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Showing posts from September, 2009

Bike Update

As of yesterday, September 30, I passed the 3000-mile mark here in Iraq. I also cut 2 minutes from my 5k run time the previous week. It is much easier to improve when one is slow. Last week I ran it in 30 minutes and 20 seconds. This week I was down to 28:22. The civilian who runs the race gave me a medal for finishing 3rd in 50-plus (out of three guys who signed up). It was really a close race between the first two guys--they finished in 23:14 and 23:20. I was most of a half mile back in third.

The bike mileage means I have also made more than 200 laps of Tallil Ali's Perimeter Road. Katharine Sanderson, a friend from the UK, wrote recently. I replied to her something about the war. She said, "Somehow I forget that you're fighting a war at all. Weird. It must be your witty blog posts about books and PR!"

Along the same lines, my wife said, "I'm enjoying the other-personal glimpses on your blog.  Since I've been wrestling so intently with my stud…

Envy is Relative

I have a new office. A really nice office. An occasion for envy for everyone in the unit I left and for many people who come to visit the other people that work in my office. The people in my office are the battalion commander, the executive officer, and their assistant--and me. I have an office with a real wooden desk, a book case, a table, a comfortable chair and a door.

I was working in a dusty corner of the motor pool on a folding table. This is a big step up in the world. But then, as my wife pointed out when I told her about my new digs, nobody I work with back home would be jealous. My new office is in a trailer. It is an Italian-made, double-wide, really nice trailer, but it is still a trailer and I still have to walk 75 meters to use the latrine trailer.

But it does have a coffee maker.

And the boss is a member of the Pennsylvania legislature so he gets an incredible amount of free stuff from home. So the office has great snacks.

I should get to stay in this office f…

Who Fights This War? -- Flight Medic

This story went on line this morning on our division Web site. The soldier I profiled said I should use her name since the story is on line anyway.

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – “I am never nervous on the flight out,” said Staff Sgt. Cynthia Dalton, describing her experience as a flight medic in Iraq. “I go over every possible scenario in my mind. But when we touch down, I just go.”

Dalton, who is assigned as a flight medic to the 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation Brigade, part of Task Force Keystone, said her first rescue mission in Iraq was the hardest. It was a vehicle rollover in bad weather. One Soldier was dead at the scene, two more were badly injured. She and the other medics at the scene treated the Soldiers as much as they could and then loaded them on their Black Hawk helicopters for transport to the nearest emergency medical facility.

“Both Soldiers made it,” she said. “But after a mission like that I am really hard on myself. I can see why people burn out. I go over …

Who Fights This War? -- MEDEVAC Pilot

This story went on line yesterday on Armed Forces News service so if you want to see the pilot's picture, just Google my name under the "News" tab and this story will come up with photos.


CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – Maj. Matt Stevenson sits alone in the ready room next to the medical evacuation hangar at 11 p.m. He is hunched over his personal computer, editing a document for a meeting the next day.

“I’ve got to get some sleep in case we get a 2 a.m. call,” he says, mostly to the air. The rest of his crew is asleep or resting, waiting for the call.

Stevenson is a senior staff officer with 2nd Battalion 104th Aviation Brigade, but two to four days every week he is a MEDEVAC pilot on a 48-hour rotation with Alaska-based Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment. His shift will be over at 9 a.m. the following morning, but he had a long flight in the afternoon and a long day of meetings on either side of the flight.

“I have to stay balanced, I have to…

Bicycles in Thailand at the End of the Viet Nam War

From my uncle who served in Viet Nam several times and other parts of South East Asia for almost a decade:

This is another Thailand story but a very ordinary one. At Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base in 1974 bird colonels had staff cars, the rest of us whatever we could find. The Thais, seeing an opportunity, opened for business on the base selling (very) used Honda mopeds, provided repair services and sold gasoline by the pint, actually probably a half liter. A moped will run for a long time on a half liter of gas. Guys would buy a moped, ride it daily everywhere and sell it back when they rotated away.

The counter culture was bicycles. The BX did a bustling business in Japanese bikes. Most guys, me for instance, bought a bike, dutifully had the Air Police mark various parts of it stamped with an ID number--bike rustling was a big issue-- and rode it everywhere as if it was a car. After a while guys referred to their bike as their "horse." Korat was as as flat a table…

Lapsed Evangelicals

In other posts, I have written about the choirs and the services at Church and how different it is from civilian life. Of course, one of the big differences in the Chapel versus home is the number of women. More women than men attend Church for the very good reason that women are more likely to be poor and disadvantaged than men, and the Church ministers to those with needs--material and spiritual. And for the same reason, the Church has more old people than young people.

So Chapel services are about 90 percent male regardless of denomination, which more or less reflects the population. But considering that 80 percent of the military is under 25, the soldiers attending Church are, by Army standards, somewhere between old and ancient.

So where are the kids? Avoiding Chapel just like their college-bound counterparts avoid Church. In fact, I've talked to young men who were active in youth group, went to Church every week and chucked all of it right after basic training. You wa…

Riding in the Dark

I've got another riding buddy who gets stuck in meetings till a few minutes before dark but really wants to ride so I go with him. He has got a five watt (dim) headlamp. I have a blinking LED headlamp that is bright enough for on-coming cars to see us, but even though I am getting close to 200 laps of this place, I miss a gouge or a hole once in a while.

It is a lower intensity workout because we can't sprint in the dark--not actual dark, we've got a quarter moon and lots of security and airfield lights.

Although the rifle halves in the pack seemed like a good idea, my back hurt from riding strictly on the seat. I will have to solve the rifle barrel whacking my helmet problem before I can carry the rifle in backpack.

For those who read the Nick and Nora Nordstrom story, Lenore Skenazy, formerly of the New York Post, now of freerangekids.com is interested in their story so they may become minor celebrities.

I did stories about medics that should be able to go up soon …

Biking to Work on the South Side

Roadside Sign on my Route to Work

Part of my new job is an office on the south side of the base. It is a 4 or 6 mile ride depending on wind direction. When I worked in the motor pool it was a one-mile ride, so I did not have to think too much about carrying a weapon, but now having the M-16 digging into my back every day I was trying to think of some better way to carry it. One of the aircraft mechanics said, "Break it in half and put it in your pack." He was right. I have to switch packs though. With the smaller pack I used today the barrel of my rifle stuck out just far enough that it hit the back of my helmet when I stood up to pedal. With the larger pack, the whole weapon will be inside.

An M-16 breaks in two pieces in about 10 seconds with just two pins so it is an easy solution to the problem of how to take my gun to work every day. When I ride around post for exercise in PT uniform I am exercising so I don't have to carry the weapon. MUCH easier that way.

Who Fights This War?

One of my regular riding buddies is a senior colonel in the armored brigade headquartered here. He has only been riding a couple of years, but is an avid and competitive runner and likes riding a lot. He is 46, planning to retire after this tour, and looking forward to riding in Colorado where he and his wife plan to live.

During the Gulf War in 1991, he was a platoon leader in charge of five M-1 tanks during the invasion of Iraq. By the time he went through the armor officer training in the late 80s, the M1 had completely replaced the M60A1 that I served in back the 70s. But we are both old armor guys (No tanks here at Tallil) and sometimes talk about tanks.

He is very animated when he talks about crossing the desert in an M1 and some of the battles he fought before that brief war ended. He has a look that is so happy that it shows through a helmet and sunglasses even when we are riding 18mph side by side when he talks about the Gulf War. "Our tanks were in charge of the b…

Ramadan

This morning my wife wrote:
Eid Mubarak to you (or, happy Eid)!  How strange it is that you are in Iraq and don't even mention that most holy of holy days in your blog!  Is that because your base is so American that the holiday makes no difference, or is it because you're trying to focus on one small part of your life at a time?

In Bonchek [residential hall at Franklin and Marshall College], we had a standing-room-only crowd for the Eid dinner we hosted.  That's partly because we don't have many chairs -- but we really did have 70 people lined up for food, and everyone had a lovely time in spite of the wait.  Many of the international students talked about how they hadn't had a chance to get together yet this semester, so this was a grand reunion for them; but many Americans intermingled and got to eat yummy food as well.


I knew it was the end of Ramadan because two Jewish friends of mine mentioned that Rosh Hashonah was starting this weekend--Islam and Judaism use a …

My New Job--Then and Now

Abel is the dancer in the middle. 1-70 Armor Motor Pool, Weisbaden, West Germany, 1977.

As I mentioned Saturday, I have a new job. Not, of course, in the sense of I am moving to a different base or even eating in a different chow hall or, God Forbid, wearing different clothes. But I will be doing public relations work full time for our battalion. For those not keeping score on my work life, until Saturday my duties were the following list:
--Squad Leader
--Maintenance Team Leader
--Echo Company Public Affairs
--Battalion Public Affairs
--Morale, Welfare, Recreation NCO
--Drug Test NCO

My new duties:
--Battalion Public Affairs
--Echo Company Public Affairs
nothing else!

My best friends from the 70s, Abel Lopez and Cliff Almes will think this is very funny, back to the future, circle of life, reincarnation or whatever metaphor you use for history repeating itself.

On December 23, 1977, one year and three months into our three-year deployment to Germany, our new brigade Command Sergeant Major ha…

Half Marathon the Next Morning

WITH MY RUCK--READY FOR THE MARCH

The first thing I noticed when I got out of bed this morning was my age. It took a while to get out of bed. After the run yesterday my heel ached. I expected worse this morning. But when I stood up for the 200-meter limp to the latrine, my heel felt OK. Swollen. Sore. But not too bad. No sharp ache.

My thighs hurt a lot. The front of my shins hurts some. I have upper body aches, but no special pain in my heel. I think this means I can run again. I may even be able to do the 5k Wednesday race. There's a chance that two months of rest from running combined with stretching may have helped me adapt to the bone spur. I don't know. But it is weird not to have acute pain on the bottom of my heel.

Now having said all that, it hurts to get on the bike, it hurts to pedal the bike, it hurts to walk. And some Delta guys are doing the Ruck March, so there can be a Delta, Echo competition during the October 3 half marathon.

Great news for me, …

Marathon Man

This morning my alarm went off at 0405. I dragged myself out of bed and walked to the latrine to shave and brush my teeth. I was thinking as I walked my heel feels great and I am about to screw it up. Three weeks ago I signed up for the US Air Force half marathon. The plan was that I would walk the 13.1 miles with a few aircraft mechanics and see if I could walk the distance in under 3 1/2 hours. In two weeks our base is having a parallel event with the Portland Half Marathon. Several of the guys in my unit are planning on walking it as a Ruck March--that's a march in boots with a 40-pound pack. I said I would try to do the Ruck March which led me to sign up for today's event.

In addition, some Delta Company aircraft mechanics said they would walk the half-marathon distance. So I thought I would have a good walk. Luckily I brought my iPod. Just as this deployment seemed like a good idea until I actually arrived, the marathon walk seemed rational until it started. The…

Who Fights This War?

Until September 11, 2001, Michelle Delta made family her first priority. On that terrible Tuesday Delta was a 35-year-old single woman living in her own house in Bridgeville, Delaware. In the months that followed, she decided to give up her shop supervisor job and put America at the top of her priority list and, with no military experience at all, joined the Army National Guard in May of 2002.

In August she went to basic training. “I was very naive,” Delta said. “Soldiers were heroes. I am not sure what I really expected, but when I got to basic training I was in a holding area with more than 20 girls between 18 and 21 years old. On the other floors of our training area were hundreds of young men the same age. They were kids.”

All through basic Delta helped to take care of and watch over the ‘kids.’ In basic Delta received extra responsibility because of her age and rank—her college degree allowed her to join as a Pvt. 1st Class. All of her drill sergeants were younger than h…

Thanks and Requests

Amy--The CS Lewis books arrived yesterday--Screwtape Letters and The Four Loves. We start the Four Loves on the first Monday in October. Thanks very much.

Susan--the Propel Powder, razors and SGT Reiner's M&M's arrived the day before yesterday. The M&Ms will be going up to Base Garry Owen the next time one of our guys gets a Blackhawk ride. Many thanks.

Ginny--I got all those amazon notices. I'll be looking for Purgatorio soon as well as dictionaries. Thanks much.

Shiri--I'll also be looking for dictionaries from you. Thanks.

Katie and Darren (and anyone else who wants to send stuff). The Education Center needs:
--a printer/scanner
--20 copies of the ASVAB (aptitude test) Study guide (send one, five, whatever)
http://www.amazon.com/Kaplan-ASVAB-2010-Services-Vocational/dp/1419550675/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253217169&sr=1-1
--one and two-inch three-ring binders, lots, with tab inserts
--10 or more copies of the AFAST (FLIGHT) study guide
http:…

I was on the BBC World Service Last Sunday

On September 11, just after my blog was linked to the "At War" blog, a producer for the BBC World service called and asked if they could interview me for a story on military blogs and blogging. I agreed and the link blow is the result. It's a 6-minute interview and I am about the last four minutes. If you want to hear it, I should be able to email it from gmail--no size restrictions. But be sure if you want it you give me an Inbox that allows 8mb files.

Eight Minutes and Gone

From the time the Medevac call comes in, the first pair of Blackhawks in the rotation have fifteen minutes to be airborne. Actually, the standard for our Medevac unit is eight minutes, the Army standard is 15. When I heard the call at the Medevac hangar I went straight out to where the birds sit in low blast walls waiting to take off. The crew chiefs of both birds were already getting the aircraft ready for flight. The medic ran to the Evac bird, the door gunner ran to the chase bird.

Within three minutes the twin turbojet engines were screaming and the huge rotor blades were starting to turn. I walked along the revetment walls to the from of the aircraft so I could watch the takeoff from directly under their flight path. The main rotor turned faster and faster. I moved to a dead air spot where I was not being buffeted by the wind from the main rotors. The tail roters were spinning crazy fast looking like they might pick the whole aircraft up from the back.

Suddenly the medic …

Always Moving

I got back from dinner tonight and two other sergeants in our company were in the room. When I walked in I said hello and said I was just picking up the books for tonight's book group. My roommate said, "Our door is the net and Gussman is a tennis ball. He bounces in, he bounces out." I do. But I need to have different things with me for each activity, especially especially on book group days. Today we got done in the motor pool at about 230pm. I went from there to the Charlie Med hangar for a meeting then back to the room to change from the uniform to PTs. I did some writing, rested for a while (we get up at 0445), called a couple of coworkers back in the states about a meeting, then went to the coffee shop to read for tonight's book group and a few pages of French (Le trois mousquetaires).

Then I came back to the CHU dropped the books and rode the perimeter of the post. After that I made two more phone calls about work and then off to dinner. I need to h…

Med-Evac

Today I went to a meeting at the Med-Evac building. The meeting was very routine, just a discussion of how to get soldiers' photos from across the battalion on a single computer. Just after the meeting I was talking to one of the pilots on duty. There are two aircraft that are on standby for immediate take-off and another pair of Blackhawks as a backup for the first. The lead bird in each pair is the medic bird. The trail bird is in air assault configuration with guns in the doors.

When they get a call, team one goes and team two goes on alert. Yesterday there were two calls almost simultaneously. I got to watch the preparation and take-off. The first pair were gone inside of eight minutes--jumping from the pad where they rest into the air one right after the other.

But there were only three Blackhawks on the ready line, not four. It turns out the fourth was on an instrument check flight--guns mounted and ready to go. I watched as the crew chief and pilots made final che…

Shadow Blog

Several of you, especially Daria and Meredith, have insisted I keep a "Shadow Blog" the one in which I talk about all the bad stuff I can't really publish while I am living and working so close to the soldiers I am writing about. They are right of course. Someday soon I will need to look at my sphere of life from above, from every side, and from below. At Meredith's advice, I took down a post about a guy who failed at everything but maintained a thoroughly condescending attitude to everyone around him. I serve with people who rise to the worst occasions and really perform and some who have been relieved of duty for incompetence, and more who should have been.

When I went back in the Army I remembered the friendships I made during the time I spent in Germany. In particular Abel Lopez and Cliff Almes, true brothers and friends for life--in fact since all three of us are believers, friends for eternity. But the messy recriminations and power struggles at every leve…

Who Fights This War?

One of the administrative sergeants I run into once in a while was a Marine for 10 years before joining the Army National Guard. He is aloof and old enough that no one bothers him very much. He mostly keeps to himself, but will occasionally burst into a lecture about safety, security, the political situation in Iraq or how this war should be fought. His outbursts, like the lid sliding off a boiling pot, show that the heat has been building for a long time and finally he explodes. An early commentator on the Iliad wrote about Achilles saying, "An angry man never thinks he has spoken enough" and this sergeant proves it.

Today I was waiting for some other soldiers and had some time to sit and listen to this sergeant talk about his last deployment. It turns out the reason he keeps his distance and thinks about security issues goes back to his deployment three years ago. He was also on a large base then, but worked with people who went on convoys. For the most part he did …

September 11 Ceremony Went Great

It was really great today to be doing something I like to do and am good at. The event came off perfectly--we started at 310pm had four songs, two speeches, two prayers, the reading of the names of the dead here at COB Adder/Tallil Ali. It is wonderful to be the emcee of an event with all military participants--they do what they are told!

Anyway, so the songs, prayers and speeches were spot on length and when I announced the moment of silence, the base loudspeakers announced the moment of silence for the whole base 10 seconds later. My perfectionist event manager friends Kristine Chin, Nancy Vonada and Karen Coker, amazing as they are, would be jealous of hitting those marks!

The event ended seven hours ago and I am still buzzing. I was the first speaker. The other speaker was an Air Force colonel who talked about being in the underground control center in Colorado for the US and Canadian Air Forces when the 9/11 attacks happened. He is a passionate speaker. He talked about …

Who Fights This War?

"I'd rather be digging a damn ditch than sitting on my ass in an air-conditioned office pushing FRAGOs (Fragmentary Orders)." That was one of the first things Staff Sergeant Pamela Allen Bleuel said to me when I met her walking across on open area in a sandstorm. She is a cheerful, imposing, funny woman of 43 who joined the Army Reserves on a whim just before 9/11 and now has an intense love-hate relationship with life in camouflage.

Until last month SSG Bleuel was the sergeant in charge of the convoy training school here on Camp Adder. She taught troops how to drive and fight in convoys and how to best use the ungainly MRAP fighting vehicles that are now the standard troop carrier across Iraq. She loved convoy training and did not mind when her tour was extended. When she did the unit she went to decided her training as a military police officer would be best used processing FRAGOs--the daily changes to orders that bubble through the military system day and night…

I am "At War" at Least for Today

If you follow the link here to today's entry in the "At War" blog in the New York Times and then read all the way down to the 2nd to last paragraph, you will see three links, conveniently labeled here, here, and here. The first link is to my blog, the 2nd is to a Navy Medic and the third is to a combat Marine in Afghanistan. So I am in very good company. The blog post is about social media and blogs and the new Department of Defense policy restricting them.

Which could mean I would not be able to post on my blog. I actually doubt that would happen. I have informed everyone in my chain of command about the blog and, as regular readers know, I never us soldier's names or mention any troop movements (which is easy because I never go anywhere!). But just in case I have a backup plan. My colleague Sarah Reisert at Chemical Heritage Foundation is taking my place while I am on deployment. We make jokes about here being Neil 2009. Although she is a very pretty 26-yea…

September 11 Ceremony

On Friday afternoon the garrison is holding a memorial ceremony for the victims of 9-11. I offered to be one of the speakers if they wanted the perspective of someone who was a civilian and more than 18 years old on that day. There are not a lot of people who fit that description here. Anyway, when I volunteered, I was invited to a coordination meeting for the event last Friday. I found out at that event that I am to be the emcee for the ceremony. One of the people who had been in meetings with said, "Sergeant Gussman can do that no problem." And no one else wanted the job.

I got it in that polite, thoughtful Army way: A dozen of us were seated around the table, the sergeant major convened the meeting and said, "Sergeant Gussman will be the emcee for the ceremony." Next item. . .

Now I may or may not actually talk about my reaction to 9-11 and joining the Army years later, because they may shorten the program or my talk may not pass review. I'll post …

Labor Day

So how does a motor pool sergeant in Iraq spend the Labor Day holiday?

0442--alarm goes off. I was up late, almost midnight, and had trouble sleeping because I slept late Sunday morning (10am). I hit the snooze button and got up at 0447.
Stumble to the latrine, shave, stumble back (150 yards each way on gravel), get dressed.

0530--ride to chow hall. Get breakfast to go so I can put it in my backpack and eat at the motor pool: bacon, biscuit, french toast, cinnamon roll. I ride with a large coffee mug.

0600--motor sergeant opens the gate. he is usually at the motor pool at o540, he splet late.

0610--my team gets its jobs for the morning. I have three mechanics today. Two replace the starter on a bus. One replaces the tire on a trailer. I pump 30 gallons of diesel into our generator. It is a hand-operated pump. It takes 7 minutes, so I listen to a New Yorker podcast on my iPod while I pump the handle.

0700--I fill out paperwork while my team works. I check on them. I do the weekl…

Married in South East Asia During Viet Nam

From my Uncle Jack who served in all over South East Asia between 1965 and the end of that ill-fated conflict, is the rocky beginnings of military cohabitation:

The tale of the married sergeants is inspiring. My experience with married subordinates differs.

The Air Force in 1974 was dragged kicking and screaming to create accommodations for married service couples deployed together on remote tours. It was still policy that a civilian spouse living within a certain mile-radius of the sponsor's assigned remote station converted a remote tour into an accompanied tour--if it was discovered. The anecdotal evidence is that the Air Force was commanded by ascetic monks who preferred that all intersexual relations be conducted on a high non-physical plane. But there we were at Korat RTAFB, Thailand...

One fine day my office phone rang and a voice said, "Come to Personnel and pick up your new clerk." I sent my NCOIC. He called soon thereafter from there and told me, "This …

Married Sergeants Who Really are Friends

I wrote the following for a military publication but wonder if these two are not interesting enough that I should try to send the story to People or something in that vein. Please email, comment, let me know what you think. ngussman@gmail.com The names are changed, but their real names, first and last, all begin with M.





When a husband announces at lunch or a party, “My wife is my best friend” within the next 15 minutes he will prove beyond doubt, usually with other guests exchanging knowing smiles out of his view, that she is nothing of the sort. No definition of friend, let alone best friend, will cover the complete lack of shared interest and activities he will blithely go on to describe. [SIBEBAR: Our Amazon Adventure Tour]

Nick and Nora Nordstrom never mentioned friend, best friend, or anything of the sort during the hours I spent with them. She is a sergeant first class, the maintenance platoon sergeant for Delta Company, 2-104 General Services Aviation Battalion. He i…

The Gods of War

I just finished Book I of Aeneid (or chapter one if you count it as one book of 12 chapters). Anyway, it has been seven years since I last read it and I was very much a civilian at the time. I was working at a dot-com, we had just adopted Nigel two years before, I had been out for a long time, I was too old to go back in the Army and really didn't think about it much then. The Army was a source of stories and jokes and memories. (When the Bush administration raised the enlistment age by seven years in 2005 the Army became a present possibility.)

Which is certainly why I missed how the jealous, indulgent, nasty, competing gods with their own needs and wants that fill the Roman heavens seem just like the invisible generals, admirals and other high officials that move us with no purpose we can discern. The gods told Aeneas to found Rome after the fall of Troy. So Aeneas takes the survivors of the Trojan defeat and sets sail from the northeast corner of the Greek peninsula toward…

Workaholics

Deployment is a great refuge for workaholics. I have watched the work habits of leaders here and they do fall into two very groups. One roup tries to maintain a balance between work and relaxation time, whatever that relaxation is. The other group works themselves into the ground and, frankly, loves it.

When a soldier is deployed, especially a leader, that soldier can leave all of the striving for balance and complexity of modern life behind. No spouse, no kids, no social obligations, no choice really on working out--it's part of the job. So for the person who really prefers the monomaniac lifestyle, here it is with no guilt.

We show up at the motor pool at 0550 to get our work assignments. Most of us are eating breakfast outside out of plastic clamshell containers and joking around as the day begins. The mechanics work till 2pm or longer if the work dictates. The men who run the motor pool stay till 5pm, sometimes into the night. At home they would have to feel guilty ab…

Book Groups

My book groups have been together long enough to show some consistency. They also are very different groups with different people attending.

The Monday night CS Lewis group is in its 5th week reading "The Weight of Glory." The CS Lewis group is an older crowd than the Tuesday Night Dead Poets Society. In fact this week's CSL group was five people: three Army, two Air Force. Four men, one woman. And by rank, two captains and three lieutenant colonels.

Tuesday night was the intro to Aeneid by Virgil. That meeting was a dozen soldiers and airmen with three officers and nine enlisted. Most of the enlisted are in their 20s. There are a two sergeants in their 30s. So the 800-year-old and 2100-year-old books attract the young people and the older people read CSL.

Five of the soldiers go to both groups, but the only person never to miss a meeting is one of the chaplains in our brigade. He also asks the best questions and makes some very good comments. For instance, w…

Cold Wave--Poop Ovens

Today the temp at 0500 was 77 degrees!! Winter is almost here. It was 118 by lunch, way down from highs over 130, and the wind was howling out of the northwest at 25mph which was bad riding west on the bike, but good in the motor pool because the wind blows the sweat away.

Last week we moved into a different motor pool. It is a much better place to fix trucks than the last place with maintenance tents on concrete pads instead of working on rocks. We still walk on rocks between the tents and the offices, but work in something resembling a canvas garage open on both ends.

But the other place was next to an office building so it had an air-conditioned latrine CHU right next to our rock-strewn maintenance area. The new place only has Porta Potties. Until yesterday, the Porta Potties were located in another area in the large field of motor pools we are in. We had to walk more than 400 meters to get to the tan-colored-plastic latrines. No it is a 150-meter walk to the Porta Potties.…