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April 14, 2005

The Other Birds Of Iraq

Not all of them have feathers, you know, and avians aren't LTC Bob's only subject. The words below are his, and the value-added editing, links and italics are mostly the result of our crack research staff.

Last Saturday I went on a trip to Paladin Depot, one of the places where our Coalitions Munitions Cell guys are destroying captured ammo.

Paladin CEA Depot is located 60km west of Baghdad. Munitions are shipped from central Iraqi cache sites. The Paladin Depot contains 51 intact earth covered bunkers, seven bunkers being described as large, two destroyed bunkers, hundreds of revetments, and open storage for captured enemy munitions received at this location. Paladin comprises an area roughly 4 km by 4 km surrounded by a 6ft fence and guard towers. The bunkers are located at the north corner, with the revetments scattered throughout the depot. Paladin Depot is currently under the operational control of EODT.

The smaller bunkers were disorganized and the munitions were covered with dust and sand. Several types of munitions were exploited, including air drop bombs, cluster bombs, rockets, and surface-to-surface, surface-to-air, air-to-surface, and air-to-air missiles. Large quantities of artillery projectiles were found, of many types and various calibers: 20mm, 23mm, 30mm, 57mm, and 76mm projectiles were dispersed throughout the bunkers. One item of interest was a previously unseen 120mm smoke mortar projectile, later identified after searching DOD publications.

The large bunkers were protected by a berm approximately 40 to 50 feet high. The front entrances had a drive through, and the bunkers featured an internal crane. An air handling system was incorporated into the side of the bunkers, suggesting that they once weapons that contain sensitive electronics and guidance systems. No indications were seen to indicate an air filtration system. These bunkers also had a central power junction shed (approximately 10-feet long, 6-feet wide, and 8-feet high). Some of the large bunkers held 122mm rockets, while others were empty.

SA-2 missile containers were opened and the UN tag data was recorded for all SA-2s on site, with the exception of four that were physically inaccessible. The majority of these missiles were stored in their original shipping containers. One SA-2 was damaged and appeared to have been ejected from an exploded bunker.

No al Samud or Al Fat’h missiles were identified, and no WMD munitions were found (see Figures 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30).

We flew out at about 0820, stopping at Baghdad International for fuel. Since I was there – I snapped a few airplane pictures.

The first one is of an Iraqi Air Force UH-1 Iroquois, also known as the "Huey," formerly of the US Army. A helicopter with a long and illustrious heritage--it was the workhorse of the US Army for years, and became well known in Viet Nam. They were still widely in service even when I came in the Army, and I have taken several rides in UH-1s. For more info, see here.

This is one recently given to the Iraqis by the USA, along with several C-130s.

Next up is our favorite USAF cargo airplane, the C-17 Globemaster III. We flew to Afghanistan on one of these. Take a 747 if you have a choice. This one is out of McChord AFB in Tacoma, WA. That’s Mt. Ranier on the tail.

Finally here is a view from my seat toward the front of our UH-60 Blackhawk. These guys are from the Arizona Army National Guard, they replaced the Mississippi guys, “Catfish Air”. Our door gunner was dropping "candy bombs" and kickballs to the kids on the way home.

Helicopters fly low in Iraq. When you’re a civilian, that can be somewhat unnerving to see approaching. That day was no different. Dr. Hodges saw one valiant Iraqi man react to the appearance of their helicopter by hurling his family to the ground and covering them with his body.

That Iraqi man was convinced that his family was about to be fired upon by the helicopter crew. He made the terrible but brave decision that if this were to happen then he would give his own life protecting those he loved from death. I say it was a terrible decision because it is one that, in a perfect world, no husband and father would ever be called upon to make. Yet, what might you do if you saw a military helicopter coming toward your defenseless family a mere 50 meters off of the ground? He did what he felt he had to do, as terrible as that duty must have felt at the time.

And then the bombs came. That’s right, our soldiers bombed that Iraqi family. But, not with explosives. For, you see, an enlisted member had come up with an idea to help win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by making them look forward to seeing the helicopters instead of dreading their coming. This nameless enlisted member took an old water bottle and filled it with candy and then would toss it out of the aircraft toward, but a safe distance away from, people on the ground. This Iraqi family was the recipient of just such a “candy bomb.”

As they flew away, Dr. Hodges told of this Iraqi man cautiously approaching the nearby “casing” and then taking its contents to his children. Within days, valiant men were no longer covering their families when they heard helicopters coming. Instead, children were lining the roof tops of houses and other structures, jumping up and down, shouting, and begging the crews to bomb them.

These are all taken in close proximity to the Euphrates, which runs something like 25 miles SW of Baghdad.

The one below shows the fields that have been planted – I want to think they have "always done it that way" – although you do see quite a few tractors at work, they still farm so the can use flood irrigation.

Note the guys at work in the lower right.

Next a picture from the east bank. In the background is a damaged Iraqi floating bridge. They have quite a few of these still in use. The palms are all date palms.

And then you cross the river, and it reminded me of the Nile Valley in Egypt. Green, and then brown. Immediately. Although there is some agriculture on the west bank, there's not much.

Maintenance notes: LTC Bob's bird page is huge--not to mention slow--so I've uploaded originals of the photos above to a new page at Flickr.

Also, the first post in the Birds of Iraq series, the Mesopotamian Crow, got us a mention in the latest issue of Victory News, the Fort Bragg-based newspaper covering life at Iraq's Camp Victory. The server for Victory News is a bit iffy at times, drop me a note if you can't get to it, and I'll forward you a copy of the issue.

Posted by Bigwig at April 14, 2005 03:15 PM | TrackBack
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Hey, LTC Bob - the "candy bomber" was pretty enterprising, but it's an old idea dating back to the Berlin Airlift - Operation Little Vittles. Admittedly, your guy's revival of the bombing campaign shows the caliber of our modern armed forces - in the old days, it took a field grade officer to come up with that idea; nowadays, a simple enlisted man can do it.

Posted by: Blackavar at April 14, 2005 03:20 PM

Heh, birds of Iraq, that's funny. Say, are you going to do cardinals, or don't they have any over there?

Posted by: Jim at April 15, 2005 07:34 PM

Hi Jim-

I sure haven't seen any cardinals in my area. I have a few more birds that I am working on getting pictures of.

Posted by: LTC Bob at April 16, 2005 07:09 AM
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