March 12, 2004
Me and Willy the day before my platoon would make the drive up through Iraq.
This is what soldiers do when they are made to help out around the motor pool area– they hide out behind shady cover and catch some Z’s.
Since the convoy through Iraq would be our first combat mission, we were given our combat load of ammo. This is my load. Two-hundred forty rounds of 5.56mm rifle ammo (one mag of thirty not shown). I chose to load each magazine with the first, sixteenth, and last three rounds with tracer. My thinking behind the placement of the tracers being that I can see where my first round hits (aiming adjustments can be done very easily once you see where the rounds are striking), when I’m into the second half the magazine, and the final three to tell me when the mag is expended. I carry the M4/M203 rifle/grenade launcher combo so I was also issued a bunch of 40mm grenades: seventeen rounds of HEDP (high explosive daul purpose), two green smoke, one red smoke (for marking and/or signaling), and one white star cluster (a fireworks-like round used for signaling). I carry on my person 210 round of 5.56, five HEDP and one green smoke. The rest I carry in an assault pack (fancy name for a small backpack). The Interceptor kevlar body armor we wear now have in them the big ceramic armor plates in the front and back, making our everyday combat uniform remarkably heavy. Between the armor and the ammo, I feel like a human tank.
I suspect that there is a secret cult within the Army dedicated to subjugating soldiers into homosexuals. For example, every single icecream freezer in the chow hall at Camp Udairi was one day inexplicably filled with nothing but “Princess” icecream bars, flavored with rose oil. They tasted like your grandmother’s perfume. They were fucking disgusting.
John, our commander’s driver and RTO (radio guy) in their Humvee. Although my commander hates my writing, like John and myself he’s a big fan of Repo Man, one of the coolest 80’s cult films ever. In homage to the film, John put a (patriotic) pine tree air freshening where the rear view mirror should be. “You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.” If you haven’t seen this film, your homework assignment is to rent it, watch it, and love it. Just like Burt Reynolds is an unremarkable actor with a cool as hell performance in Deliverance, Emelio Estevez is also an unremarkable actor with a cool as hell performance in Repo Man. My favorite line is at the end when girlfriend says, “But what about our relationship?”, and Emelio responds after a short pause of incredulity with, “What? Fuck that.” Emelio’s character in Repo Man has had as much an influence on John’s personality as this film had on Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
Driving through Kuwait just below Iraq, we saw an incredible number of Bedouins. The drive is literally like driving through Nevada where there isn’t ANYTHING for hundreds of miles, yet incredibly there would be families just chillin’ off the side of the road, usually with a herd of sheep or camels. As we approached the Iraq border, various messages could be found on concrete block beside the road. This one reads, “Iraq border ahead 1000m. Beware of children in roadway.” I can’t tell you how exciting it was knowing we were moments away from crossing the berm into “The Raq”. Once we made it past the berm and through the one kilometer buffer of no-man’s land, I distributed cigars to everyone in the truck. As soon as we kit the border town, we held our cigars in one hand and our digital cameras in the other. Not the most tactical way to enter the country, puffin’ and clickin’, but oh well.
Some Iraqi kids in front of the average home in the town bordering Kuwait.
A young girl runs along side the convoy. Photo by Anthony.
A kid leans against the remains of past conflict. Photo by Anthony.
Another Iraqi kid rides his bike alongside the convoy. Photo by Anthony.
My photo of the same kid, this time in front of another typical border home.
The entire drive through Iraq, stupid American soldier graffiti was everywhere. Like I give a shit that you were in the 367th Pogue Battalion. Idiots. It especially slays me how many white trash soldiers with cans of spray paint have proclaimed love to this girl and that girl on every overpass along Iraq highway 1.
The Iraq tour of homes. Another random house along the highway.
As we got closer to Baghdad, the dwellings didn’t improve much, but things became increasingly more green and included palm trees.
The weather was perfect and warm and aside from being in a combat zone, the trip through Iraq almost felt like a relaxing summer roadtrip. Except for when we took a wrong turn and drove through the heart of Baghdad at two in the morning, accidentally avoiding a huge daisy chain of IEDs we later found out. I guess all those Christian prayers for this godless heathen paid off. This was my view for most of the three day trip.