March 4, 2008

Arrival in Baghdad

Sending this note while I only have 10 minutes before an Embassy reception.

After a day of training in W. Virginia -- where they taught us how to detect surveillance and avoid getting killed -- I drove back to DC and quickly packed and headed to Dulles. Luckily I was able to use frequent flyer miles to upgrade for the flight to London, where I connected to Amman. Our milair flight on Sunday was cancelled and I was able to do some sightseeing in the ancient Roman city of Jerash just north of Amman (see post below), together with a few State Dept lawyers headed to serve in Baghdad.

The Monday morning flight (or late evening) required us to depart the hotel at 3:15am. We flew out of Marka Military (Jordanian) airport on a C-17. These are much more comfortable than the C-130s that were used to fly around the National War College class eight years ago.

I of course, was carrying too much stuff, but managed to haul everything (a duffle bag, suitcase, carry-on and briefcase), but it was a workout. Fortunately the weather in Amman and BBaghdad was pleasant and has not yet gotten hot. On arrival at Baghdad, there is no organized system for transporting folks to the IZ. You have to first get your PPE (personal protective gear) -- a flak jacket and helmet. With some advice from a veteran, several of us got ourselves booked onto a helo only one hour after landing. Often one has to wait many hours, or even until late evening to take a vehicle, called the Rhino because it looks like one. Another PRT leader took me under his wing and led me to the billeting office, where I got a key to a room as well as sheets (but no towel). They don't give them to transients -- that's folks like me.

Anyway, I got to the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) conference organized by the Embassy around noon. Met the new MNC-I Commanding General (LTG Austin) and his deputies, who had already heard of me from folks in the Pentagon. I listened to the interesting discussion butin my modest wisdom that comes with age, I restrained from even asking a question, since it might seem presumptuous for someone who only arrived four hours earlier.

I'll be here for four or five days before heading to Hilla. At that point I may be able to start the blog (in the meantime, Barbara has been adding e-mails to the blog, to capture everything that's needed for a journal).

Best wishes to you all from Saddam's old Palace.

No comments: