Tuesday, October 13, 2009


During the 23 years I was a civilian before coming back to the Army, it was the unexpected smell of diesel that would bring back a flash of memory of being in the Army.

When I was in the first time, the primary vehicle--the Jeep--had a gasoline engine. but most everything we drove had diesel engines. Now the Humvees are diesel just like all the other trucks. But on all of the self-sufficient bases in this barren land, all of our power comes from generators. Huge generators, small generators, in-between generators.

Last month in the motor pool one of the mechanics got an 110V drill to work on a 5-ton truck. He had to drill a hole once in a while during the four hours he worked on the truck. He fired up a 150hp 6-cylinder diesel generator that happened to be close to his work site. It ran continuously for the entire time he worked on the truck.

On this morning's 5k run I ran past several howling generators in containers outside the housing areas. Every time I turn on a light, charge a computer battery or go the DFAC, one of those generators is making power for me.

A diesel generator sitting in a Conex roaring day and night is not the most efficient way to provide power, but it is what we have.

Before I rejoined, when I was a civilian for more than two decades and thinking about coming back to the Army, a whiff of diesel from a passing bus would remind me of eating on the back deck of our tank or the long convoys on the Autobahn to training areas.

When I get home I will smell diesel and think about those huge generators outside every facility, puffing clouds of smoke and keeping me well-fed and on line.

My Dad, Estee Lauder and Dietrich Bohoeffer

In recent months I have immersed myself in my past in a way I have never done before. For a couple of months I have been writing about my l...