Reporter’s Notebook: Soldiers keep their distance from Baghdad brew
BAGHDAD — U.S. soldiers stationed in the International Zone in Baghdad can sample almost everything on the menus of the small hamburger stands and Chinese restaurants scattered throughout the area.
The soldiers, who are not allowed to drink alcohol while deployed to Iraq, can look but not touch the coolers in the establishments that are stocked with ice-cold beer.
At noon Tuesday, when the outdoor temperature was about 115 degrees, 1st Lt. James Arceo and Spc. Scott Smith, from the 118th Area Support Medical Battalion were at a restaurant enjoying cheeseburgers with soda and orange juice.
“We have to be ready — be alert here, Arceo said. “We have to be alert day and night, and that means no alcohol.”
His co-worker said he isn’t even tempted by the chilled brews.
“It’s not any beer I would drink,” Smith said. “I like American beer.”
Arceo said he could wait until he left Iraq to have a cold one.
“It’s just not something we are allowed to do here,” he said. “I can stay away from it until I get back home. I think most people in the military will be able to resist the temptation.”
Bagram Air Base’s passenger terminal in Afghanistan seems to be adjusting well to a new set of operating rules, officials said in a recent news release.
The new procedures went into effect July 5 after the Air Force started running the terminal.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and others looking to book a flight out of Bagram can now sign up four days before their scheduled departure, instead of the two days they were allowed before.
“People have to remember that they are signing up for a destination, not a particular flight,” said Tech. Sgt. Scott Helmer, passenger terminal noncommissioned officer in charge, in the release. “We are not making reservations for flights leaving Bagram — people aren’t guaranteed a spot on any particular flight. People are still only traveling as duty standby or space-available standby.
Everyone flying needs to bring their ID card, and it’s suggested they bring their orders, which should be stamped when signing up.
“About 24 hours before they want to leave, people should stop by the terminal again to see when they can anticipate leaving — they can find out the show times for incoming aircraft and see when they need to be here,” said Helmer.
Officials hope to build a new terminal in the future, but in the meantime will continue to help servicemembers in Bagram. A variety of reservation services are also available at the terminal.
— Stars and Stripes reporter Rick Emert contributed to this report.