Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Three years of blogging part one

Almost three years ago, I carved a little chunk out of the internet which I dubbed Doc in the Box. I chose that name because I was talking to one of my doctors about what he was going to do after demobilizing and he said “I’ll work part time as a doc in the box at one of the local hospitals”, doc in the box meaning that he’s going to fill one of the doctor jobs as sort of a temp service. And the name stuck in my head, when I was getting ready for my first trip to Iraq, the name picked up a different definition, Marines call all of their Corpsman “Doc” and since I was heading to the great sandbox. The name took on a more intimate meaning.

So off I was on my first adventure, on one hand writing about the journey here and at the same time documenting everything through photography on my fotopage. We flew to Kuwait, without a clue about what we were getting into, even the old guys in the squadron were fresh faced, none of us had faced war nor taken another mans life. . Our Sergeant Major was telling us all daily that some of us weren’t going to make it back (one thing I was glad to prove him wrong, otherwise he was a pretty cool guy).

Our helicopters were wrapped in shrink wrap and had been shipped around the around the world, now we had to unpack them, drop in some blades and get them flight worthy enough to fly north to our regular base. Doing that process safely took 3 weeks, 3 weeks that the rest of us non mech flying types spent cleaning weapons, sharpening knives, emailing back home walking back and forth across the base making sure that every item we owned had a nice coating of fresh Arabic sand. For some of us (not me) the waiting was the hardest part.

Finally the day arrived when our helicopters were all up to specs and flight worthy. I actually had the choice of flying in out in our helicopters or taking a C130 (get real, those aircraft we in many small pieces just weeks before!) So off to Iraq we went. The C130 pulled right into the area we were going to be spending the next 2 months living in these huge circus tents next to a bunch of Constantia wire. We dropped off our bags and went into the welcome aboard brief where a friendly sounding SSgt, told us about how life was at Al Asad and he said quote, “We wear soft covers everywhere here on base, you only need your body armor if you leave the base, are riding in a tactical vehicle or fly. We never get hit here”.

Famous last words, an hour later, we were setting up our racks and I was taking a smoke breaking outside and all of the sudden “BOOM!!!! BOOM!!!! BOOOOMM!!!!!” Explosions were going on all over the place, people were running around in the dark, tripping over that Constantia wire which was conveniently placed every place we were trying to run to for cover.

Damn, we couldn’t use lights and most of the lights had been turned off so they wouldn’t be targeted (we didn’t know that the rockets were being shot from miles and miles anything that they did hit was just luck). I happened to run into one of the welcome aboard guys and asked him where we were supposed to go, he just looked at me in a panicky way and ran off into the darkness. I head SgtMaj yelling in the tents “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER AND MEET AT THE COC!!!” What the hell is a COC? I gathered with the now not smoking crowd and we headed over to the closest concrete building which just happened to be the COC. Where the rest of the squadron was now gathering, it was almost standing room only.

After a few minutes there, I was heading out on a patrol with a group of Marines. All of our weapons were locked and loaded (it’s a minor miracle that no one shot themselves in the foot). One of the rounds had landed close to the aircraft on the flight line and the mechs working on it hadn’t made it back in and a Corpsman could come in handy if someone was injured. After jumping at sounds and a walk search through the aircraft without finding anybody or damage, we beat feet back to the COC to find the mechs had passed us in the darkness and were already there.

Other then a few injured minor injuries from Constantia wire (yes, I was one of them) and sprained ankle, everyone was okay, just a bit jarred. We set up positions around the unit and spent the rest of the night on watch. Dawn came soon and we heard of one guy down in the main camp who wasn’t so lucky. The strange thing is, he was one of the few people on base who was actually wearing his body armor. He was in a 5 ton tactical vehicle (you’re required to wear body armor and Kevlar riding in any tactical vehicle) that was parked and the round hit the middle of the road.

Ahh, welcome to Iraq…

Part two coming soon.

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