Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Awoke this morning to darkness once again. My clock still has not caught up. Each night I wake up earlier--today I was up at 0230. It is actually working out well--you'd be amazed at what you can get done before 8 AM.

Today is in processing day. Again I amazed, as the last time I deployed the time from departure from home to "on the job" was 3 days. It has been over a week and I have yet to get to my final destination.

It started with yet another overnight bag and a trip back to the airport where I met one of my Baghdad counterparts, another Lt Col who I flew with many years ago. After passing through customs (we're only going to the other side of the city…not sure what the obsession with passports is in this country) we loaded up on a helicopter for the trip to the largest US Embassy in the world. Beyond the fact that I can't remember ever flying on a helicopter, it gave me my first real glimpse up close of Iraq.

Helicopter ride to the Embassy
It is very difficult to describe--both beautiful and horrible at the same time. As with everything else, there is only one color--tan. But across the city you can see thousands on square little houses, and then suddenly a massive mosque juts out of the landscape--beautiful, majestic, overpowering. As we moved closer to downtown Baghdad the buildings became larger, and then I saw it.

The Ba'ath Party Headquarters is home to the majority of the military offices and operations in Baghdad. It is also my most memorable snapshot of the night of "shock and awe." A massive square building, it is larger (as far as I could tell) than any other building in the city. After a drop straight down to the landing pad, we dismounted and were met by my CAST roommate. It was awesome to see someone that I actual knew.

Helicopter ride to the Embassy
The rest of the day was spent throughout the beautiful US Embassy compound, with a good deal of time spent in the massive building doing my inprocessing items.

The HQ building is awe-inspiring. Beyond its size, it is made of unpolished marble and with unreal architecture. To have to have set this building on fire is tragic.

We finished the day with a trip to the bazaar so I could get a better shoulder holster, and then a drop-off at our latest accommodations--square trailers stacked up on top of each other across from the HQ.

As with many other moments thus far, it was very surreal. My room is pretty crappy, no doubt, but it isn't a tent and has a private bathroom. It is also less than 50 yards from a building I watched almost 10 years ago get incinerated by massive explosions by US airpower. Due to proximity and amenities, I can bet that someone very important stayed in this room many years ago--now it is relegated to an overnight stay by me.

Four more days until I finally head to Tikrit.

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