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Archives: March 2009


An opportunity missed

BAGHDAD – They just didn’t feel like it.

I sat in the rotary terminal at Baghdad International Airport, awaiting a flight to a small base in the heart of Sadr City. I was going to meet up with Army Reserve soldiers based at Fort Lewis who are working in Baghdad’s most notorious slum.

It was to be my last assignment before leaving Iraq. I thought it wasn’t going to be possible to make it out to see them, but Master Sgt. Rob La Tour hammered out an itinerary: fly into Sadr City, do a battlefield circulation, talk to some folks and then convoy back to the airport (near which I was staying).

I started to put my equipment on when I heard the Black Hawk approach. And then I saw it roll right past a few minutes later. It’s likely refueling, I said.

A KBR employee then made the announcement: "They decided not to have any passengers on this flight."

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81st Brigade soldiers mostly shrug at news of stop loss’ end

BAGHDAD – The news of the end of stop loss reached the Victory Base Complex — home of Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment — wrought a quickly dashed dream.

Most of the 81st Brigade Combat Team soldiers hadn’t heard the story. And the first question was often, “Does this mean I/we/they get to go home early?”

It does not. National Guard units deploying from September 2009 onward will stop using the policy.

Most soldiers, it seem, didn’t really care that much. Either they were on stop loss and have accepted the situation or the

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He is not, however, a Hawaiian organ donor

BAGHDAD – Interpreters working with American troops don’t always like their real name being known.

It’s for obvious reasons: Many Iraqis still dislike the American military’s presence in Iraq. And some try to exact revenge on the locals working with the United States by going after their families.

Most interpreters often wear Army-style camouflage but without any patches – but with a nametape with a fun nickname they’ve chosen. It can be anything from Billy to Terp (milslang for an interpreter). But there are a few really good ones.

One guy

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Runnin’ the mean streets

BAGHDAD – I caught the Rhino from the International Zone (that’s Green Zone for the rest of us) to Camp Victory today.

The armored bus service has a new crew taking over. And check out the patches they’re wearing.

(OK, didn’t realize how bad the photo was until I just uploaded it. But it’s I Corps.)


He’s a soldier again — and loving it

BAGHDAD – I just spent the day with Col. Larry Saunders. The former police chief of Lakewood is nine months into his assignment as senior advisor for the Baghdad Police College Transition Team.

The full story will be coming out sometime in April, but I can tell you this: The police academy the Iraqis have built is pretty impressive, and Saunders seems to relish his role.

He has an office at Forward Operating Base Shield in the heart of Baghdad but works next door at the police college, a 142-acre campus of

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All the sun makes people go crazy

BAGHDAD – This city seems to attract a strange bunch of folks.

As I was waiting for the Rhino – that’s the armored bus that ferries folks between Victory Base Complex and the International Zone – I overheard a 20something with a bushy goatee and wraparound Oakley shades bragging about how cool it was to work for Blackwater, the private security firm.

Kinda weird, I thought: The guy didn’t have any sort of weapon on them. Usually the private security folks go out of their way to show off some

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Who doesn’t love neon?

RAMADI, Iraq – So you return from leave. You just said bye to your family. Probably don’t feel like coming back to Iraq after two weeks at home. And then you walk in your office and notice everything has been covered with neon Post-It notes.

Staff Sgt. Keeley Weeks of Puyallup, the brigade’s senior paralegal and main culprit of the redecoration, summed it up best: "It looks like the ’80s vomited in his office."

Welcome back to Ramadi, Doug Lineberry.

Lineberry, a major and the judge advocate general for the 81st Brigade

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Only in Iraq (Part 3,123,123)

RAMADI, Iraq – Apparently this boat washed up from the Euphrates River onto the site of what will soon become the justice center at Hurricane Point.

The folks working construction here have tracked down the company that owns the boat. But it doesn’t want to pay to remove it from the area. So it just sits on land, rusting away.

Such is life in Iraq…