Thursday, April 30, 2009

Feet off the Pedal and on the Desk

I was recently reassigned from being a truck driver to the Operations Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO). That means I sit at the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) for ten hours a day to help plan and monitor the Operations we do as a company. That also means I don't actually get to do any of the Operations we do as a company.

My job is to make sure the convoys have everything the need set up before they go out on the road. I also monitor the phone, the radio, and the Movement Tracking System (MTS) while they are out on the road. There is usually not that much to do but when something needs to be done it needs to be done 'yesterday.'

I imagine its kind of like participating in a rodeo. You sit around most of the day waiting to actually start. When you do start 'working' its a lot of work and a lot of pressure. Then you are done eight seconds later if you did a good job. Sooner if you did not.

I have been able to learn a lot about how the company is run and how the Operations work. That has been very valuable and eye-opening. I have also learned many lessons that I plan to apply as I search for a full-time civilian job. The biggest one is that I just can't have a job where I only sit at a desk. Sitting at a desk for ten hours a day, seven days a week has been really hard on me. I would much rather be out on the road for sixteen hours a day or down at maintenance for twelve hours working on my truck.

I do get lot of ribbing from the other guys about being a 'fobbit' or a 'TOC roach.' I have also got a few compliments on the improvements and changes I have made in the Operations. I guess they kind of balance each other out.

It is unclear how long I am going to be doing this. It might be only for a few more weeks but it could also be for the rest of our tour here. I am going to do my best to "improve the foxhole" while I am here and try to make things run more smoothly. I have been able to apply many of the skills from my previous civilian job and civilian education to analyze and improve the processes.

Dreaming of the road,


Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting someone else to do the work.

- John G. Pollard

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hey, Hey Captain Jack

Hey, Hey Captain Jack

Last tour the title of one of my blog entries was "Retention in a war zone is kind of like trying to sell matches to a guy who is on fire." Retention is the name the Army uses for trying to keep people in the Army or getting them to reenlist.

Meet me down by the railroad tracks

The picture at the beginning of this post is from one of our local portapotties. Obviously someone felt the need to voice their opinion about reenlistment. And I probably looked strange taking pictures in a portapotty.

With that weapon in my hand

It is hard to explain why someone would reenlist. They are always trying to get us to reenlist by offering monetary bonuses and other perks. They also try to appeal to our sense of duty and Country. I know I don't really feel like reenlisting when I'm on a muddy road, changing a 300 pound tire, in full battle rattle, while it's pouring rain.

I’m gonna be a fightin' man

Or when we are sitting on the side of the road for seven hours waiting for Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) to come disarm a bomb that we found. Or when we drive five hours to pick up something at another FOB only to find out it was already picked up. Three weeks ago.

The best I can

But there is something inexplicable about being in the military. Those who have never served don't know what it is. In fact, I have served and I can't really explain it either. Maybe it's the camaraderie. Or the mission we are accomplishing overall. Or you really just love your job in the military.

For Uncle Sam

It almost makes you want to reenlist then a mission comes up where you are on the road for four days without seeing a chow hall or bed. Or you get stuck with five days of extra work because someone who far outranks you didn't do their job. Or you realize that you have spent almost three and a half years of your six year Reserve contract on Active Duty.

Reup you’re crazy

But when you think about getting out it's hard to imagine. You know the chances of you staying out for the rest of your life are slim. You know that you will miss it even if you can't explain why in words.

Reup you’re out of your mind

My new contract begins today.

Hey, Hey Captain Jack

Just don't ask me to explain why.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rip-It? Rip-It Sir?

I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with the Army procurement process so I thought I would review it for you.

We often have flat tires on our trucks that need replacement. Usually we can just go to our maintenance shop and pick up a tire already mounted on a rim for us. Sometimes we have to go scrounging for what we need though. Still, this is much preferable to the last tour when we had to break down all of our tires by hand.

We start with a case of Gatorade which is pretty easy to get here.

We take the case of Gatorade over to Jim who works in a bunker on post and he will give us a case of Shock Triple Latte Coffee.

Most people don't really like the taste of Shock coffee even though the package clearly states it is a "Premium Coffee Drink." The advantage to this drink is it has a ton of caffeine in it. We take this case of coffee down to Major Dunwoody at a different camp and he give us a case of hot dogs for it.

He won't tell us where he gets the hot dogs which is a little scary but we don't care. We trade the hot dogs for some steaks down at the AC Shop. They have a cookout every Sunday and for some reason can obtain steaks but not hot dogs.

The steaks are tempting to us but we still have a truck with a flat tire so we must press on. The guys at the radio shop on another post really like the steaks and agree to give us some ice cream bars for them.

Since we got the ice cream bars at another post we really didn't have a way to get them back to Q-West. These had to be unloaded quickly so we talked to some of our contacts. We heard a rumor about a Military Police company here so we went to see them. They gave us a case of Rip-Its for the ice cream bars.

Rip-Its have a mysterious power here in Iraq. They are an energy drink where the taste is so bad it makes you unable to sleep for at least four hours. The caffeine is included simply as a carrier for the poor taste. We took the case of Rip-Its down to the fuel point where we are always greeted by the foreign workers there with "Rip-It? Rip-It sir?" Well, this time we have the Rip-Its for them and they have somehow got their hands on a starter for a John Deere Gator we were looking for.

This starter is what has been causing the KBR contractor mechanics to walk to chow for the last two weeks. If there is one thing contractors don't like, it's walking. They all seem to have Gators or SUV's to get around post and believe it is their right to speed by us as we walk to chow. We took that starter down to their shop and they were more than willing to deal. We got the tire for our truck.

Mission complete,


I am like any other man. All I do is supply a demand.

-Al Capone