Friday, November 21, 2008

A project underway...

Well after all this time of waiting and deciding how and what to do, I have begun the early steps to putting together a book! I will keep updates coming, but everything is in the begining stages right now. Wish me luck!

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

A free man!

Well my 4th of July celebrations just ended yesterday when I returned from the lake where I spent a few days with my girl and her family, just enjoying the fresh air and beautiful scenery. The city we were in put on a fireworks show over the lake, which I didn't hold much hope for, but it turned out to be pretty damn good. They even had a band playing, that was rocking out and had so many people up there dancing, to include the 2 of us! :)

So anyways, to make a real quick post for now, I returned yesterday, and after a 2 1/2 hour drive I made it back to Ft Bragg/Fayetteville, but instead of going straight to my house, I had to make a quick detour. I entered Ft Bragg, with my soon to be expired ID card, and made the short little drive to my Battalion head quarters so that I could officially sign out of the Army! It was a great feeling and I had the biggest smile on my face as I was walking out of there, knowing that after all these years, my time is finally up.

Today was the 1st day that I've woken up in a long time as a free man. My sentance has been served and now I'm out on parole. My unit is just begining to get back from a month of leave, and its crazy to think that they will be going back to work, yet I wont be. In a way its kind of sad, because for the last 3 1/2 years, the Army, NC and these friends I've made have been my life. Its never easy to just give up something you've held on to for so long, but in many ways I'm excited to be getting back to Phoenix and seeing my friends and family back there.

This isn't the end of me and the Army tho, because as one sentance ends, another is soon to begin, this one being a 6-year enlistment in the National Guard. I wanted to join an Infantry unit back home in AZ, but unfortunatly they did not have positions open yet, and even when some would open soon, they may not of been slots that would of paid an enlistment bonus. Because of this I opted to join the California National Guard, with an Infantry unit based out of San Diego, CA. Its about a 5 hour drive from Phoenix, but it will be worth it. I mean, shoot, this gives me an excuse to take a vacation to San Diego every month, and my how I love it there! Also, not only was the slot that I am going in to a bonus paying slot, but it is in a priority unit, which means I will receive my $20,000 bonus in one lump sum, minus taxes of course. But that will still be a nice deposit in the bank, so I'm stoked about that too.

Thats about all for now. Next weekend I will begin my drive back to Phoenix as I spend a little bit more time with some of my friends who have been gone on leave over the last month, and then, finally, will this chapter of my life be complete. But as one chapter ends, so begins the next! :)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Coming to an end...

Well, for a little update on where I am today, let me start by saying that I have less than 2 weeks until I sign out on terminal leave. Basically this is like regular leave, where you're not at work or anything, except this is tacked on to the end of your enlistment. Basically I'm taking a month of terminal leave, which means, I "leave" the Army and I still get paid for one for month, until I'm officially release from the Army.

So right now I've been staying pretty busy with doing all the crap required to get out of the Army. Theres tons of briefs and this you need and that you have to do, plus I still have the worst part, which is the turn in of all my equipment. Doesn't sound so bad, but when for the last 3 1/2 years and a deployment later, all my stuff has been here and there and back again, and now I have to try and piece together everything that I have to turn back in. It doesn't help when they give you a list of stuff with names that give you NO clue as to what it actually is. Should be fun. Anyways, all this process has been going smoothly so far and I should be done with this "headache" soon. Besides the headache is well worth it since it means Im finally done!

I recently have finished up my CV/Resume and got that sent out the other day to a bunch of contract companies, so hopefully soon I should hear back from them, some whom I've already spoken with people via telephone. I've pretty much decided that I'm going to go back overseas for a year (usual minimum contract length) to stash some more cash away in the bank and then come back and do college. So I'm excited about getting the ball rolling on that.

Other than that, I've been pretty good. Trying to get out and away from this house I spend WAY too much time in lately. Been hiking, indoor skydiving, the beach, amusment parks, all sorts of stuff, just trying to keep busy. I've been taking Charlie along for the ride for a lot of this and he seems to be enjoying it. Every day I end up loving that dog more and more. He's such an amazing guy. Too bad he doesn't know we're about to make a LONG drive across country to wind up back in a place just as hot as the hell hole he came from. Maybe he wouldn't be so cool then.

Anyways, thats about it for the updates for now, so like I said I'm going to try and keep posting on here more often so, just know that I'm doing good and really looking forward to leaving the Army and going back home!

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Friday, June 13, 2008

I've been horrible...

OK, well its obvious by the last post date on here, but I have been horrible about keeping this up to date on the latest and greatest of the life back in the states. I do appologize for that, and I just want everyone to know that I am doing good. A lot has been going on lately and for some reason I just could not find the motivation to get on here and write anything. The purpose of my blog was to tell my story of being in Iraq, and I guess to idea of telling my story now that I'm not seems even less interesting. But I'm seriously going to put forth and effort. This is just going to be a quick post to let everyone know that I'm alive and well, but I will be posting again soon to give yall an update on much of what has been going on in my life and will be going on in my life soon.

Today is Friday the 13th, a day that will always hold a very significant meaning for me. Those of you that have read my blogs from the begining will know what I'm talking about. Those of you that haven't if you simply look up "Friday the 13th" or go under the month of April 2007, you will see what it is Im talking about. It is what drove me to read my own blog today and what has made me realize that I need to post on here again. So again, I appologize for the long break in posts, but know I am going to make a concious effort to keep posting more regularly. Thanks for your understanding.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008


Well this past week has been pretty awesome. The main reason for that is because of a cute little 4 legged friend that I have been able to spend time with again, CHARLIE! Last weekend, I finally was able to make the trip up to Washington DC to reunite with our dog that we had brought back from Iraq. He had been in the States since Feb 14th, and it had been almost a month and a half since I had seen him and was anxiously awaiting this day.

When I finally got to the house and started to go around back to see him, he was already waiting by the fence. I had left Thursday immediatly after work so I was still in my ACUs, and when I got close enough for him to see my face, he stopped, looked up at me and if for a minute he had this look on his face like he couldn't believe what he was seeing. After a couple seconds of him taking it all in, he went crazy! Once I got in through the gate and was able to be next to him, he was SO excited. I had never seen him this excited ever before. He was flying through the air over and over again, to jump on me and lick my furiously. He would run away, then come flying back at me time and time again. It was awesome to see him so excited. I took the time to try and wear him out and we played with many toys in the backyard until he used up all of his energy and I could pet him and hug him like I wanted to. It was very surreal seeing him clean and in America. He was so clean it was unbelivable. The only Charlie I had known was the one that lived outdoors at the outpost and was usually covered in a good amount of dirt and typical Iraqi Muhallah filth. So to see him clean, with his white fur, brillantly white was a shock. But I took it all in and was just so happy to be back with him again.

I ended up staying the night there just outside of DC and the next morning I decided to take Charlie on a walk around all the monuments before we headed back to Ft Bragg. We wern't able to go right up to a few of them, but it was definatly cool to be able to see them and I can only imagine what was going through his head seeing such amazing monuments after most of all he has know was the slums of Baghdad. We had a great time and many people stopped to comment on how cute he was and to pet and play with him. He is amazing with other dogs and other people and he loves all the attention. He also walks perfectly on a leash which is mind boggeling. After a couple hours, we piled in to the car to begin the 6 hour journey back home. For the most part he slept in the back seat, only to get up every rest stop so we could walk around and drink some water.

Once I got back there were several people that immediatly wanted to see him. It was great being able to reunite the guys with our companion, but the greatest reunion came from a guy who was not expecting to see him. Back in October, in a situation that I had blogged slightly about, his platoon was part of a semi-large mission in to the bad Sunni area by our AO durring Ramadan, the largest Muslim holiday, also known for the most violence. He was a part of a dismounted squad that ended up walking in to an ambush, where many of the guys were injuried. He was one of the more severe injuries, and had taken a round through his knee. It was the type of injury that took him out of the game and he had been sent back here to Bragg. So he had no clue that Charlie was coming home or anything and had pretty much expected that he was never going to see him again. It must have been tough because he definatly loved and cared for that dog with the best of us.

I had taken Charlie back to the barracks to reunite with another guy and we were talking about how this guy would be happy to see him and literally at that moment he was walking from the parking lot. I yelled for him to come over and he took one look at Charlie and couldn't belive his eyes. The amazing thing is that after all that time, Charlie remebered him like it was just yesterday and he was acking just as crazy as when I had first seen him in DC. It was awesome seeing how happy the 2 of them were to see each other again and I can only imagine the suprise going through his head to see Charlie, the dog from Iraq, back in America.

Other than that we have been doing pretty good. A lot of people have had the chance to see him and Im sure over time more and more will eventually do so. We are doing great and somehow Charlie is already house-broken. He hasn't had a single incident as far as that goes. He is truly an amazing dog in so many ways and its awesome to have him back again!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How to Write a Book 101...

Too bad I never attended that class, other wise I might have an idea of what the hell I'm doing. HA! I did have a job once, just after I graduated High School where I worked for an independant book publisher (nothing big time) formatting work given to us in a Word document so that it would fit on to a normal printed book page. It wasn't a bad job, but because of how young I was, I was not getting paid what I should. It was my first tech type of job and in many was I wish I would of stuck with it a bit and continued with that skill set.

So for those of you who know me, or those of you who have corresponded with me, you probably already know what I'm about to say, but I'll go ahead and tell everyone else the story behind my blog. Bare with me...

My blog was initially started on my MySpace Page. (feel free to add me if you have MySpace as well! :D ) In the past I have always wanted to write a book, but never had anything good to write about. Once I learned of our deployment, I realized that I would have an event in my life which actually might make an interesting story, so in an effort to inform my family and friends of what I was doing (saving me from telling the same story over and over), and more so as a way to keep record of what I experienced and to not forget the little details over time, I started keeping blogs on MySpace. They started out simple, but as we began doing missions I started trying to write down as much info as I could remember, within the limits of OPSEC of course. Over the course of 3 months I had several posts on there, detailing the begining of my 15-month deployment. At some point I began noticing that a handful of people were reading my blogs on there, and some of them were people that I had no clue who they were. I began formatting the blog page there, coming up with the origional layout of what would eventually involve in to the look of my blog today. I was getting frustrated with the lack of options for the formatting of my MySpace blog, so after some time, I decided to move over to Blogspot to continue my blog. I copied over all the entries from just before we left until that time, and put them on to my Blogger account, which they are still accessable there today. On April 8th, everything was copied over and I was happy with the way the blog looked, so I added a counter and linked to the new blog site, from my MySpace blog. And from there, the rest is history... haha I've always wanted to say that.

Fast foward to now. 15 months later, 113 (published) posts later and I'm stuck trying to figure out what I need to do in order to make the initial dream a reality. I guess I probably need to contact publishers and see if they would be interested, or whatever. If anyone has any advice for me in this department I am open ears. Until that day comes, I will continue to take my posts and put them in to Word, and format them and spell/grammer check (yes BrianFH, when I have the time I do know how to do that! :D ) and try and save any (hopefully) future editors a little bit of time and headache editing through my stories. Ideally, I would like to keep my old posts intact and then after selected posts I put in a book, Id like to tell more to the story than I was able to do at the time while in Iraq. Maybe include some additional pictures. Theres many ideas in my head, but again, no real plan of action at this point. Not to mention I do also want to write a book about getting Charlie out of Iraq and back to the States. (Oh and those of you asking about Charlie updates, I will have a post here soon dedicated to that... so stay tuned!)

I think I have babbled on enough for now. That is really about all that I have right now. Like I said if you have any advice or can point me in the right direction for this, leave me a comment or send me out an email. I greatly appreciate any help, and thanks in advance.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Being home...

is great!

It is the most amazing feeling in the world to be back in the States after so long in Iraq. While over there, it seemed like this day would never come, but finally it did. The flight back was full of anticipation as we all just wanted to end our long journey and be back with the ones we love and care about. For myself, from the time I was last walking around the streets of Baghdad until I landed back in the United States, it was only 4 days. Mind blowing really. One we arrived at Ft Bragg, there were so many friends, family, whatever there, that it was a HUGE crowd. We formed up and marched in while everyone was screaming and cheering, and it was so hard to not break out with a huge smile across my face. The shivers ran throughout my body, and even a little bit right now just thinking about it. It was amazing and I couldn't of asked for much more. We headed back to the company, turned in our weapons and got released for 6 hours until we had to come back to receive our safety brief to go in to our 3-day weekend that we had.

That weekend was a good time of just relaxing and enjoying being back. Of course the alcohol consumption was a necessity, but fortunatly everyone drank responsibly and had a plan for being out there. No one fucked up, no one got a DUI. So far so good. Hopefully everyone continue to do the right thing and no one ruins it for everyone. Right now for the next 5 or 6 weekends we will be having 3 and 4 day weekends every weekend. The days that we do work right now are 1/2 days, so by 12:00 we are done for the day. Its nice I'm not even going to lie. We started doing typical PT, and I am hurting. Although I was going to the gym in Iraq, I really did run all that much, and being back running hills and fire breaks in the woods has taken its toll on my legs and by the end of the 3rd day of PT, I was officially broken off and walking a little funny. Guess its going to take a little time.

One thing that was a little unsetteling while we were back was that somewhere out at some range on Ft Bragg there were launching mortars or artillery or blowing up something really big and often. There was one day where the explosions were so loud, it was shaking the barracks and could be heard AND felt throughout both adjacent cities of Fayetteville and Spring Lake. I was at the car stereo place dropping of my car to get my new system installed, when I walked outside and heard an earth shaking explosion. It didn't startle me, but it sounded like how an IED sounded if it went off just outside the gates of the FOB, and I just remeber thinking to myself, "I thought I was getting away from this crap!" Hahaha. I've gotten used to hearing them back here, but I surely didn't expect to continue to have to hear explosions. Fortunatnly I only have a couple more months left in the Army and then I shouldn't have to hear them again.

Enjoying the sun in Phoenix!This weekend I decided to take a last minute trip back home to Phoenix for our 4-day weekend. I didn't let my mom know that I was coming and totally suprised her when I showed up at her place. Its been good to see her as well as my friends. I'm having a blast here and I'm really enjoying my insanly low alcohol tolerence! I went all out on the car rental too and decided to drive around a brand new Infinity G35. It is a sweet car and I really really REALLY don't want to have to take it back. Its amazing how the weather is totally different here than back in NC. In NC I was freezing, especially in the morning and its been incredibly windy all week. Here in Phoenix it is a completly different story. The temperatures are near perfect, the beautiful blue skies are amazing and the sun beams down brightly and full of warmth. We were at the pool the other day for only a couple hours, and now as a result of not applying any sunblock, I have an attractive redness to my skin. Hopefully it turns in to a nice tan and doesn't peal away.

So that is about all for now. Like I said I am loving every minute of being back. In many ways its so surreal, but I'm taking it all in slowing and experiencing many things that I had missed out on over the last 15 months. It truly is so amazing to be back and I'm so happy that I am able to experience this amazing place again!

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

It is over. The words I have been waiting to say for so long while doing this blog, I AM DONE! And a job well done. I know back in the day when President Bush made his whole Mission Accomplished speech from the Navy aircraft carrier, the mission that most Americans assumed he was talking about was the Iraq War, which at the time was no where near done. There was and still is much controversey over his decision to make such a statement. My statement is a little less bold. I don't refer to accomplished as in the war is over, send the troops home kind of accomplished. I am referring to the work that we have done, ourselves and the job we have done.

Our mission is accomplished. We received word of our deployment a few days after Christmas. We were on the deployment ready cycle at Ft Bragg where we could potentially deploy anywhere in the world on a moments notice, so it was no real suprise, at least to me, that when the murmors of a possible troop surge began rumbling, that we were probably going to be caught up in it. Sure enough we were. We would come to learn shortly after hearing about our deployment that just 2 days after New Years we would be heading for Kuwait. We hurried to rush out of there and get going on what was to be a 6 month deployment as the Iraq Theaters strategic reserve. By the time we were wheels up, it had been 6 days since we had received notification of our deployment. Soon after arriving in Kuwait, the decision was finalized to mobilize 10s of thousands of troops and flood them in to Baghdad and other parts of Iraq as a part of a new change in strategy. When the boots of our unit touched the dirty ground of Iraq, the "Surge" had begun.

It was a volitile time for Baghdad and Iraq when we began. Sectarian killing between Shiites and Sunnis was spirialing out of control. Sadr's militia was terrorize and killing Sunnis while Sunni snipers and bomb makers mutilated Shiites in ungodly numbers. They hated each other, but they both hated us. The Spring of 2007 brought some of the bloodiest months of this War. May 2007 was the 2nd bloodiest month of this conflict, followed with April and June as the 5th and 6th. The year 2007 would turn in to the single deadliest year for US troops since the begining of the War. The initial push of the Surge was in to Baghdad and the fighting between Sadr's militia, the Sunni Militia and Al-Qaeda in Iraq against the US Military was fierce. But our resolve and will did not faulter and our advantage in warfighting proved once again that they stood no chance. They began to flee the Baghdad area and push to the outskirts, where the new Surge troops would soon follow and continue to give them the crushing defeat they were sustaining in Baghdad.

With the focus no longer on gunbattles and firefights, we began going after the leaders of the militias that operated in our sector and began rolling them up one after another, after another, until the picture became clear to them. Quit, leave or get caught. Our final task was to protect the economically important markets which were in our area, and were constantly the target of massive carbombs killings hundreads of people with some of the blasts. The most economically important and largest market in Baghdad was in our sector, but between our constant presence and pressure on the militias, the attacks dwindled in size and frequency. With the militas weakened, the civilian casulties at an all time low due to a lack of car bombs and sniper attacks, the confidence of the people began to rise and their trust and appreciation of us did as well. The last vitial step was to get the Iraqis to begin to take over for themselves and our assistance in the creation of the CLC (Concerned Local Citizen) groups have done just that.

The situation in our area had taken a complete 180 from where it was when we began. The Sunnis and the Shiites began to trust one another. Killings were almost non-existant. Attacks in the markets were so rare and weak, that the resolve of the Iraqi civilians was no shaken. People were no long so fearful of working with the Americans and giving us intel. And in some areas, you could tell the people really loved us being there. I wouldn't go so far as saying it was completely safe in our area, but its getting damn close. Its amazing to think how much of a differnece 15 months had made. And it shows in the level of attacks on our troops. Dec 2007 was the 2nd lowest death toll since the start of the war, with the 3rd lowest being Feb 2008. Sadr, the leader of the Jeish Al Mehdi Army, has even noticed the change and no longer feels the need for his militia to fight and has stated himself that what the Americans have done has been good. As tough as it was for us to deploy here on 6 days notice and to deal with our deployment getting extended from 6 months to a year and then a year to 15-months, I believe it has been worthwhile and has such a profound impact on this area, that only time can truly show. I hope the trend continues with the new units that begin to replace the Surge troops and I hope peace will one day take over in this land. I want to be able to come back when I'm 50 and 60 and walk the same streets with my Kids and Grandchildern. I only pray that this may one day be possible.

So for now my time is done. I am done with missions and very shortly will be heading out of this place I called home for so long. The next time I post I will be back in the United States. Thank you to all who have read my blog, offered adivce, support or just an encouraging word through the comments and emails. I appreciated it all and I hope that you were able to get a little better picture of what life was like here in Iraq for an average American ground soldier, in the middle of the Surge! I will continue to blog once I return for some time, so don't think this is the end. Its just the end of a long long long long loooooong Chapter! :)

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Monday, March 3, 2008

One last CIB...

I want to start off by once again stating that whoever runs the Firewall for the computers that we have at the outpost are truly bi-polar. Because once again I am able to log on to blogger from the outpost, a change for like the 12th time! AHH! Also I lied in my last post. I have not begun my slow voyage home, but here I am posting again, but thats only because I wanted to get this story out there.

The other night, the CLC (Concerned Local Citizens) Group swung by the outpost with a guy that they had detained. Apparently they found this guy out walking around and he had what looked to be a homemade gernade. I had never seen a gernade like this. It had a plastic body and just looked fashioned. Over the past week or so there have been a few incidents with some people throwing gernades at IA (Iraqi Army) and IP (Iraqi Police) checkpoints, so I can only imagine that this is what this guy was going to do. So far they haven't targeted any US personnel with these gernades. Once we had this guy in our custody, they began questioning him and apparently at some point he stated that he would take us and show us where some more stuff was.

A group of our guys headed out to go hit this target building, while myself and the rest of the guys of my squad continued to pull our guard shift, knowing that we were probably going to be extended because the guys going out were the ones that were to relieve us. Time goes on and eventually we start getting word that they had found quite the little cache of more gernades and other stuff. The platoon that was out on patrol that day, sent out a dismounted element to link up with our guys. Shortly after they had left we heard some shooting off in the alleyways a little bit, but we didn't think too much of it. It wasn't until a pretty loud burst that we wonder, especially when the call came up to us in the towers asking if we heard any gunshots. They usually don't do this without a reason, and we later found out that was the CLC guys who had come in contact with a couple guys shooting at them. Nothing major though.

Some more time passed, a we were well in to the next guard shift when we heard a couple bursts of AK fire a couple hundread meters down the road from the outpost. I stood up and headed outside the tower I was in as all hell broke loose for about a minute or so. There were a couple explosions that I could see and of course here and we called those up. Thats when we learned that it was our guys that were in contact. Sons of bitches! I was officially jelous at this point. While standing on the roof scanning around from off to the side of the outpost a shot rang out that flew overhead, coming from an area a good distance away from where our guys were in contact. After a minute from that origional shot, there was a short burst again fired from the same area directed in our direction. The thing was that since I really didn't know the locations of our guys, I couldn't just indiscriminantly fire in the area that I heard the shot. Oh well, its not like they were hitting close to me, just definatly shooting in our direction.

After a little while the guys returned back to the outpost and of course the rest of us that were there were eager to learn what had happened. Apparently while they were on the roof of the place where the cache was, a couple guys a couple rooftoops over began shooting at them so they of course returned fire, launching a couple high-explosive gernade rounds from the gernade launchers, which explained the explosions we heard. The other platoons guys went to maneauver on them and I guess at some point they were shot at as well and returned fire. All in all it was a pretty quick little engagemnet. The one thing of note was that the last guy in our platoon that had not received his CIB (Combat Infantrymans Badge) was out there that night! So he now officially qualifies for his CIB and at the very tail end of our deployment and running combat missions, he finally earned his. How crazy!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

I'm going CRAZZZZZYY!!!

Ok so this is just going to be a quick update post since I am getting ready to head out and probably will be away from the computers for a little bit. But know that the next time I am able to get on and post, that I will most likely be on my journey out of this country already! :)

The past couple days have brought some big changes. There were a few incidents around here, that have cause our upper level chain of command to get all Nazified with some stupid rules. They probably wouldn't be so bad if it wern't for the fact that I stay back for a few days from going to the outpost with my platoon as a part of an agreement with my Plt Sgt since I'm doing the 'left seat right seat rides' I talked about in the last post. Well now this origionally seemed like a good idea to me. A few days back, all by myself, do whatever I want. Sounded good. Now because of these new rules I can't do anything. The big one is that you have to walk around in groups of 3 or more. Seeing as how there is only me and one other guy here, that kind of screws us. We have to either be sneaky or find someone to go with us, neither being an easy task. In fact I even missed out on a meal yesterday because I didn't have anyone to go with me. Its got me quite pissed.

The other thing is that since I'm basically on house arrest, along with the rest of our battalion, for some bullshit that I had no part of, I have been limited on what I can do. Pretty much I have been relying on watching movies, but after the 4th or 5th movie of the day I'm going fucking crazy. Everything is packed, so I don't have crap to do and no one around and I'm loosing it. I'm actually looking forward to leaving here soon and getting out there with my guys and away from all the stupid crap around here.

Well that is about all that I have for now, I will keep yall post the best I can here in the coming weeks, but know that I'm almost done!!!!!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

One last bit of excitment? I think not...

The last patrol that I went on was one exhausting patrol. We ended up dismounting quite a bit. It wasn't so much that over the course of the day we walked a whole lot, but it wasn't a short walk or anything like that either. Pretty much it was just not stop, continious dismounting that just seemed as if thats all I did all day. I don't recall spending too much time inside the truck. Fortunatly the wheater was just about perfect for the amount of walking we ended up doing and I even had to shed the little bit of 'snivel' gear that i had one once the afternoon hit.

So for the dismounts we really didn't do much that was really noteworthy. At one point we were out walking around looking for some random donkey cart pulling a bunch of propane tanks. Now, we wernt looking for a specific one, or it wasnt because one was rigged to blow up, but because they needed to talk with someone who sold propane. OK.... not sure what for really, but we never ended up finding one. We did end up finding out that it was a holiday, and if I am correct I believe this is the same holiday that was going on when we first got here last year. The significance of this holiday to me, is that at the end of the month long holiday, the very next day one of our platoons came in contact for the first time. The day after the next platoon that went out came in contact, and finally the day after that when we finally went out we got in our first firefight as well. Now this year will probably be different seeing as how I hopefully shouldnt come to see the end of this holiday, but who knows.

There was a little bit of 'excitment' towards the end of the day. While taking a break at the outpost, we got a call that there was shooting going on in one of the neighborhoods in our sector. We all got ready, loaded up and headed out. The adrenneline was going slightly and I was anxious to get there in hopes that maybe one last time, I might finally be able to perform my real job as an Infantryman. But as expected by the time we got there, it was quiet. We dismounted and walked around and talked to some people and I did notice that the neighborhood was DEAD! This is usually a good sign that something just happened or is about to happen, so apparently we just missed out. Some people think I'm too 'huah' for wanting to get in to it this close to going home, but whatever. I always loved being in contact with the enemy and Im sorry but I miss it. Oh well.

That night we got a little more excitment when we were told that we were going to be setting up an ambush. This was a little odd considering that we've NEVER done one before. We almost did one to ambush some mortar team that mortared our outpost, but nothing came of that. Now Im not sure if this ambush was to be a shoot'em up amush or just wait for them to get somewhere and detain them, but either way it ended up getting canceled and once again we were let down.

The nice thing about this patrol and the cancellation of that night ambush is that there was nothing else for us to do and so the we ended up heading back in to base about 2 1/2 hours earlier that expected. That was a nice treat, and although the day really wasn't all that bad, it was good to be back and to be done. Time is nearing very soon in which the day will be here, when my coming back to base will be the last time and I cannot wait!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Some GREAT News!!!

Ok well it has definatly been a little bit since I posted last. Theres several factors that have played in to this. Part of it is from my time spent out at the outpost where once again Blogger is blocked. No suprise there tho. Also as I'm sure many of you all have probably heard, there was some communications cable that was cut in the Mediterranian Sea (I believe?) that has severly affected our communications. The internet at the cafes have been ridiculously slow and the phones have had a horrible connection. Also the internet has been down in my building for several weeks and with our re-deployment nearing, I decided to not worry about it and just wont have internet in my room for the rest of my time here. This means I am forced to use the SLOW internet cafes. I have been to the computers a LOT in the last week, but I've been primarily dealing with one thing; Bringing Charlie (our dog)home!

Well again if you check my other site dedicated to Charlie I will have more in depth details, but basically as of right now, Charlie has been picked up from the outpost, transported to BIAP, flown to Kuwait and has been on his 13 hour non-stop flight to America for almost 12 hours now. So here very shortly, he should be finally landing in the good old USA!! I can't believe that it has finally happened and I'm so excited that he's about to be back and I can't wait to see him again back home. Pretty cool to think his little paws will touch American soil for the first time on Valentines day!!

So with that said, there has been much going on around here lately. Not so much mission wise and out in sector, but with our re-deployment. We are VERY VERY close to getting out of here and so things are being taken care of and preped and getting ready to go home. It almost doesn't feel real. After 14 months of being here, the time to go home is SO close, but it still doesn't feel like its happening, despite all the work that we are doing to get ready to go. I wish I could tell yall when, but for the sake of OPSEC you'll just have to wait to find out. :)

One thing that was notable that happened about a week or so ago was that in one of the markets in our sector a female suicide bomber was blown up killing dozens of people. It has been very rare to have an incident take place in the markets anymore and I hope it does not shake the Iraqi people feeling of security and their resolve to go about their lives. From what I had heard of it, the lady was mentally handicapped and that she was unknowingly strapped with explosives and then detonated by someone else. How cowardly and pathetic is that, for them to exploit someone who has no clue whats going on. It sickens me to think they would do something like that, and I feel for that woman and her family, as well as those who were killed in the blast. I can only hope that this is a very isolate incident and that this does not turn in to a trend.

Lately we have been doing a lot of work with the CLC (Concerned Local Citizens) group with getting them prepared to handle things on their own. I don't think we've officially told them that we're going, but they all know. All the IP (Iraqi Police) and IA (Iraqi Army) know and I'm sure most people out there know. We've been here for a while and I'm sure they catch the news about 15 months and all that, so I'm sure it's no suprise that we are going to be going. But like I said, we've been working very closely with the CLC to help train them. We have had them come to the outpost and we give them clases on basic stuff like searching vechicles and the very basics of patrolling. Not to mention that we have done a whole slew of combined dismounted patrols with them. I think they have the potential to go good things for the area and I hope that after we leave that they continue to work with the new unit and the IP and IAs to ensure that this little slice of Baghdad stays safe. They have been a big help and I hope they help to ease the transition to the Iraqi security control.

Well that is about all for now. I am going to try and update more often, considering the last couple posts have been spread out, but if I can't as often as I like, know that I am doing good, and probably busy getting ready to finally leave this country and return the good and wonderful USA!!

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

March of the Iman...

Well, I'm going back in time a little bit to talk about a few events that happened several patrols ago. The reason for this is the damn internet is down in my building again, and ever since I got internet in my room it is almost like getting the motivation to go to the dentist when it comes to heading down to the MWR computers. But now the internet has been down for a while and I have no clue when it will be getting fixed so I'm finally putting together a post to take down to the computers and upload. From what I hear the computers are running really slow so I may or may not get to put up pictures that I am wanting to include with this. Guess we'll see.

The first significant event deals with the CLC or civilian armed guards that we have in some of the neighborhoods in our sector. I've talked about them many times, especially when it deals with running in to one of their armed dismount patrols at night or the weapons caches that these guys find for us from time to time. Although I disagree with the decision to allow them to have free roam, especially with weapons, they have actually proven to be a big help in assisting us in finding these caches and catching some of the bad guys around the area.

What basically happened, in a brief, as much as I know telling of this, there was some argument between two of the guys over some shooting incident that they were involved in and one was demanding the arrest of another. I don't know what escalated the situation but in the end the guy who was wanting to other arrested was not getting his way, so he let loose with his AK-47. He ended up shooting the leader, his son and I believe another person before he was shot and detained. I don't believe he was killed, but the wounds that the leader of the group sustained proved to be fatal. It's kind of weird because we have worked with them many times and I have met and talked with the leader of this group on many occassions. Again, although I do not agree with his group running around with guns, I did think that he was a genuinly good guy and it sucks to think that he's dead now. And it wasn't even a member of the local militia that did it. Now I guess we will see how these guys end up doing with a new leader.

The next event was a pretty big one to be a part of. There was a Muslim religious holiday recently, and infact it may even still be going on, in honor of a fallen Iman, Hussein. One of the days, was the biggest celebration days and apparently on that day, the people come to the streets by the thousands and parade around and punish themselves by whipping themselves in the back with these chain whip type of things. We knew they were going to be going on, but we wern't really sure where. Also, during these kinds of celebrations we try to keep our distance and not interfere with what they are doing. At one point we had turned on to this street and started heading down it, when we noticed a HUGE procession of people coming down the road. We couldn't turn around and so in an attempt to stay out of the way as best as possible, we pulled off to the side of the road and waited for them to pass.

Not the best of situations to be in!There were thousands of men, women and childern that were marching, some of them playing music, some dancing and signing, others dressed up in costume and the rest just walking along with it all. We all locked our doors because we were in a situation that was not the best of ones to be in. We were surrounded big thousands of people and in the event they wanted to get to us, it would of been a lot easier than any other time without all those people. It took almost 30-40 minutes for the procession to pass and the whole time we just sat in our seats and watched the people go by, ocassionally waving to the people when they waved at us. It was pretty surreal because normally we try to keep people away from our trucks as best we can when we are out there. Every now and again a group of kids will form by one of the windows but even they aren't right up on the vehicle. But with the huge amounts of people out there, there was nothing we could do and our trucks were completly surrounded with people putting their faces right up to the windows. Once the crowd thinned and we could drive off without interfering we did so.

We had a basic idea of what the holiday was about, but we wanted to know more so I went to our interperator and asked him. I guess the story behind it deals with the split between the Shiite and Sunni sects of Islam, and this was a Shiite holiday. There was an Iman, Hussein, who a big group of the Muslims felt should be the next to run all of Islam, but on his way to Iraq from Mecca in Saudia Arabia, in which he was to talk with the people who were calling for him to be in charge, an Army was sent out after his caravan to kill him. His caravan consisted of mostly women and childer so he did not have much of a fighting force. When he learned of this, he went in to the nearby city and called out for people to join him and help him fight, but no one came out and in the end he was slaughtered, had his head cut off and brough back to the king to prove he was dead. This is why the Iraqi people come out in the steets and whip themselves, to show their support now which they did not do before and to punish themselves for what they had done to him. I find it pretty interesting to learn about these holidays and to learn about the Muslim religion, but one thing I have noticed is that there seems to be much violence in the history and holidays of their religion. Maybe that is why, things are the way they are for us in that region.

Lastly I had hoped on Google the other day and looked up the area of Baghdad that we are in and was learning about the history of this area. Basically the area we are in is the oldest part of Baghdad, and when Baghdad was initially founded, many many years BC, where our sector is, thats where Baghdad began. Its kind of crazy to know that probably some of the same streets and alleyways that I patrol around, have been some of the some paths people have taken for thousands of years.

So thats about all for now. I have some more I want to talk about but I will get to that with another post. Hopefully it won't be as long for the next one, but the way the internet is going around here, you never know.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

I didn't know it got THIS cold here...

Alright, well it has been a little bit since my last post and that is partially due to a little bit of laziness on my part compounded with the inability to access my Blogger account from the outpost. I was going to put a post up right before I left, but I figured, no I'll just do it once I get to the outpost. Well, as I've talked about before the people who control the firewall that prevents us from going to many websites, I have noticed are very bi-polar when it comes to allowing/denying access to Blogger. Sometimes they do and others they dont. One day I may be able to get on and the next I wont and then the next day again I can't. It's pretty crazy and it can get quite annoying sometimes. Gets my hopes up.

Charlie doing what he does best!The first thing that I wanted to post about was some updates on our situation with our adopted dog at the outpost, Charlie. As many of you know that have been reading my blog for a while, or even those of you that have noticed the sidebar link to a website I have up dedicated to this cause, is that I have been working my ass off trying to take care of things and figured things out as for a way to get Charlie back to the US. Myself along with many others have gotten attached to him and the thought of leaving him behind when we re-deploy makes my stomach turn. He's such an awesome dog, and so began my mission of trying to get him home.

I won't break it all down here (just visit Charlie site or read the first post about Charlie to learn more) but basically I've gotten him shots here in Iraq, food, a travel cage as well as coordinated everything for his travel and return home, all except how to get him out of Iraq. With the end of our deployment approaching, I was begining to worry as a few options that I was working had not worked out. Fortunatly just about a week and a half ago I received some additional help in this area, and was put in touch with someone that will be able to get him out of Iraq and on his way home to the US! I had to talk with some other people to work out some minor details and some coordination stuff, but at this point just about everything is in place to make this happen, just waiting on an exact date!! Hopefully should be happening within the next couple of weeks. It still doesn't seem real, but I'm so excited that this will be finally happening. I can't wait for his journey to begin!

This latest rotation out to the outpost wasn't quite as bad as the last one I talked about. Of course, being deeper in to the winter, the average temperatures were lower, but this time both the heaters in the guard towers were working, although one much better than the other. Our shack thing that we chill in while working the gate didn't have heat most of the time, but towards the end guys came in fixing and adding heaters all over the place so we got a semi-functial one out there. Overall, it wasn't all that bad, despite still have a cold shift. I ended up getting decently sick for a couple days, but fortunatly that was it. I still have a lagging cough, but for the most part I'm over it. I hate being sick and lately I seem to be getting at least a little sick each time we head out there. Quite unusual considering that I normally get sick maybe once or twice a year.

Speaking of the cold, a story of amazement needs to be told. I wish I was telling this from a first hand experience but I can't say that I was there. It ended up happening while I was a asleep and I'm a little bummed that I wasn't woken up. Anyways, the day before we headed out to the outpost it had been raining. Nothing crazy, just a slow steady rain, which in its own part sucked because it turned pretty much most of our base and a lot of Baghdad in to a giant mudpit. Anyways, the temperatures had been dropping and apparently in the night the temps dropped below freezing and coming early morning, the steady slight rain turned to snow!!

Gives new meaning to, must be a cold day in hell!I know it sounds crazy, and I didn't believe it at first. I had to get a 2nd person to verify this story and sure enough. My first reaction was, "Since when does it snow in hell?!?" I then realized how much more it sucked here than Phoenix. Not only does it get slighly hotter in the summer but even colder in the winter. I have NEVER seen snow in Phoenix and it blows my mind to think that it happened here in Baghdad.

Thats about all for now. I have a couple more stories I want to tell but I'm tired and I'll just wait until tomorrow and put them in another posting. Plus theres a couple pictures I wan't to throw up for that, so I need to get those as well. Maybe give me 2 days, knowing my level of laziness on my days off! :)

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

"Laughter is an instant vacation." -Milton Berle

Theres many things that we have experienced here, some of them good, some of them bad and some of them, well, just there. But theres one thing about being with a group of guys that have become like brothers to you, and thats the ability to just have a good time despite the situation that you find yourself in. That is one of the greatest things I've noticed durring this deployment, is that we can be in a horrible situation (combat related or not) and just make the best of it. The last 2 days, I can honestly say I have had some of the best times here in Iraq, not by anything that we have done mission wise, but just having a good laugh at the expense of myself and others in our platoon.

It all started on the last patrol that I went on. We had our First Sergeant that headed out with us, and his driver, a mortar guy, used to go out with our platoon alot back in the day. He's a great guy and a part of me misses the good times when he was along! *tear* Hahah. Anyways, he's a smoker and normally smokes Marlboro #27 cigarettes. I smoke Marlboro Lights and while we were smoking he gave me a pack saying he didn't like smoking lights. I thought it was an awesome gesture, and of course I took the free pack! I lit up a cigarette from the pack and immediatly there was a semi-loud snap as the end of my cigarette exploded. I'm not going to lie, it scared the piss out of me for a second, and for some stupid reason the first thought in my head was sniper. I know, its dumb, but thats what I thought, but that passed quickly. After everyone got their laugh, he proceeded to tell me that every single cigarette in there has been rigged to explode. Alright, well now IM going to have some fun with this.

My grenadiers exploded cigarette!It became my personal mission to get as many people with one of the exploding cigarettes as I could. I managed to get a few people while we were still at the outpost but eventually everyone knew that I had them, so I couldn't give them away. Thats when I decided to give one to one of the Iraqi Army guys. It was pretty funny and he refused to smoke the rest of it! It was in good fun, so dont worry. We both were having a good laugh from it. Later while out on a dismounted patrol, when we finished up we were waiting around for the trucks to come back and pick us up when one of the guys in my squad wanted a smoke, but left his in the truck. Here ya go, I've got one for ya! He totally forgot I had those, and when he lit it up, he was startled by the pop like everyone else. The best part was there were about 15 Iraqi kids that were around us. All of us start laughing and pointing and ALL the kids start doing the same. He must of felt like an ass! Always great to see others suffer! I can't recall how many people I got, but it was pretty close to every one that was in the pack. And just now as I'm writing this, my grenadier finally smoked the one I snuck in to his pack on a cigarette break we just took. GOOD TIMES!!

Once we finally came back in, I was viewing a video in a bulletin sent to me on MySpace and it was one of those that out of nowhere this Exorcist looking chic pops out and theres a loud screeching and it scares the piss out of you. I showed it to my good buddy, but before doing so I hooked up my sound system and cranked it up. Lets just say it scared the piss out of him. He yelled and jumped up punching in front of him. Another guy introduced me to this maze, that as you go through it, it gets hard and you really have to concentrate and then out of nowhere that Exorcist creature scares you. Well, we then began tricking everyone telling them that we'd give them $20 if they could beat this certin level and talk it up and it was just hilarious. We ended up getting 4 or 5 people good and the last one was my grenadier in my team and there was probably about 15 people around him watching him. Again, another great laugh at someone elses expense! I can honestly say I haven't laughed that hard in a long while.

The last bit of fun has come from something that we have come up with now refered to as the "Cornbread Challenge." It started off as a punishment from my grenadier to my automatic rifleman because he had secretly ashed a whole cigarette on his head. To make up for it, he had to eat 5 pieces of cornbread from the chowhall. Well I figured that he couldn't do it and so he bet me he could. We gave him 20 mins to do so, and he couldn't throw up until it was all down. He could drink or do whatever he wanted to the pieces tho. On the day of, he ended up making another $20 bet with another guy so we started the challenge. He almost made it, 4 1/2 pieces but he finally ended up running out of the chowhall puking as he barely made it out of the door!! After that, people began saying they could do it and the Cornbread Challenge was born. For the next contestant we changed the rules a little and if he could do it in 10 minutes my grenadier would give him $60. This was a big guy and I actually thought he'd do it, but at 4 1/4 the cornbread got the best of him and he went to the trash can and began regurgatating the cornbread through his mouth and nose! He had done this on a non-empty stomach so we amended a final change to the challenge. 6 pieces in 11 minutes, $60. We wrote the challenge up on our platoon board, and listed the failures so far and put up a signup list. We had our first taker that night.

Given the popularity of the challenge now, people were beginging to want to watch in hopes of seeing someone fail and puke their guts out. Our in house video guru was around for the next challenger, along with 8 of us that were not on patrol. We were now going to video record each attempt in hopes of catching more and more desctructive failures! The next participant was someone that was going to give this challenge a run for its money (literally... $60) and we were a little worried he might do it. He went to town, but again just like the rest, just after finishing the 5th piece and with 1 minute left on the clock he couldn't handle it anymore and the cornbread came back up! The best part was another guy made a $10 bet with me that he would do it and of course he lost. So this is now $30 I've made off side bets due to the Cornbread Challenge. As it stands, 3 men have entered, and none have come out a victor. The challenge still stands, and we may have contestant #4 tomorrow. Hopefully loser number 4!!!

The last bit of hilarity came while we were eating at the chowhall. Just before we were about to finish up, the warning sirens came on for incoming mortar rounds/rockets. Well, we have this new unit that is here in large numbers and I don't know if its what they've been told or trained on, but when that siren went off 1/2 the chowhall dove for the ground and were laying on the ground and hiding under tables. The rest of us just kind of sat there. This was my cue to get up and casually walk over to where the togo boxes were and grab one to put the rest of my food up so I could take it back with me. As Im walking there, people are diving in the front door hitting the ground as I'm trying to step over and around those huddled on the floor. I got a good kick out of it. Afterwords we headed out and back to our rooms laughing most of the way at what we had just experienced.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

One year anniversary...

Today is Jan 3rd, 2008. It is a significant milestone for us today. Exactly 1 year ago, 365 days ago, 8760 hours ago, 525600 minutes ago and 31536000 seconds ago (wow) we left American soil to begin our journey to Iraq, not knowing what exactly we would be doing, where we were going to be going, and when we would do it. All we knew was that President Bush was getting ready to "officially" announce the troop surge and that we were the 1st ones to deploy as a part of this new change in strategy in Iraq.

The best part about all of this was that we had just finished up Christmas of 2006. We had not been given leave due to a certin readiness cycle we were on at Ft Bragg, being Americas Strategic Reserve Force, the 82nd Airborne. 4 days later, they brought rumors began circling of a deployment. No one believe it until later that day our CO brought us in to officially announce our upcoming deployment. There was a mix of excitment, worry and a few people that just did not want to do it. Most of us were eager to go and all we wanted to know is when.... well.... 6 DAYS!! Wow, you have got to be kidding me?! Happy New Years, good bye America! And just like that we left. We were under the impression that this was to be a 6 month deployment, but once in country we began to learn that wasn't going to be the case. We just didn't know exactly how long. I really don't remeber when exactly we found out, but after a while we learned that we had been scooped up in to this 15 month tour extension thing. So just like that, people left loved ones, families and friends for almost a year and a half, on 6 days notice.

So with that all said, it has now been one full year. Had this been a "normal" deployment. We would be back in America soil. Shoot had this been what we expected, we would of been back a LONG time ago. Could of even done 2 of those in this time. But, this is no problem now because we have known about 15 months for a while and mentally prepared ourselves. The nice thing is that we are entering the final streach of this deployment. It seriously felt like this time would never come, but we are coming so close to being done with this hellish nightmare of a deployment. I along with many others, cannot WAIT for this to be done. Again I'm glad that I came, but Im ready to finish up, get the t-shirt and go home.

So being 3 days in to the new year of 2008, I have started a new program. It really wasn't a "New Years Resolution" because it all just has to do with the timinig of the deployment, but it has worked out that this began on Jan 1st for me. For most of the deployment, since we had been working our asses off, I had decided to take it easy on working out. I agreed with myself that I would take it easy and then the last 3 months I would hit the gym hard and get well in to shape. Well, I'm on day 3 now, and I'm not going to lie, Im hurting! But its my own damn fault, and it should only be temporary. As soon as I get in to the swing of things, it should be fine. But one interesting suprise is that I figured over the past year of not eating a lot and not working out all that much, that I would of lost a good amount of weight, but in fact I had actually gained weight! Not much, but it was a nice suprise. So I'm already ahead of the game. I'll keep yall posted on future gains and goals achieved!

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