Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Easter!

In keeping up with putting Macen in things for the current holiday, I found a basket just his size. But as he nears his first birthday, this is the last time he will have endure my photo sessions of being in something.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Furry People

Its rare to get a pic of Maggie but Mariah was able to snap it while they had the bunny ears on her. She has been afraid of the camera for years. Mo is as laid back as ever. Macen has taken to grabbing both hands full of hair and pulling but Mo doesn't seem to mind most of the time. Myles is the spitfire of the family. He's on call to play 24/7.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I deflated the air mattress some so that Macen could play on it. He loved it and I got a new laugh out of him.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patricks Day

Hope you are wearing your green today.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Random Thoughts and Pictures

There has not been much going on here lately so for this post I've ransacked my camera for some of the more interesting pictures that I've taken since I've been here that haven't made the cut for the other posts. I hope you enjoy. This is actually a more recent picture. Shantel's mom had sent some water balloons in a package and instead of using them as water balloons, we blew them up and used them as targets for a quick reaction shooting contest that we had. As you can see the balloons were fairly small and were difficult to blow up, but American ingeniuty triumphed once again as we quickly discovered that the canned air that we use to keep our computers dust free would quickly inflate the balloons and not leave us panting for air. Of course I won the shooting contest, did anyone have to ask????
My interpreter took this picture the other day as we were wandering through the Headquarters and Service Company area. We came across an improntu stickball game that I joined in on. The Iraqis weren't squaring up to the plate and had a wide open stance similiar to what Jose Oquendo used to do for those of you who can remember him. I put my clipboard down to represent home plate and squared up like you see here and the pitcher immediately moved to the right because he was afraid I'd hit him after I hit the rock. It took me a minute to convice him to stand where he is standing. I then preceded to rip off some line drives almost to the building in the background before I reverted to my normal.....swing......and a miss.
This is not a picture taken with a fancy filter on the lens. It was taken with the same camera as all of the other photos I have posted. There just happened to be a dust storm going on. We've had several of these lately but I think this was the worst one I have seen. We were in the gym working out during one and the wind was blowing the sand through the seams of the prefab Morton style building.
The above two photos are of a Marine MV-22 Osprey as it takes off from the Ar Ramadi Helipad. The flight path takes it right over our house. So far I haven't flown in one of these just the CH-47 Chinook and the CH-46 Sea Knight (a smaller Marine version of the Chinook), but my boss has and he says it is a pretty interesting ride as they come in for a landing and the sudden change in motion as the rotors tilt to switch from forward flight to hover mode.

Well that's all for this post. I hope everyone enjoys.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New language

He started 'talking' this way this week. I didn't teach him to do it but I did get him going at home so I could get it on video. So far he has only done this at stores and he can get loud and just repeats it over and over :)

Monday, March 3, 2008

10 months old

Macen is quite the walker now and is starting to run. He usually walks with his hands straight up in the air or with is chest puffed out. It's adorable! We had a nice day the other day so I let him walk from the truck to the front door. It took awhile to get there but he made it without any trouble (other than him stopping to play with the tail hitch for a bit). He has also learned to make a clicking sound with his tongue so he does that as he is walking around.

Macen got 2 more teeth on the top so he's up to 6 chompers now. His eating has improved a great deal in the last 2 weeks and he loves cheese crumbles. I started him on a sippy cup in January and he now drinks out of it like a pro - except a little water that dribbles down the front of his shirt. I suspect some of that is extra saliva as he chews on the sippy spout. I think he's teething some more.

We went to a playgroup a few weeks ago and Macen loved it. Unfortunately playgroup is during his naptime so we will have to work around that until he goes to 1 nap a day. I think Macen and Myles are going to be buddies as Macen continues to grow. Myles doesn't let many people touch him so when Macen gets close he takes off. Recently, Myles as been up on the end table or something higher than Macen and Macen has tried to touch him. In which Myles starts swatting at Macen (Myles just ends up swatting at the air and he is declawed). Macen thinks its funny to see his paw move and giggles at him. And despite Myles not liking to be touched by many people, he loves being chased by anyone. Today, they started what I can imagine will be a daily game of cat and Macen.

And the crazy hair pic occurs after he has slept hard during a nap. This little guy is in need of a haircut!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Trip to Baghdad

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the Ford F350s that the Iraqi Police use to patrol. Here are some pictures of Chevy 3500s that the Iraqi Army uses for patrols and convoy escort missions. Did you really think that the US Government would let only one of the Big Three automakers get a monopoly on supplying trucks to the Iraqi Government? Rumor also has it that at one time the Iraqi Police were also using Dodges, I just haven't seen any. (Uncle Sam if you are monitoring, all of the above was a JOKE!)
In addition to the metal box placed in the bed around the machine gun mount the plastic pieces on the door are removed and this metal plating is welding on. Notice that the door release is still fully functional, as is the window handle, even though you can't see it. Each one that is delivered to our Brigade is taken to the Range and someone fires an AK-47 at the metal box on the back, while the Iraqi Brigade Commander is watching. So far all of the rounds have deflected off the metal. Pretty good craftsmanship by the welding shop of the American maintenance unit here.While I was in Baghdad ensuring that the Brigade Pay Officer could receive this months allotment of cash to pay the soldiers I got to do some touristy type things. The above picture is me acting like I'm holding the swords in Saddam's Hands of Victory Arch. To Celebrate his "victory" over Iran, Saddam decided to build a set of these arches at both ends of a large parade ground where he typically watched his military parades. Each arch consists of a pair of massive hands emerging from the ground, each holding a 140 foot long sword. A small flagpole used to rise from the point where the swords meet, but is now gone. The arches were made from the guns of dead Iraqi soldiers that were melted and recast as the 24 ton blades of the swords. The hands themselves are replicas of Saddam's own hands. The German company that built the monument was given a photograph of Saddam's own forearms to use as a model (what an egomanaic). There used to be captured Iranian helmets at the base of each sword but I didn't see any at the end I visited.

This is the Al Quds Gate to what used to be Saddam's palace complex area in the Green Zone. It was modeled after the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Al Quds is the Arabic name for Jerulasem. The main office of the company that supplies interpreters to coalition forces is just to the right of the gate.
This is the 14th of July Statue. It was built in remembrance of the 14th of July Revolution. On July 14, 1958 Arab nationalists led a coup that killed King Faisal II and his family which ended the Iraqi monarchy that had been installed by the British, following World War I.
The US Embassy in Baghdad is located in one of Saddam's former palaces and while I was in Baghdad I stayed in the transient tents outside the palace, unfortunately photography of the Embassy was not allowed. I did have an Iraqi interpreter with me who had grown up in Baghdad but had never been inside one of Saddam's palaces. It was very interesting to watch him look with wonder at the opulence of the areas that he was to walk through as we went to the KBR dining facility and the MWR computer rooms.
My trip to Baghdad wasn't all fun and guided tours. The main focus was to help the Iraqi Pay committe pick up pay. They seem to have issues getting in the Green Zone and getting into the Ministry of Defense Compound and picking up the pay. I must admit that I think that they made up the difficulties that they talked about because I was with them from the minute they got inside the Green Zone to when they picked up and the only difficulty they had was an accounting error from the previous months pay where the pay officer's paper work had a different amount of Dinar listed then what he actually turned in it was only a 1 Dinar difference, which is like 10 cents but it occupied about an hour of our time as he tried to fix the error.

The above picture is a portion of the pay for 300 some soldiers of the Brigade Headquarters, there is another stack or two on the counter above what is on the ground. Doesn't look like much does it? Well the reddish tinged bills (the majority of the bills) are stacks of 25,000 dinar and 25,000 dinar is worth about $20 at todays conversion rate so we are looking at about $280,000 just laying there on the floor. The battalions in the brigade pay comes in a 3ft by 4ft by 1ft crate that holds enough cash for almost a 1000 soldiers. It just makes me think "Wouldn't this be a much easier process with an EFT banking system?" Notice that the Iraqi Captain squating next to the cash is in civilian clothes. The Iraqi Army soldiers that do not work in Baghdad are still scared to travel around Baghdad in their uniforms.

Finally the hazards of flying everywhere in Iraq, that I posted in my last entry didn't affect me like they have my boss, and it was even drizzling as we left the LZ in Baghdad. I guess I just have better luck than him. We'll see how that holds out, since I've got a couple other trips planned in the next month or so for various things.

I want to thank everyone for the packages and things they have sent in the last month, they are much appreciated by both me and my fellow soldiers on the team. Thanks again.