Trip to Baghdad

November 18, 2008 at 3:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

March 2, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the Ford F350s that the Iraqi Police use to patrol. Here are some pictures of Chevy 3500s that the Iraqi Army uses for patrols and convoy escort missions. Did you really think that the US Government would let only one of the Big Three automakers get a monopoly on supplying trucks to the Iraqi Government? Rumor also has it that at one time the Iraqi Police were also using Dodges, I just haven’t seen any. (Uncle Sam if you are monitoring, all of the above was a JOKE!)
In addition to the metal box placed in the bed around the machine gun mount the plastic pieces on the door are removed and this metal plating is welding on. Notice that the door release is still fully functional, as is the window handle, even though you can’t see it. Each one that is delivered to our Brigade is taken to the Range and someone fires an AK-47 at the metal box on the back, while the Iraqi Brigade Commander is watching. So far all of the rounds have deflected off the metal. Pretty good craftsmanship by the welding shop of the American maintenance unit here.While I was in Baghdad ensuring that the Brigade Pay Officer could receive this months allotment of cash to pay the soldiers I got to do some touristy type things. The above picture is me acting like I’m holding the swords in Saddam’s Hands of Victory Arch. To Celebrate his “victory” over Iran, Saddam decided to build a set of these arches at both ends of a large parade ground where he typically watched his military parades. Each arch consists of a pair of massive hands emerging from the ground, each holding a 140 foot long sword. A small flagpole used to rise from the point where the swords meet, but is now gone. The arches were made from the guns of dead Iraqi soldiers that were melted and recast as the 24 ton blades of the swords. The hands themselves are replicas of Saddam’s own hands. The German company that built the monument was given a photograph of Saddam’s own forearms to use as a model (what an egomanaic). There used to be captured Iranian helmets at the base of each sword but I didn’t see any at the end I visited.

This is the Al Quds Gate to what used to be Saddam’s palace complex area in the Green Zone. It was modeled after the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Al Quds is the Arabic name for Jerulasem. The main office of the company that supplies interpreters to coalition forces is just to the right of the gate.
This is the 14th of July Statue. It was built in remembrance of the 14th of July Revolution. On July 14, 1958 Arab nationalists led a coup that killed King Faisal II and his family which ended the Iraqi monarchy that had been installed by the British, following World War I.
The US Embassy in Baghdad is located in one of Saddam’s former palaces and while I was in Baghdad I stayed in the transient tents outside the palace, unfortunately photography of the Embassy was not allowed. I did have an Iraqi interpreter with me who had grown up in Baghdad but had never been inside one of Saddam’s palaces. It was very interesting to watch him look with wonder at the opulence of the areas that he was to walk through as we went to the KBR dining facility and the MWR computer rooms.

My trip to Baghdad wasn’t all fun and guided tours. The main focus was to help the Iraqi Pay committe pick up pay. They seem to have issues getting in the Green Zone and getting into the Ministry of Defense Compound and picking up the pay. I must admit that I think that they made up the difficulties that they talked about because I was with them from the minute they got inside the Green Zone to when they picked up and the only difficulty they had was an accounting error from the previous months pay where the pay officer’s paper work had a different amount of Dinar listed then what he actually turned in it was only a 1 Dinar difference, which is like 10 cents but it occupied about an hour of our time as he tried to fix the error.

The above picture is a portion of the pay for 300 some soldiers of the Brigade Headquarters, there is another stack or two on the counter above what is on the ground. Doesn’t look like much does it? Well the reddish tinged bills (the majority of the bills) are stacks of 25,000 dinar and 25,000 dinar is worth about $20 at todays conversion rate so we are looking at about $280,000 just laying there on the floor. The battalions in the brigade pay comes in a 3ft by 4ft by 1ft crate that holds enough cash for almost a 1000 soldiers. It just makes me think “Wouldn’t this be a much easier process with an EFT banking system?” Notice that the Iraqi Captain squating next to the cash is in civilian clothes. The Iraqi Army soldiers that do not work in Baghdad are still scared to travel around Baghdad in their uniforms.

Finally the hazards of flying everywhere in Iraq, that I posted in my last entry didn’t affect me like they have my boss, and it was even drizzling as we left the LZ in Baghdad. I guess I just have better luck than him. We’ll see how that holds out, since I’ve got a couple other trips planned in the next month or so for various things.

I want to thank everyone for the packages and things they have sent in the last month, they are much appreciated by both me and my fellow soldiers on the team. Thanks again.

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