Monday, August 2, 2010
Chapter 1 - Monday:
I step outside my room and am once again slapped with the thick Iraq air. "Bob's not coming?" I ask Heichs and Sheeman. "What do you think?" Heichs replies. Bob has said he is coming to breakfast for the last week only to come franticly rushing into the office at about 9:10, sweating while explaining that he meant to sleep in.
The three of us begin the half mile walk to the DFAC (dining facility) sans Bob. We walk along the dusty road outside our CHU's on the way to the paved road and are blasted with a dust cloud from speeding F-250. "Fucking Joe Contractor," I say jokingly. We bring up the comfortable and common topic that we have been in this war so long that even our contractors have developed a noticeable obnoxious sense of entitlement. My worldly, witty peers and I seem to never to tire discussing our loathing of the stereotypical and aptly named "Joe Contractor."
Joe Contractor is a middle aged overweight male who has spent years working in Iraq and making a fortune. While his role is important and no doubt necessary to our efforts he acts as if the base is a contractor Disneyland. He drives an F-250 or a new SUV all over the base and never has anyone else in the vehicle. His gas is paid for by the US Government and is placed in a vehicle that the US Government leased but will eventually end up buying for more than we would have paid if we bought it off the lot from the beginning. Joe Contractor eats in the DFAC and always grabs two to go boxes full of food. My friends and I joke that we are not only paying these guys to get fat but that in 15 years they will hit us again as their healthcare costs make their way down to our level. The face of America's wars have changed since my Grandparents era, that much is certain. Our politicians make decisions based on votes and not on reality, and thus must fill capability gaps with Joe Contractors. These same politicians then slam our finest Generals during televised review boards over the amount of contractor personnel in theatre. This is not my Grandfathers' war.
We arrive at the DFAC, sweating from the heat that is substantial even before 7:30 AM. We hand our ID cards to the Ugandan guards with AK47's that man all the entrances to the public facilities. They too are contracted help. In fact the majority of the security over here is. Another strange departure from my dreams of what deployment would be like. They ensure that we are carrying our weapons and return our cards. We make our way through the breakfast line and plop down together to carry on our morning conversation.
My buddies in Iraq have been a saving grace. I was so paranoid that I would not find the friendship and camaraderie I so desperately needed in my first deployment. However, my fears were for naught. My peer group has not only been there as a friendly boost getting me through these tough times away from home, but they have made me proud of my generation that has chosen to serve. My fellow Captains are well educated, intrinsically motivated, have handled a large amount of responsibility at a very young age, and have done it well. We feed off each other's drive to succeed and we are competitive in a friendly and healthy way. Our group has developed a personality. An identity that arises amongst solid individuals with similar goals and values. We walk with a bit of a swagger. A little bit of attitude that we are destined to great things now and in the future. It feels good. We are cynical in a sense, disenfranchised with the things we see around us. However, I see us as more idealistic than anything as our most cynical moments stem from a frustration that things can be done better. We often find ourselves starting on observations that are close to our sphere of influence only to find ourselves miles above thinking of the big picture, how what we are doing fits into this crazy world, and how we want to make it better. My buddies here are guys that will undoubtedly go down different life paths and different journeys than me, however they are the kind of buddies that I will forever be honored to work with in any future endeavor, no matter the time lapsed between our last exchange.
It is a great feeling to be surrounded by great people. I live my life by constantly surrounding myself with good people. Being deployed is interesting because it amplifies normal life. You need about 10% of the time you normally need to read somebody through and through. With that enhanced people reading capability comes the good the bad and the ugly. I have used my time to see what I do and do not want to become as a person.
I finish my eggs, bacon, and mound of fresh fruit and we head for the exit. We begin the walk back to our office building and I can't help but notice how good the eucalyptus trees smell in the morning. I gaze to my left and see the man made lake that Saddam built. Victory Base Complex is showered with palaces, lakes, and a few leftover trees, all of which are out of place but are aesthetically pleasing nonetheless. I had heard that at one point Saddam stole 80% of Baghdad's water supply to create the clean water lakes that line what is now Victory. For an asshole he really knew how to decorate the place. I think how amazing the grounds must have looked before we got here. I wonder what they will look like after we leave. I am feeling grateful and thankful for the amenities that I have had on my first deployment. It is amazing how a little sunlight, a full belly, and a little walk in the morning can cheer you up....even with a 12-14 hour day ahead of you. We get to our building door and the day begins.
To Be Continued...