26 Jun 2009, Combat Outpost Meade, Iraq (Baghdad): It was a scorching hot mid-June day in Baghdad, about 125 degrees. We had made a mounted patrol to the Victory Base Complex (aka “VBC”) – the largest US base in Iraq - to get some needed repairs done on one of our MRAPs. The outpost we live on is tiny and frequently does not have the things we need to keep us fully mission capable and ready to roll, that’s when we make a trip to VBC.
As is always the case when we go to VBC, I provide the guys some time to get some personal things done while we’re at “the big PX.” Usually, half the team will bring home a box of fried chicken from the Popeye’s fast food place at VBC to parse out over the next few days back at our combat outpost, Meade. For some reason, we don’t get fried chicken in the mess hall anymore, so we want it all the more.
While I was strolling through the big PX at VBC, I noticed something that I had never seen before. There was an inconspicuous sign, practically hidden in a corner, displaying that they had whole pigs (frozen) for sale. I couldn’t believe my luck.
Once we all made it to our usual rally point (Popeye’s), I put out my discovery and asked if anyone was interested in doing a pig roast. It was unanimous, of course, to get one. We weren’t prepared to take it home that day, but we started to make our plan.
We had to go back to VBC in a week (more maintenance)so that’s when we decided to get the pig. Until then, we had to figure out how to cook the thing, since the only cooking device we have is a grill that we use for our weekly Saturday night steak event. A couple of my NCOs told me, “Sir, we got it, we’ll figure something out.”
So the next VBC trip came up and we were ready to go. We had some more maintenance to do on one of our MRAPs but all anyone could talk about was getting the pig. I found out later that my guys were spreading the word around Meade that we (The Jedi MiTT) were going to have a pig roast. We were the envy of everyone else on COP Meade.
A couple of my NCOs went with me to the PX to carry the hog out. We found the frozen foods guy, he checked his clipboard and saw we had a hog reserved and off we went to the refer trailer. The manager at the PX opened the freezer trailer and there they were, a good half-dozen frozen whole pigs. He showed us which one was ours and my NCOs hauled it back to our MRAP.
The hog was lightly wrapped in a gauze-like material. We put some large trash bags around him and then strapped him in two adjoining troop seats for the ride home, which gets bumpy for the last 30 minutes. We had this planned out like a true military operation. We got back to COP Meade and took him into our conference room and onto the table – it was the only table we had that was big enough to do the prep work.
Around 2200, SFC Colon and I went in to do some prep work on him. We ended up getting the mess hall’s huge outdoor grill, so we had to get him to lie flat on the grill. We wanted to do a spit, but couldn’t get the materials we needed, so this was our back up plan. I won’t get into gory details, but a saw is vital (and I do have the video). SFC Colon had made up a nice marinade for him and he got that applied and then put him to bed for the night. The pig thawed out nicely and took in SFC Colon’s “secret” marinade overnight.
SFC Colon and SFC Parker got up around 0500 and prepped the grill and got the coals going. By 0630, the pig was on the grill. We did have some minor duties that day but I told the team that we would stay home for the day and use this as a reset day. Everyone on Team Jedi was beginning to wake up to some wonderful barbeque aromas that day. The rest of the camp was drooling with envy.
Everyone was having a great time, just sitting around, watching the pig slowly cook over the coals, and reminiscing about the past year. A couple of the guys went into our gym trailer, pulled out the stereo, and set it up outside so we could all listen to some music while we relaxed. I pulled out my iPod and hooked it up and before long we were listening to some classic rock (the kind of music you might listen to if you were to spend a day at the lake).
The pig actually cooked a lot quicker than we thought it would (maybe it’s that ambient 125 degree heat) and was basically done by lunch time. I savored every minute out there. The music was great, the company was awesome, the stories were flowing, hell, even the non-alcoholic beer we acquired was starting to taste alright. No one said it, but you could feel it in the air: this would be our last big shin-dig as a team. Our tour was coming to a close and we were going home soon.
In a few weeks, we’ll all be back at Ft. Riley to do our 5 days of out-processing and then we all go on to different assignments, probably never seeing each other again, at least not as a whole team.
As we began pulling the meat off the grill and carving it up, I looked around. Everyone was having such a great time with the camaraderie, the food, and the music. The pig roast was a huge success, and it tasted great. We had placed another great memory in our collective heads, another story to tell over a beer with a friend down the road. But next time, the beer will be real.
Look for the next episode in a couple of weeks – Return of the Jedi. Until then, this is Jedi 6, out.