A Recounting of Significant Events – July 2007
[Ed. Note: I obviously didn’t get this post out before my R&R break in September. I do intend to post at least my fav snaps from each of my subsequent months in Iraq, and hopefully some thoughts to go along with them. We’ll see…]
I’m gonna try to get this post in tonight, before I leave on my first (well-deserved!) R&R break. I’m taking the midnight Rhino out to BIAP (and I’ve said it a dozen times if I’ve said it once, there’s a song in that phrase somewhere – maybe I should check to see if Gladys Night still has her Pips…). After that, I’ll need to endure the DoD’s version of travel service – Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) to the Ali Al Salem airbase in Kuwait, to Atlanta, GA (USA! USA! USA!) to Pensacola, FL. This starts at midnight on Friday, with arrival in Florida on Monday. I’ll be thoroughly ready for a shower and change of clothes by then…
So here’s what happened in my field of view, Baghdad, that was worthy of note during the month of July…
- 1 July: Sunday night movie at the Palace Pool (outdoors – pretty nice, with the temps down to the low 100s), the movie is “300” – good flick, I think I want it. Movie starts around 2000 hours (8pm), and at approximately 2200 hours (10pm), without warning – BLAMM! Rocket IDF attack. Rockets slip under the sensors of the C-RAM, remember? We all scatter to various D&C shelters, and apparently the rocket hit far enough away that Big Voice never came on to direct us to take shelter. So after a minute or two, we all filter back to our chairs, impatiently waiting for the movie to restart, which it did a couple of minutes later. Surreal…
- 1 July: (I wrote the following on the back of a piece of paper while sitting on the stoop of my trailer later that evening, at – apparently - 22:24 hours) “And as I sit, reading my book by porch light, smoking a cigar, sipping a beer, right dead over head they fly – low and loud. I mean, right slam over my trailer. Four at last count, the first a scout, with spotlight searching the ground or lighting the way – even over the Palace grounds within the IZ. And then three follow – one right away, then two later. Each with the Red Cross on white background. Flying low enough that the Klieg lights illuminate their hulls, the red cross I see is on the bottom of the craft. The hulls are illuminated, but not the spinning blades, giving the helos the appearance of nothing so much as giant dragonflies, or as Mary Ann might call them, and more appropriately perhaps – snake doctors.”
- 4th of July: Spent the day at the Palace Pool, soaking up rays (okay, “soaking up rays” is the wrong phrase – try “toasting my skin & frying my brains”), listening to tunes, reading a book, and intermittently dipping into the water. First day I didn’t go into the office for at least half a day since Memorial Day.
- 4th of July: That evening, I ventured out to the pool area – which is where all social events occur for the general public. VIP events take place inside the palace itself, usually invitation only. Anyway, there’s a live band playing classic rock-n-roll. High energy musicians, with a babe in hot knee-high boots on keyboards. They’re only half bad, and make up for lack of talent with enthusiasm. And it was clear English was not their native tongue. I’d guess they were from some Eastern European/former-Soviet Union bloc country. Still, it was fun. Watched as a red, white & blue star-spangled helium-filled balloon floating upwards, with several people trying in vain to catch it. It floated away, free. And like it was some kind of signal to the others, several more star-spangled balloons slip away from their bounds. All head East, over the t-walls and the Tigris River into the Red Zone. Amusing to think that they are heading directly for, and most likely will end up in, Sadr City…
- 5 July – I think I mentioned, back a few months ago, how my original PRT class (officially, “Wave III”) began our first week of training in Arlington with a combination of civilian and military personnel. After the first week, the civilian and US Army military folks split off from the US Navy & Air Force personnel – those two groups had to go thru a month of “Warrior Training” that is not part of their Basic Training package when they join up. This is why I mainly think of my fellow trainees as the civs and the army guys. But the others, Air Force and Navy, are part of my wave. Well, on this day, one of the Air Force officers, MAJ Jose Rivera, was nearly killed by an IED. He lost his thumb and nearly lost a leg, but is now recovering nicely. Here’s a excerpt from a Dept of State Press Release on MAJ Rivera’s status from 14 September:
- Saluting Service: Ambassador David Satterfield will present Major Jose Rivera, a member of one of the Baghdad ePRTs and badly injured in an EFP attack this summer that also killed two service members and wounded another, with the Secretary's Award at 1430 Friday in the Treaty Room in recognition of his service and sacrifice. Major Rivera is being discharged from Walter Reed and returning home to Georgia on Saturday, and with Friday's ceremony, informally becomes a permanent member of the State Department family. Hope to have a photo for you on Monday. [The Secretary’s Award is presented to employees of State, USAID, and Marine guards assigned to diplomatic and consular facilities in recognition of sacrifice of health or life, in the performance of official duties. The award consists of a medal set and a certificate signed by the Secretary.]
But for the Grace of God, there go I. I thank the Lord nearly every day I’m out here that I ended up at the main Baghdad PRT, and not an embedded one (ePRT) like MAJ Rivera and most of the others of my class.
- 10 July – While I was at work, the IZ suffers it’s most extensive IDF attack of the war. The claxon rang out and the Big Voice blared “INCOMING!! INCOMING!! INCOMING!!”, and in they came. I lost count after a dozen. They all landed in relative close proximity to my building. I was able to see a couple hitting the ground in the near distance from my window. Yeah, I know we aren’t supposed to stand near the windows during an IDF event. In my defense, I wasn’t near the window, just looking out from across the room (also, the windows are bullet/blast resistant). Turned out there was between 30-35 rocket and mortars launched at us. There were 3 people killed – I never saw a figure on the number injured. Some people out here give me a hard time for walking the mile to and from my living quarters (that sounds better than “trailer”!) and work, as opposed to getting rides from co-workers or taking the bus. The argument is that I increase my risk of being hit because I spend more time in the open while walking. Well, one of the KIA was riding in the commuter bus. When it comes to the randomness of these IDF attacks, when it’s your time, it’s your time. I’ll offer you a quote from CPT Z on topic, who may have heard it elsewhere, but I heard it from him first:
“Don’t worry about the one with your name on it – that’s fate. Worry about the one that says ‘To whom it may concern’ ”.
[Ed. Note: We didn’t know it at the time, but that was the last hurrah from the bad guys. The surge operations pretty much wiped out their talent base, and the very limited IDF attacks that occurred since then were mostly off-target.]
- 17 July – I came back from lunch, and one of the Local National (LN) engineers on our staff had brought an Iraqi VIP upstairs to our office. He was the Chairman of the District Area Council (DAC) for Rusafa, and he wanted to talk about one of the PRDC projects our PPM cell was working on. It was for the remodeling and renovation of his DAC building, and he heard that we were cancelling the project. PRT-B PPM cell was without a team leader at this time – LT Dan was filling in that role in addition to being the GRC LNO. But the lieutenant wasn’t around either. So, by default, the Rusafa DAC Chairman had to talk to me. I explained to him the status of the project – it wasn’t being cancelled, we were putting it on hold until the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) finished doing their project in the same building. Why do I mention this fairly mundane bit from my day-to-day tasks at the PRT? Because this was the first time I had ever spoken to anyone through an interpreter! Finally, some of that Dept. of State training came in handy, because there is a technique to using a ‘terp without offending the person you are talking to…
At this point, mid-July, I had been in-country for two months, and apparently not much seemed significant from that point on. I have no other notes on events in July, and looking ahead, very little at all for August or September. So I’ll wrap this up with my fav photos taken in July:
My workspace – PRT-B PPM section
Palace Pool Social Area
My Friday swimming routine
Something along my daily commute
Shrapnel & SAF
Va Tech flag in Palace DFAC
Helo from hooch
Heading outside the wire
Hawaiian shirt Friday with IBA!
Working at Victory Base w/ CPT Phil & LT Dan
Sandstorm at night
IED of the month display
Sunset at Victory Base
Victory Base DFAC
Living quarters at Victory Base
Where's your weapon?
Greetings to Major Family Reunion from Iraq
Al Faw Palace
Infamous throne in Al Faw
Golfing at Al Faw
Kebab luncheon for PPM section
Live music 4th of July at Palace Pool
Late night inside Presidential Palace
Ambulance helos from office window
Aftermath of midnight rocket attack (in parking lot of my office building)