Monday, November 22, 2004

Hello From Baghdad

Well it's been a while since I've had time to post or had access to a computer. I'm now in Camp Victory Baghdad. The name is actually changing to Camp Liberty. So much has happened in the last week I hardly know where to begin. (At this point you need to imagine the deep baritone voice of the guy who narrated the Mighty Mouse cartoons.) When we last left our hero (me) he was dangling by a thread anticipating the issue of body armor among other things. Will he get it? Will he not? Will he need it if he does get it or will the forces of evil prevail against him. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of "Does Anybody Really Care".

I suppose it was the 17th of November when we walked down to the RFI (Rapid Fielding Initiative) site for some more gear. There were about 90 of us and they asked who didn't have body armor. Everyone raised their hand. The guy who asked the question let out a line of explicatives and asked why the explicative we left the states without body armor. When we told him they sent us out and told us our armor would be here in Kuwait there were a few more minutes of explicatives followed by a short pause then a few more explicatives to finish the point. He told us he didn't think he could come up with that many. So, off we marched to get the rest of our gear with the body armor issue no closer to being solved.

We were given some pretty cool stuff though. We got two more pairs of boots, brining the total so far to 5, we were measured for the new ballistic helmets and told we would get them in a few months. As with all things government these were awarded to the lowest bidder. It is a mom and pop shop somewhere in the Midwest and he is nowhere close to being able to stay up with the demand. Oh well, my old kevlar helmet will still stop a bullet. I think, I've never actually tested the theory. They also gave us a camel back bag you fill with water and wear like a backpack. It has a tube that comes around front that you can drink out of. They gave us some fire retardant gloves and some fleece pants and jacket. The jacket and pants are my favorite pieces of gear the Army has ever given me. We also got some cool Willey-x ballistic sunglasses, some silk weight long underwear, and some socks and t-shirts. All in all this was the best issue I've ever gotten, I'm more than pleased with these items.

After we got all of that cool stuff we went back to our barracks and put it all away. All that gear brings me up to 4 duffel bags worth of stuff. One and a half of which are, as we speak, sitting under my bed in a category I like to call "why the heck did I have to carry this useless junk half way around the world?" To our surprise a guy showed up with three different sizes of body armor for everyone to try on. A few hours later we walked back down to the RFI center and signed for our body armor with plates and all. If you've ever seen the movie Blackhawk Down you can see what the plates sort of look like when the guy decides he doesn't need the one in the back of his armor and lays it on the floor. That's not something I plan on doing. With the plates in it the body armor weighs 40 pounds or so. This is a weight I don't mind carrying.

Well, we didn't do too much more in Kuwait except drive to the Air field to fly out to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). Here's how that went.

We were supposed to fly out on the 19th. We loaded all our duffel bags onto a truck and convoyed to the air field. Once there, we unloaded all the duffels, 90 people times 4 duffel and one personal bag per person, onto these big pallets. Then we put big cargo nets over them and cinched them down. This was about 10:00 in the morning on the 19th. A few hours later half of us plus two pallets of bags loaded on a c130 and taxied out onto the runway. Then we stopped and were informed that not all the engines worked and we'd have to get off the plane. So we did. We waited in a big tent for a few hours and then were told we couldn't leave until about 3:00 p.m. the next day, Oh yeah, your bags are still loaded on the pallets so you can't get them out. Not to big of a deal, so we thought. We spent the rest of the evening in a tent talking and eating MRE's until we went to sleep on cots. The temperature was probably in the 60's and kept getting colder. It would have been O.K. except they had these huge air conditioners blowing full force and everyone was shivering. Then it started to rain. Finally we decided we were breaking into our bags anyway, which were outside in the rain. I found my fleece jacket and my poncho liner, which is sort of like a blanket and slept the rest of the night no problem except the tree days worth of fuzz that was now growing on my unbrushed teeth. The next day we flew to Baghdad without incident. When we landed there was a small PX right off of the runway, our bags were still on pallets but one the top to one of my friends bags was poking right out of one of the spaces in the pile of bags. He had just enough room to open the padlock and wiggle out the blessed item on top of his bag. A tube of toothpaste. I hurried into the PX, which was the back of a semi trailer, and plunked down 50 cents for a toothbrush (mine was still in the pile of bags it had been in for about three days.) It is a good feeling to brush your teeth. I think if you want to live this adventure right along with me you should not brush your teeth for three days, walk, not drive, to your nearest walgreens, scrounge a squirt of toothpaste from someone you've just met, and buy a toothbrush. My dad was right, it is more satisfying when you work hard for something.

I think this blog has served it's purpose so I'll catch you the rest of the way up to speed in my next blog.


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