Settling In

November 18, 2008 at 2:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

January 27, 2008

Well January is coming to an end and we are getting settled into a routine finally. I’m staying busy working with my Iraqi counterpart, taking care of my duties as the Team XO and trying to work out regularly.

I’m working with the Iraqi G-1 section, for those of you who don’t speak Army, that is personnel and Admin, not exactly what I thought I was going to be doing when I began training for this mission. As I have been observing the G-1 section I have noticed several areas that I think I can help them, Pay, Promotions, and Personnel Manning. Today I’ll just talk about the Personnel Manning. One of the complaints from the Iraqis is that they don’t have enough people to do all of the jobs, well its all a manner of how you look at things. From an American perspective they are way over strength. The brigade headquarters is supposed to have 189 people and they actually around 330. The actual number makes sense when you understand that at any given time 30% of them are on vacation (mujaas). Leaving only 200 or so available for work at any given time. The Iraqi Army has a very liberal vacation policy every soldier gets 9 days off a month, this is mainly in order for the soldiers to take their pay home since the banking system here is undeveloped and not really effective. I’ve been working with the G-1 to assign all of the “extra” soldiers so that things don’t crawl to a stand still when the primary personal go on leave. Give me a couple of months and we’ll see how I do.

I have been busy working with the Navy SEABEES providing input into the design process for the compound they are supposed to be building for us when we move to western Iraq at date to be determined. I’m trying to make sure that our compound is as nice as it can be but still falls within military budgetary constraints. That’s pretty hard considering the budget is set by people who are living in palaces in Fallujah and Baghdad and have all the amenities they could ever want. I am having some success though, sometimes the squeaky wheel does get the grease.

I stayed up 23 hours straight the other night to watch the Dallas Cowboys playoff game. The picture shows me at the start of the second half when the Cowboys were still winning. The clock on the wall shows 3am, the game started here at about 1am and was over at about 430am. I was useless the next day. That wasn’t too bad though because the guy on the far left of the picture, sitting on the couch, is my boss and he was up all night watching the game too and he was as wiped out as I was. The bad part about that is that he is a Giants fan and I had to listen to him gloat all week about the Cowboy’s loss.

The first picture is a photo of the whole team minus MAJ VanAlstine, who had wandered off somewhere, with Santa Claus during the Christmas day dinner we had at Taji, that is me just to the right of Santa with the bald head . The Iraqi cooks really went all out and the head cook is the one dressed as Santa. It was a pretty good time.

The third picture is me out and about at one of our subordinate battalions outposts in a small village just outside Ramadi. The Iraqi Brigade Commander is addressing the Iraqi platoon in the background. Amazingly enough the Brigade Commander sounded just like an American Brigade Commander would have upon inspecting an American platoon outpost, talking about all the good things the soldiers are doing, making sure they do maintenance on their vehicles, and keep their area picked up.

The last picture shows the cooking area of our 1st Battalion, recently the Iraqi Ministry of Defense canceled a feeding contract that the Coalition Forces had arranged for them. The contract cooks were kicked off of the Iraqi bases and the Iraqi Army soldiers took over feeding themselves. No big deal right? An Iraqi solution for Iraqis, not one provided by the Coalition. Despite the rickety look of the grill here, this is a success story. This cooking area along with another that is just to the right where the rice (timmon) is prepared feeds over 750 Iraqi soldiers three times a day. There is a cooled semi trailer that has two freezers for chicken (dejaaj) and fish (simach) and holds vegetables that are purchased daily. A typically Iraqi lunch or supper for the soldiers meal consists of chicken, rice mixed with raisins and nuts, some cooked vegetables and two pieces of bread. Not all Iraqi units were able to maintain this standard after the contract was terminated. This battalion came up with it on their own and continues to run it and take care of their soldiers and the soldiers were very proud of it making me sample a little of everything that they had cooked that day, and it was all quite tasty. I also sat down for a meal afterwards that was prepared by the soldiers in the picture and once again suffered no ill effects.

Well that’s enough for now. I hope everyone enjoys this update from Ramadi.

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