Posts Tagged ‘iraq reconstruction’

Who Goes There – Zeb

November 28, 2009

Major Zebediah Brighton: Operations

As LTC Slasher’s operations man, Zeb takes the brunt of the colonel’s insanity. Fully as anal as Slasher but lacking most of the micromanaging control issues and generally being capable of maintaining firm footing in common sense, Zeb is perfectly suited for micromanaging the micromanaging manager, effectively distracting the colonel from many of his most worthless obsessions and keeping him out of our business at critical times. A canny and diplomatic manipulator, Zeb is also a first rate schmoozer, and since his moral compass points him toward the good of others, we often benefit. Need a flight out on short notice? Special food items? An ‘in’ with the Brit Mil? If you’ve treated Zeb right and the cause is just, he will solve your problem.

The best way into Zeb’s circle of favor: make him laugh, compliment him frequently, and listen attentively and appreciatively to the endless collection of stories from his idyllic childhood in the wilds of rural California. Thinking quite highly of himself, the second two may become tedious, but they’ll pay off someday when you’re stuck in an operational morass, or when you’re looking for a witty after-work companion. Off the work grid, Zeb’s company guarantees clever repartee from a creative and loony mind.

Madly in love with a major stationed in Afghanistan, Zeb will fly to Hawaii to marry the sweetheart halfway through his tour. Under the desk during rocket attacks, bets are laid on whether he’ll be a laid-back, clever, creative and hilarious father whom his kids will adore, or a micromanaging, anal, prick of an officer father that his kids will grow to despise. It’s a tough call.

Zeb’s inflated self-importance concerning work matters and his occasional power plays directed at those he actually has no power over creates resentful enemies, while his generosity and quirky wit earn him an equal number of friends. If you duck under the ego he’s swinging around in the office and hunt him down for a late night movie, you’ll learn to love him.

Defining actions and characteristics:

  1. Won’t shut up about his idyllic childhood, basically running wild with his two little brothers in California
  2. Loves watching movies
  3. Frequently shows up in the DFAC with Brit Mil in tow, schmoozing

Why he stays:

He’s an officer; it’s not a choice. He might have volunteered though, even without orders. He seems to believe the reconstruction cause is just, and he’s generally appreciated here, which I’ve heard isn’t always the case at his home office.


[All names have been changed – OS]



Mad Moments 4: Friendly Fire

November 23, 2009

Autumn 2006

Traveling has taken on a novel and ironic new danger lately. The fresh battalion that recently rotated in-country is shooting at us on the road, apparently mistaking our white Land Cruisers for suspicious Iraqis.

Normally when we see military convoys, we slow to follow them, happy to let them clear the road, whether by engineering feats of detection or by hitting the IEDs themselves. “Hey,” our PSD men mutter with shrugs and evil grins, “better them than us, yeah?”

Well … yeah. Cheers, guys.

Now we see a convoy off in the distance and go through drastic gyrations of route in order to stay far, far away from them. “Silly buggers,” our PSD men mutter with a look of mild disgust. “Get with the program.”

Wouldn’t that be sick to get into a firefight with MNFI troops? If no one died it would be hilarious, but somehow death by friendly fire seems stupendously empty, does it not? It doesn’t just leave a hole; it’s like creating a vacuum.



The Pauses – 6

November 23, 2009

Tonight at dinner Jeff asked if I was in the Reserves. Tom almost spit his drink all over the table.  “What?” Jeff said with a bewildered look at Tom. “I think she’d do well in the military!” 

“If someone took her under their wing and beat the crap out of her a few times,” Tom said with a bit of venom.

I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to snark him back.

“She doesn’t get along well with the military,” someone else said.

I called Colonel Jeep “sir” twice in one conversation last week, and two people stared at me with their mouths hanging open. Most colleagues have only seen me around LTC Slasher, so I guess they’re not aware that I don’t have a problem with the military per se; I have a problem with stupidity giving orders (Slasher personified).

“I almost joined the Coast Guard out of college,” I admitted to Tom when I’d gotten my laughter under control. I timed my delivery to coincide with him taking a big drink of his milk. Oops!




The Pauses – 5

November 23, 2009

Driving across the vast plain of desert down by The Tree (the only Tree) I saw two foxes. 

They must have heard us coming, because by the time we came over the curve of the earth they were already ripping across the land, leaving two trailing dust clouds hanging in the hot air.

They were running hard south toward nothing, just sand.


The Pauses – 4

November 23, 2009

Out on the endlessly flat, tan, hot, sandy desert next to one of the many beat-to-shit, single lane, supposedly paved roads, a forward operating base (FOB) is being built. I’m going to guess that it’s for the Iraqi Army. They man a roadblock nearby.

We drive this route about once a week. The construction site looks like a strangely bulky, outsized child’s building block set scattered in one discrete plot of an endless sandbox.

Three weeks ago the blocks were suddenly organized: concrete t-walls stood in tight rows with a few random outliers looking like lonely megaliths; concrete cylinders rested side by side in rows on the sand, sorted by size; conical peaked roofs of concrete sat in a row, waiting to top off guard towers; rectangular buildings, each of their four walls holding empty air, stood in rows on one side of the site.

Over the past few weeks, cranes have lifted these items one at a time, swiveling slowly to swing them into specific placements. Two weeks ago the dozen little rectangular buildings were set into two tidy rows. Last week the tall t-walls were lined up around the perimeter of the buildings, and down two sides of the compound perimeter. Today the cylinders are being stacked into tall towers at the four corners of the compound. Conical concrete roofs lie on the ground beside each future tower, ready to be placed.

On the vast desert, a monumental landscape that encourages a contemplation of the puny and superficial efforts of the small animals called humans, the building blocks of this FOB look oddly significant, almost precociously intrusive, yet completely inadequate to the objective of security.

The building blocks of a static war… stock in concrete might be a solid investment.