It was an eery gray outside. The black of the metal and cinder block buildings contrasted with the light grey of the night sky. I was able to make out most of what was around because my eyes were accustomed to the near pitch black inside of the aircraft from the preceding 40 minute joyride courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

The first thing I noticed was the rancid smell of burning trash and rubber. It was a mixture of all the burning buildings, vehicles, and dead bodies that had been destroyed over the last few days of intense fighting in and around the airport. That smell will never leave me. It was the same smell that greeted me on all four of my deployments to Iraq as I exited the various aircraft that took me there.

We all exited the aircraft and took a knee in the milky dark Baghdad night awaiting further instructions. Someone from the Regiment was supposed to meet us and take us to the particular area of the airport where we’d be based out of. The cool night was filled with the irreverent noises of gunfire, the occasional explosion, four-wheelers screaming back and forth, and the non-stop sound of aircraft landing and taking off.

The airflow into Baghdad was now taking place at a monumental rate. Personnel and supplies were coming in around the clock to shore up the defenses around the airport, and to back up the ground forces of the 3rd Infantry Division that had arrived a two days earlier.