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Posted on Aug 16, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Letters From Iraq 1: Getting Started

By Russ Vaughn

Armchair General introduces a friend of ours, Russ Vaughn, recently deployed to Iraq working in a military police capacity. Russ wanted to share his experience with his friends and family by writing often, and he also gave us the green light to publish his letters for our readers – to give a better idea of what the men and women of the US armed forces are doing over there. From time to time, we’ll have more of his letters. Thanks in advance for reading their story.

Russ (left) and a buddy in Kuwait, before shipping out.

July 2006


Everyone, Well we have been working hard for 2 weeks. The 12 hour shifts are closer to 14. We are getting use to the wind, dust, and other assorted environmental nuisances. I have emailed a lot of you and do not recall everything I have said to everyone, so if I seem repetitive please bear with me.

If you want to send snail mail my address here it is: [removed; if you’d like to send something to Russ, please contact Armchair General]

Please do not send magazines or food (until we get an ok). News, like what is going on in the world and back home is a good thing in your emails. Good jokes help also. We just get bits and pieces of things through AFN and The Stars and Stripes. The computers we use to communicate with at the MWR are old beat up Gateways. Most have missing keys and are very prone to locking up. No, I am not allowed to rebuild them. The speed is about old dial up speed of 28K. Because of the speed and the fact we only get 30 minutes on the computers please refrain from sending links.

iraq_pool_s.jpgDoing searches on TCN (Third Country Nationals) trucks is interesting, gross, and can be dangerous. The drivers are from all over the world. We could use a Turkish, Kurdish, and a Pilipino translator to conduct searches. We received Arabic phrase books from DLI and they work great. We have requested the same package for the other languages. Unfortunately I did not see Kurdish on the list. The truckers drive for weeks in hostile areas in unarmored trucks to make a living. Sometimes the smell inside some of the cabs is unbearable. We glove up and check the rigs. Climbing around in full battle rattle is exhausting. The drivers are usually compliant. So far so good.

Photo to left: The brochure promised an Olympic size pool…

My favorite thing is to visit the towers and do the perimeter. The towers get sniped at occasionally or mortared, but man you get a good view of Saddam’s old hometown. My least favorite is traffic control. Our hosts are leaving soon and a new host will arrive. I like the RAKKASANS, they are cocky, but they keep the indirect fire down by being aggressive. Their commander is the Captain made famous in Blackhawk Down.

There are a number of reminders on post of the past 2 wars. There are some old aircraft and aircraft parts floating around. We have a MIG engine cut away next to our office. Apparently this base was the Iraqi Air Force Academy. The old post prison is a bombed out shell. Some of the old structures will be torn down. Others have been patched up and are back in use.

One day we were all armed up at our headquarters building, people in the background going to and fro, with the sound of a classic flute in the background. At first I thought it was a radio or CD player. Upon turning around I saw through the glass into the inner courtyard. The courtyard has a shade net over it and it is about the only green gassy spot on post. In the middle there is a gazebo. Inside the gazebo stood an Army Specialist 4 in ACU’s playing her flute, completely oblivious to the outside chaos. A day later in a dust storm as thick as a Pacific Northwest fog was raging. I was driving a Suburban with the radio on listening to AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. Out of the dirt I see 4 heavily armed HUMMV’s coming my way with their M 2 .50 caliber machineguns up. It is very surreal here; almost like a Fredrico Fellini film.

There are a lot of mountain bikes on the base. It can be difficult riding through the baby powder like dust that is sometimes more than 6 inches deep. The only other obstacle to biking is the river rock used in the parking lots. The stuff is closer to boulders, the civilian vehicles also have a hard time driving in it.

iraq_portrait_s.jpgOn a humanitarian note, a patrol was going through a village. They saw a box near the road and suspected an IED. As an engineer approached he heard a strange sound like a baby crying. Sure enough there was a baby in the box. The G.I.’s MEDEVAC’d the baby. The little boy was dehydrated but otherwise healthy. The medics gave him an IV and cleaned him up. The patrol found the mother and reunited the baby with his family. It seems the baby’s aunt was supposed to be taking care of him. The aunt explained she was carrying the baby when wild dogs appeared (there are lots of them here). The dogs chased her and she put the boy down and fled the pack.

Photo to right: Leave it to a G.I. to do this…

I have had to do security patrols in the hospital here. Iraqi kids are treated here for a variety of reasons. In a few places they have finally realized we are not the bad guys and former insurgents are asking the government for weapons to fight the terrorists (foreign jihadists).

Well I have many chores to do on my day off. We cannot do our own laundry; we have to drop it off at KBR. In some ways it is good as it saves time and it is free. The bad news the laundry isn’t free of sock monsters. I have lost a few single socks to the laundry abyssal. Also please keep praying for all of our troops safety. The good Lord has provided for us once already. I will write more as time permits.