10 April 2003 from the USS Gunston Hall

** This is "joeslist"! Your (hopefully) daily taste of the war from somewhere
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Some questions can't be answered due to security constraints. **


Thursday 10 April 2003  10 AM Floating around the Northern Arabian Gulf (NAG)
Lunch: Philly Cheesesteak

Joe Sez:
Finally got out of the fly-infested, smelly, hot and generally offensive little
port town of Umm Qasr.
fliesUmm Qasr from the water
Joe readingOfficers Call

Our work there is finished, and all appears to be well.
The pace of humanitarian aid is improving and I've seen some of the ports workers
showing up (though on a short leash) and several ships have come and gone. Flying
back to the ship I noticed a large number of cargo vessels that I presume are
waiting for things to settle down.
Sir Galahad fom the airSir Galahad arriving up the KAA

We were in a warehouse at the port. The first few nights were very scary, with
nearby gunfire and frequent explosions. My department set up tents inside the
warehouse, which turned  out to be a good idea, as it kept the flies and mosquitos
WarehousesLuxurious Accomodations
Fine diningGas, Gas, Gas!
We didn't have much electricity for the first week or so. It seems that
the command hadn't properly labelled the big generator that they sent over and
it was lost in Kuwait for that period of time. We found a small (2kw) generator
that the Iraqi's had left behind and used it to charge batteries for lighting
and to run a few laptops. We didn't have bullets, or body armor. Later we got the
body armor, but without plates (to hopefully stop a bullet). Then we didn't have
any wires, extension cords or plugs to distrubute electricity. The only water
was bottles drinkning water and there was no sanitation. Food was MRE's except
to two BBQ's that Master Guns and the ship organized.


I'm sitting here in the Chiefs mess. I just needed a (semi) quiet place where I
be comfortable and set up the laptop on a table in front of me. Space on a ship is
at a premium, so I feel especially fortunate to have it available. From where I'm
sitting I can see two TV sets that currently have fox news (Armed Forces Network
rotates feeds). Oops. The ship must have turned again. Every time it does, the sat
feed goes out and we get a blue screen that says Channel 00302... Searching.
Usuall this happens when some important history making kind of thing is about to
happen. When the signal returns, the anchor person is gushing about whatever
amazing thing occurred whil we weren't there. I'm listening to Rusty's internet
radio station (or at least my local copy of it) "Groovesalad". Thanks Rusty!

I'm pretty much just killing time right now (as I've spent most of the day in here)
so if this one seems long (that's 'cuz it is). I look forward to your messages
in the next few days. Please let me know what you'd like to know about or see
in pictures later.



OK Here's the inbox (and it's a lot):

John Sez:
I bought you a new Iridium phone. The rate is about $1/minute and
FREE INCOMING! It has included VM and SMS, and I got you the data
connect kit. It should ship in about five days. You will receive it
directly from World Communication Center.

Joe Replies:
That should be great, particularly when the ship decides that we don't need to tell
our friends and family that we're actually still alive. Not getting ripped off is
also a nice plus. Having the communications is, as the card company says "Priceless"
Molly Sez:
Hi Joe,

I am so glad to hear that you may be getting out of there soon. I just
hope that it is to somewhere better and safer and not worse. That has
been my fear lately that they would want you closer to the front line.
The news reports sound like it is a real mess elsewhere. It is
surprising how many casualties are from "Friendly Fire". Can't they tell
what the hell they're doing!

Joe responds:
War is boredom mixed with chaos. Even with all our communications technologies
the "noise level" is still very high. Too much information, going by too fast, much
of which is irrelevent or just plain wrong. Emotions run high, egos run higher and
dummies still can't do their jobs. At least the French aren't involved. A lot of
this went better because there was only one language spoken (except for maybe the
scottish Army guys).

Molly Continues:
I hope they got Saddam but I don't see why it took them 4 big bombs to
do it. If they knew where he was why couldn't they just send in the
special OPS to take him out? They are killing a lot of civilians.

Joe Suggests:
If any civilians are hanging around Saddam, I'd suggest that these losses are simply
natural selection occurring. In simplest terms: If saddam is your next-door neighbor,
you should consider a weekend at the country house. As for why 4 2k bombs, I'd have to
say that they just want to be sure. How much bug spray do you use when you really want
to "get" that bug? Try not to fall into the trap of second guessing the people who are
closest to the problem and have a different picture of the problem, I love it when
the journalists talk like they could run a better war. They are invited to do so!
Actually, I love to hear my little sister talk MILSPEAK ("Special OPs")!  :)

Molly Continues:
So were you on the ship when it was quarantined? I think it would be
nicer to be stuck on the ship especially if you were exposed than to be
stuck in the warehouse and get sick. Isn't dysentery from drinking dirty
water? How does it spread?

Joe replies:
I'm not sure when they discovered it (or how). I spent about 8 hours on it a few days ago.
They were using it to support the British, Austrailian and American troops and it was really
fantastic! The atmosphere was really cool (besides the ship was much nicer than our warships)
and the guys were fantastic. Probably the biggest plus for us was working with the Brits and
Aussies, they are outstanding, fun and absolutely professional. I felt much safer knowing that
they were around, especially the first few nights. As for the health concerns,I am not a doctor
(and don't play one on TV either). I don't know how it spreads. We did have some of our folks
get sick, though I don't think that it was from the ship. The general sanitation was poor. We
were in a very dusty waehouse. "proper" latrines weren't set for almost a week. There was "stuff"
everywhere. The place had large packs of wild dogs, some with rabies, fighting and getting into
everything. There was no refigeration or even bleach, no cleaning materials, or brooms. We
were told to "pack light" for seven days and not bring tents or cots. Fortunately, we ignored
the bad advice and brought tents. That kept us away from the dust, flies and mosquitos. There
have been cases of malaria, though none of our folks contracted it.
Got runs?

Molly continues:
We enjoy your long emails. I noticed that you are using the eodmu7
address so I sent this to both. I'm going to cut it short now but I will
be checking my email soon to see if you can write back, it would be cool
if we could have a real time conversation, although you should be asleep
now. I know you don't want to use the phone much now but did you hear
that you are getting a satellite phone from John? I don't know if he
wanted it to be a surprise but I suppose if you don't get it in about 5
days you should check with the ship as the phone company is sending it
directly. You sure have some great friends!

Joe sez:
I do have some great friends! It's funny because a lot of you didn't know each other 'til now.
I used the EODMU7 email system because I could get to it from the Austrailian TV networks sat
phone/internet. I made friends with them and will continue to talk to them by email in the
future. I fixed a few things for them, gave them electricity, hooked them up with the maintenance
guy who got them free gasoline and MRE's. I set them up with free electricity and generally
made it easier for them to stay around, using our camp as a "home base". They'd drive north
each morning, as safety permitted, to collect video and stills, then package, edit and uplink
in the evening. The information that they collected was interesting for us as well since
the only TV we saw was "second hand CNN" (The CNN feed "translated" by the local Iranian or
Kuwaiti TV station. It was not in English). There was a satelite uplink on the back of a pickup
truck that they all used, though some voice file transfers were done by sat phone and recorded
on laptop PC's. The uplink truck was run by a feisty former Aussie Army guy who was on his own.
The press folks mostly hung together, mainly for safety and convenience. In fact they're now
shopping for a compound for safety since they know that we'll be leaving shortly. They seem
to think that I could do this professionally, sounds interesting. Oh, well. One war at a time.

Molly Continues:
I hope we hear from you soon and that you're on your way home! We miss
you and are always thinking about you and praying for you. We love you


Joel Sez:
Joe, Cingular bozos must have known you were not going to go into the office and
post a complaint when you're 10,000 miles away.  Went to KCBQ yesterday to
work with Craig - patterns were out again - bad contactor connection in
Tower #3.  Fixed and spent the night in Running Springs.  Tried to stay at
BOQ but for the first time couldn't get a room because of a drill
weekend.  Wanted to stay there and get a hair cut a MiraMar in the
morning.  Oh the best laid plans .....

Joe Responds:
You could come here and get your head shaved for FREE! You couldn't get into Adm
Kidd? Damned reservists! Please send Craig my regards!

Joel Continues:
You are probably bored already and ready to come back to all the chic babes
in San Diego.  Take care.

Joe sez:
I keep having nightmares that they'll all be in veils and smell like camels.
You just can't imagine how bad everything smells here, or maybe how bad everyone
and everything that they touch smells here. (It's bad in Umm Qasr too! Little
ship joke there)

Joe Mauk Sez:
Hope you 're staying safe. Lisa got the link from her girlfriend who is
married to a Navy Doctor.


take care.


Joe (Talbot) sez:
Hi Joe, and thanks! I can't web browse on here as the "pipe" is 16-32kbps for the
whole ship and they don't allow it. If you send me a message with a link, I can't
go there to look at it, but I will when I return to civilization. LT-Smash, huh?
Sounds entertaining. Please say hi to Lisa for me!
Don Hunt Sends:
Joe, Please let Scott know that I will make sure the socks get out....oh, Mark
Wolfe stopped by and wants to know if he can use Scott's Recumbine
Bike...I can get it out of storage if Scott gives the word...Mark is
building a new one and would like to ride Scott's as he is building
his...so, he can modify as he goes...
Everyone here is fine...
Good Luck, Please give everyone my best.

Joe responds:
HI Don! I can't answer for Scott (and he's not close by right now), but I will ask
him when we next speak. I doubt that he'd have a problem with it, but...

John Higdon reports:

John The caller ID that showed up on your Monday morning call was


That's very strange!

Joe responds:
I agree. I wonder who THAT number belongs to. Maybe it's some "cheap-tone" long
distance company or the outgoing trunk of some surveilance agency that isn't set
up right. :)
CDR Joel Saxberg complains:

He don't write, he don't call, he don't send flowers!


Can't come home now - gas prices are too high.  Understand you got a Ma
Bell of Iraq.  Good going!  Keep up the good work!


Joe responds:
I've made special arrangements so that gas prices will be much lower when I return.
To accelerate this process, If I can get home sooner--- your prices will be lower.
I do have connections here now will discuss this with my arab advisors and see what
I can do.
Don sends again:

Thanks for the phone message...sorry I missed you...please, don't waste
your phone with me...just send a message once in a while via the list...;)
Anyway, I tried to call for the address...I don't feel real confident with
the address:

CEC Joseph Talbot
USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44)
FPO AE 09573-1732
Please let me know if this is correct..if I don't get a response in the
AM..I will give this address to supply.

Joe Replies:
Hi Don! Fear not! That address IS correct.
Don Sez:

I hope you get this.....I just wanted to send out a, "hello" to you...I
miss you! ;(
Anyway, everything is going fine back here...my heart is with you....
Your car is in your garage, your keys are in your desk with your spare
keys. The locks were changed at MU7..you have a new key on your key
chain(I did this before I moved your car)...I traded your old MU7 key
in...spoke with Terry a few times...he is surviving and doing well...there
was a discrepency on your exam...I have been writing Emails, making phone
calls and visiting PSD regularly...I have been working on it since March
12th...I will get it fixed...you scored better than last year...I am
hoping you will make the board...I will let you know as soon as I can get
the discrepencies cleared...I have taken care of the pay issues...Our
ADMIN was sending the letters to the wrong department with the incorrect
subject line...I walked it through...you should see all your demo-pay by
the April 15 deposit...Let Scott know that his Passport arrived and I have
Please say, "hey" to Scott for me...let me know if I can assist in some way.

Joe responds:
I'll pass this on to Tim and Scott. Thanks for your efforts!
Joe Mauk says:

An Iraqi pay phone! Wait till the phone police catch up with
you! Will it be duty free?
Hope you are doing ok. John is supposed to subscribe me to
your list server so I can hear more.
Stay safe.
Don Sez:

Sabrina let me know you called this AM. I haven't let the Outlander in the
water until I heard from you...I will NOT send it and begin doing
acceptance testing.

Joe sez:
Great! We won't be needing it. I did pass on Chris Ropers name and info to
the LT for a sportscan and LBV's (2). It's all rather fluid right now.

Don Continues:
There will be a new LT taking over ASD/ATFP...

Joe laments:
See what happens when I'm not around?
Don Continues:
I have been busy trying to get all the ADMIN taken-care-of with Tina and
Sabrina...Sabrina took the E-4 exam March 20th and we should hear some
good news for her soon. Tina and Sabrina are doing well...we have been doing
some major clean-up and removal...

Joe Wonders aloud:
"Clean up and removal?" of what and for what purpose?

Don Continues:
We have a few Ops planned, Tina and Sabrina are doing well...I
have no doubt they will be successful. I have some different training for
them planned...day by day...they are becoming quite competent.
Please send my best to Scott and Tim...Joe, I have appreciated the updates
from the different sources...
I miss you guys!

Joe sez:
I'm really happy to hear that! Please let me know how it all goes. I wish
that I was there, as I'm certain that you're having a better time than we
are. I will pass on your greeting and please know that they're doing a great
job (of course!).
John Higdon says:

City fathers in Oakland, who are tired of Oakland's reputation as the
murder capitol of the Bay Area, are also annoyed at the image the
city has for being "unsafe". The answer, as they see it, is to pass a
new law that prohibits the use of barbed wire atop fences and the use
of bars on the windows of businesses anywhere in the city. It hurts
the "image" of Oakland.

Predictably, business owners have responded with the declaration that
Oakland IS unsafe and that bars and barbed wire are necessities to
protect their property.

Image is everything.

Joe retorts:
I made the comment today that Umm Qasr is Iraq's San Bernardino. Oakland
is Northern Californias San Bernardino. Amazing.
Greg Ogonowski sends:


I'm watching from here.

This doesn't look easy.
I never thought it would be.

I'm thinking of you.

Be safe.


Joe Responds:
Hi Greg! Thanks for the shout. It's going well. But it *IS* a war so a lot of it
really sucks (it's supposed to). Fortunately, it sucks less for us. But it's getting
old, and it's getting hot. That MOPP gear is %&^&^$ hot! Sweat is pouring off of you
by the time you just get your mask on, then your breathing is more restricted and you
are VERY nervous (what if it's REAL this time?) and you have to get it on NOW! It's
good to get away from that and get back to the ship (even though I despise the ship).
Please send my regards to Nap. When I get back, warm clear water and drinks with
umbrellas are in my future!
Get it on!Comfy?

Personal Business:
Sabrina: is everything cool with the car (RX-7)? Hope that your test went well!
John: Did you get the snail-mail that I sent weeks ago? I'm just trying to assess the
reliability and speed of the mail from and to the ship.