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An opportunity missed

Post by Scott Fontaine on March 20, 2009 at 12:04 pm with No Comments »
March 20, 2009 12:04 pm

BAGHDAD – They just didn’t feel like it.

I sat in the rotary terminal at Baghdad International Airport, awaiting a flight to a small base in the heart of Sadr City. I was going to meet up with Army Reserve soldiers based at Fort Lewis who are working in Baghdad’s most notorious slum.

It was to be my last assignment before leaving Iraq. I thought it wasn’t going to be possible to make it out to see them, but Master Sgt. Rob La Tour hammered out an itinerary: fly into Sadr City, do a battlefield circulation, talk to some folks and then convoy back to the airport (near which I was staying).

I started to put my equipment on when I heard the Black Hawk approach. And then I saw it roll right past a few minutes later. It’s likely refueling, I said.

A KBR employee then made the announcement: "They decided not to have any passengers on this flight."

I’ll skip the rant about their decision not to put passengers on a passenger flight (the contractor running the terminal made it sound like the helo crew just didn’t feel like dealing with people) and focus on the real shame of this anecdote: The real shame is that the civil affairs guys won’t properly have their story told. (I’m working to put together a phone/e-mail interview-based story, but it’s just not the same.)

The big units get the majority of the attention – this time it was the 81st Brigade Combat Team of the Washington National Guard – but these guys are also deployed, putting themselves in harm’s way to rebuild a neighborhood that generations of Iraqi governments have given up trying to improve.

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