Monday, December 1, 2008

Secret Missions and Donkeys

Some of you may be aware that the Thanksgiving holiday was a few days ago. In the Army we call this Thursday and we go on missions. Some people were complaining about working on Thanksgiving but I don’t really understand why. It’s not like they were going to go to Grandma’s house for dinner or anything. Besides, I must have got paid double-time for that mission since it was on a holiday. I’ll have to check my next paystub.

They did go all out in the chow hall like they usually do for holidays around here. I was able to go to the chow hall at another base for lunch and got take-out from our chow hall for dinner. The food from our chow hall was much better even though it was take-out. I don’t have any pictures of the festivities though because the base we were at doesn’t allow pictures in the chow hall. Some people got pictures of our chow hall which had a horse-drawn wagon (minus the horse), a full-size teepee, and a very large replica of a sailing ship. I’ll try to get some pictures posted in the future.

We actually did see some turkeys out on the road the day after Thanksgiving. I had never seen turkeys in Iraq before on either tour. I assume they were hiding from us Americans and they felt it was safe to come out the day after Thanksgiving. Maybe they were just on their way to the store to catch some Black Friday deals.

I was thinking back recently to this summer when everyone was complaining about gas prices. Now I’m technically not allowed to tell you what our mission is here because of operational security. I can’t really tell you that we are an elite unit specially tasked with doing whatever it takes to lower gas prices. I can show you this chart though:

I can also say that the national average gasoline price was $4.11 on 17 July 2008 and that is the highest ever recorded. We were activated on 28 July 2008 and the current national average gasoline price is $1.83. As we like to say in the Army, “I’m not saying…, I’m just saying.”

Since the last update my truck decided that it had gone on too many missions without a break so it quit. Well, to be fair, the whole truck didn’t quit but when the transmission decided to quit it was hard for the rest of the truck to continue on missions. We had to send it out for a transmission replacement so we are currently driving a spare truck. It’s amazing how comfortable you become in your own truck and how strange it feels in a new one. I’m sure we will just get comfortable in the loaner by the time our truck is done.

The good thing is the replacement truck does not have an operating speedometer. You might be wondering why that is a good thing and I’ll be happy to tell you. They have speed limits here on post which they technically also had last tour but they weren’t really enforced. Now the MP’s have radar guns and hide behind bunkers and bus stops. When you get a speeding ticket they put it in a frame in our Headquarters and make you fill sandbags. Well, most of us would have that treatment but I digress. I haven’t been pulled over yet but I imagine the conversation going something like this:

MP: Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me: No, Sir. Why did you?

MP: Well, you were going 23 in a 15 mile per hour zone.

Me: I didn’t realize that Sir. My speedometer is inoperable and we don’t have the parts to fix it.

MP: Oh, I see.

Me: You should have pulled over the guy I was racing. I know he has a working speedometer. I’ve got to go now. Have a nice day Sir.

We normally haul equipment or supplies on our flatbed trailers. Recently we hauled a really nice car.

In order to see it’s really nice you have to look past the three flat tires, the bullet holes, and its inability to start. So we’ll pretend it’s really nice. When we got to the yard where we were to drop it off they said they were going to bring a forklift to download it for us. So we waited about a half hour for them to come with the forklift but it never showed up.

We decided we had waited long enough. The car got hung up a little bit when we got to the ramp so some of the guys who worked in the yard helped us push it the rest of the way onto the ramp.

The nose of the car hit at the bottom of the ramp and the car stopped right there. It was off our truck though so it was no longer our problem. Maybe they will be faster with the forklift next time.

We also haul fuel which is a lot easier than the flatbeds. When you pull up to the fuel farm they hook up the hose to your truck and all you have to do is open the vent on the top. Then you just sit up there and wait until the tank is empty. It’s a nice spot to sit and read for a while.

In my last update I talked about how it was the rainy season here and I was thinking I might have to recant that statement. It only rained a little bit since the last update until two days ago. Then it poured. And when it got done pouring, it poured some more and the wind came up. The picture below is us out on the road. We are not actually driving next to a river but it looks like it. The waves on the water are from the wind.

This picture is from the front door of the post office. The whole area around it was completely flooded so they made a bridge of sandbags and cardboard. It is strange to me that we have been here for five years and we still need card board to get to the post office when it rains.

Donkeys are a very common sight on the roads here. They appear to have no owners and just wander around trying to find some food. I don’t know how many of you have seen a donkey in real life (or seen Winnie the Pooh) but donkeys are very sad animals. As you might imagine, this is compounded by rain. We saw this donkey standing on the side of the road in the pouring rain just looking at the ground presumably wondering why he had to be born in Iraq instead of at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I think I saw another one take a book of donkey recipes to the nearest person and lay down in front of him.

The pictures above are not actual photographs from Iraq. They don’t have bows on their tails here. I would like to thank whatever website I grabbed them from. And remember if you want to see any of the pictures in more detail you can click on them.



If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get.

- Frank A. Clark

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