There were days of preparation for the trip and talk of the new rules of engagement. Many things have changed since January 1st when more power was turned over the Iraqis.
The night before the mission, there was a palpable tension. Everything was checked and rechecked. Some roughhousing erupted in the hallway resulting in a pile up causing one bloody nose and a lot of laughter.In the morning we gathered in the freezing cold for a briefing before hitting the road. Phin and I rode in an MRAP (Mine resistant armored plated vehicle) instead of the armored security vehicle, so we could get a better view out of the windows.
The view was of an endless horizon of sand. This part of Iraq is a vast desert. We passed a couple of camels, some Iraqi checkpoints, and few roadside stops.
Some Iraqi drivers made risky driving maneuvers while passing us and one driver veered dangerously close, but overall it was an uneventful ride.
After the business at hand was taken care when we got to Tallil, we made our way to an oasis of American fast food restaurants set up in trailers. Dinning choices were Taco Bell, Burger King and Pizza Hut served out of trailers. One could also buy an Iraqi carpet, get a haircut or shot in a large PX. Specialist Taylor scored over $200 worth of Monsters (an energy drink more potent then Rebull) while others loaded up on cigarettes, cookies and chips.
The ride back to Basra was more of the same,
We listened to the troops cover the earphones. They identify all of the approaching vehicles on the road and watched for suspicious activity and objects along side the road. Their voices mixed with music, made for a great sound track. The military has its own dialect full of expletives, slang and acronyms.
The ride was bumpy to say the least and with the extra 25-lbs. Kevlar vest on my back, and 5-lbs.Kevlar helmet on my head, the ride was uncomfortable. It was one of the more memorable road trips I have taken to date.
I got to go behind the wire for a trip to Taco Bell in the Iraqi Desert and made it back, with more dust on me than when I left. All in a day’s shooting.