outsidethewire

Observations and stories about my crazy life and the crazies I attract…

Sundays in Baghdad May 13, 2012

Filed under: Deployment — Shannon @ 7:56 pm
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This little story is from an email I sent home in Sep 2009.

I usually start to toss and turn between 0600-0730 because I need to go to the restroom due to all the water I drink to stay hydrated.  Not to be graphic but if you don’t drink a lot of water your urine is orange here….I am not kidding.  I finally drag myself out of bed at 0730 because I no longer can stand it and I go to the restroom.  Sadly urine is orange…I think I’ll drown or be up all night if I drank as much water as I needed here to be the right color in the morning.  So after my little jaunt to the bathroom I toss and turn until about 0830-0900.  I finally start dozing with very strange dreams.  The last dream I had before truly waking up was being in France and following a route that strangely enough went through people’s homes.  I had to move their unmentionables out of the way if we wanted to get through.  Then we made it to a really beautiful beach and went swimming in the clearest water…ahhh water again.  (A side note:  I think the undies reference comes from two co-workers who I caught last night washing their clothes, to include their underwear, together…a guy and girl.  I find it somewhat creepy that they are doing this especially since he is married…not to her. WTF over?)  *After deployment note: He left his wife for her after he went home so my initial reaction to the underwear washing was correct.

I wake up around 1000 with a sinus headache and fluid in my ear.  The air is killing my sinuses here.  I lay in bed for a couple of hours and watch a crazy French movie on dudes that leave their families to become dancers like Gene Kelly.  What is it with France today?

I finally leave my room to do laundry, if available, around 1130.  If not I get on the internet.  I use this time to catch up on writing emails and such and look at houses for sale…my new porn.  I then go back to my room and either fiddle with art, read, and watch Deadwood (loves it).  I don’t have the energy to do much else.

By 1430 I am usually in the mood to head downstairs and poke my head in the team room.  Thankfully I don’t normally have to do anything on Sun except maybe 1 hours worth of work.  That could change but I will enjoy it while I can.

Occasionally I will go to the Haji shops on base and look around but alas they don’t really have anything to buy.  I just go through the motions of shopping for something to do.

By dinner time we head on over to the embassy.  I go there every Sunday to get a semi decent meal.  (A side note:  We think the USG reduced the budget for food here and got rid of the old contract and brought in a new one–on our base not the Embassy of course.  They dressed up the chow hall with plants to make it pretty but the food is worse, if you can believe that, then before.  They reduced portions and even reduced the size of the take away boxes (half the size of pretty shallow).  Funny thing is that if you try to take two boxes the contractors make you swipe your card twice so they can charge the govt for two meals.  None of us are eating 30.00 worth of food and if we take two boxes they charge 60.00 to the govt.  30.00 is how much we heard the govt is being charge for each person.)

After dinner I hide in my room for a little bit more and then I head down to MWR around 2030 (8:30 PM for civilians) to do karaoke.  I am now singing Pretenders, Alanis Morrisette, Go Gos, Bow Wow Wow, and Sonny and Cher. I’m slowly expanding my repertoire.

I head back to my room around 2200 and try to fall asleep.  It doesn’t always work.

For Labor Day we get to sleep a 30 minutes more, we don’t have to be at the morning meeting until 0900 rather then 0830…gosh that is generous of them.

Repeat next Sunday.

 

Thanksgiving Low Crawl May 8, 2012

Filed under: Deployment — Shannon @ 8:17 pm
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Shannon decided to dress up for Thanksgiving since she and her battle buddy A. were going to the Embassy. She blow dried her hair straight rather then wear it in a bun, put a little makeup on, and chose a black top and orange jacket to go with her jeans, boots, and 9mm.  Shannon was feeling rather festive and quite civilized for once and dare she thought a little excited.  She got on the rickety elevator and descended with a lightness of heart.  The night before she had kicked butt on These Boots are made for Walking by Nancy Sinatra at karaoke so Shannon was feeling more perky then usual.  Once Shannon got to the first floor, she headed towards the office to grab her battle buddy to make the 1.5 mile trek to the Embassy chow hall.  Unbeknownst to Shannon, trouble was a brewing.  R., a member of the security team, was chatting with A.  R. was explaining that the sour faced mean-eyed XO said that everyone had to go to the mandatory Thanksgiving dinner as a group because we were required to eat as a family.  “Oh hells no!” said Shannon.  “I do not want to eat with these people.  I am a civilian and I can eat with whomever I choose.  Furthermore, if this dinner is mandatory they are going to pay me overtime.”  “True that!” cries A.  “But you have to go its mandatory,” sputtered R.  “No I don’t,” says Shannon.  “I am not playing happy family for these people.  We are going to the Embassy for dinner.  That is final.  If he doesn’t like it tough I am going home in 23 days and a wakeup.”  Shannon turns to A. and says “Come on Battle Buddy, lets put on some camouflage makeup and low crawl the hell out of this building.  Are you with me!”  “Hells Yeah!” yells A.  Shannon and A. grab the camouflage makeup and spread it across their faces.  Shannon turns to A. and says “Lets move with a purpose solider.”  They both start low crawling out of the building, through the dirt, past the port a potties on their way to the main gate.  They low crawl through the gate, look left and then right, and make a dash for the side walk on the way to the Embassy gate house.  “Were almost there,” pants Shannon.  Alas the evil Dark Lord known officially as MAJ B., Shannon’s team chief, is walking towards them from the Embassy gate house.  “Dang it!” Shannon thinks.  “What are we going to do now?”  But then Shannon realizes that B. is alone and he is breaking the two person rule.  “HaHA,” Shannon thinks.  “He shall not foil us.”  B. realizing he can’t do anything, since he too is being naughty, pleasantly says hello to the two ladies and moseyed on way.  Shannon and A. make it to the gate house, slip into the Embassy, and head to the chow hall.  The feast that awaited them made the madness and possible censure by the leadership worth it.  With that, they sat down and gave thanks for the Embassy’s spread.  They felt truly grateful that they had the chance to have this kind of food when the guys in the field were likely not faring as well.  “Yum,” they cried.  “We are truly living today.”

 

 

War and Other Love Stories April 10, 2012

Filed under: Deployment,Love — Shannon @ 7:30 pm
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I have been very lax about keeping up on my blog, I would say almost 6 months lax.  However, I do have a good excuse, I met someone, fell in love, got engaged, and now I’m planning a wedding.  It’s funny that what I write about, which is my experiences in war, is what brought us together.  

In early 2011, I received a phone call from my friend R., who was deployed to Afghanistan.  He was very excited to introduce to me to his friend D., who was also deployed.  R. felt that we would be a perfect fit for me plus he really wanted me to have a nice fellow.  R. told me a little bit about D., such as he was a Navy Commander and an Aviator.  The minute I heard that he was an Aviator I said “Heck NO!”  However, R. assured me that he wasn’t your typical arrogant Aviator-type; in fact he was a super sweet, nice, and honorable man.  Plus he was a little goofy like me.  Uhmm a goofy Naval Officer that was goofy…I was intrigued, so I decided to take his word and agreed to exchange emails with him.

Prior to speaking with me, R. spent a lot of time talking me up to D.  He discussed how cool, fun, goofy, sweet, quirky, and beautiful I am (I think anyone deployed to AF or Iraq thinks any woman at home is beautiful though I’m not that bad).  He even pulled D. into the 21st century by getting him to finally go onto Facebook so that he could see my pictures. 

So on 31 March 2011, we exchanged our first email and the rest is history.  A lot of our dating was old school letter (email) exchanges and phone conversations which helped us really get to know each other.  D. came home safely from AF in July 2011 and we finally met on 14 October 2011.  D. flew up to meet me, he is stationed in another location, and I was a little nervous that our first meeting would be awkward even though our phone conversations were really good.  I waited nervously outside of security for him, praying that our first meeting went well, and when I finally saw him my first thought was he is really handsome and that he had such a nice smile.  I was shaking a little bit by the time he reached me, but he immediately grabbed my hand, kissed my cheek, and put me at ease. He never really let go of my hand that entire weekend and he still hasn’t.

We were engaged by 1 January 2012.  We got engaged where we first physically met, at the airport.  Who knew love could even start before two people even met.  Heck, who knew a deployment to an utter hellhole could bring two people together who never would have met otherwise but create something so wonderful and lasting out of something so difficult. 



 

Mad Dash to Sanity October 19, 2011

Filed under: Deployment — Shannon @ 9:40 pm
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Shannon wakes up in the morning tired and groggy, damn the Nyquil hangover but it’s the only thing that helps her sleep in this dreadful place.  She gets in the shower and soaps up her hair while going through a checklist in her mind on the things she needs to accomplish during the day.  Once ready, Shannon heads towards the creaky elevator with a flutter in her heart.  Once she gets on and it starts descending to the 1st floor, the trepidation starts to build.  The elevator comes to a grinding rickety halt on the 1st; Shannon gets off and makes her way past the sullen security guard.  She hears a noise on the stairwell and glances up.  Her boss, Jabba the Hut, is slowly starting his decent with his retinue of sycophants. The sour-faced mean-eyed XO, who never says a word and has no idea what his job is as Deputy, scurries behind him.  Shannon quickly punches the code into the 1st floor door and darts through in order to avoid Jabba and his minions.  Once through the door, Shannon is hit with the usual 1st floor smell of cleaning fluid and shit.  She makes her way to the conference room and stands in the hallway just outside.  Shannon has a subversive streak and refuses to enter the conference room for the morning meeting. She is joined by a few other misfits who, like her, have no desire to suck on Jabba’s ass during the morning meeting.  Jabba, as usual, is late to his own meeting but he shows no concern as he huffs and puffs his way past his subjects.   He raises his hand and gives a condescending wave, like the Queen Mum, as if to say you are not worthy peasants’ you are only here in my esteemed presence due to my benevolence.  He heaves himself down onto his throne and inclines his head towards the MSGT to start the presentation.  Shannon and the other dissidents huddle in the hallway caught between a mixture of impatience and annoyance at this daily ritual whose only purpose is to kowtow towards one man.  The sour-faced XO eyes them with disdain..how dare you not grovel more for our esteemed leader.  This leader…this man… this Jabba whose only purpose is to come up with new asinine polices on how to control every aspect of everyone’s lives.  Shannon muses that the next policy Jabba decrees, and the sour-faced XO enacts, will be Primae Noctis.  Anticipation and anxiety start to build amongst the insubordinates…the meeting is finally nearing its end.  Shannon starts to slowly position herself near the outer doorway, her coworker D. sees her moves and starts sliding over as well.  There is a fierce competition amongst the peasants’ for chairs at the second morning meeting.  Yes after the first morning meeting, there is a second morning meeting, run by LTC Malicious-Intent, to go over the exact same information that was gone over in Jabba’s meeting.  Unfortunately the numerous leaders in the building need to pee on something to make their mark.  Shannon wished they would stop peeing on her.  Finally Jabba waves his cubby hand and decrees that is all and the mad dash back to sanity begins.  Shannon runs/walks towards the door that leads to the stairwell, D. is closing in.  He decides to run up the stairs with Shannon in hot pursuit.  He heads to the door and hurriedly punches in the code so that he can slam it on Shannon like he did last time but the code isn’t taking.  Shannon thinks HaHA D. you are foiled!  She gets right on top of him as he opens the door.  Shannon shoves past him and runs down the hall.  Alas, Shannon did not realize that the hall floor was slippery due to all the Iraq dust and she went skidding into the wall as if she was sliding into 3rd base.  She lands loudly on her hip and kind of lays on the floor as if defeated.  She feels like road kill.  D. being a gentleman for once offers his hand to her.  Shannon takes it and sucker punches him in the stomach and takes off down the hall again.  Though bruised, Shannon gets the best chair and she settles in for the second useless morning meeting of the day.

 

Goat Testicles and other Iraqi Stories October 2, 2011

Filed under: Deployment — Shannon @ 8:53 pm
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I haven’t posted in awhile because I was traveling and just wasn’t in the mood since I wasn’t home.  Now I am home so I thought I would post an email I wrote from Iraq in 2004 on my first deployment.  This was the early part of the war so a lot different from my second deployment a couple of years ago.  This isn’t so much a story like my other postings, I still want to emphasize all true, but I thought I would post a typical email home from me regarding general life and whatnot.

Goat Testicles

We have a new cook for our unit so that we don’t have to forage for food out in the Green Zone.  The other day he made a bunch of meat platers, hummus, Russian Mayonnaise (Potato Salad), french fries, and Tabbouleh.  The meat platers had chunks of meat on it and what looked like kabobs.  To me the meat didn’t smell very appetizing and I thought that the chunks of meat were liver (I tried it before and it was pretty gross) so I skipped the meat and ate the other stuff.  Well it is a good thing that I did.  Everyone else loaded up on the kabob meat and it turned out later that the kabob meat was actually goat testicles.  It is enough to turn one into a vegetarian.

How to Take a Shower in your own Sweat

It is getting really hot here now and to top it off Baghdad is humid.  So try living in a humid 120-130 degree weather.  The office I work in has air con except when I am working there.  When we arrive the air is on but turns off off 5 mins later because the electricity goes down.  It turns back on 5 mins before we leave for the day–damn Americans and the electrical grid!  Just Kidding…  My clothes are usually soaking wet by the time I get home.  We are now having to conserve water.  We can’t do laundry and I think that we will be only able to take one shower a day–if we are lucky.  I just hope that we can use the toilet and I mean flush it–you don’t even want to know.  I think the city of Baghdad has caught off our water supply–so much for liberation.  I hope that we can work this out.  I may have to go to the pool to get clean–sneak some soap in or just shower with my own sweat…that could be easier.

Politics

I do have to say that I am glad that I am not in the states at the moment so that I don’t have to watch the Democratic National Convention  and I say the same thing for the Republican Convention as well.  I think there are a lot more important things going on in the world and especially what is happening over here with the troops and their needs then all the posturing that is going on at these conventions.  Things are getting better but the little bit of media I see doesn’t portray that at all–it still seems negative.  Yes we are still getting mortared/attacked but not as much and I think that the Iraqi Police are finally stepping up to the plate.  I think that what we did over here might actually work and the Iraqis that I have talked to seem very optimistic.  There is still a lot of problems and we have a long way to go but life is slowly starting to get back to normal.  You can feel the change in the air.

A Hard Days Night in Iraq

Well its the night of the turnover here in Iraq and everyone I work with is sleeping in unit vice the trailers just in case there is an attack.  The unit building is a lot safer.  So we have about 20-30 people sleeping on cots and such, including myself since I just moved out to a trailer today because the leadership decided it was “unhealthy” to cram 8 women into one little room.  I now share a small room and bathroom with a brand new female and I think I will be a lot happier.  The leadership decided to let the women live separately after a male coworker said that what was happening was wrong.  He wouldn’t listen to the women when we told him this–all we were doing was bitching–but he had no problem listening to a man.  At least the situation is rectified for now.  So here we are waiting to see what the Iraqis are going to do.  We had no idea it would be two days early–we found out from CNN.  We hope that this will be much ado about nothing.  We are now having a pajama party and watching chessy movies.  Life can’t get any better then this.

Take care and remember me in you air conditioned homes with running water.

Taco Bell Rules!

 

 

A 9/11 Remembrance September 8, 2011

9/11 started out just like any other day for me, tired and dreading the work day.  That Tuesday I was trying out car pooling for the first time.  My co-worker was supposed to pick me up at 0600 but he was running late.  I wasn’t sure if he was going to show up or not so I flirted with the idea of taking a mental health day because I66 was about to close to individual drivers.  However, he finally showed up and we headed down I66 towards the Pentagon.  The sky was clear and bright.  That morning was filled with meetings, something I normally can’t stand.  The meeting I was in was no exception.  The meeting was located on the 1st floor north side of the Pentagon.  The Pentagon has five levels up and two levels down. Employees usually refer to the side of the building they are located in based on Pentagon entrances such as north parking, south parking, river, mall, or metro/concourse.  The meeting started at 0815. This meeting was more painful than most and I found my self day dreaming about the usual things boys, the horrific commute, how mean my coworkers were, etc.   By 0855 we heard a commotion in the hallway, but the meeting hosts ignored it and kept on going.  By 0910 the hosts decided to give us a break, especially since there seemed to be something going on out in the hallway.  We left the room wondering what the commotion was and looked into an office where people were gathered.  Apparently we had just missed the second plane hitting the South Tower of the WTC.  Needless to say we were shocked. A lot of people were talking at once wondering if it was terrorists or an accident.  Most didn’t think it was an accident because both towers had been hit by two different planes.  No one wanted to go back to the meeting but the hosts insisted.  By 0925 we were back in the room trying to pay attention. Instead of day dreaming about silly things I was now thinking about the WTC and I was wondering what the hell was going on.  At 0936, my coworker passed me a note that said “The federal government should start evacuating all federal buildings asap.”  One minute later at 0937 I felt the building shake.  I looked up and wondered to myself if VA had earthquakes.  At 0940, a woman started screaming at the top of her lungs that the building was going to implode. My first thought upon hearing that was the movie Backdraft.  She was running down the hall telling everyone to get out.  We got up, left our notes on the table, and went into the hall.  We asked what was going on…no one had a clue that a plane had just hit the Pentagon. The general feeling was to start running and get out of the building.  We started walking quickly and made for the main corridor to North Parking.  I was afraid because I had no idea what to expect.  Once we made it to the main corridor, I was hit with a wave of fear.  It was palatable and crushing.  I was then truly afraid.

With other Pentagon employees, we headed for the North Parking entrance to get out of the buliding.  Once outside you could see how many people were evacuating.  I turned around to see if my coworkers behind me and I saw a plume of smoke rising on the western side of the Pentagon.  I exclaimed to my coworkers “Oh my God, the Pentagon is on fire!”  They looked around and said “Let’s keep moving.”  We headed to our predesignated site in the parking lot to rally with the rest of our office.  No one wanted to be in the parking lot, they were afraid of another attack and being to close to cars which contained gasoline.  We felt cut off from the rest of the world.  Most of us did not have our car keys, cell phones, or anything to communicate with the rest of the world.  One person had enough foresight to bring their car keys and they turned the radio on.  While standing there we heard, via radio, that the north and south towers of the WTC had collapsed.  Our leadership said “That’s it we are getting out of the parking lot” and they moved the river bank by LBJ Park.  Once cut off from the radio, rumors abounded.  We thought we were hearing explosions all over DC.  We literally thought that America was being attacked from all fronts.

After 1030, while standing by the river bank, the FBI ran down the road screaming for all of us to get down on the ground there is another plane incoming.  We all laid down in the grass, covering our heads, waiting for the next attack but nothing came.  At some point after that, we heard the sonic boom of fighter jets over DC and we all cheered when we thought we saw the jet flying above us.  By mid-day I was able to borrow a cell phone to call home.  I called my dad first because that was the number I had memorized.  Needless to say, he was emotional when he heard my voice.  I got my mom’s number from him and called her next.  She burst into tears and had to pass the phone to my step-dad.  He was emotional too.  I should have called them earlier but it took a while to get a phone.

By 1530 we were told we could go home.  Three of us headed back into the Pentagon because we did not have our car keys, house keys, etc.  A LTC led the way through the smoke-filled halls for fear that Pentagon guards may shoot us due to the dim lighting.  We got to our spaces and it was so eerie.  The office was empty, the TVs and lights were left on…it was just spooky.  I grabbed my bag and noticed that I had voicemail.  I don’t know why I checked it at that time but I did and it was a friend leaving me a message saying “I hope you all are ok and my prayers are with you”.

We left the building after that and the drive home was surreal.  Trying to leave the Pentagon was a chore in of itself.  I had to go a different way then I normally would and it took me up I395.  I passed the west side of the building and I finally saw what had happened to the building.  I was stunned by what I saw.  I couldn’t believe the damage.  I didn’t want to stop for fear of being in the way and I headed home.  Normally at that time of day, the highways would have been chooked with traffic but the roads were empty.  I got home and had over a dozen voicemails/emails waiting for me from friends and family.  Some even from former friends.  9/11 brought us back together.   Sitting at home that night watching the news coverage I knew nothing would ever be the same.  The earth felt like it stopped on 9/11.

On 12 September 2001 we went back to work while the building was still on fire.  We all walked around in a daze.  The corridors were quiet.   We all knew our mission had changed and we were determined to make sure nothing like this ever happened again.

9/11 changed the course of my career as it did many others.  Three deployments later I still feel the repercussions.  I just hope that the rest of America never forgets what happened to all of us especially the victims and their families.  I hope that we will always remain villigent and that we make it a priority to protect this country.  I really hope that the sacrifices of our military, federal employees, and contractors are not forgotten.

 

Baghdad Vignettes‏ August 25, 2011

Filed under: Deployment — Shannon @ 7:59 pm
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My Dear Insomnia,

Why do you torment me thusly?  Must you keep me up at night with your racing thoughts and your tossing and turning.  I try to appease you.  I feed you a plethora of pills but you reject all my overtures.  What do you need so that you can rest at night?  What can I do for you…what will appease your monstrous hold upon me…softer bed, no dust, no “Type A” co-workers, no leadership memos on how to be and act like an adult, no rules designed for an 8th grader, no Iraq?  I say begone Insomnia, begone, withdraw back to the depths hell where you belong!

Spider.

A crazy Iraqi bug, possibly a spider bit my bicep the other day.  It looks like a giant angry red pimple with an eye at the center.  Maybe it is a mini eye…who knows what kind of chemicals Ali has floating in the air.  Maybe that sixth finger I grew should’ve been a clue.

Cousin.

I finally, and I say finally, got to see my cousin David yesterday.  It took a lot of arranging as well as my traversing through the red zone (off base in Baghdad for you civilians) to pull it off but it finally happened.  Naturally the trip did not go off smoothly.  I was over an hour late due to some co-workers and when I arrived at the PX he wasn’t there.  I was quite upset because I was afraid that he might have thought I blew him off.  I didn’t have a way to reach him and I didn’t know where his office was located.  Since other activities were going on with my co-workers I asked to be dropped off at the clinic.  I thought well I really don’t want to hang with the people I work with because they are starting to really tick me off so let’s go see the doctors about my angry mini eye on my arm.  Once I reached the clinic, lo and behold, they had his office number and after several calls I was able to reach him and he came and got me.  He took me out and we had pizza and a really nice time.  We chatted about family and such.  We then went back to the PX to see if I could find anything interesting to buy since I don’t get up to Victory that often.  The day ended very nicely and I was so happy that it worked out.  Its funny, I haven’t seen him since 1984.  He was but a wee lad back then and I didn’t hang with him much because he was a boy and younger than me and Caren, my cousin and his sister.  Who would’ve thought that I would finally see him again but in a war zone.  Crazy…

Peace Man, Peace.

So I was walking to chow the other day with a co-worker and she remarked that she won’t be able to wear her shoulder holster over to the US Embassy anymore.

Me: Why is that?

Her:  Weren’t you paying attention in the morning meeting.

Me:  No, because I think the morning meeting is a waste of time and is lame…I never pay attention.

Her:  Some ambassador over the US Embassy said that he didn’t want to see people walking around with weapons anymore.  He felt that it gave off the wrong image for the Embassy.

Me: WHAT?  You’re pulling my leg!

Her:  I’m not kidding.  He wants people (DOD because its DOD civilians/military that wear weapons not State Dept people) to wear baggy shirts to cover up the pistols.

Me:  Does he not realize we are in a war zone?  WTF over?

Her:  What can I say…

Me:  Seriously this is such an insult.  This ticks me off.  Who protects them?  Who gets them from Point A to Point B?  Who do they stick in the trailers while they get fancy apartments with their own bathrooms?  What is this hyper left-wing nut doing in Iraq?  He needs to take himself to US Embassy Paris or something because he is delusional and in the wrong place.  Imagine…they wouldn’t even be able to have an embassy here without the US military.

Her:  I know…

Me:  This place is really starting to suck…I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.

Her:  Me too…

Next Day.

Shannon and co-worker go to US Embassy to doing a little shopping at the PX.  Neither cover up their pistols.  The ambassador can suck it.

 

 
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