Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Sound of freedom

We just spent a couple nights at a fairly busy air base in central Iraq, on our way out. The planes were flying all night long. The jets roaring are unbelievably loud, at first. And we would smile and joke in the morning about the noise saying, "That's the sound of freedom." That is the line that you invariably hear near any domestic military air base with jets that cause the local people consternation. There is a certain degree of truth to it. But as we were preparing to leave that air base, to come here to Kuwait, I heard another sound, and I knew instantly that it was the sound of freedom. We walked out to the flight line, some time after midnight, past a C-130 Hercules about 150 feet away with all four engines turning. It was pretty loud, but not nearly as loud as the jets. As I walked by, I was struck with the emotional thought that there was sitting my ticket to freedom. I saw the insignia of the United States Air Force on the side, and I could see the pilots on the flight deck, and it was an incredibly moving sight. I sensed that finally, the end of this adventure was near. I hesitated to put my ear plugs in as the turboprop engines droned on. It was music to my ears.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


So I consider two areas of the home to be almost exclusively male domains. And knowing my family, I say this at some risk. However, I am confident that you will all remember that I do lean strongly in the egalitarian direction. Anyway, the first domain is the garage. The workbench, the power tools, the "shovels, rakes, and implements of destruction." They all reside there. It is the domain of the American male. And I would like to propose that the entertainment room is almost the same sort of male domain. Big screen TV's, subwoofers, surround sound, etc. I know some of you will feel a little offended by this. But too bad.

My darling wife Margarita proposed yesterday that we move all of the lounging furniture from the basement (big screen, subwoofer, surround sound - all there), and put it in the family room. She just doesn't like the basement. My response is to throw a yellow flag! Encroachment! That is my domain. I am gone for just a little while and it no longer has any value. Encroachment, I say.

I hope my air compressor is still in the garage when I get home.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Hello Dave

We were treated to a performance courtesy of the USO the other night. The band Hello Dave out of Chicago came and played. It was a hoot. They alotted us all two beers and an airplane bottle of rum. With a little horse trading, and a few names on the roster that didn't drink, I wound up with a little extra. The band was fun. The lead guitarist was really pretty good. They played some of their own music, then covered various classic rock tunes. Everyone was hollering and the commanding officer did a stage dive - caught on video. It was a great diversion for everyone here. I came away hoarse, and my ears were ringing. What more can you ask of a concert?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Shower search

One of the things I most look forward to is taking a long, hot shower when I get home. It is rather comical what we have to deal with here. From our little corner of the base we have a variety of options to get a shower. First of all, there is never a guarantee that there will be any water. Sometimes it just runs out. Next, there is no guarantee that there will be electricity, so if you are showering after dark or early in the morning, sometimes there are no lights. In order of closest proximity to most distant, these are my options.

1. The fish tank. This is a gravity fed system (a water tank on the roof) with a fairly reliable water heater, and less reliable water supply and rotten water pressure. It is a 60 second walk to the back of the bat cave building. It stinks like something resembling a dirty fish tank near a sewer. It is indoors, but not heated, and the shower stall is a converted Iraqi commode stall. The water pools around the drain. If too many people have recently taken a shower, the pool is downright rank. This is the last resort.
2. Shower truck #1. This is another gravity fed system with worse water pressure (actually just a dribble) and a fairly reliable water heater. But it is clean and pretty close (3 minute walk). It is like a small trailer park building, and the shower stalls are small, but adequate. There is no heat, but it is usually warm because it is so small. Probably my first choice.
3. The p*sser shower. This is another converted Iraqi commode stall, but it is indoors, in a heated building. Unfortunately the next stall over is a urinal, hence the name. Sometimes the urinal's odor is strong, but we've actually gotten used to that. It is gravity fed, with decent water pressure and a good water heater. Water sometimes runs out here. It is about a 5 minute walk to get there, but it comes close to being the top choice because the building is heated.
4. Shower truck #2. Another trailer like number 2 above, but it is pump fed so it has by far the best water pressure. One problem is the hot water pump cycles, kind of like revving your engine, so you alternate between getting scalded and freezing every few seconds. Plus it stinks like sulphur. No one seems to know why. It is about 2 minutes further than number 3, which makes it lower tier, for sure.

Keep in mind that all these showers are reached by walking (in shower shoes) so as the weather is cooling off, my toes are often frozen by the time I get to the shower, and again before I get back to the bat cave. All that said, we are eternally grateful to have hot water in some form for a shower. But, like I said, it is comical.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and yesterday, I received Thanksgiving-in-a-box from Dennis and North. This is one of many boxes that have arrived in recent days. I have to thank everyone. Uncle Harold sent the biggest bag of pistachios I have ever seen, and it came in the second box in as many days! Aunt Doris sent another baking gift, this time oatmeal raisin cookies. Sorry, Aunt Doris, but they didn't survive the night. Tom continues to feed me books, at a rate that I can't keep up with. Pat supplied me with among other things, a new flavor of Gatorade. Cousin Amy sent a great box, too, arriving just yesterday loaded with all kinds of goodies. Maggie's new friend, Joan Sriver, continues to send boxes that arrive with nearly every mail shipment. Zack and Zoe have both sent books and other great stuff to eat and do. Maggie, herself continues to send frequent packages. I am not sure how she can, as some of you know, she is in the process of sending out Holiday packages to the entire battalion out here. I am not sure that she knows it, but that is simply unheard of. I think she is the inspiration for all of us. I know that she is for me.

Just in case anyone was wondering, it is now about 40 degrees and very windy. Rain is expected tomorrow, with a high of 48 degrees. Who knew?

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I think you should all eat an extra plate for me.

P.S. If I forgot to thank you for your packages, I apologize.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Chow hall

When I arrived here, the outgoing ER doc told me the saga of the chow hall here on base. It had originally been promised for April, 2004, but got delayed. And delayed. Delayed again, and again. Finally, there was going to steak and lobster on August 29th. Needless to say, that day came and went with no steak and lobster. The beams just laid in a pile, rusting. The outgoing ER doc left. Still no chow hall. The main problem was that no contractors were willing to take the risk to come and work here. Eventually, a group was hired to build it, and they showed up. They actually started work. They levelled the ground and started building. Yesterday, we found out that the target day for opening has been delayed indefinitely. It seems that the engineers installed the superstructure upside down. Now they need to try to figure out what to do next. Go figure. I blame it on the low bidder system.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Package day

So I played some hearts with the guys earlier in the day, and then went to dinner. And when I got back, there were 6 packages piled up by my bed! Holy cow, it felt like Christmas. I spent an hour opening and sorting stuff. Joan Sriver sent a huge box of stuff for the troops, although I am very tempted to syphon off the Rice Krispie treats. The folks at CHO ER also sent a huge box, loaded with goodies and a questionable card. Faith, you are bad, bad, bad. Sister, Kathy, came through with Clif Bars, nuts and other goodies. Thank you, Dad, for 4 more books. I am starting to wonder if I will get through them all! Maggie, not to be outdone, was finally able to arrange delivery of the first box she prepared, dated August 23rd. So I never really give up hope on the arrival of boxes. It was a very fun evening, and needless to say, the pantry is totally restocked here. So anyway, things here are just fine. We are eating our Halloween candy early. Well, I am eating most of it. Thanks to everyone for your packages. They really made my day.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Magic biscotti

The other day, Monday, I think, I woke up feeling rather lousy. I was pretty run down, probably from doing too much, and felt like I had a fever. So I spent most of the day trying to rest. I took Tylenol and Motrin, which alleviated the body aches and helped me sleep. Then mail arrived, and in it was a box from Mom which was crammed with peanuts and four Ziplocs stuffed with chocolate biscotti, among other stuff. Some had walnuts (yes, Dennis, walnuts) and some had cayenne. I saved the cayenne ones for myself and offered up the walnut ones for general consumption. Well the secret got out pretty soon, and all the guys started in eating them. As I had been sleeping all day, and not eating, I figured I had better keep up, so I ate about 12 of them. Those, combined with the nap made me pretty wired, and it was tough falling back to sleep that night. But I slept great and woke up the next day feeling fine. I figure the credit goes to all the biscotti I ate. Magic.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Climbing wall.

I have decided that this is the best deployment I have ever done. Today, I ventured down to the climbing wall that was erected by a couple of enterprising Marines. It is probably 20 feet tall, and four-sided. It has two sides with overhanging lips that are pretty challenging. We are going to try to go down about two or three times a week. The trauma surgeon, battalion surgeon and myself went down. It represents a large portion of the medical brain trust on the camp, so I suppose any accident would not be good, but it is really pretty safe. The trauma surgeon, Tom Nelson, is an experienced alpine mountaineer and rock climber. Travis Clark, the battalion surgeon spends him time at home up at Joshua Tree, trying to find new lines up the rock. His climbing partner at home is our Assistant Operations Officer, or S-3 alpha, with the Marine Task Force here (funny coincidence, Erik). He is rehabilitating his ankle after a lead fall up at J Tree earlier this spring, but he plans on joining our little climbing group soon. Many thanks to Margarita for sending out multiple care packages, some of which contained my climbing gear and a rope. On that note, let me also thank Aunt Doris, Uncle Harold, brother Tom, Mom, Dad and darling daughter Zoe for sending me little boxes in the mail. That is truly the best part of the time out here when the mail comes.

Later today, I think I will hit some golf balls for practice. I have a bet to collect on when I get back home. Time for our daily briefing. I will try to be more diligent with postings in the future. Bye for now.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Bat cave bat

The bat cave bat finally decided to make an appearance. It actually appears the he/she has moved back in for the winter. I woke up at about midnight the other night because I noticed that someone still had their reading light on, and there was some kind of annoying giggling going on. I looked around and saw one of our guys working on his computer, giggling every now and then. I figured he was watching some movie or whatever, but that wasn't the light. So I looked over into the alcove that belongs to our senior officer. I could see his head over the curtain, and he was kind of wide-eyed, and I noticed that he was carrying one of our electric flyswatters. They look like a tennis racket, and are battery powered. They work like those bug zappers that hang outdoors, only they are hand-held. They're cool. Anyway, he glares at me over the curtain, "What!?" I'm still half asleep, and I can't figure out what the hell he is doing. "Watch out!" he says. I look up and there is the damn bat, swooping around, up near the ceiling. Every now and then dive bombing us, or so it would appear. It reminded me of the swallows who used to dive bomb me when I would mow the back lot, or so I thought. So our fearless leader is trying to swat the bat when he flies too close. This goes on for another hour or so, and the bat finally leaves. He returns every night, making his little squeaky sounds, flying around looking for God knows what. We are all collectively hoping for two things. Number one: he's not rabid. Number two: he doesn't crap on our heads during the middle of the night. So far so good. I'll keep you updated....

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Bat Cave

In about a week, the unit who we are replacing will be departing for Kuwait, and then back home. When they leave, our unit will get to inherit their living spaces. It is affectionately known as the "Bat Cave." I didn't know what to expect when I first heard that, but the reality is not what the imagination might think. It is a large room in a hardened structure, with no windows, an old hydraulic press in the center of the room, several other pieces of abandoned machinery, and at least one bat that lives somewhere up in the 20 foot ceiling. I think Tom would love it. The room is probably40 feet by 50 feet, or so, and is subdivided into smaller caves for the officers to bunk in. We will have seven or eight in there. We are looking forward to our new digs.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Wild Wild West

I have arrived at the STP site. This place is definitely on the fringes of Iraqi society. We are a border town out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of bandits and hooligans running around the area. Our base is quite far removed from any of the activity, but all of the Marines are out patrolling the areas, trying to restore order. The chaos that you all remember after the initial invasion thrives out here, with the highest bidder getting the services of the thugs. Very difficult living for the Iraqi people, and the Marines can trust noone. Anyway, I feel pretty lucky to be where I am, sleeping in a wood building, eating hot meals, with air-conditioning. Granted, I will love coming home, but for now, it is more than I had hoped for. We are taking care of casualties already. There is still combat going on out here. I will post my address now, I shouldn't be moving for a while.

LCDR Grueskin
1st Med FRSS2/STP4
UIC 42131
FPO AP 96426-2131

P.S. It is not too hot here. Only 100.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Almost there

Greetings from Iraq! Made it to an airbase here. Lots of sand and heat. But there is still air conditioning. One thing that there is plenty of is food. You go to the chow hall and you can eat anything and everthing you want. It is free. For instance, breakfast today, if you got everything, would have been: scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, omelettes, eggs over easy, breakfast pizza, fruit, cereal, grits, various pastries, juices and coffee. It is amazing how things like that make your day.

I hear that where I am going, it will be hotter, and less tolerable in terms of food, so I am trying to enjoy every meal. I am well into my second book, and we are just sitting here waiting to be taken to the final destination. I will let you know the mailing address when I get there. Not much else to say. I am with a good bunch, and we intend to make the best of it. Be home in a jiffy.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Ice cream bars

All things are relative. Sleeping in a tent, on a cot, with fifty other guys sounds kind of crappy. But when it is 10 o'clock at night and the outdoor temperature is 111 degrees, and the tent is air conditioned, it doesn't sound so bad. I was actually cold this first night in Kuwait. Supposed to enter Iraq sometime today. Three hours of sleep last night. Ice cream bar with coffee for breakfast. Can't beat it, huh?

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

En route

Flying first class so far. Can't complain about that. We made it to a USO lounge in Germany. Hot as hell waiting to leave in CA, but my only thought is that tomorrow will be hotter. I am lucky that I am going in late summer headed into fall. So far so good. See everyone soon.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I'm off

I am leaving Mom and Dad's to go to Camp Pendleton (via Tom and Mere's) tonight. I get up at a ridiculous hour and then the long journey begins. All is well. I will update soon.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Leaving on a jet plane.

As the consistency of the rumors continues, all signs point to a Tuesday departure. Probably get into Kuwait or thereabouts after a day or so, and then it is hard to tell how long it will take to get to where I am going. I tend to think only that I will know that I have arrived when they tell me to get off the plane/truck. Up to that point, it is unknown to me. I don't know when I will have e-mail access to the web once I arrive, so for a while it may be somewhat spotty. I am sure that things will settle into a fairly predicatable pattern later on, though. I have been trying to savor every taco or ice cream cone I am having. Maggie lined up a couple's massage today which was nice. Torrey Pines is a great place.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Tired of waiting

I know that some of you are wondering why I have not been putting any updates here. Well, quite simply, nothing has changed. We still waste a lot of time everyday, with no real plan. The most current rumors having us leaving next week, early. If I were a betting man, I would bet on Tuesday. They won't tell us, of course, but these are the rumors. The way I see it, the sooner I leave, the sooner I get back. I will update this site whenever something changes.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Camp Pendleton

I just left the 'field' after the past few days sleeping under the stars at Camp Pendleton.  We were out practicing mass casualty scenarios and delivering the medical care that we hope will not be necessary.  It was hot.  Damn hot.  We spent a lot of time baking in the sun.  Kind of austere living, just a bivy on a cot in the desert.  Actually the nights were the best part.  But MRE's get old in a hurry.  Went to a barbeque joint with Mom and Dad tonight.  Ribs were awesome.  Had a beer, ribs and stole some of Dad's fries.  Still a couple more weeks here, I guess.  Noone is willing to give us any more details.  I will when I can.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Hurry up and wait

So, the real waiting begins.  I spent most of today, the first day, standing around on the 'grinder' at Camp Pendleton, going through the check-in process.  Seems like an odd term, and I have no clue where it comes from.  What it is, is a large asphalt parking lot.   Probably spent 5 to 6 hours standing around.  Pretty hot, too.  Anyway, nothing but more rumors about where I will be going and when I will be leaving.  Just looks like I will be here for around another 2 to 4 weeks.  More to follow....

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Getting ready....

I am getting close to leaving for California. I report to my unit on the 18th of July. They tell me that I will have a week of 'orientation' followed by an undetermined amount of waiting time. So my actual departure time from the U.S. may be the middle of August, if you listen to all of the rumors. I will post more details as I learn more....