Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Taking Khalid "The Tank" to High-Security Facility, 129 Degree Heat, Photo Op with a Dead Iraqi, Losing My Mind

12 Aug, 2003

I miss you so much Spatzibobbes! I am pretty exhausted mentally and physically. The phone isn’t working, and it’s driving me completely nuts. I went to the internet café and spent 4 bucks on using the computer, and it didn’t even work. The Iraqis are getting arrogant though, charging big prices for little service. I miss you Nora! I want you to know all is OK.! I just got back from BIAP, and it was sooo hot, 129˚ F. I drank a lot of water before leaving. The drive went well, my passenger was a fat man in a man dress named Khalid “The Tank.” He was a colonel in the Iraqi Security Agency, or something to that effect. He’s supposedly notorious here, for signing off executions for over 2,000 political dissidents. His house was raided by us a few nights ago, but he wasn’t found. His brothers and cousins were there, so they were brought into our prison. He turned himself in and in exchange he asked that his relatives be released. Well, we took him to a special facility where colonels and above go. We walked to the barbed wire fence, to the sally port, and there I saw young men in boonie caps and desert uniforms. They had large batons in their hands, and one even had a shotgun. They looked pretty intimidating, standing as if waiting to beat him (I doubt if they beat these guys).
The Tank was huge. The head guard would grab Tank’s hands and yell at him in English to assume different positions. At one point, his massive ass had to sit on the burning pavement so they could search his sandals. I stood there, again, just to see. I want to see how all of this works. Then they brought him into the prison. I saw these guard bubbas and then looked at the Tank. Dogs run with dogs, fight with dogs, die like dogs. The Tank was amongst fellow dogs. It’s amazing how life sorts people out.
We then left Tank, and went to the airport terminal, not the main terminal, but the HQs of Iraqi Airways (now our 1AD headquarters). We had to drop SFC Mayer off so he could fly home. He’s been away from his family for over a year – at least. He’s a nice guy. He was saying,
“I would take leave to go home 3 weeks earlier, but my kid will be in school. What’s another 3 weeks?” You hear Army people talk about family and time as if time has no end. 20 years here, 6 there, month or two over there. It’s all numbers. You totally become numb to the human cost of relationships. If you are working to support a family, what sense is there in staying gone all the time – as if you have no family. I don’t know. SFC Mayer’s been married 14+ years, so that time away may seem small compared to the time he’s been married. He’s a good guy. It’s good he’s going home, I was happy for him.
I went over to the LAV vehicle – yup, it was A CO. 4th LAR, and that was Jimmy’s battalion. He’s in B CO. though. It turned out that there is a Burger King at BIAP, right there at the HQ. There’s an outdoor burger stand there. I waited about 30 minutes to complete my order. Some people had ordered it looked to be 50+ Whoppers. It was amazing. So, I ordered some food for the guys I work with (they gave me some money) and got some extras to hand out. I got my order and then went to the warehouse PX. Their souvenirs were $10 for cheap, but pretty, stuff! You know, you can get the same stuff from an Iraqi, for a lot less. I also wanted to get a love card for you, but they never carry love cards. Not even in Kuwait. I always thought that was strange. I guess I’ll have to make one! Well, I got you a birthday card, the best one I could find. Funny stuff about dogs. I dunno! It’ll have to do! A man was in line with a large box. Well, it turned out it was a satellite dish! The PX is selling satellite dishes, TVs, DVD players, you name it. People are getting a lot of money here, so I guess it’s to be expected.
After doing all of this in the heat (you get used to it, it almost feels healthy!) we got back in our trucks, and got ready for the drive back to camp. I said a quick Hail Mary and missed you so much. Nora, you would be amazed –really. I forgot about the danger of going to camp, there had been a lot of IEDs on this route already. I blocked all of that out and concentrated on security around the truck, staying fast and controlled. Sure enough, we got back without any problems. The people weren’t waving though, just looking on.
Tonight, the phones are still down, and I need to talk to you so much! I am going to keep working on it. Tonight there was an armed robbery of a house and I got a report from a unit that witnessed it. I called the regiment, and within 5 minutes I had a helicopter on the scene of the crime and I put him in contact with the ground unit. The chopper found a car fitting the description of the car used in the crime (VW Passat, white 1984) and he walked the ground troops in to the car’s location using the radio. I monitored and alerted another platoon that they may be needed as backup. Major Day sat across from me and just listened along with some other command TOC personnel. The major just nodded his head to let me know he could see my course of action unfolding. That way I knew to stick with the plan and not interrupt what was going on.
Well, the suspense was building as the helo pilot guided the ground unit towards the location of the car. It turned out to be a false lead though. I exhaled deeply.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t look for anymore VW Passats, we’ll be here forever,” the pilot radioed. What he said was true. He needed fuel too.
‘Roger, understood. Thank you much, over,’ I replied. Apache and Nightstalker (MPs) also thanked the pilot.
Then, Knight 6 (Colonel Jagger) called in to say that they found someone beat up. It turned out he was riddled with bullet holes. He radioed he was going to take the body to the hospital.
“Let me see your camera, I’ll get you a cool picture!” said a scout excitedly to Conroy. So Conroy gave him his camera. When he ran back to Conroy after being gone for a few minutes, he said, “I got you a picture of dead guy!” Conroy didn’t seem to be happy about this. Just another piece of meat.
Lastly, I thought of something the other night when I was on the phone with you. We’ve got locusts all over the place, and everyone’s been killing them left and right. I just catch them and toss them at Captain Smalls, it freaks him out, it’s hilarious! Well, I don’t even think to kill them, I have no reason to, they don’t annoy me. One actually landed on my hand, and on my finger. I looked at it up close – and it didn’t fly away. I ended up holding the creature to my eye for about 20 minutes. It was so amazing to see it breathe, and clean its legs and wings, totally amazing. Such a small thing, yet complex. I never thought to smash one, but neither to actually look at one up close. So, I thought that’s a lot like life, it’s mundane unless you take a closer look – especially in the natural world, like looking in your eyes – that’s special, a miracle! Well, I got a bottle and put grass and some branches in it. Then I put the cricket in. I left the bottle sideways and it stayed in there for a long time hopping around. He could get out if he wanted, but it stayed. That was neat. Well, I remember days ago I was sitting in the phone room (our supply office) and I was tempted to step on one, but I stopped myself. That was interesting, because I almost did something I wouldn’t normally do, just because there were so many of them everywhere and dead ones laying about. Just the fact that there were so many, actually inadvertently devalued the worth of the insects. Yeah, this sounds crazy, but it was an interesting encounter. When we talk about 2,000 dead, people aren’t repulsed by the thought, as in war, but one person killing another singularly is a crime. Hmmm. I dunno. Just something I thought of.
God Spatzi! I need to talk to you! I’ll find a way, I always will! I love you always, I can’t wait to come home to you! I LOVE YOU!


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