Sunday, February 05, 2006

DAY FIVE Iraq Super Bowl Diary



DAY # 5

One literally inhales history here –on the edge of the base, we visit the 4000 year old, 70 foot tall temple of Ziggurat at Ur, next to the site of the actual home of Abraham (mentioned in the Book of Genesis). How ironic that the man who embodies the dividing point of Muslim and Christian should have roots in this place. The Blackhawk helicopters, armed with gunners on each side - take us on a 3-hour scenic journey at 350 feet over enormous swamps and horizons of mud, to growing fertile lands to the north, then west back into endless hard clay dessert; black covered Muslim women and their children stare up from below, and shepherds attempt to control their goats, sheep, horses and even camels as they scatter from the pounding chop of the Blackhawks. Just as we all begin to fall asleep after the first refueling, we are shocked back to life by the churning, cold blooded buzz of automatic 249 Saw guns. Just our luck to get shot at while we are here, but we find out later our gunners were just practicing! Two refuelings in Baghdad and Al Asad air bases, up to enormous Hidithah dam, where we are greeted by Marines.

The Can-Do esprit de corps is very much there for the contingent that is isolated from women for 7 months at a time, guarding a large portion of the electricity for Iraq. A small Azerbadjian force is there as well. Almost daily IED (‘Improvised explosive device’) attacks on the streets nearby keep them vigilant. We fly back on Marine helicopter to Al Asad, not far from the Syrian border) and spend the twilight hours signing for and joking with mechanics in the darkness (the electricity here is a little hit and miss) who work on the helicopters and jets, and again with the many soldiers at the recreation facility. All of them – Marines and Army alike -shake our hands; all of them virtually to a man, look us in the eye and say how much it means to them that we have come. Steelers fans still by about 2-1..

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