Monthly Archives: September 2004

Wheels Up

Finally left the southwestern metropolis. Saw the Mississippi River from 37,000 feet. Saw Detroit, Toronto, Buffalo, Montreal and Quebec City all lit up at night. Saw sunrise over the Irish Sea. Eleven hour wait for the connecting flight in a major European airport. Place is built like a greenhouse. Planes there unload by stairs to the ground, then you get on buses to be taken to the terminal. All kinds of ground vehicles scurrying about. Lots of little white pregnant roller skates, most with body damage of one sort or another. Had a bomb scare. An unattended bag cause the police to move everybody to the far end of that particular section of the airport. Took about an hour to sort out. Interrupted my nap. Slept a lot on the trip. Got tired of that place. Finally boarded a much smaller aircraft headed to Central Asia. Many hours and several naps later, arrived at the airport of the capitol city of this former republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Customs wearing Soviet style garrison hats big enough to catch the wind and fly. Few lights on outside, dim inside. Energy conservation, I guess.

Get taken from airport to hotel. This city at dawn is not pretty. Still pretty Stalinist, with the addition of Japanese and Korean billboards selling various capitalistic gimcracks. Lots of decrepit high rise housing units. Cabrini Green comes to mind. Nice hotel. Got to stay there all of eight hours.

I was told at 0800 local to come down to the lobby and get on a bus at 1200. Went down to the lobby at 1155 and was told transportation would not be availabe for a few days. Went back to the room and snoozed. Phone in the room rings at 1600. Told to get down to the lobby and get on the bus. Get dressed, grab stuff, and make it down to lobby in 5 minutes from a dead sleep. Another interesting ride. Seems to be as many Russians walking around as natives. Stopped at a red light. A Russian-looking dude is walking his horse across the street. Didn’t see any camels.

Another interminable wait for another flight. This particular waiting are is not real comfy. The X-ray and metal detector drill is more regimented than usual. Everybody in a big hurry. These security people don’t smile. Don’t even have my belt and shoes on before they load up the bus out to the aircraft.

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Body Armor

Ther are some sorry sunzabitches in this outfit that will scratch your name off the computer waiting list and lie about calling out your name. Hope the internet cafe at Kandahar is better organized.

Saw the helmets and vests we are getting. Dark blue, like a journalist’s. I saw the stuff, and it seems like I should be writing something deep about the meaning of war, or something about the significance of going to a place where body armor and ballistic helmets are needed, but all I really care about is how much space they will take up in my NBC gear bag. I have a bunch of my stuff in that bag. I have more stuff now than I left home with, thanks to She Who Must Be Obeyed and Bass Pro Shop, and I am depending on that gear bag to haul the excess.

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I’M ON THE LIST!

Yippee! I know when I’m going now. Light at the end of the tunnel. Hallejuh! I have been treated well, fed well, can’t complain about much, but I am glad to be getting the hell out of here. Not many hoops to jump through on this side. I am ready for the next chapter of this saga.

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Falstaff’s Battalion Was Genteel By Comparison

Thus did James Clyman describe the intrepid adventurers who answered General Ashley’s advertisment in the St. Louis paper in 1823. I don’t think there are beaver in Afghanistan, but the Rockies are but foothills compared to the Himalayas.

This is a helluva crew I am thrown in with. The quiet and the loud, the short and the tall, the humongous and the anorexic, the bowed out and the driven in. Sam Watkins of Company H, 1st Tenn, would say this outfit beats Forepaugh’s Double Ringed Circus.

And all of us somewhat out of the ordinary. Everybody I have talked to has had somebody to tell them they were crazy as hell.

It is not a sane world over there. A certain amount of craziness is a survival tactic.

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Shopping Malls and the American Dream

This outfit is set up in a shopping mall. Wednesday week before last I walked it. Pretty generic American mall. I sort of had an epiphany walking around that mall. Buying and selling, consumerism, the ability to have what you want, the pursuit of happiness; the principles of America are embodied in the shopping mall. They have shopping malls in other countries. I was in a Breuningerland in Boeblingen, Germany that was pretty slick. I hear they have shopping malls in Kuwait. When we get American or European style shopping malls in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will have won the war.

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Bird In A Gilded Cage

Something tells me I am going to miss air conditioning, and soft beds, and nice hotels, but I have been here two weeks and I am ready to go. Too much time on my hands. Walls closing in.

I am in the day room they set up for us. TV loud as hell. Minnesota just whipped Dallas. People trying to read over my shoulder. Never been in an internet cafe. Perhaps I am in one now.

Thursday a week ago I signed the contract. 14 pages worth. Secrecy clause. This blog may suck because I can hardly say anything.

Friday She Who Must Be Obeyed, the Goddess T., came over here and we had a wondful Labor Day weekend together. Just like a second honeymoon. Even got up at 0430 and watched the sunrise at the beach. Very nice memory.

Getting crowded in here. Will try another post tomorrow.

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OPSEC

Wednesday we sat on our butts and listened to powerpoint briefings. The OPSEC briefing made me paranoid about what I can post on this blog. To get from where we are to where we are going is a journey of several stages, with layovers in some “interesting” locations which I may be able to describe without identifying them. I can’t identify units or name any names. I am not clear about linking to articles which do. I’ll do the best I can, but blogging is not my primary mission. I don’t want to get my chain of command down on me. SPC B. had some rights under the UCMJ. I have the right to remain silent.

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Day of Infamy

I got to New York 5 weeks later. A Canadian bank there had been run out of their offices and was relocating to various locations in Manhattan. The company I was working for at the time sent me.

I went to the top of the Empire State building my fourth day there. The southern tip of Manhattan was still obscured by smoke rising from Ground Zero after 5 weeks. A couple days before I came home I went down there. Never smelled anything like that. All the cops were wearing gas masks. Mostly a burnt plastic smell, with some rubber thrown in, and something else which may have been organic, or maybe not.

Money ain’t the only reason I am doing this.

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Medical

Get on a bus at 0430. Be where they told you to be at the time they told you to be there. Sit for two hours. Get on another bus. Ride. For an eeevil, rich corporation, they are in a pretty dumpy part of town. Get off bus. Stand in line. Pee in cup. They only want half a cup. I have much more than that for them. Avoid pissing on your hand. Get back on bus. Get off bus. You are now at a maintenance shed about the size of an aircraft hanger. Trailers are parked inside the hanger. Inside the trailers are our tormenters.

I was really sweating this. I had people praying for me. That worked. I had to huff and puff eight times to pass the Pulmonary Function Test, but I did it.

I was advised the night before to shave my chest or the EKG techs would be rough with me. Never tried that before. Never will again. Itched like a bitch. I think the EKG techs would have been gentle.

Finally got to eat around 1100. Best chicken salad sandwich I ever had

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Charlie Foxtrot

Get up at 0500. Catch a bus at 0600. Stand in line for chow. Eat. Wait. Join a milling herd of humanity. Stand in line. Do this all day. After evening chow, sit through a four hour medical briefing and paperwork filling out drill. Wait for a bus. Ride bus. Get back to room approximately 15 and a half hours after you left it. Go to bed because you have to be up at 0400. And don’t eat anything after midnight.

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The Journey Begins

Hotel room webtv can be aggravating. I ought not to complain. These are pretty nice digs.

I arrived in this southwestern metropolis 11 days ago. Air travel isn’t any more fun now than it was three years ago. Went to NYC that time. Narrow seats, screaming babies, $5 drinks. Duffel bags have gotten heavier since last I lugged any through an airport. I must have looked like a potential expat because a guy came up to me asking about ground transportation to the hotel. I need to ask him why he thought I would know. I dragged the bags out to the pick up point and sat on my duffel bag and waited for my ride, feeling very soldierly. Waited. And waited. That was the first test. There would be many others. The van driver was a real sweet heart and made us step over a pile of luggage to load our bags. He drove us to a shopping mall. We dismounted, unloaded the bags, and found a chow hall set up in what must have once been a big clothing store. Feeding the new troops impressed me. Somebody must know what they are doing. The hotel we were told we were going to is not the hotel we ended up staying in the first week. That hotel is in charge of billeting, and the farther along you get in this process, the closer they put you to the chow hall. I stayed in the first hotel they put me in until yesterday.

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Goodbye, Ivan

Ivan is a rat terrier and my wife’s baby. I named him Ivan the Terrier after she went a week without naming him. How do you call a dog with no name? Very smart, very affectionate, very protective, barks too much but nobody sneaks up on us. Best dog I have known personally. Leaving him was harder than leaving my human family members. Humans can talk on the phone.

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