Well another mission completed. And what a week it was. I will warn all of ya’ll this is going to be a long email. There was lots happen and a few stories from a solider I met I want to share with ya’ll. So here we go…….
Oh, I have added a few new people to this email list. So I want to explain some of the terms I will be using. That way no one gets lost or confused.
CC – Convoy Commander
ACC – Assistant Convoy Commander
BIAP – Baghdad International Airport
IED – Improvised Explosive Device
Running Drag – being in the bobtail (no trailer) & running as the last truck of the ex pats
Ex pats – Expatriates (Me and all KBR persons)
PPE Gear – Personal Protection Equipment (flak vest and helmets)
Blackout – no lights at night at all
TCN – Third Country Nationals
DEFC – Mess hall
MRE – Meals Ready to Eat
OK I think I got them all. If not I will come back and add what I forgot.
I finally had to run with a different CC on this mission. Mike Collier, the CC I have had on the other missions went home to TX for his R&R. But he did me one last favor before he left, he set me up to run drag. There were 3 of us this time on the mission. Ron, our CC, Marty, and me. I got to run drag and be the ACC. We also had 13 TCN’s. We were headed to Dogwood. The Dogwood camp is a little south and west of Baghdad. Yes, it is in a hot zone. More about that later.
We got lucky and were on the first push. Everything was uneventful. We made Cedar II and staged for the night.
The next day we made it to Scania. The military split our convoy up when they staged us and that is where things started to go wrong. They told Marty that the Dogwood trucks were to stay, but motioned Ron out when the next push came, about and hour after we got there. So we did like we were supposed to do and followed him out. Only 2 of our TCN’s made it out with us. We went to BIAP. We were supposed to stay because they were going to run us straight to Dogwood instead of to BIAP and then to Dogwood. Going to BIAP added a day to our trip. Not to mention that this was Ron’s first convoy since coming off his R&R and lots of things have changed while he was gone. We have to call Dogwood to come get us now. Before we would just hop a convoy going out there. They are moving lots of the soldiers out of Dogwood, so that is why we have to call. But we got lucky the day after we got to BIAP and caught a convoy going out there.
Here is where the fun starts! They put a shooter in the truck with me. She was a very nice woman. But it was a little weird to have someone with a gun in the truck with me. Course, the soldiers think we are crazy to be running around Iraq with out weapons, but they are very glad we are here to help them.
On the ride out to Dogwood Karen told me a little about the area and what goes on out there. Dogwood sits very near where they say The Garden of Eden was. Eden was near where the Euphrates and the Tigress rivers run together. It was weird to see such green fields in the middle of the desert, but it was very beautiful.
That morning on their way into BIAP they found 3 IED’s and had to remove them. Karen told me that when you come out the gates in the morning you can see guys sitting in the fields with a satellite phone in one hand and counting the trucks leaving the camp. That way they have an idea of how to set up their IED’s for the afternoon return of the convoy. There is only one way into and out of Dogwood. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous on our way in, but we had a good ride and it was uneventful. The only time we could have had a problem, if one was going to happen, was in the market place. But the people didn’t give us any hassle. Course the MP’s had their guns pointed at the crowd all the time we were going through.
We got out there just in time for dinner. It was a real MASH style e DEFC. That was kind of cool.
Anyway, we always hit the PX when we roll into a new camp. Have to see what they have that the others don’t. That usually isn’t much, but sometimes you find neat stuff. But going to the PX put us after dark when we were driving back to where we were to sit for the night. The camp is in total black out. They said that they use to get a lot of mortar fire before they went to the black out at night. Now, they get hit once in a while. But can you imagine driving at 60kph with nothing but your clearance lights running? That is what I did. We had all piled up in my bobtail, so I was doing the driving. What a trip! That was cool. We made it back to our area without running over anything.
The next day, we tried to get unloaded. Karen had told me the day before that the camp had been without ice for 2 days. They were really glad to see us coming in. So when we went to get unloaded and they said they didn’t have room for the ice, I started to thinking. We have to get these guys and gals their ice. There is no way I am taking this ice back. Well, they had 4 of our trailers there. One worked real good, one half way worked and the other two didn’t run at all. All the trailers had stuff that they didn’t need. So, we took a look at what they had on them. About that time, an Army guy came and got Ron so that he could go fix his trailer. He knocked a break pod off on the way in and had a major air leak. So he dumped it all in my hands.
There was bad produce on the 2 trailers that would run. The trailer that was real good couldn’t be moved. It has a dock plate on it and that was messed up and sitting on the ground. So here is what I did. I asked the guy in charge of supplies to find me 4 or 5 guys that were willing to transfer the 2 loads of ice by hand unto the good trailer while I and a couple of others went and dumped the bad produce. He took off to find me some guys, and I hooked to the trailer that half way worked and went to the burn pit. Kathy, a little Jamaican gal, and I hand tossed half a trailer load of bad produce into the burn pit and went back to get more. We loaded up the bad produce from the good trailer and the 10 guys that volunteered to transfer the ice went to work. Kathy and I made another trip to the burn pit and did the same as before. Luckily there were only 6 pallets of bad produce to toss. Then I went to find Ron so we could get his ice transferred. It was lots of hard work that day, but our guys got the ice they needed so bad. We are not supposed to be doing any unloading our selves, but I couldn’t let it go. The office was telling us that if they didn’t have room to bring the ice back. I just couldn’t let that happen. That is what we are here for. They had been without ice for 2 days; it was our job to make sure they got the ice we brought. I may get in a bit of trouble for fingerprinting the bad produce, but it was worth it. The smiles and laughs of the solders was enough reward and worth the risk.
We sat all the next day because there was no convoy going out that day. It was a boring day. I sat in the truck all day and watched movies. But that evening, we had a blast. The MWR had a Mariachi Band in from a near by camp. We danced, drank near beer, and sang with the soldiers till very late. See even though they are in black out at night, they have things set up where they can have lights inside some of the tents without the light being seen outside. So we partied with them for several hours.
I love meeting the soldiers and hearing their stories. I met a Sergeant Maples while there that night. And here I want to share with you a few of his stories. Sergeant Maples is from TX and about 37 He has been married 3 times and is working on the 3rd divorce. It seems that all 3 wives couldn’t handle him being gone. Every time he was on a long deployment they would send him divorce papers. Life in the Military for ya. Anyway, he had some great stories that will just get to ya. He is a true hero and so are all these soldiers.
Maples is a Civil Affairs guy. They are the ones that go in the field and help the people. His group had built a school for this village and he and several of his guys were there the day they opened it. Now over here, you don’t touch the women. It could get you in BIG trouble. But Maples said that when he and his guys got there to see how things were going opening day, all the kids ran up to give them hugs and thank yous. He said that he kind of expected that because he had gotten to know several of them while building the school. What shocked him, was when the female teachers came up and gave them hugs for building the school. He said that he and his guys didn’t know what to do. They didn’t want to be arrested, but the teachers just wouldn’t let them go. They were so great full to have the new school to teach in. There are 60 to 70 children to each classroom. Education is free in Iraq.
Maples didn’t have much compassion for the people over here after the war “came to an end”. (It is still a war, don’t let them fool ya.) He was working a check point when he noticed that a guy in one of the cars kept digging in his seat and crying. He and the others cleared the area quietly. They were scared that this was a suicide bomber and now that the guy had made his mark, he was beginning to have some fear. They removed him from his car and found a box sitting in the front seat. It was empty, except for a picture. The man held it in his hands and cried, as he kept looking at Sergeant Maples. When they got an interpreter there, the man told the story of how his son was killed by Saddam’s Army because he would not join them about 3 weeks before we came over here. Then he showed Maples the picture. Maples said that he looked just like this man’s son, except that his skin was lighter than the sons. The father, was crying and just wanted to show Maples the picture, because he reminded him of his son, whom he loved very much. Maples said that is when he started to see these people as people, just like you and me. With hopes and dreams.
I hope ya’ll don’t mind my telling you these stories. And if ya’ll don’t mind I am going to try to include these in my emails from now on. This is the kind of stuff the people of the US need to hear. They need to know that our guys and gals are doing well for these people. It’s not just bombs and gun fire and death. It is the people of 2 different countries and cultures coming together to make something good out of what was deplorable conditions. Giving the people a chance to make better lives for themselves and their children.
We caught a convoy going out the next morning. The only thing about this was that we didn’t have a tail gunner. All the military was in front of us. Ron came up to me and told me that he didn’t like the idea of this and liked even less that I was going to be the last truck. I asked him if he would feel this way if it were a man back there. (I hate it when they treat me different in the job, because I am woman.) He said that it would bother him even if it was a guy, and that he wanted me to hook to his wagon and he would take the drag position. Well, now, ya’ll know me. I wouldn’t have any of that. He is CC and his place is in the lead. If anything happens he is the one that has to lead us to the first safe haven. Out of the 3 of us he was the only one that knew the way. We needed him up front. I told him that running drag was my job and for him to just back off and let me do my job. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about it, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. We had 2 TCN’s going out with us that were ours and 2 that weren’t. So, Ron came up with the idea that I would ride between them. So when we headed out, I had 2 TCN’s behind me, so I wasn’t the last truck. And that is a good thing. When we got to the market place where we have to make a left turn, it was very busy. We had already seen a guy counting trucks coming out the gate, so we were expecting something. The MP’s had their guns pointed at the crowd as they went though. Ron radioed me and told me that it was going to be bad. He made it through the turn as the gunner pulled off and left us hanging. Marty made it through before the traffic started moving. The 2 TCN’s in front of me managed to make it about the time the traffic was starting to move good. The last 2 TCN’s and I were going to be cut off from the convoy if we didn’t get through this traffic and get that left turn made real quick. There were 3 lanes of traffic and the second vehicle was a big truck. I knew that with my being bobtail that there was no way that I could push him out of my way if I needed to. But I was also glad that I didn’t have a trailer on. Because to keep myself from being cut off I had to ride down the median strip for about 1/8th to 1/4 of a mile. I just kept gassing on it. I really hate to think how many people I sprayed with dust and rock from my spinning tires. All I could think of was don’t stop, don’t let them stop you, don’t get cut off. Well, I made it, but the 2 TCN’s behind me got cut off. It took them the next 20 miles to catch back up with us. They were lucky that the people that day weren’t looking for a fight. We are all lucky. I don’t think that it hit me what kind of real danger I was in till it was all over and done with. Once we got to BIAP and got parked, that is when it hit me and I cried. But I will have to tell ya’ll, I will go back there if I am sent. I know ya’ll may not like it, but it is my job and that is what I came here to do. Maples told me that for the first several months all they had to eat was MRE’s, Even though their DEFC was a “Mash” style one they were glad to see us and thankful for us being there. Now they could have real food. He said that even though it may not seem to us that we are doing much, in a small way, just like I say that they are our heros, he says that we are theirs. I really cant believe that. A lot of the people here are here more for the money. There are some, like me, that supporting them is our #1 reason for being here. The money, for me, is nice, but not at the top of my list of reasons for being here.
Well the rest of our trip back to Kuwait was uneventful. A nice quiet ride. Now, I am taking the day off. I have not had a day off since I got over here. I need it. Course, I will be headed out tomorrow morning on a special mission. I have been asked to drive an SUV and be the driver for a female project manager. I am not sure where all we will be going or how long I will be gone this time. From what I hear, it could be from a week to 3 weeks. I told Debbie, my foreman, that I would do it when she called me, but that I didn’t want this to become a full time thing. I want to stay in a truck. Debbie said that it was just this time and the since it was a female she wanted a female driver for her. I can see that this might be fun. I might get to see some camps that I have not seen yet. That is real cool.
Well, I know that this one has been a long one. I hope ya’ll didn’t mind. Everyone wants to know what I am really doing and what it is really like over here. This is the best way I know how to let ya’ll know all of that. Also, there have been several people ask if it is OK to share my emails with other friends, yes it is fine with me. The more people that know what is really going on over here the better. Maybe the American people will quit bickering about weather this is right or not and just support our guys and gals and help make their jobs easier.
Love to you all. My thoughts are with ya’ll. And to those that drive trucks, I’ll trade ya trucks!!!