Friday, May 29, 2009

The Frat House

While I was deployed to Iraq, I had the honor and priviledge to be crammed into a room with 13 other guys. You see, the commander wanted his staff close. So, as the battalion/task force occupied an old building that was used to instruct senior Iraqi army officers, we got one of the rooms. Quickly, it was dubbed the Frat House.

We started with humble beginnings. Each of us had a cot and a wall locker to store our gear. We scrounged an additional bunk to put all our additional duffle bags. As the unit we were replacing began to leave, the ran out of room in their shipping containers and there was (big) sale on TVs. We all pitched in 5 bucks and bought a TV. Tim, our civil affairs guy had packed a DVD player and yours truly had brought a Playstation 2, so we were now getting somewhere. That wasn't good enough. We needed a place to sit.

We set out to find something to sit on. Having many abandoned buildings on our base camp, there was plenty to explore. We found two leather(?) couches that we carried back to our room. Over time, we had burned through all of the DVDs we had brought. What to do? CJ Kirkpatrick, our trusty logistics officer, had set up some contracts with local nationals and set out to get a sattelite dish. Just what we needed ...

There is nothing more fun than trying to install a dish when the instructions are written in seven languages; none of which were English. So, we did it the old fashioned way. We had one guy on the roof and a guy watching the satellite signals on the TV. The two would talk via walkie-talkie to get the dish pointed in the right direction. To complicate things, the screws were stripped that held the dish in place. I think we logged close to eight hours getting it done. Oh, but it was worth it. ESPN in combat? Are you serious? And don't even get me started on the Fashion Channel.

What more did we need, you ask? Artwork, of course! One day, while we were in zone in Sadr City, we snagged a picture of Muqtada Al-Sadr (Sadr City was named after his father who was assasinated by Saddam Hussein). To compliment this piece of art, Dave Burnstein (arguably the most literate and creative of the group) began to issue a daily fatwa. He did this in the form of a haiku. Most of these poems were a commentary of the local basecamp hot issue of the day.

Meanwhile, the commander had tasked CJ to open a place for the soldiers to relax. It was going to be a juice bar (run by Iraqis) where soldiers could relax, watch TV, play cards, and generally forget that they were probably going to drive over a bomb tomorrow. The commander was adamant about the TV. Like everything LTC Carter did, it was to be BIG. CJ acquired a 52" TV and was going to place it in the juice bar when he 'discovered' that US Army regulations prevent the storage of US Equipment in a facility that is under foreign national control. Where, you ask, did that TV end up? You guessed it; in the Frat House.

We were now able to play Playstation (James Bond 007 and Hot Shots Golf were the favorites) and watch TV at the same time.

War is hell.

Oh wait, it gets better. More tomorrow ...

Standing/Leaning (left to right): 1st Lt. David Irwin, 1st Lt. Brandan DaWalt; 1st Lt. Dan Lucitt, Capt. Clint Alexander, Capt. Dave Morehan, Capt. Doug Huber

On Couch (left to right): Capt. Tim Love, 1st Lt. James Mijares, Capt. CJ Kirkpatrick, Capt. David Burnstein

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