Saturday, September 5, 2009

You might have seen me there. I just dropped a load of celery.

I made it home. I got home about a week ago after lots of waiting and waiting at Fort Dix. There was a lot of downtime between appointments so I tried to make the best of the time and do some sightseeing with the other people who were also stuck at Fort Dix.

I went to Gettysburg, PA and Hershey, PA. We went to the Harley-Davidson factory in York, PA and a couple Harley dealerships. Okay. A lot of Harley dealerships.

I'm just trying to get the proper gear and parts for when I get the "new" motorcycle running. I figure I won't even need a job if I get the bike going. It can't cost that much to drive around on a bike and sleep in a tent right?

I was able to come home a few times on leave. On one of those trips I met some people from my squad at Six Flags Great America and we spent a day there.

I was also able to go to a Phillies game and sit in some really good seats.

I also made it to a Tigers game last week while I was in Flint.

Right now I am back in Chicago. I'm getting my Commercial Driver's License and I'm going to be hauling celery for a while. I am still looking for a full-time engineering-type job but the celery will hold me over in the meantime.
Thank you for all of your support while I have been deployed. It was a really good deployment over all.

I'm going to buy a five gallon tub of peanut butter,


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Top Secret IED Defeat Systems

Now that we are safely back in the United States I feel confident showing you some of the Top Secret systems we used to defeat Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's).

The first system is called Portable Nemisis Detection Assistant (PaNDA). It is a vehicle mounted search and destroy system. You can see the sensor peeking it's head out in the lower right corner of the windshield. It scans the road ahead for IED's and fires the counter-charge if it detects one. You can see the counter-charge projectile mounted on the front of the hood. It may look like it's mounted with duct tape (or 100-mph tape for you military types) but I can assure you it is much more high-tech than that.

The other system we used is called Super Portable Observation Technology (SPOT). Unlike the PaNDA, the SPOT is capable of detecting IED's but not destroying them. SPOT fits neatly in a grenade pouch for dismounted patrols. When the system spots an IED it alerts us with a bark-like tone.

The insurgents tried to get us with IED's, RPG's, rockets, mortars, small arms fire, and rocks. Boy, do they love those rocks. Anyway, thanks to SPOT, PaNDA, and some really bad aim we came through it all with no problems.

I'm still here at Ft. Dix trying to get finished up and get home for good. It has given me some time to look for a full-time job though so that is good. If any of you know of jobs in the Midwest for an Industrial/Manufacturing/Quality Engineer then let me know.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Road Home...

I realized that a lot has happened since my last update so it must be time for a refresher.

First of all, the 1174th Transportation Company from the Tennessee National Guard came to relieve us. I really appreciated them doing that so I could leave. We trained them on what we do rode with them on their first few missions.

The picture above is of the Transfer of Authority (TOA) ceremony we had. Once we had transferred authority for our mission there was only one thing left to do.

Just a little water training.

The picture above is the new way that Michael Phelps has to enter the water for all of his swimming events. That way he gives the other guys a chance.

After we patrolled the swimming pool for about two weeks we finally a got a plane out of QWest, Iraq. And I don't think we are allowed to take pictures on the flight line so I would like to thank whoever it was that took this picture and gave it to me.

This is me and my buddy Gepford on the plane headed out of Iraq.

We got down to Kuwait where the food was terrible compared to Iraq but they did have real milk. It's seems a little strange to have to put "100% real, fresh, cow's milk" on the label but it is also reassuring.

This is the tent we stayed in for a day or so while we waited on our flight out of Kuwait. We had to go through some briefings and get everything we had inspected by Customs. I would like to say that we did finally find a use for the Navy in Iraq though. They can search through our bags with the best of them.

We let Kuwait on Independence Day and took the scenic route back to the United States. We went from Kuwait to Germany which was our only stop on the way over. Then we stopped off in Scotland for a little bit. Then we stopped in Iceland. I guess you could say "I went to Iceland and all I got was this blurry picture of a plane." From Iceland we flew right into McGuire Air Force Base which is right next to Ft. Dix, NJ.

This is our barracks that has been home sweet home for a little bit now.

We have been very busy going to lots of classes and trying to get out of here as you can. By the way, did I mention they have grass here in the United States?

The food here is the worst I have ever had in the military. We are resourceful though so we got ingredients for pizza at the grocery store and cooked it on the grill. It turned out pretty well.

Most of our company went home today but a few of us are stuck here at Ft. Dix. We just have a few issues to get worked out and we should be home soon. I don't know when I'll be back home yet but I'll keep you updated.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where We Live

We have been doing a lot of classes recently in between missions. Someone plans the missions for the nights and the classes for the days though. I think you can guess how the classes end up.

We still get our rest out on mission though.

We have moved to some new barracks now where we don't have the Internet and TV. We also have 30 room mates instead of one so it's been a little adjustment.

The above picture is of moving day. I'm sure you can hear the voices now, "Mine's the green bag. Have you seen it?" "Yeah, it's right next to the camouflage one."

The picture below is our new building taken from the bunker out front. It's an old Iraqi barracks and it has four rooms connected by two courtyards.

It's not really too bad of place to live and the reason we are living there is because our time is getting short. We had to move out of the CHU's so our replacements could move into them.

And of course we did a little exploring of our bunker out front. I was sure we would find some weapons of mass destruction but we didn't. We did find a lot of bird poop though. I suppose that could eventually be made into a WMD.

So we are close to coming home but I don't know any dates yet. And if you haven't already, stop sending mail. They are telling us we probably won't get it now that we have moved to our new barracks.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What I Carry

I heard about a book called 'The Things They Carried' about the Vietnam war. I thought it would be really interesting until I learned it was a work of fiction, or partially fiction, or maybe not fiction at all. I guess that doesn't preclude it from being interesting but it sort of turned me off to the book.

I thought it might be interesting to know what I carry on a daily basis. Our uniforms have twelve pockets on them and a few other places to stash things. The top has four pockets on it and a place to put some pens. I always carry at least two pens in my left sleeve but I don't use any of the other pockets on the top. Our body armor covers them anyway so it doesn't really make sense to me to put things in there.

On the pants we have a belt of course where I keep my Gerber Multi-tool and a lighter on a leash. We are supposed to still keep our uniforms neat and string-free. A lighter is the best way to do that but it is a little more difficult now that we have flame retardant uniforms. I have had many Gerber Multi-tools over the years and this is one they issued me for this tour. It is amazing how many times a day I use it for different things.

In my back right pocket I have my wallet. Unless I'm driving then it goes in a cargo pocket. Must be all that money I have stuffed in there. Or the horrible roads in Iraq.

My right, top pocket is probably the most crowded. I have the Blistex, the nail clippers, the Swiss Army "cute" knife, and a memory stick. We aren't technically allowed to us a memory stick anywhere in Iraq so I really don't have one. I also have a Gerber knife clipped onto my pocket. This particular one is a Gerber Applegate-Fairbairn Combat Knife. I just call it "knife" for short.

In my right cargo pocket I have my MP3 player in some type of camo pouch/armband. It's also good for holding my ID and keys when I go to the gym. I have various snacks like gum and LifeSavers Wintergreen. People tell me I am addicted to the later but I can quit whenever I want. I also have an LED headlamp that I got from Harbor Freight. That means it doesn't work all the time but it didn't cost much. And also an Olympus Stylus 850SW digital camera. It's waterproof which also means it doesn't get mad and stop working because of dust like my other camera did.

My right calf pocket is required to have a Combat Action Tourniquet (CAT) in it. That is much better than being required to have an actual cat in it because the pocket is quite small. And if you are my mom I have no idea why they make me carry this.

My left top pocket has the keys to my CHU and my truck and a flash light. The Pelican MityLite flashlight is really nice and their customer service is top notch also.

My left cargo pocket has some reading material for any surprise downtime. Reader's Digest is the perfect size even if it does make me an old man to read it. I also have a notepad in a camo holder. I'm not really worried about the enemy seeing my notebook when I pull it out but it helps me organize a lot of little papers I have to carry with me. The toothbrush is for corn-on-the-cob night at the chow hall. Actually, its for a quick dust off of my weapon when I get the chance.

In my left calf pocket I have a SureFire flashlight and a reflective belt. The reflective belt is to make it a little more fair for the insurgents I think. I'm not really sure why we have to wear that in a combat zone. The SureFire works well for finding people who are wearing a reflective belt from a long way away.

That is the stuff I carry with me all the time. Yes, I know. Three knives and three flashlights. You never know.

When we go out on mission of course I wear my body armor. (Or Improved Outer Tactical Vest if you want to be technical.) I have all kinds of junk clipped onto my IOTV.

From left to right I have a magazine pouch, magazine pouch, grenade pouch, magazine pouch, and first aid kit. Sadly, they don't actually let us have grenades. But considering some of the people I work with that is probably the reason I am still here today. The pouch works great for holding sunglasses, er, eye protection though.
I also have a couple of miscellaneous clips and a strap cutter near the top of my vest.
I don't know what the vest weighs with all this stuff on it but I do know it makes it hard to get in and out of a semi truck.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day


Memorial Day is not about those of us here now.
It's about those who were here and are now fallen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Economy Is Bad Kev....

Jay Leno does a little thing on his show where he talks about the economy with his band leader, Kevin Eubanks. Of course over here our jobs are secure and we don't have a chance of being evicted. I read the news everyday though of how things are going back home.

We often hear about the American Dream of owning a home. I just got this news from my credit union. The American Dream Program is a saving program they have for first-time homebuyers that I am participating in. I guess they couldn't afford to offer those interest rates anymore though so they aren't taking any more applications.

I have been thinking a lot about returning to the US when we are done here. I currently don't know where I'm going to live or work when I get back. Well, technically I do know where I'm going to live but I am still looking for a place of my own.

I have always thought that it would be cool to be an astronaut. However, my body has repeatedly reminded that is not a good career choice for me. There is something about carnival rides, and I can only assume a space shuttle ride, that makes my head spin. Not literally because this isn't the movies but you know what I mean. Anyway, my body seems to have done me a favor because you would be surprised what the astronauts are doing for work now because of the recession.

It doesn't seem like astronauts would be good at this job though since they all wear diapers anyway. It's possible this is a local contractor with the same acronym as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I'd keep the kids away from Space Camp this summer just in case though.

Save your pennies,


It isn't so much that hard times are coming; the change observed is mostly soft times going.

- Groucho Marx

For those of you that have sent mail and packages during my deployment I want to tell you how much I have appreciated it. I'm going to have to ask you to stop sending any packages now though. We are going to be moving soon to some other housing and will have much less personal space. I can tuck some letters away here and there but I won't have any room for the packages or the things they bring.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm sick of Iraq. I quit.

This post has been a long time coming. I didn't realize that so many things have happened in the last few weeks until I went to put this update together. 

Just to be clear, I'm not the one who quit. The hard drive on my computer decided that it had worked enough in Iraq and it quit on me. I wish it would have asked me first because if I were to schedule a time for my computer to break I would have chosen a different time. I made some attempts to resuscitate it but that will have to wait until I return home. I was able to get all my files off of it but I had no way to post pictures online for a while. 

I ordered a new computer that I am up and running on now. For those computer geeks out there it's a Asus Eee PC 1000HE. I don't know how they came up with the name but I really like the computer so far. I will blame any typo's in this post on the 92% sized keyboard but it's actually remarkably easy to type on. The whole computer fits in the cargo pocket of my pants which is kind of cool but it has little practical purpose. 

For those of you wondering why Santa is wearing a cowboy hat, you are wrong. That man is Charlie Daniels and he recently brought his band to play a concert for us. He is specifically wearing a Calvary hat and wearing the Marine's desert uniform.

We don't get many bands to come by our base since it is a smaller base and we always seem to have sand storms whenever a band is supposed to fly in. We actually had a sand storm this night also but he made it in before the storm so they just moved the concert indoors. 

Our squad was sitting in the front row since we packed our dinner and got to the concert two hours early. I say 'was' because the Brigade Commander showed up and asked if there was assigned seating or not. They told him there was not assigned seating but we also got kicked out of our seats about five minutes later. I'm thinking that he pulled some strings and assigned himself and his entourage a seat. 

The whole band stayed around after the concert to sign autographs and take pictures with everyone who attended the concert. Inman and Entinger decided to pose as "Charlie's Angels."

I just did a regular pose with him. As regular as you can pose with an M4 Carbine I suppose. It was a really good concert though and I'm not sure that you have really lived until you have heard Charlie Daniels sing "How Great Thou Art."

If you are wondering what you are seeing in the picture above then you are thinking the same thing I was when I took the picture.

It was a beautiful, sunny day here at Q-West then someone said, "Looks like a sand storm is coming in." This is a pretty normal occurence here but it got dark much more quickly than normal.

We climbed up on top of one of our CHU's to get a better look and this is what we saw. The wall of sand blowing in was probably about 200 feet tall and moving quickly. We all took some pictures and video then took shelter in the CHU's. I've seen a lot of sand storms but I've never seen one roll in like that. 

I talked about this picture in a previous update. It is of us changing a Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) tire in the rain. Of course, it stopped raining right as we were tightening the last lug nuts. 

This is SGT Ely posing with his blown-out tire. This was a non-combat related incident but the tire came apart so nicely and completely that we had to take some pictures. This actually happened on the same convoy as the HET tire and they were both steer tires. I believe those were the first steer tires we have lost on a convoy and they both happened on the same mission.

This might look like a picture of a fire truck to you but those of us here at Q-West know what it really is. 

The Q-West Weightlifting Club has a little hobby of putting out fires also. They give them those nice trucks so they don't have to walk to the gym from the fire station where they live. I half expected them to just come lift the dumpster for three sets of ten reps each when they arrived but they did extinguish the fire. 

We aren't exactly sure how the dumpster caught on fire but we don't think it was caused by the 55-gallon can of saw dust that was put in the dumpster. And it certainly wasn't because someone thought it would be a good idea to empty the ash out of the burn barrel two hours after the flames went down. The investigation is still pending.

The best news in the last few weeks is that I am back on the road and out of the office. Or I suppose you could say my feet are off the desk and back on the pedal. I did what I could in Operations and tried to improve things as much as I could but I really missed the road. My replacement was actually looking forward to a little downtime to study for some classes so it should be a good fit for him.

As for me, I am ecstatic to be back out running the roads. We have switched to running nights now so the temperatures don't affect us as much. It works out really well until you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the "night" and you open the door at noon. You are instantly bombarded with the noontime heat and light which is a rude awakening. It is also like driving on all new roads to operate at night so we are learning how things look during the dark hours. 

On the lam from the office,


I had to stop driving my car for a while... the tires got dizzy.
       - Stephen Wright