Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just Another Day in O'Raq

I agree that it’s kind of a cheesy title but I didn’t make it up completely on my own.

They were giving out these buttons on base for St. Patrick’s Day. That was the extent of the celebrations for us though. There were no parades or green beer. Some of the rivers here are quite green but it does not seem to be related to any holiday.

The weather here has been very interesting lately. In the last update I told you about the rain and mud. We are slowly transitioning to sand and dust storms. I took the picture below during a sand storm. I have not altered the picture in any way and there is a high probability that your monitor is functioning correctly. The sky is actually that orange during a sand storm.

Most of our missions are put on hold during the sand storms because they are not able to fly helicopters. They are nice because they give us some downtime but that is at the cost of us having our eyes assaulted with sand so there are some trade-offs.

You can see the “dust devil” in the picture below. We recently had a convoy where these were everywhere along the whole route. We probably saw 150 of them over the course of the convoy. I had never seen that before and it was really interesting.

As you can see it was a very beautiful day otherwise. When the wind stays down we have been having weather in the 70’s which is perfect for me. I don’t want to give the impression that this is a blog about the weather so I will move on to a new subject.

I said in a previous update that I was hoping I would be able to be the convoy commander on a mission soon. I had that opportunity and everything went well. I blacked out some of the information on the convoy book because I’m not really sure what information we are able to post online. The important part is “NCOIC: SGT SHIPP.” NCOIC stands for Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. My squad leader helped me out to make sure I was doing things right. As you can imagine, there is a lot more responsibility when you are in charge of the entire convoy instead of just following the truck in front of you.

On a different mission, that was actually a while ago now, I got a crack in the oil pan on my truck. We were out on the road so we just patched it up as best we could with JB Weld STIK. It is a two-part epoxy putty that is supposed to bond to anything. It is actually a pretty amazing product and got my truck back to base with no problem. Speaking of products that are amazing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Freightliner Corporation for including an oil pan made of fiberglass on their military vehicles. As you can tell they are very resistant to being struck with rocks and the various other issues that a military vehicle might face.

We called the problem back to our headquarters so when we got back on base they were all ready for us at maintenance. Within 15 minutes of pulling in the gate they already had the truck in the shop getting ready to drop the oil pan. I was very impressed. Our mechanics are a little “creepy” though.

Here are super-mechanics Xiong and Benning with the new oil pan. As you can see, Xiong has a broken wrist and was still working on the trucks. When he got injured they told him that he could work in our headquarters if his wrist would not allow him to work on trucks. It’s like they always say, “Ten days working on trucks is better than one day at headquarters.” I’m just not sure how he got that oil out of his cast.

This is SGT Benning after she did some modifications on my hood. The hood is also made of fiberglass in what is a much more traditional use of that material. She got the fiberglass dust all over herself and I don’t envy her for that. She does have those remarkable safety glasses though so her eyes were protected.

The only bummer about the oil pan replacement is it cracked again on the very next mission. Again, please refer to the earlier paragraph about my appreciation for Freightliner. We’ll see how long this new one lasts.

To finish off my little ‘Ode to Mechanics’ I have a picture of Ski cutting a storage box off one of our trucks.

This really doesn’t fit with any particular subject but we have pistachio ice cream here. It is imported from Turkey and tastes much better than you would think. If you are ever in Turkey or Iraq, grab yourself a cone and give it a try.

I would have lost the spelling bee at ‘pistachio’,


Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.

-Kurt Vonnegut Jr.