Updated on April 10, 2006
The Iraqi Elections are just a few days away. I recall during the ramp up to the Afghani elections that everyone was saying how there would violence like we’ve never seen violence before. The Afghan elections would fail. Now, we hear the same thing about the Iraqi elections. Granted, the situation in Iraq is a little worse off than it was at this time for the Afghan elections, but only because Iraq is more populace. The Iraqis have been working very hard to promote their newfound freedoms. Check out this website to see some actual Iraqi commercials with English subtitles that try to promote freedom: http://memritv.org/Search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=499#
It makes one think though: what is violence like I’ve never seen before? Are they going to shoot people at point blank range with marshmallows? I’ve never seen that before. Have they created a new form of tickle warfare that I haven’t been told of? They’ve already declared war on just about everything else: democracy, freedom, America, deodorant. What’s left?
I think the insurgents are running out of juice and support. I read today in the January 31st issue of Time (after reading about the homosexual tendencies of Spongebob/Patrick, Bert/Ernie, Tinky Winky, Velma, and Marcie/”Sir” from Peanuts) about all the problems in Iraq to date. Here are the stats that they quoted:
139 – U.S. troops killed during combat operations, March 19-April 30, 2003
1,226 – U.S. troops killed since May 1, 2003
542 – U.S. troops wounded in action during combat operations
9,960 – U.S. troops wounded in action since May 1, 2003 (excuse me, what the difference between this number and the previous 542? Weren’t the majority of these people wounded as a result of combat as well?)
271,041 – Number of Iraqi security forces needed to neutralize insurgency, the State Department says
126,961 – Current number of fully or partially trained Iraqi forces, including police, national guard and army
5,000 – Estimated strength of Iraqi insurgency nationwide in November 2003
20,000 – Estimatd strength of Iraqi insurgency nationwide 13 months later, in December 2004
$18.4 billion – Amount of money the U.S. appropriated toward Iraq reconstruction in 2004
$2 billion – Amount of the above sum that had been spent as of December 15, 2004
Now, here’s the only positive statistic in the whole “status report:”
11,000 – Estimated number of internet subscribers in Iraq before the war
110,000 – Estimated number of internet subscribers in Iraq as of November 2004
In light of all this negativity that our mainstream media seem to be so good at, let me tip the scales in the other direction and offer another “status report.” I call this: Iraq: CJ’s Status Report
3 – the number of Saddam, Qusay, or Uday Hussein’s harassing Iraqis before March 2003
0 – the number of Saddam, Qusay, or Uday Hussein’s harassing Iraqis after March 2003 (that’s a 300% decrease)
0 – number of Tootsie Rolls eaten by Iraqi children before CJ invaded the country
56,829 (give or take) – number of Tootsie Rolls eaten by Iraqi children AFTER CJ invaded the country (and no one seemed to complain when I was there)
0 – number of satellite dishes that the common Iraqi could own
as many as they want – the number of satellite dishes that common Iraqis can now own (this includes cell phones as well)
There are many more statistics I can spit out, like the fact that all secondary schools and universities are back in action. More than 550 other schools have been renovated. Hospitals are better equipped to handle emergencies and have the necessary medications. How many water purification plants have been built or repaired since we got there? Shoot, many of those things haven’t been working since the last Gulf War. Where was Saddam when water was needed then?
My point is that Time magazine is obviously slanted. The problem with the media is that they are helping the insurgency. Is it true that those things are happening in Iraq that they talk about? Yes. But, it’s also true that there have been MANY improvements we’ve made. Many things that we’ve built from the ground up. Electricity is the best it’s ever been in Iraq. It’s still not enough because now the power needs of Iraq are higher than they used to be, when they weren’t allowed to have all that electronic stuff. Let’s hear more about that. The more negativity we hear from the media the more the average citizen (uniformed on the biases of the liberal media) will not support the good we’re doing over there. To them, everything they read is gospel.
Stepping off my soapbox, I am……….
Updated on April 24, 2006
One of the responsibilities of a father is to unconditionally support his children’s’ activities. Anissa is into ballet and Girl Scouts. Chris plays basketball and will play soccer. Hannah goes to interpretive movement classes. Once or twice a year, the Girl Scouts take precedence to almost anything else.
It’s Girl Scout cookies time. The Girl Scouts have an excellent marketing plan with this idea. Their plan is to start selling cookies in January. Why is that so good? Well, everyone has had a month to try losing all that weight they put on during the holidays. After 30 days of starvation, puking, salads, and laxatives these people are joshing (which here means craving) for anything to make them feel human again. What better way to “take a break” than Girl Scout Cookies?
So, as a father, it’s my duty to walk with Anissa all over the place and let her get her first taste of what it’s probably like to sell Kirbys. The only difference is the that cookies are a couple dollars cheaper and you don’t have to worry about attachments. You just eat them and they go away (unless you eat a lot, then they stay with you for a long time). She’s actually doing really well. I never did that well selling Girl Scout cookies, mostly because I was never a Girl Scout. I think she’s sold about $650 worth of cookies which equals about 130 boxes. My daughter has a huge advantage in that she has a face people can’t say no to. She’s a cute little girl who is quiet and shy. People can’t help but buy from her. Another thing is that a lot of soldiers from here are deployed and the wives and neighbors want to send them cookies as well. I remember getting Girl Scout cookies sent to me when I was in Iraq and they were like gold. I was offered up to $15 for a box, but wanted the cookies instead.
Before I move on, if you’d like to buy cookies from my daughter, send me a check for $5.00 per box and a mailing address and we’ll ship them to you. The cookies arrive on 26 February and would be mailed immediately. If you’d to buy some for a deployed soldier, send me the money and the address and name you want them mailed to and I’ll send them out. You can email me for my address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m back at work today for a few hours. Not a lot going on really, so I’m writing in here. Tomorrow I have to go to a Sexual harassment class. No, I wasn’t directed – everyone is taught how to sexual harass people equally! It’s one of the many classes we have to attend that make your skin crawl. It’s pounded into us all year, then they have a day set aside for it each quarter to make sure the nail doesn’t get loose. But, I’ll pretend I never heard of sexual harassment and listen to the instructor as if he’s just discovered a new planet. I’m going to have my wife paint fake eyes onto my eyelids so I can sleep and still look awake.
I rode my motorcycle to work today. I missed my motorcycle. There’s just something about riding a motorcycle that you have to experience to understand. People are so afraid of motorcycles because almost everyone has a friend or relative who has died or been seriously injured on one. I have a lot of scares from motorcycles from back when I used to ride dirtbikes. But, I learned something about riding: you have to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. I never had to worry about that until I bought a sport bike and had to ride in traffic. People just don’t see you (or don’t look). I think all street bikes should come with a coax 7.62mm machine gun attached to the fairings or windshield. That way, when I’m cut off or run off the road, I can exact instant revenge. During daylight, I ride with my bright lights on in the hopes that I’ll be a little harder to miss. I’ve never had an accident on a motorcycle while riding on the street. My philosophy is that you have be faster than the accident and you’ll be okay. hehe. That’s why I ride fast bikes. And because I hit my midlife crisis early!! I’ll settle down when I’m older. And my definition of old is this: You’re only old when it hurts to pee!!
I just found out that I’m NOT going to Iraq for a month. That’s a relief. It’s also another sign that I’ve just realized. While I was in Iraq the first time during the war, I had three separate experiences in which I thought I was about to die. Each time I made my peace and said my silent goodbyes to my family and friends. Luckily, I lived through each event somehow. Actually, there’s not somehow about it. I shot straighter than they did!! Anyway, I’ve practically volunteered for a combat zone three times since I got back. When I got orders to leave Fort Stewart, GA I asked to have them cancelled because I found out that the unit was going back and I didn’t want my soldiers over there without me looking out for them. Denied!! The second time I was asked to be an NCOIC in one of the Task Force staff shops in Afghanistan. I agreed and sent my paperwork to volunteer. Denied!! Then, the unit I’m with now decided to send some trainers and planners to Iraq to observe the current situation over there in order to devise more realistic training scenarios here for soldiers getting ready to deploy. Denied!! I’m taking this as the last sign that there must be some reason I’m not going back over there. Perhaps I used up all my luck the last time I was there and someone up above is protecting me. So, I will not volunteer a fourth time. If I’m needed over there, the Army will send me without asking. They haven’t had a problem doing that yet!
In the meantime, I’m gonna keep calling myself……..
Updated on February 26, 2008
Iâ€™m writing this on a plane and will just copy into my blog. It was a long TDY (temporary duty). Not really much happened since I last posted and today, but I like to talk and will think of some things to say, Iâ€™m sure.
I spent the last couple of days spending money I didnâ€™t have or need to spend. I bought the kids some gifts. AS Iâ€™ve said earlier, when my father always came back from a trip, heâ€™d bring us kids something back with him. It was a way to kind of bribe us. I never really cared why he did it, just that he did. One of the first things out of my and my sisterâ€™s mouths when he came back wasnâ€™t ever â€œhow was your trip” or â€œweâ€™re glad youâ€™re back, weâ€™ve missed you.” It was always â€œwhat did you bring us?” I kind of see now why he did, or at least I think he did it for the same reasons I did: since Iâ€™m gone so much, I donâ€™t get a lot of time with the kids. Emily is around them all the time and, therefore, they grow more attached to her. As a way of trying t o balance that attachment, I bring home presents for them. I want them to like me too.
I got my son a set of five Hot Wheels cars. He has enough, I know, but since when can you have too many Hot Wheels cars, eh? Iâ€™ve thought long and hard about not giving them to him because heâ€™s really been giving Emily a hard time while Iâ€™ve been way. Iâ€™ve gotten more than a few calls where Chris is just screaming his head off or throwing a tantrum. Iâ€™ve had to make empty threats like â€œIâ€™m coming home right now, you better straighten up.” Iâ€™ve told him that heâ€™ll be writing 100 sentences when I get back and canâ€™t play until they are written. Finally, yesterday, Emily asked one of home teachers (Iâ€™ll explain this concept later) if he would come over and have a talk with Chris. He came over and took Chris on a long walk and talked to him about a lot of stuff and calmed him down. Emily said he was nice when he came home and even went right to sleep at bedtime.
For Anissa, my creative one, I got some little thingies (thatâ€™s the best way I can describe them ) that she can put together to hand from her ceiling to decorate her room. They are little crafts that snap together. Sheâ€™s learning right now how to sew and apparently has started her first â€œquilt.”
For Hannah I got a Ty Beanie Baby Squidward Tentacles from the Spongebob Squarepants movie. She’s really into Spongebob and I kinda thought that was neat. I couldn’t find a CJ Beanie Baby, but I’m going to propose they make them. They’ll sell at least 3 of those, so it wouldn’t be a complete production nightmare.
Okay, the drunk stewardess has just told us to turn off all electronic devices as we get ready to land in Phoenix. I’ll finish when I get home.
Okay, I wrote the first part of this on the plane usuing Word and saved it. Now, let me tell you why I think America West sucks. First of all, I had to crawl out on the wing mid-flight to ducktape one of the engines back on because it looked it would fall off at any minute. Secondly, have you ever had to save those toilet paper tubes for your kids to take to school? Ever wonder what happened to them? Well, America West has patented a way to stick them together, cram seats inside them, add wings and an engine, and call it a plane. It was so crowded on that small plane that there was hardly any room for the tray table. I think the tray table consisted of used CD cases that were taped (again ducktape probably…you can do so much with that stuff) to the seat that was just 4 cm in front of you. You just opened the CD case halway and put your shot glass of diet coke they give you on it.
I’m not a bad air traveler. I generally do everything I’m told because I understand the security situation for the most part. In the Army, my specialty is force protection and so I realize the threat and even study it. This whole take your shoe off business probably goes a bit too far in my opinion, but I won’t argue about it. When I’m on the plane I listen to all instructions given during flight. Even though I know my phone isn’t going to cause the death of all 65 people crammed into the toilet paper tube with me, I still turn it off when they tell me to.
I suppose you’re wondering about the drunk stewardess. I have no concrete evidence. The flask could have been filled with cranberry juice and she was just very constipated (there wasn’t really a flask, but I thought that little line might sound funny). Before we took off, she stumbled through her whole “this is how you buckle a seat belt” routine. I suppose there are probably still some quakers or minnonites who haven’t yet been in a car or airplane and need a demonstration on how seatbelts work. She kept forgetting her lines and FAA regulations, a true indicator she was probably drunk (or an escaped circus monkey impersonating a stewardess). The guy in the seat next to me had a bottle of water on the floor under his feet. Boy did he get a mouthfull! Didn’t he hear her when she said that nothing can be in the aisle and must be stored UNDER the seat or in the overhead bin? No, I can’t hold my computer in my lap!! It has to go UNDER the seat or in the overhead bin? The things is only about and inch thick if even that. Maybe, I’ll take a sip of that moonshine you’re drinking lady, so I can drown out your presence (I don’t drink alcohol by the way, so it wouldn’t take much).
Every other time I’ve been on a plane I’ve had no problem with the following situation. Mostly because it’s not a big deal. As we were inching into the designated parking place for our plane (I’m sure they could have fit the thing in one of those baggage cart slots and gotten a $.25 refund) some people unbuckled their seat belts and began reaching for their bags. Now, again, I usually wait until the plane has come to a “full and complete stop” but I don’t hold it against some people if they want to get a jump on their bags. I mean we were literally at the gate and the plane was just positioning itself a few inches onto its mark. Apparantly, our stewardess Sally is an evil stepmother in her free time because she pounced all over these people. They must’ve been her grandchildren cause she was clapping her hands and yelling, “Hey, hey you!. What do you think you’re doing?! Did I tell you that you could move? You will sit down until I say you can move.” She stopped just short of “do you realize you’re going to get everyone killed and cause another huge tsunami for your impatience?” I felt scolded and I was just sitting there. I immediately looked for the nearest corner and couldn’t get there fast enough. I would’ve spanked myself if I had room to manouver that way. Anyway, before she could even finish the Hey You part the plane had stopped. As she went about her tirade, everyone else had gotten up when the seatbelt sign went off and began grabbing their bags. I located my shoehorn and began prying myself out of Stuart Little’s seat and the toilet paper tube.
We were late leaving Colorado Springs and therefore landed late in Phoenix. We had to make a connecting flight to Ontario, California. We had only fifteen minutes…..
Wait, I forgot something very important to complain about America West! I realize I could have very easily just deleted that other comment and posted this and no one would have ever noticed that my thoughts are confusing, but my thoughts are confusing and I need to convey this. While we were waiting on our flight to leave, the other two soldiers and I were watching the news in the cafe literally right next door to our gate. Anyway, drunk Sally came over yelling at the people in the cafe that the plane is leaving. We were startled because we hadn’t hear any boarding announcements over the intercom…and we were listening. We saw the tubes pull up right outside the window and watched as the refueling/retaping operation was taking place. I think there was even a leftover square of tissue they had to remove from the roll in the second tube from the back that was accidentally taped to the third tube. Easy fix. Luckily, our seats were in row 1 and didn’t have to push past anyone. We got that “i hope you’re happy” look. I told them that we didn’t hear any announcement about the boarding and I was promptly corrected. “Sir (sarcasm), I walked over there and announced it two minutes ago.” “Well, I find it hard to believe that all three of us didn’t hear you,” I retorted. “Well, you should have been listening.” I decided not to even get into it. I just wanted to get home and I think that arguing with anyone remotely associated with the airline industry these days is punishable by death or dismemberment. Or worse, you have to ride on America West for the rest of your life.
Okay, back to the fifteen minutes we had to cross the Atlantic to our next flight. You ever notice how when you’re late for a connecting flight that it’s NEVER the next gate over? It’s NEVER on the same wing as the gate you arrive on. I don’t even think our connecting flight was in the same state. I’m sure we landed in Phoenix, but I think we ran all the way back to Colorado to catch our next plane. I decided to immerse myself in a book (The Broker and Skipping Christmas, both by John Grisham) instead of deal with another America West flight crew. I cranked up my MP3 player and listened to Killswitch Engage and Static-X the rest of the way home. The plane was much bigger and seemed to be in better shape, so I didn’t worry about the glue holding this plane together.
Until I recycle my next roll of airplane grade toilet tissue, I remain…………CJ
Updated on December 26, 2005
Well, this may be my last post for a few days. The exercise ended today, a day ahead of schedule. Most of the office is torn down and all the internet guys are rounding up their wires and cables.
The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment got a lot of good training while we were here. It was a rough start, but as the exercise progressed, they learned a lot and didn’t repeat their mistakes. I am confident that they will do a lot better in Iraq than they would have if we hadn’t come here. This will be their second tour there. As a matter of fact, we replaced them in Fallujah when I was there. I still remember being pissed off that I’d have to go to Fallujah when we were all packed to go home, but we do what we have to do.
Colorado is a nice place. It’s actually not as cold as I thought it would be. When I used to think of Colorado in the winter time, I thought it was always snow-covered. Not the case. It’s colder than at home, but I like it. You get used to it quick and before you know, you’re a maniac driving around with your windows down in 40 degree weather because it “warmed up.” The consequences of that, of course, is the cold I’ve just come down with. I’m going to try and kick it before I go home, but if I don’t, then I’ll just pass it along to family as a welcome home present. I’ve been sneezing like crazy and blowing my nose.
Tomorrow should be a busy day. We have to pack up all our equipment and get it on a truck headed back to Fort Irwin. We have all the flight information finally finished. Tomorrow, I’m supposed to be getting a coin from someone for my hard work in keeping track of everyone and getting them home. I must say it was a huge effort, but not worthy of a coin. Someone had to do it. Keeping track of 168 moving pieces isn’t a fun task. I’ll try to heed my recruiters advice against volunteering the next time this happens. Actually, I’ll just ensure they have someone nominated BEFORE we leave.
I’ve been listening to my wife’s music to feel a little closer to her lately. I can only take so much separation before I get antsy about being away from her. It bothers me that the kids give her a hard time when I’m gone. She’s got a tough enough life without them making it harder when I’m not there to help. She listens to music that is a lot more mellow than I normally listen to. As a matter of fact, she’s the reason I no longer listen to death metal. I used to listen to group like Death Angel, Voivod, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Danzig, etc. She introduced me to bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, and other pop/rock bands. I stopped listening to my music almost altogether, though my music still tends to be heavier. I now listen to bands like Static-X, Godsmack, Metallica (didn’t stop listening to them actually), Taproot, Korn, Tool, etc. I also love Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains (and their various offshoots), Collective Soul, Nickelback, and others. I guess almost anything rock. And I can’t leave out my recent favorite band – The Cure. Boy, did I miss out on a lot of depressing music when I was younger ?! They could have helped me through a lot of break-ups that’s for sure. There’s nothing like a song to make you feel worse when you break up with someone.
What is it with us anyway when we’re teenagers? Whenever we felt sad, we’d listen to sad music that just reminded us of the last “love of our life” and made us cry. We’d feel worse for longer. Instead of getting on with our pathetic little lives, we locked ourselves in our rooms and wrote in our journals about how life can’t go on any longer. I’m sure I’ll relive it again when my kids become teenagers. Well, my daughter’s won’t. They’ll be well into their 30’s before they even start dating. As a matter of fact, I’m having a basement built to lock them in as soon the urge to like boys surfaces. Homeschooling will no longer be an option but a necessity. They’ll think that every guy looks like me since I’ll be the only one they’ll see. Then, when they turn 35, I’ll introduce them to the guy they’ll marry and everyone will live happily ever after.
Some people have told me this may be slightly illegal. In that case, I must invest in a shotgun and very shiny pistol that I can polish whenever the boys are over. I’ll babble incoherently do crazy things that will scare them off. When I open the door, I’ll be wearing nothing but speedos and a clown nose. I’ll gain 50 pounds so I block the entire doorway so they can’t slip past me. Then, I’ll place trap doors in the hall that will trip when I push a button. I may have to watch the Indiana Jones movies again to get some other ideas.
As for my son, he’s grounded until adulthood too. I don’t need someone else’s dad calling or coming over to my house complaining that my son was dating his daughter without permission. I’ll have to teach him that you NEVER date someone until AFTER you’ve met their parents. When I was younger, I always made it a point to get to know the parents of my girlfriend. Emily’s parents are like real parents to me. Her dad used to lie to her mom to get us in trouble so we couldn’t see each other. He was a great dad for Emily. He did everything he could to keep us apart, like all good dad’s should do. You can’t blame him with a guy like me dating her. I had a lot of improving to do to be worthy of her. I’m still working on it.
So, if you don’t hear from me for a few days, I’m in transit. I’ll get back on and post more when I get home. I’ll also start putting some pictures up when I get back. This blog is just way too boring without them.
So, until I make it home, I am……..
Updated on January 18, 2006
I just woke up. It’s a little after noon. I was up all night seeing that 58 more people made it home. And they did. Yeah! I had to be at the manifest site at 0330 this morning and was there until they left at 0545. Everything went pretty smoothly though and I went back to my room where I commenced the most recent military operation to combat terrorism: Operation Zzzz!! One may ask how that combats terrorism. Well, if I don’t get my sleep, I’m prone to random acts of senseless violence, usually directed towards small insects and any rodents I can find. I can smash an ant like it’s going out of style.
I’d like to dedicate this post to how I met my wife. A few people have asked me this question, so I’ll answer it here. It’s a very heartwarming and touching story so grab your tissue now. I’ll wait………
As I’ve mentioned, my father was in the Navy. As a Navy brat, I’ve had the opportunity to see many places. I’ve been to Hawaii, Alaska (although just for a few hours), Japan, and many states. In 1991, well into my senior year of high school, my father got sent to Japan. I got to finish out my senior year at a new school with people I didn’t know. It was very frustrating and I was constantly angry because of it. When I was in high school, I belonged to the heavy metal crowd. My friends consisted of punks, castaways, drunk, druggies, and losers for the most part. I fit in somewhere in there. I had gone from a class of more than 300 to a class of about 40 when I moved from Florida to Japan. So, the clicks that I established in Florida didn’t exist in Japan. There weren’t a lot of people that listened to the music I listened to, didn’t dress the way I did, didn’t like the things that I did. It was a very difficult transition for me. I got in a lot of fights and pissed off a lot of teachers. I started drinking very heavily to calm down and take my mind of things. It was at this time I also started using humor to get past my anger.
I had always been a humorous guy (at least I always laughed at my jokes). I made a good friend named Jeremy Pritchard there who was sort of an outcast as I was. He was a very eccentric guy and very smart. One of my downfalls throughout high school was the lack of a challenge. I didn’t do a lot of homework. When I took the time to actually study for a test or put effort into it, I scored very high. It was the lack of homework that almost undid me (and probably the fact that I was drunk). Jeremy and I would go out in the streets of Japan and perform little comedy routines with a camera and microphone. While we probably thought it was very funny, I’m sure most other people thought it was obnoxious. I like obnoxious. Obnoxious is good. Before each “show” we would go to Dunkin’ Donuts (mmmmmm……Dunkin’ Donuts) and drink about 2 pots of coffee to get psyched up for our day. Anyway, we did a lot together. I was a bad influence on him. His parents really disliked me and they had good reason.
In October 1992, Jeremy and I were at the PX (it’s the military version of Walmart, only smaller, more expensive, has less variety, and the people are not as happy; so I guess nothing like Walmart) shopping for makeup for our Halloween costumes. He was going as Death the Lawyer and I was a Serial Killer Clown. While we were there, he ran across a girl from his English class, a pretty lass named (and I’ll never forget it) Emily. What a hottie!! She had (still has) the most beautiful eyes I’d seen. Unlike most guys, I don’t usually get any further south in judging women than their eyes. Hers were just captivating and nicknamed her Horizon Eyes. It was like looking a clear blue sky just before the sun came up, brightening your day. That’s what she did for me. I graduated high school that summer so I didn’t have the pleasure of staring at her for an entire hour while the teacher rambled on about subjects, verbs, and prepositional phrases (and let’s not forget those predicates!). What a lucky guy he was!! In my memory, what hasn’t been secreted through my sweat glands, she was looking for clothes and had asked Jeremy for his opinion about a sweater she was looking at. Ever the one to stick my foot in my mouth and use stupid pickup lines, I told her that she’d look good in anything. Now, I think Emily would remember this conversation slightly different, but we’ll never know unless she posts a comment to this post (I’ll have to unplug the internet connection at home).
I soon found out that Jeremy liked her and I made a feeble attempt at trying to hook them up. Actually, I did honestly try to hook them up, but she didn’t like him that way. While trying to do this I was able to slyly get her phone number. She and I became friends and later started dating. I asked Jeremy if he’d mind if we dated and he said no. And so was born the greatest relationship known to man (not withstanding that whole Pitt/Anniston thing). We dated for about a year and then my father came down on orders to move back to Florida in 1994.
Here’s where I’m gonna get beat to death when Emily reads this. Thankfully, there’s no one I’d rather to be beat to death by than her. Anyway, before I left we were at her youth leader’s house kind of talking and I had asked about the possibility of getting engaged. She was giving us some advice and told me that if I ever asked Emily to marry me that she had to be around to see it. Little did they know that I had the ring in my pocket. I pulled it out and asked Emily to marry me right there in her youth leader’s living room. I was only 19 (Emily was 16) and that was about the extent of my knowledge of being romantic. As is typical of girls, they both started crying and Emily said yes. Not long after that, I moved to Florida leaving the love of my life in Japan.
In a few months of separation I somehow (actually I know exactly how) racked up an $800 phone bill that I couldn’t pay for. I was working at a restaurant (The Olive Garden) as a cook and pasta maker. Then I started working at the Taco Bell drive through as a second job. I quickly realized that I was engaged and working at Taco Bell!! I knew that my life needed a new direction. I moved to San Antonio, TX to live with my biological father. I joined the Army and started working at Blockbuster Music in the meantime. About 2 weeks before joining the Army I got fired for having purple hair. Can you believe that I got fired from a music store for having purple hair!? It was insane. All the customers loved it. But the management didn’t. I’ve had a bad history of dying my hair at the wrong time. For Emily’s prom, I dyed my hair red to try and match my purple/black suit that I wore. Emily was completely embarrassed by it. I thought it was an awesome suit, but having the fashion sense she did she thought is was tacky. The hair didn’t help much.
I joined the Army in January 1995 and went to basic training with purple hair (mistake!). When I got my first haircut, there was still a little tint of purple there and so I was ridiculed by the drill sergeants and called Barney. Luckily the second haircut removed any trace of my rich follicle heritage and I gained a new nickname, Mighty Mouse. I got that from a pugil stick competition. Everyone was paired off according to height and build but since I was one of the last two (because I was a platoon guide, I had to wait until last) I was paired against Andre the Giant. I ended up beating the crap out of him with my pugil stick and was given the nickname. In PLDC (primary leadership development course or sergeant’s school) I was given another name: Chickenhawk. It stems from the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons where Henery the Chickenhawk always picks on Foghorn Leghorn and the dog, both twice his size. The name kind of stuck.
Emily and I kept in contact and wrote often. The mail was kind of slow since it was going between Japan and Basic Training. After basic training I went to Monterey, California where I studied Spanish for a year. While I was there, Emily’s father retired and moved to Montana. After six months of Spanish I went to Montana and brought her back with me. We got married by a justice of the peace in Pacific Grove until we were able to have a more formal marriage. If we didn’t rush into that, we would have had to wait another 6 months to see each other and we had already been engaged and separated for a year. We got married on September 8th, 1995 and had our first daughter 9 months later. The rest is history in the making……
Updated on May 17, 2006
This won’t be long. Yesterday a military jury convicted SPC Graner to 10 years prison for his role in the Iraqi abuse scandal. He got off easy. Not only did he harm those Iraqis, he harmed every servicemember serving in Iraq. He cast a black cloud over the military in general and the MI community specifically.
SPC Graner knew the UCMJ. We are all trained to ignore and even report illegal orders. Heck, those guys that refused an order for a fuel run didn’t mind saying no and that was sort of a grey line (though they should be prosecuted too for cowardice and putting other soldiers in harm by not having the fuel they needed to complete operations). But this guy was beating people and humiliating them. Hey, I understand that most of those people would like nothing better than to slit our throats, I know I was there. Many times I would’ve like to beat the snot out of an Iraqi, but I knew the rules. If a general told me to pile them up naked or beat them, I’da told him where to take his star (though probably in a more diplomatic way).
He admitted in court that he thought it was wrong and yet he continued anyway. And he only got 10 years. One thing I’ thankful for is that the majority of Iraqi people have their heads screwed on right when responding to this injustice.
Ali Mahawi is quoted on CNN.com as saying, “As an ex-soldier, I admit that no army is perfect, it isn’t just the American army that has these things. We had abuse that happened in our army.” He went on to say that the sentence wasn’t enough of a deterrant but that he’d rather see the Iraqis that did that to Iraqis brought to justice.
Salih al-Jubouri said, “The abuse in Abu Ghraib prison was far worse under Saddam. I don’t blame a foreign army ending up abusing Iraqis because they don’t care about us, but it hurts me to know that Iraqis were abusing Iraqis with the most horrific torture and it’s those I want to see brought to justice.”
Well, if SPC Graner won’t apologize, I will. I apologize that there are people like SPC Graner who bring a bad name to soldiers. I apologize for his actions and hope that the Iraqi people will see that he does NOT represent Americans in his sick, twisted pursuit of satisfaction. To Americans I apologize for his actions and assure you that he does NOT represent what the rest of your military is doing. Most of us are doing the right thing. I can tell you that many of us WANT to beat them to death and humiliate them in exchange for the cowardly ways they are killing our brothers, but we are better people than that and don’t act on those desires.
With yet another non-entertaining post, I will continue to be……
Updated on January 26, 2006
[disclaimer]Before I go any further, I should note here that I love my wife more than anything in the world. Most of what I’m about to say will be in jest. I would do anything for Emily, anything at all. If she asked me to change the rotation of the earth, I would die trying. Never in my life have I been happier, than since I met her. If anyone should ever doubt that, the fact that I can’t keep my hands off her should be proof enough. [end of disclaimer]
Life is hard enough being married, but add the challenge that children present and it’s no wonder that men die first. I have three kids ages 8 1/2, almost 7, and 3. Two girls and a boy, the boy being the middle child. My kids all have their own quirks about them. Anissa has a lot of pride and willpower. We try very hard to promote that in her, while ensuring that she understands when pride should be swallowed. We try to get her to do things our way without breaking her will. It’s very important when disciplining kids that you know that fine line between getting them to see things your way and breaking their will. That’s what drill sergeants do, not parents.
Chris is very sensitive boy. He gets upset easily and flies off the handle. It’s very difficult punishing him because he takes it very personally when he screws up. He’s the first one to admit when he’s done something wrong. If you catch him before he catches himself he takes it very hard. So, with him, you have to discipline him while strengthening his morale. It’s also important when disciplining children to make sure that they know you still love them even when you’re upset with their actions. I try to tell him as much as possible that he’s not bad, but his actions are. But, when he gets upset about something, he get upset. He’ll kick the floor, slam the door, and like a lion will roar. When he gets upset, the car alarms throughout the neighborhood go off and air sirens signal imminent doom.
Hannah is a little hellion. We call her Hurricane Hannah for short. She’s not afraid of anything or anyone. I see her telling me to go to my room before she’s 12…and I’ll probably have to listen. She’s very smart for a 3 year old and knows to get her other siblings into trouble with minimal effort. She’s very independent. Thanks to her older brother, she’s learning how to scream and throw fits.
Let me say that I have no problem with spanking my kids. This crap about facing prosecution for disciplining my kids in public doesn’t scare me. Granted, if I was beating the heck out of them I could understand, but I don’t need to worry about that. When I spank my kids (on the rare occassion that I do), I only swat once or twice at the most. That usually gets the point across. Usually when I spank, I’ve also given them plenty of warnings about their behavior. The methods I like to use in discipline not only correct behavior or attitude, but strengthen their mind and body.
My favorite is sentences. I learned many lessons growing up and having to write sentences. When I was about 11 or 12 years old I stole over $100 from my father’s wallet. As punishment, my dad wrote up a paragraph about how stealing is bad and the consequences of stealing. The paragraph was about 5 sentences long. I had to write it 1000 times. I was grounded until I finished it. Needless to say, after I finished it a few days later, I never stole money again. The same goes for other wrongs I committed that required sentence writing. So now, when the kids are teasing each other or one is teasing the other, they write sentences. When they argue with mom (they know better than to argue with me) they write sentences. When they say no or outright ignore one of us, they write sentences. It’s like a death sentence. They’d rather be grounded for years than write sentences. This usually makes them think about what they’ve done and improves their writing and vocabulary skills. If the sentences are too sloppy, I make them do it again. If they complain while writing sentences, they get to write more. This method works really well for Chris.
Another method I use is inspired by my time in the military. When I was coming up in the military, one thing made me really understand the impact of my actions more than anything elses: PT!! So, instead of spanking, why not discipline my children AND make them healthy at the same time? This works really well for my Anissa. We live in a two floor home with carpeted floors, to include the stairs. So, when she’s not listening and does something she knows is wrong, she runs sets of stairs. The rules are that she has to go up each individual step, no skipping. She has to go all the way to the top and back down. If she skips even one step that set doesn’t count. In our old house, she used to have to run laps around the house. I used to use push-ups as a technique, but their form was atrocious and I couldn’t stand to watch it anymore. These techniques accomplish two goals: it corrects the deficiency and it tires them out so they can’t tease anymore (I guess the third effect is that it gets them in shape). Needless to say, my kids are very athletic. They can run much faster than many of their friends. My daughter can even keep up with me for awhile. My youngest, Hannah – 3, can run an entire lap around a track before stopping.
With Hannah, the best way to discipline her is simply to put her in the corner. We used to take away her blanket, but that was too traumatic and only exacerbated the situation. It’s very difficult to discipline a three year old. They think running is fun and I will NOT let her do the stairs thing. She can’t write yet, so sentences are out. Luckily, she’s got a diaper on, so a light tap on the butt doesn’t hurt, but she understands we’re serious. So, we resort to the corner and the room. When you send a three year old to the corner or their room, it’s like taking the keys from a teenager. They no longer have the freedom they love. Suddenly, they’re understanding that certain behavior isn’t tolerated.
I refuse to let my kids tell themselves that they’re bad kids. When I discipline them, I make sure that I tell them that they are good kids and that I love them even when I’m upset at them. I teach them that it’s their actions, not them, that are bad. I attempt to explain to them why those actions are wrong when I feel I need to.
My wife and I differ only slightly on how to discipline the kids. I’m lucky that I’ve got such a wonderful woman that I share my life with, that we can sit down and talk about things we don’t agree withd (it’s tough always being right). We always try to see the other’s point of view. But, even she’ll admit that I’m the one the kids listen to the most. It’s not that she’s any more lax in her standards, it’s that I’m more no-nonsense. When I say go to your room, I don’t want any “but, but” stuff. I make a decision and I stick to it without deviation. There is a drawback to this approach that I acknowledge: sometimes I get the wrong person and I won’t listen to their excuse. My reasoning is simple here – I’m never wrong!! But, in those few instances where I’ve misjudged (notice the term misjudged as opposed to wrong) the situation, I make it a point to go and apologize. I don’t have so much pride that I won’t apologize to my kids. That’s important too. Kids need to know that even when you’re upset at them, you love them. They also need to know when we make mistakes. By admitting our mistakes to our kids, we teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you own up to them and accept the consequences.
The consequences I suffer from my somewhat strict form of discipline lie in the fact that they go to mom more than me for things. They see mom a lot more than they see me. She’s the major part of their lives. When they come home from school, she’s there, I’m not. To counteract that, it’s my responsibility to put them to bed, help them with their prayers, and do the map with them. In each of the kids’ rooms is a map of the world. Each night before bed, I will name 3-5 countries of the world and they have to find them. They know EXACTLY where Iraq and Kuwait are. They can tell you where any of the -stan countries are (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, etc). They know all the South American countries and can point out Japan (the country Emily and I graduated from, met and got engaged in). By going through these rituals each night, I let them know that I love them and that I too want to spend time with them.
Since this post is more sappy than funny, I’ll just finish by saying that it kills me to be apart from them. I volunteer for a lot of the separations that I’ve gone on. At the time, I never think of how much I hate to be alone. I’ve been married for a little more than 9 years and I can’t stand to be alone anymore. I hate telling the kids I’m going somewhere for any extended period of time, because they always ask if I’m going back to Iraq. They remember how mommy felt during that time and it scares them. It’s difficult convincing them that Colorado is a LONG way from Iraq.
When I was younger, my father was in the Navy. Actually, when I was older he was in the Navy too. Whenever he’d go out to sea he’d always bring something back for us kids from wherever he went. My sister and I looked forward to those moments. I’ve carried on that tradition by making sure that whenever I went somewhere, even for a week, that I brought back something from the place I went. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the place I went, it just has to be a little something. I hope that when they look at these objects, they remember the joy they felt when I came home. One day, I may not come home. It won’t be voluntary, but it may happen. All they’ll have are those little gifts to remember what it was like when I did…
Updated on January 5, 2006
I’ll probably be writing two posts today. Why? I don’t know. I needed a way to start this post and thought that was an excellent way to do so.
It’s been a long 24 hours. I went to bed at about midnight last night after a long day at working arranging for everyone to get home to their families and lives. I woke up at 0315 last night (anything before dark is still nighttime, regardless of what standard we’ve adopted with time) in order to take the first group of people to the airport at 0400.
Before I continue, there may be some people who don’t understand military time. In an effort to make things slightly more complicated for privates entering the military, we’ve created our own method of timekeeping. We work on a 24 hour clock, which is actually quite coincidental since there are 24 hours in a day (hmmm…interesting). Growing up in the military, I didn’t have a problem with this process, but oh the joy of watching my fellow bootcampers try to figure out what time it is with a drill sergeant in their face yelling at them for the time. It’s actually very useful and I strongly recommend the entire country adopt this practice of time keeping. Since we never know when we are, it helps to work off a 24 hour system. It also provides a great excuse when you’re told by a superior to “BE IN MY OFFICE AT 5 O’CLOCK, OR ELSE!” You look at your watch and notice that it’s 1500 right now. Wow, I’ve got at 14 hours before he wants to see me. I wonder why it’s so early. In the back of your mind (and probably every other part as well), you know he MEANT 1700, but that’s not what he said. Besides, at 1700 you’ve got an appointment with civilian clothes. So, you blow it off and for good measure show up at his office at 0500, like he told you. Of course, the office is locked and you decide it must not have been that important and leave. An hour later at PT, your butt is chewed and you present your case: Sir, you said 5 o’clock, not 1700. He steams and you get in more trouble. In the end, you’re worse off and knew you were wrong, but it sure felt good.
Anyway, I’ll be using military time here. If you’re confused by it, just add or subtract 12 as necessary. If it’s after 1200 (noon) just subtract twelve hours and there’s your time. So, back to the story. You’ll notice I get sidetracked a lot.
I took the guys to the airport at 0400 to catch a flight that leaves at 0600 (that’s 6 a.m. See, now you’re getting it). Thanks to the mighty TSA, you have to show up for a flight at least 13 days prior to actually boarding the plane so that they can process your DNA, take a retinal scan, remove any excess toe jam that may be used to create a chemical bomb, and test your underarm deodorant to ensure it complies with the nasal standards that the guys strip searching you must conform to. Luckily, there is no requirement for oral hygiene. I think Halitosis is a prerequisite for employment at the TSA. As we drove into the airport it was very foggy. I immediately reached for my cell phone to call the FBI to report that fog is most likely restricted by the TSA as it can cause a danger to people driving or flying through it. As one would guess, the closer to the terminal we got, the less fog there was. The TSA was out in force and had already fined and imprisoned all offensive fog that morning. The airways over Colorado were once again safe.
I dropped the guys off and waited outside to ensure that the soldiers’ flight wasn’t cancelled, postponed, or otherwise in repairs. There’s one thing you can always count on in the military: a flight plagued with mechanical problems. I can’t tell you how many deployments we’ve been on where we had to land because something had gone wrong with our plane. The good news is that we’re always stuck in great places like Germany, Iceland, Sicily or Kuwait (that last one was a joke). There’s a good feeling about being the only people awake at 0400. I was able to wait in the no waiting/no parking zone at the airport….and I got away with it. I think security was too busy rounding up all the excess fog still lingering around the airport. I told the skyporter that if he sees any TSA security guys or police to let them know that there was fog on the road leading up to the departure terminal and that it looked as if they were plotting to move in on the airport at any moment. He looked at me kind of weird and I told him that I’d hold it off as long as I could, but that I’m just one guy. He uttered something under his breath and went back to work.
After that odd exchange, I came back to the barracks and took a shower. I thought the shower would help me get back to sleep, but it didn’t do anything except get me wet and clean. Ahhh, the feeling of clean. By the way, I’m a brand name snob when it comes to my shower products. Usually, I’m all about cheaper instead of better, but not when it comes to my soap and deodorant. Shampoo I could really not care less about. My soap of choice is Old Spice High Endurance Fresh, which works well with my Old Spice High Endurance Fresh deodorant (visit http://www.oldspice.com/ for more info). Shameless plug. They should sponsor my blog.
So, I tried to get back to sleep but I haven’t taken my medication in about two days because I keep leaving my bag at the office. I think I was conscious of all 3-4 hours of sleep I had last night because of my back pain (I was injured during the war in an artillery strike outside the town of As Samawah). I pretty much tossed and turned the entire night. So, I laid there for about 20 minutes trying to get comfortable and just decided to do my laundry. I’m feeling good now, cause as soon as I got here I took my pills and chased them with a nice, cold Coca-Cola. The caffeine actually helps a lot. I’m not sure why. My doctor told me that caffeine helps as long as I don’t over do it and he was right. So, I try to drink one caffeinated drink a day, whether it’s a soda or hot cocoa. In the Army, they say that pain is just weakness leaving the body. I’m attached to my weakness. I don’t want it going anywhere. It can stay here with and keep me company when I’m feeling lonely. No need to leave. If that saying were true, I’d be Superman by now.
Well, until the next post I have not changed from……
Updated on January 4, 2006
The title sounds enticing. It would be if I were the one going home. I seem to love pain. When I first came in the Army, one of the few words of advice my recruiter gave me was that I should never volunteer for anything once I get in the Army. I have violated that advice at opportunity since joining the Army, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. I thrive on stress. When I am put into stressful situations I seem to work a lot better and more efficiently. I’ve been in the Army for almost 10 years (January 18th is my 10 year anniversary) and I am already a Sergeant First Class. I was promoted to SFC in Al falls, Iraq on 1 July 2003, which makes the feat a little more amazing. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I have to in order to make the following point: I NEED TO STOP VOLUNTEERING FOR STUFF!!!
My readily acceptance of responsibility has helped me get promoted, but it’s also filled my head with beautiful, shiny silver (you call it grey and your next meal with contain baby flies!). My most recent stepping in of poop happened when we first arrived at Fort Carson. In the haste of getting here, no one was appointed to track personnel accountability. We in the Army pride ourselves in hoarding large swathes of information and having full accountability of every $450 toilet seat. We also know where our people are at all times….except this time. Since I really don’t have a whole lot to do here, I volunteered (there’s that word again [shiver]) to track all of our personnel – a total of 168 people. Normally, that wouldn’t be such a monumental task. As a senior NCO, I’m often in charge of many people, though usually not more than 100. As a platoon sergeant, I was in charge of about 30 people. When I’ve played the acting First Sergeant role, I’ve been in charge of about 100 people. When/if I become a Command Sergeant Major I’ll be responsible for about 600 people, but I’ll have First Sergeants (1SG) helping me. Anyway, it’s not normal to make SFC this quick and I’ll probably be here until I get out now, though I hope not. If that happens, I’ll petition everyone I know to write to their congressman and demand that I get promoted.
The thing that makes this different is that all these people, in the ranks of Sergeant First Class to full bird Colonel are scattered all over the place. The big officers apparently have post war syndrome because they never stay in one place too long. Keeping track of where a Colonel is on any given day is a task in itself, then add the responsibility of tracking 150 other NCOs and Officers that are going in and out of the field on a daily basis. Then you have the ones and twos who will have family problems or emergencies and need to go home early. Now, all these people need to get home and, therefore, need flight from here to there. Then transportation needs to be coordinated once they arrive at in California so they don’t have to walk 120 miles home (that’s how close our nearest airport is).
Seems like a lot for one guy doesn’t it? Well, that’s not all. We have in the military what’s called specified tasks and implied tasks. Specified tasks are things that need to be done and you’ve been given specific guidance on how to do it. Implied tasks are things that need to be done that you weren’t told need to be done, but in order to accomplish the mission you have to do it. Example: The specified task may be to go to the store and buy some ice cream for your beautiful wife who just happens to be craving ice cream. We all know that when a woman is craving something, you DON’T say no or disappoint them. You DON’T complain about it or mention that you’re too tired. You go out and get the ice cream. Yes, it may be 2 o’clock in the morning and you just went to bed 45 minutes ago, but you get the ice cream. So, that’s the specified task. The implied tasks may be some of the things I’ve previously stated: don’t complain, get out of bed into the car, don’t complain that you’re too tired. The other implied task is that you get something that she’s going to like. You DON’T come home with plain Vanilla. Statistics have shown (I’ve done my own research in this area) that when a woman wants something at weird hours of the day or night, she doesn’t want the boring stuff. Vanilla won’t do. She doesn’t necessarily like chocolate. She really likes sherbert, Moose tracks, Peanut Butter Cup, or some other Dryer’s exotic flavor without whole cherries in it.
The military is much like a woman. You DON’T complain that you’re too tired or busy. My implied tasks were to account for all the radios that 168 people require to perform missions and turn them in as they leave if they are leaving on a weekend, or before the civilians come into work on Monday. So, on top of arranging flights for everyone, I’m now arranging times to pick up and turn in a kabillion radios, each worth $5500 each.
[ have to stop here because I almost had minor emergency. I accidentally unplugged my laptop, but nothing happened because I have plenty of battery power. However, when I plugged it back in, the computer shut off and went into standby mode for some reason. Lucky for me, when I logged back in, my post was still here waiting for me. Now, I don’t curse. I believe people who use excessive profanity are just trying to make up for a lack of English vocabulary and don’t know how to express themselves properly. But I have to admit that I came close to letting a “darn it”, “shiznit”, and “son of a biscuit eater” out!! I apologize for my momentary lack of proper vocabulary and now return you to the post already in progress.]
You’ll notice I skipped more lines than normal. I lost my train of thought, so I’m taking a different track. My main purpose here, If I haven’t mentioned it, is to plan and execute media missions. As a soldier, we are constantly approached by media for interviews or soundbites. I manage civilian role players who act as reporters to give the soldiers training on the proper ways to deal with the media. A couple of days ago, my media team was prevented from going into a “town” to cover a meeting between US Forces and “Iraqi locals.” Without getting into too much detail, the media were prevented from going into the town and would not provide a reason. The media was properly credentialed and known to be working in the area by the public affairs officer. When they attempted to speak to the person in charge, they were forcefully detained and excessive force was used. It was a learning experience for the soldiers who were obviously not trained on how to deal with these types of circumstances, but the experience meant that I had to provide a briefing to 4 generals, 2 Colonels and many other people.
You’ll recall earlier in this post that I thrive on stress. Getting up in front of Generals is not stressful for me. I grew up a Navy brat. My father was in the Navy for 32 years. He was the Command Master Chief of many Navy posts both in the states and in Japan. I was often surrounded by Admirals and other high ranking officials and learned early not to be intimidated by rank. The only rank I’ve ever been really intimidated by was my wife’s father, who was a fellow Sergeant First Class in the Army at the time. Briefing a bunch of Generals about how their soldiers are not doing the right thing is nerve-racking for a lot of people, most of them officers. I was privileged enough to have many officers attempt to tutor me in how to approach my particular part of the brief. “Be respectful.” “Say sir a lot.” “Don’t use non-doctrinal terms.” “Stand up straight.” “Don’t babble.” “Don’t stutter.” “Make sure you say your name correctly.” I guess about the only advice I took was the first one, be respectful. I’ve learned over the last 10 years how to deal with officers that like to be all high and mighty and take themselves too seriously. I’m smart enough to know where the line is. I’ve learned that you can be 100% honest when speaking to an officer and still be respectful. It’s even possible to tell him/her that he/she is full of it and not have to worry about a court martial. I’ve even recommended a platoon leader and commander of mine for UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) action. That takes steel….ummm….cojones. Because when you burn a bridge with an officer, right or wrong, your life is hell. My father always taught me to do the hard right over the easy wrong and I’ve lived by that.
Anyway, the briefing was well received. I was respectful, but I used MY vocabulary. I was able to slip in words like hardcore, definitely NOT a doctrinal term. I also said roughhousing, instead of “excessive use of force.” The life of an NCO and an officer are completely different. We can usually get away with things some officers can’t. We’re actually expected to be more nonstandard in our ways. We have to be “hardcore!” That’s what I like about being an NCO.
Until next time, I remain………
Updated on December 15, 2005
As you may know by now, I’m stationed at Fort Irwin, CA. I know that to the untrained, some of you may not know where Fort Irwin is. To steal and tweek a line from my favorite movie trilogy (soon to be a sixilogy?) Star Wars: If there’s a bright center of the universe, Fort Irwin is the place that’s furthest from it. It’s in the middle of the Mojave Desert, outside of a po-dunk town called Barstow. There is only ONE road between Fort Irwin and anywhere (unfortunately, it leads to Barstow).
Now, let me explain about Barstow. It lies halfway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. In the old days it used to a waypoint for two trails and Route 66 runs right through it. Trust me, there are no kicks to get on that stretch of Route 66. I-40 ends at Barstow where it merges into the north-south I-15. It’s a sort of crossroads. Apparantly, a lot of trading took place there as there is also a huge train station. The station hosts about 15 tracks that take stuff to all points around the US. Barstow started as a small trading post and has grown a little. Barstow’s other claim to fame is the restaurant Del Taco. The first one was built there and still stands to this day.
There are two reasons that Barstow exists today in my opinion, and only two. The first is that it lies smack dab between Vegas and LA. If you’re on I-15 northbound on Friday, the traffic is insufferable as all the weirdos in LA are trying to meet up with all the weirdos in Vegas. On Sundays, you have the exact same problem going southbound. Here’s where my first reason comes into play. At some point, people drove up to Vegas to gamble, see the shows, get ripped off, or otherwise squander their hard-earned money. While there, they didn’t think about the return trip home and only realized about halfway home that they no longer had enough money to make it back home. Stuck in the middle of nowhere their only choice was to create a town. They named it Barstow.
The second reason (again my opinion) is the military presence. Barstow is host to three military installations: Fort Irwin, Marine Corps Logistics Base, and the Yermo Supply Depot. The military is the largest producer of jobs in San Bernardino County. It accounts the majority of employment in Barstow. The rest of the people work either for the Police force (whose main purpose in life is to raise revenue through traffic enforcement, sometimes unethically), the fuel industry, or McDonald’s….or they don’t work at all.
Now, since I’m so longwinded when I describe stuff, I completely forgot the point of this post.
Okay, now I remember. I just had to look at the title.
When it rains in the desert, the ground is so dry that the rain just sits on top of it, instead of soaking into the ground. When it rains, that one road onto post becomes flooded, resembling one of those ramps you may use to launch a boat into a river. There is no going around it. You either attempt going through it or you go back home. Those that choose the former usually end up in the middle of a river crying for help. The rest just go home and cry.
I’m sure many of you have heard of the flooding that has stricken most of southern California. I sympathize with them and my heart and prayers go out to them. So, I can’t make fun of that. But, I can make fun of our predicament!
My kids love it when it rains there because I love driving through puddles. The more water I can get to fly over the top of the van, the better. Of course, to make that happen I have to be driving through some pretty deep water. The streets at Fort Irwin become mini rivers themselves, carrying mud, rocks, and dirt onto the roadways. Most of the time I ride a motorcycle (which I promise I’ll write more about one day) and the flooding forces me to get into a four-wheeled vehicle….or have my wife drive me to work.
I personally love the rain. Being in the desert makes you appreciate those rainy days. The other great thing about the rain is the lakes. There in the desert we have lakes. They aren’t like lakes most of you are used to: they’re dry. I remember the last time I was stationed at Fort Irwin before I went to Iraq that we took our motorcycles out on the lakebed for a ride. It was in the middle of nowhere and I felt a strange feeling of freedom. Without giving away too many details, I’ll just say that it’s a mostly wonderful feeling driving across a dry lakebed in your birthday suit. It’s when you hit the bumps that you begin to appreciate the invention of clothing, especially blue jeans.
Anyway, we actually have lakes now. All the rain has filled the lakes with water, reinvigerating the brine shrimp that patiently await their rebirth. We have a few of them in our house since it’s the only animal we can manage to keep alive. I’m not allowed to have a dog or cat and we can’t seem to keep normal fish alive, so we settled with brine shrimp, commonly called seamonkeys.
Well, that’s it for now. Talk more later. Until then…..
Updated on January 27, 2006
Your comments are welcome and can be added by clicking on the comments link at the bottom of each of post. Let me know your views of what I’ve talked about or how you’re feeling. Maybe you’d like me to post about my experiences in other areas than I’ve written about.
I’m tired and need a good nap.
Updated on May 3, 2006
I arrived at Fort Carson on the 4th of January. The unit here has to deploy to Iraq sooner than they thought and couldn’t come to Fort Irwin for their training. So, in the Army’s infinite wisdom, instead of the unit coming to Irwin for training, we brought the training to the unit.
When we first got here it was super-freezing. For those of you who don’t know what super-freezing is, it’s the temperature at which I get really cold. That temperature may vary depending on where I’ve been or how long I’ve been subjected to it (acclimated). When we first got here, the temperature was -1. It was so cold that my cell phone clip shattered when I went to use my cell phone. Now, that’s cold. It snowed for a couple of days and iced all the sidewalks over.
So, not only is it super-freezing (see above definition), but the sidewalks are also frozen. Ever seen a newborn deer trying to walk? It looks pretty clumsy, kind of like me when I’m walking on snow. I’m a southern boy, I don’t take well to this cold stuff.
To add to the super-freezing weather, I wasn’t adequately prepared. Before we took off from LAX, we had to load any baggage we had in addition to our carry-on and one other bag onto an 18-wheeler truck that was going to drive the bags to Fort Carson. Well, that’s great!! I didn’t pack with that possible decision in my mind. I had three bags and a carry on. One bag was nothing but civilian clothes. One bag had all my uniforms, my sleeping bag, underclothes, socks, etc in it. The last bag had ALL my cold weather stuff in it. So, do I take the cold weather stuff and not have any uniforms? I guess I could wear so much that no one notices I’m naked underneath it all. Do I take my uniform bag and freeze to death in sub-zero temperatures (which I now understand why those temps could kill “The Claw” [see Liar Liar for explanation])? I chose to apparantly freeze to death. To add insult to injury, the storm delayed the truck almost two days.
Finally, a few days late, the truck arrived. Joyous Triumph!! I wore just about every article of clothing I had for the next two days. Then, the uncool happened!! It warmed up!! What the?!?! Am I being punished? Here’s the funny part: it warmed up to about 40 degrees. Since when is 40 degrees warm? I find myself driving around with the windows down. Back at Fort Irwin (which is in the middle of the Mojave Desert), I think I’m snowed in if the temp guage even approaches 60 degrees. That used to be cold to me.
Anyway, the training is going along well. Colorado is a nice place. We went to the land of Orange of White for dinner a few nights ago. If you don’t know what the land of Orange of White is, it’s my little secret then. I haven’t had to go to the field which I wholeheartedly agree with. We sleep in old barracks that have decent mattresses and some heat. It’s a little stuffy with 3 people per room. It’s not something that I’m used to as a Sergeant First Class (SFC), but even the Lieutenant Colonels (LTC) are doing it.
Well, that’s it for today. Till next time…..
Updated on January 16, 2006
Well, everyone else is doing it, so why not me? The purpose of my blog is let the every-American know what life is generally like inside the military, both deployed and not. I will also post my basic opinions about different topics, ranging from the inane to the insane. There is no real subject matter here, though my focus will be military life. Sometimes I will complain about and sometimes I will laud my chosen profession of arms.
So let’s get started…