I’m sitting at the airport killing time before we relocate within theater. It’s odd that this place has the best wireless Internet on post but, regardless, I’m glad it is here.
I decided to make a final change to my header picture today. I should have made this change when I first arrived at Balad, but I didn’t think about it then. This new picture really captures the prison feel of this place. As I’ve mentioned before, Balad has a much more disconnected feel from Iraq than the rest of the locations I visited. You can serve an entire 12-month tour here and not see an Iraqi. Fortunately, I was able to travel around the country and see what was going on.
This new picture was taken outside of my Containerized Housing Unit (CHU); a Kellogg, Brown and Root provided house. Mine is the first door on the left. It was the middle room of a three room CHU, which made for interesting neighborly relations. The walls were made of thin fake-wood paneling with no insulation in the middle, so there was no wondering if your neighbor was home, or what they were doing. The deteriorating sandbags were a nice touch as well. I’m not sure if they really intended to protect soldiers from anything or just to create a false sense of security.
The three images that I used as my flag photos tell an interesting story – to me at least – when looking at them in hind site. The first was an image of my cousin from his second tour in Iraq. He was a part of the combat phase of this war, which I later learned was not what I was going to experience; hence, my first change.
My next picture was a more accurate portrail of what I saw when I started going on missions in Iraq. It was a photo of a tent taken along one of the routs we travelled into Basra from our camp.
After Gen. David Petraeus re-oriented our efforts in Iraq — creating relative security — we were able to assist Iraqis with some much needed reconstruction to schools and other civic buildings. I was fortunate enough to go on many of these civil affairs missions in the Basra province where our teams met with local officials to identify what facilities were needed and to view some of the completed projects like clinics, schools and a courthouse.
Now that we — my unit and shortly the whole Army — is on its way out of Iraq, I hope the Iraqis will be able to continue to improve their country’s quality of life. I’ve meet a lot of good people, but their lives are not easy. Stress will make people do horrific things.