Thursday, April 9, 2009

This post is just for Noah

My time is winding down here. Our reliefs get here this weekend, so the activities have shifted from the day-to-day grind to that more of tying up loose ends and packaging our work for turnover to the new guys. The things I've looked forward to most are those notes from home, care packages, and emails just checking in to see how things are going.

Noah has lately taken an interest in emailing and leaving messages for me. He left these over the last week on my blog:
****Dear Dad,Is it possible for the weather to make it green,orange and red? because it's not normal for that to happen where we are.I mean it gets orange or pink in the sky sometimes but not green. How hot does it get over there? Have you made lots of friends yet? I have.I could name tons of things we could do together like go to the movies,play at the park,ride our bikes. Stuff like that.I'm getting ready to go to my friend Mario's house.He's really nice too. I love you so much.And wecan't wait till you get back Love, Noah ****

****Dear Dad,What are those things? Are they hyenas or are they wolves? I miss you. It's almost 6:00 where you are.Thank you for the glow sticks. I got them today. Tomorrow, I am going to sleep over at my friend Mario's house.I might be going to a dairy farm tomorrow.I can't wait till I get to see you in three and a half weeks. I got a hair cut today and went to Subway. And I ate half of it and saved the other half for dinner and when i came into eat it half of it was gone. And of course,nana ate it. So i had 1/4 of a sandwich,pretzels and noodles.Mom is telling me to get off now so I love you and i say that you will be safe in Iraq in our prayers.And we missed you the second you left and i still do. Love, Your son Noah. xoxoxoxoxoxo ****

Son, I've missed you tremendously. Thank you for taking care of your mama and being a good big brother while I've been gone. I see that you guys have made all kinds of friends in Atlanta, and have found all the good eating spots. I can't wait for you to show me around to all your favorites. You will be able to put away "flat daddy" and you can take "fat daddy" to school for lunch and Rita's for Italian Ice. We can ride bikes and go fishing. I'll be home soon and we'll get a house where you can have your own room, and it looks like you need a bigger bike these days. You can see in this photo of my room, I keep it clean and make my bed every day, and I have the pictures you guys have sent me all over my room. Keep your room clean too, and be good to your sisters and mom. And yes, you saw from the other pictures I posted how the sky gets green, orange, or red during a dust or sand storm here. It's pretty cool - but not as cool as being with my pumpkin head! I love you and will see you soon. Love, Dad XOXOXOXOX (my hugs and kisses are bigger than yours!!!)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sasebo No Mo

I got an email from my detailer the other day notifying me that my upcoming PCS to Sasebo, Japan, would be delayed until October because of a lack of funding for Permanent Change of Station moves. I called him back to explore some options, and pretty much let him know I'm flexible, willing to play along with whatever the Navy decides, and to let him know of my family situation so he would know where to "stash" me until the move. I explained that being stashed in Norfolk would be a minor inconvenience for the family since they're in Atlanta, and asked if I could hang out in Atlanta, maybe working for the Air Station in Marietta, or whatever. I also jokingly mentioned that I'd be willing to just stay in ATL and go to grad school at Georgia Tech if he'd let me. He needed to work out some details and he got back with me 15 minutes later with some news... We're not going to Sasebo. We're going somewhere else...

More to follow on Meredith's blog on the what and when and how?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Desert Puppies

I was out jogging yesterday and thought I saw what looked like a huge dog running really fast along the airfield fenceline. They're generally called Wadi Dogs here, but it might have been a hyeena or something similar. It turns out that the base "vector control" folks caught this yeasterday on base...

Pretty gruesome. I've seen a couple of these smashed on the road on the outskirts of the base near the dump, but never one this large! Looks like he's got some fresh kill on him too...nasty!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Recon Butts Drive Me Nuts!

I hear the most ridiculous requests for services all the time. As the construction guy for the base, everyone thinks I can do just about anything! Maybe it's because they see all the stuff my office does all over the base, or because they know that I really can get just about anything done. I've posted a couple photos of some ridiculousness from the past couple weeks or so.
You can barely see it here, but on that helicopter is some graffiti that says "Recon Butts Drive Me Nuts." This helo is sitting in a pile of junked aircraft and is just some debris lying by the side of the road. I received this photo, nicely labeled telling me the location of the aircraft, with a request to have someone go paint over it because it offended some VIP, or has the potential to offend a VIP. Oh brother!
Here's one of my latest "oops." I was relocating the "North Point Mall," a collection of gift shop trailers and the Burger King, Pizza Hut, and food court type vendors to a new compound. The job involved completely moving all the trailers and setting up the electrical distribution, plumbing, security blast walls, graveling the area, and all that. The job was nearly complete until the crew had to dig up a sewer line to fix a leak. They dug the trench immediately next to the t-wall and the ground gave way beneath, and the walls came tumbling down.
The Burger King trailer was no match for the several 14,000 pound t-walls that fell onto it. This delayed the opening for a couple weeks. It's all been fixed to date, but I still hear about this little "uh oh." I had a whopper for dinner tonight. Delicious!

Friday, February 27, 2009

It's a Little Dusty Out Today

We had another dust storm today, about our third in the last ten days or so. The dust storms are pretty common lately and I'm starting to hate the scratchy eyes, nose barnacles, and morning ritual of hacking up clods of dirt. These pictures will show you the evolution of today's storm. This is probably the worst we've had yet.
It starts out with a little breeze and a yellow haze.
It turned a little green and weird out...
then it turned orange outside. It gets worse though...
This was at 2pm today. It looks like we are on Mars.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Qatar R&R part 2

We are in our third Dust Storm this week, so there's not a lot to do on base right now, so I figured I'd finish up the Qatar trip blogging.
'Twas nice to spend the time in Qatar, but the layout of the base made it necessary to ride the bus a lot.I spent a lot of time sitting at bus stops...wondering if the next bus was the right one to get on. Of course I always picked the wrong bus, going the long way to where we wanted.
Day 2 - Brad and I took an off-base water sports trip. It was a day trip in a Dhow in the Persian Gulf where we went to a remote spot to swim, jet ski, and tube. It included a great lunch and was a fun time. This is a picture of the marina area and the Dhow boats.
The water was a little cold, but was worth the effort to say I'd swam in the Persian Gulf. There were others that got in the water too, but not many.
We had a couple jet skis...a lot of fun. I need one of these!!! I also enjoyed being dragged behind a jet boat at high speed in an inner tube until I took a nasty spill and ripped my shorts to shreds.
Lunch was the typical Arabic/ Indian grill assortment. Grilled kabobs, fresh fruits, LOTS of rice, pita bread, hummus and all that. I could eat like this all the was delicious.
The Islamic Cultural Center in Doha, Qatar on our way back into the marina.
Doha skyline...and me, trying to have at least one picture of me smiling.
More Doha.This is one of the buildings in downtown Doha...interesting architecture. We all speculated that Michael Jackson lives inside the round thing, especially with as venerated he is in this part of the world. We joked that he's the commanding General of the Qatari ever notice how he wears some sort of military rank?? And Qatar (or Bahrain) is his second home. Just something to make you go "hmmm". Notice all the unfinished construction. That's a problem for this area. Qatar, Bahrain, and Dubai (UAE) have all spent billions on construction, trying to make their countries a destination for international trade and travel. This area has been hit just as hard by the economic slump and have put the brakes on construction. They have a glut of excess office and retail space with no demand. And with the cost of oil falling hard, they are having a hard time making ends meet around here. They have a very lavish and opulent lifestyle (the Qataris)...this is unsustainable under the current (realistic) conditions.
Nice panoramic from out on the gulf where we swam and such. You can click on it and see more detail if you like.
Me getting into an "Amnesty Box." It's a place to put any contraband you may have acquired while out in town.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

R&R in Qatar ~ part 1

I had the opportunity to take a 4-day pass to Qatar for R&R. The trip was fun, but not without it's drama. The time in Qatar was way better than being in Iraq, but the travel arrangements almost made it not worth the efforts! Brad was my "Battle Buddy" for R&R, the two of us going together. We work together and decided to go on the trip together - and not talk about work at all! It was very nice.

We were supposed to leave on a Sunday evening. We showed up at the passenger terminal and waited 2 hours and then were told the flight was cancelled and to check back in 24 hours. We awkwardly went to work the next day, explaining to everyone that our flight was cancelled...we were supposed to be gone - nobody wanted us at work, not even us. We went back to the terminal on Monday evening - no flights. Tuesday evening at 8pm, we were booked for the 10pm pushed to midnight...then 2am. We were in a dust storm and figured the air field would be closed all night, so we decided to take our chances and go back to our rooms, get some sleep, and try again in the morning. Luckily, we had a duty person keep an eye on the flight for us and we were notified at 1:15am that the plane was on the runway loading and we better hurry if we were going to make it. So we jumped out of bed and drove as fast as we could to the terminal again and made it to the ramp just in time.
Here's us in the night vision lighting on the C130. Not a lot of luxury on these but we were happy to be getting out of Al Asad!!! We arrived at Qatar and were informed that we couldn't take any pictures of anything on or near the base while no pix of the Qatar Air Base. But I can tell you it looked like every other base around here...light brown/tan buildings and sand everywhere, with fences and concrete barricade walls around everything.

We got into the R&R Base, Camp As Saleyiah, around 9am and were herded around like cattle for the in-processing. We then got to our room and caught a quick nap until noon. We spent the first day trying to relax and get our bearings of the area, got a quick massage at the spa and ate some fine chow. We hung out in the USO area and Brad was having some beers (3 per day limit), and we wanted some nachos and turned out to be Doritos and salsa. We couldn't get over how some cultures interpret our food!!! And these Doritos had a weird cheesy-paprika flavor or something.
The second day (actually our first day of R&R , day 1), we took a shopping tour of Doha City, visiting all the important markets. First stop was the camel market. Very sad, and funny at the same time. These camels are raised and sold for meat and leather. Not racing, milk, or spit or anything - just meat and leather.
We then went to the City Center Mall. It's a huge western style mall with 350 stores, movie theater, ice skating rink, and all that.

Here you can see Brad in front of a Starbucks...they're EVERYWHERE!!! But more ridiculous are the little Sheiks that walked all over the place. We'll see plenty more of them, but the Qatari people are all sheiks and they don't have any occupations. The country is 25% Qatari - and 75% others (Filipino, Indian, Sri Lankan, etc) to do all the work running shops and services. The Qatari citizens are entirely supported by the state selling oil and they do nothing to contribute to society other than shopping and consuming things. You'll see more of them in "R&R part 2".
We stopped by the "big clam" in the middle of town. Doha is known for it's pearl trade.

We went to the "Old Souqs", meaning "Old Shops." It was an ancient market area with all kinds of trade...nuts, spices, tools, jewelry, bootleg DVDs, etc. We stopped into this Falconry shop where they sell all the latest in falcon gear and fashions. There was a nice lunch counter we stopped by to see what was on the menu...We read the first line and kept walking! Fortunately, the tour came with an excellent lunch at the best Indian Buffet we've ever had. I'll post more soon.

Friday, February 6, 2009

That's What She Said

There are a few among us who are always waiting to pounce with a "That's what she said" joke. We were walking through a camp and saw this sign over a row of dumpsters (indicating don't put wood in the dumpsters), and everyone rang out with a "that's what she said" in unison. It was hilarious. Almost as funny as when we walked over to the sign and someone had already written that at the bottom.
So this is Billy "Woody" Woodward. I gave him the nickname "Big Wood"...he really likes the name... but nobody else gets it! I'm going to miss these guys one day!

Here's a cake they had on display on Inauguration Day at the DFAC. We didn't get to eat it, but it looked nice.

Another Cake.

Me getting into an altercation with one of my contractors. I wear the white Cowboy Hard Hat on job sites now...the Iraqi's love it!
The altercation is over his wiring on the back side of the building...he says "I do a good job for you LT." I get a lot of head nodding and smiles when I try to hold people to the contracts, but things are often different where the rubber hits the road. I've had Iraqi's try to use junk they found on the side of the road in their buildings, and then invoice it for thousands of dollars.
Japan construction will be at the other end of the spectrum...I'm going to be so spoiled there with the highly professional Japanese construction firms. I can't wait!!
Well, I'm going to try to take some R&R in Qatar this week. I get a 4 day pass but haven't been able to get off the base yet...I'll post as soon as I get there.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Groundhog Day

It's been a while since I last blogged. I've been extremely busy, but the reason is mostly because nothing new or interesting has been going on lately. Actually, it has been just like the Bill Murray movie, "Groundhog Day." I wake up at the same time every morning (6:50am) without an alarm clock. My body just gets up. I hop out of bed, grab clean clothes and my shower bag, and head over to the shower trailer. I use the same shower stall each morning, take a shower for maybe 5 minutes, then I use the same sink each morning to shave. The same people are in there at the same times each morning, and we usually say the same things to each other every morning. The conversation is usually something along the lines of "how's it going?" and "Today's the fourth Monday this week (Thursday)."
That's about it.

I'm staying busy with work, and I have plenty of time to run...getting in about 30 miles per week right now. I get a lot more sleep than I would back home too, but I miss Meredith and the kids a lot. Aside from work, I am keeping busy planning for our PCS move to Japan in June. I think we're all looking forward to the adventure of Sasebo. I just need to finish this "adventure" first!

I promise to load some pictures of some of my favorite runs around here, and different things we're doing to maintain sanity in the long days and constant work pace. Thanks for reading about me, I'd love to know who's checking in. My email is

And by the way, you should check out Meredith's new blog layout. It looks like a scrapbook page and is really nice. Not to mention the pictures of the kids she manages to get are absolutely adorable. I love you all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Outside the Wire

I went on a little trip o n Monday "Outside the Wire," meaning off the base or outside the protective wire. I had to go to Haditha Dam for an inspection of a fence project for the Iraqi Ministry of Irrigation, Ministry of Electricity, and the Iraqi Army. The project was for an Iraqi company to install a 6 mile long security fence around the Haditha Dam area.
I have included a few photos of the trip to show some of the highlights. This is my view from the back seat. We had a private security firm provide transportation to/from the job sites. We ride in heavily armored Toyota Land cruisers. It's not quite as safe as a tactical vehicle, but we are also a much smaller target and less annoying presence to the Iraqi folks in these vehicles, and they're alot more comfortable than a tactical vehicle.
From the back seat, you can see my partner, Bob. he's an Engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers. You can see the view from inside is limited. The black circle is the little armored port hole for us to shoot out of if needed. The ballistic glass is several inches thick.
This is the view going into the Iraqi Camp Haditha. US forces recently turned over all responsibilities to the Iraqi Army and they now run this camp entirely. We waited 45 minutes to meet with the ranking officer of the camp, an Iraqi Major, because he was still sleeping when we got there at 10am. We conducted our inspection while he "gathered himself".
The whole area had a lot of men just standing around watching traffic drive by. Unemployment is very high in this region of Iraq (Al Anbar Province). Unfortunately, all this lingering around makes everyone look suspicious to us.
This was a really neat monument we passed near the Haditha area. The region is proud of their power generation at the Dam. It is nice to see civic pride every now and then, even if it is Saddam propaganda.
A view of the Haditha Dam as we approach. Nothing special here. It's a HUGE dam of about 5 miles long and about 40 meters high, but the water depth on the other side is only a few meters. Most of the pictures are taken from inside the vehicle because the security team was hyper sensative to the threat. I didn't feel threatened, but we had to stay inside the armor unless necessary to get out. It's just precaution...I know my wife appreciates it, but I didn't feel the need to stay so hunkered down. We only received a couple rounds of small arms fire the whole trip...just kidding about that last one!
Driving through the face of the dam on ground level, downstream side.
The view from afar. Even with a big shallow lake of water, it's still the desert out here.
We inspected the fence and found plenty of problems, and we met with the Major at the camp. The whole thing was not a big deal, but fun to get off the base for a while. I didn't get any pictures of the meeting only because it would be inappropriate to shoot photos while negotiating things, and also because appearing in photos with Americans can make Iraqis more of a target.
Here's a nice shot of the drive back to the base. Some one's front porch where they're skinning and butchering a cow. There were lots of houses like this where people were out front killing goats or sheep.
We stopped to check on a construction site of a school house in Baghdadi, the little town outside the base here (not to be confused with Baghdad).
A typical small roadside mosque in Baghdadi.
Houses along the road.
Sheep herding along the route. It was pretty common to see flocks of sheep running around with a little goat herder/ shepherd type of person. It was always obvious that the shepherds were very concerned about their sheep getting run over by the trucks! You could see the worry in their eyes every time we drove by a flock.
The trip ended without incident, and I will get more pictures of interesting stuff next time I go out. I'm hoping to go to the hospital project, or another school project, where I can mingle with local folks. There's a lot of good work going on here. I'm glad to be a part of it.

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