My thoughts and experiences from the beginning to the end.
CAMP BUCCA Travel Blog› entry 8 of 8 › view all entries
Well, leaving my ship April 2006 was rather easy for me. I was tired of going out to sea and getting sea sick. The hours were long, the job was monotonous and the people were starting to annoy me. My Command Master Chief came up to me one morning while I was making breakfast for the Chiefs and asked me if I wanted to go to Iraq as a volunteer. I flipped his eggs and said within about 5 seconds, "YES, YES, YES, WHERE DO I SIGN UP?"
Getting ready to go took a little while, all the screening one has to go thru to be qualified to go to combat zone and the security clearances and getting all my 'effects in order' to include getting a Power of Attorney, and a Last Will and Testament completed. Within 20 days I was ready to go. Visted my entire family and bid my farewells to everyone, not knowing how long I would be gone nor if I would come home as a normal person with all my body parts intact or if my mind would be the same either. But....... my 14 years experience in the military was summing up, to it is time for me to do something AMAZING and for the good of the United States of America. I was excited to become an AMBASSADOR OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!
Our battalion formed up in Port Hueneme CA and we were there for about 2 weeks getting uniforms and gear. Then we headed to our training grounds in the vicinty of Fort Bliss TX/ Camp McGregor N.M. 13 weeks of intensity everyday. I was 36 years old when we trained and I remember how much my body would ache almost everyday even though I have been an avid athlete for the last 20 years and in nearly the best shape of my life. It was fun though, This is where the comradary started and the cohesiveness, but eventually once "Over There" it would be even more profound. We finished our training and had 10 days leave to do whatever we needed to do. I visited my parents and husband again and gave the last hugs and kisses to them.
We flew into Kuwait and stayed at Camp Buehring to get acclimated to the Middle Eastern heat and sun. My blisters healed and my aches and pains subsided for a short time and I got used to the heat. The Port O Pots are all you have over in the desert to 'relieve' yourself and eventually you get used to the smells of them. Of course the generators that hummed all night long too, you get used to which was how our electricity was provided for us.
We flew into Camp Bucca in a Black Hawk Helicopter and humped to the tents with all of our gear and got a cot to sleep on with a little bit of space. Us females all fit in one tent (all 50 of us) The males used up more than 3 tents. Work started immediately. The battalion that we relieved trained us for about one to two weeks. Honestly learning Detainee Operations you can't learn from somebody, you have to experience it first hand. Of course the Detainees were testing us in the beginning. Observing us constantly, monitoring us closely, watching our schedules, who worked when, how we interacted with them, etc...... When our 'teachers' headed home is when the fun began with the Detainees!!!!!
We got spit on, chai rocks thrown at us, homemade weapons used on us, martial arts displays, riots, fires, escapes and one of their very offensive acts is to show us the bottom of their shoes. That is a sign of disrespect in Iraqi culture to show bottoms of shoes to someone. Unlike us having thumbs up being a good thing, thumbs up to them is another sign of disrespect. We worked 12 -14 hour shifts 6 days a week. The Detainees knew when our days off were because they had nothing better to do but monitor us ever so closely. We tried to rotate our schedules so that the Detainees wouldn't 'know' when our days off were.
When the rainy season came the Detainees didn't act up to much, but still were always up to no good. During Ramaadan one would think the Detainees would be more disciplined and prayerful, but it was the exact opposite. That is when they really acted up. We had more prison escape attempts, more riots, more fires, more fights and well, maybe I shouldn't share this, but I will briefly say, we got to shoot our weapons more....... We were excessively busy when the sand storms came thru. We had to double up on our shifts and such. Not to mention as the mortars came in , we always were extended on shift!
The MWR (Morale Welfare Recreation) offered a great gymnasium facility for us. I think that was one major outlet for us over there. Of course we did have pretty good food, the Locals from Pakistan, India and Iraq really treated us good and had a nice selection of food for us. But sometimes when IED's blocked up our trucks from delivering, we had to eat whatever scraps that were left because we would go thru so much food. For one month, we had no food delivery, so we had very little food to eat. Even the Subway, Pizza Hut and Green Beans Coffee shop and the Exchange had bare shelves. No mail delivery for us either. During that time the morale of the Camp was pretty 'shitty' But the Detainees got great food all the time, The locals provided for them. We had to dig into our own reserves whatever care packages that we had received in the past and whatever food we had left from them. I think when food sources were limited for us, us 'gym rats' used our 'Muscle Milk' and other supplements for our food sources.
We did have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and a great Christmas dinner, if you weren't on shift. If you were on shift, whatever was packed in boxes for us and delivered to us is what our fare was for our meals. That was a regular event though. When on shift, we had to make the best of what food was delivered to us. I always had my camel bak on with food and water in it. I was always packing sunflower seeds, trail mix, beef jerky and whatever I could fit into my pockets of my camel bak. New Years we had a little celebration even though we celebrated it 8 hours ahead or home. Valentines day, Roses were handed out to some of the women warriors if you made it to the chow hall in time.
We had a big Easter Dinner and soon after that we found out that we were not going home when we were scheduled to. We had been extended for 90 days. Soooo...... I notified my family and told them what I felt appropriate to tell them that I was not coming home when I was supposed to. My husband was very mad. But no amount of anger could change what the truth was, Our reliefs were not scheduled to come until November of 2007. It literally was an act of Congress for us to leave in August of 2007 without our reliefs not being there. But an unscheduled Army unit arrived and an AirForce unit also got extended to alleviate us from staying another 90 days which would have extended us 180 days longer. So..... my 12 month tour became a 15-16 month tour which could easily have become a 18 month tour.
I had accepted my mission and didn't mind staying there, I was used to life 'over there' I got to go to the gym everyday after shift or before shift, if I wasn't working on a Friday night we had Latin Night at the gym to dance Salsa. Some of my peers psychologically couldn't handle the reality of our extension so they got sent home!!! Our unit dwindled down from 450 strong in the beginning to 250 when we finally came home due to 'emergencies' at home, End of Service contracts, psychological issues and whatever more that could happen, happened to send many home before our mission was complete!!! This is when the "REAL COHESIVENESS AND COMRADARY" began. Whoever was able to make it to the end stuck together like glue and this is where I made my 'bestest friends' in the whole world!!!!
We came home Aug 15 2007 time frame. Unknowing to me, at the age of 37, my marriage was over and my parents didn't know who I was anymore, but slowly over time resolve happened with my family, but my marriage was over. I wish my husband and I could have worked it out, but I suppose things happen for reasons in our lives. I am moving on in my life and my exhusband and I still speak to each other amicably. He has moved on in his life too. Honestly speaking, I have no regrets to share at this time in my life of all my life experiences!!!!!SO AT MY CURRENT AGE OF 38 THIS IS MY STORY FOR NOW, I AM SURE I WILL ADD A FEW THINGS AS TIME GOES ON!