Thursday, June 21, 2007

The IZ

The air coming through the open window of the UH-60 Blackhawk felt like someone was pointing a high-powered hair dyer in my face. The heat, the random foot locker that was shoved on my lap and the dozen or so passengers crammed into the small space just confirmed the reason I hate flying via Blackhawk. I'd take a CH-47 Chinook or convoy any day. The reason I was on that helicopter was to travel to the International (Green) Zone in Baghdad to conduct face-to-face meetings with many of the people I will be working with over the next year. The other part of my job, besides being an operation officer advisor, is to act as the US Contracting Officer Representative at my location. What this basically means that I am QA/QC for every US contract at our location. I need to ensure that the local national workers are cleared to work at our location and that the vendor is adhering to all the standards set forth in the contract. There are many projects going on here for me to manage - over $200 million worth in all! Some of these are merely the receipt of vehicles or supplies that have been purchased via a contract, but many are physical construction and improvement projects for our area.

The IZ was vastly different from where I have been living in Taji. To start with, it is a city, and Baghdad is a huge city. Roads, traffic circles, people, noise and alot of cement T-walls everywhere to protect from indirect fire. Taji is more like the outer suburbs of Baghdad; the brown, dusty, junk-filled suburbs. As soon as my bird touched down I called my friend Scott who came to pick me up at the landing zone. He took me around and then we met up with my other IRR friends, all of whom are stationed in the IZ. I was pretty amazed at their accommodations, which are definitely a step up or three from ours. Granted, they have to work in an office for 12 hours a day and don’t get the experience of working with Iraqi's, but they all work in the same area and get to hang out together everyday. I really missed them (being bitter is a great for bonding), so my 4 days there were really great because I got to spend time with all of them. I also got to drive around to the different bases within Baghdad and see some of the more famous monuments like the crossed swords, the tomb of the unknown soldier, and the July 14th monument. Noon my 4th day, I had talked to everyone I will be working with via email all year and it was time for me to go. I loaded up some ECW (enemy captured weapons) and jumped on the 1st convoy headed north; unfortunately, it wasn’t really that easy. I had to make sure there was room on the convoy and then sign for side armor plates for my body armor, which easily add another 10 lbs, so my vest probably weighs in around 60-70 lbs now. It's not bad though, and the HMMWV is air conditioned, which makes it that much better than the blackhawk!

Driving through Baghdad at rush hour was, well, a rush. It was crowded and our convoy security team really drove aggressively, as they should. These guys are real professionals - I know most of them from training at Riley and I was very impressed. I won’t go through all their tactics, but let’s just say I was on my toes the whole ride, and when I got back to Taji I was all smiles. It was the most fun I've had since I've been here!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I knew you would enjoy Iraq more than Kuwait!

If you have the choice between blackhawk and convoy again into Baghdad, take the blackhawk. Just do it.

Waterballon fight at 4th of July goes over very well for morale.