Dispatch From Downrange



Dispatch From Downrange ĖIRAQ

This was a few hundred meters outside our location.  My Dog Mad started having trouble after this.  I think there had just been too many explosions for him.


Happy New Year and Good Morning Iraq!


06:00 here - I just took Mad, my dog, out.  Like you, we have a morning routine.

04:30-05:00 - Mad starts making noise and banging on kennel door, ďFeed me!"
So, I get up and feed him and wait until he is finished.  Then he jumps on the bed for a battle of wills, me wanting to lie down, and him wanting to play (he wins, always).
After about 30 minutes of wrestling around with me trying to get under covers and him pulling them off, I give up and get out of bed.

05:45 or so -  I get dressed and take him to the break area.  Itís foggy, cold, and drizzling this morning.   I let him do his stuff and pick up after him.   We all (mostly) pick up after our dogs and place the poop in a small trashcan.   The morning shift working gates have to empty it.  That is something we rotate.
Back to the room, I get a little payback and Mad gets his teeth brushed.  Yes brushed.  He doesnít really mind.  He vocally complains, but he holds still as I clean his teeth.  BTW-- he likes Crest.  Once finished, he goes right in his kennel and lies down; itís now 06:00

I'm up, so I reluctantly make the decision to go to breakfast and venture out into the fog and dampness again.  As I walk to the DFAC, I pass four Iraqis carrying AK 47s, I hope they are security, but in this weather, it is hard to tell.  There are so many armed people walking around here in all sorts of clothing. You sort of trust the system and hope the right people are inside the wire.

 Arriving at the DFAC, I can get a delicious plate of almost warm  powdered scrambled eggs, limp bacon, and a McDonald's type hash brown patty that needed a few more minutes in the fryer.  I top that with a bagel and cream cheese (Iíll eat that later so it's wrapped in paper napkins and slipped in my coat) and as many diet cokes as I can get in my pockets.  We are limited at two, but no one counts.  I take my tray and mechanically eat my food.  I generally sit at the table when I'm done for a little while if I'm not on the morning shift, and mentally get ready for the day.  I throw the leftovers away and give my tray to one of the many local Iraqis working at the dishwashing station.  All he washes are the trays as everything else is disposable.   I head back out into the cold and walk the quarter mile back to the room.

Back in my little room I hang my coat and hat on the nail I hammered into the wall with a rock and check email, see who did or didn't send me something, and check on the latest news on the internet.   It's 07:00 by now and like most  people who are on their second cup of coffee, I open my second of five or six diet cokes for the day.   Of course, that is not always the case as the dining facility (DFAC) runs out of them all the time.   It seems I'm not the only diet coke dependent one here.


Finished with the browsing on the internet, I kick off my shoes and lay back down for a little while.   Mad is quiet until I lay down.  That is his cue for more playtime, so the barking, moaning and banging on the kennel door starts.   I can only take a very short time of this, he has me trained well, and I let him out.  He grabs his squeaky ball, immediately jumps on the bed, and proceeds to shove it in my face.
I get up and go back to my chair.  Mad is on the bed.  He hangs off the side and drops the ball, so it rolls off and onto the floor with a thud and squeak that the guy living at the other end of the building can hear.  Yes, Iíve been talked to about that.  This is my signal to throw it back to him.  He catches it, and the cycle repeats.  This will go on as long as I let it but after about fifteen minutes, I'm done.  He goes back to the kennel, and I make up the now destroyed bed, sweep the floor of the rolling tumbleweeds of dog hair, and empty the trash.   It's still raining outside so with the comings and goings the floor of my room is a mess.

It is 08:00.  Only three and a half more hours and the next big event of the day arrives, lunch.
Routine is the same, walk the quarter mile in the rain to the DFAC, eat whatever they have, pocket a couple more diet cokes and head back to the room.   I have the afternoon shift at work so I can NOW start my day.  As shift starts, I gather my stuff for the day and check equipment.  Coat, hat, gloves, leash, dog toy, water bowl, pistol, radio, body armor, helmet, Dog and go to my assigned vehicle. 

Today Iíll be searching vehicles coming into the base at the two entry gates.  There is a series of things the incoming vehicles have to do to get to me before I search them that I canít explain due to operation security, (OPSEC) but the dog teams are pretty far out front.  My partner team and I take turns searching.  One of us acts as security over-watch as the other searches.  We are not alone in this as there is other security with the vehicles as well.  The very first search this morning really set the day up.  As we were searching, and just about when we were on the last vehicle, a very loud boom went off.  We all, including or dogs, ducked a little.  You could feel the concussion.  It sounded like it was at the checkpoint just before us.  Everyoneís situational awareness (SA) went right to the top of the scale.  All were scanning the area to see what would happen next.  Weapons ready, but no targets, nothing.

The vehicle drivers and their passengers wanted out of the area badly; we wanted out of the area too as we are exposed when we search so we finished quickly and everyone, including us, moved inside the perimeter.  I found out a little later that another Iraqi checkpoint, this one on the opposite side of the base from where we were, was also hit.  In that case, the guards were killed, and the attackers stole their fully marked and loaded High Utility Mobile Mechanized Vehicle, you know it as an HUMMV.  One no doubt we gave the Iraqi Army when we pulled out.

Two days earlier, one of our PSD teams was ambushed at an Iraqi checkpoint just outside Taji, the last post I was at.  The team leader, the apparent target, took three rounds to the chest.  They all hit his body armor, thank goodness, and being the type of guy that works here, he got back in his vehicle and continued on with his mission of delivering one of our handlers to the airport in Baghdad.  BTW-- this is the same PSD team that brought me in from Baghdad, and the ambush was on the same route.  When the wounded PSD operator finished the escort, he wanted to just come back to base like nothing happened.  Just another day at the office to him, but he was forced by procedure to go to the doctor and be checked out.  A quick medevac to the hospital in Jordon revealed two broken ribs.  He will be back in a couple weeks. 

Yes, it is shaping up to be an exciting time here,

Happy New Year!

Iím Jon Harris, and this has been another

 Dispatch from Downrange- Iraq