March 02, 2005

*Sandbox Dave Interview

Here's a great interview with Dave from Reverse Retna From the Sandbox. I'm particularly pleased with one!

In the extended...

What's the most interesting thing about being in Iraq?

Believe it or not it is the total lack of wonton death and destruction. I've now joined the legions of Bloggers that would like to get the word out that Johnny Jihadist isn’t the boogeyman waiting under every bed here. "The whole situation isn't teetering on the head of pin, Bob (done in my best Wolf Blizter impression)." Don't get me wrong there are people that want to do us harm and want to hurt the stability of the country but they just seem really weak compared to what the media has made them out to be. People are dying, no doubt about that and I really do mourn their loss. But the terrorist are weakening every minute of everyday and that's because of the Americans AND the Iraqis.

At the same time Iraq is getting stronger. The Iraqi forces are becoming more organized and disciplined, schools are being built, there are sewers being installed where there never were before, political discussions of cooperation are taking place, power is being restored (both literally and figuratively). These are the stories that should be told. The dead should be mourned but not dwelt on. All the accomplishments here are going to be the true memorial to everyone that dies fighting on the side of right in this war. So, these are the things we need to focus on and remember to truly honor the fallen. I've gotten way off the point but I thought it needed to be said. The most interesting thing about being in Iraq is that it is actually coming together now and I personally think this is an incredible time to be here and watch a government being built from scratch.

Do you have to stay on the base or can you go places? Are there safe zones?

I personally have to stay on base for the most part. There are some guys that go out everyday. Security patrols, Civil Affairs, Truck Drivers and the like. As far as safe zones, well, we'd like to think that some of them are safe but with the silly little Jihadist "I get 70 some-odd virgins for dying at the hands of the dirty pig nasty Americans" Joy Luck Club running around no where is 100% safe. There has only been one successful attack in our area since I arrived but you always have to stay alert.

Have you met any locals? What is your impression of the Iraqi people?

I actually work with about 12 Interpreters and get to interact with a variety of local media and officials. I think I've posted on this a few times but my overall opinion is that the Iraqis are wonderful people on the norm. You kind of have to handle everything with some tact though. These are also a very proud people and any insinuation that they "need" us or a generalization that terrorist are the same as regular Muslims draws a rather tense non-verbal response. I don't believe either. This is a culture several thousand years in the making. They were around before us and before the extremist and will likely be here long after all that's gone. But for the most part, like with anyone else, if you approach them with respect and try to understand their culture and language then they tend to be extremely warm and open.

What do you do with your down time? Do you get any?

Actually my downtime is really interspersed with my work time. My work goes in spurts so I surf the net, watch T.V., and chit-chat with others here in the building. When I do "get off" for the day I tend to go back to my room to read, work out, and sleep. Really not that much going on over here but I keep well enough entertained.

You seem totally bored with your job over there. Surely there must be some excitement?

I'd like to be able to say that there is but for me it just isn't so. I wouldn't say I'm all that bored though. I have no idea what the hell I'm really doing so there's challenges o'plenty. I've recently taken to calling what I do Gonzo Web design in honor of Hunter S. Thompson. I never really understood his chaotic view of life until I started dealing with this web site. Now I get what it's like to be totally lost and stumbling through something in a totally chaotic way while maintaining the perception of control.

Has being in Iraq changed your perception of the world? How?

The only thing I would say has changed is my perception of Iraqis. I guess I had a certain naivety about their country. I just assumed that because of Saddam it was a third world country (as most ruled by a dictator are) but I found them to be very educated and skilled with technology. My perception of the world as a whole though still stands. It is flat and square and all this "globe" business is just a bunch of bull-hockey.

Do you feel safe where you are stationed?

Actually I really do. Things apparently have improved dramatically from even six months ago. And I have to give a lot of credit to what I call the "trigger-pullers". These are the guys at the gates and out on patrols. They go out everyday and do their job and protect us and the Iraqis. Sometimes it is in a defensive capacity and sometimes it is offensive but with them out there (as my buddy Broadcast Mike would say) "ready to do harm on my behalf" I feel generally safe. Which leaves me free to worry about my bigger concerns like having running water and avoiding athletes' foot. Oh and clowns. I really don't like clowns, with their funny colored hair and too big shoes. Damn clowns.

How about friends? Is there a lot of bonding going on within your unit?

Oh, there's a little more than bonding going on. If you know what I mean. And I think you do. No honestly, sure there are bonds being formed. I'm still kind of an outsider because I've fallen in on a reserve unit that has been together for a while. But I'm fitting in as much as can be expected for someone that spends the better part of his day screaming at a computer. And the folks here are very supportive of what I'm trying to do. I still think they believe that I know what I'm doing but I won't tell them that just yet. Luckily none of them read my blog on a daily basis, if at all, so my secret is safe for now.

Is there anything you need and can't get? Are family and friends sending everything you need?

Pretty much everything I need I have. My wife is sending me some items from home that I didn't have room for in my bags but other than that I'm fairly easy to please. We get a lot of care packages here and most of the stuff is put out as communal property so plenty of junk food and toiletries in this general AO. I'd have to say the most annoying things are the books. There are like a gazillion used books floating around the war zone. Which is very thoughtful and all. But let’s remember that we are in a war zone and 95% of the books are about WAR! Gee, that's how I want to relax and escape from a long day in war zone! Please send books on anything else. Even clowns. I'd rather read a book on clowns. Damn clowns.

What's a typical day like for you? Do you work normal hours or is it crazy?

Before the site went down it was a typical 0800 to 1800 day. That's 8am to 6pm for those that don't do military time. Since the site has gone down. Well, I've taken to sleeping here every once in awhile. So, if you mean normal by normal people standards then no it is kind of crazy. If you mean normal for someone forward deployed in the military, well, I'd say it is just about as it should be.

Posted by Paul! at March 2, 2005 06:23 PM


So... We should send copies of Stephen King's "It"? :-)

Posted by: Harvey at March 3, 2005 09:40 AM