It's been a while, I know, but I haven't had the opportunity until now to update you all on what has been happening. The training I went through in Baghdad was alright. A lot of repetition of stuff I learned earlier but a lot of hands-on experience with the boxes which was a plus. Apparently, some of the classes before me did not get to see some of the same stuff I did. A lot of it was also death by PowerPoint too so there was a trade off.
Training was only 3 days long and on the last day, I found out my assignment was swapped with another guy's. He was supposed to go to a place called Patrol Base Dragon. Initially, he did not know anything about it except that it was in what used to be called the "Triangle of Death". At hearing that, I'm not sure which assignment would be better, being in the "Triangle of Death" or within sight of Iran (where I was supposed to be). It turns out that the "Triangle of Death" is no longer one of the hot spots in the area. It's calmed down a ton and is now one of the safest areas in the country.
Anyway, on the last day, I met my Division rep who told me he was going to pick me up outside my tent at 1000 to go meet everyone in the division and just get acquainted with what's going on. At 0900, while I was getting ready, someone comes into the tent and says to me, "LT Roth, are you ready to go?" Apparently, there was some miscommunication and my brigade EWO was expecting me and other guy to move out that morning. I thought I had at least another day to get ready but it was not to be. So, I threw everything I had into all my duffel bags in record time and ran out to the HMMWV waiting to take me to Camp Stryker and the brigade EWO office.
The brigade EWO was able to set me up with a room for however long I was going to be there (it ended up being 3 days). I dropped my 4 bags off and went out with the petty officer to the office to meet everyone. After being on Liberty for a while and then occasionally on Victory, Stryker was not anything special. It had all the same amenities as all the other big bases, just in a different location. It did have the biggest mess hall in theater (food wasn't any different though.)
Despite all the mess halls having essentially the same food, each one was known for having something different. Liberty's has the best desert bar and always had Indian food available. Victory's has a sports theme and rooms where you can eat and watch football or basketball on big screen televisions. Stryker's claim to fame was pretty much just being the biggest. Food here on average is pretty good. As long as you aren't expecting the best food you ever had, you will not be disappointed.
When I arrived at the brigade office... I'm not sure I explained the hierarchy I'm in. At the top (not really but close enough for my purposes) is the Division. Right below that are Regiments but they aren't headquartered here and I'm not really sure they have a headquarters at all, anywhere, but it's just a guess. Below Regiments are Brigades and then Battalions. In Battalions, there are Companies and then Platoons and then Squads. I am staffed at the Battalion level. Our Brigade is from the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum in Watertown, NY. Pretty soon, I'm not sure when, they will rotate home and a Brigade from the 101st Airborn Division will move in.
Alright, when I arrived at the brigade office on Wednesday, they told me I wasn't leaving until Saturday morning on a convoy out to my FOB (Forward Operating Base). Basically, I had 2 full days to just sit around and do nothing. The other EWO's in the shop made sure I didn't get bored and showed me around to all the different places on the base, took me to planning meetings, and helped me get up to speed on the job. Even with all the help, there was plenty I still had to learn.
They also told me what I was going to expect out at Dragon. Dragon is an unfinished Russian power plant. Before the war, Russia or a company based there was building Saddam a power plant right on the bank of the Euphrates. When we invaded, the Russians just dropped everything and left.
On Saturday morning, I was driven over to the motor pool to get on the convoy to my FOB. After all the stories you hear back home about convoys getting ambushed or hitting IED's, you would think I would be terrified to go out of the wire. What you don't hear is that there are a lot of convoys going out every day and the majority do not get hit by anything. It truth, I was a little nervous but the troops in my HMMWV (there was a gunner, driver, and truck commander - who happened to be the convoy commander, all at least 5 years younger than I am) said that they loved going on this route because it was short and very safe.
We all briefed the route and other procedures for the convoy and then mounted up for my 40 minute drive down to Dragon. It's a very strange sensation riding around the countryside. People were out and about, mostly just farming. Kids were playing until we rolled by then they ran up to the road to wave with big smiles on their faces. I guess kids are the same everywhere. Before I knew it, we had arrived at PB Dragon.
I was greeted by the outgoing EWO and taken over to see our shop. We have a shipping container for an office and a large tent for a garage to work in. Then, he took me around Thunderdome. After the Russians fled the country, what remained was a skeleton of a building and fields of metal. Imagine Mad Max (that's why Thunderdome) and you'll be able to picture what it's like here. I've been calling it The Magic Kingdom because we have the castle and some neat rides but Thunderdome fits better. I wish I could upload some pictures and show it to you because it is very strange. He was telling me that they just got a mess hall built and showers put in so I came at a decent time.
Following the grand tour, I moved my stuff into my room. It's one third of a trailer but it's comfortable. FINALLY, after 3 weeks of living in a sleeping bag and out of duffel bags, I can unpack and get to work.
23 days down and counting...