From a GI newly arrived in Baghdad.
Portions of the letter are as follows: "Arrived in Qatar around 1:30 a.m. and as soon as the door was opened the humidity and heat rushed in like somebody had walked over your grave. (Welcome to the Sand Box). Air Force tells the Army guys headed to Baghdad there are no flights for three days. And we need to check into temporary quarters. We all travel to tents, and bed down at around 2:30 a.m.
" Next day, Air Force informs me some planes are going to Baghdad. I observe the Air Force personnel are overwhelmed with questions.... Additionally, they are forgetting to tell folks where to eat, go to the restroom and rest, and this causes me to find the Air Force boss and bring this to his attention. "The next day we find an aircraft headed to Baghdad at 6 p.m. with enough room for one pallet and room for all the Army soldiers. We load up and as soon as the aircraft starts under its on power, a very large rattling sound starts right next to me (AC turbine), and begins to smoke.... We abandon the aircraft without incident, but it was exciting to watch the firemen and medics show up. So much for going to Baghdad.
" We get back to the PAX terminal, it is 8:30 p.m. and the Air Force informs us... we will need to stay at the terminal.... Call at 02:50 a.m. "We finally got on another aircraft and off to Baghdad we went.
" First day: My flight in on a C130 spiraled at a high bank directly over Baghdad to avoid MANPAD’s (Man Portable Air Defense) missiles that have been fired at U.S. aircraft. One hell of a ride. Disneyland hasn’t got anything on this. Checked in and met up with the 315 th TPC (my unit). "I will be the operations officer for the unit and also will be in charge of the media center. This will be a pool of journalists and photographers writing articles for the Baghdad newspaper.
" My first time outside the compound was to interview journalists for a paper.... I interviewed 10 applicants and they were mostly editors for other papers. They all believe that paper is propaganda, but are willing to help us change the format to more of an Iraq story. "Second time downtown... kids were everywhere. They all want to talk to you. The guys call it OBC: Overcome by Children.... They want to talk to you in what little English they know and want to touch everything as well. This is a little scary: We are bristling with knives, bullets, pistols and grenades.
" I observed one boy standing over another boy beating him. I immediately separated them, and sought to aid the one being beaten. He was crying and could not speak English, but you could see the relief in his face. "The other children... began to explain to me (the best they could) by saying mother, father, brother and sister had been killed. They did this by pointing their hand like a gun and saying, ‘Bang!’ I gave him a hug and this made us both feel better.
" The boy that was beating up the one I was assisting rushed up and starting yelling at me and cursing — very angry for such a young boy, and probably a future terrorist. But it felt good to help. "
Grench explained that his hectic schedule will likely keep his future e-mails much shorter, but added," My thought was that maybe some of you might be interested. It is hard for me to get much rest, because of the new environment and the heat. So I think of home a lot, "he wrote.
" Please do not worry about my safety. Everything is OK here and everything is meant to be, whatever happens. "I would like to thank everyone for your prayers and support.... It means more to me than I can express in words, and makes me want to work harder.
" Take care. "Your G. I. John in Iraq,
" John. "