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Q: How have you and your men been received?
A: We have been welcomed all over this region of Iraq, from meetings with sheiks (local leaders) to doing dismounted patrols in the markets.
Q: Are Iraqis open and helpful or withdrawn and distrustful?
A: Most Iraqis are helpful when approached but they will stay back and not show aggression at all.
Q: Do you have a particular geographic area for which you are responsible?
A: Out brigade is based out of Taji, Iraq. We patrol the surrounding area with the Iraqi army.
Q: What are your goals in this area and how are you going about meeting them?
A: Our goals are helping establish the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi government prevent any hostile acts from taking place against U.S. and Iraqi forces. We have Iraqi Army personnel with us on our patrols, and we assist them on their patrols.
Q: What are your living quarters like and how often to you have access to e-mail and telephones to keep in touch with family and friends?
A: Most of us are in two-man rooms with two beds and air conditioning. Some of us have paid for Internet in our rooms. Others go to another building where the Internet is free. There is a phone center beside the PX (the base store).
Q: What has surprised you the most about Iraq? Why?
A: What crazy drivers they are! There are no painted lines on roads and they drive where they want — even in the wrong direction at points.
Q: We have a picture of you handing out candy to a bunch of kids. Is this something individual soldiers do or is it encouraged as a practice across the unit? When is it done?
A: We only do that while our vehicles are stopped. We give soccer balls and even stuffed animals to help build relations with the Iraqis. And yes, it is encouraged.
Q: As a unit leader, you spend a lot of time in and around the Stryker vehicles. Are they performing as you expected?
A: The Strykers are performing great. All of our vehicle crews are doing outstanding jobs and the maintenance crews are doing a great job at keeping our vehicles ready to roll out on missions.
Q: Can you name one positive and one negative aspect of the vehicles you’ve discovered as applied to your current mission?
A: Positives: fast, agile armor. Safe. Negatives: Iraq’s back roads are narrow and it takes a good driver to get us around. Not just anyone can drive on the back roads.
Q: How has the psychological and physical condition of your men evolved in the time you have been in Iraq?
A: Physical: We are all getting stronger going to gym all the time. Psychological: We will be glad to be back in U.S. with our loved ones.
Q: Now that you’ve experienced Iraq firsthand, what misconceptions and misunderstandings do you believe most people have of the place?
A: That Iraq is all sand. It’s not — as you move north in Iraq there is a lot of green from palm trees to fields of crops.
Q: Given what you’ve seen, are you confident Iraq is ready to stand on its own in the timetable set by the Obama administration?
A: The Iraqis are a proud people and they will do their best. They are not like the U.S. with our military power, but they will do OK. They have some good soldiers and leaders.
Pat Bywater can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
We want to hear from your soldier
If you have a soldier in your family serving in or supporting our missions Iraq or Afghanistan, let them know we’d like to hear from them and share their photographs with our readers. If you or someone you know is interested in participating, e-mail editor Pat Bywater at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (814) 724-6370.