Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Road Trip: Ramadi

I took a road trip today to Ramadi. Two of us from my office went out there to meet with some people about two projects that we're about to launch. This was my first trip to that part of the country and it was quite interesting.

Ramadi is about 90 minutes by up-armored vehicle west of here, pretty much a direct shot on their major east-west highway. Our little convoy went by the town of Abu Ghraib, including the infamous prison (now run by the Iraqi government). The land out there is FLAT, reminding me of, say the Texas panhandle. It's an odd mixture of desert and prairie, too - the reason is that even though there's almost no rain, the water table is just a few feet down, so trees grow remarkably well. The highway was in much better shape than I would have thought and we zipped along pretty quickly. I did notice, however, that the guardrails had been literally ripped out a few years back so that they wouldn't provide hiding places for IED's. Security now is pretty good. The Iraqi soldiers manning the checkpoints were invariably efficient and polite - I spoke with an Iraqi about that, and he said that this is a result of the training that US Marines provided over the past few years, so the troops they trained will understandably have some of the Marines' clipped efficiency and politeness. Good on 'em.

We met with some Americans at Camp Ramadi to discuss the projects. A little while later, a large cadre of Iraqi officials arrived. They will be the beneficiaries of one of my projects. One of my purposes in going out there was to meet with these officials and assure them that the project really is going to go forward. They've become very skeptical over the past few years of our efforts. Some of this is our fault: previous teams have told the Iraqis that the US would do this or that for them, only to have the project shot down at some other level. Of course, part of this is their own doing as well: they have a tendency to hear the phrase "we are going to try to do something" as "I promise you it will be done and that we'll give you $X dollars as well". So they didn't really believe that this project would happen. Since we need their cooperation and active participation, I wanted to make sure that they understood that, yes, it really is going to happen, and here's the timeline, and here's what they need to do to make it a success. Message received. I think. Insha'allah.

The trip home was much the same as the trip out, except that the Iraqi soldiers at the checkpoints were much more particular, and had to check everything out. Our security team said that part of the reason was that they are, in general, more particular about vehicles heading toward Baghdad; another part is that there were five bombings in Baghdad today and so they're being more vigilant ... after the fact, of course. But despite the checkpoints, the trip home went well and we got back on time.

I shot a whole bunch of pictures out the window of our vehicle. Please excuse the quality; we were usually moving pretty quickly, so getting anything was just a matter of luck. This is a typical side street off the main highway.

Out on the highway, there are lots of vendors selling fruits and vegetables. Our convoys don't stop, but I hear from some of our Iraqis that these fresh fruits and veggies are quite tasty.

Just to the north of the Victory Base complex, there is an area that was fiercely fought over during the 2003 invasion. Because it was a poor area, it has never been rebuilt.

Home, finally, after a long, successful day!

1 comment:

  1. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/09/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.