Monday, July 30, 2007

Back to Terra Firma

We made it back from the Caribbean after all. We visited Jamaica where we just went to Doctor's Cave Beach and spent the day while other passengers endured long bus rides on terrible roads to go to Dunn's River Falls and the like which are located in Ocho Rios. Being that we have been to Jamaica 5 times before we skipped all that and just lounged on the beach drinking Red Stripes at 6 for $10.00 US. Another couple with children that we know were on board with us so we hung with them all day.

The next day was Grand Cayman Island. We had not been back since 2000 when we were there for Thanksgiving Week. There are more buildings than before and it even has a Hard Rock Cafe. We took the T-Man to Stingray City. He loved it. He got to hold a Stingray and kissed one too. This was an important child development stop for us as he was terrified after hearing about the Crocodile Hunter being killed by one.I got sunblock in my eyes and could not see for a while. I had been there before so it was not so important for me to hold a Stingray. We had lunch at a place called Breezes and it came to $143.00 US. This is why we had never come back to Grand Cayman. It is super expensive.

Last stop was Cozumel but we never even set foot on that island. A tender took us straight from the dock and we ferried to the mainland to catch a bus to Tulum. Tulum is an impressive site and is deserving of a visit bu everyone. Our guide was wonderful and knew the history inside out. The fact that it as about 95 Fahrenheit and about 95% humidity led to a sweltering day. The guide told us we could swim at the beach if we wanted to. My wife did not as she did not wear any swimming gear but the boy and I were wearing board shorts so we dashed down into the surf to cool off.

Two days sailing back and then a 3 hour car trip and we are at home. My Father-In-Law came over and he and I started rum tasting. We found out that anyone who is a Texas resident can only bring back one liter of liquor but if you are from any other state you can bring back 5 liters. I have a California driver's license and am a legal resident of Kuwait so I was allowed 5 plus one for the missus. I actually bought 7 liters at the duty free and forgot the count but when I got to customs I flashed my DoD ID card and the customs agent started flipping through my passport. He looked at me and asked "Baghdad?" I said "Yep." He then just smiled and said "Enjoy".

I get two days here and then am off to London for a couple of days. No shows this time. I have seen all the ones I wanted to see so I will try and catch The London Walks Jack the Ripper Tour.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

R&R, Yabba Dabba Doo

I am on R&R. I had a miserable trip here. We circled Heathrow for two hours and than sat on the runway another two hours waiting on a slot to open at at Jetway. English weather you know, just bad luck. Anyways, the flight to Chicago was delayed but the connection was not so I got to stay overnight in Chicago.

One day at the house trying to cram in a haircut, shopping, and a baseball game before blasting out of the driveway early Sunday morning for a drive (4 hours) to the cruise port. We are on a monster cruise ship and it took 4 hours to check in, about as long as the drive.

Last night was formal night and my son dropped my very expensive DSLR so now the shutter release will not trip. Not a great start so far.

Oh yeah, forgot to add. I bought my wife a 22 carat gold hand made bracelet in Kuwait and the response I got was "Oh that's nice." My next R&R may be me alone in the Alps with some sticks on my feet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Random Shots

This was my first bunk back in 2003. I shared this billet with 18 other guys. I slept here one night before I moved the cot outside onto a balcony. Two days later I was on an RAF flight to Basra and then Baghdad. It was not very long before I realized just how comfy this spot was.

I took this photo about 8 months later when I transited back through Kuwait again. It is at a hotel in South Kuwait. There were these cardboard cutouts all over the place. It is the first time I have ever seen the locals characature themselves.

Finally we have a Ramadan tent. Rich Kuwaitis set these hospitality tents up for evening festivities. I snuck inside this one during the day to grab this pic. This was Ramadan in 2004.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sandstorm Rolling In

Saturday, July 14, 2007


OK, the powers that be in the exalted castles on high have overreacted to the issue and consequently so did a lot of us. What we are basically being told is, "Be very, very careful. Don't post pictures from facilities, of equipment, of personnel. Don't discuss detail of movement, numbers, unit names, etc." I have no problem with any of that and in reality I think I have done a pretty good job of that in the past. I know that there are some world class idiots over here who think that the bad guys are dumb and dont know how to link facts to make a bigger picture, They are wrong about this. The bad guys are as smart as us, they just are not wired like us.
Instead I will concentrate on my life and how being here affects me on a day to day basis. I am in wind down mode right now as I am getting ready for an overdue R&R. I can't wait to get out of here for a couple of weeks. I just wish my wife would be more understanding and would make the journey this way for a change. That transatlantic haul is wearing and I have done it 12 times in the last 4 years. When our son was a toddler I had some sympathy for her but now that he is school age I really wish she would see it through my eyes and understand that after 4-6 months with absolutely no days off I am mentally and physically exhausted and need to just wind down, not be thrown into another stressful situation.

Friday, July 13, 2007

On Hiatus - Maybe Forever

The powers that be have issued an ultimatum regards blogging that it just about shuts down everything. Rather than be punished for my stress relief I will simply go on stand by mode until this is lifted or revised. Sorry but it is getting tight regards this issue. You may have read some about it in the media by a few who are outraged. It was really brought on by others who have violated OpSec and other elements of responsible blogging. I don't blame the one who issued the stop order, I blame the irresponsible ones who have jacked this up for the rest of us.
Just because I don't post for a while does not mean I am not monitoring the site.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Operation Earnest Will Remembered

In 1986 I was part of the team that set up a reconfigured derrick barge as a support platform for the US Navy as part of Operation Earnest Will.

Most people don't remember that one. The Iraqis and Iranians were engaged in a brutal bloodletting in the Fao Peninsula that was started by Saddam Hussein invading a weakened Iran. The Shah was gone, Reagan was in office and the Iranians were on their heels. Saddam thought he could waltz in and grab some land, sea access, and maybe crush the home of Shiites. How wrong he was.

He forgot one thing. No one likes an occupier. We are learning that lesson now. No matter how bad Saddam was, at least he was a home boy. The Iranians felt that way too. They may have had no love for the Mullahs but they fought like Tigers for Iran.

I was responsible for navigation to the set up area and then we had to leave the barge to a US Navy crew. They were afraid we might be in harms way if the Iranians let fly with an Exocet. Funny how times change. Everyone is a target now!

I snuck this shot of the radar screen as we steamed up the gulf from Bahrain. This Furuno was state of the art in 1986 as it had an effective 60 mile range! Every blip you see is either a platform or a moving target. We did not have motion acquisition software or computers of any kind so we had to manually track each moving target by assigning an alphanumeric to it and watching it. This took constant monitoring and attention. The modern day stuff does it all for you, you just sit back and relax.

We re-flagged 7 tankers, put American crews on them and then we split. I didn't think about this one until the other day when I was talking with some Naval officers and one mentioned he was being assigned to an Amphibious Assault Ship. Every time I hear the term "Amphibious Assault Ship" I think about the USS Coronado and the USS LaSalle. These were AAS that were the flagships for US Navy ops in the Persian/Arabian gulf back in the 1980s. They were painted white. The official nickname of the Coronado was "The Great White Ghost of the Arabian Coast". Of course the Navy has wags just like the Army and the crew quickly renamed her "The Great White Whore of the Arabian Shore." God, I love soldier/sailor/marine humor.

The Navy brought PBRs (Patrol Boat River) to the barge to escort the tankers as well as provide screens for the Frigates who stayed a little further out. These were 1950s technology vessels that did about 35 knots on a good day in flat water. They were armed with a twin .50 caliber Ma Deuce up front and a 20mm on a stand in the stern. The crew carried the old style M-16s.

They bravely called themselves "Boghammer Hunters". Boghammers were Swedish built patrol boats that were modern versions of the old PT Boats from WWII. They were three times the size of the PBRs, made 70 knots in choppy seas, were armed with a litany of large and medium caliber weapons and , oh yeah, had Exocets! In other words, the PBRs would have been toast if the Boghammers had ever engaged them. The PBRs were bait so that the Frigates could rush in and blow the Boghammers out of the water. They should have been "Boghammer Bait".

Most of us have forgotten about this little chapter in Us/Kuwaiti relations. I had for a long time but now I remember.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Oil and all that

Here is an oil tanker that is loading up on good ol' Kuwaiti black gold. Unlike the United Arab Emirates, the Kuwaitis have huge oil reserves and just pump it out as fast as they can drill it. They act like it will never run out but at the rate the western world gobbles it up they will be back to poverty in 100 years.

This offloading terminal is about 1 mile from where I bunk and this shot is from my rooftop. There is usually a patrol boat cruising around here. Oh wait, here he is!

They jealously guard the refineries, ports, tankers and anything else to do with this as oil is just about the only revenue they have. There is no other industry to speak of. There is no tourism, banking, stock market, manufacturing, trade or other type industry. There are no industries here that don't have some sort of financial tentacle going back to oil except those which support the US Military.
If you see an American in Kuwait he or she is about 95% sure to be involved with the military or the oil business. It makes for a very small and close knit EXPAT community here.
If it were not for the oil the British would not have carved Kuwait out of what is now Iraq in the first place. Kuwait was, is, and always will be about oil. If you are wondering why I have not written anything lately it is because the days have just run together. Eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work. That is life over here. There is no time for anything else. That is probably a good thing as this way I don't think about home.
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