Saturday, August 21, 2004

Day After Ground Hog Day

Day After Ground Hog Day
19 Aug 2004

Just sitting here in the rack in the belly of a C130 enroute from Baghdad to Ali Al Salem, just outside of Kuwait City. Working 12 hours shifts with no days off over the past ten days has really made the time fly by. I've been so wound up, it's been hard to sleep. Night before last, I think that I managed 3-1/2 hours and then another 2-1/2 today before flight manifest.

On Tuesday night, we had heard rumors that a group of Iraqis breached the wall and were shooting at helos. Of course, I didn't find this out until after I made a field trip across post to the nice bathrooms over by my trailer at 2 am. Then again, I think it was just a rumor. I didn't hear any shooting and didn't see any vehicles searching for any "lost" Iraqis in the middle of the night. Only the usual TCN's in their trucks filling the potable water tanks.

Ron (one of the guys I work with from bldg 8) and I came up to BIAP on Wednesday morning to get ourselves on the flight manifest for Thursday. You're allowed to sign up max 24 hours ahead. When we pulled up at the military end of the airport (on the backside of BIAP), a car full of Iraqis were in front of us at the check point to the airport. It started looking a bit suspicious when one of the three guards was standing with his finger on the trigger. They were either lost, or on a mission to check out security. Ron started backing up the truck some 20 feet to give some space between us...just in case. Although we haven't had to deal with suicide bombers, this is no time to learn about them. The guard ended up guiding them around the barriers and out with his finger on the trigger the whole time.

After that, Ron and I decided to take a little trip over to the civilian terminal at BIAP to see if we could do some "shopping" over at the duty free shop. To our great surprise, duty free was no longer accessible! There were real people waiting at the terminal for a real airline flight! Westerners and Middle Easterners. Don't kow who is flying out--maybe Air Jordan--no! Not Michael!! Jordanian Air.

So on the way back, we figure, what the heck, let's check out BIAP PX and see if it's still open. The Bob Hope Chow Hall has been down for weeks now, so there is no telling how much of BIAP support is left. As soon as we pulled in, we knew the answer. Absolutely NO military vehicles around. They have close up shop-lock,stock and barrel (so to speak). I told you that the changes were getting drastic around here. After we got back, then we are hearing rumors of mortar threats and suicide bombing threats at BIAP since the turnover of the airport. Well, I guess that is one place I won't be visiting any more.

This morning Eve and Joclyn took Ron and me to the airport. I think that Eve was surprised at how desolate the back side of BIAP has become. It was almost like a ghost town. Almost all Iraquis and very few military now.

As Eve was driving, she was telling us that she spoke to Dan in Babylon yesterday. Both Babylon and Balad got mortared on Wednesday. One guy in Dan's group was slighly injured and nicked by shrapnal when it went through the comms center. Nothing too bad, but torn pants and the nick in the leg. Enough to put the fear of god in you and thank your lucky stars.

I guess it knocked down a circuit that was later restored. Balad lost a shot too, but it wasn't due to the mortars. Something far more dangerous--a Humvee backing into or over guidewires to a tower!

So much happening in such a short period of time. Only a week ago, it was Ground Hog Day! I'll be writing more as my trip progresses. We've been in the air for about an hour now. The flight has been good--noisy as usual for a C130, but would we expect it any different? It's as close to first class as we're going to get. Red nylon mesh racks strung along the sides of the plane and a double row of racks down the middle lengthwise, leg to leg across and next to you, some 60 of us deep. A number of them on emergency leave; marriages in trouble, houses blown away in Port Charlotte, Florida, another soldier's Mom diagnosed with cancer. Almost all are getting back to the States for the first time in 6-7 months. Ron and I are the only civilians on this flight. It's a short flight though and the reward will be for them to be back with friends and family in the US, but for me, a cold beer in Germany. More later...
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