Flying into Iraq is an experience. We had to wait 3 extra hours at the airport in Kuwait because our original flight was converted into a cargo flight so they had to find another plane for us. We flew on an Air Force C-17 cargo plane; they put removable cargo seats in the bay for us to ride in.
The flight is only an hour, not long enough to get a good sleep going, which is bad because we had been up for 8 hours before the flight. That may not sound so bad but this was right after coming back from Udari. Sleeping in a communal room with 60 of your closest friends, on the floor, isn’t the best way to get well rested. The lucky ones were able to get maybe 3 hours of sleep between coming back to Camp Virginia and getting ready for the flight.
You have to fly in full armour and helmet because Iraq is a war zone. However, you arrive at the Camp Victory complex which is a secure base. As soon as you get off the plane you get to take your armour off. I know it’s a security policy but they really need to rethink it. If the plane gets hit in the air, the armour is just going to make you fall that much faster.
The Camp Victory Complex is huge. I don’t know the exact dimension, and their probably classified anyways, but you can look at Google Earth and see how big it is. There are several buses that run between Camps Victory, Liberty, and Stryker, with a dedicated bus that runs from Camp Victory to the big PX at Camp Liberty.
The weather is hot, naturally. However, it’s about 10 degrees cooler than Kuwait, a noticable difference when you step off the plane. Of course, anything above 105 degrees doesn’t really matter, to me at least. At that point it just feels hot, plain and simple. The average temperature for the last week was about 117 degrees.
You can see that this was once a beautiful oasis but the coalition army doesn’t employ gardeners. The trees are dying, or at least seem to be because of all the dust on them. The small canals are empty and the artificial lakes are very low. Everything has a thick layer of dust on it because of water rationing. Even when taking a shower you have to turn the water off while soaping up and you have to try and limit it to 5 minutes or less.
There are a variety of countries represented here, from the contractors to coalition forces. So far I have seen Lithuania, Australia, Canada, Great Britian, Poland, Georgia, Albania, Kurdistan (and many other -stan countries), and obviously Iraq. There are also the various people from countries around the Indian Ocean who come has as general laborers.
The food is great. The dining facilities are huge and have a large variety of food. Some of the menu items include: stir fry to order, eggs to order, waffles to order, ham, roast beef, pot roast, indian curry, tacos, hamburgers, hot dogs, caesar salad, a sandwich bar (including paninis), and the dessert bar. The dessert bar is somewhat famous because it offers cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream, and some other items on a rotating basis. The Command Sergeant Major likes to say, “You’ll either leave here benchpressing 300 pounds or weighing 300 pounds.” Needless to say, it’s very easy to get fat.
If you work at Al-Faw palace, it’s very grand looking at first. If you look closer, you realize that it’s all a facade. Literally. Cracks and holes in the marble reveal that it’s just small marble sheets, like tiles, placed over concrete and mud. The gold is often just gold plastic or gilded metal. The big chandelier in under the dome is supposedly half plastic. But it’s still pretty impressive.
When you first arrive at the camp, you get to live in lovely tents. They’re actually worse than the tents in Kuwait. Minimal, if any, air conditioning and extremely crowded. When you move into a trailer, you’ll think it’s luxury living. The showers and bathrooms are also trailers; if you’re lucky you will only have to walk 30 seconds to get to them.
You’re supposed to have a roommate but that doesn’t always happen. Some people I arrived with didn’t have a roommate in their quarters. Others, like me, have roommates that don’t live there for some reason. Their stuff is still there but they aren’t. I think these people were temporarily assigned to a different base in Iraq. I don’t know how long that may be but I’m enjoying the privacy while I can.
That’s about all I can think of right now. If you have any questions, just post a comment.