Monday, June 06, 2005

HUGE Sandstorm!

I thought I had seen some pretty good sand storms in my last 7 months here. After last night, they all seem insignificant. At about 1030 last night I was in bed already getting some rest for my 540 showtime when all the sudden I could hear the wind rushing over my room outside. The wind was so strong that it was rolling sandbags I have on my roof over and making loud thuds. After about 10 minutes of the wind I started to notice it was getting really hazy in my room. These rooms aren't made the best so there are a few air leaks I guess. Before I knew it the sandstorm was in my room! I forced myself to try and sleep, even though I was coughing and hacking my lungs up from the dust in the air. Eventually I fell asleep.

The next morning was unbelievable. I walked outside my room for the first time in the morning and it was like the first snow of the winter...only it was sand. There was an eighth of an inch of dust covering EVERYTHING. It was wierd because it wasn't just on top of things, it was underneath and on the sides too! The wind was also so strong that trash cans had been blown 40 or 50 feet away, bikes were moved and upside down, and satelite dishes were thrown off of roofs.

I proceeded to work at 520 AM and walked to the crew chief office. Low and behold! Our "Veranda" had been torn down. This was like a shaded break area that we would often sit at when people smoked or just wanted to relax. We built it ourselves in about 2 weeks. Everything at work was covered in dust too. The trucks were so dusty inside and out we could'nt even sit in them without choking on the dust we kicked up. Thats when I thought to myself, if the dust got inside the trucks, what do the aircraft look like. I rushed out to my aircraft to find it completely covered in dust, inside and out. It was in the engines, in the cockpit, on the instruments, in the passenger seats...EVERYWHERE! So, we all scrambled to clean the aircraft before the takeoff time but they were still late. The weather was still bad by this time anyways, especially south where there was 400 meters of visiblity reported in some areas. We cant fly with anything less than 2 miles. My aircraft was just on standby incase one of the others broke so once the 2 flights took off we finished detailing the aircraft.

The first plane that landed today was amazing. It was a C-17, a very large cargo plane, that landed on the runway right in front of where we park. Because all that loose dust was still on the runway, the wake of the jet kicked up a tail of dust about 100 feet high. It was really cool to watch, but scary at the same time becuase when he did that you couldnt see anything for about 2 minutes as we were engulfed by it. Throughout the rest of the day we cleaned the remaining aircraft.

We were on the flight line cleaning the last aircraft when we saw another large plane coming in for an approach. We could all tell, seeing them hundreds of times, that something wasnt right. The approach angle was very steep and did not look safe. It passed the landing the first time and came around for another one, this time a little more safely. When it landed, all you saw was a huge flame behind the aircraft and it was tilted to one side. About half way down the runway it stopped and shut off its engines, leaning to the right. Soon after we saw people start to pour out of it and the firetrucks came. Apparently, the right landing gear did not go down when they went to land, so they landed on one wheel and the belly of the plane. It was amazing to watch, but scary at the same time. I'm not sure if anyone was hurt, but one medevac helicopter did make a trip to the hospital from there. I'll update the site when I find out more.

Anyways, I'm switching to night tommorrow. Much slower work schedule then. Maybe I'll write more often :P Talk to you all later.

Tony

Friday, June 03, 2005

War is tough!

Welcome back everyone. Im sure most of you have read my post about my base FOB Speicher and you remember a little about it. If not read this: FOB Speicher...what i reluctantly call home this year!

So, you may know by now that life isn't all that bad around here. Besides the living standards being as decent as they are (relatively of course), we also try to make the best of what we have. The chow hall is great but noone can butcher potentially great meals like they can. So, we took it upon ourselves to go to the PX and buy a little mini grill. We also bought some charcoal and utensils and the few seasonings they have there. For about the last week we have not even been going to the chow hall, but instead living off the things that our families and friends send us. The PX also has a freezer section believe it or not where they sell frozen meats shipped directly from Germany. They have things like frozen chicken breasts, racks of ribs, and even T-bone and porterhouse steaks. Now, they can be a little pricey so we all pitch in. Last night for dinner I had a steak that I had marinated for a few hours then threw on the grill. It was delicious, almost like being home. At the end of the meal we were all sitting down around the fire talking about the deployment. Thats when I realized that all I had really acomplished was making myself homesick from grilling and remember what life used to be like :P Oh well, at least my belly was full.

The last couple of days have been pretty normal...for being here at least. It is steadily getting hotter which makes the days longer. Yesterday I worked in the sun all day working on my aircraft to get it ready for phase. I got a pretty good tan by now which is cool. Phase is when they take the aircraft almost completely apart, inspect it in detail, then fix anything they found broken and put it back together. It usually takes about a month to finish. I just had to make sure it was clean and ready for them to take. Today we flew a couple hours down to the balad area and picked up some stand-up comics. They have been in Iraq for about 2 weeks now touring all the FOB's for MWR trips. I havent seen the show yet but I have flown them a couple times. Like I said before, we get to fly alot of VIP's and famous people around. I dont know if it's just because we are lucky or if we are just the best so they always ask for us. I dont mind doing it, it breaks the monotonous work days one after another.

Well, I have an early wake up tommorrow morning and its already 11PM here, so Im gonna head to bed. I will try to write more often as it seems I am disapointing some people :P Just kidding. Try to write again tommorrow.

Tony

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

How's the Weather?

Hi again everyone!
Just another day in Iraq...a hot one today. Yet another day over 100 F and I have seen as high as 120. It hasn't rained in about a month so it's very dry and dusty. It also gets very windy here, which is easy to understand considering there are no trees or other terrain features to block it as it passes over the land. Sometimes the wind picks up dust and carries it for miles which creates huge sand storms. They are actually pretty incredible to watch as the 1000 foot high wall of dust moves across the airfield. They arent any fun to be in and especially fly in. Sometimes these things last for hours or even days, pretty much shutting down everything. Thats not even the best weather we get here. About a week ago we got this thing called a microburst. It was a sudden change of temperature that caused extreme winds...and by extreme I mean over 200 mph!! It was very localized but pick helicopters up and moved them a few feet and did alot of damage to them. I was in the MWR when it passed through and I thought the building was going to shake apart. Only in Iraq I guess. I'll be taking reservations for vacation spots if you're interested! He he...

The past couple days have been slow, but things are picking up quite a bit. We are getting more missions every day and I am flying much more. I had a 4 AM showtime this morning and flew for almost 5 hours. We did a little Balad trip to take soldiers down there to go on R&R. Its a pretty common trip for us as there are alot soldiers that need to go home. We get to test fire our machine guns whenever we go out on a mission which is great because we just got new guns. They are so much faster and more accurate than our old guns so we crew chiefs get to have a little fun while we work. Its really funny to watch passengers as we test fire because they dont really know whats going on so it scares them. They arent sure if we are getting attacked or what. It's especially funny when one of them is sleeping...

We only flew for 5 hours today but I have to say, I was TIRED. The heat here really wears you out alot faster than usual. When I got back to my room at 330 I passed out for an hour and a half and didnt even know it! Luckily, I get a little bit of a break tommorrow as my showtime isnt until 1130 AM.

Thanks again for all your support and comments especially! I'm glad you are all enjoying these posts and I'll do my best to keep it up. I want to thank my wife especially for being there for me. I would also like to dedicate today's post to our Viet Nam Veterans for all the hard work and sacrifices they made for us, even in the criticisms they took doing it. Thank you all!

Tony

Monday, May 30, 2005


This map shows the size of Iraq compared to the US.

This is a good map of Iraq and most of the cities I travel to often.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Me and my crew on the "Warbird"

Me, Jessica and Nick again!

Jessica Simpson again!

Me getting another autograph with Jessica Simpson!

Uneventful day...But I'm not complaining!

Another night of PM standby...so Im sitting here with not alot to do at 2 am. I have watched every movie I have at least 3 times and most everyone elses for that matter. We were supposed to have a big 16 ship air assault tonight but it got canceled. An air assault is pretty much just a raid on a town using helicopters to ensure that ground forces amass quickly and relatively unexpected. We actually like doing them as crew chiefs becuase it is a more "real-life" mission than battlefield circulation. And, although none of us really want it, it can be a little more dangerous. Anything that I can do to help end the ruthless killing of our troops and the Iraqi people I am all for! I heard they shot al Zarqawi the other day! Which is great because we have been after him for a long time. I have done a few air assaults myself trying to capture him, never got him though.

On a more somber note, some of you may have heard that a helicopter was shot down and that the two US pilots flying it were killed. I hear the headlines read 42nd ID which is me but be assured, I am fine. Unfortunately, right after my last post and me saying that nothing ever happens on PM standby, we got launched becuase of that helicopter. We flew around all that night supporting the security of the crash and all the other things that have to happen when crashes occur. Unfortunately, I had the honor of transporting the two "Heros" to the plane that would take them home. We all hear about how people and US soldiers are killed in this war every day, but it still never seems as real as it does when you pick up the litter carrying one of these "Heros". It hits especially close to home when it is someone in your own brigade. Don't worry though, we are all handling it here and just ask that you pray for the family and friends of our fallen comrades.

Well, I am flying tommorrow night, so at least I wont have as much downtime. Downtime, as wierd as it may seem, is much harder than a long, busy day. With so much time to think sometimes the mind wanders. You start thinking about your family, your friends, your WIFE, and really start to miss them all. Luckily for me, I am on the downside of this deployment now with only 5 months (give or take :P) remaining. I got here in November, 2004 and will HOPEFULLY be back by mid november, 2005. Then I am off to my next duty station which will either be Fort Belvoir, VA or Fort Bragg, NC. It will be so nice to have a "normal" life and marriage again. Im gonna enjoy it being so easy to keep my relationship together while I am home. It just takes so much effort to keep things together while I am here over 6000 miles away! I guess you never really know what you have and how easy you have it until its gone...Cherish is very supportive of me though and she makes it as easy as possible while I am here. Thank you baby!

If you have any questions to ask or topics you are interested in hearing about from my perspective over here feel free to post a comment. For those who have already commented, thank you! I enjoy hearing what you guys have to say...and apparently I am a decent writer! Who knew? I could hardly pass english class in highschool! Ha ha...Anyways, thanks for reading and I will post again soon.

Tony