Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Pouch on my Flak Jacket

In flight Tel Aviv – Frankfurt
Monday December 4, 2006
06:20 am

You wake in the middle of the night to get to an airport you only left less than twenty four hours ago, after being away for a week in Turkey covering the Pope, that right the guy I never saw but was there in case it happened.

Well what is happening now is “Back to Iraq” another embed, in what can only be classified as all out total Civil War. I have honestly forgotten how many times I have been to Iraq this is the sixth seventh or eighth time. Each time it gets a little bit more dangerous and the world seems to care less about what is happening and only looks to find someone to blame.

This is scheduled to be a two and a half week assignment with good friend Ollie North and Producer Andy Stenner in Ramadi, west of Baghdad also the capital of Al Anbar Province and in the middle of the triangle of death. More Marines have been killed here than anywhere else and it is not somewhere you would want to consider going for a holiday.

When I first went there with Ollie there was a sense of optimism, when we were there last year for the election the city looked like a wasteland. I have no doubt that this time it will be even worse. Hopefully I am wrong but I doubt it.

What do you take to a war zone, where you know that it is all going very wrong? I think that the most telling time for me was yesterday when I was packing my bag. In the cupboard I have two boxes marked “War Kit” and they contain the combat equipment I need in the field. Kneepads, essential when you drop to the ground. Nothing is a fashion accessory; in combat you take the minimum that gives you the maximum. I have a pair of combat gloves that are designed to stop burning in case of explosions and fire, ballistic glasses that we wear the will help stop shrapnel hitting your eyes. The 45lb flak jacket and Kevlar helmet is coming with Ollie, latest generation from the US Military.

But it was the pouch that contains my battlefield dressings and first aid kit that held my attention as I looked and checked thru it. Not large not small but in a pouch maybe 6” x 6” x 3” (12 x x12 x 6 cm, approx) are two tour quays, Velcro with carbon fiber twist locks, two medium size wound dressings and a large wound dressing vacuum packed. That is all I carry and will carry for this assignment; maybe I will speak with the Doc’s at some stage and refine it. But it is a kit designed for those initial minutes, just in case something happens, something you prey does not happen. But in this arena life and death is a reality and being prepared is often the difference.

This pouch used to be the one I carried a spare small camera in and a couple of granola bars. Now it is marked as all my gear is as “James O positive”.
After a week of nothing happened, whilst in Turkey. I have a feeling that the next few weeks will have more happening than I care to think about.

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