January 7, 2008 (CAMP TAJI, IRAQ)

We went out on two more patrols today, but nothing really exciting happened.

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Lt. Schardt (Maggot 6), SFC AB (Maggot 7), and JR McCarthy hiding in the driver’s seat.

Leaving Camp Taji, we turned north onto MSR Tampa (Highway 1), the same as yesterday.

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Stryker on MSR Tampa, north of Camp Taji

We passed the area where we found the IED yesterday and then headed through Mshahdh (Moo-shah-duh).

 

After driving through the town, we continued heading north another 5 miles or so until we turned east toward the Tigris on a dirt road. The road was paralleled by small irrigation canals, and beyond those, the land was flat and dry.  The road was narrow, barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. Strykers with slat armor made it seem very skinny. It did get a little wider as we approached a village and checkpoints manned by Concerned Local Citizens (CLCs).

CLCs are something new to all of us. These are Iraqi people who have set up checkpoints on various rural roads with palm tree trunks, sandbags, and whatever else they can find, and they man them around the clock. Apparently, there are always guys standing around the road with AK 47s. From what we are told, they are there to check out suspicious vehicles and to prevent insurgents from emplacing IEDs. I guess we occasionally give them some supplies, and we also pay them for their services. I don’t trust them.

Our destination was a small village, we are calling 14th Ramadan. It’s about 1/3 of the way between MSR Tampa and the river. (Looking at google.com/maps, it is labeled as Tarmiya, but so are a few other locations.) It sounds like this small village will end up being part of our platoon’s specific area of responsibility.

When we arrived in the village, we cordoned off the school, and the 4/9 guys started unloading boxes of stuff for the school and for the kids. They passed out all sorts of clothes and school supplies to the kids and gave the head of school some sports equipment and other materials.

I placed my squad in security positions behind the school, and explored the area around the building and school grounds. The schoolyard is surrounded by a high wall, and there is a pharmacy next door. As I walked along the stream behind the school and got to the area behind the pharmacy, I was surprised by the amount of garbage lying in and around the water. Looking closer, I saw that a lot of the waste was actually from the pharmacy. The whole place was littered with bloody bandages, used gauze, and even syringes with used needles.

14th Ramadan is a small and poor rural village. Most of the kids running around here are barefoot, or if they are wearing shoes, they are in ill-fitting worn out sandals. A few of them were wearing some ratty looking tennis shoes. When I saw the barefoot kids around the school, I thought, damn, it’s cold out today. Now I’m thinking, Never mind the cold, that place is littered with fucking medical waste and sharps.

I pointed it out to Lt. Schardt, and as we assume responsibility for the area, I’m sure that issue will be addressed.

After finishing up at the school, we did a foot patrol through the village. It’s pretty small, and there is one main dirt road that circles around the main part of the village. A lot of kids came out and followed us around asking for pens and chocolate. Apparently boys and girls have school at different times and on different days, so they weren’t all at school.

Word traveled fast that we were there, and the local “leaders” of the CLCs showed up with their entourage. They seem shady to me.

After making a lap and talking with some of the locals, we returned to Camp Taji and waited for nightfall.

Sunrise Taji

Sunset at Camp Taji

Our night patrol was quick and easy. We stopped at a different small village called Rowad, did a dismounted patrol, loaded up and went home for the night.

It sounds like we’ll have a down day tomorrow, but I’m not counting on it.

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