Monday, January 08, 2007

The Rain

It's January in central Iraq, and the rainy season is upon us.

The downpour has been cold and hard; coming down in bulbous, icy droplets. The wind has varied on occasion, but never in the past two days has the sky grown lighter; not once has the sun or a hint of blue shown itself. Our motor pool is flooded. Up the road from our trailers, the camo nets hanging from the guard towers blow and shake violently.

Our motor pool is right under a major traffic lane for the local airfield, and so this morning, I was able to watch an Air Force C-5 come in for landing. The C-5 Galaxy is a cargo jet longer than a football field, but even as impressive as such a sight can normally be, I had to take special pause this time, as I watched the slate-gray giant shake and yaw in the wind. I could almost see the pilots wrestling the old beast to maintain control. The rain poured over the massive wings in mighty sheets, steaming off as it hit the backwash from the engines. My ears rang as the plane passed overhead on its approach, and as the noise died away I shivered inside my camouflage parka. I willed myself to ignore the cold penetrating my extremities. My gloves and boots were soaked.

Around 1315 this afternoon, a tower near our company area erupted in gunshots. A firefight was breaking out, and the noise continued, mingled with heavy machine-gun fire, for some 15 minutes. Outside the wire, we heard explosions, and before we knew it the Alert Red sirens were wailing. My squadmates and I at the smoke shack ran for the bunkers, and about ten minutes later a voice blared out over the loudspeakers that we were at U3--mandatory wear of body armor. We stayed there, even going back to the motor pool, for about the next half-an-hour, until a call came down from Ops, giving us the all-clear to downgrade. Just as well. With full ammunition load and armor plating inserts, my IBA weighs close to 60 pounds--just under half of my normal weight of 145. There's a certain comfort in the the heft of body armor, but it goes both ways. Pulling a 23-hour workday in the stuff while on mission can be a truly miserable experience.

It's the second Monday in January. It's nighttime now, and when I go out to smoke I find that the rain has lulled for the moment. The only sound is the ever-present roar of the generators. In the distance, the smell of the burn pits, normally rank and metallic, makes me think for a moment of sweet woodsmoke. It evokes long snowy evenings spent at the home of our old family friends, the Kelleys. Taking a draw from my pipe, I think of winter nights transformed into black daylight by so many stars, but when I look skyward I see only the faint haze of cloud cover. The rains will be back, and they will not depart for some time.

I got my date today for R&R leave. Two months.

9 Comments:

Blogger GiG said...

We took a Mac-flight (sp?) to the US from Germany once in a C-5...what an experience. It certainly is a giant and having to climb a ladder on the outside to enter the plane from the airfield gave facing my fears of height a whole different meaning.

I'm glad to hear about the R&R coming up, in the meantime, stay warm, dry and safe.

9:33 PM  
Blogger The Ambiguous Blob said...

Your place does not sound like a great place to be right now. I hope your upcoming R&R is wonderful.
On a side note, I just read your profile and find myself falling in love with your book choices. Especially Ishmael!

10:01 PM  
Blogger Just telling it like it is said...

My hats Off to you...
From one Life saver to the other...hang in there...I feel your pain...
R&R in two months hey ho!!! I bet you can't wait..I hope it is not to cold over there for you guys...I hear that it is freezing in the night...and the camel spiders are a mother...
You write beautifully..
Thanks for stopping by my blog...

10:13 PM  
Blogger Spc. Freeman said...

Just,

Haven't actually seen any camel spiders yet. Mostly just a lot of pigeons and crows, though on clear nights the jackals can be heard baying for miles. My pleasure to stop my, and my honor for you to visit. Al-salaam al-laikum.

10:18 PM  
Blogger iamcoyote said...

Man, those galaxies are just humongous; I finally got to see one up close at an air show here a couple years back. To see a pilot try to wrestle it into behaving has got to be amazing, and scary.

Hooray for R&R!

10:26 PM  
Blogger Just telling it like it is said...

Hearing the Jackals would freak me out...shesh...so do the crows

Man I work 13 hrs straight...I can't even fathum having to work 23 hrs a day and on a mission...

Sometimes I wear camo scrubs though...so I can blend in and maybe the patients will not notice I am really there...
Take care my dear and be safe...

10:37 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

Two months. Huzzah for that!

(Send the rain to SoCal. We need it.)

I'd love to hear jackals... do they sound at all like coyotes? (this detail may find its way into the novel...)

5:24 AM  
Blogger Chris Rich said...

http://baystatements.blogspot.com/2007/01/whats-with-links-3-views-of-oil-war.html is a tribute to Riverbend and you on my blog.

I got my readership , such as it is, rooting for both of you with hopes your skill at compelling sentence serves you well when you finally get to go home.

Your dispatches sit with the best going back to the letters compiled by venerable Henry Steele Commanger in "The Blue and the Grey"

1:14 AM  
Blogger Steven Novak said...

Two months huh? Well, there's something to look forward to!

Steve~

8:19 PM  

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