Updated on January 30, 2006
If you don’t know how to play spades, you’ve probably never been in the Army. I had never even heard of the game before joining the Army. I’m not sure if they play in the Navy, but my father was in the Navy and he never mentioned it.
My first duty station (and where I currently lay my head at night) was Fort Irwin, CA. The whole mission of this place is to train a Brigade Combat Team. A BCT is composed of about 3000 soldiers. The last time I was here, I was a part of the OPFOR (Opposing Forces). We played the bad guys on the “battlefield” and made life hell for units coming here. The battlefield is a 1000 square mile patch of desert stuck out in the middle of the Mojave desert. Just look on any map, it’s the large black hole in middle of southern California near the Nevada desert. The nearest “town” is Barstow (see previous posts for comments on this cesspool of wretched humanity).
Anyway, every month, we spent about 2 weeks in the field kicking the butts of whatever unit would dare enter our domain that month. Every so often we’d lose a battle (you gotta stroke their egos at some point). The battles are fought like one huge, expensive laser tag match. All the tanks, infantry vehicles, HMMWVs, helicopters, soldiers, etc. are fitted with sensors and lasers that can detect when you’ve been “killed.” Every “hit” is given a kill code. These kill codes take into effect distance from the target, type of ammunition, aim of the shooter, and sometimes how well you can manipulate the transmitter. When you are hit, a buzzer goes off in your vehicle and displays your kill code: catastrophic kill (you’re dead, start assessing your casualties), mobility kill (can’t move, but shooting okay), communication kill (commo is knocked out), and weapon kill (can’t shoot, so you might as well pack your bags and stick your head in the sand). For the BLUFOR (the units that come for the training) a kill isn’t the end of your day, unfortunately. It means that you have to pull out your casualty cards and start performing first aid based on your “injuries.” Injuries are determined by a card given to each soldier at the beginning of a rotation.
However, if you’re on the OPFOR side of the house, a kill means something completely different. In the OPFOR, you almost hope for a kill on some days. A kill means that you can commence Operation Juicy Steak, Eyelid Inspection, or Cardshark (codes for chow time, sleepy time, and spades time). I think we went to the field with more pogey bait (real food, not that MRE mumbo jumbo. I’m talking beef jerky, canned ravioli, ready to eat soup, pop-tarts, etc) than we did ammunition and clothing. Underwear takes up very valuable charcoal space. We’d all pull out our collapsible chairs, MRE box tables, and dirty pack of Vegas cards and begin a healthy game of spades.
I first learned how to play here at the National Training Center. Everyone plays. If you don’t play, you’re chastised and made to sit in a corner until you come to your senses and start being a real man like the rest of us. And it is a manly game (though many females play also, they must conform to the smack talk that is so prevalent among male players). If you aren’t smack talking, you are also sent to a rock to contemplate your place in this Army. There is no room for nonconformists here, no sir!!
Thank the maker for Yahoo Games too. Without them, my spades addiction would have probably landed me in a federal penitentiary. I would have probably broken into Walmarts across America and forced the night shift to play spades with me or I would have threatened to stop buying their generic soda at a reasonably discounted price. On Yahoo I could play spades ANY TIME OF THE DAY OR NIGHT!!! Now, I’m getting giddy again.
As I sit at my office today, finished with a day’s work and unable to leave, I have found myself again levitated towards spades….cyber spades. And that’s not all. They have gin, hearts, dominoes, and almost any other card game you can think of. Windows’ solitaire is a thing of the past. No more mine sweeper. This is the age of ethereal card playing. And what does all this mean? I’m way to psychotic about cards and need to find something to do with myself.
Until I do, I remain………
Updated on April 27, 2006
The polls are closed! The Iraqi people have spoken. It warms the cockles of my heart (and idiom which means one’s innermost feelings) to know that despite what the American and international press wanted the world to think, the Iraqi people “have no fear,” as was shouted immediately following a suicide attack. The people kept walking toward the polling stations. All we’ve been hearing in the press is how no one will vote, and President Bush is in trouble, and…blah blah blah. I’ve made my position pretty clear about how I feel about our “informed” media in other forums, particularly the forums at AAP (shameless plug).
We might as well rename our media “Al Zarqawi’s Private Press.” They do more to further his mundane dribble than Al Jazeera most of the time. They need to show some of the backbone that the Iraqi people showed today, and show no fear. Get out there in the thick of things and put your life on the line in the pursuit of truth. Or get out of the country and go back to reporting and Britney’s Spears new tattoo here at home.
Last week, I was on AM radio talking about how all it takes for peace in Iraq to be successful was for the Iraqis to take matters into their own hands. I’ve got a lot of faith in the Iraqi people, though my opinions about them are mixed. During my time in Iraq, I sat down to meals with many Iraqis who bravely opposed the insurgents and invited us in. There are many people over there willing to risk their lives for worthy causes. I just didn’t know there were 8 million of them.
It’s sad that about 40 people died for that peace, but those are the true martyrs in my opinion. They died for a worthy cause, one that American soldiers have been dying for for almost two years. I hope that the Iraqi people see this as a first step and not just a one-time event. I hope they their newfound strength in numbers and crush the insurgents that are infesting their neighborhoods and plunging their rich heritage into the dirt.
As an American, I want to be among the first to say that the Iraqi people have my respect and admiration for their acts of courage today. It takes a special people to accomplish what they did today. It makes me proud that I didn’t risk my life for a lost cause. Soldiers over there now have reason to rejoice. You are largely responsible for a brand new democracy in a place that has never known it. Pat yourselves on the back.
Updated on January 28, 2013
Okay, so the story of the map. First, some background:
Part of my job is that I exploit enemy documents for any intelligence value. During the war, it was my distinct pleasure to search dead for any information they may have been carrying on them. As soon as a battle was over, I’d take a team and go through the pockets, personal effects, and buildings of the enemy trying to establish an identity, affiliation, and/or who else was involved. I’m not your run of the mill intel nerd. I’m a tactical intel nerd. I am on the front lines fighting the fight with whomever I’m attached to at the time. For the first week of the war I was with 3/7 Cav as they blazed a trail for the rest of the 3rd ID. Then I moved to 4/64 Armor battalion for a feint operation to draw the Iraqi military from Karbala and Hilla. Then I moved to 1/64 Armor for the “Thunderruns” into Baghdad. Once in Baghdad, I was attached to 3/15 Infantry to clean up and regular presence patrols. I stayed with them when we transferred to Fallujah.
When we got Baghdad, there was no shortage of information to sort through. The worst part was searching the guys that had obviously been dead awhile. You cannot understand the sights and smells of combat until you’ve been through it. The smell of a decomposing human body is one that will never leave my nose. The site of one will never leave me mind. Picking through the pockets of one to find out why he was shooting at us or why he had so many RPGs in the trunk of his car is an experience I hope I never have to relive.
After every mission, the leaders would bring my team and me whatever documents they thought were of intelligence value. One day, I got an urgent call from the S2 (battalion intelligence officer) that some maps had just come in and I needed to go over them immediately. I rushed up to the makeshift office, took whatever information they had, and went back to my area to begin the tedious process of going through hundreds of papers and maps. I went immediately to the map in question and stopped cold as I began to open it up. For those that aren’t too indocrinated about how the Army works, officers are commissioned after completing college degrees. Usually, they are commissioned through military academies or ROTC programs. Sometimes, they branch over from enlisted guys to officers (a program called green to gold). So, the majority of second lieutenants (the lowest officer ranking) are children, no older than 22 years old most of the time. As soon as they graduate college they are placed as platoon leaders in charge of anywhere between 15-40 soldiers. It’s the job of the platoon sergeant to properly train the platoon leader on military matters and assist with leadership decisions. At times, we also help change their diapers.
The story goes that as the patrol was clearing an area a man took off running. As he ran from the patrol, he dropped a map. The platoon leader picked it up and brought it in for me. I looked at the map and instantly began formulating how I would deal with this “important” information. I went back and told the S2 what we had and asked if he could get the Lieutenant (LT) to come in immediately. He was on patrol but would be able to come in about an hour. As we waited, I got my team together and briefed them on their jobs during the meeting: We needed someone to take detailed pictures of the map, someone to agree profusely and sternly to everything I said, and someone to apply the pressure. I would ask the questions.
When the lieutenant was brought it, I assembled my team, the S2 and the S3 (operations officer). I laid the map out on the table and asked the LT if he recognized it. His eyes lighting up, he answered, “yes, that’s the map that guy dropped as he ran off.”
I asked him to tell me in exact detail where he was when the map was found. Where was the guy running from? Where did he think he was headed? What did the guy look like? Did he have any other maps on him that he could see? How old was he? Would he be able to get there again? Were there other people around? Did they see the man drop the map? Does he know what this thing is?
He answered everything he could and I pulled out one of our tactical maps and laid it beside the map he brought in. I showed him how certain lines on his map corresponded with our entry routes into the city. One box represented Baghdad International Airport (at the time, we called it Bush International Airport after removing Saddam from the name. That didn’t last long.). Some of the circles around the routes represented underground bunkers where chemical munitions were being stored. I explained the significance of all the markings on the map he gave me. Then I said, “and the one thing that really told me exactly what we were dealing with is this.” I unfolded the top right hand corner that I had previously wanted hidden during my oration. Unfolding the corner, I read “Pattern #326” and the name of the dress pattern for a little girl. After wasting about 35 minutes of the LT’s time explaining what he had brought me, his face turned bright red as he realized that his “map” was actually a sewing pattern!!
Everyone in the room burst into laughter, something you could tell everyone was trying hard to avoid throughout my entire presentation. And we made sure that we got it all on film.
Updated on December 26, 2005
A few months ago, an article was published in the Army Times seeking pictures from Iraq vets to send in pictures they had taken while over there. After sifting through all my incriminating photos of naked Iraqis piled up on the ground, strung to electrical sockets, and in perverse, homosexual positions, I submitted about 30 photos for review (none of them illegal or sexual in nature).
Anyway, I got an email from GQ the other day saying that one of pictures was being published. Of all the pictures I took, they decided on the one I almost didn’t send in. It was a picture of my underwear hanging from a line between two tents after I had washed them in a dirty bucket. We didn’t have quartermasters when I was there. We did it the old fashioned way: we either stunk, or washed our stuff in a small 2 gallon bucket or cooler with cold water. Then we hung the stuff up outside on a rudimentary clothes line to dry in the dust, sand, and wind. By the time your clothes were dry they were dirty again. The only thing gained from the process was that they didn’t stink anymore. When I’d pack my clothes back in the duffel bag, I slid in a few dryer sheets to give it that fresh smell when it was time to stinky them up again.
I’m not sure when the issue will be out, but I talked with the guy from GQ today who did a full out interview on the picture. We discussed it in great detail, then went on to talk about what it was like while I was there. He asked about our living conditions and what we did in our spare time. That question kind of confused me. Spare time? I don’t think they had shipped that while I was there. The only spare time I got was the day I was bedstricken with Hekkingson’s disease.
I bet everyone is scratching their heads right now. There’s no formal disease called Hekkingsons. We made it up while we were over there. Due to my job, I got out a lot and had the opportunity to eat genuine Iraqi food. Unfortunately, I got to wash it all down with genuine Iraqi water too. Because of my fortune, I was a regular recipient of pee-pooh (I think the standard term is diarrhea). One of my soldier’s was a perpetual pee-pooher. He just couldn’t get rid of the stuff. Not a solid moment that I can think of. Eventually, we just named it after him.
Anyway, I had eaten something that just tore me apart. I had Revenge of the Hekkingsons!! It was coming out wherever there was an exit hole. I think I lost about 50 pounds that day and had to have surgery to put all my internal organs back INSIDE my body. I couldn’t sleep because I was doubled over in pain. So, I had the pleasure of staying in my little hot-as-racetires hut for a day. Of course, there was the obligatory, “what the hell did you do yesterday?! Why didn’t you file any reports?! You missed my meeting!!” To which I gave the obligatory, “must be the explosions…I see your mouth moving, but all I hear is blah blah blah.” I had to explain that I think I gave birth in my hut and couldn’t find the mother.
So, anyway, I’ll keep everyone posted on that piece of interesting stuff. And, much like my Jay Leno appearance, I’ll be selling autographed (not signed, too important now) copies of whatever GQ issue carries my underwear in it. And ladies, you can rest at piece – I wasn’t in them when the picture was taken.
So, where did the dryer sheets come from? I’d have asked the same question!! While I was in Kuwait I ran across a little website at http://www.adoptaplatoon.org. You may have noticed the link to the left of this post.
Deployments are very depressing, especially when you’re fighting in a war (or about to). The media enjoys crushing the patriotic nature of most Americans. We see it today. However, when you’re in America, you have the opportunity to turn it off and choose your media outlet. While I was deployed, we had BBC, CNN, and Foxnews. Just before the war kicked off, all the major news outlets were all over the protests against the war. For a soldier who doesn’t see what going on back home except for what’s put in the “news”, that’s depressing. It’s makes you questions what you’re doing in a military that the American people don’t even support.
Luckily, the AAP members that “adopted” me ensured me that there were just as many rallys FOR the troops. We just didn’t see them. Their letters, cards, and emails kept me motivated so that I could in turn ensure my soldiers understood we were loved and supported and working towards a noble cause. While in Kuwait, waiting in the middle of the desert and sleeping next to my HMMWV (Humvee to most) on the border, I was sent toothpaste, candy (mmm…Tootsie Rolls), toilet paper (the non-Army sand paper issue type), batteries, etc. Our team was hooked up. It was all because of AAP.
When we got to Iraq, 80% of my mail was from our adopted families, which kept our spirits high and tummies full. I asked for some Taco Bell sauce packets because my MRE’s were all starting to taste the same. I feel for the Taco Bell patrons in those towns, because they were probably having to smuggle their own hot sauces into the restaurant. Our families had most likely wiped out the store and shipped it overseas. I can’t say enough about those guys. If you want to support a soldier, the BEST place to do it is there. I actually just filled out the application to adopt a soldier of my own, in addition to the people from units here that just deployed. I can’t wait. My wife and I are giddy in anticipation of showing the same support we got to someone now deployed where I left a little over a year ago.
Before I close, I want to publicly thank Angel who has taken me under her wing and helped make a lot of the extra stuff you see on this site possible. I’m what people would call HTML illiterate. Now, if you don’t know what HTML is, then I’ve got one up on you. I know what it is, just can’t write the stuff. Thank you, Angel, for all your help with the links and the Milblog thingymajiggy.
Until urban dictionary defines thingymajiggy, I’ll sign off as……….
Updated on April 10, 2006
The Iraqi Elections are just a few days away. I recall during the ramp up to the Afghani elections that everyone was saying how there would violence like we’ve never seen violence before. The Afghan elections would fail. Now, we hear the same thing about the Iraqi elections. Granted, the situation in Iraq is a little worse off than it was at this time for the Afghan elections, but only because Iraq is more populace. The Iraqis have been working very hard to promote their newfound freedoms. Check out this website to see some actual Iraqi commercials with English subtitles that try to promote freedom: http://memritv.org/Search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=499#
It makes one think though: what is violence like I’ve never seen before? Are they going to shoot people at point blank range with marshmallows? I’ve never seen that before. Have they created a new form of tickle warfare that I haven’t been told of? They’ve already declared war on just about everything else: democracy, freedom, America, deodorant. What’s left?
I think the insurgents are running out of juice and support. I read today in the January 31st issue of Time (after reading about the homosexual tendencies of Spongebob/Patrick, Bert/Ernie, Tinky Winky, Velma, and Marcie/”Sir” from Peanuts) about all the problems in Iraq to date. Here are the stats that they quoted:
139 – U.S. troops killed during combat operations, March 19-April 30, 2003
1,226 – U.S. troops killed since May 1, 2003
542 – U.S. troops wounded in action during combat operations
9,960 – U.S. troops wounded in action since May 1, 2003 (excuse me, what the difference between this number and the previous 542? Weren’t the majority of these people wounded as a result of combat as well?)
271,041 – Number of Iraqi security forces needed to neutralize insurgency, the State Department says
126,961 – Current number of fully or partially trained Iraqi forces, including police, national guard and army
5,000 – Estimated strength of Iraqi insurgency nationwide in November 2003
20,000 – Estimatd strength of Iraqi insurgency nationwide 13 months later, in December 2004
$18.4 billion – Amount of money the U.S. appropriated toward Iraq reconstruction in 2004
$2 billion – Amount of the above sum that had been spent as of December 15, 2004
Now, here’s the only positive statistic in the whole “status report:”
11,000 – Estimated number of internet subscribers in Iraq before the war
110,000 – Estimated number of internet subscribers in Iraq as of November 2004
In light of all this negativity that our mainstream media seem to be so good at, let me tip the scales in the other direction and offer another “status report.” I call this: Iraq: CJ’s Status Report
3 – the number of Saddam, Qusay, or Uday Hussein’s harassing Iraqis before March 2003
0 – the number of Saddam, Qusay, or Uday Hussein’s harassing Iraqis after March 2003 (that’s a 300% decrease)
0 – number of Tootsie Rolls eaten by Iraqi children before CJ invaded the country
56,829 (give or take) – number of Tootsie Rolls eaten by Iraqi children AFTER CJ invaded the country (and no one seemed to complain when I was there)
0 – number of satellite dishes that the common Iraqi could own
as many as they want – the number of satellite dishes that common Iraqis can now own (this includes cell phones as well)
There are many more statistics I can spit out, like the fact that all secondary schools and universities are back in action. More than 550 other schools have been renovated. Hospitals are better equipped to handle emergencies and have the necessary medications. How many water purification plants have been built or repaired since we got there? Shoot, many of those things haven’t been working since the last Gulf War. Where was Saddam when water was needed then?
My point is that Time magazine is obviously slanted. The problem with the media is that they are helping the insurgency. Is it true that those things are happening in Iraq that they talk about? Yes. But, it’s also true that there have been MANY improvements we’ve made. Many things that we’ve built from the ground up. Electricity is the best it’s ever been in Iraq. It’s still not enough because now the power needs of Iraq are higher than they used to be, when they weren’t allowed to have all that electronic stuff. Let’s hear more about that. The more negativity we hear from the media the more the average citizen (uniformed on the biases of the liberal media) will not support the good we’re doing over there. To them, everything they read is gospel.
Stepping off my soapbox, I am……….