Well, another week and a lot of new and some unique experiences. You know considering we are not traveling each and every day of the week, it’s amazing how new things just seem to crop up. However, I can really start to tell that I’ve been here awhile as I’m experiencing probably my third or fourth rotation of personnel, especially military personnel. You know, you think you’ve got yourself pretty well connected around here and then you discover that your contacts have all vanished and there are new people who took their place but haven’t a clue as to what they are doing or who you are and sometimes don’t really care.
I have to tell you that I just got finished laughing at three of my agents who are planning a trip up North and they depart tomorrow. They are going to a remote area and there are three guys going but Joint Area Support Group would only issue two sleeping bags. Now they are going to try and get accommodations but they have to be prepared. I told them to make sure that they all cooperate (one team, one fight you know), zip the bags together, so that all three have something to sleep in. I wish I could tape the comments being bantered about but I have to take some time to wipe the tears of laughter from eyes before I continue. I can see this is going to be one of those trips. They all can’t even ride on the same Blackhawk so one has to leave two hours earlier in order to get to the airport. That agent just got finished saying “Life sucks and then you die!” This is the second time they’ve tried to schedule this trip. It definitely ain’t the USA. I’d be going, but I’m in charge,,,,,again! I don’t want to be in management anymore! I want to go play. Seriously, traveling around here is definitely not fun. The guys will get a chopper out in the early evening and have to spend the night in a place we call the “stables” at the airport. (Now you don’t need much imagination to know why they are called the “stables” especially if you’ve have any farm experience. I can think of some farms that I would prefer to bed down in rather than stay at the “stables.”) Then they have a 3 hour ride in a crowded C-130. You know what economy class or “cattle class” as we refer to it feels like? Well, that would feel like double first class compared to the way you would feel on a C-130. They are great work horse planes but they are not…..repeat not….. built for comfort. After that, they’ll convoy up to their final location most probably at least another 2-3 hours. The good news is they’ll probably be riding in an up-armored SUV. The bad news is they’ll be riding in an up-armored SUV. Again, one thinks that an SUV is really roomy and comfortable. Wrong! After you finish with the 3” glass windows, the armor plating on the doors, the roof, and the floor board, things get tight,,, real tight. Then you have to throw in your body armor with ballistic plates, your helmet, your side arm, your M-4, extra magazines attached to your body armor, sitting there is not comfortable. When you’re done with all of this, you realize the reason that the ones that do this day in and day out are 20 years + younger than we are.
Once again we have more change in the choir. We are losing two of our female singers, both USAF Officers. Now we are down to one and she’s leaving at the end of April. That was going to put us down to two, me and other male vocalist. It’s unbelievable. Father says his good byes to these ladies and two guys pop up and volunteer to sing so we will have at least five voices for a while. After the last female vocalist leaves, the choir’s combined voices are going to get a lot deeper. Hopefully, we’ll get another female to volunteer.
After mass tonight, I was poking a little fun at a friend of mine who works for the State Department. He was introducing himself to some Carabinierri (Italian Police) so I told them in Italian to watch out for him as he was a spy with the CIA. He turned to me jokingly and said “Smart Ass.” The Carabinierri understood that real well. An Iraqi gentleman who was at mass heard me speak Italian and so we started talking. His name is Angello (not Angelo) and he lives in Virginia. He’s definitely Iraqi but he went to college in Italy so he is fairly fluent in Italian. We struck up a conversation and chatted for awhile. Interesting how small the world can be.
Speaking of the Iraqis, I’m pleased to hear that the populace is getting fed up with the shootings and bombings and things and are starting to arm themselves and take charge of their neighborhoods. I think it’s about time. You know the majority of the people here go about their daily lives and just want to live but this small contingent is not happy and continues to agitate and aggravate. It has to get to a point where people are not going to be intimidated any more because the fact of the matter is with intimidation they are going to die any way. I’ve heard people say we should have disarmed everyone when we invaded. Number one, that would be totally unrealistic given the weaponry in the country, the borders were unprotected, and Sadam emptied the prisons right before we arrived. Just think how much more helpless these people would have been if we summarily disarmed them and there was no one to provide protection. It’s pretty easy to terrorize a place when people don’t have the ability to defend themselves especially when we are still trying to train the police force and instill in them some ethical conduct. However, when everyone is armed, how do a few terrorize a lot? I’m not saying it will stop tomorrow but I think it’s going to help. I also found out this week during a witness interview just how deep the hatred is between the Kurds and the Arabs. I still can’t tell the difference physically but I guess the language is totally different and they do have some different facial features. It will take a generation to see that change.
I guess you all have heard about Jill Carroll, the reporter that was abducted who was finally released. I spoke with the young lady who had accompanied her back to the USA. I had met this lady before actually during a business meeting that I had with the Minister of Interior and one of the State Department ambassadors. She was the interpreter. She speaks like 5 Middle Eastern languages. She’s probably in her late 20’s. She said Carroll was pretty well shook up by the experience but thinks she’s going to be fine. I know journalists are used to having freedom because they are “reporting the truth.” (That’s another issue and I haven’t the time nor space to address it here.) But somebody didn’t tell the bad guys this.
I also interviewed an older Iraqi gentleman who works as a translator in the IZ. He works with several military officers from the Netherlands. This fellow had never been into the Presidential Palace. I had to escort him in and stay with him while he was in the Embassy Compound. He was in awe of the size and ornate decorations of the palace. When I asked if he had ever seen this place before, he looked at me wide eyed and said people like him would never be allowed to set foot in such a place. He said the palaces and other areas were strictly for Saddam and the Ba’athists. He said his presence would have been strictly forbidden. Again, just another example to demonstrate how lucky we are to live in the USA. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview and the meeting with this gentleman as well as his daughter who is also a translator. The Netherlands Colonel gave me a book on his homeland several days afterwards and said he wanted me to have it because I was nice to the translators. I thanked him but actually I just treated them with the respect that they deserve as human beings.
Hey, I know you all have been hearing all of the negative news that comes from Iraq. Well, here’s a piece of good news. I just read where we’ve successfully got the children population of Iraq inoculated against polio, mumps, measles, and rubella. Considering the population and the size of this country, that’s not too bad. Doesn’t make news though does it? Neither does the fact that our base hospital has been treating victims of these bombings like crazy and utilizing our best medical skills to save them. Again not newsworthy!!!
Okay, one more tidbit and I’m gonna cut it off and save the rest for next week. Or else this thing is going to get out of hand.
We have this new auditor that was hired recently. Now this guy is a few years younger than I am, is a former pilot, and a CPA. He prefers auditing over flying --- no hazardous issues in his background either. I knew there were going to be issues when I heard in the State Department training that he told other new auditors that he would be their supervisor once management saw his performance in the first two weeks. (Obviously, that didn’t happen.) Next when I was introduced to him, he looks at my Sig M228 and tells me I’m way under gunned for this place. I told him his worries should not revolve about having to shoot one’s way out of here but staying clear of things that make big loud noises. I said you could carry a cannon and it wouldn’t do you much good if you get hit with a rocket or mortar. I didn’t receive any response. Well, one of my agents is working out in the gym on the elliptical machines. He’s on one and then General Casey, you know THE General Casey, Commanding General for Multi National Force – Iraq, comes and gets on the machine next to him. Of course, the general has his personal security detail with him as well. Now General Casey is a pretty nice down to earth kind of guy, about my height, very friendly, and very articulate. So the general is working out and who comes to get on the machine next to General Casey but this little twit. While working out, the General’s team receives several cell phone calls for him and he has to leave his machine to field the calls. After the third call, this auditor asks the general, “Hey! Just what kind of job do you have here? I’m a SIGIR auditor!” The general looks at him and says “I’m a general -----four star!” The auditor says “Oh!” My agent said “God, I hope Casey doesn’t think we in SIGIR are all idiots!”
Well, I had to finish this in between a spontaneous interview for one of my investigations. So now I’m done and I’m saying good night. I’ll tell ya’ll the rest of the story next week. Until then, keep safe and God Bless. Bob