Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tales From Taji (aka Iraq>>>hell>>>handbasket)

I see Iraq's been back in the news a bit lately. The last combat brigade has left, the war is over, and the lights have been turned out.

Uh, hold on a minute...

I'm still here.

In fact, a number of us are...Army included.

Things have changed - the population of Taji has plumetted, no real waiting lines for anything, and they just closed one of our DFACs (dining facilities). It's not all puppy dogs and rainbows, though - we watch the news, same as everyone. We know about all the bombings in Baghdad around the country. Seems some of the not-so-nice people were just waiting for the drawdown before stirring the pot again. I doubt they'll bring American combat troops back in again. Instead, everyone's depending on the Iraqi Defense Force to do the protecting within the country.

Okay, so they're not all that efficient, yet. They're getting there.

At least for the next year of our 'occupation' we'll be protected by the U.S. Army, as well as some private security forces. We'll be safe, but there's still some...tension about the situation. No plans to give the civilian contractors guns, but they have done that before. I haven't shot a gun in 25 years, but I'm pretty sure the sequence to follow is still 'aim, pull, BANG.'


There have been numerous articles lately about the monetary waste in Iraq. Of course, I'm not privvy to the particulars, but can totally believe the stories I've read.

Rather than recount everything, read this article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38903955/ns/world_news-%20mideastn_africa/

Billions of dollars we could have used for our own citizens. We never should have gotten involved over here...


The Army's bigger than it used to be...literally. Okay, the people IN the Army are bigger.

It used to be that military folk were in the best shape of anyone. Hours of running and working out everyday. Good, healthy food, and plenty of rest.

Something changed. Oh yeah, computers...video games...fast food...more electronic warfare with less hands-on action. It's all added-up to a larger-midriff Army.

The other day I picked-up my laundry, and as I stepped onto the sidewalk I met two sergeants walking the opposite direction. You'd have guessed they just walked out of a Golden Corral after spending a couple of hours at the buffet. They were large. Beer bellies without the beer.

Evidently, the higher-ups have taken notice, too. This article was in today's electrons: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38926368/ns/health-fitness

TAJI RECYCLES!!! (...but we really suck at it)

When I first arrived in Taji, five long months ago, there was no recycling, mainly because there was no recycling program. About three months ago there was a big push to promote recycling. Not everything, mind you, but at least plastic bottles (we go through thousands everyday) and aluminum cans.

Not much, but it's a start. Better late than never.

Posters went up, Powerpoint slides were on the computers, and bins were installed in the DFAC (dining facility). Taji was READY!

And that was it.

Three months later and still the only bins are at the DFAC. Granted, everyone eating there does recycle bottles and cans, but does it even make a dent? Not really. You see, most of the contents in the bottles and cans are consumed in workcenters and our rooms. Did they supply bins at our workcenters? No. Did they provide bins in our pods (section consisting of 36 trailers)? No. Well that's okay, I can fill-up a bag and drop it off at the DFAC. No, you can't. Nothing is allowed into the fenced-off DFAC area (no backpacks or purses, either - but people with guns are okay).

So, where do we stand? I'd guess maybe 20-25% of the used bottles and cans are being recycled. The rest go up with the rest of the trash into the burn pit. I wish I could change it, but the Army is calling the shots. No protests, no appealing. Their word is law. Do I wish we could do more? Of course. But in another year this base will be turned back over to the Iraqis. They'll inherit our renovated buildings, our new facilities, nice living quarters, and our trash.

I could get into a tirade on the money wasted here in Iraq, but that's the stuff for a different post.

Sleep well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Seeing GREEN in the Iraqi desert...

This is the first of my photographic self-assignments. It's easy to see the bland tan that is everywhere here, but if you train your eyes, and are aware of your surroundings, it becomes a pretty colorful place. Here's a few of my 'green' photos...


To All Employees:

One of the unique experiences of working in the Middle East is the opportunity to personally experience different customs and peoples. The Middle East has a long history of deep religious practices. As an employer, we honor and support local customs and requirements in accordance with religious practices. Observance of Holy Ramadan is a major religious event in the Middle East and supported by *** in accordance with local laws.

Many of our employees may understand and have experienced the Ramadan experience. The following are questions that may assist all of our employees in understanding and appreciate the meaning and practice of Ramadan.

What is Ramadan? Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. It is during this month that Muslims observe the Fast of Ramadan. Lasting for the entire month, Muslims fast (sawm) during the daylight hours and in the evening eat small meals and visit with friends and family. It is considered to be a time of worship, contemplation and a time to strengthen family and community ties. The appearance of the new crescent moon signals the beginning of Ramadan. The end of Ramadan is signaled by the sighting of the new moon of the next month, Shawwal. The new moon must be seen and reported by at least two trustworthy witnesses. Because of this requirement, neither the beginning nor the end of Ramadan can be determined in advance. Depending on the visibility of the moon, Ramadan can begin on a different date in different parts of the world.

What is meant by Fasting (sawm)? The sawm is act of deeply personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of consciousness. Fasting begins each morning and continues until sunset. Fasting consists of abstinence from all food, drink, gum chewing and any kind of tobacco use during this time. It is considered violation of law to drink, eat or use tobacco in public during this period of time daily. Please be advised that you are subject to arrest if you violate public fasting requirements.

When will Ramadan begin? Ramadan will begin on or about 10 or 11 August 2010.

When does Ramadan end? When the first crescent of the new moon has been officially sighted by a reliable source, the month of Ramadan is declared over, and the month of Shawwal begins. Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr. Literally the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," Eid al-Fitr is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations. It is a joyous time beginning with a special prayer, and accompanied by celebration, socializing, festive meals and sometimes very modest gift-giving, especially to children.

As a business *** will initiate temporary measures to accommodate these needs and requirements for the period of Ramadan. We are advising all employees of *** to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking during daylight hours while outside of your residence and moving about in the civilian community. Generally first light begins at dawn and ends at sunset.

Violation of this practice could result in your being arrested. Please remember that the Muslim community and local officials are serious about the fasting requirement.

We request that Individuals working on US Military installations consider their Muslim work partners' Ramadan observances. If you have work partners who are observing Ramada fasting, please refrain from eating in their presence in the work area during their established work schedule. The most courteous practice would be eating in an established break area if possible.

At the *** offsite facilities, special break areas will be established away from the work areas to insure that fasting is going on in general areas.
All eating, drinking and using of tobacco products will be restricted exclusively to this designated area.

We request that All *** employees respect the Ramadan observance. Please consult with your site and project managers for additional information and adjustments that are being put in place in observance of this religious period or if you have any additional questions. We request that All *** employees respect the Ramadan observance.