Live from Baghdad

My adventures in Iraq.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. Things were very quiet over the holidays, which makes a great Christmas present but lousy subject material for my blog.

One of our major responsibilities at the USAID Project Office is to coordinate with the 1st Cavalry Division who is currently in charge of the Baghdad area. The Commanding General (CG) of the 1st Cav is Major General Chiarelli who is considered one of the brightest guys over here. He believes that the only way to achieve force protection in Baghdad is to employ as many people as possible and provide basic services (i.e., clean water and electricity). Thus, he takes a personal interest in all of the infrastructure project USAID and others are doing and receives a briefing every week. This briefing is attended by over 100 people, including Ambassador Taylor (the #2 civilian in Iraq behind Negroponte), half a dozen full colonels on Chiarelli's staff, 20 or so lieutenant colonels, dozens of majors, contractors, USAID, Corps of Engineers, and, of course, yours truly!

Two days before that briefing, Chiarelli's staff holds a pre-meeting with representatives of the Corps of Enginners, USAID, and the contractors to review the information they'll present to the general. We're supposed to make any changes or updates at this meeting so the briefing goes smoothly. However, last week I had a meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Baghdad on the day in between the pre-meeting and the briefing. We discussed some changes to one of the major projects in Sadr City.

Thus, when my project came up at the General's briefing the following day, a small voice echoed from the back of the hall, "Sir, excuse me, I've got an update on this project...." I wish I could describe the feeling of abject terror as 100 pairs of eyes swung towards me. The General swiveled his chair around to face me. I stammered, "Sir, Chris Serjak from UPO, I had a meeting with Deputy Mayor Humadi yesterday and I believe we've agreed on an engineering solution to the sludge discharge problem." Silence filled the air. The General nodded, turned back to the major presenting the briefing and said, "I believe this is resolved?" The major nodded and the General said, "Carry on."