BAGHDAD, Iraq — Servicemembers are hard to figure out sometimes.

Members of the combat search-and-rescue team assigned to Baghdad International Airport have adopted a pigeon they found near death when they moved into their hangar on base.

The pigeon, which goes by the name Bird, usually sits on a wire near the entrance to the hangar, but pararescue members have also built it a home outside the hangar.

The bird has been known to fly down and perch on someone’s shoulder — especially if there’s some food involved.

Bird might not want get too fat on all those snacks. Some of the same guys who adopted the pigeon had previously acquired a sheep in downtown Baghdad. They turned it into lunch.

Keep those wings in good shape, Bird, and get plenty of exercise.

Man’s best friends

BAGHDAD, Iraq — American soldiers have made quick friends of many Iraqi children at established checkpoints around the city. Those children hang around the troops for hours, sometimes getting portions of MREs or $1 bills, and generally picking up some new English words or phrases.

But at least one group of soldiers has made some friends of the four-legged variety. Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division are currently guarding the entrance to the hotel complex that many international reporters and aid workers call home.

And the soldiers have been getting some help from a family of dogs — a mother, father and three puppies — who have appeared to adopt the troops as their own.

Staff Sgt. Dale Hall said the dogs spend most of the time sleeping in the shade of a tank. But they’ve been known to come to the defense of their soldier friends.

He said one of the dogs grabbed the leg of a youth who leapt over the barbed wire barricade, dragging him to the ground. The dog quickly released the youth, who wasn’t seriously hurt. But the pooch had made its point: If you’re not wearing a friendly uniform, stay away.

Useful training

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Who knew?

Never did 1st Lt. Monica Casmaer think her medical training in dermatology would come in handy in a combat zone. But it has.

The physician’s assistant turned combat medic, attached to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, makes her rounds of impoverished towns of Khalidiyah and Al Habbaniyah, treating local residents.

One day, she came across a young patient suffering from ichthyosis, a rare skin disorder marked by dry, thickened, scaly skin that makes human flesh look like lizard skin.

The disease baffled Iraqi physicians, she said. The girl’s condition was worsening, getting to the point where the skin around the young patient’s eyes was pulling so tight, she could barely open them.

One look, and Casmaer knew what afflicted the young girl.

“Who knew my background in dermatology would help,” said the 29-year-old PA with the 26th Forward Support Battalion, in support of the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd ID.

The ailment isn’t curable, but medicated ointment can slow its progression.

And Casmaer can help get it.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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