Friday, June 11, 2004

Gunner Palace 

Courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.L., the website of documentarian M. Tucker, who in the course of several visits to Baghdad fell in with the 2/3 Field Artillery. The 2/3, also known as the "Gunner" Battalion, was based in Uday Hussein's Azimiya Palace in one of the most volatile quarters of Baghdad.
When I arrived back at the Palace, it was clear that much had changed. The guys were 90 days from going home-already packing-but facing an invigorated insurgency. A few days after I arrived, we were mortared, which became a normal evening event. Charlie Battery was hit by their 18th IED-a CENTCOM record. The soldiers opened up to me in ways I never expected.

During the first trip, I captured the rappers spitting out freestyle raps that had an attitude that an interview couldn't transmit. The raps evolved to spoken word poetry delivered by one young soldier. At the time, recording in the rubble of the Palace it seemed a little corny, but looking at the tape now, he gives a better appraisal of the situation than any newsman.

Another soldier asked me to bring him an amp for his electric guitar. We ended up on the roof of the Palace as Kiowas buzzed around, celebratory AK fire rang out and the minaret speakers tried to compete with his speed metal version of The Star Spangled Banner. For me, that performance, done in full battle rattle against a Baghdad sun, is the definitive image of Gunner Palace . . . .

A month short of going home, 2/3 was extended for 90 to 120 days. In May, they headed south to Najaf as part of reaction force sent to deal with Mehdi's Army. As I write, they are still there. Dodging RPGs. Making contact. Getting mortared. Bags packed, ready to go home.
"Baghdad Freestyle" (7 megs) here. "The Star-Spangled Banner" (11 megs) here.

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