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Soldiers and sheep eye one another Thursday during a search of a sheep pen in Mushariffa, Iraq.

Soldiers and sheep eye one another Thursday during a search of a sheep pen in Mushariffa, Iraq. (James Warden / S&S)

Soldiers and sheep eye one another Thursday during a search of a sheep pen in Mushariffa, Iraq.

Soldiers and sheep eye one another Thursday during a search of a sheep pen in Mushariffa, Iraq. (James Warden / S&S)

Pfc. Michael Sorum of Heavy Company, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, waits in a Mosul school Sunday while his platoon leaders drops off supplies and checks how the school is doing. Finals at Mosul schools were supposed to start in mid-May, but this boys’ school was just starting finals Sunday because a 24-hour citywide curfew pushed the exams back.

Pfc. Michael Sorum of Heavy Company, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, waits in a Mosul school Sunday while his platoon leaders drops off supplies and checks how the school is doing. Finals at Mosul schools were supposed to start in mid-May, but this boys’ school was just starting finals Sunday because a 24-hour citywide curfew pushed the exams back. (James Warden / S&S)

MUSHARIFFA, IRAQ — Well, life on the farm is kinda laid-back, John Denver once sang.

Unfortunately, that isn’t so true when the farms are in Iraq and those on the farms are American soldiers not quite familiar with Iraqi country living.

Soldiers got up close and personal with Mesopotamian livestock Thursday during a search of Mushariffa, a village with a handful of homes just north of Mosul. The Americans have ventured there before, but the resulting clash of cultures discomfited both man and beast.

The soldiers arrived in the village with Iraqi army troops just after sunrise to find green acres and swaggering roosters shuffling their hens away from the interlopers. Their chicks — half feathers, half down — flitted from one niche to another.

Soldiers from Red Platoon, Lightning Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment sent a panicked flock of sheep clomping away when they walked into a building that turned out to be a sheep pen.

The two dozen sheep, heads painted yellow for identification, fled to corners of the courtyard opposite the Americans as the soldiers methodically searched the surrounding rooms. As soon as the soldiers opened the gate to leave, though, the frightened flock bolted for greener pastures, indifferently knocking against a couple of soldiers as if they were giants at the running of the bulls.

"Somebody’s not going to be happy," medic Spc. Jesse Hirschmann said.

The Iraqis took the searches in stride. A neighbor — who, like all the villagers, is a member of the Balawi tribe, — expertly herded the escaped flock into her courtyard for safekeeping. The village chief even invited the soldiers in for breakfast. The livestock didn’t disquiet all the soldiers. Looking at the swollen udders of a brown heifer reminded Hirschmann of the rich milk he drank during the five years he spent in Germany as a kid. Others moved easily among the squawking chickens and bleating sheep.

Yet some soldiers who moved so effortlessly in Mosul’s hairy urban zones never quite felt comfortable with farm living. Toward the end of the searches, Sgt. Justin Horvath walked into a dark building the size of a walk-in closet, only to jump back outside at the sound of an equally startled calf.

"Man, I (expletive) hate farm animals," he said.

Summer delayed for Iraqi kids, thanks to curfewsMOSUL, Iraq — American children are well familiar with the Catch-22 of snow days: Get a break from school one snowy winter day but postpone that longed-for summer break.

Iraqi schoolchildren may not get all that many snow days, but they are facing the same logic with a situation unfamiliar to American students: citywide curfews.

Iraqi National Police moved in to Mosul to beef up security for Operation Lion’s Roar, an action launched May 10 that was designed to break al- Qaida in Iraq’s back in its last major stronghold. When they came, the Iraqi government imposed a 24-hour curfew to control movement in the city, said 1st Lt. Peter Cacossa, a platoon leader in Heavy Company, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Like everyone else in Mosul, schoolchildren had to stay put while the curfew was in effect. This gave them time off, but even students in war-ravaged countries like Iraq can’t skip out on tests.

So headmasters pushed back the school schedule, Cacossa said. Students who were supposed to take their finals in the middle of May just started their exams Sunday, which is not a weekend in Iraq.

The curfew imposed difficulties on other Mosul residents as well, he said. The difficulty in moving around the city made prices triple and even quadruple on products such as fresh vegetables and fuel.

American troops picked up on these hardships while assessing how the community was doing. After only a week or so, officials dropped the 24-hour curfew in favor of one that only lasts through the night, Cacossa said.

Life in Mosul has mostly returned to normal. But for Iraqi schoolchildren, that means there’s still another week-and-a-half until they can at last begin their summer break.


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