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Chris on Duty > Road To Iraq by Chris Alpine

Seattle comedian Chris Alpine is in Iraq entertaining our troops with Comics on Duty.
Please visit ComicsOnDuty.com for tour information.

Almost All Quiet On The Mideastern Front

As I help buckle in a couple of young soldiers into their seats on the C-130 taking us into Iraq, it hits me - I'm a grizzled veteran now and I'm not even in the military. Me knowing more than our troops should scare the hell out of me but I'm not even apprehensive this time. Maybe the college girl on the plane over wasn't far off when she asked if I was going to Iraq "on vacation."

We landed in Mosul and the first thing that strikes me is how quiet it is. No gunfire, bombs or even hip hop music blasting at Number 11 on your Spinal Tap dial. If rock music was the soundtrack for Vietnam, then hip hop is the soundtrack for Iraq. The quiet is a pleasant surprise because Iraq has always been incredibly noisy both day and night. I don't like it. It's like the quiet right before a tornado.

The living conditions here have improved dramatically in the last year. We're billeted in small trailers with air conditioning, showers with plenty of hot water, toilets that actually flush, a refrigerator stocked with water, juice and soda; and , best of all, real beds with real mattresses and clean sheets! We have nearly unlimited internet access 24 hours a day through out the country.

For the most part, the dining facilities, called De Facs, serve a huge variety of quality food. I enjoyed excellent Mexican, Italian, Chinese and Indian food all through Iraq. Each tries to out do the other to our benefit. Every base had fresh fruit and vegetables and way too much ice cream. You know we're fighting in comfort when you hear an officer whine that "we're out of Belgium chocolate again."

We're thankful for the good food and living conditions because our schedule is grueling; 28 shows in 12 days. This is accomplished by riding Black Hawk helicopters to as many as four FOB's, Forward Operating Bases, a day. We cowboy up with 30 pound flak jackets and kevlar helmets in the morning and zoom off to an FOB, do a show, hop back on the chopper and repeat. We usually end our day around 10 PM so don't really get a chance to enjoy the comforts but we're certainly glad they're available.

The troops definitely appreciate the shows, especially the small, isolated FOB's that rarely get entertainment. Comics On Duty is extremely flexible and mobile. We add shows as we go because we can't say no to the troops. That's why we're here. I've noticed the vast majority of troops have only been here since February and, while morale is high, they lack a certain urgency earned by enduring the hardships and sheer terror of the actual war. It's more like a video game come to life. This is not to say they aren't ready, they are but it's more of an adventure than a mission. We're even allowed, hell encouraged, to fire weapons. We fired everything we could get our hands on including the .50-caliber machine guns. Of course, we're such idiots we managed to shoot behind us setting the desert on fire. The instructors were doubled over laughing until a round went zinging over their heads. I'm not into guns but after the exhilaration on the range I would have enlisted on the spot if asked. Nobody asked.

We did go to the Green Zone in Baghdad for two days. We stayed at the Pool Side Suites. It was Saddam's pool but not any more. It's now used by our embassy and the military brass. It has the look and feel of a country club pool back home. Hot, lazy days with picnic lunches and real beer available to non-military personnel - that's us - with a sign stating "Drinking is not allowed when armed." good advice anywhere. Watching girls in bikinis frolic in the pool while medivac helicopters stream by overhead reminded me of the insanity of Vietnam. What have we gotten ourselves into and how do we get out of it?

Some things never change in Iraq. It's still a dangerous place to be an American, it's still covered with sand and it's still unbearably hot. In all the time I've spent in Iraq it's never been under 100 degrees. I want to be the weatherman in Iraq. How hard can that job be? "It's going to be hot, really fucking hot. Back to you."

Since the insurgents now attack unarmed civilians nobody is shooting at me. That can change in a second so you can never truly relax. The quiet is not reassuring, it's spooky and I should know. After all, I'm a grizzled veteran now.

 

 

 

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