Ian Thornhill in Iraq–II

LCBA Member Ian Thornhill of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cedar Rapids has been deployed to Iraq as a member of the Navy Reserve. He is going to be working on a task force that is helping to re-establish the Iraqi criminal court system. The LCBA will be posting his email updates, with permission.

Hello everyone,

Well, it certainly seems real now! I have arrived for duty in Baghdad. I am assigned to the Law & Order Task Force located at FOB (forward operating base) Shield, which is in the Sadr City area of Baghdad. I flew in from Kuwait yesterday morning, arriving about 8:00 a.m. local time. I was one of two lawyers in the group of Navy people I have been training with for the last month who are assigned here. We were greeted at Baghdad International Airport by a member of my new command. After spending a little time at Camp Victory, which is near the airport, we proceeded to convoy to the FOB. The command I am with has security provided by a private contractor (not Blackwater) and we traveled not in military vehicles, regular vehicles (suburban types), of course, up armored. The trip consisted of two legs in the “red” zone and a middle leg in the green zone. The “red” zone portions were uneventful (truthfully), but please note from hear on out, I will not be sharing any information that might involve me having any close calls or “exciting” convoys. There is no reason to unnecessarily worry any of you. I will share this, though, you can certainly tell this is a war zone. On the drive I saw plenty of military and private security folks doing their job. I also saw plenty of damaged or destroyed buildings, etc. There are also a ton of concrete walls and barriers both inside and outside of the bases. I have also heard some gunfire and there was a somewhat distant explosion (probably an IED) this morning during breakfast. Part of the drive took us through a fairly heavily populated Baghdad neighborhood. I was surprised to see so many people out on the streets. They looked like they were carrying on with life the best they could. Needless to say, our convoy moved fast and does not allow anyone to get close to us. The cars we did encounter seemed to know the drill and gave us plenty of space. Also, unlike back home, pedestrians do NOT have the right of way here.

I spent a good part of the day yesterday getting checked in and settled. I have today off and will report for work tomorrow at 0730. I will do some more checking in then and find out exactly what my job will be. I will fill you in on that stuff later.

The best part of my now 1 day of war experience was the assignment of my living quarters. I (and most of the people at this Task Force) have our own 8′ x 20′ trailer that comes with its own bathroom, including a shower!!! This is 5-star living over here, and in fact, this is the best living arrangements I have had in a month. The three weeks I spent at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina, I was in open-by berthing with 20 other guys. We had 4 showers, 4 sinks, and 8 toilets. It got worse in Kuwait! There I was in a tent with 10 other guys. The toilets (mostly porta-potties) were close, but not too close and there was a shower trailer about 150 yards away. We were in the middle of the desert – so all the water was trucked in and held in containers for the showers. Limited water meant limited shower time! My last 2 days in Kuwait we spent even deeper in the desert with 40 people sleeping in one tent and no showers! I think they do that on purpose – so you look forward to coming to Iraq! I have some photos of my living spaces which I will pass along some other time. I am also waiting for a package from Paula that includes a crisp, new Hawkeye flag (thanks Rich) that I will proudly display in my new home.

Well, it’s time for me to go for now. Thanks again to all of you for the e-mails and well-wishes. Keep them coming!

Talk to you soon.

Ian