Life goes on here at Joint Base Balad (JBB). A few weeks ago, I was asked to give a talk on divorce law. I’m no family law expert, but I do know more than a layman on the subject. It was a conference with about 20 chaplains, and the purpose of the speech was to give an introduction to divorce and family law issues, because chaplains often counsel people who are confronting this topic.
The talk was well received. Here is a picture of me giving the powerpoint presentation, with my pistol on, of course. Believe it or not, this is the best picture that was taken (not sure why my arm is like that):
This morning, the JBB Olympics kicked off. I participated in one event, the “Desert Firefighter Challenge.” This involved putting on my body armor and helmet, and then grabbing a firehose and running up to the top of the Holt Stadium. Then I had to pull up another firehose, and run back down to the bottom. Then you hammered a tire across a bench (not sure what that had to do with firefighting), and ran and got yet another firehose which was connected to a fire truck. You run 50 yards with that, and then shoot water to knock a basketball off an orange pylon. The final event was dragging a 185-pound sand-filled dummy about 50 more yards. This was a killer for me, because I was already weighed down with my body armor. I nearly gave up, but couldn’t do so with 50 people watching me and being the highest ranking person out there. Someone finally told me to stand up and lean backwards to get the best angle at dragging this dummy, which helped greatly.
I finished the Desert Firefighter Challenge in under 5 minutes, which was slow. The other guy against whom I was competing beat my time, but suffered more than I did and had to lie down for 10 minutes tended to by the JBB Fire Department. It was the most exhausted I’ve been in a long time. At least I got the JBB Olympics T-Shirt!!
I hope you can read the events. Some are not what I’d call traditional Olympiad canon. By the way, the quest for T-shirts is another subject all in itself. Suffice it to say the military spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on these t-shirts, and I often wake up very early to go on 5-k runs to get my share.
In my office, I meet lots of people. According to my statistics, I’ve had client counseling sessions with 600 people over the past 5 months, which comes out to about 6-7 people per day meeting with me face-to-face, sometimes more than once. I meet with many other people in different contexts, and the Legal Assistance side of my job has handled over 2,000 client interactions (mostly powers of attorney or notaries) since my arrival here in November 2008.
When I meet with people, I always let them tell me their story. There are people who complain about how their commander is treating them. Problems of all sorts with the military bureaucracy, or getting the correct pay. The most common problems I deal with are family law related, mostly divorce and child custody or child support. I sometimes hear strange and unusual stories. For example, there was a first sergeant who was complaining about the troops he led. He was in a unit that did convoys: Basically big MRAP’s going around escorting supply trucks from base to base here in Iraq. His soldiers are very professional and on-the-ball when preparing for or going on a convoy. This is appropriate, because when you are outside-the-wire (off-base), you have to be very vigilant at all times. But as soon as they return to their base, these soldiers became a big bunch of prima-donnas and crybabies. The soldiers would complain if one got a cookie and the other didn’t, or any other perceived slight or injustice. It was very amusing to hear things like this about the soldiers who are out here in Iraq going on dangerous missions and doing fine work.
I met another young man who came to my office demanding to know how he could become an infantryman, as he had previously been promised. Over 90% of the military personnel here never go outside the wire, and that is where it is safest. So it was unusual to see a person who demanded to not only go outside the wire, but to do so as an infantryman, clearing buildings and going on patrols. He somewhat reminded me of myself when I was 20 years old, actually.
That’s enough writing for today. There is always loads of useful work to do here, and it is never boring for a moment in Iraq.
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