Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Escort to Anaconda

I wanted to write about a little trip we took a few days ago to Anaconda. Anaconda is an airfield somewhere near Balad.

Our day started at 0330 when we woke up to do our pci's on our humvee's to get them ready for an early morning mission. We were leaving around 0500. Thank goodness I had an hour and a half to get everything ready when it actually only takes about 30 minutes. We went out to observe some of our impacting mortar rounds on enemy positions. The whole mortar game we play with the terrorists reminds me of the game Battleship. On rare occasions we go out on missions knowing that the likelihood of getting anything substantial accomplished is actually quite unlikely. This was one of those missions. This isn't just me bitching, my leadership all said the same thing. I'll leave out the details, but imagine driving across the country to visit the Grand Canyon, stopping a mile short of it, and trying desperately to see its glorious grandeur. Hopefully you get the point. On a positive note, on our way back we crested the top of a hill, and I was able to look out over thousands of acres of green farmland to a beautiful sunrise on the horizon.

On the way back I'm thinking about the good breakfast I'm going to eat and the relaxing day ahead of me. We were going to have a relaxing day in order to rest up for a mission that was going to last the entire night. So we get back, take everything out of the Humvees, clean up, and start walking back to our boxes will all our gear in tow. No sooner had I gotten inside and taken off all of my body armor when someone pokes their head in and tells me we have to get back up to the humvees. Big surprise there. I've grown used to being called at a moments notice. War waits on no man. My mind instantly goes into overdrive. I must get coffee and chow, my life depends on it. I throw on my gear and jog back up to the humvees. I found out that we had to escort some big trucks to Anaconda so they could pick up some tanks. That's cool, but I still need my caffeine and chow. My driver is nowhere to be found. Turns out he was patronizing one of those wonderful port-a-johns. I found my platoon Sgt. and asked him if I could run get some coffee, leaving out the fact that I was going to get a plate of food to. I knew I had the time. No matter how much they tell you to rush, you always end up waiting an extra half hour anyway. The old hurry up and wait. I ran over to the chow hall, cleared my weapon, washed my hands, and rushed past the guard standing there with his metal detector wand. I grabbed my plastic plate and a spoon and hurry up to the serving line. Mister Pakistani is standing there with a big smile. "May I have some eggs, bacon, grits, and a biscuit please", I ask. In no time my plate is full and in my hands. Now for the coffee. I hurry over to the coffee pot, grits running over my plate into my hands and pour a cup of coffee. After throwing in six packages of sugar and two of creamer, I stir it up with my all-purpose spoon and then re-insert it back into my grits. I'm out the door and walking as fast as I can, the coffee now spilling over the sides burning my hands. I get back to see people still trying to get ready and some just standing around. I'm good. I jump up in the gunners hatch of my humvee and began inhaling my food. You just can't beat a good hardy breakfast when you've been up for hours and starving. I finish up while Thomas, now back from the port-a-john, and my platoon Sgt. sit in their seats waiting for us to leave. I sat the plate down next to my 50 cal and start adjusting the strap that will become my seat for the trip. While doing this I hit my plate with my elbow, flipping it upside down and into the humvee. Leftover runny eggs and pieces of bacon come raining down on the floor and equipment below. I want to laugh but wait on my platoon Sgt.'s reaction. You might think he would get mad and start cussing, but all he said was, "10 second rule", before picking up a piece of bacon and eating it. Damn, I have a cool platoon Sgt. I commence to laughing as Thomas tries to shake out his vest that now has scrambled eggs all over it. I guzzled down the remainder of my scalding hot coffee right before we pulled off. I'm feeling good and ready for another exciting ride.

We were supposed to be back in the early afternoon in time to go to a range and shoot our big guns. I knew before we left that it would be a long day. The trip was long but not too long, and it was uneventful as well. We get into Anaconda, a huge base with what seemed to be thousands of soldiers walking around casually, wearing nothing but there dcu's and boony cap. Are these people in Iraq or on vacation. Who cares, I figure a year of boredom living at this place seems a lot longer than a year of fast, hard living, outside of it. We followed the trucks to a big open area with huge connexes(big containers you see on trucks, trains, and ships) sitting all around. The tanks aren't going to be ready to load until 1500, giving us about two and a half hours to eat chow and go to the big PX they have. Looks like we won't be going to the range today.

Chow is the first order of business. The humvees shuttle everyone over to a huge building that looked like it could hold a couple of thousand of people. National Guardsmen are everywhere, looking at us with seeming disdain for tresspassing on their holy ground. Screw them and their boony hats. We look out of place with all our gear on and dirty dcu's. A couple of us noticed the fact that all of them had to clear their weapons before entering the chow hall as well. We wondered if bothered them even more than it did us, knowing that since most of them never leave the place they never have to actually chamber a round anyway. I'm not knocking NG's, it's just that a few of them said a few things to us that really pissed us off and this is my way of venting. A lot of NG's have done a lot of brave things over here that is appreciated by me.

So we finish chow and head back to the trucks, knowing that we are going to be waiting all day. Soldiers with nothing to do for a few hours can sometimes lead to trouble. There were a few guys from another unit at the site as well. They were the ones we were getting the tanks from and were going home in a couple of days. They basically told us that we could have anything that was there, including anything in the open connexes. Shouldn't have told us that. When you are about to spend a year in a place like this the simplest thing can suddenly become very valuable. The opposite can be said for those that are about to go home. Things that are very nice are discarded as if it's yesterday's garbage. We all become looters of all the abundant bounty. The guys from the other unit were hanging out in this big shed made of plywood that resembled a barn. One of them was sitting there reading a Playboy with, of all people, Darva Conger, on the cover. So we started with the barn, taking everything that we could get our hands on and fit into the humvees. I wasn't surprised to see the Playboy eventually in the hands of one of our guys as well. You can't blame them, there isn't much to look at over here for the next year, but Darva Conger, I think I'll pass. She's the same one that swore up and down that she wasn't seeking publicity, only to proceed to pose nude in Playboy. Right Darva, whatever you say.

We soon expanded our looting expedition to the connexes scattered around the area. We found all kinds of things that we will eventually use this year. You wouldn't believe the amount of batteries we found. Some guy, and I'm not making this up found an unopened board game. Guess which one it was, yep, Battleship. As we were walking out to a couple of more connexes a little farther away, we came up on a burn barrel, its singed contents blowing out and fluttering in the stiff wind. On closer inspection we realized it was full of porn mags. Imagine that, soldiers burning porn mags. A lot of the guys had a look of disbelief at the injustice of it all. I just laughed at the absurdity of the whole scene. We continued to walk towards another connex, pages of the porn mags landing around us and skidding on the sand. I thought that was bizarre enough until I reached the connex we were walking towards. The huge metal doors were already open and some of its contents had spilled outside. This connex was stacked with boxes all the way to the back and almost to the ceiling, some of them already opened. The only thing that could top the burning, windblown porn was the fact that this connex was full of feminine hygeine products. You could've literally supplied the entire army for a month with the amount of tampons and whatever else in there. Of course someone had come across this before, since they had made a point to empty a couple of the boxes outside on the ground. One of the guys I was with, just to make sure it really was all tampons, climbed up and over boxes all the way to the back, finding nothing of value to us. Of course we could use the tampons to plug bullet wounds, but our medic already has some. Burning porn and tampons, just a few of the many things you will find in an abandoned part of an airfield in Iraq.

We loaded our humvees down with as much stuff as we could fit as the night came upon us. Through the backseat window of my humvee I watched a fire burning wood and trash as the tanks finally got loaded on to the trucks. We finally left around 1900, and after another uneventful trip home, I finally got into bed at 2300.

5 Comments:

Anonymous MKL said...

Any thoughts about the HMMWVs yall are using? I.E. The Rumsfeld question last year.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Spatula said...

Sounds like a heck of a day. Hope you got some sleep and you're ready to go again. God bless, and love from Texas!

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Bill H. said...

Yup, I always carried a couple of tampons with me incase I got shot while working over there. When on convoy and if we got to a base with a Burger King we would buy for our military escorts.... Thanks guys for all you do.

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, When you get out of the Military you should become a writer. You express yourself well. I check you site once a week. I enjoy reading your writings. My grandson is in Iraq now. Stay safe and keep writing.
Love and Hugs Kathy S grandmom

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

boy oh boy that thomas sounds like an awesome guy. (the show)

7:35 AM  

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