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July 23, 2007

The Reunion

After finishing demobilization, I finally got to go home! Here I am on the bus with MSG Hoppe, getting ready to leave Fort McCoy. MSG Hoppe has been in the army for almost 40 years! His first tour in the Army was in a place called Vietnam. He said it was very hot there, too. Sheesh, why does the American Army keep fighting wars in such hot places?

Here are the other soldiers on the bus. Most of them look very happy! I don’t know why CPT Jensen looks unhappy. Maybe he was hungry.

Here’s a picture of the sign welcoming us back to Minnesota:

Some nice people called the Patriot Guard rode motorcycles with us and then held flags outside the Armory when we returned. You can also see our families waiting in the background!

Finally I spotted Milkshake in the crowd (it wasn’t hard, since she weighs 600 pounds)! I ran over to say hello.

Then my two cubs and my niece came over and we had a group bear-hug!

Finally, Josh and Kelly’s cub, Amy, came over to say hello. She was very happy to see me.

It’s great to be home!

July 22, 2007

Demobilization at Fort McCoy

When I got to Fort McCoy, the first thing I did was stop by the 1/34 BCT command cell to see my friend from the property book office, SFC Clevenger. Boy, was I surprised when I saw her! It turns out she went to the Warrant Officer Course and is now WO1 Clevenger! I had to salute her! I congratulated her on becoming a warrant officer and asked what she was doing at Fort McCoy. She explained that she was helping to coordinate the return of all the brigade’s equipment from Kuwait. Some of it is going back to Minnesota, Iowa, and several other state National Guards; some of it is getting turned in for repair and then getting reissued to new units, and some of it is getting turned in for repair and then going back to Minnesota. Wow, that sounds complicated! She told me that it does not make it any easier when people lose stuff on the way back, and so far a few soldiers have done that. Oops.

The next day, I got my inbriefing. It lasted 8 hours! There must have been 10 different people who gave us part of the briefing, and they all talked a lot! The day after that I started outprocessing. Here I am looking at a map and trying to figure out where all the stations are and how I should get started:

This is me waiting in line at one of the stations. I’m holding my personnel file, which has all of my important paperwork in it.

Here is a picture of me at the G.I. Bill station. The man here is explaining to me what my education benefits are. I didn’t realize it, but because of my service, POLARCOM will pay me 20 Arctic Dollars a month to go to school full-time! With that much money, I can go back to school and finish my degree in Mauling Studies!

Next I went to the medical stations. Here’s a picture of me getting a hearing test.

After the rest of my medical tests were done, I went to see a doctor to review them all. Dr. Spencer was a very nice man, and he took the time to answer a few questions I had.

As far as I can tell, demobilization is another word for “standing in line.? Here I am waiting in another line to go through one of the stations. This line went all the way out of the building!

Another requirement for demobilization is a dental exam. It takes a very brave dentist to examine a polar bear’s teeth!

On the evening of our second-to-last day, the company had a big party at Fort McCoy to celebrate the completion of our tour! Naturally I was there – bears love a good party. While I was there I met MAJ John Engels. He is the brigade’s lawyer – he calls himself the “SJA? for “Staff Judge Advocate.? He was drinking a pitcher of beer with his assistants, and he offered me some:

MAJ Simer stepped in before I started drinking and explained to MAJ Engels that you should never, EVER give alcohol to a polar bear. He said that when we get drunk and start looking for a fight, we can cause a lot of damage and injury. Hmmm. I think someone may have told him about some of the things that happened during my active duty time on Spitsbergen.

Well, I wasn’t allowed to have any beer, but I did help some of the soldiers eat their food. Here I am grabbing a bite of CPT Jensen’s hamburger. Our company commander, CPT Petersen, is to the left – you can see he’s being very cautious, since he’s worried I might take a bite of him by mistake.

On our last day we had a reintegration briefing. A lot of different people came by and spoke to us about getting back to our families and to civilian life. One of the speakers was a good friend of Kelly’s named Andy Davis! He talked about going back to school. He said that it might be a hard adjustment for some of the humans, since a lot of their fellow students have never served in the military. Fortunately, almost all bears volunteer for military service, so I don’t think I will have that problem.

After Andy’s talk, I met with a bear from the Minnesota Veterans’ Affairs department, who talked to me about some of the employment services they offer.

Finally, we were done! They assembled my company together in a big group to review our DD214s. A DD214 is a form that describes your active duty service. It lists how long you were on active duty, the awards and training you received, and a few other things. MAJ Simer told me this was a very important form to keep. I had not gotten one from my earlier active duty service, because I was on active duty with the Polar Bear Army. MAJ Simer helped explain the form to me and when we finished making sure everything on it was correct, I signed it.

Now I’m finally ready to start the last leg of my trip home and see my family again!

July 20, 2007

The Journey Home

After I handed over the mission to my replacement, 2LT Goldy, it was finally time for me to go home. Gosh, it was a long trip! I had to start it by showing up to the airfield at 30 minutes after midnight. I don’t understand why those silly air force guys wanted us to show up then. I have a sneaking suspicion that decision was made by an owl. Just to add insult to injury, our flight didn’t leave until 0500! I had to wait four and a half hours in a little tent with the other soldiers. Here is a picture of me and CPT Schooler passing the time waiting for our flight from Tallil:

Finally it was time to get on the plane. Once again, the loadmaster tried to have me strapped down to a pallet, since I weigh 1100 pounds. MAJ Simer convinced him that he didn’t need to do that. Here is a picture of us on the plane just before takeoff:

The plane flew us to Kuwait, where we got on buses and went to a place called Camp Virginia. MAJ Simer told me that we had to wait at Camp Virginia for our flight back to the US. He explained that because of the frequent sandstorms in Iraq, the Army always schedules soldiers to spend a couple of days at Camp Virginia waiting for their flight, to allow a little room for error. I guess that makes sense.

When we got to Camp Virginia, we moved into some big tents. MAJ Simer was having trouble with his shoulder, so I helped him move his baggage:

MAJ Simer gave me a reward for helping him:

Kuwait is very windy! While we were at Camp Virginia, we had a problem with the portable toilets getting blown away in the wind. I offered to help. I put a rope over some of the toilets and cinched it down so they would be secure:

Unfortunately, I guess I cinched a little too hard. Sometimes we polar bears don’t know our own strength:

Finally it was time to get on the plane back to the US! I got a whole row to myself, sort of by accident. A bunch of soldiers came by and asked if the seats next to me were taken. When I said, “Grrrrrrrr,? they all moved on to different parts of the airplane. Here is a picture of me getting ready to take off from Kuwait:

We made a lot of stops. We stopped in Germany, in Ireland, and also in a place called Bangor, Maine! There were a lot of people waiting to greet us in Bangor. Apparently a lot of US soldiers stop there on their way back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and people from the local area come out to meet every flight! That’s very nice of them. A lot of these people are veterans. MAJ Simer found one man who had served in 1-9 Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam! MAJ Simer was in 1-9 CAV as a Lieutenant from 1998-2001. This man had served from 1965-1966. I took this picture of them together:

Finally, we arrived at Volk Airfield in Wisconsin! The weather was MUCH cooler in Wisconsin than in Iraq, although it was still a little warm for my tastes. Here’s a picture of MAJ Simer and I at the airfield just before we got on the buses to Fort McCoy:

My journey wasn’t over yet – I still had to get on a bus to Fort McCoy to do my outprocessing - MAJ Simer called it either “demobilization? or “REFRAD,? for “Release From Active Duty.? That was an interesting experience, too - I’ll tell you all about it in my next update!

July 14, 2007

The deployment is ending, but THE ICEBLOG is not

Several people have expressed concern that The Iceblog will end since my deployment is almost over. Although the deployment is drawing to a close and soon I will be back with my wife and cubs, I plan to continue to maintain my blog. It might not be as exciting as it was during my deployment, but I will continue to drill with my unit. I have some upcoming stateside training with the animal squad and we definitely have training scheduled for 30, 60, and 90 days out. So have no fear - this is not the last you will hear from me even if I'm a little quiet for a few days. I will be very busy in the coming days as I travel home and complete demobilization, but I plan to share stories and photos of my adventures as soon as I can! Thanks for the well-wishes!

July 13, 2007

Transfer of Authority

Today we finally came to the end of our deployment! Our replacements have gone with us on a few missions, and they are ready to do the mission without our help. I reported this to MAJ Simer, and he told us to conduct a "Transfer of Authority" ceremony. So we just did a very simple ceremony on the roof of the BCT Headquarters.

Here are some pictures from the ceremony - I'm handing the flag over to Second Lieutenant Goldy, the platoon leader of the group replacing us. 2LT Goldy is a graduate of the ROTC program at the University of Minnesota. He’s an engineer officer - he told me he chose that specialty because of his excellent digging ability.



2LT Goldy was really excited to take the flag and get started with his mission!

And here's a picture of 2LT Goldy and I posing for a picture right after the ceremony. You can just barely see the Ziggurrrrrrrrat of Gurrrrrrrr right over 2LT Goldy’s left ear...

I'm a little sad to leave behind some of the friends I've made here, like the local village bears and the camels. I'm also a little sad that the war is still going on and that the Iraqi people still have to face insurgents and terrorists every day. But I think my soldiers and I have done everything we could. I’m excited to get home and see my family again!

MAJ Simer has warned me that it will be a long and tedious process to get back home and finish all the paperwork to "demobilize" (that’s what they call it when National Guard soldiers like me leave active duty and return to their civilian lives). I hope it's not as bad as he says - I'm getting really impatient to get home, so if I get slowed down just for paperwork, I might have to maul someone!

PS: For photos from the 1/34 BCT's Transfer of Authority ceremony (held on July 11th), you should check them out here: http://www.redbullweb.com/12.html

July 11, 2007

Redeployment

The big day has finally come! I sent most of my squad back home! The US Army calls this “redeployment.? Going from home to a war zone is called “deployment,? and going the other way is “redeployment.? I’m not sure why that is, but anyway, my soldiers all went home. I’m going to stay for another couple of days to finish handing things over to the unit that’s replacing us.

Our first order of business in redeployment was to pack up all of our equipment:

Reggie volunteered to be the one to pack all of the equipment into the container. He explained that the person he’s named for was not only a famous Eagle, but was a famous Packer as well.

Once we sent the equipment off, it was time for the soldiers to load up! Because I have soldiers from so many different countries, I had to send them home to a lot of different places! Ian and Winston were the first to leave.

Steve was next.

And finally, I sent the others. All of the animal soldiers from the US have to go to the same location for outprocessing before they can go home:

(Reggie and Tony didn’t get in the box because they’re flying themselves home)

I’m sure their families will be glad to see them! And don’t worry - it will just be a couple of days before I go home, too!

July 9, 2007

Our Replacements Arrive

Today was a terrific day for us! The loadmaster of the Sleigh-130 came by with another delivery.

It looks like the Minnesota National Guard has begun sending our replacements over! Hooray!

It will still be a couple of weeks before my unit goes home. First we need to do what the US Army calls a “relief in place.? This means that we’re going to take a couple of weeks to go through our missions together with the new unit, to teach them about the area they’re in and to show them some of the things we’ve learned over the past 18 months. That way they’ll be ready to conduct missions on their own when we leave.

I started out with some classroom instruction, going over some of the most important lessons I’ve learned here in Iraq:

We’re one step closer to going home now! Hooray!

July 4, 2007

Reintegration Briefing

Before we can go home, the Brigade Commander said that we all have to get a reintegration briefing. When I asked why, MAJ Simer explained to me that it can often be difficult for human soldiers to make the adjustment from being at war to being home again. These reintegration briefings are part of the Army’s program to help soldiers prepare for those adjustments. He said that the Army was interested in helping animal soldiers with this process, too. MAJ Simer contacted our home units and asked them to put together a briefing that would address some of the problems animals have when they get home from the war.

Because I’m squad leader, I got my briefing first. POLARCOM’s briefing was kind of scary:

The presentation for birds was a little controversial, and Reggie and Tony had a lot of questions about it:

Ian and Winston got a briefing that was specific to dogs. This one focused more on their own personal safety:

I thought the Florida National Guard had some excellent advice for their alligator soldiers:

The briefing for the “Red Bull? soldiers focused mostly on the dangers of SUI (Stampeding Under the Influence):

Snort and I agreed that the briefing was probably a little too morbid:

Finally, Steve came for his briefing. I got the impression that the Australian Army had not taken this as seriously as the others.

I’m not sure how useful all those briefings were, but at least they’re finished and we can continue with our plans to go home!

July 3, 2007

The Welsh Guards

Wow, that insurgent sure ended up giving us a lot of information! Thanks to that, and to some other intelligence that we got from the local villagers, we were able to learn a lot about the insurgents in our area. In fact, it was enough for our higher headquarters to plan a big offensive against them! Before we could do this, though, we needed reinforcements. An entire company of the Welsh Guards showed up to help us!

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Winston explained that due to cutbacks in the British Army, the Pembroke Welsh Guards and Cardigan Welsh Guards have been combined into a single regiment.

As for the offensive… well, it’s too soon for me to tell you anything more about that! Maybe later, after I get home…

The Locals turn in an Insurgent

I got some great news today! A local sheikh and his two teenage sons stopped by and asked to see me. It turned out that they had captured Hussein Khan Youssi, one of our two most wanted terrorists!

I thanked them and made arrangements for them to receive the award money. I’m really glad to have this dangerous criminal off the streets! He’s been involved in a lot of bad activities, and I know he has a lot of information about insurgent activity in the area. I asked him to tell me what he knew, but he just stuck his tongue out at me:

I’m not a specialist at interrogations, so I called Nicole over because she’s been trained in that sort of thing.

Sure enough, as soon as she showed up, the insurgent began to tell us everything he knew! With the information he gave us, we should be able to catch a lot of his former buddies!

MAJ Simer later said that Nicole probably looked more like one of the insurgent’s natural predators than I did, and this may have explained why he started talking. MAJ Simer also warned us that the Red Cross may have something to say about that particular tactic. But can I help it if my only trained interrogator is virtually indistinguishable from a crocodile?

Wanted Posters

Thanks to help from those villagers and the other tribes I met with last week, we’ve been able to identify two very dangerous insurgents operating in this area! Both of them are members of a very violent group known as JAM (Jaysh Al-Mamba, or “Army of the Snake?). Nicole put together some wanted posters, and we’ve been handing these out. Hopefully someone will be able to help us find and arrest them!

June 24, 2007

The Villagers Visit Us

I had a bit of a surprise today. Some bears came by and asked to see me! Fortunately we were able to get them onto the base for a meeting with relatively little trouble. The gate guards searched them, of course, but since bears don’t wear clothes it was easy for the guards to see that our visitors were not concealing any weapons.

I met them in the Animal Squad area. It turned out that the visitors were the sheikh and two of his brothers. I invited them in. Unfortunately I didn’t have any pillows that were the right size for them to lean on, so they had to make do with what was available:

In Iraq (and many other Arab countries), it is customary to serve guests chai (tea) as soon as they arrive. So I immediately told Winston to make some tea (I figured he was the best one to do this, since he drinks tea every day at 5 o’clock).

Unfortunately, our only teacup was being used.

After a bit of a delay, Winston was able to serve the tea.

After drinking tea, we got down to business. The sheikh told me that he was sorry about what had happened in his village. Unfortunately, some insurgents had come in and told all of the bears in his sleuth that if they helped or even talked to coalition forces, they would be killed! The sheikh explained that he and his tribe just wanted to live in peace, but the insurgents wouldn’t let them. He also said that because we helped the wounded civilian after the last battle, he could see that we meant well, but he knew that the insurgents were up to no good.

The sheikh offered to help us, but he asked for weapons so his bears could keep the insurgents out of their village. He explained that the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police never go out to that area, so there was no other way for them to defend themselves. He also asked for money so that they could dig new canals and replant the berry bushes Saddam had destroyed.

I told him the money was no problem, but that I was afraid that if I gave weapons to just one tribe, the other tribes might think we were playing favorites. After all, we’re fighting on behalf of all Iraqis, not just one village, tribe, or sleuth. So I told him that if the other tribal leaders were also interested, we might be able to make an arrangement.

Sure enough, the next week, all of the local tribal leaders showed up to meet with me!

(This time I made sure the tea was ready when they arrived.)

We reached an agreement to arm and train a few selected animals in each sleuth or herd so that they would be able to defend themselves against insurgents, in return for which they would have to cooperate with us.

I think that worked out very well!

June 22, 2007

Getting Care Packages

I mentioned in an earlier update that we get supplies and mail delivered by a reindeer-drawn sleigh (it’s actually what we call a “sleigh-130?). It makes a weekly trip from POLARCOM headquarters in the Arctic to the airfield at Tallil.

Today I got mail! (It is one of the last shipments we'll be getting since we're heading home soon!) Blitzen, the loadmaster for the sleigh-130, brought it over to me.

Hooray for cookies!



June 20, 2007

Returning to the Village

A few days later, our patrol took us through the bears’ village again. This time, though, something seemed different.

Only the adult bears came out to see us this time. And for some reason, they didn’t want to say anything to us – they just asked us to please leave them alone. I couldn’t figure out why they had such a change in their attitude….

We respected their wishes and moved through the village quietly, but I knew something was wrong, so I warned my squad to be extra careful.

Sure enough, shortly after we passed through the village, we got ambushed! Steve and I were pinned down, but we tried our best to return fire.

Fortunately we were able to get our air support on scene quickly. Tony dropped his “ordnance? right on target!



The RDA (Rock Damage Assessment) was one insurgent KIA (Killed in Action), although I think there may have been more who were involved in the attack.

Unfortunately, during the battle one of the village bears was wounded by a stray bullet! Winston immediately performed first aid and we called in a MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation). Here is Winston preparing to load the wounded villager onto a MEDEVAC Bird:

Here is a closer look. You can see the villager suffered a nasty wound to his right paw.

The insurgents are definitely up to no good in that village, and I think they have those bears intimidated. I hope we can find a way to drive them out!

June 11, 2007

Visiting a Village

My platoon got assigned to a new patrol zone recently. While we were on our first patrol in the new area, we came across something totally unexpected!

I didn’t even know there were bears in Iraq! They look kind of small, so I figured they were probably malnourished. I also thought they must be Sun Bears, since I figured only bears that really like the sun could survive in Iraq. MAJ Simer, however, said that if they live in this area they are probably Syrian Brown Bears. I asked him, “if they are Syrian bears, then what are they doing in Iraq?? MAJ Simer just shook his head.

Whatever kind of bears they are, they were a little apprehensive at first (you can see that one cub is staying very close to its mother). But they were not hostile. The village sheikh came out and welcomed us.

We spoke to him for a while. He explained that they hadn’t seen Americans or British soldiers in their village very often, so they were a little concerned as to why we were there. Once we explained that we were just passing through, he was satisfied. After the sheikh finished talking, the other bears felt more comfortable. As we spoke to them, many of them smiled at us, waved, and even came up to thank us (and America, and Britain) for getting rid of Saddam Hussein! Apparently Saddam did not treat these bears very well – in 1991, his secret police apparently uprooted or poisoned all of their favorite berry bushes.

So once they saw that we weren’t there to attack them, they were very happy. After a while they even let their cubs come up and talk to us. Their cubs were fascinated by me. Apparently most Iraqi bears don’t get much bigger than about 300lbs, so to see an 1100-lb polar bear was really exciting! The cubs especially liked to climb on me:

I had a lot of fun visiting that village! I hope we get to go back there again!

June 1, 2007

Ian files an IG complaint

Those of you who read this blog regularly may wonder what happened to Ian, the animal soldier from the Royal Scottie Regiment. He’s actually been working over in the property book office with Sgt. 1st Class Pasch. I know I wouldn’t like doing all that paperwork all day long, but Ian enjoys it. Apparently this sort of work plays to his nature as a Scottish Terrier. Here’s a picture of him reviewing a turn-in document:

SFC Pasch really likes Ian. Unfortunately for him, though, she thought he would look really cute with a bow, and made him wear one:

Here is a closeup of Ian with the bow. He doesn’t look very happy about it.

In fact, Ian was so unhappy about it that he sent a complaint to our Brigade’s IG (Inspector General)!

MAJ Simer said that if Ian thinks wearing a bow is humiliating and degrading, he should try working in the S3 section for a while.

We’ll see what the IG does with Ian’s complaint.

May 30, 2007

Memorial Day Part 2

This was a particularly sad Memorial Day for the Animal Squad. We had to add one of our own to the 1/34 BCT’s photos of fallen heroes. It took us a week before we could release the news, because his family left their den for the summer several weeks ago, and we had to search for them.

Teddy was a great team leader. I’m going to miss him.

May 28, 2007

Remembering Those Who Gave All

May 10, 2007

Out on Patrol

This week I got to go on a patrol with some of the human soldiers! I went with a patrol from the 134th BSB (Brigade Support Battalion). It turned out that one of my buddies from my POLARCOM reserve unit was part of this patrol! It was sure fun to see him. Here’s a picture of us together:

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I helped him prepare for the mission by loading a few coolers full of ice into the vehicle. We polar bears need to bring LOTS of ice on patrol with us, so that we don’t overheat. My friend, 1st Sergeant Olson, stopped by to inspect us and to make sure we were prepared for our mission with enough water, ammunition, and ice (that’s 1SG Olson in the middle):

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I asked if I could be a gunner for this mission, but after trying for several minutes, the soldiers determined that they could not get the gunner’s harness adjusted to fit a polar bear:

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While we were on patrol, we stopped at a nearby school and dropped off some supplies. The kids were sure happy to see us! We gave them notebooks and pens and things like that, and they were very thankful. It was great to see them attending school, although it was sure disappointing to see what terrible shape the building was in.

Here is a picture of the schoolchildren with MAJ Simer and with two of my other friends, Amy and Jeremy (no, this is not the same Amy as MAJ Simer’s cub – she hasn’t grown up THAT fast). I couldn’t be in the picture – we were worried that Iraqi children might be afraid of a polar bear, so I was pulling security.

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After we stopped at the school, we had lunch with some local leaders. They sure served a lot of food! I was very pleased with that. They roasted two whole sheep – one that they cut up and served to all the humans, and another that they served to me whole. That was very nice of them. For the humans, they served the roasted sheep on a bed of rice, with flat bread, vegetable soup, and fruit. Everyone ate with their hands (or paws) while sitting on the ground, which is the tradition for a luncheon of this sort. It was pretty neat. Here is a picture of Jeremy eating lunch with some of the Iraqi dudes.

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On the way back, I got to be a Truck Commander (TC). Here I am watching the road and looking out for IEDs:

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When I got back, MAJ Simer told me that I needed to file a trip report explaining what happened on the mission:

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I had a great time on this mission! I’m sure happy that those soldiers let me go with them. It was nice to be meeting and helping some Iraqi people.

April 29, 2007

Thwarting a Rocket Attack

I was leading my squad on patrol today when we got a call on the radio. Aerial surveillance had found an insurgent preparing to fire rockets at our base! (This is the actual aerial surveillance photo, with Nicole’s notes on it)

We immediately responded by calling in an air strike. With our aerial surveillance guiding him, Tony was able to score a direct hit. Notice the crater behind him.

I arrived just a minute or two later and talked to Reggie and Tony. They said that there were other insurgents involved, but they drove away in a pickup truck.

Reggie was able to track the truck back to a nearby village. I took my squad over there to see what we could find. Here I am knocking on the door of a house. You can see that Snort and Winston are establishing security, and Steve is getting ready to go in the house with me.

The owner of the house greeted us. I thought he looked a little suspicious.



I spoke to him while Steve checked the place out.

I noticed that the occupant of the house got really nervous when Steve walked near a large rug that was lying on the side of the room.

So I decided to check it out:

When I lifted up the rug, I discovered a cache of rockets!

Steve and I immediately detained the occupant of the house.



We’ll send him to an internment facility for interrogation. I hope he’ll tell us who else has been helping to shoot rockets at our base!

April 25, 2007

ANZAC Day

Today, 25 April, is a very important day! In Australia and New Zealand, this is when they commemorate "ANZAC Day!" ANZAC stands for "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps." This was a Corps of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who fought in World War One. On 25 April, 1915, these soldiers made an amphibious landing at a place called Gallipoli. That developed into a terrible battle in which thousands of them were killed.

Today, ANZAC day commemorates all of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who have fought and died in wars, from World Wars One and Two to Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the two Gulf Wars. It's a very important day.

Steve had a great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather who fought with the original ANZACs (see picture below), so he led our own commemoration.

On ANZAC day, people wear red poppies. This commemorates the battles fought near Ypres, in Belgium, and the poppies that grew there. There is a famous poem called In Flanders Fields that mentions the poppies, and that's why they've become part of our remembrance. Unfortunately, no poppies grow in this part of Iraq, so we did the best we could:

New Zealand does not have soldiers in Iraq, but a member of their diplomatic corps came as a representative:

Steve and I raised the Australian and New Zealand flags to half-mast to commemorate the soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who have died in war:

Winston and Snort laid a wreath of poppies:

Steve finished off by reciting another famous poem, For the Fallen, which is another traditional part of ANZAC day observances.

I sure learned a lot about Australian history by helping Steve commemorate ANZAC Day! If you want to learn more about this holiday, the Australian War Museum has a site that explains it very well:

http://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac/anzac_tradition.htm

April 19, 2007

Aerial Surveilance

The insurgents keep firing rockets at our base. We’ve been having a tough time trying to stop them, because we can’t see where they’re firing from. I asked MAJ Simer if we could get a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to try to find them, and he said yes, but we would have to do an “ONS.? “What’s an ONS?? I asked. MAJ Simer said, “an ONS is an Operational Needs Statement. You have to write up exactly what you need, why you need it, the support requirements for it, and a risk assessment. Next, you put this all into a special computer program we have for managing equipment. Then, the whole information packet goes up to the Corps, where a specially trained person ignores it until you go away.? That sounded like a lot of work with little chance of success. So, instead of getting a UAV, Reggie and Tony decided to work on their own version of aerial surveillance.

The first thing they decided they would need was a camera. This was easily acquired. They had a little trouble opening the package, though.

Once they got the camera out, there was another problem. Tony had trouble holding it in his talons!



They tried to think of ways to fix that. The first idea they thought of was very dangerous, so I jumped in to stop them before they could try it:

Their second idea was much better.

After all, there are few problems that can’t be solved with enough duct tape!

Now I hope we can start tracking down some of these insurgents!

April 17, 2007

Lost & Found

This is what I found when I walked into the office this morning.

Oops! Looks like someone lost their headgear. Well, there's only one solution to this problem - the headgear must be punished!

My first idea didn't work out very well - the headgear didn't fit.

I then enlisted Winston to help me in my task. He contributed a little something:



There's a makeshift anchor here that some of our Navy Electronic Warfare officers put together. We decorate the anchor for various holidays. I thought the headgear would look good on top of the anchor.

… but then I figured that the headgear's owner (who was very negligent for leaving it unattended) would probably come by and take it back if I left it there. I couldn't let that happen. I found some soldiers nearby with a HMMWV and asked them to help.

After that, I had one more option in mind, which I thought was really cool. Unfortunately, CW4 Panos, the safety officer, did not think it was a good idea, and he stopped me.

So finally I just gave the soldier's headgear back to his supervisor with a note:

Sir,
One of your soldiers was negligent in leaving this "sensitive item" unattended. I recommend that you conduct corrective training.

Hee hee hee - it's fun playing practical jokes!

March 28, 2007

Not feeling well

Hi everybody! I'm sorry for the long delay between messages. Spring is here in Iraq, and that means two things: Warmer temperatures and lots of blowing dust. Neither of those things are very good for polar bears, so I haven't been feeling well lately.

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While I was sick in bed, though, I made use of the time by reading a few books. I'm hoping these books will help me to better understand Iraq's climate and culture.

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I'm feeling better now and will be returning to action, so I should have some more updates before long!

February 26, 2007

My Friend Gets Promoted!

Today was another exciting day! My friend, CPT Simer, got promoted to Major today! I was really excited about it, so I asked if I could pin his new rank on. He agreed. Here are some pictures…

Here I am pinning his new rank on:

Major Simer and I right after the ceremony:

I was really excited, and I congratulated MAJ Simer in the traditional polar bear way… I guess once again, he wasn’t ready for that. Oops.

After he came to, MAJ Simer told me that I really need to do a better job of controlling myself. To make sure I would follow up on that, he told me that he was going to give me a written counseling statement:

Here he is writing the counseling statement.



I told MAJ Simer that I understood and promised that in the future, I would try harder to remember I’m working with humans, not other bears.

Sheesh. Humans are such wusses.

February 9, 2007

Rocket Attack!

There was a rocket attack on our base today! We had to take cover in a bunker.

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Nicole was too far away to reach the bunker, so she found the nearest available cover.

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Apparently CPT Simer was actually expecting to wear his helmet...

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He quickly realized it was being used.

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Nicole politely suggested that he pull his head inside of his body armor to protect it - like a turtle does - but CPT Simer declined.

We call rockets and mortars "indirect fire." This is because usually when someone fires a rocket or a mortar, they can't see what they’re shooting at. A rifle or an RPG are "direct fire," because with those you see what you're shooting at and aim right at it.

I can't tell you what kind of damage the rockets did, of course. Most of the time they're just an annoyance. Still, there has been talk of my squad getting assigned to a new patrol zone with the task of stopping indirect fire attacks, so stay tuned...

February 5, 2007

The Big Battle

Yesterday we had some excitement out on a patrol – we got into a battle with some insurgents! Fortunately this time someone had a camera, so I have pictures that I can share with you. Here’s what happened:

We were just on a routine patrol and were passing through a local village when some people stopped us. The villagers told us that there was some suspicious activity around one of the buildings in their village. One of the villagers said he got a phone call saying that if he talked to the Americans about that suspicious activity, the village’s new school would get blown up! Another villager said a teenage girl had been badly beaten because someone in that building didn’t like the way she was dressed! That didn’t seem very nice. We decided to check out the building. We approached it very carefully.

Suddenly an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) flew over our heads, and we started taking small arms fire! We immediately took cover.

Continue reading "The Big Battle" >>>

January 29, 2007

Air Support!

A while ago, I wrote a memorandum to POLARCOM in which I wrote that in order to continue fighting insurgents, my squad would need air support. Surprisingly enough, my request was granted! Our air support arrived today:

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The two pilots they sent are from the US. Their specialty is attack aviation, although their service records stated that they had experience in transporting other animals for various distances as well. After they reported to me, I asked them their names. They said, “SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEECH!? Unfortunately, I don’t speak bird very well, so I had to consult a dictionary.

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According to the dictionary, ““SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEECH!? can mean one of two things:

1. “Our names are Tony and Reggie.?
2. “Two thousand caribou have just trampled through my favorite salmon stream.?

I figured that meaning #1 was what they intended.

As always, I asked them a little more about themselves.

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Tony is a Red-Tailed Hawk from Colorado. He has been an Army aviator for about six years. He likes to soar really high and to dive fast. When I told him that I was from Minnesota, he told me that he has always been a big fan of gophers.

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Reggie is from Alaska. He is a Bald Eagle, and he says that he was named for a very famous Eagle. He has been an aviator for about five years. Like Tony, he didn’t go to the US Army aviation school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, because he was born an aviator. In his spare time, he enjoys fishing.

I was sure excited to have these two join my squad. Unfortunately, it turned out that they, too, had not received any training on how to identify friendly forces in Iraq! This time, though, I anticipated that and I was able to intervene in time.

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Fortunately, Steve and the porpoise were both uninjured.

I gave Reggie and Tony a quick class on recognizing friendly forces.

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Sheesh, they really need to do a better job training some of these soldiers before their deployments!

January 28, 2007

Promoted!

Today was a great day! I finally got my promotion!

Promotion in the US Army is much more complicated than I am used to. In the Bear Army, it's simple - if you can beat up your squad leader, you become the squad leader. If you can beat up your platoon sergeant, you become the platoon sergeant, and so on. If you can beat up other bears AND do "Powerpoint," you're eligible to be an officer. In the US Army, to get promoted to Sergeant or Staff Sergeant you need to be recommended by your commander, you need to get enough "points" (you get points by shooting your weapon well, earning awards, and things like that), and you usually need to go to a promotion board. Well, I finally met the requirements for BOTH armies, so I was able to get promoted.

We had an informal ceremony with a few members of my squad and some of my human friends from the Brigade. Here is a picture of us standing in formation. Captain Simer has called me "front and center," in front of my squad and my friends Sergeant Schilling and Sergeant 1st Class Pasch. We're standing at attention because Sergeant Major Bell is reading my promotion orders (Sergeant 1st Class Clevenger took all the pictures).

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And here is a picture of CPT Simer and SGM Bell pinning my new rank on!

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In POLARCOM, it is traditional that after promoting someone, you whack him really hard with your paw. It's just a ritual we have. I had explained this to CPT Simer, so he thought it would be neat to observe that tradition. Here he is whacking me with his paw. He didn't hit me very hard, though.

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Unfortunately, I apparently forgot to tell CPT Simer that it is also traditional for me to whack him back...I guess he wasn't ready for that.

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I checked on him and he seemed to still be breathing, so he must have been OK. I haven't seen him back at the office yet, though.

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After the promotion ceremony, I tried to buy pizza for my squad, but the people at the Tallil Pizza Hut laughed at me when I tried to order "Six large pizzas… one with seals, one with milk-bones, one with eucalyptus, one with grass, one with haggis, and one with anchovies and tuna." Oh, well.

It's great to be recognized with a promotion! I'm also glad for the extra pay. Right now, Milkshake is able to go out onto frozen lakes in Minnesota and whack walleye and northern pike to eat, but when summer comes along we'll really need the extra 2 arctic dollars per month to feed our two new cubs. That doesn't sound like a big increase unless you know that one arctic dollar is enough to buy an entire adult seal (with blubber). Since polar bears can live for days to weeks after eating a single seal, 2 arctic dollars per month is a LOT of money!

January 22, 2007

Hooray for care packages!

Well, today was a pretty good day. My whole squad cheered up because we got care packages in the mail! Mine had cookies in it! I love cookies!

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After I ate the cookies, I ate the bag they came in. Then I ate the peanut butter crackers, and the drink mix. Even the box tasted pretty good from having all that food in it!

The porpoise also got a care package:

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Hooray for care packages!

(Note: I still don’t have a mailing address for humans to send me care packages. I am able to get them from Milkshake because POLARCOM sends my mail over. There's a reindeer-drawn sleigh that does a weekly cargo flight from the North Pole to Tallil, to deliver mail and supplies. Unfortunately, humans are not allowed to send cargo on that sleigh. Sorry!)

January 20, 2007

More on the Extension

Actually, I left something important out of my last message. I knew about the extension even before the email came from POLARCOM. Apparently there was a mixup at POLARCOM HQ, and they told the Arctic media about our extension before they bothered to tell me. So I actually heard about it first from my wife - she read it in the Tundra Tribune (our local newspaper) and wrote to me to see if I had heard the news. Naturally I was caught by surprise, but when I followed up on it with my chain of command, it turned out that she was right. Below is her email to me:

------

From: Milkshake
Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 7:56 AM
To: Stone.cold@iraq.polarcom.mil; stonecoldpb@gmail.com
Subject: Grr?

Dear Stone Cold,
Grrr?
Love,
Milkshake

------

And my reply (after discovering that it was, in fact, true):

------

From: stonecoldpb@gmail.com
Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 16:45
To: Milkshake
Subject: Re: Grr?

Dear Milkshake,

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
RRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Love, SC

SGT(P) Stone Cold
Animal Squad Leader, 1/34 BCT

January 15, 2007

Extended!!!

We got some disappointing news today. My squad has had our tour extended. That means we're not going to go home in March, like we had expected. It's a little disappointing, but the humans in our Brigade found out they were getting extended last week, so it was only a matter of time for us. I got the message in an email from POLARCOM HQ, and I had to break the news to my squad. Most of them were out on missions, but I gathered together the ones who were available to make the announcement in person.

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After I read them the announcement, I let my soldiers read it for themselves...

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The porpoise didn't seem very surprised. He made a few of his usual high-pitched noises and then flolloped away (flolloping is how porpoises get around while they are on land. It's hard to describe - you really just have to see it to know what it is).

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Winston made some remark about fighting on the beaches, in the fields, and in the hills, and never surrendering. I'm not sure what he was talking about, since there are no beaches, fields, or hills near here...but in all, he seemed to take the news well.

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Snort kicked the announcement a few times and then wandered off.

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Steve had the most positive reaction of them all...he didn't even ask to read the message himself. He just said, "No worries, mate! Cheers!"

Ian, on the other hand, had the sort of reaction I guess I should have expected from a Terrier...

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Oh, well. I'm sure he’ll be fine after a few days.

January 11, 2007

Oops

Another coalition soldier arrived today! I went to meet him at the airport. This coalition soldier turned out to be from a Danish battalion:

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I greeted him and then went to get a vehicle so that he wouldn’t have to carry all of his bags.

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While I was gone, Snort came by…

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Unfortunately, it appears that the Army deployed Snort without giving him any training on how to identify members of the coalition! I can’t believe they would leave out something so important. Before I could do anything, there was a misidentification and a terrible tragedy occurred.

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Poor guy.

---

01/08/06 FOLLOW-UP TO THIS INCIDENT: Snort was repremanded for his actions. See the report below...

1/34 BCT Military Justice Log

A Red Bull Soldier from Animal Squad, 1-34 Brigade Troops Battalion, received a field grade article 15 for improperly devouring another coalition soldier. Although the soldier demonstrated that his training in coalition identification was inadequate, he nevertheless failed to achieve positive identification before devouring. The soldier also failed to demonstrate that he perceived an imminent threat of attack or of starvation. Soldier was reduced to private (E-1), received a forfeiture of half a month’s pay for two months (twenty bales of hay), was given 45 days of extra duty, and was sentenced to be shocked with an electric cattle prod seven times (this punishment was suspended for 6 months).

December 31, 2006

Reinforcements at last!

As you know from my previous posts, my squad really has been overwhelmed with tasks lately. Well, we finally got some reinforcements! The US Army and our coalition partners (in particular the United Kingdom and Australia) sent some additional animal soldiers to perform missions with my squad. They arrived yesterday.

They reported to me, and I took a few minutes to talk with each of them and take their picture. Here they are:

I asked this guy his name and he said “SNORT!? So I’m assuming that’s what his name is. He is one of the “Red Bull? soldiers for whom our brigade and division are named! On a personal level, he says some of the things he likes are eating grass and starting stampedes. His dislikes include brands and matadors. Before he was mobilized, he was part of the PCT circuit. PCT stands for Professional Cowboy Throwers – it’s the bulls’ counterpart to the PBA (Professional Bullriders Association).

Ian is from the United Kingdom – specifically, from Scotland. He is a member of the Royal Scottie Regiment who is on temporary duty as a member of my squad. He likes eating leftover haggis and “swimming in the loch,? whatever that means. He dislikes people who don’t know the differences among the words Scot, Scots, Scotch, Scottish, and Scottie.

Winston is also from the UK. He grew up near London and is a member of the Queens Royal Hussar Regiment. I said, “Oh, so I guess that means a Hussar is a kind of bulldog?? He said no, a Hussar is a cavalryman; Winston just happens to be in that regiment. When he arrived, he was surprised that I already had equipment (including body armor) and a room available for him and the rest of his crew. He said something to me about how “never before have so many owed so much to one polar bear.? He likes to have tea and milk-bones every day at 5 o’clock, and he dislikes French Poodles.

Steve is from Australia. He was originally sent to join the Australian Battlegroup here at Tallil, but got diverted to join my squad instead. He makes lots of strange noises, some that sound kind of like this: “GWAAAAAAARRRRRRUUNNNNNGH,? and some that sound sort of like this: “CRIKEY!? I thought he looked a little like a bear, but he explained that he is actually a marsupial. Marsupials have pouches on their bodies in which they carry their young – at least the females do. In Steve’s case, he just has an ammunition pouch. He likes sitting on branches eating eucalyptus leaves, and he dislikes dingos and stingrays. He wants to say “g’day? to all his “mates? back home, and looks forward to eating “eucalyptus on the barbie? when he gets back.

I’m really looking forward to working with these new soldiers. This will be exciting! CPT Simer has had the chance to work with a lot of coalition soldiers before, including soldiers from Australia, the UK, Poland, Denmark, Bosnia, Italy, Romania, and Japan. Now it’s my turn! It’s really neat to see so many countries banding together to help the Iraqi people achieve democracy and justice.

December 20, 2006

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays, everybody!

Today I had a great idea for a holiday greeting to my family. I decided to put a bumper sticker on my HMMWV with a holiday message for them! Unfortunately, I don’t know how to make a bumper sticker, so I used an old one that I had and modified it slightly.

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As I was putting it on, though, one of my friends came by – SGT Schilling from the property book office. She told me that we’re not allowed to put bumper stickers on our HMMWVs. Sheesh, the Army has too many rules!

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Oh well… I’ll just have to send my holiday message some other way:

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Happy Holidays to my Christian friends, Happy Hannukah to my Jewish friends, to my Muslim friends I wish a good journey on this year’s pilgrimage, and to my Polar Bear friends I wish a happy Feast of The Thousand Seals!

Love,
S.C.

November 6, 2006

Home for R&R

Today was a great day! It was finally my turn to go home on R&R (Rest and Recreation) leave! It was a long trip home and I was very cramped - the Army doesn't make space for polar bears to go on leave, so I had to stow away in CPT Simer's luggage. It sure felt good to get out of there!

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I had a big crowd of friends and family waiting to meet me when I got home....

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My wife, Milkshake, introduced me to my new cub who was born after I left. Milkshake said that she named him "Blizzard," mostly because of the way he makes the house look. Hmm, if that's the case, maybe "Tornado" would have been a better name.

It was really exciting to meet him! I wonder what it will be like to be a daddy polar bear. Most male polar bears don't participate in raising their cubs, but Milkshake and I have decided to have an alternative lifestyle.

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I'm going to be home for about two weeks before I go back to Iraq. It will be a good break from the war... and more importantly, from the heat! It's starting to get cold in Minnesota - just the way I like it.

October 14, 2006

Expanding Opportunities for Bears

Hi, everybody! I’m sorry that I can’t send pictures with this update, but my camera broke. Hopefully I’ll be able to get it fixed in a couple of weeks. If not, I may have to start borrowing cameras from other people.

I just wanted to send a quick note because when I logged on to AKO today (Army Knowledge Online, the US Army’s website for all of its soldiers), I saw the following message:

October 10, 2006 - MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] 21P is Now in the BEAR Program - Prime Power Production Specialist (21P) is now a BEAR MOS. See MILPER [Military Personnel] MSG #06-279 or your Career Counselor for details.

Hooray for the Army expanding opportunities for bears! That's all for now.

October 1, 2006

Preparing for Patrol

Now that the porpoise is filling in for me on the Brigade Staff, I can go back to doing what I enjoy most – patrols!

When we go out on a patrol, we don't just jump in our vehicles and drive off. There's a lot of preparation to be done! In fact, now that I'm a squad leader, I have even more work to do. CPT Simer told me I needed to do PCCs and PCIs before we went on patrol. He said that stands for "Pre-Combat Checks," and "Pre-Combat Inspections." He said those checks and inspections are important so that I can make sure we have everything we'll need for the mission, and that it is all working. I guess it would be pretty bad if we bumped in to the enemy and only then realized that our weapons weren't working! So, we make sure to do careful preparation before we start our patrol and as a leader, I have to check it.

Today's mission was a reconnaissance patrol. That meant we weren't going out looking to fight with anyone; we were just trying to gather information. Still, you never know what will happen out there, so we still had to prepare just like we were going out looking for a fight. Here are a few pictures of me doing a Pre-Combat Inspection of a vehicle. I started by checking the M240B machine gun to make sure it was clean and properly oiled...

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It looked pretty good. It sure is hard to keep a weapon clean in all this dust! Just as important as keeping the weapon clean, is making sure that the ammunition is clean and serviceable. My old First Sergeant taught me that if a machine gun jams, it's almost always because of the ammunition, not the gun itself...

0930 Inspecting the Ammo.JPG

Next, I got in the vehicle and sat in the driver's seat to check a few things. I had a thing or two to say about the crew’s load plan...

0930 In the Driver's Seat.JPG

I finished things off by doing a communications check. The driver has made a field improvement to the microphone by taping a plastic spoon to it. It's not pretty, but it works...

0930 Commo check.JPG

After a few minor corrections, that crew was good to go. Wow, being a leader is a lot of work!

Our patrol was successful, by the way. I can’t tell you exactly where we went and what we did, but we got to talk to a few people and learned some interesting things. I can't wait to go on my next one!

September 18, 2006

Brigade Staff Porpoise

The porpoise is doing very well on the Brigade Staff. As it turns out, he understands Army doctrine and the planning process very well. In fact, he’s even been able to teach the other people on the staff a thing or two. Here he is teaching an OPD/ NCOPD session (Officer / Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development):

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September 17, 2006

A Place for the Porpoise

After all of my unsuccessful attempts to train the porpoise to do something useful, I finally had to confront him today.

“You can’t carry a weapon,? I said, “you can’t drive a vehicle, you can’t walk, and you can’t even wear a helmet. Do you have ANY skills??

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The porpoise made his usual series of ear-splitting high-pitched noises, and then he did this:

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That’s hardly a useful skill! As a matter of fact, it’s kind of scary that I didn’t know about this before I tried to take him on that night patrol. With all those flashing colored lights, he could have given away our position. It could have been a disaster!

What on earth could I do with this soldier? After much thought, I decided that I would do with him what the humans seem to do with people who lack any useful skills… I assigned him to the brigade staff.

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I think he’ll fit right in.

September 12, 2006

Another training attempt

Since the porpoise was having trouble doing dismounted patrols, I thought maybe it would be better if I trained him to be a HMMWV driver. As you can see, that didn’t work out very well either. *SIGH*

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September 6, 2006

On Patrol

I’m continuing in my attempts to integrate this new soldier into my squad. Today, I tried to take him on a dismounted patrol. The porpoise can’t carry a weapon because his flippers won’t fit into the trigger guards of anything we have. I suppose he could swat at the butterfly trigger on a .50 caliber machine gun, but I haven’t tried that yet. He still can’t figure out how to wear a helmet or a uniform, either. About all I could have him do is carry the radio. He was excited to do that and let off a bunch of high-pitched noises that hurt my ears. I told him he’d better not make noise like that while we were patrolling.

We started our patrol just before sunset…

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Unfortunately, we were barely outside the wire when the porpoise suddenly collapsed from dehydration.

0906 Dehydrated Porpoise.JPG

I had to perform emergency first aid…

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We quickly evacuated the porpoise to the medical clinic. The medics took care of him and in a few hours, they released him. He was fine, but they gave him a couple days in quarters to finish his recovery. Here’s a picture of me stopping by to check on him.

0906 Porpoise in Quarters.JPG

I feel bad that the porpoise had to suffer all that, but it’s his own fault. The Army Safety Center recommends that in Heat Category Five, porpoises should consume at least two quarts of water every minute. I told him this, but he just wouldn’t listen...

August 29, 2006

A New Soldier

Something totally unexpected arrived today...

I wasn't quite sure what to do with this new arrival. I mean, it didn't come with any instructions - just showed up in a box. Naturally, my first reaction is that I should probably do with it what polar bears generally do with any other animal they encounter...

CPT Simer stopped me before I started eating and explained that the porpoise is actually a new soldier who's been assigned to my squad. Well, how was I supposed to know that? I wasn't expecting any replacements. True, Yogi was injured by an exploding picnic basket, but he returned to duty after receiving a few stitches.

It appears that the porpoise was in the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve). The Army called him up, trained him, and sent him over here as an individual rather than with a unit. I asked him his name, and he replied with a series of high-pitched noises that hurt my ears.

My first order of business was to figure out what this new soldier could do. It turned out that he didn't get very much training before coming here, so I decided to try training him on a few tasks. At first I tried training him to be a TOW missile gunner:

That didn't work out very well. He couldn't seem to look through the sight without some part of his body being in the backblast area.

Next I tried training him on the SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon)

That didn't work out very well, either. He couldn't look through the sight, and his flippers wouldn't even fit into the trigger well. I was beginning to wonder what he could do. Then I discovered something even worse: this new soldier doesn't even know how to wear a helmet! I could only cover my eyes and shake my head.


(I'm covering my eyes with a copy of Army Regulation 670-1)

I can see that this new soldier is going to be a real challenge....

August 17, 2006

Work, work, work!

Hello everybody! Things here in Iraq are going pretty well. It's still very hot, and I still don't get enough to eat, but at least I get to work in an air-conditioned office! As you know from a couple of messages ago, I've been assigned to work on the brigade staff. I work with my friend, CPT Simer, in the plans office.

Here's another picture of me working in the plans office.

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The Brigade S5, MAJ Kastberg, has given me a new mission: keeping an eye on CPT Simer. I sit on his desk watching him type powerpoint slides - he does that all day long. Just typing and clicking. It's really boring. My job is to watch him, and whenever he stops typing or clicking, I whack him in the head with my paw (you can see that I have my paw raised in this picture - when it was taken, I could see CPT Simer was slowing down).

I can't say it's the most glamorous job, but at least I get to stay in the air conditioning.

After a few hours of this, CPT Simer bribed me to give him a break for a while.

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What can I say - he knows my weakness. It was only a short break, though - I'm sure MAJ Kastberg wouldn't mind if he found out.

Oops, I gotta go. CPT Simer just stopped typing again.

August 11, 2006

A Visit to Basra

August 10th was a fun day! CPT Simer and I got to take a trip to Basra! Basra is the second-largest city in Iraq. It’s wayyyy down in the southern tip of Iraq, near the Persian Gulf. It’s right near where the two famous rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, come together. Because of this, some people say this was the site of the Garden of Eden! That goes to show you how much things can change in 6,000 years.

I didn’t enjoy the trip to Basra at all. I had to ride in a HMMWV. Even Josh thought the HMMWV was cramped, and he only weighs 168 lbs. Imagine how I felt! And it was really hot, too!

I had a good time once we arrived, though. Basra is where a lot of British soldiers are stationed! I liked the British soldiers. They seemed to be good humored. Their units have really funny names. I met one soldier who said he was from the “Dorsetshire and Devons,? and another who was a “Queen’s Royal Hussar.? I’m not sure what a Hussar is, nor why a Queen would want a royal one. Maybe Hussars are good to eat?

CPT Simer had some meetings with British officers there, but I can’t tell you what the meetings were about. At one meeting there was an Australian officer! It was fun to meet him. When the meeting was over, he said, “I’m going to go down to the cookhouse and secure us a table, mates. I’ll meet you there.? CPT Simer had to explain to me what a cookhouse was. And also, being a polar bear, “mate? means something very different than it does to Australians!

After the meetings, we had lunch with some British, Australian, and Danish officers. The chow hall there served fish and chips. I love fish and chips! Not as much as grilled cheese sandwiches or raw seal blubber, but I do like it a lot. And naturally it was served with tea. I’m afraid I drank too much tea, which made the trip home a little rough for the other soldiers in my vehicle, but that’s the way it goes.

I couldn’t take any pictures in the British headquarters in Basra, but here’s a shot of me and CPT Simer in a parking lot at the Basra Airport:

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On the way back to our camp, we stopped at an outpost to meet the soldiers there. While we were there, I took a turn pulling guard duty in one of the towers. Here is SPC Lindbom from A/2-135 Infantry, showing me where my sector of fire is:

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And here’s a picture of me pulling guard duty with an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon:

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August 8, 2006

A Typical Day - Part 2

Hi, everybody! Sorry for the long delay in my "A Day in the Life" series. Milkshake (my wife) helps me post stuff to the internet, and she's been away taking the cubs to visit their grandparents in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It was a very disappointing visit for her - you see, we've been living among humans for so long that we forgot polar bears don't keep the same kind of family ties that humans do. She had to wander around for several days just to find her parents. Then, when she found her dad, he growled at her for interrupting his supper and chased her and the cubs away! They had a much better time with her mother, fortunately. She made them some grilled seal and cheese sandwiches, and they were able to visit for several hours before some oil workers scared them away.

Anyway, here's my next installment:

After personal hygiene, I go to breakfast. I'm not allowed to take pictures inside the dining facility, unfortunately. Breakfast is the only meal I'm allowed in the chow hall to eat. More on that later. Today I ate a 30-egg omelette and a sack of hash browned potatoes.

On this day I was working in the brigade headquarters, with my friend CPT Simer. He works in the plans section. We started off the day by reviewing the campaign plan. I had a suggestion for how we should change it that I wrote on the board. CPT Simer didn't think it was a good idea, but I'm sure it would have worked. Oh, well.

A Day in the life 5 campaign plan.JPG

One of the people who works with CPT Simer is CPT Jerry Gunn. CPT Gunn is a logistics officer. He helps the combat arms officers incorporate logistics into their plans. It's a tough job - most of those combat arms officers are pretty simple-minded. And this is coming from a bear! Anyway, today I had a proposal for how the brigade should change an important aspect of their supply allocation. CPT Gunn considered it very carefully, but I don't think he agreed with my proposal. Sheesh, why do they even have me around if they're just going to shoot down all my ideas?

A Day in the life 6 meeting with S4.JPG

After working all morning, we come to my favorite time of day: lunchtime! I'm not allowed in the chow hall for lunch and dinner after the infamous "ice cream counter incident" - the less said about that, the better. So, CPT Simer has to get my meals in a to-go container. In this picture I've punched a hole in the top of a container and I'm waiting for a grilled cheese sandwich to come up for air.

A Day in the life 7 lunchtime.JPG

Here I am eating a grilled cheese sandwich. I eat it similarly to how I eat a seal - I rip off the crusts and go for the most nourishing sections first. If I'm really hungry I'll eat the crusts later, but usually I let the arctic foxes nibble on them.

A Day in the life 8 lunchtime.JPG

After lunch we have a meeting with the rest of the staff to discuss some of the plans we're working on. I wish I could show you some pictures of the meeting, but all the stuff we were talking about was secret! Oh, well. Here's a picture of me setting up for the meeting.

A Day in the life 9 setting up for meeting.JPG

That meeting took a long time! The rest of my afternoon wasn't very interesting, and for supper I had - you guessed it - more grilled cheese sandwiches. Right after supper is when I gather the rest of my squad together and give them their assignments. As you can see, like many units here, my squad has been "chopped up" and assigned to a lot of different tasks...

A Day in the life 10 next day assignments.JPG

That's about it for a typical day on the brigade staff! I wish I could show you more, but we really have to worry about OPSEC around here. Hopefully soon I'll be assigned to a different job where I can take more pictures.

July 25, 2006

A Typical Day - Part 1

Today I'm going to send in the first installment in my series, "A Day in the Life!" My friend CPT Simer took pictures of me going through a typical day's activities. All of my days here are different so it's tough to say what a typical day is, but I think these pictures tell the story well.

1. CPT Simer opens up the door to the freezer and wakes me up at 0500. I am NOT a morning person. A few weeks ago, I was in such a bad mood that I accidentally mauled him when he woke me up too abruptly. He is much more careful now:

day1.jpg

2. We go to the gym to work out. Even polar bears have to exercise:

day2.jpg

3. I'm VERY disappointed that the gym does not have 4-legged exercise bikes:

day3.jpg

4. After working out, it's time for "personal hygiene." Here I am on my way to the showers:

day4.jpg

July 18, 2006

Grilled Cheese Rationing

Many of you probably wonder what a polar bear eats in Iraq. As I mentioned earlier, the chow hall does not serve seal or walrus, and KBR wanted to charge wayyy too much money to make special deliveries for me. Still, I manage to get by. Most of you probably don't realize this, but polar bears really like grilled cheese sandwiches.

You see, in the summer months, we can't hunt seals or walruses the way we're used to. Without sea ice, we can't go and wait at a hole in the ice for seals to come up for air. Instead, most of us just scrounge whatever we can, and live mostly off of body fat. We're one of the few animals who fatten up during the winter to survive the summer!

Fortunately, in recent years we polar bears have discovered grilled cheese sandwiches. We love them! I can still remember my mother making grilled cheese sandwiches for us cubs during the summer when I was little. Of course, I had to fight with my siblings to actually get any, and I often lost - but when I was able to grab a couple, it was great.

My mother would go into a nearby town to get the ingredients. She would walk into the store and grab a few loaves of bread and as much cheese as she could carry. When she went to pay, the cashiers would usually hide, and let my mom take all that stuff for free. I really appreciate their generosity. It can be tough for a mother with three cubs to make it through the summer!

So anyway, I like grilled cheese sandwiches. Unfortunately, the chow hall here limits everyone to two. What's up with that? I understand limiting a human being to 2, since they usually weigh 120-200 lbs. But I weigh 1100lbs. I need at LEAST ten. I'm always left hungry, and that's really annoying. I need to figure out a way to get around that rule...

July 15, 2006

Learning to be a Sniper

Today was another fun day for me. My friend, Sergeant First Class Montero, travelled down here from Balad to teach a bunch of us how to be snipers! I've always been fascinated by snipers. Up in the Arctic, there are a lot of wide-open spaces, so being able to shoot your target at a long distance is a real advantage. Since most polar bears prefer to get up close to our prey and swat them with a paw, not many of us are very good at shooting, so it was good to have SFC Montero come and teach us a class. I'm sorry some of the pictures are blurry - I have a tough time holding the camera in my paws.

Here is SFC Montero showing us the .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifle:
montero.JPG

Wow, that's a big rifle! SFC Montero taught us that being able to shoot very accurately is only one of the skills that a sniper needs to develop. You also have to be able to conceal yourself very well, move quietly, and estimate ranges well. You need to understand your enemy very well, too. All of this is necessary to get into position for the right shot. Only then does your shooting accuracy become important!

SFC Montero also told us that snipers are often used just to watch things. Because they are good at getting into a good position and concealing themselves, sometimes it can be more useful just to have them watch and report. For example, if a sniper is in a position and sees six bad guys doing something, it might make more sense for him to call up an Apache helicopter than to try shooting all six of them.

This is me practicing with the .50 caliber sniper rifle:
sniper1.JPG

I don't have the scope mounted on it yet. This rifle shoots a really big bullet! I certainly wouldn't need a rifle like this for hunting seals or walruses. However, during the summer, when there's no sea ice, I usually can't hunt seals or walruses. So, sometimes I try to grab a Musk Ox, but usually they run away from me. I think a rifle like this would come in handy at those times.

Here SFC Montero is showing me how to use the weapon's iron sights to estimate the range to a target:
sniper2.JPG

Snipers sometimes shoot at very great distances, so geting the range right is important. SFC Montero said that snipers can sometimes hit a man from a mile away! I wonder how far away I could hit a Musk Ox?

Once again, though, I didn't get fully qualified as a sniper. The US Army has a special school where soldiers go to learn all those skills, and it takes several weeks. I don't have that much time, so I just got to learn the basics. Maybe when I get back, NORTHCOM will send me to the full course!

July 10, 2006

The Public Affairs Officer (PAO)

Today I got to meet the Brigade PAO (Public Affairs Officer). I went to warn him that he needed to have his affairs in private. Ha ha ha. Actually, his name is CPT Mark Lappegaard, and he explained to me what the PAO does. He is responsible for managing all of the brigade's dealings with reporters! He arranges for soldiers to do interviews with newspapers and radio stations back home, he publishes the brigade's newsletter, he makes the content for the brigade's website, he makes arrangements for embedded reporters - wow, he's a pretty busy guy!

Here I am with CPT Lappegaard, the PAO. He sure knows how to smile big for the camera. I guess he has a lot of practice:

Lappegaard.JPG

Here I am with SFC Wood, the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) who works with CPT Lappegaard. He helps CPT Lappegaard with all of his duties:

Wood.JPG

SFC Wood has a lot of photography equipment! He explained to me that the Army has a lot of enlisted soldiers who work in media relations, and also a lot of soldiers who are like reporters themselves. They take pictures for brigade and division newsletters, they write articles, they manage radio stations - some soldiers even get to be DJs on Army radio stations! I asked how I could get involved, and he said he would look into it. I've always wanted to have my own "growl radio" show (that's like talk radio, for bears).

June 24, 2006

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team

Today was a very exciting day. I got a new mission! I am going to work with an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team! The EOD team has a very important job. They specialize in dealing with things that explode! Some of them work with UXOs, or UneXploded Ordnance. These are things like bombs and artillery shells that are just lying around. There are a lot of those in Iraq! Iraq fought a war with Iran for eight years, and then fought two wars with the US, UK, and their allies. So there are lots of bombs and shells left over that are just lying around, and the EOD teams help get rid of those so the Iraqis can safely walk around and farm the land again. They'll gather up a big pile of these bombs and shells, and then set them all off at once. That makes a very big BOOM!

Another important, and very dangerous, job that the EOD teams do is defusing IEDs. IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, are things that the bad guys use to try to blow us up when we walk or drive by. When a soldier sees one, he calls up an EOD team to come and clear it so that he can continue his mission. As you might guess from reading the news, the EOD teams are very busy with this kind of work! This is part of the reason that I was asked to help them.

Here are a couple of pictures of me training to be an EOD technician:

Stone Cold doing EOD training 1.JPG

Stone Cold doing EOD training 2.JPG

Don't worry, everybody - that's a fake IED I'm practicing on.

The EOD technicians explained to me that actually, walking up to a bomb or IED and cutting wires is something they almost never do. They have much more sophisticated and less dangerous techniques for disarming these things. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what all of those techniques are! The bad guys want to know everything about our EOD teams so that they can build IEDs that are harder to disarm. We don't want to give them too much information.

The EOD technicians said that until I can get more training, they will have me provide security for them. That's fine with me - I don't want to start messing with bombs until I've learned more, and I'm good at providing security!

June 22, 2006

Service in Other Places

You might be surprised to read that a polar bear is working in Iraq. The Middle East, however, is not the only region where polar bears are on duty. We're also working with Norway to help guard a special seed depository:

Arctic vault is designed to save world's seeds
By Bill Lambrecht

In a plan to protect food crops of the future, polar bears will help guard a "doomsday vault" in the land of the midnight sun.

Scientists and Nordic political leaders planned to gather today at a remote setting near the North Pole to lay the cornerstone for what will be known as the Svalbard Arctic Seed Depository, which they hope can provide the world with a fail-safe method to protect seeds from disaster.

On an island 600 miles north of the Norwegian mainland, architects of the gene bank will carve a reinforced concrete vault into permafrost and rock to store some 3 million varieties of seeds from the United States and around the world. Botanists say that packed in watertight foil packages, some seeds can remain viable for thousands of years.

If an impenetrable vault and foreboding, wind-swept landscape inaccessible much of the time weren't defense enough, planners are issuing warnings about polar bears on the prowl to discourage anyone of a mind to steal or sabotage biological treasures.

Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, described the surroundings while en route to the ceremony. His Rome-based organization, established by the United Nations and supported by governments from around the world, has helped to engineer the project.

"It's the farthest north in the world you can fly," he said. "It's a pretty exotic-looking place; no trees or shrubs. There are, in fact, polar bears and a sign that reads, 'Take Polar Bear Danger Seriously.' I'm hoping that I don't meet one of them."

Of course providing security in the Arctic is nothing new for us and it would be a MUCH nicer place for me to be right now than Iraq, but I must go where duty calls!

June 16, 2006

Visiting the ZiGURRRRRRat

A few days ago, Josh took me to a very interesting place: The Ziggurat of Ur (or, as I call it, the ZiGURRRRRRat of GURRRRRRR). The Ziggurat is a building that is over 4,000 years old! It was originally built by people known as the Sumerians, and it was a temple to the moon-god that they worshipped. The base of the structure is actually just piled-up mud surrounded by brick walls. The holes in the brick walls let the water drain out so the mud doesn't get too soupy when it rains. There used to be some very fancy structures on top, but they have long since fallen down.

Still, the Ziggurat is very well-preserved considering how old it is. You can even walk up the stairway to the top! It's really amazing to think of how old this building is - almost as old as the pyramids of Egypt.

Hmm...I wonder why no-one has ever built anything this big to worship the Spirit of the Great White Bear.

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures of me on the steps of the ZigGURRRRRat. Behind me you can see some Iraqi Army officers who took the tour with me:

ziggurat1.JPG

ziggurat2.JPG

June 14, 2006

Visiting the Chaplain

The US Army devotes a lot of attention and energy to making sure that soldiers are able to worship according to their conscience. It's not always practical to have a leader (priest, rabbi, minister) for every religion at every base, but the Army tries to accomodate everyone as best it can. Here at Camp Adder soldiers can attend more than one Catholic mass every week, Jewish services on most Friday evenings, muslim prayers on Fridays, and many "flavors" of Protestant services. Also, the Italians have their own Catholic Chapel and we've even arranged Orthodox Christian services for some of the Bosnian soldiers.

Unfortunately, the US Army didn't anticipate anyone with my religion coming here. I looked around, but I couldn't find any information on services to worship the Spirit of the Great White Bear. Josh told me that I should talk to the chaplain about this. I went over to his trailer. When I walked in, I met SGT Jessica ("JR") Johnson. She is one of the Brigade Chaplain's assistants. She explained that it is the job of the Brigade "Ministry Team" to help all soldiers with their spiritual needs. Although she herself is not a follower of the Great White Bear, she told me that she would help as best she could. She took me to meet the Brigade Chaplain, MAJ Wendt


Here Chaplain (MAJ) Wendt is talking to me about when and where to hold services to worship the Spirit of the Great White Bear:
chaplain1.jpg

Chaplain Wendt is a very animated guy! I didn't realize what a loud voice he had, and at first I thought he was getting mad at me, so I tried to hide behind SGT Johnson:
chaplain2.jpg

Once I realized that the Chaplain just had a loud voice and was not mad at me, we were able to talk things over for a while. The Chaplain was very helpful, just like SGT Johnson said he would be. He explained that while Army chaplains are all ordained clergy in a particular faith (like Catholic Priests, Lutheran Ministers, Jewish Rabbis, etc), they all understand that their duty is to ALL soldiers. They don't try to convert anyone, but rather make sure that all soldiers are able to observe their religion as much as possible. Their assistants, like SGT Johnson, are not ordained. Their job is to assist the chaplain with leading religious services, administrative matters, and a wide variety of other tasks. Also, part of their job is to protect the chaplain, because he is not allowed to carry a weapon. Personally, I don't think Chaplain Wendt needs much help - if he were ever in danger, he could just scare away the enemy by yelling at them:
chaplain3.jpg

In the end, Chaplain Wendt and SGT Johnson were able to find a room in the chapel annex that the other polar bears and I could use for services. He was not able to find a source for the Ceremonial Seal Blubber that we use in our rituals, but he promised to keep looking.

June 12, 2006

The S6 Section

A couple of soldiers from the S6 section came by Josh's office today. I asked them what the S6 section does. They told me that the S6 section on a staff used to be called a "signal" section, but now their job has become much more complicated! Instead of just working with radios, now they work with radios, sattellite telephones, Sattellite communication dishes, voice-over-IP telephones, computer systems, email servers, and tons of other things! For these two soldiers, though, their job involves lots and lots of Ethernet computer network stuff. They work with switches, routers, hubs, and lots and lots and lots of cable! When they came by Josh's office, they were re-routing a bunch of cable. Naturally I tried to help.

SPC Carrigan was pounding brackets into the wall so that she could hang the cable up off the floor. Naturally, anything that involves whacking or pounding comes naturally to me, so I immediately jumped in to help. Not shown: Me repairing the wall after I smashed through it. carrigan.jpg

SPC Wehr was using a probe to test to see if the cables were working. Here she is showing me how to do that.
wehr.jpg

Stone Cold tries to help the S6 - I tried to help SPC Wehr and Carrigan with some of the cable, but it ended up being a bit of a disaster. Oh, well. Maybe I was just meant to be an infantryman.
s6help.jpg

June 3, 2006

A Visit to the PBO (Property Book Office)

The soldiers who work in the PBO help make sure that everyone in the Brigade has all the equipment they need. They also keep track of who owns all of the equipment that the Brigade has, so we don't lose it all. POLARCOM (Polar Command) sent me over to Iraq without any equipment, and after asking around, I learned that the soldiers in the PBO are the ones I should talk to about getting what I need to fight...

I'm giving Sergeant 1st Class Michelle Clevenger my request for equipment (it's not done in the proper format for the US Army, but it's correct by POLARCOM standards):
Stone Cold with PBO 1.JPG

Continue reading "A Visit to the PBO (Property Book Office)" >>>

May 29, 2006

National *GUARD* Bear

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm frequently assigned to guard duty given my natural polar bear abilities in intimidation. That was the case as early as when we first got here a few months ago. Here's a photo of me guarding the soldiers' luggage in Kuwait while we were all waiting for the bus:

kuwait

May 28, 2006

What I Do

I've had a variety of jobs since I got to Iraq. I guess the Army just isn't sure where to put a polar bear. One of my main jobs has been convoy escort. I think they put me there because if a truck breaks down, I can usually just pull it to the next US base. Luckily, the Army has issued some pretty heavy body armor for me so I'm not overly worried about IEDs. Also, I've found it useful to take slabs of armor off of wrecked Iraqi tanks and use those as armor when we end up traveling to really risky areas.

My biggest complaints about convoy duty are the sandstorms and the heat. During sandstorms, the sand gets all into my fur and as you may know, we polar bears are very clean and tidy animals. I hate being all sandy. Yuck. Luckily, since the weather has gotten hotter, they try to keep me closer to base now and in the air conditioning. This exposes me to less heat and less sand.

I got in trouble a couple weeks ago. Out on a security patrol, I was just trying to be friendly and gave some dude a bear hug and then realized that the guy was wearing a suicide vest. So I had to stand there squeezing the guy until EOD came. It took a while. The guy ended up with a few broken ribs, but I did what I had to do to make sure the guy couldn't reach the detonator.

I guess that's about all for now. Today, they have me on guard tower duty. I think they like to put me there because really, I AM the guard tower. Just having a grumpy polar bear guarding things can be a great deterrent. Things are pretty quiet most of the time and I haven’t had to maul anyone yet.

Hmm...I wonder if they'll be serving seal sandwiches today at the chow hall...I suppose I'd better go find out...

May 26, 2006

Camp Shelby Photos

While I am in the mood to share old photos, here are some that were taken of me back at Camp Shelby from a couple months ago:

Taken shortly after I arrived - I'm wondering if the place is as bad as it looks:
Stone Cold Shelby 1

Continue reading "Camp Shelby Photos" >>>

May 25, 2006

Newly Declassified: Photos of POLARCOM

I thought I'd go ahead and share some photos of POLARCOM (Polar Command), located up in the Arctic. This is where I report on occasion when I'm not deployed:

Here is the sign at our command post:
base3.jpg

Continue reading "Newly Declassified: Photos of POLARCOM" >>>

May 24, 2006

Living Conditions

Some of you may be wondering where I live while serving over here in Iraq. Luckily, I share an air conditioned trailer with my buddy, Josh. It's kinda crowded in here, but we manage okay. (Thank goodness for the AC!)

The other day, Josh got his digital camera and took some photos of me around the place. Check 'em out:


When things get too hot, at least I have this fridge/freezer where I can rest and cool off.

livingquarters.jpg


I'm helping Josh unpack his footlocker. Humans sure do require lots of stuff to survive. Sheesh.

footlocker.jpg


Here I am reading a recent issue of National Geographic. It made me homesick. *sigh*

homesick.jpg

March 16, 2006

The Incident with the Navy SeAL (Oops)

Today, you may have noticed a lot's been happening in Iraq. I have not been a part of it, however, since I've decided to confine myself to my quarters until the sandstorms in southern Iraq subside. I hate getting sand in my fur.

I did have an awkward incident with a Navy SeAL the other day. I was a little confused about the concept (silly Navy stuff) and when I heard the word, "SeAL," I assumed he was brought over as a snack for me. Luckily, I spit the SeAL out quickly when I realized there was really a human in the wet suit. In the Arctic, I enjoy eating seals for breakfast, so how was I supposed to know that the Navy ones were a little different? Ah well - I learned my lesson. I've sent a message back to my headquarters in the Arctic to let them know that they should add that piece to training so that no other polar bears embarass themselves in such a way.

Anyway, here is a photo of Josh and me on the C-130 that flew us from Kuwait to Iraq. We had to fly in the dead of night with no lights on. In order to avoid anti-aircraft fire, the large cargo plane zigged and zagged during our trip. Many of the soliders on the flight, not used to flying in complete darkness and in such a turbulent manner, got sick. Luckily, neither Josh nor I got sick, even if we were uncomfortable for most of the flight. This photo was taken before we took off (I'll post more pictures when the sandstorms die down):


March 9, 2006

What to Feed a Polar Bear in the Desert

Things are going pretty well. I got in a little trouble yesterday when I tried to kill and eat a camel, but fortunately our interpreter was able to talk to the camel herder and smooth out the situation. Josh talked to the local Kellogg, Brown, and Root chief about bringing in some seals for me and he said that KBR would definitely be able to do that - for $1.5 million apiece. It sounds like a lot, but when you look at their contracts I think that's the same price they charge the government for a potato chip.

March 5, 2006

I'm Now in Iraq

The temperature here is quite bearable for the humans - it is February, after all. I am still having trouble, though. If you thought it was amazing that a male polar bear could eat 160lbs of food in a single meal, you should see how much water we drink when you put us in the desert! All of the soldiers usually carry around a 1.5 liter water bottle and when they go outside the base they have a 3-liter “Camel-bak? that we drink from. I think I may have to start pulling around one of these 500-gallon “water buffalo? trailers.

I enjoyed the flight in to Iraq. I’m grateful that Josh was able to convince the loadmaster on the C-130 that I didn’t need to be strapped down to a pallet. What was most fun is that we were blacked out for most of the flight. Some of the soldiers on board got a little dizzy because of this, and because the C-130 made a few hard turns that you would never see a commercial jetliner do. But I enjoyed it.

That’s all for now. Oh - someone please write to my division back home and tell them not to issue the other bears any additional cold weather gear. I will never need to wear that polar fleece, and when I tried to eat it, it tasted terrible!

February 23, 2006

I've Been Mobilized!

I was called up by my National Guard unit with my buddy, Josh. Luckily, we will be flying over to the Middle East together. I am glad that I will have someone to keep me company. Here are some photographs from my deployment ceremony: Stone Cold gets Mobilized for OIF

I was issued a uniform and helmet before I left, but they could not find a duffle bag or other equipment for me. GRRR. I guess it's tough to find equipment of a suitable size and weight for a polar bear to carry. Josh has informed me that they were able to secure an adequate supply of seal MREs to get me through the deployment. We'll see about that. I don't know if the Army truly knows how much I eat. Strangely enough, seal MREs are not the meal of choice for most of our soldiers so I might have lucked out in that department.


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