(Written 20 October)
Like many trips, my first reaction is disbelief. Traveling on a plane is like sealing yourself in a pod for some period of time – in this instance nearly 36 hours – and at the end you step out someplace new, with little sense of actual movement.
The drive to the camp was shocking in that the terrain was absolutely desolate – not even Martian, because Mars has relief, has feature – this was utterly flat and brown, nothing but sand meeting sand-colored horizon.
The sand is as endless as are the Star Wars references – it evokes nothing so much as a desert planet, as its vast emptiness renders any other form of terrain inconceivable. At any moment I expected Jabba’s slave barge to come cruising over the horizon, and while viewing some soldiers atop a distant dune through the heat shimmer, I could swear they were Imperial Stormtroopers…
The heat here is intensely dry – it’s as dry as a super-cold Minnesota winter day – the kind that instantly dries out your nostrils; the difference here being that your snot doesn’t freeze, it just congeals into little bits of sand in your nose.
Today an hour-long bumpy, dusty ride in the back of an open-topped Humvee brought us to the range area, which was little more than a selected chunk of desert that had target boards, set 25 or 10 meters from the firing line, stretching almost as far as the eye could see. Camels meandered in the distance – white ones and black ones (I thought they were all brown) – and each one was worth at least $25,000 ($50,000 for the white ones) if we shot one as it wandered onto the range.
The range itself was standard fare, no hotter than Texas and indeed more comfortable because of the dryness and the high winds.
Soon we’ll start our final block of convoy training, and then someday soon, we’ll begin our journey to the real show: Iraq.
Total days in theater: 3
Water consumption total: 10.25L