Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Typical Day at Camp Slayer

Despite the impression some may have, my average day is quite ordinary. I wake to the alarm at about 0630, which gives me enough time to actually get up and start the day slowly. Some of you may know that I am not very sociable the first thing in the AM. Often I will grab the book I was reading last night and read a couple of pages or a chapter before actually getting up and pulling on (in this order): a tan tee-shirt, new tidy whities, my camouflage trousers with the large-buckled rigger’s belt I prefer, and my socks. It’s a good day if I have a clean pair of padded hiking socks available, but if not, any old pair plus my size ten-and-a-half boots will do.

The shit-shower-and-shave routine is the same as anywhere else, except I usually have 10 or so close neighbors in the bathroom with me. Back to the hootch to grab my pistol belt and camouflage blouse, and then to the Chow Hall for breakfast, which I rarely miss. The cook knows how I like my omelets so I usually just wave to him while I go to get my potatoes and English muffin. No bacon for me, because many of the staff are Muslim and I know they do not like dishing it out. By choice, I always eat breakfast alone and do not talk to anyone.

I have two options for walking to work, and I always make a very considered decision as to which one I will take. Route one I call “Lakeside,” where the road parallels a large catch basin to the west. It’s actually very pretty, and you can’t even see that the old Ba’ath Party Headquarters building is completely gutted from this angle. Route two I call the “Riverwalk” as it follows a small canal leading to Pirate’s Cove, the body of water off of which the palace is located. Usually, I end up taking the Riverwalk because you can almost always spot fish in the canal and it reminds me of going fishing with Jack, even though we have never caught anything except tadpoles. Often you can hear explosions or small arms fire early in the morning, but they are usually only EOD doing controlled detonations or range fire.

After checking in with the palace guard and the off-going shift, I normally attend to email. It’s ALWAYS good to come in and have a couple emails from home, and yes, I know that I am not always so good at answering them. Consider it your contribution to the war effort. I also check the blog for new postings or comments. I really enjoy the comments.

Unless there was some type of emergency the night before (power outage, server failure, whatever), I usually have time in the mornings to plan the rest of my day. I used to make a long list of things that I’d get done, but considering the fact that most of my day consists of responding to last-minute requests, fixing small emergencies, and making sure my guys (and girls) have what they need to actually do the work, I had to cut this list down to two things. For example, one might be to finish up a report that was due the next day, and another night be to diagram out the required circuits for a new unit moving in. I usually also try to fit in something more physical so the guys can see me out there working and also for the break from paperwork it affords. Yesterday the Facilities Manager and I crawled through the service spaces and over the roof to try and find the origin of a leak in my third floor server room (no luck). This afternoon I think we’re scheduled to stack sandbags.

I often skip lunch and go for a run. I prefer to run outside, but will refrain from doing so if it’s hotter than 110 F. Thankfully, the temperatures have been a little less than scorching lately. I prefer running the hill because it’s a great view of Baghdad, but running the lakes is a nice change of pace. I have a map in the office marked out with the different routes and the distance to the half-way point. After I get back, the rest of my afternoon is usually filled with meetings… staff meetings, projects meeting, VTCs for this or that – I usually don’t get much done. If we need to transport equipment somewhere I will check the convoy schedule or request space in a helo. And every Monday I dry-clean my pistol – because there’s so much dust in the air here, you only oil your weapon before you go outside the wire.

The chow hall opens for dinner opens at 1730 and it always seems to come sooner rather than later (meaning that most days I still haven’t completed my 2-item To-Do list). Since I skip lunch, I usually go to early chow. Because it is so hot, I try to time my visits to other buildings on base around this time because it’s starting to cool down just a bit. If I have business of at one of the nearby camps I usually end up eating over there just for a change of pace. I was hoping to find a chow hall that used real silver ware instead of plastic ware, but that hasn’t happened yet). Often smoke from the fires in Baghdad drifts across the sky.

By the time I return from evening chow there are sometimes emails from home waiting for me. This puts me in a good mood. Sometimes the Colonel stops in late in the day, which tends to have the opposite effect. But most of the evening is reserved for finishing up things started during the day or deciding what might be put off until tomorrow.

The walk home – that is, back to the hootch – is always accomplished in the pitch dark so I take the Riverwalk because there are less steps and other obstructions. It would be easy to put out your eye just because you walked into a low-hanging date palm frond (they are very sharp). Imagine telling the grandkids about how you were wounded in the war by an enemy palm tree. If I remember, I stop in at the club to grab a bottle of water to go. Very occasionally, I will take in a movie at the improvised “base theater,” where they project films against the wall in a darkened room with chairs. The last one I saw was Must Love Dogs, a corny romantic comedy that I really liked. It’s an escape.

If we take any fire on the base it’s usually between 2000 (8:00 pm) and 2400 (midnight). Sometimes I’ll hear the fifties let loose, but mostly it’s quiet. I won’t even usually take notice any more unless there’s a really loud explosion. I might sweep out the hootch, or eat an apple or pear if I have one. I have the bottom bunk and every night I read in bed by the light of the lamp I have duck-taped up-side down to the bottom of the bed above me (it’s very convenient). I am reading Imperial Life in the Emerald City (sent by Keith), The Cremator (a translation from Czech), and Wanderings, by Chaim Potok (remember him, Mom?). Before I fall asleep I tell Lisanne, Anais, and Jack that I love them, and I may play the recorded message in Our George the teddy bear one or ten times. A couple times I have been awakened by noises or helos flying too low, but usually I am out until the next day.

So now my secret is out. My job isn’t all that heroic, and most of it takes place within the confines of the safest building on base. Only occasionally do I go off base, or ride in helicopters that get shot at, or any of that stuff you see on TV. But I do my best, try to look out for my boss and the guys (and girls) that work for us, and try to keep my eye on the big picture. And every day I tell myself that I am one day closer to going home. I love you guys.

NOTE TO THE KOKOs: I’ll try to look up your neighbor’s son as soon as I get his name.


Anonymous Kelly said...

The fact that you have to put on a pistol belt and camoflauge blouse, or consider running in 110 F temps, or listen to gunfire as part of your daily routine IS heroic. The fact that you and your comrades are over there is heroic. Don't ever forget that.

September 19, 2006 5:46 PM  
Blogger Pixie said...

Mark: Got any guys / gals who aren't receiving anything? E-mail me names and addys; there are some gals at work who want to send packages.

September 19, 2006 9:22 PM  

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