I've made it back from my trip to Baghdad, and as dimented as it may sound I really enjoyed it. I'm pretty sure the photos will help to explain why. We actually ended up at Camp Victory which is part of Baghdad International Airport (the Army calls is BIAP...we can create an acronym out of anything). BIAP used to be Saddam Hussein International Airport, which you probably remember hearing about during the ground war. I like the new name better
The trip us took us a little longer than expected. Usually it would only be about 90minutes, but we were forced to stop about twenty minutes out due to an explosive device that was found on the road. Any time we have to make a stop along the route, the first thing we do is dismount the vehicles and pull security around our perimeter while simultaneously checking for other explosive devices that might be in the area. We were there for about 30 minutes, and then the lead vehicle found a bypass and we got out of there. Nothing like standing out in the open in area where the people really don't like you. It was a bit nerve wracking, but thankfully uneventful.
Obviously, the airport area was one of the focal points of both the air and ground campaigns during the topple of Saddam Hussein. I saw evedince of this as soon as we got inside the compound perimter. The picture below isn't a very good one, but it is one of Saddam's many former palaces. Apparently there was some one or some thing in it that we did not like since we dropped a very large bomb on it. Of course, being the nice folks that we are the palace is being restored.
Sometimes I think we're too nice.
Right after we got in, we parked the vehicles, took off all of our "battle rattle", and chilled for a few minutes. This is one of the gunners enjoying the downtime.
As you go further north there is a lot more vegitation than the southern areas of the country. At one point I saw a field of what looked like Texas Goldenrod. Regardless of what it was, I found myself sneezing incessantly and my eyes started to burn and itch. It was just like being home in Texas during the spring time.
This is the team medic, "Doc" (every medic in the Army is affectionately referred to as "Doc" regardless of rank). He hooked me up with some good drugs that helped ease my misery. He gave me a little pink one and said, "Only take this at night, and only take one. Roger?"
I slept like a baby.
When I plan on going anywhere in this country, I always assume the worse accomodations and I'm rarely dissappointed. This time, however, I was travelling with our Battalion Command Sergeant Major, CSM Callaway who is one of the most squared away NCO's I have ever had the pleasure of serving with. Those of you familiar with Army schools will know by the badges on his chest that their are really no other qualifications he could earn. About the only schools he hasn't qualified for is Army Scuba, and Army Astronaut...and I'm sure it's only because he doesn't want to.
And, yes, he has a Ranger tab on his shoulder too.
Anyway, CSM Callaway pulled some strings and got us a room in one of Saddam's smaller palaces (to him, it was probably just a guest house). The building is now called the Joint Visitor's Bureau (JVB <---- See! We did it again!), and it is basically a hotel for distinguished guests that come through the area. Charlie Daniels had stayed there the previous night since he was there to do a concert for the troops. Below is the entrance.
Again, you have to keep in mind that this is one of the smaller edifices in the complex. But even then the extravagance this guy went to was a sight to behold. I told Amy that I found it all at once amazing and disgusting. Amazing because of the level of opulence, and disgusting because Saddam and his cronies lived like this while he sucked his country dry.
This is one of the sitting rooms.
This is SPC Edge and MSG Goode sitting in the small
dining area. There was one that was probably three times this size, but it was being used as a conference room.
This is the back patio, which backs up to a small lake, or maybe it's a large pond. (Just when does a pond become a lake anyway?)
Notice the windows are now lined with sandbags...just in case.
Now this next building is called the Water Palace, and it is by far the larest one in the complex. (This photo was taken from the back patio of the JVB). This is the Command Headquarters and houses the Generals and their staff.
I din't get in their this time...but I will find a way.
Now you can see why I enjoyed the trip. It was definitely something out of the ordinary...at least for me. The Joes that are stationed here see this stuff all the time so I'm sure it's no big deal, but for those of us stationed in the arm pit base camps it is quite a trip.
Well, it's late and I am back on the road tomorrow for about three days. I'm going south this time, which is really no big deal. It is much less dangerous, but not real exciting. I already have a few more stoires qued up, so I'll be blogging as soon as I get back.