Mudville, Iraq


More from Robert:

And in the ‘be careful what you wish for’ category, we finally got rain.
Lots of rain. Now all of the dust I use to complain about has turned to
mud. About 6 inches of mud, regardless of where you walk. Our
volleyball tournament has been postpone until further notice (doesn’t
matter since JAG already got eliminated).

And as an additional bonus, all of our electrical outlets are shorting
out and catching the tents on fire. These are incidentally the same
tent that were soaked in kerosene to help waterproof them.

We are, however, are more fortunate than our sister camp, Cedar II, which has
flooded. Makes me wish for the return of the 140 degree days. Can’t
win for losing here in Iraq. Just smile and laugh at this place. In
the next care package, please send paved streets and sleep trailers.

On a positive note, we now have an office pet, a field mouse James named
Mr. Jingles (yes, he stole it from “The Green Mile”). They call these
mice ‘kangaroo mice’, because they can jump real high and are
unbelievably fast. James is kicking the food boxes right now, trying to
root out Mr. Jingles. He has never come close to catching him, but he
tries every single day. Got to admire his tenacity. Mr. Jingles
doesn’t really bother me, but he has been killing the rice supply.

I hope everyone had a good Turkey Day.



Rob’s photo in the news….


From an Army publication

Army Reserve Captain Robert Rideout, Judge Advocate General, Tallil Air
Base, Iraq, spends time playing with orphaned Iraqi children during a
care package delivery to a local orphanage. (Photo by Senior Airman
Karolina Gmyrek)

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Rob’s trip to Babylon (long with photos)


More from Robert, WARNING: Some of this is a bit rough. Understand this is from an active duty officer writing about what he sees.

18 September 2003-2130

We brought the computer, so I thought I would write down what happened each day. I always think “Man so many cool things have happened today”; I just never remember to write the stuff down. We started by going to Cedar II. That place is a complete dustbowl. It is a logistical base that is only about 4 mile down the road from us. Cedar I was probable the worse place in all of Iraq. A dump with moon dust literally up to your knees. Because of this, they moved Cedar near our base. Cedar has always been where the trucks come and go from. We were at Cedar II to link up with some others. I took a picture of the sunrise, which was the only nice thing about that place.

We then hit the road. We took a route called Alternate Supply Route (ASR) Jackson. It was a lot slower; we averaged about 35-40 mph, but a lot more scenic. Much of the area was green. It was quite nice. We were slowed because we had to drive through the cities. They all looked the same, in complete disarray. Lots of people all over the place. The Iraqis love to weave in and out of traffic. Real dangerous. But other than that no real problems. I, being an officer, just sat in the passengers seat and smoked my little cigars. You are not suppose to smoke in a government vehicle, but what the hell. I could basically hid the fact anyways, since we have a big hole in the bottom of the floor on the passengers’ side. I just flicked ashes and butts down the whole in the floor and no one is the wiser. I also committed another big no-no and fell asleep a few times … without my seatbelt on! I am a rebel.

The first base we visited was Al Diwaniyah. The base was in pretty bad shape. There was a lady at the gate asking for help for her daughter. Keep saying “My daughter, my daughter.” I looked over at the child in her hands and she was dead. Way dead. I don’t know why she was out there or what she wanted, but it all made me a little nervous. When we got into the base, one of the other guys asked about the kid. Hell, what do you say about something like that.

Al Diwaniyah was similar to Cedar in that it was covered in this moon dust. It was everywhere, but not to deep; maybe a foot deep. We were there so the Colonel and the Sergeant Major could meet with soldiers about concerns, and man did they get an ear full. The whole 365 thing. It isn’t either of their faults, but they took the brunt of the abuse. Before the meeting, one of the guys there came running up with a thumb split wide open. Hager and I drove him over to the hospital on the Spanish side. It looked pretty nasty.

We left the base and visited the fuel point and water purification sites. I road with a nice LT and we talked most of the time. The water site was pretty cool. Of course, I did not bring my camera. The riverbank was very nice. There were a bunch of cows bathing in the river and some children playing. One thing I was concerned about was the safety of the people working there. They were on the edge of the city and right near the waterfront, and I figured that they could get shelled or shot at anytime anyone wanted to. The guys at the site said that they did not have any problems because they bought stuff off the locals in the village. Kind of got them on their side. Smart thing to do when you think about it.

We then went to the railhead to view that operation. The railroad was in the middle of Ad Diwaniyah and we had to go through the neighborhoods. It is the same old thing as when you drive through anywhere that is populated, kids swarm your vehicle and beg. It occurred to me that I have never taken a picture of this event. It is just so common, it never occurred to me that the people back home have probably never seen what it is like. I also kind of thought it was bad manners to take pictures of someone begging, but I guess no worse than begging itself. So I took a few pictures, but only one really came out good.

We then traveled here to Al Hillah. The base is where on of our battalions, the 189th, is located. It is in the middle of the town and is not as bad as I heard. We are in a big fez tent, they have a mess hall, showers, and port-a-johns. I prefer Tallil, but this place is not so bad. It is small and they have a lot of foreign nations packed in here. The fez tents have all the members of the 189th in them. Like 60 people to a tent, but it is OK. No real problem in the tent and it is also right in front of a shower trailer. The shower trailers are nasty though. Some of the foreigners do stupid things, like wash their clothes in the shower. And man, most foreigners stink. Real nice people, most of them, they just stink.

I meet a real nice Hungarian JAG officer. Hungarians are an interesting bunch. They are like the classy Warsaw Pact country. They almost all speak English, love US modern rock, are very clean and well educated. This guy was good to talk to. He spoke near perfect English and we talked a lot about the law, history, and politics. Real nice guy. I have heard from others that the Hungarians were about the best country to work with. They remind me a lot of the British. Americans overwhelm most of these camps with personnel and culture. I think that rubs some nations the wrong way. The Hungarians seem to go with the flow and try to make the best of it. I told this Hungarian JAG I would come back tomorrow with some cigars and we could hang out and talk.

Well that is about it. I will write again tomorrow.

19 September 2003-1341

It is day two here in Al Hillah. The morning has been one of the best I have had in a long time. The 189th got up at 0600 to PT, but none of us got up to participate. None of us brought our PT clothes. Even if we had, I don’t think we would have participated. I ended up getting out of the cot at about 0730 and met up with a lieutenant from the 189th, who I knew in Arifjan. They apparently took him from Arifjan and brought him up north when they went. I am sure he did not like that, but as my mother would say ‘Such is life.’ Breakfast was pretty good. Last night, at dinner, they had noodles and some kind of London broil. It was OK, but I could not cut it with my plastic silverware. My fork shattered into a million pieces before it was all said and done. So I ate a lot of noodles. Anyways, my long and drawn out point is that they had cereal this morning and it was a lot better than the dinner last night. I talk to LT about life and the Army. He has apparently had his fill and is looking to get out in the worse way. You can always tell those people because they come up with a thousand possible careers for themselves. Anything but the Army. Those who say “You know, one day I would like to leave the Army and do X.” are usually the once who stay in for life. Those who say “I hate the XXXXXXX Army and would be willing to do anything other than this” are the ones who will leave.

One thing I forgot to mention from last night, there is gunfire here 24/7. The guys here say it is celebration gunfire; just the locals celebrating everything from a wedding to a day off from work. I don’t know if that is true, but there is a lot of it. There was some this morning when I woke up, and just now it sounds like we sent some rounds back. That is what reminded me to write about it.

So anyways we came into the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) to do some work this morning. The plan was for most of the 189th to go to the range at Kabala to do some range firing, so there are not too many people here today. We are trying to get the word out about our schedule and the fact we are here. For about a hour we did a lot of powers of attorneys and answered a few questions, but other than that it has been pretty quiet.

We went to lunch at their dining facility today. Today is their grand opening of a lunch meal. It was not that good. Chicken patty and fries. Neither tasted right. The food and the selection seem to be a little different here because of the whole multinational thing. Most of the meals here are pretty diverse.

So the plan for the rest of the day is to just hang out and try to get to Babylon when the Sergeant Major gets back. I have no clue when that will be. I hear he is at the range and if that is the case, it will be a few hours before he gets back. I don’t think we will make it today, but might go again tomorrow. There are the Hanging Gardens and one of Saadam’s palaces. I really want to see the bazaar they have set up there. That is one of the major motivations for this trip. I hear the hours are between 0900-1400 Monday-Friday, so I guess we will not be able to go today. I hear you could get a good exchange on currency and a lot of military patches/rank up there. I think there is an LT who can get me in on Monday, since we will not make it before it closes. I guess we will see. They have a staff meeting today at 1600, and the LT has to go to these staff meeting. I will try to catch him after and set something up.

It has been a little busy, but it kind of feels like a day off. I like this place the more I stay here. We have some facilities that are better, but this place is green and small. That is pretty nice. At Tallil, you have to drive everywhere because everything is so far away. They talk about it being crowded, but it feels kind of cozy to me. The farthest walk is from the sleep tent to the TOC and that is maybe a five-minute walk. Everything is next beside each other. This is also a little bit of an off day too. All the people are at the range, so things are real calm right now. Actually as long as the colonel is here, I think the work will slow. He will want to go to this site and that site and talk to people. So the battalion commander and the battalion sergeant major will feel obligated to go with them everywhere. Therefore, the big wigs will not be here and it will consequently be quiet. It is cool with me; it feels like a mini vacation to me. The trips are always like this, you dread going, but are happy once you get there and get settled. Beats sitting in Tallil, watching sandstorms, and going to staff meetings.

19 September 2003-2036

I am getting ready for bed and thought I would write a little. Nothing really to report. Just finished the remainder of the day. We did not get to go to Babylon. The Sergeant Major is going at 0900 tomorrow. Of course, we learned about that at 2000 tonight, after we announced in the staff meeting that we are going to do legal assistance in the morning. That is OK though, I really did not want to go with him anyways. I much preferred to go with some other group. I think I will talk to that LT tomorrow. His companies TOC is right next beside the 189th, so I will run over and see if I can get him to escort me up there. I guess we will see.

Went to chow tonight. That has something that looked a lot like chili and rice, but didn’t quite taste that way. Very greasy stuff. They had some other weird dishes that these foreign troops ate up. Got no clue what it was; hell I don’t even have a guess, but they ate it up.

Saw a bunch of Americans trying to teach some Hungarians how to play baseball. I think I caught them in the early stages of development. They were using some big machine gun as a bat and the American who was pitching was not worth a damn. He keep hitting the batter every throw. Pretty sad.

The remainder of the night has been slow. I guess the guys get bored out of their minds. There is nothing to do. Al Hillah is pretty and smaller, but it just seems like there is no other routine other than hang around the tent at night. At least I can sneak to the gym on the Air Force side of Tallil. These guys don’t have anything.

It is weird being with these guys. They are active-duty, but all real young. A lot of 18 and 19 year olds. And man they show it. I forget what is was like to be that age and at that maturity level. I guess I really am getting old. 18 feels like it was only yesterday … until I see these kids, and then it feels like 12 years ago.

Anyways, maybe I will get to Babylon tomorrow. I hope so.

20 September 2003-0854

We have just set up to do legal assistance this morning, so I am just sitting around … waiting. We told everyone we would be here at 0900, so people to come in. Other than that, not a lot going on. The 189th’s Sergeant Major was asking about some homosexuality issue. The Sergeant Major for the 189th is a poster book soldier. He is short, stocky, got at 101st Screaming Eagles combat patch, master airborne, air assault tab, and a drill sergeant’s badge. He is a 38-year-old command sergeant major, probably the youngest I have ever seen. One day he will end up as the Sergeant Major of the Army, I have no doubt.

I talked to the LT from the 889th and he said the colonels were leaving today to do the visit thing. That is good. It means we can go to Babylon whenever we want.

The one thing about being this far north is my allergies are acting up a little. Everything is so green around here and I am apparently allergic to the stuff in the air. It is not bad, not like spring back home, but it is worse than at Tallil. I never need any allergy medication at Tallil. There is nothing in the air at Tallil, except dust. And dust does not seem to bother me.

Colonel Larsen might be leaving tomorrow. If that is the case, I think we might leave with him. I need to get together with him and see what his plans are. I like it up here OK, but my office is closed up. That and our Sergeant Major is talking about going Monday to Al Diwaniyah to spend the night. I would much rather leave tomorrow then get stuck in Al Diwaniyah for an overnighter. Like I have said, I didn’t like that place much. When we were at Al Diwaniyah we offered to update POAs for anyone who wanted them. They all refused, saying that they were going home in November and theirs were good until February. The 189th’s Sergeant Major recommended that they might want to go ahead and get their POAs updated, HINT, HINT. They all said no, that they were leaving in November and did not need them. Oh well, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. I have a feeling if we stayed overnight at Al Diwaniyah, we will get swamped with the “I want out of the Army” kind of questions. Better we just go home.

20 September 2003-1023

The morning has been pretty busy with POAs and other ancillary legal matters. They have us set up in the front of the TOC today. I didn’t like the spot, but it may work out for the best. Lots of visibility in this spot. All the colonels and sergeant majors have to walk by this position and they see us working and helping soldiers. That is always a good thing, showing the appearance of work in front of the big wigs. And just about the time it all calms down, the brass has moved out to a different location. Couldn’t have worked out better.

The workload here for the 189th seems real low. I figured it was slow yesterday because everyone was at the range. Now I just think that is the way it is here, little work to do.

The LT who I am trying to get to take us to Babylon is an interesting guy. He uses to be a first sergeant of a unit and then decided to go and get a commission. He has been in the Army for 21 years now and has been a LT for 7 years. He was supposed to get promoted, but the reserves screwed up all of his paperwork and he got passed over. Because of that, he is now losing like $18,000.00 during this deployment.

20 September 2003-2122

So we got to go to Babylon, but before I get to that I wanted to write down this one observation before I forget it. These foreigners love American things, especially sports. I think they are put off by a lot the U.S. does and stands for, they just don’t voice it. But our culture, they love. I was coming into the tent and there were a bunch of Hungarians throwing a football. They weren’t doing that well, but man they looked happy. And then I just went out to the shower trailer and I saw the Romanians have built a basketball court and are playing like it was the NBA Finals.

OK, Babylon. The LT that I had been talking to came in at about 1300 and told me he would take me. The first place we went to was the bazaar. That place was wide open. I got a picture of it before I entered. The moment you enter, they jump on you, trying to sell you everything. I followed the LT and he helped me get some good deals. I got some stamps, some money in folders, some coins, and a few little bracelets. Got out for about 10 dollars. You have to watch yourself there. It is crazy, but a once in a lifetime experience.

After the bazaar, we went to Saadam’s place. We passed by the ruins and I got some real good pictures. Very cool. We were on a tight time schedule, so we didn’t stop. I really wanted to see the palace and I was not disappointed.

The palace was on this huge hill, which was about as steep as anything you have ever seen. We hoofed it up and Ed, to his credit, did it with a SAW on you back. The palace is clean out of any goodies, but you can see how well he lived. The view from the balcony was incredible. We got some great pictures. We went to the roof, the basement, saw his pool. I have never seen anything like that. I think I got about 50 pictures in all.

When we came back down we went to the dining facility (DFAC). It is right on the Euphrates. I cannot believe how good some people live. We actually have two LNOs stationed there. What a life they have. We saw them going to the bazaar when we were leaving it. The whole time I thought what a tough life they had. I could never understand why they keep wanting to get back north every time they came to Tallil. That mystery is now solved. I got some of the best picture I have gotten since I have been in Iraq. Man that was a great trip.

When I got back I was standing outside, smoking a cigar and talking to Ed, and some Iraqi came and asked to take a picture with me. He wanted on with an American with a weapon and a cigar hanging out of his mouth. So I obliged. I guess we are as much of a curiosity to them as they are to us.

We worked a little tonight, just as the colonel was coming in. Our timing has been great this trip. Always sees us working the times we are working. We were setting up basically a remote office for their legal clerk. Put her in a position to do a couple of little thing, but that is all most people need. POA, affidavits, et. al. She has that and she can do Article 15s. That is 90 percent of all of our work.

Well that is about it for today. I think I am going to head to bed for the night.

21 September 2003-0853

So last night, after I wrote, I lost my watch in the shower. I am so pissed at myself for that. I took it off to shower, put it on one of the benches, and left it in there after I showered. Man, I feel stupid. I went looking for it about an hour later, but by that point it was gone. With as many people that go through there, there is no telling who picked it up. Oh well. That is my fault, I should have keep better control of it, and I know that. I am glad it was not on of my Fossil watches. It was just some digital Timex I bought at the PX. No big deal, I can replace it for 30 bucks, it is just the principle of the thing.

I have been talking to the chaplain here. He is an interesting and kind of sad guy. He is 51 and was in the last Gulf War. What is worse, he is still a captain and has just been passed over for promotion the second time. He is a real nice guy, who really seems to care. I think that is the very thing that makes him a little sad to talk to. Just a nice guy who has been lost in the shuffle. He used to be in the Air Force as an OSI agent. That is the same as a CID agent in the army. Basically he was a detective. He left OSI and went into the seminary and became a minister. He got his commission in 1989. He has been an officer since I was in high school and we are the same rank. So anyways, he had been passed over for Major once and worked real hard to make it with this board. He has 18 ½ years in service, and if he got passed over again, he would have to leave the service. He got a real good Officer Evaluation Report (OER) and was hoping to make it this next board. Well, guess what. The people at the personnel command did not put the OER on his record. So not only does he not have the good OER on his record, but his record is incomplete. Consequently he gets passed over again. He is appealing the decision, but it is the Army so I don’t know how well the appeal will go. I guess we will see, but something tells me he is about to eat it.

We are going home tomorrow. Colonel Larsen needs to get back. There is some general coming down, so he has to get back. We are all leaving as one big group. That is good. I think that is just about enough time to get everything done and get back to Tallil. We have set up the legal shop here, done a lot of legal assistance, and got some other matters resolved. Pretty productive thus far. I am ready to get back. Not because I like Tallil, but because I am use to it and it where all my stuff is at.

It is looking like it is going to be a real slow morning. No matter where you go, Sunday mornings are slow. That is OK, I guess. It is just when I am at somewhere like this, I would rather be busy. I don’t like to come into someone else’s place and sit around. Doesn’t look good. If there is nothing going on, we might pack up a little early and head back to the sleep tents. I think the colonel is going to Babylon at 1230. I might tag along and go back. Maybe I can tour the ruins today.

We haven’t been able to have much contact with the outside world while we are here. I haven’t been able to email or watch any news. I have been wondering what happened with the hurricane. Based on what I hear, it did not turn out too bad, but that is just what people are saying. I would really like to get on CNN and read for a little bit.

21 September 2003-1546

I just got back from Babylon again. This time we toured the ruins. The woman giving the tour was real nice and real informative. I noticed she had something really wrong with her left hand. It was really swollen. The tour itself was about an hour and a half long and we walked everywhere. I got to get my picture taken by the old wall and by the Lion of Babylon. That was cool, taking the picture with the Lion of Babylon. That was about the only thing the Germans could not steal when they excavated the site. It is a lion trampling the enemies of the city. I hope the picture turned out. I had to use T.J. camera. The batteries in mine went out … again. That camera is so old and eats batteries like nothing I have ever seen. At the end of the tour I tipped the guide 20 bucks for the 4 of us. I was the senior office on the tour, so that kind of stuff falls to me. That is at least one thing I have learned about Army edict and actually agree with. Some E-4 shouldn’t have to dig into their pockets; the senior NCOs or officer should cover for the group.

After the tour, I went to the gift shop and got ripped off. I knew I was getting ripped off, but the bazaar was closed today and we are leaving tomorrow, so it didn’t really matter to me. I got a book about Babylon for the first graders who wrote me. I am going to send out a package for them when I get back. Most of the stuff is little stuff, but stuff you can only get over here. I hope they like it.

21 September 2003-1840

It looks like we might be here tomorrow. The colonel was leaving tomorrow morning because General Diamond was coming to the 171st. Diamond cancelled, so the colonel wants to stay a little long. That is fine with me. I am in no big hurry either way. Still a day I have to do in country, regardless of where in the country I do it.

The DFAC was absolutely horrible tonight. There food is not right. Sgt. Thompson saw a KBR employee in the dining room, so he went over to ask why the food was so damn bad. The guy said it is because of the seasoning they use, and that the foreign armies prefer it. Whatever. It takes pretty bad to me. The service some ice cream there, so that is about all I eat. I got some of their beef stew and noodles and was able stomach a little bit of noodles and one beef tip. It tasted all-wrong.

T.J. is outside, teaching ever other nationality in the world how to throw a football. It never ceases to amaze me how much they eat that stuff up. To look at them you would think they have been waiting their whole life for some American to throw a football with them. Usually there will be two Americans throwing it outside the DFAC, and the next thing you know, you have the U.N. I think our whole foreign relations should be based around T.J. going to different nations and throwing a football with them. It would probably solve all the world’s problems. It is like I said, they think we are fat, lazy, arrogant, and they all want to be like us. I have noticed that. A lot of these other militaries seem real organized, disciplined, efficient, but the Americans have what the French call … I don’t know what. It is like we know we are the baddest asses here and flaunt it. Bad in some ways, but still makes you smile.

Still haven’t been able to watch much news. I hope the storm turned out OK.

22 September 2003-1311

OK, so I am back to wonderful Tallil. Oh goodie. I had kind of an interesting night last night. I went back to the TOC to check on the time we were leaving, and the colonel’s plans were back and forth and back and forth, so I got us on a convoy, which was leaving at 0700. That meant we needed to be up by 0530.

I got back to the tent and was sitting in the back, smoking a cigar, when some Mongolians came up to me. They could not speak very much English but were interested in learning. So we spoke, exchanging English words for Mongolian words for about an hour. It was real uneasy; when I told them what I was smoking was a ‘cigar.’ We talked about tobacco and I told them to wait a minute and went in the tent and got a cigar for them. Man, they went wild. The loved it. The two guys I was with took me over to a group of them and we sat and tried to talk to each other. They explained their jobs and asked what I did. None of them knew what a lawyer was. Then they asked me to go into their compound. Now I would be lying if I didn’t say that made me a little nervous. But we went to their morale room, where they had a big TV and about 75 Mongolians watching a DVD of a Mongolian comedy show. One of the guys, who could speak a little English translated for me. It was weird, but like I have said, a once in a lifetime experience.

We got back to Tallil OK. Nothing really interesting on the drive. Traffic was as wild as ever.


Rob sends photos from Ziggurat of Ur


The latest from Robert in Iraq:

Some of you may not know that my base is in the dead center of one of
the most important archeological sites in the middle east.

Within our wire, we have the Ziggurat of Ur. Ur is known in the Bible as Ur of
the Chaldees. Ur is known as the ancient city of the Sumerian civilization and the home of Abraham. It was the capital of a small wealthy empire during the third millennium B.C.

Most of the Ziggurat of Ur is still standing. I thought I would send out some pictures of the place. It is pretty cool.

Burial Chamber.jpg

Ziggurat-View with Soldier

Ruins with picture of staircase

Ruins at Ur

View of Ruins at Ur

Ziggurat front view

Ziggurat long view

Ziggurat top view

Ziggurat Side View

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Rob gets a break and heads to Qatar for R&R


The following are a few pictures from Qatar. Some of you might remember
T.J. from his appearance in Rocky IV.

David and T.J.

High Stakes Spades

The boys from Tallil

View from the Plane

View from the Plane

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Rob answers a ton of questions


Latest from Robert in Iraq:

One of Stacy’s friends [Stacy is Rob’s wife] sent me a bunch of questions about the place. I thought you might find the answers interesting.

How do you spend your off time? Do you have games or go to camel races
or something? And what do you eat over there? Just curious. Are their
bathrooms/toilets etc. the same as here or are they a big whole in a
sand dune? And do you get to go to movies? Cable TV? What about money – do
you have to convert your American money to their stuff? Are you a coffee
drinker – I am – and no matter how hot it is – I will drink coffee – no joke
– do you do the same? Air-conditioning? Trees? What are the sunsets
like? (my favorite time of day) Sunrises? Do the women still cover themselves?
Are the people of Iraq nice to their animals – like their dogs? I hope so
because it would break my heart if they are not better not tell me if
they are not so nice. Sandstorms? Where do you take cover? Has it rained?
Take your time in answering –

Most of the time, you spend working. I work, now that I am the Command
Judge Advocate, on average of 12-13 hours a day. This is actually very
nice, makes the time go by fast. At night, I sit on the porch, smoke a
cigar, and listen to some music. People come out and we talk. I like
talking to people who talk politics, their lives at home, sports,
anything but about going home. I hate the ‘I wonder when we are going
home.’ We’ve got no clue, so it just ruins the day to talk about it.

We just got a mess hall. It opened three days ago and it is like
heaven. They had some kind of hamburger steak last night and white
rice. Ask Stacy if she thinks I liked that. It was like heaven. For
the 3 1/2 months before that, we had UGR, T-Rats, and MREs. MREs are
‘Meals Ready to Eat’ and it is the lowest form of food you can eat. A
UGR is a big, heated up MRE that the MKT (Mobile Kitchen Tent) served.
T-Rat are a little better than UGR, but not much. There are A-Rats and
B-Rats, but we never saw them. The DFAC (Dining Facility) is like

For bathrooms, we had burnout field latrines. That is exactly what it
sounds like. Enlisted soldiers had to burn waste everyday and the whole
camp smelled like diesel and shit. We had those for about 3 months.
For the last month, we have had port-a-johns. They are better, but to
hot to use during the day. You either use them early in the morning or
late at night. If you use it during the day, you will sweat to death.
Like Cool Hand Luke in the sweatbox. For males, there are pipes for
urinating. Long pipes that stick out and buried deep into the ground.
They have to be closed every so often when the ground is saturated.

There are movies in the MWR (Morale, Welfare, and recreation) tent, but
I don’t go to then much. It is a big 36″ TV with a DVD player. There
is a satellite we have just gotten up and they have a TV in the battle
call. Only one channel, Armed Forces TV. Back home I watched TV all
the time. I have not sat down and watch a program since I have gotten

We don’t convert money here. The Iraqis want the American Dollar in
trade. Most trade are for souvenirs. The money is hard to come by, but
some people have better connections than others.

I do drink coffee, but it dehydrates you. I have to be careful with it
out here. On a hot day, it will put you down quick. Among the Iraqis,
tea is a big tradition, and if you have ever been offered the change to
go to tea, it is a real insult not to go. We were at the Ziggurat of Ur
the other day and the Curator asked us to go to his house for tea. We
went and it was pretty cool. The first thing you do is get a single
glass of water and share it among the group. Pass it around to show
friendship. He then brought out the tea set and served hot tea in
glasses about the size of a shot glass. He put two little spoons of
sugar in it and we drank it. It was so hot it burned my tongue but it
was very good. He is a nice guy and speaks good English.

In the Middle East, you never use your left hand for most social
interaction. Shaking hands, waving, touching. You also do not give the
OK sign or a thumbs up. They are obscene. Men also hold hand when
walking around. That threw me the first time I saw that.

Few trees here. The whole south is desert. Saadam damned the place up
in 91′ when the Shiites revolted. It is a real wasteland where I am.
Lots of trees and grass up north. But also a lot of bad guys. It is a

We have just gotten a/c. We hope to have them hooked up soon.

The sunsets are beautiful. I have attached a picture from about two
months ago of tent row (where I live) at sunset.

Some women cover themselves, maybe 50 percent. The country is very
secular. Not like what you hear.

I have not seen much with Iraqis and animals. They keep pets, so I
guess care for them.

The sandstorms have abated for the last few days. Use to get them
almost every day. It is OK during the day. It is the ones at night
which are hell. We, thank God, have not had one at night in about 3
months. You really do think the world is falling down around you then.
And you will not sleep that night.

It rain a little in April. It has since then at all. They say it will
rain again in the winter.


Rob’s latest trip to Arifjan, Kuwait


More from Robert in Iraq:

I just back from Arifjan. That place is something else. I was suppose
to fly last Monday, but my paperwork got all screwed up. I ended up
flying on a C-130 at 0210 Tuesday morning. It was actually a good
flight. The flight landed at Kuwaiti International and all the guys on
the plane passed their cameras around for pictures. The one I have
attached to this email is from the plane.

From the airport I was transported to beautiful Camp Wolf. If you are a
soldier, Camp Wolf is the first place you go to when you enter the
country. Needless to say, lots of bad memories there. Kuwait is one
hour behind Iraq, so when I came in, it was still 0210 at night. The
bus for Arifjan was not leaving until 0700, so I went and found some
tent, plopped down, and went to sleep on my ruck sack, with my flack
vest as a pillow. I was awaken at 0430 by a mass of people moving. The
tent I was sleeping in was full of 101st Abn soldiers, who had to leave
at 0500. After that I just walked around until I got my bus to Arifjan.

For a soldier in Iraq, going to Arifjan is like going to heaven.
Everything you want is there. PX, mess halls, air conditioning, et. al.
Real nice. I had to go there to handle some military justice matters.
I got to sleep in a/c the whole time. It was great.

Two interesting things happened while I was there. On the second day, I
get a message that my Command Judge Advocate is coming down for medical
tests. Well, 24 hours later he is on a plane to Germany and the doctor
told me he will not be returning. I am not really sure what is wrong
with him and the Army is giving him some test in Germany. Hopefully he
will be all-right. So now, I am the Acting Command Judge Advocate. I
am also the senior Army JAG in Southern Iraq. This sounds nice, but
actually I am the only JAG in Southern Iraq.

The second interesting thing is I meet an old friend. I was leaving the
Zone I mess area and reentering Zone II when I saw someone who looked
familiar. I stopped and went back and noticed the guy was wearing a
National Guard shirt. I said “James?” It turned out to be James
Kearney. He is the husband of Tonya Kearney, who works in the DAs
Office with me. He is an MP and has been stationed in Arifjan. He
seemed to be doing well.

On Monday, my fun ended and I caught a ride back to Tallil with a
trucking convoy.


P.S. Humpy was right outside the tent I was staying in, so I had to take
a picture of him and his sayings

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Rob sends more photos


Photos from Robert in Iraq

tent row at sunset

tent row in a sandstorm

Chaplain’s office

JAG office where Rob works

Saadam picture outside the building

Tags: ,

James stole a fridge


The latest from Robert in Iraq:

In my office, we have an E-4 named James Thomas. He is a great guy and
a good soldier, who has a terrible story. He has been in the Army
Reserves for like 10 years. James basically had a slack unit and just
went when it suited him. He never cared about promotions or anything
like that, so he would show up to drill when he needed some extra cash
and wouldn’t go on months he didn’t need it. This actually happens a
lot more in the Reserves than you might think.

James is actually a very intelligent man. He has a masters and a good
job at a hospital as a counselor. Well, one day James is in his office
with a couple of clients went the phone rings. He answers it and the
voice on the other end asked for “Specialist James Thomas.” He said he
just froze and told the person (which turned out to be SSG Hager, my
NCOIC) to hold on. After considering hanging up and running to Mexico,
James answered the phone and identified himself as James Thomas. Hager
told him that he had just been cross-leveled, which in the Army is akin
to a professional athlete being traded. He was to report to Garner, NC
in two days. Being from Atlanta, GA, he had never heard of Garner. But
two days later, with a look of shock on his face that cannot be
duplicated, he was in Garner. He actually had a great attitude the
whole time, in spite of his situation. Oh yea, I forgot to mention, he
got married the day before he left.

Well, anyways, even though James is a lowly E-4 and I am a powerful O-3,
he has a way of finding the hard to find items, all the time. There are
often times me and the Major are drinking piss hot water, because the
unit said that there was no ice, and James will stroll in with a glass
of ice water. He is the guy to go to for stuff like that. He has the
enlisted connection going on all the time. Yesterday, we were suppose
to work out at 7:00 pm. He never arrived. So I am sitting out back on
my porch (the ghetto porch), when James comes out of the back of the
tent. He tells me he is too tired to workout, but to come and see why.
James found and brought back to the tent a refrigerator. It is damn
near a full sized one. A number of them had apparently been sitting in
a Conex for the last month (while we drank the piss hot water I spoke of
earlier). He was there when it was opened and he snagged us one. He is
my new hero. The only problem is it runs on 220 power and our plugs are
110. We need a converter. But I am not worried. I put James on the


Ghetto porch email from Rob


Funny email from Robert:

    I built a porch for the back of my tent yesterday. I am very pleased
    with it, and myself for building it. Around here, about the only thing
    you can do for fun is sit outside and look at the dirt. Behind my tent,
    we have an impressive mound of dirt. I am very proud of it and think
    that it is by and far the best dirt to stare at in the entire camp.

    The problem we have is that we get eaten alive be sand fleas. This would
    not be so bad, except the doctors around here said some of the sand
    fleas carry something called ‘leach moniasis’, which comes in two forms.
    The first causes a skin lesion, the second causes liver failure. To
    combat this problem, I decided till the ground behind the tent, put
    gravel down, and build a deck and overhang.

    I decided to do this at 11am yesterday, when it was about 115 degrees.
    Like many of my crazy ideas, once this got into my head, I had to do it, regardless
    of the consequences. So I told one of my NCOs to come meet me behind our
    tent and I got some tools. One thing I quickly realized is I am not 18 any
    more. Swinging a pick-axe in 115 degree weather is actually harder than
    it looks. But being a bonehead, I simply continued on. After leveling
    the ground, me and my NCO carted 12 buckets of gravel from a site about
    1/4 of a mile away. This helps keep dust and sand fleas down. I then
    got four pallets and two old pieces of wood and made a deck. We then
    put up some camo netting to shade the area. This took about a total of
    4 hours in the blazing heat. I was exhausted by the time we were

    Soon after completion, one of my other NCOs proclaimed that my porch was
    a ‘ghetto porch’ and she didn’t see why I was so proud. Fighting back
    the urge to cry, I informed her that my porch was not ‘ghetto’ but very
    nice. She was not impressed. At this point, I stumbled back to the
    office to get some water. By the time I got back (10 minutes later),
    this lazy sergeant in our tent was already out on the porch with his
    chair. To his credit, he thanked me for making the porch, which his fat
    ass was now sitting on. I just gave up, got my chair out, put it on
    the porch, and lit up a cigar. Ain’t Iraq great?