Thursday, April 19, 2007

Snail Mail & Naming Conventions

2 Mar 07
Really bad dust storm last night. Other side of our small compound was barely visible. Windy still today.

Got snail mail for the first time yesterday. That was great…and only 8 days. While at the post office I struck up a conversation with an Army Master Sergeant Lamereaux. He was armed to the tooth. He explained that he is in the Army Corps of Engineers assigned to a British scout or patrol unit (i.e. “Rat Patrol”) to recon public works projects all around the southern part of the country which takes him into a lot of bad places. He’s been here for 5 months on the heels of a year long tour in Afghanistan. He enjoys going into the desert with the Brits because they are such great soldiers. They go into the desert for 3 weeks at a time and live in their vehicles. He said they’re amazing in a fight. Can’t beat that.

Worked for some time with Adnan yesterday. Discussed our military constructs. They have no noncommissioned officer corps so their military is divided between workers who read Arabic and officers who are trained as “engineers” and read Arabic and English. Their maintenance officers stay at the acft all day to make sure the enlistees have someone there to interpret and make decisions all day. There appears to be a large gap between their officers and enlistees as a result of having no professional “middle class” (i.e. noncommissioned officers). It is inconceivable to him that our maintenance officers don’t actually work on acft.

Everyone in the squadron calls Adnan, “Abu Ghassan” which means “Father of Ghassan.” Once you have children you can be called the father of the first child. However, if you have a girl first you would only be called by her name until you have your first son. For instance, I would have been called “Abu Mary Elizabeth” until we had Will. From then on, I would be called “Abu William” or by my name. There are other formal and informal ways to say all of their names. For instance, Adnan's son Ghassan's informal name might be Ghassan Adnan Abas (informal). But his formal name might be "Ghassan bin Adnan bin Abu Abas Al Tikriti" ("Ghassan, son of Adnan, father of Abas from the great Tikriti tribe"...bin & ibn = "son of" and Al = "the great"). I know...whatever. But it's funny that they are lost on the concept of our names though...they can't comprehend that Bill is a nickname of William. They think my name is "Bill William Forrest Ray."

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