Monday, October 1, 2007

Settling in

I read all of your responses and agree that I should keep on writing. I understand that it’s important to read a first hand account of what many soldiers go through on a daily basis here. Plus, I enjoy writing and it’s a good way to communicate with my family and friends.

My unit is responsible for manning several guard towers and entry control points around Camp Taji. We haven’t had any incidents yet, except for the other day when some gunfire (I think celebratory) hit near one of our towers. Camp Taji has been really quiet so far. The outgoing force protection officer said that the area around this base use to be really violent. Mortar and rocket attacks were a common occurrence up until a month ago.

Our guard towers are now made of concrete and bulletproof glass, so our soldiers are pretty safe on their shifts and still able to fire their weapons out when they need to. Only a few months ago, the towers were made of just steel and wood. The unit we replaced had a female soldier severely wounded by shrapnel from an RPG blast and another soldier sniped from a high-powered rifle. The bullet grazed his ear, miraculously went in his helmet on one side, curved around the inside back of his helmet, and exited the other side.

The main highway in Iraq, MSR (main supply route) Tampa, skirts the western wall of our base and is probably the most dangerous road in the world. I live about 300 yards from this road and can see the tops of the trucks driving by at all hours of the day. I used to drive on MSR Tampa back in 2003 with no body armor and no armor on my Humvee. Times have definitely changed. Although the portion of MSR Tampa near Camp Taji has been safe this month, there are still incidents. Two months ago, an American ASV (the vehicle in the above picture) ran over a pressure plate mine on the highway only 30 yards from one of the guard towers. Despite the mine’s small charge, the explosion was powerful enough to flip the ASV over. Almost immediately, the vehicle caught fire and the soldiers inside got trapped and were burned to death. The soldiers in the nearest guard tower inside the base perimeter had to stand helplessly by as the soldiers screamed in agony. My friend who went out to assist said he is still haunted by the sound of those soldiers dying.

We’ve been busy over the last few days improving our buildings and surrounding areas. Our new headquarters building was an empty shell when we got here so we have our work cut out for us. As the logistics officer, I’m setting up some contracts for things such as gravel, vehicles, blast walls, copiers, and printers. The work keeps me busy and allows me to meet a lot of different people on the base, from 1st Cavalry Division guys to KBR (Kellog Brown and Root) to Iraqis who come into our base to sell items that the Army needs.

Hope you all enjoyed the update. I'll write more when I get a chance.

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