Hey everyone! I’ve written a few of you already, but for the rest, consider this my first letter to you from hot, sunny, dusty Iraq. I’m doing well here so far; we’ve been here for almost three weeks. Our unit hit the deck here on Sunday, 6 April, and we started our mission here soon after that date. It took a few days getting acclimated here; the heat and dust gave me a slight cold for the first week–but I’m feeling good now, even with the temps in the upper 90s/low 100s. At least there’s no humidity; you sweat and the wind whisks it right off of you. And if it’s a really windy day, you’ll get a nice serving of sand and dust in your face.
I’m located at Camp Taqaddum, AKA “TQ”. It’s a Marine Corps logistics base and airfield located in Al-Anbar province, between the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. The Euphrates River runs just north of the camp, and Baghdad is just to the east. Our Marines provide security for the base, making sure threats don’t make it inside the wire. I doubt I’ll have much opportunity to get outside the base, given my current billet and responsibilities, but who knows: anything can happen.
We’ve inherited our work shack from the previous unit that provided security before us, and have refurbished and renovated the place! Have to thank one of my fellow sergeants for much of that work. I probably enjoy spending more time in our work shack than in my living space right now.
The folks here include military personnel from all four branches (mostly Marines, bust also Navy, Army, and Air Force), as well as a slew of contractors from various countries around the world. The contractors provide much of the support services around the base: running the chow hall, cleaning up the common areas and the heads (AKA latrines or restrooms), manning the MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation) facilities like the gym and rec centers, and so on. Many of the American contractors do specialized technical work or oversee the TCNs (third-country nationals, I think) that do the manual labor around the base. The few Iraqis I’ve seen would be the interpreters–who may not even be from Iraq.
Mostly everyone on base lives in “cans”: two-person portable trailers with A/C, thank god. They’re situated in 10-can blocks, separated by HESCO barriers. Not the lap of luxury, but definitely better than a squad bay, in a tent, or in the open air.
Will fill in more next time. Three weeks down…27+ to do (or whatever).