Monday, October 31, 2005

False Alarm

Late last night as I was sleeping I was jolted back to consciousness by the screeching sound of the camp siren. The siren is referred to as the “big voice” and it is used to sound the alarm in the event of enemy attack.

So here I am sound asleep and I hear the unmistakable sound of the sirens blasting in the dead of night. My immediate thought was,” Mortar attack!” and I quickly jumped out of bed and started heading for the bunker. Despite my sleep induced grogginess I quickly realized there was another noise that was noticeably missing…the sound of mortar rounds exploding. (This is an important point since no one would know to sound the alarm until after the first mortar round had impacted).

At about that moment the siren fell silent and was quickly followed by the “all clear” which indicates the danger has passed. As I stood there in nothing but my shorts and flip-flops I was completely befuddled by what had just occurred. “Surely that wasn’t a drill” I thought to myself as I made my way back to bed. It took me a few minutes to get my heart rate back down, but I soon drifted back to sleep.

The next morning I found out the truth. Some klutz in the TOC had bumped into the siren control panel and set it off.

Not cool. Not cool at all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On the Edge of History

I apologize for my long absence, but I have been on the road a lot lately with very limited internet access. I left my base two weeks ago for a two day meeting, and I just got back. In fact I just returned from Kuwait, which was never in my travel plans to begin with. Much has happened since my last post; the most notable of which was the election ratifying the Iraqi Constitution on October 15th. I think it is important to revisit the fact that the weekend of the vote was one of the most peaceful since the beginning of the war. Despite the looming threat of car bombs and suicide bombers 66% of registered voters cast their vote and thus took a significant step towards giving ownership of the governance of Iraq back to the Iraqi people.

During the day of the elections, our battalion chaplain had the opportunity to capture some photos of some local villagers at the market after they had voted. As he relayed the story he shared with me that when he noticed their dye stained fingers he motioned for them to raise them so he could take their photos. He said at first they gave him a puzzled look and it was apparent they didn’t understand why he was so interested in seeing the proof of their ballot casting. He continued by saying, “Sitting on the outside looking in we understand the significance, but they don’t see it yet. They don’t even realize they are on the edge of history.”

Maybe not now…but one day they will.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Sacramento Bee

I want to thank Erika Chavez with the Sacramento Bee for an article she recently published on milbloggers. The article is well written, and of course mentions yours truly.

The article can be found here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Shadow Run

A soldier came in tonight needing to borrow some equipment so he could get ready for a mission. It was about 2100 hrs (about 9:00 pm) and I was curious what they were getting ready to do.

"Where ya'll going?", I asked.

"Shadow run.", he replied.

A "shadow run" is when a gun team runs behind a convoy as extra security. The extra combat power gives the entire convoy added flexibility to maneuver against the enemy in the event of an attack. The practice itself is not unusual, but takes on new meaning when they are going north (north bad) and we are in the middle of Ramadan, which brings an increase in insurgent activity.

"Be safe.", I demanded.

"God, I hope so.", he unwittingly replied as he walked out the door.

We are down to the last couple months of our deployment, and I am anxious for the day when I don't have to worry about stuff like this anymore. I look forward to having a normal conversation with my coworkers, and I imgaine it going something like this:

"Hey, Gary...where you going?"

"To a meeting."

" safe."

"Uhhhh...okay." (as I get a strange look).

Yeah...I can picture it now.

That will be a good day.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I have endured much.

I have spent the better part of the last fourteen months away from the family I adore.

I have endured a summer of 130 degree plus weather occasionally complimented by scorching winds and choking dust.

I have awoken to the sound of mortar rounds impacting and live with the constant awareness that there are evil men nearby that want to bring me harm.

But due to the wonders of modern technology I was able to watch a glorious event tonight, and even if it was only for a few hours...all was well with the world.

Texas Longhorns beat Oklahoma 45 - 12

Hook 'em

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What the....?

I literally have not seen a single cloud in the Iraq sky since last April, so this received the equivalent attention of a UFO. It is also a sign of the impending rainy season when the climate here changes from hot, dry, and dusty to cool, wet, and muddy.

I can hardly wait.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Interview AAR

Whenever we conduct a training event in the Army it is always followed by an After Action Review, or AAR. So here is my AAR on the Danny Fontana radio interview I did on Friday.

Overall I think the interview went well. I was extremely nervous at the beginning, but Danny was a gracious host and I got the heart palpitations under control after about the first minute. I felt like I was calm, cool, articulate, and all those things you need to be when doing an interview. Of course, I could be totally wrong and the radio prodcuer may have been reeling in the background and sending notes to the host to cut it short and get me off the air. The whole thing lasted about ten minutes.

Here are some of the topics of discussion we covered:

Q: What is the general morale of the troops?
A: I have commented before on how complaining in the Army is an art. If a soldier isn't complaining, there is probably something wrong. But the overall morale of the troops on the ground is high and it is because they know they are making a difference. The American public only sees the bad news, which is a very small part of what happens here on a daily basis. The soldier is able to see the other 98% of what is happening; the schools being built, the infrastructure being repaired, and the Iraqi people taking back control of their country.

Q: Are we making significant progress?
A: Yes! My unit alone has helped to restore dozens of schools, provided medical aid to local communities, and provided school supplies to local children. Those children are Iraq's future leaders.

Q: Do I feel safe doing my job?
A: I think we all go through phases over here. When we first got into country, I and a lot of other people were pretty nervous. You're coming into a nefarious situation and you don't know what to expect. After being here for a while you just deal with it. You know there is an enemy that is watching, waiting, and looking for just the right opportunity to bring you harm. You do everything you can to mitigate against it and ensure he fails miserably. You just deal with it.

Q: Do you feel like we have won the war?
A: It depends on how you define "won". I'm trying to invoke the phraseology of a certain past President by being evasive, but I see this war in phases. Phase one was getting rid of Saddam and his cronies. We won that phase hands-down, and it was a good ole' American butt whoop'n. Phase two is a bit more nebulous, but I define it as handing control of this country back to the people it belongs to. I do not believe we can defeat every insurgent any more than we can eradicate every criminal in our own nation. But we can leave this nation and its government in a position where they can deal with it themselves. Obviously we have not obtained the objective in this Phase, but we are making progress and we will succeed. Too many American lives have been shed here to accept anything less.

Again, I felt the interview went well. I once did a television spot on the Home Shopping Network as part of my job at Dell, and I can safely say that I enjoy radio much better. It's not nearly as nerve wracking since there aren't a bunch of cameras pointing at you along with monitors that allow you to watch yourself go down in flames. Besides, I've been told I have a face for radio.