Monday, December 13, 2004

Shower Mission (War Journal Entry)

4-15-03 Baghdad

Woke up this morning at our AO(area of operations), which last night was a school's soccer field. The field has a built in barrier between us and the crowds of people anxious for a peak at us. Guarding us on all four sides, except for a small break in one corner, is a brick wall, standing about eight feet high. We're constantly having to tell the locals, mostly boys and girls, to get down. We do this more for their safety than our security.
I had enought time to make some good coffee this morning. You haven't had good coffee until you have it in a war zone. It's one of those small luxeries, known only in times of extreme want. It's preparation time. I have my two small packets of instant coffee, scrounged from MRE's, or found on the floor of the Bradley, five or six sugar packets, a creamer packet, and a bottle of water a third of the way full. Now that I have all of the ingredients, it's time to find that ever elusive heat. There's no oven or microwave to be found out here, so I must use the diesel scented heat of the Bradley's exhaust. I have to wake up the driver, still asleep in his hatch, and ask him to start up the Brad. Once started, the suffocating fumes of the exhaust unleashes its heat. I lean the bottle so that it's touching the exhaust, deforming but not destroying the bottle. Wait about ten minutes or until the driver cuts the engine, and presto, hot water. By this time the bottle is black from the fumes and looks as if it's going to explode. I quickly tear the packages off my ingredients, pouring them all in. Screw the top back on the bottle, give it a good shake, take a swig, and I'm in heaven. Overpriced Starbucks has never tasted so good.
Now that I have my caffeine, I'm ready for today's mission. We were supposed to go check out the scene at some school, but I guess our Lt. had a different idea. We jump in the Brads, roll out, and less than five minutes later we've come to a stop. Ramp down and out we go. We're parked on the sidewalk in front of a nondescript building, which is facing a busy street in a slummy part of Baghdad. Turns out it's an old gym, complete with basketball court and showers. Did someone say showers, we haven't had a shower in 26 or 27 days. How our Lt. knew about this place, I'll never know. Our platoon Sgt. yells at us to grab a change of clothes, it's shower time. The locals are staring at us in amazement as we dig frantically through our dust covered rucksacks, trying to find some clean underwear and DCU's.
With half our guys staying to guard the Bradleys, the rest of us scramble to get to the showers first. Once inside I notice a basketball court that could've been in any school back home. Adjacent to this are two locker rooms with changing area and showers. With no females around we make use of both. After putting my clean clothes on a bench, I strip down to nothing, naked for the first time in almost a month. I put on my flip-flops, grab my weapon, and head for a shower, stopping to look in the mirror. My face looks dirty and older but otherwise content. Leaning my weapon against the wall, I step into the shower, not worring about the mud and dead bugs on the tile at my feet. I turn on the shower and water actually comes out of the head. I reach out to test the temp, the shock of the cold water a suprise. Knowing it's not going to get any warmer, I jump in. How does water get so cold without freezing. After catching my breath, I grab my soap and start scrubbing harder than ever before. Shampoo is next, hopelessly trying to get all of the sand and sweat out of my hair. I'm still not used to the cold, so I rinse off, grab my towel, and dry off as fast as I can. Finally I'm dry and somewhat warm. I quickly get dressed, and I'm back out the door a new man. The best shower I've ever had.


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