‘Bulldawgs’ hunker down at bare base near Samarra
AL DULIYAH, Iraq — Units that went through the Iraq war and its immediate aftermath have plenty of memories of weeks, and even months, with no showers, no e-mail or telephones, sporadic electrical power, and nothing but Meals, Ready to Eat.
But much has changed in a year, and it is fairly rare now to see U.S. troops facing such austere conditions.
Yet there remains a small number of troops who endure rough conditions in Iraq, although now they usually have the luxury of “mother ship” bases to come back to for rest and relief.
One group of soldiers that routinely endures what the U.S. military calls “bare base” living conditions as part of its regular mission is the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment’s Troop B, better known as the “Bulldawgs,” from Schweinfurt, Germany.
The “Bulldawgs” take turns manning Forward Operating Base Rex, a tiny outpost located a few kilometers from the outskirts of Samarra, a city where coalition and Iraqi government presence was absent this summer.
The situation, while recently showing signs of improvement, is still unsettled.
The cavalrymen continue taking turns rotating to FOB Rex, where they usually spend about six days at the remote outpost, and then go back to Forward Operating Base McKenzie for a brief rest.”
The FOB is so well concealed that the “Bulldawgs’” commander, Capt. John Trylch, had to point it out.
And conditions at FOB Rex are, to put it mildly, minimal.
“These are about the toughest living conditions the guys [in Iraq] have to face,” said 2nd Lt. Piers Platt, of Boston, whose unit was just finishing its sixth rotation to FOB Rex.
There are no showers, and while “you can do a lot with baby wipes,” Platt said, Sgt. Jonathan Ikner, of Maxton, N.C., said the one thing he really misses at FOB Rex is the feel of water cascading over his head.
Toilets, meanwhile, are the “burn-out” variety, with barrels cut in half and then concealed by an enclosure made with plywood.
Improvements are coming soon, according to Trylch. Engineers are about to convert shipping containers into climate-controlled living quarters for the soldiers, which also will be more secure from mortar attacks.
But the soldiers seemed to take their living conditions in stride, despite a broken generator and dust so deep it covered the top of their boots at every step.
Platt said he has even come to find his tank a truly comfortable place to snooze, and that while he appreciates the engineers’ efforts to make the containers habitable, he will have nostalgic memories of his steel bed.
“I’ve had some great nights’ sleep on my tank,” Platt said.
As for food, meals at Rex are MREs, with one hot meal usually brought in every other day.
That means soldiers spend a lot of time discussing “a good home-cooked meal,” said Spc. Octavis Davis of Chicago.
Davis said he imagines a meal that would begin with “my mamma’s fried chicken, along with collard greens, corn, chitlins, hot apple pie and banana pudding for dessert.”
Ikner agreed the banana pudding sounded very tasty, but longed most for “anything barbequed, like steak, burgers or chicken.” And Platt had “a very expensive wish: lobster.”
“A lot of lobster, with ice cream” for dessert, he said dreamily, as the 110-degree sun pounded Rex’s sandbagged, encrusted guard post.