Monday, December 27, 2010

Gospel Bluenotes Bring the Spirit to COB Adder

They couldn't of come at a better time.  It was between Christmas & New Years, December 27, 2010 to be exact, and people's spirits were getting kind of low.  Most of the soldiers were thinking of their families and friends that they weren't go to see this year.   Nobody really expected salvation but salvation did arrive and it came from the most unlikely source.

Another entertainment group called "THE GOSPELL BLUENOTES" was going to be performing that night and they were going to be joined by a group of soldiers who sing at church services here at Adder.  I am embarrassed to say
that the crowd wasn't nearly as big as the ones that showed up to see the Ultimate Fighting, Heavy Metal or Country & Western. Although fewer in numbers there was simply no comparison to the joy, spirit and meaning they were able to bring to all of us who attended. Here you are stuck in this army camp in the middle of a wilderness during the holiday season and professional gospel singers are singing to you about lives that have known pain, loneliness & despair yet their voices are filled with hope, joy, and redemption. The lead singer claimed that he knew that the soldiers spirit had been sagging and he intended to fill our spirits with hope.

Please take a good look at these pictures and the brief video of this performance and it will give you an idea of what music can do for your spirit.

Because of internet issues it's very difficult to transmit video from Iraq. These brief clips cannot even begin to describe the emotions of this gospel performance held at Adder, Iraq on 12/27/2010.

See the latest pictures!

Major Marty and Physician Assistants, Susan Harcke and Vijay Soprey receive their 'Combat Patches' in a ceremony held in front of the assembled brigade. Colonel Lisa Costanza is seen placing patches on their right shoulders.

Happy Holidays!

This is almost my entire Medical Staff. To my right are my two physician assistants: Susan Harcke and Vijay Soprey. Next (in sunglasses) is captain Gabriel Fabian, the Commander of the unit. All the others are medics: Sean, Annmarie, Erika, Nolan, and Glenn. Several others are missing from the picture.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

USO Show Brings Heavy Metal Band to COB Adder

I don't believe I've ever seen a live Heavy Metal concert and I never considered that to be a loss or something I'd go out of my way to check out.  But when the USO brings entertainment to you on a deployment you'd have to be a complete geek to avoid it.  You have no idea how boring it can be out here.  We work practically seven days/week and unless you're on a mission you never go outside the wire.  There is absoulutely no alcohol allowed, including beer, even when your off duty and officially you're always on duty even when you sleep.  So it's hard not to go when you hear that a rather big name is coming to your miserable outpost it's hard not to stay away.

If you've never seen or heard heavy metal my opinion is you're not missing anything.  On the other hand I have to be fair and say that there were huge numbers of soldiers, mostly younger ones but not exclusively young, who literally were sent into another world when they listened to this band play. Probably most of the younger soldiers were at this concert and they formed a huge mosh pit around the stage. Many of them had an out of this world look on their faces which might of been okay if the music was good.  Well they obviously thought so but I can't say that I liked the music at all.  On the other hand I'm not twenty years old anymore.

It wasn't especially enjoyable but I'm glad I didn't miss it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pictures from Latest Mission

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

In a season of firsts, I celebrate my first Hanukkah in Iraq

One of the ways the military gets you through your deployment is by keeping you very busy. They have to keep you busy because if you had idle time that might create mischief and of course that's the last thing you want to have because it would divert you from your mission.

The week is organized so that all the days blend into each other and there really is no difference between the weekdays and very little difference between the weekdays and the weekend. In fact all the military offices are open 7 days a week. I recognize that I may of lost you there but even though this is considered a war zone we do have different offices. For example, we have a base post office which is run by both containers and US Postal workers who come here as civilians and soldiers go there to mail packages etc and the post office is open 7:30am - 5:30pm 7 days/week. We also have a finance office where you go if your having problems with your pay and they are also open 7 days a week. Your pay is deposited directly in a bank and you're given a swipe card called an Eagle Cash Card. You swipe it and that will transfer some money to the swipe card and when you buy something at the PX, which is also open 7 days a week, you pay for it with this swipe card.

So you never see a check and you never see a pay stub. How do you even know if you're getting paid? You go on line and you see your virtual pay stub. The combat zone is completely digitalized and couldn't function without computers.

Holidays and religious observance is different. We do celebrate holidays and we are encouraged to celebrate our religious holidays but observances are secondary to security concerns. All enlisted soldiers are issued an automatic weapon and the officers are issued handguns which never leaves your side. My patients come to see me carrying their weapons and I'm wearing my holster and a revolver. We also carry our weapons during recreational activities and into the chapel. In these pictures the enlisted soldiers have put down their automatic weapons nearby for the picture but the officers are wearing their sidearms.

The army does want us to celebrate our national and cultural holidays and they want us to celebrate our religious holidays including the Sabbath but everything, including all observances are secondary to security. The base and the mission are functioning 24/7 and you wouldn't dream of asking for time off for any type of holiday because obviously security and the mission trumps everything else. Additionally, everything you do is primarily for the other soldier, your buddy, your unit and the whole mission. Therefore you simply would never want time off to celebrate something for yourself because that would mean that you're putting others at risk which is far worse than putting yourself at risk which is already bad enough.

Our holidays will not be remembered as having the best tasting food or having our favorite delicacies. We're not celebrating reunions with friends and family and the best we could hope for was perhaps a brief phone call or possibly a video connection through this technological marvel called skype. As you can see from these pictures I did get to celebrate Hanukkah at base and it meant a lot.

I certainly didn't get to light candles every night and we didn't get to linger around a table consuming latkes (potato pancakes) and other delicacies. I was with my troop that I'm with 7 days/week and I had to do a lot of improvisation with the holiday delicacies that my family, especially my wife Joan, had sent me.

On the other hand I got to intoduce this holiday to soldiers who had never seen a Menorah lighting before and who were intently interested and were thrilled to participate. It was squeezed into our schedule and everybody eagerly participated, and then it was back to work. I'm very grateful that I was able to get some type of a picture because we had a lot to do. If you look closely you should be able to see a small lit menorah but the real story are the faces and the expressions of the other soldiers which are realy what's important.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Army home grown Ultimate Fighters bring out huge crowd at Adder 'fight night'

I wasn't surprised when I heard soldiers saying that fight night brings out a bigger crowd than at any other event.  I know quite well that young males and females love to go to a whole variety of different types of martial arts.  I've attended WWF/WWE wrestling events with my kids and big groups of their friends.  We've also attended many of the amateur boxing events held in Western Massachusetts most of which I'd be the officiating ringside physician.

I never attended any of the Ultimate Fighting events that have recently become so popular and feature
both very little in the way of rules and the fighters are allowed to fight anyway they wish.  Therefore when I heard  that an Ultimate Fighting event was coming to Adder I assumed that professional fighters had agreed to perform. Well I had it all wrong.  At this army base there are so many individuals that are eager to fight on a stage that this event is held about every 3-4 months and many contenders aren't even placed on the roster because they event can't accomodate everybody who wants to get inside the ring and fight it out.  Memorial Hall was filled beyond capacity and the event was projected outdoors so the others can see. 

To me they fought like professionals and the crowd seemed pleased and loved watching the young soldiers fight until one defeated the other. Apparently ultimate fighting has become a sensation and for several years they've been able to fill sporting arenas and earn a fortune in pay for view receipts.  It is certainly alive and well and I can attest, it's very popular in the military. 

Major Marty

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