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The Last Few Days in Samarra

Here at Patrol Base Olson in Samarra, with Charlie Company 2-Panther (2-505 Parachute Infantry Regiment) of the 82nd Airborne Division, we've had a string of hit and miss days lately. Some sandstorms have kept us on the base, but we've had a series of day and night ops when able to leave.

Two nights ago, I went out with 1st Platoon at 2am on a raid, though they didn't find the AQI guy they were after. The next day, I toured the "Old Tourism Site" just north of the western edge of the city, which will be a barracks, training center, and operating base for 1,500 new Iraqi Police when it opens, and they begin arriving, late this month.

This evening, I went along with 3rd Platoon to check on several gas stations around the city, which should have received shipments of fuel yesterday to provide to the people here. We also had an element of M1 Tanks which checked other gas stations, to the south. One of those tanks hit an IED on Route Heat (the southernmost east-west running road in the city), where 2nd Platoon had hit one the other day when I was with them. Nobody was hurt, and the vehicles were in good enough shape to continue their mission.

As we exited our first gas station, an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) was fired in our direction, and hit a house to our north with a deafening BOOM!! Again, no paratroopers were injured, and the rest of our evening was uneventful as we checked two more gas stations and headed back to post.

Tomorrow we'll be checking out a couple of markets, and then going out again at night to find a big AQI guy and bring him in. Should be interesting.

The weather is really changing here; this was the first day that I was able to exercise at 2pm without feeling like I was going to fall flat on my face. The midday temperature has dropped to 110 or so, and the early morning temp -- between 75 and 85 -- is extremely cool and pleasant. It's still humid, as we're right on the Tigris River, but the heat is no longer unbearable.

That will all change, I expect, when I head south at the end of this week, back to southern Baghdad to join up with the 1-4 Cavalry from the 1st Infantry Division. That'll be the last stop on this trip, and will take me through the beginning of October. From there, it's a multi-day journey home, which should (hopefully) end at the middle of October.

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