It does not matter where you are
26 May 2004 0837 hours
It's been a while since I've seen the way the oil fires light the sky. The Morale Welfare and Recreation tent on Camp Wolverine in Kuwait is totally unlike the facilities that do not exist on FOB Summerall. I entered the vast tunnels of tents connected by wooden docking stations that keep the entire facility sealed from the forces of nature outside to find myself confused again. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, physically and emotionally. This stop in Kuwait is part of my redeployment into Iraq. On 14 May, I returned home on Emergency Leave due to an illness in my family. Let me tell you what I have experienced over the past few days.
It was late in the afternoon on 14 May when I arrived at LSA Anaconda. For those of you who are playing the home game; Which of the following choices best completes the following sentence? LSA Anaconda is ... A: a major logistics point. B: huge. C: bombed frequently. D: A, B, and C. Answer D is correct. I enjoy seeing the world through other people's point of view. So it was nice to have another soldier from FOB Summerall leaving with me. He ranted from the moment I met him at 0700 until a little past late in the afternoon after we arrived on Anaconda.
He was pointing out very specific events that occurred with his unit that he wishes he could do over again. It was so interesting to hear about the joint missions from his point if view. Remember the time my driver ran over a power cable during a lightning storm? My new friend was on the assault team that entered the building we were providing security for during that mission. He was hating on everyone whose job does not take them off of the FOB. This guy was cracking me up with his humor and sincerity. He pointed out shortfalls from weapons that were poorly maintained, lax security on passing convoys, to inability to adhere to uniform standards. (Note: CNN just told me that 19% of a Gallup poll showed that America blames the "War in Iraq" for high gas prices. Wow.)
The liaison informed us which flight were manifested on as well as the "Showtime" for roll call. Seeing as how we were hungry, and the food on FOB Summerall comes out of a can, we figured it would be a good idea to take the shuttle bus to one of the dining facilities. It had been three months since I rode the bus from Camp New York to the Close Quarters Combat Training out in the desert in Kuwait. We laughed as the bus pulled away from the stop. The air conditioned comfort of the bus allowed us to relax and enjoy the ride.
The scene was strange. I felt like I was riding a city bus through Schweinfurt; except the pedestrians are carrying M16's. There were MP's in sport utility vehicles patrolling the roads and overwatching intersections on post. There were soldiers in Physical Fitness uniforms running in formation. There were soldiers walking the roads performing police call with orange road guard vests on. It appears that there are more civilians working here than soldiers. Even the smallest details, like traffic control signs, make the base feel like Anypost, USA.
My new buddy was just livid from all of the "normalcy" he viewed. We talked about how the LSA does not outwardly appear to be in a combat zone. There are trees that break the skyline, and the sheer size of the post gives the illusion of security. FOB Summerall does not appear normal by any means or fashion. Every structure is surrounded by Hesco barriers or sandbags. There is absolutely no scenery on the FOB. No road signs, no interactions between soldiers of other units. The only thing we have is our brothers by our side, and the entertainment in our cells. I did not realize the impact that the living conditions have had on us.
For his privacy, I will call him Fernando. Ferny made comments about every soldier that we passed. A group of soldiers boarded the bus. A particularly colorful character sat down across the isle from me. He greeted me with a big smile and a historical reference to the Big Red One patch on my shoulder. I have found out over the years that many people thrive on being associated with units that have noble lineage. He was one of those gray haired Specialists that were around when the Army wore fatigues. He asked a couple of the usual questions such as what FOB we came from, where is it, how long have we been in the Big Red One. Fernando is not easily dissuaded from his hypothesis that all support personnel are POAG's. (Note: I do not know the origin or authenticity of the word Poag. I just know that it has been around the Army longer than me. I do take credit for creating the following definition: I believe that POAG's are "Personnel Obviously Assigned to Garrison".)
Fernando made a statement to the soldier about how being on LSA Anaconda is not a deployment, referencing all of the facilities that make the quality of life much better than it appears to him on Summerall. The soldier assured us that being on Anaconda was in fact a deployment due to it's location in Iraq and length of operation. I could see Fernando rolling his eyes and not really giving two shits about what this guy was saying. I made a reference to the news reports I had been reading about the high frequency of indirect fire attacks on LSA Anaconda. Ferny turned towards me and said, "who cares if they drop mortars on this place? Who will miss it?" There were quite a few raised hackles on that bus by that point. He changed gears quickly and reworded it in a manner that referenced the size of the base. The odds of a round actually hitting something of value was decreased due to the reduced probability of a hit. By this point I just wanted to get off the bus and hide Fernando from interacting with any more locals on Anaconda.
The old man stayed sociable despite Fernando's impolite behavior. He informed me that the dining facility would not open for a short while and gave me directions to a nearby tent where we could watch a movie. We meandered over and walked in half way through bootleg Kill Bill 2. Having no interest in watching only the last half of a highly anticipated film, we exited. We began to soak in the small details of the area we were in. We found a prominent board that contained a message written in block letters. "Uniform for all soldiers is Kevlar, flak vest, and weapon: WORN AT ALL TIMES ON LSA ANACONDA". We chuckled as a portly soldier waddled by wearing flip-flops, PT shorts, brown t-shirt untucked, and towel around it's neck beneath a head with no cover. It is a travesty to see how large some soldiers have gotten over here. Thank goodness for Army Regulation 600-9.
The soldier turned and entered a tent marked with a sign that did not allow us to enter. Fernando and I began to talk about how Non-Commissioned Officers have an inherent responsibility towards their soldiers. We are responsible for the health, welfare, and appearance of our soldiers. I knew the direction to the Dining Facility and turned us in the right direction. I suddenly heard a sound that I remember hearing a few months ago. But it only lasted a millisecond this time. It was a "Whoosh" over my head, followed by a loud "Bang". I looked over and saw the impact in between two living quarter cells. There was a small plume of smoke and a body on the ground. I immediately ran in the direction of the person I saw in the prone. I was the second person to arrive at the casualty's aid. It was an Iraqi with a cut on the inside of his thigh. He will survive. An American soldier received minor injuries. By the time I saw him, a medic from nearby was on scene. I told Fernando, "This is all your fault...all that Haterade you're drinking up on this LSA. God is telling you to shut the fuck up because everyone in Iraq, regardless of what FOB they are on, is a target". He laughed and agreed with me. We were only a few hours from flying out of Iraq for 14 days when an enemy attack landed 75 meters from where we were standing. It does not matter where you are, everyone is threatened.
12 days later, here I am, back on FOB Summerall.
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My unit has word that we are deploying to FOB Summerall. If you are able to give me any usefull info on the area I would greatly appreciate it. THANK YOU
Posted by: | Aug 9, 2005 9:24:45 PM
It grieves my spirit that people can live such double standards, especially a soldier in Iraq that doesn't know from one minute to the next what will happen. Praying to God is a serious thing that so many people take for granted. I really don't feel like the God I serve would use the word f_c_ in his response to anyone. This is serious stuff and I wish people wouldn't make a joke about it. Thank you!
Posted by: Ann Sprinkle | Dec 7, 2005 5:55:22 PM
Well I was In summerall before it was summerall It was called FOB Lancer Its a tough place to be I was wounded 2 x there It was the #1 hit base in Iraq It was improved when we left It was getting bearible
Posted by: Richie | Dec 31, 2006 4:24:22 AM