After sitting in Baghdad until September 1, we spent eight hours on the flight line waiting for transportation to a special school in Taji. The Phoenix Academy is designed to familiarize transition teams with equipment, techniques, tactics, and procedures that they will use in completing their mission.
The food is excellent here. Healthy and tasty, which is always a good combination. The barracks were built by the British in the early 1900's, yet they are still in excellent repair. The weather is pretty good, although there are times when it feels as if my eyeballs are cooking inside my skull.
The instructor staff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. We were visited by several Army generals who conveyed the importance of our mission. However, I think that they were surprised when they noticed that all of the Marines were sitting on the left side of the room and all of the soldiers were sitting on the right side of the room. The two star general asked jokingly, "What, you guys don't like each other?" The resounding "No!" from the Marine side of the room was kind of shocking. It came from both officers and enlisted. Everything was taken in stride though. One team, one fight. Even if part of the team is a "lucky" team (to borrow a Nemo-ism).
Again, much thanks to the Navy CPO community. They have come through again in a big way. When I arrived at Taji, I still did not have pain meds, nor did I have a good supply of antibiotics, and every day OTCs. One phone call cut through months of red tape, and I am extremely grateful.
No pictures at this time as I am not allowed to connect devices to the computer. However, once I am established at the border, the photos will flow as we will have a T1 connection.
Last bit: I cannot tell you what the gear weighed as they are doing things differently at MARCH AFB. However, my daypack, my weapons, and my utility uniform succeeded in reaching 267 lbs on the scale. Oh....funny story: One of our stops enroute to Iraq was in MI, where we picked up a number of National Guard. While flying to Maine, a member of the flight crew believed that she was having a reaction to peanuts. Without much ado, the Army medics sprang into action. They donned gloves and a blood pressure cuff, and then proceeded to give the flight attendant an EPI-pen in the thigh. My fellow corpsman offered them Benadryl, but he was told that they didn't need it. Then they took her vitals and were disturbed that her pulse and blood pressure were elevated. A consultation with the pilots and we suddenly had an in flight medical emergency. It was probably one of the top three scariest moments I have ever had in an airplane (#1 a C-130 flight into Baghdad in OIF II, #2 hitting clear turbulence and dropping 50 plus ft coming back from Peru). When we landed paramedics checked her out and discovered that she never experienced shortness of breath, and truly had very mild - possible reaction to peanuts. Nothing that warranted an Epi-pen. After the excitement was over, our Marines asked us why we didn't do something. HM3 Shaw put it best, "I pride myself on my ability to determine what is and what is not a real emergency. This was not an emergency." As we were talking about the medics stupidity, one of them realized that he had acted outside his scope of care and that he could face prosecution for his actions. We just shook our heads and laughed. An Epi-pen, but no Benadryl. And these guys are going to try and save someone's life.