Filed under: — lana @ 3:22 am

Elections are over. Now we can all breathe a sigh of relief and continue to get mortars coming in. Now, logic with me here a second. These people, in their infinite wisdom, have been fighting wars since, oh, roughly… we will just go with since time began. One would think, would they not, that they would have figured out the formula by now? Keep shooting things at people and they will keep sending people over to shoot back at you (and since we have more people than them, we win, at least eventually). Stop shooting and try doing something productive with your time like, say, rebuilding your sewage system, and the enemy will get bored and go home.

Then again, there are things for us to do here. Well, not us, but marketing people. We could win this thing with marketing. Let’s look at the Iraqi people for a second here. First of all, everyone smokes. Everyone. They start around age 15 and just keep going. Particularly the important people. The tobacco industry really doesn’t need to worry so much about the American bars going smokeless or the loss of money due to cancer lawsuits. Given the average life expectancy here anyway (AK-47 and RPG statistics included), you are looking at a pretty young age so they probably wouldn’t notice if people starting getting sick from cigarettes too. Move in the billboards, folks… I see large tobacco farms on the Tigris in the near future…

Marketing executives would have a lot on their hands if they came to work here, however. The country doesn’t seem to have gotten very far in things like slogan development. For example, the local water bottling company, Abaas. If you look above the name, you see in small print the slogan of the company: “Quality.. Exceeds.. Price.” Good to know, because the water is pretty cheap around here…

So we have seen that with the election of a new interim government continuing incoming, but furthermore the potential for further country-wide developments. Capitalism will come to this country as it has come to those invaded before it, and there will be dancing in the streets. Ooopa!


Boots on Ground

Filed under: — lana @ 1:25 pm

Finally, destination. Since we got on ground (I don’t consider it actually on the ground until I start doing more than milling about and eating at large dining facilities while my gym shoes sit about 200 miles south), we have been busy busy. For those who live under large piles of rocks, the elections are coming up in this country, which seems to have made some of the local inhabitants a little upset. Why them getting upset means shooting each other and us when in all h0nesty I didn’t have much influence on the election process one way or another (I recall having spent the past month handwashing socks because I only had five pairs with me, not rigging ballot boxes or sitting with presidential candidates going over their potential platforms, but I could be disillusioned), I will never know…

And so we are at our final (?) destination for the tour. Saddam was a rich man. In case anyone didn’t know. Very rich. Very, extremely, absurdly, grossly rich. It gets a touch ostentatious, really. We are at a smaller hub of activity, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get lost inside some of these buildings, at least the ones that still have four walls. It is entertaining and fun wandering around trying to look very official when in all honesty you are just looking for the bathroom. By the way, I’ve seen a bathroom or two the size of the tent I was living in at our initial staging area.

But it’s okay, because everyone is a little lost, at least as told by the expressions on their faces from day to day. Also, everyone is very official. We get to work with some of the people who are absolutely convinced that their job is the primary function that keeps the efforts of the war going. This goes for the guy that runs the planning centers to the guy that assigns rooms and office space to the guy that cleans the pool (oh, you heard me right…). Everyone wants the nice car, the most armor on their humvee, the biggest office, and the cushiest chair. I am not sure if any of them have figured out that in these countries, no matter how cushy the chair is, it is still going to lose a wheel or have the back fall off or have an arm swing down by its side within a few weeks…

Let the political nightmare begin, and that’s not including the elections of local officials… because who can care about them when we have our own politics to worry about… at least I’m only a few miles from (though still don’t have access to) my gym shoes now…


Rain Rain Go Away

Filed under: — lana @ 1:05 pm

Why is it all the pictures everyone thinks of when they think of Iraq are of camels and desert and hot sun? So far it has been chilly, dreary, and I only saw a camel in Kuwait. I want my money back…

I told our lieutenant (left-tenant, as the Brits would say… something about left being evil…), “You called and asked when our things would arrive and they told you tonight. Now it’s pouring outside and it didn’t start until evening. I blame you for the nasty weather, sir.”

It would figure. The one time they actually try to bring our things out here, they can’t because the thunderstorms show no signs of letting up anytime soon. Funny, because the rain seems to have made the insurgents run into their little homes… been a bit of a quiet night.

So to puzzle this one out: The Air Force will not fly when there are mortars. The insurgents will not fire mortars when it is raining (they are so sweet, they might melt). The Air Force will not fly when there is rain. I believe I have already mentioned the book Catch-22. For those who have not read it, now would be a good time to start, as I have a nasty feeling the similarities between the story and my life will only become more apparent as the tour continues (they told me it was a three-hour tour, of course…).

I wonder if i will ever get my stuff…

In other news, the rain has made delightfully fun mud lakes to wander through on the way back to the living areas. Good thing it’s so well-lit. Oh wait. Happy me turned in laundry today, since living out of a bag (Sorry. Two bags. How inconsiderate of me) means your clothes get a touch dirtier than you might like, and today it rained all over the set of DCU’s (That’s desert combat uniform for those of you who don’t know) I have been putting off wearing for two weeks. Grand. Superb even. My other boots? I do believe they are sitting in a box somewhere down south waiting for an aircraft that is destined to never fly…

Just another day in northern jihad-istan…



Filed under: — lana @ 9:30 am

For those unfamiliar with Dunbar in Catch-22, he has a wonderful theory: the more miserable/bored you are, the slower time passes, so the longer you live.

Up here, you could live forever…


Here I Go Again On My Own

Filed under: — lana @ 12:37 pm

Though down a road slightly less traveled, I think. My mission has changed. Again. Huzzah! I have now officially been basterdized from my company, attached to some other unit because “THEY NEED SOMEONE DOWN THERE! QUICK!” Right. The Army Decision-Makers strike again. So now I get to pretty much hang out by myself for a year… not a bad deal, when you consider how much trouble I can get in during a single 24 hour period in my own company. As the commander wandered out today he looked at me and just said, “TRY to stay out of trouble? Please?” I told him I would at least make an effort, but no promises… So it’s a new mission, new unit. What exactly is my mission? No idea. What company in the new unit? Nope, don’t know that either. Where exactly am I going to be? Not really sure, but will get back to you on that. Who should I report to when I get to wherever it is? I’m sure someone will come to get you and you can find out when you get there. Right. Another day, but a little more than my $2.11 an hour, due to things like combat pay and I think we got a 3.5% raise again this year, which puts me at about $2.18 an hour (base pay, of course). That won’t bump me up a tax bracket, I can say with a certain amount of certainty… at least some things are certain…

So now I’m sitting in the north. Turns out that rocket attack a few days ago at the last location was merely the first of three that day, too, which was added fun. Trying to pack my two small bags (because we found out that morning that we were leaving) while going back and forth to hard sites every time the sirens went off was quite a challenge. Then we got up here… even more fun, I say. Woke up the following morning to the sound of someone apparently trying to get in the gate. The guards must have told them they gave at the office, because they seemed a little upset… a mortar or two, two good long small arms battles, and we went about our daily business. My temporary roommate took a picture. People up here are a little less panicky about attacks, since the locals really want to get in the gates just about every day, I guess. Too bad for them our guards are such sticklers for the rules… All in all quite different from The Stan… but the chow is pretty good, there isn’t much to do, and life goes on as usual in Northern Iraq.

Today was my first encounter with the local populace, too. Since I’m still in transit (read: living out of a backpack and a ruck and leaving this place as soon as the rest of my stuff shows up because people MEAL didn’t feel like moving my stuff a few days ago so I could go straight to my location but oh no of course I’m not bitter and maybe I would be less bitter were I bitter at all which of course I am not if they would give me a pistol now that my mission has changed but no one thought of that ahead of time either so now it’s another headache but is there bitterness oh there is never bitterness never ever not from me…), I thought I would make use of myself and chit-chat. Not surprisingly, not all that bright. However, due to the lack of conversation about goats, chickens, and pistachios, I think they may be somewhat smarter than the Afghans. I have not confirmed this, mind you, and I have no doubts that there will be some interesting tales to tell from these folks, but for now I am merely feeling comforted that I could go an entire conversation without having to discuss the intricacies of dirt farming and how crucial it is to harvest rocks for the local economy.

Sigh. It’s the simple things in life… Gonna be a long year…


Fun Times Abound

Filed under: — lana @ 5:34 am

Well first of all, let’s have a little look at the decision-making process of the military intelligence units in the American military. It is really very clever, I think. The way it seems is that if the higher-ups on our end have no idea what is going on, neither do our enemies, and so all is well and no one can track us or blow us up. Very sneaky…

It’s either that, or they just have no idea what is going on, so they make hodge-podge decisions all willy-nilly and see where everything lands when the dust has cleared and say “Yep. Meant to do that. Gimme an award.”

Now, I guess it’s a matter of opinion as to whether it’s the former or the latter, but what I know is that such MEAL decisions (Many Echelons Above Lana) really come back to bite those of us still sporting the lower ranking little collar symbols. Still living out of a rucksack and a carry-on (though I have at least seen my other bags… huzzah!), walking over the sewage drain and through the rocks (to the showering house we go), and kicking around doing little or nothing, my personal mission out here as well as that of several others in my company has changed at least three times in the past week. Why is this? Something along the lines of people way high up, probably even further than my brigade, saying, “Oh no! Words are coming out… Quick! Change everything!” I have a nasty inkling that in the next twenty-four hours things will change again… though maybe by then I will be somewhere else where I can look at my bags and wonder when i will be able to get a new pair of socks…

In other news, our first mortar attack in Iraq was today. Interesting… we were just finishing up lunch when the sirens went off. Now, we haven’t been on this base all that long, so we looked around to see where to go. What we saw was typical military posture: more people milling about. Since we were in a protected site, we didn’t have to go out to the bunkers, so we continued to mill. Eventually, the sirens sounded clear and we wandered out. No one seemed terribly concerned, though the Iraqis do have better aim than the Afghans… they can actually hit a large base that they are aiming for. Back in The Stan they were lucky to get two out of three on the biggest base in country. Here they keep you a little more on your toes, I guess. Keeps you moving…

I suppose I should go off and pack my rucksack and carry-on, just in case big important things happen, or they decide to move me again, which seems to apparently always be a possibility (my personal record so far has been four back and forth moves between areas of assignment). Logic has never been at the forefront of Army mentality or procedure… but at least I get to see more of the scenic countryside. I hear it’s beautiful this time of year…


Same Old Story

Filed under: — lana @ 6:42 am

Ah, the Middle East. Like you never left. Rather, like I never left. Deja Vu all over again, as they say (who is this elusive “they” and why “they” have so much to say about my life, I will never know). This is something like the fourth country I’ve been to in the region, the second in a week, of course. Always like that with the Army. Kuwait was interesting. Looks like Brooklyn from the sky at night. You would never think it… three story buildings on average in Kuwait City, some of them painted the most interesting color of pink.

What I particularly enjoyed about Kuwait, however, was the day we went to the range. I say range. What I mean was the middle of the desert with some plastic men to shoot at. It was actual desert, which was fun, with the sand and the camels and all. Dunes and sun. Not hot sun, not yet… that’s for the summertime (120 in the shade. Time to bust out the ol’ tanning oil). But we went, they left the busses running, we each fired three rounds to make sure our guns worked, and we reboarded and went back to the base. Now here is the question. Who goes to Iraq without first checking their weapons? Apparently, this was a problem before where people would get into country and find that their weapons were malfunctioning. My opinion is that if you aren’t bright enough to check that before you leave the states, you probably deserve whatever you get… so now everyone gets to go and shoot plastic men in the desert. Thrice.

Iraq is another story. Iraq looks… uh… just like Afghanistan. It’s almost amazing. There are rocks. And dust. And when the wind blows just right, the hint of goats on the wind. We are back in tents with a fine layer of sandy dust on the floor that gets everywhere, and the showers are over the river and through the rocks. We go through some little gate and over this little wooden bridge. Now don’t be like me. When the little bridge was said to me by the person telling me where the bathrooms were, I pictured one of the ones you see in parks with the slats and the railings and the little round arc over a babbling stream. Then I went through the gate. Its three two by fours lengthwise (one of them remarkably unsteady) and a cinder block or two over a former what appears to be a former sewage drain. Right.

However could I have stayed away for five months…


New Shoes, New Blog

Filed under: — lana @ 2:49 pm

A quick update:

The world is so fun. Don’t unpack much, ’cause the Middle East can’t get enough of you! Off to Jihadistan… with new boots (the nice ones that the Air Force gets. One day, the Army will catch up. I’m not holding my breath because I would have long since suffocated…), new helmets, new body armor, and old rifles from sometime in the 1960’s era. We figure we are just lucky they aren’t the ol’ muzzle-loaders (58 seconds from one round fired to the next… I’m pretty good!). We gave up most of our equipment to the other units about three days before we found out that we were going too, so it’s been an adventure.

So it’s time again to pack up the stuff and clean the house and review the 12 words of Arabic my friend has tried to drill into my memory prior to departure (I’ve got hello, goodbye, thank you, and some nasty ones that probably shouldn’t be posted). Should be fun… northbound to where all the ol’ Fallujah gangs went, so I expect some sort of West Side Story turf wars and a few nights playing cards in the bunkers in the dark. Trade in the turbans for the checkered cloths, but still got man jams (reference the old Afghan tales). Not a lot of posts until I get all set up out there, but we will be there a while (three to fourteen months, as always).

Well, no time like the present. Time to get packin’!

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