Wednesday, July 30, 2008

British Army Units

As I mentioned in a previous post I want to describe the British units that I have been working with and some of the equipment that they have. Much of my information I have pulled from the actual British Army web site at, so if you are looking for more information than what I am giving you then direct your web browsers that direction.

The British actually deploy one combat brigade plus over here at a time under the supervison of a division headquarters. The current brigade that is here is the 7th Armored Brigade. The above picture is the patch that they wear. The 7th Armored Brigade carries on the traditions of the famous 7th Armored Division “Desert Rats” (rat depicted on the patch) that fought in North Africa against the German Field Marshal Rommel’s Afrika Korps during World War II. Battalions in the 7th Armored Brigade are the 9th Battalion 12th Lancers (Prince of Wales), Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland (The Highlanders), 2d Royal Tank Regiment, 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, and the 2d Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment (Poachers) and associated support units.

The British organize their battalions into what they call Strike Battle Groups, much like what we call Task Forces. They cross level their tanks (Challenger 2s looks similar to an Abrams doesn’t it) and armored infantry fighting vehicles (Warriors, much like our Bradleys) and their artillery into a battalion Strike Battle Group. Currently there are a couple of Strike Battle Groups here, those battalions not organized into a Strike Battle Group form what they call the UK MiTT Group. I work with the UK MiTT Group. The above pictures show a Challenger 2 rolling out of the gate of COB Basrah, a Warrior on guard at the gate to COB Basrah,and the AS90 self propelled howitzer is a stock photo I took from the web .

The British do their MiTTs a little different than we do our standard MiTT. Our standard US Army MiTT consists of 10 or 11 senior officers and NCOs sometimes augmented by 6-8 junior soldiers who are assigned as gunner/drivers. The British on the other hand take a battalion and assign it to an Iraqi brigade and the battalion headquarters works with the Iraqi brigade headquarters and the two companies in the battalion each work with an Iraqi battalion headquarters.

The British rank structure is a little different than ours, as is their rank insignias. Luckily for me most of the Army officer rank insignia is similar to what the Iraqi rank insignia is (the Iraqis took their insignia from the British) so I have been able to figure out what rank everyone I’m talking to is. The NCO insignias are a little different and not all of their rank is equivalent to our rank. For instance they don’t have an equivalent to our Staff Sergeant (E6) and their Senior NCOs (E-* and E-9)are warrant officers (NOT the same as our warrant officers) and are addressed as Sergeant Major (Not necessarily the equivalent of our Sergeant Major). Confused yet? I was for about a week but I’ve got it figured out now….maybe, but don’t even get me started on their Royal Air Force and Royal Navy ranks which are just a bunch of squiggly lines or bars.

In my conversations with the British Officer and Soldiers I have learned a couple of things about their career paths that are different than ours. Most US Soldiers retire somewhere between 20 and 26 years time in service. British Soldiers on the other hand stay in between 25-30 years and in some cases longer. Their officers seem to make rank at about the same time in service or maybe just a little longer than our officers do. On the other hand I have met a British Corporal (E-4) who had been in the Army 14 years and a British Sergeant who had been promoted to Sergeant after 8 years in service. Our soldiers typically get promoted to Specialist/Corporal after 3-4 years depending on the situation and I’ve seen young Sergeants who have made Sergeant between 4-5 years (sometimes that shows in maturity level as well but for the most part we promote the right ones). Plus an American Soldier must be promoted to the next rank within a certain time frame or he has to leave the Army.

Since I’m an Artilleryman by training I’ve been talking to quite a few members of the Royal Horse Artillery to see how they do things in the British Army. To start with their self propelled 155mm howitzer is different than ours (see earlier picture) even if it looks fairly similar. We do share the same basic 105mm towed howitzer, although we have made some modifications to it to meet some of our requirements that are different from the British. The British also have the same Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) that we have and which I commanded a battery (6 launchers) of in OIF I. As I was talking to the British Artillerymen I was shocked to learn that they have females, both enlisted and officer, in their Artillery Units. The US Army does have female Artillery officers but they only work on Field Artillery Brigade Staffs and typically change to another branch (Adjuntant General, Ordinance, Finance) when they get promoted to Captain, occasionally there will be a female lieutenant that stays Field Artillery but because of the restrictions on females in combat they spend most of their careers at Fort Sill either in the Field Artillery Brigades there or across the tracks in the Basic Training units. In the British Artillery females do everything, they load the rounds into the howitzer, cut the powder, sight the gun and command the gun. Amazing, since a typical 155mm round weighs just less than 100lbs and an artillery crew must be able to do a sustained rate of fire of 1 round a minute for 6 minutes or max rate of fire of 4 rounds a minute for 3 minutes.

That’s me checking out a British assault rifle. It fires a 5.56mm (.223 Rem) round and is very light much like an M4. The rifle is made by Heckler and Koch and is called a SA80A2. Notice that the magazine is behind the pistol grip and trigger. This is a design called a bullpup, don’t ask me why that’s just what it’s called. Since the SA80 fires the same round as the M4/M16 common sense would tell you that since the British are our allies that an M4/M16 magazine would work in a SA80. Believe it or not both militaries did something that was common sense, yes a M4/M16 magazine works in the SA80 and vice versa. As you can see the British, like us, have replaced the standard iron sights with optics. The British call this sight a Common Weapon Sight (CWS)and it has about a 2x or 3x magnification and can be used with night vision imagining, I believe, making it comparable to our ACOG which has a 3x magnification. What I didn’t like about the CWS was that the aiming point was solid bar that came from the bottom of the sight and ended in a point, you couldn’t see what was on the other side of the solid bar. Our common optics, the ACOG, Aimpoint M68, or the EoTech, all have either a red dot, holographic or illuminated reticle type system that can be seen through, of the three I prefer the EoTech.

We had some British engineers who were repairing an Iraqi Police Station and building a Joint Security Station for use by MiTTs (Military Transition Teams, my team) and PTTs (Police Training Teams) over one night for an American BBQ. I got several pictures of these engineers. This guy is modelling their outside the wire body armor, called Osprey and their version of a light machine gun called a, you guessed it, light machine gun, we Americans had to give our light machine gun an acronym SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon). The British get supplemental pay if they have to wear the Osprey for more than 4 hours and the rumor is that the supplemental rate is an an extra 200 pounds a month to wear the Osprey (compare the pictures of both the Osprey and my Improved Outer Tactical vest, not that much different are they) outside the wire, at an exchange rate of about $1 = .50 pounds that’s an extra $399. Inside the wire they wear a different vest that only has a small plate right over the heart on the front and back. While they may get extra pay for the vest the British still pay taxes while they are here.

Here is the British MRAP. They call it a Mastiff and what they actually do is buy a US Marine Corps Cougar and then add on reactive armor and slat armor to repel RPGs as well as other modifications. This thing is huge with its 6x6 wheels and the extra armor. Our 4x4 Cougars ,without the extra armor, have a hard time getting in and out of some places and I don't see how the British get them into some areas, they must have better drivers. HA HA!

I’m not real sure why Ford had to sell Land Rover, all of the British HMMWV equivelants are variants on the Land Rover Defender, they have uparmored (first picture) and unarmored short and long wheel base (second picture) versions, additionally all of the vehicles that would typically be a Suburban or Tahoe on an American base are Land Rover LR3s. So Land Rover does a rousing business with the British military.

It seems that some of the British seem to wear some very distinctive headgear, ok they wear funny hats, the principle though is similar to our awarding of tan and green berets to the Rangers and Special Forces soldiers.

You’ve already seen this picture of the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, shaking hands with members of the 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers or just First Fusiliers. The rumor down here was that the distinctive plume in the beret was won during the American Revolution. Luckily for the First Fusiliers that was not the case, or there might have been a rash of missing berets as some nameless Americans try to regain some lost honor by swiping the berets. Actually the hackle, that’s what the plume is called, was awarded to the Regiment of Fusiliers for defeating a French force, who wore the same hackle on the island of St Lucia in the late 1700s. So basically the British stole the French’s head gear and their honor. I’d of just left the headgear and taken the honor.

The 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, 4th Scots, also wears some distinctive headgear. The hat is called a Tam O’Shanter after a character in a poem and is similar to a beret with a little ball on top. Each battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland wears a different colored hackle while in combat uniform.

If you had noticed some of the units that I have talked about have a region of Great Britain in their name, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, and the 2d Battalion Royal East Anglian Regiment. These regiments recruit exclusively from Scotland and East Anglia (Eastern England). So you have to be from these areas to join these regiments. In the Royal East Anglian Regiment, it is broken down even further, each company draws from a certain county in the East Anglia region. Makes for strong bonds if everyone in your unit is from your home area.

Finally just in case you are wondering the British do have their own version of the National Guard and Reserve. They are called the Territorial Army and they drill on about the same schedule as our Guard and Reserve and they also deploy overseas in support of both operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Water toy

He loved feeling the water pressure on his hand and as he kept playing he got use to the water splashing in his face.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bath time fun

Okay, the elephant part is funny but pay attention to his expressions between playing with the elephant. This is what I have been trying to get for you for awhile but he always wants to be behind the camera. It's like he's saying hmmm but asking a question. Yesterday we had a 5 minute conversation this way. I'd ask a question and he would have the same response for every question. It's funny and pay attention to his eyes. Your son can get quite expressive with them. He did this to me yesterday in the highchair. He was getting in trouble for throwing food on the floor and he threw in the eye blinking. I had to turn away because I was laughing so much.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Breaking News……James shakes hands with Democratic Presidential Hopeful.

That’s right folks, I actually shook hands with Barack Obama today (In case you couldn’t tell that not me in the above picture though). He flew into COB Basrah this morning and had a meeting with the British General (not the one I made mad the other day, but that Generals boss) who is the head of Multi National Division –South East (MND-SE). I knew he was coming in and I had to have some Soldiers and Marines available to greet him, but I only knew when he was supposed to meet and greet the soldiers not what the rest of his itinerary was. I found out he was in the building when I left the Operations Center to go get a couple of real brewed coffee only to find him shaking the hand of the girl who runs the coffee shop (sorry partially obscured by a support pillar) . The girl, who is British, was much more interested in shaking a Presidential hopefuls hand than making me a cup of coffee, I see where I rate. Why doesn’t the world revolve around me again????

The two above pictures are Obama shaking hands with one of my Marine augments, Cpl Perez, and CPT Jeremy Hahn, one of the advisors on my team. The Marine mentioned that while Obama was nice and personable he didn’t spend too much time talking to him when he learned the Marine was from Texas.

Here is the photographic evidence, of me shaking hands with Barack Obama. My politics may be a little more conservative than his, but you never want to miss out on the chance to shake hands with someone who might be the next President of the United States. Of course he wanted to know where I was from and when I told him Missouri, he wanted to know from what part. Of course he would have no clue where the bustling metropolis of Perry is, so I told him the Hannibal area. After a brief conversation about Mark Twain (that always comes up when I mention Hannibal) he then asked if my family had been affected by the floods and I told him no but that the rains had made the majority of the crops go in late, which seemed to briefly catch his interest.

I must admit that if it had been Hillary you would never have heard about her visit. There really isn't a polite way to say what I think about her so I'll just leave it at that.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Living Life British Style

Some of you have been waiting quite anxiously for this next blog post. Well here it is, what you’ve been waiting for “Living Life British Style”.

In case some of you haven’t heard, things have been changing here in the Basrah area. The 1st Division Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of the Iraqi Army was serving as our Iraqi Brigade’s higher headquarters and their MiTT team was serving as my MiTT team’s higher headquarters. Well about a week ago both the Iraqis of the 1st Division QRF and their MiTT team packed their bags and moved out to another part of Iraq to conduct operations there. Since they left there was no reason for us to have any people or equipment on the Shaibah Airfield Base (just outside of Basrah) that they had occupied and where my team and our battalion teams had stored all of our extra gear and where we had drawn our food, ice and bottled water from and where we could go to in order to get a shower. We had always maintained a small group of people at Shiabah that consisted of a two Army Soldiers (permanently) and two young Marines (rotated between Shiabah and the city) that allowed us to be aware of what the 1st Division was planning and ensured that we got our share of the supplies (read that to mean our fair share of the bottled Gatorade and Diet Pepsi and not the generic sport drink powder and the Diet 7 UP). As soon as the 1st Division’s move to parts unknown was announced I immediately started planning to take over the logistical responsibilities that 1st Division had handled for us (normally I supervise this but since my logistician is on leave I’m handling it all, hurry up and get back Jeremy) and trying to coordinate for space for us to live on COB Basrah. Things fell together fairly quickly and the British on COB Basrah have bent over backwards to welcome us and make room for us even though they themselves are a little cramped for space. What follows is a description of living with the British and some of the experiences I have had in the last week working with them.

The first thing that I noticed that was a little different about the British was not really that they talk different then Americans do (more on that later) but it was the above picture. This is a one person sleeping area. About 18 months ago the British lost a tent full of soldiers when the tent took a direct hit from an insurgent missile. This was their response, individual bunkers for every soldiers sleeping area. I’ve heard them called pig pens, stonehenge, coffins, or even caves, whatever. What they have done is take cinder blocks and walled off an individual area about 3 foot high(I can just barely straddle it), taken a small pallet and placed a mattress above it with a steel tray about 2 feet above that with about 10 inches of sandbags stacked on the steel tray. Talk about risk adverse, in the American housing tents or buildings the outside area of the building or tent typically has a blast wall of some type around it and we pretty much think that if the building or tent takes a direct hit (in most cases highly unlikely) then it’s just your time to go. Even if one of these tents took a direct hit, I think a person would still end up wounded and you would definitely end up with some sort of hearing damage. Anyway the pig pens themselves seem to cause a few casualties. An American MP Captain I work with down here has said that he wakes up with bruises on his knees and elbows from tossing and turning in the night and hitting them on the roof of his cave. I’m glad I’m so tired that I have been sleeping like a rock instead of tossing and turning like I normally do.

I was going to tell a story next, but after further consideration the background information is not suitable for an open source blog, but let’s just say that I had to be the bearer of bad news to a General and evidently my delivery was not what it should have been. Thank goodness he didn’t shoot the messenger. It took me 14 years but I have finally managed to run afoul of a General. He was British, though, does that count? In all honesty though I think it was more the news I had to give that made the General mad and not my delivery (that probably could have been improved though).

Many of you have heard me talk about or are familiar with the term FOBs (Forward Operating Bases). If you are, you may have wondered why I keep calling the British base here COB Basrah, well once again that is something that the British do that is different than the Americans. They call their bases COBs (Contingency Operating Bases). I’ve heard it said that the Americans and the British are one people separated by a common language. To illustrate this I was having a meeting with a British Leftenant Colonel (there’s that language thing again, I’d of said Lieutenant, wait there’s more coming though) when I was asked if I wanted a brew. I think to myself “heck yeah I want a beer, but doesn’t this Brit know I’m not allowed to have one?” Well what the good Leftenant Colonel meant was did I want a cup of tea or coffee, not a beer, darn I knew it was too good to be true. So between the different words and the accents I’m convinced that I only really understand about a third of what they are telling me the first time, so when we start to talk about tactical operations I make darn sure that we are on the same page before we move to the next topic.

Speaking of brews, the British Army doesn’t do brewed coffee or tea it’s all instant. You can’t walk into an American Operations Center without finding a large coffe brewer (we call them silver bullets, they’re large silver, and somewhat bullet shaped). On the other hand the British have what looks the same except all it holds is hot water. They also don’t use a whole a lot of sugar, mainly milk. We all know I need my coffee in the morning and I’m not exactly on the sweet side so the sugar I put in my coffee sweetens not only the coffee but my disposition for the rest of the day.

The next cultural incident that I encountered happened the other day when I was trying to arrange some tent space for a team that had to temporarily move out of the city. I pick up the British phone (of course our phones don’t talk to theirs or theirs to ours) and call the British housing manager, who picks up the phone and says his name and asks how can I help you. I introduce myself and start to state why I’m calling when the good Flight Sergeant on the other end hangs up on me. So I call back thinking I had a bad connection, same result, I call back a third time and this time I speak a little louder thinking maybe I can talk through it, nope same result, he hangs up on me. Now I’m thinking what the heck am I doing wrong, so I lean over to my Sergeant sitting next to me and ask him, he starts laughing and says there is button on the handset that I have to push in order for the person on the other end to hear me (Thanks for not telling me sooner, Smoke, when you knew I was using the British phone). What the hell, well when in Rome do as the Romans do. So I call the good Flight Sergeant back and tell him that he has not been getting prank calls, there is just a silly Yank trying to get hold of him. No harm done, tent space finally acquired.

COB Basrah is divided into two parts, the Basrah International Airport and the British base. They both share the same landing strip and commercial flights from Baghdad and Suleminayah in Iraq as well as from other Arab countries do arrive here intermixed with the British and American military flights.

The next difference between American’s and British is in their dining facilities. The British don’t provide all of the junk food for their soldiers that the Americans do. That means no sodas, no potato chips, no 6 different kinds of Baskins Robbins ice cream, just a meal, juice, assorted desserts and three flavors of ice cream, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla. On the other hand there is a lot of fried food, fried fish, French fries (chips), if you can fry it they seem to do it. Overall though the chow is very good and it definitely beats the majority of what I described in my earlier food posts.

Even though the British don’t provide sodas and other junk food for their Soldiers, they are smart enough to realize that Soldiers want that stuff. The above picture shows the soda/coffee station set up in a brand new DFAC where Soldiers can buy sodas and gourmet coffee and other snacks not already provided.

Here are some more pictures of the inside of the new DFAC (Dining Facility). As one of the senior officer from my unit present on the COB I had to attend the Ribbon Cutting ceremony for it. I don’t know if you can tell but the A/C ducting is fabric and is inflated by the cold air flowing through it. Also notice that the bunker concept extends into the DFAC with cinder block walls separating each eating area. Finally notice the plastic container on the table. The container contains disinfectant wipes. After they are done eating each British Soldier is required to wipe down their eating area, if they made a mess. That wouldn’t fly in an American DFAC

Here is a picture of me waiting for the start of the Ribbon Cutting ceremony. I look thrilled don’t I? What am I doing here? Oh yeah I’m here because the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is here. That’s him greeting some British Soldiers in the second picture, check out the funny feathers in their beret. I’ve never met the President of the United States much less the actual political head of another country. He stopped and talked to the small group of Americans, we are all prepared to talk about our missions in Basrah and all he wants to know is if we are having any success in converting the British from playing soccer (he actually said football) and cricket to American Football and baseball. I don't know if you can tell in this picture, but the Prime Minister bears a striking resemblance to George W, I actually think it's the ears and the hair style, but it was very interesting. I'll talk about the funny hats the British Soldiers are wearing in another post.

So that’s it in a nutshell, I’m living life British style. It’s a little different than what I’m used to. I can’t complain, I have bathrooms and showers with running water and the A/C is colder than what the rest of the team has in the city and I get hot chow.

I hope everyone enjoyed this post. Some upcoming posts include some military humor I’ve pulled off the net and thought some of you might enjoy. As well as a look at some of our equipment and the British equipment, mainly pictures of each since I don’t want to put out to much info. I’ll also describe my relationship with the British MiTTs and their MiTT structure, they do things a little different then how we MiTT. There will also be a random thoughts post where I put a picture of the elusive power ranger and some pictures of why I think we have $4 a gallon gas. So stand by for some more posts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I thought you might like to hear your son laughing in the midst of your long days.
I gave him some Pringles for a snack and I ended up with more of a snack than him. He was loving it when I gobbled the chips from his hand. I probably had to clean my mouth more than his thanks to all the cheesiness. And he laughed the most when I would occassionally gobble his hand with the chip.
Sorry for the camera going off to the side so much. I didn't know if he would still be in a sharing/laughing mood by the time I got the tripod set up. Enjoy!

Some sort of sickness

Not a flattering picture (he'll hate me for posting it) but here is the story. Macen has been battling something, what we don't know. He started last week with a high fever and throwing up, followed by 2 days of a low fever. He wasn't eating much, really cranky and not sleeping much for naps. He did great on Friday but then went back to crankiness, not sleeping well for naps, started waking in the night and coughing. I took him to the doc on Monday. He found swollen lymph nodes in his neck and underarms so he thought maybe mono or chicken pox. He did get a total of 5 spots randomly since last Tues. Since the doctors visit he has started coughing alot and got a runny nose. I'm suppose to take him back at the end of the week if he isn't better for a mono test. So I have no clue what is going on because none of the symptoms are consistent for just 1 sickness. Basically, he is just a mess :) He has done really well with naps today so maybe he is kicking this thing. If it is chicken pox, I will probably never know if it is and if we have passed that horrible childhood disease. I've dreaded chicken pox in my kids before I even had kids.

As for the pic ab0ve, the real story of the crying is that he put a bottle of bubbles down the tube of his toy - you can see the the long purple bottle. I have now taken that toy almost completely apart 3 times to get things out of it that aren't suppose to be in there. He loves it - putting things in there and me taking it apart! But any little thing sets off a hysterical fit of tears and/or crying with him not felling well.
It hasn't been all bad though. He is still playing and laughing and running around and giving kisses. (I forgot to ask the doc if it is mono if he could pass it to me) But I've already been exposed so I'll just keep asking for the irresistible kisses.

Friday, July 11, 2008

1,000 Hits

The blog has reached over a 1,000 hits in less than 3 months. Wow! Maybe you do like us, huh?
We are finally getting into this blogging thing and enjoying it. Keep checking back because who knows what you will find here. Oh, and feel free to leave a comment or twelve. We may not see them right away but they do get read.
Thanks for letting us entertain you with our boring life and cute kid.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Iraqi Clothing Styles

As we drive around we see a bewildering array of clothing styles, just by looking at how a person dresses you can tell a lot about that person without ever talking to them, their religious beliefs, where they are from, and their status in life. I thought I would share these cultural tidbits with you.

This is a picture of a minor Sheikh in Basrah. Sheikh are important tribal leaders and they, in some cases, have more influence over the local population than the national or provincial government. In other words the government could not survive if it does not have the support of the sheikh’s. I can tell that this man is a sheikh because of his traditional dress; the head scarf or yishamagh with the the black cords, agha, holding it in place. The sheikh is also wearing a dishdash, or man dress as the soldiers call it. Finally the thing that sets this man apart as a sheikh is the black cape that he is wearing. I’ve been told that the cape is called an abaya which is also what the woman’s black covering is called as well.

The yishmagh itself can hold several clues about a person. I have been told there are several explanations for the coloring of the yishamagh. First of all I’ve been told that the yishamagh has color, either red or black, because the wearer has been on the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, and that the color denotes whether he comes from a country that has an elected government or a monarchy. Since you see both colors in Iraq, with an elected government, that is not strictly true, one of the interpreters tells me that in Iraq it is a better indication of where a person is from. Evidently traditionalists from the predominately Shiite south prefer the black checkered pattern and the traditionalists from the predominately Sunni west prefer the red checkered pattern and those from around Baghdad prefer a plain white one. The interpreter also says that in Iraq it is also not a good indicator if the man has been on hajj or not.
This picture is a good example of the mix of western and traditional styles that we see in Iraq. The men on the left are dressed in traditional western style casual wear, khakis and polo shirts while the woman on the left are wearing the traditional black robes and dress with the head scarves. As you can tell from the three women, women’s clothing varies as much in Iraq as it does in the states. In Baghdad it is not unusual to see women wearing traditional western women’s business attire and working at the bank or university or just walking along the streets and shopping. You will also western style clothes on women in Basrah but it typically only around the university district and the business/banking district. I’ve been around the university in Basrah but it seems that I always either forget my camera or it’s our last stop and the batteries on the camera are low, so you’ll have to wait for those types of pictures until later. In these areas it also likely to see women who do wear traditional clothes but they are made from bright colored cloth rather than black. We typically call those women who wear bright colored clothing “Power Rangers” and those who wear the all black robes with the black abaya as “Ninjas”. Like I’ve said before no amount cultural or sensitivity training can keep a soldier from being a soldier.

The women pictured here are probably not from very religiously conservative families. If they were you would see no splash of color, as it is it unusual to see a woman showing as much color as the one with the red handbag in the areas we work in Basrah. You are more likely to see a different colored head scarf or to see the edges of the abaya and dresses embroidered with designs like the woman on the far right.
This the typical school girl uniform across all of Iraq. These girls are probably 10-12 years old and are on their way home from school for the day. Notice that they still wear a head covering but do not wear the all black abaya or robes, just a white shirt and a black jumper dress or skirt. Contrast that with the next picture of the girl holding the little boys hand. This girl is approximately the same age as the school girl but is probably from a poorer more religiously conservative family and likely doesn’t go to school because of her family’s status. Both pictures were taken about the same time of day in neighborhoods close to each other.

The girl wearing the abaya was actually pretty interesting. She came up to me and one of our Marines in a crowd of other children while we were standing guard outside a meeting between the brigade commander, our team chie,f and some local town leaders . I was trying to figure out how the kids were related to each other, or even if they were related using my poor Arabic and their just as poor English when an older male saw the girl talking to us and yelled at her to get away (I didn’t understand the Arabic, but from her reaction and the tone of voice it was apparent that was the message.) Even though she was warned off the girl continued to hang around the edge of the crowd and when I took this picture I think she was actually flirting with the young Iraqi soldiers in the HMMWV in front of us, albeit from a safe distance. I tried to offer her and her brother some bottled water and some granola bars I had but she wouldn’t come any closer than in the picture and I didn’t want to call any more attention to her by throwing them to her, so her and her brother never got the goodies I was trying to give them.
As you can see there is no special dress for the young kids. The boys typically wear soccer themed shirts and the girls wear dresses. Very young girls will also wear head scarves but those are typically very bright colors like purple and I’ve even seen neon green, or in animal prints like tiger stripe or leopard spots.
You’ve seen plenty of pictures of Iraqi soldiers with the differing types of uniforms that they wear (woodland camouflage, DCU pattern camouflage, desert “chocolate chip” camouflage, and tan nomex jumpsuits). Well here is a picture of an Iraqi police man. The Iraqi Police are much better than the Iraqi Army about only having one uniform. Your typical patrol policemen wears an outfit that looks like this or a blue digital pattern camouflage that is starting to replace this uniform. Traffic police wear navy slacks and a white shirt. They've even got some motorcycle cops that dress like the Traffic police but with a motorcycle helmet. I'm still trying to get a picture of them.
Well that is a look at the different clothing styles of Iraq. I hope everyone enjoyed the lesson.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A meltdown...over pants

It was a bit chilly here today so I thought I would put pants on the little guy. He wanted nothing to do with it (can't wait for fall and winter). And it was such a meltdown, it deserved to be videotaped. As I told you earlier, your son was a monster today. Too much rain and too much energy. We did make it outside this evening though.

Macen's 4th of July

Macen spent the holiday going to the playground for the first time. He wasn't a fan of the swings - by himself or swinging with me. We went down the big slide together - not sure what he thought of that since I was behind him. He did alot of wondering around the playground equipment and picking up stuff on the ground he didn't need to be picking up.

Friday, July 4, 2008

For Sale

We made it official this week. Something we've been talking about, well, since we bought the place.
We're giving it a shot without realtors. I might as well use that marketing degree I am still paying for. We hope to be homeless by the end of the year.

Scrogin Family History

I've been known to occassionally google my own name just to see what pops up. Not a whole lot, usually just old triathlon results (back from when I wasn't fat and out of shape), or some links to old media articles that I have been interviewed for. The other night though I came across an ancestory site that had my name and year of birth listed. I dug a little a deeper and I came up with the following link:

My branch of the family appears on Scroggins07 and actually Dad and his brother Ed are listed. Atlthough there are some gaps, Aunt Sis isn't listed and neither is Granny or Grams or Charlie and Bill's families. But from there it can be traced through the Scroggins8/9/10 documents back to a George Scrogin who was in Maryland in 1660.

I started an email correspondence with a John M Scroggins who was listed as one of the compilers of the data. He then refered me to the following link on the origins of the Scrogin/Scroggins family name:

Supposedly my branch of the family falls under Group 3 Southern Maryland.

John Scroggins maintains a blog at that has links to a lot of the above sites and other genealogy sites and data as well as links to Scrogin/Scroggins blogs on the web.

Since I was able to trace the Scrogin side all the way back to 1660, I thought, hey this is easy, let me look up the Mudd side. OK not as easy as I thought. There is a lot of data out there on the internet on the Mudd family but it is not as organized as the Scrogin family info was. What I did find interesting though was that it appears that both the Mudds and the Scrogins seemed to have started in Maryland, both moved to Kentucky and then both moved to western Illinois and eastern Missouri. I'm not sure if they did this at the same time or even if they were in the same areas of the state, but the similarities were interesting.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Toad Invasion part 2

We now have baby toads. I found one in the front yard while mowing today and then found another one in the back yard. Tonight we found the one in the backyard again and found where the momma toad is bunkering down. We're being invading and it's not just by toads. I found a frog while mowing today too.