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BAGHDAD — Combat outposts have become a bigger part of life for U.S. troops in Iraq since counterinsurgency plans called for them to engage the country’s citizens deeper in their neighborhoods rather than from afar.

In so doing, soldiers have moved away from forward operating bases and adjusted to tighter quarters, fewer amenities and more patrolling in their day-to-day lives.

Combat Outpost Hope, located catty-cornered to Sadr City’s northeastern tip in Baghdad, is one of these posts. It is manned by two cavalry platoons, which pull infantry duty, and one tank platoon from the 1st Cavalry Division.

The troops of the 1st Cav’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment pull a lot of mechanized infantry patrols near Sadr City, one of the most dangerous areas of Baghdad.

There are no more Iraqi police in the area, due to a bombing targeting the only police station in the area on Aug. 26, effectively driving out what Iraqi security elements existed previously. Now the soldiers are the only unit operating there.

Patrolling in tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles can wear the men down, as the rides often entail long hours cramped in the armored vehicles. And so much dust, like fine talcum powder, rests everywhere around the post, sometimes up to a foot thick. It makes for chokingly dusty days.

Occasionally, a mission is called off. That was the case Thursday night. And what do troops do when the operation is pushed back or canceled?

If possible, they chill.

“At least we have Internet here — some outposts aren’t this nice,” said Sgt. Jeremy Nunn, 24, of Lancaster, Pa., from a room where 13 soldiers sleep.

It’s true. Some U.S. military outposts in remote locations of Iraq have generators running spotty power and only Meals, Ready to Eat to look forward to for chow time.

Not only do these troops have Internet, they also have laptops, televisions, movies and video games to keep them occupied between missions.

“As time goes on, it gets better,” said Sgt. Paul Froschauer, 28, of Cincinnati.

The soldiers pass time by watching their favorite movies on their laptops while wearing headphones so as to not disturb one another.

They swap movies, and chuckles creep out from the corners of the barracks as they privately enjoy the flicks, escaping the realities of war for a few hours.

In other rooms, soldiers toss taunts back and forth as they field athletes on “Madden NFL” football video games. Others play cards or workout in the post’s weight room.

In the end, they find camaraderie, laughing at the same things and helping each other through the long days until they can go home.

Or out on another mission.


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