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. Arabic music played from a laptop while partygoers sipped on Dr Pepper (this is Iraq, after all).
The get-together attracted Arab interpreters, soldiers, airmen, National Guardsmen from Washington and Arizona and one reporter.
When all the meat was grilled, the gracious host brought out three hookahs, Middle Eastern water pipes, and brewed some strong tea. For more than an hour, people from every corner of the world sat around and pulled drags of the mint-and-lemon-flavored tobacco.
"This," an Air Force engineer said, "is about as much fun as you can have on a FOB."