It has been a really long time since I wrote my last journal. I was
looking over things and didn't realize it was early January.
The 2nd week of January was exciting. I was sitting in the office with two my soldiers when suddenly we heard a very loud bang in the office, bits of the ceiling tile started flying through the air, and something metallic was bouncing around the office floor. Although startled, when we heard no more noises, we began to investigate. We saw damage to the suspension grid for the suspended ceiling and discovered a 7.62mm round (presumably from an AK-47) laying on the floor. Upon removal of a damaged ceiling tile, we discovered that the round had penetrated the tin roof over the office, struck the suspended aluminum grid holding the ceiling tiles, penetrated through the ceiling tile and ricocheted off the floor approximately 4 feet from where one of my soldiers was sitting. When I examined the round, indeed it was a 7.62mm round from an AK-47. There had been a firefight at one of the gates earlier that day, but we couldn't tell if the round was from that or from some sort of celebratory fire. Regardless, it sure freaked us out.
January and February were very busy, as plans for the surge required lots of longs hours. The days were pretty routine, but very long. Typically up before 0500 to either run or do Aikido, and in the office unti about 2300 each night. My work on my master's degree has suffered significantly. I am way behind, and even now I have an "Incomplete" because I still have several assignments yet to turn in.
Valentines Day in February was pretty hard. As I have mentioned earlier,
there is nothing like a deployment away from all the things it is so easy to
take for granted to make one realize how special those things really are.
Valentines day away from Deborah was hard, although she sent me some a very nice
picture she had done at GlamourShots. It sits on the desk in my room so I can
see it every day. I really miss Deborah and both my daughters.
At the end of February I had to make a trip down to Arifjan, Kuwait. As we work to prepare ourselves to transition with the unit that will follow us, I had to go down to the Theater Support Command headquarters in Kuwait to brief some issues. We planned to brief on Tuesday, late morning. It was the worst trip I have made so far in Iraq. We requested a Monday flight. Well, the USAF, in their usual frustrating and uncooperative style decided that as long as the first leg of the plane's journey took off before midnight, then it counted as a Monday flight. My flight was scheduled as the third leg of the plane's trip, so I wouldn't leave until about 0500, arriving around 0700 in Kuwait, and then a 2 hour bus ride to Arifjan, so I could give my briefing 2 hours later. Very frustrating. We spent most of Monday trying to catch other flights and wound up on a little cargo transport, which got in around 1100, so at least we arrived in Arifjan approximately 0100 so we got a few hours sleep.
The additionally frustrating part is that our Wednesday return flight was
departing at 0400, and since we have to be there a couple hours prior to
departure, we departed Arifjan at midnight. It was very frustrating to spend 2
days travelling to only be on Arifjan 23 hours. I know it is not the truth, but
it often seems like the USAF does it just to mess with Army guys as much as
My birthday was earlier this month, and I happened to make mention of it a
couple days prior. I think the conversation was about how young people in the
office were when I claimed that I was younger than anyone and I was going to be
anothery year young in a couple of days... Anyway, when I walked in the office
at 0715 on my birthday, two of my soldiers sang Happy Birthday to me in Spanish!
It was really cool. Then, later that afternoon, I was sitting at my desk when
all of a sudden about half of my platoon was gathered around my desk with big
grins on their faces. They had two bottles of non-alcoholic beer ribbon-wrapped,
and a very nice card. They all sang Happy Birthday to me, and I was allowed to
drink a "beer" in the office! One of my soldiers was taking pictures, so I will
get the picture and put it on my website.
I know the title of the journal is "Birthday in Baghdad", but I wasn't really there on my birthday. I had to go down to the corps headquarters in Baghdad the next day. We say Baghdad, but it was really down to Victory Base Complex (VBC) which is a set of bases clustered around Baghdad International AirPort, rather than to downtown Baghdad (which is called either the "international Zone" or the "green zone"). VBC is the place where Saddam built all his palaces and artificial lakes. A friend of mine told me I should ring the Joint Visitors Bureau and see if they have any available space. Normally the JVB is reserved for full Colonels and Generals, but sometimes they have empty space. I was fortunate, they had room!
The headquarters for the Multi-National Corps - Iraq (MNC-I) is in the Al Faw palace so they have some pretty fancy workspaces. Actually, most of the workspaces are little cubicles that have been installed in large fancy rooms, but the building, hallways, and even bathrooms are fancy marble. My return trip with the USAF was scheduled to fly from Baghdad south down to Qatar, and then loading stuff down there was going to turn and fly back north past Baghdad to LSA Anaconda! Typical USAF! I had no interest in such a maddening trip and opportunities for frustration, so I arranged a helicopter flight back to LSAA. I am not sure I would say that helicopter flights are a little more risky, but they do fly lower and slower and several have gone down since the beginning of the year. We made it back safely (obviously), and the flight was pretty cool! The pilots weren't wasting any time, and the flight pattern was "exciting". Anyway, I was only in Baghdad for a couple of days, but I did take some pictures. They can be seen at www.greydragon.org/trips/Iraq/index4.html
You all remember that I took my leave back in October. I can definitely
tell that things are starting to wear. I am not the most patient guy to start
with, and my patience lately has been getting pretty short. It is time to take a
4-day pass down to Qatar and go jet-skiing and relaxing on the beach. I hope
there are some cultural activities and I can enjoy. Anyway, I leave in a couple
days for Qatar, so I will tell you all about that when I return. I should have
more pictures as well.
Peter / Terafan