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Archive for the ‘Outside the Wire’ Category

Oct 29 2015

Threat Assessment

The day before Dale’s running of the Marine Corps Marathon, I thought it a brilliant idea to bring Dale’s large black military backpack for Gabe to carry around during the race. Rain was predicted and it was waterproof. Perfect.

On the morning of the race, I began throwing into the backpack everything that we could possible need or Dale could possibly need or any of the 30,000 runners could possibly need, or any stranger passing by could possibly need.

I packed the bag with eight water bottles, seven cheese-it and pretzel bags, six granola bars, five sharpies, four poster boards, three umbrellas, two Nintendo ds’s, one gallon bag full of candy, Dale’s jacket and gloves, and the poncho liner.

Why? Because I was convinced that I would be sitting for hours with two kids complaining of being “hungry, thirsty, cold, wet, bored, tired…”

We had to go through three security checkpoints on our walk to the start. At one, the irritated guy next to me said, “You’re slowing everybody up with that backpack.”

I put it down to “fear of missing the start.”

At every checkpoint, the backpack came off Gabe’s back and was thoroughly searched. Twice, I sent Gabe running ahead to the checkpoint, because I knew it would take him extra long to get through security.

We watched the start of the race from the Memorial Bridge. It provided a terrific view of the jumpers, the Ospreys, the cannon, the start line. We had no idea which side of the road Dale would run down. I scanned the right, Zeke scanned the left, and Gabe scanned both. Three minutes after the cannon fired, Gabe heard Dale yell at us and saw Dale run by. Zeke and I missed it in the mayhem.

Zeke was disappointed, but I said, “Don’t worry, we’ll see him at the 10 mile mark.”

We walked quickly across the bridge, paid a brief visit to Lincoln, and then walked down Ohio Drive past the water station to just before mile 11. Zeke was tired and sore with foot pain. (He had twisted his ankle playing flag football in PE.) I spread out the poncho liner under a big tree for Zeke to sit on. Gabe set the large black backpack next to him. In the pouring rain, under his umbrella, Zeke began coloring in my motivational sign (“The MCM GOT NOTHIN ON DALE MANRY IT’S 40 HE’S 50.”)

Gabe and I were standing on the sidewalk by the curb ten feet away from the tree, cheering for the wheelies, pushers, and leaders of the race (Go Army!) My phone notified me of Dale’s location, so I told Zeke (who had finished the coloring in while the rain finished the coloring off) that Dale was close. Zeke got up and joined us, leaving the large black backpack by the tree.

I glanced occasionally behind me at the large black backpack to make sure no one snuck up on us and stole it, but mostly I cheered the runners.

Suddenly, the woman next to me yelled, “Look out! There is a car coming behind you!”

I turned to see a large black SUV stop and two big men in kevlar with a bomb sniffing dog get out and move towards the large black backpack. Zeke got to the bag first. “It’s our bag!” I yelled.

“There’s Dad!” Gabe screamed. I whirled around to take Dale’s picture while Zeke got lectured by two scary men about the necessity of keeping your bags with you at all times.

(Someone has to take one for the team.)

Dale ran on, the black SUV backed up, and Zeke mournfully said, “I missed Dad.”

I showed Zeke the picture of Dale from the camera. Surprisingly, it didn’t help improve his mood.

(“What were you thinking?”…As Dines so aptly put it when I relayed this story to her.)

The idea that it might not be a smart choice to have my dark curly haired and bearded teenage son who wears a forbidding countenance carry a large black backpack to a marathon in Washington D.C. suddenly dawned on me.

As we cut through the FDR memorial on our way to mile 15, I continued to reassure Zeke that he would for sure see his Dad at the next spot – as long as we weren’t hustled into a black SUV and carted off.

We stood in the median of 15th street and cheered again the runners in front of Dale. “There’s box head guy!” Gabe shouted. “Dad should be coming soon.” We rang our cowbells shouted and cheered. Thankfully, this time, Zeke saw his Dad.

Next, we were supposed to move to mile 20, but I got all confused and followed the runners down 15th towards the Washington Monument. The band playing “Circle of Life” spurred me on. Eventually, I knew my direction was all wrong as was the band’s next choice of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

When we got back to where we started, I could see the runners crossing the 14th street bridge above us. We attempted to cut through to 14th street by walking next to the bureau of engraving and printing, but the sidewalk dead ended. Thinking my mistake might cost us seeing Dale, I sent Gabe at a sprint back out on 15th street to find another way through. Zeke and I limped behind. At the far side of the building, there was a vehicle entrance that said, “Do Not Enter.” I started jogging around the lift gate.

“Mom, I don’t think we’re supposed to go through here,” Zeke said. (He was trying to avoid another encounter with Scary Men in Kevlar.) “Run, son, run!” I shouted. “You’re small. When they grab me, you can squiggle through and see your Dad.”

We made it to 14th street without being arrested and heard the pounding of the most fabulous drum line ever. We turned, and jogged our way onto the bridge, but Gabe was no where in sight. I pulled out my phone to call and ask where he was and noticed I had 5 missed calls from him. I called, “Where are you? I can’t see you on the bridge.” I asked.

“You’re on the bridge!?” He yelled. “I just ran 6 blocks with this backpack on and you’re ahead of me!?” (He had not taken the cut through, but had run down to Independence, over to 14th street, and up to the bridge. I could hear the awesome drum line pounding in the background.)

We cheered again the runners in front of Dale – including the box head guy. We clanged and clanged the cowbells as Dale made it to the 20 mile mark. Dale kept on moving. I could tell that he was hurting. Gabe, Zeke, and I were exhausted.

“He has 6.2 miles to go. There’s no way he’s going to run faster than 10 minutes a mile. We’ve got an hour to make it back across the Memorial Bridge,” I said.

We trudged around the Tidal Basin and back up Ohio Drive. As we approached the grass hill to get up to the Memorial Bridge, Zeke could walk no longer. “Give me the backpack and put Zeke on your back,” I told Gabe.

With Zeke on his back and the backpack on mine we jogged up the grassy hill.

“Gabe’s gonna drop me. He’s gonna drop me!” Zeke shouted.

“He’s not gonna drop you!” I yelled. (I put my head down, jogged the slowest jog ever and thought, “Whose brilliant idea was it to bring this heavy backpack?”)

Two thirds of the way up the hill, Gabe stepped in a large hole, fell, and Zeke tumbled to the ground.

We staggered up onto the bridge laughing and crying, moaning and groaning. “Here, Gabe, take the camera and run up to security. Get to the finish. Take a picture of Dad. Zeke and I might not make it,” I said.

Gabe took off running. Zeke and I stumbled on. Zeke looked longingly at the pedicab. When we eventually arrived at the security checkpoint, Gabe was holding up the line with the inspection of his large black backpack. Finally, they cleared him and he raced on. Zeke and I made it quickly through security. We met Gabe near mile 26. We arrived 7 minutes before Dale.

The final photo, the trudge to the meet-up area, the walking downhill – knowing we would have to walk uphill – because the meet up banners are alphabetical and our last name starts with M, then the cheers and the smiles and the giant medal hanging around Dale’s neck.

He did it! We did it!


Aug 10 2008

Aegis Support in Mosul

Posted by Dale @ 10:16 am in Deployment,Outside the Wire Print This Post Print This Post

For the past 363 days (not that I’m counting), I have been fortunate to work with the personal security detachment from Aegis under the leadership of Ronnie, the Aegis Detachment Commander in Mosul. The Aegis team members in Mosul are true professionals in every way. One thing has always stuck in my mind. Before every mission outside the wire, the Aegis team leader for the move gives a pre-mission brief to the clients just before loading the vehicles. As part of the standard briefing, the team leader says “In the unlikely event of an incident…” That phrase, spoken in the proper Queen’s English, is burned into my mind, thanks to Andy H.

At the barbeque, the night before Rick left, one of the Aegis teams presented us each with a hand carved eagle. In our thanks, both Rick and I expressed the same sentiment. We and our families are extremely grateful for the care and concern demonstrated by the Mosul Aegis teams on each and every mission. Every time I left the wire, I trusted Aegis with my life without hesitation.

I’m also thankful that they presented the eagle carving before I mailed my footlockers!

Aegis Gifts

Aegis Gifts

Aug 08 2008

Farewell in Dahuk

Posted by Dale @ 8:04 pm in Deployment,Outside the Wire Print This Post Print This Post

I took my last trip to Dahuk and Erbil this week. Originally, I planned a 3-day trip with Rob, my replacement. But as the days got closer, I realized that we didn’t have the luxury of spending that much time on the road. So I cut the trip down to one full day. We left Mosul at 0600 and returned around 1830. At the end of the day (just for you, Mugs), I was worn out and slept well that night.

While in Dahuk, I received a traditional Peshmerga uniform, like the one COL Pfenning received in Erbil. The Engineers in Dahuk got quite a kick out of me dressed as a Pesh! After getting fully decked out, I walked around with Rob as he was taken on a tour of the neighborhood. If I must say so myself (which I do), I believe I look quite dashing!

Dale as Peshmerga

Dale as Peshmerga

Here’s a closeup picture.

Peshmerga Closeup

Peshmerga Closeup

Jul 31 2008

Mosul Courthouse

Posted by Dale @ 6:14 pm in Deployment,Outside the Wire Print This Post Print This Post

This past Monday morning, Mike F and I visited the Mosul courthouse. Mike is managing a project at the courthouse to provide some improvements to the physical security. In addition to providing blast walls along the street, the project includes a new screening building, floodlights, and a security system. We’ve driven by the front of the courthouse several times in the past week on our way to other sites.

Mosul Courthouse

Mosul Courthouse

Each time, I’ve noticed that construction on the new security building has not progressed, so I wasn’t expecting to see much else happening during this visit.

Screening Building

However, when we walked through the courthouse to the back side, I was pleasantly surprised. The contractor has installed the two new trailers for the security personnel, 38 out of 40 new floodlights, and placed the concrete pad for the new generator. The contractor’s on site supervisor, wearing the red keffiyeh on his head, was eager to talk to us about the project. His English was pretty good, and he was definitely proud of his work.

Contractor's Supervisor

Contractor's Supervisor

Mike seems to be able to resolve any issues that come up for this project relatively quickly. I think he must threaten them with his hook, but I can’t prove it!

Jul 29 2008

Site Visits in Kurdistan

Posted by Dale @ 9:13 pm in Deployment,Outside the Wire Print This Post Print This Post

Last week, I spent a day visiting projects in Dahuk followed by a day of visits in Erbil. I saw lots of great projects. With construction projects, the most memorable things are the things that aren’t perfect. You’ve probably heard the phrase “good enough for government work”. When I was in Korea, we often joked that it was the land of the “not quite right”. Sometimes when I visit projects here, I think of “Iraqi good enough”.

At one school we visited in Dahuk, the contractor had recently completed a basketball court. Unfortunately, he installed the goal so that the backboard was almost even with the half circle below the free throw line. In the photo, Masuood, the Deputy in the Dahuk Office, is shooting from the line.

Masuood Shoots a Freethrow

Masuood Shoots a Freethrow

Also at this school, the contractor installed a very popular fire extinguishing system I’ve seen at several other school projects.

Fire Buckets

Fire Buckets

How do you fix issues such as these? Easy, you put the USACE castle on the front, and that’s makes everything perfect!

Veen School in Dahuk

Veen School in Dahuk