No thanks to the brain-dead folks operating my old FOB's air operations office, I finally hopped on a flight last Monday and was at Baghdad International Airport (known in these parts by its acronym, BIAP) 20 minutes later. Before I forget, even though lots of negative comments get heaped upon the civilian contractors who work for the former Halliburton subsidiary of KBR, I need to mention some shining exceptions: The folks who operate the civilian motor pool and the employees running the Army Post Office at FOB Kalsu are dedicated, competent, non-bureaucratic, and best of all, extremely customer-service oriented...I shall really miss working with them all. Of similar competence are the men and women who keep the BIAP military helicopter passenger operations humming like a...rotor blade? (Points deducted for crap-o analogy.) TSA could really learn a thing or 50 from these professionals.
Now, on to the story at hand. I wrote about what it was like to visit Baghdad, not expecting to be taking up residence here 30 days later. Since I'm apparently on an analogy kick tonight, I'm going to compare the Victory Base Complex (VBC) to a gigunda anthill. Yeah, not fresh in the least, but if you saw the little figures scurrying around the big, bare mound nicknamed "Commo Hill", named so because it is bristling with every kind of radio, microwave, and likely TV antennae, anthill would come to your mind as well.
After a week here, I am very happy with the change. The pace is definitely high-speed...I've done more interviews in one week than I did in the previous month. We're averaging one or two new cases per day. My colleagues are pretty high-speed as well. It's definitely a fun working environment, with lots of practical jokes being sprung. I have a lot more resources at my disposal, especially a file server containing electronic case files for the past 4 years. Need an example of a crime scene sketch for a motor vehicle theft? It's in there. Reward request and poster? There are literally 50 different types available. It makes doing casework fast and efficient.
Living conditions are a bit different from FOB Kalsu...nah, they are a LOT different! The CHUs are less sturdy, and square vs. rectangular. I have bunk beds in my room, (shades of 1964!) plus a "pleather" leprechaun-sized loveseat, and a full-sized desk for my laptop and TV. My CHU is located in a sprawling housing area, sort of a "combat Levittown", and in the midst of a persistent sea of mud. Even though the last rain was a week ago, the mud is just as wet and gooey. Topping off the location's charm is the distance to the latrine, which I reach after trekking a quarter-mile through the muck...which gives me incentive to increase my sprint speed!
I'll follow up shortly with my account of touring the ruins of the "Victory Over America" Palace, (I have photos) and the Hooters Girls appearance where I was on the security detail (sorry, NO photos...)