Sunday, July 24, 2005

A Break From The Office:3

PART IX - SCROLL DOWN TO PART I ---------------------------------------It was cool to be part of the new and improved Iraqi court system. The way they do things is very different than how we do it in the States. There was no jury but there were three judges and the defendant, the guy on trial, stands in a little wooden cage! It was funny to see the insurgent standing there behind wood bars; he already looked guilty standing there! The JAG told us that the death penalty has been used twice since his deployment and that they were executed by means of a public hanging! Crazy! He also said that those two guys were hung because they had killed other Iraqis, it hasn't been used in cases where Coalition Forces were killed. Well after we testified our little vacation went down hill fast. We kept on getting bumped off flights and it took us four days to get back to our unit. FOUR DAYS! It was miserable! We would sit out on the tarmac in 125 degree weather for an hour or so waiting for the helicopter to arrive and then when it did they would say, "Sorry no room. Maybe you can get on the next one". We started taking anything flight available, we didn't care where it was going we just wanted to keep going north! And we didn't have beds or cots or showers. We had to stay right there at the Flight Ops offices incase something opened up and we could keep going north. I started protesting the fact that we kept getting bumped because some officer wanted to go somewhere and I quit shaving! I didn't shave for four days and nobody ever said anything to me. I think it was because I had this look of, "Go ahead. Say something. I dare ya." We were so fed up with it. If we didn't have our units relying on us to keep the work going in our area we would have just given up and disappeared into the mass of 130,00 troops in Iraq. We could have done it to. No body was keeping track of where we were. It was tempting and it would have been easy. This picture was taken on our last flight that we needed to get back to Kirkuk. It is just a little village out there somewhere. I don’t' even know where it was, other than it was North of Baghdad. What a miserable four days.

PART IIX: The Green Zone is often mentioned on TV and I have wondered what makes it so special, well I found out. The Green Zone is a section of downtown Baghdad that is completly surrounded by a fifteen foot tall concrete wall. All vehicles and personnel entering the Green Zone are searched and it is very secure. While in there I didn't need to wear my kevlar helmet or carry my weapon, it was cool. To get to the Iraqi Court Building we had to leave the Green Zone by walking through this little iron door and walk a few hundred meters to the justice building. This picture was taken from the side that is considered the Red Zone. Before we crossed over we were given a briefing by an Air Force Security Force Sergeant and he told us, "When we go into the Red Zone my guys will file through the door first and when you come through it is time to be alert. The Red Zone is a dangerous place." Well SSG Mayo and I looked at him like, "Give me a break dude! You may walk a short distance in the Red Zone every once in a while, but we LIVE in the Red Zone. We eat the Red Zone for breakfast, lunch and dinner!" It was funny to see him try and get us all nervous to leave the Green Zone.

A Break From The Office:2

PART VII: During our stay in Baghdad we guest at the U.S. Embassy! The embassy building was once Saddam's Presidential Palace and it was an ominous feeling to walk down the halls and use the marble stair cases and think, "Saddam used to walk these halls and use these stairs". It helped me see first hand how big of a dirt bag Saddam was. He had complete control over all the money coming into Iraq and while he was living in dozens of palaces across Iraq the people of his country were living in the worst poverty I have ever seen. His Presidential Palace was huge! Giant chandeliers, a huge swimming pool, marble flooring, thick wool carpet, A/C, movie theatre, but my personal favorite was the pictured DFAC (Dining Facility)! I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Steak, Shrimp, Lobster Tail, Enchilada’s, Taco Bar, Burgers, Wings, Chicken Fingers, Salad Bar, Dessert Bar (blueberry cheesecake!), Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Bar for lunch and dinner. And for breakfast they had Real French Toast, Real Eggs, Fresh Fruit, Real Hash Browns, Real Pancakes, Biscuits and Gravy! (Man, I suddenly got real hungry.)

PART VI: This is, or was, the headquarters for the Baath Party. The Baath Party was Saddam's political party, like a Democrat or Republican. Bunker Buster Bombs hit this building and as you can see it destroyed the part of the building that was above ground, however the subterranean bunker below it wasn't even scratched! I was told that by a reliable source that a German company built the bunker. No wonder Germany didn't want to go to war with Iraq.

PART V: This is a nifty looking bridge in Baghdad. I was surprised to see some decent engineered structures because all I see in my area of operations are mud huts or shabby looking cinder block houses. This bridge allows traffic to cross Tigris River. Cool, eh?

PART IV: This is a cool looking island palace that sits on a lake in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit. During the initial push into Iraq most of Saddam's wealthy supporters fled and left palaces vacant. Once abandoned, palaces were gutted by the poorer class, occupied by locals or turned into a FOB by Coalition Forces, which was the case here.

A Break From The Office:1

PART III: Here is a picture of our FOB from the air. Our FOB is the dark tree line that you can see way out in the distance. From up at this viewpoint it was clear to me why our FOB has more rocket and mortar attacks than any of the other FOBs in our area. It sticks out like a sore thumb from the surrounding brown desert! The insurgents can launch the mortars from two miles away, which gives them plenty of time to drive away unseen before we can get out of the base. Why did I agree to come over here again? Oh yah, freedom, evil dictators and all that stuff.

PART II: This is Captain Kessinger. He is the JAG Officer that accompanied us to the trial. This picture was taken onboard a Chinook helicopter. The Chinook is the largest helicopter in the US Army but thanks to its dual rotor design it is also the fastest!

PART I: Staff Sergeant Mayo and I were called upon to go to Baghdad and testify against an insurgent that our platoon captured back in March. We were excited to get away from the daily grind and welcomed the idea of a little vacation to the infamous Green Zone. We traveled via Black Hawk Helicopter and this picture was snapped in mid-flight somewhere over Kirkuk. It was my first helicopter ride ever and it was pretty cool for the first hour or so, but I had had my fill by the time we reached Baghdad six hours later.