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Archive for June, 2008

Jun 29 2008

Makhmur Police Headquarters Visit

Posted by Dale @ 10:29 pm in Deployment,Outside the Wire Print This Post Print This Post

Today I visited one of our current projects rebuilding the police headquarters near the town of Makhmur. The original site was devasted by an SVBIED (car bomb) in May 2007. The project includes two buildings, the police headquarters building and a traffic police station building. The project is managed out of the Erbil Resident Office, where Gary York is the Resident Engineer running the office.

Gary has been with USACE in Erbil since March 2005. We farewelled Tiffany in Mosul on Friday night. I sent out a picture of Tiffany with her embroidered Engineer flag, our standard departure gift. Gary replied to the email saying he liked the flag and that he was jealous. I told him he could get one of his own if he ever actually left Iraq!

On the way to the project, I snapped a picture of a field of sunflowers. I know it’s blurry, but I didn’t think the security team would like it if I asked to stop to take a picture of some flowers.

The project engineer, Engineer Nawzad, gave me a tour of the ongoing construction, along with Gary. In the photo below, I am leading, followed by Engineer Nawzad and Gary. We are in the courtyard of the main police headquarters building. From the look of the photo, I appear to be saying something really insightful like “Look at that dirt”.

The quality of the construction and the professionalism of the contractors are very high in Erbil and Dahuk. I always appreciate the opportunity to visit their projects. Earlier this week, I went to a new project in the Sommer neighborhood of Mosul. We went early in the morning before the contractor had arrived to get a look at the foundation work. After we returned to FOB Marez, the contractor called Nazar, the project engineer, to tell him that the Iraqi Army wouldn’t let him work on the site that day. We had to make numerous calls to get things cleared up for the contractor to get back to work.

That’s why it’s so nice to visit Erbil and Dahuk. We generally don’t encounter the security problems there. But on the other hand, we do have to worry about picking out paint colors.

Jun 28 2008

Sock Watch

Posted by Mugs @ 7:35 am in Family,Pets Print This Post Print This Post

My sister and her family arrived today. Although I was behind schedule as usual, they had traffic delays from a flooded Interstate and an accident. So, I thought I would pull it off and have dinner on the table the minute they walked in the door. Really, this goal is impossible for all save my Mother, who greets you with an apron on and a hot meal ready. The lasagna was in the oven and I was upstairs putting clean sheets on the bed when Abby came running in the room. “Blaze ate Zeke’s sock!”, she proclaimed. I immediately googled “dog ate sock” and discovered it is not a rare occurrence. Experience said wait it out or give the dog hydrogen peroxide to cause vomiting. Off I dashed to the pharmacy (chemist). (I haven’t done that in a while and quite miss it.) There is a pharmacy near me where everyone is unhelpful. I usually drive to the one farther away, but I was in a hurry. As usual, everyone was unhelpful and it took me quite awhile to find hydrogen peroxide. While I was wandering the aisles of the pharmacy, my sister and her family arrived at my house. Gabe held open the door, Abby and Josiah stood quietly, and Zeke was asleep. Without their obnoxious Mother to run outside and yell welcome, they were at a loss as to what to do. They had made the welcome sign, at least. Initial greetings have not been very positive in my family lately. Upon my brother Howie’s arrival at my brother Rob’s house last week, Rob told me he couldn’t talk on the phone. He had to deal with a car seat covered in vomit. Anyway, I returned home and greeted my guests, but was soon outside with Blaze giving him a dose. Meanwhile, Marie and Rich had to serve the dinner and get themselves settled in their rooms. I was now on sock watch, but Blaze was not cooperating. He did not vomit. So, I gave him another dose. Still, he did not vomit. Instead, he ran around like a nut. For fear of poisoning my dog, I stopped. So, now I wait and I watch to see which way the sock will come out. My husky Czar ate all kind of things and I never worried about him becoming ill. When he was sick, I would tell him, “It’s your fault for eating that.” He got no sympathy. Czar was not crated. Instead, he was given the guest room to destroy. One day, I arrived home to discover him laying on top of the mattress with stuffing covering the room. The room appeared covered in snow. Czar looked up at me with a mouth full of stuffing. He looked like Santa Claus. If I wasn’t so mad, I would have laughed. Czar also pulled out the dresser drawers and ate the rollers off the tracks. He pulled the screens out of the windows and chewed them to bits. He ate the cord of an alarm clock. Never did I rush out and try to get something to help him. “Serves you right for eating that.”, I’d say. But with Blaze, here I am up at O dark thirty, worrying. Somewhere along the way, I’ve gotten soft.

Jun 25 2008

Hamman Al Alil Site Visit

Posted by Dale @ 8:06 pm in Deployment,Outside the Wire Print This Post Print This Post

Earlier this week, I visited a new project near the town of Hamman Al Alil with Mike Fellenz, the Project Engineer. Hamman Al Alil is a small town about 15 miles south of Mosul. The drive there was relatively pleasant and took a little less than 30 minutes. At Hamman Al Alil is an Iraqi Army Training Center. New Iraqi Privates, Jondis, attend a 5-week basic training course in Hamman Al Alil. The Iraqi Army also conducts advanced MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) training in Hamman Al Alil. When we arrived on site, a group of trainees was working on camouflage. Can you find the Jondis in the picture below?

There is an 8-person US Army Military Transition Team (MiTT) living on Hamman Al Alil. They have a secure compound in the midst of the Iraqi base. This is generally referred to as a FOB within a FOB. The MiTT is our customer for this project, so we went to link up with them. When we arrived at approximately 0900, the gate to the MiTT compound was locked. Chris, my Security Team Leader for the day, pounded on the gate and waited. The instructor with the camouflaging Jondis told our interpreter to keep pounding and the MiTT would show up eventually. He was right.

Once inside the MiTT compound, I was informed that the MiTT Team Leader (an Army Major) had been called on the radio and was on his way. Jokingly, I told Mike that they were probably waking the Major up, telling him some LTC was looking for him. He showed up about 5 minutes later in PT uniform. He explained that he had been working out, but from my observation, he must have been working out in a nice air-conditioned room with a soft pillow! I’ll let the Major remain anonymous.

He gave us a tour of the training base, and we were able to see several other groups of trainees. It does not appear that the Iraqi Army is having a difficult time recruiting right now. His translator says the soldiers get paid about $500 (US) per month. Another group of Jondis was busily washing blankets and hanging them out to dry. The Major explained that there had been some bedbug issues recently.

$500 a month and bedbugs. What more do you need?

Jun 24 2008

Baptism at Marez Chapel

Posted by Dale @ 8:37 pm in Deployment,FOB Life Print This Post Print This Post

A new Chaplain spoke at church on Sunday. This was the first week that Chaplain (CPT) Rodgers led the service. I was a couple of minutes late for the service and did not hear what unit he is with. I did not recognize his unit patch. Mugs would point out that I could actually talk to him and ask him that information. But as Mike Miller says, “that’s just the way we roll in MAO”.

Chaplain Rodgers spoke from Matthew 10, so I was reminded once again that the very hairs on my head are all numbered. At the end of the service he announced that a soldier had accepted Christ as his Savior recently and wanted to be baptized as a public profession of his faith. What do you do when you don’t have a baptistry and you can’t get to the river? You improvise. Soldiers are well known for finding field expedient methods for solving problems. I’m sure the Chaplain’s Assistant was given the mission of finding somewhere to conduct the baptism. All he needed was a bathtub and a little wood.

Jun 23 2008


Posted by Mugs @ 5:35 am in Pets Print This Post Print This Post

One of Zeke’s favorite shows to watch is Fetch with Ruff Ruffman.  It’s a cartoon dog talking to real kids.  The kids learn things through competitions and at the end of the show, someone wins a prize.  Zeke calls it Ruff Roman for reasons known only to him.  My favorite show, however, is Fetch with Blaze Manry.  I get to experience it live action every morning.  Blaze takes the retriever part of his name very seriously.  He fetches balls, ropes, sticks, dead birds, toys, crayons, and laundry items.  One of his favorite retrieving activities occurs whenever he comes in from outside.  He will dash over to the drying rack in the sunroom, grab a pair of my underwear, and bring them to me.