The following are the first entry's I did in country. As members of the California Air National Guard, we ended up with the Active Duty Air Force, for OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom). Our initial activation orders said OEF (Enduring Freedom, which meant Afghanistan). But once we got to Travis AFB, we were assigned to a group called Team Panther, which was slated for duty attached to the 447th AEG (Air Expeditionary Group) at Baghdad Airport. BIAP, or Baghdad International Airport (formerly Saddam International Airport).
(Like the introductory paragraph above, the journal is probably loaded with acronyms, and/or military slang. I might get tired of translating. Or I might assume anybody actually reading this has enough interest in things military that they can decipher and understand it. So I apologize in advance if it's hard to read.)
The first couple weeks at BIAP I was assigned to a group called the ATOC or Air Terminal Operations Center. Kind of a pencil pushing job. Probably due to my having been a construction superintendent as a civilian. It was actually very demanding for me as I spent the first ten years of my military career in the Army Guard. By the time 911 rolled around I had only been in the Air branch for two years. So in spite of being a Staff Sergeant, I was somewhat deficient in the ways of the Airman. To this day, I still maintain that those first couple weeks in country, were the hardest I'd ever worked in my life. So, with all that said, let me take you to Baghdad Airport 2004...
10 June 04. I arrived in Baghdad yesterday, on June 9th 2004. Got here late in the afternoon. Wasn't as hot as Al Udied Air Base in Qatar. But it is hot.
15 June 04. Right now I'm laying in the little gazebo outside the Camp Sather Chapel. A series of explosions just went off and the camp sounded the Alarm Red. The explosions seemed like there was three off to my left and three off to my right. I'm wondering if I heard the report of what ever fired them, and the report of the rounds landing. The 'alarm black' sounded and sweep teams moved out to search the area for any UXO's. One of the sweep team members just walked by and gave me a bottle of water and said "make sure you hydrate, Sir". Nice. The real goofy part is I'm less than 50 feet from a real nice bunker with a concrete lid and thick walls made of dirt. I started to head for that when the 'alarm red' sounded. We are given instructions to lay down immediately to take cover during an attack. A guy (or a group) in the 'smoke pit' saw me heading for the bunker and they yelled at me to get down. So I did. I think I'll take the opportunity to stretch out a little bit as my back's been real tight since I got here five days ago.
When the 'alarm green' was announced, and we could come out of cover (or lack of cover as the case may be), everybody who was not on duty had to go report in at the logistics tent. For accountability. After that I went over to the smoke pit by the Chaplains tent to talk with some folks gathered there. Most were off duty and in civies. One young Airman said that the corner of the spec-ops hanger got hit.
Side Note- I think my second night on duty, I was over by that hangar. There were two C-17's and they were loading up a Blackhawk and two Little Birds. Actually it was three helo's and a bunch of spec-ops troops off loaded, and three helo's and a bunch of troop up load. These characters looked like something right out of Blackhawk Down. (2019 edit: Rangers from Task Force 626)
Quick rundown of event's this last week. 9 June late afternoon we landed. Processed in. Got our duffels, an MRE, and a ride in a piece of crap truck to a rats nest of a tent. Nice. I was lagged out from three or four days of travel. It was pretty depressing. 10 June meeting with the new Chief. He gave us the camp rules. I asked a buddy what he thought and he said, "sounds like he wants to burn someone". Those were my sentiments also. We got a chuckle out of that. After that we hitched a ride over to the Army chow hall at Camp Striker. While there, on our first full day in Baghdad, we experienced our first mortar (or rocket) attack. It shook the chow hall, and a lot of the Army folks left, in kind of a hurry.
Ok, back to 2019. That'll conclude the journal for today. In the next entry, I describe actually taking good cover during an attack, instead of dropping out in the open. (I knew better, and felt pretty stupid for dropping out in the open.)
First Armor Division, Camp Striker, Baghdad Airport, Iraq, 2004
Salty Rose, 2019