Sunday, September 30, 2007

This Message Brought to You by M*A*S*H

30 SEP 07

As many of you have guessed, my internet posting is not regular. It’s not for lack of material. Unfortunately, the “powers that be” shut down our access periodically. It’s one of the many things I can’t write about (for now).

Since I don’t know how long my connection will be up this time, I just wanted to share something quick. I used to watch the TV show M*A*S*H all the time. I always cracked up when Big Army did something really illogical. Surely that can’t happen in real life?

Every day I walk to work, I have to pass through a metal detector. No biggie, right? Except, I’m always armed with a 9mm Beretta with live ammunition.

It never fails to crack me up.

Now, if you want some poker-y goodness, head on over to The Wife. She’s blogging her ass off.

Oh yeah, I meant to add this to my post about the 10 year old Iraqi kid who wanted me dead. Here is my 10 year old son.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dr. Chako = Dr. Zhivago?

27 Sep 07

I'm running on the treadmill in the gym near the hospital, and Armed Forces Network is showing Dr. Zhivago. It's the original movie version with Omar Sharif. Too much wistful longing for my taste, but it's a decent war movie from a personal standpoint, which I think was Boris Pasternak's intention.

The scene I'm watching shows the Russians opening up the Gatlin gun on a bunch of white-clad "soldiers" running away. The weapon is quite effective and mows them down in no time. Off they go to survey the damage, only to find out it's a bunch of kids they shot up.


My oldest son is ten. He is awesome. Good looking, bright, fun, enthusiastic. He's good at sports and loves to draw. Tonight he told me about his campaign to run for school Secretary. Win or lose, he certainly has spent a lot of time preparing.


Back in the hospital now. I'm looking at an x-ray of feet. They are shot all to hell. But something is different.

It's a kid.

So, I walk down to the Emergency Room to find out what's up. Sure enough, there is a ten year old Iraqi kid looking scared to death. He's got bandages everywhere and our medics and docs are doing their usual outstanding job taking care of him. One of the docs comes over to tell me the rest of the story.

Our soldiers shot him. A lot. They caught him red-handed placing an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Night Life in Iraq

25 Sep 07

When we last left our hero, he was taking combat showers at work and stamping out disease and pestilence. Now it's time to let loose. But first, we have to get home.

1600 (or 4 pm for you non-military minded) – Grab my laundry bag and head out. Since I workout every day, I keep PT (exercise) clothes at work. The good news is that laundry is free and they do it for you. It's only about 150 yards from the hospital and it's right on my way back to tent city. Of course, I arrive at the facility drenched in sweat. Did I mention it gets hot here?

1630 I finally get back to the tent and take some time to cool off. Thanks to good Army ingenuity, there are bottles of drinking water everywhere and it's quite good. Most of the time it's refrigerated – just not in the tent. That's okay. The tents are air conditioned and even at room temperature, the water always tastes good. Now I usually read a book and, if it's working, I fire up the laptop and surf a little. I even have my MP3 player, although I don't use it often. I'm still not happy with the earpiece situation. Maybe my ear canals are built funny, but I still haven't found a good ear piece. Oh well.

1730 Off to chow. Yet another good meal. Since I began my workout routine, I have almost completely skipped deserts. I'll occasionally have a bag of chips, but no pastries or baked goods. They have a cheesecake and a chocolate layer cake that looks awesome. I've decided to diet Body-for-Life style and only eat desert only one day a week.

1830 Now comes the hard part. How do you fill large blocks of free time? If it's like last night, you go back to the hospital because some young soldier is having pelvic pain and needs an ultrasound. Usually my nights are free. Wednesday and Saturday are poker nights. The other nights are generally spent in the MWR tents (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) watching TV, movies and even playing video games. Some wonderful folks in the states donated hundreds of X-Boxes, Playstations and even a bunch of Wiis so soldiers won't get bored. There are a bunch of people playing chess and dominoes. I've even found a few guitar players! I already have a few soldiers asking me for lessons. I used to give lessons in college, so this should be a nice way to pass the time.

2200 Bed time. Tomorrow it's just wash, rinse and repeat. There are no days off in Iraq. Tuesday is just like Sunday. You mark the passage of time by events. Wednesdays and Sundays are easy because those are poker nights. Some people choose to live holiday to holiday. I've come up with a few other ways to mark the days.

13 more haircuts (I get mine cut every 2 weeks) or
26 more weapon inspections or
51 more poker games or
179 more days or
4322 more hours or
258,385 more minutes

That's about it. It's not a bad life. It would be even better if it weren't for those pesky bad guys.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Editors Note: I'm still having internet issues, so I'm emailing my posts to "The Wife," and she's putting them up. This is the second of 3 installments about my "Typical Day in Iraq." As soon as you are done, head on over to The Wife's new blog If you know anyone who's been deployed, you know it's always tougher on those left at home, but she handles it with courage and candor. If you like what I'm doing here, you'll love it over there. Just remember, if you like her blog better than mine, keep it to yourself. - DrC

Continuing on my "typical day in Iraq" theme, I am now headed to work.

0645 I leave the chow hall and start the trek to the hospital. I live and eat on one camp, but I work on a different camp. Both camps (and many others) are contained within the larger Victory Base Complex you may have heard about recently on the news. Now comes the saluting. I am a Lieutenant Colonel, and I outrank just about everyone here, so everyone I walk past has to salute me. It's pretty cool, but to be honest it can get a little old. Still, I remember saluting everyone in sight when I was a Private First Class, so this is a nice turn around.

0700 I arrive at Camp Cropper and show my special ID to the gate guard. This takes me right past the "Do Not Enter – Deadly Force Authorized" sign. I usually check twice before I leave to make sure I have the proper ID.

0710 Finally, I'm at the hospital. My sand colored boots are now covered in actual sand, as is much of my lower uniform. It won't be until later that the sand has managed to find its way into my shirt, face, hat and hair. Ah yes, air conditioning!

0720 to 0800 – Now it's boring stuff. I catch up on emails, check in with the techs and get a report of radiology studies waiting to be read. Because of the miracles of the internet, I am the sole radiologist for 5 different facilities, 3 of which have radiology capability (the rest just send their patients over to us).

0800 to ? Now I'm ready to work. I read every study until the worklists are clean. It's usually between 100 and 150 exams. By contrast, I usually read 40 to 50 studies per day at Madigan back in Washington. The work is usually not as challenging (or time consuming) as back home, but it's important. Detainee health care may not sound glamorous, but patients are patients (regardless of their personal or political beliefs), and I'm here to help.

Somewhere in there, I go to the gym, and eat a little snack. In fact, I just got back from the gym, but I'm waiting to cool off before taking another combat shower here in the hospital.

Tomorrow: NIGHT LIFE!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Typical Day in Iraq

20 Sep 07

In response to loyal reader Sean (AKA Instant Tragedy), here is my typical day. Please excuse the military times. I can't help it.

0500 I wake up in my 20 person tent. The lights remain off until 0730, so I have to do everything in the dark. I sleep in PT clothes (Army t-shirt and shorts), and as I climb out of my sleeping bag, I slip on my shower shoes. I have a little flashlight near the bed that I use to find the towel and hygiene kit from my duffel bag and I trudge my way to the latrine.

0505 The latrine is about 150 yards away. I walk out of my tent and stumble over stones and sand. There are these huge concrete T-walls for force protection and they keep out much of the light from surrounding compounds, but the moon is often bright enough to light the way. I arrive at the portapotty and take care of business before going next door to the shower.

0510 There are 6 small shower stalls and six adjacent sinks (try saying that 5 times fast). I have my electric razor charged up, so I do a quick shave and brush my teeth before taking a "combat shower."

0520 Each soldier is allotted 15 gallons a day for personal hygiene, including flushing the toilets and taking showers. They way this works is we turn on the water and get wet. As soon as we are wet, we turn off the water and lather up. On again comes the water and we turn it off again as soon as all the soap is off.

0525 Band-Aid change. I got a smallpox vaccination before coming and it takes about 3 weeks to heal. At least the intense itching, which lasted about a week, has mostly subsided. I change the dressing and carefully discard it before washing my hands again. There is still a live virus on the band-aid and scab, so you have to be really careful.

0530 Back in my PT clothes and shower shoes and stumble back to the tent.

0545 Now I use the flashlight to change into my Army ACU's, or my desert camoflague. It's long pants, long sleeves, boots and a hat. On top of that, I strap on my 9mm Beretta pistol and I'm off to chow.

0600 The dining facility has a sign out front. I'm not allowed to take a picture for security reasons, but it reads:


I show my ID and get in for a really good meal. They serve over 27,000 meals per day in this one facility, and they do an incredible job.

0645 After a leisurely breakfast, I ready myself for the one mile walk to work. It's cool in the morning, somewhere in the middle to high 80's, so it's a nice walk. The walk home won't be nearly as much fun.

Tomorrow: WORK!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Greetings from Iraq!

17 Sep 07

I’m on the ground and running full speed. In this case, full speed is about 2 MPH. It’s hot here. Have I mentioned that? I’m reminded of a line from Biloxi Blues, “It’s Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t take that kind of hot.” The day I arrived in Kuwait it was 120 degrees. Most days have been between 110 and 116. Night time is much better. 90 degrees feels positively balmy.

I learned something recently - jet lag sucks. The rule of thumb is it takes one day to adjust for every hour of time difference. Right now we are 11 hours ahead of the West Coast, so it’s supposed to take 11 days to adjust. I’m waking up at all hours of the night (and day). Actually, last night was my first night of good sleep. It’s probably because I kicked ass in the local poker game. We played 4 tournaments and I took one 1st place, one 2nd place and two 3rd places. My one win came in the final game where I was “heads-up” against my old boss Dr. Steve, and I busted him up real good. He was still all smiles because he knows that I won the battle, but he wins the war – he gets to go back home to the states in a few days.

For now, be well. I’ll post again soon.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What, No Lobster?

14 Sep 07

Well folks, I’m finally here in Iraq. I’ll have tons of stuff to tell you about in the coming weeks and months. Unfortunately, until I get my new laptop battery I am a bit handcuffed by time limitations.

Leaving a crying family at the airport was every bit as hard as you might imagine. The image of them huddled together for comfort stayed with me throughout the flight, and really through the two weeks I’ve been gone. It’s better today because I finally got my webcam working and I got to see smiles instead of tears. The connection is a little bit slow – it’s been likened to talking with the space shuttle. That’s appropriate because the landscape here in Baghdad is a lot like what I imagine the moon to be.

We started a list called, “You Know You Are Deployed in Iraq When…” The first entry is “when you get out of the shower and still have sand in every orifice in your body.”

I’ll have some pics in the coming days. For now, I want to explain the title of this post. He actually said, “What, no lobster? This is such bullshit!” This was a line spoken by a soldier in front of me at the dining facility. You may think he was joking, but it was spoken in all sincerity. Every Friday night is steak and lobster night here on Camp Striker. Since there was no lobster, I had to settle for King Crab legs. They were scrumptious. People give a lot of shit to Halliburton, but if I’m not mistaken, they are the parent company of KBR which handles our food. Nothing improves morale like good chow.

Finally, thanks for all your support for me and “The Wife” during these trying times. You may not think so, but your comments mean a lot. It’s like a little internet “care package.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Touchdown, Safe and Sound

Guest post, courtesy of The Wife:

Short one today, friends. Just a quick note to say the good Dr. called yesterday (at 2:30 a.m., his time) to say he's now in country. Wish him well.

Godspeed you home, my love.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Close, but not quite . . .

Guest post, courtesy of The Wife:

Today, lucky readers, is a special-double-bonus day for you all. You have the extreme privilege of reading DrChako's blog with both my special insights and editorial prowess (*chuckle*), as well as having ACTUAL comments and insights from the man himself. Yes, my beloved Dr. is on the ground in Kuwait, awaiting the next transport into his final duty station in our favorite four-letter word - Iraq.

So without further delay, some of his poignant observations . . .
Well, here I am in Kuwait. This place is purgatory. I can't believe people are actually stationed here. I'm certain this place looks just like Baghdad, but it's considered non-hazardous duty. The way i figure it, if you are coming all this way, might as well go the extra 100 miles north and be able to say "I was there, dude!"

Training today was a bust. We went to the range at 4 am and fired 5 familiarization shots. What a waste. If I'm getting up that early, let me shoot a whole bunch, dammit. . . .

Yesterday the power went out in our tent. We were in total darkness and within 10 minutes the temperature equaled and then surpassed the outside temperature of 120 degrees. How do natives live in this shit?! . . .

Now I have to gear myself up for taking a dump in a portapotty. It's 120 outside right now, which means it's 140 in the potty. Wish me luck.

OK . . . the portapotty might have been a little TMI . . . but you get the picture. I guess it's standard military - hurry up and wait. Too bad our poor Dr. has to do his waiting there. Wonder why they don't stage them out of Hawaii or something like that. I bet military recruitment would get a big boost if people knew that a deployment would be bookended with a bunch of training on a balmy 90 degree beach with girls in bikinis. I know I'm only a CPA, but I'm trying to think outside the box.

So again, thanks from both of us for your kind thoughts and wishes - keep the posts coming, and in addition to keeping the home fires burning, I'll keep the blog fires burning for the man. Special thanks to Sean, for being MY most regular reader and commentor in my short time as the Dr.'s voice. And thanks, Amy C, for the vote of confidence on the blog . . . just trying to keep the Dr.'s readers informed, but might have to think about my own!

For some of our friends out there, L'shanah Tovah! If you have to ask what it means, google Judaism 101 - I'm sure its at least as educational as anything you're reading here.

Later this week, some obligatory poker content. Or maybe the video of Son #2 "Mutton-Bustin'" . . .

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Friday, September 07, 2007

Houston, we have lift off . . .

Guest post, courtesy of The Wife . . .

To DrChako's fellow bloggers, poker pals, and other loyal friends and readers, I post tonight to let you know he's taken the next step in our latest reality show. Several hours ago, he called me from Bangor, Maine to let me know he would soon be on his way to the big sandbox across the sea. As I type, he is likely somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, so thoughts and prayers for a safe flight. I am sure he will send a post for me soon; suffice it to say that he was in the best mood possible for a man about to go to war. Or maybe that was just to keep me from crying.

He did tell me that at the Bangor airport, the troops were met by volunteer veterans (up way past any normal person's bedtime) just there to shake our soldier's hands and wish them well on their journey. I guess that's the great part about being an American - we can criticize the politics behind this war every day in our news, and yet a group of aging veterans will drag themselves to an airport at 11:00 p.m. at night to wish people they don't know a safe journey. Small things tend to restore my wavering faith in humanity these days.

Technically, this is a poker blog, not a place for me to be maudlin. I'll save that for another blog I'm cooking up in my head - "Sending Your Spouse to War Sucks." So with that in mind, here is some obligatory poker (sort of) content:

The good Dr. and I have two wonderful sons. One of Son #1's best traits is a natural curiousity and genuine interest in fully exploring a topic of interest. Son #1 is fascinated with DrChako's poker habit: he likes to watch our "no money, all glory" home matches head-to-head, comment on our online plays, and have DrChako share stories from the poker room. He's also my son, so he understands the importance of a dollar. He's fully aware that DrChako's bankroll is a negotiated amount that can only continue to exist through good play, as the accountant in me will not let large amounts of our hard-earned wages to be dropped in someone else's pockets.

Last weekend, Son#1 spent time with his buddy Ryan. Ryan's parents are divorced, so with all of the finagling that went on about whose house he would be at, Son #1 must have had the topic on his mind. So after dropping Ryan off, we drive home and Son #1 says "Mom, would you ever divorce Dad?"

What a loaded question. Of course, I jump quickly to say "Son, I love your father. You don't divorce people you love." He pressed on. "What would make you divorce him?" I calmly replied that it would take something pretty big. "Son, Daddy and I have fights, but we love each other. Grandma and Grandpa fight and they've been married 37 years! Daddy would have to do something really terrible for me to not love him enough to stay married to him." I figured this was good enough. I was wrong.

"I know!" Son #1 exclaimed. He feels pretty good about himself when he thinks he's figured it out. "I bet that if Dad gambled the house in a poker game, and lost it, then you'd probably divorce him."

For a 10-year old, he's got this woman pretty well figured-out!

Safe travels, dear Dr. . . . and to the rest of you, keep the comments coming. I think my periodic recaps of your comments (where he is at, the blog site has been blocked) do wonders for his spirits.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Saturday, September 01, 2007

On his way . . .

As DrChako begins the labyrinth of deployment preparation at a far away location, and unable to post regularly, he has given me leave to guest post. Heretofore, I have been a mere snide comment or two in his posting history. Most of the time, I use my commentary to keep him honest, keep him humble, and poke a little fun. Today, I post in seriousness, as I truly love and miss my DrChako. So bear with me . . .

Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm convinced that poker players are an odd lot. Take no offense; being an occasional one myself, and being married to one DrChako, I speak from personal experience. However, in these last few days, as we have prepared to send the good Dr. off to serve in an unpopular war, in an unfriendly country, under the command of a man who has not gained the worldwide support he really needs to make this kind of action successful, I am thoroughly impressed with the support you have shown him through your words. While I know some of you know him more intimately (as some of his precious wages may have made their way into your pockets, at some point in time), a few of you may only know him through his words, and still you send your good wishes. You hearts are in the right place.

I fight a bit of self-pity; after all, I am losing my husband, my lover, my co-parent, and my best friend for a long time, with no certainty as to how frequently I will be able to communicate with him. However, I know spouses who have been without their loved ones for far longer; families for whom this is a second or third tour of duty; families without the support at work, the support of other friends and families, and without the financial resources to find ways to make this easier. So today, I ask not for myself, but for the good Dr. and others:

1. Keep him in your thoughts, as well as all those men and women (you too, Sis) who are just over there doing their jobs to the best of their ability, in a situation that can never match the frustrations, boredom, overtime, under appreciation, or office politics the rest of us endure in our jobs.

2. If you believe in prayer, then I welcome one on DrChako's behalf, in whatever form that comes, and to whichever being you believe watches over good people.

3. If you do not believe in prayer, then believe that on some level, our collective good wishes have to do him and others some good, somehow, so keep them coming.

4. Keep our oldest son in mind; he's been strong beyond belief, for a 10-year old, until last night when he broke down in tears. "I knew this day would come; I just knew it. I kept hoping that something would blow up all the bad people over there, so that Daddy wouldn't have to go!" Today he confessed to a family friend that he knew he was expected to be the man of the house and he wasn't sure how he was going to do that; think of him as he tries to determine if each day he needs to be 10, or 20.

5. Keep our youngest son in mind; he's not sure what this all means, but as we walked to the garage to take his father to the airport, he patted my back and said "Don't cry when Daddy leaves, ok?" When we left the airport, me with tears streaming down my face, he looked me in the eyes and said "If I hug you a lot, will that make you better?" He threw up in the car 3 blocks from the house (he gets carsick sometimes), and as I jumped out to clean things up, in total "mom" mode, my sadness momentarily averted, he cheerfully said "You sound much better now, Mom." He's only 4, but his heart is as big as anyones.

6. Keep in mind the front lines. DrChako is an officer; he'll be afforded conveniences others might not. No one is perfectly safe, but he's not going to be that scared 19 year-old guy who's tasked to go investigate the suspicious-looking package on the side of the road. If you know one of those guys, make sure you send HIM a few decks of cards, magazines, books, . . . anything to make it seem more like home.

7. Keep blogging. I have only met a few of you (alcanthang, drizz, Will Wheaton, DrPauly), but I know how much entertainment value you provide to DrChako, and how he lives vicariously through your escapades when he can't be there in Vegas with you. Keep giving him a little piece of your abnormal "normality"!

Now I'm sure I've got some accounting to do . . . so thanks for your kind words on my husband's behalf, and may your aces in the hole always hold up on the river!

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife