Archives / 2004 / November
  • Flag Patches and Uniforms

    One thing that has bugged me ever since I first saw it is the use of the flag patch on Army uniforms.  I'm not against having the patch -- that's fine -- what bugs me are some of the details.  The largest of which is the fact that the flag patch is secondary to a combat unit patch.  In my opinion, nothing should ever be put in a more prominent position than the US flag on a US military uniform.  This article describes the current policy for placement of the flag on Army uniforms, both for deployed and non-deployed soldiers.  To quote: Army regulations call for the flag to be sewn on the right sleeve, one half-inch below the shoulder seam. If a combat patch is also … more

  • Happy Thanksgiving

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Our Thanksgiving dinner here was actually pretty good.  The task force chain of command served dinner for everybody on the base, which was a nice touch, something we used to do for Christmas dinner during December drills back in Ohio.  We had turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, gravy, and a variety of pies (and sweet potatoes, but I'm not a fan of those).  The pie was quite good, the rest was ok, but not great (it's not home).  It was nice, though, and everybody at dinner was in good spirits.  It's a bit cheesy, but although we weren't with our families, we were all eating dinner together as a family here, which … more

  • Thank You XBox Team, Microsoft

    A few days ago I got a very nice care package from the Microsoft XBox team, sent to me and my platoon here in Iraq.  I posted some pictures and more info on my Army blog, here. more

  • Thanks XBox Team and Microsoft

    A few days ago, a very large, insured box arrived for me.  It was from the XBox team at Microsoft, who got my address from some friends of mine who work or worked at Microsoft.  They sent us a care package full of SWAG, including a bunch of hats and t-shirts, some pillows and posters, an XBox, and about 30 games.  I took some pictures of the platoon with some of their new gear, and from all of us, a great big thank you to the XBox team for their support! more

  • Iraq Laptop Tips

    Here's some advice for those bringing laptops, gleaned from other soldiers here:1) Bring extra batteries -- they're worth the $100 they cost.2) Bring an extra power adapter -- I know several soldiers whose adapters have been fried and now they have a real hard time using their laptops.3) A CD Burner (or DVD burner) is a great extra to have, for burning pictures to CD or making backups.  If you don't have one, one of your buddies probably will.  Get in the habit of making backups - your computer will probably crash at least once while you're here (plus it's a good habit back home, too).4) A webcam is another nice extra, but only if you think you'll be able to use your computer on … more

  • Cash, Phones, and Internet

    Here's the low down on money, phones, and Internet here at FOB Bernstein (Caldwell is not much different except you can go to finance any time you want). Money.  Cash is king.  The PX will take credit cards but nobody else will (e.g. haji shops, etc. -- there's not much in the PX and it only gets restocked every few weeks).  There's really not THAT much to spend your money on here, anyway, once you get settled and have the essentials.  However, when you need money, you get it from finance, who visits the FOB 2x per month.  The finance policy everywhere seems to be that you can get up to $350 per month in casual pay (direct deduction from your LES), and you can cash … more

  • Bright Lights, Big City

    As I said in my last post, I recently went back to FOB Caldwell for a quick trip.  The trip there and back was uneventful, gladly.  Not having been there for a couple of months, it was interesting to see what had changed, and also to compare it with FOB Bernstein now that I've lived at the latter for a while.  The closest analogy I can offer is that it's like going from a rural farm or small town to the big city.  Caldwell has a lot more people than Bernstein.  There are vehicles everywhere, and parking and traffic are both issues.  Not so much at Bernstein.  There are tall buildings at Caldwell (well, tall for Iraq -- 3 stories) -- I don't think there are … more

  • Thanksgiving and Army Chow

    Earlier this week, for a few nights in a row, it was thanksgiving dinner time at FOB Bernstein.  They had turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes -- even cranberry sauce.  There was also roast beef.  This was for a couple of days in a row (so it was like T-day with leftovers -- very realistic), but of course they're about a week and a half early.  So of course now I'm wondering if the stuff we just had was meant for Thanksgiving, and having already had it, we'll end up with baked chicken and macaroni cheese or something for Thanksgiving dinner here. On the subject of chow, the quality of chow doesn't vary tremendously between the two major bases I've stayed at, Bernstein … more

  • Fobbits and other Iraqi critters

    Here's some terms you'll need to know if you're going to be coming to Iraq soon (at least for US Army folks).  One term that's frowned up on officially but used all the time is 'haji', referring to Iraqis.  There are 'haji shops' at most bases where you can buy souvenirs, dvds, gifts, rugs, blankets, electronics, etc.  A haji is really a muslim who has completed a 'haj', or pilgrimage, to mecca, and is a term of respect.  However, using it to refer to any/all muslims/Iraqis is somewhat disrespectful and, as I said, is frowned upon.  Nonetheless, many haji shops have signs out front of them that read 'hajee shop' so it seems at least these proprietors don't mind the … more

  • TF 120 Says "Go Army, Beat Navy"

    The Army-Navy Football game is coming up (December 4th - more info), and a bunch of folks here are really into it.  The Task Force (1/120th IN) put together a short movie they're hoping CBS will play during the game.  However, I've been given permission to offer a 'sneak peak' at this movie to people who visit this site.  The movie is a bit large (9 MB) so if you have a slow connection it may take a bit.  If you want to watch it more than once, please save it to your hard drive so my bandwidth doesn't get totally used up with it -- just right click on the link below and select Save As, and once it downloads, open it from wherever you saved it. Enjoy, and GO ARMY! Download … more

  • Flea Collars and Sand Fleas

    By way of advice, let me talk about flea collars.  I've been asked numerous times if people should send flea collars to ward off fleas and sand fleas.  Sand fleas, from everything I've been told here and in the states by medical personnel, are basically small mosquitos.  They have wings, they fly, they're about 1/4 the size of a typical mosquito back in Ohio.  They're not fleas, at least not what I've seen crawling on my pets, which have no wings.  Further, I've never seen a flea over here, although I'm sure there probably are some, especially on all the dogs running around, nor have I been warned about fleas as a problem for soldiers (except for sand fleas, which … more

  • Busy Week

    It's been a pretty hectic week thus far here.  I've been out on missions every day for the last few days, even on my birthday.  They've all been good missions, though, and we've gotten to blow stuff up every day this week, which makes us combat engineers feel good (and, I think, our commanders as well).  In the rear, we're packing and organizing, as the time is nearing when we may get to go home (or, in army speak, 'redeploy' -- which to me would be what some units coming back for their second tours are doing.  I guess they're reredeploying).  It's still a ways out, but there is a lot involved.  I expect things to get more and more hectic, and frustrating, in … more

  • Camel Spiders

    Everybody wants to know about camel spiders here in Iraq, especially after that infamous picture went around with the two huge looking ones.  I've seen a few here in Bernstein, but they're all pretty small, about the size of a silver dollar or maybe a bit bigger.  Ugly looking critters.  Here's a picture of one I ran across yesterday while I had my camera.  It was under a cooler I was moving. The spider and the pen got into it - the spider lost when it ended up on the ground under my boot. more