Excerpts from a letter written on 9 Aug 2003 – I plan on posting this in three parts. As I read through the original, it seemed to break up nicely that way. Lately, I've been finding things I wrote a few years ago. Thought they might be worth sharing...
Greetings from BIAP, IRAQ
For those who are unaware, BIAP is the Baghdad International Airport, formerly known as Saddam International Airport. No, he isn't a narcissist! Anyway, now we pronounce it “Bi-Op”. I have been here for a little over two months now, after spending a little more than three weeks in Kuwait.
Sometimes it seems surreal that I am really in Iraq, a country that the U.S. has been aware of for over 20 years now, but few Americans have visited. Currently we are going through the hottest time of the year, with temperatures ranging up to 135 degrees. It feels sort of like sticking your head in a brick oven. They say it will start to cool off at the end of August. Maybe we will see it drop to below 120.
In 2 months time, we have seen some things improve quite a bit and other things not so much. We continue to live in our tents, obviously, but at least we have wood floors built in each tent. We have A/C units for the tents, but continue to wait for the power grid to come up in order to actually see them work. Yesterday we were served our first meal out of a hard stand dining facility, instead of the normal Mobile Kitchen Trailer (MKT). The Dining Facility is run under a contract, so there are civilians working it, not the battalion’s cooks. Currently we only get dinner there, so we are still eating Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) for breakfast and lunch. But within a week’s time, they will serve 4 meals a day at the contracted dining facility, including a midnight meal (Soldiers are working 24/7!). The dining facility is nice, with lots of A/C and potable ice. First time we have had that in over 3 months.
As far as missions, the battalion continues to improve the military side of BIAP. Preparing the ground for the master plan and many buildings to come. I have the feeling that there will be an U.S. military presence here for a long time. Eventually, it will be just like Korea, with active duty soldiers serving 1-year hardship tours continuously. We don’t know anything about an exact date of when we will be allowed to return home. Rumors swarm every couple of weeks or so. We have orders that go to next May, but they could be shortened, and they could be extended. Some think they won’t let us go beyond six months, as that is when VA benefits kick in. But, six months is not too far off, and we have not heard anything yet.
On BIAP, we enjoy a relative amount of safety and security. Sure, something could still happen, and you must keep your guard up, but at least we are not out in the middle of the desert or a jungle. I only get to leave BIAP on occasion, and when I do, it is with quite an arsenal of weapons and ammo.
Honestly, with all that's happened since I wrote this, it feels like it was a whole other lifetime ago. I'll post Part II in a few days...
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