Postcards from Tradocia

butler range, days two and three

(24-25 March)

Life at the Butler Range Complex (or BRC, as it’s known to the natives) is much like life at Camp Liberty: equal parts boredom and crankiness, with just a dash of Signal activity thrown in to keep us employed. Of course, the BRC (minus the actual ranges, of course) would fit in my part of the trailer park back at Liberty, and the food is hit-or-miss and there’s not nearly as much of it, but the Pontiff still has his LCD projector with 7-foot screen and 5.1 surround-sound system, which more or less makes up for the various other deficiencies of the place.

Day two was largely spent trying to hooptify (did I coin a new slang term?) one of SGT P’s trucks, just as mine has been. The 1st Cav unit that formerly occupied his position bequeathed him a couple of wooden door mounts for air conditioners, so the first task basically amounted to willful destruction of government property. The shelter trucks have an inner door which seems to serve no purpose (I call it the service window), so we had to remove a series of bolts which clearly were not meant to be removed, since they were both painted over and sealed with some kind of rubbery substance.

After much fiddling with wrenches and beating on the door with various tools, the door came off and the wooden frame went in. The air conditioner, though, was blocked by a spur of wood maybe three quarters of an inch wide and six inches long. This was remedied the next day by a visit from the local workers who shaved off the offending wood.


Day three was KP (kitchen patrol). Once a time-honored duty of soldiers everywhere, KP is fast becoming an anachronism in the modern Army, with civilian contractors taking over much of the cooking duty. At the BRC, though, the DFAC is Army-run, so KP it is.

The Pontiff and I call it “Sam’s Club” or “Sierra Charlie” (SC) duty because really the main job is unloading trucks that come in and shuffling boxes around in the storeroom. No peeling potatoes for this signal troop!

One driver, presumably an Iraqi, basically lives on the base in the cab of his truck, which serves as a refrigerated stockroom. He cut a figure straight out of a 1970’s martial arts movie – the classic crime lord bad guy: a thick (but well-groomed) head of salt-and-pepper hair, dark amber aviator glasses, a cigarette dangling with practiced disdain from his mouth while he deftly unlocked and whipped open the cargo doors. He glanced at me with a crooked smile (I had previously tried to open the doors and failed, stymied by the weird mechanism) that spoke simultaneously of good will and of something that said, “and you think you’re so smart, kid…” The lines of his weathered face showed not old age (he was maybe in his 40’s) but experience, and indeed they enhanced his masculine appearance. I was surprised to see that he had hazel or gray eyes when he took off his sunglasses. He was, in short, quite a cool looking guy.

SFC Black is the DFAC NCOIC (dining facility non-commissioned officer in charge), and he takes his job extremely seriously. Hey, feeding troops is no joke! His attitude seems to include bitching out the Iraqi drivers and workers, even though they basically don’t speak a lick of English. As we were unloading one truck, he was screaming at the Iraqis unloading it that we only had 20 minutes to complete the task; they obviously didn’t understand the specifics but got the idea that time was of the essence. Then, as they doubled their pace, he screams again: “DON’T DAMAGE MY PRODUCT! Don’t hurry so much you drop my shit!!” I mean, crap, these guys don’t know what the hell he’s saying – all they know is a scary intense skinny black guy in an Army uniform is screaming at them.

While we were unloading this stuff, a guy from the combat camera team that was rolling through showed up, his Sony DV camera on a monopod. He started to power up the camera, and SFC Black looks at him like he’s some kind of terrorist. “Who are you?,” he asked, as if it wasn’t obvious. “I’m with the combat camera unit,” he replied, a little confused himself. “The what?” I wanted to slap him in the face. “The PAO (public affairs office). 2nd brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.” SFC Black is still looking at him like he’s crazy. “What are you doing?” Christ! What a moron! “I’m just shooting some video, sergeant.” Black shakes his head. “Who gave you permission?” Say what? Who needs permission to videotape frozen hash browns getting unloaded from a truck? The cameraman is equally confused and obviously doesn’t know how to respond. “Uh, well…” Black cuts him off. “Well, you better go to the mayor and get permission. You can’t be taping here. Get out of here.” Sheepishly, the cameraman picked up his monopod and walked off, leaving me to wonder what exactly this guy’s problem is. Apparently frozen food is classified information now.


  1. kelly

    Good to catch up your blog- FUNNY! Self importance- meet a few of those myself lately! I love it.

  2. Schwaiger

    I’m the builder of Butler Range (Kirzah, known to the locals). I’m curious what it’s being used for now. We put a lot of time & effort in out there in 2003 and I’m curious to see if our guys are still getting use out of it. Is MPRI still running the ranges?

  3. Delobius

    Schwaiger –

    Yeah, the ranges are still in use and MPRI is still running them. That must’ve been a lot of work to build that whole complex by yourself! ;)

    Thanks for stopping by.

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