Here is my latest.
Sorry it has taken me so long to get out this next installment, but is has been a long 12 days as I get acclimated to the military environment here on Anaconda.
I appreciate all the e-mails that I have received. It is nice to see new messages everyday.
Tuesday, 5 Dec 06
LSA (Logistical Support Activity)
Anaconda, Near Balad, Iraq is just 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. First, it is HUGE. It is the nerve center for all incoming supplies for the Army in Iraq. Whether it is driven, eaten, fired, read, used or broken by a soldier, it most likely came through Anaconda. It is just a beehive of activity here.
Our small band is extremely happy to end doing the "duffel bag drag" around the world and to have finally found a place to call home for the next few months. We now have been split up and assigned to three different troops within our Squadron. I am working with B Troop, my home unit from Fremont. These are the ones I have been working for at home for the past year. A great group of guys that I am looking forward to seeing. I served with many of them in Bosnia (in 02/03) and even with some in Kuwait (in 01).
Thursday, 7 Dec 06
The small group of us who were assigned to B Troop will start work in just a little bit. It’s nearly 2 am and we start learning the responsibilities of running one of the few entry control points (ECP in Army Lingo) here at Anaconda. The ECP is where all vehicles entering or leaving camp have to pass through.
All non-US vehicles and personnel are extensively searched. I understand that it is quite busy and the day goes by really fast.
Yesterday we were issued even more supplies and equipment we will need for our mission, and we spent the good part of the day building closets for our rooms.
Our living arrangements are quite interesting.
One of the other new guys and I are in a 10 foot by 20 foot intermodel shipping container, or "can" as they are referred to. Four cans form the base and another set is placed on top for a second floor. Each "can" is complete with lights, electric outlets, air conditioning/heating, and cable TV hook up. Our troop occupies about ten of these stacks.
Saturday, 9 Dec 06
It has been great seeing the troop, but with our work rotation I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to spend much time with any one soldier. I work the night shift, waking up at 0100 and getting off just before noon every day. I should get a day off about once every two weeks.
Thursday, 14 Dec 06
I haven’t written much because there is a lot going on, but so much I can’t discuss. So if I seem a little vague it’s all due to OPSEC (Operational Security), and not for lack of excitement. The last thing we want is for the wrong information to fall into the wrong hands. What seems like simple, everyday information could be vital to someone else.
And yes, the insurgent threat is real, even on base.
Running the ECP is interesting.
We just got done with a six-hour rush that began 15 minutes into our shift. Over 150 semi-trucks later, we can finally take a breather, eat breakfast and cleanup before the morning shift arrives. Presently I am working on learning the job of the ECP Rear Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC), which is the inspection area. At the ECP we have two areas, Front and Rear. The front is concerned with the security of the entry point and the rear is the inspection area and the reaction force for the front (if something happens at the front we go forward and provide assistance with two gun trucks and an ambulance).
Being the inspection area, the rear searches every truck and non-military person who enters the base. Luckily we have some high-tech search aids, but we also have to use low-tech (hands on) search techniques.
We are the first line of defense for the LSA.
We can’t afford to make a mistake.
Things we search for are weapons, munitions, alcohol, contraband, cell phones and a whole list of other items that can be used against coalition forces.
Keep in mind, although we have military convoys carrying sensitive military equipment and Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) carrying important military supplies, nearly 75% of our supplies are hauled by Third Country Nationals (drivers from Pakistan, Croatia, the Philippines, Turkey, Georgia, and many other countries) and trusted Iraqi citizens.
As I have said before, LSA Anaconda is huge! Nearly 30,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen,
Marines and American contractors call this place home. Anaconda’s primary function is to support the 109 other camps and Forward Operating Bases in Iraq with all the basic operational needs. Vehicles, ammunition, food, etc. So trucks and planes are constantly coming and going, and all ground vehicles go through our gate. With most convoys in Iraq occurring during the night, our shift gets most of the "business."
Friday, 14 Dec 06
Long day. Even though we are in a combat zone we still need to verify our "zero" on our rifle and qualify with it. The last thing you want is a rifle that doesn’t shoot properly when you need it the most. So after our shift we had an hour break, then we headed to the range for the next four hours. No one wanted to be there but we all just powered through it and got it done.
After the range I finally got a chance to eat breakfast. We put so many trucks through the ECP last night that we didn’t have a chance to eat before shift change. And during our hour break I checked e-mail and took a 20 minute power nap.
Breakfast ended up being Popeye’s Fried Chicken (that’s for another day’s journal). It definitely wasn’t the same as at home. The biscuits just weren’t right.
The day ended with rifle maintenance. Break it down, clean it, put it back together. All in about an hour. The first of three cleanings necessary to properly maintain your "best friend."
Today I also received sad news of the death of a wonderful gentleman who was a great supporter of the service members deployed around the world. Not only was he a great supporter of the Boy Scout program, John organized his troop to provide tens of thousands of small, folded American flags for the military personnel to keep in their pocket. John and his wonderful group of volunteers cut the cloth with the flags on it, painstakingly ironed and folded each flag, then placed them in small zip-lock bags with a small note. His challenge was to never turn down a request, no matter what the cost of supplies or shipping. I am honored to carry my flag every time I put on my uniform here in Iraq.
Today thousands of military personnel around the world who were touched by John’s kind heart and generosity have a small pain in their heart, and they don’t even know why it is there.
Saturday, 15 Dec 06
RAIN!!!! It has turned the fine dirt into a thick, oozy sludge that sticks to everything, and is a slick as an ice rink. The guys say that the rainy season is just beginning and will last until April. This was one thing I was not looking forward to. The bright side is that we didn’t have it yesterday while we were on the range.
The rain, which was light, lasted until around 4:00 am. Then the temperature dropped from the 50’s to the 30’s in about a half hour. After processing nearly 200 trucks we are glad for the day to end.