Live from Baghdad

My adventures in Iraq.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Last Day in Texas

Phew, my week at Fort Bliss flew by. Which is really strange as most days just seemed to crawl. We had five busy days of briefings, medical screenings, equipment checkouts and the like. You've probably heard that the motto of the Army is "Hurry up and wait." In other words, you need to wake up at 4:30am to be at formation by 5:00am to be done with breakfast by 7:00am to go stand in line for a medical screening for 3 hours. That's been a typical morning.

They gave me 4 sets of DCUs (Desert Camoflauge Uniform), 4 pairs of boots, a helmet, Gortex field jacket and pants, a sleeping bag, mosquito net, a gas mask, and a bunch of other stuff (two Army duffel bags worth). The cool thing is, we get to keep everything that "touches our skin" except our actual uniforms. I've got 3 sets of mid-weight PolyPro long underwear ($35-40/pair at REI!). Won't have to buy long underwear for camping/snowboarding for a couple years.

Sat through some pretty intense briefings on Thursday, including how to deal with IEDs or improvised explosive devices (i.e., roadside bombs) and VBIEDs (vehicle bourne IEDs aka suicide bombers). Shit, that was fun. Got to see some Al-Jazeera (sp?) videos that I could have gone my whole life not seeing. Oh well, they got their point across that we shouldn't be naive - this is a war zone. The good news is they've learned a lot of lessons (albeit the hard way) and we're only allowed to go out in "up-armored vehicles" with designated "shooters" (Blackwater security, etc)

Speaking of shooters, they all have to go through this Fort Bliss as well. They're good guys for the most part, all ex-Special Forces. I believe they're all very competent soldiers, but I have to question their motives. They truly are mercenaries, chasing a big paycheck with dreams of paying off the house and buying the baddest Harley on the road. It's not mine to criticize, they're highly trained in what they do and they're being paid more than they could ever dream. War has changed this time around. There is historical precedence for this, giving the responsibility, along with the risk and reward, to professionals. It's nice a clean and there's no news footage of the grieving parents of poor 19-year-old Pvt. Johnny Hayseed on CNN. On the flip side, it removes us even further from the costs of war and we lose some of our righteousness. Oh well, like I said, they seem to be damn good at what they do and I'm glad they'll be in the Humvee with me.

Okay, we've only got 3 computers for 150 personnel so my time is up. I'll have my own computer as soon as I get "downrange" (military speak for being in Iraq). I'll be able to update more often soon. And it will probably be more coherent when I didn't just knock back a pitcher of Beck's Ocktoberfest with dinner. It's going to be a very dry 120 days for me.

We fly out soon and will be in Kuwait by Monday. We'll spend a day or two there and I should be in Baghdad by midweek.