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Pat's Deployment Page

Welcome to Pat's Travel Page. Here is where I will be keeping a record of my travels for all of you to read. Please feel free to leave a comment for me.

Diary Entries

Friday, 10 April 2009

Location: Qatar

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.

Sunday, 05 April 2009

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.

Sunday, 01 March 2009

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?

Monday, 23 February 2009

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.

Monday, 16 February 2009

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?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Location: Iraq

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.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Location: Iraq

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.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Location: USA

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.

Wednesday, 04 February 2009

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.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

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.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

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.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

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 don’t 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 don’t 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.

Tuesday, 06 January 2009

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.

Thursday, 01 January 2009

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.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Location: Iraq

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.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Location: Iraq

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.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Location: Iraq

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.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Location: Iraq

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.

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Recent Messages

From Shahab
Wish you well. I am sure you are anxious to get back. Work is extremely exciting now a days. David Brown and I just finished reviewing 3000 P&DSS contract tasks in an effort to define our CORE business.
Response: Thanks Shahab. I can't think of a better person to do that daunting task well. If you tell me when you think you'll be done, then I'll wait until then to come back.
From Dave M.
So how many days now until you "re-deploy"?
Response: Only 9 days left. I'm a "single digit midget" now. Thanks pretty short.
From Dan R
Pat, sounds like the record may be broken soon! Good luck with that. I am visiting the "office" this week, getting ready to move out this summer. I look forward to swapping stories over lunch once you get back. Look out for "Big Al" the contractor from Jordan!
Response: See you soon Dan. Can't wait to compare stories
From steven
Talked with Mark after I defended and he is planning on defending in the May timeframe. Sounds like it is getting more hetic for him now. That's all for now. See Elisabeth and you have become friends on facebook so you will most likely hear more from us. Don't know how much you know about the recent moves the BOD has made so if you are interested let me know and I will try to fill you in.
Response: Allen has been keeping me abreast of the largest stuff. I think I'm safer here in Iraq...
From Steven
Well stranger just wanted to drop you a line and tell you that when you return you should address me as Dr. Van Dyk....Yes I finished and no this is not an April Fools joke. Take care and know that Elisabeth and I are thinking about you.
Response: Congratulations!!! I guess you just had to get rid of me to get it done. Now you can mercilessly bug Mark Galvin asking what's taking him so long.

When I'm back, I expect all your responses to 20% more thoughtful and 50% longer. I do want to read your Dissertation someday.
From Angry Squirrel
Ahhh, I can tell that the IZ mind numbing death-by-PowerPoint sickness has gotten updates on your web site. Do you need anything?
Response: No... well maybe some more sleep now and then. I actually don't do much powerpoint. It took me a while to break the natural habit of using it as the default tool. However, I am ashamed to admit I did teach a BU2 how to use it for the first time in his life. Now, he will forever be cursed.
From Allan
Yes, I'll do the Nutter Butter thing again. As far coffee stuff, are you talking about regular ground coffee, creamer, sugar, sweet-n-low?
Response: all or none, it all seems to get used. I think we are good on the sugar though.
From Allan
It's package time again. Is there anything in particular you need? Oreos and etc?
Response: Not really. Coffee and coffee condiments are always appreciated. Were you the one that sent the Nutter Butter snack, because those are awesome after a hard day.
Wow! How did I hold all those kids on my lap. That picture is basically how we chat everyday. And you wonder why I can't hear you...
Love you so much Honey!
Response: I'm glad the chair held you all.
From Allan
How's the weather holding up out there? Any more idols passing through your way? Do you get to watch idol out there? I'm glad to see that you're on facebook now.
Response: Weather is pretty good. Some days like today the dust is so think it just looks like fog. A few Congressional Delegations rolled through, but that was about it. I'm hoping I set up my DVR to record American Idol. I never get a chance to watch and have no idea when it played out here on AFN. I try not to read the news articles on it so the series ins't spoiled for me when I return.
From Angry Squirrel
Ah, camping out at helo ports in some obscure FOB and sleeping under the stars (when you can see them). I love camping in Iraq!!! Bring on the sand and dust storms!
Response: As long as there is a 24 hour Green Bean around, I'm with you.
From pat reilly
Pat, would have contacted you sooner but just got your web site from CJ. As expected, doesn't sound like it's but fun but at least it's educational. Hopefully the work is rewarding! Wanted to let you know that Jean, Patrick and I appreciate your sacrifice (and your family's) and are keeping you in our prayers. Take care!
Response: Thank Pat. Talking about sacrifice, I have to admit that you are associating yourself with a known fish killer. We now have a pond in front and keeping those guys alive is a challenge. Mostly the snakes get them so I only feel so guilty but thought you had a right to know. Maybe you can give me some tips next time we chat.
From CJ

Hope you get that flight soon, rotor head or pointy nose A/C or what ever. I am glad to see you are keeping up your contract negoiation skills over there! Hope the Col.'s was good anyhow. I was at SWFPAC for SB but got to see it and obviously very happy with results...GO STEELERS, got the six pack of SB mugs on the mantle!!! Big day for ARA this week!! Should be interesting. Things like that must seem pretty small where you are and how your time is being spent. Take care and stay safe. Later
Response: Got back at 0430 today luckily. I'll hope for the best on the op and I'm sure you'll have any issues fixed before I return.
From Dave M.
So is that why you're also listed as married to Angelina Jolie?
Response: You think I'm not?
From Angry Squirrel
Happy Ground Hog Day!!!

Every day in Iraq is Ground Hog Day!
Response: Your right about that. Although I suspect it will not always be this cool and nice.
From Dave M.
Happy birthday, buddy!
Response: Thanks. 23 days earlier than I usually get that each year! Now that is an unexpected surprise. By the way, Happy St. Patrick's Day to you.

Just teasing, one of my policies is to not use my real birthday when inputting on websites/databases that ask for it but I don't think it needs it. A little PII deception for those who use databases in evil ways. Just fighting the Power. Peace out.
From Army Sucks!!
You're missing all the snow and ice here!
Response: I guess the grass isn't always greener. Iraq 1, home 274. I am slowing becoming an optimist. Thanks for the perspective and like the Name.

Remember an optimist thinks the glass is half full, the pessimist thinks it is half empty but the Engineer thinks the glass is twice the size it needs to be.
From Dave M.
Is that any way to treat a future teammate?

One set of rollerblades and a hat with a flashing red light for Pat, coming up!
Response: Well maybe ganging up on you wasn't fair. To make it up to you, I'll let you buy the first round on my first trip to ER.
From Jim K
I got your back on the ER transportation equipment. One of my old friends at Crane just so happens to run the group that does all the "special" vehicles for the SEALS. My only two questions are 1) What color? and 2) The 50 cal M2 or the 30 mm electronic gatlin gun (a personal favorite). Let me know and I'll issue the WR.

Response: LOL, I knew it. Launcher guys need missile types to solve all the problems. Don't tell Dave I said that...
From Allan F
Holly will so jealous when I show her the picture with you and David Cook.
Response: Tell her that he sings awesome in person and I was listening from just 15 feet away. I have some video but the smallest file is 155MB. If she sends more goodies I'll share the videos with her when I get back. Actually if I had to choose between seeing David Cook and getting your package, I'd choose the package. When I come back fatter than I came here, I'm blaming you.
From Dave M
Dude, when you return and come down to ER I'm not gonna be able to provide armed, armored escort! Hope you can adjust.
Response: It's ok, I'll just ask Jim K. to fix that. I'm pretty sure he can arrange just about anything given enough time.
From Vivian
Love the pics! I didn't think there were many trees there, either. Glad you're traveling with lots of armor around you. I never got east for Christmas -- Seattle was snowed under!
Response: The girls missed you and still love their pop up book. We keep it up high so Ian doesn't rip it up. Maybe we can convince you to come out next Christmas.

Talking about armor around me, the other day I had 4 armored cars and about 10 guys just to take me to one site. As always it feels somewhat weird, but when things need to get fixed fast, they send guys in our shop to do whatever need done wherever the problem is found.
From your girls& boy
We love you Daddy! We want to kiss yuu and hug you. Come home to us soon because we want to take you to the pool and throw you a big welcome home party. We love seeing you in the pictures. Bye, bye Daddy!
Response: I would love a welcome home party. I can't wait to see you again. Love you lots.
From Steven Van Dyk
I just wanted to let you know that John left for Air Force basic today. Mom will miss him terribly as will I. We are very proud of you and him. Know you are in our thoughts and prayers. Enjoy your ½ days. ; )
Response: I wish him luck, tell Air Force mom I said hi. I have plenty of time without that commute so 1/2 days are easy now.
From Dave Beckett
Pat, thanks for keeping us posting. We appreciate what you are doing for us. Keep your head down over there and be safe. Dave
Response: Hi Dave. Can't wait to get back and hear about your design. I'm sure you have the entire MC spec'd already.