Sunday, June 28, 2009

Another Monday.

How many songs do I know that relate to Monday?
"Rainy Days and Mondays" by the Carpenters.
"Monday Monday" by the (I think) Mamas and Papas.
I'm sure there are more, but I have things to do so I'll leave it at that.
It's another Monday here at the Media Operations Center at Camp Liberty, Baghdad, Iraq. Mondays always start slow around here...the Soldiers do Physical Training on Monday so they don't get into the office until 0900. I'm here by 0800, after eating breakfast and walking the long walk from the DFAC to the MOC. It was hot again...after such a nice break yesterday.
I woke up Sunday morning and noticed the sunlight coming through my shades was a lovely color of orange. I've learned that orange means dust storm. When I went outside I was hit by the waves of dust in the air. Yuck! I had finally just gotten all the dust out of my CHU from the last dust storm. But I noticed that it was a few degrees cooler. When I walked by the thermometer it was only 98 degrees. Veritable wintertime in Iraq!
Anyway, the skies are clear this Monday morning and we have a busy morning preparing our Soldiers for the week ahead.
If you don't know, 30 June is the day that US Soldiers are to be out of the cities. So, we're "kicking out" all of our journalists for the occasion...sending them out to outlying BCTs to continue doing stories on Soldiers, units, and events. It should be quiet until next weekend for us.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This conex is our old one...we had "borrowed" it from another unit to store our equipment until we got our own conex.

Our own conex...inbound!

Put it down gently, guys.

Da boys in the new conex.

And so it begins.

If you've been following any of the blogs of the Soldiers of the 211th you know that we have come up with some ingenious (or crazy) ways to pass the days. We've counted bottles of shampoo, eaten burritos on Thursday, and marked days off our calendars with Sharpees.

Yesterday marked a new milestone of our time in Iraq: we received our conex. This is our 20-foot container that will, in time, be loaded with all of our gear and shipped back to Bryan, Texas. It might not seem like much, but it really was the beginning of the end of our time here in Baghdad. We've already started that "backwards planning", i.e. marking our planning calendar with redeployment due-outs, such as submitting awards and end-of-tour evaluations.

Oh yeah, today is also the summer solstice...the longest day of the year! That means tomorrow will be about 7 seconds shorter...which means it will be cooler. Right? That's my story anyway. It's 119 degrees outside right now. Tomorrow it will be 118.5. At midnight.

Friday, June 19, 2009

This is why we wear tan boots...

Worst. Duststorm. Ever.

I've written in previous blogs about duststorms here in Baghdad...about how they block the sun and make our lives miserable.
Well, we had the worst one yet over the past few days. This one was a whopper.
I was up early Wednesday the office by 0530 to do a live interview with a TV station in Texas. As I was walking to the office I was already choking on dust and couldn't even see the lights on Signal Hill...which is right next to us. I then had to drive a Soldier over to a pickup point so she could go out on a mission. It was like driving in thick fog. As the day progressed it just got worse.
I was in the office late that night and walked back to my CHU about 9:30. The dust was so thick that my eyes were burning 50 feet outside the door! I hate to admit it, but I got a little disoriented walking through one of the side parking lots. We unconciously use landmarks to guide us, especially in the dark at night...I use those lights on Signal Hill and the floodlights on Division HQ as a beacon when walking across that dark parking lot. As I was walking I thought I heard a noise behind me. I turned my head to look and then turned back. Just that small head motion made me lose my bearing and, since I had no lights to guide me, I was a bit...lost. I focused on the direction the cars were parked and that led me across the lot and past the barriers to where I could finally see the floodlights on the headquarters building. By then my eyes were stinging and my throat was dry.
Back at my CHU I pondered taking a shower. Walking through a dust storm with wet hair didn't seem fun to me, but I also needed to be clean, if even for a few minutes. I was extra careful in the shower to make sure I was completely dry and then dashed back to my CHU. I had to brush the dust out of my hair! The dust was so thick IN MY CHU that I fell asleep swallowing dust.
The next morning it was still bad. The dust had settled somewhat but there was still a lot in the air. There was dust EVERYWHERE. The gray rocks on the pathways are tan. The port-a-john's were covered inside and out, porches, lights, T-Walls...everything. But to make things worse, the dust affected our electronics and Internet. I couldn't log onto my government computer until after 1 p.m. The Internet was down for the most part, electricity was out all over the place. The PX was closed until the afternoon, power was out in a lot of the CHUs. It was like being in Minneapolis after a major snowstorm! The power went out in our building in the morning so we ran on generator power until late in the afternoon.
Last night I tried to do some cleaning in my CHU. Wiped off everything with a damp cloth, mopped the floor with a Swiffer. It will take a few cleanings to get the dust out of my room. I cleaned the filter in my A/C but it will be dusty again by Saturday. We are one with the dust. :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What did you do in the war, mommy?

Well, it's doubtful I'll ever hear my own kid say that. Perhaps it would be better to write "what did you do in the war, Aunt Anrie?" :)

People have asked me what exactly I, and my unit, do here at the sprawling base of Camp Liberty, Baghdad, Iraq. So, now, over the next few days I am going to take you on a tour through my world. Sit down and hold on, it's going to be a wild ride!

Okay, well, maybe no. But at least it will be a little enlightening.

Overall, the mission of the mighty fightin' 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment is to produce print and broadcast products focused on the missions and Soldiers of Multi National Division-Baghdad (MND-B). Iraq is separated into different sections, each under the control of a separate entity. MND-B's territory is Baghdad. While the 211th is based at Liberty, we send our journalists all over the area to "embed" with units outside the camp to get stories. Everything we produce is on Our main products are a 2X a month newspaper, the Crossed Sabers, a daily e-zine called The Daily Charge, a daily radio spot called Cav County Update and a 1x a week newscast called First Team Update. Go check out the website for all of these products. Also, anything we produce is also marketed to hometown media as well as national and international media, depending on what the story is about.

As for me, my job in all of this is to ensure that things go smoothly. In all honesty, the toughest part of my time in command was pre-mobilization. That was a lot of work and planning. Once we arrived, however, my staff and NCOs took over and they make things work. During the week I attend meetings at the battalion staff level and with 1st Cav Div PAO. Once a month I prepare and submit the USR, or unit status report. We also have other administrative requirements to submit, including R & R requirements, equipment inventories, and whatever else is required at the time. Even though we're here for several more months, we've already started working on end-of-tour requirements, including evaluations and awards.

Me and the command staff, which is basically my executive officer, 1LT Sarratt, and my 1SG, 1SG Anthony Martinez, spend hours keeping the unit running. Everything from equipment issues to redeployment. There are schedules to be approved, missions outside of the wire to be looked at, and our least favorite topic, unit discipline. We hate that part but it's just as important as anything else.

Our days and weeks follow the same basic schedule regarding meetings and submissions. The three of us go to lunch every day at 1130 and head out to dinner at 1730 (that's 5:30 p.m. for you non-military types). In between we answer e-mails, turn in our paperwork, listen to music, and keep each other from going bananas. :)

Next post: office/work photos.