Update -- Chief Wiggles thought this was going to be his last post. The Army had other ideas. Chief Wiggles is preparing to return to Iraq and his posts will continue from there.
Good luck, and god speed!
Look for his thoughts to continue sometime next week.
posted by Plunge 8:09 PM
. . .
April 7, 2003
I am actually on an airplane on my way back home and felt that I should write one last time to finish my journal entries of my trip to the middle east. I have many mixed emotions about leaving before my job was done, but I also feel a responsibility to take care my mother, who just passed away. I found out late Saturday night that she had passed away in her sleep the night before.
I had just completed a very long and tiring day and had just lay down to go to sleep when I was woken up by my commander, who informed me of her passing. I was so shocked that I didn?t quite know what to say. To say the least I was stunned. A flood of emotions ran through my heart and a variety of thoughts went through my head. Most of all I felt bad that she had left before I could say goodbye to her and give her a proper send off. But death doesn?t always give you a heads up. My mother and I were very close and we have had so many good times together. I will miss her dearly.
The war has been going quite well the last few days, with our forces now entering Baghdad. We get a lot of intelligence that the news doesn?t and we usually know ahead of the news what is going to happen. But, it has been great to have several news reporters embedded in with some of our front line units. They?re news stories have been very compelling. I am still apprehensive about what is going to happen next, with the fighting now entering the capitol city.
We have been sending teams of interrogators up North for short periods of time to perform certain missions. All of us have been jumping around a bit, gather a variety of intelligence from POW?s, captured enemy documents and captured equipment. We have been sending our reports up to the command centers of the front line units, with valuable information that is definitely going to help them. There has been so much information to deal with and so many bits and pieces to this puzzle that we are putting together to prove our case. It has been very interesting to say the least.
Half of our unit moved north today to prepare the site for the main body. I feel that they are going to be up north in Iraq for some time gathering information and intelligence. There is so much to dig up and so many people to talk to about what has been going on in this country. It is really mind boggling to say the least. You would not believe the atrocities that have been going on. At this point for me I really don?t care if we actually find the smoking gun, because there is going to be so much more to uncover and to report on.
I really feel bad that I have to leave before my mission is up. I was prepared to go the distance what ever that was. I was committed and I was going to see this through to the end. I feel a responsibility to my men also, that there is so much yet to do to take care of them and make sure they all return home safely. It is one of those situations where I want to go home and need to but on the other hand I don?t want to. I feel that I am doing my part and making a difference in my own little way. I will miss this place and I will feel bad about not finishing the fight.
After finding out about my mother I tried to email as many of you as I could to let you know that I will be leaving this place in the morning, so you won?t send my any more packages. I feel really bad that I won?t be here to receive any of them. Several of you have mentioned that you have sent packages but none have arrived yet. I feel terrible about that. I have told all the men I am with to open them up and eat or use the stuff that you sent in them. I really appreciate all you have done and grateful for your thoughtfulness. I am sure that all you have sent will go to good use by all the men.
I tried to call everyone back home today to see how everyone was doing with my mother?s passing. I was impressed with my sister?s words, telling me to stay and finish my work here, that she would take care of everything with my mother. She understands me quite a bit, knowing my inner feelings about my duty here. But even so, I know I must go. The army is sending my anyway. They expect me to go home to take care of matters.
I couldn?t sleep that night, my mind being full of so many different thoughts. I actually went outside for a moment to look up into the heavens to appreciate the stars and to look one more time at the big dipper pointing to the North Star, and my desire to go North to Baghdad.
In the morning I rose early to pack up my stuff and prepare to leave on a convoy going south to Camp DoHa, in Kuwait City. I was scheduled to leave around 10am, so I wasn?t in a big rush and it didn?t take me long to pack up all my gear. Right before I left, while I was waiting in the front for the vehicles to arrive, about 60 of my men and co-workers came out to say their goodbyes. I was touched by that show of care and concern. Many of the men expressed their love for me, which brought me to tears. I really do love these men and I will never forget them. I was moved my their words of appreciation and their remarks that I will be missed greatly. In the end, right as I was leaving my commander Major XXXX came out, took me aside and with tears in his eyes said I was his strength and that he will miss me greatly. I cried as we drove off and I waved goodbye to the desert and all that I had become accustomed to.
That day was Sunday and they drove me into Camp DoHa to drop me off at the bus stop so that I could catch a bus to the airport. I was leaving from Kuwait City on a military transport that evening. I got there around 5pm, waited for the bus which got there at 7pm left for the airport so we could wait for the plane, which didn?t leave until 1:30 Monday morning. The plane I am on flew to an airbase in Saudi Arabia, where we picked up some more people, then stopped in Cyprus and I am currently on my way to Shannon Ireland then off to Baltimore, Chicago and finally home. It is going to be a long trip, but it is giving me plenty of time to think about things and prepare myself for what is to come.
I really want to say thanks to all of you. I really have appreciated your emails, your kind words and you love and support. I have a deep admiration for all of you. You are all very wonderful and you have made a difference to me and those around me. We are never alone in this kind of situation. I love all of you.
I will be different for I am different as a result of this experience. I look at life differently and appreciate things more. I value the little things in life that make our lives what they are. I hope I don?t forget these feelings that I have right now as I return home.
posted by Chief Wiggles 8:08 PM
. . .
April 3, 2003
The close of another day has come to us here in the desert. There is an unusual calm outside, a night with out the wind. It actually seems rather strange. It is strange to be inside the tent and not have the whole tent moving due to the wind outside. It is late and I have had a very long day.
I got up early this morning so I could cook some pancakes and eggs for some of the guys here. I was able to get my hands on some eggs and some more pancake mix, from a couple of the Iraqi that went into Kuwait City. They also brought me some real milk, actual milk from a cow, that was cold. It really seems like it has been a long time since I had real milk, even cold milk. We were able to buy a tank of propane that we hooked up to our stove, so that I could cook some pancakes and eggs. Boy did it taste good. It was outta of this world.
When I got to work this morning in our command area there were a lot of things going one an plenty for me to do. We got right into it and didn't stop until later on in the afternoon. We were getting a lot of information and a lot of new stuff on what was going on in the war, especially stuff that was going to help us in the war. Every little bit helps. You never know what bit of information is going to come our way that might make a difference or save peoples lives.
I decided to take a break about 4pm, and I cooked up some Curry Rice, with potatoes, real potatoes, peppers, onions, and carrots, that I got from the boys going to Kuwait. It turned out so good, and I was able to feed about 12 people. The pot of rice turned out just perfect too. That was the first time that I had cooked rice in that pot. It was so goood.
Every night about 9pm I go by the other tents and give the boys an update on what is going on with the war, in that I am privy to all the latest intel, on the status of things. So we review what has been going on for the day and discuss what we think is going on. I really enjoy that time we spend together discussing this. Our forces actually reached the outskirts of Baghdad today, crossing the main rivers and heading into Baghdad. We were all very glad about our success so far, although we are still quite apprehensive about what is going on, not sure about where Saddam is or what he is going to do. I still think he has something up his sleeve.
We had a missile alert to day, and a chemical alert, which put us all into MOP 4, meaning that we put all our gear on and all our chemical suite on, totally being covered. It was in the 90's today and we were just dieing in those suites. We were just drenched after being in that for about an hour.
One of our good friends, our first sargent?s father died today, so he is living us tomorrow morning at around 7am. We are going to miss him, but I know that he has been struggling with life here and has been depressed at times. I was encouraged to hear that he had learned somethings which he told me when he came by to say goodbye this evening. We have been very close and we have been through a lot together over the years and especially over the last few months. He told me that he has learned that he needs to live his life more deliberately and more authentically. We have been talking about those two things while here. He thought at first that he might feel guilty about going home first like this, but after speaking with him I am sure he is going to be ok. He needs to go home and take care of his family. I was glad that he was analyzing his time spent here to see what he had learned and how he might have been affected in a positive way by being here.
We do have time here to do a lot of self reflecting and looking at our self in a way that brings about positive self improvement. Life takes on a whole new meaning.
I also realize at times that this is not necessarily about us, but more about the Iraqi people. This is about changing their lives for the better. When they finally realize that they are rid of Saddam for good and that he is not going to come after them to kill them, you are going to see some happy people.
Well another good day. Thanks
posted by Chief Wiggles 8:03 PM
. . .
April 2, 2003
Another day of really nice weather. We have been so lucky here for the past couple of days, having some really nice weather, which is so great for our troops. Late at night if I go out of my tent, I can see some of the oil wells burning in the distance. Their glow lights up the dark sky, sometimes filling the sky with smoke and a dark haze.
I am on 12-hour shifts every day. We have no day off until this is over. Every day we gather information that might be valuable in this current operation and for the discovery of things after the war, like I have mentioned. I believe we are doing a lot of good that might save lives and shorten the length of this war. Our main body is moving much further north, closer to Baghdad, in a few days. Our teams go out daily, flying into areas where there is either POW's or captured enemy documents and equipment.
Today was a great day. Our special operations teams were able to find where they were keeping Jessica Lynch, go in and rescue her. What great news that was. We were all so excited for her and so glad we had guys like the ones on those teams that were willing to risk their lives to try to save hers. We just kick butt and I say that not boasting but just to say those guys are awesome. She was pretty beat up, two broken arms and a broken leg and who knows what else. They are so cruel and inhumane.
We had a lot of good news from the battlefront, regarding the progress that our boys are making, in that they are just about 20 miles outside of Baghdad, and still the message from the Iraqi leaders is that the victory will be theirs.
I got some vegetables today from an Iraqi that has been going into Kuwait City, so I am planning on fixing some kind of stir-fry tomorrow or maybe some fried rice. I also found a source for some gas for my stove, so we should be doing ok. I am sure it is going to get worse before it gets better. When we move again it will take us awhile to get set up and things are not going to be as secure as they are here.
We had some very good information today, wish I could share it with you but I can't. Wish I could say more about what I am doing but most of it is classified for now. You know how it goes, if I was to tell you I would have to kill you, that might be true in this case, or they might kill me.
I am going to go back to the control center to see if can't send this in email and then I am going to go to bed, maybe a little early tonight. Every night I sleep with my gas mask and my M-16 right by my side, so just in case it is needed. At least we have a generator outside our tent so that for a few hours each night we have enough power to run a few lights and our computers. I have rigged up a close line above my bunk so that I can hang my light and a few clothes on it, which lights up my area for a couple of hours.
The further north we go the more bugs we are going to encounter and the more animals that we have to watch out for, Iraqi is known for its snakes. But we count our blessings and so far things are pretty good.
Talk to you later.
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:59 PM
. . .
April 1, 2003:
The end of another very busy day. I went to work this morning got to the TOC, which is like the command center and didn't get out until around 8 this evening. We were just going all day. Things are really starting to pick up for all of us here in the Military Intelligence end of things. We are sending out more and more teams to do a variety of things, in the end that we might gather further intelligence that might help us on the battle field or that we might find more information regarding the "Smoking Gun" that everyone is so interested in. We are uncovering more and more stories, learning more and more about our enemy, Saddam.
I do get a sense of what it must be like to have lived so long under such a ruthless dictator. I have a glimpse of what life must have been like, living in such fear that at any moment for the slightest reason, someone might be shot and killed and thousands have been. You would not believe the type of system that Saddam has set up here, to insure his survival and longevity. He is obsessed with security, and with watching everyone and everything, with organizations to watch organizations to watch organizations and people.
We uncovered a story today that you have probably heard about by now, regarding a van moving through a Marine checkpoint. The Marines told the van to stop several times and motioned to it, but the van just kept on moving, moving through the check point with out stopping. Finally the Marines, having no other choice, given the incidences of suicide bombings and such that we have had, they lit up the van, meaning they shot it full of holes. After they got over to the van they discovered that they had shot several women and children. The Iraqi's obviously had done this deliberately so that they could broadcast that over the news, that the Americans are killing women and children. What a terrible thing to do, knowing that we would have no other choice but to attempt to stop the van. They also strapped women and children to vehicles today so that they could get across a bridge. I just cannot believe the tactics they are using.
We had an incident here at our camp a few days ago, involving a few friends of mine in my unit. They were standing over in line to get into the PX. While there a small truck while speeding up started driving in their direction. Everyone assumed the drive would pull away but he just kept on coming at them. Most of those in line didn't see him coming and were hit. One of my good friends was hit from behind and flipped up onto the hood of the truck, smashing into the windshield and then was later thrown from the truck when it fortunately hit a ditch in the sand. The car hit all in all about 6 people. As soon as they were hit, the truck came under fire by those in line, hitting the driver with several bullets. The driver survived but was taken into custody by the military police. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt and my friend just ended up with a few minor scratches.
We have had a few really nice days of good weather and no sand storms. The war has been going well for us and we are making great progress. I really believe that we are right on schedule in making this as short as war as possible, with the understanding that these types of things take time. Evil men are pulling out all the stops to do all they can to stay in power and continue to rule over these people. I am sure they will continue to come up with ways to make us look bad in the eyes of the world, but I hope that everyone can see through the lies that they feed us all. Everything that they have said is a lie to one degree or another.
I have gone running in the afternoons the last few days. Just trying to stay in shape and at least have a release for some of my stress and feelings. We have a secured area that we can run around in, without any real danger. We are definitely not living like the front line troops. We have the area around where we live completely secured before we move in. Now our work area is another story and we might end up in some pretty scary places at times, trying to get to the information. For the most part though we are real cautious and don't go into areas unless we know that it is secured.
I am reminded of the speech that was given by Jack Nicholson in the movie "A Few Good Men", I pulled in up on the internet so I could read it.
It goes like this:
We live in a world that has walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who is gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can imagine. You weep for Santiago and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. You don't want the truth because, deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, and you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code and loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a weapon and man the post.
This speech has some real truisms in it and means something more to those of us that are manning a post and doing our part to protect the freedoms that we enjoy and want others to enjoy. There is a wall around us that we have to man a post to protect. All of us at some point need to take our turn in manning that post, to insure the very life style that we enjoy and at times take for granted. There is a price for freedom and those men on the front lines know very well what that price is and they are willing to pay it. We have lost lives here but very few, but it is expected. Fortunately we also have the might and technology and firepower to minimize the loss of lives on both sides. We have taken every precaution to insure that the loss of innocent lives is minimized. From the information that we are getting, the Iraqis are amazed at the precision of our weaponry, to the point of not being too alarmed by all the bombing.
You all mark my word, the time will come when the fear of reprisal is gone and the people will show their true colors of joy for release from the live of torture that they have endured for too long.
I know that this is not just up to us and our might, it is the Lord's will and he is with us in our battles. This is a fight of good and evil. As depicted in the movie, "Lord of the Rings", there is a true battle being waged everyday and everywhere, the Battle of Good and Evil. We all must decide at some point which side we are going to be fighting on and to what degree or what price are we willing to pay to insure that people everywhere can be free. As our constitution states, it is every man's right to be free and not be in bondage or suppressed in anyway.
I do believe that the Lord has a purpose in all of this and that it is not an easy thing to defeat evil, to the extent that we as a world have allowed in to grow and perpetuate itself. We cannot, if we have the way, allow evil to creep into our lives and affect our lives to the extent that the very freedom we enjoy is at risk. How far do you let evil grow, until it knocks on your own door and destroys the future of your children? We do not live in a vacuum, isolated from the rest of the world. The acts of evil men have reached our shores, as displayed on September 11th. Evil men will conspire against us and they will plan for our destruction.
I received an email regarding some things that had been said by the Dixie Chicks regarding Pres. Bush. I was very disappointed to hear that they were bad mouthing him over in London. But I was really glad to hear the response they received from a Navy fighter pilot. He basically told them that he would fight to the death for their rights to have freedom of speech and the other freedoms, which we enjoy, asking them what have they done to deserve the right to those freedoms. People that complain that we are killing innocent women and children really don't know anything about what we are doing here to avoid such loss. We, to our own detriment, go out of our way to avoid the loss of innocent people and our enemies know this and use it against us. Never have we ever in history committed troops for the purpose of killing innocent people. Things might be different today and the loss of life during WWII might have been a lot less had the leaders of the world had the vision and courage to go against the evil aspirations of evil men like Hitler.
The lights are out and as I look in either direction throughout my tent, I notice that every other man is asleep. My thoughts go to those that will be up all night fighting for the goal that this will end and the Iraqi people will be free and we will be free from the evil plans that Saddam has made against us, with all his lies and deceptions.
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:57 PM
. . .
March 29, 2003
I don't what it is but a lot of the guys here come and talk to me about their problems. Maybe it is because I am older, actually one of the oldest, or it is because I am the moral officer and I am always trying to cheer people up, or maybe it is because I just don't mind listening, but I have been able to help a number of soldiers with their problems. I like being of service and being in a position that I can help. Most of the time I am looking out for someone that might be struggling with any number of issues. There really isn't much I can do, except try to help them look at things differently, in a more positive way. The main issue here for all of us is just staying positive and upbeat, trying to look at things in a good way, that helps us stay focused on our main mission.
I guess that is why I cook, in order to help others feel good or at least feel better for a moment. When I went over to the Brits this morning to cook them pancakes, they were extremely grateful. They were curious about why I was doing it and they kept on telling me that they thought it was a good thing. They for the most part are a great bunch of guys.
I have developed some strong friendships with the Iraqi linguists that have come here to be our interpreters. One of them in particular, named Joseph, has been extremely friendly and hospitable with me. Every time I see him over in his tent he asks me to sit down on his cot and offers me something to eat or drink. I have eaten over there on numerous occasions, when they bring food back from Kuwait City, which they go to about once a week. I usually give them some requests for things that I need, like onions and garlic, which is what I requested last time they went. Last time he went he brought back a new pistol holster for me. I don't know why, in that I don't' own a pistol and I don't have one here, but anyway he said he wanted me to have it. Even when I said that I didn't need it he insisted. We have had some great talks with them about the situation and about what has been going on in Iraq. He is a Christian and has been living in Detroit for some time with his family, wife and kids. He is from the northern part of Iraq and told me a number of terrible stories relating to the persecution they have endured at the hands of Saddam and the number of people that have been killed or tortured by him.
I have been continuing my studies of Arabic, in an effort to at least be able to say a few things to them each day when I see them. I wish I had more of a grammar book so I would understand more about what I am saying, but for now I just memorize phrases and sayings and practice them every chance I get.
We have decided to have a week long pray with a day of fast this next week, ending on Sunday. We feel that it might help and maybe bring an end to this sooner, so that fewer innocent lives would be lost. With all of us doing it I am sure that it will help and with the Lord's help all things are possible. We just want the Iraqi people to be free from the wicked reign of their leader and have a chance at democracy. There is so much fear in these people's eyes and so much fear about what might happen if we are not successful. They are reluctant to change sides or move one way or the other, because they remember the other times when they thought someone was going to help them get out from under his rule, but it didn't happen and their lives became worse.
We are finding more and more stuff on Saddam every day. We are getting more and more information about really how wicked and terrible he has been, along with all the other people that have been part of this government. I can't go into detail but it is all unfolding before my eyes. I am sickened by the stories of what they have done to our POW's and especially with the female that was captured. There is such a discrepancy in the two systems, comparing the way we treat our POW's and the way they treat theirs. We are really too nice; clothing, feeding, bathing, treating and taking care of them. We are all very disturbed by the cruelty and inhumane practices of the Iraqi army.
I have been disturbed by the way that they use hospitals, churches, and mosques and such as a front for their military operations. There are so many lies. Saddam's whole operations has been based on lies, being deceitful, hiding things, trying to get away with things, to the end that he might subdue his people and remain in complete control. He is truly an evil man, with evil intentions and aspirations.
I am really getting sick of the way the news is portraying this war. They have such a short sided view of things and an idea that this is supposed to be played out in a few days. I get the feeling from talking with people that they think this war is bogging down. I know I already mentioned this, but that is not the case. I would advice all of you that might read this to not pay too much attention to what the news is saying. We actually use the news in our favor at times, knowing that the enemy is watching the news too. The war goes on as planned and we are doing very well, for a war that has only been going on for the last week. Everyone has been spoiled by previous experiences and by the way things are so immediate in our society. This is a just cause and history will prove that years after this is all said and done.
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:51 PM
. . .
March 28, 2003
The weather has been beautiful for the last couple of days, probably some of the best weather we have had here. I was finally able to wash some clothes and hang them out to dry. I even hung out my sleeping bag to air it out a little. I am sure that it is beginning to stink a little. I have also started running again around my area. I was wondering if I was going to be able to do that again. We have to run with out gas mask and with our chemical suite in a bag on our back, which adds weight and is uncomfortable but I know it is important.
We didn't even have a missile attack last night, which was a big change, quite a relief. I was finally able to sleep all the way through the night.
The weather is really weird here, some days actually cold and the very next day can be hot. What a strange place to live.
I was able to get some Iraqis to bring me some eggs from the city and I got one of my friends to send me a box of pancake mix, so I cooked up some scrambled eggs and pancakes, which was really a big treat. I cooked up it up for about 10 people and we thought we were in heaven for a moment. It is amazing what a few little good things can do to help our moral. I also cooked up some noodles, with some eggs and vegetables in them that were wonderful. One of the persons here had someone send them some pasta so I made some pasta and marinara sauce, out of this world. It is amazing what you can do with a few choice ingredients. For a moment we were somewhere else, enjoying each other's company and have some good food.
We have some great friendships here and we are like a family taking care of each other. We spend a lot of time together going over what is going on with the war and sharing our thoughts and ideas.
I was standing in the line for chow today and I was surprised to see Geraldo Rivera, probably not spelled correctly. He was in line to get some food, so I said hi and talked to him for a few minutes. The line moves so slow that one of us went back to get his camera and was able to get back before we got through the line. We took some pictures with him and chatted. It was pretty cool, even if I don't think much of his opinion about most things. We do appreciate the fact that he is putting himself in harms way to get the news.
So for a moment I felt important, but it was over in a minute and things were back to normal.
We are getting more and more information about what the Iraqis are doing to their own people to get them to fight. They have started shooting them on the spot if they won't fight. They are also taking their children away so that the fathers have to fight. They have started shooting the civilians that won't fight. We heard today what they did to the American woman that was captured. They beat her, raped her repeatedly.
I also found out today that one of the helicopter pilots that were captured was Mormon also, from Georgia. His whole town has gathered together to pray for his safety and release. I am not optimistic, given the nature of the people we are fighting against.
They have also started wearing our uniforms, so that when their own people surrender they shoot them, creating a fear about surrendering.
The water buffalo was out of water today, so I had to walk about a mile to enough water to do my laundry. But it was a good day for a walk.
Some of the guys here are getting depressed about things so we watch them and try to help them anyway we can. It is hard for some guys to go through such a think like this.
We sent a team out today of young men from my unit, to an area that was not totally secured. So I was worried for their safety. We were able to maintain contact with them and they were successful in getting to their destination.
We are working with some people from the UK, trying to make them feel like they are part of the team. They are feeling like the ugly step sister right now, in that no one goes out of their way to make them feel closer and part of it all. Major Price and I decided to go over in the morning to cook some pancakes for them. It should be a lot of fun. Somebody needs to take the initiative and we really do need their help with this conflict. The UK has the mission of taking care of Al Basra and holding the port cities open. They have surrounded the city and are preventing any reinforcements to enter the city. The Iraqi army is shooting the civilians that are trying to get out of the city.
A lot of teams are leaving now to go out on a variety of missions to recover information form people of places or things. We have a lot of activity going on right now that is aiding us in this fight.
Well that is it for now. I am going to get some rest. It is about 1130 at night and it has been a long day, cooking working, walking to and fro, and showering. I finally got another shower in, even if we were out of hot water again. I really didn't care, as long as it was wet.
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:49 PM
. . .
March 26, 2003
The winds and sand storms have continued and have really made life difficult. Although we get used to them to some degree, at least we learn how to deal with them. I just try to stay inside my work area, where it is somewhat dust free, due to the fact that the computers are in there, so we have a special kind of tent, that has its own filtration system and is pretty much closed, keep out most of the dust. Did I mention it was air-conditioned? On bad days I just stay in there as much as I can. Unfortunately I am not able to sleep in there, so at the end of the day I have to make the trek back to my tent and try to sleep amongst all the dust and sand.
The problem is that in order to eat we have to walk about a mile through the sands with all of our gear on, which weighs around 50 pounds and once we get to the mess area we usually have to wait in line for about 30 minutes or more in long lines.
Due to the winds we have had a number of tents collapse and fall over. We are in large desert tents put up by the Government of Kuwait; actually the workers are all from other countries like India and Nepal. They workers are all treated like second-class citizens, which they are in their countries, which is very sad. I have tried to be friendly with as many of them as I can. I try to talk to them, which is difficult due to the fact that most of them don't speak English. They all seem so eager to talk to us. They all have big smiles on their face when I take the time to stop and talk to them. These workers are all over the camp putting up tents, making and serving our food, and just doing all kinds of odd jobs.
They bring water to fill up our water tanks and ride in on these big poop trucks to suck out all of our porta-potties. With so many people here, we are running out of water frequently and out porta-potties feel up quickly. Nothing worse than a porta-potty that is full when you sit down and stuff is right under your rear.
I am waiting for some good weather so I can wash some clothes, go for a run and just enjoy the sunshine.
Our forces are moving well these days, make good time and getting really close to Baghdad. The real trick is to keep our supply lines open and secured so that our support elements can get supplies through and keep the forces moving. We have had a few small unites ambushed and a few people killed. Over all we have been very successful. The news makes it sound like we are getting bogged down but that is definitely not the case. We have actually had very few casualties, which is good news considering how many the other side has lost. There is a lot going on that the news doesn't know and doesn't report on, they just seem to focus on the incidences when things have gone wrong. But these are isolated incidences and do not represent what is really happening.
We are starting to get more and more reports of POW's (prisoners of war), and of captured documents, captured locations, captured equipment, which is all really good in our favor. We are gathering lots of good intelligence, which is going to help us greatly in winning this war and proving to the world what he has been up to. I really can't say now but I will at some point.
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:47 PM
. . .
March 24 2003
Today is Monday, the start of another week here in Iraq. We are expecting some serious sand storms over the next few days, which will definitely affect our lives here in the desert and perhaps impede our forces in accomplishing our goals. We can usually tell when the weather is going to take a turn for the worst. Sometimes it begins with a short rainstorm, then moves into winds and then the sands stir up. It is like nothing I have experiences before and I won't miss them at all when I leave. I don't think I will ever say, "Jee I sure wish we could have a good sand storm, you know I really miss those". It is just so hard to do anything when the sands are whirling around, hard to breath, hard to see, hard to walk in a straight line and hard to do anything. I have started switching my head around on my bunk, so that my head is inside the furniture piece I built that straddles my bunk, that way I can cover myself and also minimize the amount of dust I breath when I am sleeping. It is like being partially in a cave at least my head and half of my body is covered up, which at least is makes it bearable. The one good thing that happens is that usually when the winds pick up the missiles from the north seem to stop. Maybe they can't send missiles on really bad days.
We have been having a lot of missile alerts these days, several everyday. Some times we just get a gas alert, letting us know that we should be putting our masks on and other times it is an alert to get to a bunker, or bomb shelter. It is great that we always know when a missile has been launched in our direction and we are able to launch a patriot missile to intercept it. I believe so far we have not missed a one. Most of them are intercepted in the air before they can hit the ground and cause any type of damage.
The problem is that by the time we get all of our chemical gear on, our mask and all of our armor, and we are sitting in a bunker it is really hot. The last one we had was during the day right around lunch time, in the heat of the day and the bunker I had to go to was a large metal container. We were jammed in their like sardines, hardly any room to move. I ended up just being able to put one knee down in the middle with people jammed in all around me. We ended up being in there for almost an hour before we got the all-clear signal. When I took off my gear my clothes underneath were just soaked with sweat. It looked like I had just jumped into a pool or something. I really sweat a lot under all that gear.
I have actually grown accustomed to wearing the mask, which really doesn't bother me anymore. I can even run or work with it on. At first it made me feel like I was getting enough oxygen to breath and I had a feeling like I just wanted to rip it off, but I am really ok with it.
Well another busy day has come to a close, with a lot of stuff going on with the war. We have made some great progress and things seem to be going as planned. We have had a few deaths but very little in relation to the Iraqis.
We are hearing some terrible things from the Iraqi that we are talking with, the torturing, the cruelty and total disregard for human life. They really don't care what they do and they are willing to do what ever it takes to stay in power.
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:46 PM
. . .
Well today is March 23, 2003:
I stayed up late last night reading and writing, so I didn't get to bed until around midnight and as usual I went right to sleep. I really am sleeping well out here. All though we were woken up again by another scud alert, which was intercepted by one of our patriots, not far from our location, in that I could hear the sound of the collision. We were also woken up by an incident that has probably been reported by CNN. At another camp close by one of our own disgruntled soldiers threw a couple of grenades into his commanders tent, killing one individual. So that kept us up for a while trying to figure that one out, just who exactly was attacking us. That is not a good sign when one of our own takes matters into their own hands.
I am at work right now waiting for the morning brief to begin, on how things are going with the war. That is always the best part of the day to hear the update on what is happening. But it is already a good morning when there was water to take a shower and it was even hot water, boy did I get lucky today. I am feeling pretty good.
Have a great day and be happy for what you have.
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:42 PM
. . .
March 22, 2003
Hello again from the deserts of Kuwait, the big sand box with all the fun and games we are having over here. I am still at Camp Udairi, which is not far from the Iraqi border, only about 20 miles. Today is Saturday but I wouldn't know unless I stopped to ask someone. Every day is not unlike any other day here, other than the war has started. It has been a few days since I have been able to write, due to the fact that we have been spending a bunch of time jumping in and out of bunkers and our chemical protective suite, called our MOP gear.
The war started Wednesday morning for us right after the president gave a speech to the American people that lasted about 4 minutes. We were all very anxious for this whole thing to be either over or get it on its way. Many of the soldiers that I live with have been here since November. Many of them came right from Afghanistan, interrogating those people during our last conflict over there. These people, along with many of us, are just tired of waiting for something to move either way, in some direction, doing something.
It seemed that even before the president's speech was over we were getting reports of Tomahawk Cruise missiles being launched towards Baghdad. Everyone expected it to kick off that evening, utilizing our night fighting capabilities, so it came as somewhat of a surprise that we started right after the president spoke. Although it made since given the nature of the targets that we were going after. It looked like we were going after some key personnel, certain individuals that we were attempting to take out in the initial stages. I believe some 50 missiles were launched all together. I believe it was an effort to take out some of their government and military personnel.
We were all out doing PT, when the word came that the president had spoken and that the war had begun. Every morning we have been in the practice of waking up at 0600 to do some form of physical exercise, as a group. That morning we were doing a variety of leg exercises, to stretch and build up our upper leg muscles, by doing such things as Iron Mikes, and buddy carries, and deep knee bends, which all together really kicked my butt. Afterwards I went for a run by myself, just to have a little time to myself. I did stop at the first guard tower to let the guard out there on the burm know that the war had begun. I actually like the time spent running along the burm, which for you non-military types that is a huge pile of sand built up all around our area, that encloses everything. It is like having a big wall around the camp.
Lately when I have been running I have been seeing a variety of large lizards, smashed by all the vehicles that are buzzing around here. These lizards are huge too; some of them are over a two feet long, especially when they are smashed. The roads that I have to run on are in some places so full of soft fine sand that it is hard to get through them without sinking down a foot or two. Sometimes when the wind is calm and the sky blue it is really nice to run along the burm, thinking about life and the thing that we are involved with here. Sometimes I run with other friends so we just jog along talking about the things we are experiencing. Usually when I run I am looking for things that I can pick up to make something back in my tent. I also get to see what is going on around the base here when I run. The Black Hawks and the Apaches are lined up ready to go. There are hundreds of them here of all sizes and shapes, loaded down with all types of weaponry. These are amazing birds, unmatched by anything else in the world. I have stopped on many occasions to talk with the pilots and the other guys that work on them, doing the maintenance. I have really been curious about the capabilities of our machines and equipment. One of the pilots was a young man from Taylorsville, who was killed in an accident a few weeks ago, when his bird crashed.
We had our last hot meals today from the mess hall. We have been eating there twice a day, or at least it is available twice a day. Most of the time I don't bother taking the 15 minute walk with all our gear on down there to eat it. Usually it isn't worth it. The food is really not very good. We have had the same breakfast every morning since we got here, that is two hard-boiled eggs overcooked, rice and uncooked bacon and a bowl of cereal with packaged milk. Dinner is usually a better meal, in some ways, at least it changes daily. Sometimes, we do get fruit, apples or oranges, and some salad, if we get there in time. They usually run out of food and stuff by the time I get there.
I have been making my own food lately just so I can eat a little better. I brought a small cooler with me and I take it down to the mess tent to pick up fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. I have also been getting things from the Iraqi's that we work with, which are our interpreters. They are able to go to Kuwait city to buy fresh food, which is like dates and hummus.
I did get the chance the other day to go into Kuwait City to another base here called Camp Doha, which has been here since the last gulf war and has become quite a large base for this area. There is a large amount of people stationed there and they have a large PX/BX and a foot court with Hardees, KFC, Pizza Inn, and Subway. I was actually able to do my laundry in a machine for a change. Usually there is a large line for everything there but due to the status of things most soldiers had left to go to the front. I shopped in the PX; got a few things I wanted, ate at Hardees and Subway, totally pigging out and did my laundry. It was really nice to have a cold drink for a change. I couldn't believe that junk food could taste so good, all that good fat and grease. The first thing I did was get an ice cold coke, totally awesome. It was really a treat to see paved roads and what I know as civilization.
We had to go through a lot of red tape just to get off base from here and go down there. We also had to get all of our gear on, including our flak jacket and Kevlar helmet. There were also a number of check points along the way and we had to be thoroughly inspected prior to entering the base. It was about an hour and a half away, so really not that far from here.
On the way back we were going a long through the desert around midnight and came a long a deep pile of sand in the road, unfortunately our driver slowed down and got stuck in the sand. We got high centered by the sand and all four wheels were spinning around. We were in an SUV and not a Hummer and we just didn't have what it takes to get through it, specially when the driver doesn't go around it or speed up to get through it. We called in back to the base to dispatch someone to come out to get us, but fortunately for us after about an hour a hummer came by and pulled us out. Those hummers are really incredible and can go through almost anything. This is the perfect terrain for those vehicles. Even so it was a good trip and even though I was just there for a few hours, taking the trip was well worth it, even with the getting stuck in the sand experience.
I probably won't be back there again.
It was really nice being in a vehicle that had AC and a radio. There is actually a radio station out here that we were able to pick up the whole way. They were playing a lot of tunes that I enjoy, so I was able to get into the tunes for a while, which has really been a long time so it seems. It really seems like it has been a long time since I have been in my other normal life.
I was able to get to church this last Saturday, they don't have any rooms for us to meet on Sunday, and take the sacrament. We had a couple of good speakers this week also, which really helps keep us spiritually focused out here. Some of the Iraqi linguists even came with us to see what our church is all about. Some of them are actually Christians and have been for years.
I fixed up some food the other night for a few of us that didn't want to eat the chow hall food. One of our cooks that works down there said after seeing the way they handle food he didn't want to eat there anymore. A contract worker that is from India or somewhere prepares most of our food. I guess they don't practice very good rules of cleanliness or personal hygiene. But so far I haven't gotten sick or anything from it, I am sure it is because I pray real hard before I eat. But what can you expect when you are cooking for thousands of people. The other night they said it was the last night that they were going to be cooking anything so they gave us small lobsters, which we quite over cooked and not very fresh, but by our standards out here not too bad. At least they were eatable. With all that we are doing we get pretty hungry, so when dinner time rolls around we are ready to eat just about anything, as long as it is not moving on our plate. I am usually not a very picky eater except when it come to eating MRE's, which aren't bad, it is just that they are so full of chemicals, preservatives and fat. I try to eat as healthy as possible, since we don't eat that much.
As I was saying I fixed up some foods for a few. I took the Spam, fresh tomatoes, the cucumbers and made some pretty good sandwiches with the bread I took form the mess. I also had a mango, a kiwi and some oranges that the Iraqis brought me that I used to make a bit of a fruit salad. So with the fruit and the sandwiches, we had a pretty good dinner. As soon as the scud alerts stop I will be able to start cooking here with all the food I brought, with the rice and the ham and fish. I plan to make some sushi real soon too.
Ever since the war started we have been on the alert for any missiles launched in our direction. So as soon as one goes off we know about it and we know what direction it is headed and we jump into our protective gear, our chemical suites and jump into a bunker, waiting for the all clear sound to go off. So this is happening all through the last few days, in that Iraq has been launching these every so often. The first night we had one about every hour all night long. Not all of them are scuds but for now until I can say other wise. The process is simple, when we hear the alert depending on the type of alert, we get our mask on and move to the bunker. We were thinking of moving our cots into the bunker so we wouldn't have to wake up and move during the night or I guess we could just hide inside our sleeping bag until everyone leaves the tent. I just make sure that everyone is ready and that no one is having any problems. I just check on my buddies.
I am working in the TOC now at the BN level, making sure that all of our people get out on the right assignments and I assist in managing all the flow of intel and information. I also will be working in getting the Joint Interrogation facility gets moved up north when the time comes and that we properly manage the flow of prisoners and also other types of individuals after the war ends. There are going to be a lot of need to continue to get information about the things that have been going on with that regime and to continue to find the smoking guns that everyone is so concerned about.
Right now we are just having a lot of meetings and briefings about the current state of things and planning for the move, when and where.
The other night I went outside during one of the missile attacks just to see what was going on and I was able to hear the sound of artillery pounding away at Iraq and also all night long the sound of helicopters leaving to go out on missions. I was even able to see one of the patriots intercept one of the scud missiles in the distance, which was like a star exploding then vanishing from sight. It is a strange feeling to be out in the desert late at night with a war going on all around me, knowing that people are dieing and putting their lives in harms way. People's lives are changing on both sides and things will never be the same again. While I was standing there I could feel the concussion of each artillery shell being shot out, feeling the air move and the push of the explosion. The dust was stirred up all night long as the helicopters went to and for, going out on missions and returning. I prayed for those young men, who were risking their lives that night, entering into a variety of dangerous situations and returning to do it again on another day.
Today I went as usual and spent most of my day in the TOC, which is like the command center for this MI unit. That is where all the planning is going on and where all the intel comes in, so that we get an update on what is happening with the war. We had captured a couple of Iraqi generals today and we were lining up the interrogators to drive over to where they were being held. We are getting new missions every day as the need arises with some of the POW's that we are getting. The war is moving along and we have taken quite a few of their cities. Many of their soldiers are surrendering and their whole units are capitulating.
We did have the opportunity to go to church this evening for about an hour, which was really great. It was a nice break and gave us all time to get our heads spiritually oriented. So it was nice to have those times to meditate and pray about a number of things that are going on in our lives, as you might imagine. We had a couple of our guys speak in church, sharing some of their thoughts and feelings. Sgt Hodgson retold the story of Saving private Ryan, the last words that Tom Hanks spoke to him before he died was "Earn It", which is what we all need to be thinking about. Earn it. Be worth of the blessings that we are asking for. Earn the respect of others around us. Earn the trust of our fellow soldiers and earn the love of our families and fellow countrymen.
As we walked away from our meeting, walking back to our tents, we had much to reflect on and we had a different feeling about what we are doing. We all had a feeling like we were part of a bigger plan; one that was divinely developed that had something to do with the Iraqi people.
I went over to the other tent where the guys from my original team sleep so that I could say goodbye to the ones that were leaving in the morning on a Mobile Interrogation Team. I gave them some last minute advice and we took a moment to have a team prayer. Five of them will be leaving in the morning to go to where some high-ranking officers are being held by the marines, so that they might be interrogated. They are going to be traveling into the war zone, into an area that has just been taken by our forces.
It is about 10pm and I am in my tent, getting ready to bed down for the night. Most everyone is already asleep now, expecting another night of scud alarms, which might keep us up all night. There are a few guys playing cards on a make shift table, with their gas masks close by. The night air is kind of cool tonight, not sure why. The night sky has an unusual haze, which is creating a strange ring around the moon, which is just coming up above the horizon. It is extremely dark out tonight, which should be good for the night raids that have been planned.
The one thing that is unusual and unique about the US military capabilities is that we all have the capability to fight at night. All of our soldiers, tanks and planes have the ability to see in the dark and fight in the dark. Not to brag, just stating a fact.
One thing that has really helped me gain a better understanding of what has and is going on with the US and Iraqi is by reading the book, 'The Threatening Storm by Kenneth Pollack. This is an excellent book, written truly by someone who has been in the know for a long time.
I was going to try to cook tonight but due to a briefing we had and our late church meeting, I just decided to give up on that idea for now. Maybe with tomorrow being Sunday I might have some time to stir up something good. Of course war take no days off, but maybe it will be slow tomorrow. So far tonight we haven't had any alarms go off for a while.
Some of our Iraqi interpreters were leaving in the morning also, so I went by to say goodbye to them also. We sat for a while talking and having some candy and cookies that I bought for them. They have really been nice to all of us and helped me learn a lot of Arabic. They are so anxious to help out and to be with us all the way to Baghdad. Most of them are more my age and so we usually have a lot in common. We joke around a lot and try to keep things not so serious. The whole experience is serious enough anyway.
Some things about being here are just so funny to us. We for the most part try to keep things light and laugh as much as possible. Most everyone here is so uptight and tense that someone needs to add a little levity. People tend to get a little on edge in these situations anyway, so we try to ease people up a little. I usually watch people to see who is getting a little uptight and I try to take the time to hear what is going on in their head that day.
Steve L was concerned that he was going to be stuck not being able to do anything of value here. So when a request came up for a mobile interrogation team, I made the recommendation that he be sent with a number of other people that I thought would good. I also had to speak with one guy because he was concerned about others being sent on missions and he not being able to. Others don't want to go on these missions, so I have to watch who I put on these lists.
Our patriot missiles went down today for a while when they were fixing the radar. So that was quite a good feeling when I got an email saying that we were not protected by our patriots for a while. It was a good thing that no one else knew about that, like the enemy.
That would ruin by day for sure. That would really be a bad hair day, if you know what I mean.
It is amazing how good the moral is for all of the people that I work around. For the most part people really do make a good effort to stay up beat and positive, which always isn't so easy. Everyone seems to be willing to share anything with each other and we try to help each other out as much as possible. We are really with a great bunch of people, even the new people that are from other groups, from other parts of the country. They all take their jobs seriously but still try to not get too uptight about things.
Corby had a chance to go down to another base to interview some of the Third Country Nationals that we hire to provide certain services here on base, like cleaning the bathroom and bringing us water to shower and wash our clothes in. He was interviewing this one guy, whom he noted had a real language barrier trying to speak in English, so he marked it on his record and sent him out. The next guy came in with the previous guy with him, attempting to use the guy as his interpreter, whom it had just sent out saying he had a language barrier. That was just too funny.
Now days as I mentioned we are having a lot of alarms. So when ever someone yells gas three times or lightening three times, or honks a horn three times, everyone puts on their protective mask. So we were thinking that we would yell anything, like red rover, red rover, red rover, three times and we could probably get people to put on their mask. That would be a funny experience.
Well it is totally dark in my tent now and I am the only person up doing anything. It is totally pitch black inside my tent, but I don't mind, as long as I am not keeping others up, with my loud pounding on my keyboard. We had another big dust storm today, which always is fun. It seems that I am always getting sand out of my ears and nose. My hair always feels like I haven't washed it for a while, even though I just washed it this morning. I feel like I could grow a garden with the dirt in my body.
I drank some tea that the Iraqi's were having the other night, just to be polite, but it kept me up all night, so I don't think I will do that again. They say that it is really impolite not to drink tea with them. But, I hope they will understand in the future.
Right now due to the nature of the situation we have to wear all of our equipment, which is really a lot of stuff. We have our uniform with boots and all that, then we have our flack jacket, then we have our MOP suite, then we have our web belt, with 2 canteens, and 180 rounds of ammunition, first aid pouch, two back packs with more MOP gear, then our weapon and I usually carry another army bag that I keep my books in and any reading material. ON my belt I also have two knifes and a leather man and a flashlight. Then I have my Kevlar Helmet on my head and I believe that is it, but it weighs a ton.
Well that is it for now. I think I will head over to the porta potty and take care of my personal needs. I am hoping that we will have a quiet night for a change. Tomorrow is another day for this group of sand dwellers.
posted by Chief Wiggles 7:41 PM
. . .
So begins the blog of Chief Wiggles. No, I'm not him. He is a good friend swept up in the action in Iraq. The Chief is an old time soldier in the guard. Spanning more than three decades, he truly knows the military and with his academic and professional background, he has a solid grasp on world issues.
The emails he has sent from Iraq have consisted of prose worth publishing in the greatest of magazines and newspapers. Barring that, a blog is the best outlet for his writings; those he has previously penned and those yet to come.
And so the saga of the Chief begins...
posted by Plunge 10:05 PM
. . .