Friday, May 28, 2004

Kung Foo Fighting

For the last year in a half my Marines have been going through the new Marine Corps Martial Arts Course, it was directed from higher up that all Marines must be a certain belt by so and so date (remember I'm a Squid so it's not required). Back in the rear I was the only Corpsman between 2 squadrons and they had a course running every other week. So every other week I was the medical coverage, couldn't find anybody else to cover it so I could get my belt. The training was painful, harsh but it came in handy. During that time I spent a lot of time taking pictures of and sometimes laughing. The instructors have been telling me "One of these days Doc you're going to go through the class" Eep, time to curtail my laughing. At long last, they're wish came true and my name my name appeared on a list for a tan belt course that was taking place in a couple days. The head instructor had an evil smirk on his face when I showed up that morning. What have I got myself into? It started off easy enough, stretching out and warming up exercises. We learned some of the basic techniques that morning then our first round of body hardening. Pretty much striking blows upon on each other in painful places to deaden the nerves in that area using kicks, forearm blows and punches. Think someone has it in for me. Ouch. Learned shoulder rolls, different kicks, joint manipulation and different blows. Twice a day body hardening, ugh! Somehow I kept ending up partnered with the evil instructor, please just let me die, don't kick me again! After each round of body hardening I wiped away my tears like a man. Sheesh that hurts! No I actually didn't cry but I did yelp a few times, believe me I wasn't the only one! Considering how many classes I've watched and taken pictures of I should have been a lot smoother and gracious in handling my pain, but maybe there was a little payback in there? Watching is a different ball game. Promise to my self, I will try not to laugh at the Marines taking the training. I stopped limping after a couple of days and with the memory of pain fading it's probably going to be a hard promise to keep. Hmm, there's the course for the next belt on the schedule! Time to hide, today anyway.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Advice to the Squadron that's replacing us someday

One of my Gunny's that used to be with us is in our replacement squadron. He's been passing the link to my fotopage so they can see what to expect. So here are some words of advice:

1) Medical folk: bring lots of cold medications, when you first get we experienced a boot camp like crud, instruct your guys on wearing insect repellent, expect there to be spikes of people getting the runs. We're trying to leave you guys the sick call AMAL that we were issued out here. We could use a 20 foot eye chart for physicals though. A more detailed list is heading your way by email soon.

2) Bring power converters with the different attachments, if you have electronic gear try picking up stuff that can take either 110 or 220, specially battery chargers. School your guys to check the voltage before plugging anything in, just because it looks like an American power strip doesn't mean that it's running 110 (lot's of fried expensive stuff in trash cans out here). DVD players and laptops can usually take both 110/220 check just in case. We're probably going to pass along a lot of our gear that we've personally bought to you guys (maybe for a small fee in some cases, don't worry it will be worth it, Marines have go to take care of each other). Don't see much use in carrying around a bunch of 220 electrical gear back home. Besides it wasn't all that expensive.

3) If you start up a fotopage like mine, it will make families back home really happy, just make sure to clear all the pictures that you post with the base Public Affairs Office. It will save you grief later when your page gets shut down and families are upset. They will come by in the first few weeks that you are here and tell you what you can and can't take pictures of. It's pretty much common sense. Buy a THUMB DRIVE before you come out they're cheap, right now they're not letting you plug your personal laptops in at the internet cafe so the only way to upload is a thumb drive or CD, thumb drive is a lot easier to use. Also compress your pictures to 800 pixels wide before you put them on your thumb drive if you're using fotopages. It takes longer to upload if you don't compress them first and let fotopages do it for you, so save everybody time and bandwidth and do it yourself.

4) We have a pretty big BX for being it in Iraq but that's only because it's in an old warehouse. The stock changes daily so don't expect what you saw yesterday or last week to be there today. So if you see something you like when you're in there. Buy it right then because it might be gone an hour later (or don't buy it and save some of your cash) Don't worry about bringing CDR's they have those at the BX, also have a small selection of digital cameras (4-10) at any given time, I would advise buying any kind of electronics gear you want before you leave the states. Mail ordering does work but companies like Amazon won't ship electronic gear out here, probably for liability reasons which I can understand, boxes that show up out here are sometimes pretty jacked up. Something else your loved one might like is for you to bring your own webcam which I haven't seen sold here.

5) The local merchants sell bootlegged DVD's, cigarettes, electrical appliances, bikes, crappy generators, fridges, satellite dishes, TV's, rugs, bland food, sewing services (nametapes, patches, embroidery) cheap tools, sodas, cigars and touristy stuff. If you need anything special ordered you can ask and they will tell you if they can get it for you. Sometimes they also have some unknown brand computer gear, hubs and microphone and headphone sets.

6) There are a bunch of military support sites that send care packages out to members, they kick butt! Check out Keystone Marines, Operation Sandbox, Soldiers Angels and Books for Soldiers (links on the side bar).

7) Phone calls, mail and internet are cheap out here, call home and write!

Friday, May 21, 2004

yes E-blogging works!

Well that was my first try at E-blogging, now just have to figure out how to wrap the text!

A few words on Sandflies

Sand Flies about a quarter size of a mosquito, they move faster, barely visible to the eye unless in full light and they don't usually attack in the daylight. I've seen them in closed quarters fly right through citronella candle smoke like it wasn't even there (don't burn citronella candles in closed quarters, not because of the smell or chance of asphyxiation but because it leaves black grime all over every smooth surface that's really unsightly). They're viscous, they don't take their fill in one place like mosquitoes, they come back again and again trying to find that perfect spot to bite. They love soft tissues of the ankle, undersides of the wrist, back of the hands and fingers but will generally bite you anywhere. Single flies have been known to bite sleepers over a hundred times in a single night (who in the hell did that study? Sadist! I would have squished the little bugger). It's not uncommon for my Marines to show up after walking to the shower once with 6 or more bites on their ankles because they forgot to wear bug repellent. They itch just like mosquito bites but without the big slow mosquito to squish. The thing the medical community is worried about is
Leishmaniasis, a parasite that is vector born by the sand flies, meaning it makes a circle from the sand fly to a host (us) grows into nice little macrophages which the sand fly laps up and takes to the next person. It causes weeping sores that do not heal which sometimes end up looking like little volcanos. A majority of the sand flies likely don't have the parasite but there have been 70 or so cases already reported coming out of the country which is actually a small number compared to how many people
that get bit. The numbers are probably higher but just aren't getting reported. So part of my job is to go around preaching the values of wearing DEET, yes it's smelly but it does keep them from biting. People come to me with bug bites and I ask them why aren't they wearing insect repellent and they say that they didn't have time, after a few nights of not being able to sleep because they itch so bad and can't get comfortable usually helps my message go through. Marines are still stubborn, but I'm getting fewer
patients with bug bites so I guess some of my preaching is working.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

moving day

I tried emailing this in but it didn't work, will have more to post soon..

My unit just moved to another location on the flight line so there goes my nice private little medical bunker. Medical, Admin, Ops and the Ready Room are all in a big bunker, too bad I'm only getting a quarter of the space that I was before but then again I'm not living in my work center either, moved back into the general population. For the last 3 weeks the entire unit has been dreading the move, many pissed off people, grouchy, bitching, packing and condensing everything down. Then when it happened, we were done in under 30 hours, Semper Gumby, that's us. Other then the actual move (lot's of lifting and lugging around heavy stuff) and loss of com for a few days it went surprisingly smooth. My new office isn't quite the cool bat cave that I had before but across the hall from me is the internet and phone. The only thing that I had down in the original bat cave was power. Every time we had a dust storm and I forgot to shut the airlocks (all the bunkers have double steel airlock doors) everything would be covered in dust, no dust here. First few days we were hoofing it up to our work center from our new living arrangements (mile and a half walk uphill) but tonight they got the bus back from the shop and so we're cooking with gas again.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Who's behind Doc in the Box

This is part of a letter I wrote responding to an email with some editorial changes. Little about my self and what I think about Milblogs.

First off I think this is the latest voice of this generation and we're still in the infancy of the blog movement. I don't think it will replace the regular sources of news but it does give the average reader a taste of someone's life here on the ground. Blogs are just giving more people voices, if you're doing something interesting or a good writer, people will read your stuff. I'm not even among the better war blogger's out here, I like blogging but I know when I'm beat. My main connection to the world is through my fotopage, I've been in the top twenty for the last 7 months or so, since I got out here I've been number one or in the top five out of 15000 or so fotopages. That's my real love, but I'm a big follower of blogs, I've been hanging around the blogging circles for a while, making comments on web sites and message boards till peer pressure from some fellow bloggers led me to start up a "respectable" blog.

I started out with a fotopage by way of Salam Pax the Iraqi blogger. He had a link from his blog to a fotopage that he started up, at that time I was using an MSN group to post pictures, and fotopages offered me unlimited posting, blog like features like commenting and a great sense of community. Lot's of like minded people there that leave comments on your site (except for political troll that has been leaving comments over there). I've always been a shutterbug and it grew to a point that my guys always wanted copies of my pictures, it was easier posting them online then giving out individual pictures or emailing them, 380 Marines, too much work for one person to handle without it being a fulltime job. So here I am the unit's unofficial photographer. Back in the rear, I publish a photo CD every 6 months or so of my unit's adventures (or when I get enough good pictures to fill up a CD) which I sell to the members my unit, proceeds go towards new equipment (cameras, blank CD's, CD stompers, printers, etc, low overhead). I made a slideshow video with music a month after coming out here titled Kuwait Take One and everyone started offering money to me for copies to send home to their families. That's become one of my side projects out here. Just finished "Iraq Take " with a little bit of fanfare. The fotopage lets the family back home know that their loved ones are doing alright. It's grown a bit out of my control in some ways, if don't post pictures frequently and my CO and SgtMaj get on my case (in a joking manner, I think) and I get hate mail or sad comments from family members. So the fotopage is here to stay.

As for the blog, you've probably noticed I've tried to stay away from the personal viewpoints on politics. I'm a supporter of the war, but I don't really lean to the right. I don't always agree with reasoning that they used to justify coming in here, there were many good concrete reasons like Saddam using chemical weapons on his own people, mass graves, etc. Saddam was a pretty bad dude and I have a firm belief that the world is a much better place without him. Of course there is no clear cut black and white answer to exactly we came out here, maybe it was the war on terror but only historians further down the road are going to be able to give the world the true story. People can dance on streets yelling for answers and protesting but I don't think it's going to make it come any quicker.

Terrorists need to be stopped, now do I believe that we can do it? I look at it this way, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, these guys are some pretty evil bastards in my book.

A little bit of personal history on myself, I came in originally in 91, missing the entire first gulf war while at school. Was stationed at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station with an F/A 18 squadron then at Naval Weapons Station China Lake. Got out of the Navy in 99 to pursue a different career field, was out for 3 years in school and worked in a field totally away from medicine. I'm one of those that came back in because of 9/11. Figured my skills could better used here. So I'm doing my little bit, saving lives when I can, making sure my guys stay healthy and keeping the families in touch with their loved ones. A side note it gives the rest of the world a snapshot of my mundane life (most days). As for the legal aspects of my internet life, I've been running all of the pictures that go on my fotopage through the base public affairs office for clearance (they've been cleared) and as for my blog I really don't say anything that would violate OPSEC, keeping a fairly low profile by not rocking the boat. Yes I have links to people that are Anti-American but that's deliberate choice on my part. Sometimes it's good to hear what the other side is saying. I think the best way to brain wash someone is to only give them one point of view. If you want that, go listen to Rush. I don't tell of troop movements or anything that plans into the future. Definitely don't talk about people that have died, that's a big no no. There is no real message behind my blog or fotopage except for saying we're regular people out here too. It has increased the size of my voice, I've had more attention in the last year then I've had most of my life. If something does happen to me while I'm out here at least I'll have left some kind of mark on the world. Plus this is a great spring board to see what people think about my writing and pictures. Who knows, I could find a future doing something of this sort.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Also doing some editing on my blog list

I've added a few new milbloggers to my blog list that are out here in Iraq, all 3 of them are first reads for me, Leviraq tells a chilling story about what happened to his translator e-rocky-confidential is becomeing quite a good read and J from Iraq Calling seems to be a preventive med tech in the army, kinda close to my work. Give them a warm welcome. I also moved some people down to the back from Iraq section and even though I don't agree with much of what River has to say, she does an alright job doing it and it's helpful to get both sides of the story so she's staying in spite of the browbeating I've taken by unknown people. I don't want to get caught leaning any direction one way or another and unless I know who you are, don't expect me to have my blog jump though ideological hoops for your beliefs no matter how logical they are and you're probably right but it's not going to change what I'm saying.

We've come a long way

I've become a horrible blogger, I haven't been writing daily about many of my experiences. Like today, the squadron knows that I spend a bit of the time on the internet posting pictures, so they kicked my name up for the internet duty at the Segovia phone center. I was overseas in the nineties doing the unit deployment thing with a Marine F/A 18 squadron, 94 and 95 did 6 month tours that included Iwakuni Japan, Okinawa, Darwin Australia, Thailand and South Korea. Back in the day it was expensive to call home. A dollar plus a minute, we had one guy in my old unit that had a 14 thousand dollar phone bill, no kidding! In most big cities, you can get a person knocked off for that much or buy a new small car. It was a bit of craziness. Now I'm out here in the middle of the nowhere, desert for miles and miles around, closer to danger and further away. Now it's only 4 cents a minute to call home, that's better then my long distance in the rear. Online time is free, high speed, some computers have web cams and we're the people running the system, it's not too bad of a deal. Units take turns on who's running the cafe and everyone is happy. I have plenty of bandwidth post pictures or video conference if I feel the need and I can use my own computer. I'm in awe at how well it's working out, there are minor glitches but most people are just happy having the system up. We've came a long way in the last few years.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Done with Iraq take One

There are some things that you miss a lot when you're out here from back home, having your own shower that you don't have to wear shower shoes into, baths, choosing what you are going to have for dinner, regular clothes, flushing toilets, ice cream (some chow halls have it, not ours), regular TV but I would still have to say that I have it better then anonymous guy. He's probably going house to house, day to day wondering if some Iraqi that looks like everybody else on the street, you know the ones that smile and wave as you drive by, and when you turn around they shoot a RPG up your wazoo. He could be one of those forward highly mobile people that can't get mail from home because everything that they need is on their back. Guess I'd be pretty tense too if that was me, or maybe not. At least he has time to get on the internet. Just wish he would stop bothering me. I'll have to check out some of my milblog buddies out there and see if he's mad at them too. Anyhow it's a done subject for me.

Lost one of our tents last night in a sand storm, full of people but no one was hurt, I don't take pictures but there were a lot taken. I'll see if I can get some. Sorry I haven't been on lately, just finished up the Iraq Take One slideshow, it took up a couple of days of free time but it looks good. They should start coming on to the family members in a few weeks.