Location: Camp Victory – Baghdad, Iraq
Year : AUG 2005
I remember it as being hot and dusty, but that’s pretty much the definition of an understatement for Baghdad in the summer. Using an old school, wet bulb thermometer, we had recently registered a stunning 132 degrees so it was more than just hot. You know when you’re baking something in the oven and you open the door to check on it. Like a dummy you bend over to get a peek and that first wave of heated air makes you squint your eyes and pinch your face? Yeah, it was that kind of hot, only all day long.
We were assigned as firefighter/paramedics to protect the US military personnel assigned to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Looking back on it now, I think it was the most significant thing that I’ve done in my life. We had a motto that summed it up. Protecting Those Who Protect Peace. It was truly an honor to be the First Responder for those brave men and women as they rested on base in between combat missions.
But with that being said, it was also boring as hell. There’s an old saying in our industry that our days are made up of 99% boredom and 1% pure terror/adrenaline. That pretty much sums up the Iraq experience. From a firefighter’s perspective, our customer (the military) made for pretty good residents so we really didn’t have a lot of structure fires or cats in trees. In 2005 we had a lot of indirect fire coming at us from over the wire, but for the most part, we spent our days trying to keep busy and maintaining our training levels.
The one escape from the boredom, outside of calls to home, was mail-call.
A package or a letter from home was not only a break in the monotony, it was a reminder of why we were doing what we were doing, and why protecting our way of life is so important.
So there I was on that hot and dusty day in August of 2005, sitting in our Heavy Rescue unit outside of the US Army postal center at Camp Victory (adjacent to the Baghdad International Airport / BIAP).
I had small cardboard box in my lap and I was contemplating the irony of the fact that I needed a knife to open my box that contained a knife. I’d searched around on-line and found a really bad-ass OTF knife made by Microtech. I’d been eagerly awaiting its arrival for nearly three weeks and the time had finally come. Using the edge of a fireman’s axe, I sliced the tape from the box and unwrapped my new toy. The knife was everything I’d hoped it to be. Sleek, well made and with a hefty OTF spring that made a satisfying; “CLICK” when it sprang into action. For the next several days I abused that spring religiously. In and Out, In and Out. “Hey wanna see my new knife?” In and Out, In and Out.
As obnoxious as it was, it’s hard to resist the fun of playing around with good OTF knife. Even if it involves multiple band-aids from the self -inflicted “training” along the way.
When I think of good knives that I’ve had in my life, I think of that one and I see it in my head, with the sandy, dust filled light of a Baghdad sunrise in the background.