Monday, July 31, 2006

31 July 2006

I keep getting these terrific emails, Here is one from Down Under!

My SAS Sqn {Australian} took that airbase you are sitting in in one night on their own, in a vehicle mounted attack much like Sir David Stirling's mob and the LRDG in WW 11.

Ya want pics of us celebrating our ANZAC day with the Aussie flag on their HQ bunker. This is years ago now though Charles.

Me, yeah I am a Master Mason here in OZ. But I am bent up in body and mind, but am slowly getting back into some shape.

3 Sqn did East Timor {Indonesian bastards killed 250-000 Timorese since 1975 there} Then onto the �Ghan with 1 Sqn, then into Iraq.

Rests break then Ghan again and Iraq, and so it goes on and on.

We mainly now work in Afghanistan though.

We fight above our weight ever since our inception in 1958.

We have never lost anyone to an actual enemy combat engagement or from and enemy Unit.

In fact in Borneo 1964-5 our dead {4} one was dead from a stalking elephant {yes true, a rouge bull stalked the Patrol of 5 for days} we lost 2 in river crossings, and one from illness.

In fact in 10 years in Nam till 1972 {officially pulled out} we lost NONE to the enemy. Now Charles, we are in the Ghan, many years later {with lots of deployments in between} our only loss was 1 dead a bloody landmine.

It hit one of our special desert patrol vehicles {vice-versa}, and we lost a man, that is it.

None dead from anything in our assault on Iraq, where our special vehicles were seen 30 clicks outa Baghdad on the first night of the War by Journalists and Reporters who were being stopped by our guys trying to capture fleeing �special targets� We were the closet in and fired the first shots, with some Seal�s who were way Nth of us

Yeah wounded for sure, but Iraq, Ghan, Vietnam, to Borneo back in 1964 none dead from the enemy.

We are known in Nam by the Viet Cong as �Phantoms of the Jungle.

Hell there is a potted history of one of your main Allies.

Maybe it would be a fitting gift to your NEW IRAQ Lodge to know about the SAS Regiment in a Special Book on us. I have just the one.

And Australia was the original one of three, original Members of the Coalition against Terror, yep the US, UK, and Australia.

It is some luck, but really pure training and discipline that makes us what we are mate

Anyhow I am rambling, as it is late, I need my meds, and my bed, if {I can sleep at all these days}

Stay safe Charles, watch your arse.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Mail from an Iraqi Mason in Canada

I get the most amazing email. Here is one from an Iraqi Mason in Canada.

Dear Brother Martin,
First, I would like to congradulate you and all brethern who have started and opened
the first masonic lodge in free Iraq, it was one of the most wonderfull work which has been done by Air, Land and Marine personnel beside bringing the freedon to the land of mosipotemia ( Iraq).
secondly, I would like to know if you need any equipment for the Lodge, I will be happy to try to get them, just to help the brethern in masonic work.
My name is Khoshaba Mirza, past master of Bridgewood Masonic Lodge Lodge in the A.F&A masonry in the Grand Lodge of Canada, province of Ontario.
I hope to hear from you.
P.M. Khoshaba Mirza

Saturday, July 22, 2006

22 July 2006. From a mason in Hawaii

Charles, my name is Jimmy Coleman from the Honolulu Lodge of F&AM. I was recently passed to the degree of Fellowcraft and just want to say congratulations for what you are doing out there in Iraq. I'm a submariner in the Navy by the way, stationed at Pearl Harbor. The brothers and I are looking forward to seeing some pics of the lodge when you get a chance. You were a topic of discussion last Tuesday in the lodge. If there's anything that I can do for you, shoot me an e-mail. Until then, Godspeed and good luck with the lodge.

Jimmy Coleman

Thursday, July 20, 2006

20 July 2006. Ramadi Base

Stuck here one more day. Crud. The data shop is still working on the computer, to get it ready to get on the internet here. Looks like they will work on it today, and it can go on the net tomorrow. Walked down to the guard shack, and checked the antennas, they look good. Walked over to the chow hall. Today they served: baked fish fillets, Hot italian sausages in tomato sauce, rice, corn. Ate the food, and had a bowl of BR cookie dough ice cream. Then walked over to the Rec Hall.

Will spend tonight in the tent,with the generator blowing all night. Then get the system back on line Friday morning, and then hang around the base all day, and try for a night chopper back to Al Asad.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

19 July 2006. Ramadi base

Sunday morning, got the flight to Camp Korean Village. Got the system back on line. Had to wait until Tuesday for a return flight. Came back to Al Asad Air Base Tuesday afternoon. Then grabbed a hot shower, packed some more clothes, dropped off my laundry, and then caught a night flight to Ramadi Base.

Got in at 1100pm, and hitched a ride to the transient tent. It is a lot cleaner, and all the crowd that was there last time is gone, just me and one other person. Still bloody LOUD, next to a 10 KW generator roaring away all night. Slept as best I could, then got up at 0600am. Walked over to the shower trailer, and there was no hot water. Checked out the hot water heater, someone turned the water off, so I turned the water back on. Got an excellent shower.

The helicopter that I flew in Tuesday night, had severe hydraulic fluid leaks in the ceiling. Hot sticky hydraulic fluid dripped on me for half an hour. I now have hydraulic fluid on my uniform at the wrists and knees. One of the hassles of life in Iraq.

Got the system into the data shop for repairs, should be ready by Thursday morning. Went to the chow hall, and had an excellent veal steak, with salsa and rice. Stir-fry vegetables, and Baskin-Robbins strawberry Ice cream. Met a couple of over-the-road civilian truck drivers, and they told their tales of teamstering in Iraq. One of them is interested in Freemasonry.

We have our dispensation! May 2, 2oo6, the GLNY issued the document. We still do not have any New York Masons here, I will not get my dual membership until September 2006. Then we can finally have a meeting!

Not much to do now, just kick back, and wait for the data shop to get the system prepped for going back on line. Will hang out at the Rec Hall, and get dinner, then back to the tent and try to sleep next to the generator roaring away all night.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

15 July 2006

The Ides of July. Heat has moderated. Last Monday, we had a bad windstorm. Blew down one of my systems. Smashed the mounting pole, and one of the cables just blew away, no idea where to find it. Fortunately, I had a spare set of cables. I went to the site, and one of the marines climbed up on the roof and helped me replace the cables.

We had a casualty, one of our Navy SeaBees was killed by a land mine. The Marines shut the internet down for 36 hours, until they could notify his family. When the internet came back up, one of my systems could not report. Now I must fly to Korean Village, about 12 miles from the Syrian border. The flight is 2 1/2 hours. Korean Village is the bleakest place I have ever seen.

Tonight is a Masonic Square and Compasses Club meeting. We still do not have a charter after 7 (seven) months of waiting. I am so disappointed. I have written all of the New York officers, and I still have no idea when we will have a charter. I still do not have my dual membership with Master Builder lodge #911, in Tonawanda New York.

Monday, July 10, 2006

10 July 2006

Back to it. Could not sleep at all last nite. Got up at 0800, and rode the bike into the office. Wind blowing hard across the desert, by body works like a sail, pushing me back the wrong way! Finally got to the office. Must travel to Ramadi tonight. No rest for the weary.

Yesterday at church,we talked about the importance of keeping a journal. I mentioned that I keep a BLOG. Must keep it high-tech. Like a diary, but I broadcast mine out for all the world to see, and even make comments.

Been working 10 hours a day 7 days a week since I have been here. No matter. I like it. Some SOB stole the kickstand off my Mongoose bike. I do not understand why so many people steal here. We put our lives in each other's hands. I had a nice pair of sunglasses with a neck string, and someone stole them. I had a spare wheel for my bike, and someone stole that. If they had asked me for them, I would have gladly given them away.

I finished reading "The cruelest miles" about the sled-dog drive to get the vaccine to the sick children at Nome, Alaska. The book was fascinating, and it included some insight into what it is like to live in Alaska. One thing struck me. In one of the stories, the narrator said "In Alaska we have to trust each other, else we cannot live here". I feel the same way about life in Iraq. We put our lives in each other's hands. you must rely on your buddy in the foxhole. You must also rely on your buddy, when you park your bike in front of your hooch.

The bicycle is the preferred mode of transport here. There are hundreds of bikes. Soldiers and civilians use bikes for transport. Since we go months without rain, why not! I have a John Deere Gator, and I only use it, if I have to haul tools or luggage or packages. I much prefer my bikes.

My computer is still back in California. It was busted, and I thought that the repairs were covered under warranty. Turns out that the internal damage was covered. The repair depot said that I needed a new battery, so I bought one. Turns out the battery was fine, the AC adaptor and the charging circuitry in the computer were defective, and that is not covered by warranty. Now I had to charge $225 on the American Express card, and then try for re-inbursement. The company authorized the repair, but they will howl regardless.

Getting close to lunchtime, I will close it off now.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Looking back. 1 January 2006.

> Got your mail. Iraq is an interesting place. I consider myself an
> "old mideast hand" after spending a year in Saudi Arabia. I think
> Saudi Arabia is a paradise, at least for American males.



> My work is fantastic, I love it. I supervise 9 computers (soon
> 10) on 5 forward combat bases in Western Iraq. I am based at Al
> Asad (33deg47min N/42deg28minE). My other bases are in a "ring",
> and when one of them conks out, I get on a chopper, and fly up.
> On New years eve, I flew to Ramadi (a big insurgent area), and
> stayed in the barracks.
> I went to the office the next morning, and serviced the computer.
> I got it back on line, and then "baby-sat" the system all day, to
> make sure that it did not go out again. I then got a ride to the
> helicopter terminal at 9pm. I stayed in the terminal, and got a
> chopper ride back to Al Asad at 3am. I got back to my trailer at
> 0400am. that means I worked 21 hours in one day.
> I then grabbed a hot shower in the shower trailer. I slept for
> about an hour. Then I got up at 0600am. I took a disc drive from
> an old computer, and installed it in another computer. I then got
> a chopper ride up to Al Qaim. I installed the computer, and got it
> back on line. I stayed with that computer all day, again making
> sure that it did not go out.
> One of the men there got a pizza oven for Christmas, so he made
> homemade pizza for all of us. I ate a slice, and then I watched
> "Flight of the Phoenix" on the television. I then grabbed my
> duffle bag, and walked over to the barracks for the night. I slept
> in the barracks, and then got up at 0900am. I went back and
> checked the computer to make sure that it ran all night. By 1130,
> the chopper was ready to go back.
> I got on the chopper and flew back to Al Asad, then got a bus back
> to the trailer. I had not eaten anything for 24 hours, so I was
> hungry. I went to the Chow Hall, and got a dinner of pork loin
> roast, and baked pollock fish with parmesan cheese and curry
> flavored rice. The chow hall has unlimited baskin-robbins ice
> cream, but I got cheesecake for dessert.
> I then went back to the barracks, and watched "Midway" with
> Charlton Heston. I fell asleep, and went to work at 0600am. I
> usually work 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I am on call 24/7.
> It's great, and I am 99% ready to re-enlist and spend a second
> year here in the Iraqi desert.
> I am getting a masonic lodge organized. (see
> I wish that there was a MENSA
> chapter here, but no luck. When I was in Dharhan, Saudi Arabia
> (1991)we started a MENSA chapter, and it was just getting
> underway, when I left.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

On independence day, Remember the Civilians

gets up to 120+ degrees in afternoon. night down to about 80. Windy, dusty. just keep drinking water.Does anyone think about the civilians in Iraq?We live in the tents with the soldiers and marines. We eat in their chow halls, and pray with them in the chapels.We leave our loved ones back in the USA. We are bombed on, mortared on, shot at. Unlike soldiers, we are forbidden by international conventions from carrying weapons or shooting back.over 350 of us civilians have lost our lives here in Iraq. Bombs and IED's do not discriminate, they kill civilians and military people with equal enthusiasm.We deliver the mail, the food to the chow halls, we keep the computers running , the military cannot function without computers, we keep the generators producing electricity, so that the buildings can have air conditioning. We run the Recreation halls, where the soldiers/marines can have their limited free time. We provision the hospitals, where they are treated. We keep the supplies flowing, the ammunition delivered.the average civilian is 45 here, he has a gut, and his hairline is receding. He does not have the physique of a marine Corps lance corporal, but he misses his family just as bad. He is probably a veteran, many here served in Vietnam, and came back home to the USA to be spit on.He went to college on the GI Bill, and learned the skills to support this military operation.The civilians here, are bit by the same sand fleas, the same scorpions, and the same camel spiders, that bite the soldiers. They pick the same sand from their hair. They take the same 3-minute showers as the Marines. They eat the same food in the chow halls. They weep over the same letters from their families. They miss their kids just as bad as the soldiers.The civilians here are mighty proud to be part of this operation. Terrorism kills civilians and the innocent. 3,500 civilians were killed on Sept 11, and we don't forget. Saddam Hussein killed civilians, used poison gas on Kurdish women and children. Each one of us plays a part in the fight against terrorism here in Iraq.We have no fancy uniforms, we won't get a service ribbon for our time here. We will get no welcome home parades, there will be no band waiting when we step off the plane. The president of the United States will not serve any thanksgiving meals to any civilians. The VFW posts will not be named after us. No flags fly at half-staff when we are killed.But this operation WILL NOT BE POSSIBLE without civilians. Each one of us will receive the deep personal satisfaction of having done our part to fight terrorism. When this conflict is over, and Iraq has a constitutional republic, we will have the knowledge that we civilians made it possible. People I have never met (I am forbidden to have any contact with Iraqis), will live their lives in safety, and without the monstrous rule of Saddam Hussein because of what I have done here. The Iraqi people, and the people of the entire middle east, will have a future, without terror, because of the work and sweat of the civilian force in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

01 July 2006 Ramadi Base

I am at Ramadi base. I flew up last night, and went to the transient tent. What a pig-sty! Trash and bottles and various crap all over the floor. The tent is right next to a 10KW generator, and sleeping is impossible. Went to work at 0800 in the morning, already HOT. Ramadi is in the center of the terrorist stronghold. I have an antenna up at a guard shack, and a soldier was killed in that shack some months ago.

Looks like I will be here for a couple of days at least. It's bearable. I am glad that I brought enough clothes for four days. The mess hall is barely tolerable, not nearly as good as what it used to be last year. Like most mess halls in western Iraq, it has gone downhill.

Fortunately, I can get on a computer at the Recreation Hall. Been surfing the net all day. Also reading "On the wings of Eagles" about how Ross Perot had his people rescued from Iran. As a contractor working in a foreign country, I am interested in this story. Fortunately, I am forbidden to travel on a motor vehicle, or even to leave the perimeter, except by air.

I stopped the automatic posting by the YAHOO group. If someone wants to read this BLOG, they will have to open it on the web like anyone else.