninth of t-barriers, jersey barriers, and alaska barriers. Because that seems to be the solution to everything around here and they are EVERYWHERE!

Fortunatly, we didn't have much to do during the day, so we spent alot of time just chilling out and trying to catch decent little naps in the trucks. Its amazing how uncomfortable it is trying to sleep in a Humvee, yet how great it feels. I swear I could of layed on a bed of nails and slept like a baby. I ended up getting, I guess about 3 1/2 hours of sleep throughout the day. We did a few things here and there, but thank god we were able to just relax most of the day. Not to mention being tired as all hell, it was also crazy hot that day. Its only getting worse, but July is just about here and its almost to the hottest part of the year. Not too much worse.

Once we finally got back, we noticed that our package mail had arrived, and I was so excited. I had 2 big packages waiting for me. One was my Dell laptop that I had ordered and had been waiting on for almost a month now. YESS!!! The other was a bunch of books, magazines and about 5000 MP3s burned on to 5 DVDs from a reader of this blog. I was so excited, and I felt like a little kid on Christmas. Definatly took me from pissed of, bad couple days me, to happy me just like that. Since then I have been on my computer like a junkie on crack! Time for some time off and some good relaxation before we head out again....

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

A trip I'll never forget...

So basically this all revolves around the past 2 days in which I was finishing my preparations for, attending, and returning from my NCO of the Quarter board. An experience that will live with me forever...

So a couple of days ago, I was doing some of the last bit of my studying and was trying to get as much information on the actual board that I could, when I discovered that the location of the board was not even going to take place at the base that I was out. Wow, what a suprise, and no one had a clue. Thank God the board got pushed back another day so we had time to try and figure all of this out.

The day before my board, was supposed to be spent studying all day. I had a good bit of the information down, but there still were a few things that I had just recieved and needed to study on. Well, it didn't go quite as I planned. First off we ended up having a layout for our platoon where basically we lay all of our platoon issued gear out, and they go through and check everything and sign off and all that fun officer stuff they do. Anyways, by the time that was all done, the day was half over. Then came the next suprise. I was to be convoying out that night to go to the other base that the board was out. So now, I needed to spend part of this time packing and getting ready for that. Well, at least I'll have all night to be able to study.

They ended up not being able to come up with room for my squad leader to go with me and to sit in on the board with me, which had me a little nervous at first. I thought I was going to have to do it alone. But they guy they ended up getting to sit in to replace my squad leader was a guy that I went through Jumpmaster school with and we became friends while we were there, so it definatly was cool to have him fill in. He was a little worried thinking they were going to ask him questions about how well he knew me, but I reassured him that they were there to judge me, not him.

Well that evening we were getting ready to head out. I wasn't rolling with my unit; we were with another one from our base. They're route was to go down this one road that we don't travel because of all the IEDs that go off on there. Oh great... I can't wait. Thankfully the trip was uneventful, until the very end, when we pulled off towards the base we were going to. Right as we did, we heard and explosion that was several hundread meters up the road we were just on. I remeber thinking thank god we got off when we did. Once on the base, we got our room, and ended up finding out that the explosion we heard, had hit an american covoy. We would later learn, that one US soldier was killed.

That night, I was dedicating to just studying and cleaning my weapon (which I just learned from my Batt. Sergeant Major that they might inspect it). This was going to be a long night. I headed to the coffee place they had on this base and picked up a Cafe Moca on ice, with 2 shots of expresso. An hour or so later, I was back getting the same thing, this time with 4 shots of expresso!! Needless to say I got all the studying done that I wanted to, and was able to make my weapon look brand new. Well at least I thought brand new until I saw the weapons of some of the non-infantry guys attending the board the next day.

I ended up crashing out around 0230 or 0300. We had to be up at 0615 to eat, get ready and head out for the board around 0830. I decided that I didn't want breakfast, so I wouldn't get all tired and I could just use the time to recap on studying. I brought 2 RedBulls with me and I opened one and drank it while I smoked and studied. I was starting to feel pretty good about the board at this point. The rolls around and we end up heading up there to the conference room to do the board.

As usual they bring everyone in, talk a little about the members, what its going to be like and whatnot, and then they usually begin. Every other board I've done they always do the NCOs first and then do the Soldiers next. This time, it was to be reversed, and being a 'W'atson, I was to be the last of the last. Fantastic. I love sitting around, bored, with nothing to do. Just how I wanted to spend my day. Hahaha. One interesting note, was that there were 7 of us NCO's competeing. Everyone except for me was an E-5 (Sergeant) Promotable, which means they were comming up on getting their E-6 (Staff Sergeant). I was a lonely E-4 Corporal, which and E-4 can also be a non-NCO as a specalist, which many of the Soldiers competing were Specalists. Anyways, I was the only Infantry guy for the NCO's. The rest were support or super-support soldiers, which meant they would have ample time to study, unlike me. Finally, they all had previous boards to this that they had won to get here. I had thrown my name out, been picked, and here I was.

By the time they were done with the Soldiers, it was lunch time, and along with myself, the board members were hungry I guess. They gave us about 50 mins to break for lunch and I quickly walked all the way to the chow hall and had a 1/2 of a sub sandwhich. I didnt want to eat too much, but I was starving since I didn't have breakfast. Once I got back, I cracked open my other RedBull and smoked some cigarettes while I was waiting for my 'sponsor' to show back up. When he did, he had some terrible information. Apparently, the unit that lost the guy the night before, has just lost 2 more guys. There was to be a Hero flight a little later. I'll explain this one in a bit.

Well they started doing the NCO's but they were in a hurry, obviously. They ended up only asking 1 question per subject. Each board member (there were 7 of them) had 4 subjects, so that really wasn't a lot of questions. By the time it was my turn, I wasn't really that nervous and ready to get in there and do the thing. Sure enough they called my name. I started getting a little nervous but not that bad. I went in, and I think I did pretty damn well. I only missed a few questions, but I was able to get ones that were even outside of what I had studied. Also found out that the CSM in charge of the board, was from Phoenix and went to HS out there, and was also 82nd at one point and was with the 505th PIR which was my first unit that I was assigned to at Ft. Bragg. Such a small world. Anyways, once they were all done asking me questions, I left, happy with how I had performed. Apparently they had one more 'stap on' guy to go after me, but after he was done they were going to add the points real qucik, and then bring us in to announce the winner. Well, I didn't end up winning, but I was very close. I ended up getting 2nd place, and the points difference wasn't much. I ended up getting a Brigade Coin for getting 2nd place, which was cool. I really like collecting those things, and have quite the collection building. I was pround of how I had done, and it really didn't matter that I hadn't won, although it would of been nice.

Once the winner was announced, everyone was in a hurry. The Hero flight was in 5 minutes and everyone was rushing to get there in time. I rushed to my room, dropped off all my gear and began running to the flight line to get there in time. I barely made it. I knew it was important to be there, but I truely didn't KNOW...

So your probably wondering what a Hero flight is. In fact I had never heard the term until this day. What a Hero flight is, is the flights that carry the soldiers who have been killed in combat here, the flights that carry our heroes home. I had never seen this before and it was quite the new expereince. When I came running around the corner, I stopped with a group of people and they were at attention, along with the unit that had lost their soldiers, in formation, guidons present, everyone standing at attention, on both sides of the road, and forming a line down the flight line. There were 2 Blackhawk helicopters sitting there, engines running, and blades turning. In the middle of the street was an FLA (an Army ambulance). The orders were being yelled for everyone to salute, and when I heard the order "PRESENT ARMS!!" I followed suit. At this point, a group of soldiers walked up to the FLA and grabbed out a combat stretcher. It carried the body of a soldier, drapped in an american flag. You could still see the outline of the soldiers body, and it hit me then. There is a true american hero underneath that flag. Right there, not far from me, lies the body of someone who has made the ultimate sacrifice. I felt extremely sad, yet proud to be a part of the first voyage of this young mans Hero flight.

They marched him down the flight line, and then onto one of the awaiting Blackhawks. They then began the process again, with another soldier, another American hero. Shivers ran through my body, and Im not going to lie, it took everything I had not to begin tearing up. I did not know these soldiers in any way, but the realness of it all, seing the bodies under the flags, seeing how everyone came together to pay the honors these men deserved, it was overwealming. Once both men were on the helicopters, we all dropped out salutes, but stood at attention. Orders were given and everyone was now facing the helicopters and then the order was given to saltue once more. Once, my salute was being rendered, I heard the sound of the Blackhawk engines pickup, for they were getting ready to leave. They begin to lift off, but stopped 5 feet off the ground and just hovered there. Slowly, in unison, they began to move to the left, to the right, front and back, still just 5 feet off the ground. Then they both began to turn left, and once facing the appropriate direction, slowly lifted off and then sped off to these Hero's next stopping point. And just like that, they were gone and it was over. Even typing this right now, I can feel shivers running down my spine, and I can't help but feel sadness.

Once again, the true cost of war, for 2 more american soldiers, hero's, paid with their lives. And once again, the reality of this place slaps me in the face. The seriousness of what we do, and the seriousness of what our enemy does. And just like that, its again not just a job, its a way of survival. We don't do things here, just to do them for the hell of it. We do them because its what we have to do to survive. Forget all the politics and everything thats going on back home. The only thing that matters here, is living. Living yourself, making sure your guys are living. Fighting to survive another day here. Fighting to make it home. Make it home to see our families and our friends. Thats all that really matters over here.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

About a week in review

Alright so I haven't really posted much lately, but to be honest, I've been pretty damn exhausted. The schedule lately has been a little different, and on top of the heat and sitting in a guard tower, and studying my ass of for this board I have in a couple days..... well Im just plain exhausted, physically and mentally. Im feeling good about this board, but Im not going to lie. I sure as hell can't wait to get it over with so I can finally stop studying and cramming my head full of information! AHH!!

So a few nights ago, we had a raid that we went on. We were looking for these guys that we've been trying to get our hands on, and we were ready to go at it hard. Was to be a quick one. In, grab em, out, go kinda thing. Well my team was the first to go into the building. My personal favorite, because well, thats where the biggest rush is. Although I will admit that I dont really get the rush that I used to when we would do raids. No more butterflies or nothing. Dont know what that means....

I normally carry a shotgun with me. I had a break for a little while, which was nice because that thing definately gets annoying sometimes. But now, Im stuck with it again. Oh well. It could come in handy someday. Like this night for instance. Being the lead team to go in, we were to breach the door and go in and do our thing. Now usually another guy does all the shotgun breaches and though I've been right there (close enough to get pelted in the face by the richotche pellets) I've never actually done it myself. In fact, I've never even fired a shotgun in my life. Well tonight was going to be my chance. As things were falling into place, I started getting nervous, well, because I seriously don't know what Im doing. My squad leader gave a quick "lesson" on where to shoot and whatnot, but I was still unnerved. I had at one point asked him if he wanted to do it, but he was going to be throwing a flash bang (which is cool as hell and we hardly ever get to) so I had to breach it. Fuck it, lets do it. I remeber about a minute before, I leaned back to one of my guys and whispered to him, "So yeah, this is the first time Ive ever shot a shotgun before!" hahaha. Good stuff.

The flash bang is thrown, and then I go to work. My first shot obliterates the lock on the door. I tried kicking it in, but no luck. I look at where the lock was, and I still see metal there so I continue to shoot the same spot 2 more times, kicking the door and still nothing. What the hell?!? I try a couple more areas, some kicking and finally some football style running into the door from one of the bigger guys on my team finally got the door open. Wow, I'm never going to live this one down! What do you expect tho, me to be an expert my first time? Apparently my squad leader told me after I shoot the lock, not to keep shooting the same area, but in the rush of the situation, I totally missed that. Oooops.

Well, we go in and before I know it Im racing up stairs, clearing rooms and taking people under control. There was one place we went into with probably a family of 15 living in one room. Nuts, but anyways, there was one man, and a bunch of women and childeren. I was asking for the man to come out of the room, because well, I dont want to scare the shit out of the women and kids. He wasn't listening. I grabbed for him to pull him out and he snapped his arm back and pulled away. Sorry buddy, that was your last chance. He needed to come out and he WAS coming out, so I immediately reached in grabbed his ass and pulled him out into the room. Well, just as I expected, the family starts going BEZERK! Crying, wailing, screaming. Jesus. He should of just listened to the man with the gun the first time.

So that was about all of the excitment for that day, and though I did catch some shit for being the 5 shot door breach guy, it didn't last. Lets just say others have more notable reputations with the shotgun! :)

A couple nights later, we were out on patrol. Nothing special, just a normal patrol, walking around. Checking things out, making sure everything is good and safe and whatnot. We ended up patroling one area that was somewhat close to the area we used to get into firefights all the time, in fact a couple times I could see some of the buildings in that area. Part of me was begging for someone to just come out on a rooftop with an AK. I remeber at one point pulling security down this alley way where I could totally see that area, I was trained on it and ready for someone. Unfortunatley (or fortunately??) noone came out.

Being this close to that area really reminded me how much I miss what we used to do there. I know on this deployment, I've seen a lot more shit than I ever expected to see while deployed over here. In fact, I think we've seen more that alot of people see over here in general. In a way, I really wouldn't care if I never was in a position where my life was in danger because some jackel wants to shoot me. I would be just as content to go home finishing up this deployment in boredom, but theres always that part of me that yearns for the rush of combat. I might of talked about it before, but it is one of the best feelings I've ever felt. Just the whole situation. Yeah, it's scarry. Yeah, I worry wheter or not I'm going to get shot. I think thats normal, but theres something about having all the thoughts and worries running through your head and having to push it aside and say FUCK IT! and just do what you have to do. Its kind of like when you were younger (or maybe even still to this day) when you go to an amuzement park and theres a scarry ride and your totally scarred and don't want to do it, nervous about riding, but you say screw it and ride it anyways, and even though its scarry it is incredibly exciting too. Well thats what its like and Im guess, thats a normal thought process for combat. Combine that, with the sensory explosion, and wow. You have the thunderous sound of various caliber machine guns rocking away, sporatic sound of our rifles firing, intermixed with the load explosions of your own rifle firing. The crack of a bust from an AK or some other machine gun, and the defaning snap of rounds as the fly past you and smash into walls, or the ground or whatever. You can smell, the sweat, the gun powder and probably even the adreneline. Thats probably the best part. Its like an intravenious drug injection. It hits you instantly when your body drops the A(dreneline)-bomb on you. Your heart starts beating so hard you can feel it pounding in your chest. Your state of awareness is at like 1000% like as if you just injected 10 cans of red bull. Everything is clear and you see just what you need to. Its such an amazing thing. If the possibilty of death wasn't a real possibility, I would wish for it everyday.

So yeah, back from my tangent! :) We were patrolling along when we came across a couple of guys, out at night, with AKs on the street. *Insert slight adreneline dump here* We get in position to take care of this, in the event it goes sour, and I take my team and move to a better position, bringing me closer to the guys with guns. *Insert fuck it mentality as we moved* Fortunately being night, we have such an advantage and we definatly make use of it, and before I know it, we have a few guys detained, no shots fired.

One funny note, on the way back in from the patrol we came across this guy that was sleeping out in the alley on a mattress thing. He was totally oblivious to us being there, even though we weren't TOTALLY quiet. It was hilarious, and I so wish we had a poloroid so we could of all gathered around him, taken a picture and then left it for him for when he woke up. That would of been great.

But yeah, that was about it for anything cool or funny from that day.

So yesterday, was an interesting day. Lately it has been kind of quiet on the steets, which is never a bad thing, although I am a true believe of the 'calm before the storm' mentality. But in the past week I haven't heard many explosions or gunshots, which is good. We this day, I was going up to pull guard, and not long after me and my buddy get situated there is a loud and thunderous BOOOOM!! that rocks the air and walls around us, causing sand to come spilling out of sandbags. Immediately, Im thinking this is a big mortar round that was fired at us and hit close, and I scan around for a cloud to indicate such. Nothing, I keep scanning and then all of a sudden I see it. Its a dirt cloud alright, but its nowhere close to us, and a ways off in the distance. There's only one thing this can be. A car bomb. As its getting called up, I stare in awe as the massive dirt cloud begins to turn black, a thick black blanket covering everything in its wake, as fire engulfes the area around the blast site. I remeber thinking, "God I hope we dont have to go check this out. I really DONT want to have to see that shit again."

Fortunatly we didn't go, but in the ensuing chaos, emergency vechicles were flying around, sirens blarring, warning shots being fired out windows EVERYWHERE to move cars out of the way. I saw the same type of trucks that I saw at the last VBIED site I was at, where they had hoards of helpers on the back, screaming towards the blast area, chanting and yelling many things, to include 'Allah Akbar' (God is Great). All of this was giving me bad memories of that day. In the end when I finally got some info on it, and read the news article, apparently a carbomb targeting a mosque had gone off and as of today, so far, the death total is at 87 with the wounded in the hundreads. I seriously do not understand these people. Is what you believe in THAT important to kill innocent people and destroy sacred buildings?!?!?

So yeah, that was the excitment of pretty much the last week or so. Trying to catch up on some sleep and cram the last bit of information in my head before I head to this board in 2 days, so wish me luck!

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

I wonder if you can hear my stomach growl...

So I was chilling with my buddy outside last night. We ended up having to pull 11 hours in the guard tower, and after that was done had to do some other 'guard' type stuff. Was a long night and durring our break between the 11 hour shift and this new one, we were outside smoking and just talking. Well, like anything here, our conversation steered towards back home and we got on the subject of food that we really missed and places that we liked to eat out. After going back in forth for a while, I decided that there were some places that I wanted to eat at while I was on leave and I didn't want to forget about them. So I started a list! :) Its not a final list, but here it is as it stands today. I will continue to add places as I think of them, but this is what I got for now.

*Not appearing in any order*

  • Chipotle - They have by far the best burritos. Its like a subway, where they have all the ingredients in front of you and they make it as you choose stuff. And they are HUGE!
  • Taco Bell - Im craving some double decker tacos, nachos supreme and a big Mt Dew.
  • Wendy's - There's so much here I like, but a bacon cheese burger, spicy chicken sadwich and their fries.... they are to die for.
  • McDonald's - Big Mac baby! McRib if they still have it when I get back. Not to mention I will probably have Sausage Egg and Cheese McMuffin for breakfast almost every morning.
  • Famous Daves - This is place that made me like ribs. They claim to have the best ribs, and I highly doubt they are lying. They are AMAZING!
  • Applebee's - I used to work here and some of their nacho's and a Bourbon street steak sounds awesome right now.
  • Carraba's - This place blows Olive Garden out of the water. Calamari here I come!
  • Howies Pizza - They have many flavored crusts to choose from. Going to be SOO good.
  • Domino's Pizza - I used to work here and they have by far the best bread and cheese sticks around.
  • Papa Johns Pizza - Can you ask for anything better than a pepperoni pizza slice covered in heart attack causing garlic butter sauce?!? I think not!
  • Native New Yorker - I love the wings from this place, with celerey, carrots and a big tub of ranch!

Well there you go, and now I am official starving, but dont have even the opportunity to eat at the chow hall.... damnit! Feel free to make any suggestions that I might have forgot about. It would really help me out :)

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sleep? You'll get all the sleep you want when your dead!

So its kind of crazy when I think about a couple years ago, just before I joined the Army, how much sleep I used to get. I would say on average I would get 12-14 hours of sleep a day. I know, its pretty crazy. I remeber thinking how when I joined the Army that I was going to be screwed because I knew Id never get that much sleep again. Boy was I right!

So with that said, a little about my last outting. We headed out on what was going to be a long time outside the wire. Everything started off normal. Typical stuff to check out and whatnot, and to be honest not a whole lot of excitment. Go figure. For lunch, we ended up making a pit stop at this other base that I've been wanting to go back to for a while. The reason for this is because there is a massage lady that works there!! YES!! It definatly hits the spot after being out on patrol wearing all our gear to take a quick little bit to relax and get a rub down. And its pretty damn cheap too. So that definatly felt good and I was in a good mood, ready to head out. Again, not a whole lot to report on out there.

Towards the evening we started getting some info on a possible raid for us to go on. Alright, finally, something exciting. As things began to fell into place we began to learn more about what was going on, and this was going to be a good one.

Well later that night we headed out towards the target house. My squad was tasked with securing any escape routes. Another group was to go in and grab the guy. Well we all got into position and the raid was underway. It went off without a hitch, for the guy had no clue we were even there until they were busting down his door to grab him. Durring the raid tho, people were coming outside from all over the place. Most of them were just wondering what was going on, but you can never be for sure and it always gets you on edge. Fortunately being night, we have quite the advantage and we use it to its fullest.

Once we grabbed the guy up they brought him out to my squad to secure, and I was the closest one. I took one look at him (he was about 50-60 lbs heavier and about 2-3 inches taller than me) I decided I needed to make sure he couldn't do anything so I put him on his knees. Granted he couldn't see and he was zipcuffed, but still. Not taking any chances. Once the guys inside were done, we headed out of there. We ended up have to take the guys back to our intelligence guys for some questioning and by the time that was done, there was only 3 hours until we had to get up and take them to the detention facility. Great, 3 hours of sleep and then back out again. Uggg!

The guy ended up being exactly who we were looking for. In fact a lot of people had been looking for him. He was a semi-big player. The best part is that we made this happen on our own, without the help of the traditional Army intelligence and raiding philosophy. We got our intel our selves, planned everything and made it happen on our own. This isn't the first time we've done this, and it wont be the last. The best part is we've been catching some important people and I know people have got to be noticing. Yeah boys, thats how WE do it.

The next day was quite the long day, and we didn't really end up doing a whole lot, catching catnaps here and there when we could. We lucked out and ended up scoring a trip to the Green Zone to do something, but for us it meant big PX and Burger King. YEAH! It was great. When the day was all said and done, we headed back in to base. Everyone was exhausted and we all crashed immediately. I think I ended up sleeping almost 12 hours. The only reason I got up when I did is because I though we were going to be moving buildings, but we didn't end up doing it, so just another relaxing day. Much needed after all the hard work we put in the day before. Even though it sucks, its at least worth it when we catch guys that are responsible for attempting to and killing Americans. All just in another days work! ;)

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Saturday, June 9, 2007

My brain is mush!

Alright well yesterday was quite a busy day for me. Basically, for the past couple weeks I have been studying my ass of for my E-5 (Sergeant) promotion board. Basically to make rank of Sergeant or above you have to attend these promotion boards where they ask you questions on subjects of leadership and general soldier knowledge you should know. Its quite the thing to study for because there is so much to know and so much they can ask.

Well, it had already started off a little tougher than I had expected because normally the day before your board, you get the day off so you can get a full day to finalize any studying and just get in the right mindset. Due to the mission we had yesterday I did not get that day off. I was a little upset, but its ok. Adapt and overcome right? So I finished my little cram session that night and went to bed pretty early.

The next morning I woke up and those of us going to the board headed up there to find out when we would be going and to get our initial briefing. I found out that I would be one of the last ones going for the day and the last one from my company. The first from our company (which was a guy from my platoon) was to go first and they wanted everyone in the platoon to come down at the same time. Down side is, when your done, your done and you can leave. But you had to be there, so for me that meant sitting up there for almost 3 hours waiting nervously to go.

I was pretty darn nervous waiting to go to the board. Its not like I should of been tho. About this time last year I was doing the Soldier of the Month boards back at Ft Bragg. I first won the company board, then won battalion, then brigade and went on to the 82nd Airborne's Soldier of the Month board. The members of that board were the Division CSM, and each of the 4 brigades CSM's plus another one that I dont remember where he was from. Pretty much the top 5 enlisted guys on Ft Bragg were the members of the board. At that board I did pretty damn well and won! So you figure going to a battalion level promotion board with 1 CSM and a couple 1SG's that I wouldn't be nervous, but my palms were sweaty as hell.

I think the main thing that I was really nervous about was having them start talking about my blog, considering just a couple days ago, the article appeared in the Stars & Stripes out here and just about everyone and they're mother knew about it. As much as I prepared myself to talk about it, I knew it would catch me off guard. And sure enough, when it was my turn to go in, the first question I was asked was "So how's the blogging going?" Wow, ok DEFINATLY was not ready for that. But I handled myself well and when it came time for the questions I was knocking them out of the park. To make things even crazier, in the middle of me starting to answer one of the questions, mortars started coming in. I dont really remeber how many there were but it was a few, and as I'm trying to still answer my question, everyone there starts looking around and making calls on the radio. OK, this is awkward. But hey how many people can say they maintained composure in a promotion board when mortars were coming in! :)

When it was all said and done, I left the room excited and happy because I knew I had done well. I later found out that I had scored a 148 out of 150 that you can get on the board! HELL YEAH! I was so glad to finally have the stress of that off my shoulders. I wished I could of just gone back and relaxed and enjoyed my experience, but nope. Had a mission to head out on almost right after I was done.

We ended up doing a raid with the IA. Nothing crazy, just one of those in and out, get the guy/s were looking for and leave. The ride out there I finally rode in the last of the trucks in my platoon that I hadn't riden in. I can now say, in some way or position I have ridden in every truck. I know nothing special, but still cool to me. So my squad was pulling security at one end, and my team was placed at this intersection in the alley where apparently a sniper was shooting. You can always tell if there really is a sniper because all the Iraqi's in the area will run across open areas when a sniper is around. Add that to the bullet holes that I saw all over a few walls in a angle that it could only come from where they said they were. That had us on extra alert. Snipers, though not totally effective, are still a very serious threat. Fortunatly he didn't decide he wanted to mess with the Americans today. We basically just ended up sitting out there for a while pulling security while the IA did their thing. Had the usual groups of kids that wanted to stand around and talk to me, but they knew of the sniper too and it made it a lot easier to get them to go away because I would tell them that I didn't want them to accidently get shot by the sniper. They all understood and kept their distance; just enough to be safe yet still try to talk to me. Ahhh!

When it was all said and done, I was quite exhausted and quite hot. Fortunatly after that they went back to base and dropped those of us off that had the board. Oh yes, this will be great. Finally some time to just relax and have no worries. The only thing is now, that I have something else comig up. Soldier of the Quarter board here in Iraq!

So I knew they had these boards here and my 1SG was looking for people to attend one. I figured, I can usually do good at them and in a way its fun and you definatly learn stuff which is always good. What the hell. I threw my name out there to go and they accepted. At the time I didnt know when or what or anything about it. Well a couple days before my promotion board, I found out that it was going to be 2 weeks after my promotion board. I got the study guide and everything I needed to know and wow was this going to be a lot of shit to learn. I mean... ALOT! What did I get myself into! haha! My brain is totally going to turn to oatmeal by the time I'm done with all this studying. I just hope I can learn all that I can and do well there. I would hate to go and not do as well as I'd like.

So basically I'm taking today off from studying. Giving myself a chance to just relax and enjoy my day off. But tomorrow I need to start hitting it hard because I won't have much time until the board. I'll definatly keep yall informed tho.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Its getting HOT in here... so take off all your clothes!

For those of you that dont know that song, its Nelly "Hot in Here". Well everytime I think about how damn hot this place is, that song comes into my mind. If only it were that easy! If I could just take off some of my clothes, Id be happy. Im from Phoenix, AZ so I'm used to the heat, but my God its a different beast here. Back home this time of year I'd be wearing sandals, shorts and a t-shirt. Probably wouldn't be outside durring the middle of the afternoon unless I had to. Well out here, I HAVE to! Not to mention I HAVE to wear boots, pants, an undershirt, long sleeve jacket, and then throw on 50 or so pounds of gear. Yeah, lets just say that it sucks enough just sitting in the truck with the A/C going (though be it the A/C is not that good). I think Im going to try to find one of those things for my page that displays the current tempature here. We'll see.

So today I have decided is probably one of the days that I've never been more hot. I can't really think of anything worse, and I cringe when I think how much hotter its going to get. But anyways, today was supposed to be our day off, but as sometimes happens, something comes up and we end up having to go out. Today was one of those days.

We had a short, given past experiences, clearing mission to do with the IA (Iraqi Army). In past missions we've had a bunch of crap to have to go through and its usually taken a long time, but today there were only a few places that needed to get checked. We left kind of early and rolled out to our staging point, and we were slightly behind schedule. We had to be at the area at a certin time and start things, so everything would fall into place correctly. Well, we had to walk to where we were going, so this now meant that we had to walk fast. And that we did. It was quite the killer pace and by the time we got to where we needed to be, I was already sweating my ass off. And this was just the begining.

My squad was tasked out with our IA guys to go through this 7 or 8 story building. Probably bigger than any of the other squads, and it was no fun. One thing I must admit is that the IA do seem to be getting better at doing these missions. Don't get me wrong, they need work, but they've definatly improved from what I've seen of them the first time we worked with them. Its promising. I ended up seeing one the the IA guys that I know from working with them elsewhere and me and him "chatted" briefly.

Its kind of crazy that I'm in a way becoming attached to some of these IA guys. They have been getting into some shit with insurgents alot lately and whenever I hear of one of them getting killed, I always wonder and in a way worry if its any of the ones that I've become friends with.

It didn't take long for us to finish our clearning, but by the time we were done I was exhausted from going up and down stairs and everything. I really was not looking forward to the walk back, and I even joked with a buddy that this is one of the few times that I wouldn't mind getting shot. Free ride in the truck! Hahah its horrible I know, but its just the kind of humor we have here.

By the time everyone was done, the sun was beating down like an oven, and I now know how a Turkey on Thanksgiving! We all knew what was coming and we were dreading it, but in a way we were looking forward to it, because well, it meant we were done and could come home. We started on our way, and at first the pace wasn't too bad. The walk wasn't long, but it also definately wasn't short and so I think the lead squad was in a little of a hurry to get back and the pace kept picking up and up until it was killer again. I was a little upset by the pace because, especially when its so hot, walking fast like that I think sacrifices guys abilities to pull security like they should. I know it took everything from me to keep looking around, and I remeber thinking how much it would suck if something went down and we got engaged.

Fortunatly nothing like that happened. The mission went off without a hitch, although I dont know the outcome of the search. Probably because it was an IA thing and we are just there for support and for advice, helping show them how to do things, and if need be helping out if the going is slow.

By the time we got back to the trucks I was absolutely soaked, and slightly out of it due to dehydration setting in. I tried drinking as much water as I could, but as it got hotter and hotter in my camelback it made it harded and harder to drink. As soon as we got to the trucks tho, I pulled an ice cold one out of the cooler and down it quick. My how good it tasted! After a little time to cool off, we all loaded up and headed back into base. In all, it REALLY wasn't that long. Just seemed so long considering it was our day off. But as they say "The bad guys never take a day off"...

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

And the song plays on...

Well it is official. In light of the article that was written about my blog, as well as its appearance in the Stars & Stripes MiddleEast edition (which we recieve here in Iraq) I've ended up speaking with many people about my blog. I've discussed things about what should and shouldn't be said as well as other just useful information about just simply portraying the right image. I've gotten word from several in my chain of command that it is ok that I continue my blog, and some have even encouraged me. For that I'm greatful.

So I've decided that I will do just that. My old posts will still be inaccessable for now. I'm going to have people review ones that Id like to keep up to make sure they are ok to put on and if there's any corrections that need to be made. Give me time because this is going to take some work. But I should be back to posting regularly here in a few days.

Thanks to everyone for the emails and the words of encouragement. Its been great to hear from everyone out there and I really appreciate you all taking the time to write. I may not always have a chance to respond. I try to as much as I can, but know that I do read all the emails. The simple thanks means so much. Its in part due to the overwealming support from yall for me to continue my blog that I have decided to do just that. I just hope that yall continue to enjoy it, despite the changes. I feel it will still be and enjoyable read, for I wouldn't continue if I didnt think so.

So as I said, just keep checking in and shortly I should be back to posting regularly. As always your comments and emails (good and bad) are always appreciated!

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