Thursday, January 22, 2009

From our correspondent in Iraq-- a typical day

Our correspondent sent this email describing his typical day. Times are intentionally blocked out. IP means Iraqi Police. You can probably google all other acronyms.

well, lights on was at ****

i kicked off my sleeping bag, put my shower shoes on and grabbed my toiletry bag, my towel and a bottle of water
walked out to the shower trailer, only 20m from our building

air was very chilly in bare feet and PTs, so i hurried over to it

water was nice and piping hot because it was early, and because most everyone is living elsewhere

shaved, and brushed my teeth with the bottled water because i dont trust the water

walked back to my room and changed into ACU's, i noticed they have a tear in them, so i make a mental note to take them over to a "tailoring" place run by a quartermaster company that will repair them

head outside and chat with my buddies joe, nick, and the LT while they have their morning cigarettes

i sling my weapon over my shoulder and we walk over to the chow hall

its cool and crisp, probably in the low fifties, our breath puffs in the air

talk a little about the mission that day, the LT is upset that he didnt get anymore planning time, if we had more time to plan we could split into multiple teams and arrange for air cover, as it is, we'll "keep it simple, stupid" and manuever as one element

we all show our ID's and that our weapons are on "safe" to the chow-hall guards

i wash my hands thouroughly, with lots of soap

chow hall is nice, i think about getting a made-to order omelet, but decide on scrambled eggs, a biscuit, and fruit juice

we head back, its almost **** now, and i make sure my team has started getting the MRAP ready, i remind Burnett to get the rhino warmed up, and Barth that we got some lubricant in, so he should make sure to apply some to the machine-guns bolt today, they say "roger, sergeant"

burnett tells me that the vehicle is ready at around ****, i spot check the vehicle, checking radio frequencies and that there is fresh oil on the 240B, the guys have a couple of battery-powered speakers and are listening to hip-hop and joking around by the trucks

the LT and Ski come out a little after ***** and give us the mission brief, go over the "SIGACTS" (significant actions of the last 24 hours), current "BOLO" (be on the look out) for vehicles and personnel.

**things are expected to heat up before election day**

one of our interpreters is going on vacation for two weeks, so we take a few minutes to strap his suitcases in the trucks, (we strive to have nothing loose in the trucks, in case of a rollover or IED strike)

we all pile in the vehicles and perform final radio checks and head out

we drive out the gate and take turns firing the heavy machine guns into the test fire pit, i smile as our 240B chatters happily with its fresh lubrication. a few small iraqi boys scramble to scoop up the brass from the expended catrigdes

we drive north, then turn east and drive over the river, there are several bridges, and already lots of traffic, IP's guard every intersection and whistle shrilly to clear traffic out of our way

its a 20-minute drive to a checkpoint outside the city, where we drop off the interpreter "Freddy," on the way i chat with him and find out that he was an infantry sergeant and fought against Iran in Saddam's army. he says if we get him an AK, he can help us on raids "no problem" also, his son is getting surgery...his medical english isnt so great, so i dont understand what the problem is, but that the doctors dont anticipate any problems, he gives me an extra cell-phone number that we can call in a few weeks to make sure he doesnt need a few more days

when we reach the checkpoint, we pull off the road, and one of our vehicles runs over a piece of scrap metal and its tire bursts, so after Freddy is dropped off we call up HQ and let them know that we'll be coming back in to get our tire changed

we pull in, drive over to the maintenance pad, and the mechanics jack-up and swap the tire out, probably relieved to have a simple job to work on

we head out, test fire again, and drive over to ERB-* (emergeny response battalion-*) a militarized group of IP that are supplemented by a team of IA special operations troopers

their job is primarily counter-insurgency, as opposed to the criminal-investigation of the regular IP

they have a set of shiny new pick-up trucks, with pintle mounts for russian machine guns mounted in the beds

our LT links up with the IP and goes over a "map recon" with the IP officers, making a plan to quickly surround a suspected rocket-launch site when we get the call

our soldiers take turns taking pictures of each other holding an RPG.. and we settle in for a nice 6-hour wait.

we watch wedding convoys circle the traffic circle

drink cups of insanely sweet chai (here, strong black tea)...

open up MREs for some stray dogs.... nap and relax

at **** we get the word that radar detected a series of rockets fired from well outside the city, on the plus side, they fail spectacularly, apparently spiraling off randomly

we shake hands with the IP, congratulate each other on a job well done, mount up and head back in

we clear our weapons, everyone making sure that someone else inspects their weapons firing chambers

drive over to the fuel point and fill up

its getting dark, Clark greets us, he stayed behind today and got our final humvee up and running, distributed mail, and built a living area for the new guy

i eagerly tear open my amazon package, (a gift from a random Soapbox reader in England), then, a little guiltily, for not checking on it first, spot check my vehicle, making sure gear is properly stowed and electronics are shut down correctly

i run and drop off some laundry at the laundry facility, run by filipinos

then meet up with the other NCOs and head to the chow hall, tonight is mexican food, i pick up enchiladas, rice, refried beans, and a salad

outside, nick brings me a milkshake because I got one for him the other night

Nick and I walk over to a pirate-dvd store and talk in funny english accents while discussing the merits of the various dvds

i chuckle over a "matt demon" collection

Nick selects a "future weapons, complete 4 seasons" for $15, and i head over to the mwr, hoping that the internet is working and that my beautiful wife, whom i love dearly and miss even more is online, (luckily, she is!)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Dispatch from Iraq- opening doors

In Kuwait, there is a training site where soldiers learn how to open doors. Since much of their work involves acting on tips from locals regarding buildings where militants may be hiding weapons caches, bomb factories, or themselves, the soldiers need to learn this. They use various methods to open doors. Sometimes a simple knock will do, but sometimes the information is so urgent that bursting through a door is best.

The training site features a long masonry wall with multiple doorways hung with doors of different materials, strengths and styles. The soldiers go from door to door opening them with either a crowbar, maybe a shotgun blast, or an explosive charge that blows the door off its hinges.

At the end of the row, the soldiers take a break while a local contractor and crew cleans up the mess. They jump down from their truck which is piled high with new doors, and make quick work of hanging and locking them for the next go around. They do this all day long, but hey, it's work.