Here's everything I received, edited only to get rid of the ">>>" characters at the beginning of each line, and paragraphs formatted as seemed appropriate:
This is from a co-worker that used to work at the Oregon State Penitentiary. He quit and took a job in Iraq for far more than he made with the state. But as you read through his first day you will soon see that he is going to earn every tax free dollar. This is good reading and gives you a look from an average persons perspective on their first day in country.
Subject: In to Iraq.
E-mail for non-family members. 24 December 2004 (Christmas Eve)
Wild times to say the least.
From Kuwait to Iraq is via a C-130 where everyone wears body armor and a helmet. The ballistic plates make the vest very heavy, but once on it rides pretty good. Helps provide a safer feeling.
I sat next to a young, air force security soldier who told me he volunteered to go to Jordan where they will pick-up Iraqi soldiers being trained there and return them to Iraq. His job is like an air marshal on an airline. He has an M-16 and a 9 m/m if any of the Iraqi's try to take over the plane.
Coming into BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) the two rear air crew harness themselves into the side windows and watch intensely for rockets.
Then the roller coaster begins.
We go up and down, side to side, and spiral for a landing. I have never experienced such G force nor looked out a window and see sand and street and then instantly roll to see the sun.
We land with a thump.
The world is now different. Everyone has at least one gun but the faces are of teenagers.
We missed the last helicopter to Baghdad (no one drives the road as its too dangerous) so we ride the Rhino to Camp Striker to spend the night in a large tent of cots. The Rhino is a mobile home that has armor plating and bulletproof glass.
We walk ¼ mile to the chow hall and its great food. Hundreds of soldiers eat at once trying to eat and find a place for their helmets & guns. Little women carrying rifles almost as big as them.
The next morning we ride the Rhino and are briefed about our flight on the Blackhawk helicopters. Luggage in one and passengers in another. I sit next to one of the door gunners as we fly 100 yards above the city. Low and fast. It's a dry, dusty worn out city with lots of cars and trucks.
We land at the Steel Dragon which a fortified landing area for helicopters.
We are bused to a pick-up area where Air Force drug dogs give our bags the once over. We then are met by two guys who drive us to the An Naan (sp?) to an area of tents surrounded by sand bags. Really poor conditons as told by the police trainers living there. I am rescued when one of the guys driving another SUV tells me that corrections doesn't live here and he will drive me and the other corrections guy to a pick-up area to meet our ride.
We are met by a SUV and three armored Humvees with roof mounted machine guns. I am told that I will never move about Baghdad without an army security escort.
I am in the lead Humvee since there are too many people for the SUV.
The roof gunner apologizes for his language in advance but states its necessary.
We pull out of the Green Zone and it's a ride that no one will ever believe.
The Humvee is floored and heaven help anyone getting in the way. I now know what it is like being in a crazy criminals car being chased by the police on city streets. There is no room but that doesn't stop the driver who just gives it more gas and barely misses everything. The roof gunner is yelling "Get out of the way____ ____!" and pointing his M-16 at them to intimidate them away. We are like an emergency vehicle going thru traffic in that they are to pull to the side of the road. But there is no room in the crowded third world traffic jam that we bust thru.
We stop at a prison to pick up some staff to go to the hotel with the caravan, as their day is over. My Humvee blocks the middle of the road pointing the medium caliber machine gun at all cars coming down the road to intimidate they to turn around. One taxi keeps coming and coming. He is coming right for us and the gunner racks a round into the chamber of the machine-gun yelling for him to stop. He is about to open fire when the taxi stops and makes a U-turn. The soldiers were real nervous about it.
Now we charge into the traffic again enroute to the Al Sadeer hotel where we live. Any back seat driver would be crying by now as it is the most exhilarating ride I have ever been on. Just as we slow to make a hairpin turn the gunner is screaming and a shot if fired from an M-16 by the gunner behind us. A car was advancing on us and wouldn't stop so they fired at the vehicle. The lieutenant stated later that now all his gunners have fired on vehicles. If the first shot doesn't get a response then they use deadly force on the driver.
We come to the hotel and I can tell it is guarded by Kurds. A very handsome looking people. The area is surrounded by a 12-foot concrete wall with shooting positions on the roof and wall manned by security personnel.
Each door into the hotel has one or two AK-47 armed security persons who are very friendly. I don't have to live in a tent but a 5 star hotel. At least it was a 5 star once upon a time. It beats a tent.
And that was just the first day.
Since Friday is the Sabbath for Muslims I have the day off and also Saturday due to it being a holiday.
I walk to the roof the next morning to see the city and smoke a cigar, two shots ring out from the street below. A passing car to let us know that they are out there. After breakfast we walk to a self-service laundry thru "technicals" (pick-ups with machine-guns in back) manned by Kurds on their way out on patrol. About 40 of them and they look all business. I'm to be issued a Colt M-4 .223 carbine and a Beretta 9 m/m the day after Christmas since everything is shut down for the holiday.
I'm to tour the local prisons to include Abu Grab (sp?) to see the conditions. Their not sure just what I'll be doing since so much is up in the air.
At least I get free email from the hotel and 10 minutes on the telephone to family plus free meals. What could be better!
Aka Baghdad Bob