Thursday, December 11, 2008

Back To Baghdad

Been a few weeks since I last posted, but what the hell, it's been a busy few weeks. Work continues with me putting in about 14 hours a day (I contracted 40 a week) but shit, I'm supporting Joe, and because of that I'm good. I mean it's not always about the money. (waitaminute, did I say that? There goes my 'mercenary street cred!') Currently, my gig is doing the logistical side (mainly tracking and issue) of the new VSAT terminals the Military has bought. It’s something that the Army needs, and if my small contribution helps to keep the mission up, and people alive, then hell, I can't ask for better than that. Most of the guys that we are dealing with are people who are far out on the edge of nowheresville. Essentially the idea is that we're providing Sat Equipment that allows them to communicate with higher. Any more info would be dangerous, so I'll leave it as that... Needless to say The Old IR of Note and Fame is digging being back in the thick of things, and proud of being able to help out the Joes and Joe-ettes who are on the tip of the spear.

And as I have found, that spear here is dull. Not in a bad way, but sort of from 'high use' as one would say. Meaning that I either very foolishly or very bravely (your pick here, as I know what my Mom would say) decided the other day to take a trip outside the wire. Now mind you, the areas I went to are very familiar to me, as 'back in the day' of 04 and 05 I used to roll through there regularly. Also, when me and Lil Country rolled, we'd be up armored wearing our shit, minus helmet, and carrying a vast array of insane weapons to 'repel boarders.'

Now... sheeeeeeeet... not so much. I went out, with some trepidation mind you, without so much as a sidearm or automatic weapon, and my body armor and helmet have been living on a rack in my house since I got here, despite the ONE time I >might< have needed it. Yeah... As they said in "Full Metal Jacket" something about the "Crazy Brave" or some such shit. Anyways, I digress... Yeah I rolled out ECP 5 (entry control point) and went out into the "wilds" of Route Irish. Route Irish back in 04 and 05 was so bad that the exact quote in Newsweek Magazine was "...the most dangerous section of highway in the known universe."

Now, not so much. The Iraqis have replanted all of the trees in the middle center between the highway that were uprooted after the Dirty Haj had used them to hide IEDS. The road was littered with Billboards advertising I have-no-fucking-clue what as they are all in Arabic, but the fact that every 500 meters or so a billboard was present, whereas back in the day, they would NOT have been there. It's like the country has come back to life. The walls that Saddam put up around what’s now called Camp Slayer are decorated with MAD paintings showing what appears to be the past, present and future of Iraq by the artists point of view. The thing that cracks me up the most is that in the 'future paintings' is they show a monorail like you'd see in Disney as part of the future... Wishful thinking I know, but still it shows the hope these jokers have. I'll stop next time as I now know I won't get killed out there and I'll post the pics of the paintings, provided I can... as I never know when the Dirty Haj may appear, and I'd probably feel better once I get a 'Roscoe' or two on hand... never get complacent, and as my Dad and Robert Heinlein would say "Watch out for Stobor!"

But on this trip, I rolled to BIAP. The Baghdad International Airport is now a major hub of travel here. More people coming in than going, which is a major change. Lots of 'returnees' as they call them at the guard post. My Ugandan isn't too good, but the guards english was good enough, and he told me that more and more they see the Iraqis coming back from their self imposed exile. Good on them if they can manage.

I also found the ONE bar thats around here. The "Sinbad Bar and Grill" where, contrary to General Order #1, a dude can find Heineken one liters for $6 bux USD. God Bless Consumer Demand!!!! They also have all sorts of booze, from Johnny Blue to Red, and Jack and Beam as well, and a goodly assortment of rums and even Dom if you got the geld for it. I was madly impressed. The place is vaguely reminiscent of a John LeCarr Novel, what with the CIA-NSA-CID and other types of Personal Security Detachment types roaming through, and it's located at the Baghdad International Airport Hotel and Convention center. (Please ensure you check your weapons with the concierge as no guns are allowed in the bar.) I thought the sign was a nice touch. Me, I had a beer... Only because I was driving, but DAYYYYYUM if'n that wasn't a premium beer!!! The Hotel is supposedly doubling as a whorehouse, but I didn't bother to check that side of things. I figure Mama got enough for me when I get home, and why tempt fate?

So anyways, I then rolled into Baghdad Proper. Up Route Irish, and I saw a couple of convoys doing the 'daily-daily' run in and around. My biggest problem cruising the neighborhoods was I didn't have anything to throw to the kids... kids kept running up truck EXPECTING goodies.. I ended up throwing Life Savers Big Mints and then when those ran out, cigarettes and receiving big smiles... It was so nice to see it like that... back in 04-05 they would have thrown rocks, or grenades even. Now, it's back to the "Capture of Baghdad Mode" again, and we're better for it.

Then, after, back to base, where I was welcomed to the air raid sirens. Nothing like the sound of the air raid sirens going off to pucker one's bunghole tight. Turns out "THIS IS A TEST"... wish they'd announce that BEFORE they run the siren up... instead I find myself scrambling for the armor and helmet (amazing how quick one can don 75 pounds of BS when one needs to?) only to have the All clear test message sound. Really nice of them to run it first, thereby inducing heart attack #3...

Things here besides the Army scaring the living shit out of me are good. I'm in a groove and digging it. Living in my old house has been somewhat of a nice thing, as it's not on any known trajectories for incoming (The Haj usually launch from the same areas... part of the reason we haven’t had any real incoming with the exception of that one) and I'm comfortable. Rest assured, the Intrepid Reporter is NOT complacent by any means however, case in point the scramble for the body armor. Nice to have the 'good stuff' with me this time and having all my own gear is also a smiley face. Happiness would truly be achieved if I had my Trusty Roscoe on the nightstand, but eh, who needs it? Not like The Haj are coming 'round here anymore... Hell, the Iraqi Army LIVES in my neighborhood... how the world changes eh?
But for now, after having made it back, I stil have more work do to, so I gotta cut it short, so Look for me later. Until then I remain, The Intrepid Report, Big Country


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/12/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Alison said...

It is good to hear that things have improved (somewhat?) since your last time thru... thanks for what you're doing. The Middle East will always remain a strange and unsettled area I guess. Do you see democracy being able to take hold?

Big Country said...

Fire Fox:
Democracy, nah... eventually they'll slide into some form feudal form of government. They aren't happy unless some 'strongman' is in charge.