Friday, May 25, 2007

Hometown Heroes

HometownheroesWe started the series to get the opinion that matters the most. In the words of those currently serving, Hometown Heroes is an uncensored view of what's going on in Iraq. We've gone international. Australian stations have just agreed to run our programming, and I'm happy to report all is well. Hometown Heroes is running all over the country. If it's not in your area tell your local radio station manager, or e-mail me and we'll take care of it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Border Crossing

The border between Kuwait and Iraq is not just geographical, it's cultural, at least that how the soldiers who run the convoys up and down deadliest highways in the world would describe it.

While in Kuwait, it's possible to relax, to take off the body armor and even let your guard down a bit, but as we got closer to the border in the words of platoon commander Sergeant First Class Jacobs, "It's game time".

Every convoy takes certain precautions. The roads in Southern Iraq have become increasingly dangerous as the insurgency seems to be moving South, fleeing the increased security in Baghdad. Trucks line up for hours at a time, waiting for clearance to cross into Iraq.

Border_crossLine_to_cross The actual border crossing itself was uneventful, you can barely tell there is a border from where we went in. There is one major thing to remember, Iraq is one hour ahead. Setting your watch is important when the schedule is highly regimented.

CedarDanger_stay_backOnce in Iraq, there is absolutely no stopping under any circumstances. Strapped in with full bodyarmor in a cramped space for a few hours adds tension to the trip.

I turned on the infra-red camera in order to take Miles_to_go_beforepicture that didn't set off the flash. One of the soldiers was hit by an IED and didn't even notice it. He saw a flash out of the corner of his eye, but didn't realize there was a problem until his steering became difficult.

While on Iraqi roads, every bump on the road, box, or garbage is suspect. It's a very intense feeling of not knowing what can happen, but preparing for the worse.

America_in_iraq_2We made it in to Camp Cedar, in Southern Iraq, everyone was safe and sound. It was late at night, but there was plenty of work to get done. Everyone knew there was a job to do and we all went about getting that job done. This flag flies at Camp Cedar, and it was one of the most reassurings symbols I had ever seen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Laissez Le Bons Temps Roulez

0377_t_spt_small_patchThe 377th is a theatre support command. That doesn't mean they're stationed around Broadway, but it does mean they provide support for operations within combat zones. The command uses a lot of reservists, which gives this group a type of flexibility other military commands just don't have. I sat down to talk to the Assistant Chief of staff of the G3, this is the person with the responsibility of getting supplies up North, into theatre, and he's not referring to a productions of "Cats".

But I Egress...

Het"When you drop to the ground just remember to keep rolling." Staff Sgt Lipp or "Sergeant" as his soldiers call him was describing the egress procedure. Egress? Leave it to the military to come up with a fancy word for getting the heck out of a flaming vehicle. I listened carefully and watched the demonstration. Lipp, an 11 year veteran who is on his fifth tour, was giving me tips that could both save my life, AND make for a great blog. The military has always been keen on efficiency.

Prepping The temperature is much more bearable, even pleasant, at the beginning of the day, say 0500.

The security briefing for media embeds on convoys (a fairly rare request Truckingconsidering that most media enter the theatre by air.) was short. It all came down to "egress" and there wasn't much more to egress than the standard "Jump out and roll".

Servicemen call this region the "sandbox", but the haziness you see everywhere Dustis actually dust--believe me sand would be an improvement. Really dried up dirt rises with the heat to cover everything. It's on my camera, my computer, it doesn't matter how often you shower. The intense heat, mixed up with sweat, bakes the dirt into the pores, so a reassuring layer of grime accompanies you wherever you go.

FormationIt looks simple, a convoy of trucks heading down the road, but there's a lot of work that goes into making it happen. Especially, when you have to add armored security, provide ammunition and prepare for explosions along the route.

Yep_its_hotThe crew loaded up the vehicles, but right in the middle of it all, we heard the sound of reveille and everyone came to a halt. I wish I had a picture of it, but you're not allowed to use a camera while saluting.

At the end of the day, as the dust literally settles and the sun looks suspiciously Sundownlike the moon.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Attention All Whiners

Come_back_safe_2 I'm doing two radio series, one called Hometown Heroes and another called "In their Own Words." So, I've been interviewing people pretty much since the moment I landed in Kuwait. What really stands out in my mind is how different the perception of the war here is.

I cannot tell you how different the perception of the war is, here in theatre. People are very focused on their mission and I'm just amazed by how little importance they put on the day to day stuff that we're all obsessed with back home.

Example? I'm with a transportation unit. We're going to be in a convoy hauling equipment up North, to Iraq. We started at 4 a.m, serviced the truck, got orders, got weapons, drove for hours, arrived near the border, loaded the trucks with the equipment. After a dusk to dawn workday the base played taps to notify all who are present that the flag was to be retired. Everyone was tired and sleep deprived, but despite that, EVERYONE popped up to attention, stood and saluted. We stood there, everyone facing the direction of the descending flag, everyone completely silent, no one complaining or whining about anything.

We were heading into Iraq, the "belly of the beast" and on a road that is known for IED's. If anyone had a right to whine about WMDs, Surges, Shock and Awe, or being misled it was these people. We stood there, everyone facing the direction of the descending flag, everyone completely silent, no one complaining or whining about anything.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

On a Clear Day...?

Dust_storm Kuwait is no stranger to visitors. The name Kuwait literally means "Fortress built near the water," and that should be a clue to the type of company Kuwait has usually received over the centuries. This small country, slightly bigger than the state of Connecticut, was once the largest exporter of oil for the Persian Gulf. It's easy to imagine Kuwait as an Arabic version of Palm Springs, but this is what the country looked like when I arrived.

KuwaitOn August 2nd 1990, Iraqi forces under, the command of Saddam Hussein, invaded and occupied the very small country of Kuwait. Iraq and Kuwait have a long time relationship of separation and unity, the fact that Kuwait is so much smaller than Iraq has always made the little country into a tempting target for both of its big brothers to the North, Iran and Iraq. American forces have been based in Kuwait for several years now and many will be surprised to learn that an international coalition of countries use Kuwait as a base for both the country's defense and to support Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). I sat down with the Commander of Task Force Gator to discuss the little known international coalition that is working in the Iraqi theatre of operation.