The Chief sent pictures that should have been posted, don't know why they didn't show up. Here they are a second time, first of two parts. These are being hosted on my account, please be kind to it.
So, here it goes again, Pictures from Iraq pt. 1.
And Pictures from Iraq pt. 2.
Feel free to email me at joeschmoe(at)email.com with any questions or requests.
posted by Plunge 9:34 AM
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Saturday, May 10, 2003
Well as expected the wind has picked up again, blowing the sand to and fro, stirring up a big cloud of dust and sand. The sky is darkening and it looks like it might even rain for more than just a few minutes. I would just embrace a huge down pour of rain, that I could just go out and play in. In fact I believe I hear the familiar sound of rain beating on the top of the tent. It is actually already starting to cool off, just in time for dinner and maybe it would continue until this evening, so that we could actually go to sleep with the pitter patter of rain singing us to sleep.
I did go to the doctor and as expected I do have a respiratory infection, "really?", and I didn't even have to beg for antibiotics as I have in the past.
I have enjoyed today overall, in fact I am at work right now, things are just a little slow today, waiting for some things to happen and some people to come in.
I have been getting some great emails from home, which is always so much fun to read. I have enjoyed the sincerity and the thoughtfulness of my friends and family members.
I will write more later. I actually for the first time in a long time had a grilled cheese sandwich, I must be getting closer to heaven or maybe the food Gods are just smiling on us a little more often now.
I am really enjoying the sound of rain right now, what a nice treat.
Good day, (Say that like Paul Harvey says it, ok)
posted by Chief Wiggles 8:47 AM
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Friday, May 09, 2003
Another late night of working on important reports that we have generated from a number of important people, which has taken up a good part of the day. It is now around 10:30 in the evening and I just returned to my tent. After putting in these long days it is hard for me to unwind and jump right into bed. I feel like I want to go do something, but where would I go and what would I do. It is not like there are places to go hang out late at night here. When I got to my tent everyone was getting ready for bed and most people were already in bed, you know I use the term bed lightly. Nothing like the sound of around 40 guys snoring all at once.
One of the soldiers was waiting to talk with me about some personal matter, so we stepped out of the tent to talk for a few minutes. He wanted some help dealing with a problem he is having at home and wanted some advice. That is the problem with being older, everyone thinks that maybe I might be wiser too, which is normally not the case. But, I am always glad to talk to them and be of any help that I can. I told him a few things and then suggested that he might want to pray about it and ask for help from a more divine source that has a larger sphere of influence. He thought that was a good idea.
As usual I am sitting on my cot typing in my journal while everyone is sleeping. Most of the people in the tent don't work the long hours that I do, so they have more time to relax and kind of take the evenings off. Not that I am so important, it is just that my job requires me to work longer hours and a lot of my work comes up in the evenings. We are talking to a lot of really important and interesting people and getting a lot of really good intelligence. The pieces of this puzzle are all coming together for us as we continue to interview and talk to the people that we have detained.
As I look around the tent I can see the light of one other computer, probably someone else who is typing a letter or something.
Today was a good day, like most days, except that I think I am getting the respiratory infection I had before, so I think I am going to go over and see the doctor tomorrow. I can't seem to escape it and it just seems to be part of my re-initiation back to the desert. It is probably caused by the amount of camel dung we are breathing in with every breath.
I was able to sleep in until around 8 this morning and I thought it was a good day for pancakes. The guys here had taken the wood that I had found on my scavenger hunt the other day and made the cooking shelter I had designed for them. They had it all done up just the way I wanted it, they had found some camouflage netting that they had strung over the top, which actually really created a nice place for cooking, free from most of the sand and wind of the desert. Using the table we had made, I set up my stove, mixed up the batter and starting cooking eggs and pancakes. I had a couple of people helping me; acting like delivery they took plates of pancakes and eggs around to several of the tents where people were working. All in all I probably fed around 12 people aside from my delivery boys and myself. I had plenty of syrup and even had butter that I had taken from the mess hall. It ended up being really good.
As soon as my lungs clear up I think I am going to start running at night, when it is cool enough out side. I need to figure out how to get some exercise into my schedule out here. I am a little concerned though about what type of wild life comes out in the desert at night, but I guess I will just have to go out and find out. I have seen some of these huge lizards that get to be as big as cats and I have heard about the snakes that are slithering about. There is also a camel spider, which is supposed to be able to jump onto the belly of a camel, numb the belly with its venom and eat through the skin and into the intestines of the camel. It really isn't a spider but it looks like one only it gets up to 10 inches long.
When I am writing reports I spend the time in an air-conditioned tent, when it is working. Today it wasn't and it got up to 110 degrees inside the tent. Right now there is only one tent that is air conditioned and that is the tent that houses the computers, so I try to go in there as often as I can.
It is hard being the only light in the tent in that all the flying bugs seem to be attracted by the light of my screen and are swarming around me as if at any moment they are going to join in an effort to take over the light of the computer. .
I got an email today from a friend of mine who is trying to get me up where he is doing some strategic debriefings, which is different from doing interrogations. I am hoping that things will work out for me to join him doing that.
I got an email from my son today asking me what he should give his mother for Mother's Day. I was so surprised that he was thinking about that and I was excited to help him with a number of ideas, none of which would have cost him much money and any of which would be easy for him to do.
They are delivering ice on a daily basis now, which has really helped our life here. I big semi-trailer full of ice pulls up every morning to pass ice out to all the troops.
Tonight is really unusually calm out side, with nothing more than a slight cooler breeze blowing across the desert floor. There is definitely a quiet calm and certain serenity to the desert on nights like this. It is as if it beckons you to come out and stroll along the sands and capture this moment of peace that seems to be so rare. The desert can be such a harsh place, so unforgiving and so unbearable most of the time. It is as if it has a split personality, tempting you out with its moments of calm serenity, only to consume you with its next hot breath of sand and wind. It is this daily unpredictability that adds a certain diversity that actually makes it so interesting. Then the strange wild life is just the icing on the cake, in a sick sort of way. I guess I have grown to enjoy it in someway.
posted by Chief Wiggles 8:45 AM
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Thursday, May 08, 2003
It was a strange feeling coming back to the sand. I knew that it was going to take me a few days to get re-adjusted to life here, amidst all the heat, sand, wind and other things relating to life in a tent in the desert. I really didn't want to come back to this, knowing that I had things at home to take care of and that it would be hard again to leave all the comforts of our life. While at home, even though it was under difficult circumstances, I was able to re-acquaint myself with all the comforts of being home and I really enjoy them. We really live in such luxury and comfort. On the other hand I knew that I had unfinished business over here and I wanted to complete my mission with all my men. That is hard to put into words what that really means, but I didn't want to end my service the way I had gone home and I wanted to finish things up with my men.
When I returned many of my good friends had moved on to other areas to fulfill other missions. It was strange to see it so empty, with almost everyone gone. Our people have been spread out all over the country doing a variety of things. It was good to see that almost everyone was being utilized for the reason that they came over here. I was happy for all of those that were anxious to get engaged in the cause. There were so many of us that many were worried if they were going to be utilized for what they had been training so long for.
I have never been concerned about being utilized, since they snatched me up right from the beginning and I got to be involved, probably because of my rank and my years of experience. At times I wish that I could just sit around with nothing to do, except come up with projects to keep everyone else busy. I have been on this 12 hour shift since I got here and it is just going to get worse for me, which is ok, but I have so many other things that I would like to do, but don't get a chance to do, like exercise every day.
A big part of being in the army is dealing with the down time, the waiting time for something to happen. Many of these soldiers have been here since November, waiting for the war and their jobs to begin. People have to learn how to deal with all of the preparation and waiting time, that turns into days, weeks and months of doing not much of anything, especially if you are not on the front lines actually fighting the war. Even then the front line troops were in place for weeks before the actual fighting began. People all seem to react to boredom differently. The real character of a man seems to come out when his boredom tolerance is maxed out.
One thing that has always helped me is that I am always coming up with ideas for things that we need or for things that we need to make, things that will improve our life style and things that will bring us together. I always have things to do, goals that I have set and ways that I can improve myself or someone else.
One of my friends gave an appropriate analogy. He recalled the story of the lieutenant that was in Dancing with Wolves, played by Kevin Costner. You might recall that he was sent out to man a post in a cabin in the middle of nowhere all by himself. Where perhaps others had gone before and probably gone stir crazy from boredom. But the difference in him was that he decided to take charge of his own environment, taking charge of the things that were in his sphere of influence. He decided to reach out on his own to make contact with the Indians. He took the initiative to make his stay there worthwhile and valuable. He didn't need to be told, he actually had no mission and had no instructions about what he was supposed to do or expected to do. He exercised his own free agency and his own ability to create an opportunity. He could have reacted to that environment in so many different ways. He could have been negative and sat around complaining about how terrible things were or he could have given up returning to his home missing the wonderful experience that was in store for him. He turned what could have been a very negative experience into the experience of a lifetime. He reached out, he made contact with the Indians, he learned their culture and their language and fell in love with the love of his life.
We have many types of soldiers here. Many soldiers spend much of their time worrying about when we are going to go home, how long we are going to be here, what are they going to have us do and they spend so much time discussing what everything means and they are forever trying to figure things out, reading between the lines, to discover some hidden meaning that might help them make sense of everything. Then there are those that just feel like complaining about everything, as if being negative was in some way a sign of being wise or smart. They continuously look for ways that they can find fault with things, which is easy to do when you are in the army. Things don't always make sense and it is difficult at times to understand their rationale for doing things. The existence of common sense is not a given with the army.
When I returned it was nice to see that the men that were left had saved my cot area and the furniture that I had built. They even put my name up over my area and made sure that no one messed with it. That was a very kind gesture, one that I will never forget. They were all anxious to see me, at least it seemed that way, and they were anxious to hear how going home was and what I did and they all had a million questions. It was a very warm welcome, one that helped me get re-adjusted to this place.
The days have been extremely hot here since I got back. The tent usually gets up to 100 degrees by 0800 in the morning and then just keeps rising from there. Fortunately it does cool right off in the evenings, down to a bearable temperature. Of course it is not the middle of the summer yet so it is too early to tell what the real summer is going to be like. I can hardly wait to experience the fullness of summer in this wasteland.
There are so many little things that seem to be so much more important here. So many little things that I would normally take for granted. I was excited tonight to find out that we had fresh bread and real butter this evening in our mess hall. You can't understand what it is like to taste fresh bread and butter after you haven't had it for a long time. I am so grateful for the ice that they are now bringing out to us, so that we can have cold drinks. We dug down in the sand and built our own cool box, which we lined with plastic and covered with thick cardboard and found a piece of Styrofoam on the top, so that we can put a bag of ice in it and it will last for 3 days or so.
I hope that I am the kind of person who will take the initiative to create the opportunity to have an experience of a lifetime, full of purpose and value. The real test of the value of your life is whether or not you made a difference in someone else's life. Like when Kevin Costner was leaving the Indian village for the last time and the person who had become like his Indian brother was on his horse on the top of a cliff, yelling out something that was if to say my life would never be the same because of you.
We all have to find our path and the purpose of our path in life. We all have to allow our supreme being to take control of our life and guide us down the path that we were meant to be on.
We took a vehicle around the area to see if we couldn't find enough wood and stuff to build a few tables and to create a small shelter so that I can cook in. We are not allowed to cook in our tents in that they are very flammable. So we drove all over the area looking for things that we might use to improve our life style. We were lucky today and found numerous things that we can put to use. While I was at work today I put the other guys to work building my projects. They spent the day putting up my cooking shelter, so when I got off work they showed me what they had built. Now that it is done, I am planning on cooking pancakes and fried eggs in the morning for everyone in my tent. I was able to find two dozen eggs that I can use. I hope that they are ok.
Well it is totally pitch black in my tent now that everyone has gone to bed except me. I can hear some moving about but for the most part everyone is asleep. I think that I will say good night for now and walk out of the tent to brush my teeth. My sink is the desert.
posted by Chief Wiggles 8:41 AM
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May 7, 2003:
I was awoken this morning by the sweat that was running down the middle of my back. I was surprised to see that the temperature in the tent had already reached over 100 degrees. It seems like the heat alone in the mornings works like an alarm clock and you know when you get woken up that it must be around 8am. Most people here start stirring early in order to get to the mess hall before it closes at around 0830. I am not that excited about the breakfast here, so I chose to sleep in, feeling that sleep might be more important to me. I feel that I am getting the desert respiratory infection that I had the first time I came here. You can tell it is coming on, when you feel your chest tighten up and a total lack of energy. I am trying to sleep as much as possible, but it is hard when I have to put in a 12 hour shifts.
Today is my third day back in the sand box, living it up with all my good friends here, at least the few that haven't been sent out to some other area. As I look around the tent it reminds me of what a band of gypsies living quarters might look like; some people still sleeping regardless of the heat, others listening to the radio (probably the BBC, which is the easiest to get out here), others getting ready to do their laundry and others reading or working on their computers. Our tent has filled up to about 60 people again, with all their gear and stuff, clothes lines are strung through out the tent and there is a variety of hand crafted furnishings. My individual space consists of my cot, straddled by a desk like object that increases my shelf space. I have a table at the end of the cot that extends out into the middle of the tent, so I can sit on my cot and write or type on the small table. To the left of my cot I have put down a couple of prayer rugs to give my feet a soft resting place. Most of the time I like to take off my boots when I am in the tent so I can be in my bare feet and actually feel something like carpet on the bottom of my feet. I have a small coffee table in between my cot and the cot next to mine. On the surface of this coffee table like structure I have made holes in it so that a variety of drinks can be placed on it, acting like drink holders. I do have a beach chair and a small stool to sit on. My clothes are hung up behind me on the roping of the tent, each article hung up inside a plastic bag to keep the sand out. I also have a large poncho that I have draped over the shelf that straddles my cot that covers all the articles that are laid out. Each morning I fold up my bedding and place it under the cot-straddling shelf to keep it covered.
I arrived back here late Sunday night after a very long trip. I actually left Utah Tuesday afternoon after being prodded by the threat of being arrested by the military police if I didn't leave on Tuesday. So anyway I left Tuesday afternoon on a Delta flight going to Atlanta. I arrived in Atlanta where I was to catch a military rotator flight making its way to Kuwait City, only to find out that there was no rotator flight until Thursday. So actually that gave me more personal time before returning to the desert and I took full advantage of the opportunity. I ate good food, slept in late, took long showers, and just did what ever I wanted. On Thursday on got to the airport early so that I could take care of my large and heavy bags of luggage, which did end of taking a bit of time to take care of, due to their size and weight. The rotator flight is a normal commercial airline that is chartered by the military to move soldiers or their families around to different bases. We were flying on an L10-11, which was completely full. As usual things moved along slowly and there was a lot of waiting involved in getting from one point to another. I was supposed to be at the airport at 1300 for check in and then I had to wait around until 1600 to board. I had rented a car to help move my bags around to and from the airport and my hotel. But once I took care of my bags I had plenty of time to return the rental car and get back in time for boarding.
We originally flew from Atlanta to the Azores, the Islands off the coast of Portugal, where there is a US air force base, where a number of people got off. We had to wait around there for a couple of hours before taking off again. I had never been to those islands before, so I was glad to at least see what they were like. There were mountains and everything was quite green. It was actually quite a nice setting, one that might be worth coming back to see some day. We then flew from there to an airbase in Aviano Italy, where we let off another group of people and waited around for a few more hours. At least we could get out of the plane and smell the fresh air. Northern Italy looked very green and mountainous also, at least the part I was seeing. I had never been to either of these places before, so at least I can say I went there. We then flew from Aviano to Cyprus, where we have usually flown as a stop off point. We weren't able to leave the airplane in Cyprus, but we at least had the doors open so we could get some fresh air and stretch our legs a bit. Then our final leg of the trip was on to Kuwait City, then of course more waiting. We arrived in Kuwait around 1:30 in the morning and then waited on a bus until around 5am for our bags to catch up with us. We then drove from the airport over to Camp Wolf by the airport and then over to Camp Doha where I was to catch my ride up north. Once I got to Camp Doha and made contact with my people, they realized that they were not going to be able to come and get me until the next day, so I ended up waiting around in Camp Doha for a day or so, eating some KFC and Hardees and they even had pretty good food in the mess hall. Camp Doha is a good sized army base with lots of people and acceptable facilities, at least they have a large PX, a few fast food places, laundry facilities and running water with flush toilets. The next day in the afternoon I hooked up with my ride and made my way up north to the camp I was to stay in for a while. All in all in took me about 6 days to get from Salt Lake City to my final destination.
posted by Chief Wiggles 8:36 AM
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