Sunday, May 15, 2016

When I was in Iraq: Part Two

When I was in Iraq: Part One

It was in June, 2004 that I arrived in Iraq. I was immediately coming to terms with the fact that I was in deepest danger I had ever faced in my life. I was in a war zone. 

They issued me body armor. They issued me a helmet. And they told me I should wear these articles constantly--for the next three months.

And they were heavy. As I acclimated to the little check-in base at BIAP (Baghdad International Airport), it was immediately apparent to me that most people weren't, in fact, wearing that gear at all times. I wore it while I awaited onward travel to my base of operations for the next three months. But it all weighed upon me, literally and figuratively.

I slept a fitful night in a room with about 20 other snoring guys and begged for morning to come.
I've told details of this story in my book Top Secrets: Lessons for Success from the World of Espionage. In that book, for instance, I tell about the emergency drill that happened that night, how I was issued my gun, and other points of interest. In this post I will primarily focus on my emotions as I was passing through my months in Iraq. (But I sure wouldn't mind if you buy my book!)

After lunch, I was waiting for a late afternoon flight to my eventual base. I recall sitting in a bright hall, studying Romanian vocabulary cards, since I had started to date a Romanian-American just prior to leaving on this mission.

There was a huge pile of MRE's sitting next to me. That stands for "Meals Ready to Eat." These were designed to sit potentially for years on end and still be edible to war fighters. I remember wishing I could try one of these. I mean, I was in Iraq. Yes, this little base I was on at the Airport had a full cafeteria, but these MRE's were here for a reason. They were laying here because of the potential that things might turn sour and the personnel here might have to eat off this pallet in an emergency.

I wanted to eat an MRE because I knew that there were war fighters in country who ate them every day. I was so fresh "off the boat" that I didn't know what my living conditions on base were going to be. 

I remember writing out vocabulary cards for Romanian next to that pallet of MRE's and eventually putting my pen down and just sitting there, trying to come to terms with it all.

I was in Iraq. In a few hours I was going to get on a plane and fly to my onward base. And I would be there for three months. Not as long as many people spent there. But longer than anyone I knew at that time.

I took a deep breath. I was still in my first full day in Iraq. There would be 90 more. What had I gotten myself into?

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