Saturday, September 04, 2004

This one is for the secret police

The heat here is like a water. It has density. Here being Tallil, Air Base. Today is the 30th of August. I stopped writing this around the 19th of August. During that time I was at Fort Bliss in Texas. We had a series of briefs, some of them by Military Intelligence. They brought up a few things that slowed me down on this Blog. The main thing being that transmitting even unclassified information can aid “the enemy.” Also, another brief indicated that terrorists monitor cellphone, phone and email into and out of Iraq and may target our families. Oh, and we are at war and freedom that I am used to is out the door.
On the 20th, I had a few more briefs on Arab Culture and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). Then at 2 pm. I flew to Ohare from El Paso. I was there for three hours and hoped my father and Andrea, my former girlfriend would have visited. They had other things to do, so I enjoyed the bar cart to my fullest, alone. I flew to London. Spent a few hours there at the bar and sent out a few emails. Then I flew to Kuwait. I think I had about 15 bottles of wine on the plane. Might as well. No alcohol here in the Middle East, except near beer.
I arrived about 1 a.m. In Kuwait. I was picked up by company contact, Marian. I was checked into a pretty nice hotel and spend two days there, waiting for another worker to arrive. While I was in Kuwait, I went to a Mc Donald's to meet my Boss, Jake. Jake is in charge of all the business in Iraq. I work under him. Jake and Marian told me at our meeting at Mc Donald's that I was not qualified and not what they wanted for the job. Well, I am here. So I guess anything is better than nothing. I did not deceive them about my abilities. Rather HR just cut corners in hiring me. They wanted a mechanic and air conditioning repair man. That I am not. The Mc Donald's had a door man and the bathrooms and bidet.
So Monday, the 23rd of August, I was processed and dropped off in Camp Doha. That is our main camp in Kuwait. I spent 3 days waiting for a plane there. I was flying standby, military. The process is a little different than other flights. I had to check for my flight times between 2 and 5 am at 30 minute intervals. I had a bunk bed in an air craft hanger. Kind of reminded me of BLACK HAWK DOWN. There were 3 of us traveling and if we did not get a flight by Thursday, we were going to drive. But we did get a very late flight and I got my first ride on a C-130. I flew into Tallil Air Base Early Friday morning. I think it was sometime after midnight. I flew with the troops. No metal detectors. Everybody, including me wearing a helmet and flack vest, the one I used when I ran for mayor of Seattle in 2001. The seats were cots. We rode the opposite direction you would in a normal plane, with our backs to the walls of the plane. Then strapped ourselves to some webbing. The plane was super hot until we got in the air. Over a hundred degrees. The flight itself was under an hour. The wait was 4 days to get in the air. Landing was bumpy. I felt nauseous. We were greeted at the military airport terminal by a Major in the Air Force working in the DPW here. We drove to our tent, but the generator was out of order, so we spent about 90 minutes finding some where else to stay. The place we are supposed to stay is still not ready. I am staying in a large tent with some fire men. The inside has 7 X 7 rooms with wooden walls and floors.
I was so tired that I forgot my guitar when I was loading up. I spent most of Saturday morning looking for it. The Major gave me a ride back to the airport and I found it there. They also have an Italian pizzeria and espresso shop there. And Burger King and Pizza Hut down the street.
Sunday, we went to Ur and I climbed the Ziggerat and got some stuff from the souvenir stand. At 2 p.m. We had security training for TCMs and LNs (Third Country Nationals and Local Nationals-Iraqis). Other bases allow more freedom. This one is one of the tightest for security. All my crew is from other countries, so they have to be escorted and may not have phones, cameras, weapons or maps.
What day is now? Monday the 30th.
I am in Iraq, for the year. So far, it has been hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait. Danger. Danger. Terrorists. Yep.
Most of the military services are contracted out to private companies which employ TCMs and LNs. So there are a lot of foreigners here, but they have no rights and must be escorted around the base. They cannot make calls, take pictures or anything like that, including using the PX to buy stuff. Also, the other countries troops are here. I see them and their colorful uniforms. Italy, Romania, Korea, Japan and I have yet to see what Polish desert camo looks like, but they are here, too. They have rights and carry guns and get to do whatever there military leaders allow.
I should start working in a day or so. I get 4 hours off a week. The rest of time I will be working. I like my boss, but my other coworker is a mega-Christian that talks all the time and likes to talk a lot of shit, like he is working counter intelligence and might be going to Iran to hunt terrorists, when in fact he was a cook in the air force during Vietnam, got lost going to the PX here and cant take the heat. Oh, and his job is exactly the same as mine. I am the manager of a crew. We are building structures for the His biggest interest is trying to pick up Christian TCM women. . . I could say more but he seems to be on his way to getting shipped back to the United States.
This job is what I expected it to be so I can't complain, really.
I watched that movie 25th Hour while I was waiting for a plane in Doha. Ed Norton plays a guy going to prison for 7 years after a drug bust. He spends the last day saying good bye and partying with his two best friends. Before I left, I spent my time with my girlfriend and family. But strangely absent were my friends. With the money I make here I will have to buy some new ones.
I have to get my second Anthrax shot today. My small pox vaccination got infected in Doha and I had purple marks spreading about 3 or 4 inches around the scab. But I cleaned it up and put some anti-biotic on it and I am all better now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


CONUS Replacement Center (CRC)
Information for Contractors
based on Class cycle 76
15 August – 21 August 2004

There are two CRCs for the United States Military currently. The following information is for Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. The CRC is the designed for deploying soldiers and contractors to a hostile areas during times of war. Most of the week spent in CRC is side by side the soldiers. Half of the time is spent performing mandatory medical checks. The concern of the military is that whomever they send over is healthy enough for one year in the "Theater," as they refer to the Middle East.

You must have all your medical information:

1 A complete physical with CBC, U/A and Blood Sugar.
2 Females need a recent Pap Smear and Mammogram
3 Anyone over 40 years of age needs an EKG and Lipid Evaluation

If you do not have the above tests, you will have to go off the base and pay for these tests out of your own pocket.

The following information is required, but can be acquired at the base without an additional expense. It will slow you down, however.

1 HIV test within the last 6 months
2 Current prescription for your glasses, plus an extra pair (if you receive an Anthrax shot, you should not wear your contacts for 3 weeks!)
3 All your dental records, a panoramic X ray of your teeth and a note from your dentist saying you are good for one year with no dental work.
4 A complete list of all the shots you have gotten. This is very important if you have had Small Pox, Anthrax and other shots. No shot record means you get them all over. If you refuse, even if you are civilian, you will not be allowed to deploy.
You will be given shoots at no expense, you lost your record or have not had them.
5 Your Blood Type (you cannot be issued a CAC card until you have this.)


The rest of time here is training and briefing on the Middle East and things you need to know, like some basic combat First Aid, NBC: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical weapons (and using the M 40 gas mask in those areas), and other things important for survival in the Theater. All of this is review for the soldiers, so if you have no military experience and are going over there pay careful attention. Your life and others could depend on what you learn in CRC.

If you die, you did it wrong!

In seconds, if one does not successfully place their M-40 gas mask on during a chemical or biological attack, it is likely that person will be dead. So, the quote from the class today I remember the most is "If you die, you did it wrong."

The first part of the morning was spent with a last stop dental check. I got out early and went to NBC: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical weapons. Fun stuff for all. And if you don't pay attention you get more than a "F." We learned about these weapons and how to put on our masks.

There are all sorts of government workers here. Each wears their ID card around their neck. I wear my burning man lamenent and flame pass from last year. For those of you that do not know me, that was my job before this and helped me land my work in Iraq. I am used to the heat. More info on Burningman can be found at the website In addition to the burning man ID from working DPW the past few years, I wear my Chupacabra Policia badge.

I have taken detailed notes on all the subjects. Unlike most of the people here that are military or former military, this my first time for some of this material. It is very intense to be aware that I am going into this war zone in a matter of days, by choice, and I have to remember all this training, or fall victim to natural selection.

I am the first person from my company to go through this training so I am writing up a brief for the rest of the recruits that follow after me. For instance, it was not clear that we needed all of our medical records. And we were not told that we would be issued a number of things, like two pair of boots, a sleeping bag and a bunch of clothes, which I got today with my gas mask (on Thursday I get the prescription lenses for it.)

My arms are very soar from the shots yesterday. I went through the list and it is big. Maybe I will post it sometime. It looks like the training from here is mainly briefings. Unless you got issued guns, which being an A/C project Coordinator, I did not. It was funny watching who got guns. They are by definition, MERCENARIES. I understand our government is going more and more that route. What was funny is that some of the more decrepit, gray haired hunchback old men were the ones given guns. I would be worried about them taking out a heavy bag of trash. Their guns were not loaded but they were waving them thoughtlessly around as they staggered to the bus with all the gear. I was nervous and a bit sad. Of course, even worse are the contractors here that are 300+. That 120 degree in shade heat might take off a few pounds, before they die of heat stroke.

Monday, August 16, 2004

THE MOTTO FOR MY PLATOON: Listen, Learn Survive

Last night I was briefed on OPSEC (Operational Security) by the military after we sang the pledge of allegiance in front of a big flag. It was like the flag in THE PEOPLE VS LARRY FLYNT. Crazy shit. Anyway, I was told that I can take about what I do here for the most part except a few things which I will not mention. For instance, if we had a class on how to hook jumper cables to an Arab's balls, I would not be able to take about how many people were in the class and when they were going to Iraq to help the people.
So, I am going through the CONUS REPLACEMENT CENTER (CRC). There are only two. The other is at Fort something or other. Maybe Bragg. I'll have to check my notes. CONUS is the Continental United States. This is the troop replacement center. Now, all contractors are going through this, too. I train side by side the soldiers. So, today was a bunch of medical stuff and the ever fun Anthrax Shots and Small Pox Vaccinations. I have many hours under the tattoo gun. All the shots I got, plus blood work (10? 13? needles?) was nothing. After hours in line and papers and forms and shots and such, we bused over for a first responder refresher course, as in first one to respond to someone who just had the shit blowed out them. I have taken CPR numerous times. But this was the low down. And they don't mess with CPR. If someones burned up, brains hanging out, etc, CPR is useless. We trained on Bleeding from IED (improvised explosive devices) head and chest wounds, etc and shock, plus heat stroke. From what the guys said that were over there shit is awful, everywhere. Green Zone, or not. I'll write more later. The shots make me feel a little queasy.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Fort Bliss

I should have been in Iraq two weeks ago. But changes made it necessary that I was delayed. Now I am receiving training by the military before I go to Iraq. I am not sure how much I can talk about. This is the first post of my blog.

Everyone is very serious here. My friends and family are very concerned about his new job, too. A friend, Easy Bob, just emailed me that I should tape something on video before the world sees my head cut off, on video. That is funny. I would rather do a fake video of my head being cut off and call it good.