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Archives: Dec. 2009

Dec.
31st

A new year in the desert

Photo by Joe Barrentine/The News Tribune
Photo by Joe Barrentine/The News Tribune

BASRA, Iraq – The clock read 2300.

Spc. Lloyd Hardrick cut the music and picked up the microphone.

“Listen up!” he yelled. “We’re about to bring the new year in hard, and we’re gonna bring it in right!”

And with that, the lights cut. Bass began thumping. Strobes bathed the dance floor with yellow and blue lights. Soldiers and contractors swayed to the beat of the hip-hop tunes.

A former British pub at the main American military base outside Iraq’s second-largest city is a far cry from the clubs of Los Angeles or Ibiza, but the soldiers and contractors put aside the war for a few hours to ring in 2010.

“Hey, it’s just not as fun as if we were back home. It’s just not,” said Spc. Nealy Edwards of Fort Lewis’ 17th Fires Brigade. “We try to have events to make it feel normal, but it’s just not as much fun.”

The 21-year-old Houston native motioned toward the dance floor.

“But I’ve never seen people get this excited without booze,” he added, laughing.
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Dec.
28th

After long haul, time to relax

Photo by Joe Barrentine/The News Tribune
Photo by Joe Barrentine/The News Tribune

TALLIL, Iraq – Fruit-flavored tobacco, near beer, salsa music, a bonfire and dancers wearing reflective belts.

Call it deployment downtime.

Five Washington National Guard soldiers serving with a transportation company spent Monday night unwinding after an eight-hour long haul at a pizza joint called 6Pazzi that serves as the center of Contingency Operating Base Adder’s social scene. They took long drags off hookahs, munched on pepperoni pizza, sipped non-alcoholic Budweiser and imported soft drinks and cracked jokes.

“Whenever we go out on a long one,” Staff Sgt. Rick Garces of Quincy said, “we try to hang out a bit and relax. And this place is pretty fun.”

By Iraq standards, 6Pazzi offered soldiers the closest thing to a bar scene they’ve found. Strings of colored lights hung from the 15-foot concrete T-walls. The restaurant’s employees fed wooden pallets into a raging fire pit. Speakers thumped music, and a clearing amid the plastic tables served as a dance floor. The bar inside was stocked with bottles of mineral water and mixers that looked convincingly similar to fifths of liquor at first glance.
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Dec.
27th

5th Stryker Brigade soldier killed on Christmas in Afghanistan

A Fort Lewis soldier was killed while on patrol on Christmas Day in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced today.

Staff Sgt. David H. Gutierrez, 35, of San Francisco was on dismounted patrol in Howz-e Madad when he was hit by an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade.

Gutierrez enlisted on Oct. 22, 1998, in San Francisco. He previously deployed to Camp Casey in Korea in 2000-01 and Schofield Barracks from Oct. 2001 through May 2008.

He was assigned to Fort Lewis on May 8, 2008. He deployed

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Dec.
26th

Changes coming at the top

BAGHDAD – It’s no secret that some folks snickered at the name Multi-National Force-Iraq when the American military was really shouldering the load of the combat operations across Iraq during the first six years of the war.

But with the withdrawal of British and Australian forces earlier this year, the coalition isn’t a multi-national force at all anymore. So starting Jan. 1, changes are coming to the top commands in Iraq.

Multi-National Force-Iraq, Multi-National Corps-Iraq and Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq will merge into one unit: U.S. Forces-Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, the Fort Lewis commander serving as the

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Dec.
26th

It’s raining clubs!

BAGHDAD – OK, the golf clubs have yet to arrive. But ever since I wrote about the golfers at JSS Aqur Quf looking for some better clubs, the response has been fantastic. About 75 e-mails so far, from folks wanting to donate a couple of extra clubs to golf course and corporate types trying to get something big going. (The only hitch for some people is the price of shipping them to Iraq.)

From talking to some of the guys, it’s already making a positive impact downrange.

If all goes as planned, we’ll follow up in a few weeks

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Dec.
26th

Snake oil

ZAIDON, Iraq – Its official name is the ADE651. Its critics mockingly call it the magic wand or the wigglestick.

Iraqis swear by it.

To Americans, it’s a laughingstock.

This handheld device is used at checkpoints across Iraq to look for bombs, guns, explosives and apparently even ivory. The ADE651 uses no batteries – it’s supposedly charged by marching in place for a few seconds – and will detect anything that seems like a threat.

It can supposedly discover nefarious products 30 feet underground, 100 feet underwater and from an airplane flying three miles ahead.

Iraq

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Dec.
26th

A furry, four-legged distraction

BAGHDAD – Meet DeVille. The German shepherd is 8 and a working military dog based in Baghdad. He and his handler, Staff Sgt. Deanna Herrera, live at Fort Benning, Ga.

I was riding with troops from Comanche Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment on a joint patrol in Zaidon, a conservative rural area of Baghdad province. Herrera and DeVille were along to sniff out any bombs (he didn’t find any).

This is DeVille’s last deployment. He’s reaching canine retirement age, and Herrera is working to adopt him when they return to Georgia.

Until then, though, the presence of

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Dec.
25th

Merry Christmas from Iraq

BAGHDAD – I thought I’d share this photo of Joe and me hamming it up with Santa and Mrs. Claus outside the Raider DFAC at Victory Base Complex. (That’s me on the right, showing some love for my 13-1 New Orleans Saints.)

The folks in red are Pfc. Kristin Holloway and Pfc. Joshua Carr, who got engaged a few weeks ago during their two weeks of leave. They’re just two of the 12,000 Fort Lewis soldiers serving in Iraq on Christmas. Most people don’t want to be here today, but they’re serving because they believe in something bigger than

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