Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Trip to Victory Base

I hope you remembered your favorite veteran today.  I had to work.  Not that it's such a big deal here.  I mean, what else is there to do?  Go hang out at the mall?  I went out to Victory Base for a meeting.

That sounds pretty simple, but it isn't.  Victory Base is out at the airport, maybe ten miles away, and getting there means traveling through the Red Zone.  Since you can't just hop in your car and drive, even if your car is an armored Excursion, you have to go in a military convoy.  They run several times a day.  I signed myself up for the out-and-back trip several days ago.  This morning, I put on my PPE (Personal Protective Equipment, meaning my body armor and my helmet), grabbed my shoulder bag with notebook and sketchpad, and headed for the rhino station.

Our convoy pulled in right on schedule.  It consisted of several large MRAPs and two Rhinos.  As I've noted before, the MRAPs are big and evil trucks, with 50-caliber gun turrets sticking out the top.  The Rhinos are essentially buses that look like motorhomes from a Mad Max movie.  I was busy sketching a Rhino when the call came to load up.  We were soon at the last gate before the Red Zone and the Rhino crew told everybody to set their weapons to "amber" condition.  The young lady sitting next to me, a civilian in body armor carrying a really stylish purse, calmly slapped a loaded magazine into an automatic pistol that I didn't know she had.  

A convoy like ours is an intimidating thing.  Imagine that you're tootling along on your way in to work and you look in your mirror and see some mean-ass monster truck bearing down on you with a machine gun aimed right at your rear window.  What are you gonna do?  Yup: you make an immediate, uncontrolled dive to the median or sidewalk or anywhere else that's not in front of that damn truck.  Roads magically clear out in front of us.  When I went out in that Blackwater convoy a few weeks ago, we had military and Iraqi policemen stop traffic for us.  MRAPs and Rhinos don't need any help.

Victory Base proved to be interesting.  It's huge, for one thing: it completely encircles the Baghdad airport.  And since it's American-controlled, it feels very much like America.  We stopped by the BX.  There was a Subway, and a Cinnabon, and Taco Bell.  Okay, so they were in prefab trailers instead of your typical stores, but still.  And the BX was almost like one at home.  It actually had a variety of things that I would consider buying.  Quite a step up from the one in the IZ, which is really more like a Mini-Mart with a rather strange collection of goods.  

I had a long meeting with an organization that's building a lot of our projects.  Good people, all of them.  Then it was time to head back and catch the Rhino back to the IZ.  Our trip back was a bit quicker than the morning one.  We got home with no trouble at all.

Time to post some new sketches:

Here's one of our guards at a post by the Embassy.

A palm tree in front of the Palace ...

The view from my seat inside the Rhino on the afternoon run today.

3 comments:

  1. wow, very cool, those images are very accurage,
    you seem to have caputured the spirit of the moment

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  2. is that camp victory?
    wow, brings back some memories,
    passing through there a few times, before I decided to ETS

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  3. That's a great picture of one of the Triple Canopy guys, sure takes me back. I used to live in the Riverside hooches and was always happy to see the guy guarding it when I knocked off work at about 2100.

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