Saturday, April 28, 2007

61 Down, 105 to go!

As any of you who have spent any amount of time away from home know, at some point you begin to count the days until you return. That happened for me a few days ago. I have been in-country now for 61 days. I have approximately 105 left to go. I say approximately because those return dates are not set in stone. It is more like they are set in recently mixed jello that you just put in the refrigerator, very fluid and changing. But, having that date sitting out there gives us something to shoot for and to plan around.

Now, 61 days may not sound like a lot, and it really isn't, but with these deployments our time doesn't start counting until we set foot in theater. In this case, when we landed in Kuwait on our way to Iraq. What this doesn't show is the time I had to spend away from home preparing for the deployment. First, we all spent two weeks in Ft. Jackson, South Carolina getting trained the Army way. Learning how to shoot our M-16s better, how to look for IEDs on the roadside, how to defend a convoy against insurgent attacks. That two weeks was followed by a week long class in Indian Head, Maryland at the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technical Division. That class was an in-depth look at the threats we'd be facing out here and how we were countering the threats. Basically learning what our jobs would be. So, adding the 21 days of training, I've been away now for a total of 82 days. When you look at it that way, it's a long time.

The time goes quickly, for the most part. We are working hard and having a good time. We spend a good portion of the day, while we're working, joking with each other and laughing. Our spirits and morale are high because we know that we are doing an important job and we are making a difference in this war. Our work is helping keep soldiers alive and it seems as if we are being successful. Wish we could save more, but we are engaged with a determined enemy.

On a more personal note, I appreciate all of you who have visited my blog. I'm having fun doing this, and it's great to see that people are taking a look, and leaving comments, those are great. As you can see by the counter on the right side of my blog, since I've started this blog, I have received over 800 hits! That is awesome. I never thought that many people would be interested in this. Thanks again. I hope I can keep this interesting for you all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Cindy Bear!

Well, today I thought I'd introduce you all to my beautiful wife Cindy. Isn't she pretty? We've been married now for 18 years (19 in November) and our relationship keeps getting better. Cindy is my very best friend. We have so much fun when we are together. She really is my better half. She has worked very hard to put up with me during our marriage and I really appreciate all that she puts up with.

Pretty, isn't she?

And Silly!

Cindy with our Grandson Dylan.

One of the greatest things about Cindy is that she is so successful at that most difficult of careers, being the wife of a military officer. People think that serving in the military is difficult. Actually that's the easy part. We get told that we have to go somewhere to fight someone. We pack our bags, get on the plane and go. The military takes care of our housing and food and all of that. All we have to do is show up and do the job. The wives, on the other hand, have the difficult job. They are the ones sitting at home, thinking all is well, then the phone rings. "Hey honey, guess what? I'm going to Baghdad for 6 months. I leave in 3 weeks!"

I can't imagine all that goes through a wife's mind at that time. But certainly it starts to quickly shift gears. Suddenly she is going to be responsible for everything that happens for the next 6 months. Taking care of the house and kids, paying the bills, caring for the yard, fixing the cars, calling the plumber, etc. And at the end of the day, when their husbands call from half-way around the world, they make themselves sound as if "everything is going well, no problems, I'm not even tired right now, tell me all about what's happening over there." Of course, anything that can go wrong will, while we're deployed. The car breaks, the basement floods, the dog needs to be put to sleep. The wife takes care of the situation, then tells us about after it's no longer an issue. "Thanks for doing that, Cindy, now here's what I did today."

For the next 6 months (or however long the husband is deployed) the wife not only runs everything, but there is one other factor that must really fray the nerves. Every time the phone rings at an odd time or there is an unexpected knock on the door, they have to wonder if this is the time that they will open the door to see the commander and chaplain in their dress uniforms coming to inform them that they are now a widow. Here's a flag "on behalf of a grateful nation."

Then when the deployment is over, we come home and tell our war stories and show off our medals. Our wives simply melt back into the background, just happy that we're home safe. They don't ask for any credit for the huge job they did while we were gone. They are just glad that they are not alone anymore.

So, to Cindy, I love you, you are my hero. Thank you for all you do. You've given me the greatest 18 years of my life and I look forward spending the rest of eternity with you.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fun at the range

First of all, I want to mention a change I've made in the blog. Originally only "registered" users could leave comments. Well, I found out how to change that and now anyone can leave a comment. Please feel free to comment, I love reading them.

While we are "stuck" here at headquarters, we still want to maintain our hard earned warrior skills because, well, let's face it, around here you just never know when you might need it! So we decided to set up a regular trip to the shooting range. We went out last Monday, and have a "standing" appointment the first Saturday of each month. We break out our handguns (Baretta 9mm) and our rifles (M-16A2), tons and tons of ammo, and go out and have a good time. Being out here we're able to do a few things that aren't condoned while training back in the states. Mainly that involves shooting the M-16s on either 3 round burst setting, or, with the M-4 that's available, full auto. Good times.
Me at the range before shooting.Shooting is fun!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Where I live

I thought I'd put in a few pictures to show everyone what it looks like over here, and how I'm living. Life here continues as normal. Well, as normal as life over here can be. Still hear/feel the occasional mortar round and fire fight. We're still working long hours. Long, but satisfying hours. I really like what I'm doing over here and like the people I'm working with.This is a picture of the trailer I live in. Two halves with one person living in each side (mine's the closest one) and a shared bathroom in the middle. We're lucky because a lot of guys are in "dry" trailers, where they live two to a room and have to go outside to other trailers to use the restroom and shower.

This is a picture of my room. It's not really messy, that's just my raincoat laying on the bed. It was a messy, rainy day when I took this picture.

And this is a pic of me at my desk, where it seems I spend all of my time. Like I said, though, it's a very fun work environment and our job is to keep the troops alive. Very satisfying work.
Hope all is going well for everyone back home. I'm doing fine and having a good time, but still would rather be home. Love you all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hey Ya'll,

OK so I got a little ahead of myself. When I wrote my last post I really thought I would be able to get the video link onto the blog. The problem is that our connection out here is very tenuous and slow. I've been trying for the last couple of days to get the video clip uploaded to YouTube, but haven't been able to. I'll keep trying so be patient. Sorry for the teaser, but I really thought I'd be able to do it. Sorry.

Thanks everyone for visiting my blog! This is a lot of fun and I think being able to see the pictures and stuff is much more interesting than just the email. That doesn't mean I don't want anyone sending email, I still enjoy those and will answer anyone who writes to me. I just thing the blog is fun. Thanks again.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A little fun and excitement

It's Saturday. Most of you are probably enjoying a well earned day off, cutting the grass and relaxing around the house. We're at work. But, it is Saturday so we are still trying to have some fun. We took a long lunch break and went to the Haji-mart to do a little shopping. It was a successful trip as I was able to get all 18 seasons of "The Simpsons" on DVD for just $30. They don't have those available in the states yet. So, after the shopping trip (that was the fun part) we decided to do a little sight seeing and photo taking. We eventually ended up on what we call "Signal hill jr." It's a hill that has a bunch of radio antennas and such on the top. We drove up there because it overlooks the city of Baghdad and we wanted the pictures. We got to the top and were shooting pics and taking some video. After a few minutes, "Hee-Haw" mentioned that we probably shouldnt' spend too much time up there because if we can see into the city, they can see us also. I agreed, but wanted to get just a bit more video. Sure enough, almost right away we hear the shot, and decide it's probably time to go (that was the excitement part). I've linked the video to my blog through You Tube. Follow the link if your interested. You can pretty clearly hear the shot, then me deciding it's time to go. Ah, life in combat.

Things are going pretty well besides that. Hope everyone at home is doing well. Kelly Belly, I am very proud of you and you will be in my prayers while your gone. You'll do great! Cindy, glad you got the chance to see Dylan. Thanks for the pictures. You look great. I love you and miss you tons. Melissa, good luck in school! You don't have many fun classes this semester, but you'll do fine.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Auntie Em! Auntie Em!

Woke up a bit early this morning. There was this very loud noise all around me. Sounded like I was trying to sleep inside a popcorn machine. As it turns out, sometimes they get some very big thunderstorms here in Iraq. When I got out of bed and looked outside, we were actually getting some small hail! The sky was scary dark. Looked like it does back home when it's threatening tornadoes. By the time we got out of breakfast, it was almost nighttime dard again outside. Very spooky. Looks like it's supposed to rain for the rest of the week.

You would think that living here in the desert, a rain storm would be a welcome relief. Not so much. As it turns out, the dirt here has some interesting qualities. There is a lot of clay and stuff in it. So, when it gets wet it turns into this very thick, very sticky kind of glop. Sticks to your boots, then attracts gravel. By the time you walk from the car to the chow hall or something, your boots weigh about 50 pounds (OK, I'm exaggerating, they only weigh about 49 pounds!). Then it gets tracked all over inside all the buildings. It's just a big chocolate mess. It did however cool things off a bit. That's a nice change.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Oh the humanity!

"Fighting" a war from the staff is quite different than actually being on the battlefield. We have different things than bullets that we have to dodge. Around the office, what I try to dodge most of the time around here is email! My inbox is never empty. I normally average anywhere between 80 to 100 emails a day. For example, I left the office last night at about 10:00 pm. When I got into the office this morning at 8:30 am, I already had 15 emails waiting for me. Granted, most of these emails are informational only. I still have to read them all, glean the information out of them to see if they are relevant, then spread that information and file the emails and attached reports. It eats up much of my already long day.

The rest of my job isn't that bad. I spent a good deal of time with scheduling. I am responsible for the headquarters schedule. That's all the meetings and the watchbill. I also schedule all our VTCs (Video Teleconferences). That requires two things. Reserving the room and requesting the bandwidth so that we can have the VTC. The worst part of that is the constant changes to the schedule.

We are also very involved in the Electronic Warfare targeting process. We sift through the intel to see what the enemy is using to kill our troops and develop counters against that. Then, of course, the enemy shifts and we have to counter that. A never ending game of chess. I will say this about who we are fighting. They are smart, which makes our job tough. I think we're up to it. We've got a smart bunch of guys here with lots of Electronic Warfare experience.

But mainly, I'm the guy behind the scenes that makes the headquarters look as if it runs smoothly. It's a very challenging and rewarding job. I'm still having fun over here.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Added a few things

I've decided to get some more work done on the blog. I've added a few links to some other bloggers. Jen's blog will link you to the Roundy Family blog where you can read all about what's happening with my daughter Jen and her husband, Troy, and of course my super-cool grandson Dylan! Stolli, Grease, and Barbie are all guys I'm working with over here in Baghdad. Those aren't their real names, of course, but I know them all by their "callsigns" and it's easier for me to refer to them that way. Following those links will give you some other perspectives and anecdotes about what's happening in the war over here. Hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Rocket Damage

Hey Ya'll,

Well, the other day it seems we had a rocket attack. They are actually fairly common around here, but this one was close. It really rattled the windows in our office. So, of course, being trained military officers, we ran outside to see if we could see any more. As it turns out, the rocket landed in one of the living areas and hit a trailer. Luckily it was during the day, so no one was home and no one was hurt. We went by today and got some pics of the damge. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


OK, so I'm trying to add some pictures, but I guess I have some more to learn. Give me some time. In the meanwhile I'll regale you with "Tales of the uniforms".

As you can see in my blog picture, I am currently wearing the Army's ACU, or Army Combat Uniform. As I was preparing to leave, all the instructions we (this applies to all Air Force people over here doing this job) were told that we would wear the ACUs. Now, these instructions came from Air Force A3 up at the Pentagon. So, even though I was issued Air Force DCUs (Desert Combat Uniforms) I only brought one along because we were told that we weren't allowed to wear the Army uniform on an Air Force base, so it would be wise to have one along just in case.

So, I show up at Camp MacCrady for the Army combat training. That's where we learned to shoot very well and other combat techniques. While there we were all issued the Army ACUs. I had already ordered the proper Air Force name tags and everything so I was set. We wore the ACUs during training and while in transit to Iraq. Everything was going well, or so I thought. When we graduated from the JCCS-1 class that we all have to take, The Deputy Commander of the 732 Expeditionary Squadron (the Air Force squadron that has Administrative control and Operational Control over us) came down to "welcome" us all to Iraq. I put that in quotes because what he really came down for was to mark his territory. He spent almost an hour showing us powerpoint slide after powerpoint slide showing us in no uncertain terms that we belonged to him. It was all so very impressive.

After his little spiel, he then went on to explain that we were all wearing the wrong uniform and that we were not allowed to wear the ACUs and had to wear the DCUs. We explained to him the situation, the instructions from the pentagon and the fact that all the Navy personnel we were working with were wearing the ACUs. He would have none of it. This even got as far as getting our local squadron commander (a Navy O-6) involved with our group commander in Balad (an Air Force O-6, or Colonel). They went round and round over the phone and it basically ended with the Navy Captain saying that if we wore DCUs he would send us home, and the Air Force Colonel saying that if we wore ACUs he'd send us home. There followed a flurry of emails between the Deputy and me (I'm the ranking Air Force guy at JCCS-1 Headquarters) telling me that we all needed to have our DCUs sent out, and in the mean time, we were to wear the one set of DCUs we had whenever we could.

We've been in contact with Mary at the Pentagon. She's the one that gave us the information about the uniforms to begin with. She, like us, feels that this guy is next to certifiable and shouldn't be in the position he's in. As it turns out, this guy is not only not a front line combat guy (he's a contracting officer) but he's not even an active duty guy. He's a reservist! So, this is what happens when you have a rear echelon type reservist put in charge of a bunch of actual warfighters. He's more concerned with the tiny little details instead of letting us do what we were originally told to do, and something that makes us much more effective in fighting the war.

So, before you think I'm just a big whiner, let me explain a bit. I personally don't care which uniform I wear. In the big scheme of things, I'm not going to go "outside the wire" so the camouflage protection offered by the Army uniform isn't really a factor. The Army uniform is a bit more functional in that it has many more pockets than the Air Force uniform (more like the flight suits I'm used to). What upsets us all about this is the way it's being done. This guy, who we will only see once a month or so when he comes down to welcome the newest Air Force guys in theater (and figuratively urinate on them to mark his territory) is threatening us with action if we wear the uniforms that we were told to wear, that our squadron mates are wearing, and that the Army trusts when we wear them. Oh well, the soap opera that is our lives. "like tons of desert sands through the hourglass, so are the day of our deployment". Or something like that.

Some pictures

This is the Al Faw palace. One of Saddam's summer places.
This is me sitting in a chair that Arrafat gave to Saddam. The white is mother of pearl.
Sunset on the lake that Saddam had built for his palace and the homes of his friends. That is one of the houses. We use it as an office building now. We call this one "the juicer" because of the top.
This is a picture of myself and a good friend of mine, Major Mike Stoller. Don't try to figure out the sign he's holding, it's an inside joke for some of our Air Force buddies.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Learning the job

My turnover is going well. It's kind of fast and furious with a lot to learn and remember. I think I'm getting it. I am working as the Operations Officer for JCCS-1. We are tasked with a portion of the anti-IED fight. The IEDs are the Improvised Explosive Devices that you hear so much about. The road side bombs. It's a Navy outfit, but they are beginning to get an influx of us Air Force people to help with the job. Not that the Navy hasn't been doing the job, they've been doing an outstanding job. But they could always use a few more hands to help out. This is a link to our website: .

This is an important part of the war here and I feel a very rewarding one. We are saving lives. Our equipment and the training we give the troops actually has saved many lives. I like that. We are working hard at it also. Our average working day is anywhere from 12 to 15 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For all my family and friends; things are going great. As you can guess, I'm very busy, but I enjoy the work. When I get this all figured out, I'll post some photos here of the local area. You might be surprised what you see.