Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sick in Iraq - Dispatch from our correspondent

Unfortunately, I am sick again, and much worse this time. Had to go get the medics up last night to get some help. Feeling better this morning, but after I send off this email I'm going to crawl back into my cot and try to sleep this off.

The problem is that our battalion and the battalion that we are replacing are both here at the same time, so we're crammed into every little space imaginable. Living so close together is making sure everyone gets sick. Also, there's so many people, that there is seldom any hot water, so people aren't terribly clean and/or spend time very cold and wet every day.

We won't start patrols for a while, I'll let you know when we do. Our sector is one of the quieter ones, but is also very diverse. It includes a forest ( yes, a forest in Iraq!), a university,(oh boy...politically active young people with knowledge of chemistry and electronics), some ancient ruins (still respected to this day, although they occupy an area of good real-estate in the city they are only used as sheep and goat grazing grounds, even the insurgents seem to respect the area as out-of-bounds), and several city neighborhoods.

Oh, also a lovely section of a local river that has been known, for as long as the locals can remember, as "Shit Creek"....sounds picturesque. I'm not making that up about the creek, the intelligence officer said they've tried to get a different name for it from the locals so that the intelligence sergeants didn't get to say things like "the target is up Shit Creek" in their briefings...but no luck.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dispatch from Kuwait-- Of Camels and Guns and MREs

From our diligent correspondent in Kuwait waiting to enter Iraq comes this story:

There are numerous training facilities in Kuwait, the initial staging area for many American troops who spend some time there acclimating themselves to the desert environment. The soldiers regularly train to keep in shape and maybe learn some helpful tips. In one exercise, the unit was bussed to an artillery range deep in the desert. The view was rolling sand dunes for 360 degrees.

Before practice firings could begin in earnest, a gun misfired. No one was hurt, but it required an expert investigation, which took several hours. Safely certified, they were ready to fire the first shots when a herd of camels appeared on the horizon, necessitating another stand-down. Firing range personnel dispatched a fleet of Humvees to hurry the beasts along. But camels it seems have little fear of puny humans or their machines, and it looked like a lunch break made sense while the round-up proceeded.

The soldiers hunkered down opening their MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) pouches, but were interrupted by a group of the dispersed camels who had developed a taste for MREs. Hopelessly addicted to meatloaf and gravy dinners, they began snatching MREs right out of the soldiers' hands. Again, camels have little fear of humans, whom they outsize 5 to 1, and whose teeth can cut a NY strip-sized hunk from an arm. The day promised to be quite long-- and was. The army does not cancel training.

Our correspondent has been asking me for a helmet camera, and with material like this, it's a good possibility. Stay tuned.