Saturday, September 19, 2009


It rained today, full out pouring down rain. The locals say it is unusual for rain this time of year, maybe it will start cooling down now. And ironically, we have no water in the building now. Due to construction, it was cut off.

Also, today marks the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid al Fatr, the three day feast which is like Christmas, Easter, and New Year's rolled into one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Photo of our compound

Just realized I could post photos (duh). Here's a shot from the roof of our building overlooking some construction we're having done. Not a typical day but during the summer there were many of these brown outs. The wall you see in the background is the edge of our compound, the HMMWVs in the middle are ours. The buildings are now finished and there is more construction going on, but as of now there is no one living in them besides the engineers building them. Will post some more photos as I take them.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I received my orders moving me to Fort Gordon, Georgia. Looks like with our early departure (now somewhat confirmed but not 100% sure) we'll be getting back to Fort Riley, Kansas around the first week of December. I plan to take about a week of leave and then head down to Georgia to report in. Plan is to report in 19 December then hopefully be told to come back after the new year (should be winter break time). The plan is to move out of the Hampton, Virginia house in early January then go down to Georgia assuming our house on base is available at that time. This way we have one final Christmas at our home in Hampton.

As for leaving here, we are getting to that point of turning in stuff and sending stuff home to lighten the load coming back. I carried a backpack, 3 duffels and a ruck sack on the way over so anything we can get rid of will make the trip back easier. Plus I'll have to haul all this stuff with me to Georgia (via Virginia).

Well, been a boring past couple of weeks, nothing more to update.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Baghdad Summer

Well it has been somewhat confirmed we might be leaving early. I am skeptical, but we'll know for sure soon. Looks like they want us out of here before 1 December so they don't have to give us tax free and benefits for December. Anyway, thought I would write a little bit about the missions here (unclassified of course). Typical mission to get mail, Class I (food, drinks), and laundry goes a little like this. A Patrol Leader (PL) is named, they figure out which trucks and crews are going. We are assigned by truck crews so we nearly always travel with the same gunner, truck commander (TC) and driver. I have been driving mostly, but early on I was a gunner. Once the PL is assigned and truck crews are named, we have a patrol brief. About 15 minutes long, it details threats along the route, assigns missions to crews once on the FOB (Forward Operating Base), and just details the route and anything we need to know. We prep trucks about 30-45 minutes prior to leaving, then gear up and get in and head out. Once out the gate, we turn our counter IED devices on and load our guns (red status). We stay together and keep a good space between us but do not let vehicles get in between vehicles. Most places here can be reached in about 30-45 minutes. We follow our designated route making calls to battlespace owners informing them or our travel through their space and what our mission is (ie going to FOB Falcon). They let us know if anything is going on that we need to avoid, closed roads, incidents, etc. Once we reach our destination, we unload and turn off our crew devices. Once inside the FOB, we go to clearing barrels and clear our personal weapons (M9 and M4). Some de-gear at this point also. After our mission is complete, we turn around and do it again.

Also don't forget a couple things, it's 120 degrees, your are in a vehicle with crappy AC and a big hole in the roof (where the gunner is), you are wearing boots, pants, long sleeve shirt and oh yeah, about 45 pounds of gear. The IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest) is lighter, easier to put on (goes over top of your head), and doesn't weigh on the shoulders as much. But with 6 loaded M4 magazines (30 rounds of 5.56 ammo each), and 3 M9 (15 rounds of 9mm each), bullet proof plates (1 front, 1 back, and 2 smaller side plates) it weighs you down. Sitting in the truck not so bad, but it doesn't breathe and you sweat really bad underneath (at least I do). Also note the UAH (up armored HMMWV) wasn't designed for people over 6 feet (I'm 6'4") nor is it designed for comfort. You are crammed in there on cheap foam seats that after about 30 minutes really don't do any good and you are pressing on the metal seat frame. Side to side the HMMWV is really wide but the seats are about as roomy as a Kia Rio. Oh, and somehow you have to squeeze your M4 in somewhere next to you along with your M9 that is strapped to your leg.

Well, they always say war is hell, and just driving around is a challenge. They drive the wrong way all the time (we call it counter-flow), don't really pay attention and generally are horrible drivers. There is no requirement to drive here except you have enough to buy a car.

Hope this enlightens you a little, I shall write more later.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The other day we received another indicator that we were slated to leave early, but it was just a memo so no real word yet. It also dawned on me that I really hadn't explained what it is like to be here. So here goes. Typical day at Al Rasheed is get up around 9am, eat breakfast, shave, brush teeth. I then walk across the hall to do team work, as the S-1 (Admin) guy I take care of leaves, awards, performance reports and administrative stuff (I send a daily report to higher). At 1200, lunch is ready so I head down to our dining facility (DFAC) for lunch. Today was rice, chicken breast and beans. Our meals are mainly what they call UGR-A, or Unit Group Rations A. It's mostly boil in bag stuff but we also get fresh fruits and lettuce. After lunch, I usually go back to my room and surf internet for a bit or read. On Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays we have a team meeting at 3pm. On those days we lift weights and do cardio afterward, most days we work out at 4pm. After working out, shower, get into uniform and get ready for advising. At 6pm, dinner is served in the DFAC, usually a meat of some sort (steak/chicken/bbq brisket), veggie and rice most days. Occasionally we get crab legs or lobster tails, but without butter they don't taste so good. After dinner, we surf, chat with the family back home (it's 7 hours ahead of eastern time here), or watch TV. About 8pm, we head over to meet our counterparts; mine is a Staff Colonel who is the division's G-1 (admin/personnel). Sometimes I am there for an hour or more, and after that we come back, write up reports or just watch TV or read until time to go to bed. Most nights I am up past midnight. That's a typical day for me here.

Now, what is Iraq like? First thing is the smell. It doesn't stink everywhere, just around here because there is a sewage treatment plant. Second, there are dense neighborhoods everywhere, and the strangest thing is the mud huts that have satellite dishes on them. Third thing is in many respects, this is a beautiful country, palm trees, green fields (at least here in Baghdad). Worst thing about the beauty is it is overshadowed by the fact they think the world is a trash can and the streets are littered. They have cleaned up a bit since we've been here, but it is no where like the USA. Another aspect is the heat, yes it gets hot here and has been over a 100 since early June, but the highest I have seen it was about 120. Now it is starting to cool down, and temps are about 105 for high, in the 80s at night. Soon it will be very moderate and by the time we leave here it will get down in the 30s at night. The worst part about that is there is no heat in our building only AC, so when we got here in January, my room was usually around 60 at night. Hopefully we will be gone before it gets that cold again.

I live in an Iraqi built building, we live in large rooms subdivided into smaller rooms with plywood walls. Most of us have a door for privacy. Some use bed sheets to cover their door. Our bathrooms are mostly eastern style toilets (you have to squat to use them as they are flush to the ground) but the showers are just like home. In the summer, because our water tanks are on the roof, there is no cold water, but the water heaters here are super hot (about 73 degrees Celsius or 163 Fahrenheit) so you have to be careful when turning on the hot water. A couple guys have been burned by it. We have no laundry facilities and weekly we make runs to FOB Falcon to drop off laundry (usually pick up same day). We also pick up food on those weekly runs but recently they started pushing our food to us, though it usually isn't what we want.

All in all, life isn't bad here, except for the they try to kill us part. So far we've been lucky to not get into any trouble, and we hope to continue that trend. Also since the 30 June agreement went into effect, we can't travel during the daytime without Iraqi escorts so we mainly move at night.

Well, I hope this give you a better idea what it is like here. We are due to rotate back about mid December, and hope to be home for Christmas.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back In Baghdad

Seems there was some controversy stirred up while I was gone. A Colonel we trained with at Ft Riley and traveled with to Iraq wrote a memo blasting the advising effort, saying we've done all we can and we need to pull out by August 2010. Google search for Timothy Reese Iraq and I am sure you will see it if you haven't already. Well, the good news is I am back in Iraq safely. The bad news is I am back in Iraq safely. We have about 4 months left, with outprocessing stuff means we leave Al Rasheed in about 3.5 months. Rumors are flying that we might leave early but they are self generated in some respects. I would love to leave early but it will hit me financially as I haven't sold my house in Hampton yet and we need to get moved by the end of the year. Problems are the housing market sucks right now and the house barely worth what we paid for it, meaning we will take about a $30,000 loss if we sell for anything less than what we paid for it. That's factoring in the $15,000 we've put into the house, realtor fees and closing costs. Yes, it hurts. Anyway, we'll hope for the best and get it sold and move on, don't really have a choice and we don't want to rent unless we absolutely have to. Well, I am going to make a conscious effort to post more regularly as we get ready to leave, but I say that every time and a month later I get to it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Going home

No, not going home for good just mid tour leave. I fly out hopefully in a few days. I will be home for about 15 days then back to the furnace of Baghdad. It really is getting hot here, highs reaching 120 and lows only in the upper 80's. I've packed and passed responsibility for my job on so now I just wait until we leave to drop me off. Anyway, this blog hasn't been going like I thought and I apologize for that, but the distractions are too many to deal with and I let myself get involved in other distractions, ie internet, UFC, Scrubs, etc. Anyway, will blog some more when I get back if I can.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sheep's Liver

I have to say that nothing surprises me anymore. The other night I walked in to see my counterpart and they were eating. Of course as is custom here, they offer you eat. So I did. After eating a few cubes of the meat, which was very good, and a couple sa'amone (Iraqi bread), it was relayed to me that it was sheep's stomach. Ok, it tasted good, so what? After a few minutes my interpreter relayed it wasn't stomach but the liver. Yuk. I don't eat liver due to the taste (it was quite good) I don't eat liver because it is an organ meat, and one that filters bile in the body. Yuk. Anyway, I filled up (had already eaten dinner anyway) on 2 sa'amone and some liver and then chatted with my counterpart. Lesson learned, don't be afraid to get the type of meat before eating it. Now I am afraid to go see him again lest I eat some other meat that could be an organ or worse (they like to eat brains also). God I love this country!

Monday, May 18, 2009

6 days of missions

Sometimes we don't go anywhere for days, other times it is a non stop parade of missions. This was one of those weeks. Tuesday humanitarian mission, Wednesday supply mission, Thursday escorted counterpart to IZ then followed on to FOB Hammer, about an hour's drive northeast of here, Friday no mission, Saturday no mission, Sunday 3 missions in one day. Today is rest day, but our A/C is out and it's 83 degrees in the room. I have a fan which is louder than most aircraft so a nap probably won't happen. The best part, the AC went out about 3:45 this morning, woke us all up making a lot of noise, then shut down. Sweated out the night and now it's going to hit 100+ today so the room might get toasty before they can fix it. Anyway, can't talk about future missions but there are always a mission for food (Class I) and mail each week. We just vary the day/time. More to come.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Humanitarian Aide

We went on a humanitarian mission today with the IA, very symbolic but I guess that has to happen sometimes. Anyway, it was way out in the middle of nowhere and it appears the problem lies in that Iran is damming up rivers that flow into Iraq to screw with their ecosystem. How nice. Anyway, the IA (IA is Iraqi Army)brought water and some other stuff, turned into a propaganda event for them. I actually ate an MRE today for the first time in a while. Also drank 4 liters of water and didn't have to pee all day. Anyway, it's getting hotter and soon it will be breaking 100. I can't wait. More missions coming and the team that is here is being replaced in two weeks. Anyway, need to get to bed up early tomorrow too.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I know, two posts in two days, how exciting! I learned a lesson about grenades today. We were leaving FOB Loyalty when I asked about how arming a grenade happens. Since I didn't come in the Army originally, I was making sure I knew what was safe. After figuring out that just pulling the pin was safe as long as you hold onto the handle, we left the gate to the FOB. We hit a big bump and one of the smoke grenades we hang on our door fell, but it was just the body, the pin assembly separated from the body and it fell. I was worried it had armed at first, but we figured that it was safe for now, it was only a 10 minute ride to our base. So for 10-15 minutes, I rode with this at my feet paranoid it was going to go off. But it didn't because the pin assembly is designed to screw in, only when the pin is pulled and the handle release does it ignite. This led to a discussion about me possibly throwing one (a smoke grenade) for practice. I'll update if that happens. Anyway, thought I would share that tidbit and actually keep this thing updated better than once a month.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Moshgool in Arabic means busy, and the past month has just flown by on me. Today I was reminded that I hadn't updated in a while, and I apologize for that. Not sure how many are still reading since I post so infrequently but I will post more often. The key has been getting a USB keyboard to make it easier to type with. Anyway, over the past month, I have been over and around most of the Baghdad area. From Taji down to Mahmudiyah and from the Mada'ain to Victory Base. I have been so busy my advisor duties have suffered. But the time is flying by and each day I am one more closer to home. The only incident we have had happen is a VBIED (vehicle based IED) went off near were we were at on FOB Falcon, I heard it when I was in the PX and thought it was a controlled detonation (what we do to caches we find) but found out later it wasn't. Anyway, it was that day that 6 went off and one was close. Danger is imminent, coalition forces are still being targeted, let's hope we keep sneaking through.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Keeping busy

Well it seems the internet in the room isn't working out like I thought, and I have failed to update properly. We had to give up our extra PSD personnel so we're now internally pulling PSD for the boss. Spent a crazy 24 hours in the IZ, got to ride in a blackhawk and they fired the guns for testing while we rode to BIAP. It was cool, but I was sitting next to the gunner and he told me, the people in back probably freaked for a second. The trip back was much shorter and didn't include any fun besides a few flares going off. We landed at our top secret airfield (not really but it's small and hard to find) which was neat to see our area by air, though at night. Well, I've been working on Rosetta Stone, getting good with the help of my mutarjems (interpreters). Doing good and over two months down so far, only 10 to go.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Internet at last

We finally got hooked up in our rooms so I should be able to update more often. The past couple of weeks I have been busy each day, and the community computers are constantly busy. We just had a major change in the 1st Cav Div has taken over for 4ID so we fall under them for support. Not much of a change but we can wear the 1st Cav Patch instead of the Big Red 1. The weather here is still cool, but soon to warm up. Then it will be miserably hot until October, and we leave in December. Hoping to be back for Christmas but you never know.

I've been managing the interpreters and they are an interesting bunch. They make about 3 times what an Iraqi makes but all they want is more leave, more pay. We feed them, house them and they want more. They do put their lives and their families lives in danger, so I sympathize with their plight. Well, not much to update but I will try to get on more, if anyone is reading.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Iraqi Elections

Yesterday was a busy day, we went south to another post to pick up some news reporters and escort them around. We visited two polling sites and they filmed, but according to my wife the story did not make the big network news (It was ABC). Not that you would know me if you saw me, I was sitting in the gunner's seat in a HMMWV painted like an Iraqi HMMWV. It went very well, no incidents and the Iraqis really clamped down. We joked that they are more like us now because by 1400 they were arguing about who was winning. They even lifted the curfew and vehicle ban. We ended not heading back until the elections were over, at about 1800 local, getting back in settled about 1930. I met my counterpart and we discussed my family, hard to explain that I had no cousins, they are all about family and couldn't believe I didn't have cousins. He invited me to come to his village, but I think I have to pass on that. He wants a picture, though, so should be able to do that for him, but he wants me to wear a headdress and traditional garb (dish-dasha). Maybe it is for propaganda, who know but I will do it. Well, that is the update for now, hope to update again soon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Baklava in Baghdad

I had a great meeting with my counterpart, he gave me some baklava that was outstanding, I couldn't relate through the interpreter just how good it was. I felt like a pig eating it, but I couldn't help myself. We had a great talk, spent some quality time with him. I think I will have a good time this year, he seemed impressed with my limited Arabic skills and when I said I could read and write, he seemed amazed. Hopefully by the time I leave here I can visit with him sans interpreter. That is my goal, but not sure if I will make it. Anyway, I have been sick the past 2 days and still feel bad, but in a few days I will actually get off the FOB. Yes, I've been a FOBBIT of late, but I have no desire to go anywhere for anything. Too much hassle just to go to a PX for crap I don't need.

Anyway, not much else to update, just hanging out and trying to learn my job in a few days. Will try to update soon if something exciting actually happens.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Settling in

We made it through Baghdad from Taji to our base here in Southeast Baghdad. It's a small compound within an Iraqi compound. Yes, we're completely surrounded, but this time the Iraqis are our friends. There seems to be a lot of dogs here, the guys here say they have killed over a hundred of them, have to because they may be rabid. On the way in, we saw a bunch of them chasing a poor little donkey. The ride over was about an hour and a half, through the heart of Baghdad. I wanted to video but was told not to, though it wouldn't have been very good anyway. It was interesting to see the progress in the country, I was happy to see many checkpoints and police along the route. Though there is still danger from IEDs, it has been relatively quiet here of late.
Our rooms are actually sub-rooms of larger rooms partitioned off with plywood for privacy. I have one of the rooms with a door so I can lock it, others have to put up blankets but people respect privacy. We probably will move once the other guys leave, depends on if the rooms are bigger, I like mine because it is dark, no windows and the walls are high. But I only have one outlet and the light on one side doesn't work well. So I will see what is available and don't mind staying where I am if the other places aren't better.
A few of you may wonder why I don't talk about what I do, well for one I haven't started my job yet, and for another, we aren't allowed to talk about specifics so I thought it best to give my impressions of Iraq in general, and relay funny things or really what I think is interesting. I will update as often as I can, but no guarantees it will be updated daily or even weekly. I plan to include stories of our interactions with the Iraqis but I will not include names or actual places. As for where I am, well southeast Baghdad is good enough, I hope you understand. We are near two Coalition FOBs on an Iraqi base. It's fairly safe, but again you should never get complacent. Well, that is all for now, will update as soon as I can.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From Baghdad..

Well, finally made it here to Camp Taji, north of Baghdad. The accommodations are apparently old Iraqi barracks, but western style bunk beds with mattresses. Getting here was rough, took all day. Started out at 0200 wake up at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, then on to Ali Al Salim AB, Kuwait, at 0330. Get there at 0445, then waited around until about 0700 when we boarded buses to the plane, a C-17. The plane took off at 0822, landed at BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) at 0925. We then de-planed, processed in, then took buses to Camp Striker where we had cots to crash on. We had lunch there (I Had Burger King, Chow hall was not open yet), went to the PX and local vendor shops, then back to the tent for a 1600 bus ride back to BIAP. Once there, we found out our helicopter, CH-47 Chinook, would be in about 1915. We went to eat at the Chow Hall which was quite nice, then back to the waiting area for the helos. They came a little early, and we were on the second chock, so about 1900 we loaded up. Packed in like sardines, the flight was only about 10 minutes, but was my first helicopter ride. Kind of cool, different than a plane definitely. We get to Taji about 1935, grab our gear and head to the barracks. We are off today and start tomorrow. When we get to our final location, we don't know yet, depends on our team and transportation to there, may be another helo because it's quite a drive but we don't know for sure. Anyway, not sure if I will have a chance to blog for a while, so until next time, take care!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kuwait today, Iraq sometime soon

We are still in Kuwait, enjoying the weather. Just had 3 days of MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle training. A very rough ride in the back, bounced around like a rag doll at times. Hard on the backside as the seats are not very soft, plus you have an extra 40lbs of gear on and you bounce up and down constantly. We are almost through with training here, and should be in Iraq sometime in the next 2 weeks, can't say for sure as you all hopefully understand. It's nice to have internet access and all, but it doesn't always work so you can't rely on it. Last night I fell asleep waiting for it and missed a chance to chat with my wife. Anyway, I've acclimated to the time change and actually slept through the night for the first time. No 0300 wake up call to pee for once. There are a lot of things here that we'll miss when we head to Iraq, here they have Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King, Panda Express, Starbucks, Nathan's Hot Dogs, and a few others I can't recall. Spoiled you might say, plus we have free laundry service, though not the best it saves us the time having to do it. Lots of souvenir shops and things to buy and send home, not sure if I will be able to get anything as I am now tight on space as it is. Have to send things home I guess. Well that is all for now, hope to update soon but you never know.