Yep, the good news is that the docs were able to fix me up. There really isn't any bad news so I guess the good news is just the news. It seems I got lucky when I showed up, I just had to fill out a couple forms and then the doc went to work.
When he was done it felt like I had sand in my teeth, which reminded me of a sandstorm that we had a couple days ago. Check this out: (click the pic for the whole video)
It only took an hour to go from sunny and bright to this. When you watch the video you'll hear the rain dropping. Once things dried up you could see where individual drops landed based on the pattern of dust that they brought with them.
We're lucky here in the IZ that we have all these buildings around us to break up the sandstorms so we don't get those sweeping walls of sand that you see in other places.
Also, this story
went down in my backyard. When you see pictures of both these guys (the secretaries, ambassadors, and generals) you can be pretty sure that they held these news conferences/briefings just a few short steps from where I live. These kind of events are pretty encouraging. Knowing that I'm contributing to the effort that has the attention of such important people goes a long way toward making my job in particular seem a bit less pointless. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I don't understand why I'm here, I just don't often get to see the result of my efforts and that gets frusterating.
Everything considered, I'm very proud to be here doing my part to make Iraq and America safer. I can't wait for my kid and grand-kids to start learning about this kind of thing and ask, "Dad/Grampa, were you in the war?" so I can smile and say, "I sure was."
It's day 4 of snaggle-tooth watch and I havene yet to get past the desk at the dental clinic. After my first failed attempt on Sunday, I went back the second day and made it all the way to the dental clinic door before they stopped me and said, "Unless it's an emergency, like there's so much pain that you can't sleep at night, then we can't see any more patients." I couldn't lie and say that I was in a lot of pain, but I didn't want to just pack it in and go home so I grinned and pointed at what's left of my tooth to see if I could garner some sympathy from the nurse. She grimaced and just sort of half-way shrugged. Seeing that my boo-boo didn't warrant an emergency I turned around and headed back out the door.
In talking with other people who've had dental work done at the hospital here, I'm not too encouraged that they'll be able to do anything for me. If I do have to be sent somewhere else to get this thing fixed I think I'll just hold tight until my R&R and have it worked on when I get back. Aside from looking like a goof, it really doesn't bother me. I can still eat just fine with it, better in some respects. The shorter part is much sharper than a normal tooth so I can cut through my food much easier now and the longer piece acts like a post holding the food in place while the other part cuts it.
In any case, I'm still vertical and consuming oxygen so it must be a good day.
here it be
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The cursed bacon has struck a mighty blow against my right front tooth, opening an old wound and exposing what remains of my original tooth. Luckily for me, the clinic was only a few short steps away from where I was when I broke my tooth and they kindly informed me that I had only an hour to get to the hospital where the dental clinic was located. I hustled off to get my gear on for my trek to the hospital and flashed large smiles to everyone I knew along the route. No one knew that this was not the first time that this had happened or that my two front teeth are root canaled so I played up the fact that it didn't hurt by poking it, tapping it, drinking hot coffee. When I made it to the hospital I found that the dental clinic was closed on Sundays. Yippee. So now I get to run around and scare the dickens out of random passers by as they cringe and say, "Doesn't that hurt?" to which I can boldy reply, "Only a bit."
Sorry sweetie, I'm trying to get it fixed.
It's been pretty busy around here for the last few days. I guess the highlight of recent days would be yesterday's Hail and Farewell. For those who don't know, a hail & farewell is what the military does to welcome those who have joined recently and those who will be departing shortly. These events typically are mandatory fun events, but of recent we've actually been enjoying ourselves. I was lucky(!?) enough to be the mug who put together the entertainment this time and I figured I should go with what I knew. What did that mean? LAN PARTY!!!
Yes, I know, I know, I'm a geek. A LAN Party is when a bunch of computer game players get together and challenge eachother to see who is truly the mightiest gamer... or who has the most time to spend playing video games. I set up a small network and about 7 other people brought their computers so that we could play our game of choice for the night, Battlefield 1942 - Desert Combat 0.7. I know, some of you who know the game and me must be somewhat amused, I'm a Soldier deployed to Iraq and I'm playing video games featuring Soldiers deployed to Iraq. To add to the gaming we hooked up a projector screen to my computer so people could watch as I picked my buddies off and to attract other gamers. I only stayed at it until about 2330, then it was time to get to bed for me. The guys you see on the right side of the picture stayed at it until way later though. I think we're going to have to make a habit out of it.
Something else that made my week a bit more interesting was when one of the civilians that works here tried to fit a 1 meter wide Polaris Mule through a 1 yard wide hallway.
It took about a half hour and several large, manly types to get it unstuck. The driver had to bail out through the windshield to help move it. We all laughed and pointed mercilessly. Ha ha!
Oh yeah, work. I did some work this week too, lots of it in fact. I know that previously I had mentioned how I felt like I wasn't really making an impact or being productive, but after this week and some of the changes that came with it, I really don't feel that way any more. =)
Today was the first day that I've had so far that was really rough emotionally. Nothing particular happened, there was no triggering event really, I just woke up and felt like crap. I sat through my meetings wondering what it was all about, what do I have to look forward to, why am I here, what's the point. To make things worse, one of the briefs I sat through was supposed to help show the progress that we've made over the last 3 months, to encourage us, but I just couldn't grasp it. To make things even worse-er, after that brief, I got beat up about something that happened several days ago that was well out of my control. When it rains... to top it all off, it's a small silly thing, none the less it didn't help any, I had just got a program that I had spent weeks waiting for only to find out that it wouldn't work on my computer. Oh, another thing, we had a unit Easter egg hunt and after we had called it quits I realized that not only had I won, but I had cleaned up. I was the big kid that knocks down the little kids so they don't get the eggs.
I felt lower than whale turd.
Oh, wait, I forgot, it's Easter and I'm away from my family. What's below whale turds?
I wrapped up my routine tasks at about 2130 and decided that I needed to do some thinking and, more importantly, praying. So I went out to my hammock and just swung in the warm evening Baghdad breeze. It had been a really long time since I had done some really good praying. I won't share the conversation here in this forum, but after several hours of swinging in my hammock and talking with God, I felt much better.
I don't mean to worry anyone or try and gain anyone's sympathy, I just think that this was something of a defining moment and wanted to share some of my personal battles as well as my professional ones.
Just a quick note before I rack out.
Today is the 5 month mark for my deployment. I'm about two weeks ahead of most of the battalion since I was on the advanced party, doubt that means that I'll get to come home two weeks early though. Below is a picture of how I keep track of my progress down here. I try not to look at it too often. If you do the math you'll notice that it comes out to 285 days, I added on another 3 weeks to accomodate for my ealry arrival and likely late departure.
If you watched my "Bob Lives Again" video, you'll notice that I didn't really like working in the BATCON. For those who don't know, BATCON is Armyese for the battalion operations staff and as any staff officer will tell you, your primary mission in life is to MAKE SLIDES!!!
Yes, it's sad, but true. So true, in fact, that many current and former staff officers, like my buddy pictured below, have gone so far as to institute (jokingly) a PowerPoint Ranger tab.
For those who really don't konw, the Ranger tab is worn by those elite few who graduate from Ranger School where, among other things, they are taught light-infantry tactics. These are the kind of guys you see in movies like Black Hawk Down. Really hardcore dudes and by simply wearing the tab these guys let it be known that they've -at least- passed some of the most difficult tests that the Army has to offer. So the PowerPoint Ranger tab is jokingly worn to highlight the stark contrast between staff flunkies (we pogues) and the guys who do their work away from a desk and computer (traditional Army types).
In other news, I've been seeing a lot about immigration lately. It's been about a year and a half since I've been in the US so I am somewhat out of touch with current politics. That being said I'd like to avoid the argument that seems to be paramount on this issue, that of granting citizenship to people who have crossed the border illegally. I doubt I have anything to say that hasn't already been said. What I would like to focus on is the affect it's having on the perceptions that I'm having of the US. I spent about 20 years in the US while growing up and consider myself a very patriotic person. Over the past year and a half, I've been able to step back from my perceptions of politics and the US in general and compare them to those of people from other countries. Not only was I able to compare my perceptions to those of people outside the US, but I was able to get a glimpse into what information they're presented with as they form their perceptions of us. Doing this has helpe me to be able to have a more objective and critical view of my native country which is a very good thing. Being able to identify one's own shortcomings makes it possible to remove or improve them.
The perception that I'm getting from the American media is that things are pretty hairy in the States right now, almost to the point of violence in the streets and that, dare I say it, civil war is on the horizon. As my experiences have shown, most perceptions that are constructed on second and third-hand information are drastically inflated only containing the smallest grain of truth. It's my belief that the media is being irresponsible in their reporting of these events, but unlike many people who don't live in the States, I have the benefit of having lived in the country for many years. For those who only know what they see on TV, the situation seems to border on revolution.
You may ask the question, what does it matter what people from other countries think of the US? Potentially more than you would imagine at first glance. Would you be willing to invest in a country that seemed on the path to revolution? (I use the term "invest" loosely here) I haven't done the research, but it seems to me that America's greatest export is our image and culture. Land of the free, home of the brave. If we suddenly become a nation of petty squabblers incapable of presenting a united front we would lose our "big stick" on the world stage.
One thing I've noticed from my dealings with Iraqis is that they percieve Americans (less the military) to be weak and indecisive. Granted that they've lived under the thumb of a brutal dictator for about as long as I've been alive so all that many of them know is swift, hard 'justice', but they make a good point. I spoke with an Iraqi Soldier a few days ago about Saddam's trial and he commented that "Finally, they accuse him of killing many people!" If it were up to this guy, Saddam's head and neck would have gone their seperate ways long ago.
The deeper I dig into the issues in the States, the more and more I end up at the conclusion that the only thing I can do that will allow me to affect positive change is to find a small community of like-minded individuals and wait out the storm. Take note you moderates, your inability to make decisions and lead the way is polarizing the population towards increasingly militancy.
To bring my ramblings back onto target, I heard recently that a town in Southern California is advertising itself as a safehaven to people who cross the border illegally and those that help them. There is a law, and this town is openly defying it. I know what I think should be done about it. Something has to be done, this town either has to be the visionaries that lead the way, or the villians that catered to criminals. I would perfer the second option, but would accept the first before I would accept no action. Doing nothing about this is an unacceptable course of action.
This weekend I played host to a number of fellow LTs from around the BN, the other two from my company and another who just happened to arrive at the same time. It made for a great weekend as I got to play tour guide while in the IZ and we got to go to all the cool places and take cool pictures, what I like to call combat tourism.
I managed to convince an Iraqi Army Soldier to let me pose with his AK-47. One of the unique aspects of the IZ is the presence of Iraqi Army and Police. These are the guys who are the ones to be admired. They're the ones that are going to be here after we leave and they've made their decision to support the democratic effort. The Iraqi Soldier who let me pose with his weapon and those like him who wear the Iraqi uniform deserve as much support as you can give them.
This is my buddy and the author of "The Peace of War
" blog. He was in town for a couple days and while we were doing the combat tour we came across some Australian troops doing the same thing. We stopped and offered to take pictures of them on their trucks if we could too. I don't know the capabilities of the vehicle, but it seemed very similar to our Bradley.
Say 'cheese!' Here I'm holding a can of Cougar Cheese that my father-in-law sent me from Wazzu. Cougar Cheese is made at WSU and is the Ag Department's pride and joy. It tastes a bit like parmesean, but still has a very unique taste to it. It's funny how much I promote Wazzu now that I'm no longer a student there. When I was jumping through the requisit hoops to graduate, I stopped at the Alumni booth and when the guy asked if I wanted to sign up for the yearly membership or the 10-year membership I said, "How about no membership?". I was never really a "Coug". Occasionally when someone who knew about WSU would find out that I was a student there they would say, "Oh, so you're a Coug huh?" I'd always give a sideways grin and say, "No, I just go to WSU." I don't really feel a sense of loyalty to the school, but I do towards the people who I interacted with and the ROTC program.
In other news, my sweetie sent me a picture of myself about a week ago that I like because 1) I'm in civilian clothes, 2) It's in Germany, and 3) It reminds me of that I was spending a nice day with the lady I love.
See, I'm a regular person too. When I can, I wear flip-flops and jeans and make funny faces when doorways are too small for me. I'm saying this mostly to remind myself, I haven't worn anything besides PTs and ACUs for nearly the last 5 months.
Ok, so I finally got the pictures in and here they are =)
We nicknamed this kid Ali Babba, he kept trying to swipe anything we would let him hold.
These guys were both very eager to have their pictures taken.
This picture was taken outside the compound we went to. These kids were very friendly and eager to take or trade for anything I had brought out with me.
This was without a doubt the highlight of my tour so far. I've printed out copies of the photos so that if I ever head back I can give these kids a copy.
If you want to see more pictures you can go to my Putfile
... or is that redo?
Whichever it happens to be, fact is I made my second trip out to the Red Zone today and this time it was a bit more interesting than just taking a short walk out and back. Yesterday, one of my troops tells me that he has a need to go somewhere that's outside the IZ. Did I have to go with him? No. Did I want to go with him? See one of my previous posts about kicking down doors. Besides all that hooah stuff, I had long ago made up my mind that I wouldn't send troops out into the Red and not go with them. It's a sad thing when a person hides behind their rank, although there are cases when it's necessary, but mine isn't one of them.
The actual trip was very interesting. Rolling out the gate into downtown Baghdad was an eye opener. It was the first time that I had ever actually chambered a round when I wasn't doing target practice. It was very comforting to know that, should I need to, all I had to do was hit the safety catch and pull the trigger. I did my best to look everyone in the eye and look like I could seperate someone's head from their shoulders with little effort.
Pretty much as would be expected, outside the IZ things are pretty ugly. I saw more buildings with holes in them than without. Many places were patched up and inhabited. The suprising thing was that minus the bullet holes, this place wasn't unlike several other cities that I've been to. They had billboards with pictures of anorexics in designer clothes posing with a bottle of purfume, cigarette ads were everywhere, people were chilling out at cafes and going about their daily business like they couldn't care less that a foreign military was driving around in their city.
Once we got where we were going things got really boring. We were at a place that is secured by Iraqis and we had a lot of backup (when you're staring at the barrel of a .50 cal, you tend to think twice before doing something, stupid or otherwise). As we waited I got out of the truck to chat with one of the other troops. As we were chatting a group of kids came by and ran up to the other guy. He had been out here before and they knew him pretty well. He had taken pictures with them from the last time that he was there and had brought them back to hand out. Naturally I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take pictures with these kids, and suprisingly they were just as eager to take a picture with me. Once they saw that we had a camera they instantly started making the universal gesture for taking a picture, holding an imaginary box and saying "cleek" repeatedly.
After taking pictures with these kids in various pieces of our gear we began to head back to the trucks. I, remembering the original reason for getting out, asked one of the guards where the bathroom was. He didn't understand so I made the universal gesture for having to go to the bathroom, holding both hands just below my belt buckle and pretending to unzip. He then says, "Ah, come," and motions me to follow him. My buddy tells me that he'll wait at the gate for me and I follow this guy back around to the rear of the building all the while checking him out to make sure he's not going to try anything. When we get back there he flags down one of the kids and speaks to him in Arabic, pointing at one of the buildings. The kid then looks at me and says, "Toilet?" I nod and he leads me up some stairs and into the building. After dodging some startled Iraqis, he points at a door and says, "Toilet." I open the door and there before me is a hole in the ground.
After I did my business I headed back to the gate and to the trucks where I met up with the other troops. We stood around and BS'ed for a bit until my cell phone rang. Imagine my suprise when I checked out the caller ID this time.
"Well isn't that something?" I said, "it's my wife."
There I stand in the middle of downtown Baghdad and my sweetheart give me a call. I answered the phone, "Hey babe, how ya doin?" All the other guys give that look that I know to mean, "Freeking commo pogues!" I just smiled and went on talking with my sweetie. I started to say, "Hey, guess where I am." Right after saying that I started thinking that telling her that I'm in the Red Zone may not be the best course of action at the moment since I didn't want her to worry about me.
The highlight of the return trip was seeing a car rear-end a van as we drove past, evidentally that kind of thing happens a lot as people rubber-neck to watch the Americans drive past. As soon as I get those pictures I'll be sure to post them here.
The last few days have been very strange. I've been feeling like I'm missing or forgetting something, like there's something that I should be doing that I'm not. I've been really busy and have gotten a lot done, I just feel like something's missing.
I've also found myself thinking a lot about things I'd like to do with my son when he's born and as he grows up. The things I'm going to teach him and things that we'll do together. I'm really anxious to meet him, to see what kind of boy, young man, and man he grows up to be. I've also been collecting things here that I think would be cool for a young boy to have, although I worry a bit that if we have a second or third kid that I won't have collected anything for they may get jealous. I'm thinking that if I get enough different things with children as yet to be named in mind I may be able to avoid it.
Most recently I made a trip out to the Crossed Swords while giving the grand tour to one of the officers of my battalion and at the base of one of the hands is a trinket merchant staffed by a couple Iraqi policemen who make a few extra bucks on the side. They have an assortment of patches, insignia, knives, lighters, flags, rugs, pre-war Dinars. I've started keeping a collection, buying something every time I head out there that I can send home or to friends and family or, more importantly, for my son and other as yet to be born children. Part of the fun of going out there is haggling with these guys to knock a few extra bucks off the price of whatever it is that I'm trying to buy. I know that these guys got the things I'm buying for fractions of what I'm paying and even though I always manage to work the price down by about 20% they're still making a huge profit.
My current prize acquisition is an Iraqi army red beret with the emblem attached to it. At the same time that I got the beret, I put my hands on a complete set of branch insignia, it seems that the Iraqi army was structured very similar to the US Army complete with a dedicated Signal Corps, though I must say that I much prefer the US wigwags to the Iraqi lightning bolt and try as I may I can't seem to find any pictures of this online and don't have my camera with me at the moment so I can't take my own picture of it. There's another trinket vendor at the PX over here who sells old Iraqi Dinars with Saddam's picture on it for $2 each, but the guy at the swords sells them 20 for $5. I'm thinking that I'm going to head back and ask if he can get his hands on a bunch of them for me. For the right price I'm sure he could find a stack of them.