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Archives: Feb. 2009

Feb.
28th

Dinner with the general

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAWK, Iraq – Only after dinner, two hours after the Americans had first arrived, did the general air his complaints.

Brig. Gen. Abbas Abdul Jabbar Eidan al-Kubeisy wanted his base – which lies inside the grounds of the larger Contingency Operating Base Qayyarah West – hooked up to the Americans’ power supply. He also had problems with securing replacement equipment for his gear.

But when the meeting ended, about three hours after about 15 American soldiers first arrived, the general was all smiles. He gave a colonel visiting from Mosul a coin emblazoned with the brigade’s logo. He posed for photos and made small talk even as the American soldiers were climbing into their cars for the quick ride back to Q-West.

This was military politics, Iraq-style.

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Feb.
27th

My new favorite radio station

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE QAYYARAH WEST, Iraq – I was flipping through the radio stations we receive out here at Q-West (there aren’t many) and came across an audio feed of an Armed Forces Network television channel.


The broadcast was the audio feed from “Jeopardy!” On a starry night in the Iraqi desert, I listened to Alex Trebek deliver answers about cows, literature and history.


Freedom truly has come to Iraq. Or at least the greatest quiz show of all time.

Feb.
27th

Encouragement on the roadside

QAYYARAH, Iraq – We were driving out of the marketplace. The rains had turned the streets to mud. Most of the shops had closed. Few people were on the streets.


But as the convoy of an Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicle and three Humvees began to drive away, an Iraqi boy sprinted from one of the shops to the roadside, where he smiled wide and offered a big thumbs-up. (Sorry the photo isn’t great. I scrambled to get my camera and then snapped a shot through the muddy windows.)


It was one of

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Feb.
26th

And you thought they died a quick, merciful death

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE QAYYARAH WEST, Iraq – Every trip to the post exchange or the coffee shop brings back memories of sixth grade.


Pogs were all the rage at Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in Slidell, La. Not sure why, but my classmates would collect thousands of the cardboard circles. They’d basically gamble them at lunch.


Now AAFES – the Army and Air Force Exchange Service – has brought these things back. They’re used in place of change throughout Iraq.


One side is the denomination – 25, 10 or

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Feb.
26th

Washington Guardsmen honor blacks’ contribution to country

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE QAYYARAH WEST, Iraq – The 81st Brigade Support Battalion hosted a Black History Month celebration tonight. Good stuff, with heartfelt speeches and a fantastic jazzy tune from a saxophonist.

Here are a few snapshots I took:

Lt. Maria Torres of Seattle presents a slideshow of the life of President Barack Obama.

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Feb.
26th

Life’s a bit more relaxed at Q-West

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE QAYYARAH WEST, Iraq – An MRAP costs $1 million, is encased with bulletproof armor and can take a beating from a roadside bomb.


But all that means nothing to some of the livestock that make their way onto Q-West. Earlier this afternoon, a pack of four donkeys halted traffic down the main thoroughfare. (It’s cute but not funny; they sometimes wander onto the flight line.)


This base in Ninawah province, home to about 7,000 people, is everything Joint Base Balad isn’t. One can walk for blocks without seeing another person.

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Feb.
25th

Like a small town, with a block party to boot

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – This sprawling base in central Iraq is home to 30,000 people and inevitably draws comparisons to a small town. The commercial activity is clustered in two downtown-like areas, and different housing pods make for neighborhoods


And where there’s a neighborhood, there’s usually a party.


An Iraqi interpreter tries to throw a weekly shindig near his CHU (that’s milspeak for "containerized housing unit," which is basically a trailer). About 20 people arrived last night. There was meat on the grill and freshly baked bread and hummus for snacks.

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Feb.
24th

Another good deed for Fort Lewis’ deployed soldiers

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – As the military reporter at The News Tribune, I often receive e-mail from readers telling me about a good deed someone from the community has done on behalf of service members.


I thought about those letters today when I waited for a few minutes in the lounge at the 555th Engineer Brigade headquarters at Joint Base Balad. Part of it is basically a bar without the booze. Above the bar is a sign from Farrelli’s Gourmet Wood Fire Pizza, customized for the Triple Nickel.


It reminded me

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