Tuesday, October 23, 2007


No movie can make incoming fire sound right. It does not matter if it is artillery, mortars, rockets, or small arms, it just never sounds right. It may be because the film crews who conduct the Foley effects have never been under fire, then again live music always sounds different from recorded so maybe you just can't get it right, you get it close.
There is a marked "Crump" sound when a mortar lands. Sometimes you hear the tubes when they launch. That is a far away "POP" and you know it's coming. FNGs don't so they don't automatically scan for cover and then go for it. They stare at you like a deer in headlights until the first one lands,"CRUMP!" Then they would follow you into a pit of burning oil because you look like you know what you are doing. Hell, I'm just trying to keep my big ass from getting "blowed up" before I DD out for the last time.
After the adrenaline rush from the sudden adjustment to total consciousness and then literally running as fast as you can for cover your heart is just racing. Sometimes you eat dirt, sometimes you get to a bunker. Either way you lay or sit there until you get the all clear no matter how it is delivered. Small talk ensues and some of it is just surreal.
Some guys make light of the situation, some go into a silence mode, some are just plain chatty. I get silent and am not in the mood to chat. I just try not to be scared and try to rationalize what is going on. When you are in the bunker the only thing that can hurt you is a big rocket making a direct hit and that is about as rare as a No Hitter in baseball. They do happen but never when you are there. I have heard the big ones and even seen a couple land. Big Lou remembers he and I being stuck behind a convoy that was stopped and me yelling, "Drive! DRIVE!" He was going,"Where, WHERE?" I yelled,"AROUND THEM!" Then the third one hit and it literally punched a hole in reinforced concrete. That was a big assed "WHOOOMP" with a sound of concrete breaking mixed in. Big Lou then went off road and drove like the demon he is. Speed and distance are your best forms of protection in those situations, not hunkering down and waiting.
Bob from Las Vegas remembers when he and I were on an Iraqi base and all of a sudden the vehicle started taking small arms fire (SAF). We both ducked under the dash (like that was going to help with all that plastic protection) and he drove like a demon too. Thing is, it kept happening, the sound also increased in cyclic action when he sped up. That was when our buttholes unpuckered and we realized we were not under fire. We stopped and jumped out to do an inspection. No marks anywhere! What we found was that one of the tires had picked up a piece of trace chain and it embedded in the tire. The tire was whipping the chain into the wheel well and that was what we heard. Scared the bejesus out of us but it was good for a laugh that night at the DFAC.
Charlie remembers when 8 rounds walked into our LSA. I heard the first one land and knew it was close. I pushed a cleaning lady out of the office door and forced her to run. I was right behind Charlie and the second one landed behind us. It was fired from so far away that the angle was almost a flat trajectory. Most of it was backblast but I felt the heat and my ears where ringing. Charlie got hit on the finger tip. That one went,"WHING". I found out later that it landed on concrete and that is what changed the sound. This time there were 4 others in the bunker who beat me to it. The third and fourth rounds hit, really, really close. I looked over at one of my tough guys who was in the bunker. You know the type. They have all the brave tats and wear Harley shirts. this guy was shaking like a leaf and I asked him if he was hit. he just said, "I'm scared shitless. All I can think about is my kids." I told him we were all scared but just stay put. Charlie and I knew we needed to get to the Ops Cell. "Three second break, then we run." CRUMP! CRUMP! "OK, he is firing in sets of two. Wait until after the next set and run like hell." WHUMP, Whump, further away. We ran. I have not run that fast since I was playing football in high school. Once we made the Ops Cell Charlie said,"22 years in the Army and this is the first time I have ever been hit." It was like a paper cut and had one little drop of blood.
I don't know if the movie guys want to come over and sit through a barrage to get the sound right but i know these are all sounds I hope I never hear again.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The World Sport

Football (Soccer) is THE world sport. We as Americans are very arrogant to think that the average Iraqi gives a hoot about baseball, the NFL or hockey. They care only about their brand of football which is the premier and most popular sport world wide. It is such a simple game and all a kid needs is one ball. You dont need gloves, tees, pads, bats, goalie sticks, pucks, ice skates or any of the other gear that only the rich nations of the world can afford. you just need a ball, some spirit, and the will to play.
I was at the Ur Market and came across this pick up game with some of the friendy Iraqis and an American Soldier. Well, they were friendly in the day, who knows what the hell they do at night but today was all about football. They tried to encourage me to play but I told them I am too old, too fat, and too slow. They just laughed. What you don't see in these photos is the onlookers. In the spirit of Opsec I did not photo the soldiers or older Iraqis who were watching. That is to protect the Iraqis more than anything else.
I have stated before that if we really want to win we have to win the heads of these people. The soldier playing here today is doing a much more valuable service by simply playing soccer than by going on patrol or sitting in a guard tower. He is reaching across the ocean, in a literal and figurative sense as no matter what the language, religion, education, or name, this simple game of pick up football is a bridge across it all. These pics are not great but I snapped them with my pocket camera.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Valley of Tombs

Not really so much a Valley as it is a Wadi of Tombs. It is a few hundred yards from the Ziggurat and has been covered in many areas with concrete or pitch to keep people out. Every tomb has been raided so there is nothing there as far as artifacts except that it is covered with more pottery shards that I have ever seen in any one location. I was just amazed at how many I saw and just plain walked on.
The entire area is zoned with concertina wire to keep personnel out. We did not cross over the wire as the last thing I wanted to see was some zealous USAF SP (Air Force MP) pop up from behind something and want to give me a hard time. As I stated yesterday, it is restricted access and you must have the base commander's permission to visit. We had it but were not challenged the entire time we were there.

It would be interesting to know who is buried here. I assume these chambers age back as far as the Ziggurat itself but there was no one to tell me, no signage save some in Arabic, and no research material I have found states otherwise. I have to admit i have let my imagination run and imagine Abraham walking these very same sands. maybe it was him who dropped the clay jug at my feet.This last shot is of the top of the Ziggurat. We were warned not to climb it so we didn't but I took this with a 300mm telephoto lens. You can see some detail and this must be the condition it was in when they first excavated it back in the 1800's.
Tomorrow - The Pottery Waterfall

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Ziggurat of Ur

FOBs, COBs, ASRs, MSRs, DFACs, MREs, MRAPs, MEF, M1-A1. It seems like that is the only lingo we know but every once in a while we hear a phrase of word that just stops us in our tracks and we go,"What"? This happened to me when I heard the name "Ziggurat of Ur". I said,"What the hell is that"?

I was in Tallil and heard about this ancient edifice that existed on post. I had a vague remembrance of reading something about it years ago and went to wikipedia to read about it. It knocked my socks off! It is the oldest artifact in Iraq and the most profound archaeological site in Iraq. It is biblical!I was lucky enough to wrangle a pass to visit and get some photos. I love taking photos in the late afternoon because the long rays of the sun bring out such vibrant colors but it didn't help with pictures of the front of the temple as it was in some dark shadows. I was in mixed emotions when I saw that so much of it has been rebuilt. It cheapens the effect but at the same time it is a reminder of how much effort went into building this monument to their gods.
This last pose is me sitting on the stairs of the temple. I usually don't put pictures of myself in here but I don't think you can blow it up enough to see my face. I do promise though that I will come clean once I have finished my TDY and go home.

There is also the House of Abraham and a Valley of Tombs nearby. We visited both and I will run some more pictures later of these as blogger will only let me put three per post up.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Navy Birthday

Since I live, breathe, eat, sleep Army I don't often say anything about the other branches of service. The Navy has been doing their part over here. All Corpsmen (Medics) with the Marines are Navy personnel. Navy personnel supply SeaBee construction efforts, contracting officers, base security, etc. My Nephew's good friend Ryan is in the Navy now and I remember how proud he was the night he told me that he had joined. I was proud of him too. I told him that he was about to become a member of a fraternity that no one else would ever be able to enter unless they experienced it themselves. I last saw him two years ago and every sailor I see reminds me of him. I have seen naval personnel at every base I have been posted to and this one is no exception.

I have been in An Nasariyah for the past few days floating between Tallil (Adder) Air Base and Cedar II. Not much to see here except the Ziggurat but I will comment on that tomorrow. I wanted to take the time today to honor the sailors here who risk their lives everyday and to show that even though the only water around comes out of a deep well, we still think about our sea going friends. Happy Birthday USN. Here is what the DFAC staff has whipped up in your honor.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Whose God?

I have fallen back in the Iraq groove. That means everything sand colored except the ACUs the soldiers wear. I don't see how these things are good for cammo except for hiding in river rock which we have in abundance. The new USAF cammies are even worse. Digital Tiger Stripe. It looks terrible and the horizontal stripes make them all look fat.

This scorpion is made of wood and is located out at the fuel farm. It was built about 4 years ago out of scrap. It is probably about 6 feet long so when you get up to it the size is almost SciFi. For now my photo opportunities are very limited. I finally got my DSLR out of the shop and it is working fine but I just can't carry it around here as I walk everywhere. I'm glad I finally bought a pocket camera for myself. I did that right after my last R&R when it dawned on me that once my DSLR was down i had nothing to take photos with. For a shutterbug like me, that is not a good thing to happen.
I have an observation to make though. Whose version of God/Allah is more powerful? As you can see above there is a mortar roof installed above the Christian Chapel but when you look at the Mosque, it needs no protection from mortars.

I know Haji is not a good shot so I am not convinced that he misses the mosque on purpose but it is amazing that it has never been hit. Makes you wonder just whose God is more powerful. When you consider that all Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God and are all children of Abraham you start to see the absolute futility of it all. No God is more powerful than any other. It's the same dude!

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