Sunday, October 30, 2005

Arrival in Seattle

Chris called this morning (Sunday) from Seattle! He arrived around 6am Seattle time, and is making his way to Ft. Lewis today. Now he has a few days of de-mobilization, and soon will be headed to Boise. Stay tuned...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Chris' travels

Chris called this morning (Friday morning) from Kuwait...he is out of Iraq and officially on his way home! He said that he's expecting to be in the Seattle area and Ft. Lewis sometime Sunday evening, and will be back in Boise 5-9 days after arriving in Seattle. This means he should be home by November 9 at the latest.

While Chris was in Iraq, I sent him a cell phone so we could stay in touch during his time at Ft. Lewis. He's planning on calling me as soon as he lands in the States. I'll post a blog note once I hear from him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hi all! Sally here. Chris will be offline for a couple of weeks while he travels HOME! I'll post updates as I get is one I received this morning...

I am happy to report that I no longer live at Barbarian Base and am now a full-blown 'FOBbit' here at the KRAB. I am enjoying such amenities as walking to dinner, eating hot food, munching on fresh veggies with each meal, and generaly loafing around. I recently turned in my SAW and all associated bullets that go with said heavy, awkward, annoying machine gun (although saying good bye was a tear-jerker) and now tote a little, tiny, very light M4 with one little magazine full of teeny bullets.

Today I went for a long run with Wing, took lots of photos and video of the lads, lifted at a lovely gym with all sorts of equipment (and far too many big-ego, over-macho guys), ate a lovely lunch with the boys (roast beef sandwich with veggies - I don't think I've had a real sandwich since leave), showered, read a bit, then took a phat hour and a half nap. Not too shabby at all.

Overall, we still can't believe we're this close to going home. We often look at each other and say 'Hey, we're LEAVING. We're done.' The usual response is something like, 'No kidding. I just can't believe it.' This is usually followed by stories of tough trainign or just times of just general military stupidity where we said, 'Someday this will be over,' or, 'I can't wait until this day when I turn in this [weapon, ammo, first aid bag, or other sundry, and awkward piece of gear].'

Saturday, October 22, 2005

SPAMfest '05!

What do you do when one of your buddies is still on leave, you're packing up his stuff, and you find six cans of SPAM? Easy, you have SPAMfest '05! Posted by Picasa
Cpl Litzsinger dove into the work, cracking open the cans and frying up the junk. He was just doing his part to add some real health food to our already fat-, meat byproduct-, nitrate-, and salt-laden Army food diets. Posted by Picasa
The 'White Trash Special': Spam and Easy Cheez on white bread.

I told the guys that we were a 30-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon short of having a real 'White Trash Barbeque.' (Of course, any mention of beer, even swill like Pabst, sends up a longing groan.) Posted by Picasa
SSG Attebery digs into his 'White Trash Special'. I had mine with mayo, but at least I had the wheat bread! Posted by Picasa
Here's a close-up of the glory that is SPAM. Note the fat and oils on the knife. Ah, nothing says 'delicious' like a whole can of pork by-products infused with sodium and nitrates! Posted by Picasa

A Couple Shots of Me

Since Sally has pointed out that there are very few shots of me on the blog, here's a shot of me that our medic took. Apologies for being nearly naked but I'd just worked out and was trying to cool down.

While our Army-food diet, tremendous amount of sitting around (in guard towers, in Humvees on patrol, etc.), and unit's total lack of any kind of enforcement of physical training has led most guys to actually (and sadly) gain weight while being deployed, I'm happy to have slimmed down to my high school weight of 195.

Don't worry though, I'll gain that ALL back once I return to the land of BEER. Posted by Picasa
And here's a close up of me and my nearly-shaved head. Posted by Picasa

Final Days – Sort Of

As we continue to count the days, we keep coming across various 'lasts', as in, "Hey guys, this is the LAST time our squad will have to clean these latrines!" However, all too often what appears to be a last doesn't end up so. We thought a few weeks ago that we were pulling our last shifts of guard duty so I even filmed the auspicious moment. However, we are currently on one more, hopefully last shift of guard duty... Posted by Picasa
We thought we were preparing for our last patrol here, as Wilson and I loaded up the last of the toys for the kids.

After picking up some of our new friends from the 101st, we headed out into the city with some of the local cops. The patrol was quiet, with just the cops firing a few rounds to stop some traffic (typical of them as they fire their AK's into the air for all sorts of things, like traffic control). Posted by Picasa
We stopped here after the locals called the cops about a suspected IED. It turned out to be nothing. Posted by Picasa
This stop for another suspected IED was also a false alarm. Posted by Picasa
However, across the street, a father and son were closing up their camera shop (in this photo, they're standing in the doorway). I motioned the kid over, threw out a toy car to him, and he replied in good English, "Thank you mister!" But that was about the only toy Wilson and I were able to give out that night. We returned with rucksacks still full of toys and candy.

Since that turned out not to be our last patrol, at least we will have another chance to give out the rest of our toys, candy, and 'lahaba' to the local kids. Posted by Picasa
In between our 'lasts' (both real and imagined), we keep working out, ticking off the days, and packing. Posted by Picasa
SPC Timmons hadn't cleaned out under his bunk in a while... like a YEAR. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 17, 2005

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over...

The elections were wonderfully quiet with great voter turnout in Kirkuk (see postings below). Alas though, our work was (is) certainly not done. We and fourth squad set out late on the day after the election to clean up the polling sites, specifically to remove all the concrete barriers we'd installed to protect the sites from car bombers. Another platoon was out doing similar work, picking up all the concertina wire and 'hedgehog' anti-vehicle barriers, for all 70 sites in our districts.

We hopped into our Humvees and got ready to roll. We even decided to turn on our headlights... which is pretty much all that you can see here.  Posted by Picasa

A light dust storm was starting to kick up (each particulate in the air leaving little blurred circles in this photo - yet the storm was also hopefully a harbinger of a 'cool' front moving in with mere 90-degree temps) as we stood guard for the Iraqi contractor. Soon (and as always) the kids came out, drawn to us alien creatures like moths to flame.

The wonderful thing (perhaps the only wonderful thing) about our situation here is that you can , thanks to so many thoughtful friends and family back home who shipped so many toys to us, sometimes feel like Santa. To whit: Posted by Picasa

One of Jonathan Smith's Beanie Babies (barely visible in her left hand) and a light stick for you... Posted by Picasa

...some toy cars for you guys... Posted by Picasa

...a nerf football for you... Posted by Picasa

...and a few lahaba for you guys. Posted by Picasa

This little doll got... a little doll (actually an elephant Beanie Baby that she's clutching in her right hand) and a light stick from CPL Wing. The kids here LOVE the light sticks. I wish I had a photo of when Wing gave this little girl hers. He knelt down next to her (with her dad's cajoling, she was very brave and very much unafraid), opened the package, cracked it and then shook it. Her face lit up, both green from the light stick and wide-eyed in amazement. Man, I wish I could share with you a photo of that great and gorgeous little moment. I handed the little stuffed elephant to Wing to hand to her and when he did, she took the doll, tried to crack it and shake it, as if it too would light up bright green. Posted by Picasa

Following the plotted points on our maps, we drove through neighborhood after neighborhood to school after school, moving barricade after barricade. Here the Iraqi crane truck negotiates a tough corner. Posted by Picasa

CPL Wing gave out a lot of light sticks. After all (and at a cost of probably pennies per), it probably does more good as a goodwill gesture to the locals than just sitting in a box somewhere.  Posted by Picasa

This was my view for much of the evening, looking down the barrel (from the good side of course) of a M2 .50 cal heavy machine gun. Thankfully Wing spelled me often so that I could walk around a bit and occasionally pee.  Posted by Picasa

... and of course the hundreds of dogs and cats that come out at night to feed off the garbage. The cats we never see except at night (including a few sightings of them INSIDE the marmite containers in our chow hall, having a late night snack of our leftovers) while the dogs at night can suddenly get quite feral and aggressive. One dog this night charged SGT Buckingham and, out of a concern for Buck's safety, the dog was shot.

As the night wore on though, other type of person came out. Soon we could smell the delicious odor of fresh baked bread as the bakers fired up their ovens and started turning out the day's loaves. Posted by Picasa

The streets were totally empty, except for us, the occasional police vehicle... Posted by Picasa

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