Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Safe in the Green Zone

Well, here I am.

After some 36 hours of "hurry up and wait" travel from Kuwait, I have arrived safely in the International Zone (a.k.a. the Green Zone) in Baghdad. In fact, I'm currently typing from a computer in an internet cafe in Saddam's palace. I have no idea what Saddam used this room for before, but it is big, and ornately decorated. Once I am settled in I will begin taking pictures and posting them online for everybody.

Given the obvious security concerns, I can't go into detail regarding the specifics of my travel from Kuwait. But whether I was waiting at BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) or Camp Striker, the three best words to describe Iraq thus far are: 1)dust, 2)gravel, and 3)concrete. If I had to use six words, I'd just repeat the first three.

I finally arrived at MNSTC-I (Multinational Support and Training Command, Iraq) at about 0430 this morning. I was met by Major Chris Hickey, who is kind enough to let me crash in his trailer until I am assigned one myself. (There is also a LTC Christopher Hickey in Iraq who gets quoted in news articles from time to time -- not the same guy).

Major Hickey and I have a long history, and can't seem to avoid one another no matter how hard we try. Chris was a year ahead of me at Johns Hopkins ROTC, and thus in charge of me. But I was a year ahead of him in Pershing Rifles, and thus able to haze him mercilessly for a semester. Five years later, in 1998, we were at Ft. Bragg in the same brigade of the 82nd Airborne together. Chris was a newly promoted Captain then, whereas I was merely a 1LT (promotable), so again, he was in charge. But in 2000 our paths crossed again, when he was a student in a course I TA'd for Ambassador Robert Blackwill at the Kennedy School of Government. Thanks to my superior pedagogy, Chris managed to squeak by with a gentlemen's A in the course. So now its Chris' turn to be in charge again here at MNSTC-I. But no worries. It is inevitable that he will come to work for me someday at the Defense Department or National Security Council.

Although I have been up for 36 hours straight (again), we decided to wait for the chow hall to open up before going to sleep. But given that the dining facility was not open yet, we ended up getting coffee from the 24-hour Green Beans Coffee stand inside the palace, and sat drinking them by Saddam's pool as the sun came up. In the distance, you could hear the morning summons to prayer emanating from a nearby mosque.

I think this was the first of what are likely to be many surreal moments during my tour of duty here in Iraq.

Okay, I have to try and get some sleep. My future posting may be limited while I apply for permission to continue the blog, but hopefully the gap between entries will not be too long.