Thebastidge: Still safe
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    ********************Southwest Washington Surplus, your prepping supply store********************

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Still safe

    Despite the recent surge in violence in Baghdad, I'm doing fine. I'm nowhere near and in fact haven't seen or heard any of it.

    It's not unexpected that crazy-ass insurgents and terrorist using the excuse of religion would choose Ramadan, the muslim holy month, for making a statement, and trust me, I have been very vigilant. I go nowhere without my sidearm and unlike some, I keep a clip in all the time. We're required to clear our weapons in the chow hall, but I go back to 'condition amber' as soon as we leave. I'm getting used to wearing a weapon. I'll miss it when I'm back in the IZ, I can tell already. Even unloading for the chow hall feels weird and uncomfortable. I can tell the weight difference. I need a different rig to carry it on though. I carried in a shoulder holster on my first trip out, but I've had the paddle style belt holsters for weapon and magazines on this trip. Not very comfortable while driving. The shoulder holster wasn't really big enough for me though. I think I need a thigh holster, but I don't like the ones in the PX.

    I've been learning as much Arabic as I can cram in during the course of the day working with our Iraqi cable team and the military dudes we are supporting. I'm starting to build a basic vocabulary and some verbs to string them together. If I stay here for a year, I'll be competent, probably not fluent, but competent. I just don't like being completely dependant upon anyone, especially random translators- some of these guys seem pretty shady. Although to be fair, they do catch a lot of crap, and some of them have to actually hide their faces while doing their job, because of the death threats.

    The install proceeds apace. It's frustrating a lot of the time. These guys have no clue how to use a computer. Teaching them to log in alone, takes an hour (I'm not kidding or exagerrating at all.) I'm not always proud of the workmanship we're doing. Its not because we don't care or try, it's because there is just no way to do things 'right' when there is no infratructure. When a building has no grounding, when the walls crumble when you drill a hole through them for cabling, well, you get the picture. We spend more time waiting for Iraqi dudes to to decide where they want equipment and come around with keys than we do actually installing stuff. They tend to take off at random times, and to be gone for days. It seems the average Iraqi military guy takes about ten days a month to go hang with his family. On top of taking every Friday off and random days in the middle. Not to mention most afternoons.

    We managed to fix the network here a bit. The coalition's network that is. The one we're not here to work on. The network for the Iraqi military is pretty good to begin with- that's what we're installing here after all. But we also managed to point the coalition guy in the right direction to fix some problems they had in our spare time, so now I'm able to actually get on the internet without painfully slow speed killing my connection. I was frustrated before because IE wouldn't even render a page of text without timing out halfway. It's still slow but vastly improved.

    Got put on my knees with a bunch of AK's pointed at us yesterday. Iraqi training exercise, but still VERY uncomfotable. These guys are not especially know for the fire discipline. F*ckerss stand around with their fingers curled around the triggers when they're not shoved up their nose. To be fair, in this dust you gotta pick some nasty fruit fairly often just to be able to breathe, but jeez. Anyway, the guy who was frisking us tried to pull y weapon out of my holster. Not cool- I was like "la la la" (no no no) while shoving my hand down on top of my pistol to keep it in my holster. He didn't press the issue fortunately, because it's a tense moment whenever people who don't speak much of each other's language and definitely don't trust each other start handling guns. They're not supposed to pull weapons from coalition folks during exercises, just simulate a pat-down like they would. Oh, I forgot to mention this is a training base. That provides a little context, but given how often Iraqis shoot each other during training, that doesn't give much confidence.

    There was a big name general here yesterday, a very recognizable name. Fortunately we didn't get caught up much in the dog and pony show, but it would've been cool to snap a pic with this guy.

    Iraqis keep birds a lot. Most of these buildings have a little canary cage, and a lot of them have chickens running through the company area, sometimes into the buildings. One of the little chicks got pecked by a bigger chicken and really got f*cked up- we think it died last night. Some of the guys seemed pretty upset about it- odd how little things can get to you.

    If I haven't gotten back to you on emails I've received in the last week, I'll get to it now that we have some network bandwidth available. If not here, then in a couple days back in the IZ. Until then I'll be keeping my head down.


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