They’re back

Filed under: — lana @ 1:30 pm

After a brief hiatus, the bugs are back. Today I was attacked by a multitude of mosquitos, just as thrilled as we were that it got down a little below 100 degrees by about 2100 so they could come out and feast on the blood of those studying for promotion boards. We won’t get into why I absolutely NEED TO KNOW the five F’s of field sanitation (food, flies, fingers, fluids, and feces, for those who were curious), at least right now… I digress.

So running for safety, I sit down in the computer area to type some e-mails and watch my international stocks dwindle. A few minutes later, there is a tickle upon my neck. I brush at it and there is the strangest looking spider I have ever seen staring at me from where it landed on my shirt. Very long legs, rather small, and quite quick, though not quicker than my raging hands of death, which I used to squish it against my sleeve because it was moving too quick while it was alive. However, I’m hoping that it laid baby spiders in my neck like in that urban legend that went around the internet a few years ago… that would be a fun party trick.

In other news, I’m not sure the guys that run the alert system here talk to each other. In the span of five minutes today, the red alert went off three times. So it’s either no one called each other to say “Okay, it sounded, let’s go fight the bad guys now that all the support weenies are in their bunkers!” or someone just leaned on the button or switch or whatever it is or tripped in whatever little room it is that controls those alarms.

Now, here’s a question: if you are already in a bunker or hardened building after the first alarm goes off, exactly what do you do when the second and third sound? Run for another? Hunker down a little more?

Me, I usually just turn the page of the paper and try to figure out what 11 down is in the crossword (after coddling the little baby spiders coming out of my neck), but that’s just me…


You Are…

Filed under: — lana @ 12:34 pm

The Stupid Link.

I gave myself a new tasking, since I had nothing better to do after calling some Iraqi a liar and telling him that I didn’t like him anymore so now I have a few free hours a week to contemplate these things.

I decided that I am going to try and find out where the stupid link is in the management chain. It will not be an easy task, especially because people float all over the place around here and we have more than one chain to examine. However, I am going to slowly identify the people going, “Oh no… a decision… quick! Someone do something haphazard!”

Upon identification, I am going to get those little red electronic tracking tags and staple them to their ears, NCOs, soldiers, and officers alike. The reasoning behind that: whales.

When a whale decides that the Delaware River is a good place to wander into, it needs a tracking device so people can be like, “Oh, that poor dumb animal. We need to guide it back to the sea where it belongs!” The tracking devices help to monitor its progress back towards undoing the dumb thing that it did, i.e., going the wrong way up the Delaware for no reason other than it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Well, I have found that Army people are very similar in the decision-making process, and usually ends up taking whole battalions or even brigades up the same river they wandered into. So the way I see it, they need tracking devices so we can all gently guide them back to the realm of sanity and work to undo whatever silly thing they did this time. We can all say, “Don’t worry, Sir… the chow hall is THIS way… it’s okay! This can be fixed!”

The problem is identification and tagging. It’s going to be risky business… I have a feeling even Crocodile Hunter would be nervous to reach his hand into this snake hole…


Guarding Life

Filed under: — lana @ 12:38 pm

Two interesting things happened today. Well, one was interesting, one was so amazing it almost hurt my brain.


FUN FACT: People in a combat zone seem to get a little concerned as you sit outside cleaning your rifle making statements like “I’m declaring myself lifeguard of the gene pool,” particularly as you start pointing at people across the lot and saying that they should be wearing swimmies and it’s about time they got out of the water… Go figure. My plan to go mad is starting to work. Interesting. Log that one away…


FUN FACT: Street sweeping in a dust storm still gets you nowhere. I don’t know if I saw the smartest thing or the dumbest thing in my life today, and it was the same event. There’s a PFC on extra duty for something or another, and whoever is in charge of her said, “You have to sweep the entire parking lot.” She noted that they did not say HOW it was to be done (Danger, Will Robinson!). So since she works in the department that contracts the labor around here, she put in a work order for two guys driving two street sweepers to come and sweep the whole parking lot. Her job was done. Ingenious, I thought, and surprisingly no one has caught on to the smart-assery of her action yet. HOWEVER, this was all done… IN THE MIDDLE OF A DUSTSTORM. The tasking, the work order, and the sweeping because its been a day long dust storm. So there went two sweepers, sweeping away, while visibility was about a quarter of a mile and if you stood at one end of the lot you could barely even see the sweepers. I took a picture, because that had to have been the single dumbest thing I had ever seen, particularly when the poop truck came into the lot too and the three had to do an elaborate dance because they could barely see each other in all of the dust. Truly an amazing sight to behold.

I’m going to buy a whistle so every now and then I can stand in the middle of the battalion and blow it and yell, “Okay, that’s it, everyone out of the pool!” I’m shooting to be checked into the medical facility by the end of summer…



Filed under: — lana @ 12:42 pm

It’s not payday, but one of the company commanders questioned me today on my net pay assessment that is my usual response when someone asks me how I am doing, which is usually, “Another day, another 2.43 cents an hour not including benefits but before taxes First Sergeant/Sir.”

So per his request I have a new response:

“Another day, another 4.25 cents an hour. That includes base pay and all wartime and deployment benefits to include basic allowance for housing, no taxes because we are in a combat zone, not accounting for life insurance or other personal payments, but counting MediCare and Social Security payments because really, do YOU ever expect to see that money ever again either, First Sergeant/Sir?”

We will test that one out tomorrow, because for the gajillionth time this week my convoy was cancelled so I get to make up stuff to do to pass the time. I predict interesting responses. I think I’ll just stand around in the middle of the central battalion area tomorrow waiting for people to walk by and ask their canned questions of “How are you today?” to which I rarely respond with something that they expect or probably much desired (my new battle captain regretted it the other night when I had time to kill so I launched into a bit of a dissertation on this awful pain in my hip caused I think by a bad spring in the mattress that only started last week, and how that morning I had counted three new mosquito bites), though lately I’ve been smart enough to ask if they really mean it or if I’m supposed to be playing Army again because then they have to give me a minute to make up something good and motivated.

This is EXACTLY why I warned my command that they really didn’t want me walking around down here bored. There’s a lot of officers down here to play with…


Southwest Asia Hot

Filed under: — lana @ 7:51 am

I just walked by the outdoor thermometer, which rests casually in the shade of a tree near one of the scenic outdoor benches.

It is a crying shame when you have to say to yourself, “Only 117? It’s really not all that bad today! And with all the dust in the air, in the sun it’s probably only 120 or so…” and it actually makes you feel better.

Is it time to go home yet?


Iraqi Boredom

Filed under: — lana @ 11:08 am

I think I will go mad. I tried going crazy, but no one noticed, so I think now I will just go mad. It has to be more interesting than this.

You wouldn’t think that in a warzone, combined with working anywhere from nine to fourteen hours a day, you could get as bored as I have gotten. The problem is that no matter how much or how hard you work, every day is the same. You wake up, you do some sort of workout because there is ice cream in the chow halls here, you shower, you go to work. You talk to some Iraqi. You call that Iraqi a liar because really, most of them are. The Iraqi gets defensive. You tell the Iraqi all of the holes in his story. The Iraqi backpedals and tells you something that at least you can convince some poor analyst somewhere has at least a gem of truth. You go write the report for that poor analyst. You eat and do it again.

Sometimes, you go on convoys. Then it is the same schedule except you include time for getting a lot of dust in your eyes and in your mouth and wearing really warm pieces of equipment everywhere even though no one shoots at you anymore because it’s ineffective and easier to just set up stuff that blows up and the stuff that blows up is a wee bit more powerful than the really warm pieces of equipment are made to withstand, so you get to sweat a lot while you call Iraqis liars and hope nothing blows up in the meantime.

People actually choose to live in this country. Then again, they don’t have to wear really warm pieces of equipment to do so…

To pass the time out here, I think I will go back to my hobby of finding all of the crazy ironies and catch-22s inherent in the system. Today was a good one: I cannot disenroll from a particular personnel program without a memo from my branch manager (the demi-god that controls to which duty station everyone in a soldier’s job classification is assigned) reassigning me. I cannot get anything from my branch manager that will reassign me without disenrollment from that particular personnel program.

You have to be crazy to get discharged from the Army, but in order to want to stay in, you must be crazy…


Iranians Are Fun

Filed under: — lana @ 8:16 am

I’ve decided that the entire Middle East, at least in this region somewhat below Russia, could probably be made into one tac-nuked glass parking lot and no one would notice because really, all of the countries are exactly the same. Well, okay, not exactly, because of the proportion of houses made of mud versus those made of poorly mixed concrete, and the rugs in Afghanistan and Iran are slightly different patterns than those found here, but by and large, Afghanistan looks like Iran looks like Iraq. All three countries are tan, farming in the middle, and the towns seem to look exactly the same, right down to the strange pulpy fizzy orange drink that you aren’t quite sure if it is juice or not but you drink it anyway just to make the strange man with the beard stop looking at you like you just shot his dog. Unless, of course, you DID just shoot his dog, but that is someone else’s story about a town that we are no longer allowed to enter.

I went on a little trip recently to see what our friendly neighbors are up to. I told my higher-ups that I was going to head over the border because if the Iranians won’t let foreigners leave their country for legitimate reasons, they probably don’t extradite either. As such, they ensured I was traveling with a significant overwatch force. Turns out, though, that my escape would have probably turned out for the worse anyway, as instead of fences between some of the border posts, there is a minefield. And here I am without a goat herd to find my way across (reference my adventures in the Stan). However, there was a significant number of rocks. Big rocks, small rocks, pebble rocks, dusty rocks. Just like (no coincidence) two borders away in Western Afghanistan. All rocks useful for throwing at the Iranian border forts yelling nasty things about the Ayatollah and his nuclear program, just as I had done from the other side. It was my attempt at flanking. The fun part was that the Iraqi border guards find heckling very amusing, and were more than happy to repeat anything I said in the general direction of the Iranians. I think we all learned some fun words that day.

Unfortunately, I only got about two rocks thrown before some dutiful Iraqi soldier informed me that I might not want to do that, because if I hit a mine people tend to get a little jumpy and start shooting at things all willy nilly from both sides. I have seen the Iraqi Army muzzle discipline program, so I decided that his advice should probably be taken into account.

I also noticed on my little adventure that a significant portion of towns in Iraq look like a destitute suburb of Miami. There are gated communities, but also trash in the streets at the base of palm trees. And Miami doesn’t have as many goats, at least not that I have seen. I thought previously that it was just one of the towns. It appears, upon further research, that this Miami-syndrome is common throughout the central part of the country, as though someone got a postcard of somewhere in West Palm Beach and wanted to build a mud sculpture. Now it is just a case of finding out who sent that postcard, and we can end the terrorist threat. I guess no one pointed out to them that in order for something to be considered a beach, there needs to be at least some water. The Tigris does not count.

But as such, the days are getting longer and hotter, and the porta-potties more fragrant. We tried to hand receipt my team leader to other people today, but no one would sign for him. The S-1 said she had tried that before, and it never works. I think I’m just going to take him over to the Central Issue Facility tomorrow and try to trade him in. I got new uniforms that way, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t work. Every day is Groundhog Day, as movies portray more of real life than anything else we have been able to find, and we are just another Groundhog Day closer to home…


Hot Days, Hot Nights

Filed under: — lana @ 6:55 am

The intel analysts have a system out here. It’s one based on optimism and a general attitude that it is too damn hot outside. They basically take whatever temperature they think it should be and say that will be the minimum, then they add about twenty or thirty degrees and its the high for the day. The problem seems to be that these people like temperatures in the mid-seventies, so their little system falls short on the days when it is about 110 in the shade by about ten in the morning. My system is to take whatever they think the high will be, add about five degrees to account for their optimism, and then add about five to ten more for body armor and the fact that we are wearing long sleeves in the desert. I should add a few more because we are close to the center of the hell that is battalion headquarters…

Aside from that, it’s been a superfun week or two. In addition to my meterological studies, I have also found that officers are most dangerous when they get bored. They can’t seem to just watch movies like the bored enlisted around here, or take naps like the warrant officers. Instead they like to meddle in the business of people that are around them, usually those that don’t have enough rank to tell them to go away.

They also, I am convinced, have a secret warroom somewhere in the bowels of the main battalion building that only fools and the doomed enter. In there, they have a large table and little green army men, plastic representations of the company personnel. Willy nilly they move them about, changing their minds and staging mock battles among them, then turning around and reversing all decisions. They are thorougly unproductive in each effort, and every day that six rumors of personnel movement are started is a day of success in the war on terror. One of my team members was told this week no less than four times that he was going somewhere else, then staying, then going… now he’s staying. It’s been like that for over 24 hours, so we are telling him to unpack at least halfway.

Speaking of halfway, my team is becoming the company halfway house for forgotten soldiers. As people get trapped in the vicinity of battalion, because for some reason this is one of the hardest places in country to get a flight from, they run out of things to do. Slowly, the bored officers milling around notice that there are enlisted people with nothing to do, and a great light shines as they see a target for tasking to details like “haji-watch,” where you stand around in full armor watching the local nationals paint buildings or fill sandbags for a few dollars a day. Amazingly, they say the locals are actually paid LESS than the soldiers that would normally do such tasks. I don’t believe it, but I digress. So my company, in their effort to save their soldiers the agony of meddlesome details and more meddlesome officers, assigns them to my team and tells us to “find something” for them to do. The problem so far is that once the company pawns them onto us, they forget about them, and so we end up with a team of people a bit overstuffed that sits around staring at each other all day because my team leader still hasn’t realized that we are deployed so we don’t have to work from 0900 to 1700 each day. Talk about fun.

So it’s been interesting around here, if by interesting you mean vaguely boring and not at all a place I would reccommend for someone planning a vacation or a summer home… I did make friends with a local extremist, who’s only goal in life now is to convince me to convert to Islam. Not to save myself, just because he thinks Islam is a pretty good religion and really, not a bad idea. I now have pamphlets translated into something resembling English, if you ignore the outpouring of punctuation and the ommission of several key common articles…

Well, back into the late-spring excitement… I can’t wait to see what the summer has in store.

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