Due to flight delays my 4-day pass in Qatar is no on its 6th day. Of course I will suffer through having more beer, pizza and movies. I think the record at our command is getting stuck here 15 days. I wouldn't be sad if I set a new record. I'm almost down to 60 days before seeing my family again and this is not a bad way to pass the time.
Location: As Sayliyah, Qatar
I know it has been a while since I wrote. Shortly after my last entry, my boss went on his 4-day pass, which ends up being a minimum of 10 days with all the travel. So I was somewhat swamped doing his job and we were in the midst of a reorganization prior to the new O-6 arriving. After he returned I kept doing some of his tasks, the other officer in our group left and I had a few General Officer briefs that I had to prepare. All-in-all it has that has made for consistent days from 0830-2300 at work. I still try to make it to our dinner on Friday's with a few ED and CEC friends and not go into work until 1300 on Saturday's to keep sane.
Our new J7 (my boss' boss), a Civil Engineering Corps O-6 type, arrived at the end of the month and I got to show him around my Baghdad Police College Sites which was about $53M in construction on 4 contracts. Also, I got pulled into a trip out to on a trip with a Major General who was going to visit a place were I'm just finishing a Recruit Training Center located in Al Anbar province. Not a fun trip with the problems out there. Let's just say contractors in Iraq can be very difficult and the subs even worse. Also, briefed the Commanding General, Lieutenant General type, on an wind/solar power project of mine and got the green light to make it happen. I would love to come back and see that one work, but I'll only be here long enough to get it on contract and not actually commission it.
A few days ago I left Baghdad to go on my 4-day pass to Qatar. Trip went well so far. Since I have a project on Victory Base where I'm building an expansion to a NATO training center that helps the Iraqi National Police, I did get hooked up with a good room and transportation so I only had to wait around about 3 hours for my flight. I got to eat pizza and play cards by a fire the night before I left. Not a bad way to start off R&R. Finally got to Qatar and hit the rack about 0600 so with all flights and wait, it was a 12 hour trip. I'm on my 1st official day here and went on the Doha city tour. It was fine, but I wanted to see more culture than just shopping areas...and no I didn't buy anyone anything. Had a few beers yesterday and got to eat at Chili's. So basically, I've accomplished my mission but will relax here a few more days before going back.
Good news is that if all goes well, I should be back to DC by the 12th of June. So my 7 month tour will be cut short by a two weeks because my relief is getting here early. I will have only been gone from home about 7.5 months and can't wait. Good thing I have lots of leave saved up so I can spend time with the fam for a while when I return.
I hope all is well with everyone else. Out here.
Hump day!!! Been gone from home for 4 months and only 4 months left. Time flies when... never mind.
With Mardi Gras and my birthday you'd think it has been all celebration this week. Unfortunately, it just seemed like more work. Did I mention there are 11 flag officers here at my command?
I am working on one interesting training site. The Iraqi's had the place designed for a 2000 person training facility on some land a few miles from the nearest town. So it is a permanent facility from scratch. I think they underestimate the cost or we overpay for what we get here. There are many parts to work out so we build what they intended and since the Autocad drawings are annotated in Arabic it gets hard for me to ensure at the big level we can deliver what we promise as we start building the first phase. I hope I get to see the ground breaking before I leave.
I've been vividly reminded the past few days about the differences of good and great leaders like we learned from "The Exceptional Leader". On the good side, I'm leaving earlier each night and not catching the last bus to Riverside each night.
We are reorganizing here shortly and I've somehow put people under the wrong assumption that I have any issues with the change by just asking questions like purpose, measures of success and F and Rs. I guess people though if the one page org chart looked good, they deserved a good pat on the back and blind obedience.
If I hear one more time "think big picture" I'm really going to lose it. I know it is not useful to get mired in details and we don't always need the perfect solution but ignoring every single detail is just plain wrong and going to continue to burn us. Venting over ... I feel better now.
How about those subs colliding in the Atlantic? Wouldn't it be freaky if it actually happened the same day as those satellites colliding? Talk about the odds of "big sky" and "big ocean" theories of operation failing on the same day. What's next, three enlisted guys who were in the same class back in 1990 end up in Baghdad together?
Finally got back at 0430 on Friday and crashed in my own bed. Nothing like being stranded to appreciate the little niche I've carved out here. I did get over 2 books knocked out since there was nothing to do in the terminals but wait and read. Had many emails waiting, but much less than I would get in a few days at SSP.
Hope everyone had a good Valentine's Day. Julie really surprised me by putting a picture and message in the Stars and Stripes newspaper out here. A friend showed me and I would never have thought to look. A nice surprise.
Still stuck and hoping for a flight. I was at a helo terminal until 0400 and then had to be back at 0900 for a fixed wing. Both cancelled, so I hope for the best. I don't even get Marriott points when a get a rack a few hours of sleep. War is hell.
It has been a busy and hectic week and it is far from over. I took a trip out to the Iranian border to check out outposts for some unique power solutions. Best of all we got to use the CG's helos so everything went very smooth.
Tried for a quick one day trip out west to Habbaniyah, an old RAF base that is now in serious disrepair, where we have another training site. I'm on day four and waiting on a Marine base trying to get back. Nice to have downtime, but this ain't no Marriott. If I would have brought my laptop, it would almost be like R&R though. Had to eat a few MREs since there is some serious logistics issues when most everyone leaves an area and our command is the only one with people behind to train Iraqi Police/Army units and finish building what we promised.
Had a good dinner with an Iraqi Colonel and thought it was very kind of him to invite me over. However, to no great surprise he has his favorite contractor there to unload all his issues between our prime and him (the sub) and asked me to be the judge in who was right and wrong. I hope the translations went well and did my best to diplomattically say "leave me out of it" and "you should have gotten that in writing". More and more I truely believe what I was first told when I got here. To truely understand how business is done here watch The Godfather series and The Sapranos. This seems to be even more true in areas out here that are far less populated and everyone seems to be related.
Superbowl Sunday was fun. I'm sure everyone heard that for this year they allowed us to have 2 beers each. However the game started about 0230, so I got to the DFAC at 0200 to get a good seat but by then all they had were cans of MGD or Miller lite. Didn't matter because either was fine. It was not that I really wanted to drink beer but it was my one opportunity for months so I didn't want to miss it. I guess you learn that here with many things. You never know when your last change to do something, buy something, or see something might be. So I stayed up all night until the third quarter ended. By that time it was 0500 and I had been up for 22 hours so I went home since it looked like the game was going to be no contest. Obviously I was wrong and I it looked like I missed some really good parts.
I did get my first chance to throw a departing person in the Liberty pool which was fun. It is interesting that it has a huge sunshade on it and you can see one large round hole with 4 slots where a rocket came through and the tail fins cut a near perfect silhouette. You could see where they mended the bricks and the shrapnel put a bunch of little holes where it blew up. It reminded me of the witness plates we'd use for CTM. Good dispersal pattern.
On Friday David Cook, the American Idol winner from last year stopped by Phoenix base. Got an autograph, picture and heard him play 5 or 6 songs. A nice break. No surprise, he can really sing and seemed very like an average joe.
Been very busy at work with crisis management and averting impending doom on a few projects, so it is no surprise to those who know me that I'm having lots of fun this week. I like nothing more than being very, very busy.
It's been very busy at work and that is generally a good thing since it cuts down on boredom or thinking about home. Some fun stuff some very frustrating. But as they say the frustration is fun when it gets worked out.
Yesterday I got to go all over Baghdad to about 5 construction sites and even went by Sadr City. Was a very long ride and to I'm sure no one's surprise at home, I even fell asleep for some of it.
Today, I went to an Iraqi camp and me and a E5 were the only Americans for who knows how long. Since it was for security forces it was safe but after our business there we had 5 hours to be picked up again. The Iraqis were very nice to feed and keep us comfortable. Had some interesting long talks and the more we talked the more it seemed we had very similar ideas on many things, especially family. Both the General and his guys that we hung out with for most of the time asked about Obama and the inauguration. From watching movies it seems they are concerned about his safety. I'm very glad to have spent that just shooting the breeze with them.
Today was the day I try to take at least a half day off, more if I can. I was at work only 11 hours, so it wasn't so bad. Most days are from 0830-2200 or 2300. At least I had fun today doing some power system designs. However it is one of those pilot programs you have hope will be funded and half hope it will be canceled.
My day was brightened when we heard more about the Phase II of the Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management that said: The attitude of the Air Force was: We know that the president and the secretary of defense dont give a damn about what we do, the authors wrote. The attitude of the Navy was: We know that the president and the secretary of defense dont care but we do. There are about 10 or so Air Force people in our shop and 2 in my actual office that I got to harass about it.
I thought that holiday seasons were slow in the states. Here, it seems there is a holiday every few weeks and nothing gets done. It is not like home where there is a long weekend. To account for all the people traveling, several of these holidays have been 5 days of lost work each. Of course, when cited as reasons to get behind schedule, you just as the required question of "since you know there was a holiday, why did you not account for it in your schedule". In Iraq and the US, some things don't change.
Soon many of the civilians and military that took their R&R back in the states will come back. Someone mentioned that the pace will then pick up. I was wondering if the local national contractors on site are still working, regardless of US holiday schedules, way should it get busier as those people come back? Are they doing work or making work? I keep wondering how much time we spend on "churn" and how much is useful to get projects on contract and executed. I have theories but will not mention them in case people in those organizations read this.
Happy New Year. I was traveling at Midnight on New Years so it was very uneventful and finally got to my CHU about 0300 in the morning. However if you have to spend some time while traveling between FOBs, Stryker Stables is not so bad. There was a good PX nearby so I got to find some of the things I couldn't get at the IZ for a while.
Trip to Mosul and back was good and I got to do one leg in on the flight deck of the C-130. Not a bad deal since the seat was cushioned vice the web ones in the back. First time did the socializing with Iraqis and eating an real Iraqi meal. I was trying to pay attention to etiquette but it seemed each person just ate what and how they felt like. I don't think Julie would have enjoyed it much, but I thought it was good.
Even though I'm finally getting the hang of things here and starting to dig into projects, no pun intended, I find that I keep comparing the work to back home at the office. I would think in this "expedient" environment that getting things done would be easier. It seems quite the opposite. I know we always seem to be working F&Rs back home, but it is 1,000 times more clear than here. Ownership seems less important that just answering any question that comes up. Sometimes I think people are confusing getting a status with doing work. It is not that people aren't dedicated and working their butts off, it is just that there are so many people involved in such small details and it is hard to push things here if the people we are trying to help are working to different objectives or time lines.
Well, another Christmas came and went. I spent most of Christmas and Christmas eve at work. It is not that there was nothing to do, I just didn't want to spend a lot of time thinking about it and "relaxing". I just got here and want to see the light at the end of the tunnel, not do things I should be doing with family. There were caroling, movie nights, scavenger hunts, gift exchanges, etc. I did go to the Embassy palace lounge and watch a movie after dinner with a fellow ED officer.
All in all, with so few people running around making work, it has been very quite here. Also, we had a 1st LT promote and a hail and farewell this week. So there has been a ton of social functions. Also, with so many Christmas boxes there is food and candy everywhere. I think I might have gained 5 lbs just this week alone. War is Hell.
I'm getting around fairly well now. Got to go on another site visit on the other side of Baghdad where lots of good constructions is going on. I'm slowing getting used to their construction styles and impressed how much is getting done with all the limitations in materials, labor, infrastructure.
We had an EDO video conference today that I missed. I went out to see a training site that we need to refurbish in Baghdad. Some say that I was just finding an excuse, but I will not comment. Took my first ride in an MRAP and it seemed fairly comfortable as long as we stayed on the roads. It was hard not to fall asleep, but that is usually true for most everything I do if not typing or talking.
The condition of the training site hard to believe since they were actually using it. Still can't fathom how that many people go there with little water, power, sewer and dining space. I also understand why we set up "temporary" training sites on bare land since it is faster and cheaper to avoid refurbishing places like that. The real shame is that the place will probably be a dump again not long after we're done. Getting the Iraqi's to "own" the place and take care of it is very hard around here it seems.
I officially took over the 14 active and 8 upcoming projects but I'm luckier than most since the person I relieved is sticking around for a while, so I can go back to get help. Talked to someone who know Steve Tomlin around here (BU2 Manke) and he said that Steve brought some sorely missed humor and enjoyment to a naturally frustrating place.
Yesterday I finally moved into my more permanent room. After the Iraqi agreement, I'm not sure if anything is truely permanent around here. The room is great (in comparison) and I share it with an Air Force officer and share a head in the trailer with another 2 guys on the other side. Best night sleep I've had in a long while. I could hope for a shorter walk to the bus, but war is hell after all.
We left the International Zone to check out a construction site at Victory Base Complex (Baghdad airport) about 15 km away. In one picture we are standing in front of an Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, which are armored vehicles designed to survive IED attacks and ambushes. However we ended up using private security contractors in a convoy of Chevy Suburban's. A very comfortable and safe way to move around. We stopped for pictures at Sadam's Al Faw Place and it is a very scenic and beautiful place. I have more pictures of the inside and have one of me sitting in "Sadam's chair" from the palace that was given to him from Yassar Arafat. Will try to get them off the camera when I get internet in my room.
Hope everyone is wrapping up work to spend time with the families. Send more soon.