So more than one of you noticed the absence of a post yesterday. It's good to know you notice! Sorry if any of you were worried. I do have a good excuse.
Yesterday afternoon and evening (and well into the wee hours of the morning) I got to ride along on a Convoy Logistics Patrol (CLP, pronounced "clip"). It was my first time "outside the wire" (the "wire" refers to the barbed-wire fence surrounding the base) and is probably one of the most dangerous things I've done in my life. Fortunately, it was uneventful (that means nothing bad happened) but very educational.
The purpose of my ride was as part of my job advising the battalion on tactics. It's hard to give accurate suggestions without actually knowing what they do so I got to observe them in action. Here's a picture of the HumVee that I got to ride in, as they were setting up for some of the pre-convoy training drills.
It was interesting to see how much of the tactics (and actual operations) were the same as what we learned in our training at Fort Jackson and in Kuwait. I definitely felt like I understood what was going on, and I was able to learn even more about some of the specific ways my battalion and its batteries do business.
The vehicle I rode in was updated with all of the latest armor modifications, which made me feel partially secure. And then add to that my full "battle rattle" of body armor and other items (see picture at left) and I felt about as safe as I possibly could be.
After we all got ready and tested out all our equipment, we met up near the gate to the base to prepare to escort the convoy, a mix of trucks hauled by contract by Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) and another company that the government contracts with, which hires mostly Third Country Nationals (TCNs) as their drivers. The troops often joke about them as they don't generally speak English, are difficult to direct (the phrase "herding cats" is heard often), and are rumored to be "KBR rejects". Below is a picture of the convoy just before we rolled out the gate to carry important supplies to a nearby Forward Operating Base (FOB).
As you can see by the slowly darkening sky, we ended up starting the convoy after sunset and it was dark throughout the entire thing, other than the rather bright lights that they used to light up the road as we drove along, so I didn't get too much of a chance to look at the scenery. Still, what I did see was interesting. We passed a few local nationals, mostly teenagers. The majority of them smiled at us as we went by. Some ignored us. Some stared with an unreadable expression.
The trip was only supposed to be about an hour each way, with an hour or two wait. Because of a variety of events, it ended up being a two-hour trip there, a four hour wait, and the expected hour back, but I didn't get to my trailer until 4 a.m. and I wasn't about to try to find an internet connection to do my update then. So here you are after a halfway decent morning's sleep.
Interestingly, when I told my wife about the convoy beforehand, I mentioned that of all the possible routes I could ride, this was probably the safest one, and I would be safer than sitting around on LSA Anaconda with the mortar threat. How true this turned out to be. The most exciting part of the evening was after we had already returned to the base and were getting ready to refuel the vehicle. A mortar landed not too far away from us as we drove along... close enough that the driver floored it to get out of range of a possible second shot! Yikes. Maybe I *was* safer outside the wire.
That's it for the excitement. Back to my desk job for a long, long time.