Things have sure been busy. I presume everyone is aware of the "surge" in troop levels and has heard on the news of the offensive operations that have been going on recently. We have been really busy moving food, water, fuel, and ammunition to support all the combat troops. For those who don't know, I work in the senior logistics headquarters for all of Iraq. Each month, we are responsible for the movement and distribution of 1.5 million meals, 300 million gallons of water, 90 million gallons of fuel, 900 short tons of ammunition, and 55,000 truckloads and 21,000 air pallets of repair parts and equipment each month. The units used to average about 2 million miles a month, but now we are doing more than 3 million with the surge. It sure keeps us busy, and there is lots of automation to support, both normal office automation systems and specialist logistics automation systems.
I wanted to let everyone know about a really cool trip I was able to make. The chaplain for one of the units here on LSA Anaconda made arrangements for a trip to the Mesopotamian city of Ur, to see the ziggurat and the biblical home of Abraham. I couldn't afford to take much time away from work, but I was able to get about 30 hours, so away we went.
Seven of us gathered Friday evening, just before dark for a quick historical overview of Ur and a prayer session. We then caught a bus over to the "Sherpa" terminal. A Sherpa is a small, flying tin box with a nose cone and wings. Literally. The cargo/passenger space is only 5 feet 6 inches square by 29 feet long. Operated by US Army (helicopter) pilots, it has twin propeller engines and a crew of 3: a pilot, copilot, and a load master. The C-23B Sherpa aircraft is a "light military transport aircraft, designed to operate efficiently, even under the most arduous conditions, in a wide range of mission configurations."
Anyway, the flight down to Tallil airbase was a little less than 2 hours, off to get a place to sleep. Saturday morning was relaxed with no scheduled activities, and I slept through breakfast. Darn it! I bought a Burger King breakfast and then spent some time helping one of our subordinate units with some automation problems. I then went back to read but wound up falling asleep. I guess I was more tired from the past weeks than I thought. We gathered about 1330 and headed to the Religious Activity Center to pre-stage our gear, grab some lunch, and participate in a short activity. After a little free time We had a briefing on the trip and everyone donned body armour. We aren't allowed to travel outside the gate without being in armour.
You can see the ziggurat from the fenceline, but the drive took about 20 minutes, and a herd of camels walked across the road right in front of the bus. The city of Ur is an Iraqi archaeology site, fenced in, and is protected under Iraqi law. At the site, we were able to leave our armour on the bus, and got out to meet our guide. Our guide is the third generation of his family to work on the site. His grandfather was on the original dig starting in 1922, followed by his father in the 1960s. There probably isn't anyone in the world more knowledgeable about Ur than our guide.
You can see the ziggerat from the fenceline, but the drive took about 20 minutes. The city of Ur is an Iraqi archeology site, and is protected under Iraqi law. At the site, we were able to leave our armour on the bus, and got out to meet our guide. Our guide is the third generation of his family to work on the site. His grandfather was on the original dig starting in 1922, followed by his father in the 1960s. There probably isn't anyone in the world more knowledgeabe about Ur than our guide.
Our guide talked about the ziggurat, what it looked like before the ravages of time, and a little about the royal tombs that were found during the excavations. Ur is credited with being the first to create arched doorways, and they have one existing narrow arch still standing from approximately about 6,000 BC.
We then walked around the excavated ruins. The city is several kilometers long by a couple kilometers wide and they have lots more to excavate. We only covered a kilometer or so. We visited a couple of royal tombs, one belonging to King Shulgi. We then went to see some bricks that had cuniform writings on them.
From there, we walked down to the rebuilt (on the original foundations) home of Terah, merchant father of Abraham. It was pretty large, having 27 courtyards and rooms. All the light enters the rooms from doors off the courtyards. Apparently the pope was scheduled to visit in 2000, so Iraq put a lot of effort into excavating and rebuilding that portion, but when Saddam said he was "not responsible for the safety" of the pope, the pope decided it was better not to go.
We then went back to the ziggurat, and were allowed to climb the 109 steps to the top and look around. You can sure see a long way from the top of the ziggurat. I am sure things were much better before the Euphrates changed course and moved about 15 miles, but it looked like a pretty desolate place to me. I now know what it feels like to be in a convection oven. The wind was very, very hot and just swirling all around. No matter where you turned, hot air was blowing in your face. Every time I tried to get a good picture of the Vorpal Bunny, he kept blowing over. Lazy rabbit. Unwilling to stand up and smile. I was afraid he was going to jump of the edge. I finally found a sheltered spot where I could make him sit, and grabbed a quick photo.
After visiting the ziggurat, we went to have Italian food at a little cafe on Tallil Airbase, and then a few hours nap before heading to the terminal. We had to get back, so it was catch another Sherpa about 0130 or so and fly back to LSAA. I needed to get back so I would be able to do some slides for a briefing I had to give the commanding general.
You can see the photos at http://www.greydragon.org/trips/Iraq/index7.html
Peter / Terafan