Monday, November 26, 2007

End of Mission: Part 1

I recently returned from my third mission since I arrived in country ten months ago. This mission I was assigned as Truck Commander of a 'flex' truck in our Convoy Protection Platform. I basically sent messages back and forth to the Tactical Operations Center (where I normally work). It is the same 'dings' that I talk about while sitting on the other end. Everyone in the truck had a headset so we could talk to each other. The trucks were so noisy with everything going on that it was the best way to talk to each other effectively. We could also talk to the other trucks in the convoy.

The trip was not too long by mission standards; it is the shortest mission we run. It took us nine hours to get to Baghdad this time. We had a Third Country National (TCN) that rode his clutch the whole way and burned it out before we got there. It was his first mission in Iraq and his first time driving a truck. We had to call a tow truck to come get it. 24-hour tow truck service in a combat zone is free, but slow. We waited for over three hours for a twenty minute tow. It was pretty smooth sailing besides that.

Some of the TCN ‘combat drivers’ get little to no training on how to drive an 18-wheeler. The drivers are cheap and willing to drive down a bomb-filled highway and get shot at while wearing a robe. One of the TCN drivers from Pakistan said his uncle "briefed him" on how to drive a semi before he came to Iraq. That driver ended up having an accident that totaled one of our gun trucks when he rear-ended it; “No brake, no brake” he said.

We finally got to the tents and I found a cot. I hadn’t been wearing my ‘snivel gear’ because we kept the truck pretty warm so our gunner wouldn’t be so cold. I quickly put on my ‘Ninja Suit’; the suit is a silk set of long johns. I then put on my winter physical training uniform, my 'beanie hat', socks and gloves. It was shortly before 5 am and colder than I like to voluntarily be. I crawled inside my Patrol Sleeping Bag; part of the Army issue 4-piece Modular Sleeping System (sleeping bag). I had packed only the Patrol Bag as it is lighter and easier to transport. Next time I will take up the extra room for the Intermediate Bag also.

I curled up into the fetal position and waited for hypothermia to hit the 'euphoria phase' before I slipped into a coma, the sounds of C-130’s landing beside our tent lulled me to sleep. I woke up at 1300 with the distinct thumping of Blackhawks maneuvering above. I sat up and scanned the darkness of the tent for movement.

I got dressed and found the other guys in my truck and we decided to head over to get some coffee at Green Beans. As we drove over to Camp Victory, we passed several palaces and landmark architecture along the way. Some of it is run down and war torn, but I have a creative mind and filled in the visual gaps. I imagined how the palaces would have looked when they were new.

We got to Green Beans and I enjoyed a Double White Chololate Mocha. It tasted awesome, even after the heavy dusting I got as a gun truck sped through the parking lot in front of me. We still had time, so it was off to the Post Exchange (PX) to see if there is anything I must have before I go back to Forward Operating Base (FOB), Camp Adder.

With the 82nd idiots here now, it would be more accurately described as a Frontline Army Garrison, but since that would make me a Faggit instead of a Fobbit, I'll stick with FOB, Camp Adder.