Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Another Day Away from Balad

I got another chance to get out and see the country this week. I am getting tired of being a Fobbit. Most of the bases here are called Forward Operating Bases or FOBs. Those of us that live on them and do not go outside the wire are derisively known and Fobbits, Fob Dwellers or Fob Goblins by those who go out on patrols every day. I have met several young soldiers here who volunteer for missions outside the wire, looking for excitement and some who have to do it because it is their job. I have heard no real complaints yet.

Earlier this week I met an 18 year old Private on the bus. The backs of his hands from about 3 inches above the wrist all the way to his fingertips were covered with second degree burns. They were still bright red, blistered and runny. His face looked like is was recovering from a sunburn, red and peeling. He told me that he was manning a machine gun in the turret of a HMMWV when the vehicle ahead of his got hit by an IED. He got flash burns on his exposed skin. All he remembers is the concussion and being surrounded by flames as they drove through. I asked him if he was wearing his Nomex gloves (all soldiers here are issued Nomex gloves, balaclavas and shatter-resistant sunglasses for that reason). He told me no, he wasn't wearing them but he sure will be the next time (he was already talking about "the next time"). He said he was on his way to the hospital here on Balad, and then he was on his way back home. I asked him where he was from and he said FOB Freedom, north of Baghdad. You are going back to your unit like that, I asked. "Hooah Sir" was all he said. Wow, and here I thought maybe he was talking about going back home to Kansas or something. Gotta love being 18 years old and bulletproof.

I meet kids like him all the time and I love talking to them. They always want to talk to me about flying, but I want to find out what they do. A helicopter will fly over and they say "man, that must be great" and I say something like, "Oh yea, we are out there flying around and the kids run out of their houses and wave at us as we fly over (which they do) and then turn the subject back to them. I don't have the heart to tell them that I really don't fly because I can't reliably get out of the office to make a scheduled flight or that the closest the war has come to affecting me over here is the one time when I was riding the bus to work and there was a mortar attack on the other side of post. The bus stopped and we all got out and went to a bunker until it was all clear. Anyway, now I was late for my first meeting now and did not have time to stop by the coffee shop and get a cafe mocha. I was the only one there without a cup of coffee. Man that sucked! I looked like a fool. Or, hey I had to move to a new trailer a while back and I did not have internet for almost 3 weeks. I don't think any of them would feel my pain.

Actually the Commanding General has encouraged all of us staff pukes to get out on a convoy to get an idea of what the soldiers we are supporting are living through. Kind of a recharge to remind us why we are here. I have asked. So far my boss hasn't let me. Not out any particular concern for my safety, mind you but he does not want to "give you a day off to go play around, I need you here working." Actually he said he would let me go do one of those goodwill building missions where you go out to a school and give the kids clean drinking water and pencils and stuff. That would be OK. But not as good as getting the chance to shoot at some ragheads.

So now I am rambling again, got two threads going. One is that I finally got out, the other is that there are other people out there, writing blogs like I am, but with far more interesting stories. I read an article about it titled Blogs of War or Band of Bloggers or something really maudlin like that. Anyway, there are some really good blogs out there. Very talented writers. Some of these guys have thousands of readers, sell advertising on their sites and are cutting book deals for when they come home. I included some of the links mentioned in the article in the "real soldier blogs" section of my links. Look at some of these if you want to know what is going on out there. I also included a link that points to some blogs written by Iraqi citizens. I read a lot of those around the time of the Iraqi elections and there were some very good stories.

So, I did convince my boss to let me out for a day. There is a unit moving into theater and a bunch of us had to fly up and recon the FOBs they will be occupying to ensure it was adequate and recommend improvements. I told him that I had to go look at the runway and hangars. Then I grabbed my Air Force buddy here and told him that he had to help me look at the runway to make sure a C-130 could land there (he is a C-130 Pilot). Anyway, it was a good excuse to get out and we actually got a lot done, meeting with some of the unit reps up there and seeing what they needed. It was a beautiful day and I took about 240 pictures, some of the best ones I put up here.


Blogger Wakeandahalf said...

its a good story in and of itself. No Cafe Mocha! "I wish it sucked more!"

9:22 PM  

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