CAMP VICTORY, Iraq — A longtime nemesis resurfaced this week on battlefields and U.S. bases in Iraq.
It’s rained on and off lately. And it’ll take at least a week — if there’s no more precipitation — to get rid of that thick, gooey, stinkin’ mud.
Until you’ve experienced it firsthand, many people say, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.
Descriptions are as copious as the muck itself. Some call it chocolate pudding, peanut butter and flour all rolled into one, only far nastier. It weighs down boots and coats them up like caramel on an apple, and it doesn’t come off easily.
People use sticks, brushes and metal grates and slam their boots onto concrete walls to knock the clumps away. Nothing seems to help.
The mud gets dragged into offices, chow halls, living quarters, latrines, the exchange … everywhere. And it’s even more difficult to spot at night as pedestrians search for the path of least resistance. There usually isn’t one.
Troops say they don’t really mind the rain. It’s that pasty mud they can do without.
“It’s the worst part of my deployment,” said Spc. Brian Picerno, 21, who works at Victory for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 44th Signal Battalion, based in Mannheim, Germany. “You can get used to the mortar attacks, but the mud is horrible. It cakes up like nobody’s business.
“I just walk through it and try to kick it off when I’m done,” said Picerno, of Newburgh, N.Y., who is on his first deployment to Iraq. “You can’t do anything about it.”
In lower-lying areas at nearby Camp Liberty and other parts of Iraq, getting around is even tougher.
Early Friday afternoon, Spc. Justin Doubet, 20, of Glasford, Ill., worked on his mud-layered boots in the driver’s seat of a Humvee parked on a sloppy lot at Liberty.
Doubet, who is assigned to the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, says he learned how to live with claylike mud while growing up in the country.
“I walk through the other tracks,” he said, referring to tire marks and footsteps. “Would it be hard to bring sand in here? Probably not. But you just deal with it.”
Sgt. James Singleton of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 18th Military Police Brigade, who is on his third tour in Iraq, said the mud here is unlike any found in the United States and the lack of grass here doesn’t help.
“Unfortunately, there’s not enough rock put down to make a difference,” said Singleton, 31, of Dallas, who was in a support unit during the initial drive into Baghdad in 2003, then returned a year later for a deployment in western Iraq. “They need more rocks or concrete walkways, especially in areas around living quarters and latrines. That would solve a lot.
“Now you go take a shower, and when you come back, it looks like you didn’t even have one. All the mud cakes back up on your feet and lower legs.”
After it rains, Singleton said he often wears wet-weather rubber boots over his desert boots, tennis shoes and flip flops. He seeks out the rockiest passageway or higher ground when walking.
Dust storms were prevalent west of Baghdad and they’re much worse, he added.
“In dust storms, everything gets coated no matter if you have it sealed or not,” he said. “The mud’s just an aggravation sometimes.”