Thursday, April 19, 2007


16 Mar 07
Went two days without running water in the compound. We only had water for 3 hours today. Hate that. To top it off, we had a dust storm all day and into tonight. Visibility was less than ½ mile.

A US Marine captain stopped by to visit us the other day. He is embedded in the Iraqi Army performing the same mission we are—training and building up their Army. He was traveling to the prison at Camp Bucca to do a “health and welfare visit” of some detainees there. Traveling with him was an Iraqi-born Canadian immigrant who was his interpreter and an Iraqi soldier. The base would house the captain and the interpreter but wouldn’t take the Iraqi soldier. The lodging office recommended us to him. We put the soldier, Yasser, up in one of the hooches.

A few days later they came through the compound at about 2030 (8:30 p.m.) looking to do the same thing on their way back to northern Iraq. As I’ve mentioned, the guys here are exceptionally gracious and offered to cook dinner for the three despite the fact that the restaurant had closed more than an hour earlier.

Over dinner we talked about our missions at length. The captain has been here 6 months already and has two more months to go. He got called out early after his predecessor was wounded during a patrol and sent home. There’s something you don’t want to have to tell the wife: “honey, I have to deploy to Iraq earlier than expected and for longer because the guy I’m replacing just got shot.”

The captain had the opportunity to speak with the Iraqis in our squadron during dinner and he could tell by the way we talked about our counterparts that there was a marked difference between our guys and the guys he deals with in his own brigade. He said he’s been considerably frustrated in his unit because the average Iraqi soldier doesn’t have much formal education, much less motivation for the mission, and even less enthusiasm for exchanging machine gun rounds with insurgents.

We had visitors again tonight. A US Air Force major, an IqAF colonel and an IqAF lieutenant colonel. The two Iraqis were somewhat unexpected so we gave it to the Iraqis to find room for them. The major was a woman and later in the night Nader asked me if we found a room for her. I said “we are putting her in Nader’s room.”

With a quizzical look he said “I am Nader.”

As I turned away I said, “Yes, I know.”

He smiled, raised his hands and said, “Yes, send her to me. I am ready for the attack.”

We laughed.

Several of our guys are still in Baghdad. Late in the evening the “giant voice” was broadcasting a stream of messages we couldn’t make out. I called the Force Protection Cell and they said they were conducting an “Operation Roundup” and we were to lock down our camp, conduct a thorough search then not let anyone on/off. The five of us remaining in the compound performed the search then implemented guard duty and set up shifts. SciFi and I took the first shift.

Earlier in the day there were stories in the news of 12 prisoners escaping from Coalition custody at Basrah. There are several Coalition prisons in Basrah including here at the Air Station so we thought it must have been here. I learned the next day that a patrol team discovered evidence of someone digging under the fence; the fence was pulled up and there were marking devices extending from the fence line giving the impression that someone was marking distances for mortar teams. It turned out to be a contractor working on the fence that hadn’t coordinated with the Force Protection Cell. Thankfully they figured out the disconnect before too long. Surely got the adrenalin pumping though.

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