May 19, 2022

Hello friends,

been busy and haven’t had a chance to write, the one thing I can say is every day here is interesting. I was getting a bit shaggy so I searched out the nearest barber shop on base. The strange thing here on Camp Victory is that we have a lot of multinationals. They go where the money is. So I trudge through the sand and rocks and open the door to… an Indian Barbershop from the 80’s. It was weird to say the least. There were four barbers; all had the same ‘Indian’ features, jet black hair, _mocha skin, black eyes, unpronounced chin, beard stubble and a mustache of some kind. But each was very distinct. I was taking this all in as I sat down, waiting for a haircut. The barbers were wearing clothes straight out of the 80’s, one wore a pair of black pants that I think I myself wore in 1984, it had the needless buckles and lashes everywhere and silver eyelets, polo shirts with collars up, they all had wavy hair with blond highlights. It was a sight to see. It then hit me, they looked like the Indian version of the 80’s group, “Wham”, each wanting to be George Michael. So I decided to name them in my head, ‘George1, George 2, George 3, and Angry- because one of the barbers was way to angry to be George Michael, even an Indian version of George Michael. One of the Indians decided to change up the musical selection and inserted a cassette. Yes a cassette into a cassette deck. I am sure some of our younger Joes wouldn’t even know what to do with a cassette. On the wall, were posters from the 80’s, with 80’s slogans and posters of rollerbladers. It was my turn for a haircut, I pointed to the wall of a guy with long blond hair and said I want it like that. George 2 looked at me quizzically and said, sorry sir, that I can not do. No laugh. Sigh. So I got a regular military buzz cut and when he was done and I paid, (only 3 us dollars for a very good haircut!) I threw him for a loop by giving him theHello friends, been busy and haven’t had a chance to write, the one thing I can say is every day here is interesting. I was getting a bit shaggy so I searched out the nearest barber shop on base. The strange thing here on Camp Victory is that we have a lot of multinationals. They go where the money is. So I trudge through the sand and rocks and open the door to… an Indian Barbershop from the 80’s. It was weird to say the least. There were four barbers; all had the same ‘Indian’ features, jet black hair, _mocha skin, black eyes, unpronounced chin, beard stubble and a mustache of some kind. But each was very distinct. I was taking this all in as I sat down, waiting for a haircut. The barbers were wearing clothes straight out of the 80’s, one wore a pair of black pants that I think I myself wore in 1984, it had the needless buckles and lashes everywhere and silver eyelets, polo shirts with collars up, they all had wavy hair with blond highlights. It was a sight to see. It then hit me, they looked like the Indian version of the 80’s group, “Wham”, each wanting to be George Michael. So I decided to name them in my head, ‘George1, George 2, George 3, and Angry- because one of the barbers was way to angry to be George Michael, even an Indian version of George Michael. One of the Indians decided to change up the musical selection and inserted a cassette. Yes a cassette into a cassette deck. I am sure some of our younger Joes wouldn’t even know what to do with a cassette. On the wall, were posters from the 80’s, with 80’s slogans and posters of rollerbladers. It was my turn for a haircut, I pointed to the wall of a guy with long blond hair and said I want it like that. George 2 looked at me quizzically and said, sorry sir, that I can not do. No laugh. Sigh. So I got a regular military buzz cut and when he was done and I paid, (only 3 us dollars for a very good ha traditional Indian farewell of , Namaste. He looked surprised a GI would know that.

Just yesterday I had LNE, (Local National Escort) it sucks, instead of doing your regular job, you have to wake up hideously early get chow, wear full battle gear including gas mask and battle load of ammo which is more than 200 rounds and wait at the front gate for local Iraqis and you basically watch them work on base. If its outside than your out in the sun watching them work. My LNE was interesting, I was sent out to the concrete plant where they make the concrete barriers for the base. We had 3 soldiers watching around 25 local Iraqis. There was a shaded area for us to sit and a cooler of cold water, and they brought us lunch. I went on the first run on the water truck to pick up water for the cement. It was a long drive over 20 minutes, we moved from one base, we got to the area, it was a stream with a pump and pipes coming from it. There were about 7 water trucks waiting. We would be 8th in line. We waited for the first one to fill up, it took 20 minutes. I realized I would be here over 2 hours , so I jumped out, saw I was the only soldier there and took initiative and told the other water trucks we were to be next. One, it was a necessity I get back to my guard and make sure I wasn’t away to long from my other soldiers, two, also I didn’t feel like waiting. That was the first time I felt like the ‘occupier’, the soldier you see in films who goes some place and takes what he wants because he is the big chalupa. Of course I had things I had to do, but they might of as well. An old Iraqi with a piddly 50 gallon container on the back of a pickup asked if he could quickly fill up his tank before us. I ‘granted’ his wish. It was just a strange feeling walking around like the big hen in the coop. he said thank you profusely. I tried to remind myself not to let this get to my head. Its easy when people give you power to misuse it. But in many ways I was the one who was standing there with a deadly weapon with a magazine chambered ready to fire. They were not in a position to argue. The next assignment took a very strange turn, they loaded up a huge cooling unit on the back end of a flat bed truck. They said they had to deliver it off post, we got in an argument about it because we are not supposed to escort local nationals off post and I called in our supervisor to handle it. He said it was somewhere in between post and the wire, the grey zone being held by the Iraqi Army so we would send someone out, and he selected me. I didn’t have a cell phone on me and no radio, so the supervisor game me a slip of paper with some phone numbers. He said if anything goes wrong , just call. ??? I was like , call?, so if I am getting shot at I should look for the nearest pay phone? Anyways I jump in the truck and we are driving around, we go to this camp controlled by the Iraqi forces at the gate, once inside all I see are Iraqis, no US soldiers, no Iraqi police or Army. Just Iraqi locals, and they are all staring at me. First thing I am thinking is that a sniper could be anywhere in the distant. Damn. So they get the large unit off the flat bed truck with a little mangling of the crane, afterward, the guys I am supposed to be watching walk over to a tent. One of the older guys signals to me and puts his hand to his mouth, in the gesture of food. They are offering me lunch. Of course this is where in the movie, you yell at the screen don’t go into the dark tent. So… I go into the dark tent, there is tv playing at one end and a small table with food on the other, They have containers with rice, beans, cucumber salad, and flat bread. One of the guys makes me a plate. I sit down in the plastic chair, I am weighing probally close to 300 pounds with my weapon, ammo load, gas mask, and flac vest on. So I try to get as comfortable as possible but still be able to use my weapon if needed. I try to be courteous and pleasant but still stand offish while trying to remember not to touch my food with my left hand as that is a big no-no in arab culture. The food was not bad, close to Indian cuisine. The people were genuinely warm even with my distant personality. They seemed very happy that I enjoyed my food, I was more worried how my stomach was going to relate to it. I was just glad I had my full batch of shots back at ft.hood. On the drive back, One of the older men asked if I was married, pointing to his finger, and if “I had baby” , as a rule of thumb, every Iraqi will ask you if you are married. Being married is a sign of maturity, so me being 30 and not married would be strange to them. I said I was married and had 2 kids, one son and one daughter. I told him I keep my ring on my dog tag necklace around my neck. Having a son is very big in the Arab culture. I asked him about his family, 3 children, 2 sons. I congratulated him. He told me he was a former police officer for 31 years. Doing the local national escort though has given me a better idea of who the Iraqis are. It is convenient for us to place them in the category as our enemy, but the vast majority are just plain folks who want a better life. I can appreciate that. When I got back from that detail, I jumped on another one, again to fetch water, but at a much closer point, the lake where Saddam had many of his houses. While we were waiting for the water truck to fill up the young Iraqi tried to strike up conversation with me, he pointed to the palatial house that was on an island in the middle of the lake, the top of the house was bombed out and the orginal bridge that led to the house was destroyed but you could still admire the palace for what it looked like before, even now it was grand. The young Iraqi pointed to the palace and said , ‘sex’, ‘women’ ” that is where saddam had sex with woman’ I was taken back, he than said , ‘one hundred’ . I said one hundred woman! No , Saddam owned 100 houses. This is one of his houses. I though how strange it must have been for the young man to see the bombed out house of the tyrant that ran his country, to be able to drive up to it, to see how the mighty and corrupt had fallen in his country. I wondered what it would be like for myself to be working in Washington DC, escorted by a foreigner, and seeing the White House bombed out and under control by a foreign country. The young Iraqi walked to a palm tree and picked one of the fruits off. He told me the Arabic names for the palm tree and the fruit off it. He ate the fruit and gazed off at the palace. When we returned I found out the water was not for mixing cement but the workers there had a small garden of budding trees and bushes, the carefully poured the water from the truck down a man made ditch that connected all the plants, the young Iraqi expertly started dead leaves from one of the trees. I was impressed how close to nature they were and how much care they showed. It was something foreign you don’t see often in the states. Its strange trying to put yourselves in the shoes of others, (or as it is here, the sandals) I wonder what these Iraqis are going home to, how they live? It seems the biggest problem I am having is trying to figure how much to open myself up to the world around me and whats going on. I know a lot of people rather not know of atrocities so they won’t become depressed. I am struggling on this issue. I don’t want to be naïve to the outside world but what is happening out there tears at you immensely. I guess it’s a thick shell you try to cover yourself with. I don’t know whats back for me in the states. The thing you realize here is you have to have your blade sharp at all times, both figuratively and metaphorically. I will send pics tomorrow. I promise.

Talk later David.

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