Reporters’ Notebook: Challenges of chow in the war zone
August 16, 2004
BAGHDAD — One of the International Zone’s most popular eateries doesn’t serve Army chow or Iraqi fare.
It serves Chinese food.
The restaurant specializes in spicy Sichuan dishes, the owner being from that south-central province.
“People ask why we came here,” the restaurant’s Chinese cashier said. “They say, ‘It’s so dangerous, why did you come here and make this business?’”
The reason was simple: There wasn’t another Sichuan restaurant in Baghdad.
Between 150 and 200 soldiers and civilians move through the restaurant each day, grabbing orders of Chinese food or pizza.
“We don’t have … stuff like this where we are,” said 1st Sgt. William Tager of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment.
Tager is based at Camp Headhunter and was eating at the restaurant for the first time.
“It breaks up the monotony of eating good ol’ Army chow,” he said, drawing agreement from his two table mates.
Fast food comes slow
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — For months now, the blue Burger King trailer has sat vacant next to the field post exchange at Kandahar Airfield, its much-anticipated grand opening nowhere in sight.
Instead, it just sits there, taunting the GIs like some desert mirage — a mirage sporting a super-duper-size Whopper alongside a towering icy Coke and fries.
“It just tastes better,” teases the sign.
At least one chow hall-weary prankster, however, decided if he couldn’t have it his way, he could at least pretend.
Suddenly, fliers popped up throughout the airfield proclaiming BK’s imminent opening, complete with $1 Whoppers. “Mmmmm…,” the fliers read.
The brass wasn’t happy and made sure the fliers were ripped down almost as quickly as they went up.
“The flyers which are being placed around KAF regarding the grand opening of Burger King are a farce and should be disregarded,” wrote Capt. Bryan Klatt in a basewide e-mail. Clearly no fan of fast food frivolity, Klatt wanted names in the combat zone caper. “Any information revealing those individuals who are responsible for this blatant disregard for their fellow soldiers’ morale, should be directed to base operations,” wrote Klatt.
Not everyone saw the pranks in such dire terms, though.
“I thought it was hilarious,” said one sergeant, “that someone would take the time to poke a little fun; it actually improved my morale.”
Army and Air Force Exchange officials say they do not know when the Burger King will open.
Mineral water showers
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — Cleopatra bathed in milk — 2nd Infantry Division soldiers in Kuwait are bathing in pure mineral water from the Dibdiba Formation of northern Kuwait.
Mineral water showers were soldiers’ solution to a broken pump on one of the shower units at Camp Buehring, where 2nd ID’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team — the Strikeforce — is preparing to deploy to Iraq.
Soldiers, including Strikeforce commander Col. Gary S. Patton, washed off in the Rawdalain natural mineral water that they normally drink.
The water comes from the Rawdalain field north of Kuwait and is characterized by its purity and natural mineral properties, according to information on the bottles.
“ … collected from rainfalls … thru the ages, in the Dibdiba Formation,” state the bottle labels.
A good mineral water shower requires two bottles. First, pour the contents of one bottle onto the body, then lather up with soap, and lastly wash off with the other bottle.
The persistent sunlight and 120-degree heat at Camp Buehring ensure mineral water showers are as warm as regular showers.
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