18 April, 2006

The Medical Hobby Shop

We in the USAF often make disparaging comments about our flight docs and dentists. We call the clinics medical or dental hobby shops. It is our inalienable right to complain and so forth. The Iraqi’s have topped this however. A few days ago this correspondent had to have a mole removed from his back. (I watched Good Night and Good Luck yesterday. “this correspondent…” pure Edward R. Murrow!) I went to the USAF Medical Hobby Shop where they did a fine job removing it and putting in three stitches. The instructions were to change the bandage daily for three days and then use a band-aid. No problem so far.

On my base we don’t have a USAF medical clinic but an Iraqi medical clinic with a USAF advisor (MSgt D___). Since this was a simple bandage change I figured it would be a simple matter to have them do it. So I march over and walk in.

First unsettling thing I see: One of the hallways is flooded with dirty mop water. Not what you expect in a medical clinic. However, we see this everywhere and it is how they do it. The floors are all tile and they just pore a bunch of Pine Sol into a bucket of water, slosh it about then squeegee the mess out the door. Still it was a bit unsettling.

Second, the Iraqi’s all looked very surprised. An American? Here?!? Much scurrying about. “Hello, sir.” (means they know no more English). And worried glances as to why is this guy here. (Note: we have been instructed to use this facility when possible for Joint Operations… Get it? Operations… Medical… I digress)

While the USAF advisor was being summoned, hurriedly, one of the Iraqi’s tried to find out what I needed. I showed them some bandage materials I had been given to use and did the Pidgin English/Arabic thing trying to communicate. Further confusion since they couldn’t comprehend why the American was bringing them a couple of bandages.

Finally, the MSgt arrived and explanation were made and understood. Why his Pidgin English/Arabic is better than mine I don’t know. Into the treatment room I go.

While I am sitting there and the MSgt is getting washed up, the Iraqi’s are clustered about my backside obviously studying the three stitches. I notice a very large Iraqi (6’ 8”, 300 pounds) go over a medical cabinet and put on some gloves and get something out of a tray. He turns around and it is a scalpel in his hand. No not a scalpel, a knife about two inches long. As he starts walking toward me I think, “Hmmm… one head shot then head for the door.”

The MSgt came in at this point and began to do yell “No! No! No! Bandage only!” After much shouting and gesturing there was this sudden “Ahhh!” of comprehension and the scalpel went back into the tray. The bandage was replaced and all is well.

According to the MSgt the Iraqi’s use a scalpel to remove stitches, not the purpose built scissors the US uses. He is working on this and promises to have the technique down with his colleagues when I come back (right…). He also tells me they really do a good job, especially with serious trauma as they regrettably have far more practice with that then with Americans needing a bandage changed.

13 April, 2006

Off the path of Righteousness and into the abyss of Pride

Big, tough Major Irwin had to use the urinal in the back of the plane today. We were carrying some passengers. Of course, sitting next to the crew ladder to the flight deck was the obligatory hard core Marine colonel and two attractive Air Force officer flight nurses. The three most cliché people to have watching you as you screw up. As I was stepping down to the deck (I was wearing my helmet and all the related gear, trying to look all tough and purposeful) the comm. cord got hooked onto something on the ladder. I step down and promptly try to suspend myself in mid-air by my brain bucket. And of course the aforementioned three cliché witnesses immediately start laughing at me as I am trying to unhang myself.

And again, pride goeth before the fall.

Pride goeth before the fall

One of our NCO’s received a summer sausage from family. It is a big monster, almost three feet long. It is called a “yard o’ beef”. Tacky name aside I am sure it was much appreciated. Another NCO thought he would be cute and took a photo of the big hunk o’ meat and e-mailed it to his wife with the quote “Do you miss me?”

His spouse replied “Of course!” and sent him a picture of a Vienna sausage. You know, the ones about an inch long.

Why chose to share this particular bit of smack down with his friends I don’t know but he is now referred to as “little smoky”.

11 April, 2006

Iran and e-Bay.com, so that’s where they get the stuff...

I was curious about some of the details regarding the frankly scary news coming out of the Iran situation. I wanted to know more about the centrifuges that are currently the major point in most of the coverage. I ‘googled’ the phrase ‘uranium centrifuge’ and among several information sites I saw this under the sponsored links:

Sponsored Links

Uranium Centrifuge

Whatever you're looking for you can get it on eBay.


09 April, 2006

My brother would have been proud… NOT!

Jason, my firefighter brother, will just shudder and grit his teeth over this. Last week one of our troops was doing his business in the bath/latrine area when he thought he smelt smoke. Didn’t think much of it since it is often a ‘fragrance’ we smell coming from the burn pits near by. It got his attention when the smoke began pouring over the top of his stall. As he opened the door into a room thick with smoke he realized the water heater was on fire. He did what he needed to do and hit the fire alarm – and nothing happened. This will become a theme.

Plan B was of course to start shouting “Fire!” and soon the building began to rouse. One of my loadmasters sprung into action and grabbed a fire extinguisher to fight the growing blaze.

Quick side note: when we arrived here back in January I noticed that the Iraqi dorm had about twelve big extinguishers and out building none. Since at the time of my visit we were still at our first base and there were very few folks about it was a simple job for me to take six of them and bring them over to my building. I was quite smug about that. There’s Maj Irwin, looking out for the safety of his team, I deserve a medal. And I didn’t hesitate to mention this fact to everyone.

So the loadmaster sprints headlong into the smoky room, pulls the pin, aims the hose and squeezes the trigger. And as you’d expect – nothing happens. A few tries and then he abandons the tank in search of another.

Two maintenance troops arrive with their own tanks that I had taken earlier and they too began to curse my name. Yup, the tanks said full but the performance proved empty.

One of them had the bright idea of getting some use from this large paper weight. He decided to throw it at one of the overhead sprinkler expecting the little glass rod to break and get the water flowing. He missed and punched a good hole through the acoustic tile. The other troop thought it a good idea and followed suit. He connected and…

…wait for it…

Nothing happened.

A third team of maintainers arrived with their own bottles and these at least worked. A few gallant moments later the fire was out. My loadmaster showed at this point with the last extinguisher and much to his disappointment the fire was out and with it his chance for glory. He blames me.

I showed up at this point to see what was going on. At the time I was the ranking flyer and my colleague Maj Barna was the ranking support officer. All the big wigs were at a conference off base. While Barna was talking to the troopers I began to figure out we might have some wiring problems (witness the fact the electrical cord connecting the water heater was burned through and through). I also noticed there didn’t seem to be a ground wire in the now exposed center of the line. A few phone calls later I had (U.S.) Civil Engineering show up and start poking about the building.

Some highlights:

  • The wiring appears to be speaker wire, no grounds.
  • The fire alarm boxes are just decoration; there isn’t even an outlet box behind them.
  • The fire extinguishers were all charged but apparently about half have faulty valves.
  • The water lines connecting the sprinklers aren’t.
  • Some of the troops told us “oh yeah… we’ve been getting mild shocks from the shower.” The water heater was grounding through the water.

Iraqi Civil Engineers showed up with a new tank today. They assured us the problem was because the first tank was manufactured in Syria and the new one was made in Iraq. I’m so relieved. I am moving into a tent.

01 April, 2006

Hangar Queen

A hangar queen is a plane with chronic maintenance problems that force it to spend the majority of its time in the hangar. Instead of being a contributor to the unit’s success it is instead a consumer of time and effort for little gain. We have one. While landing yesterday we noticed it had been pulled out of the hangar and was pointed towards our normal approach path. It was an unusual place for a plane to be oriented.

After we landed we noticed that the Iraqi maintainers were pushing it back into the hangar. We asked the US supervisor what was up. He told us that the American advisor had jokingly told his Iraqi counterpart they should “pull the <expletive> out, point it at a flying C-130, turn on the radar and let is see what good planes do.” Apparently, the Iraqi maintenance OIC thought he was serious.