Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Month: November, 2005

Over Here – Day 92

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, hope you all had a blast. Things have been pretty slow over here. We’re essentially waiting to get to Baghdad, and I really can’t wait until we get there. That’s because once we do, I can start doing what I’ve been trained to do. Thanksgiving was interesting. The day started with us going to the range to fire our pistols and rifles. They asked us to keep an eye downrange in case camels or bedouins came into our field of fire. In the event of that happening, we were supposed to yell “Cease Fire!”. I didn’t do too well on the pistol qualification the first time around, because I have never fired a pistol before. But on the second try, I did pretty well once I figured out what I was doing wrong. After the range, we got back to the base. They had held the DFAC (Dining Facility) open for us, so that we could enjoy the Thanksgiving dinner. The food wasn’t too bad. They had the whole deal there – Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Sweet Potatoes, and so on and so forth. I ate until I was stuffed!

Today we didn’t do much other than weapons maintenance. Being out in the range all day, filled the weapons with sand. That’s one thing I’m going to have to deal with for the next year – cleaning the sand out of everything. So as you can see, things have been pretty slow so far. We have some more training coming up, but other than that, it looks to be a waiting game. I’ve been around camp some more, but the landscape doesn’t change significantly. However, there are really pretty sunrises and sunsets here. The flat land makes for good viewing.

Oh I also have my address in Baghdad, so you guys can start mailing me. The address is going to change in a month when the unit we’re attaching to leaves, and a new one comes in. However, the APO should remain the same. I will let you guys know when it changes:

Vivin Paliath
504th MP – HHB 1/180th FA FWD
APO AE 09344

That’s about all I have for now, and here are the pictures I promised. There are some pictures from my visit to Phoenix as well:

At Coffee Plantation
L-R: Josh, Naima, Me, Suraj, Rachna, Sadhana, Shareen

At Coffee Plantation
L-R: Josh, Keerthi, Me, Rachna, Sadhana, Shareen, Naima

At China Lite
L-R: Anjali, Me, Keerthi, Rachna

Vibha and I
L-R: Vibha and I

Surreal Phoenix
What Phoenix looks like, with slow shutter speed.

At Coffee Plantation
L-R: Josh, Naima, Me, Suraj, Rachna, Sadhana, Shareen

Camp Caisson
L-R: Ortiz, Greene, Kramp, Smith, Me

Singalong
Outside our barracks at Ft. Louis, singing along to SSG Lopez’s “Bear Song” to pass time

At McChord
Waiting to board our plane at McChord AFB.

In the plane
In the plane…

In the plane
How often do you see a person with an automatic rifle, on a civilian aircraft? SGT Cook is either flashing the peace sign, or the donkey sign. I suspect the latter.

Our barracks
Our barracks in Kuwait

Picture of the Camp
A picture of our camp.

Picture of the Camp
Another picture of our camp.

Picture of the Camp
One more picture of our camp.

At Baskin Robbins
Greene and I at Baskin Robbins.

Kroney's new ride
Kroney with his new ride.

In Full Battle Rattle
That’s me in full battle rattle, minus my rifle.

Desert Siesta
Relaxing in the desert in the afternoon.

Maintenance
Top L-R: SFC Bottemiller, SPC Greene, SGT Laning, SPC Kronemeyer, Me
Bottom L-R: SGT Dahlseid, PFC Smith, SSG Lopez, SPC Ortiz

Maintenance
Top L-R: SFC Bottemiller, SPC Greene, SGT Laning, SPC Kronemeyer
Bottom L-R: SGT Dahlseid, PFC Smith, SSG Lopez, SPC Ortiz, Me

Camp Sunrise
Camp Sunrise

Camp Sunset
Camp Sunset

Over Here – Day 88

Finally, I – we, are here. A landscape foreign, yet familiar. A desert of a different kind. For me, the sight meant a little more since it reminded me of where I grew up. It’s funny how when you fly, your entire period of travel stretches out into one long day. My wake-up at Ft. Lewis doesn’t seem that long ago. Our last day there wasn’t too eventful, well, if you don’t count to whole “going to war” thing. We packed up our stuff and staged it outside before we had a “GI Party” (Army euphemism for cleaning things up) at the barracks. That took a few hours, since we had to sweep and mop, strip the floors, wax them, and finally buff them. We waited around for a while with nothing to do, since we wouldn’t get on the buses until 22:30. Our unit was split in two, with one half taking off earlier than the rest of us. So after we said Good-Bye to them, we sat around watching movies, listening to music, and talking to family and friends. I called up almost everyone I know and bade farewell to them. I also had the opportunity that evening to meet someone I had met during AIT at Ft. Lee. It was another Malayalee in the Army. It was actually pure luck that I got in touch with him. While I was at the Soldier Processing Center, one of the stations I went through was the Chaplain’s station. I noticed his last name was “Joseph”, and his features looked South Indian to me, and so I was pretty sure he was a Christian-Malayalee. I proceeded to ask him if he was from India, and if so, if he was from Kerala. He replied in the affirmative, and we proceeded to talk some more. I was telling him how he was the second Malayalee that I’ve met in the US Army. When he asked me who the first was, I told him, and that was when he told me that he knew who I was talking about and that the soldier had been here for the last four years. He gave me his number and I was able to get in touch with him on my last day at Ft. Louis. He said it was a pity that we couldn’t get in touch earlier, since he could have introduced me to the other Malayalees on base. Apparently there are at least 20 on the base, and there is a sizeable Malayalee community in the vicinity of Ft. Louis. In addition, had we met earlier, I could possibly have even celebrated Onam there. But eitherway, it was good to get in touch with him again.

Our departure from Ft. Louis was pretty uneventful and we made it to McChord Airforce Base pretty quickly. There, we waited for a while since our flight wouldn’t be leaving until 2:30 am. My buddies and I got some dinner from the USO and then I took a nap until it was time for our flight. To get to our flight, we had to walk to the plane. It was a decently long walk at a brisk pace, with all our gear (minus the ruck and duffel bags) in really cold weather. Once I boarded the flight, I felt rather incongruous. The flight was a civilian flight, but here I was, walking down with my rifle slung in front of me, and a pistol strapped to my thigh. You don’t get to do that every day. The flight was pretty comfortable, and I was pretty tired, so I slept most of the way to our first stop, which was the town of Gander in Canada. Gander happens to be in New Foundland, which as I learnt, is pronounced “Noo Funland” and not pronounced how it is spelt. The town is also in the middle of nowhere. The landscape looked pretty desolate and seemed to have been through a controlled burn except for the occasional evergreen. We were in transit at Gander for almost on hour. During that hour, I got to brush up on some French by trying to read the signs and understand them. I also got some real chocolate from the duty-free store. We got back on the plane and flew to Budapest. During this flight, I slept some more, listened to some music, and watched the end of The Italian Job, watched Fantastic Four, and saw most of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life before they stopped it in mid-show because of our arrival at our destination. We weren’t allowed to deplane at Budapest and so sat around for about three hours while they changed crews and refueled. I couldn’t see much of Budapest since it was night, and the city lights outside made it look like pretty much any other city at night. For the next leg, I listened to more music, finished Contact by Carl Sagan for the second time, and started on Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. Soon, I heard the pilot announce over the intercom that we would be coming into Kuwait International Airport in about 20 to 30 minutes. People pushed up the window shades, and sunlight spilled into cabin. Once we were at a lower altitude, I could make out the landscape. It reminded me a lot of Oman, and also of Arizona. Once we landed, we secured out gear, and waited around for instructions. Somebody came onto the plane and in true military fashion, barked out instructions for us. We got out, made our way to a bus and headed to the staging area where we waited for two hours for more instructions. After waiting around, we finally got an escort to our base. It was supposed to take us an hour and a half to get there, but it took us three because apparently, our escorts got lost.

We finally reached the camp, which is in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing as far as the eye can see, and the land is completely flat. There is absolutely nothing around here. The camp looks like it’s in a permanent state of construction. The landscape is dotted with white tents in the shape of ellipsoid half-cylinders. This is what we live in. There are also other forms of housing that are either other forms of tents, or pre-fabs. The placement of the buildings seem to be pretty haphazard, but I think there is a method to the madness. I haven’t seen a single living thing (other than us, and I did see one fly) around here. The land is devoid of any vegetation and frankly, looks like some sort of lunar or martian outpost. However, it’s not all that bad. They’ve done a good job of making the place habitable. The food here isn’t that bad – it’s actually better than what they had at Ft. Louis, and there are more choices. Also they have Taco Bell, Burger King, and Baskin Robbins here. Oh yeah, and Shawerma shops too! I don’t feel that this place is all that bad, and I’m not disappointed to be here. I’m looking at everything as a new experience, and so far, it has been pretty interesting. We’ve had this entire day off, and I haven’t done much other than eat, sleep, and play computer games. It’s been a slow day. Tomorrow, we start training. I don’t know how long we are going to be here, but our time started the moment we got here. So I’m hoping that I’ll be back in the United States a year from now.

That’s all for now. I’d put up some pictures, except the upstream speed here is pretty slow, and it’s taking a while. I’ll try and do it next time, if I have more time. Until then, take care and keep in touch.

Over Here – Day 85

Well, it’s finally here. I’m leaving for Iraq. I guess the question on all your minds is “How do you feel?”. To be very honest, I am excited. I can’t wait to get out of here – this place with it’s cold and wet weather, and get to Iraq and get my job done. The sooner I get there, the sooner I get back, right? I think we’ll do a good job out there. I have a lot of pride and complete faith in my fellow soldiers. I think we’ll do great.

Nothing much is going on today. We’ve packed all our stuff and staged it outside. We’re currently cleaning the barracks right now, to make it ready for the unit that’s coming over next. I don’t leave until much later today, so I’m just playing the waiting game. Our flight is going to be long, but I have a bunch of books, and my MP3 player with me, so I think I have enough to pass the time. Plus, I’m hoping they have some sort of in-flight entertainment or something. Who knows…

Anyway, that’s it for now. The next time I post, it may be from Kuwait or Iraq. It may be a couple of weeks before I get in touch with you guys again. I’d like to thank you all for your continuing support and your prayers for my fellow soldiers and I. It means a lot to us. I miss you all terribly and love you even more. Take care, and I’ll be back safe and sound among you all, in a year.

Over Here – Day 75

This is going to be a bit of a long one, with a bunch of pictures too! I’ll start off with where I left off last time. We got to Yakima on the 21st, which was a Friday. It was good seeing everyone in my section after a week and of course, they were giving me crap about having an easy time back in the barracks. The maintenance section didn’t have much going on other than Weapons Guard, it seemed, and the shifts were six hours long too. The rest of the week was pretty slow. I didn’t have much to do than updating some Excel spreadsheets, and driving around Humvees. We weren’t allowed any alcohol at all, except for three nights where the commander let us have some at the Oasis Club that’s on base. The last two days were a little hectic, with us having to pack all our stuff up, clean vehicles and equipment and turn them in. Yakima reminded me of home, because the weather was cool and dry and the area was essentially a desert. Never have I been happier to see desolation. I had been getting sick of trees.

While we were at Yakima, we were informed of a new “Leave policy”. Apparently we wouldn’t be getting any leave at all to go home, before we left for Iraq. Needless to say, we were pretty bummed out. However, things in the Army change by the minute, and so the next day we were informed that we would be getting a four-day pass, where we were authorized to go home. I booked my ticket that same night.

Once we got back to the barracks, we unloaded all our equipment. That same night, we were driven over to the airport. There, Sergeant Eagleman, PFC Silva and I first checked out the USO, but decided against staying there. We actually decided to get a hotel since it would end up being pretty cheap with the cost being split amongst the three of us. We left all our stuff at the hotel room, grabbed something to eat, and then headed out to Downtown Seattle. The first club we headed out to was closing down, so we headed to another bar across the street. We had a couple of beers, met some pretty ladies and then took the “Party Bus” back to the airport. From the airport, there was a free shuttle to the Hotel. We took an hour-long nap, and then headed to the airport to take our flight to Phoenix. I’d say about 50-60 people from our company were on that flight. The pilot even welcomed us on the plane through the intercom since they could tell we were from the Army by our distinctive haircuts.

I reached Phoenix on the morning of the 31st, and my sister was there to pick me up. It felt absolutely great to be back home. The weather was just gorgeous and it was just nice being in good old Arizona again. My dog Honey was elated to see me again, and she was going crazy with happiness. First we ran some errands, and then headed home. There, we got ready to go to Josh’s place in Tempe, so that we could all go to Mill Avenue for Halloween. I didn’t have a new costume, so I wore my Star Trek costume from last year. We met up at Josh’s had a couple of beers, and then headed over to Mill. Mill was crazy as usual, and there were some pretty neat costumes this year. One I saw, was a pretty good imitation of Johnny Depp‘s character in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow. We headed to The Tavern, where more beer and shots of Tequila were had. The night was pretty crazy, and I ended up crashing at Josh’s place. The rest of my trip in Phoenix was pretty hectic – my sister and I had to take stuff at the house our parents just bought, and then I had to run around and meet all my friends. The days went by pretty quick, and before I knew it, I had to go back to Ft. Louis. The entire trip was bittersweet, because I knew that going to Phoenix meant I would have to leave. However, it was completely worth it. I got to hang out with my family and friends and got to see Arizona one last time before I head out to Iraq. I had a really great time, and I was very happy while I was there. I want to thank everyone for showing me a great time, and showing me that I am loved and missed.

The trip back home was alright, and I spent most of the time watching the in-flight movie, and listening to music. I got back to base to be greated by really unpleasant wet, and cold weather. It was a complete letdown from the gorgeous weather in Phoenix. In fact, yesterday was the only day it didn’t rain. It rained for every single day since I got back until the day before yesterday. I’ve been bundling myself up in all sorts of cold-weather gear to get through this absolutely disgusting weather.

The training we’ve been going through for the past few days has to do with Detainee Ops. This means anything having to do with handling Detainees, such as your interaction with them in a Detainee Camp, searching detainees, Riot Control, and things of that nature. The Army has put a lot of time and money into this program to train soldiers so that another Abu Gharaib doesn’t happen. The training is pretty good, and I probably wouldn’t mind it as much if it wasn’t for this beastly cold.

The other major information that I have right now is our date of departure. I found out about this barely a few hours ago. I’m leaving on the 19th to Kuwait. We should be there for a while, and after that we’ll go to Iraq. We should be there for about a year, and then head back about the date we left, next year. Mark your calendars! I’m actually pretty excited because the sooner I get there, the sooner I can get back. I’m pretty sick of Ft. Louis (the terrible weather doesn’t make it any easier) and I just want to go downrange and get my job done. I’m not sure when we will get internet access, or access to phones and such, so I’m not sure when I will be able to contact you all again. Rest assured, I will contact you as soon as I can.

Oh yes, and I have to say this. I’ve got Mysql, PHP and Apache installed on my laptop, and I took a complete dump of my website and set it up on the laptop. So I can continue to develop even if I don’t have internet access. Woohoo! Oh yeah, and if you’re wondering about the ungodly time of the journal entry, it’s because I’m on guard duty.

This is all I have for right now. The next time I write, it will probably be from Iraq. Take care, and as always, here are some pictures. I will be adding some more to this entry since I haven’t downloaded them all from my camera yet, but this is what I have for now:

Yakima Motorpool
Motorpool in Yakima. The hill in the background is called Squaw Tit. No joke.

HQ Platoon
Headquarters leads the way HOOAH!

Roughnecks
1/180th FA Roughnecks!

Me with 240B
That’s me, holding a 240B.

The next few shots are my, ahem, “artistic” shots.

Pipedream Clear
Pipedream: Clear

Pipedream Cloudy
Pipedream: Cloudy

Pipedream BW
Pipedream: B&W

Pipedream Sepia
Pipedream: Sepia

Rochelle and I
Rochelle and I in downtown Seattle

Halloween Group 1
L-R:Me, Nasser, Shareen, Yasmin, Keerthi

Rachna and I
Rachna and I

Sakeena, Johanna and I
L-R: Me, Sakeena, Johanna

My sister and I
My sister and I

Hemina and I
Hemina and I

Halloween Group 2
L-R: Josh, Loretto, Me, Daniella

Daniella and I
Daniella and I

Loretto and I
Loretto and I

Halloween Group 3
Top L-R: Laura, Michael, Carlos
Bottom L-R: Lance, Keerthi, Me, Jenny, Andreas

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