Thebastidge: HappyThanksgiving
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    ********************Southwest Washington Surplus, your prepping supply store********************

    Thursday, November 23, 2006


    Synopsis of this trip:

    Took off on Friday night, (our day off, but hey- the mission comes first, right?) and made it to the first stop of our ping-pong trip across Iraq. It wasn’t too bad, bit of a longer helo trip than I’ve been on so far, but ultimately very tolerable. In fact I had to remind myself yet again that I was traveling by helicopter through a war zone in black-out conditions, and that I should pay attention (rather than dozing) because after all, how many times will you do THAT in you lifetime? I mean there’s the whole miracle of flight thing too. Flying commercial air separates us from the pure wonder of defying gravity, with the cattle-car procedures, bureaucracy and complacency of airline employees, looking out through tiny portholes into dim nothingness.

    Flying in a combat helicopter is NOTHING like that. It is VERY immediate. Even thought they have the windows back in with the colder weather, and thus very little rotor was makes it into the cabin, the process of embarking has a visceral rush to it. Then the non-linear feeling of motion in a helicopter kicks in as you take off, and even in the dark as you pass over things with your lights all out, you can almost feel the land speeding blow you. Objects are not vague patches of land miles below; they are thing rushing past in the dark a couple hundred feet away. We fly higher at night than during the day, but it’s not very high. At first, there’s a sea of light then as you move further from the city, it’s lakes and then ponds, and finally, isolated spots, until you get to the next town and there’s another puddle of streetlights and homes all lit up.

    Never let anybody tell you that the electrical situation here is worse than before we got here. The problems may hit places that got priority under Saddam and never experienced them then, but there is electricity all over this place, and hugely growing demand is the problem- outpacing supply because the supply was absolute shite before and demand was artificially kept down by poverty and ‘legal’ restrictions.

    Anyway, we got in pretty late last night and got some bunk beds in a transient tent in Bilad. This was not really a tent, more of a plywood shack. Went to catch a C-130 down to Basra in the afternoon, but it never showed up. Apparently no one coordinates the British flights with the Americans at the AMC terminal, so no one knows when or even if they’ll show up. We knew this was a bad trip plan before we even started.

    Stuck in a transient tent (really a tent this time) in Bilad still. Trying to get on another helo to Talil at oh-dark-thirty, so we can hopefully get to Basra from there.

    More to follow…

    So, bullshit reigns again. No fixed-wing flights came in, so we went space-A. (Space-Available). Zero-300 show time for a 7-am flight. We got weighed in for an Amy Sherpa flight. What a boxy S.O.B. I finally got confirmation of how f*ckin’ fat I am. I weighed in at 312 pounds. So I put my laptop case on the scale and it weighs 22 pounds. So that means 290 pounds of *me* in armor. 245 pounds of fully-dressed me means 45 pounds of XXL armour. BTW, my duffle was about where I put it; at 40 pounds. So in armour, wit luggage, I’m well over an 1/8th ton. Actually, I’m pretty much 1/8th ton without anything else on me, so the rest of that is just gross weight

    Anyway, not dwelling on how fit I am (not), the Sherpa ride was cold as f*ck. This is the first aircraft I’ve ridden in Iraq that has risen above the clouds. Not to mention the colder weather, it just froze my ass off, getting to Basra.

    Got in to Basra, tired from two+ days of uninterrupted travel with no rest and we slept!!!!!!

    Slept in Camp Charlie. It’s way the hell down at the end of the road (just meters from the red zone.) So Camp C is a British-run place. Quite fun actually- talking to the Brits and Scots- seemed a disproportionate number of Scots accents but no matter- everyone was super polite and the tea was the best I’ve had here (even though it was instant.)

    Iraqi 10th Div HQ is a trip. These were the joking-est Iraqis I’ve met so far. The MIT team was cool- Danes and Brits and Scots and Various. But the Iraqis were weird! This far south they speak a different dialect. Even my pitiful efforts at Arabee show a difference. The Pimsleur CDs I’ve been reviewing have my Iraqi dudes calling me “Al Lebnani” It appears that Iraqi Arabic is not the most highly respected form of that poetic language. The negative form of Arabee- “MA”/”MU” is all different and the accents are in odd places. There’s a lot more dark-skinned people down here: Negroid features, not Caucasoid/Semitic. The Colonel in charge of this place is Black, not completely Arab. The guys here are joking around with me. “Colonel Saadi is from Zimbabwe, yes?” his exec asks me. Colonel Saadi asks me “You think true?”

    No, I assure him, “Not true”. I don’t think so. “Just an idiot, not an actual African,” I think to myself.

    Fu*king jokers, they think they are. Annoyingly primitive humour, if you want to call it that. These guys are literally dancing around and grabbing each other’s asses. I’m trying to build network cables, desktop computers, and teach people to use them who don’t understand the most basic of professional behaviour and technological tools.

    The Brits give me a new definition for “Inshallah”. So far I’ve been going with the internationally-accepted answer- it means “God/Allah willing” and is an acknowledgement of the ‘tiny fragility of man’s will, based against the universe’ intransigence.

    The Brits, however, tell me it means; “Fuck you, I don’t give a shit.” Further, they tell me that there is no word in Arabic that corresponds to the Spanish word “Manana”- The Iraqis have apparently never felt that much sense of urgency.

    My job here was planned to be and should have been a one day task. Between my NOC personnel fucking up my systems and failing to provide the services we contracted for and expect, it turned into a 3-day job.

    We request air transport the day we got to Basra. However, our British allies are apparently not hooked into the same communication systems we take for granted, because the bastards failed to inform s that they wee changing the flight time to be 3 hours earlier for our return flight to Baghdad. So we showed up ‘on time’3 hours late.

    “Oh, we sent out EMAIL!”

    Doesn’t help much when you’re not permanently stationed there with an email account, mate! The fact that we left our DPN and Iraqna phone numbers doesn’t seem to have helped much either!

    Fucking wankers.

    However, most of the British forces there in Basra were actually Scots. Bless ya!
    Had some good conversations with the Highlanders from the Blackwatch regiments. The disproportionate number of Scots accents in the cook tent more than made up for the Anglish wankers.

    Speaking of the cook tent: I left/lost my hat there- arg! It sucks! My favourite ball cap since 9/1/2001 is an NYPD ball cap. My (currently shaved) bald head needs a cover!

    So Wednesday night, staying in Camp Charlie Tent A2: it was funny when the rockets were incoming: Mike H. was yelling: “We’re not even supposed to fucking BE here!” as we scrambled to put on our IBA during the rocket attack. I had to ask “What the fuck is going on?” as the Danes ran into the tent: I had my headphones on and didn’t hear the first rocket land or the loudspeaker alerting us to don IBA and helmets.

    I was in my boxers and sleeping bag until I figured it out- then scrambled to put on my IBA, get my Glock out from under the bed, strapped into my shoulder holster where I could reach it (which is NOT easy when wearing armour with ballistic plates hampering your movement!) and getting my boots on and flashlight strapped on in case I need to run for cover.

    Of course, being the semi-paranoid bastidge that I am, I already had the bunk in the corner of the tent. Tents are flimsy. Most of the structures here are so flimsy as to be transparent to explosives. BUT: they are surrounded by earth berms. In the corner you are covered by berms on two sides, and as we well know, applying the basic laws of physics, the third side of this equation is a gamble. If a rocket or other explosive hits me dead on in my corner, then the explosive will be very effective; i.e., it will blow me to shit and tiny little shreds because an explosion {contained} is an –effective- explosion .But the *force* of an explosion is defined by a couple things: there is energy and there is power. Energy is an absolute: for a given amount of explosive of a given type, it will yield a given amount of energy, usually expressed in joules. However, energy and power are not equivalent.

    Energy is dissipated over area and distance. In fact, essentially, the same equation applies to the ‘volume’ of sound, the ‘brightness’ of light sources’, and the ‘force’ of an explosion. The relative strength of any of these forces is inversely proportionate to the square of the distance.

    However, ‘power’ is the ability to do work. In the case of an explosive device, ‘doing work’ is the amount of destruction it can accomplish. Explosions are more effective at destroying things when the force of the explosion is contained in a constricted area.

    So if I’m in the corner of a couple berms, if the rocket hits me square, I’m just as fucked or more than if it landed next to me in a field: I won’t lie about that. But the odds, the chances, and especially the skill or luck required to make that happen is a pretty astronomical number.

    While every foot the hypothetical rocket lands further away from me increases the chance I’ll live through it (unscathed) by a geometric progression. The force is weaker as the square of the distance. An explosion at 4 feet away is ¼ the strength of an explosion at 2 feet away. This means that, shrapnel aside, the pure concussive force of an explosion is nothing unless it hits directly *ON* me- an astronomically hard thing to do, even if Iraqi/Irani/Syrian/Wahabi insurgents can A: manage to arm the rockets they firing to make them actually explode when they hit (about a 25-50% rate so far) and B: aim them in an effective manner: i.e. at a target such as a camp containing personnel and assets such as myself.

    Anyway, got a ride back to Baghdad on an RAF C-130 this afternoon. Should’ve got up for breakfast, because once again, the show time we were told was wrong- it was moved up again and we missed lunch. Fortunately, there was a very pretty girl on our flight- and the British guys gave her cookies she didn’t want. So she shared them with us- thank you, Sara; that was lovely. You’re as pretty on the inside as you are on the outside!

    Got to BIAP and after the RAF got all the British passengers settled on flights to their final destination, we lowly American contractors got ‘home’ to LZ Washington.

    I’ll catch up the rest of my Thanksgiving Evening tomorrow.

    Here’s what I’m most thankful for today: my lovely sisters: all of them- the ones I’ve been close to all of my life, those I’ve gotten close to again recently, the one I’ve acquired and the one I’ve met for the first time.



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