JAG-ged Edge
Trial Defense Services (TDS) Deployed
By: Andrew Efaw

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Saturday, 5-Feb-2005 00:00 Email | Share | Bookmark
Blind Blogging via Mary

“SCAN - FOCUS - ACT”

-poster in the Coalition Café, Camp Victory, Baghdad

Iraq—definitely a new state of existence. Much more like a combat zone.

I waited at the A-Pod in Kuwait—at the little VIP lounge that you’ve seen pics of before. Beside it was a tent. GP Medium. We were briefed, “This tent has nice carpet and a comfy couch . . . and it’s not ours so stay out.” 4 and half hours later, I was wheels up, crammed into a C-130 with a bunch of civilian contractors and some three star general who showed up at the last minute. For those of you who don’t know what C-130 looks like. It is a short squat cargo plane that has one of those ramps that drops in the back. It has the aerodynamics of an iron with wings. You sit in 4 rows of jump benches that are made of cargo webbing and run the length of the plane. Two sets of benches on the left side of the plane face each other and the two on the right do too. The facing benches are so close to each other that everyone’s knees overlap and touch the knees of the guy across from you. Not real comfortable. You get stacked into the plane then a forklift brings the palletized bags and sticks them in the back. I read Aron Ralson’s (the guy who amputated his own hand) amazing story in Outside on the way over. The flight wasn’t bad at all, except for the flatulence problem someone had. The last time, I was on C-130 was at jump school preparing to jump out. Somehow, for me, flying into the combat zone was less stressful, though I did notice several civilian types donning their kevlar’s and body armor as we descended. I’ve noticed since I’ve been here that several people have their blood type embroidered onto their body armor and helmets or just inked onto them.

Like I did in Kuwait, I arrived in Baghdad at night. So right from the start everything is alien bec. you can’t orient youself very well. We landed at Baghdad Int’l Airport (which has the bizarre acronym BIAP with the more bizarre pronunciation of BI-OP). My first impression was how muddy everything is and then how chaotic everything is. Picture a big outdoor event like a concert where it rains buckets and picture the mud and you have the camps at Baghdad. The mud sticks to your boots with the gravel that has been laid to “fix” the problem and it builds up until you feel like you are wearing heavy metal platform boots. The flight line is separated from everything else by concertina wire with a gate. You wait by the gate in the mud until a forklift comes with a pallet that has your gear on it. Then everyone scrambles to scrounge through it to get their bags. When I arrived, elements of 3rd ID where also arriving. So those soldiers were everywhere adding to the confusion. I found a found in “Tent 1—the terminal” and called the JAG guys here to let them know I had arrived and then waited in the extremely crowded “Tent 2,” the waiting area. This tent was jammed full of 3rd ID soldiers which all their NODs and weapons and gear and tracked in mud. Then, smack in the middle of this primitiveness was a large screen TV broadcasting ESPN SportsCenter.

After about an hour, the Senior Defense Counsel (SDC), CPT Dave Scott came to pick me up. He’s a former infantry CIB guy. We went to the office (near BIAP on Camp Victory—which are trailers surround by cement barriers and bunkers. They are right beside Saddam’s mosque and the courtroom where his preliminary hearing occurred a few months back. SSG Daugherty was there desperately trying to get me a flight to Tikrit. Apparently, even tasks that seem simple are hard here—made more difficult bec. of very slow computers (might have something to do with the LAN lines that are laid across the surface of roads?) and phone lines that often don’t work. CPT Scott—after figuring out that I am “a pretty cool guy,” decided to let me crash in his room instead of dumping me off in one of those transient tents.

The trailers here—and there are acres and acres of them—are the size of a contractor’s trailer at a construction site. They have 3 doors cut into them for entry into three two man rooms. Each is completely surround with concrete—Texas Barriers or boxes made of fencing and full of rocks. A few places even have barriers that are bigger than Texas barriers—they are about 15 feet high and look like segments of the Berlin Wall. Latrines and showers are several yards away in separate trailers. You can only get there by traversing lots of mud. You get dirty just getting to the shower. Then you get clean and get dirty again going back to you room.

In spite of all the cement here—obvious evidence that safety is an issue—people here don’t seem that concerned about dying. The TDS people I talked to last night seemed to be most concerned with backsplash in the portajohns (if you’re not sure what backsplash is, let your imagination run wild). And if they are killed, they pray it’s not when they are in the portajohn.

CPT Scott had to leave early this morning to fly for witness interviews somewhere else. I got up and one of the first things I heard was gunfire. Here everyone carries their weapon everywhere. You can take your weapon and rounds in every building. And you don’t have to use the clearing barrels if the weapons status is green. It’s like an ant hill there are soldiers and vehicles everywhere and in motion everywhere. I even saw and Estonian soldier today. And it looks like a combat zone. Besides being dirty, many of the building and walls and bridges are combat damaged.

SSG D worked on getting me a flight to Speicher and I was able to wander around and see the sights in daylight. There is water everywhere here and trees everywhere. For me it’s great just to see the trees. Camp Victory is home to one of Saddam’s main palaces which sits on a beautiful lake. This whole area was some sort of animal preserve with beautiful buildings scattered throughout. I took a few pics this morning, but doubt that I will be able to post them. Can’t even get on the blog site right now. Hopefully, I can get this up via Amy or Mary.

Just got word from SSG D that she found me Blackhawk flight to FOB Speicher, leaving tonight and making several stops along the way. So next dispatch will be from my new home.


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