Saturday, May 14, 2016

When I was in Iraq: Part One

Me, in Iraq...
The fact is, when I speak the words "When I was in Iraq," it kills the room. People know that something dangerous, scary, and potentially exciting is about to be anecdotally reported.

I suppose that was true after WWII. When some man in 1950 said, "When I was in Germany," people prepared to hear a story about the war.

But in the course of time, that eventually came to an end. I mean, if someone today says, "When I was in Germany," people prepare to hear a story about a vacation in an extraordinarily organized country, not a war story.

Sad to say, the flow of history has made it such that "When I was in Iraq" remains an intriguing statement that implies danger.

When I left Iraq in 2004, I remember looking out on the country from the airplane and wondering when I might be able to return as a tourist. I longed for the potential that I might be able to walk in the places I reported on as a spy and maybe drop in for a meal at restaurants in places that I might have formerly directed war fighters. 

I hoped, sincerely hoped, that five years would be enough time for that to be possible.

It is now ten years since I left Iraq. My dream is an impossibility in the current situation.

Anyway, I continue with Part One of my recollections of being in Iraq. I can only share such memories as are unclassified. But that still lets me report the heart and soul of the experience.

During the Ground Phase of the War, I worked the Iraq mission. That meant I had on my desk constantly a map of Baghdad, and I became very acquainted with the way the Tigris River snaked its way through that city.

In June of 2004, I was on a cargo plane, looking down from several thousand feet at exactly what was on my desk for all those months!

We landed using what is known as a "Cork-Screw" landing, circling down to minimize the danger from a ground-to-air missile until we were nearly on the ground, only to turn out at the last moment and land on the runway of Baghdad International Airport (BIAP).

I was on the ground in Iraq. I remember taking a deep breath as I got off the airplane. I would be there for three months. And I was scared out of my wits. I had volunteered for this service. But now I was thinking, "What the hell had I gotten myself into?"

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