Watching the Inauguration

 One thing about being here is that there are almost never holidays. I was lucky just to get Christmas day off. Many people here never get a day off. New Years day and Martin Luther King day were both NOT holidays, and I had to work my usual shift.   Inauguration day was no holiday, as it was for the millions of people who took time off to go watch in DC.


At 8PM my time, I found myself waiting for the shift change brief. Someone put up the TV feed on one of the large monitors, and a bunch of 3rd ESC soldiers and I watched the inauguration of Barrack Obama.


It was a nice event, and people were all happy and optimistic. We enjoyed watching the inauguration. I can’t say I thought much of that benediction, with the strange racial rhymes (Brown can stick around, yellow can be mellow?). The speech was OK, I thought Barrack gave the normal platitudes, and actually his speech could have been given by either a republican or democrat.


One thing I want to say about the administration of the 35-word oath. People stumble during these all the time. In the military, people have to recite these oaths, and we have much worse mix-ups than what happened with Chief Justice Roberts and Obama. If you ever find yourself administering an oath, remember to give it in short phrases, 5-6 words at a time at most. If you try to do more, it will get confused and cause embarrassment. Neither guy is to blame, this is just a normal thing that happens!


The C-RAM System

This post is completely taken from public source information — and contains NO information AT ALL  from any classified source.


OK, now for my discussion of the C-RAM system mentioned in my last post.
The term stands for “Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM)”.  It
is an adaptation of the Navy’s Phalanx system, which is used to shoot
down anti-ship missiles.  Basically it’s a giant gattling gun.  The
purpose of the C-RAM  is to identify, track, and engage the
incoming threat munitions.   It was installed in order to decrease the
number of casualties caused by attacks using rockets, artillery, and
mortars in Iraq.  Tests showed that C-RAM had a 60 to 70 percent
shoot-down capability.  So basically, if there is a mortar or rocket
attack, the C-RAM fires thousands of its rounds to shoot down the
incoming projectile.

Here’s a picture of a C-RAM from the web:

For all you OPSEC sticklers:  All of the above information is publically
available, and was taken from the following websites:
Back in 2005-2006, there used to be frequent mortar attacks, which
earned the base the name “Mortaritaville.”   

The C-RAM helps me to
sleep well at night, knowing that we are well defended against any
attack here on JBB.  Like I say, it is very safe here on the base.

  My biggest fear, actually, is getting hit by one of
the giant trucks or military vehicles that drive all over the base.  Of
course, you could get into a traffic accident in Camarillo, CA, just as
easily as here.

Support from Home

Over the holidays, I was pleased to see a great deal of packages and letters come to us from the USA.   Mylegal office, and indeed every office and shop on Joint Base Balad, was overflowing with letters and Christmas cards, cookies and sweets, and care packages of all sorts.

When we get these letters, often they are put up on a bulletin board for all to see.  We get other things too.  A school full of kids all got assigned to write letters, and I got an interesting picture of myself drawn by a 2nd grader.


I think that thing on my head is a helmet.

There are other things that are sent, like posters and flags signed by groups of people.  Here is one example signed by a bunch of kids in a daycare (you can’t make out all the kids’ writing on the paper), which is now hanging in the legal office:


And like I said, there are walls and walls around Balad dedicated to all the letters and cards we got from home.  It’s always inspirational to see a few dozen letters sent to ‘any soldier.’

The other aspect of support from home is the care packages.  These came in great abundance during the Christmas season.  Our office was overflowing with cookies, sweets, candy-canes, gingerbread, etc.  And care packages often contain other items of use, like snacks, soap, razors, toothbrushes with toothpaste or floss, handi-wipes, books and magazines, stationary and pens, articles of clothing (like socks or caps) and countless other knick-knacks.  Most items are claimed right away.  Some items linger around for quite a while.  For example, we get tons of playing cards, which tend to go unclaimed, and now there are over 50 decks in our break room.  Cookies and gummy bears would be gone instantly, and beef jerky tends to be popular.  This is not to criticize people who send playing cards, everything is appreciated in a care package, and there is obviously a great deal of thought that goes into each package.  Some packages are the results of group efforts, and you can tell that some groups send out a great many packages because you see the same group’s return address on packages all over the base.  And of course, whenever I get a package, I like to send a note of thanks to the giver.

Here is a picture of our break room, which has a special wooden cupboard just to hold all the goodies that get sent to us:


So the support from home is always appreciated.  Even the decks of cards and old mini-soap bars from hotels that are sent to us are appreciated (if not used).  All over the base, there is a general feeling that America supports us, and that is wonderful.  My job is not particularly dangerous, as is the case for 95% of the soldiers over here.  But we are all grateful for the support from home!