Saturday, March 13, 2010


Jambo, rafiki! I'm practicing my Swahili here. We have a lot of Ugandans on this base serving as guards at the DFACs, the BXs, MWR facilities, and a zillion and one other places. They present a rather fierce appearance when you walk up to them: stern-looking young men armed with AK-47s. Actually, as long as you're behaving yourself, they're the nicest guys in the world. "Jambo" (prounounced "JAHM-bo") means "hi"; "rafiki" (pronounced "ra-fee-kee") means "friend". My Swahili is limited to the very basics: hello, how are you, I am fine, have a good night. But evidently there aren't a lot of soldiers, civilians, or contractors around here who even know that much, so whenever I say "jambo", it always gets a reaction: a big smile, and a hearty "jamBO!" back at me.

Oh, and for those of us of a certain background, a key phrase is "Nguvu jamachie", which means "sea power"!

I've had a pretty busy week of nothing much happening. Most of my projects have been at stages where I'm waiting on somebody else to do something, so I've been working away at another task that requires painstaking attention to detail, repetitive searching of databases, and will result in virtually nothing of any importance. Guess how excited I am about this task? You got it.

Just in the past few days, though, we have had something develop that's kinda cool. One of my new projects was to provide training to workers in an Iraqi governmental organization. However, it was pretty much dead due to funding limitations, two changed deadlines, and the impossibility of getting it on contract using our normal procedures. Yesterday, we had a "get-r-done" meeting with the head of our contracting shop, our lawyer, and me, and we figured out a rather creative way to do the contract. We also learned yesterday that the focus of the training is shifting. It had been aimed at taking workers at the very basic levels - we're talking valve turners and concrete mixers - and giving them a slightly better understanding of their jobs. However, now the organization is getting several thousand new employees from the Sons of Iraq. These are the Sunnis who used to be the insurgents in Baghdad and Anbar, but came over to our side in exchange for a paycheck and the promise of full-time jobs later on. Well, now is the "later on" time and the Iraqi government is finally living up to their word. So now the task is to take several thousand Sons of Iraq, whose only job skills are using automated weapons, and teaching them how to be valve turners and concrete mixers. Or maybe taking the existing valve turners and concrete mixers and teaching them how to teach the new guys. That hasn't been determined yet. Whatever the case, my nearly-dead project suddenly has a new life. I'm much happier, too: I really don't like shutting down worthwhile projects, and I was getting to be a grumpy bastard after shutting down three.

On to another topic. The USO has been bringing more music acts through here lately. Last night, several of us went to see a concert by Bad Company. As I discovered, though, there are two Bad Company's. One consists of three of the original members; the other is Bad Company Featuring Brian Howe. Howe was the lead singer for eight years during the band's heyday, but they eventually kicked him out for being an asshole. So the group we got last night was the latter one. They didn't do a bad job, really. The lead guitarist's amp blew up during the first song. Since you can't have a rock concert without a screaming guitar, there was a 30-minute wait while somebody ran over to the Army band and borrowed an amp from them. But the patch job didn't provide the volume that the music demanded. The bass was thumping, the drums were loud, but the guitar was really hard to hear. Very well-played, from the little I could pick out. And the lead singer really was an asshole. If he was in my band, he wouldn't have lasted two days, much less eight years. I say that based on his attitude on stage, the way he treated his bandmates, and the types of "jokes" he was cracking, which were very demeaning. However, their last song was "Bad Company" and Howe dedicated it to all the soldiers who were no longer with us, saying that they are the real Bad Company. Very very cool.


  1. Jambo!
    Isn't that great, learning the basics is the first step toward civililty?
    Anyway, Bad Company? They're still around? My mind did a back bend thinking of the "back in the day." Well, I guess you can't change some thing. I guess they were just destined to be stuck with lead singers who have behavioral issues!