Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Tag: kuwait

Finally Home

This time last month, I was still in Baghdad; a few days away from leaving for home. This time last year, I was in Kuwait; a few days away from leaving for a combat zone. We left Baghdad early on the 5th, to fly to Kuwait. We spent forty-eight hours in Kuwait before starting our journey to CONUS (Continental United States). On our way we stopped (out of all places) at Keflavik, in Iceland. From the plane, I saw a barren landscape that seemed both scorched and frozen at the same time. It was as if someone had burnt the whole countryside and then frozen it. The ground was the colour of rust, with patches of ice. It seemed like an alien landscape, but was weirdly beautiful at the same time. We stayed there for about an hour or two before heading to the United States. On the way back, the sun was just rising over the Nordic landscape. Rays of sunlight pierced through the clouds, lighting up the coastline. I can’t do justice to the scene with mere words, so I have a picture of it later on in my post.

Our first stop in the United States was at New Hampshire. It was our first step back on American Soil. There was a welcome party there for us, from an organization formed by War Veterans and Citizens. I was overwhelmed by the support we received from these people. They had woken up early in the morning to receive us. I felt an instant bond with the old warriors there; an instant recognition – something that only exists between servicemembers. I won’t even try to compare my experience to what those heroes have been through. These were veterans from World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, and Desert Storm. You have to understand that some of these veterans, especially the ones from Vietnam, had no one to welcome them when they came back home from war. In fact, they were spit on, hated, and ridiculed. It angers me when I think of the indiginities they suffered, especially from a public that has no idea of the horrors of the war. Quite often they decide that the dishonourable actions of a few are good enough to condemn a majority. This is why I am happy to see that the majority of the American public still support their troops even if they don’t agree with the war. A lot of these veterans feel sad that they can’t join us at war. In fact, as a World War II veteran told us, “I wish I was there fighting alongside you gentlemen, but I don’t think they take 80-year old men in the Army anymore…”. Before we took our leave, the veterans got into formation and saluted us. Our Company XO (Executive Officer) called us to attention and we saluted them right back. The CO of the Veterans’ Formation told us “You have no idea, how much it means to us, for you to salute us.” That counted as one of the most moving experiences in my life. I find it hard to describe the emotions experienced by a servicemember to civilians – it is not something that you can put into words. It is something you have to experience. It some something you develop when you spend time with friends who you know have your back. It is something you develop when you spend time with friends in an environment where any of you can die at any time. It is something you develop when you pray everyday that no one in your company gets hurt when they go outside to do their missions. It’s when you are party of a family. A brotherhood.

After leaving New Hampshire, we stopped at Ft. Lewis. I remember watching troops coming back from Iraq, when I was there over a year ago. I knew I’d be in their position one day, and I sure was. We stayed there for about five days to go through paperwork and briefings. Finally, early on the morning of the 12th, we headed back to Phoenix, Arizona. On August 29th, 2005, I remember thinking “One day, I’ll be on a plane flying in the opposite direction”. And sure enough, there I was. My level of excitement mounted as I realized that in a very short time, I would be seeing my friends and family… and that they would be elated to see me.

All things come to an end. Sometimes it feels like it takes a long time, but eventually…

As always, here are some pictures. I also have pictures from Thanksgiving ’06. I missed last year’s Thanksgiving, but this year’s more than made up for it. Everyone was there, including my mom and dad, my sister-in-law, and my sister’s fiance. Oh, and I also have pictures of my brother’s and sister-in-law’s wedding reception.

Patten, Valles, Terry, and I at BIAP
Patten, Valles, Terry, and I at BIAP.

UH60 Blackhawk
UH-60 Blackhawk

Chinook
Chinook

Inside the C130
Inside the C-130

Everyone inside the C130
Everyone inside the C-130

Patten and I
Patten and I in Camp Virginia

Soto, Valles, and I
Soto, Valles, and I in Camp Virginia

Nordic Sunrise
Nordic Sunrise

Veterans' Welcome
Veterans’ Welcome at New Hampshire

Retriever Welcome
This doggy was there to welcome us at New Hampshire

Retriever and Whippet
He had a little buddy to welcome us too

Roughnecks at New Hampshire
Roughnecks at New Hampshire

Sombrero
My buddies and I went to a Mexican Restaurant near Ft. Lewis. When we walked in, I saw these polaroids on the wall of people with Sombreros on. I found out that if it was your birthday, you got your picture taken with a sombrero. So I told them it was my birthday and my buddies played along.

Welcome Home Roughnecks
Welcome Home, Roughnecks!

Michael and I
Michael and I at Sky Harbour

Michael, Naima, and I
Michael, Naima, and I

Patten and I at The Monastery
Patten and I at the Moastery

Valles and I at The Monastery
Valles and I at the Monastery

Valles, Patten, and I at The Monastery
Valles, Patten, and I at The Monastery

Viridiana, Berenice and I
Viridiana, Berenice, and I at The Monastery

Dipu Cheta and Keerthi
Dipu Cheta and Keerthi

Dipu Cheta, Simi Chechi, Keerthi, and Mannu
Dipu Cheta, Simi Chechi, Keerthi, and Mannu

Keerthi
Keerthi

Keerthi and Simi Chechi
Keerthi and Simi Chechi

Keerthi, Simi Chechi, and Amma
Keerthi, Simi Chechi, and Amma

Maya, Priya, Keerthi, Simi Chechi, and I
Maya, Priya, Keerthi, Simi Chechi, and I

Maya, Priya, Dipu Cheta, Keerthi, Simi Chechi, and I
Maya, Priya, Dipu Cheta, Keerthi, Simi Chechi, and I

Prem and Simi Chechi
Prem and Simi Chechi

Priya, Simi Chechi, and I
Priya, Simi Chechi, and I

Priya, Maya, and Simi Chechi
Priya, Maya, and Simi Chechi

Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Dinner

Keerthi, Dipu Cheta, Simi Chechi, and I
Keerthi, Dipu Cheta, Simi Chechi, and I

Keerthi and Mannu
My sister and her fiance

Mannu, Keerthi, Amma, Acha, and I
Mannu, Keerthi, Amma, Acha, and I

Priya and I
Priya and I

Keerthi and I
My sister and I

Keerthi, Mannu, and I
Keerthi, Mannu, and I

Maya and I
Maya and I

Priya, Maya, and I
Priya, Maya, and I

Shipra, Maya, Simi Chechi, Keerthi, and Priya
Shipra, Maya, Simi Chechi, Keerthi, and Priya

Aniyammama, Hemammayee, Dipu Cheta, and Prem
Aniyammama, Hemammayee, Dipu Cheta, Simi Chechi, and Prem

Simi Chechi and I
Simi Chechi and I

The Worst Journey Ever. The Best Vacation Ever.

I finally got some time to sit down and write about my leave. I have been rather busy. Our days are long, and after I get back from work, I don’t have very much time and I’m too tired to sit down and write a journal entry! Well, anyway… here it is. Be warned… it’s pretty long!

Ok, so this last month (May), I went on leave. My leave date was the 8th of May. Little did I know that this day would be the beginning of what I would like to call…

The Worst Travelling Experience Ever

We meet our hero at BIAP where he is waiting with his fellow soldiers to get a flight to Kuwait. It is around 8 in the morning, and the day hasn’t gotten hot just yet. Everywhere there are Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Seamen and Civilians sitting and waiting. Some are playing cards or talking amongst themselves. Others are listening to music, or watching movies on their laptops, or reading books. Still others are sprawled out on benches or on the dusty concrete floor, sleeping, using their luggage as pillows. At about 9 in the morning, a formation is called. As our hero hurries and falls in, he looks around and notices Captains, Majors, and Sergeant Majors also in formation. It strikes him as a little funny since he usually sees them in front of a formation, and not in one. Leave – the great equalizer. Somebody comes up to the front of the formation and informs everyone that there are two flights leaving Baghdad. The first one leaves at 12 noon, while the second one leaves at 10 pm. However, there are personnel who have been waiting at BIAP since yesterday, and therefore, they will be given preference for the 12 noon flight. Our hero hopes and prays that there is enough room on the flight for him. However, he has been in the Military long enough to know that expecations are rarely met, and Murphy’s Law holds sway most of the time. Sure enough, there isn’t enough room on the flight and he has to wait for the 10 pm flight. He settles in for a Long and Boring day.
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Over Here – Day 99

Hey everyone, this is just a quick update. Nothing much is going on here, things are pretty slow and we’re just waiting to go up north. The only major development is that I’ve been switched out of Headquarters into 2nd platoon. It was pretty sudden, and the reason is that they need someone to do the administrative work there. In the words of my First Sergeant, “You’re smart, and you can take care of yourself”, so that’s where they need me. I’m asking you all not to be worried, because I won’t be doing anything dangerous. The people in 2nd are pretty good soldiers, and I’ve worked with them before. They’re good guys, but I’m going to miss all my friends in Headquarters. Over the last three months, we all got pretty close and now it’s pretty sad that I have to leave them. But that’s how things happen in the Army, and you just have to learn how to deal with the new situation.

Due to this move, my address has also changed. So if you sent anything to my old address, I am hoping they will somehow forward it to me. Here is my new address:

Vivin Suresh Paliath
HHB 1/180th, 49th MP
APO AE 09348

I’ll let you all know if this changes.

That’s about it for now. No new pictures really – hopefully I will have some next time. Until then, take care.

Update: I have finally fixed the “redirection” bug. Like I suspected, it was a caching problem, which is why you had to clear your caches to access the latest entry. I have now updated the code so that it tells your browser not to cache my page. That way, you will always get the latest entry. But before it starts working for you, I need your to clear your browser cache now. After that, try accessing http://vivin.net again. It should take you to the latest entry (it isn’t this one!).

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.

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