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November 2004 Dubai Trip Part I

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

Hey Man, It’s Like A War or Something!

Mosul Palace

Woohoo! Time to get out for a bit again, and go to Dubai for a few days. It’s been in planning for many weeks now. As it turns out, my timing has put it into a very busy time. Oops. It will be nice, since things have been rather active here since the start of Ramadan, whereas before you’d get an attack just at the end of the call to prayer as if to punctuate it with a concussive and shrapnel filled “amen.” I’d comment on the etymology of “amen” but that would be digressing even farther than usual for me. Also, I may have used the word describing the study of bugs instead of word origins there. I don’t feel like looking it up though. Where was I?

Oh yes, anyways, during Ramadan we got hit several times a day. Before, it was just harassment fire. Then I think they started trying to kill people. Very ill-mannered of them.

And then Fallujah kicked off. (more…)

Back At The Palace

Sunday, November 14th, 2004

More later. I will relate a short funny thing though: I was reading something on how dangerous Mosul was now, and thinking to myself, “Ha ha, if they only kneBAAAAAMMMMM!!!!!! I was halfway out the door when I realized that was the controlled blast we’d been warned of, and about 1 second later “controlled blast, controlled blast” comes over the radio. It was to take care of a UXO about 150m away. They must have packed that thing with about 8 lbs of C-4. At least I wasn’t the guy who was on the shitter. Been there, done that. We had a laugh about it. Beats the alternatives.

Anyway, the LWOP was a bust, I’m very disappointed by that. But we’ll see each other soon. I might leave here a bit earlier, depending on my cash goals. It’s only 7 weeks, but thinking about dropping it down to say, 4 is an attractive option.

So Much For That

Saturday, November 13th, 2004

I’m at what you might refer to as a low point right now. I was supposed to be leaving for Dubai to spend a few days with the love of my life, but they have some new idiotic visa rule that prevents that. So we changed plans to try Turkey instead. Some other visa problem rears it’s ugly head so they have to get them in advance instead of gratuitous visa on arrival. It all boils down to needing several extra days and / or significant cost increase. So in the end I just aborted this trip. It sucks because I was already in motion, and had spent some effort, not to mention some money, on the Turkey option in a brilliant masterstroke of making do. I’m going to go back to the Palace now. This really sucks. But I’m down to about only 7 weeks before giving up on this for my long break anyway. I’m still pretty heavily weighted down by disappointment.

Anatomy Of An Attempted Elvising

Monday, November 8th, 2004

Anatomy of an Attempted Elvising!

The next day around 2 PM I am feeling decidedly unwell after being poisoned at the DFAC, and think to myself I need to take care of some bathroom business, and I better go ahead since we should get attacked in another hour or two, and you never know how long that will take. I’m going, I’ve got time. (This is what’s known as foreshadowing.)

So there I was, conducting business and reading my intermediate Russian storybook. I’m getting much better. A few words are defined at the bottom of the page, around half of which I already know. Most everything else I pick up from context and thinking really hard about the words. The prefixes and suffixes convey a lot of meaning, and if you know them it makes it much easier, though not at all a sure thing, of course.

I’m reading a true story about this family who has a polar bear. It’s all very touching and cutesy, having a polar bear and all. The ending well and truly sucks, but I guess that’s life. I don’t much POP! damn!WHOOOgottago!!OOOOOOOOOOstupidpants!OOOSH! BANG! That was a rocket! The book goes somewhere, I zip up, avoiding unfriendly entanglements, hope #2 (the other one) doesn’t show up too soon, and bolt for the bunker. There is one right outside my hooch, so I’m pretty well covered getting to it. Really, I’m not too badly protected inside the container too, as it is fairly well surrounded by sandbags or HESCOs. As long as it’s not an airburst or a direct hit, I’d be okay. But still, it’s horrifying to think of following in Elvis’ footsteps, much less in a much messier way. I’d hope that the responsible parties would have the good taste to give the appropriate lies on that. “Didn’t feel a thing” and of course “No, did not die on the shitter…why do you ask?”

Anyways, I tucked in my shirt and buckled my belt out in the bunker. They didn’t throw anything else at us. These guys are blowing the pattern off left and right. No consistency. Later that evening, I am wasting time hanging around. I’d rather go ahead and get the evening attack over with, though sometimes they don’t do it, or decide to bother the airfield instead, and some random place in town. I don’t want to go into my hooch and get comfortable, flop off the shoes, and then have to put them back on and rush out into the night. I don’t like to be bothered once I have lain back for the day. I don’t sleep, but it’s nice to just lie down and stretch at the end of the day. Finally we figure they must be taking the night off. I am just reaching out to unlock my door, trying to find the key slot in the dark BOOM! There they go! I holler into the night “Ha ha, you mother fuckers! I hadn’t even got in the room yet!!!” Another one goes off. I think they were IEDs, but in either case they weren’t on the FOB.

We had some more random stuff today, but it’s not real interesting. One more week before I starting transiting down to Dubai for a short bit of time off. Something like 6 days down there, and then when I get back I have a little less than 6 weeks before heading out for good, after 25 months out. Gonna take a nice, long vacation.

Rockets, Mortars, And You

Saturday, November 6th, 2004

Rockets, Mortars, and You

Since the start of Ramadan, things have been substantially busier around here, as far as enemy attacks go. They seem to like late afternoon attacks, some time soon after the local laborers have gone home for the day. Hmm… Additionally, the evening call to prayer, in the 7 PM vicinity is also quite popular. It’s kind of rude really, since in the beginning, they were shooting in the middle of it. It may not be blasphemous, but it’s certainly disrespectful, especially if it’s your own faith, right? It reminds me of my initial time at the airfield, when they would semi-consistently mark the end of the call to prayer by popping off a round of two of something, as if to punctuate it.

Tuesday, November 2 was Election Day in the states. We were all prepped for something to happen. Around 3:10 PM, it did. Abdul must have been practicing and preparing, because he had his business together this day. #1 came in, not sounding too far away, and as we moved to the door #2 followed. That was a lot quicker than they are ordinarily able to cycle rounds. I suspect they were using multiple tubes. We hauled ass to the bunker. There were 4-5 before we got inside, and more than that after. It felt like about 15ish. They were only 60mms and thus not too loud, but we could tell they were close. None hit our camp. This may have been a different group than our usual guys, because the pacing was much quicker, and they got off a lot more rounds than the others. Usually if we are going to get a salvo going, it’ll be around 4 or so rounds, with 20-30 seconds between, if not more like a minute. Nothing hit our camp, but 8-9 were on the FOB. There was one directly below our camp, in one of the subcontractor camps. They were much more accurate, or at least more precise. “He hates this gate!”

Once we got the all clear, we went out. Don asks who knocked over the plastic chairs that had been in the way. You tend to forget things like that in the spur of the moment, but apparently it was him. I don’t even recall them being in the way, though from their position obviously they must have been.

Later that evening we are standing around BSing by the patio. It’s just gotten dark. Suddenly the dreaded whistling begins. This one’s close. I know that we are dead, it’s so close. It’s unfair, as they have never hit our actual camp while I’ve been here, but did a few days before I arrived the first time, and a couple of days after I left on R&R in August. Jacob drops where he is, and Jeremy and I head to get behind some sandbags surrounding a living container a few feet away. Maybe we can only get some dead from the open side. Jeremy is ahead of me. I am looking up into the sky in the direction it’s coming from: I know I’ll be able to see this one, but I can’t find it. Jeremy stops at the corner of the sandbag wall. This is a mistake on his part, because I don’t. Once we are both behind the wall I can stop, but not before. Somehow we get sorted out, and realize we should be dead by now, but there’s been no horrible hell-noise, nor any bits of me torn off in a violent hail of ripping metal. Maybe it was a dud? There IS a 10-20% dud rate. Good thing for Brian, since he was still standing up straight in the center of the porch like an idiot. I hear a voice, “what are you guys doing?” It’s Mr. Sweet. Heart pounding, I stand up and step off of Jeremy, real slow-like. We look around. Mr. Sweet had decided to whistle. He sounded exactly like a rocket. He had been walking down the container row. We didn’t see him because it was dark, and I know that my eyes definitely snapped up above to the horizon to locate the sound, thus looking up over where he was. It sounded close, because…it was. It just wasn’t a damn rocket making the noise, but a jackass. It’s kind of funny now, but I didn’t stop shaking for quite some time after.

The next day, we have a sort of ho-hum 3-4 PM attack. Not much worthy of note, really. Same as all the rest. Later on that night, we get the 7ish salvos. Man, they are all over the place tonight, totally uncoordinated. They must have all gone down to Ali’s Mortar Rental and are randomly pursuing their own “kill somebody” agenda. They are both getting closer and farther away. I figure it’s prudent time and head to my next-door bunker. It’s about 10 feet from the door of my hooch, so it’s quite convenient. Eventually they quit, but do get a few on the FOB, but none so near to us. We are mostly milling around, half expecting a few more, in which nobody wants to get too comfy back in their rooms just yet. We start to give up when a horrible screeching sounds. We move but halfway through it dawns on us that it’s a car skidding to a halt on the highway, 50m or so away. Since I always look to the sound of the attack, I swing my head back forward while sending my legs the command to stop. I realize I am about to run into a small generator, so I make it a combat stop. It’s successful, though suboptimal, collapsing me into a pile on the gravel. I receive my first injury of the war, and we aren’t even being shot at. No Purple Heart for me. Smile I basically skin my knee, and while it bleeds impressively for a short time, and contrasts nicely with my new coating of dust, it is no big deal. I move around a little stiffly for the next day, and use it as an excuse to skip the gym the next night, though I was lying to myself, and I knew it.

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