One more month down... woohoo! Only 10ish left, but who is counting?
The big news, of course, is the moustache's for March. We have already had more than a few people drop out of the contest due to the fact that they look absolutely horrible. But I am staying strong and going for the 15 March deadline, no matter how bad I look. It is a measure of dedication to a cause to suffer through with it, but I am willing.
As most of you have probably heard, things have continued to quiet down a little throughout the country and thankfully Mahdi Army has extended their cease fire another 6 months. Hopefully this lull in violence will be a lasting thing. It is interesting that with the decrease in violence we are seeing more and more medical problems in the ER - it is almost starting to feel like a small ER back home - aside from walking around with the M-16 thing.
I recently had to fly a patient to the Air Force theater hospital about 20 minutes from Baghdad in Balad. It was quite an experience. I have flown plenty of patients in helicopters before just always in civilian helicopters, and never wearing my full ballistic armor and carrying a weapon. The Blackhawks go a heck of a lot faster and a lot lower to the ground then the helicopter back at UMass. The flight there was focused on the patient, so didn't really get to see the surroundings so well. The trip back took a little longer with a few stops along the way which gave me a perspective of what is actually surrounding the IZ and Baghdad itself. From the sky at night, it really looks like any other small city - lights on everywhere. Major difference is that the roads were not filled with traffic at night - quite literally only convoys of trucks and military vehicles moving around after curfew. Flew over "The Mother of All Mosques" - which was a really impressive site. This is an internet picture that I stole to give you an idea of what it looks like. It is in about the same stage of construction as in the picture because all work stopped during the initial invasion and now most of the construciton supplies have been looted.
Unfortunately it was at night, so no real pictures from the trip back (flashes aren't really appreciated by the pilots in their night vision gear). On the way back, we stopped at a few of the outlying FOBs to pick up patients -- made me really appreciate where I am deployed to, compared to pretty much everywhere else. Being in a real building, with streets, and even trees is world's away from these other outposts. Definately helped put things in perspective for me.
Some of you may know my friend Gary Dufresne - he recently got back from Iraq after 15 months long months over here with 1st Cavalry Division. If you come across him, please buy him a beer and have one for me - you can put it on my tab. PS - Gary you were right, Taji is a dump.
Also just got a tour of the new US embassy over here - of course no pictures were allowed, so picture if you will a small college with sandstone buildings, surrounded by 15 foot walls and patrolled by heavily armed Peruvian contractor guards. That is essentially what it looks like - with an indoor pool, gymnasium, cafeteria, helipad, fire control center - you know, the usual stuff of a college campus. They haven't moved into the compound yet - I am sure it will be quite busy when they do move in.
Other than that, passing time in the usual fashion - running in monthly races - and actually finishing them. Playing games of world domination and of course continued training to maintain our flexibility.
Hope you all are well. Until next time.