18 September 2006

Bandit Unplugged

In light of my absence this weekend, I figured I would share one of my experiences while I was "unplugged".

On Saturday night, I was walking around the housing area talking on my cell phone with my sweetie back in the States (I’m a commo guy, remember?). I had about an hour and a half until midnight chow opened. For no particular reason, I’ve started skipping breakfast and dinner during the week and taking midnight chow on the weekends so I figured I’d chat her up as long as I could while I waited for midnight chow to open.

We talked about what we’re going to do when I get back, where we wanted to go, who we wanted to see. We talked about financial plans and how to account for money matters. We’re both savers and we’re doing alright financially so money-matters aren’t a touchy subject between us. And of course we talked about Mark. Everything includes Mark anymore, but it’s nice.

I managed to keep her talking for about an hour so when we hung up I still had 30 minutes until the doors opened so I decided to go hang out by the pool and wait. As I got closer to the pool area I could hear someone singing very bad karaoke (is there another kind?) at a birthday party and the sounds of a volleyball being hit back and forth. The pad on the first lounger I picked had absorbed the water that had been splashed from the pool and sponged it off on me when I sat on it. Once I felt the wetness soaking my back I jumped up and moved to a lounge a bit further away from the edge of the pool and dragged it back poolside.

I cautiously settled in to the lounge making sure that this pad wouldn’t trick me like the last one did. As I started to relax a bit I began to be amazed at it all. There I was, sitting on a lounger by the pool at what used to be the Whitehouse of Iraq. In the distance across the pool I could see a couple troops playing an energetic game of ping pong while some South American security contractors from Triple Canopy watched and waited for their turn to take on the winner. As I scanned to the left I saw a deployment queen chatting with several burly looking guys in Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops each hoping she’d choose him. A deployment queen is any woman in a forward deployed area who wouldn’t get a second - and in some cases a first - look back home, but since she’s one of the few females on the FOB she gets all the looks.

Behind me I could hear other people chatting on cell phones, some angrily, most quietly. In front of me I watched several Iraqi men trying to teach one of their buddies to swim. After a while, the guy being taught got tired and just hung on the side of the pool while his buddies tried to do back flips into the deep end. They never managed to hit the water feet-first, but they did manage to splash the troops who had been playing cards nearby. After the first few light splashes, I could tell the troops were starting to get annoyed. Finally after one particularly large splash, one troop got up and started to walk towards them while wringing his shirt out. One of the other troops at the card table yelled out, “That’s cold!” with a chuckle and the Iraqi guys took notice and politely apologized. The troop that had stood up sat back down and they kept playing. Less than five minutes later, one of the Iraqi guys got back on the edge of the pool and leaped with all his might. He almost completed the flip, but he totally soaked the troops playing cards. I was worried that there might be a confrontation and was worried that the Iraqi guys ranked highly in the Iraqi government or military, they pretty much had to in order to hang out at the Embassy pool. The troops leaned in close around the table hatching their plan of attack. Once they had agreed on a plan, they started to sit back as though they were going to start playing again. One of them started to pass bottles of water from his stash to the rest and once they were all armed the attack began.

With grace and speed, the troops launched from their chairs with freshly opened water bottles in hand. The Iraqi swimmers watched with shock and awe as the Americans closed the distance between them. Once in range, the Americans unleashed their vicious assault by turning their bottles upside down and vigorously shaking the bottles empty on the heads of the floating Iraqis. Once the Americans completed their attack, both the American troops and Iraqi swimmers had a good laugh about it and went their separate ways.

Once the threat of an international incident had passed I continued to look around. While I had been focused on the swimmers and card players, I missed the Italians that had sat down next to me. While I couldn’t make out what they were talking about I could tell from their body language that they were really in to it. After a few minutes of heated debate, one stood up and started walking around the pool. Not wanting to be too overt, I kept an eye on him as he made his way around the pool and grabbed a sign that had been hung by the karaoke singers, looked back to make sure his friend was looking, and held it up. The sign had something written on it that I couldn’t make out, but it obviously had been mistaken as an Italian flag. If you didn’t know it, the Italians won the World Cup this year; these guys won’t let anyone forget it either.

As the Italian was walking back to his friend, I was distracted by one of the tables he passed. More accurately, I was distracted by the guys sitting at the table. Without too much room for error, I pegged them as OGA guys. The neatly trimmed beard, ball caps, and sunglasses at night are kind of a dead giveaway. These guys probably have a very interesting job.

The smoke from their stogies mingled with the smoke from the cigars the colonels and generals were smoking as well as the smoke emanating from the hookah that was being shared amongst several Iraqis and American troops.

It was as I was watching their combined smoke rising and dissipating into the night that the medevac bird flew over puncturing the illusion that I was sitting by some tropical pool while on vacation. The white square with a red cross on the underbelly of the helicopter left little doubt as to its purpose or cargo. There are only three questions in my mind every time one flies over; 1) Is the patient dead or wounded? 2) Is the patient Coalition, Iraqi, or a bad guy? 3) Did his buddies get the guy who did it? I have yet to get an answer to any of these questions no matter how many times I ask myself. I like to think that every time it’s a wounded bad guy who recovers and spills the beans.

Once the medevac had passed on to the hospital, I checked my watch and found that midnight chow had been open for 15 minutes already. I collected myself up and headed towards the chow hall to get my mushroom and cheese omelet.

This video shows sort of how things looked from my perspective.


Anonymous Ironside said...


I've sat many times in that exact spot. We called it the "Four-head" (pun intended) palace back in '03. Because of the four Sadaam-heads on the top. Glad to see the pool is working now!

Blogger Rob said...

Very interesting post bro. Like to see more like it. Keep up the good work. For those regular readers, Bandit's birthday is comin up later in the month if you want to hook him up with presents. ;)

Blogger MarksMomma said...

Hey Babe, it was fun reading this post! You wrote just like you talk... and I can hardly wait to see you! Mark is asleep... he was such a cutie today (and anyday, but today especially). Love yoU!
Your Wahfy

Anonymous Brian said...

That post slightly reminicent of old school bandit posts. Was defenately a very pleasent read..

Look forward to seeing you when you visit, I have enjoyed my time with "the sister" and "the nephew" very much.

Love yah

Blogger The Griper said...

Whaaaat, smoking? geeez i'm surprised that everywhere is not a "no smoking" zone. the area must not be run by liberals. lol

Anonymous Charlie H said...

Damn...tough duty,

Reminds me of boot camp in Diego. When we would lie around the pool and only had plastic cups to drink champaign. ( No glasses )

And to think I just got a monthly message from a friend who spends his time hauling a hundred pound pack up and down mountains
in east Afghanistan.

Feeling lucky,

Charlie H.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Bandit, Your writing and your blog just keep getting better and better. Especially liked your description of life around the pool while waiting for a midnight breakfast. Dear Lord how I wish 100 million people would read what you write so they would know the truth. Keep up the writing and I'll keep up the praying.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bandit36, Are the "Liz" and the "Wiz" on R&R or are they in the dog house for unspecified - unpublishable - violations of security? Get caught up on your rest. Time's getting short.

Blogger bandit.three.six said...

The four heads were taken down before my time. Now two of them are on the KBR compound face down in the dirt!

I'm glad you guys enjoyed reading it, I had fun writing it. I'll try and get myself in a few more (safe) positions where I have something to write about.

Yeah, just wait a few months, some ninny will complain that the smoke hurts his/her lungs and those days will be long gone. I don't partake myself, but far be it from me to deny someone else.

Charlie H,
I know, I know, I'm a REMF. I have no illusions that I'm in what is likely the most laid-back and relaxed FOB in SWA.

The Liz is currently accompanying The Wiz on a trip to an undisclosed location where he (The Wiz) will be interviewing a high-ranking official in the Iraqi government and an unidentified military expert.

Anonymous charlie h said...

Just kiddin ya.

I guess the kinder term " Fobby " is used now.

Keep up the good work

Charlie H


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