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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Iraq Pics

Germany 087
This was a wall locker that I used in Iraq as a temporary safe. There is approximately $300,000 US in Iraqi dinars in this wall locker. I kept this wall locker in the CMATT briefing room with just a simple combination lock to secure it. By the time I turned the payroll function over to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, I was using six safes and Saddam Hussein's own personal vault in the Presidential Palace for storing all the dinars signed over to me.

Germany 114
This is a truck belonging to the Iraqi 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Iraqi Intervention Force (IIF). At the time, the 2nd IIB (Iraqi Infantry Battalion) was in An Najaf mopping up remnants of Muqtada al-Sadr's Army which were still in the city after the major fighting had ceased. This truck received a direct hit from an RPG round but as you can see, the improvised armor plating prevented major damage and loss of life.

Germany 116
My security escort from HHQ, 1st Infantry Brigade, An Najaf, Iraq. These were very sharp troopers. The Iraqis can be VERY good soldiers if properly led, trained, motivated and equipped. I worked almost exclusively with Iraqi soldiers during my tour in Iraq and I felt completely confident in their ability to hold their own if and when the stuff hit the fan.

Germany 124
The Wild Bunch, An Najaf, Iraq. These were the Iraqi soldiers who helped me cart around close to 1 billion dinars in An Najaf, Iraq for purpose of paying soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 2nd battalion and 4th battalion. Unlike U.S. soldiers who are paid via direct deposit, all the Iraqi soldiers are paid in cash!!! For a three month period, I was the official paymaster for the Iraqi Armed Forces so it was my job to make sure everybody got paid. Needless to say, it was an extremely difficult, dangerous and interesting job. The lowest paid Iraqi soldier makes about the equivalent of $50 US a month while the top ranking officers (e.g., generals) make about $600 US. This might seem low to us but the cost of living is really low in Iraq. A person can live like a king on about $600 a month (876,000 dinars).

My boss in Iraq, LTG David Petreaus, the CG of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I). This is the command tasked with training the new Iraqi Army. LTG Petreaus is one of the sharpest Generals I have ever met. He even remembered me from my US Army Europe (USAREUR) days when I ran all the Force Protection VTCs for US Army Europe and he was Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations, SFOR. It was LTG Petreaus who put a stop to the practice of rear echelon staff officers receiving the Bronze Star Medal as an exit award for completing their tours of duty in the Green Zone (i.e., not putting one foot outside the Green Zone during their entire tour of duty in Iraq).

Albania 045
One of my Iraqi workers in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense J8 Section (Finance Section). While in Iraq, I used code names for all soldiers and civilians working for me for security reasons. I called this individual Mr. A for Mr. All-Knowing. It was Mr. A who told me that I had a $20,000 price on my head because of my job as Paymaster for the entire Iraqi Armed Forces. I was extremely lucky and never did get caught. My Iraqi driver, Mr. W., however was captured and held for four days before being released. He had to quit because the bad guys threatened to not only kill him if he continued to work for me but also kill his two wives and his seven children (In Iraq, it is legal for a man to have up to four wives). On the trip where he was captured, I was supposed to be with him but a last minute change in my plans prevented me from going. As a result of this, I was saved from being a guest star in a terrorist beheading video.

A Wagon Train run from the Green Zone to Taji Military Training Base (TMTB). Wagon Train was our code word for a payroll run where we had an armed escort (Humvees; code word: the "Cavalry"). A Pony Express run was a payroll run where it was just me, my Iraqi driver and one or two shooters ("shooters" is the term that I used for the armed soldiers riding with me; I also used the term, "gunslingers") in our UNARMORED SUV. We carried billions of dinars on both types of run. On this particular run, we are in the white SUV in the background. As I recall, we had about 1 billion dinars in the back of this SUV stuffed into cardboard boxes. That's how unsophisticated things were at that time. FYI, the 18-wheeler in the background had been shot at minutes before we passed. The dead driver was still in the vehicle as we drove past.

Germany 102
A Wagon Train run on the Mosul Highway to Taji Military Training Base. The Mosul Highway ran from Baghdad straight to Mosul (about 200 miles north) right past Taji MTB. We are stopped right in the middle of the road because one of the Humvees had a flat tire. While it was being fixed, traffic was stopped in both directions. Needless to say, this caused traffic problems which only compounded the traffic problems that already existed due to the fact that some of the worse drivers I have ever seen are in Iraq. Anyone who has served in Iraq and seen how Iraqi men drive should know what I am talking about.

Germany 069
The Bone Yard at Taji Military Base (TMTB). The Bone Yard at Taji Military Base was HUGE due to the fact that this is where all the armored vehicles from the old Iraqi Army were stockpiled in order to be scrapped. This is actually a poor picture because it really doesn't show just how big this bone yard was. I estimated that the armor for at least three full armored divisions was lined up in this area. This is the tank section. There was also a section for self-propelled artillery and a section for armored personnel carriers (APCs).

Albania 100
This is what the suicide bombing of the Haji Mart looked like a few minutes after the bomb went off. You can clearly see the smoke rising from the target area. When I left Iraq a couple of months after this incident, they were still trying to figure out how the two suicide bombers got their explosives into the Green Zone.


Blogger Twana Blevins said...

Thank you for your very good and informative Iraq Diary. Thank you for your courageous tour of duty in Iraq. Because of brave men like you, all of us in the US still enjoy our many freedoms. I don't know what all your eyes have seen, but I'm thankful that all of the children here in the US are not having to live with the insurgents in our streets! Thank you again for your service to our great country!

2:34 PM  
Blogger Anoukshuk said...

Thank you for your blog. I am anti-war, and hope the US will be able to pull out of Iraq soon, but I respect the US soldiers. Be safe.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your service. I will eventually join the Army and have a father in the Air Force. Iraq is a nasty place, and it takes a brave man to go willingly. Thank you.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

twana - in what way was/is Iraq having any impact on US 'freedoms'? The US Government are the ones eroding your freedoms, where you have to be fingerprinted to even enter the country.
Thanks for uploading the pictures.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot thank you enough for defending my freedom and the freedom of my friends and family Your courage
and bravery cannot be measured Once
again thank you

9:10 AM  

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