After landing in Baghdad, I then was faced with two alternatives. My first option was that I could take a bus to Camp Stryker, wait there until 3:00 am, get a ride into the Green Zone on an up-armored Rhino convoy, take a Humvee to LZ Washington and then get a helicopter out to Camp Falcon. Or I could chose my second option, which is what I actually did -- bum a ride from the head of an MRAP platoon who I accidentally ran into at BIAP and who was heading directly across town to Camp Falcon. Boy did I luck out!
So we zipped across Baghdad in our MRAP. And nobody shot at us. "We are actually starting to see indicators that we've reached a point of no return regarding violence reduction," said the MRAP guy. "Violence is down 67%. Our command outposts used to get attacked on an average of 18 times a day. Now it's down to less than once a day." That's amazing. "Plus we're getting tips constantly about weapons caches, insurgents and small group criminals."
Small group criminals?
The soldiers who had rescued me from having to endure at least two days on the BART (Baghdad Area non-Rapid Transit) system all lived in a small command outpost in the Doura district, so going off to one of the larger FOBS was like a night in the Big City for them. So we stopped at Camp Stryker before they dropped me off at Falcon and we "did" its DFAC and the PX up in style. Stryker is HUGE.
At around 8:00 pm our MRAP drove into Camp Falcon, which had become an internet legend when it allegedly got blown up by insurgents back in 2004 -- but so far I've been hesitant to ask if that legend is actually true. I think it would be more tasteful of me to settle in a bit more before asking.
The public affairs officer gave me a quick base orientation -- but I still managed to get lost several times before bedtime -- and introduced me to my new roommate. She is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. She's a war correspondent, a mother of two pre-teens and looks like she might still be in high school (a sophomore at most).
"Have you ever been to Iraq before?" I naively asked. She had. And also to Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, etc.
"I was working for a major metropolitan newspaper when, after 9-11, they suddenly became short of reporters -- so they sent me off to Afghanistan and I've been covering wars ever since." Awesome! I'm so jealous. I want to cover wars!
"And people actually pay you to do this?" Yes. "Who watches your kids?" Family.
"That reminds me of an old pair of Doc Martins I used to wear everywhere for almost ten years," said the reporter. "But when I got to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, they turned a strange shade of blue and started to stink. I still have them. But I can't wear them anywhere. They smell too bad." I felt her pain.
"Katrina? You were there for Katrina?"