Friday, May 12, 2006

Road Trip Iraq 2006

I waited for the last minute to pack for the two-week road trip to the Turkish boarder and back. Part of me wanted to play it safe and waste away the last 75 days of my deployment in the comparative luxury and safety of Camp Anaconda. But Capt. Andrews, the brains behind the expedition to Kurdistan, kept tempting me.

“It’s like nothing you’ve seen in Iraq, Thompson,” he said speaking of the Kurdish controlled area in northern Iraq. “It’s like a different world.”

Of course, I had to go. But getting there wasn't easy.

Day 1: Camp Anaconda to Camp Speicher

Sgt. Powell, my broadcast counterpart for the trip, found a convoy that would let us tag along for the first leg of the trip. We loaded up our new armored humvee, which Powell christened “Paparazzi,” and left for Camp Speicher. When I say the humvee is new, I mean new to us. The Army rebuilt it in Kuwait after and IED blew the right side to pieces. It’s one of the first rebuilds in the war zone and has a new engine and all the other bells and whistles that only the best armored vehicles have. Old Paparazzi’s a pretty sweet ride as far as rebuilt armored humvees go.

Just outside the gate of Camp Anaconda, we saw small arms fire and I knew it was going to be a long night. The red dashes of tracer rounds cut across the night sky. As far as fireworks go, this is fairly unimpressive. But when you remember the little flying lead things that the dashes represent, it becomes more significant. The insurgents hid in the tress and tall grass that grows prodigiously after the rainy season around Camp Anaconda, but they weren’t firing directly at us. Instead, they were signaling someone down the road to get the IEDs ready.
“Here we go,” I thought as we turned on to the main road.

In the next half hour, we safely passed about three IEDs. (Unless they go off, it’s hard to be sure if something is definitely an IED). The third IED we passed was the funniest.
I saw American vehicles in the median of the highway.

“What are they doing just sitting there in the median?” I asked Powell.

“Oh they’re probably just doing a presence patrol,” she replied to my satisfaction.

Later, I saw some water bottles with chemical lights in them sitting in the road and commented on how pretty they looked glowing on the highway at night.

Then Powell noticed that no one from the convoy was behind us.

Apparently, a patrol found an IED, marked it with chemical lights, and then decided to set up a roadblock. Unfortunately they didn’t get the roadblock going until half our convoy went through.

Well, a lot of stuff happened after that, but I can’t really give you any details because it involves our tactics and techniques. I can say, however, that for the next three hours I had my M-16 aimed at a civilian vehicle. I won’t lie, the possibility of death is scary and the thought of trying to stop a possible vehicle-borne IED with an M-16 is scary as well. I found myself wishing I had a larger caliber weapon and at the same time wishing I didn’t have any weapon at all. For me, the thought of having to shoot someone is scarier than being shot. And if I thought I might be shooting an innocent person, I’d rather he shot me.

Still, I had to think of the other people in the other vehicles that I was protecting. I couldn’t make a decision like that for them. So I kept my weapon aimed just above the right headlight.

Luckily, after waiting it out, the car thought better of it, and turned around. Soon we reunited with our convoy and we made it up to Speicher.

A soldier at the convoy support center directed us to two big tents, about 100 meters long. Powell went in the female tent and I went into the male tent. I had the whole thing to myself. Half the tent was falling in and the center poles were all askew. I grabbed one of hundreds of cots and put it next to the light switch in the middle of the cavernous shelter. I went to sleep wondering what else could be in the tent without me ever knowing.


Post a Comment

<< Home