Sunday, October 31, 2004

Another View

Here is a note that may be interesting to you and give you a further view that I cannot access. Let me know if you learn anything. Also, here is a bonus picture of a Iraqi tank, looks like it was meant for going through water, but it holds trash now....

Check this: www.voicesofiraq.com Voices of Iraq--movie

For a description, see this webpage: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,137112,00.html

Trashy Tank Posted by Hello

Works of Sam Wais

Here are more examples of this artist's work. Now that his group's tour is about up here, he strangely seems more intent on painting everything up even more, rather than calling it quites because he will be leaving it all behind soon. Perhaps his work will remain here for a very long time--a little piece of Hawaii here in Iraq. A lovely little legacy for the soldiers restricted here by the seeming impropriety of the need to participate in this war. Enjoy this part then, and zoom in if you can...

E

Soldier Residence Posted by Hello

Aloha Internet Cafe Posted by Hello

Hold Your Fire!

Sunday, pictures for loved-ones time! Everyone else is at work and the internet is free, time. Just yesterday, I noticed this new sign put up by the resident artist.

This group company of soldiers is based in Hawaii and this Sam Wais guy does some great wall art. Most of his work is oriented around the famliar items of their home island and is not to be taken seriously, like an office building painted up as "Bubba Gump's Shrimp Shack." So when I saw this new sign, I thought, "right!" But dropped my jaw as I saw this little entourage come along and execute a perfect right turn after coming up the sidewalk towards me and crossing...for us all to see. Talk about perfect timing. And since then, everyone has flocked in to see my pics...

The other pic, a typical mortar cannon, like the ones they use to shoot at us all the time. A smaller one, actually, as lately they have been quite huge! (see Bombs at our BBQ). Anyway, this is your Action Photographer, Ernie, out to migrate towards lunch!

Read the sign Posted by Hello

Better use as a conversation piece Posted by Hello

Did someone say...Rodeo?!

Is that yer steeeel hoss?

Iraq has the most amazing history in it...and under it. The other day some of the local nationals were on base filling up sand bags and the sergeant in charge noticed that they kept digging into these vases and had to throw them out of the way. Well, that stopped real quick because they were trashing artifacts hundreds, maybe thousands, of years old.

On base here there is an assortment of Saddam's antiquated artillery and even, as you can see, aircraft! Old mosques, including a mini-mosque, if only I could show you all the pictures!!! Anyone own a website with lots of space?

Also shown below is part of a typical cafeteria and if you can see in the picture, (I send bigger pictures than may be prudent for email because there is much in the details) is one of many posters sent over by American children wishing the soldiers well. Pretty cool stuff. The soldiers must always keep their weapons within reach when in uniform.

Eight seconds, and then it's my turn, cowboy!
Ernie

Steel horse with wings Posted by Hello

At the D'FAC (Dining Facility) Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Wild Wild (Middle-) East

When I was a child, I thought I was robbed (not literally) having missed the days of the Cowboys and Indians. What excitement, adventure, danger I must have missed! Perhaps that explains why it is so thrilling for me to be there, HERE. The parallels jump out at you, like a hold-up on a stage-coach!

Think about it. You got your arid dust, scorching sun, bad guys galore, and lots of men walking around this new settlement wearing their guns. There’s coiled-up critters waiting to ‘getcha’ and women few and far in between. They don’t wear a lot of make-up, if you know what I mean, and I’ve even seen a female in the mess hall with a gun strapped to her thigh. Not Calamity Jane, I think Tanya was her name. We’re all here trying to tame this wilderness.

Don’t go outside the circled wagons, I mean, tanks, or you might lose your scalp. There’s smoking and chewin’ tabacca --about the only vice allowed here. Country music, a-hem, is one of the staples around here. Lotta’ Bible-belt babies here with that southern drawl and darn if everybody don’t wear boots. At nights, since we don’t have running water in our cabins, er, hooches, and you can see us hustling off to the portable outhouse by moonlight, if you catch my drift.

So here I am, grinning sheepishly now that I’ve stepped out of my little time machine, called Continental Airlines. Maybe like the DeLorean in Back to the Future, I can’t make it back until I find something to power the flux capacitor. But in the meanwhile, a child-hood dream is what it seems. Here comes a HumVee trailing dust like a small herd of cattle. Better don my bandanna…and touch my fingers to my hat’s rim and nod slightly to acknowledge those sharp-shooting gun-slingers that help keep me, and all of us, safe. Another incredible day as I smile tautly and swagger off into the sunset ….

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bombs at our BBQ

Here are pics from our little (but interesting) BBQ. The first is the bomb squad removing a cylindrical object from where it bounced too whilst we were 80 yards away preparing some cold drinks. Pepsi's, mostly. To my chagrin, there was no milk. Oh. Back to the pic. The red container/trailer is where the soldiers were inside, by fluke that day, cleaning it out. The BBQ surprise cylinder hit the bottom right corner after its second bounce. They thought someone threw a rock at the container to scare them, so they weren't scared until they stepped out. Then they were very happy that they could step out and then get some immediate aerobic exercise. Yes, they hot-footed it over to our BBQ, if you get my drift. If not, then this joke bombed. As it were.

So the next pic shows a happy soldier with his plate full of meat--the cake and trimmin's were in a covered area near by. Notice also his sun-burned face except where his goggles were--must be a gunner up on the turret of a combat vehicle. Or he rides one of those golf carts around all day. Also on display is one of our BBQ units, not available at Walmart but common where ever barrels, men, and welding equipment can be found. And spare time, as you can witness by my comrades (co-workers) found in repose in the shade behind that HumVee. Finally, I may mention the high cement walls often place around buildings to stop things like, say, bouncing bombs. Good stuff. All right, time for a cold MRE (Meals Ready to Eat). It was warm when I started this letter, but that was then...
This is now. Don't forget to vote next week.
Ernie

Bomb Squad Posted by Hello
BBQ mortar that "dropped in" Posted by Hello
Lucky (blessed) soldiers collect their reward
BBQ with the AoA Posted by Hello

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Recall

Hello!

I'm afraid I must apologize. I realize that things that are of great interest and fit well within my comfort range may be quite stressful to you and cause undue worry. So I will refrain from my view of yesterday's events at the BBQ and try for just a general summation.

We were having this BBQ when we heard the unmistakable sound of incoming. A projectile of some size bounced a few times (instead of blowing up) and was stopped by banging into a container that, only coincidentally by the way, was full of soldiers cleaning it up. They thought someone was being mean and throwing rocks against the walls to scare them.

Obviously if the projectile had done its job at any point it may have been serious bad stuff. The path it went was uncanny though as well as its ultimate uselessness. I consider it a blessing I see over and over: The thing was incorrectly used by the bad guys and seemed guided in the things it missed. Blessed that they are so desperate that the things they try usually end up being duds.

I will give you an example. The bad guys will wrap electricians tape around a mortar because they think the Americans have an electrical shield on their vehicles and they've been told that by wrapping the tape around the mortar, they can defeat the "electron shield." Guess they've been watching too much Star Trek.

Anyway, I will try to be more careful about everyone's feelings in the future. I am profoundly affected by the things I see here and try to share my wonderment. Perhaps after my return the pics and short movie clips I have will reveal many parts of the experience in a "that's behind us" manner for those who are even interested. I think I'll make a DVD.

Alright! Suffice it to say that things seem to be better already as the military put some pressure on the bad guys. Saw several blindfolded prisoners come in recently. This is good news and there is lots of it.

Miss you and have a great day!!

Ernie

Monday, October 25, 2004

Chillin'

Tonight we had to don sweatshirts and it felt like Fall. We were hitting 98 during the day earlier in the week but recently it has only gone up to 85 during the day. After going for weeks with pure sunshine, we are experiencing days with part cloud-cover as well. This time of the year is actually very nice...relatively speaking.

For those of you who are curious, I check Foxnews.com daily, for the most part, to keep up on current events in American. I know about freak snow storms in California and elections and of course I watch the stock market almost every day. Except weekends when it's closed. But sometimes then.

Anyway, today was a great day for checking letters and emails and writing letters and scripture and my crew kinda took the day off for a BBQ since the work was slow. We had an amazing experience today and I'm trying to get some pictures lined up so stayed tuned for our next transmission....Bombs at our BBQ!

Found out that my shop foreman married an inactive Mormon and his dad was a Mormon too. He prays everyday over his food and is a good family man. When we had....bombs at our BBQ today, he too saw the hand of God in the constant miracles protecting us here. Very cool.
Alright, gotta go for now. God bless America, and God bless Iraq, I say! Stay safe,
Ernie

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Red Alert

I suppose it has been too quiet since I got here 3 weeks ago. One red alert (incoming) a week until Ramadan. Now every day at least one. Ramadan, the fourth pillar of Islam. Darned if I know what the other 3 are!

During Ramadan, Muslims come to Iftar: moving toward self and nature. During daylight hours, practicing Iraqis abstain from food, drink, smoking, swearing, speaking ill, speaking unnecessary words, and, well, sexual activity. But once night falls....

Out of courtesy we are encouraged not to partake of these things in front of them during the day. I don't, for the most part, anyway. We are also warned that they are hungry and tired (party all night) and may therefore be grumpy and to not hold it against them.
ON the evening of Oct. 27 Muslims celebrate Laylat-al-Qadr (The Night of Power!) -- Expect celebratory gunfire!! I can hardly wait. We are to wish all Iraqi's a "Happy Ramadan" and "Happy Eid al-Fitr" from Nov. 12th. Like I'm going to remember how to say that...
But apparently the "evil zealots" as I will call them take all religious times as a good time to savage their enemies, if possible. The crescent moon is also symbolic to them and we got one of those too. Expect more than celebratory gunfire.

Sorry for a "darker" rendition of email but it's part of the big picture, thought you might want to know. Worse, increasingly the weapon of choice against coalition and Iraqi police is the IED, or Improvised Explosive Device. (It is more accurate and deadly) They hide them in a pit on the road and cover it with asphalt to hide it or in piles of garbage or even in dead dogs, for example. They hide and trigger it as vehicle drives over or by it with a cell phone or vehicle remote.
2 guys from the unit we work for were badly hurt by one recently and flown off to Germany for hospital care. It seems so often that it was a miracle they weren't worse or dead. Their cab was obliterated by shrapnel, an effective hit, but I've heard so many stories of miracle misses or saved life that I must believe in a higher power operating here in this crazy combat zone.

The ray of hope? I understand the we have our own remote device to detonate the IED's BEFORE we hit them. Leadership is in the process of being sold on it.
OK, more tomorrow, I hope, on more pleasant things, I hope! Take care over there,
Ernie

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Let's Talk About...

...the Weather!

The last week has been very nice here! What are the chances of that?! Probably not even hitting a hundred degrees during the day and practically cool at nights. Very nice Fall weather here in Kirkuk. We even had clouds, not once, but three days this week! Partly cloudy. For instance, see this beautiful sunrise from this morning below.

Notice also the radar truck on the hill to the right and the trailers below, typical of what we live in. the second pic, is of course, another lovely "warning poster" found on the walls of one of our shops. I still find them amusing and apparently some of you did too!

So, we were supposed to do AOA (add-on armor) to Humvees to protect the soldiers better. But we've pretty much burned through the 80 kits that were here and so we are picking up regular mechanic work on similar vehicles.

Since most of the boys here are....well, boys, I spend time telling/showing them how to fix their vehicles better, faster. The new plan is for us to have our own shop and do it all ourselves. However, at this point I am also "training" a few of our own crew, who came in with less than expert expertise, as it were.

So it's kind of a pioneer program--we are the first and will set up what will probably be a new but on-going program to support the military, freeing them up to do what they do best: Kill people and break things; bringing freedom and liberation to these poor people in the process. Ironic, isn't it?

The army brings local Iraqi contractors in to do electrician work and cleaning, for example. The Iraqis I've met are very courteous and pleasant people. They seem to be prospering in their new freedom, often entrepreneurial. I kinda like them. The kids seem enamored by the armored Americans and wave often.

Have a great Saturday, and we'll see you tomorrow, my talk for church almost ready...
Ernie

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Christmas is Coming

Hi there!
I have received some requests to know if there is anything I need. I've decided to make a list if you are in the giving mood! First the list to be brief but check the details afterward, if you would. I'm not expecting to receive and I'd be happy to reimburse for your expenses if you will let me know what they are. I could use... (address at bottom)

clothes hangers-lots of them!
cowboy hat--straw and/or better
Water-proofing spray (see cowboy hats below)
Books to read
German---books, map, magazines, cds, travel dictionary
German contacts--friends, family, etc
Garrity flashlights
Brown Jersey (also known as garden) gloves
T-shirts--short and long sleeve
Deodorant--Mennon speed stick CLEAR
Post-its, bigger size
Stock tips
and anything you might be inspired to send??? Love is always good, but you are doing well with that...

OK, explanations:
Hangers--5, 10, 20, 100...they are hot items and everyone wants them. I need some and they would let me trade for favors or other stuff I need

Cowboy hat. Straw for Summer. But can you believe it, we have a serious rainy Winter season. It would be nice to have a felt or better quality and some rain-proofing spray for it. Or a weather resistant type hat with rim... Always wish I would have bought one of those Indiana Jones types....

Books, Good books. Good, known authors, good values, classics, biographies, yummy!

German stuff: I am going to Germany in February as part of R&R that they highly recommend and help pay for. I have not been there in 16 years and look forward to going!! I need to brush up on the language and plan my 10 days there.

German contacts: If you know anyone, church contacts, etc, that wouldn't mind letting me stop by for a rest or maybe even a night or two, I think that would be really fun!!

Garrity flashlights--fit in your hand, fireman preferred, come in fun colors, available at Walmart or Autozone for the best prices (less than $3 ea.)

Brown Jersey or garden gloves. Also at Walmart or Autozone for $1.29/pair. I will pay for up to 60, or 36, even 12 pair is fine.

T-shirts: to wear under my cover-alls, long-sleeves for the cooler weather
Mennon deodorant: My favorite kind. Clear, not the white kind. Thanks!

Stock tips: I'm keeping an eye on the stock market which I love so much. My current favorites are Roxi, Ebay, and keeping an eye on HDTV. Chips seem to be coming back, of which I like NVDA. However, it has some stiff competition lately. ROXI is making a lot of money and potential for a buyout from a bigger player. What do you like?
So there you have it! I'll amend this if anything else comes to mind but most of my needs are met here, I really don't have many. Thanks again for thinking of me!
Ernie
P.S. I don't know how much it costs to send to this address, I think it is an American-priced and therefore not outrageous. It may take 10 to 30 days to get here, so no milk or spoilable things please! Or anything that may leak with a little abuse, you know the postal system....
Ernest
Camp Warrior
APO AE 09347

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Iraqi safety poster Posted by Hello

Inspirational Posters

We came into our “new” building to see what we needed to do to bring it up to speed. There was a ton of junk inside but this building and the one next to it had these warning posters for the previous occupants. Can’t understand the writing, but the picture seems to tell the story in any language. See if you can guess their meaning?
watch while waving Posted by Hello
burning shoes is a bad sign Posted by Hello
look out behind you Posted by Hello

our "new" building

this place needs cleaning out Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Bonus Pics

Ok, so the first picture below is myself in my first camp still, in my work attire. That includes Dickies overalls and my picture ID hanging around my neck and army issue boots. Those have since gone bad and I'm onto my Walmart steel-toe imitation hiking boots.

Pic two is one of the vehicles we are working on. Assigned to AOA or add-on armor, there was not enough work to do. So we are "volunteering" at a motor-pool. We get a lot of Humvees and some of the bigger rigs like this one. We hope to obtain a warehouse deserted and put up a shop like a normal garage--bring it in a we fix--for army vehicles. Not our original purpose, but hey, we are here to help "the client." (the army)
That is all for now.
Ernie

Outside the Chicken Coops Posted by Hello

a type of work Posted by Hello

History

Yes, today's subject is History, and Happy Sabbath to you!
Today I have off, which I really like---the typical employee works a 7-day week. I rested a little extra and went off in search of the "Air force Chapel." It is conveniently located a 15-minute walk away. Next to the mess-hall, as if were. I found a gospel group just putting away their instruments, the drum-set doesn't get taken down. I wonder how that will change "Sacrament Meeting."

Thursday night I heard a religious group raising the roof of that little tent, I thought the enemy would be able to zero in on us for sure. They were raising a brilliant, joyful noise, as it were. Last night one of my teammate "Bruthas" came home very excited; he had won the grand prize at the Bingo tournament, a digital camera with movie! Can you say AMEN!

Since finding the tent a few hours before my meetings, I headed back and decided to stop by the medics to see if I could get my shot-card back--they took it during orientation. They gleeful informed me that I needed several more shots and let me have one right then and there. I hate that! But, truth be told, it is getting so I don't even feel them. Scary. I used to be absolutely horrified.

I hope I don't bore you with more info but I was reading the Old Testament about Jacob and Esau, Just got done with Abraham. I looked at the Bible Dictionary's maps and lo and behold, Abraham and Esau traveled right up the Euphrates. I am one river over just off the Tigris, right near a place formerly called Nineveh, no less! Makes you wonder if this are might be capable of large-scale "repentance?".... One of Esau's Dukes, or sons, live in place called Basra. It's right there in Genesis.

The bigger area I'm in was formerly the Kingdom of Assyria, and to the south was the Kingdom of Babylonia. The capital was very close to the present day Baghdad, also known as Babylon! In fact, we have a camp there called Babylon. Wow, sitting right here on top of ancient history.

As·syr·i·a:
An ancient empire and civilization of western Asia in the upper valley of the Tigris River. In its zenith between the ninth and seventh centuries B.C. the empire extended from the Mediterranean Sea across Arabia and Armenia.

Ok, that's enough for now. Talk to you soon!