I feel like everything here bears some resemblance to home in some bizarre way. I mean, no where else is a "dining facility" quite the assault on the senses that it is here, but all the food is kind of similar to home and it's kind of like a regular cafeteria (except our DFACs blare R&B and 'in the cloob' type music from 1730-2000, except on Indian food night, and then we listen to Indian pop music). The gym is kind of like a gym at home, but not like Gold's Gym, more like an alpha male weightlifting gym. The vehicles are kind of like home, if you stay in the Air Force area...except they are all identical white pickup trucks and they are all leased by the government (I heard we were paying up to $2,000 a month per vehicle. That's where your tax dollars are going, folks.)
There is one thing that will never, ever (hopefully) resemble home. And that is an Indirect Fire Attack, aka an IDF, aka an "incoming", aka a mortar/rocket attack. I don't really like to bring it up because I don't like to worry the people at home. But the fact of the matter is that these mortar attacks basically define Iraq for me. These fleeting moments where you stop WHATEVER you are doing, dive on the ground, cover up your head, and hold your breath. Well, that's if you get the siren first. If you just hear the explosion you just mind your own business and continue doing whatever you were doing, because it's probably too late now anyway and besides, the alarm is supposed to sound, so it must be a controlled detonation by our EOD guys!! You just start to pay no mind, because it's easier that way. Mortars do have the ability to put you on edge, even put you out of your mind if they get too close...but for the most part they don't happen often enough to actually mess with our heads. Or at least, they don't happen often enough NEAR enough to us, to mess with our heads. When I heard the actual count of how many have hit since I've been here, I about fell out of my bus seat.
Last night was a classic example of the bizarre nature of IDFs. So I'm minding my own business, pouring myself a cup of coffee (I swear, they always happen when I have coffee, but then again I drink far more coffee here than I do at home). The klaxon sounds, I manage to not dump my coffee, I dive to the ground. No man is left standing when that alarm sounds, not even the SIX FOOT ELEVEN, 300 LB GIANT of a man that Katy shares her hermetically sealed box with. Honestly his size 37 steel-toed feet probably pose more of a danger to her fragile skull than frag. Anyway.
So we lay on the ground, inhale some dust, the kaboom sounds in the distance, we mutter some obscenities to each other. We wait awhile, we pry ourselves off the ground, we argue over whose turn it is to go do PAR sweeps (post attack recon), then we argue about whether or not we actually have to do PAR sweeps because the giant voice hasn't told us to, then we pause because BOOM BOOM BOOM! Outgoing mortars! BOOM. We all file out the door outside to peer over our cement T barriers, even the munitions controllers who are not supposed to leave their hermetically sealed box. The funny thing is, with my naked head exposed to night air, peering out into The Real Iraq just over the fence line, I feel exposed and vulnerable. It's crazy how much safer you feel with a frickin tin roof over your head. Like that would stop anything. Ha.
We can't really see anything, it's chilly outside, and we're back to bickering over who has to do PAR sweeps or if we even have to do them. We end up sending some folks out with flashlights who weren't doing anything of any real importance. When the attack hit we were about to head out to the MSA to do some work on bombs. Awesome, I really want to go wrap my arms around 500 lbs of explosives after all this garbage. So we rumble out and continue with our daily duties, try not to think about the absolute worst case scenario, crack some morbid jokes, weigh our odds for the worst case scenario, which causes more bickering to ensue. Not going to lie, I am usually at the center of it, but hey...you have to get your tension and aggression out somehow, right?
Anyway don't worry, after all that bickering and all those odds weighed, we have come to the conclusion that mortars aren't actually that dangerous, it's just that the weird circumstance of coming under hostile fire that is mentally jarring more than anything else. I'd much rather deal with mortars and rockets than IEDs and small arms fire, that's for damn sure.