Tuesday, December 18, 2007

18 Dec 2007

In training school at Fort Wayne Indiana. Been learning the systems. I will fly back to Washington DC, on 22 Dec. Then I will spend the Christmas holidays there, then back to Fort Wayne on 1 Jan 2008. I will remain in Fort Wayne for some weeks, then depart to Iraq.

The firm has to get our camp built, and have our accomodations and work area completed, hopefully before we arrive. The crew that I am going to be working with, looks excellent. We have some retired Army men, and the others are all veterans, most have prior service in Iraq.

I want to get some kind of Masonic activity underway there at Taji. There may be a working lodge in place, or some Masonic club or group.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Started work 10 December 2007

I flew up to Fort Wayne IN on Dec 9. I stayed in the hotel, and began work 10 Dec. I am in orientation/training now, and I will return back to Washington DC for the Christmas/new Year's holidays, then back to Fort Wayne on 2 Jan. I will be flying to Iraq after the first of the year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

BACK to Iraq.

I have been picked up by ITT Industries. I am going to be posted in Taji, Iraq. Please keep reading, this is going to be an interesting contract.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back in the USA 13 Nov 2007

My work in Afghanistan has come to an end. I flew back to the USA on 1 November, and now I am unemployed and looking for work. If anyone knows of an opening in the telecommunications or computer systems field, please let me know. My resume is at:


I had an incredible experience the last two years, and there is a good chance I can return to that part of the world for additional work.

I was glad to have had you readers along for the ride!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday night

An interesting week. I spent a week at Wazakhwa ( a dump ). I flew in to Bagram Air Base Thursday afternoon, Oct 11. There was a flight scheduled to Warrior base on the 12th, and I signed up for it. I went to the terminal Friday morning, but the flight took no space-available passengers. There was a flight scheduled on the 16th, and I went to the terminal on the 15th, but the flight was cancelled. The next flight from here (Bagram) to Warrior is not until the 23rd. So I am flying back to Sharana base tonight, and then wait there, and try for Warrior base again.

Bagram is not so bad, I stayed in a concrete barracks room that had a real bed. The shower room was downstairs, but it was OK. I was able to walk to the dining hall, and walk to the office, and I spent most of my time this week in the Rec hall, monitoring my systems remotely.

I had to re-enroll for my medical/dental benefits, I could not hit the web page, so I enrolled by telephone.

New post

One individual sent in an inquiry about donating supplies to the troops. I am delighted to answer, that we can always use donations of items. We can use soap, blankets, winter clothing, anything you wish to provide. The individual asked that I not list his posting, and I will respect his request.

Individuals, lodges and other organizations often donate items for the troops here. I try to acknowledge each gift, but I cannot get them all. Believe me, we are grateful.

You may send items to me at:

Charles E. Martin
UNISYS Corporation HHC 36 ENG BDE
FOB Sharana
APO AE 09354

And I will distribute them to the troops, through the Recreation Center and the Chaplain's office. There are a number of brave Afghan nationals who work here on this base, and we often share the items with them. These men risk their lives to work for the USA forces.

If anyone would like a "shopping list" email me, and I will provide one. We can use all types of personal care items, shampoo, candy, soap, etc.

Some individuals and organizations have donated Recreational supplies and sporting goods. We are grateful for these items as well, the US Government does not provide recreational items for the troops. If you would like a list of what items we need, please email me.

If you need more information, or you wish to participate, please email me at:



Saturday, October 13, 2007

13 Oct. Bagram Air Base

Spent a week at Wazakhwa. What a dung-hole! I got the computer reset, and then just enjoyed it there. They have no port-a-johns, just an outhouse where you defecate into a pan, and twice a day, they burn it off with diesel fuel. The dining hall is run by the US Army, and because of the Ramadan schedule (most Muslims work 6 hours per day in the month of Ramadan), all of the mess hall staff were US soldiers on KP. the mess hall was running out of food, so they were on short rations. No eggs, no milk,etc. I had a wonderful room, a real bed, with a mattress, and a decent heater. I slept like a baby. The shower house was around the corner, so I kept clean. I started reading "The clan of the cave bear", and watched some TV while I was there. I was able to fly back to Bagram Air Base, on Thursday. There was a flight scheduled to Warrior base on Friday, so I stayed in the terminal building for a couple of hours, and registered for the helicopter ride to Warrior base. I then went to the barracks, and ate a meal, and slept soundly!

I got up at 0430am, and got a ride to the terminal, and waited until the sergeant called the names for the flight. Unhappily, the flight was full, so I just waited in the terminal building. I tried a breakfast (MRE, meal-ready-to-eat, the modern version of K rations). An egg omelet with vegetables, and hash browns with bacon. The food was so gross, that I just threw it in the trash. I did find a boneless chicken breast, and it was delicious.

I went back to the barracks, and relaxed. I went into the office on Friday afternoon, and tried to see if I could get on the Tuesday 16 Oct flight to Warrior. I will stay here at bagram, and try for that flight, if I cannot get on it, I will fly back to Sharana, and put my trip to Warrior base on hold. I need to get up there to "show the flag", and inspect the system, but the system is functioning normally, so if I have to wait, it is not a big deal.

I spent Friday night in the barracks, and some idiot turned off the heater, and I about froze. I got up at 0200am, and turned the room heater back on. I got up at 0830, and walked down to the mess hall. I got three eggs fried, and two hardboiled. I met up with the Chaplain, and we spent a couple hours talking theology and religion. The mess hall staff kicked us out of the mess hall, so I went down to the Rec hall, to check on the systems.

I really have no duties here, my computers are at four other bases. But I can monitor them from here, and file my reports. My supervisor called on the cell phone, and he wants me to report to the office each day I am here by 0900, I agreed, but there is no real point, I have my cell phone with me, and it is on 24 hours a day. This is no vacation!

I will hang around the Rec Hall, and monitor the systems. There are movies on the wide-screen all day long. I had a small lunch, barbeque pork on a bun, ravioli, and cookies and cream ice cream with maraschino cherries.

Been having a hassle with the anti-masons, all the stuff on their web site is so ridiculous I could just hurl. I want to get back into masonry, and I am going to be gung-ho at Sharara.

Friday, October 05, 2007

100th post 5 Oct

Flew from FOB Sharana Thursday morning. Arrived at Bagram Air Base. Spent the night in the barracks, a real bed with a mattress. I must sign up at the flight terminal tonight at 6pm, then Saturday morning, fly up to Wazakhwa.

I bought some additional cell phone minutes, so that I can use the cell phone. I also had a Burger King Whopper, the first one I have eaten in many months, and it was good. The PX here is the biggest in Afghanistan, which is not saying much. At least they have a barber shop, and several food service sites.

I will stay at Wazakhwa for a couple of days, then fly the reverse. Back to Bagram, then wait here for a day, then back to FOB Sharana.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wednesday Morning

The office across the path from my tent is now operating 24/7. I watched "Patriot Games", starring Harrison Ford last night. The Dining tent is closed for renovations all day today, so I had to skip breakfast. the Doc thinks I should lose some weight anyway. My Blood pressure is a little high, so I am taking blood pressure medicine for the first time in my life.

I will be flying Thursday morning, so I have to be at the terminal at 0130am in the morning. then I will get a C130 airplane to Bagram, then wait for a helicopter to fly up to Wazakhwa. I have to do 30 minutes of work, and it will take me a week, to do all the traveling. Wazakhwa is bleak, the food service is run by the Polish Army, and the port-a-johns have diesel furnaces where the waste is burned off daily. There is no PX.

There is a masonic lodge meeting this Friday, but I will be gone traveling. I had been invited to serve as Senior Deacon, but I had to cancel. I am very excited about participating in Masonry again, especially here in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Letter to the Grand Secretary and the Grand Master of Kentucky

To the Grand Master of Masons in Kentucky, and the Grand Secretary, I am in receipt of your recent letter, and I appreciate your concerns, respecting my assisting the Worshipful Master of Land, Sea, and Air lodge #1 (Grand Lodge of New York, F&AM), and my communications with my Grand Master (in New York). There have been some developments, that you are possibly not aware of, and I wish to bring to your attention. For some time now, I have been a dual member of both my Kentucky lodge, and a (fixed, permanent) lodge in New York, which is under the authority of the Grand Lodge of New York (F&AM). As a bona-fide New York mason, I am therefore permitted and encouraged to communicate directly with the Grand Master of Masons in New York, and any of the Grand Line officers, and with any New York Mason , on New York masonic matters. For the record, I am NOT a member of Land, Sea, and Air Lodge #1. LSA#1 is a traveling military lodge, and has no members. I have never been asked by the Grand Lodge of New York, nor by the Worshipful Master of LSA#1, to stop assisting on the project. I am no longer resident in Iraq. Any objections that you have to my assisting the Grand Lodge of New York, in Iraq, are therefore moot, and no longer applicable. I have NEVER been asked by any (NEW YORK) Grand Line Officer, either telephonically nor in writing, to cease assisting the Worshipful Master of Land, Sea, and Air lodge #1. Until I am asked formally to stop helping the Worshipful Master on this project (by the WM himself) , I intend to proceed. I wish to remind everyone, that I am under an obligation, to help aid and assist any brother master mason who comes to me for assistance. Any assertion that I am contacting a Grand Lodge of which I am not a member, is baseless. I AM a New York Mason. My membership with Master Builder lodge #911, Tonawanda New York has been duly completed and voted upon. I have been informed by the Grand Master of Masons in New York himself, by telephone, that my membership is with this lodge. I have been informed, telephonically, and by email that I am a full voting member of Master Builder 911, Tonawanda New York. Since I am a New York Mason, then I have every right to correspond directly with the Grand Master of Masons in New York, on New York masonic matters. I am NOT attempting to establish a lodge in Iraq, or anywhere else. Land, Sea, and Air Lodge #1, was established in 1917, 37 years before I was born. I am NOT attempting to assume authority for any lodge in Iraq. The Worshipful Master is resident in New York, and he alone is responsible. I am only assisting him in specific tasks that he has directed me to help on. I have every authority to assist in the Land, Sea, and Air lodge project. The Worshipful Master contacted me back in November 2005, and asked me specifically to assist. I am acting under his direct supervision and authority. The Worshipful Master has not rescinded this request. I am seeking NO aid from any (other) lodge or Grand Lodge, on this project. I am a Kentucky Mason (with dual membership in New York). I have asked for advice and guidance from a number of individuals, but I have never solicited any monetary donations. Individuals and lodges have donated certain morale and recreational items to the troops here, on their own initiative. For the record, the treasury balance of LSA#1 is ZERO. I want to make it quite clear, and have no misunderstandings. My work with the Worshipful Master and the Grand Lodge of New York, is at their specific request. I was asked to help on this project back in November 2005. The lodge had been operating in Iraq for some time, long before I was ever involved (see www.esmason.com Fall 2005 issue page 32). Everything that I have done has been well-documented, I answer all questions from individuals, and I keep a running account of my progress, on my blog. I am also getting some advice and guidance from the Supreme Council Scottish Rite (Southern Jurisdiction). I am NOT criticizing any individual in Kentucky, with respect to this project, either in Emails, nor in my blog. You can see my blog (www.cemab4y.blogspot.com) for yourself. Since this is a NEW YORK project, and New York is alone responsible, why would I want to criticize any Kentucky Mason? What would be the point? I am NOT criticizing any individual in New York, with respect to this project, either in Emails nor in my blog. I have offered some suggestions to the Grand Master of Masons in New York, and I have personally appealed to him both telephonically, in postal mail, and in email. As a bona-fide member of a New York lodge, I have every right to do this. I intend to follow every directive and rule of BOTH Grand Lodges of which I am a member. Now that you have a more complete understanding of the situation, with respect to my dual membership, I suggest that you cease any suggestions of possible investigations of my communicating (improperly) with the Grand Lodge of New York, which is my Grand Lodge. Any suggestion that I am in communications with a Grand Lodge of which I am not a member, is baseless and not factual. While we are on this topic, I would like to request that the Grand Lodge of Kentucky be more supportive of my efforts to assist the Grand Lodge of New York ,and the Worshipful Master of Land, Sea, and Air lodge #1, in bringing Masonry to the troops and civilians in Iraq. The masons here risk their lives every day, for your freedom, and they deserve to have a functioning lodge in Iraq, and to have the retreat of Masonry. Up until now, I have received virtually no support or encouragement (from the Grand Lodge of Kentucky) in my efforts to assist the Grand Lodge of New York, and the Worshipful Master of LSA#1 in this endeavour. If you do not wish to support the masons in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least get out of the way, and let the Grand Lodge of New York, (and other Grand Lodges) proceed with this effort. I am no longer resident in Iraq, and therefore not of much value in this project, but I intend to offer every assistance I can, to both the WM, and the Grand Master of Masons in New York, until asked specifically otherwise. After all, I am a New York Mason, and when asked to assist , I will. Here in Afghanistan, the Grand Lodge of Washington (state), as well as the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, are assisting military masons with getting lodges underway here. At my base, there is even going to be an Eastern Star chapter. Although I am not directly involved with these efforts, I wish them well, and I will attend and fellowship with the new lodge here. If asked for help, I will give it. Masonically Thine, Charles E. MartinForward Operating Base Orgun, Afghanistan

Back at Sharana

I got back on Sunday morning. I thought I made a blog entry. While I was gone someone went through my personal items in my tent, and stole my clock, and my sunglasses, and my book about the Panama Canal. If they had wanted that stuff so bad, I would have given it to them.

Now it is Tuesday afternoon, I must fly to Wazakhwa. I will get a flight tonight to bagram, and then wait there for a day, and then fly on to Wazakhwa. Then I will stay there a couple of days, and then return to Bagram, then return here to Sharana.

Friday, September 28, 2007

28 Sept., stuck

No flights today. running out of clean clothing. I took my last pair of socks with me, and I washed them in the shower. The next flight is due out on Sunday 30 Oct. I must immediately make a flight to Wazakhwa, another of my bases. I will have to fly to Salerno by fixed wing aircraft, and then wait on a helicopter.

The Rec Hall was not crowded, so I am spending several hours on the computer catching up on some administrative work.

Called the USA yesterday. Spoke with RB Hooks, a masonic friend.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Stuck at FOB Orgun-E

27 Sept. Got up at 0515AM this morning, and went to the flight desk to see about the flight to Sharana. It was cancelled. I came here to do 45 minutes of work, and I have been stuck here ten days. The next flight is 30 Sept, and there is no guarantee of that one!! I might have to wait until the 3rd of October.

Getting low on clean clothing. I will wash some items in the shower myself. Stuck on a cot, fortunately I was able to scrounge a blanket. COLD in the mornings.

Not much line for the computers, I was able to inform my supervisor of my whereabouts. Would like to call the USA, maybe later.

The bad weather is coming, and it is only going to get worse (with respect to flying). In bad weather, the helicopters will fly less often.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

26 Sept. Wednesday afternoon

A little excitement last night. There was some enemy activity, outside the gate, so there was an alert. Siren, so we had to go to bunkers. Waited about an hour, then all clear.

Should be flying home to Sharana tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Got up this morning, cold as usual. Got a decent breakfast, then got on the internet. Scheduled to fly back to home base Sharana on Thursday, In's'hallah. Got to see Jeapordy. Mostly just relax,and wait for the chopper.

I have made many postings on this blog about Freemasonry, but I have never deliberately criticized any individual. If anyone feels criticized, or treated unfairly on my blog, please let me know.

I received a letter from the Grand Master of Masons in Kentucky. The Grand Lodge of Kentucky does not realize, that I am a dual member of two lodges, one in Kentucky and one in New York. I have been communicating with the Grand line officers, and others in New York, about the LSA#1 project.

The Grand Master asked me to provide them with an "intent" to communicate only with individuals in my own grand Lodge. I agreed.

I am about done with the lodge project in Iraq. There is not much I can here in Afghanistan. We have a lodge project here at Sharana, and I am going to be very active. I think that the military and civilian personnel here in Afghanistan (and Iraq) deserve to have Freemasonry.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Still at Orgun

Monday morning. I was supposed to fly out of Orgun-E this morning, but the flight was cancelled. I am scheduled for a flight on Thursday 27 Sept. It is cold at night, I scrounged a blanket last night, so it was tolerable. I am on my last set of clean underclothes, I took mine to the laundry, and I will get them back tomorrow.

Not much to do, just surf the net, keep an eye on my systems, and file the reports. Got a letter from the Grand Master of Masons in Kentucky, and I sent in a short response, and I will send in a longer response later. Since I am not in Iraq, anymore, I am not helping on the Iraq masonic project. I wish them well.

Food here is about the same at any mess hall. All of the cooks and servers at the mess hall are Army. There are some local national employees in the kitchen, and cleaning up.

Got to see Jeapordy today. Talked for a while with the Chaplain, just chatting up comparative religions. Talked right through lunch.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday afternoon

Stuck at Orgun. Cold last night, winter is coming. Right now, there is a rainstorm, the entire base will turn to mud. I have no more clean clothes, I am scheduled to fly back to my home base, Sharana, tomorrow, Monday 24 Sept.

Friday, September 21, 2007

21 Sept. 2007

Stuck at Orgun. A small base up in the mountains. Only 9 minutes flying time from my home base at Sharana. The base has a decent rec hall, the dining hall is 100% Army run, the cooks do a decent job. Three meals a day, instead of two. Decent food. Took my first shower today since left Sharana. The water is high-pressured, felt good on my skin, to pummel it. The temperature was not so hot, but it was good to get a shower regardless. I am almost out of soap, and the small OX here carries my brand of soap, but they could not make change for a $20 bill! I will have to wait until tomorrow, and they have some change. The PX is cash only.

The office where my computer is located, did a complete renovation today. They moved all of the furniture out of the building, and painted all of the walls. They had to move my computer around, and so they unplugged some of the equipment!!! I got everything plugged back in, and running properly. It is a good thing that I am here, else I would have had to fly in, and plug everything back in.

It is Friday night, the Islamic sabbath, and the base is on a slow schedule. I finally got to watch "Jeapordy" it comes on at 1pm. The people in the Rec Hall were stunned at my amazing knowledge. They thought I had seen the show before!

I never thought I would get lonesome for pavement. The entire base here, and the entire base at Sharana is 100% gravel and dirt. I brought an extra pair of running shoes, My feet are sore after walking all day on the gravel.

I still have no idea when I will get a permanent quarters. I will be in the tent, sleeping on a cot for a long time. Fortunately, I will have an internet line run into the Mayors cell at Sharana, and I will have unlimited internet time, and not have to rely on the kindness of strangers (like Blanche DuBois).

I brought some extra clothing, I had a feeling I would be stuck here for several days. Just wish there was more to do here. Tonight there is a bible study at the chapel, maybe I will drop in, and observe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday 18 Sept

Woke up with backache. Still not getting into quarters. Fly up to Orgun tomorrow. Spoke with some friends by phone last night. A lonely place. At least I will have a masonic fellowship here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday 17 Sept

What a day. Still have the backache from sleeping on a cot all night. I will get a permanent residence, and a bed soon, I hope. I have finally got a temporary office. I have received a computer account, and I must bring my laptop in for baselining, and for the Army to prepare my computer for use on the internet here. Then they will install a line in the Mayors cell, and I can use my computer there.

I must get down to the finance office, and get a letter for them, authorizing me to cash checks at the finance office. I do not need cash here, there is only one store, the PX, and I can use my credit cards there, as well as my Army debit card. But I may get vacation, and need some paper money for traveling!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Afghanistan blues

Went to the Doctor yesterday to get Malaria tablets. I honestly did not know that Anopholes mosquitos could survive at this altitude. The Doc assures me, that mosquitos can survive up here, and that malaria is definetly present. I got a years supply of tablets, and I will take one each monday.

My blood pressure was a bit high, so I have to go back next day for another blood pressure check.

Food here is all right, but tiresome. Definetly a step down from Iraq. That army cot I have to sleep on, is giving me a backache. Plus all the walking, my feet and shins are sore as hell.

Enough complaining. It is good to be working, better to be working here than unemployed back home! I have located a Mason here, who runs a study group. I hope we can expand into a fully functioning square and compasses club.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

One week here

Slept a fiftul night. Winter is coming. The nights are cool, and getting colder. Got up at 0630, got the breakfast. My tool kit arrived, so I am going to make my first flight to Orgun. I must be at the flight office at 0530am tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday morning

Winter is coming. Cool last night. Only one other man in the tent. Got up this morning, and got a breakfast. I need a computer account, so I walked down to the data connection shop, and signed up. I needed to pass two exams on computer security and operations, so I took the tests on line, and passed.

Strangely, there are no 220volt electrical outlets anywhere on this post. I asked around, and I was able to scrounge a 110 to 220Volt transformer, so now I can plug in the transformer, and then I can plug the battery charger for my cell-phone directly into it, and recharge the battery. The data shop had a spare that they were not using.

The post exchange (PX) opened up three days ago. It is small, but much bigger than their last one. Sharana is going to be a major base, with many more troops and civilians arriving here, so the whole base infrastructure will be growing. More barracks, more buildings, more offices, more vehicles, etc. I am going to be a busy man.

Went to the main chow hall for the first time. There are a total of two(2) dining halls on this post, one is run by the US Army, and one is run by the KBR company of Houston, Texas. The quality of the food is about equal in both of them. I also made my first visit to the recreation center, what a disappointment. Plywood hut, with wooden benches. Equipment is run down and shabby. Remember, the Recreation centers get no government money.

I tried to see the Chaplain, about getting a room for a masonic club. The Chaplain's office was closed, I will try again later. I am excited about getting a masonic square and compasses club underway here. The First Sergeant is very supportive, even though he is not a mason.

I walked outside the tent at 2am, and the sky was spectacular. We are at 7200 feet altitude here, and there are no lights permitted to burn at night. There is virtually no air pollution, and no city lights. The stars just blaze,the milky way was a band of white, with stars down to the sixth magnitude! It makes you stare in wonder! Back in Iraq, the air is dusty, and on some nights, the moon is the color of polished brass, stunning.

It is going to be a struggle to keep clean here. The dust and filth is everywhere. The Afhgans are not used to Western style toilets, so they defecate in the mens room, on the floor, and on the seat. The toilets are always filthy. At least the hot water is on in the shower house, and the laundry. I had a weeks worth of laundry that I turned in today. There is an Afghan man, who washes the clothes, and you get them back the same day.

I have done a lot of walking, and my feet are tired. The place is all gravel, with no pavements or paths. My shin muscles are sore from the walking. The firm promised me a vehicle, and I will be glad when it gets here.

It seems like my postings are always going down in quality. I thought Al Asad was a paradise, and then Talafar had many good things going for it. At least I was in a CHU (Trailer), and we had decent bus service. Now I am in a tent, sleeping on a pad. I do not know when I will get a permanent housing nor when I will get an office. The base just does not have the facilities.

So I make the most of it. I will work from the mayor's cell, or the rec Hall, and relax in the tent. I am re-reading "The path between the seas", about the Panama canal.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Finally got a shower

Sunday night in Sharana, Afghanistan. Spent a night in the tent, noisy with people moving in and out. People came in and got their belongings. I got up this morning, and the tent was empty. I went to the dining tent, and got a decent breakfast. There were T-Bone steaks left over from yesterday. Hard-boiled eggs, hash browns, bagel with strawberry cream cheese. The coffee machine is broken, so no coffee.

Moseyed over to the Mayors office, did a little internet. The soldiers are so nice, they permit me to use the internet on a non-interference basis. Fortunately, because office space is tight, and virtually non-existent! My principal "client" is the Movement control team, which is responsible for shipping and receiving materiel, from around Afghanistan, and worldwide. I was originally slated to get an office in their tent, but they have two new NCOs arriving, so space is not available. I don't care. All I need is a desk, a military telephone, a computer line (I already have my own computer), and some storage space.

I was busy yesterday, I had to load some software on a computer, and take some readings, the computer works perfectly, it is amazing, how in this nasty, dusty environment, the computers just keep on running.

I came back to the tent, and slept a little, then did some reports. Things are slow on Sunday.

The shower tent finally has hot water, so I took the first shower I have had in three days. The laundry has also had no hot water. Tomorrow, I will drop off a weeks worth of laundry at the laundry tent, and then relax!

I am waiting on a tool kit, when it arrives, I will make my first chopper flight, since I left Al Asad, in November 2006. I will be flying a lot. I am anxious to get a Masonic group underway here, I already spoke with the First Sergeant. He is not a mason, but he is very supportive, and he indicated that he would issue a letter, and help us get underway. I need to meet with the Chaplain, and get a meeting room scheduled. What a life!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

First Twenty-Four hours in Sharana

I flew from Bagram to Forward operating Base Sharana, on 7 Sept. The flight took about 40 minutes. The base is 7500' above sea level, and the air is thin. I got off the plane, and hitched a ride to the mayor's office, and got a tent. The base is bigger than I imagined, about 3000 American civilians and military. Also there are Republic of Korea and Polish troops.

I got a meal in the Dining tent, and got into the tent. I did not turn off the air conditioning, so it was bloody cold all night long. I just slept as best I could. In the middle of the night, a man came into the tent, and said "Fire in the dining hall". I just went back to sleep. Later the Polish army fired three artillery rounds down the mountain, to discourage the insurgents from camping there.

Got up this morning, and got a decent breakfast in the dining tent. The hot water heater in the shower tent blew up last night, and there was no hot water or cold water in the shower tent. I could really use a hot shower. This is Saturday, so the Army serves a picnic lunch whenever the weather permits. We had Tbone steaks, Ribs, Barbecued chicken, burgers, hot dogs, etc. Also some excellent Shrimp Jamabalaya with Andouille sausage. I don't know how the Army does it, but they can sure serve good food here in the mountains of Afghanistan.

I will be getting some permanent quarters and office space later on. There is a real shortage , the population here is growing, and the infrastructure cannot keep up. There is construction going on, new concrete barracks and office buildings going up all over.

The generator for the one computer here dropped off last night. No power for some hours. When the power came back on, the computer needed to be re-booted, so I went down and re-booted. I also had to install software, and take some readings. Fortunately, the computer is running properly.

I will now have to fly to Orgun, and install software on that computer. I will need some tools, which are being shipped here.

I got a pad for my cot, and it will be more comfortable than sleeping on the canvas. I am hoping that the hot water is back on in the shower tent!

Tomorrow is Sunday, and I should be able to relax!

Friday, September 07, 2007

On the ground in Sharana

I arrived at Forward Operating Base Sharana, a couple of hours ago. It is the bleakest place I have ever seen, and I have been all over the world. I am in a tent, sleeping on a cot. The base is all gravel, no paved streets. I was to be living in a plywood hut, but the hut was full.

I am going to be commuting between four (4) bases, Warrior, Wazakhwa, Orgun, and home based here at Sharana.

I will be here through the first of the year, and perhaps longer. I would like to get back to Iraq. I thoroughly enjoyed Al Asad, and Talafar (FOB Sykes) was all right.

I had my first meal, and it was OK. TBone steak, lobster tails, shrimp, scallops, fried rice, mint chocolate chip ice cream. Very nice. I will now unpack, and try to rest. At least the tent is empty, and I will have some privacy. I must walk 75 yards to the shower tent.

I will begin work in earnest tomorrow, the First Sergeant will be attempting to secure better quarters for me. My mother thinks I should write a book, she thinks I am the most interesting person she knows!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

6 Sept 2007 Bagram Afghanistan

Finished the training school, and now I am trying to get to my new duty station, Forward Operating Base Sharana. I ate a salad for supper last night, and this morning, I was in no shape for breakfast. I bought a cell phone, that works in Afghanistan, and I can make calls to anywhere and receive calls from anywhere. I know that there is service at Sharana.

Monday, September 03, 2007

3 Sept 2007

What a day! My bank account changed to a security system, and I tried to access my account. The system asked me my fathers city of birth, and I answered, but the system did not accept the answer. I am working on getting the account un-locked.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

2 Sept 2007

Got a few comments on the blog. I am glad that they are all reasonable. I got some really sick, racist comments last year, I had the blog set for open comments, but the comments were soo off the wall, I had to moderate. Since I started the moderation, there have been no more sick remarks.

Slept all right last night. This is Sunday, and things are slow, but I am working regardless. Tomorrow, a three day training class begins, then on Thursday, I will see about getting to Salerno. I will remain there for a couple of days, then I will get a flight to my duty station, Sharana.

Food here in Afghanistan has been OK. There is never a line at the shower house. The laundry takes 3 days, whereas at Tall'Afar, it was a one day turnaround. Bagram is a big base, there is Masonry here, a blue lodge, Scottish and York rites, even the Shrine and Eastern Star. Where the Americans go, Masonry goes.

There is no lodge at Sharana, but I will start a Masonic Square and Compasses club, and network and socialize with the other masons there. I really enjoyed it in Tall'Afar, but the first sergeant would not permit any advertising or posters. He transferred out, and the new first sergeant would probably have been more reasonable. But I am no longer there, so it does not matter.

The firm is going through some changes, mostly due to the new contract. The technology is the same, virtually indestructible. As long as the electrical power stays on, and the internet stays up, and the operating frequencies stay clear, the job is wonderful. When things go wrong, that is when I step in.

I will probably leave the office a bit early today, things are slow. I called the USA from the Rec Hall last night, the connection was good. The PX here is huge, much bigger than Tall'Afar, I decided to get a short haircut, short hair is much more serviceable and cooler, and easier to take care of in this climate.

I had a sore throat and chest congestion, so I went to the hospital. When I said chest congestion, they automatically assumed chest pain, which means heart attack. They put me on the EKG, and checked my heart rhythm. My heart is "stone cold normal", but they made me stay all night. I spent a fitful night, plugged into an electro cardiogram. Every two hours, they drew blood, to see how much protein was in my blood. I was stuck in the elbow, the wrist, and the belly. I got up the next morning, and was put on the treadmill. My heart checked out fine, but I never got anything for my sore throat.

I am feeling much better ,and I am fit for duty.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Saturday 1 Sept

Got up early today. Noisy in the barracks. One thing about Talafar, I lived alone, and it was quiet in the mornings, just the hum of the generators. Went to the chow hall, ate some steak and eggs. My cholesterol will definetly take a jump here. One of the other engineers flew in this morning, and he will stay in my barracks for the next couple of days.

I will be taking a class 3-4-5 Sept. Then I can fly up to Salerno, and then on to my duty station at Sharana.

We are forbidden from wearing short pants here. I wish I could wear conservative black walking shorts, especially in the high summer. Winter is coming. I have been through three Augusts in Iraq, where it gets to 120. Here in Afghanistan, the winters are bloody cold! I was here at Bagram in February 2004, and froze slowly. NO heat in the barracks.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

One week in Afghanistan

Been here for a week. I spent two nights on a cot, did not get much sleep, the air conditioner was churring all night. I got into a barracks, and it is much nicer. Quiet, only two other men there, and I sleep fine. The food quality here in Afghanistan is definetly a "step down" from Iraq. The dining hall at Tall'Afar was the best food I have eaten since I have been in this part of the world.

Here at Bagram, we eat off of cardboard. At least they have EGGS!! I have not had an egg since March. This morning, I had two eggs fried, and two eggs boiled. Plus bagel and cream cheese, and bacon and hash browns.

Tonight, there will be a masonic open house, I am anxious to attend. I have not attended any masonic meetings since I was in Moscow Sept 2006. I miss Masonry very much.

The equipment and technology here is the same as Iraq, fortunately. The documentation and business practices are different, but I can learn. Biggest hassle is that I will servicing four bases, I will live at Sharana, and fly between three others.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Arrived safely in Afghanistan

I left Iraq on the night of 22 August. I flew all night, with a couple of intermediate stops, and then the aircraft landed in Kuwait on the morning of 23 August. I waited on the military base for about 10 hours, then I caught a flight to Afghanistan. I arrived at Bagram Air Base on the morning of the 24th. I went to the transient tent, and slept in my two-day old clothes. I finally got a shower ,and a shave and a change of clothing.

I am now undergoing some familiarization, and learning the systems and procedure here in Afghanistan. (It is virtually identical to Iraq). I will be assigned to Sharana base, in a week or so, then I have to arrange a flight up there.

BTW- I am NOT a Lieutenant Colonel. I am a civilian electronics engineer. I was in the Air Force from 1973-1978, and I was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant (E4).

I will list my postal address, when I get one. My email addresses all remain the same. If you need to know my email address, just leave a comment on this board.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Contacting me.

If anyone wishes to contact me directly, just leave a "comment" on the blog, and it will be automatically forwarded to me. I prefer not to post my email addresses on the blog, because I get enough spam and unsolicited email already.

If anyone wishes to email me directly, please leave a comment on the blog, and once I am satisfied that you are not a "spammer", I will contact you directly.

Charles E. Martin

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Moving to Afghanistan

I am being assigned to Sharana Air Base, near Kabul, Afghanistan.

My email addresses are all the same. My new postal address is:

Charles E. Martin
HHC 36th Engineer Brigade FOB Sharana
APO AE 09354

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Open letter to the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York

Dear Most Worshipful Grand Master of New York, and Brothers, I was asked to help with this masonic project, in November of 2005. After 20 months of waiting, it appears that we are no closer to having permission for Land, Sea, and Air lodge to meet, that we were when I agreed to assist.I am somewhat confused at the situation, but since I am not a member of any New York lodge, and just an outsider, who is trying to help, it really does not matter.I propose that all agree to re-apply ourselves, to the task of re-establishing Masonry in the Republic of Iraq, at least for the US Military and civilian forces who are risking their lives here in this place.The Masonic Veterans of New York purchased $3500 worth of masonic lodge equipment and regalia, and it has been sitting in a secured storage locker since it arrived, in December 2005. I do not understand how you, as grand line officers can justify the expenditure of this amount of money, for the equipment just to sit, unused for all these months. But that is between you and the Masonic Veterans of New York. If we just "shuck it right down to the cob", as we say in Kentucky, the problem is that the Grand Lodge of New York has been sitting on this project, ever since I was directed to send the lodge charter back to New York in December 2005. I was promised that a new charter (or dispensation, or some other written authority to operate), would be issued "next year". I assumed that would be January 2006. It is now July 2007, and the equipment still sits in the locker, we have no authority to operate, and we are no closer to having masonic labor here, than when I sent the document back by certified mail.The solution is simple. I request that the Grand Lodge of New York, immediately, and without delay, issue a charter/dispensation/warrant, so that Land, Sea, and Air lodge #1 UD, can begin Masonic labor. There are many hundreds of Masons here in the Republic of Iraq, both civilian and military, who need and deserve to have masonic fellowship in a tyled lodge. These men work in miserable conditions, 12 hour shifts in 120 degree heat, wearing 75 pounds of body armor and equipment. They have not seen their families in months, and many are on their second or third tour here. I myself, have been in Iraq for 22 months, and I will be here for a total of 36 months. I have not been able to attend a masonic lodge meeting since July 2005. Iraq is a land of extreme danger, as you well know. But it is also a land of loneliness, boredom, separation from family and friends, and melancholy. How you can deny these fine men, who endure all this for your freedom, is beyond me. I have lived in a communist dictatorship, where Masonry is illegal. I have lived in an Islamic Kingdom, where Masonry is illegal. I have attended lodge in Russia, with men who risked prison to keep our craft alive during the communist years. I cherish Masonry. I believe that the military and civilian masons in Iraq deserve the quiet retreat of Masonry. Back in the summer of 2006, a Brother Mason who was a Navy SeaBee, was killed outside of my base. He was riding in a vehicle, and they hit a roadside bomb. He was torn in half from the crotch to the neck, and it took him a long time to die. The masons here wanted to perform a lodge of sorrow for our departed brother. But because we did not have permission to operate, we did not. I just hope that the Masons back in Texas have more respect for his sacrifice than the Grand Lodge of New York. During this entire time on this project, I have done everything I can to get authority to operate. Masons from all over Iraq, have asked me, when there will some chance for activity, and all I can tell them is to be patient.Although I am not a New York mason, I certainly respect your protocols and procedures, although I am by no means an expert on New York jurisprudence. I started a lodge website, under the explicit directions and guidance of the 2005 Grand Lodge webmaster, and the lodge website was in total conformance with the rules and procedures received from your webmaster. The website was donated free, and neither cost any money, nor generated any revenue. We received over 12,000 hits on the website, often congratulations from masons world wide for our starting a lodge here in Iraq. Then for no reason at all ,we were directed to de-activate the website.As I explained in my previous letter, there is no money or revenue from any source for this lodge. There is no bank account in New York, Virginia, New Jersey, or elsewhere. The balance is ZERO. Here is what we need to do:-Immediately issue written authority for Land,Sea, and Air lodge to begin masonic labor. We have a number of experienced masons from several US and foreign Grand Lodge jurisdictions. I have experience with military traveling lodges (I served in Saudi Arabia, where there are four masonic lodges). I can whip us into shape, and we can perform rituals and opening/closing ceremonies.-Immediately issue written permission to re-open the website for Land,Sea, and Air Lodge. We get the website for FREE, and no revenue is generated. We will keep the website in full conformity with applicable New York website policies. The site will be hot-linked to the Grand Lodge of New York website, and we request that the lodge website be similarly linked back from the Grand Lodge website.-Since it is a requirement for a New York Mason to be present, I request that the Grand Master direct Master Builder lodge #911 (or any other New York lodge of your choosing), to proceed to interview me by telephone or video conference, so that my application for dual membership can be duly balloted on. I applied with Master Builder #911 in December 2005 ,and they happily accepted my check for $75, but after all this time, I have never been interviewed, and no proper ballot has been made. Is it standard procedure for a New York lodge to accept dues payment from individuals, and then not act on their applications? My brothers, the problem is simple, and the solution is simple. Let's all work together, and move forward on this project. Masonically Thine,Charles E. MartinTall'Afar, Iraq

Friday, July 13, 2007

13 July 2007

HOT- I have never seen such HOT. One of my systems conked out yesterday. and I got it back on line. Then the same system conked out at 2pm today. I just spent an hour getting it back on line. A pain in the (expletive deleted).

However, the system should be smooth sailing from now on.

Did not get to see "Jeapordy" this morn,so I will try to get the 7:30 showing.

Friday, July 06, 2007

6 July 2007

For the Record: I am a CIVILIAN computer engineer. I am NOT a military person. I am a veteran, US Air Force 1973-1978, but now I am way too old and too fat for military service.
I am mighty proud to work with these fine men and women. I am not fit to wipe their shoes.

6 July 2007

For the Record: I am a CIVILIAN computer engineer. I am NOT a military person. I am a veteran, US Air Force 1973-1978, but now I am way too old and too fat for military service.

I am mighty proud to work with these fine men and women. I am not fit to wipe their shoes.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

1 July 2007 Iraq

Got up this morning, the usual heat was there at 0715am. Took my shower, and went to work. Systems normal. Went to breakfast, ate the usual, bagels, grits, juice, grapefruits, yogurt, milk. Still have some intestinal discomfort. Iraq climate and environmental bacteria will do that. Got on the computer. "Gunfight at the OK corral" is playing on the television in the other room.

Yesterday, got some mail. I ordered a watch from the USA last year, and it worked just fine, except there was a hair wrapped around the stem, under the crystal. (It is an analog watch). I sent it back to the dealer in December 2006, and asked for a replacement. The replacement arrived yesterday, 30 June 2007, six months later.

I also got 4 gallons of syrup for the sno-cone machine. An ice-cold sweet sno-cone is fabulous, when you come in from the 120 degree heat. A masonic lodge sent the syrup here, how about that?

I also got some supplies from drugstore.com including a new toothbrush. My old toothbrush was about disintegrated, so it was time for a new one. I scrubbed my choppers really vigorously this morning, I intend to keep my teeth for a long time. I have spent a bloody fortune on crowns and inlays, and spent more hours is the dentist chair, than I care to. I have been poked and prodded, and shot full of novocaine, and drilled on. My brother did not take care of his teeth, so he was keeping his false teeth in a glass, by the time he was 41.

Yesterday, there were a number of good movies on the TV. I watched "LA Confidential", and at 7pm "Casablanca" for the fortieth time. I always weep, when they play "La Marsellaise". I do not have much affection for the French, but even the French did not deserve to be occupied by the Nazis.

It was after 9:30, before I walked back to the trailer. I have figured out how to set the automatic thermostat, so the air conditioning comes on at 5:30pm, so that the trailer is cool when I get home at 7:00pm. I don't see any reason to run the air conditioning all day, when I am not there.

I am still not sure when I can get vacation. The firm calls it a "vacation mess". I asked for three weeks off, but the firm has to send a man in here, to cover my vacation. If there is no spare man, then there is no way that I can leave. I also found out that my contract has been extended through the end of November 2007. I should get a renewal, and thence be able to stay here until August 2008. In's'hallah.

My cell phone is working properly, at last. I tried to use it yesterday, and the indicator said to "insert card", I knew the card was inserted, so I took the phone apart, and just blew real hard on the contact points, and polished the card on my shirt. Presto- the contact points were clean, and the phone works.

The new people at the LTF (office where my computers are), are very nice. There is a new lieutenant, and a Sergeant First class. These two men seem to be terrific, and they have extended me the courtesy, of letting me store some equipment in a spare shed. 99.9% of the military people here in Iraq, are fabulous, only a few are real a--holes, you just have to learn to deal with it.

Letter to the Grand Master of Masons in New York

Here is a letter that I sent to the Grand Master of Masons in New York:

Dear Brothers, I am delighed to answer your questions. I request that you include the Worshipful Master and Secretary in all correspondence of this nature.I want to state for the record: I am NOT a member of Land, Sea, and Air lodge #1, and certainly not an officer in this lodge. I am NOT a member or officer in ANY New York lodge at this time. Once the lodge project gets officially underway, I can adjust my lodge membership(s) accordingly. Please keep in mind that any information I provide in this email, any postal correspondence, or telephonically is as an OUTSIDER who is not a New York Mason, and not under the control of any New York lodge or Grand Lodge of New York regulation. To get the "official" answers to your questions, I suggest that you go directly to the Worshipful Master, and/or Secretary. With this stipulation in mind, let us proceed:

1. Here is the email directing the lodge website be suspended until futher notice:=========> Subject: Lodge project suspended. Please put the webpage on a "hold"> > Land, Sea, and Air lodge #1, is on a "hold" right now, because the > GrandLodge is considering a new charter. Therefore, please remove > the website,> for the time being, and put it on hold as well.> > We are very grateful for your sponsorship, and the kindness of > hosting this> webpage. Please accept our gratitude.> > Once the new dispensation is issued, we will see about getting the > page back> on the web.> > Masonically,> > > > Charles E. Martin================

2. This is the only question, that I cannot answer fully. Over the past 18 months, I have sent out hundreds of emails, postal letters, and made many international phone calls. I cannot remember the addressees, nor the contents of these correspondences. Most have been deleted long ago. The lodge website received over 12,000 hits. There is no way to determine all of the individuals who visited the website. I have posted news about the Lodge on several different Masonic bulletin boards, and these messages were read by thousands of individuals. I have written up the lodge activities in my blog, and it has been read all over the world. I have sought advice on military traveling lodges from many different individuals, and I cannot remember them all. For the official list of contacts, I suggest that you get it from the WM/Secretary.

3. Easy Question. NONE - NADA - ZERO - NO MONEY - NOTHING - $0.00 - ABSOLUTELY NO FUNDS - BUBKES!!!!I have NEVER received any cash or monetary donations of any kind. I want to make this absolutely clear and have no misunderstandings. I have NO MONEY collected for this lodge. There is no bank account, no collection, no "cookie jar" , no funds. NO Dollars, no yen, no rubles, no Euros, no South African Rand. NOTHING. NO one has even offered to make any monetary donations. NO commercial firm ever contacted me about any financial donations. NO funds or royalties were ever offered or received from any advertisements. Please keep in mind, that this lodge has existed since 1917. I cannot speak for what occured prior to November 2005, when I was first asked to help in this project. If the lodge has some money squirreled away in some account back in New York, or if the lodge "passed the hat" back at FOB Speicher, I have no knowledge of this. Once again, for the exact financial report of the lodge, you should check with the WM/Secretary.

4. In November 2005, three (3) crates of lodge equipment was sent to me. These three (3) crates are sitting in a secured storage locker, on base. This equipment has never been used (here). I was sent a charter/dispensation, but I returned it, as directed, by certified mail in December 2005. I have no exact knowledge of the whereabouts of the charter/dispensation at this time. There may be some additional equipment or administrative records at some other location. Various correspondence and records may in the possession of lodge officers.For a full accounting of the lodge equipment, please check with the WM/Secretary.

5. The lodge website (inactive) was donated by an individual. NO charge was made for the website, and no money paid. The individual who runs the website, cleared it with the 2005 NY Grand Lodge webmaster, and was provided with a set of rules. To the best of my knowledge the lodge website was in conformance with all the guidelines. If the webmaster had any banners, or announcements, no fees or royalties were ever paid. Check with the WM/Secretary to see if any fees were paid.

6. NO advertising or announcements of any kind were ever made on any other medium, and NO FEES were ever paid to the lodge.Check with the WM/Secretary to see if any fees were paid.7. NO commemorative coin was ever struck nor sold nor given away. Once in 2006, an individual approached me, about the possibility of designing a coin for the lodge. I referred him to the WM, and informed the potential designer, that it was best to get any potential design approved by the Grand Lodge, before he went into production. The WM and the designer exchanged a couple of emails, but the coin project never got past the "talking phase". Check with the WM, to get a complete record.

7.At least one firm, WITHOUT my knowledge or consent, has produced a number of items with "Land sea and Air lodge #1" designs. I discovered this activity quite by accident, and I informed the Worshipful Master. This activity is a "pirate" activity, and to the best of my knowledge, no fees or royalties were ever paid to anyone. Check with the WM to get a complete record.

8. (see paragraph 3). You understand quite WRONG. I have never attempted to open a bank account in New Jersey, New York, or anywhere in the name of this lodge. I am not a member of LSA#1, and not an officer of this lodge, and thusly not authorized to act in the name of this lodge. There are NO FUNDS present in this lodge, and therefore NO NEED for any bank account.I did consult with a brother Mason in New Jersey, who is a CPA, about some administrative matters, and made some inquries about how to get a bank account (should the need ever arise), and how to get articles of incorporation, and power of attorney, and so forth. I just asked this individual for some advice and guidance. I took no action, I opened no account, I signed no documents. This was just a brother-to-brother conversation. I have also spoken with individual Masons (and non-masons) in Kentucky and Virginia, and other locations, about administrative matters, and articles of incorporation, and power of attorney, etc. Please keep in mind, that this is "undiscovered country" for me. I had never even heard of a traveling military lodge, until I arrived in Iraq. I have sought advice and counsel from Brother Masons and non-Masons all over the USA, and in foreign countries. I have attempted to answer all of your questions to the best of my ability. I will be glad to help you clear up any misunderstandings. Please, though, go directly to the Worshipful Master, when you need such information. He can speak officially "for the lodge", because he sits in the master's chair. I am not even a New York mason.Now that we have these items cleared up, let's all work together on getting a dispensation, and getting masonic labor underway in Iraq.Masonically Thine, Charles E. Martin

Thursday, June 28, 2007

26 June, more email.

It must be a relief to get your Hotmail back; we depend so much on e-mail these days (to beat up a cliché). As for spam, which do you prefer: announcements from a UK contest org that you’ve won ₤1,000,000 or an invitation to be the long-lost relative of a deceased millionaire from Nigeria? I get a lot of spam: all types- Nigerian money, contest winner, and all types of medicines and treatments.

Your 126 degrees beats Virginia by a long shot. I was sitting here feeling sorry for myself after a grocery trip with the temperature in the mid-90s (and the interior of the car around 100 before the air conditioner got going). As we move into July and August, I may consider moving to Finland or Greenland - or Antarctica! The heat here is not unbearable. At least I am inside most of the time, with the computers. If you just keep hydrated, and don't over exert yourself in the outdoors, you get used to the heat eventually, after all, people have been living in this part of the world, for over 4000 years.

You’re probably lucky that the generators hum instead of clattering. At least you say that you can get to sleep easily (unless Jeopardy runs late?). The generator noise is bad, but you get used to it, it is the price you pay for having air conditioning. I am able to fall asleep fairly easily. Jeapordy is on Mon-Fri at 1230pm, and I never miss it. Most of the time I watch CNN,FOX,etc.

Too bad the Army doesn’t control your dress code. What’s wrong with loose, baggy clothing? It doesn’t sound short or labeled, and it would make sense to wear something that doesn’t hug the skin. The Army could care less what civilians wear on this base. My firm has put the law down, with regard to clothing, and we live with it.

The idea of non-stop flights between Baghdad and airports in the US surprises me, but I can see that it makes sense politically as well as in terms of convenience. Let’s hope the airport remains open. I haven’t read about any threats in that direction, but that doesn’t prove anything these days. The Baghdad air port has been open, since the US forces took it over back in 2002. The only civilian carrier flying in or out, is Royal Jordanian air lines. It is very important symbolically, and politically, to keep the air port open and functioning. The air port is in the Baghdad suburbs, and the road between the airport and downtown ,is very dangerous. Busses run with blck curtains on the windows, and only under armed escort.

What a convenience it must be to be able to order directly from the States. I’d consider being without books a major hardship. APO Mail is terrific, it is my "lifeline" back to the USA. The little micro-PX here is hardly adequate. I get personal care products from Drugstore.com and I also get clothing and other personal items from the on-line stores. There is a fine library here on the post, and several crates of paperback books arrive every week. I order books from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com as well. There’s been a lot of talk in the Washington Post lately about a biography of Hillary. Have you run across that? It’s not exactly flattering (though far from an attack), but I doubt that it will make any difference in the elections; so many people have already made up their minds. It way it looks at the moment, Obama has the more enthusiastic following, but Clinton has the stronger backing. For myself, I like what Obama has to say, but who knows how that would play out if and when he has to act according to his stated beliefs (not a reference to religion). Clinton is a little too political and veers too conveniently toward the middle of the road for my fancy. Thompson is making quite a splash, but who knows how that will work out. We’ve had actors in positions of political power before, but not any with political backgrounds, as he has. I have heard about the new biography of Hillary. I read a lot of biographies. I have just finished biographies of Tip O'Neill, Sam Rayburn, and Douglad MacArthur. I have ordered biographies of FDR, Truman, John Adams, and a new biography of Tip O'Neill. I study comparative religions as a pastime. I have just read "Religious Literacy-What every American needs to know about religion, but does'nt". When I lived in Saudi Arabia, I read extensively on Islam. I ordered a new copy of the Holy Qu'Ran, as well as the Hindu Scriptures" The Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Dhammapada.

I’m pretty comfortable in French (with a half Swiss, half Moroccan accent, in addition to my first French teacher being Russian) and have studied German and Italian, but I’d be in trouble if I had to hold an intelligent conversation in either of the latter two. Too bad Esperanto never had a real chance. I have a bunch of tapes on signing, but so far they haven’t gotten off my shelf; I need to find CDs. For reasons I’ve forgotten, I learned the alphabet in sign language back in grade school, but that’s it. Do you have a musical background? I’m supposed to have a talent for languages, though clearly I’ve never pursued it, and I’m told that a musical ear makes a big difference. My mother was a concert pianist (Juilliard graduate) till she married her first husband. I have some musical ability, but I never did much with it. I played the clarinet and the Bass clarinet in the school band. I also learned basic piano.

I wonder how Russian became so noun-happy while Chinese stayed so concise. Also, I wish we knew more about cuneiform worked orally, though languages have diverged so widely since then that I doubt it could tell us anything – back to the tower of Babel. English is such a mish-mash of languages that it’s a wonder there’s any consistency at all. We should all be grateful to Webster. The silent letters are just one more obstacle to logic, not to mention to different ways in which we pronounce the “ough” words and others. If you expect to be back in the States Sept/Oct of this year, does that affect your plans to stay in Iraq for another year, or would it just be a leave/vacation? You deserve to spend a few nights in your new house. I have put in a request for three weeks of personal leave in the Sept 15-Nov 30 time frame. It is a major hassle to get any time off here, because I work alone, and the firm must fly in a replacement to do the work while I am gone.


22 June 2007. Email from the USA

>Cloudless skies sound wonderful until you realize what they can entail. >It's >good that you know what signs indicate a need for fluid. I've never heard >of >dark urine as an indicator, but then I've never lived anywhere so hot and >dry. (Thailand was hot but humid, even in winter, and India (around Delhi) >and Nepal were entirely pleasant.) it sounds bizarre, but you must force yourself to drink water in this desert. The temp reached 126 yesterday, and the heat is dry with zero humidity. I spend as little time as possible outdoors. I have programmed the thermostat on my trailer air-conditioner to come on at 600pm, so that the trailer will be cool when I arrive at 700pm. > > > >It's good that you've trained yourself to shutter out noise. Given too many >years in busy editorial offices, I learned to do the same thing until I >reached a point where I could work comfortably in a boiler factory. I am still not used to noise. There are two 10-kilowatt generators about 100 yards from the trailer. They run 24 hours a day. I can usually get to sleep quite easily, but when I wake up at 0400am, I can hear them humming. > > > >This whole dress-code business is so nonsensical. I was with Unisys when >they first decided on casual Fridays and then all-week casual. Fine - dress >appropriately when it's appropriate for a business meeting, but for the >rest. no way. I suspect the influence of Joe McGrath, the CEO who came >after >Weinbach, who seemed to be a more open-minded, rational person. > The firm has a dress code for all engineers here in Iraq. And I can see their point. When an engineer has to meet with some Colonel, or some high-ranking civilian, you want to present a professional image. Too many of our guys were going "over the top", so the firm banned short pants, football team jerseys with numbers and team names, and loose-baggy clothing. I made some informal inquiries around here, and the Army doesn't care one way or another what the civilians wear. When I am climbing on a roof in 126 degree heat, I can wear anything I like, and the Army will not object. > >There's clearly an advantage to being a computer geek, especially if the >nearest town has no interest for you. Baghdad may have been interesting a >few years (or centuries) back, but it's not a place I'd care to visit these >days either. Baghdad is the last place I wish to go. Our firm does not permit any of us to use the airport there. I just found out that there are direct non-stop flights from Baghdad to Chicago. (There are other non-stop flights from Baghdad to USA destinations as well). The only civilian carrier flying in/out of Baghdad is Royal Jordanian. I suspect that the US military keeps the airport open, even with only one civilian carrier, as a political statement. It would be a propaganda bonanza, if the terrorists succeeded in closing the airport. > > >As best I can tell from the ancient maps I've tracked down on the Internet, >Tall'Afar is probably near Kish, which isn't of any particular importance >in >Sumerian history. So much for that idea - especially since you don't want >to >get involved in any "flak'n'kevlar" activities. Going off this post, to the civilian areas nearby is not on my list! I can see civilian buildings off in the distance, but I have no desire to visit any of them. > > > >I was going to make a joke about the unlikelihood of your being able to get >Amazon to send books to Iraq, but now I'm impressed. Do they send them >through a military address in the US? I'm trying to recall what my mother >had to do when she send packages to my brothers. That's clearly one good >thing about your posting - having time to catch up with your reading. Oh yes! We rely on APO mail. (Army post office). Anyone can send a letter or package to us here. You pay only the cost from your residence to the collection point at Fort Dix New Jersey. Then the packages/letters are placed on a military aircraft and sent here. You can mail almost anything that you can send through the US mail. NO lighter fluids or combustibles, etc. I get all kinds of books and videos from Amazon.com I also buy some personal care items from drugstore.com . I have done more reading in the past 6 months than in the past six years. I just finished reading biographies of Tip O'Neill, Sam Rayburn, and Douglas MacArthur. I have ordered biographies of FDR, Truman, and John Adams. > > > >It has to be difficult to find colleagues who share your interest in >politics - not to mention other areas in which Mensans enjoy debating. Are >you aware of any Mensans nearby? It isn't that hard to get a political discussion. We are watching the races with intensity. I think Hillary Clinton may go for all the marbles. If she can do all right in Iowa/New Hampshire, and then put forth a decent showing in Fla/Calif,etc. she can have the nomination. > > > >This next election certainly has an interesting field of candidates. Small >wonder Larissa hasn't decided yet. Before I start bashing candidates, I >should ask you where your party allegiances (if any) lie so that I don't >turn up the heat in your trailer with my comments. I am wide open when it comes to politics. I am watching everyone with interest. I like Fred Thompson, because I am from the south. I like McCains personal integrity and political independence, problem is he is too old, past the prime. Obama is a charismatic person, but so far he has shown little substance. Larisa is brand-new at this. She got citizenship in June 2005, and she watched the 2000 election with much interest. She will not get lathered-up about anyone. She may not even vote in 2008. Feel free to make any comment you like, maybe you even have a favorite. > > > >Kameel, as the son of an Egyptian (now a long-time American citizen) >married >to my very-New-England cousin, is fluent in Arabic, but I have no idea what >kind of clearance he may have had. Most Americans do better with languages >that use the same alphabet, which is why we have such trouble with Arabic, >Chinese, etc. Sometimes I think that if I had the classic one wish, I'd >choose the gift of tongues. The Tower of Babel was a very bad idea! Then >again, American English can drive learners daft with its inconsistencies >and >illogic - the various pronunciations of the "ough" words being only one >glaring example. I speak French, German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and I am a qualified American Sign Language interpreter (I do not have a certification, so I cannot interpret in court,etc). Language aptitude is inherent, some have it, some do not. I can handle the Russian Cyrillic alphabet fairly easily, both the printed form, and the cursive. Westerners generally can handle the alphabets, but the grammar and sentence structure are a hassle. Chinese has a very simple grammar, the entire rules can fit on one sheet of paper. Arabic has an incredibly complex grammar. Russian has 12 (twelve!) different words for "pencil" (and all nouns) depending on how the word is used in a sentence. True- English spelling is a tough nut to crack even for Americans. You see- Before Noah Webster, there were no rules. You would often see the same word spelled three different ways on the same page! Webster decided to standardize the spelling, and we went on from there. Personally, I cannot see the need for silent letters: Knight, Knife, Phlegm, etc. > > > >Being an American is something too valuable to lose - no matter how many >foreign countries we may have lived in. I'm with you there. I have been in Iraq for 22 months (except for three weeks in Moscow). I will not see the USA again until Sept/Oct 2007. It will be good to get back home.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

21 June 2007

HOT HOT HOT. The summer is here, and it is merciless. Not a cloud in the sky, and there will be no rain until December. I have been through two Iraqi summers, and one Saudi summer, and the heat never lets up. Just drink your water, and stay indoors when possible.

The firm changed my schedule, so now I must make a report at 0830am. I used to do the first report at 1000am, so basically, I have to forfeit 90 minutes of sleep. This is not a bad thing. Now, instead of getting up at 0900, I get up at 0730am. The morning heat is not too intense, and there is no line in the shower house. I just roll out, then stroll the primrose path to the shower house, take my shower, and then get dressed, and take the bus to the computer room.

I do the morning reports, then I can stroll over to the dining hall, and get a breakfast. They have not had a fresh egg since April. So I have not had any eggs since April. I just get a couple of bagels and some oranges and grapefruits, and some milk and juice.

By noontime, I have no interest in eating any lunch. I just watch Jeapordy at 1230pm, and then watch a little more TV, and then get back to the computer room, and monitor the systems. Fortunately, the equipment here is indestructible.

I took a class on how to be a mail clerk on Monday. I got my mail clerk ID card, and I keep it in my ID holder. I can get all UNISYS mail, anytime the post office is open. I have a couple of small items on the way from the USA. Fortunately, the order of personal care items, I ordered last month arrived on Tuesday. Now I have some deodorant, and some Alka-Seltzer, and Advils. I must keep a high level of personal cleanliness in the desert. I shower every day, and brush my teeth vigorously.

I have made a deal to purchase a satellite dish antenna. This is great, I already have a down-converter, and a decent TV set. I can relax in the trailer, and watch Jeapordy. HEE HEE!

I am still waiting to hear if I will get extended for a third year under the Iraqi sun. I like Iraq just fine, the company treats me fair, what's not to like? Besides, it is better to be working here, than unemployed back home. I still find it odd, that I have never spent even one night, in my own home! I bought a trailer, back in 1978, and lived in it for five years. But I have been living in apartments ever since. The first fixed home I ever bought was in Lorton VA in 2005, and I have never spent even one night there!

If I am approved for the third year, I will ask for vacation in Sept/Oct. Then it will not be too sweltering in Washington DC. Good Luck, if I can get this time off. If I am not approved for a third year, I will go back to my town-home and seek a job.

I am reading "Rayburn" the biography of the man who was the Speaker of the House for 17 years, longer than anyone else. I am sure he is spinning in his grave. I finished the biography of Douglas Mac Arthur last week. I am sure he is spinning in his grave, over this Iraq solution. He only understood victory, and there is no victory in this conflict.

Monday, June 18, 2007

From an Iraqi man interesting

I received this email, and it is a little difficult to follow, but interesting:

Hello brother
How are you doing?
I have many ideas regarding the situation in Iraq but the most important one is to release youth and people of iraq from islamic relegious guys (clerks) who control minds of young people specially illiterat by name of islam which is itself filled of conspiracies, hatness and killings alonge the history and push them to fight the development and kill innocents and fight US and coalition forces which are released us from sadam and by this they push iraqi people to work against its interests and trying to put a line to seperate people to shiite and sunni while both of these groups are living together since longe time and they are relative to each other but it is the interest of those clerks which demand separation because by this each of them can control partition group easily without interruption from the other side because here in iraq muslims sunni and shiite used to negotiate islam and criticize each other but not to a level of fighting and these debate bother ! clerks who fear of conversion of their followers to other side (most propabley from shiite to sunni because shiite sect constitute alot of gaps and is built on legends ) by this i find our problem is mainly relgion in origin and destruction of my country and killing of my people occure according to this relegion myth so in order to release people from this we should work to learn them that there is nothing holy in this world other than human life and those clerks are liers and all of the clerks who are living in the past are not holy guys and they are not a messengers from god in other world we should educate those illiterate and young to respect human being and working to undress all the lyings mentiond in islam about hatness of others and killing of others who diffrent from muslims and we can do this by establishment of paper or magazin talking about secularism to learn people about separation of islam from politic and social life as i t! hink secul;arism is the only way to safe iraqi people from sectarian v iolence and releasing people from clerk guys. Waiting for your opinion and comments
accept my best regards

Thursday, June 14, 2007

14 June 2007. An interesting email from a fan

I got an email from a reader this morning:

Hi there, I just wanted to tell you that I very much enjoy reading your blog and am especially interested in your accounts of daily life at your base in Iraq. Last week I signed up for Soldiers' Angels, a non-profit organization started by a soldier's mother when she heard that some soldiers did not receive any mail or support from home. I have been assigned a person at FOB sykes. I just completed my first letter to him and put it in the mail yesterday & am sending out a care package in a few days also. It would be helpful if i knew what is desperately needed, or even creature comforts so I do hope that he will let me know and if you can give me any ideas it would be greatly appreciated as well.Thank you and take care,AmandaPS- what kind of lightbulbs do you need?

I really have no idea, who is reading this blog, no one has to "check in". If what I put down here is interesting, then I am delighted!!

Fact is, we can always use "care packages" for the soldiers here. If anyone wants to donate toothpaste and hard candy, and shampoo, then send it to me, and I will distribute it at the Rec Hall.

My firm got renewed for the project, so they will be here for at least one more year. I do not know if I will get an additional year. I applied, for an additional year, but it has not been approved yet.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

6 June 2007

An ordinary day. Got up, took a shower, collected my clean laundry. Rode to the Rec Hall, did the reports. God bless the SAVI corporation, their computers are foolproof. Ran into James Bender from the warehouse yard, and he indicated that the system was fine there.

Got a lunch of a sloppy-joe sandwich and fries. My diet here is a train-wreck, but I take a multi-vitamin each day, to compensate.

Got a scare on Saturday morning. I went to the PX to purchase some vitamins, and my credit card was refused. "Call bank" came up on the screen. I called the bank, and someone has been using my credit card! They ran up $400 dollars worth of charges. I called one of the firms, and had 5 bad charges removed and credited. The biggest one was for $249, and the firm was not open. Will call them later.

I cancelled the credit card, and arranged for a replacement. Let's see how long it takes. Been waiting on my new checks since January. Larisa ran out of checks and did not order any new ones.

Went back to the Rec Hall after lunch, watched "O'Reilly". Did some net surfing, and I filed the afternoon reports. There is a new format for time reporting, and I filled out the time sheet.

Last night I saw "My super ex-girl friend", got laugh. Not much to laugh about here. The theater shows two films pernight because the light bulbs are expensive. I asked one of the lodges back in the USA to send us some new light bulbs. In a couple of nights, they will show "Hannibal rising", the beginning of the hannibal lecter series. People can't get enough of the cannibal.

The heat here is unbearable. When I get up in the morning, the heat has already begun. I walk back from the shower house, and I am already dry. There is no point in running the A/C all day in the empty hooch, so when I return at night, the hooch is an oven. Just open the door, and run the A/C full blast. Fortunately at night, the desert cools quickly. No need to run the A/C at night. But I can hear the humming of the generators all night long. My hooch is the last one in the row, and it faces the morning sun. By the time the sun rises, I am out of bed, and no need for the alarm clock. Sun, heat, loneliness. This is the desert of Iraq.

I have submitted my paperwork for a third year in Iraq. Approvals used to be automatic, but the firm has changed policy. They will review my work, and make a decision. The old senior engineer left the project and returned to the USA. He has returned to Iraq, and will be back on top again. I wish him luck! He approved my request for a second year, saying that I had done "exemplary work". A truer statement has never been uttered. I always do exemplary work for all of my employers. To work at a level less than 100% is unacceptable.

I am working an angle to get a CONEX container. They are in short supply on this base. But I might get lucky. I have also requested a cell-phone and air time. That is science fiction, the firm will never approve a purchase like that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

On Memorial Day. Please read

As a veteran, currently serving in Iraq on a military project, I think it appropriate for us to pause and keep track of exactly how our freedoms are ours to enjoy and cherish. I have a unique perspective, I have lived in a communist dictatorship, and in an Islamic kingdom. Communists take power, and kill or imprison anyone who gets in their way. Kings were born into the job, and rule their "subjects" by "divine right". Personally, I hate Kings and Queens as bad I hate the communists. The French had the right idea, chop all their heads off. The Russians had a better idea, shoot the Tsar and the Tsarina, and the whole royal family, then soak the bodies in acid, and throw the bones down a mine shaft, good riddance to bad rubbish. When we say "Remember Pearl Harbor", we should also remember that WW2 was started by an emperor. WW1 was also started by an emperor. To hell with all of them.We are now engaged in a bitter and long-term conflict, to end Islamic terrorism, and bring peace and freedom to the people of Iraq. Our mission here is difficult, America's finest are watering the desert with their own blood. Last week, on my base here in Iraq, two of America's sons paid the ultimate price, and last week a brave and lonely soldier blew his brains out with his own rifle. As far as I am concerned, his life was sacrificed every bit as much as if he had been killed in combat. Combat killed him, even if indirectly. We Americans take our freedoms for granted, often paying little heed to the billions around the world, who have no say at all in the government that rules every aspect of their lives. In North Korea, you can be jailed, just for taking a different route to your work. In Saudi Arabia, you will arrested, taken to the public whipping post, and whipped with a bullwhip, then jailed for 6 months, if you take a drink of water in public, during the month of Ramadan. In Venezuela, two days ago, the dictator shut down a television station, just for saying things against the government. Remember:It is the soldier, not the poet that gives you freedom of speech.It is the Airman, not the reporter, that gives you freedom of the press.It is the Marine, not the Worshipful Master of your lodge, that gives you freedom of assembly.It is the sailor, not the local gun shop, that gives you the right to bear arms.It is the radio operator, working 12 hour night shifts, not the minister, that gives you freedom of religion.It is the tank mechanic, working under 12 tons of steel armor, on his back, with his arms up in grease, and not the politician, that gives you the right to vote.It is the computer jockey, working for less than he could earn at McDonalds, and not the lawyer, that gives you the right to counsel.We often speak, of our "God-given rights", and it is indeed a power greater than ourselves, which has endowed us with our freedoms. But every free breath we breathe, has been earned- by the blood of our young men and women, who are entombed on countless shores and jungles and deserts, all over this globe.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

27 May 2007

Sunday Afternoon. Had a whopper of a storm Friday night. First, dust then a "mud-rain". Huge drops of mud blowing against everything. I had heard of mud-rains, but I never saw one until Friday.

I have submitted my paperwork for a third year in Iraq. I like the work, and company treats me fairly. I just wish I could return to my old duty station at Al Asad. I may be able to get a transfer.

We had a communications blackout that lasted for 36 hours. Sadly, one of our troops here was killed by a roadside bomb, and the family had to be notified. I am sad to see America's Finest dying in this place.

I sent out cards to 100 of my friends and acquaintances, asking that they contact me, and so far I have received three (3) replies. I wish that people would reply when they get my cards, so that I can keep my address book up-to-date.

Mail arrived, and I got about 12 packages, some personal stuff for me, and some items for the troops.

Been feeling a little sick, I could not eat dinner last night, just not interested. The Satellite TV at the Rec Hall is broken down, so they are showing old DVDs and movies. I would like to see CNN/Fox again, I enjoy to keep up with the news. I hope the system is repaired by Monday, so that I can watch "Jeapordy".

I continue to be impressed by the food they serve here. Just marvelous. Today there was a delicious barbecued beef brisket. Tomorrow, there will be grilled T-Bone steaks and lobster tails. I just wish the dining hall could get eggs! I like hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, and there have been no fresh eggs on this post for 6 weeks.

I received a new pair of running shoes in the mail, and they are perfect for this duty. I am not an exerciser, but I have to walk everywhere, because I still do not have a bicycle or a vehicle.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

22 May 2007

Tuesday afternoon. Summer is on the way. It was blindingly bright this morning, but I did not feel like wearing my sunglasses. Sunglasses are an important working tool in this environment. Heat is blistering, but I do not spend much time outdoors. The internet had a glitch, but eventually caught back up.

Decent lunch today, chili with spaghetti. The Rec Hall installed a sno-cone machine, and believe me, when you come in from the hot desert, a sweet/cold sno-cone is a delight. I hit up some of the lodges back in Virginia, to donate some additional syrup. Some individual already pledged to send some more syrup. God bless the Masons, they sure know how to support the troops.

After three weeks, with no mail arriving at all, some packages finally made it through. I ordered some personal items from drugstore.com, and somehow they flubbed the zip code, but the address on the order reads "FOB Sykes", so I think the post office, will eventually send it here.

The firm is going through some changes, and they have decided to end "automatic renewals" of the contracts here. No matter, the firm is going to examine each individual's duty performance, and make a decision. I am certain that my work performance is well in line with company standards, I get no complaints. Back in June 2006, when I asked for second year, the supervisor approved it, with a comment "You have done exemplary work, in an austere environment". While I agree 1000% with his comment about my doing exemplary work, I do not find Iraq all that austere. Fact is, there is a lot to like about Iraq.

I have spent 9 1/2 years of my career in foreign countries. I have been in worse places, and in better places. On the positive side, I have a decent CHU (containerized housing unit) which is the trailer where I live. I have a decent shower house, 50 yards from the front door, with unlimited hot water, and it is almost always vacant, no waiting to get a shower. I drop my laundry off about 100 yards from the trailer, and it gets washed, and I pick it up the next morning. The chow hall is excellent, only thing they do not have here is fresh eggs, I have not seen an egg in two months. The Rec Hall is great, plenty of space to chill out, and watch TV.

The job itself is fine, the equipment is indestructible, and operates with virtually no problems at all. I have only three interrogators, and one FDU (Field data unit computer), and one SARSS computer (down at the warehouse). As long as the internet is up and running , the equipment pretty much takes care of itself.

The firm wants photos of my equipment, and I told the senior engineer, I will take all the photos he wants, as soon as the firm provides me with a camera! We had a camera back at Al Asad, and we got some photos, but we never up-loaded any to the firm, to my knowledge. Unless the firm asks for something, why make waves?

The only thing I would like to have here, is a working Masonic square and compasses club. We are on a "gag order", and not permitted to advertise or put up any posters or flyers. Every other club on base, can advertise all they want to: The women's empowerment group, the model airplane builders, the domino tournament, all kinds of weight-lifting and physical exercise group, but not the masons. I hope the First sergeant here gets a transfer, and the new first sergeant is more amenable to the Freemasons.

I got to see the Preakness Stakes race on the television, I was rooting for "Street Sense", who ran one hell of a race, and then lost by a head. Well, he is an excellent horse, and even though he is not the winner of the Preakness, he will go on to a stud career. Imagine, retiring at the age of three to have sex the rest of your life.

I sent out contact cards to all the people in my address list, 100 cards in total. I am anxious to see how many actually respond. I sent the cards out when I was at Al Asad, and I got a couple of responses. Since the cards are free, and the postage is also free, why not try it again?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

15 May 2007. The Ides of May.

An interesting country. I thought the winter rains were done, but the skies opened up at 0400am, and the rain hit the trailer so hard, I woke up. I had a couple of packages arrive at the post office, so I went down to get them. They were games for the troops, so I signed the form, and said I would be back to get them.

The rain turned the camp into a lake of mud. No matter, a day of heat and wind, will turn the place back into a dust-bowl again. Went down to the Rec Hall, and filed my morning report. The internet is functioning normally, so all the data is uploading properly, Thanks for small favors.

Lunch today was a plate of nacho chips with chili, cheese, sour cream, green onions. Delicious. A bowl of cookie and cream ice cream for dessert. Then back to the Rec Hall for "Jeapordy".

I have ordered some items on the internet, and they sure are slow in getting here. I ordered a package, and instead of it going to APO AE 09351, it wound up at APO AE 09381. Fortunately the UNISYS man there got the package, and then sent me an email, asking for my address. I emailed him back, and the package is on the way.

I really need some new shoes. I am wearing running shoes that I found in the garbage. I can't believe what people throw away! At my last post, I went dumpster-diving all the time. I found two excellent pairs of combat boots, exactly the right size.

I have made my first purchases on Ebay! I found a very nice sterling silver masonic lodge ring, and I was the high bidder ($12 I think). It arrived in the mail, and I am just delighted with it. I still have my stainless steel ring, It has a couple of "dings" so I am going to send it back to the manufacturer, so that he can clean/polish/rehabilitate the ring. I do love to wear Masonic "bling-bling".

The Rec Hall is pretty much empty during the day. I can watch almost anything I want on the TV. The staff leaves the TV on the news channel, so I watch a lot of CNN, Fox,etc.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

From an Iraqi Doctor!!

Dear Sir
I am Iraqi physician, I live now in Iraq-Baghdad and I'd red your blog on internet and i like it, i would like to know that there are alot of iraqi people and I one of them who support USA army and appreciate your sacrifies and we believe strongly that pull out of your troops specially in this critical moment will lead to blood bath more and more than what we are seeing now and I personally beleived in USA project in Iraq and I wish it to succeed and I wish that I can do something to support USA army here in Iraq because as I beleive USA win here mean a stronge and modern Iraq. I think the big problem now which stand against this project is a relegion problem, islamist both sunnis and shiit are working together against this project and the big mistake was to give the authority to islamic parties because this relgion parties donot represent a national interest they represent other countries like shiite who are working for Iran, USA s! hould work now to get ride of Islamic parties because they donot like USA just because they beleiv that christian donot like muslims and thats why you are facing such problem here they interprete any project as aconspiracy against them so they donot trust you, Iraq should govern by secular goverment, relegion should be separated from state, my opinion is to stope working of this islamic sectarian goverment and stope this islamic constitution and hire a secular goverment this will give a very good result because most of iraqi are secular in nature they love drinking like dancing and they enjoy life but the media and the parties in goverment give you diffrent picture inorder to let you beleive that this is islamic country and should be govern by islamic goverment.
I am sorry for this longe message but I have to tell you that there are alot of iraqi who stand with you in the war against terra and specially in Iraq, I would like to be a member of freemason but i couldnot find any lodg in iraq so it gives me great pleasure to accept me as a first iraqi member in your lodge.
Accept my best regards

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Bold plan for peace in Iraq

By Charles E. Martin

There is a path to victory here. I know what I am talking about. Ihave been in Iraq for 18 months. I have been from Kuwait to theSyrian border. I have been in a mortar attack, and been close enoughto hear the shooting. (I am a civilian computer tech, and not amilitary person). I have flown 90 combat missions in Iraq.Often in foreign policy, the player (In this case the USA), has tochoose from a number of bad choices. There are all kinds of badchoices in this desert. Instead of blaming President Bush, or badintelligence, or the CIA, or this or that, let's stop playing ablame game, as they said in Vietnam, there is enough blame to goaround for everyone.Since the objective of this exercise, is to get rid of SaddamHussein (mission accomplished), and bring freedom and the rule oflaw to the Iraqi people (not yet accomplished), we should step backand see how to get this operation through to a successful conclusion.There are a number of bad choices:1- Partition the country into separate nations: Sunni-stan, Shia-stan, and Kurdistan. Then let each individual group run their owncountry. This idea stinks on hot ice. It is not going to happen.The reason is OIL. The oil resources of this country are not evenlydistributed throughout the country. Locking two ethnic groups out ofthe oil money would never work, the war would just continue, aseveryone would be scrambling for the oil. You must remember, thatthis war is about power and greed. Religion and tribal causes aresecondary at best.2- Line up every military age male in the entire country, against awall, and shoot them. This will bring peace, but charges ofgenocide. Not a good plan.3- Pull out, and let them go at it, until someone comes up on top.This will result in a bigger genocide, than plan #2. The democrats,and other "surrender-clowns", do not realize, that if the USmilitary packs up their Army, and moves the entire operation to FortRiley, Kansas, that the Iraqi militias that are fighting in thiscountry, will not just drop all their weapons, and turn this countryinto a big "love-in". If the US military pulls out of Iraq,violence will INCREASE, not decrease, and more Iraqis will bekilled.If the US quits Iraq, there will be a full-blown civil war, betweenSunnis, Shias, and Kurds. The Shia government of Iran, willbankroll the Shias in Iraq, because the Iranians do not want a Sunnigovernment on their border. The Iranians want a friendly Shiagovernment running Iraq, that will give the Iranians more influencein the region, and put them that much closer to Israel.A blood-bath in Iraq, will result in some new strong-man coming topower here (Saddam II), and then the USA will have to come backhere, and start the whole process all over again.Or there is plan 4-I propose to declare that Iraq is henceforth a USA "protectorate".The USA can issue a proclamation, that the entire territory of Iraqis now under the sole control of the US government. (Like theBritish set up in Swaziland, and Basutoland in Africa). From nowon, the internal and external security of Iraq, will be the soleresponsibility of the US Government. The US will administer all ofthe mineral resources of the country, and sell petroleum. Therevenues will be deposited into an escrow account, and thendisbursed according to the directives of the US mineral andpetroleum authority.All borders will be closed, and any individual attempting to smuggleweapons or any military equipment into Iraq, will be summarily shot.Reconstruction of the country, rebuilding infrastructure,electricity, utilities, agriculture, civil engineering, etc. will beadministered by the US government.The current Iraqi government, constitution, and military forces willbe suspended for the duration for the adminstration of theprotectorate, and be restored at an unspecified date in the future,when the security and military situation is stabilized.Other nations will be invited and encouraged to participate in themilitary/security functions, but the USA will be prepared to go italone, if need be. Other nations will be invited and encouraged toparticipate in the humanitarian and infrastructure projects, as theysee fit. Non-governmental organizations, including the UnitedNations will be encouraged to participate as needed.The US government will then proceed to disarm all of the militias inIraq, and detain/imprison all internal terrorist forces.The US government will neutralize all terrorism in Iraq, and engagein "hot-pursuit" of terrorist forces who attempt to operate acrossinternational borders.Military bases will be established as permanent bases, with leasesin perpetuity.Provincial lines will be re-drawn to establish separatesunni/shiite/Kurdish political entities. Each individual group willbe assisted in setting up autonomous governments, responsible foradministering the internal affairs of each province. Similar to theCanton system in Switzerland.The capital area of Baghdad, and other major cities will be set upas inter-ethnic provinces, where administration of the cities willbe set up along the lines where cities are generally self-governing.Similar to the home-rule situation in Washington DC.The "new" constitution of Iraq, will be trashed, and a weakercentral government will be set up, ceding more power to theautonomous provinces. The central government will be non-sectarian,and political offices will be awarded on merit and popularsovreignty, without regard to faction or ethnic group.The new central government will be responsible for foreign policy,international trade, minerals management and revenue distribution,external defense, infrastruture management, etc.Once the security situation is stabilized, the US protectorateperiod will end GRADUALLY, and political power will be ceded to thenew central government, and the autonomous provinces.The new Iraq government, and the region as a whole, will be put onnotice, that sovreignty will depend upon the "good behavior"and "good faith" of all of the various factions in Iraq.This is a bold plan, but when you consider the alternatives, itmight just be the plan with the best chance of success.