04 July 2009

From Here to Y'all

I cleaned that table two nights ago after we ate on it. The dust has been...very special. It allows us to analyze foot traffic patterns in the gravel.

Hope you all are watching fireworks and cooking out today!

29 June 2009

Oh yee of little faith...

My mother, of all people, asked in the comments from the last post...


We are elite warriors, and, for us, failure is not an option. We brave porta-jons on a daily basis, we face without flinching the dreaded Iraqi City Council Meetings. We grill in the face of sand flies and wear unauthorized hats behind the backs of sergeants major. We carry Beanie Babies into crowds of Iraqi children and come out unscathed.

Chuck Norris can leap six-room schools in a single bound, but we can fund construction of several such schools in one afternoon of paperwork.

We are, in short, really really bad mofo's.

We got meat.

That's 26 steaks of various cuts, and the trusty box of old burgers we keep around for snacking.

We also keep backup meat in the Bossman's freezer, but this is the freezer we filled on our most recent trip.

28 June 2009

Some days...

It sounded like a good idea when the opportunity came up yesterday. We were low on meat, I wanted some new white socks, the boys needed snacks and magazines featuring scantily clad wimminz...there was a convoy headed up to Big Base for the afternoon. We'd load up our trusty Maxpro Plus MRAP and tag along. It'd be a hoot. And, as always when we roll our vehicle, good training.

I rolled out of bed in a decent mood, and headed outdoors. The dust was a little thick, but I was Abby the Optimist today - well, the guy in the gun won't roast, I though.

We picked up some mail, then SSG C and SGT B went down to move the truck over to the line, Bossman and I finished up some coffee and prepared to get a little paperwork we were taking. Just before we headed off, SSG C came over with a question - did we know, he asked, if this particular truck had a set of slave cables?

(those are basically a giant jumper cable for military vehicles, which tend to have a special port designed for "slaving")

It started yesterday! I pointed out, which forced SSG C to point out that although yes, he had started the truck yesterday, it apparently had decided to take today off.

(and no - we didn't get a set of slave cables when we signed out the MaxPro)

We found a set and jumped the truck. The boys drove it around to the line, and the Boss and I grabbed our paperwork. Along the way, they grabbed ice for our cooler and returned the cables.

We met them at the staging area (we were still early - our truck has been, on occasion, prone to commo disasters - we budget extra time).

My pants gave out!, announced SGT B, hopping down and indicating the signature ACU failure - a spectacularly blown-out crotch. It was, we noted, a blue underpants day.

I hopped in the back to put the water and Gatorade in the cooler with the ice while the guys handled their gunner and driver chores. Except the cooler...I'd never seen a catastropic cooler failure before - cracked plastic and a separated insulating layer. The lid wouldn't fit. And when it's over 100 in the dust at 0900, a non-sealing cooler is a non-starter.

It was not, the Bossman noted, starting out as a particularly super day.

The blue cooler (which we loved - it was the perfect size) ended up in the Dumpster, and I trudged off to fetch Second Best Cooler (it's red and just smaller enough to suck). We got that loaded, the commo checked, the gun up, my high-speed warfighting Tom Tom system up and running. We hit the test-fire pit and rolled out the gate.

Hey, C, I asked, you smell something?

Smells like brakes, the Bossman volunteered from the back.

Burning brakes, said SSG C, piloting out the entry maze.

The radio chatter turned to the weird burning brake smell, and we made a quick stop outside the gate to check the emergency brake on a trailer in the convoy. It was semi-engaged, so it was blamed for the smell. We had no idiot lights or odd gauges, and Old Faithful was handling in her normal, godawful manner. We continued on.

We reached Big Base, established a linkup time in six hours, and and parked near Finance so the boss could go in and grab some cash. I crawled out of the front to stow my body armor in the passenger compartment. SGT B pulled down the gun and SSG climbed out of the driver's seat to stretch.

Only there was this smell...

SSG C and I circled the vehicle. His background is in the motor pool, so when we noted a good, solid, Class III leak around the inner edge of the inner rear tire on the driver's side, he was about to expertly diagnose it as probably the problem.

Fortunately, we were parked right across from the Maintenance section for the battalion we support. Cooking with gas, hey? Well, not so much. See, they don't keep parts on hand for the Maxpro varients of MRAP...

[insert sound of head hitting wall here]

But maybe they had what we needed. Of course, it being Sunday on Big Base, the maintence crew didn't actually show up till 1300...

We went to lunch, sent the Bossman to do officer things at Higher, and linked up with the truck bubbas at 1300.

Nope, said the staff sergeant in charge of the section. They didn't have any hub seals (aha! Now I knew what we needed!) for a Maxpro, but there was an outfit a couple streets over that worked on Maxpros...

(figuring out which little garage does what to which vehicles and for whom could be a full-time job. It's not mine, so this part is always frustrating as Hell)

Fortunately, while we were at lunch, the whole wheel/brake/hub/axle area had cooled just enough to unseize (a lovely development as soon as we had parked the truck). So we could move it to the Possible Maybe Guys Who Could Fix It.

I walked into their bay, which was full of civilians, and started telling my sob story:

Hi, my name is Abby and I'm with the CA team supporting the Cav guys down at FOB McSleepy. We seem to have developed a hub leak on the way up here, and the Forward Support Company people here don't have what they need to fix it. They said you all might be able to help. Did I mention our SP to get back is in 3.5 hours? And we really really hate our Higher and didn't pack our toothbrushes, so I'd pretty much sell my soul to you if you can fix my truck.

And you know what? God love those guys at ManTech, because they did.

We pulled down the wire mitigation system, I shuffled some paper, we debated a grumpy staff sergeant from a nearby maintenance section from which the ManTech guys actually liberated our part...we watched gallons of water (to cool) and degreaser (to, I suppose, degrease) go into the afflicted area of Old Not-Quite-Faithful. At a couple of points, there were six guys cranking on our truck to get us out the door in time to get home. They seemed mildly amazing our rear axle hadn't burst into flame or something similarly horrible on our trip up there.

In between the debates and forms, we had time to get each of us past the real PX and to reassure our fearless leader that he would not, in fact, be trapped at Higher for the night.

We rolled out of their compound at 1615, picked up the Bossman, fueled up (no way we were rolling out with the needle anywhere to the left of "F" with the day we were having), made our linkup, and got back to our dusty little home.

Soaked in sweat and thankfully ditching our body armor, we stood next to the parked truck (who has a followup visit with our local maintenance guys tomorrow).

Next time, the Bossman ventured, when the truck is dead in the morning and there's a pants failure and a cooler breaks, all before we even saddle up...

Right, we agreed. The next time that happens, it's a sign we all just need to go back to bed.

Bingo, he said.

(note - I wanted to link to the ManTech folks because they went a lot farther than they needed to with a lot less paperwork to help us out. Maybe I heard the name badly, because the only ManTech I could find with a link to the defense industry didn't sound like the same folks. Pity, 'cause this was a great group of guys)