I travel the world and am truly amazed with the sights, cultures, and people but in my eyes there is no place like home.


13 May 2009

Fallujah, Iraq

Monday we had a Townhall for work. One of those forced events intended to get you excited about your organization and the mission. There was a short video about Afghanistan to entice volunteers. As much as I am trying not to be enticed, it definitely did just that. Watching the video made me want to be there right now. Be there making a difference in an exciting environment. Be a part of the change that is occurring and watch the country develop. I am not allowing myself to deploy for at least a year. Otherwise I will never truly settle down or have a normal life (and my parents will go nuts). Maybe a year from now it will be out of my system and I will have no desire to go to a war torn country to work. But right now the desire is strong and those darn videos only make it worse!

Until then I can reminisce about past deployments and share photos. I went to Fallujah, Iraq probably 4 or 5 times during my two years in Iraq. There was a claims center right in the heart of the city where several Marines lived and worked. Occasionally Real Estate would make the daunting trip (via PSD, Blackhawk, and military convoys) from Baghdad to Fallujah to pay out claims. We paid the locals for the use of their property. The amounts paid were nominal and pocket change to us, but to the Iraqis it made a huge difference. As you can see they lined up outside the gates in anticipation.

Of course all the little kids came out to play. Many were so cute and you felt awful as they had no shoes, ill fitting clothes, and such a hard life ahead of them.

I almost wanted to adopt a few and give them a better life!

Once inside more lines formed and we would sign a lease with each Iraqi (we determined in advance the various real estate being used, the fair market value for that property, and the owner) and paid them in cash for the use of their property. Usually for 6-12 months at a time.

Most women were fully clothes in the Burka to include covering their face entirely with only their eyes peaking out. However you occasionally had a few that were not fully covered and not camera shy.

It was amazing to interact with the Iraqis and listen to their thoughts about Americans, their country, and the war. Paying for the use of their property was a small way the US could help stimulate the economy and I loved being a part of the process. It was often dangerous as the convoy getting to Fallujah was treacherous as was staying in the middle of town. The living conditions were very harsh – you showered in a bathroom with no shower just a hose and a hole in the floor. We slept on cots and ate whatever food they could whip up. But I loved every minute of it as did most of the Marines working at this FOB.

I am grateful for my plush digs at the moment. Grateful that I don’t have to wear full battle rattle every time I leave a hard building. Grateful that every loud noise is not a threat. But I often miss the adventure. Guess I just need to find adventure here in Council Bluffs/Omaha! On a side note “dress code” was also discussed at the Townhall. The Commander had to inform all that wearing sweat pants to work is not acceptable. Seriously folks you work for a professional organization you should not need someone to remind you not to wear sweats!

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