NAJAF, Iraq — The Army has declared a “no-fly zone” in Najaf.
More specifically, nothing is allowed to fly in the nondescript building where soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry are temporarily housed.
Sgt. 1st Class John Hopson and Sgt. Alfredo Garza are the proud owners of two wire-framed, duct-taped, handmade fly swatters.
Hopson said casualties have been relatively light in the battalion, despite heavy fighting in Najaf over the past few weeks, so there’s plenty of time to hunt flies.
“Mine’s the original,” Hopson said during a round of cards with Garza and two other soldiers. “Somewhere he messed around and got another fly swatter — an imitation.”
“I built this to kill all the flies around the aid station,” said Hopson. “ [Shortly after] we first moved in here, it was like a fly cemetery.”
Flies can carry disease and, the two said, killing the pests helps keep down the possibility of diseases.
“Flies carry feces, and we’re just doing preventive medicine,” Hopson said.
“We’re looking out for the good of the troops,” Garza said.
Their “service” to the soldiers is produced by dramatically different designs, they said.
Though basically similar in appearance, the swatters have important differences that the two say make one better than the other.
“I’ve got my slits to make sure that I get the ‘flat’ of a regular fly swatter,” said Hopson. “It goes with the wind for a faster swat — it’s lightweight and accurate.
“I’ve got at least 850 kills with this joker and still counting.”
“I’ll give you about 250,” said Garza, who proudly shows off his version.
“This right here is a ‘Generation II’ fly swatter,” he said. “It’s reinforced with little pieces of cardboard for better durability. It also has more surface area.”
Garza has added the words “No Fly Zone” on one side and a bull’s-eye on the other.
According to their tallies, in addition to the hundreds of flies, Hopson has killed three dragonflies and Garza two.
“I even tried to get a bird once,” Garza claimed, drawing groans from the room.