Monday, April 30, 2007


I am going through my mounds of "stuff" I've been issued. I was happy to hear I could turn in most of my NBC gear, so that's less to carry. I shipped out some of my flashlights, including my largest Black Bear uber light, and three of my knives, Thursday, as well as a large box filled with letters, blankets, and some civilian or extra clothing.

Part of the problem, is in not knowing exactly what I'll be required to turn in. My "TA 50", which is field gear like sleeping bag system and rucksack, will of course be returned, but will my uniforms be required? My thermal underwear, all 9 sets or so, of it? My three or four pairs of boots? I just don't know. I also don't know if I'll have a problem bringing back some of the accessories I brought or had mailed to me, even though they're clearly (to an expert eye) not issue .mil parts.

Don't you hate moving? I might like being someplace new, but the process always seems to suck.

Two days ago, I was considering begging to be taken off patrol squad, not just because my back was killing me from long hours in the turrent, but because I was tired of dealing with Grant's often petulant and sometimes downright foolish self. Yesterday, I was on a convoy to Ph@enix (not with the patrol squad), and then worked a tower guard shift. I thought that I had been moved out of PS because another member had returned (and they don't seem to realize I have a military driver's license, making me more useful), but last night, I was relieved by two PS members, so...???

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Probability Broach

I recently read L. Neil Smith's very entertaining The Probability Broach. Thanks to friend Marko (Munchkin Wrangler), I found a link to the online graphic novel! Great fun.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Son of a...

Last night, I was talking to Sergeant Young, and he said they'd probably get me over to Phoenix for outprocessing on the 28th. I went on to play two games of volleyball with the Germans, and helped by my four-hour nap, kept a fairly upbeat attitude even through our late patrol. Even on the ride back, my lower back in knots from being hunched over the surveillance equipment (spotted: one fat woman, two men on bicyles, one dog, goats) and thrown around in the turrent, I encouraged myself by thinking, Just one more day, just one more day.

Today, after PMCSing our HMMWVs, I wandered around trying to find some way to attach the wheels back on my job box. (Since I was going back individually, I would have to take all my gear with me. This would help ensure nothing got lost, but would also be a pain in that units ship about half their gear back a couple of months before they leave country- I would be carting something on the order of 200 lbs of gear.) Someone suggested I check with the CP. In the CP, I was told that I was no longer scheduled to return individually, but that I would be going back with a group.

Oh, @#$%. I'm glad, I suppose, that I might not have to take all of the ridiculously overprepared gaggle of gear (I have almost an entire duffle bag filled with nothing but NBC gear, for instance. I know we're at enormous risk of nuclear, chemical and biological attack here in A-stan, but sheesh!)back with me, but this complicates things hugely. Even more distressing, I have more time in country. More chance to get hurt. More chance to die. More time in the hardest-working unit in the camp.

I should have realized things were going too smoothly. The Army could cock up a wet dream.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Grant's grand idea is seeming less grand by the day, and perhaps faster than that. Yesterday, our first patrol flubbed because of a flat tire. Our second patrol returned to base without doing what we'd come to do. Wait, maybe that was our third patrol.

Today, I was on duty at 0600. After ferrying around a general, a little later we took a patrol out for some face time with the locals. Some genius decided to park our vehicles barely inside an intersection...and then, on a bridge...I finally suggested to the sergeant that if we were trying to make them like us, we should stop causing traffic snarls. Grant endeared himself to me yet again by handing a water to a young local man.

"Do we have any more water back there?" I thought this was staged, so the guy would go away and not beg for more, so,

"No," I replied. Anyway, we were shortly surrounded by a flock of children crowding around our vehicle and into the busy two lane street that our vehicles constricted to a single lane...Grant seemed to find this funny. At the same time, we're still sitting in direct sunlight, in 80-something temperatures, and I'm wearing my helmet, long sleeves, protective sunglasses, body armor, and gloves. So much sweat was pouring down my glasses I had to remove them for a few minutes (against regulation, but I had to see).

Tonight, we took a $500,000 piece of gear out to watch more corruption by the @fghan National Police. Sgt. Kewel has evidently been "fired" from the patrol leader position for not wearing his neck protector on his armor, so another sergeant is now in charge. We set up on a route with a clear view for thousands of meters...of course, our position was only 20 feet from a road, with nothing screening us from vehicles passing by! Brilliant.

It seemed that my last couple of weeks before I left active duty were calculated to make me even happier to be leaving. This is more of the same.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Winding Down

The convoy out of the fire base was different than I’ve become used to. Instead of a 5 or more vehicle convoy, with every American vehicle armed with at least a .50 or 40mm, my rides were two rickety HMMWVs armed with thirty calibers. At our halfway point at Bagram, the mechanics told the driver of my vehicle that it couldn’t be driven back to Black Horse, while the other vehicle had leaked a huge puddle of oil on the ground in the few minutes we’d been stopped.

We drove back anyway.

I’d been told I would be on Chalk 2, but they is not correct. I in fact will be flying directly back to Fort Benning. I am hoping this means I will be out of uniform soonest. In the meantime, I apparently will be running patrols. Grant jubilantly told me that he’d spoken with Sergeant Kewell, and so we could be kept out of tower duty until we left. He was so happy about it, I didn’t mention that I would have preferred nice, safe, utterly boring tower guard for my last few duty days in country!

I will apparently fly out the first week of May.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Last Night with the Special Farces

I prepped for leaving the camp today. I found the jar of homemade salsa I'd stashed under the bed, which was fortuitous, since tonight was Mexican night. It was delicious.

I handed out various items to the base defense guys and gatemen, and left piles of stuff for the laundrymen and cooks, who both had today off (this being the equivalent of their Sunday). It's amazing how much little things can mean, when you don't have much.

I just have to decide which books I can manage to take with me, with the limited room I'll have. That'll be the big challenge.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Most of the team made it back from an overnight op today, tired and pissed. One of the SIGINT guys put it like this: "I think I'm going to go back to the 82nd, when I get back."

"Tired of special forces?"

"I just want to be able to do my job and shoot at the enemy, when it's called for..."

It's a shame when the ultimate "get it done" guys are so strapped by micromanagement.

I was told tonight that I'm out of here Saturday. I have a day to pack my things, distribute tea, wet wipes, and fruit that I won't have space to take with me, and take some pictures. WOOHOO! I'm really almost home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I have come to believe we should only call it "intelligence" if it comes true. We, therefore, receive little, and 7th Gr*up obviously has none. This is the same Gr*up that had us prepared to repulse a 300-400 man attack at a specific time, shortly after assuming control of the camp.

Right, like that happened. We hadn't even heard of the village these guys were supposed to be coming from. I think it was a local version of "Crank Yankers": Um, yeah, we have some information for you... There are about four hundred insurgents coming to attack you from, um, Podunk. (suppressing giggles) They'll be attacking in exactly one hour, forty-five minutes, from, um, all directions. Yes, in the rain. Be ready.

At least that night set the tone for what we could expect. It's so gratifying not to be disappointed, right?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stop the Madness!

I finished Mike Williamson's The Weapon today. Wow. An incredible book, not for the faint of heart, but filled with thoughtful looks at the mind of the soldier, political theory, and the destruction of war- and the power of love.

Some other things have been pretty stupid here, and I doubt that U.S. influence will recover for months, if ever. I was reminded today of a thought I had years ago: the US military doesn't win because we're the best, we win because the other militaries are even worse!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hanging On by the Claws

Two mornings ago, I was roused a little before 0430 (on a 24-hour clock; 4:30 AM local) for my guard shift. I dressed, and then stumbled up the stairs in the early-morning dim. As I reached the landing on the top, I saw something from the corner of my eye.

I whipped my head around, but there was nothing. Don't you hate that? Doesn't it freak you out? It certainly does, to me. I glanced around in every direction, just to be certain we had no rockets arcing in at me, and them ambled over to the edge. Standing there, looking out towards the south, I again saw something from the corner of my eye, and looked down.

There seemed to be something flapping a few feet underneath me. I clicked on my red headlamp, and shone it at the flap- which resolved itself into a cat, hanging on to the sandbags by its front claws, twisting a little in the breeze!

"Holy ----!" Then, it was gone. (I guess I scared her, too?) Since it was so late, I deemed the danger minimal, and switched over to white light, but could find no sign of the little cat anymore, either near me or at the bottom of the tower.

So, the next time you think you see something from the corner of your eye, as you turn your head- it's probably a cat. Spooky.

Bread from the Table

In general, I don't complain much about Army food. Perhaps it's because of years of living on my own, perhaps it's because of the region I'm from- I don't know. I usually like Army food.

Out here in the boonies, I feel very fortunate that I don't have to eat a shelf-stable MRE every day. The down side is that we are too far out to have much variety or fresh produce, and our diet tends to be heavy in grease and fried food. Friends and family have really helped in this regard. I have dried fruit, nuts and seeds, jerky and packaged fish all thoughtfully sent to me. These things are shared with my squad, though they in general tend to go more for the candy I get.

For the last two mornings, I've had english muffins with tahini and organic raspberry jam. The camp is out of milk, but the night we ran out, I received some boxes of dried milk, so I'm still able to get my calcium. And, being a bit off, I just enjoy some powdered milk in my coffee, to which I often add a little Splenda (yet another gift from a friend), as well.

It's nice to have options. Thanks again to everyone who has helped make this deployment easier for me. I will hopefully be out of this camp within two weeks. Grant was talking about that this morning.

Our unit is being replaced by South Carolina troops, who evidently have no plans to spread themselves across the country in mortar teams, the way my unit has. There is a trip to Iraq planned for the 18*th after they return from Afghanistan, so it makes sense to bring the 18*th back soon, so troops going on the next deployment have as much time as possible to recover.

Since that makes so much sense, Grant is afraid we'll get extended to stay out here and provide fire support. I hope he's fretting for nothing: even the Army can occasionally make a good decision.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I've been attempting to get into Temple University's Ph.D. program for the last two years. In 2005, there were months filled with uncertainty as to whether I would be allowed to continue my education as I became a reserve officer, or would be forced into service earlier. I allowed myself to become distracted by my situation, and did not turn in the application I should have. It must be obvious- since I'm here in @fghanistan- that Reserve Human Resources Command did not grant me permission to commission and continue my education, so learning I hadn't made the Temple program didn't smart as much.

I applied again. I did my best to submit a sterling application, to ask for not only the needed, but extra letters of reference from instructors at my university, and to send a detailed, thoughtful and intelligent entrance essay. My first inkling that my application might again not be going well was when I was home in December for leave. The History Department secretary handed me my ASU transcript- that had been sent to Temple- and returned. I began worrying.

I attempted to contact Temple's history graduate secretary by voice and email without apparent success. A few days later, she returned my calls, only to tell me I had only received one letter of reference. I knew at least four had been sent. I frantically scrambled to get more letters before I left again for @fghanistan, but I had a bad feeling.

I didn't make it again. My plans have changed somewhat, since I will have a wife after I get back, and plan to stay in Augusta while she finishes her BS. But this is Temple's loss, and one day I'll be sure to send them a letter thanking them for not accepting me.

Come Monday

Music is such an important part of who we are as humans. Few other things seem to affect us so deeply and reliably. When I knew I was going to be deployed, getting a small MP3 player was one of my first priorities. I knew music could sooth when I was stressed, could help me pass the time when I was lonely, could help block out unpleasant environments.

I've been working again on my book, and listening to Yahoo Music while I worked, so the TV in here wouldn't distract me. One of my favorite songs began playing, like drifting into a smooth, warm current, surrounding and lifting me along. That song was Jimmy Buffett's "Come Monday".

Friday, April 13, 2007

Power Lifting

I've been on a three-day lift schedule here. I concentrate on a few exercises that work large muscle groups, working a few sets of limited repetitions. I always do pull-ups, incline presses, and leg presses, and usually also add some seated rows and dips. I sometimes will throw in other exercises, such as curls, shrugs, or vertical rows, but my concentration is on raw strength. I eat dinner after my first lift session. Later in the evening, I'll work my lower back, obliques, and abdominals.

I want an attractive, defined body, of course, but my priority is power. We fortunately haven't been in a serious tick in quite some time, but when those happen, I usually seem to end up doing a sprint with a can of ammo that weighs over 60% of my weight on my shoulder, and shifting a mortar and bipod that weigh 180 lbs.

I am afraid that my back may have suffered permanent injury last year, but I can only imagine how much worse my situation would have been when we were returning fire if I hadn't been putting in the gym time. As it was, I was usually only very sore for a few days after each fight. I did learn a valuable lesson, though- don't exercise close to muscle failure in a combat zone!

A Quick Correction

Mike says, The Weapon is after Freehold. The Hero is in the Aldenata universe.

So, now we know. And Mike's been kind enough to share both with me. Thanks, Mike.

So many people have shown me so much kindness. When I look back upon this experience, just a few things will probably remain most strongly in my mind. One is the essential humanity of people, even people in the harshest places. One of the others is the depth of my grattitude for all the love and support that's been shown me, much of that support from people I've never been privileged to meet. I don't take any of that support from granted. It's very humbling.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

HALO, Ringo

I have read the first four of John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata series. The last two books I read in a day each. The next book in the series was cowritten with "Mad" Mike Williamson, who's been kind enough to e-converse with me a bit. I greatly enjoyed Mike's Freehold, so I really look forward to The Weapon.

I've been fortunate to have friends that have exposed me to good SciFi authors. Another excellent SciFi author is Orson Scott Card. I read Ender's Game years ago, and now, thanks to my cousin Pam, I have the sequel, Speaker For The Dead. My anthropology minor is giving me some additional thoughts about some of the subject material.

I've been playing X-box 360 with Deke sometimes in the last week. I played cooperative play with him (working through levels together) in HALO after the first day. Deke is much better than I in most aspects, but turns whiney if you run a string of victories against him. (He actually started punching the bed like a toddler after I offed him for the 7th time in a row. I just stood there and let him execute my player when his character respawned.)

Anyway, we played all the way through HALO I two days ago, and tonight, through HALO II. We've also been playing "Need for Speed", too. That's usually a good choice because I like racing games, and I can have fun racing, even if I'm not winning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Sergeant Liddy showed up yesterday afternoon, his blond hair stubbly from a fresh haircut. He has somehow managed to noticeably gain weight in the week that he's been gone.

He told me, "Shirley, I don't know where your black box is"- the black box being my big job box issued to me in lieu of a locker. Meyers told me it's right next to his, so that's a relief! I'm not surprised Liddy has no clue where it is.

We were told that we'll be pulled out of this camp sometime between the 25th of April and the 5th of next month, so the light can actually be seen at the end of the tunnel. I'm hoping the whole demobilization process won't take too much time, but for the first time, it's starting to feel like going home isn't so far away. I can make it.

Fisticuffs and Hearts

I like watching UFC. I haven't seen the figures, but I believe UFC/mixed martial arts matches are becoming considerably more popular than boxing, for good reason. Mixed martial arts matches allow both grappling and striking. There are now some rules, and gloves are worn, but each fighter has considerably more options than boxers do. Fights are more dynamic and entertaining than boxing.

In the past, I have felt guilty about enjoying a boxing match, but perhaps oddly enough, I don't feel guilty about waching a UFC fight. A skilled fighter can often force his opponent to submit without inflicting serious damage, and it does happen fairly frequently. At the same time, it is indeed true that knockout blows do occur.

I'll admit to being unimpressed with various martial arts contest in the past. Many bouts are "light touch"- the object is to quickly strike your opponent before he can block. In these bouts, a hard blow was cause for disqualification. While I believe in learning control, it just always appeared to be a bad idea to teach students to not hit as hard as they could.

So, while UFC may not be exactly the same as a "real" fight- because there is a referee, and some rules- it does take courage to climb into the ring with some young wildcat who trains for hours every day to inflict mayhem on someone else in the ring.

There are some folks who project a very macho,swaggering image, and there are some others, who seem to be the sweetest people, really beautiful souls. I like these people, who are humble in victory, and gracious in defeat. It's even better if these people are willing to "throw it all out there"- to vigorously work for a victory, instead of just working to not lose.

I was watching UFC yesterday, and I saw the Roger Huerta vs. Leonard Garcia fight. I'd never seen Huerta fight before, and Garcia is a newcomer to UFC. The announcer said Huerta had a hard life growing up in the SouthWest and in Mexico, and like almost all UFC fighters, he's got at least his share of body art. Huerta was respectful to his opponent as the match began- and then, they GOT IT ON!

These two guys- in my weight class, 155- went at it. I mean, hard. Head kicks (rarely seen in these bouts), lots of boxing, grappling- they didn't hold back. Huerta is in incredible shape, and even though he rapidly proved to be dominant, the new guy, Garcia, was grinning a lot of the time as they fought.

By the second round, it was pretty obvious Huerta was going to win the fight unless something changed. Instead of trying to play it safe, though, he kept fighting hard, and Garcia, instead of being more cautious, became less so, agressively swinging away. These two fought hard the whole damn time. They just didn't stop.

As the match ended, Huerta reached out, and grabbed Garcia by the head. Garcia grabbed him back, and they just knelt on the mat together for a minute. I don't know if Huerta was praying, or if he was just telling Garcia how much he respected him, and what a bright future he had, but I teared up. When he stood up, Huerta grabbed Garcia's hand, and held it up in the air. When Joe Rogan came by, instead of trying to hog the microphone, Huerta pulled Garcia over, too, and talked about how much heart Garcia had.

Yeah, Leonard Garcia had a swollen eye. Yeah, he didn't win the match. But as he walked out the ring with his arm on Roger Huerta, you couldn't doubt that this match had NO loser. I have never enjoyed a match more, because of both the action, and the incredible gentility shown by Huerta. There have been times in my life I've toyed with the idea of MMA competition, though I'm now older than the vast majority of fighters. If I ever step in the ring, I could think of no better example of how to fight and how to win than you, Roger Huerta. Thank you.

More Milspec Stupidity

Evidently "relaxed grooming standards" can mean beards. It can mean mustaches. It can mean clean-shaven- but it doesn't include goatees.

Have I mentioned lately that 7th Gr*up is composed of squeamish martinets?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

When the Devil Dances

Thanks to my friend Scott, I acquired a copy of When the Devil Dances today. And read it, cover to cover.

Now, I need to get to bed before my eyeballs drop out.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Talk to the Manager

Another great one from Chris Muir.

I've been enjoying the homemade bread I was sent, for breakfast and lunch. Yum. My Blenheim Ginger Ale has been greatly appreciated, too. (For those Out of the Loop, the two best ginger ales are Blenheim and Buffalo Rock.)

We've been hosting a squad or so of infantry here in the camp. They were here for a mission, which was postponed, so they hung out in our MWR room for 24 hours. They had to stay somewhere, so I certainly wouldn't begrudge them a room and some environmental control, but it's nice to have some space and quiet again.

I am winding up Gust Front, with both delight and sadness. It's a great book, which I have enjoyed thoroughly, I'm just a wee bit sad knowing I don't have any of the other Ringo books in the series waiting. I don't think I've enjoyed and looked forward to novels so much since I was fairly early in David Weber's Honor Harrington series (which have declined in enjoyability, Dave, if you're listening! Don't mean to bust you out like that, but if contacting you was easier, I'd have just sent you an email or letter).

Before I left for this deployment, I tried to plan various ways to occupy my time. Buddy Byron tried to give me some admonition about dividing attention, but I told him, "Man, you don't understand. The really big enemy of the soldier is boredom. I have to find ways to spend my time, or I'll go nuts."

I know I've been very fortunate. Being seperated from my many dear friends and family and the US of A(!) is hard, but aside from the odd running with a can of 120mm ammo on my shoulder ("Wt 97 lbs") while returning fire, and the frequently encountered stupid NCO, this has been a vacation compared to the experience of so many previous US veterans. If I acknowledged any gods, I would thank them.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Direct Lays

Well, Deke finally got the hard drive he didn't order originally for his Xbox 360 when he went to B@gram this trip. I was playing HALO with Deke, as the @DA test fired their weapons in the background. A few minutes later, Deke's boss poked his head in. He was wearing his go gear, body armored up.

"That wasn't outgoing, guys! Move!"

Well, we ran outside. We were told that a rocket had flown over the base. I got my team out to the pits. Warren and I layed the 81mm in on the spot we were told the rocket had come from, while Grant and Tony layed the 120mm in.

If you aren't familiar with mortars, most often the gun team can't see the target. The gun team is given direction from an observer who has "eyes on" the target. The mortar sight is actually looking at a set of aiming stakes, and makes corrections using those stakes. Mortars are high-angle weapons, and our targets are usually at least hundreds, and often thousands of meters away. A first round hit is virtually impossible and unheard of.

On the rare occasions when a team can actually see the target, they may choose to aim directly at it. In this case, the sight is rotated to face the same direction as the gun tube. When a round is fired, the sight crosshairs are moved to the point of impact, and then shifted back to the desired target. Three rounds to target would be pretty good.

Well, the 120mm mortar fired one round...which hit the middle of our target area, over 2,000 meters away. Perfect. Incredible.

"Lucky shot," sniffed the ratty little warrant officer.

The @DA actually fired some rounds at the mountain, too.

"Give 'em three weeks. They'll be returning fire like 3rd Group," I said.

Later, I went to help Tony shift the gun back onto our projected firing position for the possible night shoot we had scheduled.

"Do you remember the gun data?" I asked him. He laughed.

"I didn't change it. We just have to shift the gun back."

So, Tony hadn't even used the sight. He eyeballed the target and the gun tube, and hit a target over 2,000 meters away with a single shot. This would be about like shooting a rifle and hitting a bullseye 100 meters away- without using the sights, changing this event from incredible to miraculous.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Alone in the Dark

Tony had left for his guard shift when we heard a thump and rattle from the roof. Grant, Warren and I were left, talking to Bishop, who doesn't play well with the SECFOR and other Marine ETTs at his own ridiculously expensive but bleak base.

"That's Tony," said Grant, rolling his eyes. "He's throwing used grenades." Ah. He meant spent Mk 19 brass. Grant and Bishop left in a few minutes. More brass pinged and bounced off the roof.

"We should return fire," I mused idly. The light bulb went off about the time Warren's eyes widened, and he dove for the box he's stashed the wrist rocket in. We're mortarmen. We work as a team, and we move fast. As he reached for the box, I dashed for the door, and across to our MWR. By the time Warren came in, I had fished out a handful of jawbreakers from the enormous bag of candy my buddy Shane sent.

Warren and Tony conducted a long-range duel for the next twenty minutes, Tony's accurate arm and height advantage versus Warren's greater velocity and flatter trajectory. I think it was a draw, with many glorious rounds exchanged, and both combatants winners. I was due to relieve Tony, and wandered up a few minutes early. He was sitting in the dark behind the Mk 19.

"You know what I do up here, to pass the time? I count."

I looked at him with pity. "I'm sorry, man."

"In forty-five minutes, I average twenty-four hundred. You should try it."

I don't think so.

But my Backwoods cigar absorbed twenty-one minutes tonight, as I self-consciously combat smoked, covering the cherry with the palm of my hand. I feel so silly, but I'm powerless to NOT do it like that. Feel free to laugh- no sniper's getting me.


The PVS-14 night vision monocular cannot be used to read small print. This unfortunately- and very unfairly- includes John Ringo.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Love Deluge

We often don't have fresh fruit here, so I supplement with dried fruit friends and family send me. Last night, I ate the last of my blueberries. I noticed that I was not only out of fruit, but that I was also almost out of good reading material again.

I spent more time with the cooks around the punching bag than I'd expected, but I finally laid out the clothes I'd change into after my shower, grabbed the SciFi compilation I'm reading, and did my time on the treadmill. After a few minutes of stretching, I stalked back to the B hut to grab my things.

I was stepping out of the door, with my clothes and shower things, when Sergeant Liddy walked up. He looked mildly annoyed, as usual.

"Shirley, you need to help get your **** out of the vehicles. You've got a ton." I hadn't realized we'd be getting mail, but we were. I dropped my clothes, and trotted around the Hesco barriers that have finally been erected in front of our B hut, and around to the HMMWVs, where stacks of boxes were being unloaded. Myers shook his head. "Somebody must really love you."

I laughed in disbelief as Warren walked by with the fourth armload of packages. He snarled at me.

Eventually, there were something like thirty boxes stacked on and around my bed, not counting smaller packages holding a book or cd, and regular envelope mail. I had five boxes full of books from my friend Ryan at the Army Heritage Museum, and another box of books from my cousin Pam.

I received enough hot sauce to last me for a year of solo consumption. I got enough dried fruit, even after giving away some, to last me the rest of my time here. I got shirts and lighters and cigarettes, stacks of tea, homemade bread, various nuts and snack mixes, and jerky. I even got some really cool stuff like Apricot Habanero jam and some Blenheim ginger ale from Jordy.

Warren was sulking on the bed, but he perked up when I pulled out a wrist rocket slingshot, and tossed it to him. (He verified later that jawbreakers do indeed vaporize when hitting a hard surface at high speed.) He quit smoking two weeks ago, so he happily accepted several packages of sugarfree gum. "Oh, hell, yeah," he said, as I placed a retail box full of Skittles and Starburst by his bed.

Two entire large boxes were full of hygiene and medical products from a doctor in Texas. (About a third of that box has been given to the ETT medic.)

There are now girl scout cookies in our little MWR, along with what has grown in one afternoon from a fledgling to respectable (or, would be respectable if Ryan hadn't apparently sent every Mack Bolan novel ever written- balanced somewhat by serious military history books) library. The ETTs in their spartan- but surprisingly expensive- base across the way have been gifted with boxes full of goodies and supplies. Our little chow hall now sports what is undoubtedly the best selection of hot sauce in the country, and the cooks each received a chocolate bunny.

Somehow my time has slipped away, but I'm going to sleep greatful and happy. Thanks so much for every one of you who has supported me or other soldiers. It really does mean a lot.

Easter Bunny Captured

"Top" W., I blame you entirely. Thank you.

Love and Blows

My schedule was knocked out of whack last night. Ordinarily, I would have put in my hour of treadmill time, and then taken a shower, but we were standing by, so I wasn't free.

This morning, I got up later than usual, but earlier than my body would have liked. I decided to eat before getting on the treadmill, and walked by our little gym on the way to the chow hall. The cooks were outside doing their best to punch a punching bag hanging from the pullup bar. Now, you have to understand: though they have lots of heart, the heaviest of the three is probably less than 130 pounds, and they have no idea how to punch. I walked over.

The most obvious problem with their punches was the tendency to throw very circular punches (losing power), and to let their elbows fly up and out (also losing power, and risking injury). I spent a few minutes showing them the vertical punch, and how to go through the target instead of just glancing off it.

After I ate, I spent some more time with the cooks. I demonstrated a simple but effective front and rear kick. I also showed how to punch or kick while still protecting yourself, and how one could evade a punch while still using the same hand position for offense or defense. I then tried to get across the idea of throwing body weight into a target when punching. The guys had a great time, and obviously enjoyed themselves. They were wearing wide grins as they attacked the bag or threw punches in my general direction.

No, no. At me. Hit me. Go slowly, but punch through me. Good.

This is no land for a pacifist, and I was showing my love in one of the most powerful ways I knew. They were having fun, but also learning how to move when they were down to only the equipment they came with, and in a bad way- and it doesn't get much more serious than that.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend. Personally, though, I'd prefer to teach that friend how to stand for him or herself, because while I might be delighted to take the hit for a friend, I can't always be there.

True love breeds independence, not co-dependence. Strength is being able to choose to be with people, not being forced to be with them because you're incapable of function by yourself. I'm preaching again, so I must be tired. Mea Culpa.


I am being challenged when attempting to email others from their blog. This could be inexperience, but I'm going to claim it has something to do with a lot of the commands of my blog showing up in German, even though I've changed my settings to English!

So, if you'll pardon my fumbling, my email is JRShirley(at)gmail(.com). If I'm trying to contact you, please take pity on me, and send me an email. :-)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Day by Day

I enjoyed the recent Day by Day mentioning my Russian Jewish descent brother, Oleg Volk. Today's DbD is even better, and
makes a hell of a point.

On a related note, I HATE bullies. I logically, therefore, want equal rights for Every Damn Body: straight, gay, male, female, intersex or indeterminate, red, yellow, black, white, pink and purple polka-dotted, I care not. As long as you follow the laws and only have consensual partners who are of age, I don't care who you have sex with. I further don't care who, what or even if you worship, as long as you don't feel the need to force your beliefs on others (and if you feel the need to cut pieces of your young children, I will be Most Displeased with you). And as long as you do your job, well, I could care less which shade of the rainbow you most closely resemble.

No country is perfect, but it appears to me that the US is one of the countries closest to this ideal. I would like to believe we can one day make it so, for all people, as I also understand that most people are too busy being afraid to allow others to choose their destiny without interference.

Did I mention that I HATE bullies?

A Request

We have four guys who are "kitchen help" here. What that really means is that they do the work, with oversight from a US cook. They're good guys, in their midteens, hardworking and quick to laugh and joke with us. Their English is heavily weighted towards vulgarisms they've been taught. It's common to get a cheery "What's up, bitches?" as we enter the chow hall in the morning for breakfast.

They have a request. I was sent a pair of S&W shooting/sunglasses. These glasses are spectacularly ugly, but they do protect my eyes, which is why I wanted them. Well, the kitchen guys want glasses, too.

So, if anyone wants to send four pairs of cheap wrap-around sunglasses, send me an email, and I'll give you an address that should cut at least three weeks- and up to a couple of months- off shipping time.