I’m one flight away from Iraq, and I’ve still got no idea what to expect or what I’ve gotten myself into. Today’s Stars and Stripes reported an Iraqi shot and killed two soldiers in Mosul. The Iraqi brought live rounds to a security training exercise — they were all supposedly on the same side.
I sat next to a contractor on the plane from London who was former military. He’s been over here two and a half years. He’s working in Basra now, he said, where things can be quiet for a long time but then get loud real fast. Around Thanksgiving, he said, insurgents shelled the base all the time. But he doesn’t wear a bulletproof vest, he said. He’s never more than a few seconds from a bunker, which is all the time he needs.
The National Guardsmen who run the shuttle from the airport said it’s nowhere near what it was — it used to be “the Wild West with explosives,” on of them said. Now it’s much more tame, but there still might be shelling.
I’m interested to see. It’s now Operation New Dawn, supposedly no longer war. I wonder if the soldiers in FOB Kalsu (I finally learned how to pronounce it: Kal-SU) feel that way. If I have to dive into a bunker to avoid getting blown up I think I’d call that war, but who knows if I’ll have to.
I’m surrounded by soldiers who I could ask, but I’m not supposed to engage in reporting without a Public Affairs Officer accompanying me. That’s why my photos stopped at the airport. I’m not sure what’s considered snapshots and what would be considered violating the embedding agreement. I’m playing it safe — there are a lot of guns around here!