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In the reflection of a rearview mirror, the grill of a mammoth 7-ton U.S. Marine truck is impressive. Add to it a small sign that reads “Prepare to Pray” and it might seem like one heck of a force to reckon with.

Lance Cpl. Devin Orrin, part of the Headquarters Battalion Truck Company from Camp Pendleton, Calif., now attached to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, drives that truck.

Despite looking like something from a Mad Max movie, Orrin’s truck serves a pious purpose. He drives the chaplain to the battalion camps throughout the region.

“Each company is spread out across Karbala,” Orrin said. “My task is to drive the chaplain.”

For the San Dimas, Calif., resident, the job is much better than driving a truck in combat. “It’s nicer than a regular Marine kind of job,” he said.

He’d still rather be with the rest of his regular truck company — back home. Orrin was held over to serve his new critical role.

But driving the chaplain brings a few perks. Orrin gets to watch the movies the truck carries, shown on a large screen at each company camp. And he gets to drive the tough-looking truck, probably scaring a few drivers peering into the rear view.

Going home?

By now all soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division who are still in Iraq have gotten the word on precisely when they can expect to go home, according to officers in the know in Baghdad.

Just last week, Pentagon officials announced that the 3rd ID would be leaving in September — the third time the division has been given an exit date. This time it’s for real, the official promised.

Military officials here would not confirm any of the redeployment dates, however.

“It makes sense that a unit the size of a division is not going to disappear overnight,” a senior military official said in Baghdad said Tuesday. “Beyond that is getting into operational details.”

The official would not offer any details on when the Polish-led division that is expected to replace the 3rd ID is coming in-country.

Drinking water

With hydration such an issue in Iraq’s heat, Gen. David Patraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) reportedly took it upon himself to make sure all his troops were shipped large amounts of Gatorade.

The general’s personal touch worked wonders, according to his soldiers, and “we now have Gatorade coming out of our ears,” according to Col. Ben Hodges, commander of the “Bastogne Bulldogs,” the 101st’s 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade.

Newest joke

Here’s the latest joke making the rounds of U.S. soldiers in Iraq:

Question: What do Gen. Custer and Saddam Hussein have in common? Answer: They both wanted to know where all the darn tomahawks were coming from.

Oil for everyone

International rail links into Iraq are about to become operational for the first time since before the war.

The first train to use the lines, which will come from Syria to Iraq, is expected to arrive in Baghdad on Friday, carrying empty oil tanks that have been sitting in Syria since before the war began. The tanks “will raise the ability to move crude oil around the country by about one-third,” a civilian coalition official said Wednesday.

Trains also are expected to begin running from Turkey to Iraq — the renowned “Orient Express” line. Both the Syria and Turkey trains are expected to make regular runs twice a week, departing Sundays and Wednesdays from those countries. Operators expect few passengers, however — the trip from the Syrian border to Baghdad takes about 15 hours, compared to less than seven by car.

Looking out for No. 1

After the deaths of Odai and Qusai Hussein last week, U.S. troops in Iraq are itching to be the ones who catch “No. 1,” as Saddam is called.

The search is reaching almost a fever pitch: last week, troops conducting raids said they believed were missing Saddam by 24 hours or less. By Wednesday, that window was down to two hours, said Capt. David Gerken, a spokesman for the 1st Armor Division in Baghdad.

“We hear [Saddam] is moving [his hiding spot] every four hours,” Gerken said.

— Stars and Stripes reporters Lisa Burgess and Juliana Gittler contributed to this report.

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