Monday, November 19, 2007

Back from Another Trip

Sorry to go so long without posting. I was out traveling again and just returned last night. Like my last trip, I was checking on some equipment we have at another location and working on transferring some things from one location to another.
I thought I would describe whats involved in traveling around here - not so much from the logistics of it, but the personal side. In the picture below you can see what I packed for this trip. A few days worth of clothes and a sleeping bag inside the backpack - along with some spare ammo magazines and assorted other pieces of gear. Next to the back pack, and by far the heaviest piece of gear is my body armor. It has 6 magazines for my M-4 and 2 for my Glock, along with a first aid kit and a few other small items. My Kevlar helmet is next, of course both my weapons and some small things like a flashlight and multi-tool. It may not look like much, but for this trip the gear weighed 86 pounds. It's not too bad for a guy my size but I feel bad for the smaller guys and the guys that carry much much more gear than I do.

When it was time to head to the helipad I strapped all this stuff on and headed out. This trip I flew out and back on a CH-46. Here are a couple pictures for those of you who aren't familiar with them. Please note, these are not pictures I took - my flight was at night. The flights were interesting and much less eventful than my last trip.

I'll just throw up a couple pictures from this trip. I'm so limited on what I can say there's not much I can describe. There are two things I would like to point out. One is the picture with the cots and beds. This was our billeting for the trip. Not too bad really, but I needed the sleeping bag for sure. The other is the last picture. This is a shot of the new Osprey. They have just gone operational in Iraq and I thought it was interesting to see one coming in to land. As always, I'll post more pictures on my website soon.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Slice of Paradise

After nearly 6 weeks, I've finally moved into what will be my permanent room for the duration of my deployment. To give you a better idea of exactly where I am and what my living conditions are, I have some pictures from Google Earth and some of my own I'll use to explain my setup. It helps to click on each picture so you can see better detail as I explain them.

First is the regional view. If you look closely, you'll see two red circles. One is in Turkey and the other is in Kyrgyzstan. I spent 15 months in Turkey and 4 months in Kyrgyzstan so when I'm done in Iraq I'll have spent over 2 1/2 years in this part of the world.

Next, I'll zoom in on Baghdad and you'll see the Victory Base Complex circled in yellow. As you can see, we're located on the western side of Baghdad and we're connected to the Airport. If you look at the upper right side of the circle you'll see a greenish colored lake. This is called lost lake and is near where I work.


On the next zoom you get a better view of lost lake. Looking to the west of lost lake you can see where the Al Faw Palace is located in relation to our compound. To put it in perspective, the Palace is xxxxxxx from my building. The red line is to show you where the perimeter fence is.


Here's a view of our living trailers. This picture is taken looking southeast, so the lake is on the left behind the trailers and our work building is on the right across the road. The closest open door is my room. The great thing about where I'm situated is the proximity to the bathroom and shower trailers.

This is a view out of my room door. The trailer on the left is the shower and the one on the right is the restroom. A nice close walk.

The rooms are very small, but at least they're private - sort of anyway. The walls are so thin you can hear people cough, snore, talk, everything. If someone closes their door too hard it sounds like incoming - not a good thing for us. But all that aside - it's my slice of paradise for the next 10 1/2 months.

Just so you don't think - wow, they live by a lake! Here's the view behind our trailers, blast walls and sandbags. Nice waterfront property.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Morning Wake Up

I haven't really written much specifically about the rocket attacks occuring here other than to generically mention them. Only one of them has made the news, but there have been many more in the 5 weeks I've been here. To attempt to give you an idea of what it's like to go through one, I'll describe the one we had this morning. They're all different depending on the type of munition used and how close they come to where a person is on the camp - for security reasons I won't describe the type of rocket or the exact location of the impacts.

As I've mentioned before, there are lots of explosions all the time around here. Many of these occur outside the base but they still get your attention. I mention this because it has become somewhat normal to hear these at any time of the day or night, and usually the warrant nothing more than a quick "wow" or something of the sort and then you keep doing what you were doing. Rockets are different. We have an early warning system that sometimes goes off and gives us a very small amount of time to take cover. It can't always be heard depending on what you're doing or where you're at - but it's something. In our housing trailers, we have air conditioner units running non-stop and they make it hard to hear this warning system. This morning I was sound asleep, the AC was going so there was no hearing the warning. What did wake me up was the sound of the first rocket coming in. It's hard to describe the sound - it does have a whistling noise to it and sometimes you can hear the initial launch and rocket burn depending where it comes from. This morning it was just the whistling - it brought me out of my sleep just enough to not be fully asleep when about 2 seconds later the rocket impacted close to my trailer - I promise you it's not the way you want to wake up. The explosion is a very deep earth rattling sound - literally the ground shakes - followed by strange reverberations. It's very hard to describe. The time from initial sound to impact is seconds - but let me tell you - I was instantly awake before the reverberations were over. This was by far the closest impact yet. Now - after the initial rocket comes several more. Same scenario as the first, with them coming in over a period of 5 to 7 seconds. That may not seem like a long time, but when you're sitting there listening to each whistling rocket followed by the explosion - it seems like forever. In my 5 weeks here, we've had dozens and dozens (I don't want to get too specific, but it's a lot) of rockets come in. They hit all over the place at all times of the day - people laugh them off and everybody acts tough, but I'm not afraid to say these things are kind of scary. Today was the first time I've actually grabbed my helmet and body armor and hit the floor during an attack and the adrenaline took a good 30 minutes to wear off.

This was not the best description of what a rocket attack is like, but it might just be one of those things you have to experience to understand - I for one would be happy to never experience it again.........

On a different note - while this sounds bad for us, and it is, things are actually improving very dramatically in Iraq. Here's a link to an article in the Washington Post that pretty accurately captures what's going on.