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The primary enemy of the freelance embedded reporer in Iraq is the incredible amount of lost time caused by military transportion procedures.
First, it take takes a full day to fly from the United States to Kuwait. Okay, that's not the military's fault. But then you have to stay one or two days to catch your C-130 transport into Baghdad International. I lucked out and got a Royal Air Force seat on standby. Once you've arrived, now matter how early you get there, you have to wait until 2 or later in the morning to catch the armored Rhino into the International Zone. I can understand only traveling the route at night, but night is falling at about 8 now.
Once there, you get picked up by Public Affairs and brought back to the temp quarters and in-process. That takes about five minutes. Then you wait some more. If you're lucky you catch a chopper to your final destination that night. Twice now I have not been lucky. The first time a Marine general kicked us all out of two choppers (choppers almost always travel in pairs.) This time I was told they were surprised I had arrived that day even though I told them I would probably arrive that day. So another day wasted.
Finally, you actually get to the landing zone of your major camp at about 4 a.m., whereupon you are supposed to be met by somebody who knows why you're there and takes you to the media quarters. It never happens that way. So last night they just drove me around for over an hour before dumping me in temp billeting. Mind you, the major camp may not be your final destination and for both Fallujah and Ramadi it was not for me. So then you have to wait and wait and wait to get transportation out to your real final destination. It's utterly maddening.
Here at Camp Ramadi, I wasn't even on the list of people who arrived last night so they didn't even know I was on base. The result is that I missed the mandatory press briefing you get before being sent to your embed unit. In my case, that's going to be central Ramadi, because that's where most of the fighting is, including the umpteenth attack from a mosque last night that got a lot of news attention. So since I missed the briefing this morning, I can't convoy out tonight. I convoy out tomorrow night. Two more days wasted.
Ultimately I'll have only a few days at my Ramadi embed, yet that's the one I was most looking forward to. Bottom line: During my three week trip I will practically be able to count the hours I was doing something exciting or benefiting what I'm writing. Ramadi is really hopping now, it's just a couple of miles away, and I can't get there from here. Aaargh!
Yes, I learned in my four years in the Army that "military efficiency" is an oxymoron and time is something best thrown away. It drove me nuts then and it's driving me nuts now.
View Iraq 2006 photos.