Monday, June 8, 2009

KBR is Much More Than What is on the News

Before I was here in Iraq, my association with the initials KBR was with whatever bad news was reported about insider contract deals and some sort of shady arrangement that had Dick Cheney in the background like the Emperor in "Star Wars."

But here in Iraq, KBR are the initials on the red ID tag lanyards of the people that are behind all the good stuff for soldiers here at Tallil Ali Air Base. KBR people run the 24-hour House of Pain gym and make sure it is clean, cold water is available and all the various soldier-led classes are scheduled and supported. They run the weekly 5k race, they staff the cyber cafes, the free-phone rooms, the library, the rec centers, the DFACs, they fix the air conditioners, and now they are starting to leave.

In the month I have been here Brook, Jelena, and Steve among many other KBR people have helped me to find the people who run every activity the soldiers in my unit have asked about or wanted to do. The KBR folks are cheerful, helpful and really interested in making things as good as possible for soldiers. But as the KBR contracts expire and others come in to replace them, some of my favorite people are worried about their jobs. It will be a shame if the folks who most want to help soldiers are replaced and cut instead of retained. In the future I will not think of the contract lawyers at KBR, but the smiling faces who serve me food and set up Spin class.

The Silent Guitar Player on the Bridge

On the path between my trailer park home and the gym a 20-foot long wooden foot bridge spans a dry, rock-filled stream bed. The long-timers (who were here last year) say that during the fall rains, the dry stream beds actually fill with water. I've never seen it.

The last four nights as I cross the bridge coming back from the gym or coffee shop a tall (6-foot, 5-inch) soldier in PT uniform (gym clothes) has been standing on the bridge strumming a 12-string electric bass. He has no amplifier, he is just picking the strings.

Last night, curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why he was on the bridge. It turns out that his massive guitar weighs almost as much as body armor (35 pounds) and he supports the guitar on the bridge while he practices for a return to the stage in the fall.

One of our mechanics, a specialist, was the lead singer (if that's the right word) in a metal band before we deployed. He is a huge, bald guy in his late 20s who also kickboxes when he is not singing about eating dead babies or whatever metal songs are about.

But the big, bald dude on the bridge is a 45-year-old captain. He is also a disciple of Metallica, but it seems somehow stranger to me that a middle-aged officer in an active Army armor unit would be a metal performer, than a 27-year-old mechanic. When I wrote about the Gospel Rock Band yesterday, I did not mention that two of the five members will be gone in mid August. The Captain told me one of the chaplains asked him about playing in the Gospel rock band. The captain won't be singing Gospel. He told me he has a residence in Hell.

One of the things I like about being around soldiers is that they tend toward extremes. In a place like this, people don't equivocate. The soldiers that go to Church are there because they want to be. And the soldiers who hope for a home in Hell are ready to tell anyone who asks.

Who Fights Our Wars? CSM Donald C. Cubbison, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

In the fall of 1977, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division got a new Command Sergeant's Major.  Donald C. Cubbison, veteran of the Vietna...