The wait in the Green Zone wasn’t short, but it was just short enough to forestall a meeting with the author of LT Nixon Rants. Too bad- I’ll have to try again on the trip back. I caught a Blackhawk helicopter ride from the Green Zone south to FOB Kalsu- home to the 2nd and 4th Brigades of the 3rd Infantry division. The 2nd Brigade, my hosts for this stage of the trip, is famous for leading the “Thunder Run” to Baghdad in the initial invasion.
On the flight down to Kalsu, I made friends with a civilian electronics tech. He had a day or so in between places he had to go for his job, so he was flying down to Kalsu to play high-stakes poker with his cousin stationed there. Was it a waste of government resources? I suppose you could look at it that way, but he had nowhere else to be, and the helicopter was flying with or without him. I don’t understand the surprise some people claim at the idea that soldiers might be gambling (or participating in most any other vice, for that that matter). Soldiers are soldiers, and war doesn’t often change their amusements.
From FOB Kalsu, I jumped on a convoy headed east into Arab Jabour, finally arriving at Patrol Base Meade, an isolated outpost that headquarters the 5/7 Cavalry. We had worked with 5/7 Cav under the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry before we left Falluja- after we left they were attached to 2nd Brigade and moved to Arab Jabour. The soldiers I’ve met at all stages of my trip here seem to kick their estimation of me up a couple of notches upon learning that I served in Iraq- 5/7 soldiers kick it up even more when they find out about my time in Pathfinder. One soldier recognized me from some time we spent living in Iraqi houses south of Falluja- I walked out of the tent last night to hear him telling other soldiers about it. I still feel good about what we accomplished there, and I’m glad to know the guys we worked for back in al-Anbar held us in such high regard.
PB Meade is a recently constructed base in the center of Arab Jabour. Actually, it is still in the process of construction- just days before I got here, there was no heat or electricity. Those are spotty at best, and when the heat goes out at night a bone-chilling cold descends. It’s not the coldest I’ve ever been- not by a long shot, but it’s still damned uncomfortable. Food comes in on trucks, and moves from PB Meade to a scattering of even smaller patrol bases about the area. These bases are a fundamental piece of the counter-insurgency doctrine that the military is now pursuing in Iraq- sometimes separated from neighborhoods by little more than a hasty earthen wall, they allow the troops stationed at each near instant access to the community.
Over the next few days, I’ll be doing a little bit less “blog” style posting, and more photos and story about the fight in Southern Arab Jabour- keep checking back, and I’ll get posts up once I’m back on reliable internet.