21 February 2007

What you might not know about conditions in Iraq…

Random bits of information…

Soldiers are not allowed to have sex, see sex (no full nude magazines or porn sites), or even have the opposite sex in your room. The exception is if both you and your partner (different sexes… of course) are married and are both deployed and in the same location. It is rare, but it happens. There are a few I see walking to their room at night or to work in the morning.

No alcohol is allowed – none. Near-beer is given out at the dinning facility... not the same, but I drink it. No matter how fast you drink it, you do not get happy... I drink it just to taste the distant memories of real beer. The exception is if you work for the state department or some contractors; sometimes located where they work are bars.

There are very few lights outside the building on the military camps. It is tricky to identify a person passing you on the walkway at night.

It is free to send a letter from here to America. To mail a letter to a Soldier from the states is the same cost as sending a letter to New York, NY. The mail typically takes about a week to go one direction (expect during holiday seasons). Great system, but most Soldiers just like to use email – instant gratification. But we still love to get care boxes.

Haircuts are $3…

There are no issues with electricity or water… for Soldiers. Most even have heaters and AC in their room.

Soldiers here do not pay federal taxes when deployed and an additional few hundred dollars

It rains- mostly during the winter months. The rain helps make this special mud that is just about impossible to get rid of. It can also get very cold during the winter – I even saw some snow in the air once.

Inside, dust is everywhere. A fine layer of dust awaits you every morning. When the dust is stirred up by sweeping or a mortar round coming a bit too close, the dust in the air then becomes almost overwhelming.

For most- showers are from 20 to 200 yards away from where they sleep. Tracking through the elements (often in the dark) can leave you more dirty when you finish than when you started.

Most Soldiers work all day (14-16 hours) seven days a week. Meal time is limited to the time it takes to get your food and then eat it. No weekend off – no holiday off… not even Christmas. Two weeks are given for R&R.

The Soldiers in the worst conditions (smallest outpost with fewest amenities) are often the happiest Soldiers…

I do not know of one Soldier that has committed suicide because of anything here… in every case I know of (I am sure I do not know all the facts on this), Soldiers have taken their own life because of the person they care the most about, has given up on them.

In most cases, laundry is done by a contractor. The Soldier drops of his stuff (only 20 items to a bag) and 72 hours later it comes back folded and clean. I visited the location where the magic is done and it is a very clean (ok – that is expected), large building with several dozen workers happily go about the business. Most are from locations like the Philippines, the Balkans and India and I assume getting paid well by the smiles I saw from just about everyone.

Speaking of pay – civilian translators from the states (American citizens that speak Arabic) get paid six-figures. Most of them are in their early to mid 20s. Most were born in another country and moved to America, with their parents, at an early age.

Most of the Iraqis do not want the American military to leave. The military have great effect in keeping order and safety… and that is cherished more than anything in this part of the world.

Most of the Soldiers believe in this mission and what we can be accomplished. They think this, not because of what the media or politicians say, but from their on personal experiences here.

In a country with so much oil, it is hard to understand, but it is very difficult to get gas. Iraq has limited ability to process oil. This is also why there is problems with electricity--- the Iraqis try to burn the unprocessed (and not so good of quality) oil in the electrical generators.

The Iraqis are good at diverting water; this allows for farming in the desert. It is surprising how green this area is as seen from the air.


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