The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


February 19, 2009

Name: SGT B.
Posting date: 2/19/09
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Rockford, WA
Milblog: The Gun Line 

1100: The workday begins.

In the CP*, the oncoming shift familiarizes itself with the happenings of the previous night. Nothing out of the ordinary, this time. I dread the day when I wake up in the middle of the night to the din of confused conversation as everybody tries to wrap their minds around a tragic incident, or I come into work and find the entire command group there, with a small constellation of higher-ups on scene. The day when a few of my brothers won’t be coming home with us.

Hasn’t happened yet. Didn’t happen to the folks we relieved. If we play our cards right, and stick to our training, it won’t happen, and I cling to that mantra. My guys are professionals; they’ll do it right, and the only folks who won’t come home with us are the ones who left early because their shin splints or back started really acting up. At least they’ll be alive and mostly in one piece.

1130: Chow.

Because of my skewed hours lunch is actually breakfast, and my tummy is rumbling. In my research of this place, I spoke to many veterans who said it was not the enemy that I had to watch out for, but the DFAC (we used to call them “chow halls” in the old days). Not because the food is bad; on the contrary, the food is very good. There is a wide selection of offerings, from main entrees of steak, pot roast, baked salmon, stuffed peppers, to the short order line, with chicken strips, sloppy joes, fries, onion rings, and even Mongolian Barbecue. There’s the potato bar, the taco bar, the sandwich bar, the pasta bar, the pastry bar, and the ice cream bar. It is a gastronomical minefield, waiting for the unwary to tread through its enticing terrain, packing on the poundage in a fete of gluttony and indulgence.

Okay, maybe a bit over the top, but I can assure the Mothers of America that Johnny and Jane are being fed very well.

Chow takes about 30 minutes, and I get back in plenty of time to relieve SGT Westminster, SFC Crane, the Sex-O, and CPL Zoltan (our IT guy). I keep the place squared away until they return, and then it is time for my favorite part of the day:

Mail Time!

I jump into my trusty LMTV* (the replacement for the old M35 “Deuce and a half”) and motor down Pennsylvania Avenue to the battalion mail room, where CPL Red is waiting.

CPL Red is a phenom in her own right. Short, red-haired, well read and well spoken, with a roguish, rapier wit and a taste for fine cigars, she is the “big sister" to derned near everybody in the battalion who is open to such tings. She can hold her own in a conversation laced with innuendos and double entendres, and make you wonder, at the end of it, who had the better time. She is married, and furiously in love with her husband, and she is a good friend. My day is brightened by picking up the mail and tossing esoteric snippets of conversation to and fro with one of the few females with which I will ever have any contact while at Balad.

I walk into the holding area, where the Bone Crushers’ mail is stacked. There are boxes upon boxes, and I know that the Post Office stocks three types of flat rate boxes. I know because I have carried them. Sometimes I swear that the lads are ordering weight sets by mail.

I place the stacks on a hand cart and wheel them out to the truck, and load up the bed. I check to see if something has arrived for me, and make sure that everybody is getting at least something in the mail, either the aforementioned boxes, or a letter. Today I see a box addressed to me, the address written in a familiar hand. I give a celebratory “Hooray!” and set it up in the cab. There’s a letter from Mom too! Happy Days!!

The truck loaded, I bid farewell to Red and motor off, back to the company, where I back up to the mail room, shanghai a platoon leader and platoon sergeant (who are normally waiting for me; the better to find out if they have mail before anybody else), and we load all of the assorted packages and letters into the mail room, where I then mark on a placard the guys who have letters (in red dry erase marker, for a “red letter day”) or a package (in blue, for “blue box).

(Want to take a guess at home long it took the lads to get that one figured out?)

I lock the mail room, and head back to the CP.

The rest of the day is spent getting ready for the night, and I shall draw the shade of security over this aspect except to say that we coordinate our efforts, hold meetings, issue ammo, eat dinner, and perform assorted other tasks as the platoons come trickling in to start their “day."


By 2000 I'm pretty much beat. I check out with the swing shift, answering any last minute questions, and making sure I have tied up any loose ends. I strap my rifle across my back, hop on the bike, and pedal myself back to the CHU*.

From here I have many options:

I can hop on the bus to the PX for a re-supply run, and avail myself of the Burger King, Cinnabon, Subway, or Pizza Hut at the food court (Taco Bell is but a little further down the road). I can browse the smaller local merchant shops, or I can go buy a car by mail order -- even a Harley!  I can try to catch a first-run movie at the theater, or go to the gym, the swimming pool, or, my normal choice, I can just stay home, tapping out words on my laptop, writing letters, reading, playing a video game, watching a DVD, all the while trying to ignore SGT Irish as he saws logs on the other side of the room.

My day ends at midnight, when my eyelids droop and my mind begins to shut down. I listen to a favorite song, or a recording of Phoenix’s voice, settle my mind until I finally drop off to sleep, recharging the batteries for tomorrow, when it starts all over again.


CP: Command Post

LMTV: Light Medium Tactical Vehicle

CHU: Containerized Housing Unit


But when did you hand out the mail?

You are a gifted writer. Thank you! We are so proud of you all.

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