Sunday, July 23, 2006


I've just discovered (finally) how to make the links work!

Look to your right and you'll see two new PERMANENT features of my blog.

Major Mike is Michael Pacheco, Libertarian extraordinaire of New Hampshire. My Major - in charge of me and all my team. To do him credit, I need to devote an entire post to just him, later. But definitely click the link often and follow his progress as well. He lives here, he selected me for my post, (for which I'm eternally grateful). We work beside each other and go out on at least 50% of our missions together. In most of his pictures, whether I'm in them or not - I was there! These are the things I see. "Mike Greene" is his pen name - by some very odd coiincidence - owing to a name screwup by a booking agent, (or something), some years ago when his band "Groove Alliance" were finding their feet back home in New England.

Mark Steyn is my favorite columnist. The best writing today, as far as I'm concerned. Click it and read his latest, "The No-State Solution", about recent events in the middle east and what they portend.

All the best to all. With any luck, I'll be in Germany next week, the land where beer was born. You can shove Mecca and the Hajj up your ass. I'm on a pilgrimage to Munich.

This thrown in . . .

Tala, Andrew and Jack. Tala and Jack are Iraqi-born ex-pats hailing from London and Switzerland, respectively. They're two of our BBAs; Bilingual, Bicultural Advisors who've come back to try and make Iraq a better place. Andrew is a Foreign Service Political Officer, who heads my "Governance" team. 3 years my junior, at least three times as smart, and my boss. They all braved the sweltering heat, and inevitable Army delays to attend and sit through our ceremony.

The IZ truly is an "International Zone". We rub shoulders with Dutch soldiers, Aussies, Brits, Romanians, Georgians, Peruvians, - -I've even met a Japanese diplomat. Here, Korean soldiers do their part to make our concrete T-wall environs a little more livable, with majestic Korean landscapes painted on the walls outside our dining area. You see this in lots of places inside the IZ. Soldiers and civilians growing plants and flowers, decorating their "hooches" with lights, tiki torches, pink flamingos - reminiscent of some other place. Beautifying their environment, if humbly. I've seen scant evidence of this sort of mentality outside these walls. Sad, and telling.

Promoshawn (Part 3)

Changing of the guard: LTC Woods yields to CSM Shuffler for his edifying confirmation of our promotions.

Speeches: I started first. These are moments to speak our minds and open our hearts to the Company in asking for their support.

Then it was Phipps turn.

Mirth afterwards. I insisted on this shot so that the location could not be in dispute. The Presidential Palace! (now US embassy).

Promoshawn (Part 2)

A view with Command Sergeant Major Shuffler of our Deployment Battalion (414th) and 1st Sergeant Winchester (of our company - C/422) in the background.

A view from the other side, with Staff Sergeants Peck and Johnson reading the Non-Commisioned Officers Induction Hoollabaloo.

CSM Shuffler (of Morganton! -potential CMCC inductee?) presenting me with order of Promotion.

Phipps and I at attention while the ceremony proceeds around us.

Lieutenant Colonel Woods (414th Commander) stresses the importance of NCOs, and welcomes us in. If memory serves - "If we woke up tomorrow and there were no Officers, the Army would still go on, and function. If all the NCOs disappeared, the Army'd collapse."

Promoshawn (as said by Cajun-man)

This was our promotion ceremony, back in late May, (Phipps and I - to Sergeant). Sorry its taken that long. Pictures are taken with multiple cameras faster than I can collect and post them.

For starters, it was hot, like everyday in Iraq. That goes without saying, but this picture helps capture the feeling.

Phipps and I stood joking around, in formation, (in front of the Presidential Palace - I hasten to add (now US embassy)), to bide the time while we waited on the commencement of ceremony and pageantry, (that we'd not asked for).

And some waitin'.

The Company comes to attention, (or parade rest, in this case).

And we are summoned front and center.
(Look at the eyes! You have to put on shades just to open them. Like sandstorms and camel spiders - you have no idea. You've never experienced this level of bright. The English language doesn't have a word for this).

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

4th of July

Happy Fourth of July Everybody. I fixed the "comments" problem I think. More Later - watching the World Cup! -MG

Monday, July 03, 2006

Going to Baghdad

Phiss on the plane.

1SG Joe Winchester

Me, some days later, waiting on a chopper ride from our temporary base to our permanent one, in the Greene Zone, baby!

Phiss, post chopper ride.

Moi, good to go, and fit to be tied. 4 of us were selected to come up here ahead of the group, and we're freeeee.

First Hot Desert Day Heat

The flag is planted, where are the soldiers?

In the culvert behind it, still catching makeup-Z's.

One of Saddam's reinforced hangars. Note the good it did, by reinforcing it.

Right beside it, we catch more Z's.


Recognize this sign?

Strange signs.

So Marcus GETS SMART, with his Iraqi "Smart Card."

Gettin' ready to wait to get ready

This was the staging area for us to wait several hours before we would drive over to the air-strip where we would wait many more hours, and everyone said their tearful goodbyes to Loved ones. It was here, in this grassy lot, where I learned that my cellular service had been disconnected earlier than I'd anticipated.

SSG Peck waits.

Others wait.

Sgt. Morris speaks to his kids.

Me and Olsen, bide the time with itchy grass butt.

Gettin' Ready

Waitin' on weapons. And waiting.

A new standard bearer? This passes for funny after 60 days of this shit. You have no idea of the boredom. Can't explain it. You have no idea. Be glad you don't! And rejoice. And go laugh at other stuff. You have that luxury, you prick. It was funny to us at the time.

On the bus, going places. Next stop . . . ???

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Training for Urban War

This is a snapshot of the intricately crafted village mockup that everyone uses at Bragg. Its made of Con-ex shipping containers. Really quite a work of art and ingenuity. We spent a few days here honing skills we might have to use in urban ambush situations. This kind of training you don't mind doing.

After Action Reports. What we did right / what we did wrong.

Mackey-Mack. SSG Mack takes a break from all the fun.

The gang just finished storming and clearing a con-ex. Next-up, ambush the other team.

Phiss stands ready to blast anything that moves, with small white puffs of powder.


Life at Bragg sucked. But it could have been worse. A lot like basic training, up at 5 AM, constantly rushing to get somewhere to wait from 1 to 5 hours to be told (sometimes) that this particular part of the mobilization training schedule cannot be accomplished today.

When something really grinds SGT Marcus Hall's gears, he practises his deadly Army Close-quarters combat skills. Marcus, Olsen and Phipps round out a comedy trio that keeps me sane. Cause I gotta laugh. I Got to laugh. Marcus creates his own phrases and metaphors and is singlehandedly responsible for the Company's new lexicon. "Knuckle-babies" and "wolf butt" to name but a few.

Jimmy Rogers! Waitin' somewhere . . . "Par for course" at "Warrior Brigade." (Ft. Bragg's understaffed, overworked, mobilization training consortium. "Gentleman Jimmy" played gridiron for NC A&T for a time. Payin' off student loans (like so many) by wearing the green.

Waitin around somewhere. . . Any patterns emerging yet?

Captain Boulais, makin' the most of some rare waiting time, by calling his broker and dumping his Dubai Ports World Stock.

SPC Tripp in a holding pattern, somewhere on Ft. Bragg. These barracks were built especially for deployment . . . in WORLD WAR II !! - write your congressman!!!

The Flight Over

The flight over was long and tedious, and if you think coach is crowded, you've never seen military deployment class. We had about 5 inches between seat and seat-back in front of us. It helped a bunch throughout this ordeal that we were dog-tired, and most were able to sleep in just about any discomfort.

Distractions available at our stopover in Germany. I don't recall what air-strip it was, but the base-side of it we were taken to was abandoned, ghostly. Little kiosks with pleasant little German kiosk-ladies (arriving just as we were) staffed the place out for our duration there. The population then soars from precisely zero to a couple hundred for a few hours, and then we all depart.

Most napped some more.

Sometimes you couldn't. If your flight's ever been delayed more than say 4 hours, (after you've passed through security), then you're well-aquainted with this exhausted, cloistered, cramped, insomniac state. Its advertised here all over SSG Lowe's face.

Lieutenant Olsen and I happy to be on the bus back to the plane. Olsen's a tobacco-dipping, hunting, fishing, survivalist, Wisconsin Dane trauma nurse. Good People, in other words. He keeps us in stitches.

Phiss took this of Olsen and I getting back on our plane.