Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I am trying to upload some pictures of military art work. I've seen photos of nose gunner art from WWII, and I think that this artwork is kind of in the same category.

I'm having trouble with Blogger uploading pix, so I'm limited to just one pic per post.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Art work

A couple of photos showing some ofthe art work
around the FOB. The window looks like you're looking into a western cabin, complete with cavalry hat. It was painted on a piece of plywood that was covering a window. Almost every window was covered, I think for shrapnel or blast protection. If a rocket hit near the window, it would shatter the window and send the glass flying.

The other picture is of art work painted on a concrete barrier. Fairly typical.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Transfer of Authority

I'm going to upload some of my favorite pictures, starting with some of soldiers.

This is a photo from our outgoing transfer of authority, when we handed the battle off to the 101st Airborne. This shows our Commanding General saluting. Our unit crest is below him, and he's surrounded by both the US and Iraqi flags. Our soldier is in tan, and the 101st soldier is in the new ACUs.

This photo is of a battalion commander, awaiting the action. The 101st Div Commander was late for the ceremoney, and we all stood around waiting for him.

This photo shows our XO, surrounded by cameras from mostly Iraqi media.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Self Destruction

Sometimes the bad guys just take themselves out. The first picture shows what had been an Iraqi Army checkpoint between Kirkuk and Hawija. Hawija was a hot spot, with lots of former Baathists and al-Quaeda members and sympathizers. I read an article that lately the people of Hawija have been turning on the al-Quaeda types.

Anyway, one night a car/suicide bomber pulled up to the checkpoint building and detonated, and as you can see pancaked the building. The driver was killed, and I think the Iraqi soldier manning the checkpoint. However, several other Iraqi soldiers were sleeping on top of the building. They rode it down, and walked away.

The other picture is of a car (BMW) driven by a terrorist. He and his sidekick stopped to emplace an IED, but it exploded. The point of detonation was behind the front tire. What was left of the driver was on the other side of the car. The sidekick was pretty much vaporized; only his foot was found.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Purple Heart Ceremony

This is a photo of a purple heart award ceremony, held at the unit which received, by far, the most purple hearts.

The other is a close up of the soldiers at the ceremony. I wonder what's going through their minds?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Still waiting

The highlight of drill last weekend was a mandatory ethics brief. We still don't have much to do because we haven't developed training schedules for the year and because our equipment still has not arrived.

We can't really do training schedules because of the huge reorganization and reshuffle. When a battalion moves from south Idaho to north Idaho, that tends to suck all available time. Essentially we will be doing only individual catch-as-catch-can (aka hip pocket) training.

Our equipment is arriving in Colorado, and is being staged to ship here. It should be here this month, and then we can start to unpack. Personally, I'm most looking forward to getting my nice Bose computer speakers so I can play music while at work.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Analysis? Whose Analysis?

Your analysis.

Saturday morning on drill weekend, I went to my work place and finished setting up my new office, then went to track down my laptop computer. I had left it with the IT folks to configure for the Gowen Field network. After getting it back, I stopped by my company's orderly room, which is in the same building as the IT office.

I have been trying for about 18 months to get an evaluation report fixed. It was sent to me in Iraq, but no one had the program necessary to print it. I couldn't get the company clerk to send me a printable version, so I just stopped in yesterday to have her print it off. It needs to be signed and then formally filed.

As I talked to her, the company First Sergeant walked by, looked at me and said "I think you're on our list." He then went to check and returned saying, yes, I was on the list to submit to a urinalysis. This was about 0930. I told him fine (having no choice in the matter) but that I needed to prepare for the test (drinking a bunch of coffee and water).

This is pretty common because they don’t give you any warning that you get to contribute a sample, and you may have already drained the holding tank by the time you’re notified.

I went back to my office, worked on the computer, and drank liquids. Having taken what seems like a zillion piss-tests (probably a few dozen), I have learned that I want to really have to go before I try to fill the bottle.

The way the Army collects its samples is that you take off your shirt, wash your hands (to avoid contaminating the sample), and fill the bottle. The uncomfortable part is that there is a test proctor who wants to observe the action to ensure that you don’t fill the bottle with something other than your own personal warm specimen. And by observe the action, I mean the guy wants to see your equipment as you produce the sample. That’s why you have to take off your shirt; it might impede the view.

I tend to seize up and get stage fright when someone is watching me so closely. Accordingly, it helps to have a considerable pressure built up at test time. I achieved that after about an hour and a half. I returned to the orderly room at 1120, ready for action, but found that the proctors had left early for lunch so they could be back at 1300 to participate in a change of command ceremony. They wouldn’t be available until later the ceremony.

No way could I wait that long, so we decided I might just try later in the afternoon, after the ceremony, even though I would have to depressurize before then. They ended up not being available later, so I didn’t take the test. As the 1st Sgt. said, if you miss one of the “random” tests you tend to pop up on the next three or so “random” tests. So I’ve got that to look forward to.

The bright spot, for me, is that I’m not female. They have the same requirement of the eagle-eyed proctor. I suspect that their experience is probably even less pleasant than what the males endure.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Chemical Ali's Swimming Pool

You probably recall the infamous Chemical Ali , known for gassing and killing thousands of Kurds. He had several villas west of Kirkuk, one of which was in the middle of a small FOB. Our soldiers lived in the villa and other buildings.

As you can see, the soldiers turned Chemical Ali's swimming pool into their clothesline for drying laundry.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Hillbilly armor

I have a picture that shows the front of a HMMWV after an encounter with an IED. The front end was completely blown off. The engine, fenders, tires, everything is missing. You just see the windshield and the firewall. The occupants were not seriously injured, which is testimony to the design and build of the HMMWVs, and to the personal protection soldiers wear. In my unit, we were all required to wear ear and eye protection every time we left the FOB, in addition to our helmets and body armor.

This type of photo is now forbidden by the Army to be posted, but since I’m in the civilian mode at the moment, I’m not subject to that rule. (This weekend at drill is another story.) The Army’s rationale is that posting such photos will help the enemy by allowing them to learn of the effectiveness of their attacks, so that they can improve their techniques. I agree with this, and would not post a photo that could help the enemy or endanger US soldiers.

In this case, the attack was months ago, and I could post the picture without referencing when or where the attack occurred. I do not think the enemy could learn much from it. I have chosen not to post the photo, however, I guess because it could encourage the enemy. Even if they can’t learn from it, they could look at it and see that IED attacks can be affective. Boost morale, in effect.

So instead I have posted a picture of what we called “Hillbilly Armor.” This photo is of a 5-ton truck. The window was removed, and a piece of one-quarter inch steel was slipped down into the door. This was the protection for the vehicle as it was driven from Kuwait, through Baghdad, to Kirkuk.

The other photo is of a HMMWV with hillbilly armor strapped to the sides of the bed rails. Soldiers left our FOB every day in this vehicle, and this was their protection. This was used only for a very short daily trip into Kirkuk, and no one in the back was ever injured due to lack of armor. Still, the soldiers were not very happy about riding in this.

The US is making good progress in equipping the force with up-armored vehicles, but it still has a way to go. Our unit made efforts to allocate the safest vehicles to the most unsafe areas. The Army being the Army, some of the best vehicles were assigned to senior leadership, and would sometimes just sit for days without leaving the FOB. Soldiers saw this and complained bitterly about it, and to their credit, our leadership did try to respond and allow their vehicles to be used when not otherwise needed. However, by then it was too late and the “urban myth” of the up-armored HMMWV that never leaves the FOB was widely believed.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

After the search

This photo shows a scene right after a knock and search of this Kirkuk home. It was a couple of days before the Constitutional referendum and we were searching in neighborhoods around polling places. The idea was to see if we could find weapons, to send the signal that we were out looking for weapons in case anyone got a bright idea, and to reassure the locals that we were working to prevent election violence.

Seems odd, but the people liked us searching, for these reasons. They didn’t seem to mind us searching their homes, but who knows for sure.

We entered the front yard of this home. As usual, there is no grass, just either packed earth or concrete. We saw the camouflage uniform hanging on the clothesline, and this immediately drew our attention. Turned out the uniform belonged to the homeowner, who was a captain in the Iraqi Army.

Anyway, after that bit of drama, we completed the search and chatted with the captain. The picture shows one of our soldiers, relaxed and smoking a cigarette, talking with someone on the other side of the gate.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

FOB Images

This post shows some various photos. This first one showing two Hummers illustrates the effect of the armor on the Hummv. The one on the right has the add on package, which you can tell by the door window. Note how much lower it is than the one on right, and how the tires are tilted in at the top. This is due to the increased weight. Once the suspension gets this bad, they don't handle well and risk rolling over.

Even in a war zone you have to keep the car clean.

And you have to keep the parking lot clean.
And you have to get around. This soldier bought a bicycle in the PX and used it to get around, even in the 115 degree heat. Of course, the soldier also had to carry his weapon over his shoulder.