Greetings from Baghdad, a breezy 117 degrees!
I arrived safely this past Sunday morning after a delightful weekend of traveling. I had spent the previous week a the CONUS Replacement Center (CRC) in Ft. Benning, GA to complete the processing to go downrange. It was a rather exhausting week with long days of paperwork, needle pricks and classes. I spent the 4th of July on lockdown in an airport hanger at Ft. Benning. It was sort of like being camped out in a giant convention center and their strategy to keep us pacified was to perpetually feed us all day long. We were given the green light to fly out that evening around 6pm. We had a 6 hour flight to Ireland, a 4 hour layover, then another 6 hour flight to Kuwait City. From there we traveled in a blackout convoy an hour outside the city to Ali Al Salem air base. We arrived on base at 11:00pm, were given a 10 minute break and then were told to form 6 lines and unload the cargo trucks that carried our some 600 duffel bags! By this time I was on my 1,000th wind so I was pretty cheerful about this midnight workout. After another series of paperwork and tents we found out that we would be flying out at 8:00am that morning. We were up all night exploring and then at 7:30am we boarded a C-17 for Baghdad. Truthfully, I don't remember much of the flight because we were in our body armor, Kevlar helmet and long uniforms (oh, and did I mention I was issued winter blouses?) and there was no air conditioning in the back of that tin contraption and we roasted on the runway for over an hour. The last thing I remember was starting to feel the plane move for take off and then I passed out from the heat. Next thing I remember was a jolt and my head flying forward as we went into maneuvers for landing.
It took a few days to settle in but I would say I at least have a good sense of the area where I live and work. The hooch is across the street from the laundry facility, gym and MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation--basically a rec-center) and about a minute walk to the women's latrine. There are several DFACs (cafeterias) close by, the PX is about a 10 minute walk and then our office is another 10 min from there. We also own a Ford Explorer that we rotate around so we have a method of transport around base. There are multiple, interconnecting bases here in Baghdad: Liberty, Victory, Stryker, Slayer and other smaller ones. It is like an international city here with mostly Americans, but a good presences of Brits and Australians. Ugandan guards have been contracted to work security at the buildings and there is a whole mix of international folks that are employed by KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root) who work the laundry, dining facilities, post etc.
I am really enjoying the company of my teammates and I love the work here. One of the other girls is my age and we have become fast friends. My shift is 6:00pm to 3:00am, which, although later into the morning than I would have liked (the sun comes up here at 4:30am) is the shift I requested. We get the most foot traffic in the office during those hours with soldiers coming in to use the internet cafe, phones or to hang out in the canteen and we also get the heaviest case load of emergency messages to deliver at this time as well. This is understandable as it is peak daytime hours in the States. The shift goes quite fast and I look forward to it everyday.