T-Back Thurs: Emails From Afghanistan: My Boss, aka: ‘That Guy I Wouldn’t Want Running An Elevator For Me’

Yet another email I dispatched from Camp Dwyer, 2012:

Around 1730hrs a truck pulls up outside my office at LSA 2. I didn’t see who was in the truck, but I figured I was about to have a visitor. (I’m really smart that way) After the truck had been literally blocking my door for about five minutes, Mike Smith (My Manager. The BBB: Billeting BIG BOSS) walks in holding up a pack of L&M cigarettes. Now remember, I have not seen this guy for the day-and-a-half he has been “back” on Dwyer.

“Anyone in here smoke these?” were the first words out of his mouth.
I look up from my personal emails and say, “Dunno. Lashonda smokes, but afraid I don’t know her brand.” (She was out of the office, actually smoking at this time)

“Well, I wish whoever is smoking these would stop doing it on the bench.” (There’s a bench just outside my office door and it sits in a ‘No-Smoking’ area.)

“Sorry Mike; not on ‘bench patrol duty’ today. Could’ve been anybody; probably a Marine with a rifle or a Jordanian with a goat. Did you trek all the way across this burning desert to tell me this? Or do you have some business here? Oh and welcome back by the way.” (Saturated sarcasm, I’m afraid.)

“Uh, no… You do realize we have a serious situation on our hands in Billeting?” (Well, duh. You’re the schmuck who has been gone, not me). I just gave him my best *You’re fucking kidding me, right? Lance, peering-over-his-glasses look.*

Are You Kidding Me

He continues, struggling now to maintain his Authority Voice, “Uh, of course you know everyone is gonna have to ‘get on board’ with all this new responsibility.”

I continue *Lance-looking* him.

 “I’m going to want you to run LSA 1 from this office; (LSA 2) are you ready to take ownership of this mission?”

“Sure, no problem,” I said. “But you do realize, Michael, that LSA 1 is over a half-mile from here and I have no vehicle?”

“Uh, I didn’t mean right now. But just as soon as Shannon gets everything settled down. Then we can come up with a plan forward.”

“Sorry Mike, but I’m not in the ‘Plan-Forward coming up with’ business anymore; above my pay grade, you see. But as soon as YOU come up with a Plan, forward or otherwise, I will be happy to follow it.”

*Looks hurt & confused* Mikey does.

“Well, uh” he stammers, “Everyone is gonna have to get on-board with all this.”

You mentioned that. Anything else? How was your R&R?” I said, hoping to change the subject and also out of mean-spiritedness, because I knew he was going to tell me something stupid. He didn’t disappoint:

“I had the flu for the first week and spent the next week getting over it.”

“Damn rotten luck. Perhaps DynCorp will allow you a ‘do-over.’ Whaddya think?”

*gears grinding as he searches—in vain—for something to say: painful to witness the mechanics of this*

“Nice chair,” he said finally, plopping his fat ass down in a chair Shannon had liberated from a Marine Corps office in one of the LSAs we’re taking over.

“Yeah, Shannon delivered that to us yesterday; nice to finally have a proper office chair in here after twelve months.”

“I have chairs on order for Billeting,” he reminded me.

“Yes, and ever since forever, even before I got here; still no sign of them,” I reminded him.

“Uh, yeah… they’re stuck at the Pakistani border; they’re gonna fly ‘em out.”

“Whatever. By the way, you do know these other two chairs are my personal property, purchased with my personal money, so don’t get any ideas.”

“Yes, yes, I know. I know those belong to you and your office.”

“Of course.”

I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation; I think you get the drift and the general tenor of it.

After leaving work for the day I stopped by the Housing Office in the DynCorp LSA Compound (where there’s a tent I call ‘home’), and caught Shannon there, still working. (See? He does deserve to be Billeting Manager.)

Lance and Shannon

Shannon and Lance

“Mister Duckworth!” I saluted.

“Mister Marcom!” he returned.

“What up Duck?”

*gives me his best ‘exasperated’ look*

“Yeah, I know; they cancelled Christmas. What the fuck’s going on with MJS?” I asked as discreetly as I could; (there were others present) which was none too discreet I fear, but don’t matter; All Departments despise Monsieur le Mike, aka Michael J. Smith. (Not sure, but I think the ‘J’ stands for ‘Jagoff’)

“Don’t worry; it’s still gonna happen.”

“Christmas?”

“Yeah, an’ New Year’s too.”
“Ok, I’ll cool my jets an’ cancel my de-mobe.” (de-mobilization)

“Lance Bro,” (he sometimes calls me ‘Bro’) “Mike went to HR on me today.”

“Get the fuck out!” I said, honestly shocked. “Some brass balls on this guy.”

“Yeah, he told HR he couldn’t work with me anymore.”

“Pardon me a moment Shannon, while I fall down on this plywood floor and laugh my ass off. It’ll just take a sec.”

“Dude, (he sometimes calls me ‘Dude’) I’m serious! He went to HR on me and HR told me later about it and also told me to sit tight an’ chill; he will be leaving us soon.”

“Before Christmas, let’s hope,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah. Listen, Mike came to see me after he left LSA 2. He asked me, ‘What’s wrong with Lance?’ I tole him, I said, ‘Mike, every time you go to LSA 2 and talk to Lance, you come back and ask me this same stupid shit.’ An’ he says, ‘I don’t think Lance likes me. Why doesn’t he like me?’ This mothafucka is stupid.”

“Yeah Shannon, ya think? We all know this. Hell, tell the sonuvabitch to ask me next time, and you know what? It’s not as if I haven’t told him more than once to his face my issues with him. This guy wears me out.” (And I wonder why I have not been promoted)

“Yeah. You’re right.”

“Listen to me Shannon, take your ass on outta here and go to bed; it’s late.”

“Okay Brother (sometimes he calls me ‘Brother’), I’m heading out now.”

“Good. See you tomorrow. Night.”

“Peace out, My Friend.” (He sometimes even calls me “Friend”)

Today, a magical thing happened to me.

I’ll edit this later…

But for now I gotta go see a goat about a man. Be right back…

******

I woke up.

I woke up happy.

This has not happened in some years.

Why? Why now? Why today?

Well shit! I have no fucking clue, but I do know this:

It was a welcome change. I woke up Happy!

Fucking Happy!

And ’till now, I have maintained it.

And I am gonna embrace it ’till it leaves.

***

Now I had planned a very verbose post about my theories of depression but then I said,

“Naw! There are others who dedicate their lives to depression. They live for this shit.”

Who am I? I just went passing through…

“Just passing,” Thank You,

“Mind the gap.”

(You probably have to be British to appreciate that last bit)

Here’s to “Happy Days Are Here Again!”

(I’ll take them)

Evey’ one.

Y’all should too.

well we will marry and tarry

There

Here is a happy song to get you ‘in the mood’:

The moodiness of happiness:

“The Line Forms to the Right”

Just choose Happy

 

Please Don’t Shit in my Showers (a revisit)

Dispatches From Afghanistan: Mouses, Goats, and Snakes Oh My!

The Jordanians are coming: Specifically the JAF. (Jordanian Armed Forces) They will be living here in my LSA 2. Wonderful. Each of my tents have a capacity of 120 U.S. Marines. They ain’t comphy, but they cozy and U.S. Marines do not complain. They are Marines. The JAF contingent will top off at one hundred. They have been promised three of my tents. The math doesn’t work for me. I need every tent I have (twenty-four) to serve the Marines who transit through Dwyer on their way to the war.

After some lobbying (and predictions of pissed off Marines who won’t have a tent to sleep in), I got the JAF allocation down to two tents. Why after all these years the Jordanian government has decided to send troops to southern Afghanistan, I am not sure. But I have a theory:  U.S. Department of State. Yep. Not military necessity. Not a request from the coalition of governments already represented here. Not the U.S. Military. Nope. Politics.

I have nothing against Jordan or the Jordanian people. In fact, I love them. I lived and worked in Amman Jordan for six months back in ‘07 while working to close out the paperwork on the USAID Rural Water Project we had completed in Iraq. (Bechtel, the prime contractor, had decided there was no point to continually put our lives at risk in Iraq doing paperwork we could just as easily finish in their Jordan offices).

I had a meeting with the Mayor’s Cell here on Dwyer. (The ‘Mayor’s Cell’ is the term used for the administrative branch of the Marines who actually own Camp Dwyer.) All decisions of the Mayor are final. Except, I found out, when it comes to the JAF and their accommodations.  Apprehensive over the impending arrival of the Jordanians, I asked the Mayor, “Does the Mayor’s Cell have any special directive for treatment of the JAF?”

wpid-IMG_0685-2011-06-26-11-39

“Not at all Son. Treat ‘em like Marines.”

“Yessir!” (This was the response I had been hoping for)

With the help of the Labor Department and a few of my staff, I readied the two tents for the Jordanians. We were told to expect roughly one hundred men, so we set up fifty-five military cots in each tent. These tents in LSA 2 are best described as ‘Spartan.’ There are four ‘doors’ which are simply canvas flaps about four feet wide. When the wind is up the flaps flap open allowing Afghanistan to blow inside. The occupants are not allowed to tie the flaps shut, as this creates a safety hazard in the event of a fire—no quick egress. Each of the tents has two HVAC units. They are inadequate for the weather extremes here. The tents are in disrepair. They leak, they sag, they have mold. I cannot get approval from the Mayor’s Cell through DynCorp to provide anything more than patchy maintenance. “A lick and a promise.” That’s all. They tell me, “No more funding is available for LSA 2. Deal with it.”

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Please Don’t Shit in My Shower

Dispatches From Afghanistan: Mouses, Goats, and Snakes Oh My!

The Jordanians are coming: Specifically the JAF. (Jordanian Armed Forces) They will be living here in my LSA 2. Wonderful. Each of my tents have a capacity of 120 U.S. Marines. They ain’t comphy, but they cozy and U.S. Marines do not complain. They are Marines. The JAF contingent will top off at one hundred. They have been promised three of my tents. The math doesn’t work for me. I need every tent I have (twenty-four) to serve the Marines who transit through Dwyer on their way to the war.

After some lobbying (and predictions of pissed off Marines who won’t have a tent to sleep in), I got the JAF allocation down to two tents. Why after all these years the Jordanian government has decided to send troops to southern Afghanistan, I am not sure. But I have a theory:  U.S. Department of State. Yep. Not military necessity. Not a request from the coalition of governments already represented here. Not the U.S. Military. Nope. Politics.

I have nothing against Jordan or the Jordanian people. In fact, I love them. I lived and worked in Amman Jordan for six months back in ‘07 while working to close out the paperwork on the USAID Rural Water Project we had completed in Iraq. (Bechtel, the prime contractor, had decided there was no point to continually put our lives at risk in Iraq doing paperwork we could just as easily finish in their Jordan offices).

I had a meeting with the Mayor’s Cell here on Dwyer. (The ‘Mayor’s Cell’ is the term used for the administrative branch of the Marines who actually own Camp Dwyer.) All decisions of the Mayor are final. Except, I found out, when it comes to the JAF and their accommodations.  Apprehensive over the impending arrival of the Jordanians, I asked the Mayor, “Does the Mayor’s Cell have any special directive for treatment of the JAF?”

wpid-IMG_0685-2011-06-26-11-39

“Not at all Son. Treat ‘em like Marines.”

“Yessir!” (This was the response I had been hoping for)

With the help of the Labor Department and a few of my staff, I readied the two tents for the Jordanians. We were told to expect roughly one hundred men, so we set up fifty-five military cots in each tent. These tents in LSA 2 are best described as ‘Spartan.’ There are four ‘doors’ which are simply canvas flaps about four feet wide. When the wind is up the flaps flap open allowing Afghanistan to blow inside. The occupants are not allowed to tie the flaps shut, as this creates a safety hazard in the event of a fire—no quick egress. Each of the tents has two HVAC units. They are inadequate for the weather extremes here. The tents are in disrepair. They leak, they sag, they have mold. I cannot get approval from the Mayor’s Cell through DynCorp to provide anything more than patchy maintenance. “A lick and a promise.” That’s all. They tell me, “No more funding is available for LSA 2. Deal with it.”

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Dispatches From Iraq: The Man Who Blew Up Goats

In ‘08 I gave my notice to Parsons and went to work for an Iraqi company called Leadstay. Leadstay was the outfit that provided all the heavy equipment and operators we employed at Camp Wolf in Anbar Province. They worked under the direction of our EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) guys, (Tetra Tech) helping them to locate and destroy the UO (unexploded ordnance) that Saddam had so graciously left behind.

goats

The project, USACE CMC (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Coalition Munitions Clearance project), was a noble one and I worked for them two years, “Kicking bombs” as my IT guy referred to it.

Previously I had worked for Parsons on the USAID (U.S. Dept. of State) Rural Water Project. We built water treatment plants for rural villages all over Iraq providing clean potable water to people who had never put lips to same. Spent two years doing that. I was in the ‘Construction’ business. At CMC I had moved into the ‘Destruction’ business, or for you literary types: ‘deconstruction business’. The circle was now complete.

CMC was winding down in ’08 after having destroyed roughly four hundred thousand short tons of old live ordnance during the five years they had been ‘kicking the bombs’ which the bad guys would surely have turned into IED’s.

I needed to find a new gig.

leadstay_operators

Through my connections with Leadstay I was hired on as ‘Business Development Manager.” They paid me fifteen thousand bucks a month (In cash if I so desired) plus two percent of any new contracts I landed. Potentially very lucrative.

The Leadstay ‘Man Camp’ was in the ‘Red Zone’ just outside the wire of Camp Victory, which bordered BIAP (Baghdad International Air Port). Electricity was hit or miss. The power grid from Baghdad was kind of like Texas weather; “If you don’t like it just wait a minute and it’ll change.” We had backup generators, but they were only for show. The shower in my hooch often gave me little shocks, reminding me that “OSHA does not live here.” All the Iraqis (and some of us) were armed. I wasn’t, but I had my eye on an AK-47 for sale in the duty-free shop Ahmed owned.  Mostly the Duty-Free was a liquor store.  We were only allowed to drink booze on Thursday nights. (Of course we mangled that rule, being ‘By God Americans!”)

I lasted about a month.

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