My brother, Tim, is a major in the U.S. Air Force. He is now on his second tour of Iraq. We all waited, with extreme anticipation, to hear from him, that he made it safe and sound. He did, and that is a big time relief.
His trip in to his AOR (Area Of Responsibility - you just gotta love those military acronyms!) was what he described as “hellish.” The first legs on commercial jets were fine. It was only after he got on the C-130 transport plane that he got a bad case of dysentery. They were all crammed in like sardines in 100 degree heat with hot fuel exhaust coming in. They were all in full body armor, including helmets. By the way, there is no “private” bathroom, just a little curtain to draw. Coming in for the landing, the workhorse 130, as he called it, shot out flares to confuse heat-seeking missiles. When the plane landed, a generator malfunctioned and they were stuck on the tarmac. “As I glanced around at the [other] airmen on board, there was no doubt in my mind the courage that we all had,” he wrote, “but now, things are as normal as it can get and that’s okay.”
The next e-mail was called, Fog, but it’s not. “You should see it here. I awoke to what I thought was dense fog.” It was dust. “All around you has this strange orange hue. The dust sticks to your hair. My nostrils are thick with it.”
As he had stated during his first tour, the food is pretty incredible. He lunched on a whole boneless trout one day. There are 4 huge chow halls, each about half the size of a Wal-Mart. (Maybe, I should change the name to War-Mart.) All sorts of desserts abound (Dessert Storm?), cakes, pies and Baskin-Robbins sundae bars.
There are e-mails describing some of the not so pleasant things he is experiencing. In spite of being on a secure base, there is danger. I’m not going to explain most of the rather sad aspects of war where he is, but his job there is in communications. Actually, his official title is, Senior Communications Systems Project Manager/Engineer. He’s not out in the thick of it. In all likelihood, the odds of a hit are pretty slim. “It can happen but I’m not worried about it. We’re so busy that we don’t have time. We’re taught how to hit the ground when the alarm sounds so as to lower our hit probability.”
He sent me pictures. These might give you an idea on what life is like there.
As was in the past, I asked for clearance from him to write and show images. Obviously, he approved. Here is a picture of him, taken during a massive dust storm. I have a good close-up shot, but I’m not sure I want to publish it here.
As I said, he eats well. An e-mail from him talked more about some of his meals. “I just got back from the chow hall where I dined on a think slice of prime rib and half of a Cornish hen. I even had some horseradish sauce with the roast. I finished it off with some praline ice cream with some caramel sauce.
“For lunch (check this out!) I musta had 50 bucks worth of split crab legs. I didn’t even have to split them! Course, I had to dip them in butter. So, I guess the food is pretty darned good. The other nite I had chocolate marble cheescake. One nite last week I had New York style cheesecake which was phenominal. They have Indian nite, Italian night, Mongolian BBQ nite, steak nite, and prime rib night. The BBQ ribs are smoked and fall off the bone. Of course, they don’t come close to mine but when mortars are shot at you they’re not bad.
“With all that, I managed to lose an inch off my waist in just two weeks. I only indulge every once in a while. I even had two Becks beer with my prime rib tonight. It’s an excellent near-beer…much more flavorful than the American stuff. You can drink all you want of that stuff. Today it was 105 and that beer sure did tast swell.
“Anyway, I’m off to do some more work…14 hours a day but I’m not complaining.”
Here is the latest image he sent me. He calls it, “his ride.”
“The temps have been 110 lately. This morning we’re getting a break…79 degrees! I went for my morning run and got a lot of sleep last nite, which I needed. I feel pretty good this am.
“They have these incredible French toast stick that are deep fried and sprinkled with sugar. They have a slight cinnamon taste. We refer them as ‘crack sticks’ because they are so good. I hope they run out of them soon.
“Welp, that’s all for now folks.”