Friday, February 23, 2007

Location Location Location

Is that Abu Ghraib behind me???
Wow, here I am within clear site of the Baghdad Airport Control tower--as seen on TV during the (amazingly successful) invasion. I can see it all day long from work. From my tent, close by, I hear helicopters, jets, anything that flys coming in and out of here all hours of the day. And night. But at least mail from America gets to me in 5 days, no less!

And, it turns out the prison right across the street from Abu Ghraib??? That’s right, Saddam used to chill right here! In fact we had a BBQ on the other side of the prison wall the other night. Coalition members, palaces, dignitaries, all right here in the neighborhood.

At the DFAC (dinning facility) I sit next to or across from Iraqis that work here. They are polite and respectful and generally cheerful. I love watching them gaze at the huge amounts of food and pile their plates high. They deserve it--centuries of tyranny have left many of them in a third world situation even though they sit on an unimaginable wealth in black gold.

Only now, from here, their shot at democracy and prosperity is being secured. 85 Billion dollars a year and American bravery and blood fuel this giant engine of freedom. I think these people are worth it and I marvel that I am here at this virtual fulcrum of history. If the Middle East is ever civilized, it will have begun here.

Chemical warfare provides an opportunity for fashionable protective wear.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bombs and Barbie

This is so bizarre!!! Yesterday a chemical bomb went off in Baghdad. Today we were told to have our gas masks ready. And this is the only day I check the news and no bombing in Baghdad is reported??? I shouldn’t be surprised since over 300 chemical finds here as of 2006 seem to have escaped notice.

I’d also like to introduce a lovely fellow blogger and friend who has been championing around the world, including in the Middle-East, those who seek Democracy. Please visit M Barbay at

She is a talented writer/reporter on issues I think are important too. Enjoy!

A co-worker and a green spot in an ocean of mud

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Better Than Ice Cream

Sunday. Found the chapel. Sitting in the pew I looked over and saw Ethan Carrasco. Now Ethan was The First LDS baptism in Kirkuk, Iraq; I was there for it 2 years ago! You may recall he was baptized by a guy named Nephi. (Check the link at my old blog Ernest Goes to Iraq here: Curiosity Did It) Anyway, it was so awesome to see him at church and to see that he was “still my brother in the Lord!”

We did some catching up…he had since re-enlisted and was stationed to Hawaii. His first day at the singles ward there he met a beautiful girl...and soon married her. Then he was deployed to Iraq. On his next return home, they will be sealed for “Time and All Eternity” at the Hawaiian Temple. Me? I am.......…still a mechanic.

ANYWAY…I asked him how the Mormon thing was working for him and he said, “Great!’ Well, yeah! We sang some hymns together but I didn’t get a picture of us at this time because he had to leave early for duty or a mission. But it was so great to see him again and it brought me great joy, just like Alma in Alma 17:2 when he meets "his bretheren." Yes, a good Sabbath indeed.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Back in Baghdad

Big Air: C-17 Globemaster III
Got to fly in this giant bird, the C-17, with a bunch of soldiers deploying to the danger zone. A plane so big it’s like flying in an auditorium. It sure has a smooth landing though, perhaps because of its overbearing size.

I really like my new company. Since we will be armoring Bradleys, I am told I will get to learn how to drive a tank. How cool is that!!!

My home is now in Camp Stryker, near camps Victory and Liberty, vicinity Baghdad. This camp is growing by leaps and bounds; I’m guessing some of the troop surge will live here too. It’s so hilarious to hear politicians pretend we might be leaving when we just expand expand expand.

On the not so fun side, right now we are in tents and after the rain all last night we have water in the tent. Others in our crew had 2 inches of water on their tent floor. Mud gets EVERYWHERE. I really feel for the soldiers who are out in this stuff! But then again, in a month or so we won’t be seeing a cloud in the sky for a very long time.
Flying in the combat zone ~It's hard to smile in a chin strap~

Monday, February 12, 2007

Kuwait a Minute!

First time in Kuwait. Still Winter so it’s a beautiful 65-70 degrees. Due to glitches we are here for a few days. Our rooms are right next to the beach -- darn! The people are friendly and I’m amazed that yet another country seems to be built entirely on sand…and the rich crude beneath it. But it really is just sand and buildings!

Most of the streets have no lanes painted on them and smashed vehicles are pretty much left by the roadside. Maybe as a warning to buckle up? The local currency is the Dinar (just like Iraq) except One Dinar is worth $3.50. Stranger? They use 1000ths of a dollar instead of hundreths. So a 95cent meal at McDonalds looks like this: .950 A dime is .100 It’s confusing at first but you just take off a zero and it makes cents, as it were. Also funny: they have ¼ and ½ Dinar bills. The motto on the money? “We Seek God’s Assistance”

We got your Harley-Davidson stores. There is also Pizza Hut, Burger King, Pepsi, Red Bull, you name it. It’s almost American here in many ways. There are many Eastern nationalities living together here in peace and tolerance and one wonders why it’s so hard in Iraq. I guess that is the ideological battle front for the media eye?

Anyway, it’s really fun to visit yet another country…and get paid for it! And soon, again, I will be Back in Iraq.
Beach view from my room at Dawn:

"We Seek God's Assistance"

Saturday, February 10, 2007

This Shouldn’t Be Secret

Just spent a week in Ft. Benning preping for another trip to the Middle East. We civilians marched lock-step with soldiers in formation with the Sergeant yelling LEFT, LEFT, LEFT RIGHT LEFT (and stuff like that) from station to station. Never having been in the service myself, I got a kick out of it. Two if I stepped out of line ;-) Even got my own dog-tags.

ANYWAY we were trained in Anti-Terrorism, Bomb recognition and reaction, how to treat open-chest and open abdominal wounds, and Army rules of conduct including LOW(Laws of War) and Army Values, to name a few.

I was very impressed. The whole operation was unusually efficient and the leadership was very respectful. Most people had a complaint as is human nature is wont to, but I have not seen such military proficiency/cordiality as I did here with Charlie Company in Ft. Benning. Did I mention the “free” food?

Particularly impressive were Army Values. Their acronym LDRSHIP is broken down as Loyalty, Duty, Responsibility, Service, Honor, Integrity, and Patriotism. The Standards are very high, noble, and reminiscent of the ideals of Christianity. I wish every American had to have this course!

The LOW(Laws of War) are also very impressive. Never to harm or steal from innocent civilians, care for a wounded enemy as soon as he is no longer a threat, don’t blow up anything you don’t have to, etc etc. When you consider the amazing duress under which soldiers operate and these high standards, you HAVE to be impressed how rare a major American-soldier screw-up is. In fact, it’s WORLD-WIDE news when it occurs. That’s impressive. Not to mention enemy soldiers often surrender because they know they will be better treated as American POWs than by their own army.

We are trained on GI-dummy; treating open abdominal wounds

Sunday, February 04, 2007

From Germany to Georgia: Perspectives on War

Talking to a German of some mental and philosophical acuity last week, he advised me that perhaps I’d better not mention to the average German that I had anything to do with Iraq. “Why?“ I asked. He said many Europeans think Americans are the equivalent of Nazis in Iraq, and that Guantanamo is like a concentration camp.

Isn’t that the thickest Irony that Americans are seen by Germans as Nazi-like??? Interestingly, he confessed readily that Europe would be run by the Nazis now if it weren’t for Americans, but lamented that his father lost 10 years of his life as prisoner of Americans in that same war. Your father came home healthy and whole though, didn’t he?” I asked.

So here I am in Ft. Benning. In-between seminars today, I caught a conversation between an older Iraqi translator gentleman(now an American citizen) and a Lady Lt.-Colonel. She was about to re-deploy to Afghanistan but when he found out she had served in Baghdad, he gushed forth with “Thank You Thank You Thank You” for her work in his country.

I talked with this lady Lt.-Colonel (whose name I did not catch) about that and she too saw much beauty in the Iraqi people. The whole experience was heart-warming and again I wished positive was more popular...

Taken by a soldier March 2004.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Somebody Stop Me!

Switzerland, Austria, Germany…been there/done that…THIS WEEK. Switzerland is, of course BEAUTIFUL. The people are very fashionable. They independently use the Swiss Frank instead of the Euro. Most train stations and cities have wireless internet…now I can lose money on the stock market anywhere in the world! There are four main language areas, I stayed more in the German parts. Swiss pics:
My Swiss Watch:

Below: University at Zurich---all German-types like bluejeans and black (Winter)

Lucerne by Day and by Night

Oesterreich und Deutschland

I spent a little time in Austria, which is more often mountainous, where Switzerland had more lakes and rolling meadows mixed in with the inspiring peaks. Unfortunately the light did not cooperate in Austria and I have no pictures, but it is much like Germany in speech, landscape, and style. At least in west Austria. The east of Austria bears more of the influence of the former communist block countries. All three are heavily German influenced, the people are outdoors a lot and generally slender, fashionable, and diligent.

On my return to Germany I stayed in a nice hotel in Aschau, just north of Austria. Not enough snow to ski anywhere so I visited a castle and took a walk through the valley. See pics:
View from my train window-above, and an old bridge in Aschau, below

Have Fun Storming the Castle

Views of the Castle and From the Castle, first built around the 1300s here in Aschau, Germany