Friday, October 03, 2008

Hidden effects of the war

I have been working with an old acquaintance in Saudi Arabia. He and I last worked together over 10 years ago in Los Angeles and while we were occasional pals we eventually lost touch with each other. I walked into our DFAC one day and there he was. That's the way this type of life is. You don't see people for years and then they just pop up.
I found out that he was in the sand box at the same time I was. When I was ducking mortars at Taji he was dodging rockets in the Green Zone. There are 4 of us (OIF Vets) assigned to this project and we really don't talk about the war to anyone else so when we shut the doors we chat.
His experience was pretty interesting also. He met a female Iraqi and married her. She is a Mechanical Engineer and is now employed by the same outfit that employs us. She is CONUS and they have a 17 month old son. On the surface it would seem like she got lucky but when you peel the onion you find that it ain't so.
Her parents were dispossessed of their home and had to flee to Syria. My bud has had to support them for over 3 years now while they are in exile. Their family has lost everything including a son who was killed in the fratricide that followed the invasion. She cannot go home as she married a Christian and would be killed on the spot in her old neighborhood for doing so. She is homesick at times and longs for the familiar to her.
Her family tells everyone she married a Lebanese and that she can't come home because the Lebanese government won't let her. So far this ruse has worked but I wonder what will happen when their son starts to wonder why he only sees one side of the family.
The other side of the family is another issue. They ask her some dumb ass questions like,"Ain't cha glad to be away from all those crazy killers?" "Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Iraq?" "When are you going to become a Baptist?" "Why are you teaching your son to speak Arabic?"
I invited them to come to my home for our overlapping R&Rs but it won't happen this time. It is Eid and they are very quietly celebrating this at their home. I hope they come at Christmas because if there is any house in Texas where an Iraqi would be welcome at Christmas, it is mine.
The Iraqi people were never the enemy. Their totalitarian government and the Islamofascists are the enemy, not the schoolteacher, the shopkeeper, the mechanic, the bricklayer. The war is almost over and we have won this round. Unless Obama unravels what has been so carefully built it is all over except mopping up and rebuilding.
Maybe one day my buddy's wife will get to tell her story. I hope so. There are so many hidden effects from this war. It definitely changed my life, it changed theirs and it changed the Bidens the McCains and the Palins.
All the candidates except Obama have a son in Iraq. I wonder what their stories will be?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I wrote this in 2006 but on this day I can still think of no better way to commemorate what we went through. I want us to remember that 9-11 was about people. People died. Buildings came down but people died. Jeffrey Giordano was one of them. Do not forget. I haven't.

Jeffrey Giordano

I know that a lot of folks are expecting me to write about 9-11 and how it not only changed our nation but also how it changed the lives of myself and my family. Not this time. Instead I will concentrate on the memory of a man. He was a man much like me and the same age. I got his name from Project 2,996 which has been sponsored by DC Roe.He is Jeffrey Giordano 46, of New York, N.Y. and he died at the World Trade Center. He was a Firefighter from Ladder 3 in Manhattan and his Memorial Service was held on October 13, 2001.

As I look at his photo I wonder what he was like, what his hopes and dreams were. I look into into his eyes and I see a man who I would have liked to have known, have had a beer with, have called my friend. A man dedicated to public service, a man who understood the concepts of Duty, Honor, Country. A family man who loved his children but still selflessly rushed to the scene of the attack because it was the right thing to do. He is the same type of man as those I meet here, those who have risked all for those same three words; Duty, Honor, Country. I think that there has already been a more fitting tribute written about him than I ever could compose and I offer it here.

Athlete and devoted father lived a life that focused on helping and inspiring others

Sunday, October 07, 2001 By MIKE AZZARA ADVANCE STAFF WRITER Burlington, VT.

Three words that characterize the life of Jeffrey Giordano, 45, of Tottenville, are "compassion in action." Jeff, as he was known, was committed to excellence in everything he did. His great physical and mental strength helped make him a man with strong moral and ethical convictions. When someone would say, "That's good enough," said his wife, the former Marie Scotto, "Jeff's response would be, 'That's the problem with the world -- people think it's OK to accept less than perfect.'"

Mr. Giordano, a firefighter with Ladder Co. 3 in Lower Manhattan, has been missing since the collapse of the World Trade Center Sept. 11. That morning, he called his wife at 6:30 from the firehouse to tell her to awaken the children so they could watch him on television. "I'm going to be on TV with Larry Hoff in a fund-raising promotion benefiting the Firefighters Burn Center Foundation and the Widows and Orphans Fund," he told her. He was an officer of the foundation. "It was as if he knew it would be the last time they would see their father alive," Mrs. Giordano said. Shortly after 9 a.m., he called to say he was on his way to the World Trade Center. Mrs. Giordano said she "could feel the adrenaline flowing as he spoke."

Since Ladder Co. 3 is downtown, it was one of the first units to respond. "When the towers collapsed," Mrs. Giordano said, "I knew he was in one of them." Mr. Giordano, who joined the Fire Department in 1987, was assigned to Ladder Co. 3 from the start. His fellow firefighters became an important part of his life. "Jeff is treasured in the memory of those who knew him as a 'brother,' a fireman whose professional joy was to be among his fellow firefighters," Mrs. Giordano said. "In spite of his singular bravery, it was his habit to give the credit to others." In an interview in the spring, he told the Daily News: "We just pull them out. It's the doctors and nurses who save their lives."

Mr. Giordano was a highly decorated firefighter. Among his many honors and citations was the Albert Johnson Award for saving two people trapped in a blazing building. The Life Saving Benevolent Society honored Mr. Giordano for diving into the East River to save a drowning man. In March, he received the Hero of the Month Award given by the Daily News for saving the life of a 21-year-old woman he found unconscious in a burning apartment. He was recognized for bravery and citizenship by the Fire Department Honor Legion, the American Legion and the City Council. He wore a chest full of medals on his dress uniform.

While living in Westchester County, he was a member of the South Salem Volunteer Fire Department, where his helmet was retired last week at a memorial service. Mr. Giordano, a native of Brooklyn, moved to Staten Island four years ago. A man of powerful focus and endurance, Mr. Giordano participated in more than 15 marathons. He ran daily and logged more than 50,000 miles. Mrs. Giordano said many people, learning he was missing in the World Trade Center collapse, have contacted her with stories of how he inspired them to achieve more in their lives. He was vice president and a member of the board of the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation. He was dedicated to raising funds for the New York Presbyterian Burn Center. Mr. Giordano was a devoted husband and father who took his children everywhere. "It was important to him that they be involved in the community," Mrs. Giordano said. He was the soccer coach for the Intrepids, the team his son, Nicholas, played on.

Mr. and Mrs. Giordano were childhood sweethearts who celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary in August. "Life is empty without him but I am thankful he has given me three beautiful children, the greatest gift in the world," Mrs. Giordano said. "I will always feel his presence for when I look at his gift, I will always see him. "Oh, how I miss him and love him." Surviving, in addition to his wife, Marie, and his son, Nicholas, are two daughters, Victoria and Alexandra; his mother, Jessie, and a sister, Debbie Caputo. His brother, Chris, died three years ago.In line with other honors from a grateful community he has had a street renamed after him. It is Jeffrey Giordano Boulevard, located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Hylan Boulevard and Page Avenue.

I see tributes that state, "Never Forget." I won't. I will always remember that day, what I was doing, how I learned about it, and how it has changed me but I still feel that I should remember Jeffery Giordano.

Tomorrow I will be on post and at the time that the first plane flew into the tower the PA will play Taps. I will stop, turn, and salute the flag. At that moment I will remember Jeffrey Giordano the way he should be remembered. You should too. Don't remember him as a victim, remember him as the man he was. I will.

Cluster Weapons

I have been getting some interesting emails from a group called Survivor Corps. They are working to ban cluster munitions. I don't think they will be successful as cluster weapons are designed to kill over large areas and they are very, very good at that. They are also very good at taking out armor, aircraft on the ground and hard points. This is a lot like the land mine debate. The weapons are terrifying and for good reason. That is part of why they are effective.
The problem with both weapons systems is that they don't POP 100% of the time and can lay inert for years until some unfortunate soul who had nada to do with the prior conflict is killed or maimed by one. There are areas of the world where they litter the countryside like poppies. Afghanistan, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Myanmar are a few of them.
Even rifle rounds are not 100%. That is why any good soldier will clean and inspect every round he has in his ruck before he goes into the field. If it looks the least bit dodgy you toss it. Pilots and artillery men are usually the folks operating the delivery systems for cluster munitions and they can't inspect every bomblet as they are sealed in a canister.
Look at their site and make up your own mind. When you are up against bad guys and an A-10 Warthog comes in and drops a few hundred of these on them you love these things. It's when you have to MCAP the place later that you hate them.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The LOGCAP Diaspora

More and more folks are fleeing this way of life and stresses. Until I left I did not really imagine I would be able to function again in a real world situation and in fact I have had some adjustment issues. I don't live in a Khaki world anymore. Everything is not dress right dress. People don't obey rules because rules are in place. Being around weapons and planning for war is not part of the new normalcy.

Some folks are having tough times. Many can't adjust to what amounts to chaos of life compared to the order and linear thought processes of the military. I know many who indeed think they will make oodles of money in the US just because they did so in Iraq. I'm doing very well but that is because I have a transferable skill set. This is when the skills you brought to the table or developed while in theater are usable to companies in the civilian sector.

Some of the retired military types looked down their noses at those who were in support roles like IT, HR, HSE, medical and such but those are the folks having the least amount of problems refitting to the civilian side. PKTSD while being a funny story is sadly enough based on some realities. There were many who did not save a dime and just powered through what they made.

The active duty folks have many ways to reach out and get help. The civilians don't. There are a lot of people who are a bit jealous and say that they don't deserve it as they made a lot of money. Truth is they did not make as much as a lot of people think they did. The combat truck driver made about 80K in a year. He gets a tax break and brings it all home but think about all the danger he faced to make that. When you add up the combat pay, deployment pay, and uplifts to the military this is about what an E-7 or an O-5 brings home too. Who faced the most danger, the trucker out on an MSR every two days or the O-5 who worked as a S-3 planner and hardly ever left the base? Who needs help the most?

The diaspora of the LOGCAPers continues and I keep up with a lot of them by various methods. Some have gone home and have no intention of ever going overseas again. Some have been trying to get another overseas job and some have just melted into the world.

I saw my neighbor's family destroyed by this. He fell victim to the temptations that many faced and most resisted. He made a wad of cash, planned a big vacation, found a new girlfriend and had it all going rosy. That lasted until he was terminated for trying to smuggle out a bullet. That's right, one bullet. The rules say "Don't do it!" I told him as I told everyone who deployed, "Follow the rules." He got caught and was held up in Baghdad until they could finish an investigation. He missed his oldest child's High School Graduation because of this. He came home with his head hanging down and took his family on that expensive vacation they had planned. He figured he would be able to go back with another company in less than a month so he did not worry about his money. They spent it. While on vacation his new girlfriend also came to the vacation spot although she was in a different hotel.

He made excuses and disappeared for a few hours. Everything was just ducky until after their return home. Seems he has been put on a "Do not rehire" list with us and can't get on with anyone else. Since 2006 companies are not desperate for help anymore. They won't just hire you because you are willing to come. If you can't make a single rotation you are a liability and are likely to repeat the behavior. Not only was he now not going back and had splurged all the money but his wife found photos on his digital camera of his girlfriend. Yep, he actually took pics of her at the family vacation spot.

Today he is at home struggling. He had to move out and they are getting divorced. He is working a "make ends meet" job and dreams of returning to the gravy train but knows it is not going to happen.

He is my neighbor but I don't feel sorry for him. He could have obeyed the rules but he didn't. he could have stayed faithful to his wife but he didn't. He could have been smart enough to not have evidence of his transgressions but he didn't. He looks at me and wonders why I made it for 5 years and still have a good overseas gig.

The diaspora of these people will be complete in a few years, sooner of Obama gets elected. I wonder what brainy post grad student will seize on this for a thesis or for a doctoral study in sociology. It will be interesting. The first outsourced war is going to present some very different problems once they are fully recognized by the "experts". I'm no expert and I know the diaspora is bringing new troubles. For many it will be too late before the answers are found.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


In Iraq Ramadan was not even a blip on our radar other than the fact that the bad guys seemed to want to die more frequently. They laid low all day and then got fired up after Iftar (The evening fast breaking meal) and came out thinking they were all Billy Bad Ass.

In Kuwait it was a local law and in our compound we were OK but made sure we obeyed the law outside the gates. The bases were not affected at all. We had one case where a girl walked outside the gate with a juice box and was given a 300 KD fine. That is about 1000 USD so it is a whopper. Other than all the restaurants being closed during daylight hours it was not that big an ordeal.

In Saudi Arabia it is something else altogether. Here they are dead serious about it. NOTHING is open. It is like the whole country shuts down. I tried to go to my favorite bookstore yesterday and it usually opens on Fridays at 16:00. When I got there at 16:00 it was closed and the security guard informed us that it would not open until 21:00. I am fast in slumber land by then so I gave it a miss.

We had to shut down the kitchen at work and place the coffee makers, microwaves, etc in a conference room and put signs up warning Muslims that they shall not enter. The hours of the client have been changed from 07:00-17:00 to 08:00 to 14:00 and no lunch break. They only work 6 hours and get paid for 8. Half my staff is on half days also but it is OK as ALL the Muslims leave early and that is when I start getting a lot of administrative duties out of the way.

One of our locals told me that we should all be observing the Ramadan rules but I told him I was a Methodist and we did not practice it. Religion is touchy here and you have to be very careful when discussing it. I explained Lent and how it is somewhat the same. I told him that I would practice Ramadan if we would observe Lent. It is a no go for both of us.

Oh well, only two more lunar phases until it is over and we get back to everything being back to normal....if you can call it that.

Friday, September 05, 2008


OMG! Thank god the junior senator from Illinois may get the power to call back all the trrops from Iraq. It really looks like he will need them in his own backyard. If this was the case in Texas or in Arizona where McCain comes from the media would be howling.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Really Funny LOGCAP Story

I wish I had written this but did not. I know the guy that did and while I was reading this aI just about pissed myself laughing. It is so true that it is sad. I do know folks who were in theater for years and don't have a dime and then there is my sister's boyfriend who is so tight he could rub two pennies together and make Lincoln scream.


Date: TBD 2010

Across the United States we are seeing an unexpected result of the Iraq War play out before our eyes.

Many brave, patriotic civilians went to Iraq as part of LOGCAP (Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program), and returned to what they thought would be a normal life back here in the States. However, many of these individuals have since been diagnosed with what is now known as Post-KBR Stress Disorder, or PKSD.

These individuals became addicted to high pay for nominal work, very often in jobs they were totally unqualified to perform; and when they returned to what is known as "the real world" they were unable to adjust. Many have refused to return to whatever jobs they had prior to their tour in Iraq, having given themselves the delusion that they actually were qualified for the positions they had graciously been given while there.

A great number of them have refused to work for fair wages in America after having been spoiled on the pay they received while working (or at least, filling out a timesheet) overseas..

This has caused great stress in many families as sufferers of PKSD have refused to assimilate back into the real world.

Many, for years, only saw their families when it was R&R, fun and vacation. Now they are having to deal with the problems that go along with normal life, and they refuse to do it. Another problem is that when they were home in a vacation frame of mind they had more than enough money to spend on every whim of themselves and the family. They spent money like the cash cow would never stop giving and did not adequately plan ahead. Now that they have refused to go back to work they are frustrated that what money they had saved is now gone and they now face financial devastation. Also, since they are no longer the great financial provider that they once were, it has led to marital problems, in many cases.

For some reason that is unclear until further research can be done, everyone who ever worked in water purification and returned home has turned gay. That's right, they have all become flamers. Researchers say it may take years of study to determine why this has occurred. They have ruled out the chemicals, and now believe it may be the long hours they spent alone together in the ROWPU units.

With the war over in Iraq and things winding down in Afghanistan there is no longer a great need for highly paid, unqualified people in the LOGCAP program.

Former Operations Coordinator for KBR

Many companies that hired KBR HSE Coordinators are still trying to do what they did in Iraq are facing OSHA fines, and some, loss of contracting license

This new phenomena has overwhelmed the mental health industry. But, since these individuals no longer have jobs they no longer have health insurance (unless they are still married and the spouse provides it), so most are SOL..

Most truck drivers from Iraq refuse to go back on the road, claiming it is boring without the threat of roadside bombs and small arms fire. Many more truck drivers could not adjust to not driving in a convoy without a military escort. Almost all say they will not renew their CDL.

The Food Service Industry in the United States is enforcing a total ban on individuals who worked in KBR DFACs due to liability issues. Insurance providers will no longer provide insurance to restaurants, grocery stores or food industry suppliers who employ former KBR employees. Although it has not been confirmed, there are many rumors that some former KBR Food Service personnel are secretly being employed in restaurants that specialize in Indian Cuisine.

Almost 100% of the KBR Security Coordinators who did try to return to work are now overrunning local Wal-Marts, Krispy Creams and Waffle Houses in order to find security jobs in close relation to their experience in Iraq. Many have found these locations to be too dangerous compared to the Indians and Pakistanis they are used to being able to boss around without fear of harm or confrontation. There appear to be no jobs in the US that will allow them to follow around real law enforcement and play cop as they have with US Security Forces (real police) in Iraq. Many spend their time sitting around watching Smokey and the Bandit trying to emulate Sherriff Buford T. Justice, very sad.

Firemen… ? This reporter would not even know where to begin.

And one Home Depot store which hired a former KBR Materials Manager had to close down within 3 months of his hire because of the massive mismanagement of inventory. When asked for a comment, the Store Manager said, "I can't @#$%^&* believe how @#$%^&* incompetent this (&}%^ guy is. We {"+=&% hired him with the @#$%^&* recommendation from his *&^% former *^%$#& employer, but he surely had to be a ("+}^% when he %$#*)+ worked for them, too. He %^&$# things up at light speed. I don't see how his former @#$%^& employer kept from getting slammed by the government." He had more to say about the man's Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, etc.

Many of the former KBR employees spend long hours at the local convenience stores talking to the Indians and Pakistanis who work there, seemingly trying to re-experience their days of job and financial security. A strange twist is that they will not go to work for a fair wage, but many will readily sweep and mop floors at the local 7/11 for a six pack of beer and the privilege of being able to hang around and bore the owner with their stories of Iraq . This is ironic since in their previous job the South Asians worked as their labor.

Recently, some of these PKSD sufferers caused an international incident. They pooled what little money they had and tried to start a rebellion in Tahiti, in hopes that the United States would intervene with the military and re-expand the LOGCAP program there. However, the poor fools ran out of money drinking in the bar the first night there.

The exception to this problem seems to be individuals who worked for KBR Medical. They are able to readjust on the street as if they never left. Many were smart and knew the well would dry up so they saved money for higher degrees in the medical field and are now making more than they did with KBR (even without up-lift).

An article authored by a KBR Medical person no doubt

Monday, August 25, 2008

Apocryphal but good

I was talking to the daughter of a friend of mine. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she replied, "I want to be President!"

Both of her parents are liberal Democrats and were standing there. So then I asked her, "If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?" She replied, "I'd give houses to all the homeless people."

"Wow - That's a worthy goal" I told her, "but you don't have to wait until you're President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow, pull weeds, and sweep my sidewalks, and I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you over to the grocery store where a homeless man panhandles every day. You can give him the $50
to use toward a new house."

She thought that over for a few seconds. While her Mom glared at me, she looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"

And I said, "Welcome to the Republican Party."

Her folks still aren't talking to me.
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