06 April 2006

Red Zone Redux

... or is that redo?

Whichever it happens to be, fact is I made my second trip out to the Red Zone today and this time it was a bit more interesting than just taking a short walk out and back. Yesterday, one of my troops tells me that he has a need to go somewhere that's outside the IZ. Did I have to go with him? No. Did I want to go with him? See one of my previous posts about kicking down doors. Besides all that hooah stuff, I had long ago made up my mind that I wouldn't send troops out into the Red and not go with them. It's a sad thing when a person hides behind their rank, although there are cases when it's necessary, but mine isn't one of them.

The actual trip was very interesting. Rolling out the gate into downtown Baghdad was an eye opener. It was the first time that I had ever actually chambered a round when I wasn't doing target practice. It was very comforting to know that, should I need to, all I had to do was hit the safety catch and pull the trigger. I did my best to look everyone in the eye and look like I could seperate someone's head from their shoulders with little effort.

Pretty much as would be expected, outside the IZ things are pretty ugly. I saw more buildings with holes in them than without. Many places were patched up and inhabited. The suprising thing was that minus the bullet holes, this place wasn't unlike several other cities that I've been to. They had billboards with pictures of anorexics in designer clothes posing with a bottle of purfume, cigarette ads were everywhere, people were chilling out at cafes and going about their daily business like they couldn't care less that a foreign military was driving around in their city.

Once we got where we were going things got really boring. We were at a place that is secured by Iraqis and we had a lot of backup (when you're staring at the barrel of a .50 cal, you tend to think twice before doing something, stupid or otherwise). As we waited I got out of the truck to chat with one of the other troops. As we were chatting a group of kids came by and ran up to the other guy. He had been out here before and they knew him pretty well. He had taken pictures with them from the last time that he was there and had brought them back to hand out. Naturally I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take pictures with these kids, and suprisingly they were just as eager to take a picture with me. Once they saw that we had a camera they instantly started making the universal gesture for taking a picture, holding an imaginary box and saying "cleek" repeatedly.

After taking pictures with these kids in various pieces of our gear we began to head back to the trucks. I, remembering the original reason for getting out, asked one of the guards where the bathroom was. He didn't understand so I made the universal gesture for having to go to the bathroom, holding both hands just below my belt buckle and pretending to unzip. He then says, "Ah, come," and motions me to follow him. My buddy tells me that he'll wait at the gate for me and I follow this guy back around to the rear of the building all the while checking him out to make sure he's not going to try anything. When we get back there he flags down one of the kids and speaks to him in Arabic, pointing at one of the buildings. The kid then looks at me and says, "Toilet?" I nod and he leads me up some stairs and into the building. After dodging some startled Iraqis, he points at a door and says, "Toilet." I open the door and there before me is a hole in the ground.

After I did my business I headed back to the gate and to the trucks where I met up with the other troops. We stood around and BS'ed for a bit until my cell phone rang. Imagine my suprise when I checked out the caller ID this time.
"Well isn't that something?" I said, "it's my wife."
There I stand in the middle of downtown Baghdad and my sweetheart give me a call. I answered the phone, "Hey babe, how ya doin?" All the other guys give that look that I know to mean, "Freeking commo pogues!" I just smiled and went on talking with my sweetie. I started to say, "Hey, guess where I am." Right after saying that I started thinking that telling her that I'm in the Red Zone may not be the best course of action at the moment since I didn't want her to worry about me.

The highlight of the return trip was seeing a car rear-end a van as we drove past, evidentally that kind of thing happens a lot as people rubber-neck to watch the Americans drive past. As soon as I get those pictures I'll be sure to post them here.


Blogger Rob said...

Cool post. Very interesting stuff. Shoot me an email re: some of that military reading material you were lookin for. Otherwise it'll be a crapshoot, and may be somewhat jet-heavy. =P

Blogger Justin said...

good call on thinking that through of telling her you were in the Red Zone...I probably wouldn't have that kind of discernment...probably why i'm still single a bit.


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