Archives

Archives / 2004 / July
  • Iraqi Convoy Story/Poem

    The ArmyTimes published this story/poem that does a good job of describing the feelings and events that go into a convoy/mission for engineers here in Iraq. more

  • Credit Cards and Phone Cards

    Some more FYI info for anybody getting called up... There are ATM machines as far as Kuwait, but none in Iraq that I've seen.  For cash, you need to go to Finance and either cash a check or get a draw from your pay.  Nobody in Iraq takes credit cards that I've seen.  On the other hand, there's not all that much to buy... For telephone, nothing here beats the Segovia IP phones.  You get about 10 hours for $25 - something like $.05 per minute.  AT&T phones are common, too, but the AT&T phone cards that have domestic minutes get used up 10 or 20 times as fast for international calls, so a 300 minute card would last an hour if you're lucky.  So, get a phone … more

  • Hot and Getting Hotter

    The forecast for the next 30 days is a daily low of 95 and highs in the 130s.  Going to be the hottest part of the year.  It doesn't really feel as hot now as it did when I first got in-country, but that's just because I'm acclimated, I think. more

  • Fun in the Sun

    It's been a few days since I've had a chance to post.  Blew some stuff up today (yay!).  I've been out on a few more missions in the meantime including one a couple of days ago that involved a decent amount of ordnance being destroyed.  I got a decent little movie of it on my camera that you can view here (5mb).  I'm also working on adding more pics to my galleries which you can see here.  I'm working on getting an internet hookup in my room which will help me stay in touch with my homefront contacts and keep this more up to date.  About the only other news I have is that I'm talking to a couple more newspapers about IRR interview type stuff, so we'll see if … more

  • USA Today Seeking IRR Soldiers for Interviews

    Donna Leinwand contacted me yesterday about doing an interiew via email for USA Today, and asked if I would put her contact information on my website so that other IRR soldiers might contact her.  I need to coordinate with Public Affairs before I agree to do an interview, and I recommend that any of you who wish to speak with her do the same thing.  The PA office at Ft. Bliss was very helpful when I worked with them a few weeks ago. If you are an IRR soldier and you would like to share your story with USA Today, please contact Donna Leinwand at dleinwand AT usatoday.com (replace AT with @).  You can also call her at 703-899-8779. Not much new here.  Hanging in there. more

  • Pentagon Still Resists Increases in Army Active Duty Roster

    ArmyTimes reports Increase in troop strength could hamper modernization efforts. Quote:Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker renewed the Pentagon argument that the military can get through the current high level of deployments with temporary increases such as mobilizing more National Guard and Reserve forces and encouraging more soldiers to re-enlist at the end of their duty. Hmm, we've already mobilized just about all of the reserve and national guard units in the country at least once in the last 2 years, and now we're dipping into the IRRs.  The latter action combined with stoploss contract violations has scared the bejeezus out of every soldier who was thinking of re-enlisting, since it … more

  • First Offbase Contact with Iraqis

    Well, I got my first experience with the locals today when we did a drive through a village area today.  I was in the back of an APC in a small convoy; basically we were just patrolling and trying to find out what was in the area.  One take-away I have is that the folks living there have it pretty rough.  It occurred to me, for instance, that when talking about doing raids we always hear the term 'kicking doors in'.  These folks, at least, didn't have any doors.  Just small brick shelters which they were lucky if they had a tarp over top of for cover from the sun.  Anyway, the kids there were very friendly and would all run out to see us and wave.  Toward … more

  • First Day Of Real Work

    Today was my first mission outside the base camp.  I'm serving as a platoon leader for a combat engineer line platoon.  There's actually a PL already here whom I'm shadowing until he leaves in a few weeks to become XO of another company.  That's good because it means I can ease into things.  Chris is also a PL in the same company. Today was a good day because I got an M16A4, magazines, and a full load of ammo for both the M16 and my pistol, so I'm no longer running around without bullets or begging rounds off my buddies (in totally unrelated news, the supply sergeant just got back from R&R; suddenly it's easy to get stuff). Today was also a good day because I got … more

  • A few more useful items

    1. FRS Radio and/or GPS.  The Rino 120 works as both but chews through batteries.  The radios can be useful for non-tactical usage on bases.2. Name tapes - you'll want some extra ones of these for your bags, IBV (bulletproof vest), boonie hats, trousers (a lot of folks put them above the back pocket), etc.  I know you can get them at FLW or Ft Bliss -- not sure if anywhere in Kuwait or Iraq does them.3. Under Armour T-Shirts (and Boxer Briefs).  Brown Loosegear is my preference for the shirts.  These things are the best I've found.  Cotten is horrible.  HeatGear style is ok, and you can buy them at the PX in Balad but they're super-tight, like wearing … more

  • Update from Caldwell

    I found out yesterday that I'll be a line platoon leader, something I did back at C/112 in Columbus in Ohio, so I'm pretty comfortable with that.  I'm actually excess at the moment, shadowing the current PL of the platoon, until he takes on an XO position in September.  Which works out great since it gives me a good bit of time to get up to speed with operations here.  It's also my kind of job since it means I'll get to work with demo quite a bit, which is far more interesting than moving dirt around.  Chris is a PL as well, although his missions will be more of the dirt-moving variety.  One benefit of what I'll be doing is that I'll get a little extra money each … more

  • My New Home Away From Home

    Ok, here's a bunch of publicly available info on Kirkush/Caldwell/Balad Ruz that I picked up over the last couple of weeks but didn't post because I didn't want to disclose where I was going until I got here for security reasons. Robert Alt describes his trip to FOB Caldwell in May 2004 A picture I found with Google (don't know who took it or when) NewsObserver posted this article just a few weeks ago, which describes the trip by road between Balad and Caldwell.  Luckily, we managed to get a flight via Chinook (25 minutes) instead of a 2.5 hour convoy. Kirkush Military Training Base is described here. This Fayetteville article describes the unit I'm with.  It requires a … more

  • Made it to my Unit

    Finally managed to fly from Balad to my unit at Camp Caldwell.  Checked in with my unit this morning.  More to come later, but all's well here, and I may have the chance to unpack in another day or so (naturally they weren't expecting us here and have no housing for us yet). more

  • HRC Update on IRR Callup

    Human Resources Command published this update on the IRR callup yesterday.  Apparently thus far only 450 or so soldiers have been called up out of the 5600.  The 5600 will be called over a period of time to allow the mobilization stations time and resources to process them.  Now, if HRC actually cared about soldiers' lives, they would send all 5600 a heads-up so that people could plan their lives, and simply specify a range of dates on the various orders to spread out the numbers as needed for the mob stations.  Instead, it sounds like each of the soldiers will have 30 days to report, and many IRR soldiers will have to remain on pins and needles for months to come. more

  • In the IRR? Email ABC News

    ABC News wants to hear from IRR soldiers to find out how they feel about possibly being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.  Contact them here. Also, the Norwich Bulleting wrote an opinion piece stating the obvious about the potential for a draft in the future -- but of course not before November's election. In other news, the Washington Times covers a shortage in officers presently, along with some oft-repeated info on how the Army needs more soldiers, despite what senior defense officials would like to think.  A Washington Post article examines the fact that more soldiers have been discharged for being homosexual than have been called up for the IRR, often for the same skillsets. … more

  • Commentary and Pics from Iraq

    I found Robert Alt's blog and these pictures he took while in Iraq.  His accounts seem to provide a more accurate depiction of life here than the CNN doom-and-gloom snippets we see every day. I'll try to take and post some pictures at some point, but for now it's discouraged where I'm located. more

  • Note To Self - Beta Direct Downloads

    I tried the auto-installer while I was back at Fort Leonard Wood but although it seemed to go through just fine, no applications appeared anywhere for me to run.  I ran across this while at the Internet cafe here in Iraq and wanted to make sure I didn't lose it so I could give it a shot when I reach my assigned unit (probably later this week): http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/archive/2004/07/09/178911.aspx Anyway, greetings from Iraq!  More on that at my other blog, ArmySteve.com. more

  • What to Bring

    Most of the people I came over with brought most of what they thought they would need to the CRC in Ft Bliss.  And most of these people bought a few more things at the Ft Bliss PX, or local shops.  After getting a ton of gear issued to us at Ft Bliss, including 3 sets of long underwear and a pair of cold weather boots (on top of 2 pair of regular desert boots), most folks also ended up shipping at least one duffel bag worth of stuff home via FedEx (provided free of charge on one of the last days before shipping out).  It was also a surprise to many that they could only take 3 duffels and a carry-on, not 4 duffels, which was a change in June, I believe. Upon arriving in Kuwait, … more

  • The IRR Bunch

    Captain Bunch was recently interviewed on CNN, and his family is quoted in this article, Reserves Brace For Call-Up Notices.  He's with me now in Iraq.  His CNN interview transcript is here.  His story is a lot like mine, and he's also originally from Ohio.  I missed the interview on CNN, though, since I was out-of-the-country...  It sounds like it went really well, though. more

  • ArmyTimes Interview Published

    On July 12th the ArmyTimes published Recalled To Duty with references to their interview with me.  Overall I'm happy with the article, but there are a couple of minor corrections I want to make for the record.  It says I've been out for 2 years but it was really 3 -- I entered the Inactive National Guard (ING) in January 2001.  The ING is the national guard equivalent to the IRR, but you can only be in the ING for 12 months, after which you must either return to a drilling unit or be automatically transferred to the IRR. Later the article says that I'm back in the Ohio National Guard due to the call-up, but that's not really true.  Once I was transferred from the ING to … more

  • In Iraq

    I flew into Iraq a couple of days ago and haven't yet made it to my new home unit.  Chris and I shipped together from Camp Doha Kuwait (camp wolverine was recently closed) into Balad along with a few Field Artillery IRR officers with stories somewhat similar to ours (except they had nice quarters at Ft Sill and actually received some refresher training, but not much).  CPT Bunch, who was recently interviewed on CNN, is here with me.  A few of the FA guys' orders kept them here - the others plus Chris and me are waiting for a ride out of here to our destination, which is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere from what I can tell. You hear before coming out here how hot it is … more

  • Kuwait

    Made it to Kuwait.  Flight time was 5 hrs to Maine, 2 on the ground, 7 hrs to Frankfurt, Germany, 2 on the ground, 5 hours to Kuwait = 21 hours.  Kuwait is strangely only an hour ahead of Germany, or 7 hours ahead of east coast USA.  We arrived at about 1930 (7:30pm) and it was already dark.  Sunrise/sunset are both very early here - I think the sun rose before 5am today.  Right now it is very hot in Kuwait.  Getting off the plane I think it was about 100-105 degrees out.  We had an hour bus ride to camp, then some accountability formations and a briefing with no new information in it.  After that we needed to meet with a liaison/sponsor to determine … more

  • Spoke With ArmyTimes Today

    I spoke with Jane McHugh from the ArmyTimes today and may be featured there in an upcoming story about IRR callups.  Hopefully I didn't make a fool of myself or anything - we'll see how my comments come out when taken in bits and pieces.  I'm not sure if it would be in the print version - I'm assuming this would be just an online story.  The gist of it was just to get a feeling for my experience as an IRR soldier who has been involuntarily called up for duty in Iraq. One note about this for other IRR soldiers -- you need to talk to Army Public Affairs and your commanding officer before speaking with any media reporters, or you could find yourself in hot water with the … more

  • Back in Bliss

    After a few days back in Ohio on a pass, I'm now back at Ft Bliss CRC.  Should be shipping out to Kuwait in the next few days.  Not much new here except that I got an email from somebody at CNN wanting to talk to me about my IRR callup experience.  I'll have to talk to my chain of command and/or Army Public Affairs before I say anything to the media, but it's cool that CNN noticed me. More IRR Call-Up Info: ArmyTimes: Thousands of IRR Soldiers Recalled ArmyTimes: IRR Call-up Evokes Sharp Reaction from Hill Democrats I think once the letters go out to the next round of IRR call-ups (next week), I'll probably stop focusing on this issue, since I'll have more important concerns … more

  • Update on 5600 soldiers to be called in July

    http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=23063 In the sidebar, this articles points out: How many IRR soldiers have already been mobilized?541; of those, 324 are on active duty, and 217 are awaiting training. So, clearly the mobilization that will take place next week is not the first of the IRRs who are being called.  They've been saying that up to this point, all of the IRRs that have been mobilized have been volunteers.  That's the part I take exception to, since I was sent a telegram in mid-April and certainly did not volunteer.  At the end of the day, though, I doubt the slight difference in timeframe is going to mean much, except hopefully that I get … more