Showing posts from May, 2005

The Green Zone is for conquering and unconquering only

Insurgent mortars hit LSA Anaconda on a daily basis. (Don't worry, it's an enormous base, the chance of actually getting hit by one is astronomically small.) The other night a barrage of about half a dozen hit maybe half a mile away from me, waking me up even though they weren't loud - there's something about that crrrrump that kicks you into wakefulness. I went back to sleep, was rewoken by the red alert siren, and went back to sleep again, as did almost everyone else in the tent; you're supposed to find a hardened bunker for the duration of the red alert, if you're on active duty, but nobody here takes the siren seriously. It's the boy that cried Mortar. Here it goes again, as I type. Word is that one shell smacked into a shower trailer in which a soldier was showering. Fortunately for him it a) missed his stall and b) failed to explode. No word on whether the hot water was interrupted, or on whether he dried and dressed before leaving. Last night a stron

black hawk up

Objectively, a day trip from Balad to the Green Zone involves very little actual risk. Subjectively is a whole other story. Typically, I was nervous up to the moment that I actually sat down in the outgoing Blackhawk; then I started to grin. It didn't help that the two passengers I flew out with were Airborne doctors who chatted breezily during the preflight about their recent patients; a "star cluster to the face" (don't know what that is, but it sounds nasty) and a piece of shrapnel that lodged on the inside of the victim's skull (without any brain damage). They talked wistfully about the "freedom birds", the airplanes that fly from Balad back to America, and the sad fact that they weren't on one. To fly a Blackhawk from Balad, you sign up at the space-available tent, and at your appointed hour a minibus takes you out to the flight line, where dozens of helicopters, mostly Blackhawks and two-rotored Chinooks, await. After grisly conversation you c

Rock the casbah

More incoherent notes: I'm staying in a billeting tent, which is a tent dormitory with 18 cots, a few Porta-Johns nearby, and some showers and actual toilets a further walk away. Don't misinterpret "tent" - this one has wooden floors, fluorescent lights, two massive air-conditioning units, and a 15-foot-high ceiling. "The only things the army are really good at are erecting tents and lining things up in neat rows." (Presumably they're at least competent at the actual warfighting as well. And their engineers are well respected.) There are 28 such tents in the billeting area, plus a central check-in tent that features another huge TV, a small library, and the internet/phone center from which I now type. Backpacking is actually amusingly good training for living at a military base. There are plenty of bugs, kind of surprising for an alleged desert. (Though there is a nearby canal, and fields of green weeds grow outside the fence.) I showered late, night bef