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BAGHDAD — Fodors probably won’t be listing it in its next tourist guidebook to the Middle East, but for military and civilian personnel visiting Baghdad’s International Zone, one of the first things they usually do is a little sightseeing.

“We get between 20 and 50 soldiers a day,” said Iraqi Facility Protective Service officer Muaed Ahmed, who guards the large memorial of hands with crossed swords in the zone’s western end.

“And different nationalities — multinational forces, British, U.S. forces and sometimes even civilians — drop in,” Ahmed said through an interpreter.

Four sailors from the Camp Anaconda-based 508th USN Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants Support unit recently toured the crossed swords, a place where Saddam Hussein used to review his troops.

“It’s our first time here,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Art Castillo. “It’s always exciting when it’s your first time.”

“We’re just kind of wandering around,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Mike Miller. “This is the only sightseeing we’ve done, unless it’s mission-oriented.”

Not ashamed of these purses

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — The 2nd Infantry Division soldiers at Camp Buehring have christened their newly issued CamelBaks “man-purses.”

The CamelBaks are water bladders that soldiers wear on their backs to keep themselves hydrated in the hot desert conditions. However, they include a small purselike zip-up pocket where soldiers can store various personal items — the man-purse.

So, what do soldiers keep in their man-purses?

Some use them to carry night-vision goggles, flashlights or scopes for their rifles.

However, one officer revealed that his man-purse contains the sort of things you might normally find in a metrosexual’s bathroom — lip balm, lanoline cream and Oil of Olay.

The officer uses the lanoline cream, which features a label extolling its ability to cure “cracked nipples,” on his fingers, ensuring that his hands remain soft despite the harsh environment. Oil of Olay is an excellent facial moisturizer and contains sunscreen, he said.

Unexpected sandblasting

Even the portable toilets at Camp Buehring do not provide sanctuary from the dust storms that have battered 2nd ID soldiers training there this week.

One soldier using a portable toilet early Tuesday morning reported being rudely interrupted by a blast of hot air from below.

The scorching wind was carrying thousands of small particles that sand-blasted the seated soldier, a fate that no warrior would wish to endure.

LSS: Lonely Single Soldier

Loneliness is eating away at some Iraq-bound 2nd ID soldiers before their yearlong Iraq deployments have even begun.

One soldier, fresh from a year in South Korea, says he is so lonely he looks forward to receiving junk e-mail, spam and survey requests in his in-box.

If things get any worse, the soldier says, he might even reply to some of them in the hope of striking up relationships with the senders.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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