Archive Logo.jpg

June 22, 2006

Live from Iraq Trivia Question.

Castle Denizen Blake, a retired soldier who works as a DA Civilian log weenie "somewhere in the United States" is currently in Iraq, working a unit redeployment. Here's his spotrep:

I've been over here in Iraq for two weeks now. I'm no longer jet-lagged, and we're starting to get work done. That having been said, we're still in the middle of a war here, so I'm reluctant to talk specifics about where we are, who we're working with, and when things are happening. The bad guys use the Internet to communicate all the time. It would be stupid to assume that they don't read it, too.

I suppose I can say that we're at a large Coalition base some distance north of Baghdad, more or less in the area the news media call "the Sunni Triangle." The terrain around the base reminds me of nothing so much as the High Plains of Texas, out around Lubbock, Leveland, and Plainview. Flat, flat, flat, as far as the eye can see. This plain we're on is too high above the Tigris valley for irrigation prior to the invention of mechanically-driven pumps, so this area was likely mostly originally inhabited by nomadic goat and camel herders. Goats and camels are about all that could live on what passes for plant life here anyway: it's mostly scrubby grasses and knee-high shrubs. If you see a
tree it's because some human being put it there on purpose. And hot. And dusty. And hot. Afternoon temps are pushing up toward the 120 degrees F mark, and it's not even the end of June yet. That old saw about "But it's a dry heat..." tends to lose its meaning one it gets up past 120 or so. And when the humidity is down in the single digits one can dehydrate just sitting in the shade and doing nothing.

We're still in a shooting war here, of course, and the base occasionally catches some mortar fire. What little artillery we have here fires occasional H&I missions on the known open areas from which the insurgents occasionally lob the odd shell or six over the fences. This has evidently convinced many of the locals to discourage the insurgents from shooting at us from some of the local villages, the villagers not wanting to wind up on either the H&I rotation, or on the receiving end of a counterbattery mission.

Because we still catch the occasional shell, most everything of importance on the base has revetments around it. The preferred method seems to be sectional reinforced concrete walls rather like traffic barriers on steroids. Some older sites are protected by "Hescos," big wire mesh baskets lined with a felt-like synthetic fabric which are named after the company that makes them. Hescos come in a variety of sizes, and are easy to install. They arrive folded up on a pallet. A squad unfolds them and stands them up, and then a bucket-loader fills them with dirt. Instant revetment. The tent I'm living in right now is protected by a revetment made of 2-meter Hescos. That is, these Hescos are cubes 2 meters on a side. Having 2 meters of dirt between me and any possible shell fragments does tend to let me sleep more soundly at night. See the attached picture.

Hescos are yet another proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Marshal Vauban, the great 17th-Century military engineer, would have no problem recognizing Hescos as a variant of something that he used all the time. Here's a good trivia question for the grognards at the Castle: what term would Vauban have used for Hescos, and what would his version have been made of?