Eleven(3)

Today is 11/11/11. A day that some people are finding extraordinarily interesting, for some reason.

It’s also Veteran’s Day.

It’s my first Veteran’s Day I got to spend in Iraq. Yay me…

Someone in the United States is waking up, comfortable in his or her bed, stretching, rolling over and turning on the TV. They proceed to their own bathroom and take a nice long shower.

I woke up today in my bed, threw off my thin blanket and sat up. I have no television to watch. At least I have a laptop. I have to go to the trailer outside to go take a shower, shave and brush my teeth. There are signs outside that designate the water as “potable water.” This means it has been purified and is safe to use.

Someone in the United States gets to go to their kitchen, fix their own breakfast. Maybe they’ll have an omelet, bagel with cream cheese and some fresh Tropicana orange juice. Or maybe they head to the nearest Starbucks to grab a fresh cup of Joe.

I got dressed, donned my Army Combat Uniform, ballistic eyewear, patrol cap, firing gloves and weapon (complete with ammunition). I proceed to the little trailer that serves breakfast. Giant concrete walls, to protect if from incoming rounds, surround the trailer. I stand in line outside of the trailer (they only allow five soldiers in at a time). They call the next five in. I grab some scrambled “eggs” (which are freshly rehydrated), exactly two pieces of sausage (rationing happens on a regular basis) and two little cartons of orange juice. This juice is made and packaged in Saudi Arabia. The entire package is written in Arabic. I only know its orange juice due to the picture of orange juice on it. The soldier who served me gives me an exasperated look as if willing me to move away from them.

That same someone goes to work, school or to enjoy their day, wherever that may be. They sit behind their desk, read the latest news, jokes, and sports scores.  They clock in at nine. They begin their day at work wondering what lunch will be.

I head to my office, get briefed on the events of what is to occur today, check the subordinate soldiers that are supervised by me.

The day continues…

Somebody gets to go to lunch, to the place of their choosing. Fast food? Fancy restaurant? Bar? Oh, maybe they’ll stop off at the mall and pick up something they saw on television.

I head to lunch, packed in a truck, one soldier sitting in the bed of the truck; we all drive to one of two dining facilities that service thousands of soldiers. One soldier farts and giggles. Gagging soon occurs. The driver locks the windows and laughs uncontrollably. Apparently, it was him. We arrive to a packed parking lot, get out. It is here that we, United States Armed Forces Members, are scrutinized and checked by TCNs (Third Country Nationals) who are contracted out by the government to “provide security.” These people are from Uganda and as they check our IDs, they finger their AK-47s, which are loaded. Apparently, we are suspicious-looking. We go in, wash our hands and stand in long lines. We have plastic trays, plastic plates and plastic utensils. It seems they’ve stopped using metal forks around here. It could take up to twenty minutes just to even get the food of your choice. Other soldiers come in, dirty and dusty from just having completed their mission, convoy operations. They are allowed to head to the front of the line. Common courtesy.

Somebody heads back to work in the United States, possibly deciding on another cup of Starbucks to push them through the rest of their day. Maybe a muffin with that. Gosh, that sounds tasty.

We head back to work. An attempt is made to conduct some online training. Failure. As the military prepares to leave Iraq, many services are becoming scare. Included among these is a reliable source of internet connectivity. We stay for hours, conducting our business, busy worker bees. Our supervisor yells at us for some inconceivable reason. More work is conducted. It’s my captain’s birthday today. We smash cake in his face.

Somebody heads home as their day is finished. They get to decide if they’re going to happy hour, maybe go see that new movie that just came out? Hey, have you seen that new restaurant on such and such a street? It’s phenomenal!

We continue our work until the sun goes down, well past any 9-5 type of job. Nobody wants to go to dinner so i head back to the grab and go. Some sort of meatball item is served to me. Apparently, it’s got some sort of cream cheese in it.

Somebody heads back to their house, apartment, mansion, condo, room. Televisions are turned on, recliners are sat in. Feet are put up. Possibly dinner with their families. Children show their parents what they’ve done for the day. Laughter, thoughts, conversations occur.

I head back to my room, consisting of a bed, closet and drawers. Thankfully, the heater is working properly. It’s getting rather chilly. I place my weapon by the side of my bed and sit. I grab the book off the floor somebody sent me as part of a care package.  Maybe I’ll read after I shower. I prepare for the next day, pulling out a new set of uniforms. I blog.

Happy Veteran’s Day from Iraq. 🙂

The writing on the wall.

Need a BJ?

 

 

This is one of many questions that are asked on a military installation in a combat zone. It is a common question, and many, answered by the unknown, ask it…

As a soldier currently stationed in Iraq, I have the unique opportunity to SEE this question asked. Where on earth could you see this question asked, you wonder? I will tell you. Bathroom stalls. Always on the wall of a stall.

Picture this: The bathroom trailers that are utilized here in the old combat zone were, at one time, mobile. Now they are unable to move. Their wheels are removed and the trailers placed on blocks. A porch is attached to the door (usually just a misplaced wooden pallet that used to belong to someone else.)

Inside these trailers sit about 10 toilets, each separated by plastic walls and doors with the ability to lock. Occupado. Occupado.

If a soldier were to go into any random stall to conduct their business, whatever business that may be, perhaps they’d sit and daydream. It is here that the writing begins.

Soldiers will always write on the walls of the bathroom stalls. It is inevitable.

One, they are bored. Two, they are horny. Three, they have a pen.

Emails are usually written on the walls of the stalls. Sometimes near the toilet paper holder, sometimes opposite of that. Perhaps on the door? On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, it is written right next to another person’s email address.

Questions are asked and sometimes answered on these bathroom walls. Drawings are done, some tasteful, others not so much. Some soldiers will do a “shout out” for their particular unit (although, why they would want to do so on the stall wall…Meh?) Others will declare their love for a long lost somebody.

Nevertheless, the one constant variable of these is the email address, requesting some sort of sexual contact to take place. Of course, at your leisure and not theirs. It is up to you to contact that person and arrange some sort of a meeting to occur. In essence, my place or yours? What time? Can you be discreet? What do you like doing? For this ride, enter at your own risk. I can only imagine no one really knows what the other person would look like on the receiving end of one of these emails.

Apparently, such postings on the walls of the bathroom stalls are frowned upon by the higher command and a crew, once every two weeks, will march in, paint, brush and bucket in hand.  A temporary sign is placed on the outside of the door. “Bathroom Closed for Repairs.” An hour or two will pass and then the trailer is released for use by soldiers again. Walls that used to be gray are now white; the only thing is this: they’ve just created a new canvas for the influx of horny soldiers who march through these bathroom stalls.

Has this form of communication ever been successful? Without a doubt, it has been successful. Apparently, it is a tried and true method to get your rocks off. Why fix something if it isn’t broken, right?

I can say that I have seen the fruits of somebody’s labor come to fruition.

One night (I believe it was a Tuesday), as I happened to be brushing my teeth, staring at myself in the mirror, one soldier just happened to walk into the trailer.  Buzz buzz goes my vibrating toothbrush. The soldier went to the urinal to pee, washed his hands and lingered for a few minutes pretending to wash his hands, comb his hair, any reason to stay there without looking too suspicious. As he waited, another soldier just happened to walk in, use the urinal and cleared his throat in a queer manner. Apparently, this caught the attention of the other soldier and they walked out together giving each other quick nervous glances at each other. Should I have the desire to follow them; they would most likely be moving off to some dark corner of the area in hopes of “furthering their email traffic.”

Oh, what one will do for love or at least a bit of stress relief? Although such actions may make these soldiers look like dirty perverts, it is quite the opposite. Pervert, no. Lonely? Yes. Could they have better control of their hormones? Without a doubt.

Now, I must go use the bathroom. I have drunk a lot of water today. I just have to remember my email address…

 

 

Monkeys in the sandbox.

 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experiment with a soldier in a combat zone? Hello, that’s me.

Supposedly, the longer a soldier stays in Iraq, the more prone they are to “lower their standards” and view unattractive females or males as desirable.  Beer goggles, for all those are worth.

Let us talk about this and some of the soldiers I work with.

Every day, I see the same soldiers for about 18 hours or so a day. I am bound to start watching their mannerisms as a child watches a monkey in the zoo. They search each other’s heads for fleas; they gnaw on bananas. I just hope they decide to not fling their poo at me. Three soldiers are of concern here. Two are older, at the very least, in their mid to late 30s. One is bald, the other short. The other soldier is in his mid 20s, so acting like a monkey is to be expected.

We go out to lunch on a regular basis, at the dining facility. It is here where the monkey antics occur. We all grab our lunch from the various lines. Some lines have healthy choices, such as salads, chicken or fish, etc… Others have mashed potatoes and thick slabs of meat, fried and subsequently covered in gravy…Hundreds of soldiers are here.

Oops, one sec…Must go hit the latrine…

Ok, I’m back. Continuing on the subject of the antics of the barbarians I work with…Imagine this. A dining facility that is full to the brim with hungry and horny soldiers.  Why are they horny? Quite simply it’s because of a rule that is always enacted in a war zone. No sex. No sex, whatsoever. No pornography either.

So each service member carrying a tray of food, wearing the uniforms of their perspective service, all carrying weapons and ammunition makes for a sticky situation, kind of.

As we sit down, our food placed on white plastic plates; those plates carried on brown trays, the glancing around begins. The fake flowers in the tiny vase are moved to make more room at the table were sitting at. A bite is taken of their food. One soldier, looks towards something in the distance and giggles. I carry on, munching on my salad. The soldier’s eyes go large. So large in fact that you would wonder if in fact his brain had burst inside his head. Apparently not.

Why do his eyes get big, you might ask? I’ll tell you. It’s simply because they have just viewed something that entices their desires and stirs the lust that was dormant in their loins.  The soldier giggles again and nudges the soldier next to him, prodding him to look at what he has just viewed.

“Wow! Isn’t she tall?!”

That’s the phrase the soldiers like to use when they see someone they like. Ironically, they like to think that it hides their true intentions. I need to inform them that it does not.

I turn to look at this tall service member, civilian, third country national, whoever it may be. I would like to state here, they are in fact, NOT tall. Instead, they are usually well endowed in the boobage area. I roll my eyes at them. The first soldier looks at me, exasperated at the fact that I simply do not care and would rather eat my salad. “Did you see her, SGT Rosales?”  “Yes, I saw her. And?”

The monkey cocks his head to the side, confused and goes back to his slab of meat on his plate.

A few minutes pass and the soldiers continue to consume the food like anteaters sitting at a giant anthill. “Did you see her hair?” Various heads turn in the appropriate direction for their viewing pleasure. I reach for a napkin and pull one from the plastic container that has hundreds of napkins stuffed to the maximum load capacity. I gingerly pull one out, hoping the rest do not explode out of the container and flutter into the air. Loud sudden noises are not appreciated in a combat zone.

So, had I seen her hair? No, this was another ploy at the antics of the monkeys wanting to mate… Again, they do not care about the hair atop the specimen they are ogling over. Instead, they are looking, just about a foot downwards. Boobs.

Another location that the monkeys like to go to see how “tall” someone is at the physical fitness center. It is here at the gym that some soldiers are bound to lose the fight against common decency and blatantly stare at a female soldier, thereby making her uncomfortable. On the other hand, some female soldiers see what is going on and will move TOWARDS the monkey cage, exciting the animals inside.

These female soldiers will turn towards the soldiers, moving ever so slowly and arch their backs ever so slightly… Again, eyes go big. You would think that they would have the decency to blush a bit. That does not happen.

Monkeys also bicker about prospective mates. Did you know that? It’s true. “No dude, she wasn’t looking at you. She was looking at me.”

Dare I tell them, no one is looking at them? It’s all in their imaginations. They would feel better thinking that they are also being stared at. It might also ruin the thoughts running in their heads and what they will most likely be thinking about as they go shower later on that same night…

Now, mind you, I only call my fellow soldiers monkeys because of their behavior. That’s not to say, that I, myself, do not do exactly what they are doing. I just like to keep it to myself.  Nor do I look at boobs.

Ooh, hey, did you see his shoes?

 

Frontlines and muffins

The time is now 0400 hours in the morning. Iraq. Combat zone, nonetheless…I am currently sitting behind a wooden desk, in a tiny office. Mission? To rid the world of evil super villains? No. Not quite that. Perhaps to find the one true reliable source of renewable energy and thereby save all the baby polar bears in the Arctic? No, not that either. My mission, should I choose to accept it…Man the frontlines of the internet cafe in a combat zone.

You’d figure it be easy right? I mean, how hard could it be?  A simple internet cafe. Not so easy when mortars are being thrown at you, left and right, night and day…Somebody might want to mention to the insurgents: They need better aim. And not so easy when the people who walk in have terrible attitudes, grumbling “Mornin’ “. Perhaps they need coffee. Maybe a nice soft muffin. Too bad the closest REAL Starbucks is about 2,000 miles away in Germany (give or take a few miles; I haven’t looked at a world map in a while) and I’m fresh out of muffins.

The fan that is precariously attached to the ceiling spins lazily so early in the morning circulating the musty air. The choice of the floor tiles is horrendous. Gray with speckled blue and brown pieces of stone scattered about the entire room. Tape, old pieces of gum and bullet holes decorate the walls of  the building.

People begin to trickle in, desiring to use a computer or a phone; any means to contact their friends, families and loved ones back in the states or wherever they so desire to call. Some give me a devious, sly look when I ask what they’d like to use. Just put it down on the paper please. Sign in.

A fly is in the office with me, going round and round my head. Quite irritating. All is quite on the front, save for the buzz buzz of this persistent fly.

Here in Iraq, we have contractors providing security for the base. Most of these people are from Uganda. How do I know that? Just ask them. They’ll happily tell you, ” Yes sir, I am Ugandan! Very proud, yes.”  Great. Seems the US Government knows how the economy works. Why pay soldiers who are trained to do just that, provide security, full wages when they can contract the same job for much less!! They, regardless of how bitter I am and innocent they are, would like to use a computer too.

The chair I’m sitting in is black, most likely pleather, covered in dust. And it’s missing a wheel. I just noticed. Now any time I even attempt to sit forward in my dusty chair, I will invariably hit my head on this wooden desk. Gravity and all…

I make small talk with the junior enlisted soldier who has been assigned to assist me. “Oh, you’re a paralegal huh? Do you like your job? Of course, it’s filled with politics. Just the way it goes.” I ask her, when she normally eats breakfast. She tells me, “Whenever.” Uh, no….I ask for a reason. I am charged with your safety and well-being. That includes feeding you. She secretly rolls her eyes at me.

Another soldier comes in. ” I need to use your phone.” Sure, simply sign in and we’ll get down to business. He’ s wearing the prescribed physical fitness uniform; black shorts, gray t-shirt that says Army on the front of it. The only thing wrong? Shirt’s too small. It seems as if his belly is ready to burst, the seams of the shirt can barely contain the large mass it holds precariously in. I believe the gym is right down the street, dear soldier.

Do you know the difference between contractors and military service members? Were both here in Iraq, each getting paid to do a job. The difference? They get paid at least 3 times as much as any regular Joe.  They get to wear the clothes they brought to theater with them. We wear pesticide covered uniforms, ballistic eye wear and carry around a semi-automatic rifle and ammunition. And we don’t get paid as much as the contractors.

A Ugandan comes in to use a computer. His writing is illegible on the sign in sheet. He asks in broken english, “Please sir, web cam?” I hand him what he needs and he goes back to the computer room.

Another soldier. Needs a computer as well. Apparently he’s going on R&R tomorrow. Lucky guy. He asks me where I’m from. ” Oh, you’re from Fort Hood too, huh?” Yeah, small world… He’s originally from Puerto Rico. How do I know this? He’ll tell you and then ask you the same question. I tell him San Diego. “Oh, Kelly-fornia?” Yes. “Habla espanol?” Nope, sorry buddy.

Damn, I just hit my forehead again.  I really should try to find a solution to this missing wheel problem. Daylight begins to break through. It starting to shine its way through from windows that have long been covered up with tape. The tape is brittle, old and fatigued from holding back the sunlight from entering the room that is now void of computers.

All is quite on the frontline.  I hear the faint tap tap tap of fingers on a keyboard. I’ve found a fly swatter. If only the damn thing would hold still…

First day. And pie.

Hello world. I am Ricky.

I am a soldier in the US Army…Here sits my cursor, sitting, blinking at me, daring me to write something that would go against the very nature of what we like to call “Operational Security”. Alas, I cannot write about anything “cool” because it just simply is not there. Wiki Leaks would snub their nose at me. Except for one thing that happened today…

Being that I’m a soldier in the US Army, today is Halloween and I’m sitting in Iraq… I did not get to dress up as I usually do and drink to my liver’s content….Instead, I got to sit, in my office and watch soldiers as they worked. Every now and then I would ask, how far  they’ve gotten on something and crack a joke at my supervisor, who just happens to be short. Very short. So short, in fact, that I tease him about being short and have dubbed him, “The Hobbit.” It fits him. I even put a whole package of bits of beef jerky under his laptop. Hobbits like that, right? Either he’ll find them first, or the mice will.

As I finished out my work, I realized I had done nothing productive except go down to the official mail office and scare some soldiers when I walked in. “Oh, good afternoon Sergeant. How can I help you?” They seemed to tense up when I spoke to them about mailing a package off to Germany. Laboratory stuff. They groaned, “What kind of stuff? Is it a piss test?” “No, not a piss test…just water.” Ah, damn…there goes that blinking cursor again…

One of my main concerns today was to open a box a friend had sent to me. In that box were these little cups, filled with candy and masks. I handed out a bag to each member of the squad and the headquarters element. Nine in total. Suffice to say, they loved them. So much so in fact, that my bosses squealed in delight and just ABSOLUTELY had to thank my friend. Do I have his email? Um, of course I have his email. Sure, I’ll give it to you, just please stop squealing in my ear…

My other main concern today was to get pumpkin pie. Why? Traditionally, people like to think of pie as a Thanksgiving item to be shared, passed around and overeaten. Nay nay, I say. I’d like to have pie on the day when thousands, if not millions of pumpkins die. All just to decorate some person’s front porch for a few hours, shove a candle into it and think it’s just one of the greatest creations anyone has ever made. Hello, this is reality calling. It’s just a pumpkin. Therefore, make pie.

I finished out my day, hanging around with other soldiers and secretly fuming about the atrocities against my supervisor. The poor hobbit. He gets yelled at a lot, by his supervisor, who happens to wear her weave in the form of “Mufasa”, the evil uncle lion from “The Lion King.” Words like mutiny, coup d’etat and rebellion were secretly (and jokingly) tossed around in the office.  But, she did end up calming down, so we put aside our rebellion for another day.

When a soldier deploys into a combat zone, privacy is a concept that is seldom recognized and avoided at all costs…There are no bathrooms inside our rooms…instead, we have to move ourselves outside, walk around these giant concrete walls, meant to protect us from mortars that are blindly shot towards the base, and go pee  and shower in these tiny little trailers. Theses trailers are not currently working right…Meaning, water is constantly overflowing and the pipes seem to cry out in despair, begging for anyone to fix and unclog them. No one has answered that call. The showers are also a sad joke. Imagine six showers, inside a trailer, where the curtains are dangerously thin and see through. They’re also cut too short, so any burst of wind or large person walking by, will automatically lift that shower curtain into the air, spraying water all over the slippery floor and expose the person inside. Believe me, I’ve seen things not meant to be seen by other people’s eyes… Continue on to the bathrooms…

Did you know, it is only western civilizations that have come up with the idea of toilet paper? Therefore, when Third Country Nationals or TCNs use our bathrooms, they invariably do not use toilet paper. Instead, they wash their bums using water bottles, as a sort of bidet. That’s fine and dandy. Except when you must step in that water, wearing nothing but flip flops. Your toes cry out in anger and fright, praying that it’s clean water they just touched.

As this is my first attempt at this, I pray the “Writing Gods” look down upon me with favor…

I fear for my soldiers. I fear for my toes. But at least I had my pie.