Today I said goodbye to Viking, my home of the past three months, for the last time. My company is moving AO's and will no longer be operating where we have been. We are moving into an area known as the Zaidon, a large area with a population somewhere around 350,000 that lies southwest of Baghdad and southeast of Fallujah.
My platoon spent about 4 days in the Zaidon this past week. We were very near to the area where the Army soldiers were attacked and kidnapped. In fact we heard the IED explosion the night that it happened, and were running missions for the remainder of our time there to try and find them or information leading us to them. I really can't imagine being taken captive. My heart really goes out to these guys. I don't know the circumstances they were in, but its pretty much obvious to everyone in my platoon that we won't go out alive to these animals. That's not "macho tough guy" talk, that's "I'm scared to death of what they'll do to me talk, and this grenade looks mighty appealing right now" talk. I promise you all right now you won't see this face plastered on al Jazeera.
The Zaidon is a pretty nasty place. It's a Baath party strong hold that has been completely over run with al Qaeda, two groups that at the moment are not getting along. The Baath party loyalists were fighting us bitterly up until only a few months ago, when they finally realized that they were on the losing side of the battle and if they wanted to survive in post-occupation Iraq they needed to cooperate. They are now our leading aide in fighting al Qaeda. They have formed a militia that calls itself the 1920 Revolution. Needless to say its incredibly unnerving to be patrolling through an area and see a group of Iraqi males wearing ski masks with AK's and not being able to shoot them, because for some reason they're now on your side. I mean, these are the people that cut OTHER people's head's off. You walk by them everytime with your finger on the trigger because you just never know. Not only that, but we're patrolling through THEIR checkpoints!! Who are we gonna have wear the pants in this relationship? As of now, they're doing a great job. They are turning over al Qaeda left and right, and a difference is being made, you just wonder when the hospitality will end.
The other thing about the Zaidon is the heat and the bugs. Its HOT. Not only that, but forget about dry heat. There's nothing bu standing canal water here, so its humid too. That brings mosquitos. And I'm talking of the small pigeon size variety. We are getting eaten alive. You actually don't know if you need to cheer for the spiders to control the mosquito population. One thing we did do though was keep a bat with us in the house, the kind that flies not the kind that you swing. We were occupying a house when a bat started flying around. One guy tried knocking it outside and a bunch of guys yelled at him to stop, it was our best ally in the war on bugs.
Now that we are operating in this new AO, we are being based out of Camp Fallujah, pogueville. But we'll only be here every 6-9 days. So my posts are going to become much more infrequent and probably incoherent, since there is a 30 minute time limit on these computers and someone is always standing over your shoulder waiting for you to get off. I mean, I could tell him to take a hike, I'm bigger and I've actually fired my rifle, but I'll probably end up playing nice.
Platoon Update: Cpl Payne ended up reenlisting and not taking the near death mortar experience as a sign from God...