Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New Posting

Dear Friends,

I have a posting that is very humorous that deals with a very "adult" subject. Please be advised that I have a varied audience that visits my blog which includes families and children. I don't treat it as a restriction, more as a privilege, and I make it a point to set a good example so that parents will not be embarrassed by what they will see on my blog when they visit with their kids. If you are interested in reading this posting, please "ping" me at coconut.commando@gmail.com

Once I receive your request, I will e-mail the posting directly to you. Thank you for all your support and feedback!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tell Him the Truth!

We got a call from the flight facility that one of our soldiers needed to be picked up. Long story short, he wasn’t one of ours but we got him anyway so he wouldn’t get stuck at the terminal all night. During the course of the ride to his unit, it all came spilling out. It seems this soldier just returned from emergency leave in the states. That usually means the worst of news for the soldier about someone in his family. His father passed away while he was enroute to Iraq. Not ten minutes in Kuwait, he was told and then returned to the states to help his mother make all the arrangements. At this point, I purposely took the long way around to the destination.

Not that it’s bad enough to see a young soldier going through this, but then he let me know the worst part. He told me that he had to have his emergency leave extended because of the divorce. I asked what happened, out of concern and to let him keep venting. His wife of three years had decided she “had enough” of him being deployed and gone so long and she had started seeing another guy about a year into their marriage and wanted to be with that guy. She just didn’t know the proper time to “break it to him gently”. Now I know that I’m only getting one side of the story but, I’ve seen this story over and over again throughout the course of my career, and I’ve gone through it myself.

People, if you’re not going to honor your promises, don’t make them. If you’re looking for “the right time” keep in mind that you’re decision is affecting more than just YOU! Don’t wait until your soldier (or yours formally) gets home for his father’s funeral to tell him that you want to break it off or get a divorce. If you can’t face him, at least tell him the truth while he is surrounded by friends that will be there to pick him up and keep him going. He deserves some bit of honesty out of you. I can still lead a soldier through tough times in his life and through the tour if he at least knows what his home life is like back in the states; whether it’s with you or not.

I was engaged to someone when I was younger and due to the number of deployments, she decided that this was not the lifestyle she could take. During the first Gulf War, the first chance I got to call home was three months into the campaign. She told me that she wanted to call the whole thing off and that she had met someone else. I told her I was sorry she felt that way and I wished her the best of luck. I meant it too. The good thing I had going for me was that my buddies were there to keep me going and our task force chaplain was there to help in any way possible. Things happen and people grow and they change, it’s called “life”. I drove on and went on with my life. It hurt, but I went on anyway.

Point is, at least I knew what was going on back home and what to expect. If you’re having problems with your boyfriend, fiancé, or husband, get counseling, try to work things out or just be honest with him. If he can’t count on you, at least he can count on his buddies to be there through the rest of the journey.

I spent almost 90 minutes driving around to let this soldier get all of this out of his system. The ride normally takes about 20 minutes. When we got to his unit, his buddies were there waiting for him (at 3AM). They knew the whole story because one of his friends from home e-mailed the unit in advance to let them know what he was going through. It didn’t matter the hour, the rain, or the problem, what mattered to them, is that their friend was in pain and they were going to be there for him.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ramadan is Over

Well folks, Ramadan is officially over in Iraq. We survived the “Night of Power” with minimal incidents to us but the local populous wasn’t so lucky. I don’t care to go into the numbers. I decided to give you what I know about Ramadan from the books I’ve studied and from the information that the locals were so generous in providing.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, established in the year 638. It is considered the most venerated, blessed and spiritually-beneficial month of the Islamic year. Prayers, fasting, charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month. The most prominent event of this month is the fasting practiced by all observant Muslims.

The fasting during Ramadan has been so predominant in defining the month that some have been led to believe the name of this month, Ramadan, is the name of Islamic fasting, when in reality the Arabic term for fasting is sawm. Eating, drinking, sexual intercourse and smoking are not allowed between dawn and sunset. During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam as well as refraining from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backstabbing and gossip. They are encouraged to read the Qur'an.

Sexual intercourse during fasting in the day is not allowed but is permissible after the fast (when referring to sexual intercourse, it is intended to mean with one's spouse alone, as all pre- and extra-marital relations are strictly forbidden in Islam). Obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Properly observing the fast is supposed to induce a comfortable feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, sacrifice, as well as sympathy for those who are less fortunate, intending to make Muslims more generous and charitable.

Fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would be excessively problematic. Children before the onset of puberty are not required to fast. However, if puberty is later than is normally expected, fasting becomes obligatory for males and females after a certain age (not later than 15 years of age). According to the Qur'an, if fasting would be dangerous to someone's health, such as a person with an illness or medical condition (this can include the elderly), that person is excused.

Muslims believe that Laylat al-Qadr is the holy night on which the first verse of the Quran was Revealed to Prophet Muhammad. The exact date of Laylat al-Qadr is unknown (the Night of Fate), but it is known to have occurred in one of the last ten nights of Ramadan; usually thought to be on one of the odd-numbered dates between 21st and 29th, with the 27th being the most likely.

Muslims believe God instructs one to seek-out this blessed night by virtue from the odd nights of the last ten nights of this month. It is said that when one seeks the Laylat al-Qadr, his/her sins will be erased, and it will be as if he/she has just been reborn. According to the Qur'an God says that spending this one night in worship is better than worshipping for 1000 months. Many hadiths also affirm the great value of praying during Laylat al-Qadr

Most practising Muslims, especially children and the elderly, have a light meal or snack before dawn. This light meal is called Suhoor, Sohoor, Sehri or Sahur, and is considered an act of Sunnah. This tradition is practised by Muslims worldwide. Cafes and restaurants, in Muslim countries, stay open till early morning hours in Ramadan to serve food and drink for Suhoor

The Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the beginning of the following month. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fasts. On the day of the Eid, congregational prayers are held in mosques or Islamic community centers, and before the prayer begins, Muslims must give a certain amount for charity (provided they are financially capable) known as "Zakatul Fitr". The prayer is two rakaahs only, and it is an optional prayer as opposed to the compulsory 5 daily prayers. Following the prayers, people congratulate and embrace one another, eating special foods and sweets at a mosque, community centre, or at people's houses with festive moods and atmospheres. Gifts are exchanged (especially given to children), and Muslims dress in their best clothing on this day.

Now onto the “Night of Power. The Night of Power or the Night of Destiny has been a center of debate for Muslims as well as infidels (the rest of us). It is considered a “Holy of Holies” as far as the event goes due to the fact of significant military operations, wars with rival tribes & races, and it is seen as the “Assured Victory” point when planning any of the aforementioned events or campaigns.

Military history -- List of Islamic Battles Fought During Ramadan due to necessity.
624 - Battle of Badr. On 17 Ramadan, Muhammad led his forces in Arabia to victory over Makkan idolaters. "The Great Battle of Badr" or "Conquest of Mecca", was the first battle between believers and infidels.

627 - The Battle of the Ditch. Muslims trained for this battle during Ramadan, though it occurred in the following month of Shawal.

630 - Battle of Tabouk (also called the Battle of Tabuk). The soldiers of Islam, under the leadership of Muhammad, established a training and fighting camp in Tabouk during the month of fasting, and attacked the Byzantine army.

653 - Conquest of Rhodes. Muslims plundered the Colossus of Rhodes, melted it and turned it into arms for the soldiers.

710 - Muslims led by Tarek bin Ziyad, invaded Spanish southern frontier cities on the Andalusian coast defeating King Roderick. They stayed for eight hundred years, disseminating Islam. From there, Islam spreads out through Europe.

1099 - Battle of Ascalon. Took place on 22 Ramadan (August 12), the newfound crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem defeated Fatimid Egypt.

1187 - Battle of Hattin. Took place at dawn -- after the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr); a night during the last ten days of Ramadan when tradition says that the angel Gabriel descended and God called Muhammad to be His messenger. (It is sometimes translated as the Night of Destiny.) Sultan Saladin (Salah Al-Din Al-Ayubi) wiped out the Frankish army and went on to reclaim Jerusalem for Islam. The battle took place on July 4.

1260 - Battle of Ain Jalut. Qutuz defeated the Mongols in Palestine.

1962 to 1970 - Yemeni Civil War. Fighting continued through nine Ramadans.

1973 - Ramadan War (Elsewhere known as the Yom Kippur War). Egypt and Syria launched their attack on Israel it was called Operation Badr, and foot soldiers were given religious slogans. The Yom Kippur War is also known as the 6th of October war of

1973 and the 10th of Ramadan War.

1975 to 1990 - Lebanon's civil war. Fighting took place over the course of seventeen Ramadans.

1981 - Iran rejected Iraqi offers for a Ramadan cease-fire.

1982 - Iran launched an attack on Iraq that they explicitly called "Operation Ramadan."

1986 - Christian forces called for a Ramadan cease-fire, which lasted two weeks.

1987 - Iran again rejected Iraqi offers for a Ramadan cease-fire.

1987 to 1993 - The first Palestinian Intifada was waged over six Ramadans.

1990s - There were at least 20 examples of Ramadan violence by Muslims during the Algerian civil war.

2000 - Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee stated that India would initiate a unilateral cease-fire in observance of the holy month of Ramadan as a step towards peace in Kashmir. Nonetheless, widespread fighting continued between Indian forces and the guerrillas in Jammu-Kashmir.

2000 - Al-Qaida operatives tried to bomb a U.S. destroyer, USS The Sullivans, in the harbor at Aden, Yemen. It was the Night of Power. The suicide boat was overloaded with explosives and sank.

2000 - Al-Qaida successfully bombs the USS Cole in the same harbor at Aden.

2003 - After the 2003 Iraq war, suicide bombers struck at four locations, including the Red Cross headquarters, killing at least 35 people.

Do you see the pattern here folks? Radicals have taken what is to be considered the pinnacle of holy behavior and perverted it into a cause to rally behind. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is not the “normal locals” that are causing all this misery and I don’t put any blame on them. It is the footsoldiers of the insurgent military. The locals have spent so many decades being terrorized by a madman, oops the current correct term would be CONVICT. So they are in a state of constant fear. Fear for themselves, their families (close and extended), and fear that we’ll just leave after giving them something most of them have never had; hope. I know this entry is long and somewhat dry, but it is important that you know the truth about this place from someone who is on the ground everyday. I am not condoning any of the behavior or convicting any of the actions taken by locals to protect themselves. It is just very important to me that all of you know where I stand. I respect my enemy because he is imaginative, quickly adaptable, and very motivated in what he does. That also motivates me to insure that my soldiers and I are better than he is at his own game.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Frequent Flyer Miles

Well, a few nights ago I went on an adventure that turned out to be very entertaining. I haven’t written about it before because of security reasons but its cool now. We were flown to an undisclosed location to pick up and escort some theater VIPs and bring them back here. Summed up, the pilots got to fly as if they were drunk and daring each other to do stupid stunts. But that’s the norm around here.

The VIPs we picked up turned out to be an NFL Team Cheerleaders (no team given for security). They are here as part of a USO tour group. I think it’s their second or third string cheerleaders. They looked pretty nervous when they met us. I think it’s because of the gear & how dirty we were. I guess they don’t have heavily armed soldiers where they’re from in the states. Their nervousness evolved into scared as the evening progressed. We explained the fact that they have to change outfits into something more befitting the location because skin tight jeans and little blouses just will not do. We dressed them up in baggy mechanic’s coveralls, helmets, gloves, and body armor. When they put on the body armor and realized how heavy it is and how thick the plates are, it sunk in that they are in a combat zone.

Then we gave them the pre-flight brief. We explained that because of where we were flying, we follow “different” rules. We will buckle their seat belt because they have to be done in a certain sequence to work and they will hold on to the seats. No photography whatsoever. If the aircraft gets shot down, don’t jump out before we crash because we will be landing on top of you. If we take rounds, it will sound like pots & pans hitting the aircraft so don’t panic. If they take a round (as in if they get shot) stick your finger in the hole and we will patch you up as soon as we can or the situation permits. If they see fire or smoke coming out of the aircraft as a result of taking fire, point it out to us and we will put it out. Screaming is generally unhelpful to us but expected. Holding onto a soldier’s hand or gear is tolerated as long as it’s not the soldier’s firing hand. He will need it to return fire. You will be able to see a little bit outside because of the moon being half-full. There will be no lights because all of us (soldiers & pilots) will be wearing night vision goggles.

We went on to encourage them to eat more food before the flight because it hurts less to vomit when your stomach is full as opposed to dry heaving. If they feel like vomiting, they are to do so only into the barf bags (3 each per person), or into their own coveralls. This is due to the fact that if they just vomit out or projectile vomit, the centrifugal force will cause the vomit to shower the rest of us and coat the instruments. When we descend to a lower altitude, we will do so very fast. If they faint because of it, we will check for a pulse but we will not bring you back to consciousness until we’ve landed.

Then we added the humor part of the brief. This is a non-smoking Blackhawk flight, after storing your carry-on bags under your seat; insure that your seat backs & trays are in their full, upright & locked positions. Emergency exits are located anywhere that Hajji is not shooting at you, the in-flight movie is Airplane. And finally, for those of you that are participating in our frequent flyer’s club, you will be receiving 200 miles for this flight provided we don’t get shot down. We thank you for flying Commando Airlines and hope you enjoy your stay. This got us a few nervous chuckles.

The flight up was fairly uneventful. Then we hit the vertical decent point. This is the point in the flight when the pilot nose dives the aircraft so he can go from about 5000 feet to 30 feet as fast as possible. This is to lessen the exposure time to rockets. While this is going on, the pilot will launch flares to attract heat seeking rockets away from us and he’ll zigzag the bird to make it harder to get a lock on. What most people don’t realize is that this type of flying resembles NASA’s “Vomit Comet”. Everything and everyone will fall at the same speed as the aircraft so you will achieve Zero-G.

At this point, we got our first barf victims. They filled their bags pretty quick. The others got inspired when they saw us grab the front of one girl’s coveralls and hold it in front of her face so she could vomit into her coveralls. Either that or we get the puke shower. Then they looked at us in disbelief when we collected the barf bags for the next part of the flight. Once we were down to about 30 feet, we flew “map to Earth”. This means that no matter what the terrain does, the pilots will keep the aircraft at thirty feet above the ground. This is also where we start to get rid of the full barf bags. At the right moment, we played WW II bomber and release the “barf bombs” for the bomb run. They didn’t see the humor in this. We reassured them that the good natives are not out at this time so they don’t have to worry about the barf hitting innocent victims. We also told them that the only people out at this time are the ones trying to kill us and they deserve to get hit with a bag of puke. That got them laughing.

Finally, after 45 minutes of map to earth, we landed in our little corner of the planet. It turns out that most of them lost their dinner and one fainted as the result of the rapid nose dive. We brought her around and let her know that the flight was over. She was still trembling when we loaded her in the ambulance. When all was said & done, their coach asked me is all our flights are that rough. I told her that this one was fairly uneventful in that nobody was shooting at us or that we didn’t have to be rerouted due to “problems” developing with the locals.

This afternoon we were told by the sergeant major that they specifically asked for us to escort them for their return trip back south. They told him that they all felt very safe with the escort team they were with since they’ve been in country. I suppose that means we did a good job. I just hope they don’t take it personal when they realize that I have no interest in going to their show.

Anyway, I thought you’d get a laugh out of that little adventure. I hope all is well with all of you and I’ll write more later.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


We have officially entered rainy season in country! Yes, those of us that have been in country for a while were a little flabbergasted at the sight of rain. I thought I would be the only one sitting outside in the rain actually enjoying it. It turns out that most of us were doing the same thing. You see, it’s been seven months since we’ve seen clouds here much less, rain. Coming from the tropics, rain is a welcome sight to us. The new arrivals to this place were whining about how muddy it has gotten since the rain. The last time I remember, water and sand here make GREAT mud. They’re in for a long tour if they’re complaining about that. Anyway, enjoy the pictures.

Bad News & Good News

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written but things here have been a bit crazy. I was listening to CNN a few nights ago about how President Bush has made such a mess of Iraq and how the “poor Islamic people are suffering tenfold since the start of the war”. I can tell you that it is all a big huge pile of BS. True, there has been an escalation of sectarian violence in country but, it’s because of the sacks of *&^% that are trying to gain control of the region. And as far as the religion based actions of the people here, let’s take a first hand look at that shall we?

For the most part, your average Iraqi that is of the Islamic faith is just trying to do things like the rest of us. Raise their children, provide for their families (several generations under one roof), and get to Heaven by doing what is commanded to them by the Quran. Things like doing good deeds such as helping the poor, respecting elders, live peacefully and do what will honor Allah.

Then you have the problem children that, for the most part, aren’t even local to Iraq. They follow the instructions of some cult leader as law because of a major detail that terrorist cells take advantage of; illiteracy. This is what their true Islam is all about, beating women on a whim or bestiality is considered normal because women are only vessels for having children. I’ve seen the IR footage on the last one and seen it in person on the first one. If these “leaders” are so righteous, why don’t they strap on a bomb or pick up an AK-47 and come out to attack armed soldiers? Because one, we’ll monkey-stomp them into the ground and two, they are cowards!

I am currently in Iraq for the second time and I have to tell you that the barbaric acts of the slime here is unbelievable! We are currently in the "Holy Month of Ramadan" and you would never know it. They don't follow their own beliefs as written in their Quran. We were in a village not far from our base (somewhere in Iraq) and one of the elders told us that there was a family that had been visited by "Evil People". This is what the locals call insurgents and rightly so. It turned out that they had executed the entire family because the father had not joined them in the Jihad. The father, mother and four children were executed as an example. The children ranged in ages from 4 to 10. This is the norm around here.

Now for the good news, the four year-old daughter survived a gunshot wound to the head. She has been brought to our medical facility where she is a participant in an all volunteer program by the soldiers here. The program is affectionately referred to by the nurses as "Daddy time or Mommy time". Soldiers, whether they have children or not, spend countless hours playing, talking to, or just holding children that have been injured or have lost families to insurgents. I am not sure who it helps out more, us or the kids. The outlook for the little girl that survived is very good. The local tribal leader was outraged when he was informed by us that this happened in his land and has vowed to do something about it. Let me put it to you this way, tribal justice is far swifter and fitting than the courts here. As of this time, the village has come under the protection of "friendlies" that can be trusted. Believe it or not, there are good people here. The problem is that they won't get ratings on the news so you never hear about it.

If you have any doubts to whether President Bush made the right decision, relax! Take it from one soldier who has to put his life and the lives of his soldiers on the line everyday here, he made the right choice! I am the last person that wants to be away from his family or have his soldiers or me hurt or killed in this place and we still believe in what we do. If securing a fruit market in the middle of Nowhere, Iraq will insure freedom for the people here, I will gladly do so.