Tales of a Modern Day Nomad

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Iraq, Day 1 ~ A Leap of Faith

So no shit, there I was…

Kiowa gunship looking for shit to shoot in Mosul Iraq

Remember Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana?  Remember when the coppers walked off the job and looters ruled the streets?  Remember the stories of the sexual assaults in public venues?  Who do you call when shit like that happens?  THIS GUY!

When the coppers walked off the job, the government sent in the best viable solution:  Private Military Contractors.  I had been working there for about three weeks as the liaison for a particular company and Federal Protective Services (FPS) when I was contacted by another company regarding a job in Iraq doing Convoy Security.  Convoy Security is arguably the most dangerous job on the planet:  Being a ‘shooter’ on a team that runs re-supply missions to the U.S. Army.

A few bullet holes in my truck after a mission

The enemy does not want their enemy (us) to receive beans or bullets and will do anything to prevent such re-supplies from happening.  My job was to make sure the needed supplies were delivered.  I can’t begin to convey how incredibly exhilarating it is to listen as bullets riddle the sides of the truck you’re riding in.   The words ‘about shit my pants’ can never make you fully understand what goes though the mind when the blasting cap intended to detonate an IED (roadside bomb) explodes right next to you but, very obviously, the bomb maker fucked up and didn’t wire it properly and his incompetence is the reason you’re still alive.  Throw into the mix that you’re working for a very dodgy company headquartered in Romania and the fact that you get to shoot shit, and you have the makings for an interesting couple of years!

My windscreen after an IED exploded about 3 car lengths in front of me

I probably wouldn’t have taken the job if what happened didn’t actually happened when I was in Louisiana.  As company liaison, I was based at the State Police Barracks in Baton Rouge.  Yeah…I had guns.  I carried an issued Glock and an issued M4.  In America.  What are the odds?  The day prior to my ‘incident’,  I received a job offer from the Romanian company and was mulling over the idea of accepting the most dangerous job on the planet.  While I can’t tell what led up to the incident for several more years, the end result was me being surrounded by eleven State Troopers.  All because I was doing my job.  A big bruhaha broke out between them and me and my FPS buddies.  Of course me and the FPS won, but it was quite the ugly situation.  Because of the ugliness of the situation, I accepted the convoy gig and left for Iraq two days later.

Me and our 'Comms' guy, 'Rhino'. He was called 'Rhino' after a particular event. A team was 'taking contact' (being shot at) and stopped to 'engage' (shoot back and fuck up the world of the asshole that made the driver spill his coffee). 'Rhino' wasn't a 'shooter'...he was an IT guy. He rolled out of the truck with his finger on the trigger & accidentally shot a cow in the lip. The cow was treated for minor injuries prior to departure (FYI) (That's some funny shit!)

Anyone who knows me knows that I am the opposite of a ‘fan’ when it comes to flying on fixed-wing aircraft.  I can’t stand it.  I am terrified with normal take-offs and landings; landing at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) was a gazillion times worse.

Entrance to Baghdad International Airport

When I arrived in Iraq in October of 2005, the war was still in full-swing.  Insurgents were running around blowing shit up.  Iraqi hillbillies were taking pot-shots at shit…including aircraft.  Rifles, crew-served weapons, rocket propelled grenades, you name it:  The bad guys wanted to stop flights from arriving/departing BIAP.  Because the threat to aircraft was so great, the pilots performed a maneuver called ‘corkscrewing ‘ when they landed at BIAP.  The ‘corkscrew’ starts at about 5500 feet above the Earth; the nose of the plane suddenly dips dramatically, and the plane spirals downwards extremely fast and very dramatically…almost straight down to the runway in the pattern of a corkscrew.  Then, BAM!  The wheels suddenly smash onto the pavement, and you’re off to the luggage area!=)

BIAP

When I accepted the job offer, I was told someone would meet me at the airport.  I assumed I would be greeted, taken to ‘The Green Zone’ where the massive military presence was located in Baghdad, and shown to a room with a bed that had a pillow with a breath mint on it; I have never been more wrong in my life.

Entering the 'semi secure' zone

Security at BIAP was tight in those days.  When you exited the airport, the entire immediate area was ‘secure’ (nothing is ever truly secure in a war zone.  The rule:  If you don’t know them, there are two types in a war zone:  Threats, and Unknown Threats).  Outside the inner ring of security was an area which was considered ‘semi-secure’.  The area outside the security cordons was pretty much cowboy country where bad shit happens.  The email I received from this particular company instructed me to exit the airport, take a left, and walk to the ‘semi-secure’ area.  When I arrived at the area, there was an Iraqi dude, no shit, holding a piece of cardboard from a Pepsi box with my name written on it with a sharpie marker.  Seriously?!  What the fuck?!  They drink Pepsi?!  What ever happened to having a Coke and a smile?!  Heathens…

Moving from 'semi-secure' to the 'secure' zone

I looked at my contact, gazed behind him at the hundreds of Iraqis standing around their cars in the ‘semi-secure’ area, and thought, “What the fuck?!”  I was standing in a fucking war zone.  I was in Baghdad fucking Iraq.  I was surrounded by Iraqis.   There wasn’t another white person to be seen!   Did I think about turning around and walking back to the airport?  Have you ever been served a ‘shit-sandwich’?   I had no option:  I DIDN’T HAVE A FUCKING IDENTIFICATION CARD TO GET BACK INTO THE SECURE AREA!!  ha!

These gunships are 'hunters' for the Apaches. Note the ball looking thing on the top. They will nestle behind trees or hills and 'spot' targets for Apache gunships who come in and deliver some hate.

I approached the man, and he asked, “Mr. HANO?”  I said, “Yeah…”  He said, “This way please…”  I said, “Fuck it!”   We walked to an up-armored BMW and linked up with his buddy.  The trunk was popped, the driver leaned in and pulled out some shitty body armor and an M4 and handed them to me.  You know how many magazines I received?  Two.  That’s right!  I just rolled into the fucking war zone that was Baghdad and I had SIXTY bullets!  Seriously?  What the fuck?!  We jumped into the car, and off we went!

I love this view. See the empty links in my weapon system? Somebody had a VERY bad day! I have a story for that day... =))

For those of you who have been living under a rock, ‘The Green Zone’ is a ‘coalition friendly’ area in Baghdad where all of the allied forces were located.  More importantly, ‘The Green Zone’ is also the place where Pizza Hut, Subway Sandwiches, and Green Bean coffee house were located.  Guess what I ate that night.  Seriously – guess.  Do you think it was Pizza or and Italian BMT?  NEITHER!  Why?  Because my fucking company was located in the fucking RED ZONE!!  That’s right, boys and girls…I was taken to a safe-house in an Iraqi neighborhood in downtown fucking Baghdad.

Me and my war zone mentor. His parachute didn't deploy and he lived. Seriously. This guy is has hard as they come. I will love him forever. He exemplifies RLTW. Also - note the straps around his thighs. They are pre-placed tourniquets should his legs become dislodged from his body. The realities of modern warfare. (keep that in mind when you're driving to YOUR office!=)

When I arrived at the ‘H.Q.’, I was introduced to the President of the company.  A woman.  That’s right.  In the war zone.  The only reason I mention her gender  is that women in danger zones are few and far between…especially in private military companies.  She and I got along quite well, but that’s a story for a different day…

Note the extended magazine in my Glock. 31 bullets! The first time I needed it, I asked the same thing you're asking yourself at the moment: "Is this fucker EVER going to run dry?" =)

As I laid down on my bed for the night in downtown Baghdad and listened to the sounds of gunfire, I thought, “What sort of shit have I put myself into?!  What sort of a fucked up company IS this?!  They couldn’t even put a fucking Mentos on the damned pillow?!”

Seriously?! How difficult is it to put one of these on a pillow?!

Day 1 in Iraq was complete.

 

(video was downloaded from youtube.  I was not in it.  I am not a participant.)

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