The Story of an American Soldier in Iraq

Life as a soldier in Baghdad, Iraq is definitely interesting and full of life changing experiences, like... being shot at and blown up! Yee haw, what fun eh?

Actually, it has its ups and downs, and as a journalist in the US Army (assigned to CJTF-7 Public Affairs) I've had the chance to see many things that others have only heard of through the news themselves - I hope you'll enjoy them too, through my eyes. ; )

Friday, July 25, 2003

May 24, 2003

Hello everyone!
Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve written, but as things calm down there is less and less to write about.

I guess at the top of my ‘news’ would be that one of the stories I wrote has caused a little bit of a media explosion. I wrote a story about 2 brothers who were reunited here by accident after more than four years apart. It turned out really well and everyone was giving me kudos, and it hit our Corps homepage’s front page. AFN Europe (military network TV) caught a hold of it and started chasing these guys for a story of their own and my sergeant mailed the story to a few papers in Puerto Rico (where the brothers are from) and apparently now the mom, who’s still there, has like 20 news crews banging on her door daily. Sgt. Abbott also said that they’re just waiting for the youngest brother to get home in a week or two so that they can treat him like a regular home-ton hero! That made me feel pretty good I must say J Sgt. Abbott even thinks I have a good chance of winning a Department of Defense award for writing for this story! That would sure be nice!

Other than that, things have pretty much settled into routine. I’ve been assigned as our colonel’s driver, so I spend most of my days driving him all over base or reading while he’s in meetings, which isn’t so bad. I spend a lot of time while he’s in meetings out exploring the post and helping wherever I can. I helped the two ladies sent here to open a PX and have a pretty good relationship with them now. They actually scrounged me a bed!! It’s an Iraqi bed, which is like a big bench with a crib mattress on it. I just have to wait for the new mattresses to come in and I should be able to move on to that off my Army cot, which will be VERY nice!

The weather here is QUICKLY picking up pace – the temperatures are soaring with the average being about 100*F and hot days being about 10* higher :P You sweat like a dang dog, and a lot of people are starting to have problems with breakouts and rashes because it’s impossible to stay clean. I haven’t had too many problems yet, luckily, but wearing a helmet most of the time is making my scalp go crazy from the sweat – yuk! It’s not too bad though – it’s a nice dry heat, with just enough moisture in the air that your lips don’t crack and stuff, and I’d much rather be in dry heat than the humidity I endured in Georgia! We’ve had a couple of ‘sand storms’ here now too, though they don’t come anywhere close to what we went through out in the desert. Mostly they’re days where the air is just full of dust – it looks like it’s foggy out – and sand gets into everything, but you don’t have to wear goggles and face masks and everything.

Life is half way between the field and normal here. We’re living in a building, but on cots and using cardboard boxes for shelves. We have water, but not running out of taps, and showers are taken by standing in one spot and dumping cups of water over your head. Since it’s so hot, you have to wash LOTS, which means we’re still using lots of baby wipes too, as any water we use has to be lugged here in 5-gallon jugs. We still do laundry by hand but only undies now, drying it on cords stretched between the building’s pillars. A once a week laundry service does our DCU’s – they will do the undies too, but in Poland the buggers ruined two expensive bras so I’m not trusting them with that stuff anymore! We just got port-o-potties, which will replace the jimmy-rigged toilets we had before, and should (hopefully) be a little more bearable since there are two assigned to our office instead of to the entire area. Bugs are still a problem, but I’ve put up my mosquito netting around my cot and don’t get chewed much anymore. Our rat problem is pretty much over – they killed nine in the first few days we had the snap traps and now the ratties don’t come around. We have TV now too – only 5 channels, and pretty much all news, but it’s still nice, and sometimes there are movies in the evenings.

I’ve been off post a few times now, to run the colonel to meetings at the military headquarters down town in Saddam’s main palace complex. It definitely looks like a war zone out there, but things are constantly getting better as everyone is working to clean things up. I got a photo in front of a really cool monument Saddam built for their Iran-Iraq war – two huge arms holding crossed sabers. Around the bases are big piles of Iranian helmets with a bunch sunk into the concrete so that you drive over them when you go down the road. If I can get photo attachments to work I’ll send a bunch of photos with this letter!

Photos –
MeMonument- the crossed sabers photo
BombedPalace – one of the bombed out palace building on the lake where we are. Soldiers are actually living and working in parts of this one too!
Ceiling – all the palace buildings here have really intricate plaster reliefs. This is our buildings – some of the others are MUCH fancier!
GuardTower – a guard tower with a Bradley a few hundred feet from us
Kitchen – the kitchen with my jimmy-rigged box shelves. Notice our pic of saddam!
Our Palace – the building – a island in and of itself in the middle of a lake
OurRoom – the ladies room here – I’m in the corner with the white netting.
PalaceRug – one of the rugs we scrounged. Some of them are GORGEOUS silk rugs, this one is pretty nice (but dirty)

Um, other than that I don’t have a whole lot to yak about right now I’m afraid. Things have been pretty slow and calm lately and life itself isn’t too much different than before. I’ll try to write again before too long! J

LOTS of Love for Everyone!!!!


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