I’d never been to Baghdad before. I’d just heard about it in stories and saw the bombs fall on that ancient city. My mission this morning was to escort
Mohammed Nooray, a District Police Chief in Basrah. In the room I kept as quiet as possible as Del was snoring away in the other bunk. I pulled my webbing from under the bunk and full magazines clanked on the floor.
“Oh… fer fuck’s sake, Dougy. I was having a decent wet dream there you fucker!”
“Donkeys and goats, I expect,” I replied and opened the door to the cool Iraqi morning. The sun was low on the horizon, obscured by the shower block. The previous week some fucker was admitted to hospital for drinking the alco-gel. He admitted he had a problem – no shit, Sherlock.
I got the coach to the Main Airport Terminal and went through the usual rigmarole of security despite it being obvious I was a soldier. There were civvies here waiting in the terminal, some reporters and a fat looking fellah with dark wet patches under his armpits – scruffy fucker. I looked at the chalk board and saw the only destination today was Baghdad. The next C130 Hercules was due to depart at 0830hrs. I had another set of Body Armour for the bloke, when and if I could spot him. I couldn’t wait to give it to him, it fucking weighed a ton, and the sun was baking the terminal. There was one Police Man in the corner who was peering into his phone.
“Shismak Mohammed Nooray?”
“Ee… na’am,” he replied in confirmation.
“Sabaah il khyar,” I greeted him. Good Morning.
He laughed, “Sabaah in-noor.”
“Mumkin?” I offered him the Body Armour.
“Shukran,” he said, thanking me and took the Armour off me. He then proceeded to rabbit on in Iraqi to me. Fer fuck’s sake. You speak a couple of words and all of a sudden you’re a translator.
I tried that route already with a couple of the Linguistic teachers in the HQ. They were the same teachers we had in Beaconsfield. He said I had to make a name for myself and stick my neck out to get anywhere with the language. I decided I didn’t have the ego or the confidence to start barging into meetings and voicing my opinions on things. I’m not entirely sure I’d have been good at it.
I held up both hands. “Not sure what…erm… ma’areef,” I said and he shrugged, resigning. We sat there in silence for another 30 minutes when the call came up, in both English and Iraqi. There was a right motley crew of people here. Americans, British, people with weird looking weapons and a small, menacing looking, chubby reporter with what looked like a World War 2 German helmet on. He was sweating under his blue body armour and glanced at me through his rimless, Heinrich Himmler like, glasses.
“What the fuck are you looking at?” He asked me. Did he just swear at me? I looked behind me – at this stage we were on the Hercules buckled up to the straps that swung from the interior of the plane.
I looked back to him, then at the Iraqi policeman.
“He ain’t gonna help you out. Probably doesn’t understand what I’ve said. What the fuck are you looking at? You got a problem?” He repeated his question.
“It’s that,” I said pointing at his Uzi, “What you going to do with that?”
“Protection,” he answered.
“I bet it’s not even loaded,” I said back to him.
“It fucking is,” he retorted and grabbed the toy gun. Well… it looked like a toy.
“It’s not. Come on, don’t lie to yourself. Even if it is, you’re going to empty the mag in 3 seconds and hit nothing.” I then realised my weapon wasn’t loaded. Of course it wasn’t – you can’t just board a plane with a loaded gun and this nut job was getting all lairy with his ‘Boyz In Da Hood’ Uzi 9mm.
And that was that. Little pork chop, ‘I ate all the pies’, of a man just gives me daggers all the way to Baghdad. I had to buckle the Police Chief up – he didn’t know how to do them up. Fucking solid. I chuckled to myself when I did it too.
The aircrew were regularly checking the cargo during the flight. These guys must have a great job. There was this guy scrambling all over the nets and looking out the window. He put out two fingers and sat down. He then began to strap himself in. What the fuck?
I looked to the reporter, who flashed his eyes menacingly at me. Dick. Others were securing items away and one other bloke grasped on to the back of the netting. This didn’t look good.
I felt it then. The aircraft began to descend, and I had to look at the expression on the reporter’s face change. It looked like he’d just shat his pants. I felt a hand quickly grasp my arm – the Police Chief grabbed hold of me, shouting. I laughed at him and told him it was okay even though he couldn’t hear me from the roar of the engines. It was that drop ship from Aliens, that’s what it looked like. Dust rose from the ground and I saw a book fly to the ceiling, it stuck on it like it was magnetic. That’s when I thought we were going to crash.
I held on to the copper. Then I heard the screaming.
The little fat fucker with the loaded Uzi was screaming his lungs out. And that cheered me up.
The book fell to the floor and we all began to sink into our seats. My head rested on the policeman’s shoulder. I think he’d passed out. He wasn’t waking up. My head was pinned to his shoulder.
I began to shake the police chief. Who jumped in his seat. He was screaming out something and I just laughed again.
We felt the bounce, ONE, TWO, THREE, ….. FOUR…. What the fuck? FIVE. We then began to shift toward the front of the plane as it began to brake. The tone of the engines turned to a low growl and the aircrew man stood, and began poking people to rouse them. Some had fallen asleep and not woken up yet, this was probably a regular run for some.
The back door began to whine as it opened. Cracks of brilliant white shot through and we were presented with a golden vista of barbed wire and sandy coloured buildings. I unbuckled the Police Chief from his waist restraints and we began to disembark.