Wednesday, April 04, 2007

An Article about my duty station

Here is a COPYRIGHTED article that appeared in the Halifax (canada) Herald Limited.
I think it is very accurate.

Monday, August 15, 2005 Back The Halifax Herald Limited------------------------------------------------------------------------Off-duty soldiers live in comfortIraq remains a dangerous place, but U.S. troops not shortchanged at end ofday By SCOTT TAYLOR / On TargetThe two major military campaigns mounted by the U.S.-led coalition forcessince 9/11 have proven that the conventional notion of linear warfare isobsolete. The Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam's regular army could not stand in theface of the overwhelming technological superiority and massive firepower ofthe American juggernaut.As a result, the U.S. offensives were quickly able to capture all their keyobjectives in Afghanistan and to depose the regime of Saddam in Iraq withonly a minimum number of casualties.However, in both of these theatres the resistance has been unpredictablydogged, and the relentless insurgents and holy fighters have turned theentire countryside into a guerrilla battlefield.Biding their time and avoiding major combat with heavily armed front-lineAmerican forces, the insurgents instead target U.S. supply vehicles withbooby traps and hit-and-run tactics.In response to this new threat, the Pentagon has had to rapidly introduce awidespread program of up-armouring every vehicle in the army's inventory.As the highways of Iraq and rough tracks of Afghanistan have become the new"front line," every truck, fuel tanker, and Humvee must be converted into acombat-capable weapon platform.Another major development in the way non-linear modern war is waged is themanner it has manifested itself in the ability of the U.S. military toprovide creature comforts for their combat soldiers.As I discovered on my recent visit to the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regimentbased in Talafar, Iraq, there is very little discomfort or personal hardshipassociated with waging war against the insurgents.That is not to say these soldiers don't face danger on a daily basis (duringmy five-day visit, 3ACR incurred five killed in action and one seriouslywounded), but it is only to observe that at the end of a gruelling patrol,these troopers can return to the relative comfort of Forward Operating BaseSykes. This compound consists of a heavily protected airfield about five kilometresfrom the insurgent-held enclaves in the city of Talafar.To date, the U.S. troops housed at FOB Sykes have not received any incominginsurgent shellfire, as there is no way for them to safely approach theAmerican base across the wide-open desert terrain.Without threat of hostile fire, the troopers can sleep safe and sound intheir air-conditioned portable trailers, enjoy hot showers and flushtoilets, and dine up to four times a day at their massive, privately cateredkitchen facility. Operated by the corporate conglomerate Kellogg, Brown and Root, the messhall serves up a stunning variety of main courses, fast food, salad bars andmade-to-order sandwich counters.Unlike the old Beetle Bailey comic strips, U.S. soldiers no longer spendtheir off hours pulling kitchen duty and peeling potatoes.The task of preparing the four daily smorgasbords is done by a bevy of cooksand cleaners recruited from civilian firms in Turkey and India.Given the level of insurgent activity in the Talafar area, the U.S. basedoes not employ any local Iraqis. The extreme heat and dust at FOB Sykescertainly takes its toll on clothing, but KBR also provides a complete24-hour laundry service free to all soldiers.To keep fit, the troopers of 3 ACR have access to a fully equipped,air-conditioned gym and before each morning's training runs, the KBR trucksdampen down the roadside dust with their water trucks.During their off hours, U.S. soldiers can rent DVD movies at the on-basemini-mall, or use the satellite Internet cafe free of charge.One has to keep in mind that these facilities are all part and parcel of aforward operating base.From FOB Sykes, the troops don their full flak jackets and venture out on adaily basis to patrol the winding streets of Talafar.At the more established, larger Green Zones in Mosul and Baghdad, U.S.personnel have additional access to a complete range of fast-food outlets -Pizza Hut, Burger King, Taco Bell (to name just a few) - bowling alleys,movie theatres, swimming pools.The experience of modern warfare still includes the horror, shock andviolence of previous conflicts, but the U.S. soldiers' personal lot betweenfirefights has improved considerably.

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