I flew to Al Hilla, Iraq, on the west bank of the Euphrates River yesterday to attend a conference on Provincial Reconstruction. It was my first time crossing the river that has given this region so much.
The flight down was at night in the body of a blacked out Blackhawk helicopter. We flew low enough that I knew we were no more than several hundred feet off of the ground. I stayed in an old Ba'ath Party hotel and met a group of State Department people who were spending a year in the country trying to get the government - at the provincial level - going again.
Across the river from the meeting place was the ancient ruins of Babylon. Once the greatest of cities in the world; the place where Alexander the Great died in 235 BC; a place still revered today. In the low, late day sun, I was fortunate to fly over the ruins. I'm sure they weren't all 2,400 years old. Babylon was destroyed and rebuilt more than once. However, to see them and imagine the size and scope of what it might have been like was a thrill.
I have been here since 15 October and my Soldiers are finally coming up from Kuwait tonight. I arrived early to attend a Civil Military Operations conference and start the hand over of responsibilities from the out-going unit. My troops have been in Kuwait training and waiting to come up.
I miss "my" guys. Without them I am not a commander. I'm sure that when we get together there will be high-fives and hugs all around. The work ahead of them will require their very best.
The other day I went for a run around the FOB. It was difficult at best. The mud from the spring rains have left the internal roads pocked and hard to even walk on. This forces runners to the perimeter road, a four mile trek through moon dust, past the sewage dump, and out past where they burn trash. The moon dust is a talc like dirt/dust/river silt combination that and be up to an inch deep. Running in it kicks up clouds of dust and makes it look like you are running on the moon. The sewage is where the black water from all of the toilets goes and is basially an organic reclamation point - and I won't run by it again. By the third mile you are out past where anyone lives and they burn some/all of the trash. The smoke blows away from the camp - and I won't run by it again, either.
There are shorter routes and I will learn them rather than go on a treadmill. Running is important, especially given all of the food here. It lets me blow off steam, enjoy my ice cream without too much guilt, and it gets me away for a while.
All is well.