"An Intelligent Reader's Guide to the Iraqi Conflict"


Former Scene staffer Willy Stern has just returned from a stint as an embedded journalist in Iraq with the First Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas. His embed was co-sponsored by two running magazines, Runner's World (U.K.) and Marathon & Beyond. One of Stern's anecdotes from his trip follows, and there are more at his brother's website here.

I'm crammed into the back of a C-130 cargo plane flying into BIAP, Baghdad's international airport. There are 50 others in the cargo hold with me, mostly soldiers, and two pallets of equipment. The temp is 124 outside. Inside the plane, there is no A/C. I suspect it's 130 degrees, maybe more. U.S. Army regulations require that we wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts, body armor and a Kevlar helmet on these transports. We are packed in so tight that the soldiers on either side of me have their bodies crushed against my side. We are allotted exactly 20 inches of butt space per person on the bench. The female soldier across from me has her knees in my crotch. My knees are shoved up against her thighs. Rucksacks sit heavily across laps. The heat is unbearable. The soldiers all have brought large bottles of water. Some also have camel backs. I have no water and am sweating profusely. The flight time is around 1 hour and 20 minutes, but if we take ground fire, it could be far more. The soldier across from me and to the right sees that I am dehydrating quickly. He pulls out a water bottle and offers it to me. We're all wearing earplugs. There's no way to talk over the roar of the engines. But he hand-motions that he has more water in his ruck. I reluctantly take a swig and hand it back. He insists I keep it. Over the next 90 minutes, I slowly drain the bottle. He declines repeated offers to share. It isn't until we are close to landing that I realize he has given me his only water bottle.

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