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Observing Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2006 – Editor's Note: AFPS reporter Jim Garamone has traveled in the U.S. Central Command theater since April, covering various aspects of the mission and the men and women who make it happen. In the course of his travels, Garamone has noted that many glimpses of life in Iraq are revealing and give a look into the window of the war on terror. Here are a few of those vignettes.

Boom, Boom! Out Go the Lights

Early one morning at Camp Hit came the unmistakable sound of a mortar launching. A door opened and a woman yelled, "Is that incoming or outgoing?"

Before anyone could answer came a huge "boom" that rocked the mud buildings. "Oh, that's definitely incoming," she said, and shut the door.

No one was injured in the attack.

Be Like Mike

Anbar province is the center of anti-coalition sentiment. Or is it?

The Iraqis in Anbar profess to not like Americans, but they are trying mighty hard to look like them. As you pass the men in the streets, they look with flint-hard stares -- underneath their New York Yankees or Chicago Bulls caps.

American companies find excellent billboards on Iraqi T-shirts, and Nike and Reebok shoes are "tres chic" here.

The Iraqis even emulate the servicemembers who are enforcing security around their cities. The latest fad among young men is to get "high and tight" haircuts like the soldiers and Marines who patrol in the area.

Silence is Scary

A line of servicemembers coming out of an Internet café is a moment of dread in Iraq.

"I hate to see that," said an officer as soldiers filed out of the facility at an Anbar province forward operating base.

He didn't like it because commanders shut down the Internet and phone lines without notice if they take casualties. Military officials do not want families to find out of the death or wounding of a loved one via e-mail or a satellite phone call. "Most soldiers wouldn't do that, but who wants to take the chance?" said a coalition official.

In this case, the café wasn't closed for a casualty, but a power surge that crashed the system. It may have been the only time losing all data was greeted with a sigh of relief.

From Halls of Monteczuma to Qaim?

In the Marine Corps it's all about the tradition of courage, bravery and loyalty. The service is masterful at tying its illustrious history to its challenging present.

At Qaim, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines remembers its history by naming the various forward operating bases scattered throughout the region after glorious moments in Corps history. That is why Marines here can travel from Chapultepec to Belleau Wood to Iwo Jima to Hue City in one afternoon.

Who knows? In the future, perhaps Qaim may be added to the list.

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