Taco's article from Iraq

Michael Chisena ka2zev at yahoo.com
Fri Jan 30 10:25:07 CST 2004

Hi all,

Greetings from Scania Iraq. 

CSC Scania is a truck stop along a road the military calls MSR Tampa. (MSR=Main Supply Route). If you got a map handy, we are near the village of Nippur (the irony of this has not escaped me). My job here is to keep the satellite earth station running.


I’m not going to sugar coat Scania. It has all the ambiance of a land fill. Scania is a walled community, a lot like a prison in reverse. We have a high wall topped with razor wire and guard towers. The walls are to keep the bad guys out and the good guys protected. One end of the base is the fuel point; the other is a living, and logistics. I share a tent with eight other guys. Six of us work for ITT and two for the PX.


Military life is very different than anything else I have ever done. Since this is a war zone, some things are not done here. The whole salute issue is not done. Salute’s target Officers for snipers. Fortunately since the wall went up that has not been a problem. Because this base is a 24x7 operation they don’t have the musical alerts to wake up and go to sleep. Once in a while I get to hear the Islamic call to pray from a nearby village.


The Army has done an amazing job of keeping ‘non combatants’ safe. The physical security here is impressive. Nearly every trooper is armed and has a supply of ammo on them. The MP units keep their guns loaded. I can’t say enough nice things about the military here. 


So far I have done no ham radio stuff. My sat com terminal get’s time on a commercial bird and its signal is a complex encrypted package. It handles our phones and internet connections.


On the base are a bunch of military radio circuits. These are radios called Singars (sp?) They operate from about 30 to 70 MHz. (remember this is not the US and different band plans apply). The military has a number of low power HT’s, they are called “Soldier intercoms”. KBR our facilities contractor uses a number of Motorola HT 750’s in High band. The most popular signals here are from the UHF FRS radios. Many of the troopers here use them for tasks that regular military radios don’t do well.


Entertainment radio is kind of skimpy. We are out of broadcast FM coverage from Babylon (the first) and Baghdad. At night I can get some local low power FM from the nearby villages. Since Arabic is not a language skill, I can’t share with you the nature of the programming. Judging by tone of voice and production standards, some sounds like a preacher (over modulated, loud and incomprehensible). Other programs have a smooth and produced sound, like a stock market show.


AM broadcast here is on a 9 kHz standard. Knowing Islam’s lack of fondness for demonic symbols I find it ironic a major station is on 666 kHz. In Iraq you take your giggles where ever you can. Again it’s mostly Arabic service for the locals.


I’ve got my Radio Shack DX 440 portable in the tent. That and a 20 foot random wire hung on the tent poles I get a surprising amount of signals. Again language skills limit what I can listen to. So it’s BBC or VOA. VOA has an all news format. I can only get so worked up over farming conditions in Africa. BBC has a little more variety in programming but it tends to be things I can’t get excited about either. Like the latest news from Senegal (yawn).


I sometimes here some CW traffic on the 7mhz ham band, and once in a while some voice stuff near 14mhz. Most of it isn’t in English.


One thing I did catch today was a lot of CB chatter. From about 26.5 to 27.8 there was a mix of signals. Some in AM, SSB, and FM. (different standards for CB radio between the US and Europe) Most of it in Arabic or something else I don’t speak. Some strong, some mobile, and some quite weak.


Security is a little twitched here. There was a car bomb explosion up the road that injured a number of Iraqi civilians. No troopers were hurt. The civilians were brought to the base for medical treatment, some air ambulance to Baghdad for extensive care. Bombs do horrid things to children. I now know there are things that go beyond crime as we understand it.


If pro Saddam forces wanted to shoot mortars into this base, they would have to do it blind. Above is a no fly zone. Saw a pair of F15’s playing tag the other day. The troops call them ‘fast movers’.


The US Army owns the entire high round for miles in each direction. Mortar fire needs to be directed to do any good. I got concerned about the possibility, of someone directing fire into this base from a truck used as an observation post. Brought this question to a communications LT. We have an appointment to get a linguist to listen to this chatter and see just what it is.


Another use of radios are triggers for IED’s. IED stands for Improvised Explosive Device. In the MP HQ’s there are posters of IED triggers sappers removed from defused bombs. Most any radio gizmo can be adapted for deadly service. Wireless door bells, HT’s, cell phones, you name it, there is a poster about one.


So I don’t expect to do much transmitting here. I have to assume someplace here someone is watching the emissions and making notes. Even this lap top’s 2.4 G wireless LAN system is turned off, as a potential enemy can use it to get data from inside this base.


Iraq is a place where paranoia and security sometimes blend.


If you have questions about life here in Scania or some communications question I can answer E mail me. 


Ka2zev at yahoo.com

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://amrad.org/pipermail/tacos/attachments/20040130/073b86e7/attachment.html

More information about the Tacos mailing list