I have to keep this post short... This is Fort Bliss, El Paso, TX. I spent one week here preparing for my travels overseas. Don't let this pretty picture fool you. The rest of El Paso is a sh#thole (sorry guys). Fort Bliss is home to the largest Air Defense Artillery Training Facility in the nation, hence, located in a dirty town with lots of room to practice blowing things up.
Fort Bliss is also home to one of two CRCs. CRC stands for CONUS Replacement Center (CONUS: Continental United States). You would go to CRC, like me, before working for the government overseas. At CRC you get lots of shots, like Flu, Anthrax, Smallpox, Measles-Mumps-Rubella, Hepatitis A and B, and several others I can't remember. Oh yeah, they give them all to you at once! You also take care of dental issues and other health-related junk.
Once you have been lightly skewered, they then issue you three bags of military gear (I can get into details later), and lightly cover several important lessons in survival: First-Aid, NBC (Nuclear/Biological/Chemical Warfare), and probably a few other courses I fell asleep in.
I will post more pictures later, as I am trying to catch up (I haven't even gotten to the flight over yet)...
I'd like to post more pictures, but this'll do for now. This is Gander, Newfoundland, part of Canada...or Canadia for you clever types. hehe
Our plane departed from El Paso at 04:30 Saturday, MAR 27, and landed in Gander several hours later, to refill and let us take a break.
We then boarded the plane (see picture) and started our flight to Shannon, Ireland (which would come several more hours later). This stop was over an hour, so we all got out and did what most Americans do...drink some beers!
I got to try some Beamish Red Ale, Carling Lager (shit), and the freshest Guinness I've ever had. Below is a picture of the Airport Bar...
Now that's a good idea: take a 747 full of Army dogs and civilians, and let them drink some heavy beer in about an hour (note that we all knew this would be our last beer for a while, as there is no alcohol allowed where we are going).
So now we're all a bit buzzed. We get back on the plane, and try to calm down and rest, as this is our last leg of the journey. We are now headed for Kuwait, to arrive at Camp Wolverine, and begin my new adventure...although it looks like I've already started.
This picture was taken Sunday, 4 April, at 2:38PM. It's weird when it rains here. The water dries almost immediately, although it can sometimes flash flood. Also, the sky always seems orange-tinted.
In the background are the tops of two smokestacks. Those are nicknamed "Saddam's Goalposts," because if you can shoot a missle through there, we're f#*ked.
This picture should give you a general idea of what Camp Doha is like. It may not look like much, but you have to stop taking things for granted. We have running hot and cold water, electricity, streets, and even buildings. Some other sites aren't so luxurious.
Also in the picture is what we call an LBD...Little Blue Dude. They are the caretakers, and clean up the camps, bathrooms, etc.
There's a chance tomorrow that I will be going to another camp in Kuwait to do some temporary work for another site. The job is expected to take several weeks. I will still live out of Doha, and yes, I will still be safe, so stop watching the news!
That is all...
Now I have moved to a different campsite, farther South in Kuwait, called Camp Arifjan. This site will be nice once it is completed. Arifjan is half tents, half buildings...and guess where we get to sleep. Yay!
So we just moved in this morning, to our tents...At this point I don't care anymore that it's a tent. I'm tired...sleep is sleep. The food here is much better though. They have a catering company provide the desserts...good stuff.
I'm not really sure how long I will be working here, but I like Kuwait, and I like this place. I'll try and get a picture up here in the next post.
(I will try and get more pictures later)
I work for CFLCC, Coalition Forces Land Component Command. This is the hub of operations out here, as it is the entry point to Iraq, and a very exciting place to be. CFLCC is a Joint Task Operation, including all branches of our military, and dozens of other countries from around the world. There are a lot more countries involved than I thought.
I work for the 160th Signal Brigade (sounds cool huh?). We specialize in communications and operational planning. I work in the COIC (Combat Operations Intelligence Center), the brain of this place. If you've seen any movies with giant command centers and big-screen monitors wall-to-wall, then you know where I work (think of Wargames). This place is huge!
Sleep last night wasn't bad...in my tent. This place is windy! The wind has not let up for the past 24 hours. Nothing major, but it still sucks. All the guys feel the same way: we don't like living in the tent, but it isn't that bad. It just takes some adjusting.
Our neighbors have been here for some time, and have built decks and doors and picnic benches out of scrap wood laying around. Anything to make these tents feel like home.
I have a lot more respect for our military. They have to put up with far worse living conditions, and don't get paid like I do. There isn't much privacy anymore, from the showers to the living quarters. You just have to deal with it. All those little comforts. Man, I really miss the jacuzzi!
More to come...
Here is my new home at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Actually, you get used to it real quick.
This was Friday night's sunset. It rained earlier today, and cleared up just in time for me to take this picture.
Thursday night was "Rave Night" at the base. Pretty funny...a bunch of Army dudes standing around with glowsticks, trying to figure out how to spin them around without hitting each other in the nuts.
This is some Kuwaiti money, called Kuwaiti Dinars. 1 KD is roughly worth $3 American.
There has been no water for two days here at Camp Arifjan. Yes, we have plenty of bottled water, but no showers and no "good" toilets (we have to use those porta-toilets...ugh!).
Here is a pic of my tent inside. Pretty cool, huh? The large bubbly thing at the top is our air conditioning.
I decided to remove the Smallpox pictures (previously here), as I got too many emails from people saying that was some gross sh!t. For those curious enough, you can see 'em when I return home in a year...
Well, now I'm off to bed. They just changed our schedule, so now I have to work at 05:30 until 17:30 (12 hours!). Oh well, at least I'm makin' money!
This was last night's sunset, but things can change quickly. It can be sunny one minute, and pouring rain the next. That's what today was like. It rained hard and then cleared up to expose the sky for sunset.
This was also last night...rows and rows of tents. Now, Arifjan is a nice place. There are real living quarters here, but most of this place is still under construction, so we live in tents.
I've been keeping busy with work (since it is a 12-hour shift). Between that I am usually at the mess hall (food), at the gym (trying to become the buffest nerd you've ever seen), or sleeping because I'm exhausted.
There is no alcohol here...and that normally wouldn't bother me, but damn, I want just one fricken budweiser! They've got this "near beer" stuff you buy...just torture.
Today was fun. I got to roam around a bit with some friends in this little bad boy. I took some pictures while we were cruising around. You can see them below.
Yesterday, the outside temperature got to 121 degrees (116 in the shade)!! But our tents are a nice 71 degrees, thanks to the air conditioning. And last night, a light sandstorm blew through the town. It was windy as hell this morning too, and most of the day.
Here's some more pics...
Driving around the base...
These tank-like things are like the tow-truck equivalent out here. Big fellers, 'aint they?
Last night was karaoke night here. Let me tell you, there were some folks who shouldn't be allowed to sing. That was pure entertainment!
Today is my day off, so I've been doing my normal stuff...I slept in, ate some lunch, checked my email. Now I'm off to do laundry and read a little. Then tonight I hit the gym, and it's off to bed.
Here is one of my childhood favorites...Tang. Well, it's the Middle-Eastern equivalent. But it tastes just as good!
I wanted to mention to everybody posting comments, please don't enter your email address. People take them for spam-lists. So it is no longer required to post.
Some of you have asked about the food and daily living conditions on the base. I haven't gotten any pics yet of the dining hall, but here's something familiar from back home. No, I haven't eaten at any of these...the dining hall is really good!
Since I never realized how lame this picture is, I should just remove it. But I need it here...it really ties the site together! Thanks BoHa, for keeping me in line.
The weather has been getting warmer out here, and the bugs are starting to come out. A couple camel spiders have already visited our tent, although I have yet to see one, and black beetles are running all over the place.
Friday, I headed out with some buddies to see an Iraqi graveyard, rusty tanks and artillery captured or destroyed in recent fighting. This site is only a mile or so away from my tent, so we went out on foot. These Russian-made tanks and artillery were involved in combat as recently as one year ago.
As we were walking out, we noticed the air started to turn orange, and then grey. We were asking each other what that "giant grey wall" in the distance could be, but within minutes, the sandstorm surrounded us! The air became filled with every type of sand (from stinging, large grits to powder-fine). It reminded me of the fires in San Diego, back in October. The way it was dark, and hard to see. Only here, this happens all the time, and the wind was really picking up!
We already walked that far, so we tried to stick around and take some pictures before we lose visibility.
It quickly became too much, so we ran back to our tents...a mile away! We were all laughing and cursing at the same time. Good times! heh. I got back inside, and my hair was grey!
Looks like the stress is gettin' to me! haha.
I later learned that the wind knocked down one of the gyms on the other side of the base. Somebody inside was seriously hurt...and apparently this was a small sandstorm.
I titled this entry "first attempt." So, logic says I'll be making a second attempt at some point. I think I'll wait a week!
Today, I went into town with a couple guys from work. One of them has a car, so we went out to explore Kuwait. The picture above is the Kuwaiti two towers, basically a tourist spot with fancy restaurants (although we didn't get to check 'em out).
On a side note, our power has been out for two days now. That means no air conditioning and no lights.
So here I am in Fahaheel, a small city just a couple minutes away from Arifjan. We came down here to explore and check out the local shops.
This is from a small pet shop (No, they didn't have any monkeys). In case you couldn't tell, these are baby chicks...every one of them. Crazy, eh?
You can buy all sorts of wares down here, from bootleg DVDs to software, to watches and electronics. And gold is much cheaper here. You can buy a gold chain easily worth double or triple in the US.
This is the National Hall in Kuwait City...I believe this is like our Congress, but don't quote me, m'kay?
This is one of many houses in Kuwait. In case you didn't know, this country is very wealthy (one Kuwaiti Dinar is worth more than three US Dollars!).
Speaking of Dinars, I bought 500,000 Iraqi Dinars today. That set me back 100 Kuwaiti Dinars ($339 US), even though there is no official exchange rate, yet. I thought it would be a great collectors item, and a good experiment...to see what happens to the Iraqi economy.
This is one of the many Mosques (Masjid, in Arabic). I don't know why I used to think I couldn't take pictures of them. Thanks to everyone for catching this and telling me.
Now I'm at the Marina Mall in Kuwait City. This place looks just like the rest of America, and the food is great. And I picked up some Cuban cigars (they would go great with a Mojito, but alas...no booze).
(Yeah, I know, another badly taken picture) On the way home, we saw a monkey in the back of this truck! Actually, it might have been a baboon, but I like monkeys more. It was just hanging out and it perched on the side of the truck! You can barely see him sitting there in the photo.
We got back around 7PM, after a whole day of exploring and eating and buying cool junk. I had a great time today, exploring and checking out a part of the world I would typically never get to visit.