Thornhill in Iraq–VIII

Hello all,
 
It’s been a while since I sent you an update of what is going on here.  The problem is, other than the long work hours, there is not a lot else that I do on a daily basis.  Having said that, however, I have been on a couple of interesting trips outside the wire recently that may interest you.  I have attached a recent photo of me all geared up for one of these trips.  The only thing missing in this photo is the kevlar helmet.  I know some of you have seen this equipment already from photos I sent while in training in South Carolina.  For those who have not, the total ensemble (including helmet) weighs about 50 pounds.  The vest has a large metal plate in the front and the back and a smaller plate on each side.  The ‘wings’ on the arms and the remainder of the vest is made up of shrapnel-resistant material.
 
Forgive me if I have mentioned this before, but traveling from one place to another here is a major undertaking.  It requires putting on all the gear and jumping into a convoy of armored vehicles.  In addition to the uparmored suburbans like the one I rode in when I first arrived here, our security also has bigger, more menacing armored vehicles that we use.  The good news about these is that they provide greater protection than the suburban.  The bad news (if you can call it that) is when I get in one and have the helmet on, I’m about 2 inches too tall to sit completely upright.  I manage to slouch in my seat or get into some other manageable position.  In this environment, comfort is overrated!
 
One of the trips I took recently was to the U.S. Embassy.  It is located inside the IZ (International Zone a/k/a Green Zone).  The Embassy is currently housed inside another Saddam palace, although I do not know the palace’s history.  This is a temporary location as a new Embassy building is currently under construction.  Of course the security is quite tight but once inside, it’s hard to tell there is a war on.  It really looked like any other government building you’ve been in.  There were a lot of people working there including many civilians.  The building itself is very ornate and I must admit, after walking on dirt and rocks here at the FOB, walking on those nice smooth marble floors was a joy!  Oh yes, I can’t forget to mention the swimming pool.  That’s right, there is an outdoor swimming pool there.  Unfortunately I did not have the time, or the interest, to go swimming.  As I was leaving the Embassy I ran into a good friend of mine from my active duty Navy days.  He is a civilian and was visiting the Embassy on business for his civilian job.  What a small world.  As an aside in the ‘small world’ category, one of the Air Force attorneys that showed up at my task force a couple weeks after I did is from my same home town – yes, Ida Grove, Iowa, population 2200.  He was a year behind me in school (total high school size – approx. 200) and I haven’t seen him in about 20 years.  I have attached a photo of him and I in front of the task force Christmas (palm)Tree.
 
Another of my recent trips took me to a U.S. detainee detention facility.  Not too much to say about it – prison is prison.  Even if there was more to say, obviously I could not.  But I will say this, the place was very clean and professionally run.  I think, in general, there are two types of detainees here – the one’s who are suspected of committing crimes and the one’s who otherwise present a security risk.  In my job here, I am focused on the criminal suspects.  Soon I should be getting a tour of the Iraqi prison that is here near our facility.  I will let you know what that is like in a future update.
 
Time for me to go for now – it’s mail call.  Always a great day!  We have to pick up our mail at a central place outside of our FOB and bring it back here (another convoy).  When it returns, we all pitch in to unload and distribute the packages.  I hope there is something for me!
 
Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
 
Ian

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