Reporter's notebook: Innovations downrange: Pimped-out Humvees, a new take on horseshoes
August 30, 2008
BAQOUBA, Iraq — Pimped-out vehicles typically mean alloy rims, a killer paint job, tinted windows and a bumping stereo system that has everyone on the block turning their heads in amazement and envy.
Iraqi soldiers with the 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division have a different fashion sense, one that has sometimes left U.S. Marine Corps military transition teams attached to the unit scratching their heads.
On a recent operation in Diyala province, a quick look around revealed sheep fur on Humvee dashboards, colorful decals stuck on camouflaged doors, and stuffed animals — more commonly found on kids’ beds — hanging from turrets and machine guns.
"It works for them," said 1st Lt. Jeff Wright, 27, of Marietta, Ga. "The proper Marine reaction would be ‘That’s not professional, get rid of that [expletive].’ They don’t see it that way."
Wright once even saw Iraqi soldiers use stickers from bananas to decorate humvees.
"It’s a sense of pride" for the Iraqis, 1st Lt. Michael Phillips, 24, of Perry, N.Y., said.
But would the Marines borrow these style tips from the Iraqis?
"Hell, no," Wright said promptly. "I could only imagine if our battalion commander caught us with that crap."
Marines create new game out of boredom
Downtime can bring boredom to any U.S. servicemember in Iraq, so Marines in Diyala province used their ingenuity to combat it with a homemade game.
The game is called "Jundi-shoes," named after the Arabic word for soldier. It’s basically a war zone take on the traditional pastime of horseshoes. But with no horses, or horseshoes, in the area, the Marines used empty Meals Ready to Eat boxes and water bottles.
Two boxes are spread apart at an undetermined distance, with two players on each side. A handful of dirt or sand is placed into the empty water bottles to give them some weight.
Without crossing over a line, a player tosses two bottles toward the opposite box. A bottle landing inside the box is worth three points; touching the outside of the box is worth two points; and hitting the box is worth one point. The first team to 21 points wins. However, if they go over 21, they go back to 15 points.
Small crowds of curious Iraqi soldiers often converge when the game is being played, and sometimes they join in.
Marines teasingly hope the game will eliminate sectarian strife in the country.
"We’d like to bring Sunnis and Shiites to play together," said 1st Lt. Josh Noxon, 24, of Gibsonville, N.C. "We were trying to find a sport that could unify the whole country."
Noxon and 1st Lt. Michael Phillips, 24, of Perry, N.Y., brainstormed with each other and invented the game last week.
"It’s an easy game that anyone can play at a low cost," Phillips said.
Besides bragging rights, the MVP of a recent tournament was awarded a beefsteak MRE, a coveted prize to any U.S. troop operating far from a dining facility.