We finally made it out of Al Asad. With sandstorms and plane delays, it’s very difficult to move around the country.
When we arrived at Baghdad International Airport (formerly Saddam International Airport), security guards escorted us to a bus that was waiting to take us to headquarters. A couple of guys from our party decided to ride in the “hard car” that was supposed to escort us back to base. For some unknown reason, the escort left us at the airport. A security guard boarded the bus and told the driver to take us to the base. The driver drove a few yards past the check point then stopped abruptly.
“I will not leave until I have an escort,” he said. The security guard tried to assure him that everything would be okay, but the driver refused to move until an escort showed up. Keep in mind that we are in the “red zone” while all of this is occurring. Several cars and trucks were passing by so I was watching for any erratic behavior from the other drivers. The guard finally radioed in for an escort and a black Hummer showed up a few minutes later. The passenger side of the vehicle was covered with bullet holes – not a very comforting sight.
With the escort secured, we proceeded. As we drove down the road, I saw a truck veer onto our side of the one way street. Oncoming traffic swerved to avoid being run over by this maniac. The truck continued to barrel towards us, but the bus driver seemed unbothered. I, on the other hand, was clenching my seat. We turned down a side road and the truck wedged itself between the bus and the Hummer. Our escort slowed down and the truck weaved into the next lane towards oncoming traffic again. The driver said that was just the way people drove in Iraq. I was bothered by his cavalier attitude. I would have expected a little more vigilance after the escort incident.
I was quite happy to see our Ugandan sentries at the checkpoint. Their presence indicated that we were in the safe zone again.
I was worn out by the time we finally reached headquarters and couldn’t wait to get back to my living quarters.