Friday, June 1, 2007

Baghdad Pt III

31 May 07
Back from my third trip to Baghdad to take another test. One of the Dans and I went up Sunday. Dan is replacing Curtis who has been at our Baghdad operation for a month. Dan will spend a month there then back here. We were set up to fly in a RAF C-130 up there and reported to the terminal tent at 1815 (6:15 pm). When the acft landed they had maintenance problems and had to send for maintenance to fix the acft. The problem was all of their maintenance is down in Qatar so they had to fly the guy up to fix the acft. We didn’t take off out of Basrah until 0315 (3:15 a.m.).

On climb out after takeoff the pilots did a rapid ascent to quickly gain altitude. We pulled 1-2 G’s (gravitational force which pushes you into your seat and makes you feel heavy) getting up there followed immediately by him leveling the acft off in which we pulled 1-2 negative G’s (you become weightless and try to rise out of your seat).

As usual, I stayed on Sather AB with the guys deployed up there from Basrah. Sather is named after the first USAF airman killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Staff Sergeant Scott Sather was an Air Force combat controller (one of our special forces components) who had already completed successful tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan was killed in Iraq in Apr 2003.

I went to take the third test for this class we have to do as a major. The system for ordering the test is kind of screwy so when I accessed the system it let me request the wrong test…test 4. At the end of each test I’ve taken I’ve wondered where the material I was just tested on came from and this test was no different. I told the proctor that was not at all the material I was expecting and we accessed the system again to confirm it was the right test. After several minutes we figured out I had requested, taken, and passed test 4 as opposed to test 3. So I sat back down and took another test…bad thing is now I have NO motivation to study for tests 5 and 6.

After the tests I made a run over to the BX at Camp Liberty. We follow the perimeter road around the base past Abu Graib and several smaller camps. All of the camps including Liberty are flooded with troops for the ongoing troop surge. In addition to the troops there are motor pools everywhere filled to capacity with vehicles. Many of the vehicles have attachments for disarming IEDs, retrieving other disabled vehicles, plowing thru terrain, busting thru walls, etc. Most of the vehicles are armored but everything that wasn’t armored got armored added on. Some had designed armor while others had improvised plates to put on doors or fencing to cover windshields. So many vehicles had crude, add-on armor it reminded me of something out of The Road Warrior.

I flew back home with the IqAF again. They were coming down to do a troop rotation from Basrah to Baghdad. Col Abdul Hussein was also on the flight. He had been in Baghdad flying with our operation there. He was returning to Basrah with the monthly salaries for the guys in Basrah. He had a trash bag full of Iraqi dinars…it looked like something from a Hollywood drug operation.

Abdul Hussein has a very unique style. He wears a white scarf with his uniform and wears his flight suit pants legs tucked into his boot. He looks like a Kamikaze pilot. I asked him about his appearance and he explained that he admired the courage of Japanese pilots of World War II and had fashioned his look after them.

Ali met me at the acft when we landed. He had finally been paid and was like a kid bouncing around the flightline. I’m sure that was an immense relief to him after no pay for several months. And not only did he get paid but he got a ride back to Baghdad on the IqAF C-130 that night so didn’t have to make the 12 hour overland drive to Baghdad and navigate the 40 some checkpoints along the road.

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