Blog - January 21, 2005

In January, 2005, Peter embarked on a one-year trip to Iraq as a contractor, beginning with a training session in Washington, D. C. This is an informal blog of his training and experience in Iraq.
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Security Training Prior to Departure for Iraq

The beginning of "DSAC" ("security") training, a.k.a "How to stay alive in Baghdad', was interesting, to say the least. Our instructor was an old State Department hand who seems to have missed his calling. He punctuated his otherwise very portentous, Power Point presentations with a droll, understated, ironic sense of humor. Some examples, paraphrased, per slides showing various slices of civilian life in Baghdad:

Someone wearing body armor ?

It's easy to forget. Nothing happens for days at a time. You start to feel indestructible. You may wear it but remove some plates to lighten the weight. It's heavy, so you start to leave it off. Don't. What's a few hours compared to time after death?

Trailer housing surrounded by sandbags ?

Two wall layers of sandbags, no less, with narrow walkways in between, because the aluminum skin of the trailers is rather thin. Rounds can still reach you through the roof. It's better to clean up after yourself than hire someone to come in and do your cleaning. While walking back to your trailer at night, always carry a flashlight. If you hear someone behind you, turn to confront them.

You may feel like a second-class citizen, living in a trailer. Don't. Your alternative is to stay in a crowded barracks tent, a place where, if you try to leave some food until your pillow, you'll return to find it nibbled away by rats. This is why you must get your country clearance immediately, if you haven't already. Living space is very hard to find.

Outdoor market in the Green Zone ?

This was shut down for awhile but it's probably been re-opened by now. Enter at your own risk. Be watchful. If you see someone with a knapsack, watch out. If that someone puts it down, yell out to challenge him [another trainee, a civilian employee of the Marine Corps, said that they'd been taught to fall on the knapsack and/or pick it up and throw it to a place where it could do no harm if it explodes].

The Laundromat ?

Stay there until your clothes get done. After several washings, you may find that colors and imprints on your clothing start to disappear. That's because of the fine sand that gets into everything [reminds me of the complaint of the Egyptian woman upon emerging from her Pharough's tent]. If you get impatient and leave your laundry, expecting to return and find it, you may not.

Work and play ?

You'll be under a lot of stress, working 12+ hour days. Take advantage of the after-work gatherings for drinks and conversation in the evening. Take advantage of the pool and the exercise room to swim or work out.

The Steel Dragon ?

This is the name that the Marines have given to the hutch that holds luggage upon entrance to the Zone. Soldiers like to give martial-sounding names to even ordinary things. You say that you and your luggage have been checked and rechecked prior to your arrival? They'll be checked and rechecked again.

The Cafeteria ?

This is where we would go to eat. Colorful slides began to whet appetites until our trainer opined that menus repeated and recurred. We would tire of them and start to hanker after some more stomach-pleasing variety. Then we might start to seek such at the outdoor market. Are bellies bigger than eyes? Do gourmet tastes overcome desire for safety?

The Class of Trainees ?

The class of about three dozen trainees is surprisingly diverse, including people from a wide range of occupations. There are two Iraqi's and only two women. I'd like to get to know the Iraqi's better, to get their advice on how to forge relationships with other Iraqi's that I will be dealing with during the project.

Other matters of concern:

? Lack of leadership or political courage among Democrats in the Senate

E.g., Joe Biden. Boxer and Kerry's don't count even though they were the only two Senators to vote against confirmation of Rice in committee. They're behaving like sore losers, not leaders of a loyal opposition. Biden, on the other hand, at least sounds like a statesman. Then he fails to vote to honor his words.

Biden's vote typifies a Congress without conviction, a set of bodies unable to assert republican power vis a vis (vs.?) a president who has arrogated too much power in the executive branch. It's the congressional tendency to roll over and play dead before a president that got us into the Iraq war. We have a President with conviction facing a Congress with little and no gumption to back up what little conviction they may have.

? Failure of the president to draw any connection between practicing democracy at home and trying to export it abroad, so the inaugural speech seems to feature two boxes, "domestic" and "international," with no overlap between them.

I returned to the DSAC training preparatory for living (?) securely (?) in Iraq. Notes for this may be found on pages Notes (1) to (2) and (2,1)-(2,7) cont. in my 2005 calendar.

More Blog Entries
December 4, 2005 - May 19, 2006 - A Run for Congress in 2006?
December 3, 2005 - ALTERNATIVES to the BUSH43 STRATEGY ON IRAQ
June 12, 2005 - On Bill Clinton
June 7-12, 2005 - On ?Social Class?
June 7, 2005 - Washington State Governor
June 1, 2005 - The European Constitution and Democracy
February 2005 - Blogging in Baghdad to a high security beat
January 21, 2005 - Security Training Prior to Departure for Iraq
Jan. 19th to 28th - Highlights of training by the Department of State (DS)