Archive for April, 2007

Still making it

For a few days I did not respond to email, nor did I call anyone. For those that kept in touch during OIF3, you know I typically only do that when the Brigade is under blackout. Nothing has changed. Saturday we lost three men in an explosion that occured towards the end of my shift. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families, and the men of D/1-15IN. The only advice I can give is not to dwell in the bad times, especially while still in theater. There are many months left in this deployment, and as tragic as it is, we will likely lose more. There are people to talk to, and they’re available all day, every day.

The care packages have continued to roll in from all over. I recieve packages from names I don’t recognize from anywhere at all. Enough has come in that I have a surplus in several of my requested items, more than I can use alone for sure. My soldiers take what they need, but even with that I’m starting to overflow. Now I bring excess up to the office, and pass it around to the other sections I work with. Thanks to everyone that has shown their support for my men and I.

More from Iraq

Yesterday I went to the gym and lifted for the first time in several years. It was fun. In fact, I slept like a baby when I was done, and was significantly less RAWR than I had been before. That kind of makes me want to go do it every day, and since the rest of the guys I work with from midnight to noon go too – I think I will. At about 0300 this morning, I made up a two week workout plan, and I’ll edit it as needed over the course of the year. Right now my goal is to bump my max up to 255lbs, which is more than twice what I weigh. We’ll see how that all works out.

In other news, I recieved three boxes yesterday. One from Teresa Lowther, a friend from HS, another from my grandparents, and the charger to my electric razor ordered by my parents. So here’s a shout out to them for helping make this deployment suck less. Thanks everybody.

Quick Update

First of all, I have to say my feelings go out to the victims and families that have suffered at Virginia Tech. My ability to follow the news is limited to a choppy feed of Fox News without audio, but just the info scrolling in the ticker is enough to show how tragic the shooting was. Out here death and carnage is something you pray doesn’t happen, but come to expect. That should never even be the concern of students and professors in a classroom. Unfortunately the human element can bring pain to any location, and there is no real way to stop those willing to bring that pain on their peers.

Changing lanes, I’ve got to thank everyone that has read this, and sent items from my list. As of today, I’ve recieved enough weapons cleaning supplies to last my section at least three months, over 20 bars of soap (20 came in a box from Michigan today, along with two bags of Sweetarts), several sticks of deodorant, more gum than I could have imagined, a mega pack of toothbrushes and toothpaste, and a much needed box from my sister (Natalie) and brother-in-law (Tyler) with name tapes and even more cleaning supplies for my section’s weapons. Being located solidly in the middle of nowhere, and away from any MSR, our ability to recieve mail is highly dependent on conditions we can’t always control. That being the case, my mail may get to Iraq and sit at LSAA for 3 or 4 days before it can get put on a convoy to FOB Hammer. From there our mail staff get the pleasure of sorting a MILVAN full of mail for over 2500 soldiers in the heat of the day just so we can have it by dinner the same day it arrives.

Today I initiated the paperwork to enroll in the Army’s Savings Deposit Program. I should have done it during OIF3, and won’t be making the same mistake again. Basically, it’s an account the Army keeps for you during a deployment that returns 10%APR compounded quarterly, up to $10K. May as well make as much during this second (and final) deployment as I can, and interest is a good way to do that. I’ll be dumping in enough each month to hit the $10K ceiling before this deployment is done. Having far fewer bills this time around that I did in OIF3, I can do this while maintaining my normal savings allotment, and still having more cash from each paycheck left to burn than I normally do when not deployed. My intent is still to ETS when I get back, buy a house in Houston, and finish school. 15 months of combat pay should make that rather doable.

That’s about it for now.

Thanks for the support…

… but if you can’t support my own mother through her anger and disappointment, don’t bother supporting me either. Make no mistake about it, no one is happy about our extension, and none of us sent over here beyond our active duty agreement appreciate it very much either. I was not raised to half ass anything, my best is all I ever give – pissed off or not. My soldiers are well aware of the fact that I am being screwed, they are also well aware of the fact that I am a Non-Commissioned Officer and follow a creed all other NCOs know and few follow. My soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership, and as the Army has proven time and time again, that is about all they are entitled to. As officers have no such creed, and mine states plainly that I will provide that leadership – I do so, day in and day out.

Leadership is defined by the Army as providing purpose, motivation, and direction while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization. To do part of that, and ignore another is piss poor leadership, and not the outstanding variety my soldiers are entitled to. While my superiors may fail, that does not give me the excuse to do the same. Each of my subordinates has been counseled on their purpose in this fight. Each is provided with the motivation required to accomplish the mission. Each is likewise given direction where required to ensure no detail is missed, while also being allowed to take the wheel and steer out a course of action for themselves – in order to facilitate professional growth, and the opportunity to gain leadership skills for the day they pin on three stripes and join the NCO Corps. These things are all done in order to provide oustanding leadership, and accomplish the mission – no matter how unclear it may be. What can not be ignored however, are the pitfalls of the organization which are many. Being charged with said organization’s improvement, I would be guilty of ignoring my duties if I did not address the issues at hand.

Son of a ….

I’m going to have to throw a flag on the play. Which play am I talking about? If you watch the news, you know that there are a lucky few brigades that will spend at least 15 months of their lives in Iraq. Basically, the lucky brigades that got to be part of the “surge”, also get to enjoy an extended stay in powdery sand and sweltering heat. Why the flag? Well, Mr. SecDef first says “Stop Loss is bullshit! Congress, come up with a plan to end it”, and immediately follows it by “Hey, Brigades that are deployed with over 1000 stoplossed soldiers, you get to stay for even longer!” I wrote a letter, which many of you have likely either seen or signed, in response to the first part – and rest assured I’ll be sending one of an entirely different tone in response to the new idiocy. I would go into mega-rant mode right about now if I had the time, but I don’t. I did not blog the first letter, but the second will be for sure. This entire deal has been a goatscrew from day one, and as each day goes by I have less and less faith in my leaders (both military and political.) Hey, at least I get to be part of history….

/me sets mode +RAWR

Random notes

Aside from the update I just made to my mailing address here in Iraq, I have not posted much to my blog. The reason, of course, is that I can only get online at work – along with the 40 other people on shift. Granted, this machine has been MY computer for over 3 years, and my login is one of the TWO in the Brigade Combat Team that actually works on it – I try not to be a shithead, and let everyone use it so they can make sure they’re getting paid/charged properly or send email to their loved ones. Quite a few people take that opportunity to screw around on the internet for hours at a time, so I’ll have to quit being so generous and switch into shithead mode.

Free time is limited to sleep, since I work a midnight to noon shift. I get off, take a shower, and pass out. That gives me about 6 hours of sleep before dinner. I could sleep through dinner, but I’d be entirely too hungry before breakfast, so I wake up. Considering I’m back in a combat zone, 6 hours of sleep ain’t bad at all. I’ve done more, on less, so no complaints here really. My guitar is here on the FOB, and tomorrow I intend to liberate it from the hot steel box it is in right now. I’m sure the strings are screwed, so hopefully my folks remembered to send a set of replacements (D’Addario EJ26s if I recall correctly.) My poker set should be in the box too, so I’ll have something else to do. Spades is a horrible game, and quite boring when you win even with a string of crappy hands. Pay. Attention. Pretty hard to lose if you pay attention to what is being played, who is cutting what, and what spades have been thrown down.

I’ve been keeping up with the 365day photo challenge at Flickr. In fact, that is about all I have uploaded since I got to theater. Right now I am playing catch up, I’ve taken a photo of myself every single day since I mobilized for this deployment, but I haven’t been able to upload every day. I can upload now, but it is VERY slow, and I can only add 5 photos per day to the 365day group pool. My current plan is to upload 5 of the 365day challenge photos every day on my shift, until I am caught up. After that, I’ll upload a new one daily, and start uploading 4 or 5 of my other photos each day. It takes nearly an hour just to upload 5 photos, so we’ll see how that works out for now.

The Macbook Pro is doing fine, as is the 500GB drive I’ve been backing up to. Hopefully everything remains functional throughout the deployment. If not, the FujiP is back in Iraq, and will do what it needs to do, when it needs to do it. Newegg still ships to APOs, so should things start shitting the bed, I can at least order more drives to save the day, etc. Mostly the MBP has been playing DVDs and working on a movie project in iMovieHD. I am taking all the footage I have from when my guys got back from OIF3 (I got back before some of them), and the drinking that followed, as well as a video slideshow of my favorite photos from OIF3 and putting that in a “movie” along with the footage I’ve already taken here during OIF5. While I’m on shift I can’t get any new footage (OMG CLASSIFIED), but afterwards I can get some of my soldiers being themselves. We’ll see what that all equates to when I’m done. If nothing else, it keeps me occupied for a while and saves me from boredom from time to time.

The level of suck out here deserves new blues songs, and I’ve got a lot of them in my head. Now that the guitar is here, I’ll start writing them, and eventually – recording them. The world may have to wait for me to go on R&R, or get back from Iraq for good before they’re online – but it’s a project I’m working on. My goal is 8 new songs, they don’t have to be blues, but chances are most of them will be – don’t be surprised to find a lot of Psalms/Proverbs references.

To say I miss my motorcycle would be an understatement. Right now, I’m not planning on doing much on R&R that does not involve me riding my motorcycle. Hurricane Season, are you listening? Give me another R&R hurricane, and I’ll be 57 flavors of pissed off.

That is all.

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