Monday, May 17, 2010


Hello, Everyone --

I had an absolutely terrible day yesterday. Just needed to make it through today, and then I'd have a day-off.

Well, I made it through my Monday...and it was the best day I've had since I arrived here. :) Funny how that works.

The day started off, as all my days do, with a call to my Sweetie. Something about hearing her voice first thing in the morning that just sets the mood for the day, and she always makes me happy. :)

Work was work - thankfully easy and smooth this morning. About an hour before lunchtime our Site Manager pokes his head into our office and asks what our plans are for lunch. I said, "Well, I think we'll head on up to the DFAC and see what they have to offer." He said, "Want to go out for lunch?"..."Sure!"

The only options we have for eating around here are the two DFACS, and the food court area. However, he offered us one additional option - The Other Side...

The Other Side is East Taji...the IRAQI side.

Lunchtime came, and off we went - four of us in the company Nissan pickup. The trip over there didn't take long - the Iraqis are just on the otherside of our airfield. We did have to pass through a checkpoint and a guarded gate, but that was it. ITT has a small contingent on that side, handling communications. They're located in a small, but very comfortable, and well appointed compound, guarded by decendents of Indian Ghurkas, some of the fiercest warriors there have ever been.

Inside the compound we were greeted, and led to the food. On the menu was Carolina-sytle pork ribs, BBQ beef ribs, (a little-too-overcooked) steaks, roast turkey, turkey fried rice, salad, and dessert choices of brownies, strawberry cheesecake, or apple pie. Mmmmm mmmmm...

Our cook was a good ole boy from...Carolina. He really enjoyed cooking for us, having gotten up at 4a to start marinating the ribs. His efforts were evident.

After a very filling lunch, we took a tour of the compound. They have all the comforts of home, but it's very compact, and maybe a little claustrophobic. If you like wide-open spaces, it's not for you.

We took a break from the heat in a room constructed between two sets of trailers. Everything inside was handcrafted - the windows, the benches, the cabinets, the tray ceiling. It was well air-conditioned, and was setup with cable TV. We didn't want to leave.

But leave we eventually did. After leaving the compound we drove around the Iraqi base. Some of it is still pretty rough - we did a number on it with all the bombing during the height of the war. The Iraqis are rebuilding, but it's slow, and it's a large base.

Right now, the Iraq Army has officer candidate training facilities, and limited helicopter operations. It's pretty sparse. We (the US Army and Air Force) are guiding and helping them. Just hope they don't use all this good training and equipment against us in the future.

Eventually, the US will turnover the rest of Taji back to the Iraqis. Some say it'll be in a year, some say it'll be a few years. Either way, I'm sure they'll love coming over to OUR side, where the living is easy (HAHA).

Our tour ended back at the gate that separates the two sides. Our IDs were checked, and a cursory inspection of our vehicle was done, then *poof* we were back on 'safe' soil.

It was a good lunch, and the kind of boondoggle I really needed.

Now, I can REALLY enjoy my day-off. :D

P.S. Sorry, no pix. :(

P.P.S A boondoggle is a term we used on the ice for time off from work to get out and do something different, usually out of town, and always someplace scenic.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

They say your brain turns to liquid about 120*. I guess we'll see...

Aloha, Everyone! Yes, I know it's been a while. My bad. With only one day-off a week there's just not enough hours in the day. I hope this makes up for it.

Taji's been pretty quiet lately. Yes, there's been some unrest and not-so-good stuff happening in and around Baghdad, but we're fine here. Got more helos up in the air scouting things out. Happy to have 'em watching over us.

The temps have now hit 100*, and I can tell's warm. The people here say during the height of summer the temps will be over 120*. It'll be just like living in Phoenix again...except for the paved roads...and malls...and stuff to do...and green lawns.

The best part of hot summer days are the hot summer nights. Always enjoyed them when I lived in Phoenix, where it used to still be over 100* at 11p. Perfect time for a dip in the pool to cool off.


Okay, back to realtime.

Work has My job title is ADPE Tech. ADPE means Automated Data Processing Equipment. What does that sound like? Yeah, a computer. We service laptops and desktops owned by the military. Not a whole lot of real tech work involved, but it's still enjoyable. And they come to us, we don't have to go to them. I'm thankful my building is very well air-conditioned. Good bunch of people I work with, too. They help the days pass.

Across from our building is a much larger, 2-story structure. The building itself, and the surrounding area are OFF LIMITS to ALL personnel. Rumor is it's where the guy called Chemical Ali had his bio-weapons lab. No reason do doubt them. I also heard the labs had been sealed with poured concrete. Again, no way to verify that.

There are a number of abandoned buildings around the base. No idea what some of them were used for. Some are of interesting designs and layouts.

Taji, at its busiest, had a population of 18,000 people. Today, it's down to about 4000. Many of the local vendor shops have closed-up, making things harder to get, or eliminating services. Still, we're doing fine. Some say Taji is a long-term base...others say it'll close within the year. No one really knows. Hope I can stay here for the duration.

The place is also home to a number of TCNs (third-country nationals) that have been contracted to come work here. They're from a variety of places: Turkey, India, The Philipines, Germany, South Africa, Uganda, and a host of other countries. Everybody has been exceptionally nice. Everyone gets along, and that's always good.

Life has also improved dramatically since I bought a TV for the hooch. It wasn't easy, though - the first one had a built-in DVD player that didn't work, so I had to carry it the half mile back to the PX for a replacement. Then I realized that the coax cable that runs inside didn't go anywhere. So, I had to buy an antenna, climb ontop of the hooch, and affix it to a post with the help of a shovel handle, and three, big zip-ties.

It works fine.

Of course, I only get 10 channels, and they're all AFN (Armed Forces Network). Thought once I left the ice I'd never see it again. Well, it's back. Same bad commercials, too. At least it's entertainment, and I can watch current news.

One thing AFN does do is show alot of PSAs, all geared towards the military. Most prominent are the ones telling you to not smoke, and to avoid smokeless tobacco. Funny, but the PX stays well stocked in both. 'Don't do this!...but if you do, you can purchase them at your local PX.'

I've just about had my fill of second-hand smoke. I swear, smokers comprise 40-50% of the population. The Army tries to herd them into pavilions (since the government has banned smoking inside all government buildings), but few adhere to the rules, contactors included. I'm getting pretty good at holding my breath. Hard to imagine how someone can inhale that hot smoke into their lungs when it's over 100* outside.

I guess that's why it's called an addiction.

Last week, 2-ply toilet paper showed up in our ablution (shower and toilet) trailer. It's quite a luxury. Nothing like Quilted Northern, but not bad. It's the little things.

The food, stellar in the beginning, has become a bit monotonous, and gone downhill a bit in quality and eatability. A new Army company took over a couple of weeks ago, and who's ever over the DFAC decided to shake things up a bit. One of the most annoying things they did was to start putting onions and either red peppers or pimentos in all the veggie dishes - corn, green beans, succotash, potatoes, steaks, and much more. Thankfully, this week they seem to have eliminated the 'extra stuff.'

I find myself eating less, and feeling better. I've never been one to do three squares a day, and discovered my body doesn't care for that scheudule, anyway.

I'm working out regularly, and that's good. The gyms are packed in the evenings with testosterone-charged military types, so it's difficult to get on some of the machines. I find walking the 1/2 mile track is more to my liking. Just have to wait till the sun gets low, and the temps cool a bit. The track is covered with ground-up tires, so it's very cushy. I usually bump into one or two co-workers there after work.

Just a block away from the track is a new spa! Just opened up a week ago, and getting rave reviews. I stopped in there today to look around. It was cool, subdued, and very quiet. Prices are reasonable. It's going to be a very popular place. :) Three people from work have already been, and fully endorse it.

Down the road from the spa is the pool that opened, closed,then re-opened. Guess it doesn't do well with dust storms. It's a popular place, but a bit of a walk away. It also complicates things when you're not allowed to carry backpacks/purses/bags into any area where people congregate. One has to hand-carry things alot, which is never convenient.

The bag ban is for our safety. Too easy to pack explosives into one.

Still, life is good in Taji. Hope everyone back home is doing well. I miss you all.

Oh, I was kidding about the brain turning to liquid at 120*. I think it's more like 118*...


Pool dress code - yes, there is one

My 'Antenna on a Stick'

This 'terrorist' is a dead-ringer for an old boss of mine. This was from Ft. Benning. Forgot I had it in my phone.

What we're all looking forward to.

Close-up of an MRAP. Almost looks like it's smiling...

People with too much time...and lumber...on their hands.

No, I have no idea what the Sneaker Box is. It's locked and empty.

Secret communication satellite dishes? Hardly. They're a few of the dozens of personally-owned TV satellite systems. Some people aren't happy with the 10 channels AFN offers.

Me and AT playing Army