Green Cots and Mud

E-mail Harrigan

Jan. 27, 2006 7:48 p.m.

No problem getting on a computer with Internet access, even at this peak hour. Jazz band in the mess hall tonight — sax, drums, synthesizer and trumpet. I went with Salisbury steak and baked chicken. The guy behind the counter tried to chat up the female soldier in front of me. He asked her if she would dance with him, but he said it so softly she didn't hear.

30 bunks in the tent. One guy in the corner is watching "Dawson's Creek." He is not a "Dawson's Creek" fan, but it was on sale and he had already seen "Smallville." He has a tiny DVD player and lies on his front with headphones — the screen just a few inches from his eye. From my bunk I can see James Van Der Beek moving around.

Another guy is studying for a board test. His partner asks him questions from a laptop.

"Red is for valor," was one answer.

We have settled into an established seating pattern at chow, me opposite Rudden, Ralf on Rudden's right, same table. Ralf likes to go as soon as chow opens. He even goes to the fourth meal, midnight chow. At midnight chow he had French toast and grits. Rudden asked him what grits were.

"Maize," he said. That's a German talking to a South African.

Our helicopter leaves tomorrow morning. I managed to repair some abysmal packing by trips to the PX. At our destination I expect to live in a container, which is far superior to a tent. More on containers soon.

Jan. 27, 2006 9:08 a.m.

Went with the scrambled eggs this morning, which looked real, and sausage. The squares of home fries were good.

When we walked into the dining hall there was a brass quartet playing — oboe, French horn, two flutes. They had folding chairs in the middle of the mess. When they paused, the whole room applauded.

"Things have changed," I said to Rudden. Often in the dining halls multiple large TVs would be blaring at full volume on different channels. This was much better.

Mud is everywhere. I did not tuck my pants into my boots and the bottoms were caked with mud. We were waiting to fly out. They scheduled us out for two days after we arrived, which was standard timing. In civilian airports you're supposed to arrive two hours early, here it is two days. We went to the PX where I was unable to purchase an Army warm-up jacket, as it is deemed part of the official uniform, but I did get some quality Hanes products.

I'm working with Peter Rudden, who I last worked with in Congo, where he managed to pick up some unfortunate phrases in French that are still with him, and a man named Ralf, who bears a startling resemblance to the chief of staff on the "West Wing," but with a German accent.

"I don't snore," he said this morning, "I just breathe loud."

Temporary quarters are a large KBR tent, green cots near the front flap under a light. You turn every hour or so, because the point of contact, usually the hip, gets sore. We had a good ten hours then Ralf got us up before chow closed.

Jan. 25, 2006 10 a.m.
Amman, Jordan

Eleven-hour flight on Royal Jordanian, which is not hard because they have flat seats. Slept until they woke me up for breakfast, a warm cinnamon raisin bagel and coffee. The guy next to me had a tattoo on his right forearm and didn't say a word, which made him a good neighbor. I don't believe I've spoken a word on my last 50 flights, although I am ready to assist the elderly with overhead luggage.

Forgot RJ does not do e-tickets so a bit of a last-minute scramble. Also forgot to have 10 Jordanian dinars for the visa. I am rusty.

Long sessions with the brain trust before departure. Carey put in a wireless card and a phone card on my PC. He walked me out to a wireless area in Rock Plaza and went through it once, then had me do it in front of him. I should have done the same with my new Kartmaster, a metal trolley for gear schleppers that comes complete with red buttons and metal latches to reduce it to baggage size. I squatted over it at the airport like a giant Rubik's cube, hoping someone would come to my aid. I called Jachman, who hinted that the order of folding was important — which was enough to get me through this time.


We're all set. You've got the armor. I've got the Maalox.


You bring in some great information. I'm really interested in your reports on Mexican corruption.


I look forward each day to reading your blogs and finding out how you are doing. Sounds like you are going overseas again. I drove to Tennessee in December to spend Christmas with my family. On the way, we stopped in Marietta, Ga. at a restaurant for supper. When we walked in, FOX News was playing on the TV ! "Oh boy!", I shouted! I attracted attention from other patrons, but I didn't care. What a treat for me to sit down and enjoy a good meal, and watch FOX News ! To top it off, I got to see Steve Harrigan giving a report from Bolivia! I said, "Hey! There's Steve!" It was just like seeing an old friend again. The only thing I miss from not having cable is FOX News. Fortunately, I can access the internet to keep up with the news and read your blogs.

Take care my friend,

South Carolina

Hello Steve.
There has been so much talk about body armor lately one has to wonder if some it is driven by politics. It's a shame if that be the case but what would be more interesting is what the guys on the ground say about it. It's a shame anyone has to die or be terribly wounded while fighting for freedom but at what point do you attempt to be too protective? Having not served in the military but having friends that have I'm getting more of the guys with experience saying mobility and swiftness are more important. There is a point where it may depend on the assignment of the military person more than a general blanket statement for all.

Haines City, Fl