KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Soldiers from 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment are taking a toll on the Taliban, but they’re taking an even harder toll, it seems, on video game controllers.

The tiny exchange at Forward Operating Base Lagman has two Sony PlayStation2 video game consoles for sale behind the counter, but out on the shelves, within easy reach, are three game controllers.

The controllers, said Sgt. Edward Price, who mans the store, sell much better than the game consoles.

Soldiers buy new controllers for the PlayStation2 — the systems come with only one — so that they can play multiplayer games. The fine dirt in the area also takes a toll on video game controllers.

“Of course [soldiers] breaking them doesn’t help,” Price added about another major reason for sales.

The current video game favorite at Khandahar is Halo 2 on the Xbox. At one point, the exchange was selling Xbox controllers, but not the consoles. So, did they sell? They went “like wildfire,” Price said.

He hopes to continue selling controllers for both systems, not necessarily to increase the small store’s profits, but for their therapeutic value.

“Oh yeah, tempers might start to flare in the field and they get frustrated and take it out on their video game controllers,” Price said. “It’s a hell of a lot better than taking it out on each other.”

In future wars, it seems, the Army might have to end up issuing video game controllers as part of soldiers’ basic combat gear along with their M-4 rifles.

Riki Tiki Tavi“Chosen Company” nearly had a new pet recently.

Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment at FOB Lagman captured a mongoose that they found running around the compound.

They trapped the mongoose under a cardboard box, then transferred it to an empty garbage can.

After an initial round of “I think it’s a ferret,” and “Is it a weasel?” they finally used man’s new best friend — the Google search engine — to find out that the small creature was actually an Indian Mongoose, a common area inhabitant whose range covers most of Southwest Asia.

Unfortunately for the “Chosen Few,” the thrill of the hunt was all they ended up with.

They weren’t allowed to keep the mongoose and it eventually was returned to the wild.

Nobody, it seemed, could scrounge up a mongoose rabies vaccine, nor a supply of cobras or rats, two of the animal’s normal menu choices.

It’s what’s for dinnerThe U.S. military tries its best to show the people of the Middle East and Afghanistan that it respects Islamic beliefs. So, good luck in finding a cocktail during cocktail hour at any base club. The closest you’ll get is nonalcoholic beer at the base dining facility at dinner.

The dining facility at Khandahar Airfield takes this cultural awareness a step further by labeling any of its food items that have ham or pork in it with a little sign printed with a fat, smiling pig “saying” the words “Contains pork.”

Pigs are considered unclean in Islam. Therefore, Muslims don’t eat pork. So the label might steer someone away from unknowingly grabbing a slice of pizza with pork sausage and pepperoni or from taking a scoop of pasta salad with ham.

It’s a great idea, but sometimes can be taken a step too far.

On the main food line one night, the pork loin was labeled with the pig and phrase, and a walk by the two speed lines left a few soldiers scratching their heads even more.

One bin on each line was simply labeled “pig,” and inside was cooked, well, pig. Next to it, of course, was the obligatory “contains pork” label.

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