Mideast Notebook: As Iraqi weather worsens, troops try to keep warm
In Iraq, the weather has suddenly and shockingly dipped from 100-degree days to near-freezing nights.
One might think this would be the perfect time for soldiers to pull out their brand-new, toasty-warm $99.95 Polartec U.S. Army Spear jackets. They are among the favorite pieces of gear from the Rapid Fielding Initiative, a Christmas-like cascade of high-tech presents showered upon the 138,000 troops as they arrived in Iraq last spring.
But most jackets remain in soldiers’ duffle bags around the country.
The brass in Baghdad have barred soldiers from wearing the jackets because, according to one sergeant major in the know, they do not have rank and unit insignias on them, and because they are the wrong color (black).
Actually, it is permissible to wear them underneath the sand-colored desert camouflage uniforms. Kind of like pulling on a T-shirt over your ski jacket.
As a result of this order, some $13 million worth of fleece jackets are now moth food — at least until the 138,000 troops in Iraq get home next spring.
Some unit commanders have quietly shuffled this order to the bottom of the stack, opting to overlook troops’ donning of the forbidden fleece to stop their teeth from chattering while on all-night combat patrols in unheated Humvees.
In other units, though, the order is being strictly enforced. Which has set officers and soldiers alike to rolling their eyes and muttering about rule-making by the garrison-bound.
Words to talk about
The newbies from units like the 42nd Infantry Division and the 256th Brigade Combat Team have got to learn more in Iraq than how to defeat a tenacious, murderous enemy.
They’ve got to learn the lingo.
As they settle-down for their “left-seat, right-seat” rides with the homebound units, they’ll be informed that they are “FNGs” (for “friggin’ new guys,” or words to that effect) or “snappers,” which has obscure origins in South Korean tours and means the same thing.
If they’re out in the field, they’ll learn to resent the REFs (“rear-echelon …” um, you get the rest) who hang out in Kuwait or Anaconda (Balad) or Danger (Tikrit), where many think they spend their time feasting on Subway and Burger King. Those guys are a bunch of “pogues,” soldierspeak for troops who are afraid to go “outside the wire” (off the base).
Like the outgoing troops, they’ll be singing the stop-loss blues, because of the U.S.A.R.M.Y. (Uncle Sam Ain’t Released Me Yet).
Have a great year, snappers.
Working hard in Iraq doesn’t mean soldiers can’t play hard between patrols or other duties. Nearly 200 troops attended a Morale, Welfare and Recreation sponsored talent show at Forward Operating Base Danger recently.
“Everyone understands that it’s not the magnitude of the talent. It’s more for the bonding and kindred spirits,” said Mary Lou Gallegos, MWR coordinator, in a 1st Infantry Division news release. “This is a chance for everyone to get together and make each other smile and have a good time.”
While it’s certain some of the soldiers showed off some underappreciated skills and talents, others may still want to stick to their day jobs.