Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Gimme Fuel, Gimme Fire, Gimme That Which I Desire!

So what's the craziest thing you've ever done? I got a call from my brother last Monday. He said he had won free passes to a Metallica concert in Park City, UT, and he wanted me to go with him. When? That Wednesday, less than 48 hours later. After some discussion that left me feeling amazingly like Cameron from Ferris Buehler's Day Off, I finally decided to go for it. Feh! Not all that crazy, you may say? Well I felt like it was pretty crazy for a 40-something corporate drone.

Now, I've seen Metallica concerts plenty of times. Why would I drop everything and book a $540 flight to Utah on 1 day's notice? This was to be a private concert in a small club with a meet-n-greet afterward as part of the premier of The Darwin Awards at the Sundance Film Festival, in which Metallica is featured. "Once in a lifetime", sez my brother.

The concert was very, very cool; a nice long set, playing all the old hits and almost none of the new stuff that I don't like so much. We were only a handful of feet from the stage, very intimate. The only issue was that the event was somewhat oversold by metclub.com, both literally and figuratively. First, they must have sent the same "you win!" message to nearly all of its members, judging by the crowd who were all "on the list" -- We actually heard there were some "winners" who didn't even get into the concert at all. Second, there was no meet-n-greet at all (at least not for us). Well, I did get into a private Sundance after-party for "free", and it was very fun. No regrets!

The final irony: I called in sick on Thursday, and Friday I came down with a nasty cold. Karma, baby!

I'm Back!

I'm back from lovely Ft. Lee VA. Our first class lodging is shown at left (I excrement you not).

I also got my first ever chance to tour Civil War battlefields. These placards (you may remember one of my very first posts were about those types of things) were from the Battle of Gaines Mill June 1862. We also toured Petersburg and Cold Harbor (both 1864). I was surprised by the size of the battlefields (they were much larger and more wooded than I exptected) and the size of The Crater (it was much smaller than I had imagined).

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In Praise of an ABC Cameraman

I realize ABC has bigger things going on right now. But I wanted to pass along something a cameraman for their Chicago affiliate, WLS-TV Channel 7 did for my Guard unit. Mike Dukevich had been out to the North Riverside Armory when the 33rd Area Support Group was getting ready to go to New Orleans as part of Operation Crescent Relief.

I spoke with him after he and his crew had finished some interviews (even one with me, heh heh) and shot some footage of the soldiers getting ready to go. I wondered aloud if there was any way we would be able to catch all of the broadcast. Mike said he'd go one better - that when the film was being archived, he make a copy of all the raw footage, interviews and such. I got the tape and a note from him in the mail on Friday. When I watched it this weekend, I couldn't help but smile a bit at what we all looked like, and what we said.

I will take the tape in to my unit this coming weekend, and make sure it is made available for any who want to copy it. I would like to thank Mike for remembering us, and giving us a piece of unit history.

What a Difference a Week Makes

Remind me again, it is January, yes?

Last Sunday


I guess it was a good thing we got in all the snow-play last week...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Afghan Dining

Squadron Leader Matt Radnall (RAF Regiment)

One night at dinner, my son asked me if we could pretend we were at a restaurant. "Sure Kiddo, we can". I was scurrying back and forth to the kitchen, so he thought it would be fun to pretend he was ordering from the cook - me. Then he looked up and asked, "Daddy, do they have restaurants in Afghanistan?" "Yes they do, Kiddo, but they are different than ours." How to explain everything...so I cracked out the pictures...

Finding a place to sit

And I told him how they didn't sit on chairs, didn't really have a table,

Would you like to sit in the automatic weapons or non-automatic weapons section?


We shared everything, and also that the food was very good.

That also made me think about finding some place to "dine Afghan" in the Chicago area. I found two places:

Afghan Restaurant - 11 miles N - 2818 W Devon Ave, Chicago, 60659 - (773) 262-8000
Kabul House Afghan Fine Cuisines - 14 miles N - 3320 Dempster St, Skokie, 60076 - (847) 763-9930

Thanks, Kiddo, for reminding me of all that!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Afghan Air Force - We'll Be Back

Squadron Leader Matt Radnall (RAF Regiment), COL Robert Algermissen (CDR, Bagram AF) with the Chief of Staff of the Afghan Air Force and his Ground Forces commander.

The Afghan Air Force had fallen on hard times. When the Soviets left, the Afghans still had a respectable force. The continual fighting wore them down, and by the time the US Air Force came looking for targets in 2001, they were down to a handful of operational aircraft.

A Ground Attack craft...grounded forever.

This AN-12 won't be transporting anyone anymore.

Not much to salvage here.

The Afghans will have an Air Force again. The very nature of the terrain of the country dictates the Afghan government have such. Shindand, Bagram, Khandahar will all someday be bases for the Afghan Air Force. They will be back.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bangor Greeting

This post reminded me of my unit's arrival back from Afghanistan. We landed early in the morning at Bangor, Maine. When we filed off the plane, I saw a group of people standing at the end of the hall.

33rd ASG arrives at Bangor, Maine

"You said we can use phones and get cookies?!"

It was a total surprise. They made sure we got to use the phones they had available, and got plenty of the goodies that were on hand too.
While talking with one of the gentlemen that had greeted us, he mentioned it had been a long day, but worth it. Since it was still somewhat early in the morning I asked him what he meant. He replied that they had to be there for a 3AM flight bringing some Marines back home...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It's Good To Know Someone Has Your Back

To Joel Stein, c/o LA Times:


I understand you would rather not support any of us in the Armed Forces right now. Fine. That is your right as an American. I feel the premise of your article is flawed, but I will leave it to others to dissect that.

One thing I have to comment on, however.

You wrote: I know this is all easy to say for a guy who grew up with money, did well in school and hasn't so much as served on jury duty for his country.

Your implication is that those of us serving grew up poor, did terrible in school and serve constantly. I'll take the last point as a compliment. The other two, sir, are fallacious.
I believe I am fairly representative of the Army's officer corps (although I began my career as an enlisted infantryman).

Sir, I grew up quite comfortably upper middle class. I earned a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Illinois (both in History). I also earned a J.D. from Northern Illinois University. I have been an Assistant State's Attorney (more of that darn service again...) a private-sector trial attorney and currently work in the insurance industry.

So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.

"a fighting tool of American imperialism"? Really, sir, that is so 1968.

When I joined it was 1985 - perhaps you remember who our prime enemy at the time was - the USSR (remember them? Berlin Wall, The Gulag Archipelago, invading Afghanistan, the Czech Spring? Hungary in 1956? No? Doesn't ring a bell?) Since then I have helped keep the peace in Bosnia, helped Afghanistan try to rejoin the rest of the world, assisted in civil relief with the 1993 Mississippi Floods, helped after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. If called, I will go to Iraq and I would gladly list that with all those other efforts.

And you needn't trouble yourself at all. I won't count on your support one little bit.

But it's really not that easy to say because anyone remotely affiliated with the military could easily beat me up, and I'm listed in the phone book.

How very brave of you sir. Listed in the phone book. I salute your bravery in joining all the other opinion columnists that have been beaten by American military personnel. I would love to know if you really think one of us would care enough to do anymore than turn the page (or click away from the screen as the case may be) after reading your opinion and say, "Feh". I did more than I thought I would by taking my lunch break to fisk your piece...

I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.Seriously, the traffic is insufferable.

Thanks sir, I would suspect your "we" doesn't live in my part of the country. If your little corner of the world doesn't want to throw a parade, dandy. The rest of us just might happen to ignore you. Oh, and thanks for not advocating spitting on us - big of you.

Google Earth - Brrrr.

I was trying the new Google Earth program, and zoomed in on the village of Qarabaghi-Robat. You may remember that I had an unpleasant day there one time.

Very strange to look down and zoom in exactly where I had been. I went and looked at a couple of other places where I had experienced some trouble. Brrrr.

That aside, it is a fascinating program. If you have a half decent internet connection, give it a try.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mines, Aardvarks, Hydremas and Sappers

I realize the title of this post sounds like a list of things found in a computer fantasy game, but it isn't...

Mine warning sign - US.

Mines were (and still are) everywhere near Bagram AF. The Soviets left millions of the things laid in belts around the base.

Old Soviet mine belts laid between posts strung with barbed wire.

When the post-Soviet government was ousted, the mines were still there. They had done nothing about them. The short lived successor regime couldn't do much - they ended up in a fight with the Taliban. That's where it got really ugly. Bagram changed hands no less than 9 times in a 21 month period of 1999-2001. The Northern Alliance/Rabbani government moved mines around into positions to defend from Taliban attack. The Taliban moved mines to stop them from retaking Bagram. Both sides imported more mines to lay. Nobody recorded where they went, nobody marked them. Even the previously marked ones "migrated" some, due to weather, the fierce wind erosion.
All too many people were hurt or killed on these mines. Our medics treated somebody EVERY week from the area who had struck a mine. Way too many were kids - being naturally curious, and wont to go exploring new places. I have previously discussed some efforts to stop this - and what the Taliban remnants thought of this.

The Aardvark

We had several ways of clearing these things out. Mechanical means were best - faster, safer for those involved. The Aardvark whirled its ball and chain mechanism up front to set off the mines - and the occasional chain whirling through the air after a sharp boom told us it was working...

Hydrema flail

They Hydrema was a similar device, but had it's larger, heavier flails back mounted. It hit harder and deeper to get the real bad ones - Anti-tank mines mixed in with your normal anti-personnel ones. The dust clouds these things generated were awe-inspiring.

Polish engineers/sappers

Sometimes, specialized troops would go over an area - since the machinery couldn't get everything. During my time on Bagram, a fair amount of that work went to the Polish engineers. They were a very busy bunch.

I didn't really mean for this post to be so large - and I have left out describing some of the efforts of other good people - the Halo Trust, the Mine Action Centre (UN and Coalition supported) and private contractors such as RONCO. It is a subject worth looking at, should you find yourself with a few minutes on hand.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


"Daddy, I liked it when you were defeated"! So said the victors in this fight. Who knew they had learned to seize high ground and rain down snowballs from varying angles?

I'll get 'em next time...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Does This Uniform Make Me Look Fat?

I got my new offical photo today. I'm at Fort Lee at the Reserve Component Multifunction Combat Service Support (RCMCSS) course.

Remember: Amatuers study tactics...

The Big A is back!

One of my all time favorite bloggers, "Allah" (formerly of "Allah is in the House") has reappeared on his own. He was doing fine work at a spoof of the Huffington Post known as the Huffington's Toast, but it is good to see him back out on his own. He has a style that I truly appreciate, as well as an ability to cut through the crap and get to the point.

Go check out Link Mecca.

A Public Service

We here at Miserable Donuts often try to inform our readers about certain aspects of the Army, and its way of doing things. I recently found an old photo from Fort McCoy, summer of 1990. It is very educational. I present to you, dear reader;

"How Not To Operate A 60 KW Generator Set"

Osama - so what.

Osama bin Laden and an aide.

Osama alive? Crying "Uncle"? So what. Guy isn't really relevant much anymore. He's almost a liability to his own side, as he sure doesn't look much like the "strong horse" he used to rattle on about. Don't get me wrong, I want him to get what he deserves - death. But he isn't as relevant to the current fight as say, Zawahiri or Zarqawi, or even Mullah Omar in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Also, I don't care how much his voice is "authenticated" - I still think he is Purina Vulture Chow somewhere in the Hindu Kush. He would have been bombarding the world with videos saying "Ha, ha, you missed me, Crusader!" At least something a bit more specific than the generic stuff he has allegedly been putting out.

In short....bah.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ancient Relic or Panjshir River Ferry Boat - You Decide

One early Winter day, I was crossing the Panjshir River - or rather, where the Panjshir River would flow once the Spring rains and snow melt off reached it's bed. I happened to see a boat for the first time since I came to Afghanistan. Upon closer examination, I wasn't sure if I should try to contact an archeologist, or maybe a maritime historian...
When I asked some local residents about the boat they told me that everyone just uses it to cross the river when it rises, and they just leave it there when it is down. Kind of a Panjshir Valley version of the Amsterdam Bicycles.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Another Good Question

Muslihoon asked me a pretty good question: "What do the Afghans think of the Iranian Bomb/nuclear ambitions?"

The answer is a bit more complex than my first reaction. (which was, "oh no, there goes the neighborhood").

The Afghans who made up the Northern Alliance were primarily ethnic Tajik, Dari speakers. These people have some strong ties to Iran - in fact, Iran was often the only help/hope that the Northern Alliance had at times, in their struggle with the Taliban. While almost all Afghans are Sunni (with the Iranians being almost all Shiite) Dari is an old form of the Persian language. Also, culturally, the two groups are not too far apart. Many ex-Alliance officials I knew had spent time in Iran, both as a sanctuary, for medical care, and as a vacation spot. These same officials would also wryly note that they understood our (America's) problems with Iran, shrug and continue on with the business at hand.

All that being said, I think the Afghans would really rather not have a nuclear armed Iran. Pakistan is quite enough, as well as Russia, in the neighborhood. Maybe I just believe that the Afghans have a little more experience in devistation than some of their neighbors, and the thought of a less than stable leadership brandishing atomic weapons brings no comfort to them.
Ironically, I think a piece in an Indonesian newspaper says what I think the Afghans would also say - "For Iran, nuclear weapons fall into the class of "nice to have" rather than life-or-death necessity." (Good Lord, I cannot believe I quoted Gwynne Dyer, what is the matter with me...)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Move along, nothing to see here


Triple A ain't on the way.

"I keep calling, but the auto club says they cannot come out this far."

January 2005 in the Salang Valley.

Monday, January 16, 2006

If you cannot help us, find someone you can

I am a member of the board of directors of the Community Crisis Center, Inc., a not-for-profit in Elgin, IL. We help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, the homeless and those in economic crisis.
We had a board of directors meeting tonight - and it wasn't any fun. I heard two very discouraging things; financial support from various foundations and the like are down because Domestic Violence is not a "fad" any more, and that the victims of domestic violence that we serve are appearing at our shelter in worse shape than ever before.

I dislike asking any reader of this site for anything, but...
If you live near our area, please consider helping us. If you do not live near our service area - please find your local equivalent and consider helping them.

Two of the most rotten, evil people around

Read this story, and try to decide which one is worse - the man or the mom. Absolutely horrible.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

It's Worse Than You Thought

Amiga 3000 has brought it to our attention that the historical problem with drug-using squirrels is worse than even Tempus 42 suspected...

Opium Den near Shanghai, 1928.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ah, that explains it!

Remember the chaotic squirrels? I'm wondering if this has something to do with it.....

UPDATE: (and Editorial/Photoshop abuse by Administrator, Major John)

So long "Paper and Pencil?"

The front page of the Daily Illini features two articles on blogs. "Who's Behind Local Blogs" focusing on the local public and "Teacher Uses Blogs instead of Paper and Pencil" looks at changes in education.

The article about the local efforts even features Prairie Biker, who we link to on our "Friends of Donuts" list.

I think blogs are a natural extension of Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle, and other online instructional systems. When you toss in new innovations from Apple in Digital Video, Audio Podcasting, and Video Podcasting.... plus movements in RSS... the future's so bright I gotta wear shades.

I am really looking forward to iLife6. Our students and faculty have been doing great things with the earlier versions. This version 6 looks really awesome.

A Viking in the Salang Valley

Former Minnesota Viking Matt Blair and two fans in the Salang valley, early 2005.

A group of former NFL players came over to visit us early in 2005. The player who impressed me most was Matt Blair. Now, mind you, I grew up (and remain) a Chicago Bears fan. I was used to feeling very disappointed in Mr. Blair - usually because he was destroying some poor Bears quarterback...
Matt had been on several visits to see the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. When I asked him why he would do this so much, he told me it was an easy choice. He grew up with his father in the service - so it was something he just felt was the right thing to do. He also looked like he could still go out and rip a quarterback's head off...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for July, 1993

July, 1993. Souther Illinois, near the Illinois and Mississippi River junction. I was a 1LT with about 80 troops under me. Up the levee...work, work, work, work, work and work... Didn't matter. River was going to do what it wanted. Down the levee ... move, move, move!

OK, the next day it was back to filling sand bags!

Several hours later.... I think they got a bit tired.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Another Nail

More bad news my friend. No, no not about our beloved Bearssss who are going to da Superbowl dis year and regain dere preeminance and rightful place atop the football world by beating da Colts 73 to nuttin.

No. Dis is a little less important. First dey said my Chicago is da fattest city. Now dere telling me dat even if you're okay with da cholestoral and blood pressure you're gonna die. I'm gonna have to have an Italian beef sammich and think dis one over.

PS: Sorry for all the dees and dems and does. I couldn't help myself. Hey pass me a napkin, I got beef juice all down my arm.

A question for my New Zealand Friends

Is this chart accurate?

[Thanks to an unnamed member of the ILARNG]

UPDATE: Mind you, I'm a big New Zealand fan.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

One More Bosnia Post

These are pictures I took of Zetra in 1997. It was the ice arena used during the 1984 Winter Olympics. During the seige of Sarajevo, the grounds were converted into graveyards. The Serbs seeking to take the town managed to unite Serb, Croat and Bosniak, Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim - even if in death. Zetra is another reminder of what happens to the innocent when the bastards of the world run rampant.

Afghanistan's Most Popular Auto Sticker

Somebody cashed in at the end of the Taliban era. That regime had forbidden many displays of color/images, heck, almost everything. That was quite contrary to the custom and practice of the Afghan people. What we saw was that many Afghan cars, trucks, vans - anything that moved (at least in the Kabul/Bagram area) - had these decals on them. I can only imagine the thoughts of the daring entreprenuer(s) that first darted across the border from Pakistan with thousands of these things in tow...

See what I mean?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Funniest Line Delivered in Sarajevo, Summer of 1997

Because you...er, I demanded it! more Summer of 1997 fun in Sarajevo!

The LTC (an Aviation/Air Cav guy) I was with looked over at me as we passed this building and quietly said "I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I know what I want to come back as." [I turned with a puzzled look on my face] He simply said "the primary sheet glass contractor in Sarajevo." That was a good one.

Sarajevo Newspaper Building

The Inner Prop hit the button on the old Wayback Machine at drill this past weekend. He reminded me of when I was in Sarajevo in the Summer of 1997. The newspaper in town had managed to keep printing throughout the terrible siege - despite their office tower, as you see it here, being knocked down by Serb fire. Next time I hear some American media type bitching about how hard their job is, I may just e-mail them a copy of this photo...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Blog to check

A commenter here, and at Protein Wisdom, muslihoon, has his own blog - so I just noticed. Give it a look here. You may just learn something.

At Drill

The 'Prop and I are at our unit drilling this weekend. I have my office a little more in order now. Had to add the Christmas present my son gave me to the shelf (not the manual, the other things).
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