We convoyed out to the desert… well since we are always in the desert, I just mean a different and less occupied part of it. Humvees are not comfortable and there really isn’t much to see along the roads of western Anbar. This is tough duty for the Marines, but they seem to enjoy it more than I would. It is sort of like a road trip with some camping, but camping is not so much fun if you can’t drink beer and make campfires.
This terrain is almost completely flat and seems to consist of a base of marble with a thin layer of yellow, dusty soil on top. When I say marble, I mean marble. The rock layer right below is shinny and smooth. It looks almost like a floor covered with dirt. The parent rock of marble is limestone, so I guess there must be a lot of limestone or at least there was.
The only incident occurred when our helicopter landed a little too close to the portable latrine and pushed them over. Nobody was inside. Consider what would have happened, however – some poor guy covered in blue crappy water and then dusted with the grit thrown up by the helicopter, sort of like a sugar donut but less pleasant.
One of the Marines told me that he had been on this same terrain a couple years ago, only that time they didn’t even have the modest tents you see in the pictures. These poor guys were out here for around five months sleeping in their trucks. The Marines explained to me how easy life was on a forward operating base (FOB) like Al Asad. He said that it was comfortable being a “fobbit.” I didn’t have to stay out there with them for five months or even a day. I did get to eat my MRE (see below) and I can imagine what it would be like to be here longer. He was right. Fobbits rule.
We didn’t have to stay in the desert overnight because we went to the big K3 refinery and spent the night there. That helicopter that blew down the latrines picked us up. The governor of Al Anbar, other dignitaries and generals came down K3 to check on progress. It is coming along okay, as I mentioned in an earlier posting. Not much will come out for the time being, but it is working and that is big progress.
You can see the discussions in the picture. The British general pictured is the one in charge of infrastructure. The big guy is the governor.