Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Road Trip Iraq 2006 - Day Three

I woke up to the sound of explosions. I could hear the rounds going off in the distance like a door slamming, and then an instant after, I could feel the air compress in my trailer. I rolled over and went back to sleep. It didn’t bother for a few reasons: One, I’m stationed at Camp Anaconda, AKA Mortar-itaville, so I know that once you hear the explosion and you’re still there, then there’s nothing to be worried about; and two, it sounded like outgoing rounds, not incoming.

About an hour later, I had to get up because if I didn’t, my bladder was going to explode. The rounds kept hitting off in the distance, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what they were targeting. The Q-West Base Complex is in the middle of nowhere without a building for miles in all directions. I imagined a mud hut erupting into the air and a little boy with a goat shaking his hand at the sky, or America, or both.

I learned quickly that the local command had received some intelligence about a possible attack. I can’t go into details, but the security levels were raised to the highest level I’ve ever seen them. It was incredibly inconvenient and annoying to the point that I absent mindedly stated the following truism: “Gees, it’s like were living under martial law here.”

Eventually we hooked up with our next convoy and headed toward Camp Diamondback. I was driving this time and I couldn’t help but remember the last time I drove the stretch of road, about three months ago. At the time, I wanted to be alert so I downed a Diet Coke right before we left, but about five minutes out of the gate, I realized that I had to pee in a bad way. The body armor pushed down on my bladder like a large woman stomping grapes. One hour later, I did something that was embarrassing at first, but of which I’m now quite proud. I filled up a 1.5-liter water bottle while driving 60 miles per hour on the most dangerous roads in the world and I didn’t spill a drop.

This time, however, I barely drank a thing the whole day to ensure I would not have to do a repeat of my amazing feat. I knew we had made it half way when I could smell the raw sewage at a spot near the road where we think a line broke. A lime green pools sits next to the road and cooks in the hot sun. You can smell it a mile away. I was glad when we passed it.

The trip went well with no major incidents. However, we were starting to notice some problems with our rebuilt humvee. Our radio wasn’t amplifying like it should have so we had a mechanic look at it at Camp Speicher. He removed the antenna mount and showed us two nickel-sized holes in the base. He shook it and the shrapnel rattled inside it like a maraca.

“I’m guessin’ that’s not good,” Sgt. Powell said.

“Nope, that ain’t good,” the mechanic replied.

Next, Sgt. Powell’s door stopped latching. It even opened while we were on the road and she had to hold it shut and drive for about a half hour. We replaced the antenna mount and found a way to get the heavy armored door to shut, but our confidence in Paparazzi was seriously waning. Plus, we realized that Paparazzi is the plural of paparazzo and that maybe we shouldn’t have given a plural name to a single vehicle. Oh well, it got us to Camp Diamondback. We picked up Capt. Andrews at the airport and went to sleep in trailers that smelled like a smoking room in a cheap motel.


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