Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm with the band.

So, last week I decided it was time, again, to get out of the office and see "outside the wire". As the commander of this fine detachment I don't get to venture out on missions like my journalists. It's their job to get out and get stories, photos, and videos of units around Baghdad doing their missions. It's my job to organize, attend meetings, and make sure everything runs smoothly.
But it was time to put on my "battle rattle" and climb into a large, armored vehicle and see Baghdad. I went up north to Camp Istaqaal with the 1st Cavalry Division rock band. I served no purpose, just a straphanger. I was, in essence, a groupie.
Not a roadie. Nope...they're the ones that set up and tear down. They do work. I was just along for the ride, enjoy the music, and take some photographs.
The 1st Cav has a large band and it goes with them where ever they go, even to Baghdad. Rarely does the band travel as one large group. Instead, they have different ensembles that go out to the outlying camps and play for the troops. There is a brass quintet, a salsa band, a Dixie band, and probably a few others that I'm not familiar with. And, of course, the rock band.
The started smoothly enough...we didn't depart until 1 p.m. so I had time to do my morning reports and eat lunch. It took me awhile to get ready...I had to make sure my body armor was ready, get my rifle out of the weapons locker (I carry a 9mm pistol around the camp but you have to have a long rifle on convoys), and pack my small backpack. I put some stuff in my pack in case we didn't get back...socks, T-shirt, travel soap and toothbrush. Just in case, you know?
We departed on time. Again, I was in one of those large up-armored vehicles that look like a school bus. It was hot. Really hot. Even though the vehicle has a/c there's a big hole in the top of the vehicle for the gunner. My face wasn't sweating...if you were to look at me you wouldn't think I was hot. But where my body armor fits I was dripping. :( Between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. I drank about 4 liters of water but didn't need to use the bathroom until later that evening.
The 7 band members that were on the mission are multi-purpose...they unload and set up their own gear and do everything necessary to put the show on. They set up their instruments, speakers, microphones, etc. and then took a quick break. We were outside but thankfully under a sunshade, so it was tolerable. After dinner we all went back and waited for showtime.
The show was amazing...I'd never heard this ensemble before. We had the brass quintet and Dixie ensemble in our studio a few weeks ago for the Zack and Jim show. They are very very good and I enjoyed listening to them play. They played Bon Jovi, Beastie Boys, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and others I didn't recognize. The crowd came and went as they played for about 90 minutes, with a quick 10-minute break in between.
We returned around 11 p.m. and I fell into bed, exhausted, just before 1 a.m. It was rough getting up the next morning.
Going outside the wire and to another camp once in awhile is a great thing for us "fobbits"...those that don't go out on missions. It really made me appreciate what we have here at Camp Liberty like our large dining facility with a good choice of food. The one at the camp was about the size of our salad bar and you got chicken, potato, and a vegetable. It also made me just sore enough to appreciate what those who do go outside the wire on a regular basis go through...the heat, the heavy equipment, and the long hours.

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