Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Thoughts and Reads

Today is Memorial Day. It is just another holiday in the world but here it is something else. It is a time to remember those who don't get to go home. I knew some of them, I still remember them, I will never forget them. I don't talk about them because it is easier to write than to talk. I don't get teary eyed and don't shake a little. I don't feel my eyes swell up with barely contained tears. I don't feel the urge to get away so no one will see me or try to get me to say what I feel.

I struggled a bit wondering if I would write anything today. I have been melancholy lately and I think it is partially because of this. My visit last week with friends from the 1st CAV made me start to think a lot about why I am still here. They came for an advance visit and I was really happy to see them.

This year we went all out as usual for the troops with a whole pig roast and literally tons of meat being BBQ'd. I went early to the DFAC to get some pics of the preparation that is going on and I took hundreds but the photo I put in here says what this is all about.

The plate and bowl are turned upside down. The chair leans against the table. The place setting is undisturbed. It is a place for the soldiers who are not with us anymore to sit. It is a place to honor them and their memories. It was set up by another soldier, not a contractor, or a TCN worker. It was put there by an E-8. It is to remind us that Memorial Day is about more than BBQ and beer bashes. It is about sacrafice and honor. It is about the debt we owe to those who came before us to preserve our way of life and it is about the debt we owe to those who most certainly will die in the days, months, and years to come in this war.

I read a lot of newspapers online every day to try and keep up with what is going on back in the land of the big PX. I read conservative papers, liberal papers, papers from big towns, and papers from small towns. One that I read every day is the New York Times (NYT).

I enjoy the quality of writing and the nationwide and worldwide scope that it delivers but generally I don't agree with the opinions that I read, especially Maureen Dowd. Today though I was surprised. Really surprised, pleasantly surprised, happy actually that I have finally read something that puts our experiences and efforts into a short essay which explains how we feel and how we want the world and our fellow Americans to see us. The writer is a Marine Major named owen Smith who has been here and has seen the bear up close. He states what I have been trying to get across for an entire year and a half of blogging.

Today I read what I want to say. Today of all papers the NYT has what I wanted to hear. The piece is called, The Troops Have Moved On. Quite simply folks, stop the arguing and the political wrangling and let them finish the job.

If you are interested here is the link to the article (NYT OpEd 29MAY2006) and to the website for the group Vets for Freedom.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hope for France

OK. This could be the beginning of something beautiful. It seems that there are some brave fellows in France at brigade de l'argent des francais who are willing to look Haji dead in the eye and say,"BS to all your self righteous anger. This is our country, back off." My hat is off to these two guys and their cameraman. I don't know if I am ballsy enough to approach a crowd like that. We usually have escorts armed to the teeth so this would be very brave indeed.

I am going to put this one in my Rest of the World links as I have been looking for more European blogs worth reading. Since my wife is 100% French Canadian by heritage and I am 25% Cajun I have to find reasons to like the French. After all, my son is 5/8 French blood so I need to do the reach out bit.

Alas our firewall won't let me see the video but I can look at the pictures and read the verbiage. It is in French followed by an English translation underneath. Vive la France!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Taji MilBloggers

Well here we are. The tacos were already wolfed down by then. I am looking forward to the webring that is soon to come. We need a logo!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

1st Taji MilBlogger Conference

Today was the first meeting we have had with all the Taji (THERE - I said it; TAJI!) MilBloggers that we know of. The fearsome foursome are Moi, Dave's Not Here, Casper's Calamity, and Talking Salmons. After reading each other's blogs for some time we all finally got together for the finest in geek food, that being Taco Bell.

Casper is allergic to air and tomatoes so he was miffling about in in the bags getting his meat beaters all over everyone else's food stuff and Dave took over trying to distribute the fare equally. I think Dave got punked because I wound up with his triple super duper, everything including some Consuela taco. Thanks Dave, it was really good.

For my take, Dave is the best photographer, Salmon is the best writer, Casper is the best geek, and I just tell it like it is. Maybe we can all collaborate on a project sometime soon. Then again this is not the French Army so collaboration may not be our strongest suit.

Dave took some photos but he has to embed some sort of 25,000 year half life, sonic, nuclear, Buckaroo Banzai Yoyodyne Propulsion designed tracker into the photo before he will turn loose of it. I think he wants his Great, Great, Great, Grandchildren to have royalty rights or something. DAVE! Wake up, you will be dead and they will be rich! What's up with that?

The meeting was refreshing as it is always invigorating to have candid discussions with other sentient beings. We did come to the conclusion that the solution to all our issues was the number 42.

BTW - Since I have let the cat out of the bag about where I am located you can read all about it at

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


This is a photo taken by a friend of mine in Russia of reenactors of the French-Russian War of 1812 (The First Patriotic War). This is at Borodino which is about 70 kilometers outside Moscow.

My dad gave me a gift card to Barnes & Noble for Christmas so I splurged and bought a $70.00 edition of Sergey Bondarchuk's rendition of War and Peace. It is the most lavish thing ever filmed before CGI and is truly an amazing movie. It is 10 hours long and comes on 4 disks. I have been watching it in Russian with English subtitles. It has about 2 hours dedicated to the Battle of Borodino and is just overwhelming. This movie was made in the 1960's and was all but unavailable to the west until recently.

I have been fascinated with the story of this battle for quite some time. Napoleon chased the Russian Army all the way from Poland and it here that they turned and fought. The Russian Army was about the same size as the French and had proven itself against the Turks the year before. The French underestimated how well the Russians would fight and it was a blood bath. There were over 70,000 casulaties in a two day period, that's 15,000 more than the three days at Gettysburg.

The Russians left the field but they hurt the French so badly that they dared not re engage the forces. General Kutusov abandoned Moscow and the French found an empty shell of a city. They sacked and burned it and then turned around to leave as they could not believe that the Russians just kept drawing them further East. The winter came and it spelled the end of the Grande Armee of France.

In 2001 I made a trip to Russia to see my friend Scott who is working in Moscow. We took a private guide and went to tour the battlefield. It was an amazing day. The guide was a professor of Russian literature from Moscow State University and did this as a sideline as he made more as a guide in one day than he did as a professor in 2 weeks.

The battlefield has a museum that was opened in 1836. To put that in perspective, 1836 is when the Alamo was fought. The story is long and drawn out but like most Russian literature it has heroes, tortured love stories, tragedy, a huge scope, and tender elements all at once. War and Peace is a tough read but if you ever do read it you will not be dissapointed. To whit you may understand why the Prince stood in the square motionless while a grenade spun at his feet. He could have run but he did not, he simply saw the wind whipping through the trees and thought to himself, "I want to live,"

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bow Wow Wow

Our base has a Fire Fighter Academy that is used to train military, civilains, an Iraqi Fire Fighters on the latest in professional fire fighting methods and practices. Last night was the graduation ceremony and full bore practice for an ARFF class. ARFF is Airfield Rescue Fire Fighting and is required certification for anyone working at an airfield fire station.

Last night I went out to the ceremony to get some photos for our records and also to work out some low light issues I have with my camera. I got some great shots but I like this one best. I took this at ISO 1600 hand held and it shows one of the Fire Fighters with his back to me and a charged fire hose on his right shoulder.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sadr City

I get asked a lot about what Iraq looks like. I am located in a more rural area than most but have spent a lot of time in Baghdad. This is what 1/4 of Baghdad looks like. This is Sadr City and it is a slum. Open sewage in the streets, trash everywhere, dusty, crowded, and dangerous. Almost 1 million people live in these conditions. Notice the dishes on the roof tops. Saddam did not allow that.

Our soldiers are in there every day and Sadr City is what Luke Stricklin sings about in his song "American by God's Amazing Grace." Imagine having to patrol this. Imagine having to live in this. Imagine trying to raise children in this. I feel a lot like Luke does. Let's do this right, finish the job, and leave it orderly so our sons don't have to come back over here to finish what Saddam started back in the 1980s and we are trying to clean up now.

Sure, we have slums in America but the difference is that anyone in an American slum can get out and rise above it by simply obeying the rules and working hard enough. These people will never have that kind of opportunity if we pull up and leave now. This job is half over. Just like any major project, the toughest part is the back side of the bell curve. We are well into it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Red sky at morning.........

I have some folks who wonder why I never put my picture in here. The biggest reasons are for security and anonymity. Another is that I am not very photogenic. While I love photography as a hobby, I am almost never the subject of a composition.

During the sand storm of the other day I could not resist so I set a delay on the camera and ran out into the swirling dervish of red talcum powder to get this shot. Afterwards it was everywhere. It was in my hair, my eyes, my nostrils (Major Boogie Nose) , my mouth, my pockets, just everywhere. Of course it was all over my camera too. It took me about 2 hours with a can of dust off, q-tips, and alcohol to thoroughly clean my rig. It was worth it though.

This shot shows me in the storm but my facial features are blurred enough that I am OK with posting it. Those of you who know me well will state that I have cut my hair and gained weight. Roger on both points but I am now losing that gut and growing the hair back.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Wall of Sand

Sand storms are one of the things that happen here from time to time. Today we were hit with the wall of sand. One of the cleaning girls came in saying it was coming and I went outside to look. I could see this raging cauldron descending upon us at warp speed so I ran to my hootch to get my camera. This photo was taken while I was jogging back. Its a good thing my new keno jet spiffy Konica Minolta has the anti shake system built in or this would have been blurry.

I kept wondering when Brendan Frasier was going to come flying out in a biplane being chased by Mummies. I watch too many movies!

I'm glad this is all the excitement we have today. The news focuses on all the bad things happening in Iraq but for us it has been very, very quiet of late. Thats a good thing. I had all the excitement I wanted in 2003-04-05.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Chinook in Flight

US Army Helicopters are named after Indian (Native American for the PC crowd) tribes. This is the Chinook. It is a large bird that can carry lots of stuff and people. I won't say how much or what because that is OpSec but it is a workhorse of an aircraft.

I have flown in one several times and it is a lot different from a Black Hawk. Those are like sports cars and this is like a truck. It is a very interesting helicopter in that it has counter rotating props and this negates the need for the tail prop you see on other helicopters.

Yep, I shot this with my new camera from about 1/2 mile using a 300mm zoom lens. It makes it a bit grainy but you can clearly see the crewman in the fuselage door.
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