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. The airspace is thankfully absent of fighter jets. Turkish-run shops on base sell custom-tailored suits, energy drinks, rugs and offer haircuts and massages. Indirect fire alarms aren’t a nightly occurrence.
If Balad and Baghdad are the military’s equivalent of New York and Los Angeles — and that’s a stretch — Q-West seems a bit more like Amarillo.
Of course, there isn’t a full-size movie theater. Or two swimming pools. Or an array of fast food. But that’s well worth the trade off, many of the soldiers stationed here say.
"It’s a bit quieter here than other places," Command Sgt. Maj. David Nunn of the 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion said. "And that’s not a bad thing."