Monday, March 30, 2009

Update - Iraq

I've been touring around the MND-North with a tribute band called No Duh (obviously a tribute to No Doubt) for the last few days. Yesterday I was supposed to get to Balad and pick up our new set of entertainers, Catchpenny. Weather wouldn't allow that to happen so we pushed the tour back and picked them up today! I'm now on Caldwell and will be back at Speicher with Catchpenny at some point tomorrow. Both groups have been a lot of fun so far. Very different, but a lot of fun. Catchpenny is a rock/pop group of guys that was the reciepient of the Armed Forces Entertainers of the year this past year. They are a great group of guys who really want to give back to the Soldiers/Marines out here serving and protecting our country. They are so low maintence and really down to earth guys from Minnesota. Well, I gott get back to them for now... I'll write more about later but we've got a sound check to get to!

ps- I promise I will get some pics downloaded eventually. Don't have my camera cord yet and internet is slow as far as picture uploads and stuff. Alright, gotta go just wanted to give you a quick update on my where abouts... and why it's been hard for me to call at a normal hour! :D

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Journey Has Begun... Take it all in :D

I am in the morale section of our office building where people can use computers to check email/facebook/blog, whatever they like on break. There are four computers and two phones that we can use for "morale." How AWESOME is that?! Way more than I expected and I am so thankful for the provision. The only problem is, I'm sitting here writing and all of the sudden it reeks!!! There is a guy two computers away from me and I KNOW he just farted and it is rank!!! ugh. Seriously?!? I guess he didn't have enough break time to check his email AND go to the bathroom. No apology, no regret, nothing. He's sitting there like nothing happened, while I sit here trying to take short breaths through my mouth (which grosses me out too but at least I don't have to smell the awful stench) so I don't gag! The smell is starting to fade so I digress.....

It took me two and a half days to get to Camp Speicher but I have arrived! I was in Balad for a couple days, which really got me spoiled (as mentioned in my previous blog). But Speicher is nice and I am getting settled in just fine! My helicopter ride in was awesome. It was about 1:45 -2:00am by the time I finally got on a flight Wed night/Thurs morning, which ever you consider it. They put me on a Chinook (big helicopter). I was the first on from our group although there were already people on the "bird" sitting in their seats. One of the crew told me to come with him (I totally thought he was going to tell me I had too many bags and had to wait until the next flight). I followed and he started signaling something to me. What, I had no clue at first. I thought he was saying he was going to sit up in this seat next to the pilots and I motioned, ok and went back to what I thought was my seat. As I turned to sit down, I saw he had followed me and motioned to come back. I walked back over with him as he tried to scream over the roaring of the helicopter blades and engine turning in the background. I heard nothing but again thought he was saying he was going to sit up front. I yelled OK with a big thumbs up. He held out his hand as if to help me into that seat. "OOOOOH, you want me to sit there??" He sighed in relief and nodded his head. It was obvious I was not going to be able to talk this one out with him and explain that I am scared of heights and a nervous flyer. So I complied and climbed up to the front with the pilots.... very reluctantly.

I sat there after I put on my seat belt and made SURE that it was secure and wondered how does this stuff happen to me. And then I said "Katie, if you don't die this is going to be an unforgettable ride, so ignore your fears and take it all in!" It took me a while but we made 2 stops before Speicher so by the last one, I was able to let go of the bars in front of me and talk with the pilots. They had given me a head set after the first stop because they noticed I was, well, frantic. Have you ever been in a Chinook while taking off ... to me it felt like the God was lifting us up by the tail with a string, so the nose (where I was sitting) is looking straight at the ground. Almost like Drop Zone at Kings Dominion but you're looking down at the ground. Probably fun for people that dont' wonder how however many TONS of metal can fly through the air with no problem. But for us laymen, who are scared of heights. Not my idea of a "quick flight" to Speicher! Maybe God is teaching me trust ;) But all in all, it was an awesome experience. I talked with the pilots the rest of the flight and by the end of it I was enjoying the ride..... Until they thought it'd be funny to jerk my chain a little. Here's how it went:

Pilot 1 "There's a strong cross wind out tonight, could be a rough landing."
a few seconds later
Pilot 2 "UH OH!! Oh Crap!!"
I shut my eyes, grasped the bar in front of me and stopped talking so they could concentrate on keeping us alive. All of the sudden I hear them laughing and I could tell they had huge grins underneath their masks. I pressed my little talk button "You all are NOT funny." The chuckled a little more and then said that everything was fine and we'd be on the ground in 20 seconds. If they hadn't been flying the helicopter I would've hit 'em both in the back of the head.

That ride will be one I won't soon forget! I have more stories and pics but I left my camera cord at Victory and have to wait for them to send it to me so I can download them to my computer. So for now, I'm signing off and getting back to work!!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I like how..... took my 10 minutes to sign into my blogspot because the top of it is in Arabic and I couldn't read where the sign in button was.  I kept trying the top right where I "remembered" it being, but alas, it's at the top left here in Iraq.  Weird.  
  So I am here, in Iraq.  But not quite at my final destination.  I'm in Balad and should be flying out to Camp Speicher tomorrow afternoon.  Needless to say I've been doing a lot of waiting for my flights in order to get to where I'm going.  But it's ok, I'm learning patience!  I waited yesterday/last night from 2:30pm to 12:30am to get on a helicopter to my Speicher only to find out that was a no go and I had to wait until today (which didn't happen either btw).  So SGT King (a fellow Air Force MWR worker) hooked me up with a single "wet" CHU for the night (turning out to be two nights)... but let me just tell you when I found out just exactly what a "wet" CHU was, I about wet my pants!  I had a trailer to myself that shares a bathroom with someone on the other side!!!  Glory, Hallelujah!!!  I have taken TWO, count 'em, TWO showers today!  I feel like a million bucks!  
The weather is beautiful here right now... I'm sure I won't be saying that in a month or so but right now it's in the mid 60s with no humidity...clear as can be!  I've been outside a lot today, just walking around taking it all in.  I'm in IRAQ, people.  CRAZY!  I got a work out in b/c they told me I wouldn't be flying out today so there was no sense in waiting ALL DAY in the hangar like the prior two days.  Traveling in Iraq is definitely a little more complicated than in the States. Shocker.  
Last night when I was walking from the DFAC (dining facility), I had to laugh at myself when my half-empty gatorade bottle dropped out of my backpack and hit right next to my feet... I heard the noise jumped and then took cover... a little paranoid, ya think?  I looked around and saw that it was my hollow bottle that startled me and not an explosion.  Thankfully no one was around but I couldn't help but be embarrassed that I'm so jumpy.  Having choppers and C-130s landing all around can make one a little antsy I guess.  I'll get use to it eventually, I suppose.
I'm sitting here at the outside internet cafe in the middle of the food court (BK, Pizza Hut, Subway, Cinnabon and Seattle's Best Coffee), so I'm feeling right at home for the moment! lol. Kind of.  But I miss all of you already and have loved hearing from you when I get a chance to open my email or facebook account!  Thanks for writing.  Hopefully I'll be in Tikrit (Camp Speicher) by tomorrow and will be able to download some pictures to put on here!  I'm gonna go eat so I'm outta here for now!  :D 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Journey Begins - I'm Ready To Go!!!

Well, it's almost time for me to get on the plane... we leave tomorrow at some point and then starts the adventure. I'm not sure I can give tons of details about our flight, partially because they don't tell us anything (security purposes?) and I know almost nothing myself! This past week has been extremely long. I'm up at the crack of dawn to hurry up and get to formation (those of you that know me, know I don't do mornings) and then start a full day of rushing to get to places to either stand in line and wait to fill out paper work or sit in a classroom and listen to briefings ALL DAY LONG!

The group of people that are in-processing with me are a very eclectic group of people. We have military, some linguists, Civilians, Red-Cross, and other contractors (which include a million different jobs). I've made friends with the MWR people, some auditors, linguists and a couple military folks since the time I've been down here. It makes me laugh as we have to "march," if you can even call it that, in between our barracks and training. If you could only see this motley crew TRYING to march. People are all out of step, out of line, falling behind (we have some older and some out of shape people...just to give you a visual), and whatever else you can think of that would seem to be the exact opposite of what an Army unit would look like marching.

All I know is I'm ready to be done with this week and thank God that for the most part it's over. We have one more brief later tonight and then we're off tomorrow!! I've packed my 3 duffle bags that I'm allowed to bring (by the way... they issued us A LOT of crap and I'm pretty proud of the fact that I got that stuff PLUS the stuff I brought smushed into them!!) and am hoping the butlers here will help me get them to and from the airports....oh wait, we don't have those here. I guess I'll be luggin' those things in between myself, huh. Well, it's time to knuckle up and get my hands dirty I guess!

I'm not really sure what to expect or even if I'm ready for everything that's about to happen. But I have confidence that God is in control and that I have a lot of amazing people praying for my safety and the journey that's about to start in my life!! Thanks to all of you!! I will keep you all posted as often as I can. I will miss everything back here but am ready to go and hopefully bring some joy with me! :D

Here's a picture of me trying on my gear they issued us! Nevermind the helmet cover being on backwards!!