Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bad about updates.

The majority of early part in December was a bit uneventful. It was mostly filled with meetings and slow days pushing papers to satisfy information requests from "on high".

Toward the end of the month, my section got word that we needed to travel the northwest part of iraq to distribute equipment and ensure it was properly configured for use. Not to mention train the users.

My first day out, I managed to swing up north to a major hub city. From there, I moved by convoy, to a small encampment just north of the hub city. I spent a day working on a couple of minor issues before catching a flight east to an area between the hub city and the syrian border.

My flight was a bit complicated as I had no idea where the transfers were going to take place. Once we reached the hub city. I asked the flight crew if I had reached my location. They told me "Yeah!"

I moved to the flight line and asked a number of fellow travelers if this was the location I was shooting for - again all heads bobbed up and down with a bit "Yeah!"

I immediately grabbed a seat dropping all of my gear (fully loaded rucksack and duffle bag) in front of a small store and waited.

About two hours later, I figured something horrible had happened with my travel. I asked a passerby if he could give me the name of the post I was located on and his response was "Well, you're back at the hub city!"

I couldn't believe it! I was shanghighed!

The reason for my lack of recognition was that the region I had landed at I had never seen before - long story short I spent a day in the hub city waiting to catch a flight out to the middle city.

Fortunate for me, we had people near this city, I spent a night with them. Some soldier from the unit had started up a fire in the burn pit and the most senior officer and non-commissioned officer invited me to split wooden pallets to feed the fire.

Eventually they lost interest in the fire and I continued to stoke it with more chopped pallet wood.

After about 30 minutes of intense heat, a group of nearby soldiers (having just finished a mission) mosied over to my bon-fire and we traded stories about our times at home and abroad.

It really brought a sense of unity to my heart because inspite of my lack of experience out in the cities and towns, these guys - who travel out everyday on missions - treated me with a type of equality that's very hard to find back in the states.

One of the guys was a hulk of a man. He had a good 2 feet on my 5 frame and shoulders much more developed and broader than mine. He looked about 18 and spoke with me about his desire to become a states patrolman when his active duty tour was up.

A couple of his squadmates passed him my axe and he cut through a pallet in about 20 seconds - where it took me a good minute to split that wood up into small enough chunks for the pit.

The guy was just naturally strong. A real behemoth.

I got tired of the fire after a while and peeled back to my room.

The next day I spent reading and working on the networking issue I had stumbled upon. My flight was in the afternoon with the senior non-commissioned officer.

We flew along to about 5-8 different locations before they dropped him off. We flew over mud huts smack in the middle of what I'd consider no where. We flew through a dust storm that was so thick, you couldn't see but a few inches outside of the passenger windows.

This country has a lot of varying terrain, small hills to mountains, to dust and mud flats along the river banks. It's really quite a sight.

The aviators made me leave my gear, after we dropped of the senior non-commissioned officer that traveled with me, on the chopper while they moved out to refuel and relax. A couple of soldiers were stuck with me and we spent our 2 hours of transfer time joking about how the flight crew probably had sold our stuff or were rooting through our gear taking all of our prized possessions and unit equipment.

When they returned, it was late evening, and I made it to the middle town.

When I touched down, I moved to the flight scheduling area and met up with a sargeant waiting for me there. He told me I had 15 minutes to make my next flight to a border town. I dropped off the gear and caught the flight without trouble.

I made it into the border town later that evening and was immediately ushered to the rest area. The soldiers we had at this location gave me a quick run down on their duty day and after a night of solid rest, I woke up and started working on the problems they were facing.

I got a lot of good support from the communications guys at this place.

The senior soldier that met me at the flight pad took me to the border. I grabbed some photos and then spent the rest of the day relaxing before my next hop back to the middle town.

This is one of the few places in iraq where soldiers that cook actually cook. Most places are catered by contracting firms (KBR, etc).

I was also introduced to some more people on post and that night caught a convoy to the middle town.

During my trip, there was a couple of shots fired at a car that was suspiciously cutting into our convoy directly behind my vehicle. It was exceptionally dreary that night and as we approached a small town, the car peeled out of our convoy.

It turns out the rounds I noticed were bouncing off the car.

Once I made it into the middle town, I was taken to a sleeping area.

The next day, I worked on some problems at this location and I wound up shocking myself about 6 times trying to splice telephone wire.

For about 3 days I was stuck here because of weather and due to a chopper crash. My next flight was north.

Once I touched down I spent a couple of hours answering questions that people had about what was going on back in headquarters. I was introduced to more people at this location and attempted working on some problems here. Turns out I wasn't able to get really solid support.

I left the next day after meeting a couple of locals over a cup of hot chi tea.

My flight was back to the middle town and from there I was stuck for another couple of days due to weather and flight scheduling problems. I started my attempt to rewire the phone with some more "shocking" results.

I was able to catch a movie at this location, the following day, I moved back toward the hub city. I flew into a location north of the hub city. Spent a day there and I managed to get a tour of a bombed out palace. The story was that this place had been bombed back in desert shield/storm and Sadam never got around to repairing it. That evening, I convoyed back to the hub city.

From the hub city, I caught a medevac flight to my headquarters. It was a bit somber, some people who'd been severely injured by a mortar attack were at my destination awaiting a flight to a more sophisticated hospital. One of them, was a senior non-commissioned officer and, from what the rumour mill had to say about his circumstances, he had brutally lost his vision.

The real horror I felt, was that prior to the flight, someone asked how long we'd be waiting on the flight line because it was cold out there. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Here we were catching a flight on to an aircraft specifically a portioned for men and women who've either died or have been severely injured in this operation - and someone was about to start complaining about having to wait out in the cold for them to move the injured on to the plane...unbelievable...

I had missed a couple of things while I was out and this past week has been spent getting caught up with my work load here. It's been a bit challenging but I'm getting along fine.


At 1:14 PM, Blogger buericana said...

Hey Chris, I love to read your posts. I'm so glad you got back safely. You've done a ton of traveling. It's nice to hear you got to talk with some more soldiers. Seems like it was a good experience. Talk to you later! Erica


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