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Kathryn Vernon writes home

Post by News Tribune Staff on Feb. 26, 2007 at 11:10 am with No Comments »
February 26, 2007 11:10 am

Kathryn Vernon’s “regular” job is Seattle district manager with the FAA’s air traffic organization. But the past several months she’s been working in Baghdad as deputy transportation counselor to the U.S. Embassy and as deputy senior consultant for aviation to the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.

Her two daughters graduated from Wilson High School and one lives here in Tacoma after a stint in Togo with the Peace Corps. The other is in the Army, in flight training at Fort Rucker, Ala. Her parents live in Tacoma, as do two of her sisters and their families.

In short, she’s one of ours.

She served in the Air Force before embarking on her 24-year career with the FAA. She wanted to do something to help in Iraq. “My parents raised us to serve – that is what I tried to do with my daughters, and what I’ve tried to do as well,” she told me. “I don’t believe we should expect our children to be over here if we aren’t willing to come ourselves – that is why I am here.

“I also believe that, no matter the reason this war was started, we have an obligation to help this country – they were oppressed by Sadaam and have been devastated by violence. They need help to get back on their feet. That is also why I am here.”

She periodically writes home about her experiences, and I asked her to share those notes here. Click below to read her latest.

It is difficult getting out of Baghdad – a helicopter or armored vehicle

ride from the IZ to the airport – a night spent in a trailer – an

instruction to show up at 6:30 a.m. at the passenger counter to find out

what time your flight will be leaving – usually 10:30 or later – then,

hopefully, or en-sha’allah (God willing), an uneventful flight out to Amman

or Kuwait in a C-130 – no one usually schedules their flights out of those

ports of call until the next day, in the event the flight breaks down or is

late – consequently, it takes at least two days to get from the IZ to Jordan

or Kuwait, then another day to catch a flight to one’s ultimate destination

in probably another time zone. Exhausting – and then when you return, you

do it all over again!

All that being said, the folks working in the IZ and our soldiers in the

military look forward with great anticipation to the convoluted routine of

leaving – because we know that a change of pace, a complete change of

scenery, and a feast for our senses await us on the other side.

When I left Baghdad, I was happy to go – two and a half months of work

without a day off was enough to make me long for a chance to sleep in

without the sound of a helicopter overhead and the knowledge that I wouldn’t

miss breakfast – because room service was at hand – ahh, the simple things

we take for granted. At the same time, there is a sense of guilt over the

fact that I can go out, I can get away from the noise of the explosions and

the machine gun fire and the knowledge that someone has been killed when I

hear those things, and the average Iraqi citizen cannot.

Jordan, a country of many wonders, is quite beautiful in its starkness.

Rolling hills, rough mountain peaks, hillside villages, deep wadis, desert

flora, mountain goats and sheep, camels and donkeys, and hot desert sun,

even in February, are found here. Mt. Nebo is the site believed to be where

Moses died – the Franciscans have established a monastery and monument there

– Madaba is an ancient, yet bustling, town with churches filled with mosaic

tile artwork, much of it still being restored – Petra, where the Nebateans

carved their city out of the sandstone hills, is a marvel to behold. It is

called the Rose City because of the color of the rock and if you’ve seen the

Indiana Jones movie, Temple of Doom, you’ll have seen some of the ancient

city of Petra. The Dead Sea, which separates Israel from Jordan, is almost

colorless with no boats or watercraft sailing upon it. It is so filled with

salt that nothing lives in it and if you walk in, you will float. And then

there is the Dead Sea mud – to which is ascribed amazing restorative powers.

Its a booming tourist industry for the Jordanians, this Dead Sea mud – it

is marketed and sold all over the world – travelers come from far and wide

to experience it.

Also found in Jordan, is the River Jordan – which runs into the Dead Sea

(which happens to be almost 400 metres below sea level). This is the river

in which Christ was baptised in the area of Bethany by John the Baptist.

Until 1996, this area was not open to tourists, but now, it is – with not

too much commercialization – if you are a Jordanian, it costs two jordanian

dinars (JD) to enter – if you are from another Arab country, three JD – from

anywhere else, seven JD – the JD is about $1.30 – so, it is not cheap – but

it was worth the visit – to know that somewhere near there, approximately

two thousand years ago, history was being made – and Israel was just across

the river – only a stone’s throw away – it is calling to me to make a visit

there – there is more of a pull to visit Israel than there was to visit the

Vatican last year when I was in Italy – before I leave this region for good,

I will go – to walk the same roads, to look on the rolling hills, to know He

walked this way – at Mt. Nebo, one could look across the hills and see

Jeruselem – only 46 kilometres away – so close one could imagine touching


Israel and Palestine have been so much in the news – I pray that a peace

agreement will be worked out, so those children will learn what it is to

live in safety and surety. Much the same that we pray for Iraq – as it is

much in the news with the bombings and the killings – sometimes I wonder if

there is a solution.

Sorry for not staying in touch more – those weeks before leaving were hectic

– some minor miracles were accomplished in aviation – we were able to get

visas for an Iraqi delegation for a conference in Bangkok and follow-on trip

to Singapore – I went Sulaimaniyah and Mosul to see the operation – to Al

Uedid Air Base in Doha, Qatar to meet with our military leadership in charge

of airspace in Iraq – discussions ensued on how best to proceed on airspace

management – the radar is turning at Baghdad International because we were

able to get the batteries for the UPS equipment – and with the radar

turning, the displays in the tower cab are working allowing the controllers

to see aircraft as they come into the airport – this is a first here. We

were also able to get badges for Iraqi technicians to work on navigational

and communication equipment at Mosul Airport, the first step in accepting

the new facility there.

When I count up these minor miracles, things we would take for granted in

our country, I realize things are progressing – sometimes it is hard to see

it – but I think we are making a difference, offering hope for a better

future – en sha’allah. Keep Iraq in your prayers, won’t you?


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