Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Night That Will Live In Infamy!

War is a funny thing sometimes. Occasionally it will take you quite some time before you realize who your enemy really is. I think we at JCCS-1 have now discovered the true enemy. The real enemy over here in Iraq? Rats! Big, huge, vicious rats.

There had been rumors floating around the squadron about a large rat-like creature that was said to be haunting the building at night. I had never seen it, and, it seemed, no one else had really seen it either. The stories were most often told about someone else seeing this mythical creature. "Oh, yeah, Oscar told me the other day that one of the Admin folks saw him yesterday." OK, so I mentally filed these stories away in the same folder as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Over time, the legend continued to grow.

As fate would have it, the legends were true! Friday night was my night to stand the watch. We have to maintain 24 hour security over our building, so each night some lucky soul gets to stand the watch from 10:00 pm until someone comes in the next morning. Normally around 8:00 am. So, Friday night was my night. I came in around 8:00 pm to get set up (I bring in some movies and stuff to keep me occupied) and was informed that yesterday Kuz and the Master Chief had killed the rat! Apparently it was big, too. As the story unfolded, it was said the beast was the size of a dingo, with large razor sharp fangs that dripped blood. OK, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but they did say it was the size of a small dog. Well, that made me feel better. I wouldn't have to worry about the rat that night.

Well, about 30 minutes later Cluster said "Hey, I just heard trap snap, I think we got another rat!". That was true. As I looked behind the kitchen door, there was another rat, wiggling and twitching in the trap. Great! Guess who's standing the watch, and therefore responsible for getting rid of the corpse! So, I decided to let him just hang out there for a while until I was positive he was dead. Picked him up and disposed of him. Not pleasant. But, hey, two down in two days, we must be winning the war!

Well, Saturday nights are much welcomed down time here for us. We all pitch in and order up some pizza from the Pizza Hut trailer and then we put in a DVD and watch it on the big screen while we eat. Good times. We were all quite engrossed in our movie, eating our pizza, when the night's calm was shattered by a startled scream! V.D. had gone over to the table to get another piece of pizza and, you guessed it, a friendly rat was sitting in the box, eating our pizza! Seeing the rat there startled V.D who yelled, thus startling the rat, who ran and hid behind some file cabinets. All right, they attacked our pizza, it was time to take the gloves off! So, we paused the movie, turned on the lights and went on the attack! We couldn't get the rat to come out from behind the file cabinets so our Deputy Commander (a Navy Captain, equivalent to a full Colonel) came up with a brilliant plan. He grabbed one of the fire extinguishers and, aiming behind the file cabinet, fired off a long blast. Let this be a warning to you. If you shoot off a fire extinguisher inside and there's no fire; it makes a huge mess! But after several blasts of the extinguisher it worked. The rat took off at top speed and ran right into the kitchen. Aha! Foolish rat, now you are trapped! We slammed the door shut and sealed it off.

Three brave heroes then decided to finish the job. The ran into the kitchen (and of course we shut and sealed the door behind them) and set about chasing the rat. After a few minutes, Paste began laying odds on how long the rat would survive. I personally began laying odds on which man would perish in the mighty struggle within the kitchen. As it turned out, we were never able to catch that particular rat. Don't know if he made outside to safety or if he's still holed up in the kitchen. I am happy to report that all men made it safely back out of the kitchen.

So, now you know. The real enemy we're fighting over here are the big, huge, vicious, pizza stealing rats!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Almost There

The pass down between myself and my replacement went well and is now complete. I am actually enjoying a day off today. Not quite sure what to do with myself, but it's nice to have no plans for once. The pass down went very smoothly with Tuna being quite anxious to take over the job and get me out of his way. Who am I to complain? So, as of yesterday, I am officially out of a job. I turned on my out of office reply on my email and am now unemployed! It's a good feeling after 6 months of pushing so hard every day.

Our travel arrangements are coming along also. We've been confirmed on our flight taking us back to the States. For me, that was the biggest hurdle. They are still working the arrangements to get us the rest of the way home, but as I look at it, if they get me to the east coast, well, I've got a government credit card, I can get myself the rest of the way home if I have to!

As you can imagine, I quite excited about getting home. This has been quite a long deployment for both Cindy and I. Not only has it physically been our longest deployment, but it has really felt longer. Time was always crawling by. But I think we are both ready for me to get home.

We have quite a trip planned after my return and we're hoping to see most everyone we can during that trip. It's going to be interesting as this will be our first "trailer trip" we've ever taken. We are renting a travel trailer and will be living out of that for two weeks. Our first couple of days will be getting us to Las Vegas where we will meet up with Melissa and her new boyfriend. We'll all spend a couple of days there to see the sights, then it's off to California for few days with Nikki and John. We are really looking forward to that! Then back up to Utah for some time with the family and the annual family reunion. It's going to be fun.

That's it for today. Not sure what I'm going to do now. Take a nap? Who knows, but whatever it is, it will be something I want to do for a change.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Latest

Although I've been cut off from my blog at work, I can still get to it sometimes here in my room. It's not the best connection so I have trouble uploading photos and such, but I can still post, so far.

Well, it seems that I might be able to start slowly winding down on my way out of Iraq. Still have a month before I'm actually home, but things are starting to move that way. My replacement, Major "Tuna" Fisher has finished his training and is anxious to get to work. Lucky me. We worked a little together this weekend, but will officially start our turn-over on Monday. It's going to be interesting to begin separating myself from this job that has been my entire life (long work days, 7 days a week) for the last 5 months. On one hand, I can't wait to get rid of the job, and on the other hand I'm losing a huge part of myself along with it. I'm sure I'll survive, but it will be an adjustment.

After the turn-over is complete I begin my preparations to leave Iraq and begin the process of returning to civilization. In the time I have left here in Iraq, I will be packing up many of the "extras" I have over here such as DVD movies, some of the books I've accumulated, extra uniforms that I won't be wearing in transit, and putting them together and shipping them home. I want to travel light on my way home. Other than that, I will be traveling around the base getting some of the pictures I've been to busy to take. Mainly, pictures of myself "around town". I realized the other day that, while I have pictures of most of the interesting sites around, none of those pictures include me. It's almost as if I was never here. So, I'm going to get some of those taken. I will also continue with working out, probably harder than before. Let's face it, Cindy hasn't seen me in 6 months I don't want to come back looking like the Michelin Man!

Our trip out should be somewhat interesting. I say "we" because there are 5 other Air Force officers traveling out at the same time. We all went through training together at Ft Jackson before deploying, and as a small contingent of Air Force people within a large Navy organization, we have remained close (as close as possible through email) throughout our time here. So, "The Fab Five plus Orto" will be leaving Iraq and heading for a base in Kuwait where we will go through the "Warrior Transition Program" (WTP). This is where we turn in our weapons and much of our equipment. We will have some medical screenings and attend some classes to help us re-integrate back into our families and society in general. It can be a big transition going from a combat zone to normal life back in the United States. After 4 days in WTP we will hop on a rotator flight that will take us to the East Coast and from there we will split up and catch our connecting flights back home. It will be an exciting day. It always is when coming home from a deployment.

It's getting very warm here lately. I've heard that the locals say that in August "The gates of hell" are opened up. Not looking forward to that time. All things considered, things are going well over here right now. I will try to post here more often now that I may have a bit more time available. Hopefully my Internet connection in my room will allow for that. I miss you all and am looking forward to seeing you all when I return.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

I know it's been a long time since I've posted here. It's been a busy time for me, plus I'm beginning to get that "short timer's" fever. My replacement gets here next week and we will be starting our turn over the week after that. Light at the end of the tunnel. So, it's been a while since I've updated this and I apologize for that.

I would like to wish all my friends, family and countrymen a happy Independence Day. What a great thing we celebrate this day. The founding of our country. I personally like to look at this day as another Thanksgiving day. A time to reflect and think of all that living in the United States gives to me. The freedoms and security afforded to us in this country. I hope as you are all enjoying the barbecues and fireworks that you take a minute (just a minute, have a good time today) to think about what we really have in our country.

Over here in Baghdad, July 4th is just another day. We are all at work and are attending our regular meetings. I do plan on having a hot dog and cheeseburger at the chow hall for lunch today, but we're hoping there won't be any "fireworks". I did get to see some very impressive sights the last two days. Yesterday, 3 July, there were a couple hundred troops who, due to their service in our military, we becoming naturalized citizens. Very cool. And this morning, on my way to a morning meeting at the palace, there were 500 troops all standing and raising their right hands and re-enlisting. 500 troops on one day, in a war zone, re-enlisting. Very impressive.

Have a great day. Have a burger and some potato salad for me!