Something pretty cool happened yesterday. I heard that the President was coming to this area and was glad that we didn't have that type of PAO mission (media facilitation) because when a VIP of that stature comes here, things get asinine. Anyways, I thought it was going to be a presidential meeting...like with the Prime Minister of Iraq or something. Nope.
Our First Sergeant comes into our office, "OK! The man is here, who wants to go see him?" We all stared at him; silence engulfed the room. "Well?" he said. "You better decide now because you don't have much time."
We all jumped at once. I grabbed my personal camera, my cover, and my weapon. "No weapons, leave them with me!" said 1SG. We brought our M4s into 1SG's office and six of us squeezed into the truck. I drove to the al Faw Palace and noticed the tight security at the intersections. We had to park down the street and walk to the palace gates.
As we got in line (long line too!), the MPs were shouting instructions about metal in our pockets, knives, etc. We entered the building and it was like walking into a concert. The band (don't know which one--1st CAV Band?) was playing songs from Cold Play and Radio Head. They were rockin'. Then they started playing the traditional American presidential music and we knew that the motorcade had arrived.
I was by the main entrance when President Obama walked in, staff and media pool in tow. Everyone started clapping and yelling. Everyone's personal camera was up taking in video or taking pictures. He walked up to us and shook hands...making his way around, until Gen. Odierno brought him into the conference room for his brief.
After that, the President came out to speak to all the service members in the rotunda of the palace. The speech was short and to the point. Thanking us servicemembers for our work here and thanking our families for their sacrifices. It was cool seeing and listening to him.
I felt a little strange while I was there with the media going nuts with their news gathering equipment. Weird because as a Public Affairs NCO, I'm used to facilitating these events for the media. We did A LOT of that in Afghanistan. At the palace, I was able to just stand there amid the mass of uniformed personnel and enjoy the moment. By the way, I believe that this visit was Obama's first as President. I've attached a short snippet of video of the President speaking to the bottom of the blog. It's been compressed too so it's a little low res.