These are some of the photos I either took before leaving - or since I've been back. Blogging those 27 odd R&R posts meant that these took a back-seat 'till I could get through that blog-athon.
Here's Major Mike, myself, and Johnny - looking tough, (or trying to).
Yes, that stuffs as heavy as it looks. Body Armor, full ammo load, rifle with accoutrements and assorted extras adds about 75 extra pounds. Almost all of it to your front - giving considerable lower back discomfort - to put it mildly.
Did I mention it was hot over here?
This is SGT Fregoso. I didn't have a picture of her earlier when I introduced Sgts Moore and Kangas, but she's part of the same team - usually the LEAD vehicle in our convoys - and she's the commander of that vehicle. A tough cookie, with a gentle, endearing spirit. Often seen waving from her vehicle to Iraqis hither to and yon. Spreading good will.
Kangas, Moore and Fregoso and their teammates tours are up. they'll be rotating back to the world soon.
Tala, graciously translating for me when Johnny wasn't available, on this day in Karada. With her is the Karada District Council Chairman Mohammed Al Rubaie, and two local kids that always seem to be there.
These guys always have a few words to say to me in English. Like most Iraqi kids, they're usually selling something, (entrepreneurship needs no introduction here among 8-16 yr. old demographic) And like most kids everywhere, as Psychologists and neurologists tell us, they sure seem to aquire foreign language faster than the rest. And with terrible, funny, and terribly funny street-slang!
I suppose this will come as no shock to any American veterans reading this, like the Charlotte Russells and the Chattanooga Manns, but for everyone else - nothing really prepares you for the (pleasant) shock of pulling up somewhere in Baghdad, "un-assing" your vehicles, and 4-20 Iraqi kids amble up, "What's up, dog? Hey, man - buy my CDs!" "Two for 3 dollars, Mister", and should you bid too low - you might be met with a, "You're killing me, man!"
We've been here only three years, and 8-yr olds are already conducting sensitive financial transactions - in English!
I had planned to do a post devoted exclusively to these damn towers which seem to be everywhere, but never got around to photographing the others. One good thing I can say about them is that each one is different - a different architectural statement. But they're so plentiful. And plenty useful, no doubt, for Saddam to watch his public. Although I'm told many were open to and used by the public.
By some odd, inexplicable coiincidence - I also found alot of these in the former Soviet union on my trip. Prague, Budapest - had bunches of these in - and mostly outside - the city. Surveillance towers, (?) Interesting . . .