by bkachinsky | Sep 21, 2009 |
Boarding all passengers for Basrah…
(precious cargo on board)
(…even more precious cargo on board)
The Bikes Over Baghdad tour now turned into Bikes Over Basrah. Basrah is in the southern portion of Iraq and nestled very close to Iran and Kuwait. As I said earlier Kuwait was like a 5-star resort compared to Baghdad but Basrah makes Baghdad seem like a safe haven. Upon landing in Basrah we were informed by many soldiers that there have been a number of missile attacks on base recently. Apparently the attacks had been happening every thursday for a number of weeks. We arrived on a Friday and there had been no missile attacks the day before. They said they were anticipating an attack on base could happen in the coming days. Seeing as we would be there for the next 3-4 days made us all a bit uneasy.
Tales of violence and missile attacks became more apparent as we were taken to our sleeping quarters. A big canvas tent with a wood floor. I don’t know much but I know that canvas is no match for a missile. It did have A/C though.
We were no longer protected by T-walls either but there was a concrete bunker outside incase things got crazy. This base was definitely more raw than the last but the people were just as awesome. Soldiers helped us unload the ramps and got us acquainted with the base.
We had questioned the possible attendance at our first show because the word hadn’t spread around base that we were coming. We were wrong. The first demo in Basrah was amazing. We had another large and energetic crowd. I distinctly remember one soldier being so pumped that he jumped up and down and screamed the entire hour that we were riding. It turned out he used to skateboard and walked away from the demo with a brand new board courtesy of Woodward. The soldiers on this base were especially thankful/helpful and willing to show us all of the badass toys they get to play with on a daily basis. This helicopter was no exception. For the record, that gun you see under the body shoots 600 rounds per minute.
We then saw them take off…
Helicopters always fly in pairs for safety reasons.
Random three-man slingshot session with some troops:
This base was packed with interesting divisions. This next division has what I would consider to be one of the most stressful jobs in the military. The Med Evac team.
This team responds to most catastrophic medical emergencies. They have probably seen more tragedy and been in more crazy situations in their time in Iraq than most of us will in our whole lives…times 10. For as heroic as these people are they were extremely humble and even joked around with us a bit. Their living quarters is right on the runway and they are trained to be suited up, packed up and airborne in less than 15 minutes from the time they get the call. These people aren’t just responding to emergencies and have to have great medical knowledge but also have to have great courage. They fly into areas of conflict and battle the sand/wind/heat at the same time. They respond to the worst of the worst and that makes them the best of the best in my book.
Amidst all of this learning, exploring, talking and picture taking I would occasionally look off into the distance and see a blackish grey tint on the horizon. It was smoke from the many massive refineries in this area.
Back to BMX. Like I said earlier the attendance and energy at our demos in Basrah was unprecedented. We left our tire marks on yet another T-wall and gave away tons of free stuff. We gave away more DK’s which is always a highlight.
Like I said, it’s always nice to run into guys who ride even when you’re halfway across the world. Bryan Carrier got his hands on a new DK and instantly started shredding the ramps.
It always makes me nervous when someone from the crowd grabs a bike and starts pedaling for the box jump. I held my breathe and then let out a solid “hell yeah” once I saw brian sail over the box.
The adventures with Bryan didn’t end there. He was part of the EOD (aka: bombs and explosives). These guys were awesome. My kind of dudes, they didn’t sugar coat anything. They simply asked “you guys wanna blow some shit up?” Of course we do. There we went, off into the middle of the desert where they test their explosives.
The next things I knew I had a good sized chunk of highly explosive material in my hand.
Ever hear the cliche ” a snowball’s chance in Hell?” Well this really is the snowball’s chance in my left hand…
Then more C4 came out…
Soon there would be 20lbs of C4 all packed together and rigged up and ready to be detonated.
We hung out for a little bit while we waited for clearance from the base for the controlled detonation. They have to let everyone on base know the explosion is on purpose to avoid any misunderstandings. In front of me was an MRAP, My new friends from the EOD and 20lbs of C4 ready to explode.
Behind me was nothing but desert and oil fields.
(the steady flame from oil fields are the only thing preventing pitch black darkness out in the middle of the desert)
Then BOOM! I witnessed the explosion of 20lbs of C4 which seriously made my heart skip a beat. We were at least a football field or 2 away from the explosion and we were inside an MRAP yet felt the hair on my arms blow in the wind. It was insane. We then surveyed the damage. It blew a good sized hole in the earth.We climbed in it as we were still amazed at how intense the explosion was.
Catfish drove us back to the the EOD headquarter in the MRAP using night vision….
We returned to the EOD Headquarters and were shooting the shit. Meanwhile Kyle snuck off with a few of the guys and came back out in this bomb suit…
We were all laughing but he was stoked, he had A/C in that thing! We made him roll around a bit and try to maneuver in the suit. We were anticipating him being like a turtle on it’s back but he pulled through and was quite agile.
These guys are awesome. Don’t believe me yet? Check out their unit’s coins:
We listened to a few more stories and shared a few more laughs and called it a night.
The very next day one of the guys in the EOD squad went out on a mission. An explosive detonated taking with it his hand and leaving him with a grapefruit sized hole is his leg as well. We were told he was med evac flighted to Germany where he would be treated and survive despite his catastrophic injuries. I was again reminded how real this shit is and the risks these guys take. I hope he’s home and with his family by now.
To be continued…..