16 July 2008

Home Sweet Home!

I'm HOME!!! All done and hopefully never to return there, ever.

30 June 2008

On my way home

Yesterday, I left Baghdad for the last time (hopefully). Normally when I leave some place I've been for a long time, I usually feel a little nostalgic, even if being in that place was not all that enjoyable - Oklahoma is a prime example. This time, there was nothing but elation. No "it's been fun but it's time to leave" feelings, just a "THANK GOD!!!" I got the biggest smile on my face when we finally lifted off from Baghdad International Airport en route to Kuwait. My joy was nearly dashed when the flight crew started playing with the cargo door mid-flight but I remembered that a C-130 can fly all day with it open so joy returned. About an hour and a half later, we touched down on a sand and wind blown runway in Kuwait to begin the next phase of the re-deployment (means "returning from deployment - I know, it doesn't sound like it...) process - gear turn-in and reintegration training (not looking forward to it). Unfortunately, none of that has started yet...

Apparently, whoever made our flight arrangements sent us down here 2 days early. I know
you are all happy to hear that I'm out of Iraq but it was MUCH more comfortable up there and if I could've done all this there, I would've preferred it. Anyway, I have a couple of days at this little transient housing base before catching my bus to Camp Arifjan.

Today was a very uneventful day. I woke up, had coffee and just hung out. Now, I'm typing. I'm typing again. And again... (we could go on and on like this) You get the picture. I'll probably get some dinner later then sleep. Overall, it has the making of a very unproductive day.

I have 3 days and a wakeup (if I get the chance to go to sleep - flight home is EARLY EARLY morning on the 4th) left before I get on the long flight home. Hopefully, we'll get a good location to make our fuel stop. I'm anticipating arriving home early afternoon to early evening on the 4th, in time for a little bbq for 2.1.

In the mean time, you can start counting down from 4, right..... NOW.

See you when you get to 0!

24 June 2008

Exit the Dragon

Yesterday began the first stage of my journey home: I left COP Dragon for Camp Striker in the Victory Base Complex (Baghdad). It felt so good to leave. Driving away and knowing I'd never see a place again evokes mixed feelings for me usually. This time, all I felt was relief and elation. There were people there that I will miss. Not all of them were as my previous posts have indicated. This manifested itself again the morning I left when a good group gathered to give me my end of tour award and say farewell. It was usually just one or two people doing specific things that made this experience worse than it could be. Regardless, it's all behind me now. No more walking 100ft to a porta-john in the middle of the night. No more worrying about whether some of the concrete was going to come crumbling down on top of me. AND no more worrying about my equipment. BUT, it also means no more nightly cigars with the boys and the occasional poker game. Those things I will miss. If I had to choose between staying and leaving, though, those two things wouldn't be enough to make me stay. In fact, it would take a lot more - probably more than what would be possible.

Anyway, I'm in Baghdad now getting some of my check-out knocked out so it's not a mad rush at the last minute. I'm also shipping a bunch of stuff. It's amazing what kinds of things get accumulated over 10 months. I've already sent home 2 good sized boxed and I still have more to go. One is just excess clothing so I don't have to drag it all with me through Kuwait but one is a rolling trunk of various "stuff". But, it's all good because I'm DONE!!! See ya! So long! Adios!!!

4/9 and a wakeup!

18 June 2008

Welcome back, now move out.

Obviously, I'm excited about leaving. Who wouldn't be? But when you go away for 2 days in order to pick up your relief and then return to be told you have to move out of your room by the end of the week, 7 days earlier than when I'm supposed to leave this base, the excitement of leaving gets increased. I have no idea when they figured out that they wanted me out of my room but if they told me beforehand that my relief was going to take my room and I was supposed to move out when he got here, I would've been ready to go and fine with it. Having it sprung on you shortly after returning is akin to return from vacation and then have your coworker kick you in the balls. Not a pleasant feeling... So, in the spirit of "F%^& You!", I am leaving my base 4 days early, Monday, 23 June.

No, that doesn't mean I get to come home early but it does mean I get to relax more in Baghdad before flying to Kuwait. It means I won't have to deal with the horse pucky of this place more than I need. The great thing about this whole debacle is that after telling my boss, he said "Nice welcome... No problem. See you on Monday." Gotta love a boss that takes your side, you know? So, yeah, I'm leaving early. Not 7 days from now, 5 days. And not just in 5 days I'm leaving but by this time 5 days from now, I'll be in Baghdad just chillin'.

I have no idea what I'm going to do during those extra days but I do know that sleeping late and playing video games are on the agenda.

On a brighter side, at least they are fairwelling me. I'm thinking, for my remarks, I'll be succinct and let the immortal words of Guillermo Diaz of Half Baked display my displeasure: "F%^& You, F%^& You, F%^& You, F%^& You, You're Cool, F%^& You. I'm out!"


29 May 2008

28 Days

28 Days

That is how long I have left at my little base. Not long at all. Frankly, it couldn't come soon enough. I am thankful for all the support and everything everyone has sent me over the last 9 months or so but please do not send any more mail. I am so close that I will not have time to either use it or receive it.

Thank you all for everything!

See you in about 5 weeks!

24 May 2008

8 Years, Hot Water, and the Australian Pool

I realized something a few days ago. As of today, I have been in the Navy for 8 years. (In reality, the 8 year mark is on the 26th but my commissioning date says 24 May.) Some big things happen at this point in my career: I get a Time In Service raise, I'm starting to be looked at for promotion, AND, the BIG ONE, I'm almost out of my committment and will be eligible for separation. The first two aren't bad and it makes it harder to say "No" to the Navy (I think it was designed like that) but frankly, there's just too much about what would come next in my career that makes saying "No" so much easier and enjoyable.

If I said "yes", I would be able to get a fat bonus from the Navy for staying but I would probably have to go to another unit where I would deploy again, this time on a ship, which would require me to move to a location that I do not want to be. I would also have to go back to my old wing which, unfortunately, has only one location - Oklahoma. Again, not a place I want to live (again). Those 2 things are the deal-breakers. I have no desire to deploy again and I do not want to EVER live in Oklahoma again. Really, it's a simple decision. Saying "No" would give me the freedom to live where I want and pursue a career where I want. Starting a family surely makes this choice the more appealing one.

- - - - - - - -

Summer is here. Well, not officially, but it sure feels like it. I know what you're saying, "It's hot here too so stop complaining". Yeah... Hot where you are... When you can't drink enough water to cool off, let me know. In the mean time, grab a beer, watch tv, or do whatever it is I will be doing in 40 days.

Today was probably the hottest day I've experienced here in Iraq. It's probably close to 120degrees but it feels like my skin is melting off (it's really sweat). For the last few weeks, our high temp has been a relatively mild 100+ degrees. Not too hot (yes, "not too hot") but still warm (yes, "warm"). Today is different. Today is stay inside unless you absolutely have to go outside and for crying out loud, drink water day. I walked maybe a 1/2 mile to help out someone with a project and I found myself drenched at the end of it. I pounded a liter of water and still found my body could cool down fast enough, even inside where it's air conditioned. I spent the next hour looking for shade to stand in and to find new ways to count to or from 10 into a radio.

The walk back was even more painful. I had a bottle of water with me but I was so full from drinking 2 bottles that I couldn't fit anything more in my stomach. I spent the next 2 hours cooling and drying off. But, enough about that...

With this hot weather comes, well, heat. "Duh..." Yeah, I know, Captain Obvious strikes again... Anyway, where I live has no underground water system. Everything is transported by trucks and pumped into tanks above ground and exposed to the elements including, you guessed it, the sun. What that means is the showers now have 2 knobs, hot (which isn't always labeled correctly) and very hot (the knob previously known as just "hot"). Imagine my surprise when I turned on the original "cold" water to find hot water coming out. I thought they switched knobs.

One of the greatest things to do after a long hot day in the sun is to get in a cool shower. How can we do that if the water doesn't get cool? Once again, this place sucks all the enjoyment out of life. On a brighter side, there's ALWAYS hot water for the showers.

- - - - - - - -

This weekend, one of the EWOs in the brigade is getting farewelled so I'm up in Baghdad for the event. The day I came in, there was a party at the Australian Pool so I went. Yes, Australian and Yes, Pool - as in SWIMMING pool. I don't have any pictures of it but imagine a pool in an L shape on an island with people nearby... No, that's not what it looked like, try again... That either. YOU'RE NOT EVEN TRYING! Come on, one more time... ok, fine, close enough... It looked something like that. Anyway, there were also Autralians there since they did kind of "own" it.

Great story, right? I know. It took me a long time to edit out all the boring stuff.

Whatever... this is the part everyone wants to see anyway:

34 days until I leave Dragon for last time
36 days until I leave Iraq FOREVER
42 days until I'm home!

22 April 2008

Better than cheese

From the amount of emails saying "Post another blog entry!!!", you would think either what I'm saying is undeniably the greatest thing since the creation of cheese or it's been a long time since the last one. Let's start with the second one first. It has been a total of 23 days since the last post. If you compare this length of time from others, you would see that it's not that different. I get that since it's getting closer to my departure date, people want to know what's going on but nothing around here really changes all that much. Since it has been 23 days (just a tad over 3 weeks) since my last post, I'll fill you in on the goings on here in Happy-Fun Land. (Do not breathe the air in Happy-Fun Land. Happy-Fun Land will spontaneously combust at temperatures above -55 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Shortly after my last post, my dad turned 60 years old. He is officially an old man and twice my age. Congratulations Dad! You made it. See, I told you I wouldn't be the death of you and your hair isn't all gray so I KNOW it wasn't me who made it turn that color.

Then, my uncle had his birthday (not as old as my dad but getting closer). I KNOW THIS ISN'T HAPPENING HERE IN HAPPY-FUN LAND (The natural vegetation of Happy-Fun Land has been scientifically proven to cure cancer. Do not let Happy-Fun Land come in contact with skin.) BUT THESE ARE EVENTS THAT OCCURRED IN MY LIFE SO BE PATIENT. Unlike my dad, his gray hair is a result of my cousins.

Next... well, not a lot happened after that. I sat at my desk and read emails while trying in vain to get the Masters to stream through to the computer. One attempt after another resulted in either seeing 4 seconds of video before the connection dropped off or finding out that I could not connect to it for various reasons like living in Happy-Fun Land. (Exposure to Happy-Fun Land slows down time. Swimming is prohibited in Happy-Fun Land.) During one attempt, I was able to watch it for a few seconds while on a video chat with my brother until, again, the connection slowed down and dropped the video. He was gracious enough to record the last two days of the tournament and send them to me on DVD. Hopefully, I'll be able to watch them before I leave here (hint, hint).

After that, more of the same. During the day, we occupy our time with episodes of The Office (all of the seasons including season 4 - pirated DVDs rock) and various other pastimes. At night, I'm back in my room on the computer watching more movies, playing video games, or getting online and chatting with various people.

Then, we had some dust storms. It was so thick that you couldn't see the castle from my room (about 100yds away). For about 2 days straight, I was breathing a combination of smoke, dust, and some air for color. (Some good pictures of the dust storms can be found on Gritty Kitty's Blog.) It cleared up one morning only to laugh at our hope for some decent weather then dust storm part 2. Probably 5 out of those 7 days had dust storms. Happy-Fun Land was introducing its newest attraction - bronchitis. (Happy-Fun Land did not introduce its newest attraction - bronchitis. Happy-Fun Land is afraid of kittens.)

Last Friday, I finally did something different. I hitched a ride with a convoy and went to Baghdad for a few days. The main reason was to go to the Passover Seder they were having up there but ultimately, it was to de-stress a little. I had been feeling overly burnt out and needed a respite from Happy-Fun Land. (Happy-Fun Land is not Happy, Fun nor Land. Happy-Fun Land is not kid friendly, an equal-opportunity employer, covered by FDIC, nor habla espanol.)

Passover was interesting. There were about 50 or so of us in this building next to the palace. I don't know what it was used for when it was under Saddam's control but now it's a visitor center. It was a lot more of a religious service than what I'm used to at home and I could tell that I wasn't alone in that regard. A lot of people were edging closer and closer to the matzo breaking off pieces to nibble on since it was 9:30pm and we still hadn't started dinner. FINALLY, at 10:30, we started dinner and by 11:00, more than half the people had eaten and decided that it wasn't worth staying after the meal for the rest of the service so they left like I did. I have to say that it was a good experience. It recharged my spiritual batteries a little and gave me a little more umph to get through the next remaining bit of this vacation in Happy-Fun Land. (Happy-Fun Land does not accept personal checks. The statements made here are not those of Happy-Fun Land, it's subsidiaries, nor it's board of directors.)

The next day, my boss tells me he got picked to go "sailing" for a few days and then asked me if I wanted to cover for him. I told him I would, partly to get away from Happy-Fun Land (Happy-Fun Land is down with OPP, too legit to quit, and rollin' B-I-G. Do not expose Happy-Fun Land to direct sunlight.) and partly to help break up my remaining time here into more manageable pieces. Now, I have 1 week back here in Happy-Fun Land (Happy-Fun Land is always referred to in the third-person. The first rule of Happy-Fun Land is you do not talk about Happy-Fun Land.), then I go up to cover for my boss for a week, then back down here for about 4 or 5 weeks before my replacement comes. After that, it's smooth sailing and just doing turnover to get him ready to be as confused as I was on my first day here at Happy-Fun Land. (Happy-Fun Land is not amused. Happy-Fun Land will not jump for your love, dance on the ceiling, or beat it.)

As you can see, not much going on. So that brings us back to the first possibility for requesting more posts: "what I'm saying is undeniably the greatest thing since the creation of cheese." Obviously, this one is true.

55 days until my replacement arrives
65 days until I leave Iraq
73 days until I'm home