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Showing posts from July, 2009

Extremes

Last night I spent the best two hours since I left America. I was at the Army Education Center which does not officially open for another month, but they are holding sessions to help soldiers study to improve their GT score--the overall score that determines whether you qualify for some of the really good jobs the Army offers.

Last night I spent two hours helping soldiers solve equations with parentheses, powers, roots, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction--which is the order they are solved. These equations included decimals and fractions so I also was helping with converting fractions, finding common denominators and so forth.

If that doesn't sound fun, then I have not done a good job telling you just how strange it is to move from the very quiet home I live in and the very cooperative place where I work to this Lead-Follow-or-Get-Out-of-the-Way environment I am in now. We hear every day we are all leaders. Many of us translate that into trying to dominate everyt…

No Bike Race

NOT HAPPENING AT TALLIL ALI AIR BASE

One of my big goals, hopes for this deployment was to organize a bike race in Iraq. In case you think this is indicative of severe mental defect or some history of intoxication, a race did not seem crazy to me. Until this month, I thought it was very possible.

First, I was initially supposed to go to a huge air base near Baghdad with paved roads, including a six-mile loop around the air field. At the last minute we were re-assigned to another huge base in the south. Here at Tallil Ali Air Base, there is a 15-kilometer perimeter road which is mostly paved. Some of it is bumpy, but a few miles are very smooth. I can ride the loop on a road bike slowing for the dirt stretches and the worst bumps. It's no problem on a mountain bike.

Speaking of bikes, I estimate there are about 300 to 400 soldiers, airmen and civilian workers with bikes. There could be more. But whenever I ride in the main area of post I see other people riding and bikes ch…

Semester Break Blues

Before we left Pennsylvania the guys who had been deployed before warned us people would start to fall apart at six months. My wife wrote today to remind me of the parallels between how here students feel after parents weekend--missing there family with a long semester ahead--and how I have been feeling lately.

Well here we are at six month and the predictions are, unfortunately, coming true. Two mechanics are home in the USA getting knee operations, one from a touch football game and another from a sports injury that was not healing. There have been a lot of jokes about "When's the next football game?" and "Do you need anybody to work on a roof, sarge?"

And we are getting lectures on getting slack--except we report for work at 0700 and many of us do PT before work. Some soldiers are getting vehicles. The vehicles are restored wrecks that are less than perfect and an average of 15 years old. And at the same time, the rules about driving them are tightening …

More from the Back End of the Chicken

Today we had an NCO meeting to get the latest changes in work-area uniforms. We work in a motor pool consisting of a plywood building, a couple of maintenance tents and conex boxes mostly at one end of a field of gravel and dirt. Next to the rock-strewn work area is a headquarters building and a parking lot. The building and the parking lot are about to be turned over to an active-Army unit. We have two latrines located on the east and west ends of the parking lot. On the east end are two outhouses. On the west end are two latrines--one male, one female--each in a trailer like ones we live in. These deluxe latrines have stalls with doors, sinks and air conditioning--very posh.

Now to get into either latrine, a soldier has to step on the parking lot pavement. As of today, we have to be in uniform to step on the pavement. So if someone is changing the oil in a 5-ton truck and needs to use the latrine, that soldier has to put on his uniform jacket and hat and eye protection before…

Hell Boy at the Chapel

Yesterday as I was leaving the 9am traditional Protestant service, the choir for the 11 am service was starting to arrive. I remembered the very enthusiastic young captain from Tennessee who jumps when he sings. When I was about to walk through the door, in walks the subject of my June 8 post, the silent guitar player on the bridge. The guy who wants to make a comeback with a metal band when deployment is over. He told me that evening last month he had a home in Hell. and there he was walking in the door with his enormous 12-string electric bass.

I guess the Chapel band gives him a chance to play.


Who the Wannabe Wants to Be

The Catholic Chaplain from NYC is on the way to a base up north, so my pastor can quit worrying that I will become a Catholic simply to hang around with former Fordham philosophy professor who loves New York.

A week from tonight I will be starting a CS Lewis reading group. The first book is "The Weight of Glory." One of the chaplains said he would…

Today the Temp was 133 Before Lunch

I skipped lunch today and rode to the PX to buy new sunglasses. I lost a pair of Army Oakleys two weeks ago then today I lost my backup Army pair at breakfast. They were on my tray and when we leave the DFAC we dump the tray into one of 10 trash cans in rows of five on either side of the exit hallway. I started to ride away, realized where my glasses were then went back. But I could not remember which trash can I had dumped my tray in. I tried to remember, but as I stood there another soldier dumped his tray about every five seconds. I gave up and bought new ones.

Anyway, on the ride over to the PX the bike thermometer said 133 degrees. The air was very still just before I left, which may be why the temp was so high. As I left the motor pool, a wind kicked up and in a mile the temp reading had dropped to 127, a nice cooling breeze--from a blow dryer.

And here are photos of me with a gun on my GT Peace 9R bike. It's not easy to read the logo, but it is the word Peace with an…

Awards

For the last two weeks, along with my other duties, I have become the squad leader for 4th squad and have been writing awards. Earlier this month I was writing achievement awards for several soldiers who were exceptional in the first month after we arrived in Iraq. Now I am writing what are called service awards--awards for the entire deployment. "But wait!" One might say, "Aren't you just half way through your deployment? How can you write an award for the period from now until when you leave?"

That's easy. I project. I assume that the best conduct and performance I have seen over the first six months will continue and write the award accordingly. The more specific and fact based the award justification is, the better the chance it will go through. Many of the soldiers in my unit have already done some very good things and achieved some of their goals, so there is a lot to write about. And for the rest of the deployment, if I am wrong and the soldie…

TV in the Chapel Annex

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the marriage conversations took place in God's Grounds--the free coffee shop in the Adder Chapel annex. It is run by chaplain's assistants and other volunteers. The other place to get coffee is and actual coffee shop called Green Beans about a mile away.

I go to Green Beans every day for a half hour between work and the evening ride to read a book and drink a latte. I could go to God's Grounds and drink espresso for free, but if I did, I would have to sit near a big-screen TV with 24/7 Simpsons and animated movies. At Green Beans, they play music on the side of the shop where the coffee is made, but the side with the couches is for reading and conversation.

The conversation I had with guy telling me his wife was his best friend and they share no interests took place with me sitting with my back to the TV and us talking over the TV. There are books in the room where the TV is, but no one picks them up. The TV is loud.

So I go t…

Argument Update and Marriage Conversations

Later, after the tax argument, Sergeant Arch Conservative came to me to ask if we we could set up one of the standard gym exercise bikes that reads watts generated to Army PT test standard which requires setting a special bike to 20 Newtons of resistance. It is not a straight conversion. He did not want to deal with that calculation. A few minutes later, we were outside and I asked Sergeant AC if he has this much trouble with math, how can he be absolutely sure (he has loudly told me this on another occasion) the earth is 10,000 years old, evolution never happened and every scientist from Darwin and Einstein to the present is wrong--while he and the Creation Museum are right.

His answer: "Paper birch trees are growing wild in Pennsylvania Sergeant Gussman. They are a northern tree. The earth is not getting warmer. Global warming is wrong. Those scientists don't know everything."

And now to marriage. I was sitting in God's Grounds--a free cafe in the chapel ann…

Arguing in the Motor Pool

Earlier I had an argument that would only happen here, at least in my life. I was walking out the latrine near our motor pool and an old sergeant in third platoon was walking in. I said hello and he launched into the latest government ripoff.
"Sergeant Gussman, your buddy Ed Rendell just raised my taxes 16% in Pennsylvania."
He stopped at the urinal and began to multitask. I was glad to be near the door.
"That means he's taking 16 dollars out of every hundred I make. What do you think of that?"
I exited fearing he would lose concentration and some problem would ensue.
When he came outside I said, "Take it easy Sergeant (Arch Conservative) a 16% tax increase on a 2.65% tax is an increase of about 40 CENTS per hundred dollars."
He sputtered, "CNN said 16% and that means $16 per hundred." Then he calmed down and blamed CNN for misleading him.
He is still upset at Ed Rendell and at CNN and I suppose at me for ruining his perfectly good atta…

Ran Out of Books Tonight

Tonight was week two of the Tallil Dead Poet's Society and I ran out of the free copies of Inferno (translated by Tony Esolen) and supplied by Nick Jost and by the father of one of the lieutenants in our unit. For this evening's session everyone read the first five cantos. For the most part the dozen people in the room believe in Hell as a literal place, but there were fewer who believed it is like Dante's Hell in the sense of all torment all the time. And no one believed in Limbo--the people who did neither good not evil. We are all too much Americans and have enough of the Protestant thought pattern that no one can conceive of a life apart from good and evil.

Many of the group did not like "Abandon All Hope You Who Enter Here" on the arch of the entrance to Hell. They want an escape route.

Less than half the group have read any of Dante in the past, but I already have four people who expressed a strong wish that Virgil get reprieve. They hope that at some…

More Chicken Shit

I was going to let this subject go, but today I was talking with another soldier about the latest rule and remembered that as Chicken Shit takes over, the divide between higher and lower ranks becomes more obvious.

The latest rule says No Tactical Vehicles are allowed to park next to Living Areas. The reason given is that there have been minor collisions between tactical and Non Tactical Vehicles (NTVs). Tactical vehicles are Humvees and the bigger trucks soldiers ride in to go to work, especially when several soldiers work the same hours in a remote area. NTVs are the air-conditioned SUVs and Crew-Cab pickup trucks used by first sergeants, sergeant majors and higher-ranking officers. So when I ride back to my living area, I pass through two rows of gray and white SUVs on the way to my room. So those who drive NTVs walk out of their rooms and drive to work. Those who live in an area without tactical vehicle parking walk to the bus stop.

Whether the intent of the rule is to incon…

The Loaves and the Fishes

At Chapel this morning the Gospel reading was Mark Chapter 6, the story of the loaves and the fishes. The chaplain said this was an example of good leadership on the part of the Lord, but not the disciples. The Lord looked on the multitude with compassion. The disciples said "How are we going to feed all of them?" The chaplain said the disciples were like a group of sergeants who look out at a crowd of soldiers who did not bring enough MREs and grumble about having to share their field rations with unprepared troops.

He converted the metaphor to military. "We are all leaders." Localizing this story reminded me of a retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan I heard at an inner city Church. The African-American pastor retold the story with the victim from the neighborhood being pistol whipped and left for dead on the street in front of the Church. Those who passed by were a local pastor and a football player from the neighborhood with an NFL Contract. Th…

Writing About Soldiers

For the last week I have been splitting my time between resuming my duties as Sergeant Tool Bitch in Echo Company (issuing high value tools from a central tool area) and writing brief vignettes about some of the soldiers in the battalion. Since the higher headquarters (brigade) wants photos also, they gave me a motor-drive NIKON SLR camera with an 18 to 200mm telephoto lens to do take pictures. I don't know much about current camera, but one of my buddies who saw the camera said it costs $3500 new and is "Awesome."

In the course of these brief interviews I have learned a lot more about the soldiers in Echo Company and as I move to other companies, about their soldiers. One of the helicopter mechanics I spoke with got fishing gear shipped from the states. One his day off, he fishes on one of the two ponds on Water Street where the water storage and water treatment plants are located. So far he has caught a catfish more than three feet long. He threw it back but it…

All the Way Across Iowa and other Blogs

If you down my blog roll you will see blogs I follow for various reasons, but mostly for their odd perspective on some part of life that I care about. For the next couple of weeks, the blog posts I most anticipate enjoying will be on Adventure Across Iowa in which my friend Kristine Chin, a New York editor and event manager, will write about she and her husband Rick riding a tandem across Iowa in July with 15,000 other people.


Thunder Run is another excellent site. It's the only military blog I have on my blog roll because it brings together many other good milblogs, so it is one-stop shopping for interesting perspectives on the wars we fight and the warriors who fight them.

On a completely different note, if you have ever doubted, suffered, or torn your whole life up by the roots and started over, you will probably enjoy Meredith Gould, a Jewish sociologist who took a tortuous path to becoming a Catholic author. Her most recent post, the link above, may be one of the best thin…

Calling Home During Viet Nam

My Uncle Jack who served in Viet Nam and other parts of South East Asia for several years between 1965 and 1974, had this response to my post on stress:

I was intrigued by your blog about stress. This is completely opposite my experience during remote interludes in the years 1965 to 1974. As late as 1974 calling home from Thailand was impossible. When if you got to the Philippines you had an opportunity. Even then it was a hassle: Go to a special location, file a request with a clerk to call a certain stateside number, then wait. When the call went through you'd be summoned and directed to a booth to which the call would be connected. Then for, as I recall, a dollar a minute you could talk for a limited time, say ten minutes. Pretty much things were even worse in Greenland and other garden spots SAC (Strategi Air Command) populated. There was no internet/email.

In those circumstances it was impossible to be involved in the daily life of your family at home. They had to s…

Safe at Tallil

If the current crop of email memos is any indicator, we are stationed at a very safe part of Iraq. The new garrison command is making changes, that's what new garrison commands do. In one recent memo we got uniform standards including sock length with the PT uniform, when we are allowed to wear a specific uniform shirt in the chow hall and when we can't and whether or not we can wear MIA, Cancer Survivor, Livestrong and other rubber bracelets. There are new security standards for weapons taken into the gym and so forth. Minutiae written out at great length in the military is usually referred to as Chicken Shit (yet another use of that word).
Answers.com says:
1. Contemptibly petty or insignificant. For example, He has spent his life making up chicken shit rules that nobody follows anyway. This expression gained currency during World War II, when it was often applied to the enforcement of petty and disagreeable military regulations. [Vulgar slang; c. 1930]
2. Cowardly, as …

Nigel Update

Nigel's room is getting a Spiderman makeover.


He also got a wardrobe addition with a new Sponge Bob Square Pants bicycling jersey.


And finally Nigel got an Army haircut.

Half of 2009 by the Numbers

Today I passed 3000 miles riding--more than I thought I would have ridden by now. So I figured I could do a short numbers update. In addition to riding 3000 miles in just over 6 months, I have lived (in the sense of having some type of domicile for a week or more) in three countries:
United States
Kuwait
Iraq
Two states: Pennsylvania and Oklahoma
Four Army Forts/Bases:
Fort Sill
Camp Buehring
Tallil Ali Air Base
Ali Al Salim Air Base
This blog has more readers than ever. When I started it, I wanted to give my friends a way to keep up with what I was doing without me sending emails they might not want. IF they wanted to read the blog they could. Last June I put Site Meter on the the blog. That month I got 370 visits and 503 page views. June of this year there were 4378 visits and 5681 page views. People from all six continents look at the blog. I guess an old guy in the American Army is weird enough to make a New Zealander laugh. In any case, The blog has had just over 26,000 visits…

Music at the Laundry

Three or four days each week I drop off or pick up clothes at a laundry run by three young men from India. It's a great serve. Drop off up to 20 pieces and 1 to 3 days later it returns clean and folded. The three men are polite and soft spoken. They almost always have music on while they work. Mostly it is Indian music, usually upbeat and not too loud. Today while I was sorting and counting my clothes with the guy at the counter, I noticed the music was different. The beat was calypso. Then I heard the words. Or at least I heard the word motherf#^ker repeated several times. I turned toward the music and the two guys who were sorting a large pile of laundry. One smiled and said, "You like sir?" I smiled back and started laughing. The guy at the counter speaks English well and said something that got the other two laughing--and they turned the song down.
I went back to my CHU and told my roommate about the song. He knew right away that the song was "P.…

Stress in a War Zone

A few days ago I went to a meeting at the base chapel about stress. In particular "Does your family back home raise or lower your stress level?" Since this was a group discussion about stress, I could assume people who were stressed out would attend. I was not quite prepared for how much soldiers are stressed out by their families back home. For much of the hour, I listened to folks who dread the calls home because their parents/significant others are worried sick about them and can't be easily persuaded to talk about anything else. (My family does what they can to keep me informed about their lives and tell me some of the funny things that happen in their lives.)

The conversation that got the most nods of recognition was telling Mom that the attack in Baghdad they saw on TV was 300 miles away and had nothing to do with our base. And once they get Mom calmed down, things will be fine until the next time Mom watches the news then they have to go through the same litan…

NOT in Utica

Sorry if I was unclear. The Boilermaker is being run BOTH in Utica and on Tallil Ali Air Base. I just finished being the pace bike here in Tallil. The winning runner finished in just over 56 minutes for 15k (9.3 miles). After doing the pace lap, I rode around the course again because there were road guards and I could go through all the stop signs. Almost 400 soldiers and airmen ran. It was a big event. This is the same course I will use for the Labor Day weekend bike race when I get final approval--hopefully soon!

Speaking of contests, my John Wayne Clerihew poem is officially 2nd place to Bette Davis. Here's the poem:
John Wayne
Got shot in movies and barely felt pain
In Iraq I am miserable just from being hot
Those movie soldiers are a tougher lot.

Thanks to all who voted. Especially to those of you, like Kristine, who voted for my Clerihew even when she actually liked the Bette Davis one better. I got up at 0345 for the race. I am going to breakfast!!

Priority List

I am getting closer and closer to corporate America except I have no wardrobe and, well, the other things I don't have when my home life is sharing a room in a trailer with a mechanic. As of my return to the land of heat and brown air, I have a computer that is attached to the battalion server. It runs Outlook. I had several meetings today at different locations and duly filled in the calendar items so the soldiers in my chain of command can know where I am or will be. I will be filling in all my current projects in the Outlook Tasks section.

But then there's the fun part of having more to write about. In the next few weeks I will be flying to our biggest and our newest fueling areas. The new one is fairly close by so I will be able to fly there and back in a Blackhawk. The other one is very far away which means flying in an Air Force plane or a CH-47 Chinook. The weather has been so bad I am not looking forward to the longer trip. It's just a few hundred miles, but…

The Bike Guy

When I first got to Tallil Ali Air Base, I met a sergeant in public affairs who rides daily and told me that if I ever had a problem with a bike, I should call/email Larry--a civilian computer technician who is retired military and really likes working on bikes.

It turns out Larry is also a very personable guy who is happy to help soldiers. Like most civilians here he works 12 to 14 hour shifts with a day or two off each month, so his time is limited. But when he can he works on bikes. While I was home on leave, Larry trued my out-of-round front wheel on the single-speed road bike and cleaned it up. Then when the mountain bike arrived, the rear disc brake rotor had been bent in transit. He could not straighten it completely with the tools he has, but it is nearly perfect now in a less-than-perfect environment.

Military communities like this one are very much communities in ways that most American communities are not. We need each other. And those of us who ride bikes are a smal…

Bike with a Thermometer

When Bill and Jeremiah at Bike Line put my new bike together, they insisted I get a cycling computer with a thermometer built in. Today I rode a lot all through the day so it's a good opportunity to track the temperature as I ride.
Total miles: 42
Highest temp: 126
Lowest temp: 88

0545--I ride from my CHU (Containerized Housing Unit or trailer if you prefer) to the House of Pain Gym. I am Pace Bike for the weekly 5k race. Temp is 88 (all readings in Fahrenheit). I am wearing Army PT shorts and t-shirt.
0600--Race begins. 90 degrees.
0620--Race ends. 92
0630--I ride the 10.7-mile loop around post. Begin temp 92. End temp at the DFAC (Chow Hall) 99 at 0710.
0745--105 degrees. I ride to my CHU, shower and change and go to the company headquarters.
0900--ride to company headquarters. 108 degrees wen I leave, 109 when I arrive, 1.5 mile trip. Uniform is ACU (fatigues) with rifle and pack.
0930--ride to south side of base for 1000 meeting. temp is 110 when I leave. Uniform is A…

News Updates

Tomorrow I go to the second meeting for my newest additional duty job. My new job is to be the public affairs sergeant for the battalion I am in--that's the group of 600 soldiers. I am already doing the same thing for my company--100 soldiers. I do not know what level of work it will mean beyond what I am doing already.

Sometime this month I will be going to some of the remote sites where our fuelers work. Best case is I will be flying in a Blackhawk. It should be fun however it works out and I will get to see the folks who I haven't seen for nearly two months.

My roommate returns soon. Nice guy, but it has been fun to have a room to myself. I have three seasons of The Wire on DVD which he wanted to watch. I have seasons 1, 3 and 4. I might ask Santa Claus for seasons 2 and 5. It's an HBO original if you have never seen it.

My daughters are back from summer vacation. In Switzerland Lisa ran up a six-mile mountain road in Grindelwald. She wrote: "A lot of pe…

Vote Early and Often

While I was waiting for a plane to take be back to Iraq I wrote a four-line verse for a contest by Robin Abrahams, the Boston Globe's Miss Conduct. Voting is now open. If you want to see what kind of verse I write in a tent in Kuwait, and better yet if you want to make me a the only poetry contest winner in my unit here in Iraq, please follow the link and vote.

By the end of the 2nd week in America I was beginning to think my bone spur problem was improving. All day today I worked in the motor pool walking on rocks. The improvement was because I was away from the rocks. I am back to limping now. So I will return to sick call and continue whatever procedure I have to go through to get the bone spur removed.

We are already planning the next issue of the Echo Company Newsletter. I can't post PDFs on the blog because of restrictions on blogger.com, but if you want a copy, let me know and I will email it to you. ngussman@gmail.com.

Back to Tallil

At 0730 this morning we were told to return at 0820 with our bags. We would be flying by 1130! I packed up and told the guy on the top bunk I had packed up before and would be reclaiming my bottom bunk if the flight was cancelled. He promised to be ready to move and I was off to the next formation. We waited in a tent for a couple of hours and then we loaded our gear, loaded on the bus and we were off to load up on a jet for a very short flight.

On the bus I sat with a 23-year-old regular Army soldier returning to duty after R&R leave like me. Unlike me, he is on his second deployment and is planning on being deployed to Afghanistan. His current job is body guard for a colonel. Last deployment he was on convoy duty. Five times he had a vehicle blown out from under him by an IED. He has been temporarily blinded by concussion and has shrapnel lodged in a couple of places, but, at least by his own standards, he is OK. After his next deployment, probably ground combat if he g…

Day After Day

One of the truly delightful things about the Army is that I am not important as an individual. I am on my 4th day stuck in Kuwait. What overcommitted American worker could get paid for sitting and doing nothing for four days. And it looks like I will be here at least till Monday. I get paid the same for working or for doing nothing if my orders tell me to do nothing. And they do.

So I am sitting in a coffee shop writing about doing nothing and trying to decide what to do next. Should I read in my tent and then go to dinner? Should I go to dinner? Should I shoot a game of pool at the recreation tent before or after dinner? Decisions, decisions. I am going to bed early because I am going to get up at 3am and work out at the cardio gym. It's open 24 hours and beginning at 3am will have a live broadcast of the Daytona NASCAR race. My iPod is in Tallil so if I work out at any other time I will have to watch baseball, golf, or tennis. So I can watch the Daytona night race …

Pack Up, Report for Flight, Go Back

This morning at 0730 my fellow travelers and I were told to report back at 0945 with our gear--there would be a flight later today. We packed up, dragged our gear to the meeting point, had a roll call, then were told to return to the tents. Next formation would be roll call at 1930 (730pm). No more flight information. Maybe there will be a flight one the 4th of July.

It is strange to be 100 miles from the end of a 6000 mile trip and no closer than I was three days ago, but there is nothing to do but wait for the flight. Maybe there will be a flight tonight or tomorrow. In the meantime, this is a great way to get over jet lag. Fly across seven time zones then eat, sleep, and read for three days.

Last Race Update

Passing on the first descent


Climbing uphill at the back of a disappearing pack

Thanks to Jan Felice for pointing out these photos on www.cyclingcaptured.com, photos are by Anthony Skorochod. The race was fun while it lasted for me (two of four 8-mile laps, with the pack only on the first lap). After the race I rode for a while with Jan, Jim Pomeroy and Linford Weaver.

Where is Neil?
No flights out of Kuwait for me yesterday. So I spent another night here, which is actually better in some ways than going straight home. I slept a lot yesterday but was tired enough that I could go to bed by ten and get up at five this morning. I overate for breakfast and then read email and waited for the 0730 roll call when we will find out if there are any flights today.

There were no flights. So we won't hear anything until the 730pm roll call, but the sky is somewhat clear this morning so maybe the sandstorm has calmed down enough that we will fly out tonight. I called my unit this morning…

Good Advice

Sarah Reisert, my replacement at work for this year, suggested I could volunteer for something in Shannon and fly business class for the rest of the trip. I did not exactly do that, but I went to the WH Smith bookstore and bought a copy of Le Monde to see what the French were saying about the return of Lance Armstrong. By the way, in French Lance is one form of the verb Lancer with 34 dictionary meanings including throw, hit, launch, and race. I am sure French sportswriters have been making puns on Armstrong's name for the last decade.

Anyway, one of the senior sergeants on the flight bought a bicycling magazine from the UK. We started talking about the tour. When the flight reboarded, the bicycle-riding sergeant first class had an open seat next to him in business class, so I got to ride in the front of the plane from Shannon to Kuwait. And as Sarah said, the exit row in a DC-10 had lots of leg room. So I am now three-for-three in the front of the plane to and from Iraq wit…