Dec 23 at 11:11am by David Tate
I would be completely amiss if I didn’t do a complete post on PMI, Bill Roggio and The Long War Journal. I cannot express properly just how important this organization is to, not only my work, but to the most complete assemblage reporting on our world at war today.
When I first stumbled onto Bill’s work in 2007, he was writing under the blog name, “The Fourth Rail”. I instantly realized the awesome resource he was putting out there and I contacted him immediately. A month later, we were in Iraq together. Within those first three days of meeting, Bill launched The Long War Journal and the rest is history.
As I got to know him, it turns out he convinced his wife of this idea, quit his job, secured a loan and a partner then went for it. A true entrepreneur, he took a huge chance and is now moving forward successfully. For the reader, it means the most centralized resource in regards to current events regarding the fight against al Qaeda. It cannot be missing from your favorites.
What’s In It For Me?
While cannot speak for Bill, I can speak about him and what he means to my work. He believes in the independent hard working spirit that he is creating and told me that he supports independents like myself.
His big contributions to me include a major forum to present my first person battlefield observations. He has also graciously provided a letter of accreditation needed for my embed (PMI is recognized by allied forces as a legitimate journalistic outlet), which is on its way to ISAF as we speak.
The biggest thing, however, is the very expensive insurance needed to financially protect myself, and my family, in the event of injury or death. This is as important as it gets and cannot be overlooked by independents.
Because PMI has an ongoing policy, they can add journalists to it while embedded, which they have agreed to do for me. I’m not sure of the cost yet, but it is not cheap. If there is any interest at all in helping this organization out, and ultimately me, this is a great chance.
Here at tax time, people may be interested in a write off. PMI is a legitimate 501(c) organization and is happy for the help. If you want to make it personal, just note it as funds to help pay my combat insurance.
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Sep 9 at 2:02am by David Tate
I love beer. Plain and simple. In Kuwait, however, there is none. Last night I remembered, “Hey, I’ve had no beer in several days and all is well”. Not that I thought I drank too much in the first place… maybe four beers a night, but not having beer and not having a problem with it is certainly a good thing. Considering there’s none in Iraq either, I may be on to something.
So, today is checkout and then Baghdad. Guess that means this is “H-hour”, “D-day”, or whatever you wanna call it. Regardless, I’m ready to roll. Besides, I can only enjoy the poolside in 100+ weather for so long. My next dispatch will be from Iraq.
Sep 8 at 2:02am by David Tate
Military folks know exactly what “hurry up and wait” means. Same goes for us folks that deal with the military. Hasn’t changed in the 20 years since I was in the Corps, nor would I expect it to.
By now, I should be writing from some MWR on some FOB somewhere around Baghdad, but I’m not. Still coming to you from the business center of a very nice hotel in Kuwait City, due to some physical and material issues.
The biggest problem was that we needed our Individual Travel Orders (ITO) to get anywhere in Iraq. These are real orders processed by the US Army that, in a nutshell, give you permission to travel within conflict zones encompassed by OEF and OIF, includingthe United States. Roggio had hoped to get the orders via email or fax, but without a secured line, it wasn’t something the military was interested in doing. The soonest we could get them hand delivered would be late Friday night. Our flight to Baghdad was set for Friday morning, meaning two days of field time would be spent at the hotel in Kuwait.
It actually works out well considering the turmoil my guts had been in from the day before. Roggio himself came down with some funk that put him in the rack for much of Friday as well, so there really weren’t too many tears about shaking off the jet lag in a nice hotel versus a hot tent at Al Salem Airbase out in the Kuwaiti desert (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/ali-al-salem.htm).
That meant that there might be a chance to get the power cable I need to get my PC up and running. As mentioned yesterday, the morning excursion into downtown was fruitless, but by now, everything inthe city was bustling with post-mosque activity, so I tried again. Besides, I wanted to go buy some swim trunks since we were staying a few more nights at the hotel… R’n R was in order.
A real simple walk to the street plus a short wait later and I was in a taxi heading to the Mariana Mall. The taxi driver said it was the second biggest mall in Kuwait, definitely bigger than any I’d ever been in. It’s here that I heard there was an APPLE store. I could be in luck. The five minute trip runs 3 Kuwati dinars (KD), which is roughly $12. Either Kuwait is terribly expensive or the US dollar isn’t worth crap overseas. Maybe a combination of both?
It didn’t take long at all to find the store and when I saw it, I swear I heard those singers from heaven raining down on me. I was in luck. The store was very nice and just plum full of APPLE stuff, but do you think they would have a power cord, among all this stuff? Hell no they didn’t. What a load of crap. Now I’ve spent at least the cost of a cord in two taxi trips only to come up empty handed. Guess that means I’m shipping the PC back to the states once I get to a US post office on some FOB, somewhere near Baghdad. In situations like this, the less weight you carry, the better.
While at the mall, I did take the time to look for some swimming trunks, which I found. A decent pair: Just regular long legged California-surfer types. Original price: 19KD. Sale price: 8KD. You do the math. EXPENSIVE! Way out of my league. Unfortunately the allure of swimming in the Persian Gulf won the day and I headed out with half of what I came for.
My taxi driver on the way home was a very nice man who said he was from Iran. I take time, everytime, to talk to the drivers. Between my limited Arabic and their limited English, it proves to always be a fun conversation. My interest with these folks is their perception of the US. Since 2004 I have seen, and suffered, some serious anti-Americanism, so I’m always up for checking the pulse of the places I visit. On this trip, my driver had a worried feel when we he said he was Iranian, “I know Americans don’t like Iranian people”, he said. “Not the case my friend, I think the problem is with our governments”, I said. He smiled. “Do you like America?”, I asked. With a big smile he said, “America is very good. My sister’s been there 22 years and I’d like to go one day”. He told me he came to Kuwait just after the Iraqis were pushed out following the invasion and kept calling, then-President Bush, “Baba Bush”. “Baba” is an endearing term of respect along the lines of “Papa”. A clear sign of his like for the United States. My other two drivers were from Bangladesh. One said, when asked about the states, “Oh.. America is very good. Britain is very good. France is very good.” The other referred to the United States as, “the heaven of the world”. Needless to say, I was very happy to hear these words from these folks. Remind you that these were not Kuwaitis, who were rescued by allied forces from the clutches of Saddam, they were just ordinary people from different places and walks of life. It was certainly encouraging.
Back at the hotel, Roggio and I took in some lunch at which time I tried shark fin soup. Let me start by saying that I am firmly against shark fin soup. The appetite worldwide for this delicacy is causing some serious problems within the shark world. Not only that, but these creatures are caught solely for their fins before being thrown back to the sea. So, after wrestling with my dilemma for a bit, I decided it was my duty to find out what the fuss was about. Keep in mind, that I do what I do so others don’t have to. I mean who needs to go to Iraq to see the truth when independents, like me, go for you? Same philosophy. Needless to say, it was very good soup. Mixed with crab meat, I definitely wanted more. So now you (we) know. Please boycott this soup.
With our travel plans needing to change, so did accommodations. The first night here I slept in a huge bed in a single room. Now that we were staying two more nights, we decided it was best that we move to a double room in an effort to save money. Unfortunately, I still had to tip the bellboy for moving our gear from our rooms to the lobby (where we checked out), then back to our new room (after we checked back in). What a racket!
Now all that was left for the day was to get our hands on the orders that would get us into Iraq. That meant a 9:30 PM meeting at the Kuwait City Airport with the local Public Affairs Officer(PAO). Remember the title of this entry? You got it. For two hours we waited at the rendevous point (Starbucks), asking every American who looked like a serviceman if he was our guy (we were on the lookout for a Marine Gunnery Sergeant). 20 rejections later a nice-looking lady with long hair approached me, “Mr. Tate?”. She turned out to be a 1st Lieutenant with the 1st Army Division. Finally… the elusive ITOs were in our hands and we were finally set to head out on Sunday.
*Note to embedding journos: Ensure you arrange to meet your PAO at the airport WHEN YOU LAND. In normal circumstances, they’ll meet you AND take you to Al Salem. We are flying in on a commercial flight, so we did it a little different, which is NOT the norm.
Sep 7 at 4:04am by David Tate
For anyone that knows me, the fact that I got to Kuwait having forgotten just one thing, is an incredible feat. Too bad that one thing is so important. Not to be denied, I decided to set out early to find a replacement cord. Actually, when I left, I didn’t think I would be successful, but decided to try anyway.
The people at the desk suggested a place called “The Sultan Center”. It was actually a secondary choice because everything is closed today because of Jumah (equal to our Sunday worship day). Still, I needed to give it a shot. I took the shuttle downtown and found my way to the Sultan Center which is pretty much a shopping mall: Groceries downstairs with a second floor full of stuff. Everything but computers, especially APPLE. Didn’t take long to figure out. Unfortunately the shuttle wasn’t due back for two hours, leaving me to wander around in the heat for a while.
I decided to head toward the sea… beautiful place, just no swimming where I was. Found the Hard Rock cafe and all the US food places one could want. In fact, I took the opportunity to have a tuna sub at Subway – How’s that for culture?! In my defense, I tried a Kuwati grill-style place, but they didn’t accept US dollars… so back to Sultan Center to buy some toothpaste and exchange $20 as change, by then I didn’t feel like walking back to the grill, so bring on Subway.
I still had over an hour before the shuttle came back and I didn’t feel like waiting, so I ordered up a taxi and headed back to the hotel. The new guy at the desk told me about an APPLE store not far from where I was… go figure, huh. A quick call there got no response (because they’re probably at the mosque!). Rejected all around. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I woun’t be getting my PC up on this trip, which isn’t good when you are blogging. I guess I’ll try to sneak onto Roggio’s PC to pub my stuff, or use the computers at the FOB I’m heading to, if they have any.