Monday, October 20, 2008


As I said in my last short update we have made it to COB Q-West, Iraq.

This picture of all of our bags stacked outside should look familiar to you from a previous update. However, this time we are leaving Kuwait instead of getting there. Kuwait was very boring over all so none of us were sad to leave. They did have some amazing food innovations in the chow hall there though. For example, they had banana flavored milk. It seems gross at first and it is if you drink it alone. It saves you the time of cutting up bananas though if you put it on your Cheerios. They also had potato chips that were ketchup flavored. They are again just saving you some time if you manually put ketchup on your chips. I can’t figure out who thought to make chicken flavored potato chips though. I’m not saying they aren’t delicious because they are. I would just have never thought of putting those two together. It’s just one more thing to put in the category of “tastes like chicken.” There was also mango nectar in juice boxes. It was amazing and they don’t have it here. I guess this is why they call it war.

The Air Force gave us a ride up north and I thought that was nice of them. It would have been a long walk. Those planes always amaze me because we fit our whole company and all of our gear on there. We put all of our gear on ‘Air Force pallets’ which are kind of like regular pallets but they are made of aluminum and I’m sure they cost $25,000 a piece. The whole plane is full of rollers and they can just push the pallets around manually no matter what they way. It’s pretty neat to watch and I also got some picture evidence of the Air Force doing manual labor. I’m not saying they don’t do manual labor but it’s just refreshing to see once in a while. Sorry Air Force guys.

We are living in Containerized Housing Units or CHU’s. It is interesting to tell people that you live in a chew because until now I didn’t think it was possible to reside in an action. They are pretty nice though and I’m thinking they won’t leak when it rains like our tents did last time. It’s sort of like living in a fort because there are tall cement walls all around the CHU’s.

We have one half of the 40’ container and it’s pretty nice inside. They came with two beds and two wall lockers and we have acquired some other furniture. We found the desk when another unit left and added the shelves on top of it.

All of our time here so far has been spent fixing our trucks or driving them. We are driving the M915 semi. It is basically a civilian Freightliner with an armor add-on kit. There are some different features here and there but overall they are very close to civilian trucks. The extra antennas you see and the thing sticking up over the grill are super-secret wartime things. I guess those would be SSWT for short but I just made that up.

The inside of the truck is very crowded as you can see. Most of the trucks have the armor on the outside but on the M915 they decided we had too much room in the cab and put it on the inside. And once we get all the SSWT in there you don’t have much room left for yourself.

When I was here last tour we used to go on convoys a lot. This time we don’t even do convoy’s anymore. Now we go on Combat Logistics Patrols or CLiPs. They are strangely similar to convoys though. The picture below is the gear I take for a convoy, err, a CLP, on the step of my truck. The gear we have this time is much better than last tour. Last tour we were still working with Vietman-era gear if we could find it. This time they issued us all brand-new gear that was specifically developed for this war.

We used to basically line our trucks up and head out the gate. Now there is an extensive briefing and checking process to make sure everything is ready to go and update us on the routes we will be taking. It’s kind of cool because we all sit in a bunker and get the latest intel updates.

Out on the road there is a large presence from the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police. They have checkpoints all along the routes and watch for people placing IED’s or doing other bad things. Last time we saw almost no organized Iraqi’s. The only thing there really was were some guys with and AK-47 in the back of a pickup with police spray painted on the side. The Iraqi Army is even running their own convoys now.

The people are out in the towns much more now and many businesses are open. The picture below is kind of like a 7-Eleven. They sell pop and snacks and also have a little gas available. Most of the shops are like this where their good are along the side of the road. Some of them look like storage units in the US and they open the door which faces the road when they are open for business.

They have very few real gas stations like we think of here. Most of the gas is sold in five gallon jerry cans along the side of the road. This way many people can reap the rewards from selling gas instead of just a few people. They are building some more actual gas stations though.

We have seen many amazing buildings that I assume to be mosques. The detail and intricacy of buildings made with oil money is stunning.

When we aren’t driving in a city we see more animals than people. There are a ton of dogs but I haven’t taken a good picture of them yet. Most of them are quite dirty and blend in well with the surroundings but I’d still love to play with them. This far north things are much greener than what I saw last time. There are even fields of corn in some places. I never saw cows last time and I see them a lot up here. They are the skinniest cows I have ever seen but they are cows nonetheless. There is also a horse in this picture that the Iraqi is riding. Something else I didn’t know they had here.

And the donkeys. There are donkeys everywhere. They like to cross the road whenever they feel like it and seem unconcerned about large trucks barreling down on them. We have so far been successful with the air horn in avoiding a hood ornament. There are even three donkeys on post. I didn’t believe my truck partner the first time she saw them because it was at night. I them again during the day though and many times since then. I just wonder what ID card they showed to get on base.

I know what you are thinking: It’s Iraq. There are camels everywhere right? Nope. The last camels I saw were in Kuwait. I guess they aren’t suited to this colder northern climate. It gets down to about 65 at night here now and about 100 during the day.

The roads are very interesting here. One of the routes has a bridge that is made completely of Hesco barriers. These are basically containers for sand made of wire fencing. The fencing is covered with a material to keep the sand in and they are normally used for blast protection. I didn’t know it was possible to build an entire bridge with them but I was hoping that was true as we drove over the bridge.

Apparently one of the insurgent’s pastimes is blowing up bridges. The picture below is a bridge that we would normally drive over if it hadn’t been blown up. Not nice bad guys. Not nice.

It’s not a problem though because we are the US Army and we bring our own bridges with us. This is a temporary floating bridge we put in while they rebuild the permanent bridge. It is fun watching the bridge sections flex and move as you drive loaded trucks over them. Kind of like a roller coaster that could turn into a water ride.

So many things have changed since last tour but I think we and the Army as a whole have adapted very well. I am looking forward to a good tour here in Iraq and getting back home.

Stay flexible,


"The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress."

- Charles Kettering

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