Thursday, April 16, 2009

Opium Joe

Days like yesterday I hate being a civilian. One of our local workers was out assisting in the recovery of a military vehicle when he was hit by a roadside bomb, and almost killed. He was contracted to operate a crane on base, but he was always willing to go and do anything that was asked of him.

Now I'm not big on bashing the US Army. At least not in public. Here in Afghanistan there are a lot of rules and it's tough to operate. CNN is always watching and ready to report even the slightest incident in a manner that brings them the most ratings. Truth has taken a backseat to the dollar, but that's another issue. So I understand the pressures they're operating under, and I understand some of the questionable decisions that are made here. But this was a different story.

Let me give you a brief background on the situation here. With IED's (roadside bombs) it's been a constant game of adaptation. The enemy creates a bomb, we create better armor. When the IED's started to become more prevalent, they were using detonation systems where the truck would have to drive over a set of contacts that would set off the bomb. After a while the US military figured out what to look for and how to avoid it. So the enemy adapted, and started using IED's detonated by electronic commands. Someone would hide nearby and press the button at the right time. It allowed for higher casualties due to the ability to target soft targets and civilian vehicles. So the military developed jamming systems which would block the electronic signals from reaching the detonator. So the enemy went back to primarily using the contact detonators. The military response was to build stronger trucks, and that's where we're at now. The unit I am with now has been hit multiple times with little to no injuries due to the new trucks.

Now here's where the incompetence comes in. They let the crane, the unarmored, civilian vehicle lead the convoy. If an assault had come from the front, how would the convoy protected itself, since they had placed a civilian between them and the enemy? The insurgents here have no problem killing civilians, so why did they put him there? He was putting his life on the line to help them and they didn't even try to protect him.

The worst part is that there is there is nothing I can do about it. When I was active I could have asked questions, forced people to answer them, and gotten things changed. But that's not my job now. So I just sit here and hope that in the next two months their incompetence doesn't get anyone killed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Real Picture!

DSC_0845, originally uploaded by sjtaylor2016.

Look, I posted a real picture! This little monkey was our pet for a while. The Marines on base bought her and took care of her for a while, then they went home. So we took over her care for a while, until some soldiers decided they wanted to get a pet as well, so the Army made us get rid of her. She was maybe 6 inches high while sitting, and weighed about 2 pounds.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Orange juice: pulp, or no pulp

People are surprisingly passionate on this issue. Back when I was a church goin' man, I was part of the official 'friend shipping committee.' Kind of funny since I'm basically an asshole, but maybe I was nice back then. It was in my pre-Marine days. I don't remember. Our ward was dedicated to young single people, and we had a high rate of turnover throughout the area, since there was a lot of apartments. People moved in and out all the time, and we were responsible for teaching new members first classes and making them feel welcome. Of course at the beginning of class we had everyone introduce themselves and asked them random questions. My question was always, "Orange juice, pulp or no pulp?" I've noticed that guys tend to prefer pulp, and women no pulp. But there was some heated discussions on the issue, sometimes they would last most of the class. Weird that people would care about it that much. I personally prefer the no pulp version personally. And you?

Friday, April 10, 2009

I'm not a morning person

I don't like mornings. From years of being in, and working with, the military I'm used to getting up early. I'm adept at waking up and being on the move quickly, and I kind of like it that way. But I'm not a morning person. And I don't really like being talked to in the morning. Not for at least the first four hours. All of my past roommates(boo roommates!) have been the same way, so at the most we would grunt at each other in the morning. It was a perfect arrangement. But these roommates...I want to kill them. Don't get me wrong, in the middle of the day they are great guys. We're even planning to take a vacation together when we get done here. But in the morning...From the second they wake up in the morning it's just a constant stream of inane chatter. I don't think their eyes are even open, and a flood of words start issuing forth from their mouths, and I can think of nothing other then ways to shut them up. I could handle, "morning, sleep well?" or, "wow, I just had the craziest dream." But no, it's things like, "HEY, BASE1, COME SIT ON MY DICK!" "HEY, CARPENTER1, YOU CRAZY COCKSUCKER, SHUT THE @#$#@ UP!" And the witty banter just gets wittier from there. So am I wrong to want to kill them?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Someday I'll figure out how to post real pictures in this thing!

Afghanistan may be a horrible place, but it's got some great scenery.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The fascination with boys never ends...

So a little while back the Afghans threw a big party for everyone here. It was a pretty big event and they brought local clothes for soldiers to wear, they even got dresses for the female soldiers. It was a big event, and everyone had fun, although a little later on when the locals started getting drunk(which is illegal, more on that another time) they got up and started dancing with each other. All the guys started dancing with each other. Ewwwww...

Then one of the male soldiers started dancing with them! hahaha, the First Sergeant wasn't too happy about that, he said something about him having a little sugar in his tank.

That wasn't the point of the story though, so here we are, a few months later talking to the local contractor boss. We'll call him 'Rocky.' And Rocky was watching the female medic we have here, saying that he thought she was cute. She has short hair, and is sort of small all around. We asked why he liked her and he said it was because she looked like a small boy, and that for the next party he was going to get her a boys outfit to wear so all the guys would like her.

Disgusted yet?

The last ANA (Afghan National Army) unit that we had here seemed to be filled with a lot of very young men. Now that's not terribly unusual, since most of these people don't know how old they are, and they just sort of pick numbers and birthdays. Plus with a new unit it's not unusual to have young soldiers since the Army is so newly formed. We don't really work with the soldiers too much, mostly we deal with the command element. One day we went to their part of the base to do some things and we couldn't find their commander. We talked to the US Soldiers who advise them and they said, "oh yeah, he was raping his soldiers so they got rid of him." Apparently it's a common occurrence here. double ewwwwww....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Living Flame

Living Flame

My entry for the photo contest over at A Cowboys Wife

I've always loved taking pictures, and sometimes people even get to see them! The theme for the contest is colors, and being in a desert where everything is brown kind of limited my options.
Good luck to everyone who entered!
P.S. It didn't show up very well in the blog, but it looks way better if you shift click it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

For the Fallen

I've attended far too many memorial ceremonies since I joined then Marines. When I got out, I thought I would never have to go to one again. About a month and a half after I got here, I attended my first one as a civilian. And I attended another one today.

When a Marine or Soldier dies in combat, it's sad. But it's accepted. Or I should say, it's acceptable. When we sign take the oath, for whatever reason we are doing it, we understand that the cost of those words may be our life. None of us want to pay that price, but we are all willing. So when you're in the war zone, and someone dies, it's sort of expected. Maybe not that person at that time, but the entire time you are here there just a quiet knowledge that it's going to happen to someone. And so when they pull you into that quiet little room, and they tell you that we have just lost one of our own, the thought isn't, "Oh no!" It's, "I hope it's not someone I knew well."

And this wasn't someone I knew well. In a base of around 100 soldiers it's hard to get to know everyone. But he was one that everyone knew. One of the soldiers at his memorial described him as the glue that held his unit together. He was always walking around, laughing, joking with people, mocking and ridiculing people (a favorite pastime amongst the military.) When I heard he had been killed, I was confused, because his job didn't really take him outside of the base that often. Here's the real kick in the nuts, he was home on leave. He wasn't killed by a roadside bomb, or by jumping on a hand grenade to save his fellow soldiers. He didn't die in a firefight defending a country that couldn't care less for the blood that is shed for them. He was killed at home, by some piece of shit kid that doesn't deserve the air he breathes.

The worst part of the ceremony for me has always been the final roll call. The ceremony starts out with an invocation from the chaplain, then various soldiers speak. When all that is done, there is the final roll call. Everyone stands, and the First Sergeant calls out some names of soldiers, who all answer, "here First Sergeant!" The last name that is called is the name of the fallen soldier. The name echoes through the ranks, and silence answers back. They call the name three times, and the First Sergeant reports the loss of a soldier to the Commander. They fire the 21 gun salute, and Taps is played. That song still gives me chills when I hear it.

Then everyone, in pairs and threesomes, walks up to the display. It has a picture of the fallen, boots, a rifle, helmet, and dog tags. They kneel, then stand and salute, then walk away. I never know what to say to people who are in mourning, and in this case, as in all military funerals, no words are needed. No words will comfort, and no words will replace the loss of a friend, a brother. I shake their hand, give them a hug and a nod, and they understand. We've all shared the same pain. No words will suffice.

Then we carry on with the day. Because the mission comes first.

Rest in peace brother.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Well Done Google!

I have to say, when I first logged into my gmail account and saw this, I was like,"whoah, I'll never have to write another email again! Then I started reading it to my roommate. As I was reading it I realized what the date was. D'oh! April Fools Day! I've got to admit I am impressed with the work that Google put into their april fools joke, it doesn't stop there, check this out. And this She even has her own Youtube channel!

The lads over at Google put a lot of time and effort into their prank, so I say well done Google, well done!