Friday, May 23, 2008

Chai Boys and the Iraqi Army

I spend much of my time with the Iraqi Army, and it is good. I learn about the culture, see how they do things and learn a bit of Arabic here and there.

But, there are some odd requests. One of the Iraqi officers learned I was on my way home in a few weeks, and asked me to look in on a medical issue for him. Sure, why not? He has ‘weak sperm’ issues.

Today on Things I Never Thought I’d Have to Deal With: weak Iraqi sperm.

No, I don’t know what to do with weak sperm. Eat an oyster? Would anyone trust seafood from the Persian Gulf?

At captain, Iraqi officer get all manner of perks. They must buy an office full of ostentatious and uncomfortable furniture. And, they get dedicated chai (tea) boys to answer their every whim. Most officers have a call button that will summon their chai boy at any moment. Push the button: Tea! Here comes some tea. Push the button: Dinner! A plate full of chicken, rice and goat balls.

These chai boys are uniformly…effeminate. Is this some sort of ancient Babylonian custom that strong men must be waited on by THIS GUY:

Yes, an actual chai boy. His name is Alicia (dead serious).

Here’s a custom the United States Army will NOT adopt. Every so often I sit in with the Iraqi colonel and there’s Alicia ready and able to provide tea and redecorate the office with something tasteful from Versace Dictator Furnishings.


Americans love their pets. When the United States Army deploys to garden spots like Iraq, we adopt local mutts as ‘FOB dogs.’

A FOB dog’s life is simple; eat left-overs, bark at strange things, let Soldiers pet them. In return, we take good care of our little mascots. Iraqis, for some reason, hate dogs. They don’t keep them as pets, they don’t like to touch them, nothing. Despite the fact that Iraqis hate dogs, they’re everywhere.

The Afghanis take the cake in dog hating. The Russians left behind millions and millions of land mines, which are still active. To clear the land, the Afghans will fence off a mine field and then put a pack of dogs inside the fence. Fetch, Rover! BOOM! One less land mine.

Our FOB Dog is Daisy. She is a little unusual for a FOB Dog. She hates all Iraqis and other dogs, and enjoys swimming in the pond/cess-pool behind the base. A few days ago, I saw her gnawing away at a very long bone, which looked like a human femur. What was I supposed to do? My family had a little chiuahua/rat mix named Gizmo who’d put up a real fight if I tried to take away something he was eating. This dog is five times that size and was apparently Eating A Human Bone. Bad dog! Very bad!

Upon further investigation, it turns out the bone belonged to another dog. Whew! Wait…so our FOB dog is a cannibal. It’s a dog eat – No! No I can’t go through with that cliché.

There are a number of things I did not anticipate about Iraq. Former terrorists who’re now my friends, eating sheep ass and cannibal FOB dogs. Why is everything in this country bat-shit insane?

There are some complications. The FOB Dogs do not appreciate the military working dog teams who visit the base, which results in an “Old Yeller” moment if the FOB dog attacks the working dog.

Some times Soldiers can ship FOB dogs back to the States, but the process is expensive and complicated. New units normally inherit FOB dogs…and their puppies. But, there are traveling vets who stop by for a little snip-snip to prevent that issue.

I can imagine that conversation:
FOB Dog: Yeah, the Soldiers let me sleep in peace, feed me and play with me.
Wild dog: Damn, that sounds awesome.
FOB Dog: It’s the life, but they cut my balls off.
Wild dog: @#@* that.

I do my best to stay away from the FOB dogs. Who knows when we’ll move elsewhere, and then who’ll take care of my dog? I have enough to worry about.

Here’s Daisy sleeping on a sun screen, her own improvised hammock.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ready! Fire! Aim!

Last week I was at my desk, minding my own business, when the shop sergeant asks me “Hey, sir. You know you’re moving to a new unit in three days?” This was news to me! I immediately hunted down one of the many colonels I work for and confirmed that yes, I was moving in three days.

A number of questions came up:
Who am I replacing? Who’s replacing me? What will I be doing? Will this affect my leave? How do I get down there?

I got zero answers from anyone! No one had a clue why this was happening, or if they did they didn’t want to share. So, I cleaned out my desk and packed up my crap. I finagled my way onto a convoy of virgin MRAPs heading to the new base.

Moving is never a fun experience for me. I moved around a lot as a kid, and it always meant leaving friends. This time was no different. Plus, all the uncertainty in this move did not leave me confident at all.

I get down to the new base, and no one knows what the hell is going on. After a few days chilling out in a windowless trailer, I pushed out to my new assignment.

The base I’m at has got to be the FOB At The End Of The Universe. It looks like it was bombed yesterday. Literally. The gym is only surviving room in a building the USAF dropped a bomb on. I live in a plywood shack. The Iraqi Army compound is easy to find, just follow the smell of raw sewage (Yum-o!)

Still, this could be worse. At one point, during my first tour, I lived at a place called FOB Duke. FOB Duke was one of Saddam’s old arms depots. There was nothing there but sand and a few bunkers. Remember Tatooine from Star Wars? Looks just like that. We had a slit trench and three port-a-potties for several hundred soldiers. We all slept next to the vehicles with no protection from the elements.

No one knew what the purpose of the FOB was, until the first morning. Everything was perfectly normal until KA-BOOM, a huge explosion rocked everyone. I looked over in the direction of the blast, and saw a huge mushroom cloud. I kid you not. There were thousands of tons of munitions that a contractor was blowing up on a regular basis. No one bothered to tell me about that little fact until after the explosion. Doh.

Anyway, so long as I have walls, electricity and food that doesn’t come in a plastic bag, I’m doing all right.

The reason for the sudden officer shuffle is genitalia. Female soldiers are not allowed to fill certain positions in combat units. The battalion I moved to had a female officer in a position she shouldn’t have been in (but was doing a fine job). Someone somewhere raised a stink about a female soldier in a position she wasn’t supposed to be in. Once the dreaded words “15-6 Investigation” start circulating, suddenly every unit realizes they may have someone in a position they shouldn’t be, and there’s a race to fix everything. So, here I am.

Yeah, this is retarded and not the way to manage people. One more week until I make a break for Birkenstocks and facial hair.