I ate way too much at Chili’s restaurant last night. It was good though. I also signed up for a trip to the mall today. I’m looking forward to that. On my last deployment we would often go to the mall at Kuwait Int’l Airport. I liked to sit at the Starbucks there and watch Kuwait society go by. It’s interesting to watch people interact, to find the differences in societal norms between the culture I’m visiting and the cultures I’m familiar with.

And there will be shopping. I think my wife is afraid I’ll spend too much money. I’m not sure her fears are unfounded. There’s a MacDonalds, a Coldstone, and a Starbucks. The food is taken care of. It sounds like I have a reasonable chance of finding a power supply for my Mac. And, as long as I’m careful and follow all the rules — no pictures of women or the Qatar flag, I can take pictures.

I spend a lot of time listening to music on deployment. More than in my civilian life. On my last tour, I listened to a lot of Jazz Fusion and discovered The Crusaders. Stayed up late last night talking to friends in the US on instant messaging which was fun. For a while now I’ve been thinking that I don’t have much Traditional Country in my music library. Last night I decided to explore some of the old school country artists and buy a few albums. Today, I went to Green Bean, got my coffee and a donut and sat down to use their Internet. For whatever reason, Green Bean seems to have the fastest internet here. I bought Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens and a new Dwight Yoakum album. I also decided that, much as I love country music, I’m not a Hank Williams fan. Don’t like Hank Jr. either. I like some of their songs but not enough to buy an album. Not a Pasty Cline fan either.

I’ll tell you all my adventures at the mall tomorrow.

Listened to: I Don’t Care (Just As Long As You Love Me)
from the album “Dwight Sings Buck” by Dwight Yoakam

Army personnel are allowed to take 14 days R&R leave while on deployment. They can go home or anywhere in the world. The Army will fly them to any destination they chose. I chose, however, to not take R&R leave because I did not want to go home only to have to go through the leaving process again. For my family and I the parting is very painful. Moreover, I wanted to have the 14 days leave as separation leave thereby lengthening the time I can stay at home before I have to go back to work. My Commander agreed only on the condition that I would take a four day pass. I am finally on that four day pass

They fly us to the country of Qatar for pass. Qatar is a small country south of Kuwait. The base is small but, compared to FOB Hunter where I live it is very clean and quite nice.

It took almost a week to actually get a flight down here. We arrived after midnight and had about 2 and half hours of process to go through before we were finally allowed to go to bed. Most of the guys just stayed up. I went to sleep on the bare mattress using the mattress cover and blanket to keep me warm in the 62 degree room. It was awesome.

This morning I went shopping for civilian clothes. A pair of Levis that my wife will have to hem when I get home and two plain polo shirts. I thought to bring civilian shoes. Had breakfast at somewhat normal restaurant. Still no decent coffee but I think I should be able to fix that at some point while I’m here.

There are a variety of tours that we can sign up for. I’ll find out more about that this afternoon. I think it would be great to go wonder a mall and see what Qatari society looks like. I’d like to find a new power power supply for my Mac. The one I have has some breaks developing in the connector to the computer and needs to be replaced. I’d also like to find a Starbucks here in Qatar so that I can get a Starbucks Qatar cup to go with my Kuwait and Hawaii cups.

And, there’s free, fast Internet pretty much all over the place. Everywhere except in our room which is a bit of a bummer but, that will at least motivate me to get up and out of bed each morning. Probably a good thing.

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 will not forget.

A friend of mine on Facebook asked how I felt about this story.

“5 U.S. Soldiers Killed In Iraq By Comrade”
The United States military said Monday that five American soldiers had been shot at one of the main American bases in Baghdad. At least one news agency said the killer was an American soldier who had opened fire on fellow troops. Marine Lt. Tom Garnett, a military spokesman, said “the shooter is a U.S. soldier and he is in custody.”
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That the bad guys get us makes me sad but it is an eventuality that we recognize as an occupational hazard. It comes with the job. If you want to live forever, soldier is probably not what you want to be when you grow up.

In the grand scheme of things, the number of casualties in this war is pretty low. Vietnam cost as many personnel in one month, even some weeks, than have been lost in this whole war.

No one mourns the loss of a soldier more than his fellow soldiers. Ask anyone who wears a black bracelet of a fallen comrade. In many cases, long after everyone else has accepted the loss, the fellow soldier will still have nightmares caused by the wondering what else he might have done to save his buddy. He will still break down and weep for his friend.

Soldiers trust no one except each other. So who do you trust when you discover that you can’t trust your fellow soldier?

First, I need to blow some life into this poor blog. I am doing some interesting stuff and I really do want to write about it. So, this is a first attempt.

I’m trying to get as many photos as possible up on my Flickr page. I have been uploading all the pictures from this deployment into a single set. However, I discovered Collections and now even understand how they work. So, I’ve deleted the set that I was using and have divided the photos out into sets that give you some clue as to what they are about.

On The Fob contains photos taken on FOB Hunter, usually of soldiers doing silly stuff. Al Faw Palace contains pictures that I took during my recent visit to Baghdad for a class. I had time to go and visit Saddam Hussein’s old residence. The Face of Iraq is all about pictures that I have taken while out on mission of the Iraqi people. I am posted in the Maysan province in southern Iraq, about 10 miles from the Iranian border.

All of these sets are contained in the Collection titled A/445 CA BN 2009 Deployment.

I enjoy photography so all the photographs are fun but my personal favorite is The Face Of Iraq project that I’m doing. I really like getting out among the people here. I like to see the face of Iraq. To realize it as a community of people with real lives that they are living. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too. Please leave comments if there are photos that you like or cause you to think. I love feedback.


I’ve been meaning to mention this for a while. I was talking to a friend of mine here on FOB Hunter. I tell pretty much everyone that I am a US Navy sailor serving in the Army under duress as a result of draconian Navy up or out policies. My friend, SPC Chin with 1-9 CAV then mentioned that his sister is in the Navy. He went on to tell me that her ship – I don’t remember the name – is part of an anti-piracy task force off the coast of Africa.

“The problem of piracy is and continues to be a problem that begins ashore and is an international problem that requires an international solution,” Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, said in a news release from the Fifth Fleet in Manama, Bahrain. “We believe the establishment of CTF-151 is a significant step in the right direction.”

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It is cool to see the US Navy involved in real freedom of the seas missions, keeping the sea lanes open. Over the past six years the Navy has felt somewhat forgotten and left out, with all the attention going to ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fighting piracy in off the coast of Africa is the truest of Navy missions. As a sailor, I think it would be interesting and exciting to be going after these modern day pirates in an area of the world that has a long history of association with pirates and naval battles.

I am often in the right place but seldom at the right time.

One of the things that I was looking forward to on this deployment was being in Iraq for at least one and possibly two elections. I was certain that the provincial elections would take place while I was deployed. National elections were also scheduled to take place during my time here but I suspect they will get delayed until after I return home.

However, provincial elections were held the last day of January. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were responsible for ensuring the security of this election, Coalition Forces providing reinforcements as directed by ISF. As a result, I did not get to see the election as up close and personal as I’d hoped. I did have several opportunities to talk with Iraqis prior to the elections. They talked about their dissatisfaction with elected officials and their lack of confidence in the government as a whole. Over the coming weeks, I will have more opportunities to talk with Iraqis about their perception of the election.

Over the past week I’ve been reading news reports and thinking about the election results, trying to figure out how to talk about them here. Today, I came across an article from the BBC which says it much better than I might. I’ve quoted some of the key points that I think are most significant. I highly encourage you to read the article itself. It is without exception the best assessment of the election and its significance that I have seen. Great analysis.

That is not just a security achievement, but a huge step forward in Iraq’s political development and the emergence of a real democratic culture.

They learned, for the first time, that they could hold those they elected to account, and change them if they failed to meet expectations.

On both the Shia and Sunni sides, there was a clear shift away from the Islamic religious parties which dominated Iraqi politics after the 2005 elections.

The emphasis has been on capability, performance, honesty, and national commitment rather than religious credentials.

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The Iraqi people have tasted freedom and democracy. They have tasted the wine of self-rule. I believe that in the creation and development of a democratic society what is most important is ensuring the next election. The most important milestone in measuring Iraq’s progress toward becoming a secure, economically stable, democratic state is the next election. The International community must make it clear to Iraq that they are watching and they will ensure that the next election is held.

Lastly, I wonder if history will be more kind to Mr. Bush than pop culture has been. Cries of ‘worst president ever’ are as ignorant and arrogant as presuming that someone will be a great president before they’ve even been elected. Whatever else you want to say, a portion of the credit for the successful elections in Iraq belong to Mr. Bush.


Laura Lynn on FOB Hunter

Originally uploaded by smittie

An entertainment group finally made it out to FOB Hunter. Laura Lynn and Lucas Hoge came out with their band and played for a couple of hours. It was really nice. The group played country music, did covers of some old 70’s and 80’s songs, and made a couple of respectable attempts and some rock music. The band member were very friendly, took as much time as they could to shake hands and talk with soldiers. They had a huge stack of photographs that the band members were autographing.

Concert on FOB Hunter

Originally uploaded by smittie

This is the fourth group to try and come out to FOB Hunter and the first group to actually make it. WWE professional wrestlers were suppose to come out but didn’t make it, probably due to transportation issues which is a problem out here. I suppose this makes Laura and her crew tougher than the pro wrestlers, right? Hopefully, they’ll get the logicistics worked out in the near future and more of these groups will make out to see us. We sure like seeing them.

Dancing on FOB Hunter

Originally uploaded by smittie

This was really a pretty big event out here. Soldiers showed up to watch just because it was something entertaining to do. Some of the soldier harangued the band to play music outside of their genre, which I thought was rude but the band took in stride. Laura got out and danced with one soldier which was pretty funny because he asked her to dance but it turned out, he didn’t know how to dance. Two Captains were not to be out done and danced with each other. There are a number of females on the FOB who were at the concert so I’m not real sure why these two decided to dance with each other.

Laura and her crew made for a good day that ended too soon. Thanks to Laura, Lucas and the rest of the band. You made our day.

All of the junior enlisted are gone. Junior enlisted refers to those holding rank below NCO, privates and specialists. They’ve all gone elsewhere. Leave, to Adder to attend to business there, whatever. Just before they left, our group came into possession of four steaks. Only four. Can’t have the kids fighting over such things and what better way to alleviate the fighting than to enjoy them ourselves. So, being the proper NCOs that we are, once we had packed the kids off on their various tasks, we dug out the bar-b-que, scrounged up some charcoal and grilled those steaks up. The first two cooked up smooth as silk. We had to restart the fire to get the second two done but, git her done, we did.