Monday, July 25, 2005
One more drip
The most rewarding part of my job here is the occasional opportunity to participate in Civil Affairs missions. Our unit is currently refurbishing a school near the base, and we are using some of the civilian expertise of our soldiers to help plan and execute infrastructure repairs to several villages in the area. I got to roll out on one of these missions today as part of the security element for several officers who were meeting with local village leaders to discuss their needs and how we can help. It was a straightforward mission from a security standpoint, roll in, establish a perimeter around the meeting place, sweep the area and clear the building, and provide local security while the meeting was going on. We rolled out as a mixed element, vehicles from several units that all were participating in the meeting. The village hosting the meeting is within sight of the front gate of the camp, and many of the locals work on the camp, so we felt marginally safe in the village but we certainly had no room for getting lazy. Everything went well, except for getting mobbed by kids looking to score whatever goodies they could from us, since they know we are soft touches. My limited Arabic is always a big hit with kids, I think they enjoy making fun of my butchered pronunciation. We didn't disappoint them, they got to load up on candy and Beanie Babies donated from the States. Thank You to everyone that sends that stuff, it goes to good use! Even the minor sandstorm going on was welcome, as it kept the temp down to "only" 110, a welcome break from the 125+ we have endured the last few weeks.
We had a moment of concern when we heard an explosion at the gate. I looked over and I saw tires and a bumper flying through the air above the explosion. Our first thought was "VBIED (Vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) at the gate" so we cleared the kids away from the area towards safety. After a few moments of radio traffic we discovered that it was a controlled detonation of a suspected VBIED, a suspicious vehicle parked near the entrance of the gate. I won't go into details about what made the car suspicious, but based on what I heard from the soldiers at the gate later, I would have blown the car up too.
The meeting continued, and concluded well. We identified several key infrastructure improvements, and everyone was happy. After returning to the FOB, we stripped off our body armor and aired out our sweat-soaked uniforms. I got to enjoy one of those rarest of feelings here, the belief that today, we did good. One village will have cleaner water because of today. I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but today one more drip fell into the bucket.