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Steve Noll’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 19 Nov 2009

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

MapToday is one week until Thanksgiving and I find myself already wondering whether they will have "real" turkey and stuffing or if it will be a weak attempt at a good meal. The food here is actually pretty good, but no one here was here last year at this time, so no one really knows what to expect. I will let you know.

Today is the first day in three that it hasn't rained and everyone is VERY happy because it gets SOOO nasty and muddy here. There are no storm sewers/drains so the water just stays on the roads and in the gutters. Any dirt or mud that is brought onto the street just gets mixed in to all that water and it becomes a chocolate brown, slurry mix of nasty goo. AND, as you walk down the only clean areas, the sidewalks, you constantly get splashed by A-holes driving too fast down the roads as they spray mud all over you. I am tempted to load my weapon and take the next vehicle out! (just kidding)

It has cooled down a bit. It is down in the 50s at night and only the low 60s during the day. In Jan/Feb it can get as cold as the 20s and there has been snow reported here as well. Yea! A white Christmas anyone? No, that would just mean more mud.

Right now, my duties basically include (keeping this unclassified obviously) monitoring and tracking the JCA (joint cargo aircraft) Test that the C-130 aircraft from Mansfield, OH are performing. The results of which will be briefed to GEN Odierno (the 4-star Gen in charge of the Iraq war) and then to the Secretary of Defense and President. No pressure! Also, we are HEAVILY involved in the Iraq election process and protection of the people of Iraq during this period. As such, I am working to help a unit redeploy (go home) shortly after the elections from a specific airfield up north. Typically, their troops will fly on CH-47 Chinook helicopters to Baghdad and then get on C-130s or C-17s to take them to Kuwait to get on their commercial flights home. I am working to cut out the CH-47 piece and get them flown directly to Kuwait from their field which saves the CH-47s for more important (read as combat) missions since they are overtasked in Iraq already. This will also prevent a log-jam at Baghdad as there would be other units at the same time coming thru Baghdad too. Additionally, I train Army personnel to conduct Landing Zone Operations and Airdrop Zone operations. With that I am working to get CFR (Crash, Fire, Rescue or Fire trucks) at two airfields in the spring for their swap out with units coming in to replace them. When big (fixed wing) aircraft like C-130s or C-17s come in to an airfield, you have to have certain levels of fire support to spray water or foam on an aircraft if it were to crash/catch on fire.

So, that is just a FEW of the UNCLASSIFIED duties that I am doing right now. Sorry for the lengthy post but I figured, as my first, I should catch everyone up to speed on what I'm doing here and how I am effecting the change to democracy for Iraq.

Sidenote: The Iraqi people are actually very appreciative and thankful. Every day as I walk along a little canal to get to the palace where I work, I pass several Iraqi military taking their breaks by fishing in the water. They have a hook with some fishing line wrapped around their hand (no fishing poles). As I walk by, I try to greet them in Arabic and smile and they speak back, in broken english and try to say Good Morning or Hello and smile back. They are nice people and I BELIEVE are thankful for what we have done for them. Don't let the news reports sway you to thinking the contrary. The insurgents are a small minority, fed weapons from outside the country (Iran?) and do not represent the feelings of the majority of the populace.

Lt Col Steve Noll
MNC-I Air Mobility Liaison Officer (AMLO)
Camp Victory, Iraq