Saturday, May 2, 2009

Letter 14

Letter 14
April 21, 2009
Balad, Iraq


I am sorry that I am behind on my letters. I have been busier than normal since my last update. When I arrived back, Major Romig left for his leave. He is the OIC (Officer in Charge) of the clinic, and I assumed his job while he was away. The OIC is essentially the “chief of staff” of the clinic so deals with all the provider issues, complaints, and any care issues for the TMC (Troop Medical Clinic). The OIC also is a liaison between the administrative leadership and the clinic. What this means in English is that our clinic has essentially two bosses: 1) the standard administrative leadership of our Company Command, and the Battalion that we work for. 2) The Battalion Surgeon (surgeon in the Army is a title of senior medical leadership) who dictates any medical issues. They are both at Battalion, but they do not always communicate with each other. It is a busy job added on to an already busy clinic work schedule. Below is a picture of Colonel Shoupe, who was the BN Surgeon that I have been working with. A COL is one rank below the General ranks.

This picture was taken in our provider room and is the three Butler University PA Program graduates with COL Shoupe. I am on the left, COL shoupe is next to me, CPT Bryan McFarland, then on the end is 1LT Travis Welch.

Additionally, with my hectic schedule I had the big push toward the end of the spring semester at Butler University so I have been working hard on my teaching, which still amazes me how much time it takes. The good news is that Major Romig is back and I can “give” him his extra duties job back. Also, I have finished all my lectures, written all my exams for Butler. Finally, I can get to my PhD dissertation and maybe even get that completed in the next three months.

Life here at Balad since I last wrote has really just been mundane. We get the standard indirect fire attack several times a week (although this last week has been very quiet). We have had some really nasty dust storms…some of the worse since I have been here. The last several that we had I think were so bad that we didn’t even get an attack. The only difference is that the temperatures have really been climbing. Below is an outdoor thermometer outside of 1LT Welch’s room.

I know the weather back in Indiana has been all over the place, but I heard that it was pretty cold for a few days. This was taken one day about 10-12 days ago (not in direct sunlight). I am sure that within the next month this will be buried at the 120 marker. If you look behind the thermometer you can see the large concrete “T-Walls” that protect our living area from indirect fire attacks. If you look at the window seal you can see the thin layer of sand/dirt that seems to be on everything.

Well, I have another good story for you. Do you remember Major Altman from Tennessee? He was the doctor that went “down range” and Major Romig replaced all his underwear with women’s panties. Anyway, when Major Romig went on leave, Dr. Altman was heading home. They met up and spent the day together in Ali Al Salem, Kuwait. Major Romig thought everything was good, safe…come to find out that Major Altman was still “wounded” about the underwear issue. One of the steps for us to do before we get to get on a plane to come back to the U.S. is go through customs. Customs searches everything. Major Romig steps up for his turn and he has to dump out everything out of his bags, including any “extra” or “hidden” pockets. As he dumps his bag, out falls a half-filled pee bottle. The pee bottle is a nasty habit that many soldiers resort to as there are often no restrooms close to where you sleep or live. Anyway, Major Altman’s “gift” to Major Romig was not as well received by the customs officials who were very disgusted with Major Romig. Can you see Major Romig “it was my friend” “it is not mine” There was nothing that Major Romig could say except to take the comments and lecture given by the grossed out customs officials…Disgusting, but funny. Somehow, I think that this is not completely over as Dr. Altman accidently left his stethoscope here.

Easter came and went here, just like all the other major holidays. I find it hard to really “get in the spirit” of the holidays as nothing changes here. I did go to Easter Mass which was nice. It was a truly international service as there were people from Africa, Asia, Arabia, Americas and Europe all there. It was a bit interesting to be “packing heat” to go to Church. Below is everyone leaving after the service.

You can see in the picture all the soldiers that have weapons. The back wall of windows may have been pretty cool if they were not enclosed with concrete walls making the entire chapel a large bunker. To give you an idea, below is a picture of the outside of our “Provider’s Chapel”:

The buildings have the canopy to protect against indirect fire. Everything on this base has reinforcements due to the large number of attacks that we get.

There was a large Ecumenical Sunrise Service at our stadium that I heard was really nice. They were able to finish the service just before it started to rain. Remember, a ¼ inch of rain here causes flooding so it is a big deal as we just do not get a lot of rainfall. The other thing is that with this sand-dirt that we have here it not make mud per se but rather this nasty paste like substance that just refuses to come off of your boots and clothes.

Emotionally, I have had a hard couple of weeks. I think most of it has been from missing my family and loved ones, but also with just always being busy. Well, there was an MWR (moral, welfare and recreation) event that was on our base that really helped my spirits this week. The MWR events range from musicians to celebrities and anything in-between. Well, I went and really enjoyed myself. Below is a picture of me with the musician…do you recognize him?

If you guessed Charlie Daniels you would be correct. He was incredible! He has been actively recording music since 1950! He and his band were so gracious. I tried to thank him for coming to entertain the troops…he was almost offended. He said “do not thank me; it is I who must thank you”. It was said with complete sincerity. He sounded great and is quit an amazing musician. Below is another picture:

He is signing some guitar picks for me. I did mention something about is Union Cavalry Hat (he would have been a good Confederate). He just laughed and thought it was funny. I do not normally listen to a lot of country music but Country music singers do seem to visit the troops more than any other group of performers. Here is a picture of him singing during the show:

This is actually at our movie theater. This theater was actually an Iraqi theater that we left standing when we invaded because the US Command thought that we may use it in the future. I am glad they did not bomb it. What I find interesting with this picture is the crowd. First, look at all the digital cameras (all the LCD screens). During some of the songs such as “Devil Went Down To Georgia” it looked like everybody had one. Also, almost all branches can be seen. The guy in the black shirt in front is a civilian contractor. Next to him in the old DCUs (Desert Camouflage Uniform) affectionately known as “coffee stains” is Navy. In front of them is the “Tiger Striped” camouflage uniform of the Air Force. Then in front of him is the PT (Physical Training) uniform jacket of the Air Force and the Army PT uniform jacket to their right. Below is an outside view of the movie theater:

You can see the framework that the US added around the building. Again, it is to protect against any mortar and rocket attacks. Yes, there is indeed a subway inside. I guess war has changed a bit since my dad was in Vietnam and certainly since the hell that our soldiers went though in Korea and WWII.

Changing gears, I wanted to show some updated pictures of my room. I have been constantly improving my living quarters and I think I am very lucky to have such a nice “home” when compared to my first deployment. The first picture is just as you enter my room and if you sat at my desk and looked at my bed:

The most noticeable item is my large Butler University Flag (Thanks MK). I did not intent to have the flame always light up when the sun is out, but I think it is pretty cool. My blanket on my bed is from Afghanistan. Can you see my couch? It was made for me by an Iraqi furniture maker. How cool is that? Of course always have to have our weapons at arms reach so my pistol is on the end of the couch. Above my bed is one of the single most important structures here and that is the Air Conditioner. Mine actually went out for a few days and it was so hot in my room that I could hardly been inside. If I were to sit on the bed and look 180 degrees this is the view:

My door is just to the right of the locker. You can see that I do have a TV. We get about 8-10 channels that show a variety of TV from the States. Of course it is via a signal so if the weather is bad we sometimes lose reception. Next, what do you think of my desk? It was “acquired” when I first arrived with the help of my medics from my original company that I was the commander of before I came over. This is where I spend all my “other time” with teaching and working on my PhD.

My military picture of this letter is of the Osprey, which is a new aircraft in the US armory. It is part helicopter and part plane. It can take off as either one, and literally fly as either one depending on which is best suited for the mission. In this case it is flying like a helicopter.

I have not seen a lot of these craft here at Balad. In fact, I think that this is the only day that I have seen one here. It is a transport/cargo craft and often carries troops in the back. Some would ask why it would be advantageous to be able to fly as either a helicopter or a fixed wing plane. Well it can fly faster and higher as a plane, but can land and take off vertically. It is actually a pretty large aircraft.

I need to close this letter, and I will try to not have too long a gap between my next correspondences. My major “shout out” for this letter has to be all the PA students and faculty. They have all been working so hard this semester and all have done amazing. We have a new soon to be graduating class…sorry that I will not be there for that, but know that I am thinking of you and please do not be strangers. To my wife and kids…not that much longer…hang in there and know that I am most proud of you and cannot wait to be HOME. Thank you to everyone for your prayers, thoughts and help with my family. Please continue your thoughts and prayers. Please NEVER FORGET why we are away from our families. NEVER FORGET those that do not get to come home to their families. NEVER FORGET that we live in the greatest nation on Earth with all the opportunities that others can only dream about.

Major Roscoe

1 comment:

Pamela Lin Thompson said...

THANKS so much for sharing your stories and for your service. Our son SPC Casey THompson is in Baghdad with the 82 nd Airborne, Our other son is home with us as of Dec 08, he was there all last year, he's leaving this year sometime with a new unit and will be in Afg. somewhere. I apprecite your work and know that God is watching over you. BE SAFE and keep up the GREAT work~ Pamela Thompson Pittsburg KS~