Happy New Year (and still "Merry Christmas") to everyone,
Since I am not in a guard tower today like I had originally planned, I guess I can get this next journal typed up. (more on that later)
First, I want to thank everyone that has sent me packages. Your support and response has been wonderful, and we currently have more than adequate supplies of popcorn, soap, toothpaste, and foot powder. Your generosity has been wonderful and all my soldiers are grateful. They all think I am crazy because I keep providing popcorn but won't let them pop it or eat it in the office. (They have a room down the hall they can pop it in and eat in, or they can eat it outside. They just can't smell up the office or the battalion headquarters with the smell of popcorn.)
I also want to let everyone know that I am NOT in the US Air Force. Several of the packages have arrived using the form of address for a USAF Lieutenant Colonel. The US Army abbreviates Lieutenant Colonel as LTC, not as Lt Col. If I don't tell you, you won't know, so I wanted to make sure that everyone knows. I am "LTC Peter Barclay", not "Lt Col Peter Barclay".
Christmas on LSA Anaconda has been pretty good so far. On Christmas Eve, I went to a midnight church service in the "Thunderdome" which is a hangar on the airfield. A battalion chaplain for a unit on the airfield was holding a service I wanted to attend, so that was pretty cool. On Christmas morning I went to a Eucharist service, and then reported to the DFAC that our battalion sponsors so I could spend a couple hours serving dinner to soldiers.
The DFAC was all decked out with very fancy displays. It seems like they must have made and used about 100 gallons of frosting because they had bibles, churches, reindeer, Santa Claus, and all sorts of things made and decorated with colored frosting. Pictures can be seen at www.greydragon.org/trips/Iraq/index3.html The food we served on Christmas Day was a veritable smorgasbord. Roast beef, roast turkey, glazed ham, crab legs, savory stuffing, scalloped potatoes, cornbread dressing, glazed yams, collard greens, corn on the cob, almond green beans, and a vegetable medley. You could also get a shrimp cup, rolls, 5 different kinds of prepared salad, and make-it-yourself salad, along with fruit, eggnog, juice, and soda, not to mention your choice of 6 or 8 different desserts. I made sure I had some pecan pie!
The week between Christmas and New Years was actually very busy. Lots of planning going on in regards to the future of things in Iraq. All sorts of rumours flying around---we will go home early--we will be extended--and everything in between. Mid-August will be a year, so if you ask me about the 1st of August, I will have a pretty good idea of when I should be coming home... *grin* Hey, that is only 7 months away! Too easy.
I have had several opportunities throughout the week to explain to people that it is still Christmas... It has been great fun going around wishing everyone "Happy Christmas" (the British version of "Merry Christmas") and then explaining that Christmastide begins on the evening of Christmas Eve (December 24) and ends on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Christmas Day itself is December 25. The 12-day length of the Christmas season gives rise to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" song and despite what retailers and the media might have one believe, the Twelve Days *begin* on Christmas Day, instead of ending on it.
Today is New Year's Day, and instead of being in a guard tower or on roving guard, I have spent the day in the office... I am really disappointed because I was looking forward to stuffing pork chops down my pants and smearing myself with steak sauce, hoping the jackals would give me a chance to have to "defend myself"! This past Saturday evening everything changed in regards to New Years and we were told that today would be a regular work day. Officers would work normal shifts, soldiers would pull duty, and our alertness was heightened. Things haven't gotten to the point that we have to wear body armor...yet. It may have all been because of projected reaction to Saddam's execution...or maybe someone heard that a lieutenant colonel was looking forward to "busting some caps" on some jackals. Don't know. This morning started at 0530 with my normal 4 mile workout of speed work to improve my time on the 2-mile run, and then in my boss's office by 0730 for the morning standup briefing. Business as usual.
That's it for now. I may have to go to Kuwait for a few days later this month, so I might write about that once I return.
Peter / Terafan