Friday, February 29, 2008

Alright, the guy next to me here at the "cyber cafe" (the name is deceiving, there is nothing 'cafe' about this place) is alternately giggling to himself, burping, and smacking his lips. It's driving me BATTY. Fortunately I typed this entry up ahead of time, the other night, so I am just going to cut and paste and get the hell out of dodge.

I volunteered at the hospital the other night. There were virtually no Americans, a good thing, but there were plenty of Iraqis in the ICW. I am not sure if they were all part of the same IED blast or if they were injured in various different tragedies. I read a couple days ago about a mortar that was aimed at our heads but instead fell short, falling into a field of Iraqi children playing soccer. I am not sure if the kids were the same, but there were three little Iraqi boys, must have been about 7, in the ICW. So tiny, so adorable…it’s almost more painful to look at them when they are conscious than when the kids here are unconscious. Those giant jaded brown eyes shuttered with long lashes. These kids did not seem vacant or haunted, like some people think all wartime children ought to be. But I didn’t really interact with them, I just watched from a distance, as I dutifully stocked supply cupboards next to patient bedsides.

I interacted with the most Iraqis I have ever interacted with tonight. Stocking the medical supplies took forever, the drawers were just chaos and none of them had the right amounts of the right things. I spent almost four hours reorganizing about 40 beds’ medical supply drawers. Tourniquets, iodine swabs, burn pads, guaze, bedpans, IV start kits. One Iraqi guy looked to be about my age, maybe a few years younger, he wasn’t hurt too badly. He was really friendly, through a great deal of hand signals and quizzical looks I managed to figure out his name, that he was probably an Iraqi policeman, and that he was injured by an IED that hit him in the leg twice. He liked to play guessing games and flirt with the nurses. Getting blasted by an IED didn’t seem to dampen his spirits much. I saw him drop a water bottle on his own thigh accidentally and he winced and slapped himself on the forehead before grinning over at me.

Another Iraqi guy had a skin graft on his lip, and about half of his mouth sewn shut. You could see burn marks from fragments of whatever hit him all over his head and face. I was trying to be quiet stocking his bedside table but he woke up and started motioning that he wanted something…I have learned that if they want something, the nurses and med techs often do not have a much better idea of what they want than I as a volunteer can figure out, so I usually try to figure out what the situation is before I go drag someone into it. So this guy is motioning about his blanket, like he wants it covering him more. So I try to cover him more with his wool blanket that’s all bunched up on his side. No, hot!!! Too hot!! He gestures. Ok, I pull it down. Sheet, up! Ok, I pull the sheet up. Over head! Ok, pull sheet up over head! No, bad! Feet are uncovered! Really swollen, bruised feet covered in stitches peeking out under the sheet. “Beeeeg”. He says. Aha, got it! You want your sheet to be big enough to cover your face because it’s too bright and you want to sleep, but long enough to cover your toes because they get cold. You want a bigger sheet. Ok, problem solved. I get a thumbs up, a smile (as much as he can muster through his stitches and skin graft), and a firm handshake for my eventually successful attempt at decoding his desire.

There were some detainees there, more than usual. They are shackled to the beds and they are not allowed to see, a curtain gets pulled around them and they have bandages wrapped around their heads to cover their eyes. That’s all I’m going to write about that. Except that a few of them looked really young. I couldn’t help but wonder if these guys were actually insurgents or if someone just wanted to make some extra dough from the Americans so they handed these guys over. There’s no way for me to tell, of course. That’s above my pay grade. Young Army guys guard them in shifts, looking bored out of their skulls. I have to say though, the resilience and resolve of the Iraqi civilians in the ICW is unreal, I can guarantee that if some American civilians had injuries similar to these Iraqi civilians, there would be a great deal of moaning and groaning and general scene-making; for the most part these people seem to have accepted their fate with a tenacious quiet fierceness. The guy making the most noise was a detainee, wailing strangely in English but not saying much more than “oh my God”, and he wasn’t even that bad off compared to the other guys in there. I asked one of the nurses what was wrong with him and she said he was “generally unhappy with his situation at this point in time”.

I went to go get a cup of coffee and ran into one of my favorites from home. He looked tired. He told me he was working out on the helipad and brought in a two year old, who he then watched die. He was there when they broke the news to the child’s father. I suspect that experience will haunt him for years to come...but then we talked about how important we thought it was for people to volunteer at the hospital, to get out of our little routine of 12 hours of work and then go work out and then go to bed. We talked about how important it is to remember that you can guarantee someone here legitimately has it worse than you at all times, and how important it was to get ourselves out of our little “H-6 Bubble”, our Air Force compound bubble You think you have a bad day, no you did NOT have a bad day, go take a walk through the ICU or the ICW in Iraq and then try to tell me you had a bad day.

I think therein lies a great deal of the world’s problems, that the people making a lot of the big decisions in the world do not take strolls through the ICU and the ICW here in Iraq on a regular basis. I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea. Greg Mortensen talks about being in the Pentagon to brief some military intel about the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan after September 11, and all he could remember about the Pentagon was that everyone ran around with laptops, surrounded by concrete, and that Rumsfeld had really shiny shoes. He calls the war on terror a “laptop war”. And these are the individuals making huge decisions affecting millions of impoverished, uneducated Pakistanis and Afghanis and Iraqis, dropping thousands of bombs and not following through with the aid we promised to repair what we destroyed with pushes of red buttons from 8,000 miles away. The quickest way for Americans to make enemies out of Muslims, Mortenson points out, is to make promises and then break them. Lord only knows how many promises have been broken here.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
--W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

My People.

Here is a very basic rundown of a few of the folks I work with. These are the ones that have left the largest impression on me and are the ones that I communicate with most often while here. I don't really have their permission to be writing about them so I am using anonymous initials to describe them, and staying away from anything too personal that I have learned about them.

Sergeant A: A really fresh faced kid we affectionately call “Mouth”. I have had the pleasure of serving with this loudmouth for all three of my deployments to the Middle East. He is from the middle of nowhere Kansas, but he is what we refer to as a “Guard Bum”, a guy who is in the National Guard and volunteers for 90-150 day deployments, then lives off that money for several months, then deploys again. Some people make a lifestyle out of it. Shrug. Anyway I first met Mouth when he was 18 in Qatar. He noodles for fun and he was once in coma for two weeks after a car accident. He is an extremely hard worker. He makes every day slightly more interesting than it should be. He’s a very animated storyteller and he also thoroughly enjoys pissing me off. I really like the guy, he is one of my favorite people that I’ve ever met in the military, although we bicker constantly.

Segeant B: A rough, tough tattooed guy with a buzzed head and really intense brown eyes. This guy is seriously the kind of guy you believe when he says he has killed people (he hasn’t; I asked). He is from a rough part of San Diego and he’s been through a lot in his short life, I think. He’s a genuinely nice guy, but do not cross him, because holy crap, he might actually kill you. He really likes to fight and this has gotten him into a bit of trouble in the past. He says he is big on treating women respectfully but is also a self professed “player”, which doesn’t really jive, but he has a way of making it seem like it should and I think he is pretty good at making ladies see things his way. He owns a pit bull and really likes restoring cars. I think he is the most interesting person I’ve met here, I am frightened and completely intrigued by him.

Sergeant C: The kind of guy I hope is still single when I turn 30. Well, his kind anyway, this one is engaged. Sergeant C is a really nice guy from PA. He walks with really slow, high knee steps, like Woody from Toy Story. He is usually really friendly but sometimes really cranky, I never know quite the response I am going to get when I smile and wave at him. I think he misses his fiancee a lot. He is a paramedic back home and told me he grew up fast, at a very young age. I think he's seen some pretty horrible things. He is the kind of guy you would want to rescue you though, he has that levelheadedness/compassionate combo that is so important in people that save lives for a living (or on the side). He looks like the kind of guy your mom and dad would want you to marry but let me tell you, this guy has a surprising potty mouth. He has a really distinct laugh that doesn’t sound like it matches his physical appearance, which almost always makes me laugh when he laughs.

Sergeant D: I went to tech school with Sergeant D in Wichita Falls, TX in 2002! I walked onto the bus my very first day here in Iraq and I hear “Hi, Liz.” Huh? It’s Sergeant D! (When I knew him he was Airman D, not a Sergeant, obviously). Sergeant D was one of my buddies that I used to break all the rules with in tech school. He was married then, not anymore. He is a really sarcastic, smart fellow who checks up on online news regularly and is really into economics. We see a lot of things the same way and have been known to exchange a few knowing glances (not about economics). He has a very dry, off the wall sense of humor and jokes a lot about the sound of freedom ringing over head whenever the jets take off. He is a random guy from a random base and didn’t come with any troops from home, sometimes I feel a little sad for him because that has got to get lonely.

Sergeant E: A fiery red head from Michigan, yet he seems like he should be from Texas or Mississippi or something. He’s really into sweet tea and biscuits and gravy. He’s really goofy and jerks around a lot when he talks. He has knocked entire computers over while telling stories. He’s hilarious. He will bend over backward for you, and does really nice, thoughtful things for people. He also knows his stuff and is a go-to guy. He tells a lot of stories with really interesting eye contact methods, so you can’t really tell if he just decided to start telling the story he WAS just telling you to the person sitting next to you. Every day he gets cheesecake at the chow hall and he always gives me exactly one bite of it. It’s one of the rituals I am going to miss most from here.

Airman F: An intensely blue eyed Mormon. The Mormon also reminds me of a strange little brother that I never had. The Mormon put his Mormon lifestyle on hold while he served a one year tour in Korea and really let loose. Now he’s back to being Mormon and he has a good Mormon girlfriend who has never seen a rated R movie and who has never cussed in her life. I think he is really into “meek” girls. I am basically the antithesis of “meekness”. I think that really pisses him off. I know because he spent a full hour describing my personality flaws to me, telling me I need to be nicer. Whatever. I’m plenty nice. It’s just that he likes meek girls and I am not meek. He also reminds me of what my mother’s father would look like as a 21 year old. He’s a neoconservative, but a really nice, well behaved guy though.

Airman G: A quiet farm boy from Iowa. Wait, I take that back. A really sarcastic farm boy from Iowa. This guy is deceiving. I thought he was a quiet gentle giant for the first 4 weeks I was here. I didn’t hear a peep out of him. Suddenly, over the course of several emails discussing a potential Ammo volleyball tourney, he flipped out of his shell and became hilariously sarcastic. He is my resident arch nemesis here in Iraq. Once he stole my Honey Nut Cheerios and hid them in the ceiling amongst mouse turds. He drives a ’72 GMC with no heat and one speaker. He’s married to a really sweet looking girl who is six months pregnant with a baby girl, who he plans to dress in flannel to keep potential suitors away. I think he is going to make a phenomenal father. We go for runs together. He once dry heaved and almost puked by the DFAC and came back to defeat me by nearly 100 yards in a dead sprint. He moves fast for his size.

As my time here winds down, I honestly am really going to miss these folks, plus a handful of others. I was writing home about my upcoming readjustment back to civilian life, and I told my parents that I was kind of hoping this trip would be just so awful, and I would hate my time here SO much, that getting out of the guard in September would be a piece of cake and I wouldn't look back. Unfortunately, despit a lot of BS and other general crappiness, this trip reaffirmed that which I actually love about the guard: the opportunity to meet and befriend total characters, the kind you wouldn't normally be friends with back in real life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mortaritaville

I feel like everything here bears some resemblance to home in some bizarre way. I mean, no where else is a "dining facility" quite the assault on the senses that it is here, but all the food is kind of similar to home and it's kind of like a regular cafeteria (except our DFACs blare R&B and 'in the cloob' type music from 1730-2000, except on Indian food night, and then we listen to Indian pop music). The gym is kind of like a gym at home, but not like Gold's Gym, more like an alpha male weightlifting gym. The vehicles are kind of like home, if you stay in the Air Force area...except they are all identical white pickup trucks and they are all leased by the government (I heard we were paying up to $2,000 a month per vehicle. That's where your tax dollars are going, folks.)

There is one thing that will never, ever (hopefully) resemble home. And that is an Indirect Fire Attack, aka an IDF, aka an "incoming", aka a mortar/rocket attack. I don't really like to bring it up because I don't like to worry the people at home. But the fact of the matter is that these mortar attacks basically define Iraq for me. These fleeting moments where you stop WHATEVER you are doing, dive on the ground, cover up your head, and hold your breath. Well, that's if you get the siren first. If you just hear the explosion you just mind your own business and continue doing whatever you were doing, because it's probably too late now anyway and besides, the alarm is supposed to sound, so it must be a controlled detonation by our EOD guys!! You just start to pay no mind, because it's easier that way. Mortars do have the ability to put you on edge, even put you out of your mind if they get too close...but for the most part they don't happen often enough to actually mess with our heads. Or at least, they don't happen often enough NEAR enough to us, to mess with our heads. When I heard the actual count of how many have hit since I've been here, I about fell out of my bus seat.

Last night was a classic example of the bizarre nature of IDFs. So I'm minding my own business, pouring myself a cup of coffee (I swear, they always happen when I have coffee, but then again I drink far more coffee here than I do at home). The klaxon sounds, I manage to not dump my coffee, I dive to the ground. No man is left standing when that alarm sounds, not even the SIX FOOT ELEVEN, 300 LB GIANT of a man that Katy shares her hermetically sealed box with. Honestly his size 37 steel-toed feet probably pose more of a danger to her fragile skull than frag. Anyway.

So we lay on the ground, inhale some dust, the kaboom sounds in the distance, we mutter some obscenities to each other. We wait awhile, we pry ourselves off the ground, we argue over whose turn it is to go do PAR sweeps (post attack recon), then we argue about whether or not we actually have to do PAR sweeps because the giant voice hasn't told us to, then we pause because BOOM BOOM BOOM! Outgoing mortars! BOOM. We all file out the door outside to peer over our cement T barriers, even the munitions controllers who are not supposed to leave their hermetically sealed box. The funny thing is, with my naked head exposed to night air, peering out into The Real Iraq just over the fence line, I feel exposed and vulnerable. It's crazy how much safer you feel with a frickin tin roof over your head. Like that would stop anything. Ha.

We can't really see anything, it's chilly outside, and we're back to bickering over who has to do PAR sweeps or if we even have to do them. We end up sending some folks out with flashlights who weren't doing anything of any real importance. When the attack hit we were about to head out to the MSA to do some work on bombs. Awesome, I really want to go wrap my arms around 500 lbs of explosives after all this garbage. So we rumble out and continue with our daily duties, try not to think about the absolute worst case scenario, crack some morbid jokes, weigh our odds for the worst case scenario, which causes more bickering to ensue. Not going to lie, I am usually at the center of it, but hey...you have to get your tension and aggression out somehow, right?

Anyway don't worry, after all that bickering and all those odds weighed, we have come to the conclusion that mortars aren't actually that dangerous, it's just that the weird circumstance of coming under hostile fire that is mentally jarring more than anything else. I'd much rather deal with mortars and rockets than IEDs and small arms fire, that's for damn sure.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Groundhog Day sets in.

So it’s been awhile since my last entry, but truthfully that’s because it’s basically been Groundhog Day since then. I haven't gone to the hospital since the Purple Heart day, I felt a little drained after that night at the hospital, had trouble sleeping a few nights, just a little emotionally drained. So I didn't go this past week...I felt guilty about it kind of...I spent the evening playing volleyball instead. I counted 8 medevac flights landing and taking off at the hospital, but I didn't go to lend a hand. One important thing I've learned about myself in these situations is to pay attention to little signs, indications that you need something. This week I just needed to not be absorbed in the misery of others, and to try to pretend like life is normal for a little while. Some interesting things have been happening at work, but either they’re too sensitive to write about on the Interweb or they’re only interesting to me and would be lost on most other people.

Anyway, here's some fun facts I have compiled about LSA Anaconda/Balad Air Base:

Ugandan military personnel check our IDs going into the DFACs and BX/PXs. They don’t really wear much of a uniform, but they carry loaded weapons and inspect our IDs and ensure our weapons are placed on safe. They are always accompanied in each place by an unarmed US Army person, usually a small unassuming low ranking female. This boggles my mind. I don’t understand why on earth we would have approximately 12 Ugandan military members (they have girls! Really pretty military girls!) assigned to this base to check our IDs. I should do some research on this but really I don’t have time. I want to ask questions but they don’t have more than 2 seconds to check our IDs, much less carry on a conversation about this intricate military relationship we apparently have. Like seriously, we can’t spare the manning to have our own Army check our IDs, like we did last time I was here in 2006, that we have to ship an insanely small number of Ugandans here to do it for us? What gives??

Speaking of bizarre military contracts, there have been some interesting Kellogg Brown & Root developments since I was last here (KBR for short, used to be a subsidiary of Haliburton, now an independent military contractor). KBR is taking over the world. Or at least American bases in the US. The base I stopped at on my way into Iraq is a base I have been to several times in my way in and out of country in the past. Almost everything was always handled by our military: the rec center, the gym, housing…everything except laundry and the chow hall, basically. This time when we passed through that base on our way into Iraq, all of that stuff was run by TCNs (Third Country Nationals, usually Filipinos, Nepalese, Pakistanis, SE Asians). This time the housing was run by Americans, but not American military members. They were big dudes wearing a lot of bling and Timberland boots. The movies at the rec center? Popped in by contractors with rat tails and scruffy faces. The questionable “egg” omelets? Scrambled by TCNs. Your sheets? Washed by TCNs. Your alcohol ration card (3 drinks a day)? Doled out by the guys wearing bling and Timberlands.

The difference this time, "in country" here in Iraq, is negligible compared to 2006. TCNs still do all of the dirty work, just as they did last time. They suck the crap out of the port-a-johns, they scrub our showers, they burn the insanely toxic trash, they collect our trays in the chow hall. There is one key difference though: in general, our troops seem to have come to the conclusion that KBR is the devil. Most troops seem to realize that these TCNs are making peanuts, doing the shitty (literally) work on base, and get treated like crap. It seems to me that troops are much more polite this time than last time, they say please and thank you and excuse me, and don’t take the TCNs for granted as much as last time. Troops are curious about the wages of TCNs (we heard $450 for 4 months, according to a TCN that pumped diesel for military vehicles) and how many days they get off (none, most work 7 days a week, at least 12 hours shifts). People seem to be on to KBR, people seem to be coming to the conclusion that this is essentially modern day slavery.

The bittersweet thing is the attitude of almost every single TCN I have come across: smiling, polite, friendly. I suspect there is so much smiling because I am a female and there aren’t many of us here. They’ll slap chicken on a guy’s plate dutifully, but if a girl passes through, they excitedly ask her if she wants chikin? Beans? RICE?? ROLL???? Cookie?? Why not! Why you not want cookie from me?? It’s funny, and more often than not I ask for a little bit of one thing and I end up with a whole plate full of something completely the opposite of what I ask for..but I never have the heart to tell these guys that they gave me the wrong thing. On my one day off a week I generally eat closer to DFAC closing time, and they let us stick around in there after they stop serving if we are still finishing up our meal. I like to watch them interact with each other when they get to relax…they goof around a little and seem more like normal people, instead of like the serving wenches our military makes them out to be. Seriously you should see the outfits these guys have to wear. They’re ridiculous. Little tuxedo costumes with bow ties. I’m not even kidding. It’s disgusting.

That’s all the dirt I have on KBR for now. In other news, there has been an usual amount of animosity from the active duty toward us National Guard folks on this trip. I can’t say as I entirely blame them, it has to be frustrating to be the same rank as a person—getting paid the same amount, and having the same authority—yet having the Guard person know considerably less about the job than the active duty people. We put up with a lot of slams on the National Guard. A lot of the animosity comes in the form of poking fun and name calling, but you can tell sometimes that they are legitimately frustrated with us. I try to make up for my lack of knowledge with a good attitude and work ethic, but that doesn’t get me into the clear all the time. I screwed up some stuff the other day and my supervisor was like “Liz. How long have you been in the Guard?” and I’m like…”Six and a half years,” knowing full well the earful I was about to receive. “AND YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO______!!!!!!”

Ok. It’s not my freaking fault. I drill TWO days a month. Two! Factor in that over 75% of our time is spent doing computer based training, such as Explosive Safety, CounterTerrorism, and Sexual Harassment. We have to do the same computer based training as the active duty—they have 365 days to complete it, we have about 24. So we spend all of our time doing insignificant computer training instead of training for our actual job. Kind of asinine when you consider that our real job deals with EXPLOSIVES, something you kind of want to be proficient at when dealing with, no? Oh, and the other 25% of the time is spent standing in line at the medics, waiting for vaccines like anthrax that will probably eventually kill us. So after I put all of this out there, my supervisors’ faces softened a bit, and they were like “so all of your experience comes during deployments?”

Yeah. That’s right buddy. Everything I know about building bombs I learned while I was deployed to a war zone, not in practice at home, 365 days a year like you guys. And keep in mind I volunteered for this. AND keep in mind that if I didn’t volunteer for this deployment, an active duty guy would have been yanked away from his/her spouse (since all of them are married by age 20, divorced, by 22, and remarried by 23) and gotten sent here for five months, because active duty guys rarely get deployed here for less than that. So I know that when you said “you suck at this”, you really meant to say “thank you for volunteering to come here, it’s ok that you don’t know how to do this task, and hey isn’t the National Guard training system like totally FUBAR’d and it’s not actually your fault you don’t know how to do this??”.

Time to go play some volleyball and pretend like life is normal, as medevac copters whip overhead and we try not to contemplate our next 12 hour shift of building bombs.

On a lighter note, here is the evidence of organic soy milk in the DFACs that my good friend Danny requested, along with a picture of my half of a box and also one of us jobbing:



Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Purple Heart

"They gave me a Purple Heart," he struggled to repeat himself, barely audible. "They gave me a Purple Heart and I don't know where it is."

The colonel across the bedside from me reassures the baby faced soldier lying between us. "They put all your belongings together, we'll track it down for you." The colonel leaves me and the soldier alone. I put on gloves and start wiping the blood off of his hands. He's fresh out of surgery, doped up on morphine...he doesn't have a leg anymore.

Another volunteer comes up, holding a large bag of belongings. Here's his stuff. He plops it down next to the bed. The soldier is drifting in and out of consciousness. As I'm wiping off the dried blood, his eyes flutter open. "Your stuff is here. Do you want me to check for your Purple Heart?"

"Yes ma'am. Please."

I start digging through his stuff. All of the stuff he had with him this morning, before he knew that when the sun set again he wouldn't have a leg anymore. Gum. ID card. Dog Tags. Wallet. Chapstick. I don't see the Purple Heart. Then my hand hits a heavy plastic case, slightly larger than my own medal cases. Here it is. I pull it out. "Do you want to look at it?"

I hold it up for him, he takes it between his two dirty hands. His face is perfect, smooth flawless skin and beautiful brown eyes. He stares at it. I lean over, my hands elbows resting on the guard rail of his bed, I've never seen a Purple Heart in person before. It's heavier than I thought it would be.

He keeps staring at it. I start to worry that maybe I shouldn't have let him see it, maybe this is too overwhelming. Moments before he had just recanted what had happened to him to the colonel. He recanted losing his leg, step by step. "And then I reached down and I could feel my bones...". He keeps staring at it, holding it, and I'm really starting to worry. "The Army ain't gonna have a place for me anymore, are they." His eyes are the widest they've been since I met him a few hours before. He's suddenly alert. I take his hand, close the Purple Heart case gently. "You don't worry about that right now. You just worry about getting better first."

I can feel my eyes well up as I bend over, struggling to hold back tears as I place the Purple Heart back with his belongings. Time for me to go. Time to go take a few breaths and pull it together. I do, and then I'm fine. But it's just the beginning for him, the first of many one-legged steps. I think his name is burned into my memory forever.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Holler.

News stories of late as they pertain to my life here:

No Internet: Stars and Stripes told us a ship's anchor cut a giant undersea fiber optic cable. We have internet, it takes anywhere from 3-27 minutes to load one page. They took away all websites except .mil to speed up the mission essential sites. Apparently the cyber cafe here on base is run off a satellite or something and so everyone and their mother is trying to pay bills and communicate over civilian email on the same 30 computers. Anyway I don't know if I'm buying the ship anchor story, seems a bit suspicious to me. You should hear the rumors running rampant here! I am extremely behind on primary news. McCain won FL?? Rudy dropped out? Edwards dropped out? Yikes!

These are the guys that I helped in the hospital. I think of my EOD buddy every time I build stuff now. This is how our conversation went:

Him: "Where do you work when you're not volunteering at the hospital?"
Me: "Ammo. I build bombs."
Him: "Nice. I get to go out and blow them up when they don't blow them up the first time.
Me (grimacing): "Yeah. We try not to let that happen."
Him (shrugging): "It's cool. Something like 10% of ordnance fails. I'm sure it's not your fault."

One of our guys' wife had a baby. A beautiful baby girl, I saw pictures. I feel really bad for him that he couldn't be there for the birth. They tried to set up a webcam but I guess she came out too fast! Anyway we made him a card and one of the guys scrounged up a bunch of cigars, we all joined in on a few celebratory puffs, even our Mormon, although he bitched and moaned and made a scene, he partook in a few puffs as well.

Now that we've been here a few weeks, everyone is starting to get their "bad days". It's inevitable that everyone has one now and again. I haven't had a bad day yet, I've definitely had a few bad hours but I pulled it together and brought my mood back up. One of the main low points includes slipping on mud, falling out of the bus, and hitting every step on the way down. I have the bruises to prove it. Owie.

Anyway. A high point, to counteract falling out of the bus, was I that I got to shower away almost 5 days of gunk on my body!!!! (Diesel fuel is really hard to scrub out). Now we get to shower every other day. I can totally live with that. 3 minutes of scalding/freezing water every other day with lots of other people is a treat compared to 4 days of diesel fuel perfume.

I sat by a bunch of Army guys at dinner/breakfast (I never know which to call it, my breakfast is like, spaghetti and salad or usually some sort of 'chicken') and they were complaining about how they have to watch the Super Bowl on AFN. Hahaha I hadn't thought about that. The Armed Forces Network is notorious for their absolutely horrible, corny PSAs. No Super Bowl commercials for us. We will be watching PSAs about 'locking our doors' and OPSEC and COMSEC and such. It's obscene how many commercials resemble regular military recruitment ads. Like, we are all ALREADY IN THE MILITARY, who are you trying to sell yourself to?? Yes, I know sometimes we do neat things, we also know the the cool stuff is inter sparsed with plenty of the asinine, you aren't fooling anyone, buddy. Boo, I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, especially after that heart-wrenching Packer season finale, I especially don't care about the actual game.

Alright. My time here at the cyber cafe is up. Over and Out.