Thursday, October 28, 2010

The way to Iraq starts in Kuwait

I can’t say exactly when but I arrived in Iraq a few days ago after extensive additional processing in Kuwait. The two countries border each other and the distance was not that great however, the ordeal of traveling by military aircraft (the cargo bays get transformed into patient areas where you huddle down sitting on beach chair webbing secured with straps, ropes and clips) kept you on your toes. Additionally, we wear all our battle gear including full flak jackets, helmets, weapons and ammunition.

It was actually a lot of fun but we were already sleep deprived and this ordeal started at midnight and wasn’t over until noon the next day. It was stressful but it was so much fun and I wouldn’t have missed it for all the sleep in the world.

The military doesn’t want you to simply fly from the states to Iraq and the entire process has been carefully thought out into a series of gradual steps and transitions. I didn’t fully expect this and I actually thought that this would be more like a mad dash and you’ll learn things on the job. The military has discovered and become big utilizers of Power Point, focus groups, Instructor evaluations, equal opportunity clauses and they have an abundance of senior officers with a wealth of experience that are available for lectures and round table discussions.

The army calls their style of preparation and meetings “briefs” and they have nothing to do with brevity. Before I left Massachusetts I had several days of “briefs”. Whatever was discussed was again repeated in Texas and most of the same material was again repeated in Kuwait and repeated again when I got to Iraq. Before you get your equipment the quartermaster gives you a brief, before you go on the firing range that chief gives you a brief and before you’re allowed on the airplane the pilot and crew chief gives you a brief.

I’m in the general area of Tallil Air Base (google knows all about Tallil) and it is a big complex. It is presently quite quiet but there are signs of war everywhere. The area is covered with large reinforced concrete walls and sandbags and everybody now carries weapons with magazines but the area is quite secure and we are relaxed.

I no longer live in a tent I now live in a trailer park that has been transformed into barracks. Officers above the rank of Captain get their own room with water while the others have to share a room and have to go outside to either the male or female shower room. Toilets in the military are referred to as latrines which are porta-johns which are located all throughout the camp. There are endless rows of these trailers (as far as the eye can see) separated by blast walls, concrete bomb, shelters and sandbags. Everything has been built over flat arid dessert and the base and our trailer park home is barely shielded by a single tree.

I ‘m allowed to say that I will be working at the TMC (troop medical clinic) for the 224th Sustainment Brigade. I won’t explain what a Sustainment Brigade is but if you’re interested Google will give you a concise explanation

They also issued us these combat shirts, Boonie Hats (like the Australian's wear) because they have better protection from the sun, and I got the same set of cold weather gear that the soldiers in Afghanistan get for the winter even though it's 100 degrees every day.

The main thing they seem to emphasize is that you wear a proper uniform, carry your weapon (I have the Baretta pistol) & display your ID at all time. They also keep reminding us to report any acts of sexual harassment and that married soldiers that commit adultery will be prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Depending on whose calendar you’re using day #1 of my 90 day deployment (I refer to it as my Diaspora) is the day I arrived in Kuwait which was either 10/23 or 10/24. We had thought that day #1 might be the day I arrived in Iraq, which was 10/27.

I actually saw some patients today but will write again after I catch up on my sleep and get more settled into Iraq.


Roberta Gang said...

Hi Marty,

Your descriptions are remarkable. Keep posting pictures, it's great to see you over there. David and I think of you often and send our love and support. I look forward to spending the day with Joan this Wednesday in NYC to see the King Tut exhibit. Be well. Roberta Gang

Anonymous said...

"I can’t say exactly when but I arrived in Iraq a few days ago after extensive additional processing in Kuwait."

...."We had thought that day #1 might be the day I arrived in Iraq, which was 10/27. "

HELLOOOO!!! OPSEC!! Are you serious???

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