14 August 2009

PSA for my Iraq readers

We sent Bossman back to the States very recently to set the conditions for our return. As he was stranded at another major base on his way out, he heard that Navy Customs in Kuwait was taking all auto-opening knives, even those we'd been issued on previous tours (as opposed to any we may have purchased at AAFES locations this tour).

Rumor has it, this can be memoed away. However...none of our people know the specifics of such a memo. Company level, battalion level, brigade...it's a mystery. As we all know, standing in the Customs warehouse and being told you should have gotten a memo from the first O6 in your chain of command is not exactly useful.

Being a clever man (as well as one who'd picked up several auto-opening knives while here, at least one of which was horrifyingly expensive), the Bossman beat feet to the FedEx terminal and launched all but one of his home.

Although it was an issued knife, Navy Customs took that from him as he passed through Kuwait.

But I got an email from the Boss today - his knives made it home.

Several of us took ours over and boxed them up. Three pocket knives, Iraq to Texas...$63. Steep, but compared to the replacement cost... It's food for thought if you happen to be at (or can get to) on of the bases with FedEx services.

I apologize for the lack of complete list of such facilities here in Iraq, but the although DHL has a comprehensive list, FedEx doesn't. I think it's a pretty safe bet that where there's one, there's the other. Food for thought if you've got several folks with such knives and no time to figure out the memo mystery.

12 August 2009

Peer pressure

There are certain things that, when surrounded by a group of guys, one should never point out on Ebay.

For instance, certain pieces of whimsical interior decor.

You're single now, they said. You can hang whatever you want on your walls. And that squirrel is cool as shit.


The things I do to boost the morale of the troops. I now own that stuffed squirrel. Don't despair, though - I left some equally fabulous ones still out there.

11 August 2009

Top Ten Things That Abby Won’t Miss About Iraq

10 – Chicken. With rice.

9 – Wearing long pants, boots, a t-shirt and a jacket. In the Middle East. In the summer. If you’re going outside the wire, you can exchange the t-shirt and jacket for a long-sleeve fire-retardant shirt , body armor and gloves.

8 – Fleas.

7 – Clear eye protection. We may all be volunteers, but none of us wanted to grow up and look like seventh-grade shop students whenever the sun goes down.

6 – Endless NCO meetings devoted to deciphering the latest memo from yet another sergeant major with nothing better to do than send out strongly worded but vague policy statements on the wear of the fleece cap.

5 – The 200 yard trudge through the dark to the shower trailer. Hell, the shower trailer. I never took any pictures because they would have made you vomit. And the female shower trailer was the good one.

4 – Weird demands from company headquarters to complete online certifications on systems we couldn’t access. Increasingly hostile messages from company ignoring all appeals for some sort of guidance on access issues.

3 – Observing the effects of Army chow on everyone else’s gastrointestinal systems every time you visit the green closet.

2 – Microgrants. God, I hate microgrants. You would hate them, too, if you were familiar with them.

1 – Holidays with fake, contrived cheer. I’m a zillion miles away from home, sitting in the dirt for reasons that occasionally escape me. Rather than the chaplain’s brief and the UGR-A processed turkey dinner, how about a fifth of whiskey and some privacy?

10 August 2009

Top Ten Most Painful Parts of the Redeployment Process

10 – DD 93 – the Record of Emergency data. Updated it yesterday? We don’t care – you can’t leave unless you update it here, too.

9 – Somebody told you to ship your MOLLE gear to home station? All of it? See, that’s a problem. You can either produce the flashbang grenade pouch, or we can charge you $75 for it. One or the other, but you can’t leave until you clear RFI.

8 – Flight? What flight? Who told you your unit had a flight?

7 – We know you’re only going to be at this camp for nine hours, but you need to sign for billeting and drag all your possessions to tents spread out all across Hell’s Half Acre. No, you can’t leave all your stuff and post a guard.

6 – You’re not allowed to have a beer when the plane stops in Europe, because you’re still subject to General Order 1B and you might offend Muslims.

5 – You're not authorized to drink during stateside demobilization either, because even though you’re not subject to General Order 1B anymore and you won’t offend Muslims, First Army exists to make Reservists want to desert.

4 – Halfway around the world with the world's worst travel agency. Show up for your flight six hours early at every stage and provide your own baggage handlers. Units are strongly encouraged to maximize aircraft capacity by loading the aircraft with four soldiers for every three seats.

3 – Flights home? See, it’s a Friday afternoon and the ticketing office closes early on Fridays…

2 – You can leave theater with two duffel bags, a carryon and a laptop. You can leave demob with one duffel bag and one carryon. You’re only turning in body armor.

1 – Your NCOER is signed, you’ve received your end-of-tour award, and people keep talking to you like you’re supposed to care.

09 August 2009

Something Different

We're going to do something a little different for a bit here - I've decided to throw up some (mostly) tongue-in-cheek end-of-tour Top Ten lists. I've got a couple ready to go, and a few more in the thinking stage.

So...without further ado, I give you....

Top Ten Things Abby Will Miss About Iraq

10 – Show up to work, do nothing for a couple hours, nap and go to the gym or go drive around and get shot at. Who cares, it all pays the same!
9 – Free ammo!
8 – No need to put any thought into wardrobe planning
7 – Cool boxes of stuff from people you know (and some you don’t) show up randomly in the mail.
6 – All the free Gatorade you can drink (as long as it’s the purple kind)
5 – Covering a plastic table with foil and eating steaks off it with knives during team cookouts.
4 – Spent all day reading and smoking cigarettes? No need to feel guilty because there was nothing better you could have been doing!
3 – Finding a Rice Krispie Treat in the back of a drawer is all it takes to make a day go from sucky to super.
2 – Spending all day, every day, with three guys with whom you’ve developed enough of a comfort level that any of you will say anything. Anything.
1 – The awareness of seeing the reality on the ground, and developing an understanding beyond what’s available in soundbites.

If any of my readers might like to share their ideas about what one might miss about Iraq, please feel free to do so. We are trying to keep this light, though!