Seventeen years ago today I went on a convoy from Camp Victory to the Green Zone in Baghdad. It was not a long drive, but it was the longest I’d been on outside of the wire, up to that point.
The purpose of the trip was to take another soldier in my unit to a medical specialist. She had some sort of spider bite or bacterial infection that was nearly eating her skin away, and the most common thing she was being told was “huh… I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Amazingly, helpful and soothing to hear, I’m sure.
So in the morning, I was told to PMCS (preventative maintenance checks and services) a HMMWV (Humvee) so that we could convoy. The vehicle I was checking, had been sitting stationary in desert sand for about eight months and there wasn’t an alternate we could substitute if there was something wrong. So, with the formality of the checks complete, we were off with two other vehicles – our lieutenant was in the second and the third was our military police (MP) with a gunner in the turret.
Shortly into the drive during downtown Baghdad’s rush hour, I hit the brakes and they locked up. The vehicle spun a full 360 degrees where I ended up next to some Iraqi in his sedan, before it spun 360 degrees the other direction where I ended dangerously close to the MP vehicle and the gunner looking scared I would have knocked him out of the turret. Who knows how on earth I didn’t hit either one of them or anything else. Really shook up at this point, but with no choice but to continue driving, I did.
The next scare was nearing the entry control point to the Green Zone. I had been told not to let ANY vehicles pass on the driver’s side of the vehicle. This was a common technique at the time. A black SUV tried to pass me and I defensively blocked it. As we pulled up through the barriers it passed on the passenger side and stopped ahead of us breaking us off from our other vehicles. Someone got out (probably Blackwater or something) with a full load of ammo strapped on their chest, screaming at me for not letting them by. Although getting yelled at was not my favorite, my larger concern was that we were surrounded by very tall apartment buildings – again they may have been home to Americans, but as it was my first time off the base, it was all I could think of. The lieutenant took the blame for me not letting this gentleman pass and we continued to the hospital.
I wandered around with the MPs to a small cafe, talked to the children selling dvds, bought a little Saddam money just to kill time till the hospital visit was over.
On our drive back, of course it couldn’t be uneventful. Shortly into our drive we were diverted by another military unit because of a suspected IED. We were then forced to drive the wrong way on a few roads in order to get back to base.
All in all, a pretty boring day that I’m glad I won’t be reliving.
Sadly, part of the stress I felt that day wasn’t because of the day but because it was an old boyfriend’s birthday and I didn’t want to be yelled at because of his OCD tendencies. I was on time with the birthday call and mentioned nothing about my day’s stress.