The Gate has seen a change of command: the artillery unit providing security there – conducting searches, manning towers – for the first few months of the year, has rotated to a new mission for the next few months. Alpha
That change means that whether we like it or not, we and a few other personnel blessed with staying in place are the resident “experts,” most familiar with the Gate area. The problem with that is that knowing doesn’t necessarily mean we are consulted on any of the issues the new guys don’t know.
I have an ego, but I don’t need someone to ask my permission to run their own damn operation. Nonetheless, I’ve had plenty of opportunity for anger over these new bubbas flubbing up MY portion of the operation or in the very least, my safety and the safety of the other men who work on my staff.
Our gate is supposed to be the most secure in theater. Our gate is one square kilometer of stand-off and obstacles, vehicle lanes and personnel processing. There are BIG “guns” next to the main highway to deter unwanted traffic; there are automatic weapons in the towers for spotting and warning shots against intruders. NO ONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO BREACH THIS PLACE.
But twice last week, two days apart, a ten year old boy wandered his way through the maze of obstacles and observation points, ending up at the central part of our gate area: my office building. He had a smile and a mitt full of incense bundles, claiming to want to sell them. He should have been stopped, questioned, turned around -- but instead he ended up in my hallway, with my open doorway and open air seperating the five feet between us. HOW THE F--- DOES THIS HAPPEN?!?
It could be a probe. The kid wasn’t a neighbor kid from the village next to the base; he was from a central district of Baghdad – outside of walking distance. It could be a sort of reconnaissance to determine the possibility for sneaking a suicide bomber into the compound. These could be the markings of planning stages for a terrorist operation.
We questioned the kid, tolerated his smart-mouthed remarks about 'Where's the money?' and such, and turned him around. We put him back out on the highway to find his way back to Baghdad the way he came. Forsaking my emotional response that would be typical to a "lost" child in the states, I turned my attention to the very serious security breach allowed by the new battery of soldiers whose sole purpose is gate security.
“Do YOU know that blast radius of a suicide vest??” I questioned the Sergeant in charge, “If this kid was rigged, we would ALL be DEAD right now!” That was the first day. I was away from the office the afternoon of the second occurrence. I was livid that apparently not enough attention had been paid the first time to prevent it from happening again.
It’s fixed now. I choose to believe it’s fixed. I waved my arms and jumped up and down and grabbed the attention of any superior officer I could – this has to be stopped. The right people know about it now, and the gate has been crawling with officials reviewing security measures on the point. I choose to believe enough has been done to keep us safe, but I’m still on edge.