Thursday, May 25, 2006

Forward Operating Base Slayer

Well, this is it. Home for the next 51 weeks. The FOB itself is located adjacent to Baghdad City, and covers most of a former Iraqi government complex. It’s surrounded by cinderblock walls topped with concertina, or dirt berms, in some places. Baghdad lies over the east wall, and it’s not uncommon to here shots from that direction, although they are mostly not aimed at us. Most of the buildings are either sandbagged or surrounded by really tall jersey barriers, to protect against shrapnel. The chow hall even has a sort of raised second roof, designed to ensure any rockets or mortars explode before they penetrate. It’s like living in an army movie.

Across the way there are a couple of large burnt out buildings, one of which is the “Victory over America” Palace. Kind of ironic, I suppose. Most of the buildings, however, have been rehabbed for our own use. My own office is actually in a second palace that was apparently used for meetings and special events. It has three beautiful rotundas, several huge chandeliers, and is almost entirely finished in marble (poor quality marble, but marble none the less). We have erected all sorts of antennas and satellite dishes on the roof, and partitioned the interior with plywood into a rabbit’s wren of offices, watch centers, ops cells, and other cubby holes. It’ll take a mint to put this place back together the way it was.

I sleep in a protected trailer with seven other guys, but it is partitioned into four separate rooms so it’s really only like sharing a bedroom with your brother. Except that you both have guns and ammunition, so you don’t want to piss each other off. The bathroom is about 30 meters away in another trailer, and the showers are next door to that. I look forward every morning to reading the new graffiti on the walls of the stall. Actually, its not so bad. Since my regular duty hours are 0900 until 2100 (9:00 pm), at least I miss the early morning rush on the showers.

Although there is an infantry battalion here, most of the place is taken up by various Intel units, like mine. We provide support to the Multi-National Force Commander, the Intelligence staff, 5th Corps, and a couple of outlying units in Fallujah, Tikret, and the IZ (that’s the International Zone – what TV reporters call the Green Zone). My immediate headquarters is over in Camp Victory, which is a separate camp that I end up driving to almost every day, but it’s considered within the secure area. We use ¾ ton land rovers for driving on the base, land rovers or humvees for off base within the secure area, and armored humvees everywhere else. Most of the armored humvees have at least a machine gun mounted in the air turret (the gun position on the roof), sometimes even two or a 40mm grenade launcher. This used to be considered quite a hot area, but attacks have really tapered off since the beginning of the year when they deployed a reconnaissance blimp (called aerostat) with cameras that can pin point anything going on outside of the wire. So please don’t worry. Although you hear a lot of news about Baghdad, I am probably in one of the safer areas in Iraq.

That’s all for now – you guys stay safe and happy. I love you.



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