Subject: Update - 1 September
allykoom. Greetings from Iraq!
have been "in country" for two weeks now and at our Iraqi army units for 5
days. Since Internet access is extremely
limited for all members of the team, I figured it was time for an update.
Our training workup for this
assignment ran from 10 July until 24 August.
We trained in Quantico and Danville, Virginia, traveled to Cherry Point,
North Carolina to await transportation, flew to Ramstein, Germany where our plane was grounded for a
few days (allowing us to relax in cool,
green, beautiful Germany where they have beer), and then flew to Baghdad and
trained for a week at Camp Taji. All of
us were sick of training by that point.
We had "lost the will to learn".
The outgoing team picked us up and convoyed us to our respective units on
We are advisors to the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Brigade of
the 1st Division of the Iraqi Army. If
you are "savvy" to military jargon and what I just wrote makes sense to you,
skip to the next paragraph. Otherwise,
I'll try and explain here. The
structure of the Iraqi Army is somewhat similar to the U.S. Marine Corps. The Corps has four divisions, each division
has three or four regiments/brigades, each
regiment/brigade has three or four battalions, and each battalion
has three or four companies. The Iraqi companies are smaller than typical
USMC companies and, on average, have about 75 troops or "jundi". Do the math and you can figure out the
general size of the Iraqi units.
The battalion is based around Fallujah
in a number of "firm bases". These are
typically abandoned residential houses, schools, or municipal buildings that have been fortified
significantly. This battalion has four companies (plus a headquarters unit) and
I have one or two advisors assigned to each company. We have four advisors, including myself as
the senior advisor, assigned to the battalion staff. The battalion CP is in what used to be a
beautiful residential home. It was
ventilated significantly by tank and .50
machinegun bullets in November, 2004 but it is structurally sound.
living conditions are not too bad. We
all came over here prepared to live in
the dirt for six months or more so having a roof over our heads, even if the
roof has some holes, is relatively luxurious.
There is electricity (via generator) most of the time, running water some
of the time and, at most firm bases, sanitary facilities to accommodate our
Western routines. I'll spare the details
but suffice to say that the bathroom practices here in the East differ greatly
from what we're used to.
firm bases have cable TV and, although the channel selection is not great, we
are able to get occasional news updates on BBC. The only other thing I have watched is
Iraqi MTV. Hilarious.
Most of us
eat at least one meal every day with our Iraqi counterparts. I can only speak for myself but the food is
pretty good! Breakfast consists of
flatbread with a spread of cream cheese and honey. Lunch
and dinner typically consist of a stew of meat (mostly lamb/mutton)
or kebobs over rice with vegetables.
Flatbread (the stuff is delicious) is served with every meal and chai (hot,
strong, sweet tea) is served after every meal.
The tomatoes they grow here are terrific. I haven't seen a fork or a napkin since I
have been here. You can have at the
chow with a spoon but if you're not
ready to grab with your hands, you're
going hungry. We do have American
food supplements (cereal, MREs, etc.) if
the meal is particularly unappealing.
Not unexpectedly, most have us have