Monday, January 10, 2005

Arrival In Kuwait And Iraq

My unit arrived in Kuwait safely. We had a commercial flight chartered by the Army. My commander, CSM, and I passed up an opportunity to fly first class, and we sat with our troops for the 20 hour voyage. I don't know if they appreciated the gesture or thought we were foolish for not moving up. Anyway, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Our time in Kuwait was minimized because of our motivation to get out of there. Our reception was not well organized, and if you sat back and waited on the system to process your unit, you could be there for weeks. We made some contacts, identified the key training events that we needed to hit and coordinated our move north to Iraq.

We were originally scheduled to Convoy. Our vehicles were not up-armored, and this was our biggest concern. In my 15 years of service, I've learned that the military may be bullish, but it does change. I found an active duty unit similar to ours that was going to the same place as us, and after some conversation I discovered that they too were not up-armored, but they were not going to convoy. Puzzled, I asked how they were going, and to my delight I discovered a method to get our troops and equipment flown. My Commander and I were floored. In the past six months, as much as we requested, this option was never given to us. Our soldiers flew out 48hrs after we discovered this option, and everyone arrived safely. Our equipment will follow, so the unit we are replacing will let us use their equipment until ours arrives.

All here is going well. My soldiers' morale is high, and we are settling in. Our replacements were excited to see us and are doing a great job showing us the ropes. I work out of an old hangar that is said to have housed Saddam's private jets. Who knows what went on here; soldiers can conjure up the best stories. We live in trailers and walk about 200 yards to the bathrooms and showers. It's not too bad. I had hot water this morning. The weather is about what I expected - cool now, but not to cold.

Nothing here is easy. Even going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you have to be fully dressed. The unit we are replacing should leave in a few weeks, so I expect things will get better then.

Our first morning here we were greeted with a mortar attack. Not everyone reacted the same. I met one soldier in the bunker we went to and asked him why he was here and his roommate was not. His response was classic. He simply said that he had not had the best of luck lately and was not taking any chances. He told me that within the last week, while driving his vehicle, he hit an IED [ed: improvised explosive device] and was involved in a firefight. He was a young guy from the Alabama Reserves, he was very upbeat about things and stated that he was scheduled to go home in a few weeks. After listening to his story I explained to him that he was mistaken about his luck. I told him that I felt good about being near him because to me, after hitting an IED and being in a firefight and coming out physically unscathed -- his luck seemed pretty good. I was proud to share a bunker with him and to hear his stories for the next hour. When we received the all clear sign, I shook his hand and wished him the best.

Take Care and God Bless