Ground Hog Day

Work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep....

That's pretty much the routine, minus a few details of when and how long, but you get the idea. One of the pilots appropriately answered "It's March!" when asked what day it was. "Tomorrow will be April."

It's easy to loset track of what day of the week it is and the date, and most of us have. Long gone are the events that normally define a week at home, the Monday morning slog to work, the Friday afternoon lull just before a weekend of family events or a Black Hawk training flight.

Many of us have begun saying what we normally would be doing at any particular point in time, and planning the first things we'll do when we get home for our first two weeks of rest and relaxation leave. Some just want to see family and others want to just sit back and drink a beer.

Though we have been here less than a month, most of us have put in about 50 hours flight time. At this pace, some of us will be out of here with at least 500 hours and that is a conservative estimate. Hopefully, we can keep up this pace; the crew chiefs and Delta company maintenance, are busting their butts to keep aircraft operational. It's all part of the work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep routine.

-- Written 3/20/2006

By Bert Stover |  March 24, 2006; 9:15 AM ET  | Category:  Al Asad, Iraq
Previous: Taking Fire in Iraq | Next: Finally Some Room

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Bert,

Thanks for the succinct summary. Your summary helped me understand my son's time in Iraq with the 2/224th.

Posted by: Tata | March 24, 2006 09:49 AM

It's always like that. The problem is you get used to it and your guard/defenses drop, you stop paying attention.

That's when it bites you hard.

And that's why I said make a point of taking 15 minutes three times a day to relax mentally, or you get into that zone and you're at greater risk.

Put the helmet back on.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | March 24, 2006 03:06 PM

My son is also at Al Asad, just arrived there on 02/28.....he is a Mechanic on humvees and 7-tons, he says the same thing you do.....work/eat/sleep....they are working 10-12hr. days 7 days a week.....it does make the time go faster....at least for you guys, it drags back home!! Thank you for your updates on the site....I am keeping you in my prayers! Stay strong, stay close to God and He will stay close to you!! Find a way to stay alert!

Posted by: A Marine Mom | March 24, 2006 08:35 PM

I hope everyone reading this blog understands that Mr Stover, his fellow Warrant Officers and the Non-Commissioned Officers are the backbone of the Armed Forces.
They take the "vast plans based on half-vast ideas" that the Officer Corps and civilian military leadership come up with and turn them into some semblance of reality. They all "get er done!"
The saddest day of my cousin's military career was when he was promoted from CWO3
to Captain and became just another "staff puke" officer.
And don't let Mr Stover and his fellow "rotor heads" fool any of you- eat, sleep and "stick time" in the cockpit is what they live and breath for. They will look back upon these days as "the best of times, the worst of times" for the rest of their lives. For many, the rest of their lives will be a footnote on their time flying missions in Iraq.

Posted by: q8dhimmi | March 25, 2006 01:11 AM

Bert,

I'm a 29-year old software engineer in Boston. By grace of circumstance, you are there, and I am here, and I am in awe of your service. I will continue reading.

I have a question for you. One thing I picked up from one of the bloggers for the NYTimes (they actually just submit post a week and still largely blog on their own), and from the "milbloggers" in general, is a high level of distrust towards the news media in covering the war. This comes from many levels of the chain of command, from the President on down to the enlistee.

I have my suspicions about this, that it is certainly easier to blame the media than decision-makers at the Pentagon.

But I'm wondering whether you've encountered any of that bias yourself in the service, and, as an employee of a important national media institution, you've ever needed to defend it.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel | March 25, 2006 04:46 PM

The "sleeping" and "eating" part sounds OK but why "work" to conquer Iraq and install permanent military bases there? Oh yeah, I forgot. It holds the world's second largest petroleum reserves. But is securing oil for our bosses worth the lives of our children, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, or aunts? What a ridiculous idea.

How can people who want to sacrifice our troops' lives for the bosses' profit margins say that they are "supporting" our troops. That's nuts. Those who support our troops want them home safely asap.

Posted by: What for? | March 25, 2006 06:24 PM

"What for?" -- this is the wrong forum for your question; bring it up with your elected representatives.

In short, it's been U.S. policy since FDR to protect our energy interests in the Middle East, and that's been affirmed by every President since. I say that as a Democrat.

What's obviously different here is that the policy and the war has been mismanaged, else we would not be there at a cost of 2,000+ lives over there.

If I were in CWO Strover's place (which goes through my mind given our similarity in age and occupation), and I felt that there were grave policy and strategy mistakes which kept this conflict going, I would take note of what I observed and take solace that the American press does a better job at accounting for military mistakes than the Administration does.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel | March 25, 2006 07:19 PM

Welcome to the movie "Groundhog Day" a la Iraq. I worked as a civilian firefighter in Iraq at two US Military bases and our days were much like yours. Get up, go to the gym, breakfast, training or fire inspections, lunch, training of fire inspections, dinner, chill out, sleep. And at times we had a few fires and EMS calls to break up the day.

At the first base I was at on Saturday nights we had a "Pizza and Movie Night" at the firehouse. We ordered a bunch of pizzas from the Pizza Hut, got a good DVD, sat back and enjoyed the show. If you can arrange it around your schedule, try to do something different at least one day out of the week. For us it was Pizza and Movie Night. Stay safe.

Posted by: RetiredFirefighter | March 25, 2006 07:26 PM

"What for?" -- this is the wrong forum for your question; bring it up with your elected representatives.

The above is absolutely wrong. War is politics by other means and soldiers should think about what they are fighting for. The United States lost in Vietnam because they were fighting for precisely nothing while the Vietnamese were fighting a foreign invasion.

Instead of "supporting" the troops by encouraging them to serve without questioning, we should all support them by encouraging them to think and of course to reject this war launched under false pretenses that is a disaster for the world and of course for the United States.

Who cares if it's been US policy since FDR to protect "our" oil interests in the Middle East? That oil isn't "ours" and it certainly isn't yours or mine. We gain nothing by turning the region into a flaming hell of civil war and hatred, which is what our government has done, and NOT just through incompetence. The attempted US takeover of Iraq has been utterly illegal and unwarranted from the get-go. Our servicemembers should reject it.

Our armed forces should be used to defend the United States.

Posted by: | March 25, 2006 07:50 PM

FROM AN EMBEDDED REPORTER:

Capt. Alfred Smith, escorts me to a briefing with the command. It is a slideshow projected on the wall, and I see a picture I saw at the heliport in Baghdad -- a newspaper photograph of Marine Sgt. Michael Burghardt, who was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Ramadi in September. Medics have removed his bloodied pants, but he is standing, surrounded by soldiers with Humvees and the blades of a waiting medical evacuation helicopter behind him.

The picture has become famous among troops here, because he is waving his middle finger in the air, ostensibly at insurgents somewhere in the distance. The photo caption explains Burghardt is ''signaling his defiance.''

Sgt. Burghardt should be giving the finger and "signaling his defiance" to Rumsfeld, the s.o.b. who put him in harm's way for no good reason.

Posted by: bring them home alive | March 25, 2006 08:13 PM

Jon Garfunkel says "In short, it's been U.S. policy since FDR to protect our energy interests in the Middle East, and that's been affirmed by every President since. I say that as a Democrat."

What a bunch of b.s. Democrat, Republican, or whatever, the energy interests of big business aren't "our" interests and they certainly aren't worth the lives of our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives: over 2,300 dead and counting at 1-3 per day every day; 15,000 injured... for "our energy interests"?

Don't make me vomit, Jon.

Posted by: Nauseated in Nantucket | March 25, 2006 09:04 PM

Moneybags Cheney can take "our energy interests" and shove them somewhere the sun don't shine. I say bring our guys and gals home alive. The damage has been done. Our continued presence in Iraq is worse than useless.

Posted by: a dark hole | March 25, 2006 09:23 PM

"Nauseated in Nantucket" -- Please don't vomit. Google me (if you already hadn't) and you can see that I campaigned my heart out for John Kerry in 2004, because he among many others would be more competent at managing the war and drawing it down properly. Also President Kerry would have been truly serious about getting the nation off of dependence on foreign oil and towards alternative energies.

But this forum is not about John Kerry or the war policy. It's Chief Warrant Officer Stover's. He has a duty to serve the United States Army. He is not the first to serve in a war that's been prosecuted questionably. If he has to wade through general complaints about the war, I don't think he'd respond as much.

I asked a question that I was looking forward to getting answered, but it gets lost in the mix. So I'll ask it again:

The President and Vice President have complained about the media coverage, and this has been echoed in the conservative media and among the military blogs. Has this come to you as a soldier? As an employee of an important national media institution, how would you answer them?

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel | March 26, 2006 12:01 AM

Still vomiting at the idea of President John Kerry - another pro-war millionaire.

Posted by: Nauseated in Nantucket | March 26, 2006 08:55 AM

March 26, 7pm EST

Security in Baghdad seems to be deteriorating by the hour, and it is increasingly unclear who is in control.

Posted by: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, Thank you for invading us. | March 26, 2006 09:37 PM

If you see a US patrol, you should brake sharply and keep away from it. The gunners on the vehicles kill people every day for getting too close to them. Every Iraqi has a horror story about a friend or relative who misunderstood an instruction, often in English, and was shot at.

Many Iraqis are still glad that Saddam Hussein was taken off their backs.

But there is a real, abiding anger that the richest nation on Earth should have taken over their country and made them even worse off in so many ways than they were before.

Posted by: wHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE OCCUPIED? | March 26, 2006 09:43 PM

Keep the needles in the green. Find someone who has been there for some time and ask them about how they fly. That is how I learned how to really fly in combat. Good Luck. As for flight time, get as much as you can. You will not get as many hours when you return. I logged 850hrs in six months overseas, and only 125hrs in the following three years.

Posted by: D/3/5Scout | March 28, 2006 12:15 PM

I am a mother of a son serving his country in Iraq. I read all of the entries above and am dissapointed by the lack of encouragement shown to Mr. Stover. I feel alot of servicemen and women today are not serving our President, but our country, and not the present day beliefs our people hold, but an ideaoligy of what this country once was, and what it should be. I am proud of my son, and his military brothers and sisters. They are sacrificing their very lives to make our country stronger, and I beleive they should be given every ounce of respect they desrve.

Posted by: C. Jackson | April 1, 2006 02:02 AM

lets not forget that rutine can kill you.

Posted by: Dr.Q | April 25, 2006 06:13 PM

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