February 08, 2005


(repeat in Arabic)

In the cover of darkness.
"Form a single line here, ID's out I need to see both sides, bags go in the truck and then wait on the bus. ...
R&R or end of tour?"
"end of tour"

sign next to seat: "gun port operation. Slide lever forward, break outside glass. Place barrel through port before firing"

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We've got 5 gun trucks and two OH-58's with us. If anything happens stay in the bus, unless it is on fire, we'll maneuver another bus around to pick you up or take you in our vehicles. Things have been quiet these last couple of nights so we're hoping for a smooth ride. "

"CALLSIGN3, CALLSIGN2, radio check"

"CALLSIGN3, CALLSIGN1 (that's us), moving out"
(callsigns anonymized as comms are monitored and this is the biggest target)

"All Pax, all Pax, headgear on"

15min high speed drive with a view of an armed/armored Humvee only three meters ahead. Clear view of soldier in gun turrent, with helmet and goggles and a .50cal, and the occasional checkpoint but not much else ... other than the occasional rumble and shadow of our gunship escort.

"Welcome to camp Stryker. Get your gear off the gear truck and line up over there for transport to the tents ... sir? Sir? Are you staying in the tents?"
"No, I'm meeting my security detail"
"You're meeting a security detail? (pause, look at my badge) Okay, 2nd tent on the left, talk to the lady inside, someone will come get you"

PSD: "Bentley? Great, come with me."

Move in armored SUV's with PSD's to Camp Victory, eat at mess hall, sleep in a group tent for a few hours, with personal bag tied to cot under my head, get up the next morning for the final leg of the transport to the civilian terminal.

"Passport and ticket?", show, repeat several times.
Checked baggage hand check. Pay for weight overage, cash only.
Most thorough body search ever, I'm not sure but I think we might be engaged now.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking, sorry for the late departure. We will circle-climb to a safe altitude and then start our flight to Amman. We expect to arrive in 1 hour and 20 minutes."


"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amman. Please stay in your seats until we are finished with our taxi".

My personal bag has US$60,000 cash in $100's, I'm the employer's mule this trip ... nothing to declare.

"Adlie, Habibi! AsSalaam Alaikum"
"Hello Mr. Rick! Welcome, welcome. The car is over here"

"Checking in? ... room X ... he will take your bags"

Close the door, cash in the safe, concealed bullet proof vest off for the last time ... possibly ever. Shower. Food. Gym.

It's not home, but it's a world away from where I was. The pressure is off. I'm safe in Amman.

Posted by rick at February 8, 2005 03:50 AM