Every evening, it seems, a monstrous smear of oily black smoke wafts by the BRC, coming from somewhere far to the north. I guess it’s coming from Mount Doom, seeing as how we’re in Osgiliath.
Yesterday evening I climbed up on one of the concrete bunkers to take a look around. Far to the north was a cluster of smokestacks, tiny in the distance and shrouded in the foul vapors of their own production – the source of the daily cloud.
As I sat up there, the place was quiet; the only sounds were the hum of the air conditioners in the shower building, the occasional frenzied chirping of the sparrows living in the rafters of the barracks buildings, and the howl of the wind. I felt nothing, just calm, which confused me. Wasn’t I supposed to feel sad, or wistful, or angry at Chimpy McBushitler, or something? Instead I felt peaceful, with the lowering sun on my back and the wind on my face, sitting on a concrete bunker that never gets used because no one attacks the place. To the southeast I could see the local town; I wondered how many residents worked at the BRC – assembling targets, working in the DFAC, doing miscellanous maintenance work.
That’s the nice thing about this place: it’s quiet. With so few people, essentially no enemy activity, and no one over the rank of captain around, the overall atmosphere is pretty laid back. On the other hand, there are no real toilets, no PX, the barracks are uninsulated wood buildings with steel roofs, and it’s small enough that you start to feel caged in after a while. (This feeling exists at Liberty too, but that’s a much bigger cage.)
The unit that runs the BRC is an MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) battery (a battery is what field artillery calls a company). The MLRS launchers aren’t used, since their destructive capability is too vast for the urban combat in Iraq, but they’re here anyway. Today two of them were in the corner of the parking lot, doing some sort of drill, raising, lowering, and traversing the launchers. For some reason, the sight was eerie and almost gave me a sense of dread; maybe because of the awesome hell they can unleash (they were called “Steel Rain” by the Iraqi Army because of the submunition-filled rockets they fired). One of the cooks from the battery put it best: “I hope to God I never see one of those fire, because if I do, things will have gotten a hell of a lot worse around here.”