Al Asad revisited
Did I get on about Al Asad? Yes? Well, here’s some more.
A few weeks ago I was charged to travel to Al Asad with our PSD guys. PSD, as in Personal Security Detail. You see, when first arriving in Iraq, the colonel wanted a special super-uber, select group of high-speed soldiers to serve as his personal bodyguard detail. They were outfitted with the best equipment, given separate quarters, and left completely alone; to ensure they’d be ready at a moment’s notice if the colonel wanted to go anywhere.
Well, turns out we mostly fly everywhere when necessary, so no need for a PSD. But, the band of harried war fighters remained, and started their quest to have a mission. Here and there, they’d go out, and I’d been there through several of their crazy adventures; but life was slow and boring for the mechanics-turned-super-killers.
One of the missions they were given was escorting the 1st Iraqi Truck Company off and on, the Iraqi unit on Taji that we help out. So the call came down for the group to truck off to Al Asad, an outpost waaaaay out west, near the Syrian border.
How and why they went was to be the subject of a story. A story I prepared and went on this convoy for. Nevertheless, after returning – and after I had written the thing – it was decided that the whole enterprise was too sensitive, intelligence wise. Scrap the story. Oh, alright.
Anyway, traveling with Iraqis is always a trip. Those boys love to take off in their Mercedes trucks, and we’re always blaring at them to slow down. We Americans have speed limits, we tell them, and they just laugh and laugh.
Also, I pity the fool who…well, never mind. Ask me sometime over a few dozen drinks.
Al Asad. A base run mostly by Marines. Desolate, and on the end of an incredibly dangerous stretch of roads. My heart cried out to Jesus a few times after…hrmmm. Again, drinking stories.
We pulled in to the Iraqi portion of the camp, a patch of sun-blasted land tucked away on some corner. Strange heat waves were emanating from the port-a-potties, the Iraqi’s only option for relief.
“Yikes, check that out,” I said to Sgt. M, a walking tank of a guy, his second year in Iraq as a gunner. I think he was a mechanic before, but got detailed out to do this sort of thing then, was pretty good at it, and is continuing to take down bad guys on the trigger this time around too. Crazy bastard just reenlisted to reclass to 11B infantryman. God bless him, he’s our go to guy for all things tactical.
“Yeah, wait till you get in there,” he said, smiling.
Hrmm, it would wait a bit. We pulled our bags out of the back of the trucks and went to our own wooden shack, where we’d bed down for a few hours before getting ready for the trip back. Al Asad is about six to seven hours west of Taji – a pretty long jaunt. We’d need some sleep and MWR time before flipping it to fire back.
Hot. The wooden shelves and tin roof weren’t very conducive to a cool clime. Thank God we were able to monkey around with the air conditioning unit to get things down to a mild 80 to 90 before the three-digit degrees baked us out of there. Air conditioning – a prerequisite for modern war.
Funny. Sometimes I feel like a Roman soldier, stationed out here, bringing Roman ideas and architecture, insisting on building bath houses and proper barracks to endure the environment. I guess not much has changed.
The time came to utilize “the facilities,” and I made my way to the four port-a-pots sitting away from the rest of the encampment.
Jesus God! Apparently the Iraqis either aren’t on the contractor’s cycle or they don’t care, but if you’ve ever stepped into a port-a-potty without that blue chemical stuff in the 110-degree desert, then you can help a brother testify. There it was, two or three feet of soupy, raw sewage, wafting an almost tactile billow of gas into the compartment, and through the tiny slats along the top of the unit. That would account for the extra shimmer surrounding the things.
And ladies? Don’t think about it. The Iraqis squat, so the seat is covered in all the mud and muck that we shlep through out here.
Whoa. There might have been more to that day, but I’m gonna need a little bit to get all that out of my head.