Mideast Notebook: Inspiration comes in many forms
Stars and Stripes October 1, 2004
Little George may look out of place in Baghdad, but it’s where he belongs — for the time being.
The wooden polar bear (sportily donning sunglasses against Iraq’s bright days) arrived with his 10th Mountain Division unit, the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, and sits next to the office of the battalion commander, Lt. Col. John Spiszer.
But the bear isn’t just cute or a handy place to hang sunglasses. There is history there, Spiszer explained.
Between 1918 and 1920, the regiment — then in the Philippines — was sent to defend the Trans-Siberian Highway from Russian revolutionaries, bandits and other nations. It was there the regiment earned the polar bear moniker.
The nickname stuck, and the polar bear is even part of the regiment’s flag and insignia.
Cleaning up that rash
Getting a rash along your forehead or chin from wearing all of that headgear? There may be all kinds things you can buy at the post exchange to deal with those problems, but before you spend too much money, try an old-fashioned solution, suggests 1st Lt. R. Dennis Eller, 2nd platoon leader of Company B, 1st Battalion, 509th Airborne Infantry Regiment.
Eller, who got the tip from one of his soldiers, said: Remove the chin strap and cloth pieces inside the helmet “and soak [them] in hot, soapy water.”
Then — and Eller said this is the real trick — “really scrub” the material — an old toothbrush works well. Finally, rinse until the water runs clear.
“I was amazed at how much more comfortable” a simple washing made the helmet, he said.
“I knew it had gotten really dirty,” especially during the unit’s long convoy from Kuwait to Baghdad, “but I had no idea just a good washing could make it feel so much better.”
Kicking up a visit
Troops at Camp Streicher in northern Iraq got more than a visit from Tae Bo creator Billy Blanks on Sunday. They got a workout to boot.
The founder of the popular exercise program toured bases in Iraq, stopping for pictures and offering his encouragement. He also conducted a few Tae Bo classes for soldiers willing to jump, kick and punch their way through a class.
“I loved it,” said Staff Sgt. Sheyra Hidalgo in an Army news release.
“It’s the best workout I’ve had in a long time. He showed a lot of patience, and led us into it step by step.”
Banks said in the release that the purpose of his visit was to say thank you to troops in Iraq.
“I didn’t come halfway around the world to teach Tae Bo,” he said.
“I came here to serve the troops. It’s a privilege and an honor to be here, and to be able to express my gratitude and admiration. These guys are my heroes.”
Banks, visiting this time with his daughter Shellie, has a long record of visiting troops overseas.
“We’ve been to Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia and Germany,” he said. “On this trip, we’ll have 10 stops. It energizes me. They treat me awesome. They appreciate it so much.”