Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dark Clouds

I was sitting in our MWR, where I spend most of my awake time- the light is better than in our quarters, and it has net connections- as Specialist Black was checking his email. I said something about heading back to Bl@ck Horse, and my gear there, and Black mentioned:

Yeah, I helped move your stuff, Sergeant Moor said people were stealing your ****.

What!? Oh. My. God. For the last month or so, I've been concerned about being seperated from my gear. Our big "black boxes" have probably already been placed on a container boat back to the States. What I've been dreading, is the possibility of some of my gear being sent to one place with all the unit gear, and I- being an Individual Reservist- being sent another place. I do NOT want to end up paying for gear that I've been issued, because my unit chose to send me to a place where I could not take all the gear Uncle Sugar, in his wisdom, chose to load me with.

And now, I hear people are stealing my stuff? Oh, no. I will NOT pay for anything that's been stolen. I will write my congressman and senator, if necessary. I will write the gosh-darned President, if it comes to it, but I refuse to suffer further financially because of the incompetence of my chain of command.

Now, if it's "only" some of my cds or something, I'll deal with it. Perhaps someone was mistaken. But, if my gear has really been swiped, a great many people are probably going to have some bad days. Trust me.

Dreams and Visions

We have doxycycline provided to use as an antimalarial prophylactic. One of the side effects, in some people, is vivid dreams. I have had some prophetic dreams in my life, but while taking the doxy, it's hard to tell what's prophetic, and what's just chemically induced.

Last night, for instance, I dreamt that I was standing by the edge of a pool, while my former wife was struggling to swim, and failing. I don't swim well, but I eventually jumped into the pool, stood underwater on the bottom, and pushed her up to the edge of the pool. Jeez.

I wanted to be able to be friends with my ex, but where the result of The Bad Stuff early in my life was for me to be angry, the result of her emotional baggage was fear. I've managed to lose most of my anger, but she hasn't lost her fear, and she seems to be afraid of me, for absolutely no reason. So, despite my desire to be friends with her, that doesn't really seem possible. I have removed her from my MySpace friends list, and stopped including her on my emailed updates..but with this dream, I felt I needed to at least check on her. Why must some people be tortured souls? Why can't we all just find healthy outlets, and get on with our lives? Some people just seem to be stuck, for lack of a better description, stuck in a miniature hell they can't find the exit to, confused and frightened. I feel for them, but you can't stay too close, or you'll get stuck with them. Ultimately, people have to save themselves.


What would you think of a reporter who compared law-abiding Americans with convicted sex criminals? That's what reporter Christian Trejbal of The Roanoke Times has done, in a recent piece that listed names and addresses of local concealed carry license holders. Never mind that one has hurt people, while the other has jumped through hoops to follow the law. Never mind that the latter group as a whole is an extremely well-behaved percentage of the population, while the other is, well, criminal, and includes a whole range of deviants like pedophiles and rapists.

Mr. Trejbal includes fear of a violent ex as being a legitimate reason to own a firearm, but is still willing to publish the information he has without regard to the danger such people might be placed in by his cavalier expose'. He hides behind the fiction of caring about his fellow citizens, when in reality, he is willing to endanger them without qualm.

I'm including a picture of this jerk, so it can be understood: yes, Virginia, people willing to jeopardize your health can wear ties, too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

This 'N That

Last week, the new @DA was about to leave on their first mission out here. I walked out, and saw that the "war wagon" was flying the Jolly Roger. I walked back into our B hut.

"Hey, the war wagon is flying the black flag. The skull and crossbones, the Jolly Roger. A big one, too."

"Yeah," said Tony. "It's too bad they're pussies."

We got up this morning before 4 AM to prepare to support a mission. Of course, it was close to two hrs before our troops rolled out, while we were dressed and fully prepared in less than 15 minutes, with all our data ready on the guns. And then, we waited, of course.

I portioned out enough multivitamins to last the rest of my time here, and gave the rest to Fareed, one of the base defense guys. I also gave him two bottles of vitamins to give to the two local nationals who do our laundry. Fareed really wants to move to the States. I'm afraid of a Hmong-like backlash against those sympathetic to the US if the US withdraws from @fghanistan.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to Fareed while a general was visiting. I told him it was years before West Germany was able to run itself, and I hoped that the US would have the national patience to wait long enough that @fghanistan could govern itself...but that I doubted it would happen.
"I got to get out of here, man," Fareed said. "Or these ********ers are gonna kill me." I hope the US doesn't abandon its allies here, as it has abandoned so many others.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hot Sauce

About a month ago, I received quite a few different hot sauces, from several friends. I was thinking about that today, when I opened the Red Savina, my last bottle of habanero sauce.

Hot sauce is just one of the many little things that can brighten a soldier or marine's day. The "average consumer" here has enjoyed the Cholula sauce or some of the Louisiana-style sauces that have been sent. Many soldiers here have enjoyed the Huy Fong Spiracha Chili Sauce, which is excellent on Asian food, and greatly improves the "Chinese" food we're served.

A retired first sergeant included a bottle of his own, home-made sauce, which was very good: the overall heat level was about a seven, which made it perfect for general use for a heat fan like myself, and it didn't have too much vinegar, so the flavor was nice.

Then, there are the habanero sauces, which I enjoy most. My two very favorites are El Yucateco Green and Marie Sharp's. Both these sauces are quite hot, but flavorful. Heat without flavor- which is what you get from the hottest sauces, which are made from extracts- is just no fun. El Yucateco and Marie Sharp's provide a nice heat level, but have excellent flavors. They're still too hot for many users, though. I had discovered both of them previously, but they are now carried in many WalMarts- see, not everything about the big chains is bad!

Some of the new ODA seem to really appreciate good hot sauce, especially Jose. He loves the Marie Sharp's, and when I opened the Red Savina today, I told him, so he could try it. This stuff is HOT! I'd give it about a 9, but it's still flavorful. Not for the faint of heart, but a little goes a long way even for us with more robust flavor buds.

Anway, maybe bottles of hot sauces may not seem like a big deal, but they're really appreciated. So, to everyone who contributed, thanks. You made our lives a little brighter.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Life Goes On

Three days ago, I went on a B*gram run. I expected to have a long and uncomfortable ride, but was pleasantly surprised. The rain stopped soon after we headed out, so I wasn't drenched, and I only fumbled with the unfamiliar M2 for a minute or so before I was able to get it running for our test fire.

Some of the "little things" make a big difference in soldier outlook. I was tasked to pick up either Copenhagen or Skoal Original, Fine Cut, along with a few other things like DVDs. Deke, the Psyops guy I rode with, told me everything opened at 0900, so I left the Special Ops area and walked over at about 0845. The "spa" was open, so I got my first professional haircut in three months from a lady from a former Soviet republic, who spoke no English. She did a pretty good job, even if the top's a little shorter than I'd wanted.

After the haircut, I visited the PX...which didn't open until 1000. I was glad I'd brought Red Dragon with me. (On a side note, Thomas Harris is an incredible author, even if his outlook on human interaction is more realistic than I might like.) As the flood of service members swept into the PX, I went immediately to the dip. Instead of the 6 rolls I had been tasked to buy, I was only able to purchase 2 cans. Oh, well. I also picked up some more running shoes to replace my crumbling Asics.

As we left to return to base, I was carefully watching the people crowded just a few feet away as we rode through the city. I was so focused on watching people, I didn't pay enough attention to my muzzle clearance, and my .50 smacked the side of a truck, spinning my turrent and me with it. Fortunately, I wasn't injured, nor was the big fifty.

The rain began on the ride back.

Monday, March 19, 2007

March and Rain

I was out of sorts last night, and was in my cot before 2200, though I didn't really go to sleep for perhaps an hour. During a few of my many brief awakenings, I heard rain. Hard rain.

Doug, the ODA that liasons with us, walked in about 0900, and told us our pits were flooded. And how! When we got out there, we had swimming pools. Sergeant Liddy had the brilliant idea of us bailing out the pits. Fortunately, a pump truck was here, and it was able to drain most of the pits. We still have deep "pockets" that we started bailing out.

The sergeant had been working on one area that held more than a large bathtub for some time, when I heard some of the squad laughing. I walked over. The sergeant hadn't been tossing his containers of water very far out of the pit, and most of the water he'd emptied was now flowing right back into the same area, just like a fountain. Sergeant Liddy was not happy. In fact, he ordered one soldier to keep bailing.

(Said soldier refused, and is now on extra duty.)

Later, as we walked into the hut to retrieve some gear, the sergeant said, "Shirley, don't ever tell me you're not going to do something."

"Well, sergeant, I came to a conclusion a long time ago: it don't have to make sense, it just has to be a legal order." I think that was a little subtle for him, though.

We worked for quite a while. Of course, rain began to fall about the time we finished.

The new ODA has decided they're going to move almost exclusively at night. I guess we'll see how well that turns out.

I told Green a few days ago that I gave us two weeks before Sergeant Liddy called our E7, and asked for him to send trans to pick up up. I realized something today, though: when I gave that prediction, I was dramatically overestimating the good sergeant's intelligence. Doh!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

News link

This is an UN worker who got caught in the crossfire. If your land was covered by old mines, you'd think removing them would be a good thing, right? Hell, I'd go to extra lengths to protect people doing such work- if it were MY country.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

17 March and Dread

I shot my first deer when I was 16, on a hunting trip to my grandfather and uncle's place in Sylacauga, Alabama. It took longer than it should, because I was so hesitant to shoot, when I should have. I saw deer on several occasions, but I shot my first deer when- and I swear this is the complete truth- one walked so close to the tree I leaned against, that I shot it from the hip.

Half a lifetime later, I got out of active duty, and found myself with two and a half months before I could resume my college education. I used those months to hang out in the woods with friends, living in a cabin, hunting deer. I was more successful in those months than I had been in my entire previous life of hunting. I took more deer, I took more deer in a day, I took running deer, I took deer at the longest range, and I took the largest deer I had ever harvested. Sure, I spent a lot of time out in the woods, but it wasn't just that. I had learned not to hesitate.

Our SF daddies have been replaced in the camp, and we have already had a chance to see how the new ODA will behave under fire. And they hesitate. It's not entirely their fault, I suppose. Many of them are inexperienced, either with no deployments, or no deployments as SF.

Sparky, one of two senior sergeants left from the last group, said goodbye to the mortars a few minutes ago. After shaking all our hands, he said, "Be careful.'' He looked around, meeting our eyes. "You hear me? Be careful."

Sparky often would hang out with us in the 81 pit. He didn't hesitate to shoot- I've seen him hang rounds so fast, the mortar sounded like a semi-automatic. After he walked out, Sergeant Liddy told us Sparky had asked how long we had left here.

"I told him 5 weeks," Liddy said. "He shook his head, and said, 'that's a long time'."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

14 March 2007

14 March 2007

Have fun blowing things up BOOM
A good Book
Well I just want
To say come home
in one peace and aLive
so i can reaD the Book

(drawn waving flag)
The red white and Blue conquers All

Robert McNsomething

So reads the message on the inside of the Battletech novel Ghost War by Michael Stackpole. Despite the literary challenges of the donor, this is indeed an excellent book. I was surprised at how well written and thoughtful a book it was, while still being great fun. This book was just one of an armload of books that “Woof Talker”, our dog trainer, brought into our MWR two days ago. It doubled the size of our fledgling library in one swoop.

To follow up on my recent weapons post, I thought I’d list some of the personal weapons I’ve seen here, whether by the ODA, attached troops, or by the local security.

M3 subgun
M4 carbine/also 11.5” versions
M9 Beretta
Glock 17
Unknown single-shot 40mm grenade launcher

for you die-hards, I have also seen
2 Benelli shotguns
M500A Mossberg
Serbu short-barreled SG
Confiscated sawed-off SxS, locally made
Let me point out that the shotguns do not seem to usually fill the role of personal weapons, but are typically just one of a weapon load-out in a vehicle. There are far fewer shotguns here than any other weapon I’ve seen, including sidearms. Yes, Ms. Tamara, these SGs are horribly loaded with buckshot. They obviously have never seen actual use, since the Earth is still spinning, and we have not gone backwards in time.

Yesterday morning, Green let the door slam on our B hut. Grant sat up, groggily asking, “Was that incoming?”

We were resupplied yesterday, and a few pieces of mail were brought. Sergeant Liddy said, “Here, Shirley”, after awhile, and handed me a letter addressed to my good friend Shane Justice. FROM me.
I looked at the dirty, wrinkled envelope, and wondered if Sgt Liddy had just found the letter in his pocket, forgot that he was supposed to take it into Bagram to mail for me over a week ago, and thought it was an incoming letter, or if he was playing dumb, and just realized he had forgotten to mail it. He’s pretty stupid, so I’m not quite certain what “playing dumb” would be, for him.On the bright side, the E7 who visited us gave me some exciting news. It appears that not only will I be one of the first wave of our battalion headed back, but that our demobilization will only take two weeks or so, instead of the month I had anticipated. I’m afraid to be too hopeful, since he didn’t know if I get to go home after the battalion is dismissed, or if I have some other silliness to undergo before being released

Saturday, March 10, 2007

10 March 07

We did a lot of work today...for us. We cleaned the weapons in just one of the vehicles. I grabbed the Mossberg 500 in the vehicle and "broke it down" and cleaned it thoroughly. There are some pretty silly internet cowboys who like to believe that the shotgun is the ULTIMATE! close range weapon. That's why this vehicle usually carries a heavy machine gun, medium machine gun, light machine gun, recoilless rifle, and rockets...but only one shotgun. Silly Special Forces guys! They obviously know NOTHING about close combat.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Lib/Consv Quiz

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 65% Conservative, 35% Liberal
Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Monday, March 5, 2007

Media Spin

It's always interesting to see how an event you're involved with will be reported. Notice this article mentions the base took fire, and that it came from the house...

Sunday, March 4, 2007

5 March 07

We took rounds again tonight, some type of rocket.

Our response...well. Let's just say we demonstrated serious fire superiority, unleashing hell on our little corner of the world.

I'm so eager to make it back to the States. I'd like to believe we're accomplishing something here, but I'm afraid it's all, ultimately, for nothing. I just hope I don't take serious injury, or lose significantly more hearing, before I make it back.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

3 March 2007

I smoked my last clove cigarette two nights ago. Our guard patterns have changed due to certain circumstances (like having rockets come in on us!), so it's nice to have something to pass the time. My cloves lasted about two months, as infrequently as I smoke them.

So, I paid a little attention last time. A Backwoods cigar lasted for 11 minutes, while my sugarfree cough drop lasted for 20. Mist and rain and snow have been falling. I like the cold in general, because I'd rather temperatures be low than take rounds. Last night, the cold didn't deter the bad guys, however. I'm glad it didn't happen on my watch. I'm always paranoid I'll be looking the wrong direction when the incoming rounds ignite and flash towards us, and won't be able to help my guys.

I hate marching, so I'm sure marching would be worse, but being in a mortar pit in bad weather, desperately trying to return fire, is no fun. The water and dust in the air stick to the cold rounds, making a clammy, slippery mud film that forces you to work to hold the heavy 37-lb rounds without them slipping from your grasp. The other mortar pit throws out rounds with an unexpected roar and short burst of light. There are frantic dashes for more ammunition to suppress the enemy or light the sky. It's quite hellish; I'm sure the receiving end is worse.

Snow came down today. I hope the temperature drops 20 degrees. I can always wear more clothes on guard duty.