Hi All and Greetings from Baghdad:
I know I know. You just got an update and here comes another. Well, I’m trying to get back on the weekly track. I’ve got an undercover operation coming up and things are going to happen quick. So if you don’t hear from me, that’s the reason.
Things still remain relatively quiet but unfortunately we still sustain casualties. It still is upsetting no matter how small the number. One is too many. I noticed that I don’t see the medivac helo running so much so that’s a good thing.
The other day I heard quite a bit of gunfire presumably at the check point. I’ve gotten to the point that I can detect the difference between controlled fire at the range and actual combat fire which is definitely more sporadic. Even during mass, there was quite a bit of gunfire but I could tell it was coming from the range due to the timing of the shots.
I just heard a good one about some Marines out on patrol. Apparently they came on to several insurgents planting ied’s with the use of a donkey and cart. The insurgents were able to make good their getaway. However, they left behind the donkey and the cart. A Marine, a good ol’ country boy from Arkansas, said this would not be a problem. He freed the donkey and the Marines followed the donkey home whereupon they found the insurgents. Just simply too neat!!!
It rained a few days ago and man was it slick. The tiles around this place get full of mud, then the rain washes off all but just a slick film of mud. It is so easy to slip and fall, it’s like walking on ice.
There was a lot of talk earlier this week about the Army being worn out. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this country is tough on equipment and there’s no doubt in my mind that we are going to need some new stuff when this is over. However, if there’s worn out and disgruntled soldiers, I’m not seeing them. I think I perhaps have encountered one or two with a ‘tude. All the rest of very top flight with a can do attitude. I’m sure there are instances wherein the MP’s are dealing with drugs, thefts, fights, and assaults but I don’t know that it is any more prevalent here than it is with the military in non combat positions.
Speaking of soldiers, I met a unit commander two days ago who may be a year or two younger than I am due to an investigation that I have. When he came to the office, I noticed a bayonet on his hip that didn’t appear to be the standard issue. He explained that his father was a paratrooper in WWII and that was his issue bayonet. He was just proud to be carrying his father’s bayonet during his time in service. I thought that was pretty neat and admirable. I’ve actually seen other soldiers carrying memorabilia. It can range to a campaign hat to family pictures hanging from a backpack zipper.
On the subject of the state of Iraq, the press never ceases to amaze me of how they can continually focus on the negative aspects of Iraq. Now I know there’s still an insurgent problem and the Sunnis and Shias are still not completely trustworthy of each other. There is still a lot of rebuilding to do. But, there’s been a lot of good that’s gone on here and there’s a lot of things that are running again. And there sure isn’t much press about that. I get a lot of personal joy out of having made friends with a lot of Iraqi people who now when they see me, they smile and greet me warmly. That’s kind of what it’s all about.
Today, I had espresso after lunch with several of my Italian Special Forces friends. They are a great bunch and I enjoy talking with me. I think my Italian is terrible and they love to hear me speak it. They are assigned to NATO in training the Iraqi military. They showed me one of their training videos. They are a mountain brigade so they do everything from cross country skiing to jumping for helicopters into lakes and coming out in a raft. They wanted me to have some Montenegro and Grappa but I told them I had to return to work so I couldn’t indulge. They gave me an Italian military patch and said they would take me to the Italian Embassy for pizza night. I can’t wait.
Oh, speaking of Italians, I have to include the following. A friend of mine gave me this and I found it very entertaining and in a lot of areas very truthful.
Subject: Sunday Dinner for Italians
Sunday Dinner for Italians....
Italians have a $40,000 kitchen, but use the $259 stove from Sears in
the basement to cook.
There is some sort of religious statue in the hallway, living room,
bedroom, front porch or backyard.
The living room is filled with old wedding favors with poofy net bows
and stale almonds (they are too pretty to open).
A portrait of the Pope and Frank Sinatra is in the dining room.
God forbid if anyone EVER attempted to eat Chef Boy-Are-Dee, Franco
American, Ragu, Prego or anything else in a jar or can (tomato paste is
Meatballs are made with Pork, Veal and Beef. We are Italians, we don't
care about cholesterol.
Turkey is served on Thanksgiving, AFTER the manicotti, gnocchi,
lasagna and soup.
If anyone EVER says ES-CAROLE, slap 'em in the face -- it's SCAROLE.
If they ever say ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP, let the idiot know that there
is no wedding, nor is there an Italian in the soup. Also, the tiny
meatballs must be made by hand.
No matter how hard you know you were going to get smacked, you still
came home from church after communion, at which time you stick half a loaf of bread
in the sauce pot, sneak out a fried meatball and chow down. You'll
make up for it next week at confession.
Sunday dinner was at 1:00. The meal went like this..
Table is set with everyday dishes...doesn't matter if they don't
match...they're clean. What more do you want?
All the utensils go on the right side of the plate and the napkin goes
on the left. Put a clean kitchen towel at Nonna & Papa's plate because
they won't use napkins.
Homemade wine and bottles of 7Up are on the table.
First course, Antipasto...change plates. Next, Pasta (Nonna called
all spaghetti Pasta)...change plates.
After that, Roasted Meats, Roasted Potatoes, Over-cooked Vegetables...
THEN and only then (NEVER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MEAL) would you eat
the salad (HOMEMADE OIL &VINEGAR DRESSING ONLY)...change plates.
Next, Fruit & Nuts - in the shell (on paper plates because you ran out
of the other ones).
Coffee with Anisette (Espresso for Nonno, "’Mericani" coffee for the
rest) with hard Cookies (Biscotti's) to dip in the coffee.
The kids go play..the men go to lay down.
They slept so soundly you could perform brain surgery on them without
anesthesia...the women clean the kitchen.
Getting screamed at by Mom or Nonna - half the sentence was English,
the other half Italian.
Italian mothers never threw a baseball in their life, but can nail you
in the head with a shoe thrown from the kitchen while you're in the
Prom Dress that Zia Ceserina made you...$20.00 for material. Prom
hair-do from Cousin Angelina...$Free. Turning around at prom to see your
entire family (including Godparents) standing in the back of the gym...
The true Italians will love this, those of you who are married to
Italians will understand this, and those of you who are friends with
Italians will remember and will forward it to their Italian friends
Well, I hope you enjoyed this. I need to run. I’ve got to meet with some techie special agents to make sure our equipment is working properly so my agent can be wired up. It’s really unbelievable. I’m working with agents who are in their mid-20’s. They weren’t even born when I was carrying a gun and a badge for the Government. I don’t know whether to feel good or feel old.
Take care and my best wishes to all of you and your families. Bob