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This blog chronicles the experiences of Elon journalism major Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown, who was deployed to the Middle East in June 2006 as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Hemmerly-Brown is from Blue Hill, Maine, and is the daughter of Jane and Daniel Hemmerly-Brown. As a public affairs specialist, Hemmerly-Brown writes stories, takes photographs, produces a newspaper and works with members of the news media. She is scheduled to be stationed in Iraq for about a year, and plans to return to her studies at Elon following her tour of duty.Messages can be sent to Alexandra at: IsisIndy@hotmail.com. Her mailing address is: Spc. Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown, 210th MPAD, Camp Anaconda, Balad, APO AE 09391.

[Return to Hemmerly-Brown's blog home page]

July 3rd 2006

IRAQ, FIRST IMPRESSIONS ---

Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown and father in KuwaitHello everyone! Yes, I am finally in Iraq, but before I go into that, I want to thank everyone for reading. Since I started this blog I have been receiving an overwhelming amount of emails from perfect strangers- tons of them. It is so amazing to see people reach out like that. I mean, by the time I had posted my first entry, I hadn’t even left the country yet- I hadn’t done anything remarkable. I tried to reply to everyone who wrote me, but it was really hard! So foremost, I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who is reading this and supporting our troops!

That being said, I will catch you all up on what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. I waited a long time to write, because I wanted my next entry to be in Iraq. Bear with me guys, this will probably be a long entry.

I arrived in Iraq three days ago on a C-130 cargo plane. We were strapped into webb seats, the ones that the Airborne soldiers use and you see in movies- they run parallel to the plane. It was about an hour and ½ flight from Kuwait, and was very loud. We just wore our earplugs and made faces at each other because it was really too loud to talk, but in he back of our minds (my mind anyway), we knew we were going to war.
I wasn’t expecting our plane to get shot down or anything of that nature, and of course everything went smoothly, but I kept reminding myself that this was the ‘real deal,’ no more practice runs.

Before I get too far into talking about Iraq though, let me first tell you a little about my first experiences in the Middle East: Kuwait. My trip there was a 3-day journey that started with a 20-hour bus ride from Mississippi to Wisconsin: that was actually the worst part. I arrived in Kuwait on the 19th of June, and stayed for about 10 days.

Probably the most interesting part of the desert for me was the heat. When people say that the heat in the desert is “like an oven,” they are telling the truth. That is the best way I can describe 130-degree heat. When I stepped off the plane the heat felt exactly like when you check on your cake in the oven. It rushes at you and sucks the moisture out of your mouth, and you think to yourself, “my body is cooking.”

Really though, it only took a few days to get used to it. I surprised myself by not being too bothered by it. It was really a good thing that we spent some time in Kuwait though, because Iraq is significantly cooler (by about 15-20 degrees), and doesn’t seem unusual at all.

In Kuwait, we really didn’t do a whole lot of training; we actually had a lot of down time. The biggest things we did were: 1. a 3-day field exercise (no showers- ew!) that included close-quarters live firing and convoy training, and 2. HMMWV rollover training (they actually flipped us over in a HMMWV and we had to crawl out). I can’t really describe the training in much more detail because of security reasons, but always in my blog, I will tell you guys as much as I can.
Probably one of the best things that happened in Kuwait though, was I got to see my Dad! He works on an oil rig that was about 1 hour and 20 minutes away from my base. Luckily, I was able to get him onto the base, and I got to hang out with my Dad for about 3 hours one day, which was very cool: me and my Dad in Kuwait. Rare, huh?

Ok. So I’ve explained Kuwait. Now I am at Camp Anaconda in Iraq. My first impressions are good, as I’ve come from a “worse,” place. For example, here there are trees (palm trees, even pine!), and lots of birds, and in Kuwait there was only sand. It’s cooler here, and it’s a bigger base, so in theory, there should be more to do. The downers would be that here, the base gets attacked by mortars several times per day. Usually no one gets injured, and they have a good warning system here that basically tells you to get down on the ground if one is incoming. It can be nerve-racking though. Also, there aren’t as many supplies here at the Post Exchange (a Wal-Mart for service members), because its harder to transport them up here. Needless to say I will be doing a lot of online shopping.

The best part about my being here though is my job. Of course I don’t know exactly how it will be yet, but the unit that is leaving is showing us the ropes and telling us how they’ve done it. They split up their unit into teams and each team was responsible for covering media in different sections of the country. If we follow their lead, it looks like I will be traveling about one half of the year and get to see basically as much of Iraq as I wish. In other words, if I want to travel “outside the wire,” I can as long as I have a story.

As a journalist, my schedule will be exciting, and mostly set by me as long as I’m getting my stories done. We’ve gotten a running start, and I already went on my first interview today for a story I will write when I am done writing this. There are only five of us print journalists to run a weekly publication, but I believe we are the largest public affairs unit in the country.

Well, that’s all for now, I’ve got to get working. I will write more soon, as I’m sure I will have plenty to say!

Xoxo -aLeX