My War Journals: Where’s The Welcome Wagon? (April 2006)

Welcome to Iraq, again. Flying in the C-130 is similar to riding on a roller coaster. The difference is the ride is a lot longer, conditions inside the aircraft are sweltering, and there is a lot of turbulence. We load the bird wearing full battle rattle, so space was extremely tight. The soldier next to me had never experience flying in a C-130, so he was nervous. When the C-130 started the incline, everyone started cheering and taking pictures. The rest of the trip was great. Only one person actually threw up, but that was due to the plane descending fast for the approach to Baghdad International Airport, The best thing about this trip was we did not stay in one place too long. After the brief for the next part of the tour, I just sat next to my gear and took a quick infantry nap.

Unfortunately, the small arms fire in the distance, as well as a mortar dropping far off into the darkness rudely, awakened me. It was not long before we would be boarding a Chinook and continuing the journey to a forward operating base somewhere in Baghdad.

We boarded the Chinook and settled in for a ride. As we taxied down the runway all I could think was “Man, I hope this thing doesn’t fall apart.” The Chinook is not the quietest aircraft in the military, hence the whooping of the blades and the roaring engines. As we started to descend, the rear crew member dropped the back-loading ramp; he then attached a line harness and walked gracefully out a little, and the kneeled down. I thought to myself: You wouldn’t catch me hanging outside of a bird.” As soon as I said that a red flare of some sort came flying by, making the crew member duck.

The soldier across from me clinched the net hanging behind him and said with a grim look on his face, “ Man, we haven’t even been here 20 minutes and these dudes are all already firing at us.” I did not know what to think of the red flare, but I reacted because the crew member ducked as if to acknowledge we had people shooting at us. Shooting flares are something they just do we found out. A little heads up would have been appreciated though.

When you come to a new place, you expect that there is going to be someone there to greet you and give you some guidance. We unloaded all of the gear of the Chinook, and then as quickly as we land the Chinooks flew off, leaving us all there standing in the pitch dark.

“So what do we do?” Someone said quietly.
I chimed in with, “Welcome to Baghdad, Iraq. Make yourself at home; that’s if you can find it.” The soldier next to me snapped, “Someone didn’t get the freaking memo we were coming.”

Everyone started laughing, and then within seconds, some men began to get frustrated. Staff Sergeant Corey Reeves, the leader of the third squad decided that he should go figure out what was going on, so he started to make way toward what looked like a red chem light. After five minutes his voice broke through the darkness: “Men, get your stuff and come toward the chem light.” Walking through terrain that you are not familiar with is rough, especially if you carrying a lot of gear. Everyone eventually made it to the rally point.

As we formed up, the big question on my mind was: where are we staying? Since the Forward Operation Base falcons Barracks were full, our new home would be a beautiful World War II tent. During the night explosions and small arms fire rocked in the distance. As I lay on my cot I could only think “Man, it would suck if a mortar came through here.”