Sunday, November 28, 2004

Amusing...

After Thanksgiving...

Oh, I sent so many reply emails today, now that our internet is a little more reliable. Tired fingers but you all have been so patient. Seems we needed to re-aim the internet antenna a little. But to compensate, a waterline burst today and water was out for most of the light hours, guess it was a bit cold last night! Toilets don’t work so well without water…all part of the adventure, right? I am amused.

Thanks for all the offers of help and sending things. That is so great. It is so encouraging to see the care packages that are sent over here by so many Americans and there are many offers of help. This bodes well for the culture, which doesn’t look that pretty when viewed from the news screen. Plus, this cake caught me by surprise. As one left the kitchen to go into the dining area, from which I sent the previous Thanksgiving picture, everyone saw this. I found it amusing! Who picks these things?!

However, the ACLU would be less than amused to see this. Wait until they find out the military has chapels and chaplains and invites us to pray!!! But like I say, things are a little different here. Now, some of you have an over-glorified vision of my role over here. Hence, this uh, amusing picture I received from some friends. I hope they are adequately embarrassed! J But it all is in good fun, right? Truth is, I'm doing a few small and simple things to help out, hopefully in some ways, they can make a difference.

Ok, more news, real news, soon. Meanwhile, still having a good time!
Ernie

pic Posted by Hello

the pic Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanks for Giving!

Thank you for supporting me here in Iraq with notes and hopes and prayers, it is greatly appreciated! I have received all the hangers and t-shirts I need, and many other wonderful things. Which is, in part, why I write this list: Things I am thankful for in Iraq:

Support of Family and friends: In so many ways, so many ways, thank you thank you!!!
Hot showers: We hit the 30’s here folks, it is cold!
A/C and Heaters: In America we take them for granted. Here they are often life-savers.
Drive-thru: We don’t have them here, those were the days!

American Military Might: We are separated from would-be terrorists by a few strands of barb-wire, a fence, and some young men in towers with machine guns. And yet, I feel very safe. American military is adept, so agile, so excellent, and trustworthy. What a blessing! Especially abroad. We depend on them completely. We take for granted how much we trust them and the sacrifices they make. It makes me proud to know that they are'nt the bribable kind, they don’t steal from, but rather give to, the country they won over, and they are prepared not to shrink but to give all, and they often do.

Simplicity: American life, so full of meetings and activities and errands and places and regulations…my mind and life are so at ease here. Time for hobbies, study, and repose. Time to hang with people and listen. I really like it. The stranglehold of over-regulation, gone. Political correctness tightrope walking, gone. You can actually talk about family, patriotism, and God without being sued. In fact, you can say and do so many things again here. You don’t have to put your trash in multiple containers. You can light a candle in a building. (If it isn't a weapons depot) Yes, simplicity.

Safe food and water: We got it, the Iraqis don’t. It doesn’t taste that great, but it’s sanitary. For that, I am grateful. And healthy.

My own room: When we got here it was 16 guys in a big room. Some are in tents or containers. But in Kirkuk, we have our own rooms, fewer mortar attacks, easier work (in my opinion) than almost any other base. It’s so nice to have a little space all my own where I control the lights, heat or cool, and sounds. More security for my stuff. A rare blessing over here; your own room.
Internet: What can I say. Though in a small room on a small base, I can reach out and touch friends and relatives, order and send items, get news from home and the whole world. What a gift it is!

God: Numero Uno. We’ve got and done so much in America, again we neglect the fact that God gave it all. Here one is reminded that relying on one’s own strength is fairly futile. Here, protection, survival, even communication is often at God’s will. If the man or nature were to stop the convoys coming in here with food, water, and/or fuel, we would very quickly find ourselves in very desperate circumstances. It feels more here that one needs God, and that His Hand is more stark, obvious. Existence here is a prudent reminder of His reality.

Well, guess I’ve carried on a bit here. A run-down of useful info about me:
I now wear a size S in shirts. Yes, fashions have changed. Medium in a sweat-shirt or coat. For those of you who have sent upper-wear that was larger, take no offense! I am very grateful and more comfortable in larger sizes, plus, it’s Winter and layers are easier. But we all know how pervasive fashion can be.

I have most of the things I need, but Slim-Jims, computer-related materials, books by authors of excellence (classics) etc. Are always welcome. Magazines, less-common videos, or something to make good use of down time with could be fun. Pretty much all basic toiletries are available, so no worries there. We have the same food every week, so just about any bag of munchies or packaged food-stuff will put smiles on faces simply because it’s something different. If nothing else, I can share things with those who might want or need them and make them happy too. And a small size straw hat, well, that would be nice. This "list" is for those who ask, I am already very grateful for all the kind thoughts and packages that I have received.

If there is anything you might like, the old Saddam bills, pics of whatever, I’d be happy to see if I can get some. Funny enough, I am not allowed to send Iraq dirt or rocks or anything that is or ever was alive, plant or animal. Questions about things over here; happy to see what I can do.
Finally, here is a pic to debunk the idea that Ratchet has fangs, but actually is a nice kitty. With Sabre blue eyes, kind of like a vamp... oh, never mind. Oh, and the other pic is what we found at our dining facility. Not bad, eh? Happy Thanksgiving!! Eat well for me!
Ernie

pic Posted by Hello

pic Posted by Hello

Sunday, November 21, 2004

supplements

When you read the earlier Sunday email, these pictures will make sense!

Ernie

Ratchet and his mummy Posted by Hello

Deposit your mortar here Posted by Hello

Ratchet, Rain, and Rockets

Hello there!

Interesting goings on here! Unfortunately, they are classified. So we will talk about other things. Don’t be offended, I don’t know what the classified things are either. I mean, if everybody knew, they might go writing them in emails or something! We don’t want that. It’s called OpSec, or Operational Security. We are not supposed to say complete names or locations or schedules over the radio, the internet, or on phone calls because the enemy is always listening!! We have some numb-numbs over here that don’t grasp that and you can hear them on the phone calling home, "Honey, you won’t believe this! A mortar hit 60 feet from the big tree next to the ammo depot at 6 o’clock tonight!" Idiots! You can just see the bad guys talking to each other, "Mule Hammok, aim that thing 1.5 degrees to the right and fire again, praise Allah!"

Infidels.

Anyway, on to happier things. One of the boys at the shop, we call him Big Ed, because he‘s big and, well, anyway… He found this stray kitten, brought him in, and gave him milk. It was all over after that. Now we have a garage kitten and his mummy, Big Ed. The kitty’s name? Ratchet, of course. He provides a bit of amusement and something to purr and lick your ears or mooch your food if you need some love. If Ratchet sees you are eating, he sticks out those claws and heads straight up the front of your overalls like a mountain climber. The girl soldiers come over to pet him and hold him. I’m thinking of changing my name to Socket…

Then, there is new, cool temperatures, we had to move heaters into the shop! And the rain really came down this week. Heavy downpours, turning the dust to mud and clay, everywhere. It was so heavy on our tin roof we thought it was hailing but it was all water. And the wind whips right across this desert; combined with some nifty thunder and lightning, we are much amused. Apparently it dampened the insurgent’s spirits, or at least their gunpowder, because there have been no alarms for 3 days. Let it rain, let it rain, let it pour.

However, I am including a pic of a facility not in use, through which another dud mortar bounced. Notice I didn’t tell you when, or what building, or show location in the picture, eh? Every once in a while they get lucky and hit something. It went right through this building, in one wall and out the other, as you can see. Yes, the amusement never ends!

Finally, a disclaimer. You may notice that I mention names like Greske and Big Ed, and so on. I always change their names a little for Operational Security reasons. But I will confess, the name of the cat really is Ratchet. My name is on the email, but I’m not to worried about that--if anyone calls on the radio and says, "Ernie wanted outside the wire!", I’m not going. Especially if they have a Arabic accent…Mule Hammok, is that you?

Big Ern

Wet wheels in a lake of a street Posted by Hello

Hawaiian soldiers take a wet walk Posted by Hello

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Sunday note

A Sunday Note

End of Ramadan, 3 days of celebration for Muslims. Expect celebratory gunfire. In fact, they got us out of bed last night and this morning. At work yesterday we heard one mortar right outside the wire being launched. That is my preference, since it means it is going past you. So we heard the THOOM! As it was fired. We, gratefully, did not hear the answering explosion of it landing. I can’t tell you where it landed, but let’s say those who had a day off had an interesting time. Thankfully, again, out of desperation or ignorance, it was a dud. 2 days down, 1 to go.

I heard Zarqauwi (not spelled correctly on purpose) is egging the counter-freedom rebels on (while he slips town) and I think they are moved to greater acts of defiance, which leads them to bolder acts, which leads to us getting them. In my opinion, this recent rash of desperation is very good for us because the biggest problem we have is identifying them. Taking them out is not a problem.

Well, those aren’t very kind Sunday thoughts. I wonder what Moroni said on Sunday during the wars. Church is like an oasis. To escape from the language and thoughts of day-to-day and be taught by the Spirit is such a respite and sharp relief against the crudeness that is somewhat common is very nice. Like stepping into a garden. Or, as one fellow put it, it is like visiting the temple over here; it is peaceful and rejuvenating.

Today is another happy day for me. I have been exhausted from my work and efforts such that I clearly needed a day of rest. Much to my chagrin, I had some bad chicken wings for dinner or something and was kept up the night by a persuasive stomach ache! After much praying and an incoming attack, I found myself in the bunker with a co-worker who had the same experience. He said it lasted two days and I said it couldn’t. So, I gave way to the urge I had fought all night to, ummmm, hurl, and did so after briefly stepping outside the bunker. After an hour back in bed, I noticed the pain had mostly subsided. For that, I was very grateful.

So much for inspiring thoughts! How about some pics? Today, some of the guys and I walking back from church. Guns, Ensigns, and scriptures. Must be.... for your amusement ...Mormon soldiers! Now for some more of that Sunday rest....
ZzzzzZZZErnie

Sunday Too!

Ahhh, church. Helps bring things back in focus. It has been a particularly exhausting week but after church I feel revived enough to write family and friends. Wish more people new the power of the Spirit. Actually, the religious services around here are quite well attended.

Well, the dust is back. It rained several days in the last week or so and the air was so clear. I got some new tenny’s and ran with fresh air in my lungs. So nice not to take dust in with every breath. But it hasn’t rained for about 4 days. The army is nice enough to send water-trucks around some of the dusty roads and spray ‘em down every now and then, but these other army guys aren’t particularly concerned with staying on the road with these 4-wheel drive vehicles!

And, I must say, the dust and smoke from the refinery stacks makes for some incredible sunrises and sunsets and gives the Mid-East some of its mystery and intrigue. Who is behind that face-scarf, and why does he brandish his sword so? Her belly jiggles and I like the tiny symbols, but what does her nose look like? Yes, questions like these probably all sprung from the need to filter out the dust. Now I see.

Also probably the reason contact lenses were not developed over here. So here is a picture of myself right after a truck rolled by so you can get the dust effect. Also, a close-up of the sun behind me. You’ll notice that the sun is so hot over here that it singes the tree as it sets near the horizon. If you believe that, I have a silver platter from Saddam’s palace to sell you…

Happy Sunday!
Ernie

Dust Galore Posted by Hello

Sun sets too close to the trees Posted by Hello

Sunday Bonus

Also, check this great link out:

http://home.insightbb.com/~armedforcestribute/

Armed with The Word Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Some Good News!

I know you are probably hungry for some good news from Iraq. I will tell you a few stories.
As you know, this is the end of Ramadan week, officially on Friday the 12th. Expect celebratory gunfire. As you should have seen in some of my pictures, we have guys in orange suits living here now. I haven’t seen ‘em captured here like that so that takes a bite out of crime. Also, the high tech equipment here caught 3 boys (when I say boys, I mean MEN) firing off a mortar at us. They were, uh, “swiss-cheesed” as it were. Three more crawled out to help them and, uh, they met a similar fate.

In Mosul, nearby, we got word that 14 bad guys were setting up an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). 2 were not captured, because, uh, they needed burial. But the rest were. This is happening more often--the locals are telling where they know of IED’s buried and helping out. I think they see we are serious about protecting them and we are here to stay. That, I believe, gives them great confidence.

In Fallujah, as you may have read, the bad guys thought they would tough it out and hide in hospitals, schools, and mosques because the Coalition (read American) forces would not touch them before. Surprise! The bad guys were hiding and hiding weapons caches in them and we went in after them. Even blew up a Mosque (Finally!) BUMMER for THEM!!! Thought they had sanctuary but the word came down: the election is over, kick all necessary behind. Very cool, in my book.

So it sounds like they are totally on the run, the people are getting brave enough to turn them in. Pretty soon the word will get out that if you join the bad guys team, you are going to get smoked. It happened in Afghanistan and now…looking better, I believe.

So there is your news. Oh, and “Ding! Dong! The wicked witch…” I mean, Arafat, is dead. King terrorist. He and Saddam reigned about 30 years each. There is much other encouraging goings on here, wish I could share more.

Finally, here is a scary, but happy, story. See picture. Here is what I call a HmV (HumVee) or an armored personal carrier, or what has replaced the jeep in the military. This one is one of the newer, armored type. My team’s job here was to up-armor the older ones to match this kind. Anyway, this one was carrying five soldiers when it went over an IED. It blew the back pretty much off, as you can see. All 5 men walked away uninjured. Now that is GOOD NEWS! And one of what I considered to be a MIRIAD of miracles protecting these fellows. I prayed and prayed for those going into Fallujah. I hope you did too. It works.

Ah, heck, one more. This morning we heard a “BOOM” very close, as is common where we work because it is right next to the city, and they like to fire on us from there. But the Siren to announce ‘Code Red’ never went off. Soon after heard on the radio that the Governor of Kirkuk survived an assassination attempt with a car bomb. No one was killed, although several were injured. I guess that is good news but it sure is interesting to be just about right there with wild things like that happening. Check it out, me thinks the tide is turning around.
Ernie out!

Back Blown off by IED Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 04, 2004

All Quiet on the North Mid-Eastern Front

Hello,
Our new little garage is starting to get busy. And just today we finally got a few tool boxes!! It's amazing what we have accomplished with so little before now. We had a few borrowed wrenches and a warehouse full of garbage before we started. Now our building has plexi-glass panes that we cut and put in ourselves, (A few have the letter "E" emblazoned on them--wonder how THAT happened) a few power outlets, and new fluorescent lights. Today an army photographer came by to take pictures of us working to show how we were helping out. We were all in the break room except myself and another mechanic. He was moving a HumVee carcass with a forklift and I was taking pictures because the thing was so heavy that the rear wheels were coming off the ground as he was driving. Oops.

Actually, what I was going to write about is that mortar attacks and the like have not only been duds but very seldom--it's been rather quiet lately. The first picture is of some guys that moved in next to us. Just came in. I have a feeling they were doing things they shouldn't and, well, they were caught. My roommate caught this pic while driving around the base on a test drive. That's how we see some interesting things sometimes. It looks like they blew up an oil line because we saw some serious smoke in the sky for a few days. But most of the action is to the South in Fallujah.

The other pic is of a little operation across the street from our garage. I'm not sure what they do yet but I think you can see that we are up to all kinds of good things over here. The bad guys are desperately holding on and going crazy trying to kill anything. Reminds me of the Lamanites that smote desperately when Moroni was about to win, "smiting in two" the headplates and armor of the Nephites. Hopefully, the cease-fire is soon at hand. I feel freedom will win, again, though as always, it comes with a high price.
Ernie

Our local inmates Posted by Hello

Operation Crayon Posted by Hello