August 19th, 2009 09:53 EST
Convoy to COB Heider
It`s 15:00 and it`s show time for the various members of the convoy. Showtime is the time when everyone gets together to line up trucks, do roll call, have the mission briefing, discuss routes and any questions that people might have. The vehicles are running, with the AC`s blowing, cooling off the cabs. Our gear, helmet, vest, knee and elbow pads, which is commonly referred to as battle rattle " lays leaning against the tires, neatly placed as if someone was wearing it. 15:00 in Iraq is no easy thing in its own right, as August is the peak month of heat for the country, the temperature that day sits around 114-115 degrees. Despite the prospect of danger and the reality that within the hour, anything could happen, everyone is in a great mood.
A member of the KBR (Kellogg Brown N Root) team pulls up in a white SUV, filled with sodas, Gatorades, fruit and sandwiches for the soldiers and civilians going out the wire. After wolfing down the sandwiches and grabbing a few more in the event that our mission takes longer than expected, we head over to do roll call one final time. As we head towards our trucks to load up and get in order, excitement kicks in. Excitement over the possibilities that in the next few hours, anything you can imagine has the potential to become reality out here.
Our mission is simple, drive up, do our little part, and drive back. My driver and I are in charge of bringing water up to the soldiers for laundry purposes. The truck we use is best described as a military semi truck, complete with up-armor that can withstand massive blasts from roadside bombs while providing us maximum protection from the blast itself and shrapnel.
With a trailer attached to the back with a 3,000 gallon bag of water strapped to the top, were able to give the soldiers at this remote outpost the opportunity for clean clothes, which is important for a number of reasons. Hygiene, moral and after a shower, they won`t have to put on the same dirty clothes.
With everyone loaded up and the trucks in convoy order, we head to the front gate. Upon leaving our FOB (forward operating base) the first thing I notice is a sight that exists all throughout Iraq, a little boy is tending a herd of 50 " 60 sheep. As we pass, the boy losses all interest in his flock and begin to jump and wave wildly with a huge smile on his face at the passing trucks.
This is an all too common sight to see herds of sheep everywhere, as lamb is one of the primary meat sources for the region. Once on the road, there really isn`t too much to look at, a good portion of this countryside remains the same, sand, dust, the occasional house and sheep everywhere. One of the things I have always liked is the design of the houses and buildings. There simple in construction, but the use of arches and pillars has always appealed to me.
Thirty minutes into the trip, one of the vehicles breaks down with a flat tire. Out here the last thing anyone wants is to be staying immobile for any length of time out in the open on the streets. With a quickness that would make even the most experienced Jiffy lube worker jealous, the members of that truck hop out and get the tire changed in record time. Twenty-five minutes later were driving down the road once more, the flat tire, a minor setback that has already been forgotten.
The convoy commander picks up the spee0d slightly to try and make up time lost due to the flat tire. Twenty miles down the road the convoy comes to a little market on the side of the road. From my view in the water truck, the shops themselves are only one room spaces. Probably no bigger than an average size living room, from the quick glance I get, it looks as though all the shops sell the same items. Snacks, drinks, and cigarettes fill the little shelf space, in the one room store. Like most spots in Iraq, even though were passing a more populated area, there are no women to be seen anywhere.
Males are the dominate adults that fill the streets and stores. It doesn`t seem like much, but when being used to western culture our whole lives and seeing women everywhere you go, it`s always a little uncanny to see such populated areas being all men.
Finally after about three hours of driving, we come in sight of our destination. COB Hieder sits up on the Iraqi/Syrian border, literally a 3 minute walk to the inspection gate separating the two countries. Our mission a third the way done, we immediately set to work to download the water into 1000 gallon water bags called onion skins- when their full they resemble an onion.
Thirty minutes later, our water completely downloaded, we start packing our truck up to drive around and take our place in the convoy to return home. The minutes fade into hours as we wonder why were still there. Most of the people have completed their jobs, whether it is fuel, water, or food. Then we realize that the PLS (palletized load systems) are still moving connexes around. It`s around 22:30 now and one of the PLS`s breaks down, since we don`t know too much about these systems, all we can do is sit around and talk about all the things were going to do when we get back home to Germany and munch on the extra sandwiches we grabbed at the start.
Midnight rolls around and we get the signal to load up, it`s the best sound we heard all night. With all the trucks empty of their loads, we can make much better time back to our home FOB. Driving through Iraq is a completely different experience, in the day time, with the sun beating down upon everything, you can see a lot of houses and buildings are crumbling with massive holes in them. Dust is everywhere and in everything.
Night brings about a certain change in the landscape. The fact that there are no trees or too many hills or mountains allows a person to view in all directions for miles and miles. During the night you can see the little villages that outline the surrounding areas, by the small clusters of light separated by large open spaces of blackness until the next little cluster. Even though Iraq is on the verge of rebuilding itself, much of the land is still in disarray and rundown.
At night when you can`t see all the damage that years of war and fighting has caused, the land looks calm and peaceful. As me and my driver talk to each other to keep each other awake, we talk about our views on the war, our wives and children waiting for us back home, and what the future will bring for us both. Finally two hours later we see the lights of our home FOB, a sense of relief washes over us, as we pull up to the front gate, knowing that we have successfully and expertly performed our jobs with no personnel, military or civilian getting hurt.
As we park our truck in our area, we share a few jokes while we pull our gear off, feeling the night breeze finally hitting our heads and chests, with a final high five on another job well done we had to our rooms. All that`s left for this night is a hot shower and a good night`s sleep.