It seems interesting that the day after the 10 anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks, I begin my annual training as an Army Reservist. This year I am in Fort Dix, New Jersey helping my unit prepare for deployment to Afghanistan. I will not be deploying this time.

Afghanistan. What are our prospects in Afghanistan? Most likely, the current administration will declare victory and leave. The current trajectory does not appear to have the projectile landing anywhere inside the circle of success, no matter your definition.

There is no precedent for centralized government in Afghanistan. There is no established bureaucracy in Afghanistan. There is no history of democracy. In fact, even the process of voting is a new concept in Afghanistan with election results called into question from the very onset. The Karzai administration is fraught with corruption, struggling to maintain any authority even over the district in which it resides. I believe that this summary of the situation in Afghanistan, published in Foreign Affairs magazine, sums up the situation today.

For the past ten years about a half a percent of the population has been fighting two wars. About 70% of the unit has done more than two deployments. One soldier who is about 25 has been in combat zones for more months than he has been in college.


We attended a very nice Memorial Day event in Santa Cruz, which is a bit surprising.

Freedom is not free. The price is non-negotiable. Each generation pays for the freedom of the next generation in blood. Memorial Day is a day to celebrate that purchase while honoring those who paid for it.

US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Pernaselli 27, of Monroe, N.Y
KIA 24 April 2004, Northern Arabian Gulf, Operation Iraqi Freedom

US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher E. Watts 28, of Knoxville, Tenn
KIA 24 April 2004, Northern Arabian Gulf, Operation Iraqi Freedom

US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal 24, of Smithtown, N.Y.

KIA 24 April 2004, Northern Arabian Gulf, Operation Iraqi Freedom

I remember these three men because I have a connection to them, albeit a slightly removed one. These men were killed by a suicide bomber who was attempting to attack the Khor Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT). These men were about to board the dhow when the suicide bomber detonated his weapon killing these three men and wounding many more.

As a result of these actions, I ended up serving on KAAOT in support of security operations to prevent further attacks.

Petty Officer Bruckenthal was the first Coast Guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam war. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery. When I finally make it to Arlington, his is the first grave I would like to visit.

I will never forget.

I am still trying to get back to FOB Hunter. Remembering a photo I saw from back near the beginning of the war, I have resorted to sitting out on Route 6 with a cardboard sign that says FOB Hunter or AWOL. We’ll see how successful I am. It’s got to be at least as effective as the other methods I’ve been trying over the past two weeks.

SSG LaRocque apparently got lonely down there at FOB Hunter without me. He showed up at my CHU door on Thursday night. Haven’t seen him since save to borrow a pair of pants. He’s off to this meeting or that. A very important and in demand person here.

So, the wait continues. I really would like to get back down to FOB Hunter for the last few months of this deployment.

Apparently, I now work for the Sabers.

1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry has returned home to Fort Hood, Texas. I worked with them for seven months. The 1-9 CAV built FOB Hunter. When they arrived on the abandon airfield of Qal At Salih there was nothing there but a few runways, some taxiways, several hangers that they called Haus for reasons I have not yet figured out. It was summer when the 1-9 CAV arrived. There were no air conditioners. For the first month or so there wasn’t even any ice.

FOB Hunter is pretty comfortable now. The 1-9 CAV and supporting units built it up pretty nicely. For all that, I won’t mind the day when FOB Hunter is in my rear view for the last time.

6/12/04 17:49

I am still at COB Adder. With luck I’ll be back at FOB Hunter tomorrow for the final push to finish this tour. It’s been a good break. I am looking forward to getting back to my team. Reading their reports for the past week it looks like things are nicely busy down there. Looks like they’re getting out to do some real CA work. That will be good. Quite possibly we will be given the chance to go out with some significant accomplishments.

A445 Iraq 08-09 -  - 441

Despite all my reservations about the Army — I still bleed Navy Blue and Gold — with any luck at all, I will be re-enlisting in the Army on FOB Hunter. I expect that it will be a good event. I had the chance to re-enlist in the Navy out on KAAOT on my last tour over here. I ended up extending my enlistment in the Navy after I returned from that deployment. The extension was a non-event. A purely administrative event the belied the significance of what I was doing. Based on that experience, I decided that I would re-enist on this deployment. Military service is an important part of my life. I have a lot of complaints about the Army. I regret not having managed my Navy career better so that I could have retired from the Navy. That was my fault. The Army is giving me the chance to continue a life that I enjoy. I enjoyed the Navy more but, at the end of the day, I would rather be serving in the Army than to end my military service. I owe a heart felt thanks to my chain of command, First Sergeant Luedtke and Lieutenant Colonel Clark for their patience and affording me this opportunity.

Al Sharif Alarrdy 2009-04-23~60

I look forward to continuing The Face of Iraq project, catching up on all the work Team RONIN has done while I’ve been goofing off for three weeks. I want to thank the team and especially my team sergeant, Staff Sergeant LaRocque for the opportunity to get a break. Now it is time to go back to work. Despite what a lot of the main stream media seems to be saying, Iraq is on its way to standing on its own two feet. I believe that Team RONIN and the rest of Alpha Company, 445 Civil Affairs Battalion has made a contribution to the province of Maysan in getting to the place where they can govern themselves. I believe that Iraq will succeed. I don’t know that it will be the success the United States would like to see but it will be their success. It will be a success defined by their culture, background and environment. That is as it should be.

Thanks for the break. Time to quit goofing off and get back out there.

Love Is... a prayer for your soldier boy.

Growing up, my parents use to read the Love is… comics and when there something particularly relevant to their life, one or the other of them would cut it out and put it on the family Facebook of the day, the refrigerator door with a magnet. I got to thinking about that and wondered what had become of the Love is… comic. So, of course, I googled it. Imagine my surprise to discover that Love is… still is. Who’da thunk it, Love still is.
Love is… can be found on the site. Of course, I had to go see if it was the same comic I knew as a kid. When the page loaded, I was really quite surprised by the topic of that day’s strip.

Love is…
…a prayer for your soldier boy.

My wife loved it.

My four day pass ended with a 0300 briefing for the flight back to COB Adder. I didn’t find out about that until 2100. I still needed to do laundry, pack, turn in linen. I decided that trying to sleep would only make things worse. I got everything done and was ready for my departure flight by 2300. I took everything over to the briefing room. Fortunately there was internet available. So, I stayed up all night playing on Facebook and reading the news. Time went fairly quickly.

After the brief they loaded us up on a bus to take us to the airport. Our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 0900. So, why did we need to get up at 0300?? No idea. I went and found some breakfast and then found a soft piece of concrete and catnapped until they woke me up to get on the flight. There were nine of us on a C-130 which made for a fairly comfortable flight. I manage to sleep for parts of the two hour flight to the first stop. We spent about an hour on the ground and then departed for Adder. By 1330 I was back in my CHU in Adder, tired as hell. I thought about going to bed but decided that would make it hard to sleep through the night. So, I went to watch a comedy show at the MWR. It was OK. Kind of fun. The comedians needed better writers. However, anyone that is willing to come over here and try to make life a little better for those of us deployed here is alright by me.

That was yesterday. Got up this morning, did more laundry, uniforms, socks and underwear that I did not get washed before I left on pass. It’s in the drier right now. In fact, I need to go check on it. I’ll be right back.

OK, I’m back. Actually, I got distracted and did a bunch of stuff. So, I’ve finished all the laundry. I’ll pack a couple of boxes to send home so that I can reduce the amount of stuff I have to pack when we leave this place. My goal is to be down to one bag and an assault pack when I leave COB Adder for good. That would be cool.

Some time this week I’ll fly back to FOB Hunter and go back to work in earnest. I’d like to say I’m looking forward to it but I not. I have approximately 78 days left on this tour. Unlike my last tour, I cannot wait for this one to be over so that I can return to civilian life. And on that cheery note, I’m out.

Souqs Tour - Qatar - 04

Continuing the shopping theme, I went on the Souqs tour. The tour first stops at the Gold Souqs and then at the Old Souqs. The first is the jewelry district. Primarily gold bracelets, necklaces, ear rings and the like. Neither my wife nor I wear jewelry so this first stop was of little interest.
At the second stop, the old souqs, there was a much broader range of merchants. Lots of spice and herb shops, clothing, an entire section devoted to birds. Apparently pet birds. Finches, cockateels, parakeets and what not. There were even a few large parrots. For all of this, I was a little disappointed. It was not as interesting as I thought it would be.
To begin with, it wasn’t old. The buildings that made up the old souqs were really quite new. There were a lot of Qatari there but it was obviously a tourist destination as well.
Souqs Tour - Qatar - 15

There were a number of restaurants in the old souqs. All of them looked very nice. We chose to eat at an Indian restaurant called Royal Tandoori. It was a very nice place, well decorated inside. The waitress helped me get the right order. I really like the chicken that comes in a thick sauce that is usually brown in color. I always think it’s Tandoori chicken and then I’m disappointed when it arrives. The waitress mentioned that it would be dry without something else. I changed to the right dish but I still don’t know what it is called. We had rice with peanuts and raisins, I don’t know what that’s called either, and plain and garlic naan. The food was very good, the service was great and the two of us had more than we could eat for $40. Pretty good deal.
Tomorrow, day 4, is my last day. At 2100 I will need to check to see if and when my flight back is scheduled for. It’s been a nice break. I can’t really say that I am anxious to go back to work but I am ready to leave here. A part from the tours there’s not a lot to do. I like having blazing fast Internet and I can keep myself occupied but the days go quicker down on FOB Hunter. I’m looking forward to getting some more photographs for my The Face of Iraq project. As we draw nearer to the end of this tour I look forward to being done and going back to civilian life. I’m ready to be a civilian again.

Landmark Mall Qatar - McDonaldsToday I went to the Landmark Shopping Mall in Doha, Qatar. Yes, I like shopping. So, take away my man-card. I also like watching society happen. We started at McDonalds for dinner. No, it wasn’t the most interesting restaurant in the mall. I’ve never been much for culinary adventure. After eating FOB Hunter chow hall food for so many months, McDonalds is great.
Landmark Shopping Mall looks very much the malls back in the states. Villagio Mall was clearly much more upscale, rather over the top in fact. Landmark was busier that Villagio was, more maybe the same number of people in a smaller space. I’m not sure.
There were a lot of young people in Landmark. Early teens to middle twenty somethings appeared to be the largest demographic at Landmark. The crowd at Villagio was older. Most of the Qatari kids were wearing traditional garb. There were a number of women wearing head coverings with western clothes. Some left the black covering open so that their pants were visible. The majority of the boys were wearing the traditional white tunic.

Landmark Mall Qatar - Apple iStore
I think Apple needs to make a stronger effort to localize to the Arab market. Apple products are clearly very popular here. I saw at least two iPhones in use despite the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, there are no cell phone providers here that support iPhone. Obviously, they are using JailBroke iPhones.
In Villagio, both Virgin Superstore and Carrefour carried Apple products. In the Landmark Mall there was an iStore kiosk selling Apple products, clearly attempting to emulate the Apple Store look. The Landmark also had Carrefour and Virgin stores carrying Apple products. Virgin had the most complete selection of Apple products. There is definitely a premium charged. The MacBook power supply I bought at Virgin Superstore in Villagio was $122. Apple Store in the States sells it for $79.
My wife is a Hello Kitty fan. Apparently, so are many Qatari women. There was a Hello Kitty kiosk in both malls that I’ve visited. More interesting was a store called Oysho. It appears to be a lingerie shop but all the underwear has some sort of cartoon theme. I saw Hello Kitty thong underwear. I was very tempted to buy a pair for my wife but I decided that joke might come back to haunt me. They also had various garments with Daffy duck and some other characters. There was just something odd about Victoria Secret type garments with cartoon and anime characters. Strange.
Landmark Mall Qatar - StarbucksThe Landmark Mall was less interesting than Villagio. We were pretty much done seeing the whole place in about 90 minutes. We had another two hours or so until it would be time to head back. We went to the Starbucks got coffees and sat outside watching Qatar go by. It was interesting. I like watching people anyway but I especial like to watch people in a culture other than my own. Two hours is a long time. I went and found a Cinnabonn Shop. A small Cinnabonn – which is still about twice the size of the ones mom used to make – and another coffee.
It was fun just to get out into society and see how they do life. Tomorrow I’m going on the Souqs tour. Yet another shopping trip, this time to the traditional market place. I’ll be there for dinner. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Villagio Mall Qatar 2

Today, I went to Villagio Mall in Doha, Qatar. It was pretty interesting. The place is modeled after some casino of the same name. No idea what or where that is.

We entered the mall at the expensive end. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari, Dolce Gabbana, and a number of others I’d never heard of. As I sat outside the Louis Vuitton shop waiting for others I watched the shoppers. The shop personnel had glasses of juice and what looked like champagne and wine. Full glasses not the little taster cups. I looked at a jewelry set that was $70,000. There was a necklace that was $60,000 and a men’s jacket that was $4,000. I decided Machiko wouldn’t look good in the jewelry set so I didn’t buy it. I was very tempted though.

Spyker C8 Laviolette 1

I have never heard of a Spyker C8 before but the mall had one on display. Pretty nice car. Apparently very rare and expensive. This particular one is a Spyker C8 Laviolette.

My primary mission today was to find a new power supply for my MacBook since the one I have is beginning to show definite signs of wear. I do not want to be without my computer. The first store I stopped in, CarreFore, carried Apple computers but did not sell power supplies. Then I found a Virgin Store. Mission accomplished albeit rather pricey.

I found McDonalds and had a Big Mac Meal deal for lunch. That made me quite happy actually. Kind of funny but that was the first thing we’d go looking for when we pulled into port when I was on West-Pac with the Navy back in ’84. I think we found a McDonalds in every port but Mombasa. The nice thing about McDonalds, it tastes the same everywhere. Even in Doha, Qatar. I blew it though. I should have taken a picture of McDonalds. Not sure what I was thinking, or not thinking.

I then went back the Starbucks I had seen in my travels of the mall and had a short, double latte. I also purchased one of Starbucks bucket sized coffee cups that has the name of the city or country on it. I have a small collection started. I have one from Kuwait and now from Qatar. Starbucks needs to hurry up and get a shop opened in Afghanistan so I can buy one there.

I finished my exciting adventure off with an ice cream cone from Hagen Daaz. Waffle cone dipped in chocolate and then in crushed almonds filled Cookies and Cream ice cream. Tomorrow, I’m going Landmark Mall. Four stories of shopping bliss!!