Unlike my first mission, this one was uneventful to be so eventful. No, we didn’t see any bombs or bullets this trip, but it was plagued with problems, one after another. There were some very good points to it though as you will find out later. Some questions I had of did I do the right thing on one mission with KBR were answered. And now that I have your attention. I am going to make you wait to find out what that was.
I believe that the rain has finally stooped. Two weeks ago we were rained on, but this mission it seems the weather got hotter and hotter every day. Our convoy’s are made up of DOD’s and TCN’s. Most of the TCN’s are good people and know what they are doing, so this makes the trip much easier. I wish I could say that for the TCN’s of other companies and other convoys. Just across the border, we started to pass A PWC convoy. Now you have heard me describe the TCN’s at times as being like 6 year old’s trying to get to the front of the ice cream line? Well, the PWC convoy was this way. They were cutting into our convoy and passing their own guys to get to the front. I forced one of them back into his convoy when he jumped in front of me. He gave me this shit eating grin as I passed him, but I think he lost it, when I waved him back into his line as I moved my truck over. I learned when I was here the first time, that this is just about the only way some of them will listen to you.
The next day was uneventful. I saw several old friends at Scania and was able to catch up on others. So many people that I knew from before are gone now, either back to the states, or to other companies. They are still doing mostly night missions north of Scania. But with us having dedicated escort units, we run when the military says for us to run. That means day, night, or when other convoys(KBR) are not moving. We hit Sword right at day light. Now remind you, this is the first time I have been back across the road that my last ambush happened on. The whole trip up, I had wondered how I was going to deal with it. The other ambushes, I had been back across the road in the same direction within, a few weeks. This one was months. I can’t say that there was not a lot of anxiety, but I can’t say that all was right. I was nervous. Eight months of reliving that night in my head had made this trip a very important one to me. I knew that if I couldn’t handle this trip, I would not be able to handle any other and I would have to come home, or just run around Kuwait. With us leaving camp that morning as late as we did, it was daylight by the time we got to the road. I was nervous, but I was calm. I have told many people that I am the type of person that doesn’t panic during the situation, I do it afterward.This time was no different. I was calm and alert.
All was quiet as we made our way north. Well, not really quiet, it was the beginning to what would be rush hour for Baghdad, but there were no bombs, bullets, RPG’s, or mortars. Just rocks up by Taji. I can handle that. I made it through the area in good condition and stronger in my resolve. Now I have that behind me and can go on doing what I love doing, supporting our troops.
Now, here is what I was eluding to at the beginning. We got to Anaconda. I unstrapped and unchained my load, pulled into the TDC yard and got off loaded. Then I was told that about 12 of us were going to get cans (containers). So I pulled around to where they directed and me proceeded to set the pumpkins(these hold the cans to the trailer) on my trailer. I was having a problem with one and was fighting with it when I heard this man yell “CINDY!!!!!!!” When I turned around, at first,I didn’t recognize who it was riding in the truck, hanging half out the window, yelling and waving at me. Then I recognized the voice. It is a voice that I will never forget. The last time I had heard this voice over here he was across the radio, telling me that he was hit and I was telling him he had to drive that truck to the safe zone. Yes, It was Roy Hawkins! I had talked to him several times while we were both in the states, but had not gotten to see him. I yelled to him,”Come see me!” The driver of the truck he was in came to an abrupt halt and Roy dove out. He came running towards me with open arms. When he got to me he picked me up, twirled me around and gave me the biggest hug I have had in a very long time. I thought he was going to squeeze me in two. We both laughed and hugged several times in the few minuets that we had to talk. He showed me the scares on both side of his knee where the bullet went in and out of his leg. I have to say, those were nasty scares, but in a weird way, very beautiful. Beautiful, because if I was getting to see them, then I was getting to see the man they were attached to. I can not tell you how great it made me feel to see Roy and for him to have the reaction he did. His reaction and his telling me that he was glad that I was back and this is where I belong, tells me that he feels that I did right by him when he was shot. Everyone else, including myself, could tell me I had done good. But the one that mattered most came from Roy. You can not believe or maybe even understand the emotions that run through me even now, as I write about seeing him. I smile and cry at the same time, but I am at piece with the events of that night, now.
I did find out that Robert Rowe, my driver that was shot from the last ambush has not returned to Iraq. I have been looking and asking for him. I guess, I will have to do it the same way I found Roy in the states. Call Halliburton’s EAP people and ask them to give him my phone number and ask him to call me. If I can get in touch with him, it will take care of the unfinished business I felt I had over here and I can go on and have more adventures running the roads of Iraq in support of our guys and gals.
Ok with all that done, we started our trip back south in the very early hours of the next day. During the briefing we found out that the convoy 5 minuets behind us the day before coming through Baghdad was hit hard. It was the convoy the 2 Americans were killed on Saturday. I have to say, I know that we all took a deep breath and then thanked God that we had had no delays that morning. Then we left camp. For the most part, the ride was quite. Not even any rocks this time as we passed Taji. But this soon became the trip from hell. One of our gun trucks rolled over, and landed on its side, skidding down the road. The guy in the turret is a very lucky man that it didn’t go all the way over. One soldier did get 6 stitches in his head. We pulled into Scania and he was stitched up and we pushed out again. Down what used to be dirt Tampa, its all paved now. Then another of our gun trucks, blew the engine. We hooked a tow bar to it and kept on moving. A few miles later, we met a convoy of TCN’s caring hooch’s. Now these are wide, and they don’t need ALL of the road. But as I have told you before, the TCN’s are not always the best of drivers. One took a little more of the road than he should have. One of the DOD’s got off the pavement and that kicked up a lot of dust. The TCN behind him freaked out and slammed on his breaks. That caused the military brown truck behind him to hit him. They are going to have to use the truck for spare parts now. It will never be driven again. The two soldiers that were in it are ok. But we had to sit on the side of the road for several hours while recovery came out of cedar to tow the truck into camp.
All this left us with only two gun trucks the next morning when we wanted to push on to Kuwait. I would run Cedar to Kuwait without escorts. It is the safest part of the trip. But they wouldn’t let us run with only two gun trucks. So we sat in camp till that afternoon waiting for a gun truck to come up from NAVISTAR. That made for a very long day. After we got to Kuwait we still had to unload. It was midnight before I got home. But I had my temper pushing me that day.
My being one of two female drivers, everything I do is being watched. IAP didn’t hire females to drive for a long time. The other woman is….well……she is not very feminine looking, if ya know what I mean. Most passing her in the hall or going down the road, do not know that it is a woman. I, on other hand, can not hide that I am a female. That brings a bit more upon my shoulders. There are lots of guys that are living in the dark ages and feel that women do not belong over here. As a matter of fact, one of these Neanderthals said as much to my face and in front of 4 of our escorts. Well, ya’ll know me. I let him have it. He told me that I couldn’t do my job. That because I was a woman that I couldn’t strap and chain down loads. I looked at him and said, “Do what!” “I have strapped and chained every load I have hauled, by myself. I have also unstrapped and unchained everyone of my loads.” He tried to go on and tell me that women are not as strong as men that there will be some loads that I can not do. Now, in part, I have to agree with him, the part that women are not as strong as men. The thing is, we all unstrap and unchain our own loads. But we all help each other strap and chain them down when we get loaded. No one does just their load. I do not sit in my truck and let the guys do it for me. I have and never will let anyone do my job for me. And if or when the day comes that I am not strong enough to chain down my load, I will not sit in my truck and let a man do it for me. I will allow him to HELP me do it. Well, I need to calm down again. Just thinking about it pisses me off. Then this guy had the nerve to come ask me, right before we pushed out of Cedar, if he was going to be called into the office when we got back. I told him no, I was not like that. What happens on mission, stays there. I did tell one of my flat mates and he said something to this guy’s flat mate and I got an apology this morning from him. I don’t think he really meant it, but I got it.
Well, this has been a long email and I have a dinner date with several of the guys. We are going to Applebee’s and then maybe down to Fahaheel for a bit. We are talking about going jet skiing tomorrow again, but i am not sure if we will since we went yesterday. I hope all of ya’ll are doing well.