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Archives: 2009


Santa’s packing heat

BAGHDAD — Sgt. Martin Contreras dressed jollily but was ready to kill.

The 23-year-old soldier from San Diego spent Friday morning preparing for a mission to deliver the brigade’s deputy commander, Lt. Col. Darron Wright, to visit troops at two joint security stations west of the city.

Contreras pinned a stuffed reindeer just above his M9 pistol on his bulletproof vest and wore a Santa hat. But he and a younger soldier spent some pre-mission downtime discussing about when and how to fire during a mission.

“If Rudolph has to come off,” he said, patting the stuffed animal, “it’s going

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Caffeine therapy on Christmas

BAGHDAD — The clerk at Cinnabon knew Spc. Amanda Nagle’s order before she approached the counter: a vanilla latte with coconut and extra whip.

Yep, this Fort Lewis soldier is a Washington native.

The 28-year-old Gig Harborite and her friend, Spc. Tiffany Hennessy, serve with 4th Brigade’s 702nd Brigade Support Battalion and planned on relaxing most of Friday. They knew the dining facility, with its promise of carved meats and a fulsome holiday spread, would be packed, so they headed toward the food court near the base’s post exchange.

Nagle sipped her coffee and munched on Taco Bell.

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Lunch with Santa and Mrs. Claus

BAGHDAD — Pfc. Kristin Holloway and Pfc. Joshua Carr aren’t a mister and missus yet, but they’re close enough to play Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Carr popped the question to Holloway during the couple’s leave a few weeks ago. So when their battalion looked for two soldiers to play the part of Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Raider Inn dining facility, the couple got the nod.

They stood on a stage with fake snow, a Christmas tree, a small shed and stars. Dozens of people, ranging from service members to contractors to an Iraqi television crew, stopped to pose

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A time to relax, connect

BAGHDAD — Spc. Octavius Poe and two friends hung out in their living trailer and played video games.

“You see what we’re doing now?” he asked. “This is what we’ll be doing almost all day.”

Poe, a graduate of Curtis High School in University Place and now an ammunition supply specialist, also had plans to barbecue and call his wife and three children back in Washington.

Officials from Poe’s unit, the 702nd BSB, hosted a talent show and bonfire for its soldiers on Christmas Eve. But Christmas was personal time for many of the battalion’s soldiers.

For Poe, that meant

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Early-morning delivery

BAGHDAD – Pvt. Amber Leonard burst into the office with a sack of presents slung over her shoulder. The Fort Lewis human resources specialist sported a wide smile and a headband with foam reindeer antlers, bells and white fuzz.

“Santa’s helper’s here!” she announced.

She reached into the sack – really just a 50-gallon trash bag – and handed out wrapped packages. Each contained candy and other comforts for the troops of 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a gift from the unit’s family readiness group back at Fort Lewis.

Leonard, a 26-year-old California native, helped deliver the presents

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Baghdad in candlelight

BAGHDAD – Few places in the Middle East offer garish luxury quite like the Al Faw Palace, with its soaring marble columns, massive chandeliers and intricately carved ceilings.

But the exaggerated lavishness of a bygone era seemed to melt away amid the light of hundreds of handheld candles near the end of a Christmas Eve service Thursday.

“We know what it is like to serve and strive for goodwill on earth and peace among men,” said Col. Kenneth Stice, a Fort Lewis soldier deployed to minister to service members in Iraq.

The Al Faw, once a symbol of Saddam Huseein’s

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In case you missed it

NASIR WA SALAM, Iraq — Joe and I still embedded with 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment and working on some good stuff.

In the meantime, make sure you check out these stories that ran in the print edition:

It’s a whole new mission’

Progress in Iraq: Heated exchanges over pomegranate soda

And, of course, Joe’s excellent photo gallery.



AQUR QUF, Iraq – Most soldiers at this joint security station of 200 people agree that life is pretty good when compared to some of the super-FOBs like Victory Base Complex or Joint Base Balad. Things seemed more relaxed, the chow can’t be beat and it’s never too crowded.

But entertainment options can be limited. And that means teeing off from the roof of their building for the Fort Lewis soldiers working in the motor pool of 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment.

When the soldiers – members of the larger 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division – arrived at JSS Aqur

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