Monday, March 15, 2010

Hitting the Ground Running

I've been outside the wire six times in the last four days. That really isn't a big deal, except for the fact that prior to Friday, I had only been outside the wire twice in three months.

Friday morning I was picked up by SSG Rod, a big New Yorker stationed in Hawaii. His six man PSD has been protecting the outgoing major general (two star) for the past year, and he and his guys were a wealth of information. The last four days have been a blur of introductions, briefings, and missions. It's been like trying to drink from a fire hose, but I feel like I've been set up for success.

I'm living in a CHU now, which stands for Containerized Housing Unit. Not too bad, a little small, but I have to walk about a million miles to the latrine. Also, there's an enormous generator right outside the T-wall, so it sounds like a damn eighteen wheeler is running just outside the window. Other than that, hey, it's Iraq.

So, the new job. Obviously, there's a lot I can't talk about as far as security goes, but this is gonna be a fun job. Busy as hell, but fun. I wish it would be longer, but I'm guessing this will just be for a few weeks, maybe a month, until the General's personal PSO get's in-country. Then I will take him around and get him acquainted with what he needs to know, and I'll be back at my old camp.

In the meantime, I am the man. My main job is to provide personal security to the Boss. This mainly entails setting up travel whenever he needs to go outside the wire, be it by ground convoy or air. Our ground transportation is provided by a platoon from my battalion, which is great, because I know those guys. The platoon leader, LT Hal, is not only a good buddy of mine, but we both work for the same police department and were on the SWAT team together. His guys are super squared away and we should work together well. The platoon refers to themselves as PSD, which they are, in one sense, and are not, in another. Mainly, they are armed transportation.

There's a ton or coordination that goes into every trip. Planning and preparation start days in advance. Multiple emails, spread sheets, rosters, trip tickets, air movement requests, mission support forms, on and on. A recon if we are taking the Boss to an unfamiliar location. A convoy standing by in case the air is a no-go. Contingency plans and alternate routes and points of contact.

Friday afternoon we took a did a recon to the IZ, aka the Green Zone, to scout out a location we were taking the Boss to the next night. Then, that evening, we took the Boss back to the IZ for a meeting. This was at a pretty plush place. There was a beautiful swimming pool and outdoor patio area, marble columns, stone work, landscaping, the works.

After we got the Boss settled, the entire PSD, including LT Hal's guys, the General's aide and SGT Graywarz, the General's driver and former member of my PSD, all ate a very nice dinner. There were several other PSD's there, as well. Sushi, shrimp, and lobster were a big hit, but I had a salad and pork chops.

SGT Graywarz told me top make sure I brought an assault pack to this place, because there were goodies to be had. "They force it on you," he said, "Bring a bag with lots of room." I failed to heed this sage advice, and so, when I saw the shelves stacked high with candy bars, jerky, mixed nuts, chips and other snack foods of every description, I felt sad and empty inside, thinking I would have to leave empty handed. The I realized that SGT Graywarz had plenty of room in his assault pack, so I acted like a looter at a Katrina Walmart and loaded up.

Afterwards, SSG Rod and I waited by the pool for the Boss to come out of his meeting. I would have loved to kick back on a deck chair, puff a nice cigar and sip a cold beer while looking at the stars. Instead, SSG Rod and I talked tactics, routes, and protection protocols.

Saturday evening was another trip to the IZ, where the Boss met with an Iraqi government official. I was kinda surprised to see this minister was a female. SSG Rod and I waited outside the office, with some Iraqi PSD guys. They had no English and I have no Arabic. In fact, I speak more Swahili than I do Arabic, so we all just stood there not speaking until the meeting was over. Then it was back down Route Irish to VBC, and straight to another place where the Boss needed an escort. That took a few more hours, so it was a very late night.

Sunday was another two-fer. We went back to the IZ so I could get an embassy badge, which took forever and was preceded by an overly long and overly boring briefing on crap I didn't need or care to know. Then, that evening went back to the Embassy for another meeting. SSG Rod, the aides and I sat in the lobby and people watched. It was very odd to me, seeing so many civilians, considering the environment. Men in business suits and women in dresses and heels, and of course, there were a ton of feds from the FBI and State walking around in the ubiquitous 5.11s and polos. The Embassy is a beautiful building in a nice complex and I suppose the people who work there have a very good life, compared to the military. It sort of reminded me of a college campus. SSG Rod seemed to know about half the people who worked there, from civilian terps to other generals.

Today was a busy day. We flew to Taji for a ceremony, turning the prison there over to the Iraqis. It was a nice flight up and back. I haven't flew in a helicopter since probably 1992. The entire trip was a lot of work to coordinate, but it went really well. We had a ton of people flying up there, two two-star generals, five or six full bird colonels, a couple lieutenant colonels, majors and captains, three command sergeants major, two sergeants major, a first sergeant, and assorted underlings and minions, which would include me, I suppose. It required two separate flights of two helicopters each, and logistically is was a pain in the ass and could have been a recipe for disaster, but luckily, I had SSG Rod and his right hand man, SGT H to walk me through it, so it all went off without a hitch. I took lots of pictures from the air, and I will post them as soon as I can make my camera obey me and upload them to the computer.

I hate cramming so much stuff into one post. I know I'm forgetting a ton of stuff I meant to write about, leaving things out and skipping details, but it's late, I'm tired, and I want to talk with my sweetie pie before I hit the sack, so here you go.

Oh, one thing:

During the ceremony today, I stood there watching the crowd while the speakers made speeches. There were a lot of U.S. military there, Iraqi officials, media, although none that I recognized as U.S. It was a good ceremony, and pretty good speeches. If you clicked on those links, you read how this is the second of three major detention facilities we are turning over to the GOI (Government of Iraq.) We are building the facilities, training the staff, and then handing them the reins. Like SSG Rod and his guys did for me, we are equipping the Iraqis with the tools they need to be successful.

If you read the CBS story, the first link, you also saw how they started off reporting the transfer of the prison, finished up talking about a bombing and election strife. Which would be somewhat in keeping with my expectation of the majority of media coverage about Iraq: never end on a positive note.

But when I was listening to the Minister of Justice, Dara Noureddin, give his speech, standing there all serious business with my M9, M4, and Official Cool-GuySecret Service ear-piece, I was struck the hopefulness of his words. I expected to hear some things, of course; thank you and this marks a turning point for Iraq. All true, but pretty standard fare. One thing he said stuck with me, though. He urged the new owners of that prison, the warden, the guards, the staff, all the people we have trained and mentored, to keep the place up. To keep it clean. To immediately repair anything needing fixing. To take pride in it and take care of it.

In contrast with his other words, it wasn't especially flowery or fancy. It was just practical and down to earth, and the message was clear.

From here on out, it's up to them. 

As it should be, as it should be.


Zelda said...

"In the meantime, I am the man."

Best line out of a seriously good post.

Anonymous said...

lol@ lady z

my fav line?
I acted like a looter at a Katrina Walmart and loaded up.

Classic Jack.

Michelle said...

Glad to see you back Jack! Thanks for the heads up Zelda!

Jack said...

Well, I am. THE man.

Jack said...

I meant to say 'New Orleans Walmart,' but you know.

Jack said...

Thanks, and thanks for commenting.