Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Enough With the Dust and Heat Already

I'm sure you're tired of hearing about it, but I assure you that you are not as tired of hearing about it as we are in living in it.

This is how a dust storm really looks. Imagine having this hanging in the air 24 hours a day for days on end. It gets in your hair, your teeth your throat, your lungs and licking your lips to rescue them from the heat of the day only ends up with a tongue full of dust.

I just know the day will come when some medical study, sponsored by the VA, will reveal that soldiers serving in Iraq are likely to suffer from some respiratory disease in connection with breathing this stuff for a year. Mark my words!

On a given morning you can wake from a nights rest to find that a layer of dust, not small amount, has settled on every exposed surface in your room. This is a sure sign a dust storm has arrived. Another tell tale sign of the advent of a dust storm is the color of the sunlight filtering through the suspended dust in the air. In your room the morning light shines through the window an amber or orange color.

I am told that this years dust storms are the worst seen here in several years. I haven't been tracking the exact number of days we have been "socked in" by these storms, but over the past three weeks I would say we are in the 75% range. It's simply amazing. But, here's the 
positive side. When the dust arrives, the temperatures drop. It's a trade-off, I know, dust or high temps. Pick your poison.

On the day I took this picture of the temperature the temp in the shade was 122, the temperature in direct sunlight was 126. When the dust comes in it can drop 10 - 15 degrees. I know, that still makes the temp in the low 100s, but it feels good. Heat is all relative here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The 4th of July and Other Important Events

So, tomorrow is the 4th of July, America's day of Independence. A few days ago it was June 30th, a recently declared holiday for Iraq, marking the day U.S. Troops left the city of Baghdad.

In both cases, they came and will likely go without much fanfare for us here. I'm not saying that on the 4th of July we won't attempt to make the day seem somehow different from any other day. But, for the most part, days of any importance pass without much notice.

As for June 30th, a sort of mock Independence day for some Iraqi's, nothing different happened at all. We may not be inside the Baghdad city limits, per se, but we haven't exactly packed up our bags, shut off the lights and closed the door either. We are still here. 

In fact, truth be told - there are other days we celebrate that get more attention than national holidays, or operational milestones.

My commander celebrates Thursdays. Thursday is Mexican food day in the DFAC. She has a "Thursday" calendar hanging in her office with every Thursday left in our deployment. Each day displays a different image of a Mexican food cartoon character. Every week on Mexican Food Thursday, she announces to the whole office how excited she is that she gets to mark off another Thursday. For her, every Thursday is like the 4th of July.

Paydays. SPC Johnson and PFC Ward both celebrate these days. It's not a celebration of the pay itself, at their rank that really isn't much to celebrate, although it's not too bad for a young soldier. They celebrate paydays because it signifies that yet another two weeks has passed and that the end of the deployment is one less paycheck closer to home. The 4th of July is great, but two weeks closer to going home is really something to celebrate.

These are just a couple examples of the kinds of days we celebrate here. They are seemingly insignificant, but they become little celebrations that make the day of their occurrence better than any 4th of July, any 4-day weekend, or pagan holiday that comes and goes while we are here on Iraqi soil.

There are a myriad of odd days and events that each of us find cause to celebrate. Here are just a few I have noticed that people get excited about.

0800 and 1500 daily - The time the solid waste truck comes and sucks up the port-a-john contents, hoses down the inside and restocks the toilet paper

Sunday 0900 - The one day a week we don't have to get up early to be to work by 0800 or at PT by 0630

Every Thursday - The day our video magazine is released to media each week

Any day a soldier returns from an extended mission

Cancelled meetings - Any day a meeting is cancelled is cause for at least a 5 minute celebration.

The arrival of care packages from home

As menial as these events may seem, they are banner days for us. They are often the topic of conversation throughout the day - and while we may not be sending up fireworks or broiling some burgers on the barbecue to celebrate the events, they are the moments that make some of our dull days more eventful.

In our little world, July 12th can be just as anticipated and eventful as the 4th of July back in the states.