Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I guess I spoke too soon ...

My new roommate moved out today. It turns out he was a transient ... not a psycho killer, though, so we've got that going for us ... which is nice. I guess it's all for the best, with the first Notre Dame game coming on this Saturday night, I'd hate to disturb him as I watch (whether the night is good or bad for the Irish, it looks to be exciting - I'd hate to wake him up with my cheering). Oh well, back to the single life ... I didn't even learn his name. Until tomorrow.

-Grease out.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I arrived home today to a HUGE surprise. In month seven of my "Iraqi vacation," after more than five months of living in my cushy, wet trailer ... I have a roommate! I have no idea who this guy is, or what he does, but I did see him for about three seconds tonight as he closed the door to the bathroom when he got ready for bed. I came home today and did my usual check of the next room to see if there had been any change, and found a pile of KBR issued linens on the empty bed. Now, before we get our hopes up, he could be a transient, only here for a few days ... come to think of it, he could also be a psycho-killer ... hmmm, note to self: lock the door to the bathroom on the way to bed. The fact that he didn't say "hi" or introduce himself leads me to believe that living next to this guy could be much like not living next to anyone at all, but the juries still out on that one. We'll just have to see. Until tomorrow.

-Grease out.

P.S. Darling sister, I did NOT hold up a Notre Dame flag as I threatened during the UGA shout out. They asked me after if I wanted to do a personal shout-out for broadcast at Notre Dame, and I reminded them that REAL football schools don't need Jumbotrons to entertain the fans ... we do it on the field. Just under eight days until the kickoff of the 2007 Irish campaign for a title (what title that is remains to be seen).

P.P.S. Okay, this is funny. When I ran the spellcheck on my post before shooting it to the internet, it didn't like the word Jumbotron. The suggested substitute: Cambodians ... go figure.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My contribution to the war effort ...

... Apparently is my blog ... no, seriously. I was teaching the new class of JCCS-1 guys this morning and received comments on my blog! Kind of shocked me, to tell the truth. Let's rewind...

I taught the JCCS-1 students early this morning. The class is normally held at our headquarters, but due to the size of the group, we moved to Al Faw Palace (the Coalition HQ - same place you get your picture in Saadam's throne). It was actually an enjoyable class, the students were eager (they have only been here for a few days, so they still enjoy that unbridled enthusiasm - always easier to teach folks who truly want to learn), and the facilities at the palace make the JCCS-1 classroom look like a trailer ... which it is. I have to admit, teaching in a quiet space with good accoustics and a 60 inch plasma screen display made the day easier.

My class usually runs about 45 minutes (more if they ask a lot of questions), today ran almost an hour. When we finished, we put the students on a break and I went into the hall to chat with some of them. One of the students, an ex-A-6 Intruder BN, callsign: Pearl, walked up to me and asked a few questions about life on Camp Victory. We chatted for a few minutes, and he stopped me saying, "By the way, great blog!" I was shocked that he knew who "The Landlocked Sailor's" secret identity was - he reminded me that my callsign is on the title slide of my class, and asked, "How many dudes named "Grease" are in Iraq?" ... Good point. He went on to say that the class agreed that one of the best sources of information for folks coming over here on IA's are the blogs! I guess I never thought of it that way, I thought of this venture as a way to share some of my life's daily experiences with family and friends back home. Then I thought about how many folks have visited T.L.S. during my time here (approaching 5,000 - many of those are repeat hits, but the sheer number of hits indicates a ton of new guests. Also, in the past few weeks I've fielded several E-mails from soon to be JCCS-1 folks looking for more info about the command - to those out there who are coming in the next few months, send me an E-mail, and I'll try to answer your questions). It felt nice to make the transition from sailor in the states to IA sailor a bit easier for some (in all honesty, it's not just me - we have a bunch of quality blogs by the JCCS-1 crew - The One Wire, Stimp in Iraq, Spook in the Box, and a bunch of others ... and now we have one more as I have linked Pearl's blog (Pearl in the Desert) to the page). As always, thanks for being part of our readership - tough days seem easier when you know you can share your thoughts with others ... even if you never know who those others are!

Well, as is the case with most of my posts, the day doesn't end there. I left work about 3:30 (1530 for you military folks) to run some errands before our big event this afternoon. One of our Marines is an ex-Georgia Bulldog football player who still keeps in touch with the coaches. He asked if we would do a "shout-out" for their upcoming game against Oklahoma State (A shout out is one of those 15-30 second military spots they play on the Jumbotron or on the TV broadcast - basically giving the team support from Iraq). Well our General has a daughter at UGA, so it became a command-wide event (I'm pretty happy about it, seeing as how my sister is a UGA alum and will be at the game to see it). If you go to the game or watch on TV, I'm sitting on the Humvee on the left, just to the left of the large, black pipe that sticks up from the front bumper. The shout-out was fun, but that's not the point of the story ...

As I left my trailer to head back to work for the shout-out, everything seemed normal. This all changed as I drove down the road and realized my power-steering and brakes went from normal to non-existent as I was approaching a corner. Well ... this is new ... hmmmm. For a split second, I considered abandoning the mighty war-humvee in mid-flight, since the corner overlooked a canal. I decided to ride it out (usually the first line of data in a mishap report - Mishap Aviator #1 decided to ride the plane into the mountain rather than ejecting at an earlier time). I was able to muscle the hummer around the corner and allowed it to slow to a more reasonable speed ... thus making steering even more difficult. After a few near disasters, I careened my broken truck back into the IAG parking lot (try taking a turn-circle without brakes or power-steering - all I can say is it's a good thing the roads weren't too crowded), and parked it in the gravel. After we finished the shout-out, I recruited my assistant and our command's resident humvee mechanic to take a look at my sick truck. Apparently, several hoses had torn themselves away from the power-steering pump (spewing fluid EVERYWHERE) and there was something wrong with the brakes ... oh, and the bolt that holds the left-front shock absorber was gone ... not broken, just gone. Our mechanic thought he could resurrect the beast, so we set off for the motor-pool for some parts and fluid. After an hour of work, we hadn't made much progress. Our mechanic filled me with as much fluid as he could and wished me luck in my drive to the motor-pool ... great.

I limped over to the motor-pool, with my assistant in tow, in his humvee. I truly expected to be shot down by the guys there, since this truck isn't theirs, but they suprised me by taking the truck in and performing open-heart surgery on the beast for the better part of 2.5 hours. As always, the contractors over here amaze me - they get a bad rap in the press, but most of them are really here to help. They reattached the hoses and explained to me that, in my model humvee, the power-steering pump also controls whether or not the brakes work (now I'm not a car guy, but that seems like a design flaw - I always thought the brake master cylinder was controlled by vacuum pressure from the motor - but then again, like I said, I'm not a car guy). We actually fixed the power-steering and brakes in about 20 minutes, the shock took the rest of the time. These guys spent basically their entire evening fixing my truck (they even fixed some things I didn't even think of, like the A/C filter - that was a mess).

So once again, I'm in debt to some folks who went out of their way to help a brother in need. They (our humvee mechanic, my assistant, and those great guys at the motor-pool) reminded me why the bad guys hate us: Everyone has a part, and everyone can make a difference. The difference in America is: people get to that decision point in their life, whether or not to help a brother in need, and time and time again, they step up to the plate. There's my lesson for the day: remember ... someday, that guy on the side of the road with the hood up might be you. Until tomorrow.

-Grease out.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Crazy days ...

My apologies lately for my lack of posts, but I truly have been swamped with work. In addition to my day to day job, I also teach the guys who are coming in theater to replace folks from my group (there are about ten of us who volunteer our time to go back to the headquarters building to give the view from the front). It also helps that I teach the new guys about my soldiers, as my guys are kind of "special." When I say special, I mean that they are not your average Battalion or Brigade. My guys operate in small teams, on their own. Making sure that the new JCCS-1 guys understand this ensures that they will look out for my guys when they need help far from home.

I've been teaching the whole time I've been here, but recently we've changed the way we go about it. This has led to more of my time being required for not just classes, but roundtable events where students can ask questions relating to the jobs they will be doing. Needless to say, I love the chance to pass on what I've learned while over here. Every time I can pass on a mistake I've made in my dealings with the Army means that the next guy doesn't have to fall into the same pit.

I've also been traveling again. I know I said that I thought I was done traveling after I finished my turnover back in April, but certain opportunities have come up lately to get out of Baghdad - if only for a day or so. I know it make folks on the homefront nervous, but sometimes you have to be face to face with a person to get your point across.

Well, excuses aside, I will try to post a bit more often, especially as we get closer to the "report card" that Gen. Petraeus is due to give in the next few weeks. I'm interested to see what he has to say. As I've said before, you folks are not getting the "real story" from the media. The changes I've seen here in the last seven months have been dramatic. I truly think that we're making real progress in the war/peace effort, but I'll wait (just like the rest of us) to see what the view is "from the top."

Before I go, I do want to recognize a couple of special women on the occasion of their birthdays. My Mom's birthday was this past Friday. If there was ever a woman you wanted by you in tough times, she's the one. I could devote a separate blog to the things shes dealt with in her life. Happy Birthday Mom, I hope that I attack adversity in my life with the same class and strength that you've shown all these years.

Second is my wife, Karen. Her birthday was Saturday (makes it pretty easy, if I remember one, I remember them both ... If I forget one however ... Iraq may be a safer place for me than the states). I can't even begin to tell the tales of the strength my wife shows. Let's see, a short list: Dealt with multiple deployments in our nine-plus years of marriage, raised two, then four kids on her own while I was away, single-handedly survived Hurricane Ivan in 2004 while I was deployed, helped me through the death of my father back in March, gave birth to twins while I was here ... the list goes on and on (that doesn't even cover the fact that she puts up with me). I've never had anything but support from her, no matter what the situation. Psychoanalysts will say that men marry women like their mothers and women marry men like their fathers. I don't know if that's completely accurate, but I do know one thing: One of the things I most admire about my mother is her strength. I was lucky enough to find a woman who shares that trait. Although my mom and wife are totally different women in many regards, they do share a strength that is beyond admirable. A person would be lucky to come across one such person in his life ... I have two (actually more, but they didn't have birthdays this week, so they'll have to wait). I love you Karen, thank you for being my "rock," and for being all that you are. It really does make "trip-work" easier. You'll never know how important you are to me.

Okay, enough sappy stuff ... back to the war. Until tomorrow.

-Grease out.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Appreciation ...

It amazes me how the course of a day can shift from one minute to the next. I woke up in a wonderful mood (and actually stayed in it for most of the day … that’s a refreshing change). One of the things I like to try to do during the day is chat via Instant Message to the family at home. I was in the midst of a wonderful conversation with my wife when my daughter, Megan walked up to Karen and informed her that, “Daddy was saving the world in Iraq.” … Wow ... six year olds sometimes know exactly what needs to be said. Now, you and I both know that I am not “saving the world” in Iraq (If the battle plan relies on me to win the fight single-handedly, you need to look into classes on Farsi). The battle over here is 180,000 strong, brave American (and Coalition) men and women working together, but that doesn’t matter to a six year old. She knows one thing, and one thing only: Daddy’s not home, because he’s needed in the fight in Baghdad. Karen gave me a bit of a hard time for my reaction (rightfully so), but the hero-worship of a six year old girl is enough to make anyone’s spirits soar (The amazing thing is: I was in a pretty good mood to begin with, it’s been a good couple of weeks, and the clock for my homecoming is rapidly winding down!). Needless to say, I left the trailer to head back to work feeling pretty special.

At that point I was pretty sure I had peaked in the day (it was a good peak), and I was ok with that. I was wrong. I drove to the post office to mail a package to Karen for her upcoming 29th birthday (it’s really more than that, but I’m not an idiot). The package system here in Iraq is kind of strange: You have to have all packages searched before you can send them to the states, to make sure you’re not sending contraband (war trophies, illegal goods, etc.). So as I’m standing in the line to get my box searched, I start up a conversation with a Sgt 1st Class in front of me. He immediately noticed my JCCS-1 patch (the command my group of Navy brethren work for) and started asking me about some of my colleagues. He explained that JCCS-1 guys had done some amazing things for his command, and he was glad that we were here to help. Well, this will make almost anyone feel good. It’s nice to be recognized for your work.

It was at this point that I looked up at the sign over the counter … the one that said, “Cash Only.” Ugh, I hadn’t cashed a check in a few weeks and only had a handful of singles on me. I explained to the Sgt that I needed to go and get cash, and that I would have to mail the package later. This is when the day got even more amazing. The Sgt looked at me, reached into his wallet, pulled out a $20 and said, “Sir, you’re a JCCS-1 guy, I know you’re good for it.” Wow (again) … I was truly shocked. I started to refuse, but he wouldn’t have it. He told me to find him at his command and pay him back when I got the chance. I was floored at this. Here’s a man, who doesn’t know me or anything about me, who’s willing to lend me money based on the patch I wear on my sleeve. All I could think is, “We must be doing some great work over here, to elicit this kind of trust among the soldiers.” I took the 20, walked up to the counter and set my package down with a smile on my face. Then I found out I had enough cash on me after all, and returned the 20 to the soldier with a handshake and my sincere thanks. I truly feel like I was honored to be in that place at that time. I’m going to store that one away for one of the days when I’m not feeling like we’re accomplishing anything, and I’m going to remember a Sgt 1st Class who thought that highly of his JCCS-1 brothers. It’s memories like these that I want to take away from this tour. I’m pretty sure I’m going to leave some of the memories behind. Some of them need to stay here, but ones like that need to come home. Until tomorrow.

-Grease out.

First stop home, next stop ...