Palm trees outside the wire
Sean arrived at Camp Anaconda, Iraq in early November 2005. He shared a “hootch” with another soldier. They had trailers set up with three rooms, and two people to a room. Not a bad set-up compared to his previous deployments spent living in tents.
I did my research and found out the dangers of living in this camp. This location is nicknamed “Mortaritaville” for a reason. When we talked, we didn’t discuss the dangers. But on the days when no calls or messages came, my imagination ran wild.
The following are excerpts from emails I received while Sean was in Iraq. I will try to get him to add some personal dialogue as well.
I have settled in. . . have a bunk and a locker. . . lots of sand here. . . the sand is much worse than flour and gets into and stays in everything. . . I have been working every day now on shift from early morning (still dark) to mid-afternoon so not too bad.
I am not outside the wire in extreme danger although this place feels and acts like a pressure cooker out of control.
It is mid 70s and low 80s during the day and in the 50s at night. . . I work in an ammunition company and oversee operations and inspect ammunition to see if it is good or not.
We eat normal food over here. . . same as home sometimes. . . there is a variety: Mexican night, Indian night, cheeseburgers, corndogs, tacos. . .
We have very heavy gear. . . a protective vest and kevlar helmet that together weigh about 100 pounds that we wear a lot of the time. . . we also carry weapons and ammunition with everywhere we go, even when we work out at the gym or shower.
I will be working on Christmas so that the younger troops can be off.
I had my first day off yesterday. . . got some sleep. . . that was good.
Jesse James was in Anaconda doing the last show of Monster Garage forever. They came to the ASP (Ammunition Supply Point) to get some parts for a humvee he is making over. . . if you want to get a glimpse of Anaconda, tape the show. . . I got a picture with Jesse James last night at the education center. He was there emailing home at the same time I was checking my email.
Man is it cold here. It has been in the upper 20s and low 30s at night and half of the morning for the past week. You can see your breath and there was a thick frost the other morning. I’m cold even wearing long underwear, neck gator, stocking cap, gloves, and my fleece coat. Of course it does not help that I shaved my head last night. I told the commander if I wanted South Dakota weather, I would have stayed home with my wife and been warm.
Yesterday it rained for most of the night and part of this morning. It was a total downpour. Everything here was very wet and muddy or soupy. Our forklifts just slide around. We had an hour or so of fog and it was as thick as pea soup. . . there is mud everywhere and you slip and slide. . . the mud sticks to everything, shoes, boots, pants, coats, yuck! Well, at least it warms up during the day.
My days off are spent sleeping or catching up on sleep. . . I now automatically wake up at 4:00 AM before my alarm rings and shut it off before I head to the shower in the freezing cold weather. . . but at that time in the morning the water is still hot. . . then to breakfast and work which I don’t leave until 1700 at night.
I find myself often counting back nine hours to figure out your time.
Two days ago it was 123 degrees. . . yesterday it was 126 degrees and in category black by 11:00 AM. . . today at 12:00 PM it was 121 degrees so it is stifling hot. . . not much appetite lately, but I’m trying to eat. . . also can’t sleep but 2 or 3 hours a night. . . we are fairly busy at work. . . last two days feel like a blowdryer on high. . . takes your breath away.